Monday, December 31, 2012

Flash Fiction

Was reading a Facebook post about unicorns and had this scene pop into my head (this is first-draft material so errors are likely):

Lyra thought she heard a sound off in the woods.  The beautiful girl loved to explore the dark and foreboding forest despite her mother's warning.

"You never know what you'll find in the forest, Lyra," her mother would admonish, drying her hands on her ever-present apron.

But Lyra wouldn't listen.  She'd made many friends in the forest: deer, rabbits, birds.  She knew to watch for the signs of a wolf or bear and avoid those areas.  She would put her tracking skills up against any hunter in the village.

But this was a new sound, something she'd never heard before.  She turned, her blue eyes trying to pierce the foliage to ascertain the sound's source.  Walking carefully on leather turnshoes, she stepped closer and closer, the sounds guiding her flawlessly.  Coming to a clearing in the dense wood, she gasped.  Before her was a creature that only lived in legend, myth, and fairytale: a unicorn.

It was said that only virgin girls could approach the elusive horned beast.  At aged seventeen and a bit of a tom boy, that was not an issue for Lyra.  She softly, slowly, stepped into the clearing, the sun rays lighting up the alabaster hide of the unicorn, it's long horn on its forehead opalescent in the warm light as if it were made not of horn but some magical material like the jewels the ladies of the village sometimes wore.

Lyra accidentally stepped on a small twig but the breaking sound seemed to boom in the clearing.  The unicorn turned with unimaginable speed and looked at her, its eyes registering its displeasure.  It galloped toward the girl, the sound reverberating through the soil as it lowered its head, pointing the sharp horn right at Lyra's breast.

The girl took in a sharp breath but could not move.  She knew she was to die here, now, painfully.  She knew deep sadness and grief in the few seconds the unicorn took to cross the clearing.  If she had to die, this was they way she wanted it to be.

The beast bore down on her, not hesitating, not flinching, the horn aimed for her heart.  At the last moment, too fast almost for Lyra to react, the animal turned, and rammed the horn into the bear that had been stalking Lyra.  The brown beast howled with anger and pain as it was impaled on that horn.  Blood ran down the horn, staining the unicorn's hide red.  Lyra could only watch, amazed that this unicorn had saved her life.

The unicorn tossed its head and flung the bear away into the woods.  Lyra heard it crashing against branches and found herself hoping it was already dead.

The unicorn backed up a few feet, whinnied, and looked at Lyra.  That's when she noticed it, too, had blue eyes.

A thought came into her head: "Go, and tell no one."

Lyra nodded, turned so fast her blonde hair got caught in some branches.  She ignored the pain as she ran from the clearing.

And she never told anyone.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Six: Battle Preperations

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Thirteen of Book of Death:

The helicopter landed at the Romanian Land Forces' temporary headquarters ten kilometers east of Hunedoara, just outside a small village called Orasul Nou.  The tents and vehicles were lined up in a farmer's field next to a river.  We had no idea how far the necromancers would be watching for threats and we hoped ten kilometers, or just over six miles, was far enough away.  The Militia was stopping any civilians from leaving or entering the city.  That in and of itself might arouse suspicions, but I thought the necromancers might not be paying much attention to the civilian population…at least I hoped.

The RLF had split its tank brigade in two: fifteen tanks north of the city, fifteen south with the "command tank." 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Snoqualmie Pass

Not only am I a bit of a weather buff but I'm also a bit of a geography nerd.

The other day (okay, Thursday) I was driving to Seattle.  Between where I live and Seattle is the Cascade Mountain Range.  So you have to go over a "pass."  The lowest pass in Washington State (other than the Columbia River Gorge) is Snoqualmie Pass (where Interstate 90 crosses the mountains).

Now Snoqualmie Pass is only 3,022 feet above sea level.  Growing up in the high mountain valleys of Idaho, this doesn't seem very high.  It's lower than the Snake River Valley at Idaho Falls (4,700 feet).  Last summer I went over a pass in Idaho at 7,161 feet (that's higher than the highest point east of the Mississippi).  So Snoqualmie Pass isn't that high.  But what it is is very close to the ocean.  As Wikipeadia says:
Snoqualmie Pass as it climbs into the Cascades passes through a micro-climate characterized by considerable precipitation, and at times hazardous conditions for travelers. The annual rainfall is over 100 inches per year, snowfall is over 400 inches per year. The number of days with any measurable precipitation is 170 or more per year.
Over 400 inches of snow!  That's 33 1/3 feet or a three story building.  And all of that has to be removed from the road.  Sometimes the plows can't keep up and then this happens:
(if you can't read the orange sign it says "All Vehicles: Chains Required").  That means you have to put chains on your drive tires for traction.

The State Patrol bases their requirements (it seems) on the lowest common denominator: the Seattle driver who can't drive in snow.  On the day pictured above, there was no need for chains; the road was not that bad.  But the State Patrol decided they were needed.  And it's a $500 fine if you get caught with out them.

So while Snoqualmie Pass isn't that high, it is snowy.

And it's higher than the highest point in these states: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

Oh, and Thursday when I drove over the pass: bare and wet, no restrictions.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

White Christmas

It's snowing!  It started snowing yesterday morning and except for a couple of hours last night, has been snowing since.  We have a couple of inches so far.  It's not a heavy snow by any means, but it is white.  The picture at left is out my back window about three hours ago.  And it's been snowing since.

I was kind of disappointed up until now.  We'd had a little snow but it would melt right away and just make the world soggy.  But this is genuine, stay on the ground, snow.  And stay on the roads, but that can't be helped.

The usual pattern here in Central Washington is for it so snow, melt, snow, melt snow, last a little while, melt, so on and so forth until spring.  It's rare we have snow all winter.  This year looks no different.  But at least we had a white Christmas.

(Did you know the song, "White Christmas," was written by a Jewish Russian immigrant to the U.S.?  How's that for diversity and tolerance?)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Music

It's Christmas time (and Merry Christmas to you!).  Time for the annual fight between my wife and me about . . . Christmas music.

It's all my fault.  I basically do no like most Christmas music.  And the newer and more modern it is, the less I like it.  She was just listening to something like this (I can't find the exact thing she was listen to, maybe I have the artist wrong):

And I said, "I'd better leave before that gives me diabetes" which upset her.  For some reason she doesn't seem to be able discern the difference between that and this:

(This version drags a little, this is supposed to be a joyous song, not a dirge but this version is too fast.  The version I have is almost just about right.).

I got sick of Christmas music when I worked as a disk jockey in the late '70s (yes, I'm dating myself) and we played Christmas music incessantly from Thanksgiving to December 25th.  And the sappier it is, the more I dislike it.  Whereas the sappier it is, the more my wife seems to like it.

So it's our annual fight.  I usually just avoid being around her when she plays that music (I'm doing that now).  It helps keep the peace.

P.S.: This is one of the best pieces of music ever.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Six: The "Spontaneous " Rally

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Twelve of Book of Death:

The door opened and a middle-aged man in a business suit scurried out, closing the door behind him.  He was carrying a sheaf of papers.
"What is wrong, Comrade Buscan?" Parasca asked jovially.
Buscan gave a harried scowl at Parasca.  "He wants a spontaneous rally tomorrow to protest the invasion."
"A lot of work to prepare for a spontaneous rally," Parasca said, patting the man on the shoulder.
"Yes; now if you'll excuse me, Comrade General."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pre-Christmas Sale: Rock Killer Free

Just in time for Christmas, bury yourself in the hard science fiction of Rock Killer.  And it's free on the Kindle this weekend.  Just click here to download to your Kindle or Kindle App for your device.

To get you in the mood, here's the trailer for Rock Killer:

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Hobbit

Last night I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I'm still sorta gathering my thoughts about it.  I drove 100 miles (each way) to see it in high frame rate and I gotta tell you, technically it's beautiful.  Peter Jackson has a wonderful eye for beauty (and for ugly) and he uses 3D to enhance his movie, not the other way around.  It was nice to visit old friends (Blibo, Gandalf, Elrond, and even Frodo makes a brief appearance).  I like that they put some of the songs that Tolkien had in the book in the movie (the dish-washing scene/song is pretty funny).  As with all Peter Jackson films the CGI is flawless to the point you forget you're watching a CGI character.

But (you knew that was coming), they strayed from Tolkien a lot.  They added new characters and new plot Tolkien never devised.  The dialogue in some of those scenes clunks badly.  I know they are making three movies (why? greed?) so they need more plot than Tolkien provided.  Maybe if they'd stuck with two movies, stuck more with Tolkien, it would have been better.  They also used any excuse to have a sword fight.

And, I know it's a fantasy, but I doubt even dwarves could fall 100 feet onto rock, groan a bit, and jump up and fight orcs as if nothing happened.

I find myself wondering if I'll pay to see the other two movies in the theater or just wait for them to come out on Blu-ray.

Oh, and this wasn't the film makers' fault but there were 20 minutes of previews before the movie.  I found that excessive (especially for a two-and-a-half hour long movie).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winter Driving

I like to drive.  I guess I'm weird that way.  Now, I prefer to be driving fast, but even tooling down I-90 with the cruise control set at 75 (five over the limit) is something I enjoy.  As I get older it is getting harder for me to drive long distances without a break.  I used to drive 20 or more hours and only stop to fill the car and empty me.  But now I pretty much don't want to drive more than 6 or so hours straight at a time.  Last summer I did a 650 mile drive in one day which was about 11 hours of driving.  The next day I was wiped out.

Now winter is approaching and I'm also, in my old age, becoming a wimp about driving in snow.  I used to be the guy for whom nothing stopped me.  I was the guy who drove over Snoqualmie Pass in a Mustang GT without snowtires when the state patrol had chains required and did fine.  But lately it's sort of like driving in slick conditions makes me nervous and just doesn't seem like its worth the hassle.  Oh, I'll still do it if I have to be somewhere.  But I won't enjoy it.

This worries me a bit.  Will the time come when I no long want to drive fast?  Yesterday I drove to a town about 70 miles away.  The pavement was bare and dry the whole way.  But for a long time I was stuck behind a cop so I had to do the speed limit.  And I was bored to death.  So so far I'm not turning into a slow driver on dry pavement.  And I still enjoy the occasional burst of felonious velocity, although I haven't had the courage to repeat my highest speed ever (I'll plead the fifth if you ask)(but I have done 155 on a racetrack).

I guess getting old sucks.  I do know my reactions have slowed (I don't play video games anymore).  But I hope I never become one of those people who drive slow and block traffic.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Community Service

A week ago I got an email from an acquaintance I know through Toastmasters.  The email read:

I have written a book can you guide me how do i get it published ? please can we meet about it ?

(In that font and color.)  So I wrote back and said "Yes."  And I got back:


(Yes, all caps.)  I suggested the person buy me lunch (I could tell this wasn't going to be easy) and they suggested a restaurant today at 11:45.  I said "Okay."

So, since then, I've been thinking "what do I know about getting published?"  Last October I did a presentation at Toastmasters (this woman may not have been there that day) on what I know about getting published today (traditional publishing, going indie, small press publishers).  Then I realize something, all the success I've had getting published has been through networking and a lot of that networking has come from working in the community.

Almost all of my freelance work comes from people I met through my community service work.  And my publisher I met through a friend.  We met when she called me after the local paper published an article on me.  The local paper knew about me because of mine and my wife's community service.

If you're looking for more writing jobs, it might be a good idea to join local service clubs/organization.  And make sure the local newspaper publisher or editor is a member. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Six: The Mob Doll

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Eleven of Book of Death:

A man walked in wearing an expensive suit that somehow didn't fit him right.  Two other men followed, also in suits, also looking out of place.  Then a girl came in, blonde, chewing gum, in a sequined minidress, her hair all piled on top of her head and too much makeup on.  She sat at the bar, looking bored.  The bartender gave her a martini without her asking.  She must be a regular, I thought.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I missed it.  I was busy.  At 12:12:12 on 12/12/12 I should have done a dance or something.  But I missed it.  For 12:12:12 A.M. I was sleeping.  For 12:12:12 P.M. I was at a lunch meeting.

This will be the last chance for alliterative dates until 2101 (for 01/01/01).  Probably won't live to see that day.

My son graduated high school in 2007 and of course they had James Bond tie ins for their graduation ("class of 007").  In 3007 I doubt anyone will remember James Bond so this was the one and only time in human history this will happen.

Of course, if the Mayans are right, 12/21/12 is going to be a bad day for all of us.

Did you observe 12:12:12 today?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Six: The Great Conclave

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Ten of Book of Death:

The Great Conclave was scheduled for the summer solstice on Friday, June 21st, in Paris, France.  I don't know why Paris was chosen.  Maybe tradition.

Inter-guild messages flew back and forth by both modern and meta means as arrangements were made and guilds contacted.  Some guilds still hated each other after various slights, such as helping Hitler during World War II.  Vaughan wondered out loud to me if the Cuban Guild would show up, or if they’d be embarrassed by their working with Communists in an attempt to take over the world using zombie armies.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Still Freelancing . . .

I may have bitten off more than I can chew.  I currently have three freelance projects pending.  One is pretty much finished but I was letting the subject look it over before I send in the final version.  He's supposed to get it back to me tonight.  In a few minutes I'm, I hope, interviewing a hay expert (I do a lot of writing about agriculture due to where I live) which is the second interview for a second project.  After that I can write the story.  And finally, I'm doing a year-end wrap up thing that means I'm talking to lots of people, including big corporations you've heard of.  Dealing with corporations is painful because they always want to control the message.  So you end up going through their PR people.  One is going to email me answers rather than let me talk to someone.  And I have one guy who is just simply not returning my calls.  It's very stressful.  My deadline is the 13th but I've been working on this story since November 26th.  But people will not get back to me in a timely manner.  My stress level then goes through the roof.

I'm hoping once I get all three stories done I can take the rest of December off.  At least that's my hope.  I know if any new assignments come I will take them.  I love to write and I love to learn about stuff so freelancing is nearly the perfect job for me.  Just wish it paid more.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Six: The Secret

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Nine of Book of Death:

Ernestine caught me in a vulnerable moment, our sweat-damp skin clinging as we cuddled in bed in Vali's apartment over the garage.

"Peter?" she whispered.

I grunted something sleepily.

"You can't tell anybody."

I opened my eyes, turned, and looked at her.  "Tell anybody what?"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rock Killer Free

Today (December 1st) and tomorrow, Rock Killer is free on the Kindle or the Kindle app on your favorite device.  This book is my best reviewed novel with six five-star and two four-star reviews.

Here's the back-of-the-book blurb:
Space Resources, Inc. (SRI) mines asteroids for the riches a populated Earth needs without degrading the planet. Yet there are those opposed to progress in whatever its form such as the Gaia Alliance, a front group for eco-terrorists. During a violent attack on the Moon, the terrorists steal an exploration ship, arm it, and rename it the Rock Killer. Charlene "Charlie" Jones of SRI security is trying to infiltrate the Gaia Alliance's cabal to find evidence linking them to the murder of her fiancé. But a run-in with the law threatens to reveal her identity to the dangerous men of the Alliance. Simultaneously, SRI Director Alexander Chun is traveling to the asteroid belt to bring a kilometer-long nickel-iron rock back to Earth orbit to mine for its valuable metals. Following him and his multi-national team is the Rock Killer. Without armaments, millions of miles from help, Chun must stop those who threaten him and the lives of his crew