Friday, June 27, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The Red Door

Today's Flash Fiction Friday starts with a quote:

"I remember my own childhood vividly . . . I knew terrible things.  But I knew I mustn't let let adults know I knew them. It would terrify them" -- Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are

"Mommy?" Joey asked.

His mother turned and smiled, hoping this wasn't another excuse to stay up past his bedtime.  "Yes, dear?" she asked, almost keeping the annoyance out of her voice.  She hoped her son didn't notice.

"Can you close the closet door, please?" Joey asked, pulling the covers up to his chin and looking at the open door.  It was an older house and the closet door was just a smaller version of the door that led to the hall.  His mother had whimsically painted it red when this bedroom became his after his older sister had gone to college.

His mother smiled and brushed back a stray lock of dirty blonde hair.  "Of course, dear."  She stepped to the door and gently closed it so that it hardly made a sound.  Then she walked over and kissed Joey on the forehead.  "I don't like the closet door open, either," she whispered.

Joey nodded, his blue eyes looking happier.

"Good night, sweetie," he mother said standing and walking to the door to the hall.

"Good night, mommy," Joey replied.

She smiled at him, turned off the light, and closed the bedroom door but leaving a gap of about four inches to let in light from the hall.

Joey heard her footsteps go down the corridor.  And he waited.  He didn't dare close his eyes but watched the red door.  It always seemed to take a while, but eventually the knob started turning.  Joey pulled the covers over his face but not his eyes, as he watched the door know slowly turn, so slow it was hard to even tell it was turning in the dim light.  Only the dent on the old knob indicated that it was turning at all.

The door opened, again with a speed that made it even hard to tell it was moving.  Almost like the hands on clock, it moved nearly imperceptibly.

What eventually came out of the closet was not human.  It wasn't exactly a monster.  More like a large dog, Joey thought, that walked on hind legs.  He'd once, without his parents permission, watched a werewolf movie.  This creature was close to how the werewolf was portrayed, but smaller and without the vicious teeth and claws.

"It is safe?" the creature asked.

Joey nodded.  He'd done this before.

The creature closed the bedroom door and turned on the light.

"Is it your turn or mine?" he asked.

"Yours," Joey said, pulling the covers down to his chin so he could talk.

The creature gave Joey a toothy smile.  It's teeth were rather human.

"Risk," the creature said.

Joey groaned.  "It takes too long."

The creature sighed.  "Fine, backgammon.  But no whining when you lose."

Joey nodded, threw back the covers and grabbed the game.  He knew if he could keep the creature busy until it fell asleep, he could keep it from eating his family.  He just felt lucky he asked it to play a game before it ate him when it first showed up right after Joey moved in.  Joey wondered if his sister knew of the creature.  He's have to ask her when she came home for Thanksgiving break.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

No, I'm Not a Big Sports Fan

The World Cup started two weeks ago and runs about a month until July 13th. I guess they only do it once ever four years, but omg, that's a lot of futbol.

My cousin's son (who, yes, is technically my cousin, once removed) is posting stuff on Facebook like "Wow, that Sweden-Mozambique game was really exciting!!!!" I guess you have to really love soccer to watch that game.  But he is very much (in my opinion too much) into sports of all kind.

And I could hardly care less about them.

I've never been a big sports fan. When I was a kid I hated sports because 1) I was bad at it and 2) there'd be a stupid sports thing on when I wanted to watch Star Trek reruns. Or something else (when you only have two commercial television stations, and one of them is showing sports, it limits your television watching options).  I went to a couple of high school football games and really didn't enjoy them. Same for basketball.

In fact, just Friday the 13th at 7:00 P.M., I was going to sit down to enjoy an exciting and mentally stimulating show of Jeopardy but, alas, there was hockey game on.  This had happened before but they showed Jeopardy at 9:00 P.M. after the game so I tuned in at 9:00 P.M. And the stupid hockey game was in double overtime.  Then one of the teams won and I guess it was the "Stanley Cup" because it seemed they had to show ever player skating around holding it.  They finally broke into the middle of Wheel of Fortune at about 9:45.  And now I have 250 channels and I still can't watch what I want to watch . . . because of stupid sports.

When I got married, my wife was a bigger sports fan than I. Which wasn't hard because I loathed sports.  But she wanted to watch football (I put my foot down at baseball), specifically the Seahawks and the University of Washington Huskies. And after a while, I found I enjoyed football to the point where I could watch it.  And slowly over the years I have become a near-rabid Huskies fan (even the season they won zero games) and a fair-weather Seahawks fan (yea! they won the SuperBowl).  But I prefer college football because you get to watch these kids come up, grow, get better and then break your heart but leaving after their junior year. Also, college football players aren't paid a gazillion dollars so I think the sport is a bit less corrupt than the pros.

Here's my rundown on other major sports:

Baseball: boring, too much spitting, and did I mention boring. As someone said: baseball is 5 minutes of action squeezed into 3 hours.

Soccer/futbol: boring.  It's just skinny men running up and down a field for an hour and a South American village gets razed every time there's a goal.

Hockey: Like soccer on ice, right? I have to admit I'm impressed with the skill of the players doing what they do on ice skates, but I find watching it is not very exciting.

Basketball: I will watch college basketball when the Huskies are playing. But I just don't get that edge-of-the-seat feeling I get from watching football (American football).

Rugby: Very hard to find on TV in the US. I might like it if I watched it. But then I'd have to chose a team to root for.

Auto Racing: Usually pretty boring (especially NASCAR). When I watch it (except NASCAR) I usually enjoy it, I just don't go out of my way to watch it (except the Indy 500).

Any other sports pretty much aren't on my radar.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: Missing

Today's Flash Fiction Friday: Missing

"Say that number again?" Reynolds asked, sitting up in chair behind his desk.

"Nine hundred thousand," I repeated.

"Last year alone?" Reynolds asked.

"Yes," I clarified.

Reynolds let out a sigh. "I never realized it was that much."

I nodded. "Most people don't." I had just informed President Reynolds that over 900,000 persons disappeared the year before in the United States and we were on track this year to exceed that number.

"Where do they all go?"

"Some are murdered, some purposely disappear."

"Seems like a lot," the President said.

"Yes, sir," I replied.  "But I think I know where many of them are going?"

"Where, general?"

"Now, sir," I started, "this is a bit unbelievable. But I have evidence."

"Yes?" He sounded impatient. Presidents have a lot on their plate.

"They are being taken off the planet by an hostile alien race."

Reynolds snorted.

"I said it was unbelievable."

"Look, general, I agreed to this meeting because you said you'd found an imminent threat to the nation. This sounds like a bad science fiction movie."

"I have proof, Mr. President."

"Which is?"

"We captured one."

Reynolds glared at me. "One, what?"

"An alien."

Reynolds leaded forward. "Seriously? What's it look like."


"Come again?"

"Bigfoot, sir.  Apparently the sightings of Bigfoot, or the Sasquatch, are sightings of these aliens hunting humans."

"You've captured a Bigfoot?"

"Yes, sir, near Fort Lewis, in the woods.  And there was a small alien spacecraft nearby. But it self destructed as we approached.  We did get some pictures, however."

"Are you BSing me, general."

"No, sir."

Reynolds sat back in his chair. "You're telling me that aliens are taking humans off Earth for some purpose?"

"Oh, we know the purpose."

Reynolds again leaned forward.  "How do you know that, general?"

"We found a cookbook."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Novel Excerpt: Mystery by Aliya Leigh

Aliya Leigh
Today we are happy to welcome back the multi-talented Aliya Leigh to our blog.  Aliya is a fiction writer, director, producer, animator and voice over actress.  She even has an entry on the Internet Movie Database (something I've always dreamed of having).

Yesterday we had a fun and informative interview with Aliya, and today we will be sharing an excerpt from her novel, Mystery.

Their eyes meet and Daniel says, “The boss sent me here to pick you up. You have a job, remember? You were supposed to show up on Monday. Today is Friday. What happened?” 

“I met my wife,” Jeremy says.

Jeremy looks at the floor because he wants to cry, but does not want his best friend to see his weak side. The only person in the world who has ever seen his weak side is his mother. Jeremy gets a little teary eyed, but remains calm. 

Daniel looks at Jeremy as if he can look into his soul. He is in shock about what his friend says to him because Jeremy has never had feelings for a woman as deeply as this before. Daniel is speechless, but he finds his tongue and asks, “Where is she?”

Jeremy stares at the floor again. He doesn’t want to tell Daniel what happened, but he knows he has to tell him or he won’t leave. Jeremy wants to cry, but cannot let that happen. He gets control of himself. 

“I don’t know. She disappeared in Vegas one night.” 

“You got married in Vegas?” Daniel says.

“No. We were thinking about it,” Jeremy confesses in a whisper.

Daniel has a confused look on his face and cocks his head to the side. Jeremy is expecting Daniel to say something weird or crazy and is bracing himself for it.

“Wait. Are you the guy who said you would never get married? Now you’re talking about almost marrying a woman, who as far as I know, doesn’t exist. Are you on dope?” Daniel asks.

Jeremy knew this was how Daniel would react. Jeremy wants to cry because he loves this woman so much. Jeremy sometimes thinks this woman is a fragment of his imagination, but he knows better than that. He felt her, touched her, breathed her, and loved her when they were together. He knows the woman he fell in love with is real, as real as he is. Jeremy has to tell Daniel the whole story, the truth. He wants his friend to believe him and understand why he looks and feels depressed. He thinks if he tells Daniel about the woman and the trip to Vegas, maybe it will heal his soul and help him forget about the woman.

“No. This woman is amazing,” Jeremy says as he closes his eyes.

Jeremy pictures the woman in his mind. It is like he is taking out his eyeballs and placing them inside his head and watching the woman standing there looking at him. He smiles and wants to touch her; he almost stretches out his arm so he can feel her. He knows she is not there, though. His mind comes back to reality and he stares at the floor, then back up at Daniel.

“She’s amazing. She has beautiful crystal blue eyes; eyes you can see through; eyes like a glass window and the iris is the ocean. In her eyes, you can see youth, truth, and happiness, but also mystery. She’s mysterious, as beautiful as the goddess Venus, even more. I have never seen a more beautiful woman than her in my life. I love her; I still do. I felt like a man with her, but now I am nothing without her. She means everything to me.” 

There are tears in Jeremy’s eyes when he looks at Daniel. He wants to cry and he is trying his hardest to control himself, but he can’t. Tears slowly flow from his eyes. He does not want Daniel to see him like this because of his pride, but right now, he doesn’t care. He cannot control himself any longer. He takes the bottom right side of his shirt and puts it up to his eyes. After he wipes them he puts his shirt down and swipes at his nose. His eyes and nose turn red, but his face suddenly turns calm. He puts his head down because he feels embarrassed crying in front of his friend.

Daniel knows how he feels, although he has never seen this side of Jeremy before. He knows his friend is in pain and he is willing to help, as always, but he doesn’t know how. He wants Jeremy to tell him the story. At first, Daniel thinks Jeremy is playing a joke on him, but now he knows Jeremy is telling the truth about this woman he so obviously loves very much. Daniel puts his right hand on Jeremy’s back and rubs it. Jeremy wraps his long, strong arms around Daniel’s body and hugs him. Daniel leans into Jeremy’s chest and Jeremy puts his chin on Daniel’s left shoulder and starts to cry. His body is shaking and he cannot stop himself. 

After several minutes of crying, Jeremy pushes himself away. His face is red and haggard and he starts to feel embarrassed about what he did, by hugging Daniel, but really doesn’t care at this point.
 Daniel needs to hear the whole story about the trip to Vegas and the woman who Jeremy loves. Jeremy wipes his face with his hands again and looks at his friend. Daniel doesn’t know about what his friend is going through, but he knows it is serious enough.

“Well, I’m going to be here for a while, so let me sit down. I want to hear the whole story,” Daniel says.

Jeremy looks at Daniel and cannot believe that his friend really cares for him. He wipes his face again with the corner of his shirt and says, “I’m sorry, come in.”

Jeremy finally lets Daniel into his apartment.  Stepping into the apartment, Daniel sits in the black leather chair in the living room and Jeremy closes and locks the door behind him. 

Daniel enjoys being in Jeremy’s apartment. The furniture is comfortable, unlike his furniture at home. The leather chair is soft and when you sit down, your body melts into it. Daniel scans the living room and sees the apartment is not clean, which is unusual for Jeremy because he is a clean freak. He even cleans the silver faucets on the sink in the bathroom and kitchen until they are spotless. Even when Jeremy goes over Daniel’s apartment and something was out of place, he rearranges or cleans his whole apartment.

Daniel can see his friend is depressed and needs serious help, he just doesn’t know how to give it. Daniel figures if he can hear the story, maybe he can at least be supportive to his friend, even though he wants to do more. Jeremy has helped him so much in the past he wants to return the help. He already feels bad not calling or coming by sooner.  

Jeremy walks into his kitchen. He looks at Daniel and his facial expressions tell him exactly what he is thinking, this place is a mess.

Jeremy scans the living room and cannot believe he has let his apartment get this dirty, but he’s happy that his best friend came over to see him. He realizes he needs someone to talk to. He needs comfort. He needs help. 

“Daniel, do you want any coffee?” Jeremy asks from the kitchen.

“Yes, please.”

Daniel and Jeremy are both silent. Daniel never saw this side-the sensitive side-of Jeremy. Daniel thought he knew his best friend and co-worker. 

“Do you want anything in your coffee?” Jeremy asks from the kitchen.

“No, I take it black,” Daniel says.


Jeremy takes the two mugs of coffee to the living room and hands one to Daniel. Jeremy walks over to the couch and moves his clothes to the other side. He puts his coffee mug on the floor and sits down slowly. Jeremy stares into space, but Daniel knows he is thinking about the woman he had met in Vegas.

The mood is the classic psychiatrist and patient scene: Daniel sitting in the chair and Jeremy lying on the couch. 

Daniel has two sips of coffee and then stares at Jeremy. “Man, I want to hear everything.”

“Okay, well you know about the meeting at work before my long vacation, right? After I insulted the project manager and that sales guy, Arnold?” Jeremy says. 

“Well, David wanted to talk to me in his office. He told me to apologize to the project manager and to the sales guy in an e-mail or I could lose my job. He also told me after I apologized to them he was giving me three months off with pay. He suggested that I take a drive. He recommended Las Vegas. I e-mailed the project manager and the sales guy and told them that I was sorry about what I said and I started my vacation that evening.”

Jeremy and Daniel were working non-stop for six months straight programming a program for the stockbrokers who worked in their financial firm located on 99 Water Street next to the South Street Seaport. At the meeting, Jeremy and Daniel showed the final build of the program to the president of the stockbrokers’ department, the project manager, sales rep, and the president of PSD. At the meeting, the project manager and sales rep were happy that the program was finished and worked effectively, but they wanted to change the colors, the font, the title, and they thought it could be programmed and could work a different way, plus they wanted to add more features.

Jeremy got upset. He yelled at the project manager and the sales rep. Jeremy’s boss was not happy at how Jeremy took control of the situation; he could have argued with them in a different way, but he was happy that he said what he said to them.

Jeremy lays on the couch and impatiently put his coffee mug on the floor.

Jeremy moves his body on the couch to get comfortable and then he starts to tell the story. “She’s beautiful.”

Jeremy stares into space again as he thinks about her.

“Jeremy, come back to Earth,” Daniel says. 

Daniel is eager to hear the story. His eyes open wide and his body shifts to the edge of the chair like a child receiving presents on his birthday. Daniel wants Jeremy to get to the point of the story or he was going to burst into a million pieces. 

“Oh yeah,” Jeremy says shaking his head. “Daniel, she could have been my wife.”

“Jeremy, how could you say something like that? Think about it. You had mottos: “You need to screw and then lose. Marriage is for the deranged and insane.” Daniel takes a hard look at Jeremy and cocks his head to the side. He is trying to figure out whom he is talking to. The man in front of him looks like his best friend, but now he doesn’t know who the man is.

“So how could you fall in love and think about marrying a woman you just met? What happened?” 

“Man, it happens. I didn’t believe it myself, but it happens. I knew if I married her, she would be mine forever. I didn’t want to lose her. She was better than ten women put together. She was the one, my one true love. Yes, you may think I’m insane right now, but if you saw her, you would go insane, too. This woman is beautiful, smart, funny, exciting, and an amazing woman. If I find her again, I will marry her. I don’t want to lose her again,” Jeremy says.

Daniel sits in shock to hear what his friend says. The same guy who mocks marriage now wants to get married.

“So, what’s her name, where does she live, does she have a job?”

“Man, did you know your name tells someone what type of person you are?” Jeremy asks.

Daniel’s mouth opens wide; he is still in shock. Jeremy is goal-oriented, business-minded, analytical, and hated people that thought freely non-analytically. Now, Jeremy is open-minded and thought freely. Daniel is afraid Jeremy will get off the couch and start doing yoga, which Jeremy will definitely not do in a heartbeat, but Daniel can see a different side of him emerging. 

Thank you, Aliya, for sharing your talent with us!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Author Interview: Aliya Leigh

Aliya Leigh
Today we are happy to welcome the multi-talented Aliya Leigh to our blog.  Aliya is a fiction writer, director, producer, animator and voice over actress.  She even has an entry on the Internet Movie Database!

Today we are going to have an interview with Aliya and tomorrow an excerpt from her novel, Mystery.

Please welcome Aliya, we're so happy to have her here:

1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I  always wanted to be a storyteller because I think it was in my blood.  By being half Native American, my great aunt used to tell me stories about my culture and I would sit there and listen.  I use to do the same with my dolls and sharing my active imagination with them and it was a source of entertainment.  So, as I grew up, I enjoyed having an audience and telling my stories and seeing the excitement and wonderment on people faces.  That’s when, I knew I had a gift for being a great story telling.  
2. Can you tell us a little bit more about your novel?

My novel is about trying to find your soul mate before it’s too late.  Jeremy is a  man who don’t believe in love and is piss off with the world.  He decides to take a road trip to Las Vegas from New York City.  While on his road trip, he meets a woman named Mystery, who has black beautiful skin and crystal blue eyes.  Mystery needs to disappear because her abusive boyfriend is trying to find her, so Jeremy decided to take Mystery with him to Las Vegas.  During the road trip,  Jeremy falls in love with Mystery but Mystery has a secret.   
3. What brought you to this genre?

Edgar Allen Poe. I am a big fan of his work. His always grabbed my attention in a story.  I wanted to be like him, so I got involved writing Mysteries.  Horror is my passion because it’s part of me. I can’t explain it.  With horror, you have thriller to keep the audience attention.   
4.      What inspired you to write this particular book?
My aunt inspired me to write this book.  She was always searching for love and married three times. Her third husband murdered her.  It had a profound impact on me about love and marriage. I always had my guard up when I was dating because I was in fear if this person who I decide to marriage will kill me in the end.  I saw my parents marriage and it never seemed genuine. They are still married today, but I never saw that love between them.  To me, it seemed that it was more of a business relationship than love.  So, story taught me about finding that true love, your soul mate before it’s too late.  
5. Describe your novel in five words.

Romance, hope, survival, adventure, mysterious

6. Where can people find out our more about you and your books?

“Deadly Profession” –
“Merchandise” –
“My podcast” –
“Twitter account” – @aliyaleigh
“Cypher Pirates” -
“Shadow Creatures” -
7.  Are you working on anything else at the moment? Tell us about your future works.

I have been working on blog  called “Shadow Creatures”.  The story is based on my family and my childhood.  Shadow Creatures is a about a young teenage girl named E who is trying to understand the meaning of life and finding her position in a family which is damned by God.   E is me because I have always felt like an outsider in my colorful and insane family.  
I am planning to put my book “Cypher Pirates” on Facebook.  “Cypher Pirates” is about an unlikely popular teenage snob becomes a hero.  Rumors of an underground Internet game surface at school, leaving a team of elite snobbish hackers anxious to play. If lucky enough to be invited, you are given a subject and must find the software through this clue.  It's a game within a game and Emma is thrilled to discover she has been selected, and elated when she is successful in solving the problem, leading to her acceptance as a player in the mysterious game of "Reality".  The only down side is the rule of secrecy, forbidding the players to discuss the details of the game amongst themselves. When Emma realizes the game is not what it seems, she’s on a mission to unplug her friends from the game’s nightmares.  Will her inner strength and cocky attitude save friends and herself?
I am working on an animated web series called  Deadly Profession  about a drug and sex addicted medical doctor who practices euthanasia for a fee. After performing an assisted suicide on her grandmother, Mercy has been re-thinking her medical practice and her own morals. Her racist drug dealing Island maid named Rasta, the ghost of her best friend Chris, her booty call Dr. O, her Coach Bag and The Devil himself are her only friends.
I will be working with the film director Joe Guinan on three projects, “Ghost Aliens”, “Before the Thunders” and “Casting Office Paranormal”.  
I am blessed to have Robaire W. Estel as a mentor.  He is an amazing and successful screenwriter and producer who is knowledgeable in the film industry.   
I am doing voice-overs for commercials, video games, web shows and TV.  
I have been selected to direct anime project for a talented scriptwriter.  It’s a children story about using a normal toy that tells the future.  When funding is final, I will be start film.  I am with  Janette Anderson from Janette Anderson Entertainment. 
I am available to do guest blogging.  
I am working with a group called “Zero Suicide Learning Collaborative” with the Suicide Prevention Resource Center in Washington.  
8.  Do you have any advice to other authors who would like to be published?

I believe, God is the answer to everything and he will guide and direct you in your life. With complete faith and trust in God, he has given me strength to endure anything even through the most difficult times in my life.  My advice is to believe in God and to be nice to people.  
People have the power to make you an unemployed or a successful writer. They are your fan base.  Without them, you are nothing but a person, so be nice and show how much they mean to you.  Always be humble and think outside the box.  
 Just for fun.
1.  What’s your guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure is eating candy. I love candy.  I could eat candy all day and night. 
2. Chocolate or Ice Cream?

I would like both please. [I'm with you! - SET]
3. What’s your favorite music?

My favorite music is heavy metal, death metal, alternative music, Christian Rock and Mozart.
4. If you could visit anywhere in the world where would it be? Why?
I would love to visit the Middle East so I could see where ancient Babylon used to be.  There is so much history there and it upsets me that people are destroying ancient history over religion, power and oil. 
5.  Who would you pick to date? The bad boy/girl or the perfect gentleman/lady? Why? 

I will have to pick a lady because I’m gay. I do have a partner and she is wonderful she is perfect for me.
6. If you had a super power what would it be? Why?

If I had a superpower it will be mind reading. So I don’t know what people are thinking.  I will know what they really are thinking instead of what they’re saying.
7.  What are your pet peeves?
My pet peeve is you think you know everything without asking any questions. You assume everything and is not true of what you assumed.
8.  Do you believe in ghosts? Why?

I do believe in ghosts. When I was a little girl, I was laying on my bed with my night light on as normal.   I was very still in my bed, then a black woman appeared in my room.  She looked like a black slave from the south as if she was a field worker with a scarf around her head.  She was pregnant.  She paced back and forth in my room as she was rubbing her belly.  All I could do was stare at her.  I made a slight noise and she stared back at me.  I didn’t know what to do.  I prayed and she walked towards my second story window and disappeared. I had to be around 7 years old.  
Two years ago,  I was in my apartment with a friend.  The bedroom was dark and the light we had was from the TV.   A shadow figure walked into my bedroom.  He was a tall and big black man with tight curly hair and full lips.  He was not solid,  only a shadow.  He walked around the room as my friend and watched in silence.  He stared at us and walked out of the room.  I looked at my friend and he looked back at me.  We were both in shock.  So,  yes I believe in ghosts. 

Thank you, Aliya! And tomorrow an excerpt from her novel, Mystery. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Meet My Main Character Blog Tour

Apparently there's more than one blog hop/tour tag thing happening at the moment. I already was roped into the "Writing Process" blog chain.  At least I volunteered for that one!

Now there's a "Meet My Main Character" blog hop/tour tag thing happening and I was tagged by Lee Miller who calls herself a "voracious reader" and hopes to be a writer. You can follow Lee on Twitter at @leemillerwrites

So, without further ado, please meet my main character from Treasure of the Black Hole, my as-of-yet unpublished science fiction novel.

1. What is the name of your main character? Is he fictional or a historic person?

My main character's name is Rick Bailey and he's a private detective on the planet Hayek IV. At least that's the alias he uses so the Core Empire can't find him. He's very fictional.

2. When and where is the story set?

The story is set about 4,000 years in the future and it takes place on various planets such as Hayek IV, Hayek III, Raipe, The Roach Home World, Terra-Kappa and, briefly, on Earth.  Each world has its unique climate, culture, government, and in some cases alien species.

3. What should we know about him?

Bailey has his own set of values that he stays true to as best he can. But he's not above taking work from a well-paying client who he is sure is lying.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

Bailey owes a mobster money (an amount that keeps increasing the more he angers the mobster) so he agrees to help find a treasure. Problem is, others are after it, too, including the mobster. And he has to avoid Core Empire operatives who wish to take him back to Earth to be boiled alive . . . slowly.

5. What is his personal goal?

To stay alive, live in peace, and not get caught by the Core Empire.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

That's a good question. I submitted it last week to a new publishing house. I'm supposed to hear back in three weeks from yesterday. If they ask for the full manuscript, I don't know how long until they'll accept that and then go to publication as I've never worked with this house before.

Thanks, Lee, for tagging me. This has been fun.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Racism and Sexism in Novels Set in The Past

I've been finishing up a science fiction novel called Treasure of the Black Hole.  It is my attempt to take the 1940s and '50s film noir movie or hard-boiled detective novel about 4,000 years into the future.  It has spaceships and aliens and fantastic new technology, but it is written as an old detective novel such as Dashiell Hammett might write. In fact, I need to stick a fork in it and call it "done."

Part of the process of working on the novel (which was a NaNoWriMo project which shows how much more work it takes to go from first draft to finished novel) is I've had several beta reads and the majority of the readers have been women.  And I was surprised none of them complained about the sexism in the novel.

But why is there sexism in the novel?  Because there was sexism in the old detective novels. Now it's not horrible sexism, mostly confined to the way people talk to each other (e.g., a man saying to a female character: "You're a good man, sister"). And there's strong female characters so it's not completely sexist.  But I could see that someone could be offended.

And I'm having a similar issue with my work in progress.  It is set in 1881 in the American West (yes, it's a Western but with fantasy elements). But in 1881, racism and sexism were just the ocean everyone swam in. It was so prevalent no one even took notice (except, I'm sure, the victims).  So my character can't even think, "Gee, they sure treat those coolies poorly" because in that era, no one would think that except a few very enlightened persons.

For example, a major publishing house rejected my novel Agent of Artifice with a note saying that it was interesting but my hero was a "sleazebag."  The only reason I could think they would say that was that the novel is set in the 1950s and he is a womanizer.  So, yes, by modern standards, he may be a "sleazebag" but in the '50s he would probably be considered "suave."

In my novel Hammer of Thor, there are three uses of the N-word. Why? Because that's how people talked in the 1930s and '40s.

Sometimes when talking to people about novels they will be upset about the racism and sexism of books written decades or centuries ago.  But often, by the standards of the time they were written, they are radically not sexist or racist.  For instance, in E.E. Smith's Skylark of Space, the main female character is a very strong woman who speaks her mind. This in a novel written over 100 years ago. Yes, she has to be rescued and all that, but in a period when women were seen and not heard, she is in many ways treated like an equal.

Now, when we're writing novels today we don't have the baggage of writing them before the invention of the traffic signal.  But if our novels are set in the past, we have to make them accurate to the period, including sexism, racism, and other evils that we are today trying to get away from.  Presenting the realities of the past in a realistic fashion will do more to educate your readers on those realities than pretending they don't exist.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The Chase

(This is a true story.)

I had the cruise control set for five miles per hour over the 70-mph speed limit.  And I was bored.  The interstate highway was long and straight.  Ahead to the south I could see the next small city that the interstate cut through.  I planned to stop there and get a drink and fill up the gas tank.  The needle was brushing the E.

I saw the police lights on the northbound road.  There were a lot of them, I realized, three cars running with red and blue lights flashing garishly even in the bright afternoon sun.  I wondered if there were an accident somewhere behind me or maybe they were just late for a donut run . . .

Then I saw the car they were chasing.  It was a older model sedan, so beat up and indistinct I had trouble identifying the make and model (and I know cars).  And I realized I was watching a real-life car chase.

The sedan was slowing, I could see.  I watched, fascinated, my cruise control still on, still driving on mostly auto-pilot.

The sedan was trying to turn at a cross over, the type labeled "Authorized Vehicles Only."  Even I could tell he was going too fast.  The car turned, slid, clipped a reflector and with a crunch of gravel flipped off the cross-over road and into the median where the loose dirt and weeds flipped the car over more. It tumbled over three times, popped up into my road, the southbound road.  I realized it was going to hit my car.  I braked and tried to swerve right to dodge it but it was too late.  The car, upside down, slammed into the rear left fender of my car, spinning me around at something like 70 mph.  My car flipped over, spinning down the highway.  The world went crazy as my seat belts held me tight against the seat.  I let go of the steering wheel knowing I could do nothing and that, if hanging on to it, if it spun suddenly it could break a wrist.  I was just a passenger.

My car landed on its wheels, the engine incongruously still running.  I was dazed, almost unconscious.  I felt wetness on my scalp and reached up to touch it.  My hand came away bloody.  I thought I was going to pass out.

The gunshot woke me up.  I turned toward the sound and saw a man beside his wrecked car shooting at police cars that were screeching to a halt.  I decided I needed to duck but the seat belt still held me.  I reached for the release but couldn't find it.  Blood was getting into my eyes.

I felt and impact as a bullet hit my shoulder.  Crying out involuntarily in pain I grabbed at the injury only to feel more blood, more pain.  The car was also burning, I realized.  I tugged at the seat belt, feeling the flames and heat get closer . . .

The cops zoomed by on the northbound lane.  I thought this was not a good time to be daydreaming at 75 mph.  I hope the cops were on a donut run, not heading for an accident.  I kept driving.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Star Wars are Unlikely

If there are ever war between planets/star systems, it will most likely be intra-species. It is very unlikly that humans would find them selves at war with an alien race, despite the fact this is a staple of science fiction (including my as-of-yet-unpublished novel Treasure of the Black Hole).

Why is this? The human race has been around about 100,000 years and have progressed to this point in that time (admittedly, a lot of the progress has been in the past 100 years). Say in 100 more years we develop faster than light technology and start exploring the galaxy. Or even in 1,000 years. Then our race would be 101,000 years old. And that is, on the cosmic time scale of a 13 billion year old universe, a blink of the eye. Humans have existed about 0.0008% of the time the universe has been around.

If we find intelligent life, chances are they will be older than us. Much older. As in millions of years older. If they have existed for, say, 0.008% of the time the universe has existed, they have been around over a million years. And their technology will be commensurately advanced. They will either wipe us out as we would a hornet's nest, or treat us like pets, or be so enlightened that they would almost be gods to us. But their technology would be so far advanced of ours that trying to fight them would be like throwing water against armor plating.

In fact, they may already know about us and have decided we're an ant hill not worthy of their bother.

So we'd better hope they have evolved enough to be benevolent and enlightened. Because I don't want to meet a Klingon with million-year-advanced technology.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Word Origins

I've always been interested in word origins. Why is something called what it is? For example, how did the miniature clock on our wrists get to be called "watches" (or, technically, wristwatches)?

So I looked it up. And as close as I can tell there used to be a "watch" (a person who watches) in towns to wake people up and when clocks became miniaturized to something you could carry in a pocket (an amazing achievement in the 16th century), people called them the "watch" that wakes you up in lieu of the person. But that's sort of conjecture on my part based on the etymology that is there.

When I was studying Korean in the military I loved when they introduced Hanja, which is the Chinese characters used in the Korean language. For example, we memorized by rote how to say "hello" ("annyeonghaseyo") in Korean. But with the Hanja, we learned that the first syllable meant "peace" and the whole greeting meant (pretty much) "Be in peace." And that was so cool, I thought.

I have a theory about words. That is, the shorter they are, the more common they are. Think about short words: fork, plate spoon, knife, cup, food are all one syllable words.  In less than 100 years the "horseless carriage" became the "automobile" and "auto" and "car" (despite governments' propensity to call them "motor vehicles"). I've already heard computers called "puters." Will that be shorten to "putes" or "comps"?  "Telephone" became "phone." "Cellular telephones" became "cell phone" or just "cell" or "phone" or (as in the UK) "mobile."

If you're making up words when you write, you need to know about word origins. For example, you don't want to mix a Latin prefix with a Greek suffix. In my work in progress (the only one I have right now) I wanted to make up a word for someone who does magic with rocks and stones. Using "necromancer" as a basis for my word, I looked it up and learned it was a Greek word (that passed through Latin on its way to English). So I didn't want to say "lapismancer" or "petramancer" because "lapis" and "petra" are Latin. Looking what is Greek for stone (and remembering that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark) I came up with "lithomancer." Then I googled it and found out it was an actual word.

(Why didn't I used "stonemancer" or "rockmancer"? because combining English and Greek is worse than Latin and Greek and sounds amateurish to me.)

Word origins can be fun and educational. So next time you look up a word in the dictionary check out its origin. You might have some fun.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Yesterday I submitted a work to a new publishing house. Having finished this work recently (finally stuck a fork in it), I decided I had three choices:

1) Submit to the publishing house that has published all my novels so far
2) Submit to a new house to see what they can do for me
3) Self publish

While #1 would have been the safest and easiest thing to do, I was really leaning toward 2 & 3. Don't get me wrong, I love my house that published all my novels so far and eternally grateful that they took a chance on me. But, as they say in investing, diversity is the key. I think it's not a good idea to put all your eggs in one publishing basket. A friend of mine loves this certain house so I submitted to that one, once again risking the slush email inbox (I'm sure it's not a pile anymore).  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

And the reason I was thinking of self-publishing was I have learned so much about marketing since my first novel, I wanted to see if I could effectively market the book without the services of a publishing house.

But I do hate the gnawing in the pit of my stomach worrying about rejection. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour Tag

Frances Pauli is a wonderful writer and a great lady and I feel privileged to call her my friend. She's the one who got my into this "Writing Process" blog tour tag thing.  The author of the Princes of the Shroud series, her blog is at

So the first step in this blog tour tag is for me to answer the following questions:

What am I working on?

I am finishing up a novel entitled Treasure of the Black Hole.  It is a science fiction novel where I have taken the hard-boiled, film-noir detective movies of the 1940s and ‘50s and updated that theme to about 4,000 years in the future. When private detective Rick Bailey is hired by the exotically beautiful and outrageously wealthy Princess Nora, he thinks it'll be easy money.  But when the case turns deadly, Bailey realizes the roots of evil run deep.  What is in the Treasure of the Black Hole and why is it worth killing for?

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

In most of my work I try to take conventional notions of science fiction or fantasy and twist them just a bit.  My fantasy novels are not set in some feudal made up world, but in the 20th Century with characters interacting with real-world events and historical figures.  In Treasure of the Black Hole I have a science fiction novel with spaceships and aliens and high technology, but told in the style of a Dashiell Hammett novel.

Why do I write what I do?

At first I thought I wrote what I do because I'm lazy and like to make up my own rules.  But with my fantasy novels set in recent history I have to do a lot of research to get the history correct (and the technology, fashions, language, thought processes).  But I do love playing with worlds, even if I don't "build" them. I love taking an idea, twisting it a bit, and running with it.  The notion of magical people in the real world is what my four fantasy novels of the "Adept Series" is all about.  In my most conventional novel, Rock Killer, which is science fiction about mining asteroids, I take future trends and extend them out to what I see as their logical (and frightening) conclusions.

How does your writing process work?

Of course first comes the idea.  Then I spend some time just thinking, fleshing it out, maybe doing some research or calculations to see if the idea is viable.  I might write a scene or two. But then at some point I decide to write the novel.  I don't outline or plot out every scene first.  I liken it to a road trip: I know where to start, I know where I want to go and I have some way points along the route planned out. But if I come to an interesting detour or another destination looks more interesting, I'm not locked into my original plan.  I can't tell you the number of times I've thought "this will be how this novel ends" and it never came close to that ending.  Then I just sit down and type.  I don't listen to music because it interferes with hearing my characters.  I'll try to hammer out the entire first draft, realizing it will be far from perfect and need a lot of work.  Then I'll let it sit for a while (at least a week) in a process I call "festering."  Then I'll read/edit it.  Then let it sit.  Then read/edit. Repeat.  Then I have someone read it to me.  I find this lets me hear things, such as word repetitions, that I didn't catch reading it.  Then I'll have friends proofread and beta it.  This takes a while.  For instance, I'm just finishing up Treasure of the Black Hole which was a NaNoWriMo 2014 project.  So I've been working on it six months since finishing the first draft.

Now, here are the three writers I am tagging and will be posting their writing process next Monday:

Lori Schafer:

Lori Schafer is a writer of serious prose and humorous erotica and romance. More than thirty of her short stories, flash fiction, and essays have appeared in a variety of print and online publications, and her first novel, a work of women's fiction entitled My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged, will be released in 2015. Also forthcoming in 2015 is her second novel Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged. On the more serious side, her memoir, On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter's Memoir of Mental Illness, will be published in October 2014. When she isn't writing (which isn't often), Lori enjoys playing hockey, attending beer festivals, and spending long afternoons at the beach reading. 

Robin Jeffrey was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming to a psychologist and a librarian, giving her a love of literature and a consuming interest in the inner workings of people’s minds. Several of her creative pieces have been featured in college publications from the University of Washington, where she graduated with a BA in English. Robin has since earned a MS in Library and Information Science, giving her the authority to shush whomever she likes, whenever she likes. Currently living in Seattle, she enjoys the offerings of the vibrant literary community, as well as the technology culture for which the city is so famous. A passionate fan of science fiction and fantasy, she will watch or read pretty much anything.

David J. Rodger:

David J. Rodger is a British author of science fiction dark fantasy with eight novels under his belt. Themes include thrillers, horror and action adventure. He is also the creator of Yellow Dawn - The Age of Hastur, an RPG that blends Cthulhu Mythos and Cyberpunk themes into a post-apocalyptic setting. His books cross many boundaries to deliver a new and exciting fusion of ideas and genres. All his books have received critical acclaim. He is known for crafting tightly-wound plots and deep characters that draw you in. All the books are stand-alone and can be read in any order, but occupy a shared universe allowing you to build a deeper knowledge with every story. Supported by Bristol Fantasy & Science Fiction Society. Represented by Floyd Hayes.

Currently working on three novels - with Oakfield due for release autumn this year - launch party to be announced. 
<> Oakfield
<> Broken Fury
<> Sunder Gloom

I've also been commissioned to write a piece of original fiction for Achtung! Cthulhu, so World War II horror with an H.P.Lovecraft vibe. Editor chased me for a pitch last week, which was accepted this weekend - aiming to nail it end of the month.  Quick turnaround.

I've been told my work is different because I write hard-boiled thrillers wrapped in the gloss and grit of science-fiction cyberpunk, with dark fantasy horror injected into the meat as way of bringing new flavours to the reader's pallet.

I write to satisfy the need to do so - a way of exorcising the characters and plots in my head. I also do it for the money.

My process of writing tends to be fairly logical after an initial stage of creative conjuring.  Come up with an idea (character name, type, scene, anything really) and allow that to form some further tendrils. Leave it, come back to it, wait for the moment when it has some weight and grows into a thread of a plot line. Once I have that, I tend to flesh out the story in bullet points - makes it easy to edit and make changes without moving massive blocks of narrative about.  Then I do the first proper draft, converting the bullet points into way points and really working the story up.  I'm known for a pretty gruelling work ethic, which can include 4 A.M. starts and using polyphasic sleep to stay sharp. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: Mushrooms

Today's Flash Fiction Friday is Mushrooms:


Why did it have to be mushrooms?

I trudged over the bridge toward the forest.  Mushrooms grew under trees, in the shade where it's wet and dark.

Wet and dark.  Like my soul.  Yes, my soul is wet.  It's inside me, with all the blood and lymphatic fluid and oozing things.  And dark because of the awful things I've had to do.

Did I mention the aliens?

For years anyone with an IQ over room temperature knew that UFOs were not alien visitors but weather balloons, stars, Venus, drunken redneck imagination.  After all, if they expended all the energy and resources to travel interstellar distances, they weren't going to anally probe a few farmers.  They couldn't be that hard up for dates.

But we were wrong, all us smart people.  They were scouts of the invasion, probing our weaknesses along  with those anuses.  Until they day this landed in Gary Indiana and said, "All your bases are belonging to us."  They'd seen that so often on the internet they thought it was how you declared ultimate victory.

And the short but decisive battle lasted almost a day, killed about a million humans, and established the aliens as overlords.

And me as their prefect.  I don't know if they chose me randomly out of the phone book or read my blog and liked my rants about the evil one percent criminal corporations. But they made me viceroy of the overlords.  My job was to see that their human slaves provided them with everything they desired and needed.  They really like anal probing.

And mushrooms.  Why they sent me, personally, to get them, I din't know.  It was the red ones with white pokadots, like danced in that Disney cartoon.  They grew in Europe, not America.  I flew over, my helicopter dropped me off at the edge of the woods, and I walked in to get mushrooms.

The alien was standing there.  What did he look like.  He looked like every picture you've seen of an alien: small hairless body, big head, big black eyes, slit mouth.

"Hello," it said.

I was surprised.  This didn't  seem their style.  "Hello, oh masterful overlord," I replied.

"We sent you on this quest so we could talk to you alone," it said.

"Yes, your most majestic highness."  I was confused but I'd learned not to question their orders.

"It's over," it said.

"What is that, your most excellent excellency?"  Hey, you try making up honorifics so you're not the next anal probing subject.

"The joke."

"What joke?"

"The invasion," it said.  "All a joke you guys really didn't get."

"You killed a million of us," I spat.  I was angry.  Hell, let them probe me.

"Yeah, true, but you got 7 billion left and at the rate you people reproduce you'll soon have that million back.  So no big deal.  We're leaving now."


"Yeah, so you can go back to working at McDonalds."

"They're gonna kill me," I said.  "They already burn me in effigy."  The things I did at the orders of the alien overlords.

"Meh, yeah, sorry, not our problem."

He beamed up. Yeah, just like on Star Trek

There were mushrooms on the ground behind where he stood.  I hear they are quite psychedelic.  I ate every one of them.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Twitter Trick You Need to Know

Here is one Twitter trick you need to know and it seems few do.  For example, last Monday night as I was watching 24: Live Another Day, I had this Twitter conversation:

Okay, that's pretty cool that the Fox 24 Twitter account responded to me.  They have over 100,000 followers.  But the bad news is, because they started the tweet with my user handle (@SEvanTownsend) only I saw it.  This is something a lot of people on Twitter don't seem to understand.

Start a tweet with a user handle and only that person and people who follow both of you will see:

@DaleJr Great race! #Daytona500

will only be seen by @DaleJr.  So put something in front of the user handle:

Hey, @DaleJr Great race! #Daytona500

Or if your tweet is long and bumping up against 140 characters, just put a period (dot):

.@DaleJr that was a great race the way you came from behind. #Daytona500

(Yes, I know that's no where near 140 characters.) 

So I wasn't sure if the @24Fox account intern who does their social media doesn't know this, or they did it on purpose.  Because sometimes you only want the person you're addressing to see it, not all your followers.  However, this isn't as private as a Direct Message (DM) so don't use this for anything you don't want others to see.  If someone looks at your tweets, they'll see this message.

I am constantly amazed at how many people on Twitter don't seem to know this trick.