Another Brief Announcement


A month ago I announced the Authors Give Back sale offered at Smashwords.  Due to the continuing effects of COVID-19, the sale on e-books has been extended to May 31.  If you’re not already a Smashwords member, never fear:  Membership is free.

And speaking of free, the first two books of my four-part series, Darkness upon the Land and Wail of the Tempest, are also still available at no cost until May 31.  The End of an Age quadrilogy (as I like to call it) is about a coronal mass ejection that crashes the electrical grid and the technology dependent upon it.  The storyline focuses on a young woman with a bioenergetic ability that makes her a target to a corrupt faction.

There is tribulation and death, but there is also courage and hope.  While people are being isolated and many are experiencing economic uncertainty, offering books for free is one small way I can try to help.

The third book will be coming out later this spring.  I’ve pushed back its debut because of issues related to this virus, but more information will be available as the launch date approaches.

Many other titles by other authors are being offered at deep discounts or free.  To get started, click on the link below.  And in the meantime stay safe and sound!


How Well Does It Fly?


You’ve probably heard of the maxim “Write what you know.”  Good advice, but that also means if you’re going to write about something outside your field of knowledge, you need to do the research first.

During the draft of my next book to come out, I began research to vivify a scene in mind of a character coping with a compromised helicopter in midflight.  I didn’t yet know what would go wrong and how it could be fixed (while still in flight, mind you), so I began perusing the internet for topics on helicopter crashes, or malfunctions or what happens when shot at.

Yes, I’ve accepted I’m bound to be on some Watch lists out there….

Learning about the physics of helicopter flight was intimidating enough, but one website I ran across mentioned how the chopper mechanics would read thriller novels by authors whose names you’d recognize.  They would find errors concerning the whirlybirds, and laugh with each other how the writer got certain details wrong.

Now I’m really intimidated.

Some true-life stories of close calls provided concrete ideas, but I still had to comprehend the logistics of the collective control.  See the picture below?  The collective is all the gizmos that help operate the blades.


Hours of research distilled to two and a half pages on my computer screen.  Still feeling intimidated about the details, I made use of six degrees of separation to contact a helicopter pilot.  Both he and the other pilot who worked with him agreed to read the scene and inform me whether or not it rang true to somebody more enlightened.

Apparently it was a slow news day.  Not only did they return their feedback in a matter of hours, they climbed around on their own helicopter (but not while in flight) after discussing the scene with each other.  They fiddled with the collective and contemplated if my character’s actions would, well, umm … fly.

Their first response was that it would take pert-near superhuman strength to pull off (or rather put together) what my character did, but still liked the scene and found it exciting.  I shared the true-life account that provided the most inspiration, and they responded with “That was an eye opener!  I guess if your choice is get the job done or die, you’ll do whatever it takes!”

Writing is usually not so dramatic, but I can relate to that statement:  If the choice is to do the research or write something … flat (like it fell from an airplane), you’ll do whatever research it takes.

My helicopter scene might still make those chopper mechanics laugh, but at least I’m in good company….

Degrees of Evil


Deuce examined the weapon Quint handed him.  It resembled a rifle-style blaster, except the barrel was too thin and the magazine too thick.  He found it disconcerting to not recognize this particular instrument of war.

“What is its designation?”  Deuce asked.

“I call it an atrocity,” Kyla muttered as she gazed down the field the three of them stood upon.

The artificial sunlight from the ceiling of the manmade cavern they occupied cast shadows beside them, distorted by the remaining stubble of harvested grains adapted to this environment.  Fifty meters away at the other end of the field, the carcass of a coyote, exterminated during a livestock raid above ground, hung between two poles.

Quint shrugged.  “A correct designation would be disintegrater.  But we just call it a grater.  Fact is, shoot something with this thing or run it through a grater, you get the same result.  Go ahead, fire it.”

Deuce aimed the weapon at the carcass and tapped the trigger.  The coyote burst into a cascade of bite-size pieces, hide and meat and organs raining down in a two-meter radius around it.  Only the main part of the skeleton remained hanging.

Kyla’s demeanor was unchanged.  “That’s just nasty.”

Considering she was a doctor, Deuce found her remark incongruous.

The grater was effective, but he realized its shortcomings.  “This is highly efficient on organic matter, but the fact several of the heavier bones maintained integrity indicates limitations on dense materials.  And a coyote is lighter than a cyborg.”

“Yeah, we never bothered to improve the original models before,” Quint replied.  “The reason we’re bringing them back to the drawing board now is because we all know the Elite will change the central control module locations on the cyborgs’ tech.  We need to be able to kill them once, not have to do it twice like before.”

Something the colonel didn’t say stood out to him more.  “This isn’t a new weapon design?”

“No … we developed these a couple of decades ago.  But they’re … too messy.”

Kyla rolled her eyes as she fingered a malachite brooch on her shirt collar.  “Any new weapon can fall into enemy hands.  I’d like the chance to save my patients, thank you.”

Deuce studied them as he contemplated the explanation.  “So you could have utilized these against the ameliorated soldiers I commanded before defecting to your camp, but decided not to?”

Not using them was the lesser evil.”  Quint shrugged.  “You should be grateful that was our choice.  Otherwise you might not be here now.  Anyway, we want to restructure the charges to an entirely electrical basis.  Shut down the cyborgs’ hearts and tech.”

He was still grappling with the notion that his former enemies had developed an effective weapon they decided against using.  The organization Deuce defected from, the Elite, would have implemented these graters with no hesitation.

“At least I can restart a heart.”  Kyla’s gaze locked on him.

Quint stated the obvious.  “We want your expert opinion on what firepower we’ll need against these new cyborgs.”

“I can’t claim expertise on the next method of attack.”  Deuce studied them both.  “It’s possible they won’t deploy cyborgs again.”

His two comrades looked at each other.  Kyla, who was in her early sixties but only streaks of gray in her upswept hair betrayed age, returned her gaze to Deuce.

“What could be next?”  Because of her years, she’d witnessed this entire, ongoing war.  “First they used androids.  Then they developed super soldiers, which they later supplemented with strategists like you.  Now they’ve combined android and soldier into cyborgs.  Do we suspect flying monkeys that spit venomous fireballs?”

“I wouldn’t put it past them,” Quint grumbled.  He was in his thirties and had only ever known war.

Deuce stared at the grater as he considered why he was here.  Chronologically in his twenties, he had been trained for warfare by the Elite as long as he could remember.  They had created him for warfare.  Unlike the genetically improved soldiers who could only follow orders, the Elite engineered him to think strategically.

But they considered his creation, and the twenty-three other prototypes like him, to be a failure.  Creations that could think for themselves were considered a potential threat, which was why so few were produced.

And some of those thinkers had defected before him, joining forces with these people he used to know as rabble.  Those predecessors were now dead.  Defective prototypes were overwhelmingly targeted in battle.  But in his case, joining the rabble became his only chance to continue living.

Like the grater he held, the prototypes were judged to be undesirable for service.  He and four others who still survived were given one option to remain practical to the Elite.  They had to submit to biotechnical modifications that included interfacing with the core data system.

By this time Deuce started considering Elite philosophy to be incorrect, and having those private doubts made public would get him executed.

He’d been created to bring a war to its end, and failed.  And now the rabble looked to him to help them end this war.  His new society believed in Rules of Engagement.  How does one defeat an opponent who doesn’t share that outlook?

“Utilize both.”  Deuce returned his attention to them.

“Both of what?” Quint asked.

“Both designs.”  He held up the grater.  “Implement your modifications.  But also increase the charge yield on these models.  They could prove advantageous.”

“They could be suicidal.”  Kyla frowned.

“You must be prepared for anything if you want to end the war.”

“I want to end it.”  Her gaze locked on his.  “But not by getting us all killed in the process.”

“Let’s not forget we’ve got an alternative,” Quint muttered.

Deuce’s attention shifted to him.  “What alternative?”

“That’s a discussion for another day.”  He shrugged.

The only alternative Deuce could think of was retreat.  But there was nowhere in the world safe enough to retreat to … was there?


Here’s is this month’s submission to #BlogBattle, and the word of choice this time was Brooch.  I know other writers can get more creative with that prompt, so feel free to check them out!

This story is sort of a prelude to next month’s installment, which is why it leans toward being a philosophical recap.  If you want to check out previous submissions to this serialization, here’s a link to last month’s entry and you can work your way back.  Since I plan to compile these into a novella when they’re completed, I’m not highly motivated to organize them now…!

Writing is a Neurosis

rear rabbit

It’s true I’ve often alluded to how you have to be crazy to be a writer.  Most of us tend to be introverts, yet there’s something exhibitionist about giving others a glimpse into the madness of our minds.  And if you stop and think about it, several categories from the Abnormal Psychology files do seem to apply to writers.  For instance:

Schizophrenia:  Of course we hear voices and see visions.  How else do you think we come up with all those descriptions and plot twists?

Obsessive-Compulsive:  This manifests as thinking about our story while we’re driving, showering, or pretending to listen to our spouse.  During certain stages of the craft it can degenerate to distracted driving, skipping showers, and not realizing the spouse has left the building.

Bipolar:  We will often begin a project with high hopes and great anticipation, but about halfway through the first draft suspect it’s really just a steaming pile of poo.

Catatonia:  Staring at the computer screen or across the room for longer than we’d like to admit.

Dissociative:  More the result of being obsessive-compulsive, we sometimes blur the lines between our works in progress and reality.  This can manifest as forgetfulness, or like the time I called one of our kids by the name of a character in a story I was working on.

Bibliophilia:  This one’s a no-brainer.  We love books.  We love books so much we think there should be more books.  We read books, and our to-read pile of books just keeps getting taller.  When we go to heaven we expect to read those books we didn’t get to while still on Earth.

Those were what I could think of off the top of my head, but you could probably come up with others.  Like many things in life, you’ve got to be at least a little crazy to be a writer.

While I’m here I’ll give a quick update on my next book, part three of the four-parter End of an Age series (I like to call it a quadrilogy, but I am a little crazy).  It’s in finishing stages, but this pandemic thing has made me decide to push off its debut for a little while, more in the summer than the spring.  I’ll keep you posted….