All posts for the month December, 2015


Sit down, kid, and let Red explain. Time’s a funny thing when you’re in the bucket. Sometimes it’s like you’re just floating in the void. You feel like it’s been ages and when you look at the chron, it’s been maybe a handful of minutes at best. It’s even worse when you’re doing recon. Then all your equipment is live and you really are just kinda floating around.

I been running escort for merch for the last decade, kid. I’ve done the drift and watch thing, and I’ve been in shit so thick your feathers’ll turn white. There’s a reason they pay me as good as they do.

Nah, I’m good. Thanks, though. I’ve got coffee. I’ll take one of those smokes, though, if you feel like sharing.

Anyway, like I was saying, time ain’t what you think of it. I talked to the nav a while back. Spent a couple lunches and dinners discussing it, right? Ever see how much that guy can put down, by the way? Those tentacle things get to whipping around like a mixer. Food just cramming into that beak of his –

Yeah, yeah. Off track, I know. Look, kid, I just got back from… Never mind. That ain’t important. Just listen to that little voice in your head when it tells you that time seems to be dragging. Watch your chron a bit. Get it back in a rhythm, ‘cause if you let it get away from you, it’s a stone bitch to get it back.

Oh, yeah. That’s mine. No, ma’am, I had the pancakes. He had the salad. Yep. Boring as cheese, huh? I guess somebody’s gotta be, right? Hey, I tell you what: when you finish your shift, you and me should go grab a drink.

Yeah, I saw the ring. And?

Ha! He ain’t my husband, honey, and I ain’t planning on telling him if you don’t.

Wow. Guess she’s really set on that whole marriage thing. What? Hey, kid, if you don’t take a chance now and then, you ain’t going anywhere.

My ass. What’s he gonna do to me? Shoot me? Toothies been trying that for years. I’m still sitting here, with near a hundred fighters painted on my hull. Her old man? Probably some dumbass wage slave somewhere.

Yeah. Back to it, right? Here’s the deal: You and all your friends see time as some kind of straight line thing, and it ain’t. You’ve seen a river, yeah? Well that’s how most Folk think of time. Like it’s a river. Seconds flow by and they’re just lost. Hey, pass the salt.

Spend enough time in the void, though, looking into nothing and begging the gods for the hint of starlight on metal so you can do something, anything, to remind yourself that you’re really alive, and you’ll understand.

Time ain’t a river, kid. It’s a fucking ocean. Those seconds you’re thinking are passing you by? They’re all still there. If you know what you’re doing, you can reach out and touch ‘em, put the damn things in the order you want, and use the hell out of them.

Me? Not yet. Not consciously, at least. I’m working on it, though. Me and the nav been talking on it. When time seems to be slowing down, you pay attention to it and it seems like it’s normal again, right? So what if you could pay attention and have it work for you? The whole thing is experiential, you dig? It’s different based on who is experiencing it.

Think about this one: You’re in the bucket, right? Just cruising along like a drop of black against a black background, surrounded by blackness. You’ve been out there for a while and everything seems to be just creeping along even slower. Block out the chron. Don’t think of anything except how slow everything is. Reality itself is slowing down. It’s just you and the darkness. Soon there will be nothing at all. Just darkness once you’ve passed it, so the time it takes to do so is inconsequential.

See what I mean? You do that when you’re on stick and you’re gonna get a handle on what’s going on. Out there it ain’t nothing but you.

So you get in a fight. What then? Your craft ain’t no faster than a toothie one. You’re a better pilot, right? Moving inside their guard, getting the drop on them no matter what. What if that ‘better pilot’ thing is because you’re got a feel for how time actually works and subconsciously you’re finding the best way to move. You’ve got time working for you now instead of against you. You’re one of the ripples in that ocean, kid, and you can change it. You can make time stretch and flex.

It ain’t that far-fetched. Probably been going on forever, it’s just that Folk don’t see it for what it is. They call it luck or fate or some such shit. The nav calls it temporal manipulation.

Look at me, kid. I look like some kind of kook coming in here and spewing lies over my breakfast? I got better shit to do than that. I ain’t here to convert you or tell you that you gotta see shit my way, but you asked about why it felt so long and lonely out there.

Maybe next time it happens, you’ll think about what I said. Maybe you’ll understand why one old eagle’s got the rep he has. Maybe you’ll be the one to make it work.

So shortly before Yule this year, a link popped up in a fiction group I belong to. The Secret Life of Pandas invited us to play along with the Writer’s Q&A she had done. I thought perhaps I’d accept that gracious invitation, and yet I’ve spent several days forgetting it (which is typical, of course). Today I said to myself that I would get it done, so here it is, in all its unvarnished glory.
When did you first start writing? When I was a mere babe, I ripped a canine tooth from the gaping maw of a hungry tyrannosaur and used it to scratch obscenities on the nearest bathroom wall, followed by my drinks order for the day. After that, I stayed pretty chill for a while, until I was a middle school student (probably fifth grade or so) and the desire to stain pristine pages with ink caught up to me once more.
Was being a writer something you always aspired to? Not at all. It just happened. I actually aspired to be a space pirate. That hasn’t happened…which is a damned shame. I’d look cool as hell with a mutant parrot on my shoulder, and I could get a cybernetic eye and then put a patch over it for effect. That, and I’m pretty good at saying, “Arrrr” a lot.
I have all these stories that bubble up in my head and scream at me to put them on paper (even if it’s only digital paper). Giving them voice and a chance for others to dig on the weird shit that rolls about in my head is fun.
What genre do you write? What day is it again? I’m not really specialized. I’ve done superhero stuff, science fiction, fantasy, supernatural, steampunk, paranormal western, and a few others here and there. Sometimes I classify it as one genre or another, and sometimes I just say it’s a story. One of the few things that ties my stuff together is action.
Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? Again, I fall back to a “which one” kind of thing. Let’s keep it simple:
 1: The fourth Firedrake novel, Inquisition. Continuing the stories from my earlier books, with lots of fun new folks and weird situations. I’ve missed Drake since I’ve been on some other projects.
 2: A new short for Z262, my anthropomorphic space colony stuff. Holidays with Zeke is a little slice-of-life tale about what happens when one of the most effective killers ever to eviscerate soldiers of the rodent army meets his girlfriend’s parents for the first time — as they celebrate the birth of their pacifistic deity.
When did you start working on this project? Well, #1 is about a year old, if not a little more. It’s coming along slowly, as do most of my projects.
#2 is about two weeks out.
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? I have vague memories of some creative writing assignments back in 1980, but I can’t put the details together. I remember that I loved those assignments, though. The one part of my school years where I can say I actively over-achieved.
I wrote a lot of RPG fanfic in my early high school years, about the people I gamed with and the characters we used. Bits and pieces of that are more likely to be what I actually remember.
What was it about? The RPG stuff? Usually detailed sections from one scenario or another, telling of how our characters triumphed over some obstacle or another. Lots of blood and gore. Cursing and alcohol was probably a major part, as well.
What’s the best part about writing? Seeing different situations through the eyes of my characters. I describe what’s going on, but I actually see the images play in my head.
What’s the worst part about writing? The urge to drive a shrimp fork into my brain and twist-start that big gray bitch when the words suddenly seem to stop coming (or just sucking when they do).
What’s the name of your favourite character and why? I still love to play around with Firedrake. That would be Special Agent Francis Drake, United States Department of Justice, Metahuman Response Division. He does and says a lot of the things that people wish they could get away with when dealing with bosses (and frequently everyone else).
How much time a day/week do you get to write? When I grab some instead of wasting time, then I get whatever that amount is. I’m notorious for my laziness.
When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)? Night, definitely. Morning is that special time when humans should be asleep. Sleep during the day, boys and girls, and you’ll be awake when the vampires come.
Did you go to college for writing? Nope. I went to college for classes that I can’t really remember. After I stopped doing that, I went to work in the real world for a while (deeply weird, definitely not recommended for all). I’ve attended a few classes since then, but they’re all in subjects I want to learn about.
What bothers you more: speeling errors; punctuation, errors, or errors for grammar? Well, I would like to go on record as saying I love this question — for the format if nothing else. Most of the time I pick up on spelling as soon as it pops up. It makes speeding through a first draft interesting, as I keep pausing to back up and correct.
What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you? “Dude, drink this!”
No, seriously, it would probably be the people who tell you to keep reading. By seeing how different authors write, you help expand and refine your own voice.
What advice would you give to another writer? Don’t use the word “bae”. I mean, really. Like ever.
Stop comparing yourself to other writers. I don’t read your writing and think, “This is no Stephen King” or some such, and pretty much no one else does (unless you put it out there with, “This is just like Stephen King” on it somewhere). It’s not fair to yourself or your art to put yourself through that. I’m not saying you should never strive to better yourself, or to be a writer in the league of your favorite author, but don’t look at your work and think that it’s not good just because it isn’t what someone else has done.
What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement? I snap up articles here and there, read them, and then move on. I have no specific sites that I visit for that. I do belong to a weekly fiction group, and the folks there have shown me several new blogs that I enjoy reading.
Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? I dig shooting and maintaining firearms. I can spend an entire afternoon cleaning them and not be bored. I drink coffee a lot, and I like eating tacos (although I’m not sure how that fits in here — but in my defense, the question was pretty open).
What are your hobbies? I love pen-and-paper roleplaying games. I suck at the computer ones (they’re usually too scripted or require interaction on an MMO level, which I avoid like the plague topped with a generous helping of tuberculosis), but old-school gaming got me through some pretty shitty moments in my past. Revisiting them now and again is like coming home again.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year? Well, I re-read Rolling Hot by David Drake. I’ll go to my grave thinking that is one of the best pieces of military science fiction ever created. It’s in my top five books ever. As to new books? It’s a toss-up. This past year I fell onto the Caverns & Creatures series by Robert Bevan, and the Cape High series by R.J. Ross. The former is guaranteed to be a rollicking ride of laughs and crude humor. The latter is a world-spanning series about super-powered youth learning about their world, and R.J. writes it in a way that has me spinning pages like a lazy susan on crack.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen this year? I’ll stick with new releases, rather than fawning over my personal favorites this time (Army of Darkness FTW!). I just saw the new Star Wars flick the other day (Episode VII: The Force Awakens). I enjoyed it quite a bit. Lots of action, fun characters, and the usual array of beautiful scenery and props.
What is your favourite book or series of all time? Man, I hate trying to come up with just one. I grew up on The Lord of the Rings and The Hitchhikers Guide, but I also cut my teeth on The Executioner, Able Team, Phoenix Force, Deathlands, and similar. Lately I know I’m guaranteed a good read with David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series.
Who is your favourite author? Dan Abnett probably hits a high note. The man has written dozens of books in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 universe for Black Library, and — as if that weren’t cool enough on its own — he used to write Judge Dredd.
What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing? Well, since the year has practically ended, I’ll go with next year. I have several short pieces in various stages of editing that will soon be released, and I’m always scribbling down something for my Z262 stories. There is a fourth Firedrake novel in the works as well, as discussed above.
Where else can we find you online? Here and there. I’m a member of the Pen and Cape Society, a group of authors who write superhero prose (among other projects). I have a profile over at Goodreads that I almost never remember to update. Stories of mine have appeared in several places, and you never know where one might turn up. I’ve got a (neglected) Twitter presence, and an author page on Facebook. See? I’m trying to adapt to the whole “technology is your friend” thing.
All right, writer friends. Join in if you want. It’s actually more fun than you think it might be. Trust me. I did it. See? Right up there. Dude, seriously, if you’re reading this and you ignored everything above it… That’s just weird.

In preparation for the February 29 release of the superhero anthology We Were Heroes, publisher Martin Ingham asked me a few questions. Naturally, I answered them, because not doing so would just be weird. Step by step, the author interviews will reveal the true me, and forensic detectives everywhere will wet themselves in horror! MwaHaHaHa! (See? There’s the patented evil laugh!)

Check me out over HERE!

Some time ago, I submitted a story about a retired superhero to a specific market and it was picked up for publication in their anthology titled, “We Were Heroes”. Shortly after that, they accepted a second story for the same anthology.

The first story, titled, Everything Breaks Down, Even the Jackhammer is a tale of self-loathing and forgiveness on a personal level. It tells the story of Jackhammer, a powerhouse hero, who has come out of retirement to be a witness at the execution of a metacriminal. 

The second, a first-person slice of life seen through the eyes of a man once godlike in his power but now drained of most of it. Forgotten but Not Gone tells the story of Quasar as he attempts to soldier on in a world where nothing fits any more for a man who tries to hold on to some kind of code.

Both of them will be featured along with more than a dozen other stories (one of them from a personal favorite author of mine – Frank Byrns) when the book hits the shelf February 29, 2016. You can pre-order the anthology now at the Martinus Publishing website, and you can see the full contents list HERE.

Expect more shameless self-promotion as the date draws near!

I hear the alarm clock click over a full second before the radio inside it warms up. The discordant sound of the AM band resolves itself into recognizable words and music just in time for the ‘off’ switch to be flicked. I can hear my father getting up, the springs creaking as he levers his feet over the edge of the bed. I have a few minutes now, while he puts in his contact lenses.

I go ahead and get out of bed, sliding my feet into warm thick socks and layering my shirts. Warmest pair of pants I own. Feet into the worn boots that have been my constant companions for years.

By the time he has his contacts in, I’ve already slipped into the kitchen to start the morning’s coffee.

It’s not quite four-thirty in the morning. In my opinion, not a time that humans should be awake and aware, but today is an exception.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and there are plates, bowls, and containers full of leftovers in the refrigerator. I help myself to a half-inch thick slab of ham the size of my palm, gnawing on it cold, and offer some to him as well as we wait for the coffee to brew. As with every year, we promise that next time, we’ll just start it the night before and leave it on.

Multitasking, old-school style: Food in one hand, a cigarette and a cup of coffee in the other. Never missing a beat as all the parts come together. Quiet conversation rules the morning. Not only does it feel somehow right to speak in hushed tones at this hour and in the low light, but we don’t want to make Mom up. She worked herself to the bone yesterday making sure that everything went as planned. Today she gets to sleep in. We discuss where we’re going and who will be sitting in which location, the fields of fire each of us will have, and extraction plans should fortune smile upon us.

We gather the rest of our gear and throw it on: belts with canteens, knives and a pouch or two filled with various bits that experience has shown to be handy. Coats first and then over them the vests of fluorescent orange color. Matching stocking caps that keep the ears warmer than I’d like to admit. Pop fills a Thermos of coffee to take along before prepping a fresh pot for when Mom wakes up.

The rifles rest behind the door, where they have been since one of us checked them last night. Clean and in good working condition. We pick them up and slip out the door, closing and locking it with more of the hush that has been our forte this morning. Down the walk to the vehicle. Rifles in first, on the backseat or behind the bench of the truck, and then we are in. It’s a short drive down gravel roads to the back gate of the neighbor’s property, and I’m quick to open the gate for him and close it behind the vehicle. Another half-mile of twisting pasture road and we hit gate number two. From here it’s afoot.

Outside the vehicle, we load the rifles before we begin the walk. Clicking sounds from each of them as rounds are inserted, and then the sharper ratcheting sound of a lever or a bolt being manipulated. Safeties click, hammers are lowered. We open the gate only as far as needed to slip through – there are cattle in this pasture.

Our walk is slow and measured, with moonlight our primary guide. Each of us carries a light, but rarely will it come on during our approach. We are familiar with the land we are on. Frost on the grass lends a shining, shimmering appearance to the ground, and where it changes its look, we know the terrain features follow suit. We walk on, each of us silently anticipating the morning to come. We pass beyond a trio of round hay bales, each as tall as we are. This is the halfway point between gate number two and the final fence.

In the distance, a truck horn. Cold, crisp air carries the sound to our ears from the highway a half mile distant.

Slow and steady now, still marching on, we come to the final fence. It is inches below chest height, a barrier of triple strand barbed wire nailed to split rail posts. The tension it once held is gone now, and we approach the same place we always do, where we know how much we can stretch it. Pop hands me his rifle. I lift a boot and plant it on top of the second strand of wire, pressing down hard and opening a gap for him to slip through. A moment later and I am passing the rifles over to him as we trade places and jobs. I hear the hiss as the barbs pass along the nylon of my vest.

We walk on, frozen grass crunching beneath our feet. Ahead and to our left is the area I called ‘the mountain’ when I was much younger. A raised mound that climbed a good fifty feet or more, it formed the back wall of a small pond.

It is here that we separate. I’m going to the top of that mound, with a panoramic view downward onto a pond and an open field. Pop will be moving ahead and right of me, into a copse of trees that provide him concealment and a break from the frigid wind while he observes a second field, one even wider than that I am watching.

At this point it is a matter of getting into place and waiting. At any time, either of us can turn and see the other. Even separated, there is a closeness. Apart yet together, we wait and watch. We may see a deer within our range, or we may not. Looking back now, I know how unimportant that facet of the hunt truly was.

I took my first deer from up on that hill, looking down into that field, on a year so bitterly cold that Pop had already come to my position and we had decided to go back. As we readied ourselves to leave, there was movement below us in the field. Within a minute I had put him on the ground. The thing is, I don’t remember that day specifically for being the time I shot my first deer, but as the time I shot my first deer while sitting next to Pop. He was right there on that mound beside me, shivering and cold, watching the spike through those beat-to-hell binoculars of his.

For this particular trip, I thought back to a time when I was sixteen (or maybe seventeen – there is a little temporal blur after all this time). The first hunt I actively remember was many years before that, and the last one we shared was in ’14. Through the years I’ve hunted beside him in rain, ice, snow, wind, and the occasional fair weather. Mountains to plains, hills and valleys, thick brush and wide-open fields. With rifle and pistol, classic designs to modern. We’ve brought home numerous kills to fill freezers with delicious venison (still a favorite meat today), and we’ve come home empty-handed as well. We’ve hunted with my grandfather, my brothers, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and friends. Tips and tricks learned one year make it to the next. Each family member who learns something new passes it to the rest, and our knowledge is freely shared. When possible, we hunt as a family, and pool our numbers to speed the field-dressing and skinning. We’ve driven hundreds of miles to camp near our hunting sites, and we’ve walked from houses directly to stands no more than a hundred yards from the home we had slept in the night before.

Times have changed through the years, but this is the one tradition I still hold dear in my heart: the hunt with my father. Sure, some years we can’t make it for one reason or another, but the next year is there, and we can hold out hope that luck will hold and we’ll be together again in the field.


This came about from a prompt set out in a writing group: “Write about a holiday tradition unique to your family – any holiday works.”

The problem I ran into is that finding a standing tradition within my families is… I think the word ‘problematic’ covers it well. Religions run the gamut from Heathenry to Southern Baptist, Judaism to Wicca. Work schedules and distance rarely allow more than a few family members to gather in any place at the same time, and even then it is for short periods  of time (and sadly, most often for funerals).

I began the challenge with a new Z262 short, convinced that I could come up with no tradition within my own group. It was during the course of thinking and planning for that short (which will come soon enough) that I realized there was something I considered “traditional”. I harvested a particular set of memories to give the sense of what it was like. What I cannot adequately convey is the bond that grew between a father and son with repeated forays into the woods. 

To this day, I enjoy going into the woods — be it to hunt or hike, fish or camp. I am far more at home there than in any cocoon of steel and stone. It’s part of a heritage he handed down to me, and to others. Thanks, Pop. I love you.



Did you ever have an urge to taste gun oil?

Vikki sat looking at the weapon in her hands, rolling it back and forth. Chambered for a high-energy hunting cartridge, it was one of those things that every household on Z262 had. The opportunity to add to the community meat supply and keep the pests out of the gardens was one that no one would pass up. Vikki knew all too well what she held and what it was capable of, but it was the blackness in her head that kept calling to her. The chip player mounted up on the edge of her bed kept running. The same song, over and over on an infinite repeat loop. A driving beat, fast chords, and lyrics that spoke to her current mood.

Taste it as it swirls around your tongue?

She thought back to the life she had left behind before coming along on this stupid venture, and tears flowed through the soft fur around her eyes. She had friends there, and a life — of sorts. Not everything had gone the way she wanted, but that was nothing. Sure, it had sucked when Derek left her, but even then her thoughts hadn’t been this dark.

Suck the shining barrel,

The offer had been a good one. A chance to escape from a life that was rapidly spiraling into disuse and disinterest. She had realized that her existence was shallow and vapid, and if she did not attempt to do something with it, she was wasting the one chance she had been given. Without Derek, there was no one even to keep her grounded in reality.

deep into your mouth,

Since the arrival on Z262, life had taken on a decidedly more interesting feel. Constant work kept her from overthinking too much, but on evenings like this, when she had put away one too many glasses of the wine that Buck and Eric made, her thoughts flowed back to the past and she found herself facing a curious mix of homesickness for the life she had left and gratitude that she had gotten away when she did.

pull the fucking trigger

Now she found herself on the definite downslope of the memories. Realization that she was locked in to the contract she had signed, that she was in fact stationed here for a minimum five year assignment, sent her mind tumbling back into the past, where the darker thoughts waited to chew them up. Thoughts of how she would never see her friends again. She could not even communicate with them, save for actual, physical, pen-on-paper letters sent by ferry once a year as the resupply craft landed. That gave her a virtual eternity to wait. Life in the colony for anyone not a miner involved primarily agriculture, and Vikki had no previous experience in that realm. Even the local jobs were slim, most run by a family. Contract law experience was in no demand.

and the deed is done.

“Yeah, it is,” she whispered. She hefted the pistol and jammed the barrel into her mouth.

“Hey, is that Satanika I hear?”

The voice came from her front door – a door that Vikki did not remember leaving open. Her eyes jerked up to see him standing there. Tall, lean of form, and well-muscled. He was one of the security crew, but she couldn’t recall his name. The cheetah was dressed in what she had heard referred to as their casual uniform: A patterned t-shirt was tucked into pants that had more pockets than Vikki could ever imagine needing. He wore boots, but not the spit-polished parade-ground boots she had seen on some military troops. These were sturdy, workmanlike things that spoke of practicality. He wore a handgun of some sort on his hip, and one of the short-barrelled rifles she had seen them holding was slung over his shoulder and rested on his back.

Make the shot!

She slipped the thin barrel of the pistol from her mouth and, eyes flowing freely with tears, nodded.

A smile quirked at the corner of his lips. “Haven’t heard them in years. Saw them live when I was just a cub. Knocked me square on my ass. Thumper spit on me,” he added with a grin that was slowly mirrored on her face.

“He always spits on someone.”

“Yeah, but it was me that time!” His voice was raw and throaty, and a strange thrill ran through her as she heard it. He had a proud grin stretching his features, and she knew why. The fact that, of all the Folk on this miserable planet, they were probably the only two to who Satanika meant anything was not lost on her. Her hand slid down to her lap, taking the pistol with it.

Take your spot!

“You’re Vikki, right? Vikki Duris?” he asked. When he looked at her, she felt urges well up within her. His eyes were so pale that it seemed he had no pupils, but that somehow seemed to intensify his gaze.

“Ummm…yeah?” she answered, her inflection making a question of what should have been an easy statement. She reached up to wipe the tears from her eyes.

“I’m Kurt. I came to escort you to the Captain’s office,” he said.

“Oh?” she asked, eyes widening. “Did I do something wrong?” No one since landfall had been arrested, but she had heard rumors of what had occurred to Folk on other planets that left her suddenly sick.

“Relax,” he urged, helping her to stand. A casual tug removed the pistol from her grasp. He worked the action with a practiced hand, letting the cartridge inside fly free to rattle on the floor. He locked the slide open and tossed the weapon onto the chair where she had been sitting. “It’s something about putting you on a new project.”

“A what?”

Give it all!

“I don’t have the details. I’m just the messenger.”

Vikki looked at him for a moment, questions spiraling around in her brain. She had so many, but Kurt had made it clear he did not have the answers she would seek.

Paint the wall!

She nodded and grabbed her bag. The sling bag that was standard wear for most miners held their property – and frequently their lunch – and it was close enough to the purse she had carried for so many years as to be familiar.

Never too late to heed the call!

He followed her out of the house and closed the door behind them, leaving the chip player running. She took two steps before turning shining eyes onto him.

“Are you going to tell them about, ummm, I mean…”

“The Satanika?” he shot back with a wink. “No way! I’m just glad someone here has good taste in music. I might ask to borrow your chip one day, though.”

“No, I meant the other.”

He shook his head. “Never a word. We all have off days in our lives.”

She took in a long, slow breath and nodded at him again.

“I guess we do at that.”