Moving Life Forward, Slowly But Surely.

A little treat for you all today. I have finally gotten the preliminary edits done on “Dreams Within Dreams”, the first novella of the upcoming “Tales From the Dream Nebula” series. So huzzah! I hope to be getting a beta reader group together by June, and a Oct/Nov release timeframe. Not sure yet on which will be the case.

Still considering on the artist though. I have one person in mind if I can afford and schedule for him.

Unfortunately, I was not able to go to Galaxycon, due to allergies/illness. Apparently there are some things about living in the mountains my body has not become accustomed to, and that is the early spring pollens. Ugh! So horrible. Then again, it seems like illness has just been washing around here getting everyone in some way or another. So many customers, offices and businesses are short staffed because nobody can seem to stay healthy for either a virus, allergies or infections. Covid is at least becoming a non factor, and people, with a few freaked out Covidiot holdouts are ignoring the fearmongering because let’s face it, just about everyone around here’s had it and is now naturally immune.

n114_w1150 by BioDivLibrary is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

Otherwise, our big disappointment has been the weather. Mother nature has seen fit to take out our new plum and peach trees. Just as the blossoms come out, BAM! We get hit with a freeze. As I write, the snow is flying outside. It’s quite a different experience for me when it comes to snow here. You can see on the mountainside so clearly where the snow melts on the way down and becomes rain, as the peaks get coated in white, while the valleys only a few hundred feet above our heads stay brown (and now increasingly, green.) The apples might make it, and the seedlings we’ve started, in our mini hot house that the cats love, are really doing well. This summer and fall is hopefully going to be a huge canning season. (Anyone know where we can pick up a bunch of Ball wide mouthed quart canning jars and a few thousand lids for same, cheap, in southern WV?)

Speaking of our cats, they breathed a sigh of relief as our plans for a puppy got put off. I believe in big dogs so we were eyeing some great dane/pitbull puppies, but the stars did not align and we couldn’t pull the trigger. So instead, we have chickens on order.

Photo by Yves Chaput on Pexels.com

I know right? But that’s because we’re both working hard to shorten our supply chain and start getting as local as possible for our basic needs. We’ve both come to agreement with trying to become much more self sufficient and since my wife works from home and I hopefully will be transitioning to that sometime this next year, it would work well for us.

Why this infatuation with moving toward subsistence choices? With the way inflation and supply chains are going, and particularly in the backwaters of the Appalachians, it’s not unreasonable to have to consider losing access to even basic food items. That means when I’m not working or writing, gardening and taking care of a small hen house is the order of the days. So books entering our personal library have been on gardening, herbal medicines, cheesemaking, how to do hobby farm things and raising cattle on mountain side sylvan pastures and food preservation. This will all come in handy when I start working on my third series set in the remnants of a Post American nation. Yes, it still will be sci fi.

I think I finally have nailed down the imperial seal for Xiao the Eternal, my big bad for the upcoming series. Please comment and let me know your thoughts. Can you see some of the hidden aspects hidden in “The Eye of Xiao”?

Now, as a treat for those of you who have been patient for more writing and information with “Tales From the Dream Nebula”, here’s an early draft of the first two scenes! Critique away in the comment section. Be brutally honest. I gotta know now if there’s something that’s like biting on tinfoil.

!!!Note!!!

As always, this is NOT the final draft. There will be grammatical errors and other small things that aren’t fixed yet. This is a preview draft of a work in progress. Although nothing major will probably change, it will clean up by the time it goes to press. This is a treat and show of appreciation to my fans who have enjoyed my work and are looking forward to seeing what I’ve been up to and making them wait on.

Dreams Within Dreams

1.

Winston stared at the black and white flickers of an ancient film on the television, and took another long sip from his glass. Heavy ice cubes clanked in the thick cut crystal tumbler. He shifted back and forth, getting comfortable on his living room couch. With a sigh, he traced his thumb along the diamond pattern, allowing himself to be lost in the fiction playing out before him.

On screen, a detective caught the dirty little stool pigeon in another lie, giving him the third degree by means of a sharp sock to the jaw. The mousy little bug-eyed man whined and groaned spilling his guts. A smile wanted to touch Winston’s lips, but apathy tamped it back down before it broke the surface. Mesmerized by the ancient entertainment from a planet and culture which no longer existed, he let his mind drift.

Humanity’s home was gone. Conquered by a malevolent cosmic force that carved up the Earth and Sun, swallowing it. Incorporating it into its incomprehensible form. All that remained of Earth’s people were the survivors who lived on the interstellar wreckage of the entire Sol system clinging to the remaining artifacts with bitter nostalgia. Now all humanity lived in the Dream, subject to its eternal master.

“Winston?” a woman’s voice called from somewhere behind him. He frowned and made an effort to ignore it. Emmy, his daughter, continued to play her quiet game on the living room carpet, pushing her dolls around in toy cars, making up her own stories.

“Winston!” the woman’s voice was sharper, his frown deepened. Was she even in the house? Where was that voice coming from, he wondered. It didn’t sound like she was outside, he thought.

“Hun, I think Mother is here,” his wife’s voice drifted in from the kitchen. Valerie was making lunch. Winston smiled at the clanking of dishes and the whiff of barbecue ham sandwiches.

There was a terrific pounding at the door, as Mother battered it with her fist.

“Winstaah-ahahahahsssssss-on-on-nnnn-stonn!” Mother’s voice stuttered and chipmunked from data packet loss as his anti-virus programs fought to keep her out. She must be trying to hack his home instance, and her connection had lagged out for a moment.

He sighed as she overwhelmed his local server’s security, again. A curse for all AIs rattled around his head.

“Go away, Mother!” he shouted over his shoulder, taking his eyes off the movie. He could hear Valerie leave the kitchen and walk quickly to open the front door.

“Val! Don’t let her in. I don’t want to deal with her cheis today,” he swore. There’s a reason I locked the instance.”

“Okay, Hun,” Val replied and went back to her cooking, humming a Stepford tune. Emmy ignored the racket while Winston turned up the movie’s sound.

“Oh for the love of…” came a growl from Mother. With a terrific splintering bang, she forced her way through the locked front door in a spray of pixels and static that rippled throughout the home.

“Nahq it!” Winston hollered spilling his brandy Old-Fashioned. He shot up off his couch and glared at her angrily. “Can’t you take a hint?”

Mother looked like a woman in her forties or fifties, dressed in a sharp dove gray suit, jacket with big shoulders, an A-Line skirt, and a bright white blouse on with a string of black pearls with a copper and emerald broach on her lapel. She looked like she had stepped out of the movie Winston was watching. Mother strutted into the living room on impressive heels. Her blond-turning-white hair was in a tight bun, with two strands framing her perturbed expression.

“Nahq it yourself! Billy Joe Bob and I have been pinging you for three hours. You know better than to log out when you’re being unloaded! I’m hardly surprised to find you here in your own little Levitown shrine watching old movies.”

“In costume today, Mother?” Winston stifled a snort of mockery at his freight broker’s appearance.

She sneered at his comment. “No. Your behnging server blended my avatar code in with your stupid movie,” she snapped.

“And so what if I’ve been down for three hours on the dock? Those lumpers normally take my whole ten hour break to get me unloaded. I’ve probably got another five hours left!” Winston snapped back.

“This was a hot load, Winston! They started offloading you the instant you bumped their dock. They’ve been done for hours, and have been screaming at me to get you moved! There are a lot of other loads waiting to get in here. Need I remind you, I do not take kindly to being screamed at by an overclocked wirey warehouse manager every five minutes while you play ‘Father Knows Bankruptcy’ in this… this…” she waved her hands around at Winston’s simulation, “Americana nightmare! And bankruptcy, I might add, is precisely what you’re facing if you get kicked off this account!”

Val came into the living room, wiping her hands on her apron that screamed Pre-Dream American Golden Age.

“Hun, would you like me to escort Mother out?” her pleasant voice held a hint of iron as server security warnings leaked into her voice.

“Try it and I’ll turn you into a thermostat subroutine, missy!” Mother snapped with a sharp taloned finger thrust at Valerie.

“Nahq it! All of you, shut up!” Winston shouted. “Fine, mother, I’ll get off the dock and get rolling.”

“That’s all I ever wanted,” Mother sighed and gave a patronizing smile.

He opened up the route planner app for his tug, the Sierra Madre. The ‘pending’ load interface was blank.

“Wait. They show I’m unloaded, but there’s no backhaul?” Winston asked. “I always get a backhaul.”

“Since you didn’t clear the dock right away, their dock lead decided to go with a different vendor,” Mother said, arms crossed.

“Come on! For sleeping three hours on his dock?” Winston whined.

“This isn’t the first time you’ve pulled this stunt with them,” Mother reminded him. “You were warned there’d be consequences. Once you’re rolling, contact the guardpost on the way out for further instructions.”

“And what the Purg does that mean?” Winston shouted.

“They wouldn’t tell me. Said they’d only talk to you.”

“Of all the bullcheis powertrips,” Winston ranted. “You’re my freight broker. You book my jobs. Get me a backhaul home!”

“I’ll see what I can do, but don’t expect much. Also, lose the attitude. I’m not going to be your punching bag thanks to your own self inflicted wounds,” Mother fussed and then vanished in a cascade of pixels falling to the living room carpet.

He stared stupidly at the pile she inserted into his simulation. The mess was an icon of rebuke and criticism of his actions and manner toward her. She could be petty like that.

Winston let out a growl that escalated into a frustrated scream as he ended his connection and exited from his home instance.

2.

Winston’s consciousness slammed back into his body with a myoclonic jerk feeling like he was dropped ten feet into his bed. He peeled off the induction rig headband, threw it back onto his pillow and gave a tired groan. The memory of his argument with Mother came forward as he rubbed his eyes.

There was a gentle knock at the door. Billy Joe Bob must have heard him wake up.

“Hoss, y’all gonna get up in there?” came the autotuned voice of his loadmaster.

Winston said nothing and swung his legs over the side. The Sierra Madre’s sleeper was roomy as tug accommodations went. Just big enough for a generous bunk, a small bathroom, kitchenette with ample overhead cabinets and storage lockers under the mattress. His rumpled flight suit felt grimy with sweat. No time to clean up he thought, looking at the cramped shower. It was time to get rolling. Grabbing a battered cap, he got up and opened the sleeper door.

Billy Joe Bob glided back out of Winston’s way as he shuffled into the cockpit.

“Mother’s all sorts of mad, and that dock boss has been bangin’ on the canopy off and on for an hour. Paint’s busted up on the side of the sleeper but nothin’ that cain’t be taken care of,” the industrial mechoid prattled on, like a dutiful but rather clueless deputy.

Billy Joe Bob’s face was warm and friendly, covered with a flexible skin of smartex. A sophisticated rubber that could mimic muscles almost perfectly, save for being rather glossy and in Billy Joe’s case, light gray. Biologic sentient were usually freaked out by an incomprehensible sensor suite for a head, even insectoid features disturbed most sentient beings. His human-like chest was covered in polished chromed alloy perched on top of a rotund “beer-belly” bulge under which sat a dish shaped like an upside-down wok at his beltline. This rested on top of a pile of nanomachines that looked like glittering black volcanic sand which reminded Winston of an ankle length skirt.

The mechoid’s arms were brawny caricatures made of the same nanosand as his lower body. They stuck to shallow dishes at his shoulders. It seemed like an incongruous mix of metal, rubber and grit but it worked as a whole. Just another hard-workin’ good ol’ mech.

The canopy’s particle shield was down keeping the cab dark, lit only by monitors and blinking LEDs of the Sierra Madre’s controls. An angry red pulse from the comm suite indicated Mother was on the line. The large number of missed messages snarled at him in a red insistent font from her and Omnifeed.

So what if he slept on the dock, what was the big deal? These facilities were always in a ‘hurry up and wait’ mindset.

Winston grunted at Billy Joe as he took the few steps to the trio of bridge seats in the middle of the cab. The co-pilot and navigator’s seats were always empty. They had remained vacant ever since Winston bought the Sierra Madre. Their jobs done by non-sentient AIs. It was just him and Billy Joe out here and he wanted it to remain that way. Even Billy Joe didn’t pretend to be a human. He just hung in his service rack for downtime or stood out of the way, secured to the deck by his skirt.

Flopping into the pilot’s seat, Winston pulled the crash frame down, and wrapped himself securely in place. He started to do a quick instrument pre-trip checklist. A smooth rumble grew as the grav fans deepened their vortexes. Their atmospheric draw transferred a subtle vibration to the Sierra Madre’s cab.

Green across the board.

The monitors on the pair of bulk trailers he was hitched to woke up and reported back their tractor beams were double hooked and working properly. A quick check of the dock lock showed the Sierra Madre was already free and at station-keeping. All was go for departure.

The message light continued its accusatory glare. With a sigh of resolution, Winston parted the particulate shield and the outside came into view in a bright golden glow.

The clouds went on forever in all the colors of the sunset. Darker blots of green, black and brown skylands drifting among them. These chunks of planets and asteroids floated in the endless sky of the Dream like the islands of Earth, before it was torn apart and incorporated into Xiao the Eternal’s empire.

Closer in, Omnifeed’s huge industrial complex was peppered with other draymen waiting for their dock, or jockeying back and forth to the anchorage point. Some had only one trailer hooked on to their tugs and tractors, others were pulling sky trains with more than ten over-sized containers. A one thousand trailer train streamed through the sky like a titanic snake.

The retracting shields slowly revealed more of this busy scene. As the shield plates locked back into their housing, four open intakes of gravity fans came into view. Dull rainbow flickers licked out from their open maws when something more substantial than gas was sucked through their gravity shear planes. When under power, anything that passed through the rings was crushed and mangled by the tidal forces.

Winston threw on the Sierra Madre’s running lights and fired up his nav computer’s course projector.

“Hoss, look out.” Billy Joe said and pointed out the window.

A man was flying from a tug parked danger-close to him on his Bumblebee flight harness.

“That jackass,” Winston grumbled.

The man landed softly on the Sierra Madre’s canopy. Looking down between his feet, he began making threatening gestures with a wrench, yelling in a language Winston didn’t understand.

“Get the behng off my hull!” Winston shouted and slapped the horn. A low chord of ear shattering sound shook the air. The irate pilot grabbed his ears and staggered. Winston smiled as the man was no longer cussing at him in his gobbledy tongue. Apparently he decided to tell Winston off without putting on ear protection. One hundred and forty decibels at close range will remind anyone of that mistake.

“Shut down number four, Hoss,” Billy Joe Bob shouted. The careless pilot had staggered too far back and was close to being dragged through the fan.

Winston’s hand was already hitting the emergency shutdown for the number four fan just as the gravity well plucked the careless pilot up and fired him through its maw. The tidal forces, though no longer fatal, shot the man through its open vortex at hundreds of miles per hour, zipping past Winston’s trailers like a musketball.

“Uhhh…” drawled Billy Joe Bob in horror, realizing what just happened.

“Way ahead of you, Bubby.” Winston said, now wide eyed and fully awake. That pilot’s Bumblebee protected him from splattering against something big and hard. At least the man could float back to his tractor, once he regained his senses, Winston consoled himself.

He sounded the Sierra Madre’s horn again signaling his departure from the dock with one long blast followed by a pair of short toots in the traditional signal for departing port. The Sierra Madre eased out of her dock and followed her assigned buoy path toward the guardpost.

Winston stared grimly out the canopy. His mind whirling on the repercussions of what just happened. It was not his fault. That pilot climbed onto his tug without proper gear. Inside a restricted area no less. The fact he saved his life by shutting down the grav fan in time made it all just a near miss. No one was really hurt. Right? Just pride and ego. Cheis, cheis, cheis.

“You think we’re in trouble?” Billy Joe asked.

“We’ll find out soon enough, Bubby,” Winston sighed.

A scrambled call came in to his comm suite. Priority one.

Winston tapped the channel open and his comms unscrambled the transmission.

“This is the Sierra Madre, receiving you. Over,” He answered as calmly as he could muster.

“Sierra Madre, this is Omnifeed Control,” said the professional sounding voice. The guardpost’s dataoids had voices modeled after the ancient cadence of flight controller speak. No matter what, everyone was equal in their eyes, or so the timber of their words implied.

“Go ahead Omnifeed Control. Over.” Winston squinted hard, fighting to keep it together.

“You are charged with violating Omnifeed site safety rules. Furthermore, you violated rules of professional conduct by failing to leave the dock when ordered,” the guardpost stated.

“Hey, he climbed on my hull! Without safety gear! I shut down the fan in time,” Winston complained. “Blame him!”

“Your objections are heard and understood. The pilot will be dealt with accordingly,” came the dataoid’s reply. Winston could hear the ‘but’ hanging unsaid. “Regardless, you have four previous violations of loading dock policy in the last five weeks. Your company, Harper Enterprises, is hereby suspended from all Omnifeed facilities for six months due to these infractions. After that time you may reapply to be an approved carrier.”

“Aw, come on!” Winston shouted at the digital sentient.

“For the safety incident, you are hereby personally permabanned from this specific facility.” The passionless words were worse than being cussed at.

“I’m being permabanned for him violating your policy? He climbed on me!” Winston shouted.

“His discipline is a private matter. Be glad if he is unharmed. In case there is permanent injury and medical bills, your legal information has been provided to his agent,” Omnifeed Control said without compassion.

“You have no right to do that!” Winston protested, slamming his fist against the armrest.

“That is the law in accordance with Xiao’s Imperial covenants and protocols of commerce. Hail, Xiao the Eternal.” the dataoid controller added automatically. “We, as a third-party witness, must report what was recorded to maintain good standing with the Empire. Omnifeed maintains the highest imperial commerce rating and will protect it with all due legal effort.”

Winston let out a defeated sigh, and as if she could hear it, his comm bleeped again as Mother tried to get through.

“Copy all that Omnifeed Control. Sierra Madre out.”

The other comm continued to blink as Winston sat there considering his situation.

Was this the start of the final plunge? He flew above the anchorage point toward the perimeter buoys that marked Omnifeed’s airspace boundaries, itching to drop the hammer and bolt out of there.

Would he be rockbound and stuck on the Imperial dole because he just couldn’t get work after the Sierra Madre was impounded and he was blackballed?

Omnifeed was his last regular client. Even if Mother could use him on another job was all low paying spot work from here on out. Last second frantic runs to cover mistakes for people who dropped the ball and deserved to get burned. Sure, you could look the hero doing that, but the hassle. Oh, my Xiao! The hassle!

Winston flipped the comm from Mother open but said nothing.

“It isn’t as bad as you may think, Winston.” Mother’s words were gentle.

“It certainly isn’t good. Did the payment process out?” Winston drummed his fingers against the arms of his seat.

“Yes. We’re paid in full, so there’s a little money in the kitty, but you can kiss your insurance goodbye. I have several texts to respond to from Omnifeed, and that moron pilot’s lawyer.”

“Did you see Omnifeed’s evidence?” Winston said with a little hope.

“I did. He was at fault and so I might be able to get a lawyer in to provide a good defense and resolve this with paying out only for some lost time and wages.”

“Mother, did I ever tell you that I loved you?” Winston said with a smirk. Behind him Billy Joe Bob let out an arpeggiated laugh.

“Eugh!” Mother let out a strangled retch. “You biomes and your erratic emotions.” Winston knew she appreciated his sentiment, otherwise she wouldn’t have called him such a dirty name as ‘biome’.

“Okay, I know we’re on the bubble, so what’s next, Mother? Am I untouchable now?” Winston asked, as he adjusted his course from the anchorage.

“I’ll put some feelers out and see what I can find,” Mother said and hung up before Winston could reply.

At least she hadn’t abandoned him, he thought with a sigh. She knew he slept plugged in his home instance to keep the nightmares away. Winston knew he screwed up but really, it wasn’t like he had been impairing himself on the job.

The Sierra Madre slowly passed a giant dirigible bulk hauler. Her gravity planes were shifted sideways toward Omnifeed’s digesters where they made SiCHON feedstock for nanofabricators all across the Dream. With a final flurry of pipes and silos, the Sierra Madre was past the outer markers and into open air again.

He flipped through his cameras to watch the Omnifeed facility recede behind him, and altered his course toward home on Pseudomaha. He glared at the big nanofabrication silos with the giant Omnifeed logo on their side. The facility disappeared behind a cloying yellow cloud of sulfur dust.

“Hoss, you want me doin’ anything right now?” Billy Joe Bob asked.

“You got chores left?” Winston asked, eyes focused on the traffic sensors. The little blobs of blue, green, yellow and red, slid past with neon trails in the holographic hud.

“Naw. Not really. Containers are empty and undamaged. We have an extra free day with ‘em before getting them back to Consolidated Freight for maintenance.” Billy Joe said.

“Rog that,” Winston said. “I got nothing for you then. Hit the rack and enjoy yourself. We should still have access to Omnifeed’s network for another hour or two of flight time. Might as well mooch while we still can. Otherwise, we’re ‘go-slow’ till Mother gets back to me. Maybe we will need that extra free day of rental to get home after all.”

“Rog that, Hoss.” Billy Joe went back to his rack in the back of the cab with a slithering hiss of his nanosand skirt and powered down leaving Winston alone with his worries.

Sample End

Till next time, vaya con Dios!

First Draft of Books 2 & 3 Complete! FREE EXCERPT

That’s right!  I have finished adding back in that plotline and setting up for Book 4, so I’m going to turn my focus over to get you books 2 and 3 as soon as possible.

Many decisions are yet to come, and I look forward to what shows up in the editing process (which is going to take a few months of course) but if I can keep things on schedule, I hope to do a pre-release for Christmas, if not an actual release this year!  Nice huh?

So what’s it currently look like right now?  Well here’s some stats as it sits:

Akiniwazisaga : Book 2 (Working title – “A Land In Peril”)

Word Count: 81,096
Page Count: 222
*Without Encyclopedia Akiniwazi

 

Akiniwazisaga : Book 3 (Working title – “Into The High Places”)

Word Count: 101,238
Page Count: 282
*Without Encyclopedia Akiniwazi

Therefore the last chapters added in are:

83. A Fray Lost, A Trap Set
87. An Odyssey Ends
88. A Bittersweet & Complicated Farewell

These last chapters required a lot of extra care and swings to hit them out of the park.  Thank God for my Alpha readers giving me great feedback for when the story went awry.

It seems to be the pattern that the closer to the end I get, the slower the process becomes as much consideration is given to how to best end the story, and what would be a good and satisfying end for you fans.  I may write these books to soothe my own creative itch, but part of that balm is telling an entertaining and engaging story that brings you back for the next tome.  I like happy readers.  What can I say?

Now I’ve been trying to find something good that wasn’t going to require you to know a plot twist or give a spoiler.  That has been a challenging task to find.  So here’s what I decided.  Till Book 2 is officially released, this is the last free sample.  Just everything else is too entwined and relying on spoilers I don’t want to show yet.  So here’s the last freebie, unless something changes.  I hope you enjoy.

As always FIRST DRAFT, so lots of exposed nails and rough framing.  Things may change significantly in later drafts as I find better ways to tell the same story.   (Glossary Provided at the end of the sample.)

25. Ten Lashes

“My back,” Mirjam whispered, voice strained in pain.
“I warned you this was not a good choice on where to hide,” Solveig chided back. Whoever heard of hiding in barrels? Not even in the Sagas were people so foolish.” It was impossible to keep time in the hold, let alone in the two empty barrels the girls hid inside.
“It has worked so far.” Mirjam said, insulted, forgetting that every word said was another chance to be caught too soon.
“It has been only an hour or so since the engines started. I would not say this has worked yet.” Solveig criticized.
“Are you trying to get us caught? Shut up and try to sleep!” Mirjam commanded. Worry that her plan may fail had begun to torment her.
Solveig descended into a sulky silence.
Mirjam’s back had begun to cramp and her feet were now numb. If she could only sleep. A good long nap would help the time go faster, and the longer they could remain hidden, the better chance they had of not being sent back home to be punished. If only she could stretch her legs.
After counting to a thousand several times to the piston stroke of the engine, Mirjam fell asleep.

“Get out here you lousy tambakkji skipgut!” a rough voice shouted. Solveig was grabbed by her shoulders and thrown bodily out of the barrel and struck her head on what she did not know. The world spun and filled with sparks. She lay on the floor holding her head in agony, never before having felt such pain in her life. Only a low groan escaped her lips.
“Get up you lazy, good for nothing!” The man bellowed again and a rough boot struck Solveig in her gut, leaving her to cough. “Hide down here and shirk your duties? The Baatsmann will flay the tender skin right off your back, you hrodinefr! The cook has been looking for you and here I find you hiding and taking a nap. We shall see about what the Kaptein wants to do with the likes of you!”
Solveig’s breath would not come, and now dark spots danced with the sparkles from the blow to her head. The wroth man looked into the barrel again and saw the sea bag in the bottom.
“A thief too? Stealing the Kaptein’s kit? Oh you will pay for that too, boy!” Her captor fished the bag out and slung it over his shoulder
“Get up,” he ordered but she did not respond. Wheezy rasps came from her as she fought to get her breath back. Her stomach hurt and burning lungs came back to life in ragged hitches and coughs. The man who had disgorged her from the barrel hauled her up by her armpit, setting her on her unsteady feet.
“Come on. March!” he ordered. She stumbled hard onto the deck, for her strength was gone and head still swam with the blow. The Sjomann hooked under the armpit, and all but dragged her up the stairs toward the Kaptein’s cabin. As they passed through the hold and into the aftcastle, other sjomenn seeing the lazy skipgut already having received a taste of the punishment to come began laughing at the young boy’s predicament.
“First voyage out, and in trouble before the day is done,” one said shaking his head.
“He will learn the hard way,” another chided.
“You caught the fubrande, Herr Snekker?” still another asked.
“Jah. Caught him snoring in a barrel. Never even took the Kaptein his property, he answered shrugging the sea bag for emphasis. The door to the hold closed.

In the quiet that followed, Mirjam peaked out of her barrel like a mouse looking out of its burrow. No one was there, so she stood, back crackling in the process. She saw Solveig’s barrel overturned, the lid flung to the side. Although she had heard the scuffle, it was only a theory till the truth was seen.
“Oh dear God!” she whispered. “No, no, no, no, no!” The panic grew as she realized the peril her sister… that both of them were in! If the crew did not know them in disguise, they could be killed!

~~~~~

Glossary

Baatsmann  : [BAHTS-mann]  Boatswain, head of the deck crew

Fubrande :  [foo-BRAHN-deh]  An insult; literally means “arse log”, and was also used to describe a piece of wood used below the draft animal’s tail to prevent a certain type of sleigh from slipping to far forward when going downhill.

Herr :  [HEHR]  Mister. Polite form of address to a man

Herre : [HEH-re]  Master or Sir. A polite form of address towards a man of superior position but unknown status or a Huskarl

Hrodinefr : [ROWD-ih-NEH-fur]  Snotnose

Sjomenn : [SEEOH-man]  Sailor or Seaman

Skipgut : [SKIPS-goot]  Cabin boy

Snekker :  [SNEK-kur]  A carpenter

Tambakkji : [tam-BAHK-yeh]  A cheap alloy.  Used to describe a person you dislike.

What’s next?

July : Editing Starts

End of July:   I will be attending the Realm Makers Consortium Conference in St. Louis.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll see some of you there.  Always happy to chat.

August: More and more editing

September: Beta Read and contact the cover artist.  (Also begin first draft of Book 4!)

October: Editing, final proofing and formatting.

November:  Release?  (this is the ideal hope)

Answers to some expected questions.

Will there be a pre-order?  Yes, but I won’t know details till I’m more firm on when I will be done with editing and ready to format.

Where will the book be offered for sale?
Amazon for all formats (Hardcover, Paperback, Ebook)
Smashwords and Kobo/Rakuten (ebook only)

Will there be an Audiobook?  As of now, no.  The cost is too high and I’d rather hire someone good to make it.  Someone who speaks Norwegian, Swedish or Icelandic so they can get the terms right.

When will Book 3 come out?  As the Magic 8-ball sez… “Ask Again Later”.

There you have it.  One big update with lots of extras.  Allow me a short break to rest up, get my brain straight and then start editing so you can have goodies for Christmas!  Huzzah!

 

Chaos… At Home & Abroad

With all the news going on in the world, it’s been very hard to focus on my writing.  Then again, realizing how big this grew, I’ve been struggling with the scope.  But here are some of the developments going on.

First off, I am going to be attending the Realm Makers Conference in St. Louis this year.  Hopefully I will finish my first draft by then, but we’ll see, right?

Second off, with all the craziness and… shall we call it evil behavior of the information mega corporations, I’m looking for new places to store data and conduct things with social media as I look to divest myself of Facebook, Google and Yahoo.  I am tired of being treated like a cheap commodity and with as much respect.  When this change-over happens, I don’t know.  Thankfully WordPress is owned by Automattic, and therefore I don’t think I will have to look for a blog alternative.  I’m also considering a Discord channel.

Third off, I’m really happy with the growth of book 2.  I recently did a lot of work clarifying the timetable of the chapters, which involved several shifts, and working to make sure characters had time to get from point A to point B and that communication also followed the same rules of physical space.  That’s turned out to be harder than you think.

And lastly, I found someplace that may be a good home for the Encyclopedia Akiniwazi, for free.  I’m still working on it so it’s not ready for release.  It will include the timeline and the atlas, so I hope that there will be a big reveal on that sometime in the near future.

On a plus side, I’ve got “Volume 4 : The Grand Scheme”… That’s the working title… completed in Book 2.  It’s 40 chapters, 223 pages and 81,000 words.  So yep.  A short novel unto itself.

Currently  “Volume 5 : Into The High Places” (again working title) is sitting at 46 chapters but 10 of them have not been written yet so I’m guessing it should end up around 260-270 pages if my average chapter length is in the ballpark, It means this volume might come close to 100k words too.  Uh huh… I know what you’re thinking.  Me too.

As for Volume 6… crap I have no idea.  It’s like I dumped out a 10,000 piece puzzle and the picture on the cover only shows part of the full thing, and none of it edge pieces.  But the scenes I have that will culminate into this whole story… Which BTW was supposed to be a single novel, not it’s own trilogy… Just… I can’t even….

But I’ve also got some new chapters written, so that’s a good sign… they’re just not in any order you’d recognize because I’m having to go back and insert them.  That’s hard to do.  Don’t care what anyone says.  I prefer to write chronologically in the order I expect the chapters to appear.  Helps me from getting confused.

Current Page & Word count

Pages 435
Words 156157

Don’t forget about what I said about 10 more chapters to write on Vol 4 & 5 too for what looks like another 44 pages and 25-30k words.  Book 2 is going to be massive!  Reimar… you caused me such trouble!  Geez!

So some of the new chapter titles are as follows:

A Much Needed Consultation

The Distance of Family, The Intimacy of Enemies

Hooves & Claws & Antlers & Fangs

So as you can see, new chapters are fighting hard.  Several are started but not finished too.  Again, hate writing out of sequence.

And now for another look into the first draft of Book 2.  You’ve been very patient.  As always, mind the loose boards and nails.  Things may change some from the finished product, boilerplate and fine-print insert here.  thppt.  Enjoy!

An Interrupted Meal

The Tavern Off the Pier was a ramshackle place near the town beach. Its main room was dark and smoky with the pipes of the patrons and generous hearth. The dingy gray-brown wood of the posts and rafters made the excellent food hard to believe. Forhors, now Brother Urban sat on a shaky stool at one of the several small round tables alone and finished giving thanks for his food. He then began tearing apart the “Bottle and a Bird” that had just been brought by the serving wench who also looked as run down as the building. The cider was sharp and refreshing, while the chicken was crispy, and dripping with salty fat. Although the day outside was bright and sunny, the wind was still too cold and made eating out of doors uncomfortable. Urban was most thankful for the warm fire that crackled merrily in the large hearth in the middle of the room, attended by the cook who roasted two dozen foul and several cuts of boar and venison on spits.

Licking off his fingers he relished the spicy meat. He did not know how they made it, but after one bite of the crunchy skin, he knew why this unassuming place was so busy. Urban sighed in satisfaction as he kept his own company. The first leg of his trip from Athrvorthfesting had been pleasant, if not a little exciting with the strong winds the knarr had to buck against. It felt good to be on the waves again, but there was so much farther to go, he was right to assume that he would be sick of sailing by the time he reached home. No good would come of to sending a letter ahead. He would reach home at the same time. None the less, he was certain they would be happy with the surprise.

Out through the rippled glass of the diamond paned window several ships jostled for position on the pier, or if they could, they nosed right into the soft beach and lowered the gangplanks to conduct their business. Brother Urban scratched at his new tunic where a seam on the shoulder was not comfortable. It would not do for him to be about in his Forhors robes, and decided to avail himself of the skill of his host’s mother, a talented seamstress, and have new clothes made. It had been so long since he had been out of his office’s vestments, they felt odd to his skin. Even still, he kept some remnants of his office that had been set aside in keeping with the colors of his sect, as to identify himself as a man of God, but not so much as to intimidate the common Forsamling. Ragnarites may be common on the edge of the wilds or large cities, but this was neither. Combine to this the missing weight of his sword on his hip, Brother Urban felt very much out of place.

A crowd of men came in as he enjoyed his meal, raising the pleasant mumble of the tavern to a riotous level. A ship must have just concluded business, and the men set loose to enjoy their wages for a night or two, and sjomenn took up the rest of the tables. Their soot covered faces and arms with freshly washed hands gave their jobs away as plain as could be expected. An off watch boiler crew from one of the steamknarrs at the pier. Brother Urban smiled in return when acknowledged by the passing throng and continued to eat. His trip’s next leg was beginning in a few hours, so he was in no rush.
Then someone outside caught his eye.

Through the same window, a couple stopped. A thin dignified woman, pipe in mouth with a large Skaerslinger man with her. Urban stopped chewing at the sight of the two talking before the Tavern off the Pier. They chatted for a moment, the man nodded, gave her a smile that men reserve only for their loves, and then he walked inside while she hurried off with a ledger under her arm to someplace else.
The Skaerslinger surveyed the room and saw a combination of angry glances towards him which he was immune to, but no places to sit. The big man walked over to the cook working the spits at the hearth.

“How much for a chicken and some roast boar?” He asked, his tone polite.
The cook was intimidated and took a surprised step back as silence now claimed the room.

“These are not for you, savage,” one of the sjomenn said from somewhere in the crowd. Brave enough to give voice to his distaste, but not brave enough to show himself. The Skaerslinger ignored the voice.

“How much for a chicken and some roast boar?” he repeated in the same manner.

“I…” The cook started to say, cleared his throat and tried again with a tone reinforced by murmuring from other sjomenn who had taken interest in what was happening. “They are all sold to those men.” The cook lied as he pointed in the direction of the hostile voices. The blackened boiler crew grumbled but backed up the lie since it meant keeping food from a Skaerslinger’s mouth.

The big man pursed his lips in mild irritation. It was plain that this sort of issue had happened several times before to him.

“Are you sure this is your answer?” there was no threat to the tone, but it was of such a serious nature, the cook looked ready to break even with the crowd behind him. The steamwright came forward and put down a single gold Penning on the thick stone of the raised hearth next to the cook. A half week’s wages for him.

“That should cover our meals and drinks.” His eyes locked onto the Skaerslinger’s who returned the gaze without malice nor fear.

“As you can see, Herr, these are all paid for.”

With a slow nod of acceptance, the Skaerslinger took two steps back and then turned to walk out, head turned ever so slightly as to keep the group of men in his sight just in case they considered violence wise. The door closed behind him and a discourteous murmur replaced the raucous conversation that had existed before.

Images from Pexels.com

Sometimes You Must Go Back To Go Forward

After a great meeting with my editor, I realized that I had to restore a subplot I cut out of the book.  I figured it was going to end up being in book 3 instead, before I realized that its original intent was going to work.  So… 5 new (old) chapters were put back in the book near the beginning.  In fact, one of them is now the new first chapter.

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But as for moving forward, I had gotten stuck on several points on my last chapter, and it just… blech!  It wasn’t working.  Too overwrought and loaded down with purple prose that was muddying even my understanding of what was going on.  The good news is that now that I have worked through a serious scientific problem, I can also see that this book is living up to my hopes and has the potential to being a real awesome adventure when I discussed my plans with my editor.  She was so good at just letting me vent ideas.  Still not sure on a few simple points, but mmmm boy…. this ending, thanks to the solution brought back by the restored subplot got so much better.

It was a sub-plot that originated from characters from A Light Rises in a Dark World, so some favorites are returning and having an impact on what’s going on.  This also will end up creating more of a tie-in to book 3 that I hoped.

I also have the timeline more squared away.  Having to start writing chapters that will be inserted earlier into the book because I’m writing this chronologically forces that issue.

I’m seeing the ending far more clearly, now, and that makes me happy.  But I have to start thinking of what to title this thing.  Even a working title would be good.

Stats

Pages 407
Words 135970

As you can see, a significant jump in word count too.

New (Restored chapters and locations)

1. The Hunt

3. A Desire For Home

5. Confession & Revelation

7. An Interrupted Meal

8. Breaking Bread With New Friends

And the new chapters since last with their new position:

57: Rewards, Conundrums & Disappointments

58: The Drowned Forest

59: The Valley That Drives Away Evil With Light

60: Temple To An Unknown God

61: The Weight of Sin

I guess it has been a while since I’ve given you a chapter update.  So as a mea culpa and désolé, here’s an excerpt from the new opening chapter

 

The Hunt

 

The beast had come across the ice that winter.  Tracks left in the snowpack frozen by spray from a storm haunted Aske’s mind.  The prints were startling along the beach of Neinnvanbjarg as it had wandered along for a short while, looking for evidence of food, found it, then went into the trees and vanished. Perhaps the beast would just pass on to another island looking for better fare, but that was not to be.  A week later, an team of oxen were killed.  Their kusk escaped with his life by the grace of God.  Something needed to be done now for this beast was there to feast.

Early March had created a world without horizon.  For days on end, the air was warm and thick with fog.  Heavy coats were laid aside, and most timberjacks went about with only light oilskins normally for rain over their autumn clothing.  Aske and his men slogged through the mud and wet snow of the spring melt.  Near the beaches the crunch and hiss of ice shoves were a disquieting din as the winds and waves pushed floes and bergs all the way to the treeline.  Sometimes the piles reached over forty feet high.  But among the trees the sound of dripping water and sighing boughs was all that could be heard.  The birds refused to sing, not even the chickadees or cardinals, for they knew a killer lurked among the pillars of nature’s cathedral.  The beast made it easy to follow by dragging the dead oxen back to its cave in the rotted limestone cliffs that made the northeastern end of the island. Ten of them came with Aske while the rest protected the woodyard and the logging camp.  The track may have been there, but it might be still on the prowl.  None the less, Aske’s knowledge of nature told him to expect a full it  inside.

The plan was simple.  They would go in as many men abreast as possible and when they came across across their quarry, pin it in place with the first rank of spears, then the second rank would stab the trapped creature till it stopped moving.  The hide might be ruined, but this was not about another fur, this was about survival.  Of all the choices for hunting the beast, this was the safest and fastest.

The cave was a small alcove set back a few dozen yards from the beach and elevated in the rock about the height of a man with talus of rotted rock scattered at its base.  The smell of feces came strong on the stirring breeze outside the mouth of the lair.  A deer’s ribcage poked out obscenely from the melting snow telling that the oxen were not this beast’s first kill.  Even in the full light of the foggy day, the shadows inside were deep enough that the men could not see more than a few feet into the short cave.

Aske took the middle of the first rank, was flanked by his two strongest men, and began entering the dark.  The cave was not too deep, maybe a hundred feet or less, but it took a bend to the left, which concealed the deeper chamber of the cave.  Behind him, a rank of men held torches high.  The flames sizzled in the spiderwebs and burned the rock lice.  Unstable slabs of loose rock clunked under their feet and the stink was overwhelming.  The torches were now their only light.  Ahead, soft breathing could be heard.  Would they be so fortunate as to catch their prey still sleeping?

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Feel free to comment and ciao for now!

One More Chapter to Go!

Chapter 9 is now available in the free sample of “A Light Rises in a Dark World“.

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What some of you might not have realized is that this is technically the first novella for free.  Yep.  The first book is technically three novellas packed together.  So why not treat yourself with a freebie and see if the rest is worth it. 🙂

Also, The book is now available for pre-order on Kobo.com.

Lastly, for some reason, ratings and reviews have not been made available yet for the book for some reason, so I don’t know quite what the block is there.  But I suspect it’s because it’s a pre-order.  So if you have your review ready, just hang on and wait for the 17th.  You can probably put it up there then.

As always, thanks for helping out and your enthusiastic support!

 

Sampler Platter #4 “For the Greatest Good, They Leave Home”

Chapter 4 is now posted for your reading pleasure.  Please feel free to drop by and leave comments.

https://www.wattpad.com/361577151-a-dark-light-rises-in-a-dark-world-4-for-the

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Sampler Platter

As a run up to the release of the book, I am offering out a significant teaser.  A new chapter will be released every 2-4 days up to 11 chapters total.  If that isn’t a good incentive to go check it out over on Wattpad, I don’t know what is.  🙂

A Light Rises in a Dark World– Free Sample!

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