Beta Read! Short Notice!

Yep, it’s short notice time! I am going to start my Beta Read for “Tales From the Dream Nebula: Dreams Within Dreams” as of June 1st, 2022. It’s about 28500 words long, which is about 87 pages. The beta read will wrap up on June 30th. All those who get feedback to me by then will be considered to have participated and be credited.

For those who are interested in giving feedback before this goes to publication, email me and let me know of your interest. I still have some room for people to join in.

What you get:

A copy of the beta read manuscript and a questionnaire to fill out with your thoughts and proofread corrections (grammar/punctuation stuff me and my editors and alpha readers missed).

Please be thorough in your thoughts on what you’ve read. Yes I really want to know, even if you didn’t like something. Please be honest. Constructive but honest. My ego can handle negative criticism, just not trolling. };c<

I would also request as part of the process that once the book launches you can provide a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords, Kobo/Rakuten… wherever the book is released or even on your own blog. Anything that would help let people know what you thought of the book and get the word out. Of course, do tell what you really think. Even a meh/bad review is a help in some form, although I do love me some 5 star if deserving.

Your reward!

For participation, you will get a free ebook AND adding you to the thanks/acknowledgments section at the end of the book, so you can brag to all your friends you have your hipster cred and were in the first wave of this cool new universe! Beta readers will also be given future opportunities to be involved in other beta reads, and potentially other associated projects coming down the pike like RPG testing (in early development), music, associated art/merch options that can be set up going forward.

So whatdaya say? Sound like something fun to do with your Kindle/Reader this June while on vacation?

Let me know asap. This opportunity ends Jun 8th.

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!

A Percolating Idea

One of my hobbies as some of you know is to compose music. I had wanted a synthesizer since I was a little kid, and one day I realized I had the money to actually accomplish that dream. So I figured I’d buy one and discovered DAWS instead (Digital Audio Workstations). After comparison shopping and pricing out I settled on Propellerhead’s Reason 10. (I so want the update to 12 now. Soooo bad.)

But since then I’ve been tinkering and composing music and after I finished the first three Novellas of Tales From the Dream Nebula I was certain I wanted to do a soundtrack. The question is, how to release it? What kind of music should I do?

What do people think of the idea of a “score to read to”? I was inspired by the concept when I was a teen and had discovered Steven King’s “Bachmann Books” and was reading “The Long Walk” while listening to a copy of Jean Michel Jarre’s “Zoolook”. Certain songs were absolutely PERFECT for the chapters I was reading despite I doubt for a second, King would have even considered such music since he’s more into heavy metal/hard rock, but for me it worked. It added significant depth and enjoyment to my reading of the story.

So what do you think about being able to have a related soundtrack for the books? Here’s a sample of my work to give an idea some of the sort of music I’m considering.

P.S. I’m still looking for a cover illustrator who would be interested in doing a series of 3 novellas, and potentially character and logo design. Budget is limited, but for the right person, we can see what we will be able to do. If you are an artist who is interested please get in touch. Here’s an examples of the kind of art styles I’m looking to mash up:

State of the Onion & a Late Christmas Present

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I pray you made it to today in once piece, more or less safe and sound, happy and hale.

So why do I call last year an onion? Because 2020 sure stank and made most of us cry! I’m firmly convinced that it will be looked back on as the year before we entered the next dark age or came into a Golden Age.

It has been a factory farmed dumpster fire…
In a flood…
During a hurricane…
That busted through all our living room windows…
And turned upside down…
to wreak havoc in our lives.

Photo by Produtora Midtrack on Pexels.com

Many of us weathered the year better than others. Some had to learn the truth of the “pandemic” the hard way, while others are still terrorized by it. As for myself and my family, it’s been a very rough year both in the terms of health and employment, and is part of the reason for this update.

Now, I am going to strive to keep my politics out of this save for this one blast of steam from the relief valve. It’s been extremely difficult to do anything these days (write, work, live) in the era of #Covidiocy, #stolenelections and #justus for the implementation of “The Great Reset” which is poised to re-establish a new neo-feudalist world order and turn us all into serfs of a Godless world police-state. With the amount of stress, anxiety and depression I’ve fought against, plus a few new things in my life has made it very difficult to focus on things that matter to me in a creative sense. To realize what I’ve accomplished so far is pretty surprising. At least I’ve survived this plague that only kills 0.03% of all who catch it with no lasting issues. I expect things to change for the better in the future, barring a full on civil war/revolution. Okay. So now you know that we’re all struggling in these days, depending on your nation and state, some worse than others. I pray you all have kept safe, healthy and sane enough to keep living life in accordance to your conscience, and that God bless you all as He knows you need. Amen?

Cool. #MakeOrwellFictionAgain

Despite all these hardships, I’ve been able to make ends meet thanks to God’s grace from a variety of sources, and some lucky breaks on keeping money rolling with new day jobs and assignments. I’ve had to swallow my pride on more than a few occasions, but I’m very grateful for all the positive things that happened to keep me afloat and in my home, fed and safe. Happy is a relative term of course. I make sure to get my sourpuss curmudgeon card stamped daily by the news and current events.

There have also been some personal triumphs as well, but those are for a later date. It has distracted me a bit from writing, and I apologize. In the long run it will be helpful and maybe facilitate even more writing. They’re not ready for the big public reveal.

One year ago, book 3 of the Akiniwazisaga (Into the High Places) still on Amazon came out. I personally think it’s probably the best of the series to date. Don’t let the lack of reviews fool you. But if you haven’t bought a copy yet, come on! It’s there! You’ll love it!

Since then, I have gotten about 30% through Book 4 of the series before I had to shelve it to focus my creative power on a new project that I hoped to have farther along by now: Tales from the Dream Nebula.

As I talked about last blog. Positive side, two novellas are done. The third is percolating in my head and is about to start rolling out soon enough as I can get some obstacles out of the way on the mechanics of the plot. Some great ideas have come up that I can’t wait to implement.

I hope that I will be putting out either 4 novellas for Dream Nebula this year, or finally finish book 4 of Akiniwazisaga. At least that’s my aspirational goal. I’m not a big believer of resolutions. I always manage to blow through them like a small town red light at 3am. So why set myself up for failure. Just sharing what I hope to accomplish and bring into your lives. Otherwise, I’ve been working on music from time to time, though I’m not sure where to put it out there to share with you all. Youtube has been getting a tad…. persnickety and I’m not thrilled about that. We’ll see what comes up and share then. It’s some nice stuff. Still working on the first movement of an actual symphony. Yes… an actual honest to God symphony. We’ll see what comes of it. There’s been some great learning experiences with that so far.

But anyway, in the spirit of your enduring with me, I figured I’d give you an early look at one of the first pair of scenes of “Tales from the Dream Nebula” as a thank you to you all. Mind you, this is like a third draft before going to an editor, so we’re not even talking beta read level, but fans be fans, and one should give treats and surprises to them from time to time. Yep, I mean it. Your fandom is deeply appreciated. In this era more than ever.

Synopsis: Tales from the Dream Nebula
“Series 1 : Omnipresence”
Episode 1 : “Dreams Within Dreams”

Tales of the Dream Nebula is a high Sci Fi fantasy adventure in the vein of classic Raygun Gothic stories. Think Flash Gordon meets Smokey and the Bandit with many other cyberpunk, film/neo noir, space opera and classic suspense influences mixed in. Earth is no more. Conquered by Xiao the Eternal who came from somewhere deep in space and conquered the planet, breaking it up into pieces, where the chunks of the planet floated as islands in an endless sky of breathable air. Meet Winston A. Harper, pilot of the tug, Sierra Madre. A man who is haunted by his past, drifting with the circumstances of his life. His partner Billy Joe Bob, a sentient industrial mechanoid haul freight with their tug, the Sierra Madre through the skylands that make up the remnant of Earth, living small and unnoticed in the blind spots of the new nations of a humanity subjugated by Emperor Xiao, for now.

Note: this is an early version, copyright M. D. Boncher. Final product may contain changes.

1.

Black and white flickers of an ancient film entranced Winston’s eyes showing him illusions of an Earth and a culture that no longer existed. Like his life, it was carved up and lost to the Dream. He took another long sip on his sweaty tumbler and shifted in his favorite green couch. Heavy ice cubes clanked in the cut glass. A smile wanted to touch his lips, but faded away.
The detective on screen caught the dirty little stool pigeon in another lie and was giving him the third degree after a sharp sock to the jaw. The bug eyed mousey little man whined and groaned as he spilled his guts.
“Winston?” came the call from somewhere behind him. He tried to ignore it. His daughter, Emmy continued to play her quiet game on the living room carpet, pushing her dolls around in cars, making up her own stories.
“Winston!” the woman’s voice was sharper. Had she gotten in the house, he wondered.
“Hun, I think Mother is here,” his wife’s voice drifted in from the kitchen. Valerie was making lunch for him. Now he smiled at the clanking of dishes and the whiff of her barbeque ham sandwiches.
There was a terrific pounding at the door, as Mother battered it with her fist.
“Winston-on-on-nn-stonn!” Mother’s voice stuttered as her connection to his virtual home instance lagged for a moment.
He sighed, she had hacked her way into his local server again.
“Go away, Mother!” he shouted back, taking his eyes off the movie. He could hear Valerie leaving the kitchen to let her in.
“Val! Don’t let her in. I don’t want to deal with her cheis today. There’s a reason I have the instance set private.”
“Okay, Hun,” Val replied and went back to her cooking. Emmy ignored the racket and Winston turned up the sound.
“Oh for the love of…” came the growl and with a terrific splintering bang, Mother 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.
“Nahq it, yourself! Billy Joe Bob and I have been trying to contact you for three hours. You know better than to log out when you’re being unloaded! I’m hardly surprised I found you here in your own little Levitown nightmare of a shrine watching old movies.”
Mother looked like a woman in her forties today, like she could have stepped out of the movie Winston had just been watching. A sharp gray suit with A-Line skirt and a bright white blouse and a string of pearls, gliding in the room on impressive impractical heels. Her blond-turning-white hair was in a tight bun, with two strands of long bangs framing her face.
“In costume today, Mother?” Winston sounded almost amused as his dispatch agent sneered at him.
“No. it seems your behnging server came up with this. Blended my avatar code in with your stupid movie.”
“And so what if I’ve been down for 3 hours on the dock? Those lumpers normally take my whole break to get me unloaded. I’ve got another five hours at this rate.
“This was a hot load, Winston. They started offloading you the instant you bumped dock. They’ve been done for hours and have been screaming at me to get you moved so they can bring in the next one! I do not appreciate being screamed at by overclocked Wirey warehouse managers every five minutes while you play ‘Father Knows Bankruptcy’. Which is what you’re facing I might add!”
Val came into the living room, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. Her apron which Winston bought her to tease her domestic skills giving off even more of that ancient film era’s vibe.
“Hun, would you like me to escort her out?” her voice was pleasant, but with a hint of iron as Winston’s private server security protocols leaked into her subroutines.
“Try it and I’ll turn you into a thermostat subroutine, missy!” Mother snapped with a sharp taloned finger thrust at the simulation.
“Nahq it! Fine, mother!” Winston shouted. “All of you, shut up and I’ll get off the dock and get rolling!”
“That’s all we ever wanted,” Mother smoothed.
“Wait. They said I was unloaded, but they didn’t give me a backhaul?” Winston said as he readied to exit his home server instance.
“They decided to go with a different vendor. Since you didn’t leave right away, that dock lead decided he couldn’t trust you to deliver on time or follow their rules any more.” Mother said, arms crossed.
“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. “He warned you there would be consequences. Once you’re moving, contact the guardpost on the way out to get further instructions.”
“And what does that mean?” Winston shouted.
“They wouldn’t tell me. Said they’d only give it to you in person as it were.
Winston let out a growl that escalated into a frustrated scream and exited from his home instance.

2.

The snap back to his sleeper cabin was jarring. Winston peeled off the induction rig headband and threw it back onto his bed rack with a tired groan and rubbed his eyes. The sleeper was just big enough for a generous bed, a small shower and kitchenette with impractical storage under the mattress and in cupboards over his head. Billy Joe Bob was knocking on the locked door.
“Hoss, y’all gonna get up in there?” came the autotuned voice of his lumper.
Winston said nothing and swung his legs over the side. His flight suit rumpled and feeling dirty for sleeping in it. No time to shower, so Winston grabbed his hat and opened the door to the cockpit.
Billy Joe Bob glided backwards and got out of Winston’s way.
“Mother’s all sorts of mad, and that dock boss has been bangin on the windscreen off and on for an hour. Paint’s busted up on the side of the sleeper but nothin’ that cain’t be buffed out,” the industrial mechanoid prattled on, like a dutiful but rather clueless deputy.
Billy Joe Bob’s rotund torso bulged like a beer gut that vanished into a glittering pile of volcanic sand that surfed silently across the floor, picking up after itself as it went. His humanoid chest and head rode on top of that bulky core with massive brawny arms and hands made of the same glittering charcoal sand that poked out at the shoulders like he wore a sleeveless tee shirt. The BJB series of industrial mechoid was an incongruous mix of metal and grit but created a lot of flexible utility, plus it humanized him enough to feel personable to most people. Although a biologically modeled head was less efficient as a sensor suite, most industrial mechanoids preferred them. Or as the sentient ones, called, Indus, did. It helped with inter-sentient interaction. Nothing seemed to freak out bionts faster than a giant insectoid or incomprehensible sensor suite for a head.
The particle shield was down on the canopy leaving the cab dark, lit only by the monitors and blinking LEDs. 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
Winston grunted at Billy Joe as he took the few steps to the pilot’s chair. The co-pilot and navigator’s seats remained empty. Ever since he bought the Sierra Madre after his life was destroyed, they were never filled. Billy Joe sure didn’t need to sit in one and he avoided the pretense of that level of humanity.
Winston flopped down into the seat, and the crash frame slowly descended, and wrapped him securely in place, he started to do a quick instrument pre-trip checklist. There was a smooth vibration as the grav fans could be felt through the hull of his tractor.
Green across the board.
His pair of bulk trailers reported back their hitches were working proper with a double hook and they were free of the dock and station-keeping. They were go for departure.
The message continued their accusatory glare, till with a sigh, Winston raised 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 with darker blots of green, black and brown skylands drifting among them. Like the islands of Earth before it was conquered and consumed by the Dream and its lord and master, Xiao the Eternal. Closer in, the huge industrial anchorage of Omnifeed’s complex was peppered with other draymen waiting for their dock. Some had only one trailer hooked on to their tugs and tractors, others were pulling sky trains with over ten over sized containers.
The windows of his cab’s canopy slowly revealed more of this busy scene as the shield retracted extending a little past him, revealing the four huge open maws of his grav fans that compressed gravity and sucked in air with their usual dull rainbow flicker when more substantial than gas was sucked through and mangled in the compression.
Winston threw on the Sierra Madre’s running lights and fired up his nav computer’s course projector.
“Hoss, look out.”
A man was flying to him on his Bumblebee flight harness from a tug parked danger-close.
“That jackass.”
The man, landed on his canopy over his head and started yelling at him in a language Winston had no clue about.
“Get the behng off my hull!” Winston shouted and slapped the horn. A low chord of ear shattering sound cut through the hull. The irate pilot grabbed his ears and staggered. Winston smiled as the fellow driver was no longer cussing at him in his gobbledy tongue. Apparently he decided to tell Winston off without putting on his proper protective gear. One hundred and forty decibels at close range will do that.
“Shut down number four, Hoss,” Billy Joe Bob said quickly. The careless pilot had staggered too far back and was close to being dragged through the fan.
“Way ahead of you, Bubby,” Winston said, his hand 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 guards at hundreds of klicks per hour out the other side, zipping past Winston’s trailers like a musketball. His flight harness’s emergency safety protocols protected him from impacting another object. At least the man could float back to his tractor, once he regained his senses.
“Uhhh…” drawled Billy Joe Bob in horror as the monitor tracked the man through space. “This ain’t gonna… this… Aww cheis.”
Panic shook Winston wide awake. He sounded the horn again signaling his departure from the dock with two shorts and a long blast. The Sierra Madre left her dock behind and followed her assigned path toward the guardpost, an irrational part of his mind hoped that by getting out of there fast would somehow absolve what just happened.
Winston said nothing. His mind whirling on what just happened. It was not his fault, he rationalized. That pilot climbed onto his tractor without proper gear inside a restricted area. 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 said, as he eased the Sierra Madre into their prescribed flightpath.
Another call was coming in to his comm suite, priority one.
Winston tapped the channel open.
“This is the Sierra Madre, receiving you. Over.”
“Sierra Madre, this is Omnifeed Control,” came the professional sounding AI voice. Their voices had been modeled on the ancient art of flight controllers’ speech. No matter what, everyone was equal in their eyes, or so the timber of their voice implied.
“Go ahead Omnifeed Control.” Winston squinted as he fought to keep the fear out of his voice.
“You are hereby charged with violating site safety rules as well as professional rules of conduct on site for failing to leave dock when ordered.”
“He climbed on my hull! Without safety gear! I shut down the fan but it was too late,” Winston complained. “Blame him!”
“Understood and he will be dealt with accordingly,” Omnifeed Control replied. Winston could hear the ‘but’ hanging unsaid. “Regardless, you have four violations of loading dock policy in the last five weeks. Your company is hereby suspended from all Omnifeed facilities for six months due to those violations. After that time you may reapply to be a certified carrier.”
“Aw, come on!” Winston shouted at the AI.
“For the safety incident, you are hereby personally permabanned from this loading facility.” The passionless words were worse than being cussed at.
“I’m being permabanned for him violating your loading dock policy? He climbed on me!”
“His discipline is a private matter. Be glad he was essentially unharmed. Your legal information has already been exchanged with his agent for the incident, in case there is permanent harm and medical bills.”
“You have no right to do that!” Winston protested and slammed his fist against the armrest.
“That is the law in accordance with Xiao’s covenants and protocols of commerce. Hail, Xiao the Eternal.” the controller said in Pavlovian reflex. “We, as a third party witness, must report what was recorded to maintain good standing with the empire. Omnifeed maintains the highest 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 he sat there considering his situation.
Was this to be the final plunge?
Will he be rockbound and sucking on the Imperial dole because he just couldn’t find work after they impounded the Sierra Madre?
This was his last regular client. It was all low paying spot work from here on out. Last second frantic runs to cover for people who dropped the ball. 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?”
“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 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 my lawyer in to provide a good defense and resolve this with some lost time and wages from him.”
“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 groan. “You Biomes and your erratic emotions.” Winston knew she appreciated his sentiment, otherwise she wouldn’t have called him such a racist name. AIs were often just as emotional as humans.
“Okay, I know we’re on the bubble, so what’s next, Mother. Am I untouchable now?”
“Give me a minute to put some feelers out,” Mother said. At least she hadn’t abandoned him. Winston knew he screwed up but really, it wasn’t like he had been impairing himself on the job. She knew he slept in his home instance. It kept his own dreams away. Controlled.
He flipped through his cameras to watch the Omnifeed facility recede behind him on his way back home in Pseudomaha. The big nanofabrication feedstock tanks dwarfed the skyland they were originally built on as it consumed the natural and turned into an artificial station. 
And then 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 glazed over 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. Go on off duty and enjoy yourself. We should still have access to Omnifeed’s network for another hour or two of flight time. We’re slow go till Mother gets back to me.”
“Rog that, Hoss.” Billy Joe went back to his rack up in the engine compartment with a slithering hiss of his utility liquid skirt leaving Winston alone with his worries.