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Sample chapter 1, Strongest Ties

8 Oct

This is the new novel. I am also writing the sequel to Fourth Sword, in smaller chunks, but I felt I needed a vacation from that world before I would be able to immerse myself fully in it again, and this is a story which has been bubbling on the back of my mind for a long time. In fact I once tried to write is as a longish short story, but keeping it under the word limit which would have made it at least theoretically acceptable to the magazine markets left it badly maimed. This in not going to be a long novel, but it needs to be of novel length before it can become what it needs to be.

Now, one caveat here: This has not been edited, much, yet, and especially the first chapter is clunky. Big info dumps on the way ahead. They are one way which helps me to get started. I could write everything on some separate sheet, I guess, but it would be as much work as this is, and this system seems to make it easier for me to see which parts of those info dumps are necessary for the story, which not when I edit, and I can then try to fit the necessary parts in smoother. Sometimes the info will end up in a later part of the story, sometimes it will stay where it is but will turn into a conversation or be cut up in smaller pieces, with some sort of action between them. And that might not be ‘action’ as in ‘then he jumped out of the way as the bad guy tried to gut him with the knife’ but something like ‘he poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down as he pondered the implications of the effect these humans might have on this planet’s biosphere stability’ as well.

The name may change too. I’m not all that good with names.

I will put up at least six, maybe up to 10 chapters, but once I publish the novel will take everything but the first three or four down. If there are big changes after I have edited them I may also put up the new versions so it will be possible to compare the two.

 

STRONGEST TIES

CHAPTER 1

Rahan knew he had made a mistake when the first dogbear came out of the bush.

Not the most innovative name, but very descriptive. There were too many of the terraformed planets for anyone to have bothered thinking up fancy names for all the Terran descended animal or plant variants living on them, except some of the more important key species. Even with those it was usually only the larger and impossible to ignore ones which had registered names. So most of the names in use were extremely simple and based most often on what the whatever had happened to remind the first official Survey expeditions’ members most. Most often that was animals they were already familiar with, but you encountered all the expected, fantasy names, personal associations, color or area based.

And joke names, like the ‘Mollies’ of their previous planet landing, giant hyenas which, according to their databases, had been named by an expedition member who had compared them to, what else, his ex-mother-in-law.

But a funny name did not make something dangerous any less dangerous.

Fancier names existed, but mostly for critters living on the colony planets, and there were at least four to five only-terraformed planets – no human population – for every colony one, at last count. While almost everything had an official classification – Latin still existed as a language, if only for that purpose – they were in some ways ever simpler: the name of the Terran species from which the creature was most closely descended from, and a letter/number/number combination which denoted the planet it was living on, and how closely it was still related to the original parent species.

For some reason Rahan remembered that these had been, tentatively, dubbed Ursus Arctos Nc68/89, by the first Survey expedition, but that the classification still hadn’t gone through the channels in order to get the DNA fully sequenced and give this particular subspecies an official name, or names – and with these there was also a good chance that sequencing might find some more substantive gene modification which would change the numbering. And the planet had already been known for more than a couple of hundreds of years.

Rahan tried to figure what to do while standing absolutely still. There was now three of them, but right now they didn’t seem to be paying all that much attention to him. Something which he knew was a ruse. They knew he was there, alright, they just weren’t sure yet what he was. Food, menace, something best ignored?

There were lots of planets. Trying to clear the backlog of increasing information, and sorting it into something manageable, was nowadays a big business, occupying several companies on several colonies working under contract for the Watcher Corps, and right now that was seen as a very secure job. The Old People had sort of gone overboard with their terraforming program during and after the plague which had wiped out more than four fifths of humanity, way back when, including everyone in the Solar System itself.

Because of the plague the mother system itself was still off limits for all but a select few scientists. But only some historians, and history buffs, cared. Solar System was no longer home. Home was someplace terraformed, for most. For a smaller group of others it might be a habitat, or an enclosed colony on some dead moon or planet, or a ship – there were even a few colonyship-sized sublights still around, all now basically just moving habitats, most confined inside some system for the reason that installing the FTL was expensive when you were talking about something that big, although there was also a handful which had been converted and now were used by some of the richer Free Trader families.

This particular planet and these particular beasts – if people would ever made this planet home on a permanent basis, ‘dogbear’ would probably shorten to something – dobies? Doobies?Dogbies? Maybe dobers? – but for now they were dogbears.

Rahan tried to move a bit, and was answered with a growl and a long stares.

He froze again. “Okay, I’m still. No need to get nervous now.”

Talking might not be a smart idea either, but it made him feel slightly better. He had always been a talker. It calmed him.

This was not good.

So they were descended from brown bears – and right now Rahan didn’t much care about all that missing subspecies and/or gene modification information – and looked nothing much other than smallish and rather lanky dark brown bears.

Smallish, that was, if compared to many of their more solitary cousins on other worlds. Standing on all four most of them would still reach nearly to his hips, and Rahan was fairly tall, for a human. Standing on two most of them would be taller than him.

The dog part in dogbear came from the fact that unlike their ancestors these were pack animals. As in ‘hunts in packs’.

And his sidearm was back in the ship.

As was his com.

Not good.

Bad mistakes.

Yes, he had made more than one bad mistake today. He had to admit that. Not that it did him any good right now.

The ship was close to the pond where he had been swimming, the excuse he had meant to use for ‘forgetting’ both the com and the gun, if asked.

The real reason had, of course, been to simply disobey Ryn. Which was something he liked to do whenever he thought he could get away with it. And when he could think of a decent reason for why he could do it, something beyond just justifying why he might have ‘forgotten’, or ‘not heard’, or perhaps, on rare occasions, why disobeying was ‘really smarter than obeying’ when confronted with what he had done. Unfortunately Ryn’s orders were, most times, very sensible ones, clearly enough that even a rebellious nineteen year old could see that, and while he did enjoy disobeying he would not do it when there was any real risk – one he could see – doing that might lead to anything like some sort actual damage to something, whether that would be their mission goals. Or something more tangible.

Rahan was young, but he was not stupid. Not really.

Except sometimes.

Getting killed would have to count as pretty tangible damage.

So this time he had been a bit stupid. Or not just a bit. On the other hand, this situation had also required a big dose of bad luck. The dogbears were dangerous, besides being big and smart they were quite aggressive even for predators, but there should be only one pack near their landing site, and during the days they had been here the pack had not come anywhere near the ship, having plenty of prey on the plains beneath the hills. So why would they have chosen this particular time on this particular day to finally move back to the hills?

And he had checked, before leaving. Then there had been nothing large within a six mile radius.

Something large which was moving, or large exposed heat sources, that was. But the dogbears were daylight hunters which liked to sleep in caves. Their sensors did not see inside caves, and the geology of the area made the likelihood of there being several caves a high probability.

Bad luck. His. That what this was, mostly.

Or maybe he really was stupider than he liked to think he was.

When he looked at them he saw that a fourth one had now appeared. They stood there, sniffing in his direction.

He thought the pack was about twelve or thirteen strong.

Rahan contemplated the pond. Except the bears swam well enough. Same went for the trees, they could climb as well as he could. No, scrap that. They were better.

Running was out the equation too. They were faster than him.

Maybe the pond would be the best bet, after all. There was one large boulder sticking out of the water in the middle of it. If he could find…

Ah, there. He remembered seeing a big stick on the ground near here. And there it was.

Rahan sidled slowly to the stick and picked it up. The dogbears stared. One made a short run towards him, but turned back when about halfway.

Now there were six bears.  About half of the pack. The rest were probably very close, they usually were. And they seemed definitely interested now. There was a large monkey species living here, one which the bears hunted.

Rahan figured he’d look, and smell, pretty similar to the bears.

They would probably attack. He was alone, he looked like prey, and what’s more, he looked like a prey which was somewhat dangerous when in troops, but easy when caught alone.

There might be no ‘probably’. By now he was becoming certain they would attack.

He waited. They’d make some trial attacks before the real one. There was the possibility that if he stood his ground they’d think him too much trouble and go look for something else to eat.

Rahan decided to still hope for that alternative. Maybe they weren’t all that hungry. Maybe there was some big, juicy carcass of their last evening’s hunt lying somewhere, and they had come here just to drink, and would then hurry back to it.

If they were to attack, for real – maybe he could try to whack the first one, if he got it good that might slow the rest a bit, then he’d get back into water, with the stick, swim to the rock, climb on top – and if he was still alive and mostly unhurt at that point he just might be able to keep them off for a while. The boulder had steep sides, and rose straight from deep water. The dogbears climbed trees better than he did, but on a boulder he probably was a tad better. Their claws gave them not much of an advantage on rock, but his fingers did.

Lost of ‘ifs’ in that one, but it was the only plan he could think of.

Second, aborted run towards him.

The last missing pack members came out of the bushes.

Rahan swallowed. He had been in dangerous situations a few times before, but before all had been ones where the danger required action, from the beginning, and he had been able to concentrate on doing something until the danger had been past.

And he hadn’t been alone.

Now he was. And he needed to wait.

It was harder than he had thought it would be.

***

One large female was staring at him. And then it started to run.

This was it.

The long dark shape dropped out of the foliage above him smoothly, landing between him and the bear with just barely bended knees. Not directly on the line between Rahan and the bear, the man – in a manner of speaking, for actually he wasn’t a true human in spite of looking like one – stood just on the side, and when the bear started to react to what had just appeared between her and her prey he pivoted to its side, grabbed a hold with both hands, one hand for the loose neck skin and the other for the long fur on its side, and continued pivoting, the bear’s feet leaving the ground, and tossed. The female landed on its side a good distance away, close to the pack, yipped almost like a startled dog – perhaps the other reason why ‘dog’ had ended as part of their name – then rolled back to its feet and backed towards its mates, growling.

The rest of the pack milled where they had been. But they showed no signs of leaving.

“So you left your gun in the ship too?” Rahan said. His voice sounded a bit too squeaky to his taste.

Not that it mattered, really, if one wanted to be pedantic about it. Ryn would know he was scared, no matter how well Rahan acted to hide his real feelings. He was not that good a good liar even when it came to humans. And no human was good enough to fool a Shemasharra.

He still preferred to play it. Ryn usually respected his fictions unless the situation really demanded complete honesty. The fiction of having at least some privacy tended to be important to humans. And the Shemasharra knew that well enough.

Like they knew everything else.

“I don’t need it here. You do.” Ryn kept staring at the dogbears, and Rahan could hear his low growling when he wasn’t talking. He sounded a lot like the dogbears. Perhaps a bit more catlike. The Shemasharra had always reminded Rahan of big cats more than any other predators. Which they were, in a way. Humans turned into pure predators instead of omnivores was one way they were sometimes described.  They had the instincts of a top predator, if not the diet, exactly, for they were able to survive on even a purely plant based diet if they had to, at least for a while.

And when it came to physical abilities they were the top land predators almost everywhere. Even when unarmed and nearly naked, like Ryn was now.

“Do you think you can scare them away?” At least that came out on a level voice. Improvement.

“If I kill a couple of them, yes. I’d prefer not to. But I think they are too pissed off right now to leave for anything less.”

The dogbears weren’t exactly rare on this planet, or anything. But Rahan had to agree with Ryn this time. Something shouldn’t die just because he had been dumb. The Survey sidearms were loud, on purpose. A couple of shots fired in the air might very well have spooked them. It would have been something unknown, and so, scary, to them. Without something like that, well, humans or Shemasharra, both would look like a somewhat unusual variety of their prey to these predators.

He sighed. “So…?”

Ryn turned around and moved, again so fast and so smoothly he hardly seemed to move at all, he was just suddenly there, in front of Rahan. He threw the human over his shoulders – something Rahan had kind of expected so he did just try to relax in order not to hamper the bigger male – while keeping on moving.

Rahan tried to get hold of something with his free hand, mostly to ease the jolting he was experiencing, Ryn’s grip of his left leg and hand was tight but that did not exactly stop him from bouncing around. Not so easy, considering Ryn was wearing only a pair of shorts.

At least he wore something. His people didn’t really have anything like nudity taboos. While he would usually dress accordingly when in the company of humans it would not have been all that unusual for him to go for his morning run completely starkers.

Rahan decided to count the presence of those shorts as a blessing.

As for something he could use to hang on… hah, there was always the hair. A thick braid of coal black hair, hanging down to the lean waist. If Rahan hadn’t been so damned uncomfortable – and embarrassed – he might have grinned as he took a firm grip with his free hand. Even if it meant reaching back in a somewhat uncomfortable manner. And didn’t actually ease the jolting at all.

Even small annoyances…

No, he didn’t exactly like Ryn.

Handsome, smart and physically very superior compared to any humans, and he knew it. Self-satisfied, smug and bossy were words Rahan would use. He had spend most of his life with the Shemasharra, and liked most of them, even the males, but this particular guy…

His superior on this training flight.

No, he didn’t like Ryn. Not right now.

Not after having been forced to spend several months being bossed around by him.

***

They reached the ship just ahead of the still pursuing dogbears. Ryn practically flew up the ramp, then dropped Rahan unceremoniously on the floor and hit the button which pulled the ramp up and closed the hatch. It wouldn’t have been necessary, the ship AI was quite capable of doing that by itself. Ryn would not have left the ramp down when he went for his outing, and Rahan hadn’t done that either, it had been the AI which had lowered it once it saw them coming towards the ship with their unwelcome company.

Maybe it was just one way to let out some of the steam. Rahan knew he was angry. He guessed Ryn would not start yelling at him, though. He rarely did.

Not the Shemasharra way. They usually preferred the silent and mysterious act. At least the males did. Especially when dealing with humans.

Partly perhaps because the males had a tendency to irritate human men. Part of it was the fact that they were truly superior and in most ways unbeatable as rivals. Oh, so superior. Usually bigger than most humans, but not so much as to appear creepy, just enough to stand out in most crowds  – human ones, that was. Faster, stronger, almost always better looking – Ryn himself looked kind of like a mix of perhaps some of the old Terran Asians, maybe Chinese and Indian, with his classical facial features with hints of that maybe Chinese, especially around the eyes, although there were also bits which made one think of Africans, he was kind of full lipped. And he had that dark chocolate skin color which was shared by most of the Shemasharra, and a thick, straight, coal black hair which he could sit on when it was free. Just pretty enough to be called beautiful while still being masculine enough that nobody would mistake him for a female, not with that face and his long-legged gymnast’s body.

Rahan sat on the floor and felt sorry for himself.

Well, maybe the fact that they were not often able to deal well with human men could also seen as a blessing, right now.

Unless intimidating them was not a problem, that Ryn could do well enough, Rahan had tended to be the one who met with locals on those places where they had needed to deal with locals. So you could claim he was better at least with something.

But that didn’t make it any easier for him to be under his command.

There had been more times lately when he just hoped he could get away from Ryn for good.

But that would not happen right now. There was this mission to finish. And others where Ryn would still be his commanding officer. Rahan wanted to finish his education, to become a full member of the Watcher Corps. And that meant he was stuck with this particular Shemasharra, Captain Ryn ker Maylo, for a while yet.

At least being with Ryn meant he was safe. Besides their other qualities – and yes, Ryn really was a very good mission leader if you didn’t count his commanding style – any Shemasharra male, but especially one with Ryn’s training, was the best damn bodyguard anybody could hope for.

Rahan picked himself up from the floor when he started to feel that he could maybe do it without throwing up. He regretted a bit that he hadn’t while being carried by Ryn, but what the hell. If the opportunity came again he would not try to hold it in.

Ryn was long gone, to his cabin probably. He’d fume in there until he’d feel able to deal with Rahan without blowing his top. The man did have something of a temper, a feature which he himself saw as a weakness. Which meant he rarely allowed himself to start yelling. Good enough for Rahan, even if it often meant he’d have to suffer days of sarcastic remarks instead.

Small pleasures…

Like the fact that Ryn’s full first name was actually ‘Deleryn’, a name which the Shemasharra found somewhat funny too.

Small pleasures. Better than nothing.

***

Their survey was done a few days later. The planet was declared to be healthy, the rudimentary AI keeping an eye on it was bug free and working as it should be, and it was time for them to leave towards the next planet on their itinerary. Keeping an eye on the uninhabited terraformed planets was, most times, as boring a job as boring could be, but something that needed to be done. It took a long time for the planted biospheres to become truly stable, and most of the ones in existence were still centuries, if not millenniums away from the time when they could be left on their own without worries. And besides the more natural problems, for the last 800 hundred years, after the discovery of a form of an FTL drive which was both cheap and reliable, squatters as well plunder and pillaging of the natural resources of these planets had become one.

Since many of the terraformed planets had rather fragile ecosystems even a few years or decades of heavy use could send one into a downward spiral which would be very hard, and very expensive, to correct. Which meant that most times nobody tried, and such planets were left to recover or perish on their own.

Squatters were usually allowed to stay. Provided they showed that they were willing to take on the responsibilities of ownership as well as the perks. Do that long enough and they could earn permanent ownership status, at least for that part they had established their colony on.

But bad stewardship was not tolerated. It might not result in banishment. It would result in a loss of independence for the squatter colony, at least to the extent their actions affected their environment.

While there were lots of terraformed planets it was still deemed unwise to waste them at the rate which seemed likely to happen if they were left on their own. There had been several moving societies which had been in the habit of using up one planet, then leaving for the next when the environment could no longer comfortably support them. Or stripped them of all their natural resources in order to sell them to some of those colonies which had, say, no forests full of trees in their use. Like those living in habitats which had no space for growing something not absolutely essential – there were places where something like naturally grown hardwood would be worth much more than its weight in gold. But while that had used up planets when humans were still using just the slowships, and a couple of unreliable versions of primitive FTL, after FTL had become something everybody used that rate of wastage had gotten to the point where the colonies had decided that Something Needed To Be Done.

So the Watcher Corps had been created.

At first they had been mostly just glorified interstellar game wardens. Very heavily armed game wardens, when the poachers very likely had an army it had turned out necessary for these game wardens to build up their armaments, and manpower, to at least equal terms.

That’s where the Shemasharra clans had come in.

Their ancestors had been created for a very long lasting private war during the early years of the slowship colonization, between two rival groups intent on developing the same terraformed planet for the use of their colony. Since terraformed planets were fragile both had been unwilling to use any heavier armaments planetside – hence the need for good old fashioned foot soldiers.

One side had used enhanced and otherwise modified humans – expensive to create, expensive to maintain.

The other side had gone for the highly illegal – illegal back then, illegal now – solution of genengineering to the extent of creating something that no longer could be called human.

Phasing out genetic defects was approved of in most places, then and now, slight improvements or adjustments, especially when needed for unusual environments, were usually disapproved of but rarely completely forbidden. The temptations had just proved too strong and after almost everybody had kept on doing those the rules had been relaxed a bit.

Humanity now wasn’t exactly the same as their pre-spacetravel ancestors had been. Lifetimes had more than tripled, three standard centuries or close to it had become the norm – although that could be extended quite a lot if one was willing to pay for it, but that was on an individual basis, making much longer lifetimes genetic and inherited had proven unadvisable on some respects and most of the groups who had had those had died out – and people usually aged very slowly for the first two of those centuries. Most of the people living were also healthier, stronger, smarter and better looking than those long gone ancestors, on average, had been.

But changing humans to something that could no longer crossbreed with the parent species naturally was now, and had been, for most of the recorded history after it had become possible, forbidden, one of the ultimate sins the way humans saw it. Humans were territorial and aggressive enough even between themselves. They didn’t want to risk creating other species which would most likely become rivals, sooner or later.

As for the Shemasharra ancestors, according to what remaining records of the company’s intent had been found, they had meant to phase out the evidence by sterilizing the soldiers after they were no longer needed. It seemed probable they had not planned to kill any of the already existing ones. but stop them from procreating so the problem would disappear after a while in a slightly more ethical way. Unfortunately not all the soldiers themselves had been happy with that answer. There had been a mutiny, and a lot of them had escaped, and finally, after a couple of centuries of wandering had established themselves a colony on one of those planets where the original terraformers had gone a bit wild and had created something too dangerous to be seen as desirable by normal humans.

There was no longer any record as to who had won the original war, or even what had been the names of those two rival companies, and whether the contended planet had even been colonized, and if so, whether that colony still existed. Or if the planet still even had a viable biosphere, for that matter, since nobody knew which planet it had been. All that was left were the Shemasharra, the second species of humans, even further changed now. One that had severe problems fitting in with the original version, in spite of of some newer changes they had done to themselves for the express purpose of becoming more acceptable to the parent species, like taking out some of the more visible differences the original versions had had so that they now, mostly, looked like the normal humans. But some of the other differences – they wanted to be what they were, not to phase themselves back into humans, and some of the non-visible differences were profound ones.

But while they wanted to stay as they were they didn’t want to go their separate way. The philosophy by which the clans lived was to use what was proven to work in the real world – or at the very least seemed to work best – not what anybody might find ideologically comfortable. And according to their best minds keeping up peaceful, and close, relations with humans gave better odds for the long time survival of both species.

So they did stay in close contact. However difficult that sometimes had turned out to be.

One way that seemed to work was simply to be seen as useful by the parent species. And one thing they were good with was soldiering. So in the end the clans had become largely responsible for the Corps. More than half of the members, including over half of the higher functionaries, were humans, but Shemasharra were the ones who kept the system running smoothly.

Ryn working with Rahan had been ordered as an exercise for both of them. Rahan could learn hands on skills from the Shemasharra, while for Ryn the point was to learn how to lead a young human male in an efficient manner. Preferably without leaving said male feeling pissed off all the time.

And that hadn’t been working all that well so far. They had been together for several months now, and the situation had developed into a form of cold war.

Experimenting with prices a bit

10 Sep

I will have ‘Demons of Khemas’ available for 0.99 $ for a couple of weeks. Sales have been damn near non-existent this month (maybe not just me, I’ve seen some other writers complaining of the same thing, that their sales have dropped a lot this month, at least so far), so I figured I might as well experiment with pricing a bit. Of the two novels I have for sale now people seem to like ‘Fourth Sword’ while ‘Demons’ gets no love… well, it is kind of weird blend of genres, a sword and sorcery story which at least in places reads kind of like chick lit. I did have fun writing it, but I guess it might make sense that it will have a harder time to find readers. 😀

I guess that is one of the pleasures of being where I am right now – selling some but not all that much. Right now I feel rather free to write whatever I damn well please, but since I actually would like to turn this to something I get money from I will probably concentrate on what seems to sell best if something starts to sell noticeably better than something else.

I will probably do the next free promotions for both of these novels right after I have published the third, that SF story. Might help to get some attention to it – and the other two too, and maybe even the short stories, sales always do seem to pick up a bit after the free promos, not hugely but so far there have always been a slight bump. Well, right now the main thing for me should probably be just trying to get as many readers as possible anyway, rather than think about the actual sales, as long as I’m in the ‘never heard of’ category nobody will find me except by chance, and of those people who do stumble on my stories and like the cover, description and sample well enough to buy something not all will end up liking the whole story, so if I want some word of mouth to start happening I will need to get hell of a lot more readers than I have now.

On the other hand, I am not good when it comes to advertising. I don’t like doing it, for one thing, and the other part is that I don’t really know how to do it so that it would be useful. And then there is the fact that it may not affect the final results all that much. What it will do is accelerate the process if the novel is good enough, and yes, sometimes it can create bestsellers but for that you’d need the kind of resources the big publishers have, lots of money and advertising professionals. At the level I could do it – yep, with some luck it might accelerate things a bit if what I have is good enough, but if it really is good enough it will probably get to the same goal with time anyway. So I don’t see much point to use time for that. Better to try and get volume, as much published as possible, which will make me a bit more visible with time, being more visible will net me more readers, and – again, provided the stuff is good enough – maybe in time that word of mouth thing will appear.

Anyway, you can find the link to the novel ‘Demons of Khemas’ on the page titled ‘Novels’ (surprise…) if you are interested. Would put it here except those links are generated automatically now with WordPress and at least the ones to Amazon come out with this huge picture of the cover. A bit too big to my liking, but so far I haven’t been able to figure out how to make it smaller. And probably I will learn that just before WordPress changes something again and I will need to learn how to do it all over again. 🙂

Writing woes and washing rag rugs

28 Aug

Yep, writing, but stories, so I haven’t managed blog posts, just comments on other people’s blogs. Sarah Hoyt is on a roll again so I go to hers a lot.

I’m still looking for beta readers. Could use a few. It would be best to have several.

The science fiction novel is slow going. I know what is going to happen and I know my characters, where I get stuck are the details. Like what would a person who is several times stronger and faster than a human be able to do. And how much stronger and faster would still be at least vaguely believable, while that story world is very space opera type I would still prefer to stay away from superheroes. Once you get guys who can fly or shoot lasers from their eyes just because, well, I enjoy those stories, but I do enjoy hard science fiction more. Something I can sorta kinda imagine might even be possible if you go far enough in the future. I don’t write it – true hard sf – myself because if I start thinking on those terms I never finish anything due to the fact that I keep checking and rechecking the science part – and probably still get at least half of it wrong. I may have some education in stuffs like math, physics, and biology (and pretty much in geology, but you rarely can figure out story lines where that could become a big plot point), but first, it was a long time ago and I haven’t looked at any of that, not in a serious way, much since, and one does forget, and second, I never knew so much I would have been able to speculate from that knowledge, so unless I base something exactly on something which really does exist I will probably go way off more or less right away.

So I write space opera. There is FTL, and people with psychic abilities, and superhumans, and probably a big space battle or two in the characters’ future too although it may take a few novels to get there. Yet, as said, I try to keep it at least vaguely within the maybe possible (if you stretch a lot), which means I’m neurotic about the details. Fantasy is easier. You can decide the rules of magic, and the other stuff can be based on history and real life. Need to know how far a horse can go in one day, google it or find some place to ask (which I did with reindeers, an email to a firm which arranges day safaris on reindeer pulled sledges during the winter, and got a nice, detailed answer from them). So if one has something like a unicorn to ride instead of a horse, well, that still would change mostly just minor stuff, and hey, if it’s a half magical animal you can pretty much also just decide what it can do – hey, magic – but if it was some sort of genengineered or biomechanical beastie things may get a bit more complicated, since with those premises its performance should perhaps stick a bit more closely to the laws of physics…

Like, how the hell does one figure out some believable distance that supersoldier of mine would be able to jump, or fall without having his bones broken and soft tissues turned into a mush (and he does have something like nanites in his body, so his tissues and bones are more hardy than most just flesh and blood ones, of any known Earthly lifeform, would be…), without going straight into that superhero territory? Should have some sort of limits figured out beforehand, you know, adjusting his abilities as plot points demand is not good writing.

I’m losing some hair here. Stress, and all that. Besides I do have the bad habit of finger combing through it when I get frustrated, although so far I haven’t at least managed to pull out much which wouldn’t have fallen off sooner or later on its own.

And yes, washing rugs. Expensive enough to get done in the places where they wash those types of rag rugs I have that I’m not going to have them washed. Fortunately there are sites where you can do it yourself, open during the warm season. As you can see I left the job rather late. Well, for those who don’t know what kind of climate we have here, it’s warm (from sorta kinda at least it’s not snowing to actually almost hot – although, in comparison: what we think is a heat wave would seem to be what people living somewhere like southern Arizona would probably think of as a nice early spring weather) for about three months per year, June, July and August, sort of nicely crisp for about a month before and after, and the rest of the year is somewhere between cold-ish and very, very cold – although the very, very cold doesn’t happen every year, and if it does it will usually last only a couple of months, at most, in the southern Finland where I live, but then you still have the cold-ish to cold, and always lots of wet and overcast.

So, if you want to wash your rugs and get them dry you need to do it when the weather is nice, those free washing places are outside, there is only cold water and they are open – meaning running water – usually from about early May to middle or late September.  So, a brush with very stiff bristles, liquid soap, rubber boots and a raincoat, or else a swimming suit except it’s no longer really warm enough for that – I have never managed to do that task without getting wet, try lifting big wet heavy rugs without getting water all over yourself – and off to get some exercise. I have washed one or two rugs every second morning for a week now (yep, I waited until almost all of them were dirty before doing this, and I have a few, inherited mostly).

Well, at least it really is pretty good exercise.

Anyway, the blog posts will continue to keep on appearing at long-ish intervals until I get that damn novel finished. After that I will continue working on the Fourth Sword sequel, as long as I am able to write fiction, which will probably be late November/early December, but I think I will probably be able to devote a bit more time to the blog then. That story is fantasy, not science fiction, so the fact parts will be easier to check.

Looking for beta readers, and cat news

19 Aug

Been a bit busy again. New cat and all. The cats are not talking yet, when I open the door and they get to see each other they keep at a distance and stare quietly. Which is better than growling or yowling, anyway.

The new cat needed a haircut. His fur was so badly matted, after having spend nearly six months with not much grooming, that when I took him to the vet they needed to shave some of it off. His nether end is now nearly bare, as is half of his tail which makes it look like some kind of bizarre combination of the tails of a lion (tuft in the end) and a giant rat (the bare part). Poor guy does not look very dignified right now.

And surprise, he’s a functional tom. Both balls intact. I never asked anybody but the girl who first told me about him and she assumed he had probably been neutered, and after he came here I just never checked. And that was in the very badly matted part. But yes, two surprises when the vet assistant went there and shaved.

I’m afraid he may lose them if I keep him. And unless there is big trouble with Pörri I intend to, that is a very nice old cat.

But, anyway, I’m writing the sf story, and it will probably take at least a month more before I’m at the halfway point, but seems none of the friends who have done some beta reading for me are able to do it now, they are all rather busy with work, or looking for work, or moving. So I’d welcome new ones. Especially anyone who has read my stuff and likes it. I think that system works best – if you like the style of writing used in a story it’s easier for you to spot the way to make it better as itself without trying to change it to something else entirely. Plus it’s, of course, a lot easier to beta something you enjoy reading, perhaps especially when it’s still only half baked. 🙂

And it would be good to have more English speakers as betas, too. My Finnish ones may be able to tell me about how the story hangs together, or if there are logic holes in it, and whether the characters stay true to themselves, but not necessarily that much about the language. And so far I have had only one native English speaking beta reader, a guy originally from New Zealand, and he probably can’t do it again, or for a while, not in a useful way anyway since right now he seems to be rather busy with his own life. Not enough time for him to start making notes while he reads, all he can do is perhaps to read it through and give some general impressions, if that.

If interested send me an email.

 

P.S. I have cat photos I’d love to show. Taken with my phone. Then I found out my phone and my computer refuse to talk, probably because the operating system on the computer is perhaps just a tad out of date as far as the much newer phone is concerned. Working on it.

The garage sale: not that many days left

6 Aug

I will probably keep the lower price on the three shortest short stories, but at least Night Work will get a bit higher next week the latest. And the novels will go back to where they were before this.

Cats, and Human Wave garage sale

31 Jul

The new cat has been here for a few hours, now. He’s hiding in the bathroom, behind some buckets, and Pörri makes occasional forays to the door (closed, for now) and sniffs, and has growled a bit a few times. From my previous experience this stage will probably last at least a few days. I wasn’t quite planning on keeping him in the bathroom at this stage, but since he chose it I guess I’ll let him stay there for now, until he starts feeling a bit less scared.

And yes, the cat is a he (spayed, thank god), a black Persian or Persian mix, with, right now, a very ugly looking coat since it has not been combed for nearly half a year. Name is Sebastian, called ‘Basti’.

Pörri’s name is looking even funnier in comparison, since she has very short hair (Pörri would translate to something like ‘fluffy’. I guess she may have been that as a kitten, when I got her she was about two years old and anything but).

Keep your fingers crossed.

And, starting tomorrow and including my stories, managed by the eminent (I think that’s the closest English equivalent to the Finnish word I keep thinking about :)) Sabrina Chase:

The Human Wave Garage Sale

When did it become fashionable for published fiction to be full of self-loathing for qualities most intelligent humans value? Where’s the adventure, the courage, the fun? We suppose it was about the same time that Literature Majors because the arbiters of what was good and right in publishing.

Fortunately their reign of grey goo and boredom is at an end.  Having gone Indie, authors can choose to write humans as they wish.  And since most authors are (allegedly) human they can even write heroic humans who fight for things that have meaning.

The ennui of the cognoscenti no longer holds sway. The new bad boys on the block are Human Wave authors, whose characters might sometimes be trapped in dystopia but never helpless. And if they must go down fighting, they do so gloriously and for principles bigger than themselves.

Be daring.  Be creative.  Be revolutionary.  Read (and write) Human Wave.

Sarah Hoyt

Ill Met By Moonlight — Young Will Shakespeare is a humble school master who arrives home to find his wife and infant daughter, Susannah are missing, kidnapped by the fairies of Arden Woods, the children of Titania and Oberon. His attempts at rescue are interrupted and complicated by a feud over throne of fairyland, between Sylvanus, king regnant, and his younger brother Quicksilver who is both more and less than he seems. Amid treachery, murder, duel and seduction, Shakespeare discovers the enchantment of fairyland, which will always remain with him, for good and ill. Free from the 1st to the 5th of August.

Spinning Away — In a world where the ability to pick what news will interest most people is very real power, Layna Smythe strives to stay ahead of her rivals and alive. She often forgets that she’s also lonely, until an attack reminds her of the man she left behind. Free from the 1st to the 5th of August.

Crawling Between Heaven and Earth — Sarah A. Hoyt’s first short story collection, initially published by Dark Regions Press in 2003.  Contains most of Sarah’s early published work. Free

Wings — Second short story collection. $2.99

Michael Hooten

Cricket’s Song, Book 1: The Cricket Learns to Sing — Cricket is a young orphan growing up on an obscure farm in the country of Glencairck.  He wants to be just like Harper, who plays for the people through the winter, but Harper is not content to let him just learn how to harp.  He teaches him the ancient traditions of the Bards of Glencairck, a noble order that is responsible for not just entertaining the people, but for providing impartial judgement to their disputes.  When Cricket is old enough, he enters the wide world  and finds that not everyone knows the old rules, or follows them.  He has to decide for himself what is right–and how far he is willing to go to defend his beliefs. Free for Kindle August 1-5

Rawle Nyanzi

Alien Frontier — Fifteen-year-old Norma Teague must avoid getting drafted into an alien army. However, her home village demands that she go since she has a magic belt that lets her destroy any armor made of matter. $1.99

Thomas Sewell

Hitchhiking Killer For Hire — A border gang beats Ex-Special Forces soldier Sam Harper and leaves him for dead in the desert. Sam must discover “Why?” in this story of government corruption and human smuggling in the near future west. Dedicated to Louis L’Amour. Free for Kindle August 1st through 5th

Elizabeth Bruner

Flash of Fire — A collection of super short stories (1000 words or less) on the subject of fire. Ranging from the love of a volcano goddess to natural phenomena encountered as humans explore a distant planet, these stories evoke a sense of wonder and awe at the nature and power of fire. $.99 for Kindle August 1 through 5th

Zachary Ricks

Battlehymn — (Also Barnes & Noble)  It’s a story of giant robots, forbidden love, princesses in danger, and the power of rock ‘n roll. If you’re a fan of Macross, you might enjoy Battlehymn. $1.99

Cedar Sanderson

Snow Angel — When a child’s imagination leads his mother to a startling discovery, she must then protect him and his guardian from unknown danger. A human mother is fiercer than angels! Free July 31 to August 4

Little Red and the Wolf-Man — Little Red wears a red cloak, and keeps her shotgun hidden under it. But Grandmother has the biggest secret in the forest, and she is dying… can Little Red help the forest dwellers? $1.49

Mike Weatherford

Cynthia — (Also Barnes & Noble) Cynthia was a nice girl from a prestigious family, with a “nice-girl” education.  That didn’t help much when she found herself chased by an organized criminal element, captured by pirates, and stranded on a planet that was so deadly human government had declared it forbidden.  Luck, in the form of Rat – a trained survivalist – can help, but will it enable her to survive? $0.99

Kiti Lappi

Novels:

Fourth Sword — A portal fantasy: woman from our world gets transported to one with an ongoing generations long war and working magic, and finds out, after some adventures and to her chagrin, that she was taken there for a purpose. $ 1.49

The Demons of Khemas — A tavern wench has fallen for a barbarian swordsman (not that she admits it). When he disappears she needs to find out what happened. $ 1.49

Short stories:

Nights of the Wampyrs — A small town has problems with a couple of vampires, and the only people who figure out what is going on realize they have to become vampire hunters. Old school vampires, based more on the European folk tales than the later fictionalized versions. First story tells of the birth of one vampire, the two others concentrate on the hunters.

    Raven’s Night $0.99

    After Night Descends $0.99

    Night Work  free from 1st of August to 5th, $ 0.99 after that

Dealing with Elves — A young woman is drawn to a forest where elves live. Urban fantasy, mostly a mood piece. Free from 1st of August to 5th., $ 0.99 after that.

The Task — A ghost story set in a traditional fantasy world, a peasant girls shelters for a night in an abandoned castle. $ 0.99

Sabrina Chase

Bureau of Substandards Annual Report — (B&N)Five short stories of that pearl among pan-dimensional bureaucracies, the Bureau of Substandards–and the stalwart security janitors, attack admins, and bemused subdirectors that serve there. $1.99

The Long Way Home — (Book 1 of the Sequoyah trilogy) (B&N) Webspace pilot Moire Cameron is one of the best–but even she can’t fly her way out of a catastrophic drive failure that triggers a time-dilation bubble. Left suddenly eighty years out of date, she is on the run in a world she no longer knows, caught in the middle of a human-alien war while agents of Toren hunt her for the information only she has–the location of the pristine world of Sequoyah.$1.99

Some musings about my protagonists

22 Jun

I think I might want to say a bit about the main characters in the novels I have published so far, and the one I’m rewriting right now (it was originally written as a novel which would have been too short for any of the traditional publishers, and since this was before the ebook/self-publishing revolution I chopped it down to novella length and tried a couple of magazine markets with it. Didn’t sell, and frankly, it had not been all that well shortened so no miracle. But I remember liking the original. Which I have lost. So I’m rewriting the thing now as, again, a short novel.).

Mostly all of these longer works have been born out of musings about heroes, and love interests, and sidekicks, and some of the other character… should I say stereotypes?

Laura, the hero of Fourth Sword, does become a traditional hero, although it is not easy for her and does not happen fast. She was the one born from speculating what it might really be like, for somebody relatively normal and not well prepared, to be forced into that role.

As for the other two main characters –

Well, I think Tikka from The Demons of Khemas is very much the traditional love interest. The whole story started when I thought what a Conan the Cimmerian story might look like from the point of view of the girl. Except Conan, and his ilk, of course pretty much always left the girl behind after the adventure. Good enough for a princess, I suppose, but less so for a tavern wench, especially one who has no close family or other such strong support network. The kind of worlds most of the barbarian heroes live in might be interesting for a big, strong and well trained guy as a place to be adventuring in, and somewhere between quite pleasant and tolerable for a gorgeous princess or noble born lady who could count, most times, on a large group of big, strong men willing to protect her, but could easily turn into a living hell for people who are not rich, not well endowed in the muscles department and do not have large support groups, like a big family or clan or a closely knit village or anything else like that. A lone, pretty girl would probably be toast sooner or later. Unless she found a protector, and a permanent one, not somebody who just saves her once and then beds her, possibly leaving her as a future unwed mom, before riding off into the sunset. So Tikka gets something of an actual love story with her barbarian.

And since the story is from her POV she also had to have a bit more to do than most of the normal barbarian love interests or it might have become a rather boring story in which the girl pines, maybe has a few tantrums, looks nice, is threatened, gets rescued, has sex, and waits a lot while most of the action happens to the guy (also, I do not write sex scenes. I don’t think I could write good ones, based on the unfortunate fact that I almost invariably find the ones I read boring. Visual presentations can work for me, if I like the actors and the scene is well done, or sometimes if I find the art pleasing when it’s a comic, but written just doesn’t. So I really have no idea what would be a good, well written sex scene.)

But yes, The Demons of Khemas has the love interest as the main character.

And the one I’m working on now has the sidekick.

Again, I got curious when contemplating the role of sidekicks, or other supporting characters for the hero in fiction. Why would somebody settle for being the permanent number two? What would it be like? Okay, one alternative is of course the scenario where the helper has a bad case of hero worship, and is also permanently in awe of the hero, and because of that is willing to devote his life to the hero, probably considering himself lucky because he’s the one who has managed to get so close to this wonderful being. But what if he was more normal, and ambitious? What if he also was somebody who actually could perhaps be a hero in his own right if he left and settled among more normal people? Somebody who also is actually pretty awesome himself, or at least smart and competent, but can’t really shine as long as he stays with the hero because the hero happens to be somebody truly extraordinary, somebody who can outperform almost anybody merely human? Would there actually be some rewards for being just the helper in that case?

So I got this young man who is working with a member of an advanced separate species of humans turned into superhumans, and is not exactly completely happy with the situation. And of course things will go south, and the kid gets his chance to be the hero for a little while.

I like stories with somewhat less used character types. While I was writing one of the early scenes in Fourth Sword, about Laura working as a cleaner, well, that came partly because I have sometimes played with the idea of a mystery story where the sleuth is the cleaner. What would be more natural job for an aspiring amateur sleuth to stumble on something suspicious than that? Lots of stories where the heroes look for clues while pretending to be cleaners, not so many – I may have read about one or two, but I don’t think I ever managed to locate the actual book or books, just read some mention about it, or them, somewhere – starting with a real cleaner finding something suspicious and starting to dig into it. Well, unless we are talking about crime scene cleaners, there has been at least one movie and one television series with that scenario. But yes, character types who usually are just in supporting roles, or main characters who have some less glamorous occupation than the usual ones, or maybe characters who are older or in some other ways a bit less typical – I like those stories so I also like to write them. Not to complete exclusion of the usual characters types, I also happen to be rather fond of some cliches, but also with those I do like them even more if there is some sort of twist included. 😉