If you’re a writer, write something amazing.
If you’re lifting, make it satisfy.
If you’re loving, squeeze harder.
The clock is ticking, and we only have today.
If you’re a writer, write something amazing.
If you’re lifting, make it satisfy.
If you’re loving, squeeze harder.
The clock is ticking, and we only have today.
Another episode of Engen Books‘ podcast, The Write Project, in which I blather about big publishing companies I do not work for, thingies King, Lovecraft, Tolkien, my theory about Game of thrones, and writer’s block, in which I foolishly test the literary divine.
Out of sheer existential terror of all things internet and extinction thereof, I made a MP3 thingy. Take THAT, 6-week Soundcloud storage limit! :
If your ears are not bleeding (or, if they are, and you’re kind of into that), see my previous post for Episode 1, which is actually Episode 54, but I get too excited about being on podcasts, so it’s 1.
Visit my kindle store for terrifying titles like The Dog and more!
That moment when you suddenly shatter total quiet as you shout “Ohhhhh, yeeeaaahhh. BRILLIANT! THAT’S AWESOME!” and actually clap, because of something an imaginary person just said to you in your head in a conversation that doesn’t exist yet, because you are 250 pages deep into your next novel, and you are alone in your office, except for your cat, who now thinks you are crazier than dogs.
FREE now on Amazon! Click on the icon to get the short story prequel to the 10th Lunen Regiment Trilogy! Get the origin story of one of the 10th’s most notorious characters. Available now!
There just ain’t no writing like 5 am writing.
Such things, that emerge from the gloom of the early morning dark and the waking brain.
Click on the link to my Amazon store to read Juris Lunence for free!
Of all of the things I was doing during my blogging hiatus, one of the most exciting was to appear on Engen Books‘ Podcast, The Write Project. In which I discuss dark childhoods, Stephen King, my writing process, “Shut and get typing”, and much more!
Hosted by Matthew LeDrew, the show appears every Monday on CHMR at 4:30 Newfoundland Time, and is available on most podcast platforms.
Out of sheer vanity, here’s an MP3 of Episode 1 of my interview. I am told that if you place the speaker near a sink drain, my voice will scare away fruit flies and Drain Goblin spore vapours. Probably worth a shot. You never want to see what comes out of those spores. *Shudder.*
Here is the location to find the archive of far more talented writers than myself talking about their amazing projects, like Tasha Madison, Julia Blackmore, Tracey Waddleton, and more.
And here is the link to Engen’s The Write Project youtube channel.
May your earholes rejoice, should that be warranted.
Aaron Dembksi-Bowden, one of my literary heroes and one of this generation’s Shakespeares, is mulling dumping his blogging, because it eats time.
Which is true. It does. It SO does.
But I am not him. I am, however, a bad blogger.
I had no idea my last entry was August 2018. That’s like, more than a whole year. Yeesh.
So, I’ve been busy during that time. Silly busy. Life, end of life, a full time career in a challenging field, my wife’s managing a chronic brain disease…oh, man. There’s been LOTS.
But that’s all a bunch of heavy stuff. More on The Heavy later. Too much of that already in this world right now. What I am happy about is the work I’ve been doing while Notblogging.
Holleeeee Firesticks. It’s been a big year at my desk. Dark fantasy short story anthology? Completed. Currently enduring the preparatory rites known as the Thousand Cuts of the Blood Pen, administered by a ruthless ogre who adamantly states it will be ready within six to twelve months. That’s PUBLISHED ready. As in, on the shelf and kindle.
And, I’m 296 pages deep into my fourth book, a fantasy novel that follows one of the shorts teed up in the anthology.
Funny thing, that. There are 13 short stories in the anthology, and each short tips off a separate novel to form a franchise. Which is brain-boggling to me. But there it is.
More details to come; just wanted to drop a hey to show I did not get snatched by a nightgaunt and swallowed in two pieces. I mean, whole would be tasteless, and three would just be messy.
And yeah; I know. They don’t have faces.
It’s called OSMOSIS, Chad.
She was with me every single morning, before the sun came up, sneaking glances at me. As long as I was typing, she was happy. She hated how long it took for me to make coffee, because it meant we weren’t working.
Emma is that little black lump between my feet, sixteen years ago, as I struggled through my pre-req courses to get into university, an old man at 33 desperate to change his life, while a puppy rooted herself into everything I would do for the rest of hers.
Emma was getting older, and our whole family knew it. We made the typical allowances, that slow regression of the tide of life that signals terrible choices. But we ignored them, I ignored them, for longer than I probably should have. We lifted the food bowl up onto a block so her neck wouldn’t hurt when she ate. We carried her everywhere so she wouldn’t jump off furniture. We even bought her a playpen to keep her safe, her vision long gone and her hearing almost nonexistent.
Emma wasn’t just my dog. She was so much more. She heard the early dialogue, and sneezed her disdain if it was cheesy. (Emma loved cheese, just not in her dialogue). She was my first audience for verbal reads. She was my timekeeper, who told me when I had been at the keyboard too long. And not long enough.
She was my kids’ best friend; a sibling and confidante. She was our guardian, who fiercely chased every animal, no matter what size, off her deck and out of her yard. Some people mock poodles, but man, let me tell you, they are tough, smart, ridiculously brave, and unconditionally loyal pets.
I’ve often heard about folks saying how hard a pet’s death hit them, and never understood it. Until I lost my writing partner.
I think you can almost sense it in To Drown in Ash. The time I had to decide that terrible choices had to be made. Ash is about loss and fracture, and was written while Emma waited for me, sleeping and peeking at my back, to make sure I was there and still writing. I was avoiding the decision. I did a lot of that in the early drafts of this book, until our team wouldn’t let me, and made me face the facts. That things could not continue. Emma and I knew it, too. That avoiding choices was costing her too much pain. Mostly out of fear of what it would cost me to lose her.
We took her for one last walk to her favourite park. She hobbled and thought about chasing her favourite ducks. My wife and I gave her her last ice cream, and she devoured it, cone and all.
The next day, we took her to the vet. They were incredibly kind to us. We were given all the time we could need to say goodbye.
They were incredibly patient while Old Man Laybolt tried and failed to hold it together.
She finally sighed her last, and I heard relief finally come from her little spirit. Her only concern was that she was still doing her job. She kept checking on me, with little flicks of her eyes, right into the end.
I’m a nurse. I’ve seen my share of death. Even come to learn to understand and embrace it. To learn that it’s a sacred moment, and a truly spiritual experience that can not be understated. Its impact on our small journeys here in this life are immeasurable. Things of such magnitude have learning for all of us.
Here’s what Emma taught me. Be unconditionally loyal. Be brave. Be ever-striving to take care of your pack. And live. Live every day for your ice cream and those you are lucky enough to contribute to.
Some say that people should strive to be the person their dog thinks they are. I agree. But I’d add to that.
If more of us strive to be more like our dogs; honest, loyal, protective, endlessly curious about others, and fearless, the world we live in can only get better. That’s what Emma taught me.
To take naps when you can. To love unconditionally. Handle strangers based on their body language. Always be on duty. Watch your people.
That, and to keep working until its over.
Like, comment, subscribe, or check out my latest work at:
It’s been a long time coming. People have been waiting patiently. What a great problem to have; folks telling you to hurry up with your next book.
Well, the wait is over. To Drown in Ash, Book 2 of The 10th Lunen Regiment trilogy, is now live on Amazon.
Snowstorms, three years of 5 am sunrises, and a lot of real, actual tears (you’ll know EXACTLY when my ugly manbaby tears hit the keyboard) went into this one. If you enjoy it, please let me know.
As always, a huge thanks to Dylan Edwards for his incredible cover, endless patience, and therapeutic upload support. And to everyone that pushed me further to make this the best book I’ve ever written (See acknowledgements).
Here’s the link:
If your Canadian (high five!), here’s your link:
Annnd here’s the link for my UK fans:
Chillers from the Rock, the third volume in the modern From the Rock series, hit #1 Bestseller in 4 different categories on March 18, 2018: a full 10 days before its release. The categories include Vampire Thrillers, Werewolves & Shifters, Vigilante Justice, and Hot New Releases – Thrillers. As of this writing it has reached […]
Not sure if you noticed (the savvy among you probably have), but KDP quietly rolled out their new reports format!
I’ve wondered since I started with Kindle Direct Publishing why they could not plot out the master sales list for the titles Indies publish. Not only would it make for great nostalgia during those cold, isolated months of dead sales, and drive writers forward after seeing that, yes, there once was a day when you were knocking it out of the park (regardless of numbers; in this day and age, all readers are precious readers, in my opinion), but it’s important to be able to look back and see what you’ve accomplished in total.
At least, my accountant thinks it is.
Well, wonder no more!
KDP’s new Historical Report gives you every single sale monthly since you started publishing, and every single KOLL page read. This enables you to accurately track total sales, identify trends, and total your copies sold and free titles distributed since the dawn of KDP-time.
The new format also sets up by sales period, and lists all royalties earned by country in total, which immediately gives you your best selling countries. The report still offers the month-to-date tables, but now provides a payments and pre-orders tab, all in one header.
Slick, easy to use, and all in one place.
A huge development for Indie writers everywhere!
Stop looking at my short blue poles. I was busy writing.
Go check our your new KDP report page! What do you think of it?
There are many kinds of people who make up our world.
There are people who fight. They grab each day by the throat and don’t let go until they get that day done.
There are people who pretend. Who make it look like they can do the things they cannot so that the world will applaud them. But the world never applauds anyone, not in any real way, and their hearts are destined to break.
There are people who burn. Who carry a furnace fuelled by bitterness because life has flowed around them like a river, and they cannot bend the currents to their will. Steam and noise ensue, and peace is a laughable dream.
There is another kind. There are quiet, shy people who hate storms. Who try, every day, to stand, walk, and even carry others with whatever power they have, which varies every day. Whose tools get lost or break or were never in the toolbox, or the storm has whipped them away, lost in the wind and sound and terror. But every day, they try.
They get up, in the face of panic and fear, and they try. Some days they are beaten before they even open their eyes, and the trying takes too long, and it’s hard.
But somehow, they do it. And life and the world do not record their battles, don’t call their names, don’t applaud. Sometimes, it only announces their failures, which feeds the opinion of the ignorant. The world expects perfection while it takes away their tools. The world demands more while it pressures you with less.
Less money for your work, less support for your children, less respect for your thoughts, less power for your person, less safety for your travels, less consequence for your violation.
It presses down while screaming to get up. And it is hard.
But these people, in the storm, they still try.
These people are called Mothers.
I’m lucky enough to have one for a partner. My wife’s tools are being plucked away by the storm piece by piece. In the cruellest irony, by an invisible disease that very few people will ever understand. They see the vibrant, shining soul that she is, and rejoice in her radiance, and never see her storm. She refuses to show it to anyone.
She’s such a Mother that she’ll be one to those who are not even hers. She’ll take on the job for those in pain out of sheer mercy and grace, and never asks for recognition, or control, or any reward at all.
She will simply because it is Right.
She’ll step into the deeper storm, knowing some of her tools are missing.
Because that is what Mothers do.
My own mother should have folded under the storm a thousand times. Sometimes, the storm was me. Other times, it was the world, trying to crush her. She would have none of that.
I am privileged. Both women made me this man.
We get one day.
To tell them that we get it. That we see them. That we appreciate them. That they are valued. Loved. That we know. That we can never properly thank them, but on this day, we will try.
To my Mom, all I can say is Thank You.
To my wife, I see you. I know. And I see the storm. I hate it, and I wish I could crush it; wither it, so that it did not trample you. But I can’t. I will always offer my hand, even when you refuse to take it. Because you fight ten times harder than I do. Even now, as two young men who you gave birth to, who you taught how to temper my cold spite with your warmth and love, prepare to step away from you and make their mark, two standing examples of your success, you find yourself wanting in their forging. You did it. You mastered it. You won. I love you. I Thank You.
To every one of you reading this who are Mothers, I Thank You. The world will never applaud. Not the way it should. But maybe, having a day that tells you we know you’re important is a sign for you. That we see you, and that we care.
Happy Mother’s Day.
While work continues on the editing of To Drown in Ash, I have exciting news!
Several months ago, during a shameless binge on Tom Waits songs and headline rage, I smashed out a script for an idea for a graphic novel. After pitching the concept around to several parties who generously cheered me on (and several rewrites), my buddy Dylan Edwards read the script and agreed to use his incredible artistic skill to turn it into A Thing!
Behold,some of the early concept art for The War!
That is Sam.
Sam is driven.
We’ll be releasing more info and images as the work progresses. Early input on the project has been alarmingly positive. And Amazon’s graphic novel platform appears tailor made for Indie projects by two guys who’ve dreamed of doing this since high school.
More cool sketches to follow in the coming weeks and months as this takes shape.
So, let’s review.
It’s pretty much a perfect storm.
PBS’ Frontline describes a dissatisfied population demographic, driven to vote in catalysts of political endeavour that end up devouring its own base in Congress, only to replace them with more ardent activists of their cause.
The idea of the Tea Party not being Far Right enough is compelling. The idea of the Freedom Caucus taking Congress is worth massive focus.
Evidence of Russian involvement through servers located at Trump Tower was only the beginning. And, it seems, not the most important aspect of the story.
Then comes Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.
Using something as simple as benign as personality tests, ‘like’ emojis, and shares, they measured and influenced newsfeed prompts that apparently guided the direction of one of the most shocking elections in American history.
For the record, Cambridge Analytica denies any use of Facebook to generate data.
According to Motherboard, Alexander Nix is quoted as saying that his company, Cambridge Analytica, was integral to Trump’s victory.
That means that Cambridge Analytical was the Distracted Subversion engine. It’s company parent, SCL, is an enormous, global network.
I know what you’re thinking. Tinfoil hat time.
But no. This one’s real.
Some writers are saying it’s ridiculous. But even in their own articles, the experts they interview end up summarizing by saying “we just don’t know.”
Investigation of SCL’s website unveils some incredibly informative findings.
Click on this link. go ahead. I dare ya.
Go look. Dig.
Watch the intro graphic.
Scroll down to the bottom. Look at the logos.
Go into the rabbit hole. It’s shallow. Doesn’t take long to see the trails.
Click on ‘Social ‘ from their homepage.
Click on ‘Defence’.
Look under ‘Elections’.
See how many countries SCL has offices in. Campaigns they have engineered.
The UK Ministry of Defence.
The U.S. State Department.
Both Cambridge Analytica and SCL proudly display their service to, and the logos of, these and more organizations at the bottom of their page.
Offices all over the world.
I was hoping that SCL’s site was a fake. Some high-quality page built by an enthusiastic fictionalist.
But no. It’s real.
And there’s more.
Among Cambridge Analytica’s Board Members, according to the Motherboard story and other news outlets?
A man named Steve Bannon.
And he’s working to hire them for the Trump administration.
That a company like SCL exists should not be very surprising. Neither should the idea that an entire industry generates millions from collecting and working with Big Data.
But hiring a firm to manipulate the outcomes and perceptions of international electoral and military campaigns?
Then contract them for Washington’s new administration?
I believe that takes us to a whole new level of Distracted Subversion. One unseen in our history. An unprecedented ability to bend outcomes without our being aware.
Stop clicking ‘like’. Stop taking ‘personality quizzes’. Stop clicking angry emojis.
Start a blog and write about how you feel instead.
The one thing Big Data can not stand. Conversations in person.
Face to face meetings.
Start a blog and write about how you feel instead.
Stop telling SCL and Cambridge Analytica how you feel about things.
By their own admission, they are gathering your reaction data and using it to win wars, change your mind, build empires, and get people like Donald Trump elected.
Das magazine, Trump’s ‘Oppenheimer’: Michal Kosinki, Who is Alexander Nix? The emergence of SCL, Cambridge Analytica , and Big Data.
Distracted Subversion has to have an engine, a core implementer, whose goals are laser focused, in order to work.
On January 28, my mother-in-law sent me an article that flicked on the light of what may be one of the largest engines of social influence that we have ever seen.
On 22/01/2017, antidotezine.com posted this Das Magazine article. My mother-in-law sent it to me, ironically, on Facebook. She may have stumbled on a monumental piece of history, lying out in plain sight for all to ignore.
It carried a Vice article through Motherboard (I know, convoluted, right? But rabbit holes can be like that sometimes).
If you have stuck with me so far in this series, then I’m trusting that you are willing to actually read the entire article in the link. Don’t skim it. Like any good suspense story, it has to build through the whole story. And the article is carefully written, I believe, because there are huge consequences at stake.
Psychologist Michal Kosinki’s ‘Oppenheimer’ moment may seem dramatic. The stuff of Hollywood. Until you find out what’s next.
Next on The Desk: Who is Alexander Nix? SCL and Big Data.
How did this happen?
Well, like most enormously important events, it did not start in a vacuum. President Trump’s victory happened slowly, evolving over several years. I’ve found that this Frontline Documentary from PBS does the best job of explaining this phenomenon’s history. It is worth watching.
The Divided states of America contains what appears to be critical information about the history of Trump’s rise to power, through the GOP’s devastation, rebirth, then its infiltration, and eventual implosion.
Reminds one of watching lava form. Each cooling layer pooling slag upon which fresh lava cooks through and burns over to form the new political foundation.
It’s a long one, so you may need several bags of popcorn. And, perhaps, depending on your politics, a pillow to scream into:
If you’re reading this from Canada, here’s an active link (For some STRANGE reason, PBS Frontline no longer runs its content streaming into Canada. Which is weird. It did last year…):
Do yourself a favour, and watch both part 1 and 2. It’s a comprehensive, detailed saga that brings us right up to the election.
Next time, on The Desk:
How Trump Did It, Part Three:
The Quiet Machine: My mother-in-law’s keen catch, The Antidote Writer’s Collective, Michal Kosinski, Facebook, and Cambridge Analytica.
I’m fascinated by what I like to call Distracted Subversion.
That’s kind of like being a conspiracy theorist, but with deeper weeds, more data, and actual evidence. It’s what large organizations do when they know the world is distracted looking at something else. They do it in plain sight, because everyone, from the media to the governments of other nations, are very busy looking at something 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
Did you know they are making toilet paper tubes bigger to save on shipping costs? Or injecting air bubbles in your toothpaste? That “Frozen Dessert” is not actually Ice Cream, and never melts? Or that the CIA had a torture franchise in Libya?
I wrote about Libya, an example of Surreptitious Things Being Done in Plain Sight, back in 2011 on my now-dead, other blog. I’ve linked it here.
Organizations like the CIA, Israel, Russia, Banks, Media, and political lobbyists and pollsters engage in this Distracted Subversion every day. And it works. Make something go off to our left, and we look left. That real art happens when you’ve planned it that way and use that time to do Something Very Important to make something happen on our RIGHT.
It certainly did in this last, profound presidential election.
As a Canadian, I get substantial flack for putting my Bluenoser proboscis in American politics. But the United States is an excellent litmus test for the rest of the world’s political metabolism. It teaches us larger lessons about the way our own elections can twist and bend, and, perhaps, how to prevent surprises. I hate surprises.
I’ve been baffled by how Trump did it. I just could not figure it out. But I started to think about Distracted Subversion. Then, my mother-in-law sent me an article that she found laying out in plain sight on the internet that offered a key insight into what just happened in the United States.
And it is of critical importance, because the tool Trump’s campaign used reaches all the way from Brexit to any other elective process for the foreseeable future, and even to help determine the outcome of international military campaigns.
If you care at all about political outcomes, I strongly suggest you read on. If you are baffled and dazed and shocked and outraged, you need to read this. If you use Facebook, and are ‘liking’ posts, either with an angry face or a tearful emoji, you need to know what that is doing for the people who want to use that information to get elected.
I’d very much like to be wrong.
I’d very much like to find out that this is a hoax.
I’d love to find out that the SCL Group website is a hoax page built by an eighteen year old member of the Freedom Caucus.
But I’ve dug through their site, and I fear it is not.
And, to me, that’s terrifying.
But to know the future, you have to see the past. And PBS’ Frontline documentary is a necessary place to start.
Next time, on The Desk:
How did this start?
Revisions on the death scene of a favourite character is like stapling through your fingernail. Again.
Yesterday, we got whomped here in Nova Scotia with our first real winter storm this year.
In a classic moment of sheer lunacy, I broke one of my own rules yesterday: “Do NOT go out into the storm”.
But when you’re a writer, and your manuscripts are ready, it got me. Like one of my kids were stranded out there.
Luckily, I headed out into the snow before the worst hit, and made it to Staples (which is like heaven or Disneyland or church to me at this point, apparently) to pick up the last Edit Manuscripts for to Drown in Ash. During the drive I laughed at how my wife would script my obituary, should the worst happen.
Even managed to drop of one of the copies off to Kalip of the Raised Eyebrow, one of my toughest Beta Readers, who clearly thought I was nuts to deliver a manuscript in a snowstorm. But his place was on my way home.
So, not nuts.
Now begins the copy review and edit meetings before sending it to my typist and beginning the cover work with my fabulous graphics guy, Dylan Edwards. After that, we submit, order the galley copy, final read, hit ‘publish’, and release.
What a difference between this process and what we went through for Ash’s predecessor, To Drown in Sand. It’s great to have a system. I love systems.
As payment for my sheer madness, my wife demanded I obtain Storm Chips, which are a real thing now. Especially when your husband is a Mad Writer.
Happy Shovel Day!
The second book of my 10th Lunen Regiment trilogy is on its way for manuscript formatting and final read from the beta team before being sent to my lovely typist. To Drown in Ash will be the major project release for 2017 for me, and I can’t wait to see what happens when it hits.
So, I’m not.
Never have been much of a waiting type.
I started Book 3 halfway through writing To Drown in Sand, and now is the time to pull the trigger, click the dials, shove the shifter and stomp the gas. Tentatively titled To Drown in Fire, it has been almost 8 years in the making and will mark the conclusion of Kyris Issep’s journey.
(Yes, that is Burzum I’m listening to. Don’t judge; I need The Heavy. To Drown in Fire will be HEAVY. Heavy things that end epics make The Best Things).
That brings the total of writing projects for 2017 up to 4. Plus several new short stories I’m planning.
Let’s make 2017 the year we write! The year we produce! Your year to publish! Our year to crush this Indie thing!
What are you working on?
It’s a strange time.
The internet is changing, and the world is changing with it. Uncertainty reigns.
So can you.
Make 2017 the year you armour up. The year you lace up your boots and give the world through your window a hard, steely stare.
Go make today yours. And do it for the next 364 days.
I know you can. You know you should.
Go be amazing.
I’ll watch from here and guard your six and cheer you on.
I adore Kobo.
The interface is clean. Its links with Indigo are seamless, and the austerity of both the Indigo pages and the Writer’s Life sites are refreshingly anti-clutter.
Also, Kobo likes free stuff. They avoid the tendency to control what their writers do with the pricing of their products.
Downside? They take a bit longer to publish things. But, as I get older, I find that things that happen really, really fast are not always the best things.
Therefore, I’m thrilled to announce that The Dog, my first cthulhuian short story (and the first of many more) is now live on Kobo. (The Dog went live on November 20th, on Kindle, too. If you’re a ‘Zonian and a fan of gothic horror, here’s the link).
And, as an added bonus for being a fan of That Other Ebook Reader, I’ve thrown in a surprise.
You’ll see it when you get there.
Hope you enjoy it! If you did, please leave a review!
Horror is one of my favourite genres. I devour it. I love the old masters, and Lovecraft is my favourite of them. So much so that I’ve written several stories that are inspired by his work.
I’m happy as Azathoth (in that cosmic, ironic futility kind of happiness, obviously) to announce that my first Cthulhian short story, The Dog, is now live and available for your consumption! May your pupils protect you from the ethereal terror that waits to unpeel your mind, and all that.
If you enjoy it, please be so kind as to recount the delicious trauma I have caused you in a review on Amazon. And a few stars wouldn’t hurt. Don’t worry. They aren’t the same stars that bury aeons-old, writhing horrors that wait to awaken and shatter our complacency with destruction and madness.
Or maybe they are…
Here’s a link to the Kindle eBook!
Don’t have a Kindle and still want to expose yourself to madness-inducing terror? Well, then, good for you. We should be friends. Here’s a link to the free kindle reader app for your laptop!
“Laptop?!? What are you, a HUNDRED??”
Well, no. But I am thorough. You can also read any Kindle story on your phone or device with the free Kindle app, available when you click on the ‘Read with our free app’ link just under the Kindle price box.
The Dog is also being released on Kobo this week, and I’ll post as soon as it is.
Hope you enjoy it! I’d love to hear from you if you did!
Since I’m going Lovecraft with my new short story release, image wizard Dylan Edwards and I wanted to hearken back to the wild days of Erol Otis and John Holmes with the cover. We wanted weird. Dark and weird. We love dark and weird. It was our thing all through high school.
I give you the final cover draft of The Dog:
Welcome to my world of macabre horror. And puppies.
Rejoice in the campy creepiness.
It’s ridiculously exciting to see what Dylan’s brain will give birth to when he starts working on one of our projects.
Like meeting your new baby.
A weird, dark baby.
The dog will be available on Amazon and Kobo December 1, 2016.
I love Lovecraft.
Since reading At The Mountains of Madness at 16, I have never been able to read enough of his work. He opened my mind to a level of tragic darkness that I had never thought could be acceptable to write about. At that age, for me, darkness was all there was. Darkness was my Disneyworld. Lovecraft taught me to embrace it all and harness it; to welcome the things that pull us down, face them, and wrestle with them. And thus, I think, the writer in me was born.
I’ve written several Lovecraft-themed stories, all of them shuffled away in old file folders, the hand-written ink faded into the browned looseleaf. It wasn’t until recently that I took them out and decided I may as well turn them into product, since that’s what we can do now in indie publishing.
While grinding through the fantasy anthology I’m putting together (with the incredible editing of Espresso’s Holly M. Kothe), and hammering out the final revisions on To Drown in Ash (which is almost Very Nearly Done, I PROMISE), I got Holly to edit The Dog, which I first wrote back in ’89.
You see those two kids there?
That was twenty one years ago.
Two decades. Two decades of change, worry, battles. Life in the storm.
She wasn’t as worried as she looks. And he was far more terrified than he appears.
But he couldn’t believe his luck, and knew how hard he could work to deserve her.
They both did not know so many things.
Their future, a chasm, its depths shrouded in fog.
They both did not know so many things.
But I know.
If I could go to them, twenty one years ago, I would tell them.
I would tell her that she’s good enough. That he adores her. That she needs to set her worries down, because life is too short to be afraid of what other people think. That he will die for her if she needs him to, and that, twenty one years later, he never changed or wavered. That she has just become his best friend, and his payment for that debt is absolute loyalty, no matter who or what comes to them.
That he will figure it out; his anger, his issues, his past, his pain; because of her grace and her gentleness, and he will forever be devoted to her for it. That there will never be enough money, so stop trying to reach the moon with her bare hands. That she will give birth to two strong, brilliant men who will shine with her best qualities, and will emerge into this world champions because of her limitless belief and love for them. That she needs to hug her father more. That her mother will always be there for her, no matter what. That, at 46, she is beautiful, living in a home in Lunenburg that they own, and that she will be taken care of.
I would tell him that he’s going to make it. That he won’t die on her, or destroy the best thing that’s ever happened to him. That he will find peace in the death of his demons someday, and find grace in their passing. That there is a day coming when the angry, scared little boy can come out from under the table. That he will one day take a deep, deep breath and allow himself to smile. That his pain is a furnace, and he will forge incredible things with it, tempered and strong and not destructive. That he will be a nurse. That he would change things in unimaginable ways that help people. That the pain in his body he has every day will never go away, but if he keeps training, it will become noise and nothing more. That the lungs will not collapse again and he will climb mountains with them.
That she will be with him twenty one years from now. That she has something in her brain, and it will change things, and she will need him, and he will step up, and that it will give him the chance to pay her back for guiding him through how to live like a human being and not a hunted animal. That Steve was going to marry Brenda, and be fine. That mom will probably outlive all of us. That he will lose incredible people like Wayne and Earl, and he needs to visit them. That he is going to own a poodle, a toy poodle at that, and not a wolf, because she said so.
That you will actually buy her a tiara.
That he will pull towards him the most amazing people who will bring out the best in him. That a pack of men will gravitate towards him and always be on call, because of what he means to each of them. That he is not a mistake.
That he will have two sons who love him. That he needs to listen to her, and soften as much as he can and save himself years of struggle. That she’s right about the world and about people. That he will never shut down his vigilance, because he can’t, and that’s okay, and that it’s good to always be ready, but for twenty one years, nothing is going to happen. That he can save his energy for later. That he is going to write a book, but not the one he thinks, and that many more are coming. That he’s not his father, and never will be.
That she is with him through it all. That he’s going to make mistakes, and he has to stop being terrified of them, and has to learn how to fix them. That she’s real and true; exactly what he sees in her right now, and that he still won’t believe his luck, even after the grey lines his beard.
That every day with her is a gift, and to keep relishing it, because he was right about how lucky he is.
I would tell them.
“You kids just relax. You got this.”
They both did not know so many things.
But I know.
And I thank them.
Thank you, Lesley, for showing them how it’s done. I love you more than the moment this picture was taken.
Happy 21st Anniversary, love.
Here’s to the next two decades.
Three short stories in the can, three others ready for the editor, and six more in various stages. My next release, an anthology to introduce the world of my fantasy novel, is setting up nicely. Twelve stories so far, each set in this new medieval world of shadows and emerging war. Here’s the finished (but nothing’s ever really finished) prologue:
The Maw of War has opened.
After a century of peace, the world is being twisted and bent by the ruthless egos and dark ambitions of man.
Across the Eastern Sea, a horde of monstrous evil drives the brave Dwarven warriors of Wendthairne into the ocean in a desperate flight for refuge, hoping for solace from their former enemies, the long-silent Elves of Ahmrael.
The north of the Realm has frozen into a wasteland. Deep in the ice-encased mountains of North Elan, creatures stir that the world has never seen. Their hunger for ruin is absolute as they are borne from the shadows, seeking to bleed humanity. Enslaved by a new God, they exist only for his revenge and the destruction of mankind.
In the west, Archduke Lierdstiern schemes for the fall of a nation and the usurping of order. His swelling ambitions seduce him to concert with madness under the corrupting power of a new religion. His lies and merciless drive seduce him to new depths of unspeakable evil.
The kingdom of man, tethered together by the dream of peace in the Hall of Kings, is crumbling. Betrayal and deceit erode the carefully constructed foundations of a centuries’ serenity.
Darkness shrouds the evil work of deceit and murder. Horror and madness are creeping out from under the shadows of the night.
The Age of Peace is dying.
The door to ruin has opened. These are the stories of the destruction of hope. The seduction of sanity. The revenge of the forgotten. The wrath of bones.
The Wrath of Bones will be available this November.
Meanwhile, I’m approaching the halfway point (Chapter Nine, Scene One) of To Drown in Ash, the sequel to Sand. Issep and the Boddies are in desperate times, surrounded by imminent death and unrelenting evil. The sequel has a much darker tone. The central theme emerging is loss.
THAT sounded foreboding.
My father died three months ago.
That sentence alone has more weight and mass than most.
My father was not my hero. I had seen him three times in about thirty years, and we never spoke. The history between us is long, dark, and unkind. I’ll write about all that toxic pathology someday. It will make quite a book.
But not today.
When my brother asked me if I would go see Bill (as he was known to me then; I took substantial pride in denying him his rank, as he had never earned it), I was ready for it. Bill had a stroke on New Year’s Eve, and when they scanned him they discovered a “massive tumour” in his brain. I’m an RN. I know that when radiologists, who usually never use extreme words in their assessments, told the patient something was “massive”, then things are Very Bad.
I also know that Brain Cancer is often secondary to Lung Cancer, and they had found tumours on both of his lungs. That meant that if the cancer had gone bilateral and to the brain, he was what we call in the business “loaded”: if he were to undergo surgery, they would find tumours everywhere and simply sew him back up.
So, Bill’s doctor gave him the options he had at hand: undergo Chemo (to delay the growth of the tumour, but by no means save him or stop its progression), or do nothing, because it was going to kill him anyway.
And that, apparently, was when Bill asked for me.
Growing up, he had not been kind. I did not serve much purpose, and he always made that clear.
But here was purpose.
My brother needed me to go. Bill needed me to go. His new wife needed me to go. In death, there are a thousand things most people simply do not know.
But I do.
Driving there was hard. The flashbacks were really awful. He lives in a slice of isolated coastal country where the last gas was half an hour ago. Halfway there, I had to pull over and send my wife a simple text:
“This is really hard.”
The signal died after I pulled out and kept driving.
When I walked in, I saw the agreement, written in the wrinkles of his thinning face and in the dark mahogany of his eyes. To agree to lie to each other, to buy into his new life; where his grandchildren love him, his grieving wife works through his death, neighbours call and cry over the news, and not pull out the spikes and claws of the past. The invoice for his words and actions against me needed to fall to dust. And he asked me for that now with his eyes.
In a way, his last days were his best. He lived as the center of attention, as he should; his history of catastrophic choices was shelved, the door closed on it.
I’m not sure that he was ever so liked as he was in his last month.
Trust remained a problem for him. I don’t blame him. Beneath his pretence, as though my walking into his house was the most normal, expected thing, doubt sat waiting. I told him we were moving him from the flat bed in his dark room to the crank-up hospital bed his wife’s son-in-law had assembled in the living room, where he could see the harbour and the sun. I told him I was going to lift him. And I saw fear. It flashed through his eyes; the doubt that this had been part of my grand revenge scheme, to gain his trust and then throw him in some final act of vengeance. He was in shock when I settled him into the wheelchair; his eyes were endless. He simply couldn’t understand.
For the most part, neither could I. But that didn’t matter. I had gone where I was needed. It was the only human thing to do. Seeing him marvel at that broke my heart. Imagine living life without grasping the concept of kindness.
I began to understand my father.
Later, on the couch, his wife Shelia pointed out that we were sitting like twins; exactly the same posture. I started watching, studying him. Every minute was like a graduate study of my own psyche. So many answers to why I do the things I do; mannerisms, tone of voice, the fast judgement of fools, all of my habits sat beside me in the form of this dying man.
His workshop was perfectly organized, with all things labelled, right down to the size of nails and screws. I’ve always been frustrated by why I waste time trying to do that, when it always becomes a grand mess anyway. Now, I knew.
I suddenly knew a lot of things.
In the photo album he gave me, I finally saw it. The happier kid he had been growing up, the awkward terror in his wedding photos, the confusion and accusation in my own young eyes, this child who wanted him to be something he just didn’t have the tools for.
I had come into his life needing him at a time when he just didn’t know how. And he saw it every time he had looked into my young face.
I can’t imagine how that must have felt for all those years that we warred against each other.
I asked him to ask me anything. Anything at all, and he would have his answers.
We talked for four hours.
The blocks were out from under the wheels. The brakes were off. Nothing mattered anymore. He knew what he had done in the past; there was no self-delusion there. But history served no purpose now. He only wanted to finally let himself be THIS Bill, the human Bill, now that he faced his humanity and the end of it. He only wanted to finally be my father.
He told me how to fix my water heater. He told me to take his tools to work on my house. He showed me how to snip and grind down the spikes in my attic roof so that I could insulate it. He spoke kindly and supportively and without malice, and the small boy, hidden inside the armour of the grown man I became, cherished every word.
He asked me if he had done it right, by refusing the chemo. He wanted my opinion. On something as massive as his death. And, when I told him he had chosen the right path, and that an unknown number of weeks spent nauseous and in pain would probably kill him anyway, that there would be no miracles here, that he could go soft or he could go hard, and he was choosing soft, I watched relief flood him. He wanted to hang on until my brother could get here. He hoped he hadn’t blown that by refusing the chemo. Both the doctor and I wanted him to avoid that misery that wouldn’t make any difference to when death would come.
Weeks later, Shelia told me the nurses were coming every day, and so were the drugs, and she didn’t know why. I knew what that meant.
I called my brother and told him that it was happening. There were much fewer flashbacks on the drive there this time.
Nurses know death. We can smell it. We can read it in the air. And it was thick when I arrived. He was heavily sedated, and fighting the drugs and death every second. He was holding on. His wife thought he was sleeping, but he was actually fighting through the sleep.
I have no idea how he had the strength to raise his hand and lay it on mine. It should have been impossible.
I told him what was happening. I told him it would soon be over. I told him I was here, and everything would end well. I told him he would not feel pain, like he feared he would.
I called my brother and put the portable against my father’s ear. Shelia brought us a second phone, and my brother and my father and I were together for the end.
Steve spoke, and I told Steve how Bill was responding. How he was fighting through the blanket of drugs to talk, to form words that he couldn’t, to say all those things the dying have to say. I watched my father’s tears crawl from his dying eyes. I choked out to him that we were here together, here at the end, and that we always would be, and to Steve that he was trying to speak and nod and cry, and that he could hear everything Steve was saying, and not to stop, not to stop until he was finished and got everything out, and that Bill was using every ounce of life he had left to listen and talk. I told Steve he was smiling. Steve’s words were the careful, ready words of a soldier and a son. We all cried; a trio of torn souls over a hissing phone line.
When the call was done, I finished the agreed lie that wasn’t a lie anymore.
I held his thin, bony chest against mine, and listened to his thready, tired heartbeat, fluttering and whispy and fragile and failing.
I didn’t know if I could say it, in the end. But I‘m glad I did. I said what I knew he needed.
“It’s okay. All of it. It’s over, and it’s okay. I love you, Dad.”
My tears ripped loose when he managed a grunt through the meds.
On the drive home, I felt something new.
William Hector Laybolt died hours later on March 2, 2015.
His wife asked me to write his obituary. After several visits, I felt I collected enough from the people around him to do it justice.
I think it may just be my finest work yet.
About a year ago, I stumbled over a title minnowing through my newsfeed. It was a free promo, and the description intrigued me, so I downloaded it. The book was called Sweet Violent Femmes by Holly M. Kothe, and it was one of the best Indie products I have ever, ever seen.
I ripped through the book in one night. The theme throughout was the violent revenge of several women scorned. The tone and the writing left me stunned. I love dark fiction that makes me uncomfortable. Holly’s setup for her characters, how vulnerable they were, how driven and intent they were, were the perfect recipe to keep me locked in her pages.
I remember thinking that I wanted my work to read like that. For my books to be packaged that professionally. I considered Holly’s collection of short stories my benchmark.
Holly recently sent another minnow down my newsfeed. She had started an independent editing business. I wondered if this would be the chance for me to climb the writer’s stairs and improve my work. To get it closer to my expectations. It was time for me to take that next step.
I scrounged my lunch money and emptied my writer’s account and borrowed change from my son. (Not really, but almost). I had no idea how much Holly would charge me for her work. I knew that editors are ridiculously expensive and meant only for the marble halls in New York and Who-do-you-think-you-are-anyway-having-real-writer-expectations-of-yourself?
I looked into Holly’s site. Read the reviews by other writers. Counted how many writers she had edited. I studied their covers and Amazon pages. I narrowed my eyes a lot. These were pro writers with solid covers and there were a lot of them.
I sent off the manuscript to Holly on May 6th . I received my contract and bill for half of her (VERY reasonable) price that afternoon. I signed the bill digitally, pressed send, and left the rest to the will of the Gods.
I had the edited manuscript back in my digital hands on May 13th, and the invoice for the rest of her fee.
Her work on the manuscript for my short story was exactly what I had hoped for. She was supportive, objective, clinical, and precise. I could not be happier with her work. With her edits and her suggestions for certain story flow mechanisms, Upon the Devil’s Shoulder reads like a polished, professional work.
And I’ve already finished anther short for the anthology to send to her.
See, because that’s what I’ve learned. How it works when you don’t self-edit, and leave that up to the pros.
You can just go write.
It’s a tough lesson to learn. I know not everyone is in the position to afford an editor. But, after spending 2 years rewriting To Drown in Sand (AFTER it’s been uploaded), when I could have used that time writing its sequel, I can no longer really afford not to. And I’m pretty confident, after seeing what this short story is becoming, that the result in quality will help me afford access to Espresso Editor a lot faster.
I did not for a moment experience the insecurity/protective instinct that I’ve had in the past. Having read Holly’s work, I knew THAT was what I wanted my work to look like. In a way, she is her own best promotion.
And I genuinely feel that I’ve stepped to another platform: from hobby writer to the real thing. Once you’ve read Upon the Devil’s Shoulder, you may agree with me.
If you’re an Indie writer, and are considering going to an editor, stop. Don’t consider it. Go do it. And one of the brightest young women you could ever hope to find will edit your work quickly and quietly at Espressoeditor.
Just don’t get her too busy. I would now be lost without her.
Kindle Select offers quite the pull. As in, towards the Death Star kind of pull. I wondered. I agonized. I rubbed my knuckles on the bones of my forehead. The seductive potential of larger markets tapped at the glass in my dreams.
Giving up other publishing venues for exclusive access to the Kindle Select pool makes sense to the hungry-for-reader writer in me. (Also, making money from someone reading 30% of my work, when the work can be a short story, REALLY made sense).
So, I ran an experiment in KDP select.
The results were poignant and huge.
Like the Titanic.
I wrote a (quite) short story, thinking that the 30% point would be quickly reached by a reader, and then no big loss if they quit after the first page (a theory of mine about free sample readers). I could still reap the benefits of the zillions of dollars in the KDP fund.
Not so much.
I’m not the type to whine. This was a marketing experiment, and I’m glad I dipped my toe in the Kindle Select pool. And, there were inherent process issues against me. I’m an Indie. I’m an unknown. The story may have been too short (although, I thought, for free under a Kindle Select membership, that wouldn’t matter). But in this pool, a shark took my toe, my leg, and pooped them out in the deep end.
I also wanted an opportunity to start my fantasy writing. I find that genre has a wider base than the Military Sci-Fi market has for my other work.
All this knowing that I still have not completed the ‘magic number’ acknowledged by most successful Indies by my research: Three Full Novel Titles In My Genre.
Bone was released on Dec. 20th, 2014. It contained about four pages of promotional material, with links to my other writing, and about four pages of story. It has an awesome cover by the brilliant Dylan Edwards, and, in my humble opinion, is really quite good for a short.
On December 21st, 2014, all downloads of Juris stopped dead and have never recovered.
I thought it was a glitch, or lead-in to Christmas, or celestial working of ancient, playful, blind Gods.
All of my work over 2 years digging through The Algorithm in KDP was undone in one night by signing up to Kindle Select. And, to challenge my sanity even further, I was now locked in for three months.
KDP Select destroyed the momentum I had built with my other titles. Free DL’s flatlined, and only now, FIVE MONTHS later, has the ‘once a day a new reader finds me’ process staggered back out of the KDP Select Sales Shredding machine. It’s wobbly and bleeding, but has started taking baby steps for me, as long as I promise not to do that again.
No problem with that commitment.
Because, after 3 months, Bone obtained ONE download.
And that person did not read the required 30%.
So, lesson learned there. KDP Select is not the system for me. At least not now, and not for my work in the Fantasy Genre.
Bone is now released from the KDP Select isolation chamber. Amazon refuses to price-match it to free (like they did for Juris Lunence), so I gave it the cheapest price they allow, and left it on Amazon. It’s completely free on Kobo.
So, from all things, lessons.
KDP is great for some. Not for me.
I got the coolest new cover yet out of the deal.
And, during my promotional blitz, when Bone ran for free, it was downloaded in Japan, so we cracked another country.
We are retrofitting the cover, and I’m hard at work on several short story projects (more on that in future posts) that is a construct for an anthology to introduce my fantasy novel series.
Bend bad things into lessons, use lessons for good things.
Such is life.
(My estranged father, Bill Laybolt, was diagnosed with inoperable Stage-4 Lung Cancer, with ‘Mets’ to the brain, this past New Year’s. We had only spoken once in thirty years. After choosing not to accept treatment, he asked to see me).
Thirty years ago, I stood in a place I hated and stared up at a piece of the sky.
I thought I was saying goodbye to that place forever.
Yesterday, I returned there.
I sat on a couch in the home of my father and made a dying man laugh.
I answered every question he asked.
I accepted his offer of the tools with which he built structures that will stand long after his passing; in churches and homes across the province. I told him I would try to use them to build good things.
I told him about death, about choices, about the work of the dying, and about saying goodbye.
I told him of the skills he had instilled within me. I told him of the ways I knew were his that I see in myself.
I listened as this withered man who just didn’t have the tools to be a father tell me he was proud of me. That he respected me.
I drank the coffee his wife offered and I watched her weep.
I held him and felt his brittle bones in my arms and heard his tears fall.
I told him to have peace and to take it with him.
I told him to call me if he needed me.
I went outside, stood in the exact spot I had thirty years ago, and stared up. I felt the earth beneath me, and the sky above, shift.
I watched the deepest, clearest sky in the world. I watched the radiant blue of the ocean. The full moon high in the day-sky. I breathed in deep the cleanest air and listened to the silence of the ice in the harbour.
And then I started the journey home.
What beautiful irony, this human life.
I’ve been a negligent Blog writer.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure whom I was writing to, until I checked my stats recently.
Wow. Peeps are reading stuff here.
Little surprises are the best ones.
So; quick update!
It’s my first fantasy title. I just bought the cover from Dylan Edwards over at Rootwoodpress. Needed to get back to cobblestones and sword-blades for a break from the railguns, snarling madmen bent on Triumvirate destruction, and interstellar mists for a bit. Chew the mutton and gulp the mead, as it were. This will be the cover for a short story anthology that is currently underway. The first of which is right now being edited for final draft, and will be a freebie on Amazon and Kobo.
And how’s business, you ask? Well, I haven’t reached my goal of being able to buy a tank of furnace oil yet, but Princess (my wife’s insistence on the nickname, not mine) and I did go for a delicious coffee date using the sole proceeds of my writing income for the first time.
It’s the little things.
Before Juris went live for free, it was crickets. A few sales once in a while, but mostly just little red mountains on my Amazon horizon:
That has changed substantially:
Only one ‘Dead Day’ since release. Every day, someone new reads a title of mine. And lots more little red mountains. That makes me smile into my pillow.
When Juris Lunence hit over 500 downloads in two months across three countries, I nearly screamed from my rooftop. (But, the pitch of my roof is too steep, so I settled for a quiet chuckle on my deck, thus avoiding startling my puppy and kids).
Then, the sweetest thing happened. My first cosplay fan, Joseph Crosby, designed a replica of Lunen gear, right down to First Squad’s shoulder-pads (Love shoulder-pads), and walked into our local Chapter’s bookstore, with a copy of Sand in hand, as a part of a Halcon Cosplay promotion:
Can’t really describe how Joe’s very kind gesture and incredible input of time affected me, but warm molasses coating my heart comes close.
And now, the planning for the new Fan Festival is underway (more on that later).
All this during my minor league football coaching season (Go, South Shore Seahawks!), replacing my deck, packing one son off to university, and working my Real Job.
None of which excuses my negligence, but perhaps explains it adequately.
Full lives are the best lives.
Thanks for reading!
So. I conducted an experiment.
“You gotta have free stuff,” they said. “Folks love free stuff.”
The Traditional Publishers still gnash their teeth, flap their tiny arms, and growl that not anyone can do this; that they have special services that guarantee quality and success.
They’re right; they do. But I say anyone can make their own success, if you learn the game, and demand quality of yourself.
Juris Lunence took only about four months to finish from initial draft, to polished, packaged, buffed, price on the windshield, and out on the lot. Plus, it was a lot of fun to write. So overall, not a loss of time in any way. It’s a short story prequel to Book 1 of my Trilogy, To Drown in Sand.
Kobo went live with Juris Lunence first, and that was intentional. We loaded it to Amazon, didn’t announce it, and read the purchased copy while Kobo chewed on the upload. Since Kobo takes considerably more time to publish a title, we used that to proof the digital copy that went live on Amazon that was still priced at Amazon’s somewhat silly $.99 price. We caught our glitches, re-uploaded to Amazon, and the final copy was live before Kobo hit the market. Then we uploaded the corrected version to Kobo. Kobo’s copy of Juris went up for free (because they do that), and we reported Amazon being undersold by Kobo. The $.99 still appeared on the Amazon copy for first three days, but buyers received it free because of price-matching. At the end of the third day, Juris Lunence looked like this:
Then, the FB group blitz. My poor followers. Their feeds must look like I’m a megalomaniac. Over 40 groups in one night, then roughly 15 more over the next few evenings. They were kind not to appear on my lawn with rage and torches.
I purchased a small bottle of Goldschlager (one of those tiny airplane bottles, I’m not a drinker), my favourite Victory Juice. Parked it next to my laptop on the kitchen table, and waited. I was only going to open it if I hit 10 free downloads.
Then this happened:
Those little buggers are hard to open when you’re excited. I had to use my pliers.
3 days later, there wasn’t a bottle big enough to celebrate cracking an Amazon Top Ten list, and the Top 100 in Kindle Books:
10 days later, here’s what the 4 months of work did for my Author rankings:
And here’s the total snapshot of Juris Lunence downloads, and what it did for To Drown in Sand (the little red lines at the bottom).
Did I sell a lot of copies of To Drown in Sand? Not really, at least not yet.
Did I sell more than if I hadn’t written and promoted a free release? Yeh.
Did I climb through the Amazon algorithm and increase my Author ranking? You betcha.
Did I gain new readers, and get over 100,000 new people looking at my title? Yip!
Is Konrath and Truant and Platt right? Absolutely.
The conclusion is pretty much irrefutable, which is rare in this Grand Indie Game.
Free works as long as it’s quality. And anyone can make that happen.
Large things start small. Like seeds in the dark. I met Dylan Edwards in Grade Eight. He had hand-drawn comics spilling out of his saxophone case that I handed back to him. Talk about epic moments in time. We were the two biggest nerds consistently from then until we graduated. Nerd legends for our hobbies, interests, and isolation. We were instant brothers, kin in suffering the glacial pressures of growing through adolescence.
We started a comic company in grade nine; and we were the guys play-testing our Zombie Apocalypse role-playing game in study hall during exams. We rolled our eyes and ignored the jibes of the typical detractors through it all, with eyes locked on one another; that precious psychic bond of survival. He went on to become one of the best fathers I’ve ever been privileged to know, and the best friend a man could ever wish for.
He also became an incredible artist. Despite my constant, frantic texts, emails, mistakes, dysfunctional uploads, and endless problems, he remains, as always, stoically patient, and everwise. And waiting for his new cover drafts is better than Christmas. His idea for the cover for my new prequel short story, Juris Lunence, blew me away.
Here’s the first draft:
And the final version:
Once you’ve read the story, I think you’ll get just how awesome this image really is. At least, it flattens me pretty effectively. Crazy to think how small things like me grabbing a dropped piece of drawing can turn into such things. Reminds me to keep looking for them.
Juris Lunence is available for free on Kobo, and, as soon as enough people tell amazon they are being undersold, free on Kindle as well.
Just popping in to provide the means to acquire a professionally edited, reasonably well-written, and ABSOLUTELY FREE story about a fantastic character.
There. I’m done. Please return to your awesome day.
Juris Lunence just went live yesterday. It’s the origin story of one of my favourite characters in To Drown in Sand, mainly because when he stepped on stage in my mind, I had no idea who he was. Then he started doing Very Awesome Things, and became a lynchpin plot figure for the climax of the novel.
Juris marks the first time I’ve gone beyond Beta and self-editing, and it shows. My amazing editor, Chad Horton, graciously offered to edit for me pro bono. His warnings were clear:
“I will be merciless.”
And, thank the Saints, he was.
This is what I got back,over a very nice lunch.
What surprised me, though, was that no tears fell onto my Fish and Chip dinner.
Instead, I was more excited than ever before. He had magically taken my work, sensed exactly what I was trying to do with it, and pushed me back to tweak the language and structure. I learned so much from rewriting Juris that I shudder to think what it would have become without him.
Yes, there were rewrites and revisions afterwards. Typos caught and created, little mice to chase through the pages. But the PLAN was clear.
It wasn’t like before. No doubt-filled story arcs and soul-squashing plot questions. I had a plan; a highway, with signs, little yellow marker-bars, and a destination. And I saw the difference in the end result between this story and other stuff. Not that it wasn’t good writing; I really think it stands up.
But not as pain-free as having a qualified eye take my work out of the jar that is my head, and look at it through the microscope of the objective reader.
Thus, my new rule.
Get It Edited.
I was editing before, but not in the way that created the separation required. It’s a lesson I’m ecstatic to learn, especially as an Indie. Call it a corner in the path, I guess.
Nice view from here onward.
It all started with an initial wave of increasing sales every month. Upon a Wake of Flame was released as a test in the fall, and Sand was released just before the beginning of December. I watched the KDP sales reports like a maniac. By February, I was closing in on 100 copies sold. Then things slowed, and I realized I had probably run out of friends who bought my writing out of support. I watched this thing return to a state of rational conduct.
But, something silly had happened. I stopped Writing, and started Marketing.
I had let something happen that I had promised not to; I had fallen for it. I had let myself enjoy the film. Suspended my disbelief, and let myself buy in. I’d grown accustomed to the 4 months of increasing sales, and the little rush of beating last month’s numbers.
But, as it inevitably had to, things calmed down, and, in February, To Drown in Sand was raised from its comfortable sit, propped up by its little arms, and set free. No more Facebook sales drives. No more Pinterest jamming. I want to see what it can do; what happens when someone doesn’t just BUY my writing, but READS my writing, and tells someone else about it. So, now, the book is up on its own legs, and is taking its staggering, uncertain steps forward on its own.
Hard to watch. The coffee tables around here have very sharp corners. I’m holding my breath.
Since the beginning of March, sales have continued in the UK, which is great, because word is getting around over there. And that’s a huge surprise. In the US and Canada, each month brings someone new to Alseiry Beach, Shastre, and the Boddies, so I’m more than cool with that.
So here’s what I’ve learned:
An Ebook is NEVER finished.
Endless tweaks. Endless. Each new upload of even the smallest change results in catastrophic changes in page breaks, margin changes, and even accusations of disorganized formatting in reviews. Such things are taken, considered a part of the exercise in education and live formatting, and fixed.
Speaking of which;
If I read my reviews, I pretend I’m someone else. As in, a potential reader. And then I forget about it. Back to the keyboard.
Pinterest is fun; a great, free, promotional tool, and a substantial time-sink.
I spent a LOT of time fishing on Pinterest. Which was fun, but killed my writing time. And, while I did see direct sales from it, I had much more enjoyment discovering new writers like A.J. Wilson, Brian Parker, Terry C. Simpson, and Holly m. Kothe, and promoting them on my Pinterest boards.
Facebook is a sticky, ego minefield.
Facebook groups became a bit of a mire; free advertising that resulted in direct sales, but it taught me a lot about the demographics of Indie writers that spend time there. Some people don’t really want advice when they ask for it. They want you to tell them how awesome they are. They want to smack you in the face with their books. IF they’ve really published one. There are a lot of writers who haven’t actually published anything, which shocked me. And a lot who probably shouldn’t have published what they did. A quick glance at a free sample of their writing shows which writers think their story is too precious for an editor, and which editors weren’t real editors, and which writers really, really want their work to be good.
Others, though, are incredible folks who want to accomplish what you want to. They want to be Writers. Find those, and you have comrades.
Overall, no big loss of time. I learned volumes from the exploration. Biggest take-away? Just like my heroes say.
Get back to writing.
It’s true, you know. The only thing that will sell your last book is your next book.
Thus, I dove back into the fray. That awesome, loving, splashy, ridiculous fray. On went the headphones and the Steve Jablonsky music. And man, it was good to go back.
Thus, Juris Lunence was born.
I’ve just finished the latest draft of the new back-story for one of my favourite characters from the 10th Regiment. Even got a new editor to take a look at it, and rip into it with his red pen. (More on that next time).
Great fun was had by all. My awesome graphics designer Dylan Edwards is hard at work on a cover, and the final draft will be ready for release soon.
I don’t have any free stuff. Everyone says “You gotta have free stuff.”
So, we’ll go with that for this release. It’s about 25 pages, but they are 25 Very Good Pages. Juris Lunence was a great deal of fun to write, and will go in the stack that will eventually create a short-story anthology; a complete prequel-set for the 10th Lunen Regiment Trilogy.
Here’s a glimpse of the (very) rough draft of one cover concept; Dylan is drafting a few more that I’ll be too excited to contain, and therefore will pop up here for perusal.
More updates on its release as things unfold.
Across Kindle, Indigo/Chapters, and both the .com and .ca Amazons (which don’t share reviews both ways, I was saddened to learn), both ‘Wake and ‘Sand have garnered some pretty great reviews.
Scattered as they are, I thought it might be swell (as in, my Ego) to gather what readers have written thus far, put cheek in hand, and bask for a bit.
Feel free to join me. However vain, one should bask once a day. It keeps the spirit shiny, especially when reality pokes one in the knees with sharp, pointy sticks.
Upon a Wake of Flame reviews:
“I thoroughly enjoyed this short story/intro piece.
The pacing was good for it’s length and it did what few books are able to with me: quickly bond me to the characters. Within the first few pages I was genuinely concerned for the characters and their struggles, which is exactly what I look for while reading.
It has fairly detailed and graphic battle “scenes” as well.
For being an intro short story it is of excellent quality in my opinion.”
“This short story was a pleasant surprise. Not having read much of the Sci-fi/fantasy genre recently, I was expecting more of the same old good verses evil theme and somewhat predictable plot. That is not what I found. I found interesting characters, descriptive narratives and a plot that kept this reader engaged. There were also some subtle insights into the more complete novel to follow. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and will look forward to B.C. Laybolt’s more extensive adventures in his upcoming novel. A great introduction to a new author. Good read.”
“A short prelude to the upcoming debut novel by B.C. Laybolt, which is a brilliant way to introduce yourself as a new author. After reading it, the first thing that came to mind is that gritty opening to the Fallout games, “War never changes…” It is an intense, action packed, brutal wartime sci-fi story. Great characters that you DO NOT want to get attached to, because they may -realistically- be torn apart at any moment. Great tension, because you DO get attached. A great read, but what really hooked me was the dark and foreboding hints of what was to come. Excellent foreshadowing! Check this out! — Justin Killam, author of Seven Crows.”
To Drown in Sand Reviews:
(This first one really got me. Still gets me very emotional to read even now):
“Science fiction FOR soldiers.
Coming from the infantry and finding good science fiction is always a problem for me. Nine times out of ten the author just doesn’t “get it”. They either try too hard, with over the top clichés, or don’t bother to even attempt to understand and it ends up silly.
This is author is different. The characters are visceral and the combat is intellectual, which is the opposite of most others. The story is compelling and rolls along at high and low paces, mimicking normal army life nicely. I am not sure if Laybolt ever served, but he rights like a veteran.”
“Having read B.C.Laybolts introductory short story “Upon a Wake of Flame”, I was eagerly awaiting the first novel in the trilogy of the Lunen Regiment. The book did not disappoint. It was a very engaging story with great character plots, suspenseful action and explicitly graphic. A very gripping novel that was hard to put down until finished. Highly recommend this novel to any one and will patiently wait for the next in the series.”
“I enjoyed this book a lot even though I think felt there were many flaws. There seemed to be too much missing information for the reader to adequately understand the plot. When I finally found out the motivations of Issep, Ter Ense, and others I still don’t get it. I feel like the author has character files somewhere with detailed histories, goals, and motivations, but chose to only provide 5% of that info for the reader.
As for the setting, we can kind of piece together a brief history of the Triumvirate, but the differences between the three member-states are never explained. There was also some kind of fantastical/paranormal stuff happening that the characters didn’t seem to find all that strange and yet didn’t seem to be at all normal in the setting.
I rated To Drown In Sand four stars because the experience was enjoyable. The setting has a lot of potential. The characters are good and the dialogue even better. The writing is clean. If some more information was revealed during some key scenes I feel like this would be a real winner.
Sorry if I’m rambling, but this is a hard novel to review…”
Not too shabby for the first month of release! I’ll post more as they roll in, unless they begin to cripple my soul. Then I may not. I may quit the whole thing and begin a short career as a clumsy tree pruner. We’ll see.
Posted this little gem on my Pinterest the other day:
These are real things that have happened, and in a shockingly short timeframe.
Independent publishing is very quickly becoming the less scary option for thousands; especially if one does one’s publishing housework and research. Not to say that anything’s been easy, or that my writing will prove financially feasible, but I expected the process to be a hell of a lot harder and quieter post-upload.
I’m finding that the nights of sheer terror over not being a Real Writer (and having wasted precious Bathroom Renovation time) are quickly evolving into mornings horizoned by smiles: each day something new happens that flags a tangible success.
Writers like Kristen Bell, M. Louisa Locke, and J.A. Konrath, and independent media advocates like Chris Hardwick make a pretty clear case. I’m grateful they’re out there, and glad that I started listening to them. They were an invaluable voice during the dark, “What-the-hell-am-I-doing?!?” mornings.
I still have those, by the way. They usually precede the very good “Just Because, so-keep-going” moments. Which are my favourite.
Especially when seasoned with good, strong Coffee of Righteousness.
Everybody does this now. I hate to be everybody. But there’s nothing else like it, and now I get why.
The first unboxing. The birth of the Galley, and the delivery into your hands.
One very, very surreal moment.
600 pages of work. Sitting in your hand.
Now THAT’S why we do this.
Please forgive me while my innards glow.
2.5 years of 5 am mornings, writing on night shifts, waiting for my precious Beta copies, revisions, rewrites, and brain-numbing grammar crawls.
During a front step reno that grew into a pyramidal monster, three computer deaths, a bathroom reno (yet unfinished), a full-time job, struggling to keep an aging body from turning into oatmeal, my beloved job coaching minor football, my little dog Emma blowing out her hip, the nightmare potential of parenting two teenagers.
But it’s done.
I am proud to announce the online sale of my first novel, To Drown in Sand.
And I’m not proud because it’s done.
I’m proud because I know it was ready. I know that my Betas and I’ve worked like dogs to make it good.
Not many Indys are lucky enough to have a rocket scientist and a Sergeant editing their novels to make them better. Or a smashing graphics designer to do the art and formatting.
And I still got help beyond that. From some very picky people.
But that’s not the biggest reason I’m proud.
I’m proudest because it’s Indy.
Please help me spread the word, and if you have an extra $2.99 laying around, maybe you could give it a read.
I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Issep, Bivka, Hitter and the rest of the squad are waiting for you.
I think you’ll find they are most excellent company.
They have been for me.
Upload day at my house is like Christmas Eve. The wrapping has to be protected from the cat, everyone wants to sneak a peek at the packages, and some of us would much rather drink, hope the power stays on, and text to see if that Uncle Terence made his flight without breaking a hip.
Add to that the pleasure of knowing that today a massive storm is hitting the eastern seaboard, and will probably kill power to anyone who might want to download my book on the eve of it’s release.
It wouldn’t be me if it weren’t ridiculous.
But it’s ready.
Really, really done.
I’ve said that about 14 times in this process, but each time knew I was missing something. There was some kind of discord that twanged from the base of my spine through to my skull with each text to my formatter, the amazing Dylan Edwards.
But this morning, no twang.
And thus, the pic of the day:
I’ll be wearing out the refresh button in a few hours.
A few lessons learned for those Indy Pubbing for the first time (mostly, so that next time, I go back and read this to stay sane):
~ Amazon and KDP likes Word. It does not play well with Rich Text Format (RTF), and will commit gross Chaos and Buggery with your meticulously edited document. Such as remove italics.
So your characters thoughts become sentences.
THAT is a bad thing.
Imagine the horror.
~Amazon uploading takes TIME. And that TIME will drive you stark raving mad. Your family will threaten divorce, your dog will wonder what she did wrong, and your pants won’t fit. If possible, go do something else. Like hang from the rafters of your basement for as long as you can.
~Listen to your inner writer. They are usually right. If a little voice says “One. More. Proofread”, then do it. Even if it means missing your deadline. Because that voice KNOWS you missed something Important. And when you find it, you’ll squee. Besides, you’re an Indy. It’s YOUR deadline.
~ Word’s Grammar system, in my humble opinion, far surpasses RTF’s grammar scanner. And for that, the writer was most grateful and swollen with exaltation.
As in, it totally saved my A**.
~No one, absolutely NO ONE, understands how difficult it is to force yourself to read your own work for the 23rd time, and find ANOTHER mistake. As an Indy, you must do this to yourself. Imagine staring at the head of a hammer, whacking yourself with it, then realizing you did it wrong. And have to do it again.
I had to learn, quite quickly, that the people around you love you, care about you, but will not withstand your cranky because you missed ANOTHER gender switch word in your book.
~ We uploaded To Drown in Sand, then told NO ONE. I bought a copy, threw up, texted Dylan in horror, and we went to work to fix the nightmare. Because Amazon allows editing, re-uploading the Final Copy is a much better idea. The book on your Ereader will tell you things you just can’t see in your computer’s document.
~ Having to switch from a Windows laptop to an Apple mid-novel is a mixed blessing. MacBooks are for writers. But everything has to start from scratch if you are like me, one of those “I have to go to work and walk the dog and build front steps and raise children” people. Learning new formats is usually done after disasters, as was the case with Sand’s original Amazon upload, and that’s OKAY. Mistakes are how we learn.
~Dealing with the IRS to get an EIN is nowhere near as terrifying as one would expect. The lady on the phone was quite nice.
~ISBN’s are free here in Canada, and that’s just awesome.
~There is NO WAY you will catch every single typo, quotation mark, and extra space. But you must give it 100% to try to. Once you have, then you know you did.
~And then, let it go. It’s Done. Really really done.
Sit back, and stare at the tinsel, watch the kids get nervous, and let the cat sniff the needles and bat the ornaments. You have done the full deal, and earned the right to wait for Release Day.
Which, I think, is so much sweeter than Christmas.
So. THAT was a long time between posts!
Italics and commas.
Grr to them.
Over 360 pages of Grammar-grind, and an eternity of comma hunting. Like sniffing out ants from timber.
Maybe next time, I’ll be able to hire someone to do the proofreading for the final copy. Doing such things oneself makes one want to put one’s head through one’s kitchen table and weep and Never Write Again.
And thus, this:
The final hard-copy manuscript, ripped apart, revised, Beta-shredded, rewritten, gouged, red-inked and mercilessly edited.
That was about a week ago.
Then, the arduous page-by-page change entries, edits, double-checks on the new edits, finding new errors because of the new edits in places I didn’t edit, and next proofread.
Then, going back and doing all the military edits, as directed by my military editor.
Then, the science edits as per my rocket scientist.
Then, back again to check for all the missed grammar after those changes.
No wonder people don’t do this.
At any point willing to give up? Oh, no, my friend.
I would rather be doing no other thing in the universe than making my novel better.
So far, we are still on track for our November release. (He says this looking at the calendar with one raised eyebrow).
Just gotta kill those commas.
Well, that was fun. We cringed, we howled. I revised and rewrote, interviewed soldiers and rocket scientists, went back again and again to the keyboard until we all agreed that it was ready.
The short story prequel to this November’s To Drown in Sand is up and live.
It’s called Upon a Wake of Flame, and it is now up for sale. The link is here, and on my sidebar.
Upon a Wake of Flame was supposed to be a promotional piece that served as a test for the upload and editing process. It evolved into so much more; an invaluable lesson in writing, revision and completion.
And as always, Dylan’s cover and design are incredible.
Upon a Wake of Flame is available on Amazon and Kobo E-Books for $0.99 Canadian. If you enjoy it, please rate it and post a review.
As promised, Part One of the prequel for my novel, To Drown in Sand, to be released in November 2013.
Upon a Wake of Flame
A story of the 10th Lunen Regiment
Petty Officer Second Class Fiodek Berr – Callsign: ‘Bear’.
Master Seaman Owiqued – (Pipes): Callsign: ‘Howler’.
Master Seaman Thuigrae – (Manta): Callsign: ‘Stomps’.
Master Seaman Bonfodighen – (Flamer): Callsign: ‘Steambath’
Able Seaman Yuekijae – (Medic): Callsign: ‘Gauzer’.
Able Seaman Edroit – (Rifleman): Callsign: ‘Milk-crate’.
Able Seaman Clurrid – (Rifleman): Callsign: ‘Paperback’.
Able Seaman Kepeht – (Rifleman): Callsign: ‘Dogfood’.
Able Seaman Bavdemix – (Rifleman): Callsign: ‘Badmix’.
Able Seaman Rokemigveuse – (Rifleman): Callsign: ‘Migve’.
Lieutenant Bob Griare – Callsign: ‘Tailflip’.
~Orksen Isle, in the Derry Atrus Atoll, 30 kilometers Due South of the Alseiry Peninsula on the dwarf planet Shastre.
The shot cracked across the road from up high. Its echo bounced and barked across the cratered street from doorway to doorway, looking for a place to celebrate.
The heavy bullet punched him in the chest and threw him into the mud-brick wall on the wrong side of the alley, crackling the rough, hand-pressed plaster behind him. Scabs of gritty sand-plate tumbled over the rim of his helmet as he slid down into the dirt.
He watched the man who shot him nestle in behind his large black scope, high on the second floor, tucked in under a wooden kitchen table, the sides hung down to block the sun.
Black lightning-bolts of capillaries split his vision.
Shot in the chest.
And here it was his thirty-eighth Saints-damned birthday.
Petty Officer Second Class Fiodek Berr; Third Squad, Threadfin Boat, Second Company; Sturgeon Battalion, Tenth Lunen Regiment, dragged in a hissed breath that screamed against his sternum. He tried to roll over, to tip out of the sniper’s view.
“Frock!” Berr heard Clurrid, his stern-guard rifleman, holler over the rumble of his pulse in his temples. He watched as the sky stained with water-colour black. “P.O. Down! Gauzer! Bear is down!”
“Huh…Huh…Hold it!” Berr managed, and pointed his medic back to the safety of the alley wall.
“He’s waiting for you.”
Berr watched panic flash across their faces. Spearing pain rippled through his chest, hammering his ribs and breastbone with every jagged, shuddering breath.
Berr wobbled his head to check again at where the shooter was perched. He could make out a grin spread from behind the long, tubal optic.
Berr squinted at the sniper’s scope and smiled back.
The top floor of the shabby, smashed hut exploded in a roar of ripping splinters, blasting clouds of dust and clay, and wet chunks of the enemy sharpshooter.
Berr chuckled, then grimaced and let his helmet thump into the dirt.
“Oh, for frock’s sake! They got him. The bastards finally got him!”
Two sets of hands scrambled over his dented chest-plate, and grabbed the curved, heavy gorget of his vest. His boots bobbled and carved shallow trenches in the dirt as they dragged back up the alley.
Above him, the sunlight thinned and died to embers. Nine blots of shadow crowded into what was left of the sky, bumping for access.
“Nice shot, Stomps. Took dat roof right off of ‘er!”
“That’s irrelevant. Is he alright?”
“For frock’s sake! Get back! How the frock am I supposed to get at him? You know what to do! Form a frocking perimeter, cover us, and let me do my job!”
“I said is he alright?”
“And I said Steady Up!”
Mumbles of their barely-contained panic bubbled in his mind and started to swirl, lost in the reaching darkness.
Today of all days. Eight hours into thirty-eight years old, and millions of cables away from the only person who knew it.
Despite her fiery, naval language and raised voice, his wife had still, at least, wished him that much in her comm-send that had finally arrived last night. Her voice had been terse; loaded and cocked with warning.
That’s the problem with interplanetary arguments while you’re on deployment, he thought. One-way only, and weeks to send.
Takes too long to fire back.
His pulse calmed. He inhaled, and fresh pinpricks of pain riveted across his shoulders, gathering in the bones over his heart.
He had heard the dit that there was that delay in all the soldier’s sends, too. At first all the troopers had mumbled about the usual scanning for intelligence material. Tactically Sensitive information. Later, that had begun to change.
Overhead, clouds crawled by, a convoy of fist-shaped, relentless frigates shrouded in billowing white in a blue sea, stained black by the shock of the shot.
Weeks of delay. Berr thought.
The comms-monitors were scanning the infantry’s correspondence home more carefully than usual. Crawling over their words like ants on a corpse. Scouring and seeking.
And he suspected it had a lot to do with the secessionists that they were fighting here on the Derry Atrus island chain.
He was a veteran. Fifteen years with the Tenth Lunen Regiment. He had seen blood, rebellion, and his slice of the pie of war had been monstrous.
But the enemy they faced here on this small planet called Shastre were different. And the data-crawlers knew it. They weren’t protecting themselves by trying to catch leaks.
Berr knew they were protecting the innocents. Those at home. From learning the truth.
That there were monsters here.
The sound in the alley swallowed him. Third Squad’s boots ground into the grit. They mumbled curses that betrayed their panic, their fear that he was dying. The shuffle of Gauzer’s hands, digging and prodding into his chest, searching for an entry wound. The wet squish as he found the laceration of the shoulder-strap that had cut into his deltoid.
The ping of a syringe-cap tapping into the clay.
After a moment, all sounds became one, rushing through his mind like water, on a platform of another haunting, echoing noise that lingered around the walls of his skull and forced his eyes shut.
The echo of that sniper-round.
“I got him.” Gauzer, his medic, said. “He just needs a minute.” Gauzer slipped closer now, a whisper next to his ear. “You had the air punched out of you. Your armour held. I don’t know how. But it stopped the round.” His voice was shaken, but solid enough.
Berr thanked the Saints. He blinked quickly, blinded by the sky that now flooded back to blue. Gauzer reached out a hand, and he grabbed it.
Sitting up felt like having his chest ripped open.
“Third Squad. Get back in the stack.” Berr’s voice was wet gravel. “Jonah’s down.”
Berr gingerly pulled in a deep breath, shook his head, then staggered over and leaned into the scarred alley wall. He sighed, and carefully peeked out around the corner. His skin submerged into a tide of Gauzer’s warm spread of pain-narcs.
He peered down the debris-littered road, rough with tossed stones and scattered shell casings; toppled, kicked-out doors and collapsed walls that spilled out onto the hard clay road like guts. Behind him the rest of Third Squad stacked in a crouched line against the wall, pressed tight against each other.
At the end of the road squatted a fat, mud-scabbed hill, its top punched flat by aerial bombardments. Third squad’s first objective of the day. Beyond that, a field that Int had said would be spotted with more ruined huts. A small village that had been smashed open by the retreating enemy soldiers, but held intact enough to offer cover for Berr’s squad to advance.
Berr winced as he swung out and sighted down at the end of the road. The side of the hill that faced them was covered in the rough scabs of boot-prints left from the enemy’s retreat.
Hundreds of boot-prints.
The intelligence operator who briefed them had been a tall, strong-shouldered black sergeant named Omram, from Cixca, the Triumvirate’s headquarters planet. Omram hadn’t been able to accurately assess how many of the secessionists would be left in the ruins of this town, or how many had retreated over that hill to wait in the field beyond. All he had been able to tell Berr and his lieutenant, Griare, was that whoever was left of the secessionists here on Orksen Isle had nowhere left to run. The Tenth Lunen had pushed the enemy militia back all the way across the island, and now they were trapped. Their last and only option was to try to swim to the mainland from here. Or surrender.
Which these maniacs never did.
“Good luck, Bear.” Lieutenant Griare had said, with a slap on his Petty Officer’s shoulder-pad. “Don’t let anything happen to you until I catch up to you. I won’t be able to find my arse or my elbows without you.”
“Aye to that, Sir.” Berr had said. “But that’s fishguts. And we both know it.”
Griare had become one of the best officers he had ever worked with. Organized, thorough, and knew when to get out of the way. And when to listen. He was a random rarity, in Berr’s experience. They respected each other, and better yet, they seemed to be becoming friends.
“Fiodek?” Griare’s grip had lingered on Berr’s shoulder. The Lieutenant’s glare made Berr pause as he fussed with his gear.
“I mean it.” Griare had said.
Berr coughed now, spat white chips of stone dust from his teeth, and wiped flakes from the corners of his eyes. Orksen Island was covered in chalky fragments that crept everywhere, coating their hair and skin in a skin of crusty, dry white slivers. He coughed again, dry and pointless.
The Shastre cough. He was still adjusting to the change in pH on this planet, where the air was like breathing deck-cleanser. At least at first. The three weeks of injections aboard their battlecarrier had helped his lung’s surfactant adjust, but the cough lingered, stabbing fingers of irritation and pressure into the inner edges of his ribs.
Now, with the round he had taken, his chest flared into fissures of pain, angry at every cough.
Berr grunted and pivoted behind him, signaling to the male and female trooper next in the stack who squatted there, waiting on his word. They stared like tigers watching Berr decide on his orders.
“Badmix. Migve.” Berr whispered. “Cut across this street.” He knifed his hand at a blown-out, two-storey wreck across from him. “Grab cover on that corner. Sight down the starboard angle, on my two o’clock, and see if we’re clear for that side.”
“Aye, Bear.” They said.
“On my signal.” Berr said, pivoted back, and sighted down the street.
So, so quiet. Like a hunter waiting in a hide.
Just like it was a second before that bastard shot me.
A dry, crisped leaf tumbled across the two ruts in the clay road, pirouetted in a breeze, and tumbled against a shattered curb.
He held up a finger.
“Go.” He grunted, and pointed across the road. He squinted through the twin alloy pins at the end of his muzzle, and waited to kill anything that twitched.
Badmix outpaced Migve as she sprinted into the alley opposite Berr, followed fast by her larger counterpart. They slammed the backs of their dirt-scuffed, blue armoured vests into the clay-brick wall of the building and looked to the clouds overhead as they caught their breath. Badmix swung into a low crouch and leaned out over a pock-marked set of mortar steps, scanning down Berr’s side of the street. Migve’s rifle muzzle panned just above her head. The solid azure line and arrowhead, that designated her rank of able seaman, crested to the brow-rim of her black helmet and pointed down the road of roofless homes and smashed-out stores.
Berr remembered painting the arrow’s wings on her helmet just four weeks ago to celebrate her promotion. He had never seen Badmix cry before. That night, around a blazing beach-fire, he had seen tears rise in her eyes in a tidal creep of pride.
But she had managed to keep them contained.
They perched on the corner for three minutes, waiting. Badmix peeked over at Berr, and then nodded at him.
Berr turned and pointed at the next two in the stack.
“Gauzer. Dogfood.” Berr said, thumbing at the medic and his best friend. The two were inseparable; their matching tattoos read Not for glory; For my brother in scrolling script on their right shoulders. “Haul taut up into the starboard line. On the lee of the staircase and doorway. Clear it and stack it. Then lie to until you hear otherwise. On my signal.”
“Aye, Bear.” they said in unison.
“And knock that bilge off.” Berr muttered. “It’s creepy as frock.”
The two men grinned and bounced on their heels.
Berr glanced back over to his two prone shooters across the road, and signalled them that he was sending more forward. Migve nodded. Berr saw that his shoulders were anxious and tight, his hand wrapping and re-wrapping around his rifle-grip.
“Go.” Berr said, and they loped around him and sprinted off, their shoulders scraping against the cracker-dry bricks as they picked their way to safety, sighting into the shadows and blown-out windows ahead and across from them.
Just five more to tuck in to safe slots along this road. That’s all he had to do. Three more positions, including himself, just one more time, all safe, all fine, all ‘Lunen Blue’.
Then repeat it a hundred times until he got them all home. Or at least back to the battlecarrier. Then he could finish his argument with Lois.
It would take forever to be able to send back to his wife now. He’d have to wait until he could breathe without her noticing the pain, or any hesitation when he spoke.
Better not to bother, he thought, and not try to hide the hit I just took.
She’d only see it anyway. Somewhere.
We’ve been married so long, we’re probably psychic.
He nodded behind him at the next two.
“Paperback. Milk-Crate.” He pointed laterally across the street, to a doorway that arched open like bowed legs. “Doorway, Port side. My eleven o’clock. Go.”
He listened at the scuffy, reassuring slaps of his men’s boots as they dashed for safety across the killing zone, then thump into the solid haven of cover in the doorway.
Berr counted them all again. Even though he didn’t need to, even though he knew he only had three left to send, and that they were accounted for. He counted them again.
He rolled back against the wall. Next to him, his comms operator perked his eyebrows.
“De Big Dogs, eh?” Howler said, in the clipped, twisty accent of the Chireesh. It had taken Berr four months of their eight-month voyage aboard the Tenth Regiment’s dropship-battlecarrier, the Whaleshark, to master the accent and decipher Howler’s subtexts.
But, as difficult as it had been for Berr to learn the Chireesh’s accent, Howler’s keen intelligence had made the struggle worth it. He’d been thrilled to discover his Pipes was a genius with languages. Howler had already pieced together the basics of the enemy’s tumbling, guttural dialect through his careful monitoring of their sparse comm-sends.
The black shark-fin antennae of Howler’s Tactical Information Management Array System, the Timas, bumped the back of his helmet as he nodded at Berr and waited.
“Big dogs.” Berr said.
Behind the comms-op, the massive, brooding black shroud of the Manta mech-pack cloaked Stomps, his heavy gunner. The turbine housed in the rear of the mech whispered and whined, and the servos in the mech-arm hissed a thin hydraulic thread of noise as it helped the muscular woman hoist her Narwhal heavy-gun. The gun clunked as she thumbed the barrel selector, and threaded a round into its receiver. The three barrels of the weapon yawned, waiting to smash her enemies apart with torrential rapid-rounds, large-bore shots, and grenades. Hungry for more devastation like she had wrought on Berr’s sniper.
She had originally balked at Berr using himself to flush out the shooter and leaving his safety up to her. But as always, she had proven herself.
The mech’s legs unfolded silently as Stomps stood up from where she crouched, silently hoisting the massive turbine that powered and cooled the gun. Fingers of her brown hair spilled down from her helmet and curled around her determined face, framed by the Manta’s cowl. Behind her, Third Squad’s flame-man, Steambath, squeezed out around the Manta and leaned forward.
“We’re ready as that wind now, my son.” The Torcher muttered to Berr. “Today ain’t getting any younger squatting here on our arses. Let’s get at her.”
Berr couldn’t suppress his grin. He bore a genuine reverence for the older flamer operator. Steambath was a genuine shellback. He had burned his way across every island in the atoll, always at the front of the flanks and immune to fatigue, like most of his people from his rocky, barren island back on Lunen. His eyebrows and close-trimmed hair, shingled with thin grey patches, were permanently singed and curled from the charring burn of his weapon. The flamer in Steambath’s hands seethed and drooled droplets of fire from its charred muzzle, sizzling into a puddle of black sludge next to his dirty, chipped boot.
“Aye.” Berr said. “You two have the farthest. Get up to the bow. I need you in the nose when the rattle starts. Up the deep starboard, ahead of Gauzer and Dogfood.”
“Right where I should be.” Stomps said, and thumbed her gun onto large-bore. The weapon thunked as it primed a fist-sized sabot round, and the turbine’s high whine lowered to a growl.
“On my signal.”
“Aye to that, Bear.” Stomps said. She turned back to the Torcher. “You ready?”
“Stomps, by’s, don’t be wasting my time with fishguts interrogatives.” Steambath chuckled and waggled the long cylinder of flame-fuel screwed into his weapon’s belly. “I was ready when your father’s seed was swimmin’. Let’s get on with it, now, my sons.”
Berr levelled his rifle out. The tether-cable that attached his gun to the hub in the center of his chest-armour squeaked as it spooled out. He sighted down the street.
Potentially hundreds of them.
Saints-damn this place.
“Go.” Berr said.
He watched Stomps and Steambath jog around him, then hug the cover of each building’s buckled walls as they bolted to where Gauzer and Milk-Crate hunched into balls of aiming tension in the recesses of their crumpled stairway. The Manta-mech and Torcher swept past their two squadmates, and crunched into cover ahead of them all.
Howler stiffened next to him. “Movement.” He said, his voice twisted by the butt of his rifle.
“Where?” Berr said, and cursed. Howler had eyes like a Heron-gunner. But Berr should have seen it.
“Down d’air. Deep Port. End of dat road.” The Pipes-man whispered. “Two ‘eads. Peekin’ out around deh corner. I think d’air gonna do deh run for deh ‘ill. Stragglers, maybe.”
“Let everybody know, Howler.” Berr muttered.
The rest of Upon a Wake of Flame will be released on Amazon for Kindle and on Kobo in August 2013.
© 2013 B.C. Laybolt
One day, one of my all-time favourite old-school Warhammer writers, William King, wrote a short story, and my head exploded.
Which kept me very, very busy over the last two months.
To promote his independent production of his Kormak series, King wrote a prequel short story that is very, very good.
It might even be better than some of his books. (I say this having started his first in the series, Stealer of Flesh, free on Amazon right now.)
I was disappointed with ‘Stealer’. The lack of a solid editor seems obvious, even to me.
But that’s when I felt my author cortex swell, pop out through my forehead, and splatter the wall of the kitchen like old spaghetti.
Because I realized that I could do that. I’m an Indy. I can do anything I want. Joe Konrath says so (http://jakonrath.blogspot.ca/).
As long as it’s Good.
So, that’s what I did.
After seven drafts of revision and editing , I think I might have gotten close to the Good horizon. I can see it if I squint.
So that’s what I’ve been doing in May and June. And it paid off. I learned tonnes about completing a project.
And, posting the short to Amazon will be an excellent dry run for my book’s release in November.
Ah, you say, HE may think it’s good. But HE may be delusional.
And you may be right. That’s why I’m going to post the first section tomorrow here on the blog, naked as a jaybird, for your perusal, in my next post. And you tell me if you’d turn the next page.
The short story, Upon a Wake of Flame, will be available this August.
Catherine Croft and her gang did a wonderful job organizing a great day for the kid-nerds at Mill Village Consolidated School for the May the 4th Be With You event, and I was lucky enough to get to go.
The gang from Maritime Heavy Armour (https://www.facebook.com/MaritimeHeavyArmour?fref=ts) thrilled the kids, and me, by showing up and posturing with us all in an appropriately menacing way.
We played some tabletop 40K, chatted about figs and gaming, and I got to do a dry run of my book promotion in front of real people. So that was cool.
And my mom bought me fries.
It was the only event of it’s kind permitted by the Lawyers of the Empire (Star Wars, not Warhammer, the Inquisition would never have allowed such a thing) to show a screening of all the Star Wars movies. Catherine even had a large outdoor projector, and showed it as a drive-in feature.
The Vulcan intimidated me most.
One never usually gets this close to a Space Marine. And Deathwatch sightings are especially rare. And one never, never gets to actually HUG a Deathwatch Space Marine. But I did. Turns out I shared an ancient secret Mechanicus armour technique, and he was most grateful. And hugs are nice. He deals with a lot of Grim Darkness, so I thought he could use the bro-love.
And then there was THIS, which the caricature guy did for me, which shall now be framed in my office. Terribly, I never caught his name:
Awesome time had by all!
(Or, how to try to market a book that is not yet available).
Ah, Staples. How I do love you so.
My display sign for the Mill Village May the 4th Be With You Comic-Con has arrived, along with 48 postcards for To Drown in Ash, to hand out at our l’il convention.
My mom’s even coming.
So you know it’s gonna be big.
Neat experiment in marketing there. The blurb, blog address, wiki address and release information are on the back. Plus there’s room for a signature (if anyone there is into that sort of thing).
The poster turned out to look amazing, in my humble opinion. I’m basking a bit.
And my awesome art guy even came up with a hand-stamped pattern indicating the top-secret, intelligence-type military theme for the back.
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