Tag Archives: Promoting your writing

Short story 4 is back from the editor!

The fourth short story in my upcoming dark fantasy is back from my editor, the merciless ogre and wielder of the blood pen!

Progress is good.

He excels at BJJ, so I must approach his revisions carefully, at the risk of my ancient joints and bones.

Once finished, that leaves eight remaining before we finalize the anthology for publishing. Updates will follow!

Thanks so much for everyone’s encouragement and asks about the anthology’s progress! I promise, we’re going as quick as we can, while adhering to some fairly demanding quality standards. (I cannot escape neck cranks. Therefore, I must rewrite). Being an Indie, limited resources means fluid timelines. Your patience is much appreciated!

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, stories, and updates!

Publishing Industry Nightmares.

In the ongoing discussion about whether indie publishing is tenable, or even a thing, a lot of ugly business emerges. Most of it is discovered after some careful digging through sites like J.A. Konrath‘s and others in the field who have exposed life in the publishing tower’s secrets. Every year, it seems more of Big Publishing’s practices are exposed, and more and more, they remind me of Big Oil and other “Bigs” who are desperately struggling to understand life in this digital age, and failing.

I strongly believe that we are just as immersed in a technological revolution, that has really just started, by the way, as society was during the Industrial Revolution. Fists are being banged onto desks refusing to acknowledge new ways. Furious millionaires are determined to choke every last dollar from dying industries and practices before they draw their last breath. Men who rose to power with typewriters and letters in the mail scoff at those who dare to publish without them, and do their level best to crush their progress.

Don’t believe me? Read through Konrath. or read this:

https://publishedtodeath.blogspot.com/2017/09/an-insiders-view-of-publishing-business.html?fbclid=IwAR1ltemVunMfjPrdJFe4_nvoayR-bm-KzCNZcNhlHdjV2MoQ1Py5EGO7UWg&m=1

I’ve written in the past about developments in the publishing field in the midst of all this; I find it fascinating to study. I also continue to describe my own journey through and around the barrage that is modern publishing. Note that I do separate that from writing; I don’t believe the two are necessarily connected, and for most people, shouldn’t be. (Same as self-publishing and indie-publishing are not necessarily the same thing).

Erica Verillo‘s not wrong. The chaos she describes is pretty plain to see; just look at your average bookstore chain’s shelves over a year and you’ll see it too.

I firmly believe the future is micro-economic. Small, cottage producers of content that grow organically to be sniffed at by Big Industry, prompting the creators of that content to decide to sell their wares to the machine, or not. And new, pioneering companies like Engen who take their drive and dreams and carve out a chunk using the current technology and craft relationships with their local writers who would never get a chance elsewhere. That is the future, friends.

This is not a new concept. See Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer, Call of Cthulhu, and every other small project that eventually became a marketing powerhouse.

And how did they do that?

Quality.

It always starts with quality.

I’m not saying I’m one of those. But I am saying I’m writing to write, small and in the dark every morning, shaping my stories, grooming them for the world that technology has finally made possible.

I’ve gone from coil-ring notebook, longhand writing to typing on paper, to blogging with clickable links, to printed copies in my hand and my amazon store of published novels and short stories.

And we are just getting started. But the journey, the process of this evolution, is really fascinating and worthy of recording. I really do see it as one of the greatest advancements of the arts in generations.

There was nothing like this for H.P. Lovecraft, or Charles Dickens, or Stephen King. Imagine if there had been! I’ve discussed such in The Write Podcast.

Society is quickly growing exhausted of reboots, and throwaway conclusions of stories because the writers had more lucrative things to do, and the endless mining of old material. They are starving for fresh stories, new worlds, and original ideas. There has never been a better time to have an idea. Everything you need to present it is literally at your fingertips.

And that’s me talking; the darkest, most jaded person I know. So, you know,…possibly relevant.







Juris Lunence: A Tale of the 10th Lunen Regiment
Saviour. Sniper. Survivor.
Download the FREE story of one of The 10th Lunen Regiment’s most notorious characters today!


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

3 Comments

Filed under Big Publishing Industry Practices, Indie Publishing Developments

Canadian Indies Rejoice! CAD List pricing detail I missed!

In my post last week about the recent Amazon move to provide direct printing, shipping, and list prices here in Canada, I missed a crucial upside detail.

Click on the link for the official edict from the ‘Zon!

While this development levels the playing field for Canadian indie authors by cutting the time from that holy ‘Buy Now’ button click to doorstep arrival just in time for winter, it also triggers an exciting benefit pointed out by Engen Books ‘ savvy entrepreneur Matthew LeDrew:

Canadian indies can now list their titles at separate prices than their U.S. listings!

Want to run a weeks’s sale (other than Amazon’s existing sales deals) for your Canadian fans? Well, now you can!

Want to drop the first novel in a series for a Canada-based promotional run? Now you can do that too!

While you could always drop the price listing of any title, the end price was bonded to the USD listing and automatically increased for exchange. This resulted in a discouraging price difference between the .com and .ca listings, and made the classic $XX.99 pricing option much trickier in Canada. Now, all titles in both Canada and the U.S. can be the same price listing.

What’s the downside?

Naturally, Canadian authors who drop their exchange-rate balanced price listing take a hit in their royalty payment. And, as the exchange rate fluctuates, that can be substantial. However, if indies are experiencing slowed sales because of awkward CAD pricing, the flexibility allowing them to adjust their price to a more palatable, attractive listing may be the boost their sales needed.

And, the optics of balanced pricing, plus the knowledge of CAD-specific listing for readers from home may be another benefit for all creators of independent Canadian writing. You couldn’t experiment with either if you were chained to traditional publishing practices!

I’ve standardized the price listing for the paperbacks of both of my novels, To Drown in Sand and To Drown in Ash. And, to celebrate, I’ve dropped the price of Book 1 of the Trilogy to $14.99 CANADIAN! Finally looks like something my mom would decide to buy!

$26.63?? What kind of price is THAT?!?



Beaver tails, Double-Doubles, and now, Canuck indie fiction! A super development!

Stay tuned, like, or follow for continuing news and updates on any further KDP developments!



Upon a Wake of Flame (A tale of The 10th Lunen Regiment) Kindle Edition
Click on the image to grab your copy of the short story that started it all!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Indie Publishing Developments, Uncategorized

Great Amazon News for Canadian Indies!

The recent announcement that Amazon’s KDP has begun manufacturing in Canada has Canadian Indie authors excited!

Click on the link for details!

What does this mean?

KDP books will now be printed right here in the True North. That means faster ordering time, less printing and shipping time, and FREE DELIVERY FOR PRIME CUSTOMERS IN CANADA.

This marks a huge step forward for Canadian writers. Now, Amazon Canada will work just as fast to get customer’s copies of their ordered books to their doors as the U.S. Amazon service does.

What other benefits does this bring?

Besides levelling the playing field for Canuck Indie authors’ customers, there are two other important changes that affect Canadian Indies’ businesses:

1: Canadian Royalty reports on our KDP reports will now be generated through Amazon.ca. No more converting .ca sales royalties from inherent .com royalties first!

2: CAD (Canadian Dollar) list prices! Print copies will be automatically listed in CAD on the Canadian ‘Zon. No more discouraging price differences between USD and CAD that can cause customers to not click that precious ‘Buy Now’ button!

What’s the downside?

Author Copy shipments and Proof Copies will still be printed and shipped from the U.S; “as of today” (October 16, 2019). That phrasing could be important, because it may be a hint that those important copy printing locations may someday change. Which would greatly reduce Author Copy shipping costs. Reducing the cost of tailgate sales production would be a game changer for independent writers in Canada.

Stay tuned, follow, or join my email list for updates on these important developments!




To Drown In Ash: Book Two of the 10th Lunen Regiment Trilogy Kindle Edition
Get your copy of my new Sci-Fi thriller today!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

3 Comments

Filed under Indie Publishing Developments, Uncategorized

I wasn’t gonna, then I kinda was, now I totally am

Engen books is calling.

Submissions for “pulp era” Sci-Fi From the Rock, their next collection, have a deadline of Oct. 31.

I didn’t think I had anything that quite fit, but I did find one l’il gem buried in my files (Old Man Laybolt Writer’s Rule #3: Never Throw Anything Out). I thought it might work for the anthology, if I ran it through the brain wash and rinse cycle. A quick three hours of rewrite, and a run through Cliche Cleaner and Grammarly, and I think it might be ready.

Now that I’m reading the third draft, I’m really pleased with it. Pulpy like freshly squeezed! So I’m totally hitting that submission deadline.

Stay tuned to see if it gets in!




Click on the image and grab your copy of Juris Lunence, a short story prequel about the 10th Lunen Regiment! FREE today!

Juris Lunence: A Tale of the 10th Lunen Regiment Kindle Edition

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, stories, and updates!, Uncategorized

Just a tease of this year’s work (to be released in 2020)

Oh, the beautiful expanse of shorts, patiently waiting to be squeezed together into the blessed amazon algorithm.

13 short stories of dark fantasy, all carefully threaded together with character cameos and a tapestry of plot crossings. It will be an anthology that reads like a novel. With blood.

So much blood.

Intrigue, blasphemy, betrayal, and madness.

The Glyph Beckons.

More updates coming soon!




Read the epic short story prequel to my first novel in the 10th Lunen Regiment Trilogy, now available!

Upon a Wake of Flame (A tale of The 10th Lunen Regiment) Kindle Edition
The story that started it all!


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, stories, and updates!, Uncategorized

Engen Books Podcast, The Write Project, Episode 2! (Actually 56, but it’s me, so…)

(Click on the image. It will take you to the Cloud of Sound, wherein the magic lies).

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! :

(Much editing was required, because, as my wife will tell you, I talk too much).

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!

https://www.amazon.com/B.C.-Laybolt/e/B00EMDWWNE%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

A walk in the dark invites an inescapable terror.

A horror short story in the spirit of Cthulhuian nightmares.



Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, stories, and updates!, Uncategorized

While the world sleeps…

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.


What are YOU writing?







Click on the link to my Amazon store to read Juris Lunence for free!

Juris Lunence: A Tale of the 10th Lunen Regiment Kindle Edition


https://www.amazon.com/B-C-Laybolt/e/B00EMDWWNE/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Guest appearance on The Write Project!

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.*

(In which I talk far too much…)

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.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
Visit my Kindle shop to purchase Ebook titles like The Dog, To Drown in Sand, To Drown in Ash, and more!

1 Comment

Filed under Books, stories, and updates!, Uncategorized

Great News! KDP FINALLY reveals your historical sales!

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!

screencap new archived database KDP

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?

Leave a comment

Filed under Indie Publishing Developments, Uncategorized

Of Very Busy Times and Such Things.

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!

This happened:

 

Picture 1

 

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:

For blog 3

 

 

That has changed substantially:

 

Picture 2

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).

 

Picture 4

 

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:

 

Picture 6

 

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!

Onwards!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Of Evolving Covers, Convergence, and How Lucky I Was To Meet Dylan.

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:

 

Juris cover 1 draft

 

And the final version:

 

Juris 2nd draft covr

 

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.

 

~B.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Just a quick mo’…

Just popping in to provide the means to acquire a professionally edited, reasonably well-written, and ABSOLUTELY FREE  story about a fantastic character.

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/juris-lunence

 

Juris 2nd draft covr

 

There. I’m done. Please return to your awesome day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Of Reviews and Such.

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:

http://www.amazon.ca/Upon-Wake-Flame-Lunen-Regiment-ebook/dp/B00ELP2LOS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1388674197&sr=8-1&keywords=upon+a+wake+of+flame

~

“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):

http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/to-drown-in-sand/9990011527775-item.html?ikwid=To%2520Drown%2520in%2520Sand&ikwsec=Home

~

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.”

~

http://www.amazon.ca/Drown-Sand-Lunen-Regiment-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00GWRQLQW/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1

~

“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.

Onwards!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

To Hold in Hand Completion.

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.

Wow.

The hand stops a-tremble when the eyes read the words.

The hand stops a-tremble when the eyes read the words.

600 pages of work. Sitting in your hand.

Now THAT’S why we do this.

Please forgive me while my innards glow.

 hard copy
If you’d like a copy for your very own hand, here’s where you can get one:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The excitement of release. (Wow…that could sound so wrong).

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.

It’s ready.

It’s done.

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.

http://www.amazon.ca/Upon-Flame-Lunen-Regiment-ebook/dp/B00ELP2LOS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376759899&sr=8-1&keywords=upon+a+wake+of+flame

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Upon a Wake of Flame. A short story. Part 1 of the prequel to To Drown in Sand.

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

By

B.C. Laybolt

 Cast:

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.

Berr groaned.

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.

That’s new.

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.

“Sir?”

“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.

Still nothing.

Potentially hundreds of them.

And nothing.

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

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Regarding a little Comic-Con in the middle of the forest on the Medway River.

 Pleasant surprises are nice. And finding out about new gatherings of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Comics fans are nice too. Especially after a long, dark, yucky winter.  I was pleasantly surprised to find myself invited to one.

The May The 4th Be With You  weekend and Comic-Con is in its first year, tucked away in the Mill Village Consolidated School on the sprightly Medway River in Queen’s County, Nova Scotia. A handy map to the event is included in the linked ad. It’s on Friday and Saturday, May 3rd and 4th, 2013.

Comic-Con

I’ll be there, skulking around grumbling about how Warhammer was so much better in the old days, and displaying some of my painted figs, dioramas, and other antiques. I may bring my boxed version of my all-time favourite RPG, The Call of Cthulhu, to wave small children away from.

I’m told that a member of the 501st, my favourite clone squad, may make an appearance, so I’ll need to be there to tell them that they should recruit me into their unit, as I know how things turn out at the end of Star Wars Battlefront 2, and could therefore be very important to their well-being. Rumours are that the Canadian Heavy Armour Group will also be making an appearance, and that’s very cool indeed.  

I might also be passing out some promo cards for To Drown In Sand, and could be easily intimidated into signing them, should anyone see fit to menace me thoroughly enough. While I understand it’s a bit odd to promote a book before its available (we’re charging full speed at our first week of November 2013 release date), the mighty Catherine Croft assures me that it’s perfectly acceptable to promote the book’s upcoming release while helping celebrate the convention.

The Comic-Con starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 4th, and I’ll be giggly happy to answer any questions about RPG’s, module writing, Game-Mastering, or have a chat about writing or Independent E-Pubbing.

So, if you happen to be in the area, and if you need to scratch the nerd itch (I constantly do; it chafes so), come on out on Friday night and Saturday, and support the event. Bring your friends!

(I still plan to warn the 501st about the Emperor’s plan. It has to make a difference).

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized