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A Moment in Time – A short story

 

 

A small inaccuracy can lead to a big hitch…

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A Moment in Time

Gerald Lansing’s job was making sure all parts were to specs.  Unable to get one piece to calibrate, he looked up the original calculations and found an error, or at least an anomaly.  He made a print-out and went to Prof. Willard, the head of the project who’d made the computations.

“Sir, there’s something I think you should take a look at,” he said pointing to the suspected problem.  “I’m not getting the specified results.  Perhaps someone has made a change?”

“What? Let me see,” said Prof. Willard.  He took the paper.

He scrutinized the figures, crumpled the page and handed it back, frowning.  “I don’t see a problem, and nothing has been changed.  Look, you’re not supposed to be going over these figures.  You’re just a technician.  This type of math is too complicated for you to properly comprehend.  Just do your job and leave the temporal calculations to those of us who’re experts.”  He stalked off.

Gerald sighed.  He’d felt he had to say something, but the professor saw him as only a pair of hands, a servant expected to do exactly as told.  He knew going to any others in the lab would do no good: they never questioned Prof. Willard.  He shrugged, tossed the balled paper into a nearby can, and went back to work trying to set the experimental temporal shifter as specified, finally getting it to more or less agree with the schematics.

The big day arrived.  Gerald’s qualms were allayed by the preliminary trials.  They had gone well.  The temporal shifter worked perfectly, first going back several minutes, then a day, and finally to the previous month.  The lab animals returned unharmed, and the head tech who’d volunteered to do the last test came back satisfied.  He’d landed exactly where he was supposed to on the desired date.

Prof. Willard entered the cubicle and settled himself at the console.  The place and time was set for an uninhabited, open plain in the western United States two hundred years ago.  He started up and watched his instruments.  When the counter stopped, he opened the door, stepping out – and realized something was wrong.

He stared at the landscape, horrified.  Rushing toward him through what appeared to be tall palm trees was a horde of different kinds of dinosaurs.  He dove back in and hit the return switch.  Nothing happened.  The vehicle shook as the animals thundered past on either side.  The sounds diminished and he reopened the door.  A very small animal, the size of a chicken scurried by.

It was hot, the sky a fiery orange.  He looked up and the air was streaked with flashes of light as the rocks kicked up by the giant meteorite strike fell back to Earth.  The destruction that helped wipe out eighty percent of all surface life sixty-five million years ago fell around him.  The last thing he saw was a palm tree silhouetted in front of a huge ball of fire coming straight at him.

End

Masked – a short story

A trip to the museum can have unexpected consequences…

AfricanMask

 

Masked

 

“When, exactly, did you begin seeing this dark face?” asked Dr. Huntley, his washed out blue eyes peering through his round glasses at me.

I was reluctant to talk about it, but it had become so disturbing that I had to tell somebody.  It had to be a hallucination so who better to tell than my shrink?  I shifted on the couch, the stiff leather crackling as I moved to cross my legs at the ankles.  I stared at the ceiling.

“It resembles a mask more than a face, Doc.  It showed up a month ago, after my trip to the museum.”

He perked up.  “What did you see at the museum, what exhibits?”

I didn’t want to say it; I knew what he would think, but… “I looked at paintings, and saw the African crafts display.”

“Ah, and what was in the display?”

“Carvings of animals, people, examples of homespun cloth, that sort of thing.  No masks if that’s what you’re thinking.”

He stared at me, then looked down at his notes.  He cleared his throat.

“This…mask, how does it behave when you see it?”

“It just stares, Doc.  It doesn’t do anything.”

“Well, Gerald, I know you’ve been disturbed ever since your accident, so I’m going to give you a prescription for something that will calm your nerves.  Let’s try it for a while, see if it helps.”

I was dubious but I nodded, and he called the prescription in.  I picked it up on the way home from work.

Later, the mask stared at me from the darkened entry hall at home, disappearing when I hit the light switch.  I eyed the medicine bottle.  Take two tablets twice a day with water.  Okay.  I popped two into my mouth, upended the water glass and swallowed.

After a half-hour of TV, I glanced around the room seeing no sign of the mask lurking in any of the dimly lit corners.  The knot in my stomach uncoiled, and I went to bed.

Of course, I’d lied to the doctor.  There were masks in the African exhibit, but I couldn’t tell him about the one that had looked at me, could I?  The dark, elongated one with slits for eyes that seemed to watch me as I stood there; that had smiled at me with a cruel twist to its full lips that had sent a spear of ice down my spine.  I’d fled the museum, relieved once I was outside in bright, cloudless, daylight.  Short-lived relief, because, afterwards, the thing loomed in every unlit spot, every shadow.

Now, a sound awakens me.  Oddly, I can’t move.  I realize I’m in the museum, in the African exhibit room.  A man stands before me.  He looks familiar: he’s my doppelgänger.  Raking me with his cold eyes, he smiles wickedly, knowingly, and exits the room.

Then, I see the mask staring woodenly at me.  It’s a reflection from a mirror on the opposite wall.

If I could scream, I would.

 

The Dance – A short story

A short story for perusal…

july contest

The Dance

Alarac watches us.  It is impossible to see any expression on his face as it is hidden behind the full mask that protects him from the noxious fumes whirling around.  He is dressed in full regalia, his drag rope looped over his shoulder.  He is seated on the containers that hold our remaining dry rations.

It is hard for me to keep my eyes away from the oil lamp on the case beside him.  He will only place the colored powder on the flame when he makes his choice.

I do a pirouette, rising up on my toes, then I go into a plié.  There is no applause, no cheering – we do not dance to entertain.

My skin is itching; soon it will start to burn, but we are required to dance in only our threadbare undergarments and bare feet.  We dance on the only patch of ground that does not smoke, but even so, my feet already sting.  Alarac will make his decision before it gets so difficult that we must withdraw into the cave.

I leap and go into a fast run and somersault over Brin who is down on one knee as part of his routine.  I pray I do not lose my thin respirator, the only breathing apparatus allowed during the dance.  I am beginning to tire but I must continue.

We know that of the four of us dancing, only three will prevail.  Whoever Alarac decides against will not be given further consideration.

I only succeeded the last time because Sheila lost her balance and fell.  Until then, she had been dancing beautifully whereas I had sustained two stumbles that were sure to get my color thrown into the lamp.

I try not to notice how well Brin is moving.  He is stronger than I, though none of us are as strong as Alarac, so his leaps are higher, his rhythms purer.

Once, the dance was to determine who acquired a share of the meat Alarac brought in, and who got only dry rations and wild carrots, but as time went on, meat became scarce and the rations became depleted, the root vegetables were dying out too, and now the dance has a different purpose.

The itch in my skin begins to burn, my legs to shake, and I see Alarac’s gloved hand reaching to sprinkle the powder on the fire.  The lamp flares blue.  Shuddering, I drop exhausted to the ground, and watch as Alarac rises and quickly trusses up Simone, who collapsed when she saw her color.  She cries out but is too weak to struggle, and as Alarac’s knife flashes, our group goes down to fifteen.  Her bones will join Sheila’s on the bare and stony escarp where I saw them last week when we went out to search for the few, stunted wild carrots that remain on the rocky and poisonous hillside.

Brin, Derick, and I, will live to dance again in two weeks.  Tonight, Simone is food.

 

End

A Review of “Stenson Blues” by Freddie Silva

 

                          Enter once again into the world of the Seven Kingdoms, where war and political intrigue reign.  In this second book of The Kingdom of Haven series, we meet a most unlikely player, Olaf the younger, sometimes called the unlucky, nephew of the founder of the Kingdom of Haven, Olaf the elder who was exiled from his home some years ago.

 

Nephew Olaf, having been crippled at an early age, is treated as a servant by his family (his last job was shoveling pig sh—er, um, pig stuff), and he is considered to be worthless for anything else.  However, once the family learns of his uncle’s rise in power at having obtained his own kingdom, they decide to send the nephew, along with an insufferably arrogant cousin, to try and curry favor with the uncle since he’s now a royal and they’re hoping some of it will rub off on them.

 

This story is told from the POV of the nephew, and is, in one sense, a coming of age story.  I enjoyed getting inside his head, knowing his thoughts and feelings, seeing his insecurities, watching him grow, and I know this is his story, however, I kind of missed interacting with Olaf the uncle, who’s story was told in the first book (The Order of the Wolf) from his POV.  I would have enjoyed seeing him having had more of a presence.  Just my opinion, though, probably because Olaf the nephew is so young, and the uncle is older – and so am I.

 

Still, it was quite an enjoyable read (I read it in one sitting because every time I tried to put it down, it sort of wouldn’t let me!), one that can be enjoyed by just about any age group.  Though there is not as much action as is in the first one (though there is some), the sense of the adventure of a different, less high-tech world is still there, and there is tons of intrigue.  And, yeah, as soon as the next one is out, I will run right out (or to my nearest internet device) and buy it too!

Three for FREE: Ebooks at Smashwords…

FREE #Scifi & Fantasy for the July Summer/Winter Sale at Smashwords (use coupon SW100 for all)

Seed 1 page-21 A Blankie for Baby 1

SEED – Abandoned on an alien planet, Second must learn to co-exist with a group of primitives in order to survive.

MOVING DAY – Apparently, you just can’t have a moving day without something going wrong. Go figure.

A BLANKIE FOR BABY – Making a blanket for the expected bundle of joy of a  friend can sometimes get more complicated than anticipated; especially if the parents are…unusual, and special yarn is needed – and you’re a werewolf!  Vampires and ghouls and demons – OH MY!

 

FREE E-Book at Smashwords – HARD CHANGES

HARD CHANGES, a sci-fi novelette of a family’s fight for survival on an alien world, is FREE for a limited time only, at Smashwords!  This is the prequel to the new novel, BRIDGE, coming out on 6/30.  (Click here or on icon below, and use coupon SW63G )

Available only at Amazon.com

 

 

Coming June 30th

Coming June 30th – Bridge, a novel

 

Randa and Ostrich17

There are many tales from the period in Boucher’s World history known as the Change.  This is one from near the beginning of that time.

The race of beings on Boucher’s World, called Elvwists, are telepathic psychics with various other extra-sensory abilities, and now, suddenly, the new generation of the Humans of that world has been born with these same abilities.  It is an event that will change both societies forever.

Two years after Randa faced  hard changes when her vow-mate left home to go fishing and met with misfortune, she had to take her family and leave her home in the foothills of the mountains, fleeing marauders who would kill her children for being different.  They were rescued by the Elvwists and taken to a village set up for the safety of the new Humans.

Randa is not one of the Changed Humans, having been born six years too early, but this does not worry her and she is neither jealous nor afraid of the new Humans as are some people.  How can she be, when her children are among the Changed?  Her task now is to raise them and figure out how to carve out a place for herself in the much different environs in which she finds herself, and where she has to fight culture shock and loneliness.  Will she be able to bridge the gap between the old ways and the new?

 

This is a sequel to the novelette, Hard Changes

Almost

Almost

Did you ever think about the word, “almost”? My daughter and I were sitting out on the deck, shooting the breeze and vaping.  What’s vaping?  It’s a term used by smokers who’ve switched to e-cigarettes, which uses a process of vaporizing liquids containing a nicotine extract, instead of actual tobacco.  So it’s “vaping” instead of “smoking”.

Don’t ask me if it’s better for you; I don’t know.  I’ve only been doing it for about a month.  I have to admit, though, that I breathe a bit easier, so I guess that’s something.  I hope to be able to quit smoking or vaping one day, but, I digress; that’s another whole post, and not what this one is about.

My daughter and I got to talking about the word “almost”, and thinking of some of the “almosts” that sometimes happen.  I have to give it to my daughter – she thought of some I never would have.  Our thoughts on it were set off by the phrase “almost won” which I think she’d just heard in reference to a basketball game.

Almost won?” she scoffed.  “Doesn’t that mean they lost?  That’s like saying “I almost got away from the cops after robbing that bank”!

Hmm, thought I, she does have a point.  “Give me some more examples of situations that didn’t quite cut it, that almost got there but didn’t.” She was happy to oblige.  And throwing reasons in with some of them, too.

Almost passed – as in, “Well, I almost passed that geometry class.  Would’ve, too, if I’d bothered to study.”

Almost missed the bus – “I would’ve missed it, if it hadn’t stopped short right in front of me!  Darn thing made me crush my front bumper.  Just because I was answering a text message and didn’t see it right off…”

Almost got the job – “I would’ve had that job but I was a little bit late for the interview, and then my phone rang right in the middle of it, so I had to answer it, right?”

Hmm, those are a bit negative, huh?  Let’s look at a few that have more positive connotations.

Almost dated him – “Hey! That guy in the mug shot on the news for holding up the convenience store? I almost went out with him but I couldn’t get my car to start so I had to call and cancel, and he never called me again!  Thank God!”

Almost fell – “Whoops! Whew! I almost fell! It’s a good thing you had my hand! That sure was a huge pile of dog s***!  I would’ve landed face first!”

Almost had  – “Wow!  Look at that report on E. coli in the salad at that restaurant I ate at the other day, I almost had that for lunch!”

And, of course, there are many, many more: almost lost it, almost as good, almost persuaded, almost cried, almost laughed, almost ready, almost shot him (don’t ask), almost left, almost took a trip, almost wrote a book (my favorite!) just to name a few.  There were some we came up with that aren’t fit to post here – well, I almost posted some but changed my mind.

If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, and hoping I’m finally getting to the point, okay, here it is: Some things you’ll be happy that only “almost” happened (see above for “almost dated” – or shot!).  However, there are going to be at least a few that you don’t want to reach the end of your life and look back and say “If only” about.

The past can’t be changed, so some of those “almosts” are gone, but for others, it’s not too late, and new ones will crop up, so go ahead, check into that new job you’ve been thinking about (but make sure you’re on time for the interview, and for goodness sakes, turn off that cell phone!),  take that trip you almost went on fifteen years ago (but got talked out of by your friend who couldn’t go with you at the time so you kept putting it off and one day your friend went – without you!), or write that book you’ve had in your head but you were too busy (or too afraid) to get started on.  Whatever it was you almost did, but for some reason didn’t, get going.   Can’t hurt, might work.

Now, when I’m gone, hope I don’t find I’ve almost hit Heaven…

 

The #MyWritingProcess Blog Tour

I’ve been asked to participate in the blog tour, #mywritingprocess, and, I must say, when I was asked, I was  just a teensy bit…well, nervous.

Cause of nervousness?  Simple.  I’ve not been a good blogger.

Three reasons I’ve not been good:

1.)  I tend to neglect to do regular updates, mainly because I’m usually working on a new story – or four (or six…or more) – and don’t like to take time to stop and do anything else (a caveat: I do take time to go to Twitter and tweet!  Well, I primarily retweet, but it doesn’t take long, and for some  reason it relaxes me.  I’ll retweet practically anything but I mainly retweet about someone else’s book or blog post, especially indie authors.  Heh, us indies need all the help we can get!).

2.)  I don’t know why, but I sometimes have problems writing anything other than fiction.  I only come up with something I want to post, oh, say, about every two or three months or so, and after that I have nothing else to say for a while.

3.)  I’ve always believed that if you don’t have anything to say, you ought not to say it.  So I don’t.

However, I am hoping to get better at finding things to blog about, because, in the end, what’s the point in having a blog if you don’t blog?

So, I was intrigued by the blog tour, and thought maybe I could answer the four questions posited,  after all, I am a writer, and I do have a process – um, well sorta – so, though I’m a tad quivery in my flip-flops, here goes…

 

What am I working on?

Currently, I’m nearly finished with the first draft of a novel that I’m writing as a sequel to a novelette I wrote last year called Hard Changes.  While it’s definitely a sequel, it’s a story that will stand totally on its own.  Tentatively titled Bridge, it continues the tale of  Randa and relates what happens after she and her children escape from marauders with the help of the non-humans who occupy the same world.   Hard Changes  is itself a stand-alone, side story/prequel in the Boucher’s World  science fiction series in which I’ve written a trilogy, a couple of novelettes and novellas, even a short story (all of the stories are prequels to the trilogy – at least so far!  And, I guess you could say the new book is a sequal to a prequel… :-D  Clearly it’s a universe that keeps pulling me back in, and is not yet ready to let go of me, so there will also be sequels to the trilogy!).

I’m nearly finished with the first draft of another novel (in an entirely different universe from Boucher’s World) that I plan to publish by Fall of this year.  It’s kind of a dystopian/fantasy.   And, I’m also doing one  in my werewolf series  (Cady and Sam), not to mention three other’s that have nothing to do with any of the above…sigh.  You get the picture.

 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

 How my work differs…hmm…well, in the case of my science fiction series, it includes elements that I guess aren’t strictly science fiction, in that the main characters are all psychics endowed with certain types of extra-sensory-abilities.  There is an alien world, and aliens (also psychics), star ships, domes (no, not like that one), all ingredients that are part of a science fiction story, but these stories are much more character driven.  And my female protagonist, while strong, isn’t exactly a tough kick-ass.  Um, well, in one instance, she does kick-ass but it was a fluke – and he deserved it.  These stories are mostly what you might call “soft” science fiction, but, while in some cases there is a love interest (and in some of the stories, a bit of, ahem, “mating”), the stories aren’t romances (er, um, there is that soul-mate thingy, but I don’t think it’s really romantic).

As for the fantasy/paranormal stories about the werewolves: unlike most such stories floating around, there is no romance involved here, either (I don’t think the neighborhood flirt trying to hook-up with Cady’s husband counts!).  There’s no alpha male and some young woman (or female werewolf) going hot and heavy at each other, no wolf-pack drama with the beta fighting to be alpha or to take the alpha’s mate.  There is actually no alpha, or even a wolf-pack, as  such.  There are some vampires around (mostly friendlies and they don’t sparkle) some ghouls (unfriendlies) and a few demons thrown in for good measure (good and bad – and neutral).  These werewolves are a happily married couple trying their best to live a quiet and uneventful life in their small town, going to their jobs as a barber and a masseuse, and raising their young daughter, but they keep running up on situations that throw a monkey wrench into their serene existence.

 

Why do I write what I do?

 I write what I do because it’s also the genre(s) I most enjoy reading.  I started out as a small child reading fairy tales (still like them, too.  After all, they fall under the umbrella of “fantasy”!), and graduated to science fiction when I was in fifth grade and came across Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot series that someone had, apparently by mistake, placed in the school library.  After that, I read every science fiction book in there (which, sadly, didn’t consist of many) and at the public library (which, happily, had many, many more, thank God!), and when I ran up on Zenna Henderson’s People stories, I started looking for others like those, too.  I was hooked for life, and I knew that I wanted to write such stories.  It has taken a while – one might say a lifetime – but now I do.

 

How does my writing process work?

 Well, I’ll get an idea – and I nearly always know how the story begins and ends, it’s the middle part that’s a bit tougher – and sometimes I’ll make an outline, though it’s usually only a loose one (I confess that I often stray away from the outline).  Then I set aside time to work on the idea.  I’m retired so I can work on a story whenever I want, but I work on it for at least an hour every day (usually more)  and I do write every day.

Other times, there is no outline, not even a loose one.  The urge to write is so strong that I just take off writing by the seat of my pants and don’t quit until I have the basic story down.  I have been known to write all day – or night – when the story grabs me by the throat and won’t let go (since I’m retired, I can also write for however long I want, which means that I have, upon occasion, come to, and found myself lying face down on my keyboard hoping I haven’t slobbered on the thing and shorted out something!).   Then, of course, there’s all the editing and rewriting and proofing, that sort of thing.  It’s a tad messy sometimes (okay, all the time), but it is a process.  One that I enjoy a great deal.

 ******

I was invited on this blog tour by a very nice Twitter pal, Sonya Craig, science fiction writer of the Outbound series, who is a previous blogger on the #mywritingprocess tour.  See her post here.

The next blogger up is Freddie Silva, a writer of science fiction and fantasy.  His novel, The Order of the Wolf, is the first of his Kingdom of Haven series.  A link to his post will be placed here as soon as it’s published.  Meanwhile, take a peek at his blog, Fred on the Head.

Okay, as promised, here is the link to Freddie Silva’s post on his writing process: How Do I Write Thee?

 

This last book in the Boucher’s World trilogy will be out on March 30th.  It is available at Smashwords for a sample and/or pre-order.

encounters cover5

Boucher’s World, a planet in the Epsilon Eridani star system, is occupied by humans and an alien race called Elvwists.  Having finally emerged from a two thousand years long confinement inside a continent covering, transparent dome, they undergo a life changing transformation, and learn, from the beings who originally put the dome in place, the reason why they were kept inside.

As they go about the task of adjusting to their redefined place in the scheme of the universe, they discover that ships from their respective home worlds will soon be arriving, and the ones from the humans’ planet, Earth, are coming with a mandate: secure Boucher’s World for their government.

The captain of the expedition, Timothy Moore, knows the planet may be occupied but supposes the people are at least semi-primitives who can be appeased with trinkets and/or a show of might.  He has no idea that they are coming to an planet inhabited by a high-tech society of psychic adepts, some of whom are non-human.

What will Captain Moore do when he realizes Boucher’s World is not as they presumed?

Will the new humans from Earth undergo the same change that befell the human ancestors of the current occupants a thousand years ago when they became psychics, and will they, too, then, transform? Will the Elvwists from the home world, who are already psychics, transform?

Find out how and why Jade, one of the discoverers of the exit from the dome, once again finds herself in Between, the world of the astral plane, and what she comes upon there.

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