Lights and Shadows Update #3

It’s Update Time again and so I wanted to share the latest excerpt from Lights and Shadows as I work my way through the morass of mystery that pervades Planet Tarson’s Outpost 19. Enjoy.

Moreau jerked a thumb at the corpse. “I really don’t think he’s going to raise up and tell me how offended he is. Come to think of it, we should probably cover him up before he really starts adding to the ambiance.” A floral scent danced its way into his nostrils. The smell was familiar, too familiar to be simply the smell of Death that pervaded the control room. It nagged at his memory. Something from his Academy Days stirred and swam upward in his mind but stopped just short of breaching the surface. “Do you smell that?”

Finch looked around, sniffing the air like a bloodhound. Her nose kept leading her back to the console, but all the readouts read normal. “It’s a very pretty scent. I wonder where it’s coming from.”

“Strange and Pretty.” Moreau said. “I’ve heard of stations using olfactory stimuli to modify staff behavior, but I didn’t see anything in the records to indicate they had installed the equipment here.” He put his reading aside and checked the bullets in his pistol. “Strange odors coming from electronics make me twitch internally. Whatever you are doing, be careful.”

“You’re being paranoid.” Finch waved him away as a system status message popped up. “Good News. I’m in. Just give me a few more seconds to get into the authorization subsystem and…” A blinking icon caught her eye, a stylized M superimposed over a multicolored cube and reminded her of old company logos she had studied in Academy history classes. “Hmm, that’s new.” She observed, resisting the urge to touch the screen. “It’s not The Fuller Foundation’s asterisk orbiting an atom logo. I wonder what it means.”

Moreau stood and walked around to her console. His brow furrowed as he studied the lazily rotating icon with its oddly hypnotic colors that pulsed as it moved. “Are you sure you haven’t been digging in the historical archive files by mistake? That’s the logo for MacroSquare Software, a company that’s been defunct for almost forty years.” He humphed as he watched it. “I’m surprised there are any records of its existence left around after the damage they did during the AI Rebellion.” He stopped and stared at her, his eyes fixed and accusing. “I thought you fixed this damn thing.”

“Thirty-Three years and six months and if you think you can do a better job, then by all means have at it.” She smiled, reaching out with a slender finger to press the icon.

“August on Tarson.” He blocked her hand and forced her away from the console. As he held her by her arms, he looked into her blue eyes. “Marla, did you take your injection today?”

Finch’s beatific smile disappeared, replaced by a frown as she struggled against his firm yet not uncomfortable grip. “What? Why are you holding me like this? I have work to do.”

He pinned her against a nearby support beam with his left arm while his right pulled his pistol from its holster. Her eyes widened as she felt the cold steel of the muzzle press against the soft tissue under her jaw. “I asked you a question.”

“You aren’t planning on using that on me, are you?” She asked, her voice keeping her fear secret. “Think of the paperwork.”

He pulled the hammer back on the pistol. It clicked into place with the too-loud sound of approaching mortality. His voice chilled the air as he spoke. “Union Regulation 666 Stroke 5 clearly states that anyone subject to regular vaccinations is to provide immediate verification that they have complied. I just watched you become influenced by Black’s viral attractor scent. I don’t know how that got into this computer system but if I hadn’t stopped you, I have no doubt that you would have become AI Compromised. I’m going to ask you one more time. Did you take your injection this morning? Evade the question one more time and I will put two rounds into your skull that are guaranteed to turn your brain into scrambled eggs and leave me with a pound of paperwork that I will fill out with due diligence.”

“For Fuck’s Sake, Zack, I have implants in my arm that dispense my immunizations and the calibration card is in my right breast pocket.”

Moreau held the gun steady while he removed a small plastic card from her shirt pocket. His eyes scanned the printed hologram and the dates inscribed in a bold type face on its surface. He slipped the card back into her pocket and uncocked his weapon before slipping it back into the holster. “Fair enough. Let’s get back to work.”

She rubbed her throat. “Would you really have killed me?”

Moreau turned his back and allowed himself a small sigh of relief. “Without a moment’s hesitation. Be careful what you’re doing. There are a lot of things in this place that want to kill us and they don’t all use holographic projectors or pretty floral scents.”

“I’ll take that under advisement.”

Tuesday Stuff

Apparently yesterday I had one of those long overdue moments of insecurity where I felt I needed to vent. Thankfully, those moments don’t happen very often and today I am back to my usual cheerful and fairly optimistic self. Let’s blame yesterday on Monday and move on, yes?

Welcome to Tuesday, the end result of when Monday finally gets its act together and goes with the program. I have a number of things planned today and getting up early goes a long way toward making it a productive day.

A sleepless night of fussing and fretting jogged some interesting scene ideas loose for Lights and Shadows so I’m incorporating them into Chapter 9. Yes, I’m still working on wrapping up Number 9 but it’s looking really well and the story is moving forward again.

I’ve decided that I will be taking a break after all, but at the end of December after Lights and Shadows is edited, rewritten, and released on Amazon hopefully with a snazzy new cover that better fits the story. I’ve also been reminded that worrying too much does little to solve any given situation and the best remedy is to simply roll up your sleeves and get down to it.

On the Sales Situation, I really can’t do much more than I currently am with regard to generating interest so I’m going to stick with I do best: writing kickass SciFi/Adventure that I’m proud to share with you all. As long as I don’t give up, the good stuff will come with time and that’s all any of us can ask for.

I had some time to think about my Writing Schedule, so here’s a brief listing. This is a preliminary schedule so it’s possible that adjustments may be made, but I wouldn’t worry about that too much:

1. Lights and Shadows: On track for early December 2015 release. The story’s been planned and plotted already so I just have to write it.

2. Parallax: Genesis: Book #2 of the Parallax Trilogy will be written during the First Quarter 2016 and released by March 2016. This installment will continue Pratt and Dubois’ adventures and will feature a glimpse of 2223 Earth. Should be an interesting time.

3. Future Finders: A standalone book that is set in The Present and will center around Michael Grey, a young playboy who is forced to grow up and assume some new responsibilities when he inherits more than his industrialist father. The novel will feature secret societies and an ancient enemy out for revenge. This book is planned for Second Quarter 2016 and should be available by June 2016.

4. Parallax: Darkfall: The final book in the Parallax Trilogy, where Pratt finally confronts the aliens that have made his life SO much of a laugh fest up to this point. This will be written during the Third Quarter 2016 and should be available by September 2016.

5. Falling Stars: Another story that I have been trying to finish for a VERY long time. All I will say about this one is that it involves time travel and is set within the same world as my novelettes, Corona, and The Three Safeties, but different locations and  with different characters and situations. In fact, this story is the one that inspired both Corona and The Three Safeties in the first place even though they were ultimately finished first. Funny how these things happen.

6. Past Prologue: This is a planned sequel to Falling Stars that will finish out the Last Quarter 2016 and I anticipate having it out by December 2016. Yes, I am ambitious but Life without something to strive for isn’t much of a Life. So kick it in the butt.

Anyway, that’s where I am on this Tuesday. As always, thank you for being patient readers and loyal blog followers and I will endeavor to keep from disappointing. Have a great day and a creative week. 🙂

Maybe I Should Take a Writing Break

2015’s been a busy year for me. Getting into Self-Publishing, writing/publishing 4 books and building this blog into something significant and holding down a Day Job while keeping my sanity at…well, sane levels. Many long nights at the keyboard writing, too many cigarettes and enough coffee to float a battleship. That’s been basically my daily routine for the past 10 months.

I like to keep busy and I do not like unfinished stories that sit in the active file waiting to be finished. I currently have 28 of them on standby including the sequels to Parallax. Now, I did commit a personal boo-boo when I promised myself a break during the last quarter of the year (October-December) but decided to take on Lights and Shadows instead. I’ve always been the guy who tells others to keep moving forward but not at the expense of losing your mind and beating the enjoyment out of something that at its core is about personal entertainment first.

What do you guys think? I know that any breaks I take mean adjusting personal schedules and of course, the stories will be there when I come back. I wouldn’t be leaving the blog, though; that’s become a source of entertainment in and of itself and I couldn’t leave it just hanging out there in Space.

Promotion Q&A

I have to take a moment to be honest about something that’s been weighing heavily on me of late and that’s promoting my books. I love my books and I’ll happily talk about them all day long, but I don’t like selling people on the idea of buying them. I’m structuring this particular article in a Q&A Form so we can have a little fun with it. Some of these are based on emails that I have received in other areas.

“Good Lord Man, what are you thinking?”

It’s a very simple proposition to me. I write them and then let the world know they are out there. The way I see it, if people like my work well enough, they will leave a review and tell their friends. At least that’s how I’m given to understand how things are supposed to work. I’m not a salesman and I personally don’t enjoy being beat over the head with Book Ads. It’s not fun and definitely a turn-off. I prefer to get to know the author and then check out their work. Or at least get some really good recommendations from people whose opinion I trust.

“You’re self-published. How do you expect to make any sales if you don’t put out the effort?”

Honestly, I really try to care more about selling my work, but the cold hard reality is that I’m not a salesman. I mean, I’ll do it but most of the time writing promotional material is like stumbling around in the dark with a flickering flashlight. Sure, you’ll get there eventually but you’ll stumble over a lot of crap in the meantime.

“You do realize that writing articles like this doesn’t reflect well on you or ‘The Community’?”

I didn’t realize that I was part of ANY community. I’m just one guy writing stories and working to make his mark on the world. I speak for no one but myself. If you need a hug, the line starts behind the creepy guy in the back who smells like rancid butter. Just kidding…hehe.

“Well, if you don’t like to promote your work, maybe you should go back to the Traditional Path?”

Who says I ever left it? Self-Publishing (I won’t be using Indie or Independent Publishing anymore.) for me is an experiment, one that’s worked out pretty well over the past 10 months (Even 1 sale a month is a good thing because someone out there is enjoying my work), I enjoy the creative and functional control it affords me and it’s fun so I see no reason not to continue doing it. I simply have a little issue with pushing my books when I already promote myself every time I have an online interaction. This blog is proof enough that I’m willing to put myself out there for the sake of my craft.

“Are you venting?”

Okay, you caught me. I’m venting just a bit, but a little airing of the Soul now and again is a good thing. I also have a touch of the Monday Grumblies so putting on the Curmudgeon Suit is par for the course. Thanks for your time. 🙂

When Scenes Get Awkward

There are many theories on how a story should flow. The prevailing theory is that there should be a rising sequence of action that goes to a climax before descending to The End. That’s not a bad way to go, but my experience tells me that stories that capture and keep my interest are those that flow more like a sine wave with high points and low points distributed throughout the Plot.

Writing high-energy scenes come pretty easy to me. Start off with some tension, add a little conflict and then season to taste with interesting character interactions. They’re also damned fun to write.

However, the part where I tend to stumble a little are those low points in between. The characters have finished with a major event and are now either winding down or recovering from their wounds. Thankfully, I have plotted out where the story goes but I have to admit that there are times when it seems to drag itself out and becomes a fight to move things forward to the next big action scene. After all, even fictional characters need downtime and the last thing I want is the local Fictional Characters Union 666 Chapter to come knocking on my computer screen and threatening a beat down with colorful metaphors. 😉