Monthly Archives: September 2013

Project Completion Blues

I recently finished a project I’ve been working on. Due to juggling various responsibilities it took me a few months to pound out a little over 18k. I’ve sent it off to some volunteer readers to get some input and I’m doing my best to wait patiently.

The problem came the day after I sent it off: I had nothing to work on. My brain felt like jello so I took a day off. The next day I couldn’t really bring myself to do much beyond stare at the screen so I took another day to relax. Today was day three and I started to get worried.

Yes, I had just finished a project I’d been writing for three months but I needed to do some writing. If not writing I needed to do something creative to keep the gears from locking up.

When I need something mindlessly creative I work on my digital dudes:
Image

That’s my version of Peter Rabbit. I have dreams of being a comic book artist. There are a lot of ideas that I have that would work in a more visual media. Problem being that I’m about six years of hard practice from doing anything half-way decent. I’ve considered working out a sprite sheet for the pixel guys but that’s beyond my skill currently. It’s still something I’m trying to figure out.

Tangent, sorry.

Well, today after looking at the blank Word page for a while I started cycling through my ‘Cool Pictures’ folder for inspiration. I was thinking of doing an exercise for writing. Pull up a picture, write the scene or story that comes to mind. After going through three or four of them I deleted the drivel I had forced on the page and just started writing.

It worked 🙂

I’ve got almost 1600 words in the first chapter and it feels good.

Lesson of the day: When all else fails, get to writing.

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Elvish Desperado Part 3

He didn’t have much time. The elf picked up the discarded shotgun barrel, popping out one of the shells, and set to work setting up a little surprise on the telegraph. He dropped the keys where the lawman would have to stretch to get them and headed to the station atop the office. The sheriff was beginning to stir as Baelon waked out onto the roof. When a muffled explosion sounded from inside the office the elf smiled to himself and closed the door without a sound. A few moments later the sheriff blustered onto the roof. He lifted a bulky flare gun up to the sky and let the shot go free. Baelon watched out of sight atop the tram.

Imperial protocol was a wonderful thing. A distress signal from a local authority would result in squad of six soldiers sent out for investigation then they would wait for a report for making any more moves. Other than ignoring the general needs of the people, and suppressing any effort for the Elves to become a nation again: the only thing Imperials could be counted on was their deep ingrained need for regulations.

The tram was a two car system, when one started moving the other did as well. Logic being that there would always be a car accessible to the lawmen or the soldiers. In this case, with Baelon tucked against the mechanism atop the car, it meant that the elf was getting a free ride to the fort without having to use the road down below. On horseback the trip would have taken him well over an hour and he would have been exposed the entire time. Taking the tram would cut the time in half while giving him direct access to the fort without detection. All he had to do was sit back, wait, and resist the urge to wave at the passing soldiers.

His Elvish heritage granted him the ability to see in darkness nearly as well as in light. The torches along the forts walls marked it in the distance. He was able to see more details before the flickering torchlight illuminated the side of the tram. The stone walls were built to repel an assault by cannons. In daylight he would have been spotted and shot before the tram docked, but in the small hours of the night it was able to come to rest without interruption. Once it had come to a complete stop, he paused to let a guard march by. Leaving a trail of bodies would attract too much attention. He dropped silently onto the walkway, made sure he hadn’t been seen, and then dropped down onto the fort grounds.

Pausing for a moment, he allowed himself time to take in the surrounding boxy buildings and open corral. He caught sight of two soldiers to the far left, nearly concealed behind a building digging what only could be graves; knowing the Empire that was the best place to start looking. Sticking to the shadows, moving in short bursts, and staying low he made his way over to the soldiers. As he neared he could see a small cart holding at least two bodies wrapped in canvas.

“I don’t see why we have to dig the graves,” one of the soldiers grumbled.

“They’re dead, moron,” the other snapped. “They can’t dig ’em.”

“Those Information people give me the jeebies,” the first one spoke in a soft whisper.

“Do the job, they don’t look at you.”

“What about the one back there?” The soldier nodded with his head to a building farther back.

“Deal with these first then we’ll get that one.”

Baelon could guess these poor souls were part of the caravan. His trail was running cold. Unless of course, this person from Information got anything out of the merchants, and there was only one way to find out. He gave the diggers a wide berth, arcing toward the dark building. The blocky angles and drab color matched the rest of the décor, but there was a general sense of foreboding wafting from it in only a brig could manage. The door was unlocked. A single flickering light at the end of the hallway was the only hint of occupancy.

Doors to cells lined the hallway. There was nothing moving in the hallway but the scent of fear and toil was palpable. Locking the door behind him, Baelon crept forward as silent as the moon at night. As his hand reached out for the latch the door began to open inward. With each inch the hallway became brighter threatening to blind him temporary while his eyes adjusted. Moving as fast as he could he pulled his hand back and let a wild kick fly. It caught the edge of the door with just enough force to catch the soldier coming through off guard.

Light flooded into the hallway, dazzling him but he had enough sense to push himself against the wall and shut one eye tight. After a moment he dove into the room, tucking into a roll and coming up face to face with a befuddled man with a bloodied white shirt. Judging from the rolled up sleeves and the fact that the collar was still buttoned, he guessed this was the man doing the torturing.

A precise flat-palmed jab to the sternum knocked the breath from the bloodied man. The follow up, a sharp stab at his throat halted any cries for assistance, but the kick to the groin was out of sheer frustration. Baelon picked the man up by the collar of his shirt and tossed him into a nearby chair.

“The coins,” he hissed drawing his knife and setting the gleaming edge against the throat of the seated man. “Where are they?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the man wheezed. “I’m just a scribe they-”

“A scribe with blood under his fingernails,” the skin beneath the knife puckered as the point drew a single drop of blood. “Where are they? What did you learn?”

“It’s in my report,” his face went hard. “The coins with it.”

“Where is your report?”

“A courier picked it up an hour ago.”  A satisfied smile began to cross his face.

“I make an effort not to kill,” Baelon looked him in the eyes. “It causes too much of a stir and I prefer to move around unnoticed. Where is the report going?”

“Elf,” the man spat. “It’s going to Kingsbay, straight into Imperial Intelligence. No elf will ever set foot in that city.”

Baelon stood, letting the investigator catch his breath.

“What’s your name elf?”

Elves were an endangered species. For the past two hundred years bloodlines had been meticulously recorded. The Empire had access to these records. Simply by giving his name he could doom not only himself but his entire family and their treasured offspring.

“Baelon,” he stared hard at the human.

It took a moment but realization blossomed in the investigators eyes, “outcast? Oh, that’s rich.”

The human started a rough bark of a laugh. He continued until his face was read and his breath came out in gasps. As the man in the chair breathed out the elf whipped the blade through the air and into the investigators chest.

He looked down at the quivering hilt protruding from his sternum, “you said you don’t kill.”

Baelon motioned to the body in the corner. “I’ll make an exception.”

As the dead body ceased twitching, he removed the knife, wiping it clean as he gritted his teeth. Kingsbay was on the other side of the mountains. By land it would take a month or more if he avoided patrols. Imperials liked to monitor travel by sea, air, or rail. His disguise wouldn’t fool close inspection, but for the right price anyone could ignore a set of pointed ears. There were other options, certain ships preferred to move without too much attention and they were available to hire but he was almost out of coin. Imperial pockets ran deep.

He caught sight of a jacket hanging by the door. A quick check of the pockets turned up a wallet thick with Imperial currency and a badge for an Intelligence officer. The previous owner wouldn’t need them anymore. He slipped the loot into his pocket then donned the jacket. He tossed his hat at the man, landing almost perfectly onto the knife, and put the dead mans’ hat on instead. They were both too big for him. He tied the jacket tight and set the hat down almost to his eyes to hide his ears.

There was a crinkle of paper as he stepped forward. Baelon looked down to realize he was still not wearing boots and that there was something in the pocket he had missed. He pulled out an envelope on unmarked pressed paper. It was an order to escort seven goblin prisoners back to Kingsbay to be tried for smuggling. They were confined at this very fort.

A group of smugglers who didn’t like the Imperials could work out nicely.

“Kingsbay it is,” he straightened his hat.

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Elvish Desperado Part 2

“We don’t get too many elves out this way,” she motioned him to the far corner.

“Shame,” he smiled. “I’ve found the people to be quite charming.”

“Put your knife and gun on the bed then step back.”

He did so, “is this a robbery?”

“Honey,” her throaty laugh filled the room pleasantly. “If I wanted to rob you we’d be downstairs and you’d be none the wiser.”

“Impressive.”

She shrugged, “I enjoy my trade. Take off the long coat.”

“I heard tell about some fancy elven coins that came through on a caravan recently,” he slowly removed the jacket, not wanting to spook her and wind up with a piece of lead in his chest.

“And?”

“And,” he tossed the coat on top of his weapons. “I need more information.”

“Sorry, honey,” she sighed. “That’s all there’s to tell. Caravan came through ’bout a month ago, paid with some fancy old coins that turns out to be Elvish then they went on their merry way.”

“Which direction?”

“I’m not seeing a coin pouch or wallet on you, sweetie and information isn’t free,” she eased the hammer back into place.

“Ma’am,” he looked her square in the eyes. “I’ve enjoyed this meeting, it isn’t often I get to deal with competent people on my travels. I would hate for this to end badly and ruin our budding relationship.” He tipped his hat and caught the coin pouch that dropped out.

She smiled as he tossed softly tossed it to her, “that’s more like it.”

“And?”

“It’s a lie,” she opened the pouch and smiled. “The Imperial post nearby heard about the coins and rounded up the traders. They haven’t been seen since.

“How far to the fort? ”

She cinched the bag and set it on her vanity, “they’re haven’t been seen in over a month.”

“How far?”

“Three hours on the road heading north,” she sighed. “You can’t miss it. It’s the one in stone.”

“Ma’am.”

He donned his coat and walked out of the room. No one paid him much attention as he walked down the stairs and out of the tavern. As far as the other patrons were concerned he was just another satisfied customer, a speedy one at that. There were a few things he needed to do before he headed out. For one, he had arrived earlier in the day by train and didn’t have a horse, but he could easily rectify that by borrowing one for the night. The other issue being that an Imperial Fort, even one in a peaceful backwater was well staffed.

Before he had settled in the tavern he patrolled the town. It was the standard square layout with thick stone walls on the outside and quick log cabin construction for the buildings like dozens of others along the frontier. Most towns like this weren’t so lucky to have an outpost as close and were provided an Imperial Sheriff to maintain the law. Regardless of location, each town had a signal tower, but depending on how remote determined what type. The more isolated a location meant a telegraph was too much a liability and messages were sent with light and mirrors. Being so close to a fort meant that the message lines were secure.

Baelon headed for the sheriff’s office. Following the standard Imperial layout it was located in the center of the town. Being so close to a fort also afforded the luxury of a quick route to town via aerial tram. It was a squat building with a small holding area for a few criminals, there were bars on the windows and a sliding panel on the door for extra security. The only difference he could see from the dozens of others out there was the docking station atop the building. Without breaking stride he walked up to the door and knocked.

“What?” A voice barked.

“Bounty hunter,” he called back making his voice gruff.

There was the sound of a weapon being cocked, most likely a street sweeper.

“Alone,” he added. “I need to check the private board.”

Most bounties were posted outside for anyone to see but there was a special board for those who the Empire wanted alive. Only proven professionals or commissioned hunters got to take a peek at the listings.

There was the sound of two heavy locks moving, then the door opened to show a broad shouldered man who needed to shave. An Imperial seal was pinned to the left of his crimson leather vest.

“Trouble?” As suspected the man was carrying a shotgun, his right hand was firm on the stock and one of the hammers was engaged.

“I’ll be sure after I check the board,” Baelon didn’t make a move, a scatter gun this close would make him very dead.

The sheriff looked out at the street beyond and waved him inside, “Where?”

“Tavern,” he stepped inside, his eyes flicking to the telegraph station in the corner and empty cells. “The third room at the top of the stairs, whoever is in it doesn’t want visitors.”

“That ain’t strange,” the sheriff groaned, relaxing the hammer back into place.

“Send a deputy, see for yourself.”

“Does it look like I have a deputy?”

“No,” Baelon pounced, one hand triggering the catch on the bottom of the barrel while the other worked the switch on the top leaving the sheriff holding a stock and barrel.

The sheriff raised the stock, swinging it like a club. Baelon dipped to the side, sending his rigid fingers into the hairy Adams apple. Gagging, the sheriff stumbled back, dropping the pieces of shotgun, and bumping into the open door. Not wasting a moment, the elf shoulder checked the flailing man, slamming the door shut in the process and putting the sheriff out for the time being.

Grabbing the lump of a man under his arms the elf began to drag him to the nearest cell, only to find it was already occupied. Standing on the other side of the bars was a rakish man who was drowsy or drunk, possibly both. The prisoner looked slightly confused at the sight of the sheriff being manhandled into a cell. Baelon took the keys from the lawman’s belt and locked the cell. He paused for a moment and looked at the prisoner who waited expectantly.

“They took my boots,” the man raised a stocking foot.

Baelon leaned down and pulled off his boots and handed them through to the prisoner, then his jacket. He unlocked the door and waved him through. Anyone who took their time to look at the tracks would see that the same pair of boots walked into the jail then walked out in another direction. It wasn’t too likely there would be witnesses but anyone looking would see the same coat walk out as the one that went in. At night the difference in build wouldn’t an issue.

“They took my hat too.”

“Tough break.”

The prisoner nodded and left.

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Elvish Desperado Part 1

Elven rifles were often sold as art pieces, their elegant lines and etching on the metal nearly as thin as hair were done with beauty and function in mind. For anyone other than an Elf to use such a weapon with any skill was something of a feat since they lacked the inherent agility and strength. Most humans who owned such pieces were at least Lords of the Imperial court and rarely even fired them. Each guard at the Elven Embassy carried a rifle, bow, and dagger. If they sold them at market any one of those three items could easily pay for a vacation house.

All these things made spotting an Elf in a crowd rather simple. Their long barreled rifles were nearly as tall as they were, their hair was nearly luminescent, and they didn’t cover their pointed ears. Even a guard fresh from training and hung over could spot an Elf in a crowd, which was why Baelon took great pains not to look like one.

His white hair was trimmed short instead of following the custom of letting it grow from birth. The hat he wore was flat-brimmed with two specially placed patches where the tips of his ears would rub and his clothes were straight from a tailor who catered to human clientele. He smelled of the trail, just like the rest of the patrons in the tavern and when he moved it was accompanied by the clink of metal and groaning leather. To the casual observer he was simply a tall human who liked his privacy.

On the day that all the magic died in the world the flying Elven city of Ioristeth disappeared. Thousands of Elves were left without a homeland. The human run Toram Empire had been glad to help, as long as they swore fealty. It was a simple choice. Without a homeland to protect keeping only an ornamental fighting force wasn’t much of a sacrifice. Being versed in Elven Court Etiquette still required training in the use of a sword, dagger, and bow. In the age of firearms the Empire didn’t consider that privilege too dangerous of an allowance. They were secure in the thought that a bullet was faster than Elven reflexes; for the most part they were right.

Baelon could see the truth; they were pets, pretty little things to show off when others visited. After six hundred and fifty years the Elven capital was still lost, and contrary to Imperial propaganda they weren’t looking for it. There were hints, fragmented pieces of knowledge from the past which would point him in the right direction. Getting ahold of it, now that was the hard part. Imperial Intelligence, the agency tasked to search out clues for the lost city was, in fact secretly, charged with making sure it was never found. They hoarded old maps, destroyed resources, and quieted talk with cold efficiency. Recent rumors had led him to this tavern and stories of traders from across the sands carrying rare Elven coins. He just hoped he had made it in time.

Being an Elf in the reach of Imperial rule wasn’t as bad as being a goblin or a troll, but the human officials wanted to make sure it was clear who was in charge. The only ones really untouched by the eyes of the Empire were the Dwarves; mainly because they were too useful to alter and too stubborn to listen to the effort. The stout engineers were more concerned with building whatever project they were working on than laws of the land or whoever supposedly ruled.

“Need some company, friend?” A sultry voice called.

He looked up to see one of the many tavern girls running a finger along the back of an open chair opposite of him. She had her copper colored hair tied smartly in a bun with a single tendril draped along the right side of her face. A nearly sheer peasant top under a scarlet corset gave the impression she had more skin exposed than she actually did. A teardrop shaped necklace of onyx contrasted with her pale skin and drew attention to the hint of cleavage near the edge of her top. In a small town on the edge of the frontier like these, single women worked many jobs, not too many people realized how close a town was to utter chaos if there weren’t enough ladies available. This also meant they knew a lot of important things.

“Thank you, kindly,” he tapped the edge of his hat then stood to pull her seat out.

“Such manners,” she cooed choosing the chair closest to him. “I have a room if you’re looking for somewhere private.”

He leaned in close enough to brush her ear with the tips of his lips, the scent of her perfume floating around her in a cloud of spices, “I’m looking for information, not company.”

“They cost the same,” she smiled and ran a finger along his jaw. “Shame, you’re such a pretty one.” Her eyes went wide once she caught sight of his ears. “Follow me upstairs, second door on the right.”

Now this one is a professional, he smiled. “Lead on.”

Most ladies would have caused more of a scene. Instead she giggled lightly as she stood. A brief tease of her finger was the only stray move she made before ascending the stairs to her room.  He took a moment to scan the room, making sure he hadn’t missed some unknown signal, before standing and following her path up the stairs.

“Ma’am,” he knocked politely on the frame.

“Come in,” her voice didn’t even quiver.

Baelon opened the door to see her sitting by a vanity table in the corner. The mirrors behind her gave a perfect view of the doorway and he noticed one panel was turned just enough to see the window as well. More important than all that was the small two-shot pistol she had leveled at his chest. He stepped in and closed the door behind him, keeping it against his back.

_–_–_–
Here’s the first part of a story I was working on. I’ve decided to go in a different direction but wanted to share what I had written so far.

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Monster Hunters Legion by Larry Correia – A review

 

Monster Hunters Legion by Larry Correia – A review

Back to the subject; here is the blurb from Goodreads:
Monster Hunter International might be the premier monster eradication company in the business, but they’ve got competition.

When hunters from around the world gather in Las Vegas for a conference, a creature left over from a World War Two weapons experiment wakes up and goes on a rampage across the desert. A not-so-friendly wager between the rival companies turns into a race to see who can bag the mysterious creature first.

Only there is far more to this particular case than meets the eye, and as Hunters fall prey to their worst nightmares, Owen Zastava Pitt and the staff of Monster Hunter International have to stop an ancient god from turning Sin City into a literal hell on earth.

A brief review of the series:
The Monster Hunter series by Larry Correia follows the employees of a company named Monster Hunters International, MHI for short, which as their name suggests hunts monsters. The government has arranged a bounty system that is very lucrative and they collect these cash prized by dispatching all sorts of oogey-boogeys. There is a healthy dose of the Cthulhu mythos as well as classic versions of monsters peppering the plot. These are good books to read if you enjoy monster movies, action movies, or want something that is fun and addictive.

This is the fourth book in the series but I’d really consider it the third. Monster Hunters International and Vendetta should be read as one book for greater enjoyment. Before I purchased this book I read some iffy reviews that the series had taken something of a downswing in quality filled with expendable characters and plot holes. Every series eventually has that one book that just isn’t up to snuff and kind of just exists to move the plot from along.

This isn’t that book.

Over the series Owen has gained more depth and the supporting characters are ones I’ve grown to care about. Trip in this book really shines and Holly kicks butt as per usual. Julie and Earl aren’t given much screen time but the bits they do show up are good. The only character I really felt disappointed in was the treatment of Jason Lococo. He’s a character that deserved a bit more page time. (Some research shows that the name was actually a fan who donated money for a kidney operation as incentive. Kind of make sense that there isn’t too much on him then. Maybe the character shouldn’t have been one for the ‘redshirting’ as the website labels it.)

Overall, I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. Monster Hunters International and Monster Hunter Alpha I gave 5 out of 5. Why one less star for this outing? It takes a lot of time to get the real story going, plus there is build up that never pays off. The conference and other organizations are there to be a body count. When I look at it now, it feels like the book should have been longer. There isn’t really a second act. It kind of hops from Act 1: The Conference to Act 3: The Action.

My Verdict: Buy the series. You’re welcome.

Final thoughts & minor SPOILERS:
I really enjoyed the interaction between Tanya and Edward. I’d like to know more about the Elves too. A spin off book or short story collection about the international hunters would be pretty cool too. I hope we see Heather again and I’m looking forward to learning more about Franks in the next book.

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Something that needed to be shared

http://krigios.deviantart.com/art/Cowsaur-400143445

A cowsaur… A Bovinus Rex if you will.

 

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Survival… and zombies

I’m playing a game called The Walking Dead by Telltale Games which is about people and zombies. Since I’ve been on a zombie kick and the story is awesome, I decided to dive in. I’m about two or three chapters into it and something came up that made me question the plot.

Spoilers ahead.

The group runs into people who have turned cannibal and things go bad. This is the point in the story when food is running low and tensions are high.

I don’t really see this as a problem. Cannibalism, while not socially acceptable, is a viable survival option. When food is scarce and survival is on the line, why not take the weakest and make them a meal?

I’m not saying just chow down on the guy next door with no reason. We’re talking about a disaster of literally epic proportions that has rendered the simple task of walking outside to be deadly. If you look historically at survival situation, such as a plane crash or a long winter lost on the trail, and eating people instead of starving works. Granted, if you toss zombies into the situation you have to make sure the person is actually alive when you harvest the meat, which implies the person needs to be either injured, sick, or at the very least unconscious.

In a very dire situation you probably could cook up a zombie as long as it was fresh. I wouldn’t want to be the first person to eat it. In The Walking Dead everyone will eventually be a zombie upon death unless the brain is destroyed so ingesting cooked zombie meat most likely wouldn’t really hurt.

Yeah, I think I’ve hit Zombie critical mass. I’ll take a break from the undead for a while… aside from the game. It is amazing storytelling.

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