Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Philosophical Fantasy (excerpt)" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally published in Maison Meson Quarterly, October 2001; from The Jericho Files collection]

"And you, Atlos," said the wizard. "Are you ready to take on this quest, to take the burden of this world upon your shoulders?"

Atlos shrugged. "I guess so, Master Flayto."

"Then to begin, you must first enter the Cave."

"No. Not the Cave."

"Yes. The Cave."

"But the alligator--"

"Allegory."

"Huh?"

"The stories about the Cave are allegories. Not alligators."

"Oy!"

Atlos turned at the shout.

Scam stood at the end of the lane with a mare and a wooden cart. "I've got our travel arrangements."

"Be certain you don't mix them up, Master Scam," said Flayto.

"What do you mean?" said Scam.

"Horse, then cart."

"What?"

"He means don't put the cart before the horse, Scam," said Atlos.

"Oh! Right! I knew that."

"Good horse," said Flayto.

"You know it?" said Atlos.

"The mare?" Flayto nodded. "Her name is Imbrium."

"What happens when I get to the Cave?" said Atlos.

"You must seek out the serpent Sturmandrang and defeat it. The serpent guards the only weapon which can defeat the Follies--the Hie Dagger."

"But I still don't understand why I must do this. I'm just an apprentice mapmaker."

Flayto chuckled. "Atlos Randmacnallie, there is more about you than you think. Fear not, my boy. You will have help on your quest."

"What kind of help?"

"Me," said a voice.

The two of them turned.

A tall figure dressed in black stood before them, rugged, stubbled face staring out from beneath the cowl of his cloak.

"Who are you?" said Altos.

"I am Vigilius," said the stranger, bowing with a flourish. "At your service."

"It is good to see, old friend," Flayto said to Vigilius.

"Who's the vagabond?" said Scam, walking up to the trio.

"That 'vagabond'," said Flayto, "is from the kingdom of Soren. A member of its elite soldiers."

Altos gasped. "You mean he's one of the Keer'kh Guards?"

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas To All!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Season's Greetings.

Enjoy family and friends, relax, and have a great and safe holiday.

Thanks for hanging out with me in this little corner of the Interwebz.

(photo: Talis Source Blog/scottfeldstein)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"It's Powerful Knowledge, By George" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

A frantic series of knocks on the front door of The Lair startled me out of a trance writing session of savage rogue journalism.

Caution immediately overtook me and I snatched up the whaling harpoon hanging on the wall above my desk and planted myself in the front entry, harpoon at the ready, fluke tip leveled at the door. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor!" I called out in my best Ian McKellen but sounding oddly more like Brock Peters. "The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You. Shall not. Pass!"

"Jericho!" said a voice on the other side of the door. "It's Duke! Open up!"

"What's the password!"

"For the love of all that's Felicia Day, open the damn door!"

"Good enough," I replied, lowering the harpoon, and opening the door. It was my old friend Cordwainer Duke, all right. Aside from Anne, my Trusty Companion, he was the only other person who knew I had a crush on Felicia Day. I silently cursed him as I opened the door.

Duke stepped inside, dressed in his customary dark gray tweed jacket with elbow patches, pair of tinted aviator-style glasses, and carrying a thick leather satchel slung over one shoulder. "We have to talk."

"I had writing-sign the likes of which even God has never seen," I said, "and you interrupted."

"We have to talk," Duke repeated. "Have you got beer?"

"Hefeweizen," I said, closing the door. "In the fridge."

Duke went into the kitchen. I sat back down at my desk. A moment later, Duke returned with a chilled pint glass filled with beer. He took a long pull, grabbed a nearby stool, set it in front of me, and sat down.

"You could've called, you know," I said.

He shook his head. "Couldn't risk an open line. Better to meet in person."

"So what's going on?"

"Remember what we talked about last time? In the city?"

I remembered. Vividly. Omega-13. Covert wing of the SFWA. The Fey Invasion at the end of next year. Urban Fantasy authors as our trainers. I repeated what he'd told me.

"Correct," he said. "And there's more. Did you see that video by George Takei?"

"The Star Peace one?" I said. "Sure. What's that got to do with--"

"It's no joke," said Duke.

I fought back a gasp but failed. "You mean...!"

Duke nodded. "Part of the Fey Invasion plan. We've been following it for a while and thought it was going to blow over. Twilight, I mean. But Azerov noticed some strange patterns going on. He put two and two together, got six, and knew something was up."

"Twilight?" I said. "Sparkly vampires? Beefcake werewolves? That's part of the invasion?"

"Insidious, isn't it. Azerov's been working around the clock since the video went up on the Interwebs, checking in with his contacts around the world. He's learned that they've put together a hidden army. They call themselves the Twilight Revolutionary Army Paratroops."

"It's a TRAP," I said, as if my mouth were full.

"Exactly," Duke said. "Can you get this out to your readers? Pronto?"

"I can," I said. "They're dialed in to the pulse. They know that the worm is the spice. That knowledge is power. And that power is great. And with great power comes Tobey Maguire."

"Good." Duke downed the beer and got up. "I have to go. There are other people I need to see. Including George Takei. He needs to be warned."

"Is he in danger?"

"Possibly. His blueberries must be protected. Azerov says the North Carolina blueberries are extremely susceptible."

"Susceptible to what?"

"Exactly. We can't have anything even close to what happened in Santa Barbara."

"What happened in Santa Barbara?" I asked.

"TriCon. Tri-Annual Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention. Kidnapping case solved by a local psychic. G.T. could've been in the line of fire."

"G.T.?"

"George Takei."

"And what line of fire?"

"Explosives set to go off under the stage of the S.B. Convention Center."

"Not John Malkovich?"

"Or Clint. Luckily George wasn't."

"Omega-13 saw to it?" I ventured.

Duke nodded. "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor blackest night, no evil shall escape our sight."

"Isn't that the oath of the Green Lantern Corps?"

"We have many oaths," said Duke. "That one's non-repeatable."

"I won't repeat it," I said. "Mum's the word."

"The bird is the word," said Duke.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

"The Books of War" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

The Scientologists and the Delreyans were preparing for local war and I was stuck in the middle of the bloody mess because I was, literally, in the middle of the two camps.

Our neighbors Cyril and Hester Thwing were high-ranking Delreyans, of the Great and Holy Order of Lester and Judy-Lynn del Rey, and they were currently standing on their front lawn surveying the blue and white-trimmed house across the street and to the left.

Cyril was a huge, barrel-chested man well over six-and-a-half feet, with a thick shock of red hair pulled back into a ponytail and equally thick beard that fell over his chest. Hester was shorter than her husband by only two inches, with long red hair that fell to the middle of her back, wound in a thick braid, had the face of a supermodel and the build of a woman who either worked out with bulldozers or wrestled Brahma bulls.

Both were dressed like pirates: blousy shirt under a knee-length brocaded coat, knee-high boots, tricorn hat, a cutlass at their hips held by a baldric, and a brace of pistols.

I stood on my front walk with my morning paper and looked over the hedge that ran between our houses. "Ahoy, mateys," I said.

"Jericho," said Cyril, without looking at me, his voice a rich, sonorous baritone. " 'Ware the dungballed pump-pullers off the port bow."

"I know," I said. "The bastards have been taunting me all week. They even had the audacity to call me a 'lint licker.' "

"Using an open source sound editing program?" said Hester.

"Yeah, and blasted through speakers somewhere on their property," I said.

"Ruffians," said Cyril.

Then a tinny, amplified voice rang out from across the street: "You are all cabbage! Normal persons wouldn't steal pituitaries!"

"You know they're the ones who've been nailing dead weasels on your front door, right?" said Hester.

"What!" I said. "Anne and I were thinking it was the gun controllers down the street."

"No," said Cyril. "They're not that imaginative. Always parroting talking points by rote." He gestured toward the Scientologists. "It was them."

Suddenly, a mass of rectangular objects shot up into the sky from behind the Scientologist house, arced overhead, and rained down onto the sidewalk in front of us.

I dashed forward to look.

Several mass-market paperback copies of The Sword of Shannara bearing the Del Rey logo on the spine had been neatly chopped in half and flung at us.

Hester was at my side and I heard her sharp intake of breath.

"Goddamn animals!" she spat. "Greg and Tim would be horrified at this treatment of their cover work!"

"Especially Tim," I said, "may the gods rest his soul."

Cyril was there now, down on one knee and examining one of the chopped copies. "Foul beasts," he said and held up the fragment of book, his expression grim. "These were first printings."

Hester growled. "They wanna play dirty? We'll play dirty." She whirled and stalked back into their house.

"What next?" I asked.

Cyril watched his wife disappear inside, his eyes narrowed. "Not sure. But hell hath no fury and all that."

I nodded in agreement and turned to look at the Scientologist house. In the front window, I could see a pair of eyes peering out from the edges of curtains.

According to Cyril, they were Ray and Edith Jones, late of Los Angeles, and they worked for the Church of Scientology International's Office of Special Projects, aka OSP. The OSP, under the oversight of the Sea Org (their elite inner circle of Scientologists), was actually a secret army of shock troops whose mission was to seek out and destroy suppressive persons--their opponents and enemies.

That meant the Thwings.

That mean me and Anne.

At that moment, I patted the .45-caliber pistol in the flap holster at my hip, hidden beneath my safari jacket.

Good. Still there.

Praemonitus, praemunitus goes the Latin.

Forewarned is forearmed.

I knew the Joneses had only moved in a few months ago and when Cyril had found out they were Scientologists, he and Hester had begun war preparations. He'd told me and Anne shortly thereafter and the two of us had taken to keeping armed at all times. After all, I had told the Jonses they were batshit crazy. They hadn't liked that. It was good to know they'd been the ones to hang the dead weasels on our door. Probably also the ones who spray painted "monkey fuckers" across our garage.

Conniving toads.

I remembered asking Cyril some weeks earlier when the war between the Scientologists and the Delreyans had begun.

"Technically, mid-September 1949," Cyril had said. "That was when Hubbard started talking to Campbell about dianetics. Then came the article 'Dianetics' in the May 1950 issue of Astounding. A lot of hullabaloo when the issue came out. Lester panned it in a speech at Hydracon that July. And later in Marvel Science Stories the following May. But the Great and Holy Order didn't form until late '93, after Lester passed away. Hester and I joined in June of '94. Skirmishes had already been fought, but under the radar of most people."

"Covert stuff then?" I'd asked.

"Very covert," Cyril had replied.

At that moment Hester appeared from the side of their house pushing a wheelbarrow toward the sidewalk. It was piled high with copies of Battlefield Earth, Buckskin Brigades, Final Blackout, the Mission Earth series, Typewriter in the Sky, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, Dianetics 55, and The Way to Happiness. On top of the pile was a five-gallon jerrycan. When she reached the sidewalk, she parked the 'barrow, picked up the jerrycan, popped the cap, and began pouring its contents onto the books.

The sharp tang of gasoline hit my nostrils.

"Hester!" I called. "Sweet Mother of Dingos, Woman! Don't do it!"

"Back off, Jericho," Hester snarled, then pulled a Zippo lighter from the sash at her waist and thumbed the cover open.

"For the love of Anakin, don't fall to the dark side!" I said. "You're about to pull a Godwin!"

Cyril stepped between us. "Not that Godwin, Jericho," he intoned. "The other Godwin." He pointed to the chopped paperbacks. "You know it's right. You saw what they did."

That stopped me in my tracks like a punch to the balls.

h amount of fuel will not power an EDS with a mass of m plus x safely to its destination.

Cyril was right. It was the other Godwin.

I stared down at the surgically sliced sections of Shannara and could almost hear the pages crying out in agony. Like being sliced with razor blades and left in a lemon juice bath.

Bile bubbled at the back of my throat.

Barbaric. Simply barbaric.

At least Hester's way would be cleansing.

Yes. Cleansing.

A cleansing fire.

Purification.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

Requiescat in pace, baby.

I gritted my teeth, felt my eyes welling up with tears. "So be it," I said, my voice husky with emotion.

Cyril gave me a short nod and turned to Hester.

Hester snatched a soaked copy of Dianetics from the wheelbarrow and held it up. In her other hand, she flicked on the lighter. Then she faced the Scientologist house.

"Hear me, Defilers!" she called out, her voice ringing. "You have desecrated our books! Therefore we will desecrate the books of your lying, hack writer overlord! Xenu can kiss my ass!"

Then she lit the book and hurled it into the wheelbarrow. The entire pile gave a whuff! and erupted in huge tongues of flame that licked at the sky.

The Scientologist house screamed.

"You'll pay for this!" they screeched.

"Bring it!" Hester called back.

And local war descended upon us.

No matter, though.

I was armed.

And I was a Professional.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!

Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

In Which I Pimp Upcoming Books by Regan Summers and Tiffany Allee

A couple of my author compatriots have books coming out next year (which means in a few weeks). Both are UF, and both look like a lot of fun.

Don't Bite The Messenger by Regan Summers is from Carina Press

Banshee Charmer by Tiffany Allee is from Entangled Publishing

Put them on your list, pre-order now, or get them when they're hot off the presses.

Go. Now. Do it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"A Dire Warning" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

"Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world"
—"The Second Coming," William Butler Yeats

An Intertubes Associate named Pit Viper* posted to his blog recently talking about politics and religion, which took me so completely by surprise, I coughed up oatmeal through my nose when I read it. You see, PV (as I sometimes call him; other times, Captain Studpants) does not usually post about such things. Typically he writes about the writing process, discos, and mathematical formulas for insanity.

It was my duty to save him, from himself and from the Politicals and Religionists who routinely troll the Intertubes, looking for troublemakers. And PV (who sometimes goes by the codename "Sexual Viking") fit that description to the letter.

So I wrote a comment on his blog post:
You poor fool! The Politicals and the Religionists have a finger of the pulse of the Intertubes and they will no doubt find out about this screed. Quick! Arm yourself with large-caliber hand and long-range weapons. They will come for you in no time flat. There isn't a moment to waste!!!
Shortly after that, another Intertubes Associate named Katydid* did the same thing, talking about politics and religion on her blog. And this time, she directly named a possible candidate for U.S. Emperor. If PV was a potential troublemaker, they'd likely see Katy as a potential Count Dooku, despite looking nothing like Christopher Lee. I attempted to post a comment on her blog but, due to inexplicable security issues, some involving complex encryption algorithms akin to the movements of distant solar flares, I was unable to do so.

Which, no doubt, begs the question from you, Dear Readers: "Why do you consort with snakes and insects?"

But more importantly: "Did they—your snake and insect compatriots—not know the dangers of discussing politics and religion? Especially on the Intertubes?"

It seems they don't. Or at least, they didn't realize the depth of that danger.

Unlike me, of course. I learned of the power of the Politicals and Religionists nearly twenty years ago. Back then, they trolled the wilds of Usenet, CompuServe, and AOL. I narrowly missed being one of their targets, if not for the swift use of applied esoterica. A throwaway mention of Exo-Man sent them sniffing elsewhere, completely ignoring me.

Saved by Martin Caidin, despite the fact that I didn't care for his Indy-Sky Pirates novel. But Steve Austin had been a good television companion in my youth, so it balanced out.

I later learned from Skinner, my go-to info guy, that Michelangelo (neither the artist nor the turtle) was a product of a Politicals/Religionists strike against its enemies, though why it began in New Zealand is not fully known. (Skinner thinks it was simply to mislead and I tend to agree with him. It helps to agree with Skinner on such things. He is well-entrenched in that sort of knowledge.)

But I saw the panic and destruction that Michelangelo wrought upon the world back then, including LANSpool. And that was only in the early 90s. Given the advancement of computer technology, the Intertubes, and LOLCats, a similar event today would be hugely bad.

Instant Apocalypse.

Consider this a warning, Dear Readers. A dire warning. Quite different from dire wolves, despite also being of dire-ness dire-ity.

And the warning is this: Don't poke the caged Politicals and Religionists.

They bite.

*Names have been changed to protect Pope Innocent.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"The Depravity of Network Television" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

We were six hours into streaming The Gates via Netflix when "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana blared from my phone. The cats, who had been sitting quietly by our feet next to the couch, bared teeth, hissed and yowled, ears flattening, eyes going to slits, and batted at the air around them with exposed claws.

I hurried to my desk to answer the damned thing.

"Unforgiveable depraved son of a motherless loon!" I screamed into it. "How dare you interrupt our Netflixing. We were trying to figure out if Devon was a body snatcher when you interfered. Now speak or begone!"

"Or we'll have you boiled in man-boob sweat!" Anne called out from the couch.

"You foul bastard!" said the voice on the other end of the line. "Man-boob sweat is just wrong."

It was my good friend Parker from The Peninsula, who fought deranged computer hackers in command-line steel cage matches by day and fired off large-caliber hand weapons and tromped across online game realms by night. The Peninsula lay across San Francisco Bay, west of The Lair, a mysterious land shrouded in fog. I grew up there, and Parker knew how to survive the wild inhuman places with only a high-powered Dremel and a six-pack of Henry Weinhard's Cream Soda.

"You mutant coelacanth," I replied. "Good to hear from you."

"Who is Devon and why is she a pod person? And is Donald Sutherland involved? Or Leonard Nimoy?"

"We're watching The Gates on Netflix. Rhona Mitra is a vampire again but thankfully, she's sparkle-free. And Prince Edvard of Denmark left Julia Stiles to embrace a blood-drinker's life."

"The Gates?" said Parker. "Urban fantasy in an HOA?"

"That's the one."

"I'll bet Edvard left Julia because she was canoodling with Jason Bourne. Or was it The Joker?"

"But Evard is with Rhona now so that's a plus," I said. "Six eps in and it's pretty good. Shame it got canceled. Damn ABC and the Networks."

"The fate of Firefly and others," said Parker, his voice mournful.

"Network Execs are fools. I made a study of this."

"I remember. Two months, was it?"

"Six," I said. "In depth. By the time it was over I was so disgusted with their practices I nearly gave birth to a Chia Pet. They have no imagination or sense of their audience. Unless your count Bat Boy fans and those people who follow alien anal probe news. Just a bunch of delirious wide-eyed swine with brain parasites. They should be packed into small cages where hyperactive children can poke them with sharp sticks."

"You should just stick with anime," said Parker. "The pinnacle of visual entertainment phantasmagoria."

Parker was a huge anime aficionado. He had a closet full of DVDs and other memorabilia that threatened to burst open and bury smaller men. Willow Ufgood and Tyrion Lannister would not survive such an event, even if Tyrion had seen Wash standing on the roof of an English manor totally starkers and hopped up on acid. But Parker was six feet tall and broad shouldered. He could stave off the deluge with a twitch of the eyebrow. His wife, Mary, had been after him for years to build more storage space for his collection but Parker used most of his workshop time attempting to create a hand-held sun.

Parker was also a flashlight fetishist. But that's another story for another, depraved, soulless evening.

"And speaking of Bat Boy," Parker went on, "he was a chiropteran."

"As a matter of fact, we just finished Blood+."

"Good man," said Parker. "I'll forgive the excursion to network television But anime is the way to go."

"As long as it doesn't involve Matrix Boobs. That was a bit much."

"It was. But a small price to pay."

"Time's a-wasting!" Anne called out.

"Is that Anne?" said Parker. "Tell her I said hello."

I told Anne.

"Call back later!" Anne replied. "We're in the middle of entertainment. He's talked for too long!"

"Damn your timekeeping, Woman!" I shot back, then said to Parker, "I'd better go before she boils me in man-boob sweat. Death may follow."

"Let me know when you'll be heading this way again," he said. "I'll muster the troops and we'll revel in burgers and LAN parties."

Glorious.

Nothing like gluttony and technology.

And no boiled man-boob sweat to worry about.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Plan B From Outer Space" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

I was knee-deep in research material, mainlining Swedish Fish and scenting with a classic bottle of Liquid Paper, when something howled nearby, a bloodcurdling noise that froze me to the short and curlies.

"Sweet Mother of Dingos!" I said, leaping from my desk chair and snatching up the whaling harpoon from the wall. "What poor unfortunate soul is getting a Lovecraftian horrors enema?"

"It's your cellphone," Anne, my Trusty Companion, called out from the couch.

"Can't be," I replied. "It's supposed to play from Carmina Burana, not some whacked-out demented bluegrass death metal."

The howl sounded again. I could feel the noise searing into my brain like a flaming railroad spike through the temples.

I bounded onto my desk, the harpoon held at the ready. "Where are you, you damned white whale?"

"Answer it already," said Anne. "I'm trying to watch my show."

"Show yourself, foul beast!"

"Check under that stack of papers next to your computer."

"Those are Important Notes."

"Check it anyway."

I jammed the harpoon into the stack. It toppled, spilling printouts, scrawled-on notepapers, and a bronze kazoo.

Then my cellphone tumbled out.

"O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana blared from it.

"Ha-HA!" I said, snatching it from the pile of papers.

"Told you," said Anne. "Can I get back to my show now?"

"Return to Robin Hood 90210," I said then keyed the speaker. "Begin your utterances!"

"You're late again, you diseased hamster penis!" said the raspy voice on the other end of the line. "Where's the goddamn article you promised?"

Milton Seth Jones was a right bastard. A savage and obscene man who probably enjoyed being shocked with defibrillator pads applied to his left testicle.

He was also an editor.

My editor. At The Oblivious Plethora.

I loathed him with a visceral hatred akin to a sledgehammer hit to the scrotum.

But a good loathing. A friendly loathing. A loathing accompanied by beer and drunken singing.

"Article?" I said. "What in the name of the wind are you blabbering about, Jonesy?"

"You owe me ten thousand words on the steel cage match between print books and e-books," said Jones.

"Would you settle for a thousand words and four boxes of Swedish Fish?"

"Gadzooks!" Jones replied. "I might at that."

I got down off my desk and grinned to myself. Jones and I were both confectionary aficionados with similar tastes and I knew Swedish Fish was one of his weaknesses.

"Excellent," I said. "I'll send those right on over."

"See that you do," he said. "But that's not the only reason I called. I decided to take you up on your offer and run that John Joseph Adams interview you wrote."

"Sounds good," I said.

"Is it true the two of you are buds?"

"We are," I said. "I serenaded him while he was on jury duty."

"So you can get that interview over to me? It'll be a nice tie-in to the news of his publisher-ship and the merging of Fantasy and Lightspeed."

"Not a problem," I said. "Give me three weeks."

"Ha ha, very funny," said Jones. "You got four days to polish it. Don't be late."

He hung up.

The front door slammed shut.

I turned and saw Anne walking toward me, a folded document in her hand.

"Who was at the door?" I said.

"Process server," Anne said and held up the document. "John Joseph Adams has taken out a restraining order on you."

I gaped at her. "What madness is this?"

"Probably from all those emails you were sending."

"I was attempting to gather information," I said. "Jonesy agreed to run the interview."

"The one you haven't written yet?"

"Exactly."

"You might be shit out of luck. If you'd just sent a couple of emails instead of two hundred, you might be talking to him by now. Oh, and that dead octopus in a box was probably a bad idea."

"It was a Cthulhu Gift Basket!"

"Whatever. You're not allowed within a hundred yards of him. Or Christie Yant."

"By Jove's hairy nutsac!" I said, quickly contemplating my options. It wasn't a lot. In fact, it was next to nil. Or minus-nil.

Then a thought struck.

"I'm gonna have to go with Plan B," I said.

"Oh no," said Anne, horror etched on her face. "Not Plan B."

"Oh yes. Plan B."

"Plan B has something to do with that black and green padded barrel sitting out back, doesn't it."

"It begins there," I said, rubbing my hands together as ideas crept forth from the depths of my brain and gave me goose bumps.

"It'll probably end in tears and wailing," said Anne.

Probably. But that wouldn't stop me.

No sir.

I was a Professional.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Let Me Help Your Christmas Shopping

(Here begins the shameless self-promotion)

One less thing to worry about on your Christmas Shopping/To Do List, right?

Buy them on Kindle and you can gift them. Or purchase a B&N gift card for someone to use and send them the Nook link.

Here's what I got fer ya...

Do you like cyberpunk? Near-future SF? Stories about kick-ass women with guns and swords? Or maybe you know someone who likes these types of stories? Then KAT AND MOUSE, GUNS FOR HIRE is right up their alley. And right now, it's on sale for only $0.99 for your Kindle or Nook

Fancy some urban fantasy instead? Maybe something light to read? A GIRL AND HER DEMON is for you. Just $0.99 for Kindle or Nook.

Want some fun short stories? Want to know what happens when girl scouts attack? Find out in NIGHT OF THE GIRL SCOUTS AND OTHER STORIES, just $0.99 for Kindle or Nook.

And there you have it, folks. Quick and easy Christmas shopping.

(Here ends the shameless self-promotion)


(photo: marciostk/stock.xchng)

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Rumblings From the Dark Side of Twitter" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

I had just walked in the doors of the Banner Manse last Saturday morning when Marv Banner pulled me aside and flashed his Android phone at me.

"Artoo wants to show you something," he whispered conspiratorially.

"Careful, Marv," I said. "George Lucas has long litigatory arms. If he hears you, probably through your XBox, he's liable to plug up your afterburners with legal action. You may be a city attorney, but you're not as large and intimidating as your namesake. They gave him the chair, remember?"

"Pfeh," said Marv. "Lucas can blow me. Lemme show you my new toy."

I held up the two plastic bags I was still carrying. "The beers need a home or they'll complain in German. Hefeweizens don't like to be kept waiting."

He pointed toward the garage where we would be congregating later. "Fridge on the left."

"Back soon." I made a beeline for the door, passing Marv's wife, Helen, on the way.

"Doctor Jericho," she said with a nod.

"Amazon Queen," I said, also inclining my head.

I went into the garage, packed ten bottles into the fridge, and brought the last two back to where Marv sat on the couch in the living room.

"We have an hour before we dive back into Thunderspire Mountain," he said, taking the proferred bottle and popping the cap. "My toy. Let me show you it."

"Careful with LOLCatSpeak," I said. "I've heard that it will infect your subconscious and drive you mad if you're not paying attention."

"Ceiling Cat sees all," he said and held out the phone.

I started to reach for it, then stopped. "Three Laws compliant?"

"Wouldn't be in this house if it wasn't."

"Good man." I took the phone and looked down at the screen. Colorful icons, miniature photos, and words looked up at me. "What am I looking at?"

"Twitter."

"I can see that," I said. "Why? I know about the Great Social Media Giant."

"Yes," said Marv, "but are you familiar with its dark side?"

"What are you babbling about?"

"Twitter Sith."

I leaned forward. "Have you told anyone?" I said, keeping my voice low.

Marv leaned forward, too. "Just you."

"That's best. If too many people found out, they could swarm the house, smash down the door, and beat the mortal shit out of us with Cabbage Patch dolls soaked in the blood of decapitated My Little Ponies. Your wife and kids would be in danger of being sent to the gulag. And you'd have small fabric body parts jutting from your spleen."

Marv shuddered. "I can't have that."

"I know. Now tell me about the Twitter Sith."

"They roam the edges of the timestream."

I gasped. I had seen them. Dark, shapeless masses, just at the corner of my retweets. Never fully formed. Hovering there in Shymalanian phantasmagoria.

Marv's eyes widened. "You've seen them, too, haven't you!"

"Yes, by Jove's hairy nutsac. I have. Just the other day, as a matter of fact. I thought they might pose a problem but I wasn't sure anyone else had seen them. Thought maybe I was seeing things. That I'd gotten a bad batch of 5 Hour Energy Drinks."

Marv made a face. "Those things'll kill you. Better stay with Monster."

"It was an experiment in warp field manipulation," I said, "but I don't think it worked. I lost a pair of boot socks because of it. But nevermind that. We've got to do something about these beasts before they plunge a sword into the very heart of the global social network."

"Yeah" said Marv. "Otherwise they're liable to infiltrate the entire world psyche. We're already seeing what they've done, you know."

"Stalking," I said. "Everybody's following everybody and some of them you don't even know about. Just watching you from afar with a pair of 10-power Alpen binos. Ten thousand watching eyes. Big Brother's wet dream."

"And Twitter spam," said Marv. "Don't forget that. Asking us to buy penis products. I think they're getting too powerful. Powerful of Dan Brownian magnitudes."

"A single fluke harpoon," I said. "Made of iron. Iron hurts them. Drive them back into depths from whence they came. And with a harpoon you have reach. No need to get too close. But just in case, you'll want a big-bore handgun as backup."

"But how are we supposed to use that on Twitter to get at them?"

"You leave that to me. I'll come up with a cunning plan. And when we save the Twitterverse and Felicia Day from certain destruction, we'll be praised as heroes."

Marv threw both arms into the air, hands clenched into fists. "Yatta!"

"Domo arigato gozaimasu, George Takei," I said and glanced up at the clock hanging over the fireplace.

Forty minutes left until we ventured forth into the realm of polyhedral dice and ability scores.

I took a long pull of beer and a thought struck.

"Something else," I said to Marv.

"Yeah?"

"What's Twitter's dominant image?"

"A whale?"

"Yes, and that's where the harpoon comes in handy. But I mean the primary image?"

"A bird," Marv said and went saucer-eyed. "Do you mean--!" He made a gagging sound. "Shades of the Fat British Man with the Speech Impediment--!!"

I nodded slowly and drank more beer. "That's right, Sonny Jim. Bodega Bay was just the start."

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!

Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Invasion: 2012" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

I was sitting in a Starbucks on New Montgomery Street in San Francisco with a large white mocha when my old compatriot Cordwainer Duke walked in and looked around. He wore his customary dark gray tweed jacket with elbow patches, a pair of tinted aviator-style glasses, and carried a thick leather satchel slung over one shoulder.

"Duke!" I called out, waving him over to my table next to a long picture window that looked out onto Jessie Street.

Duke raised both arms high. "Jericho, you foul bastard! How the hell have you been?" The other patrons, mostly twentysomethings in designer clothing or wannabe-retro fashions, shot him vile glances but Duke ignored them and strode over. He unslung the satchel from his shoulder and dropped into the empty seat across from me.

"I'm doing fine," I said and handed him a cup of coffee.

He sipped it a moment, then took a longer pull and smacked his lips. "The drink of the gods, eh?"

"Yes, it is," I said. "So what did you want to talk to me about?"

Duke took another swig, set the cup down, then leaned forward, elbows on the table, fingers laced. He looked around for a moment, then at me. "Invasion," he said.

"What!"

Duke motioned me to keep my voice down.

"Jove's hairy nutsac!" I said through gritted teeth, pitching my voice low. "What invasion?"

"How long have we known each other, Jericho?"

"Five, six years," I said.

"And you know what I do, right?"

"You used to do work for Starlog until they folded," I said. "Now it's stuff for blastr.com, io9, Locus, Empire, those folks. But what's that got to do with invasion? And what's invading where?"

He leaned closer. "What I'm gonna tell you, you can't repeat to anybody."

I leaned in, too. "Fine by me. You know I keep secrets well."

"Exactly why I'm telling you and only you."

"What is it?"

He looked around around again without turning his head, his eyes flitting from side to side before settling on me. "I belong," he said, his voice kept low, "to a covert black-ops wing of the SFWA."

I gaped at him. "SFWA? The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America?"

He nodded. "We're known as Omega-13."

"Omega-13? Like in Galaxy Quest?"

"I disavow any knowledge of a relationship between our group and the item as described in that film." He reached inside his coat and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. "Before I go on, I need you to sign this NDA."

I took the sheet and unfolded. It was good linen letterhead paper. At the very top was a stylized logo that included the Greek letter Omega in uppercase and the Latin phrase "Caesum caudam, suscipit nomina." I read it over. Standard document. I pulled a pen from my jacket pocket, signed it, and handed it back to him.

"Fabulous," he said, folding it up and slipping it back inside his jacket.

"My lips are sealed," I said.

"Better be," said Duke. "Consequences are not pretty."

"So," I said. "Covert ops? Hush-hush, black bag sort of things?"

Duke gave a vague gesture and noncommittal grunt.

"Like what?" I said. "At least give me an idea."

Duke thought for a moment, then said: "Did you hear what happened to the World Fantasy Con Creeper?"

"He got booted from the con," I said. "I read about it on Jaym Gates's blog."

"Do you know what happened after he got booted from the con?"

"No."

He gave me a feral smile. "It's better that way."

I gaped again at him. "Egads, man!"

Duke made another vague gesture and took a drink from his coffee cup.

"Now what's this business about an invasion?" I said.

"Our latest intel confirms a suspicion we've had for some time," said Duke.

"This invasion."

"Yes."

"From where?"

"The Fae," said Duke.

I gasped. "Are you sure?"

Duke nodded. "All these UF novels being published? Preparation. Mass preparation. We've been working behind the scenes with publishers to get these novels out there so that the general populace is aware of the threat. Same goes with movies and television."

"Wait," I said. "Are you trying to tell me that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is--was--a training video?"

"Pretty much. As are the books of Jim Butcher. Also Kat Richardson, Kelly Meding, Stacia Kane, and K.A Stewart, to name a few. Training manuals."

"Supposing it's true--"

"It is true, Jericho."

"Okay. Fine. It's true. So why tell me? Why not go to CNN or MSNBC? Fox News. Hell, tell the big boys like John Scalzi or Neil Gaiman or Mark Henry. They've got reach."

"CNN and MSNBC wouldn't touch us with a ten meter cattle prod," said Duke. "Fox News would laugh at us. And people will just think Scalzi, Gaiman, and Henry are just yukking it up. We need a John Q. Public to get the word out. Especially a John Q. Public who's also a Professional Writer."

"Let me guess. That's where I come in."

"Bingo, baby. This is big league stuff, Jericho. Big like Watergate. Iran-Contra. Twilight. And you're our guy on the street. Our man in the trenches. In like Flynn. You gotta be Lieutenant Hatcher to our Thorn and tell everybody. Be like Miles Bennell, running up and down a highway full of cars and trucks, screaming the truth. Think you can handle it?"

"Of course I can," I said. "I'm a Professional Writer."

Duke grinned. "We knew you'd come through for us."

"I'll need data to get started," I said. "Can you get me some of your intel?"

"Do you one better," said Duke. "I can get one of our intel guys to help you out. Name's Azerov. Ezekiel Azerov."

"I've heard about him," I said. "Writes science articles and books. Also some science fiction novels."

"That's Zeke."

"He's a supergenius. A polymath."

"Hell," said Duke. "I can't even get through New Math. But yeah--Azerov's the best of best. The creme de la menthe. The shiznit."

"The what?"

"The shiznit. He'll give you the down-low. The 4-1-1."

I squinted at him. "What's happening to you?"

"I'm hip to the 'leet speak'," said Duke.

"Don't do that," I said. "You might pull a muscle." I took a drink of my mocha. "When do you think the invasion's supposed to take place?"

"End of next year."

"2012."

"Exactly," said Duke.

I nodded. Of course. It now made perfect sense. Even the Mayans knew about the Fae Invasion.

Duke fished out a business card from his coat pocket and slapped it onto the table. "That's Azerov's number. He's waiting for your call."

I grabbed the card. "I'm on it like Nutella on toast," I said.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!

Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Welcome Message" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally ghostwritten for the first issue of the magazine The Oblivious Plethora; from The Jericho Files collection]

Welcome to the first issue of The International Journal of Integrated and Strategically Applied Porcine Spatio-Temporal Dynamics, an electronic journal dedicated to the review and conveyance of information related to the fields of porcine spatio-temporal dynamics.

We live in exciting times. The science is rapidly expanding and the last ten years has already shown what can be done with a plate of bacon and a miniature warp field.

Our goal is to develop and maintain our position as the eminent journal within the associated scientific literature and to crush the souls of those who dare defy us.

We promote the spirit of obsequial intention and vociferously abide by our motto and guiding principle: "Vescere bracis meis."

--Milton Seth Jones
Editor-in-Chief

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!

Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Damn You, NaNoWriMo! Damn You To Hell!

Hello, Blog Readers.

As you might have seen from these two posts, an entity has now joined us.

And I blame NaNoWriMo for letting him escape from the maximum security psychiatric ward of my subconscious.

You see, the esteemed Doctor Ace T. Jericho has been out before, wreaking havoc and holy anarchic hell in '93, '01, and '07.

But he was relatively controllable then.

In late 2007, using a strategically placed carton or ten of Swedish Fish and an Underwood manual typewriter, we were able to lure him and lock him back into his ten-by-ten room with a touch lamp, cot, TV, DVD player, and a stack of books and movies.

However, he's grown powerful now. Powerful enough to bypass the wards that were thrown up around him. Wards like six layers of concertina wire, a piranha-filled moat, and a minefield.

NaNo, by its very creative nature, gave Doctor Jericho the loophole through which he crawled.

And now he is among us. He has co-opted this blog. And he has placed an uncanny mental block upon me so that I cannot delete any of his posts.

The little turd.

As I said before, may the gods have mercy on our souls.

My apologies ahead of time.

And I shake my fist and curse you, NaNoWriMo.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Operation: Occupy Warner Brothers" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Professional Writer

"This," I said, gesturing to the monitor, "is a travesty against humankind."

"What's that?" said Anne, my Trusty Companion, rolling her chair towards my desk and peering over my shoulder. "Not LOLCats. LOLCats are a gift from the gods."

"Not that," I said. "This."

"Happy Feet Two? Yeah, I also fail to see why that needed a sequel."

"No, Woman," I said, jabbing a finger at the monitor. "This. Kristen Stewart gets cast in Akira."

Anne gave a strangled yelp.

"My thoughts exactly," I said. "What in the name of the wind are these people thinking? Actually, that's probably the problem. They aren't thinking. All hopped up on triple mocha lattes while their brains leak out of their ears."

"You're right, Jericho," said Anne. "That is a travesty against humankind. I don't want my anime to sparkle, goddammit. We've got to do something."

"I'm working on that right now, Old Girl," I said. "Here's my plan. Occupy Warner Brothers."

Anne blinked at me. "You mean like Occupy Wall Street?"

"Yes," I said. "Exactly that. We gather thirty, maybe forty thousand screaming, gibbering twentysomethings, offer them free WiFi and the MMO of their choice, and camp them out in front of the studio offices singing karaoke, doing interpretive dances, and chanting slogans against crap-tastic adaptations."

"Problem. You don't have many followers."

"I don't have any followers. Except maybe a few dust bunnies."

"So how do you plan to go from zero to forty thousand gibbering twentysomethings?"

"I can buy them off."

"You don't have money. Just two pieces of lint and a paper clip."

"Minor technicality," I said. "Then we'll have to focus our energies. Time's a-wasting."

Just then "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana exploded from nearby.

It was my cellphone wailing for attention.

I grabbed the bullhorn from the desk. "Quiet, you technobeast! I'm trying to concentrate!"

Anne reached past me, picked up the phone, and looked at the display. "It's an unlisted number."

"Put it on speaker."

She did and set the phone back on the desk.

"Is this Doctor Jericho?" said the tinny lisping voice on the other end.

"Who are you, Foul Miscreant," I said, "that I may smite thee with a large piece of farm equipment for interfering in creations of cosmic proportions?"

"Is this Doctor Jericho, the Professional Writer?"

"It is, sir. Who's this?"

"Call me Ishmael," said the voice.

"Are you serious?" Anne said, making a face.

"Yes. Ishmael Pequod Bell."

"All right, Ishmael Pequod Bell," I said. "Speak fast. This is an unsecured line and there are wily weasels out there who will stop at nothing to censor us Rogue Journalists with six feet of plastic tubing and a yak."

"I'm an assistant at Warner Brothers," said Ishmael. "I've been asked to talk to you. My superiors know that you probably heard the announcements for the casting of Akira. They just want you to know that they have the source material's best interests in mind."

"Best interests?" I said with a guffaw. "By whitewashing the cast? Surely you're joking. And if not joking, clinically insane."

"We're planning on getting Helena Bonham Carter and Gary Oldman to sign on. They've got the filmic cachet to lend the movie some authority."

"Cachet is not the point," I said. "You and your superiors are treading on dangerous ground. Bordering on taking the source material and subjecting it to an acid enema. If your cast members are not Japanese, why keep the Japanese names?"

"They spoke Chinese in that Joss Whedon space western."

"Are you talking about 'Firefly'?"

"Whatever it was called."

"Your ignorance is showing, you filthy excuse for a walking turd. Besides, 'Mal Reynolds' isn't a Chinese name. If you're going to Americanize an anime classic, might as well make all the names American. Or at least non-Japanese."

Anne snorted. "That might be too much, even for the brains at Warner Brothers," she said.

"Not at all," said Ishmael. "There's already some discussion about that."

I gaped at the phone. "Say it ain't so."

"Oh yes," he said. "So far they're considering 'Ken' for 'Kaneda,' 'Tony' for 'Tetsuo,' and 'Kate' for 'Kei.' "

Anne and I exchanged worried looks.

I was afraid to ask.

"What about 'Akira'?" I said.

"They're thinking 'Fred.' "

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!

Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

F*ck A Duck. He's Back.

Jericho.

May the gods have mercy on our souls.

In Which I Co-Opt The Signal

I am come (cue Charlton Heston voice) to bring you out of Darkness and lead you into the Light. I am here not just to instill Wisdom into the Unbelievers out there, but to ram it so far down their throats that their next bowel movement resembles a Zen garden.

And yes, I said "revered." The native tribe of a small South Pacific island called "Fred" considers me a god, a righteous, fiery deity with blazing eyes and steaming loins, and they have erected towering monuments in my honor, and named their children after me. Bless them.

And so it is time. Time once again to spread my Buttery Self upon the Slice of Toast that is The World.

Gentle Readers, I salute you from The Lair, sans pants and with coffee in hand. Join me as we examine Life through rose-colored 3D glasses...then bash it into submission with the Rubber Chicken of Truth.

You can trust me.

I'm Doctor Ace T. Jericho. Rogue Journalist.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"A Scattering of Rhinos" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

The doors of the Lair swung open and my Trusty Companion, Anne, stepped inside. "More dead weasels nailed to the door," she said.

"Nevermind that," I said from my desk. "There are more important things afoot in the world."

"Who did you piss off this time?" she asked, heading into the kitchen.

"I haven't pissed anyone off," I said. "It's a conspiracy."

"Is it the gun control weirdos again?"

"Possible," I said. "I did call them childish that one time."

"No, you didn't. You called them, and I quote, colicky infants who cry and shit themselves at every loud noise."

"Toughen up, Old Girl. It's a dog eat dog world out there and I'm low on tranq darts. Those wily bastards creep around like flashers in oily raincoats."

Anne poured herself a cup of coffee and took a swig. "What're you gonna do about the weasels?"

"Nothing for now. They can be our battle standard for the moment."

"Battle standard?" she asked. "Are we going to war?"

"According to your voicemail earlier, we are."

"What?"

"Something about rhinos. Then a lot of gibberish. Like confused baboons trying to assemble a VCR from an instruction manual written in Urdu."

"Rhinos? What are you talking about? Have you been sniffing Liquid Paper again?"

"The classic containers are getting hard to find now, you know. But yes. Rhinos. I'd stay away from them. Politically dangerous. Highly unstable. Been known to explode at any given moment." I mimed an explosion. "Boom! Just like that. All over the walls. There've been studies. I've seen the PDFs. But if you're eager to tangle with them, we'll need assistance. And weapons. Especially against those techno ones you were going on about."

"Techno rhinos?"

"No," I said. "Nano rhinos."

Anne sputtered. "No no. NaNoWriMo."

"That's what I said. Nano rhionos. I bet they're tiny fuckers. Nano and all that." I stood and pulled the whaling harpoon from the wall. "This might be overkill but it's a start."

"No no, Jericho," said Anne. "It's NaNoWriMo. Short for National Novel Writing Month."

I lowered the harpoon. "Novels?"

"Yes. Novels. The idea is to write a fifty-thousand word novel in thirty days."

Novels. This was something new. This was something not standard. But I, as a Professional Writer, was agile in that respect. I could bend like the proverbial reed in the proverbial wind.

"Then what the hell do rhinos have to do with that?" I said.

"Nothing at all. I think you misheard 'NaNoWriMo' as 'nano rhino.' "

"Impossible," I said. "I never mishear anything. I'll bet that's precisely what they want you to think. And hear." I set the harpoon down and drew the cutlass I always wore. "We'll need to be ready when the time comes." I pointed to the bookshelf next to the desk. "Get that shotgun."

She gestured at the cutlass with her cup of coffee. "You're gonna hurt yourself with that."

"I'm a Professional Writer," I reminded her. "We're trained in a variety of weapons. Our primary weapon being words. The gun with which we blow the kneecaps off the Establishment."

"You stole that line."

"Not stole. Ingrained it. Deep into my frontal lobe." I took a swig of coffee from the mug at my desk. "Fifty thousand words in thirty days, eh?"

"That's the idea," said Anne.

"It's the middle of November now. How much have you written?"

"I'm not participating."

"That's a relief," I said, sitting back down in my chair. "Because if you haven't started by now, you're probably screwed. Unless you take some meth."

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!

Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NaNo Halfway Mark!!

We're half done with November and the crazy days of Thanksgiving are soon to be upon us.

How are you coming along with NaNo?

Are you also halfway to your 50K? Are you behind? Are you finished?

Share your progress!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Confession Time: Leading a Double Life

I have a confession to make. One that was prompted by NaNo.

I had decided to unofficially use NaNo Time to work on Episode #207 of Kat and Mouse.

But while writing the episode, I also found myself doing another kind of writing. One that I hadn't done in some time.

And one that's currently exploding from my fingers.

See, back in April of 2007, I started a little blog called The Madman Raves. It was a blog focused on gun rights and on exposing the misinformation campaign of gun control groups.

If you haven't guessed, I am pro-gun. And a gun owner.

Now before you all go screaming and bolting for the hills, I feel it necessary to say I'm also a firm believer of our personal freedoms and civil liberties. Privacy. Pro-choice. Religious tolerance. Gender equality. Sexual preference. Free speech. Free press.

So yes, I'm probably an odd duck.

Now--what's this writing that's exploding from my fingers?

That other blog I mentioned. Previously called The Madman Raves, it's now morphed into Confessions of an Armed Californian.

Why am I bringing it up?

In case you were curious what else I'm using my writing powers for.

If you are, pop on over to Confessions of an Armed Californian.

If you're not, no need to go.

That's fine, too.

Just thought I'd share.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Here We Come A-NaNo-ing...

It's that time of year again.

NaNo time.

So tell us: Are you NaNo-ing?

Are you official? Unofficial?

Or maybe you're not NaNo-ing? Feel it's just a waste of time? Or you don't have time?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Up On Drabblecast

I narrate the story "A Happy Family" by Nathaniel Tower over on the newest episode of the Drabblecast.

Have a listen and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Today's Writing Quote

You say "trope" I say "time-honed tool."
--John Rogers, producer and writer, Leverage

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Where The F**k Are The Wednesday Tips?!?

Where are they, Abner? Where the hell are my Writing Tip Wednesdays?!?!

Hold your horses. They're still around. But I have to ask--

Are they helpful? Do you enjoy them? Anything you want to see me talk about?

Leave a comment and let me know.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Reading From the Book of Wendig

For your listening pleasure, I shall now read "Beware of Owner," by Chuck Wendig.

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Read By..."

The other night I happened to land on Clarkeworld's website and noticed the link to "audiofiction."

And saw the notation: "Read by".

And it suddenly hit me--there are peeps doing this online! Right now!

Narrating fiction!

Holy testicle Tuesday! I gotta get in on this!

I mean, I've already had experience acting in audiodramas.

And I did narrate one bit of audiofiction.

So, in conjunction with me finding out how to get started narrating for places like Clarkesworld, I'm also gonna hang out my shingle as an audiobook narrator. Dramatic readings for SF/F flash, shorts, novelettes, and novellas.

Okay. Not quite audiobooks. More like audiofiction.

You get the picture.

Click the link to "Narration" up there under the header for my rates and contact info.

Here's hoping to work with you soon!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Shut Yer Cake-hole!": Dealing With Dialogue

Let's cover dialogue today.

You'll hear this advice a lot (and I'm paraphrasing here): "Your dialogue should sound like real people talking."

Good advice, right?

Right.

Except when it's not.

See, when most folks here this, they immediately think: "My dialogue needs to sound exactly like people talking at Starbucks."

And instead of dialogue, they end up writing what amounts to a transcript.

Now why the hell would someone want to read a transcript?

Dialogue--dramatic dialogue--isn't a transcript of conversation. It simulates real conversation. It doesn't replicate it.

Let's go over that again:
Dramatic dialogue simulates real conversation. It doesn't replicate it.

"Simulate" is the operative word here.

So how do we do that? How do we simulate real conversation?

Here are three keys to keep in mind...

SAY YOU, SAY ME
People speak different depending on a variety of factors: place of origin, educational level, culture, etc. A literature professor at Oxford will speak very differently from an Appalachian miner. And that miner won't speak the same as a surfing enthusiast from Santa Monica, California. William F. Buckley sounds completely different from Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

Next time you're at the mall or sitting in Starbucks, listen to the conversations around you and take notes. Listen to the rhythms of speech and look for the following elements:
  • Fast or slow
  • Melodic or monotone
  • Complex vocabulary or lots of slang
  • Word choice
  • Favorite expressions
  • Complete sentences or fragmented sentences
Don't take that as an exhaustive list, but just a few things to get you started.

Once you hear those elements in speech, give them to the characters in your WIP. Have one person speak quickly but using a complex vocabulary. Or another speak slow and melodic but uses lots of slang. Mix and match.


SAY IT FORWARD
Dialogue should move the story forward.

Real conversations spends a lot of time chit-chatting. The weather. The kids and family. The game last night. The latest gossip. A lot of this before you actually get to the point of the conversation.

Drop the chit-chat.

Every spoken line needs to have a purpose in the story. Will it reveal character? Will it establish backstory? Will it heighten tension or conflict?

If it doesn't none of these things, cut it, cut it, cut it.

Get right to the meat of the conversation.


SAY IT, BUT DON'T REALLY SAY IT
Avoid "on the nose" dialogue.

I'm stealing this advice from the world of screenwriting.

"On the nose" dialogue is dialogue that says exactly what it means.

It's boring.

Avoid it as much as possible.

People will rarely say what they truly feel and truly mean. They'll hedge. They'll tiptoe. Beat around the bush. And if they think they've been found out, they'll vehemently deny it.

Let's look at this example:
LEIA: I love you.
HAN: I love you, too.
Ugh. Booooring.

Now compare it to the exchange we all know and adore:
LEIA: I love you.
HAN: I know.
Speaks volumes, doesn't it.

Or this one:
"Dana--How could you sleep with him?"
"You drove me away."
"I love you."
"No, you don't. You love your job more than me."
Blah blah blah-bitty blah.

Now try this:
"Was it worth it, Dana?"
"What do you care?"
"I do care."
"By coming home late every night? You're kidding. Tell me you're kidding."
"And Bill?"
"I felt like me again. The real me."
I'd keep reading. Wouldn't you?

So there you have it. My three keys to dramatic dialogue. Use them.

Or at the very least, try them out and see if they put a kick into your dialogue.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Surveyin' Mah Readers

Tomorrow marks the 14th installment of my Writing Tip Wednesdays post series.

I'm hoping to write more but before I do, I want to find out the following from you, Mah Readers:
  • How helpful are these posts?
  • What topics would you like me to cover?
Or, am I way outta my league with these and should go do something else? Like herding cats?

Let me know in comments.

And now, over to all-ya'll...

Monday, September 19, 2011

On TURN COAT by Jim Butcher

I just finished Turn Coat*, book 11 of the Dresden Files. A fun read, as usual.

But really, Jim Butcher, sir? I figured by now Harry would know the difference between a "clip" and a "magazine."

Yeah, yeah--I understand it's from Harry's POV. But the incorrect usage makes me go "gaahhk".

Oh and the Indiana Jones-revolver comment? Let's not forget Indy also used a Browning during the fight in Marion's tavern.

If you haven't read the series, go get started. Now.

If you are reading the series, yes, I'm behind.


*This is an affiliate link to Amazon. If you buy from this link, I get a little extra to help pay for a mocha or two.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Enter, Kicking Ass: Your Story's Opening

Your beginning is gonna be key. If it sucks, you're losing your reader right at the start and that's bad.

In order to make your beginnings work, you need to make sure you have the following:
  • Hook
  • Status Quo
  • Shift
HOOK
First thing you gotta do is "hook" your reader.

Most people think this means starting with a bang--literally. A gunfight. A big chase, battle, or other action sequence. A grisly murder. A shocking line of dialogue.

Sure. If that works for the type of story you're writing then go for it.

Basically you're trying to open with an image, an action, or a description that pulls the reader into your story and immediately impacts a primary character.

If you decide to open your story with the weather, make sure it's more than just a description. Make that description work. Instead of opening with
It was a dark and stormy night
and then going on to describe how dark and how stormy it was, why not open with something like
It was a dark and stormy night and Caitlin cringed as the wind slammed into the picture windows yet again, praying hard they wouldn't break.

Because those things were out there.

And they went through open windows first.
Here, you're not just opening with a description of the weather. You're also giving context to that weather in terms of plot development.

The whole point of the "hook" is to make the reader want to read more and with this kind of a beginning, your reader will want to read more, to find out what those "things" are and why they go through open windows first.

STATUS QUO
Once you've got them, set up the world of the story. That means introducing the setting, the protagonist, the antagonist, and the various relationships between important characters.

Here, you're describing the "normal" before the "un-normal" happens. Your MC has a dog, is estranged from his parents, and lives a dull, boring life. Or your MC is an angsty teen who just wants to go to the Academy but constantly gets stuck behind at home to work on the condensers on the south ridge.

Once you've done that, it's time for the "un-normal," otherwise known as...

SHIFT
You've drawn the reader into the story world. You've shown him the "normal" state of the world for the protagonist.

Now we get to the end of the beginning.

Now we violently unquo the quo.

We turn the protagonist's world upside down. Horribly upside down. An event happens that upsets the status quo and moves the story into the middle.

This is where your hero discovers the ring he's inherited is a powerful object and it's being hunted by servants of the Dark Lord. This is where the galactic farmboy from a backwater planet finds his aunt and uncle have been killed by the bad guys so he has to leave the planet or get killed.

From here, your story spins itself toward the middle.

And things start to get interesting.

(Check out this post for more on writing the middle.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Go Buy Other People's Books

A couple of fellow writer folks I want to promote here on the blog.

First is D.S. Moen and her short "A Sword Called Rhonda" now available on Kindle.

And Diana Rajchel has written a workbook for you magic practitioners out there called The Spellcasting Picture Book. Available on Kindle.

Show 'em some support and grab a copy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Prevent Ball-Sucking Middles

You know it happens. Every time. Every story.

Your beginning opens with a bang. You have an ending that zings.

But your middle sucks balls.

So how do you fix it? How do you give it cojones?

How do you conquer your story's middle?

Here are two ways:
  • Failed Solutions

  • Rock Throwing
FAILED SOLUTIONS
Think of it as "two steps forward, one step back."

Your main character sets out to overcome the story problem. As soon as he tries, it fails. He tries another solution. More fail. Tries another. Another fail. Over and over until he figures out the one solution that actually works. From there, your story moves toward the ending.

But the point is this: He tries. He fails. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

And don't forget--make your hero fail hard.

ROCK THROWING
I remember reading a great description of how to build a story: "Get your hero up a tree. Throw rocks at him. Get him down from the tree."

The story middle is where you throw rocks at your hero.

That means you put obstacles in his way that keep him from directly solving the story problem. You make things hard. You turn up the heat.

If he's trying to reach the magic sword, the Dark Lord's henchmen and minions attack him at every turn. If he's trying to solve the disappearance of the rich debutante, this is where he finds red herrings, puzzling clues, and heavies that harrass him.

Get the picture?

You can even combine them. When your main character tries to solve the story problem, the bad guys attack.

Let's say you're writing a fantasy novel. Your hero has to find the magic sword to save the kingdom. First, he's gotta find the wiseman who knows the location of said sword. When he finds the wiseman, have him run into the villain's henchmen. Even better--have the henchmen kidnap the wiseman. Now our hero's gotta rescue the wiseman and defeat the henchmen before he can find out where the sword's located.

So now you've got these two methods to create a good story middle. Question is: How many failed solutions do you use in your story? How many thrown rocks? How many of both?

Depends on your story. There's really no hard and fast rule for this.

My tip: Have at least one failed solution or one thrown rock. If you don't, you won't have a story. You'll just have an event.

And an event sucks more balls than a saggy middle.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Light Postings Ahead...

Busy days ahead, folks, so the blog's gonna be a little sparse.

Writing Tip Wednesdays will resume on September 7th.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Research Craziness

Certain genres of fiction need research.

Science fiction. Police procedurals. Fantasy. Technothriller. Historical.

If you don't take the time to do the research, your readers will be pissed. And they'll let you know about it, mainly by never buying your books and telling their friends not to buy your books because you don't know what you're talking about.

Yeah, even fantasy novels can get research wrong. Or get none at all. Horses, for instance, aren't four-legged cars that eat grass and go nonstop for hours on end.

No.

But some fantasy writers will forget that.

I'm all for research. Research is good.

Do the research. Know your shit.

But.

(And here's the big "But".)

Don't get lost in the research.

How do you get lost?

When you spend more time researching than writing your story.

You're writing a story.

Not a dissertation.

Story.

First and foremost.

Figure out what you need to know.

Then friggin' get back to writing your story.

Otherwise, you're wasting time.


Monday, August 15, 2011

The Motivation Whine

"How do I get motivated to write?"

Another often-asked question I see in writing forums.

And this one bugs the crap out of me.

If you're serious about writing, why do you need to ask this question?

What do I mean by serious?

Serious = wanting to do this professionally.

As in making money from writing, getting your stories into magazines and your novels into stores, and doing it full-time. Or as close to full-time as you can get.

If that's the case, then not writing means you won't get paid means you can't pay bills means you can't buy food.

So you write.

Come hell or high water.

You sit your ass down and you write.

But if this isn't you, if this isn't what you want to do, if you're just in it for the art, then I have to ask: Why are you worried about being motivated?

Don't you just "write when you feel inspired"?

If that's the case, you just answered your question about motivation.

You write when you're inspired.

So don't complain about motivation.

And as I've said before: Writers write.

/rant

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Conflict, Conflict, Conflict!

You gotta have it in your story. It's crucial. Always always keep this in mind:
YOUR STORY WILL NOT WORK WITHOUT CONFLICT.
Remember your structure: at the beginning of your story, your main character's life gets thrashed. Turned upside down. Ass over teakettle. Now he's got a big problem in his hands. And he's gotta take care of it or there'll be hell to pay. There's your conflict. You need it because conflict is your story's primary driving force. It's the thing that's getting in your MC's path and keeping him from getting to his goal. That goal is the solution to the problem. So your MC has to find a way over, under, around, or through that conflict. And that makes for good story. And that's what you want: Good story. Now pay attention to this next tidbit. Conflict doesn't have to be explosions, running gun battles with ninjas, or laser sword duels with alien invaders. Sure, it's fun. But not always necessary. See, conflict can take one of three forms:
  • Man vs. Nature/Society
  • Man vs. Man
  • Man vs. Self
Use it. Use it, use it, use it. For the love of all that's holy, use it!! Use all three forms if you want to. But use it. Or you won't have a story. You'll have crap.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"Should I Be A Writer?"

I saw this question on one of the forums I lurk at.

Which brought to mind a recent email newsletter item I received from SF/F writer Holly Lisle.

The email was titled "If you CAN be talked out of it, quit."

There's a story Lawrence Block relates in Telling Lies for Fun and Profit:
There's an old story about a young man who cornered a world-famous violinist and begged to be allowed to play for him. If the master offered him encouragement, he would devote is life to music. But if his talent was not equal to his calling, he wanted to know ahead of time so he could avoid wasting his life. He played, and the great violinist shook his head. "You lack the fire," he said.

Decades later the two met again, and the would-be violinist, now a prosperous businessman, recalled their previous meeting. "You changed my entire life," he explained. "It was a bitter disappointment, giving up music, but I forced myself to accept your judgment. Thus, instead of becoming a fourth-rate musician, I've had a good life in the world of commerce. But tell me, how could you tell so readily that I lacked the fire?"

"Oh. I hardly listened when you played," the old master said. "That's what I tell everyone who plays for me--that they lack the fire."

"But that's unforgivable!" the businessman cried. "How could you do that? You altered the entire course of my life. Perhaps I could have been another Kreisler, another Heifetz--"

The old man shook his head again. "You don't understand," he said. "If you had had the fire, you would have paid no attention to me."
So here's my take on the question above: If you have to ask, you're better off doing something else.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Plotting Your Story

Now let's talk about plotting and outlines.

Before your freak out, panic, and get overwhelmed, just remember what we talked about last time:
STRUCTURE IS YOUR FRIEND.

So...how do you plot your story?

Easy.

Here's what you do.

Get a blank sheet of paper or open up a new document in your word processor.

Then, answer these questions about your story:
  • Who is the story about (this is your main character)?

  • What's the problem this person is facing? What event turns my main character's world upside down and moves him to resolve the situation?

  • What solution does my main character decide on to resolve the situation?
Now, figure out the following:
  • As your main character moves toward the solution, what obstacles, each "bigger" than the one before, get in his way to try and knock him down and what does he do to get past them?

  • When your main character seems to be almost within reach of the solution, some event occurs than knocks them almost all the way back to the beginning of their struggles, and all hope seems lost. What's this event?

  • Right after that blackest event, another event takes place that throws the main character toward the solution. What's that event? (Doesn't have to happen right after the black event. Maybe a short time later. But don't let too much time pass.)

  • How does the main character resolve the problem? Basically, how does the story end?
Think of this as a loose blueprint. You don't need to know every single tiny detail when you start.

Just know the main points.

When you get down to writing, you'll be able to fill in the details using what you know of your story world, your characters, and the situation.

For now, just a quick sketch of story.

Next time, we'll look at a key ingredient you're gonna need.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Plotters and Pantsers and Outlines, Oh My!

Sooner or later you're going to run into the old debate about plotters and pantsers.

Plotters are folks who outline and do prep work before they start writing their novel. Pansters don't do any of that. They just go in "by the seat of their pants" (hence the term "pantsers.")

Pantsers are the folks who tend to turn their nose up at outlines. They're the ones who say things like "I write about character, not plot." Or "I let the characters tell me the story."

To this I give the ol' one finger salute.

Here's the thing: There is no such thing as pantsing.

What pantsers are actually doing is what I call "micro-outlining."

Even Stephen King, self-professed pantser who says he has never plotted a story in his life, is really a micro-outliner.

What is micro-outlining?

Simple.

Instead of planning out your story in broad strokes, you're working small scale.

A little at a time.

Start with your character in a situation.

Ask "Then what?"

And answer the question.

When you finish answering the question, look at where your character is at. Look at the situation they're in.

Then ask the question again.

And answer it again.

Repeat.

So, really--we're all plotters.

And those "pantsers" who say that they just write to discover the story and after 60,000 words they finally know and can revise with the real story in mind?

Guess what, dude--you just outlined.

Keep this in mind: Plot is key.

You'll hear lots of folks tell you otherwise.

Crap.

That's what it is.

A load of crap.

Look--when someone's telling you a story, what do you usually say when they pause?

Yeah.

"What happened next?"

Right?

That's where plot comes in.

And if your story is gonna work, you need to know your plot.

And that means outlining.

A couple of reasons people hate outlining and plotting:
"It hinders creativity."
and
"I'll be trapped with an outline."
To these I say "bullshit" and "bullshit."

Plotting and using an outline actually sharpens creativity.

Instead of being all over the place in your story, it provides focus (remember when we talked about focus last time?).

It forces you to figure out what your story is about.

Remember this:
STRUCTURE IS YOUR FRIEND.

Another thing to remember:
AN OUTLINE IS NOT SET IN STONE.

The outline, the plot, is a framework.

Broad strokes.

As you write, details that fill in that parts of the framework will come to you based on the characters and situations and the world of the story.

And yes, that can change.

So how do we outline? So do we set up that framework?

Check back next time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Focus, Focus, Focus

I see this a lot in writing forums and hear it from various "writing folks" I talk to.

I'll ask, "What's your story about?"

They'll say, "Oh, it's very complex."

And then they'll begin to tell you the main character's backstory.

Translation: "I don't know what my story is about."

No no no, Dudes and Dudettes.

Know what your story is about.

This is important!

Saying "it's complex" is a cop out. Lazy.

Also, I'll see or get this answer to the question: "It's about government oppression."

No.

That's not a story.

It's a theme. It's a premise for a story.

A story has a beginning, middle, and an end. It features a character or characters.

If you don't know what your story is about, you're gonna waste a lot of time trying to write it.

So--how do you figure it out?

Nathan Bransford uses a great format in this post about query letters.
[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal]
That's one good way to do it.

My favorite way is to write what Hollywood calls a "log line." Basically, a one sentence description of your story that follows this format:
  • who the story is about (protagonist)
  • what he strives for (goal)
  • what stands in his way (antagonistic force)
Here's a few examples of loglines.
  • In a future where criminals are arrested before the crime occurs, a cop struggles on the lam to prove his innocence for a murder he has not yet committed. (Minority Report)
  • A 17th Century tale of adventure on the Caribbean Sea where the roguish yet charming Captain Jack Sparrow joins forces with a young blacksmith in a gallant attempt to rescue the Governor of England's daughter and reclaim his ship. (Pirates of the Caribbean)
  • After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home. (The Wizard of Oz)
  • When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by an insane and corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge. (Gladiator)
  • After a series of grisly shark attacks, a sheriff struggles to protect his small beach community against the bloodthirsty monster, in spite of the greedy chamber of commerce. (Jaws)
Yeah, we're talking about fiction and these are for movies. But the concept is the same.

Focus.

Get to the meat of your story.

Because all the other stuff is flavoring for the meat.

All those sub-plots and labyrinthine plot twists and intriguery and double crosses and double-double crosses and ginormous set pieces?

Spicy goodness and various other nommy bits.

But what you want to know right off is the meat of your tale.

From there, we can move to the (gasp! ZOMG!) outline.