Monday, December 17, 2012

Cyberpunk Pulp Adventure Returns!

Kat and Mouse are back!

Head over to the serial site to read "Entr'acte" now.

If you need to get started reading, get yourself a copy of the Season One "boxed set" for Kindle or for Nook/epub.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Giveaway Winner

And the winner is...

...everyone who commented!

lmw, Caroline Thompson, Karen Duvall, Karen/Sisters of the Quill, and Christian Marcus Lyons--you've each won a copy of Taking the Highway!

Congrats to our winners!

Friday, December 7, 2012

GUEST POST: "Crimes of the Future" by M.H. Mead

Today on the blog we have M.H. Mead, a fellow writer of near-future crime fiction, who just released a new novel, Taking the Highway.

Take it away, M.H.


*   *   *

Crimes of the Future
by Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion
writing together as M.H. Mead

All societies need laws. Since laws tell you what not to do, then they exist because some fool made them necessary. But laws change when society changes, mostly because enough people challenged the laws by breaking them. This is where we come in. Writers are always on the lookout for conflict and what better conflict than a hero at odds with his own world?

We're fascinated by characters who flout conventions, rebels who bend and break the strictures of a new society. We love writing about them because we often ponder how much easier—and maybe more fun—it would be to violate a law rather than follow it. (Harry, in particular, would like to see speed restrictions on the freeway limited by individual permit determined by a test of skill.) In real life, we consider the consequences and the greater good, and we obey the law. But we admit that we get a vicarious thrill when we let our characters break it.

Morris Payne of Fate’s Mirror is an online pirate who steals the privacy and security of other computer networks. Aidra Scott of The Caline Conspiracy is a mother trying to instill values in her son, but she’s also a private detective who will stoop to some B&E to close her case.

Now, in Taking the Highway, Andre LaCroix is a police officer and thus a defender of society. But he moonlights as a professional hitchhiker—or "fourth"—which means he's seen as an element of counter-culture.

In the newly-invigorated Detroit of the future, every highway is restricted to cars with four passengers. Those who come up short must either take surface streets through dangerous neighborhoods or hire fourths to complete their carpools. Part warm body, part social chameleon, fourths have become an accepted part of the commuting landscape. And if fourthing is seen as a bit unsavory, at least it’s an easy way to earn some extra cash. Or to end up dead. Someone is killing fourths and homicide detective Andre LaCroix seems to be the only one who cares. As a cop, he must solve the murders. As a fourth, he must avoid becoming the next victim.

Then LaCroix discovers that the dead fourths were terrorists sabotaging the highways, causing horrific crashes. Worse, his own nephew may be involved. Continuing the investigation paints a target on his family and leaves the terrorists free to strike again. Suddenly, he isn’t sure that bringing the killer to justice is the right thing to do.

Torn between upholding the law and breaking it for the greater good, it's only by combining his talents in both his jobs that LaCroix is able to triumph, and help fourths gain respect along the way.

Society will never be the same.


About the authors: Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion write near-future thrillers under the shared pen name M.H. Mead. To find out more about them, or Taking the Highway, or if you have a great key lime pie recipe to share, visit them at www.yangandcampion.com


Taking the Highway is available on Amazon, B&N, and Kobo.

*   *   *

GIVEAWAY TIME!!

Get an ebook copy of Taking the Highway. Just leave a comment below with your name/handle and a email address. You have until 8pm PST Sunday December 9th to get your comments in. Then we'll do a drawing and announce the winner on Monday's post.

Quick! Get your entries in!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Idle Toe, Devil's Foreskin (excerpt)" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally published in the January 2008 issue of Anagram Quarterly; from The Jericho Files collection]

Apothegameron's right toe crept out from beneath the blanket, opened a tiny slit of a mouth between the nail plate and the nail bed, let out a cackle, and began to sing "It's A Small World" in a minor key.

I leaped back from the edge of the bed as if I'd been slapped in the scrotum.

Sweet Mother of Zeus!

At that moment, I knew my retractable harpoon would not help me.

* * *

Skinner, my go-to info guy, had given me a tip about the story over the phone two days earlier.

"Place called Devil's Lake," he said. "North Dakota. About 90 miles west of Grand Forks."

"Kind of appropriate," I replied. "Being haunted and all."

"Nice place, Devil's Lake. They got a yearly fishing tournament over there. Run by the Volunteer Fire Department. Nice gig. If you're into that sort of thing."

"Didn't know you were the fishing type, Skin-Man."

"I'm not," he said. "But my brother is. Took me there a couple of times. I kept wanting to fish with grenades but he wouldn't have any of that. Said it was probably against the rules. Killjoy."

"Them's the breaks," I said.

"You'll want to meet someone there," Skinner went on. "A kind of an expert in that sort of thing. I've already told her you're gonna be there."

* * *

I landed at Devil's Lake Regional Airport in a nineteen-seater Beechcraft turbo-prop just after 9 a.m. It was 30 degrees in the shade and I was dressed for jungle country. After quickly donning a pair of long underwear and cargo pants in the airport bathroom, I rented a light gray Ford Taurus from the U-Save Auto Rental desk and drove two-and-a-half miles east to the Old Main Street Cafe and Pub Bar on 4th Street to meet my contact.

Jonquil Burkhardt was six-two with an athletic build, short dark curly hair, dressed in black under a black wool overcoat. She approached me as I stepped out of the car, one hand extended, the other carrying a dark brown leather attache case.

"Agent Burkhardt," she said in a soft contralto. "You must be Doctor Jericho."

I shook the proferred hand. "Burkhardt, eh? You sure it's not Ellen Ripley?"

She quirked a dark eyebrow at me. "You must be one of those types."

"I am a student of popular culture," I said. "Have to be. Especially in my line of work."

"Which is?"

"Professional."

"Professional what?"

"Exactly. Now tell me what we've got going on here?"

* * *

"The Z-Files," said Burkhardt, leaning across the table toward me, her voice kept low.

We were seated in a booth inside the Main Street Cafe and had just finished ordering breakfast. I took another swig of coffee, leaned forward, and eyed her warily. "What--like the X-Files?" I asked, also keeping my voice low "But that's TV. That's not completely real. Unless you count Jerry Springer. And even then--"

She quieted me with a wave of her hand. "The show was a thinly veiled fictionalization of the real thing. Based on the pioneering work of Agents Ross Malden and Donna Sully."

"Malden and Sully? As in Mulder and Scully?"

"Their fictional TV counterparts. There's actually a team of folks working those cases. I'm one of them."

"And it's all part of the FBI?"

She pursed her lips for a moment. Then she said: "In a manner of speaking, yes."

"You mean--?"

"Yes," said Burkhardt. "I pooted."

"What?"

"Don't change the subject," she said, reached into the attache case sitting in the seat next to her, pulled out a thick manila folder, dropped it on the tabletop, the smack echoing in the cafe.

A few heads turned at the sound but quickly got bored when nothing exploded and returned to their own private Idahos.

"The woman's name is Hepzibah Lemongrass Apothegameron," said Burkhardt. "And she claims her toe is possessed by a demonic entity calling itself Ted."

"I've heard of demonic possesssions before," I said. "But never involving a specific body part."

"Very rare," said Burkhardt. "But it's been documented." She inclined her head at the manila folder. "One of our researchers at The Files--"

"The Files?"

Burkhardt grinned. "Our name for the team. Did you hear the vocalized Initial Caps?"

"The who-what-hey?"

"Nevermind." She opened the folder and began leafing through it. "Since 1654 there have been sixty-six documented instances of body part possessions. The majority have been hands. It's where you get the expression 'idle hands are the Devil's foreskin.' "

"The what?"

" 'Idle hands are the Devil's playground'," said Burkhardt.

"I thought you said 'Devil's foreskin'."

"Devil's playground. Although there were two instances of foreskin possessions. But the majority, as I mentioned, were hands. Twenty-seven to be exact. Twelve eyebrow. Eight earlobe. Seven toe, including this one. Five finger only, not including the hand itself. Four liver. One kneecap. And a partridge in a pear tree."

"Partridge in a pear trees?"

Burkhardt smiled. "My own little personal joke."

"I don't get it," I said.

"It's okay. Not many do."

"So what's our move on this?" I asked.

"Assessment," said Burkhardt. "Then, if necessary, containment."

"Containment?"

"Yes."

"How, exactly?"

"Rapid Limbic Extraction."

"In English."

"We chop it off."

"Ah."

* * *

Hepzibah Apothegameron lived in a white one-and-a-half story house on a smallish lot off 6th Street.

We parked the Taurus in the narrow driveway next to a green plastic garbage can overflowing with what looked like tree cuttings and octopus tentacles.

I was about to get out of the car when Burkhardt stopped me, reached toward the glove box, popped it open, and took out what looked like a pair of popsicle sticks in the shape of an X, held tightly in the middle by duct tape.

"A cross?" I said. "And how did that get in the glove box?"

"Put it there when you weren't looking," said Burkhardt. "And it's not a cross. It's a talisman."

"Talisman for what?" I said.

"Eeeeeeeeeeeee!" she cried, a sound like the high-pitched whistle of a tea kettle.

I yelped and jumped in my seat. "What the hell are you doing--"

"Eeeeeeeeeeeee!" she cried again and this time, she waggled the crossed-popsicle sticks in front of my face.

"Stop that!" I said, swatting her hand away.

"It was bequeathed unto me by a Cherokee shaman," she said. "It's a tool to ward off evil spirits."

"Did you just actually use the word 'bequeathed'?"

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" she cried and waggled the sticks at me.

"What the hell is that noise?" I said.

"Not noise," said Burkhardt. "An invocation."

"It's noise--"

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

It was going to be a long day...

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Betwixt The 'Mongst Of Us" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

"Where," said Alabaster McMurdo, between pulls from a pint of Hefeweizen, "have all the Huguenots gone?"

"What," I said, "are you blabbering about now?"

We were sitting at the bar of Mr. Happy's Bar and Grill on Saturday just after one in the afternoon. I was in between frantic bursts of rogue journalism and had gone down there to take a load off. Anne was out with The Girls and promised to meet me later that afternoon.

Al was already perched on a bar stool when I came in, talking up a storm with Louie the bartender, who stood behind the bar, drying pint glasses with a towel, and nodding and making affirmative grunts.

"I was talking about the Huguenots," said Al. "You know--indigenous tribesfolk from the southwestern part of Africa? Related to the bushmen"

"No no," I said. "Huguenots were French Protestants from around the 16th, 17th century. You're thinking of the Hottentots."

He nodded. "That's it. Hottentots. They danced on the rooftops of British homes according to Admiral Boom."

I shook my head. "Can't call them that anymore."

"What, Hottentots?"

"Older, derogatory term."

"Ah," he said. "So ought not Hottentot."

"Right," I said. "Nowadays, they're called the Khoi."

Al quirked an eyebrow at me. "They're fish?"

"Different kind of koi. The non-fish kind."

"Koi that aren't fish. That's a new one."

"It happens," I said.

"It happen a lot?"

"Nine times out of ten."

Al gave a small grunt and nod. "Go figure." He took a pull of beer, then said: "Reminds me of Colorado."

"What does?" I said. "The koi?"

He nodded.

"How?"

"The hard 'k' sound. As opposed to the silent or hidden 'k'."

"I know," I said. "Takes less strokes to write so they sometimes call it a par 'k'. But you were talking about Colorado."

"I was," said Al. "Ever been?"

"Seen pictures."

He shook his head. "Doesn't count."

"Then no," I said. "Never been."

"You gotta check out this one place. Chimney Rock. It's this archeoptical site in the San Juan National Forest."

"Archeoptical?"

"Where you can see ancient stuff," said Al. "It's between Durango, where the SUVs come from, and Pagosa Springs, where the Japanese towers come from."

"Pagoda," I said. "Those are the Japanese towers. Not just Japan, either. China, Vietnam, India, other parts of Asia."

Al harrumphed. "Next, you'll be telling me Durango isn't originally a town in Basque Country."

"As a matter of fact, it is."

"Told you," he said, grinning. "And it's about 33 kilometers east of Bilbo, Spain. Those hobbit folks sure get around."

I drained my pint of beer and signaled Louie for another. "Chimney Rock, Al."

"Right. Well, it's called Chimney Rock on account of the rock formations looking like chimneys."

"I'd never have guessed."

"It's on something like 4,000 acres of the National Forest and surrounded by the Juvenile Indians of Southern New Jersey Reservation."

"Juvenile Indians of Southern New Jersey?"

"Yutes."

"You mean Ute."

"That's what I said."

"You said 'yutes.' "

"You lost me."

Louie came up and set a new pint of beer in front of me. I immediately upended the whole thing and Louie sprang back and looked at me, bug-eyed. If Al was going to keep talking like he was, I'd need muscle relaxant to better assimilate the information.

"Holy hell, Jericho!" Louie said. "You're liable to bust something drinking a beer that fast. A blood vessel or synapse or your medusa oblong glottal."

"Don't worry, Louie," I said. "I'm a Professional."

"At least have some peanuts," he said, pushing a bowl of salted nuts toward me.

I grabbed a handful, shoved them in my mouth, chewed, swallowed, then turned back to Al. "The Southern Ute Indian Tribe," I said, "is a federally recognized Ute tribe. One of three tribes, actually."

"What's that got to do with New Jersey?"

"About as much as the price of the Star Wars Complete Saga Blu-Ray edition in Nova Scotia."

"Nova Scotia," said Al, "probably doesn't have a crisis of butter-deprived children."

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Astrogenghis Speaks: 'The Way of the Gnat' " by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally published in the January 1992 issue of The Oblivious Plethora; from the Jericho Files collection]

"Teacher," began Frank the Pupil. "How does one keep from straying while on the path toward enlightenment?"

Astrogenghis replied: "The path toward enlightenment is like the wet bottom of an infant. That is to say, when the storm breaks, prance spiritedly for truth seldom emerges from the wisps of the fog."

"I don't understand, Teacher."

"To see the acorn on the road is to wrestle the rapid chipmunk. Or, when faced with a titan, scream. In that way lies practical wisdom. In the other lies a dead gnat."

"Teacher, I still don't understand."

"Let me tell you a story:
Two monks were on a pilgrimage to a far off temple. On the way, they encountered a gang of bandits who threated them with rusty nails.

"Give us your money!" said the bandit leader. "If you do not, we will kill you!"

The first monk shook his head and turned to his companion. "A pity, isn't it?" he said, "that these men have taken the toil and sweat of an artisan such as one who crafted these nails and turned it into instruments of death?"

The second monk merely smiled.

The bandit leader stepped forward, brandishing his rusty nail and snarled, "Did you not hear us the first time? Give us your money or you will surely perish at our hands!"

The first monk said: "Why speak of death when life abounds around us?"

Suddenly, a tiger leaped down from the nearby hill, gutted all the bandits with one swipe of its huge claw, then bounded away into the nearby jungle.

The first monk turned to his companion and said: "Is it not a wonder that the wheel of life turns as it does, that one who speaks of death eventually experiences death?"

The second monk smiled wider, pointed to the first monk's feet, and said: "You stepped in horse doodie."
"I understand now, Teacher!" exclaimed Frank. "You are saying that one should stay focused on the path ahead and not be afraid of the obstacles that lie in the way. For in doing so, one appreciates the Now-ness that is true life. And once we stay and keep to the path, we gain the insight from within that allows us to transcend our physical state and achieve connection with the All. Is that it, Teacher?"

Astrogenghis smiled and said: "...no..."

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

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cover Art WTF-ery

Shannon Knight is a fellow AWer. I clicked on her blog link the other day and was cruising the posts when I came across her review of Kelly Gay's The Hour of Dust and Ashes.

And immediately thought: WTF NO NO NO

Wait. Lemme 'splain...

Nothing wrong with the book, the author, or the genre. I happen to be a fan of urban fantasy. And nothing wrong with the blog, the review itself, or the blog owner.

No.

My gripe was with the cover art.

Let me show you it:

Now let me just say that Chris McGrath is a spectacular artist who does phenomenal covers. He's on my Favorite Cover Artists list, right up there with Michael Whelan and Winona Nelson.

Having said that, here's my gripe with the art:

Closer look:


This.

This is NOT proper gun handling, Folks.

It's Hollywood-style gun handling.

Bad Chris. Please don't do this. Ever.

Goes for other cover artists, too.

Please please please do not depict your characters using a firearm in this manner.

Thank you.

Here ends this Public Service Announcement.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Progress Notes

Tales of Episode #207
Revision Pass #2 is done. I'll do a quick check before handing it off once again to LadyAce and her Red Pen of Editing Doom.


Tales of Episode #208
Opening scene is written. There's some additional plotting work to be done but I think after that, I'll be ready to tackle the actual writing.


Tales of Episode #206-B
The original Episode #207 stalled several months ago so I ended up shelving it and moving the episodes down a slot. What would've been #208 now became #207, and #209 now became #208.

But now it looks like the original #207--which I'm now christening #206-B--has unshelved itself. With a vengeance (thanks to fellow AW cohort Hillary Jacques for that lovely description).

And I say "unshelved itself" because the other night, the next few scenes of that stalled story barfed itself all over my keyboard.

Yes. Such is the thrilling life we writers lead.

Our stories barf on us.

So it looks like this one will go back into the storyline.

Which means a minor ret-con.

Nothing big. Only instead of continuing from "Entr'acte," we'll rewind a week prior and pick up one day after the last installment of "Into The Woods."

(photo: abcdz2000/stock.xchng)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Looking Forward To...

Couple of upcoming movies I'm really looking forward to seeing.

Dredd (in theatres on the 21st)

I saw the Stallone version long ago and while enjoyable, Dredd spent a good chunk of the movie sans helmet.

That's not the Dredd I'm familiar with.

This one looks like Karl Urban is keeping the helmet on.

The. Whole. Time.

Much better.

Les Miserables (Christmas 2012)

This. Looks. Awesome.

The trailer gave me chills.

Here's hoping Hollywood doesn't f*ck it up.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Yes, I'm Also A Voice Actor...

In addition to writing SF/F pulp stories and audio drama reviews, I also act in a few audio drama podcasts.

My latest role is "Dr. Avery Fuller" in "The Lachesis Project," an episode of The Blackburn Gaslight Adventures, a new steampunk pulp adventure audio drama series (written by one of my AW Cantina cohorts--I was thrilled to work on the episode).

You can listen to Part One here.

"Robbed Blind" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[from a column written while serving as a freelance women's soccer correspondent between 2001 and 2002; from The Jericho Files collection]

"Highway robbery," I said, looking up from the carton of Swedish Fish in my hand. "Mia winning the FIFA Player of the Year was unequivocally, without a doubt, highway robbery."

Anne turned from the computer monitor displaying the WUSA home page. "Is that your final answer?"

"That's not until January. Let Regis deal with Mia then. Right now, there's more important matters to discuss. Like Millie getting robbed blind by FIFA."

"I wouldn't exactly say 'robbed blind'—"

"What would you call it?" I asked.

"'Covering their collective asses?'"

"Fine time to do it. Millie was League MVP, for Pete's sake! Sixteen goals for the season. Mia only had six.

"That was WUSA," Anne said. "We're talking global."

"Global, my ass." I waved a Swedish Fish at her. "Year. Player of the Year. Millie more than deserved that award. But do they give it to her? No. The Fools weaseled out and played the Bootlicker's Song."

"Millie's only had 81 career goals and 54 assists," Anne pointed out. "How do you justify Player of the Year for her? Mia's had 127 career goals and 107 assists. That alone should count for something."

"Career points. Mia's 361 over Millie's 216. But where did that get the Freedom? Seventh place."

"Okay. Look here." Anne tapped the monitor. "Mia's most marketable. 22% of those who voted wanted Mia to represent their company's campaigns. Five percent more than Anna Kournikova and 11% over Venus Williams."

"So give her an award for Most Marketable Athlete."

"But think of what she's done for the sport over the years, how she's helped put women's soccer on the map."

"Fine. She's the Global Ambassador to the Beautiful Game, blah-blah-blabitty-blah. Give her a Lifetime Achievement Award."

"She was voted as Player of the Year by 72 women's national team coaches."

"Who probably only knew her by name. We're talking Player of the Year, not Most Recognizable Name. What is that going to say to other players? 'You did a fanstastic job, but nobody knows who you are so we're giving it to someone high profile.'"

"What's wrong with high profile? All the better, I say."

"High profile is fine for a while. But how do you expect to increase the greater public's awareness of the other players out there? Do you expect one person to carry the sport?"

"There's no 'I' in 'team.' "

"There's one in 'Mia.' "

Anne winced. "Ouch!"

I shook my head. "Forget all that talk about parity in the League. Especially if they pull stunts like this." I popped some Swedish Fish. A thought struck. "Then again, who made the front of the 2002 Women's Soccer Calender? Millie. 'Nuff said."

Anne frowned, then said: "Well...Mia was becoming the WUSA's poster child..."

"Exactly my point," I said.

"But she did get her own calendar."

My jaw dropped. "Madness! The greedy little Jezebel!"

"I saw it the other day."

"Today, FIFA Player of the Year. Tomorrow, the Calendar World. We've got to do something! It's our duty as Fans to ensure this doesn't happen again. To ensure the proper recipients are acknowledged. For Player of the Year and for their own calendars!"

Anne leaned back in her chair, arms crossed. "What do you suggest?"

"We take the judges out back and pummel some Sense into them."

"That's not going to work."

"Why not? Violence is the only sure way to get a message across."

Anne shook her head. "Poor Dolt. We're Civilized Creatures. We just can't resort to pure Violence."

"Civilization be damned!" I leapt up, spilling Swedish Fish all over the floor, and snatched the whaling harpoon from the wall. "We must make ourselves heard! Raise the alarum! Sound the clarion call!"

Anne raised the elephant gun to her shoulder. "We need a better channel for our grievance."

I stared at the twin barrels leveled at my chest and put the harpoon back on the wall. "You're right." An idea struck. I snapped my fingers, grinning impishly. "How about a scathing letter to FIFA for their gross incompetence?"

"Brilliant. You're a Professional Writer. That's right up your alley."

I turned to my laptop and started to compose.

Anne read over my shoulder. " 'Dear FIFA...' " She shook her head. "Stronger."

I thought a moment, then typed: " 'Ignorant Swine, you should be drawn and quartered..."

Anne applauded. "Fantastic! Keep going."

I love the smell of vitriol in the morning.

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

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nuking the Platform

After countless attempts at trying to create an "author's platform" and "provide value to blog readers," I've decided to say "F*ck it."

Dispense writing advice? Provide tips on self-publishing? Comment on the industry or on things SF/F?

Pfeh.

There are others who do a far better job at it. Don't believe me? Just look at the mass of links Charles Tan provides over at Bibliophile Stalker.

Read them.

As for me?

From now on, I'm just gonna do my own thing.

Looking for rhyme or reason?

You'll find them in The Phantom Tollbooth.*

But not here.

Here Be Random Musings.

(photo: By Federal government of the United States [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

*Ha! Ha! Book joke!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In Which I Remind Myself...

I. Write. Escapist. Fiction.

I'm reminding myself because I think I've been forgetting.

Doing so then reminded me of this post I wrote last year, about this very thing.

Plus, doing so also seems to be fixing a few things in my head. For example, Kat and Mouse kicked me in the head last Friday. Or was it Thursday? Some time late last week. Before the weekend.

Anyway, the kicked must've jump-started something because that stalled story is now moving.

So once more, with feeling--

I. Write. Escapist. Fiction.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled day.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Doubt and the Writer

Two fellow writer folks have recently posted about writer doubt, something that I've actually been pondering over the past few months.

You might recall my Progress Report post from three months ago where I note that I hadn't really done much work on the next Kat and Mouse adventure. In fact, as of that post, I hadn't worked on the story in 7 weeks.

Then last month I posted that I may have gotten back on track with things.

However, what I came back on track with isn't fiction, as I point out here.

So why am I bringing up the issue of Writer's Doubt?

Because of my latest efforts, something in my head tells me the Writing Winds have shifted.

And that's where my particular brand of Writer's Doubt comes in. Mainly this: "Have I tapped my story well? Have I told the stories that I've wanted to tell? Is that all the fiction I'll be writing?"

Because each time I try to work on that next Kat and Mouse adventure, I quickly get bored and the words are molassess slow in coming and I keep thinking of other things I could be doing than writing this story.

But comes this part of my brain that tells me "Hey! Write this instead!"

Five months.

It's now five months of no fiction written.

Is this a phase? Something that'll fix itself in my head?

I hope so.

Or I could just shift to non-fiction.

As I seem to be doing at the moment.

So maybe it's not so much "quitting" as "taking another path up the mountain."

Y'think?

(photo: mordoc/stock.xchng)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In Which Entities Clash And Use Tasers

Huh.

It seems that two entites--The Audio Dramatist and The Audio Drama Reviewer--have just ganged up on The SF Pulp Writer, tased him unconscious, and stuffed him into a broom closet.

Oh boy.

This could get ugly.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Curse You, Chuck Wendig!!!

NaNoWriMo 2011 brought Doctor Jericho out of my mental depths.

And now, as a result of Chuck Wendig's command to squirt my grapefruit, another...um..."entity" has emerged from the same depths as Jericho.

Who is that "entity"?

It's The Audio Dramatist.

Who first emerged after I finished listening to the Star Wars radio dramatization back in the 80s and then wrote fifty-some pages of a Raiders of the Lost Ark audio dramatization using the Marvel comic book adaptation as the basis.

Who planted the idea of writing an audio dramatization of David Eddings's The Belgariad into my brain when I was in high school.

Who continued to prod me about the Belgariad audio dramatization all during college.

Who decided to write an original sci-fi audio drama about a futuristic SWAT team, in six parts, as my college senior project.

Who, two years ago, wrote the first five pages of a Pawn of Prophecy audio dramatization.

Who, after getting irked at Black Library's "not real" Gotrek and Felix audio drama Slayer of the Storm God, wrote an audio dramatization of "Geheimnisnacht" from Trollslayer (from the Gotrek and Felix First Omnibus) and sent a sample of the first scene to Black Library via their Open Window Submission (which closed on June 30th).

Who, after being irked by GraphicAudio's "not real" full-cast production of Elizabeth Moon's Trading in Danger and by the sample (from Chapter Seven in the book) presented on GraphicAudio's webpage, wrote an audio dramatization of that very same scene just to feel better.

Who is not interested in writing original stories but wants to adapt existing works.

And who is now bugging me to find things to adapt as an audio drama despite the issues that brings up.

Yep.

I blame Chuck Wendig for this.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Astrogenghis Speaks: 'A Lesson In Enlightenment' " by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally published in the December 1991 issue of The Oblivious Plethora; from the Jericho Files collection]

"Teacher," said Frank the Pupil. "What is the proper way to reach enlightenment?"

Astrogenghis said, "The road is seldom clear when one undertakes a long journey. But the absence of truth lies in the understanding of the willow tree."

"I don't understand, Teacher," replied Frank.

"To understand the enigma, one become a part of it. Or, to see the world as a gnat, one must first leap over the swan."

"Ah. Does that mean I must walk in someone else's shoes?"

"Let me tell you a story:
In the days of old, two monks were sitting by a riverbank, resting during a pilgrimate to a far off temple.

The younger monk turned to his companion and said, "See how the water is like glass. We can see ourselves in the water. It does not move."

His companion said, "That is because there is no wind."

The younger monk pointed to a nightingale sitting on the branch of a nearby tree and singing a song. "Hear how the nightingale sings. Her song is like a chorus of heavenly voices."

His companion said, "That is because one can hear the voice of the Creator in all of life."

The younger monk then pointed to the sky and remarked, "See how the sky is like the paint upon the canvas. The beauty of creation must be like the desires of the artist. It is in the acceptance of such beauty that we can all learn from the wishes of the Creator, from whom all this beauty comes."

His companion said, "You should cut your toenails."
"But, Teacher," said Frank. "What does this have to do with enlightenment?"

Astrogenghis smiled and said: "Absolutely nothing."


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

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Raise the Bar

At OtherRealms Audio: I talk about setting standards and raising bars.

Happy 4th!

"Here's to America's colors, the colors that never run. May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather."

Have a great 4th of July.


(photo: The Expired Meter)

Monday, July 2, 2012

When Audio Dramas Clash

At OtherRealms Audio: I get very annoyed.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

In Which I Squirt My Grapefruit

Following Chuck Wendig's Lesson #12 (from this set of precepts), I now share my longtime love affair with SF/F audio drama.

Behold--I give you OtherRealms Audio.

Have a look yonder.

Originally I was going to put those posts on this blog. But since I'd started then stopped Other Realms before, I figured I'd just revamp the blog and start over.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

ON AUDIO DRAMA: [REVIEW] Bring Your Towel and Hitch a Ride to the Stars

This post has been relocated to OtherRealms Audio, my audio drama review blog.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Earning Your Audience

The other day John Anealio linked to his post on "25 Ways to Earn Your Audience," which is actually a variation on Chuck Wendig's post of the same name--John's post focuses on musician types.

Read 'em both. Then bookmark 'em both for future reference.

Of the 25 ways, I believe #1 is the most important (and I'm gonna quote Chuck's version):
1. It’s All About The Story

Normally this is the type of thing I’d put as the capstone #25 entry—-"Oh, duh, by the way, none of this matters if you write a real turd-bomb of a book"—-but it’s too important to put last because for all I know you people will fall asleep around #14. So, let’s deal with it here and now: your best and most noble path to audience-earning is by having something awesome (or many awesome somethings) to give them. Tell the best story you can tell. Above all the social media posturing and bullshit brand-building and stabs at outreach, you need a great "thing" (book, movie, comic, whatever) to be the core of your authorial ecosystem. Tell a great story. Achieve optimal awesomeness. Build audience on the back of your skill and talent and devotion. You can ignore everything else on this list. Do not ignore this one.
Working on that.

Now, I just have get going on the next 24...

(And if you have to ask who that is in the photo up there, I will have to revoke your Pop Culture license...)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In Which We Think We're Back


So...it looks like Life decided to derail itself for a goodly amount of time.

But now I think--I think--it's getting back on track.

I can sorta tell because I'm hankerin' to get in some B.I.C.* time.

This is a good thing.


*B.I.C. = Butt In Chair

(photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More Files

As you can see, Doctor Jericho is back with another installment of The Jericho Files.

In an effort not to inundate you Dear Readers, The Jericho Files will now appear on this blog every 2 - 3 weeks. Or thereabouts.

Oh, inundate them. They love it.

Easy, Jericho.

Easy? You wuss.

We're not having this conversation.

Poncey git.

*sigh*

"Shinobi In Kilts" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

I was in my usual booth at the back of Mr. Happy's Bar and Grill on a working lunch--burger, beer, and notes spread out on the table--when an old man slid into the seat across from me and took off his stained ball cap. He was in his late-sixties, slightly stoop-shouldered with a thick gray beard and a weatherbeaten face but his eyes were wild and sparkled with fire.

"You're Jericho, right?" he rasped.

"I am," I said.

He nodded. "I seen you here before. Lots of times. The wily writer."

"I've been called many things. Some of them had verbs in it. In reality, I'm a rogue journalist."

The man jerked a thumb toward the bar. "Louie told me 'bout you after I told him this story a few nights ago. Said you're the best person to tell about this."

He immediately intrigued me. "What story's that? And do you want a beer?"

"Name's Grady," he said and smacked his lips. "And sure, I'll take a beer."

I turned toward the bar, caught Louie's attention, and signaled for a drink. Then I turned back toward Grady. "What did you want to tell me?"

He looked around, cautious, then leaned in toward me. "Ninjas," he said. "But not just any ol' ninjas. Ninja pears."

"Ninja pears?"

Grady nodded. "And they're at war with each other. Since the 1600s. And I've seen it."

"Jove's hairy nutsac!" I pulled a Moleskine notebook from my fun bag which was sitting on the booth seat next to me and made some space amid the piles on the tabletop. "Tell me more."

Louie came by and set a pint of beer in front of Grady and shuffled back to the bar. Grady took a pull, wiped his lips. "Well," he said, "there's lotsa pears, you know."

"So I'm told."

"Mostly we know about the quoting pears."

"Quoting pears?"

"Bartlett's pears. They quote. Usually 'round about midnight, if you're listening. They usually collect their quotes in a popular book."

"Aha," I said, understanding. "Bartlett's Quotations."

"That's the one. There's also the babysitting pears."

"Babysitting pears?"

"The Au Pears."

"Ah."

"But," Grady went on, "not many know about the ninja pears."

"Which are the pears that you saw."

"Yeah. Back in 1962. I was roaming Japan. Hitchhiking. Finding myself. I was staying with a family in a little town called Tatsuno, in the Nagano Prefecture. Very center of Japan. Famous for fireflies."

"Were they in graves? Or called 'Serenity'?"

"No graves that I saw right off," Grady said gravely. "But no serenity. Not with a clan war."

"Clan War? Jade Falcon? Ghost Bear? Wolf? Was there mecha?"

"I don't know what you're talking about but anyway--one night, my new friends and I were up late talking when we heard what sounded like gusts of wind outside the house. Which was odd since it was a quiet, still night. My host, Sato-san, told everyone to lie down on floor, and quickly doused the house lights. He said not to look out the windows."

"But you did, didn't you."

Grady nodded.

"And what did you see?" I asked.

"I saw a dozen pears outside. Leaping between the rooftops of houses and battling each other with what looked like short swords called 'wakiznashi'. It went on for about three, four minutes. I could tell there were two opposing sides. One side sliced up the other and went it was all over and done with, the remaining side fled the scene, again leaping across rooftops."

Grady took a long pull of his beer. Then continued: "When I asked my host about it, Sato-san told me about the five clans: Kosui, Hosui, Chojuro, Shinko, and Nijisseiki. How they'd been fighting amongst one another since the mid-1400s up until the present. The present being 1968. Probably still are today. The battles take place a night, usually at midnight."

"The witching hour, of course. Do you think these clan wars are still going on?"

"Possibly. There's someone who'd know better. Old buddy of mine. Talk to him. He's been following the phenomenon for years now. Decades, really. His name's Paul Blackthorne."

"The actor?"

Grady shrugged. "I don't know about that. But Paul's descended from a British pilot who was shipwrecked in Japan back in the 1600s while working for Dutch traders. John Blackthorne. In his journals, Blackthrone wrote about witnessing a battle between pears in the forest. Paul ran across the journals back in high school and hung on to them. When I came back from Japan a month after that night seeing the pear battle, I told Paul about it. That jazzed him up. He told me about his ancestor's journals. Then a few months later, he went over there to check out the story and he's been back and forth ever since."

"How do I get in touch with him?" I asked, ideas for an article already roiling around my brain.

"I've got his info at home," said Grady. "I can call you. Do you have a card?"

I fished out a business card from the top pocket of my safari jacket. "You can also find me here."

He tapped the tabletop with a finger. "I know. Same booth every time." He grinned. "After I talked to Louie about this, I started looking back at some of my family history. Found out my ancestors were in a clan, too. Mongolian. From southern Siberia, really. One of the Tuvans."

"The ones who do throat-singing?"

"Yep. The Forest Peoples. Historically known as the Uriankhai."

"Saruman's orcs?"

"What?"

"Nevermind," I said, and took a long pull of my beer. "You mentioned your ancestors' clan. What was it?"

"Kherbeyr," said Grady. "How about you? Did you have ancestors in a clan?"

"I did," I said, proudly recalling stories my grandfather had told me when I was knee-high to a lawn gnome. "And it's funny you mentioned ninja pears. My ancestors were the little known or heard-of Scottish ninjas."

"Scottish ninjas?" said Grady, eyes widening. "What clan was that?"

"Clan Destine," I said.

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

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Free Comic Book Day!


It's that time of the year again and Wolverine wants to tell you something important.

Now get out to your local comic shop and support them.

Go.

Git.

Now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Astrogenghis Speaks: 'Dead Frog Wisdom' " by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Professional Writer

[originally published in the June 1992 issue of The Oblivious Plethora; from The Jericho Files collection]

"Teacher," said Frank the Pupil. "How does one manage the self amid the complexities of Life?"

"The tea leaf floats below the water," said Astrogenghis, "but the path grows closer to the flickering candle."

"What?"

"To see the See is see what you Saw."

"I don't understand, Teacher."

"Let me tell you a story:
In ancient times, two monks set out on a pilgrimage to a distant temple. After two days of traveling, the monks stopped by a riverbank to set up camp and rest before starting again.

As they sat by the water's edge, the first monk gazed upon their surroundings and said to his companion: "Are you not stirred when you look upon the grandness of the eternal sky?"

Then he gestured at the plants and trees around them and said: "Are you not stirred by the colors of Life?"

The first monk then breathed in deeply and said: "Are you not stirred by the smell of the glory that is the Universe?"

His companion pointed to the ground and said: "You're sitting on a dead frog."
"I see now!" said Frank. "In order to attune to the Greater World, one must first attune to the Smaller World. And in so doing, one sees the Two Worlds as One World, essentially as mirrors of each other. Is that correct, Teacher?"

Astrogenghis smiled and said: "Okay..."

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

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hello, My Lovelies

Doctor Jericho here. In Full Sans Pants Glory.

The Jericho Files are going to take a short break. I figure I'd let Abner get a word in for a bit. After all, I let him run that post about writing serial fiction.

For I am a Kind and Generous Master.

Catch up on any entries of the Files you've missed here.

See you in a while.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"The Balls of Destruction (excerpt)" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally published in the May 2001 issue of The Oblivious Plethora; from the Jericho Files collection]

"Are you sure about that?" I said, pointing to the flamethrower and then to the acres of grass around us. "Aren't you worried about a brush fire?"

Kramer shook his head and hefted the gun unit. "This baby's been modfied to fire pinpoint flames," he said with a Southern drawl.

We were crouched next to a small gray outbuilding near a house somewhere in the wilds of Croydon, Utah.

Kramer was a Specialist from the Louisiana bowels who battled cotton balls several times a year. He told me he'd spent twelve years as a young man roaming bayou country, eating alligators and wrestling toothless old women. "Strong 'uns," he'd said. "Don't let the skinniness fool ya. Got the strength of an earth mover. They drink loup-garou blood out there, that's why."

I had heard about the deadly cotton ball infestation from CNN and my good friend Cordwainer Duke had suggested I contact Kramer about it. After I did, Kramer invited me to a cotton ball hunt to watch him ply his trade and I jumped on the next flight from San Francisco to Salt Lake City. He met me at the airport, a gaunt-looking man of medium height with a hook-nose and ponytail. He was dressed in a rumpled gray jumpsuit tucked into a battered pair of military jungle boots.

The two of us piled into an old brown Dodge van that had the rear seats taken out and was piled with all manner of equipment cases. An hour drive took us east on Interstate 80 and then north on state route 65 past a land of fenced-in bungalows called Jennifer. Or Hennigan. Or Hefner. Something.

"We're meetin' Bloody Martin Smith in Croydon," Kramer had said as we raced across blank grass landscapes bordered by low hills. "Again."

"Again?" I asked. "You've been here more than once?"

Kramer nodded, swerving to avoid a small pack of jackrabbits that had leaped into the middle of the highway brandishing jackrabbit-sized pitchforks. "Three times this year."

"And all because of cotton balls?" I asked, incredulous.

"Don't be quick to judge none," Kramer said. "They're real nasty and do a lot of damage. You heard of the Dust Bowl, right?"

"Sure," I said. "Back in the Thirties. Out in the Midwest, Great Plains. Caused by severe drought and years of bad farming practices. No crop rotation, cover crops, all that stuff that they were supposed to do. Dried out the topsoil."

"No sir," said Kramer. "That was them cotton balls."

"You serious?"

"They won't tell you it was them. But it was. Biggest cover-up I ever saw. Next to what really happened to JFK and Elvis Presley."

"Don't tell me," I said. "They're both in an East Texas rest home."

Kramer chuckled. "I see you know."

"Nevermind that," I said. "How did cotton balls cause the Dust Bowl?"

"They descend in a swarm," said Kramer. "Like Biblical Locusts. Only without the Charlton Heston voice-over. Eat all the vegetation in the area. Then vanish into oblivion. For some reason, they must've mutated or something 'bout twenty, thirty year ago. Now they ravage the wild areas of Utah. They seem drawn to Mormons for some reason. Must be something in the blood."

"In the blood? Do they eat Mormons?"

"Mormons, Cath'lics, Muslims, Protestants, Jews, Greek Orthodox, gay, straight, Black, Eye-talian, you name it. Anybody gets in their way, they mow 'em down. Not actually et you, of course. But they can put a dent into a foot of steel. I've seen it. And if they get into various necessary orifices, then..." His voice trailed off and he shrugged.

"Then....what?"

"You're dead," he said.

"Sweet Mother of Dingos!" I said.

Kramer nodded. "Nasty way to go, too. Dead, with cotton balls stuffed up your nose, your ears, your mouth, your nether regions." He shuddered.

So did I.

And I needed mental floss.

"But," Kramer went on, "they sure do love them Mormons."

* * *

As we crouched next to the faded gray outbuilding, I said to Kramer, "There was a movie back in the 80s about alien fuzzballs with teeth."

"I seen that," he said, nodding. "Closest they got to telling the story of a cotton ball infestation in Nebraska back in the mid-70s. It all got changed to aliens, of course. Just to throw off the scent, y'see. They added the teeth. And they put it in some hick town in Kansas."

"So where'd they really come from? These balls?"

Kramer shook his head. "Don't know. Never really looked into it, 'cept tracing them back to the Dust Bowl days."

"So how'd you get started in this nasty business?"

"Answered an ad in the Des Moines Register fifteen years ago," Kramer said. "Four hour Learning Annex class followed by certification. Notarized and everything." Then he paused and squinted into the distant hills.

"What--" I began, but he held up a finger then put it to his lips.

Then I heard it. A faint, high-pitched chittering. Like single engine plane. Or a crazed woodchipper.

Kramer pointed into the distance. "Here they come," he said. "Put your flamethrower on and get ready."

I pulled on the twin fuel tanks and tightened the straps, then took up the gun unit. Then I looked in the direction Kramer had pointed.

Along the foothills I spotted a wide blanket of whiteness, like snow. Moving snow. Moving, creeping snow. But more like melted mashmallows that bubbled and pulsed and undulated along the ground. The blanket of whiteness was at least the size of two football fields, maybe more, maybe with trapped players in it.

Kramer reached down to the boombox sitting between us, tapped a button, and Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" blared from the speakers.

"They can't stand 80s music," said Kramer, grinning like a lunatic. "Throws 'em into a big tizzy. The frequencies of the songs messes with their equilibrium and internal membrane flow."

I felt the music coursing through my veins, felt the frequencies rushing through my membrane flow, felt it jitterbug into my brain.

Time to rock and roll, by gum.

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

Monday, March 12, 2012

Four Tips For Writing Serial Fiction

There other day, a fellow writer told me he'd been working on a web serial and asked if I had any advice for him. I sent him a few general thoughts on the matter.

But that reminded me of a piece I'd written for Ezine Articles a while back so I'm gonna pause Doctor Jericho's ravings for a moment and post the meat of that article today.

So...here are my four keys to writing solid serial fiction.
  • Finish the story first
  • Write to a cliffhanger
  • Keep 'em short
  • Move it, move it, move it
FINISH THE STORY FIRST
This is important.

Having a completed story means you've already dealt with all the various plot and story elements that arise during writing. You know the hero's motivation and goal. You know what the villain is going to do. You know who killed the rich industrialist. You've worked out the various tangles and red herrings. And you've got the ending.

This also means that you aren't going to be revising your story as you release the installments. Not something you want to do and I strongly advise against it.

Have a fully written story first.

That takes care of the overall aspect of your serial.

Now, let's look at the pieces that make up the finished story.

WRITE TO A CLIFFHANGER
You want your readers coming back. Period.

The best way is to write to a cliffhanger.

Now, that doesn't imply that your characters are always going to be in harm's way at the end of each installment (although that is the time-honored way). It could also be as simple as a plot twist. For example, the boon companion turns out to be the traitor. The promising clue turns out to be a dead end.

You get the picture.

KEEP 'EM SHORT
This is a personal rule of thumb, but I find it extremely effective. Most blogging experts advise keeping your blog posts around 500 words. For a serial, I advise at least 800 words on the short end and no longer than 1200 words. 800 words is plenty of time and space for a scene.

Additionally, you don't want to assault the reader with a huge block of text, especially on their monitor. That looks daunting and will likely make your potential reader click away.

Instead, go short.

Your readers will thank you.

Which brings us to our last key...

MOVE IT, MOVE IT, MOVE IT
Your story needs to move. Remember: it's a story. Not a travelogue. Not an architectural review. Not a lecture.

Story. Always a story.

If you're thinking of spending 2000 words describing your main character's ornate gown or on the sociopolitical history of the elven kingdom she's visiting, don't do it. Stop. Right now. You will lose your reader.

This is an excellent tip on handling exposition and info-dumps in general but it is vitally important in serial fiction. You don't want to lose your reader. You want to keep them reading.

As a corollary to this, keep navel gazing to a minimum. Use it only to reveal character or some facet of a character or situation. Even then, keep it short and sweet.

And keep your story moving forward.

* * *

There you go, Gang. My tips for writing serial fiction.

One thing I didn't cover in the original article was the platform for the serial story. It's up to you whether you use Blogger, Wordpress, Drupal, or hand-code the site in HTML/CSS. I won't get into the technical stuff of any of those platforms.

Totally your choice.

But the basic tips I outlined above still stand.

Any questions? Post a comment and let me know.

Jericho will be back next week.

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Strange Rumblings From The Bar And Grill" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

It was yet another day of furious rogue journalism and I was once more in my usual booth at the back of Mr. Happy's Bar and Grill slaving over my laptop, Mycroft Holmes Four (aka "Mike the Laptop"). Jonesy was hot on my heels for 7,500 words on the current goings-on in the standard literary circles and I was 1,000 words short and still trying to get a lead on editor Kristin Nelson's episodic TV career. She was a wily Coloradonian who was a literary agent and a recurring star of the TV show Psych.

I had tried reaching out to another known Coloraturian, SF/F blogger and podcaster, Patrick "One of a Kind" Hester to see if he knew about Nelson's double life. After all, we did both wear hats of the wide-brimmed fedora kind. And he was a known entity in the Circles. But those prior attempts hadn't yet worked and there were bubbling rumors of another restraining order.

Damnable laws, how they mock me.

Someone on Twitter had mentioned using breakfast burritos as incentive, but I needed to check that information further.

True. I could reach out to another known blogger. But Tammy Farmer was a Phoenician and she was 800-some miles and 14-plus hours southwest of Denver, where Nelson held court. She was also a fiend who despised me because of a review I'd written about a Jim Butcher novel a few months earlier.

That wouldn't do.

I could try Skinner, but last I'd heard he was headed into the middle of the Hundred-Mile Wilderness for covert purposes relating to nun's habits made of leather and yaks.

That left Cordwainer Duke. Except Duke was scoping out the Anaheim Convention Center ahead of WonderCon.

Yes, WonderCon was just around the corner again. This time in Southern California due to rumored eldritch happenings at San Francisco's Moscone Center. The general public had been told there was renovation underway which necessitated the move by WonderCon to its SoCal location. But that was, in fact, a cover story. Gray-cloaked cultists had been spotted in the vicinity during the last week of February, no mean feat given the vast population of adult street urchins in the SOMA neighborhood in and around the Moscone Center who were sometimes similarly garbed. With the pending Fey Invasion and the recent Miskatonic Country strangeness, Omega-13 was on heightened alert.

"We're on Code Vermillion right now," Azerov had told me a week ago via Internet Messaging. "Down from Raw Umber. If it gets worse, we'll have to go to Neon Puce. Not a good sign."

"Neither is red biohazard," I'd replied, also via Internet Messaging.

It would have to be Duke then. I was running out of time and I was pretty certain he'd answer. Provided there weren't cultists at the Convention Center and he was in hot pursuit. Those got scratchy and uncomfortable after too long.

He was SFWA-affiliated, after all. He'd at least point me in the right direction.

I was digging my phone from the top pocket of my safari jacket when Alabaster McMurdo slid into booth seat across from me, out of breath. He was dressed in his usual thick red-and-black flannel shirt, nayv blue watch cap, and faded blue jeans.

"Jericho," he said, then grabbed three two-ounce packets of liquid Half-and-Half from the ceramic holder on the table, ripped off the covers, and upended all three into his mouth then wiped his lips with his shirt sleeve.

"Al!" I said. "What's the matter?"

"Quick fuel," he said, nodding to the Half-and-Half. "I'll have to continue moving. The bozos are back and I need to prepare."

"Which bozos?"

"The bozos. The clowns."

"Are you talking about real clowns? White face paint? Big red nose?"

Al growled, showing teeth. "Those are the whitefaces. The pack leaders. But yeah, those clowns. They're coming back."

"They are? I didn't know they were gone."

"I can smell them on the wind," said Al. "They'll be here soon. I can can feel them, too. My left elbow gives me a slight twinge when the time is right and the time, it is right. They come around once every twenty-five years. Cause all kinds of hell and havoc."

"Like in It? Pennywise the clown? Or Jeepers Creepers?"

"All borrowed from the real story," said Al. "Know what happened the last time they were here?"

"Twenty-five years ago would be '87," I said. "I was in high school. I don't remember any clowns rampaging through the city?"

"Do you remember the Horowitz incident?"

"The pianist?"

"Not Adrien Brody. David Horowitz the consumer advocate."

"The 'Fight Back!' Guy," I said, recalling the TV show.

"Yeah, him. In August of '87, this guy went into the KNBC studio in Burbank during a live afternoon news broadcast, held a gun to Horowitz's back and told him to read a prepared statement. But the studio cut the broadcast before the statement got read. Know what it said?"

"No. What?"

" 'The man who has appeared on KNBC for the last three years is not my biological father. He is a clone, a double created by the Central Intelligence Agency and alien forces.' "

"Okay, but what's that got to do with clowns--"

And suddenly it hit me.

"That movie," I said with a gasp, feeling my guts twist like a pair of knickers.

Al's eyes lit up. "Yeah. Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Came out the year after, in '88. Late, but still timely."

"So you're saying it was a message."

"Couched in Hollywood-ese. But yeah. A message. A warning. Just like all these zombie movies and books and the TV show. It's all preparation."

Sweet Mother of Dingos! Duke had said the same about the recent upsurge of urban fantasy novels and series. They were preparing us for what was to come.

I said to Al: "So these clowns. They're aliens? And we can't see them? And they're raining death and destruction on us every twenty-five years?"

"Aliens," Al said, nodding. "And you can see them. You just have to know what you're looking for. And..." He looked around, eyes slitted. "There's too many folks here. I'll call you in one hour with a new meeting place. I have Powerpoint slides. You'll want to see this."

Before I could say anything more, Al leaped from the booth seat into a low crouch then bolted out of the place.

I pulled out my phone and checked the time.

One hour. And 1,000 words left.

I could do it. I was a Professional, after all.

As I turned back toward Mike the Laptop, a hushed stillness descended over the bar, like the calm before the storm.

And beneath that quiet, I heard a faint chittering. Gnashing, really. Of tiny, pointed, needle-sharp teeth. Accompanied by the jabbering. Which could only mean one thing.

Rabid mutant lawn gnomes.

Jones.

They were his Deadline Messengers.

So: One hour. 1,000 words. Threat of death by rabid mutant lawn gnomes.

And then a thought struck with all the impact of a sledgehammer hit to my balls.

Lawn gnomes wore pointed hats.

Just like clowns.

I steeled myself.

I'd be ready.

Bring it.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

"The History of The Society Of The Inner Circle" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[writing as Bruce "Bruceley" McFistibunse, for The Society of the Inner Circle; from The Jericho Files collection]

The beginnings of our Order can be traced back to an ancient people called Wugga. According to The Book of Rocks:
And thus did the Glorp gather his peoples, those they called Loonees, and set them upon an island in the ocean. And there, the people did call themselves Wuggans for the the name "Wugga" meant "he of the Bent Thought." (Rocks III.5)
The island of Wugga is thought to have been located somewhere off the eastern tip of present-day Guam. For over five thousand years, the Wuggans lived and prospered on the island. Since they lived in close proximity to the Ancient Land Bridge which connected all the continents of the world, the Wuggans were able to travel widely and spread the wisdom of Koepher (or Gopher).

Around 4,000 B.C.E., a plague caused by dust motes carrying a virulent strain of cooties wiped out the Wuggans. Thereafter, the seas rose, covering the Land Bridge and sinking the island1.

But a Wuggan, whose name meant "obscure reference," had left the island just as the plague began. He was unaffected due to a good dose of cootie protection--a talisman (the solidified body of a peculiar-looking beetle) which he wore around his neck. His journey took him eastward where he eventually ended up in ancient Sumeria. He then sought refuge in a cave and came to be known as Phil.

It is not known what became of Phil. Many Gopher scholars hold that he did marry and sire twelve children, but the latter events of his life are shrouded in mystery and idle speculation. One legend holds that he died after stepping into the path of diseased lemmings and was shoved off a cliff.

In 2,749 B.C.E., Phil's descendant, Reehk of Uruk, was visited by the Glorp and told to heed their call of prophetic activites under penalty of having his innards wrapped around a yak. Reehk then adopted the name "Bendo," was miraculously given a large IQ and a voluminous vocabulary, and instructed to go and spread the teachings of Koepher. He then wandered the land for many years and taught to many who were interested in his words. But his activites seem to come to an end around 2,600 B.C.E. as none of the ancient records mention him after that date.

Nothing is heard of Bendo or of Gopher until 1,825 B.C.E. One evening, young Refugito, son of a farmer, was lying facedown in the dirt after a rather swell party when he was visited by Bendo and the Glorp. Following this, Refugito achieved enlightenment (wombat) and went to a nearby cave to pen the two sacred books of Gopher--The Six Scrolls and The Book of Rocks. Shortly after writing the two works of Koepher, Refugito was mauled by a pack of rabid trees. Just before he died, he muttered "Yarblek" and was immediately one with the Rh'lph.

Gopher once again vanishes until 513 B.C.E. when a young Greek shepherd named Hiram the Younger discovered The Six Scrolls and The Book of Rocks inside a clay pot. With the help of his fellow shepherd and sometime cliff face, Cyrus the Middle Child, they translated the two works into Greek.

Cyrus was later killed when an Athenian Galley fell on him. Thereafter, Hiram received a visitation from Bendo and the Glorp. Hiram then changed his name to Ri'handu, got really drunk, and wandered the countryside for 42 years, proclaiming the truths of Gopher. Many rebuked him, cast stones at him, and told him he smelled like fetid dingo's kidneys.

But there were some who hearkened to his words and followed him for they saw the light of truth in what he spoke of. These followers learned more of Koepher and a number of them set down their observations and meditations on what they had learned. After his pilgrimage, Ri'handu went to live in a hole in the ground for the remainder of his life.

This time around, Gopher does not vanish but is kept alive through written records set down by Ri'handu's students like Lhoid Wehb'Ur, Mahrv'N Hamlish, Rahjersan Hammerstyne, Lehrnur-Ann Lohw, and Sonn D'hime. This marks the first time that the two works were set down in writing and handed down from generations to generation. Another work, The Book of Moronics, a collection of Gopher wisdom and sayings, was added around 26 C.E. Together, the three were collected under the title: The Book of Koepher.

For the most part, Gopher was an underground movement that surged and ebbed as the years went by. Then in 1564, Wallace William Smyth, a wayward poet and part-time wheelbarrow, stumbled on the Latin translation of a curious work called The Book of Koepher. Out of curiousity, he translated it to the vernacular and had a visitation from Bendo and the Glorp.

Smyth spoke of his unearthly experience to some friends. They agreed it was indeed a momentous occassion. They then formed a small gentlemen's club, calling themselves Spamists (after the sound a piece of cod makes when strange things are done to it). They met regularly in the back room of the Red Dog pub in central London and subtly debated the hows and whys of this new and intriguing subject whilst singing bawdy tavern songs, mostly about men, women, and sometimes, sheep.

But after a year of debating, Smyth's friends grew tired of the matter and began to pursue other, more interesting topics. Namely women. Also, sheep.

Smyth agreed to forgo the discussion of Koepher and its doings but secretly practiced the Way it spoke of. A few Spamists also wanted to continue practicing Koepher. These neo-Spamists continued to practice for the next three years. Unfortunately, all the Spamists (including the neo-Spamists) met an untimely demise when, while collectivley drunk and singing the one about Julia, the goat, and four dead fish, they all fell in the Thames and drowned2. Luckily, Smyth's translation of The Book of Koepher survived the deadly assault and ended up in the collection of a wealthy English family.

In 1869, an American philosopher by the name of John Alexander Sargent came to England on holiday and went to visit friends in Yorkshire. It was on that fateful November afternoon, two hours before tea, that Sargent happened upon The Book of Koepher in the library while looking for a spot of brandy. He then received a visitation from Bendo and the Glorp, achieved enlightenment and soon began to draw others who had seen flashes of Koepher insight and truth.

Sargent stayed in England and began to work on tracking down as much of the Koepherite writings as he could. With the help of friends who were students of the occult arts, Sargent labored some 40 years on the project.

Finally, in 1911, the Arcanis Arcanum was published. One year later, Sargent found The Society Of The Inner Circle, a collective of men and women who wished to learn the wisdom of what he came to refer to as Gopher (from the original "Koepher"). The Society (known thereafter as TSOTIC) elected Sargent the First High Overlord of the Order. Sargent then changed his name to Milo Mysterium, and thus was the Order born.

Hail Bendo!
Speck.

BRUCE THE FROOFLE
Scribe Master
Innocuous General of the Obscure Rocks, 3º

NOTES
1Gopher scholars agree that this rise in ocean levels corresponds to the Great Flood of the Genesis story; also the Deluge of Babylonian myth as described in the Gilgamesh story.
2Some say that they were tripped by a band of angry Freemasons but that is only hearsay. Nothing of the sort. In fact, forget that we ever mention the Illuminati. What?
3There is no "3". You must be going mad.
4There is no "4", either. You need help. Lie down before you hurt yourself. Go on.


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

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Updates and Holy Orders" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

I was sitting in my usual booth at the back of Mr. Happy's Bar and Grill finishing my customary bacon cheeseburger along with my second pint of Pyramid Hefeweizen, the most glorious beer in known existence, and watching in amusement as a pair of local community college studs in chinos and sweater-vests attempted to mate with two giggling debutantes in short skirts.

I felt sorry for the studs. Little did they realize those two young women were really vampires belonging to House Seven Betty Grables, which had a satellite office in the San Francisco East Bay. House Seven Betty Grables was, of course, one of the Great Vampire Houses of North America, along with House Pain, House Blues, and House Rising Sun (which, according to one of Zeke Azerov's white papers, was used ironically).

As the two collegiates pattered on and preened and flexed, oblivious to their doom, a tall, gangly man in black motorcycle boots, cargo pants, wool pea coat, and battered peaked cap came in, looked around, and loped toward my table.

It was Skinner. Skinner was one of my go-to guys, a man who had his ear in everything and his hand in various unspeakable places that later required CDC-grade disinfectant, often by white-hot flames. Rumor had it he'd been a Green Beret in Vietnam and later worked in secretive, hush-hush offices at Langley, no doubt for The Company. Then he "retired" and became a "security consultant." We'd met in Bolivia nearly ten years ago when I went down there to report on illicit pharmaceuticals coming to the U.S. from a small Bolivian village. It recently turned out that he was also one of Azerov's go-to guys, too.

He slid into the seat across from me and signaled to Marvin, the bartender, for a drink. Then he reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a phone, and slid it across the table to me.

"Stopped by The Lair first," he said. "Anne told me you were here. Said to give that to you."

It was my new phone. My old one had met with an untimely demise caused by peanut butter a few weeks earlier.

"Excellent," I said. "I was waiting for this. They had to put it on backorder because of the custom options I'd wanted."

"That always takes time," Skinner agreed, nodding. "Unless you work for certain nameless organizations who have such things in nearby unmarked warehouses."

"Enough of trying to make me jealous of your cool tech," I said. "What news do you have for me? Anything on the Bublé front?"

Skinner leaned forward, elbows on the table. "Word on the streets is that they were using him as a cover story. The real Michael Bublé knows nothing about the Dark Elders. Of course, they asked him indirectly."

"Indirectly? How?"

"The William Hurt method."

"Altered states?"

"Yes."

"Gads!" I said.

Skinner nodded. "He wanted to sell them car insurance at a discount."

"Double gads!"

"And then it got pretty hairy, from what they told me. Something about primeval ooze. Luckily it didn't last too long and they were able to get him back to his normal self."

"And the Dark Elders?"

Skinner shook his head. "Nothing more about them. I'm in touch with people who'll tell me if news breaks."

"Keep us posted," I said. "Anything else?"

Louie the bartender came around with a bottle of Sam Adams and a chilled pint glass and set them in front of Skinner. "Heya, Skinner," he said in his gravelly voice. "You wanna eat?"

Skinner pointed to the remains of my burger. "What he had."

"Comin' up." Louie shuffled back toward the bar.

Skinner poured the beer into the glass then took a long pull. "Hits the spot, lemme tell you."

"A good beer always does," I said. "So what else you got for me?"

"How," he said.

"How what?"

Skinner shook his head. "No. How. H-O-W. Stands for Holy Order of Wendig."

"Wendig?" I said. "As in Chuck Wendig the writer?"

"Yep. That's him."

"Wouldn't it be 'ho-ow'? With the extra 'o' for 'of'?"

"Who really knows the inner workings of the crazed mind?"

"Crazed?"

"Yeah. Seems some folks have started up a society that's worshipping him like a god. Offerings, hymns, the works. I've brought one of the society members with me. He wants to talk to the press. I told him about you. He was sold."

I threw back the rest of my Hefeweizen and signaled to Louie for another. Then I pulled out my Moleskine notebook and got comfortable in my seat.

"Tell me more," I said.

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

"Will The Real Handel's Water Music Please Stand Up?" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[writing as "Anna Cruces" for a proposed NPR musicology segment scheduled to air in early 1993, but never used; from The Jericho Files collection]

Good evening. I'm Anna Cruces. You're hearing the wonderful strains of George Frederic Handel's most popular orchestral work, Water Music. Astute listeners out there will, of course, recognize the hornpipe from the old Delco water faucet commercials.

Water Music
is a must for any classic music aficionado's library. Several different recordings of the piece are available, yet interestingly, no two recordings are the same. This begs the question: Which version is the "correct" version and why? Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer.

This begs the next question: How are we to determine the "correct" version?

And begs yet a third question: How much longer until lunch?

Let us look at the pieces of this musical puzzle that we have to work with.

The largest problem we have is the fact that no autographed score for the work as a whole exists. The only copy that bears Handel's signature is a two movement concerto, re-scored in the Water Music, located in the British Museum. The copies that do exist are different from one another and such copies are merely spurious transcriptions of a piano etude for bagpipes thought to be titled "Sonata for Whoopee Cushion in D-flat Major."

However, differing opinions hold that the stylized Cross-dressers of the Upper Rhine (The Kleidenblätterteig) had a tremendous regard for Taoist philosophy, a factor which has greatly influenced their bowel movements, not to mention their music.

However, such a factor does not exist in Water Music. Instead, the harmonies of the piece hearken the listener back to the late Renaissance-Baroque period wherein the opening salutes in a minor mode that shifts to third gear at thirty kilometres per hour.

A closer look at the next movement reveals Handel experiencing a shift in his lower thirds. He then executes a marvelous groping of the treble clef and the meter rapidly incriminates a rotund disposition. Handel does this, thereby, to relieve stress on the upper ulna, the lower tibia, and the middle child.

This, of course, is in regard to Battenburg's Theory of Musical Inversions in Third World Countries which essentially states that nations without an industrial base often listen to polka music. This supposition is often at the expense of the middle child.

The result is a careful reworking of a stylistic preference to albatross traced to a Rossini overture from his unperformed opera, Desidero Pantaloni. The aria from the overture begins with a highly complex metaphysical treatise on the biochemical regurgitations of late 12th Century German Idealists and their colleagues in France. When the male chorus enters the scene twenty measures later, they are already drunk and singing about peas and chickens.

This calls to mind the fourth movement of "Flute Concerto for Stereo Consoles in early model Gremlins," by Vito Parmesiano deRegina, one of the leading Italian composers of mid-1712 Germany, circa 1710. This vocal duet piece written for a pair of four trumpets is very much in keeping with the jazz-like style of the late Reconnaissance Period (just after the Roccoco Period and just prior to the James Coco Period, not to be confused with the Hot Cocoa Period).

deRegina is highly regarded as one of those composers often called the "Revisionists" and is in the same category as Debussy, Brahms, Mussorgsky, and Lennon. Writes well-known Oxford musicologist, Dr. Silence Percival Yiblet: "...the works that are heard serve to enliven the source of a melodic structure that one expects from the contrariness of the original."

But much of the music that is left intact can be traced to the early 6th Century work of a monk named Harvey Rosenbaum, whose most famous work, "Chromosome Dance for Rhinoceros in C-sharp," follows a musical theme that can be found in many works of the same period. Like most Austrian composers in England, Rosenbaum used the Myxomatosis melodic mode in a perverted form with a series of chromatic and prophylactic scales.

This lead us to a brief look at the Roger Movement, begun in the early 1100's by a Franciscan friar named Friedrich "Big Daddy" Frankenheimer-Schmidt. The Roger Movement, which spanned the pre-Renaissance days of the Reformation, focused on the pentatonic gurgles that appeared in a little known form of chant called the Minus Hock (later to be known as the Add Hock). This form of chanting used gurgles that take effect on the root note as well as the upper third, the tonic sixth, the gin and tonic eight, the inverted thirteenth, the genial fifteenth, and the confused thirty-second.

This sparked the little known Elmer Movement which attempted to take the gurgles to another level by proving that the circle of fifths can, in fact, be festooned with garlands and mayflowers and then taken for walks in the meadow. (This movement, however, lasted all of two days and resulted in the death of a wheelbarrow, a yak, and a crate of pickles.)

The Roger Movement, coupled with the familiar arching of the eyebrow and the use of a violin bow as a rapier, resulted in a pragmatic approach to hand clapping, except in cases where only one hand is clapping and a tree falls in a wood.

Such esoteric examinations of appendages in a pseudo-mystical fashion so sparked the appearance of tambourines in orchestral works that Bob Haydn (not related to the more famous Ralph Haydn), a brilliant Irish-born Austrian composer born in Morocco, wrote his famous concerto "Small Dogs Yelping Near a Puddle," a vocal piece for a small tambourine, two kazoos, and a pint of lager. At the premiere, the audience was so moved by the work that they praised Haydn as reigning emperor of an anthill and vanished into the woods, never to be heard from again.

Except when you get that curious feeling that you are being watched.

But that's probably normal paranoia.

Haydn, however, did not use a violin bow as a rapier.

Wait! What's that over there?!?

Nevermind...

Based on the available canonical evidence, we can then deduce which of the recordings is the "correct" version. It is only safe to assume that the later recording done by Zubin Mehta and Freddy Mercury, with guest conductor Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, is not the "correct" version.

Fiedler also did not use a violin bow as a rapier.

Suffice it to say that the alienation of one's inner self is detrimental to the safety of the whole. Or, in the words of that famous Greek philosopher, Fred the Athenian Galley: "E vexat lux patria verum porpoise," which roughly translates to something about sneakers and dead fish.

Thus we can conclude that Handel's Water Music conjures up visions of scantily-clad water faucets.

As for which is the "correct" version of the piece?

I haven't the foggiest.

I just have a pair of Reeboks and a dead cod.

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