Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Huvek is an ebook now

Coming to you just in time for the new year, Huvek is an ebook. Available now through Bad Dog Books, or Amazon

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Internet Speaks for Me 4

A great way to summarize the year, by letting the internet speak for me.


Monday, December 22, 2014

My Ideas Are Too Big

Another Christmas season in [retail]. After this weekend I am so tired. I don't wanna do jack shit. I need to create a submission packet for the new trilogy, but I am having such a hard writing a synopsis. So much stuff happens and it's all so BIG I can't think of how to shrink it down to a digest.

I need to get this out there, but what's the point? Nobody will just take a whole series from an untested author.

This is my problem. From the beginning of my journey as a writer, my ideas have started off big. My first attempt at a short story ballooned into this 200,000-word monster of a novel! I worked my way backwards, learning how to be more concise, how to tell shorter stories, how to use fewer words to tell a big story.

I have gotten much better at this over the years, but most of my ideas just keep going and going, and before I know it I've written a series! I have a 365,000-word story that I've been pitching as a trilogy, plus the new trilogy that lasts about 300k words! It has happened to me twice! A single story just keeps going and now it's a monster nobody wants to touch!

Even Felix was supposed to be a series of superhero mock-adventures. I had so much fun writing it I made plans for for two sequels before the book was even published. But with the poor sales, I realized I'd be hard pressed to persuade someone to publish sequels.

Huvek is kind of the exception. It was the moment I became conscious of the reality of publishing and decided to do something standalone. I had a pretty big story in mind, but everything it wants to say is contained completely within 100,000 words, which is a triumph for me!

Length is not the only issue. The 365k-word project takes place in the late-cretaceous, and is about dinosaur civilization. The 300k-word series is nonhuman aliens with only one human character in it who doesn't even have a role until the second book! I've heard from others that stories which focus on nonhuman characters (or don't have a single human being in them) are unmarketable. To that, I say bull-fucking-shit-and-then-some-!!! That would explain why so many publishers shy away from these, but I think it's more basic than that. Publishers don't want to work with big stuff from new authors.

With no contacts in the publishing world, and no successful small credits to my name yet, I'm kinda stuck. It's enough to make me give serious thought to self-publishing. Sometimes I think it's the only way I'll be able to get my stuff out there. Professional markets are so hard to crack, I'm almost 32 years old with no career prospects, and time is moving by so fast. A reminder that my life is ticking away, and I need to accomplish something fast before it runs out. Why should I wait for somebody else to decide I'm good enough to publish?

But self-published books still get no respect, often for good reason. Thanks to computers and the internet, it's harder than ever to get noticed because so many other people are doing the same thing I'm trying to do. At least if I go through a publisher, I'm one in a hundred-thousand with a tie to a target audience. Self-publishing would make me one in a million, standing completely on my own with no ties to an audience.

So I keep trying to succeed at something small and standalone, hoping that leads to an opening for my big projects to come out properly. It's the only plan I have until something changes.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Spaces after a period.

It has come to my attention, through multiple writers and editors on social media, that typing two spaces after a period is the most heinous evil a writer can commit.  Worse than bad character development.  Worse than clichéd plot twists.  Worse than a poorly written sex scene!  Worse than (*fake audience gasp*) soap opera dialogue!  Worse than, comma splices!  Worse than MURDERING PUPPIES!  Worse than internet shorthand in narration omg!!!11

Apparently the devil himself has a grand plot to annoy editors the world over by tempting aspiring writers to strike the space key twice after a sentence ends, therefore all writers who obey the devil's wishes should be blacklisted from all publications for eternity and cursed to the fires of hell with the editor's dying breath!

...

Why does this pet peeve rouse so much emotion?  Hell, the example of Standard Manuscript Format I follow uses two spaces after every sentence-ending punctuation!  It mentions the convention at the end, noting: "if you're used to hitting the spacebar twice after a period, you shouldn't stress out about it, particularly if you're using a Courier font."

Yeah, Google's top hit for "Standard Manuscript Format" tells writers "no big deal."

I had no idea there were people out there who would reject a manuscript or even dismiss a writer at a glance because he or she did such a trivial thing.  I never knew some people out there cared so much about it.  All my manuscripts have used two spaces.  It's how I was taught to type, and nobody has ever told me I need to change this.

Personally, I like two spaces separating sentences because it differentiates sentence breaks from commas.  I don't mind if there's only one space between sentences, but two spaces just looks nicer to me, as the text isn't all bunched up and crammed together.

If you're an editor, and you make such a big deal about this issue, I don't think I'd want to work with you as an editor.  If you have a problem with two spaces after a period, please specify it in the formatting requirements of whatever publication you're working on.  Don't assume writers know your pet peeve, and don't assume Standard Manuscript Formatting dictates the 1-space rule.  Remember, Google's top hit on the subject does not.

We authors are subject to enough whims of editors who are the gatekeepers to our future.  The number of spaces after a period shouldn't be one more invisible hurdle authors have to jump to get anywhere in the world.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Commercials for cancer treatment?

Why have we reached a point where cancer is so common, treatment centers need to advertise? Not just Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I've seen others. In spite of all the research and funding and "awareness," why has cancer become so prevalent the treatment of it needs commercials?

Something is wrong. Gives some credence to the theory that there's a conspiracy to keep people sick to sell more medical treatments.

Why do we seem to have so much cancer nowadays in the first place? Is it really because we're just better at diagnosing it, or is it because our food and air are so full of pollutants and carcinogens that it really is on the rise?

[Edit:] Industrial pollution is downplayed these days as no big deal, but it still is. Various carcinogens and toxic substances are everywhere, even if you don't live near a factory. It's in the water, the air, the soil, our food. Our world is full of toxins. Chemical processes in food manufacturing, storage and treatment contribute to it. All the chemicals that make up our everyday life, and the ones that are byproducts that contaminate the air, soil, food, and water, accumulate in us over a lifetime. Of course it affects us.

To cut to the root of the problem, we'd have to get rid of all the plastics that touch our foods. All the pollutants and chemicals in the ground and the air. All the genetic modification. All the chemical processing that goes into our food supply that's not revealed in the nutrition facts. Cut back on the use of unnatural products and processes in general.

Good luck with that. Too much money to be made from all sides. Our modern society sustains our way of life, even as it kills us.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New story: The Cable



After a long wait, it's finally coming out. Abandoned Places, edited by Tarl Hoch. My story is...


The Cable
By James L. Steele

The rat's eyes had always been open, but until right now he had never seen a thing. There was a light hanging over him, bright white, but also streaked and speckled with red. The rat blinked. He became aware of his arms and legs. Something digging under his fur and into the skin beneath. It smelled... The rat instinctually took sharp breaths through his nose. The straps holding him down smelled organic, like they were once alive but now were not. In a room full of sterile plastic, metal and brick, their scent stood out.

He tried to lift his left arm. It was held down tight and remained firmly pressed to the padded table. He raised his right arm. It was free to move. He raised his arm over his head and looked at it. Short, brown fur. Long claws tipping long, bony fingers. His arm was all bone and fur.

The rat raised his head slightly. It was free to move and he sat up as far as he could. The light was in his eyes no matter which way he turned. He held his hand up to block the glare and tried to look around, but the light was so intense he couldn't see anything beyond the table.

He had an impulse to reach out towards the light. The rat reached into the beam. His claws collided with glass, making a light chink sound. At first he didn't know why he was doing this, but quickly something occurred to him. Something he knew unconsciously. He groped the light fixture, felt around it, fingers moving from a hot glass surface to a cool plastic one. Eventually he felt something he recognized. He twisted the piece of plastic.

The light shut off. The room dimmed, lit only by the softer overhead lights. He blinked the spots from his vision. It took a few minutes for his eyes to calm down. Finally he was able to look around him and confirm with his eyes what his nose and sense of touch had already told him.

He was strapped to a padded table in a very sterile room. The wall ahead of him was stone, painted white. The ceiling was metal. He looked down at the floor. It was tile, covered in blood. The rat looked side to side. The walls on either side of him were also crimson, but the blood was dry and cracking.

He leaned forward more, trying to sit up. Something tugged the back of his head, resisting him. The rat reached behind his skull and felt it. A piece of plastic was firmly attached to it. The rat felt it all the way around, but he couldn't identify it. The thing was long, flat and joined to a long cord extending backwards beyond his reach.

Suddenly his ears woke up. He became aware of the regular beeping coming from behind him. The rat's ears swiveled in the direction of the sound, then his head turned with them.

Out the corner of his eye the rat saw a terminal. On the screen were lines moving from left to right. The beeping coming from the machine matched one of the lines. This line matched the beating in his ears.

The rat felt agitated. The beeping sped up to match. The rat turned around, reached over and pulled at the strap holding his other arm down. It was so tight he could not work his fingers underneath. The beeping sped up as the rat became frantic, trying to pull the strap off, trying to free his arm. His legs kicked, but they too were held down.

Another impulse kicked in. He leaned forward. The cord attached to his head tugged him backwards, trying to retract, but the rat resisted and forced his head forward. He opened his muzzle and gnawed on the strap. This felt quite natural. Satisfying in a way. He bit and chewed the strap, tearing fur out of his arm--the mechanical beeping sped up as he panicked and gnawed and thrashed.

...

Abandoned Places on sale now!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Second Author's Cycle



Yup, I am definitely between projects, and the boredom and depression and feelings of hopelessness have caught up to me. Don't want to deal with shit. Don't want to read. Can't think of anything to write. Don't want to play games.

This must mean I've exhausted my writing energy. I am reading, but man... Without a project, I am an emotional wreak.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Author's Stats

It's hard to accept I've been doing this for 12 years, and I'm only just getting started. It took this long to become confident in myself as a writer. Now I must begin to build confidence as a published author.

These statistics include just about everything I've written since I got serious about the craft in 2002, plus some things I did before that year.

poems: ~6

Screenplays (completed): 5

Screenplays (unfinished): 2

stage plays: 1

Short stories (completed and abandoned, flash fiction included): ~93

Novellas: 2

Novels (unfinished or abandoned): 2

Novels (completed): 9

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Seek the Original: There Will Be Blood

81.009% of everything Hollywood does is adapted from a book, or short story, or comic. Never settle for an adaptation. Seek the original!


Oil!
by Upton Sinclair

One of those books that can be retitled "Can You Finish It?" It's a thick, dense story that takes a long time to get started. In fact, the book didn't grab me until about halfway through it!

It starts with J. Arnold Ross and his six-or-seventh-grade son taking a car ride to a place in California where they are going to negotiate rights with a community to drill for oil on their land. You see, Mr. Ross is an independent oil baron. He's drilled dozens of tracts all over California, and has made quite a name for himself in the industry. The community descends into bickering with one another, and Ross abandons negotiating with those people. Instead, he drills somewhere else, on land with a much more reasonable person.

During this, Ross Jr. ("Bunny") meets Paul Watkins, a teenage runaway who wants to escape his father's religious fanaticism and strike out on his own, where he's free to think for himself and question the faith. Paul tells him there's oil on his father's land, but they're about to lose their house because they can't pay the bank anymore. Paul vanishes into the night.

Bunny is moved with compassion, so he takes his father there and begs him to buy the lease. He sees a way to get his father to do it: buy the lease and get an oil land to himself at the same time. They'll be helping a family in need and securing an oil field at once.

So they get to the Watkins ranch, Ross buys the land but doesn't tell the family there's oil on it. He is set to get millions out of the land, but only pays a few thousand for it. Bunny feels uneasy about this, but it is business.

To drill the oil, Ross has to bribe officials and buy local politicians just to get a road built. And then there is the strike. Bunny's father, along with the Petroleum Employers' Federation, put down a strike.

In practice Dad had observed that a labor union enabled a lot of officials to live off the work of the real workers; these officials became a class by themselves, a sort of vested interest, and they look out for themselves, and not for labor. They naturally had to make some excuse for their own existence, and so were apt to stir up the workers to discontent ...

Ah, but Paul, now head of the labor, argues that before Mr. Ross joined the Federation, he paid his employees a dollar a day more just to attract better workers. Once he joined what amounts to a union for the employers, he had to pay them the standard rate. The entire oil industry is unionized at the employer level who fixes prices, wages and working hours, so why should the workers not have a union to represent their interests, too?

Capital verses Labor. Bunny gets to see this conflict over and over, and then at the 45% mark or so, something interesting happens: the oil baron's son becomes a communist sympathizer. I had to slog through over 200 pages before the book got interesting. Up until then, everything Mr. Ross does comes across as just necessary to do business. But when Bunny starts to turn Red, now I have to see how this plays out.

The first world war happens, and though Bunny is protected from serving, Paul goes into it and ends up in Siberia for over a year. Bunny learns from one of his college professor the real reason for the war:

What Mr. Irving said was that our troops were in Siberia because American bankers and big business men had loaned enormous sums of money to the government of the Tsar, both before the war and during it; the Bolshevik government had repudiated these debts, and therefore our bankers and business men were determined to destroy it. It was not merely the amount of the money, but the precedent involved; if the government of any country could repudiate the obligations of a pervious government, what would become of international loans?

Bunny slowly begins to understand how the country works, and who's running it, and it isn't the government.

Bunny's father joins with Victor Roscoe, another independent oil baron, and form a joint company. As the years go by, Dad and Mr. Roscoe apply those old techniques on a bigger scale. They buy politicians, judges, everyone they need to obtain more land for drilling and to keep the workers down.

This book portrays what the communist movement was really all about, and it had nothing to do with taking hard-earned money and giving it to people who didn't earn it. It was about getting rid of the elite class of fat cats living off the work of others.

It even presents the Capitalist's point of view:

"I can buy officials, just the same as I can buy any politicians, or anybody else that a bunch of boobs can elect to office. ... It's because i had the brains to make the money, and I got the brains to use it. Money ain't power till it's used, and the reason I can buy power is because men know I can use it. ... I'm going to find oil and bring it to the top of the ground and refine it and sell it to whoever's got the price. So long as the world needs oil, that's my job; and when they can get along without oil, I'll do something else. And if anybody wants to share in that job, let him do like I done, get out and sweat, and work, and play the game."

"But Mr. Roscoe, that's hardly a practical advice for all the workers. Everybody can't be an operator."

"No, kiddo, you bet your boots they can't--only them that's got the brains. The rest have to work."

Bunny realizes all his father's wealth was earned on the backs of underpaid, overworked workers. People die getting their oil out of the ground, and yet the oil barons don't think the workers deserve a living wage, or safe conditions.

This is what the Men Who Built America thought of their workers.

This is fascinating, watching a rich kid come to terms with the reality of where his life of luxury came from. He's not really a communist, but he does sympathize with them. Really, what were the ideas that constituted a Red?

Apparently there are communist ideas: To acknowledge that the whole reason we go to war and are involved with other countries is because the rich business owners demand a return on their investment, therefore the rest of us must fight and die for them. They buy the press, the movies, the politicians and get them to present it as a moral and just reason to fight, but really it's all about money and protecting their status as the rich elite.

Perhaps we have no right to be in foreign countries. Perhaps we should leave other countries alone. Perhaps these people were merely trying to fight for their equal right. Perhaps they fight to get rid of the burden of occupation, and we are in fact the bad guy? Maybe the only threat was to the white man's ruling class and it had nothing to do with morality at all, but to protect the current establishment?

These are the ideas that got someone branded as a communist? To dare criticize America's intentions, its institutions? There was a time when certain viewpoints were heavily censored. We don't like to call it that in America, but it's what happened. Voicing ideas like these was once forbidden. These were the ideas that were branded un-American and censored??

Nothing could change the fact that it was on money wrung from Paradise workers that Bunny was living in luxury; nothing could change the fact that it had been to increase the amount of this money, to intensify the exploitation of the workers, that Paul had spent three months in jail and the other fellows were to spend nearly a year in jail.

J. Arnold Ross got rich by working his people into the ground. The Capitalists argue that without themselves to direct the whole process, none of those men would have had a job to begin with, but, Bunny wonders, does that really justify taking everything and giving next to nothing to the people who got that oil out of the ground for them? The Socialist movement was about balance and fairness, not redistribution.

Bunny witnesses all the things his father did when he was just an independent. He took the Watkins land without telling them he thought there was oil on it, bribed politicians to get roads built for him, bought up land secretly so no one suspected an oil man was there and the prices go up. When it's small like this, it's just something a man has to go get business done without being cheated.

But when Mr. Ross and Mr. Roscoe do these things on a national scale, things are different. Their company buys politicians, judges, clerks and everyone up and down the line to manipulate the government to the oil barons' favor. People fake documents, destroy still more documents and create legal reason to kick people off their land when oil is discovered on or near it. These people are out of a home, receive no compensation for the oil on their land, or the land itself, and because the oil companies bought the judges and the politicians, there is no legal recourse.

A pitiful, pitiful story--and the worst part of it, you could see it wasn't a single case, but a system. One more way by which the rich and powerful were plundering the poor and weak!

Bunny learns it isn't those who work the hardest who get the reward of riches and success, rather those who exploit others the best that get to be rich and live easy lives. He wonders if there is a better system to live by than simply to throw all the world's resources on the ground and let everyone fight for it all, and only the greediest, nastiest, most heartless people get anything.

Here are a few more good quotes:

It was a world in which some people worked all the time, and others played all the time. To work all the time was a bore, and no one would do it unless he had to; but to play all the time was equally a bore, and the people who did it never had anything to talk about that Bunny wanted to listen to.

Capitalism formed a class of rich elites who do nothing but go to parties and gossip about each other. Bunny doesn't fit into this life at all. He sympathizes with the oil workers who risk their lives to get oil out of the ground, all so he and Dad can live easy. Bunny feels guilty about it.

but what did she want with five thousand a week? To buy more applause and attention, as a means of getting more thousands and for more weeks? It was a vicious circle--exactly like Dad's oil wells. The wobblies had a song about it in their jungles: "We go to work to get the cash to buy the food to get the strength to go to work to get the cash to buy he food to get the strength to go to work--" and so on, as long as your breath held out.

It was the working world then, as it is now.

...their lack of familiarity with their jobs was a cause of endless trouble; they would slip from greasy derricks, or get crushed by the heavy pipe, and the company had had to build an addition to the hospital. But of course that was cheaper than paying union wages to skilled men!

It is cheaper to hire people who don't know what they're doing and mess up more, than to hire skilled people a decent wage.

The book is about Bunny trying to decide what he is. Pink or Red. Socialist or Communist. Those who want to achieve better conditions and wages peacefully by negotiation, or those who want an outright revolution against the rich men who manipulate entire countries to protect their own power and business interests. This is what the Communists stood for. No wonder the Capitalists were so hell-bent against it.

The Capitalists despise democracy because it is only through buying the government that business can exist in this way, and they can have such power. Therefore, business becomes a competition to buy the government. The book portrays the Red goal being to break the strangle of big business on the government and restore democracy that represents the people's interests. Doesn't that sound familiar? Upton Sinclair wrote about today's world in 1927. Nothing has changed.

It's a very dense, hard-to-read book, but once J. Arnold Ross Jr. begins to sympathize with the communists, it becomes a surprising page-turner.


Compare that to....


There Will Be Blood (2007)
starring Daniel Day-Lewis

Take a moment to click on that link to rotten tomatoes. The movie has an astounding 91% rating from critics and 86% from audiences.

Why?

I found the film boring, pretentious, amateurish and unfocused. What do people see in this movie? Does anyone see anything, or was this a case of cronyism to boost a director's career?




The film has nothing to do with the book. The character names aren't the same, the events aren't the same, the themes aren't the same. The book is both a presentation of what the communists are against, and an oil baron's son trying to decide how to sympathize with the Reds without distancing himself from his father. The struggle of capital verses labor, and the young man who straddles the border between the upper class capitalists who have everything, and the lower class workers who toil for table scraps so the upper class can have that life of luxury.

The movie tries to be a character study of an oil baron named Daniel Plainview (not J. Arnold Ross). Ok, that can still work. Portraying what kind of man it takes to be an oil baron in the early 1900's could be interesting in and of itself.

The first ten minutes or so of the movie are silent. At first I thought there was something wrong with my copy, then finally something happens that makes a noise. I knew then I was dealing with a "director's film," meant to showcase the director's "vision." All right, I respect that--it worked great for Quentin Tarantino.

So a man named Paul Sunday tells them he found oil on his father's land (the family is not named Watkins for some reason). The family leases the land and they start drilling. When they finally hit oil, Plainview's son is struck deaf.

There's a scene with Eli Sunday that has him confronting Daniel about getting their share of the money. Plainview slaps Eli and shoves his face in the oil, yelling that God wasn't there for his son, so why should he pay up? Yeah, the big fight scene is just a silly slap and getting his face shoved in oil. It's poorly acted, not choreographed, not dramatic. It comes across as kinda lame.

Then Eli berates his father for letting Plainview come into their town and push them around. What? When? We have seen no evidence of Daniel pushing anyone around. He's done nothing but drill for oil, and we have not seen how this affects anyone else.

The movie tries to make Eli and Plainview into rivals. Eli the famous preacher standing for God, and Plainview the businessman who stands for no God. But just as their conflict heats up, Eli goes away to spread God's word elsewhere and isn't seen again until the end of the film.

In the book, Eli Watkins starts a religion called the Third Revelation. He encourages the congregation to commune with the Holy Spirit by going into fits of seizure and rolling around the floor speaking in tongues. He seduces all of southern California with his powerful preaching and radio messages, but he's never Ross' rival. Eli and his religion serve no purpose to the story aside from some comedy relief, and to demonstrate why the rich think they have a right to buy the government: average people are idiots, so why should businessmen respect the government and the rules when idiots like these elected those politicians?

The movie's problem is that it has no story to tell. It can't decide what it wants to be about. It's supposed to be a character study, but for as much screen time as Plainview has, we don't have a clue how he thinks, or why he does what he does. There's no big conflict, and even though he gets stinking rich, he stays completely local. He doesn't use his money on a grand scale, doesn't seem to do anything with it apart from buying himself a bigger house.

The oil guy of the movie exists in a vacuum. He has no family, no roots, no origin. In the book, he has an extended family with ties to the social upper class of the time. He has a former wife. He has business partners, political allies, and on and on. In the movie, he never branches out. His actions don't touch anyone outside of town, and there is no blood, no vendetta, no conflict, no opposition. He doesn't have to trample on anyone to get to the top, doesn't have to bribe or cheat or do very much to be the best. He must have, but the audience doesn't see it.

At the end, he goes into an amusing speech about milkshakes and kills Eli for no apparent reason. It's the most memorable scene in the film, but what was the point of all that?! Eli was never a threat to Plainview, never even a foil! The two were barely in conflict, and he just kills him like that! Why??




I was bored out of my mind watching the film, and the book was kinda boring, too, until the story finally began. The film could have portrayed the kind of man it would take to rise to the top of the oil industry, minus the Red sympathy. It tries to portray a rivalry between the man who believes everyone needs God to succeed, and the man who is succeeding without God. This could have been a good conflict, but it is so underdeveloped it doesn't exist. Instead, the movie spends all its time being artsy and stylish and completely misses the point of the story it wanted to tell.

Watching the Ross Jr. of the book become a socialist because of his millions of dollars, and discovering how the rich and powerful live off the work of others and control the governments of the world and send people to die in wars because it's good for their business, is way more interesting than trying to analyze an isolated oil baron in southern California whose actions never leave the neighborhood.

The book may be a dense, longwinded defense of the Bolsheviks and their cause, and maybe it paints too rosy a picture of what the Russian Revolution achieved prior to Stalin rising to power (which all sides agree was the worst thing possible that could have happened to the movement), but the book is far more interesting than the movie.

Kudos to the movie for inspiring me to read the book in the first place. For better and for worse, Hollywood makes books immortal.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Seek the Original: Forrest Gump

I wrote this a long time ago but didn't post it because I was afraid of coming across as too negative. As an author, I don't think it's wise to be too critical, since I live in a glass house after all. Now... I'm tired of not doing things. Refraining from action is not progress. Action is progress! So here's action!

97.03% of everything Hollywood does is adapted from a book, or short story, or comic. Never settle for an adaptation. Seek the original!

Forrest Gump
by Winston Groom

A retarded (sorry, mentally challenged) man tells his life story. Life has taken him on a wild ride, and though he can't speak clearly and his mind doesn't work quite like you and me's, he done lived a good life.

You see, he's a huge kid. Over six feet, 200 pounds, and only a teenager. Well, one day he's walking down the street and somebody sees him and recruits him to play football for his high school. This starts him on the course of his entire life.

He doesn't understand plays and strategies, nor can he even catch the ball, but he can run. He can run very well, and nobody can get in his way. It's enough to make him a valuable player.

He gets to go to college playing football for them. He discovers he can do the complex physics equations that the professors took years to learn. He is labeled an idiot savant: super intelligent in a small number of areas, and yet, with an IQ of 75, barely able to spell his own name.

He learns to play the harmonica as soon as he picks one up, surpassing his friend, Bubba, who has been practicing for so long. When the game goes bust, he has to drop out of college and the Army snatches him up and ships him to Vietnam.

Using his football running skills, he pulls several wounded soldiers from harm's way. He is wounded in combat, sent to a hospital, picks up ping pong and excels at it instantly. He is discharged, meets president Johnson for a medal of honor, and then he is recruited to play table tennis professionally, representing the USA in a tournament in China. He saves Mao Zedong's life, gets lost in the city, and plays in the tournament. He doesn't even know who wins or loses by the time he goes home. He wanders up north where he meets up with Jenny, a hippie girl, whom he has known since grade school. His harmonica playing gets him noticed, and he ends up in a band with her.

Jenny persuades him to throw his medal away as an act of protest against the war. He accidentally injures an important man, and is sent to an asylum. Up until now, his adventures have been believable. It's here, after the medal-throwing incident, that things take a turn for the downright ridiculous.

His talent for complex math lands him a spot at NASA in lieu of a prison sentence. Forrest is sent into space along with an abrasive female astronaut and a nasty orangutan. They crash somewhere in New Guinea, where they are taken in by a tribe of cannibals, one of whom went to Yale and became a chess player. They have to plant cotton for the cannibals for four long years.

From here on out, the book lost me. Every review on the cover says this is a hilarious satire, but I can't figure out what it's satirizing.

Over and over, Forrest is "discovered," and someone else takes him for a ride, and at everything Forrest does, he succeeds. Everyone else around him--the educated, the sane, the qualified normal people--fail in whatever they do, and here's this idiot with no plan, no direction, succeeding at everything and not even trying. That's supposed to be funny, and I think it would have worked if not for the 4-year detour with the cannibals. That one just went too far, and the rest of the book builds on those events, so I can't pretend it never happened.

After some more misadventures, he ends up making a name for himself arm wrestling at a bar. Someone hears of his talent and recruits him for pro-wrestling, and he becomes a star!

He leaves wrestling, and is discovered to be a great chess player! He happens to meet a former grandmaster and whips his ass at a game. The guy then sponsors Forrest's entry into a real chess tournament!


I'm supposed to find this funny, absurd and endearing, but instead I found it irritating. Forrest isn't even on board with any of this stuff. Other people approach him, recognize his talent and say he's perfect for this, or a natural at that. They offer to bring him into ping pong, or pro-wrestling, or tournament chess, or running for senate. None of it is Forrest's idea. He's just there, doesn't know what he's doing or why, but he sure is good at everything that comes his way.

We should all be so lucky to be "discovered." We should all be so lucky to succeed at everything without even trying, like the shrimping business he starts that becomes a multi-million-dollar industry overnight ('cause apparently nobody else in Louisiana farms shrimp). We should all be so lucky for life to come to us instead of making us find it.

When Forrest finally makes a decision for himself, instead of letting someone else tell him he should do this or that, his life falls into place. But even that's not enough because he gets bored of it, walks away, lives on the streets like a bum, figures out how to play keyboard and becomes a one-man-band!

What is the point? What is this satirizing? What's so funny? I was on board until chapter 12. Really, I was, but after that point it becomes too ridiculous for its own good, and not even in a funny way. If there is a joke, I missed it.

I do like how the idiot of the story seems to be the normal person, and all the normal people are made the fools for it, but I don't think the book draws enough attention to that. Perhaps Macbeth was right. Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, symbolizing nothing. That seems to be Gump's life all right. I don't think it's all that funny, and if it had something to say, I missed it.


compare that to





Forrest Gump (1994)
starring Tom Hanks

Taking every adventure of Forrest Gump that works and leaving out the ones that don't, adding in a few new ones.

As a kid, Forrest is in leg braces. He meets Elvis Presley, where he dances along with Elvis' guitar playing. Then Elvis starts dancing just like Forrest did.

He's good at running, and coach recognizes this and recruits him. He plays football through high school and college, gets a degree for it and meets president Kennedy, shakes his hand and shares a joke.

Then he's shipped off to Vietnam, picks up table tennis, meets president Johnson, shows him his war wound and is recruited for the team to play against the Chinese. Forrest is discharged, buys a boat and starts a shrimping business in honor of Bubba, his shrimp-obsessed Army friend who was killed in the war.

It's actually much better than the book. Forrest's misadventures are more down to earth. There's no being shot into space, no living with cannibals, no wrestling, no Hollywood gig, no chess championship, no reunion with the orangutan that flew into space with him and keeping him as a pet for years. In the book, Forrest has so many adventures, and they follow such a predictable pattern and become so ridiculous that he becomes a cartoon character. Omitting these adventures improves the story greatly because now, in the movie, Forrest becomes a real person who could conceivably have gone through life this way.

The movie also explains why Forrest's shrimp business takes off: a hurricane destroys everyone else's business but Forrest's. Bad news for the local economy, good news for him, who is able to rush in and dominate the industry. (Symbolic of America after WWII? ...nah)

Jenny returns, leaves him, and Forrest decides to go jogging. He has no reason to stop, so he just keeps running because why not? He runs around the country for three years. This sounds like something Forrest would have done, and for just that simple reason. It's a hell of a lot more believable than him getting recruited for a chess tournament and a Hollywood movie at the same time. Forrest is a real person in the movie, and the audience can identify with him and his trip through American history. I don't know what he's supposed to be in the book.

In the movie, Dan is Forrest's lieutenant, and he's wounded in battle. Forrest pulls him out of the jungle and saves his life, but he loses both of his legs. In the book, Forrest doesn't meet him until he gets to the hospital. They become friends, but they didn't serve together.

Dan becomes a down-and-out bum in both versions of the story, but I actually like the book's take on why he becomes depressed. The Dan in the book thought he had life figured out. He had an academic philosophy for how life works, and he thought he was living by it until Vietnam happened to him. Now his life's philosophy is in shambles and he doesn't know what to do or where to go.

The movie uses this idea, but now Dan is convinced he's destined to die a hero in the war, and Forrest ruined his plan. It's a weaker reason, but his and Forrest's relationship is much stronger in the movie than it is in the book, more than making up for the slightly less sophisticated reason for Dan to be so depressed. Digitally removing his legs in every scene he's in is incredibly well done. Creepy, too.

Incorporating Forrest Gump into these archival reels is a nice touch. It's very convincing, though you can tell something just ain't quite right. The lips synch up with the voice, but something is still off... They go by so fast you don't have time to question them, so they're amusing for the couple seconds they're on screen and then we move on.

Subtle special effects, detailed sets and costumes and lots of archival footage recreate every era of American history in recent memory. Forrest feels like a real person who somehow made his way through all of it. He may be an idiot, but things turned out all right.

Now that his adventures are more grounded in reality; now that Forrest isn't ridiculously good at absolutely everything; now that he doesn't get shot into space and become a chess champion, his life story is amazing to watch. Its message is a little unclear, but it's more than the book, which had nothing at all.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Interesting pictures


It's official: my childhood is officially RETRO. I owned every one of those toys except the sock monkey. I loved my tinker toys, though the new ones are all plastic. No wood :-(


Guilmon, save me from the Y2K Bug!


At the office.


Father and daughter.


RATS!


Comfortable dogs.


The Rain Outside.


Ow.


Watching you write.


A visitor.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Last Haul complete, 300K words

It's done. Third draft complete as best as I can, thirteen months after I began it. I still worry about the visuals during the final confrontation, but there's always time to fix that up if necessary.

Three books.

One story.

Done.

My eyes hurt so much.

My oldest idea is finished. It's about 300,000 words--my second project of such length.

Nobody is going to publish this, not until I prove myself with something shorter. My trip to ConText confirmed it.

So please read my shorter works and enjoy them so I can publish the big stuff :-)

No more big stuff. Everything I do in the foreseeable future will be small. Short. Sweet. Something that won't take up so much energy.

I think I am finally tired. Making my oldest, biggest idea real took a lot of work. Someday it will pay off. Someday everyone will know it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Huvek Playlist

The Huvek playlist



North Point - Mike Oldfield




Juchu - DVA




Taurus II - Mike Oldfield




Kursk - Loscil





Mute - Loscil





What it is without what made it move - Gears of the Apparatus




Lake Orchard - Loscil




One inch above the surface of the ocean - Gears of the Apparatus




Conflict/Compromise/Repeat - Gears of the Apparatus




Casanova - Floex

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Future Prediction update: Playstation Now

An update to my original Future Prediction.

I read an article in Game Informer about Playstation Now. (The article is not online, it's in the magazine. Issue 258 page 15.)

On a very basic level, games are played on a remote server and the video signal is sent to your console. At the same time, your controller inputs are beamed back to the source.

This is possible for games now, so it's only a matter of time before all programs are like this. We will reach a point where we won't own anything, but all programs, music, movies, etc., will stream from central servers. No piracy because no one will download anything. Maybe we'll reach the point where hard drives will not exist on home computers. It will be framed as "convenience," but do not be fooled. Once the things we buy--once our information!--is no longer in our hands, our lives will not be in our hands.

Based on some of the reviews out there (1 | 2) people are looking forward to this. Once the problems with controller lag and pricing are resolved, it could be an industry changer.

I'm afraid.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Huvek - chapter 2, teaser

(back to ch 1, part 3)


2

Loy opened his eyes. His lungs were empty, and his chest felt like it was caving in. He gasped. His lungs expanded, as if for the first time in his life. The pain burned off the fog in his mind and he sat up, coughing and gasping, holding his throat with one hand and his chest with the other.

He was butt naked on a cold, metallic floor. He coughed and wheezed for over a minute. Feeling returned to his extremities. His vision cleared up. He noticed the walls were metal as well. Brushed metal, non-reflective, no seams anywhere.

Gradually his lungs became used to expanding and contracting. His heart settled into a stable rhythm again. Loy calmed down. He turned his head and looked around.

Against the wall to his right was a small bed. Mattress, box spring and frame with a blanket. Twin sized, he guessed. He looked to his left. There was a small nozzle sticking out of the wall. A showerhead. Beneath it were a few tiny holes recessed into the otherwise perfectly smooth metal for drainage. Just behind the showerhead, in the corner, was a small lavatory.

Loy slowly rose to his feet. He felt weak as a newborn kitten, and couldn't gather the energy to stand up straight. He stood hunched, still holding his chest with one hand, and turned. The room was five meters across. Perfectly smooth except for the shower area. Eerily clean. A five-meter, metallic box with rounded corners.

No entrance. Loy turned around in place, nearly tripping over his own feet, and confirmed it. There was no door or window. He couldn't even see an air vent. The entire room was solid, clean metal. The only soft thing in here was the bed.

Loy had turned in four complete circles, and now stopped, facing the foot of the bed. He lifted his foot and took a step towards it, suddenly feeling exactly how weak he was. He couldn't seem to remember how to put one foot in front of the other, so he lifted one foot and dragged the other behind him.

Something in the corner moved.

Loy just now noticed there was something large crouched in the corner. He stumbled to a halt and followed it with his eyes as it rose to full height.

It had green and blue scales. It stood about two heads taller than Loy, and was twice as wide. Its claws were as long as Loy's entire hand, and it stood on digitigrade feet that seemed to balance on claws just as long. It was as naked as Loy, allowing him to see every line on its hulking frame.

A kesvek.

Loy stumbled backwards a step, waving his arms around for balance. The reptile in the corner loomed, eyeing him. Its tongue flicked in and out a dozen times.

Distantly, Loy thought he should scream, or attack, or run and hide. He also thought the kesvek would coil up and leap on him, tear his chest open without hesitation. But instead, he only stood there. They glared at each other.

Loy felt this strange sense of calm. His heart didn't race at the sight of his enemy. His blood didn't boil. He only looked at him, and in the absence of rage, he felt curiosity.

"Who are you?" Loy said.



check out the whole novel on Amazon

More about me on the website.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Huvek - chapter 1, part 3

back to part 2


Loy and two others dropped from the wall and bolted into the city. He glanced to the sides at his fellow soldiers. Private Axer on his left. Corporal Harni on his right. He didn't know these two very well, but they were human, which made them family. They ran down the streets, taking turn after turn from one street to another, knowing it didn't matter if they stayed out of sight. The kesvek could smell them. They knew exactly where they were, how fast they were running, and that they were running for their lives.

Loy heard crashing footsteps turn a corner behind them. He stole a quick glance back. The three kesvek charged down the street like rampaging dinosaurs. He'd heard soliders use that analogy before. A typical kesvek was only about half a meter taller than a human, so the expression had nothing to do with physical size.

Loy felt like a little mouse scurrying away from a trio of T-Rexes. Deep throaty growls and snarls gained on them. Loy picked up the pace, fully aware the armor that should save his life was now weighing him down, but he dared not ditch it to pick up speed now.

Loy felt heavy footsteps slamming closer and closer to him. A kesvek warrior caught up from behind and ran Harni through the chest with his claws. He disappeared from Loy's side. Axer turned white. Loy's blood froze as he heard the kesvek tearing Harni's body apart through his armor.

A few seconds later, Axer's skull exploded as another warrior's claws speared it from behind. Loy didn't look back, but changed direction just in time to avoid the claws of the third warrior, which chopped empty air instead. Loy turned the corner and booked down the open street, hoping to be in sight of a human soldier with ammo.

Before him was an avenue with twenty kesvek in it. Loy's heart stopped, but his legs kept moving. The lizards saw the lone solider running towards them and turned to face him, claws out and tongues flicking the air. Suddenly Loy's body caught up to his mind. He skidded to a stop, reached to his side and grabbed his knife. It was the last desperate act of a soldier.

The kesvek behind Loy shouted something to the others. The Kesvek language was almost unpronounceable to humans, but Loy had learned it like everyone did in basic training. Loy could only make out the word clash.

The other warriors halted and watched. Loy turned and faced the reptiles chasing him. Two of the kesvek had blood on their claws. The third had none, and he was the one who had claimed Loy.

Loy heard no radio chatter. Not even the commander. They were dead. Just like that the reptiles had destroyed everyone. They never took prisoners. Civilian, military--didn't matter. The Kesvek killed them all just the same, except for the children. They left the young to starve to death.

Loy was pumped full of rage. His childhood fantasies of making these people pay for what they'd done came back to him. Now, with nothing to lose, he faced the lizard that claimed him and held his knife up.

The kesvek flicked his tongue around. It was long enough to reach down to mid-chest. He was smelling Loy from a distance. The warrior removed his armor, let it drop to the asphalt, and stood before Loy naked. Loy had no way of knowing if his attacker was male or female, as their genitals were hidden inside the body The sight of it filled Loy with disgust and he charged the lizard, screaming.

When he was less than a pace away from the scaly monster, Loy reached out with the knife, shoved it into the lizard's belly and continued his charge, beyond his opponent.

At the same time, the lizard's hand reached out to the side and the claws raked across Loy's abdomen as he tried to run by. His armor plates burst apart, his uniform turned to ribbons, and his skin opened up. The claws penetrated to his ribs, pulling a few of them free. They sank deeper and deeper, finally scratching the lower spine and exiting the body. Loy leaned into the wound and teetered over. He fell on his arm and rolled four times before resting on his back. He couldn't feel his legs. The damn lizard had pierced his spine with only a glancing scrape!

The lizard stood over him. He leaned down, tongue dangling over Loy's face. Loy swatted it away with one arm, clenched his other fist shut and punched the lizard across the snout. His knuckles shattered. The kesvek's body was solid as stone. Loy screamed, channeled the pain into rage, wound up with the other hand and threw another punch at the kesvek's snout. His hand connected with solid scale, bone and muscle, and broke. The kesvek didn't even flinch.

Loy dropped his arms to his sides and screamed at the lizard. He wanted to make him suffer, make him pay for what his people had done to mankind, but he couldn't even hurt him.

The lizard's tongue flicked over Loy's face. He muttered something in their language, but Loy couldn't make it out. The warrior raised his claws and plunged them into Loy's chest. It pierced his armor and his skin. His ribs snapped like toothpicks in the kesvek's grip, and the lizard wasn't even putting effort into it. He could break Loy's body just brushing up against him it seemed.

Loy's heart stopped. The warrior withdrew, flicked his tongue over Loy again, and got up. Loy lay still, blood gushing out in torrents. He couldn't move. He wanted to move away from the pain, but nothing responded.

Blood. Lots of blood.

The kesvek were walking away. Loy thought they'd eat him, or drink his fluids, or take a trophy. He'd heard they did that often. Maybe he wasn't worth it. Maybe they were pressed for time. Maybe some of his battalion survived and were going back to their supply cache. Sooner or later, the Kesvek would fall. They had occupied this planet for more than standard year. It was on the leading edge of human/kesvek territory and mankind wanted it back. They would not let the kesvek advance any further. Loy lay alone as life drained from him.

He had an amusing thought as his vision flickered. For thousands of years man wanted to know if he was alone in the universe. Then, forty-six years ago they found life. Intelligent life. Idealists heralded it as the greatest day in human history--bigger than the discovery of faster-than-light space travel--greater than teleportation--more important than the construction of the first artificial planet--more far-reaching than man's success in terraforming and colonizing other star systems.

But all it wanted to do was kill them.

Forty-six years of constant war. Humans settled on a planet, the Kesvek would land and take it. There never were survivors except for the children, and a few stragglers who managed to wiggle between the dead bodies and take word of the invasion to other colonies.

Loy grew up listening to these stories. He heard recorded pleas for help played back again and again. One of them he’d had to memorize, the immortalized testimony of Don Traversa, who escaped the invasion of Apparatus 8 on an FTL and delivered the first distress message to neighboring colonies. It was the first time a colony had been invaded, and the first of thousands of conflicts.

Loy's vision flickered. He saw his wife, Emma. His daughter, Jill...

Loy had served his mandatory term in the military, and then reenlisted voluntarily to keep them safe. To drive the reptiles back where they came from so they could never hurt anyone again.

Loy knew when he reenlisted what he was up against. Every kid grew up learning about their enemy, and ever since he heard about the atrocities they committed on mankind's colonies in other star systems, Loy wanted to do something about it. His mandatory service began when he was ninteen standard years old.

Loy was proud of what he had accomplished since then. They may have lost this city, but Loy helped win dozens of others. He himself had been there for the retaking of colonies on Kreno 3, Taurus 2 and many others.

So many planets. So many battles. So much death. But he drove the Kesvek back. He killed thousands of reptiles. He made a difference. Someday someone would find his dogtag and know he died defending mankind.

His wife was prepared for this, and so was Jill. They'd know he died for them, but more importantly he killed for them. When she was younger, he always told his daughter he was out killing monsters. It was the truth. He killed more monsters in his life than he ever thought existed, and it made him feel good to know that he kept them from harming her. Loy was happy knowing he made a difference. His eyes closed.

"I'm coming, Father. Jesus forgive my sins... I'm ready..."

His mind faded in and out. His body went numb. He had no regrets.



more on the website


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Huvek - chapter 1, part 2

(back to part 1)

Loy and his squad ducked low along the city wall. The point commander broke away from the edge and quickly ran between buildings just in case the warriors turned their guns to the flanking sides of the wall. The kesvek warriors continued firing.

Loy was aware they were leaving a gap for the Kesvek to march straight into the city, and the commander was hoping they'd walk right into the gap. The entire battalion would have them surrounded.

Finally, after several minutes of nonstop shooting, the Kesvek's weapons were silent. It took a long time for the reverberation to drain from Loy's ears. When it did, Loy heard marching lizards, and then the unmistakable sound of claws raking stone. They were breaking down the wall with their bare hands. A couple warriors could do it in no time, and a swarm of them could make even shorter work of it. Sure enough, the stone crumbled.

Loy wished for a tank, or artillery, or something big right now. There was always a device like that in video games at a time like this, but the reality was tanks were useless against the Kesvek. Their lack of mobility and narrow field of vision made them easy targets for warriors. One could tear his way through the armor in just a few swipes and ruin the whole machine.

The same went for unmanned attack and defense systems. The Kesvek immediately sought out and destroyed the satellites and antennas that ran them, and then it was back to meeting the lizards on the front lines again. They always pushed forward faster than the humans could pull back.

Air strikes were little help, as explosions only bruised them. Traditional bullets were stopped cold by their hides. Extremely sharp blades were the only thing that seemed to get through the thick layer of scales. In the early days of the war, grenades and bombs loaded with shrapnel worked beautifully, until the Kesvek began wearing secondary armor.

In response, humans perfected bullets with sharp tips, which pierced lizard hide very well, but then they had to get through the tough layers of muscle and thick bone. The best way to kill a kesvek was to fill him full of bullets until he dropped. Unfortunately, the extra armor the Kesvek wore stopped the razor rounds.

The Army couldn't train everybody as a sharpshooter, able to aim for the weak points between the joints in the armor, or the gaps in the helmet, and equipping the troops with multiple types of ammunition would have been too much for them to juggle. Instead, the Army simply gave automatic weapons to all the troops and counted on the sheer number of razor rounds to tear through the armor and eventually take the kesvek down.

Computer-aided aiming systems were still not fast enough to make precise hits on a kesvek moving at full speed, so it was up to the troops on the front line. Ground troops, like Loy, were mobile, agile, able to adapt on the fly to whatever the enemy threw at them, but it took so much to take even one lizard down. Sometimes a shot to the head would kill a kesvek instantly, but there was still a lot of bone to get through, so it would have to be a very lucky shot.

A minute passed in relative silence as the warriors tore through the city's defensive wall. It had been built to resist a Kesvek invasion, so it was high and thick, but it served more as psychological comfort to the citizens who once lived in this colony than real defense. Nothing short of kilometer-wide moat would slow down an army of kesvek warriors.

Loy's squad leader took them to the wall, which had already been prepared with piles of sandbags every thirty meters. Loy climbed up one of them and peeked over the top.

The line of reptiles broke through the wall at that moment. They pulled the stone blocks down and opened the gap wider and wider. It would take a wrecking ball to do what these lizards could do. Loy had nothing but respect for them--a respect he channeled into disdain.

When the gap was wide enough, the enemy marched through it into the city. The Kesvek had backwards legs and walked on their toes, making them appear as if they were always hunched over, about to charge at full speed. Several kesvek walked by the position Loy once held. Their tongues slid from their snouts, flicked around and tasted the ground where he had taken cover. Loy sneered in disgust. Snakes with limbs was one nickname given to the Kesvek.

"FIRE!" screamed Northpoint.

Loy rose from cover and emptied his clip. His entire battalion unloaded theirs. Several hundred guns went off at once, all trained on the group of kesvek in the middle. Soldiers on the other side of the wall opened fire as well. Troops had taken position on rooftops and rained sharp metal down on the enemy. Still others launched grenades into their ranks to distract them. They unloaded everything they had on the warriors. The kesvek were surrounded and there was nowhere to run.

If the kesvek had been anything close to human, they would have scattered for cover. But not these monsters. The warriors stood their ground, took the razor rounds. Pieces of armor flew in all directions as fast as the bullets fired. Sometimes the kesvek flinched when a shot made it through a joint.

The lizards with weapons swung them around and sprayed bullets in all directions. Several voices over the com were cut off in mid-sentence. Blood splattered everywhere. Loy reached for another clip, but the space on his vest was empty. He felt the next, and the next. Nothing. Four of his fellow humans were out of ammo, too.

The sound of human weapons was noticeably quieter than before. The kesvek weapons had taken out many soldiers, and now the warriors stopped firing. They shrugged the weapons off their backs. The guns clanged on the asphalt like cast-iron girders. Now free of the weight, the kesvek stood hunched over, tails out for balance, and splayed their claws. Their tongues darted in and out, tasting the air for prey. They fanned out through the city in all directions. Three kesvek ran towards Loy's group.



more on the website



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Huvek - chapter 1, part 1

Huvek
© 2014 by James L. Steele
www.jameslsteele.com

This is a sample of a published novel. You may redistribute, but do not alter.


1

Loy rose from behind the wall and opened fire, spraying razor sharp bullets back and forth across the line of advancing reptiles. Three hesitated and jerked to the side as his rounds connected with their body armor. A split second later they righted themselves, still charging forward at full speed. They never hesitated long.

Loy emptied his clip, ejected it and crouched below the wall as he yanked another from his vest and popped it in. He braced himself on the sandbags piled midway up the wall for a firing platform, stood up straight and started shooting again.

His entire battalion was firing into the line of massive reptiles from behind the city's defensive wall. They had previously succeeded in clearing the kesvek out, but now the reptiles were coming back and they had never looked more intimidating.

One warrior's head bucked backwards and he (or she) toppled back with it. The warrior sprawled out on the ground and did not get up. Loy wasn't sure if he had fired the killing shot or not, but the sight of a fallen reptile energized him. It made him think of the countless worlds the Kesvek invaded. The billions of human lives they took as they advanced through the star systems, claiming world after word for their own. Loy was fighting for all of them, and seeing a Kesvek fall reassured him they were vulnerable to razor rounds. They could be killed. The war was winnable.

A kesvek was nearly indestructible, even without his armor. The reptiles carried no weapons and advanced as a single wall of solid scale and brute muscle. The massive claws on their feet and hands were known to pierce solid metal. They preferred hand to hand combat, so the strategy was to keep them as far away as possible. Spraying them with gunfire would kill them eventually, but as the line of red, green, white, yellow and blue scales ran closer, Loy began to feel the first hints of dread.

Loy's clip was empty. He ducked below the wall and ripped another from his vest as he ejected the old one.

"Jesus help me. Jesus keep me safe. Jesus give us victory and take care of my wife and daughter if I fall."

He said it every battle, sometimes multiple times in a battle, always while reloading. He locked the clip, rose above the wall and opened fire. The wall of charging lizards was so close he could hit them with his eyes closed.

The swarm hadn't thinned, and they merely flinched as they charged. The spray of gunfire was like a strong wind they had to resist.

One of the warriors reached behind his back and pulled something from a holster slung between his shoulders. It was cylindrical, twice as thick as the kesvek's arm, and had multiple openings at the front. It resembled a type of automatic weapon that was usually mounted at perimeters and took four soldiers to transport. Loy ceased fire, puzzled this reptile would be holding a weapon.

The wall of charging reptiles slowed to a stop as a dozen other warriors pulled identical guns from behind their backs as well. They looked like they weighed two-hundred kilos apiece, and the lizards swung them around like cardboard tubes. Moments later, fifty reptiles were aiming weapons at the wall.

Flashes of light emitted from the barrels of these guns. The first few shots sounded like gunfire, but then every gun began firing at the same time, and the shots blended into a solid roar. Loy leaped from his perch and rolled down the sandbags as bullets shattered the wall. Loy crashed on the cracked asphalt and covered his head as a heavy spray of concrete rained down on him. Six other soldiers also dropped to the street and lay low, waiting for it stop.

"They have guns!?" Leo shouted.

"What the fuck!?"

"Break position! Try to flank them!" shouted Northpoint, the lieutenant colonel.

The gunfire ceased for a breath. Loy scrambled to his feet and ran hunched over. The other soldiers on the ground got up and ducked away. A second spray of gunfire pierced their stone cover as Loy joined his fellow troops moving up the left side of the wall. From the sound of the weapons, Loy guessed the reptiles weren't advancing anymore. They stood in place as they unloaded round after round into the city wall. They knew they had the advantage. They didn't need cover, and their guns were big enough to punch through any cover humans tried to take.

Loy tried to wrap his mind around this. Over forty years of war, and the Kesvek had never used guns. Kesvek disliked fighting at a distance. They preferred to tear things apart with their claws. What had kept them at bay for so many years was mankind's skill at fighting from a distance. Now the enemy was using human-style weapons. This meant the reptiles were desperate enough to sink to lowly human combat techniques.

Loy had a thought. He pressed his radio button. "Anyone notice they waited until they were close to us before opening fire?"

"They held off until they were right on top of us!" someone said. Loy recognized the voice. It was Batter, a private, first tour of duty, total rookie and too eager for his own good.

"They like to touch their victims," Loy said. "Maybe they settled for seeing the whites of our eyes instead. We stay out of sight maybe they won't open fire again."

"Hooah," someone announced, followed by a chorus of other replies.

"Keep flanking, stay low, do not reveal position until ordered," said Northpoint.



more on the website



Friday, September 5, 2014

Future Prediction 4

"No boots on the ground, no boots on the ground" that's all we hear anymore. After Iraq, of course it is.

The US has been testing a new kind of warfare for years, using drone strikes and airstrikes exclusively. If this keeps up, we will be able to maintain our empire remotely.

The next step will be zeppelins hovering over every nation 24/7, firing rockets on any gathering crowds in the name of terrorist prevention.

Yay, a steampunk totalitarian future is coming! You are welcome, world.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Huvek - now on Amazon

For those of you who only trust giant corporations to serve your reading needs, Huvek now has a page on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1614501890/

Science fiction with reptilian aliens, but this time the line between the good guys and bad guys is not so clear. Exactly who is to blame for the war? How will the war end?


Who are the monsters?

Sample chapters are at on the website! Check 'em out!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My little Ninja Turtles / Guardians of the Galaxy review

Went to see the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and the new Ninja Turtles movie. I swore I wouldn't pay money to see the TMNT film, and I didn't care about Marvel/Disney's new film either, but for the sake of being social, I went.



The new turtles are UGLY! Ugly, ugly, ugly! You almost get used to it when seeing them in motion, and in all honesty the CG blending is so well done I forgot the actors were reacting to nothing, but God, the DIALOGUE!

The Turtles do nothing but spew out pop culture references and lame, lame, LAME jokes. In past incarnations, this made them likable, but this time it makes them annoying! They often make fun of how bad their jokes are, and this awkwardness is supposed to pass for humor. It doesn't work.

What the hell did they do to Mike!? Remember those two racist Autobots from Transformers 2? They turned Mike into one of them!!

The turtles' voices were all wrong, especially Splinter's.

The whole thing was just laughable, and not in a good way. The humans are no better! I don't think Megan Fox did a bad job as April, but the whole movie made me wish the turtles were scientifically accurate, because if they were, they'd have no vocal chords and could not spew out those awful lines.

And what the fuck happened to Splinter?! No wonder you never saw him in the trailer. His design is the worst. About the only good thing in the movie is Shredder's new costume. Other than that, it's terrible.

Impressive CGI integration, but the writing killed it. Boring storytelling, boring story, mindless action, hideous creature design, no characterization, lame dialogue, bad jokes, bad pop culture references. Technically impressive, but it all falls back on the writing.



Compare that to Guardians of the Galaxy. What a difference. Over-the-top, larger-than-life story and difficult to follow action, but it pulls you in. Each character is given a personality, history, motivation, and they interact very well. The raccoon is the best part of the movie! It's a pretty good film. Helped me forget about the turtles.

Was actually very difficult to watch both movies because the whole time I'm thinking about the book(s) I'm editing. It always happens to me while in a major project. I'm thinking about the book constantly, every minute, no matter what else I'm doing. Between moments of thinking about the movie, or the game, or the job, or whatever, I'm thinking about the story. I was editing it, going over dialogue in my mind, thinking I need to change this, or that.

Still, I'm glad I saw both films.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This is drafting

My problem is that even after 8 months away from the story, I still remember a hell of a lot. Only a couple sections of the new book surprised me. The writing process must have been more intense than usual, because the entire story was etched pretty deep into my mind.

Huvek wasn't like this, and neither was Felix and the Sacred Thor. Those stories I had almost entirely forgotten by the time I did a second draft. This project is so much different, probably because it is so big, and so close to my heart.

This is drafting: everything is there. It just needs to be described and organized better.

I'm in this for the long haul

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Time to finish

Drafting is just a matter of updating everything I wrote in the beginning to match what I figured out towards the end.

I already have a good idea what I need to change. It's time to finish the next big project.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A third barrier to communication

Please stop saying "literally."

I am literally so glad to be going home!

I am literally pissed!

We have literally a ton of turkeys in the back.

I doubt we have 2,000 pounds of turkeys to sell, and I'm pretty sure being literally pissed would be more funny than dramatic.

Just like people's use of the word "word." You say something true, someone says "word."

"We should be able to get out early today."

"Word!"

I heard someone say it after he clocked out of work. He just punched out for the day, and said "word."

What? What does that mean? What's it refer to? I asked two people about that, and they couldn't tell me what it means, and yet they still use it. I don't get it.

This must be how my parents felt listening to the way my generation started talking. I suppose if someone asked me to explain why I say "cool" when I'm amazed or impressed, I couldn't say exactly what I mean. Their parents probably didn't get "swell" or "groovy" in the same way either.

But please stop using literally. It doesn't meant what you think it does. I like the begrudging acknowledgement in Apple's dictionary (which I think is Oxford):

In its standard use, literally means ‘in a literal sense, as opposed to a nonliteral or exaggerated sense’: I told him I never wanted to see him again, but I didn't expect him to take it literally. In recent years, an extended use of literally (and also literal) has become very common, where literally (or literal) is used deliberately in nonliteral contexts, for added effect: they bought the car and literally ran it into the ground. This use can lead to unintentional humorous effects ( we were literally killing ourselves laughing) and is not acceptable in formal English.

As you can see, it is literally unacceptable!

Please stop!

Word!