Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts

Thursday, February 19, 2015

KDP Select FTW!

Greetings Fellow Readers,

I listed Shadow Galactic's relaunch on Amazon KDP, Apple iBooks, Nook Store and Google Play.  Only Amazon came through for me. As someone who knows very little about how to effectively market anything (let alone a self-published ebook), I made use of Google's and Apple's promotional tools.  Sales were not impacted at all by the either promotion.

Whatever else Amazon is doing, their KDP Select promotional tools have been highly effective.  So while I had resisted returning to the shackles of Amazon-exclusivity, it has provided the only effective promotional tools I have used to date.  As such, my amazing wife and partner in crime has pulled all but the Amazon link down.

I was going to write something about pay-to-play and its effect on the music industry then juxtapose that against the free to self-publish model, and the effects (both good and bad) that such models have had on both industries, but then I realized I'm not really qualified to rant about that.  =)  Happy Thursday, everyone!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Writing for the Sake of Writing

Greetings Fellow Readers,

Happy Tuesday!

For those of you still following, I issued a massive update to Shadow Galactic a couple weeks ago (almost 100,000+ words).  By now, the Amazon Kindle store should have issued an automatic update for everyone who still owns a copy.

I've also added Shadow Galactic to iBooks, Nook Press, and Google Play Books.  Yeah, I know I've been sitting on this book for a while now - it turned 2 years old on 1/22/15  - but between life and everything else that comes with it, it's been hard to find the time to complete something really new.  Plus, it's really a labor or love, as it turns out.  It's not a way to get rich, unless you're very lucky, very connected, or insanely talented.

But still I feel compelled to write.  Until now, I thought it was to write my own ticket, but since I've been chasing that rabbit for 21 years without any measurable financial success, I needed to ask myself why I really did it the first place, and why I still feel the calling every time I close my eyes.


Because it's part of who I am.  Writing is part of how I express myself, and it turns out I've always had great big stories to tell.  I know they're not perfect for everyone who reads them, but that's okay, because they're me.  They're a work in progress, just like me.  My writing voice cracks like the squeaky-voice teenager from the Simpsons, but the more I use it, the stronger and clearer it gets.

I've formed a writing group with my wife and best friends, and we're going over the prompts we want to work with tomorrow.  I'll be posting my pieces here, after they've gone through the wringer.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who still follows this blog.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Happy Return

Hey all, I'm back! Sorry for the extended absence, but I needed to hide in my cave for a while and take the editing cleaver to a lot of things.

I've folded in a lot of Shadow Divided into Shadow Galactic, and added a bunch of new material.  I've evened out the character growth pacing, and Amanda isn't nearly such a brat. ;)  So if you haven't updated your Shadow Galactic contact on Kindle, I encourage you to do so.

Also, I've expanded Shadow Galactic to include the Google Play, B&N Nook Press and Apple iBooks markets.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Q&A and an excerpt from Shadow Galactic


Q: How do you come up with your ideas for your stories?
I tend to be inspired by real life heroes, and I have an intensely visual imagination. When those two things intersect, I get sparks of inspiration, and entire worlds unfold. I fall in love with fantastic settings and throw normal people into them. Also, I grew up on Star Trek, Star Wars and comic books, so a lot of those elements get caught in my lens.

Q: What is your process in getting ready to write?
I start with the setting at its broadest level and zoom in until I have the character I want to carry the hero's burden upon their shoulders. A lot of time is spent visualizing the world, its natural challenges, and how confronting them on a regular basis might shape the culture of the people who call that world their home. From there, I give a lot of time to research, to character backstory, and to naming everything I can think of. When I'm done, I make a list of character and location abstracts to refer to while writing, so as to avoid continuity violations. After that's locked down, I outline each chapter of the book. With all those things in place, I'm ready to type the first words.

Q: What is the overall writing process? (listen to music, quiet, etc.)
Oddly enough, it's a rather uncomfortable series of internal switches that must be flipped in order for me to reach the state of mind where I can actually write. I feel like I always want to write, but with things like life occurring amidst all that want, it's a desire that's constantly sidelined. It takes some quiet to start, and sometimes a lot of staring at the ceiling. After that's out of the way, I sit down and queue up some Basshunter, Enya, Daft Punk or one of their equivalent stations on Spotify and lose myself in the music. It just sort of flows after that, and it's suddenly a couple hours later. I don't get enough sleep when I'm writing.

Q: How do you go about researching for your books?
Wikipedia is a very dear friend and good starting point. I try to be as accurate as I can be in portraying subcultures, as well as what physics I'm obeying and disregarding, so my research travels take me far and wide. Some of my favorite sites include: and

Q: What do you do for character development and character interaction?
It try to imagine the kinds of parents my characters had, and the kinds of parents their parents had. I put the predecessors into the setting I've developed and try to imagine what challenges they faced and how that would shape their priorities. I imagine what mistakes they made in the character's upbringing, and how that has affected social interaction, what insecurities it's generated, and what confidence has developed as a result of facing those challenges. At that point, I challenge the character with the brutal aspects of the setting and give them a chance to grow.

As for interaction, I try to imagine what psychological triggers lurk under the surface for each of the characters (poor Valerie Sawyer towards the end of Shadow Galactic). From there, I imagine how they've coped with emotional scars, what they would normally feel, and what they would do when they can't afford to feel what they want. I let those states drive conflicting emotions that in turn drive as authentic conversations as I can imagine. I try to make my characters decisive and somewhat archetypal, both for ease of writing and for giving the reader something familiar in an otherwise unfamiliar environment. I write and rewrite dialogue five or six times before settling on the cadence and final exposition.

Q: How do you figure out the motivation behind the heroes? The villians?
The motivations behind the heroes are pretty simple: they seek friendship, love and security, but more than that, they're courageous. My heroes are willing to face their fears, even if it costs them everything.

Writing believable villains is a bit more challenging. A villain is someone who is willing to put their own desires (no matter how depraved) above the wellbeing of everybody else between them and reaching their goals. They're willing to kill their peers. And while writing a homicidal psychotic is a pretty easy solution, it doesn't make for a very complex character. I saw or read somewhere that "normal" people only ever kill for three reasons: money, love or to cover something up. So I ask myself: what drove my villain to this point? Lodoxol's father was murdered. Regardless of the circumstances, he loved his father dearly. He is willing to kill for love. Rowan too, in a sense.

Shadow Galactic Excerpt

Amanda joined Lodoxol within the Operations Room. Looking to his crew, she said, “Can we have a moment, please?” They paused to regard her. “It won’t take long.”

“Sir?” replied one of the soldiers.

“You heard her,” snapped Lodoxol. “Everyone, out. Now!” Hurriedly, his soldiers rose from their stations and exited the room. The moment they were gone, Lodoxol turned fierce eyes on Amanda and snarled, “Never do that again! You overstep your bounds, eh hm.”

“Stow it. You need me.”

Lodoxol raised his hand, but he flinched as his belt turned suddenly to dust, and his pants began to slip. He committed both hands to holding up his pants. Eyes wide, grinning, he whispered, “You did it! You learned how to do it!”

Amanda smiled roguishly. “Damn right, I did! Look, if we’re going to save the Earth from my brother, we’re going to do it together, as equals. Understand?” Lodoxol appeared to be choking as he wrung the top of his pants. “And I need some assurances. I heard a few unsavory rumors about you while I was down there, and I’d like to put them to rest.”

Gradually, his cheeks returned to their usual river mud coloration. His eyes lost their red rims, and he exhaled coolly. In a hush, he asked, “What were you told?”

“It doesn’t matter, because I choose not to believe it.”

“Then the rumors are already put to rest, eh hm.”

Shaking her head, Amanda countered, “Not exactly. I still have plenty of doubts about the quality of your character. After all, you did essentially kidnap me from my home world right after you threw a truck at me. I understand why: you’re looking at the bigger picture, but a normal, compassionate person may have chosen to go about things in a more socially acceptable fashion.”

“I have repeatedly offered to return you to Afskya, eh hm.”

“And every time I took you up on it, you had another reason why we couldn’t go back just yet. Always an apology and a promise of soon.” She crossed her arms. “But I was kind of stuck here without any sort of leverage, so I didn’t push too hard.” She chuckled quietly. “I guess I’m still stuck here, but now I have leverage.” Pointedly, she glanced to the ring of leather dust at Lodoxol’s feet.

Lodoxol smiled, his triangular lips slick with saliva, and his snout twitched. “I see. You’re not so unlike your brother, after all.”

“Don’t do that. Don’t turn this around on me. I’m just asking that you do one good thing for me, before I sign papers, so to speak. One good thing, as a show of good faith, and that we do this as equals.”

“Ellogon culture has very strict roles assigned to men and women. My men will not take well to being ordered around by you. They may resist, eh hm.”

Amanda shrugged. “I don’t give a shit. Show them your belt if they need convincing. Believe me when I say that however this goes, I am no longer your subordinate.”

“Your tone has made that abundantly clear.” He tilted his head somewhat. “What good deed would you have me undertake?”

With a triumphant smile, she answered, “I’m not sure yet. Let’s check the Mayday channel.”

“A fine idea, eh hm.” Rigidly, Lodoxol led Amanda from the Operations Room to the Costaguana’s bridge. Along the way, he stopped by the quartermaster’s office for a new belt.

They soon reached the command deck, and its bulkhead hissed open to reveal a large, circular chamber. Along the walls immediately to her left and right, auxiliary stations formed a semicircle, each with a chair placed before it. Several paces out, just to her right, the captain’s roost sat between two other seats. Ahead of the officers’ stations, a trio of wide terminals rose at an angle from the deck, with two chairs placed before each of the tactical stations. Overhead, a narrow ring of green light radiated out, joined by four wide, illuminated spokes that spanned the entire width of the ceiling. They bore the central ring’s same shade of green.

The officer of the watch bolted upright and rumbled something in native Ellogon, so deep in tone that Amanda had difficulty distinguishing unique sounds. He glared her way as he addressed his captain. Others rose from their stations, clearly incensed by Amanda’s presence. Lodoxol answered in Ellogon at first, but he quickly followed with, “At ease, all of you. We sail a Terran starship, and we must be prepared to accept certain Terran customs. From this point forth, whenever you’re in the presence of this woman, you will all restrict your conversations to English. If you’re not fluent, you will be silent.”

The officer of the watch leaned in close. “So this is what your glorious plans have come to?” He tugged on his red uniform, a fading remnant of the once great Ellogon Empire. “We don’t wear these for the pride of our people, son of Perymdak. Remember that!”

His captain’s eyes flashed, and Lodoxol snarled, “Amanda, a demonstration, if you please.” He stepped back, clenching and unclenching his fists.

“Nope,” she responded, and Lodoxol turned wide eyes her way. “What’s your name?”

The officer of the watch spat on the deck at her feet.

“Ah, insubordination. That’s one day’s wages, according to your contract.” She looked to two able-bodied soldiers and added, “Plus a day in the brig. Take Officer Angry Spit to his cell.”

“I will never heed the command of a woman,” growled the officer of the watch.

“The thing is, I share the captaincy with Lodoxol now, and I’ve had plenty of time to familiarize myself with the Costaguana’s bylaws, as well as the contracts each one of you mercenaries signed.” Her expression darkened. “Brig. Now.”

With a primal Ellogon howl, he lunged at Amanda, his hands outstretched. Instantly, his clothing turned to dust, and he found himself choking on his roar. Desperately, he tried to cover his shame, and he dove behind one of the tactical stations.

Lodoxol guffawed. “Well done, Amanda, eh hm. Well done! Although I might have preferred something a bit more lethal.”

Startled by her display, it took the soldiers she had indicated only a moment more to collect themselves and restrain the officer of the watch. They led him stumbling from the bridge. One by one, the remainder of the command crew stood up slowly and saluted their new co-captain.

“Good,” said Amanda, and she returned the salute. “Who handles ship’s communications?”

An ellogon to her right raised his hand. “I do, sir.”

She narrowed her gaze and muttered, “Close enough.” With a contained smile, she approached him and said, “I need you to tune in to the Mayday channel. We’re looking for someone that really needs help, but who isn’t likely to get it in time.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Q&A: World Building

Q: What process do you use when creating a new world?
A: When devising a new world, I ask myself the following questions:
• What kind of star does it orbit?  There are only a small range of star types that allow for a habitable zone to naturally occur.  With the possibilities of advanced terraforming, that range is expanded, but not by very much.  However, it does allow for some "dead stars" to provide a planetary home for frontier colonies.
• How large is the planet and what is its chemical composition?  Again, there is only a finite range of planet sizes and densities that would ever support ongoing intelligent life, regardless of how advanced terraforming ever gets.  On top of that, that planet must be part of a 3rd generation star system (or younger) and have sufficient raw materials to sustain a colony, or at least to pique the interest of developers.
• There's a lot of mysteries in the galaxy!  What mysteries make sense for this planet?  For reasons that are puzzling at present, many outer galactic rim worlds demonstrate high concentrations of iron and gold.  This is contrary to what is expected, based on the life cycles of star systems within the Milky Way.  With those blurred lines in mind, I take a few liberties with some of the hard science in order to create some fantastic locations.
• If geological and bio-diversity are largely predictable, and if Earth is a pretty good sampling of what we can expect to find elsewhere in the universe, what features distinguishes an entire PLANET from other planets?  I spend a lot of time imagining how the rise of one dominant species might influence the fate of an entire world.  While survival and environment did much to shape human culture long ago, humans have in turn had a direct and measurable impact on the surface and climate of Earth, driven largely by a need to expand, survive and create.  Our means of doing do have determined what tools we use, and those in turn have influenced much of our arts and culture.  So, what if a species of bird born to a higher-gravity world rose to dominance?  I give you Afskya, and I give you the ospyreans.

Q: What is your favorite one so far and why?
A: My favorite world so far is probably K'n-yal, because it's pretty mysterious.  It has a complex, aggressively regenerative ecosystem that is driven by a sentient, unknown intelligence implied to be on a planetary scale.  As the series progresses, I look forward to peeling back the layers until the heart and soul of K'n-yal is revealed.  Second to that, I'd say it's a tie between Huya, for its gritty mix of rustic life and high tech culture, and Ixion Prime, for its beauty.  Of course, the hologram-laden high-rises and floating markets of Thasad are pretty awesome to imagine, and the endless dunes of Ry'lyeh would be breathtaking.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Remembrance of the Acquainted

In Path of the Time Walker, I delve a little deeper into ellogon culture, traditions and the beliefs they uphold.  At one point in Chapter 12, after the loss of three allies, an ellogon crewman named Elsummu feels moved to recite the sacred Remembrance of the Acquainted.  Here's the passage:

Drawing a deep breath, Elsummu raised one arm high, cocking the other back to form something of a crescent with his shoulders.
He spoke loudly in his native tongue.

He appeared to me with seven faces,
He approached with seven sounds
Footsteps shared.

Who would travel my road matching paces,
Who did seek once sacred grounds
Lessons we bared.

Seven Suns before forgotten gods rose,
Seven fates they had composed
On fiery sands.

Our paths to cross as the Wanting Sun shows,
Our true faces ever closed
By the Woeful Sun’s hands.

To you who were taken before friendship brightly burned,
You are remembered here before the Seven Suns!

Seven faces and seven sounds,
You are remembered now before the Seven Suns!

Elsummu bowed deeply, his arms forming an arch upon the ground.  He held the pose for some time before beginning the second verse.

Thanks for reading!  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

History into Fantasy

Ah, Ren Faire…  Or, more properly, The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire.  It is a place of visual wonder and an almost palpable sense of enchantment.  For anyone who follows my Facebook page, it's clear I love the place, judging by the 30 Ren Faire pictures I've posted thus far.  I go at least once a year.  

It takes place annually at the Santa Fe Dam Rec Center in Irwindale, CA, and runs from the first weekend in April to the third weekend in May.  There are stage shows, jousting, trained falcons, a food court (I desperately want that to be a pun, somehow) and craft booths everywhere you turn.  And there's something so magical about being immersed in the Elizabethan era, surrounded by people dressed in both period-correct and fantastic costumes: fairies, assassins, pirates, nobles, commoners and steampunk.  Needless to say, it's inspiring!

This year, I spent a little extra time in the back of the Faire, at the St. Michael's military camps, at first enthralled by a blonde fellow attired in plate-and-mail armor.  He tended a storehouse of knowledge regarding weapons and fighting styles of the times, of military groups and tactics, and I found myself following his lead as he guided a group of us along the path through the camp.  We listened to a host of knowledgeable Elizabethan-era military historians.

Some highlights:
• The axe was so common, because it was a tool every plowman or farmer could also use as a weapon.
• Austrian mercenaries wore brightly colored uniforms to strike fear into the hearts of their untrained foes.
• The Zweihänder (two-handed) sword was used defensively, as well as offensively, and had seven killing points along its length.  It was used to parry and bludgeon, much more so than the foolhardy downward chop we currently see presented in so many fighting games (I'm looking at you, Nightmare from the Soul Calibur series).
• The prow-style helmet, while extensively associated with the Spanish conquistadors, was actually of English design.
• There was a breed of pony that could travel without being guided through the swamps of England,  They were so troublesome as used by Scottish mercenaries, that the Queen of England ordered them hunted to extinction.
• It cost a typical shopkeeper a year's wages to buy a sword; 12 years' wages to buy a greatsword.
• It was far more profitable to ransom a knight back to his family than it was to kill him.
• Pikemen got promoted by surviving battles.  The more you survived, the further back in the ranks you got to go, hence increasing your chances of survival.

In light of all this, I feel a completely new fantasy epic coming on!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Path of the Time Walker Excerpt

An excerpt from Wrath of the Void Strider's upcoming sequel, Path of the Time Walker...

Huddled in doorways, she met frightened eyes, and people hurried away at her approach.  In time, she arrived at a tiered shantytown, built from scraps and the remains of the colonial habitats.  At first glance, it looked like all the most structurally valuable pieces had been scavenged and moved offsite.  “What’s going on here?” she muttered.

A thin, ashen man stepped into view from inside his home and stuttered, “W-We have nothing.  P-Please leave us alone!”  He succumbed to a fit of coughing that left him stooped over by its end.  He slowly straightened, grimacing.

Taryn furrowed her brow.  “I’m not here to take anything from you.”  She nodded toward the darkened interior of his home, toward the others inside.  “What happened to the habitats?”

He studied her, and he coughed lightly into his hand.  “You don’t work for Rowan?”

“No.  Who’s Rowan?”

“She’s lying!” shouted a young looking woman from inside, and she cautiously approached the entryway.  She was thin, like her male companion, and her brown eyes were badly bloodshot.  Her dark brown hair looked frayed and ratty.  “Get back inside.”

“Please go,” he hissed, and he returned to the safety of his shanty.  The woman closed the poorly fitting makeshift door with a slam, and Taryn heard it latch.  A chorus of coughs followed.

Screwing down her brow, Taryn strode to the shanty door and pounded on it.  “Look, I’m not here to hurt you.  I really don’t know who Rowan is or what’s going on.  My friends and I came here to deliver some medicine.”  She pounded again.  “We’re here to help!”

A quiet moment passed, and she growled in frustration as she spun about on her heels and marched away, back toward the road.  Behind her, she heard the door creak open, and the ashen man shouted, “Wait!  Please wait.”  Taryn turned back to regard him.  “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen any friendly faces around here.  Rowan takes great pleasure in tormenting us.”

“Who’s Rowan?”

He puffed his cheeks.  “Rowan Fenmore.  She runs Hygeia.  Her and her kwercian army have been chipping away at the rightful government ever since they got here.”  He dryly laughed, followed by a moment of coughing.  Clearing his throat, he said, “There has been no relief effort, not really.  She keeps us alive, but little more than that.”

Taryn stepped close and set her helmet down on a gutted car.  “Rowan Fenmore… Is she related to Ashley Fenmore?”

The ashen man shrugged.  “I wouldn’t know.  She doesn’t actually talk to us, so much as she herds us.”  He glanced behind him and swept his arm around the shantytown.  “All human.  She saw to that.  Except for the kwercians, she found a reason to deport every member of every other race.”

Crossing her arms, Taryn looked puzzled.  “Why would she do that?”

“Again, I wouldn’t know.”

“Dmitry, get inside!” barked the woman.

He glanced her way and said, “No, Sonja, this one’s OK.  I got a good feeling about her.”

Sonja pointed past Taryn to the main road as a glossy silver sky car set down.  “That’s nice, but Oren and his thugs are here.  You know what they’ll do if they catch you outside!”

His eyes wide, Dmitry bolted back into his shelter and waved Taryn over.  “C’mon,” he hissed.  “They’ll beat you to death if they see you out here!”

She raised a brow.  “I’m wearing power armor.”

“Good luck, then.”  He closed and latched his door.

Taryn turned to face the distant sky car as its gullwing doors butterflied open.  A pair of gnarled oak thugs stepped out, followed by a lean pine of a man.  He tugged on the collar of his woven green suit and surveyed the shantytown.  Immediately, his eyes befell Taryn.  She stood defiantly in her gleaming black armor.  Her head feathers added a splash of red.  With narrowed eyes, he approached Taryn with his enforcers at his back.  “Who might you be?” he asked as he regarded her suspiciously.  His goons moved slowly to flank her.

“Taryn Sikes.”  She scooped up her helmet.

The pine fellow looked her over.  “That doesn’t match what’s printed on your shoulder.”

“Yeah, well, the Captain hasn’t gotten around to that yet.”

“Is he the captain of the Sanguine Shadow, or is that another misprint?”

Taryn shifted her weight over one hip.  “No, that’s right.  She’s the captain of the Sanguine Shadow.”

Oren nodded.  “Forgive me, but I thought Rowan got rid of all the xenos on Hygeia.  For their own safety, of course.  There’s a Canten’s pandemic here, you know.  Maybe it’s best if you and your ship were on your way.”  He pressed thin his lips.  “For your own safety, of course.”

She squared her jaw.  “What are you going to do to these people?”

“They’re sick.  They need their medicine.”

“Is that what you’ve got shoved up your ass?  Because, I don’t see how it could be anywhere else.”

He swallowed visibly and clenched his jaw.  “How unpleasant.”  Looking to his guards, he said, “Alon, Elon, make an example of her.  Make sure everyone here sees the result.”

“Yes, boss,” rumbled the larger of the thugs.

Taryn sealed her helmet, balled her fists and smiled.

·· • ··

An hour previous, Rowan watched as her kwercian brutes marched single-file through a wide door, into a spacious warehouse.  “It took you long enough!  Stack them in that corner,” she said and pointed across the room.  Dutifully, her oaken henchmen arranged them two-wide by two-high.

A particularly gnarled oak asked, “Anything else, boss?”  His massive arms creaked as he lowered them to his sides.

“No.  You can go.”  She crossed the room to inspect her delivery.  Glancing up long enough to glare at her minions, she added, “Actually, Alon, get Elon and you two go find Oren.  Pay the shanties another visit.  Their corrupt governor was just assassinated.  I imagine they could use some guidance after such a shocking loss, and I don’t want them getting any bright ideas.”

Alon, her burliest oak, grumbled, “Yes, boss.”  He followed the others as they marched out of the warehouse.

Rowan returned to her examination.  She ran her fingertips over the surface of the first crate she came to.  After a moment, she straightened and stormed over to the cell door embedded in the far wall.  “Where were these crates supposed to be delivered to before you stole them?”

Zerki answered, “They weren’t marked.  We just grabbed all the medicine we could find and packed it into the nearest containers.”

“Shit,” snarled Rowan.  She took a moment to consider.  “What facility?”

“I don’t understand.”

She slammed her wooden fist into the door, and a deafening boom rang through the warehouse.  “I don’t have time for this!  What facility?  I won’t ask again.”  Furiously, she gripped her rifle and set to unlocking the door.  A moment later, she threw it open and leveled the gun at D’Arro.

Zerki cleared her throat.  “K’n-yal.  The Thayless Estate.  If that’s what you mean.”

Rowan scowled, but her expression quickly softened, and she lowered her gun.  “That is what I mean.”  She kicked the door closed and set down her rifle.  Puffing her cheeks, she walked back to the crates, propping her chin in the crook of her thumb and index finger.  “Probably meant for the Sector Three Outer Systems, then.  Good.”

“Why should it matter?” Zerki asked, but Rowan ignored her.

Oren’s sky car was airborne a moment later, headed south to the closest shantytown, while Rowan set to unlocking each crate.  One at a time, she opened every large plastic pill bottle she found inside and smelled its contents.   Some time passed before she was finished.

Satisfied with her findings, she drew her phone and dialed a number.  She held the device to her ear.  After a moment, she said, “Hey, it’s Rowan.  Everything’s still on track.  I’ll keep this number for a few more hours.  Call me back if you get this message in time.”

·· • ··

Lightning flashed from her teleport device, and Taryn appeared directly behind the smaller brute.  The machinery inside her gloves hummed alive, and she tore free chunks of sappy bark from the assailant’s shoulders.  As the oak man yowled in pain, arching his back as he clutched at his wounds, she took the chance to spring from his head, throwing him off balance and crashing to the ground.  She landed on his neck, and a loud crack of wood filled the air.

“Elon!” cried the larger brute.  Gritting his teeth, with tears in his ears, he loosed a primal howl and reached for Taryn as she flashed away in a bolt of jagged light.  A blur of motion, and Taryn appeared behind Oren.  She gripped him around the waist.

“Alon, help!” he wailed as he felt himself lifted up off the ground.

Momentarily confused, Alon swept around and found Taryn as she hoisted his master.  “You!” he boomed and lumbered toward them both.  Again, he reached for her, past Oren, and she heaved.  Oren cried out as he was launched up in the air, and Alon tried to track him, then to catch him.

With a crunch, Oren hit the ground, dazed, his arms and legs splayed.  He coughed as he tried to stand.  “Help me up, you oaf,” he barked, and Alon reached down for him, momentarily losing sight of his opponent.  A blinding flash of light, and Alon found himself high up in the air, with Taryn’s arms around his neck.

Her internal display showed a diagram of her suit.  Every section was red, and the arms and hands were bright red and flashing.  I’ve got to time this just right, she thought, and she began to plummet along with the oak brute, directly down on Oren.

Frozen with shock, Oren stared up at Alon as he fell.  It was the last thing either of them saw as the burly oak struck the well-dressed pine with thunderous force.  Lightning flashed, and Taryn reappeared where she had been, but at a right angle to her original direction of travel.  She shot across the clearing, skipping along its surface, and she tumbled end over end as pieces of her suit broke off, cast high in the air.

At last, she came to rest at the outskirts of the shantytown.  What remained of her armor smoldered, and she wasn’t moving.  Dmitry and Sonja watched for only a moment, before they both dared to step outside their home.  Dmitry hurried to Taryn’s side and coughed as he knelt to check for signs of life.

Lifting free her shattered helmet, he set his fingers against her neck.  Glancing to Sonja, he exhaled a relieved sigh.  “She’s alive.”

“Thank God,” Sonja whispered, and she glanced toward the slain kwercians.  “Let’s get her inside.  See if we can’t get hold of her ship.”  She and Dmitry lifted Taryn by the shoulders and strained against the weight of her armor, but were unable to move her.  Slowly at first, then with growing boldness, more and more of the shantytown’s residents emerged.  They lent their strength to dragging Taryn to safety.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

When Amazon Invaded Goodreads...

As I mentioned last week, traditional print houses are going to need to take a page or two from the Amazon Playbook, if they want to survive.  Jeff Bezos is brilliant, and his acquisition of Goodreads confirms it.  With that social cornerstone, he is primed to control the vast majority of available digital reader information.  Reviews?  Amazon's.  Product placement?  Amazon's.  Opinions?  Amazon's, too.

The tides have changed, and traditional printing is the whale, beached due to inaction.  As print houses cling to the old ways of making money through paperback and hardcover sales, Amazon is strategically placed to crush them, utterly.  In the days to come, they'll offer assistance to select houses, but with zip ties around their wrists.  Other houses will flounder and fail, and those remaining in the Amazon Club will be forced to do Amazon's bidding.  They'll be reduced to figureheads or worse.  Sound unlikely?  Take a look at how Microsoft assisted Macintosh, or even more dramatic, how Wizards of the Coast lent TSR a hand.  It's a tried and true method for consuming a bloated corpse before it spoils.

The knells will toll for traditional printing, but it will have been completely avoidable.  Sadly, print houses suffer from extreme rigid thinking, like so many good old institutions.  They've convinced themselves that if they just scream loud enough, eventually everything will go back to the way it was.  If they just hold on tight enough, the ship will suddenly stop sinking.  But that's never how it works.  Again, don't get me wrong, I LOVE Amazon's KDP, but competition is good, and a lack of it has always -- ALWAYS -- been bad.  

Change is scary.  Age-old institutions are stubbornly inelastic, and it's precisely that tendency that brings about their demise.  But it doesn't have to.  When TV came along, the radio stars slipped away, but the music industry adapted.  It thrives, because it changed with the times.  If printing wants to survive Amazon's onslaught, it needs to create writing and publishing communities of its own.  It still has Big Money, and has the resources to create and nurture such communities.  Goodreads belongs to Amazon now, but TOR, Doubleday and Penguin can stake their own claims.  Unlike other wars, there are no physical boundaries to heed.  There is still an infinite number of countries that can be created to do battle with Amazon, as long as the money is still there.  But money goes where it can grow, and like the One Ring, it will abandon its bearer at a most inopportune time.

Printing can survive, but it needs to come down off its throne and reach out to the bourgeois.  It needs to, or it will become yet another entry in the history books, like the telegram or the radio star.

Thanks for reading!

Story Putty, Part I: Movies

In the U2 song, "The Fly," Bono wrote, "Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief."  For as much as some writers strive to create something original, something meaningful, it's nigh unto impossible to completely avoid the world's influence.  There are things that drive us to write, and the source of that can't help but leave an indelible mark upon every writer's moment of inspiration.

When I first started writing novels, I rejected the very notion of that artistic interdependency, and vowed never to pen anything but a wholly original story.  And what I first cranked out, The Ironwolf Chronicle, was the most derivative mash of other people's stories I could imagine.  It was part Xanth, part The Hobbit, part Star Wars and part Darkwalker on Moonshae.  Almost none of it was me.  Except… that it was.  All those stories were a part of me, I just hadn't found my voice.

Truth be told, I still struggle to find my voice.  On any given day, I get a dozen moments of inspiration, hate ten of them, rethink two of them, and ultimately settle on what I last decided to do (in this case, write Wrath of the Void Strider's sequel).  I still hear the whispers of my favorite books, TV shows and movies, but now I embrace them.  There are good reasons why I like those stories, why they inspire me.  Combined with my own life's adventures, tragedies, triumphs and struggles, I like to think it brings life to my characters and the settings they find themselves in.

Below, I have listed my top ten most inspirational movies and why.  Down the line, I'll post books and TV series, but for now… ACTION!

10. Aliens - Starring Sigourney Weaver, this sequel to the original scifi horror classic, Alien, showed me how to set a mood.  The way the tension built, the way the action played out…  It also taught me the importance of not getting attached to minor and supporting characters.  The alien queen was an awesome, terrifying villain, and the loader mech made a permanent impression.  Not that anyone will ever read it, but the original version of Wrath of the Void Strider had its own weaponized loader mech scene on the surface of Nerthus.

9. The Dark Crystal - Jim Henson's fantasy masterpiece, this was the first movie I remember seeing that had a great twist at the end.  With all the fantastic life on screen, it opened my mind to thoughts of alien plants, animals, as well as a truly epic struggles.  With memorable environmental characters like Aughra and the Pod People, and with the terrifying Garthim (for a wee lad of 7, anyway), this movie couldn't help but influence my world building.

8. Krull - Part scifi and part fantasy, this movie at first puzzled me.  It maintained a high degree of fantasy, but there were blasters and spaceships, and the antagonists were alien invaders with a teleporting castle.  I distinctly remembered the cyclops's sacrifice, and the sad interaction with the Widow of the Web.  It showed me that genre lines can be blurred, and that you can call a magical weapon whatever you want to, even if it's not actually a glaive. :P

7. Star Trek II - I guess a lot of movies made a big impression on me when I was 7.  HA!  Well, here's another one from 1982.  Star Trek II was bigger than life for me.  Khan was SO villainous, though I found myself sympathizing with him.  Kirk was so bold, so heroic…  And I cried at a movie for the first time I can remember when Spock died.  This movie taught me the value of sacrifice, the strength of friendship, and the power of love.

6. The Princess Bride - Let's jump ahead five years to S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of Romance and Adventure, by William Goldman.  Each one of the characters was so memorable, the humor dry and timeless, and it had the best sword fight on screen, to date.  It taught me that things aren't always what they seem, and every hero should have something he's willing to die for.

5. The Neverending Story - What a fantastic movie!  I shamelessly love Falcor and the music to this day.  Through this movie, I experienced terror at the sight of the cooked knight near the Southern Oracle, and I startled when Atreyu saw Bastion.  The Childlike Empress seemed so beautiful, and I cried when Fantasia had been consumed by the Nothing.  It showed me how low the lows can go, and how great the triumph can be after losing everything.  Plus, Engywook and Urgl…

4. Willow - Madmartigan made such a huge impression on me.  He was as capable a swordsman as Aragorn, but with the bravado of Han Solo.  This was a *fun* movie, with a great villain, an unlikely hero trying to master arcane arts, an oppressive totalitarian government that needed to be overthrown, and a Death Star… er, two-headed dragon.  Wait…  OK, so it was much like a fantasy version of Star Wars.  Also, that love could overcome allegiances was a powerful lesson to me at the time, as in the romance that grew between Sorsha and Madmartigan.  And the music…  if any of my books ever make it to the big screen (and if I have any say in it), James Horner, I'm looking at you…

3. The Original Star Wars Trilogy - I'm treating Episodes IV through VI as a single unit, as A New Hope came out when I was 2, and the first memories I have of watching any of them was viewing IV and V on tape at my Godbrother's house a week before Jedi came out.  Star Wars was Sci-fantasy done perfectly.  It influenced me in so many ways, as it has many writers of our time, and it freed me up to throw magic into my scifi.  Gavin can induce space folding, because why not?  Yoda can lift up a space ship with his mind, so…

2. Serenity - The movie conclusion to the Firefly TV series.  I know not everyone's a Browncoat, but that's only because you're Alliance scum.  The gritty voice, the oppressive government, the inhuman reavers…  Joss created a modern classic that challenged his viewers to think about what life might actually be like on colonial worlds, the sort of support and infrastructure that might really be available, and the monstrous toll trying to control such a vast interstellar population might take on a far-reaching government.  Book's and Wash's deaths had impact, but I think if the series had been given more of a chance to grow, their deaths would have had more meaning.  It taught me that it's OK to outthink your foes, and that if you can't do something smart… do something right.

1. Star Trek (2009) - In terms of Shadow Galactic, I list this as the most influential movie, because it showed me the value of a strong crew culture, of bravery, of sacrifice, and how much I value all the main characters surviving at the end.  It was thrilling, epic, action-packed and character-driven.  It embodies all the strengths I strive to capture and convey in my writing.

So there you have it.  All the voices rattling around inside my head, shouting over my muse and shaping my stories.  If nothing else, I hope this list serves as a reminder of great movies you've already seen, or maybe will inspire you to watch the ones that are new to you.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Hangman and the Print House

For those of you who follow this blog AND my Facebook page, sorry for the effective double post.  With that having been said...

I had a really good talk with my close personal friend and editor, last night, about how hard it is to get anything published through traditional channels (e.g.: the Del Rey's, the Penguin's, the Baen's...).  I personally chased that dream for 20 years, until one day a good friend of mine at work (and a fierce warrioress!!) suggested I give KDP a shot.

Yes, I love Kindle Direct Publishing.  LOVE it, but this isn't a plug for that system.  Not a vulgar one, anyway, so you may read further without fear of being bathed in corporate sycophanaticism.

We came to some interesting conclusions about the state of the publishing industry.

1) eBooks are real.  They're not a fad, and they're not going away.  Ever.  It's created an interesting environment for people with Kindles or the Kindle app, because it's a sea of largely unfiltered creative types who finally have a channel to get their work out to a large audience and make a little money on the side.  Most Kindle authors can't really afford to hire a professional editor, but still there is an expectation of professionalism from the readers who are posting reviews.  It's an interesting convergence of old expectations meeting current available quality.

I foresee the Amazon feedback loops helping authors to write better, but I also foresee overall standards taking a slide.  A lot of books that are poorly rated do very well in Amazon's rankings, because more and more of the masses are moving to eBooks.  The same criticisms that make it to the reviews are not going to be observed as keenly by most readers who just want to read *something*.  It is my opinion that Internet prose plays a big part in this.  When readers are accustomed to deciphering "brb," "smh" and "lolwut?" on the fly, piecing out a poorly edited book isn't as much of a hurdle as it used to be.

In the Kindle market, it's the concept that's king, and Amazon is banking on it.  Of course, a professionally edited work will stand on much stronger legs, but there's still lots of money to be made from a good idea and the dedication to see it through to completion.

2) Traditional print houses need to adapt and FAST.  For those of you who don't know, I work in the mobile advertising business, and the key to making a profit is staying ahead of the game.  Right now, traditional print houses face some dire straits: unless it's the next Harry Potter, Twilight or Hunger Games, they can't afford to take a chance on anything that doesn't have blockbuster potential.  In the past, taking a chance on the professionally presented little guy was par for the course, but now, it's a risk they can't afford to take.  They count on the hard-copy readers for their revenue, and those same readers are turning more and more to eBooks.

Sure, print houses list digital versions on the Kindle store.  They also charge the same price (usually) for the printed version as they do for the digital version.  And they have to.  But that won't make them enough money to stay afloat for much longer.  It can't.  Not with their demographic becoming increasingly more divided, more willing to take a chance on a $3 eBook from an unknown author.

In the next few years, we're going to see more major print houses closing their doors unless they can get out in front of this train.  And they can, but they're going to have to reinvent.  Scraping Amazon's successful authors isn't going to get the job done fast enough.  If the big print houses want to stay profitable, they're going to have to learn a thing or two from Amazon and create programs that encourage new authors to submit.  New blood is the new black.

'Nuff said.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wrath of the Void Strider Excerpt

Up ahead, huddled near a payphone under a shadowy overhang, two hooded fellows took note of them and moved quickly away, deeper into the darkness of a shuttered restaurant.  “Such subtlety,” Takeo mocked, and he rested his hand near the small of his back.  He whispered to Gavin, “Whatever those guys have to say, don’t talk to them.”
“Why not?” Gavin asked, as one of the hooded men stepped back into view, his hands in his pockets.
“Got a smoke?” asked the stranger, his companion close behind him.  He glanced this way and that.  Other shadows loomed deeper within the shuttered restaurant.
Gavin answered, “Not on me,” and he felt a sharp jab to his arm as Takeo nudged him along.  “Sorry.  Good luck.”
“Slow down,” a deep voice rumbled, and a massive creature of stone skin stomped into view from further down the walk.  The others swept in behind Gavin and Takeo as they regarded the stone man.  “Really could’ve used that smoke.  What else you got?”
“One or two things,” Takeo growled, and he pulled Gavin stumbling to the wall.  In a flash, he produced a heavy revolver that had been tucked into the back of his pants, and he leveled it fearlessly at the stone man.  “You are all leaving, now!”
“I don’t think so,” snarled the stone man, and he charged.
Takeo squeezed the trigger twice, and two shots struck their mark, near where the heart would be on a human, but only a shower of sparks rained down from the stone assailant’s chest.  Two more hooded figures bolted from the deeper shadows, as the first two lunged.  Takeo gripped and swung a hooded man around, sent him careening into the stone attacker.  A blur of kicks and punches, and two more toppled with a crunch to the ground.
“Fogg, I could use some help!” urged Takeo, as the mechanical pup playfully dodged the swirling melee.
Gavin threw all his might into a punch aimed at the fourth hooded man.  It failed to connect, and he found himself cast to the ground, his feet swept out from under him.  His head spun as his back struck the concrete, knocking the wind out of him.
Several loud pops filled the night air, flashes of light as bullets streaked through the darkness.  Gavin heard joints crack, saw guns and knives hit the ground as he tried to regain his senses.  He rolled away just in time for the stone man’s fist to crash down on where his chest had been a moment earlier.  Another pop from Takeo’s gun resulted merely in a waterfall of embers.
Grimacing, his lungs on fire, Gavin forced himself to breathe in and struggled back to his feet.  He watched the stone man stomp toward his friend.  Takeo dove behind a trash bin, but the attacker smashed it flat with his massive fists, sending garbage in every direction.
Gavin opened his mouth to shout, but a raspy squeak came out.  Clearing his throat, he finally bellowed, “Maugal!”
The stone attacker paused, and it pivoted to regard him.
Glad for the reprieve, Takeo bolted to the space behind an unhitched semi-truck and set to reloading his pistol.
“You’re a maugal, right?”  Gavin took in the towering, pitted and cracked, blue stone skin of the thing that now lumbered inexorably toward him.  The other four attackers writhed slowly on the ground, moaning in pain.  To Gavin’s surprise, Takeo jumped protectively between Gavin and the moving slab, his gun leveled.  Fogg trotted to his human’s feet and promptly sat.
“I’m impressed,” spat the maugal.  “You even got the pronunciation right.”
Gavin slipped past Takeo and pushed against the attacker’s chin with his loosely balled fist.  “Hey, beautiful,” he grinned, and he slowly shook his head as the monolithic thug focused on him.  His heart pounded in his ears.  “I’ve never actually seen a living maugal.  Word on the wire is the Union’s done with you.”
“Choose your next words carefully, bludder,” seethed the glowering, blue cliff face.  “This doesn’t have to be painless.”  One of the human attackers hunched up to his knees, leaned over on his hands, and Takeo promptly kicked him out cold.  “Call off your guard dog.”
“He’s my friend, ghyl’la sorna (Old Maugal slang meaning, “One who serves as a warning to others.”  Highly offensive).  Not my guard dog.  Look, you’re an ancient, noble thing, and the wonders you’ve seen would put any one of us humans to shame.  We’re beneath you.  Far beneath you, but here you are, relying on human trash just to get by.”  Gavin held the maugal’s baleful glare, though it demanded every scrap of courage he had to do so. His voice cracked slightly as he whispered, “How disgraceful.”
It snarled, “Now it’s personal!”  And it drew back an earthen fist.
“You’ve killed me,” announced Gavin.  “I’m dead on the ground.”
You’re about to be!” it roared.
He shook his head.  “No, maugal, I’m dead!  We both are.  Takeo and I are two red stains on the drive.  Dead as dead.”
One of the hooded thugs weakly gripped his gun, and trembling, pointed it at Gavin, but the maugal backhanded the battered assailant into a nearby parcel truck hard enough to dent its side.  “I can handle these two pieces of worthless bludder drek without your help!”
“And you have,” said Gavin, his tone almost soothing.  “Now what happens?”
“I kill you!”
He shook his head.  “We’ve established that.  Now what?”
“I… kill.  I…”
“Right, we’re dead.  What a mess!”  Gavin held his opponent’s stone gaze.  He leaned in and asked, “Now what?”
“I… take your things.”
“Wrong.  Ever heard of Hohiro Sato?  Probably not, so I’ll tell you.  He’s works for the Yubitsume’s oyabun.  Pretty important guy.”  He glanced toward Takeo.  “That’s his dad.  There’s a gene key linked to his gun that sent out a distress signal the instant he squeezed off that first round.  A Yakuza fire team is already en route.”  He straightened.  “Sure, you might start sifting through whatever’s left of us, but it’s hard to find anything that’s even intact when one of us humans gets struck by a ton of stone.  Simple physics.  And then you’ll have his blood all over you, and trust me, they will not stop looking for you until you’ve been broken.  You’re an old stone, maugal.  Probably fresh off a prison rock, am I right?”
It regarded Gavin as if it had just suddenly become aware of his existence, and its shoulders avalanched down to slump.  “But…”
He rested his hand on the maugal’s neck.  “Go to ground.  Keep low and hop on a shuttle to someplace deep in the dark, maybe one of the new colonies.”  He regarded the remaining thugs as they stirred.  “Leave them.  You’re better than that, better than them.  Plus, I think you killed one.”  Gavin nodded toward the limp heap at the base of the dented parcel truck.
“Right,” growled the monolith.
“Go,” urged Gavin.  “I saved your life, and you spared me mine.  That’s square in my book.”
The maugal straightened and smiled steeply with a flicker of dignity.  It stomped back toward the shadows.  “Thanks.”  It paused and turned around.  “I won’t see you again, bludder,” it added before vanishing from sight.
Gavin exhaled, relieved, and he glanced to his stunned companion.
Takeo stared at him with wide eyes, his mouth slightly open.  “How…?”
“I’ll explain after we’re back on the road.”  He nodded toward the looming stone edifice of Supernova Express before turning sharp eyes to his friend.  “Wait.  When the hell did you start carrying a gun?”
Takeo regarded the three surviving attackers.  “I’ve always carried a gun.  You just never noticed.”
“Are you serious?” 
His friend nodded.  “Since I was sixteen.  My father insisted on it.  I’m going to ask these guys a few questions before the police arrive.”  One by one, Takeo dragged the assailants to the curb and retrieved a bundle of zip ties from Gavin’s toolbox.  After he had bound their hands behind their backs and their feet at the ankles, he returned to Gavin’s side.  Fogg took the form of a parking meter crowned by a rotating blue and red lamp.  “Go get her.”
Bright light flashed from the east as the sun crested the horizon, and it lit up Afskya’s indigo sky.
Gavin nodded and clapped Takeo’s arm.  “We’ll be right back.”  He turned and hurried along the sidewalk, closing quickly on the club.
He slowed as he approached the front doors, where a bulky, horned male rhidorm served as bouncer.  Around the corner of the building near a pair of trash bins, Gavin noticed a huddle of people keeping out of sight.  His eyes flitted over the shadowed group.  A very tall woman whispered, “It’s not an exact science, Captain.  He’ll be here… eventually.  Trust me.”  Her eyes tracked directly to him, and she held his gaze.
Gavin looked uneasily away, but he felt her eyes fixed upon him.  “Hey, Chris,” he said to the cornuted rhidorm bouncer, and he nodded.  He rushed the last few steps to the entrance.
“Hey, Gavin,” rumbled the bouncer, and he pulled the door open.  Thumping dance anthems roared out into the night.  “That your friend shooting off fireworks in the alley?”
He chuckled in response and nodded.  “Something like that.”
Chris’s thick, gray skin wrinkled deeply as he winked.  “Go on in.”
Gavin stepped through, and the door closed behind him.  A young woman with matted blonde dreadlocks waved him past the ticket booth, and he muttered his thanks.  He scanned the foyer for Taryn.
He hardly had time to seek before she stumbled into him.  “I’m so glad you’re here,” she breathed.  “The guy I came here with was a total creeper.  He was literally all over me.”  She paused.  “OK, not literally, but you get the idea.”
“Are you alright?”
Taryn nodded.  “He wasn’t hearing no, so I bent back his fingers.  Maybe broke one or two, not sure.  The jerk ditched me after that.”  She smiled brightly.  “So… I figured it’s been a while since I’ve seen you, and I really wasn’t in the mood to call a cab.”  Taryn Sikes looked taller than she was, lean and strong of build, yet elegant besides.  She was ospyrean, proud and fierce.  Snow-white down blanketed her birch-white skin, and brilliant red feathers cascaded from her head, tied up loosely at the shoulders.  Her keen eyes were more golden than brown.  She wore knee high steel-toed boots draped in buckles, tattered net leggings under ripped shorts and a threadbare black T-shirt over a tight, long-sleeved grey undershirt.
“Stop dating humans,” he chuckled.
“Fat chance.  Is Takeo with you?”
Gavin nodded.  “Fogg is too.”  He led Taryn back to the entryway, smiled toward the woman with blonde dreadlocks and pulled open the door.  “We should hurry.”
Taryn glanced about.  “Where are they?”
“See you, Chris,” Gavin said to the bouncer, and he pointed further down the block toward Fogg’s rotating police light.
“Hasta.”  Chris dipped his massive forehead horn toward Taryn.  “Ma’am.”
She gasped as she took note of the bound assailants, of Takeo looming over them in the distance.  “Oh my God!  What happened!?”
Gavin laughed quietly, dryly as they stepped out into the cool morning air.  The door closed behind them, and it was suddenly and deafeningly quiet.  “That’s part of why we need to hurry.  We got mugged by a maugal and his crew of human thugs, but it’s alright.  Takeo took care of it.”
“We’re so lucky he’s our friend,” she said.
“And that he agreed to come,” Gavin added.  “I talked down the maugal, though.”
Taryn smirked.  “Yeah, right.”  She squeezed Gavin’s hand, quickly kissed its knuckles, and held it close against her chest.  “Not everyone gets to be a hero, and you don’t need to impress me, anymore.”
“I really did, though!  Right after I got my ass kicked by one of his goons.”  He pulled free his hand.
Taryn stopped, stood directly across from Gavin.  “You promised.”
He breathed out heavily.  “I’m not lying.  I swear.  Not to you.”  His ears were quite red, and his shoulders sank.  “I swear.”
She nodded and returned to his side as they resumed walking.  They passed the group of people near the trash bins Gavin had earlier encountered.  “Fine, I’m choosing to believe you.  How did you do it?”
Gavin stole a glance toward the huddle and shivered to find the tall woman silently staring at him.  He leaned in and whispered, “I told him there was a radio signal broadcast as soon as Takeo took his first shot, that there was a Yakuza special weapons team already en route.”  He looked at her sidelong.  “I sort of charmed him after that, and he left.”
Taryn huffed, amused.  “Only you, Gavin.  It still counts as lying, though.”
Gavin shook his head gravely, gesturing as if cutting his throat and mouthing “no” repeatedly.
“What?  There’s no Yakuza weapons team.  So you lied, but in this case, I can excuse it.”  She winked, before suddenly noticing his growing panic.  “What is it?”
Now you die!” roared the stone giant as it stepped back into view on the far side of Gavin’s truck.
“Maugals have excellent hearing,” breathed Gavin, and he swallowed visibly.
“No more of your tricks!”  The maugal looked up and down the street, ignored Takeo as he demanded the granite thug stand down.
“We should run,” advised Gavin.
Taryn’s eyes went wide.  She spun her friend around back toward the club as music roared from its momentarily opened doors.  “Good idea!” she urged and gripped his elbow, led him stumbling as they dashed toward a group of club goers that had just exited.
From behind him, he heard Takeo bellow, “Gavin, look out!”  He heard the creek of his truck’s shocks, the groan of its metal as the maugal lifted it off the ground.  Takeo emptied his gun into the truck near its fuel tank, but none of the bullets struck home.
Startled by the gunfire, the small crowd of club goers screamed and started to scatter.
Like a cannonball, the pickup rocketed through the air toward Taryn and Gavin.
Taryn lost Gavin’s elbow, spun about in time to behold his massive vehicle on a direct course for his back.  She stumbled and fell.  Breathing out, she closed her eyes and hit the sidewalk hard.  Gavin dove with arms outstretched, and he landed protectively on top of Taryn.  Terrified screams filled the air, but they abruptly stopped.
They were replaced by astonished gasps, and whispers of, “That’s impossible!”
Gavin rolled away with Taryn in his grip, tumbled into the alley and came to rest with her atop him.  Her eyes met his only briefly however, and she fixed her attention on where the two of them had just been.  Suspended in the air, nearly as high up as the street lamps, was his Hulkr Rhino.
Thunderously, it crashed down, a burst of broken things, skewed wheels and a shower of glass.
Gavin breathed out and closed his eyes.  “My truck.”

Head on over to Amazon to pick your copy of Wrath of the Void Strider (Chronicles of the Unlocked Book 1), available in both digital and print formats.  If you've read the book, leave a review!