Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Saturday, March 23, 2013


I'm putting a little snatch of A TERRIBLE MAJESTY here: 
When Kit woke, he looked around, thinking that Heaven looked an awful lot like a wrecked Wasp. And it hurt like hades, too. His leg felt as if it were being flayed to hamburger by hot plasma. There were droplets of his blood careening about in the cockpit. The rest of his body felt like one big bruise covering a whole lot of little ones. He hit thrusters to slow his chaotic flight and frantically checked his systems. Part of the cockpit was stove in and still pressing agonizingly on his right leg, but amazingly, not breached. Targeting was down, but hopefully he wouldn't need it. At least Navigation and Life Support were still up. He didn't even bother to check his comm. Surely the antennae were fried to a crisp. He had to run deeper diagnostics on all his systems and try and figure out where he was.
“I'd like to send Chacon and Fullmont down the nearest black hole,” he muttered to himself. “What a couple
of brainless clowns. They nearly scrubbed my mission.”
There was still a mission, though. He dug his head into his hands, suddenly feeling ninety five years old. He was still bleeding from somewhere besides his leg, and the droplets were starting to get in the way and annoy him. He finally corralled them all in his flight suit coif and used it to stanch the blood from what turned out to be a cut on the back of his head.
He had to get to the plas-skin. To do that, he first had to release himself from his webbing and get loose from the wreckage. The webbing wouldn't release, having locked on impact. He had to use a shard of metal to cut his way out of the restraints. He screamed again as he dragged his leg out from the pincers of the seat and the caved-in wall using the material of his flight suit. He nearly passed out again, breath coming raggedly in fits and starts. Finally it came loose from the trap and he fell out of his seat onto the decking. He gasped, the agony threatening his very sanity. Slowly, so slowly, he inched back to the meds locker. It took him what seemed like a decade to make the two-meter trip.
He flipped open the locker and rifled through the supplies. At last! A tube of plas-skin and some webbing. A medic would have been handy, but there was nobody. He would have to set the bone himself. He looked around until he found an aperture into which he jammed his foot. He bit down on a length of cloth and threw himself backwards.
Pain exploded, white-hot and cloying, smashing into Kit's head, knocking him into blessed oblivion. Nearly a half hour later he woke to the teeth of his pain chewing through his body like the razor fangs of the Deep Warden, but the leg was set. Now to cover it all up with plas-skin, and a webbing bandage and hope it could all be fixed the right way later. He squeezed a pearl of the goo out and applied it to the edges of the skin around the wound. It was going to take half the tube to close the whole thing. Good thing the skin had a built-in antibiotic and painkiller. He cracked the heat tube and applied it to the plas-skin seal.
After what seemed like forever, the seal gelled and the bleeding slowed. He felt the heat reaction starting to knit the skin back together. The energy was terrifically warm. Kit nearly bit through his bottom lip. The heat and pain began to ebb a little as the anesthetic function of the gel began to work. It's about frakkin' time! They should change the directions to read “Numbs when it feels like it”. He worked the webbing around his leg and released the tourniquet slowly. The blood throbbed like a sledge hammer in the wound, but he had no more time to worry about it.
He dragged himself slowly back to his chair and, clenching his teeth over a yell, hauled himself into it. The dent bit into his leg, but there was nothing he could do about it. At least it would keep his leg stabilized. Kit dragged air through his laboring lungs trying desperately to stay awake.
Finally he was able to concentrate and determined that he had shot past the Anomaly at an angle and was headed for parts unknown. He hit the thrusters, some of which were malfunctioning and making flying difficult. It was like rowing a boat with one broken oar. He chose a course based on the data they'd last received on the Anomaly ship. The data was now old and wouldn't guarantee he'd hit the correct location perfectly, but it was all he had. Somehow he doubted he could really miss something as big as the Anomaly.
True to form, it wasn't a half an hour before the moon-sized vessel emerged from the shadow of an asteroid and rapidly began to fill his port. As it hove into view, Kit felt the bottom of his stomach drop away. If he let himself think about it, panic would take over. He couldn't afford that. He had to have his wits about him when the Intrepid opened a hole, or he'd run screaming into the dark and forever lose the respect of his peers. His Poppy would be right.
Still, he was nearly petrified with fear when the silvery markings began to writhe before his eyes. He tore his gaze away from the sinuous swirls. “I'm not going to plunge in like a noob on his maiden flight,” he grunted to himself. “This is going to be a controlled, elegant landing.”
He got close enough to arrive fairly soon, but not close enough to be hit by debris from the MAC blast if there was any. Who knew if the Intrepid would even manage a hole? They'd botched the mine field. At least most of the mines were intact, apparently. With all the explosions, the Anomaly guys would have to be functioning on the level of amoebas not to have noticed. He fully expected the enemy ship to be hot-footing it back to whatever part of hades it came from, by now. If they were smart, of course. Right. They probably eat nukes for lunch. Who am I kidding? They'll be coming at us not even caring if they run right through that mine field. They probably have the speed to ram past those mines before they even blow up.
He fired his thrusters judiciously and the Wasp slowed to a stop. It was as good a place as any to wait for the clowns on the Intrepid to get their act together. He used the time to try and fix what he could and clear away floating nuisances. He was still amazed his ship hadn't sustained a hull breech.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


ANWA Conference 2013 was splashing! I knew when I laid out the blunt for it that I'd get my money's worth. 

For one thing, one of my favorite authors and inspirational speakers was giving the keynote speech. James A. Owen did not in any way disappoint! He has a powerful way of jacking a person up off the ground and nudging them into greatness. Thanks, James.

I get to hang out with unbelievably interesting people who inspire me, impress me, and make me glad to be working in this field. This year we had a 'Protagonist' ball (meet 'n greet) complete with costumes. I had a blast building my Spacefleet ensign's uniform. By the time I was done, I don't even think people thought it was a costume, it looked so authentic. Loads of conversation and great chocolate.

Unfortunately I couldn't sign up in time to participate in the BOB contest (Beginning of Book=first 500 words), a fact that annoyed the heck out of me, especially since I think I could have swept the sci fi section. Ah for next year, though. Watch out!

I always come away from these (always meaning three times thus far) having learned spectacular amounts of information about writing, publishing, blogging, marketing, life, and all around honing my craft. Here are a few things I learned this year:

*Things not to include in your pitch
*If a publisher can't google your name and find you, you don't exist to them.
*Your setting should be another character in your book.
*If you start with answers=propaganda.
If you start with questions=fiction.
*Give your character palatable flaws and fears, but don't make them whine!
*Be careful with the names you give your characters. They can indicate race, ethnicity, etc.
*Start with the middle of the action and give back story.
*Give chars. emotional baggage so they have something to overcome.
*Every one of the seven billion people on this planet has something to say at some time.
*Never sell yourself short.
*Build your tribe (the people who believe in you).
*Research EVERYTHING. Don't fake anything or your readers will flay you.
*Fill up your library with useful knowledge. Get things from places you go (sights, sounds, scents, brochures, stories, maps, etc)
*If you can't go there, talk to someone who can, or who lives there.
*If the culture doesn't know about it, the char. can't know about it.
*Tell yourself positive affirmations so that your self conscious will make it come true.
*Find the right (and truthful) way to tell your story.
*How to do a 14-day book launch
*Write CAN'T PUT ME DOWN first chapters.

There's no way I can put it all down here. I suggest going if you're a writer. This conference happens in February in Mesa, AZ. Besides, then I can meet you...;o)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Weighed, Considered, and Found Wanting

Have you ever felt like you had been weighed, considered, and found wanting? Do you ever feel like one of those plastic six pack holders on the side of the road? Do you feel like your boss/religious leader/parents/other assorted relatives have decided you're too loony for the 'real' jobs?

If you said yes to any of those things, this post is for you.

I want first to say that there is only One person truly competent to hold the scales on which your life and works are balanced. The rest of the people who try to be arbiter, judge, and jury, are in line with YOU. Every one of them is weighed on the same scales and have come up short. Without fail.

I see them in my mind's eye, standing in that line, shivering in their knickers and socks and blinder glasses as they wait for the verdict. Some of them turn to you and eye me up and down. I've seen the questions in their eyes. "What's her problem?" or "Why is she even in this line with me? She's a sarcastic freak with a cluttered house...." and they go on ad infinitum ad nauseum.

I know they're thinking things like that, because I've been guilty of trying to wield the scales myself. Me--the least qualified to hold the scales. I look through my smoky-lensed blinder glasses and see what I think are the sum and total of all that person's faults and weaknesses and sometimes they make me feel good.

"At least I'm not that bad," I say smugly to myself, not seeing the brown, bruised, rotten spots on the other side of my own soul.There are things I don't want laid bare for all to see, just as there are in every soul that ever lived, except one. He is the only person qualified to hold the scales and weigh our hearts and deeds. We can watch when he levels the twin pans. We can try and add things to the positive side, but in the end, we must stand there in that line and wait.

The thing about the Judge, is that He is supremely fair. He can see into the inner recesses of our hearts and see what we really meant to do and say and think. He sees our motives and our sorrows, our dreams both whole and shattered. Those things go into the other cup. And then He puts His finger on the plus side, dipping the cup well below that of our heaped-up sins and mistakes.

That action, performed in perfect love, gives me all the hope I need to keep pursuing any kind of upward course.

All other pretenders to the position lose credence under the blazing light of truth. Certainly there are certain people endowed with the right to judge us on a momentary basis. Their jurisdiction reaches only to the extent of the law. They have no place mucking around in the depths of the soul.

The man on the street has no judgment seat. My next door neighbor is in line behind me. The woman who eyes me up and down because my children are running noisily around the library has as many brown spots as I do. I must remember my own rusty mistakes.

Put the level down and step away, oh Stander in Lines. Lay not stock in the opinions of people who don't matter. Never forget the wishes of the One who does.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


The editor to whom I pitched my adult-aged sci fi book A TERRIBLE MAJESTY at the ANWA conference politely indicated that they didn't do adult Sci fi. I decided that I should have gone to LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything--a sci fi writer's convention in Utah), much more in my genre. But as my funds are low and ANWA was only two hours away, I went where I could.
Said editor told me to go home and write something spectacular and send him two chapters of it and they'd find somewhere to plug me in. So I decided that, since they didn't do adult, I might as well write them something they could use. So now I'm nearly ten thousand words (and four chapters) into FIRETHORN, my brand spankin' new teen novel.
Karyatis (Karry) Mason's genetic engineer parents have screwed up big time. While developing a new Super-pesticide, Karry's pregnant mom inhales a potentially lethal dose of a mutant strain. The pesticide works its way through the uterine wall and plays havoc with the fetus. Karry is born with a genetically impossible defect. She's part tree. Her skin is wooden and her joints are a softer form of cellulose. She has twigs instead of hair, which sprout leaves and blossoms in the spring. She sucks up water with her toes and thrives on CO2.
To top it off, because her mother has died, Karry comes to Edgemont high in the middle of the school year from being home-schooled all her life. She suddenly has friends and enemies and a confusing relationship with Rafael Greenwood, who makes it his business to help Karry find out what her father is doing in his lab behind the house. Despite being brilliant, Karry has no tools to handle what Rafe does with her heart.
Anywho, I'm really enjoying it. I like putting myself in Karry's head and coming out snarky. I like that I was going to write her beaten down by life, but she took my pen and threw it against the wall and shouted, "I'm a survivor, for cryin' out loud! Make me strong!"

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cheating the Reaper

I haven't been on for a while. You may have noticed. Possibly. On the off chance that you visited the echoing halls. First I had my extremely fantastic ANWA writer's conference to go to, and then I came up against a life-chunking roadblock.

I've felt something growing in my throat for two weeks or so. It was like phlegm that wouldn't go away. Ever. I can't say how annoying the experience is. Try swallowing a few lbs of chewing gum and having it clench onto the side of your esophagus like a Super Glue-cemented barnacle. 

I wasn't going to deal with it before ANWA, though. I'd prepaid and looked forward to the conference all year. It's my birthday present, for crying out loud. So I went and had a magnificent time learning to hone my craft better, and playing with my friends, and meeting outstanding, insightful, interesting people. (More about that later.)

Then came last Saturday. I ate a breakfast burrito full of scrambled eggs that morning. It didn't go down my throat until late that night. It stuck there like a hippopotamus trying to squeeze through a New York subway turnstile. It ached to swallow. I could just hear my dad repeating over and over in my head, "Then don't swallow." I finally had to order him out of my head.

I tried everything--hot peppermint tea, water, swallowing convulsively, lying down, sitting up, viscous chicken noodle soup, and a hot fudge sundae. Finally during the middle of the night, the log-jam loosened and went on down the river, leaving my throat raw and still full of shreds of something. While the breakfast had finally pushed through, there was still something growing in my throat that wouldn't go away. I was petrified that it was the horrific 'C' word.

I nearly suggested we go to the ER about twenty-nine times that day and night.

But I had one last thing that had to happen before I went to find my fate. Sunday was Conference for church. I was to sing in the choir for it. I was one of four tenors (two of which I can't even hear standing right next to them) and they needed me. More than that, I needed them. If that was possibly going to be the last time I ever got to sing, I was taking that chance. I put everything I had into the first number, COME UNTO ME. The song became a prayer that I could accept my possibly shortened earth life if it was God's will.

I lay in bed that night thinking of all the things I hadn't done yet, or finished--so many of the things I hadn't repented, the good words I hadn't said or written or thought, and the bad ones I had. I wasn't ready for a date with the Reaper. But then I remembered that song, and the prayers I'd said all day and night--indeed, all through the time when the mass in my throat had become obnoxious.

Suddenly everything clicked--the things I'd heard in church, the prayers, even the book I'd read the last part of the week all wove together into a soft, warm blanket. I knew I could handle at least the part before I found out what the doctor had to say.

My friend Christine went with me, to stand as my sentinel and my rock and my advocate and the asker of all questions I'd been too freaked out to ask or remember. Bless her for being there and keeping me from dwelling on...It. And she was there when the doctor said it was most likely not the 'C' word, but a mass of scar tissue that developed from stomach acids. 

I still have to go see a GI doc today to talk about what needs to be done, and make certain the diagnosis was right. But the relief is already pulsing through my veins, making me heady with life. 

There might even be dancing and singing.

So it turns out that I didn't find out today. I saw the GI man (who could barely speak any English) and spent $125 only for him to tell me the same crap the other doctor did for $65. He also didn't bother to even look down my gaping maw. That's for a week from now where I have to fork over a whopping $700-$800 so they can spend ten minutes feeding a camera down my gizzard. 

Oh, and I have to take one of those drugs they push on TV--you know--the one that says in tiny letters on the bottom as a visual afterthought, "You may experience explosive diarrhea, hives, psychological breaks, cranial bleeding, anal lesions, diverticulosis, Braxton-Hicks, Plantar warts, or death. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, see your physician." And then you see ads from lawyers that state that if you've taken medicines like this and had symptoms like hang nails, dandruff, death, colitis, diabetes 59, or shingles, you may have a case. 

(I'm kidding in that last paragraph. I don't remember the symptoms of this particular drug. I just hate taking any of them.) 

I think I'll go have a blessing and THEN make my decision.