Monthly Archives: May 2012

New Release: Fragments of Mind

It’s finally here! Of course, this is just the digital version of the book; if you have an e-book reader, this is the one you want.

Amazon/Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0085RCI50

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/152518

The paperback should be available within the next week or two, so look forward to that!

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Fragments of Mind: Overview

Bringing together eight of my short stories, this collection focuses on the search for one’s place in the world, the struggle between transgression and redemption, following the lives of numerous individuals as they embark on perilous journeys in search of answers. Sometimes that journey is merely living one day to the next.

The Blasted Lands – A mysterious traveler journeys deep into a twisted desert land, in search of something that may very well be the most valuable thing in the world. But the horrors of fabled Iron Town are not to be underestimated.

Illuminus – Two young boys who live day to day, scrounging out a meager existence in a dark and dingy world, find a ray of hope in the most unlikely of places.

My Mechanical Soul – After a series of bizarre incidents involving synthetic humans, two police officers, one human and the other synthetic, take charge of the case and find that there’s something sinister afoot.

In Another Time – Two scientists must venture out into the world they’ve spent nearly four years monitoring when their situation starts to become dangerous. But it’s not the world outside the walls of their research outpost that they must be wary of.

These Tattered Dreams – After the world ends, two robots, one a simpler laborer and the other a deadly assassin, go in search of the last remaining humans.

Two for the Money – Lister Yves is suddenly pulled from his dull existence by an excitable young woman named Mia, who saves him from a band of murderous thugs by kidnapping him. Unfortunately for Lister, that’s just the beginning.

Pollen – Jace has lived his entire life allergic to a particular type of pollen that has spread out over the entire world, leaving him completely isolated in a lonely existence. Everything changes when he meets Ginny.

A Day in the Life of a Dark Lord – It’s tough being a Dark Lord, particularly when you aren’t a very good one. Gordon Lightwater is not a very good Dark Lord.

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Fragments of Mind: Excerpt from “In Another Time”

~In Another Time~

 “How many days has it been?” Ponzer asked.

Andin glared at him. “One more than when you asked yesterday.”

Ponzer thought for a moment, running his fingers through a thick crop of brown hair. “One thousand five hundred and twenty-two, then.”

“Bad enough we gotta sit in this little box for four years straight without you asking every day how long we’ve been here.”

Ponzer stared down at the village a few miles away. Their long-viewers made it appear just as clear and detailed as if they were standing right at the outskirts. There’d been a great commotion just a few weeks ago, but nothing of interest had happened since then. Normally, it would merely be frustrating, but a few other odd occurrences contributed an air of tension to their situation, as well. Something glinted metallically at the edge of Ponzer’s vision. He turned slightly and tried to pick it up on the long-viewer, but found nothing. He turned back to the village.

“They’re still not doing anything, Andin,” he said.

“Good, makes our job a lot easier, then, doesn’t it?”

Andin took out their massive logbook, turned to page one thousand five hundred twenty-two, and wrote down “Nothing” in large, bold letters, which he then underlined several times. He put the logbook away and turned his attention back to the display on the south wall, which showed temperature and wind speed for their area.

If they could just go outside for a few minutes, smell the air and feel the warmth of the sun against their bare skin. That’s how Ponzer had imagined this whole experiment when he’d volunteered, not ten years in a cramped, little box. Ponzer caught himself staring at the exterior door, which neither of the two men had even so much as touched during the past four years, and turned back to the bank of computers in front of him.

“Have you heard from station nine today?” Ponzer asked.

“You’d know if I had,” Andin replied idly, much of his attention now being tied up in watching something on his personal vidscreen. Most likely a movie, though he had the screen turned so Ponzer couldn’t see. “I sent out a communique to the other stations, but they can’t get through either.”

“They could have gotten pulled early,” Ponzer said, sounding hopeful.

“I doubt it, we’d have heard if that was the case.”

“You got any suggestions, then?”

“There are a lot of things that could have happened,” Andin said. “This place is practically savage, you know.”

“You think they got found out?” Ponzer asked.

“It could happen,” Andin said, glancing up from his movie momentarily, before letting his gaze drop again, “but it’s not too likely. The stations are all well camouflaged, after all. And I doubt the locals could even figure out a way in if they did find it.”

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One more excerpt before the collection finally gets released. Depending on how things go this week, I should probably be ready for the Amazon and Smashwords version by Friday.

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Obsessed with an Idea

Exactly seven years ago tomorrow, I wrote a free-form poem called Iron Town. The basic idea and image of the poem was of an industrial nightmare, a city of rust and decay and pollution where haggard workers toiled day in and day out without purpose or joy. In a word, bleak. During this period, it was contrasted by the City of Crystal, a metropolitan dream filled with glass towers and blue skies. But Iron Town was the end result of that particular story. Around the same time, I also wrote a short story, as part of a series of connected stories, that touched upon the fall of the City of Crystal as it collapsed into Iron Town, the City of Rust. As in the story, it was the image of Iron Town, and what it stood for, that stuck with me.

Not long after this I began an attempt to write a story about Iron Town, taking the name of the city as the name of the story. It carried on the industrial nightmare theme, taking on the idea that Iron Town was beginning to die as all the available resources in the area were rapidly running out. The story centered around a young factory worker, who dreams of leaving his dangerous job, and Iron Town, behind. But the catch is that no one ever leaves Iron Town. This story never went beyond three pages and a simple idea. In the shuffle of other stories, it was eventually lost and forgotten.

Four years passed as I worked on other things, mainly The Martian Empire Trilogy. Having finished that trilogy, I started working on some short stories. One of those stories was called The Blasted Lands, which will appear in my short-story collection, Fragments of Mind. The bulk of the action in the story takes place in Iron Town, which rests amid a vast desert land. This time, however, the city was no longer an industrial nightmare, but rather a city of strange monsters and horrible curses; bloat, avarice, and excess abounded there. Far more fitting a fantasy story than something resembling modern day. But the basic idea was the same. Dark, depressing, and dangerous.

After writing a number of short stories, I began work on a new novel, which I called The Jester and the Thief. In the story, a young, exiled prince escapes from a prison in Iron Town with the aid of a crazy old man. Iron Town, however, despite appearing early on, faded away after the first few chapters. In looking back at the finished story, I lamented that it had gone too far afield from the original idea, which was to focus on Iron Town and its bizarre peculiarities. In the end, I put the story aside. However, the basic concept, characters, and world remained.

Several novels later, I began working on a new novel, borrowing liberally from The Jester and the Thief. I called it Between Sand and Sky. I kept the exiled prince, the crazy old man, the beautiful but strange princess, and the assassin. I kept Iron Town. I kept the great desert waste where the city itself was located. I kept the story of the prince searching for the men responsible for his exile. But a lot of things changed. Rather than an escape from Iron Town, Between Sand and Sky was a search for Iron Town. By this time, the more fantastical elements of Iron Town had fallen away, leaving me with something that was much more realistic and, in a way, much more sinister.

More recently, as in just a few months ago, I laid the foundation for a new novel called City of Crystal, City of Rust. As of this moment, there’s really nothing more than a vague idea and an opening paragraph. The thought I have with this is to either retell or write a sequel to The Blasted Lands, focusing on the story of The Traveler and his dealings with the aptly-named City of Rust.

In writing this post, it became even more clear to me that Iron Town and what it stands for is the most enduring theme in my writing. But why? I think its because Iron Town, in all its many appearances, always represents one very simple concept: the sum total of the worst of humanity. People who are absorbed in their own pursuits without a care for anyone else, the turning of a blind eye to the suffering of others, rampant disease and poverty, torture and slavery, and the terrible irony of urban isolation. All the characters who enter Iron Town have to somehow survive its many horrors, but are often changed by their experience regardless.

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Fragments of Mind: Excerpt from “My Mechanical Soul”

~My Mechanical Soul~

 The man behind the counter held out a small card. White with black lettering, cardboard covered in a thin layer of plastic laminate, ordinary in every way. I took the card from him and he thanked me for my patronage, already turning his attention to the next customer in line before the words were even spoken. I moved aside, still staring down at the card that listed my name, identification number, and authorization to operate within the limits of New Port City. I had never before possessed something so important.

Alex Potter, my newly-assigned partner from one of the local precincts, was waiting just outside the door to the Registration Center. He took one last drag from a cigarette before grinding it into the sidewalk with his heel.

“You get what you came for, L?” he asked.

“Yes, Alex,” I said, holding up the card for him to see. “I was able to obtain my registration card without any significant issues.”

Alex nodded. “Good, maybe now you won’t get so much grief out on the streets.”

“Perhaps so, but I believe that those who would give me grief will see little reason for this card to deter them from their actions.”

“Maybe,” Alex said, shrugging. “Anyway, let’s get down to the precinct and get your desk set up.”

Rain again. Not a downpour like earlier, just a steady, soaking rain. I opened my umbrella and offered it to Alex, but he refused, saying that the rain never bothered him. Rather than press the issue, or relate to him facts about the health risks of wet clothes, I used the umbrella myself even though I had little need for it. Alex was soaked by the time we got back to his police cruiser.

Traffic was heavy at that time of day. Everyone was getting off from work and in a rush to get back to their homes. Alex grumbled about this fact, but there seemed to be little that his complaining could do to alleviate the situation. He even yelled at a few of the drivers who were moving particularly slow, despite that they would be unable to hear him inside their own vehicles.

I found Alex to be the most interesting human that I had yet been acquainted with. In the three months following my construction, I had only been able to interact with a few other humans in anything other than incidental contact. Most of those were my creators. They were all very intelligent and dedicated people, strict professionals, rarely given to bouts of extreme emotions or irrational behavior. Alex often exhibited both simultaneously. Though it was not within the bounds of my programming to understand such human characteristics, I nevertheless found myself inexplicably drawn to them.

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Here’s one more as Fragments of Mind rapidly reaches its release! I only need to do a bit more work and it’ll all be ready.

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Where It All Began

My interest in creating stories of my own goes back just about as far as I can remember, possibly even further. My parents say that when I was very young, I was a bit of a storyteller. That’s not a nice way of saying that I tended to lie a lot, but that I actually came up with all these stories to tell them when I didn’t have anything better to do. I honestly don’t remember that at all. Regardless, I do remember writing little short stories a few years later, mostly of the “my friends and I get stuck in a haunted house” variety. They were quaint and amusing, but probably not much else. I wish I knew what happened to them.

It really wasn’t until the last couple of years of high school that I really began to take writing seriously. It was during this time that I began to write Ruins of a Forgotten Earth, which, over the years, eventually grew into my first completed novel. It was also during this time that I came upon a website that allowed writers to post their work online for everyone to read and critique. This venue allowed me to hone my craft, receive a little feedback, and grow my confidence. I started with free-form poem. I grew into short stories. Then, finally, full novels. The process was slow and laborious, I won’t say otherwise, and my early work was… amateurish. If even now I sometimes have doubts about my writing ability, you know I’m not using that word lightly. Nevertheless, all that work was a stepping stone. Without all the work and all the mistakes, I wouldn’t have progressed to where I am now.

If I had to pick an early inspiration for what finally got me to take writing seriously, I would say that it was The Rivan Codex by David Eddings. I read many of his books while in grade school and thoroughly enjoyed them, but The Rivan Codex was different. It was one part a behind-the-scenes documentary and two parts the material upon which David Eddings based his Belgariad and Malloreon series. For me, this was the first time that I’d ever had the peak behind the curtain at how stories got started and the kinds of information that a writer, especially a fantasy writers, sets out before putting pen to paper. Despite admonitions from the writer that the reader shouldn’t immediately go out and start doing writing of their own after reading the book, that’s pretty much exactly what I did.

A lot of my early work was very derivative. I’d read something that I liked and then try to recreate it. I never outright stole anything or used someone else’s characters and worlds, but it was clear that my work wasn’t really writing, it was just a cheap form of imitation. Growing beyond that wasn’t easy. It took me years of work and years of fixing and tweaking my old stories, figuring out what worked and what didn’t. What was most important was finding my own voice. A voice of my own allowed me to take inspiration from various sources and then turn that into something that wasn’t just cheap imitation, but a unique story that I could be proud of having written.

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Thoughts from the Idea Pile

I have several folders on my computer that are dedicated entirely to ideas. Some of them are names, some of them are basic plots, and some of them are even the first pages of a novel. Most of them will never be anything more than that. However, I keep adding more and more ideas to the Idea Pile, because some of those ideas actually do become more than that.

Looking at my folders, I’ve probably got about a hundred ideas at varying stages, some of which are even up to a full chapter. That’s far more than I could ever hope write in a lifetime and I keep adding more ideas faster than I can write full novels. So, the ideas keep piling up higher and higher. But that’s not a bad thing, because not only does it give me a way to keep from forgetting about the many ideas that pop into my head, it also gives me an outlet for those ideas so that I don’t have to worry about trying to keep them stored away in my mind. Basically, it helps me sort things out and gives me a good view of what kinds of ideas I want to write about.

Some of my ideas are old, moldy things that seemed interesting to me five or six years ago, but that I’d probably not even give a second thought to now. In a way, that allows me to track my own progress in coming up with better and fresher ideas. What interested me then versus what interests me now. I wouldn’t say that my interests have changed greatly over the years, but rather my ideas become more complex and matured rather than just something I thought of that sounded cool as it might have been in years past. I even have some ideas that are just a name and so much time has passed since I wrote the idea down that I can’t even remember what it was supposed to be about!

Perhaps one day I’ll dig down into that rat’s nest and try to work it into some semblance or order…

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