Amazon’s Kindle Vella On The Horizon

Amazon will be introducing a new platform for writers and readers called Kindle Vella. If you are familiar with WattPad, it is very similar, allowing the author to release episodes one at a time, while interacting with their readers. This methodology has proven very effective for new writers on WattPad, including me, but add to this, the robust Kindle authoring platform of Amazon.

The idea is this: The author can release one episode at a time , from 500 – 6,000 words, of a Work In Progress (WIP) and add notes to the end of the episode, facilitating early feedback. The reader gets an early adoption of works by authors they follow. Sounds like a win-win. There is a catch (Being Amazon). The reader can read the first three episodes for free, but to unlock additional episodes, the reader is required to purchase a pack of tokens. The token packs seem pretty incidental

  • 140 tokens (2+ episodes) for $1.99
  • 368 tokens (7+ episodes) for $4.99
  • 770 tokens (15+ episodes) for $9.99

I have not figured out the significance of those numbers, but I’m sure a gazillion was spent on the research of big data and captured user content to arrive at those magic click baits.

There will be an IOS application coming out on Amazon in the upcoming months (as of this writing: 4/21/2021) it is not yet available)

I have already uploaded my first short story (Mylar) under the series title: “End Of Days.” Come back here and look for updates when this becomes available to all.

This is the first story in a series that got me thinking.  How would my family and friends feel about their last day on Earth?  Would their last day be as complacent and torturous as mine? That I can’t help.. I love a twist to a good ending.  Would they be angry or have regrets? Would they feel compassion, love?  Would they have a sense of being cheated or fulfilled in life?  Could I make this into a series of shorts?  So I asked them:  Where would you like to be?  Who would you like to be with?  How do you think you would feel?  But there was one catch–– I choose what takes them out.

Blue Light Special (End of Days Series)

BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL

(End Of Days Series – David Nadas)

“Hello? … Hello?…  F’ing thing! ” Jammie shouted into the car’s navigation screen as if that would speed up the Bluetooth connection from her mobile phone.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Her husband’s worried voice asked through the speakers, catching only her last remarks.

“Yeah… I’m fine…. It just takes so long for the phone to work its way through the screen thingy to the speakers and you have no idea if the other side is hearing you… whatever….yeah… I’m fine… What’s up Grumps?”

“I hate when you call me that… “

“Sorry, Paul, but you sound so seriously grumpy.”

“Jammie, have you checked your phone lately? Every device on the planet with an emergency alert is going off!”

“Yes I heard my phone, but it’s in my purse on the back seat… What am I looking for?  A Kia Soul with tinted windows? A white Camry? A maroon 2017 Honda CRV Touring?  Wait… that’s what I’m driving…. I suppose the amber alert could be about me because I heard a BOOM and I thought a Walmart eighteen wheeler had hit me–– and you know my premonition of being taken out by one of those…. So then I scooted into middle lane to let it go by and some A-hole started honking from behind me, so I moved back into the fast lane and almost clipped some Millennial who was lying so far back in the seat I thought it was one of those self-driving EVs…. where was I?  Oh yeah––”

“Jammie…. Are you through?

“Sure… what do you want me to pick up?”

 “What? Where are you?” 

“I’m on 15 South.”

“Pull over….”

“Paul, I’m on 15 South… I can’t just pull over––”

“Pull off the road, Jammie, NOW!”

“But––”

“Do it!” She heard and the space in the car went silent.

“Paul.. Are you there?”

“Yes.” Paul said calmly this time.  Please pull off the road, Jammie.”

“Ok, I’m taking the Poway Rd Exit–– Good God!  There’s another Walmart truck exiting in back of me.  I feel like I’m being herded to my death….”

“Let me know when you’re on the side of the road”

“Ok, just let me find a safe place to park.  There’s like no shoulder here and the only place that looks decent is occupied by a food truck with yet another Walmart rig next to it!  Where am I, Walmart Truck Hell?  Is this where they all meet up and compare their kills? 

––Hey, I just took out a minivan.

––Yeah, those are great. Love the crunch but not as good as clipping an RV

–– ‘Cuz they’re full of people (chuckle, chuckle, chuckle).  Do Walmart truckers stamp icons of cars indicating the number of kills they have, like the WWII pilots did?“

“Jammie, get serious.  Pull off the road.”

“I’m trying, Paul. Okay, I see a shopping center up ahead.  I’ll pull in.  Oh Christ, Paul, it’s a Walmart Supercenter!”  This must be the mecca of Walmarts, because judging from the size, this one probably gives birth to smaller Walmarts––”

“Jammie!  I’m not joking around.  You need to pull in but do not shut off the car or you’ll cut me off.”

Jammie did as he asked, parking as far away as possible in the lot, looking around at all the haphazardly parked Walmart rigs around her.

“I’m stopped,” she said, unbuckling her seatbelt.  “What is so important that I now have a front row seat at my premonition?”

“The world is coming to an end, Jammie.” Paul said through the connection with Jammie detecting a crack in his voice.

“Tell me about it Paul–You should see this place.  It’s like I crawled into a den of sleeping Walmart Trucks and there is an alarm clock with two giant bells on it next to them about to go off in three seconds and I can’t reach it in time––”

All she could hear was a slight whimper coming through the car speakers.

“Paul?  She said gently.  Paul was not the kind of guy who would tear up like that. Paul?  Is everything okay?” 

“Jammie.  I’m serious.  Look at the alert on your phone.  You heard that boom, didn’t you?”

“Yes, but I thought that was the Walmart truck?”

“It wasn’t.  Apparently there was and undetected intergalactic rock the size of Manhattan that came out of nowhere and just skimmed Earth, passing close enough that it tore a trench in the upper atmosphere on the other side of the planet and that was the boom we all heard––” 

“But it didn’t hit us… that‘s good, right?”

“Maybe, maybe not.  At least if it had hit us we would have never known it, but it took out most of the satellites communications and seriously screwed with Earth’s electromagnetic field, so much so that scientists speculate a reversal of the poles and we will lose all our protection from radiation until the fields realign.  It’s not good, Jammie.”

“So.. like how long does that take?  Can’t we just stay inside for a bit?”

“No one really knows.  There’s evidence in Earth’s past that the poles have switched many times before, but no one knows if it’s an overnight thing or several thousand years.”

“So like how much radiation are we talking about?”  Like we all have to wear 500-block lotion just to take out the recycle?

Paul started to laugh.  This is what he loved most about Jammie; she could get him to laugh in the most dire of situations, turning the corners of his mouth upward as much as he tried not to smile.  

“Like it is going to kill most of the vegetation and the downstream effect will be pretty devastating for terrestrial life not to mention we are losing a boatload of atmosphere.  And it gets worse; they think it will slingshot around the sun and head right back at us. 

“Oh… that’s not so bad, it will give me time to put on some makeup.”

Paul burst out laughing on the other end of the phone. And then there was silence and a crumble of soft sobs. 

“Paul––”

There was another Earth shattering boom and her car seemed to bounce in place, with the rear hatch window shattering into micro tiles as the car settled ninety degrees from its original position.   She had instinctively ducked into the passenger seat, looping her forearm under it to hold herself tight against the cushion; a scenario she had practiced in her mind dozens of times thinking she would one day see a Walmart truck jackknifing towards her and slicing the roof off like a mandolin does to an onion.

When she got up to look, she was facing the Supercenter, watching a wave of tarmac make its way across the lot, flipping standing groups of people, cars and trucks like toys before slamming into the front where every window seemed to implode simultaneously.  She expected to see chaos, and hear rivers of alarms, sirens going off, but it was dead silent.

“Paul? Paul did you hear that? My God Paul, what was that?” she asked into the air, trying to roll down the driver window to see up into the sky as if whatever did this was still up there, but the button was not working.

“Paul?  Are you there?” she asked looking directly at the navigation screen that was now dark, and noticed the car engine was off. She pressed her foot on the brake and pushed the start button, but nothing happened.  She opened the door and stepped out.  It was pin drop silent.  People were starting to get up as if someone had pulled the Earth carpet from beneath them.  As people started running toward the building that was billowing a grey white dust out of every orifice, Jammie realized the entire roof must have collapsed within.  She turned in a circle and could see the same thing being played out in every direction. Every tree, signpost, anything that had been vertical was not lying on the ground.  There was destruction everywhere and that destruction had taken out everything that was capable of making a sound.

Fishing out her mobile phone, that was lodged behind the gas pedal, and pressing every button was as effective as trying to give life to a brick.  She tossed it into the seat and stood up, resting her arms on the roof watching as people were dusting themselves off and scratching their heads, discovering the same about their own mobile phones.  She watched as everyone tied to start their cars then open the front hoods to more head scratching.

She looked up but there was nothing but blue sky.  The sounds of humanity started to flood back and there were fires evident in the building, smoke everywhere, but no sirens, alarms to be heard.  Whatever happened took out anything and everything that was electronic. 

People began to realize the situation, organizing and trying to assess the damage done, wondering if they could save anyone inside.  The only sounds were sounds of material things breaking or crumbling, stitched together with cries of fear.

Jammie started to walk toward the group, when a vintage jungle truck rolled up beside her, still running.  

“Get in!” the guy said.

Jammie was fluxed, looking around and then back at him.

“If you’d rather walk to where you need to go, that’s fine with me,” and he ground his shift into gear.

“Wait!” Jammie called out. “Ok, but how do I know you’re not going to take me down some dirt road and … well do things to me before you choke me to death and the last thing I see is your twisted smile?”

“I’m afraid I can’t offer that kind of excitement. I’m just a normal guy,” he said, reaching over and opening the passenger side door, shoving it a couple of times as it protested against the rusted hinges.  “But you better make up your mind, and quickly,” he said nodding his head to the crowd of people behind her that saw an operating vehicle and started running towards them.

Jammie didn’t hesitate and jumped in, closing the door as the truck lurched forward and the driver, not bothering to follow parking lot rules, rode up and over the curb and through a row of planting on the straightest path to the exit.

Jammie was pressed against the seat, gripping the roof handle and console, managing to only shriek a few times as the planting were uprooted and thrown upwards over the brush guards, bouncing off the roof and up over the rear.  When they exited the Walmart Supercenter, the driver stopped in the middle of the road and pulled up on the emergency brake.

“Are you okay?” he asked, sucking in the on side of his mouth as if something were stuck in his teeth.

“I think I would have been better off down the dirt road with your hands on my throat––Do you always drive like this? I mean there are distinct entrance and exit arrows, streets and things clearly marked for cars,” she said, straightening out her blouse that had hiked up during the ride.

“Sorry,” he said, sincerely. “But the faces on those people running towards us looked like a scene from the Walking Dead.  I don’t think they were about to kindly ask us for a lift.

She looked back through the rear window to make sure the walking dead were still not running towards them.

“Yeah,” she agreed and faced him.  “Hey, why exactly is this thing running when every other vehicle isn’t?”  She asked, now curious, looking around at the sterile metal compartment with not a hint of softness to it.  Just beige on beige on beige chipped paint over grey metal.

“Well, this is a 1968 Defender,” he said tapping the dashboard as if this was his pride and Joy.  “There are zero electronic parts in here.  This is completely mechanical, including the manual crank starter in the grill.  Nothing is going to keep this baby in the corner.”

He could see she was looking him up and down from his blond spiked cropped hair, neatly ironed flannel button-down to the patina of jeans that looked from the same year as the truck.  She guessed he was in his early fifties, like herself.  His rolled up sleeves revealing tight arms and a ropy physique––someone not afraid of manual labor and a clean living. He was contrary to the compartment they were in––impeccable.  Not unlike herself.

“My name is Darrel.  Darrel Glick,” he said stretching out his hand.

“Jammie,” she said, remaining on a first and only first name basis, still not entirely trusting him to give her last name as she reached over and shook his calloused hand.

“Where to, Jammie?” He asked, placing one hand on the steering wheel while the other rattled the shift into a spot that popped them forward.

“And don’t worry,” he added, seeing the distrust of lines stacked along her forehead.  “All the dirt roads I know of are in back of us,” he said, with a wink before turning his attention ahead, turning from time to time to see how she was coping.

She had always possessed a good instinct in people, albeit sometimes bluntly telling a person what she thought with no filters.  Settling back into her seat, the lines on her forehead began to melt.

He followed her directions back to route 15 and continued south, weaving between stopped cars with their passengers either still inside or looking under the hood or walking down the highway, never bothering to help anyone and going off-road now and then to avoid gatherings which might pose a problem for them.  The people he passed seemed star struck, not knowing what to make of the little tan truck bouncing by, out of place to the Tesla, Audis and modern versions of itself–– the spit polished Land Rovers with their custom leather interiors now worthless heaps of junk, some trying to pursue them on foot but falling far short when their Louboutins, Manolo Blahniks or Balenciagas refused to touch dirt.

“So what’s your story, Darrel?” Jammie asked.

“I had a good gig going until COVID came along, then got permanently laid off from my tech job, but with everyone still clicking away on-line, the trucking industry held up so I thought, ‘What better way to social distance and earn a living at the same time?’”  And you?” He asked.

“Well––”

“Wait, let me guess,” he interrupted. “You are a stay-at-home-mom, have a husband who retired early so he could perfect his golf game, have grown kids with families, own a dog, and live in nice house with an ocean view,” he said giving her a once over look and nodding in confidence of his guess”

His assessment spooked her and she leaned forward to stare at him as he kept his gaze out the window.

“Wait a minute… Do I know you from somewhere?” She asked.  “Have we met before?”

“No.  I would have remembered you,” he said, causing her to blush.

“Then how would you know all that about me?”

“I was in Big Data,” he said as if those two words needed no other explanation.

“What does that mean?” she asked.  “Like you sat in a windowless room, dressed in a faded black T-shirt with skulls and lightning bolts on it, drinking red Bull and eating day old cold pizza in front of a billboard of flat screens, spying on people surfing the internet?”

“The T-shirt was red,” he said, matter of fact. “And my drink of choice was Mr. Pips.”

This brought a chuckle to Jammie who faced forward and leaned back in her seat, crossing her arms in front of her chest, momentarily, before leaning forward again to see his face as he drove.

“Seriously? Do people like that really exist?”

“Yes,” he said.  

“So why are you driving this clunker?”

“She didn’t mean that,” he said tapping the dashboard.  “Yes, at the time, I could have afforded any car but this is what I wanted.”

“Oh, turn here!” she shouted, almost missing her entrance, a nondescript packed crush-stoned driveway that skirted through a grove of brush, winding its way along a canyon ridge.

Darrel dropped the defender into a lower gear and headed up the drive until they rounded a bend and through the trees he could make out a sleek and modern structure almost indistinguishable from the landscape around it, beyond, unobstructed views to the coast miles away.

“Ahhh…” he said.  “I’ve hit the mother load,” he said, bringing a huff to Jammie.

“Don’t even think of looting anything or holding us hostage.  My Dog is trained to attack at the sight of flannel.”

As they pulled into the driveway, Paul was already standing outside with their Papillion resting at his feet.

“Is it safe to get out?” Darrel asked, nodding toward the small dog.

“Don’t be fooled,” Jammie said confidently.  “One wrong move and the last thing you see after being taken down to the ground will be the eyes of my Millie.”

They opened the doors to the sound of popping metal and stepped out, brushing the dust that had swirled through the open windows of the truck on their way up the drive.

Paul immediately rushed over and held Jammie in her arms, kissing her hair and cupping his hands along her face,

“I thought I would never see you again,” he said with tears in his eyes.

“Me too she said and kissed him lightly upon his lips.  You can thank Darrel for that, “She said, turning to introduce him.

Paul stepped over, shaking Darrel’s hand.  “I can’t thank you enough.” Paul said looking deeply into his hazel eyes, not knowing what else to say. 

“Nothing to it.  I’m here for the Silver,” he said, getting a laugh from Jammie.

Paul shot a confused look between them.

“Never mind, Paul, I’ll clue you in after we get a drink,” she said, locking her arms into each of theirs and leading them into the house.

On the back terrace, Darrel and Paul were seated in cane chairs, staring out over the stone sitting wall, a glass of 25 year old Michter’s Whiskey in hand, looking at the sun about to set over the Pacific, a light breeze coming from the west carrying a marine freshness with it.

“Nice view,” Darrel remarked.

Paul was silent, taking in what Darrel said, knowing this view would be gone not long from now. “Cheers,” he said, raising his glass.

“I’m more of a craft beer guy, but this is damn good,” Darrell commented, lifting his glass where the sunset refracted through the amber color of the whisky.

“I was saving this bottle for a special occasion,” Paul said.

“It doesn’t get more special than this,” Darrel replied.

“So how does this end?” Jammie asked, walking up behind them, and taking a seat.

“Hard to say,” Paul said.  “That asteroid ripped a nice hole in the atmosphere, sort of like a slow leak in a balloon.  At the same time, the magnetic disturbance was enough to begin the reversal of the poles.  I don’t know much more than that because everything is down.”

“When do you think the Internet will be back up?” Jammie asked.

“I doubt it’s coming back.  Every satellite now has it’s GPS screwed up or was fried.” 

As the sun set over the Pacific, a darkness had swept over them, and where the starburst of lighting from homes, buildings, shopping centers and street lights once filled the landscape below, rendering the sky a sheet of grey, their eyesight had adjusted to the darkness, and painted from horizon to horizon was the plate edge of the Milky way with it’s full spectrum of stars and dust clouds like a river of light.

“Wow that is gorgeous, “Jammie said. “You’re telling me that was always there but we could never see it?”

“Sadly true,” Darrell said. “This is what Native Americans saw every night before the neighborhood went to shit.”   

They were leaning back with their feet resting on the warm stones of the fire pit Paul had started from scavenged wood along the slope of their property, something he had not done for years due to the wildfires and stigma that an open fire brought about by the increasing pressure of California culture.

“I’m afraid Paul,” Jammie said.

“Me too,”

Darrell pulled his feet from the warm stones, brushing off his pants as he stood. 

“Well, thanks for the hospitality and view,” he said.  “And I honored to have met you both, but I better be on my way.”

“Wait!  Where will you go?” Jammie said getting to her feet.

“Seeing the two of you, together, well, there’s someone I ought to go see.”

Jammie could tell from the sadness that veiled his face that he was talking about an apology, the kind of apology for walking out on someone he still loved.

“Let me see you out,” she said.

Paul stood and the two men shook hands with no words passing between them, the interrupted awkwardness welcomed by Jammie looping her arm into Darrell’s as she led him through the open slider into the great room and towards the front door.  As he was about to step out, she stopped him with a gentle pull on his sleeve.

“She’ll appreciate it,” Jammie said with encouragement.  “And if that doesn’t work out, there’s always the dirt road thing you got going,” which brought a genuine friendship to his smile before he turned and left, his silhouette against the cascade of blue starlight, reminding everyone just how small they are in the universe and what truly matters.

 

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

For those who have been following this series, or for that matter, for those who are reading this for the first time, the series started as a casual conversation with a friend, who when asked: “If this was your last day on Earth, what would that be like? Would you have any regrets? Would it be anything unusual? Her reply surprised me, and that lead me to ask other friends the same questions.

Of the stories written so far, writing Blue Light Special was one of my favorites. My friend is convinced she will be taken out by a Walmart Truck…

 

On a side note, I am working with a friend and author, Richard Murray, in putting together an anthology of Sci-Fi shorts of which a section will be titled, End Of Days.

 

MEME

“Meme.” Having been a student of Marine Biology, spending countless semesters and personal time focused on physiology of species, animal behavior, genetics, the ecology of biological systems, and so on and so on, I had my light bulb moment—that moment in time where one’s mental capacity jumps up several notches—upon studying the science and observations of Robert Ricklefs (Ecology, etc.) and Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype, etc.). It was as if I had stumbled upon a jumbled pile of puzzle pieces and began to see the image forming before me. That is how much of a light-bulb moment these individuals have had upon my learning and I began to unravel the social behavior of genetics.

Now back to the word, meme. Coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins (from the Greek word mimeme – imitate). Remember it as this. Gene is to blue eyes as meme is to Santa Claus; both passed from one generation to the next. Ask yourself, why exactly do we intentionally lie to our offspring about the existence of Santa Claus?

So something odd has evolved here: a means to propagate information much faster than genetics. But all may not appear, as it seems. Take one of Richard Dawkins observations in ants, where some ants he observed climbed to the top of a leaf or blade of grass, something that put that ant in a vulnerable situation, exposing itself to predators or grazing animals. What would explain such behavior? Martyrism? Social acceptance? Fecundity? It turns out in that ant example it was the lancet fluke– a virus affecting the ant’s brain, putting the ant on a course of action beneficial to the virus. The virus required a grazing animal to complete its life cycle, securing its ability to pass on its genetics—it couldn’t care less about using the ant to get there.

So… why am I bringing this up? Are you the ant or the lancet fluke? I suppose I am both, for I see posts, propagated, as one’s personal gain. This one included 😉

Case in point:

The alien in my sci-fi novella, November Seed, was based upon the fungi of the genus Ophiocordyceps – which takes control of an ant’s brain, producing an antenna of spores and turning the ant into a zombie for it’s selfish quest.

What exactly would the meme be for that? All I can picture are Santa’s reindeers, all with antlers, pulling his sleigh bearing gifts.

“Merry Christmas all! And to all a good night……”

If you are looking for a good Christmas story to watch, try Rare Exports: A Christmas story, free on Amazon Prime

What would aliens actually look like?

It is quite easy for a Sci-Fi author to make their aliens very human-like (guilty of charged– as in my upcoming novel, Silversides); trying to write a story where they are nothing like humans creates a lot more work for the author, even if that alien does not have a speaking part.

November Seed

Alien in, November Seed

Both of my novellas (November Seed & From Europa With Love) have aliens that are not human-like and have no dialogue, so to make these stories credible, the biology has to be right.  It helped me immensely that in my former life I was a Marine Biologist–I had been studying alien life forms my entire life it seems and it is not by coincidence that in both my novellas the alien life forms are marine in nature.

Representation of alien in, From Europa With Love

But if you are new to writing Sci-Fi and do not have a background in Marine Biology, there are countless videos like this excellent BBC short from the BBC Ideas section to start you on your way.

So where does a new writer of Sci-Fi get started with understanding alien life?  Below are some good short video to get you on your way.  maybe, just maybe will will find out in our lifetime when we can get a probe below the surface of Europa to explore its thermal vents…. but then again, maybe we do not want to go three.  Europa seems to be a focus for NASA and other scientists as a first strike for alien hunting.  And why not?  t was mine in From Europa With love.

 


Are we living in a Blade Runner World?

I was reading an article on BBC, “Are we living in Blade Runner World,”by David Barnett, about the 1982 flick directed by Ridley Scott, sparked by Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.” The article’s author goes on to explain that the depiction of LA (at the time of the movie) was not far off from today and draws some comparisons.

The article then drifts into why writers of science fiction write what they do; are they writing to predict the future? Find out. The article is a great read for anyone who has put off reading Sci-Fi because they think the stories are of weird aliens (which there are), with unpronounceable names and places (guilty as charged), where the dialogue is robotic in cadence, which is false… except for maybe a few newbie writers of Sci-Fi that self publishing has afforded– a terrific thing by the way.

The article shows great insight from Sci-Fi authors, Matthew Kressel and Mary Robinette Kowal, both who have created great works. Do authors of sci-fi write to predict the future? I’m sure many do, but based upon my own experience, I like to think we write depictions based upon current, hyper-social events; like smashing atoms and looking for the sub-particles we expect to see, and spin it from there.

 

A Time To Krill

HollywoodBefore every surf session I warm up on the beach.  It keeps me loose and responsive when I hit the water.  I’m about to go through a final full edit of my upcoming novel Silversides and below was my warm up exercise. (This short has nothing to do with the novel Silversides)

A first-person Sci-Fi detective named Stasch, titled A Time to Krill

Primal. It was the first word that came to mind when I entered the building, but it was the smell of sour tapioca and human waste that hit me square in the face. It seems that everything we do, for the sake of hygiene, is designed to mask this smell, but Natural Selection is an unrelenting force and this scent stays with us; humanity’s true signature.  I’m convinced it was our key to survival because no predator wanted any part of us and moved onto better smelling prey. I mean why is it that a day old kitten or puppy has enough sense to walk away from its own feces but a human baby would be happy to remain in a pile of it until removed? HA! I never lose this argument at a club, talk’n to the ladies with their designer scents, Eau de CRISPR, but then again they see me as an asshole and leave before I can close the argument. It’s what I need to do in my business. No one wants to hire a nice guy in what I do.

Stepping back outside I took in some fresh air and held my breath before reentering the conservatory (what a joke) then waded through the tide of human husks shuffling under the flickering lights of spent ballasts, their opened smocks and stained thighs as disturbing as seeing their arms curled up before them like human krill. They were staring beyond me, their mouths turned down and opened, sucking in on the pain, the intravenous bots at their sides like lamprey.

When I approached reception the waist-on-up android behind the glowing countertop was happy to great me, its hands folded neatly, the wig plopped on top neither male nor female in style.

“My name is Mauri. May I help you?” it said.

It was an outdated androgynous model made during the height of PC-tarianism and at least a decade old, its lips slightly out of sync with the synth box buried within.

“My name is Stasch. I got a tXT from a…” and I rolled my wrist to glance at the pane on my sleeve. “From a Milo Kee-van-is-tov, I said trying to pronounce it phonetically?”


The android gazed through me searching its DAT. “I’m sorry. We do not seem to have a guest here by that name.”


“Maybe Milo isn’t a guest.” I responded. “Maybe Milo works here.”


The android seemed to freeze as if stuck in a processing loop. “Ah yes. Milo Kivanastov. SubOS Custodian. He no longer works for us.”

“Check again. I received a stream from here, from Milo, early this morning…” glancing again at the pane, “at 04:32 to be exact.”


Another freeze, longer this time.  I couldn’t help but look up to mirrored wall beyond the android as if someone were at the controls.

“Milo’s contract ended with us at 06:00 this morning.”

“How convenient. You mean he was terminated.” I added.

“We try to avoid the phrase, terminated, here at the Lodge,” the android replied with a loving smile and tilt of the head right on queue.


“Can you tell me the SubOS outfit Milo worked for? I would like to apply for the vacancy,” I said knowing that if I asked where I could find Milo I would get a canned response of privacy protection. Which is crap. Nothing is private anymore.

“I do apologize, Mr. Stasch, but our CIS appears to be offline at the moment. Routine maintenance. Please try back later.”

“Never mind. I’ll run my own scrub on Milo,” I answered smartly with a wink to the mirror. My talk was shit, but I might as well make the string-puller sweat for a minute or two. My scrub search on Milo would turn up everything about Milo, but without Milo there would be no payment. I should have dropped this contract right then and there but I had nothing else going on and something bothered me about this one. There was no human activity around me other than the damaged trolling the halls and the android behind the counter was concealing, not something androids are known for.

I dropped a vCard to the android and left.  Let’s see who tugs on my line.

Figuring Milo ran the night stack and was a bit of a scumbag I walked the nearby streets looking for shitholes he might frequent. If I were Milo, I’d want some coffee and a vape and I found one called the Wanda Inn–bamboo shades drawn down tightly with a tilted flickering pink LED OPEN sign in the window. The door handle was sticky and a synthetic gong announced my entrance when I stepped inside. It was beyond dim as if night itself had not yet awakened and the air was crisp against my throat.  Behind the empty counter was a stocky woman, I think, whose arms were almost as big as my own but not as pretty. I placed my hands on the countertop where they could be seen.

“You must be Wanda.” I said in a raspy voice.

“You want coffee, fuckhead?” said Wanda with a raised chin and deep voice, which convinced me she was a he.

“As dark as the lighting in here,” I answered.

Wanda turned and grabbed a mug from the shelf and blew into it to rid the dust then poured a viscous stream of blackness to the brim and sloshed the mug onto the counter in front of me, the burnt smell of chicory an assault on my senses.  I hate chicory.

“Thanks. But not for the coffee,” I said and tapped on my pane to transfer two-hundred DASH to the address chalked onto the mirror behind Wanda and waited until Wanda’s wallet chirped and he looked down to see the transfer. “You ever serve a guy in here by the name of Milo?” I asked. “That would be a yes or no.” and I leaned in a little closer. “But a No and the next two-hundred DASH never reaches you. However, an answer of YES and you need to tell me something I can use.” I then whispered in my best Hollywood DeepOps voice, “But if the information turns out to be shit, I will be back to kick your ass.  And I mean that literally. I will sneak up and give you a swift kick in the ass and disappear before you can get up. You will get pissed-off, but with no one in sight you will move on.  And then a week or so goes by, maybe at a bodega, CryptoTeller or charging station, I give you another swift kick, a little harder this time, and you stay down a little longer because something feels broken.  And this goes on and on until you start to look for me everywhere you go. Trust me, no sane person wants that. Is that understood, Wanda Bergen of 8518 NE Banyan Street? You live just around the corner from here, right? Dirty white stucco duplex, top right corner? Blue awnings, one of which is a little ripped?”

Wanda’s voice was suddenly an octave higher and a little more compliant, but it was probably the promise of the additional two hundred DASH that made him talk.

“Yes… Milo did come in almost every morning… a little after six.”

I raised my brow for Wanda to continue.

“He worked the night shift at the River Lake Lodge. You know… God’s waiting room, two blocks up from here?”

“Was he here this morning?“

No.” Wanda replied. His mouth suddenly dry and he poured a half beer from the tap and took a quick sip, waxing a foam mustache and a lick clean of the tongue.

“Did he ever talk shop with you?” I asked.

“Only that the inmates… I mean the guests,” he said as if I were PC concerned, “were basket cases and once in awhile he would… you know?…. “ Wanda said taking another sip and a lick.

I raised my brow again.  Wanda was a quick study.

“You know…. the pretty ones,” he said with a forced smile.

I understood Wanda’s meaning, but that was not what I was after. “Did he ever tell you anything about the place itself or the people running it?

“Not that I–”

I slammed my fist on the countertop, startling not only Wanda, but also the detritus hibernating in the booths behind me. “Think Wanda.  Was there anything Milo said that made you curious? Anything such as activity happening after hours, strange people coming or going… shipments in or out, missing guests?…. That kind of thing!” I felt like I was getting nowhere so with one hand I opened my vest slightly to reveal the stock of my Russian made tecNIK while my other hand ran my down my face for whatever reason people do that other than it feels right to do it out of frustration.

Wanda took another slug.  He was visibly shaken and just where I wanted him.  

“Well…. he had this hidden chair between some cabinets just off the lobby in a camera dead spot and told me about a conversation he overheard about something called Triplex.”

Another raise of the brow.

“Ah.. I never heard of Triplex.”

“Did he say he knew who was doing the talking?”

“No.  Other than the tin can sitting at the desk he never met anyone who worked there.  They worked in another part of the building he had no access to.”

”Did he ever tell you what was going on in that area?”

“No… I don’t think so.  He said the tin can warned him that if he ever tried to gain access he would be terminated.  The tin-can creeped him out and he needed the job.“

I transferred another two hundred DASH to his account and left.

The sun was making its way over the canyon tops, shrouded in blue haze from the constant fires—La blue as we call it.  I hopped onto my bike and headed home to just below the ruin of scaffolding where the Hollywood sign once stood.  I have lived here as long as I can remember and where my famous grandparents lived before me. I was told this area used to be desirable, where the hillsides were rimed with swank and out-of-sight priced homes of former stars and movie moguls.  But when appSTAR made directors and producers out of everyone and their avatars became the new stars, their human likenesses were reduced to ribbon cutting and signing autographs and could no longer afford to live here. Well that and a few large quakes……

TO BE CONTINUED AT SOME POINT.

When sci-if meets science (Silversides)

Real Science inspires SciFi

This is exactly what I have been looking for in a the mask that my characters in the novel, Silversides, wear when they first land on Gliese 581 g to protect themselves against biologicals they yet do not have immunities for. It is so awesome to finally have a clear image, which makes writing a bit easier. The real science fiction is behind the concept of this mask, an artist’s rendition, of the research coming out of Denmark for a new material synthesized from cobalt to extract and store oxygen eliminating the need of oxygen tanks.   Now back to editing….

Excerpt from Silversides: Chapter Five

Kulcn stepped out from the shuttle with the bleed of oxygen rushing past him, the last of Earth’s oxygen as it diffused into the atmosphere. He paused to read the input on the lens before descending the ramp, and by the time his boots touched the ground the white microtiles of his suit and mask had turned a charcoal black to match the color of the sand. The other Silversides followed, their suits fluxing from the bottom up as if they had walked into a pool of black ink.

Interview on WLFR 91.7 FM

In September of 2015, I was invited on WLFR.fm during Mark Grossman’s Eclectic Journey segment, talking about WLFR Radio Stockton University (my alum) of my Sci-Fi, November Seed, and a little about the music and genre of Sci-Fi  that inspires me to write.  November Seed has been available for FREE on: Amazon, Offworlders.com, Wattpad and Smashwords and has been receiving glowing reviews for me to continue the saga (which I will).   Below is a recording of that session

You can stream Mark’s Eclectic Journey every Wednesday (3:00 PM –> 6:00 PM) from the internet by going to wlfr.fm

If you are fortunate to live in South jersey, you can catch it on the radio at FM 91.7 on your dial.WLFR_Coverage

Where Do Sci-Fi Writers Get Their Ideas? Part I

GroveBar

I was chill’n at one of my favorite places tucked away in Port Salerno, FL called the Grove Dock Bar & Cafe.  In fact, this exact longitude and latitude was the inspiration for the sequel to my upcoming sci-fi (Silversides) and where Chapter one starts in the year 2026.  This place is a BYOF (bring your own Food)… You provide the food, they provide the drinks.  Kind of tells ya how local and tucked away it is.GroveBar_2

A place where the view and ambiance normalizes the playing field for people of all social and economic circles– where at the end of the day we’re just people of the same planet all enjoying the same thing… a great conversation surrounded by simplest of things.

GroveBar_3I had brought an artist friend here for the first time last year and he fell in love with it, although, he sat down right in front of the mermaid holding up the roof and when he looked up he laughed, then said, “Kind of intimidating.”  He was 80 at the time but still managed to jump over the door into my ’62 Austin Healey Sprite when I picked him up. He scared the shit out of me, “Guy! Whoa… what are you doing?  I can’t even do that.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I always wanted to do that,” he smiled.  “Promise we can come back.”    When this el Niño takes a break and it warms up in southern FL, I will fulfill that promise to Guy.

So what inspires me for a story line?  I suppose the simplest of things.  For Silversides, it was this bar.  I came home one day and pounded out a complete chapter of what I thought it would be like here in 2026 with not a clue of what would follow. Five hundred pages later and 20 light years away, the first draft is done and editing is moving along nicely.  For November Seed, it was a common reed called Phragmites that launches all their seeds during the first cold snap in November. A private holiday for me.  Writing From Europa With Love, the inspiration was from a stunning image I saw on the internet of Jupiter’s moon Europa and a contest dare to write about it.  Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, you just need to look deep enough for it and not skim the surface.  When I hear writers say, ‘don’t know what to write about’, that drives me crazy.  I have five novels started with five more ideas waiting after that.

Here is a perfect example of something anyone can write about.  Watch this fantastic mini-documentary and learn what inspired the creator.  Then transport yourself to some remote outpost on a dust-blown rock of a moon where intra-stellar wars were fought and the moon was declared too dangerous for humans to colonize because of undocumented arsenals left behind.   And your protagonist finds herself here, clearing a plot for she and her fusion powered robotic dog to spend the only remaining time she has left.  In a place no one will come looking for her, and if they do, only she knows where all the nasty stuff lies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why role-playing is good for writers (costumes optional)

Starcraft Medic by Kim Yong SuYou see this type of writing, often, in new writers, like myself.

He was afraid to look up at her, but when he did, he was surprised at how easy that was.

 Yikes! Is right.  That was written without the experience of it.

You can improve your writing dramatically when you learn to role-play.   So put the laptop or keyboard to the side and stand up. Get into your character’s head and look down at your feet.   Now pretend he or she is standing in front of you. Lift your head.

How were you standing?  What did you see?  What were you feeling? Was it something like…

He was afraid to look up, his gloves placed neatly by his side, his focus on the single blueberry shaped stone that rolled beneath his boot.

 Now look up, idiot, before she leaves, he told himself.

She was slight, with thin ankles disappearing beneath the cuffs of her EVA that, like her eyes, were a pale blue. To his surprise, her parted smile made him feel, at ease. There, that wasn’t so bad. Now say something…

 “Hey…” he said without thinking… There, you said it… his shyness slipping further away…

Ok, so aside from the wordiness, you now see and feel what your character is experiencing and you conveyed that to your readers.  Trim it. Print it.

I often do this when I don’t quite feel the writing is expressing what I want it to. For anyone watching me, I might look a bit crazy, typing away then suddenly stop… get up and walk to the other side of the room, relax, shake out my arms, turn around and start to walk back, as if my character is entering the scene. Try doing that at a Starbucks… LOL. I write at home these days…  Eventually, you will need to do less of this as the writing improves. But there are always times you should express this type of role-playing, no matter how good you think you are.

I am in the editing phase of a sci-fi novel which takes place twenty light years away in the solar system of Gliese 581, specifically on 581 g, a planet in tidal lock orbit around its sun—a red dwarf, dimmer than our own. I had always been a bit leery of my expression of the lighting, trying to get across what being on the surface of Gliese 581 g would be like. Sure, pictures help, but how do I experience that?  Do I try writing in the dark or wear sunglasses?

Pluto_Surface_light_2It was not until I read a post on www.io9 about an artist rendering of what it would be like to sit on Pluto and see what one might see—our sun a pinpoint in the distance. One of the replies to the post questioned the artist’s licensing of how much light there would be. Instead of knocking the artist’s judgment, that clever person did some research and found a NASA site, called Pluto Time.

Pluto_Timewhere you plug in your location and it tells you what time of day you should go outside to see exactly what the brightest part of a day on Pluto would look like. So I did. I plugged in my location (NYC) and it spit out that my optimal viewing time would be 6:54 PM on September 24th, 2015.  This type of role-playing I think will provide the needed perspective in my editing.  It does not have to mimic exactly, but I hope to have an experience to recall what that was like, pretending to be on Gliese 581 g.

PlutoLightSo, as my Amazon Echo announced my alarm at exactly 6:54 PM, I stepped outside my city apartment and had a look and walk around.  Not bad.  I could see easily and it was a beautiful evening sky, everything seemed to have this softness to it, an attribute I had not considered.   I cannot stress how valuable this experience was for me, as I now trail behind my characters, following them on their trek and seeing what they are seeing. Costumes, optional.

SpectralTypeFor any AstroProgrammers out there reading this, it would be great to take the Pluto-Time model and expand it for other star-types, etc.  For example:  You select from a series of dropdown menus a star type and distance away, and it asks for you to enter in your location and it spits out what time of day to go outside, which closely resembles what the lighting might be like. 😉