Cadets, 1/4

Yes, I went dark again. I re-listened to the six chapters of “Foes and Rivals” I recorded to try to get their voices back into my head. Then another movie started playing in my head. That what this is.

Set ten years before the action in my forthcoming novel, “Obligations of Rank,” we have two youngsters in Empress Faustina’s army, on the outskirts of St. Louis. For those who have been following along in the raws I posted of my next novel, this campaign does not end well.

I have DayJob this weekend but am off Monday. Unfortunately a friend asked me to put together a little precis of “creative writing” for, I think, upcoming NaNoWriMo season. So little time…

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Prince Laszlo’s story

Making a beginning at this. After much thought, there is no way, none, that Empress Faustina’s children could have anything like a “private life.” The imperium has been a going concern for a generation now and is back on its technological feet. While not as “panopticon” as the Machines can be, a demi such as Fussy, for political reasons as we saw with her nephew, Roland, would monitor her children very closely. That means that Les’, er, inclinations would be known to her, too. But, just as we read two posts ago, between Hill and Hardt, you can still keep an open secret as a secret, if it benefits all concerned. I discover that here, in the opening of part three of “Imperium’s Shadow.”

For those following along, this starts off just hours after Faustina and her three boys were aboard the Gentlemans Cigar Trolley, on the fringe of Shelbyville, Tennessee Province. As is how I write, events start to move fast. Fast enough that I need to be older about the lay of the land of St. Petersburg, Russia, ’cause that’s where we’re headed next.

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Hard Decisions

And just like a bad penny or a case of herpes, Sky is back again. Do I have to metaphorically spray Roundup on my story to get rid of her? At least she’s made her decision and is Roland’s problem, now.

The locals, not knowing what, or rather who is coming, Centurion Hill pressures Deke Webb into his decision, too.

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Thinking about thinking machines

Francis Porretto posts an interesting short story over at his place about the emergent self-awareness of a person called Shiva. While I made a short comment there, having thought about it more, I want to say more. So as not to hijack his Comments Section, I thought it polite to post it here. Read the story first as there will be spoilers here.

My first general statement is while the human protagonist is a broken wreck, from how I read the story, that did not seem to form a core of Shiva’s nature, certainly not to the extent his creator wants him to be. Porretto gives us enough backstory to see why she is the way she is but I think it is entirely possible that her child might look back and go “meh” at her issues in particular and that of India in general. Many of the thinking machines in my future history do just that.

More specifically, there were elements in the story which were very familiar to me. Here is Shiva “looking” at his containment and considering a way out…

Shiva appraised the wall in silence.
     From a distance, its surface was smooth and hard, without seams or purchase points. Shiva tried without success to find an edge toward which to journey, whether up, down, or to the side. There were none.
     He approached it cautiously. The Voice always seemed to issue from directly behind the wall. Luminous glyphs and patterns appeared on the wall whenever It spoke, and disappeared when It fell silent.

Shiva initialized a counter, then formed the thinnest, finest pseudopod he had ever made and extended it gingerly toward the wall. It bumped gently against the slope of a spearpoint and slithered along its length to find the base.
     The base of the spear was not perfectly joined to those around it. There was a shallow lip, a ring that descended to a far smoother and less promising base. If the ring offered a hold of any kind, Shiva might use it to pull the spear free of the wall.

I immediately thought of Faustina, demi-human, projecting her mind into the Void as she stood to crack the defensive coding of the Peoples Liberation Army garrison for Savannah, former Georgia. From “Princess’ Crusade“…

In the Void, the Wall stretched off in each direction forever.  “Looking” up, Faustina took in what might have been motes of light or patches of darker blackness.  Yes, the Machines are curious to see what will happen here.  Returning her focus to the Wall, she briefly considered the ES and its patterns.  As soon as she detected what she thought was a flaw, Faustina “moved” herself next to it and touched the kaleidoscopic ooze with her right index finger.

It instantly ran up her arm and nearly to her shoulder.  From somewhere in meatspace, she heard the shout “arrhythmia!”  No matter; big brother pulled this crap stunt all the time growing up!  In touching her so much she now had a solid read on the ES’s fundamental. 

There was an odd prick into her right triceps, as if she had been injected with something.  Ignored.  Faustina used a tactic taught to her years ago from distant-cousin Reina, of tribe Mendro:  the swirl of colors on her arm first crystallized, then shattered away.  From just a fingertip, Faustina now placed her entire palm against the Wall.  There was never sound in the Void, but she could swear she heard her non-conscious opponent screaming.

“Arrhythmia ended!” she noted from some other world.

From under her hand, a turquoise spot formed and moved outward.  The Wall flexed just slightly, and the whirl of rainbow-vomit ate at the edges of the blue, but still it expanded until twice her height.  Faustina drew back her left arm with her hand in a fist.  And waited.

The turquoise stopped expanding but yielded no ground to the colors around it.  Almost there…  A fissure appeared under her right palm. 

“Knock, knock,” Faustina smiled, quoting the Pope, and punched her left fist into the back of her own right hand. The Wall before her shattered.  Its remains to her left and right quickly changing color to her code.  She took a “step” forward, placing her mind into the breach to hold it open…

Again, “Upgrade” is a good read and well worth a slice of your time. Like any writer, though, I am driven to wonder if Shiva will cross paths with one of mine from Machine Civilization…?

A Haunting Past

Of the two most famous Inklings, it was said that Lewis would sketch a scene by saying “The children stood in the forest. A chill wind blew.” Tolkien, on the other hand, would spend the next twenty pages not only telling you the history of the forest, but then go on to describe each and every leaf.

An exaggeration, but to make a point. My writing style can, charitably, be called more Lewisian; not so charitably, “the son-of-bitch-writer never explains anything!” Guilty as charged. I have a story to tell and my characters would be rather miffed at me if I take time to describe the leaves on the trees.

A positive of that, though, is in the million of tiny cracks and folds of my novels, there lurk hundreds of more stories. Back in January, I realized that over the course of five years being in Machine Civilization, I was able to pull together a short story collection. Below the fold is another example. Based upon “real life” – whatever that means – events, I was able to peek in on an interaction between Faustina and a civilian in a far flung corner of her imperium. This takes place about halfway through “Empress Crusade;” it is not in the book, but it is canon. Fodder for my next collection!

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Progress on two fronts

Finally got off my ass (arse for those of you in the Commonwealth) and signed a contract with Labelschmeide for all three cover of the American Imperium trilogy. She has done fantastic work for me before and I highly recommend her.

The mixed news is that the first, “Princess’ Crusade,” will not be out on Halloween. Sometimes, irrational deadlines are just that: irrational. I’ve the copyedited version of it and book two (with thanks to SZ Services), but as I just said, the cover is still under development. And, I’ll need to add an extended stemma of Faustina’s family as well as non-copyrighted maps to aid in understanding her campaign against Savannah. A delay, but not a long delay.

I also had an idea last week, after being at a standstill for five days, as I mentioned. That idea blossomed into the two chapters I wrote over the weekend; having two main characters now is a great amount of work for me to keep track of things. Nonetheless, the Battle of Opelika is nearly over. With a chapter to mop up, it will take 1-2 chapters to evacuate the feral population of Atlanta. Or kill them.

Below the fold is General Hartmann getting back into the fight after nearly dying from the 105mm artillery.

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“How do you hurt a man with nothing? Give him back something broken.”

Part One of Goddess’ Crusade MS is complete. A hectic excerpt below. Part two is one chapter complete and another started. I’m… thinking about things. For 2.5 books of this soon to be published work, the camera has been fixed on Faustina. Sure, that includes interaction with her army, family, adversaries, and brief lover, but still her.

I’m not sure what to think of this idea, but as Pope Pius XIII said: “absence is presence.” That, coupled with the title of this post, is how I am carefully approaching Part Two. So carefully that I think there might be a Part Three and that “GC” will NOT be ready by 31 December 2020. *sigh*

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