Friday, August 26, 2016

In Memoriam—Miss Davis

When tragedy hits, even the more minor, mundane events such as the passing of a beloved high school teacher, I generally process by writing.  When I found out that Susan “Sue” Davis—she’ll always be Miss Davis to me—passed away, I was somewhat at a loss for words.  It took me half a day to process and even more time to write this out.  Miss Davis was one of those individuals that is bigger than life, and thus in my mind able to transcend it.  For that reason, I was shocked and saddened to hear that she had passed.

It is impossible to know the full extent of Miss Davis’ impact on her students.  She was incredibly active as a teacher, and brought a kind of stern, cosmopolitan air to the little town of Battle Mountain, Nevada where I spent my formative high school years.  I'd always thought she came from somewhere more fantastic like New York, or Los Angeles, and simply ended up in Battle Mountain.  The truth is that she was from that town, and returned to it to teach, giving back to the community where she would have the greatest impact.  I don't know if that was her plan or simply the stream of events, but either way I am certainly better for it, and eternally grateful.

Firm but fair easily describes Miss Davis, as a woman who owned every room she walked into by force of will alone.  She was something of an imposing figure too.  In my mind, I remember her being at least as tall as I am, around six-feet-plus.  That’s probably more a credit to her strength of character, which can sometimes translate in our memory as physically larger than life.  When I attended Battle Mountain High School from 1988 to 1990, Miss Davis was a fixture of the school.  She was spoken of in a kind of fearful hush, as if she might suddenly materialize, peering at you over the rims of her glasses with a knowing look.

Miss Davis, as my mother remarked to me, was one of a kind, “The smartest English teacher who influenced me and you!”  It’s true.  Miss Davis seemed to see the special everywhere She saw something in me, and allowed me to design my own English curriculum (within reason), which included reading Hemingway, Asimov, and Howard Carter.  I was allowed and encouraged to work on short stories, and develop longer works.  I wrote my first fantasy stories in that class, and the DNA of those forays remain in my current works.  In many ways, I wouldn’t have really embraced writing without Miss Davis.

Five or six years ago, I found out that Miss Davis was the principal for Battle Mountain High School, and I figured that made sense.  I was just about to release my first book, and started writing a letter to her, to tell her of my success and the role she’d played in it.  It felt like bragging, so I never sent it.  It’s the only regret that I have in regards to Sue Davis.  I have no doubt she knew, fully, the impact she had on her students, but it’s always nice to get one more letter of thanks.

I remember Miss Davis as being incredibly active, coming into our theater rehearsal slightly out of breath from a workout she’d managed to sneak in, while we lazy teens all lounged around.  When she offered a creative writing class, I leapt at the chance.  Miss Davis was the high school theater “director” and the coach for Academic Decathlon.  She took groups of students to far-away and magical places like Reno to experience theater and ballet and jazz.  I spent countless hours, under her guidance with some of my best friends.  

Miss Davis is exactly who I think of as the anonymous speaker from Emily Dickenson:

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me – 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves – 
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring – 
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – 
We passed the Setting Sun –

I have little doubt that Miss Davis was active, right up to the end, and that Death had to pull up in his carriage, get out, knock on her door and wait.  She would have peered at him, over the tops of her glasses, slightly annoyed at the intrusion, heaved a large sigh and said, "Well, if I must."


Miss Davis, you are missed.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Right Time

This song has been rolling around my head for the past couple of days.  I’m not certain why, so I’m sharing with you.  Enjoy:


If that isn't earworm enough for you, , you can go get some free travel posters from NASA.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

THE HOAG: Lost In Moments Collected Beyond Yesterday by vON kRAEMER

I happen to actually know this author and have traded shots and shots with him.  He's no one to be trifled with, but he has some excellent writing to share and you should definitely give it a look!

Open the book and jump into our far future, where the last of humanity discovers there is indeed a purpose in life...

...a purpose not our own.


Excerpt

“Server, DestroyerActions. That thing is obliterating the Grand Stairway.”

It is permitted, Young Sr. Restoration will occur after Hoag has passed. Hoag may traverse any space.

“Why?”

Visitation Treaty.

“So the Alien has the right to destroy our ancient monument - but I can’t walk on the grass next to the stairs?”

No. Shall I review Alien access authorization?

“No, Server. I want to know why that Alien enjoys more freedom than HomeWorld Originals. Why Destruction is permitted.”

That would entail a lesson on Hoag, Young Sr. Perhaps later, after your date?

“I’m clear. Previous request please. I’m ready now, Server. New MindFile. Download and integrate basics, summary first please.”

Soo allowed his neural activity to shift subconscious.

He opened; he dreamed; words and pictures merged and resolved. 

Yes, Young Sr. Integrating basics. Please standby for voice and visuals.
TrueFacts. Downloading Hoag Summary*  
Revolving picture*

1.) Motive Youth.  N1.
·        Basics. Hoag are Humanity’s first sentient Alien contact.
·        Hoag were contacted via SMOSA during expedition 7142, Year 652 BPA, cross noted at 4761 AD HomeWorld calendar. 
·        Hoag are a multi-evolutionary diverse Alien species whose many inhabited planets are located primarily inside the Hoag Galaxy, including 993 known FocusPlatforms located intra-filament beyond the Hoag Home Galaxy
·        The Hoag Galaxy lies within the constellation Serpens, approximately 600 million light years away from the Milky Way Galaxy.

·        Hoag are an ancient race. Current theory suggests that Hoag civilization may date back 11.85 billion years.

Author’s Bio

vON kRAEMER

Speculative fiction has always been a part of the author’s life. Son of design engineer and futurist, Mitchell Bobrick, a science fiction book was more-often in the author’s hands than not. Hard Sci-Fi authors like, Niven, Benford, Baxter, Haldeman, and Clarke forged Von’s High Science interest most often used in his literature. Horror also plays a key role, as most of his works are elementary future dysfunction. When not behind the computer keyboard the author spent the greater part of his life working behind camera for Hollywood. The author owns and operates RAD sets and effects, and currently runs Galactic Pig Productions - a small Sci-Fi production company. He also owns Go Robotics FX, a company dedicated to invention and 3-D printing. He can be found on occasion about LA playing the bass guitar and pounding a few brews. He looks forward to unleashing the rest of what has patiently sat in his data vaults - upon the general public, for better or worse. Write the author: von@galacticpig.com, and he will get back to you, and likely invite you for a beer. The author lives in North Hollywood.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Firestone—I Don't Go (Anymore) and You Shouldn't Either

Consumter?  Meet Bill!

We'll get to that in a bit, but essentially and simply: fraud and more fraud.

A month ago the starter on my Ford F-150 started to sound rough.  Granted, I’m not a mechanic, but my dad did me the service of having me rebuild the engine in my first car.  I also “helped” on several others, so I know which end of the wrench goes on the . . . umm . . . tighten thingy.  The point is, that I know the sound of my engine, and when it’s not right.

For the past 7+ years, I used to (now very past tense) take all my vehicles to Firestone.  Accurate records and recommendations all add up to reasonable preventative maintenance.  Or so I thought.

Firestone gleefully checked my battery, told me everything was okey dokey, and I went on my way.  If you follow me at all, you’ll know that yesterday was quite a day for me.  Amidst the exploding energy drinks and whatnot, AAA showed up and told me my battery was crazy old and completely shot.  The service tech was surprised it was still in there.

And that's the part I'm not going to replace, but I'll still charge you for!
So when Firestone reached out to me to try to make some kind of resolution, I figured sure, why not.  This morning, the manager of the Firestone where I do all my business called.  He immediately told me it wasn’t their fault.  He had the test in hand, and all was fine—despite the death of my battery to contrary.  Apparently, the battery should be completely usable—even though it’s not.  He wasn’t even apologetic, and made no effort to compensate me for losing half a day to what should have been a simple, preventative issue.

He did, however, try to get me to bring my vehicles back to his shop.  “Is there any other maintenance we can do?”  Errr, you mean not do, right?  Because you didn’t do the one simple thing that could have saved me from wasting hours of my day, costing me time and money, which is the whole point to your shop to begin with?  That?  You want me to go through all that again?

Interestingly enough, Firestone has recently been found guilty in SoCal of committing fraud.  Not just one store, but several.  More were found to be doing the same inNorCal.  Firestone has claimed to do work, and not actually done it:

“It really seems like there's a systemic problem with the way that Bridgestone/Firestone oversees its franchisees and its mechanics. It doesn't seem like there's any standards in place,” said Jaime Court, president of a nonprofit Santa Monica-based advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, which was not involved in the case.


Yes, yes.  Soon, ALL your money will be ours!
I used to love my Firestone.  It was quick, easy, simple and they seemed to know what they were doing.  A few years ago, they went through a management change and things just weren’t the same.  Now I know exactly what things had changed.  I trusted them to keep my vehicles running so that any trips I took with the family, hell even getting to work, weren't a problem.  Thousands of dollars a year went to Firestone so that when a problem actually occurred they could just shrug their shoulders, with one hand waving the matter off, while they kept the other out, expecting me to keep piling up the cash.

This isn't the first time either.  Firestone has been accused for years of defrauding its customers.

"Sorry, but not sorry," Firestone has told me.

"Thanks but no thanks," I'm replying.

You should too!

Monday, August 22, 2016

R.A. and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Don't worry, you still have the view!
The morning started out so well.

My recently cleaned out garage now sported a working “refrigerator” which I had stuffed full of my favorite Monster Ultra energy drink.  My two oldest boys were up and being pleasant.  They even took out the recycling without too much grumbling.  Local birds, squirrels and an anthropomorphic mice colony all helped select my clothing, make my bed and accompanied me on a lovely Broadway hit.

I was out the door with my workout clothes washed and ready to run.

The first sign of trouble was when the “refrigerator” was frozen closed.  Turns out it’s really a freezer.  No matter how low you set the temperature, it will freeze all of your Monster Ultra energy drink cans and cause them to explode.

Thirty-two cans of joy and happiness died a stray dog’s death—sad, lonely and broken.

But which one is Yu-Gi-Oh!?
I grabbed a spare cardboard box, my mood dampened and slightly chilled.  I turned the freezer off, started loading out all the cans of Monster.  One of them popped and hissed, spraying me with caffeinated tears of sorrow.  A few cans looked like they may have survived, but only time would tell if they could defrost and be saved.

Well, I still had my good, trusty, old reliable truck!  I hopped in and immediately knew something was wrong.  The sweet door chirping didn’t grace my ears.  When I put the key into the ignition, nothing happened.  The battery was dead.

Now I was late.

Late, but still prepared.  I opened the garage, got out the extension cord and my car battery jump-starter.  Plugged the whole thing in and walked back into the house to watch Yu-Gi-Oh with my boys.  They refuse to tell me which character is Yu-Gi, but I’m narrowing down the suspects.  After a lot of battling with cards, the Dyson Sphere was defeated, and I went back out to start my truck.

Nope.

Nothing.

Nada.

A couple of clicks suggested that electricity had somehow found its way into the battery, but
not the amount that should have resulted in a catch, roar and me thundering down the highway to my office.

My jump starter, after 20+ years of faithful, unwavering service, had failed me.

I was able to bring around our family van and park it in front of the truck.  Fortunately, having cleaned out the garage two weeks ago, I knew exactly where my jumper cables were.  Slapped those bad boys on the terminals, waited five minutes and BLAM-O, the truck fired up.

So, I’m only down 90 minutes, 36 Monster Ultras and a jump-starter.


And it’s only Monday.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Last Bucelarii (Book 2): Lament of the Fallen

The Hunter of Voramis is no more.
A faceless, nameless assassin. A forgotten past.  The Hunter of Voramis--a killer devoid of morals, or something else altogether? The Last Bucelarii--dark fantasy with a look at the underside of human nature by Andy Peloquin.

Fans of Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson, and Brent Weeks will love the Hunter!

Excerpt

He filled his lungs with the fresh night air. The taste of smoke mixed with the earthy scent of loam. The warmth of the fire soothed and relaxed him, the hypnotic rhythm of the dancing flames calming his mind. The fatigue of the day washed over him, and he allowed his eyelids to droop.

The visions came then; memories leapt out at him.

Within the bright depths of the flames, he saw the hell he had glimpsed in the Serenii tunnels. Lord Jahel's face appeared in the fire, laughing, mocking. Bone and skin morphed into the faces of Lord Cyrannius and the First of the Bloody Hand. Shuddering waves of flesh and gristle writhed, shifting, transforming.

Demons roam Einan once more. People treat them as myth and legend, but I know the truth.

The Hunter retreated deeper into his blankets, his sword clutched to his chest. He told himself it was out of habit rather than fear.

He had left Voramis behind, not only to find the truth of the woman whose face plagued him, but to discover the truth of the demons. Curiosity drove him to learn of his past, and his own heritage as a Bucelarii—descendant of the Abiarazi horde.

The demon added its voice to the swirling maelstrom in the Hunter's mind. 'He disowns his blood, all to play the hero, the protector.'

The Hunter was too tired to fight it off.

I'm no hero. If it was up to me, they'd all rot.

He had no desire to save the world. He had no reason to save humans from themselves.

A vision of horror flashed through his mind. Creatures of nightmares seized a screaming child, tearing at pale skin with razor-tipped claws. Blood splashed across chitinous armor as the demons ripped the child apart in their haste to devour the flesh.

The girl bore Farida's face. She lay bloody, mangled, discarded like refuse, gasping her last agonizing breaths.

Oh, child. I am so sorry.

He wished he could scrub the memory from his mind forever. With it gone, the sorrow would leave. He needed no reminder that he was once again alone.

He turned his back on the fire and buried his face in his cloak.

He could turn his back on those who had feared and hated him, yet he had not the strength to hide his face from the suffering of innocents. People like Old Nan, Ellinor, Little Arlo. They would suffer most should the Abiarazi find their way into the world once more.

The demon whispered in his mind. 'Why must you protect them? You are not one of them, after all. You are Bucelarii.'

They do not deserve such suffering.

He squeezed his eyes shut and pushed back against the demon's voice.

I'm doing this for them.

He pictured Farida the way he had seen her that day in the Temple District, with that same bright smile. She was happy. That was what mattered, and that was what he would remember.

I'm doing this for her.

Buy It Today!

Author’s Bio
Andy Peloquin--a third culture kid to the core--has loved to read since before he could remember. Sherlock Holmes, the Phantom of the Opera, and Father Brown are just a few of the books that ensnared his imagination as a child.

When he discovered science fiction and fantasy through the pages of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R Tolkien, and Orson Scott Card, he was immediately hooked and hasn't looked back since.

Reading—and now writing—is his favorite escape, and it provides him an outlet for his innate creativity. He is an artist; words are his palette.

His website (http://www.andypeloquin.com) is a second home for him, a place where he can post his thoughts and feelings--along with reviews of books he finds laying around the internet.

He can also be found on his social media pages, such as:



Thursday, August 18, 2016

To Catch a Query

Hero wanted. Experience a must. 
Different agents and publishers want to see different things. There are some industry standards—such as a synopsis and query letter—that are almost never change (heavy emphasis on “almost”). Then there are some that will vary from agent/publisher to agent/publisher.  Some will ask for the first chapter, first three chapters, first ten pages, first fifty pages, nothing but the query letter, nothing but the query letter and synopsis, etc., etc.  But here are the things that you will definitely need, and which will save you time as you start the long, long, winding road to submitting queries:

Query Letter. This is the cover letter of your resume—it’s the first thing that the agent/publisher will see, and, if you don’t do it right, the last.  Everything you submit to agents/publishers should let them know what exactly it is you’re sending: a book called AWESOME BOOK OF AWESOMENESS that is in a specific genre, it’s length, and what it’s about.  Who you are, why you’re awesome and why they should listen to you.  Finally, what you’ve included (because they told you to) so chapters, synopsis and other information as needed.
 
Chapters. Unless specifically told otherwise, include the first three (highly polished and incredibly shiny) chapters.  Limit yourself to around 50 pages.  Yes, yes, some chapters are longer than others.  So, if chapter three ends around page 55, include it.  If chapter two ends around page 47 and chapter three doesn’t wrap up until page 65, then you’re sending two chapters.  You’re not shooting yourself in the foot by including slightly less.  If the agent/publisher is interested, they’ll request more.

A Synopsis. This might be the hardest thing in the world for writers to write.  It’s your story, but boiled down to a few pages—which sucks because your world is awesome and full of awesomeness and taking all that down to 1500-2000 words just sucks.  But, the synopsis should be complete, strong and include the major plot points and the ending.

The take-away is to do your research before you submit to any agents or publishers and to follow, to the letter, their requirements. This is like a job interview, but one where there are constantly 500+ applicants every month for the same job. The quickest, easiest way to sort through if you can be worked with (or not) is if you can follow posted agent/publisher instructions.


There is usually nothing tricky about it, but it does take time to read through and set up your query appropriately.  Having all this stuff ready to go will help make your query process that much smoother.