Amazon Kindle: “New eBooks by Lawrence Dagstine…”

Well, after a year in the making, the six-novellas project comes to a close.  Six brand new releases for Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, Kobo, Sony eReader (via Smashwords), Apple iPad (Smashwords), Smashwords.com, and I’m sure over the next few weeks a couple of more.  I have a wide range of science fiction, fantasy, horror, alternate history, satire and suspense titles available (including the almost-40,000 word A CHILD WEEPS IN MOSCOW), some inspired by authors like George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut to Stephen King and Ray Bradbury.  Quality fiction with characters and plots that boldly go where no other (at least I hope) author has ventured before.  I’d like to take this time to thank my cover artist Bob Veon, and fellow editor Edith Marlowe.  With that said, these titles below are only 99 cents to $2.99 each, worth the price, and a welcome addition to any eReader.  Just click on the buttons beneath the covers to access the ordering page for your favorite reading device.  Or go and visit my eBooks & Kindle page (up on top).  Most of all, happy reading!

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How Jones Goes by Lawrence Dagstine

Story Name: “How Jones Goes”

Price: SCIENCE FICTION (FREE on Smashwords)

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In the late 21st century, overpopulation is a problem.  There’s also the problem with mental health.  In one particularly unusual asylum, there is Dr. Born (psychiatric intern) and Dr. Bloch (sexologist).  And then there’s Jones.  You have not met anyone like Jones.  You see, it’s not every day that patients claim they are from Mars.  And it’s not every day they come and go as they please.  A science fiction story filled with loads of satire (and lots of oddities that will make you shake your head) by speculative fiction author, Lawrence Dagstine.

A Child Weeps in Moscow by Lawrence Dagstine

A Child Weeps in Moscow by Lawrence Dagstine

Story Name: “A Child Weeps in Moscow”

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Alien possession meets alternate history, in this communist tale set in 1923 Russia, about a boy named Abraham (Abe), whose parents suddenly disappear one day.  Like many of the adults throughout Russia, they are being taken away in the night by a special police force put together by Lenin’s “new” government, a government put together after the arrival of spacecrafts with biomechanoid origins and higher intelligence and influence.  Aliens the citizens simply call, The Invaders!

Klara Izolyev, Abe’s teacher, tells the boy that the only way he can learn the truth about the Invaders is to go to Moscow.  There he will learn what they really want on Earth, what role they play in the current socialist movement, and possibly find his missing parents and sister.  There he will fight starvation, arrest, combat homelessness, and meet an even more influential figure.  Arkady, the leader of a Moscow street gang, whose parents have also been taken away.  Together they will all journey to find the people they once loved, discovering just why the aliens are so interested in helping Lenin.

The Mysterious Lady of the Caribbean by Lawrence Dagstine

Story Name: “The Mysterious Lady of the Caribbean”

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Mercer Hollingsworth is not your typical pirate; he’s more a buccaneer of the freelance sort, with a bit of the old hero in him.  No job is too big for his merry crew, so long as it helps bring down the Great Armada and plenty of booty is involved.  But when he brings his own wench aboard, members of the crew start disappearing.  Who is this mysterious young woman? Why does she sing so much? Why is Mercer still alive? When they find themselves stranded on an island in the Caribbean, blood and death will go hand in hand, as the wench reveals her true form and purpose in this speculative pirate story.

“The Paraplegic” by Lawrence Dagstine

Story Name: “The Paraplegic”

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“Doc, I’m telling you.  I just woke up in a hole in broad daylight.  No memory!”

When Herbert was told he had amnesia, he knew things were bad.  When he couldn’t feel anything below the waist, he got scared.  When the doctor told him he’d be paralyzed for life, he got depressed and wanted to die.  After all, no one wants to be a paraplegic.  But what made him crippled so suddenly? Did somebody do this to him? And if so, why? Now in the hospital, undergoing intensive surgery, little does Herbert know that the force responsible isn’t done with him, not by a long shot! Something’s coming back.  There’s a little unfinished business to take care of, and it comes in the form of vampires.

“Family Reunion” by Lawrence Dagstine

Story Name: “Family Reunion”

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When Kendra was a teenager, she got raped and knocked up more than once.  When she finally found the courage to run away with the children, she went back to school, got a job, and set up a nice life for herself far away.  The children are now eight, and Howard has come ‘home’ for what he feels belongs to him.  He swears he’s a changed man, he wants to get married and be a dad.  Even if it kills! He wants this reunion to be one that Kendra and the kids will never forget… should they live to tell about it.

"The King of Trumpeters" by Lawrence Dagstine

“The King of Trumpeters” by Lawrence Dagstine

Story Name: “The King of Trumpeters”

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Salamand (Sal) was a slippery donkey, and a troublesome one.  Escaping one bad owner, only to find himself in the hands of another.  But after being sold to a nice couple, he swore he’d finally escape and start the perfect coup.  The one that would help all donkeys take over Jerusalem and the human race.  The plan might work, as humans are stupid creatures; might even give Salamand the edge he needs.  After all, what could possibly go wrong in a parody?

"Overcast" by Lawrence Dagstine

“Overcast” by Lawrence Dagstine

Story Name: “Overcast”

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It’s not every day that a 1920’s flying ace risks his life to bring a plane down safely for a little girl.  But when a horribly disfigured Sal and Lillian land in the remote, snowy mountains of Montana, a friendship will occur, a bond like no other.  As the winds blow and the snow accumulates, the pilot will do everything in his power to get this child down harsh ravines and rocky slopes.  Through darkness and despair they will do whatever it takes to stay alive.  A bittersweet story of survival, with an emphasis on the importance of not giving up and working together, no matter what age group you are.

Moscow Novella

Or purchase the NEW 150-page print version of Child Weeps in Moscow for $5.95.

BuyNow

Other New Entries: “New Releases, eBooks & Kindle”

If you can’t find a Dagstine story on a particular reader or android device, just get to me at Facebook or Twitter.  Every few weeks I will be ironing out formatting issues, adding on stuff, and working out other kinks.  Family Reunion and King of Trumpeters will also be available in print sometime in March or April.

Artist Spotlight: “Interview with Cover Artist-Illustrator Bob Veon…”

If you draw or write in the genre communities, if you are affiliated with comic books and illustration in any shape or form, if you know who Alex McVey, Vincent Chong, and Daniela Siera is, then you probably know who Bob Veon is.  If not, you are missing out on the next big thing in horror and scifi illustration, Ebook and print cover art, as well as mind-blowing graphic design.  Like McVey, Chong and Siera, Bob Veon is currently breaking into the big time.  2012 seems to be his year, and things are only looking up for 2013.  Here is a small press artist that turns your visions into beautiful—or scary, if that’s how you like it—prints.  A man who can turn a canvas or book cover into the next museum masterpiece, or who can bring ideas to the table that probably no other artist of his caliber can.  This freelance master of pencils, ink, paint and Photoshop is also available for hire.  Let it be said that there is nothing this man can’t do.  He is the next award-winning genre artist.  It is not only an honor and a privilege to obtain his services for my own fiction work, but to interview him this very day.  See what inspires him and makes him tick.  You will also see some of his favorite art samples and be able to contact him at the end of the interview should you desire his services.  And now, on with the Q and A…

Robert Veon (a.k.a. Bob) hard at work

Lawrence: Bob, I’m glad you could be here today.  Let’s start from the beginning.  Where did you grow up and go to school?

Bob:  Thanks for having me here!  I grew up in East Palestine, Ohio, and went to high school there.  After, I went to Pittsburgh Technical Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where I studied Multimedia and Graphic Design.

Lawrence: What was your childhood like?

Bob:  Probably pretty much the same as any other kid growing up in the 80’s/90’s.  I was always interested in horror movies and books from a very early age and anything else creepy and strange.  I liked to play video games and draw, read comic books.  Pretty typical stuff.

Bob Veon  — pencil, ink, canvas, computer art, etc.

Lawrence: How did you first get into drawing?

Bob:  I liked to draw pretty early on in life.  Ever since I was able to pick up a crayon, I think I’ve been drawing since!  I always liked to come up with strange creatures and places that were different from what you saw in life.  When I was a kid I was always fascinated with drawing skulls and skeletons (no shocker that I still have that fascination).  I remember a tornado going over the apartments we lived in during the mid-80’s and afterward I went into my “tornado drawing phase.” Drawing has always been my place to go to think and look at things.

I always doodled in my notebooks at school and at work.  Probably about 2005 or so I decided to start doing more elaborate work with it.  Trying to make something distinct, original.  I came to this decision that I’d make some stuff that I would like to hang on the walls around me, art that would reflect myself and things I found interesting.  Then a friend of mine suggested that I try doing illustrations for short stories, so I checked around online and Whispers of Wickedness gave me a try.

Lawrence: I used to be a reviewer and contributor for Whispers of Wickedness.  So tell me, what inspires you? For example, certain music and video games set the mood for me.  But they also inspire me, too.

Bob:  I’ve always been drawn to dark and strange themes.  When I draw I tend to put on a lot of music that reflects that, and the two of them, music and drawing, seem to go together great!  I tend to listen to things like Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Marilyn Manson.  A lot of Industrial music too, things like Wumpscut, Combichrist, and Dismantled.  That sort of thing.  It really adds an energy to what you’re doing!

Bob Veon’s Comic Book work 1

Bob Veon’s Comic Book work 2

Lawrence: Let’s talk influences.  Everybody has them.  What writers, artists, or filmmakers influenced you and your work?

Bob:  Huge fan of Stephen King’s work – The Dark Tower series is still something I read over and over.  Clive Barker has been a major influence in my life since I first saw Hellraiser and then went on to read his books and get acquainted with his artwork.  He’s great in any medium he works in, as far as I’m concerned.  Besides fiction, I read a lot on paranormal subjects.  The things like alien abduction, UFOs in general; mysterious occurrences, cryptozoology, and conspiracy theories. Books by folks like John Keel and Jim Marrs. There’s a lot of strange things that happen in the world that kind of get brushed aside.  I don’t know what’s more fascinating a lot of times, the stories you hear themselves, or the reactions in the “official world” to them.  As far as art goes, I’ve always been amazed by HR Giger’s work – definitely an original vision there!  Frank Miller’s black and white comic style is definitely something I was impressed by.  Jae Lee is fantastic in that whole positive/negative style too.  I love his attention to minute details.

Bob Veon’s work space

Bob Veon & Lawrence Dagstine project

Lawrence: I love your penciling and inking style the most.  I love how you draw everything by hand first.  But at the same time you’re the kind of guy who can do pencils and inks one day, then jump from canvas to crayon to computer art the next.  What is your favorite medium to work in? Also, what mediums are you experienced in?

Bob:  I’m going to have to say that the medium that seems to be “me” the most is pen and ink drawings.  It’s a pretty fun and worthwhile effort all around to see what you can come up with.  When I first started to get serious with pen and ink drawings I would sit down to a piece of paper with just a pen, no pencils or other starting points, and just start going.  Make a mistake?  Just fold it into what I was doing somehow!  It could get challenging, but at the same time was pretty exciting.  Especially when I pulled off something that looked good!

I also like to paint a lot, but haven’t done much of that in the past year.  It’s always interesting to me how drawing and painting, while essentially very similar in that you are trying to create form, space, and value, defining something two-dimensional to look a certain way, are so very different to do in technique.

As for other mediums, I do stuff with Photoshop, but mainly just for coloring or adding effects.  I don’t do much with it aside from that.  I do a lot with Illustrator which is a really interesting graphic design program with a lot of potential.  When I was in school I worked in some 3D programs but never really got into them like I thought I would.

Mysterious Lady of the Caribbean 1 – Bob Veon

Mysterious Lady of the Caribbean 2

Mysterious Lady of the Caribbean 3

Lawrence: Originality.  It’s definitely something you have.  What is your take on it?

Bob:  Like I said before, I was striving to try to go into places that I hadn’t seen before when I started getting serious with my artwork.  I try to be as original as possible when I’m coming up with things to work on, but I’m sure that you see a lot of the things that influence me in there as well.  I guess that you’ll always have that, though.

Lawrence: Your black and white illustrations would look great on somebody’s back or forearm.  I’m sure they would also make your typical tattoo artist salivate.  Have you ever thought about working alongside a tattoo artist?

Bob:  I have indeed!  Actually, I’ve done tattoo designs for a few people.  My girlfriend actually got one that she asked me to design for her.  I did check out a tattoo shop a few years ago that was looking for apprentices and took in several of my sketchbooks for the owner to look through.  He seemed to be really impressed with what I was doing and said it was very original, which I took as a great compliment!  Unfortunately, due mainly to time and economic reasons, I wasn’t able to go forward with this.

Family Reunion Novella – pencils

Family Reunion Novella – colors

Lawrence: A lot of artists create their own graphic novels or books of their work these days.  They even do it on places like Lulu or CreateSpace.  Have you ever thought about coming out with an art book?

Bob:  I finished up a graphic novel script just last year that I’d love to get moving on.  I started penciling about three pages then got busy with other projects, but would love to get back to it.  I know that it’s going to be a long project, and I think that kind of keeps me reserved on it.

I do have a book of artwork available through Lulu from 2007 called Landscapes of Hell.  It’s still available if anyone’s interested.

(to order Landscapes of Hell: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/bobveon)

The Paraplegic – pencils

The Paraplegic – colors

Lawrence: Who are some clients, authors or publications you have done artwork for?

Bob:  I started off doing black and white illustrations for Whispers of Wickedness.  They always had some really good stories!  From there I started working with Jason Gaskell on his online magazine Oriental Tales, doing illustrations for the stories people sent in.  Other than that, I was asked to send some original work in for Taj Mahal Review and Harvests of New Millennium.  For a while I hadn’t been doing much illustration and then just this last summer Jason Gaskell got in touch with me about doing illustrations for more of his short fiction for a collection he wanted to put out.

Grim Reaper print (part 1) by Bob Veon

Grim Reaper print (part 2) by Bob Veon

Lawrence: What do you think art is most lacking these days? And why?

Bob:  I try not to get too elitist about art.  It’s usually something you get or you don’t, but the fact that someone created something, took the time out of their life to put the energy in to make something for someone or just for themselves, that’s pretty important and deserves a look.  If I want to get picky about things though, I could say there is too much of a reliance on digital technology to make something look good.  But that would be a stupid thing to say since I do it myself!

Gargoyle-Dragon Creature

In Thrall to the Succubus

Lawrence: Although it’s taken both of us almost a year, what do you think of the “Six Novellas” eBook project? Have you ever done something like this before?

Bob:  It’s been a lot of fun and exciting!  I never know what to expect in the next story I get from you, and that adds to the fun of what I do for them.  Hell, I’d never drawn a pirate ship before and then found myself doing it for Mysterious Lady of the Caribbean!  I’ve never done anything like this before, but would love to do more of it.  It certainly keeps the creative process moving!

Lawrence: If there was an artist or writer you could work beside, living or dead, who would it be? And why?

Bob:  I think it would be pretty fun to work with someone like David Lynch.  He certainly brings a very unique touch to whatever he’s working on.   Really just about anyone I mentioned before as influences would be great fun to work with.  It would be neat to see firsthand how they go about their work.

Death Clock

Dream Within a Dream

Lawrence: Funny how when we first teamed up we learned that we owned the same exact video games, the same exact toys and stickers (Star Wars, Mega Man, Final Fantasy, etc.), and other collectibles as if we had identical childhoods.  Fun Stuff… What do you do for fun? Where do you turn when it’s time to take a break?

Bob:  I know what you mean!  It was pretty wild to find out we pretty much owned the same toys and video games!  Usually for fun I like to play video games.  I’ve been a huge fan of them since the old Nintendo system and haven’t stopped playing since!  Things like Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, Grand Theft Auto, Castlevania – I enjoy them all.  I also like to watch movies and read.  Seems like most of the things I liked to do when I was a kid have pretty much stayed the same!

Nurse by Bob Veon

Secrets of Darkness

Soul-Eating Demon

Lawrence: In twenty years time, where would you like to see yourself?

Bob:  I would love to be able to work on my artwork full time.

Lawrence: If you could be somebody famous in history, who would it be? And why?

Bob:  I don’t know if he’s considered someone famous, but the Count St. Germain.  I just want to know if he was this immortal that he claimed to be or a fake.  Regardless, I’m sure it would be an interesting time!

Scarecrow Piece by Bob Veon

Tarot Reader piece by Bob Veon

The Return by Bob Veon

Lawrence: Favorite comic book superhero and super villain? And why?

Bob:  Oh boy, this is one that’s hard for a comic geek!  If I had to boil it down, I’m going to go with Wolverine for superhero.  Why?  With his powers and unbreakable skeleton he pretty much has no choice but to be this tough little ball of fury taking it to the villains every time they come up!  As for super villain – Herr Starr from the Preacher comics.  He takes villainy to a ridiculously fun level to read!

Lawrence: You know it’s bad for you.  Favorite junk food?

Bob:  I could eat pizza every day if I could, though I don’t consider it a junk food because it contains the four food groups.  See how I justified that?

The Tormentor by Bob Veon

We Can Make You Better

Wicked Forest

Lawrence: Have any advice for aspiring artists who might be reading this?

Bob:  If you want to make artwork just do it. And keep on doing it.  Don’t try to compare what you’re doing with what someone else has done because that’s a very quick way to get discouraged.  Good and bad are arbitrary things in art, and you are your own judge.  The important thing is that you are expressing yourself creatively and hopefully gaining confidence as to just what you’re capable of doing with your abilities.  It takes time and effort, but you will find your own unique style.

Canvas Work 1

Canvas Work 2

Canvas Work 3

Lawrence: Bob, I want to thank you for being here today and wish you the best of luck.  Do you have any last words?

Bob:  Just that I hope everyone likes what we’ve got on the Six Novellas project for next year! It’s been a pretty fun thing to be working on, so I’m hoping everyone gets that sense of fun when they get to read the stories.  Thanks again, Lawrence!

Commissioned cover for Surprising Stories

Need a book cover done? Or maybe a canvas or a graphic novel? Hire Bob Veon now.  Click any of the links below:

Main website:

http://bobveon.webs.com/index.htm

Also check out:

http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/bob-veon.html

http://www.artistrising.com/shop/tags/bob-veon.htm

http://bobveon.deviantart.com/

Or contact Bob Veon directly at:

bobveon@yahoo.com

Artwork Copyright by Bob Veon.  All Rights Reserved. 

Proofreading and Writing Services – Satisfaction Guaranteed!

Hi, my name is Lawrence, and I’m a writer of fiction and non-fiction.  If you clicked on this page, then you are probably interested in my proofreading services, or at the very least, wondering what I can do in regards to the written word.  Let me first tell you a little bit about myself and this website.  Many people know me as an author of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy and horror), and my name is pretty synonymous within the small press.  I’ve been writing for well over fifteen years, and I have an extensive publishing history.  Think of this site as a sort of virtual resume of some of my previous work, upcoming work, and publications.  Not just the services I provide, since I consider myself a working writer.  I’ve been called prolific when it comes to writing short stories and informative when it comes to magazine articles.  Wherever I go, any social media platform I visit, people tend to say, “Oh, Lawrence Dagstine, he’s that Scifi/Horror writer.  Sure, I’ve heard of him.”

This is me, hard at work for you.

Unfortunately, it’s a label I’m stuck with—because I chose to enter that field and write in that form.  You see, as a child I grew up to movies like Star Wars and Aliens, TV shows like Doctor Who and The Incredible Hulk, and I read Marvel comic books and digested good science fiction literature (no, great!).  Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, you name it.  I read voraciously! I lived around the corner from a Forbidden Planet and was practically there every day.  I did book reports on lengthy Stephen King novels in 2nd and 3rd grade, and was the head of the boys in reading and writing in my school district at the time (the 1980s).  Years back my IQ was tested and I got a score of 150 (teachers called me gifted).  I even delivered prescriptions to the late Kurt Vonnegut and, for a brief period, became friends with him and he a sort of mentor to me.  So reading and writing, especially genre, has always been in my blood.  But I prefer to be called a Freelance Writer because I work with words in general.  It’s what I studied.  Not just fiction.  Genre fiction is pretty much the “fandom” side.  And it is very hard to make a full-time income writing fiction, as most genre writers are paid a pittance.  I’ve known writers who got their BA or MA, thinking they were going to write the next literary masterpiece or appear in The Paris Review, only to become editors or teachers.  They weren’t delusional, they had the confidence, their hearts were in it, they just dreamed a little too high is all.  Even I dreamed high once, then my first client base involved writing and proofing pamphlets and instruction manuals.  So you really need to expand your writing skills to other areas, other venues.

Now if you’ve written something that you feel needs improvement, but don’t know how to go about fixing it, ask yourself a few questions… Have you ever had trouble with words like ‘further’ and ‘farther?’ Perhaps verb usage? Do you know the difference between their/there/they’re? Did you know that words like ‘never mind’, or ‘any more’, or ‘all together’ are not compound words? They’re all two words! Does your story have a beginning, a middle, and an end? Plenty of conflict? Because something has to happen in your story, and something has to be resolved.  The first sentence means more than you know, because it’s the first thing the reader sees after the title and byline.  It’s what immediately draws the reader in.  What about non-fiction, or product placement, or a cool advertisement? Maybe you have an idea and want somebody to word that idea a certain way, where it can potentially become a moneymaking vehicle.  Maybe you need help creating or formatting a resume or cover letter, want to stand out from the rest of the crowd when it comes time to apply for that killer job.  Need a catalog done, or a brochure, or a catchy slogan? Need some minor ghostwriting (query)? Textbook writing or editing? Essays or proposals? Striking web content for a business or organization? Help with a novelette or novella? What’s that? Want me to write you a Western Romance? Okay, I’ll write you a Western Romance.  You’re the boss.

No matter what it is, if it involves words, I can probably help you.  My publishing history consists of over 400 fiction credits in print magazines, webzines, anthologies, and miscellaneous periodicals.  My non-fiction consists of 150 credits, online and offline, for small and medium circulation newspapers, trade journals, regionals, and everyday magazines in need of good filler.  I’ve penned video game reviews in the past for Nintendo Power and written greeting card jingles for Hallmark’s competitors.  I’ve written articles on the paranormal, pharmaceuticals, beach erosion, Native American spirituality, theology, historical subjects, marriage, divorce, pets, vacation spots, real estate, wrestling and more.  I’ve shared tables of contents with two Hugo Award winners and two Bram Stoker winners.  I can do just about 75% of what’s out there.

Still in doubt? Well, ask yourself these 12 sample questions.

Do you know how to assemble a story arc? Do you know what character development is? Do you know what a three-act and five-act narrative is? Are you familiar with the Chicago Manual of Style? Have you ever referenced the work of John Gardner (On Becoming a Novelist, The Forms of Fiction, The Art of Fiction)? Do you know the difference between literary and mainstream? Do you know what structural analysis is? Have you ever studied English Literature—authors like Graham Greene, Truman Capote, EM Forster, D.H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the like? Do you know what proper manuscript format is? Do you know the difference between filler and feature article? Do you know how to write a pitch? Do you know the difference between a plot formula and a plot device? Heck, do you even know what I’m talking about?

If you answered no to five or more of the above, then it wouldn’t hurt to have me or some other qualified individual as your proofreader/editor.  Because I will only improve your fiction or non-fiction project, and only to your liking.  That is what I do.  I work with words.  Think of me as a sort of literary engineer.  I check for errors, make corrections, do any necessary research, and make your prose more persuasive.  I assist you in getting it the attention it deserves.  I develop fresh, innovative, and compelling work.  I drive constant voice, grammar, format, and diction across all text.  I know that your project is your baby.  It was birthed from your imagination.  But you must be able to take criticism and suggestions.  It will only help your project stand out from the rest, and help you get better.  What I am not is a copy editor.  A copy editor is an entirely different animal.  Copy editors usually work, or have worked, for publishing houses.  And good ones (not the kind you see for these run-of-the-mill small presses, who also publish their own books with the same company).  They do what’s called line edits.  They review your manuscript and send it to you with revisions in a program like Microsoft Word.  I do NOT do line edits.  Yes, I am certified in editing, but there is a great difference between a workshop certificate and a staff editor with more than 10 years experience at one of the big houses.  Yes, I have a background and education in journalism, creative writing, technical writing, and the business side of writing that could very well meet your needs.  Yes, as a proofreader I will go over your manuscript a minimum of three times, acquiring your voice and style.  Yes, I will print out your story or article, take a red pen to it, highlight certain areas I feel should be highlighted, and tell you what I think.  Yes, as your proofreader I will pay attention to the usual stuff like grammar, punctuation, spelling, consistency and sentence structure.  But I am not a copy editor.  I’m being honest here.  Even I use an outside editor for lengthy projects.  Because everybody needs a qualified editorial eye.  After all, how can you successfully edit a work that came from your own subconscious mind?

Difference between copyediting and proofreading:

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/the-difference-between-copyediting-and-proofreading/

Difference between copyediting and line editing:

http://publicizeyourbook.blogspot.com/2007/04/difference-between-copy-and-line.html

A copy editor will usually charge you by the word or line (I charge a flat fee).  They often do book manuscripts, and make up what’s called a style sheet.  If you’re looking for one, personally, I suggest looking for someone with at least three years experience.  Also, be careful of line editors posing as copy editors, as they can really screw up the flow of your manuscript if they don’t know what they’re doing.  This has happened to me.

Once again, I charge a very affordable flat fee.  Satisfaction guaranteed.  On a budget? I understand we’re still in a recession, the economy may very well not be good for years to come, and because of that, I am willing to work with you.  I expect at least half the cost of the project at the beginning of our agreement.  You are to pay me the other half after the project is finished.  Our email acts as a sort of electronic contract, if you will.  Research or additional time spent on projects (like staying up all night and losing sleep to meet a deadline on your behalf), costs extra.  And no, not an arm and a leg.  You are responsible for the cost of things like encyclopedias, visual aids, books purchased on Amazon, transportation places, or other reference materials.  I fact-check well, and I give citations where instructed or needed.  I do great copy—print copy! I’m not the kind of lazy individual who just looks something up on Google or Wikipedia.  Google is one of the worst reference tools you can turn to.  That’s because you usually find more than one answer to a particular question.  A long time ago I was commissioned to do a short article on Planned Parenthood in the new millennium.  I needed abortion statistics.  I found eleven well-rounded, informative sites by using Google.  The only problem is I found eleven different statistics.  So which was the right answer? For your project, if I have to go to a library, then so be it.  To the library it is.

I put in the time and effort to make your project as professional as possible.  I am proficient in Microsoft Word and Open Office (sorry, no crappy programs like WordPerfect).  I can give your project the treatment it deserves, and if you feel it needs work or you are not fully satisfied, I will tailor it to suit your needs at no additional cost.  I want you to be happy with my work.  I want you to succeed.  You retain all rights.  My name does not go on your written material.  I merely spruce it up.  So do you have something that involves the written word? Send me an email today for a free evaluation or price quote.  Give me an outline of your project and what you’re looking for.  Tell me about yourself and the work you do in three to six paragraphs; small businesses and companies most welcome.  If you want, I’ll even give you a freebie.  Three double-spaced pages for fiction (or 1,000 words); a half-a-page for non-fiction (150 words)—absolutely free! Have a fax machine? Want more proof emailed to you? Press clips always available upon request.  And I do simple typing too!

So contact me today, tell a friend, because no project is too large.  All material should be sent as an attachment.  I look forward to our partnership and any questions you may have.  Contact: ldagstine @ hotmail.com

Sincerely Yours,

Lawrence Dagstine

Speculative Fiction Author/Freelance Writer & Editor

Proofreading and Writing Services

Also be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin

Other New Entries: “Proofreading Services”

Einstein’s Pocket Watch, July to September 2010…

You can now find me for a second time  in what has become a very popular and free webzine for writers of poetry, inspirational stories, Christian and Experimental Fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Christian Science Fiction, literary, and more or less stories that are uplifting.  NO horror pieces.  Friend and editor Rob Crandall presents: Einstein’s Pocket Watch.  Rather than genre this time, I have a mainstream piece.  It’s a wonderful blog webzine.  Do check it out.

Einstein’s Pocket Watch – July to Sept. 2010

2nd Appearances – Mainstream – Edited by Rob Crandall

Fiction & Poetry in link below:

FREE READS – CLICK HERE:

http://peafant.wordpress.com/

Photography: “From Train Site On World Wide Web”

Other New Entries: “Magazines”

Free SF Serial: “Orphan’s Prey pt. 3” – Lawrence Dagstine

Science Fiction Serial Part 3

First Draft – Follow it from the beginning…

Orphan’s Prey 1: https://lawrencedagstine.com/2010/04/20/free-sf-serial-orphans-prey-pt-1-by-lawrence-dagstine/

Orphan’s Prey 2: https://lawrencedagstine.com/2010/06/10/free-sf-serials-orphans-prey-pt-2-by-lawrence-dagstine/

Who are the Vendragon?

So self-assured, she was, only hours earlier. So brave and self-confident. So virtuous and independent at the right moments, yet obviously weak during others. 

She suddenly found herself pressing her hands to the sides of her head—she’d never done something like this in front of her brother—almost sick with discomfort.  She saw the expression on the boy’s face, then her own, only in her mind’s eye, weak, scared, unprotected, and she realized once more that they were just small children, incapable of much, and just how alone they really were.

 

ORPHAN’S PREY

 by

Lawrence Dagstine

A rather large, muscular, adobe-colored lizard was awakened that same night by what sounded like distant explosions.  From behind the controls of his land scout, the startled iguana with the reddish-brown leather armor and twaddle-speaking tongue realized it was thunder reverberating among the low cumulus that was some hundreds of miles wide.  There was the pitter-patter of rain pellets on the vehicle’s front looking glass and hood.  A break in the drought? No, couldn’t be; Ragnarok should only be so lucky this time of year.  All the water in the universe couldn’t fix that recurrent problem, only toss it a band-aid.  Hence the greenhouses, pipelines, and special sprinkler system back at the city.  Fog clouds approaching? Maybe.  It was a more logical bet.  In sandy, mountainous regions like this, a heavy thunderstorm or methane-mixed hail shower could be an isolated occurrence or a signal that a new front was moving in—or yet another unwanted season.  Whichever it was, the lizard was glad he was snug inside his tracker rather than camped out in a dry marsh or deep desert valley where the storm was picking up speed and strength.  As for how bad conditions would get, he’d just have to wait and see.

“Fog billows?” asked a similar life form from a standard operating panel in the rear.  Unlike the front of the vehicle, there were no visual systems or radar maps or even a looking glass to peer out of.   Compared to his much taller partner, this reptile’s armor was grayish steel, the portions of scaly flesh that was visible a mustard tone.

The tongue-tied lizard at the wheel of the land scout looked at his weather gauge. “With precipitation like this”—when he talked his mouth didn’t always move but, rather, an electronic chest unit with a flashing orb flickered—“what else could it be?”

“The way you study natural features,” his friend remarked, “I would have thought something more exciting.  Whatever your definition of exciting is.  You know, Koral, I’m quite surprised you never applied for an Earth visa.  You show a certain kind of enthusiasm for your work.”

Their vernacular wasn’t perfect, the interpretive English and back and forth chitchat a bit skidded; but the chest units helped immensely with vocabulary and pronunciation.

“You mean neurotic?” Koral’s tongue lashed out in slight irritation.

“Mmm, that’s the word.  A human term, too.  I’d bet my green farm that Earth scientists would have adored you.”

“Funny, Bakkra,” he laughed. “I don’t know whether to pat you on the gills for your clever perceptions of me—because I am mostly used to your cynicism—or just go ahead and collect my winnings now.  Heh! And here I thought only the man-droid was able to understand me.” There was a brief pause. “Speaking of which, the synthetic one has not returned or communicated back with our lovely package.”

“He’s a robot.  Robots are late, too, you know.”

“Not this robot.  I was the one the manufacturers hunted down and finally sold to.  I was the one guiding him through the wastes.”

“You seem concerned, and tired.  Should we call off the search?”

“No.  Not yet.”

“They’re that important to you, huh?”

“Yes.  That important.” Koral leaned back in his metal chair and let the ravaging elements unfold before him, while keeping a close eye on the overhead gauges and monitor for something else.

Lightning flashed some more.  The alignment of the bolts, shooting outward from the cumulus in all directions, reminded the lizard of the storm chasing he undertook in his youth; after three hundred and sixty years, one begins to feel old but still take pleasure in the eccentricities of the past.

Thunderstorms in the wastelands of Ragnarok were forever awesome displays of limitless power, he thought, sometimes releasing energy many times greater than the atomic explosion range.  Hailstorms derived of methane were a whole other story.  Still, he knew if you were close to either one, or became trapped in the very center of a fog cloud, there was about them a personal quality.  It was dramatic and inescapable.  It was terrifying but vivid, as if every sudden flash, every strong gust of wind, and every simultaneous explosion that crackled and boomed were seeking you out; after all, it really sought no one else.  The lightning came in multitudes and blinded you.  The thunder wreaked havoc on your ears and deafened you.  The ice-cold rains came down heavily and drowned you.  And on the open plains, the sand-filled wastes, and in hanging valleys of crystal and rock, there was no place to take refuge.

The snow, which frequently becomes spot blizzards with reckless currents of air beyond gale force, could also be merciless and astonishing in its ferocity.  Large, lazy flakes drifting down at first, touching the ground and melting instantly.  But in minutes the fall becomes thicker, more rigid, and the wind-whipped mess pummels the landscape.  The temperature drops rapidly.  Marshes and gullies turn in the twinkling of an eye to great streams of half-frozen mud, which then later break apart from those very same winds and become torrents, rushing steeply downhill unintended, catching up loose rocks, Yurga bush, even boulders.  Other times, the mud is uplifted and snatched from their channels, as if by some godly hand.  Then it is flung into the air with impending force, thus turning it into hail during its whirl around the cloud formations and falling with a shrapnel effect down upon lower elevations of land.  In the midst of the mud particles, an unscented methane composite, laid bare to Ragnarok’s wrath and planetary nature to do whatever mixing and mashing it likes.  Once it falls back down again, hardened and in hail form, it wreaks of the most terrible odor, which can be inhaled up to hundreds of miles away.

Koral always remembered the cloud masses beginning somewhere in the high mountains, never the desert regions or marshlands, and in an almost tentative fashion.  Always the highest escarpments, always the greatest plateaus.  Perhaps that was what made the seasonal irregularities so peculiar, so unrelenting in their expansive devastation.  And you never expected a season to change so fast or, unintentionally, drive through one.  Not unless it was closely monitored or regarded from a distance.

From within the land scout, and up along a high altitude, the now-dozing lizard found such an effect magical.  A swirling, shifting pattern of light, eventually graying, then dulling and, finally, obscuring.  Precipitation from some disturbance in the planet’s magnetic field eventually conjured up the surrounding fog—yes, that had to be it—but he couldn’t be certain.  Neither could his people.  It was just another mystery of the planet, passed down from generation to generation, and his hypothesis was open to much conjecture.  Sometimes there was a break; usually there wasn’t.  Sometimes it revealed uncharted peaks, gorges and canyons, and the Vendragon Township far below, often untouched by the gathering clouds and coming storm.

At times he found such atmospheric wonder indescribable.  He often used worlds populated by humans as a comparison: where Earth’s seasons changed over the course of months, the cycles on Ragnarok could change within minutes if not mere seconds.  He used these comparisons in his teachings.  The Vendragon, whose society already flourished in ways early human colonies had, achieved much knowledge and experience from it.  They took it with them wherever they went; though formally a tribal race, that and available technology became a handed down tradition.

Finally the lizard’s thoughts were interrupted by a voice on the overhead speaker. “Hey, storm chaser! Come in, chaser! What are you chasing after now? Over.”

“Apparently little boys and girls,” Bakkra hollered from the back. “Ain’t that right, Koral?”

The man-sized iguana turned and shot his mustard-colored friend a filthy glance. “Do you mind?” His chest unit flared bright red.

The speaker chimed again: “Check.  Fog clouds reach you yet? Over.”

“Affirmative,” he answered. “Unpredictable weather surrounding just about everything.  All within close proximity of the vehicle, at least, otherwise cloud-to-ground.  Too soon to tell.  Just beginning.  Over.”

“I’m sure the young ones are all right,” the speaker crooned; the voice on the other side tried to be reassuring.

“What makes you think I was worried about that? Over.”

“Have any of our friends made an appearance?” An intense silence followed.

Bakkra was about to say something smart when Koral turned and shushed him. “The man-droid has still not reported back, and no,” he said. “No activity or other signs of life in the region.  Over.”

“Oh, well, still armor yourself.  This storm system reading is immense from our side.  We’re going to catch it for good and for sure, and there’s an airstream behind it.  First snow and ice, then rain and wind, heavy at times.  Even at your elevation.”

“Trust me.  We’ve already felt the thunder.”

“Thunder is nothing.” The communicator cut off for what seemed like two, maybe three seconds, followed by unusual static. “We may lose… you if… you go any… higher,” the voice continued brokenly. “You been feeling tremors? Over.”

“Negative.” Koral flipped a few switches on the overhead panel and fixed the glitch. “Unless there’s something I don’t already know or you’re not telling me.  Over.”

“Hmm, well, we’re still sending two extra rovers your way.  Over.”

“Helpful, Ooglad, but Bakkra and I are all right.  Over.”

“Listen, Koral, I know it’s just a random search, and this cloud build-up is like all the other occasions, but let’s be honest here, you can use all the help you can get.” A brief pause, and then: “Small stuff, under four on the quake register, with sand-shocks set well outside your perimeter.  But why turn down a free assist? Over.”

“Thanks, Ooglad, but no thanks.  Out.” Koral switched off the communicator.

Bakkra was the one with the smug look now. “What did you do that for? You’d have to be mad to turn down a rescue and assist in conditions like this.”

“We don’t need it.  We’ll just stay the night.  The storm will pass, like those before it.”

“For all you know those children might already be dead! Your droid’s bleeper would have picked them up kilometers ago.  This, my friend, is just suicide!”

“Really, Bakkra? How so?” Koral leaned back in his seat once more. “Does this also mean I’m forcing you to commit suicide with me? Because I do occasionally entertain the thought.”

“I guarantee you these children are already worm food or some other kind of beast droppings!”

“I say you’re wrong.” The lizard was terribly amused. “For once in your pathetic existence, don’t be such a coward.  Part of our race’s survival depends on these two kids.  We’ve weathered fog clouds before, and knowing how Ooglad thinks, he’ll most likely still send out that extra patrol regardless of what I say.  He’s crazy and neurotic, too.”

“You’re right,” Bakkra said. “For once you are very right.  That young reptile is paranoid and foolish like you.  But I am not.” Gathering his things, he went on, “I don’t plan on staying here with you.  So, if you will not wait for the assist and accept it, then I will.  They’ll give me a ride back to the city, while you stay out in the hail to wither and die.”

He was prepared to slide open the door and exit the vehicle when Koral jumped up and stopped him. “Oh no, my friend.  You are not leaving this tracker.” The lizard made his presence felt; the air suddenly became hostile and serious. “Not while I am in charge.  I say we weather the storm, investigate these hills and cliffs, and that is final!”

“Let go of the door, Koral.  Things could get messy in a very confined space.”

Lightning flashed just outside; the crackling sound was ear-piercing.  Koral shook it off.  Then he released his massive-sized hand from the door’s grip. “Go ahead,” he said. “I’d ask you to be reasonable but I think you and I both know we are beyond that now.”

The mustard-toned reptile reconsidered. “The only reason you are being this way is because of what happened to Arim.  You’re scared you’ll have to live through a repeat.” There was a brief silence, significant, and followed by what seemed like an even more emotional reawakening. “Your puny brain might not realize it, because it’s crammed deep inside your subconscious—yes, one of your human terms—waiting for the chance to be exposed, waiting for the opportunity to be expressed, and aired in permanent relief.” Then Bakkra put his things down and took two steps back. “There is a cause to your neuroses, Koral.  I see this.  Ooglad sees this.  The whole tribe sees this! They worry about you.  They can see right through your armor, the pain you are suffering, the empty feelings you sometimes emit.  You leave the camps and city grounds to study the conditions out here, bury yourself in your research.  This is your means of escape.  But because Arim perished and you suffer does not mean others need suffer as well.”

Koral did not reply.  Instead, he returned to the front of the vehicle, strapped himself back into his metal chair, and peered silently out of the looking glass.

Bakkra went on, “I will not go.  I will return to my station.  This is a very strong storm formation we are dealing with here.  Hopefully, your instincts are right this time.  I also pray you will not be blinded by pride again.  This stubbornness needs to subside.”

Koral blocked the rest of what he had to say out and stared up at the overhead panels in dismay.  Eventually he closed his eyes and, with the ease of long practice in strange places, went immediately off to dozing again.  In a few hours he would see what effects of the storm he could find, and if the children or the man-droid had left a trail for him.  This time he was prepared.  He had a carry-along machine, lightweight with a strap, which detected alien life forms.

He continued to ignore Bakkra’s petty banter through the night.  He continued to be aware of feeling kinship with the environment and, oddly enough, with the fog clouds.  It was a feeling he found impossible to shake.  Pensively he looked back at the fateful actions that led up to the Arim tragedy.  It was so long ago, uneventful to say the least.  How could the thoughts still persist? Were they really bottled up inside of him? It was his first interspecies “coop”, as most out-colony settlers called it in those days.  The boy was too young.  Sixteen in Earth years.  For every hour the lizard was out there searching for the two orphans he probably thought of Arim and the accident that befell him twice as much, only unconsciously.

For a reptile such emotions were not like him; then again, perhaps he did not try hard enough to show emotion.  Along with his predictions in the weather, and for as long as he could remember, he had experienced premonitions instead.  If the premonition seemed genuine, his chest unit would emit a strange glow, and he would utter a warning of disaster to the rest of the tribe.  Very rarely did the Vendragon take him seriously, and very rarely did they act on it.  His forebodings were never specific, the calamity either absurd or nameless, so it was unusual that he did not speak of any premonition in the days or hours before Arim—a most treasured farmhand assisting their nascent culture in advancing agriculturally—was attacked and fell from that high cliff.  And never in his wildest dreams, he thought, could he predict that, even now, the two orphans he searched endlessly for might bring with them a terrible but ancient disaster.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Free SF Serials: “Orphan’s Prey pt. 2” by Lawrence Dagstine

Lawrence Dagstine’s Bimonthly Serial – Don’t Miss Out! Part One link below:

https://lawrencedagstine.com/2010/04/20/free-sf-serial-orphans-prey-pt-1-by-lawrence-dagstine/

“Vendragons live in the grassier regions—probably further north.  They rely on our knowledge of agriculture.  Supposedly, they thrive off it.”

“Yeah, but couldn’t we still head in that direction? I mean, somethin’ made that smoke.”

“Oh, Blake! It’s much too far.  We should wait for a scouting vessel.” She started to undo the knots in her hair. “Go back to sleep.  I’ll take first watch.  Besides, the distance of these plains are farther than you think.  And who knows what manner of beast created those rings.  For all we know it might be the same kind of creature that attacked us, burning carcasses and picking on flesh.”

The boy went scared and silent.

She hoped she spoke with conviction, but after what they’d been through, it disturbed her to know that her brother’s thoughts had been running so close to hers. 

They settled down by the fire, and before long their breathing grew slower and deeper.  After a while, Chelsea couldn’t stay up any longer.  Eyelids falling, she reached for her brother’s swollen hand.  Normally he’d have snatched it away, but he didn’t now.  A veil of mist drifted over the moons that scattered the night sky, and the children slept…

Orphan’s Prey – Part Two

by Lawrence R. Dagstine

Chelsea woke in the twin lights of dawn and reached for her brother.  He wasn’t there.  She quickly looked around her, then scrambled to her feet. “Blake? Blake! Where are you?” For a terrifying moment she thought he had set off by himself had gone on about those smoke rings and the Vendragon for a good hour.  But then she saw him, a dozen or so yards from where the fire had been, staring out across the desert.  In the faint light, with his red vest and tan khakis, he looked taller and older.

Displeased, Chelsea clenched her hands into fists and plodded over. “Blake Prittengayle! What are you doing?”

He didn’t move but kept staring ahead as if in a trance. “Looks like some abominable wasteland, don’t it,” he said, without looking up at her.

“Abominable?” Chelsea vested a short laugh. “I can’t believe you know what that word means.  Come on.” She led him back to the campsite.  He moved like a tiny sleepwalker, then he started to shiver.  She lowered him to the ground and cradled his head in her lap, just as their mother used to.  After a while his shivering stopped.

“Chandler told me what that word meant,” he muttered under his tongue.

“Did he now?”

“Uh-huh.  Also, the air smells funny.  The weather’s gonna change seasons again soon.  The air is salty, like there’s somethin’ big on the way.  Chandler called it pre-cip… pre-cipi…”

“Precipitation?”

“Yeah, that’s it!”

“Blake, what were you thinking of running off like that?”

He slowly got to his feet. “I don’t wanna live on Ragnarok.  We don’t belong here!” His eyes were serious, then he faced the distant mountains.  He remembered the out-colony stories he had heard at the sanctuary from those who were older, those who had gone walkabout with their siblings or cousins on foreign worlds, only to take part in alien ceremonies or have relatives sacrificed in accordance to them.  One boy, eleven, who he shared bunks with, had returned to the freighter after four months of living on nothing but insects.  A salvage team had found him naked, soiled from head to toe and huddled up in the corner of some old cave in the side of a cliff.  He came back without his twin brother or his two older sisters.  There was no trace of the adopting species, no documentation.  The only thing the boy had to remember them by was a photographic imprint locked into a small handcrafted identification bracelet.

“I don’t wanna end up like Louie,” he finally said.

“Louie?” Chelsea was silent for a moment. “Oh, yeah… Louie Peder.  The other kids used to make fun of him.  They used to call him Stinky, because he never bathed or washed.  But after he came back from that extrasolar rock, after his sisters and brother went missing, he just wasn’t right again.  He stopped talking.  Kids stopped making fun of him.  They stopped bothering with him altogether.”

“Hey, let’s go south! Back to the transmat station, where the Keeper let us down.  Plus the air’s not as salty there.”

“But the freighter is no longer above the planet,” Chelsea tried to explain.

“So, maybe it’ll come back when it finds out what happened to us.  The Keeper has rescued stranded kids before.”

“Blake, there is no way I am going back through those crystalline wastes.  And there is no way I am going to risk both our lives going back near those giant stones in the bluffs.  That’s where we first spotted those monsters.”

“Ahh, Chelsea, please!” The boy practically begged. “We have plenty of daylight to guide us, and lots of rest!”

“And what about your hand? Last I looked your knuckles were almost flattened, all black and blue.”

The boy held his hand up for her to see. “Look! All better.  I don’t even need a bandage.”

She had known it was coming, especially since the talk the night before about the smoke rings and the northern part of the planet. “That terminus could be anywhere from a couple of hundred miles to a whole thousand behind us.  We never kept track.  We were inside the vehicle the whole time.  It took almost three days to get where we are now, and using a durable transport.” A brief pause. “I know you’re not that stupid.  There’s no point in even checking our rations.  We’d surely die of hunger and thirst.”

“No nutrient packs or water?” the boy sulked.

“No nutrient packs, I’m afraid.  And not really enough water, to be honest.”

“We could die of hunger and thirst the other way, too, sis.  Or we could get the rover’s touchpad working again.  Least while it’s still sunny.”

“Idiot! You mean the navigational router? Not even the best mechanic in the Cat’s Eye could get that infernal taxi and its low-tech components to run again.  Don’t you remember what that thing did to it?”

There was a moment of significant silence as the memory flashed back.

The girl braided and unbraided her hair.  She was intelligent—so was the boy when he wanted to be, eager and far beyond his years—but her life as an orphan had done nothing to qualify her to make this sort of decision.  So why would Blake be any different? Deep down she was scared like him, only less easily at times to show it.  All she knew in this strange world was that she had to protect her brother, no matter what the cost. “Okay, suppose,” she said slowly, “we stay here one more night, find some kind of cave or shelter in the vicinity of these hills.  After all, I think I noticed some cliffsides.  We have plenty of flares.  We can find some use from all this Yurga brush.  Give your hand another day to heal, maybe collect some herbs or plantlife and make weapons out of the crystals.  If a scouting vessel doesn’t come by tomorrow morning, then we might as well head back to the transmat.  Hope that the Keeper or Koral are there waiting for us.”

Blake nodded. “Fine.”

But no rescue came.  They spent another night in the bluffs, sitting beside the fire again, waiting and hoping.  They examined the flora they had collected, separated what could be used as food or an ingredient and what could not.  Wrist encyclopedias helped them achieve this function.  As handy as the schooling devices were, there was only so much memory it could hold and only so much knowledge it could provide.  That whole day picking, and straight into the night, Chelsea was frightened the monsters would come back—out of all worries, that remained her constant—while Blake complained that the air got chillier at times and smelled saltier.  Whenever she looked down at her wrist, she tried to pull up info about the planet and its meteorological phases, its orbit, and other asymmetries.  Nothing.  No factual data relating to the worlds in the surrounding nebula.  Not even an out-of-place singularity in which she could barter for a clue.  Whenever she tried to be smarter than the device, punch in a successful tag or keyword, she got nothing.  There was absolutely zilch on the tornado creatures—she had figured as much—and nothing even remotely resourceful on the Vendragon.  With its miniature data core, it was pretty much only good for geological referencing: rocks, minerals, botany.  Blake’s was slightly bigger but malfunctioning because he wore his on the hand that got injured. 

In the early morning hours of their fourth day, toting extra satchels of herbs and shrubbery, they set out to walk to the south.  The now longed-for terminus of their dreaming which lay beyond a ridiculous amount of horizons, and an expanse of miles they could not possibly fathom, they walked.  They carried with them spears which they had carved and built by hand: part jagged-edged crystal, part disposable laser cutter.  But even with the lighted, armor-piercing weapons, from all paths the odds were still too overwhelming.  They were not stacked in their favor this day just like the rest; it was a merciful thing they didn’t realize that they had about as much chance of getting to their destination as a soldier ant crossing the cold, terra-formed wastes of New Sedna. 

In the late afternoon they arrived back at the scene of the incident, only along a much higher tract of land; the rover was just over some dry sandy hillocks.  Had they been mindlessly walking in circles? Regardless, Chelsea stood on her tippy toes to look over the rocks.  The moment she saw the monoliths her anxiety level rose again.  Blake began to set aside a couple of water canisters, some wireless provisions, and the weapons they had put together the night before.  Then they approached the edge of the nearest ridge and peeked down.  They lay quietly on their stomachs and just watched.  There were no signs of life, but Chelsea still remarked in a low voice, “We shouldn’t be backtracking let alone stopping here.  Not even briefly.  Those things live here.  I just know it.”

“Oh, come on, sis,” Blake said. “You knew we had to come back this way, and I still think we should go down there and disconnect that touchpad, otherwise look for some kind of communicator.”

“Again, what good will an inoperable router do us?”

“If we get it working it’ll lead us in the right direction.  Duh!”

“Is it worth sacrificing your life for? Oh, you can be so stubborn at times, little one.  Scared one minute yet outwardly brave the next.  No, bro, as your older sister this is where I put my foot down.” She grabbed his wrist with force and, as he pulled away, she fell backwards in the dirt.  His encyclopedia unit detached easily and was now in her hand. “Blake, get back here this instant!” He started running downward along the dust and crystal-lined ridge, handmade spear in tow.  The pulverized vehicle was less than a quarter-mile away. “Blake, please, don’t!” Hesitant to raise her voice any louder, she hurried after him.

Back at the wreckage, the boy stood quietly facing the rover.  A single tear fell from his eye; moments later more followed.  Chelsea finally caught up with him; so did the terrible memories of days past.  Together they turned their attention to the upended vehicle, the broken glass, and the headless driver, whose lanky frame was still sticking a few feet out.  Much of his synthetic tubing was shriveled up, the plastics and operating fluids dried out from prolonged exposure to the heat.  The girl wrinkled her nose, while continuously stealing glances over her shoulder.  Unlike before, the monoliths now interested her.  She wondered what had caused such tall and magnificent bricks to melt from within.

“He ought to be buried,” Blake said.

“Chandler was a machine.”

“Doesn’t matter.  He was still encoded with feelings.  That makes him just as human as us—and he was my friend!” The boy wiped his eyes with his sleeve. “He deserves a funeral.  Even in a place like this.”

“Yes, but how?” The body was too heavy to carry back up the trail, and the ground at the site of the accident happened to be hard. “Listen, if it makes you feel any better, I’ll make a pulley out of what’s left of the truck’s door.  Seems durable enough.” She looked up at the sky. “The suns are currently with us.  It’s that or nothing, kiddo.”

Blake gave a nod of approval.  Then he went to the vehicle to retrieve the touchpad and scavenge for items his sister might have otherwise overlooked or considered worthless.  Afterwards he had to admit reluctantly that she was right: the corpse was heavy.  Panting and straining, they heaved Chandler’s remains onto the top of the blue-tinted door.  In the end, they raised the zyranium stretcher along a ramp and atop a high flat-surfaced boulder.  So flat it resembled a slab in midair.  Once it was clear of the ground, Chelsea crossed her fingers and hoped that the strange alien creatures who walked by wind and shadow wouldn’t mistreat the rest of the body.

The boy didn’t want to chance it. “Burn it,” he said, swallowing hard.

“Are you sure?” Chelsea asked.

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

The girl approached the boulder, leaned up against it, stood on the balls of her feet and raised the spear in her left hand.  The laser cutter at the tip of the weapon worked in conjunction with the lime crystals and ignited Chandler’s dismembered form.  Then she returned to her brother’s side, and together they watched the flames.  A few minutes later she climbed into the back of the rover again and checked the power cells.  The solar reserves were exhausted.  Looking up, however, she noticed a small bulb on one of the contorted operating panels.  A distress beacon—the silent kind.  It was glowing green.  Perhaps Chandler knew the moment they were attacked to throw it on.  Perhaps help was already on the way.  She parted a smile. 

Perhaps there was hope yet.

Outside the boy was packing the router all snug in his satchel.  He deposited its energy cubes in his vest pocket.  Hopefully it could be fixed.  Hopefully he’d be the one to mend it, and, if so, put it to good use later on in their travels.  Then he stared back up at the burning body.  He remembered Chandler’s singsong kindness: the ancient stories of wonder and the furtive bites of jerky and candy that caused intoxicating laughter.  What he did next was partly instinctive, reminiscent of his days aboard the Juniper.  He began to pray and hymn; it was the special prayer which, according to keepers and lonely orphans, would exorcise a new home or planet of its evil spirits and bad elements.  Just like the one that caused Chandler’s death. 

The girl came back and watched her brother.  She felt torn in two; as if half of her was standing dry-eyed beside a spread-open coffin intoning an Earth requiem, while the other half was dancing around gaily and celebrating life.

The boy’s harmonious devotion ebbed and flowed between the smooth cadences of what the Keeper had taught him of religion.  When they were residents of the Juniper, the children had a much simpler name for it.  They called it Faith Class.

Chelsea patted her brother on the shoulder and, giving him as much time alone as he needed, went to inspect the monoliths.  She raised her arm to the first and largest of the great green stones and punched a few buttons on her wrist encyclopedia.  When Blake had finished, he’d gotten off his knees and caught up with her. “What’s up?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing,” she replied without looking back.  Her tone was matter-of-fact.

“Looks like somethin’ to me,” the boy said nosily.

“Just surveying, really.” Chelsea remained unconcerned, but her intuition would have told another story. “See this? According to my cyclopedia this is some form of granite with an igneous outer layer but an internal heating source.” She held her wrist out for her brother to see; Blake shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve never seen anything like it in text cards or disks.”

“You mean like volcanoes?”

“Kind of, I suppose.  Also, these blocks have their own magnetic fields—small, mind you; practically dwarf-sized—but given their geological shape over time they probably act as nothing more than a wind receptor or miniature power conductor.” When she leaned in closer the key drive containing her life essence flipped out of her shirt and clung to the great stone. “See what I mean?”

“Whoa!” The boy was taken aback; he, too, felt the rope around his neck being tugged and pulled. “You think they have somethin’ to do with this planet’s crazy weather system?”

“Maybe.  Magnetic properties are very common among these types of stones: Earth, Mars, Ganymede, Titan, Upsilon, Epsilon, Centauri, Andromeda—they’re all over.  Scientists and colonies from across the stars have proclaimed they even have the ability to metaphysically heal the sick.” The girl was confident she was on to something. “But all the suns and moons in the Cat’s Eye,” she went on, “all the heat generated in Ragnarok’s core couldn’t cause melting of this magnitude.  I just know it.  No, this was a very different kind of combustion.  Or at least something along those lines.  A very powerful force from within, and that force absorbed the special properties these stones give off and used it to burst free.”

“So somethin’ lived inside this big rock, huh?” Blake looked up at the tall stone and rapped the side of it.  He counted twenty more within a few yards of where he was standing.

“Or slept,” Chelsea said. “If you want my opinion, they might even be some kind of age-old resting chamber or husk.”

“The Vendragon?”

“Nah, couldn’t be.”

“Bigger?” The boy’s eyes widened. “Worse?”

“Yes.” Chelsea went back to her wrist and ran another analysis. “And very much alive.”

After she finished scrounging around for more data, she shut the device off and flipped the top panel shut.  She stepped back from the monolith and observed it some more.  For a moment it reminded her of an extraterrestrial Stonehenge, an ancient Earth supposedly known for its magnetic and metaphysical properties.  Then she pretended it was a giant sandstone coffin; the eerie comparison caused a sudden shiver to run up her spine.  She soon realized that anything else than what she’d discovered so far was just a mystery or worthless knowledge.  

Blake was already halfway up the trail. “Come on, sis! We’ve got a lot of walking ahead of us.”

Chelsea eventually caught up. “Oh, here,” she said, going into her knapsack and tossing something his way.

“What’s this?” Blake had never seen anything like it; the interior was paper.

“When I went back I found it in Chandler’s overhead compartment,” she said. “I know how close you were to him.  Thought you might want it.  It’s a book.”

“What’s a book?”

“It’s an antiquity.  The contents are paper.  They don’t make paper anymore.  Not for centuries.”

“What’s an antiquity?”

“Old objects of worth, numbskull.” Chelsea rolled her eyes and laughed. “Books were the things used for entertainment or learning purposes long before touchpads and wrist encyclopedias became necessary.  They were meant for the imagination.”

Blake thumbed through the pages. “It has words in it.”

“So do wrist encyclopedias.”

The front cover read: Lord of the Flies

The boy grinned. “Thanks.  I’ll treasure it with my life.”

He led the way south into the dry wastes and ridges of sand, crystal, and sprinkled garnet.  He didn’t look back, but the girl glanced more than once over her shoulder at the rover and flat-surfaced boulder in the glare of the two suns.  In the hours before the double sunset they covered perhaps twenty miles.  Chelsea was happy with it.  So long as they were far away from the site of the wreckage by the time the primary sun disappeared over the horizon.  That’s all that mattered to her.

They found a good place to camp among a cluster of Yurga stalks which rose like pallid ghosts around a depression.  There, in this quiet place, other washed out trees and herbs were strewn about.  They laid out their provisions, pre-programmed a half-dozen flares and made a giant circle of flames as their fire, then each ate jerky and wuava fruit.  With twilight came the stars—millions of them, literally dotting every section of the colored sky.  Compared to the bluffs, the wastes were beautiful by moonlight—fourteen moons, upon first count—and the children were settling down contentedly in the warmth of the glowing embers.  Here and there the boy went into his satchel and fiddled with the router.  But it was obvious he could not get the touchpad working, no matter how hard he tried.  The girl, on the other hand, sat thinking about the Juniper, and how she too missed the voices of the kids now.  She could hardly believe how far they journeyed.  She could hardly believe they were going into their fifth day on this enormous planet. 

With the flames crackling in all directions, the children heard a metallic clatter in the distance and saw a light inching across the skyline.  It was some time before they realized that it was a rover coming up through the wastes. 

They also shared the most unusual feeling that they were being watched.

The girl’s voice was uncertain. “If we ran quickly, do you think we’d catch it?”

The boy said nothing at first, strangely sniffing the air.  Very carefully he kicked sand and ash over the fires, extinguishing every single glimmer of flame that surrounded them.  His behavior was very weird.  After a time the light moved on in the direction of the bluffs.  Then, finally, he nodded to his sister. “Koral?”

Chelsea, hardly seeable, shrugged her shoulders. “Can’t be sure.” There was a moment of silence as they stared past each other in the darkness. “It’s late,” she whispered. “I really don’t want to take any chances if we don’t have to.  Go ahead.  Make another fire.”

The boy smelled the air again, then ran up the rocky ridge behind him. “Salty,” he said. “I knew it.  Look!” Not one, but two immense fog clouds were moving across the desert fast.  Almost like airborne sandstorms. “Bad weather’s on the way, sis.  Pretty low-cast, too.”

“Smells like methane if you ask me,” Chelsea remarked curiously.  After a while, the stench had become so unbearable she had to pinch her nostrils.

“It’s in the snow that travels over the endless sands,” Blake pointed out, “and the snow falls within the fog.  Never outside it.  Chandler told me all about it.  It’s an atmospheric phe-nom…phe-nom-e…”

“Phenomenon?”

“Yeah, that’s the word!”

“You make that sound as if it’s a good thing.”

“No, it really isn’t.” The boy looked to the plains and darkened horizon. “We need to take cover fast, sis.  Real fast.” His voice was full of worry.

With the helpful glare of one or more moons, Chelsea could notice the same in his eyes. “What if there isn’t enough time? What if we can’t find a cave or some rocks quick enough?” She panicked.

So self-assured, she was, only hours earlier.  So brave and self-confident.  So virtuous and independent at the right moments, yet obviously weak during others. 

She suddenly found herself pressing her hands to the sides of her head—she’d never done something like this in front of her brother—almost sick with discomfort.  She saw the expression on the boy’s face, then her own, only in her mind’s eye, weak, scared, unprotected, and she realized once more that they were just small children, incapable of much, and just how alone they really were.

*

A rather large, muscular, adobe-colored lizard was awakened that same night by what sounded like distant explosions.  From behind the controls of his land scout, the startled iguana with the reddish-brown leather armor and twaddle-speaking tongue realized it was thunder reverberating among the low cumulus that was some hundreds of miles wide.  There was the pitter-patter of rain pellets on the vehicle’s front looking glass and hood.  A break in the drought? Nah, couldn’t be; Ragnarok should only be so lucky this time of year.  All the water in the universe couldn’t fix that recurrent problem, only toss it a band-aid.  Hence the greenhouses, pipelines, and special sprinkler system back at the city.  Fog clouds approaching? Maybe.  It was a more logical bet.  In sandy, mountainous regions like this, a heavy thunderstorm or methane-mixed hail shower could be an isolated occurrence or a signal that a new front was moving in—or yet another unwanted season.  Whichever it was, the lizard was glad he was snug inside his tracker rather than camped out in a dry marsh or deep desert valley where the storm was picking up speed and strength.  As for how bad conditions would get, he’d just have to wait and see.  

TO BE CONTINUED…

Author’s Note: First Draft

Lawrence Dagstine: “400 Publishing Credits…”

 

“The world only exists in your eyes. You can make it as big or as small as you want.” 

“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.”

 “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.”

— F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Lawrence Dagstine

Short Stories * Novelettes * Digital Stories

Magazines – Periodicals – Webzines – Anthologies – Kindle

Other New Entries: “The Dude” – Biography

Author’s Note: F. Scott Fitzgerald… The Great Gatsby… One of my ten favorite authors.

Free SF Serial: “Orphan’s Prey pt. 1” – by Lawrence Dagstine

Science fiction meets interplanetary horror, in this 30th century survivalist’s fable about two orphans stranded on the most fantastic yet dangerous world, the benefits and perils of alien cultures meeting and clashing, being reunited with the past, and a most unique and dark breed of alien vampire. Lord of the Flies meets the movie Pitch Black meets Living Amongst the Lizards.  Welcome to Ragnarok, the largest planet in the Cat’s Eye Nebula, the largest world in the known universe.  Meet Chelsea and Blake (our protagonists), as we embark on a new bimonthly series of free serialized science fiction.  What are life servers? Who are the Vendragon? What are the Docengard? An adventure awaits you, in the first installment of Orphan’s Prey, here on… Ragnarok! First draft, first run.  A novella in entirety.  Enjoy!

ORPHAN’S PREY

Science Fiction Serial Part One

 by

Lawrence R. Dagstine

The planet was a phenomenon.  A livable, breathable phenomenon.  The jagged-edged terrain lay sedated to immobility by the heat of twin stars by day, and cold methane hails and monstrous storms by night.  From the vehicle looking glass, the land consisted of desert islands in a yellow sand-like mist that stretched to infinity.  The sky was radiant, directly overhead tangerine with purple, and although the air was chill, the primary sun was already beginning to warm the pre-dawn.

“Sometimes on mornings like this,” the driver said, “I pretend that I’m the only artificial intelligence on Ragnarok.  But”—he smiled with sudden brilliance—“I like it better like this, with a few other inhabitants, preferably young and small.  Oh, by the way, I’m Chandler.”

Suddenly, without warning, the overhead transceiver came to life.  A voice was speaking what sounded to Chelsea and Blake like gibberish, and Chandler smiled. “That’s Koral.  He’s a Vendragon.  You know, the people you were told about before coming here? Always erratic, that one.  He takes a little getting used to.” The children listened for a few moments. “The high pressure system—real high—moving hundreds of degrees faster than what you Earthlings are used to, that’s our direction from him and the colony.  We’ve got a fog cloud ahead of us, which is Koral’s way of saying we’ll be surrounded by irregular precipitation and possible danger.  Good old weather lizard that he is.  But we should be safe in here.  This baby stores double-solar oomph, and the alloy is wind-resistant.”

“Oomph? What’s that?” Blake asked.

Chandler nodded up. “The collector panels on the roof.”

“When do we stop?”

Chandler pointed to an overhead visual system. “Here.” He pressed a red circle on the touchpad.  Surrounding it, the lowest of the two suns lighted the mountaintops, glazed them, turning any visible snow to clear pink, accentuating the shadows of the canyons and valleys and whatever else reside beneath. “We want to be here.  You must understand, this planet is very big.  We go through four seasons every run; it takes more than eighteen seasons to get across the entire northern hemisphere.”

Blake dropped his bottom lip in surprise, then looked across at his sister, who had begun nodding off.

“The weather here is fierce and uncanny,” he continued, “but in the center of that brutality is a place filled with great sunshine, grassy knolls, colorful landscapes, and the most awesome valleys you can run and play in.”

“Did you hear that, Chelsea? Maybe things won’t be that bad after all.” The little boy crowed from his metal chair.

Chelsea was tired.  Her gaze was wandering vaguely, and after a few minutes she closed her eyes again as her lips curved in the faintest of smiles.  She found it hard to follow the A.I.’s rambling words about such a magnificent sphere, but there was still something in them which evoked a sense of unease.

Chandler rambled on.  Chelsea sat trying to think coherently, to feel any kind of enthusiasm, but nothing moved in her.  Eventually Blake stopped crooning and fell asleep himself.  Chelsea’s numbed brain began to come to life again, and she realized that what she had learned made no difference to the situation.  They were never returning to Earth.  They were never returning to the orphan ship, Juniper.  Perhaps it was stupid not to realize that it made a frightening difference.  After all, if it had, she might have been better prepared for the web of mystery, terror, and danger that was to entrap them.

By the time they exited the fog cloud it was almost midday.  The only moving thing was the large zyranium-shelled rover, churning in a cocoon of dust along the now weather-beaten track between the desert islands and the terminus from which they were picked up.  Mud and bacteria-bottomed channels filled the marshlike gaps in-between.  In the driver’s seat the A.I. was alert, optimistic, crossing territories and watching for signs of life.  In the back, seated amongst the luggage and other provisions, the children lay dozing, oblivious to their current surroundings.  The eight-year-old—bright, resourceful, full of energy—slept soundly.  Wisps of red hair covered one of his eyes.  As he breathed, a silky strand would fly up in the air and come back down upon his forehead lightly.  Like his sister, his nose turned up slightly at the end, a spray of freckles across it, his mouth thin, the cheeks half-plump and rosy.  His eyes were wide, a deep blue; his sister’s were hazel. 

Fourteen-year-old Chelsea Prittengayle’s facial gestures were more refined, however, more serious.  More brooding.  Other times they were exaggerated: surprise or puzzlement, pleasure or anxiety, the typical moody or unsatisfied-with-anything teenager.  Whatever emotion she felt, her face would either show it much too emphatically or much too hesitantly.  Compared to Blake’s ruddiness, her chin was smaller, the eyes and ears narrower, her body bonier, her tresses and bangs splayed purple and pink at the tips.  She was also more restless, dreaming.

Chelsea dreamed that she was standing again, as she had stood only three days ago, aboard the Juniper, holding her brother tightly by the hand and listening to her Sanctuary Keeper. “It’s a wonderful chance,” the nun figure said, “for you both, and you’ll be able to stay together.  No more foster planets, just a brave new world.  An exciting one.  Ragnarok is one of the biggest out-colony territories in the Cat’s Eye Nebula, and the Vendragon are a fine species.  Matter of fact, it might be the biggest planet in the known universe.  So much room to move around.  I’m sure you’ll be happy there.”

Chelsea faced the floor. “Yes, ma’am,” she said.

“But what if we don’t like it?” Blake stomped his feet and whined. “What if it’s just like the others? I don’t wanna go.  I don’t wanna leave my friends again!”

“Blake, calm down.” His sister knelt beside him. “Really, it’s all right.  You know the drill.”

The Keeper waved a soothing hand. “No, no.  He’s right.  Here”—she picked up two hexagonal-shaped chips from a servicing tray beside her, walked across the grated floor to a processing machine, then inserted them into place—“in the event you grow bored of your new home.” She brought up the two children’s molecular profiles on screen. “Now give me your hands.” She confirmed their print data.

“What are you doing?” Chelsea asked.

“You’ll see.” Seconds later she was finished.  She removed the two chips from the grooves in the console and attached titanium-alloyed ropes to them. “Wear these key drives as necklaces, but whatever you do don’t lose them.  They hold within them an embodiment of your memories, your metaphysical structure, who you are, and what you may eventually become capable of.  They hold your souls, your very essences.  If you are ever in danger, if you are ever bored, you need only crush them into fine grain, and you will cease to exist in this form and be free from a life unwanted.”

Chelsea held hers up in front of her eye; Blake quickly put his around his neck. “So this is us,” she muttered. “Everything about us is in this small chip.”

“The information on it can be accessed from any life server.  But, at the same time, I would be cautious.  It can be tampered with.”

“I still wish we didn’t have to go,” Blake said.

The Keeper nodded in agreement. “It’s a rush, I know.  The funding for your kind isn’t there either.  But the Vendragon want you right away, before the seasons on their side of the planet change again, and a special transport’s coming for you.”

Chelsea picked up her knapsack. “Why do they want us, and yet our own kind doesn’t?”

“Now, now.  That’s a silly way to think.” The Keeper was programmed to be sympathetic, but she realized she could not hold the truth from them. “Foster humans have become an expenditure for a very stressed and careworn Earth.  There are less than twenty-three thousand of you left, all within sanctuary care or already placed in homes many light years away.  Some siblings don’t have the luxury of being housed together.  Hopefully, both of your journeys will finally end here.  You are an asset to these other races because of your youth, your empathic ways.  The knowledge and traits you possess can grow with you.  Creatures like the Vendragon see human children as role models.”

Blake cried. “Oh, Keeper,” he said, running to hug her. “I’m gonna miss you.  An awful lot!”

“And I will miss you, child.” She embraced them as if they were her own.  Then she led both of them down to the craft’s transmat. “Now before you leave, is there anything either of you would like to ask? Anything at all?”

Teary-eyed, Blake stepped back and shifted from foot to foot.  Chelsea, in a voice she hardly recognized as her own, said: “Our parents.  Our real ones.  Suppose they come back from Earth.  How will they find us?”

“My child”—the nun’s voice was gentle—“if your parents are indeed alive, and if they do ever come back, we’ll send a salvage team for you.”

“Promise?”

The Keeper parted a half-smile. “Promise.”

The dream blurred.  The one thing that stood out from the whirlwind of goodbyes with the other children was the nun’s last minute reminder—“Oh, and Chelsea! See that you look after your brother!” Then they were waving from behind the protective glass of the particle disseminator, just one section of missionary freighter which had been their home on and off for five years, since she was nine and Blake three.  The transmat beamed them down to the terminus.  From this steel transfer point the rover waited, then headed out on the extremely long drive to the Vendragon Township via the listless wastes.

 

“Yes, sir.  Ragnarok! No ball in the universe quite like it,” the A.I. boasted. “Lots and lots of room to run and play.” 

At first the children had been in awe of Chandler, the synthetic man who was driving.  He was the planet’s tour guide and taxi driver.  He was built tall and rangy, pleasurable and amusing, and he understood the many wonders of human behavior.  Juvenile behavior.  The only weird thing about him was that his body smelled of coolant. 

After getting to know him, the children were taking turns riding up front, and he was feeding them processed nuts and jerky.  He told them of the great herds of reptilian creatures that once drifted over the plains and the thousand-year-old walking cacti, which kept the Vendragon on the move in a never-ending battle for food and water.  He educated them on the Docengard—the gangling, clumsy predecessors to Ragnarok, and how, for centuries, they lived in the rocks alone, yet the earlier species regarded them as something of mystics.  By the end of the first day’s ride they were best friends, and the children loved the voyage through the tired yellow landscape old as time itself.  They saw spiky clumps of Yurga, a sweet white medicinal herb, smooth sculptured garnet trees, bloated potato patches and vegetated mist swamps, and smoke rings rising gray and black over the lime crystal bluffs.  It was a fantastic environment, one that was full of desolation yet color, different yet utterly surreal; surely gods must have shaped it.  It was all exciting and new, but in the bluffs an incident happened that Chelsea wanted to forget.

On the morning of the second day’s ride, when a breeze was blowing over the blazing desert sands, Chelsea had seen shadowy columns of air circling the vehicle.  The silhouetted tornadoes had no real substance to them, neither any real shape nor form.  At first, the dozen or so that were out there did not scare her.  Matter of fact, she didn’t think much of them.  For a brief moment she took her necklace out of her shirt.  Curiously, she held the key drive up.  Then, after a minute or two, she tucked it back in.  With some extra speed and a waving of hands from Chandler and Blake, they were now setting out on what seemed like the final stages of their journey.  For a while the girl sat very still, her eyes on the Yurga-plastered trail, her lips pressed tightly together.  The rover made a weird humming sound, and it vibrated to the point of nausea. 

At midday, when the children were asleep in the back of the vehicle, Chandler was tempted to pull over for a much-needed recharge, but he knew that if the fog clouds or other storm-ravaging elements returned, it would hold them up and transform the ground into a sea of impassable mud.  So he drove on through the heat, watching for rifts in the trail.  The temperature in the bluffs was well over a hundred degrees.  They were three-quarters of the way through the landscape, one of the deepest desert regions on the planet, made up of miles and miles of sand and crystalline escarpment.  The road, still rugged in some areas, was following a gully down through a crack in the plateau, twisting and turning between grotesque blocks of melted green granite—monolithic play-bricks scattered along a dried up riverbed or marsh.

It happened without warning.  One second they were skirting a boulder half the size of a building, the next, the shadowy tornado came swirling around a bend, a ten-foot column of viciously dark spinning air.  It hit the rover head on, knocked the vehicle into a skid, and smashed it against an outcrop of crystal. “What was that?” Chelsea’s heart rose out of her chest and into her throat. “What’s going on?” Her seatbelt snapped and, as the vehicle upended, she fell back into the luggage, causing two rows of holding canisters to collapse on her head. 

The tornado, seemingly alive, came back for seconds.

“Damn!” Chandler fiddled with the clutch, but it was bent and stuck.  He quickly glanced through the looking glass in front of him. “Such power! Don’t worry, I’ll get you kids out of here.”

Blake was frightened. “It’s one of those big reptile monsters,” he shouted, as one of the large jagged-edged crystals pierced the vehicle’s interior.

“Can’t be, son.  They’re extinct.”

Chelsea managed to pull herself out from under the baggage. “It was the wind,” she muttered, her forehead bleeding slightly. “The black things swirling in the wind caught us.”

Blake huddled up in a corner with his sister. “I wanna go home, Chelsea,” he cried, as the tornado came back for more. “I want the Keeper.  I want my Mommy!”

“Okay, both of you need to calm down.  Just stay in back of the vehicle.  I’ll get you out of here, now—”

The A.I. was shouting some miscellaneous warnings when a large spear-tipped crystal burst through the front looking glass and caught him on the base of the neck and cut off his vocal functions.  Silver paint and white oil splattered everywhere.  The children screamed hysterically, as manufacturing fluid sprayed across their faces and drenched their clothes.  Chandler’s eyes rolled in back of his head.  He lifted a weary hand and grabbed the area where his larynx used to be.  Outside, the tornado stopped moving.  The tall phantom-like creature stood atop the shadier part of the monolith closest to the rover, sniffing the air.  Seconds later it flew off, spun its way back to the paralyzed vehicle, tore through what was left of the front looking glass, and ripped the A.I.’s convulsing head off.  Fleshy upper body connector tubes and other plastics fluttered everywhere, leaking more white oil and fluids.  The tornado extended a claw-shaped appendage and tore out Chandler’s mechanical heart, then attempted to absorb the spraying juices.  Frustrated that the A.I. was not digestible, it gave off an ear-piercing howl, swirled in a backward motion, and disappeared from the rover with Chandler’s head.

Shaking uncontrollably, Chelsea hugged Blake.  She dare not let go, as a few more metal boxes fell.  There followed a significant period of silence; she did not even blink.  After what seemed like many hours, she finally whispered, “Stay still.”

“No, Chelsea.  Don’t!” Blake cried frantically but quietly.

“I’m not going anywhere.  I just want to look.” They continued to talk in short whispers. 

“But, but—”

“Shhh.” Chelsea lifted her head slowly and peeked out from the rover’s backend.  At first, everything looked quiet.  The same barren wastes, the same gargantuan stones, the same lime crystal formations, the same patches of Yurga root sprouting here and there.  But then her eyes moved to the far left.  There it was—the ravenous tornado creature.  It whirled playfully up the gully with Chandler’s head in tow, leaving the crushed rover on its side, its enormous tires spinning slowly to a halt.  Her eyes then focused on the other dozen or so monoliths in back of them.  Her heart leaped again.  Silhouettes with razor-sharp claws—not spinning, not moving—stood atop the shadowy parts of the high ledges.  Hauntingly, each one seemed to stare back at her, right through the vehicle’s shell, right through her very soul; she grabbed her necklace out of force of habit.  They reminded her of vultures, hungry and in wait for their next meal.  After a few more minutes, the dust settled and the suns beat down harder.  The tornado creatures vanished.  Everything was very quiet again. 

“Blake!” The girl’s voice was frightened. “You okay?”

The boy was matter-of-fact. “Uh-huh.  But my left arm is stuck under this darned metal crate.  And I can’t feel my fingers.”

“Anything broken?”

“I…I don’t think so,” Blake said. “What was it, sis?”

Chelsea shrugged her shoulders. “A whirling devil or something, I suppose.” She used her feet to push the heavy box of provisions aside.  Then she eased the other toppled luggage away from his fingers as gently as she could, and he pulled his bruised hand away from the piled up chaos. “Probably native to the region,” she went on, “and we just happened to shortcut through its habitat.”

“Do you think that was the Vendragon?”

“No.  It was something else, something far creepier.  More dangerous.”

“How do you know?” 

“The Keeper showed me learning disks.  The Vendragon have lizardy features, sort of like iguanas.  They’re a scaly, dry-skinned race.  Their bodies don’t give off perspiration like we do because of their arid surroundings and Ragnarok’s two suns.  She also said they’re humanoid in more ways than one, more than we think.  Can we continue this biology lesson elsewhere?”

Blake nodded, then pushed himself against the escape hatch. “It won’t budge,” he said, then looked back at his sister. “I’m scared, Chelsea.”

“Yeah, I know.  Me, too, brother.” She felt the impacted metal. “Let me have a go at it.”

She managed the door open and helped Blake down from the half-crushed vehicle, and they stood gazing at the wreckage.  The headless A.I. was sprawled halfway out of the driver’s seat, his flittering tubes and empty chest open to the hot-winded air. “Man, only a giant could have done this,” Blake said after inspecting the damage. “Poor Chandler.  He was cool.  Maybe we can use the spare power cells stored in the rover to reenergize him or somethin’, help guide us the rest of the way.”

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Chelsea explained.  She kept looking over her shoulder. “And I don’t think we should stay out here any longer than we have to.  It’s going to get dark soon.”

“Surely the Township isn’t too far now, huh, sis?”

“Yeah, surely…” Chelsea retrieved her knapsack and Blake’s in a hurry.  She looked for any lightweight supplies—digital nightspecs, perma-flares, laser cutters or first aid blocks—and pre-processed rations she could find.  Anything that might come in handy, anything that might aid in their survival. “Here, catch!”

Blake walked back to the front of the vehicle.  He didn’t understand much about artificial intelligences.  Even headless, he thought for a moment that Chandler was only injured or out of battery power; then he saw the remnants of fluid seeping from his shoulders, and the peculiar angle of his synthetic shape. “Chandler’s not growing another face, is he?” His eyes opened wide and, like his sister, his fingers moved to the key drive hanging low around his neck. “Does he at least have a soul?”

“Blake,” Chelsea whispered. “Chandler’s gone.”

Some time later they sat on a rocky cliff while the environment turned from yellow and green to a dusk brown and deep tangerine.  Chelsea had decided to get as far away from the wreck as possible, but she never left the trail.  Chandler had been in constant communication with Koral.  A scouting rover, she told herself, was bound to come sooner or later, and for the moment they had plenty of sunshine and plenty of food and water.  Blake was falling asleep; the boy was worn out, and his hand swelled something awful.  Every so often Chelsea got some irrational fear inside of her and steeled herself to kneel beside her brother, listening for a flutter of a heartbeat, making sure that he still had his soul on him.  Only when his body began to rest comfortably did she kiss his forehead and lay down beside him. 

“Mother and Father aren’t here,” she said, running her hand through his flimsy hair. “Neither is the Keeper.  It’s my job to look after you, little brother.”

Without realizing just how many hours of daylight Ragnarok was subject to, Chelsea too closed her eyes the moment her muscles stopped tensing and the tornado creature left her thoughts.  The first sun slid behind the rim of the gully, then eventually dissolved over the bluffs; the sky turned orange, with the occasional streak of red marking their spot in the universe.  Then the second, slightly larger sun disappeared over the tip of the escarpment.  The desert wastes, the misty, bubbly swamps that separated them like islands, and the crystalline plateau vanished under a blanket of purple and black, touched up with a satellite-tinged glow.  A breeze swirled the planet’s dusts and, in the face of the twilight, the girl shivered. 

Chelsea was awakened by the wind’s intensity; the monster from earlier played with her mind once more.  Afraid, she shook her brother out of slumber. “Blake.  Blake, get up.” She glanced around her. “It looks like we’re here for the night… However long that is.”

Blake barely opened one eye. “So?”

“So I think those whirling demons can’t take too much daylight.  When I saw them, they always seemed to stand in very little sun or take to the shadows.”

“Then we’ll build a fire.” Blake was very self-possessed. “You took perma-flares from the rover, didn’t you?” Seconds later, he sat up.

“Yeah, but when was the last time you and I went camping?”

“Titan.” Blake smiled.

“How could you possibly remember that? You were only two.  You mean you actually have a vivid memory of Me, Mom and Dad on our trip to Saturn?”

“Yes.”

Chelsea pinched his cheek.  Then she went into her knapsack and handed him a flare. “Remember how to program a spark, too?”

A short while later the children sat close to the blazing fire, listening to the flip-flap-flip of the two-headed air marmot, the long sad wail of the desert dolphin, and the surreal pitter-patter of marsh insects.  They weren’t exactly frightened of these animals; but the front row seat was a far cry from the virtual zoos and jungles back on Earth.

“You think that wind creature was a pterodactyl?” Blake asked out of the blue. 

Huddled closely around the flames, Chelsea answered, “No, silly.  It definitely wasn’t a pterodactyl.  Pterodactyls are long extinct.  From all worlds.” A moment of silence followed. 

Then the boy began to fidget. “Chelsea, what’s this Ragnarok place really like?” He almost wanted to cry again. “Chandler had told me so much.  What do we do now? How are we gonna survive?”

“I don’t know, Blake.  But I reckon we’ll be OK.  So long as you stay with me at all times.  We must never split up, never lose sight of each other.  Not even for a second.”

The boy fiddled with the key drive around his neck. “If something bad happens to one of us, should we give each other permission now to—um, well, you know—”

“Crush the chips and let our souls go free?” Chelsea grasped her own necklace tightly. “Let’s hope we don’t have to.  And if Mom and Dad are still alive, if they’re still out there somewhere, they wouldn’t want us giving up without a fight.”

The boy picked up a garnet tree branch and stirred the fire. “Maybe if the Vendragon find us, they’ll let us use their life server.”

Chelsea grimaced. “Yeah, sure.  Maybe.”

The boy said, “Remember those smoke rings we saw on the way? You reckon they came from the Township?”

She shook her head. “Vendragons live in the grassier regions—probably further north.  They rely on our knowledge of agriculture.  Supposedly, they thrive off it.”

“Yeah, but couldn’t we still head in that direction? I mean, somethin’ made that smoke.”

“Oh, Blake! It’s much too far.  We should wait for a scouting vessel.” She started to undo the knots in her hair. “Go back to sleep.  I’ll take first watch.  Besides, the distance of these plains are farther than you think.  And who knows what manner of beast created those rings.  For all we know it might be the same kind of creature that attacked us, burning carcasses and picking on flesh.”

The boy went scared and silent.

She hoped she spoke with conviction, but after what they’d been through, it disturbed her to know that her brother’s thoughts had been running so close to hers. 

They settled down by the fire, and before long their breathing grew slower and deeper.  After a while, Chelsea couldn’t stay up any longer.  Eyelids falling, she reached for her brother’s swollen hand.  Normally he’d have snatched it away, but he didn’t now.  A veil of mist drifted over the moons that scattered the night sky, and the children slept.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

Lawrence Dagstine: “Historical Works in Progress…”

On Alternate History, Historical Weird Tales, and SF Serials…

In the next couple of weeks I will be continuing my bimonthly series of Free Fiction.  This time I will be serializing a science fiction-themed novella about two orphans that get stranded during an interplanetary adoption. It takes place on the largest planet in the universe — The planet Ragnarok (aptly named after the warring Gods of Norse Mythology, which later supposedly caused a lot of catastrophes concerning Mother Nature and the like for Mankind).  You’ll understand why as you get into it over the course of the year.  There are even a few flashback sequences similar to the series LOST.  On Ragnarok, Quadrant 4, located on the outer rim of the Cat’s Eye Nebula, like most of my worlds, there are eighteen seasons.  Unlike Earth, which has only four.  The good guys are a bunch of giant lizards with chest communicators.  Think the Silurians from Doctor Who, only bigger, stronger.  Bad guys are a bunch of elemental wind creatures who harvest meat by “shadowy” & “vampiric” means.  These guys are the horror element to the story.  Main orphan characters are Chelsea and Blake, and you are sure to fall in love with these two kids.  Mind you, this serial is FIRST DRAFT, so if you see the occasional typo or a bit of redundancy, I don’t plan on publishing this anywhere but my homepage.  Entertainment purposes only.  I could best describe the early portions as a cross between Lord of the Flies, the movie Pitch-Black, and Living Amongst the Lizards (short story).  Serials shall run between 2,500 and 5,000 words in length.  Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.  Once again, all first draft.

Name of planned Bimonthly Serial: “Orphan’s Prey” – Stay Tuned!

On The Great Depression and post-Civil War era…

I already have a batch of finished short stories and novelettes set in these two eras.  Some accepted, too.

Story One: “A Town of Crows” – Killer Scarecrows after the Civil War now appearing in Steampunk Tales #6.  See eBooks & Kindle.

Story Two: “A Time and Place for Monsters” – a very long novelette with vampires and werewolves during the Great Depression coming to Cover of Darkness.  Also, a bit of back history concerning President Hoover and The Monsters.  Never before done.

Story Three: “The Two-Sided Market” – Dedicated to H.G. Wells/Parallel Piece.

Story Four: “The Great Martian Depression” – Scifi currently appearing in The Martian Wave Issue#1.

Story Five: “FDR and the Locusts” – Franklin D. Roosevelt and BIG Insects, with a plot twist.

Cleopatra VII - Brooklyn Museum of New York 2008 - 2009

On Cleopatra and Alternate History…

There are two finished stories, finally edited, featuring Cleo as a fourteen-year-old.  They take place between Ancient Egypt and Rome. Alternate History meets Historical Fantasy, and there will also be mages, sorcerers, the undead, gods, and demigods! Also, the stories begin with Mark Antony as narrator for the first page and ends with him conceptually.  Here, I decided to experiment.

Story One: “Young Cleopatra and The Whispering Ancients”

Story Two: “Young Cleopatra and The Eye of Horus.”

Story Three: UNTITLED (coming 2011, and concerning the suicide of Mark and Cleo).

On Pompeii and Rome…

Next, later in the year off to Pompeii and some more fiction in Rome.  Introducing the Children of Ash short stories/novelettes.  All stand-alone tales, which I often prefer.

Story One: “The Children of Ash” – After Volcano Day.

Story Two: “The Nightmare Lair” – Inside the Volcano.

Story Three: “The Vampires of Pompeii” – The Romans have some neighbors. 😉

I’m also thinking up a totally “messed-up” Caligula-style crossover piece as well.  Of course, this is still not a guarantee that a market will accept all of them.  Never is.

I also noticed that a lot of Fresh Blood PDFs were sold.  Like 40 or 50 in the first two, three weeks.  At $3.50, yeah, it’s a great price. If you own a reader, click on eBooks & Kindle and treat yourself to a copy.  You can also now read PDFs on the Amazon Kindle, or download the free iPhone/iPad application off of Amazon.com as well.  I’d like to thank all of you.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  The same with my scarecrow story in Steampunk Tales #6 (www.steampunktales.com).

Other than that, there are ten brand new short stories and novelettes completed, my first novella is in the editorial screening stages, and ten brand new acceptances for 2010-2011.  I wish I had the time to blog ten times per day, but life does not permit me such luxury.  I’ll try and fit what I can.  Historical stories take two, three weeks alone.  However, some acceptances are to print anthologies.  So stay tuned! SF serial starts Late April/May 2010.  It’s gonna be fun!

Cheers,

Lawrence Dagstine

Print Magazines * Amazon Kindle * The iPhone/iPad * Sony & PDF Download

Other New Entries: “General News”

P.S.: Speaking of crazy historical tales, enjoy the new season of Doctor Who.   Series Five with Matt Smith!

FREE FICTION: “The Overrated Pro” by Lawrence Dagstine

Welcome to my first installment of what will be a continuous monthly to bimonthly project.  Free Fiction Stories.  Approaching all genres, and sometimes even serialized (the serials will most likely be novelette or novella lengthed works).  For February and March we have a brand new Extreme Horror piece — put the kiddies to bed — about a writer.  A good chilling tale about a writer quickly brings to mind the work of Mr. King and Mr. Ketchum.  One such tale that comes to mind right away is Secret Window (the movie version starred Johnny Depp).  Sometimes a good story is too good to pass up, such as is the case with Secret Window.  The picture below, which I got off the Web and am a die-hard fan of (I’m a die-hard fan of all pictures on my site, from Doctor Who to Action Figures to Whatever), I think compliments this piece well.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  But it does beg to ask the question: How far would you go to become a writer?

How far would you go to become a writer?

Free Fiction Series Take 1

 

THE OVERRATED PRO

by

Lawrence Dagstine

The package fluttered as if it might fall, but it didn’t.  Carnesto preferred to take a cigarette out of the pack himself.  Despite the tremors, his fingers had facility, and he reached into the pack for a smoke.  The paper fluttered and sounded, but out came the cigarette, and it orbited to his lips.  He lit up by himself, too.  He even had this way of making cool artsy smoke rings.  The single and simple act assumed the proportion of a wannabe performance, which all watched as he sat in the back of the truck stop diner working heavily on his laptop. “Thanks, Colbert,” he said. “I promise I’ll leave you a tip next time.” He got a refill on his coffee.

“When are you writing this next bestseller?”

“As soon as one of these organizations actually recognize me,” he said.

Colbert nodded. “I guess that means never.”

“How’s your cat?”

“Dead.”

Another one.”

“It’s okay.  I’ll just go down to the Humane Society and pick me up a healthier critter.  Anyway, good luck with your manuscript.”

There was something about people on computers in diners or Starbucks or sidewalk cafes.  All were the next big thing, the next blockbuster screenwriter, the next professional anthologist, and, for the deluded, sometimes even Pulitzer Prize winner.  They always looked cool sitting there with their Compaqs and Toshibas and Hewlett-Packards.  At the end of their days they went home and popped an extra Zoloft or two, stared at themselves in their medicine cabinets, and often died of something like pancreatic cancer and very much penniless.  As a balding, middle-aged man living between Middletown USA and the UK, however, he still didn’t get it yet.  It was sort of like the meaning of life, only staring you cold right in the face.  Being a writing celebrity was the most transient fame in the world, but it was magnificent while it lasted.  Who could resist wanting to know what it was like to become as inflated as a zeppelin, even if rather hollow? Still, ego or no ego, magnificent while it lasted.

A man on the keyboard, if he had inspiration, could have more immediate impact in a couple of hours than a genre historian with a lifetime of books and no national or international exposure.  For, at the end of the day, genre is what he wrote and absolutely creamed on himself just at the thought of it.

Clicking sounds from the keys, then long emailed queries.

A curious kind of aberrant, macroscopic reputation attainable because of the nature of the exposure, and the redundancy of the work routine combined.  Much of his life revolved around two credits, and much to his pub mate editors’ likings.  An amateur might write down a few interesting metaphors or pen just as decent a story—a beginning, a middle, and an end—publish a few in some low circulation or obscure quarterlies; it might a few years later change a portion of the face of the globe, and such a figure might or might not get to be known even inside the publishing community.  Impact and creativity was fantastic.  But the genre writer was straight on your eyes, because it was a form of fantasy, page by page, as while he repeated the lines written by another; if you watched television or went to the movies, plots came free and life was a contrived and clichéd vessel.  He and the non-reading public became well acquainted, because, quite frankly, Carnesto never really wrote anything of worth.  He was beat as a child if he got less than a B, sometimes his father would hit the bottle and then creep into his room in the middle of the night and display his inebriation.  Carnesto even had a lax imagination at times to show for it.  A character like himself writing fiction was like a dead fourth brain inside the human skull.  Internet crazies with drug addictions thought he was super-important, and he might think so too.  That spelled out Web Idol.  But there was a difference between the web idol and the literary idol.  For real writers the grandeur of self-satisfaction spelled New Heroes, New Days, New Minds, New Attitudes, New Influences.  For Carnesto it often meant just another day glaring at that screen in the back of that smoky truck stop diner, full of resentment and false pride.

He’d even met an amateur one day, typing crazily and happily a few booths away.  He went over to him and said, “Are you a writer by any chance?” and he saw next to the computer a stack of black and white magazines. “You know if you are, you really shouldn’t prostitute yourself to such small publications like this.”

They talked a bit and it just so happened that this other typist was also into genre.  When he’d heard that, Carnesto felt embarrassed asking the amateur for advice; he even glanced over his shoulder to make sure Colbert and the diner regulars weren’t watching. “But these periodicals you’re in are mere fanzines,” he said. “Why do it for so little money?”

“Oh, you must be from the Old School,” the amateur writer said. “Because you only live once, and there are many other rewards and remunerations from this kind of writing.”

“No! I—I don’t understand it!” He actually clenched his hands into fists and grinded his teeth. “I—I don’t compute!”

“Well, of course you don’t.  I noticed you over there, just spacing out at your screen.  I didn’t want to say anything but it was just an observation.”

“What observation? What are you talking about?” Carnesto looked slightly heated.

“You know, progress.”

“Dear sir, I’ll have you know that I AM A PRO.” It almost sounded like he was doing a Colin Baker schtick. “I’ve appeared in these two publications and I was paid such and such a sum!”

“But look at the dungeon you’ve put yourself in.  There’s no key to the door, no crawlspace, no way to get out.  You get no satisfaction from it.  It’s sad.”

“How can I get no satisfaction when the credits exist?”

“But you obsess over something you’ll still never be.”

“Are you trying to say I’m pathetic?”

“When I look from afar, yeah, I guess.” Then the amateur went on to say how many professional writers hate their lifestyles, their jobs, their families and their miserable existences.  How it’s not as easy as it looks. “You see, I exist outside the bubble.  You are trapped inside the bubble, where there are all sorts of stigmas and silly rules.  Outside the bubble, there’s relaxation, lack of worry, so much space and area to explore.  I live life to the fullest, you obviously don’t.  Inside the bubble, you’re confined and injected with this malcontent.  Even now, instead of focusing, you probably watch other writers making it one step ahead of you and feel like a prisoner in your own skin.”

“But I have two pro credits! I have two pro credits! Two pro credits!”

“That still does not make you a professional.”

“Yes it does! Two pro credits make me a somebody!”

The amateur looked back at Carnesto’s laptop and said, “Then if you’re a somebody, why are you dilly-dallying with me at my table when you should be over there writing your third professional credit?”

Then he explained to Carnesto that: Nothing x Nothing = Nothing.

But Carnesto wouldn’t have it, no matter how much the amateur tried to break things down to him.  He stormed off insisting that he was right and the amateur was wrong.  He stormed off insisting that he was this famous thing, trained by long forgotten grandmasters and alcoholic slush pile editors.  The more Carnesto saw the cobwebs under his arms and suspected his own imposture, the exaggeration of his value, that his sublime vogue was just a façade for the crazies, the more he began to drink, cheat on the missus, and dissipated.  He almost felt like lashing out his own failures in life on somebody who wouldn’t suspect, somebody he wished to be. 

A few weeks later, in decline, reading from time to time of his own professional wane or passing, experiencing the oh-he’s-washed-up coldness of the public and the literary critics, and now, having lost his mind, having lost prestige or real value, he decided to choose his victim carefully and make that individual feel the same way.  He wanted to make somebody feel just as inwardly collapsed.  Emotionally, physically, professionally, deflated beyond recovery.

This would be his release.  He would call himself “The Winner” at times.

But there was nothing to be won.

During these days, when he went on the Internet actively seeking people he hated or wished to be, or just couldn’t stand being happy because his own life lacked joy, his wife walked about with a deep inner upset.  Carnesto, still not recuperated from his own lack of success, didn’t have the energy or desire to make love to her.  They were often quiet at the dinner table, too.

“When are you going to get off that fucking Internet! I didn’t marry a robot.  You’ve become this—this computer junkie.  I needed you yesterday!”

There Carnesto sat at his computer, in a slumped position, head straight forward and practically paying her no mind.

“Did you hear what I said? I needed you!”

“Why? Because your friend Janet’s brother is in the hospital on a respirator?”

“That poor devil was in a terrible accident.  He might not make it through another night.”

“So let them pull the plug.  It’s not as if she cared about him anyway.  They had their differences.  If I’m a computer junkie, so’s she.  Tell me, how many hours does she spend on the Web? If you ask me, she’ll probably be relieved once her parents fly back and they take the fellow off life support.  Oh, and don’t ask me to come to the funeral.”

“Carnesto, what’s wrong with you?” his wife pleaded. “You were never like this!”

“I’m busy! Working!”

“On a fucking messageboard? Who are you talking to anyway?”

“This is strictly business.  Now please get the fuck out of here.”

His wife came over and threw down some drug paraphernalia.  His eyes glanced it briefly as he typed away. “And where did you get this?”

“I don’t know where you got that, but it’s definitely not mine.”

“Smoking drugs with that crack whore.  I spotted you with her the other day, chatting about.  She’s the big druggie and floozy of the neighborhood.”

“You know her?” Carnesto asked.

“Who doesn’t! What are you doing with that meth head?”

“We… We get along together.  We understand each other.” There was a brief silence. “Oh, you wouldn’t understand.  You’re not a writer, you’re not a professional.  How could you understand?”

“Carnesto, I know full well what you do.  You’re slacking off.  You’re not the man I once knew.  You talk of writing yet you haven’t written or edited a single draft in three months.”

He quickly changed the subject, talking about her inconsistencies: her manners, her mind, her language. 

“Shit,” she screamed at him, “you’re always trying to make an idiot out of me!”

“I fear it’s a lost cause,” he said to her, then swiveled around in his chair back to his computer. “Just like this poor chap…”

“I’m not a lost cause! I’m your wife!”

“Says you.  I’m giving you a difficult assignment.  Change yourself a little,”—but this had only been an excuse to get rid of her and focus on his new computer mate—“make yourself into something fine.  Learn how to cook or something.”

“I like the time I’m having with you now! If I didn’t care about you, if I didn’t care about our marriage, I wouldn’t be here begging with you, would I?”

The logic made him laugh.

Christ, she said to herself, he hasn’t fucked me in a month.  I ought to go down to the pub or get a piece somewhere else.

He sensed her thought, but he was still heavily focused on something else.

“Look, darling, I’ll be with you in a few days.  Now don’t get impatient.  This Web business will all be over soon.”

“If that crackhead came along here, you’d be able to put out,” she complained.  As she headed for the office door, she added, “And make sure you don’t do anything with her here!”

A little celibacy will be good for her, he thought to himself, grinning wickedly.  It’ll drive her wild, and besides, I’ll get what I started online finished.  They said I wasn’t a pro, I gave them helpful advice, but they just tossed me away.  Well no more!

As time went on, his dilapidation showed.  He didn’t shave, didn’t shower.  He didn’t even brush his teeth.  Lack of hygiene.  But he couldn’t and wouldn’t let it be a singular ruin, as he was bent on taking someone else down with him.  This was his therapy, because they all said and felt he wasn’t good enough.  He was bent on destroying this other person who was almost a perfect identical image to him…

…only happy with life.

He went to messageboards, review sites, emailed friends of his—if one didn’t know any better, they’d think he was a full-time stalker—wherever this individual had been last, he would be there to spy and bait.  Sometimes he even forced sleep deprivation upon himself and Googled the individual’s name as much as one hundred times in a single day.  All the while muttering to himself, “I’m a professional! I’m a professional! I’m a professional!” At other times, he would say, “Fucking amateur! Fucking amateur! Fucking amateur!” He had become so obsessed with this other person’s writing career, that not only had he almost permanently forgotten his own, but he started checking his victim’s work for logistical and grammatical errors that either did not exist or just wasn’t to his liking.

Sometimes he thought of his ex-wife—by now, she had dumped him and not only was his computer on constantly, but he always carried a whiskey bottle and a loaded revolver by his side—and his marriage to her had been his foundation to begin with, and she was the only woman he had ever loved. “I will not pose any longer as a married woman nor tell myself any longer that this is a marriage,” she had said.

The words stayed on with him, fatally, robbing him of much.  So along with the victim on his computer console, his life had spiraled downward and proceeded from one self-robbery to another, depriving him of the people and dreams he once had, though without doubt, by the nature of his current self, he had earned his defeats.  And his only friends? Well, they were crazies. 

The court awarded his ex custody of their little girl, and he must pay alimony until she remarried.  But she hadn’t done that, and the cost of maintaining her lifestyle, and the costs of his daughter, had been a drain. 

About three, four times a year he saw them.  He was entitled visitation rights with his child, but his computer life always cut in, and there were times where he didn’t pursue the privileges.  Besides, it was always unpleasant to see his wife for a few minutes or hours, only to realize he could never have her around permanently.

There came a point where his daughter had reached the age of twelve, and here he was, still latched on to his computer and his writer victim, who had started moving on to other things.  The girl had lost her childhood charm and matured into a shapely, thinned-down girl.  She had her father’s haunting features and the same bone structure as he.  Carnesto was pleased with her beauty, and he complimented his wife. “You’ve done a fine job with the girl.” He held his daughter’s hands and stared at her.

His daughter said, “I think you’re so wonderful, Daddy.  Everybody does.”

“It’s your mom who’s wonderful.  Surely you must know what everybody else knows, that I’m a big international bum.”

“It’s not true, Daddy; you’re simply fabulous.  I see all your literary works in a pile over there.”

He laughed. “I may let you head up the Carnesto Johanna Fan Society.”

“You’re so outrageous, Daddy, so simply outrageous.”

His now-ex came along. “Honey, be careful.  You might fall afoul of someone like your father and get your life garbled before it begins.”

“Is your life so garbled?” Carnesto asked.

“I’m trying to spare her some of the things we’ve been through ourselves.  Like computer privileges?”

“Don’t spare her any of that, and don’t do me any favors.”

When his ex left the room he looked over his daughter.  She had leaping, anxious eyes, and she was crowding her father, wanting his attentions, even his arms around her. “Glad to see your mother letting you sleep over finally.” He looked around at the small flat. “It’s not much.  At least, not like on my old teacher pay.  Not like we used to have.” He grabbed hold of her and gave her an earthy kiss.  He held her tightly and his hands, from a lifetime of typing and not touching, found its way over her developing breasts.  His face flushed.  What the hell was going on?

He felt rocked.  He pulled himself away from her.  He had a frenetic look on his face, which his daughter studied but couldn’t understand.  With my own daughter, he told himself, staring at her loving face, her body full of trust and affection. What am I thinking? He wondered whether other fathers had incestuous surges toward their beautiful daughters.  He paced up and down cursing his passions. 

After his ex left and said she’d return on Sunday, he couldn’t get his daughter out of his mind, or quite out of his blood.  He started looking for the revolver.  You bastard, he said to himself, wanting to jazz his own child.  He looked at the messageboard on the computer and thought he saw a familiar name sign in. “It’s your fault, you fucking amateur!”

“Daddy, are you okay?”

The gun was nowhere to be found.  It had to be there.  Maybe in a drawer, maybe underneath the bathroom sink.  The incident preyed on him; it was a new experience, unlike writing fiction, and the thought shocked him.  He had a second moment’s agony.  How many crazies had such thoughts about their daughters, he wondered.  He knew a lot of crazies, but why did the notion persist with him? There she was, in his imagining, all fresh and full of young blood, a handsome smile on her face all the while, a touch of cherry blossom softness in her cheeks, eyes wide and curious.  He looked down and saw a bulge in his pants; he was rock-hard.  Maybe, he said to himself, it’s a case of me wanting to screw myself.  She looks like me.  Goddamit, I better stay far away.

Then, as his daughter was changing in the bathroom, getting ready to go to sleep, he found the gun sticking out from one of the higher shelves of his bookcase.  That one particular shelf had been lined with all the anthologies ever created, all the books ever produced, all the periodicals of the writer he had been victimizing all these years, and he realized, “Holy shit! I’m your number one fan.”

Glancing quickly over his shoulder, he saw flashing.  When he turned around to face the computer he saw action on the screen.  The numbers on the board lit up, and the writer, who he had lashed out his own misgivings and failings on for all those years had scored a book deal. “Oh no.  Oh no, you don’t! You fucking amateur! I’ll prove you don’t deserve this!” He started tearing his hair out and walking in circles.  Then he grabbed the computer and tried to log in and type right away, but he’d forgotten the password amongst the confusion with his daughter. “No you don’t! Stay at the bottom of the ladder, you fucking slime ball!” The gun was looped around a finger as he wrote.

“Daddy?”

“Not now.”

“Daddy, what’s wrong?”

“I said not now!”

“Daddy, please!”

“What don’t you under—”

He swiveled around in his chair and let go of the trigger.  A bullet entered the center of his daughter’s chest, ricocheted off her shoulder and lung, and exited through her back.  Carnesto fell to his knees.  The twelve-year-old girl’s mouth dropped in awe.  She was wearing one of those long pink and white Hello Kitty sleep shirts.  It began to soak red.  The floor soon matched in color. 

A few seconds later she collapsed at the side of the bed.

Carnesto rushed to her side, but she wasn’t breathing.  Sitting at the edge of the bed, he cradled her in her arms, weeping like a baby. “I’m sorry, child… I didn’t mean to, I swear…” Teary-eyed, he faced the computer and it said that the new book being released by the same author he had victimized from all those years, was a story that, deep down, most hardworking authors working the trenches for many years would be able to associate with.  But that was if Carnesto had the desire to live and add it to his collection.   

The title, according to the online publicist, was “The Winner”.

Carnesto Johanna had three simple words for that publicist and the author as he put the revolver up to his own head. “I’m a pro…”

The End

Lawrence Dagstine: “How to make $5000.00 from writing…”

*HOW TO MAKE FIVE-GRAND IN YOUR SPARE TIME FROM WRITING*

An Essay by Lawrence Dagstine

This conversation always seems to come up whenever my name is made in passing in certain industry circles, regarding that “Prolific Hack” Lawrence R. Dagstine.  This time it came via Facebook a few days ago by a person we’ll call Chubbs.  Congratulations, Chubbs, you are now a character in my upcoming, racially provocative, cyberpunk novella, MAURICE AND THE URBANITES.  All with good intentions, Chubbs; I won’t kill your character off.  If there’s one thing I’m known for, it’s helping other writers find markets for their work.  However, I think it is important that all housewives or househusbands, part-time tutors, teachers or students looking for extra cash, has-beens, wannabes, bohemians, panderers, starving artists, prose-driven lushes, pain-killer popping poet laureates, and yes, even young technical writers who need reminding pay heed.  Or if you’re smart, can program yourself to type methodically, but find yourself currently unemployed.  So let’s start this off right…

Publishing Clip/Magazine Tupperware No. 2 of 4 - Yes, I own four.

Hi, my name is Lawrence.  I’m a hack writer who made roughly $5000.00 in 2009 from the written word.  Cash.  Mojo.  Bling.  And I’m going to show you too how to make this kind of money over a 365-day period; have checks and payments coming in regularly in this tough economy; samples on how to get writing gigs and become a fiction writing machine in your spare time, and the difference between quantity and quality (in my opinion).  As a trench-writer since the late 90’s, with close to 400 magazine and webzine credits, and in this current market, this is how I perceive Quantity and Quality.

QUANTITY = The Possibility of Fast Money and Brief Popularity.

QUALITY = The Possibility of Immortality and Elegance of Prose.

Author’s Note: With the above, your mileage may vary.  But both can exhibit a certain level of professionalism.  I’ll also get to the novelist a bit more later on.  Everything I put down here in the meantime is from firsthand experience, acceptances, years of observation, and generally whatever else worked for me concerning the written word.

I think everybody pretty much knows by now that I submit to a LOT of half-cent to three-cent per word paying markets.  I often have a minimum of 20 to 40 different short stories and novelettes floating out there at any given time, and so should you; with reprints, once rights have reverted back to me, sometimes as many as 60 fiction markets.  There’s one short that I’ve sold over seven, eight times already.  These are often called “Trunk Stories”, stories which have already been published and are just sitting on your laptop, can be dusted off, and sold again after many years.  And I’m not including small non-fiction gigs, which rely mainly on published clips, actual “print” periodicals, or through connections/recommendations one might have through freelancing or journalism.  That’s a whole other ballgame.  If you want to make some kind of extra cash with short stories, you need to write plenty of them! Like one or two per week, then build up a hefty folder over time.  This is a must! It won’t be an overnight thing.  Oh yeah, and expect to get a boatload of rejections.  But I think every writer and his or her grandmother is aware that it comes with the territory.

At the same time, I truly believe that while the written word is the written word – by that, I mean whatever you manufacture from your keyboard – within short story writing and novel writing there exists two very different breeds of writer.  Two very different thought process patterns between both of them.  Even though, over time, it is essentially the hardworking novelist who will round up the most funds.  One is taught to submit to nothing but the highest paying markets, because there is this invisible rule, and everybody should adhere to it.  Because we should better ourselves.  Start at the top, work your way down.  Maybe go to Clarions or Borderlands or a similar writing workshop, and attend seminars where you can sit down with actual New York Times Bestselling Authors.  Excellent philosophy.  I’m for it one hundred percent! I’ve been told to submit to nothing but five-cent per word markets, otherwise throw your story away.  I’ve had writers tell me five cents is an insult and submit to only seven-to-ten-cent per word paying markets.  And there was the one old-schooler who said submit to only ten-cent markets (yeah, and out of the thousands upon thousands of genre writers, statistically we all know there’s a ton of those out there).  I wouldn’t dare say keep that piece sitting in a drawer, especially if you believe in it.  Submit it! Still, at the same time we can’t forget that some levels of writers do it for the sake of paying other bills, no matter how big or small that earning from writing may be: it might help you fill up your gas tank, it might help you afford air conditioning this summer, or even pay your mortgage or credit card.  For some the opportunity is out there (on both levels); for some, not in a million years because they might not know what to do or how to go about freelancing or how to utilize reprints or how to get into the “Writing Habit”.  Personally, I could give a damn about immortality.  I live in the Here and Now, therefore I must eat, think, and survive in the Here and Now.  That’s my philosophy.

Basically, have a secondary income coming in on a fairly repetitive basis.  Checks and Paypal payments flying in every week to two weeks.  The same way prolific novelists receive royalties by the quarter.  Two very different breeds of writer, in my opinion.

Example 1:

On one particular day in September 2009, I opened up my email to find seven paying acceptances in ONE DAY – nothing big, nothing exorbitant – and I’m not a full-time writer.  That’s my current record, by the way.  In December 2009 I had another four paying acceptances in ONE DAY.  That’s eleven paying short story acceptances right there.  In only two days out of 365.  Now, out of those eleven acceptances, who am I to say no to $25.00 checks, $50.00 checks, $75.00 checks, or even a $100.00 check, which might turn out to be a 2-cent per word story which just happens to equal a Benjamin Franklin? Especially if they’re rolling in constantly! Unless you’re already established, you never say no to Benjamin Franklin.  Benjamin is your friend; Grant ain’t so bad either.  A 2,000-word short story to a professional market equals the SAME hundred dollars.  Not to mention I can probably name three or four other prolific short story writers who have me beat with the numbers above.  And while Benjamin and Grant are your best friends, they can do more than just get your name and work out there.  In this current market and economy it can pay for things.

Here’s another example from December 2009.  The publication in the link below, which has been around eleven years, I often get acceptances from.  I’ve even helped improve their exposure and circulation a bit.  They pay me 1-cent per word for material.  The two accepted stories in this particular entry, to be released this year, are 6,000 words in length each.  That equals $120.00.  Over a period of twelve months, it adds up.

CLICK HERE: https://lawrencedagstine.com/2009/12/21/nova-science-fiction-spring-2010-eight-acceptances/

This recent story acceptance below is fairly long.  It took me one day to write this story.  The creative juices were flowing.  The check from it will pay for one gas bill.  Still, if you want to pay more than one bill, you need to have at least 40 different short stories floating out there for you.  When rejections come in, send the stories right back out.

CLICK HERE: https://lawrencedagstine.com/2010/02/10/aoifes-kiss-35-december-2010-12th-acceptance/

Once again, that $5000.00 was from part-time writing, not full-time.  This came from short fiction, short non-fiction, selling Dagstine mags and wares in Coney Island, small leads and gigs on places like Craigs List to resume writing (www.craigslist.com).  Let’s throw in a little off the books proofreading for people advertising simple jobs from foreign-speaking countries (e.g., gigs I had for Denmark and The Philippines).  You can charge these people a fee in the low hundreds just to edit their manuscripts or fill their technical and business writing needs.  Always charge less than what the Writer’s Market suggests for these jobs; work with your clients, they’ll use you again or recommend you to others.  That’s how resume writing fell into my lap.  It doesn’t matter where you come from: if you understand English, have Internet access, and enjoy typing, anybody can do this… ANYBODY CAN DO THIS! So what if it isn’t entirely fiction? Now I’m building up an entirely different kind of portfolio in the process, something I would never have done or thought of, say, five years ago.  I’ve written under such names as Lawrence Davis, Lawrence Roberts, Lawrence Hewitt, and in the science fiction arena, Lawrence Dagstine.  The list goes on.  I even wrote a porn story once under the name Nabudi Sun (this was for kicks).  Plus, the freedom of this also gives me the time to write more genre fiction, which I enjoy and grew up on.

SAMPLE FOREIGN / FREELANCE LINK: http://manila.craigslist.com.ph/wri/

You ever see that show, DEAL OR NO DEAL? Hosted by Howie Mandel? He comes out on stage rocking his baldy, a woman with a silver briefcase hollering and screaming at his side.  The audience is cheering on.  The woman is given the option to pick briefcases and go for a six-figure win.  Let’s pretend that the contestant is a writer, and that this game show scenario applies to writing.  Very rarely do people get that six-figures; shit, some times they don’t even score five.  Howie Mandel will call upstairs and one of the producers or whatever will make an offer.  It might be $6,000, $8,000, or $10,000… Do yourself a favor, TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN! Don’t wait around for a half-million dollars.  Because, in traditional publishing, six-figures ain’t happening.  $10,000, sure, why not.  I can figure that.  Pay your bills and have fun with your peers.

Example 2:

You know, when you think about it, $5000.00 equals an advance on some novels, which might take you a year to write and then an additional 18 months to be released.  There’s no guarantee the book will sell, the agent you have will keep you or you will keep her, or that you’ll be the next big thing.  Your book may sit on a shelf for what seems like an eternity, or be sent back for a refund.  Or, in the end, have its cover torn off.

You have to remember, writing is a starving profession.  Freelancing is quick cash.  Thanks to it, I sell most of my works a minimum of three times each.  Thanks to it I have heat and hot water, a full refrigerator, electricity and gas, copays on prescriptions covered, clothes on my back, toilet paper to wipe my ass, diapers on my kid’s behind, and all other bills and necessities besides a rent firmly paid.

But, I understand.  Even though you realize that genre is a lottery, with one in every 10,000 to 20,000 truly making it BIG, you aspire to be that New York Times Bestselling writer.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Dreaming big is a part of life.  Sometimes those workshops or classes, however, are pricey.  With round-trip airfare, hotel and food, you could be talking $2000 just to attend! Freelancing, in the fashion mentioned above, can PAY FOR THAT PROFESSIONAL WORKSHOP… It can help you afford these writing camps in what is a truly reserved economy.

In the end, it’s all about enjoying what you do.  The storytelling aspect, and of course, entertaining your readers.  Listen, you don’t have to stay in this little shell your whole life because some organization has it hammered out that way or because people have inferiority complexes (such as Chubbs).  What good is a writer who ends up worm food from lack of finances? I think that at a certain point, you have to come out and set up your career the way you feel most comfortable with it.  Remember, only you are responsible for your own destiny.  Only you can carve out a niche for yourself, thus turning it into your own reality.

Until Next Time,

Lawrence Dagstine

Withersin Magazine, January 2010… (Now Available!)

First, a Healthy and Happy New Year to those who follow this blog homepage.  Next, I’m starting off 2010 with the latest issue of Withersin, No. #3.3, themed: Arsenic. Published three issues per year by Misty Gersley, Withersin is a glossy, beautiful art-filled mag of horror and non-fiction relating to the paranormal and more.  You can find it in some chain bookstores, or pre-order the issue by following the link below.

WITHERSIN MAGAZINE – January 2010

Issue #3.3 – Theme: Arsenic

ORDER THE ISSUE – SUBMISSION GUIDELINES:

www.withersin.com

Other New Entries: “Magazines”

Lawrence Dagstine: “Christmas Time 2009…”

For the 2009 holiday season, I decided to update my blog homepage and fill my fans and followers in on some of my gifts and achievements of the last twelve months, along with what to look out for and what will be under the x-mas tree this yuletide season (for the little one).  Regardless of the last year-and-a-half of dying markets and a bad genre economy, 2009 still managed to be my best year in the “earning” department, where I doubt I will ever be able to rival 2007 in the quantity and material department.  Some of these achievements range from smaller press and semi-pro fiction acceptances, minor proofreading, non-fiction writing and essays, resumes, my first official short story collection being released, my first Kindle title being released, making over 2000 friends and followers on Facebook, and just a lot revolving around the written word and The Spirit of Christmas.

Isn’t that a beautiful Christmas tree? The lights flash blue and white.  Progress-wise, this year I had very little time to blog/plug but got a lot of acceptances (some straight through 2011), let go of a lot of reprints, wrote 26 BRAND NEW short stories, wrote 8 BRAND NEW novelettes, wrote four unfinished novellas between 15,000 and 30,000 words in length — which I may make available on my blog to read next year.  I mean, why let good stories go to waste.  Or maybe I will get around to editing and finishing those novellas.  I have future eBooks & Kindle titles on the horizon.  I realized that, money-wise, it doesn’t pay to release a second short story collection.  I can earn more individually.  I was shortlisted a couple of times by some decent pubs, made second readings, almost made it into 4 professional level magazines/venues.  And that’s just the fiction department.  Oh yeah, did I mention the steampunk and satire offers?

Below you will find pictures of just half of this year’s gifts.  It’s mainly a Cybermen-themed Christmas this year, with David Tennant regenerating into Matt Smith and all.  And my son is now a Dr. Who fan and absolutely adores The Cybermen (he’s scared of the Daleks).  Oddly enough, he’s also more a Christopher Eccleston fan.  One of the items I searched the UK high and low for was The Cybermen Age of Steel 4-figure collection.  Collect them all, open up the packages, and you can build a fifth figure.  The Cyber Controller.  I also picked up The Next Doctor on DVD and ordered a Cyber Leader Voice-Changing Helmet to seal the deal.

Some of the other gifts, which are already wrapped, consist of model kits with glues and paints from my old man, though they say ages 8+ and 12+ on the packages.  So I guess the little one will have to hold on to them until he’s old enough to understand them.  Those are made by Revell.  There are also Bob the Builder videos.  Believe me, Doctor Who wasn’t the only stocking stuffer.  There are some other wonderful toys and gifts ranging from Super Mario to Toddler Costumes to Spongebob Squarepants-themed games, and, like last year, play food items.  Like “make your own pizza.”  The Spongebob game in the picture below is actually Connect Four, but obviously for a slightly younger age group.  Then there’s the one last-minute gift I just couldn’t put down.  The paint job was so realistic.  It reminded me of the Super Powers Action Figures of the 80’s.  Remember those? The Justice League of America Boxed Set: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern.  These figures are mint and pristine! And who doesn’t love the JLA?

Now that’s a big ass cup of coffee (by the way, that’s made of metal).  Just couldn’t resist.

In a reduced and very affordable fashion, I also treated myself to a few early-season gifts.  First, notice the non-fiction book above on Pompeii.  You got it.  It’s research time.  Lawrence Dagstine will be coming your way sometime in 2010 with a story set in Pompeii.  It could be before Volcano Day, it could be after.  It could be Alternate History or not the story you’re expecting.  But you know me when it comes to Historical Weird Tales.

Also, I can’t recommend enough WEIRD HISTORY 101 — published by Falls River, and if you’re a B&N member, you might be able to get it reduced now for $4.00 — in hardcover.  This tome is sooo awesome.  It’s like a mini factbook and reference tool for the writer, and just all around interesting to own.  If you’re a writer of historical tales, alternate history, steampunk, or period pieces, trust me and go to Barnes & Nobles and get this book.  Doesn’t matter what genre.  Author is John Richard Stephens.  You won’t find these kind of facts on Google, or between the pages of traditional historical reference books.

And if you look up above, I finally have a new computer desk.  Nice to have shelving and a drawer, but still unsure of what to fill it up with yet.  Now that the little one has gotten older, the bookcase units pretty much belong to him and his toys.  Now that I have a Kindle, most of my print books will be donated.  Those I wish to keep will be locked away in storage between two households (yeah, there’s that many).  But that desk above is situated in a new corner, it’s my new workspace, and it’s where I’ll pen that Pompeii tale for you Dagstine readers when the time comes.

With that said, I’ll probably only update this blog four more times before the New Year.  Stay with me in 2010.  We have many adventures to go on together, and much awaits.  Won’t you join me? To all my fans and readers…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Lawrence R. Dagstine

Other New Entries: “About Me”

Shelter of Daylight, April 2010… (acceptances)

I don’t know whether to consider this a magazine credit or anthology credit, so mark them as both for now, I suppose.  I’ll have a SF and Fantasy-mixed tale coming to a fairly new bi-annual trade paperback anthology-magazine called Shelter of Daylight by Sam’s Dot Publishing.  They’re published every April and October, with a dash of poetry and art.  Edited by Tyree Campbell.  And yes, this officially puts me on the road to 400 publishing credits sometime in 2010.

SHELTER OF DAYLIGHT – APRIL 2010

Coming Next Year from Sam’s Dot Publishing

SAMPLE ISSUE – SAMPLE ISSUE

Shelter of Daylight

Shelter of Daylight

SAMPLE ISSUE – SAMPLE ISSUE – SAMPLE ISSUE

 Sam’s Dot Publishing Main Homepage:

www.samsdotpublishing.com

I’m not in the issue above, however, if you’d like to sample it:

http://www.genremall.com/zinesr.htm#shelter

And I’ll see you in spring 2010.

Other New Entries: “Books & Anthos” and “Magazines”

Lawrence Dagstine: “On the state of Science Fiction…”

…And a few other thoughts.

The following essay pertains to mostly science fiction.  It’s an opinion-based essay and nothing more than that.  These are my views, take it for what it’s worth.  It derives from something Harlan Ellison originally wrote on his Webderland Website a few days ago, a paragraph which can be found here: http://harlanellison.com/home.htm

Harlan Ellison thinks SF is dead.

Harlan Ellison thinks SF is dead.

 He might be right.  Here is what he wrote:

“Literature is dead. Civility is dead. Ethical considerations are dead. Common sense is dead. Dignity, respect, responsibility are dead. It is a cheapshit spur-of-the-moment tawdry and empty-headed congeries of societies, here, there, everywhere. It is a universally cheapjack time in which a steadily more ignorant and venal species has become drunk on notoriety and the scent of Paris Hilton’s thong. Science fiction is dead? You just noticed? You come late to the literature party; the hyenas have long since been attracted to the stench of stupidity; text them for me: bon appetit.”

HARLAN ELLISON / 28 August 2009

Now…

Did you know there are over 100,000 readers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror out there? At the same time, in any given year, there are around 100,000 submitters of genre fiction out there.  Worldwide, that is a rough estimate.  I was surprised to learn from one hobbyist publication that during their quarterly reading periods, they receive anywhere from 300 to 500 manuscripts.  And they only pay 25 bucks.  So the next time you get a publishing credit or get shortlisted for a story slot, give yourself a pat on the back, because getting published in genre fiction nowadays is sort of like trying to win the lottery.  Actually, if you live in New York, it’s probably easier to win the Take Five or one of those Loose Change/Bingo scratch-offs.  Or you could just pay-to-play (many esteemed venues such as F&SF are doing it, even though for years such places advised against it).  That’s code for broke.  Still, there are much more writers than there are magazines (it’s sad), and buying something as simple as a sample issue or two can help a magazine stay alive and keep slots – part-time and full-time jobs for those who struggle – open and afloat.  Then you have the whole e-revolution and how prices just went down on X-BOX 360’s, Nintendo Wii’s, and Playstation 3’s.  Now that makes it a whole lot easier to introduce a new generation to geek-a-ture.

Everybody has a story to tell, but not everybody wants to listen.  People are laughing now at devices like the Kindle, the iPhone, the Sony eReader.  I’m thinking way ahead of that, wondering what will replace those devices in twenty years time. 

Amazing Stories

Amazing Stories

Remember the days of Jack Vance, Frederick Pohl, Philip Jose Farmer, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, A.E. Van Vogt, Fritz Lieber, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and yes, guys like Harlan Ellison? Remember the days of Richard Laymon, Robert McCammon, Hugh B. Cave, Charles L. Grant? Remember female authors such as Vonda McIntyre, Connie Willis, Ursula K. Leguin, and Octavia Butler? And yes, there are some notable British names I’m leaving out, that should be included.  Nowadays Stephenie Meyer is the NEW Stephen King, and I still don’t know what to make of Margaret Atwood all these years later.  Eventually I’ll have an answer.  In 2009 we can’t wait to read about vampire Bill Compton sucking on little Sookie Stackhouse’s titties—yesteryear it was Spike humping Buffy—or tuning in to the next great classics: Fringe (yesteryear it was The X-Files).  Everywhere there are zombies, werewolves, boogeymen or things that go bumpity-bump in the night.  And vampires.  From TV to movies to comic books to graphic novels.  Zombies, werewolves, vampire crossovers.  Zombies, werewolves, vampire subgenres.  It’s kind of like the Measles, but without the vaccine. 

Before all the clichés, before all the contrived storylines and slightly more mainstream pieces with beginnings but no middles and ends… before the slice-of-life vignettes which were supposed to relate to us, our inner demons (grrr!), or be politically daring and poetic to our ears and somehow symbolic, but was actually crappy and confusing rather… You had character-driven stories, plot-driven stories, protagonists you cared about, antagonists you cursed beneath your tongue, and most of all, innovative ideas.  Some of those ideas would eventually become what you see before you today.  Some of it yet to make its debut in society.

FACT: 75% of genre writers will die poor, starving, or rely on insubstantial bank funds as their nest egg.  Most don’t want to believe change is happening, or that evolution is impossible, and that it is going to stay that way.  A vast majority already have one foot in the coffin.  Otherwise, older, former editors and writers are about eight to ten years away from being maggot food regardless.

“Ah ha, Mr. Dagstine! But I have a Limited Edition of 500 copies from such-and-such-a-press in hardcover dustjacket.  It’s science fiction literature at its finest!”

No, trust me.  It isn’t… Paging Adam Roberts, paging Adam Roberts…

There are six-billion human beings on the planet Earth; most are from Asia.  There are more books than there are people.  Out of that 500 Limited Edition run from that Small Press, you might sell 250 to 300.  Perhaps more, and those will be to your colleagues.  It’s a race against time to write and get read (if, even after your death, technology has not evolved yet again and you are preferably read).  The other day I stared at a non-fiction check for $400.00 (Dagstine is my nom de plume for horror and scifi).  Then I looked at a micro-press pub and said I must be holding my prick in my hand.  My advice: take any money you make in this profession and fucking run!

 

Maybe Harlan Ellison is right.  Maybe science fiction is dead.  And maybe horror is just one big keg party where you get to check in but you don’t check out.  Maybe fantasy is for the LARP’ers who refuse to abandon ye’ olde dungeon.  Better yet, maybe we should save ourselves the glum silences and troubles of the clinical depressions that await us twenty, thirty years down the road.  What do you think? Should we start filling  those Zoloft prescriptions a little early?

Lawrence R. Dagstine

P.S.: If you still enjoy what you do, naturally, just go with the flow.  Me, I guess I’ll still keep on submitting, keep on trucking.  After all, what else is there? 

Science Fiction News: “Charles N. Brown, R.I.P…”

He was a man among legends.  He was a man born and raised in Brooklyn.  He was a major influence to many, and as someone whose been practicing the Scifi craft a long time, I’d hoped to one day shake hands with him.  He lived a good life, and he brought us LOCUS Magazine.  At least the last thing he did was the one thing he loved most. He got to see his peers at Readercon…

CHARLES N. BROWN R.I.P.

Founder of LOCUS Magazine

LocusNews

 DETAILS BELOW:

 http://www.locusmag.com/News/2009/07/charles-n-brown-1937-2009.html

My condolences go out to his friends, family, coworkers, peers, and those whose lives he changed in this time of grief… Push on…

Lawrence Dagstine: “The Runaway Hack…”

DING-DING-DING! Hello and welcome, good fans.  How are you today? I’m fine, thank you.  Welcome to FREE SHORT STORY DAY!  Today I figured would be a good time to share a nice ditty.  It’s been a while since I’ve put up a work, which I often do around Halloween.  However, I decided to go this time with something a little bit absurd.  A bit of satire, if you will.  With that said, I hope you enjoy.

Alfocus-NationalLibraryWeekIntroduction539

The Runaway Hack

by

Lawrence R. Dagstine

He was moving into it all again.  It might be a few hours or a full day developing, but the mood rose in him, like compressed air in a tank.  It was a pressure that must move toward an exit.  He looked about.  He looked at the big picture: friends and peers mostly, a few fans and admirers, well-wishers who were wannabes themselves, perhaps a few enemies, and for the rest all wordsmiths.

Wordsmiths were kind of like fucksmiths.  Each had their own prominent place in this highly developed society.  Both fucked things up when the need arise.  The only difference was that the fucksmith was twofold: to have fun and to produce the works that will eventually not earn out.  They will, in turn, each have one other function: to leave the field in a little worse shape than it was or at least aspire to.  That is the history or function of each new generation: fuck it up a little bit more for the next.  Actually, wordsmiths could bleed on paper and still be criticized about the amount they donated.  In the end, they often begged for a rejection letter or a quick, painless death.

I’ve got that bit settled, Jermaine thought.

Much of his life he was looking for a kind of salvation called obscurity, which probably explained why he was always on the run from his profession.  He tended toward a gruesome and descending philosophy when he was moving into despondence.  Actually, when he wasn’t writing short stories, despondency was a chronic part of his nature.  One of the main objects of his days was to keep the subject matter of his stories concealed, for it was the very opposite of the way the world viewed him.  Off the page, audiences figured that he hadn’t a care in the world, and never did and never would have, that he lived for sensationalism alone.  He even told himself the same thing, that he had a great gift for words.  He wanted to live out of a fairy tale where, as someone had put it, there was indescribable bullshit eternally prolonged.  He said it, he tried for it.  He even sold it.  But underneath there were the ideas.  Often this showed on the page; it came out on his face, however, in a sudden set of despair.  Or, he’d fall silent a while and have nothing to say.  And the ideas drifted away from him then, fearing to cross him in all its syntactic glory.

Perhaps that was why he was looking for escape.  Perhaps that was why he was groping his way toward Something Else (and yes, with a capital S and a capital E).  Or maybe it was the repetitions of it that made it unbearable.  To be at a convention or on a panel or at a writing function, with its outer sign of sheer bragging, ostensibly even to the life of the party, and yet inside to be saying to himself that he wished he weren’t there—at all.  Not even alive.

He was alone.  For a washed-up hack, the worst kind of aloneness in the world.  It was a feeling he experienced more and more often, of late, at these special events.  People all about were close-joined, seemingly delighted, and all was well with them.  Then he would find himself on either side, but none opposite.  Renowned as he was in smaller circles, he’d be sitting there by himself, the world moving about him, and he presumably along for the ride.  The voyeuristic kind.

Here was a legion of the destined and doomed.  He spent most of his time at the bar, watching them.  Taking a sip of his brew, he stared up at a sign.  STARCON 34 in moon-streaming colors.  They should have called it NOBODY-CON.  Some would go on to become editors or work for literary agencies.  Some would start indie presses or become poster children for RPG handbooks.  Others would die horrible deaths: being unknown.  But was that such a terrible thing? He saw one poor sap at the door of the dealer’s room wearing Vulcan ears and selling some silly never-before-done novel about space stations that could create suns with smiley faces.  The ridiculous blurbs on the back went as far as to say that the book would put a smile on your face, too.

Each convention it had been like this, sellers pacing back and forth, hours of windmilling about the dealer’s area of some hall or hotel before they could get to work or the customers would arrive to spend their hard-earned dough and pick up their usual merch.  A Star Wars book here, a Limited Edition novella there.  How the devil, Jermaine wondered, could a man in a Predator outfit have such a fat wallet and so many needs and appetites? What kind of an outfit was it that drew things into it like some absorbing tentacled underwear plant? Whatever reason, that was why the writers and dealers were here, to sell books and get insights into this strange being, in whom the rest of the public was so interested.

The man was trying to lure Jermaine further inside, to the point that he’d even give away his whole collection of Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew if he purchased just one book.  It was depressing.  Jermaine wanted to smack some sense into him.  The hotel lobby was filled with about four hundred people: fanboys with lightsabers and battleaxes and sonic screwdrivers, English fangirls in Japanese schoolgirl clothing, age-old scream queens in cheap corsets with terrible boob jobs and God knows how many facelifts, and another poor sap who had starred in one of the Saw pictures.  There had been so many, Jermaine not only forgot the actor’s name but forgot which one.

Then, of course, there were the writers…  Some retired, some semi-retired (which still meant retired).  There were the Grandmasters, and in-between panels, they had to take their Geritol.  There were the editors from the Age of the Flood, and they recounted tales of American Letters that had most people scratching their heads and thinking this all intoxicated drivel.  One man in a King Arthur’s outfit drank from a chalice and read from “The Death of the Old Guard.”  Industry heads disappeared upstairs to hotel rooms for hours.  When they finally returned to the lobby, they said, “That felt great! I’ll see you next convention!”

There were also the newbies.  Some weren’t published, some had a polished hand.  They had set out once with their aspirations and their energies, like young untried actors in Hollywood, and they had a story to tell, and now here they were pitching it.  Out of the two hundred or so of these fools who attended semi-regularly, only a dozen or so would go on to be anything.  Now they were spending airfare and hotel fare to tell the ‘Holier Than Thou’ communities that they’ve constructed worlds, that they’ve created unforgettable characters, that they’ve got the ultimate trilogy! And now they were flaunting it, at agents, at publishers, who smiled and nodded respectfully: “Sounds terribly interesting.  Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

And then, Jermaine knew their secret, he knew what the whole attendance of the convention was doing that day.  It was like a giant black hole swallowing everything up into a pile of computer-generated debris.  At some point he stood stock-still and asked himself, “What the hell am I doing here?” He was doing what a few others were doing: standing or sitting apart thinking.  Perhaps he was not alone after all. “I’m thinking while these other boobs are imagining that they’ve got a future or they’re having a good time.  The only difference is I’m trying to make some sense of it.”

A significant silence followed.

Jermaine no longer asked himself what he was doing there.  He frankly didn’t know, and he didn’t care anymore either.  He swallowed his drink in one gulp.  As a poor writer traveling from place to place, from editor to editor, from small publication to small publication, he discovered the world was seen from billions of varying vantage points.  Or disadvantage points, depending upon each person and what they believed.  His moment of failure just happened to come when he halted to ask himself what he was doing walking the floors of a particular convention.

He understood that writers were a sea at sea.  This convention was a wave on the surface, and only the best of the best—thinkers, wordsmiths, folks with MFAs and top degrees—or those with the right connections managed to get down under a few feet.  He tried to go under from time to time, but he didn’t see or feel much.  More often than not he found himself drowning.  He watched them at their work, for they were working at being productive and making money.  Most were actually having a good time, and that might be sufficient, for they were toiling for the maws of a great beast called legacy.

He sought the opposite now.

Jermaine was suddenly alone at the bar, lost in his reflections.  Those who had gathered about, talking with him, all at once received no answers. “I am just a mere hack,” he said, looking away shamefully, “you don’t want to know me.” After that, they sensed that the poor fellow was in deep thought, and they moved away.

Then a writer-editor he’d talked to on occasion approached. “So which is it this time?” he asked. “Science fiction, fantasy, horror, or that paranormal romance junk?”

Still looking down, Jermaine said, “I dabble.”

The writer-editor felt sorry for him. “What’s really bothering you, Jermaine?”

“Do I look distressed?”

“I’d say so.”

“I am.  I have the feeling the gift is leaving me, the inspiration and gusto just dwindling away.” He smiled, knowing that such a verbal crime would provoke other writer-editors into a fury. “The thing is I kind of like the idea.”

“I don’t get it.  Why, because of deadlines or you’re under strain?”

“Heh! What deadlines?” Jermaine laughed. “When I was a kid genre magazines used to do a lot for me.  I’d buy handfuls of them.  The moment a new issue hit the stands, I was there.  I bought them so often that the act of reading short stories had some kind of impact on me.  It comes back to me from time to time, of its own volition, when I’ve got writer’s block or I’m diddling my own asshole for a forty-dollar check.  Sometimes, late at night I tell myself I don’t want to be famous and I put the computer away.  Sometimes there’s no reason for this at all.  That I can understand.  Go figure.”

“Interesting.”

“That’s not the only thing,” he continued. “I thought it easy and satisfying work, for one thing.  Lately I’ve got a feeling of monotony out of it.  When my fingers grow tired of typing, I am seized with a great discomfort.  I want to hurry outside and do other much livelier things.  When the job is finished and the words THE END stamped, it often seems to me that my hands are still held out though.  I could still feel the puppeteer looking down at me, face contorted and strings being pulled.”

“All writers get those urges from time to time, Jermaine.  We call it the Need, or the Fix.  There are many names, but no faces.  We finish one story, we tackle the next.”

“Well, I’ve refused to go through it again! I’ve had a bitter argument with my conscience, and I’ve seen the light.  Years and years of putting myself through this.  At critical moments, the re-reflection of this pseudo-literary image of myself, typing out a manuscript, watching yet another zombie or vampire story unfold before my eyes.  Sooner or later, the depression comes back.  I saw myself staring at the genre as its prostrate enlarged.  I saw my fingers curving, away from the keyboard over and around to the back door.  And as I prepared to open it, I always felt the heaviness.”

“What’s the point?”

“The point is that the same heaviness is over me now, a fatigue with the critical process.  As if the last yarn is spun.  The artform comes back to me every now and then, but it is blurred, hasty, and it’s a jarring impression.” Jermaine hesitated, then: “With time I have begun to understand what each piece of the story, from page to page, means in my own life.  It has become a twist from fear to stress, fear to stress, round and round.  After each story I write, sometimes before the story, the prostrate gets bigger and the puppeteer laughs harder.  Now I have the same feeling of monotony and pointlessness that pressed on me before the writing is done.”

“It’s an unpleasant image,” the writer-editor remarked with a consoling nod.

“It’s the key to me, my good man, it’s the key!”

“Perhaps.”

“The genre is getting very big now.”

Bloated would be a better word, but when you’ve worked in this business for as long as I have, what can you do?” The writer-editor reflected for a moment. “You know, now that I think about it, I don’t really know anything else either.”

They drank for a time.  They were silent as they knocked down rounds.  They were thoughtful.  Then the writer-editor asked, “What I can’t understand is why you keep working and seem so anxious to get to work.  I should think you’d be a little weary of the grind.  Puppeteers and prostrates aside, do you know why you’re still writing?”

Jermaine gave him a look that concealed what he really thought.  He thought, Real writers are not smart.  Real writers are so goddamned blind and ignorant, it’s a fucking blessing.  But he said, “It’s weird.  I have to write.  If I didn’t write it would all end at once.  Writing is the root of a tree, and if you take away the root the thing on top will fall over.  I’d fall over.  So I write because I write.  Whether I need the money or not.  There is a thing we hacks call Keeping Afloat (and yes, with a capital K and a capital A).  And you do it.  You keep afloat.  I keep afloat with the short stories; the short form is a bladder that holds me up.  Maybe the only time I feel alive and dead is when I write.”

Some of it was true.  The writing ruddered Jermaine, kept him afloat in the sea which shook more and more heavily these days.  Writing was the stabilizer.  He knew it, and like a twenty dollar a day drug addiction, he even escaped from himself when he wrote.  But how long could he keep on at it.  It was not salvation.  And that was what he sought.

“So where do you go from here?” the writer-editor asked. “What now?”

“Peace of mind,” Jermaine answered.

“Ahh, now that’s impossible in this game.  You and I both know that.”

“I don’t think so.  I’ve been yearning for obscurity for quite some time now.”

“But what for?” The writer-editor was confused. “After your death you have the chance to be anthologized.”

“No, I don’t.”

“But your fiction will be archived.”

“No, it won’t.”

“But your work exists, and therefore it is.”

“No, it isn’t.”

The writer-editor was astonished. “Don’t let the Literary Police find out.”

“I could give a damn about Grammar Nazis!” Jermaine shouted.

The whole bar turned around; one Grandmaster spit up his drink.

“Sorry.” Jermaine began again. “I need to walk away from these writing organizations a new man.  I need to turn my back on the politics and step down from these panels once and for all.”

“But how?”

“Through fiction, how else?” He snapped his fingers as if it were that easy. “Fiction got me into this mess, and it’ll get me out.”

“You must be some storyteller then.  You know what’ll happen afterwards, don’t you?”

“Yes, I am fully aware of the consequences.”

The writer-editor shook his head worriedly. “Is this so-called salvation— Let me rephrase that, is this permanent anonymity really worth that much to you?”

“Where sanity is concerned, yes.  It could also mean new growth!”

“But you yourself even said that if you didn’t write the thing on top of the tree would come plunging down!”

“And the moment I leave this convention, my good friend, I snap my fingers and reverse the polarity of my thoughts.  Hopefully, it changes for the better.  If it doesn’t, at least I tried.”

The writer-editor felt overly sentimental.  He shook Jermaine’s hand and patted him on the back. “I wish you good luck in your new life.  I only wish I had the balls to join you.  But I’ve been in this field for over two decades.  I don’t have anything else.  I just have my words.  Flinging myself into obscurity for some kind of deliverance would be too much of a risk on my well being.” He smiled. “I guess I lack the courage of a hack.  At least let me buy you one for the road.”

Jermaine accepted.

When he finished the drink, the author said his goodbyes and headed for the hotel’s automatic sliding doors.  He closed his eyes and inhaled a deep breath.  He looked behind him very briefly… at the boys and girls wielding lightsabers and sonic screwdrivers… at the jolly attendees dressed in Vulcan ears and Viking’s armor… at the Grandmasters and Industry heads immersed in their readings.

Outside he whistled for a cab.  A taxi pulled up directly in front of the building.  He hopped inside.  The cabbie grinned at Jermaine’s reflection in the mirror. “You look like a Jedi Knight in that blanket.  A regular Obi Wan Kenobi.”

“I’ll give you an extra five bucks not to make any comments.”

The cabbie reset the meter. “So where to, old man?”

“Someplace far away.”

The taxi didn’t move. “Where exactly? You’re the author of this tale.”

Jermaine stared out the passenger side window and into the hotel lobby.  All the big writers danced outside the convention hall: wonder and uncertainty, progress and decline.  The bewitcheries of status, ambition, success and poverty rose from their voices.  The goods and evils of the human competition, the demonology of lives spent, misspent, the mystique of literature’s disorder and hope.  Fear of the new, dread of the old.  They were like witches celebrating a Sabbath of chopped-up modern catechisms.

Finally the hack turned around.  He was beaming, his big handsome smile, the one that had won the hearts of amateurs everywhere. “A place called obscurity.  Now step on it.”

The End

Withersin Magazine, Issue 3.3… (coming soon!)

You can find an article of mine in an upcoming winter edition of Withersin Magazine.  Issue No. 3.3, published tri-annually.  Available in various Borders and B&N stores in the literary journal or fiction magazine section.  You can pre-order your copy from the direct link below.  This would be the Arsenic edition.  Withersin is also known for their award-winning art.

Edited to Add: This is a pre-order for January 2010.  

WITHERSIN MAGAZINE – Issue 3.3

PRE-ORDER BELOW (direct link):

http://www.withersin.com/withersin_arsenic.htm

HOMEPAGE (subscribe):

www.withersin.com

Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Dark Art by: Aaron Legler, Kurt Kirchmeier, Kevin Shamel, KCT Webber, M. Awren Grey and K. Sumek, Tom Hamilton, Lawrence Dagstine, Larry Roberts.  Cover by Caroline O’ Neal, other artwork by Doug Draper, B.A. Bosaiya, and Nick Rose.   Edited by Misty Gersley.

Once again, you can PRE-ORDER this now.  It officially hits January 2010.

Other New Entries: “Magazines”

Midnight Times, Summer 2009… (coming soon!)

I’ll be coming with my 3rd appearance to one of the longest-running horror webzines out there, Midnight Times.  In the meantime, check out their free archive.  The current story will take place in July 2009 in what I believe to be a special “zombie-themed” edition.  

MIDNIGHT TIMES – SUMMER 2009

midnight times

CLICK HERE: www.midnighttimes.com

I must confess… with the upcoming signings and reviews, book fairs, bookings and new opportunities which have recently been tossed in my lap, I have not had the time to update this webpage as much as I’d like.  I must also confess I’m now behind by roughly twenty blog entries and twenty fiction pieces which, due to having a personal life besides writing, I will not entirely catch up to anytime soon.  So if you see the blog entries few and far in-between, that’s a good sign.  In the meantime, let’s embrace the digital era (take note of the new eBooks & Kindle link above – things are coming).

Other New Entries: “Magazines”