Tales of the Talisman, Issue # 9.1… (appearances)

A little late at the presses, but I bring a new story to the Summer-Fall 2013 issue of David Lee Summer’s genre periodical, Tales of the Talisman.  This would be my 6th appearance between its pages, and this time I weave a historical fantasy tale involving witches.  Witches seem to be very popular as of late.  With The Witching Hour and American Horror Story Coven opening to record numbers, the dark practitioners are far from overused.  My yarn leans more toward Hogwarts though, so Harry Potter fans will surely relish in this slightly different approach.  Read my 5,000-worder: She Left Home Under a Cloud of Dragonflies, now.  Click pictures or links for direct order; line-up also below.

TALES OF THE TALISMAN #9.1

Summer-Fall 2013 Issue

TalesoftheTalisman9.1

ORDER NEW ISSUE AND OLD HERE:

http://www.talesofthetalisman.com

Issue 9.1 featuring fiction by: Christian Martin, Simon Bleakan, Glynn Barrass, Uncle River, Davyne DaSae, C.J. Henderson, Frances Silversmith, Derek Muk, David B. Riley, Jeff Stehman, Hunter Liguore, Melinda Moore, Mira Domsky, and Lawrence Dagstine.  Also, poetry and illos by G.O. Clark and Marge Simon.  And much, much more.

*

Last Issue (Steampunk Edition)

with Dagstine Stories:

TalesoftheTalisman8.4

Happy Halloween 2013

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Free Ebooks: “Family Reunion” by Lawrence Dagstine – Aug. to Sept. 2013 ONLY!

Autumn is almost here! And September is suspense month! If you like taut thrillers in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock and Mary Higgins Clark, then for the next 40 days you might like my family dynamic-inspired novella, Family Reunion.  But only from August 20th thru September 30th (up till midnight), and only through Smashwords (Mobi, Epub, etc.).  After that, Family Reunion goes back up to the already low price of $1.99.  Own a Kindle or a Nook? Just enter the following coupon code at Smashwords.com: BS62W …And meet “Howard” for free, the man who would KILL to be a husband and father, and for forty days and forty nights.  Most of all, happy reading.

FAMILY REUNION

A Family-Based Suspense Thriller 

FREE for Aug/Sept. 2013, FREE thru Smashwords

FamilyReunionKindle

SMASHWORDS COUPON CODE: BS62W

Smashwords_Tall75

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.

Other Ebooks Available:

Lawrence Dagstine on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Kobo, Smashwords, and the Apple iTunes Store:

Amazon      Nook      Kobo      Smashwords      Apple

http://www.amazon.com/author/lawrencedagstine

Tales of the Talisman, Issue #8.4… (appearances)

You can find a brand new Steampunk story of mine in the latest issue of Tales of the Talisman.  This would be my 5th appearance with David Lee Summer’s long-running genre periodical (formerly Hadrosaur Tales in the 90s).  This particular edition, Volume 8, No. 4, is a “themed” issue.  It’s all about Steampunk.  All about airships, cogs and wheels, receptor rays and bubble guns, star liners and Victorian garb, and more.  Table of contents below, along with a link for ordering.  It should also be available for Kindle.  Get your copy today.

TALES OF THE TALISMAN #8.4

SPECIAL ‘STEAMPUNK’ EDITION

TalesoftheTalisman_8.4_demo

ORDER YOUR COPY NOW:

http://www.talesofthetalisman.com

With steamy good fiction and poetry by: O.M. Grey, Christine Morgan, Tom Lynch, Denise Dumars, James Webster, Jason Andrew, Neil Weston, Douglas Empringham, N. E. Taylor, Simon Perchik, Mike Wilson, Livia Finucci, Clinton A. Harris, Patrick Thomas, David S. Pointer, W.C. Roberts, Gary Every, Lyn McConchie, Neil E. Leckman, David Lee Summers & Karissa Sluss (book reviews), and Lawrence Dagstine.

Previous Issues w. Lawrence Dagstine (click banner):

tales_banner

And so this marks my 4th magazine appearance in a month.  I won’t have any more till year’s end, so I hope everybody enjoys their summer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drop by.  There will be free fiction (see Free Stories), free ebooks (short stories or novelettes), a new section on retro items, and more on the current book projects I’m working on, which will eventually lead us into 2014.  You stick around; it’s going to be fun, you hear.

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Free Ebooks: “The Paraplegic” by Lawrence Dagstine – May/June 2013

Memorial Day weekend through June 30th 2013 is FREE vampire month.  As promised earlier this year on Facebook and Twitter, I am celebrating summer and vampires by making my novelette, THE PARAPLEGIC free to download.  Just go to Smashwords and enter coupon code: GW38Q

At checkout you will obtain it at NO CHARGE.  But ONLY for late May up until June 30th at midnight, 2013.  July 1st it goes back to 99 cents.  Simply click the picture or button at the bottom and be redirected.  Also, check out my other titles in the ebooks & Kindle section of my website or while you’re perusing Smashwords.

FREE EBOOKS

FREE VAMPIRE FICTION

MAY/JUNE 2013 ONLY

TheParaplegic-Amazon

ONLY ON SMASHWORDS

COUPON CODE: GW38Q

“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.

Smashwords_Tall75

Cemetery Moon, Issue #9 2013… (appearances)

I have a gothic horror story appearing in the 2013 issue, No. 9, of Fortress Publishing’s Cemetery Moon.  Nice looking Cthulhu cover art, perfect for this particular edition.  I guess it’s themed.  Features short fiction by Me, AJ Huffman, Gerald E. Sheagren, Brian Barnett, Larry Hinkle, Dr. Bill deArmond, Allen Koop, Donald C. White, William Andre Sanders, and William Amundsen.  If you’d like to order it, just click on the link or pic below.  Only available in print; they really should put out a digital version to this.

CEMETERY MOON #9

2013 Issue

CemeteryMoon-dagstine

Or click here for previous issues:

http://www.fortresspublishinginc.com/index_files/cm.html

Cemetery moonfirst issue

I had remembered appearing in this particular digest a long time ago, but I couldn’t place when.  Then I remembered, I was in the premiere issue with authors Kristine Ong Muslim, Kenneth Goldman, and Barry J. House.  Now that publishing is collapsing, with mass publications relying heavily on publicity expenditures and print magazines in the final stages of extinction, I’m going to miss these little pulps from yesteryear.  One could step back in time and relive the days of when authors like Ray Bradbury, Fritz Lieber, John Campbell and A.E. Van Vogt were just starting out.   I must confess, I’m going to miss it; oddly enough, another part of me isn’t.

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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”

Free SF Serial: “Orphan’s Prey pt. 4” by Lawrence Dagstine

*Science Fiction Serial – New Installment – First Draft*

ORPHAN’S PREY #4

Last Time (part #3): https://lawrencedagstine.com/2010/09/02/free-sf-serial-orphans-prey-pt-3-lawrence-dagstine/

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.

 ORPHAN’S PREY #4

by

Lawrence R. Dagstine

Blake discovered that there is a point beyond which another blow to the spirit is almost meaningless because it cannot be felt.  Helping his sister cope with the jaw-dropping size of the storm—though the gravity of its suddenness was what was most startling—no shelter from the wind-driven onslaught in sight, and instilling a renewed sense of faith and meaning in the importance of survival, the boy led the way through the wastes as any adult leader would.  This was not the same frightened little cherub from two days earlier.  This was not the same eavesdropping eight-year-old who cowered only in the safest corner of an overturned transport, as shadow monsters with an insatiable taste for fluid waited for their next meal.  No, this was a child who finally came to the realization that, in this unnatural environment, the odds were stacked greatly against him.  He had no choice but to push on, even if it meant dragging those he loved dearly along with him; his sister obviously loaned him some of that inspiration and courage in order for this sparkling change to take place.

The fast-approaching clouds, with their thunderbolts and swirling snows pulverizing the landscape, looked like an entity unto itself.  During the late night scramble, above the four-thousand-foot high stretches of sand and rock, the children progressed hurriedly through a dark expanse of steep ridges and intertwining cliffs, upward rather than down across the valley floors.  Blake assured his sister that the higher you were, the safer it was.  So Chandler had told him.  Long after the bluffs were in complete shadows, Chelsea had watched the rapidly changing weather with a solemn look on her face.  One minute it was one season, the next it was entirely the opposite.  It went from hot to cold and cold to hot, to just plain damp and icy again.  It was uncanny, especially at this height.

“Fog thickens and encircles the thunderheads first,” Blake pointed out from atop a thin ledge.  They both stopped for a quick breather. “Or maybe the other way around.  Sorry, sis.  I’m kinda tired now.” He nodded toward the sky. “Streamers.”

“Streamers?” The girl was confused.

“Yup.  See them?”

“I suppose,” Chelsea said, though she still didn’t know what he was talking about.  Practically gasping for air, she’d run so far and fast that she could barely concentrate on the present moment.  Fearful of the climate, and being lost on account of her brother, she also felt displaced. “What about it?”

“Think of them as a main storm body within another storm body.”

“Then they should be carrying warning features.”

“Maybe.  Chandler wouldn’t have thought so,” the boy admitted. “Oh, and see those big dark masses over there?” His finger was outstretched and pointing. “They’re the real soldiers, carrying the big muscle, all the moisture and all the winds.  If they want to, they can regroup, break out the lightning and hail, and really kick ass”—he paused, shaking his head gently in awe—“and with more power,” he went on, “than you can believe possible.  More energy released, too!”

Chelsea nodded. “I see.”

“Moisture inside the fog cloud condenses with the help of little specks of mud and dust,” the boy added, “and as it rises in an updraft it turns to ice.  Then maybe it comes down, builds up more moisture, and goes up again, swirling around and forming more ice.  Up and down, back and forth, growing and getting harder all the time.  That’s how you get hailstones the size of pterodactyl eggs.”

Chelsea was smiling lightly. “I told you, bro.  Pterodactyls are extinct.”

“Oh, well, the hail’s still big.”

“I bet.” Outside, the girl continued listening quietly, her eyes on the distant horizon; inside, she was growing impatient. “Chandler taught you this?”

“Yep, he sure did.  And those big ol’ fog clouds aren’t static either.  Somewhere inside they boil and churn.  Like you said, enormous magnetic forces are at work”—he paused again, this time to show off his necklace as it slowly drifted away from the collar of his shirt by some invisible force—“updrafts, downdrafts, sudden cooling, sudden warming, generating enough electricity to light a whole solar city for a few nights.  Come on, look at the rope around my neck, sis.  You know there’s some evil at work here.” He tucked the chain back in; the way he’d explained it sounded like it was a good thing.

Chelsea snapped. “Did it ever occur to you that actually looking for a place to hide in the rock face might be an option, rather than a weather report?”

“Huh?” Now it was Blake who was confused.

“You really want to know what’s happening out there, little brother?”

“Hey, how come—”

“No, let me finish!” The girl was fuming. “Because this place isn’t cool one bit, and that’s what you’re making it out to be.  Neither is it rad or awesome.  I know your ego is fragile, Blake, but every so often you need to be kicked in the noggin.  Repeat after me: IT’S OKAY TO BE SCARED!!” There was a stunning silence as they just stood there, long and heavy raindrops sopping their clothes. “Mom and Dad aren’t here.  The Keeper isn’t here.  The Vendragon are a no-show.  The planet itself is unpredictable.  Chandler is dead.  Even the friggin’ information bank on my wrist got wet; damn thing is on the fritz!” She smacked the top of it. “All you can do is talk about how amazing and deadly the climate is? Seriously, I don’t think it gets any more selfish and immature than that!”

After five long days, Blake’s shyness suddenly reappeared.  For a brief minute his thoughts went back to the time spent aboard the Juniper, then his body loosened and he reached around to rub the back of his neck.  He walked up to the top of the ledge, watching the storm-crazed heavens; he was in such a trance he would have probably walked straight off it, so long as he didn’t have to be around his sister.  The moons of Ragnarok were much farther now, and the night continued closing in.  The mix of rain and snow got harder.  The air got colder.  The lower parts of the land became darker.  New stars appeared in the clear sections of sky but eventually those patches, too, were blotted out as the clouds merged and continued their relentless advance.

Some of the showers and hail that evening were mere dustings which held on the chilled ground and rocky ledges.  In other high places the winds dropped as much as five or six inches which, here and there, accumulated in small drifts.  He could only imagine the shape of the marshlands, the lower valleys, and the much flatter plains.

Finally the girl swallowed her awful tongue and approached him. “Hey, listen, I’m… I’m sorry, kiddo.” She suddenly felt terrible for the way she acted. “Being lost like this would pretty much drive any girl stir-crazy,” she carried on in a low but silly voice. “The weather doesn’t help any either.”

The boy did not say anything.

“Come on, Blake.  You know how much I worry about you.  What if this storm caused us to get separated? What if you got terribly ill? What if—”

“Stop!” Blake narrowed his eyes in hurt, but did not turn around. “Why’d you mention Mom and Dad?”

“Huh? Oh, that… It was spur of the moment.  You know, a passing reference?”

“So that gives you the right to preach?”

“I was scared,” Chelsea admitted. “My nerves got the better of me.  I’m soaked to the bone, I’m numb with cold, and I thought you were fooling around.  It felt like it wasn’t the right time for bullshit.”

The boy went silent again.

“Blake, please!”

He crossed his arms and ignored her.  Now his thoughts went back to another time and place, even long before the freighter.  Mother.  Father.  Other family.  He was so young; it was all so hazy.  But there were some memories.  Vague instances that were not really detailed, but they were better than no memories at all.  And there they were again, playing itself out amidst the hard driving rain like some mental hologram.

Blake’s parents had been wannabe out-colonists from the start.  They were like any other family of their generation, saving up their earnings while looking toward the future—in their time, to look ahead was the only way to think—often waiting with prolonged anticipation to see what a new planet in a new solar system would bring.  Jeremiah Prittengayle, a business savvy engineer by trade, dealt in matter transference and rockets.  He believed that the urge to visit the world of your choice, or what could eventually become the fruits of your new origins, was buried deep in every human’s heart.  To communicate with alien races, to explore and inhabit lands many light years away was something to be appreciated.  It was an escape from orthodox living and remedial technology in a Great World Society; some called the lifestyle homogenous.  But, being by nature a self-contained man, he had never asked how other family members felt about it—most of Blake’s aunts and uncles lived in the same block as him—nor would he have cared what their answers might be.

As too perfect as it might have been, and for as little time as he experienced it, Blake wanted to be back in that society now.  Anything was better than Ragnarok.  Perhaps that’s why he talked about the weather so much.  To take his mind off things like Earth, Mom and Dad, Aunt Rachel, Grace and Steven, Grandpa Jack and his funny metal leg, apple pie and real friends, other kid’s laughter.  He remembered his father most from his shaving emulsion, which gave off a peculiar but interesting scent.  His superficial-in-a-good-way attitude second.

He suddenly wept.  But it was a good weeping.

There had always been insight into his family: his great-grandfather’s journals which, unfortunately, he had left behind on the Juniper.  He wondered if the diaries were still there, tucked between the metal frame and mattress of his bunk, or if some other youngster had come along and found it.  Would the new child have thrown it away? If he lay down to read it, what would he have thought afterwards?

Of his mother, Courtney Prittengayle, he remembered her soothing voice and the way she embraced him.  She gave the best hugs.  The soft teddy bear kind.  Both she and Rachel had been the daughters of a once-famous geologist.  Though the man had died well before his birth, Blake recognized who he and Chelsea inherited their instinct and desire to adapt from, and when and how to use it.

He remembered being a toddler in the backseat of her father’s ship, vacationing one year in the icy plains of Europa.  He must have been about two-and-a-half.  Chelsea was probably about his age now.  His mother had skills as a navigator and pilot; so did Rachel.  Looking back, she flew the sleek white craft with precision, something he was sure that, as an adoring mother, she did many things.  She’d glance over her shoulder and smile at him, and he’d laugh back.  That feeling of events gaining the upper hand was always with her, but she knew when to push it aside, settle down, and study her surroundings.

“Honey, look, a wilderness!” She pointed downward.

Blake’s father peered out from his side. “Oh yeah, look at that.  Real trees.  They must be rooted somewhere in the ice.” He turned around to face the children. “Look kids, a forest on Europa.  Isn’t it breathtaking? Maybe one day when you grow up both of you will visit a sphere just like this.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even live on one.  Wouldn’t that be exciting?”

The boy nodded cheerfully at the time.

Chelsea was awestruck.  She had opened her eyes as wide as possible, then stuck her forehead and freckled nose against the special glass. “Awesome! Do you see that, little brother?” She tugged his shirt to the point of wrinkles. “Do you see the sculptures and waterfalls? It’s beautiful!”

“Wowww!” The boy sat up on his knees, amazed, then giggled. “Beautiful!”

“Baby, sit down and put your belt back on,” his mother ordered.

“Yes, Mommy.”

“Come now.  You too, Chelsea.”

Blake had lifted his head as far as his neck would stretch.  He just managed the tip of his mother’s shoulder; he never quite understood what went on in the front seat.  He had seen a visual system come down with elaborate keys.  Some were heat-operated, others you just had to blink commands.  They were topographical maps, as Chelsea had told him, and even his father had a virtual one open on his lap.  The contours crowded close on the atlas like holographic shapes and symbols.  It indicated oceanic rifts and icy basins, steep mountainous slopes or sheer cliffs; but the reality of their exploration were the rock faces dropping into darkness, bottomless canyons into which the sun would penetrate only for short hours or even minutes a day, rocky slopes too steep for a human to stand on.  Like Ragnarok, these seemed features of another world; they were features of another world.  In north-facing crevices and hollows, the last Jupiter year’s freeze-over held.

“Looks like we won’t be able to bring her down there,” his mother said.

“Should we take her back to the rough country?”

“We may have to, dear.”

“Mommy,” Blake muttered.

“Oh, almost forgot, darling.  Oxygen.” His mother handed his father a special mask. “You too, Chelsea.  And give your brother one.” She already wore her own, and her voice was muffled. “The atmosphere is dense in this area.  We’ll be up about twenty thousand, and the deep pockets can sneak up on you.”

“Mommy,” Blake repeated. “I have to pee.”

The boy had eventually put on the mask without another word.

From this height, any basins or frozen lakes they passed looked small indeed, toy representations of the real thing; a child’s model platform suddenly came to mind.  There was the wintry stream that was supposed to feed the lake, and there were its countless tributaries and dry ice cracks, some gleaming faintly with heat-generated water, some flowing now but easy enough to pick out from the way they extended across the landscape like branches from a tree.

Where they were now, thousands of feet above the highest ranges, the view was breathtaking.  More sheer slopes and more steep cliffs, some snow-blanketed, others mostly ice-covered, with indentations stretching to the poles as far as visibility went.  It was through this unknown, tangled mass of blue and white, Blake thought, that his parents and others like them had found their lonely way.

His father tapped his mother on the shoulder. “Look, Courtney, there’s the air tower.  The hotels and shops must be just beneath it.” He turned slightly and hollered, “Hey guys, keep your masks on.  We’re almost there.”

From the distance, much of it looked like a metallic ski resort. “This is so cool,” Chelsea said.

“Honey, you think checking in early will be a problem?”

“Nah, shouldn’t be,” the man said. “We can always come back.”

Beside him, the woman seemed to be waiting for some kind of signal. “Maintain this altitude, but swing back over the basin again,” she said, throwing some control switches.  At once the horizon shifted as they began a wavering turn.

As the wind currents moved slowly beneath them, Blake caught the gleam of standing water near the top of a high canyon.  They were coming over the tower now, and although the boy had no idea what his parents might be looking for, he searched carefully every slope, every gorge, every steep drop-off.

That was until they collided with an air pocket.

The sudden force ripped through the hull of the craft; invisible, but the power was tremendous.  Chelsea’s mask flew off and, though strapped in tight, reached for her throat and fell into a state of oxygen-deprived unconsciousness.

His father turned around. “Chelsea? Chelsea! Omigod, Courtney.  You have to bring her down now!” He saw the girl’s head tilted to the side.

The boy grabbed the armrests in fear.

“I…I can’t!” his mother cried. “Nothing’s working.  What’s going on?”

“Blake, whatever you do… DON’T MOVE!” The man had shouted it to the boy with the utmost urgency.

“Jeremiah, we’re going down.  Fast!” There was confusion; it was hard to understand anything over the inrush of wind, which came from the rear.

“Blake, listen to me.  Stay still!”

The boy suddenly stopped and shook his head in silence.  He tried to go back and remember some more but saw nothing that could explain the optical illusion he had seen while in the air.  That and the crash.  Was there even a crash? Were his parents even dead? It was so long ago.

Reality had brought him down to that sodden cliff on Ragnarok so fast and so cruel again, he didn’t know what to say.  There was so much he wanted to understand, but he never got around to reconsidering the past.  Upon their return home, Rachel had disappeared from their lives, too.  He was abandoned by other surviving family and, along with his sister, thrust aboard a ship for orphans, forced to just… deal.

Finally he heard someone say DON’T MOVE again, and with the same insistent tone his father had used.  He turned around in the pouring rain and saw his sister at the opposite end of the cliff.  Frightened, she was backed into a corner by a large and terrifying beast.  It had jumped down from a much higher ledge and almost pounced her.  The creature was feline, but it only had one eye.  It looked like some kind of saber-toothed Cyclops cat; Blake didn’t know how else to describe it.  It stood at least eight feet long and four feet wide, very powerful, with a large ivory horn in the top of its head.  From its sides were long and thin tentacles, three to each and six in all, with fine and sharp pincers at the tips.  The animal raised a giant claw and dug it into the ground with force, causing an upheaval of wet snow and mud.  It made its presence felt between the children; it had noticed the girl first but still left about ten feet open for them both.

Blake motioned with his hands from behind and said extra-softly, “Chelsea, don’t move.” He slipped off his satchel and searched for some perma-flares.  When he saw that he wasn’t the one carrying them, he searched for something else.

The girl stared past the animal at him in fright. “Please, hurry,” she indicated quietly and carefully, then went back to trembling in her corner.

The giant cat displayed its massively long fangs and gave off a monstrous roar.  Chelsea put her hands to her ears and held them there.  It roared and slammed the ground again, then proceeded slowly toward her.  The tentacles at its sides began to viciously click and snap.  The colossal eye widened and loomed in on her, while Blake emptied his bags and looked for something—anything he could use as a weapon.

Seconds later he remembered where he had left the crystal-tipped spear with the attached laser cutter.  It was leaning against the rock wall, just within reach.  He slid across the mud-spattered floor and retrieved it, standing and shouting from the far left side now, “Hey you! Yeah you, ya big ol’ pussycat! Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” He tightened his grip around the base of the weapon, as the enormous beast turned its giant pupil and sharp fangs toward him. “Get away from my sister!”

“Blake, you don’t have enough room!” Chelsea shouted once she was clear of the ledge; she had maneuvered about fifteen feet. “Get out of there.  Now!”

“Keep climbin’, sis.  I’ll take care of this mean ol’ cat.  Just go!”

“Blake, don’t be an idiot!”

The animal started backing him up in a corner—it was either that or face it on the thin ledge—and snarled angrily.  The boy made small pokes and jabs at it.  Instinctively, the cat responded by opening its mouth, cringing its long-whiskered face, and taking quick swipes.  Blake was short and slim enough to pull his body back from the razor-sharp talons that were now swinging right to left and left to right.

Moments later the cat took two steps back and stood up on its hind legs.  It roared ferociously and raised an angry paw that overshadowed the child’s face.  Blake stood on the balls of his feet and, using as much leverage as he could muster, dug the now-heated tip of the spear into the underbelly of the animal.  The cat bellowed in pain, then swung its massive frame back and forth until the weapon broke like a twig.  Blake fell backwards to the ground.  The cat’s paw descended with a mighty thud, tearing up earth and hurling fragments of rock aside.  The boy lay watching beneath the rubble, as the salivating animal opened its mouth wide and came in for the kill.

TO BE CONTINUED…