Tag Archives: science fiction

A Voice in the Silence

It’s my honor to welcome D. L. Finn to Entertaining Stories today. She’s here to tell us about her newest publication, and it sounds pretty good to me. Denise is a friend, a Story Empire partner, and a great author. I hope all of you will make her feel welcome, and don’t forget to use those sharing buttons at the end.

***

Thank you for having me here today, Craig, to celebrate the release of A Voice in the Silence.

I’ve never had a pet who wanted a bath. Our dogs thought it was a punishment when I went from water to soap, while the cats would attempt to end all water contact with their front claws and propelling back legs. So, I had fun writing the bath scenes that included animals.

Imagine Drea’s surprise that they seemed to enjoy it, not only the dog Charlie, but the cat Jane, and rat Ben too. You’d either think they were the best-behaved and trained animals ever—or wonder. I know my mind would come up with an unusual scenario or two, but never consider these animal’s truths.

Still having a dog, cat and rat show up just when Drea needed it was an enormous boost for her in the depressed state she was in. She deserved that small moment of peace to bond in everyday chores like bathing these animals before her life, and theirs, unraveled.

Fun Finn Facts

1. Could there be labs trying to create talking animals? If they do and they escape they are welcome at my house.

2. Do our loved ones who have passed on try to communicate with us? I believe so.

Blurb

Drea Burr has experienced more than her share of loss when a stray dog, cat, and rat enter her life. Although the animals start to mend her broken heart, there is something very unusual about them. During a snowstorm, Drea discovers a chilling set of footprints leading to her front window. Both the police and a ghostly messenger warn her about a killer stalking widows. Help comes from her late husband’s best friend, Adam Hale. As the two try to discover answers, more questions arise— about a killer, ghosts, and animals experimented on in a lab.

Can Drea and Adam survive the threats coming from so many directions and save themselves and the animals they’ve grown to love? Or will more tragedy destroy her second chance at happiness? Find out in this thrilling, cozy paranormal adventure.

Excerpt

Drea gasped and sat up on the couch. Her heart was racing like her nightmare of falling off a cliff had been real. Although it was still dark out, dawn was peeking through the veil. She had slept soundly through the night. The familiar crackling of the fire was absent. She shivered in the cold room, wrapped the blanket tightly around her, and took the simple route of turning on the central heat over rekindling the flames. This time of year, she preferred the warmth of a woodstove over forced hot air, but since becoming a widow, she chose where to put her energy.

The animals were curled up on the blue wool hearth rug and hadn’t stirred. A pleasant sensation passed through her— a sense of belonging, or being needed. That inspired her to pull on her snow boots, coat, and gloves and grab her new black fabric wood carrier. She shut the door quietly behind her without letting it latch. The garage door creaked open, exposing her to the winter chill.

The headlamp fit snuggly across her brow. A simple flick of a switch lit her path across the pristine snow to the woodshed. As the narrow beam of light guided her forward, her boots sank into the covered landscape. She quickly filled her carrier with oak and turned to go back into the house when her path crossed another set of footprints.

Her heart raced as she studied the tracks. They were bigger and deeper than the ones she’d made. The square heel left out any possibility of being a forest animal, and the tracks led away from the house into the trees. A quick scan of the area didn’t offer any answers.

She took a deep breath to push her fear away. Next time, she’d bring her gun. How stupid to go outside alone with a killer on the loose.

Charlie’s paw swept the door open, and he sprinted to her side.

She met the dog’s wide-eyed gaze. “Someone’s been here.”

Charlie sniffed the air, nodded, and fell in behind her. His head bumped against her legs, quickening her sluggish pace. Looking to her right, she spotted more footprints—right outside her front window. Time inched forward as goosebumps crawled over her skin.

Finally they were inside the garage. She dumped the load on the concrete floor and raced to the button that would shut the door and offer her protection from the outside world. Charlie stood statue-still next to the closing door, which moved at the speed of a turtle. She sighed in relief when the outer metal door thumped shut and quickly gathered up the wood.

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Author Bio

D. L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 she relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to Nevada City, in the Sierra foothills. She immersed herself in reading all types of books but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations include adult fiction, poetry, a unique autobiography, and children’s books. She continues on her adventure with an open invitation to all readers to join her.

D.L. Finn Links:

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Something new to share

The word metrics aren’t that impressive today. It came across at a little over 1900 words. Let’s face it, those 5000 word days don’t happen very often.

I’m mostly posting to share some new artwork. I’ve threatened to have Sean Harrington prepare some artwork for the Research Sirens for a long time. They seem to show up at the writing cabin frequently, so I’m going to use the group poster today. He actually sent each one individually as well if I ever want to use them.

***

I got to the writing cabin early this morning. Temperatures have gotten into the seventies recently, but at 5:30 it’s still pretty cold. Percy the Space Chimp was asleep on the couch, so I had coffee in the kitchen with Lisa Burton my PA and robot girl.

“People loved the poster of my tagger girl over at John Howell’s place this week,” she said.

“See, I thought it was a poster of Hellpox.”

“Let’s face it. I’m the spokesmodel, and it’s always about me to a degree. Besides, readers love my shining personality.”

“That’s true, you always seem to make more sales than I do on these tours.”

“Good to know with my performance review looming.”

Percy wobbled in still wearing his flight suit. “Are we finally going to work on something today?” He poured himself a steaming cup.

“Yeah, but these are hard sections for me. I have to deal with the fall out from your relationship with Buffer, then set up some character growth for you.”

“That’s all crap. Plop me in a star fighter and let’s blow some shit up. Readers like that.”

“They do, but they also like to see you change over the course of the story. You’re defensive about people’s prejudices toward Space Chimps, but you have your own prejudices as well.”

“That’s what makes me charming. Isn’t it enough that you ratted me and Buffer out? Can’t you leave me something of myself?”

“The goal is to have you become a better person amid all the spying and warfare around you. I’m also about to reveal a cool plot twist involving your favorite comic, Agent Golden Gibbon. I just need to decide how the real world part of that is going to come across, then save some for the second book. The guy’s going to need a name, and a description and I have to look some of that up.” We all headed for the writing office.

I froze at the sight. My office had been invaded by the Research Sirens.

Research Sirens

“You really shouldn’t make a move without digging into your new character a bit.” Libraria dropped her book bag on my desk then parked herself in my lounge chair.

“Ugh! Not these chicks again,” Percy moaned.

Wiki patted the side of her beanbag, wrinkling her nose at him in a kind of smile.

“I don’t think Buffer would approve.” He sat beside her anyway.

Conversia guided me to the couch, then sat uncomfortably close. “What kind of character do you have in mind?”

“I’m thinking he’ll use a pen name for his comic, because he’s kind of a spy. I want that to reflect in the name he uses.”

Wiki typed away at her iPad mini. “Thesaurus indicates something like Supermole would work.”

“I can use that as a place-marker, gives him a bit of personality already. Change it later if something better comes along. Supermole writes this comic, but it gives clues as to terrorist events that haven’t happened yet. Leo figures it all out, which gives him a nice spot to shine.”

“What kind of alien will he be?” Lisa asked

“I thought it might be fun to have him be an actual gibbon. I’ve already sold the idea that Space Chimps exist, so why not?”

The sound of nylon on nylon held everyone’s attention as Libraria crossed her long legs. She dropped a huge book on the table before me. “There is some argument, but there appear to be about twenty species of gibbon alive today. Once you read this, you’ll have a better idea of what you need. Once you finish it, I have another one about the fossil record.”

Conversia leaned in until her Afro tickled my ear. “I still hold there’s great value in oral stories. They give a wonderful flavor to the history of gibbons. We can fly to the South Pacific so you can see wild gibbons, then interview the elders who live there for some of their stories.”

Wiki wrinkled her nose then turned her screen to show me a video. “Gibbons are the fastest arboreal animals in the world. Even faster than some birds as they swing tree to tree.”

“I have to use some of that. It would be kind of an adventure to add a chase scene that doesn’t involve cars. Maybe Percy here could swing after him.”

“Are you crazy, dude? I can’t keep up with that.”

“Keep it in mind. Maybe you can drive him to the Cicis for capture later on. First I need to decide how much of a role to give him.”

“I think he would be one of the good guys. Leo and I love Agent Golden Gibbon, and it would be fun to meet the creator.”

“All good ideas.” Conversia wrapped her toned arm around my shoulder. Her perfect manicure tapping over my heart. “I figure no more than six months in the jungle and you’ll have all the gibbon knowledge you need. I can use my recorder for the stories, then you can have Lisa make transcripts once we return home.”

“Look, girls. I appreciate the zest, but I only write fiction. I have to live in the real world, and they’re going to miss me at work if I leave for six months. I have to make some of this up as I go. Besides, Old What’s Her Face wouldn’t like me spending six months in a grass hut with three Sirens and a robot girl.”

“We’re harmless, mostly.” Conversia pressed her bosom into my side.

“You should still ground the story in reality,” Libraria cautioned.

“Okay, how do you feel about a trip to the Boise Zoo. Best I can do. They even have ice cream.”

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Buncha Random Stuff

I was going to write this like a Writing Cabin post, but there’s more to it than that allows.

I don’t often talk about it, but the way I work involves planning out multiple stories in my head, sometimes years before I can start writing them. When I surf the Internet, it’s usually with a purpose. Sometimes I add things to my Pinterest boards that I won’t need for years. If you look at The Hat board you’ll see things that haven’t been in any of the books, but will be at some point.

I was searching for a magical virus or something with the idea of providing a bit of humor to a future Hat story. One of the characters who gets introduced in Good Liniment is somewhat destined to become Lizzie’s friend. She’s a younger witch with plant based magic named Joyeux.

Randomly thinking it might be fun for Lizzie to come down with something stupid that Joyeux has to help her with. No plot, nothing that major. Then I stumbled upon something called Jumping Frenchmen of Maine. It’s a real disorder from the 1800s. I have a story roughed out involving St. Vitus’ Dance, and while this isn’t the same thing, it’s close enough to explain a magical antagonist’s arrival in North America. I might not ever write that story, but it was an interesting discovery.

PS: Do enough people know what a dibble is for me to make it a magical artifact from Joyeux’s past? Would I have to explain it with some depth?

Other than that, I added about 1200 to the nameless space trilogy. I had to physically weave between the boxes that have invaded the only private space I have, but it feels productive. It’s like writing inside a kid’s blanket fort in here.

I have a major concern about these words. Percy and Buffer have a shared history. They’ve been together since before the story opened as veterans who served aboard the same ship. They’re both disabled veterans now, and helped each other through the rough times.

I’ve done pretty well at keeping the situation flirty between them. Made simple enough because she’s a human and he’s a Space Chimp. Today, they put all their cards on the table and this poses multiple problems for me.

First, I’m not a romance author. I don’t seem to have that gene, but these aren’t romantic characters either. Am I crazy for even attempting this?

Second, I did this at 70,000 words. It’s not insta-love, but is it too soon if I can make this a trilogy? Would I be better served milking it until the last volume? It accomplishes a major step toward Percy’s evolution or character arc.

I also set this up with some backstory of how they became disabled veterans in the first place. I know we’re all supposed to hate backstory, but it feels really good where I plopped it. It’s an interesting tale, and it’s not in chapter one. It’s at 70K. I don’t feel bad about it at all here.

I need to come up with something new for Story Empire. Now that my Easter Egg post is live, it won’t take long for my turn to come around again. I have something roughed out, but I’m not sure I like it. What I really need is another series of some kind, like the one I posted about the Hero’s Journey. Maybe I can edit what I have into something presentable.

I’ll probably make a couple of editing passes on the nameless story, and look over the future SE post the same way.

I really need to come up with a title, but I want something reflective across the broader trilogy. I would like something like “Of X & Y,” where X & Y are variables across all three books. “Of Clay Pots & Clones” doesn’t quite sound right to me. Is that a catchy title for the first book? I’m at a loss here. “Of Spies & Clones” ??? One of you authors or big-time readers let me know if you would check the blurb on a title like this. The cover art will sell it as science fiction.

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A bit of progress

I got to the writing cabin late this morning. Payday finally rolled around, so I paid all the bills before the sun even came up. I also started my boiling pot to get some humidity into the air. Really helps with my sinuses this time of year.

When I walked inside the place was quiet. I found hot coffee, but Lisa Burton was nowhere to be found.

Percy the Space Chimp was prostrate on the couch in my office and playing a phone game of some kind. He wore lounge pants and a bathrobe.

“What’s going on around here?” I asked.

“Nothing as far as I can tell. I’ve been here for weeks after you abandoned me for a better story.”

“Don’t get snotty. I told you that’s how it works. And don’t say better. It’s a different story, and I hope they’re both good. Where’s Lisa?”

“She made coffee, then left. Said you were coming eventually, but blah blah, something about boots.”

“Is she still shopping with the Sirens?”

“I think they left. She said there’s a character in your alternate story with some kind of over-the-knee boots, and she thought she’d better have some for work.”

“What? That just a peripheral character. She’s kind of a slutty vampire that shows up sometimes. Lisa’s been cooped up out here for a long time. I think she just wanted to get out for a while. Let’s see if we can get some work done.”

“Finally! My story’s been stuck in the science and spy city forever, now. Let’s get this adventure rolling.”

“The city’s cool, and we’re probably going to come close to leaving, but you have a few things to deal with first. If you’re good, I’ll let you take your new transport for a spin.”

“Maybe a mock dogfight?”

“Don’t push your luck, but we’ll see. First, I’m going to saddle you with a new mission and a temporary crew member.”

“Who’s that going to be?”

“She’s someone new, and a Classic alien.”

“Noooo! Not just another chick, but a Classic to boot. You must hate me.”

“Heroes have to grow and face issues along the way.”

“Maybe I like being grouchy and prickly. Did you ever think of that?”

“I did, and you certainly are, but you’re still going to do this before going back deep into enemy territory with nothing more than a nearly unarmed ship and a transport.”

“Okay. I want to take a flight. What do I have to do?”

“Look out on the landing strip.”

Percy ran to the window. “It looks like a shrimp.”

“Why does everyone say that? It’s based upon something called a slipper lobster, and it’s manuverible as hell.”

“Sooo, I’m not hearing fast.”

“Fast enough, but not like a fighter. You’re going to have to be tricky to get away from problems.”

“I can be tricky. Let’s take her out.”

“Okay, but remember it’s a test flight. Then we’re going to tear the door off and park her in the loading bay.”

What! Why?”

“Because that’s part of your next mission.”

“This story sounds like bullshit so far.”

“Might be, but now that war’s broken out, you have to do more covert activities. Your days in the fleet are over, but there’s a need for good pilots outside the squadrons.”

“Do your readers actually have that kind of faith in you? I mean something starts sounding cool, then we tear the hatch off and park it away somewhere. Why should they read along?”

“Most do, but some things aren’t for everyone. I’m having a great time. You’re having a good time. I’m sure Lisa’s having a good time. What’s not to like?”

“I might be able to send you a list, but I’ll play nice. Let’s take that flight.”

***

Somewhere around 2500 words today. Percy still hasn’t left the Snakeworks, but he’s pretty darned close.

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Writing Saturday

I looked up from my iPad after the day’s work was finished. “3000 words, not too shabby.”

Percy the Space Chimp poured another cup of Huloran tea. “I don’t know, dude. You spent an awful lot of time playing dress up Barbies.”

“I’m worried about it, too. Think of it this way, the Cicis are identical. Having two-dozen of them wandering around the resort was bound to draw attention. I had some dress up, and some dress down. They visited hair salons and such to differentiate themselves from their sisters.”

“Lotta words dedicated to that, and why the rest of us?”

“I have to think on the trilogy level. I have words at my disposal, and there could be a plant and payoff type lesson in there somewhere. Disguise might come back with a huge upgrade. As far as the rest of you, Leo was wearing cast away stuff that belonged to you and the Cicis after you burned all his clothes in an earlier section.”

“There was nothing wrong with my shirt.”

“Nothing at all, if you’re a Space Chimp, but Leo isn’t. None of it fit right.”

“Plopping us in a resort city to go shopping doesn’t feel like a space opera.”

“You know why you were there, and it wasn’t shopping. You have the spy photos, the good guys want them, and that’s where they wanted to meet.”

“Why did Buffer wind up with Lisa’s vest thingie?”

Lisa stood and twirled. “Cute, huh?” Her vest extended into skirts alongside her thighs, and long tails in back. The buttons around her waist enhanced her figure.

“That’s how it works sometimes. Lisa has a great outfit, and I wrote it into the story. It might move in the wind or action scenes like a superhero outfit.” I turned to her. “This tea is wonderful.”

“Science Fiction Amazon seems to have everything. I can get you a six-pack of lightsabers if you like.”

“No. That was someone else’s story.”

Percy snorted. “At the end of the day, we didn’t sell our photos, and we didn’t get paid. It’s another wild goose chase.”

“True, but now you’re going to the secret scientific spy city.”

“That sounds more promising.”

“Hope so. I was going to call it the Skunk Works, but that’s a real place. Rat Works seems to have been adopted by a company. What do you think of the Snake Works?”

“Does it really matter?”

“Yes. I want it to be a city readers will remember. A place to explore and dwell on. I have some cool new characters at that location.”

“Great… even more to share page time with. And what’s with me ping-ponging between paranoia and trust lately?”

“It’s the life of a spy. You’re paranoid about everything, but Buffer is helping you see that trust is part of the mix, too. Both have their uses in this line of work. I need to come up with a name for the guy who runs the place. He’s going to be helpful to your career. Then I finally get to use Ray Dongas.”

“What’s his deal?”

“I decided the story needs one of my batshit crazy characters. I was reading about Radon Gas one day and the name just came to me.”

“What’s his deal?”

“He runs the warehouse district at The Snakeworks. Okay, it’s more like he rules it like a minor kingdom. He’s going to be, let’s call it colorful. He’s got to be some kind of alien, and might be a good guy to make friends with.”

“You haven’t let me make many friends, so far.”

“You’re a little bit prickly, sweetie,” Lisa said. “Maybe this is one of those times to trust. Trust your author.”

Percy pushed his cup away. “Got anything stronger?”

“There’s some WhistlePig Rye in the kitchen.”

“Guess I’ll have to trust that, too.” He made air quotes around the word.

Lisa got up to fetch the whiskey. “You know, Craig, you’re going to have a Ray in this series, but you’ve also written a Ray into the hat series. Are you worried about that?”

“Crap! I hadn’t thought about that.”

“Ha haha!” Percy pointed at me. “Looks like it’s your turn to be paranoid, dude.”

“Better bring a glass for me, too.”

***

I still need to come up with a new post for my next Story Empire slot. I’m not coming up with much. All I have now is something about the interpreter character, so that’s pretty thin. There are a few weeks left, so I might come up with something this weekend. Hope all of you are getting to do whatever you like for a couple of days.

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It’s a flex day

I folded up my iPad, then stared across my desk at the writing cabin.

Percy the Space Chimp lay on the couch. “Dude? Why’d you stop?”

“I think I’m done for the day.”

“Come on. Last time we knocked it out of the park.”

“Not all days are like that.”

“You didn’t even get a whole chapter written.”

“Nope. Twelve-hundred words approximately. These transitions are getting tougher. Your ship moves around the galaxy, and the crew can do fun things while travelling, but I have to keep them fun. I’ve already explored the ship and explained some things, like science fiction has a habit of doing. I can’t keep explaining it.”

“I like the action bits better.”

“You would, but these are the sections that make fans love you. You and Leo had a big victory in the early parts.”

“Yeah, but the ladies punished us for it.”

“Don’t you think that makes sense?”

Lisa Burton, my robot assistant arrived wearing a silver bodysuit. She placed out some tea. “I noticed you logged off.”

“What are you wearing?” I asked.

“You’re into science fiction right now. Maybe robot girls wear this in space. I noticed you were writing about tea, so I brought you some. I don’t have Huloran tea, like in your book, but this can substitute. I’ll check the science fiction version of Amazon to see if I can get the real thing for your next session.”

Percy slid over to make room. “Leo and I downloaded some magazines and stuff, and now your author friend thinks we should be punished for it.”

“It isn’t the content, it’s the way you went about it. Things like spacewalks are dangerous and you didn’t share your plan with the others. I don’t know what you’re whining about. I kept getting tazed or magnetized in my stories. Besides, the girls gave you your precious comic books eventually.”

I sampled the tea, then leaned back in my chair. “I know the next half-dozen big events that are going to happen. Getting between the places takes more thought the way I work. Eventually, Leo is going to piece together a mystery you didn’t even know was there.”

“Why Leo? I mean, the dude’s a good friend, but I’m the one here helping you.”

“Because you’ve kind of become the main character. Leo needs a win, and it helps his character grow. I need to let the others shine a bit, too. Auburn fixed up that robot and he proved helpful. The Cici’s helped with those gangsters, and their hive mind is fun to write. I still need something big for Buffer. She hasn’t done much since she killed that guy back on Denmouth.”

“That was an accident. I’ll testify to that.”

“Relax. She has some abilities I haven’t explored yet, and deserves some sections devoted to her. Right now she’s kind of a broken toy.”

“Aren’t we all?”

“Yeah, but that’s the point. You come together in a kind of pseudo-family. I’d like to dwell on Buffer for a few days before you land the ship again. If this is going to reach trilogy length, you’re probably going to have to help me for a couple of years.”

Lisa leaned forward. “I think we should talk about your robots. I mean, they all look like robots.”

“Yeah, shouldn’t they?”

She pointed to herself. “Hello!”

“No. This isn’t a story about you trying to fit in. Besides, there’s no way I can get you out there without breaking all the canon of the stories you’ve already been in. I’m sure we’ll have you pose for some promotional posters and send you on a tour eventually.”

“What about the Hat stories? I could pop back into one of those.”

Percy sloshed his tea. “Don’t remind him. He’ll jump projects again, and where does that leave me?”

“You need to calm down, or I’ll give you a case of mange in the next chapter.”

“It’s just frustrating. That’s all.”

“Low word count frustrates me, too. After all these years, I’ve come to accept it.”

***

That was my flex day. I appreciate those banner days when they happen, but they’re the exception. Today didn’t amount to much, but I moved the story along.

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My weekend plans

My only plan this weekend was to bleed and lick my wounds. It was a brutal week both personally and professionally. An errand interrupted me and I had to repair a headlight. (Again.) I never planned on a single word of new fiction, and that is still the plan.

However, Sean Harrington delivered a bundle of graphics for Good Liniment. Fans of The Hat Series know I pepper these with silly little graphics to make the stories even more corny. Here’s one, just for fun:

That led to peppering the MS with graphics, which involves a lot of gyrations. I’m pretty sure my formatter hates these, but they’re part of the series now. I used some of my down time to start reading the story and making more edits. I didn’t get far, but never intended to.

Authors are weird people, and I own that. My mind never turns off, even when I’m licking my wounds. Here’s an example of what happens:

Lisa Burton parked our spaceship in deep space, then followed Percy the Space Chimp and I into the lounge. We grabbed glasses of Angel’s Envy, on the rocks, and stared at the galaxy before us. Distant stars and nebulae stretched to infinity.

Our last writing session had been a big one, so we took in the view until I broke the silence. “What do you suppose the soundtrack of space is?”

Lisa said, “I like those big orchestral pieces that can match the grandeur.”

Percy rattled the ice in his glass. “It can also be something like David Bowie music.”

I sniffed the vanilin and took a sip of my drink. “It really could be whatever the writer thinks. I’m going to go with a little of Percy’s backstory. Obviously, I can’t write a soundtrack into my story, but this is what it sounds like to me.” I keyed the speaker system and brought this up.

“Are you sure?” Lisa asked.

”Just look out the window and listen. It makes perfect sense to me.”

”I get it, dude. What are you going to do with that thought?” Percy asked.

”Not sure, but it helps me interpret space. Angel’s Envy doesn’t hurt either. Hit me again, Lisa.”

***

I hope all of you are having wonderful weekends. I need to get back to Earth and catch up on your blogs. I might even do some long overdue reading if the mood strikes me. What is your soundtrack to space?

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A three day weekend

It all started off knowing we had company coming for the weekend. I planned on not writing a single word. My in-laws brought their German Shorthair puppy with them.

Jagger is cute, but he’s not a tiny puppy any more. He’s big, but still thinks he’s a puppy. He never stops moving. He’s up, he’s down, he’s here, he’s there. He jumps up, makes you spill things, and even tries to pull things off the wall.

Call me crazy, but I kind of like him. The place was a madhouse, but if the bulldogs can handle it, so can I.

We went to dinner one night, but it was pretty mediocre compared to most of the places we go. We also watched movies. Friday night, I chose one called “Don’t Look Up.” I loved it. It’s full of dark snarky humor about the world we live in during a natural disaster. It has a top shelf cast, too.

My brother-in-law wanted to watch “The Last Duel,” Saturday night. I suggest you don’t waste your time. It has some moments, but I just didn’t feel it. Some of this has to do with the way the story unfolded. Open en media res, then tell the same story three different times from three points of view to get back to where we opened.

Old What’s Her Face had to go in at midnight last night. My MO on these nights is to stay up so she can sleep as much as possible. I started “The Eternals” before she turned in, then turned the television off after the film ended.

It wasn’t horrible, but I expected more from that cast. It was also hard to get over the “gotta catch ’em all” mentality. It was so inclusive that it felt like Marvel was shoving it down my throat.

After the movie, I had hours left with nothing to do. I opened my space opera and started reviewing. I’d worked myself to a point that I have to describe so some of you will get the problem.

I can’t make this tale into Lanternfish in space. There’s no piracy, and staying away from everyone is part of this spy mission. That means, I’ve milked space travel about as much as I can between the locations. In Lanternfish I could toss in a sea monster or a pirate battle. Space is big and empty.

My crew was at the turning point, but getting them from point to point had be minimized to a degree. I’d been stewing over this for weeks, but finally just wrote it. I like the way it turned out, and they discovered a much bigger problem than their tiny lives would have cared about.

I even moved on to how they’re going to deliver the news about what they discovered, because they invaded enemy territory to find this out. They had to shoot their way out, so it’s really an act of war. Except, they aren’t officially with any government. That won’t stop the bad guys from putting their propaganda department on it and making the good side look like the aggressors.

What I’m liking is all the problems my crew created while trying to do something both good and profitable. They may have to answer for some things now. That’s good tension, and I can use it as I move on. They could even have some enemies among the good guys.

I have a large section ahead where a kind of mentor can give them some focus and possibly put them to more productive work. They have a unique ship like nothing else in the galaxy. It could be used for more covert missions, but it’s in private ownership because of the laws of salvage.

This ship was simply missing for a hundred years, and was a relic of a previous war. My people found it and put it to good use. It’s theirs. My as-yet-to-appear mentor is a different kind of creature, and was present for this ship’s creation. He’s going to have some sympathy for my main characters.

Anything involving answering for crimes, the mentor, and what value their information might have is something for another writing session.

I failed to keep track, but it feels like about 8000 words to me. It was a great session. This particular tale is at 44K words right now. It’s a concern making word count without some things happening between locations, but I’m working on it.

Not too bad for a bonus I didn’t expect. Hope all of you had great weekends, too.

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Time to Speculate

I landed my gyrocopter at the writing cabin mid morning. Something felt off, but I had a decent idea to toy with.

Lisa Burton, the robot girl handed me a mug of coffee, as she took my hat and coat. “Percy’s waiting in your main office.

I looked at her nebula print skirt and how it hugged her curves. “You look ready for space today.”

“That’s where you left off last time. If I have to change for the Hat story, let me know.”

“You’re good. I want to go back and plant some things in my story. Just enough to lodge in the readers’ minds.”

Percy, the Space Chimp waited on the couch. “What are we working on today?”

“Not sure. I’m at a place I’ve never been before. Both stories are log-jammed in my mind somehow. I’m going to back up and add some data to your story. Maybe it will inspire me to move it forward.”

“What are you adding?”

“We already have Classic aliens. The kind everyone thinks of with big eyes, bulbous heads, etcetera. I’m going to give them a form of telepathy.”

“That’s been done, dude.”

“True, but my Classics are annoying. They invade people’s minds, they go on illegal adventure tourism, and most of my galactic inhabitants hate them.”

“I hate them.”

“Plays right into my hand. You’re the one that feels discrimination everywhere. Sometimes, when it doesn’t exist. It’s because you’re a genetically engineered species. When you discriminate in turn, it gives me a chance to teach you a lesson.”

“That’s bullshit, dude. I’m supposed to be the hero here. You know, heroic?”

“You still need some kind of character arc. Besides, it’s a team adventure. Maybe someone else can be the focus for a few chapters.”

“I doubt it. Don’t see anyone else here today.”

Lisa walked in and flopped down beside Percy. “I can remedy that. My database is full of contacts. I have everything from a talking yak to a devil lady called Mustang Sally.”

“What are you doing?” I asked her.

“Please. I monitored your typing speed, and you aren’t hitting any word count records today. Talk to us, maybe it will help.”

“Okay. The Midnight Rambler has taken refuge, and is building a fortress. His plan is to make Lizzie and the hat come to him. To fight on his turf, so he can kill the hat.”

“Sounds great,” Percy said. “What’s the problem?”

“Lizzie can’t just wait around until I send her into the big fight. She needs to be a little more proactive. I’ve expanded her world to a degree, and readers seem to love that, but the main story needs a bit more.”

“How did you expand it?”

Lisa leaned forward with a business card. “Castor and Pollux, Attorney’s at Law. Makes for a great side story with the attorney’s from the supernatural world, but I can see what he means. Side stories are great, but the main event needs to stack up properly.”

“I set the whole story during a major flood. We’re talking tornado sirens, rain, thunder, flooded buildings, the works. I can’t use Kevin as her street informant, because he lives in a culvert. He has to be missing somehow. I can bring him back in the future, but Lizzie needs something else this time.”

“Get rid of the flood,” Percy suggested.

“I can’t. I want Lizzie’s band to play a set of rain and flood songs.”

“That’s just stupid.”

“Now you get the point. The Hat stories are supposed to be corny. One day someone is going to leave me a review that reads, ‘This is the stupidest story I ever read, and I absolutely loved it.’ Sometimes people just need an escape from every day life, and a chuckle along the way.”

“Frenemies,” Lisa said.

“I don’t get it?”

“Back in Mrs. Molony, you introduced a female vampire that hunted the special events. You could bring her back to fill Kevin’s role for one story.”

“Oh yeah, short, stacked, flirty. She was a redhead.”

“Maybe you could have some fun with the frenemies concept.”

Percy slapped his hands together. “Great, we’re all stupid and funny now. What about my story? Why do the Classics have to be so creepy. Seems to me if they’re telepaths, there’s no reason for us to sneak about and do spy things?”

“Ah, you’ve reached that point. Someone who likes speculative fiction has to suspend disbelief in varying degrees.”

“I get that. I’m a space chimp genetically created from a dish-full of human and ape DNA. People have to believe that.”

“Nope. This is the deeper version. Why didn’t the eagles just fly the ring directly to Mordor? Indiana Jones had no influence on the story about the lost arc. It’s like time travel. Once you introduce it, there’s always the question about why someone didn’t travel backward or forward to fix everything.”

“Why don’t the cops ever show up? Why can’t Stormtroopers hit anything with their lasers?” Lisa added.

“Then why keep writing at all?”

“Because people who like speculative stories will go with the flow. Authors learn to add limitations and it helps make things more realistic. Your Classics have to be close to make it work. Maybe even invade personal space. That’s another reason why people shun them.”

“Okay, we completed half our spy mission and we’re floating around in the void. Let’s fire up the engines and do the next part.”

“I don’t want the second half to be like the first. You might complete the quest, but it has to pose a whole bunch of new problems.”

“And you don’t know what those are. Figures. I should have held out for a better author.”

“I know what they are, but it’s kind of like building a puzzle. Things have to fit together the right way. Thirty-eight thousand words in, readers will have already seen space travel. They know how the ship works. I can’t get any more mileage from that while you trek across deep space.”

“So we just float there until you figure things out. Meanwhile, you’re planning on bringing a vampire to the cabin? Lisa doesn’t have blood, so I have a little problem with that.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time one came here,” Lisa added. “Relax, Uber eats comes if I call them. We can order some dumplings or something, and she can snack on the driver. If I tip them well, they seem to keep quiet. She leaves them with a huge smile on their faces.”

“We didn’t get anything done.” Percy slumped back into the couch.

“I don’t see it that way. Sometimes thinking and talking things out is more important than word count. Besides, I got this long blog post out of the deal.”

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My 2022 Business Plan

This is another annual event here at Entertaining Stories. I recap the year I finished, then some time after all the resolution posts have cleared out of WordPress, I post my business plan.

A few years ago, I decided that volume was important to my efforts. It might seem manipulative, but having a few titles available can influence shoppers to take a chance. I spent two years publishing three titles per year, and there were also a couple of anthologies I contributed to. I have to say, this stuff works.

Last year, I decided to limit myself to two titles. Let’s face it, a lot of work goes into six publications, plus there’s the required promotion that accompanies it all. This slower pace allowed me to experiment with different promo options, but I’ve already discussed those.

Personal matters took a toll, and I’m grateful not to have stressed myself for that third title. It’s already written. It only needs some artwork and a bit of formatting, but I’m not pushing beyond my comfort zone. It will count for 2022.

This year, I’m making it up as I type. Something that usually helps is to get a few things down for consideration. First is that I liked the pace last year and would like to retain that. Two per year seems reasonable, and might even give me some extra time if an anthology comes calling.

Here’s where the problems start, but I’ll walk through those, too. The Lanternfish Trilogy is complete. I’m thrilled for that, and it opens up some space for me.

Lizzie and the hat will continue, and this is where it starts looking like a problem. The finished story is called Good Liniment. I could publish it as soon as I get my ducks in a row, and probably will. However, The Midnight Rambler is also part of this series, and I’m up to 15,000 words on it as I hack this post out. I have three additional storyboards ready to go here, as well.

I don’t want to look like a slacker, but these are short novels on purpose. I think Lizzie and the hat are better in smaller doses. People also appreciate the occasional quick read. If my two publications are both in The Hat Series, I could look like a slacker.

It’s only perception, because I’m also currently writing a Space Opera with a goal of three books. I would like to hold back on publication so I can have a more rapid release schedule for them. This means lots of writing, but not as much publication.

One of my dreams is to release another stand-alone title or two. I have the storyboards, but the Muse hasn’t pushed me down that path yet. They don’t seem to sell as well, but I still like them. I think a certain type of reader feels the same way.

When I put all of this in my scrying bowl, what I see is something about personal enjoyment. Since I’m not making the house payment from book sales, I’m allowed to enjoy myself a little bit more. This is what I do for fun, and forcing another title feels like the wrong way to go.

The Hat Series is fun for me. I enjoy them, and I know many of you do too. Having all those storyboards ready to go makes it even more fun.

2022 might just have to be the year when I put out two titles in The Hat Series. I don’t see myself finishing the space opera this year, but will keep working on it. I’m bound to have a gap after the first one is complete, and I can fill that gap with one of the stand alone titles. I probably won’t finish it in 2022, but could make one hell of a dent in it.

This isn’t as formal or committed as previous years. 2021 threw me plenty of punches and I’m still reeling from some of them. There are days when all I can manage is to stay home and bleed. (Figuratively speaking) I’m not going to push myself in 2022. Publish two tales in The Hat Series, work on my space opera, fill the gaps with something else. It isn’t much of a plan, but it is a plan, and one I can live with.

Story Empire is something I’m very proud of. I will keep contributing over there, but wish the Muse would send me a cool series to write about. I’m more about story structure or characters and have covered a lot of ground in those fields. I’m not really the technical guy, or the super successful promoter. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for something I can stretch across multiple posts. If any of you have requests, I’m willing to consider them.

How about you guys? Do you formulate some kind of business plan, or are you more on the less stress is better method. This year I feel like I’m doing a little of both. Do you think me unwise to have two titles in the same series this year? Let me hear from you in the comments.

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