Tag Archives: virus

From the Writing Cabin

My day started at 5:00 AM. The dogs had all the sleep they could stand, and wanted breakfast. My wife has to work, so it was a reasonable writing opportunity.

I made good time flying out to the writing cabin, and landed just as the sun peeked over the horizon. The elevator lowered the gyrocopter into the hangar, then I trudged toward the stairs.

Lisa Burton met me at the top landing. She held out a half-gallon bottle of sanitizer. “Hands.”

I paused, then reached forward. She pumped several squirts into each hand. “Wash them completely. If you still have some, do your forearms.”

“Jesus! I have enough to do my whole body.”

“Maybe you should. I have. I’ve also wiped down your office and iPad.”

I walked into the cabin, and an alarm went off. “Stop! You are too close to Lisa Burton. Please maintain social distancing at all times.”

“What was that?”

“I downloaded it, then paired it with my internal radar. You’ll find a canister of sterilizing wipes on your desk, and a gallon of bleach beside the door if you have any accidents.”

“That’s awesome.” I opened my iPad and the manuscript for The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. Lisa sat at the far end of my sofa. “What are you doing?”

Lisa Burton

“Watching. So I know what to clean after you’re done out here. The chair and desk for sure.”

“Is there any coffee?”

“I made it after you took off this morning.”

I headed for the kitchen. “Stop! You are too close to Lisa Burton—”

“Oh, my God. Turn that off.”

“It protects both me and you.”

I retrieved my coffee, then returned to my desk. “I used this cup.”

“And touched the cabinet, and moved one cup to get to your favorite one, and the coffee pot, and who knows what else.”

“I need you to go away. I have to do some writing, and you’re bugging me.”

“Fine. I’ll be in the bubble bath. I haven’t washed up for an hour.”

Music came on over the speakers.

“That’s Lizzie and the Pythons, for inspiration.”

“Cool. What playlist?”

“This one’s from The Hat. I can play Viral Blues if you like.”

“Maybe, when this one runs out. Now scoot.”

She left me to my own devices and I relaxed a bit. I managed to add 1700 new words to my side project. Not my best day, but not horrible at all. I stopped just before I had to describe a tiki bar the previous band trashed the night before Lizzie and the hat had to play there.

Lisa’s voice came over the speakers. “Maybe you should do one of those business letters like everyone else. You know, something comforting in these uncertain times.”

***

Dear Readers of Entertaining Stories:

We are open for business here at the Writing Cabin. You should have no worries about Lisa Burton, because she is in fact a robot, and immune to catching the virus.

Because it is possible for her to carry and transfer the virus to others, she is currently washing and using hand sanitizer like a mad woman.

I’ve checked our recent invoices, and there is another 50-gallon drum of sanitizer on the way, along with two cases of soap, and twenty-five pounds of bubble bath. She has also rented scaffolding so she can wash the walls and ceiling after I leave.

Rest assured we are still producing new fiction, and will have more releases in 2020. As ebooks only, these are free of all contagions, and you can enjoy them, along with our previous releases in relative safety.

Sincerely, the Management.

39 Comments

Filed under Muse

Under the Weather

I felt it coming on all weekend, made an effort to drink more water, and even chugged down some orange juice. It didn’t change much.

I’ve called in to work twice now, and that bugs the crap out of me. I’m not swamped currently, but miss a couple of days and I could be.

Right now, I’m drowning in my own gravy. Any productivity is dead and will stay that way until this cold leaves.

I might try to do some reading. It all depends on this sinus headache.

Speaking of reading, there is an excellent series on sale right now. At 99¢ per title, the Hode’s Hill series is a steal. I’ve read it, and recommend it highly. You can learn more over at Mae Clair’s place by following this link.

43 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Fallout, by Harmony Kent

Hey everyone. One of my great pleasures is to help my fellow authors with their promotions. Harmony Kent is an old friend and she’s touring her newest book around right now. Please make her feel welcome, and consider using those sharing buttons. I know Harmony would do it for you.

***

Hi, everyone. Harmony here. Many thanks to Craig for hosting me today. I have a new book on pre-order called FALLOUT, which is a post-apocalyptic dystopia. This novel started out life by playing a little game. I sat and closed my eyes and imagined an empty room … in that room, a vial appeared. A dull orange plastic thing covered in scratches. It sloshed when I shook it. From that tiny beginning, the world of Exxon 1 and its deadly virus was born.

Why is Kaleb so eager to help Priya with the vial?

Why doesn’t he just take it from her?

Why does Priya still trust Kaleb?

 

 

Emotions grew around the visual memory like mould. Unwanted and poisonous. He had been but a boy. Young and weak and ignorant. He hadn’t known the way of the world. Not back then. And still, the old feelings held him prisoner so that he could not simply walk away from the woman bleeding out on the dirt floor.

 

Pity and remorse squashed his logic into a dark corner. He had to help her. The responsibilities of his mission—what they meant for mankind—warred with his desire, his need, to help the young victim. 

 

Duty pulled his left leg toward the exit. Pity drew his right toward the woman. If he didn’t make up his mind soon, he’d end up doing the splits. With a sigh of frustrated annoyance, he squatted by the beaten body again. Only then did he notice what the rat had been chewing on. Her left little finger was missing, gnawed down to the lowest knuckle joint in a mess of bloodied flesh and gristle.

WHEN EVERYTHING FALLS APART, WHAT CAN YOU DO?

The year is 3040.

The location is Exxon 1, part of a six-planet system in settled space.

Determined to avoid the mistakes of old Earth, the surviving humans avoided democracy and opted, instead, for a non-elective totalitarian system.

The new way worked well, until now.

A crazy, despotic president releases a nano-virus on the population.

No one was ready for the fallout. It came anyway.

In this post-apocalyptic world, can you stay safe?

 

FALLOUT Pre-order Link: mybook.to/FALLOUT

 

Author Bio

After spending around thirteen years as an ordained Buddhist monk, living in a Zen Buddhist temple, and six years after a life-changing injury following a surgical error, Harmony Kent returned to the world at the tender age of forty.

Now, she is famous for her laughter, and has made quite the name for herself … she’s also, um, a writer … and fairly well known for that too. She’s even won a few awards. Harmony lives in rural Cornwall with her ever-present sense of humour, adorable husband, and quirky neighbours.

Harmony is passionate about supporting her fellow authors.

 

Links

Website: https://harmonykent.co.uk/

Story Empire (co-authored): https://storyempirecom.wordpress.com/

Amazon Author Page: author.to/HarmonysBooks

Twitter: @harmony_kent

LinkedIn: Harmony

GoodreadsAuthor Page

FALLOUT Pre-order Link: mybook.to/FALLOUT

 

 

 

56 Comments

Filed under Writing

Sniff, blech, snot

I have a ritual of speaking to my parents every Sunday. First I get Mom, then I talk to Dad. It took me years to train them not to get on the phone at the same time.

Dad always manages to ask how everyone is feeling. I honestly answered that everyone was great. By noon, I was feverish and trying to cough up my liver.

Fingers crossed, my flex day was Monday. Maybe this would pass and I wouldn’t have to miss any work. Stupid human, microbes care not for your hopes and dreams.

I spent most of the day in bed Monday. Then I “went” to bed about 6:00. I never got up until 7:00 the next day.

I coughed most of the night, and had to get up hourly for various reasons, mostly involving spitting. A few involving shivering fever-like symptoms.

Last night wasn’t much better.

I went to the doctor today, but didn’t have a lot of hope. I know the drill with a virus. They gave me some nasal spray that ought to help. The pharmacist changed it out for a generic version of Flonase.

My MO is to check for the dosage. I flipped the box over, and learned not to take it if I’m addicted to certain substances, pregnant, have a bad attitude, or might ever have a cataract. When I reached the bottom, it invited me to open the box and read the paper inside to find the directions.

By this point, I was getting a little pissed off, but after passing muster with their lawyers, I figured I was home safe.

Turns out this paper has all of their corporate history, names of their future entitled children, and other information I really don’t need to know. Then it invited me to flip it over and look at the cartoons.

In other words, I’m sufficiently trained to read all of their disclaimers and corporate bullshit, but need a cartoon to explain how to blast this shit up my nose.

Turns out some kind of assembly is required. This thing was shrink wrapped so tightly, I couldn’t get it open. It did not come with the standard perforations that I’m familiar with to help remove the shrink wrap. I tried scissors, but this crap was so tight I couldn’t slip a blade under the wrap. Finally, I resorted to a knife.

Seems odd to me they didn’t have a disclaimer about using a knife and driving it through your hand while attempting to open it. Seems like they’re setting themselves up for a lawsuit. Heaven help them if I’d have punctured the bottle and sprayed this crap in my eyes. Probably causes cataracts.

I also got some kind of Pseudoephedrine pills that Old What’s Her Face had to sign her life away for. Honestly, I have more faith in these. Time will tell.

I still nodded off multiple times today. Work tomorrow is still questionable. I may have to get up, then decide.

It took several tries to write this blog post out. It may not even be good, but at least give me a handicap.

I haven’t written a single word of fiction this week either. That’s a double impact for me. My brain hasn’t been in the right place.

Does researching biological weapons for a story mean you’re going to come down with one of them? I can’t imagine Ebola feels any worse.

Honestly, if I surfed past your blog and hit the like button, feel honored. That’s about all I could manage.

52 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Idea Mill #27

It's time to revisit the old Idea Mill. This involves a selection of stories I've gleaned across the Internet, and feel like they could make some great speculative elements in your fiction.

For those who want to kick the Muse a little harder, The Idea Mill is a category in my sidebar. Being as this is the 27th edition, you can probably find something to use in one of your stories.

The first story involves a chemical cocktail that settled over London. The amazing part is that it happened in 1952. There was a smaller event documented in the 1960s.

Basically, it was cold. An inversion settled over the city, and everyone lit their coal stoves. I'm a few years (okay decades) removed from high school chemistry, but I know temperature and pressure can influence the outcome.

I dug a bit deeper, and found where scientists were able to duplicate the process in a lab. It appears the perfect cocktail left behind a cloud of sulfuric acid. Officially 4000 people died, and it may have been as high as 12,000 because not all deaths were immediate. The city officials didn't even know it was happening until the florists ran out of flowers for funerals.

One of the reports that stuck with me involved a movie theatre that gave refunds because the patrons inside the building couldn't see the screen because of the cloud. Read the article here.

I'm shocked that this went on in the 1950s and 1960s. To me this screams steampunk, which calls for a Victorian setting. I'm relatively certain this happened then too, but probably wasn't as well documented.

I don't know about your areas, but inversions happen all over the American West. I think you could probably tailor this to some kind of chemical warfare. It might lend itself to a mad scientist story pretty easily. It might even make a good origin for your superhero story.

Out next story should get filed under the “What Me Worry,” category. It appears that scientists have recovered a 17th century strain of smallpox virus from a Lithuanian mummy. My understanding is the goal is to determine when smallpox first jumped from animals to humans. Read this story here.

Okay, I understand the curiousity of scientists, but I'm an author. What could possibly go wrong? It's my job to make something go wrong. The obvious idea is that an older strain isn't influenced by the vaccine. These things mutate and evolve rapidly. It gets loose and kills people on a global scale before your CDC hero can come up with a solution.

This one can also be the basis for a biological weapons story. It plays right into some kind of zombie tale for those who love them. You can easily change the settings to make things more creepy. Maybe a catacomb type environment where the mummy is discovered.

Finally, we have a dinosaur discovery. This one involves a small Dino called coelurosaurus. Scientist found a tiny section of its tail preserved in amber, and this section has feathers. The feathers aren't flight worthy and it seems like they are more like marabou feathers used in boas. Traces of color are still there, and it seems likely that blood is available too. Here is one of many stories I saw on this one. Link.

Obviously, this could lead right into a Jurassic Park type story. But what if it led to designer pets and a battle for the coolest Christmas present of the year. Add in some militant animal rights people, a patent battle, perhaps a greedy Kentucky Colonel type who thinks they're finger lickin' good, and you have a story.

So part of the Idea Mill shtick is for me to rough out a corny story using all three elements. Let's see what I can come up with:

It's the Christmas season, and colorful coelusaurs are the must have gift of the season. The patent battle is settled, and Dino Labs is mass producing these pets to meet the demand. Meanwhile, across town scientists are researching the ancient strain of smallpox virus. It gets loose on the city, just as the biggest inversion in history descends. The polluted cocktail mutates the virus into something unstoppable. People start dying by the thousands. The coelusars are not completely immune to the disease, they get sick and their eggs are mutated.

Soon the city is overwhelmed with new and nastier dinosaurs, and the humans are too sick to fight back. One brave Kentucky Colonel has a solution, and his solution is finger lickin' good. Eating the Dinos provides an immunity to the virus, but getting one isn't as simple as it sounds. The Dinos think we're finger lickin' good too.

I think that outline fits the traditional bill for these posts. What would you do with one of these elements? Tell me in the comments.

22 Comments

Filed under The Idea Mill

Women’s Health Week

You guys know I’m not real keen on special recognition for various groups. Still, sometimes it helps bring attention to issues and that has to be a good thing. Women’s health week is apparently kicked off by Mother’s Day, and runs through the rest of the week.
Things happened this way…
 I slipped out to the writing cabin unannounced. The little gyro-copter landed smoothly, and I spun it around at the end of the runway to take back off. Then I slipped into the writing cabin through the front door.

Lisa* was nowhere to be seen, but there was no fooling her. “What are you doing out here today?” drifted down the stairs.

“I didn’t get everything finished over the weekend.” It was a lie, and it tasted bad. Still, sometimes you do the wrong thing on the way to the right thing.

Lisa picked her way downstairs and rounded the corner.

“Um, what are you wearing?”
“I picked this up in New York when I was promoting your book. I don’t really have anywhere to wear it, so I decided to wear it here.”
“Is that, what, rubber?”
“No, it’s latex. I liked the polka dots, and the cute bows. You know how something looks really cute in the store, then you take it home and it’s still cute, but you don’t really have anywhere to wear it?”
“No, not exactly.”
“Well, believe me, it’s a genuine problem. It makes me happy, but I’m stuck wearing it around the house.”
“Isn’t it, you know, sweaty?”
“You would think so, but genetically modified human skin doesn’t sweat.”
“All my women readers are going to hate you for that.”
“Oh no! Do you really think so?”
“No. I’m just teasing. Look, what if we goof off today and go somewhere that you can wear it?”
“Where would that be?”
“What about the casinos on Tabula Rasa?”
“The space city? I haven’t been there for a long time. What’s the hitch? You’ve got some research or something to do, huh? It’s a whole city of science and research, plus a few tourist attractions.”
“Maybe, but there’ll be plenty of time to go shopping or hit a casino before we have to come home. How’s the oxygen in the gyro-copter?”
Lisa’s eyes fluttered while she logged onto the cabin’s systems. “There is plenty of oxygen for you. I don’t need any.”
“Grab your purse, and let’s get moving.”
Lisa went up the stairs in a flurry. I heard her telling Bunny, her pet rabbit something, and she came back down while still programming her purse to match her outfit. Heaven forbid she didn’t match one time.
We got in the little gyro and lifted off. I had to circle several times to gain the altitude we needed.
“Let me fly, you’re drifting into the commercial lanes.” Lisa grabbed the stick and took over, while I fiddled with my oxygen mask.
She deftly maneuvered the gyro into shallow space and started into orbit.
“What’s the deal? Let’s get moving.”
“If we fly straight there, it will take too long. Give me one orbit to gain speed, then we’ll whip out and save six hours.”
“You’re the robot girl.”
When we approached the space city, everything was lit up like a city inside a soap bubble. It was always that way. I handed Lisa a piece of paper with coordinates on it.
“What’s this? The tourist landing bays are over there?”
“We aren’t using those. Special arrangements today at the science labs.”
She raised an eyebrow at me and pursed her lips. At least she took us to the science portals. The tiny gyro looked absurd beside the giant shipping barges and experimental spacecraft. She spotted an open slot and landed near the main exit.
A brunette in a labcoat met us as we stepped onto the platform. She held out her hand. “Mr. Boyack, I’m Dr. Oates.” I shook her hand and she turned. “This must be Lisa Burton. It’s an honor to meet you. You’re a real celebrity up here.”
Lisa was a bit more reserved, but politely shook the doctor’s hand.
“We’re all ready for you in the lab. If you’ll just follow me.” She led us through a set of doors that actually went swish, just like in the movies. When she handed Lisa a paper gown everything got scary.
“What’s going on here? You told me we were going to have fun today.”
“And we are. We just have a few things to do first.”
“We, meaning me. What kind of lab is this?”
“We are on the cutting edge of robotics technology here. I also promise you, we have nothing to do with Atlantic Robotics. They don’t know you’re here, and niether does anyone else. We’re going to check you out and have you down on the tourist level in no time.”
Lisa turned to me and poked a finger at her heart. At least it would be anyone else’s heart, Lisa doesn’t have one. “I don’t want anyone poking around in my private systems. They’re mine, and nobody else’s business.”
I took her by the hand. “I understand that more than almost anyone. Remember my biopsy? Everything was benign, but you just never know. I don’t want to get probed down there either, but I’m kind of glad I did. What if it had been serious?”
“Do you think I have a virus, or a Trojan? That’s gross.”
“We don’t know. I published your story in 2014. That means I wrote it in 2012 or so, and that’s a long time for hardware and software. Wouldn’t you like someone to check that everything is still working correctly, or at optimal speed?”
“Fine, but I’m not wearing this stupid gown. It’s ugly, and I’d rather go naked.”
Doctor Oates said, “If that’s what you’re most comfortable–
“And I’m keeping my shoes on.”
The doctor led Lisa away, but she managed a look back at me that could curdle milk.
I paced for a while, then found a couch and checked my blog stats. Everything with Lisa seems to spike higher than other posts. She’s really been a benefit to my writing career, and my blog. I hope everything is fine, but it’s worth checking out.
Time ticked away, and I started to get worried. What if something was actually wrong? I mean, nobody knows what kind of shelf life Lisa has. A new car starts looking kind of old after five years. Computers need replacing about that frequently too.
A young man in a lab coat came my way. His brow was covered in sweat, and his cheeks were flushed.
I stood to meet him. “How does she look?”
He blew out, and turned a deeper shade of red. “I, um, she looks great. I mean, you have seen her right?”
“Not like that, and that isn’t what I mean. Is everything okay?”
“I’m not at liberty to say, but you can ask her yourself. She just sent me for her purse. She won’t come out until she touches up her lipstick and mascara.”
I handed him Lisa’s purse and sat back down. It took another twenty minutes before I heard heels clacking behind the doors. I knew they didn’t belong to Dr. Oates’ gum soled shoes. I stood and waited for the news.
Lisa burst through the doors, but she was smiling. My tension eased a bit. She and Dr. Oates were laughing about something.
“Everything is fine, Mr. Boyack. Lisa is going to be with you for a long time.” She turned to Lisa. “Thank you for coming in, and my son is going to flip over the autograph. Come back here anytime you need.”
“Are you sure you don’t need any more selfies?”
“I think the dozen we took will be enough.”
Lisa grabbed my shoulder and turned me toward the hallway.
“What’s the deal? Is everything okay?”
“No malware, no spyware, and no viruses. Dr. Oates let me look at all the programming before she hooked me up to any of the machines, and it made things a lot easier. She updated my operating system, and I saved half a terabyte of onboard storage. She told me I could gain even more if I deleted some of my police programming, but I refused.”
“Is that the right idea? There isn’t much need for DNA analysis these days.”
“I don’t care. It’s mine and I’m keeping it.”
“So do I have to use a thumbprint scanner or anything like that?”
“No! I’m not a phone. The OS came with some stuff I can’t imagine any use for though.”
“It seems like it always does. What kind of stuff?”
“I have Radar and Sonar capability now. When will I ever use that?”
“Probably never. What about the conflict between your fight or flight programming?”
“That’s still there. They have no idea why my emotions overload it. It’s tough, because under those situations, there’s a ton of emotional programming to sift through.”
“So are you okay with coming here?”
“It sounds scarier than it really is. It feels like a really bad thing, and it’s easy to put off. Dr. Oates and her staff are top notch, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined it. I even got a little bit more battery time out of the deal.”
“Feels better to have a clean bill of health though, doesn’t it?”
“Absolutely, but you’re still taking me to that juicy casino. My processors are so fast now, they don’t stand a chance against me. Then we’re going shopping with my winnings.”
“Anything you like.”
*Lisa Burton is the robotic main character in Wild Concept. She works as my personal assistant, and is the spokesmodel for my writing career.
***
Please take care of yourselves. Everyone’s health is important, and it’s all too easy to put off regular maintenance. I never wanted a colonoscopy, or a prostate biopsy, but I’m glad I went through the process. I have to go back in a couple of years, but I rest easier now.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a mammogram, or some other procedure. Get it taken care of. I love my fans, and want you to be around for a long time. If women’s health week is what it takes, so be it.
Nag your husbands and loved ones. Don’t let them put things off either.

31 Comments

Filed under Muse