Yardwork and reality

Three hours of raking in the autumn rain
Fresh air, peace, effort – good for the brain
But a Halloween witch sneered down at my gem
“Fool!” she snickered. “Try again.”

Autumn leaves all over the yard and sidewalk

Autumn leaves all over the yard and sidewalk

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Endgame Story “Above It All”

I just published a second short story related to my novel Endgame.

The Mitasterites–the aggressors in what is thus far known as the Great War–come off as a bit one-sided in the events of “Endgame.” The novel (and its successors) is told from the point of view of Captain June Vereeth, a “normal girl” sniper who, no surprise, has little pity or empathy for her enemies.

Is that entirely fair? Though it works for the novel, that answer would be ‘no.’ Some of the best novels and movies around present villains who are more than cardboard cut-outs. One of Anthony Doerr’s main characters in All the Light We Cannot See is a German soldier during WWII. We mourn for Werner Pfennig as a poor orphan with enormous potential who gets swept up into the madness of war. We sympathize even though he is, unwillingly, part of the aggressor side (and he carries some culpability for his actions).

Would the role of Khan in Star Trek II be as memorable if we couldn’t feel a little pity for Khan’s plight? Despite his madness and sense of hell-bent vengeance, it’s easy to understand why he’s a little pissed-off. In The Empire Strikes Back, we’re meant to feel a little concern for the fate of the newly-promoted Admiral Piet. Being the man in charge under Lord Vader has consequences (and never mind the fact that, in “Jedi”, he gets vaporized by an inbound A-wing). Even in The Silence of the Lambs, the musical score evokes the slightest amount of sympathy for the imprisoned Hannibal Lecter. Yes, that Hannibal Lecter. This was no accident on Director Demme’s part. Feeling something for villains makes them richer, more human.

In this story, Marecik is an Executive Officer who, along with Captain Hargarah, must watch when the Admiral’s grand battle plan for conquering P-75 goes up in flames. There’s no option to disobey. To disagree with a superior officer in the Mitasterite Empire means death via sword. So Marecik and his boss (a man he respects) are stuck. As Tennyson famously wrote, “Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.”

Above It All

Enjoy!

Endgame cover by Greg Simanson Designs. Cover shows characters, rockets and a woman's eye against a green-ice background and twin suns, orange lettering. "The war begins" is added at the top.

Endgame is published!

I’m pleased to announce that my third novel “Endgame” is now available for Kindle. You can find it here.

(For those who don’t have a Kindle, other digital formats will be available around the holidays. The paperback version should be released in a few weeks.)

Fans of war fiction, science fiction, adventure stories, cold environments and anyone who wants to see a woman kick some ass (my heroine, sniper captain June Vereeth) will enjoy this tale!

If you’d like to read the beginning chapters first, they are here.

Other nonsense related to the story can be found here.

 

Endgame cover by Greg Simanson Designs. Cover shows characters, rockets and a woman's eye against a green-ice background and twin suns, orange lettering. "The war begins" is added at the top.

Another Lob

On Monday (10/10/16) I will once again cast a stone into the river. Another unveiling release, another Hail Mary pass, another lob. (Not another chuck, I would say, because I’m not trying to give anyone a black eye.) Can you hear me cringing or sighing or wincing or hoping? If so, you might be a writer, too. Voila, the rock gets its own arc and a landing of undetermined quality. Endgame.

Why do it? the voice asks.

In simplest terms, I have to. (More on that, soon.)

This time, I invite readers to board a shuttle with a sniper’s beam rifle secured under their seat. Rather than a view of the California coastline or the Danube, their window shows them space giving way to a wintry planet, then a mountain fortress. Everyone aboard is frightened, but there’s no option to turn back. The war is on and a rare fuel must be protected (or, at least, not relinquished to the enemy) and the stakes are very high.

Captain June Vereeth, our heroine, isn’t the only one who didn’t ask to be in this conflict or to raise a rifle on the inhospitable world of P-75. War lives up to its reputation for superceding everything else, however, and a blast that redefines ‘victory’ soon leaves Vereeth and four soldiers stranded alone on the planet. Without a ship, or a radio, some 50 million miles behind enemy lines. Dangerous wildlife start taking an interest, and the power-hungry enemies (Mitasterites) start returning to the surface by the hundreds. In galactic parlance, you might say, our heroes are utterly screwed.

In my last published novel, The Churning, I asked readers to live in the shoes of an egotistical Persian-American soccer star who finds himself as a hostage for crazed villains in a house. He learns some things about himself and his lifestyle. The story was a little dark.

For my first offer, Watching the World Fall, I gave readers a sane, disease-stricken father whose act of kidnapping a college football demigod is, he believes, a righteous gift for his son. (It was my first real novel, so it involved nine years of bumbling and mistakes, first.)

There’s also The Song of Jemma and other short stories with various worlds and predicaments. The list goes on.

All told, even with Booktrope’s marketing of the re-released “The Churning” and so forth, maybe 500 people have read my stuff. I don’t think it’s up to a thousand. The river where I lob these stones is wide and gushing. (If I really seek an exploratory adventure into crushing depression, I could calculate my hourly earnings as a writer.)

Why do it? the voice asks. Why take that penalty kick if you know the ball’s going over the bar?

Grumble. [Insert sarcastic cartoon depiction of writers as laptop-bearing Starbucks junkies here.]

Because I don’t know how to do anything else? No, that’s weak, and it’s far from the truth. I parent. I play and coach soccer. I (try to) fix websites. I cook. I lead kids, when asked. I chauffeur and cater and entertain and organize (mostly without being asked). I make repeated attempts at tidying/updating the house, often with laughable failure. I live.

Could it be that I don’t know how to do anything better than I write? My soccer buddies would be quick to point out that my on-field antics provide no competition. If I poured 1,500 hours (and excessive coffee consumption) into a meal, could my culinary creation be superior? That’s doubtful, too.

Why do it? the voice asks.

Could it be that a deeper compulsion is at work within me? That, for better or worse, a storyteller is what I am? Ed Viesturs was born to climb, Chuck Yeager to fly and Bobby Flay to cook.

Uh, Mister Edison, they’ve made successful careers out of their passions. You’ve made bupkis.

But, is that the point? Raking in dough? [This, by the way, is how all unsuccessful writers console themselves. It’s easy–just cling to the calling of art.] Is money the reason to rise in darkness, pace the kitchen (or out in the fog–even better!) and try to bring a little order to all the voices upstairs?

(I am lucky to be one of them. The ideas flow. Without exaggeration, I picture the creative side of my brain as a kind of Heathrow Airport. All those queues going in different directions, complete with scowls and polite smiles and laughter and lost luggage and fears about missed opportunities. Those multitudes aren’t quiet, either.)

The point I’m trying to make is, it’s not really a choice. Some of those outbound planes have to actually taxi and take off. Does an artist ever stop making art? Wouldn’t that make the world a little less lively or colorful? If I’m good enough to get positive response from the few people who do read my work, isn’t that good enough for a storyteller?

Chances are, it’s going to have to be. There’s no Knopf or Random House or New York Times printed anywhere near my name right now, and that may be true for all time. I accept that certain things are out of my hands.

Measuring the quality of consolation prizes, however, is a matter of perspective. Yesterday, a friend told me she couldn’t put this book down. I must’ve been pulling my hair and filling my ears with loud music for 7-8 months trying to come up with a satisfying way to tie the story together. Then, like an old song you long form, it arrived (and gives the tale a pro-environment twist). Bam, lucky.

And a year from now, if I’m standing ready to lob another stone knowing how Endgame didn’t make much of a splash, will I still throw?

It’s what I do.

 

Endgame cover by Greg Simanson Designs. Cover shows characters, rockets and a woman's eye against a green-ice background and twin suns, orange lettering. "The war begins" is added at the top.

Endgame Comes Out Soon

At long last, after four years and 1,500 hours or so–and re-reading and correcting until I can’t see straight–Endgame will be released on October 10th! Time to rock!

I’ve had so much fun dreaming out the success, I even imagined an agent chat regarding its potential for that all-important Bestseller list. (If you’re a novelist, after all, isn’t that the only thing that counts?!)

 

Scope view of gray-skinned Mitasterite in June Vereeth's crosshairs.

Endgame cover by Greg Simanson Designs. Cover shows characters, rockets and a woman's eye against a green-ice background and twin suns, orange lettering. "The war begins" is added at the top.