Monday, April 28, 2014

Politics and Science Fiction Writing -- a Toxic Mix

(1991 Hugo award, From

I said in a previous entry that I would not discuss politics on this blog. There's enough nastiness out there as it is, on many levels, and this isn't a place for a rehash of my own or anyone else's politics.

But apparently, like everywhere else these days, there's politics in the science fiction field. I stumbled across this blog post ( from Larry Correia. I've read a couple of his novels, found them pretty good, but haven't been able to pick up any more of them because of finances. So, I was surprised about the content of the blog post.

The Hugos are the top award in Science Fiction. To win one is a career enhancement that never goes away. They've voted on at World Science Fiction Convention every year. And like other awards, people pitch for their favorites, either their own work, or someone else' they really like. And that seems to be a problem for some people.

Before I continue, I do not chose the authors I read for their politics. I chose to read them because I enjoy the stories they tell and allow me to escape the real world and all it's politics. It's the same thing with the music I listen to. I care about the song or the music. I don't give a damn about their politics. Actors and actresses, the same thing. I'm sure that my politics and some of theirs are 180 degrees different from each other. But I don't care about politics with these people --- I listen/read/watch them to get away from the politic

Yet there's some people who are more concerned about politics then the quality of the writing. Mister Correia's recommendations for the Hugo have raised the hackles of some people, not because of his recommendations, but because of Mister Correia's politics.

The point of the post is not to excoriate one side or the other. The point of this post it ask why do politics rear its ugly head in what should be a wide open, free-wheeling genre. I am probably being naive in believing that those stories that win the Hugos deserve to win them, regardless of the author's politics. But, apparently if you don't follow the party line, you become a danger to the establishment. In his blog post, Mr. Correia writes the following:

I’ve said for a long time that the awards are biased against authors because of their personal beliefs. Authors can either cheer lead for left wing causes, or they can keep their mouth shut. Open disagreement is not tolerated and will result in being sabotaged and slandered. Message or identity politics has become far more important than entertainment or quality. I was attacked for saying this. I knew that when an admitted right winger got in they would be maligned and politicked against, not for the quality of their art but rather for their unacceptable beliefs.
Mr. Correia states that he has been accused of "fraud, vote buying, log rolling, and making up fake accounts." and being called "a racist, a homophobe, a misogynist, a rape apologist, an angry white man, a religious fanatic, and how I wanted to drag homosexuals to death behind my pickup truck."

And this hatred all because he recommended some stories to be considered for an award......

I didn't take his word for it -- I went looking to find the bias Mr. Corriea was talking about. I found this: 

This page has a lot of links: There are a few blog posts about the politics included in that list of links, on both sides.

Science Fiction, unlike a lot of other generations, is an exploration of the future --- All futures, not ones that you, the reader, agree with. I'm not a fan of post-apocalyptic novels or Hunger Game-type stories, or tales in which the writer hits you over the head with their ideas on how humanity should live. But there is room for all sorts of stories, and if someone whats to wear his politics on the sleeve, or hang it around their main character's necks, they have every right. But the important thing is the story, not the author's politics. 

Apparently, one nominee has political views that a few find offensive; as I have never read or even heard of this author before, I have no idea how offensive his views are. Has this man committed a crime? Not to my knowledge. What one person might find offensive, other people will shrug off. People are flacking for both sides, painting this author as either a wingnut or a man with strong views that others don't agree with.

As I'm not involved in the award voting, I feel no strong urge to find out anything more. There are going to be people who are going to vote against this man because of their view of his views, rightly or wrongly. They won't be voting because they like or dislike the story in question --- the story may be brilliant or be the worse piece of drek ever to be nominated. Their vote will be because they like or dislike the author, or their perception of him, no matter what the truth is. And that lowers the prestige of the Hugo.

So, I don't care about real-life politics in my sci-fi. So stop trying to impose it on me, the reader, either through the novel or through the awards.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Merlin's Legacy, Chapter 7, part 2

The writing still going strong --- All three short stories are over 2,000 words, while the African Firestorm outline is close to 12,000 words. Talked to Rick Chesler, and OUTCAST OPS has it's own twitter feed at @OutcastOps. I'll keep you updated on the progress of the novel.

And now, some more of Merlin's Legacy, the rest of Chapter 7:


        The darkness lasted only a couple of seconds before I found myself in a large stone chamber larger than the library. The floor, walls and ceiling were all made from squared-off stone blocks. Several corridors lead out of the room, to where, I had no idea. “What is this place?”
        “It really has no official name,” Cachmawri said. “We called it the Sanctum.”
        I walked into the center of the room and did a slow circle. A quarter of the chamber was another library, with chairs, bookcases, and a large reading table. Another quarter was a lab of some sort, with a workbench, beakers and other equipment I didn't recognized. The third quarter looked to be a museum, with display cases holding objects. The other quarter looked like a storage area, a refrigerator, cabinets and set of drawers centered around another large table. The way we’d come had a dark doorway.
        “How?” I asked. “There is no way all this can be hidden behind the library wall!”
        “It isn't,” Lucian said, walking into the chamber. “We are standing inside a pocket dimension, first created by Merlin himself, and used by each succeeding generation. It is a warehouse, a training area, a laboratory and a refuge. Here, you can learn how to be a wizard.”
        “How big is this place?”
        “I really don’t know. I never fully explored this place.”
        Lucian shook his head. “Didn’t have the time.”
        The throbbing in my head got worse, and I started rubbing my temples again.
        “Head hurts?” he asked.
        “Yeah,” I replied.
        Lucian motioned toward a cabinet near the doorway in the storage area. "Top shelf, round bottle with white egg-shaped pills in it. Please get it.”
        The cabinet was unlocked and I found the bottle with no problem. I brought over to Lucian. “These?” I asked.
        “Yes. Take two of those. There’s bottled water in the refrigerator.”
        The refrigerator was well stocked with food and liquids, but I just grabbed a bottle of water and used it to wash down the two pills. Almost at once, the throbbing lessened. “Wow,” I said.
        “Feel better?” Cachmawri asked.
        “Good. I’ll show you some of the features of the Sanctum.”
        We spent an hour and a quarter going through the Sanctum. The corridors were built just like the main chamber, all stone, with iron-shod wooden doors leading to different rooms. I saw training halls, both for martial arts and Magus Artificium (Magical arts). There were storerooms, an Alchemy lab, a full kitchen, several bedrooms, an Olympic swimming pool (with changing rooms), and even a hot spring, One room had nothing but a large metal ring set into the chamber floor, surrounded by engravings of different symbols like the ones I saw on Lucian’s tomb.
        This place was huge, easily twice the size of the main house, which was large to begin with. There were stairs and other corridors leading to other parts of the structure we didn't explore.
By the time we returned to the main room, I was suitable impressed with the Sanctum. Lucian had stayed in the main hall, and was waiting for us when we came back. “Well?”
        “Just like the TARDIS,” I said.
        “Tardis?” Cachmawri asked.
        “It’s from a science fiction TV show,” Lucian said “A spaceship that is bigger on the inside than the outside.”
        “Ah. I need to check on a couple of things.” Cachmawri quick-stepped out the doorway leading to the library.
        “What do you think of this place?” Lucian asked me.
        “Very nice,” I said.
        Lucian motioned to a chair in the library quarter. “Please, sit.”
        I went over and sat down. Lucian stood behind another chair. “I know I’m dumping a lot on you all of a sudden,” he said. “And for that, I am sorry. Cachmawri wanted me to bring you up here after you graduated high school and make you my apprentice, but I vetoed the idea.”
        “Because I didn't want you to be subjugated to the same life I was. My father, Quinton Merlin started training me in the Magus Artificium when I was twelve years old. I trained twelve hours a day, six days a week. And if my father wasn't home, Cachmawri would trained me. I had no friends, no social life, nothing but the training and the family.”
        “Did Grandpa know?”
        Lucian shook his head. “Sam knew something was wrong, but didn't know about the training or anything about magic. In any case, he knew that he couldn't stand up to our father. Quinton Merlin was very set in his beliefs, and had a very black and white view of the world.”
        “He doesn't sound like a nice man.”
        “Actually, he was a very loving, but stern, man. He and my mother raised all four of us with love and a disciplined work ethic. The only area in which my father was hard on me was in my training as the next Merlin’s Heir, and in that, he as unforgiving.”
“You didn't want to train me in the same way.”
        In part,” he replied. “But I've also seen many things over the years I wish I hadn’t, the horrors outweighing the few things of wonder. I didn't think I had the right to expose anyone else to it.”
        “But you should had contacted me and asked!” I said, standing up. “I could have come up here during the summer and trained. If being Merlin’s Heir is as important as you say it is, then doesn't stand to reason that a half-trained replacement would have been better than an untrained one?”
        Lucian gave me a sad smile. “Would you have said yes?”
        I stopped for a moment. “Maybe,”I replied. “But you could have exposed me slower to the idea of magic. Instead, I being deluged with all this stuff in a short period of time and I’m feeling overwhelmed.”
        “I’m sorry, Roger,” Lucian said. “I guess I was alone too long. That’s another reason why I didn't pull you into this life earlier. Being the Heir can be so lonely, and it can destroy relationships. It also consumes you life on a scale that few other roles demand. I didn't want you to be condemned to an entire lifetime of that.”
        “What about the next generation?” I asked. “Assuming a child is born into the family with this Magus Sensus in the next several years, what then? Would you delay bring them into the fold and risk there being no Merlin’s Heir?”
        “Roger, I—”
        “Lucian, please,” I said sharply. I then took a deep breath and said, “I could yell and scream for the next two days, but that isn't going to change anything. Grandpa said more than once that screaming about what life dealt you is a waste of time and energy. Best to use that time and energy into getting out what life tossed you into.”
“Sam was always a bit blunt. Took after our mother in that way.”
        I took a deep breath. “The thugs at the tomb weren't the first time I was attacked. I was attacked last week, in my apartment, by the same guys. They wanted the letter Charlie Windiciott sent me, only I hadn't received it yet. It would be one hell of a coincident if your murder and the attacks on me weren't related. Charlie Windicott also told me that his files were broken into the night of your murder and his letter was delayed until his files were sorted out.”
        “A reasonable assumption.”
        “In that vein, they’re not going to stop just because I inherit. And if Merlin’s Heir is that scary to them, they might up the ante.”
        I nodded. “The hooded creep didn't pull that appearing and disappearing trick with smoke and mirrors. And if they start flinging around magic, people could get hurt. It stands to reason that the best way to fight magic is magic.”
        A gong started up, and a female voice said, “Attention. There are intruders on the estate’s grounds. There are intruders on the estate grounds.”


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Merlin's Legacy and a Late Update

Well, I missed another Monday....

On the writing front, the African Firestorm outline is over 11,000 and complete up to Chapter 38, heading into Chapter 39. I'm beginning to see the end, but the climax is going to tricky to write, as I have to wrap all the threads together to complete the story. I know how the story ends --- I just need to get it there....

The Battletech stories are going well, I'll update them in my Battletech blog ( Just suffice it to say, they are going well.

And I've decided to go a little bit farther in bringing the first draft of Merlin's Legacy to you, the reader. Here is part one of Chapter 7:


         I don’t know how long I laid there like a stunned fish, but when my senses started working again, I heard voices. One was the cat’s, while the other I vaguely recognized.
        “It’s tradition!” the cat was saying.
        “The situation is different,” the second voice said.
        “Are you sure he’s the one?”
        “You didn’t see him when those thugs attacked him. He used the energy powering the wards around my tomb and channeled it through him with only a little help from me. And that was with his Magus Sensus blocked.”
        “But he has so much to learn!”
        “And that is my fault, old friend. But he will learn for you.”
        “You should have brought him in sooner.”
        The second voice sighed. “I’ve already said it’s my fault. But the point is moot. And Roger has recovered.”
        I groaned and sat up. “What’s going on?” I asked.
       “That is my fault, I’m afraid.”
        I looked up and found myself staring up at the mirror image of the painting of the library.  He was wearing the bomber jacket, military trousers, and boots. I glanced at his hand and the dragon ring was there. “Uncle Lucian?”
        “Hello, Roger,” Lucian said, smiling at me. “Sorry about this, but it’s time you and I had a talk.”
        “But you’re dead!”
        “That’s one of the things we have to talk about. I have an offer for you, one that will change your life.”
        Lucian sighed. “Get up and we can continue this in the library.”
        I got up slowly. “But you’re dead!”
        “Yes, I know.”
        “But you’re here! And young!”
        “I’m here, yes, but I’m dead, and I’m a ghost.”
        I was on my feet now and looking at him. “But I can see you!”
        “Try touching me.”
        I reached out had tried to put my hand on his chest, only to have my hand pass through his body. I pulled my hand back and tried again, with the same result. I pulled my hand and looked at it. “I must be dreaming,” I muttered
        Sharp pain lanced through my left calf as if someone had pressed a nail against it. I yelped and hopped back.
        Lucian looked down. “That wasn’t very nice, Cachmawri,” he said in a disapproving tone.
        “We don’t have time for him to work through his disbelief,” the cat replied, walking past me and into the library. “There’s a lot he needs to know and only a little time to explain it in.”
        Lucian nodded. “He’s right. We need to move this along.”
        I walked into the library. Cach was sitting on a chair. He raised a paw and pointed at a nearby chair. “Sit.”
        I sat.
        Lucian walked over to stand near the fireplace. He stared into the fire for a few seconds. “Roger,” he said. “Have you ever thought about our last name?”
        “Merlin?” I shrugged. “I got teased about it for a few years, but no, not really.”
        “What would you say if I told you that Merlin of the Arthurian legends was a real person, and you are his decedent?”
        I blinked at him. “Okay.”
        “You accept that?”
        “I’m talking to a ghost and a cat and not freaking out.”
        Lucian smiled, making him look younger. “Good.” He looked over at Cachmawri. “This might work.”
        “You’ve only started,” Cachmawri replied. “We’ll see if he remains calm.”
         Lucian nodded, then looked back at me. “But there’s more. Not only you are Merlin’s decedent, you are his heir to his position.”
        “Heir to what?” I asked.
        “The position of Merlin’s Heir,” Cachmawri replied.
        “Okay,” I said, looking from cat to ghost and back again. “Which means what?”
        “Which means you’re a wizard,” Lucian replied.
        “A wizard?” I said, leaning forward. “As in magic?”
        “Yes,” Lucian said.
        “Real magic and not some sort of stage show?”
        “Like Gandalf, Harry Potter, Harry Dresden—”
        “Yes!” Cachmawri snapped in annoyance.
        “Cachmawri,” Lucian said gently. Then to me, he said, “Yes, Roger. Sixty-one generations of Merlins have followed the original in defending this world against those who seek humanity’s destruction.”
        “Like what?”
        “Demons, for one,” Cachmawri said.
        “Demons?” I asked. “Real demons?”
        “Demons are real, Roger,” Lucian said. “In fact, if you think of all the legendary creatures you’ve read or heard about in documentaries, there’s a grain of truth to most of them.”
        “There is?”
        “And I have to fight them?”
        "No,” Cachmawri said. ‘Most of the time, it acting as an intermediary between humanity and parabeings.”
        “The general term for those creatures that don’t fit into normal classification,” Lucian said.
        “The person who is Merlin’s Heir is one of the few humans parabeings take seriously,” Cachmawri said. “Sometimes the Heir has to protect humanity from the parabeings, other times, the Heir has to protect the parabeings from humanity. In addition, the Heir watches for magic misuse on both sides.”
        I held up my hands and stood. “Wait a minute!” I said, “Give me a few minutes to process this!” I began walking up and down. “You want me to become the new Merlin’s Heir, right?”
        “Yes,” Lucian said.
        “And you’re a wizard, right?”
        “I was a wizard. Now, I’m a ghost.”
        “So, I’m a wizard too, right?”
        “You have the ability.”
        “Why me? Why not one of my uncles or my sister or brother?”
        “Because you’re the only one in two generations of Merlins that has a Magus Sensus.”
I stopped and looked at him. “A what?”
        “Magus Sensus,” Cachmawri said. “Latin for ‘Magical Sense.’ It means you have the ability to sense and tap into the energy necessary for magic.”
        “What energy?”
        “The energy all around us. For example, Lumen Globus.”
        A sphere of light the size of a softball appeared above Cachmawri’s head. It glowed with about the same light as a flashlight. “There is energy all around us, Roger,” Cachmawri said. “Different types, but all can be tapped for different spells. For example this glow globe is using the energy from the light on the table back there. Now watch what happens when I use another form of energy. Ingnus Globus.”
        The ball of light suddenly became a ball of fire, and even from several feet away I could feel the heat It floated there like a miniature sun. “Dispellere,” Cachmawri said and the fireball vanished.
        “Anyone with a strong enough Magus Sensus can use magic,” Lucian said. “The problem is that only six hundred thousand people world-wide have even the rudimentary sense, and of that number, maybe six thousand people have a strong enough Magus Sensus to use magic.”
        “And I’m one of those six thousand?”
        Lucian nodded. “The Merlin line has always had strong wizards through the centuries.”
        “If I have this Magus Sensus, why didn't I know about before this?”
        “When you were a newborn, I set up blocks around your Magus Sensus.”
        “I think I remember that,” I said. I held up my hand with the ring. “When I put on this ring, I had a flash of memory. You were leaning over me in the maternity ward.”
        Lucian nodded. “The ring is the symbol of the position of Merlin’s Heir. It has been passed down through generations of Merlins.”
        “So, what about this Magus Sensus? Is it dangerous?”
        “Only to the untrained,” Cachmawri replied.
        “The blocks prevent you from accessing your Magus Sensus unless you happen to be near a place of strong concentration of energy,” Lucian said, “like my tomb.”
        “Your tomb,” I said.
        Lucian nodded. “My tomb is surrounded by wards designed to prevent anyone from breaking into my tomb and disturbing my body. It was the energy fueling the wards that you used to send those thugs flying.”
        “When I heard voices at your tomb, it was you?”
        “It was.”
        I began pacing again. “So, I can use magic, in order to be the protector of humanity against Parabeings and vice versa. I have this magical sense—”
        “Magus Sensus,” Cachmawri said.
        “Right,” I said. “Magus Sensi-thingie that allows me to feel and manipulate the energy around me and cast spells like a RPG wizard.”
        “RPG?” Cachmawri asked.
        “Role-playing game,” Lucian replied.
        I stopped and looked at Lucian again. “So, why are you dead?”
        “I was murdered.”
        “Yes, shot, then fell. Why didn’t you defend yourself?”
        Lucian scowled. “Because being a wizard doesn’t make you immune to bullets or grant you the ability to automatically detect a sniper. We can do things most humans only dream of, but we are still human.”
        “Any idea who shot you?”
        “No. I was shot in the back and had no time to do anything.”
        “Why were you out there at night?”
        Lucian became sober. “I made a mistake.”
        “A mistake?” I asked.
        He nodded. “There’s been a series of incidents, involving churches being broken into and desecrated and livestock missing.”
        “Yes, I know about them. The sheriff thinks it’s kids fooling around with Satanism.”
        “It’s much more than that,” Cachmawri said.
        “Cachmawri’s right,” Lucian said. “I also thought it was kids fooling around, but I found sings that this was something much darker and serious.”
        “What did you find?”
        “Evidence of a sorcerer.”
        I frowned. “Sorcerer?”
        “There are two types of Magic users,” Cachmawri said. “Wizards and sorcerers.”
        “What’s the difference?”
        “Wizards use the energy around them for their magic,” Lucian said. “But sorcerers use unnatural energy for their spells.”
        “Unnatural energy?” I asked.
        “Sorcerers deal with demons to gain their power. They use demonic energy to fuel their spells. On the one hand, they don’t need to have a Magus Sensus to cast spells, and they can become dangerous in a matter of weeks or months. On the other hand—”
        “They have to deal with demons,” I finished. “And I’m guessing demons don’t hand out that much power for free.”
        “They don’t,” Cachmawri said.
        I nodded. “So, there’s a demon-dealing sorcerer in the area.”
        “Worse than that,” Lucian said. “There’s a demonic cult operating in the area.”
        “A demonic cult?” I said.
        Lucian took several steps away from the fireplace. “Yes, Roger. I should have seen the signs earlier, recognized them, but I allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of security.”
        “You can’t blame yourself.”
        “Yes, I can. Once more, I should have seen it earlier because I’d seen the same signs back in the aftermath of World War Two.”
        “I’m guessing you didn’t fight a normal war.”
        “Not as you know it. What do you know of Nazi Occultism?”
        “I know a few of the top leadership were obsessed with it. Heinrich Himmler comes to mind.”
        Lucian nodded. “Himmler was obsessed with the occult, and he gathered experts together and began contacting several demon lords for aid and power.”
        “He offer souls in return for the power,” Cachmawri said. “Innocent souls.”
        “Himmler formed a department in the SS simply called Office 51, and placed the resources of the SS at their disposal. Office 51 handled all sorcerer activity, and ran their own concentration camp to supply both labor and souls for the demon lords. When word got out, it sent shockwaves through the magic and parabeing community. Some groups sealed themselves away, while others looked to join the Nazis. But most saw the danger for what it was.”
        “You fought.”
        “The Allies gathered wizards and we fought the war on the mystical level,” Lucian said. “And we managed to disrupt most of their operations, including several last-ditch efforts that could have prolonged the war and turn it into a nightmare.
        “Good for you,” I said. Cachmawri sighed.
        After the war,” Lucian continued, “I spent five years hunting down remnants of Office 51, destroying or seizing objects and files from the survivors. Most of the Nazi sorcerers who went underground would set up in an area, slowly recruit followers, contact one of the demon lords and begin to build a base of power. Most moved too fast or overreached themselves and were destroyed. But a few managed to evade justice and went underground.”
        “So you think that a Nazi demonic cult is operating here in Pilgrim’s Cove?”
        “A demonic cult, almost certainly,” Cachmawri said.”There’s no evidence that there’s any Nazi influence.”
        “Several objects from Office 51 were never recovered,” Lucian said. “They’re still out there and still dangerous in the hands of wrong people.”
        “We’re getting sidetracked here,” I said. “Uncle Lucian, How bad can this demon cult be?”
        “If they summon a demon, and the demon gains a foothold in this world? Bad, on a scale that would make World War Two look like a pillow fight.”
        “Oh, crap.”
        “In more ways than one,” Lucian said.
        “If the Circle finds out about it, they’ll do anything to stop it.”
        “Who’s the Circle?” I asked.
        “The Excalibur Circle are the decedents of the original Knights of the Round Table,” Cachmawri said. “When it comes to things like demons and sorcerers, they are ruthless and tend to destroy everything in the zeal to hunt these people down.”
        “Define zeal.”
        “Remember those fires out west last year? The one in which a dozen people were killed and an entire mountain town?”
        “That was the Circle, hunting down and destroying a demon cult. The fire was set to destroy the evidence.”
        “Wonderful,” I muttered. “Uncle Lucian, why were you out at Table Rock when you were murdered?”
        “I was investigating the area because I found traces of a recent demonic ceremony,” Lucian said.
        “Why here?” I asked.
        “This area has several intersecting lay lines,” Cachmawri said. “The energy around here is much greater than in many other places.”
        “Okay, fine,” I said and began pacing again. “What do you want from me?”
        “Find the demonic cult and stop them,” Lucian said. “Find the person who murdered me. Become the new Merlin’s Heir.”
        I stopped as my head began to throb. “Oh,” I said. “Just like that?”
        “Just like that.”
        “I don’t know anything about magic!”
        “Cachmawri can teach you,” Lucian said. “he has been the mentor for fifteen generations of Merlin Heirs.”
        I looked at the cat. “Fifteen generations?”
        “I am much older than I look,” Cachmawri said.
        “Five hundred years?”
        “About that.”
        The throbbing in my head got worse. I put my fingers on my temples and began massaging them. “I’m getting information overload.”
“We don’t have time to deal with your disbelief,” Cachmawri said, sounding annoyed.
        “Which is why I included the stipulation that Roger spend the night alone,” Lucian said. “I know we couldn't expect him to digest everything quickly.”
        The cat looked at the ghost. “This is going to take longer than one night.”
        “We have several more hours before Charlie makes the second call. We’d better show him the Sanctum.”
        “Are you sure?”
        “We have to show him what Merlin’s Heir has to work with.”
        Cachmawri sighed. “All right. Roger.”
        I stopped rubbing my temples. “What?”
        “I need you to open the Sanctum.”
        I stared at him. “The what?”
        The cat hopped off the chair. “Follow me.”
        We went over to the bookcase to the right of the painting. Cachmawri sat in front of the painting, facing me. “Now,” he said, “place your left hand on the outside of the bookcase, about shoulder high.” I did so. Cachmawri stared at where my hand was. “Move your hand up two inches and toward you half an inch.”
        I did so, and felt the wood under my hand give. “Don’t push it yet,” Cachmawri said. “Now, with your right hand, reach out to that red leather book on the fourth shelf, just above eye level.”
        “Of Mice and Men?” I asked, reading the title off the book’s spine.
        Place your hand on top of the book and pull it toward you at the same time pressing the button on the side of the bookshelf.”
        I did as directed and I head a “click.” The entire bookcase swung away from the wall and to my right, leaving a dark space behind it. Cachmawri stood and walked into the darkness. “Follow me,” he said, his tone echoing. I glanced back at Lucian, who nodded silently. Taking a deep breath, I went into the darkness.



Thursday, April 17, 2014


I didn't have a topic for this entry until right now --- research. I'll be revisiting this subject more than one, but here is my off-the-cuff, too-early-in-the-morning thoughts on the subject:

With very few exceptions, a writer needs to do research for their story. It could be as something as simple as having a map of New York state to figure out where to put your sleepy little town where your novel is based. Mysteries involve things like researching poisons so your victim dies like you want them to. Spy thrillers involve know about how spies operate and why. High fantasy may involve knowing what different weapons can do, the differences between crossbows and long bows, and what sort of outfit a maiden would wear in a near-Britain of the 12th century. I've read sci-fi version of the Odyssey, American Revolutionary War, and Napoleonic Wars. Sooner or later, you need to do research.

While the story is fictional, most of the supporting background has to have some basis in reality. If Victim A dies from strychnine, they'd better show the same symptoms that a real person would if they had been poisoned with strychnine. In the hero is using a katana, the writer had better know that the Japanese sword is more a cutting weapon than a thrusting weapon. If my bad guys are going to launch a nuclear missile, I need to have an idea of the warhead size and what damage it will do. All details that make the story believable. If the details aren't right, the story loses its effectiveness.

That doesn't mean the writer need to become a courtroom-level expect on the material, as most of it will never appear in the story. But if the writer is comfortable with the material, it shows in the writing, imparting just enough information to let the reader grasp the story. The description of someone being poisoned with strychnine matters, because strychnine is a real poison. The way to manufacture said poison isn't necessary, unless it's a part of the plot, nor how much of it there is in the world. Just enough information to let the reader know what strychnine is. If the story is a historical one, the era the story takes place in needs to be examined for things to avoid, like out of era technology or words.

It's easy to keep a list of things to research as you plot out the story. Keep a list of subjects you need to research and do it as you go. It's going to take some time to look at the information and decide what to use and what to discard. The balance between no information and too much information has to be up to the writer; too little and the reader is lost, but too much and the story boggs down. Private Detective knows what strychnine poisoning looks like and tells Suspect #1 how he knows. He doesn'tneed t tell him anything more than that, unless it's a plot point later on.

Taking African Firestorm as an example, I have to research several countries, their cultures, locations inside those countries for scene settings, several different types of transportation vehicles, weapons, and languages. Since this is a thriller set in the here and now, I can't make up things like language or military firearms. I have to see what I can use, and what I cannot.

The good thing is that it's easy to research --- The Internet has many webpages, filled with useful information. Wikipedia is a useful first step, as is Google or any internet search site. Youtube may have useful videos, or there's a blogger blogging about the subject in question. Searching for pictures of the subject can help visualize the setting. Check local TV channels for documentaries on your subject. And if all else fails, the local library. Check Amazon for books abut your subject, or check out the local bookstore's discount sale table for useful books. I have several dozen books on different subjects, mostly from that discount table.

But do the research. The more believable the details are, the better the story is.

Now, to bed and more writing tomorrow. Got in over a thousand words today, which is good for me. African Firestorm is plotted into Chapter 37, and all three of my Battlecorps stories are rolling along.



Monday, April 14, 2014

Back in the Saddle

I'm afraid last week was a washout, writing-wise, due to my friend's death. I managed only about 1100 words for the entire week, mostly at the end of it. Not much to add to African Firestorm. I think I'm going to have to go back and move a scene to an earlier chapter or order to make the timing work out.

But most of the writing that I did do last week was to start two new stories for the Battlecorps website. One is in a time period in the Battletech timeline I've never written in before, so I have the challenge of making it fit into the established facts. It's a challenge and one I need right now.

The other new story will be a tribute to my friend. I talked to Rob's mother late last week, and she said they think he went quickly. I hope I can do this story justice.

No Merlin's Legacy tonight. I'm going to let that sit for a while, until I plow through these other projects, then go back to it with fresh eyes.

Sorry for being so short tonight -- I need to write some before I go to bed.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Rob Madson 1965-2014

This is not a happy post, but one filled with sadness and grief. My Friend, Robert Mason, died last week at the age of 48.

Rob came from Illinois, and worked at one of those three-letter Government agencies. He had a bachelor's and Masters degrees in computer science, and loved working on the computer. He was the only child of a single mother and was very close to her. They would spend their vacation together, and he would always go home to Illinois for Christmas. He loved, anime, model railroading, writing, drawing, and science fiction. He was a geek and a hacker in the best sense of the words. He told me more than once that the movie "Real Genius" (1985) was like reliving his college years.

I met Rob back in about '86, in, of all places, the Games Workshop store in Laurel Center Mall, in Laurel, Maryland. We became fast friends, and though him, I joined the Meade Battlegaming Society, a group that meat every other Saturday in the meeting room of Providence branch of the Ann Arundel County Library system. There we played games live Civilization, any and all train games, and the game that drew us together, Battletech.

But we were friends outside of the gaming days. I usually spent one evening a week at his place, watching videos. Anime was a constant on our to-watch list, as was Mystery Science Theater 3000. We would watch MST3K and riff right along with Joel and the bots. I remember only one film that we couldn't watch in one sitting, because it was so bad --- Kitten with a Whip. It took us two sittings to get through that stinkburger. He come over several times to Thanksgiving dinner with my family. We went to several gaming and anime conventions together, becoming part of fellowship of geeks and feeling at home.

My first real writing was co-written with Rob. There was a magazine called Battletechnology, covering the Battletech universe as if it was an in-universe journal. The magazine had BattleMech designs, stories, scenarios, and the like. We got it into our heads that we could write a story and submit it. And over a course of several months, that's what we did. He would sit as his computer and I would be looking over his shoulder and we starting piecing together the story that we called SnakeDance. We would bounce dialogue, description, and ideas off each other. And somehow, we managed to pull together a story, a scenario, and a BattleMech design and sent them in. As I look back on it now, I don't think either one of us knew what we were really doing. I can still remember the joy of holding that issue in our hands, and seeing our work on those pages. We were ready to do it again, but the issue with our stuff in it was the last one the magazine ever put out. He wrote some fanficition, but he was more of a drawer than a writer, though he did have a few ideas for Sailor Moon fanfics, ideas that will never see the light of day.

He drifted away from Battletech in the late 90's and got back into model railroading, and that was his passion the last decade of his life. He still went to local anime conventions and replaced the gaming with model railroading meets. By then, I had moved to Florida, so I didn't see him every week, but we stayed in contact. Every month to six weeks, I'd call him and we would talk for an hour or so. I even got Christmas presents from him nearly every year, usually anime series, but his last was his old computer, to replace mine, because I couldn't afford to do it myself, I tied to pull him back into the game, going to far as to fill a thumb drive with the newer Battletech material so he could get caught up. For one reason, or another, I never sent it, thinking "I'll do it next week." Well, there's no more next week, and it tears me up inside.

I was going to call him this week, only to be stunned when another of Rob's friend tracked down my phone number and called to tell me Rob had passed away. Now, I am short a friend in a very small circle, and I am grief-stricken. I couldn't make it to the funeral because it was today and I found out about his passing last night, thirty hours ago, as I write this. Even if I had had more time, I couldn't get up there to attend to attend the funeral, to say good-bye in person. That may be the hardest thing to take --- to never hear his voice again, to never discuss what he was doing, how the house was holding up, how he was holding up.

His flaws were few and I knew none that were major. He was a good friend because he put up with me when I was mentally either going in several directions at once, or acting goofy. We had our disagreements, but never serious ones and never for long. Even over the phone, we could talk out things, bounce an idea off each other, and bask in each other's friendship. And now that light is gone from the world

His obituary is here:!/Obituary. Leave a message if you can. I have to call his mother and tell her how sorry I am for her loss. I am trying to find a way to pay tribute to him in the Battletech universe.

Good bye old friend.....


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Merlin's Legacy, The Rest of Chapter 6

Well, not much to say. Been goofing off a bit, but I need to get back to writing again....

Here is the rest of Chapter 6:

       Dinner was nearly ready when we walked into the Nesbille home. The dining room was similar in decor to the living room in style and structure. Abby, wearing an apron and looking like everyone’s favorite grandmother, bustled Donella and myself to our places at the table, then disappeared into what I thought was the kitchen.
       Charlie Windicott was already sitting at the table, a glass of wine in front of him, looking at a folder filled with papers in his lap. He looked up when we sat at our assigned places. “How was your shopping trip?” He asked, closing the folder and putting it away in his briefcase, which was behind him on a sideboard.
       “Successful,” I replied, sitting at one end of the table, the one farthest away from the kitchen. Donella sat on my left, while Charlie was on my right. The table was large enough for six, so there was plenty of room for the four of us.
       “We ran into Myra Goldleaf at Wihite’s store,” Donella said darkly as she helped herself to some mashed potatoes.
       “I take it she made a spectacle of herself?” Abby asked from the kitchen..
“She was trying to browbeat Brenna Kettler into changing the prices of items Myra was buying!”
       “That’s Myra for you,” Charlie said, placing a couple of pieces of ham on his plate. “That woman wants everything she can get without paying for it.”
       “Who?” Abby asked and she strode into the room, holding a bowl with two oven mitts.
       “Myra Goldleaf,” Donella said.
       Abby glowered and she put the bowl on an empty hotplate. “Oh. That woman. She’s bad news at the best of times.”
       “I do feel sorry for her husband,” Charlie said.
       “She’s married?” I said, taking the bowl of mash potatoes from Donella and spoon a healthy helping onto my plate.
       “To a man half her size and opposite disposition,” Abby said. “She bullies him unmercifully. I don’t know how he stands it.”
       “We also ran into Damien,” I said, passing the mashed potatoes onto Charlie.
       Donella shot me a scathing look, and Abby frowned. “Damien Brackett?” the older Nesbille asked.
       “Yes. Is he usually that arrogant?”
       “He’s an arrogant punk. Speaking of which,” Abby shot her niece a disapproving look. “I got a call from Sandra McIntyre this morning,” she said. “She said Damien harassed you at work last night.”
       “It’s nothing,” Donella replied.
       “You can’t let it go on,” Charlie said. “What he’s doing is illegal.”
       “He hasn't done anything.”
       “Yet,” Abby said. “Boys like him think money will allow them to do anything.”
       “I can handle him,” Donella said.
       “For how long?” Abby asked, slicing into her ham with a little more force than necessary.
       “We could sic Margaret Teague on Damien,” I said. “I’m sure she wouldn't tolerate his actions with Donella.”
       This earned me two scowls, one from Donella and one from Abby. “You've met Margaret?” Abby asked, her tone flat and cool.
       Charlie coughed. “I introduced them at the office.”
       Abby shot him a look of annoyance, then said, “Margaret Teague is an amoral woman who should be barred from practicing law.”
       “She’s an excellent legal mind,” Charlie said.
       “I’m sure she is,” Abby said, sarcasm dripping from her words. “I’m sure they hang on every word she utters in the courtroom.”
       “We ran into her at the hardware store,” I said. “She said she had some college brochures she wanted Donella to see.”
       If looks could kill, the one Donella gave me would have left nothing of my body. Abby’s glare turned on Donella. “Oh?”
       “She was just there,” Donella said. “I got away from her as fast as I could.”
       “She did,” I said.
       “That woman is trouble,” Abby said. “Mark my words.”
        Donella sighed. “She isn't that bad,” she said. “She has never been anything but honest and straightforward with me.”
       “I don’t trust her,” Abby said.
       “She’s mentored half a dozen girls in town.”
       As they continued back and forth, arguing the merits of Margaret Teague, I tuned them out. In the back of my mind, I had the strange feeling that I was being watched. I looked around and spotted Cachmawri sitting in the corner of the room to my right, watching me intently. I stared back, but the cat didn't look away. Instead, it laid down and continued staring at me, as if to say, “I’m going to be here all night.”
       Cachmawri’s stare began to unnerve me, but despite that, I continued staring back, not wanting to lose to a cat. Something in these yellow eyes told me that Cachmawri wasn't a stupid cat.
       I turned back to the table, startled by my name being shouted. “What?”
       “What are you staring at?” Abby asked.
       “Cachmawri,” I replied. “He’s—” I looked back, but the corner was empty. “Er, he was in this corner over here, staring at me.”
       “Speaking of which,” Donella said. “What are we going to do with Cachmawri?”
       “Do?” I asked.
       “Cachmawri was Lucian’s cat,” Abby said. “We’re only taking care of it now because of Lucian’s death. Technically, he’s your cat.”
       “To be honest,” I said, “I don’t know anything about taking care of a cat, and It’s going to take a few weeks for me to plow through Lucian’s estate and get that sorted out. So, why don’t you hold onto him for now? We can revisit the situation down the road.”
       “Fair enough,” Charlie said. “But Lucian did state in the will that Cachmawri is your cat.”
       “All right,” I said. “Once I’m organized and on top of things here, Cachmawri can live with me.”
       The conversation turned to other subjects, including Pro Football (Both Nesbilles were die-hard Patriot fans, while I was a Ravens fan. Charlie deferred, as he wasn't really into sports), the cooler than average temperature (leading to the speculation of climate change), and the unusual happenings that had been going on. I listened as the three of them discussed the church break-ins and desecrations, the disappearing livestock, and Lucian’s murder.
       “Lucian was very troubled by the break-ins and the missing livestock,” Abby said. “He thought it was all connected.”
       “How?” I asked.
       “He didn't go into detail. The county investigators think it’s teenagers flirting with Satanism, but Lucian wasn't convinced it was just kids.”
       “Did Lucian go out much at night?” I asked.
       “On occasions, I think, but Lucian could have easily left without us here knowing about it.”
       “Where is this Table Rock?” I asked.
       “About six or seven miles from here,” Charlie replied. “Northeast. “it’s a mass of granite about the size of a football field, sheer drops of about seventy feet or so on three sides, while the fourth side is a steep slope. There’s a spectacular view from the top, but it also has a reputation for being a teens hangout. The Sheriff’s broken several underage drinking parties up there over the years.”
       “Why would Lucian be doing out there?” I asked. “And at night?”
       Charlie frowned. “I had no idea he was out there at night. I thought he’d been killed earlier in the day.”
       “According to the Sheriff, Lucian was seen in town during the early evening,” I said.”So he was killed later that night.”
       “I see. The Sheriff hasn't discussed the case with me much.”
       “He might have been investigating the area on his own,” Abby said.
       “Why?” I asked.
       “I believe they found the remains of a cow up there about a month ago,” Charlie said. “Enough was left to ID it as one of the missing livestock.”
       “But why?” I asked again. “Was Lucian some sort of amateur detective, solving crimes all over the world?”
       “Not that I know of,” Charlie said, spearing a few green beans on his plate then putting them into his mouth.
       Abby was looking at me, frowning. “You didn't know your uncle very well, did you?”
       “I didn't. And that’s something I wish I could change. But it’s too late now.”
       “I think the two of you would have gotten along,” Charlie said. “Lucian was a great man.”
       I picked up my wine glass. “Then, a toast to a man that, to my sorrow, I am finding out about too late to say thank you to. To Lucian Merlin.”
       We stood and touched glasses.


       After a desert of warm apple pie, I followed Charlie up to the main house, using my own car. Donella rode up with me, my purchases in the back seat. Charles frowned as he saw the stuff I was carrying into the house. “Is that stuff really necessary?”
       “I don’t intend on sleeping tonight,” I replied.
       As soon as we entered the main hall, I made a beeline to the library. “I’m going to spend the night in here,” I said, putting my supplies on a love seat.
       “Surely the bedroom would be more comfortable,” Charlie said.
       “The only finished bedroom in this home was Uncle Lucian’s,” I replied. “And the creepy factor is too strong right now.” I looked at the room, picked up a chair and carried it to a section of bookshelves between Lucian’s painting and the doors out to the main hall. “Donalla,” I said, could you please bring that side table over?”
       Charlie watched us as Donella and I arranged a pair of chairs and the side table into a close grouping. “Well,” he said. “There are a few ground rules you must follow. First, you are to remain in this house, alone from nine pm to six am. Between those two times, I will make two phone calls. You will not know when those calls will come, and you must answer both of them.”
       “And if I don’t?”
       “Then the inheritance will pass from your hands into a number of charities.”
       I stopped and looked at him. “I lose the inheritance?”
       “Regrettably, yes.”
       “Now you tell me?”
       Charlie exhaled slowly. “I was not allowed to mention that, until now.”
       “That’s cruel!” Donella said angrily.
       “Where’s the phone?” I asked.
       Donella picked up an old-fashion rotary-dial phone. “Here it is.”
       “Will the wire reach from there to the table here?”
       “I think so.”
       “Bring it over and make sure the ringer is on loud.”
       Donella brought it over and placed it on the table next to the chair. I picked up the receiver and listened to the dial tone for a few seconds. “It works,” I said, placing the receiver back on the cradle. “Any other surprises I need to know about tonight?”
       “No,” Charlie replied. “Those are the terms. Stay here, answer both phone calls, and in the morning, Lucian’s estate will be yours.”
       “Okay.” I eyed the seating arraignment critically. “This looks good enough.” I looked at Charlie. “This place have an alarm?”
       “Yes,” he replied, he removed a sealed envelope and handed it to me. “The codes to activate and deactivate the system. One control panel is behind the painting nearest the front door, and there’s a second one upstairs in Lucian’s bedroom.”
       “Thank you,” I said, taking the envelope.
       Charlie glanced at his large gold-colored wristwatch, which seems to be a bit large for his wrist. “We have about twenty minutes before the vigil begins.”
       “Good,” I said. “Charlie, could I speak to Donella for a moment, alone?”
       He smiled slightly, while Donella looked puzzled. “I’ll be out in hall,” he said, walking toward the doors.
        I waited until the door, then motioned to Donella to walk over to the foot of the stairs. “What do you want to talk to me about?” she asked. “Before you ask, no I will not go out with you.”
       I lost my train of thought for a few seconds. “That wasn't what I was going to ask you about that,” I said. “That wasn't even in the top five things I wanted to talk to you about. Top seven, maybe, but not top five.”
       A smile pulled at her lips, but she folded her arms and looked at me. “All right, what?”
       I inhaled, then exhaled, inhaled again, and said, “Until last week, I had a normal life. But sine then, I've been attacked twice by thugs who wanted to kill me, been notified that my great-uncle, who I hadn't seen or communicated with in ten years has made be the sole heir of an estate in the ten figure range, found out said great-uncle was murdered and now, I have to spend the night in an empty house in order to collect the inheritance. Does that make any sense to you?”
       “When you put it like that, no.”
       “Good. I thought I was the only one.”
       Another smile tugged at her mouth. “Roger,” she said. “This place is a fortress. No one is getting in here tonight or any other night, unless you want them in here. This is probably the safest place in the area. You’re going to be all right.”
       “I know.”
       “Is that it?”
       “If I inherit—”
       “When you inherit.”
       “All right, when I inherit, I’m going to need someone who knows what going on around here, who is trustworthy and who isn't.”
       “Me,” Donella said.
       “You,” I replied. “Everyone I've talked to so far about Lucian sees him as a   near saint and they expect me to be the same. Only I’m not Lucian.”
       “And you want someone to tell you what Lucian would do?”
       “No, I need someone who knows who Lucian would trust and who he avoided. I need someone who knows the lay of the land around here.”
       “Charlie could help you there.”
       “But you saw Lucian nearly every day. You and your aunt probably know Lucian better than Charlie Windicott does. Hell, I know you know him better than I do!”
       She nodded slowly. “And what do I get out of it?”
       “Every time you help me, I take you and your aunt out to breakfast, lunch or dinner, my treat.”
       She tilted her head to consider the proposal. “All right,’ she said. “you’re on.”
       Thank you,” I said. “we’ll start tomorrow.”
       “Good. Anything else you want to talk about?”
       “Probably, but I’ll only think of them after you’re left.”
       “I’ll be by in the morning,” she said.
       “There’s one other thing you can do before you go.”
       “Help me get a fire started in the fireplace?”


       Twenty minutes later, I was alone.
       After getting the fire started (With Charlie’s help), I saw them to the front door, bade them good night, closed the door after them, and locked it. Then taking the envelope with the security codes in it, I found the control panel right where Charlie said it would be, behind a painting of a local seascape that was attached to the wall by a hinge. Following the instruction, I set the alarm and replaced the painting.
       I stopped and listed to the silence. It was complete stillness, the thick stone walls blocking all outside sounds. I listened for a few seconds, creeping myself out in the process, then walked swiftly into the library, shut the door behind me and started my vigil.
       Besides the fire in the fireplace, which threw off gold light on the books around the room, the only other source of light was the lamp on the table next to my chair for the evening. I had chosen a large, overstuffed chair, and I slumped into it. I turned on the radio, and after a few minutes, found a radio station with a overnight talk show, and turned it up enough so I could hear it.
       I spent the next twenty minutes searching the shelves for a book to read. I chose Lord of the Rings, because of it’s size and the fact I hadn't read it in a while. I returned to my chair, opened a bag of beef jerky, a can of soda and started reading.
       I’m not aware of time or the place around me when I read. Instead, my time becomes the time of the characters, my place the land the characters are in. I read the words slowly, letting them sink in, taken to a time long ago, in Middle Earth. The radio and the strange calls became white noise, keeping me from hearing the silence.
       So, when the phone rang when I deep into chapter seven, I had to tear myself away from Frodo, Samwise and the rest of the Fellowship and grab the receiver. “Hello,” I said.
       I half-expected to hear a hideous voice snarl, “Get out!” Instead, I herd Charlie say, “Mister Merlin, this is Charlie Windicott. This is the first of two phone calls I’ve been instructed to make to you this evening. You are doing all right?”
       “I’m fine,” I replied, looking at my watch. It read eleven fifteen. “How are you?”
       “Still full from Abby’s dinner. I’m on the speakerphone here with my associates, Mister Raymond Blount and Miss—”
       “Miz,” Margaret said. “You know better than that by now, Chuck.”
       “Miz Margaret Teague,” Charlie said in a tone of resignation. “You are still in the house?”
       “I am. Just me and J.R.R. Tolkien.”
       “He’s an author, Chuck,” Margaret said. “Roger’s reading.”
       “Oh.” There were a few seconds of silence, then Charlie said, “Sorry.”
       “That’s all right,” I said. “I’m still in the house. I’m warm, dry, and I have enough reading material to last the night. But may I speak to you in private?”
       “Of course. Just a moment.”
       There were a few muffled sounds and a click, then Charlie was back. “I’m alone. What did you want to talk to me about?”
       “How well did Lucian know me?”
       “I’m a working stiff. My apartment could fit in this library and have room left over. Assuming everything goes right, I’m about to become a millionaire. There’s a half a dozen people whop have a closer blood tie than I do, including my father. But he chose me, a great-nephew that he saw maybe half a dozen times. So, how well did Lucian Merlin know me to make me his heir?”
       Charlie was silent for a few seconds. “I can’t answer that question, Roger. But for as long as I knew Lucian, which was eight years, you were the only person listed as heir in his will. Whatever his reasons for choosing you, he didn't make the choice in haste or recently.”
       “Really. Lucian knew you well enough to make you his heir, and he never made a decision without knowing the facts beforehand.”
       I pursed my lips. “All right,” I said. “Thank you.”
      “You’re welcome. Now, back to business. I will call one more time before six am.”
        “Question,” I said. “Did Lucian tell you when to call, or do you determine the time of the calls yourself?”
        “Lucian spelled out the time of the calls quite clearly, and that I was to make both calls in the presence of witnesses.”
       “I see. Again, thank you.”
       “Again, you’re welcomed. Any other questions?”
       “Not at this time.”
       “Very well. Talk to you soon. Good-bye.”
       I hung up and leaned back in my chair. “One down,” I muttered, “One to go.”
       But despite the Hobbits’ journey, I couldn't get back into the story. After several pages of non-reading, I went back to the last page I remembered, Slipped in a bookmark, and laid it on the table. Then I got up, grabbed the baseball bat and went through the house, checking every room. Silence greeted me as I went through the house, but despite the stillness, I felt someone watching me. I didn't see or hear anyone, but the feeling was there, tickling my sixth sense.
       When I entered the study, I looked out the window and saw lightning in the distance. Dark clouds were forming over the ocean, blocking out the stars. “Oh, joy,” I muttered. I vaguely recalled reports of a late-night thunderstorm on the radio, but was too involved in my book to really listen.
       I finished my sweep through the house and returned to the library. As soon as I stepped into the room, thunder crackled over the house, though the thickness of the stone reduced it to a mild rumble. I threw another log on the fire and went back to my chair and settle in for another reading session.
       It took a few minutes, but I was back into the grove and well immersed in the Fellowship when I heard a scratching loud enough to break through my reading mode. I looked up, trying to localize the sound. The scratching came again, coming from the door. I got up, picked up my baseball bat and crept to the doors.        The scratching was low, near the bottom of the door. A rat? I thought. I gripped the bat with my right hand and the door handle with my left. The scratching came again, so I yanked the door open, raised by bat and prepared to smash —
       — Cachmawri.
       The cat sat there, it’s unusually intelligence yellow eyes looking up at me as if to say, “What took you so long?”
       I lowered the bat and leaned it against the door, then leaned down and picked up the cat. I held it up so I could look him in the face. “And why are you here?” I asked him. “It’s raining outside.”
       The cat looked at me and said, “Roger Merlin, you have been called.”
       I froze. “W-w-what?”
       “I said," the cat replied, "Roger Merlin, you have been called.”
       I saw the cat’s mouth move, heard the words, but my brain couldn't reconcile the two. I yelled, dropped the cat and backpedaled, only to trip over the bat. I fell, banged my head and saw stars.


I will get around to rewriting this one of these days.....


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Another missed Monday.....

I know I missed it to, but the Valiant PRG stuff was due today, so I have to work on that, and the first draft is in. Which means I can go back to doing other things for a while.....

African Firestorm is back on the front burner, and I'm going to dive into the Battletech Universe and see if I can finish off some of these stories I have half-written. In the meanwhile, the next Part of Merlin's Legacy


        Donella returned in a couple of minutes later, carrying a couple of packs of hooks. “Put them in with the rest of the stuff,” I said, motioning to the cart. “On me.”
She shook her head. “I’ll buy these,” she said.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“If it’s about Margaret, no.”
“All right, I won’t.”
She looked a little relieved. “It’s just that Margaret sometimes acts more like my mother than my friend,” she said.
“You don’t want to go to college?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “I’m not sure that—”
“Hey beautiful.”
I knew the voice even before I turned to face the person who’d interrupted our conversation. “Hello, Damien,” I said.
Damien scowled. He was real good at it, but compared to my mom’s, he was an amateur. “Merlin,” he said. “Moving in on my girl?”
“I am not your girl,” Donella growled. “I’m nobody’s girl.”
“You will be,” Damien said with a cool smile. He was dressed in what I’d call preppy understated — polo shirt, designer jacket, slacks, and multi-hundred dollar athletic shoes. “How about a date tonight?”
“No,” Donella said firmly.
“Come on babe, I can show you a whole new life.”
I pulled a claw hammer from the shelf next to me and examined it.. I looked at Donella and held the hammer up. “What do you think?”
She looked at me in puzzlement. “About what?”
I stepped in front of Damien. “Do you think this is a good hammer?”
“Hey!” Damien snarled. “We we’re talking!”
I looked back at him. “No, that conversation’s over.”
“Listen you mother— “
Hello Mister Wihite,” I said, staring past Damien. He stopped and looked back. I dropped the hammer into the cart and pushed the cart as fast as I could, Donella went with me. By the time Damien realized that there was no one behind him, we were six feet away and turning into another aisle.
Once out of his sight, I put Donella’s hand in the cart and motioned her to go on. As she did so, I dropped to one knee near the turn, as if I was looking at something on a bottom shelf. I was there only a couple of seconds, before Damien came charging around the corner and fell over me.
As he sprawled on the ground, I rose to my feet. “Watch it!’ I said loudly in an annoyed tone.
He glared up at me. “Real funny,” he snarled.
“Is there a problem?” Mister Wihite called out.
“Is there a problem, Damien?” I asked.
He got onto his feet and glared at me. “You win this one, asshole, but I will make you pay for it, and soon!”
“I’ve been threaten by experts,” I said. “you’re not even close.”
“You will pay!”
“I know a man whose killed more people with his bare hands then the combined number of murders by the people on Florida’s death row. He did it in service to his country as a soldier. He runs a martial arts school, and guess what? He’s my teacher. You want my head? Bring friends, and enough body bags for them.” He glared at me for a few more seconds, then turned and walked away, giving Donella a venomous glance as he brushed past her.
Dionella looked at me as I walked up to her. “Did you tell him the truth?”
“About Master Cho?” I replied. “Yes. Master Cho was a ROK solider for twenty-five years before he came to the US. I learned under him for the last five years. The man’s pushing seventy, but he’s still faster than an enraged cobra.”
“You didn’t have to do that,” she said in an annoyed tone.
“I have a low threshold for bullies,” I replied. “Plus I have a mom and an older sister who would have slipped Damien there so hard, he’d be spitting out his teeth.”
“A knight in shining armor,” she said in the same tone as before.
Mister Wihite came into view. “Is there a problem?”
“No, someone fell over me while I was looking at the plumbing supplies. He apologized and walked off.”
“Damien Brackett?”
“I believe that was his name.”
Mister Wihite looked at Donella, who nodded to confirm my story. After seeing there was nothing out of place, he nodded and left the aisle.
“I think I’ve found everything I needed from here,” I said. “Let’s check out.”
We started up toward the front, when A woman’s voice bellowed, “You’re wrong!”
“But the—”
“The total is wrong!”
We came in sight of the front counter. A woman was glaring down at a girl who was behind the counter. The female customer could have been an NFL defensive linesman, with a face that looked like she’d played the game without a helmet. She towered over the clerk, who was maybe in senior high school, a foot shorter, and maybe a third of the customer’s weight. She was holding her ground, but only just. “But the computer—”
“The computer is wrong!”
Wihite appeared, trying to look calm, but I could see the tightness around his eyes. “Myra,” he said, walking around the counter and placing himself between his clerk and the mad maid mountain. “What is the problem?”
“This air head rang up my order wrong!” the woman snarled
“All right,” Wihite said. He turned to the register and touched a few buttons. “Why don’t we ring this up again and see?”
The items, a couple of jars of spackling, some lumber, a box of nails, and some chicken wire, were rung up again. “Same total,” Wihite said, after comparing the receipts.
“You’re trying to cheat me!” the woman roared.
“Fine,” Wihite said, turning the register’s screen toward the woman. “Tell me what rung up wrong.”
The woman scanned the items with hard eyes, then with a sound somewhere between a grunt and a growl, she pulled out a bunch of bills. “Fine,” she growled. She threw several of the bills on the counter, then turned to look at me. “What are you looking at?”
I didn’t flinch. “A bully,” I replied cooly.
That didn’t make her happy. She turned to face me. “Who the hell are you?”
“I could ask you the same question,” I said. “To answer your question first, I’m Roger Merlin. And you are?”
The woman’s expression changed from anger to shock. “M-Merlin?” she stammered.
The woman turned back to the counter grabbed her bagged items and left in a hurry. Both Mister Wihite and his clerk looked at me. I returned their look. “Who was she?”
“Myra Goldleaf,” Wihite replied. “She and her husband own Goldleaf’s Bookstore, across the square.”
“Is she always that obnoxious?”
“She is a hard person to satisfy,” Wihite said.
I pushed my cart up to the counter. “Let’s see if I can improve on her performance.”


In addition to the hardware store, we stopped by a supermarket on the way back, and I picked up a twelve-pack of sodas and a few snacks. Donella watched me, frowning, but not saying anything. As we got back in the car, I noticed a black car idling in the far corner of the parking lot. As Donella started the car and headed for the exit, I watched the car to see what it would do.
Donella pulled out of the parking lot and headed for Camelot. I glanced back and saw the black car had also pulled out and was following us. ‘Something wrong?’ Donella asked.
“I think I’m being paranoid,” I replied.
I told her about the car. She snorted and said, “You’re right, you’re being paranoid.”
It took us seven minutes to go from the supermarket to the front entrance of Camelot, and the black car stayed behind us the entire time, never closing the distance, but never allowing the distance to increase. As we turned into the estate, I said, “Do those gates close and lock?”
“Yes, from about nine at night to six in the morning,” Donella replied, driving through the said gates. “During those times, access is only by access code or you have to be let in by someone in one of the three houses, and I can’t recall that ever happening.”
I glanced back as the black car slowed as if it was going to follow us, then accelerated and drive past the driveway. I turned around and slumped in my seat. Something was going on here in Pilgrim’s Cove, and it had to do with Lucian’s death. I had the feeling I was walking into something I wasn’t going to like, and I hate those feelings.

Back to Work!