Saturday, May 23, 2015

HIgh Gravity

Last week, I posted the first chapter from Brand New World - the first of my Embarkment novellas. Click here if you want to read it. The second book in the series is called High Gravity, and it starts a couple of days after the first book ends.

If you haven't read book one, the novella has a prologue that introduces the characters. Here is the beginning of High Gravity. If you want to read more, it is available as paperback and for Kindle.



Chapter One


“Wow. This is a big empty room.”

One of my big talents: stating the obvious.

Adam gave a slight shrug. “The place comes with the job. I never needed it for anything.”

I lived in a set of guest quarters, and it was nice, but impersonal. The furniture, lamps, and decorations might not be mine, but they still existed, and reminded me of an upscale hotel. Looking around in my boyfriend’s quarters, the rooms were huge, and contained one large desk filled with tools and gadgets.

“Why…?” I closed my mouth around the question. He was an android and normal human logic wouldn’t apply.

He smirked. “You wanted to see it, here it is.”

“It’s awesome. Let’s go home.”

No wonder we always stayed at my place.

He crossed his arms over his chest and glanced into my eyes. “I have to go to work. You know that.”

Damn. His sense of duty was admirable, but couldn’t it slip just a little, just once?

Adam tilted his head to the side. “You’re disappointed.”

“No… Well, maybe a little. I thought there would be more of you here.”

He put a hand on my back and pushed me out of the living room, back into what would have been a study in a normal person’s world.

“There is something of me here. There’s the desk, and my chair, and your broken iPod I’ve been trying to fix.”

I couldn’t even recognize the fragmented pieces. The poor thing must have been hit by a bullet. What a shame. It would have contained all sorts of entertainment and memories.

“C’mon, I’ll walk you home.”

My rooms were almost right under his, just a couple of floors down. Going there would normally be completely uneventful, but after an alien species called the Logg stole the ship and I played an involuntary part in getting it back, people I didn’t know stopped and stared wherever I went. I hated all the whispering behind my back.

Some of the junior officers treated me with the same awe they normally reserved for the senior staff, and it freaked me out. It was traumatic enough to arrive dead from another time. I didn’t need any additional attention.

We didn’t meet anyone on Adam’s floor and the lift was empty. Close to my door, two young men pushed a broken cleaning robot down the corridor. They stopped and stared.

“Look, it’s them. Told you she lives here.”

“She’s shorter than I expected.”

Adam rolled his eyes and walked over to them.

“Is there a problem?”

“No, sir.”

“Then, move along, will you.”

I shuffled over to my door. “Will this never end?”

Adam ran a hand over my back. “Sure. As soon as something more interesting happens.”

The young men were out of sight, and for all practical purposes, we were alone. I pressed my palms against his chest and gave him my best bedroom look.

“Are you sure you can’t come in?”

“Not unless you’re comfortable with Laura adjusting the starboard radiation shield.”

The annoyingly perky nineteen-year-old ensign was probably quite able to do it, but he had a point. 

When it came to matters like keeping cosmic radiation from frying my brain, I’d be more comfortable with Adam handling it.

He winked. “I’ll hurry back.”

The ship rocked. I stood on the tip of my toes, wanting to steal a kiss, completely unprepared for the floor shifting underneath me. My face was about to come in close contact with the carpet when Adam caught me.

“Well, that’s new.”

He didn’t sound bothered, but I was. Anything able to move the ship like that would have to be dangerous.

The computer’s voice echoed in the corridor. “All senior officers, please report to the bridge.”

I was barely aware of clinging to him until he took my hands in his and loosened my grip around his neck.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be back.”

I watched him jog towards the lifts. Would they really be safe to use? What if he got stuck, or the thing fell all the way down to the bottom floor?

I should stop fretting and go inside. Unless I was extremely lucky, there would be crushed decorations all over the floor, waiting for me to initiate some serious cleanup.

My rooms were a bit jumbled, but not as bad as I expected. To be honest, more of it came from my being disorganized than things falling off the shelves. After visiting Adam’s desolate quarters I appreciated the chaos. It might not technically be my stuff, but it was there for me to use, and I was grateful.

Putting a lamp back up on a table, I muttered, “Someone needs to invent a force field or something to keep things in place.”

I ventured over to the window. Last time the ship rocked and I peeked out we were in a horrific battle. 

This time, I saw nothing but darkness. We no longer moved, but I couldn’t see anyone or anything close.

Could there be invisible attackers?

As big as space was, odds were anything I could imagine existed. On the other hand, the ship was both quiet and peaceful, so maybe we weren’t under attack. Maybe something else was wrong with it.

Unnerving thought.

I normally kept my windows covered. Seeing space fly by outside gave me a headache. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Great news: Operation Earth is now available at a lower price!

Great news: Desert Breeze Publishing just lowered the price of Operation Earth. It is now available for just $2.99 for Kindle.

Operation Earth is about Rachael, attempting to survive the aftermath of an alien invasion. Her neighbors want her to join the resistance, but she couldn't be less interested in any more violence. Meeting one of the invaders doesn't make her life any easier; he's not so scary up close.


Blurb:

Seven billion people on Earth go about their daily lives, and no one is prepared when a global EMP slows the world to a crawl. With all our technology incapacitated, everything changes. Within days alien soldiers line the streets, and life will never be the same. In the midst of chaos, Rachael Hill struggles to adapt to the new order, doing her best to keep herself and her cat alive.

On a ship far above the planet surface, Peter just got his new Earth name, and can’t even remember his identity from the last world he visited. It’s another day on the job, one more planet on a never-ending list. That is, until Rachael bumps into him, dropping exotic objects all around his feet. His culture taught him females should be obeyed and protected, but he never had an urge to leave himself at a woman’s mercy until now.


Excerpt:

Her arms were filled with goods, and she couldn't balance any more. When a bag of pears almost fell out of her hands, she muttered, "Why don't I ever learn to take a cart?"

She usually went to the store intending to grab bare essentials like milk and eggs, so little she wouldn't even need a basket, and ended up balancing twenty things in her arms.

Once she had a safe grip on all the groceries again, she remembered she was out of tea and veered across the aisle without looking. She bumped into someone's back, and dropped everything all over the floor.

"Dammit!" After the initial curse, apologies came automatically. "I'm so sorry. I don't know where I have my head today."

A friendly male voice said, "It's my fault. Let me help you with that."


She lifted her head and gazed into a pair of warm golden eyes.

Wow.

His stare held her captive, and she wanted to step closer. It took an effort to take her eyes
away from his, and watching a handsome face crowned by a mop of brown hair barely eased the magnetic tug.

The newcomer wore a black uniform with some form of insignia on the collar, and he held a large, rifle-like weapon over his chest. Sidearms poked out of holsters on both hips. He could probably shoot half the city to pieces.

Rachael returned his smile. It wasn't just the uniform that made his upper arms look like tree trunks. Probably a lot of steroids in there...

I'm so prejudiced. If they don't allow chocolate they won't allow other drugs, and their DNA must be completely different. Looking human doesn't mean they are.

Having grown up in a city, she was wary of anyone unknown, especially the big ones that might explode unprovoked at any moment.

The only time a woman would stand close to a buff unknown man was if someone even bigger and scarier was around. In that case, she hoped Man Number One could provide protection. Everyone knew this. For decades it was how women survived without being raped.

The stranger scooped up her things from the floor and pressed them into her hands. His eyes glittered.

"Do you want me to get you a cart?"

Oooh, not just good looking, but polite too. Hope I'm not blushing.

"No, I'm good. I thought I could balance some tea too, but that might be overdoing it."

He looked like he was about to say something, but closed his mouth again.

Was tea about to disappear too? Maybe she should hurry and grab some before it
vanished from the shelves along with everything else she liked.

She stole another glance of the marvelous golden eyes, and he smiled. Then, he gave a
slight nod.

"Alright then. You have a good day."

For being one of the aliens, invaders even, he wasn't all that bad.

Don't go. She couldn't say that, but managed to get the words, "You too" over her lips
just as he walked away. He looked back over his shoulder and winked, and her heart pounded in her chest.

Repeating the mantra that she was a silly goose didn't help at all. Not one little bit. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New work in progress. :-)

I started a new story the other day. I know I've been saying that a lot this year, I think I have a dammed up need for writing after 2014. This one is about a Russian gangster. He's not all that interested in being a gangster, but it happened anyway.

Russia has always fascinated me. If that doesn't make sense, check out this map. I'm from Sweden, it's the long orange thing to the left. To give you a sense of the size of Russia, when it comes to area Sweden is the third largest country in western Europe after France and Spain. Compared to Russia, my country is still tiny. 



I have one book featuring a Russian already; Alexei Roshenko in Undercover. Valentin in this WIP is a more over-the-top character than Alex, but nothing wrong with having some fun, right? The story still doesn't have a name, but here is the beginning. (The completely unedited beginning.)


Anette passed a long row of beat-up cars and stepped into a dark repair shop. Three vehicles were on lifts, and the men working on them looked like they could get a wheel off using only their fingers.
She said, "Excuse me..."
The closest giant nodded to the side, and now when her eyes adapted from the bright sunshine outside, she made out a counter. The woman manning it didn't look too interested, but she was probably still Anette's best chance.
“I’m here to check on my car. It’s an o-two Impala. Gold. Had problems with the tranny.”
She held out the ticket, but the woman didn’t even look. She blew a bubble and popped it before answering in a broad Russian accent. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen anything about an Impala. Do you see it?”
“I do not. Maybe you could check some of your papers? Or your computer? Compare the number on here with your system?”
It sounded snarkier than she intended, but she needed the car and this person wasn’t even trying to help. How had her precious vehicle ended up in this dump?
That’s what she got for asking an ex for help. Like he would actually help her.
Idiot.
The receptionist, if that’s what she was, might not know how to use a computer. She was probably hired more on looks and appeared to compete with the vulgar calendars on the wall. She didn’t have a car or a motorcycle between her legs, but she did have a bright red miniskirt, a flowered top that left little to the imagination, and high-heeled shoes that would make Anette fall and break something. She was also thin enough to fly away on the smallest whiff of wind.
I can still see your roots. Making hair that dark peroxide blonde can make it fall off. If you don’t find my car, I hope it falls off.
All this anger was bad for her karma, but at the moment, she didn’t care.
The woman leaned over the counter and hollered, “Valentin!”
What is this? A bad gangster movie?
The man who sauntered over was tall with shoulder-length brown hair that needed a wash, and about two days’ worth of stubble. He wore black jeans, a leather vest, and several long necklaces. His breath made her want to wave a hand in front of her face; he was clearly plastered and smelled like he bathed in alcohol.
Cleaned up and sober he’d look good, especially with those muscles. Right there and then, towering over her, he was about the scariest thing she’d seen.
“What’s the problem?”
He too had a Russian accent. Of course he did.
“I’m looking for my car. You were supposed to replace the transmission.”
He made an innocent gesture. “I don’t know. What car? We fix cars. Maybe it’s stolen, it happens.”
“What do you mean stolen? You guys were supposed to replace the transmission, not lose it.”
The man gazed into her eyes, clearly trying to make himself irresistible. She crossed her arms over her chest and glared. Playing nice would probably get her further than being angry, but she was barely able to keep her voice in check.
“I need it. Please try to find it.”
 He stared at her a moment longer and shrugged.
“Mikhail! Have you seen this lady’s car?”
A man if possible even more in need of a bath came out from behind a minivan, drying his oily hands on a rag. Valentin was tall, but this man must be part giant.
“I don’t know. What kind of car.”
“It’s an…” He waved his hand towards her.
“It’s an Impala.”
The giant said, “No.”
Anette drew a deep breath and forced herself to relax her shoulders.
“You will find my car, and you will fix my car, or I will return with a friendly police officer who will investigate what happened to my car.”
Valentin said, “No.”
She said, “Yes.”
He frowned and glanced over his shoulder. “Mikhail, find her car.”
She shook her head and headed towards the outside. There was sunshine and a real world populated by real people.
“I’ll be back tomorrow.”
She didn’t expect the Russian drunk to follow her. Thank goodness she’d asked the taxi to wait for her, or she might have been stuck with this chop-shop caricature.
He held the car door open. “I like your spirit. You come work for me.”
“No.”
“Yes. I can get you new car, good pay, other… job.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but it’s still no.”
He shook his head a little. “Shame. Well, think about it.”
She slammed the door shut. “Please drive. Get us out of here.”
The taxi driver said, “Not a place I would choose personally. Don’t mess too much with those guys.”
“I didn’t choose it. My ex dropped it off here, probably as punishment.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

Writing in a pre-set universe

Sometimes people ask which of my characters is my favorite. I can't answer that. Whomever I'm working on will be my current favorite. I do have a favorite book, and that is Shadow of a Man. Paradoxically, this novella never gained traction. It might still get attention, I hope it will one day, but up until now I think it's the book of mine the fewest people have read. Funny how that works out.

Shadow of a Man is a part of the Borealis universe - an invention by Desert Breeze Publishing where many different authors write stories in the same setting. 

Borealis is a space station. It is a sordid place, dark and frightening, and writing in this universe was both fun and a challenge. The universe already has a population, mythology, foods, curses, and other social quirks, and the work of each author needs to fit in, so readers will get a sense of continuity. 

My Borealis novella is about Theresa, her husband Dominic, and her bodyguard Geo. They're traveling to Borealis on a mission she doesn't understand, and she doesn't want to go.

Check out the blurb:

There might be a place Theresa fears more than Borealis, but she can’t think of one. The old and decrepit station houses all sorts of cruelty, and to make it better, this is where her husband Dominic was imprisoned, drugged, and tortured. He returned a mere shadow of his old self, scarred by abuse and Uudon withdrawal.

Borealis is the last place Theresa wants to go, and the only one she can’t escape. Dominic’s apparent madness does nothing to alleviate her fears. Her once sweet husband has turned into a womanizing monster, and will destroy anyone who gets in his way.

Geo, her faithful and all too handsome bodyguard, appears to be the only one on her side. He once helped rescue Dominic, and pays for the insurrection with a lifetime on the run. This might be a situation not even he can handle, and Theresa fears none of them will make it out alive.

If you read it, let me know what you think. =)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

All these imaginary people in my head...

In everyday life, I have a decent attention span. Yes, you may laugh, it's on me, lol. I realize the statement must sound hilarious. The thing is, I have a decent attention span when the imaginary people in my head - also known as characters - sleep.

Since I'm still not able to make a living out of writing fiction, I attempt to perform paid work while the characters are awake, wanting me to write about them. This is where I run into problems.

Imagine that while you work you also have a person sitting on your shoulder, constantly telling you stories about their life, wanting you to write everything down. It doesn't sound sane when put in writing, but that's okay. I'm one of those creative types and no one expects me to be normal.

To make matters worse, there are so many bright and shiny ideas to play with, and there might be more than one character wanting attention at a time. I end up writing a little here and a little there, making slow progress on a number of stories at once.

Last night, I told myself it was time to finish something. I was just going to write down my newest idea first, and give it some form to make sure I'd remember. I looked up some five thousand words later and found it was in the middle of the night. The new hero's name is Valentin. He's a reluctant mobster. I'm not sure where he's going, but wherever it is, it'll end with a bang.

Valentin reminds me a little of Dominic in Shadow of a Man. They might be related, just from different centuries.

My writing process is dependent on the characters. I normally get to know the people in the stories first, and then they tell me what happens. Operation Earth is a major exception - it started with thinking about planes, because I lived close to an airport at the time. Most of my books start with hearing an interesting voice or accent. My imagination runs with it and makes up a person, and then we're off.

Some times in the evening, I go through my galley of imaginary people, make sure everyone's in bed with the right person, and tuck them in. That way they'll nap while I nap and no one will keep me awake.

Do you think I'm crazy yet? :-) 





Saturday, May 16, 2015

Brand new world

Brand New World is the first novella in my series Embarkment 2577. The books follow Alex, who wakes up with amnesia - in a spaceship, in the future. She remembers who she is, but the last year or so is gone from her mind.

There are currently three Embarkments novellas, but I've been working on a prequel as well as a sequel, and hopefully they'll be ready in not too long. I've been going through the already published novellas as well, doing some tweaks.

Curious yet? Here is chapter one. If you want to read more, the book is available on Amazon. If you already have the Embarkment books for Kindle, you can contact Amazon and ask to get the updates sent to your device.




Chapter One


The world was a bank of fog that came and went like waves on the sea, interrupted occasionally by the blackness of night, or maybe death. My confused mind couldn’t determine which. At times the fog was thinner, and revealed a world so surreal it must be feverish dreams or visions in a coma. Soon, these brief images appeared real, and life as it had been resembled a dream.

Consciousness returned with a punch and I gasped for air. Too many impressions battered my senses at once, sounds and smells I didn’t recognize, and I couldn’t tell the difference between reality and the world in my dreams.

A light shone from above, much too bright for my eyes, and I squinted, trying to make out anything besides abstract shapes. My limbs were too heavy, and I couldn’t even turn my head.

“Look who’s awake. Welcome back.”

The female voice sounded cheerful and vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it, and I couldn’t see her.

My eyes adjusted to the light, but it didn’t do me any good. Nothing looked familiar.

Bright cones hung from the ceiling. They must be the source of the dazzling light, but didn’t look anything like a normal lamp with self-respect. The walls were slightly curved, and the shapes of shadows from objects outside my view stood much too tall and distorted.

Was I in a hospital?

Maybe I’d been in an accident.

The thought was logical, and much more appealing than the alternatives presented by my imagination.

Another voice spoke. “Doctor Ima to the Captain, our time traveller is conscious.”

That comment didn’t make any sense at all. I hadn’t been on a boat, so why would there be a Captain? Time-traveller? Maybe I was still unconscious after all, trapped in a weird dream.

I groaned, “I guess I’m not dead after all.”

What a dumb comment. Why would I say such a thing? I had no reason to think I was dead, did I?

The voice sparkled with held back laughter.

“No, you most certainly aren’t dead anymore.”

Being alive might be a thing to celebrate, but I failed to see what was so funny. If anything, her words clutched my heart. If I wasn’t dead anymore, had I been? Was this the afterlife? Purgatory?

I squeezed my eyes shut to tune out all the strangeness around me.

Thinking back was nearly impossible. I had been on the beach. The sound of the waves and the smell of the ocean were clear in my mind. What happened after that? Besides a screeching seagull, I had nothing.

The connection between beach and boat comforted me. Maybe I’d wandered too far into the water or something. That would explain the presence of a captain.

Turning my head in the direction of the voices, I saw the back of a woman. A mass of short, blonde, and curly hair bounced over the collar of a long and white doctor’s coat.

The person turned around, as if she sensed me watching, and now I knew I was still down in whatever abyss held my mind. If this was Doctor Ima, her skin had a warm amber tint, and it was covered with a pattern reminding me of a leopard’s spots. Her face was almost human, but had some cat-like qualities in its shape, and from this marvel a couple of perfectly human, bright blue eyes looked out at me.

She took her coat off and hooked it over a chair, revealing a tall and slender body dressed in a crispy white tank top and skirt. The spots on her face continued over her neck and down her arms. Her hands were almost human, but had claws instead of nails.

I opened my mouth to scream; the bushy tail that wagged behind her was too much to take. Not a sound came out. The only parts of my body able to move were my heart beating much too hard, and my eyes, wide with fright.

As much as I willed the apparition to go away, she came closer to the bed and looked into my eyes. A syringe came into view, seemingly fit for a horse, and disappeared again. I felt the needle brush against my skin and held my breath, awaiting death.

 “Please, don’t be afraid of me. I look alien to you, but I am your friend.”

At least she didn’t sound about to fall on the floor laughing anymore.

The unusual face smiled, showing very white fangs, and the needle pinched me.

“This is just to help you wake up properly. We’ve had to keep you sedated for quite some time.”

She was beautiful, but I still wanted to crawl backwards to get away. My treacherous arms and legs didn’t obey. I had no option but to stay put.

Whatever she gave me cleared the mists in my head. I still couldn’t remember anything after that annoying seagull, but thinking came easier. My toes and fingers tingled slightly, promising they might be willing to move in the not too distant future.

Doctor Ima pressed a paw against my forehead. Her palm was soft and lined with fine hairs.

 “Please don’t be angry with Adam, he saw no other way than to bring you along. You were quite dead you know.”

Who? What?

I didn’t have time to voice any questions; the first voice I heard sounded again from further into the room. “She’s not angry with Adam. I detect quite fond feelings for him.”

This time my mouth moved when I wanted to speak, and my voice came out much stronger and steadier than I expected. 

“How can I have fond feelings for someone I don’t know? Where am I? What is this place? What do you mean I was dead?” 

When this woman came into view, I was certain I hallucinated. Her cool blue eyes, scrutinizing me from a beautiful face surrounded by long dark hair, were much too familiar. It was the face of a well-known rock star, and I had seen her in concert just a few months earlier.

I managed to sound accusing. “You’re Amy Lee. What are you and cat woman doing in my dream?”

The face smiled and answered in a voice just like the one on the CDs I used to play in my car.

“I’m not Amy Lee. I’m Doctor Anya Benton, ship’s counselor. How do you feel?”

It seemed like a superfluous question from someone who claimed to read my emotions, but maybe it was just an attempt to be polite.

I felt like passing out and I tried to, but no matter how hard I squeezed my eyes shut and struggled not to think, it wouldn’t work for me.

With that route closed, screaming hysterically seemed like a good idea, but I didn’t do that either. The vision of the singer was trying to get my attention, clearly wanting to explain something. I should probably listen.

“I’m a hologram. The ship’s computer contains my artificial intelligence. My creator admired the music of the early 21st century and modeled me after one of his favorites. I’ve heard the likeness is remarkable.”

This was just too bizarre. She made it sound like I was in the future, discussing the body of a rock-star with a holographic psychiatrist.

No way.

I was probably experiencing it all in my head, while my body rested comfortably in a padded cell somewhere, dressed in one of those shirts with very long sleeves.

The alleged hologram patted a gadget attached to the chest pocket of her shirt. “This is a mobile holo-emitter. It allows me to walk around and interact with people.”

Her hand on my arm felt real enough, but I supposed it would if this was all just a figment of my imagination.

“You’re not real.”

She laughed. “I’m very well suited for the position of counselor. I’m programmed to be both telepathic and empathic.”

If she were real, that statement would be deeply disturbing.

Both the hologram and the cat-like doctor turned away from me, chatting merrily between them. For the moment, they seemed to have forgotten all about me, and I struggled to sit up.

Anya glanced over her shoulder.

“No, no, silly girl, you’re too weak to do that.”

Ima filled in, “Your system is filled to the brim with medications. You’ll feel stronger soon, but for now just take it easy and wait until Adam gets here. He’ll help you.”

Anya took over again. “He’ll be delighted to. He has spent so much time here waiting for you to wake up.”

For being figments of my imagination, they could sure finish each other’s sentences seamlessly.

Sighing, I laid my head down on the pillow. I always considered my mind pretty well organized, but if these people were a creation of it, couldn’t I have invented someone that made just a little more sense?

“Great. Just great. And who the hell is he?”

Ima met my eyes. “You really don’t remember, do you?”

She didn’t sound overly concerned. A real doctor should have better bedside manners. I felt pretty sorry for myself, but there wasn’t much sympathy in her voice when she added, “Well, you’ve been through a lot, and it’s a quite normal reaction. It’ll probably come back to you soon, and if it doesn’t, we’ll help you bring the memories to the surface.”

Anya filled in, “The Captain will want to see you too, and he should be here soon. He’ll answer all your questions.”

If the doctor was a cat and the psychiatrist a rock star, the Captain would probably be a big, pink, furry bunny.

I regretted the bunny thought as soon as it crossed my mind. What if Anya was real, and picked it up?

There wasn’t much time to fret; I heard a whooshing sound behind me from doors opening, and the nattering women settled down. They seemed to be great friends, and I wished some of my friends had been there.

If this was really real and I was in some form of a hospital, someone I knew would have come for me, wouldn’t they?

Above me, Anya’s face nodded. “Captain.”

A friendly male voice answered, “Ladies.”

The man stepped into my field of view and I sighed with relief. He looked perfectly normal, perfectly human, and I was sure I’d never seen him before. The presence of a perfect stranger who acted and looked normal signified I wasn’t crazy, whether he was a figment of my imagination or not.

He was very tall and had broad shoulders, sparkling blue eyes, and a wild mop of auburn hair.

Once again, I began my struggle to sit up. This new person actually helped me, and made sure I could support myself. Then, he sat down next to me, so close our shoulders almost touched, and smiled.

“I’m Captain Blake Jones. I’ve heard so much about you, Alex. You are a courageous young woman, and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

His words made me lift an eyebrow. I always aimed to do what I considered right, but I never thought of myself as particularly courageous.

Heard so much about me?

From whom?

I didn’t say anything, and a small frown formed on his forehead. He finally turned his attention away from me. “Ima dear, would you get us some tea?”

The cat woman surprised me with bending forward to kiss the friendly giant on the cheek.

“Of course, love.”

Both she and Anya disappeared off into an adjacent room, and a smile tugged at Blake’s mouth.

“I hope they’re not giving you a hard time. I do understand both my crew and this ship must seem… unusual to you.”

It was my cue to speak, but I didn’t have anything to say, so I just nodded.

“I’m quite interested in history, and there’s so much I’d like to know about your time. So much about it has been lost. Maybe you can tell me some when you feel stronger.”

There it was again: my time. I wanted to ask about it, but didn’t get around to it.

“The transition will be difficult for you I’m sure, but everyone on this ship will do their best to help you. We all owe you for what you did for Adam.”

Adam... Wasn’t this enough to drive a woman crazy?

My mouth finally moved. “What ship? What crew? What time? And who is this Adam everyone keeps talking about? Where the hell am I?”

At that moment, Ima came back into the room, holding two mugs with steaming tea, and she and Captain Jones exchanged a glance.

She shrugged. “It appears our new friend here has a little bout of amnesia. I expect her memories will return with time.”

If I had been the Captain, I would wonder why she didn’t tell him this at once, but he seemed used to the way things were. “I see.”

His blue eyes weren’t laughing any longer; they seemed to look right through me, evaluating me. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was passing the test. Up until now, I’d been dying to know what was going on. Now, when the information appeared within reach, it frightened me.

I cleared my throat, but my voice still revealed more of my anxieties than I cared for.

“Please, I really need to know.”

Blake looked at his mug, and Ima made a soothing gesture, “Have some tea, dear.”

I didn’t want tea. I wanted to know where I was and what happened to me, but I obeyed anyway. The little sip I intended to take turned into a gulp. The tea was good, and I was thirsty.

“Adam is a valued part of my crew. He’s third in command on this ship, and he is an artificial life form. An android. I suppose you would be familiar with the concept from the movies of your time?”

I’d seen Star Trek and I Robot. The concept of an artificial man made of metal or plastic was much 
less disturbing than the expression “my time.”

Blake misinterpreted my frown.

“He was investigating a space anomaly, and somehow got pulled into it. I’m sure he can tell you the story much better than I can, but in short, you saved him. You gave your life for him, in your world, in your time, and he decided to bring you back here so you could live. You were dead when you arrived. He put you in a cryochamber in the shuttle. Ima reconstructed many of your organs, and brought you back to life.”

There it was again. My time.

The words made me want to scream.

Androids and cryochambers… My first thought had been right; this was complete nonsense, and he was clearly just a figment of my imagination.

Androids, pffft.

He could just as well have told me there were flying pigs.

Why couldn’t I dream up something friendlier? Something easier to relate to? A day on the beach would be nice, or why not a nice restaurant?

I took another gulp of tea, and then the mug was mysteriously empty. I couldn’t remember drinking it all.

“By your way of counting, it is the year 2577. The ship has a crew of 1017 people including you, and we are all sorts of life forms from all over the galaxy. The Earth is still out there, but now it’s part of a confederacy of systems. The human race is one of 88 member species.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Conversion

I accomplished very little fiction writing during 2014. There was just too much else going on, and no inner peace to listen to my characters. The one thing I did accomplish was a novella intended for a sci-fi compilation: Conversion. I don't think the compilation was ever published, but the novella made me feel like I did something.

I recently read it through and made some minor edits. It got a new cover as well. The girl on the cover doesn't look exactly like I imagine Rhodesia - the heroine - but it's hard to find something that exactly mirrors your mental image, so I guess it's close enough.

What it is about? Here is the blurb:

Rhodesia runs through the forest, hunted by creatures wearing the faces of people she loves. They plead to her to wait in the voices of her family, and the sound sends chills down her back. What is worse? Succumbing, and becoming a mindless drone with the others, or perishing in the forest, alone?

Roy Planter is a man with a mission, and he has no intention of staying on a plague-ridden planet where more humans turn into mindless drones every day. Being stuck in a city, grouped with a sword-wielding stick insect of a man and a busty blonde with a too vivid sense of humor are only temporary setbacks. He's leaving, first chance he gets. At least that's what he thinks until Rhodesia arrives. Caring for someone won't make his life easier, but can he really turn his back and leave her behind?

Conversion is available as e-book from Amazon. I wanted to make it free, but they don't allow permanently free, so it's currently 99 cents. I'm making a paperback as well, should be available any day.

Here is an excerpt. Hope the blog doesn't mess up the formatting too much. =)


Rhodesia’s heart thumped in her chest.
People could probably hear it in the next city.
She forced a breath into aching lungs and kept a hand over her mouth to stifle the sound of an explosive exhalation. Hiding behind a tree was hardly sufficient, even if the trunk was wide enough to cover a two-person hovercraft, but she had to catch her breath.
Were they still on her tail?
Probably. And they wouldn’t be tired.
Maybe she should just give up and submit to the conversion. No place was safe, she had nowhere to run, and perishing alone in the forest might be worse than turning into one of them.
A beautiful sound drifted down from the branches above her head. One of the indigenous birds sang. Happy, joyful, and defiant.
Through her adolescence teachers talked about the old world and life on a planet called Earth. She never understood why it was important, not until now when her own life was in shambles. Remembering the past might be more valuable than she ever realized.
Birds on Earth were allegedly different than here, but it was hard to believe such a preposterous statement. Flying animals should look the same everywhere.
She remembered a photo of a feathered creature with an extraordinary beak. It hadn’t even been a hologram; the picture was two dimensional, and so old the color had faded. Pelican. It had been called a Pelican.
How such a being could fly boggled the mind.
The birds of Lucretia looked more like the drawings of dragons she’d seen in an ancient book for children. Sleek, with long bodies that shone with an inner light. The one above her sounded like it would be yellow and orange. Their song varied with their color.
She wanted to look, but it would be hidden in the leaves and she couldn’t afford to divert her attention.
Earth dragons breathed fire and probably weren’t real. The birds of Lucretia had no fire, but were still radiant.
The bird cut its song off and the forest around her became too quiet too quickly. That could only mean one thing: they were near.
They were faster and stronger than her. She’d only gotten this far because of a head start.
It didn’t matter.
She needed to run. The bird had reminded her of the value of freedom and slavery was not an option.
She peeked out behind the trunk, but couldn’t see any pursuers. That didn’t mean they weren’t there.
Her feet were heavy and did not want to run anymore, but she made them. She was too tired to be quiet and almost stumbled a couple of times, but regained her balance at the last moment.
I’m going to die.
It might not be true, not even if she stopped running and submitted, but it felt true.
Her great escape stopped just minutes later. She threw herself down on her stomach and took in glimpses of a large road. The pavement looked golden in the sun, and it stretched out with no interruptions as far as she could see. Days earlier it would have been crowded with traffic both on wheels and in the air. Now it lay deserted.
Walking on the road would be easier than trekking through the forest. It would also make her an easy target.
It led to New London. She had been there a few times and it was a nice city. Crowded, but pleasant. People were polite.
Cities had clean clothes, water, and food.
It was just an illusion. New London would be in no better shape than New Tampa, and getting out of there almost killed her. Mankind was overrun by its own creations, and any city would be a deathtrap.
Maybe she should cross the road and resume her trek through the terrain on the other side?
It was just an excuse to feel the pavement under her feet, and once she stepped onto it the call of civilization might be too strong. She might not be willing to step off. She’d keep walking, comforted by any remains of her lost world, and it would lead straight to her death.
On the other hand, did she stand a chance alone in the woods? She could hold out for a few days, but what were the odds of someone solving the world’s problem before she succumbed to starvation and fatigue?
What if I’m the only human left on the planet?
She would need a ride off-world. The elders had placed the planet in quarantine and there were surely beacons transmitting gloomy messages of death and destruction, but there might still be ships able to fly. She had never left the planet, but how hard could it be?
The spaceport couldn’t be far, and to get to it she’d have to cross the road.
She climbed the short but slippery bank on all fours, determined to get to the other side before she changed her mind again. Minds were such fickle things.
The deserted road was eerie, much more so when standing on it than when seeing it from a distance. Alone in the forest she had been able to pretend the world still functioned, but roads were never empty.
She reached down to press her palm against the smooth surface. It was cool and smooth. At least buildings and roads were still reliable. For now.
“We accomplished this. We built this.”
Her words were too loud. Now would be a good time to run, stay out of sight, and hopefully be forgotten.
Get off the road.
As much as she told herself to hurry, she dragged her feet. New London had a thick wall and it looked safe. Tempting.
“Doesn’t matter when the danger comes from within.”
Her voice sounded spooky in the thick silence, but talking to herself helped her move forward.
Getting up on the road hadn’t been difficult, but seen from above the bank of gravel slanting down to the forest looked steep. She crouched and squinted, attempting to make out a safe way down. Falling would be bad.
Was that movement?
No. Imagination.
Or, maybe an animal.
She kept her eyes on the spot, just in case the leaves would separate and show a human face. This was the end of the world and her instincts might be reliable.
At first nothing moved, but then the greenery parted and a man looked out. He stared at her and held out a hand.
“Come with us. You will be safe.”
Right. Sure I will.
She got to her feet, slowly. He might still be human, but odds were against it. Even if he were human, he might also be a crazy, cannibal rapist.
“You will be safe.”
The slow repeating of words and the lack of expression on his face convinced her.
Not human.
Where there was one, there could be more.
Had he come from the city?
She nodded, pretending to consider the offer, and glanced to the side. A group of five advanced in an eerie, synchronized manner.
The man said, “You will be safe” one more time, and the others repeated the words. An eerie choir of human voices void of emotion.
The only way clear led to the city.
“You know, I’m gonna have to take a rain check on that.”
Her voice came out strong and clear. At a time like this, small victories mattered.
The words didn’t slow their approach, and she spun around and ran.
She didn’t expect to get far. Her escape earlier in the day had been dumb luck; she wasn’t that good at running. She expected the pursuers to approach like the wind, but they weren’t good at running either.
Maybe human bodies were complicated to control and they only managed a slow shuffle without falling over?
If this was the case they would adjust. She should take advantage of their weakness while she could.
I need to get off this damned road.
Good idea, but no telling what she would run into in the forest. She only had rudimentary memories of the area, but there had been smaller settlements outside the wall. If all those people had turned and filled the woods, she wouldn’t stand a chance.
She dared a glance back. The pursuers weren’t breathing down her neck, but they were moving faster.
Her lungs burned and her legs ached. It had been a long day with no rest, and she wouldn’t be able to go much further.
Something moved up ahead by the city gate. Had she waited too long and trapped herself between groups of enemies?
No. Only humans could move that erratically.
Shouting voices drifted over on the wind. She couldn’t make out the words, but only humans would shout.
Safety might be an illusion, but she’d hardly be worse off with them than alone.
She forced her legs to move faster and ran like she never had before, to the New London city guard. One man caught her when she collapsed at their feet, and she heard a voice bark orders.

“Get her inside. It’s time to clear out the woods.”