Where Has the Time Gone?

Wow. It’s been a while. I’d love to say I’ve been busy (and that’s true, but incomplete), but really, I have no excuses. Not even a lengthy visit to an alternate dimension. Dammit.

I have been posting other places. I have been invited to take up people’s time and energy over on Mad Genius Club (which I presume makes me a Junior Genius or some such), as well as taking a regular slot as a member of the Raiding Party over at Sarah Hoyt’s place. These seem to be going well, though I confess to a distinct feeling of inferiority writing alongside people like Sarah Hoyt, Kate Paulk, Amanda Green, Dave Freer and Cedar Sanderson. These folks write some damn fine words. And I’m just me, y’know? Seriously, go read these folks. I aspire to write as well as they do. Start with Kate’s Con series, then check out everything Dave’s written (I’m particularly fond of the Heirs of Alexandria). Get Sarah’s Darkship Thieves for great (dare I say it? Heinleinesque! *GASP* I dared) space opera, and then check out Witchfinder for something truly different. Hit up Amanda’s Nocturnal Lives series for urban fantasy/police procedural with a distinct lack of glitter. Finally, get Pixie Noir from Cedar. I helped out with a read of this one, and it’s outstanding. She blends fairy tale with a noir feel with a deft touch. Her protagonist is weary and worn, pushed far beyond his means and resources, yet he presses on with dogged determination and no small amount of humor. I loved it, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Trickster Noir, which is just out. Seriously, go, enrich my friends’ coffers in exchange for words to hearten and liven.

The biggest news in my life is that Mrs. Dave is two weeks from delivery of Working Title Pascoe. I seriously doubt I’ll sleep more than a few hours in the following weeks, and then we’re heading for LibertyCon in late June. Things are always changing, and all we control is how we face that change. That said, we’re excited. And maybe a little terrified. Just a bit.

As the season turns toward summer, I’ve got multiple projects on my plate, fatherhood into which to plunge, and plans within plans. I need to write more, write faster, and write better, and I’m positioning myself to do just that. I look forward to showing you the journey.

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I Read Books!

I’ve finished two books in the last few days. Warbound, the conclusion to Larry Correia’s Grimnoir trilogy, and Outcasts and Gods, the kickoff to Pam Uphoff’s Wine of the Gods series (which I see is several books long. yay!). I’m going to do a read-through of the whole of the Grimnoir books for a story dissection just as soon as I find the first two.
If you haven’t read Larry’s work yet, you’re wrong. No, don’t protest. For your own good, that of humanity, and of the universe in general, get them and read them. Don’t talk to me until you have. You obviously drown kittens for fun.
Where was I? Oh, yes: Grimnoir. Hard Magic, Spellbound and Warbound. This is prime superhero diesel-punk set in an alternate 1930’s. An Imperial Japan is ascendent, and the US can barely seem to manage itself (as usual). Sometime in the previous century, individuals across the face of the planet developed magical abilities of various kinds. Some people move objects with their minds. Some heal others by an effort of will. Some can make their skin tough as stone, while still others can fade through solid matter. Some can even blink out of existence in one place and back into it in another.
This has given rise to a bit of chaos.
Those with passive abilities are feared, those with active abilities are often hated. Some nations round up their magical citizens and confine them to camps. Some round them up and train, or alternatively experiment, on them. Some take a little more hands-off approach, though everyone can feel the winds of change blowing.
Heavy Jake Sullivan, Active Magical, hero of the Great War, ex-convict and J. Edgar Hoover’s personal bulldog gets caught up in international machinations between the elite of the world. Airship battles, Tesla weapons, intrigue, daring-do and good old two-fisted adventure abound as Jake takes on the weight of the world. But he’s a Heavy, so he’s used to carrying massive burdens.
Warbound is the last of the trilogy, and wraps up the story started in Hard Magic. That’s all I’m going to give you, as anything more would be full of spoilers. Suffice to say that the read-through and dissection I’ll be doing is because, of all the writers I read right now, I most want to write like Larry. Though I need to get Under A Graveyard Sky. A lot.
Pam Uphoff’s Outcasts and Gods is purely good science fiction. A mess (in so many good ways) of genetically engineered children are taken from their parents, as they’ve been legally deemed “non-human” or “partial human.” The trouble is that these children, the outcasts and gods of the title – ranging from 12 to nearly 18 – have genomes engineered for superhuman capabilities. Nothing on the level of Larry’s Grimnoir books. At least to start with. As they mature, the young telies (telepathic-telekinetic) develop the skills to mess with high-energy states, reach through dimensional membranes and ultimately travel to parallel Earths. And then things get really fun.
Outcasts and Gods reminded me of several different kinds of books. There’s national and international intrigue. There’s interpersonal drama, SF of a psionic bent and some decent adventure. Shades of Heinlein. The pacing felt slow, but I think that was mostly in contrast to Larry’s unapologetically pulp adventures, where the character barely have time to catch a breath. Outcasts may have felt slow, but it was consistent, and very solid. The pacing is an artifact of the timeline, which stretches over at least a few years, and across dimensions.
I’m hesitant to call Outcasts hard science fiction, but that’s really what it feels like. The science is all plausible, given the basic tenet that energy manipulation can be engineered into the human genome. (Of course, I say that as a layman. YMMV) The plot revolves around it, and how society more-or-less fails to deal well with children that are deemed “unnatural.”
In terms of critique, there’s a great deal of “action” that happens off-camera. The national politics have a great deal of significance for the gods, but we’re not given the political players as perspective characters or treated to a ring-side view of the actual proceedings. Said proceedings are often rather dull, anyway, and I agree with Pam’s decision to limit our knowledge (mostly) to that of the telies’.
One minor nitpick: there’s a portion of the book wherein one major character has enlisted in the army. The mission-related aspects of his military experiences felt off. The character to character relationships between him and his squad-mates were spot-on, but the relationships up the chain of command felt a little odd. This may be a result of differences in timing (set a century into the future, I imagine the Army should be a little different) and in lack of camera time to show those particular relationships. This is not military science fiction, though Pam borrows some things from milfic (self-avowed Baened books reader that she is) and consequently, I’m being nitpicky. As I said.
So, with that minor critique, I very much enjoyed Outcasts and Gods, and I’m very much looking forward to picking up copies of the rest of the Wine of the Gods series. Especially with the flashes of foreshadowing (precog abilities are just cheating!) given right at the end. Like, seriously, no denouement. I was disappoint. I don’t throw tablets, because fragile, but I felt like it. Stupid budget. Need moar book naow.

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Trouble

Lieutenant Madeline Traegan woke to a world filled with noise and fire. For a brief moment, all her senses lost out to the assault of crisped electronics, spilled chemicals and charred flesh. She’d so hoped she wouldn’t smell that last, and a wave of anguish only heightened the temptation to turn her head and surrender.
“Hey, LT,” Chief Scanlon’s normally forceful voice was weak, though no less gravelly for all that. “No time for JO slacking, Ma’am.”
The bosun of their little vessel was on his retirement cruise. He’d confided to the jarhead officer that he’d wanted to see a little of the galaxy before he stopped going into the dark.
Obedient as ever to the wisdom of the ship’s senior non-commissioned officer, Maddy opened her eyes to a vision of hell. Marine Country on a light cruiser seconded to the Exploratory Agency wasn’t big. Usually it only had to house a short platoon. The Marines were on board to provide security – and brute labor – in the event of planetfall. Hell, half her troops didn’t even count as grunts. So many specializations and odd skillsets. It’s what had attracted Maddy to the EA in the first place. And the chance to see genuinely new worlds.
She coughed, realized she was lying down and tried to sit up. When she managed that with barely a twinge of dizziness, and a thread of nausea that she firmly quashed, Maddy looked around her little domain. What she saw sent her mind into the calm, cool place beyond fear.
Corporal Evans looked almost peaceful, if his bunk stanchion hadn’t been protruding from his chest. At his feet slumped the chief, one leg ending in a mess of gore just below the knee. That explained his apparent weakness. Some enterprising individual had slapped a medipack on the stump, so he might actually survive the injury.
A haze of smoke hung in the air and the mingled stench of human and starship injury and death bit at her throat. Something warm trickled down the side of her face. When she wiped at it, her hand came away red.
Everywhere else Maddy looked she saw people. But not the right people. Naval ratings, several of her people, a few of the EA civilians, all moving purposefully about. But no sign of the Skipper, Lieutenant Commander Slager, his exec, nor her cadre.
“Where’s the Old Man, Chief?”

©David E. Pascoe 2013. All rights reserved. Do not copy, distribute or otherwise disseminate without the author’s name, and a link to this page. You do not have the right to alter it. You do not have the right to claim it as yours. For permission to do anything other than quote it for review or recommendation purposes, email business@depascoe.com. This is a work of fiction, all coincidence between it and real people place or events is illusory, a delusion born of a fevered mind.

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Opportunity

Calverigous Arhem reined in his mount before the Temple of the Evanescent Ubiquity. The thing whined and crow hopped sideways. Cal frowned at the unwanted thing and thumped it between its ears. Well, between the semi-autonomous mobile aural receptors that served it as ears.
The Professor’s creations all seemed at least semi-sentient, despite her protests to the contrary, and Aricles was no exception. It looked something like a horse. The digitigrade feed were clawed, and gave its gait an odd bouncing motion that took some getting used to. It positively reeked of the oil Professor Thilnesse used to lubricate its overly complicated innards. Also the stuff she used to fuel it. And it was restive.
Aricles pranced. If it had been alive, Cal would have said it was uneasy. He frowned at the back of its vaguely equine head. If the Perkarthian Society hadn’t been subsidizing this expedition, and if Professor Kellery Thilnesse hadn’t been put in charge of it, and if she hadn’t insisted on his using this peculiar gadget, he wouldn’t have ridden a mount at all. He’d have decently filthy boots. This dust just didn’t suit.
“Calm down, you simulated monstrosity.” His voice grated, the result of a long-ago injury. Club-wielding cannibals tended to welcome strangers. Cal had objected to their hospitality, but he hadn’t come away unscathed. Which sounded like most of his experiences, really. Including his love life.
“Mr. Arhem!”
Cal sighed. He turned in his saddle, sparing a moment to thump Aricles on its head again, and stared at his unwanted companion. Telinna Thilnesse shared her mother’s height and slim build, but she’d gotten her dark curls from her Mantigan father, along with equally dark eyes and skin that had quickly darkened to the color of aged teak under the desert sun. Cal was pretty certain that’s where she’d gotten her temper, as well. At the least, he’d never seen the Professor more than politely disputatious.
“Mr. Arhem! Do not abuse Aricles!”
Whereas Miss Thilnesse never seemed anything but tempestuous.
“Why ever not, Miss Milther, when your mother put such a nicely padded spot right where it will do no functional harm?” Cal was certain the Professor had put it there with him in mind, which verged on the infuriating.
Miss Thilnesse’s eyes flashed, her temper obviously aroused. Fleetingly, Cal wished they might have got along better, but her mother had masterminded the tension of their relationship just as she had the expedition. His status in the Society was up for renewal, and after years spent in the classroom, Cal had to do something of significance.
It didn’t matter, said the President of the Society, that Cal had spent years recuperating from illness and injury. Nor did it matter, said the Secretary of the Society, that he’d spent the intervening time researching, studying and planning another expedition. Unimportant, sniffed the Treasurer, that his specialties were in other areas, that he had little interest in hot and dry, or that he thought he had an excellent team already assembled.
What mattered was that after the last time, he wasn’t trusted at the head of a Society expedition. And so Miss Thilnesse, who glared at him. Cal was nearly certain that her eventual report would sink his career, and had given up caring for her opinion. She was – nominally – his assistant, but he had yet to see evidence of her skills.
Of course, the annoyingly evenhanded part of him interjected, they’d only just arrived at their destination.
“No doubt Mother put it there with you in mind, Mr. Arhem.” Miss Thilnesse’s cool tone was at odds with the anger in her eyes, and Cal took a moment to enjoy the contrast. “Still, as Aricles is a prototype, it would not do to damage him from abuse.”
“Then why don’t you ride the blasted thing?” The question rasped out of his abused throat, sounding far harsher than he intended. Truthfully, Cal was just tired. He’d been pushing too hard, and the journey inland from Sertrigimon had taken its toll on his body, as well as his manners. Such as they were.
“Mother wants to know how Aricles handles under the hand of an inexperienced rider. I’ve spent weeks on his back during his development, so I hardly qualify as inexperienced.” Miss Thilnesse smiled at him, genuine humor mixed with a certain amount of glee at his ill pleasure. “Besides, Mr. Arhem, Mother has a peculiar sense of humor.”

©David E. Pascoe 2013. All rights reserved. Do not copy, distribute or otherwise disseminate without the author’s name, and a link to this page. You do not have the right to alter it. You do not have the right to claim it as yours. For permission to do anything other than quote it for review or recommendation purposes, email business@depascoe.com. This is a work of fiction, all coincidence between it and real people place or events is illusory, a delusion born of a fevered mind.

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In Which the Writer Stops Slacking It

10-2-13

Lessons

“Look you, Marius,” His Grace, Lordem Thalallicka, Guardian Brigadier of the Far Marches and Dux Pacem of Her Divine Authority’s First Home Legion of Heavy Horse – the unmitigated bastard – dodged my stroke, managing to make me look like a fool with no training and worse fashion sense. Again. He continued, barely sweating in the cool air atop the Keltharian Escarpment, “what say we call this a day? I truly did not intend insult to your sister. She was a vision at his Lordship’s ball, nigh-equal to Her Divinity.”
I cut at him again, and this time he had the grace to interpose his own blade to catch mine. Galling, but not nearly as dishonorable as simply stepping out of the way. Of course, his beautifully constructed Trelganic saber – if austere, lacking the decoration it deserved – turned the blow. Indeed, I felt the barest tremble in his grip, to my chagrin.
“I tell you this truly, while I had imbibed a goodly portion of Thelmertin’s best brandy, I was not nearly so far gone as to impugn Melestia’s honor.” The smug arse-rag disengaged, and slid past me as I staggered forward through the space he’d just vacated. “I am, in truth, quite fond of your sister.”
My back stiffened, expecting at any moment to feel the cruel bite of his steel diving into my tender flesh. I did not understand why he chose not to. In his defense, I had consumed just as much brandy the previous evening, and if my words had been just as intemperate as his, well, they’d at least been in defense of family.
“Please, Marius, can we not come to accord and set this aside?”
The small crowd that had gathered to witness our duel murmured while I spun about, slashing blindly with my own blade. At nothing. Cousin Lordem had stepped to one side, a good span out of range of my reckless blows. In his eyes was the one thing that ignited genuine rage in my breast. His pity – and that I could feel from his lickspittle cronies – washed over me. I choked on it.
I’d always been second to the great Cousin Lordem. Ever since Mum and Father had gone for a cruise in the Great North Lake and not come back. Melestia, Cassianna and I had gone to live with His Lordship, Uncle Bertcalith and Aunt Pervinia. And I’d begun to come in second to Cousin Lordem. Our tutors consistently gave me excellent marks. And gave him marks fractions of a point higher. The maestro praised my bladework, and yet gave my dear cousin one of his own blades to carry. Her Divinity commissioned him as a captain. I got a lieutenancy. And not in the cavalry, but with the foot.
Always second, always lesser, and always unfair. In all truth, Lordem was likely innocent of genuine wrongdoing. It was just that he’d said the wrong thing at a moment unblessed with grace of any kind, and I’d somehow had the courage of heart and impresence of mind to call him on it. And now I had to see it through.
“My lord cousin,” and if my voice was a trifle shaky, could not an eorl of barely seventeen summers perhaps be accorded a measure of fear against an obviously superior foeman, “we cannot be reconciled short of spilled blood. You did, last evening, in my presence, make wild and debauched speculations as to my sister’s status. It was unworthy of a gentleman and a kinsman, and I will have satisfaction. Now stop toying with me, or I shall call you a coward boy playing at a man’s work.”
It would have sounded better without the panting. Unfortunately, the cur had chosen cavalry sabers for our dispute. Beyond that, he had years of experience with them and inches of reach on me. And nearly a stone of lean, handsome muscle over my own plain, wiry form.
Did I hate my blessed cousin? No more than I hated anybody.
If nothing else, my speech brought a flush to Lordem’s cheeks and a certain set to his jaw. The truth always makes powerful men uncomfortable. Even angry. I readied myself for the inevitable clash.
“Toying with you?” My cousin’s words were clipped. Apparently I’d struck a nerve. “I’ve been hoping to avoid this, Marius. I’ve been hoping you’d grow up. I’ve sacrificed many an offering at Temple in prayer for your eventual maturity. Perhaps where softer teachers have failed, a hard lesson will succeed in teaching you your own worth.”
He assumed a stance I knew well. Feet still flat, but weight forward; knees bent, slightly stooped and head up. His blue eyes stared at nothing, and yet I knew they saw everything with a clear, cold watchfulness that send a frisson of apprehension up my spine. He held his blade in a grip of stone, heavy tip extended. When he spoke, his voice was devoid of emotion.
“Defend yourself, Cousin.”

©David E. Pascoe 2013. All rights reserved. Do not copy, distribute or otherwise disseminate without the author’s name, and a link to this page. You do not have the right to alter it. You do not have the right to claim it as yours. For permission to do anything other than quote it for review or recommendation purposes, email business@depascoe.com. This is a work of fiction, all coincidence between it and real people place or events is illusory, a delusion born of a fevered mind.

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