Kicking off 2022 with the release of Fits and Orisons, a collection of five of my short stories. Previously only available for Kindle, this puts The Stones Remember, Sozo, A Prayerto St. Strelok, Strange Treasure, and the recent, Soul Cache in print. Quick reads all, if you like your mil-sci-fi with a dose of strange, this might scratch that itch. Click HERE for your copy.
I’m also pleased to say the Soul Cache audio book will be available in February. So there’s that too.
Thank you all for your support, particularly these last two years. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2022 filled with good friends, inspired projects, and met deadlines.
First off, I want to thank everyone who still follows HSSJ and drops by. It’s been a hectic and strange couple months on top of a year-plus of the same, and I’m grateful for people’s support and encouragement.
Next, I apologize for recent lack of content on my part. Not my intention but Real Life business has picked up on top of everything else I was juggling. Out of my control, but I genuinely enjoy writing and the writing community.
So, to give an update:
Things must be tough at the Williams homestead..
The legal snafu over the word ‘hardwired’ is getting settled. I think. Unfortunately, not reasonably. I know there was no IP infringement or market confusion. My attorney knows. Anyone moderately familiar with the cyberpunk genre and the war game hobby knows. But that’s not how this is getting played, so there are changes coming. I’ll release details as lawyers finalize and specifics resolve. Timeline is vague though, because… lawyers.
For those unfamiliar with the situation, early this past March I was contacted by lawyers claiming my self-published table top war game HARDWIRED – offered free online in 2018, commercially released in 2019 – infringed on a trademark and caused market confusion with a 1989 RPG supplement co-written by their client, Walter Jon Williams. It was the usual C&D, along with threats, demands, and several ridiculous claims. (he practically invented cyberpunk, the new PC game is based on his 1986 novel… ) Also, they contacted Amazon and initiated a take down of two of my Hardwired game supplements: The Tsim Sha Tsui Expansion, and the latest, Hostile Takeover. But not the first, core book, Hardwired Cyberpunk Espionage and Mayhem. Make sense? No. Then again, this experience has been a little surreal.
More lawyers, some legal back and forth, a genuine effort to be reasonable all came to naught. At the end of the day, it would cost too much for me to go to court to prove the obvious. (my miniature war game has no reference or relation to Mr. William’s work, the out-of-print 1989 supplement, or the now outdated version of the RPG it was written for.) So, I’m getting shaken down for cash on a technicality.
Welcome to the Big Time.
The Miniature Post-Apocalypse continues, however
Pressing past that steaming pile, my latest miniature war game, KONTRABAND, is coming into it’s final stretch. The illustrator has promised me the images by the end of the month. (today, right?) Once I have them in hand, it’s another couple weeks for proofreading and layout, then I’m kicking it out the door. This will be a Solo/Cooperative supplement for Zona Alfa, the war game I hammered out for Osprey Publishing.
On the Spec Fiction Front
Several fiction projects that were abruptly shoved to back burners are coming around, slowly. My goal is to finish the TechNoir short , Soul Cache, next. (You can read the first ten chapters here.)
Next, I plan to move back to the Shattered Worlds series. Part One, Broken Moon, is available at Amazon. Part Two, Scorned Lands, will follow with a Kindle release before the end of the year. To put spurs to the project, I had some cover art made for a combined, part 1 and 2 printed version.
If you’re interested in the story of a half-breed outcast journeying through a weird and fractured world after a war between gods, then this post-apocalyptic fantasy might be the thing for you. Think ‘Lord of the Rings’ meets ‘The Road’, you’ll be in the right neighborhood. Again, the journey starts here.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Thanks for your patience. Appreciate all of you.
The nave had seemed so much larger when I was young, the vaulted ceiling and high stained glass windows made for giants, not humans. Not me. I was always a trespasser. An ant in God’s room.
Walking down the aisle in the muffled quiet under that high, deep darkness, I felt that old familiar discomfort. I suppressed an urge to genuflect; another muscle memory triggered by flickering candles and the smell of old upholstery, wood wax, and incense. It was an older one, faded. Easier to ignore.
I slid into a pew and sat instead. I had seven minutes to get to Loi’s shop.
It had been more than three decades since I’d been here, and my only visits to other churches had been funerals or the ultra-rare traditional wedding – deaths outpacing matrimony more and more lately.
I wasn’t so much lapsed as self-exiled, and part of me would be fine if it was another thirty years before I came back.
Another part was scared shitless for my mortal soul.
Those weren’t the exact words. My grasp on the notion of ‘soul’ was slippery at best these days. The fear was more a pull at the back of my mind, like a diver low on oxygen tugging on a line to be pulled up out of the deep. Wordless, but pretty damn insistent.
What do you say to God in three minutes after three decades of ignoring Him?
Hey, I know I walked away and told everyone you’re not up there, but I need to stop a psychopath. So how ‘bout a little help here, eh? In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
I folded my hands and tried to form better words as a host of unwelcome memories barged in.
My mother had cried when I told her I’d left the Church. Asked why. Said I would damn myself in unbelief.
I’d just graduated top of my class from the police academy. Successful, cocksure, so certain I knew more about the world than an old lady who refused to get a Chip and still fumbled with her smart phone. I confronted her on the Church’s stand on clones. Demanded she explain what a soul meant in an age of neural fiber cybernetics and artificial intelligence.
Technology was threaded through society like a kudzu vine. It invaded and reshaped everything. Police were constantly asking what constituted ‘crime’ now – let alone ‘sin’ or ‘damnation’ – in an era of programmable robot companions and stimsense virtual reality. From replicant celebrity androids to murder-fantasy VR apps, a person could screw or slaughter anyone as many times as they wanted. Feel every thrust, every warm splash, all in the privacy of their own home, their own mind. No real world consequences.
God obviously didn’t care, I said; He didn’t stop real murders, let alone fake ones.
I told her religion was an appendix; a vestigial organ from when humans tried to swallow the indigestible. We were defined by science now. Nourished by a universe of data and technology. Life fed itself from the slime of that trinity. Nothing more, nothing less.
“There’s no meaning beyond the meat, ibu. The meat spoils, the spark dies. That’s it. I’m not wasting any more time on bad, outdated answers to wrong questions.”
I remembered her silence. A long one, tears on her cheeks, staring out the kitchen window. Finally she dried her eyes and turned to me. “There’s more than one way to measure the universe, Zeki. Some day you’ll see there are mysteries beyond all your data.”
After a few years on the force, the notion of a ‘spark of the ineffable’ in each of us only became absurd. The shit people did to each other in the real world made religion seem like just one more hoax for the desperate, the delusional, and the downright stupid.
It had taken thirty years but there I was kneeling in front of Mary and Her Son, teetering on the edge of that mystery cliff between faith and science. Right then felt a hell of a lot like an I-told-you-so moment.
I looked up at the altar. “Sorry.”
I closed my eyes. Bowed my head.
“God, this is tough. Here I am and if you’re there, then you already know what’s going on. Know what I’m about to do.” I swallowed. “So… so help me. Help these people. Please. Amen.”
Weak as shit – but it was all I had.
I thought about crossing myself when I was done, but decided that would stretch it too far. It wasn’t much of a prayer but I’d meant it as much as I could; token piety wasn’t going to bump my request to the top of God’s To Do list.
I stood, brushed my knees as a call came in. Loi.
“Where are you? You’ve got two minutes. I should see you in the Soy Park by now.”
“On my way.”
“What the hell, Zek?”
“I ran into Quan. Had to stop and kiss the ring.”
“Kiss his ass, you mean. What’d that old bastard want?”
I received an advance copy of ZONA ALFA from Osprey Publishing yesterday. I understood in my head it was happening but taking the actual copy out of the envelope was pretty epic. An Osprey Wargames ‘Blue Book’, ZA is done in their standard format 64 pages with original art and color photographs. Sam Lamont did an outstanding job capturing that STALKER, decayed Soviet post-apoc feel, and Lead Adventure was gracious enough to supply some great shots of their eminently suitable miniatures. Chris C and the team at Osprey wrangled with my scribbles and lists, transmogrifying them into a presentable set of war game rules. Alchemy with words.
My fiction projects have been on the back burner for the last year or so as I’ve been involved in a series of large commissions and restoration projects in my full time work, as well as bringing Hardwired, and the Tsim Sha Tsui Expansion to market, plus getting Zona Alfa ready for release.
Writing for the war game industry has been a different sort of challenge, both oddly familiar and strangely difficult, making sure I translate what I’m assured of in my head into concise, understandable language. (Communication. Always useful) Not unlike writing a story but a bit more technical.
Speaking of fiction though, the first quarter of the new year is traditionally slow, so I plan on using Jan and Feb 2020 to bring the first portion of the Shattered Worlds storyline to completion. God willing, part 1, Beneath the Broken Moon, will be ready for release early next year. More on that as the story develops.
Work calls so that’s it for now. Art hard and have an excellent day.
I’ve always understood ‘Beta Readers’ to be those long suffering friends and family of writers who are willing – after putting up with the author while they were writing the novel – to then read it, in its entirety, for internal consistency. They’re not copy editors or grammar nazis scrutinizing for typos and errant semicolons. No, they’re weighing the substance of the story. Plot flow, character motivations and story logic. They might trip over the occasional repeated phrase, but did it work? Allowing for conventions of genre and personal taste, is this a story worth reading?
To that end, I was trying to come up with a one-page hand out to Betas. I want an easy code for them to mark if/when/why the spell was broken. Jot a number or letter in the margin near the offending passages and move on. Here’s where I’m at so far:
So what? (or Do you care?) Are the characters engaging? Is the drama worthy of conflict? Did you stop caring?
Oh Yeah? (or Is this credible?) Is the tech/magic/psi power ‘logical’ in the story world? Are the characters actions and words believable?
Hunh? (or What the hell just happened?) I’m confused.. ‘Two pages ago we were traveling east and now the Sun is setting right in front of them.’ or ‘I thought she had a gun. Why isn’t she shooting at them?’ stuff like that.
Can we go now? (or I just read a bunch of words and nothing happened) Sure there’s ambiance and milieu, but I define ‘fiction traction’ as ‘plot over word count’. No Value Change, no forward motion, and the prose gets boggy.
Add in a big red “R” for REDUNDANCY – ( “*Sheesh* You said his name 37 times in two pages.”) and a big red “C” for CLICHE – (‘She was as dead as a door nail’ Really?)
One of Neil Gaiman’s Rules for Writing is that when a reader says something doesn’t work, they’re almost always right but when they tell you how to fix it, they’re almost always wrong. I think those 6 notations will let a writer – me, in this case – know where the story falters without putting too much of a burden on already gracious and patient people.
Another ‘Near-Future’ short, The Stones Remember is about NATO units caught up in a massive Russian invasion of Poland and the Baltics. Exhausted, out-gunned, and out numbered, they find themselves at the site of an old battlefield and have to decide if some history is worth repeating.
Available in electronic format right now, it’s a quick, cheap read. (less than a cup of coffee lasts longer) Thanks much. I’m hammering away at two full-length novel projects but wanted to get this out in the meantime. Hope you enjoy it.
A word of explanation here. I cleaned this short story up and kicked it out the door while I wrestle over my next full-length project. Strictly speaking, Hard Kill is more ’15 minutes in the future’ than science fiction, but its definitely military action.
The story is born from three things: headlines, a trio of current history/political titles, and a gnawing unease. The headlines you know: Afghanistan, Iraq, drone strikes, Snowden, ISIS, Syria, etc. The books are Mark Mazzetti’s ‘The Way of the Knife’, David Rothkopf’s ‘National Insecurity’, and Jeremy Scahill’s ‘Dirty Wars’. Those books detail the increasingly murky government and military action over the past decade and a half in what has become known as the ‘Global War on Terror’. The unease is mine.
Now the question of the ends justifying the means is as old as it is constant and there isn’t one magic answer. I get that. My concern is in facing this present challenge, our government has consistently answered ‘Yes’ to the point they violate the very principles they seek to defend and preserve. However well-intentioned, it appears that fear, along with institutional myopia, are the underlying currents driving current policy and practice. Equally troubling to me are the sacrifices so many have made- and are still making – to enact these policies.
Now anyone with a sense of history would say ‘Thus has it always been’ which may be true, but is little consolation. I submit history would also show we are capable of learning, albeit slowly. By the grace of God, we are not obliged to repeat our mistakes.
No doubt we are in an ugly, tangled mess. I don’t have an answer – just a need to write about it, founded on the strange, lingering hope we can extricate ourselves.
That’s what Hard Kill is. I hope you take a moment to read it.
And if you’re one of the handful of gracious, patient souls who received an advance copy, would fire off a 4 or 5 sentence review at Amazon so the poor little thing doesn’t enter the world naked?
Beginning in 2016, I would like to feature a monthly Guest Post here on HSSJ by different indie authors and articulate readers. Topic will be fiction and or writing-related, which is rather broad, but it will give some of the fine internet friends I have an opportunity to discuss their work, their process, their thoughts on the industry. I’ve made a initial list and will contact these folks soon, but if you’d like to participate, drop a comment here or on FB.
My near-future short SOZO is free for Kindle and I-Pad beginning tomorrow through the Sept. 14. Use the buck you would have spent to get yourself a cup of coffee, then click through to Amazon to get your copy. It’s a quick read. Your coffee probably won’t even get cold.
It gives you a taste of my writing and it’s a small thanks to folks who read my work.