27 April 2012

SFFS: A Snippet From THE DESTROYER

Welcome to yet another installment of Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday here on the blog (and be sure to go visit all of the other SFFS writers through that link and read even more tales).

Today, I'm going to take a little stroll...I had a nugget of a novel (which I've tentatively entitled The Destroyer) come into my head the other day while I was mowing the lawn, and started putting down words on the page. It's far darker than most of my Aston tales, and who knows if it'll go anywhere? There's a basis for where this idea came from, I think, and perhaps one of these days, I'll share it in another blog post. Hope you enjoy this tidbit from the end of the initial chapter (with the usual disclaimers about being first draft material and whatnot), and I always look forward to everyone's comments:

Unfortunately, there are those souls which despite everything, closely follow the Creator’s commands, seek his guidance, and beg for His forgiveness with a penitent heart. If only all of His creation did the same, perhaps the rest of the Earth wouldn’t have gotten itself into such a mess.

Sadly, these souls run in direct conflict with the world, as He predicted over and over again. The world wishes to do harm to those who follow the Creator, and some individuals even do so in a direct manner, conducting unspeakable acts of aggression against the Creator’s elect.

That’s where I come in.

In all of the efforts over the millennium to water down the Creator, everyone has ceased believing His own proclamations about being vengeful. The love He has for his Creation, as well as the promises he’s made in the more recent past, prevents Him from doing anything directly against humanity. They disobey, and openly defy his wishes, and He does nothing to stop them. He has a special place in His heart for those who love him back, and when there are those who carry out misdeeds against them, I’m called upon to carry out my duty. I’ve been called many names, but the most prominent of all was the Destroyer...

And the only thing that can ever hold me back from exacting the Creator’s vengeance is the Creator Himself.

Well, for what it's worth, I wouldn't want to cross this dude either...and as mentioned, it's a bit darker. I'm not sure what direction the plot is going to take just yet (trying out this whole "writing by the seat of my pants" thing), so we'll just have to wait and see. Thanks to everyone for all the posted comments every week!

26 April 2012

Book Signing Pointers

So, for those who hadn't already seen the information elsewhere (on Twitter or Facebook), I once again took part in an Author's Pavilion at the Wichita Renaissance Festival. Sci-fi books? Any avenue that's open to you, and all that...but that's another post for another time.



What I really want to discuss today is some pointers for those who may be heading out for their own signings...

1. First and foremost, if you don't feel comfortable telling people about your book, then don't do book signings. You're going to be (hopefully) talking for hours on end with people about your book. If you aren't comfortable doing so, it's going to show, and your efforts are going to be for naught anyway. That said, you (as the author) are the most highly qualified individual to discuss your own books, so I'd highly recommend finding a way to get comfortable...

2. Presentation is important...I highly recommend spreading out books on the table and arranging them in such a fashion that readers can pick one up easily (unless you're handing them a copy to look at each and every time). Also make sure that your books are visible at the table, as well as from some distance away. OfficeMax (and I'm sure various other stores) sells a nifty little L-shaped stand that works great for this. Whatever you do, don't just have a couple stacks of your books sitting there with nothing else...

In the example picture of my table, I likely should have placed a few copies in front of the vertical books. Trouble being that an outdoor venue such as this brings some excitement when wind gusts come through...but then, an outdoor venue also allows for more comfortable lawn chairs. The wind issue was also why Heroes Die Young didn't end up getting positioned vertically...

Some people don't like picking the books up, so for those, it's usually good to either place a copy face up and a copy face down...or as I tend to do, place all the important information on a laminated sheet near the books in question. Also be sure to include a pricing sheet (I laminate mine, to make it look professional). People like knowing ahead of time, and it eliminates the idea that you're making up the prices as you go.

3. Paperbacks are great, but e-books make you money too. If you have one, take an e-reader with you to these events. For those slow times between mad rushes for your book, you can catch up on a little reading. And you'd be surprised how many folks will stop by your table, find out about your book, but then download a copy on their phone or device right there.

4. Interaction with fans (and potential fans) is a must. People are not going to seek you out unless they know you already. Strike up a conversation with folks who look over at your table (which is why you set the books up vertically). Say hello, ask them what they like to read (especially useful in a bookstore setting, since you know they're shopping for things to read). Match what they like to read with one of your books, or if they like something completely opposite of your own work, promote an author friend whose book they might enjoy (it helps if you pick up some bookmarks from those friends ahead of time). In a setting where the readers are geared toward certain "stereotypical" reading tastes (such as at a RenFest, historical and fantasy might be a good match), use that to your advantage.

Heck, while at this event, I was sitting next to friend of the Aston West Universe,Candice Gilmer. Her books are primarily romance, but she has a trilogy of books that are paranormal romance, one of which features a topless dude with a sword hanging down his back.


Candice was a little bit disheartened for the first little while of the event, because it didn't seem like she was going to sell any books. Seeing this book on her table, it seemed a natural fit for the folks walking around in full armor and period dress. So, I called out to passers-by: "Hot guys with swords!" (and look at that picture...do I lie?)

That got plenty of looks, and shortly after, multiple people were buying multiple copies of her books.

It's all a matter of matching readers with the books they need to read...do I lie?

On the other side of the coin, I've seen authors who sit meekly behind their table and do no interaction with anyone, even when they come up to the table. I don't know if they think that a reader is going to just buy a copy of their book on first sight...but that isn't common for book signings...again, if the reader doesn't already know you ahead of time.

Granted, there is a happy-medium involved. Don't harass readers while they're walking by or standing at your table. Don't beg, plead, or bribe them. Giving them a negative impression of you is going to directly affect their opinion of your books.

5. Beware those who only stop by your table to wax philosophic with you, tell you all about their own book, or use you as their personal psychologist. Not a lot that can be said about this, and being an overall polite person, it's hard for me to find a way out of this mess (so if you have some techniques, please share with the rest of us). Needless to say, this tends to throw a wrench in the rest of your efforts for the entire time the person is at your table...

6. Finally, always have a smile and a laugh, even if you don't much feel like it. Book signings are often deflating experiences, especially if you go in with the idea that you're going to have a line waiting to see you for three full hours and you may see ten people at your table. But one thing I've learned is that attitude affects the outcome. If you mope around your table, any readers that do come by are going to pick up on your negative vibes and more than likely won't want to hang around too long. People want to hang out with positive personalities...and the longer people want to stay around your table (with the exception of individuals covered by point #5 above), the higher chance they'll buy a copy of your books.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable event for me (and I think Candice whipped us all in the sales department), and I can't wait to return for the fall installment. Hopefully some of these pointers were helpful for you, and may they help you sell many more books at your own signing events.

25 April 2012

24 April 2012

Weekly Goals - April 24, 2012

Well, things have been improving a little bit, but still can't seem to do work on multiple projects. Well, I say that, but I did end up getting a little bit of work done on a completely separate project from what I had intended. Just what I need, something else vying for my time. :-)

Results for the week:

1. None
2. 1100 words on Resurrection
3. 300 words on a new novel project

And now the goals for this week:


1. Complete 1000 words on the new Kasey Reynolds story
2. Complete 1000 words on Resurrection




20 April 2012

SFFS: A Snippet From DEATH BRINGS VICTORY

Welcome to yet another installment of Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday here on the blog (and be sure to go visit all of the other SFFS writers through that link and read even more tales). I've decided to dive back into the new novel for this week's snippet.

As a brief setup, Aston is being doctored (not to be confused with playing doctor, but the line gets a little blurred in the rest of this particular scene, so who can tell, really?) by a Rulusian woman, and then...well, you'll see soon enough:


“So, you often take a hands-on technique in doctoring your crew?”

“No.” She planted another kiss; this time, the sensations raced full steam ahead.

I stumbled over my words. “Well, then...” She gripped my shoulder and massaged a bit deeper. I stopped talking.

Then, another voice interrupted. “What is this?”

Rione stood in the doorway when I turned to look. Her pressure suit was off, but she still wore the black body suit, while her long black hair was matted from the heat and humidity. Her emotion ridges were deep red in anger.

Poor Aston. I think he's about to find himself in some deep crap. So, if you enjoyed this one, be sure to check out Death Brings Victory over on Amazon (and will soon be up on Barnes and Noble). Want to read a longer excerpt, be sure to check out the book's page on my main site! Thanks to everyone for all the posted comments every week!

17 April 2012

Weekly Goals - April 17, 2012

For whatever reason, I still can't seem to break out of the rut by finishing any work on the new Aston novel. Add on top of that, another novel that a multi-published friend of mine told me I *had* to write, and another where I came up with the idea while mowing my yard...oh, and a tornado rolled through town this past weekend. Fun times.

Results for the week:

1. Completed 650 words on a new Kasey Reynolds story (still untitled)
2. None

And now the goals for this week:


1. Complete 1000 words on the new story
2. Complete 1000 words on Resurrection




13 April 2012

SFFS: A Snippet From "Collateral"

Welcome to yet another installment of Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday here on the blog (go visit all of the other SFFS writers through that link and read even more tales). For those who read my snippet from "Deadly Decisions" and my snippet from "Double Trouble" last week, you'll be happy to know I'm bringing out one last snippet from another Kasey Reynolds story. This one is from my new story "Collateral" which has been accepted for an anthology to come out (scheduled to, anyway) in June:

As a brief set-up, Kasey is has been hired to escort a caged criminal, and this is their first meeting. I don't normally get into so much description, instead focusing on dialogue, so it will be interesting to see how this passage is perceived.

His massive forearms rested against the wall of his cage. Black metal bands wrapped around his wrists while muscles bulged all across his body. There wasn’t a single hair on his body, and Kasey couldn’t tell whether he even had a neck to speak of. Elaborate body markings covered every spot she could see, and likely those she couldn’t due to his thick black shorts. She focused on one in particular, centered on his sternum, was an elegant piece of artwork, a ring of fire. If it wasn’t for the fact he was a known criminal, she may have been attracted to this specimen.

“This is Estil Ortiz.” The young officer motioned with his head while the criminal stared through Kasey with two dark black eyes. She shivered on the inside, for this was no common criminal.

She should have demanded more money.

Thanks for stopping by everyone, and we'll catch you next week! If you enjoyed this, check out all of my short stories!

10 April 2012

Weekly Goals - April 10, 2012

Well, things went well on the short story front this week, but still getting nowhere on the novel...

Results for the week:

1. Completed 1200 words on a new Kasey Reynolds story (still untitled)
2. None

And now the goals for this week:


1. Complete 1000 words on the new story
2. Complete 1000 words on Resurrection




Bangalore or Bust: A Travel Log (Day 15)

Author's note: For the last several weeks, I've been posting tidbits of a travel log, which I kept during a two-week business trip (the reason I was in sporadic contact with the world recently). Hope you've enjoyed them, and now without further adieu, I present the final installment. Enjoy!

For those who haven't yet seen the other posts in this travel log, check them out:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10

Day 11
Day 12

Day 13 

Day 14

(And again, if you're interested in seeing more photos than I'm providing, check out one of my co-workers' blogs from the same trip)

Day 15, Thursday (3/8):

Based on advice from other previous travelers, we left our hotel way early, and arrived at the Bangalore (Bengaluru) airport  well over three hours ahead of schedule. Granted, we didn’t get to see what the line was like later, since we were already in the terminal then, but there was absolutely no line at the ticket counter, no line to speak of at immigration, nor any wait time at the security checkpoint (and I’m pretty sure the guy who was checking me over at security owes me dinner and a movie).

Having been up all day, going to work and then getting no naps before our flight, it was good that (despite what we first thought) they had a business lounge for us to rest in. Three hours in comfy leather chairs definitely beats sitting in plastic bucket seats. Free drinks and (what they tried to pass off as) snacks didn’t hurt either. Shortly after our wheels left the ground, and we left the orange lights of the Bangalore night life behind, I was sound asleep for about a three-or-four hour rest.

Waking up just as the break of dawn was slowly catching up to the plane was a very surreal experience. Lots of pretty colors in the wispy clouds below, and I only wish I’d snagged my camera from my carry-on…a fact I also wished for when we passed over the mountains of what used to be known as Yugoslavia (and I can’t for the life of me remember the names of countries born out of that split) and the sight of so many cities nestled into the terrain there. Sadly, by the time I was able to finish the breakfast meal supplied, and get to my camera, we were then over Germany which was layered with thick cloud cover. I anticipated a fairly rough arrival in Frankfurt.

Never before have my high school German courses been so utterly useful, though, until one of the stewardesses dropped a bucket of ice on the floor. When she muttered “Scheisse” just loud enough for me to hear, I smiled knowingly and had to hold back a little chuckle. Sadly, the joy only offset my disappointment earlier in the flight when I tried and failed to help the passenger beside me operate their armrest-mounted tray table. Even though I knew the button to press, it wouldn’t work for me either. A stewardess came by and worked it correctly in the blink of an eye. I’m going to go ahead and blame the jet lag.

Unfortunately, we were in a different terminal this time, and the lounge in this one was packed full and had a terrible selection of snacks and such. Guess I can count myself as one of the spoiled now. On top of that, the airplane didn’t even leave the gate until after the scheduled departure time. This would come into play a little later, for those keeping score at home. And to add insult to injury, I picked up a second IOU for dinner and a movie from the screener here in Germany as well…which was odd, because the first trip through Germany hadn’t netted this treatment. Maybe this one really liked me…

Met a nice woman from Greece on this leg of the flight…she was coming to Chicago (and took it upon herself to take my pronunciation of Chicago as the correct one, so…) for “pleasure” (versus business…get your minds out of the gutter, folks). She was also able to sleep for most of the flight, so I got a lot of reading done on a friend’s book, Ambasadora. I’ve discovered over these past couple of weeks that the writing on my own fiction has been virtually non-existent. When I did get writing done, it was utter and complete crap.


Pictures of the French coastline



Immigration and customs was actually fairly smooth, compared to what I thought it would be, which was good since we only got in about 50 minutes before our next flight was scheduled to depart from a completely different terminal. Sadly, the ticket counter for American messed around too long with trying to figure out whether they should put us on that flight, or bump us to the next one, and then decided that they were under the cutoff for getting our bags on the first flight. So, there we sat for over three hours…and sadly, no business lounge on this final leg (since we were flying economy on this one).

The view from my seat to the restroom

The view right out my window


A long two-hour flight in a small regional jet with three seats across two rows made things rather exciting (and bumpy) on the way home, and then we get back to find out our bags actually did make it back on the first flight…but only after waiting at the baggage claim for a good thirty minutes or so. So, after being up for nearly 51 hours, with only 3-4 hours of sleep to my name, it was finally time for me to head off for oh so pleasant slumber…and to bring this trip to a close.

Until the next time...

09 April 2012

Bangalore or Bust: A Travel Log (Day 14)

Author's note: For the next several weeks, I'll be posting tidbits of a travel log, which I kept during a two-week business trip (the reason I was in sporadic contact with the world recently). Enjoy!

For those who haven't yet seen the other posts in this travel log, check them out:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10

Day 11
Day 12

Day 13 

(And again, if you're interested in seeing more photos than I'm providing, check out one of my co-workers' blogs from the same trip)

Day 14, Wednesday (3/7):

Today was our final day in Bangalore. It’s hard to believe that almost two weeks have passed since we first left Wichita, but there you have it. Today was filled with one final training session, than a final get-together with our respective teams to go over the plan from here. This was followed by plenty of group photos, and gifts given to us by our tremendous hosts. Then, it was time for a rather lengthy commute back to the hotel for packing up our gear, as our return flight would be leaving Bangalore at nearly 3AM Thursday.

When I arrived, I noticed there were no more flower petals on the bed or the bathroom, but at least they returned a vase of flowers to the bedroom table. I was beginning to think maybe they felt completely slighted, despite having tips come in every other day.

Tonight at the hotel, there was some sort of “family celebration” in one of the outdoor courtyard rooms, which has been the loudest event of the trip. Had to turn up the volume on the cricket match here in the room so I could hear…since I’m all packed up and ready to go. Still over five hours to go before we leave, and at least an hour before the Chinese buffet (which rocked last week) opens here at the hotel.

On the topic of cricket, even after nearly two weeks of watching matches, I still have the impression that it must be the most boring game ever to watch live (though I really enjoyed the 1-hour highlight episodes they keep showing from past matches). This is especially interesting, because baseball is far more exciting to watch live than to watch on television.


And that's all for today...be sure to come back for the final (yes, final) installment...

08 April 2012

Bangalore or Bust: A Travel Log (Day 13)

Author's note: For the next several weeks, I'll be posting tidbits of a travel log, which I kept during a two-week business trip (the reason I was in sporadic contact with the world recently). Enjoy!

For those who haven't yet seen the other posts in this travel log, check them out:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10

Day 11
Day 12

(And again, if you're interested in seeing more photos than I'm providing, check out one of my co-workers' blogs from the same trip)

Day 13, Tuesday (3/6):

It’s been rather disturbing to me to read the Times of India (the country’s national paper) each day, and every day I seem to see a news story about someone committing suicide. Today’s was a front page article about a 16 year old who threw himself in front of a Metro train yesterday, the ones we had just ridden the day before. In fact, this occurred at a station barely a mile or so from our hotel. I’m not certain whether life here is just that much more disparaging (which given the conditions, one might be able to believe) or that American papers just don’t give the event coverage when it happens (another believable possibility). Either way, it’s been sad to read about young (such as a pre-teen setting herself on fire) and old (a middle-aged man hanging himself) alike taking their own lives. Side note: There were actually two more stories later in the paper about more suicides as well. This was the first time that I recall seeing this many in one paper.

A long day was punctuated by several meetings throughout. Today’s training session bucked the trend of most of the recent ones, and had increased attendance. Hopefully everyone got as much out of these as we’d hoped. Between all of the meetings, and other goings-on from back home, it was a bit of a hectic day. Then, another long drive back to the hotel in traffic…

While driving along, watching a young boy urinating off the top of a construction pile, I couldn’t stop pondering the state of Bangalore itself. Trash lines the streets, when it isn’t being burned randomly throughout the city. Debris from construction or other sources just piles up wherever it’s placed. My personal opinion is that Bangalore would be a gorgeous city if there was simply some effort taken in the disposal of refuse and debris. However, I think I’ve only seen one small trash can in all of our walking excursions around the hotel. In a city of nearly ten million, one would think they’d be more prevalent. Of course, given the care (or lack thereof) that is shown in the roads and sidewalks, it’s really not surprising that trash disposal has been granted a similar fate.

This is the sort of thing that would get our HOA in a tizzy

My kingdom for a trash can

Can't really see from this vantage point, but the "river" was filled with trash too

Two members in our group were going out with some of their team tonight, and another was staying at the office late, so I was on my own for dinner. Being the ultra-adventurous sort, I decided to have dinner by myself at the hotel. Gave me plenty of time to finish up reading Battle Dancer by K M Tolan. Great read, for those who haven’t checked it out (though I’d highly recommend picking up the rest of his Dancer series first).

And then finished up the evening by catching The Day After Tomorrow on one of the local movie channels. Rather a disturbing to be watching a movie in English, and still get inundated with the English subtitles as well…though it does help in catching the background dialogue going on with foreground conversations, which you wouldn’t ordinarily hear.

People have asked me in the last few days whether I’m excited about getting back home. Many asked me similar things (about being excited and/or nervous) when I was preparing to come over here nearly two weeks ago. I was neither of those two then, nor am I feeling any excitement about heading home. It will be good to get back to normal, but it just is what it is…not good, not bad, just part of the job.

And that's all for today...be sure to come back for the next installment...

06 April 2012

SFFS: A Snippet from "Double Trouble"

Welcome to another installment of Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday here on the blog (make sure to go visit all of the other SFFS writers through that link). For those who read last week's snippet from "Deadly Decisions", there seemed to be a large consensus among everyone who wanted to read more about Kasey. So this week, I'm planning to bring out a snippet from another of her stories.

Who's Kasey Reynolds? Those who've read my story "Entrapment" already know...

In my story "Double Trouble", Kasey has just returned from her (shall we say less-than-stellar) experience in "Entrapment" and the new story's tagline says it all: Kasey Reynolds had it all, but now she only has one chance to keep it.

The flesh on flesh impact echoed off black stone. Pain radiated through Kasey’s jaw before she fell to the floor. Torches hung along each wall, painting their light on the vaulted ceiling. Each flame grew with the mercenary’s anger. She jerked her head back toward the Birolian crown Prince, a growl rolling deep in her throat.

Dryden towered over her. An eerie red halo silhouetted his muscular frame, while his eyes narrowed. “You won’t fail us again.”

He was fortunate the scattergun usually attached to Kasey’s thigh was back on her ship. Otherwise, he’d be dead.

If you enjoyed this, check out the full story, available for free...as well as all of my other short stories! And be on the lookout next week for yet another appearance from Kasey...

Bangalore or Bust: A Travel Log (Day 12)

Author's note: For the next several weeks, I'll be posting tidbits of a travel log, which I kept during a two-week business trip (the reason I was in sporadic contact with the world recently). Enjoy!

For those who haven't yet seen the other posts in this travel log, check them out:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10

Day 11

(And again, if you're interested in seeing more photos than I'm providing, check out one of my co-workers' blogs from the same trip)

Day 12, Monday (3/5):


Another long drive into work this morning, and as mentioned, the event of the day was seeing our corporate CEO walk through the area. I guess I never really paid attention before, but the man is really tall. Walking around to view projects cherry-picked by the local management, he only spent a short while in the area. Then, we were carted off another thirty minutes away to a country club for a brief all-hands meeting. I’m not sure he knew what they were planning for him, but I felt the padded throne was a bit much (sorry, no photo - would like to keep my job a little longer).

That said, the day also went long because of this, which caused us to be stuck in traffic on the way back to the hotel, to the tune of over an hour-and-a-half drive time. Got back, changed clothes, and then we were rushing back out for a walk to a nearby restaurant (another steakhouse, at which I ended up getting roasted lamb, still for around eight bucks). We discovered that there was an attached bowling alley, so we thought we might check it out. Unfortunately, at the equivalent of three dollars a game, it wasn’t that much better than back home. Throw in the fact I didn’t have my own ball or shoes with me, and we beat a hasty exit.

It surprises me how in such a short time we’ve gotten so used to the traffic congestion, as well as the number of people swarming about on the sidewalk. You also discover that being a hard-ass is the best way to fend off the street vendors and beggars. As well, traffic speeding past in close proximity doesn’t normally concern you. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or bad…but with only two more days here in Bangalore, it will be interesting to see how life back home appears in contrast.

And that's all for today...be sure to come back for the next installment...

05 April 2012

Bangalore or Bust: A Travel Log (Day 11)

Author's note: For the next several weeks, I'll be posting tidbits of a travel log, which I kept during a two-week business trip (the reason I was in sporadic contact with the world recently). Enjoy!

For those who haven't yet seen the other posts in this travel log, check them out:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10

(And again, if you're interested in seeing more photos than I'm providing, check out one of my co-workers' blogs from the same trip)

Day 11, Sunday (3/4):


This was the first day where we weren’t scheduled to do anything until much later in the day. As such, it was up to us to find our own entertainment. Rather than try to get myself lost in the streets of Bangalore (having no sense of adventure myself), I hung out in various spots around the hotel. I hadn’t discovered that the hotel had a massage area, but at nearly fifty dollars for a sixty-minute session, I wasn’t all that eager to try it out. I went ahead and hung out by the pool area, where pigeons have (for most of our stay here) used the water as a drinking bowl. Fortunately, I’m not a swimmer, so didn’t have to share time with any feathered friends and whatever they may have been leaving behind. The breeze was exceptional when it was present, but most of the time there was none, and the high temperatures made it so that I headed back up to my room.


As I was setting up to get another hour of Internet time, housekeeping came to the door and asked about servicing my room. Since it needed to be, I grabbed my gear and came to a small lounge area to get a little writing and reading done. Asking for a Coke, they proceeded to bring me a Diet Coke (which was easily corrected after I asked). I’m not entirely sure why this is, but I had the same experience at work, where someone bringing me a drink did the same thing. Perhaps most Americans coming in ask for a diet drink? Or perhaps they’re trying to tell me something about my weight and physique? Either way, I wish they had more Pepsi in this hotel, since the previous day’s housekeeping service neglected to restock the lone Pepsi I’d used the day before…another reason to let them have at the room when they asked.

Air conditioning seems to be a luxury that most do not want to use too much of in this country. At work, we’ve noticed that they don’t turn it on until the official start time for most workers, 9 AM. It makes the first hour or so rather unbearable for the rest of us. I also notice that the restaurant and lounge area don’t seem to want to turn the temperature down too much either. This may in fact be their way to reduce the number of power outages, which they’d run into earlier in the week…or it may just be the fact that I’m a spoiled American. Haha.

Apparently, there are no consistent liquor laws here in Bangalore. When visiting the pub yesterday, I noticed that they considered minors (for which they would not serve alcohol) to be anyone under 21. In the lounge here at the hotel, they consider anyone under 18 as a minor. At the steakhouse we’ve grown a bit fond of, they even have minors serving alcohol (according to the server bringing the bottles out, he was 17). Rather odd thing.

Writing notes to the housekeeping staff is the key to incredible service. Another member of our group had mentioned the same thing. After not having my mini-fridge re-stocked with Pepsi the other day, and then having large bottles of water (which don’t fit in the fridge to make them cold) in the room, I wrote a note requesting Pepsi to be stocked along with smaller water bottles. I returned to my room to find the bed made up with flower petals all over it, three cans of Pepsi in the fridge and six small bottles of water scattered on every available table surface in the room. Far better than the Hard Rock, where I requested a second drink and twenty minutes went by before it finally showed up.

Ahhhhhh-chooooo!

Pretty sure I spent more time picking this stuff up than anything else...
 
After some members of our Indian team showed up, we were off for a little more last-minute shopping. Picked up a few more scarves, and was introduced to the fine art of shopper’s negotiating. Actually ended up reducing one item by around 50% (and the total bill by just under that amount). Tricky, tricky.

Then, it was time to take a sampling of some of the mass transit options here in Bangalore. First up was the newly constructed Metro, the elevated train which runs between (currently) four stops. These are the reason for all of the massive construction delays through several areas of town, including on our way to work. It’s quite a modern system, and also very much a novelty for the local population, who were taking just as many pictures as we (as tourists) were. Unfortunately, with only four stops (at about 7-8 km from end to end), it’s still very much in a test setup. Although for 15 rupees (or about 35 cents or so), it’s also quite a bargain…and will be a fabulous addition to the city when they finally get the first phase completed sometime in 2014.

The station closest to our hotel (and the current end of the line), MG Road

The station at the other end of the line





Next, one of our team wanted to try out the auto-rickshaws that we’ve been encountering this entire time (and that have been the bane of our existence in city traffic). Squeezing three grown adults into the back of one (we took two separate autos) was quite a bit of a trick, but we ended up getting it done. I also felt I reduced my life span by about five years with all of the exhaust fumes I inhaled. Definitely not my favorite method of transport.

Our next stop was a place called UB Square. I didn’t have enough zeroes trailing my salary to shop here, nor would I want to spend that sort of money on consumer goods such as clothing, watches and the like, but it was interesting to see the place.



Gorgeous view, and lots of shopping, but not in my price range...


Then, it was back to a different set of autos for the return back to the hotel. This driver made things really exciting with all the weaving and jockeying for position (the first guy we had was far more tame in comparison), but the real excitement came when we arrived. Our Indian team lead and the driver began arguing for quite a while. After the exchange, we discovered that the driver was trying to extort 50 rupees (~1 dollar) for what should have been only 20 rupees (~50 cents). The trick (and I noticed this with our first driver as well) is that they turn off the meter for foreign riders, so they can do this to us. According to our team lead, they also have this knack for dropping riders off in the middle of nowhere and robbing them blind. Yes, definitely glad we have drivers…and can’t wait for the Metro to be completed.

Five years off my life, and they want an extra fifty cents...
 
And that's all for today...be sure to come back for the next installment...

03 April 2012

Weekly Goals - April 3, 2012

For better or worse, I was able to get some writing done this past week, just not on what I had expected to be working on. I'll still call that a win, and move on to the coming week...

Results for the week:

1. No further along
2. Completed 1000 words on a new Kasey Reynolds story (still untitled)

And now the goals for this week:


1. Complete 1000 words on the new story
2. Complete 1000 words on Resurrection




The Cure Excerpt


Sweltering heat followed Mila as she entered. Second-guessing her morning wardrobe decision, at least her dark suit jacket covered up her sweating skin.

A reception desk sat off to her left. Mila didn’t recognize the cheerful young woman behind it, which set her hackles up. The baby-faced redhead sat with a nail file, grinding like a mad woman as she chomped just as hard on chewing gum. Bouncing curls atop her head flowed down to her breasts which burst forth from her low-cut black top. She looked up at Mila and flashed a brilliant smile.

“Can I help you?”

“Where’s Barbara?” The regular receptionist would have taken Mila right away to where her family waited. She’d been through this same process daily, step-for-step over the last three seasons, coming up on ten months now. Every lunch break, like clockwork. No one knew outside of this building. Not the people she worked with, not even her relatives. Nothing good could come from too many people being aware of her activities.

“Called in sick this morning, so I was told. I’m from the temp agency.”

“Mila Groso,” she muttered. “I have an appointment.”

The young woman motioned. “Please have a seat.”

Mila turned toward several plush white chairs along the opposite wall. “That’s really not necessary...”

The busty redhead put on the fakest smile Mila had ever seen. “Oh, it’s no bother.”

Frowning, Mila could do nothing but follow the woman’s instructions. The young temp dropped her file and picked up a small cylindrical transmitter, squeezing the sides to pop the handset open. A communication link was established with a dual-tone beep. She held her hand up to muffle her voice. Without any background noise, though, Mila still heard every word. “Mister Docken, there’s a Mila Groso here. She claims to have an appointment, but nothing’s listed.”

Listening to the response, her face grew serious before closing the transmitter again. Without a care, she flashed another fake smile. “He’ll be out soon.” Barely a moment passed before she’d gone back to her nail file.

Mila pursed her lips and squirmed, unable to find a comfortable position in the chair. She looked around, seeing peaceful digital artwork by artists with names she didn’t recognize. The distinct stench of fresh paint spilled off the walls. They’d gone to great lengths to liven up the facilities over the past few months. There was no sense in it. Putting a friendly, pleasant face on the surroundings didn’t hide the fact there was only one reason to come here.

To visit the dead.

Down a second hallway, a door lock clicked open, drawing Mila’s attention. A tall, gaunt man in a freshly pressed white dress shirt, black trousers and tie stepped into view. Relief worked its way onto Mila’s face at the sight of someone she finally recognized.

“Mila,” he said, drawing close, “sorry to keep you waiting. Your regular viewing room is ready.”

She stood and smoothed out her dress pants, taking the high road by forgiving the utter inconvenience she’d been put through. “Thank you, Paul.”

His smooth black hair caught the light from above while he gave off a weak smile. “You’re welcome.”
The pair walked along the corridor, the only sound coming from Mila’s heels striking the faux wood floor. They passed through an ornate doorway into a rectangular waiting area. Waist-high leafy plants stood in each corner.

Once they were out of earshot, Paul mumbled to Mila. “Sorry about that. It was a big surprise finding out Barbara wouldn’t be in this morning.”

It really wasn’t her concern, but Mila still figured an inquiry appropriate. “Is she okay?”

“Her niece called this morning. Apparently, she came down with something nasty.” He glanced toward the lobby. “I hope she comes back soon. It’s hard to find good help.”

Mila nodded absently. She’d always been able to find excellent employees and had never needed temporary help. With this experience, she counted it a good thing.

Paul held a hand out toward another pair of plush white couches. Mila figured the facility had bought in bulk. “I’ll just double-check everything’s as you’ve requested.” He left her there, entering the central of the three viewing rooms while she sat down once more.

Such frequent visits weren’t in the standard burial contract, and had been negotiated for a significant price. Calling it a request was putting a definite spin on things.

Mila’s limbs shook, just as with every visit. Even being strong-willed as she made herself out to be, the entire situation still struck unbridled fear into her bones. A death sentence carried out on her family’s murderers had not appeased her bloodlust.

Neither had it assuaged her guilt.

She composed herself as the door opened and Paul stepped out. A cold chill flowed out to greet her. “Take as much time as you need.”

“Thank you,” Mila mumbled, walking inside.

“I’ll be up front whenever you’re finished.” Paul shut the door behind her.

She took a deep breath and stared at the two sarcophagi. The standard white coffin had been upgraded with ornate markings and shiny metal carvings mounted to each corner and around the base. It had been billed as a flowing pattern meant to speed the decedent’s path to the afterlife, or some other such nonsense meant to soothe a survivor’s grief. Dark purple blankets hid wheeled carts which rested under each casket. These provided the means for Paul’s staff to roll them inside the viewing rooms. She’d only heard stories of the underground storage vaults where so many dead were held, having no desire to see them.

All citizens of this planet were buried in sealed caskets, preventing decomposition as was the Vetrasian custom. Mila still recalled the interment service held in this very room. Outside the building had been so dreary and rainy, an unlikely circumstance for the then-summer season, but matching Mila’s emotional state at the time.

Silence closed in from all sides. Despite the center’s use of floral sprays as a mask, there was no way to completely eliminate the musty stench emanating from the underground vaults. She shifted up to the caskets, her shaking hands creeping toward the transparent shells. Every visit confirmed what she knew, but couldn’t accept. It hadn’t been a bad dream. Her family was truly gone forever.

Even now, she wasn’t convinced. She’d be with them soon enough. That was the only thing providing her solace, letting her sleep at night.

Looking through the clear lid at her daughter was almost as if gazing into a mirror of the past, her foolish youth. This teen’s face, though, was a model of steadiness, framed by the same thick, dirty blonde, shoulder-length strands Mila herself was burdened with. A long white dress was the standard burial garment for all the planet’s women.

“Oh, sweet Oreana...” Mila choked on her words, and streams of tears flowed down her face.

She wiped her eyes and turned to the second casket, where her husband’s tanned face sat in wait atop a white suit, the standard men’s burial garment. She longed to once more run her hand through his brown ratty hair, to stare into his sky blue eyes. “Gordon, my love,” she whispered. Stroking the hard plastic cover with her fingers, Mila tried to remember what he felt like. It made her sob even more that she couldn’t recall the memory.

She looked upon both bodies, as always marveling she couldn’t make out the slash marks and stab wounds they’d received from their killers. Paul and his staff had done a fantastic job, but even without visible reminders, she couldn’t clear the bloody images from her mind. There was no silencing their final screams of agony and terror which echoed within her mind.

Mila closed her eyes and the tears gushed forth. She should have arrived on time that fateful night. If she had, they wouldn’t have been waiting in the parking lot when a pair of vagabond killers had found them. Random as it had been, her family ended up dead, because she always put work ahead of everything else in her life.

With a sigh, she eased her eyelids open, blinking away tears and glancing back and forth between the corpses. A small smile formed while the liquid train slowed. Increasing hope filled her heart, knowing she had a plan, even though formed from grief and desperation. With every passing moment, Mila knew without a doubt she was getting closer to the cure she’d been seeking these last ten months.

The cure for death.

* * *

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02 April 2012

Bangalore or Bust: A Travel Log (Day 10)

Author's note: For the next several weeks, I'll be posting tidbits of a travel log, which I kept during a two-week business trip (the reason I was in sporadic contact with the world recently). Enjoy!

For those who haven't yet seen the other posts in this travel log, check them out:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9

(And again, if you're interested in seeing more photos than I'm providing, check out one of my co-workers' blogs from the same trip)

Day 10, Saturday (3/3):


Today was the first time I could (and did) sleep in during the trip. Breakfast was light, and sunscreen was applied, as we prepared for a short shopping trip to a local mall suggested by some of our Indian team members.


If there wasn't a bigger symbol of Americanization...plus, they don't use real beef in the States either.

Look closely, and you can see the guards with metal detectors here too...

3D Gaming machines...the kid inside me really wanted to...


One of my co-workers taking a few practice swings in the cricket batting cages

It was surprising to me that that there was so much (what I consider) Americanization to the mall we visited. Before our guides showed up, three of us found the Indian equivalent of a Wal-Mart Supercenter, and picked up a few gifts for folks back home. Most of the other stores in the mall seemed to be clothing or electronics shops, and they had entire areas devoted to children’s play areas. Also saw 3D gaming machines, but didn’t try them out. According to our team members accompanying us, the prices for all the goods were also higher than you could get elsewhere, so we went ahead and left the mall for more reasonable shopping. Along the way, we visited the apartment of one of our Indian team members (as well as the apartment of his parents on the floor below). It was a good time, and we even had our picture taken by his mother.

Then it was time for a trip around “old” Bangalore which was far cleaner than “new” Bangalore. The prices here were extremely better than those in the shops around our hotel, and even more so than the prices over in Mysore last weekend. Ended up picking out some scarves, a petticoat (or skirt), and several bangles (bracelets) all for less than twenty-five bucks. Guess I should have waited on buying that Sari…




Once our gifts were all purchased, the Indians we were with took us over to a small pub (I assume it’s called 1522, based on the signage and the coasters). Great place, and the Hard Rock could have taken some lessons from these folks. Great service, great atmosphere, and great music at appropriate levels. We truly enjoyed ourselves at this place.

Not to worry, I enjoyed myself...but did not partake... ;-)





Today, our driver seemed to be eager to take us on some scenic tours, including past what I believe was the state’s high court and other government offices. Then, on the way home, we drove past the Bangalore palace (or as he explained, the “guest palace” for the royal family from the Mysore palace we saw last weekend). Then, for some reason, he tried to stop by some more shopping locations…not sure if he was looking for some kickbacks from the shop owner perhaps?

The state's high court

Another government office...notice how they forbid child labor and alcohol on the work site...good plan!
 
The guest palace...it's good to be the King (or friends of the King)

All in all, a good day…

And that's all for today...be sure to come back for the next installment...

01 April 2012

An Important Announcement

So, I've come to a realization recently. It was a hard decision, but necessary...

I see so many authors out there with far greater sales numbers than I have...and I keep wondering why. The easy answer is that I don't put enough graphic sex in my novels. So, I've decided that the only way I'm going to be successful in the writing business is for Aston to branch out into the erotica field. With all of the ladies he interacts with on a regular basis in his stories and novels, there should be plenty of opportunity for stories galore.

And for my first story, I've decided to pull the deleted scenes from Aston's trysts (which all happen "off-camera" in my latest novel Death Brings Victory, and put them into a double-shot of erotica stories, and post it up for sale. I urge you all to pick up your copy of this new piece, and help me along in my success.

And if you've read this far, and can't understand how I could possibly come to this decision, then perhaps you should get yourself a calendar, and check what today is...

April Fools! *smile*

Bangalore or Bust: A Travel Log (Day 9)

Author's note: For the next several weeks, I'll be posting tidbits of a travel log, which I kept during a two-week business trip (the reason I was in sporadic contact with the world recently). Enjoy!

For those who haven't yet seen the other posts in this travel log, check them out:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8

(And again, if you're interested in seeing more photos than I'm providing, check out one of my co-workers' blogs from the same trip)

Day 9, Friday (3/2):

Having gotten back to the hotel quite late, it was good that I had requested a wake-up call, because that was the only thing that woke me up the next morning. Rushing around to get ready for work is something I haven’t had to do for the entire week, being as how I’ve been waking several hours ahead of a normal schedule. So, needless to say, I was a little off-kilter for most of the day.

For lunch, most of the group and our respective Indian teams ended up heading to what seemed an upscale Indian restaurant. It was a welcome change from the pizza we’d been having the last several days. They fortunately toned down the spice to a more reasonable level for us, which was good. I enjoyed my selections, personally.

All in all, though, most of the rest of my day was spent in meetings and in answering e-mails from Wichita. I really didn’t feel like I accomplished much, but that’s how life is sometimes. Hopefully some rest and recuperation will help even things out in the coming week.

On the way home, I’ve found that my comfort level with the traffic conditions seems to be reaching a point of saturation. In fact, since I didn’t have time to read the local paper this morning, and my day was filled completely, I ended up reading it in the car on our way back to the hotel. All the honking horns, the suicidal pedestrians launching themselves out in front of speeding vehicles, motorcycles and auto-rickshaws racing past and jockeying for position…none of it really fazed me all that terribly. I guess it really is all in what you’re used to.

I’ve also discovered, however, that I seriously over-estimated how much free time I would have on this trip. It seems like I get up and go to work…then come home to work and barely any time passes until we’re heading out to get our dinner. And then it’s usually time to come back to the room and go off to sleep after a call to my wife. This isn’t going to bode well for my attempt at meeting all of the writing goals I set for myself.

Another trip to the steakhouse yielded very heavy traffic at night. The restaurant was far busier than it had been earlier in the week, and for some reason, the T-bone steak we had this evening was presented in a far different way (and more familiar to those back home) than before. There was also a mishap with one of the other fellow’s beers spilling and dousing my jeans (thank goodness for the hotel laundry service). I have a feeling that’s why the driver would often roll down his windows on the way home. Another late night, but a good way to relax after a long week.

And that's all for today...be sure to come back for the next installment...