29 March 2011

A Sample of The Dream Land II: Days of Futures Passed

Chapter 24


A man is himself a whole troupe of fools on a stage, and the audience has long fallen asleep.
                                     —Iadon-Repraxa, Rouê freedom-fighter (G. P. 1507-1578)

The sudden crash of an exploding shell slapped him out of his trance and he awoke in the saddle of a horse-like creature, barely able to breathe, choked by the smoke wafting around him, stomach knotted and heart beating loudly. After a few moments, he regained his awareness and knew where he was. It was somewhere in the past—or the future—too dangerous to spend time calculating which. But he knew he was in command.
The battle-stained beast he rode was exhausted so he allowed it to walk along the once-beautiful city avenue strewn with the destruction and debris of war. On either side buildings stood broken and battered, steaming, smoking, some with fires still blazing. The air was thick with acrid smoke, the skies above a hideous black and perverse pink—
A scene from Hell, he considered.
He glanced back over his shoulder at the trailing line of weary soldiers, leading their battle-scarred mounts through the debris-narrowed road, what was once a beautiful boulevard full of lush flora but now barren and burning.
How long had the war gone on? he asked himself, forgetting. It seemed ages, of course, as each year passed and each nation fell in a steady wave of conquest.
A lieutenant rode up beside him, concerned about their direction.
“We shall meet up with the fifth brigade at Debrêk,” he explained coldly.
“Debrêk, Kanê?” asked the lieutenant.
“You heard what I said!” Ah! how he loved the scent of Hell in the morning!
The lieutenant nodded, then pointed at the blood splatter on his superior’s torn sleeve, wondering if he were in need of medical attention.
“No, I carry pain everywhere I go,” he responded.
Then the lieutenant raised his cap and strands of golden hair tumbled down upon the man’s shoulders.
“What are you doing?” the lieutenant asked, the voice suddenly too feminine.
“I’m conquering!”  He snorted, amused.  “What does it look like?”
“Is that really necessary?” said the lieutenant who, as he regarded him, turned more and more into the face and persona of his long-lost love, Gina.
He squinted at the lieutenant, seeking recognition.
“Look at yourself now!” he/she accosted him. “You went so dutifully to the year 1574 and waited ten years for me? You got bored waiting in Aivana for me to show up so you went off to your island—where you promptly went insane. And still you waited for me? You know how it all works: you come and you go; you don’t wait. I’m here now, but this is not the end of my life; this is the middle of my life. If you look on some calendar, it seems to be a long time but it really hasn’t been. In fact, today might not even exist in another life.”
He smiled cynically, rather like a two-faced Janus mask. This messenger was not one of his staff, obviously, but a demon sent to torment him, perhaps because of the destruction his armies had wrought, laying waste whole nations on his narcissistic whim. Demons often came to debate with him and he was patient with their intrusions. It was becoming part of his life.
 “This is what was required of me,” he spoke calmly, as though answering a journalist’s list of officially approved questions. “I am doing what I am supposed to do. You know that. You have read the history books. You’ve seen the martyr’s wall. You’ve spoken with the patrons of war. My task is to lay siege to the nations of Ghoupallesz. One by one. Until we are one. That is what the Council has decreed. ”
He waved his arm in the air.  “Look around you—is it not glorious?”
The lieutenant who resembled Gina chuckled disdainfully.
“It’s true,” he continued, gesturing at his dirty uniform, the troops behind him, the destruction around him, and at his minor wounds in the arm and thigh. “I have a mandate to destroy all who oppose us. Hah! Did you not hear me last week when I said ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’? It was widely quoted.”
“The journals tend to be biased—”
“In fact, wasn’t it you who named me ‘Set’? More than once you called me the God of Destruction, the bull in the china shop, who always manages to create chaos, or one who is, let’s say, clumsy. Needlessly destructive. I get that. You want me to live up to my moniker. And now—now you seem to regret the seriousness of my nicknaming ceremony.”
“There was no ceremony, Sebastian,” the woman/lieutenant spoke, “only a quickly scribbled signature on a torn, wrinkled parchment in a cold, dark hallway of an abandoned house back in the Missouri countryside, a run-down wreck of a house about to be demolished to make way for a new subdivision. Even now they’re clearing the land, burning piles of timber, filling the sky with smoke. Just look out the window. Go on, look!”  She/he snickered.  “And you thought it was a palace!”
“I knew it was an old abandoned house. I never called it a palace. Bunker, maybe, but never a palace. We were—”
“It was foolish!”
“You’re calling me a fool?” he grunted, riding on through the wafting smoke and bitter scents of death and cannon fodder. “What about you? You’ve been such a saint!”
“Of course not. Saint is not in my pedigree, nor in my fate.”
“Ah, then you’re no better than me!”
“I’ve merely made my way as best I could, hiding where needed, asserting myself where I could do some good.”
“And now? Are you doing good?”
“Yes.” She seemed put-off by his presumption. “I am doing good now. I’ve joined a group who call themselves the Revolutionary Council. Our purpose is—”
“Good name! Revolutions are always good things.”
“We started in Typeg and now we are set to act in Aivana. They’re ruled by foreigners and the local people demand justice.”
“But you are a foreigner!”
“But I do not seek power. I don’t want to rule anyone.”
“You just want to create chaos.”
“Chaos always settles into order.”
“Which explodes into chaos.”
“Which settles into order.”
He thought of pizza and felt hungry, decided it was not worth further argument. How much further they would be slow-marching to meet up with the fifth brigade? Not enough time to stop for lunch—
He could not tell what time it was with the smoke obscuring the landscape, the burning cityscape. So he imagined himself astride a large bird, soaring high into the sky, looking down upon the blackened flaming ruins of the great industrial city his army had razed—that was possible in dreams, he decided, feeling the wind in his face. He imagined himself sailing high through the clouds, into the green sky above, the wind holding him aloft, like a god, like an airborne hero!
“The foreigners who rule in Aivana are my friends,” he said, gently landing the great bird, “and they are well-intended, as most Voyagers seem to be. Aren’t you and I well-intended? We never wanted to change anything here. We just wanted to have fun. Until things turned serious. Like now. I’m trying to subdue the planet and you are threatening to hurt my friends who have no idea what we Voyagers can do.”
“I wish you would’ve told me that before,” said the woman/lieutenant. She began stuffing her golden locks up into her cap. “The plan has already commenced. It cannot be stopped. If only you had let me know.”
He let out a long sigh, shrugging his shoulders, one epaulet ripped and dangling.
“That’s why I was waiting for you in Aivana. I read a history book about your group assassinating the royal family—trying to assassinate them. Ultimately, you failed. But I knew I could find you there on a certain date. I arrived early, so I decided to wait rather than go back through the tangent and try for a closer time zone.”
“If you had told me they were from Earth, I could have stopped—”
“Everything seems to depend on timeliness, doesn’t it?”
She nodded, looked more like his lieutenant than a moment before.
“Like right now,” he spoke up. “I really have no idea why I’m on this Jêpe in the middle of this burning city. I’m guessing that this uniform means something, but in my head I’m not quite clear just what I’ve done. Or what I will do next. I think I’m in charge of all this mess. Or, I’m the cause of it. Either way, it’s like I’m dreaming all this—”
“Now don’t you forget the rules. No waiting,” said the lieutenant, voice shifting from Gina’s alto to a deeper martial baritone. “It’s still possible to meet in Aivana. Shall we say outside the upper flat, corner of G-Lane and Alley-47, up the slope past the bridge? Let’s meet there a hundred years from now—by the calendar.” She chuckled. “Of course, that could be the day after tomorrow in our actual lives.”
Êdolex, Kanê-se?” asked the lieutenant, now a skinny man with a moustache, questioning his use of the word ‘naturally.’
He grinned, embarrassed. Gina was nowhere in sight—as it was meant to be.
“A silly expression,” he replied to himself, glancing around. “Sometimes I think I’m going mad, as though a demon were following me. Then I look around at the territory under our control and I think, Naw!
He cleared his throat.
“What is real is real, and what I can see and smell are real,” he continued, an edgy mumbling. “Only my thoughts falter and slide into an abyss of fantasy.” He stared ahead at the burning streets. “Or into dreams.”
The wind picked up then, blew hard against him.
“How can I tell them apart?” he muttered in English.
The lieutenant did not respond, could not fathom the question, so the Berron sent him back to the line of troops.

24 March 2011

Catching Up

I understand that Spring Break has come and gone. I know by the glassy-eyed gaze of students still on vacation, though their bodies miraculously sit in class. The irony, of course, is that for most schools "spring break" occurs before spring actually arrives. The idea, therefore, seems to be to start spring early by flying off to someplace tropical, to places where it is always spring.

Spring has always been a time of debauchery, from ancient times to today. The arrival, or anticipation of the arrival, of the planting season brings to mind countless instances of sympathetic magic: fertility rituals which may or may not have proven useful in urging the crops and animals to produce. Nevertheless, mankind seems to have enjoyed pretending that fertility rituals actually induce fertility. It's the thought that counts. More so today, where the main activity of spring break locations is to celebrate fertility, especially in the form of nubile young maidens showing off their wares--though not too many, I suspect, would actually accept sexual partners solely on behalf of a grateful Earth.

I have been opposed to spring break for as long as I can remember. Originally, in my early years of education, all we got was Easter break. Eventually, that was deemed too religious for public schools. Now they have teacher in-service days and let the students stay home to partake in religious rituals, if they or their parents so choose. In fall semesters we get half a week or more to celebrate Thanksgiving, but it occurs too close to the end of the semester and final exams time to be practical. In the spring, however, schools generally schedule the break in the middle of the semester. Without calling it Easter, what excuse do they have? And why an entire week?  The Thanksgiving break need cover only 2 days, or 3 if you generously extend a travel day to students. But spring break? What's the point?

To celebrate the end of winter--actually or virtually--and in that celebration throw off the shackles of everything they have learned during the cold weeks of winter when there is nothing else to do but study, learn, focus on careers in the making, while free of the temptations, the immoral distractions, the wanton ways that undo all the good that has been done! Yes, I sound bitter. Perhaps because I never went away for spring break, never took a trip, never debauched or rampaged or drank and swore, never danced or got my t-shirt wet, nothing immoral, unethical, illegal, or unprofessional, nothing that could jeopardize my future--

Uh...wait a minute. That was a long time ago. My future is now, roughly calculated. Is it too late for me?  Now were I to arrive in typical spring break venues and behave like the typical spring break participant, I would likely be labeled a "dirty old man"--and that would be fine with me. I'm sure there are plenty of other similarly labeled gentlemen participating in the same way. They seek something they never had, never were allowed: freedom, youth, fertility. And, perhaps more importantly, the means to forget it all. Such a regret!

Spring break is big business now. Like so many holidays and special occasions, whatever mankind decides to celebrate turns, ultimately, into a sordid shopping spree. It may be clothing, it may be gifts, or it may be the perfect boyfriend/girlfriend. It's still shopping. And, short of the basic necessities of life (plus some choice books), I've never been much of a shopper. Ergo: I am not spring break material. Which gives me plenty of time to complain about it.

See you next year!

PS. Time magazine had a fairly cool article on the commercial origins of spring break, at this link:

06 March 2011

A new Dream Land "pitch"

How far would you go to save the love of your life? Through a portal to another world?

Sebastian and Gina, high school sweethearts, discover a doorway in an abandoned quarry and step through it to a world of magical beauty and terrible violence. She decides to stay while he, fearing the loss of his true home, chooses to return to Earth. Nevertheless, he finds himself drawn back time and time again, sometimes for his own nefarious adventures, other times to rescue Gina from her sordid relationships—and in half of those episodes she ends up saving  him!

Passing his days as a night-shift worker at the local I.R.S. service center, Sebastian (a.k.a. the Professor) once again feels the pull of Gina in trouble. It’s been a while so he is hesitant to step through the doorway, remembering all the horrors he experienced during previous journeys: a tragic romance with one of the people of the world of Ghoupallesz and then being caught in a massive invasion force as a regimental commander. So he enlists the aid of two co-workers who also need a place to escape, unfortunately, no thanks to the elixir of love they drank.

But he must go, must save Gina—this time, like every time.  However, he eventually finds that there are questions to be answered. Is his adventure to the other side real, or is it just the dreams of a psychotic serial killer? That’s what the police want to know when he returns without his co-workers.

So now, obviously, you must read it! Right?


05 March 2011

"A Beautiful Chill" scorned!

My literary novel, A Beautiful Chill, adjusted per ABNA and other reviewers' comments, has been scorned!

FYA (not FYI but "for your amusement"):

The situation: I took everyone's comments about my ABNA excerpt (the first 2 chapters and beginning of 3rd) and fixed everything, etc., then reposted the new excerpt--after I was already out of the pitch stage. I thought only that I might gather more comments since using CreativeSpace was still an option for me. Then I noticed a typo in the first paragraph!

It was late so I thought I'll fix it it tomorrow; nobody knows it is there yet anyway. The next day I went to delete it, fix the problem, and repost with a new preview number. But lo and behold! I already had a comment:

(1 star out of 5)
Anonymous February 27, 2011

I lived in Iceland for a year while I was in the military. I am impressed that the author knows some about Iceland but I have never seen a cliff in Reykavik. I don't think there are any. I have met a few natives of Iceland and although I think they may be a little easier with human relations than some of us uptight Americans I don't think stripping and sleaze would come easy to them. I don't see why men insist women have the same attitude toward sex as they do. We don't. Not sure where this author gets his ideas but I am not interested in the rest of the book. Thanks, but no thanks.
(Me, again:) Well, I was surprised on several accounts, first that the reviewer had left such a detailed review. But also about the "cliff"--which is in chapter 3 and is not intended to be in Reykjavik but in a dream (presumably in Akureyri, the childhood home of the heroine). The statement about female sexuality is one that I occasionally get from female reviewers. I think I've provided reasons for the character to be that way, which will be revealed through the course of the novel.

So, do the women in this group have a similar feeling about that opening? OK, I know you don't remember it, but she's a nude model in an art class, and as she poses she thinks about her problems, partly involving her childhood abuse, partly her sex industry work, etc. She hates the boys in the class leering at her and eventually runs out. Most readers of the earliest version thought the character was portrayed realistically, although not necessarily comfortably. I guess it's a matter of personal taste. (Note: I honestly do not believe I set out to write a sexy book; I was merely fascinated by the character.)

I just thought I'd share it for its humor possibilities. I am not offend or upset by the comment. However, as many authors know, sometimes the reader doesn't get what we are trying to say and that is frustrating. This was also, the lowest star ranking and the longest comment left for me on the CreateSpace preview page on Amazon. I then went ahead and removed the new excerpt, fixed the typo, but have not yet reposted. I have a secret fear that the negative reviewer will check back and find it missing and think it is a result of that one negative review. That's the humor.

[Ja, I'm ranting again. Must be the effect of mind-numbing from reading truly awful writing from college freshmen --they write worse than middle school students.] 

And I'll add the ubiquitous smiley to show I'm not mad:    :-)

(Well, crazy, perhaps, but not angry.)

04 March 2011

Weekend Warrior

There is something miraculous about the invention of the weekend. 

Once upon a time people fell down in the fields exhausted. When they awoke, finally rested, it was Monday again and they started working again. Little by little the rest period became a time of celebration, even hedonistic revelry and for some winsome sloth. Then, gradually over recent decades, there was a reversal of weekend activity: some people chose to work! Much of that work was self-inflicted, often called "hobby" yet involving just as much effort and pain as the work done between the weekends.

Now it is my turn. Here is my weekend plan:


Up early, coffee, writing on The Dream Land III - scene of the evil empress's funeral (murdered at the end of DL2) and speculation on why the body of the evil emperor was never found (hint: he slipped away to Earth).

Brunch, errands, B&N for grading student essays

Movie - The Adjustment Bureau

Dinner at home, followed by hockey via internet broadcast, then email/Facebook until sleep overcomes me.


Up early, writing on DL3, if finished with funeral scene work on the wiseman/madman in the dungeon (tip: actually our protagonist but he doesn't know he is yet).

Brunch, then back to the B&N for paper grading until they're done.

Grocery shopping, miscellaneous preparation for the coming week's activities, and slipping gently into the night.

What's your weekend writing plan?

02 March 2011

The Dream Land summary

Here is a quick summary I wrote for a Facebook message and thought I'd share it.

In my trilogy, a "real" couple discover a portal to another world (yeah, typical) and learn to live there, but when "he" fears being trapped there and wants to return, "she" decides to stay. Over the years she needs his help and he must return again and again. She also rescues him sometimes as they hop around the time zones, affecting history in good and bad ways.

The side story is the possibility that this sci-fi world does not exist except in his mind--that he is going insane; when he takes others to this new world and they also refuse to return (life is better there than at their dull jobs on Earth), police believe he murdered them and hid their bodies. Over the course of the trilogy he is always escaping from the police or a mental hospital to return to the parallel world...where he has become a cavalry captain, then a king, later a wiseman.