Wednesday, June 19, 2019

We'll do this again

If you've been following along recently you (hopefully) read over a series of seven nights a fantasy short story I wrote in the past month. I enjoyed doing that so much I thought I would post another short story I wrote earlier this year.

This one is quite different however. It is present day military. The title is 'Still On Patrol'. This one is a little shorter than The Dragon and The Princess so it may not take as many nights to put up, but here is tonight's first installment.

Still On Patrol

     “Dive, make your depth six-hundred feet. Helm, all ahead one-third.”
     “Six hundred feet, aye.  Five degree down bubble. Make depth for six-hundred feet. All ahead one-third.”
     “Five degree down bubble, all ahead one-third.” came the reply.
     Captain Stephen Frey leaned in over his command screen and scanned the data rolling up. He watched the display as the electronics on his Virginia class sub continued to change according to his orders. He could feel the boat change attitude as they passed five-hundred feet. Most wouldn’t notice, but he’d been doing this quite a while. He looked at the chronometer overhead; 18:05. At that moment his XO stepped into the control room.”
     “You’re late Commander,” he said.
     “Sorry sir, my stomach’s been acting up. Not feeling so well.”
     “You able to skipper my boat?”
     “I’m up to it sir. Stopped by to see the doc,” Lieutenant Commander Eugene Torres replied. “He gave me something to quiet it down.”
     “Boat level at six-hundred feet,” said the Office of the Deck.
Torres stepped inside the control room and looked down on the screen his captain was again studying. He was new to the boat and needed to make a good impression on his captain.
     “We’re a little deeper than normal as we come up on the abyssal plain we’re to study.”
     “Isn’t it rather odd that a naval attack boat is on a scientific mission?”
     “Not these days,” Frey replied. “It helps to cover the costs of these boats. We’re a bit expensive in some people’s minds.”
     “I understand.” Torres leaned in over the charts and began evaluating their position. “What are these notations here, here, and here?”
     “We’ll be dropping some new sensors developed by Woods Hole to study the subduction zone against the continental shelf. They’ll hit bottom about eleven-thousand feet.” He looked up to his XO with a serious face. “I’ve no desire to test the crush depth specs of this boat, if you know what I mean.”
     “Understood sir,” Torres replied with a slight grin. He wasn’t sure how to read his new captain just yet.
     “Signal me when we get ready to deploy the sensors.”
     “Aye sir,” Torres replied as he watched his captain step out of the control room.
The first officer of the USS Virginia, the first vessel of her class, looked about the control room. He was new to this boat, this crew. He met the gaze of one or two but they casually turned back to their stations. He checked the distance to the first scheduled drop. It would be another three hours. He pulled up the coordinates from the last surfaced GPS readings. They were on course for the initial rise of the continental shelf where the Indonesian archipelago began, a hotbed of volcanic activity where the Australian continental plate slipped beneath. It was generally considered the southern-most point of the Rim of Fire, the volcanic zone that rings the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
     The next hour passed without fanfare, only the routine chatter among the crew, the normal comings and goings of life aboard a submarine. Torres skimmed through the routine orders of the day and generally paced back and forth. Command at this level was different than what he was used to. Other tasks about a submerged boat gave you a focus. Being over everyone else wasn’t focus, at least to him.
     The Virginia being the first of her class had recently undergone a refit. She received upgraded electronics to her bow sonar systems and a slight redesign of the pulse propulsion system along with routine maintenance. This was her first deployment out of the refit trials.
     “High speed screws in the water! Three thousand yards.”
     “What!” The announcement caught Torres off guard. “Emergency flank speed!” he yelled. “Left full rudder. Blow ballast. Ten degrees up bubble.”
He listened as the commands were repeated through the Officer of the Deck and echoed from his helmsman. He could feel the sudden change in the boat. Everyone could. He stabbed at the com button and yelled.
     “Captain to the bridge. Captain to the bridge.” He finished his last word when Stephen Frey came running through the hatch. “Con, mark the time.”
     “What’s going on with my boat Commander?”
     “High speed screws in the water aft,” repeated the helmsman. “Distance now twelve-hundred yards.”
     “Deploy countermeasures. Launch noisemakers,” Frey ordered.
They could hear the compression as the decoys launched. Frey looked down and watched as the numbers rolled up his screen.
     “Four-hundred feet and rising,” came the call.
     “Put it over the speakers,” Frey ordered, and just like they were in a World War II movie they could hear the sonar sounds echoing through the boat.
     “Five hundred yards,” sonar announced. “Object is veering toward starboard decoy.”
     “Trace back the firing line,” Frey ordered. “Con, all stop.”
     “Con aye. Helm, all stop.”
     “All stop,” helm replied.
     “All quiet on the boat.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

My writing journey

This blog is now ten years old. Many people have tapped into its pages, some I don't know from across the world but most likely the majority are people I have come to know over the years either personally or from my association with writers. One thing I don't know that I've ever really addressed is how my writing journey came to be. Well...

I come from a family of voracious readers, siblings, cousins etcetera. (I don't think I've ever typed the full word etcetera before). I was one of the few who spurned the written word. Oh, I read on occasion. I remember my first book, Peter and the Rocket Ship. As a little boy I read a few in this series which led to other books my Sainted Mother put around the house for me. Many had to do with the burgeoning United States space program in its formative years. That lasted for a small time before I rode off down the road on my bicycle.

North of 50, Beloved Brother and senior voice of this blog dove headlong into the Hardy Boys series. I'm sure my other brothers Anonymous and Graybeard had similar series or books they ravaged but I'm not sure what they may be. Both of them and Baby Sis (who may possibly be able to quote most passages of Lord of the Rings) to this day are constant readers and I know there are a few cousins that can't be found without a book in their hands or at least within reach. But for me, it was different.
I grew up as an activity kid, always running around the neighborhood, playing ball, riding bikes and mostly the classic things one thinks a kid does. Reading was only something done in school.

As I grew older the closest I ever got to books were comics and the new books put out by Gary Trudeau in the Doonsbury comic series. Real books weren't for me. Then as college hit there was little time for even that and by the time I was ready to start adult life, books nearly vanished from my life.

Then a curious thing happened, a fellow name Tom Clancy published a cold war novel titled Hunt for Red October. I'm not sure why I bought it, but it immediately had me hooked. The detail of his writing and the times in which I lived, the USSR vs US, drew me to his every word. I think to this day my favorite book is one of his, Red Storm Rising. I read the next, then the next before cracking the spine of something my siblings knew so well; Lord of the Rings.

I struggled with the first few chapters; how did they think this was riveting? I almost closed the book by the time Bilbo's birthday party even ended. I think if that had happened my writing and this blog may never have happened, but I persevered. Then to my delight, I found myself still up at two in the morning reading. Yes, it's a long read but between Tom Clancy and JRR Tolkien, my interest was peaked in the printed world.

By the time computers actually became somewhat affordable, around the late eighties, I toyed with the idea of writing a book so I purchased a Radio Shack computer and figured out how to write with it. The memory was so small it wouldn't hold a single chapter. The final installment of my first book, The Crystal Point was held on about fifteen 3.5 inch floppies. Now, you younger kids probably don't know what that means but trust me, your phone is infinitely more powerful that my old TRS computer.

Now most people in the publishing world will tell you, you shouldn't start out with writing an epic fantasy of 500 pages, but that didn't stop me. That's what I wanted to do, because, what the heck did I know? There were some things you learn the hard way, grammar issues, punctuation, how to develop a writing style etcetera. (There, I wrote that word out again). Being blessed with someone as well-read as North of 50 to become my editor was a godsend. He genuinely liked the story and critiqued my work as I went along. He left most of the story telling to me and was a great editor.

To keep my hand in other things we began to collaborate on this Rambling50 blog. I think it was a way to write in a different way, a different style and let us both let the world in on our life events as well as hopefully begin to give me some exposure on the exploding world wide web. A funny thing about writing, the more you write, the more you come up with ideas to fill pages, the more ideas you have. To date, this blog has over 650 posts from the two of us. It was a brutal slap in the face at my brother's passing. He was the one I bounced ideas off and the person who sharpened by words. To this day I keep this alive as much for him as for me. His voice was unique.

Anyway, after many rejection letters from publishers and agents along came this thing called Can you imagine? A place that let you put your book up on their site and they would let people buy it. That's when ebooks exploded. All those people like me who couldn't get through the wall built by publishing companies now had a way to sell directly to the populace. It opened up a world to many that was locked away.

With the first book now available, my appetite for writing grew. The Crystal Point literally enveloped me in a new world, one I never thought I could ever enter. But more than that, it unleashed a hunger in me I never knew existed. From that point on I was a writer. It was a creative outlet that differed from anything I had known before. With the second book, another epic fantasy titled White Staff writing became a passion. I knew from that point on I would write for the rest of my life.

What has come of that has been ten novels in fantasy, action-adventure and science fiction as well as several short stories. I have partnered with other authors on several anthologies, two of those to benefit writers I know who were afflicted with cancer. Unfortunately one has passed and the other still struggles with the ravages of his disease.

So, that's where this journey has led me. That's where I am this day. I have been told my writing is powerful. I have been told I'm a world-class writer. I'm also sure there are plenty of readers out there who shrug their shoulders and say, he's okay. It is a fantasy nearly by itself to write the great novel and be discovered and suddenly become rich and famous. I know someone that happened to, but it's a one in a million shot. Am I jealous of that? No, I'm quite happy for her. Writing isn't a competition between authors, or it shouldn't be. It's a collaboration. There are many authors I have come to know over the years that have helped me along and I would hope there are others I have helped. We are stronger together in this Indie thing we call self-publishing.

Many readers think if you aren't published by a big publishing house you aren't very good at your craft. I can tell you some of the best authors I have read are Indie authors. The publishing business is so closed off from outsiders if your name isn't 'Clinton' or you're already famous you don't stand a chance of entering the gatehouse. I may never make much money from this, perhaps supplement my Social Security in my old age so I can take My Beloved out for a nice dinner once a month, but that isn't why I do this and hasn't been for many years. It's because I'm a's what I do.

Buy a book, leave a good review. That's the best thing you can do for an author

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Night 7 - The End

Tonight is the final 'stanza' of The Dragon and The Princess. I hope all who have followed along have enjoyed the story.

...The Dragon and The Princess...

     I jolt myself awake in the early hours as dawn begins to crack the world. My subconscious has spoken in the shadows of my dreams and revealed that which I failed to realize. The magic that has held me here is absent. It is gone. It is the emptiness I now feel. Perhaps the touch of my Lily has distracted me from knowing the truth. Am I wrong? I close my eyes tightly as I reach out to probe into the depths of Whitehall. My steps are hesitant as I begin to lose all hope. How long has my prize lay dormant? Surely I would have felt its absence before. And the king, he would certainly begin to lose hold of his life.
     My thoughts begin to explore the passages as I find my way down to the main hall. Whitehall is virtually empty as Sol begins to crest the edge of the world. I have not made this journey in decades. To do so was only be torture; to see my prize and not possess it. I as enter the hall I come to rest above my prize. The chamber is empty save for its cage. I look upon it with sadness as I feel no presence, no magics that should reside within. I close my eyes in my chamber as the tears begin to roll down my face. My prize is dead, the life it once possessed usurped by another. My world has crumbled.
     I feel the sadness begin to fade and it is quickly replaced by anger. My life has been nothing more than a wasted breath. I feel the heat begin to build within my soul for the first time almost in memory. It isn’t anger! It is rage! It is a burning desire to free myself from my prison, to roam the skies as only a dragon is able. It is what I am.
     I push myself back against the ancient stones and feel their coarseness against my back. It is a wall that has held me too long. I look above at the timbers that are my gate to the heavens. They will falter as the stones below them tumble to the ground. My surge is instant as the fire from my mouth shatters the stones across from me, the walls exploding as their bright red shards plummet to the ground. I kick once at the remaining stones and they fall away as easily as dead leaves in a windstorm. The sun bursts across the heavens at that instant as her light fills the world outside my opening with all the colors of the rainbow.
     Within the blink of an eye I am airborne, the soreness of my muscles a distant memory. I am free, free to escape to lands not thought of by this place, but I have one thought that pulls me back; Lily. I will not let her become captive as I have lived. My anger again builds as I turn back toward the towering spires of Whitehall. I see the fires below my turret spreading across the dry landscape as the flames lap at the outer walls. It is not dragon’s fire, but it will leave its mark, as will I.
     The air rushes past my fame as I bear down on the other towers. I vow they will not stand another day. A dragon’s fire that Whitehall has never seen surges from my throat and within minutes nearly everything that has held me against my will is in flames. From above I see the king’s men running in all directions. They look like ants. They are in chaos. I see the north tower topple falling inward upon the main hall opening a fissure through the roof. The red clay roof tiles fill the floor like sand, scattering in all directions as they hit the floor. I bring myself to a stop and as I look down into the hall I lock eyes with the king. He stands below me with his fists pushed upward, his staff in his right hand, yet he is powerless before me. He holds my prize no longer. I hear his voice challenge me before I begin to turn away.
     “Nivä! I will destroy your egg!” he bellows.
     “You have already accomplished that,” I yell in reply. “My prize is dead and soon you shall be as well! I will be your toy no longer!” I scream at him.
     I hear the anguish and rage in his voice. That which he holds so dear in his heart is in flames around him. He now commands nothing more than a burning mausoleum for it will be his grave, the magics he stole will end his life. He has only one thing left and I will now take that from him.
     I veer away and arc toward that tower that held me prisoner for it has one I shall not forsake. It is the only tower left standing on the corners of Whitehall yet its side is blistered with dragon’s fire. I see my child standing at the opening of her chamber. She is afraid; she is crying as her hands wrap around the stone sill. She lifts her arms in my direction and as I extend my thoughts she blinks in recognition. ‘Stand away’ I command her and she disappears from the opening. I dive into the stone letting my wing slash through the mortar as a knife through a carcass. The stones give way falling to the ground below. I turn and spy her as she runs to the opening. She is calling my name and it brings a smile to my face.
     I feel the updraft of the airs as the flames climb up the stone walls as I bring myself beside the opening. She is still afraid but she is strong. There is a strength within her I could never have imagined. My wing extended she touches me for the first time and I feel her skin upon my rough exterior. It is a softness I have never felt the like of and I feel her heart beating in unison with my own.
     I push away from the ancient stones that held us prisoner as we climb into the skies of a new day as sunlight fills the world with all its glory. I feel the touch of a child around my neck as we leave a world of torture and despair behind never again to look back upon, never again to return. There is one now who rides a dragon above the world, a rider that has not been seen in an age. She is a dragon rider, and we are free.

The End

thank you

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Night 6 - The Dragon and The Princess

The fantasy short story continues as Nivä returns to the tower that has been his prison for all the long years, a prison of his own making, his journey now over.

...this is my gift to you who have loyally followed this blog for these ten years...

     As I look up the timbers that are the ceiling to my prison slide against each other as they lock in place. I sigh as I lower my eyes; once again I am a prisoner of my own making. As I settle in and wrap my wings about my form I struggle to find a comfortable place. One would think that after all these years my body would be used to this turret, but such is not the case. It is uncomfortable to say the least.
     What I have seen in the West Country I have made known to the king. I could see the glint in his eye with each word. He was almost giddy with excitement. The wicked smile that spread across his face was that of victor. I could do nothing save watch his antics as he stood and danced a small dance across the dais before returning to his throne. He looked up at me as his hand fell to the dirty hair of his new captive, his treasure, his new princess. I could feel a tear welling up in my eye as she had not the strength to pull away. Before my exit to the hall my eye fell again to my prize; one last look upon that which holds me prisoner. My gleaming egg is not so bright any longer having been hidden and caged in the corner of Whitehall. How I long to again possess it, to feel the magics that dwell within, to caress the bronze surface as only a dragon could. It is its touch, its magic that calls to me. Its bottom where it is cradled against the floor is dark from all the years of stagnation. It is my last look until I am summoned again.
     Now we have both returned to our chambers, but to what end? In the past I was used to help change the course of battle but now that Jeshion is no longer what is to become of me? Surely I am no use to him unless he has an aim to continue to war but in a different direction. Perhaps I am to be simply one more prize added to his collection. I feel my heart sink at the thought. How long will I remain a prisoner? As long as he has hold of my prize; I am powerless.
     I am startled at the sound of my name. Her voice, as sweet as new-fallen spring rain slips up the ancient stone as easily as a stream runs over river pebbles.
     “Is that your name? Are you a dragon?”
     “I am my child and yes, that is my name.” I close my eyes to embrace her voice.
     “Do you breathe fire like the books say that I have at home?”
     “I do, when it is needed my child.”
     “Why do you call me my child? I am not your child.”
     “I am sorry,” I reply with a wisp of a smile. “It is often something the very old call the very young. I will call you Lily if you prefer.”
     “I’m cold again Nivä. I have no blanket.”
     “I will warm you then Lily.”
     “How will you do that?”
     “Trust me Lily.” As I did only a night past I inhale slowly and let the soul of what I am fill the airs of the musty tower. The heat without the flame of my life fall against the walls travelling downward as each brick touches another. Soon the tower is permeated with a warmth unlike any other on this earth; a dragon’s warmth. “Do you feel the warmth of the bricks Lily?”
     “I do. I feel better now. I am tired.”
     “Then you should sleep my child.” I hear the weariness in her voice.
     “I do not want to sleep here any more. I want to go home to my grandfather.”
     “That may not be possible.” Perhaps she does not understand what has happened though she heard my words. I must remind myself she is but a child. “Someday perhaps you may go home. Did the king ask you questions?”
     “He wanted to know who I was. I had to tell him my name. I didn’t want to.”
     “I see,” I reply. “And who is your grandfather?”
     “He lives in Jeshion Hall. It is his home.”
     “Your grandfather is the king of Jeshion Hall?” I am taken aback as I ask.
     “I, I think so. He sits on a big chair in the hall. It’s a lovely chair, soft and warm.”
     “Did he ask anything else of you?”
     “No. I’m hungry.”
     “Sleep now my child. The warmth of the stone will hold you tight.”
     “I will. Nivä, can we go for a ride some day?”
     “A ride?”
     “Can I ride you like in my picture books?”
     “Perhaps some day, my child. We shall see.”
     As I hear her I reach out to her thoughts but they begin to fall away to the world of the night. It has been a long day for her. I as well feel the weariness begin to take hold over me. Long has it been since I travelled the skies. I am not used to the exertion. Once such a journey would be nothing more than a stroll along the shore. Now, tis an ordeal and I feel the heaviness of my muscles.
     I begin to chuckle at the thought of a rider. A dragon rider! Such has not been seen in a millennia. Once a selected few were chosen to ride with us among the clouds, but they could not bring themselves to understand they were never the master. It was a union that was doomed to fail. Now, it is time for sleep.

     I am restless as sleep has eluded me. What few hours I have I wrestled with, in and out. Something is missing. I feel an emptiness like a part of myself has vanished. I have been trapped within this chamber too long. Are my senses dulling that I am no longer aware of the outside world? Has my usefulness to even my captor become nothing more than folly? I pull my wings about me tight and close my eyes again.
     Perhaps another hour before the dawn. Perhaps. My thoughts drift to the lower chamber as I contemplate the state of my Lily. My Lily. Curious that in such a short time my attachment grows with each passing day. I would never have thought it possible, to befriend someone of her breed, someone who my kind has been at war with in one fashion or another for untold generations. What is to become of her, of me? Are we to dwell in Whitehall in enslavement as our lives run their course? Surely she will be of use to him when she is older, a handmaiden to remind him of his victory, or a prize to be dangled towards others of his ilk to sweeten his riches.
     My heart aches for her as she sleeps beneath my prison. Now it would seem there are two prizes that hold me here. Neither one would I now be able to forsake. Must I see my imprisonment through for her sake? Am I to be her unseen guardian as she travels what road is before her? How is that possible since I am not able to protect myself? I am a prisoner of my own making.
     I close my eyes as tightly as I may struggling with these emotions that now want to overwhelm me. I must ask myself, have I given up? Is this all that is left of me? For the first time I am forced to look at my own mortality. Is a life of sadness all I have left to live? I lean against the ancient walls and hope the last vestiges of night do not elude me. Is this now my tomb?

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

NIght 5 - flight of the dragon

And that brings us to night five of my little short story, The Dragon and The Princess.

...a few more evenings to go...stay tuned...

     I settle in to this hall that my captors deem magical. It is to them a place of reverence, a towering chamber with soaring ceilings supported by buttresses that rise to a domed finale. The hall is illuminated even on this gray day by the massive windows filled with colored symbols of their history, a history that I deem is long in war. I lower my eyes as I have no desire to look upon their heritage.
     A single chime echoes and calls the attention to all gathered. The dais before me is not empty as is normally the case. She sits beside the throne curled up nearly in a ball. She is so small. I struggle to take my eyes from her as I hear the footfalls of the King of Whitehall shuffle across the dirty carpet as he emerges from the door behind the throne. Yet I am pulled away at last as my captor steps into the shadowed light and takes his place before the throne. His right hand firmly wrapped around his staff, he lowers himself and looks directly at my eyes. He commands all within this hall.
     He smiles his wicked smile, his white stringy hair falling to either side of his weathered face. He is old, far older than anyone of his lineage should be, all to my failings. My eyes search behind his chair and my sight claims my prize, that which has kept him alive through all the long years. Caged in its own prison it sits in the dull light, its bronze hue faded from the years, my prize, my egg, perhaps the last egg of a race of titans. It is only the magic held within that holds the king’s life force. I look back to the dais at the sound of his voice.
     It is the first time I can recall the sound of my own name. I am surprised.
“We have a visitor.” He looks down to his left passing his arm above the dirty child. My heart again begins to falter as I take in her state. She is dirty, her blonde hair dull in the light of his cathedral, her feet bare. He returns his gaze to me. “I have a task for you this day. Journey to the West Country and tell me of the state of Jeshion Hall. Tell me that my enemy has fallen and the West Country now belongs to me. Tell me this princess has nothing to return to and she is my prize.” He lifts his arm and waves me away. “Go.”
     I lower my head at his command as I gently probe her thoughts before I turn away. She stares up at me with wide, blue eyes that shimmer even in the oppression of this place. She is not afraid of me though I sense hesitation, but there is an emotion I can not touch. I do not know of it. I narrow my gaze as I begin to turn away from the dais. In all my years I have no knowledge of this aspect of humanity. Perhaps it is because she is a child. Perhaps.
     As I make my way out of the palace it is a struggle as the passages are not made for one of my size though they have been adapted slightly. As I step through the last barrier and look to the gray clouds above I again feel the westerly wind across my face. Within seconds I am above the earthly plane putting as much distance between myself and my prison as I can. Free again I roll and dive among the currents as they lift me to the heavens. A dragon’s world is at home as much in the air as on the ground. As I look down the forests pass into mountains within the blink of an eye and those mountains to meadows once lush and vibrant, now trampled and flat from the roads of man.
     Even as I lament the failings of my race my thoughts begin to drift back to the young princess. This war has taken its toll on every living thing yet rarely have I thought about its mark on a child. Men make their own wars and are welcome to live and die by them. But what of the children? What is left for them to grow into? Who is left for them?
     My thoughts have taken me further than I believed and I am quickly above the Western fences. As I leave them behind I see that they are broken, hardly a barrier to be used in defense. As I look forward a dark pillar rises from the west where Jeshion Hall has stood for generations. The smoke rises directly up as an arrow for no breeze blows from the distant sea to alter its course. As with the fields of Whitehall the road to Jeshion is trampled and nearly dead. This war has left nearly nothing alive for either side.
     As I near the place of Jeshion the smell of battle assaults me even at this height. I see the fires burning, the fields stripped bare to the dirt itself. The black soot that rises from what is left of Jeshion Hall singes my nostrils and I must veer away. The ancient timbers within the stone walls burn, the fires dying as with everything else held within this land. The West Country is open to Whitehall, but there is little left of it. Such is the prize of war.