How I’m doing

Hello, readers! I went through my blog and took down a number of posts that I thought were too free with information on works in progress, or which I thought were a little too personal.

I’ve been focusing on data analytics for most of 2020 instead of doing much creative writing; I have had some pretty good ideas which I think will be very useful to someone and I’m pleased with that.

I did try my hand at a podcast but find the constant pace of having to create and edit and upload new content on a regular basis was too much for me, so I just am leaving the one episode up (it might have unpublished automatically after some time, since I used a free service). I am thinking my next efforts in podcasting will involve making a series of shows, and then editing them and having them ready to upload so I can simply do one a week, and not worry about being debilitated from illness (I am bipolar).

It’s been a little frustrating. I’ve spent most of 2020 working on or waiting for a green card application to go through and that means I can’t do anything really useful- I can’t work, I can’t volunteer, and I’m stuck at home most days just amusing myself. This is fine, it has given me ample time to think and as I indicated above, I have come up with what might be some very important ideas. I can’t really go into detail about all of them, except to say I might have had some groundbreaking thoughts about data analysis, AND, this is very important- eat yogurt containing probiotics. It’s generally good for you anyway but if there are antinflammatory bacteria in the yogurt (the average person won’t know but odds are your “good” or probiotic bacteria do this), it might be really helpful right around now. Why I think this has its basis in current research to do with COVID-19 and how it may work, and cytokine storms, and how certain strains of bacteria interact with the human body. It’s just a working hypothesis, I can’t do any experiments.

I’ve been working off and on (mostly off- this year has been stressful) on several projects, and need to sit and make notes about many new ideas I’ve had. I’m up to over 80 project ideas, all of which remain unfinished- I realized belatedly after thinking I was finished with Anagama and Infinity that they are too short for standard publishers, the first being a novella and the second being a very short novel. I deleted a rant of mine about novel lengths, but basically I think the days of a short but pithy science fiction novel (I am thinking here of the gem Fahrenheit 451) are done. This enrages me but it’s not my call, I’m not a publisher. Personally, I’d rather buy a short novel from an unknown author than some giant fat thing that I might not love and have to wade through anyway to get my money’s worth- longer is not always better!

I self-published Perigee but it also is too short, and I reread it recently and wish to change the introduction, and add in some more of Avesta’s backstory- and perhaps make Meridian a little more interesting. I wrote this novel originally in 2001 to cheer myself up and unfortunately I made the main character kind of flat, having more fun with all the others. I republished in 2013 and it was better, but I really needed to think about adding in more about Avesta. I also have considered pairing Perigee with Anagama in a kind of compilation, maybe with an additional story to say the things I would like to about Avesta and perhaps some other characters, but I don’t know a publisher that would want to do this sort of unusual arrangement for a new writer like myself.

So none of my many project ideas are finished, and most exist only as concepts, but I think once I get my footing and can afford to hire someone to help me edit my stories and provide professional feedback, I’ll start making good progress.

Wish me luck!

Nutbuster and the Helicopter Mom

I wrote this little piece for a friend, for Christmas. They requested a story about squirrels and helicopter moms.

Steve was a man of simple wants. He loved good food, fine wine, and spending time in the park with his squirrel. It was a matter of debate whether or not Steve was in control of the squirrel, or the squirrel was in control of him. Nutbuster wore a small pink sequined cape emblazoned with the letter N, and a tiny pink and white luchador mask when out at the park, fighting crime. Steve usually offered support, as a human a hundred times the size of Nutbuster could, by buying nuts, driving to and from the park, and generally staying out of Nutbuster’s way. At home Nutbuster was content to curl up in her window perch, safe from the dog below, or to sit on Steve’s shoulder reading classics and sampling whatever food he was eating. On occasion Nutbuster took a bath, and Steve was content to hold the blow dryer afterward while Nutbuster chittered show tunes and turned to and fro in front of the hot blowing air. 

The crimes Nutbuster hated most were crimes of poor parenting. Steve was relatively affluent and lived a life free of many wants, and the people Nutbuster and Steve encountered most often were fairly to extremely wealthy. Children were still subjected to poor parenting, though, and Nutbuster found herself attacking examples of overprotective or emotionally neglectful or abusive parents on a regular basis. Steve usually found it useful to carry a copy of the New York Times with him and pretend to read it, following Nutbuster’s antics through a small slit cut in the paper, so he could avoid vituperative parents. Once Nutbuster wreaked vengeance on the unsuspecting humans (and they were unsuspecting, as the only person able to understand Nutbuster was Steve), she would run to Steve and chitter away on his shoulder; he would keep the New York Times up until the other humans left, and that was the basis of many a fine afternoon spent in the park in all seasons. 

Steve did not like being outside much in the winter, but Nutbuster loved it, so Steve dutifully picked up Nutbuster’s travel case and carried her into his large black SUV. They parked at the entrance to a local park that offered skating and snacks in winter. Steve was not much for skating but like many New Yorkers he enjoyed roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate, so he decided he would content himself with these while Nutbuster, in her own way, fought crimes among the parents of the children at the skating rink. 

Nuts in one hand, hot chocolate in the other, Steve nodded toward Nutbuster, a pink and gray blur as she made her way through the crowds of people around the skating rink, listening for evidence of criminal activity. 

Nutbuster found one family, then another. Her superbly sharp senses were activated when she saw two children, much too old to be dressed by their mother, having their coats zipped together. 

“This is so you don’t get separated,” said the bossy, fairly plain-looking woman. She had a greying dark brown bob that was cut too short, so that her ears were visible. Nutbuster chittered irritably to herself. She disapproved of haircuts that reminded her of ones originating from bowls and grandparents with poor vision and do-it-yourself barbering kits. 

The children’s hair looked no better, and Nutbuster watched closely. She pressed a button on the side of her luchador mask and computerized goggles slid down over her face. She chittered instructions to her mask and inside her goggles, green symbols appeared, telling her the names and financial status of the family she was looking at. 

Absent father, Nutbuster read. Lucy McGee, overprotective mother. Germophobic. 

The mother was busy spraying Lysol on the bench she had cleared so that she and her children could use it. Nutbuster coughed. 

She was just about to turn away when Mrs. McGee tugged at the nearest child (Paul, Nutbuster noted) and the other child his coat had been zipped to (Maggie, Nutbuster noted) stumbled and fell. Both children fell face-first into the snow. 

Mrs. McGee grabbed Paul and Maggie, roughly dragged them upright, and started swabbing their faces and hands with Lysol wipes. The running commentary gave Nutbuster new resolve.

“Such clumsy children! You get that from your father. Stop it, Paul. Your hands are not clean, I have to wipe them again. Maggie, stop crying. You wouldn’t have fallen if you weren’t so clumsy. This is your fault. If you can’t stay clean I am going to have to take you home.”

Nutbuster quickly scanned the nearby area. There was a hot dog lying on the ground covered in gooey mustard. Nutbuster grabbed a large globule of mustard, then sprang into action. She grabbed the fabric of Mrs. McGee’s designer pants and clawed her way up, leaving traces of mustard; as Mrs. McGee screamed, Nutbuster sprang at her face and shoved the globule of mustard into Mrs. McGee’s large open mouth. 

Wiping her forepaws and arms in Evelyn’s hair to remove most of the mustard, Nutbuster then sprang toward the children. They cowered, but Nutbuster merely grabbed the zipper that joined them and unzipped the two coats. 

“Be free!” Nutbuster chittered, and made a “come on” motion with her left forepaw. The children followed her. 

Behind them, Mrs. McGee choked and gurgled. She fell backwards into the snow. 

Nutbuster ran slowly so the children could keep sight of her, and made a beeline for Steve. 

Sighing, Steve drained the last of his hot chocolate. 

“Hi, kids,” he said, when Maggie and Paul reached him. 

“Is that your mother?” 

He pointed at Mrs. McGee. There was a crowd gathering around her, and she was quickly obscured from view. 

“Sort of,” said Paul. 

“Can I have some chestnuts?” asked Maggie. 

Steve held out his packet of chestnuts. Maggie took two. 

“Can we play with your squirrel?” asked Paul. 

Steve looked at Nutbuster. 

Nutbuster chittered, and Steve said, “She’d like that. I’ll check on your mother.”

Nutbuster made the “come on” motion again and led Paul and Maggie toward the skate rental area. Steve watched as the kids obtained skates, put them on, and started wobbling around the skating rink. 
Sighing, Steve decided he had waited long enough and decided to go check on the mother. By the time he had reached where she was, he found her in the arms of an EMT, dramatically flourishing and asking for oxygen. 

“You don’t need oxygen, ma’am”, the EMT was saying. He looked pained. 

Mrs. McGee coughed and pretended to faint. The EMT awkwardly tried catch her and she slid to the ground, and screamed. 

“There’s nothing wrong with you, ma’am. I’m here to treat people who actually are in some sort of distress.”

On the ground, Mrs. McGee rolled and groaned. 

Steve wondered if he should mention that her children were safe. He checked over one shoulder- Paul and Maggie were fine, circling the skating rink while Nutbuster jumped from one’s shoulders to the other’s. He decided not to get involved. Let the kids enjoy their afternoon skating, he decided. 

He retreated to his bench with a new cup of hot chocolate and sat and watched the children skating. 

About an hour later, Mrs. McGee remembered her children and rose from her apparent deathbed to look for them. 

Steve whistled a warning, and Nutbuster signaled to the kids that they should get off the ice. She led them to Steve, bowed, and burrowed into Steve’s jacket pocket just in time to avoid being seen by Mrs. McGee, who came barreling down on them.

“What are you doing with my children?” she demanded. 

“Nothing at all, ma’am, these kids were just out skating and came over here, I had nothing to do with it,” said Steve. 

“We thought he was selling nuts,” said Paul, quickly. Maggie nodded.
 
“Come on, we are leaving,” said Mrs. McGee. “Both of you need baths. This park is filthy. The squirrels! I was attacked! I need to see a doctor!” 

She grabbed Maggie and Paul, but each child squirmed away. 

“What are you doing?”

“We can walk on our own.”

After a moment, Mrs. McGee said, “Fine,” and the children turned and waved at Nutbuster, who emerged from Steve’s pocket to gesture flamboyantly at them. 

Steve and Nutbuster watched the McGees leave the park, and Steve looked into his pocket. 

“This is a dry clean only jacket,” he said. “There’s mustard in here.”

Nutbuster chittered at him. 

Steve sighed. 

“As you wish,” he said. “All done for today?”

Nutbuster chittered. 

“All right then, we go home and then a bath for both of us.”

Nutbuster chittered. 

“Fine, you first,” said Steve, and the superhero squirrel and her human sidekick left the park.

In Which Our Heroine And Her Laser Cannon End a Relationship

This is an excerpt from a short story I wrote about the ending of a fraught relationship. You can find the entire thing here.

I paused, hefted the wide canvas straps of the cannon’s carrying bag, and continued plodding up the stairwell. This wasn’t really about Zack, although I was certain that the news media would jump to that conclusion. No, Zack had merely been the proverbial last straw.

I grinned, fiercely.

The cannon was Zack’s fault, really.  He gave me the idea last week, when he came by to pick up his rock collection. Our final meeting began badly. Zack informed me that he had arrived in his customary way; that is, he sat in his convertible and leaned on the horn, waiting for me to come down and open the security door.

Enraged, I had opened my window and began throwing his rocks—each carefully labeled, with a lovingly printed serial number and description of origin—at him, and his car. We exchanged a variety of insults, many unprintable, at full volume, as interested neighbors clustered at windows or on porches.

“Oh yeah?” Zack yelled, in response to a particularly inventive comment of mine on his sexual inadequacies. He picked up a large, green-flecked chunk of serpentine and hurled it up at my window, missing completely. A musical crash somewhere below and to my right marked where the rock had stuck somebody’s wind chimes.

“Well, you couldn’t blow me with a laser cannon!”

A few moments later Zack was distracted by the owner of the wind chimes, who was advancing across the lawn brandishing the sad remains of what had once been a trio of porcelain owls.

A wave of sadness swept over me as I watched Zack confront this new threat. There was something sexy about the way his nostrils flared, and he looked so passionate as he grabbed a piece of broken owl, threw it to the ground and began jumping up and down on it. Melodrama welled up in me, and with images of Scarlett O’Hara reeling though my brain I cried out his name, ready to say that I loved him, I forgave him—

“Shut up!” Zack screamed, momentarily distracted. Seconds later he crumpled to the ground, the unconscious victim of a sucker punch.

I sighed, remembering, and dabbled at my eyes with the sleeve of my jacket.

The fifth floor was, of course, deserted. I wandered past the security cameras without even attempting to hide my awkward bundle. If Steve, my survivalist brother-in-law, and his paramilitary chums had wired the cameras correctly, my movements on this floor would not be recorded. Steve had sworn me to several fearful oaths of secrecy regarding the source of the laser cannon and the video-rigging equipment, and had wanted to seal our compact by tattooing the complicated sigil of the Invisible Defenders of the American Nation on my right wrist. I persuaded him to accept a handshake and a case of Viagra instead.

I dragged the cannon over to my chosen window. Outside, people were milling about, and traffic cops in orange jacket were shooing people off the street. It was still early. I figured I had at least half an hour to wait before the parade floats came into view.

Assembling the cannon was easy. All I had to do was unfold the tripod and slip in the power cells. Cutting a small hole in the shatterproof glass of the window was a bit tricky. The glass cutter Steve had packed for me was different from the one I had been practicing with, but I managed within a few minutes. Focusing the telescopic sight took another few minutes. I flipped the cannon’s main power switch to let it warm up, listening to its high-pitched hum with a combination of glee and awe. Once assembled, the cannon looked like a fat silver telescope.

I stroked the shaft with my gloved hands, imagining I could feel the power running through it, that my hands, as they moved, were crackling with static.

Update on Anagama and my other works

Hello, readers!

I’ve been editing my most recent novel, Anagama. You can read the first chapter of it here: Sneak Peek at Anagama.

I sent today’s version to three friends to read and comment on it, and I’ll share with you the description of the work, and my future plans, that I shared with one of these friends:

“Hi, this is my science fiction novel Anagama, which is set in the same universe as Perigee, some time subsequently. It’s the story of how a pair of mutants considered nonhuman and their allies work to bring justice to a corrupt corporation on Earth, and involves intrigue, shady underworld figures, Cuban gods, and pottery. 

“My next steps are to see if I can formulate a synopsis, outline, query letter, and send this package along with a writing sample to an agency that might be willing to represent me. I also need to go over this manuscript a few more times to make certain I’m happy with it, but I really would like to finish it- this particular project has been on my plate for a very long time! 

“My next projects include possibly revising and adding new material to Perigee, then working on several novels-in-progress (Diamond and Wings), both of which are partially written but both of which I want to substantially revise and improve. I also want to plot and write a psychic spy thriller called Cloak which draws strongly from current events, and is about the fall of a corrupt White House administration. 

“I also have a finished manuscript which I am happy with called Infinity– the story of how the descendants of an important couple help protect their ancestors from cross-time assassination attempts. This story involves wormholes, quantum entanglement, romance and many hideous floral arrangements.”

So, readers, now you are up to date on my current novel-writing activities, just like my friend. I also plan to write some short pieces- I may elaborate on some of the more disturbing posts which are sprinkled throughout this blog (many of which may find themselves as concepts inside larger works I already have planned)- and put them up on Smashwords. Most of my current works on Smashwords are short pieces about Agent Diamond and Charming Guy, and I may elaborate on the backstories of these characters and make them a little more realistic in a series of short stories or podcast scripts in future, and compile them into an anthology.

I hope you enjoy reading my works. I hope to add podcasts to my repertoire of future offerings and am considering, in addition to writing a fictional podcast about Agent Diamond and Charming Guy, practicing with the format and with voice work by reviewing Chuck Tingle books (I have yet to buy one but they look amazing).

I am difficult to reach, but can be contacted via the form on the Contact Me page.

Buy a little piece of history

Hello, readers!

Just a little newsy update, no grim short pieces about torments or strange dreams this time.

My novel Perigee is on sale in Kindle ebook version for $3.99 USD!

I like my first novel Perigee but am not 100% happy with it. I messed up its republishing- I failed to get a new ISBN in 2013 even though I’m fairly sure I asked the person I was on the phone with to get one, for example, and upon rereading it, I’m not 100% happy with how it begins. I was thinking of revising it and adding in a novella, or else writing an entire other book, about the character Avesta Brunner-Tsu. She’s a favorite of mine, and her backstory is quite interesting. I plan to pull Perigee from publication at iUniverse, and then re-release it as a 2020 manuscript in a different form.

I was not 100% happy with the interactions I had with iUniverse, so I am unlikely to simply re-release it with them. I’ve been working hard on polishing two other science fiction manuscripts (one, Anagama, set in the same universe as Perigee, and another, Infinity, in its own variant of Earth) so I can start sending one of these to agents. Anagama involves a variety of humanoid mutants fighting for human rights on Earth, corporate intrigue, and underworld criminals. You can read the first chapter here. Infinity involves wormholes, time detectives, assassination attempts, and a series of incredibly ugly floral arrangements. Perigee is a more comedic take on science fiction than Anagama, and describes the chaos that hits a small planetary colony when a potent aphrodisiac is released into the colony’s water systems.

So if you want to get collector’s copies of Perigee, buy them now (you can get the book or ebook on Amazon here) before I pull this version from publication. I plan on changing the cover to something more evocative of the actual novel, as well, so the old version should be easy to spot.

I’m not famous now, though if my incredibly good mood, high energy levels, and lack of brain fog continue for some time, I should be able to pull my writing together enough to finish polishing, submit queries, and find an agent. In a little while, who knows? So if you’d like to take a gamble, buy my book and get yourself a little piece of history while it’s affordable.

Sneak peek at Anagama

Dear readers, I’m 99% of the way finished with Anagama– just one last pass, and then I can feel secure in it, and start the process of finding an agent to represent it. I have thought about self-publishing and if finding an agent proves to be impossible, I’ll go that route. I already have a few short stories on Smashwords (here, at bottom of page), some of which I am very fond of, that are self-published, as well as a novel (here). The main reason I don’t want to go this route again is that I am not fond of marketing my work and no one will see it unless I do, or unless I hand that off to someone else (the publisher, for the most part, though I know if I do get a contract I will have to promote my book as best as I can).

Here is a sneak peek at the first chapter. If you like it, send me a note at cloaked.diamond@gmail.com.

Chapter One

She ducked out of her lab for a moment to take a sip of coffee from her travel mug, since food and drink were forbidden inside the lab. In order to do this she had to first take off her protective gloves, safety glasses, mask, and lab coat. Under all the protective gear she was just another middle-aged woman, long dark hair streaked with silver and twisted up into a bun, slightly overweight and soft from spending long hours sitting in front of a computer or laminar flow hood.

Two armed, helmeted figures in black security gear rounded a corner at the end of the hall, one on each end of a white stretcher. A slender figure lay trussed up on the stretcher, barely conscious, moaning. She noticed blood on his—his? It was difficult to tell, but the lines of his ashen face she thought the figure might be male—temple, under short dark hair, more blood coming from the neck. The towels put on his neck to stop the bleeding were soaked in blood.  The rest of him was hidden under cords and a pale blue sheet.  From his bare shoulders, she surmised he was naked—perhaps stolen from bed.

The stretcher moved past and Beatrice, standing in the hall with her coffee, pretended not to be interested in the figure on the stretcher.

She closed her eyes and pushed.

Are you there? She asked, silently, listening intently as the guards and the figure moved down the hall. Can you hear me? Think your name.

I’m cold, was all she heard, indistinctly; she took a sip of coffee, and then—

LET ME GO LET ME GO LET ME GO

Beatrice started and nearly dropped her coffee; she slammed her mental gates shut just as a loud, screeching wail emanated from down the hall, in the direction the guards had taken.

“LET ME GO! LET ME GO! LET—”

There was a crash, sounds of a scuffle, wordless cries, and finally, a thud.

Beatrice set her coffee down on the small table by the lab door that was situated there just for that purpose. Her hands shook slightly.

“Beatrice!”

She turned, saw her supervisor. He wore suit pants, a pressed shirt, a black and white tie which, when examined closely, was a repeating tiled pattern of the Zurvan Corporation’s black octopus logo. Beatrice had looked closely at it hundreds of times.

“How’s the run doing? Specimen 5-15?”

Beatrice blinked.

“The run will be ready in one hour,” she lied. The run would be ready in fifteen minutes. However, her customized script which she had set to alter the run statistics would take forty-five minutes. “I can send you statistics after that.”

“Good, good,” Phil Knight said, stuffing his hands into his pockets and jingling some change. He looked toward a wall.

That one may be particularly valuable, she heard him think.

“I don’t need to tell you that the more mutants we uncover, the better it is for Zurvan, and for the stability of your job?”

Beatrice smiled back at him. “The run says what the run says. I don’t alter the data,” she lied, and thought back to the boy they called Specimen 5-15.

She remembered drawing blood specimens from him. His eyes had been bloodshot and he had been able to hear her.  Luckily, he had not given this away.

Where am I? he had asked. Where is my family? What do they want with me?

She had collected his blood into a vial and put a cotton ball on the wound, then a bandage.

They don’t think you’re human, she told him, and his eyes had widened.

Shhh, she said. Don’t react. I will make sure the data shows you are human. They will give you back to your family. But move, after—make sure you move, and make sure no one knows you can heal so quickly. Try to keep it a secret. 

He had simply looked at her. Why are there people locked up here? What did we do?

You didn’t do anything, she said, taking an inordinate amount of time to write the boy’s specimen number on her labels. It’s your DNA. They think you have DNA different enough to make you not-human.

The boy started to cry. Beatrice put down her blood sample vials, reached instinctively toward him to give comfort.

The black barrel of a tranquilizer gun appeared between them.

“What are you doing, Dr. Holloway?” The guard’s voice was female. She still wore her helmet here, inside this room they had caged the boy in, as was regulation.  “You know the rules.”

Beatrice smoothed over a scowl and an angry reply, and instead reached for a box of tissues from her medical kit, handed one to the boy. He took it, did not look at her.

I will make sure they let you go, she said. I promise.

My stomach hurts, the boy said. I’m hungry.

I will make sure they feed you, she said.

“How long has it been since he’s been fed?” she asked.

The guard shrugged.

“He’s young, make sure he gets enough food and rest,” she said. “After all, we don’t know that he isn’t human yet. We could have a lawsuit on our hands. Bad publicity.”

The guard shrugged again. Both of them knew no one who wound up in these cells came from financial wealth able to take on Zurvan Corporation.

The captive boy, sitting on his thinly padded cot, seemed to shrink in on himself, and Beatrice felt him withdraw. 

She bit her lip, then collected her things, and stood, blood sample vial in hand.

“Feed him,” she said, trying to not seem very interested in whether they did or not, and hoped for the best.

She would spend the next few hours preparing the blood sample for sequencing and running it through the sequencer, and the data through her custom scripts—scripts she had quietly set in advance to make the percentage similarity of the boy’s DNA to standard human DNA rise above the cherished 99.5% cutoff. She could do this for the normal-looking mutants they brought in without raising too much suspicion.

Coming back to herself in the hallway, she watched her supervisor’s smooth, handsome face, listened without moving a muscle.

“You’re always in the lab, Bea,” he said, jovially. “Maybe we should hire you an assistant.”

God, woman, you look like shit.

Beatrice smiled.  She hated being called Bea.

“It’s just that I love my job,” she replied. “The workload is not that much. I’d prefer to be the one doing this work, and I like to work alone.”

Suit yourself.

“That’s the spirit,” Knight said. He clapped her on the shoulder.

Does the work of three people, for one salary. Cost too much to replace her, she heard him say to himself. What a chump.

“Keep up the good work,” he said, tossing the words over his shoulder as he sauntered down the hall, no doubt to look at Zurvan’s latest acquisition.

Beatrice ducked her head so the cameras couldn’t see her expression, then ducked back into her laboratory, pulled on her protective gear. It was as much there to protect her equipment and reagents from her own DNA as it was to protect her from harm.

Beatrice thought of her own DNA. Her DNA that was only 99.2% similar to human normal—DNA which, if she hadn’t altered her own sequence data files, would peg her as nonhuman, with the same lack of rights as the poor souls kidnapped and locked up by Zurvan, just down the hall.

She checked that the sequencer was running, checked that her software was encrypting the raw data files as each was written. She checked that the files being uploaded to company cloud storage were the faked ones which would give Specimen 5-15 freedom again. Beatrice hated that she hadn’t asked him his name.  She checked that her own private cache of files on Zurvan was there, and that her scripts were adding to this pile as they were supposed to, without interference.  Every other day she synced this cache with the one on a data cube she kept on her person. Someday, she hoped, the files would be useful in bringing Zurvan to its knees.

Beyond the heavy door to her laboratory, she thought she heard someone screaming again.

Beatrice walked over to the lab computer, set it to play soothing jazz music. She started tidying up her lab bench, moving boxes of pipet tips to one side, closing boxes of microcentrifuge tubes, wiping down the bench surface with 70% ethanol to clean it. She knew it was only a matter of time before blood from this new acquisition wound up on her lab bench—and she would be ready for it, she would be waiting. It meant another evening spent in the laboratory instead of at home, but she didn’t mind.

What was waiting for her at home, anyway? An empty apartment, seeming to echo with the ticking of the grandfather clock she had inherited from her parents; the small comforts of a glass of wine and a book with dinner. But no other living soul, no pets, not even a potted plant. She needed to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. She lived with a packed bag ready to go in her closet, her account information carried with her on data cubes she kept concealed in a keyring, she had her personal cloud storage encrypted.

Her lab computer pinged. She walked over to it.

The new one’s retroviral, the screen read. Give me the run reports on 5-15 tomorrow morning. If the new one makes it through the night, you might have to get ready to sequence once the infection clears. It’s already showing signs of great strength and altered musculature—I think we have a winner here!

Beatrice pursed her lips. There was no way she could save him if he were undergoing genetic change after a retroviral infection. Even if he had been human prior to the infection, afterward he was almost guaranteed, with the bad viruses, to have experienced enough mutation to make him either nonhuman-looking or dead. Or both.

She thought of walking down to Specimen 5-15’s cell and trying to speak to him one more time, but expressing too much interest in the acquisitions would bring too much attention to herself, and might lead to the uncovering of her work. Best to leave him be, and hope someone had fed him, at least.

As for the new specimen, Beatrice felt with a sinking heart that he was doomed—most retroviral infections led to abnormalities that were fatal. It would be fine for Zurvan—they could learn things from the genes that could lead to medical breakthroughs and new therapies—but not so fine for the poor man they had picked up somewhere.

As she stripped off her protective gear on her way out of the lab, she silently pushed toward Specimen 5-15 and the new man they had just brought in, so new he did not yet have a specimen label.

Please be at peace, she thought, pushing out as hard as she could.

Nothing in response.

Beatrice made her way to her locker, collected her coat and purse, made her way out the staff entrance side door. Every doorway she passed through required her to swipe her keycard, white with the black Zurvan logo on it. Every doorway she passed through, getting closer to the outside world, felt like the lifting of a noose from around her neck. She finally drove her small electric car away from the Zurvan parking lot, finally was out of reach of the cameras for good. Her keyring, nestled in her jeans pocket, pressed into her thigh. It was innocuous, featuring cartoon characters popular in the 2000s (a white dog carrying a martini glass, a baby with a football-shaped head).

She drove silently. The news story on the radio was about the Humane Treatment Party, a fringe element with no resources and the best of intentions. They wanted to change the global legislation that made it legal for Zurvan to kidnap and incarcerate humanoids with a less than 99.5% genomic DNA match to human normal, basing this on legislation commonly found on some the outlying planetary colonies. Beatrice actually agreed with them, but did not do a thing to support them in her personal life because she knew if this were discovered, she would be investigated.

Halfway home, she stopped at a red light. She exhaled. The news was now about stock prices. Zurvan stock was up thanks to its invention of a genetic therapy for treating Parkinson’s.  Beatrice remembered hearing gossip about this in the cafeteria—the gene therapy idea had been sparked by a mutation found in a retroviral victim. Someone had died, incarcerated, and Zurvan had turned this into profit.

“Fuckers,” she spat. Then she grinned, toothily.

“One day you will slip up, and I will get you. Fuckers.”

The light turned green, and, smoothing her expression, Beatrice continued her drive home.

A little Tek Jansen fan fiction

I discovered Tek Jansen in 2018. I was sad that the entire novel Stephen Colbert had been working on was not posted on the Tek Jansen website, but maybe someday he will publish it. I did buy and read the graphic novel, and so most of the information I gleaned about this character came from either the novel segments I came across, or the graphic novel. I had an issue with how Tek treated his robotic chimp sidekick C.A.S.E.Y., so I addressed that in this story, and I basically made up the rest. Clarisse Diamond is the name of a protagonist of a novel-in-progress I have set aside for the moment, but plan to get back to.

I actually am fairly certain I met Stephen at some point in my past, but it’s really quite impossible for me to contact him to ask. I did send this little story to his work address, hoping someone would read it and show it to him. In my past, if I saw him I never recognized him, and have no selfies to prove this was the case, so it’s still a matter of debate for whether I saw him or merely someone that looked like him. In any case, I recall talking to someone that looked like him on my doorstep in California, a long time ago, and I recall us talking about Jabberwocky. I added that tidbit in, too.

I hope you enjoy this little foray into fan fiction.

Spy Vs. Spy: A Tek Jansen Adventure

It was a sunny morning on the planet Califzona, and Clarisse Diamond angled her telephoto lens toward the hotel that the galaxy’s greatest hero, Tek Jansen, was currently asleep in. She aimed the lens toward the window of the penthouse suite. Her contact was in the window, a willowy green creature with leafy hair, photosynthesizing. She was not holding a cup of fertilizer. This was the signal- if Tek Jansen was with her, she would appear alone in the window, nothing in her hands.

Clarisse packed her equipment back in her tactical backpack and made her way down the rough scree of the slope she had been perched on. Only one thing to do. She had to use Tek Jansen’s notorious libido against him, gain his trust, and ferret out the secrets she needed to save her doomed home world from destruction. Tek’s government had set up robotic fracking sites on 90% of the small moon Ontington’s surface, sucking up its mineral wealth but destroying Ontington’s ecosystems and fragile tectonic crusts in the process- the only way to stop the machines was to gain access to codes that only Tek knew.

Could she rely on Tek’s better nature? Clarisse considered this as she made her way down to the doors of the Hotel Elegante, where Tek Jansen was staying. She didn’t know. She couldn’t take the chance.

The Hotel Elegante was hosting a pet show. Clarisse would find him and seduce him there.

She was booked into a room one floor below Tek’s suite, and carried her tactical backpack with its quantum-dimensional interior pockets, one of which contained a selection of evening gowns. The backpack was pretty heavy as a result, even though it only appeared to be a cubic foot in size. She placed it on the bed and the bed sagged somewhat.

Clarisse was about to take a shower when there was a knock on the door. She eyeballed the door with suspicion. Her contact was supposed to find Tek and then let her know what room he was in- she was supposed to leave after that. Who could this be? A maid?

Clarisse belted her hotel robe around her more tightly and answered the door.

“It’s this one, just go right in,” grated a gravelly voice. Clarisse blinked. At her door was a tall, muscular figure, fully dressed in a tight Spandex uniform complete with cape and epaulets, his dark hair curling down slightly over his forehead. Tek Jansen held up a glass container in which an ugly dark substance swirled.

“It’s right here,” said the substance.

“Meangar, I don’t think that this is the spa,” replied Tek.

“It’s not,” said Clarisse, slightly breathlessly. Tek, in person, was almost overwhelming.

Get the codes, girl, she told herself, sternly. She had a mission, the entire population of her native moon was depending on her.

“Sorry to have bothered you,” said Tek, and was about to turn away when Clarisse touched his arm.

“No, it’s fine. Is this your pet?” She gestured toward the swirling blackness in the glass jar.

“You’re an ugly loser and you’ll die alone,” grated the blackness.

“Isn’t it cute? This is Meangar,” replied Tek, patting the jar fondly.

“It’s something,” replied Clarisse.

“Say, haven’t we met before?” Tek squinted at her.

Clarisse blinked. Had they met before?

Remember the mission, she thought, looking at Tek’s kind dark eyes.

“Can I buy you a drink?” she blurted, all her seduction lessons, which she had uploaded via neural hyperlink on the trip to Califzona, forgotten.

Meangar said an expletive. Tek chuckled and tucked it under one arm.

“Where are you from?” asked Tek.

“I’m from… all over,” Clarisse replied. She started to play with her shoulder-length black hair. He really was quite handsome.

“I’m Tek,” he said, and Clarisse smiled at him. He held out his hand and Clarisse took it to shake it, and he brushed a kiss across her knuckles.

“I’m Clarisse,” she replied. She was acutely aware of having just finished a hike outside in the hot sun with a heavy pack on her back.

“I’ll buy you that drink,” Tek said.

“I’ll kill you first,” Meangar snarled.

Clarisse looked at Tek.

“You get used to it,” Tek said, patting the jar.

“I’ll meet you down in the lobby at seven?” Clarisse replied. Her heart was pounding. Normally she was a lot more composed about her assignments, but this was… this was Tek Jansen.

She found herself grinning stupidly.

“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves,” she said.

Tek frowned.

“Jabberwocky?” he said.

“Jabberwocky,” she replied. “There are Jabberwocks on my home world.” A stray curl of hair escaped from his forehead and she smoothed it back.

He smiled.

“You both smell like Limburger!” yelled Meangar.

“I’ll enter it in the pet contest before we meet,” said Tek, patting the jar, and Clarisse smiled, suddenly shy.

“Seven, in the lobby,” she replied, and Tek smiled down at her. She blushed.

“I’ll see you then,” he said, and turned away, walking down the hotel hall corridor as Meangar started screaming about kidneys and piñatas.

That evening, Clarisse patted her carefully coiffed hair (in which a number of recording devices and weapons were placed), and wriggled her toes in her specialty pumps (which had a vial of sleeping potion located in the heel, and when activated, could eject four-inch steel spikes from the toe). She had let the charms of the dashing Tek Jansen get to her head before, but now she would be all business. It was time for her to get those codes.

She made her way, slinking as seductively as she could, to the bar in the hotel lobby, and looked around for Tek.

He hadn’t arrived yet. In the distance, she heard Meangar screaming something about its eternal revenge and how much it hoped to kill everyone in earshot someday. Ah, apparently it was being entered into the pet contest.

She walked up to the bar and seated herself at one end. Behind the bar, a glowing green metallic chimp shook a cocktail shaker.

“Hi,” it said. “What can I get for you?”

“Hi,” replied Clarisse. “I’m waiting for a friend.”

“It wouldn’t happen to be Tek Jansen, would it?”

Clarisse started. Was she that transparent?

Behind the bar, the robotic chimp took out a cloth and started polishing the counter.

“Well… well, yes. I was hoping to talk to Mr. Jansen.”

The chimp straightened his little black bow tie.

“I know him,” he said. “Before I got this job, I worked with him on his spacecraft. I was loyal. He was not.”

Clarisse hesitated. “Oh?” she replied.

“He left me in a space void, circling a black hole,” said the robotic chimp. “I’m C.A.S.E.Y.”

Clarisse switched on her recording devices. Maybe she could use this story to blackmail Tek into giving her the codes to stop the machinery on her home world.

For the next fifteen minutes, C.A.S.E.Y. told her a story of sadness- of a robotic chimp unappreciated and abandoned, and Clarisse felt her heart hardening against the charming and handsome Tek Jansen. How could he abandon his loyal robotic friend? How many scrapes had they been in together, how many times had C.A.S.E.Y helped Tek, only to be left in a cold void in space, awaiting rescue, which came quite a long time after Tek had left promising to be back soon?

“He doesn’t know I’m here,” said C.A.S.E.Y. “I plan on confronting him once and for all, here in this bar.”

Clarisse patted the robotic chimp’s arm.

“I had no idea he was so cruel,” she said. “This puts him in a whole new light for me.”

C.A.S.E.Y. looked over at her, dispassionately.

“Everyone loves him,” he said. “You will too, no doubt, once he’s here.”

“Clarisse?” said a familiar baritone. Clarisse turned and saw Tek.

He had changed into his dress uniform and looked even more handsome than she had remembered him. His brown eyes crinkled behind his glasses as he smiled at her. She swallowed.

“Hello,” she said, and remembered C.A.S.E.Y. Her expression hardened.

“Remember this robot?” she asked, gesturing at the chimp.

Tek looked and an expression of delighted surprise swept across his chiseled features.

“C.A.S.E.Y.! I thought I had lost you forever in that space void. Meangar told me you had gotten a ride with the rest of Alpha Squad Seven, and it wasn’t until I had gotten it drunk on chlorofugue gas fumes that it confessed to me that it had lied about you. Are you okay?”

Clarisse and C.A.S.E.Y. both froze for a second, then the chimp broke down, sobbing.

“I thought you had abandoned me!”

“Abandon you? You are one of my most loyal followers! What would I do without you? I have missed you since I lost you,” said Tek. He reached across the bar and patted C.A.S.E.Y.’s glowing green shoulders.

Clarisse bit her lip. She couldn’t really blackmail Tek for something that had been the fault of his obnoxious little pet.

She waited until the robot stopped crying and then cleared her throat. Her seduction lessons were coming back.

“So,” she said, putting a hand on Tek’s arm, “tell me about yourself, Tek.”

She led him over to a small secluded table. Over the next few hours, she practiced dumping space champagne in the mouth of a Califzonian pitcher plant instead of drinking it, while Tek drank most of two bottles, supplied by a grateful C.A.S.E.Y. on the house. She had to start taking sips once the pitcher plant had started to hiccup.

He was an entertaining speaker and even when somewhat inebriated, he was charming and graceful. One sip of the heady space champagne after another, and Clarisse found herself telling him about her childhood on Ontington, and the Jabberwocks, and finally, the widespread scourge of the fracking machines.

“If only there were some way to stop them,” she said, tearfully, touching his muscular arm.

Tek leaned in toward her.

“Stick with me, baby doll,” he said. “If it would stop you from crying I’d shut each one down myself.”

Clarisse looked over at him. Her large eyes were shining.

“Really? You’d help me? But- but your government-”

Tek flashed a huge and perfect grin.

“They don’t tell me what to do,” he said. “C’mon. Let’s grab C.A.S.E.Y and get into my NinjaBlaster 9000 scout ship, and save those Jabberwocks.”

Clarisse knew there would be complications. It couldn’t quite be this simple, could it?

“If you gave me the codes to shut down the equipment, I could relay them to the Ontingonian secret service and we could just stay here,” she said.

Tek reached up and smoothed a lock of hair behind her ear.

“Where’s the fun in that?” he said, and kissed her.

Smashwords update

Hello! I’ve updated my Smashwords profile, and my updated interview is here.

I have a variety of works for sale on the site, including a fantasy romance, some silly stories involving my characters Agent Diamond and Charming Guy, a science fiction story about romance gone wrong, and a story based on a character from my recently finished novel Infinity. All of these stories are, to a degree, intended to be humorous. You can download excerpts for free, and I’ve set the price of each story to $1.99 USD, which is less than the price of a cup of coffee. I formatted these works myself, so I apologize if there are imperfections in the resultant ebooks, and if I’m made aware of them I’ll try to fix these.

I’m currently editing the final drafts of Anagama and Infinity, but once I am finished with this I will probably start posting a few more works for sale on Smashwords.

Some thoughts on By Silent Majority, written by Roger Stone’s laywer, Robert Buschel

So, I just read @erinscafe’s brave live-tweeting of wading through much of the novel written by Roger Stone’s (yes, the man arrested yesterday morning and indicted in the Russia investigation) lawyer, Robert Buschel. Apparently By Silent Majority is a mess (I feel much, much better about my writing now) but I would like to bring this to your attention:

 

Note in particular that this is a terrible book, that later in the thread describing the book, a tweet where Roger Stone is credited as providing ideas is indicated, and that in this rather uninspired, unimaginative, and poorly written work, a rather creative idea such as electronically stealing an election is given. I’ll admit that I haven’t read the book myself, but I trust from the criticisms given to the book by @erinscafe are mostly accurate, I really don’t want to.

But, getting back to the electronic election stealing:

Hmmm.

I’ve tweeted to the FBI about this, but it seems to me that this is highly coincidental, perhaps a bit too much so.