It’s been a long time…
I can’t remember when I last did a blog here, which is a little sad, because I think the world could use a few more things to read. Okay, it looks like it was August 4, 2018. That’s a while.
I’m starting to get started once more. Hopefully, this is a good step in the right direction. I’ll start with a writing update.
First, I owe The Darkest Lord an apology. It is the final book in the Mysterium trilogy, and I did it a tremendous disservice on launch. Avery’s journey which began in The Dark Lord, and continued in The Darker Lord, finally came to its conclusion. In addition, it was the last Jack Heckel book from Harper Collins, so John Peck and I are currently looking at new publishing options.
The good news is that the reason we are looking at new publishing options has to do with the third book in the Charming series which we are working on tentatively titled, The Dragon and the Beanstalk. We’ve wanted to do a third Charming book for years, and we are both very happy to be working on it. We’ve also talked about putting out a collection of short stories based on the characters in the series.
There are a number of other half-finished and half-started projects as well, but it’s looking more and more like I’m finally turning my attention to Freedom Squad. I have four or five novels in various states for my superhero team, and I’m hopeful that the first may come out as early as Christmas 2021. More updates to come. Oh, and I’ve still been finishing nanowrimo each year, so there are three more novels that haven’t seen this blog in draft form.
As far as gaming goes, I have some possible news on the wargaming front, but I need to check on what I’m allowed to say.
I’m working on way too many miniature projects, which is why I can never get anything finished. I’ll try to highlight a few in the next couple of weeks and do some sharing. Painting has definitely helped over the last few years.
If you are still following this blog, thank you for your patience. I appreciate it immensely, and I’m going to try to write some fun and entertaining stuff in the next year. If you are new, welcome. I hope you find something that intrigues you.
A special thanks to everyone at the Virginia Writers Club. The Symposium helped get me to dust off my blogging keyboard.
Wishing everyone well in these challenging times and hoping the best is yet to come. Take care!
Daughter of Orion Prologue
I came to the realization earlier this week as I was reviewing my year’s writing goals that I needed to spend some time focusing on Rigel and Freedom Squad. Currently, there are over 200,000 words written on the character, spread across three novels and one novella. I’ve asked Harper Voyager about their interest in her and her team, but I’m still awaiting a reply.
I keep reading that this is the time of the female superhero. As Rigel was originally created nearly 27 years ago, I think she’s ready to burst onto the scene. She even has a fantastic piece of cover art ready to go.
Most importantly, she’s meant to be an inspiration to kids like my daughter. While she’s a legacy hero, she’s not a Supergirl or Batgirl, with the powers and and identity of another character. One of her story arcs is her effort to separate herself from the legacy of her father, Orion, and prove herself on her own, while continuing to uphold her father’s ideals.
I’m currently undergoing a rework of all of the Rigel novels, with some assistance from the capable Heather Curatola (the original creator of Rigel) and my Jack Heckel co-author, John Peck.
So while many of my good friends are at GenCon or the Richmond comic convention today, I thought I’d share the current rewrite of the prologue for Daughter of Orion (formerly In the Stars). Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry
Nanowrimo – FS Vigilance – Chapter 9
Still working on getting everything posted from November…
It had been mere hours since Rigel, Nightstar and Ion had been left defeated in front of the Superior City 1st National Bank, but Agent Sampson had orders to arrange for things to get even worse. She sat in a coffee shop waiting to be contacted.
A girl with a rainbow Mohawk in a tank top and jeans that were too tight for her sauntered over. “Mom, you forgot your cell phone,” she said, rolling her eyes. She plunked a bright pink phone down on the table in front of Agent Sampson, made a huffing noise and walked out.
Erica picked up the phone. “Teenagers…” she said to no one in particular.
Remarkably, no one in the coffee shop was paying much attention to her. They had all looked when the girl came in, but now, they were trying to focus on other things, as if they had never paid attention to her at all. Mercenary supervillains obviously had some practice doing this sort of thing.
Nanowrimo – FS Vigilance Chapter 8
In response to the comment received yesterday, back to the story from November…
Rigel was sure that she had experienced worse days. She couldn’t remember any at the moment, but she was sure that there must have been some. She adjusted the ice pack on her right temple and kept mentally commanding her body to heal. Everything hurt.
She held the Freedom Phone with her left hand. It was an old-school wired hotline phone with a direct connection to the Mayor’s office, a phone that was only able to call a single line. It seemed ridiculous, but in a world of wireless communications, this phone was very difficult to tap.
“I know…Ion, Nightstar and I were defeated by Gauntlet. Yes, sir. I know that shouldn’t happen. He had a sonic blaster. Yes, sir, we’ll be prepared better in the future. Ion is adding ear plugs to the utility belt he’s always wanted. Of course, sir, I agree that’s a good idea. Let’s hope nothing else happens.”
She put down the phone and looked over at Protector.
“I’ve got the monitors,” said Protector. He looked distracted. She didn’t need her telepathy to know that he was thinking about Snowfall.
“All right. I’m going to check on the rest of the team. I want to make sure that everyone’s okay.”
Protector shook his head. “You should go to bed.”
“I know, but it’s my team. I’m responsible for them. I promise to pass out after I’m done.”
Protector smiled for a moment, but it was a brief smile that faded back to an expression of concern.
Rigel wasn’t sure what to say, so she decided that it would be best to check on the rest of the team.
She started with Rockslide. Cori made her way to the stone garden room, a title that seemed very strange, but as Ion had said, “far better than the rock pile.” She knocked and opened the door.
There was a large pile of stones shifting around in the center of the room as well as a rumbling sound. When the team had determined that Rockslide needed stones to heal, they had filled this chamber with a geologist’s dream worth of stones. Metamorphic, igneous, sedimentary all mixed together. There were a few gems along with sand, glass, dirt and clay as well. Rockslide was barely recognizable as a humanoid form, moving his body through and over the stones. Ion had even thrown a fossil he had gotten from a museum in the mix, and Rockslide seemed to enjoy having that as part of his body.
How are you?
The rumbling and shifting subsided. She heard his thoughts in response. I’m doing well, Rigel. What about you, Nightstar and Ion? Being exposed to high-powered sonics can’t be good.
Well, we all have ruptured eardrums, though that sounds worse than it is. People rupture their eardrums with cotton swabs all the time and usually can still hear. Ion, Nightstar and I can hear, but we will probably experience symptoms like dizziness or ringing in the ears for the next few weeks. The worse part for me right now is the nausea. Whatever that sound attack was it had a focused element to it as well as the loud noise. Basically, it generated a concentrated vibration that attacked our bodies’ soft tissues. That sort of attack can cause lung and blood vessel damage, heart issues, etc.
The rocks formed into the familiar shape of her large teammate. Wait, how badly are you hurt? Anything permanent?
He leaned forward and two gemstone eyes glittered at her. Even though he was made of stones, she could feel his concern. She placed a white-gloved hand on his massive shoulder.
Fortunately not. Ion has a physiology made to handle high voltages. A vibration isn’t going to do but so much damage. In addition to all of my mental abilities, I can also enhance my nervous system and control my body. I’m focusing on healing and I’m good at something when I put my mind to it.
Rockslide made a rumbling noise.
What about Nightstar?
“Nightstar,” she said aloud, “isn’t really human. He’s from somewhere else – doesn’t really age like we do, a mystical extra-dimensional.”
Is he one of the Fae?
“No, he’s…um…I don’t really know exactly.”
Have you ever read Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny?
Rigel laughed. “My father’s name is Corwin, you know. Anyway, the answer is yes.”
I wonder if he’s like that, an immortal prince traveling between worlds.
“Rockslide, it’s so comforting to talk to you. You’ve nearly made me forget everything that’s gone wrong today.”
“So, I’m glad you are okay. If anything happens out there in the city, I’m afraid the team’s going to need you.”
Rockslide responded by slamming one stony fist into a rocky hand with a loud crunching sound. Cori put her hands to her ears and winced.
“It’s okay, and you are making me feel rather confident. Thanks. I need to go check on the others.”
“He’s one of the ones I need to check on. I’ll let you know.”
Rockslide nodded and Rigel left. She had intended to go see Ion and then Nightstar, but Snowfall’s situation was far more serious. She headed down a set of stairs to the basement and the medical bay. Of course, someone would have contacted her if things had changed… but still.
Starlight was in the room, setting up what appeared to be laser equipment. Kerenza had taken off her Solaria mask and was assisting Dr. Lord set up what appeared to be a surgical theatre. Snowfall still appeared to be frozen solid.
“How is he?” Cori asked.
“Stable,” replied Jake. “We are going to be sealing off the room shortly. I’m going to operate with Solaria and Starlight’s help. We’ll see if Starlight can detect the poison and then with Solaria working to counteract the cold, I’ll see if I can get in and cut out most of the toxin. We’ll have to be careful, of course. What’s left, we’ll try to destroy by crossing low-power energy beams. It’s going to take a while.”
“What do you need from me?”
“Well, I’d like you to rest after the sonic thrashing you received, not to mention the number of guns that were used to bludgeon you into unconsciousness. However, Cori, since that seems unlikely as you are a notoriously bad patient, I’ll settle for you making sure that this room stays sealed off. I’ll need Solaria and Starlight’s full attention.”
Starlight paused from his work. “My apologies, Dr. Lord, but according to my calculations, I do not believe you will need my complete attention. My mental capabilities are such that I am able to successfully multi-task.”
Jake sighed. “Kerenza and I will need to devote our whole attention to the procedure.”
“Whatever you need, Doc, just save him,” said Solaria.
Rigel nodded. “Okay. Best of luck to you all. Let me know if I can help in any other way, besides making the med bay off-limits.”
Rigel let them all get back to work. She shut the door and sealed it. “Protector, please let everyone know not to enter the medical bay. There’s a surgery going on.”
“No, Snowfall. Jake will make sure he’s okay.”
She made her way to the sub-basement. Ion kept his room downstairs. It was a good idea. He always thought that if there was a supervillain attack on Freedom Squad Headquarters, they’d attack the top floors, so he chose to stay in the basement.
While everyone on the team had rooms in the base, some members of the team kept their own apartments or homes outside of the base. Both Kerenza and Kyle had places of their own, while Alex kept his own apartment as well.
Although Ion had originally had a place of his own, he’d given it up to be a full-time hero. The base offered him lots of opportunities to tinker and work on building devices. His favorite hobby seemed to be developing a utility belt. He was probably trying to develop gadgets for that belt as often as Nightstar was working on the Night Cycle.
Rigel knocked on the door. She heard a faint moan. Taking that to mean “come in”, she opened the door slowly. Ion lifted his head from his pillow.
“I can still hear. Anything going on?”
“No,” Cori said. “Just checking on you.”
“I’m not ready to get up for school yet.” Ion pulled the pillow over his head.
Rigel chuckled. “No need to get up. You are doing what you should. Get your rest.”
She pulled the door closed.
A wave of nausea hit her. She leaned back against one of the walls in the hallway. A moment later the feeling subsided. “Okay, was that eardrums or partially liquefied stomach?” she said to herself.
She decided that she didn’t want to know the answer.
“Okay, time to find Nightstar and then follow Ion’s lead and collapse.”
She went to Nightstar’s room up on the second floor. She didn’t really understand why a man who wore mirrorshades to protect his eyes from light wanted to have a room with windows. She knocked on his door.
He opened the door so fast that she nearly fell inside. “You okay?” he asked.
She blinked. “I’m fine.”
He walked back inside his room, leaving the door open. She followed.
Nightstar’s room was decorated in dark colors with black fabric and deep red carpets. A bookshelf dedicated to lava lamps of every color imaginable stood on one wall. A smaller bookshelf held books, mostly classics, but a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance had its own position of importance on top of the shelf.
He had divided the room into a sitting area and a sleeping area, with a curtain he could pull to divide them. Rigel wasn’t sure what the point of the curtain was, as she couldn’t imagine why he would need privacy from his own sitting area.
The sitting section had a throw rug with a picture of Nightstar on it. Cori rolled her eyes everytime she saw it, but Nightstar always seemed amused by her reaction. He had a leather recliner with a view of a flat screen television mounted on the wall. A love seat and a few end tables along with a large picture of San Francisco at night completed the scene.
He sat down on the recliner. “So, have we figured out what’s going on yet?”
“What do you mean?” asked Rigel, as she found the love seat and flopped on it.
He grinned at her. “We never have a day like this. Never. I never had a day at New Citadel like this. It’s obvious that someone’s manipulating events. We need to figure out who. I keep envisioning some calculating mathematical villain trying to figure out how to arrange probabilities to destroy us.”
Cori sighed. “I agree.”
“So, do you think that it’s some kind of mathematical villain?”
“No,” she said. “I mean that I agree something is going on. It’s strange.”
Another wave of nausea hit her. Cori gripped the love seat to steady herself.
“Are you okay?” asked Nightstar. “I have my own bathroom.”
She raised her hand and sat up. Fortunately, like the previous bout of nausea, it passed. “I’m okay. I suspect it’s the burst eardrums. I’m sorry, Nightstar, but I think I need to get to bed.”
“I’d agree with that,” said Nightstar, standing. He went over and offered his hand. She took it.
As soon as she stood up, she felt as if she was about to lose her balance. Nightstar gently put his hands on her shoulders. “Unless you protest, I’m going to make sure you get safely to your room.”
She shook her head and immediately realized that it was a mistake. She put a hand on his. “Give me a second before we start moving, but I won’t protest. I promise. What about you, Nightstar? Are you having nausea or balance issues?”
“No. Well, not really. Much. I’m Nightstar. I’ll be fine. My body has to be strong enough to hold the Eternal Darkness, remember?”
“Right,” said Cori, feeling steadier. “Okay, let’s change the subject. What about Nine Princes in Amber? Have you ever read it?”
“That seems to be a little non sequitur. However, I have read it. I read the other books too. I want to build a computer like Merlin in the second series.”
Cori started walking down the hall with him. She felt much better, but she was still looking forward to finding her bed. “Seriously?”
“Yes. I sometimes wonder if Zelazny knew a member of my family.”
“How many family members do you have out there?”
“I’m not sure, but there are certainly a few. Whenever a new hero or villain shows up, I’m always worried that they are a relative.”
They got to Cori’s room. She turned the knob and opened the door. The first thing that she saw was her telescope.
“Are you sure that you are okay?”
“I’ll be fine, Nightstar. Thanks. There are going to be better days than this.”
“Nearly all of them.”
With that, she shut the door, walked over to her bed and lay down. A quick thought shifted her costume into a nightgown, and Cori closed her eyes.
Nanowrimo – FS Vigilance Chapter 7
So, I’m burning through words here on the last couple of days in hopes of still completing Nanowrimo. Currently, I’m just over 44,000 and still writing. If I get a chance, I’m still hoping to write a few regular blog posts. On to Freedom Squad…
Erica Sampson sat in a small hotel room in the Superior City suburb of Appleton. It was a medium quality room in a medium quality hotel. Her cover was that she was in town visiting her mother. Her mother’s home was a safe house filled with normal looking people who would protect her and smuggle her back to Washington, DC at a moment’s notice.
Of course, they didn’t know anything.
Erica stared at her smartphone. She needed to make one call and then report to Director Lieber. She hated this assignment, which impressed her, since it was going well.
She understood the importance. One of her mentors had told her that the difference between an upstanding citizen and a criminal was only a few seconds and opportunity. Anyone could lose their temper or fly into a rage. If they had a weapon and a target, someone could get hurt. The problem with metahumans was that they always had weapons, and not just pistols, but powers capable of causing widespread collateral damage. Read the rest of this entry
Nanowrimo – FS Vigilance Chapter 6
As I struggle at 37,000 words to reach 50,000 by Sunday night, I thought I’d post Chapter 6 for anyone who wants to do some long weekend reading. Look for a few more posts in the next couple of days, especially since Happily Never After has been released (written with my co-author John Peck under the penname Jack Heckel). Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the U.S.!
Less than an hour later, Rigel was in the monitor room, scanning through images of women that fit the mental picture she had obtained from Snowfall, when Nightstar arrived with Protector.
“Since it was the woman who spoke to you and Snowfall, Protector, can you help with the identification?”
“Sure,” he said. His tone made Rigel stop her scan.
“It wasn’t your fault.”
Nanowrimo – FS Vigilance Chapter 5
Here’s a new chapter. It’s interesting to me how many mistakes I make writing at this pace. I keep reminding myself that there’s plenty of time to edit, add descriptions and even change whole scenes around. This isn’t the final version, but I like seeing how things develop.
A few moments later, Rigel carefully lowered two slightly melted battlesuits onto the street next to the Freedom Flyer as she landed back at the Diamond Exchange. She began carefully peeling off the armor.
“We were awesome,” said Solaria, beaming with pride.
“Nice job controlling the heat and just melting their weapons. Good flying too.”
Solaria gave Rigel a high-five.
Nightstar ran over and immediately the mood changed. His face was ashen. Cori had never seen Nightstar look so upset, and when she realized that he was going over to Solaria, her heart stopped. “We don’t know exactly what happened,” he said.
“Where is Kyle?” said Solaria, her voice catching.
“Ion’s got him, and he’s taking him back to Freedom Squad Headquarters. Dr. Lord is already at the med bay and Starlight says with his technology…” Read the rest of this entry
Nanowrimo – FS Vigilance Chapter 3
Once Rigel and Protector returned to Freedom Squad Headquarters, Cori wanted to do all she could to try and forget the press conference. As they walked in through the roof entrance, they found Solaria, arms folded across the yellow sun symbol on her chest.
“Rigel, you may be the boss, but you two were slow.”
“Maybe a little,” Cori agreed.
Solaria unfolded her arms and walked over. “Hey, Cori, I’m still sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. I understand why my powers might bother people.”
“Yeah,” said Solaria, “but I can set the whole city on fire if my powers go wrong.”
“More importantly,” said Protector, “it’s time for you to head down to the pool. Our enemies will certainly try to douse you and drown you at some point, so we need to work on your swimming. I’ll meet you down there.”
As Alex took the stairs down to the lower levels of Freedom Squad Headquarters, Solaria looked over at Rigel. “Who put him in charge of our training?” Read the rest of this entry
Nanowrimo – FS Vigilance Chapter 2
Let’s hope this keeps up… more from my Nanowrimo novel…
Cori woke up the next morning and wished that she could have the day off. Her head hurt badly enough that it made her eyes ache. “I really overdid it yesterday with the fire. Maybe coffee and a hot shower will help.”
She rolled out of bed and telekinetically grabbed her yoga mat and unfurled it. “Morning practice first.”
After several sun salutations, the headache faded. By the time she got to the scorpion pose that she liked, it was gone completely. As she rolled up the mat, she contemplated her powers.
Using the telepathy always exhausted her, but she felt better after doing yoga. Maybe it was just a matter of readjusting her mind. Telepathy was reaching out, but perhaps concentrating on her muscles, her breathing and her body was like bringing her mind back home. It seemed like a reasonable concept.
Cori looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair was a mess, she had rings around her eyes and she was glistening with perspiration. She didn’t look much like Rigel of Freedom Squad, although she had to admit that they shared the same abs. That was something at least. Read the rest of this entry
Nanowrimo – FS Vigilance Chapter 1
More fun from the fast paced writing world of Nanowrimo…
Rigel would rather have been fighting a dozen supervillains instead of facing the high-rise inferno in front of her. Flashing red lights and sirens surrounded her as dozens of firefighters worked together. The police were on the scene as well, keeping crowds and the press back. There were so many distractions, but she had to keep working.
She closed her eyes and focused, using her yoga breathing to stay calm, breathing in through the nose and out through the nose. As she relaxed her body, her mind continued to race.
Using her telepathy, she was trying to coordinate her team amidst the flames and smoke while attempting to locate the minds of anyone trapped inside. Protector was staying close to a group of firefighters inside the building, using his shield to protect them not only from the debris, but from the heat and even the poisonous gases. She shook her head slightly, as she recalled him telling her that he had no powers.
Nightstar had teleported to a higher floor where Rigel had sensed a mind. Although he appeared human, Nightstar didn’t need to breathe the way most people did. She vaguely wondered about what his world must have been like, before returning to her focus. He was almost in the right place.
Nightstar, the person should be through the next door on the left.
She felt more than heard his response. He was on his way. Read the rest of this entry