Dangerous Metal

I’ve been a bit busy and haven’t been posting as much last week and this. But it is all for a good reason. I’m putting the finishing touches on my novel and getting it ready for launch. Dangerous Metal is a cyberpunk thriller and I’ve got some brand new things to share.

Covers

Dangerous Metal ebook cover
Dangerous Metal ebook cover

I will, of course, be doing an audiobook version as well. (Recording is what has been devouring my time.)

Dangerous Metal audiobook cover
Dangerous Metal audiobook cover

Description

Eva is happy to get her life back to normal, or as normal as it can for a woman who had half her brain replaced by a computer implant of her own making. Then Ernie, the ex who put a hole in her skull, shows up for dinner with her parents.

Preorder

So it is up and ready for preorder at Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords and plenty of other places. Or add it to your Goodreads shelf.

It isn’t up for preorder on audiobook but as soon as that is live I’ll be sure to post a link. I’ll also be giving away a few audiobook codes.

Warning

I keep warring with myself about this. Do I warn people? This isn’t a nice book. One of my beta readers called it unglamorous and a book that sits cold in your gut. This isn’t a warm fuzzy book. This isn’t about people taking a happy vacation. It is a cyberpunk thriller so it really shouldn’t be, but even for cyberpunk…it isn’t just a noir with pretty tech. Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of pretty tech. I love the tech. But it isn’t a detached story.

Part of me is like NO!! don’t tell people to not read your book, you have got to be kidding me! That is the worst idea. You are supposed to tell people how awesome it is. (And it is awesome, another beta reader said it had all the feels.)

But…I don’t want someone to pick this up thinking it is a light-hearted romp. So, buy my book, but be aware.

Another week

As I mentioned I still have some finalizing pieces to do so I think I won’t likely post again this week. Podcast episode on Friday (and it will be a light-hearted romp!) but that’s all until next week.

Thank you!

An Axe

It is Friday and that means another challenge from Chuck Wendig. This time it was a knock on the door. Never one to follow directions I went for a crash into a door. An axe. A couple peregrine falcons. A bear. And a fire.

trees and cliff
Trees on a cliff in the Rockies

An Axe

The impact on the solid pine door reverberated through the house.

Faye was out of bed and running to the front door in a heartbeat. She flung open the door and stared down at her half boy, half falcon son. His wings twitched and stretched out as they tried to shift to arms.

He croaked out the worst word. “Fire.”

She shifted in a moment. She couldn’t stay. He would be ok. He had to be.

“The gulch.”

Her husband came out of the bedroom.

She dove off the edge of the porch and spread her wings. He would stay, he would raise the alarm, he would take care of Jacob.

Faye angled toward an updraft. The gulch. There were always fires in the mountains, but fire could go from small and local to drawing unwanted attention quickly.

She spotted the orange lick of flame and pulled her wings in. Faye aimed for the fire and let her instincts take over. Her speed increased.

Writing oops

I’ve had a little bit of a writing oops recently. I’m not really sure how to feel about it. I feel like this whole write something fresh is advice I need to say and hear constantly. I know this is a thing. I know I get frustrated and my work suffers when I’m not working on anything new and I’m just struggling through a thousand edits.

So what have I been doing lately? Struggling through a thousand edits and not doing anything new. Even the “new” piece I was working on wasn’t really new at all.

So a writing oops

And then…Wednesday or so I think I started to get this idea. And I wrote a bunch on the iPad in bed. And then I kept waking up with more ideas, and kept sitting up to write more and more. NO! BAD! Sleep is important. So I made as good notes as I could.

And then the next day it haunted me all day. And I had to make more notes and more. And it was fun and delicious.

I realized that what I had written, which was just going to be like a throw away doesn’t matter was a later scene for something. And then I started to outline a story.

I really like writing. It is fun. I enjoy seeing the thing I have eating inside my brain on the page.  I’m not sure I really like editing. I like the final outcome, I like when I have the thing that was on my brain in a form that is better than I could have imagined it. I like when I sit down to read the thing later and it makes me excited and nervous and happy and scared and whatever else. I like when people listen to (or read) my work and say it feels like I’m just telling them a story. That’s what I want. I want to share all of that. I’m willing to do the work of the editing to get it there. But I just like the writing all by itself too.

A writing bonus

I also sat down and hammered out the friday flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig. Which I did in my most scarcast voice. So it took a while to shake off that feeling of being a teenager. But it was also fun. Give a tiny little glimpse into a strange world where your future in a habitat colony is decided by a test  and you have ear stalks.

I do love that about flash fiction. The writer gives just the barest brush strokes of the world and the reader can come along and fill it in. Let’s be real. Flash fiction is like adult coloring books. We are super trendy! Go us!

secret garden coloring
flash fiction is like adult coloring books sort of?

ahem…join us in the trending

If you want to be a super trendy adult coloring book like writer come write flash fiction for 600 Second Saga! I would really like to bring in some new and exciting authors. I have a slot open in June still.

If you aren’t sure I’m really happy to answer any questions. I am also very willing to work with new authors or those who aren’t sure about writing flash. If you’d like feedback or notes please let me know.

(I’m not very good at or comfortable with plugs, but I really to want to bring more authors in and help spread the word about some very cool authors that we’ve already had on the show. So I’m trying to learn.)

So what do I do with my oops?

I finish it. I don’t know that it will see the light, and I’m ok with that. It is fun, it is short, it makes me remember that OH! I like writing! And that makes me very productive in all the rest of the writing tasks.

Anyone else ever oops?

Your Future…bumbumbum…

Over at Terribleminds Chuck Wendig issued a challenge. Write a flash fiction with words from his small child. Challenge accepted. I wrote about your future. (Or his, if his child turns out to be a super sarcastic partly alien living in a colony growing up in the J cohort. Seems unlikely, but not impossible.)

I even made a quiz. (should be at the bottom of the page too) You can find out your own future. Now excuse me while I go say some not sarcastic things to work this out of my system so I can do other writing.

Your Future

I looked around the room and peaked at tests. I looked down at my own. 500 questions. I was never going to finish. I only had my name on it.

“Please remember, this is not a test of your knowledge. There is no right or wrong answers.” I rolled my eyes at the teacher. She smiled at all six of us.

No right or wrong but it would determine the rest of our lives.

“Well some answers will be wrong.” Julie, who knew everything, mumbled just loud enough for everyone to hear. Jason chuckled. I rolled my eyes and my shoulders.

“Every job is important. Every position matters. Without each person and their specific talents the colony would not thrive as it does. Soon you will all be important, powerful members of the colony. This will help identify what your skills are.”

Someone made a sucking sound. Probably Jacob. I scoffed and sighed. At least when this was all over I’d be done with the Js and we’d all be off into the rest of the colony. It was so annoying to deal with these immature idiots all the time.

I sighed and looked down at the questions.

What is the most important thing in your life?
◦    The colony
◦    My cohort
◦    Discovering new worlds
Finishing this test. Not being annoyed by the Js to death. Being done with this damn test. Pff. I marked Discovering new worlds.

During free time you…
◦    Study the colony details, history, and optimizing my capacity for learning
◦    Spend time with friends and develop relationships
◦    Tending the animals
◦    Volunteering
They had to be kidding. Ugh. Fine.  I selected volunteering. At least my actual record would show I didn’t do that.

In the morning you notice your________first when you look in the mirror.
◦    My eyes
◦    My smile
◦    My fangs
◦    My aural stalks
Come on. Were they all going to be like this? Nothing even about what I was actually good at. I skimmed through the test looking for anything even the slightest bit relevant.

Which trait is the most important?
◦    Compassion
◦    Honesty
◦    Diligence
◦    Determination
Diligence would be something like janitorial duty. Compassion would make me deal with the dumbest of the colony, oh wait. I looked around the room…I already did that. I marked Determination. I was determined to be done with this test.

What is your favorite animal?
◦    Worms
◦    Goats
◦    Hawks
◦    Spiders
Oh, I really didn’t want to end up in the barns. I wrinkled my nose. Hawks, I guess. I looked around. Jill was reading each question carefully and stopped to actually ponder the answers. They’d just shove us into whatever jobs they had open. It wasn’t like they’d let the medic job sit empty because no one was naturally inclined to do it. Why were they making us waste hours on this damn test?

Under pressure you are:
◦    Nervous
◦    A natural leader
◦    A follower
◦    At my best
Oh good. We aren’t biasing our answers at all here. Nooope. Not even a little. Where’s the question about preparing these exams?

When evaluating others it is important to be:
◦    Consistent
◦    Pragmatic
◦    Direct
◦    Supportive
All over the place, random, obtuse, and dismissive wasn’t listed. Which of course just meant that I was absolutely right about shoving us into whatever job they needed filled.

B. I was going to go with B for everything. Nah. Every fifth answer I’d switch it up a little. I started checking boxes. B, B, B, B, A – oh fun!

Jacob was just drawing boobs on his. Maybe they’d make him the medic.

All my questions were answered. Well none of my questions were answered, but that wasn’t going to change any time soon. I filed up to the front and passed the test over to the teacher. I was the third person done. Jacob of course had been first. Boobs were apparently the way to finish fast. I snickered to myself.

Jill had finished before me too. I couldn’t quite figure it out. She was smart, sure. But she’d been thinking about the answers. Maybe I dozed off and took a nap and didn’t notice.

The teacher took the sealed print out from the machine and handed it to me. Putting her fingers to her lips and baring her fangs at me, she pointed out the door.

I headed out. My last day of class.

Jacob was slumped on the floor in the hall. “I’m a janitor. A goddamn janitor.”

“Hey now, you will be the second in charge. You jumped right to the front of the line. And all jobs are very important. And you’ll get to go outside the habitat. You like getting out of here right.” Jill was crouched in front of him with her hand on his knee.

“What’d you get?” Jill sat down next to Jacob and I came over to sit next to her.

I ripped open my envelope and held my breath. “I am queen of the goats.” Lead Goatherd

There was silence for a long moment and then both Jill and Jacob burst into laughter.

Goat - your future - good for you!
A goat – from Armin Kübelbeck @ Wikipedia

Be sure to sign up for the audiobook giveaway!


The Girl Who Surfed Tsunamis

Chuck Wendig had a challenge and while his challenge wasn’t, stop editing and write something new, mine was. The challenge was pick from a list of titles (The Girl Who Surfed Tsunamis) and then go forth and write 1,000 words.

I’ve been editing and working on writing related stuff so much I haven’t done anything just straight up out of whole cloth lately. So I took this challenge with gusto!

I’m posting here before I get all out of gusto and start feeling crummy about my work. Listen to the audio. (And for more audio tune into the podcast!)

Wave painting
Waves

The Girl Who Surfed Tsunamis

I don’t remember when I started, mom said I always loved to go out when we were absolutely not supposed to be outside. I’d sneak past everyone and head down to the water.

My older sisters were supposed to watch me and they’d get in trouble because I’d still sneak out. I didn’t care. I still don’t. I want to be in the water. I know when the water is angry, I can feel it coming.

I never get hurt, and I bring home cool stuff I find in the water. Once, I found a really shiny ring, it was hanging from a tree branch. Mom and dad sold it, they don’t complain about me going out anymore.

The best thing I found, was a surfboard. I didn’t take that home. Mom and dad would sell it. I’d seen people surfing, but they always got out of the water when it was getting angry. They were scared.

I wasn’t scared.

The surfboard was twice as tall as me and it was hard to get it out my hiding spot.

I giggled as I walked down toward the shore with the surfboard on my head, it was too big to carry under my arms. Mom said I shouldn’t laugh when the water got angry. But it was funny just like when grandfather got mad and his face got puffy and red.

I knew the water was bad for some people and for the fields. But mom got to be mad, and dad, and even my brothers and sisters could be angry sometimes. Because I was the littlest everyone just laughed when I got mad.

Most of the people were gone by the time I got all the way to the water. I tried to remember what I’d seen people do on the surfing movies. I laid down on the board in the water and slapped at the water. My arms barely stretched across the board and I couldn’t get them to go very well.

So I got off and pushed it in front of me and swam out as far as I could, kicking my legs behind me.

When I was out far enough that I couldn’t see my house up the hill anymore I pulled myself onto the board. I tried to stand up and fell. I had to try four more times before I managed to stand up and stay up. I looked around. There was no one else on the water. There was no one I could see on the shore.

The water was very angry. I giggled.

I wasn’t sure how to get further out into the water without laying down again, I managed to stand on the middle of the surfboard and kick one foot in the water but I didn’t go anywhere. I decided I’d just stand and wait for the big wave to come to me.

It would be here soon. I did a tiny little shuffle on the board and fell in again. By the time I managed to climb back up on the board and turned to face out, I could see the wave coming toward me.

I could hear the water, it was screaming mad. I screamed with it. It was good to scream sometimes when you were mad. Mom said I had to behave and be a good little girl, but it felt so good to scream. And no one was here to yell at me. I knew the water wouldn’t mind. So I screamed with the water.

It was so much louder than I was, I couldn’t even hear myself. The water under me started to bob up and down.

My feet slipped again and I dropped to my knees. The water was much higher. I thought it would be better maybe to lay down on the board. I slipped as the water moved faster around me and knocked my chin on the board, but I managed to wrap my hands around the sides and my toes hooked under the end just as the first wave pushed me way up into the air.

I screamed and squealed. I felt like the wave was as tall as my house.

The wave kept going but I stayed where I was, I couldn’t see my house or the shore at all. Then another bigger wave lifted me up. I squealed with excitement, I was definitely as tall as my house now.

I stayed on top of this wave. I held onto the board but pushed myself up a little bit more so I was kneeling on top of the giant wave. Shore was racing toward us. The water felt so angry I screamed for it.

The wave got smaller, maybe the water was angry that it got so tiny when it was on land.

I watched the wave eat some of the trees and the little hut that sold candy for kids and drinks for grown ups along the shore. I wondered how far it would climb. I looked behind me and there were no bigger waves.

The water wasn’t so angry any more. It was almost all screamed out. I was too. I wasn’t sure how to get off the wave. I tried to think about the surfing movies.

The water smashed me into a tree. And then it went away. I clung to the top of the tree, and tried to hold onto my board. I had to let the board fall, the water took it away.

I watched the next waves come in, less and less water, less and less angry. All yelled out. Then the water started to leave, go back home.

I climbed down the tree and looked around for the surfboard before everyone else came back out of their houses. It was gone. But I did find a new pair of shoes and a surfboard that was barely taller than me.

Entirely off topic

Searching for a picture to go with this that would be usable with the right license I managed to come up with lots of dudes surfing (even though I specifically searched for girl) and strangest of all…a how to avoid teen pregnancy ad. Not even like water, surfing, or anything related. Just some dude standing there with how to avoid teen pregnancy.

Um. Ok.

Which Words

Writers and words go together because…duh? But which words?

Call me…a miniaturist?

Maybe? Mental Floss has a list of 14 old fashioned things to call writers.

Someone who writes short pieces of fiction. Yup! (Writrix is also good but mostly because it sounds like someone who stabs someone with old fashioned quills.)

Which Words? Swear Words

How many swear words could you come up with? 400 or more? Mostly we use 10.

No, swearing doesn’t mean you have a limited vocabulary.

Cut words, ruthlessly

Would you be willing to let an app edit you? I mean chances are extremely good you already have auto correct turned on, you use spell check. Why not have an app weed out words you don’t need.

Watch nature

I looked a bit for a site (or better yet an apple tv app) that compiles all the bird/bear/shark/etc cams from different DNRs, park services, and other resources. I couldn’t find one. If anyone knows of one please tell me!

Good cam news? Condors are raising a foster chick

Bad cam news? The PA eagle hatched an egg and the hatchling did not survive. The second egg is unlikely to be viable.

Podcast Recommendations

Yesterday I posted about how to listen to podcasts, today I’m going to share some of my podcast recommendations. This is only a slim selection of what I listen to, but they are some of my absolute favorites.

Podcast Recommendations

Literary

Far Fetched Fables – 1 hour or so fantasy stories, usually more than one per episode

600 Second Saga – 10-minute science fiction and fantasy delivered weekly (I promise!)

Writing

I Should be Writing – Interviews, thoughts, suggestions, support – this is a great podcast for writers who are looking to get encouragement (check out Ditch Diggers for a more harsh get in there and do some work view of it).

Writing Excuses – Billed as 15 minutes long they are usually closer to 20 but entirely worth it. I cannot recommend going back through the entire season 10 enough.

Science-ier (because that’s totally a word)

Quirks and Quarks – Canadians! – This is a great science news show. I really recommend this (and go for the complete show) over some of the other public science news shows.

Astronomy Cast – Everything you want to know about Astronomy. The back catalogue is amazing too.

The Titanium Physicists Podcast – This is several brilliant currently working in the field physicists explaining things to people who do Not Science stuff. It is an amazing example of great science communication.

History

(I would still say I’m not a huge history fan, but I really love both of these podcasts because they are about stories, not here’s a bunch of dates, go memorize them without context.)

Stuff You Missed in History Class – Another podcast with a huge back catalogue. Whenever I need to know a quick and dirty about some historical thing I go look to see if they have an episode on it.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – This is the podcast I listen to when I have a really long travel thing. Most of the episodes are in the 4+ hour range. Generally only a couple episodes a year, but really chock full of information.

Other?

Like knitting? Gardening? Shadowrun? Warcraft? Owning your own business? Elearning development? Other thing?

Yes, there is a podcast for you. I really enjoy podcasts for when going for walks, commuting, and cleaning.

Save

Compiling Feedback

What now? I need to start compiling feedback.

Ok so I’ve gotten feedback and I’ve thanked the person (I really liked Elizabeth@Be There Dragons’s suggestion of a small thoughtful gift is a great one). Then I need to work on what to do with it.

Some feedback is better than others. If I’m going to be doing a full rewrite  the grammar and spelling are likely not that helpful. If someone doesn’t like the genre…then not much I can do about that. If someone doesn’t like strong female leads or magic or aliens or whatever, then I have learned that the book/short/flash wasn’t for them. But I’ve also learned that the piece doesn’t have a lot of cross over appeal.

Within a novel/la

I try to pinpoint things like if a character is called out multiple times throughout a novel (or novella) for being harsh, crabby, angry, etc. I want to step back and look at is that the perception I want of this character. If it just shows up once? Or only from one person it isn’t a theme, I can look at that one incident. What I want to see first is what are the things that are repeated. Anything that shows up more than once needs a lot of attention, it needs to be carefully considered and look for why is that showing up.

I have something in my To Edit queue where the major feedback was on the character’s attitude. Some people thought it was bitchy, others said cold, some aggressive, some thought she was kickass. This was a theme, this character fit a pattern and I sat down and looked at who was reading it (inside genre readers/outside genre readers/men/women/etc) and compared that to my target audience. I also thought about what the goal was for the reader to feel toward her.

My initial goal for her was that she be a bit…not ideal, kind of not really a person you’d want to be friends with. Which I achieved. Except that doesn’t really make for a good read. So I succeeded. YAY! But I failed. Ok time to dig back in and make changes. Sometimes you try things and they don’t work well, that’s ok. But, then I need to loop back and fix it.

This is a bit where iterative design strategy comes in, but hold that thought for now.

So I create a list of character changes that need to happen. Then I focus on plot, what was confusing, didn’t work, or needed expansion. In beta passes these are the things I want to know. If it is one person or one spot? I’m going to try to fix that one spot, or consider if that one person (out of many, one out of one wins, one out of many may not) makes sense. (Back to the person who hates magic and complains every time my character uses magic? I’m going to ignore that. The person who doesn’t like strong female leads? I’m going to try really hard to ignore that even when it continues to eat away at my brain like a horrible brain eating worm.)

Shorter or flash fiction

I treat this a little different because especially for flash fiction and sort of under 7K fiction I’m really looking to see if the tone works, if it feels like a whole story, does it work.

I want especially to see what things people are confused by and on the other side what lines they really like. In a short piece (and since I do audio for my short works) a line that reads well is worth a lot so I’m going to hang onto those.

Just one person or many

When working on web design or elearning design and one person can’t get to the next screen that could be multiple things. It could be a technical issue, which we rarely have in writing, it is extremely rare that someone is unable to turn your page. So I almost never have to trouble shoot technical things like that. (Except last week when all the i’s disappeared from my comments.)

If one person has a problem with something it is worth considering, if more than one? It likely is a problem. If they can’t understand something? It isn’t understandable, I can do a better job of explaining it.

Iterate

I’m sure someone has written a book perfectly on the first pass. But I am super not that person! I am a fan of iterating. Some people write a first round and then throw it away and then go forward after that. I don’t always do that. But I’ve absolutely thrown things out. Sometimes it is better to take the lessons you learn and move forward.

Most of the time you can wrap those into the next version. A character too cold?  Find ways to warm them up. Reread the scene. What else needs to happen.

I often fix a bunch of things on a single pass, but having a plan makes a big difference in getting a good outcome.

You can’t iterate endlessly. At some point you have to put your penny down and go forth and try it.

BUT!…

I get this. A lot. Less than I used to, it happens a lot though. I read a piece of feedback and I get this gut reaction of …BUT!

I struggle, but I generally manage to set aside the explanation, or write it down (which is useful later). When someone is reading (or listening) to something I wrote I don’t get a chance to explain when they make a confused face.

Everything I want to tell them, everything they need to know has to be in front of them when they need it. Sometimes you don’t want to give it to them yet, so you have to compel them to keep reading.

You don’t get to argue with the reader, you don’t get to hold the book in front of them, you don’t get to tell them they have to do something.

That moment when I want to go “but!” is the moment I can learn the most from.

Soup

Another Friday, another challenge from Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds. Last week people posted the first sentence for something, only the first sentence. He got over 500 comments, eep!, and selected 10. I picked one of those and this is my take on that sentence.

Soup

“Of all the things I expected to find in my tomato soup, this wasn’t one of them.” (Stella Wood)

I grinned and slurped down the chunk of real, fresh tomato. I pushed my spoon through the soup and saw a sliver of green, I dug hungrily for it. Inhaling deeply I could almost smell the real black dirt that must have been used to grow the basil.

The shredded cheese on the top was standard for the cans of soup everyone used, but the rest, was magic. I wasn’t even sure what else was in it but I knew I wanted more. I ate the rest of it with abandon, slurping, licking the bowl clean.

The waitress finally came back over to my table as I leaned back and tore the bread. I hadn’t even dunked it in the soup. It was great too, but great bread was easy to find. Actual tomato chunks? Not so easy.

“That was amazing, how do you even get fresh tomatoes?” I stared up at her in awe.

“We grow them in the hot house. We’ve got lots of herbs and in the fall, fresh squash.” Her warm smile sharpened and she shifted uncomfortably. “It’s perfectly legal and most of our customers like it, you don’t have to eat here. Some people just prefer the whole thing.”

I waved my hand to stop her. “I think it is delicious.” She was worried I was going to lecture her. “The last time I had a real tomato, it was a caprese salad at a very fancy place. They advertised as shipping in all their produce whole grown. It wasn’t anything like this. The waitstaff lectured us about how they did only the bare minimum to enhance the flavor.” She snorted.

“No, you have to salt the tomatoes or they just taste like tangy water.” I laughed and she glanced around the empty cafe. She pulled up the seat across from me. “We use the prettiest ones in the BLTs. You should try one, they are my favorite this time of year. The lettuce is still crisp and the first tomatoes are ripening. They explode with flavor.”

“How can you do it? I know people can grow stuff for themselves, but…” I trailed off not quite sure. Was I asking too much? Prying? Exposing something illegal? I knew the really high end places had to have lots of certifications and the food would be flown in from specialized growers. I couldn’t imagine this tiny little alley way cafe could do that and serve three dollar soup.

“If you don’t buy the vegetables you are ok. We have a garden upstairs in our sun plot. There is always a chance, I suppose, that someone is going to push back against that. Although people who think that spending the time and energy on a potential crop failure should be banned aren’t the kinds of people who usually come in here anyway. They prefer to know exactly what they are going to get every time.” I felt my face turning red as she spoke.

I was one of those people. I went to the same places for all my meals, they were always the same, it was always good. I fumbled for something to say but she reached out and put her hand on my arm.

“We know all of the benefits of that. We understand, there is nothing wrong with it.” She smiled and patted my arm. “We just can’t afford those things. And I personally like making the soups.”

I frowned. “How can you spend all that energy on something that might fail?” I carefully guarded my energy, usually. Today had ended up being a disaster and I had to find new work, I didn’t really have the energy to be here spending time and thought on soup.

“I love it. Sure some days are failures, but those days end. I go to bed and get back up and try again the next day.” She leaned back in her chair and looked at me. “Not everyone thinks a bad day is the end of the world. Not every job fires someone for one bad day.”

I tore another chunk of bread and chewed it, giving myself time to think. Maybe you could be a waitress and have a bad day, though the places I frequented had an immaculate service standard, they wouldn’t sit down with a customer. They wouldn’t have a slow afternoon. I didn’t understand how this place hadn’t gone out of business. “Do your parents own this place?” If they were a wealthy family, maybe that would explain it. Children of owners were the only people who failed with impunity.

“No.” She grinned. The door chimed and someone came in. She raised a hand and waved. “Go ahead and sit anywhere, I’ll be right with you.” She gave me a sad sigh. “They say we are a creative world, but they punish actual creativity. I’ll bet you were released from your current contract today. If you need something we are looking for someone to wait tables in the morning.” She scribbled a number on the paper and walked over to greet the other patron.

I wanted to complain that I was better than that. I was an artist. I was part of the creative class. I was in charge of my own career, I could leave any job when I wanted, find something better.

I looked down at the soup bowl again. I paid the tab and left a good tip. I thought about the soup, the moment when that chunk of real tomato surprised me, discovering the basil. I always heard that art involved discovery. I wanted that feeling again. That rush of something new and unexpected.

I shoved the slip of paper in my pocket.

False Gods

False Gods is my answer to a new challenge from the terrible minds of Chuck Wendig. The challenge was roll a random number generator and get two sub genres and mash them up into something shiny and new.

I got technothriller and mythology. I’m not entirely sure I hit either of those genres exactly…But hopefully it’s still enjoyable.

False Gods

We will remove all false gods from the world.
One by one.

I surveyed the murder scene. The woman was in her late fifties, an antique aegis and what I had to assume were owl feathers covered her body.

Someone shoved the latest manifesto into my hands, I couldn’t even get a polite thanks out. I had read the previous five over and over. I skimmed the first few lines, I’d already read them thanks to the killer’s twitter feed.

She was supposed to be Athena. She had been in the army, risen through the ranks, gone into diplomacy. She was brilliant. She was a warrior. She was this serial killer’s sixth victim.

I flipped through the hundreds of pages of supposed evidence. The digital team would be downloading it and adding it to their database now. We were working under the premise that the killer was running some kind of software to determine his next victim. He tweeted as if he were many but our profile came down to one man, working by himself, with the help of some very sophisticated software.

I stopped at the two-thirds point and started skimming. This would be where he would outline the evils and where we had caught glimpses, too late, into who the next victim would be.

The same bullshit talk about how all the creatures of mythology walked among us, and they all needed to be killed. I shuddered and closed the manifesto. It would go in my stack of reading.

***

Jennifer and Nasim sat across from me with serious looks. Nasim turned his laptop around to face me slowly.

“Just, tell me what it is, while you are wasting time, he is out there getting ready to murder someone else.” I shouted at them.

We all flinched when our phones chimed at the same time. It wasn’t him. Someone sighed with relief.

“Right now, the data we’ve gathered, it seems to show that there is a possibility…” Nasim was shifting his screen as he talked.

“It’s going to be a cop.” Jennifer jumped in before I could tell them to get to the point.

“Or a sky marshall, or a judge…it might not be a cop.” Nasim hedged again.

“I think it is going to be you.” Jennifer looked me in the eyes.

I sucked in a deep breath. “Which god is he targeting?”

“Kratos.” Nasim said confidently. I ran through the gods I knew of, I’d spent the last months researching mythology. I had never heard of Kratos. “He’s the son of Pallas and Styx and is authority. He is the state enforcer. But they all have wings so it might be a sky marshall.”

“It’s not a sky marshall.” Jennifer grabbed the laptop and scrolled through, highlighting the text. I didn’t see it.

I wasn’t a god, but I was the target of a serial killer.

***

I put my head in my hands and bumped the stack of books at my elbow. My phone went off. I grabbed for it.

A tweet to the department, he had a new account. He was on the move. Each time he created a new account. We would get it shut down within minutes. In those minutes he would send out a storm of information, manifestos, and photographs.

I skimmed through the messages. It was a review of the previous murder. It had been three months between the first two murders, then a month to the third, the fourth was three weeks later, the fifth was another three weeks, the sixth was another three weeks. We hoped that was how long his manifesto took to complete. Each one was nearly 500,000 words of accusations and demands.

I should still have two weeks. I rested my head again. I just needed a short break.

***

A sharp noise woke me. I knocked over a pile of books and turned around in the chair. My phone. I grabbed it. A message from Nasim. “We have timeline concerns. You should come down to the station.”

If Nasim was worried things had to be bad. I touched each of the manifestos and case files. Looking at each of the victims, wondering – for just a moment – if I’d be the next stack of paper.

I’d just take a quick shower and head in. I responded to Nasim and stood, restacking the books next to me.

“Oh just turn around already!”

I spun toward the unknown, cheerful voice. My gun. It was on the desk behind me.

The murder stood in front of me. Dressed in an absurd Loki costume. My mind raced.

“You can’t be Loki. You murdered him. His name was Jackson.” The murder’s face kept the disgusting grin as I talked. My gun was on top of Jackson’s file behind me. “Jackson was a homeless man, he had two brothers, he had schizophrenia, he made sure all the stray dogs were fed before he was. Did you know one of his brothers calls me every day to see if he can help? Let me show you a photo.”

I turned and grabbed the gun and the papers and hid the gun under the thousands of sheets of paper.

“You have found me out! I am not Loki. But you are Kratos. And you are a false god. You will be dispatched with the rest of them. I wasn’t sure if you were truly Kratos. Now I know.”

I edged a step closer to him. “Look at this photo.” The photo showed three teenage boys, cleaned up in suits, with giant grins.

The murderer raised up what I had thought was a staff, it was a sword. He was laughing. I heard sirens outside.

“Drop the sword.” I dropped the paper and gripped my gun. I shouted the command again.

He shrieked with laughter and raised the sword up. I fired and he fell. I stood over him with the gun pointed at him until reinforcements arrived.