Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween in Los Santos

Just for fun, here's my Grand Theft Auto Online character (and her new best friend, Edgar) getting into the Halloween spirit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Free for a limited time ...

As part of the promotional efforts for Project Revenant's pre-order campaign on Inkshares, the previous three entries in the Neon City series, the novels Load and Fifteen Minutes, as well as the novella Downtime (which is set between the two books) will be free to download beginning October 29. For the next five days, the Kindle versions of all three books will be available for no charge.

Pick up the first three adventures to see how events led up to Project Revenant, then hop over to Inkshares to pre-order the newest story featuring the trio of Jack Hammer, Corona, and Taura, plus the ongoing subplots involving their friends Otto Fellatio, Shakira, Lola Ramirez, and the rest of the Justice Foundation.

Neon City: Home to fifty million cyborgs, genetically-engineered chimeras, robots, AIs, and plain old humans. Built from the ground up by a group of mega-corporations to push technology past the bleeding edge. Started off as the beginning of a bright, new future, but now the future is no longer what it used to be.

Jack Hammer: A surly young man with cybernetic eyes and a lousy job.

Corona Borealis: Jack's girlfriend, a bio-engineered bipedal dragon created for military use, who now makes a living as freelance muscle.

Taura Agenor: Their roommate, a bio-engineered minotaur who would rather hack software than fight.

One little mistake: A moment of poor judgment lands them in deadly trouble, and the way out could get them killed just as easily.

Jack, Corona, and Taura are ordered to lay low for a few days while waiting for the dust to settle after the events of Load. Set between that book and Fifteen Minutes, this novella offers a glimpse into their off-duty lives.

In the sequel to Load and Downtime, Jack, Corona, and Taura begin their first job for a dodgy government agency which not only opens a can of worms that they may not survive, but also lands them in the weirdest situation they've ever faced--an audience watching their every move. At the same time, their future-daughter tracks a fugitive wanted for a crime he didn't commit, and finds herself facing down an assassin who can't be killed.

All three books will be available for free from October 29 through November 2. See how these characters got to where they are now, and then pre-order Project Revenant to find out where they go from here.

"Chaser" promo poster

Just a quick one since it's creeping up on 2 AM and I'm barely keeping my eyes open ....

Last night I got the proofread copy of Chaser and a book info form to fill out. I went through the manuscript one more time and found a bunch of missing periods, missing spaces after periods, and several pages that had blank lines between paragraphs. I fixed the first two (and hope I didn't miss any), but couldn't do anything about the blank lines. For some reason, using the backspace or DEL keys didn't work. So I'm not sure what's going on there.

But I filled out the form and sent both back a couple of hours ago. Then I decided to whip up a promotional poster for the book. This won't be the actual cover, but I thought it'd work pretty well as a "coming soon" type of ad.

And here it is ....

Monday, October 26, 2015

Corona Borealis concept art

Here's something cool I found when looking through some folders filled with old files on my hard drive. Many, many years ago, back when I was working on my first novel, Load, I commissioned an artist friend (Mike Garcia -- damned good artist, but I lost touch with him several years ago and haven't been able to find him online) to do a drawing of one of the main characters, Corona Borealis. Back then, I had a very different idea of what she looked like, but Mike drew more than a half-dozen concept sketches and this one really caught my attention. The drawing was never finished, but this sketch completely changed my mind about what she looked like. I tweaked a few small details, such as retaining the spikes on the end of her tail, from the previous version, but for the most part, this image is the idea I decided to go with.

Corona also appears in the sequel, Fifteen Minutes, and the third volume, Project Revenant -- which is open for pre-order on Inkshares. The first five chapters are posted there and can be read for free.


In other publishing news, this evening I received the final edit for Chaser and a form to fill out and send back. Just waiting on cover art. So the book is finally getting into the home stretch.

One last quick thing. Earlier this evening I uploaded another video in my How Not to Tell a Story series. This one ends rather abruptly because the game crashed (again). If I didn't know better, I'd start to think it's doing this deliberately because I'm criticizing it so harshly. O_o

Thursday, October 22, 2015

An End and a Beginning

Well, the Kindle Scout campaign for Project Revenant was a total failure. It closed on Oct. 19, the book was in review for a couple of days, and then they sent me the email telling me that it wasn't selected. I checked the stats and there was a burst of nominations on the very last day that finally put the book on the Hot & Trending list ... for eleven hours. Better than Game Over, which never made it on that list at all, with nearly twice as many page views ... but still.

So I decided to try something else with Revenant. I posted the first five chapters on Inkshares and launched the pre-order campaign. If it gets 750 pre-orders, it'll be published by Inkshares as an ebook. 1,000 pre-orders will get it published as an actual, physical, paperback as well as an ebook.

Given how these things almost always work out for me, I can't help being pessimistic about my chances. But all I can do is keep trying. At least this one runs for 90 days instead of 30 (well, now there are 89 days left). So I'll be advertising this wherever I can find a place to plug it.

The first five chapters are posted and are free to read. If you like it and want to see it published, it can be pre-ordered right there on the page. If you'd like to see more sample scenes, there are a few in previous blog entries further down this page. The final draft is already finished, so it can go straight into the publication process after the campaign ends, provided it gets enough pre-orders.

Meanwhile, I'm still working on chapter five of Uncharted Territory, despite running into writer's block due to having too many worries on my mind. I'm hoping to have the latest chapter finished and posted within the next couple of days, if nothing goes horribly wrong. I'm posting this one on Inkshares as well, but I'd prefer not to launch its campaign until I at least have the rough draft finished. Ideally, I'd finish that, launch the campaign, and then revise and polish it over the next 90 days, and have the final draft done before the campaign ends.

I'll post more updates as they happen.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

One more action scene from Project Revenant

One day left in Project Revenant's Kindle Scout campaign. Here's one last bit of business from the book before the countdown hits zero.

[We're in the garage,] Hoshi said over the comlinks. [We'll take cover and make our stand here. No chance of bystanders being hit. You come in behind the hostiles and we'll catch them between us. Once we've dealt with them, we'll escort Winslow to a safe place before they send another wave after us.]
"Got it," Jack said, keeping his voice low as they crept down the stairs from the ground floor.
Corona glanced at the camera feeds in her HUD. The men in black jumpsuits had reached the small parking garage under the building and were fanning out to cover more ground.
"What about Lefty and Mickey?" she whispered. "And the bots?"
[The enemy hasn't hit Lefty's workshop; they're all coming to back us up. So is Boiler.]
"Good. We're almost there." She glanced at the video feeds again and counted ten hostiles. "Well, on the bright side, once we get rid of these guys, that's ten fewer we'll have to face when we hit ADS later."
"Great. Take whatever we can get, I guess."
The sound of gunfire made Corona jump slightly. It was muffled but loud enough to be heard from the garage two levels below the ground floor.
"Better hurry," Taura whispered, and all three of them increased their pace.
[The hostiles aren't wearing armor, but they're still functioning after we've pumped multiple bullets into them. They're either cyborgs or the Revenants Winslow told us about. Be sure to use armor-piercing or incendiary rounds.]
"Got it."
The gunfire grew increasingly louder until they reached the garage level. Taura dug her computer out of her pocket, gave one side of it a double-tap, and a hard-light interface appeared in front of her. She pocketed the device and the display remained in front of her as she took a position beside the door. Corona and Jack took the opposite side of the door.
Corona reached out and grasped the handle. She pulled the huge mecha rifle from her back and glanced at the camera feed again to locate the hostiles.
"Ready?" she whispered.
Jack and Taura nodded.
Corona pulled the door open, charged through, and took cover behind Rocky's truck. Jack and Taura crouched behind her, and all of them winced at each deafening, echoing gunshot.
"Scanning them." Taura touched a button in her holofield and watched lines of info appear in a new window.
Corona leaned around the front of the truck for a peek at the action. Ten hostiles stood out in the open, hosing down the team's position behind Machiko's car and a pair of vans. Their bullets tore into the vehicles, shattering headlights and windows and blasting chunks of metal across the ground.
Each of the Revenants had cybernetic eyes that glowed like red LEDs.
Suddenly, five of them stopped. Moving in unison, they turned and stared directly at Corona.
She ducked behind the truck just as they opened fire, pulled her wings in tight and covered her head with her arms.
The driver's-side front tire exploded and her heart almost launched through her chest.
"They detected my scan." Taura gaped at her holofield, shook herself out of it, and tapped another button. "Let's see if I can jam their targeting systems."
Corona waited for the shooting to stop, peeked around the front of the truck, and found the cyber-zombies standing still, glancing around and shifting their aim hesitantly. She grinned and aimed at the nearest one. A target reticle appeared in her HUD, tracking along with the movements of her arms and hands. She moved the crosshairs onto the dude's head and fired a single shot.
The bullet blew half of his head off. Metal and plastic shrapnel sprayed through the air, along with chunks of skull and brain. He staggered, but remained on his feet.
What? Corona ducked back under cover, eyes wide and muzzle hanging open, and flinched as more bullets ripped into the truck. Just … what?
Taura frowned at her display. "The cyberization process must be more thorough than we thought. I'm picking up multiple redundancies as well as a secondary control unit in the abdominal area, behind extra armor plating. Bloody hell, what they did to those poor people –"
An enemy round punched through the truck and drilled into her left side. She let out a brief shriek, then sighed with relief when she realized it hadn't penetrated.
"Taura!" Jack reached out to her, but she waved him off.
"I'm okay, my armor stopped it." She took another slow breath.
Corona growled. "That's it. Let's take 'em out!"
Jack nodded and scooted over to the truck's rear. He lunged out, popped off several shots, and ducked back.
The Revenants blasted away, spraying the wall in front of the truck, but none of their shots hit less than a yard away from him. Whatever Taura had done, it hadn't worn off yet.
Corona took a slow breath, released it, and poked her head up over the truck's hood. As she took aim at the damaged zombie, Machiko appeared from behind one of the vans and drilled another zombie in the back with her plasma rifle. She blazed a steady stream into its back and burned through its spine before it could turn and acquire a target. It took a few stumbling steps and collapsed, but continued moving its legs as if trying to walk.
Jack shuddered. "Oh, that shit ain't right." He blasted half his clip into the Revenant’s head, and finally it stopped moving.
The rest opened fire on Corona again, but none of their shots came close.
Then, suddenly, their aim steadied and a hail of bullets peppered her chest plate. She squeaked and dived behind the truck. A damage report appeared in her HUD and she sighed. "I'm okay."
"They cut off wireless access," Taura muttered. "I can't hack their systems now."
"Guess we'll just have to use brute force, then." Corona rolled out into the open, staying prone to make herself a smaller target, and emptied her rifle into the nearest Revenants. Each shot punched through their bodies and blasted huge pieces out of them. The one in the middle was nearly cut in half by one shot, and toppled over. The torso propped itself up on one arm and continued firing.
Corona's last bullet took another's head off, bursting it like a rotten watermelon. She scooted back behind the truck and holstered the empty rifle.
A quick burst from Hoshi's gun drew the remaining zombies' attention back to her, but did little actual damage.
Jack shoved a fresh clip into his gun and stood long enough to fire several rounds into the nearest zombie's back. It faced him and aimed its rifle. Jack dropped back under cover, glanced at Corona and Taura, and shook his head.
"We're gonna need bigger guns."
Last chance to nominate the book. It costs nothing, and gets you a shot at a free copy if it's picked up for publication.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Action-packed excerpt from Project Revenant

... Plus a couple of videos.

First, the feature presentation, a bit of explosive action from Project Revenant. In this one, the three protagonists have engaged a combined force of a mercenary corporation and the titular cyber-zombies, while trying to protect a person of interest.

"They're right behind us," Taura said, facing the rear and staring out the window at the four approaching SUVs. She gripped her gun tighter to steady her shaking hands. "Coming up fast."
A man in armor and a helmet leaned out of the lead car's passenger-side window and aimed an assault rifle at the back of Jack's hearse.
Taura sucked in a quick breath, flopped onto her back, and threw her arms across her face a split-second before a hail of bullets drilled into the back of the car. The window exploded and showered her with tiny pieces of glass.
Jack cursed and glanced into the rearview mirror. "Taura!"
"I'm okay." She brushed the glass off, sat up, and pointed her gun at the SUV. The guy with the rifle ducked back inside. Taura growled softly and held her fire. They were surrounded by midafternoon traffic and pedestrians who could be hit by a stray shot, and the SUV very likely had armor plating and bullet-resistant windows. Even with her armor's targeting-assistance software, she didn't want to risk innocent bystanders being hit by a ricochet.
"Gotta get to an uninhabited area," Corona muttered.
"Trying," Jack grumbled.
A dozen more bullets slammed into the back of his car. He swerved into the oncoming lane and barely missed a freight van before swerving back.
Winslow moaned and gripped the back of Corona's seat.
"Who the hell are those guys?" Jack snarled.
"Private military contractors, I'd guess.” Corona glared through the blown-out window at the pursuing vehicles and bared her fangs. “You'd think they'd give a damn about hitting innocent civilians, though."
"Could be more of the Revenants," Taura said.
"Oh, fantastic." A bullet tore the rearview mirror off and Jack flinched. More bullets ripped into a nearby minivan and it veered into his path. He hit the brakes as it crossed in front of him. He shifted down and punched it. In the corner of his eye, the van got T-boned by a truck in the oncoming lane.
Winslow squeezed his eyes shut and whimpered.
"Bastards," Taura growled. Her huge muscles tensed up and she raised her gun, but hesitated again.
"Machiko," Jack said into his helmet mic, "we're gonna need ambulances and –"
"We're on it. Mickey and Hoshi are monitoring traffic cameras at your location; they saw what just happened. Fire department and ambulances are en route."
"Thanks." He spun the wheel to the left, sending the hearse through the next intersection and almost crushing the front end of a station wagon under its huge tires. "I think we're coming to a clear area."
"I'm giving them something else to shoot at." Corona threw the passenger-side door open and climbed onto the roof.
Jack gaped at her. "What the hell? Corrie!"
"Just get 'em into a place where it's safe to return fire!" She spread her wings, caught the wind, and launched.
Taura caught a glimpse of Corona gliding overhead before returning her attention to their pursuers.
"Oh, shit," Jack muttered. He whipped the car around another turn, slowing just enough to prevent it from rolling, and punched it again. "We're almost there."
Taura nodded, braced her hooves on either side of the door, and aimed out the shattered window. The driver of the lead SUV swerved, clearly expecting her to open fire.
Jack turned another corner and a few seconds later Taura noticed the houses growing more run-down and spaced farther apart. She scanned for heat signatures and found only a few small animals here and there.
Good enough. She lined up a shot on the windshield, directly in front of the driver, and squeezed the trigger. The twelve-millimeter round cracked the glass, but didn't penetrate.
The crosshairs in her HUD moved as she shifted her aim and fired again. This time, the bullet punched through the window and into the driver's face. The body slumped over and the SUV veered off to the right and plowed into a rusted-out station wagon parked on the curb.
Her stomach churned at the thought of having taken a life, but she did her best to push her feelings aside and target the next car. They're trying to kill us. We do what we have to do.
The remaining three SUVs surged ahead, as if their drivers were enraged at what had just happened. A man in a black jumpsuit leaned out the passenger-side window and aimed his rifle.
A metal ring flashed down from above and took the guy's head off. Corona's chakram, Taura realized a split-second later. She continued firing at the vehicle, finally managing to put a bullet through the driver's-side front tire.
The SUV lurched to the right and skidded. Taura unloaded the rest of her clip and blew out the other front tire. The vehicle slammed over the curb and rolled. Taura let out a long, relieved sigh.
Then she gasped and leaned forward.
The driver and another man climbed out of the vehicle. Both wore identical black jumpsuits instead of armor. The last time she'd seen someone dressed like that …
"It's the Revenants, alright." She groaned as she watched them walk over to another parked car and open its doors. "Oh, no, they're stealing someone's car!"
"Those things are starting to piss me off." Jack hit another left turn almost fast enough to flip the car over. Winslow moaned again.
"They're in a red sports car," Taura said. "Gaining fast. So are the other two SUVs." She spoke into her helmet mic. "Corona, keep away from the crashed SUV. The body inside it could blow any moment."
"Got it," Corona replied. "I hope no one is within range."
"Me, too," Taura said softly, almost whispering. Her muscles tensed up as the red car surged toward her. "Jack, they're almost –"
"Taura," Jack yelled, "get up here and hold onto something!"
"What are you doing?"
"Hurry! I've got an idea." He waited for her to take the passenger seat, then he hit the brakes and wrenched the steering wheel to the left. The car skidded and shot into an alley.
He jammed his feet down on the brakes and the car slid to a stop three car lengths into the alley.
"What the hell're you doing?" Winslow moaned.
"Hang on."
Taura braced her hands against the dashboard.
The red hotrod screeched around the corner and into the alley – and slid right under the hearse's left rear tire. Jack grinned, shoved the gear shift into reverse, and backed over the hotrod's hood. The two men bailed out just as the windshield shattered under the huge tire. They immediately charged, one on either side of his car.
Jack shifted back into first and popped the clutch before either of them could reach the doors and yank them open.
Taura glanced over her shoulder in time to see both men raise their guns and start blazing away again. She flinched as more bullets sprayed the back of the hearse.
"Those fuckers are fast." Jack grimaced and shifted up. "I was hoping I'd squish 'em before they could get out."
Taura caught a glimpse of Corona gliding over the alley as the two pursuers ran after the hearse. Taura put her crosshairs on the nearer one's head and squeezed the trigger. Her shot punched through his left eye and ripped the back of his head off.
He staggered, but remained on his feet and continued the chase.
Taura shuddered and lined up another shot.
In the distance, a pair of sharp thumps shook the ground – the zombies she and Corona had taken out, exploding and taking all the physical evidence with them.
Another SUV skidded into the alley and smashed the hotrod aside.
Corona dropped down behind the second zombie and tackled him. Taura's heart tried to jump into her throat.
Jack glanced into the rearview mirror, gasped, and stomped on the brakes.
Corona lifted her opponent, spun, and threw him into the SUV's path. He cracked the windshield and the vehicle swerved into the side of the building on the right.
A third SUV appeared at the end of the alley.
The damaged zombie turned to face Corona.
Jack hit the release on his seatbelt and threw himself out of the car. He ran full-speed toward Corona and the zombies, and Taura followed, overtaking him easily and tackling one of the Revenants as it approached Corona.
Corrie whipped her katana out and held it in her right hand while gripping her pistol in her left. She blasted a round into her zombie's head, taking the rest of it off, and her muzzle dropped open when it continued marching straight at her. She pumped four more rounds into its chest and it finally collapsed.
Taura emptied her clip into another zombie and let out a shuddering moan when it didn't fall. She backed up and shoved a fresh clip in.
A third Revenant got within Corona's reach and she swung her blade into its neck. The blade sliced clean through – until it struck the alloy-reinforced spine and stopped dead. She fired a bullet into its left eye socket, braced her foot on its chest, and pulled her sword out.
Jack punched a half-dozen shots through the one advancing on Taura, turned as it fell to its knees, and drilled the one Corrie had just tried to decapitate. "Get back to the car! I'm gonna try something."
"Not without you," both of them said.
"I'll be right behind you." He pulled a grenade from his belt. "Hurry!"
They glanced at each other and backed away slowly, keeping their guns aimed at the remaining zombies.
"Whatever you're gonna do," Corona muttered, and Jack pulled the pin before she could finish.
He chucked the grenade under the SUV that had plowed into the building and turned to face them.
They bolted back to the hearse. Taura glanced over her shoulder just as the grenade ripped the SUV apart and blew what was left of it into the air. The concussion knocked the zombies off their feet and slammed Taura into the back of the car. She shook her head quickly and pulled the back door open.
Jack climbed in and gripped the steering wheel. Corona squeezed into the shotgun seat and turned to stare out the rear window.
"I'm not sure if that high-pitched whine is the zombies' self-destruct or just my ears ringing from the explosion," Taura muttered as she pulled the door shut.
Jack popped the clutch and the hearse screeched through the alley. "We're not waiting for 'em to start going off like popcorn."
Taura glanced through the rear window as one of the zombies climbed over the wreckage of the SUV.
Seconds after Jack spoke, the first disabled Revenant blew, shredding several others and sending them tumbling across the pavement.
A second one blasted a hole in the building on the left.
Several more explosions shook the ground. Taura hadn't counted how many were still active when the first one had gone off, but all were within each other's blast radius. They had to be toast, by now.
Jack slowed to check for pedestrians and traffic before easing out of the alley and accelerating. Taura kept listening for sounds of pursuit, and finally allowed herself to relax. She sighed and slumped against the wall.
"You okay, girls?" Jack said softly.
"I'll be better when this is over," Corona muttered, "But yeah, I'm okay."
Taura took a deep breath and glanced at her shaking hands. "I'll recover." She looked at Jack.
Corona put a hand on his shoulder.
He nodded. "I'm hanging in there, I guess." He patted her hand, met Taura's gaze in the mirror and smiled, and focused on the street ahead. "Let's get to the safe house before anything else goes wrong."

Only three days left in the campaign to toss it a nomination and receive a free copy if it's picked up for publication.

Now for a couple of videos. I ended up not making one for Project Revenant because hardly anyone ever watches my videos. One of them from a few weeks ago finally hit four views, and most of them get one or two. So I realized there was no point. If I can eventually build up an audience, then it'd be worth doing, but for now, there are more effective things to spend my time on.

Such as the writing discussion video I mentioned in a recent post, which I finally managed to upload. I've got another in the same series and one in the How Not to Tell a Story series, but I still need to convert the raw files into a smaller format and do some editing before I upload them. Coming soon, though.

For now, here's the latest one I've been able to upload.

And here's the one mentioned in the previous post, which I did just for fun. After finally hitting level 120 in GTA Online and unlocking the minigun, I just had to play with my new toy for a few minutes. The audio quality is still horrible. I keep setting the volume down, but it still drowns my voice out. Maybe I'll get it right one of these days. Anyway, here's my character taking care of business with her new best friend. She calls him Edgar. XD

[Edited to actually add the video in. Forgot to do it before posting this. *headdesk*]

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Just for fun ...

Finally ranked up enough in GTA Online to unlock the minigun, so I just had to take a few minutes to play with my new toy. And holy shit, is it ever satisfying to use. Think I've found a new favorite video-game weapon.

So here's a few screenshots of my character taking care of business with her new rotary cannon. :D

And now, back to work. Gotta see if I can finish the chapter that I've been trying to finish for a couple of days. After that, some editing on the video these screenshots were taken from, and then uploading it ....

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tense scene from Project Revenant

Going from humor to suspense, a wee bit of action, and a glimpse at the mysterious powers awakening in one of the protagonists' friends, here's another snippet from Project Revenant, now nearing the end of its Kindle Scout campaign. If you haven't done so already, hop on over to its Scout page, check out the sample, and if you like it and want to see the full book, nominate away. If it gets enough votes, it'll be published and readers who nominated it will receive a free copy.

"What about our other guest?" Shadow said.
"He's still in the lounge on the third floor." Hoshi tapped the side of her head. "I'm linked with the security system. I've got him on-camera at all times."
"Good." Shadow crossed her arms over her chest and scowled at the floor. "I hope his information is accurate. Hope he's worth protecting."
"We'll find out once Jack and the girls find those files."
"Yeah." Shadow sighed. "I can't believe I let that weasel put his dick in me."
Rocky rested her hand on Shadow's shoulder and opened her beak, but before she could say anything, Hoshi frowned and cocked her head.
"Hold on. We've got a proximity alert."
Otto raised an eyebrow. "What does –"
"The outside cameras are tracking four incoming SUVs. One is parking in front of our building, the second in the lot beside us, the third in the alley behind us, and the fourth on the street opposite the lot."
"Shit!" Rocky snapped. "The last time this happened, Ralphie got shot in the chest and our whole building got blown to hell." She nudged Shadow's shoulder and pointed at Otto, Shakira, and Hiro. "They're probably here for Winslow. Get these three out of here. We'll evac Winslow."
"I'm not leaving Lola." Hiro planted himself beside her.
"You don't work here. You're a civilian – and a kid."
Ramirez touched his arm. "Hiro, please, do as she says."
"I've been combat-ready since the moment I came out of the tank. I can help."
Rocky sighed. "We don't have time to argue. Lola, you and Enrique try to keep him from getting his head blown off while the rest of us deal with this." She turned to Hoshi. "We'll grab Winslow and head for the armory."
"Shit," Shakira moaned.
Otto glanced at her and saw her eyes darting back and forth. Uh-oh, she's starting to panic. He frowned, wondering why he wasn't on the verge of pissing himself in sheer terror. Maybe it was because this simply didn't seem like it could really be happening.
He grasped her hand and she looked sharply at him.
"Easy." He smiled. "Don't lose your head."
She took a slow breath. "Right. Sure." She pulled her hand away. "Let's go."
He took one step forward before the elevator doors parted – with no one anywhere near them.
"Heat signatures," Hoshi snapped, reaching out to grab Hiro. "They're cloaked. Take cover." She shoved him behind her desk.
The air inside the elevator rippled and Otto backed away, bumping into Shakira. He glanced up and found her staring straight ahead, trembling, a sudden upsurge of fear preventing her from thinking clearly.
"Get down!" Rocky yelled, whipping out her hand cannon and aiming it down the hallway.
Otto lunged, plowing into Shakira and shoving her out of the doorway.
A muzzle flash appeared to erupt from empty air in front of the elevator. More followed, seemingly in slow motion as she tumbled to the floor.
Something slammed into his right side and a weird tingling sensation spread through his chest before he managed to get clear of the doorway.
Behind him, Rocky cried out and staggered backward, but was still able to keep shooting.
Otto hit the floor and scooted over to the wall, flinching at each gunshot.
Several seconds passed before he realized that his back was touching the wall – his actual skin, without a shirt between it and the metal.
What the hell?
Before he could give it any thought, Hoshi backed past him, blasting away, ejecting the spent clip and inserting a fresh one in a single motion, and continued firing.
"Fall back." A bullet struck her forehead, blasting a piece of artificial skin off and revealing the alloy skull beneath. She didn't even blink.
The cell block door opened again. Hoshi twitched her head toward it. "Go."
The air beside Otto rippled, looking like heat waves. Even though he couldn’t see more than an indistinct shape, he sensed someone turning to stare momentarily at him.
He lunged forward, thrust his right hand out, and his palm contacted something metal. Another tingling sensation rushed through his whole body and down his arm, concentrating in his palm – and a black flash burst out of his hand and briefly outlined an armor-clad man. The jolt rocketed the intruder into the far wall, leaving a dent in it. The black glow faded, leaving random parts of the man's armor phasing in and out of sight, its systems damaged by whatever the hell had overwhelmed them.
"What the hell?" Otto stared, slack-jawed, and shook his head slowly. What did I just do? And how? And how did I know how to do it?
A hand grasped his arm and he jerked his head to the right, flinching and raising his other hand. He found Rocky leaning over him, hauling him to his feet and clamping her other hand over her left breast.
Blood seeped between her talons.
"Get under cover," she grunted.
Hoshi fired one last shot and her gun's slide locked in the open position. She dropped it without hesitation and charged into the hallway.
Otto peeked around the corner and found her grappling with another distortion in the air. It lifted her off her feet and slammed her into the wall, but she kept her grip. She braced her feet on the wall and pushed, ramming the cloaked intruder into the opposite wall. She spun and rammed him into the wall again, shifted her grip, turned and bent over, and the humanoid-shaped distortion flipped over her and crashed to the floor. Hoshi crouched over the rippling shape, grasped part of it, and gave it a quick, violent twist.
Bones crunched and the sigh of a final breath faded into silence. Hoshi turned, scowling, looking around, and finally stood.
"No more heat signatures detected." She picked up the rifle he'd dropped and slung it over her shoulder.
"What the hell happened?" Hiro said.
"They slipped in while our attention was on the SUVs. These can't be the only ones." She glanced around at the others. "Everyone alright?"
"I don't think the bullet hit anything vital." Rocky leaned against the wall, keeping her hand pressed over her wound. "Feels like it didn't even get through my … well …" She looked at Otto. 
Otto stared back at her. She doesn't look surprised. It's like she already knew about … well, whatever the hell’s going on with me.
He glanced around and found his shirt, pants, underwear, socks, and shoes piled in the doorway. He glanced down at himself and gasped.
"What the hell is going on? Why the hell am I naked?" He picked up his shirt and gaped at the holes in it, where the bullet had passed through.
"Just a guess," Shadow said, "but when you phased through that bullet, letting it pass harmlessly through your body, you also phased through your clothes." She picked up the other hostile's discarded rifle and aimed a shaky smirk at Otto. "You never did get the hang of that."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Trembling, heart pounding, he turned to Shakira and wondered which of them looked more horrified. "What that hell am I?"
"That can wait. We're not in the clear yet." Hoshi marched toward the elevator. "Let's get moving.”

There are only five days until the campaign closes -- five days to help the book get published and receive your free copy ....

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Funny scene from Project Revenant

Here's another snippet from my latest novel, Project Revenant. The Kindle Scout campaign ends in nine days, but there's still time to nominate the book. If it gets enough votes, it'll be published, and everyone who nominated it will receive a free advance copy

In the following scene, Jack Hammer and his bioengineered girlfriends, on a case for the Justice Foundation, attempt to question a suspect who doesn't exactly have an overabundance of brainpower.

"Casey Smith?" Jack held his ID up.
"Huh?" The suspect stared at Jack with a dull, slack-jawed expression, as if barely able to comprehend what was in front of him. His mullet, mustache, and four buck teeth didn't make him look any smarter. "Who the hell are you?"
"We're with the Justice Foundation." Jack nodded over his shoulder at Taura, who smiled politely and held up her ID. "We need to ask you a few questions."
His dull eyes opened a little more, taking on the deer-in-the-headlights look. "Uh. Sure. Okay." His gaze turned shifty-eyed, and Jack swore he could hear the gears turning in the guy's head. Rusty gears that had all but seized up from a lifetime of disuse, but still.
He's gonna bolt. Jack prepared to shove his boot through the doorway.
Smith slammed the door. Jack lunged and it hit his foot. Smith turned to run, but Jack threw the door open and bounced it into him. Smith stumbled forward, dashed around the front counter of his used-parts shop, and paused to topple over a shelf packed with circuit boards, memory modules, and other components.
Taura vaulted over the counter and swiped at him. He ducked and she missed him by a fraction of an inch. He ran through the door behind the counter and tried to slam it in her face, but she forced it open with a casual push. The door hit him with enough force to send him staggering to the end of the hallway.
Jack hopped over the shelf and charged after them. He caught up with Taura as she and Smith raced around the corner and down another hallway to a door leading into the alley behind the shop.
"Back door," Taura said into her comlink.
"On it," Corona answered.
Smith yanked the door open and launched himself through it. He turned to the left and ran through the alley.
Corona dropped from a rooftop across the alley and came down in a three-point landing ten feet ahead of him. He let out a terrified shriek and tripped over his own feet, pitched forward, and ate shit just as Taura and Jack caught up to him.
Corona remained in a crouch and waited for Smith to pick himself up. When he looked up at her, she grinned, bearing her sharp, pointed teeth. Smith tried to scream, but what came out was more of a really loud sigh.
"Going somewhere?" Corona stood and flexed her huge muscles.
He turned to run to the opposite end of the alley, but found Jack and Taura blocking his path.
Jack pulled a zip-tie from his pocket. "No, he's not."

Check out Project Revenant's Kindle Scout page to read the full first chapter plus a sample of the second. And remember, with enough nominations it'll be published and readers will score a free copy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Modified version of the Uncharted Territory cover image

Still fiddling around with the cover image for Uncharted Territory. Thought it needed something in that huge, empty space in the middle, so I picked up another stock image, copied the spaceship out, and pasted it over the background. Not sure if it's an improvement. The ship looks pretty obviously 'shopped in. It was even worse originally, but I darkened the ship a little and made it blend in a bit better ... but I'm still not sure it works. But maybe that's because I know it was added in ... maybe it's not as noticeable for anyone else ....

On other stuff ... going to record one or two more videos tonight, one for the ME2 Writing Discussion and the other for my How Not to Tell a Story series. Also working on notes for the Kindle Scout video and hoping the campaign doesn't end before I actually get it finished. Might just do the writing discussion video and then focus on the notes, depending on how things go tonight.

And finally, going to make another attempt at uploading the video that got borked by the power outage ....

Delays and power outages and equipment malfunctions, oh my!

So, I was planning to make a video for the Project Revenant Kindle Scout campaign, but a bunch of real-life stuff got in the way. Still hoping to get it done sometime in the next few days, but since I've spent most of my life being Murphy's Law's favorite chew toy, there's no guarantee that something else might derail it.

Couple days ago, my keyboard (a backlit mechanical keyboard that I got four or five years ago and absolutely loved) went haywire. Couldn't type anything, and random characters started appearing in the browser's address bar and the text field of my word processor. I figured a reboot would clear it up, but when the login screen came up, the computer wouldn't even recognize the keyboard. I found my old keyboard in the closet and plugged it in, and the computer wouldn't recognize it, either. Rebooted again, and nothing changed. Kept trying to get into the accessibility options and bring the on-screen keyboard up so I could at least boot the computer, but it kept freezing each time. Reboot, try again, freeze, reboot, repeat. Finally managed to get it to work, typed in the password, and the computer booted. It still wouldn't recognize the keyboard, so I had to keep repeatedly unplugging it and plugging it back in. Finally got it working, but only after spending most of the day on it.

Needless to say, all of that kind of fucked up my fung-shui.

Last night I decided to record another video in my Mass Effect 2 Playthrough and Writing Discussion series, going through the Horizon mission and getting rather frustrated at getting beat to death multiple times by husks. Then I recorded another in the How Not to Tell a Story series, discovering in the process that the crash last time wiped out a lot of the progress I'd made and set me back to just after I finished the first conversation with Battletits in the Citadel docking area. So I'll need to edit that one and cut out a huge chunk where I basically had to go through the same cutscenes from the previous video to catch up to where the last one left off.

And then the game crashed while I was upgrading some weapons. Second time in a row Mass Effect 3 has crashed while doing one of these videos. If it keeps happening, maybe I can turn it into a humorous bit of business to finish each video with. When it happened last time, the capture software continued long enough to record me saying, "The fucking game crashed!" just before it cut off. And this time, it kept going long enough for me to realize the game had frozen, and cut off right after I snarled, "Goddamn it!" So I might actually be able to turn that to my advantage if it keeps happening.

Last night I started uploading the Writing Discussion video, and left it running overnight. Still had about three hours to go this morning. Then a thunderstorm hit and the power got knocked out for a split-second, just long enough to shut the computer down. This was a nearly nine-gigabyte file I was uploading, and it was about ten minutes from completion when the power cut out, and I can't resume the upload. I'll have to start over. And because my internet provider limits upload/download to 100 gigabytes every month, by the time I finally get the video uploaded, I will have used up almost 20% of my monthly allotment ... and half of it was for nothing.

Anyway ... here's a look at the image I'm using for the video's thumbnail.

In other news, I'm playing around with a new version of the Uncharted Territory cover image. There's a big empty space in the middle of the image, so I'm trying to insert a spacecraft into it. Got a stock image with a ship flying over a landscape, copied the ship out, inserted it into the cover, and now I'm delicately erasing everything except the ship and hoping it won't end up looking like shit. And of course, I was also in the middle of that when the power cut.

So that's a snippet of what's going on right now. I've probably forgotten a few things I was planning to mention here. Soon as I post this, I'm pouring yet another cup of coffee and hoping it'll overcome the effects of the rampant insomnia I've been going through during the last few months. >_<