Category Archives: novel writing

AeroQuest 3… Canto 76

Canto 76 –Practicing Practical Practices

Ged had begun to feel at ease with the strange ninja powers he had absorbed by eating the Black Spider Leader while in the form of a dinosaur.  He was a master of The Discipline now.  Back on Earth in the time before travel between the stars, this Discipline had been known as K’ung Fu.  The Black Spider Leader had mastered the jump-kicks of WuShu and the graceful, swift hand-to-hand combat known as Wing Chung.  Because the skill had been trained into The Black Spider Leader’s muscle memory, Ged had absorbed it whole, even if he did not have the philosophies that were supposed to go with it.  One thing he liked about it, though, was that it allowed him to defeat and overpower an opponent without doing permanent damage.  Ged had never loved killing the way Trav Dalgoda loved it.  He always preferred the bloodless victory, whether over man or beast.  The prey was always to be honored and respected.  And the prey was not to be stalked if it was not capable of self-defense.

In the heart of the Celestial Dragon was a large, gym-like room that was perfect for giving students lessons in the art of the Discipline.  It had a soft, forgiving floor, plenty of room, and a pair of bathing pools that provided purified water for drinking or bathing.  It was in this room which Ged now called the Practice Center that he was trying to impart his skills to Shu Kwai, Junior, Billy Iowa, and Rocket Rogers.  The Phoenix and Hassan Parker sat at the side, both cross-legged, watching with great interest.

“The simplest form of this move is a shield, making it an effective block to the offensive strikes I have shown you,” said Ged, demonstrating an arc of the right arm in a circle to his right side.

“You know,” said Phoenix, “Master Bres taught Alec and me a very similar stroke, but it led to a killing strike to the neck or groin.”

Ged looked grimly at the red-haired boy.  “I prefer not to attach that sort of thing to this move, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh, I don’t mind.  I think I prefer your way,” said Phoenix with a smug grin.  “It will prolong the battle and make things much closer.  You know, more challenging.”

“It allows you to protect yourself without killing,” reminded Ged.  The other boys all looked at him with questioning faces.

“If Alec were here, he’d say it protects you better to end it quickly.  Bres would say that the kill is the only worthy goal.”

“I would rather not be compared to Bres, if you don’t mind.”

Phoenix smiled a more genuine smile.  “You don’t have to convince me, sensei.  You are much better at this than the new Black Spider Leader.  It is because your motives are so much purer than his, I think.”

“Thank you.”

Ged allowed Billy Iowa to try an offensive strike.  Four times he deflected it easily.  The move worked.

“Practice with your partner,” said Ged. 

Shu Kwai paired himself with Rocket.  Junior squared off with Billy.  All four of them were dressed simply in loin covers and tabai boots.  Rocket also wore his ever-present cowboy hat.  Ged watched bare arms and legs flashing as they worked on the technique.  All four boys were distinctly different from each other.  Shu’s skin was yellow-orange in the Gaijinese manner.  Rocket was a pale peach color like Ged himself.  Billy was Indian bronze, while Junior was blue.  Still, Ged couldn’t help but marvel at how they meshed together whenever they tried to accomplish the same goal.

“You know,” said Ged, “It is our differences that make us strong as a whole.  We are blessed by being different, complementing each other.”

            Phoenix laughed.  “Is that wisdom, sensei?”

“I hope it is,” said Ged, somewhat sheepishly.  It wasn’t easy to tell if he’d really won Phoenix over or not.  The boy was more dangerous than the others, his Galtorrian lizard eyes so much harder to read.

Suddenly there was a loud fwooping noise.  Two more students appeared in the Practice Center.  They were both naked and connected to each other in the most embarrassing way possible.  It was a deeply blushing Alec Songh with a writhing, moaning Jadalaqstbr held in his arms.

Ged was a little shocked, to say the least.

“What is going on here?” asked Shu Kwai, immediately incensed at what he saw.  Rocket and Billy couldn’t help but giggle.  Junior looked on with fascination.

“Ooops!” said Alec.  “I guess it’s pretty obvious what is going on.”  He pulled away from the girl, trying to cover his embarrassment with his hands.  “What I’m wondering is how we ended up here?”

As young Jackie came to her senses again, she couldn’t help but blush deeply also.  “I guess I lost control of my power.  I’m so sorry, Alec.”

“Hmm,” said Ged.  “I believe this is a breakthrough, although I would’ve preferred to find it out a different way.”

“What do you mean, sensei?” asked Shu Kwai.

“Well, we did not know before it was possible for a Psion like Jackie to teleport two people,” said Ged.  “We need to know if it can be done again.”

“I’m sorry, sensei,” said Jadalaqstbr.  “I was so overpowered by a new experience that I didn’t know what I was doing.  My inner eye activated almost by itself.”

“Can you teleport back to the room you were in, get your clothes on, and both come back here again?”

“I don’t know,” said the embarrassed girl.  “Do you think we have to be doing the same thing on the way back?”

“Yes!” said Rocket.  “Try that again!”

Jackie blushed.

“No,” said Ged.  “Hold onto him and try to take him with you.”

The girl gingerly took hold of Alec’s arms again.  The fwooping sounded again and the two students were gone as suddenly as they had come.

“Should you have let them go like that?” asked Shu Kwai.  “Don’t you think they need to be punished for what they were doing?”

Ged shook his head.  Perhaps Shu was right.  Still, who was Ged to judge the guilt of others in this area?  “We cannot punish them for being humanoid.  I will talk with Alec about it, but it is really a thing between their consciences and themselves.”

In a few more moments, the two children reappeared, this time fully clothed from head to toe.  It was obvious they had felt quite mortified by their experience.  Jadalaqstbr had demonstrated before that teleporting with clothes on was not difficult.

“Before the lectures begin,” said Alec with a frown, “I want to tell you, sensei, that I love her.  I am not just defying you.  And, Shu, it’s none of your frakking business what Jackie and I do.”

“I love him too, sensei,” said Jadalaqstbr.  “He didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to do.”

Ged nodded.  “We need to have a private discussion.  This class is dismissed for now.”

The boys all filed away, Alec and Jackie staying behind to face the music.  Alec had a look of determined defiance on his face.  The music would have to be about birds and bees, and right and wrong.  Ged knew what a parent and teacher would have to say in this situation, his mother had once had this discussion with Ham and Ged.  It wasn’t going to make things any easier for any of them, though, especially Ged.

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The End Shall Come…

As a novelist in poor health, every time I start a new story, already worked out in my head or not, it becomes a race to finish. My time is limited because I simply cannot last for very much longer. My body is failing, and each step on the path of life hurts and is hard to take. Like Icarus above, I am flying dangerously high and possibly too near the Sun. The novel The Boy… Forever, in which Icarus Jones is the key character, is swiftly coming to a close. The villain has already died the first time, and the hero is approaching the orb of the Sun. I am hoping to have it published within a month of right now, and hopefully long enough before my own rendezvous with the Son comes to pass.

This will be book number fourteen that I have published. It is already four novels more than I had realistically believed I could publish before six incurable diseases and the prospect of cancer, heart attack, and stroke that I have lived with since 2000 all does me in.

Ironically, this book that I am racing to finish before I die is about characters who are immortal, or make themselves immortal by consuming the essence of other immortals. And, of course, it is also another Pirate novel, feature the Norwall, Iowa 4H softball team and liars’ club that has a part in most of my other novels whether they are set in the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s.

Brent Clarke is the leader of the Norwall Pirates.
Anita Jones, Icarus’s cousin, is one of the novel’s four narrators.

The novel is currently 49,685 words in 160 formatted pages. It will be finished by about 52,000 words. I hope to have it complete by the middle of next week.

Further I figure to start another novel project immediately afterwards. Who knows how many more I can achieve before the end shall come.

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AeroQuest 3… Canto 71

Canto 71 – In the Belly of the Dragon (the White Thread)

Inside the massive ancient device shaped like a dragon, the students of Ged Aero discovered a long corridor and a number of rooms that looked like the inside of a spaceship, yet not like any spaceship any of them had ever entered.

“It’s something like a Nebulon Space Whale,” said Gyro. “The walls and floors and ceilings are all made of pliable materials that bend and warp as the artificial creature moves, yet I can sense that it is entirely unliving in the same way as something made of stone or rigid metal.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty weird in here,” said little Mai Ling.

“Junior?  Are you still in telepathic contact with its artificial mind?” Ged asked.

“Yes, Sensei.  But it is complex.  It thinks in algorithms faster than I can learn from it.”

“We have to master this wonderful thing,” said Phoenix.  “It is the most elegant and brilliant travel machine I have ever seen.”

“Where is the control center… the bridge for the ship?” asked Shu Kwai.

“Directly above us,” answered Junior, straining to keep up with the flood of input from his unique form of telepathy.

“Can you find the way in?” asked Sara.

“I think I can open it.”

Red, blue, and yellow lights flashed in pulsating patterns along the red-brown walls.  Then a hidden hatchway opened above their heads.  A ladder that was made of some sort of high-tech bone or stone dropped to the floor.

“Permission to lead the way?” asked Billy.  “I can use my clairvoyance to see what’s ahead.”

“Yes, Billy-san, lead the way,” said Ged with a satisfied smile.

Billy Iowa climbed like squirrel monkey, zipping up through the hole in the ceiling in almost no time.  Then he signaled the others to follow.  One by one they all scaled the ladder and entered the large control room of the dragon ship.

It was a room shaped like the top of the dragon’s head in the carved statue of the dragon gate that existed outside and all around the ancient device.

“This will be such a shame to shatter the walls and city gate in order to use this spaceship,” Ged muttered, intending to talk to himself mainly.

“As far as I can tell, we don’t have to destroy the gate or walls to free the dragon from them.  It is showing me a schematic that suggests the whole thing teleports from here out into space.  The structure of the city walls and gate were built to remain standing when the dragon leaves.  It can also return and hide in the same place.”  Junior had answered in an almost mechanical way.

“Junior?  Do you need to rest your telepathy a bit?” suggested Sara.

“Um, well… let me do two more things first.”

The panels where the dragon’s eyes were located on the outside of the gate suddenly irised open, though nothing could be seen through them.  The six holes in the ceiling that then opened up each lowered a helmet attached to a long, glowing filament that tethered it to the computerized brain above.

“What are these for?” asked Hassan.

Junior fell to his knees, practically exhausted to the point of unconsciousness.

“Junior!”  Sara took hold of him and cradled him on her lap on the control-room floor.

“We… we are going to have to experiment.  So much of this is too complicated for me to understand without a great deal of study.”  Junior closed his eyes, and was immediately asleep.

“So, when do we move our stuff from the Palace into this thing?” asked Alec.

“There is no hurry.  We need to give Junior time to learn this thing’s complicated operations.  And we need to explore the whole of the ship.  We cannot simply jump into a thing like this and take off.  We don’t even know yet where we must go.  Somebody is going to have to study those damned books of prophecy too.” Ged surveyed the faces of his students.  Freddy, Rocket, Phoenix, and Billy had started grinning at each other when Ged had mentioned the word, “explore”.  Gyro was lost in thought examining a helmet. Hassan was looking about with a bored expression. Jackie, Mai Ling, Taffy, and Sara were all gathered around Junior and tending to him or lending concern.  Only Alec was glaring back at Ged.

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AeroQuest 3… Adagio 13

Adagio 13 – The Pathfinders

It was difficult enough to piece the whole story together before Artran left his parents, but it’s about to become even more difficult to follow.  Let me try to straighten you out about the plot of this history.  Well, maybe straighten out isn’t such a good term.   It’s more like having a giant Gordian Knot of colored pipe cleaners without being able to cut it apart with a sword.  Instead, you have to follow the ins and outs of the different colored strands and try like hell to make out how it all fits together.  That is by way of analogy, mind you.  Don’t go thinking that this entire history is made of literal pipe cleaners. 

The thing is, it started out as a straight-forward tale with two brothers leaving Imperial space because of persecution.  They were determined to make a new and better home somewhere out in unknown space. 

It’s surprising, though, how quickly the unknown becomes a part of the known, and how the known can become a heavy anchor that pulls you back to weighty things. 

When Ged sent Ham in the wrong direction, back into the Galtorr Imperium, we have the first fork in the plot.  Then came the Corsairs’ determination to work together, all except for the evil Monopoly Brigade, and then, following that, Tron and Arkin and Razor and the rest all get split up again.  More forks in the path.  In fact, everything gets pretty much all forked up.

I see the story going plot-wise in two directions at once, then with a couple of curly-cues, a loop-the-loop, and a full back flip.  It gets even more complicated as Dr. Hooey and the Time Knights get involved.  I mean, they started meddling with events themselves, backwards and forwards in time.  It gets pretty hairy in an ugly, back-hair sort of way.

So, even though I started this chapter in my history as a way to clarify how and where things are going, I am more confused than ever myself.  You’ll have to forgive me.

Anyway, little Artran leaving his parents for the first time is important because of the result.  He would fly off from the impending Battle of Outpost and into history as one of the most important explorers since Martin Faulkner himself.  You’ll see what I mean as the story goes along, that is, if I don’t get so balled up in it that I meet myself going the opposite way and forget to tell you that part.

This is not just a record of the doings of the famous safari masters, Ged and Ham Aero.   It is not just a record of the rebellion by pirates and politicians.  It is a story of how a small boy gets separated from his parents and discovers worlds undreamed of in our philosophy.  Oh, and don’t forget about the “Teachers in Space” parts of the story.  That’s important too.

But this Adagio is entitled “Pathfinders” for a reason.  Admittedly, not a very good reason, as the path is very hard to follow.  But hang in there.  The story gets better later.  I promise.  For one thing, I myself, Professor Googol Marou, am about to enter this story.

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Marketing is My Bane

It’s a good book. It is themed with an interesting idea about hopes and dreams, happiness and sorrow, and life and death. I believe people will like it if they try reading it. In fact, it could become popular if people would allow themselves to fall in love with it and promote it by word of mouth.

The problem is, of course, that even though I am a good writer and storyteller, I suck at marketing.

Seriously, I worked with editors on Catch a Falling Star who had experience with major publishing houses. They told me that my book was competent and better than a lot of very successful novels that were not written with the skill that mine was. The problem that I ran into was how expensive that method was and how little help they actually gave me with the marketing part that was theoretically supposed to make the money back. The professional editing was worth the money. The marketing investment was not.

Amazon and KDP is a free publishing service, but it is almost not worth the price either.

It comes with the stigma of being an Indie writer, so, by definition, a hack who is not very good at writing. There are literally millions of books self-published by people just like me that go a long way towards validating that assumption. So, skill at writing is something to be proven through the actual written product, which is really hard to do if nobody is willing to read your book.

Every review I have gotten on my books so far is a five-star review. Of course, that means little when there are so few reviews. All the reviewers could simply be over-enthusiastic author-likers. And the trolls and the harsh critics haven’t taken their stabs yet.

So, I am stuck trying to brainstorm promotional strategies that I am well enough and financially sound enough to carry out. And all of those my stormy brained has lightning-bolted out so far have been failures. I don’t know how to break through the ice sheet to be noticed. And not even global warming seems to be helping. Ah, well… que sera sera… what will be will be.

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AeroQuest 3… Canto 67

Canto 67 – Scaling the Dragon (This Canto has been re-ordered in the re-write.)

The Dragon Gate of the city of Kiro, Gaijin, was a huge carving of an oriental dragon’s head which allowed a fairly good sized caravan to pass through its open mouth and into the city all at once.  The shoulders of the dragon were carved from the south side of the gate in the immense city wall that, like a coiled serpent, circled the city and ended in a gigantic tail that rose up like a tower on the northern side of the gate.  The carved dragon itself snarled in that crazed oriental manner and was colored red with gold trim edging each and every individual scale.

Ged and his students walked there and stood looking up at the edifice.

“Is it hollow?” blond Rocket Rogers asked from under the brim of his white cowboy hat.

“No, stupid, it’s obviously one solid piece,” sneered Alec Songh.

“Shut up, Alec!” shouted Friashqazatla.  Freddy had become Rocket’s shadow, following him everywhere and imitating everything about him.  His worshipful friendship had become indispensable to Rocket.

“How will we get inside?” asked Shu Kwai, ignoring the bickering and concentrating on the problem at hand.

“Can Jadalaqstbr do it for us?” asked Hassan Parker innocently.  Hassan was still nude in protest for the group’s rejection of his Classical Worlds’ notions.  He wore only the blue felt fez he always had on his head.

“She might teleport inside a solid part, not being able to see inside,” said Sensei Aero.  “We don’t want to lose her.”

Jackie stood close beside Alec Songh, blushing as they talked about her, in spite of her dark brown skin.

“Can a clairvoyant look inside?” asked Billy Iowa, pushing up the front of the brim of his own cowboy hat.

“Maybe…” murmured Phoenix.  His green snake eyes glazed over for a moment, and then he awoke from his brief trance.  “No.  I can’t see through some sort of fog inside this dragon.”

“What is it that we think is here?” asked Sarah Smith.  The Gaijinese sunshine made her blond hair and snow-white body suit glow with reflected light.

“An alien artifact from the time of the Ancients,” said Ged distractedly, studying the eyes of the great beast.

“Possibly a space ship,” offered Phoenix.

“Some of the other artifacts we’ve encountered had a sort of mind of their own,” stated Ged, more to himself than to his students.

“Should I try to detect a mind?” asked Sarah sweetly.

“She’s a powerful telepath,” added Junior Aero.

While Ged was thinking, Alec Songh put his hands on Jadalaqstbr once again.  She melted up against him and began to softly coo with pleasure.

“Alec!” said Shu Kwai sternly.  Alec let go of her, both body and mind.  He and Shu had talked at length about what was acceptable White Spider behavior in a public place.  Seducing someone was not one of things that Shu was willing to allow.

“All right, Sarah.  Perhaps that is a good idea,” said Ged at last.  He remembered how telepathic Tara had been able to use the Hammer to create an entire downport on Don’t Go Here

Sarah put her forefingers to her temples and began to concentrate.  “Oh!” she said, almost immediately.  “It is a dark and powerful mind!  I can’t even get close to it!”

Junior took hold of her shoulders, concerned that she might somehow be hurt.  His intentions, however, were turned inside out by the dark red mind that came flooding into his inner eye.  Swirling patterns of circuitry and resistors flooded into his brain.  A series of controls formed in his mind.  Stunned, Junior blinked at the others and said, “I have it.”

“What do you mean?” asked Ged.

“It is a machine,” said Junior.  “I can make it work by telepathy.”  He concentrated for a moment on the controls arrayed before him in his inner eye.  Red-gold-green-red.  The mechanisms awoke for the first time in a million years.

With a rumble, the carven upper jaw of the dragon splintered and the roof of the huge mouth fell out, shattering on the pavement below.  A long, thin lower jaw dropped down from the great carven head.  The tongue rippled itself into a sort of stairway leading up into the dark throat.  The dragon had come to life and now was offering to swallow them if they only decided to take the stairway.

Cautiously, Ged led the way.  Rocket Rogers, then Shu Kwai followed him.  Looking slightly panicked, Taffy King scanned the others and then followed Rocket up the tongue-stair.  Friashqazatla went next.  Then Billy Iowa and timid Gyro.  Holding hands, Alec Songh and Jadalaqstbr went up.  Phoenix, Hassan Parker, and little Mai Ling followed.  Finally, Sarah looked at Junior Aero, who had opened this hatch, smiled, and led him, too, up the stair.

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Novel-ty Art

Valerie Clarke in the Snow for Snow Babies

Some Art is created for the sake of illustrating my novels. So, today’s artwork is all about that.

Running for the Bus in The Boy… Forever
Re-done cover art for Superchicken
Francois and Mr. Disney for Sing Sad Songs
Davalon, Tanith, and George Jetson from Stardusters and Space Lizards
Silkie and Donner in Magical Miss Morgan
Mike Murphy and Blueberry Bates from Magical Miss Morgan
Invisible Captain Dettbarn, Valerie in Squirrel Form, and Mary Philips from When the Captain Came Calling
Anneliese the Gingerbread Girl from Recipes for Gingerbread Children
Grandma Gretel, Todd Niland, Sherry Cobble, and Sandy Wickham from Recipes for Gingerbread Children
Zearlop Zebra the ventriloquist’s puppet, Terry Houston, and Murray Dawes from Fools and Their Toys
Orben Wallace, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius
Torrie Brownfield from The Baby Werewolf
Milt Morgan from The Baby Werewolf
Dorin Dobbs from Catch a Falling Star
Ged Aero from Aeroquest 1 & 2

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