Category Archives: Paffooney

Home Base

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When you play role-playing games in outer space, like Traveller, it really helps to have a home base.  For my players in the 80’s and early 90’s, that was the planet Gaijin.  Gaijin was an Earth-like planet with numerous archipelagos and far more ocean than found on Earth.  It was also given to much more tropical weather, never really growing colder than temperate zones in Fall.

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The population of Gaijin was made up of a blended race descended from both Japanese explorers from Earth and the very human-like lemon-yellow-skinned people known as the Sylvani.  The Oriental/Alien culture made it very easy for player characters to find training in martial arts and ninja skills, as well as well as the mind and body skills of Psionics that were illegal within the Third Imperium.  The original group of player characters found shelter and training in the Palace of a Thousand Years, the place destined to produce the White Spider of Prophecy.

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It was, of course, the leader of the adventuring party, Ged Aero, who became the White Spider.   He was born in the Imperium, but together with his brother, Ham Aero,  and the rogue Trav “Goofy” Dalgoda, they settled in Gaijin’s capitol, Kiro, and established a school for psionic ninjas.

Ged was himself a gifted psionic shape-changer, able to become any creature or person whose DNA he had tasted or absorbed through his skin.

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Ged’s biological daughter, Amanda would later succeed him in his role as Master of the White Spider Dojo for Psionics.  She was herself a quite gifted telepath and ninja warrior.

Many different player characters arrived on Gaijin to let their players experience the life of a space ninja.  These are just a few of them.

As I am sure you can tell by this, a lot of different kids played the game with me over the course of a little more than a decade.  Some of them weren’t terribly creative (Luke Bloodstone was going to be Skywalker until I talked him out of using that name).  Some of them liked other things immensely too (Vince Niel was the captain of the Rock and Roll Starship and had to have a crewman named Nikki Sixx).  Some characters like the idea of massive wealth on a planetary scale (hence the fact that the Marchioness was a noble and owned an entire planet that was not Gaijin).

But this particular home=base planet would become a center for adventure and eventually the inspiration for my novel Aeroquest.

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The Very Best Way to Have the Worst Possible Publishing Experience – Part 3

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A cover proof for my novel Magical Miss Morgan with Page Publishing.

After the good people at PDMI crashed and burned without publishing my book, I needed some way to publish again.  I wanted to repeat the experience I had at I-Universe and I wanted to do it for significantly less money.  So I went in search of another Print-on-Demand publisher to do my second Rosetti Awards 265469780

contest novel which also made the final round of judging and lost, though this time there was more final round competition, some by some books that have done quite well in the marketplace since the contest in 2016.  I finally found a publisher offering print for a price I could actually afford.  (I hadn’t been forced into bankruptcy at that point, and had rebuilt my credit rating.)  Page Publishing was its name. It was only half the price of publishing with I-Universe.  Unfortunately, you got far less than half the services for the price.

Here’s a decent review that didn’t exist when I was searching; Page Publishing reviewed.

The resulting book will be good, but here are the reasons why I should never have gone down this forest path to publishing with all the weasels hiding in the brambles just off the pathway.

  • The money is paid up front and they don’t really do anything for you until the payments are done.
  • Nobody actually reads your book.  The “editor” working on my book was no more than a proof-reader, and not a good one at that.  They didn’t actually read the book.  The primary quibble which led to 157 changes in the manuscript was substituting “Ms.” for “Miss”, even in the title of the goddam book. I spent months working to undo the many mess-ups in my story, dutifully citing every line number and instance of me changing things back to the original.  Only about three proofreading changes were acceptable.
  • The company ignores you for long periods of time, taking weeks to respond to e-mails, being unavailable by phone, and dragging their feet on every change to the next step in the process.
  • Everything they did for me I was able to do for free for myself later with Amazon.  Any real work on the content of my book was done solely by me.  There is no call to be paying people for work done by me.

So, after two years of paying and publisher-initiated problems and foot-dragging, I vowed never to ever in a thousand million billion years pay someone to publish my work ever again.  It should be noted, I think it will be a marvelous book when published.  I love the story and the characters in it.  But I resent having to pay them for the privilege of doing all the work myself.

I finished the writing of an experimental novel in segments on this blog in the meantime, and decided to experiment with publishing through Amazon’s free self-publishing service.  That got me a book which I already have a finished copy of, Stardusters and Space Lizards.

You can find that book on Amazon right this instant by clicking here!!!

Once that was successfully done, I didn’t waste any time getting my best baby into print.  The next publishing project was Snow Babies.

I now proudly own a paperback copy of my best novel too.  I am delighted.  You can find my masterpiece on Amazon by clicking here!!!

So, what advice do I have to give after 3 whole posts about the terrible, icky, horrible experiences I have had in the publishing realm?  Do you really believe after all my confessions of missteps and wrong-headed doofus-decisions that I have any wisdom at all to offer on the subject?  Even one single worthwhile syllable of advice?  Well, of course I do.  People all learn best when they learn the hard way.  So here are Mickey’s rules about stupidly publishing your novels;

  1. Never pay for publishing.
  2. Be prepared to do everything yourself.
  3. Learn from every misstep.
  4. Learn to laugh about every embarrassing mistake.
  5. And never stop writing… at least until you are dead… and maybe, not even then.

 

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Aeroquest… Canto 5

Canto 5 – The Crown of Stars

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The docking of the Leaping Shadowcat with the station was routine, even though the station was unpowered and unresponsive.  The mission, though, would be an entirely different matter.  With only two vacuum suits on board, only Ged and Goofy would be able to perform the explore and restore.  Ged, not entirely trusting his partner, led the way, while Trav carried his precious blue box.

The airlocks were blown.  As Ged turned up the power in his mag-boots he reassured himself that he wouldn’t drift out into empty space through any hole or opening.  He proceeded cautiously with Goofy ten paces behind.

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Once inside the customs terminal, he began to find bodies.  Two frozen and partly exploded Galtorrian bodies were still staring outward with icy snake’s eyes in the same posture they had been in when catastrophic depressurization killed them.  A little further on, a snake-eyed Galtorrian entertainer in her scanty orange veils, floated dead in the middle of a café.

“Somebody murdered this outpost,” said Trav.

“More than a hundred years ago,” added Ged.  “Their style of clothing and interior decoration are like some of the oldest worlds in the Imperium.  I wonder how long they’ve been entombed here.”

“We’ll give them a decent send-off.”

Three hours work had all twenty-three of the bodies on the station rounded up and floated away for a deep space burial.  Ged located and cleared out the station’s control center, but the electronics were completely fried and not repairable.

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“Never fear, old bean” said Trav.  “I have the answer to our problems right here!”  He sat the blue metal box on a control console.  He gingerly opened the box, and carefully lifted out the alien crown.  It had three glowing crystals mounted on the front of the band, and they pulsated with glowing light.

“How do you activate that thing?” asked Ged.

Trav had no time to answer.  Greenish fingers of energy radiated out from the crown instantly.  Control panels began to melt.  Circuits fused in a pattern that was obviously not random.  Tendrils of energy and realigning circuits exploded outward through the facility.  Ged was instantly afraid for their lives.  Would the station explode?  Would they be consumed by this rampant energy?

In a matter of a few minutes, the ruined space port turned back on.  Doors closed.  Airlocks sealed.  Atmosphere hissed into empty corridors and rooms.  Lights came on.  The station bloomed into fully functional life.

“How did you do that?” gasped Ged.

“I told you we couldn’t just give this thing back to that old jester Tron.  It’s poppa’s little miracle worker.”

“We are now on line,” said a booming female computer voice.  “We are at your service, Grandfather.”

Trav took off his helmet and breathed in the fresh air.  “So, you are at my service, are you?  Who are you, then?  And how did I get to be your grandfather?”

“We are the matrix of Terris Mansill.  Also known as Grandfather of All Stars.  We are the artificial minds of the Crown of All Stars at your service, Grandfather.  Call on us, and we shall do your bidding.”

“Cool,” said Goofy smiling broadly at Ged, “just like a genii in a lamp!”

 

 

 

 

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Time Travellers

In role playing games I was always willing to go where no other game master has gone before.  Such was the case with the role-playing game Traveller and the matter of time travel.  No rules existed in the rule book to cover time travel.  But I didn’t let that stop me. I made them up as we went along.

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I got a boost when one of my players wanted to create a character based on Dr.Who.   The British series played on Friday nights on PBS in the 1980’s.  But that particular player, though very creative, was not a precisely cerebral type of kid.  He spelled it “W-H-O-E”.  So, forever after, we referred to the character as Doctor Hooey.

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Good old Hooey was always getting the group into impossible situations that took a great deal of thinking to get out of again. He had a penchant for crashing time machines.  And when he got the destination right, he would get the time wrong on the year, century, or millennia.  And when he got the time right, well, what do you know?  He got the place wrong.  The players never seemed to realize that I was taking them to planned adventures no matter what the dice rolls supposedly said.

Many such adventures would encounter weird and wild characters who would inevitably also become time travelers, whether fellow travelers for the sake of goodness and light, or as recurring villains.

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For example, Brech was a student space ninja traveling through space and time with the teacher characters among the players.  And by time traveling, they ran afoul of the Revenant, a time-traveling cyborg assassin who stalked the players for accusations of serious “time crimes”.  The cyborg turned out to be young Brech’s future self.  Which proved lucky.  Brech was able to establish a psychic link with his future self just as the cyborg was about to execute everybody, and Brech thereby turned a deadly enemy into an ally.

We tended to adapt movie characters who were time travelers into important NPC’s, and they did not all come from the Dr. Who show.  The characters shown above were Doc Brown from Back to the Future and Professor H. G. Wells.

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When I stole characters from Dr. Who, like I did with Lady Romana here, I tended to adapt them totally to my own game universe.  Romana was nothing like her TV counterpart.  In fact, only the name was the same.

We soon had so many time-traveling characters in their different time machines that we had to organize it all.  This we did by founding the organization known as the Time Knights of Gallegos.

And we needed a leader to coordinate the various initiatives through time and space.  For this we chose a specific NPC, the boy super genius, Ryan Beowulf.  He was a charming super-brained perpetual ten-year-old who worked with his own future self, the thousand-year-old Time King Beowulf.

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Traveller, it seemed,  was never more fun than when we were free to go rock and rolling through both space and time.  We had some harrowing adventures and even made use of my own vast storehouse of useless historical knowledge that can wow ’em in the moment and make them wonder why they needed to know about that upon further reflection.  Time traveling, like fez’s and bow ties, is cool.

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Life as a Texican

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We here in Texas are still the way God made us.

Stop cringing so much when you hear me say it.  Texas is where God goes to spend the Winter.  Everything is practically perfect in Texas.  The weather never varies more than 60 degrees in any single hour.  Our tornadoes and hurricanes are way bigger and way more destructive than you get in other States.  You think your school systems are producing learners who are spectacularly dumb?  They don’t even begin to compare with learning levels here in the Lone Star State.  Why, we are the Lone Star State mainly because we don’t want too many stars for our college graduates to count.    You think health care in your State is poor quality and high priced?  We have million dollar mortuaries that are profitably close, no more than a block or two, from every hospital.  We break records in the number of bankruptcy filings over hospital bills while our health insurance providers are making record-breaking profits!  You can’t beat that with a stick!  No, I mean it.  Look how big my stick is, and I couldn’t successfully beat it.

And we choose only the best politicians to represent us. Senator Ted Cruz is not only a former front-runner in the 2016 Presidential race for the GOP nomination, he’s the Zodiac Killer in addition to that.  Just ask the internet.  If the internet says it, it must be true.  And Representative Louie Gohmert of the Texas First District is so bald you can be blinded by the Texas sunshine reflecting off the top of his stupid head.  And his name reminds you of TV’s Gomer Pyle, someone Louie is almost as smart as.  And he’s a Texas Tea Party Congressman who does Tea Parties so well he makes the Mad Hatter jealous.  And Senator John Cornyn tells jokes that make country people laugh.  After all, he has “corny” in his danged name!

And Texas motorists are among the best in the country.  No, check that, they are the best!  No other State has the kind of yearly highway kill score that Texas has.  Believe me, pedestrians routinely get bounced off the hood and into ditches, slow-going vehicles and semi trucks are routinely forced off overpasses to beautiful fiery displays of chaos and carnage below.  Texas killer grandmas in their shiny Lincoln Continentals with the longhorn horns on the grill will kill you deader than the local rocks.  Nobody drives faster and more aggressively than a Texas killer grandma.

We have way more millionaires and billionaires than other stupid States.  And we outscore them all in the numbers of poor people and immigrants holding down three jobs at once and still needing food stamps to live.

Yes, everything’s bigger in Texas.  We’ve got all y’all beat all to heck!

 

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Weekend Fun with Heart Attacks

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I’m not sure why I decided to have a heart attack over the holiday, but my body decided it was time and didn’t really give me a chance for input.   I should qualify it a little bit. I didn’t have an actual heart attack according to the final tests, but the preliminary tests were all red flags and shouting.

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So, I woke up in the middle of the night on Wednesday night with a pain in the left side of my chest.  My left arm was hurting and tingling with numbness.

Now, it is not something new.  I have arthritis in my rib cage and I tend to sleep on my left side.    So, although the pain was concerning, it was not reason to make a middle-of-the-night dash to the emergency room.  I eventually got back to sleep on my right side.  I was sluggish and ill the next morning, but I got a lot of house cleaning done and the chest pains were gone.

Thursday night the pains returned, but still not different than the arthritis pains that sent me to the cardiologist before, and not nearly as harsh and painful as the night before.   Again the pain went away in the day.

Friday night I picked up my son the Marine at the airport.  He was home on holiday leave.  We talked about my chest pains over a meal at I-hop.  He pulled rank on me and vowed to take me to the ER.  I talked him down to Primacare because it’s cheaper, still not believing it was real heart pain.

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The next morning Primacare didn’t go so well.  The EKG machine there predicted a major earthquake… or a typhoon, or something… and the Prima-doctor got all serious in the face.  “Do you want me to call an ambulance?  We are required to make the offer in these situations.”

“No, no.  My son is with me and can drive me to the Emergency Room.  I promise I will go.”

And so I did.

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At the ER they are very concerned that you don’t have anything in your pockets.  They quickly dressed me in a hospital gown and then surgically removed $200 (due to the wondrous way my insurance company has of not paying their portion of the bill).  So, lighter by that amount, they immediately hooked me up to their own EKG machine.  I had so many patches attached to the hair on my chest that I was guaranteed to be bald-chested when it came time to rip them all off again.  Then they  repeated the EKG testing done earlier in the day.  I swear, the same squirrel that was visiting Primacare when I was there earlier, sneaked into their EKG machine too and vigorously jumped up and down.  So, there it was.  The proof they needed that I had too much money left in my bank account.  And so they put me inside the hospital.

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Once inside, they rigged me up so one arm could be crushed by a BP sleeve every two hours, or more if they felt like it, and the other arm could be drained of blood so that they could tell if there was any further money in my bank account.

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Three days later, the enzymes in my blood said that what I had was mysterious and not a heart attack.  The stress test I had on Monday nearly killed me, and told them that I didn’t have enough money left in my bank account to keep in the hospital any longer.  I got out still wearing my arm band and allergy warning band as reminders that I really, really didn’t want to go back, but life is like that, and I still don’t know what caused it all, or if I will have to return to deal with it later on.

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Aeroquest… Adagio 2 – Nebulons

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Adagio 2 – Nebulons

 

     I am one of the few Scientist/Historians ever to make a thorough examination of Nebulon physiology and culture. It helped that I lived with some of them for a while, even helping to raise a couple of very young ones. And unlike the cross-bred lizard-Russian-Galtorrian-Human idiots who were the superior authority and dominant race of the Galtorr Imperium, I didn’t try to belittle them as mere “Space Smurfs” and take their existence as a joke.  As a participant in the destruction of the Galtorr Imperium and the rise of the New Star League, I, Googol Marou, can speak with some authority on the subject of Nebulons.

Suffice it to say, the present shape of the Milky Way Civilization in the Orion Spur owes much to the nature of Space Smurfs.  They were critical to the Imperial defeat and the unification of the New Stars.  You will see more of that in this history, well, unless I inadvertently forget to tell you that part.  I have been known to get a bit absent-minded when my mind is on superior matters of science, or the baking of pies.  But I have to admit to my great shame, that I, like most Imperials, was prejudiced against the Nebulons at the start.  We thought them in many ways inferior because of their living technologies and small stature.  What we didn’t realize is that their neotyny, their child-like physical make-up, was evidence that they were indeed more advanced than we in an evolutionary sense.  They were also environmentally friendly, living in symbiotic peace with their living technology. Instead of exploiting worlds, as the humans and Galtorrians had done, they created new living environments.

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Now, my genetic inquiries proved that Nebulons were practically identical to Earthers.  They were capable of interbreeding with us without genetic manipulations.  That makes them more like us than a Galtorrian, even a crossbred Galtorrian/Human fusion.  They also possessed a few advantages we didn’t have.  The copper-sulfate-based pigments in their skins were originally caused by diet and exposure to nebula radiation.  It gave them immunity to radiation that was deadly to any other humanoid.  The bright yellow hair was apparently also due to exotic radiation exposure over centuries.  I formed a theory that Nebulons may have originated on Earth and evolved as they explored deep space, beyond the known stars of the Thousand Worlds.

Now, as to their culture, they center it around living organisms that function symbiotically.  Their spaceships are the Great Nebula Space Whales, those strange fish-shaped balloon-beings that apparently bred in the depths of mighty gas giant planets and migrated to the gaseous clouds of nebula space.  They are much the same size as an Imperial Dreadnaught, and can easily support 500,000 Nebulons in their oxygenated inner chambers.  They even have spaces in their heads where the Nebulon pilots can live and function, tickling nerve endings to get the space behemoths to fold space and jump light years in an instant.  Manipulating jump space is the same whether you do it with a massive photon drive, or the natural glands of a space whale.  It is a matter of using gravity to fold space at a weak point in the fabric of space, making a worm-hole to another part of space, usually no more than six parsecs distant (for those who are math-challenged, that means about nineteen and a half light years), and coming out of jump space at the end of a spider web-like trail that litters space with the cobwebs of interstellar travel.

Nebulons also make clothing of living tissue that keeps the body it surrounds at the proper temperature, and absorbs and digests all dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells.  Nebulon clothing is self-cleaning!  It also grows with the young to avoid the need for ever changing it.  I can’t wear Nebulon cloth without cringing, because I know what it really is, but I am told that if you get used to it, it is like a perfect second skin.

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Nebulons exhibit a child-like love for life, treasuring each others’ presence and having fun almost all the time.  I have come to find them truly endearing.  They rarely go to war with each other, and have to be seriously goaded into fighting by any potential enemy.  It turns out that it is a sad thing that we can’t all be more like Nebulons.  And to think we wasted all those centuries despising them for their differences!

 

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