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Dale Cozort

Anthologies, New Books & Ambitious Plans

After a long hiatus it is time to get active on this blog again. I’ve been busy writing and that is producing a stream of published books and stories in anthologies, with more coming quickly if everything goes right.

Let’s start with the anthologies. My stories have recently been published in two anthologies. The first was: Alternate Peace, with alternate history stories not involving wars. This was a major ego-boost, with my name in the table of contents next to Harry Turtledove, arguably the biggest name in Air-218Alternate History. The second was a New Pulp anthology called Mystery Men & Women Volume 6. This was an experiment for me, a venture into a sub-genre that consciously strives to be a throwback to the days of the depression-era pulp hero, complete with covers and interior illustrations that hark back to that era.

My pulp hero can briefly, painfully bring the recently dead back to life, hopefully to figure out who murdered them.

I also self-published a collection of stories and Alternate History essays

Created with GIMP

called Space Bats & Butterflies. The Alternate History essays are for people with a deep interest in history. The stories should be general interest. This collects a lot of stuff I’ve written over the years for an on-line zine but wanted to put in more permanent form. This is roughly sixty percent alternate history essays, with the biggest single section looking at what might have happened if the Germans went after Moscow instead of heading south in 1942.

I do include several AH and time-travel stories for more general readers.

 

Continue reading “Anthologies, New Books & Ambitious Plans”

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Looking for my older posts? They’re still at my Livejournal Blog. Enjoy reading!DaleDog

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Alternate History Bar Crawl 1 – Snake Island

This is part one of a series of bar scenes from my published and soon to be published alternate history novels. Most of them involve ISOTs of some kind. The trick is to figure out as much as you can about the alternate history from the scene. Feel free to speculate in the comments.

TenochtitlanJuly 1941

Amber McDonald was loud and brassy, but the red-haired woman was good at dealing cards. She smoothly dealt Gilbert a card-sized something extra in his second poker hand. Her costume made covert transfers easier, a tight, sleeveless men’s white t-shirt with nothing under it. The white t-shirts, plus short cotton skirts, were a kind of uniform for women employees in Emerald Dreams, but Amber’s figure barely fit in the t-shirt and she took advantage of it, drawing male eyes away from her dealing.

Gilbert expertly palmed whatever Amber had given him and slid it into his pocket. None of the other players seemed to notice, though an Aztec commoner dressed in western jeans and dress-shirt eyed Gilbert a split second too long after the exchange.

He probably thinks she slid me a hideaway card. The chance of getting accused of cheating should be minor as long as he didn’t win too many pots. Which I won’t without cheating.

The Irish ‘businessmen” who leased Snake Island frowned on cheating unless they did it and when they frowned on something, they sent tough Irish bouncers or Aztec organized crime thugs, the so-called Kings of the Night, after the offender. Irish mobsters hiring Aztec organized crime. It’s a crazy world.

Amber worked at Emerald Dreams, Snake Island’s top of the line casino. Top of the line meant prices were high, but the alcohol was good even by European standards and the place had indoor plumbing, a post-Blip innovation, plus electric lights in fixtures that had been hastily added after the Blip, with wiring running along the support beams. They were powered by a generator that rumbled a few rooms away, causing the stone floors to vibrate almost imperceptibly.

Emerald Dreams was literally at the top of the pyramid, a truncated, one-hundred-foot-tall pyramid that dominated Snake Island and had once supposedly belonged to a mad Aztec noble turned pirate. The Irish businessmen had leased the island and turned an abandoned pleasure palace at the top of the pyramid into a decent, though somewhat mixed architecture, casino. Late mad Aztec nobleman meets just-upgraded from outhouse. The electric wires weren’t that noticeable, but they were a discordant touch.

They weren’t the only discordant touch in Emerald Dreams. Europeans in business suits, mostly Germans, talked business with Aztec nobles in traditional cotton finery, the kind of business they wouldn’t want to read about in tomorrow’s newspapers. Aztec commoners also did business here, but only with each other or with Europeans rather than with Aztec nobles. The commoners wore mostly blue jeans and European-style shirts and were ostentatiously ignored by the nobles. At one table, men and a woman from the Nations of the North sat silently, watching, but not interacting with Europeans or Aztecs.

Emerald Dreams. The owners played up the place’s bloody past. Placards in front of silver goblets in a glass showcase by the entrance claimed that Aztec pirates used them to drink a mixture of wine (more likely the weak native beer) and blood, which may have been true but would have probably tasted awful. Anything and Aztec beer tasted awful, at least to Gilbert. An acquired taste.

“Over four hundred years. You would think they could have figured out how to make decent beer or wine,” Gilbert said.

“They didn’t know what they were missing,” Amber said.

Young Indian women in the same kind of costume Amber wore—short cotton skirts and spotlessly white sleeveless men’s undershirts cut short to reveal their midriffs—moved among the men, taking drink orders and avoiding groping hands. If someone got too drunkenly hands-on, big almost stereotypically Irish-looking bouncers moved in. That didn’t happen often. Emerald Dreams was for off-the-record business and diplomacy, not getting drunk and pawing the help. There were other, more dangerous places on Snake Island for getting drunk and rowdy, bars catering to Aztec workmen and serving the awful Aztec beer, along with peyote and hallucinogenic mushrooms and, more recently, European cocaine and morphine—good places to get a knife in your back.

A serving woman took orders around the table but hesitated when she got to Gilbert. “American, right? We don’t take dollars here. Gold, silver or anything European is fine. We don’t have anything against Americans, just your money.”

“Dollars will be like gold again someday,” Gilbert said. The words came automatically, but without conviction. He bought a surprisingly good wine, using British pounds. Ironically, California gold and Nevada silver meant that dollars probably had more precious metals backing them than most European currencies. But money is only as good as people think it is.

“Dollars are as good as gold,” Gilbert said. “We have plenty of gold to back them up.”

“Until someone grabs the mines,” the woman said. “Then your dollars are just paper. Americans are all ‘over there rich’,”

Gilbert cringed at the description. It did fit some Americans, the ones who wandered Europe or the New World, not accepting that the wealth they once had in US houses, farms, factories and bank accounts were all gone. Of course it also fit a lot of Europeans who had invested in those same things in the US or Latin America. Some formerly wealthy Europeans made a precarious living selling rights to their missing New World assets for a few cents on the dollar. If the Blip reverses, some people will have gotten some real bargains. Some people would also find out that they had been defrauded, of course. If we ever get a court system going over here, it will be busy for a hundred years sorting all the financial stuff out.

The woman offered him a cigarette, which he refused. “I don’t smoke. Good thing too after the Blip.”

 “Miss your old world?” the Aztec commoner asked. “The one where America was on top, if you believe the Americans I’ve talked to?”

“I haven’t had much time to think about it.” That was partly true, though not as completely as Gilbert wished. “Do you miss your old world, the one without Europeans or Americans?”

“Not at all,” the guy replied. “In the old ways, you were a noble or a commoner and that couldn’t change. Now, if a commoner is smart, he can live better than a noble.” The Indian grinned. “And the best part is watching the nobles pretend not to notice.”

“And you’re in the same world with Europe,” Gilbert said. “Europeans cut a bloody path across our world, killing and enslaving on almost every continent, then fighting wars among themselves that killed more people than there are in all of Mexico. They were headed for another big war when the Blip happened. They’ll get back to that war eventually.”

And we’re not much better. Maybe worse to Indians. Did the Aztec know that? Aztecs seemed good at sorting truth out of crap, so this guy might know about the bloody US history with Indians. If he did, he didn’t mention it.

Gilbert played cautiously, aware of his embassy’s limited money supply. Even dollars were getting scarce, though no one except Americans accepted them anymore. Backed by the gold and silver of a country that doesn’t exist, though it does have plenty of gold and silver.

He kept an eye on the Aztec commoner. The guy was tall for an Aztec, with wiry muscles playing under his western-style shirt. The serving women treated him differently than they did other Aztec commoners, as though they were drawn to him and a little afraid. The Aztec had ample money and was free with it, ordering drinks for everyone at the table and tipping generously.

New rich commoner? Maybe. Ambitious Aztec commoners could get rich exploiting the Blip’s opportunities and were gaining political power along with their newfound wealth, a situation that traditional Aztec nobles tolerated, but were not happy about. The guy didn’t seem new rich though. He was smooth, as though he was accustomed to money and deference. King of the Night? Gilbert didn’t see the tattoos that usually identified the Aztec gangsters, but he wouldn’t because the guy’s long shirt sleeves would cover them. Last thing I need: an Aztec mobster thinking I’m cheating him.

Gilbert thought about easing away from the game, but he needed to play a few more hands before he could credibly give Amber a large enough tip to keep her information flowing. He grinned at the Aztec. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.”

“You couldn’t pronounce my real name,” the guy said in perfect English, with a slight British accent. “European tongues are too thick and clumsy. Call me Josh Lott.”

How do these people pick up languages so fast? Maybe because of the many languages spoken around Lake Texcoco, sort of like Europeans in mixed-language parts of Europe. Maybe also because learning the new languages meant a way out of the poverty that was an Aztec commoner’s lot before the Blip.

Based on the conversations around them, the Aztecs had picked up a lot of English and German in the two years since the Blip. Gilbert introduced himself, using a cover name. His position in the embassy wasn’t too well-known, but why take the chance of getting identified?

And I think he knows who I really am. Gilbert couldn’t put his finger on why, but something about the guy’s expression made him wary.

“This building was a pleasure palace for an Aztec nobleman turned pirate,” Josh said. “They called his men the Atzoatl, which sort of translates to ‘Dirty Water’. The Atzoatl terrorized Lake Texcoco for forty years during the time of troubles. Then decades ago, cities around the lake united against them and trapped them on top of this pyramid, where they held out until they ran out of food and water. They tried to escape with their treasure, but most were killed, and their canoes sunk off the northern tip of the island.”

That was all true as far as Gilbert knew, and there was worse. Human sacrifice had mostly faded away in Mexico hundreds of years ago, but the Atzoatl had revived the custom, along with other dark practices, to terrorize their enemies.

The Atzoatl had been more than pirates, though. They were a rogue part of an Aztec organized crime network whose name roughly translated to “Kings of the Night.” And the Kings are still around, maybe even at this table, using the Blip to get richer.

They played a few more hands, then Gilbert tipped Amber generously and left. He went to a bathroom stall and looked at what Amber had given him. It was a photograph, cropped to playing card size. In the picture, six airplanes, probably German Ju-90 transports, though they didn’t exactly match pictures of the big new German transports British intelligence had recently shown the Americans. On the back of the picture, Amber had written a note in small neat letters:

“Forty planes there last night. Will probably load tonight or tomorrow morning.” The note gave a location about twenty miles from Lake Texcoco.

German transport planes in Mexico? That wasn’t impossible, but it didn’t seem likely. Could the planes have flown in? Not from Germany. The Ju-90 was much bigger, with a much longer range than Germany’s older Ju-52s, but nowhere close to long enough for a Germany to Mexico flight. Through Spain and the Canary Islands? Still far beyond their range, even flying one way. Could they make it flying empty, stripped down and with drop tanks? Gilbert didn’t think so but couldn’t rule it out. Could the Germans have brought them in broken down and assembled them in Mexico? Maybe, but British and American intelligence kept a close eye on German freighters coming into the country and they hadn’t spotted the big planes on their way in. Also, reassembling the planes in Mexico wouldn’t be a trivial task.

Could the photo be a scam? Gilbert had no reason to trust Amber, though the big red-headed woman’s information had been accurate so far. The picture could have been taken in Germany or Spain. Gilbert didn’t think so though. The transport planes fit too well into his picture of Aztec plans and ambitions. Europeans tolerated the rump US’s claims to the old United States, at least for now, but the Aztecs saw a rival power so close to their homeland as a threat.

If they knock out New Galveston, they’ll like what happens next even less. But Aztec political/military thinking didn’t look that far ahead. Their attitude: hit the immediate problem over the head until it died and let whatever happened after that take care of itself.

Aztecs make Germans look like deep strategic thinkers, which takes some doing.

What now? Gilbert put the picture back in his pocket and headed out of Emerald Dreams. The night was clear, with more stars than Gilbert had ever seen before the Blip. Too many manmade lights back home. Here, torches lit the stairs down the side of the pyramid and from there to Snake Island’s main pier. He suddenly missed streetlights and light leaking out around window shades and car lights going by at all hours of the night. He missed towns that kept going well into the early morning hours. He even missed the smell of half-burned gasoline and cigarette smoke a little.

Kirkus Review: The Necklace of Time

I have been meaning to post this for a while. Kirkus reviewed my novel The Necklace of Time a few months ago. They say some good things about it. Complete Review follows:

TITLE INFORMATION
THE NECKLACE OF TIME
Dale Cozort
Self (256 pp.)
$14.95 paperback, $4.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1-07-434380-4
July 24, 2019
BOOK REVIEW
An author travels to another dimension to solve a mystery that has plagued him all his life in this sequel.
Simon Royale, a bestselling writer of horror novels, lives in a copy of the world that only contains North America—or, North America as it was on Halloween 2014. His writing is fueled, in part, by the mysterious disappearance of his sister, Cynthia, when he was 7 years old. The guilt he feels over the event is so intense that he is willing to take advantage of the opportunity to investigate a different copy of North America: one
made in 1953. The two worlds have continued to develop along different paths, and US-53 (as it’s called) has its own Simon Royale—though he’s a failed, unpublished writer instead of a successful one. What’s more, the
sister of US-53 Simon never disappeared.

The Simon from US-2014 is going to meet his counterpart from
US-53 in neutral territory: a third realm called Mega-Madagascar, which is overrun by German neo-Nazis from an alternative 1939 Europe. Confused? So is Simon US-2014. But as he attempts to solve the mystery of his
sister’s disappearance and prevent his doppelgänger from stealing his identity and book sales, Simon US-2014 quickly finds himself in over his head. The SF book is even more convoluted than it sounds, but
Cozort (Snapshot: Book 1 of the Snapshot Universe, 2014, etc.) unspools his Möbius strip of a plot with skillful ease. He has a lot of fun with its metafictional premise: Businesswoman Ella Smoot “still thought it was a great idea: Organize self-published writers from US-2014 for a book tour to the relatively untapped US-53 book market. No e-books there. No personal computers to speed up novel writing and create a gigantic,
ever-growing glut of aspiring authors.” While not as straightforward as many popular alternative history novels, Cozort’s story explores the idea more fully and imaginatively than most. What’s more, he hinges his narrative on the small, personal problems of individuals rather than world historical events. The sequel is accessible to those who have no previous experience with the author’s Snapshot universe, and it will likely convince them to come back for more.


An original and comic take on alternative history SF.

The Past Is a Foreign Country – Part 3

“Your Simon and I aren’t identical twins,” I point out. “If I set this up, how would I know she would think I was him?”

“How do you know you aren’t identical twins?” Mosley asks. “You look a lot alike to me.”

I explain about thousands of sperm going after the same egg and how unlikely it is that the same one would fertilize it, given all the difference between what dad and mom went through on real Earth versus US-53. They don’t buy it. Genetics is an eyes-glaze-over subject.

I try again. “We’re probably half-identical twins. Same egg. Different sperm from the same father. That makes us closer than normal brothers, but not identical. She should have seen the differences, felt the differences, smelled the differences. The odds of her not noticing some difference are astronomical.

No sale on that. I shift ground. “Even if we looked and smelled and felt the same, how could I know if your Simon had a scar or tattoo she would notice right away? The chance of me fooling her into having sex is so low I would have been a moron to try it.”

“And yet it worked,” Mosley says.

“Not for me. I’m sitting in a police interrogation room looking at a public relations nightmare.”

The interrogation drags on, with me refusing to answer their questions. They keep hammering away, ingratiating, kindly, ‘let’s straighten this out so we can all go home’ alternating with accusations.

I’m hungry, thirsty, tired, hot and having a catastrophically bad day. The lemur sausage Ella snuck into my breakfast still sits in my stomach, waiting for its revenge. I have visions of projectile barfing, hopefully knocking Mosley’s glasses out of his hands, sending them crashing to the floor and ‘accidentally’ stomping them so he can’t take them off and put them back on yet again. Continue reading “The Past Is a Foreign Country – Part 3”

The Past Is A Foreign Country-Part 2

Officer Linde pushes a scrap of paper in a plastic evidence bag across to me. “Someone sent our Simon Royale on a wild goose chase while you pretended to be him. If you sent this note or got somebody to do it, it’s clear cut rape by deception, a little unusual, but the District Attorney will enjoy taking you down. He gets tired of domestic violence and drunken driving.”

I stare at the note, trying to make sense of it. “I never told Madison Royale I was her husband,” I say. “I never deliberately said or did anything that would make her think I was her husband. I didn’t even know your Simon had a wife, much less that she was in Mad-24. And that’s all I’m going to say without a lawyer.”

It’s more than I should say, but the Babble Zone still makes it hard to stop talking. “Is Madison pressing charges?” I ask.

They glance at each other but don’t respond. Score. She probably hasn’t brought charges. If she hasn’t, that makes this situation even more puzzling. The note suggests a set-up, with her involved. If she hasn’t filed charges, why not?

“We’re trying to verify that,” Linde says. He twirls his glasses by the earpiece and I barely resist telling him to put them on or put them away.

Why would they need to verify that she’s filing charges? Either she is or she isn’t. I find myself hoping that she’s not part of a set-up, partly because if she is, I fell into Simon the Lesser’s trap like an idiot.

Beyond that, I like her. The hotel room wasn’t just good sex, it was an instant connection I hadn’t felt in a long time, if ever. How could Simon the Lesser know she would have that effect on me? Would he whore out the mother of his child to gain an advantage in a lawsuit? Would Madison go along with him if he asked her to? She doesn’t seem like the type who would. Then again, we didn’t do much talking during our time together.

“If I’m a suspect in a crime, aren’t you supposed to read me my rights?” I ask.

“What rights would those be?” Linde asks, putting his glasses back on and staring at me over them.

“The right to an attorney. The warning that anything I say can and will be used against me in a court of law.” I should be able to quote the Miranda warning by heart, but my mind is fuzzy and can’t pull it up. When did the courts start making police give Miranda warnings? From the way these guys react, it must have happened after 1953 on Dirtball Earth and not at all here. Continue reading “The Past Is A Foreign Country-Part 2”

The Past Is a Foreign Country

This is an excerpt from my novel Necklace of Time. My protagonist, Simon Royale, a well-known writer is in an alternate reality that in many ways is like a fun house mirror version of the 1960s, thought the chronological time is 2015. There is a bit of a twist to the background: existence of the alternate reality is public knowledge. Southwest Airlines flies there out of Sacramento. Simon recently had sex with a woman who turned out to be the wife of the alternate reality’s Simon Royale. She claims she thought she was with her husband. There are repercussions. 

Rape by deception. It’s a thing over here. Apparently enough pervs try to sneak into wives’ beds while hubby is working the night shift that they passed a law against it. Come to think of it, we probably have laws like that back in the civilized world. I’ll have to check. I could use a law like that in a novel if we have them back home. Never let a personal catastrophe go to waste.

Eastport police officers Linde and Mosley are polite in a hulking, menacing way. They’re both a couple inches taller than my six feet one, probably in their late thirties, very white. Poster boys for a fifties Officer Friendly campaign if you don’t look at their eyes too closely. They’re wearing gray blazers two sizes too small in the shoulders.

They have a ‘Why yes, we would love to use our nightsticks’ look to their faces, so I go along without asserting my constitutional rights. Actually, I’m not sure what constitutional rights, if any, I have over here. I’m a citizen, but not of their US.

I figure I’ll sort that out where there are witnesses to any nightstick usage. They don’t cuff me, so at least I don’t add a perp walk to this already catastrophic day. I don’t see anyone I know on the way to the station, another small blessing. Continue reading “The Past Is a Foreign Country”

New Novel, SF Workshop and New Cars

I went to Lawrence Kansas for a two-week science fiction novel writing workshop this summer, followed by a two-week writing retreat. The workshop started June 9th and the retreat continued into early July. Financially this was a stretch, but my job gives me summers off and with my daughter back home I didn’t feel too bad about leaving my wife home alone all that time. They are good friends now that my daughter is an adult.

In any case, four weeks of concentrated writing time was great. I put the finishing touches on my alternate history novel Finding Yourself (now renamed The Necklace of Time and available on Amazon, which is cool—novel number 7 out the door for me). I also worked on

I drove to Kansas and back using a rental car, a Ford mild-hybrid, which mainly means that it is able to store and use energy that would otherwise be wasted in braking. It consistently claimed to have recaptured over ninety percent of the braking energy and sometimes all of it..

It’s a much more modern car than the beater I normally drive, with a very nice built-in GPS system, on a well-thought-out display that makes driving in unknown territory much simpler than a cell phone or a stand-alone GPS.

The more modern aspect bit me at first, though. I almost didn’t get started. I brought the car home the night before the trip and apparently left some power-draining accessory on. When I came out to start the trip, the battery was dead. In an older car, that wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Just pop the hood and connect a charger. With this car there was no apparent way to get into the car with the battery dead and no way to get the hood up to recharge the battery without getting into the car.

After a lot of experimenting, I discovered that there was a key hidden in the fob, but where was the keyhole? After a lot of looking around the doors, I tried a Google search, which told me that there was a keyhole hidden near the driver’s side front door handle. Hidden is the operative word. I had to pry off a piece of rubber molding with a screwdriver to get at it. All of this just to get into the car, after which I had to figure out how to charge the battery—not necessarily that easy when you’re talking a hybrid.

I think I’ll stick to my 19-year-old Buick a while longer—as in until it drops dead. Cars without visible keyholes scare me.

I listened to books on Audible most of the seven-hour trip to Lawrence and back, a Chris Nuttal space opera on the way there and a Louis Lamour western on the way back. Mindless entertainment in the case of the western, but it did pass the time. I used an iPad and a Bluetooth external speaker to play the books. The iPad internal speaker isn’t quite strong enough to overcome the road noise, but the external speaker worked well. If I had dinked around a bit, I suspect that I could have synced the iPad with the car’s speakers, but I was okay with the external speaker.

The Warlord of the Jungle

I’m writing a series of deliberately retro science fiction novellas that hopefully emulate the pulps in the non-stop action department, but with more modern science and a more modern outlook on the world. This is a brief excerpt from the rough draft of the second of those novellas, a hopefully more modern look at the old-fashion Jungle Adventure story.  The full rough draft is around 25,000 words long–maybe eighty to eighty-five pages.  I hope to get this out in e-book form later this summer.


 

1949, on the bank of an alternate Congo river in a very strange alternate Africa

Jace Lee had never seen guns before except in books. He recognized them, though. He even knew to call these guns ‘muskets’, as opposed to rifles. He knew what gunshots sounded like, from hearing gunfire in the distance when Lucas Weaver, the Warlord of the Congo, went hunting or sent his men searching for Jace and his only human friend, Janet Steele. Ordinarily, strange men carrying muskets and wearing white robes that covered most of their bodies would have riveted his attention, but not this morning. Ten-year-old Jace was in terrible trouble, the kind of trouble that could leave him alone in the jungle within hours, if not crippled or dead. He dipped his canteen in the river, watching the strange men beech their canoes upstream and congregate on the river bank.

These were real men like the ones in the books, not like The People, the apelike men he had grown up with, and had long considered his people, despite the many differences between him and them, the ape-men that had been his friends for years but had now rejected him. Janet called the People man apes or ape men, or sometime just monkeys. She often said they were animals, a little smarter than lions or leopards, but still animals. She insisted that Jace wasn’t one of them, that he was an American.

“They’re still my people.” Jace’s whispered words were fierce, but he said them in English, not the limited language of the People. English. That made a mockery of his claim. With two exceptions, none of the ape-men could speak more than a word or two of English and they had to work hard to get out even those few alien sounds.

Despite his words, Jace knew he wasn’t a part of the People now, at least not the same way he had been when he played among the two and three-year-old man-apes, running and wrestling and climbing with them as equals. Now, with one or two exceptions, the People had rejected him. His former playmates were almost grown now, towering over him and displaying the powerful chest and shoulder muscles that made grown ape-men very nearly the equal of lion in single combat and made a group of them capable of chasing away even a pride of lions.

At ten years old, Jace was still a child. He was tough, wise and powerful beyond anything that a child could be if he had grown up among his own kind, but still far weaker than his former companions and not interested in ape-women when they came into their time, a lack of interest that drew derision and then physical beatings from his former companions. Worse, a few of them had taken to hunting him like a beast to be killed and eaten.

Jace finished filling the canteen, studying the men along the riverbank. Among the white-robed men were other real men, these men stripped to loin clothes that showed olive skin. They carried heavy loads while the white-robes yelled at them in a language Jace didn’t understand. He wanted to see more, but he couldn’t wait, couldn’t stay. Janet, one of only two friends he had left in the world, was back in the cabin they shared. She was safe from the man-apes there, inside a circle she called the zone of fear that allowed only Jace and her to approach the cabin. However, she was also pregnant, in labor and probably dying in childbirth. He knew of only one thing he could do to help her and that was to get the water back to quench her thirst and to cool her body, now over twelve hours into labor.

She can’t die! Jace closed his eyes for a second and prayed to the gray-eyed man. Janet would have told have told him that he was being foolish. “The gray-eyed man isn’t real.” She told him that many times, but Jace had seen him, always in the distance, able to fade away like the morning fog, leaving no trail. “If the gray-eyed man isn’t real, where did the soccer ball and the books and the canteen and my knife come from?” he had asked the last time the subject came up. “Who built the cabin and made us safe in it?”

Janet didn’t have an answer for that, so now Jace prayed that the gray-eyed man would come and take the baby out of Janet before it killed her. “She says that it’s from an ape-man and it’s wrong that it be in her,” He whispered. “She says that it shouldn’t be growing inside her and it will probably kill her.”

A sound made him open his eyes and turn abruptly from the robed men. He reached for a wooden club he had close at hand, but relaxed a little when he recognized the ape-woman swinging through the trees toward him. Eve was a year younger than Jace, but at nine she was almost fully grown, six inches taller than him and at least forty pounds heavier. She, at least, was still a friend. At least she had been so far, though Jace had seen enough friends and playmates turn into enemies that he didn’t count on her. She jumped down from a tree and landed beside him, nearly noiseless in her passage through the jungle and to the ground.

Eve, almost alone among the man-apes, could speak many English words. Jace wasn’t sure how many, maybe a hundred or more, though she struggled to make the sounds and Janet claimed that Eve’s sounds resembled English only in Jace’s imagination. Eve struggled even more today, with her excitement making the mix of English and whispered ape-man words more difficult to understand than normal. Finally, Jace figured out what she was trying to tell him and the news was disastrous. A band of newly adult ape-men, his former playmates, were actively hunting him. Not only that, but they were being uncharacteristically systematic about it. Eve told him that the ape-men had spread out, covering the approaches to the cabin that Jace and Janet shared. Worse, they had broken branches he normally used as a forest highway to the cabin, forcing him to approach on the ground.

Jace moved back into the forest and moved easily through it, with Eve gliding along beside him. When he was younger, he had been the awkward one in the trees, slower and less capable than his young ape-man playmates. Now, he was by far their superior because the males were too bulky to move at any speed much above the ground. Eve could still almost keep up with him in the trees, despite her greater weight. Jace wasn’t moving at top speed, trying to figure out a way back to the cabin. While he had far more stamina on the ground than his enemies among the ape-men, they could move faster than him for short distances. And if I get to the zone of fear, they can’t follow me.

The zone of fear surrounded the cabin, extending out nearly a hundred yards in every direction. Neither Jace nor Janet could feel the fear that the zone inflicted on the ape-men, on lions, leopards and every other being that had tried to approach the cabin. The cabin meant safety, but he had to get to it. He worked his way through the forest until he got close to the zone of fear. He heard Janet screaming in the cabin, not the normal cries of a woman in labor, but the weak, exhausted, desperate cries of a woman near death.

Memories: The Marching Band Refused to Yield

Last night I was listening to the song American Pie.  The song brought back memories of an incident I had almost forgotten: NIU’s  “Marching Band Refused to Yield” incident.

Probably at least a decade ago, NIU made national news when one of the NIU football coaches got into a dispute with a visiting marching band and sent his players doing wind sprints through the band.

Band geek versus college football player. It didn’t end well for either side. A couple of band guys ended up with broken bones, but it was all captured on video, which meant that the football players’ bit of ‘fun’ was on record as assault, with zero chance of a successful defense.

The university immediately fired the coach and suspended or cut the players who tried to hit band members (quite a few of the players, to their credit, avoided the band members).  The university then went to the families of the band members, hat in hand saying “please let us pay your medical bills. (and don’t sue us)”

Because of the American Pie connection, the story went viral–at least as viral as a story could back then, making the national news.

This was an early indicator of the way cheap video cameras everywhere changed the (pun intended) playing field. If the incident hadn’t been caught on video, the whole thing would have probably been a murky mess, with conflicting stories over what happened. As a coach and a few players found out, the cameras changed everything.

New Snapshot Novel

This blog has been moribund lately, partly because I’ve been busy writing a new Snapshot novel. The novel is now published and hopefully blogging here will become much more regular.

Snapshot42-Stalingrad Run is the beginning of a new trilogy in the Snapshot universe. Before I get into the specifics, here’s a brief review of what the Snapshot universe is all about. Basically, ETs with godlike powers but no apparent interest in souls or being worshipped have been making backup copies of Earth continents for tens of millions of years, going back at least to dinosaur times. Those backup copies are exact replicas of the geography and life of the continent involved as of a moment in time. However, life in the Snapshots goes on, quickly diverging from the original.

Stalingrad Run is set mostly in a Snapshot of Europe taken on November 6, 1942, two days before the western Allies invaded French North Africa and a little less than two weeks before the Soviet counter-offensive that historically trapped the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad. From the point of view of the people inside the Snapshot, there is now an invisible wall around Europe (and parts of North Africa, the Middle East and the North Atlantic).

There is portal (Vent in Snapshot parlance) near Iceland that leads to a North American Snapshot taken in 1780–during the American Revolution. That Snapshot has been isolated from the rest of the world since 1780 and is still using early 1800s technology.

Bottom line: Without the rest of the world to draw on, the World War II allies are going to be hard-pressed to keep the Germans from overrunning Europe and then turning their sights on an infant America.

Panzers against flintlock muskets? Not a fight anyone in the west wants to see happen.  Stalingrad Run follows the adventures of a couple Americans trapped in the Europe-42 Snapshot as they try to escape Nazi (and Soviet) machinations and keep the Nazis at bay. It’s a lot more straight-forward thriller than most of the stuff I write, which may or may not be a good thing. We’ll see how people react to it.

Announcement! Exciting new Snapshot Universe novella available!

Athena-FINAL-LIVEMy new Snapshot novella, Wrath of Athena: A Snapshot Novella, is now available! It’s out in Kindle format and in print on Amazon. It’s also available in a bunch of formats through Smashwords, and will be out soon for Nook, iPad and pretty much any other e-book format I can think of.

Wrath is a small book in a huge universe. The Snapshot universe features over two dozen continent-sized interacting alternate realities (Snapshots) from the last eighty million years of Earth’s past, but Wrath of Athena focuses on the fate of a fly-by-night petting zoo that does it’s flying by night between Snapshots.  Continue reading “Announcement! Exciting new Snapshot Universe novella available!”

Mini-Review & Mini-Rant

I recently read a revival of Jerry Pournelle’s 1980s series There Will Be War from a small and rather controversial publisher. It’s an anthology and not bad, with the exception of one weak story toward the end.

As to the controversy: If you’ve heard of the Mad and Sad Puppies and the recent Hugo issues you can probably figure out why the publisher is controversial. My take on the controversy: I read interesting and well-written stuff and don’t want to know the author’s position on the Republican vs Democrat stupidity or the culture wars. I read fiction partly to get away from that crap. There aren’t too many places to get away from those wars anymore and what’s left seems to be under siege. Continue reading “Mini-Review & Mini-Rant”

The Eyes Rule

Our economy runs on eyeballs, which is another way of says that it runs on public attention.EyesImage Every company in the world is trying to cut through the clutter competing for the public’s attention and get their product noticed. That’s what makes a product succeed or fail. Continue reading “The Eyes Rule”

Mini-Reviews: Books & TV

Reading: I’ve been experimenting with audio books lately. I listened to the audio book of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Excellent stuff. A toddler escapes a killer and is adopted by ghosts in a graveyard. I wish I could make characters that draw readers in as much as the ones in this book do. I’m currently listening to The Chase, by Clive Cussler. It’s not bad so far. A detective agency is trying to track down a clever and ruthless bank robber who roams the west in 1906, killing all potential witnesses. The chase feeds into the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Not bad so far, though I noticed a few places where I wanted to get out my editing pen. Continue reading “Mini-Reviews: Books & TV”

Build a (Better!) Alternate Timeline

interconnectedImageIf you really look at what would happen in an alternate  timeline after something significant changed, you realize that events are so inter-related and there are so many points of individual decision that within a decade or two what happens in that alternate timeline is pure guesswork, no matter how meticulously you think it through. Continue reading “Build a (Better!) Alternate Timeline”

Alternate Prehistory: What If More Than One Human Species Had Survived?

A series of recent discoveries has made it clear that the current human species is only a DNAimagefraction of human diversity as it existed in the last ice age. Very different kinds of people lived then, enough different from modern humans to make all of our racial differences look trivial.

First the discoveries, then some alternate history speculation: Continue reading “Alternate Prehistory: What If More Than One Human Species Had Survived?”

Writing: Measuring Writing Progress

TargetImageIt’s hard to measure progress in writing. Quality improvements are what we should really be going for, of course, but it’s almost impossible to measure quality improvement. We can measure quantity of writing, at least in rough drafts. Words per day is pretty simple to track and I find that setting a minimum goal is a good way to motivate myself.

Continue reading “Writing: Measuring Writing Progress”

Book Reviews: The Short Drop, Terms of Use, Finding Charlie

The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons

This isn’t alternate history or even science fiction, but it’s pretty good. It’s a thriller about the daughter of a Senator who went missing ten years before the action takes place. Ten years later, the first clues about the daughter’s disappearance show up. That leads to a very well done mystery with lots of twists and turns and a character (the girl) who we never see, but who becomes very real and at least I cared a great deal about her. I wish I could bottle what the author did to make me care so much about that character and sprinkle some of it over the stuff I write, which definitely needs characters people care more about. Continue reading “Book Reviews: The Short Drop, Terms of Use, Finding Charlie”

Book Reviews: Time Travel/Alternate History Reviews

Reading: I read two time travel books recently, with very different approaches.

Split Second, by Douglas Richards

This book takes an interesting approach to time travel. In this book, the time traveler can only go back a fraction of a second. Note: What follows contains some spoilers about the setup of the time travel in Richard’s world. Continue reading “Book Reviews: Time Travel/Alternate History Reviews”

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