Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Snippet from Work in Progress: Horn Lake

(This particular scene takes place in 1956 at a county fair. The setting is the rear of the fairgrounds, past the local artisans tents, where Deputy Les Patterson is going to interview a witness he had never met and would rather just avoid)

Les studied the scene as he drew near. With his approach being so direct and obvious, the few fairgoers here had drawn into a group to the side in order to see what he was coming to do. They had been standing a bit back from the tent in the first place, and when he arrived it became obvious why.
Grandma Lilah obviously had an odd sense of d├ęcor.
The tent itself was unremarkable; a large, olive-drab affair that had probably been surplus from the Korean War. Somebody had taken a square sheet of white cloth and carefully painted the words…
…in red letters and then pinned the cloth to the canvas on the left of the door flap. But it was what surrounded the tent that had people’s attention.
Approximately five feet away from the tent walls, somebody had driven thin metal posts in three foot intervals all the way around the structure, only leaving an eight foot wide gap in the front. The top half of the posts had each been bent to form a large hoop about four feet above the ground, sized where the side of one hoop almost touched the hoop of the adjoining post.
And each of those hoops contained a large corn spider.
They had leg spans between three to four inches, making them about the biggest examples of this breed of spider that could be found. Since the posts had only been driven recently, some were still in the process of building their web in the hoops, while others already hung in the center. Les couldn’t help but wonder how the spiders had been transported the first place.
He remembered hearing that Grandma Lilah was partial to spiders, and it was rumored her shack deep in the woods was practically shrouded in webs. There were tales that she talked to the them like they could understand her.. Some whispered they were her familiars, while others suggested they acted as guardians she could command at will. It all just added to her dark notoriety.
At the same time, Les knew that despite their size and fearsome appearance, corn spiders were not dangerous. His cynical side smiled at the implications of that. It made them a perfect part of the old woman’s act. She could put on displays such as this, unsettling the customers and enhancing her already intimidating reputation, yet not have to worry about any true danger being involved. He had to admire her creativity. She might be a “local yokel”, but the old witch definitely knew her stagecraft.
At the moment though, it was her “stagehands” that interested him.
Two teenage boys sat on the ground behind the spider fence at the corner of the tent. One looked about sixteen and the other thirteen, and to Les’s experienced eye they were definitely from the Weyrich corner of the county. “More rural than most,” had been Deputy Cooper’s description, and it wasn’t a bad way to put it. Both wore patched overalls with faded railroad shirts that had the sleeves cut off, and both sets of clothes fit about the way one would expect from hand-me-downs. They also had a recently washed look that suggested to Les these were probably what passed as their Sunday best.  Neither wore shoes, although from the calloused look on their feet Les suspected they could walk through a sticker patch and barely notice. The callouses on their hands looked just as thick.
No, these weren’t just rural youth. They were far backwoods products who had been working and hunting since they could walk.  They had the hard, weathered look one usually found in much older men, while at the same time still obviously being kids. 
The younger one had been reading a Wyatt Earp comic book he must have picked up at one of the booths, while the older had been peering around through a collapsible tin telescope that looked an awful lot like the one the sharpshooting booth gave away for the super bullseye prize. Now they both watched him approach with open curiosity
The sight of the pair gave Les an idea, and a small bit of hope that he might be able to fix things without having to bother with the old witch.
“Howdy, boys,” he greeted, and slightly changed course to approach them instead of the tent entrance. He stopped a couple of feet short of the spider fence.
“Afternoon, sir,” both replied, climbing to their feet. The “sirs” in this case weren’t the awkward formality displayed by Cooper, but the common politeness one often found in rural people, and almost always encountered with the Weyrich folk…on the rare occasion one encountered any of the Weyrich folk.
Les glanced at the tin telescope in the older boy’s hand, then up at the kid himself.
“Just curious,” he asked with a smile, “how many shots did it take you?”
“Three,” the teen grinned back. “I guess I got lucky.”
Lucky, my ass, Les thought to himself. One shot to realize the sights were off. A second to judge by how much. And then a third to make a shot the carny running that booth probably thought was nearly impossible even with an unaltered gun. He didn’t know what he was dealing with. Either one of you kids could probably sleep your way through the rifle training I took back in the army.
“Nice shooting,” Les extended his hand over the strange fence in greeting. “By the way, I’m Deputy Les Patterson.”
“Samuel,” the teen replied, shaking his hand.
“Ronald,” the younger said, shaking his hand in turn.
So this was the kid Cooper had been talking about. If he played this right, he might be able to solve the witness problem on the spot without Lilah being brought into it. It was certainly worth a try.
“Ah, so you’re Ronald Weston? The young man who reported Charlie Orville to Deputy Gillis?”
“Yes, sir.”
Good. Now to take the shot in the dark that might clear everything up.
“So, Ronald, just for the record, where were you standing when you saw Charlie Orville steal the owl?”
But it wasn’t to be.
“Sir?” The boy tilted his head with a puzzled expression. “I never said I saw the owl get swiped. Me and Samuel were workin’ on the spider poles when Grandma Lilah called me and sent me to tell the deputy who stole it. So I did.”
“So Grandma Lilah saw it?” Les asked with a growing sense of gloom.
“I guess so. He had it, didn’t he?”
“Yes, he did,” Les sighed.
“Well,” the kid shrugged, “there you go then.”
 So much for hoping Ronald Weston had seen the crime, and tricking him into admitting it. Might as well go straight to the issue Charlie Orville’s lawyer was sure to zero in on.
“But Ronald, isn’t Grandma Lilah blind? Or have I heard wrong?”
The two youngsters shared an indecipherable look, then turned back to him.

“Um,” the boy now appeared decidedly uncomfortable. “I suppose that depends on who you ask. I’m pretty sure she don’t see it that way.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Regarding Maggie...

While going through some old papers, I stumbled across something interesting. I used to be a dungeon master back in my youth... so when I later started writing, it seemed only natural to make a form of character sheet for the different characters in my novels. I later got away from the practice and forgot about them. But I recently came across one of those old sheets, made sometime way back in 2009, and since it was for the character that I'm probably most often asked about, I thought I would share.

Maggie Weston
Book: Spiderstalk
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 425 lbs (due to tremendous muscle density)
Age: 20
Hair: Blonde (originally in long braid, later chopped short by knife
Eyes: Blue

Appearance: Maggie is a tall girl who appears muscular in a lanky way, much like a  professional beach volleyball player. She dresses in rural fashions, usually boots, jeans, with flannel shirts or black tee shirts, although she sometimes wears army surplus camouflage pants as well. Her face is angular, a bit harsh, and she has a slightly weathered look due to a great deal of time outdoors.
Her clothes conceal the fact that her torso is covered with a short fuzz similar to that found on the abdomen of some spiders. It covers an area similar to that of a one piece bathing suit. It  is mostly black and yellow on her back, featuring the same pattern as a corn spider, and almost completely black on front with the exception of two short diagonal orange stripes at the bottom of her ribcage,
Abilites: As one of only two known living third-generation talents of the Spider Tribe, she is far stronger (both physically and psionically) than the other talents of her people. This is because she has more of the Great Mothers DNA in her genome, meaning she is more spider and less human than the others.
The downside to this (in her case) is the spider fuzz covering her torso, and the fact she is a dedicated carnivore who requires a diet almost exclusively of meat. Her weight, due to her muscle density, also means she has serious negative buoyancy and can’t swim. Also, when greatly upset or preparing to fight, her eyes wills sometimes change to become more like those of a spider.
On the other hand, her physical strength is well into the superhuman range. Her bones are mostly composed of the same carbon nanotubes forming the great mother’s exoskeleton, and her skin is meshed with them as well. This makes her very resistant to damage. It would take a high powered rifle at close range to completely penetrate her skin, or some other projectile at extremely high velocity. The majority of firearms would bruise her at most. Since nobody actually put this to the test, neither she  nor her people ever had a precise understanding of her durability.
Psionically, she is also the most powerful of her tribe, although she does not possess the wide range of psionic abilities of Grandma Lilah (the other third generation talent). Under perfect circumstance (having veneno in her bloodstream, her companion nearby, and in an open but isolated area) she can detect a normal person's presence at almost a quarter of a mile, and actually read them at near a  hundred yards. Many factors can diminish this, including closer peoples thoughts drowning out more distant, having a large number of people around, physical barriers such as walls of different construction, etc…
Her psionic defenses are second to none, and when she has them fully up she becomes completely psionically undetectable, even to the best of her own people. Not even the rogue or the Great Mother can pierce Maggie’s defensive barriers when she has them at full.
She also has a latent healing ability, although not on a par with Grandma Lilah’s. It has not yet been explored or developed due to her difficulty with control, and that difficulty forcing the tribe’s elders to focus on training her to control her other, more immediate, attributes. So that ability only manifests itself as her having an incredibly strong constitution, and her being able to survive illnesses that should otherwise kill her.

Personality: Maggie has a complex, and often misunderstood, personality. Her mother died during the pregnancy, because Maggie started causing damage as she developed and became more active before birth. After a severe episode resulting in her mother's death by internal  hemorrage, Grandma Lilah performed a rough operation and managed to save the baby.
 Due to her tremendous strength and abilities, Maggie was completely isolated from other children until the age of seven. At that time she was finally allowed to visit Billy Clayton, who was two years her junior, but being a second generation talent, was more rugged and able to withstand an accidental lapse of control. It was still dicey at first, although they eventually became friends.
(In the book Billy will be officially sixteen, but is actually eighteen due to the tribes reluctance to make any newborn spirit singers “official” until they’ve survived a couple of years)  
So Maggie is only close with her father, her companion Molly, and Billy... and also carries a certain level of guilt over the death of her mother. The result of this will be her emotional stability being badly rocked when her father dies due to circumstances she created by saving the main character’s nephew.
Her training started at a very young age and focused on two areas. Warfare, and learning to control her strength. This has resulted in a serious, and somewhat repressed girl, who is often at war with her own emotions. She has had certain concepts of honor and responsibility deeply drilled into her, but those will be shaken as she starts to realize how her people’s adherence to the past, and its antiquated laws, was just as much responsible for her father’s death as her.
This will leave her faith in everything she believed in shaken, and utterly isolated with the limited exception of Billy.

So on the surface, Maggie normally comes across as forceful, stern, and sometimes harsh. But underneath there is confusion over her own identity, fear of losing loved ones, and an uneasy relationship with her own emotions.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Current Project

So this is my current project.

I'm about sixty thousand words into it, so I feel there is a good enough chance of completion to risk a cover reveal. Or at least one of the possible covers.

I've written a zombie novel, a giant spider novel, and a Lovecraftian novel with a sequel, so I decided it was time to change gears again. This time I decided to write my version of a haunted house book. While I have released an anthology of ghost stories, I hadn't dedicated a true novel to them yet.

There's still a long way to go, but I'm hoping for the best.

And since my hands have actually stabilized a little, it looks like I might get at least one more novel out of them. Awesome. It just goes to show that sometimes there is good news too.

I know it's not much, but that's pretty much all for now.