Friday, August 29, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #28 - Tiffany Sweet

This week's Flash Fiction Fridays piece is a sneak peek at the some of the background of one of the characters from my Expired Reality series. I actually wrote out the background to this particular character during National Novel Writing Month 2009, and hope to publish that novella at some point in the near future.

In the meantime, enjoy today's short nugget.

Tiffany Sweet
Jensen Alcon stepped three feet to his left and stood in front of the next research pod. This one was particularly larger than the last three he had done a routine checkup on – it was bigger, more advanced in its technical workings, and was being used to isolate a human rather than a creature like the others. The stainless steel surface of the cylinder-shaped chamber glistened under the fluorescent lighting of the lab, adding a hint of refinement to the somewhat macabre task at hand.

Jensen held his clipboard out in front of him and cleared his throat. He didn’t like participating in experiments on humans, but – as his colleague, Roc, had put it, Wedges weren’t normal humans. They were super powered beings, putting them in a classification of their own.

Jensen only half believed that lie. He half believed it so he could move forward and do the work he was getting paid to do. Squelching his conscience was just part of the job.

“Subject 7A4T,” he said, hoping Roc – who was monitoring him from the security panel in the other room – wasn’t paying attention to how nervous this made Jensen feel.

“Just get it over with, man,” Roc’s voice boomed over the lab’s speakers.

“Leave me alone,” Jensen said.

“I want to go to lunch. They have that buffet place that just opened down the road. Hurry up so we can get there before the crowds show up.”

Jensen sighed and read aloud the fact sheet on his clipboard. “Subject 7A4T. Name: Tiffany Sweet. Age: 16. Family is deceased. Mother was a baker, and her father owned a bookstore. Tiffany’s powers are…erratic.” Jensen glanced up at the camera in the ceiling that he knew Roc was watching him through. “Erratic? That’s all it says here. Is that why her powers were put into dormancy?”

“Just read the sheet, man. Nobody really cares what it says. Just read it for the record, open the chamber, and check on the experiment before naming it.”

“She’s not an experiment, Roc. She’s a human being.”

“Man, we’ve been through this.”

“You have your way of dealing with things, and I have mine. I don’t want to think of her as a test tube or a beaker. She’s a young female. A human. Endowed, maybe, with powers beyond our comprehension. But still human.”

“Just finish your damn job so we can eat, man! I’m starving!”

Jensen input his sixteen-digit alphanumeric code into the security panel on the front of the chamber and stepped back as the chamber hissed. White mist swirled up from the bottom of the unit as the front shield lifted up to reveal the female within.

Her appearance shocked Jensen for more than just a mere moment. She was nude, and her arms and legs were strapped into the chamber by a silver-colored flexible alloy known as Silvertech. Nobody had ever escaped Silvertech, nor had anyone ever destroyed Silvertech. Jensen briefly remembered reading a newspaper article about the Eneran military wanting to use Silvertech to build their tanks.

He shuddered at the thought of indestructible tanks.

The girl’s breasts were covered by her long, pink hair that had grown down to her hips. The most striking trait about her though was her bright turquoise-colored eyes. In the chamber, their ‘experiments’ were put into cryo sleep – which happened immediately upon activation – and caught some of their subjects with their eyes open.

“Are you getting off on the experiment, man? Hurry up!”

“She’s…stunning. Not her flesh. Her hair. Her eyes. One could get lost in those eyes…” Jensen mused.

“We need to get you a girlfriend. I heard there’s a lot of women that eat at that new buffet down the road.”

“I’m not looking at her like that, Roc. There’s something special about her. I can’t place my finger on it.”

“Just name her, and let’s go. My stomach is crying out somethin’ fierce!”

“Alright. I’ll name her…Turquoise. Turquoise Wedge.”

“Great. You named your new girlfriend. Now, can we eat, please?”

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #10 Now Available!

Episode #10 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: The Lazerblades lead a raid on Mr. Big's warehouse in hopes of finding his mysterious assistant, Shaonna Ryshay. But when an outsider interferes with the operation, Veronica finds that her task to kill Shaonna is just the beginning of a long night.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Crossover Alliance Anthology Release Date!

I am proud to announce the release date for The Crossover Alliance Anthology - Volume 1: Friday, September 26th. On that date, the book will be available in paperback and digital formats.

This is a project I have been spearheading for months now, and it contains a compilation of unique short stories from some of today's most prolific authors. If you've never heard of edgy Christian speculative fiction, you will once you've read this anthology!

About the book -
By traversing beyond the boundaries of Christian and secular fiction, this phenomenal collection of edgy Christian speculative pieces will transport you to the furthest reaches of space, the chilling snow-drenched plains of fantasy, and the deepest, darkest corridors of the human heart. While journeying through these fantastical worlds, let this prolific gathering of authors shine a glimmer of light your way and reveal Christ in a very dark, very real world.

Keep tabs on the official Anthology web page for upcoming information on the included authors and a special book trailer.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #27 - The War

The War
“What story do you want to hear before dinner, Jimmy?” Grandpa Jim asked.

Jimmy settled on the couch near his grandfather. “Tell me about the War that you and your friends were in. I haven’t heard that one yet!”

Grandpa Jim nodded. “Yes, yes. Those were dark days indeed. The War itself lasted only hours, but it felt like weeks before we came to the end of it.  By that time, I had lost all of my companions, and I found myself alone to fight the horrible artificial intelligence known as The Core by myself.”

“How did you do it, Grandpa?” Jimmy asked.

Grandpa Jim let a smile bleed across his face. He up held the pointer finger of his right hand. “Luck and strategy, my dear boy.

“See, it all began for the four in the foyer of the Tower of Roses. We had to fight our way through that place first before we could even get close to the Core. Things got a little dicey, but we managed to make it out of there alive. Once we found the blue key – which we needed in order to get through the exit – the place went nuts with enemies. Ronald, my best friend, took it upon himself to cover our backs as we battled our way out.

“Did you and your friends escape?” Jimmy asked as he scooted across the couch, closer to his grandfather.

Grandpa Jim frowned. “We did, but not before we had to fight a beast the likes of which you may indeed see in your lifetime. An experiment gone awry. The four of us were weak when we first met up with the beast, but by the end, it was just me and Ronald left. Craig and Tootsie died in the battle.” He turned and stared out the living room window, his eyes catching sight of the drifting clouds outside. “They were good companions to have on an adventure like that. But they were still new to the game, still green to the strategy it took to fell that beast. They didn’t know what Ronald and I figured out too late into the battle: The beast had a weak spot, a glowing disc on its forehead. Once we realized that, Ronald and I shot up that thing until it finally exploded all over the place, leaving a mess of coins behind.”

Jimmy scratched his head. “Coins? Why would it leave coins behind?”

Grandpa Jim shrugged. “I don’t know. It just did.”

Becky peered into the room, her sparkling blue eyes catching Grandpa Jim’s attention. “Are you filling my son’s head with nonsense again, dad?”

Grandpa Jim laughed. “Of course not.”

Jimmy waved his mother away. “Not now, Mom! He’s telling me about the war.”

Becky rolled her eyes and huffed. “Dinner’s almost ready. Can you two wrap this up, please?” With that, she vanished, leaving Grandpa Jim to finish his tale.

“As I was saying, we defeated the beast, Ronald and I. From there, we advanced to the deepest part of the war, the inner Core. This was a terrible place of demons and traps. We had some close calls. It was in that place that I lost some of my hearing. The sound of the explosions was too much for my fragile ears. The volume in that place was too high.

“We finally made it to the central Core, though. Before we knew what hit us, Ronald was cut in half by a mining laser.”

Jimmy gasped. “What did you do then, Grandpa?”

Grandpa Jim laughed, happy to have the full attention of a ten-year-old. “Well, I did what I did best throughout the whole war. I pulled out my rocket launcher and went to town on the Core and its diabolical artificial intelligence. I made it out with one point of health – but I made it out.”

Jimmy scratched his head again. “One point of health? What does that mean?”

Grandpa Jim patted Jimmy on the back before standing to his feet. “You’ll know what it means soon enough, kiddo.”

Becky returned to the doorway.

“I’m hungry!” Jimmy exclaimed as he ran to the kitchen.

Becky stopped Grandpa Jim in the doorway between the two rooms. “You really think it’s healthy to fill his head with such things?”

Grandpa Jim shrugged. “What things?”

“The War? Really? Is that what you’re calling it now?”

“It was responsible for the loss of some of my hearing. You know that.”

“I do know that. I was there, remember?”

He smiled warmly. “I do remember, Tootsie. Maybe after dinner…”

Becky shook her head and put her hand on Grandpa Jim’s shoulder. “Dad, I love you. Really I do. But Jimmy is too young to play those kinds of games. You know that. And I’m…well, I’m too old. That was a one-time thing, okay?”

Grandpa Jim gently moved his daughter to the side and passed by her as he made his way to the kitchen. “You’re never too old for video games, sweetie. Never too old.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #9 Now Available!

Episode #9 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: Vector returns to give David Corbin advice on how to capture Mr. Big, but when she reveals the existence of a deadly woman who is assisting the crime lord, David has to decide whether or not Vector's information is actually a prelude to a trap.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Emergence

It's been a while since I've talked about myself. Please don't take that as an egotistical or narcissistic observation. I'm simply pointing out that it's been a while since I pulled the curtain back and let others see me as more than just an author, but also as a husband, father, Christ-follower, gamer, reader, and all-around geek. I've been blogging about The LZR Project, Flash Fiction Fridays, and cover designs, but I haven't really been all that personal. At least, I don't feel like I have. And I think a big part of it is the season I am currently in.

As most of you already know, God called me and my family to the Bay Area over a year ago. The journey out here in itself is a grand story of faith, but you can read about that in my book, Of Dreams and Faith. Once here, we were under the impression we would be participating in a church plant in the city of San Francisco. That was the major reason we thought we were being moved to the Bay Area in the first place. Things with the church plant didn't work out (for us personally), which in turn led me to feel as if I had lost my focus, and I found myself crying out to God for direction. 

This last year has been rough. I've been living in unfamiliar territory out here in the Bay Area. I've been away from friends, from family, from familiarity. I've had my faithful wife by my side, my son at my heel, but even after a year I still don't feel 'settled' here in the Bay Area. I've felt more like a stranger in a strange land, a nomad for lack of a better description. To top things off, we just confirmed that God is calling us back to Arizona, although the specifics of 'when' are yet to be determined. This leaves us in a sort of limbo that has got me a little antsy to move forward into the next season.

The question that plagued my mind at one point was this: What has this last year been for? If the purpose of moving us here to California was to be part of a church plant we are no longer a part of, than what are we doing here? Granted, we've wanted to live in California for many years, but now that we've been here a while, we realize that this isn't the place we're going to settle in, at least not right now. So, could God have made a mistake by calling us out here? Did we make a mistake by not following through on the church plant? Did God blunder so badly that He made us waste all of this time, energy, and these resources to move to another state simply to exist?

Not hardly.

See, the last year has given me a lot of time to think. A lot of time to pray. A lot of time to look into my heart and spirit and find out who I really am. A lot of time to grow. This time spent in California has given me discipline in trusting God in unfamiliar surroundings, apart from companions, apart from my comfort zone. This time has given me the ability to shut out the voices of others (good or bad), and focus on my relationship with my wife, my relationship with God, and my writing career.

With this journey, though, came a side-effect. As I focused more and more on what God tried to reveal to me, I shrank further and further away from my online persona. I've updated friends and family on a very rare basis, I've pumped out information about my writing projects - but with no real heart to the posts, and I've essentially become a hermit. Again, this is how I feel I've come off as of late.

I've taken to disguising myself much like the wizard from the Wizard of Oz, pulling the curtains closed while my author persona takes over for me.

It doesn't help that I also tend to have a dual personality where sometimes I am a supreme introvert, and other times I am a supreme extrovert. Sometimes I look at being an author as merely a business, putting aside all personality to make room for business-related news. Every now and then I'll say something funny on Twitter, and then leave my account for weeks on end without another word said aside from notifications of the latest blog post which is about my books. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with posting about my writing. This is my God-given career, and (if done right), the information about my writing projects via social media can be a great conduit to let people know what I've been up to.

This last season has sort of reminded me of the transformation a caterpillar takes to become a butterfly, residing within a cocoon for weeks, sometimes months, before emerging, transformed. While inside the cocoon, the caterpillar isn't concerned with the outside world. He is simply focused on his transformation, his growth.

It's time for my emergence. It's time for me (and my family) to enter into the next season. I'm stronger, more focused, and more passionate about my relationship with God, my life, and my career. Keep an eye out for more from me in the coming weeks.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #26 - Dead Train

Dead Train
The smell is what wakes me. Then the movement of the train. My first instinct upon being assaulted by the aroma of death and decay is to panic, however, within a split second my memory takes the movement of the train and assures me that the smell simply means that I am alive.

I find nothing but darkness upon opening my eyes. Decaying flesh rubs against every part of my body, and I have to work hard not to vomit – which will only make things worse. I’m still on a train full of corpses. I stowed away on it after feigning my death in the EX chambers in the city of Soral. I didn’t actually think I would get away with faking my death and hiding on this train to escape the genocide. But I did.

I shift my weight to the left and right and manage to wiggle to the front of the pile of death and enter a very small space in the train car that is not occupied by corpses. I roll down the pile of bodies and hit my head on the wooden floorboard. I use my arms to push up from the bloodstained floor, take a deep breath, and look over to the pile of bodies. Hundreds of bodies. The heads are covered in black sackcloth, but the bodies have been stripped nude, and most are covered in boils, bloody lines, or acid-eaten patches.

I stand to my feet and brush myself off. I confirm that I am still dressed in my brown skirt and white blouse. My black denim coat has managed to keep most of the filth off my blouse, however, I feel patches of blood as I run my fingers through my long hair. I’ll need to shower once I find a safe place to settle.

A loud screech nearly blows out my eardrums as the train suddenly decreases its speed. Since I have been out cold, I’m not sure how far I’ve traveled from Soral. I know the destination of the train was supposed to be Baruck, but I have no idea how close we are to that destination.

I glance around to see if there is an exit to another train car, but most of the car is occupied by rotting corpses. The only doorway off the train is the large sliding one in front of me. I move the door latch to the right and slide the door open.

Snow.

Ice.

We are nowhere near Baruck.

The train comes to a complete stop. The same panic I felt upon awakening attempts to creep in again, but I will not allow it to cloud my focus. I have to get as far away from the train as possible before the authorities find me alive. I glance at one of the bodies. The flesh has been covered in acid that has torn away a good portion of the skin, leaving an open gash allowing me to see bone and muscle. I have no desire to turn out that way.

A siren rings out, and I know now that they’ve been alerted to my presence. I had heard that these trains had heat sensors integrated in them, but I hoped it had been rumor and speculation.

The train is a good three feet from the ground. I hop down without issue. I glance to my left and find a small company of blue armor-clad Sentries closing on my position. Blue laser blasts fill the space between them and me as I make a run for the patch of woods a few kilometers in front of me.

The snow isn’t too deep, and I’m able to run without too much hindrance. My sneakers are not the right type of shoe to be wearing in a pursuit such as this, but it’s nothing I can change at the moment.
A bolt hits my shoulder and I feel the sting of heat and needles. I keep running, realizing that they are starting to draw back from the pursuit. I keep running, nearly out of breath, until I reach the entrance of the woods.

Looking up, I understand why they fell back. The trees are tall, stretching so high into the overcast sky that I cannot make out the tops of them. The bark is black, and there are splotches of red paint cast across the trunks. Blood? Paint? I don’t want to find out.

“Sarah Groves!” one of the Sentries calls out.

I turn my back to the woods and give the small squad of Sentries my full attention. They are almost an equal distance between me and the train. Five of them. The leader is in yellow armor.

“Surrender, and we will take you in without issue.”

“Bullshit!” I shout. I have no desire to turn into one of the corpses inside the train car. I know that is what will happen to me if I turn myself in. However…I turn to the trees behind me. Black bark. Red splotches. This couldn’t possibly be the Blood Grove, could it? The Blood Grove is nowhere near the vicinity of Soral. Why would the train be moving through this area of Anaisha?

“We all know you’re not going to enter the trees. Come with us, and you will be safe. You will have a proper trial in Soral.”

“You lie!”

The Sentry in yellow armor holds up his arms and chuckles. “You have nowhere else to run.”

“I do,” I whisper. I turn and thrust myself into the patch of trees, uncertain which is a worse fate to face.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #8 Now Available!

Episode #8 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: During a mission to Crystal City to find the Sindaris Stone, Carrie Green finds a vision of her questionable future with David Corbin.

Enjoy!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #25 - Moonlight

Moonlight
I packed my bag light in case trouble decided to pursue me along the road. It was a mistake leaving Avernon, but if I stayed with her she would have been killed. We both would have been killed, probably in our sleep. Instead, I decided to kill her in her sleep. Not actually, but figuratively. By leaving while she slumbered, I know she will awaken to a nightmare of my creation. I doubt she will ever forgive me. It is for the best, regardless if she is ever able to see it that way.

I shift the bag higher on my shoulder, shoving my fingers between the bag strap and the bone of my collar in the hopes of alleviating the dull pain the weight of the bag is causing. Even though I did pack light, the strap of the bag itself seems intent on tearing through my skin.

The path in front of me is mostly dark, save for slivers of moonlight that sneak through the massive tree branches spread overhead. A dark fog attempts to flood my path, but the slivers of moonlight will not allow it to consume my way. I am glad for this. I sense ill specters within the fog, but have yet to see them.

The air is damp, and my lungs feel as if they are filling with wet cotton. I wonder how long it will take for the Separsese to catch up with me. Even though I displeased him by stealing the talisman, he will not be pleased when he discovers what I did with it. He will undoubtedly hunt me to the corners of the planet. That is why I had to leave Avernon. That is why I had to leave my love behind, sleeping, naked after a night full of passion. I doubt I will ever cross paths with one like her again. If 
I don’t outwit the Separsese, I doubt I will cross paths with anyone ever again.

Suddenly, like mice scurrying out of the path of giant’s feet, the slivers of moonlight which have kept me company thus far flee, and the dark fog fills in the path around me. I am left in pure darkness. I set my bag on the ground and quickly pull out my pack of matches, lighting one upon the side of my shoe. The small glow barely illuminates the area around me, but it is enough to show me who I face here in the Drashard Woods: the Separsese.

His face hangs in the darkness as if he has no body. The wrinkles traveling his face create a map upon his countenance, one that hints at many adventures and much age. But the texture of his face is nothing to his eyes which glow a soft amber color in the darkness. The smile upon his lips are filled with poison as he opens them to speak to me.

“Victor. Did you really think you could outsmart me?”

“You came for your talisman?” I ask.

His body comes into view. He is wearing a flowing purple robe. It is what he usually wears when he sentences his people to execution. “You took a holy artifact. Where is it?”

He circles around me, but I refuse to follow him with my sight. Instead, I stand straight and tall in the hopes of hiding my fear. “I don’t have it.”

“You destroyed it?”

I nod.

The Separsese hisses like a serpent. “Why?”

“You were going to use it on me, weren’t you?”

“How do you know that? The talisman you took was the Oborong. An ancient artifact with the power to heal. Why would I use that on you?”

“In order to heal one, it drains the life from another. You were going to use it to drain my life to heal you.”

He stopped and grinned madly. “More clever you are than I ever gave you credit for. Yes. My intention was to destroy you to build myself up. However, now that you have destroyed the talisman, I will have to take your life in other ways. First I will drain your life, your blood, and then the blood of your beautiful Avernon. And the blood of her child.”

My heart slams against my ribcage, screaming to get out of my chest. “Child?”

“You did not know?” he says, flashing his rotted teeth. “She carries. I sense the power in the life she holds within her womb.”

“Leave her. Take me. I’m the one you wanted all along.”

“Yes, but you have destroyed the artifact that would have allowed me to fill myself with your essence alone. Now I need more than just yours in order to fill myself with life. That child will be the perfect source…unless.”

I can’t help but sneer. “Unless what?”

“I will allow you and your significant others to live. You pledge yourself to me. Your spirit. Your soul. Your life. You do my bidding, and I will allow you to live.”

“Never.”

He shrugged. “Fine. Have it your way. Lay down.” He waves his hand and I feel my body collapse to the dirt. “Roll over.” I roll onto my back. “Die.” My insides suddenly feel as if they are being drowned in corrosive acid.

“No!” I scream.

The pain stops.

The Separsese looks down upon me. “Did you say something?”

“I will serve you,” I say with a whisper.

He waves his hand and I stand to my feet. I feel something prick my right hand. I look to it and see a strange purple skull stamped into my skin.

“Go back home,” the Separsese says. “Go back home and enjoy your Avernon and enjoy your new child. Just know that I will have need of you soon.”

In the blink of an eye, the Separsese is gone and the slivers of moonlight return to my side like fair-weather friends.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The LZR Project - Episode #7 Now Available!

Episode #7 is now available for download in PDF format for your reading pleasure, and best of all, it's only $1 for those not on a series subscription! Check out the official web page for links to individual episodes. Want to subscribe to The LZR Project and only pay once to get a new episode each and every Wednesday - and catch up on back episodes? Head to https://gumroad.com/products/LqzG for more information.

In this episode: Feeling slighted by her older brother, Cybil Corbin decides to take matters into her own hands. Donning a homemade costume, she ventures into the city of Lysallis to find a way to prove her worth to Anaisha's greatest hero.

Enjoy!