All Things Huge And Hideous — In Miniature!

So, I’ve wanted to share these for a long time, but life has meant that I have very little time for hobbies I used to enjoy a great deal, like model and miniature painting. I must first of all thank my dear friend and fan Ralph Seibel of Germany — who I have known for far longer than I have been writing — for designing these minis on Hero Forge and sending them to me. It has been years, but I finally managed to break off some time to paint them, and I really wanted to do a good job, so here they are:

Dr. James DeGrande, calming down a fire lizard, his No. 75 dragon scalpel at his side, and Paralyze and Painless at his back.

His assistant, Harriet Templin, witch and all around animal wrangler, fresh from some activity that involved blood and less savory fluids.

When Ralph sent me Harriet, he apologized(!) that he hadn’t been able to give Harriet the hunchback that she is described as having, but he DID send her with a backpack, and a little work with a Dremel and some paint fixed that problem up easily.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this vizualization as much as I did. Unfortunately, my eyes aren’t what they used to be, so these did take awhile. But they were worth every second. Great thanks again, Ralph.

AVATAR 2: The Way Of Water SCRIPT RELEASED

So since I got so many hits from the Top Gun script satire, I figured it would drive traffic to do a post that would 1) distract pirates, but more importantly 2) give my fans a laugh. So, here goes the script that I am sure no one would ever predict from Dances With Smurfs 2, Digital Bugaloo. It should go without saying that, like my last review, I have written this one wthout ever having seen, or planned to see, this film.

The Place: The Smurfelf (or Na’vi or Nauvoo, or whatever) Homeworld

Scene 1:

JAKE SULLY (voiceover): Life has been so perfect on this alien world where my family has either overlooked or never known the fact that I’m an alien hiding out in the mindwiped corpse or brain-ectomied clone of one of them.

JAKE’S SON: Hey, Dad, how come you never talk about your childhood. You’re not hiding some deep, dark secret, are you?

NEYTIRI: What a question to ask your father!

JAKE’S SON: Just kidding!

JAKE SULLY: I hope I never have to confess my deep, dark secret to them.

NEYTIRI: Oh, I’m sure that will never be necessary; we showed your people that trying to conquer our planet was hideously unprofitable last time, right?

JAKE SULLY: Yes, you’re right. It would just be pure evil of them to try again. In fact, no matter how rare the substance, it’s overwhelmingly likely that synthesizing it would be far cheaper than launching an interstellar invasion.

Despite the fact that there is no sound possible from outside the atmosphere, an ominous whisper of sound accompanies a distinctive flash of light in the sky.

JAKE SULLY: Well, shit.

Scene 2:

JAKE SULLY: …so that’s the reason, children, that I’ve never talked about my childhood, and by extension, is my deep, dark secret.

JAKE’S DAUGHTER: So, you’re really an alien midget who can’t walk riding my Dad’s body around? I can’t deal with this!

NEYTIRI: No, that’s… how can I explain this?

JAKE’S DAUGHTER: You’re a lot kinkier than I ever imagined?

NEYTIRI: No, I…

JAKE’S DAUGHTER runs off crying.

NEYTIRI: What will we do, Jake?

JAKE SULLY: Well, on Earth we had these people called ‘therapists.’

JAKE’S SON: But why would your people come here and attack us?

JAKE SULLY: Because my people have developed a terrible technology that gives them great power, only at the cost of needing to constantly destroy everything beautiful on their world, and now they will do it to ours as well!

JAKE’S SON: And that’s why they developed this soul-destroying technology?

JAKE SULLY: Yes, they are terrible.

JAKE’S SON: Well, why can’t they just get everything they need just like we do by plugging themselves into your planet’s animals and mind-controlling them?

JAKE SULLY: Well, no. They can’t do that because they’re inferior.

JAKE’S SON: What are we going to do??

NEYTIRI: Don’t worry, your father can just lead us all to triumph again, I’m sure. Can’t you?

JAKE SULLY: This might be a good time to discuss how Earth militaries occasionally learn something called ‘tactics’ and the fact that they probably remember our capabilities from last time.

Scene 3:

Fire and death raining down from the sky. Everyone but the Sully family is exterminated.

JAKE SULLY: Neytiri! Take the children and go!

NEYTIRI: Not without you!

Explosion conveniently knocks Jake out of the sky in a dramatic fall which will provide tension to everyone in the audience with brain damage and who has never seen a movie before.

Scene 4:

JAKE SULLY: What happened?

JAKE’S SON: We lost everything! Everyone is gone!

NEYTIRI: You were knocked out and I saved you. Fortunately, you hit several plot devices on the way down.

JAKE SULLY: Oh, good.

JAKE’S SON: I thought you said these aliens were inferior!

JAKE SULLY: Yes, look at what they did with their soul-destroying technology!

JAKE’S SON: And you grew up with these people and they can travel between stars and wipe us out like that and you knew about it all these years and you never thought to teach us any of it?? It looks like what we Na’vi need is a double-helping of soul-destroying technology!!

JAKE SULLY: Now, son, all we need to do is discover how this planet will provide us some new animals that will surprise the aliens again that are compatible with our USB brain plugs.

JAKE’S SON: But who will take us in?

Scene 5:

ATTRACTIVE STRANGE GIRL: Hey, new people! We’ll take you in! Come live with us!

JAKE’S SON: Really?

NEYTIRI: Of course, all Na’vi are one.

ASG: Come join our Water Tribe.

NICKELODEON LAWYERS: a-HEM!

ASG: I mean the Sea People! We will be happy to teach you everything, despite the fact that you have no skills that are useful in this area and will probably attract the very people who attacked you.

Scene 6:

EVIL COMMANDER: Are you sure Jake Sully is dead?

LIEUTENANT: Sir, why does that matter? We wiped out his whole tribe.

EVIL COMMANDER: Because only a human could ever defeat us. We tracked him with our bioscantrackerdoohickey.

LIEUTENANT: Can’t we do that again?

EVIL COMMANDER: Only if he’s not underwater.

LIEUTENANT: Geez, what are the odds?

Scene 7:

The training montage that takes place underwater

Scene 8:

LIEUTENANT: No trace of him, sir.

EVIL COMMANDER: Dammit! Well, might as well go mine the biggest deposit of unobtainium on the planet. Where is it?

LIEUTENANT: Underwater, sir. Right here.

EVIL COMMANDER: Geez, what are the odds?

Scene 9:

JAKE SULLY: Son, can you ever forgive me that I wasn’t who you thought I was?

JAKE’S SON: I guess, Dad. I mean, all that matters is who you are inside, which just happens to be a White Savior icon that we poor natives needed to save us, in spite of which you wouldn’t teach us your technology, because our souls aren’t strong enough, I think.

JAKE SULLY: That’s not…

JAKE’S SON: But all we’ve done is prepare to use a bunch of really cool fish in combat! What if the aliens attack anywhere else?

JAKE SULLY: Look, son, they attacked in the air when we had birds; they’ll attack in the sea now that we have fish.

JAKE’S SON: That doesn’t make…

ASG: They’re coming!

JAKE’S SON: Geez, what are the odds?

Scene 10:

Invincible-looking human armada approaches

THX SURROUND SOUND: BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

Impressive-looking Na’vi fish school looks Grim And Determined.

THX SURROUND SOUND: BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

LIEUTENANT: Sir, we have his signature: It’s Jake Sully!

EVIL COMMANDER: Today we discover which species is truly superior!

90% OF THE MOVIE BUDGET IN 5 MINUTES: KA-BLAMBOOMSPLASHAIIIIGH – NO! – GABAMFKABLOOEYBAM!

EVIL COMMANDER: You may have defeated us, Sully, but we will return!

JAKE SULLY: You’re going to keep throwing money away on this planet?

EVIL COMMANDER: You will never defeat the corporate drive for profit!

JAKE SULLY: Geez, you guys really are cartoon capitalist villains, aren’t you?

EVIL COMMANDER: Us? I meant Cameron. There’s no way he’s walking away from this cash cow (dies)

END CREDITS

EXCERPT: “JEANNE D’ARCHITONNERE!”

To celebrate the release of CHICKS IN TANK TOPS, an excerpt from my story, “Jeanne d’Architonnere!”

Even inside the armor of the tartaruga that she was preparing for battle, Gia could hear the bellowing of the Florentine leaders. Them, and the crunching thunder of the siege guns. 

“This is your army? You are trusting the fate of the Republic to a blind man and a crippled girl?” shouted Soderini.

“It’s better than trusting the mercy of that son-of-a-whore Borgia and His Profanity Julius II!” hissed back Machiavelli.

Gia inspected the turret. Bearings, greased. Springs and gun-track, polished to a shine. She snapped the slats of the viewports up and down on their hinges. She saw the Florentine militia wavering in their ranks, the dust and smoke where mortar stones had fallen, and finally, the sour, square face of Gonfaloniere Soderini, red jowls flapping.

“You call him profane!” he cried. “But you’re the one dealing with a sorcerer!”

“Well, if he can conjure up a spine for your militia, then he is no wizard, but a worker of miracles and therefore a saint!” growled General Machiavelli. His smooth face was a saturnine mask. Gia was not fooled. The man’s rage was hotter than the copper of the architonnerre. And that shone with heat, steam venting from its valve.

“They’re your militia!” roared Soderini. “You trained them! You led them! You led us all: to this!”

“And you refused to let me train them more,” Machiavelli went on, implacably, “You and the rest, so worried that I might declare myself a prince that they are now – as I warned you! – unable to save us from the devils beating at Prato’s gates!”

Gia snorted. At least she and her fellow tartaruga crews had drilled. They’d had to learn the machines inside-out.

“Have faith,” said a voice with an odd accent. French? A short man in blue uniform under a breastplate stepped into view. “Gaston de Foix comes from victory over Spain at Ravenna, and though wounded, he rides to your aid. But he cannot retake Prato if it has already fallen, and Prato is the key to Firenze. Better to fight now than beg Christ’s mercy from the black hearts of Pope Julius II or Borgia.”

At that name, rage mounted in Gia’s belly, spreading even to the legs she could not otherwise feel. She looked at the Florentines with disgust: they’d wanted to wait like princesses for some dashing French officer to ride to their rescue without having to fight. She’d never had any such illusions. She looked down into the belly of the tartaruga.

“Carlo, are we loaded?”

Si, donna.” The squat man gestured to the long trough of cast-iron balls.

“Gun-breech?”

He grinned. “Smooth as a whore’s passage.”

“Don’t talk dirty about my baby, Carlo. Gun-barrel?”

“Hotter than Borgia’s soul in Hell.”

Gia listened to the Florentines’ cursing and said, “I think it’s time for a valve test, don’t you?”

Carlo’s smile turned wolfish. “Si, Donna.

Gia looked out, making sure that the gleaming muzzle was turned well away from the arguing lords. The general’s hand was drifting slowly toward the hilt of a large dirk at his belt.

“Lock breech.”

“Locked and empty.”

Gia reached over and slammed the valve shut. The steam hissing through the turret vent cut off. Boiling water rushed through its siphon tube and hit the barrel of the gun, heated by its cage of coals. It flashed instantly into steam. The copper barrel loosed a jet of vapor with a roar that silenced the shouting Florentines.

Release Day: CHICKS IN TANK TOPS!

Today, I get to announce the release of my story, “Jeanne d’Architonnere,” in the anthology Chicks In Tank Tops from Baen books. This is an especially fun story to announce. If you are a regular follower of mine, it will come as no surprise to you that my day job is being a history teacher at a local high school. Despite this (or perhaps because of this) I rarely delve into the arcana of writing alternate history. However, when I was invited to participate in this anthology by my editor, Jason Cordova, I very much wanted to bring one of my favorite daydreams to life.

Most people know that Leonardo da Vinci drew up blueprints during his lifetime (okay, sketches really) for a war cart ringed with cannon that would later become popularized as history’s first idea for the modern tank. Of course, da Vinci’s version had no engine beyond the feet of the soldiers who would presumably man it, and it was conceived of as a purely anti-personnel unit.

What fewer people know, is that da Vinci also conceived of a breech-loading, steam-powered cannon. This weapon, which he called the architonnere, worked by superheating the barrel and breech of the gun. After each round was introduced into the breech, and the breech sealed, a bell would allow water to enter just behind the breech, where it would instantly flash into steam and thus fire the round.

I will hasten to add that as a historian I do not consider it terribly realistic to speculate that the real Leonardo da Vinci would, in any conceivable set of circumstances, actually be able to marry all of these ideas together along with a flywheel drive to create the tank, or (since that word was the result of a code name given by the real armored fighting vehicles’ British inventors) the tortoise, as it is described in the story, but that’s where fiction comes in. I hope you will all enjoy the story of Jeanne d’Architonnere and those of my fellow authors.

BOOK LAUNCH: RESPONSIBILITY OF THE THRONE

I thought I’d celebrate the launch of the book by giving you the full piece of art that adorns the cover. Isn’t it wonderful?

The book is doing quite well, considering, having made it up to 4th place in the Amazon New Releases in Action Adventure today. If you’d like to try helping me make it to #1 and the coveted Orange Tag, please feel free to purchase it by clicking the book link below!

RESPONSIBILITY OF THE THRONE: One Week to Go!

So, the novel launch should have been today, but my editor was doing very important things at 20BooksTo50k, a wonderful Las Vegas conference that I hope to be able to attend someday. That means it gets pushed back just one week, so not really a big deal. But, to tide us over, I’m going to give you a sample snippet of the book. I’d also like to point out that those who receive my newsletter (hint, hint!) have already seen this snippet. You can be added to my newsletter here.

Azriyqam lowered her voice. “I do have news, but not from my father the Crown. I assuredly want your attention, but I do not want it overly focused on me. The dragon that I arrived on, do you know his name?”
     “There are so many dragons, who could name them all?” said Tselah.
     “He’s one of the Knights-Commander, I believe,” said Elam. “I’m going to get this wrong, but I have trouble with your right name, too. It’s… Coo-ree…ark, isn’t it?”
     “Almost. Sir Cooriarh. He is one of the chiefs of the Throne’s guard. He is circling us now, and will land in a little less than two hours unless I walk out before that time.”
     Elam sat back and folded his arms. “You know, Haraad used to threaten people before they’d offered him any harm, too. I’m not going to flatter you by pretending that I ever particularly admired you or thought of you much at all when you were just the Responsibility, but I never thought you one to be like him.”
     A spike of icy rage shot through her at that, but when she saw Tselah’s smile at her reaction she bit down on the angry response she felt coming. “I would prefer you to consider it less a threat than a warning, in case you should be tempted to consider… desperate courses of action.”
     “And why should we be tempted to do any such thing?” asked Elam, quietly. “Is your father or the throne planning something that should make us despair?”
     “No. Or at least, that very much depends on what you say next. You wish to know why dragons have been stopping and examining your ships. I will tell you: they are looking for a missing dragon.”
Azriyqam watched closely for their reaction…

RESPONSIBILITY OF THE THRONE! (Or: What I Have Been Writing Instead Of Blogging)

This is my first ever sequel release, just over a year after the release of the original RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CROWN.

It comes out one week from today, available at Amazon.com and from New Mythology Press, an imprint of Chris Kennedy publishing. There are no preorders, but I will blog again when the book is up.

There’s no way, here, to explain how much I have learned in the writing of this sequel. It is completely different from writing an original novel. It’s like balancing a whole future on the tip of your finger while dancing. The book that will release a week from now is not the same book I started writing in July of 2021. That book will be – well, to be honest, it won’t ever be written, because I discovered about 40,000 words into it that it was fragments of the third book in the series, which, by the time book two was finished, I realized would be changed a great deal by the events in this novel.

Right now, I am working on yet another sequel, specifically the long-awaited further adventures of James and Harriet, which will be titled ALL CREATURES IN HIS THRALL. Progress is slow, but steady. I’m afraid that one of the reasons it has been so long in coming is that I started writing book three of that series as well. I think that book will, indeed, be published someday, but first I am going to have to finish this one. It turns out that I am still pretty new at this author thing.

One funniest things that has happened during the blog hiatus is that this blog has gotten an insane amount of traffic from a completely facetious post that I did about a year ago concerning my completely fictional and humorous take on the script for Top Gun: Maverick. It seems that there are many many fans and possibly pirates who have been trying to get their hands on the script for this movie, and a number of them have found their way to my blog. I hope it gave some of them a laugh. And, if they were pirates, I hope it wasted their time and frustrated them. In any case, I would like to say thank you to all my fans for hanging in there and for giving Responsibility life. I am so glad you have enjoyed flying with her.

I Believe In Obi-Wan…

If there’s filking at LibertyCon, I’m trying this tune that came to me while scrolling…

(sung to the tune of “Yesterday” if this wasn’t obvious…)

Obi-Wan

He’s the reason half my body’s gone

He was angry ’cause I killed Qui-Gon

So I need revenge on Obi-Wan.

***

Suddenly

I’m not half the man I used to be

I have issues when I need to pee

Due to a lightcystectomy

***

Why… I… parried not

I don’t know, I couldn’t say…

Because… I on-ly had three lines

‘Til my body parted way-ay-ay-ays…

***

Obi-Wan

What the hell? He’s just a padawan

But the plot proclaimed I must be gone

So I got slain by Obi-Wan…



AAR: LTUE 40: Life, the Universe, and Everything

Me, M.A. Nichols, and Janci Patterson heading up the “Copying Someone else’s Process” panel without a moderator.

Well, it was an awesome convention these last two days. Let me rephrase that: it was an awesome “KHAAAAN!-vention.” Yes, I got to unleash my history nerd and fantasy nerd simultaneously and open the convention with a panel on the rise and fall of Genghis Khan’s empire. I learn so much about my own profession every time I do that, though it saddens me that in all my research, while I uncovered the names of many of the Khan’s personal enemies and rivals, I was unable to uncover even one whose name was Khiruq, Khurkh, Qirkh, or anything similarly suitable.

Highlights of the convention included getting to know much-more-famous author M Todd Gallowglass and attend his private writing workshop, which he hosts at random places and times throughout the convention (look for the weird flyers!) As well, I got to meet Jody Lynn Nye courtesy of Writers of the Future, and serve as a mentor to some writers even younger than me. I may share some of the thoughts that came to me in future blog posts. And for any new followers who may look at this blog after having heard or met me, I encourage you to click on the writing tag if you’d like to see my elaboration on any of those points.

I sold half my stock of ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS at the con, and got to sit on two more panels devoted to writing process and asteroid colonization. All in all, it was a wonderfully successful con, and i look forward to coming back.

And as a final note, I would like to extend my public thanks to Joe Ficklin, a chair emeritus of LTUE and Provo resident. When I was too late to book a hotel room, he opened his home to me, and was kind enough on top of that to give me rides to and from the con each day, as well as ferrying me to and from the airport. As well, he headed up the filking each night, and I enjoyed getting to learn some of the old classics of fandom. It wouldn’t have been the same without him.