Tuesday, September 27, 2011

America's Galactic Foreign Legion - Book 12: The Ark ... now available!

America's Galactic Foreign Legion
Book 12: The Ark
by Walter Knight
Science Fiction / Political Humor

When a huge ship is found buried deep beneath a desert oasis in an unpopulated area of New Colorado’s New Gobi Desert, the race is on between the United States Galactic Federation and the Arthropodan Empire to claim its secrets. General Manny Lopez simply wants to loot the technological treasure. However, the spiders believe the ship is the mythical Ark from their tales of old.

As Caldera Lake is suddenly overrun by the Galactic Foreign Legion and spider marines setting up camp on opposite sides of the line of demarcation running through the middle of the lake, it’s soon discovered that the tranquil looking oasis does not offer a relaxing resort setting. Something’s swimming in the lake, and it’s hungry. Despite the danger, hotels and restaurants spring up to handle the influx of tourists and the curious making pilgrimages to catch a glimpse of the Ark.

The race between the two sides continues amid disagreements and skirmishes unavoidable in a clash of cultural differences. But it’s all done in a sportsmanlike manner – at least that’s what Colonel Joey R. Czerinski ‘The Toe’ and General Manny ‘The Ear’ Lopez claim.

Hungry crocs, graffiti taggers, midnight commando raids, tawdry torture, and lots of fried chicken all take a turn fueling the laughter in this twelfth tale of the seriously silly military space saga.

Contains the novella Vampire in the Outfield, first time in print!


Chapter 1

I am Colonel Joey R. ‘The Toe’ Czerinski of the United States Galactic Federation Foreign Legion, assigned to planet New Colorado. They call me ‘The Toe’ behind my back because my big toe was bitten off during combat by an alien, earning me another Purple Heart. The truth is that the incident did not take place during combat, but rather during a compromising situation I prefer not to discuss, because I don’t remember that much about it. While I’ve sustained plenty of injuries, not all of them in combat, I’ve endangered my life enough that the Purple Heart commendation is deserved – just not for the incident of record.
After several wars, New Colorado remains divided at the Equator between humanity to the South and the spiders of the Arthropodan Empire to the North. Vast stretches of border are uninhabited, covered with desert dunes. The desert is where I find myself now...

* * * * *

I was ordered to investigate a weak alien distress beacon, of the type found on some starships. It emitted a signal from the vicinity of Caldera Lake, a long narrow oasis straddling the border a thousand miles from civilization. Caldera Lake was formed centuries ago from ancient glacial ice trapped atop a volcano buried by shifting sands. The oasis and its palms were a stark contrast to the miles of surrounding desert. Standing in the shade of a Legion shuttle for relief against the stifling heat, I gazed out at the calm waters of this odd isolated lake.
“There’s nothing here,” I complained. “This mission is a waste of time.”
“The New Gobi Desert tourist guide says Caldera Lake has fish,” advised Lieutenant Perkins, checking the database on his pad.
“Is the water drinkable?” I asked, stripping off my uniform for a swim. As always, the New Gobi Desert temperature was at least 110 degrees. “There is nothing here for us to find, unless something crashed and is hidden in that lake.”
“The water is slightly salty,” advised Lieutenant Perkins, still reading. “We need to filter the water before drinking. There may be unknown parasites.”
“Whatever,” I said, jumping in. “The water is great! It’s warm, but soothing.”
Lieutenant Perkins frowned as he continued reading. “Sir! It says something about crocs!”
At first, the word ‘crocs’ didn’t quite register in my brain. “Crocs?” I asked. “What do you mean crocs? Are you talking about those big water lizards in the tropics, with all the crooked teeth?”
“Sir! Get out of the water! Do it now!” Lieutenant Perkins began firing his assault rifle over my head into the ripples behind me. I treaded water as fast as possible, looking back but seeing nothing.
“What was that all about?” I asked upon reaching shore. “There are no crocs here.”
“False alarm,” replied Lieutenant Perkins. “I just shot up a log floating just below the surface.”
“Don’t ever do that again,” I ordered. “I can’t even get a good swim without you ruining it for me! Damn rookie butterball lieutenants!”
As I cursed Perkins, another shuttle landed on the next dune, just across the border. Spider marines poured down its ramp, smartly establishing a secure perimeter. An Arthropodan officer strode up to me like he owned the place.
“Czerinski! You and your human pestilence are trespassing!” announced the spider commander. “Leave now!”
“We are on our side of the border,” I replied, still dripping wet from my swim. “The Legion will leave when it pleases us to do so, not before!”
The spider commander pulled a small electronic device from a pouch. Holding the device over his head, he shot a red light beam along the ground, east and west for fifty yards. The beam extended across the dunes, and even across my bare feet.
“This line shows the exact location of the border!” explained the spider commander, still holding the device aloft. “You will not trespass even one inch on Imperial territory!”
I took an exaggerated step back. “Are you happy now?”
“No!” replied the spider commander. “I am never happy when you show up. What are you human pestilence doing out here? Stealing our water?”
“We’re busted,” I said. “I drank some of your precious water a few minutes ago. Do you want it back?” Already naked, I urinated across the red line. The light flickered and went out as the spider commander jumped back to avoid being doused. “This place is worthless anyway.”
“I ought to cut your hose off!” shouted the spider commander, drawing a large jagged combat knife. “Tell me the truth! What treachery is the Legion up to now?”
“I am scouting this beautiful beachfront property to determine its suitability for building a new hotel casino resort,” I confessed. “So far, I love the view, and the fine swimming. You should consider investing. There will be a substantial real estate boom. Soon, this whole beach will be lined with casinos and condos.”
“You better remember the North Shore is ours. There will be no human pestilence casinos or condos on the North Shore!”
“Of course,” I agreed. “I was just giving you a heads up because you are my friend. I intend to buy five-acre lots as soon as possible. If you snooze, you lose when it comes to real estate investments.”
“Why are you naked? You human pestilence are ugly enough with your clothes on. Without clothes, you are disgusting. Get dressed immediately. You will stay clothed at all times when visible from the Empire.”
“Did I tell you our new casino resort will be a nudist colony?” I asked. “Naked gamblers from across the galaxy will flock to this very oasis for carefree fun and frolicking.”
“For debauchery, you mean!” accused the spider commander. “There will be no frolicking in public view. You human pestilence are all a bunch of perverts! Don’t think I don’t know how you lost your toe. I saw the video on the database of you having sex with a scorpion.”
“Not another word! You slander me at your own peril! Do you want to start another war?”
“Yes!” answered the spider commander. “I’ll fight you any place, any time!”
“Now listen here,” I replied, the voice of reason. “We both have a mission, so let’s not makes things more difficult. Caldera Lake could be a cushy assignment, and we need to make the best of it. For example, I just got out of the water from a swim. The water is great! It’s so relaxing. Research indicates the high mineral content has medicinal qualities. You should try swimming. A swim might help lower your high blood pressure.”
The spider commander peered suspiciously at the calm lake water, still keeping several eyes on me. “Are there indigenous creatures inhabiting that lake?”
“The fishing is great. There are small water lizards that frequent the shallows. They’re quite friendly. Crocs are a favorite pet among children of Old Earth. The crocs like to bump against your leg while you wade. Don’t worry. If they get too aggressive, just swat them on the nose. If that doesn’t work, poke the croc in the eye with your bloody stump!”
“Your Old Earth pets have no business out in the wild. They are like their masters, an invasive nuisance species always sticking their snouts across the line where they do not belong!”

* * * * *

At midday, the temperature soared to 120 degrees. The spider commander and his new Military Intelligence officer waded cautiously deeper into the lake. With Arthropoda being a dry planet, swimming was a novel and refreshing experience. Maybe Czerinski was finally telling the truth about something. The spider commander kneaded his foot claws in the mud, contemplating the medicinal qualities of the so-called mineral water.
The spider commander spied a croc slowly drifting closer like a log. Its nose and eyes appeared just above the water’s surface, leaving a small ripple in its wake. Closer, closer. “Old Earth vermin!” shouted the spider commander, swatting the croc on its snout. The croc lunged its huge head out of the water, snatching the spider commander’s claw. The croc violently pulled the spider commander under, beginning its death roll. The spider commander was saved only when his claw snapped off, allowing his escape to shore.

* * * * *

“That monster was never a child’s pet you lying, treacherous human pestilence!” accused the spider commander, shaking his bloody shredded stump at me across the lake. “I’ll get you for that!”
“Quit whining!” I yelled back. “Your claw will grow back! You’ll be okay when the pain stops! Did you poke it in the eye?”

* * * * *

The spider Military Intelligence officer accessed ‘crocs’ on the Intergalactic Database. “The human pestilence nearly hunted crocs to extinction on Old Earth to make boots and wallets from hides. It is true that baby crocs were once sold to children at pet stores, but the crocs often were flushed down toilets as they got larger. Abandoned, the crocs survive by eating floating turds in sewers under major USGF cities.”
“That monster was never anyone’s pet!” repeated the spider commander, firing his pistol at a ripple in the water. The croc dived out of sight.


Available in ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other online book retailers. Also available in print soon!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Character Names - How Do Writers Come Up With Them?

Authors who write fiction have to make up a lot of stuff. One of the most important aspects of writing fiction is making up names for characters. So, how do writers come up with names?

REALISTIC NAMES. So how's a writer supposed to come up with names that fit the particular needs of his world-building? The telephone book is a good source. Baby name lists are good too. A great source is a reference site that tells what the meaning of names is. For instance, a lot of names have historical or ethnic language origins. Some writers like to insert names of people they know or people in their past. For instance, a writer might name a bad guy after a school bully. Writer's have been known to solicit character name suggestions from their readers as part of a promotional contest. Oftentimes writers will craft a surname for a character that either suggests a prominent trait or behavior pattern. The trick is to be subtle enough not to make it so obvious to the reader that the character name becomes an object of ridicule.

FANTASY, SCIENCE FICTION NAMES. Science fiction and fantasy writers usually have to come up with names that are unique to their world-building. A science fiction story populated by aliens would necessarily have character names that do not sound like names the reader would recognize as everyday human names. Fantasy writers whose stories have pre-modern setting or paranormal setting with magical creatures also have to fit their character names to the world-building needs of their stories. Sometimes writers create pseudo-realistic naming rules that seem appropriate for the needs of the fantasy or science fiction or paranormal world. For instance, everyone in a tribe might have a name that begins with a consonant with an apostrophe indicating a conjunction or letters left out before the second part of the name. Many writers borrow naming conventions from ethnic groups or nationalities that would sound foreign to their target readers.

A fun and entertaining way to come up with names is to use a random formula. For instance, there was an email joke that made the rounds several years ago called 'Your Star Wars Name,' and the formula consisted of using parts of you last and first names combined with the model of your first car and the first three letters of a common mammal on a numbered list. So John Walker who drove a Vega in high school might have a Star Wars name would be Walkjo bat Vega - or something like that. You get the idea. There's a cool site for generating fake names (random, elf, super hero, etc.) at http://online-generator.com/index.php. It's a lot of fun and it produces names you can actually use or improve on for your characters specialized names.

One caveat - don't get too creative, to the point that your names are so off in left field that they cannot be pronounced or easily recognized as names. For example, the alien name Xvphonithphathprex, besides being a challenge to pronounce, would be difficult to distinguish from another alien name Evapthelpodnokpo. Yes, they start with different letters, and contain different letters of the alphabet in orders that are different enough to be recognized as different, you're going to have to type those names thousands of times throughout your manuscript, and you're probably going to want to create shortened nicknames. Good luck on that. The point is, you want to give your alien or elfish names a little bit of exotic difference, but not so much that the end result is unrecognizable as a name.

FOREIGN, AND HISTORICAL PERIOD NAMES.  Historically accurate novels set in a specific time period or historical setting need to make their character names fit the expected name conventions of the time period and location. This requires some diligent historical research to make sure you don't use a common Irish name for your Saxon heroine. You should also do research to make sure the titles you give noblemen match national conventions for the time period. You should get a bit creative in naming foreign characters so that you don't use the first common name you think of (Pierre for a Frenchman, for instance). Also the spelling should match the national conventions.

HOW A NAME SOUNDS. It's important to give your characters appropriate sounding names. If you have a very heroic male character who's macho and kick-butt, you probably be better off naming him Rorke rather than Tim unless you plan on using the contradiction of an ordinary sounding name as part of the plot line. A female character who's supposed to be alluring and mysterious spy would do better with a name like Tanya than Betty.

The sound of names subconsciously conjures up ideas of what the person is like. Names should be age appropriate for the character. For instance, you would probably not want to name your teen sleuth Hattie Lidstone because, truthfully, that sounds like a name belonging to a woman from a past generation. If you deliberately go against common expectations, you should have a good story reason for it. To make sure your character bears a name that's common for the age of the character, you can easily check name lists that show statistics for the most popular names of given eras. For instance, Moon and Star might be good names for hippies in the sixties, but you'd have some explaining to do if your modern-day teen characters had names like this. Of course you can use this to your advantage if you want to include the fact that your teen character is being raised by her hippie grandmother.

'Power' names usually have 'hard' sounding consonants in them, like 'k'. Softer names with 's' and 'l' and 'a' can be used to suggest introverted or downtrodden characters.

So, no matter how you come up with character names, choose wisely and let them do their work to help establish characterization. In the long run it will make your writing easier and stronger.

Dana Warryck, Penumbra Publishing author and guest blogger

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

America's Galactic Foreign Legion Book 11 Cemetery City

Now available in ebook and coming soon in print!

America's Galactic Foreign Legion
Book 11 - Cemetery City
by Walter Knight
humorous science fiction

Colonel Lopez returns to planet New Colorado with an agenda - mining rare metals used in communications and weapons technology on which the USGF is so dependent. The only problem is, the ore vein is located across the border in Arthropodan territory. But Lopez has a plan to get around that little technicality, and it involves Major Joey R. Czerinski's chain of cemeteries. The spider commander takes offense at the Legion's claim-jumping, and Lopez gets caught in the middle of the fracas as the absurdity continues in the eleventh installment of the seriously screwy science fiction space saga.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

The Lost Art of Editor Worship

by Robert J. Wetherall

As a writer, you know you’re in deep doo-doo when you get a note from your editor inquiring, “What have you been smoking?”

Of course, you can take this a couple of ways. First, you can assume the question is posed by a person vitally interested in your personal habits. Or, second, you can view the inquiry as a veiled warning that your writing is approaching a dangerous precipice – that jumping-off point dividing the hilarious from the hullucinatory.

Now, my editor at Penumbra Publishing, whose initials are Pat Morrison, is a kind, insightful professional who deserves excellent marks as she goes about her 24-7 mission of  inspiring her unruly flock of writers to perform at their highest levels of excellence.

But don’t get me wrong: I don’t say this to ingratiate myself with P.M. with a cheap, sleazy and transparent appeal for special treatment or consideration. I’m just raising the issue of how sensitive writers with hearts decorating their sleeves react to comments and suggestions offered by their editorial helpmates.

I posed this subject to my old pal, Eddie Salinski. With Eddie’s rampant world-acclaimed successes both as a writer and welder, I was confident he could shine some light on the issue. Sadly, the illumination was not immediately forthcoming. Eddie reminded me that he doesn’t use a traditional form of editor to polish his prose. He relies on his milking goat, Tessie.

Hearing her name, the little white goat pushed open the metal gate behind Eddie’s trailer and stationed herself between us. Eddie reached over and slapped her rump playfully. Tessie nuzzled against his overalls in return.

“This little lady doesn’t know a participle from a turnip, but she can point out stinky writing without half trying. You should see her, pawing and snorting through my manuscripts, separating the riff from the raff.  Without her, I wouldn’t have a pot to pee in,” he added, stroking her fuzzy head in appreciation.

“But about your situation,” he said, shooing Tessie away and getting down to business. “Let’s look your situation right in the old eyeball. Now, it hurts me to say this but, unfortunately, you don’t write quite like I do. In fact, your output would benefit from all the editing it can get. So, in your case, you better treat your editor with plenty of respect. We’re talking deference, my young friend. Don’t fail to give her her due.

“Most important, remember: editor or not, this gal is a Woman. So send her decent perfume at Christmas time. Never, ever forget her birthday. That’s a definite relationship killer if there ever was one. And most important, remember this: The most incendiary disputes between men and women have been settled with chocolate bunnies.”

“Isn’t that awfully of patronizing?”

“Oh, of course. But think of this as a vital part of your writers toolkit,” Eddie countered.

”Makes sense, I guess,” I said, suddenly aware that once again Eddie had lifted the top off my skull and dumped in a couple of quarts of breakthrough thinking. 

“Pretty soon you’ll have this lady eating out of your hand. And you’ll be able to get away with murder. Trust me.”

“You think?”

“Can’t miss,” Eddie said. “We’re talking big dividends, Bobbo.”

I left Eddie sitting by his trailer in the afternoon shade and climbed into my rusty Mercury Montego. As I headed homeward, I found myself humming a happy little tune that I remembered from kindergarten. Zippity-do-dah, Zippity-di-yay. I resolved right then and there to take Eddie’s advice. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Robert J. Wetherall

Last Flight Home
The Making of Bernie Trumble
Forever Andrew

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Blood and Sunlight Blogxtravaganza - IT'S OVER!!!

Thank you all for your great response to our August month-long Blogxtravaganza celebrating the one-year anniversary of publishing Jamie Wasserman's vampire romantic horror novel, BLOOD AND SUNLIGHT.

We are pleased to announce that JODIE is the lucky winner of the free print version of BLOOD AND SUNLIGHT we promised to give away in a random drawing. Thank you, Jodie, for being a fan and doing what you could to help promote this unique novel.