Worlds & Time

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Slow Starter

My little brother's jeep takes forever to start. You have to start it, and then it'll fail to turn over, so you let it sit a moment, and then do it again, and it will actually start then.

My writing is the same way.

The beginning of my book has always terrified me. I've started it maybe six times now, and all of them have sucked.

Once you get into it, people seem interested. Mike and Jeff can tell you about that. The world is there. The thought is there. However, I can't come up with a way to start the book off with explosive interesting action.

It's not like there isn't any action in the book. The end of the first chapter is pretty nice, actually, with blood and body counts, and heroism.

There's also a good ending. Perhaps it's a little more unrealistic, but I like it. It really allows me to show off the talents of one of my characters. The right people loose, and the wrong people semi-triumph.

But there's no hook. When I wrote the 3rd full draft of this, that was actually part of twist for me. It starts off in a normal world, and things progressively get stranger and stranger, and then suddenly one of the characters steps over a line in the sand and things are in a completely different world. I can't think of another way to do this book, and book two doesn't exist without book one.

The problem is, that makes a pathetic hook. Yeah, I got the hook contest results back (after all of that waiting I was in the very last section of hooks posted).

I agree with my reviewer, but she didn't give me anything to think about that I haven't already been wrestling with. Yes, I know that it seems safe because it's supposed to start in a safe place. Yes, I know that superheros are exciting. Thanks for that brilliant bit of wisdom. Yes, I know that I'm looking for something that the agent/publisher hasn't seen before. No, focusing on Sara or Randall doesn't seem to work because the conflict is with the people without powers in this book. I was already trying to think of a new way to do "superhero oppression," so that's not helpful.

I really only got two things: My female character isn't sympathetic and PTSD is a letdown.

I just want to scream at the screen. Yeah, I know that people don't have to like my hook, but I don't know what to do. Apparently I need to make Sara a nympho necromancer and Randall into Santa Claus. Then maybe I could get some notice.

My story is the story. It hurts because I love it. I've already had to change it so many times to make it into what I wanted, and now that it is getting to that point I know that it won't ever go anywhere. So now I'm facing changing it again and this time I've finally run out of ideas.

It's been nine years since I finished the high school edition of this. And there are more characters in this universe that live in my head than any other. So many people relying on me, and I let them down.

Aside from the real world: It's nice to be back at work incidentally, although my neck is exhausted. I dunno how I'm going to pull four days of this in a row. My trip home today was horrific though. I was in a hurry, and I hit traffic and then I had problems with the gas pump, and then forgot to buy what I promised I would go shopping for.

And then there's all that fun bad news about the hook contest. Yay.

If I have to do hotel work for the rest of my life though. I don't know if I can deal with that.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Lex and Lia: Claws

Lia awoke in the largest, softest bed that she had ever seen before in her life. Instead of the rough ceiling of the apartment, the bed had a little roof of sky blue cloth above it.

She sat up and looked around. The room looked like it was from a movie. The walls were covered with pale blue and gold wallpaper, and there were big bright paintings hanging on them.

There room was huge. There were two large windows along the wall to her left, and the sun was streaming through the pulled drapes. To her right was a sitting area with two chairs and a couch. There was a table with a mirror, and a mirror on a stand next to that. In front of her, across the room, was a desk.

She had to go to the bathroom, and she could see one through an open door to the left of the desk. She used the facilities, came back into the room, and flopped on the bed. Where was Lex?

There was a creak at the far end of the room, and a woman entered the room. She was wearing a blue powder suit that went perfectly with the wallpaper and carrying a notebook in her hands. She looked up at Lia, and she smiled.

“Hello,” she said pleasantly. “You’re finally awake. Are you hungry? You’ve been asleep for a long time. Five whole days, actually.”

Lia nodded.

“Tell you what then, why don’t you get dressed and we’ll go down and get something to eat for breakfast.”

Lia looked down at herself. She was wearing long white shirt made of flannel or something similar. “I don’t have anything else.” The white shirt wasn’t hers either, but she wasn’t sure if the woman knew that. She still thought that all of her surroundings could be a dream.

The woman went to one of the doors in the wall, and opened it. It was a walk-in closet, and it was filled with clothes that appeared to be her size.

“Why don’t I pick out something for you,” the woman suggested. “What is your favorite color?”


The woman ran her hand along the shelves for a moment, and she pulled a beautiful blue dress out. It was fancier than anything Lia had ever owned before.

“Wow,” Lia said breathlessly. “Wow,” she said again when she couldn’t think of anything else.

“I’m Annabelle,” said the woman. “What’s your name?”


“It’s nice to meet you, Lia. Is that short for something?”


“What is your last name, Lia?”

“Rodriguez,” she said. Annabelle seemed nice enough, and while she helped Lia into the brilliant azure dress, Lia asked, “How did I get here?”

“You don’t remember?”

Lia shook her head, and Annabelle brushed it out of her face.

“I’ll let Mr. Mohan explain that to you.” Lia frowned. It was like a fairy tale, and she was old enough to know that fairy tales were just stories. Annabelle continued on before Lia could ask another question. “You have lovely hair, Lia. I’ve got a ribbon that would look lovely on you.” She ducked back into the closet for a moment and came back with a ribbon that perfectly matched the dress.

As she tied up Lia’s hair, Annabelle asked about Lia’s parents.

“They’re dead,” Lia said sadly, thinking of her mother.

“Who takes care of you, then?”



“Alex. He’s been taking care of me since my father died.”

“Does he live here in Las Vegas?” asked Annabelle pleasantly.

Lia nodded.

“He must be very worried about you. Do you know his phone number? I could call him and let him know that you’re okay.”

“We didn’t have a phone.”

“An address then?”

Lia gave her the address and number of the apartment. Annabelle paused momentarily to write in her notebook for a notebook. She looked up and smiled. “I’ll make sure that one of Mr. Mohan’s assistants stops by and makes sure that Alex knows that you’re safe.”

“Is this where Mr. Mohan lives?” Lia asked, wondering again how she had woken up in this fairytale.

“In another section, but yes, Mr. Mohan lives here. There you go.” She gestured to a mirror. Lia went over to it and looked in. The face staring back at her seemed subtly alien peering out over the blue dress. She hadn’t worn a dress in years, not since her mother died, and even then it hadn’t been a dress like this.

There was a tap on the door, and another woman peeked through. “Anna?” came the voice.

“Come in.”

The door opened, and a frowning older Asian woman entered. She was dressed in a black suit. The only color was from her brilliant red lipstick.

“This is Miss Chi-Wong, Lia. She’s another of Mr. Mohan’s assistants.”

Miss Chi-Wong nodded stiffly and then said, “Mr. Mohan is waiting.”

“Perfect timing then. Come on, Lia. Would you like to meet Mr. Mohan?”

Lia nodded. Annabelle took her hand and led her out of the room.

The corridors fit the room that they’d exited. There was dark wood everywhere and there were paintings on all of the walls, although these were more about battles instead of flowers.

The hallways were wide, and Annabelle led her through them until they arrived at a set of double doors. Annabelle opened one of the doors and ushered Lia through.

There was a long stone table in this room, and there were a few people sitting around it eating and talking. Two of them were very familiar, and Lia’s eyes were drawn to the one at the head of the table. He had blue eyes and was listening to another man with black hair.

“. . . devaluation of the peso, of course. I don’t foresee any real problem, but I suggest divesting ourselves of what we can before there are any more issues.”

The man with black hair finished and the people at the table looked at Lia and Annabelle.

The man at the head of the table stood and approached her smiling. She had seen him before, both times in dreams.

“Our guest is awake!” said the man with blue eyes, beaming with happiness.

“Mr. Mohan, this is Celia Rodriguez. Lia, this is Mr. William Chander Mohan.”

“Just Will for you, Celia!” Mr. Mohan stuck out his hand, and Lia shook it. “Do you prefer Lia?”

She nodded, nervous again in front of so many new people.

Mr. Mohan looked around, and gestured to the others. “I think we’re done for now.” Most of the people at the table stood, gathered their things, and left, leaving only Mr. Mohan, the man with black hair, Annabelle, and Lia.

“There’s breakfast. What would you like, Lia”

“Do you have pancakes?”

“We certainly do. Miss Leigh?”

Annabelle nodded, and then knelt by Lia. “I’m going to go tell the chef. If you need anything I’ll be just around the corner, okay?”

Lia nodded again. She left, and Lia turned back to Mr. Mohan.

“Welcome to my home, Lia. I hope you were comfortable.” Mr. Mohan gestured for Lia to take a seat at the table, but he stood next to his own seat.

She nodded. “How did I get here?”

“Very direct. First things first then.” He blinked, and as he opened his eyes again, everything slowed.

His eyes were an unbelievably pure blue color. The same color that was in the walls and in the sky in the winter. As Lia looked into them she felt swept away, as though there was a rush of water pouring out of him and filling the room with torrents of bitterly cold water.

“Remember,” Mr. Mohan said, and Lia did.

“Oh,” she said.

Mr. Mohan had obviously expected something more. She looked at him, and found that his shoulders had tightened. The other man, the one with black hair, was also starring at her intently.

“I flew here,” Lia said. “I was a bird. A raven.” She could remember everything perfectly now. The air along her feathers, and the first time she’d seen him on the terrace.

“That’s right. You are a wereraven, a person that can change form, as are Michael and I. That makes you very special, Lia.”

Lia sat for a moment as the last bits of her memories solidified and came together. “Why couldn’t I remember before?”

“You were too wild. Eventually you will learn to master it yourself but at the moment I have mastered it for you.”

She could remember the cage now. They’d caged her when they brought her here. She’d even seen the cage on a table in the hallway outside of her room but hadn’t recognized it at the time. “Are you holding me prisoner?”

“You are an honored guest, Lia. We do request that you stay until you understand your gifts and abilities, but after that you are free to go if you wish. If you wish to stay, you could do that as well.”

“What about Lex?”

“Who is Lex?”

“He was the one taking care of me. He’s having trouble finding work. Could you help him find a job?”

Mr. Mohan nodded. “Did you tell Annabelle?”


“Annabelle will send someone to find him and invite him to come here. Once I have met him, I will see what I can do. Until then, you have much to learn. I tried to awaken your mind when you came to me on the full moon, but you fell asleep instead. If you are to be safe, you need others of your own kind around.”

“Are you also a . . . wereraven?”

“We are lycanthropes, but not wereravens. I am a weretiger and Michael is a werewolf.”


Mr. Mohan gestured to Michael. Michael stood, pushed his chair back in, and then came around the table. Lia twisted to look at him.

Michael shivered, and suddenly he dropped down. He shivered, and suddenly there was wolf, nearly as tall as Lia’s shoulder and covered with black fur. Its eyes were gold.

Lia looked at it wonderingly and then reached out slowly. Michael bared his teeth but Lia ignored him. He looked at Mr. Mohan and then back at her and allowed her to run her hand through his fur. It was very thick and coarse and he smelled funny, like ink from a printer almost.

“Good girl,” Mr. Mohan said proudly. He gestured, and Michael backed away and became human again. He returned to his chair without saying another word.

“Why weren’t you frightened?” Mr. Mohan asked Lia.

“He wouldn’t have hurt me.”

“Michael is many things, but safe is not one of them.”

Lia frowned. “He knew that you were watching.”

“That he did. You are a brave girl, none the less.”

“What happened to his clothes?”

“Michael is unusually skilled in that regard. His clothes become part of his wolf form, and then change back when he becomes human again. I cannot change with clothing, and neither can most shape shifters. All of us have different skills. For instance, I can do this.”

He held up his hand, and the fingers changed shape, becoming vicious looking pale claws with silver fur running along his hand. “Some of us are able to partly change or to gain certain attributes from our avatars when we are still human looking.”

“What can I do?”

“We don’t know yet. We’ll learn that as we go along. Tell me, Lia, were you ever attacked by a raven?”

Lia shook her head.

“Are you sure, not even when you were an infant?”

Lia shook her head again.

“There are some people that are born lycanthropes. I am one. They tend to be very powerful. Did you ever see one of your parents do anything unusual? Heal from a cut or burn very quickly, or change shape?”

“No. But . . . I don’t remember my mother very well.”

“What about your father?”

Lia bit the inside of her lip but said nothing.

Mr. Mohan paused, and then smiled. “Never mind that for now, then. I would like to instruct you. There is a month before the next full moon, and you will feel compelled to change then. Hopefully you will be prepared before that time.”

Annabelle re-entered the room, and held the door open for a Hispanic man carrying a tray of food. There were pancakes and fruit, as well as yogurt in a tall glass dish and a huge glass of orange juice.

“I’m sorry, but I must go. I have much business to attend too. We will talk later, Lia. Until then, if there is anything you need, Annabelle will be happy to provide it for you.”

“Thank you,” said Lia automatically.

Mr. Mohan and Michael both left. Michael nodded to her politely as he passed her, but he didn't look happy.

When they left, Lia began to eat, but she was still wondering where Lex was.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Morality on Sale

Morality isn’t cheap.

The current Administration has made our morality something to be discounted. If supporting the President is the moral thing to do, that is relatively easy and inexpensive. It doesn’t require much time, thought, or money: All you need is a yellow ribbon car magnet.

Morality must happen on a higher level. Morality demands that sometimes we not offer the contract to the lowest bidder.

Sometimes, morality even demands that we not vote for the candidate offering us the lowest taxes.

I don’t want to mince words here: when a Republican says that he will tax you less than a Democrat, he’s rarely offering you something moral. He’s offering you something that is personal and appeals to your self-interest, and self-interest rarely leads to a moral choice.

Instead of lower taxes, he should be offering you a smaller, more efficient government. If he can manage to do that and still maintain the services that affect you directly, then taxes will go down. It won’t happen instantaneously, either. Morality isn’t quick.

The Republicans aren’t currently doing that though. They’re supporting a distant and expensive war. They’ve overseen the largest expansion of government in recent times through the creation of the Homeland Security department. They’ve been offering their girlfriends fifty thousand dollar raises. They were probably doing the same thing back when they controlled everything, except they probably weren’t getting caught.

What bothers me is that some people will continue to vote for the Republicans because the Republicans have entrenched themselves with the religious right. The issues of gay marriage and abortion are more powerful than the issues of feeding the poor and behaving ethically (I’ll leave the Christians to discuss which of those issues Jesus thought were so important that they became themes in the bible).

Yes, I’m sure that these people simply can’t vote for the Democrats because if they vote for a person that endorses sin in the form of abortion or homosexuality they will be cast down into hellfire and tortured eternally. However, those people should have realized by now that if they vote for the Republicans they are supporting war, poverty, lying, and corruption. What do you think Jesus will say about that? Politics is not black and white. If you believe that we’re “evil” that doesn’t make the people that disagree with us “good.”

I’m sorry that you don’t have a perfect and sinless political party. Unfortunately you have two imperfect facets of the same stone, and if you don’t want to “support sin” then you shouldn’t vote at all because democracy leads to hard choices and you will always end up supporting something that you don’t like along the way.

I understand that when I vote for a Democrat, my taxes will probably go up. The Democratic Party shouldn’t shy away from that. They should point it out and proclaim from the rooftops that they are bringing morality back to the White House. They should talk about the fiscal responsibility and the morality of doing what is ethical instead of what is quick and cheap.

Morality instead of convenience is a good thing in my book.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


What a horrible, horrible tragedy. My heart goes out to the families of all those that have lost their lives today in Virginia. I wish you the support and the silence that you will need to heal, but I don't think that you're going to get it. Instead, I hope that you have the strength that you need to weather the bitter oncoming storm of the media.

I'm removed from this, so I have some thoughts along the edges of this massacre based on the information that I currently have.

Obviously the police and the school didn't do all that they could, but that's not their fault. They had no reason to suspect that someone would either come back or appear on the other side of campus with two loaded guns and shoot people sitting in classrooms. Absolutely no reason whatsoever.

In the next couple of days the media is going to demonize the police and the school administration. That's sad, because this "two hours" thing is not an "Al Quaeda determined to attack the U.S." memo. The authorities expected life to go on, even despite the first shootings. Two deaths in a domestic situation is also tragic but nine hundred and ninety nine times out of a thousand they are not the precursor to a shooting rampage.

I know the media will blame them, but I hope that most people understand that they should not have done anything differently.

Also, guns were not the problem.

I'm not a gun person. I'm a knife person, but I am pro-gun registration. Every firearm should be registered and there should be penalties for "losing" guns (especially when you don't report that they're missing). On the other side of that, I think that waiting periods are stupid, and I will never support a gun ban like that of the U.K. or Washington D.C.'s. The Second Amendment could be clarified, but the sentiment is good: the people need to retain their well regulated right to bear arms. The founding fathers knew what they were doing.

Anyway, the point is that this was well planned. The chains on the inside of the doors, the extra ammo. I've heard a rumor that the people were lined up and shot execution style.

If this guy hadn't had a gun, he would have done something else. Someone pointed me to the article on the Bath School Disaster. If the guy at Virginia Tech didn't have a gun he would have used a bomb or a knife or he would have driven up onto the sidewalks and mowed down people in his car. I know that 9/11 "changed everything" but sometimes there just isn't anything that the authorities could have done. No one is perfectly safe. That's the way the world works, and that's not anyone's fault (unless you're a theist, in which case it is someone's fault).

That doesn't mean that this isn't still a tragedy. This is a sad day and at least 33 people are gone forever and many more are never going to be the same again. I can't imagine how hurt the families and the friends are, and I can't imagine how hurt someone had to be to shoot all of those people.

Again, my sympathy goes out to those unfortunate enough to be involved.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lex and Lia: Out of the Frying Pan

Alex walked along the alley toward the coffee shop with his shoulders hunched and the hood of his jacket up.

Someone stepped out of the darkness in front of him, and Alex stopped dead.

“Hello freak,” said Cali.

Alex turned, but the other end of the alley was already filled with two guys as big as Cali, and they were coming toward him.

Cali wasn’t approaching him though. He was smiling and showing his teeth, which were normal enough, but something resolved out of the darkness behind him. It was a woman, thin and Asian, with short black hair. She was wearing something tight and black that gleamed when she moved. She was very beautiful.

“Is this him?”

Cali nodded.

“He doesn’t look so tough.”

“He nearly killed Martin.”

The woman laughed, but she did it without taking her eyes off of Alex.

“You are Martin’s type,” she said, looking him over. “Maybe a little on the old side though.” She smiled. Her teeth were not normal. She had fangs.

She moved, walking toward him, and Alex realized that she didn’t make any noise when she moved. She glided along the darkened alley way, but around Alex instead of toward him.

“Who are you?” she asked.

Alex didn’t say anything.

Cali told me that your name is Lex. Is that right?”

Alex nodded.

“My name is Sue. Do you belong to one of the other factions, Lex? The Ladies or the Wolves?”

He shook his head.

“You aren’t a Hunter,” said Sue. She smiled again, and Alex wanted to shiver. “You are very good at avoiding us though. Most people wouldn’t last a day with an entire clan of Vampires looking for them. How long has it been for you? Six days now? Amazing. You must be quite exceptional.”

Alex took the time while she was speaking to look around. The buildings were older, made from concrete. There were no doors, windows, or even ladders. There were a few dumpsters behind Sue and Cali, but none of them was tall enough to allow him to reach a roof.

When he didn’t respond, Sue continued. “Why don’t you come with me, Lex? We could always use someone like you.”

She was doing the same thing that Martin had done. Her voice was hypnotic, but as soon as he’d seen the fangs he’d expected something of the kind. She had been beautiful before but now she was stunning. She smiled and Alex wanted to smile back.

He had to distract her.

The lid of one of the dumpsters behind Sue lifted up, and then dropped back down, banging loudly. Lex didn’t wait to find out if she was distracted. He ran for the two people blocking off the other end of the alley. Hopefully they were just human.

They didn’t smile or show their teeth as he approached him, but they raised their arms. Lex ran straight into the nearest one, kneeing him in the gut. He fell over. The second guy approached, and Lex snapped his hand forward and up. They guy raised his arm instinctively to protect his eyes, and Lex kicked him in the nuts.

Easy enough. He started forward but Sue was standing there, quite calmly, watching him and blocking his exit.

“Beautiful,” she said. “You’ve met one vampire and you’re already nearly immune to our call. You would make a powerful subordinate.”

“A what?” he said before he could help himself.

Cali, Francis, and Drake here are all . . . minions. They aren’t vampires, but they share in a bit of our power.”

“I don’t want that.”

“Perhaps then you would like to become immortal yourself then? A vampire?”

Lex shook his head.

“Too bad,” Sue said. Then she rushed him.

She was extraordinarily fast. Lex threw himself back and still barely managed to avoid her first punch. His body felt like it was trapped in glue, but that didn’t matter much. She jerked away from him like she’d been caught by a fishhook, and was thrown across the alley into the far wall.

Lex stepped forward. Cali was standing away from them with his hands in his pants. When he saw Lex starring at him, he took a step back, his eyes wide.

The other two humans were getting up though, so with a flick of his hand Lex sent Sue flying into them, sending them all sprawling.

The two humans went back down as the thin vampire collided with them, but Sue rolled, and came up standing.

She was smiling. “Better,” she said.

And then something hit him from behind. Lex started to twist, but whatever it was hit him again, harder, knocking him down.

It was a paint can, floating in the air. It came for him again, but he caught it with his own powers. From the other side of him, Sue had drawn a knife from somewhere in her clothing. She flicked it up and then threw it.

He managed to catch that too, but as he did so he let go of the paint can, which immediately attacked him again, and the knife struggled in his mental grip, trying to get through to him.

“Telekinesis does not particularly impress me,” Sue said.

Lex raised an arm to ward off the paint can, which was battering him, and tried to concentrate on multiple things at once. The knife shivered, but Sue wouldn’t let go of it. However, one of the men at her feet suddenly jerked up, as though he'd been yanked by a set of puppet strings, and lunged at her.

Sue threw the minion to the side, and he impacted with a sickening crunch on the alley wall. The second one had risen, but before he could be hurled at her, Sue was past the figure, leaping for Lex.

Lex dropped the man, and tried to catch her, but she was forcing herself forward with her own telekineses, toward him. Her mouth opened wide, wider than should have been possible, and she hissed at him. Reflexively Lex brought up the knife with his left hand and slammed it into her. Whatever concentration she needed to maintain her powers vanished and she dropped down out of the air.

Lex paused, breathing heavily. A human wouldn't have been able to survive that.

Sue rolled over and then slowly rose at an impossible angle like vampires in movies did until she was standing again. The knife had been driven to its hilt into her shoulder, just below her breastbone. She smiled at him, reached up, and then pulled it out. It wasn’t even bloody, and the wound healed as Lex watched. “The knife is silver,” she said. “Silver can’t hurt vampires.”

“I’ll remember that,” Lex promised, and then dropped the dumpster than he’d been silently maneuvering twenty feet above her. Sue barely had time to look up as the thing came down, and it crushed her into the pavement.

Down the alley Cali turned and ran away from Alex. Alex ran too, in the opposite direction.

He barely reached the end of the block when more shapes materialized out of the darkness. He looked down the cross streets, but there were figures on all of them. Standing, looking at him. If they were all vampires, or even if one in five was a vampire, Alex was in trouble.

He was straining for breath, like he’d picked up the dumpster and carried it forty feet on his back, he wouldn’t be able to run very far. He needed to find some place to hide, but with so many of them out there . . .

Suddenly there was a gray car. It avoided the dark shapes in the streets and pulled up about twenty feet in front of him. The vampire minions had paused as it appeared, and were now waiting to see what was going to happen.

The man that stepped out of the back door of the car was familiar. He was large, but older, and he was wearing thick black robes. He looked around at the shapes, and said quite clearly, “I think the vampires are interested in you, boy. Perhaps you should come with me.”

Sue was there. Part of her face was torn off, and her left hand hung limply at her side, but it was definitely her. “He’s mine.”

The large man looked at her. “I claim him.”

“For what faction?”

The man rolled his head back and laughed. “I do not belong to one of your silly little factions.”

Sue’s bloody lips peeled back from her fangs, and she hissed again. “No faction, no protection. You will hand him over to me if you do not want to face the wrath of the vampires.”

The man laughed again, and then he held up his hand.

There was nothing in his hand, but he held it cupped as though there was something. There was a momentary pause and Alex felt a huge rush of something. It seemed to come from everywhere, as though a wave was crashing around him.

And then, in the man’s upraised hand, a tiny little light flickered to life.

Sue’s eyes widened, and she screamed “One of the Five!” Then she took a step back. She was standing in the street, but the shadows seemed to surge up around her, and when they settled back she had vanished completely.

The little brilliant pinprick of light glistened for a moment and then suddenly it flared into a roaring sphere of light, illuminating everything as though it was day for a moment. Several of the other shapes had turned to run when Sue had shouted, and others had just vanished completely, but all of the ones remaining in the light started to shriek in pain. For a few moments there were twelve figures standing in the roads crying out, and then they were dust, leaving Alex and the large man alone in the street.

“What did you do?” asked Alex.

“It’s a nifty trick. I’ll show you how to do it, if you want.”

“Who are you?”

“I am Soraperion.”

“I’m Lex.”

“They may be gone at the moment, but perhaps we should leave.”

“Smile,” Lex said seriously and after a pause added, “please.”


“So I can see your teeth.”

“There are better ways to tell vampires, but that will do for now.” Soraperion smiled, showing off his teeth. They were normal. “Will you come with me now?”

Lex nodded, and he followed Soraperion into the car.


Friday, April 13, 2007


So, I had my doctor's appointment today. Things are looking good, so they've moved me off of the Miami-J neck brace and have put me in a soft collar. That means that after six months I am now officially allowed to turn my head from side to side.

At the doctor's office, I took off my brace as soon as the doctor was out of the room. I sat for a moment, and then I put the brace back on.

My mother was sitting there, looking at me, and she asked "Why did you put the brace back on?"

"I just feel really strange without it on."

And it does feel really strange. I'm still terrified of looking around, and I notice that I still refuse to try to look down at my feet when I'm walking or stepping over something. It's going to be an adjustment.

This also means that I can drive again, and that raises a whole host of other questions in my mind. I freak out at the smallest thing when I'm driving with my mom or dad, so what am I going to be like on the road? I figure that I'll slowly try to get back into it over the next week or so.

Also, I just received an email from my brother, and like usual, it was unbelievably hilarious. I wish he would post them online or allow me to post them. I'll bug him about that.

At the moment though, I should just mention that they're dealing with the infestation of penguins one step at a time, and that he's not happy that the lifeguard (an independent contractor) makes nearly three times what he makes.

You don't normally think of "lifeguard" as one of those jobs involved with risking your life in Iraq.

Besides, I want to be a lifeguard at a pool in Iraq. All those hot, horny marines in their swim trunks. Jesus, I'd take a third of what the current lifeguard makes.

Finally, I just want to say: I am an American.

What I mean by that is, I read my news through Fark and that means that I read articles from all over the world. As an American, I have the geographical knowledge of a primary school Briton or less.

So, if you publish a newspaper online: Please, please, please put your location somewhere on every page. And by location I mean city, state or province, and country. If you keep saying "Clark County officials" or "Dummas Township Sheriff" I don't have the faintest clue of where the events located in the article happened.

For example, there are at least eight Clark Counties (a google search reveals AR, IL, IN, KS, OH, NV, WA, and WI on the first two pages of results). There are also a few Springfields, Portlands, and Washingtons. If you really want to be boggled, see here and here. People don't seem to be very creative with place names.

So help us out. City, state, and country. That's all I'm asking for.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Links & Locations

First, a few really cool things to read if you've got a few hours handy:

I was going to reproduce this here, and clean it up a bit, but I can't get ahold of mirage, so here's a link to it instead. mirage is a friend from IIDB, and he's explaining wonder from the atheist perspective.

Here are links to Hal Duncan's "The Halls of Pentheus" quartet of posts. They look like exerts from Philosophy textbooks, but I happen to think that they're a brilliant meditation on the "argument from perfection" that is one of the most common arguments for God that I see.

Part One: Dick's Demiurge
Part Two: Pascalus's Wager
Part Three: Plato's Perfection
Part Four: Anselm's Great God

Second, I'm also facing something of a quandry. I imagine that I may have the chance soon to take a trip. A really, really cool trip, but I can't really think of a place to go.

I could go to Ireland, England, and perhaps through Europe. When I applied for the "Butterfly Tattoo" job I was actually thinking of moving to England. I've always wanted a little place near the water, and I like bland food. Besides, there are cute boys in London.

I could go to Japan. Not as many boys that I would find attractive, but really think that it would be an amazing place to travel through. I may not be able to speak Japanese, but I'd love to see the temples and explore the modern architecture. Thats the sort of thing that would be right up my alley.

I could also go visit Australia. The landscape there is beautiful, and I could probably stop over in Hawaii or Figi on the way and spend a couple of nights in a nice hotel.

That's such a broad view of them. There's so much specific stuff that I could do at all of those places, so much detail that I could go into, but I can't even decide on a vague region.

I'll have to wait and see how things work out.


One more link. SF Signal has links to many of the short form Hugo nominees. People should check them out.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Lex and Lia: The Bus Stop

It was almost sundown and he was worried that he wouldn’t get back to the apartment in time.

The boys from the drag had been watching his window as soon as the sun had set for the last two days. They hadn’t tried to get into his apartment yet, but it had only been a matter of time before they caught him out after dark.

Alex sat in the hard plastic seat of the bus, holding the black feather gently in his fingers.

He was still worried that they had been the ones that taken Lia. What if Martin had taken her? He shuddered.

He didn’t think that they had. Martin didn’t seem like the little girl type, and it hadn’t been until the next night that one of the boys followed him back to the apartment and they had started the night vigil outside of his window. If they had, they would have used it against him. Offered her back if he would come out, but they hadn’t done that either.

He only had two more nights before he had to be out, and he still didn’t have the money.

Alex could survive on the street, as long as the guys from the drag didn’t get him. He had before.

Everything was supposed to have changed with Lia. Everything was supposed to have been better. Maybe if they’d used the money to buy bus tickets. Maybe he should have left Lia in the garage, to be found by the police. What had he thought he was doing?

He’d thought he was protecting her. Alex had convinced himself that he could, and he hadn’t been able to protect her.

He’d spent the last two days looking for her. His feet were sore from all of the walking, and he knew every shopkeeper within a block and every tenant of the building by sight. He’d searched every alley, and today he’d even ridden up to The Strip and walked all of the places that they’d visited looking for her. Except for the MGM amusement park. He didn’t have enough money for entry anymore.

There had been black feathers in her bed, and when he he’d searched through the drawers next to the bed he found a few more. If it was a message, it wasn’t one that he understood, and he couldn’t think of what else it could be. Why feathers? Why so many of them? There were eight, altogether, and he’d wrapped them into a bundle and kept them in his jacket pocket. When he found her, he would give them back to Lia.

It was going to be too late. The sun was sinking too fast. He wouldn’t have time to walk back from the bus stop. Damn it. What if Lia came back looking for him? He wouldn’t be there.

There was nothing he could do about that now. If he tried to get back to the apartment, Martin’s boys would find him.

When the bus stopped at the station that would lead back to his apartment, he stayed seated, but he twisted to look back toward the dark building where they’d lived.

I’m sorry Lia, he thought to himself. I’m sorry.


Saturday, April 07, 2007


Here's a short story based on recent happenings. It isn't based in the Lex & Lia or the universe of my books.

Ruslan quietly ate alone in the great room, filled with hundreds of tables and thousands of seats. The section in which he ate was reserved for the first level Asenions, and he wore the badge proudly on his chest.

He finished and carried the bowl to the window on the side and set it on the counter leading to the kitchen. Later, after his studies were complete, he would return and wash it out and place it on the rack for tomorrow. He could remember the old workers that toiled in the kitchens years ago, but there had been no-one there for many years.

After lunch was studies, but when he arrived back at his desk, there was a note on it. Only Padu used real paper, so Ruslan began to walk before he unfolded the note.

It wasn’t printed, which surprised Ruslan, rather the few words were written in a flowing cursive script. Your presence is required, Padu, it read.

It wasn’t time for a test, Ruslan knew. They were only conducted once a month and it had only been fourteen days since his last examination.

Padu lived at the top of the great tower. There were no workers left to bring him food so Ruslan and the computers had devised a series of simple robots to attend to the great Differentiator.

Padu was a hideous thing. Among the flawless white and silver hallways he was a twisted thing of red flesh and yellow tubes. His two hearts beat visibly near the open cavity of his chest. As Ruslan entered, Padu turned slightly on the huge platinum and gold throne and looked down at him. “Ruslan?”

“I have wonderful news, you are in your fifteenth year, the only person in your class to make it this far.”

Ruslan had been the only person in his class for seven years now, and there were few enough people after him that the complex appeared to be deserted.

Padu continued. “I have made arrangements to have to sent to the Eastern Complex, where you will be tested by my old associate Esine. Once he has confirmed your perfection, you will be come a full citizen, the first in many years.”

He paused and waited because occasionally Ruslan had a question.”

“Why are the Asenions sent to be tested at the Eastern Complex?

Padu spoke with the practiced air of someone who knew what question would be asked. “Because we need to ensure that our society does not degrade. That is why we test the Asenions so rigorously. That way we may ensure that only the most qualified of the applicants is genetically replicated, and that the gene pool remains pure. There is a small chance that the each of the Differentiators may succumb to entropy, so the findings are checked by exchanging the high level Asenions when they come of age.”

Padu smiled, as warmly as Ruslan had ever seen, and then he quickly outlined the details for the long trip.

The next morning. Ruslan powered up the decrepit tramway, checked the cars on the train to make sure they were safe, and then set out away from the Western Complex that had been his home for fifteen years.

The train tracks only went as far as the resource station at Laya, and then Ruslan had to commander one of the wheeled speeders from the empty armory there and drive rest of the way.

Driving, it took two days to reach the Eastern Complex, and when he did he found a young woman wrapped in a thinning gray blanket waiting for him at the gate.

“Are you Ruslan?” she asked.

“I am.”

“Please park the shuttle in the street. There is a bridge just inside the gate, but I am worried that it can’t take the vehicle’s weight.”

Ruslan did as she asked, and then followed her inside. The Eastern Complex looked different from the Western Complex. There was more blue paint on the walls, and some of the pictures on the wall were different than the ones that Ruslan had grown up with.

“Are you hungry?” the woman asked him?

Ruslan nodded in assent, so they made their way to the large cafeteria, and he served himself some gruel.

“What is your name?” she finally asked him.

“Ruslan, and you?”


“Nice to meet you Deena.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you too, Ruslan.”

“What level are you?”

“I’m a second.”

“Oh. The first level tests are going to be very difficult.”

“I know. There was a first level living here until two years ago. His name was Galen.”

They lapsed into silence while Ruslan finished, and then Deena finally said, “Esine expects you first thing in the morning. Please go up to your room, and I’ll clean up here.”

That was nice of her, and Ruslan decided to follow her suggestion.

The room was exactly the same as he had as a first level in the Western complex, but Ruslan didn’t sleep well. He kept thinking of Deena.

When he woke in the morning he was tired, and he wondered if she was some sort of distraction put in place by Esine, but if so he had a surprise for the Eastern Differentiator: Ruslan had never missed a question on an exam.

Deena led him up to the tower in the morning. The door opened, and Esine sat on his own throne of precious materials. The cyborg waved, and Deena bowed and exited again.

He was much more brusk than Padu. “Here is the test,” he said, and gestured to a desk set up in the tower room. “You have two hours.”

This test was also paper, another thing that would have distracted him if he wasn’t so focused on the task at hand. The questions were familiar, the same as the ones for first level, and so he quickly set to work.

The time passed quickly, and he finished well within the allotted time. He sat and waited out the time until Esine tapped on one of his ceramic organs, signaling the end of the test in the same way that Padu would have.

He collected the papers from the desk.

Ruslan normally would have gone back down to his room to wait for the results, but Esine didn’t dismiss him.

“Padu has such positive things to say about you, Ruslan. Would you like to stay while I look over the test?”

Ruslan nodded.

The Cyborg held up the test, and looked it over in silence for a few moments.

“I am not surprised,” he said at last. “Look at the answers to these questions! You are no better than any of the other candidates that I’ve received from Padu!”

“What?” said Ruslan, shocked. “What question did I get wrong?”

“All of them, as far as I can see,” Esine said bitterly. “Look at the first question: ‘What is the greatest science fiction franchise of all time?’ You answered ‘Star Wars’ but the answer is obviously ‘Star Trek.’ And it continues. All this talk of the princess and robots. Robots! Everyone knows that they should be called androids! You even spend an entire answer on ‘A New Hope’ as though it was a better movie than ‘First Contact.’”

Esine gestured, and a robot came through the door. A Guard Robot, or here a Guard Android. For those that fail the tests of the Asenion.

“No!” Ruslan cried, and tried to run past it, but it grabbed him. “I’ve never answered wrong before! Those answers are always right!”

“Obviously not,” said Esine. “Obviously you just made it this far because Padu felt sorry for you. But if we are to have our perfect society, we need perfect people and I cannot let someone obviously inferior to slip through. The gene pool must be kept pure!”

“Why?” Ruslan cried. “What does this gain the society?”

Esine paused, “When Padu and I founded this colony we had a beautiful dream of a paradise. All that we needed was people that would live by the tenants we chose. That were passionate as we were about what needed to be done. That’s why we started the Asenion program. We split up and divided our resources between these two complexes.

“Now we spend our time looking for citizens grown from brilliant humans in our past. Eventually, we’ll find enough people to fill this paradise with people.”

Ruslan thought of the empty Western Complex, and the single person that he had seen here at the Eastern Complex, and he couldn’t stand it any more. He screamed at the top of his lungs.

“See,” Esine said. “Inferior stock.”

He gestured again, and the Guard Android dragged him away, still kicking and screaming toward the recycling tanks.

Deena was waiting outside the door, and Esine called her in. “Please have a message sent to Padu that Ruslan failed the test.”

She nodded, and exited, and Esine went back to work, thinking about the wonderful paradise that his planet would become.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What is Leadership?

Here’s an interesting question for the political types out there:

What is leadership?

Pardon me if I’m wrong about this, but isn’t the President supposed to be a leader? Considering that he is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces? Perhaps, for lack of something with fewer syllables, The Decider?

Because as I watch the President of the United States threaten to veto a bill for billions of dollars and then try to claim that Congress is trying to cut off funding for the troops, I wonder if he knows what “leadership” means.

The argument that Bush is using is that it is taking the decision away from the Generals “on the ground” in Iraq and handing out troops a defeat.

The problem is that the Generals “on the ground” should not be making the decision about when to withdraw our troops from Iraq. You, Mr. President, are the leader of the armed forces. Yes, they can make suggestions about when to withdraw troops, but you are the person that makes the final call. The “decision” if you will, which seems appropriate for “The Decider.”

Now, another person that is often blamed for our continued need to remain in Iraq is the government of Iraq. “We’ll step down as they step up,” I believe is the catch phrase that your administration uses to describe this strategy.

Now, if that was the case, then that would be a matter between the Iraqi government and you. Further, I’m sure that the Iraqis are not in a position to issue orders to you, the President of the most powerful country on the planet. So, once again, you should be leading in this matter. You should listen to your advisors, consult the Iraqi leaders, and then make a decision.

The Presidency, the most powerful position on Earth, does occasionally require the person filling it to make a decision about the disposition of the military forces he controls.

True, that power is not infinite. You can’t actually declare war, nor can you arbitrarily spend whatever money you want in any manner that you choose. Those powers belong to the four hundred and thirty five members of the Congress of the United States of America.

So, when they say “You can have your money, but you have to pull out of Iraq,” that’s a communication that I would urge you to pay attention to.

You can choose to veto that money, if you want. That’s your check on them. But you can’t pretend that you aren’t making that decision. Yes, they’ve got you between a rock and a hard place, and I don’t envy the though decision that you have to make, but this is the job that you signed up for and it will be your responsibility. Didn’t you read the fine print on the Constitution?

Here’s something you might not know: In Iraq right now, the military commanders “on the ground” have suspended most of the proactive missions and are doing their best job to keep soldier casualties at the barest minimum.

Do you know why they are doing that? It is because they are preparing for an eventual withdrawal from Iraq.

That might surprise you, considering that you haven’t made a decision to that effect. However, they can see the result of the choice in front of you. On one side, if you approve the budget, you accept that you have only about a year left before the vast majority of our troops will be withdrawn from Iraq. On the other side, if you veto the budget, all of those soldiers in Iraq aren’t going to be paid.

You might be an idealist, but try not paying the troops and see how much idealism those soldiers have to keep fighting.

Do you know why Congress eventually screwed you? Because they never saw you make a decision. There was all of this talk about secret plans and time tables for victory that you couldn’t tell us about if we wanted to win.

Eventually, almost everyone in the country got sick of it, and because you wouldn’t decide, Congress did for you. If only you had given us a time table (even a vague one!) you would have enough support to do what you wanted.

Leadership is an open thing. You must be seen to lead or it will slip away from you.

Our society is an odd one. Did you know that we don’t care about the individual positions that our candidates hold on the issues?

I doubt that very many of the people that voted for you in 2000 voted because they liked “No Child Left Behind.” It was enough that you had an education plan. The specifics didn’t matter as long as you had the plan.

The same thing goes for the military. We don’t care what you do with the military, as long as you have a plan. True, the liberals are going to complain, but the conservatives would be the ones complaining if you were a Clinton.

So, while the troops in Iraq try not to die, you have to make the decision. And, as the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the military, and The Decider your decision will be your responsibility.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I was very excited about getting Wildblue satellite internet back in the day. It meant being able to occasionally watch YouTube videos, for example.

Now I’m beginning to despise it. I’m writing this offline because once again my internet completely ceased working between one click and the next. It’s not a problem with the wireless router because that is registering as just fine (signal strength is “excellent”). However, there is no internet behind it. I click on a link, and instead of a fark comment thread I get “Server not found.”

This happens often. This Sunday, for instance, it was out all day long. A call to their service line was never returned.

I have repeatedly tried restarting all of the equipment involved, with little effect.

This is fucking torture. The internet is my lifeline. That’s how I communicate with everyone I know. It’s not like I can go see them or anything.

We’ve never had problems with our Dish Network like we have with Wildblue. You know how many problems that we’ve had with our TV connection? Less than ten (not counting the bizarre programming in their transceivers, that doesn’t count because it isn’t a connection problem). I’m listening to Sirius right now, actually. Dish works fine.

On a completely unrelated note, I was just thinking about the term jihad.

Jihad is a really interesting term to me, because the way I see it is completely different than I think the majority of Americans do.

I think that most people think that jihad means “holy war” and that isn’t right. I think a better definition would be “holy struggle.”

Rahma explained this to me more than a year ago, and this is how I understand it (obviously unable to look it up in wikipedia for the reasons above):

Jihad is the struggle of a Muslim to follow his faith. There are different parts to this struggle, but in order of importance, the internal struggle to act in a pious manner ranks before defending the Uma (the Muslim community) which is the only legitimate cause for violence in Islam unless you accept Hadith of which the isnad is possibly munkar.

Okay that probably didn’t make much sense. Let me try again. The most important part of jihad is acting piously. When you are walking down the street and Jessica Simpson walks by in hot pants, a pious Muslim man should avert his eyes. That struggle not to look at her is jihad.

When a Muslim man burns his finger on a stove, the struggle not to say, “Allah damn this infernal equipment” is jihad.

At eight a.m., after a night of heavy celebration (or studying for that big test), the struggle to get up and go to prayer is jihad.

That part of jihad is something that I respect because sometimes when I burn my fingers I have to struggle not to say “Jesus.” Not because I don’t want to take the Lord’s name in vain but because I keep reminding myself that in order for that curse to have any import, I would have to be a Christian, and I’m not and I would rather not have people think so. Instead I’m trying to remember to say “frack.”

So when is jihad the murder of Americans?

The community of Islam is called the Uma, and part of being a Muslim means protecting the Uma. You are allowed to kill people, if killing them protects the community of Muslims.

We (Americans) are occupying Saudi Arabia. At least partially through their invitation, but people like Osama Bin Laden aren’t very keen on that invited occupation because Saudi Arabia contains two of the three most important cities to Islam. Bin Laden thinks that by provoking America to senselessly invade Muslim countries that haven’t invited them he can convince Muslims to rise up and throw Americans out of their holy land.

This plan is working splendidly, thanks in large part to the moron that was elected to the Presidency in 2000.

Another thing: You know how the Bible is divided into the Old and New Testaments? There are two parts of the Islamic holy book: the Qur’an and the Hadith.

The miracle of Christianity is that Jesus rose from the dead. The miracle of Islam is that Mohammed (an ignorant herder) took dictation from God. I don’t read Arabic, but Muslims claim that the proof is in the pudding. Could Mohammed have produced the beautiful poetry of the Qur’an if it wasn’t divinely inspired? They claim that he couldn’t have.

I don’t believe that this is a miracle, but as far as “this miracle impresses me” this is somewhere between the “wow” of the Hindi milk miracle witnessed my millions and the “you mean someone moved the rotting corpse and you’re calling that a miracle?” of Easter.

Anyway, the Qur’an is the literal word of God. The Hadith are the collected sayings and actions of Mohammed, as passed down in verbal tradition through various people that met Mohammed during his lifetime.

As you can imagine, the Hadith are constantly argued about. They’re oral tradition first off, and second, some people are untrustworthy. Have you ever heard two people tell the same story, and the stories are recognizable but different? That’s the problem with the Hadith; they’re basically anecdotal.

There is a whole branch of study in Islam devoted to determining which Hadith came from reliable sources and were passed to people that repeated them without errors. I can’t remember what the name is, but the “path” of Hadith from person to person is called the isnad of that Hadith. If a Hadith didn’t originate from an actual experience with Mohammed, or if someone screwed it up during the centuries before it was written down, the isnad of that Hadith is said to be munkar.

So, to say again, many of the problems with the interpretation that killing Americans is a valid defense of the Uma, and therefore part of jihad is that it may be based on Hadith with isnads that are munkar. Bin Laden is just picking and choosing to fit his preconceived notions about killing Americans.

That’s why the majority of Muslims are not out to kill us. They realize that we are not converting the Saudi’s at the point of the gun, and they don’t need to kill us to defend the community.

However, more and more Muslims are looking at the war in Afganistan, the war in Iraq, and the continued occupation and support of the Saudi royal family, and they are saying to themselves “Maybe Bin Laden was right.”

That is my much simplified view of the Middle East situation, and about jihad and Hadith. I’d love to know if I’m basically correct by looking it up online, except I can’t look it up because I don’t have any internet access.


Update: Let’s see how I did. Wikipedia’s first definition of jihad is “struggle.” Although in law it is defined as military action, it has a common usage that is very similar to the way that I described it.

When I was talking about which is more important, the general idea that I was thinking of was the difference between “the greater jihad” and “the lesser jihad.” The article on jihad describes that difference.

Interestingly, I see some similarities between the five kinds of jihad listed in that section of the article and the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, except of course for the one involving military action. That has no corresponding guideline in Buddhism.

My memory of the definitions of Hadith, isnad, and munkar seem to have been fairly accurate as well. The term that I couldn’t remember about the study of Hadith seems to be Ilm ar-Rijal, but that doesn’t sound right to me. I also put the apostrophe in the correct place in Qur’an.

I did misspell “Ummah” as “Uma,” but I got the gist of the definition correct.

To be charitable to myself, we’ll pretend that I didn’t screw up the “reasons that Muslims can kill others” section too badly.

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