Wizard’s Apostasy by JB Steele

Wizard’s Apostasy, by JB Steele is now available!

 

Here’s the blurb:

The Realm of Cadealith is under attack. An evil stranger is looking for something, and attacking everything in his path. He doesn’t care who or what gets in his way.
King’s Master Ranger Cuileán Abel has been on his trail for a long time, trying to stop him.
Abiradon, an Elven Warrior Monk, barely survived one of the brutal attacks and is now seeking vengeance, too.
Others in the realm are affected by the mad dash to power, and they all have different views that come to light as the Master Ranger and the warrior monk race against time.
Can Cuileán Abel and Abiradon be successful in their quest and restore safety and peace to Cadealith?
Or, will the Wizard’s Apostasy destroy them all?

Also in this book, “King’s Ranger,” a Cadealith short story.

 

Please check with these ebook retailers to get your copy.

Unknown Worlds is also available, as well.

Here’s the blurb for Unknown Worlds:

Do you ever feel like you’ve awakened from a dream in which you visited an unknown world? Some of the best dreams stayed with you whether you realized it or not. Here are five stories from the mind of JB Steele, ranging from the days of yore to a time far from now. Sit back with a mug of steaming cocoa on a cool night, or a cold drink on a hot night, adjust the light over that comfortable reading chair and dive into these stories.

The Falls of Beta Tucanae – Humans fight on in a long war that no one knows when the end will come. Can Captain Quinn finish his patrol and bring his crew home alive?

Attack on the Castle – Aleister Greyblade has a problem. It’s one thing to handle the day to day running of the Castle Guard. That’s his job. It’s when someone tries to attack his King in more than one way, that’s when he has a problem. How does he solve it? As directly as possible.

Tenuous Voyages – Perfidy reigns, and the Felin have to find a way to stop the attack. Maybe it’s time to be more careful who they do business with.

An Onslaught Antagonized – She’s had all she can stand and she’s not going to take any more. Major Felicia Màrtainn is done, and there’s going to be hell to pay. She’s not the only one, either.

Waves – Being police detectives on the Gulf Coast is sometimes busy work. Sure, there are tourists walking the white sands and buying things the locals wouldn’t be caught dead with. When people turn up dead in different ways, Detectives Alex Rountree and Stephanie Loenen get a bit busy trying to catch a killer.

 

Please follow these links.

Words

Words in Writing

This is one of the simple things that everyone either takes for granted or just doesn’t think about.

Words.

Words are made up of letters, and either expresses some concept or communicates something.

I’ll leave out the grammar rules and the cliches and other expressions for now, and just talk about words. I’m using words about words – so to speak. You have to describe the scene and the action in the scene, and do so in a way that the reader can follow along.

If you have a character that you want to drink a glass of water (or whatever that character prefers,) as a writer, you could see that character in your imagination. Let’s say he’s sitting at a table and his hand reaches out for his drink.

Jack drank the water.

Short, simple, and to the point. If you are writing in a concise manner, then you have communicated what he did. It’s a little bland, however. What if he happened to be very thirsty?

Jack guzzled the water.

That gives a little more description with the change of one single word. Let’s add a little more to it.

Jack guzzled the water. Drops spilled out and ran down his chin.

He seems a bit anxious, but why we don’t know. It could be any number of reasons. Maybe he’s still thinking about that bad day at work.

Jack guzzled the water. Drops spilled out and ran down his chin. Odell had left a couple of hours earlier, and he was feeling hungover.

Choose your words carefully for the maximum effect of what you want to achieve. Here’s Jack’s just not having the best of days, and that has to be communicated to your reader. To recap a little, Jack is my character that rides a garbage truck. He found a body in a garbage can, and well, it didn’t brighten his day.

Jack guzzled the water. Drops spilled out and ran down his chin. Odell had left a couple of hours earlier, and he was feeling hungover. He was grateful for the visit, but the alcohol had made him sleepy. He decided to go to bed.

Let’s work on that last sentence a little.

He was grateful for the visit, but the alcohol had made him sleepy. He decided to get up and fumble his way to his bed.

Decision’s made, but he isn’t all that graceful. A couple of twelve packs will do that.

Jack stubbed his toe on the coffee table.

“Ow,” he grumbled, not really feeling it. A very distant corner of his brain decided that it would wait to report the pain until in the morning.

He found his bed and tumbled in.

Hmm… That’s pretty straightforward, again.

 Jack stubbed his toe on the coffee table.

“Ow,” he grumbled, not really feeling it. A very distant corner of his brain decided that it would wait to report the pain until in the morning.

He shuffled into the bedroom, holding on to the doorframe and knocking knickknacks off the wall. The bed was still in the unmade shape he’d left it, and he collapsed onto the dirty sheets.

Jack was asleep before his body came to a stop. His snores resounded throughout the small apartment.

Yep. He’s out. All that, from taking a drink of water. Let’s look at the whole thing.

Jack guzzled the water. Drops spilled out and ran down his chin. Odell had left a couple of hours earlier, and he was feeling hungover. He was grateful for the visit, but the alcohol had made him sleepy. He decided to get up and fumble his way to his bed.

 Jack stubbed his toe on the coffee table. “Ow,” he grumbled, not really feeling it. A very distant corner of his brain decided that it would wait to report the pain until in the morning.

He shuffled into the bedroom, holding on to the doorframe and knocking knickknacks off the wall. The bed was still in the unmade shape he’d left it, and he collapsed onto the dirty sheets.

Jack was asleep before his body came to a stop. His snores resounded throughout the small apartment.

At the same time, we have to be careful not to repeat a lot of words. I’m bad about this. Let’s look at this again.

Jack guzzled the water. Drops spilled out and ran down his chin. Odell had left a couple of hours earlier, and the young man was feeling hungover. He was grateful for the visit, but the alcohol had made him sleepy. He decided to get up and fumble his way to bed.

 Jack stubbed his toe on the coffee table. “Ow,” came a slow grumble, not really feeling it. A very distant corner of his brain decided that it would wait to report the pain until in the morning.

He shuffled into the bedroom, holding on to the doorframe and knocking knickknacks off the wall. The bed was still in the unmade shape he’d left it, and Jack collapsed onto the dirty sheets.

He was asleep before his body came to a stop. Snores resounded throughout the small apartment.

I’m pretty sure it could use some more tightening up. This is where editing by others comes into play, but that is a post for another time.

Words are what a writer uses. Enjoy your words!

 

Happy writing!

–JB Steele

An Onslaught Antagonized, Part 2

Here is the second part of my current story. Here we get to meet more characters.

Chapter Two

Krasnoyarsk Outpost Two, Siberian District, Russia

24 August, 2259 Terra Year

1416 Zulu Time

Horacio watched the embedded reporter speak to his CO. The little camera floated around on its regressive gravity platform, controlled by little twitches of the reporter’s big toe. The lieutenant pretended to be busy with a balky mass coil driver for a squad automatic weapon while the interview was going on. He was trying to keep an eye on Captain Màrtainn, ready to interrupt with a pretext to get her away from the reporter. Some bullshit excuse, maybe pretend he needed her CO’s retina print and voice print on a report for something. God knows there was enough paperwork floating around the military that it was plausible enough. Then again, there probably really was stuff that needed her to sign off on anyway.

The technology of the camera intrigued him. It was something proprietary, and more than likely some JAG lawyer was trying to get it licensed to the military. He could think of a few ways to weaponize something like that. He wasn’t too keen on the idea of getting the picocontrollers for the thing implanted in selected muscles. It was different for everyone. Not everyone had the best control of a certain muscle group, so they went with whatever body part they had the best control over, other than face, ears, and hands. Reporters still had to write, or at the very least manipulate electronic tools with devices. The military didn’t use thumbprints anymore, but the civilian applications did. Biometrics had come a long way in several centuries.

The captain was still outwardly calm. The reporter was a good man, and even though no one in the unit liked reporters, they’d all respected him. He was professional, competent, and best of all, a former Marine. The reporter knew how to elicit information and lay down covering fire. So, the reporter got more tolerance from the Marines. Horacio saw her twitch a little when she spoke about the Russian, and his heart hurt for her. Horacio was jaded after years of war and having served in two branches as officer, but for some reason he was more protective of his current CO than all the others. He wasn’t the only one to feel that way, and over blood beers later he and Second Lieutenant DeBourchier concluded it was because she was his first female commanding officer.

Not saying you’re attracted to her, sir. But we all kinda watch out for her in battle. God knows if she thought we were, she’d rip us new ones, and that’s no joke. That sharp tongue and temper of hers, well, you know how it is.”

Don’t I know it, D.B. Sometimes, she ain’t a people person.”

“No, but damn, what a fighter.”

Too bad we can’t replicate a hundred of her and send them all to Ik’tretka.”

Their home planet would explode.”

They looked around to make sure she wasn’t hovering around. Lieutenant DeBourchier sat back and belched politely. His black mustache stood out against the flash of pearly white teeth.

What I don’t like is the trippies running experiments on our women and using them like so many brood mares. I heard too much about the feeding stations.”

It was no secret about the particular atrocities visited on women. The staff xeno-psychologists were all ripping out body hair trying to figure out why the trippies liked women so much. Yes, there was the hormone thing, estrogen and such, but no one had captured a live Trippy to find out why. He knew about the warrior suicide culture they had. The xeno-anthropologists said that according to every intelligence document they could find, the trippies considered what humans called death to be the same thing as “growing up.” The thought that the human race was locked in a to-the-death battle with children was disquieting.

Sir?”

Yeah, D.B.”

Where are their ‘parents?’ Wouldn’t you think they have to be around somewhere?”

You’d think so, but no, I guess not. Leastaways, nobody’s made the trip to go find them.”

Yeah, too busy dealing with the hooligans knocking down the mailbox and leaving prank calls. What about trying to keep them alive when we take prisoners?”

You know how hard that is.”

The Trippy prisoners tapped into their warrior culture whenever they were captured, and performed a version of seppuku. The ritual was never-ending, and every Marine, spacer, soldier – or cop, for that matter – had seen it at least once.

Once a Trippy was issued into a cell, they made use of the facilities to ‘purify’ themselves. Water was water, apparently, and they consumed it with gusto. The Trippy prisoner would cleanse themselves, arrange their bark-like exoskeleton with care, and usually compose a poem in their native tongue. Some of the more educated among them would write it in Standard, which was strange enough. Those composers were the more militant of any of the prisoners taken.

The strange thing was that in the absence of a spoken language, the Trippies had very complex written language. It was a very precise orthography, heavy on mathematics. The heavy scientists like the physicists, astronomers, mathematicians, various engineers, and so forth all wanted to study this language for possible use in scientific expression. Strangely, though, there was several subsets of the Trippy language that dealt with the abstract of art and interpretive expression. The scientists with the artistic leanings was pleased to find this hidden side as well.

This dichotomy of the aliens – the absence of a spoken language versus a complex written language – made for a lot of head scratching and debates. Whenever a prisoner was taken, several of the scientists from whatever range of discipline that was available rotated watches along with the military personnel. They waited for the prisoners to write out anything, and watched for minute clues in posture or mood. Each composition was recorded and pored over, with the more popular posted in the daily intelligence briefings to the Theater CINCs.

Currently the November Tau Tanka was the selection given. So called because the layout happened to match the style of a Japanese tanka, it ran as follows:

the air of battle

makes gre’swetor’s sweet hail

sound seductively.

Come, gre’swetor! I have stood

awaiting my time proudly!

This particular tanka was accompanied by a list of battle accomplishments and honors, posts, duties, and commands held by the Trippy in question. It turned out that he (or she or it, no one was sure) was a fighter of some great influence. Even to a layman, it seemed impressive. The xeno-anthropologists seemed to be particularly impressed by the genealogy that the fighter had thoughtfully attached.

They couldn’t ask him/her/it about it, though. Like every other Trippy that they’d captured, the fighter had written all he/she/it had to say down after the ritualistic purification, bowed to the four winds, collapsed where he/she/it had stood upright, and died. This was the supposed meaning of the word ‘gre’swetor,‘ but no one was quite sure.

There was no way to stop them. Suicide watches had been set on every one, and most just recited a string of numbers, using their language hardware, then collapsed. Invariably, there would be a message arriving at the headquarters, with the numbers in the headers of the message, that contained the last words of the Trippy in question. If there was more than one, say in holding cells, one would act as a second for the others’ action. It was half-seriously dubbed trippuku by the Marines, and the slang word had caught on. After all the other Trippies had been ‘assisted,’ the second in the trippuku ritual would follow suit. This one would always list the assistance just given last as a great honor, and expire happily.

Lieutenant DeBourchier shoved his empty blood beer mug to the sergeant bartending and stood up.

It’s been nice, sir, but I got to rack out. I have an early patrol tomorrow.”

I hear you. Hey, don’t forget those evaluations.”

Yeah, tell me about it. I think sometimes the military runs on paperwork, not fake-coffee.”

It does. Thanks a lot for reminding me about coffee, fake or not. Real coffee’s five hundred credits a pound and you want to mention it? This crap we got now just sucks.”

Sorry. I’m not the one that lived on the stuff before the Trippies came.” The junior lieutenant smirked as he slipped the proverbial dagger in.

Oh, get out of here before I wipe that smirk off your face.”

DeBourchier left, not particularly worried about the jesting threat. The sergeant grinned at the officer.

Sir, one day he’ll get it back. Don’t you worry.”

Not worried, sarge. I’ll get mine. Besides, I still have a freeze-dried pound of coffee he doesn’t know about in my bank’s safe deposit box back home. When the war’s over, I’m going to get it out, open it, brew a pot, and I’m not sharing.”

The last part came as the sergeant was visibly drooling. He seemed to be disappointed. Horacio didn’t have any sympathy for him, or anyone else.

And another thing…”

Yes, sir?”

Anyone comes up to me and starts sniffing around for coffee, I’ll know right where to go.” A level glance spoke volumes. The sergeant nodded quickly, and placed a shot glass in front of the officer.

Sir, I got something for you to try. I was saving it for a special occasion, but now’s just as good a time as any.”

Okay, what is it?”

Patience, sir. You’ll see.”

Horacio watched as the sergeant took two unmarked green glass bottles out of the cupboard, one smaller than the other. He set those down by the shot glass, then got a teaspoon and a dirty white bottle from the small refrigerator under the bar.

Milk?”

The sergeant smiled, and shook his head. He set the white bottle down on the other side of the glass, and theatrically balanced the spoon on it. Horacio rolled his eyes, but was intrigued enough not to say anything. The officer watched as the enlisted man uncorked the bigger bottle and carefully pour out half a shot of clear liquid into the glass. He recorked it and put it on the counter running the length of the wall behind the bar. After he uncorked the second bottle, the sergeant grabbed the spoon and twirled it absently.

Horacio raised an eyebrow.

The sergeant placed the spoon bowl side up over the shot glass, and very slowly poured a deep green liquid over the spoon, leaving a space to the rim measuring maybe the thickness of three coins. Horacio noticed that the green liquid didn’t settle in and mix with the other fluid, but sat placidly in a layer over it. He still didn’t say anything. The sergeant uncorked the dirty white bottle with one hand without moving his spoon, and tipped in a milky white cream over the spoon in the same manner as the green layer.

Horacio noticed that the cream left no residue or droplets on the spoon. Looking at the shot glass, he saw that the concoction was steaming or smoking – he couldn’t tell which.

Throw it back, sir, whole thing. Quick, before that top layer melts. Swallow quick.”

The officer looked up at him, then shrugged. He grabbed the shot glass, feeling the warm and cold layers through the thin glass, and threw it back.

His breath left him as molten fire coursed down to his stomach. As the slug inched its sedate way, following gravity, he was surprised to note that the peristalsis of his digestive tract had stopped in shock. His muscles tightened in response, but as the shot worked its way down, the muscles loosened up after it passed. Horacio was sure that his stomach was going to clench up, but that didn’t happen. Instead it seemed to calm itself and go to sleep. A feeling of warmth and content ease washed over him, and he looked at the bartending sergeant in astonishment.

Sergeant Hanks, just what in the hell was that?”

The sergeant grinned.

Felt like poison going down, didn’t it, but at the end, feels great?”

Yes, but you didn’t answer the question. What was it?”

“The guys call it Cosmic Explosion.”

Horacio grimaced.

“I can see why. Where did it come from?”

The sergeant wiped the bar as he spoke.

Well, one of the intel guys was looking at the trippuku stuff they get, and one of them left his favorite drink. They didn’t really think anything of it, until other Trippies after that one mentioned in their own missives that they wished they’d had it one last time. It’s sort of like Gunny Jacob’s meat jerky, as far as we can tell.”

The officer nodded. Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Jacob was famous in the unit, and beyond, for the jerky chews he made to take out on patrol with him. He charged a high price for a small bag of his jerky, but not one Marine complained. They got discounts compared to the Navy and Army. The joke was that when he retired, Gunny Jacob was going to get rich from the jerky. The other joke was that since he guarded his secret method so well, the recipe he used was classified high enough that even God wasn’t cleared for the information.

So what about it? Are you saying that this Trippy made this drink, like Gunny’s jerky?” He coughed and watched, fascinated, as the room spun a little. The sergeant had a hand out to steady him already.

That’s it.”

How do you know this stuff won’t kill me?”

Me and the boys did a scientifical test. We found out what the analogues was to the Trippy ingredients. It turns out that you have to make up the green part and the white part, but any moonshine at least a hunnert ‘n’ fifty proof will do.”

So what was the proof?”

We took leave and drank shots. Nobody can get through more than two. Best part is, you don’t get a hangover.”

Horacio grinned.

Well, that’s good, but I don’t think I’ll be trying a second one so soon. I’ll try another one next week. Damn, that’s potent.”

You say so, sir. You know what’s funny?”

What?” He was slurring his words a little now.

Skipper can slam two of these beauties, and still ream someone out. You can’t tell it affects her a-tall.”

Dayum. She’s a better man than me. You put me out with one shot. I’m going to bed.”

The sergeant laughed.

Have a good night, sir.” He watched as the officer carefully got off the rough wooden stool and navigate slowly to the door. Sergeant Hanks traded smirks with the other enlisted man cleaning up for closing time. The lance corporal flipped the sign over, and turned out the lights, then walked to the bar.

Sergeant Hanks was just finishing two more Cosmic Explosions, and he locked up the bottles, as the lance corporal sat down on the seat the officer had just left. He picked up his shot.

Well, Bill, another day.”

Got that right, Roger, another day, down the tubes.” The sergeant picked up his shot, and they threw their drinks back. Both shuddered simultaneously.

Think this place is going to survive?”

The sergeant stared off in the distance, thinking about the lance corporal’s question.

I hope so, but the way it’s been going, I don’t have any kind of clue.”

Lieutenant Bisbee’s all right, but the Skipper… she’s scary.”

The sergeant thinned his lips.

I know she isn’t going to win any popularity contests, now or probably ever, but if anybody that managed to deal with half of what she’s had to and still be a saint is cracked. He’s got something eating at him, too, but he keeps it close.”

Why? You heard something?”

Bartenders and priests hear a lot, and both drink because of it. I’ll keep the Skipper’s secrets, mainly because I don’t want her after me.”

OK, well, yes, I can understand that. You know scuttlebutt has that there’s another operation laid on in a few weeks.”

I know, and it don’t look too good.”

You know any details?”

All I know is rescuing women. They’ve been pretty tight with anything else. The Skipper and Mr. Bisbee’s going in with the whole team. I don’t know anything else, and don’t really want to know anything else.” The sergeant gave the lance corporal a speaking glance.

Did you know about the special munitions for the mass driver weapons?”

What?”

Yes, there’s several huge crates, about big enough you or I could stand up in, being guarded at the corner of the ammo dump. All hours, and the guard are all people that I don’t remember having seen here before.” The lance corporal had a photographic memory for faces. “I don’t know where they come from or what they do when they aren’t around those crates. A forklift had to move them, and they drive the forklift, too. Nobody on the base is assigned there. I nosed around. People don’t even know about it, and I wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t happened to drive by on an errand the other day. It’s locked up tighter than a battlecruiser’s hull. There’s a godawful big barracks behind that razor tipped fence, too.”

Maybe you shouldn’t be talking about it. Loose lips and all that, you know?”

I know, but …”

But what?”

They’re armed with some serious shoulder weapons, they’re in uniform, and they have military discipline out the yingyang, but this group isn’t Army, Navy, or Marines. They aren’t wearing Hegemony threads.”

So they’re government contractors.”

Yeah, you’d think so….”

The junior enlisted man had a frown on his face still. Sergeant Hanks looked at him.

What?”

I said that I didn’t see anyone that belonged here, and I meant that. I did recognize quite a few people I’ve served with that. All of them were lifers. Career service, and no pushovers. Two of the others was my senior drill instructor and another drill instructor. None of them would get out of the service for anything and I would have bet my life savings that all of them would die in uniform before they took it off. Plus, we’ve had a higher rate of turnover in our staffing on this assignment than the norm, not counting casualties and injuries. I called some friends in the network around the world and they’re telling me the same thing.”

Are you saying…”

I don’t know what I’m saying, except something is going on that don’t look aboveboard. There’s a paramilitary unit out there, behind that fence that’s got people in it that mean business. They’re self-contained in there. They don’t mix and mingle with our people out here.”

That’s not good.”

No, and that worries me. Yeah, military secrets and all that, but I did a little digging.”

Hold on! The hell!”

Relax. I checked building orders. I didn’t get into personnel files or anything like that. Building orders are non-class.”

Sergeant Hanks shook his head.

I don’t want anyone busting up in here and throwing me on the ground just because you happen to be here.”

I doubt it. Now, do you want to hear what I found, or not?”

I think I’m going to regret it, but you have my attention now.”

The lance corporal grinned humorlessly.

It turns out that the base planning commission – you know the guys that go to work all day in that basement and almost never sees the sun – they think that corner of the base is all forest. There’s no work permits, construction permits, administrative orders, utility hookups, electronics contract work – nothing. Just a permanent hold order for that exact plot of land. Those feather merchant clerks in that detachment didn’t seem interested in telling me much more than that.”

What does the hold order do?”

It’s a reservation thing. Whoever puts the order in can hold it until they’re ready to develop it, and things like that can literally stagnate.”

Well, if there’s this ‘hold order,’ then why isn’t there other paperwork on file for the buildings and improvements out there?”

The lance corporal blew his breath out.

Don’t you get it? There’s some higher than top secret stuff going on over there, and people are noticing. It isn’t just me. There’s people being quietly shuffled around, too. That makes holes that need to be filled, and it’s attracting attention. It’s going to start pulling in more than that soon, and it’ll start with trying to find the unit all these people went to. Somebody is going to pull that hold order up on a computer somewhere and they’re going to see that it’s a ‘work in progress.’ They’ll stop looking there, unless they go looking with the Eyeball Mark One, Mod Zero. If they decide they want more answers and try to get onto that mini base out there…”

They disappear.”

The sergeant looked at the lance corporal, then unlocked the whiskey cabinet again.

-JB Steele

An Onslaught Antagonized, Part 1

An Onslaught Antagonized, Part 1

This is the beginning of a story that I wrote for the Writers of the Future Contest. I like it – maybe you will, too.

Chapter One

Krasnoyarsk Outpost Two, Siberian District, Russia

24 August, 2259 Terra Year

1328 Zulu Time

 

It was clear on that disastrous Day. As hard as I try to rip it from my memory, I can’t. It’s seared into my brain cells, and it revisits me at night still. It seemed to me that the air was wrong somehow. One minute, it was clear and cool and the best of a fall day’s offerings. The next, it was warm and smoky, right out of a bad horror novel.

Screams rent the air as cars exploded and trees were uprooted. I watched in horror as the most shocking things I’d ever seen advanced upon our little outpost. These… beings… I don’t know what to call them, other than the more or less formal nomenclature. The description was scary enough.

I’m looking at you right now and ignoring the camera. I know this is something you’ve probably heard more than once, from more than a few people, but I don’t care about them. This is my story, or at least as much as I can tell you. The rest’s classified. Sorry.

The shortest was eight feet tall. The tallest, maybe eleven. Three strongly muscled legs sprouted from a thicker trunk, with four arms. Each ‘hand’ had fingers that individually seemed big enough to tear a man’s head straight from his shoulders. The head atop each body was roughly human sized, except bigger by a little bit. I saw one with four eyes, one with three, one with none that were noticeable, and most with five arranged mostly around the head. They didn’t have mouths, or at least anything like a mouth to begin with. All I could really tell that day before ducking down to hide, was that they had some kind of ripping bone protruding from the nominal front, and a rough hide.

I came to find out that the bone indeed ripped flesh, but it acted like a straw, too. God help me, they had their own straws that they stuck into the smoothies of our internal organs. I feel like I’m back there, right now, while I talk to you. Best not to think about that now. It’s too busy right now for trips down memory lane. They have an attack wave moving in on our base, and we have civilians to protect. Mostly women and children.

They seem to enjoy ripping up women the most. Something about our hormones punches the pleasure buttons so hard that they have to have us any way they can get us. They get a high, then they go back to wherever they base from and get laid. Sometimes they take prisoners to prolong the experience, then discard them. Men, they just consider worthless, except for target practice or the odd gambling pieces. They’ve learned how to breed us, but most of them are too impatient with the whole idea of procreation. Besides, a pregnant woman drives them bananas. Those hormones are like crack or meth or something to them. A woman in a family way doesn’t survive long, without help. There’s a window between conception and that first division of the blastomeres, where women are relatively safe. After that, they will kill each other to get to the woman. In comparison, men are just tissue. They use men as expendable slaves or toys, with all the concern of a seven year old with a magnifying glass and few ants.

I’m a team leader of a military unit that specializes in rescuing women from the holding tanks that they use. No unit names – that’s classified, too. My name is Major Felicia Màrtainn, and I save people. I’ve got six men and seven women on my team, and there aren’t any jokes about the men being outnumbered. The so-called battle of the sexes was suspended long ago. Now, it’s the battle of the humans. It’s hard to rescue women, since we have to fight in and fight out. There’s a larger organizational unit that we’re attached to, with the usual staff positions and a chief of staff, and another group on the org chart with a bunch of different scientists. Biologists, chemists, physicists, psychologists, and so on. Just about whatever kind of -ologist you can think of. Several of them are hybrids, experts in more than one field, and we’re never quiet sure how to classify them. We go by pay grades and worry about titles and degrees later.

A side note. No one is quite sure what the aliens call themselves. We never noticed at first if they had a spoken language, much less if they speak to each other. We’ve observed them make motions to each other and direct groups here and there, but no matter how hard the intelligence officers try, there hasn’t been any kind of speech, language or even dialect detected where each other is concerned. They started carrying these strange devices embedded in the exoskeleton that speaks for them. How it works, we don’t know. We can’t ever get our hands on a working model to crack, since they fuse into solid blocks of whatever they use to make it from when they die. We aren’t sure if they even have a name for themselves, so we’ve been calling them the trippies. Three legs, tripod, get it? I didn’t think it was all that funny, either, but got to call them something. People who used tripods in their jobs before they came really hate them.

My second-in-command is First Lieutenant Horacio Bisbee. He was an active duty US Marine Corps officer before, now he’s part of the United Terran Hegemony Marines, like me. All of the services in every country were merged into one global service, with the different services now called ‘partitions.’ Yeah, I know, it sounds stupid. Politicians. You know how it is.

It was a hell of a thing to consolidate everyone and there were plenty of problems. The strange thing is, all the other nations’ seagoing infantry like Horacio get along just fine, no matter the language. I guess it’s true, once a Marine, always a Marine. The various navies mostly got along. The various armies argued a bit, and the air forces all tried to outdo each other until the various leaders of different countries put a stop to that crap.

I’m thinking about a thing we had seen back then, something bad. We were looking out from an outcropping in what used to be the Grand Canyon. It won’t be a tourist attraction ever again, since the trippies found it and blasted office space into the rock. I’m not kidding. Go look at the Grand Canyon now and you’ll see a bunch of regularly spaced holes in the rock that look for all the world like windows in a skyscraper. Some are lit with those portable lights they use. Some are dark. The more ‘offices’ lit up, the busier they are and the closer to setting up an operation. It’s like it’s their main regional field office or something there, with satellite offices reporting in as needed. There isn’t another base that size anywhere in the world that we know of.

We’ve seen it too many times. When it’s dark, hardly anything happens. The last time it was lit up like it was, they hit the Kansas wheat fields and burned away most of the years harvest. That caused a famine. Remember that? That was just five years ago, and the world is just now getting over it. If it hadn’t been for the stockpiles of those awful MREs that every military has, the world would have starved. We escaped that one by the skin of our teeth. That and the other wheat supplies in Russia and rice stocks in Asia and other places.

Right now – well, as of two hours ago – every light is on. Never mind how we got the information, and I’m pushing it now to say this much. We’ve used a lot of assets up to understand that there is something else going on that we don’t like. It come back to that hormone thing that they’re all crazy about.

Horacio and I are sweating this one. Supposedly there are a bunch of women gathered for breeding and other experiments on one of these ‘floors.’ We aren’t sure which one, but we’ve seen quite a few of those floating transport barges they use slide into a wide docking bay in the Canyon. We need more information about how they set up housekeeping in there, but everyone we’ve sent in has been either killed or captured for the breeding experiments.

The idea of using infrared viewers died a quick death. The first front looking infrared scanner, the FLIR, that we flipped on got unwanted attention real fast. A squad was using a FLIR and some kind of quick reaction force from the Canyon hit them hard. They didn’t even bother taking the females in that squad, just hit them with something that burned a permanent shadow into the ground wherever they stood. It wasn’t radiation. Dosimeters didn’t even react when we got there. Horacio and I waved them around for ten minutes and there weren’t any clicks other than what would normally be expected if you were taking a walk in the park.

We’ve lost more people out of our little unit. I’ve given up remembering names, and so has Horacio. People come and go so quick. Whether they get killed in action or get transferred out to fill other slots in the TO&E, there really isn’t any point in trying. If they get injured, then it’s just temporary. I’ve lost the same arm four times and others have similar stories there. If they get killed, well, that’s different.

About the arm. We lucked out, if you can call it that. We rescued twelve women from a tiny detention campsite about eight years ago. It had been hit by a quick response team and all the trippies there found themselves suddenly dead with no time to call for backup. The response team commander was looking around the facility for any other prisoners. He found a machine in one of the infirmaries that regrew limbs. He had the time to look it over and take statements from prisoners about what it did. No one on the team believed it when they heard it. I guess they thought the women were all traumatized. To be fair, I wouldn’t have believed them either. If it had been me, I would have packed them all off to the psychs to muddle around and find out what happened.

Anyway, one of the troopers that was up for rotation soon volunteered to try it out. He had lost an eye a couple years earlier. The commander was very hesitant to let him, but the women convinced him. The trooper lay down, after making a quick will, and got up an hour later. The team’s XO started to make a joke about him using any excuse for a nap, when the trooper complained of a headache and dizziness.

No wonder. That missing eye had regrown, and the trooper’s brain was very confused. It was trying to relearn how to use two eyes after years of just having one eye. He walked around squinting for a week, and had to relearn how to shoot, how to feed himself, even how to dress. He had to relearn a lot because his vision had suddenly went from two dimensions back to three, and it was something that he wasn’t prepared for. At least he could cope with that. He hadn’t been prepared to lose the eye in the first place, but he managed.

You can imagine all the hoopla. The shock and the surprise from the troopers in that unit, when he blinked his baby blues at them and one eye was bloodshot and the other was perfectly clear. The usual innovation that comes with wartime economies, plus a slight uptick in stupid behavior. After some of the world’s finest physicists, biologists, mathematicians, and engineers figured out how it worked, then the world businesses took over. Soon there were regeneration units in every hospital, clinic, medical ship, and first aid station in the world. It seemed that we couldn’t get them to the front line fast enough for all the combat related wounds. The stupid behavior, well, the regen units had that miraculous thing going for them, but they couldn’t fix a severed head or a bled-out body. We found out that they had a downside, but more on that later.

Still, now we are stuck holding the short, sharp end of the stick. It’s pretty grim today, and it seemed grimmer then, but there’s so few degrees between ‘grim’ and ‘grimmer’ that we might as well not bother trying to argue the point. Humanity is stuck in a corner, here on old Terra, and we have to make a move.

We colonized the moon a good twenty years before we otherwise would have. You know how politicians are. Professing they’re here for the good of the city/county/state/nation/world. They’re all the same, whether they wear a suit, a thawb, a cloak of feathers, or run around stark naked. The service has some of them, too. We proud combat units try to keep our distance, but we have to make use of them to get what we need. As far as the civilian politicians, it’s simply breathtaking how a vast majority put their political differences aside when they realized they as a collective were staring down the barrel of alien guns. A figure of speech, yes, since the aliens have so far been unsuccessful in taking the planet. Still, the close calls woke them up and probably the frenzied calls from the constituents had something to do with it.

We lost Canada. Or at least a huge amount of it. Alaska is just cinders now. We had a secret military base there, just us and the polar bears that migrated down, and they found out about it. How, I don’t know. We by-God-knew when they discovered it, because they slipped into orbit and targeted that base. It was just a research project on human endurance. Military, yes, but with a lot of civilian applications.

They used some kind of neutrino-based carrier wave to target the base. Neutrinos can zip through a planet with no problem, so how they contained the neutrinos for a carrier wave, I don’t know. There’s a lieutenant commander in the Navy with no hair left that knows about high-energy physics. He didn’t know how they did it either, but there’s a distracted look in his eye whenever someone mentions it. All he’ll say is, “Collimation leakage,” and that’s it for any kind of conversation for the rest of the day. He slipped up one day while he was examining a piece of captured Trippy particle tech and mumbled, “How the hell does a septaquark even exist?” I knew better than to even ask about septaquarks. I didn’t want agents with identical haircuts, sharp suits, and crow’s feet around the eyes to pay me a visit. Besides, I didn’t think there was anything higher than a pentaquark, anyway.

The targeting was spot on, they tell me. Too bad the delivery systems wasn’t up to snuff. We lost everyone in that base, including the basement dwellers. The thing is, there was much more ‘shock and awe’ going on than just for a simple base. That’s an old term, but I don’t think this was a strike that got royally screwed up. I think it was a full-up battle, against overmatched opponents. There wasn’t anyone higher than a major there, and Major Dmitriy Alesnarovich Koryavin was a good man. Dima was something special, and I cried my eyes out for two days when I heard what happened. That’s all I want to say about him, other than he never got the troops he begged for nor the equipment and training time either.

What’s that? Yes, he did. A whole lot. That’s all I’m saying.

We lost more than the base. We lost enough land mass in that horrific bombardment to alter Terra’s axial tilt, and the seasons to go along with it. It gets really damn hot and really damn cold now, and the seasons don’t keep to the months they used to be in. It starts getting cold in July one year, then June, then May, and the seasons lately have been lasting four or five months. I don’t know how we’re going to handle a Christmas with hundred degree heat, but it’s coming all too soon.

I’m dancing around the real point. That alien office building isn’t going anywhere, and neither are the female prisoners.

We lost Canada, like I said. That base was in Alaska, yes, but close to the Canadian border. That way, the Canadians could “lend a hand” and the Americans could put the funding in the blackest part of the defense budget. Politicians, remember. It didn’t matter one bit. When Alaska was vaporized along with a huge chunk of Canada, they all got the message. It was time to put up or shut up and be herded. The political shock waves were stronger than anything the bombardment could produce, and it was felt in Chile, among places.

They got the lead out. First they voted to keep Alaska’s star on the flag, so that there would still be fifty-six stars, but Alaska now has a gold-bordered black star. They got together and planned to get outposts set up on Luna. Private contractors, the Russians, the Japanese, even the Italians contributed, among others. NASA was resurrected, although it was given a new name for a week. Cape Canaveral and Houston didn’t even get a chance to order new stationery before everyone in the world became the United Terran Hegemony. The acronym is bad enough, but at least it wasn’t something to make it UGH. I hesitate to think about the other languages.

So, a good man died before he could see the broad changes. In a way, that’s good. There are a lot of arguing and old resentments between nationalities, and many senior NCOs are driving themselves crazy trying to make it work. There is a lot of martial law happening. Civilians are helping, for the most part, but there are always some people who never get the memo. Conspiracy theorists and Internet trolls are just two types.

Nobody can walk down to the corner grocery store anymore. We have to have ration stamps, just like a few centuries or so ago, in another war and another time. People have to have good reason for going somewhere, and if they go, they have to get there and get off the road. If they don’t, the military arrests and detains them, until they can find out what’s going on. We don’t like having to do it, but people make things hard on us sometimes, and it’s hard enough as it is. Just like last time, there’s a thriving black market for things like food and fuel.

Beaches, theme parks, and movie theaters don’t exist anymore. Hollywood is almost a ghost town. There are still actors, but they make training films for the military, not big budget films. Somebody made a homemade movie criticizing the restrictions the Hegemony had put in place and urging direct action. It started to have a cult underground following on the Internet with all the people stuck in their homes, but that dropped off quickly when another alien incursion came in. The Trippies had found the video, and whatever passed for intelligence organs in their hierarchy decided that the guy was some kind of underground guerrilla leader recruiting for an offensive. In a way, they were right, but they thought they were the target.

They bombed his town. They didn’t use weapons with the same petaton rating, but it was enough to blow a crater eight and a quarter miles wide. The coastal town the guy lived in was obliterated, and seawater fills the crater now. Windows shattered twenty miles away, and ten miles in, some older houses collapsed. People died without having a clue what was happening, and in more than a few cases, whole communities were gutted.

There were probably twenty or thirty others that apparently were in total agreement with the guy’s ideas and their Internet forum activity stopped at the same time his did. It turned out that every single one got the same treatment, in several countries. Craters, all about the same size, and in the case of the larger metropolises, double and even a triple crater.

Now, no one argues. They take their ration stamps, go home and nurse Trippy hate. The enlistment rates are so high that buses leave nearly every other day. Horacio says that he dimly remembers at least ten different sets of yellow footprints, and all were occupied. He thought some sets were so fresh they were still wet. The other services are probably the same way.

So, old Terra is fighting for her life. Military, business, construction, fabrication, electronic, medical, all those industries and more have geared up. It’s a hard, long fight ahead but what can we do? I personally don’t want to be an undead womb to these aliens. I want them dead.

For Dima, God keep him.

Hearing Sights, Seeing Sounds.

Whaaat?

Ok, that is probably one of the more strange titles that you will see on the internet’s writing pages. Please note that I did not say, “on the Internet.” That honor is strictly for other subjects, all of which we will not necessary speak of here.

However, it allows for an interesting dichotomy of observation. We as writers can tend to be a little bit introverted. There are exceptions, as with all things. Take a look at the next ten interviews on screen, and see who’s in the interview. Chances are you’ll see the people make a living in front of the camera. Writers get interviewed in print a lot more than on screen, I’d be willing to bet, because they are more comfortable expressing themselves that way.

And no thoughts or comments about hallucinations if you’re looking up at that title and wondering what I took this morning.

In a way, though, the writing process is a way to help the things that lead to the title. I’ve referred to a “mind movie” in posts past, and in many respects that could be considered indistinguishable from a hallucination. I won’t get into the psychological aspects of that – much less the psychosomatic aspects if you happen to write horror and scare the hell out of yourself.

Sensory input is important in our daily lives. For instance, right now, I’m listening to traffic, shivering a little at the cool October air (64 degrees in Florida,) and trying to type as my most affectionate kitty licks my thumbs.

The senses are what allows us to interact with our physical world, which is why sensory deprivation often has such an effect. Without the interaction, we are cut adrift and helpless.

With the stories in our heads, struggling to get on paper, we have to interpret the various things that make up the story into something that could conceivably be sensed.

Let’s take Odell for a moment. Remember him? Last time we saw him, he was at Jack’s apartment after that horrible day on the garbage truck. Right now, I can see Odell standing at the counter of the liquor store, making his purchase. His wife’s perfume is still on his collar,and I can smell the faint scent of jasmine. I can hear the rasp of a couple of twenties and a five being counted off to give to the cashier for change and some quarters. I can also hear the sounds of the register beeping as the keys are pressed and the till popping out, then being shut a little too hard.

There’s the ring of the bell at the drive-thru window, the hum of the air conditioning unit, and the smell of where the apple moonshine was spilled earlier. Putting myself in Odell’s place for a moment, I can feel the slick smoothness of the case of beer, and the chill of the other case that came out of the cooler.

Moving a little bit ahead, at Jack’s apartment building, there’s the smell of somebody out grilling. Good steaks, too. The sound of Jack’s radio, and down the hall, there’s a couple of kids fighting over something and a parent telling them to knock it off.

That’s a normal thing, and something that we could probably experience any given day, depending on your proclivities.

What if you want to write sci-fi, for instance? I don’t think any of us have directly experienced the beauty of Cherenhov radiation during faster-than-light travel (here, it’s the blue glow in the water of nuclear reactors) or the terror of a warp-core breach following a plasma coolant leak. Still if you want to taste the color orange, you have to stretch your mind a little to be able to visualize that mental movie, and then stretch it a little more to translate from movie to paper.All that stretching will give you insight on various things, when you start exercising the storytelling power inside you. Just remember to stretch again when you cool down.

I’ve read a few things in the past that left me wondering if the writers took something before they sat down to the typewriter, and relied on muscle memory to hit the right keys, and even today it’s still hard not to think the same thing. I personally don’t, just for the record.

So, stretch your mind. Listen for some beautiful blue skies, and look carefully for the sound of water trickling over the stones.

Happy writing!

-JB Steele

Editing

Editing

Editing is important when writing. Self-editing can slow you down as you write, and I’m just as guilty of that – if not guiltier. In any event, when you finish a piece, then find some trusted friends or family to look it over. Many of us write as we think or speak ourselves, and things like regional dialect sometimes bleed through.

Me, I have problems with “was” and “were,” and many times I just run with it and correct it later. That is, if I remember to do it. This is why I would rather have someone look over my work and check it.

There are guides available for sale to help the writer with these sorts of things and to give the writer the precision needed to get the word out quickly. I used this search string at Amazon.com to pull up all manner of results. Things of this nature can help a great deal, but you do have to put in the time to study it and improve your craft.

Granted, but if you paid attention in school, you wouldn’t have to do that. I can hear some out there smirking as they say this. While this is true, it is also true that there are some of us that put pen to paper that hasn’t sat in a classroom for some time. The finer points of this or that tend to diminish over time, and it is for this reason I suggested the Amazon search. Reference material never hurts. Just remember to actually refer to it.

An editor can improve the technical aspects of your work immensely, and if you can afford it then make use of it. One of my favorite opening lines is “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” This comes from the first volume in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Now, I don’t know if he sat down and wrote the line like that as a first draft. I dimly recall some interview many years ago in which he did say that. My point being, let’s say he started with “The gunslinger chased the man in black across the desert.” That is serviceable and conveys the image of a pursuit, but it’s a little dry.I could see an editor saying, “Let’s try it this way.” When you read “The man in black fled across the desert,” you automatically think about ‘well, he’s being chased by something.’ On the other hand, “the gunslinger chased the man” doesn’t really give as much room for imagination to spark. Once you read the second part that says, “and the gunslinger followed,” you think ‘why is there a gunslinger after him?’ Or, at least I did.

Somehow, without editing, I doubt the Dark Tower would be seven books. Or for that matter, Harry Potter. Proverbs 27:17 said it pretty well. “One person sharpens another.” While King Solomon wasn’t specifically referring to the writing process in this instance, the wisdom of another reading your work and sharpening it is paramount.

So, enjoy your writing, work hard at it, and let it shine. If an editor can make it shine brighter still, then make use of that resource.

Happy writing!

-JB Steele

 

Vocabulary

Vocabulary

A writer’s vocabulary is the single most powerful weapon in his or her arsenal. It is words that make us what we are, that and the way that we use them. For the average adult, it ranges between 20,000 and 35,000 words. Don’t ask me how many words I personally have – I have no idea. I think I’m right about the middle of that particular bell curve.

One of the ways that kids are encouraged to extend their vocabularies is by the “five-word” method. Pick a book that on any given page (or so) might have five words they don’t know. Then get a good dictionary and look those five words up. It worked for me, but I’m a bookworm. I have a dictionary that I’ve had for twenty years. It’s followed me from move to move, along with a thesaurus. Believe me, I’ve used both of them.

Some joker heard me mention the “five words method” once, went to a used bookstore and got an old textbook from the 60’s on Irregular geometry. He knew I was not the best on mathematics (probably why I enjoyed my English and writing classes) and wanted to play a prank.

I took the book and thanked him. I still have it somewhere, although haven’t read it in a while. I just happen to hate algebra, but love geometry. Still I applied the “five words method” to this book. In the Internet age, there are a bunch of different ways to look up words now that sometimes blow my old trusty paperback dictionary out of the water, and now for that old geometry book more explanation is there. A squared plus B squared still equals C squared.

Sometimes, though, there are no reference books available to you. For that matter, no cell tower signal, WiFi, or even battery charge available. It is then that you are forced to rely on the mental library of your vocabulary and the time spent to build it up.

Let’s say you need to write something on the social aspects of kitten pictures on Facebook. I will bet that there is a good chunk of Internet bandwidth devoted to these cute furballs, in both still and moving form. So you do a little research, spend six hours at Lolcats, and determine that some people like kittens, some don’t. I do, and I get highly amused.

It’s not hard to write about a cat. Furry, warm, ignores you until they want something, sleeps all day, plays all night. Stuff like that. If you want to pick up more of a challenge, write about the differences between going EVA from the Space Shuttle and going on a Crusade quest, then you need to have different sets of vocabulary. (And some imagination, too.)

21st century low-orbit travel and 12th century time-of-war travel couldn’t be much more different, but both are dangerous. I picked those two examples out of thin air, and so I would have to research to write about it, but I’m pretty sure that my vocabulary would need to be extended a little bit to write about both of them in the same piece.

Then again, it might be fun to write about Saladin and the Space Shuttle. Inspiration strikes.

So, build up your vocabulary. Grab a dictionary and find those entries that end in “see such-and-such.” See how many times you can go see such-and-such. Keep track of what words you follow, then find the antonyms for those words. It can be a little boring, but building up a vocabulary of words to call upon when there isn’t Internet available helps.

If you really want to confuse yourself (and who doesn’t) pick a language that you don’t know, and see if you can find the translations for the words you kept track of earlier. Then we get into cognates and the French term faux amis, or ‘false friends.’ That is a subject for later, I promise.

Any kind of vocabulary building exercise will do, and I recommend looking some of them up and running through them. It can only help strengthen your writing.

Happy writing!

-JB Steele

Descriptions

Descriptions in writing

Descriptive writing is important. This is what allows you to communicate the image or the “mental movie” in your head to your reader. For me, it’s a mental movie. Others have told me that it’s a still image that starts to slowly advance frame-by-frame. They have to write out each frame. Granted that is just about the same thing, especially when you consider that moviemaking is at least 24 frames per second with the persistence of vision. For me, I can’t write the frames, I write the movie. Sometimes I have to go back and rewrite things that I’ve skipped over, trying to document the movie.

Whatever works for you, once you get the rough draft down, then don’t forget that it is your wordsmithing that tells a story. Many times, it is the difference between boredom and ‘page-gripping intensity.’ It doesn’t often come with the first or second draft either. A lot of times, it takes a few drafts.

Let’s look at our good buddy Jack. He’s had that rough day at work, and the boss told him, “you know what, Jack? You had a rough day today, what would finding that stuff. Why don’t you take the next couple days off, with pay. Try to recuperate a little.”

So here’s Jack relaxing, or trying to, at home.

Jack sat down in the chair with his drink.

Straight and to the point, right? However, all your mind’s eye sees is Jack sitting with a drink. Up until now, we haven’t seen where Jack lives. All we’ve seen in the earlier posts was where he works. Let’s rewind the tape and start again.

The clock on the wall ticked out the seconds. The only other sounds in the sparse apartment came from the hiss of the beer can popping open and the wheeze of the cheap armchair cushion as Jack flopped down. He stared out the window, through the blinds, to see the occasional car zip by the concrete jungle of his housing unit. It was a little stuffy in the apartment, so he set the sweating beer can down on the side table with a metallic ‘clink’ and got up. Jack fiddled with the old window unit until he convinced it to turn on. A hollow ‘thump’ announced the condenser’s reluctant activation, and cool air blew out.

Jack flopped down again, the cushion wheezing out another indignant breath. He picked up the beer, giving the wet ring on his side table a passing glance, and took a long sip. The television was silent, and he absently listened to the ‘tick tick tick tick’ of the clock, and found his mind inerrantly revisiting the memory of the ripping plastic bag and the red splashes in the back of the garbage truck.

He shuddered, trying to block out the memory. It was bad enough without having to relive it. Jack tipped the can back, and was rewarded with nothing. The can was empty. He grunted with displeasure and crushed the can. It didn’t take long to decide to get up and get another beer from the fridge.

The cushion wheezed out in relief as the refrigerator hummed.

Hmm…. I think Jack is having a bad time right now, and to tell the truth I can’t blame him. As for the description, you could come away with the impression that Jack is scraping by. Either that or he’s really cheap. Either way, this allows you to set up for something else to happen.

I could see either Jack falling asleep after getting drunk and having a nightmare happen, or if he just gets buzzed, maybe somebody knocking on his door.

The beer was halfway drained when a knock came on the door. Jack looked in the general direction, but ignored it. It came again, and Jack grumbled, “I’m coming!” He managed to set the beer down approximately in the wet ring, next to the other two empties. The cushion wheezed as he got up.

Jack stumbled to the door, and fumbled with the lock. The heavy door swung open to reveal Odell standing there with a case of beer in his hands.Jack squinted at the other man.

“Odell? Why ain’t you at work?”

White teeth shone again dark skin as Odell grinned.

“Same reason you ain’t at work, except I’ve seen stuff like that before and you haven’t. I can handle it easier. Can I come in? This beer isn’t going to keep itself cold.”

Jack grunted and stood aside. Odell looked over Jack’s shoulder as he walked in and saw the crumpled cans on the side table, and the one on the floor.

“Jack, looks like you got started a bit early.”

“Yeah.”

“You got that cheap crap, too. Here.” Odell ripped open the case and fished a bottle out. It was a thick German beer. “You need something better than that to chase away that stuff you saw.”

Jack took the brew and stumbled into the small kitchenette, looking for a bottle opener. Odell took a lighter out of his pocket and popped the top off, then gave it to Jack.

“Go sit down. I’ll look for a bottle opener.”

“OK.” A few moments later, the cushion wheezed again. Odell looked around. There was an ancient refrigerator, a small stove and a hotplate, a fairly new microwave that looked like it could handle a mug of water and a baby’s bowl, and a card table with two metal folding chairs to sit in. Odell shook his head. He found a bottle opener, and took a kitchen chair with him. He sat down, opened a bottle for himself, and looked at Jack.

“Hell of a day, huh, Jack?”

“Yeah.”

They clinked bottles and drank deep.

I think I’ll leave them to it. I don’t think either one’s going to work tomorrow, either.

Be strong in what you write, and your reader will see everything. If you do it right, and leave just enough blank, then the imagination of the reader might fill in something that you can see too.

I haven’t described Odell much, but I have an image of him in my mind. It would be interesting to see if the reader’s mental image and my mental image jibe. I like Odell, personally, and I think I’ll be writing him in more stuff. Somebody’s got to look after Jack, you know.

There is a balancing act when you use descriptions, though. On one hand you have too little description, which leaves a faint imprint upon your reader. On the other, you have too much, which can bury your reader and be tiresome. This is sometimes called an ‘infodump,’ and is necessary at times, but try to avoid it. On the gripping hand, a good descriptive and vivid story will leave your reader wanting more, when you weave it into all the other parts of a tale.

Happy writing!

-JB Steele

All Star Pickup Game

This is something that I wrote in the Nineties, so that means that there are a few 90’s pop culture references. So, in this little story, there is a bit of a competition between superheroes.

All Star Pickup Game

 

The thump of a basketball resounded throughout the empty space. The court stood, brightly lit in between zones of darkness on all four sides. The backboards glistened in the powerful lights, and the electronic scoreboard rang as each shot landed. The green numbers glowed brightly, not lending more illumination than was needed to see the score.

The two opponents moved steadily, with skills and stamina worthy of any NBA star. Rebound, fake and shoot; each man played to win. They only used half of the court, since there were only two players,

after all. This didn’t stop them from trying to get more points than the other.

Of course, the two weren’t ordinary men, out for a pickup game to have fun. The dark capes and cowls marked the duo as Batman and Robin, the crime-fighting team of Gotham City.

Batman stole the ball from his erstwhile partner and spun, releasing it quickly. Robin watched it sail into the basket, then grimaced. The Dark Knight was a point over him, and there wasn’t much time left. If he won again, Bruce Wayne would be insufferable.

Robin dribbled the ball expertly after having stole it, fending off the other man‘s attempts at grabbing the ball and trying to make him misstep. He glanced up at the clock and was appalled to see four seconds remaining. Batman’s grin was apparent, and a little smug. The Boy Wonder had to do something, so he did.

He lined up the shot, and ran to the basket. At the last moment, he leapt from the floor with cape luffing and smashed the ball into the basket. Batman, caught flat-footed, just stood and watched the younger man win the game. Robin let go of the basket, and landed lightly on the floor.

“And they say white men can’t jump!” Robin laughed.

The man in black shook his head and grimaced. He knew that line was coming. Batman strode off the court. He shook Robin’s hand and accepted defeat. Each section of the walkway lit up in a soft glow

as he trod on it. Robin followed, with the basketball under his arm.

“Personally, I think we could use some new competition.”

Robin glanced at him, wondering why he had said that. Wasn’t the Batman jealous of his privacy, and determined to protect it at any cost?

“Are you serious? Exactly who could we get to play, and would they really want to play?” he inquired, wondering if the older man had bats in his belfry. The Batman grinned. Twice in one day was unusual, so much so that Robin went on the alert. “Who, Bruce?”

Batman didn’t answer. He picked up a handset, and punched a number.

“Clark?… yes, it’s me… If you have the next few hours free, stop by… For what? I have a little pickup game planned… Yes, he’s here. A little disbelieving… a few minutes? Great..…

He listened for a moment.

“What’s that? I don’t think so. I’ll pound your Kryptonian butt into the ground like I did last time… Uh-huh, sure… Lois Lane? I don’t know… she’s a reporter… Yes, I know that, but she doesn’t fly around in tights and a bright cape, either…. You’re kidding. She was Ultra Woman?… Okay, bring her, but warn her about the usual things. I think we can let her in on the secret… See you in a few minutes.”

He replaced the phone to see his partner standing there with an open mouth.

What?”

Superman? You beat Superman playing basketball? Here? And how?!”

“He’s the Man of Steel, but Michael Jordan he ain’t. At least, not here. I’ve beaten him three times. He got lucky and beat me once, but that’s it. He’s really good at football, though.”

“Well, yeah. Nobody would want to tackle him.”

“He’s a big fan of the Bills.”

“Really? So am I. And how do you know him, and I don’t?”

The Caped Crusader looked at his partner. “Well, I met him about two years ago, but never had the chance to introduce him to you. He knows our secret identities, and I know his.”

“What?! Did he…?”

“No, he didn’t x-ray us. A good investigative reporter can figure out a lot, and me… well, you know me.”

“You said Lois Lane? She is hot! And she’s coming? Oh, man…” He trailed off, in an incoherent babble.

A gust of air interrupted the conversation. Superman appeared, with Lois Lane in his arms, blindfolded. She struggled to get down and he set her on the smooth floor of the Batcave. Robin gaped at her. With tight jeans and a t-shirt like that, he hoped she wouldn’t be playing. He’d lose in a heartbeat. He stood gazing at her nice figure, hoping he wasn’t drooling, until he noticed that the Man of Steel was watching him in a strange way. Batman seemed amused, tooas least, as amused at he usually appeared in uniform. Not counting the earlier amusement.

Superman took off the blindfold. Lois squinted at him, then looked around quickly. She couldn’t see the others, since they were in the shadows. Her whisper sounded loud in the caverns.

“Where are we?”

Batman stepped out of the shadows and that answered the question.

“The Batcave? I thought you were going to play basketball?”

“He is, Miss Lane… Or do you prefer Mrs. Kent?” She couldn’t reply. Her mouth was stuck open. Behind Batman, Robin too was having trouble, but with breathing. No wonder Superman had been

looking at him strangely. Her husband was Clark Kent, and he was…. Oh, God. Bruce had called him Clark. Clark Kent was rSuperman. He wondered if he should just go up and go to bed.

Lois, meanwhile, still trying to speak. “You… you know?” Batman nodded. She turned to the red-and-blue-clad hero. “And you didn’t tell me? I should….” Batman and Superman both leaned in to hear

what she said. “Ah… never mind. But, basketball??”

Batman spoke up to answer her question. “With his Kryptonian physiology, Superman may not be subject to a lot of things. However, Robin and I are. This is a good form of exercise, or something we

can do if we get bored. Kent there just can’t dunk a basket.”

“Very funny, Wayne. If I could use my floating powers in the game, I could. I suppose you want to rub it in. What about Boy Wonder Grayson?”

Lois creased her brow in thought, while the other three watched her.

“Wayne and Grayson? That sounds familiar…”

She stiffened. Superman shook his head and passed Batman a twenty dollar bill.

“Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson? Oh… my… God I gotta sit down.”

Robin got her a chair with amazing alacrity, and got one for himself close by. Superman grinned at Batman, watching Robin start to make a fool of himself. Batman shook his head and got two more

chairs. Lois smiled. She knew what was going on in the young man’s head. She moved just so, and the young man fell off his chair.

Superman looked at his wife with a disapproving eyebrow. Robin scrambled back into his chair and sat a little behind Batman.

“Now that we’re all seated, shouldn’t we get comfortable?” she asked. Robin shifted a little, unwilling to voice what he was thinking.

Batman interpreted the question correctly. “So you want proof of our identities?” He pulled his cowl back, and prodded the Boy Wonder to do the same. Robin did. Lois scrutinized them, then nodded. She then looked at her husband. “Well?”

“Well, what? Oh…” And he spun into a mild-mannered reporter.

“Wow!” Dick Grayson breathed. Bruce Wayne raised an eyebrow.

“That’s what I said, the first time I saw him do that. Show-off,” she added in a whisper, to Clark.

He thought for a moment, then decided to add a little something.

“How about we add another super-hero to the mix? And make it two on two?”

Bruce Wayne thought for a moment. “Is this someone who can be trusted, implicitly?”

“Yes, of course. Lois and I’ve known him for a long while. He can be trusted.”

“Who?!” This from Lois.

“Barry Allen.”

Bruce Wayne nodded. “The police scientist, in Central City. I know of him. Bring him along.”

Clark Kent nodded, then stood and spun into the red-and-blue. “If you’ll excuse me for a moment….” The others nodded and he disappeared.

Lois straightened her windblown hair and immediately started on Bruce Wayne. “You’re the Batman? You’re a legend! No wonder you have all those toys Clark is always lusting after! You can afford them and not even think about the cost!”

The billionaire smiled at the reporter. “I suppose. He likes some of my toys? Hmmm….” None of the subsequent prodding by Dick or Lois could pry out what he was thinking.

Dick decided to do something else. He might as well own up to it. “Ah… Lois?”

“Yes?”

“About how I was acting earlier….” Lois looked at him, waiting to hear what he said. Bruce was listening, too. “I made myself look stupid, gazing at you in front of your husband, didn’t I?”

Lois raised an eyebrow. “Yes, you did… but I’m used to it. Just don’t do it again, or Clark might have a word with you.” The young man gulped. He didn’t want a word with the Man of Steel, not without Kryptonite. She continued, now talking to Bruce, “Tell me which superhero Barry is, and why did he tell Clark and not me too?”

“You’ll see when he gets here, if he does, and as to why… I don’t know. I can only speculate. You see….”

* * *

Superman alighted in Central City and triggered the little button in the “no hurry” sequence. He hoped the Flash wasn’t doing anything important, but he wanted to play that game. Before his hand left the button, the man in red stood there. “Superman? What brings you here?”

“Not too much today. Are you busy, or can you spare the next few hours?”

“Sure. What for?”

“Are you interested in a friendly basketball game, in uniform?”

The Scarlet Speedster was confused now. “Huh? In uniform? I… Sure. I like basketball. Where, Clark?”

Superman looked and listened around. “The Batcave.”

The Flash’s eyes widened. “He plays basketball? Is he any good?”

Superman nodded. “He’s defeated me three times.”

“Well, that’s not too hard. You can’t dunk anything.”

“Thanks for rubbing it in. I think he’s played Bo Jackson a few times.”

“Sorry.” But Barry Allen really wasn’t. He was grinning. “Do I get to meet him out of costume?”

“You will; he’s the richest man there. Let’s go. You can follow me.” They took off.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne had rang Alfred for a meal fit for a king. Lois didn’t understand why, until he explained about the arriving hero’s physiology. “He eats like a horse because of his super-high

metabolism. He can burn off a double chocolate cake, with frosting and nuts, in about five minutes, if he’s exerting himself.”

Lois stared at him. “But what does all this have to do with him?”

“Barry Allen is from Central City, remember? It’s a long way, especially… running.”

Lois pondered this statement, while Bruce replaced the cowl. “He’ll be expecting the Batman, not Bruce Wayne,” he explained. Then the shadows swallowed him, and he disappeared.

“Spooky. You’re really spooky.” A deep chuckle sounded from nowhere, haunting the now-chilled marrow in her bones. She watched the spot where he was last seen and decided to keep that spot in

sight.

Superman arrived then. Lois took the opportunity to hug him. Then she looked behind him. “The Flash?! Barry?!” The man in the tight red suit grinned.

“Hiya, Lois. Clark here told me to expect a few questions.”

“I need to sit down again,” she groaned. “Who’s next, Peter Parker is Spider-man?” Superman traded looks with the Flash, which Lois didn’t see.

Flash looked around. “So, this is the Batcave. Nice and… roomy. Ah, where’s our host?”

Clark looked around, too. “I don’t see him. I see Robin, but I don’t see him.”

Robin came out and shook hands with the Flash. “Ah, guys, he does this to tweak a new toy. If Superman can’t see him, then it works. He’s here, somewhere. Batman’s given me a few heart attacks when he’s playing with it.”

Taking the hint, both Superman and the Flash started looking. After about ten minutes, they conceded defeat and turned to the other two. Barry spoke: “He’s well hidden. I can’t see him, and I see

things as fast as the boy scout here.”

The pair stood shoulder to shoulder. Lois sat watching the spot where he last was, and Robin was a little nervous. Better someone else should suffer, he thought with a small, smug grin. Two hands reached out and grabbed the duo’s shoulders. Superman zoomed up to the ceiling and the Flash shot over to the Batmobile. They remained there, trying to calm their racing hearts and racing minds, while Lois and the Boy Wonder collapsed in laughter.

The pair returned slowly and waited for the man of darkness to return. This he did in a somber manner. “I apologize for the shock, gentlemen, but I couldn’t resist.”

Superman spoke up. “You startled the hell out of us! Neither of us has any energy reserves left!” Flash nodded in agreement, a little shakily.

“That means we win by default,” Robin confided to Lois. She nodded. She never knew super-heroes were capable of such hi-jinks. Batman ignored the two sidekicks, and gestured to the side. There was a

table with a huge buffet, and a skylight opening to provide sunlight.

“Food for the Flash and his metabolism, and sunlight for Superman and his solar batteries. After all, I wouldn’t want you to lose because you have no energy, would I?”

Superman and the Flash looked at each other. “Oooh, that was low,” Lois said to her partner. Robin nodded. They watched the other two walk over to the table. Superman asked for a few peaches and

grapes, but the Flash got the rest. He ate at super-speed, and Superman guarded his peaches.

“Where does he put it?” Robin asked. “At least he’s got good skin tone.”

“I don’t think anyone would look at his face to determine that.”

Superman glanced up at that remark and looked down in time to see the man in red start toward the ripe peach he held. Superman decided to eat it before it got eaten by someone else. He was still spooked by the scare Batman gave him. It wasn’t expected, because the man in question was usually as somber as the grave.

Flash finished his meal. He wiped his mouth and straightened the table for Alfred. He looked to see if Superman had eaten the fruit, but it was gone. They looked at the court, where the Dynamic Duo stood. Batman was spinning the ball on his fingertip.

“Me and Robin against you two. And remember: no super-powers!” The ball never stopped spinning. Lois grinned, from her seat at half-court. Batman didn’t have super-powers, but he had an excellent grasp of psychological warfare. The Flash and Superman took their spots on the court.

The game began.

It was an epic battle. Superman, who couldn’t dunk a ball, bounced it off the backboard to the Flash, who could. It was good for two points, and stymied the other two. Of course, since they happened to be a great team, it wasn’t good again.

Being that Batman and Robin were partners, the ball was passed back and forth from one set of gauntleted hands to the next. Batman grabbed the ball and scored a three-pointer from the floor. Lois,

who found this more interesting than the usual games Clark watched, cheered her husband and his partner on. She didn’t know who would cheer on the home team, until she saw the sepulchral shape of the butler walking toward her.

“Miss Lane? May I?” He gestured to the seat next to her.

“Please! I can’t cheer for all of them!”

He chuckled dryly. He had brought popcorn for her, and a soft drink. They sat back and watched the battle raging on the court. Alfred confided to Lois that he had taught Bruce Wayne how to play

basketball, and that the younger man taught Dick Grayson. Alfred was too old to run around the court now, but he still enjoyed watching the games.

“Alfred, whose idea was it to put a basketball court down here? Wouldn’t that be a little out of character for the Batman?”

“Regardless of the persona that Master Bruce uses to fight crime, he is still human. I suggestedordered, reallythat he put this court here. This way, he and young Master Dick can bleed off stress and tension. It also provides the chance for others who share their fight to be with them, and let them know they’re not alone, no matter what costume they wear.”

Lois stared. This old man, a faithful servant, had the best interests of not only the Dynamic Duo at heart, but those of other heroes. She reached over and hugged him, then returned her attention to the game. Superman and the Flash were four points behind with ten minutes left. The players had agreed to not play out a four-quarter game, since that was ridiculous.

The home team had the ball, and pressed their leading advantage. Batman weaved through the Man of Steel’s attack, their capes providing a stark dichotomy. The Flash took the opportunity to steal the ball and score a couple of points. Then Superman took two free throws and sank both of them.

The buzzer sounded twice, giving them a two-minute warning. With the scores level at thirty-six points each, the two teams really poured on the effort. Not a basket was scored until Robin broke away with the ball and passed it to the Batman. No fool he, the man in black decided to emulate the younger man’s earlier success. Pounding his way to the basket, spinning around the Man of Steel and weaving around the Scarlet Speedster, his feet found flight and he slam dunked the unfortunate ball.

Superman grimaced. Batman and Robin would try to grab the ball and run out the clock. He didn’t want that to happen, and he didn’t want the game to go into overtime. So he took the ball and passed it to the Flash, who started weaving and letting the other two think he was going to the basket. As the clock ticked down to the last four seconds, he spun and shot the ball to the Man of Steel, waiting at the three-point line.

Superman didn’t pause. He released the ball at two seconds, and every breath in the Cave stopped. All eyes were on the ball, which suddenly seemed to be moving in slow motion. Lois willed it into the basket, but it would not be rushed. Robin willed it to be just short, but again, it would not be rushed.

The ball swished through the hoop a split-second before the final buzzer sounded. Flash shouted, “Yes!” and exchanged high-fives with Superman. Batman grinned at the two, because he had really enjoyed the game. Of course, he’d lost, but then again, winning wasn’t everything. At least in pickup games. Robin moaned a little, and walked to the edge of the court to the spectators after shaking hands with the victors. Batman followed soon after.

“You beat me againwith a little help, Kent.” Batman grinned.

“Well-ll, true. But just remember one thing.”

“What?”

“I still beat you. Here, let me see that ball.”

Batman handed it over, and watched Superman look toward the basket. He looked at the Flash. “I don’t think he’ll make it.”

“I don’t, either.”

Robin looked up. Superman had started toward the basket. “Twenty bucks says he does.”

“You’re on.” That was the Flash, with a smug expression. Lois and Alfred didn’t say anything, but witnessed the whole thing.

“Ditto,” the Batman agreed. Then they watched Superman gather himself, breathe in, and leap off his feet.

The ball went in. The molecular-bonded transparent aluminum backboard shattered.

Superman walked back with a happy smile on his face and noticed the shocked expressions on the faces of the Flash and the Batman. For that matter, on Robin and Lois. Alfred just shook his head. “What?”

Batman answered the Man of Steel’s puzzled question. “Never mind the fact that you just made the two of us lose twenty bucks apiece. That backboard should have withstood an anti-tank missile. And

where’s my ball?”

“Whoops.” Superman looked contrite.

Batman sighed. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got spares.”

Robin was thinking about the easy forty bucks he won, when he spoke up. “You know, Bruce, I think we should have had Lois play with Clark here. Then we would have won.”

The other heroes had the same thought enter their heads at the same time, and it wasn’t about Lois playing. It was, “Uh-ohhhh.” They all took a few steps back, since none of them was sure that they

could withstand an all-out assault by Lois Lane. For his part, Alfred merely tsk’ed a few times.

Robin noticed. “What?” Actually, he didn’t have time to say even that before Lois grabbed him and towed him to the other side. She had found the spare ball and shot it toward the surprised young

man.

“Let’s see what you’ve got. I intend to massacre you.” Clark Kent knew the tone of voice. He sighed and motioned for the others to get comfortable. Robin wasn’t getting out of the hole he had dug for himself any time soon. The Boy Wonder’s protests went unheard as Lois proceeded to begin to beat the stuffing out of him.

Flash watched the game: Robin had decided he might as well play seriously, but it wasn’t helping. He turned to the man in blue during a break while the reporter danced around celebrating a particularly good shot.

“And you’re married to this Lois Lane?”

“I learned early on to do what she says.” Flash’s mask covered his face, but it was no large stretch of the imagination to picture an eyebrow rising. Alfred offered, in a dry way, to get a first-aid kit for the Boy Wonder. Batman said a broom and dustpan would be more appropriate. Superman chuckled. He well knew.

After thoroughly decimating Robin, Lois decided to really send him into a tailspin by kissing him on the cheek. She had seen that on a Mortal Kombat game and thought it would work for her. It did. The

younger man sank to his knees, begging for mercy.

Superman sighed and picked up the Boy Wonder. “Dick, are you sure you want Lois on my team?” Robin groaned. Apparently not. He took the young man to a seat and let him rest while the others talked shop. Soon, he was rested enough to join in and to accept the teasing Lois gave him.

Not long after that, though, it was time for everyone to leave. The Flash left first, since he had a long trip to make. Batman gave him a huge carbohydrate bar, and asked him to send a report on how it worked. Flash said he would and disappeared.

Next, Batman gave Lois and Clark a tour of his “toy” collection. The billionaire offered to give Superman anything there, except the Batmobile. Superman thought about it.

“Thanks, but I can leap tall buildings with a single bound. What good would this do me?”

Batman nodded, then opened a case. “Here’s something you might find interesting. I know even you can’t remember everything. Here’s a pocket computer that links with just about any computer network to gather or store information. Both Robin and I have the same thing on our belts, and I think you will benefit from it. It has a satellite link with the Batcomputer, and can access everything on it.”

Superman stared at it. It was barely bigger than a floppy disc.

“That little thing?”

Batman nodded. “Sure. It takes a little practice, but it’s yours if you want it.”

Superman didn’t hesitate. “I’ll take it!” Lois could see the gleam in his eyes. She knew he’d be playing with it for a while. She took it and stared at her husband. Batman grinned. Superman looked to the heavens.

“Bruce, how much did it cost?”

“For me, not much. It’s covered as an experimental design, so my R&D department paid for most of it. I’ll put the manual in the mail, as soon as I can get one printed up. Dick has the only copy, and he’s not giving it up. Take about four days.”

Lois looked at the two men. “Look, I hate to break things up, but I have things planned.”

Superman looked confused. “What do you have planned?”

“You’ll find out tonight,” she smirked.

Batman started walking back out, and the two followed. He set up a new game for the following week. He decided that, this time, he would beat both Superman and the Flash. In the meantime, he would

practice.

The End?

 

-JB Steele

Point of View in writing.

Point of View

 

Instead of a dry recitation of what the different types of point of view are, I will just write about uses of point of view. Besides, this isn’t a college lecture hall and I’m not a professor.

In writing, a point of view is what a character sees, thinks, does, or feels. For that matter, it is what a group sees, thinks, does, or feels. For example, let’s look at our old friend Jack. Here, Jack is a garbage man. He’s got a dirty job.

The trash was there in the can, and judging from the smell emanating from it, it had been sitting there in the hot sun for several days. Probably put out right after the last garbage run had come through, Jack thought. This stuff gets old. He opened the swing top lid and gagged at the scent that punched him in the stomach. He saw three bags in the heavy duty can, the kind that was supposed to be able to hold an astounding amount without ripping. The thick black plastic was stretched tight over the trash inside it, and Jack grimaced. Why couldn’t they get one of the new trucks like the guys on the north end had, the ones that lifted the can and dumped it without anyone having to touch it? He knew it was his job, and he was glad to have it. Still, there were times like now, he wished he didn’t have to touch it.

He grabbed the first bag and heaved it in the back of the truck. It was pretty heavy, but the plastic held. Jack wondered what it was. Whatever it was, it was good quality. He grabbed the second bag, and it was just as heavy. It landed with a dull thud and a squish of the bags underneath. Jack turned back to the rancid can and steeled himself to lean into the deep cavernous depths for the third bag. It seemed to be the most tightly packed and the bottom was filled with liquid. He hated those. Every time he got one of these heavy ones with liquid, he had to grab the bottom of the bag to throw it in the back of the truck.

Cursing under his breath, he grasped the knot tightly and lifted straight up. Jack grabbed the bottom of the bag and felt the plastic mold to his hand. He wound up to throw the bag as far as he could, ticked off at the homeowner.

The bag ripped halfway through his swing. Blood came out of the bag, and so did an arm. Jack watched in horror as a severed head bounced out and rolled under the truck, coming to rest against the right front tire. The eyes glared out at the world.

Jack screamed.

Oooooo. Poor Jack.

Now, since Jack rides in the back of the truck, somebody’s got to drive it, right? Let’s shift the point of view here from Jack to the other guy.

Odell laughed. He was in the air conditioning of the truck. He saw it as his due since he had been the one on the back of the truck in the hot sun for eleven years, day in and day out. Never missed a day, either. He was proud of his perfect attendance, but he didn’t talk himself up. He liked Jack, and worked well with him, but Jack had just started a few months ago. As far as Odell was concerned, the boy had to put in his time. Plus, drive better. He had a bunch of speeding tickets and Odell had never gotten one.

Before he’d turned the A/C on, he’d had the window rolled down to air out the cab. That beef and bean burrito hadn’t agreed with him, but the smell of that can they’d just got to was many times worse. He rolled the window up, turned the dial to full blast, and watched the kid in the mirror.

He did feel bad for him. Odell watched as he gagged from the smell. The driver shook his head and tsktsktsk’ed as Jack struggled with the first two bags. Those had to be heavy from the way he struggled with the awkward angle, and he knew Jack was no weakling. Odell was getting a little concerned, since the sound of the bags traveled through the body of the truck and somehow it didn’t sound right. He’d thrown many a bag in the back of quite a few garbage trucks.

He looked more closely at Jack’s reflection in the mirror. His horrified eyes watched as the bag ripped and blood cascaded over the younger man, and caught a glimpse as a head dribbled its way under the truck. He was already rushing out of the truck as Jack screamed.

Man. I don’t think either one is having a good day at work.

So, the point of view could allow for a story to be told differently in many ways. In one example, we see Jack and what he thinks. In the other we see Odell, and how he sees things. Often a different point of view will allow for an author to reveal things about a main character (in this case, Jack) that otherwise didn’t get revealed. For instance, he’s just started his job, drives crazy,and fairly strong.

In writing, you could use the point of view to do this, or make your story go somewhere else.

Point of view can also be used in reverse, as in a good guy, bad guy fight. Let’s say the good guy is rescuing the damsel in distress, and the story is focused on him. He sees the bad guy reach behind him, and decides to frag him. Bad guy has the cure for the hero’s narcolepsy, but dies before revealing it.

This way, the reader could see that there is something there that the hero missed, and watching as he reacts to this discovery is anticipation.

Another example of point of view – Harry Potter’s POV versus Professor Snape’s POV. Personally I like Severus Snape. He had a lot of conflict that he tried to keep hidden, and at the end of the series the POV that he had was flipped in some ways.

So, use your point of view, but I suggest no more than three or four. Otherwise it gets confusing.

Happy writing!

-JB Steele