Writer's Log 2016

Having finally settled into a schedule that balances farming and writing, I thought I would start this writer's journal in the hope that weekly updates to it will help keep me on this productive path.

June 2, 2017

I submitted my short story, Salvation Inc. to the Sci Phi Journal yesterday.It is a 9,000 word tale about the last priest in a dying city who has to contend with a new vision of immortality. One day I must revisit the story and expand it into a novella, fleshing out the world as I further develop some of the minor characters in it. For now though I will see how it fares as a short story. The new editor of Sci Phi Journal is aiming at giving writers a response within two months of their submission date.

While I await their verdict, I have three other projects to work on. The first is my dystopian novella, Novus Ordo. Presently at 20-K words, I believe I'm a bout a third of the way through it. In short, it is a story that projects the current trends of our hyper-sexual culture to their logical and most foul ends. I will submit it to Castalia House when it is done.

My short story, Interdiction, a first contact tale, is the second project. On its second draft, the story is 6,500 words long. It's clunky in a couple of places right now so I'm going to re-write it a third time before I submit it to Lyonesse.

My third and most pressing project is a yet untitled and, thus far unwritten, ray gun romance I want to submit to Cirsova before the end of its submission period this July 15. I'm taking on this challenge to see if I can write to spec and to a deadline. As a self-published author I've never had to do so. I'd like to give it a shot. I don't know what the story will be about. I only know that I want to set it in The Holy Terran Empire universe that I have been fiddling with in my rare spare moments.

And just what in the Heavens is The Holy Terran Empire, you ask?

It is to be a space opera, set in the same universe of The Omega Crusade. It takes place some 3,000 or maybe 5,000 years (I've not decided yet) into the future. Think of it as a Catholic Star Wars/Star Trek blend. This first and only scene that I have written for it might give you a feel for what I'm after:

The Imperial Starship Lex Orandi was locked in geo-synchronous orbit over Rome. It was a Sunday and the last of the day’s three Masses had ended over four hours ago. Most of the five thousand personnel who made up the ship’s skeleton crew were resting up after what had been another very busy week. On the Bridge, Lieutenant Commander Gomer Gomez was the Executive Officer on duty. The twenty-six year old young man was restless. He was trying, rather unsuccessfully, to take advantage of the slow shift to catch up on his studies. The thirteenth book of Saint Augustine’s City of God was queued up on his console but he was unable to focus enough on the words to retain their meaning. After two readings of the first chapter Gomez gave up and let his gaze drift to the view of Earth projected on the nine meter long oblong main screen.
Beneath the ship, the upper half of the Italian peninsula was covered by a cloud bank which stretched from Gibraltar to the Hellespont and reached as far north as Scotland. South of the clouds, the Mediterranean, the Levant and a large swath of North Africa were bleeding their colors as the sun slipped behind the Western Hemisphere. Clusters and strings of lights were beginning to twinkle through the quickly dimming twilight as night life came alive in the cities below. As beautiful as the view was, it did no more than Saint Augustine’s Opus to break Gomer Gomez out of his preoccupation.
The young lieutenant commander’s powers of concentration were inhibited by an excess of excitement. Gomer had several reasons for being in such a state. For one, he had achieved his present rank less than three months ago and the thrill of his advancement was still fresh. The promotion came with his commission to the Lex Orandi. The honor of serving aboard the mighty dreadnaught and flagship of First Fleet was among the most highly prized in the Holy Terran Empire’s Space Navy and the young man was, naturally, still aglow with the pride of such an achievement and all it augured for his career. A second source of Gomez’ excitement was his eager anticipation of beginning the twelve year tour of deep space that the Lex Orandi was set to embark out on in just twenty-one days. Lastly and the most immediate, if not the greatest, contributor to Gomer’s heightened state was his fixation on the war games that would be held the week before departing.
These war games were a long-honored and much loved Imperial Space Navy tradition. They were held every six years between outbound and homecoming fleets. In two weeks, the Lex Vivendi, dreadnaught and flagship of Third Fleet would ‘invade’ the Terran System. The Lex Orandi would lead First Fleet in ‘defense’ of Earth and Empire. It was First Fleet Admiral George Carrol’s assessment that the battle for the Terran System would be won or lost on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Gomer knew that he and his fellow marines would have their hands full keeping Europa out of the clutches of Third Fleet’s more seasoned troops. But if they could manage it, First Fleet stood a better than good chance of ending Third Fleet’s one hundred and sixty year winning streak. His mind was abuzz reviewing stratagems and tactics, playing and replaying archive video of past war games, actual battles and the various lectures of Third Fleet’s Admiral Victor Soloviev, hoping to find among it all a way to defend the small moon.
The young officer’s mind was so lost in strategies and thoughts of glory that he didn’t notice the priest who crossed the bridge to stand beside his chair and console.
 “Is it Saint Augustine that has you staring so blankly into space, Commander?” Father Ebenezer Bello was nearly as dark as his cassock, tall, lean and topped with a large, round and bald head that glistened under the bright lights of the bridge.
Gomer Gomez looked up with a slight start and a small laugh. “No Father Bello. I was just… just lost in thought, that’s all.”
“The war games?”
“Yes, the war games,” Gomez conceded.
“We would all love to defeat Third Fleet,” the priest said.
“Yes we would, Father.”
“We’re more likely to achieve that victory if our minds are refreshed and sharpened with proper rest, don’t you think?”
“Of course, Father. I should be studying anyway.”
“Not necessarily,” Father Bello said. He gestured at the trio of junior officers seated before Gomez at their joined stations. “They seem to have the right idea.”
The three men were wearing headphones. Lieutenants Abraham and Billings were bent over their screens watching a soccer game while Lieutenant Dempsey was leaning back in his chair with his fingers laced behind his head, eyes closed and feet tapping away.
“Of course,” the priest continued. “I’m afraid that I’m going to have to console Abraham and Billings later."
 “Yes,” Father Bello continued. “They’re watching a recast of this morning’s game. I watched the live stream so I know that they’re bound to be terribly disappointed. Manchester United will come back in the second half to beat Barcelona.”
“Poor lads,” Gomez offered. “They’re so happy right now.”
“Yes,” Father Bello nodded sympathetically. “But at least I will be able to console them. Our young brother Dempsey however, who, judging by the spasms of his feet, is listening to that dreadful noise his young ears mistake for music, he will require a great deal of prayer and fasting to remedy.”
Gomer laughed.
“Do you listen to that… that sort of music, commander?”
“Not if I can help it, padre,” Gomer said with a shake of his head. “I’m a Texan and we like our music made with guitars and fiddles, not with synthesizers squealing Morse code through bullhorns.”
The two men shared a laugh.
Lieutenant Dempsey sat up so suddenly they believed he had heard their joke at his music’s expense. Instead of defending his musical tastes, Dempsey removed his head phones and stared hard at his monitor. To his left, Billings and Abraham removed their headphones just as abruptly and sat up straight. Their screens stopped playing the soccer game.
Dempsey announced, “Emergency message coming in from the Lepanto, commander.”
“I see it, lieutenant,” Gomez acknowledged, sighting the message icon on his own screen. He tapped the icon and dragged it to tile for the main screen.
The view of Earth disappeared. It was replaced by a blizzard of digital snow which soon evaporated to reveal the image of Captain Dayo Obey, seated at his command console. The Lepanto was stationed beyond the Oort Cloud making the message some ninety minutes old, but Lieutenant Commander Gomez found himself standing up at the sight of the Imperial Navy’s living legend. His junior officers, he noticed, sat up straighter in their chairs as well.
Captain Obey was a couple of shades lighter than Father Bello. Both men were lean but Obey’s features were more angular, his face more finely chiseled. A scar which ran from above the Captain’s left eye to the right corner of his mouth added a savage fierceness to his aspect. Dayo Obey had received that wound, as well as losing an arm and a lung, fighting a Psion Cyborg thirty odd years ago. Gomer, who had trained against robot simulations of cyborgs, knew it usually took a whole squad of marines to bring one down. It was considered to be nothing short of a miracle that Obey defeated his, quite literally single-handedly. The Captain’s lung and arm were since regrown for him but Obey refused to have the scar removed. He kept it both to taunt the cyborgs’ masters on Psion and to embolden his fellow comrades in the Imperial Forces. Gomer couldn’t speak to the effect the scar and the man had among the Psion, but he could personally attest to the hero-worship they engendered in the Empire.
“This is Captain Dayo Obey of the ISS Lepanto to Fleet Command,” the message began. “Be advised that at 18:38 hours the Vatican Mercy Ship Theotokos shunted out of hyperspace some ninety A.U.s off our port stern. She is badly damaged, adrift and leaking fuel. Initial scans suggest that she was attacked. There has thus far been no response to our hails but we’re keeping all frequencies open. A Halberd has been launched under fighter escort to board her. The Lepanto is following them in and will take up a support position ten thousand klicks from the Theotokos.” Obey glanced down at his console for a moment before continuing. “The Halberds should be arriving at the Theotokos’ position in an hour and fifty-one minutes. We will relay feeds from the rescue crews to you as soon as they board. Pray for the crew of the Theotokos, my brothers and sisters. Captain Dayo Obey, signing out.”
The Captain’s image dissolved. It was replaced by a block of numbers and text, the coordinates of the Theotokos’ appearance, the course of her drift, intercept paths for the fighters, Halberds and the Lepanto as well as the details provided from long-range scanning. Gomez read through it quickly before buzzing the Admiral’s quarters. He swallowed a hard, thorny lump of discomfort before tapping the tile on his monitor. Admiral George Carrol had a niece serving on the Theotokos, Mary Francis Carrol of the Sisters of Mercy. The admiral had mentioned her during the commissioning ceremony three months ago.
In seconds Gomez’ screen lit up with the image of Admiral Carrol. He was rubbing sleep from his eyes. “Carrol, here.”
“I’m sorry to disturb you Admiral,” Gomez began. “But we’ve just received a message from Captain Obey. He reports that the Theotokos has shunted out of hyperspace some ninety A.U.’s off his port stern.”
The admiral’s blue eyes opened wide. “The Theotokos?”
“Yes sir.”
“But she’s not due back for another twenty months.”
“It appears that she’s been attacked, sir.”
The blue eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed. “I’ll be right over.”
The connection was severed hastily, before Gomez could offer or even think of any words of sympathy. Instead, Lieutenant Commander Gomez traded grave looks with Father Bello over the blank screen.
“Do you want to sound General Alert, commander?” Lieutenant Abraham asked.
“Not yet, Lieutenant,” Gomez responded. “But I would like to have the bridge fully manned. Haul some bodies off the roster for us, will you?”
“Right away, sir.”
“Who would fire on a Mercy Ship?” Billings asked of no one in particular with a sad shake of his head.
It was an incomprehensible act, thought Gomez. It was also an act of abject cowardice. The Mercy Ships were unarmed. There were no soldiers aboard them, except perhaps as occasional patients. They were manned mostly by doctors and nurses, most of them nuns, lay brothers and priests who ministered selflessly to the poorest populations of the farthest-flung worlds in the galaxy.
“I wouldn’t put it past the Feds,” Dempsey suggested with a not so light lacing of contempt on, Feds.
The Federation of Free Planets was the main rival and sometimes enemy of the Holy Terran Empire. What the Federation considered freedom however, the Empire regarded as mere licentiousness, so except for official, diplomatic reasons, few referred to the bloc of fifty worlds by their chosen appellation. At the charitable end of the spectrum they were called the FFP or simply, the Fifty. At the other end there were hotheads like Dempsey who sneeringly dismissed them as the Feds, the Fedaraleez and even the Filthy Fifty. It had been only twenty years since the last clash between Empire and Federation. The Coal Sack War was a limited and short-lived conflict, a proxy war for influence over nine unaligned worlds, but many on both sides believed it to be a preamble to an inevitable, all-out clash of the two galactic super powers.
Lieutenant Commander Gomer Gomez prayed that was not the case but he had to admit, as many a member of the Imperial Navy would, that some small part of him would welcome the showdown. For many in the empire, the sentiment was sheer bravado, the product of misplaced zeal, but for others, like Gomez, there were personal reasons too. The FFP made an orphan of Gomer during that last conflict and he had not yet forgiven them sufficiently enough to banish the temptation for vengeance that darkened the memory of his parents’ death.
“Let us not jump to accusations before all the facts are in, Mr. Dempsey,” the priest advised gently.
“You’re right Father,” Dempsey said. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright, son,” Father Bello said. “It’s just the shock of the thing talking.”
It is more than that, Gomez thought, seeing a hint of chagrin in the priest’s eyes. Correct or not, Lieutenant Dempsey had only voiced what everyone suspected.
“If you would be so good as to lead us, Father,” Gomez said, suggesting a way out of the dark brooding threatening to carry the bridge crew away. “We should do as Captain Obey suggested and say a prayer for the crew of the Theotokos.”

“You’re quite right Commander Gomez. Let us bow our heads.”

And once I am done with the three projects immediately before me, I must return to writing the sequels to The House of War. The second book of the quartet, The House of Islam is fully plotted but only sitting at 17K words (about a fifth of the way done.) I'd like to have it available before the close of the year. The World of Man and The Kingdom of Heaven are still being plotted but, our Good Lord Willing, I will have both of them out by the end of 2018!

June 12

The third draft of Interdiction now sits at 7,300 words and I'm still not crazy about it. I'm going to sit on it for a week before re-visiting the tale for yet another tweak. It certainly is not ready to submit.
My Raygun Romance is slowly taking shape in my head. I'm envisioning a tale where the search for revenge is turned into an opportunity for redemption. It will be about a man and a woman (herein called Adam and Eve for convenience' sake) who were partners in crime during their youth. Eve betrays Adam, bailing on him to save her own skin when the law catches up to them. He is captured and condemned to what is usually a short and brutal life sentence on a terra-forming colony. After ten years, Adam manages to escape and is forced to leave federation space for a life under the table among the independent worlds. While he has his freedom, he has not escaped unscathed. He is weakened and dying (from exposure to the exotic radiations and chemicals of the terra-forming process.) 
Another decade or so after his escape, when his approaching death is months away, Adam crosses paths with an old criminal associate who mentions that Eve has since become Mother Superior of a convent attached to a space station. Adam, who has never forgiven the only woman that he has ever loved her betrayal, sets out to confront and kill her before the disease (which he acquired because of said betrayal) kills him.
Complicating matters, the space station ( Saint Dymphna's) is in Independent Worlds' space, outside of which the fleets of the Empire and the Federation are squaring off for war.
More to come...

            June 23

Cirsova Closed To Submissions Early on account of being swamped with too many good stories. (It's a great problem for a magazine to have and well do they deserve it!) OrdI will shelve my ray gun romance for now. In the meantime I will concentrate on fixing Interdiction, getting it at least to the point where I don't hate it. I want to send it out first thing next month and then return to Novus Ordo, hopefully finishing it before the end of July.

            July 15  

 I rarely get sick. By rarely I mean regularly, once a year in early winter I catch a 3-4 day cold that barely registers as a speed bump in my life. The rest of the year I can seemingly skate through plagues unscathed. And yet a little spider bite laid me out with fever and a debilitating headache for five whole days last week. (I never saw the eight-legged bastard, so I can't tell you what kind arachnid it was.)
Garlic harvesting ate up a lot of my time and energy the week before that, thus I don't have any real progress to report on the writing front. The Sci Phi Journal did get back to me in their advertised timely manner (on the 29th of June) with a rejection of Salvation Inc. Oh well. I slapped a new bow on it and immediately sent it off to Lyonesse. They said it would be several weeks before they could get to the story.
Tonight is my first free block of venom-free time in a couple of weeks and I'm going to use it to revisit Interdiction yet again. Tomorrow I will leap once again into the breach that is Novus Ordo.

       July 23    

Woo Hoo! Lyonesse accepted my story, Salvation Inc earlier this week!
In celebration, I slapped a new coat of paint on Interdiction and finally have it in a form I do not hate. If I still like it when I reread it tomorrow, then I'm going to send them that story as well.
I've yet to move on Novus Ordo, but will begin tomorrow night.

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