Marketing Troll (or “Oh, you’re a writer?)

Went to a fantastic birthday party last night with a few people I knew and a whole bunch of really neat strangers. Fabulous Publisher Babe ™ was with me. The shindig was for a group of folks who all celebrate March birthdays.

Was an absolute ball.

I don’t talk about being a data nerd at things like this, mostly because so many of the folks are artists of some sort. The host is a classically trained musician, to give you a flavor. Another woman I met absolutely assured me she couldn’t be an artist, let alone a writer, but finally had to confront that she had (if I understood her correctly) created the entire contents of a hilarious game, including writing all the fortunes. So, maybe…

At the party, the host liked to introduce me and the babe as writers, because, in his mind, that’s what we do. It’s where my (our) passion lies. And why I did one of the very few dedications I have done to him.

Of course, everyone asks “Oh, you’re a writer? What do you write?”

For me, that’s an easy question, so Fabulous Publisher Babe lets me answer first. Plus, I’m the Marketing Troll(tm). Pull out the wallet, grab a business card for The Science Officer or Auberon, and hand it to them with the explanation that the next in each series are coming out soon. (Javier in May, Jessica in June).

I have found that the return on the cards is low, but above zero. A standard business card is something you can stuff in a pocket, or put in your wallet/purse, and then you’ll find it again later and look at it.

According to scientific studies, you need to see something something like 3.4 times (THREE POINT FOUR!?!) in order for it to lock into your conscious mind for you to do something about it. In this case, first touch is me handing it to you and you reading it. Second is when you pull it out and look at it the next morning, or in the next few days. Then I’m halfway.

In this case, there were several people who were SF fans, so that might be enough. Plus, I’m happy to send book one in a series to anyone who asks. (Seriously, tell your friends. Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send them something. Working on stories to send to anyone in the sound of my voice soon, including you.) Lemme know if you have not read Science Officer or Auberon.

Hell, feel free to seed a download/sharing site with it. You aren’t stealing from me. You are advertising for me. The biggest problem for an indie author like me is getting the word out to enough people. TradPub has a big enough advertising budget and can automatically put books in bookstores. I think I’m a better writer than most of those folks, and I’m willing to compete. Heh.

So I went through a bunch of business cards last night. Maybe I’ll hear from those folks. Maybe not. Mostly, it is a way for me to meet people, break the ice, and hopefully give  them a way to connect with me. Also went through a bunch of the Babe’s cards as well, since she’s the actual brains of the outfit. And the boss. I just work here, and wear the Marketing Troll hat. (That’s me: Ollie the Marketing Troll. If you want marketing ideas, email me at Ollie AT Knotted Road Press (all one word) dot com. Yes, seriously. Why the hell not?)

I enjoy meeting artists. And there were a bunch there. The question the Babe and I always ask is: How can we help you achieve your goals?

Your success as a poet, musician, writer, painter, or actor does not detract from mine. It helps, actually, because the more art there is in the world, the better a place it is.

And I hope we helped some people.

I know that she did, because she had lunch with another woman yesterday who is a poet, just getting back into her craft after a series of life rolls. That woman wants to support herself with her art, and suddenly realized yesterday that not only was it possible, but it could be fun. We showed her that there was a door.

I’m pretty sure she’s going to be kicking that door in, sometime in the next month or three.

I got a text from the Babe asking if there was a way to include this new talent in a project I have coming up this fall. F@#$ yes. More people, more marketing opportunity for discovery. More chances at the wheel.

Every time I publish something, as the joke goes, there is a one in a million chance I will write something HUGE. The next Harry Potter. The next Hunger Games. The next something.

I just have to keep publishing, keep writing, and keep marketing. It makes me happy. And lets me help people.

What have you done today?

Birthday Girl

I’m celebrating a birthday today.

Because I can. (I think we’ve covered this logic before…)

I have an app on my phone that flashes a red balloon for each birthday on any given day. (If you don’t have one of these, get one. Greatest thing ever in this modern age, especially since I forget birthdays.)

Today’s birthday falls on a Sunday this year, so it is extra special.

The birth itself falls a bit in the future, however, because I write science fiction, and these things happen.

She is not the only one of my characters whose birthday will pop up on my reminder list, but hers is still the most important to me.

The following is a quote taken from The Story Road, the first of the Henri Baudin stories (I promise a trilogy one of these days. Gimme time). I will let her describe it:

I was born, if you will, on the nineteenth of March in the year 7,426 of the Old Calendar, the Homeworld Calendar. It was a rainy Sunday, when those things meant something. The Great War was raging, and the factories did not take a day off to rest. This last spring, when no one was about, I celebrated my five thousand, six hundred, and fifty-seventh birthday. I have been awake for most of them.

Suvi. Summer Baudin. The Historian. The Narrator of History in the Alexandria Station universe. The goofball who was Javier Aritza’s sidekick in his lifetime. Doyle Iwakuma’s greatest discovery. Henri Baundin’s teacher. Jessica Keller’s darkest secret.

I did not set out to make her thus. She grew into her role by refusing to be saddled with expectations or limitations. Suvi can be like that.

I was writing The Librarian, and needed to spell out more of her backstory, so I invented The Science Officer. She took on a life of her own after that.

I have just (JUST) finished with the fifth Javier story (four is coming out in May, I think. Details to follow). In it, Javier has a moment considering his own mortality in the context that Suvi was born before Javier’s grandfather, and will hopefully outlive him by a considerable amount.

And if he’s only going to have one child, he should make sure she turns out to be a pretty nice girl. I think she did. Certainly, she will probably outlive all of her cousins, the other Immortals.

And a good chunk of my career can be laid at her feet. The fact that I sell as many books as I do comes back to The Science Officer taking off when it did, and the Jessica books regularly selling well. And there will be more of both.

And time to fill in the gaps.

Over breakfast this morning, I was talking to Fabulous Publisher Babe™ about writing into some of those spaces one of these days. The Gas-Sailors Era. The Resource Wars. The Union of Man. The Concordancy War.

That will be possible because I expect to finish Jessica soon. I’ve always ever only planned nine novels, and I will start writing number six, The Red Admiral, this summer, right about the time that Flight of the Blackbird comes out.

I’m now done with the fifth Javier, The Doomsday Vault, in the last five minutes, and will head into the sixth one soon. (Title still iffy, leaning towards The Hounded Galleon.) Seven and Eight will follow closely as a double episode, and wrap up Season One, and then I’ll take a short break before I start Season Two. I currently can’t imagine where I go after sixteen Science Officer stories, but I’ll let y’all clamor for more and offer suggestions. He and I might be ready for that to end in a few years. And we might not. YMMV.

I want to step outside the Alexandria Station universe one of these days. I saw a picture the other day that simply popcorn kittened me hard. The picture showed a humanoid with four arms playing an electric sitar. That’s an alien concept, and there are no aliens in Alexandria Station. None. Made that decision early on, because I wanted to focus on a place where all the problems were human.

I can write good alien. It involves getting inside the head of someone who isn’t just an actor with a nasal prosthetic and some makeup. It is an entirely different way of seeing the world, interacting with it, talking about it. I have a lot of aliens running around in my head, wanting to be born, but Jessica Keller cracks the whip on them very hard and tells them to wait their turn.

She’s like that.

But Suvi is even more so.

She exists at all points after The Science Officer. She will outlive Javier, Doyle, Henri, and Jessica by millennia. That’s what happens when you are an AI. You can envision living forever. And that does make you a little alien.

She strives to remain human, however. To remember all the men and women she has loved over the centuries, even as they become reduced to pictures and footnotes. Forgotten by the rest of human civilization.

And she will be born on a rainy Sunday in March, five thousand, four hundred, and nine years from now.

Happy birthday, Suvi.

Overdrive (and stuff)

Background: a great many libraries in North America and other places use a service called Overdrive to acquire ebooks for loaning out. As I understand it, they pay a one-time fee for the title, and can then loan the ebook out to as many people who want to borrow it.

TradPub being stupid and greedy, they usually set that amount to some high price, at a time when most library systems are hard up for cash and cutting everything to the bone just to keep the lights on.

This is at the front of my mind because I was down in Lincoln City, Oregon a couple weeks ago at the Fiction River Anthology Workshop. Fabulous Publisher Babe™ was one of the editors this year. Mark from Kobo was there. Mark who pretty much invented Kobo Writing Life and made it a very profitable and useful thing.

And he likes my wife.

Kobo recently bought Overdrive. The Babe asked Mark to check, and we found out that while her novels are available in Overdrive, mine were not.

Past tense.

Apparently, Mark logged right into the system, looked me up, and toggled the little switch that put all my novels into Overdrive’s computer. (Mark’s kinda awesome that way.)

What this means is that all of Jessica Keller is or will shortly be available on the list, when your library is making purchasing decisions. Fairchild, Imposters, and White Crane as well.

If you wanted to go into your local library, you could fill out the little wishlist card they have and tell them that you want them to acquire the Jessica Keller series for their ebooks. (hint hint)

Best part? We’re setting the price down at the same price as they could buy it from Amazon. ($5.99 US). Stupidly, some of TradPub’s books are as much as $70.

I understand that they charge that amount because then the book is then loaned out any number of times.

But seriously. Blood-sucking vampires.

I would rather people read my books. Hell, as we speak, the fourth Science Officer (The Pleasure Dome) is scheduled to come out in May. It’s a novella, just like all the rest. However, the Babe plans to roll the first four books up into an Omnibus Edition, specifically so that it qualifies as a novel for the purposes of being in bookstores and Overdrive.

And, while we’re on the topic, I’m three-quarters of the way through Book Five (The Doomsday Vault), and plotting Book Six (The Flying Dutchman), Book Seven (The Hammerfield Gamble), and Book Eight (The Hammerfield Payoff). Those four will make up the second Javier Omnibus, and, coincidentally, cover Season One. And yes, I have a title for Book Nine, but I’m not sharing anything about Season Two just yet.

So, do me a favor? Go to your library and ask them to order Auberon. Hell, if it’s a small enough library, offer to buy them a copy. $5.99. Did you really need that extra-grande, soy, caramel, double latte today?

Oh, and while we’re on the topic. Fabulous Publisher Babe tells me that Flight of the Blackbird has gone up for June pre-order on all the usual suspects. Thank you for putting up with some of the weird shit that I have been publishing from my back catalog and strange imagination. There should be a raft of big Science Fiction and some superhero stuff coming over the rest of the year that ought to keep you entertained.

If you really loved me, you could also add a review on something you have read. Amazon and other places generally count the number of reviews a book has, and not the average rating. The Science Officer has 54, last I checked. I’m pretty sure 100 puts me on some cool lists. Auberon had 26 this morning. Is there something else of mine you’ve read that really touched your soul (in good ways, you perverts)?

Every little bit helps.

But Overdrive is really kinda kewl. And not just for me. Have you considered asking your local library to get ebooks by indie authors? Discoverability is the greatest problem we face. I write good stuff, but I don’t have a million dollar advertising budget to get the word out. That’s where you can help me, and all the other awesome writer folks you know.

Thank you.

It was twenty years ago today…

I had been living in SoCal in the early 90’s, going to Claremont Graduate School. Stayed for a while when I was done. Did some really interesting and weird (and stupid) shit, including working as a bouncer at a cowboy bar in Riverside, CA (primary guests were the cowboys from Norco and marines down from Twenty-Nine Palms or up from Pendleton, plus buckle-bunnies).

Left for good in the fall of ’95. Done. Literally sitting and bitching at my friend Bishop about how much I hated living there (at the time Fullerton, but all of SoCal). He looks at me and says, “So where do you want to live?”

Picked up the phone and called my mom to tell her I was leaving LA.

“Where?”

Dunno. Will let you know.

Had a variety of options, from randomness to moving back to Wichita, Ks. (Also had a standing invite to move to a Buddhist monastery in/near Houston, TX, but I didn’t want to live with them, even though they assured me I didn’t have to be a monk. They just wanted me to continue my studies in kung fu and teach eventually. Whole ‘nother story I might share over beer, sometime.)

Ended up in Wichita.

Got a job teaching at a community college. Got involved in the ’96 Senate races when Jill Docking ran against Sam Brownback. Jill and my dad had been friends for twenty years at that point.

We lost.

Looked around for options.

A friend from the LA days living in Seattle convinced me to move there. Things didn’t work out as intended, but I fell in love with the city and stayed anyway.

Talked to her out of the blue last week. Social media. She had found me. Hadn’t talked to her since maybe ’98. Weird.

But it got me to thinking about the past. And I realized that today would the 20th anniversary of that Monday morning I got in my little, red pickup and drove to Grand Junction. Then Baker City, then Federal Way.

Even the best psychics would have lost money on the next twenty years.

I found the most amazing woman and lost her to breast cancer in ’08 after ten years together. Dated another one for three years, but it didn’t work out (and I talked to her on social media this morning.)

Reconnected with Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) three and a half years ago when I threw most of me out and started over with a clean slate. Married her a year and a half ago.

People look at me and don’t realize I’ll be 48 this summer, so they have a hard time realizing that twenty years ago I was a grown adult doing crazy shit and looking to be shot at less often. And starting clean from all the stupidities of the Midwest and the Inland Empire.

Don’t really have much else to say, and I’m off schedule, but I wanted to take a minute to mark that milestone of picking my ass up and moving cross-country again, looking for that horizon.

It was twenty years ago today…

Blaze Ward has a new book out?

Amazon just let me know I have a new book out. A little background:

Around 2005, I stopped writing poetry with the sort of passion I had previously had. That was when my first wife was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and given six months to live. (She ended up making it a little over three years, but there was never going to be a cure, and she was only bad the last six weeks or so. The end, when it came, was two days. But that’s a story for another day, maybe. I miss her everyday.)

The poetry had been epic fantasy, for the most part, with occasional forays into what might be considered contemporary fantasy as well. As you can see, I have slowly started publishing it, but you’ve seen perhaps a fifth, maybe a quarter, to date.

Getting back. I wrote a play. Don’t ask me why. I had become someone else. That someone wrote plays.

I used to be into drama, when I was a kid. Did a pair of three-week things every summer for a number of years, where we learned a new short comedy, two-act musical, and traveled around to all the summer schools in town performing them.  (If you ask, Val Cheatham is probably the person most responsible for how I turned out. I hope he knew that. Probably been 30 years since I’ve seen him.)

So I wrote a play. Or rather, I took an event, and filed off enough of the serial numbers to protect the guilty. The play is Strangers, and is contained in Beyond the Mirror, Volume 4: Dramatic Worlds.

It is based on a true story. I can say that, now. They were Italians, not Irish. It took place in the midwest, instead of Boston. And the FBI never showed up on the doorstep. Most of the rest of it went down just like that. (There is a reason I spent most of the 90’s with a loaded firearm within easy reach of my bed. It involved pointing a loaded .357 at a couple of people as they sped off in their car. I’m pretty sure they were the guardian angels, but never asked.)

As far as I know, today, 2017, I’m the only person directly involved in that situation still alive. She died about twenty years ago from a drug overdose, after her life took a downhill turn. Many of the boys got incarcerated by the FBI in the early 90’s. A few of them went down fighting instead.

That is neither here nor there.

I wrote Strangers. Liked it. Liked Cisco and Jefferson enough that I wrote another one, Sins of the Fathers. By then, I was on a role. Witness For The Prosecution. Leap of Faith.

Ran out of things to say for Cisco. By Cisco. About Cisco. Tried a few times, but there were no words. Poked at him occasionally, but he really had run out of things he needed to say. And I had become someone else a few more times. (Did write a few other things in that interval that ran out around 2010. They’re coming next month in Volume 5.)

Then everything went into a trunk. Tried my hand at writing screenplays. Have a few of those, but never got beyond the “maybe we’re interested, but you want too much (read: any) money…” phase. Probably not going anywhere, but the door is open.

Fast forward to 2013. I had dated Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) after Donna died, but it never really went anywhere. Then we connected again, but in the interval we had both become other people from then, and it worked.

She convinced me to start writing again, with intent. You’ve seen the results. You will continue to see them.

But I also published some of that old poetry. And last fall, I asked her sister about the plays, and Kris was all over that.

This is the future. As an indie press, we can put out anything we want. Ebooks cost nothing to keep up forever. Paper books are print on demand, so we don’t have to front any cash for stock that we have to stash under a bed and eventually throw away.

Just publish.

And keep publishing.

Gamer joke: Every single time you hit the publish button, roll 10d6, target number 58. If you succeed, you’ve just written Harry Potter. Or Hunger Games. etc. Lots and lots of money. Over time, that number slowly comes down. And as people like you, that number slowly comes down. When you hit twenty or twenty-five novels, that number comes down.

But you have to keep publishing. (And you have to keep learning, and improving your craft, and, and, and…)

For me, I’ve been writing as long as I have had words. There are things I wrote thirty-plus years ago, long hand, still sitting carefully in my pile, waiting for me to get around to typing them into something I can publish, someday.

So I have a new book that just came out. Beyond the Mirror, Volume 4: Dramatic Worlds (Cisco). In the process of writing this post, the Babe just reminded me that she has put #5 up for pre-order, so I stopped long enough to “claim” it on Amazon (long, technical discussion unnecessary here). It will come out next 10th. (March 10, 2017, for those of you keeping score at home.)

I keep hoping something will explode. It will, one of these days. And in the meantime, I hope to entertain folks with my words. (My dirty little secret? I don’t do this for y’all. I write because these are the stories I want to read, to hear, to know. You are just along for the ride.)

So thank you, in case you haven’t heard it enough from folks like me. Most of us wouldn’t be here without you.

shade and sweet water,

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

There is a new BlazeWard.com Marketplace (or “Why I Love The Future…”)

So first off, my apologies for two blog posts in one day. I had set a reminder to myself to update the marketplace, and then promptly forgot and wrote the other blog post. Then my alarm went off. Whatever.

Back at the Master Publishing Workshop in October, somebody said Society6.com was the best choice for custom branded swag. They were right. I had way more options for stuff that I could put an image on than I ever expected. (And I’m drooling a bit at the thought of a custom comforter, but not today.)

Long story short, I finally managed to put up the Auberon ship’s Badge as something you could slap onto a coffee mug or a t-shirt (I have the first of both coming in the mail as you read this.)

Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) specifically did a tote bag, so she could order one for herself.

All that and more is now available, and I’ll throw more things up there as time and demand dictate. (Anybody want Athena’s badge slapped on something to order?)

Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the new BlazeWard Marketplace. (As hosted by Knotted Road Press and Fabulous Publisher Babe.)

Y’all go nuts.

It’s working (and I’m a little freaked)

So,

Late last night, I got an email ping on my phone. Glanced at it. Email from Amazon that Blaze Ward has a new book available for pre-order. (by the way: Beyond the Mirror, Volume Four: Dramatic Worlds, but I digress).

Occasionally, I also get emails from Amazon telling me that Blaze Ward has a new book available for sale.

In this modern age, any author with a smidgen of talent (including me) can write a story, post it, and people anywhere in the world can buy it. (Last night, at Fabulous Publisher Babe’s(tm) Annual Wine and Chocolate Party, I had a conversation with a friend and co-worker about how I sell copies of The Forestal in Japan. In English. Go figure.)

What slows us all down is what we call discoverability. There are maybe five million books available on Amazon. The search tool is pretty good at “if you liked X, you might like Y” but it lacks that moment in the bookstore when you say “that looks interesting” and buy something completely out of left field.

Jeff Bezos (Grand Pooba, Amazonia) wants to win. Simple as that. To do that, he makes his company as customer-centric as possible. (Seriously, the man is known to randomly sample incoming customer requests and complaints, and forward them to the correct department/person with a personal note expecting a solution within hours. And he gets it.)

So the tools are there. But many people don’t necessarily understand them.

This is where you (the reader who makes all of this possible for us) come in.

On an author’s Amazon page (here’s mine, for example), there will be a button on the left side, right below the cool picture of me that the ever-amazing Chris Barnett took. Once you click it, you will be “following” that author. That means that you get an email from Jeff whenever that author drops a new story.

(By the way, please copy/paste that last little bit and forward it to ALL you friends? All of the authors I know need more fans, and they get that by more people knowing they exist.)

So now my friends and fans who follow me on Amazon will know about my new books. And if you don’t want to support Amazon, you can still sign up to follow, so you’ll get the note, and then go buy it over on Kobo, or iTunes, or d2d. Wherever.

I promise that I will never go exclusive on one platform (unless “fuck you money” is involved, and maybe not even then), because I want to be available where you prefer to shop. I have actually stopped listening to certain artists and never bought another album of theirs, after they did an exclusive deal where the ONLY way to buy their latest album was to get it at Walmart. (This lefty union-supporting, everyone-succeeds, nutcase will never set foot in that place again. There are other chains with the same product that pay their employees a living wage. But that’s my soapbox moment. YMMV)

So you should sign up for my Amazon page. And you should sign up for my newsletter. (I just sent the 2017 Winter quarterly earlier this week, and you missed it. But the next is coming in May.)

And then you should go hit all your other favorite authors and do the same with them. Get connected. Most of them will even lose a personal note from you, even so simple as saying thank you.

And then, back to the Wine and Chocolate Party. “If life gives you a little more, it is better to build a longer table rather than a higher fence.” We do this to help support our various artist friends, and to help them meet other artists in a wonderfully relaxed and fun atmosphere. I personally grabbed more than one person, and dragged them over and introduced them to another with “you two go talk.” Several new business ventures and projects came out of it.

It was awesome.

I discovered last night that one of my friends and co-workers (who is scandahoovian by ancestry, and about as American as they get) speaks Korean. It’s a convoluted story (all the best ones are) but we got to talking about me selling dark, epic poetry books in Japan. And I asked if she might be interested in possibly translating some of them into Korean, because why the hell not?

If she says yes (went home and promised to think about it), I can do a sub-licensing deal with her for Korean-language rights. She can translate it, and sell it as such, and she keeps all the money (or whatever deal we end up doing. YMMV). She’ll even own the copyright on the form (The Forestal, translated into Korean, probably world-wide rights because you never know where someone wants to read American dark epic fantasy in Korean, right?). And we could do more, if she discovers that she likes doing this sort of thing.

And hey, I know LOTS of other writers who might say “Korean? I’m in.” and support her in a lifestyle to which she might become accustomed.

This is the future. Anything is possible, limited only by my imagination.

Y’all are doomed, now.

 

shade and sweet water,

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

 

 

Uniforms of the Fleet, Vol One: Some thoughts

Uniforms of the Fleet, Vol 1

Hopefully by now you have seen the news. Had a small hiccup when the file was uploaded, and the pre-order was set to the 20th instead of the 10th. These things happen. It’s now out there.

Thank you to the people who have ordered your copy. It is also available as a print book, because my whole purpose was to do a coffee table book, rather than just another ebook. My apologies on the price, but I’m making about two bucks per copy sold, I think. I would have liked to run it through CreateSpace directly, but they don’t do the size I wanted. These new people are trying to be a competitor to Amazon, and they’ve been pretty good to work with.

Getting back to the purpose, there are twelve portraits in the book, plus ship badges and a cover.

The cover is Command Centurion Jessica Keller, on the day she took command of CVS Auberon.

Inside are the following people:

  • Yeoman Nadine Orly
  • Flight Cornet Cho Ayaka Nakamura (“Furious”)
  • Engineering Centurion Moirrey Kermode
  • Senior Engineering Centurion Iskra Vlahovic
  • Senior Marine Centurion Phillip Crncevic (“Navin the Black”)
  • Patrol Centurion Dash Mitja and Göll
  • Command Centurion Denis Jež
  • Fleet Lord Arott Whughy
  • Fleet Centurion Jessica Keller
  • First Centurion Petia Naoumov
  • First Lord Nils Kasum
  • Suvi

Because I could (my motto these days), there are ships badges for Auberon and Athena as well.

At some point, if anybody says something (hint hint), I plan to look into putting one or both onto coffee mugs, t-shirts, and maybe lunch boxes. I have not, because that can be a pain in the ass if nobody actually wants one. I mean besides me. I’m going to get a coffee mug. And maybe a lunch box. Doing patches has crossed my mind as well. Any thoughts?

The rest of the book contains information on uniforms, awards, medals, and general culture. For me, it was an exercise in putting everything down on paper in a way that made sense to those people who live outside of my head.

And also, because I’m learning to costume, and want to make myself a uniform at some point. Dunno which. Doesn’t matter. It’s for the cosplayer in me, and for anybody else who wanted to get the little details right.

And here’s the best part: I got contacted by one of you who was interested in getting copies of the prints as electronic files that he could use as screen-savers on his laptop. I didn’t have anything like that, but I have an amazingly awesome partner in this gig. If you have not gone and connected with Shannon Marie Chavez, you are missing out. She has been putting together some amazing artwork for people. Posters. Postcards. Backgrounds for your computer. Stuff. It is all her art.

My words, her eye.

The other night, I get this frantic email from her, because she’s not sure how tall everyone is. Fortunately, I’m a nerd, and have EVERYTHING in an encyclopedia file for exactly this reason. So I send her back a list (Name, height).

She’s doing a group shot. Oh My God is it gorgeous. You’re going to want it. Once she gets a little more organized, she’ll have a full website to handle these things, but for right now, either contact her directly, or reach out to me and I’ll forward you over.

When I first met Shannon Marie, I was at a book-signing and she just walked by. Liked the cover on Auberon, but it wasn’t her thing. I talked her into it. And then found out she was an artist. I promised I would make her famous, but she didn’t think I was serious. Fabulous Publisher Babe™ still giggles at that. Because Shannon Marie is turning into a pro. She’s a little twitchy still, but she’ll do fine.

Hopefully, she’ll make so much money from her art that I can convince her to do Volumes Two and Three over the next few years. Because there will be more.

So again, thank you.

——————————–

Now, it’s Sunday afternoon as I write this (planning to post Monday morning, because I’m out at the farm with minimal interwebs). Out my back door, the deer have finally meandered out of sight, back around behind the barn. Momma and this year’s twins. Cute little blacktails, happily munching on a wall of blackberry bramble for me. Joy.

(Update: they went as far as the overhang and bedded down, so I need to stay over here and not go out to the composter unless I want to scare them away. Probably should rearrange the wood at some point and throw some hay down for them.)

Got the workshop finally destroyed yesterday. Burned all the scrap and hauled the final 760 pounds of wet insulation and rotted sheetrock to the dump. Need to put a magnet into the burn pile and get out around 40 pounds of nails. (Anyone skilled at building an electromagnet? Wanna come redneck with me?)

Only dirt remains.

Fabulous Publisher BabeTM is planning her own little girl-cave in its place. She won’t live with me, but she’ll be more willing to spend time out here if she has her own space to retire to, when peopling gets to be too much. Sometime this summer, the shelf for the girl-cave will be delivered. Then we’ll build it out, she and I and maybe a couple of my step-daughters who know tiling. And then she’ll have her own little backyard (well, front yard) writing office, 16’ by 12’. It will be kinda awesome. There will be a tiara party for the housewarming.

The only thing left at that point will be to rebuild the barn (old and falling apart) and turn it into my own writing office and maybe designstudio, so I can work in quiet.

After that, I want to build my own dread gazebo on the overlook (pond, driveway, trees) on the other slope of the hill, and maybe a six tatami tea room for special occasions.

When I turned forty, I went to London for my birthday. Actually celebrated on Trafalgar Square that day. Decided that I wanted something like the farm when I was sixty, and needed to work my way into it. Got lucky along the way and managed it before I turned fifty. It’s paradise on earth, at least my slice.

Mark your calendars. First Saturday in August will be the Art Colony BBQ. Artists, weirdoes, and dead critter to eat. (The critter will be eaten, not the artists or weirdoes.) My way of giving back, of building a longer table, of being a better human. And people get to meet people, and several of the artists last year came away with business opportunities. More ways to art for a living.

Does it get any better?

 

Ninth Pohang Legion, Grand Army of the Republic of Aquitaine

Today’s blog post topic is about the Ninth Pohang Legion: Heavy (Cataphracti)

The Grand Army of the Republic is a ground-based military force fielded by the Republic of Aquitaine. Until recently (The Siege and Conquest of Thuringwell), it was considered a defensive force, intended to protect worlds of the Republic against invasion by forces of the Fribourg Empire, raiders, or native revolutionaries.

This has now changed.

The Grand Army is made up of units called Legions, commanded by a Legate. This generally holds for infantry units, scouts, and armor. Each Legion is made up of five sub-units. For infantry or cavalry, these smaller groups are called Cohorts. For Armor, the unit is called an Ala. (plural: Alae)

At the basic level, the Ninth Pohang Legion is all about tanks. Specifically the Heavy Battle Tank known as Solenopsis, Fire Ants. Each tank has a four-man crew, with the commander either being a senior enlisted man (Decurion), or a junior officer (Lance Centurion), plus a Gunner, a Loader, and a Driver. Three tanks make up a single Lance, the smallest unit in the field.

Three Lances of tanks are organized as a Squadron. These nine vehicles are trained to operate as a three-fingered unit under the command of the most senior officer present.

Three Squadrons of tanks are known as a Patrol. The nominal Table of Organization and Equipment (TOE) will show twenty-seven tanks, if all of them are in the field, plus the addition of a Command Lance.

COMMAND ELEMENT

The Command Element for a Patrol is composed of a modified Patrol Commander model Solenopsis tank, outfitted with better communications gear, plus a Support Lance. This Support Lance is a Recovery Tank, a Logistics Tank, and an Air Defense Tank.

The Recovery Tank is a built on the same hull as the Solenopsis. Instead of the rotating battle turret with the 66mm particle cannon, the vehicle has a small, fixed bridge for the Commander to spot from, and a crane attached to a winch powerful enough to pull another tank out of most awkward situations. Frequently, a Recovery Tank will have a dozer blade on the front to help clear a path to rescue, but actual Armored Assault is the province of a Breacher Tank (see below).

Because the 66mm particle cannon on most tanks uses an expendable ammunition round, the Logistics Tank is responsible for transporting reloads in the field. Like the Recovery Tank, the vehicle loses the turret for a small bridge/cockpit up front, and gains a vented, armored, cargo box on the rear (think pickup truck). It also drags a larger armored trailer behind it, also on powered tracks. The Logistics Tank also has a crane, but one designed to lift the heavy ammunition crates from either of the transport boxes and land them on the rear deck of a nearby tank.

The Air Defense Tank keeps the battle turret of the Solenopsis, but removes the main gun for a pair of autocannons, one on either side for parallax, loaded with a variety of ammunition types. Like the Logistics model, it also has a tracked, armored trailer, but one that is generally loaded with spare autocannon ammunition, to give the crew the ability to be profligate when acting.

Above the level of a Patrol is the Ala itself. This is made up of three Patrols, plus a Ala Command Tank, for a nominal TOE of ninety-four (94) vehicles, of which eighty-five (85) will be Heavy Battle Tanks and nine (9) will be the three Support Lances.

The Ala is commanded by a Cohort Centurion, roughly the equivalent rank to the navy’s Command Centurion. Depending on the unit, they might be quite senior.

HEADQUARTERS

Every Legion is comprised, as noted above, of five major formations. These will be four core Cohorts or Alae (numbered 1-4), plus a 5th that is the Headquarters Section. HQ will include a Logistics/Transport Section, an Armoured Assault Support Section, an Artillery Section, and a Pioneer/Construction Section, the latter with dedicated construction vehicles, usually slightly-armored versions of civilian equipment.

The Armoured Assault Support Section usually contains one or moredozer-blade-equipped Breacher Tanks. This is built on the same Main Battle Tank hull, but instead of the 66mm cannon, it is equipped with a demolition gun, which is a form of short-barreled howitzer with an extremely large bore, fired horizontally. The size of the ammunition reduces the number of rounds that can be fired in battle, so the Breacher is used to open a gap for the rest of the unit to exploit, with either high explosive rounds or armor-piercing, depending on the nature of the obstacle that needs to be destroyed.

Another vehicle in the Armoured Assault Support Section is known as the Scorpion. This tank is built on the same hull as the Recovery Tank, but instead of a crane, it has a rear-mounted, articulated arm used to drop fascine bundles. The fascine bundle is made up of several dozen sections of pipe, wrapped up tightly. When a unit encounters a ditch too wide and deep to cross, the Scorpion will drop a fascine bundle into the ditch that other tanks can drive across.

In a similar manner, an Armoured Assault Support Section frequently includes a Mobile Bridge, which is a tank with a folding section of metal that can bridge major gaps or collapsed sections of bridge in a few minutes, to maintain the momentum of the attack.

The Assault Ramp Carrier is a variant of the Main Battle Tank where the turret is removed but not replaced. Instead, the hull is sealed tight, with available snorkels. Hydraulic ramps, several meters wider than the vehicle, are attached at the front and rear. In battle, the Ramp Carrier drives up to a slope too steep for another tank to climb, locks itself down, and deploys the ramps for following tanks to drive up and over a wall or embankment.

Finally, Headquarters Section will come equipped with what troops have traditionally called the Bakery Tractor. Bakery Tractors are used to establish a laager for tanks. This is a specially-built vehicle with a large backhoe that digs up soil and drops it into a hopper. The soil is then mixed with a chemical classified as a Reflectant, which is a plasticizing material that will stabilize the soil into soft bricks that are extremely resistant to both energy weapons and physical impact.

The Bakery outputs standard sized bricks that are scaled to Human (10cm x 20cm x 40cm), Vehicle (20cm x 40cm x 80cm), or Fortification (60cm x 80cm x 120cm), with a hollow bottom designed to lock into nobs that stick out the top. They retain a rubbery, squishy feel, and will stop or slow most small arms bullets, and spread the impact of an energy beam over a large surface, preventing melt-through or super-heating.

COMMAND

The Legion will be commanded by a Legate, who has roughly the equivalent rank of the navy’s Fleet Lord.

In the case of several Legions acting together for an extended campaign, overall command will be designated to a Governor, or possibly a Margrave, with rank equivalent to a First Fleet Lord. Such a commander may occasionally be the senior-most Legate present also being given overall command (see the archaic term Marshal).

While an Armoured Legion like the Ninth Pohang will have four full Alae on paper, and for training purposes, the usual disposition in the field is the three Alae only, with a fourth (any of them) being swapped out to support a different Legion. The new fourth unit will be a different Alae/Cohort that is attached for a campaign or extended mission. Examples include attaching a Rapid Assault Ala (Armored Rifles), or a Heavy Scout Ala (Wheeled or Tracked). Infantry and Cavalry Cohorts are also options, but much more rare, given the nature of the two forces. On occasion, an entire Artillery Cohort has been attached.

The most frequent arrangement is to attach an Ala of Mechanized Scouts (Wheeled or Tracked), depending on the terrain. This formation is a spearhead for an assault, normally used to break up formations where hostile forces have managed to dig themselves in tightly and the costs of an infantry assault may be prohibitive.

RANK STRUCTURE

  • Legate (Commanding Officer)
  • Primus Pilus (“First Spear.” Second in Command. Field Commander. )
  • Cohort Centurion (Commander of an Ala)
  • Patrol Centurion (Commander of a Patrol)
  • Lance Centurion (Commander of a Lance or Squadron, depending on seniority)
  • Decurion (Senior Enlisted rank)

Losing the past

This past weekend, Fabulous Publisher Babe™ and I went out to lunch with a woman who had been her best friend since Junior High School. (We’ll just quantify that as “a while ago.”) Babe and I got to talking beforehand about those sorts of things and I came to realize that the guy who had been my best friend in Junior High and High School is someone I have not talked to in more than eighteen years.

And I won’t even take the blame for that one.

His birthday falls about two weeks after mine, and we used to split the difference and celebrate on the fourth of July every summer. When we were fourteen, the plan had been to celebrate our 30th together in Washington, D.C., and our 40th in London.

Never did get the story, but about six months before that 30th, he announced he wasn’t interested, wasn’t going, and kinda sorta walked away from even knowing me. This was the era before rampant social media and electronics, so it was still a long distance call to ring someone up on the phone, and email was about the only way to really stay in touch with someone who lived 1500 miles away.

It really was possible to lose touch with someone, especially if he stopped answering emails. And he did.

So she and I did a quick catalog. “Folks I have spoken with in the last few years.”

My best friend (J***) in 4th-6th grade, before he went to a different Jr. High. Found him through another long-time friend (and ex-girlfriend I’m still on good terms with.) Still communicate a bit via social media.

Said ex-girlfriend whom I’ve known for over thirty years. Saw her in the flesh four years ago when I went to visit in Colorado.

And then, nothing. Really big chronological gap.

Another girl. I knew her vaguely in High School, but we didn’t start to date until I was in college, and I never got that serious because she didn’t seem that interested. (Turns out she was that shy, but I’ve never claimed to be telepathic.) After 1987(?) talked her again next in about 2007. Still exchange messages, occasionally, but haven’t seen her in those thirty years.

In college, met Conan the Librarian and Pike. Went to school with neither. Met Conan when I was a volunteer with emergency rescue, like him. Met Pike through Conan. Lost both of them in the early and then mid-90’s and found them again in the last 3-4 years.

The first girl I ever really fell in love with. Again in college. That was thirty years ago. Haven’t seen her in twenty. Still exchange messages via social media on occasion.

Met Snake in college. He was my roommate for about five years. He died extremely young, about fifteen years ago.

Met J**2 through Snake. Haven’t seen him in 25 years. Still chat via social media on occasion.

Same goes for M**2. Met him through Snake. Found him on social media in the last year, through J***2.

Met Swamp Rat in LA when I was out there in the early 90’s. Haven’t seen him in about twenty years. We chat on occasion.

Met Coop in the LA days. Haven’t seen him since I passed through central Cali about five years ago driving back from a friend’s wedding in Vegas. Might go years between emailing him.

Met Dusty in the LA days. Lost him in ’94. Found him again in 2011. He’s up here in Seattle, but it’s probably been a year since I’ve seen him, and only email on occasion.

Met J9 through Charlie, and she (Charlie) died nearly twenty years ago now. Last saw J9 in about 2008.

Etc.

etc.

So I got to thinking. I moved to Seattle in ’97. Will celebrate 20 years here in about six weeks, as a matter of fact.

I’ve just listed all of the people I can think of, off the top of my head, that I knew before 1997 (family not included), that I could easily reach out and talk to, if I had a question.

It is not a particularly long list. And many of them are folks in the third or fourth circle of friendship these days. Modern technology allows that. In the old days, the kind of folks you would just hear gossip about from your mother, talking to their cousin, or something.

The baby in my Tuesday Gaming Group I’ve been playing with for probably twelve years now. The oldest of that group I met in about ’98, so he and I are coming up on twenty years soon. The other two fall in the middle. There are a couple of others that come and go depending on time and commitments, both of them new in the last ten years.

I grew up in a different age. And did different things.

It was possible to just completely fall off the face of the earth, without actively deleting old friends to get them off you social media page, or walking away from your account, or abandoning your phone number (although I did that twice, for personal reasons).

And imagine explaining to the next generation the prohibitive cost of calling someone in a different state, and why you had to wait until after 7pm or the weekend, when the rates went down.

But, in the long term, it was a good idea for me to leave everything behind.

I was extremely angry at the world.

I had my reasons, and I’ll defend them fiercely. Five of my closest friends from along that road are no longer around to share with me how much better things have gotten for my life over the last few years.

On the one hand, I don’t miss the person I was three years ago, or ten, to say nothing of twenty or thirty. (I’m pretty sure me just being alive at this point will cause a number of people to have to pay off bets against. Their loss, for assuming…)

How about you?

How many of your friends are you still in touch with, from when you were bright-eyed, obnoxious kids together, dreaming of taking over the world?

I always wonder, whatever happened to some of those people I used to know. Did their lives turn out mundane or crazy? Did they go all white-picket-fence, like M**2 did?

I keep getting more bohemian as I get older. And that’s okay. I’m having fun. True fun. The kind where you wake up in the morning excited about the possibilities, as opposed to dragging out of bed angry, and going and putting in your time at a job you despise as you work for a weekend of mind-numbingness and hoping that death comes and relieves you of you misery soon.

Do me a favor? Send a note to that best friend. Or your oldest friend. Check in. Say hi. See what’s going on in their life and what you’ve missed. Not for me, but for you.

Do that with several other people. Just ’cause.

For me, if you know anybody that might remember me from the olden days, send them this note and ask them to reach out to me. Seriously. Good Lord only knows what they’ve been up to. And my craziness is kinda off the scale, even today. Would be interesting to hear about their adventures.

I graduated high school when I was sixteen in ’86. Finished college in ’89. Left and did grad school in SoCal, and then stayed around until ’95. Was back in Wichita for eighteen months. Been in Seattle-ish since. Will base camp here one of these days, but will travel again.

I can tell you when something happened, based on what city I lived in at the time, since I moved 17 times between summer of ’90 and fall of ’01.

But I’m also in a very small group. Most people statistically are born, raised, live, and die in about a fifty-mile circle. Sad, but not everyone wants to have adventures. Or decide to move cross country and try someplace else for a while. I figure I’m about halfway on my journey, so I’ve got a lot of miles left in me, and a lot of adventures left to have.

But it is also nice to revisit the old days. For me, there is always a taste of “there, but for the Grace of God, go I…” but still. We live in a magical future, where you never have to truly lose touch again.

So, go talk to someone.

 

shade and sweet water,

bd

West of the Mountains, WA