Monday, February 25, 2013

Announcement! (A Little Late)

Oh, time to blog, where have you gone? Probably to things like the lab report I'm supposed to be writing right now. But! Procrastination is king in my world and writerly loves come first! So, that being said I have some exciting, if not a little late, news for you guys.

Remember how I talked about the awesomeness of WriteOnCon last year? Well, they have decided to do a mid-winter pitchfest! They are calling it the "Luck O' The Irish" pitchfest where agents, book bloggers, and authors will be joining forces to decide on the best pitches of 2013 so far. And since I have plenty of Irish blood running through my veins, I have decided to do what I can to help. 

Here's the official deets:

–Pitch-fest runs from March 18-22. Authors, book bloggers, readers, and our fabulous literary agents will be voting on the pitches. The favorites in each category will win prizes, including some great agent feedback or membership in the official WriteOnCon mentorship program!

–There will only be a limited number of pitches accepted. That number is unknown at this time, because it depends on how many agents attend. We’re still recruiting agents and will let you know the final numbers as soon as we do! Pitches will be selected randomly, so it doesn’t matter what time zone you live in.

–The agents have selected their top three genres, and pitches will ONLY be accepted in those genres. Again, all genres are unknown at this time as we’re still finalizing agents, but don’t worry. We will make announcements about genres and numbers as things solidify (sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss a thing!). At this time, we are only focusing on the children’s market, so you can know now that this pitch-fest will focus only on middle grade and young adult genres.

–We’re announcing this now, before all details are finalized, because we’re running a “perfect your pitch” workshop in February. This will take place in the WriteOnCon forums, and will work much the same as the query critique boards do during the annual WOC. You will post your pitch, and your peers will critique it. We will have posts from industry professionals on writing pitches and genre classification.

We’re doing this for a good reason. We want your pitch to be as perfect as possible once the submission window hits in March. We will only be accepting your entry for the pitch-fest one time. We will not change your genre or edit your pitch after it has been submitted. This workshop during February is the time for you to fine-tune your pitch and get feedback about which genre your novel really belongs in.

–Only one pitch per person. Put forth your best work.

–Pitches should be for polished and query-ready novels only. That means if you haven’t finished your novel yet, you shouldn’t pitch. Still revising? Don’t pitch. The agents attending are looking for material, and when they request, you want to be ready to send out your novel. We’re announcing early to give you time to finish!

Dates to know:
  • February 18-March 10 – Forum peer pitch critiques (Carolin has the forum boards built! Check them out HERE)
  • March 11-13 – Submission of final pitches (this will be done through a Google form, NOT in the forum–details to come!)
  • March 14-17 – We build the boards in the forum (they will be hidden until March 18)
  • March 18-22 – Voting and commenting by literary agents, mentor authors, and book bloggers
 Now, since I am neither an agent nor a published author *yet* I will be joining forces with WriteOnCon as a book blogger. Which means I will be posting about querying this month and hosting whatever posts they throw my way. I'll be jumping into the forums over the next week to give my thoughts on the pitches already out there. If you haven't posted yours yet, there's still time!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Interview with First of Her Kind Author K.L. Schwengel

It isn't every day that you get to interview one of your writerly cohorts, but today I was able to interview one of mine! K.L. Schwengel is a member of the Fellowship of Fantasy writers (alongside me and some other wonderful fantasy authors I hope to interview one day!) at There & Draft Again. She just self-published her debut novel, First of Her Kind. You can find the book on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

Mara Valderran: You've posted some very insightful thoughts on why you decided to self-publish. Can you give the readers a brief overview of what led to that choice?

K.L. Schwengel: It basically boiled down to belief in my book and a desire to get it out in front of readers. Time-frame and control both played big parts in my decision. First, following the traditional route would have meant, in the best of worlds, at least a year to two years before First of Her Kind ever saw the light of day. Between finding an agent, an agent making a sale, the publishing house scheduling, it takes about that much time. I found I wasn't willing to wait. Second, I'm somewhat of a control freak. (Those of you who know me, pipe down.) To be able to have full say in every aspect of my book was very appealing. Of course, that means I have to accept the consequences of its success or failure as well.

MV: You tried traditional publishing first, which can be a very exhausting and discouraging process. What was your experience like and how did you keep it from discouraging you from moving forward?

KLS: Frustrating. Following the traditional publishing route can be likened to a crap shoot, winning the lottery, or finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Agents, or mainly their assistants, read hundreds and thousands of query letters every week. You have a few hundred words to catch them in just the right mood to like what you're pitching. What they don't like one day, they might the next, but once they pass, it's done. The main thing that kept me from becoming discouraged is that I have a very thick skin. If you're putting yourself out there, no matter what venue, you need one. Chocolate helps. I also knew that I had written a good book, and it wasn't my manuscript being judged and passed on, but my query letter. Two very different things. And seriously, I had my moments of doubt. I still do. But then I get a note from someone who says they read something I wrote and they loved it. Nothing beats that.

MV: I love the cover! I feel like that is one downfall of self-publishing: It's hard to find a good cover artist you can afford. How did you go about getting your cover designed?

KLS: I designed and created the digital painting for the cover myself. I have an art background, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and I've worked as a designer and freelance artist off and on since -- well, a long time. So I'm fortunate in that regard. I agree that one of the biggest problems I see in self-publishing is lack of a good cover. In some genres you can probably get away with a stock photo cover. Fantasy has a long history of awesome covers, more so than other genres in my opinion. Fantasy buffs demand it. I know as a reader, it's the cover that grabs me first. If I like that, I'll look closer at the book.

I would suggest to authors on a tight budget, contact art colleges in the area, or possibly on-line. See if you can get a student to create your cover as a portfolio piece. It's great experience for them, and gives them a piece they can use in their professional portfolio.

MV: Another downfall to self-publishing can be the urge to publish too soon, which I've talked about in some of my other posts. As an advocate of self-publishing, I feel we need to discourage the idea of publishing as soon as the first draft is done. There's a lot more work that goes into prepping a novel to be published. What can you tell us about your process leading up to self-publishing? How did you know when your novel was ready?

KLS: I was already pitching my novel to agents so I was pretty confident it was ready. *ahem* However, over the course of the year I was pitching, I was still tweaking. Every time I read the ms, I found something else. I could probably go over it again and find things. But that's just nit-picking at this point. I wrote a first draft, had it read just to make sure it wasn't tripe, then started rewriting. I wrote another draft. Edited. Fine-tuned. Added. Subtracted. Had it read again, by different readers. This time they were looking at continuity, character development, plot structure, tension. Another draft, more editing, more editing, another draft. Beta readers. Now we got down to the nitty-gritty, the push to tighten up this section, make that scene more intense, learn how to properly use a comma (which I'm still really bad at, by the way). And then? Yeah. One more time.

Anyone who writes a novel, quickly edits it, has maybe one person read it, and the puts it out there, better be the most amazing writer on the face of the planet. Not that every manuscript needs what mine did. I'm hoping book two won't need quite as much. But if it does, then it does. I don't want to put something out there I'm not sure about. All it takes is one bad book, and are you ever going to trust that author with your investment again?

MV: What is your writing process like? Are you more of a pantser or a plotter? Soundtrack or absolute silence?

KLS: Pantser all the way. Well, okay, pantser who has some idea of direction. I have a rough sketch of where I want the story to go. That is always subject to unruly characters deciding it's going somewhere unintended. I usually know the beginning and the ending. Both are written before I fill in the middle. And definitely soundtrack. Always. Music helps me visualize, feel, immerse myself in that different world. If it's a bright, sunny day and I'm writing a dark scene, the right music will put me there.

MV: What was your inspiration for First of Her Kind?

KLS: Honestly, it all started with the line, "There was nothing for it, in another turn of the glass Meriol would be dead." That line didn't survive editing, but that was the seed to the whole series. I had no idea who Meriol was, why she was dying, or where it was leading. I just went.

MV: What can you tell us about your main character, Ciara?

KLS: She has a lot of growing up to do. But she's in a tough spot. She comes from a line of woman who have always been simple country healers. Unfortunately, she not only has a healer's earth magic, but another wild power as well. A power that she has a hard time controlling. A power that others want. It means she can't live a simple healer's life. It's hard because she loses a lot and she's very niave in the beginning. She's been sheltered her entire life, and is in no way prepared for what's coming her way.

MV: If you could turn your book into a movie or television series, who would you cast?

KLS: I really hate to put images in the reader's minds, but . . . okay. Bolin is, without a doubt, Gerard Butler. *sigh* Donovan has to be Richard Armitage, clean shaven, not scruffy. Ciara . . . wow, I don't really know any 20 something actress's I would cast. We might have to do a casting call for her. She would need to have a quiet beauty, an innocence about her but not necessarily soft.

MV: How do you feel like the process of publishing has changed you as a writer?

KLS: I'm not sure it's changed me as a writer. I think, if anything, it's pushed me to be a faster writer because I can't devote all my free time to penning my latest manuscript. There's marketing, social networking, editing . . .

MV: What is ahead for your writerly future? 

KLS: Well, I'm roughly 21k words into book two in the Darkness & Light Series, I have a short story due out in an anthology coming out in April (I believe). There's another project that's still under wraps that I'm excited about. And, if time permits, I have an urban fantasy that's been languishing for several years, half written, that I'd really like to dust off and put out there.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Interview with Anthony Mathenia (Paradise Earth: Day Zero)

Remember that interview I told you guys I was looking forward to? It's time! Anthony Mathenia has dropped by with his answers to my interview questions, where we talk about everything from his novel Paradise Earth: Day Zero to his processes to religious cults! If you haven't already checked out his book, you can find it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And because I know you will be looking for the link once you finish reading the interview, I'm going to tell you where you can find his blog now. I have one more stop planned for the Curiosity Quills Sci-Fi Tour, so check back on the 15th for an interview with Thea Gregory!

Mara Valderran: You describe Paradise Earth: Day Zero in the blurb as a "deconstruction of faith at the end of the world and beyond". This is some pretty heavy material and quite the journey for your main character. What can you tell us about where he is at and how he feels when the story begins?

Anthony Mathenia: The story begins with an individual whose world is his religion.  He’s made some serious sacrifices for his faith in the religion, believing that at the end of the day the reward would be worth it.  However, as his foundation crumbles around him during the apocalypse, seed doubts blossom. When the smoke clears he is left with a clean slate to figure out what he really believes in. 

MV: Most writers draw inspiration from their own personal lives and experiences, and it seems you have done the same with your experience as a Jehovah's Witness. What can you tell us of your own experience dealing with religious fervor and how it might parallel your character's journey?

AM: I was raised as a third-generation Jehovah’s Witness and fully believed the religion’s teachings were absolute truth.  Their highly regimented theology provided a lens through which I had to view the world.  When the looking glass shattered and I found out that the religion wasn’t “the truth” it really affected me.  It was a difficult adjustment to make. Like the narrator in Paradise Earth, I went from a situation where all of my beliefs were spoon fed to me to a situation where I had to figure out what exactly I really believed in. I think this is common for lots of people who face experiences in life that radically alter belief systems. 

MV: Do you see any of yourself in your character? Does he make the same kind of choices you might have when you were entrenched in the religion? If he does, do you find that therapeutic or frustrating to have to reenact similar encounters and situations?

AM: In many ways writing Paradise Earth served as a personal catharsis.  It took a long time to be in a situation where I could look objectively at my past and be able to put my feelings into words. While, the narrator’s experiences are different, the emotions are the same. It definitely resonates with those who have been in high-control groups.

MV: The Paradise Earth series isn't your only project. What can you tell us about the comics you are working on?

AM: I’m collaborating with local artist Barry Lincoln on a sci-fi comedy called Human Wrestler.  It’s the madcap adventures of a semi-professional wrestler from Tennessee who gets abducted to wrestle in an intergalactic wrestling league.  The artwork for the first issue is almost done.  It’s very funny!

I also have a graphic novel I’ve been writing called Pretty Face.  It’s a love story between an anorexic supermodel and a pop star in a world where the cult of celebrity is America’s last remaining export.

MV: Your first book, Happiness: How to Find It was first a web serial by Curiosity Quills. What has your experience been in dealing with Curiosity Quills? 

AM: As a new publisher there have been some growing pains to work through. However, I’ve found Curiosity Quills to be very writer friendly and they have treated me fairly. I especially love the supportive nature of the Curiosity Quills author community.  

MV: Tell us about your process as a writer. Are you more of a panster or a plotter? Do you have soundtrack or need silence?

AM: I’m a percolator.  I’ll come up with an idea or concept that will develop in my mind over time.  When I write I generally have the story in mind, though the details get fleshed out as I go.  Sometimes the story turns into something else in the process.

I enjoy writing in high-energy environments, like bars.  Music is good for setting the mood and I usually have Spotify running in the background.  Sometimes I’ll create playlists for whatever I’m working on.

MV: Most people say that writing a first draft is only half the battle when trying to become a published author. What was the other half of the battle for you? What can you tell us about your editing process?

AM: I don’t mind editing.  My first drafts tend to be pretty close.  From there I just spend time refining the language and distilling the work down to accentuate the main themes.
For me as an indie writer, the other half of the battle is the marketing and promotion. It is so time consuming and distracts from actual writing.

MV: Who are your writing heroes, or writers that you look up to?

AM: I like the writers who adventured and lived hard. Hunter S. Thompson. Bukowski. Hemingway. Dudes like that.

MV: Do you prefer travel writing or writing fiction? What do you feel are the differences between the two as far as your process goes?

AM: I don’t really have a preference. I’m a storyteller and travel writing, like fiction writing, or comics, is just another way to tell a story.  When I do my travel writing and visiting a new place, I’m looking for the story that the place has to tell. It can be a challenge if the story isn’t obvious.

MV: What is ahead for your writerly future?

AM: I’m currently working on a pulp fiction “double-feature” with Shane Crash.  He’s an amazing writer that I’ve been looking forward to collaborating with for some time now.  Since we both write very serious, introspective works this project has been a chance for us to kick off our literary shoes and just have fun.  My contribution is called Deep Penitentiary 6.  

After that I’m looking forward to finishing Week One, the next volume of Paradise Earth.   My readers are eagerly awaiting that and I don’t want to disappoint.

Monday, February 4, 2013

First of Her Kind Release Date!

Today is a very special day for a near and dear writing friend of mine. Some of you may recognize the name KL Schwengel from the Fellowship of Fantasy Writers over at There and Draft Again (seriously, check us out!) or just from the writing community in general. Today is the release date of her debut novel, First of Her Kind, and I am so excited to share it with you guys!

KL is self-publishing and has made quite a few very informative posts over on her blog about the subject. I can't wait to interview her on the 15th so we can learn more about her and what this process has meant to her. You can find First of Her Kind on Amazon for Kindle and print, Barnes & Noble (print), and Smashwords (ebook). If you need me, I will be trying to master that clone recipe I got so I can find the time to read this book. Or trying to get the flu. Something that gets me a guilt-free vacation because I really don't think I can wait until Spring Break for this one!

Everyone, it seems, wants to dictate what Ciara does with her life: Serve the Goddess, destroy the Goddess, do as you promised your aunt. All Ciara wants is to keep the two magics she possesses from ripping her apart.

And that won't be easy.

Not only are they in complete opposition to each other, blood ties pull her in divergent directions as well. And then there's Bolin, the man sworn to protect her. There's no denying the growing attraction between them, but is it Ciara he wants? Or her power?

None of which will matter if Ciara can't overcome her fear and learn to use her gifts. No one knows the depths of the ancient power she possesses, or what will happen if it manages to escape her control.

Will she lose herself entirely? Or be forever trapped between darkness and light?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Excerpt from James Wymore's Theocracide

Are you guys ready to finally read the promised excerpt from James Wymore's Theocracide? I'm ready to read it again! Which is why I am going to waste very little time in getting to it. I am only going to remind you that you can win your very own copy by entering Curiosity Quills' Photo Contest for Theocracide and that you can purchase the book on Barnes & Noble and Amazon (I'll remind you of the links for purchase again at the end when I am certain you will be ready to buy your copy!).

And now, without further jibber-jabber from me, get your first taste of Theocracide.

Willing his feet to remain silent, Jason Hunt concentrated on the ground as he weaved between the outstretched claws of the trees. The lens on his computer helped him see despite the heavy blackness of night. He deliberately lifted each foot higher to avoid rocks and roots, which looked deceptively flat on the computer projection screen wrapped around his face like glasses. He controlled each breath so the tiniest sounds would not give away his position to the people hunting him.

Ahead he recognized the welcoming gesture of a large tree with wide branches. Nimbly he slipped around, quietly leaning his heavy pack against it and pressing in so it would support his weight and let him rest.

Risking his own safety for a moment, he quickly checked on each of his companions. They were all running from the foes, too. He knew he couldn’t help them now, but resting here, he just wanted some reassurance they weren’t dead yet. He ignored the desire to talk to them and hear their voices. It would be suicide to speak aloud now. The men chasing them were in the army of the Undying Emperor. They would not hesitate for an instant.

Jason winked his left eye, engaging the user interface of the computer. Then the computer tracked his eye movements as he raised the sensitivity of his microphone to maximum. The speakers inside each earpiece of his glasses began to hum as Jason strained to detect the faintest sound within thirty feet. Hearing none, he lowered the volume and then pulled the glasses off the front of his nose so they hung below his chin. Nobody ever did this; removing the computer.

He stared into the dark sky, waiting patiently for his eyes to adjust to the near total darkness. Only a tiny sliver of a moon illuminated the forest tonight. Enough brownish smog filled the air to block out any star light. The pollution filtered the crescent line of light behind many layers of brick red silk. Jason’s father always said something about the moon having turned to blood, but Jason didn’t know what that meant. Right now, he had to exploit the small advantage. His pursuer would never remove the computer.

Eventually his eyes could distinguish the dark gray trees from the black air. So he quietly peered around the edge of the trunk serving as his fortress and scanned the woods. Patiently he traced the ground and every silhouette; searching for any abnormality. His heart leaped when he spotted the steel toe of a black combat boot poking out from a tree trunk about forty feet away. The computer would never recognize it as anything more than a rock.

Jason pushed his glasses back into place, staying well hidden so the light from them would not give his position away. The projected light temporarily night blinded him. He ignored the blur from tears as he blinked up his computer screen and selected the tree. Immediately a dim red glow highlighted the tree among all those around him. Then he returned to the main program. He would be able to find this tree easily from any angle.

A predatory smile cracked Jason’s face. He loved the moment where the game turns; the hunted became the hunter. He knew his quarry—the highest-ranking R.O.T.C. cadet in the university. In another year’s time, he and his team would be fighting and most likely dying in the service of the Undying Emperor. Therefore, he took this game very serious. For him, this game amounted to more training.

For Jason, this game represented freedom. If he didn’t have a scholarship, he would have paid to play. His father had been training him all his life, but Jason never appreciated the value of the training until he started playing tag.

Whenever two undefeated teams played against each other the stress of the game escalated. Adrenaline pushed them to the breaking point. Whoever won would go on to represent the University against other teams at the state level.

Jason pitied his opponent as he silently slid a mock-grenade out of his pack. Memorizing the location of the trees and the path, he squeezed the grenade. It wouldn’t really explode, of course. It would just send out a scrambling signal which all the computers they wore would register as an explosion if they were nearby. Light and noise would fill their senses. Gauging the distance carefully, Jason tossed the grenade in a wide arc. Before it hit the ground, he jumped out and started running behind it.

He clasped his hands together with one forefinger pointing forward and the other curled as if around an imaginary trigger. The computer, recognizing the virtual gun, pulled up red crosshairs to indicate the target if Jason were to fire. In a real war, their backpacks would have large guns mounted on electrical motors, which automatically followed the crosshairs.

The enemy peaked out when he heard Jason’s footsteps. He took a wild shot before he saw the grenade and reversed to dive the other direction. Jason pulled his glasses down on his nose and peered over a small line above the top rim. As expected, white dots and rumbling noise filled the screen for a few seconds. It temporarily blinded his opponent who started shooting wildly in every direction hoping for a random hit.

Jason carefully leaned around the tree. Estimating where the cross would land he pulled an imaginary trigger. His computer showed the image of a bullet hitting exactly where the crosshairs indicated.

“No!” The young man’s voice roared in anger. His glasses flashed red; indicating his death in the game. “You would have killed yourself with that grenade, too!”

“This isn’t a war,” Jason said with his slightly higher but much more composed voice. “This is a game; different strategies.”

Jason Hunt pocketed the used grenade and quickly stalked away from his victim. He heard cries of cheating fade as he carefully blended back into to the wood. Jason smiled because the noise covered the sound of him quickly climbing two limbs up into a great ash tree.

Time for another tactic nobody else ever used. His father taught him to do the unexpected. Exploit the expectation of common actions in those who never do anything extraordinary. People didn’t climb trees any more. Most people didn’t leave their houses for months on end. Fewer had the physical strength or manual dexterity required to climb a tree.

Jason leaned back into a perfect saddle and clasped his hands again to pull up the crosshairs. The defeated cadet still ranted. Predictably, his temper tantrum drew two of his team members. In the deep night, the faint glow of the computer glasses they viewed the world through made an easy target. The glow radiated like a tiny lighthouse beacon. The fourth member of their team must have been defeated already. Jason grinned as he lined the shot up on the furthest enemy and fired. One second later, his glasses showed two people flashing red.

“What?” The newest camouflage clad arrival said in confusion. “I’m dead!”

The last young man in the clearing tried to jump for cover. The moment his body hit the ground, his glasses began flashing red, too.

Jason jumped down from the tree quickly. He wanted to preserve as many of his tactics from becoming public knowledge as possible. Even though his night vision glasses flashed a green boarder around the forest scene, indicating victory, he moved back into the woods and started making his way around the grouping of defeated foes.

Having accepted defeat, they began searching the forest for their enemies. Jason froze and pretended to be hiding on a rock behind a cluster of quaking aspens. He celebrated choosing this park when he randomly won the right to select the battlefield. Most of the people in the game had not set foot in a real forest before. Therefore, it gave them a big advantage.

One of the opponents spotted him and pointed him out to the others. Jason waved, but he didn’t move closer. A flashing black arrow on the screen he viewed the world through indicated the direction everybody should go so both teams could meet before starting another game or ending the session. Jason waited. He didn’t want to be alone with the three opponents. In a few minutes, the rest of his team emerged. Then he stepped out and walked over to meet the group.

“That shouldn’t count as a win,” the opposing captain barked. “That would never happen in a real war.”

Jason’s team ignored the indignant grunt. They had each scanned the stats for the game and saw Jason scored three hits. Once again, he was the hero.

“So awesome!” said the shortest member of the team. Despite his clumsiness, they kept him on the team for his contagious enthusiasm. The only member of Jason’s team “killed” today, he first took one of their enemies out. An exceptional personal victory like that made him cheer. “The snow cats are undefeated!”

“It’s not a win,” the cadet persisted. His team stood in line behind him now, refusing to concede. Obviously, they all wore the same military uniform and enormous egos would not let them admit defeat. “You can’t run up on your own grenade without dying.”

Jason put his hand out to stop his short comrade before he said something to turn this into a fight. Like Jason, his team dressed from head to foot in black. Jason said, “Dead men don’t call out to their team, revealing the position of their enemies either.”

“That’s not…” the cadet stopped short. His team would not hesitate to back his hypocrisy, but the realization of it took some of the fire from his heart.

“We’ll play again if you want,” Jason said. “But if we beat you next time, you have to concede two wins.”

“And we get to be the team who puts Regiment 21 out of the varsity championships,” added another of Jason’s group. It would mean a great deal more humiliation than losing once to an undefeated team.

“No deal,” the cadet said. Since he did all the talking, Jason assumed he was a higher rank than the rest of his team. The others hung on his words, as if waiting for the signal to attack.

The last member of Jason’s team took a turn. “Then we have no choice but to submit the video to the judges and let them decide if your claim is valid.”

Jason winked his left eye. He quickly called up a video feed of the cadet raving about unfairness while he accidentally lured his out to become easy targets. He used his hand to touch imaginary controls in space. He cut the segment and pasted it into a file. Then he sent it out so all the players in the gathering could watch it simultaneously.

The cadet’s posture slumped. He finally realized he had brought about the demise of his entire team. Without a word he winked his controls up and touched the imaginary concede button in the air. “This is not over,” he growled. “One way or another, it’s not over.”

Jason’s team cheered and laughed while the neo-military group turned and marched away. Jason regretted making an enemy. In his heart, he hoped this would teach the cadets no strategy good enough to keep you alive in war. Signing up to serve in the military of the Undying Emperor amounted to suicide. Something told him these cadets had gone too far to question it now.

“We’re going to state!” crowed the smallest team member. They all clapped each other on the back and began talking at once.

Suddenly the reverie quieted with the return of the opposing captain. His hands, posed as a gun, pointed straight at Jason’s heart. His manic face snarled beneath a real swivel mounted machine gun.

One of the snow cats tried to step forward and speak, but the wild-eyed soldier quickly shifted his aim. Instantly the electric servomotors repositioned the gun so it pointed straight at his heart. Then he snapped his hand and the gun above him back toward Jason. Jason’s team, hands in the air, stepped back instinctively from the insane captor.

He said evenly, “It’s not just a game.”

Keep reading…