Friday, March 30, 2012

My California Adventure - Sonora

Many years ago my grandfather moved to Sonora, California. There was a point back in 1994/1995 that my family and I lived in Salida, California - only an hour drive from Sonora. Now in Arizona, I try my best to make at least a few visits per year to see my grandfather and to get away from the disgusting Arizona heat. The drive from Gilbert, Arizona to Sonora, California takes us about fifteen or so hours, depending on how many stops we decide to make along the way.

Last week we made one of these visits to see my grandfather. Most of the time we spend up there consists of my grandfather driving us to different attractions and landmarks, such as Yosemite, Ironstone Vineyards, or even Mark Twain's Cabin.

One of the days spent in Sonora this trip consisted mostly of us walking up and down the main street of downtown peeking in antique shops and the like.

One of the shops, Funky Junk -

is where my grandfather, who builds birdhouses and butterfly houses, sells some of his creations.

My absolute favorite place in downtown Sonora is Legends Books, Antiques & Old Fashioned Soda Fountain. The shop contains one of my favorite spots - an underground passageway full of old books.

Another staple of downtown Sonora is the Veterans Memorial Hall and Military Museum.

My grandfather designed the Korean War Veterans memorial stone.

And you can see his name on the list on the back - Earl N. Bailey USAF.

Of course, no visit to Sonora - or California in general - is complete without dinner at my favorite pizza stop - Round Table.

And I left with my own little set of treasures from one of the antique shops. (Pewter and only $2 each)

Next week I'll post some pics and whatever info I can find on some of the old books I brought back from California. (One of them was purchased from the Legends bookstore, but I am going to hold off on showing it until I can dig up some info on it.) Some date back to the 1800's, they are so old. And since this blog is about writing and self-publishing, well, they will fit in perfect around here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My California Adventure - Ironstone Vineyards

Last week I took a trip up to northern California to visit my grandfather. He lives in the little town of Sonora near Jamestown and Columbia. The area is rich in gold rush history and old west memorabilia, and I enjoy every moment I spend up there in the cool weather and nostalgic environment.

This recent trip though was a special treat not only because my brothers were able to see my grandfather together - which hasn't happened in a long while - but also because I was able to get my hands on some very interesting, very old books. I'm going to be showcasing some of these books over the course of the next few weeks. I still need to go through the stacks that I obtained and do some research on their origins.

In the meantime, I thought I'd highlight some of the more interesting parts of my trip, beginning with our journey to Ironstone Vineyards, located in the Sierra Foothills of Murphys, California. I've visited Ironstone many times before, and each time I am amazed at how serene the location is. There are times when I am there that I completely forget I am in California and feel as if I'm in another country, such as Ireland or Italy.
Nestled in the midst of rolling green hills, Ironstone is more than just a vineyard...

It is home to thousands of plant varieties and species. We were lucky enough to visit in March, which is when Ironstone rolls out the 'color parade' with over 300,000 daffodils to signal the coming of Spring and to spark off their annual celebration of food, wine, art and flowers.

Ironstone also boasts the world's  largest crystalline gold leaf specimen in the world, weighing in at a whopping 44 lbs. They have the leaf in a glass case in an old bank vault - which seems appropriate enough.

Wandering the Alhambra Music Room, we always check out the splendid collection of art and antiquities belonging to the Kautz family - owners of Ironstone Vineyards.

There is also a terrific wood lattice walkway I never miss the chance to walk through.

I always enjoy my visits to Ironstone. If any of you are ever in their neck of the woods, I highly recommend visiting the vineyard.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rebel Dawn (Star Wars, The Han Solo Trilogy #3) - Book Review

In this final volume of the Han Solo trilogy, we're treated to the background on how Han won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian, a very epic glimpse into the world of Kashyyyk and some of Chewbacca's family, including his bride, and we get to see more of how the rebel alliance formed with the help of Han's old flame, Bria Tharen.

I hated getting to the end of this series because, as I've stated in my  reviews of the previous two books, this is by far one of my favorite fiction series. A. C. Crispin weaves a beautiful and yet tragic recollection of Han Solo's life, years before he meets up with Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker in the cantina on Tatooine.

The Empire is growing in power and spreading fear across the galaxy. The Hutts are in the middle of a war between their clans, and Han is trying to live the single life and enjoy the spoils of the spice trade and his incredible piloting skills.

When Bria Tharen seeks to destroy and pillage the spice colonies of planet Ylesia where she was once held captive as a slave before Han rescued her, she enlists the help of Han and other smugglers to help get the job done. In return, they are promised a cut of the spoils, but even old flames can burn hot and events quickly spiral out of control.

The book - and series - ends in a gut-churning, tragic way that really makes you feel for Han, especially after journeying with him since his childhood aboard the Trader's Luck in The Paradise Snare. This book brings a great end to the series and acts as a prominent bridge to the Star Wars movies. I think A.C. Crispin did a fine job with Han Solo's character and with the story lines. Even if some of them did feel a little bit contrived, they kept me interested up until the very end.

So as I close the cover on the third and final volume in this series, I place it back on my bookshelf and save it for when I'll pick it up again a few years from now, or for when I sit down and read it to my son when he's old enough. Now on to the other books in my to-read pile.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Black Earth: Snowfall in Europe

So, a couple years ago, I decided to do something nice for some of my fans for the holidays. I created an exclusive collection of short stories taking place in my Black Earth series, all that take place before the first volume in the series, End of the Innocence. I printed this collection out, numbered each individually, and mailed them out to my fans as a Christmas gift.

I've been meaning to resurrect one or two of those stories and post them, so here's one as a treat for your Wednesday. I'll be adding these to my website at some point in the near future and may even create an ebook collection you can read on your Kindle or Nook or whatnot, but we'll see.

This particular story is about Alpha 1. I included humor in these Christmas shorts, so they may not seem as 'dark' as the novels in the series.

Here is Black Earth: Snowfall in Europe:

Alpha 1 stood, staring out the window at the snow falling outside. The hotel room was five stories up and gave him the advantage of being able to see the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Europe was beautiful this time of year, and it gave him the opportunity to relax. He didn’t mind killing people; it was just hard to do it 365 days of the year. He needed time to rest. To relax. To clear his mind.

He took another bite of the Michelina’s mac and cheese and swallowed it down with some hot cider. He watched out the window as a big white van pulled into the parking lot and dumped out a group of people. It looked like one huge family. They were all carrying gifts, and one or two of them were wearing Santa hats.

Ridiculous, Alpha 1 thought to himself. The holidays, in his opinion, had become too commercialized and too religious. Why couldn’t everyone just celebrate winter for what it was—winter? Instead everyone had to attach a stupid religious meaning to it. The birth of Christ? What kind of nonsense was that? God coming down here to this wretched place as a baby? Dumb.

Alpha 1 took the last bite of his dinner and tossed the empty container and plastic fork into the garbage can. He stood up from the table and stretched, realizing he wanted to take a walk out in the cold before turning in for the night. He slipped on his heavy jacket and opened the door.

There, on the floor in the doorway, was a small package wrapped in black and red wrapping paper with a large red bow on the top. He slid his right hand to the gun under his left armpit and glanced around the immediate area. There was nobody within sight who looked suspicious—just a couple of kids fighting with each other down the hallway a bit, a young couple holding hands as they made their way to their room, and an old man carrying a large present toward the elevator.

Alpha 1 removed his hand from his gun and picked up the small package, withdrawing into his hotel room with a slam of the door. He set the package on the desk that overlooked the window and stared at it for a moment. There was no tag on it. Just wrapping and a bow. He tried to figure out what it could be by its shape and size…maybe a book, or a movie. Maybe even a game. Who the blazes would leave him a gift? Maybe Santa, he thought cynically.

He picked up the package and started to unwrap it, hoping it wasn’t a bomb. He knew many, many people who would love to see his dead corpse be blown through the window. The thought  kept him on his toes, but also kept his adrenaline running twenty-four-seven. Made it hard to relax.

He finished unwrapping it and realized it was a book…a manga, to be exact. It was Pokemon!

Alpha 1 let himself smile. This was a limited edition Pokemon manga, one that he hadn’t been able to find in the normal comic book store. But who? He opened the front cover to see if anyone had signed it. There was nothing there but a little heart colored in pink pen. What?

He opened the door again and peered into the hallway. Nobody. The kids, the old man and the young couple were all gone. He shut the door behind him and started toward the elevator. The least he could do was go for a nice chilly walk and then head back to the room to start reading. Who on Earth would know he liked Pokemon? Some of the guys in his Alpha team did, but they wouldn’t dare give him a present, especially on what many believed was Christmas Eve.

He took the elevator to the bottom floor and walked outside. The snow was still coming down, and it felt good against his warm skin. As he made his way across the side of the hotel, he came across a man dressed in a Santa suit ringing a bell, asking for money.

“Sir, could you spare some change?”

“I’m already bringing change to the world, old man. Get a life.”

The man stopped ringing the bell and stared at Alpha 1 for a moment. “Well, that’s not very nice.”

Alpha 1 stopped and turned to the Santa. “Do I look like a nice guy to you?”

The Santa took his time answering.

“The answer is no! I’m not a nice guy. I don’t care for your Santas or your stupid Christian holiday. You ask me for money again, and I’ll make sure you don’t wake up to see the snow fall tomorrow morning.” With that, Alpha 1 turned and continued past the hotel and onto the street the building sat along.

“Alpha 1, didn’t know harassing Santa Claus was in your profile.”

He recognized the voice immediately, although he didn’t remember seeing her on his way out here. Alpha 1 turned behind him, and there stood Victoria Angeles smiling at him. Better known to him as Alpha 28.

“What are you doing here?”

She shrugged. When she did, Alpha 1 noticed the beautiful green sweater she was wearing. It matched her bright teal-colored eyes. “You and I have a mission together tomorrow. I found out that you were staying in the same hotel as me, so I thought I would say hi.”

He couldn’t stop smiling. It made him sick. “Are you the one who gave me the gift?”

She nodded. “I knew you were having trouble finding that copy, and so I pulled some strings and found it for you.”

He wanted to say thank you, but it was so incredibly against his nature that he could only nod.

She laughed. “I’ll take that as a thank you, Alpha 1.” She took a few moments to stare at the ground and then looked up at him, a nervous smile on her face. “So...the mission tomorrow is going to take us into Italy. After we kill the group of Scorop activists, you wanna grab a bite to eat? Maybe we can catch a movie while we’re at it.”

He chuckled. “Only if you promise to leave me at least half of them to kill. I wanna try out my new gun.”

“You know I don’t like to make a mess. As long as you clean it all up when we’re done.”

He smiled. “Will do.”

She nodded. “Okay, then. It’s a date. I’ll see you in the morning.” With that, she walked back toward the hotel.

Alpha 1 was nodding, but then he stopped and, with an angry expression, glanced up at her as she entered the hotel.

“Wait! A date?”

Copyright © 2009 David N. Alderman  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Microsoft OneNote - An Author's Best Friend

I originally wrote and published this post over on Reader's Den and decided it would make a nice edition over here as well, seeing how this blog is about writing and self-publishing. Just a note, there's a great discussion that's been going on over at this post on Reader's Den if you'd like to join in after reading this.

As a writer, I'm constantly coming up with new worlds, new characters and new storylines to fill the novels that I write. I find it can be somewhat difficult keeping a good mental picture of some of my characters - especially minor ones, and setting can be difficult to keep straight too, considering I make most of my locations up and I don't always have all of the details of those settings sketched out before I begin writing about them.

To start with, for years now I've had a bookshelf full to the brim of folders full of individual character profiles, including bio sheets and magazine cutouts of people who I think resemble some of my characters. Overall the notebooks are fun to put together, but I'd rather have something of a more convenient reference, especially since I'm on the computer 100% of the time I'm working on a novel. I also wanted some of my bookshelf space back to display all of the books I'm behind on reading.

So I've been on the hunt for a while now for a program that could give me a visual cornucopia of reference options. I found one or two programs - most made by indie developers - but they either weren't worth the money or they were just too convoluted and confusing that they would be too much hassle to learn to use.

Then I stumbled on Microsoft OneNote. This handy little gem has everything I could possibly want in a writer's assistant.

*A side note - all images you see in my screenshots are copyright their respective creators. I am simply showing the screenshots as an example of what I am able to do with Microsoft OneNote.*

To start with, on the left side you have notebooks. You can create as many notebooks as you like, color them whatever color you'd like, title them whatever you'd like.

Then each Notebook is separated into sections (I call them tabs). Again, these tabs can be colored whatever color you like, titled whatever you want.

Inside of each tab, you can create pages. You can even create subpages branching under these pages.

I use Microsoft OneNote for all sorts of nifty writerly things. I create notebooks for each of my writing projects. Then I create tabs. Say I'm in a notebook regarding a novel I'm working on. I'll create tabs for characters, setting, research, etc. Then under these tabs, I'll create pages.
For example, for a novel I currently have on the back burner, Dark Horizons, I have a tab for characters. Under the character tab, I have a page for Carrie Green.

Now, it's the pages that bring it all together. I'm able to drag and drop pretty much anything I want into the page itself. When you start typing text, it creates a text box that you can move around anywhere within the page. You can drop images from the internet, your computer, etc. You can resize these pictures and move them wherever you want.

You can even drop documents - and audio - into the page - like I did with the Word doc of Carrie's character profile above or like what I did on this page of future projects that need to be worked on. All I have to do is click on the icon and it will open the appropriate document on my computer.

Aside from characters, I also like to use OneNote for novel research -

Creature creation -

Setting reference-

And I can even outline with it - just to keep all the elements of the novel together.

Having all these visual references have really helped me craft my novel more easily. I'm able to copy images from the internet so I can see what I want my characters to be wearing. I can drop documents for easy reference. I can craft my text boxes in a creative way to add to my own presentation of the applicable materials.

All in all, OneNote has become a very useful tool in my writer arsenal, giving me many of the things I need to craft my stories and work on my marketing, without all the hassle of confusing applications.

For more information on Microsoft OneNote, follow this link to Microsoft's official page on it. When crafting this post, OneNote 2010 was only $79.99 and it is a standalone Office product, meaning you can purchase it separate from the other Microsoft Office programs like Excel and Word. Keep in mind that Microsoft OneNote 2007 was used for these screenshots, so major/minor improvements may have been made since.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Black Earth: Dark Masquerade Is Off To My Editor!

Yes, I finished Black Earth: Dark Masquerade and sent it off to my editor yesterday. This is the first major manuscript goal I have achieved without having to extend my deadlines, and I'm quite proud of it. Now I have two months to finish Book 4 in the series - which I changed the title to. Instead of Bridge to Eternity, it was suggested by my lovely wife that the title be changed to Bridge to Anaisha, which actually makes more sense in regards to the story and the series as a whole, seeing how the book connects the Black Earth series to my Expired Reality series, which takes place mostly on Anaisha.

So, while Dark Masquerade is in the hands of my very capable, very talented editor, I've decided to compile a handy guide to what you can get your hands on in anticipation of the novel coming out this summer.

First, here's links to the draft excerpts I posted, all from Dark Masquerade:
Excerpt #1: Hortus Tenebris - The Dark Garden
Excerpt #2: The President's Dark Advisor
Excerpt #3: The Westgate Plaza Mall
Excerpt #4: Pearl's Sorrow
Excerpt #5: The Black Cathedral

Second, here are links to the first two books in the series -
End of the Innocence 
The Broken Daisy

Both are available in paperback and ebook, and both are reasonably priced. It is highly recommended that you brush up on both of them before picking up a copy of Dark Masquerade in a few months. For your convenience, there is a Double Pack that I created - only in ebook format - that contains both books for one low price.

Third, The Broken Daisy was just reviewed by Reader's Den creator, Tiffany Cole. She gave the book 4/5 stars and wrote a stellar review. There is also a giveaway going on at Reader's Den where you can win a copy of the aforementioned Black Earth Double Pack. Check it out here.

Fourth, since this blog has been running for a while, most of you probably didn't know there is a short Black Earth Christmas story that I posted a couple years ago, Do Demons Wear Santa Hats? Here's a link to the post. It's a bit humorous compared to the novels themselves, but I decided it was a nice change.

Fifth, there were three pieces of Black Earth short fiction that I wrote a while ago. All three took place at the same time and were told from three different character's POV. The stories describe the car accident Nathan and Heather got in that changed the future of Earth and eventually, all humanity. I am polishing them up to have them edited and I plan to release them sometime in the near future, either separately or in a short collection. Stay tuned for details on that.

Sixth, I also wrote a collection of flash fiction pieces that all take place before the series and give a glimpse into the lives of some of the major characters of Black Earth. I hope to re-release those in the near future as well.

Essentially, I have a lot of fiction laying around that needs to be polished and released. Great stuff coming up! Have a great Friday everyone!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tired, But Productive

So I've been a little MIA from the social networks this last week. It's because I've been pouring myself into my latest novel, Black Earth: Dark Masquerade, getting it prepped to hand off to my editor next Thursday. I've been pulling late nights, surviving on coffee and black tea, and taking micro naps wherever I can get them. Although that sounds exhausting, the fact that I'm making progress actually makes it all worth while.

Progress is always good. In the past, I found I sabotaged myself one too many times by inching my way forward with book sales and social networking exposure, only to backslide when I took a few days off and essentially halted my momentum. I cannot stress how important momentum is for this mechanism called self-publishing. Lately, I've been working on becoming a bit more consistent in the many aspects of my writing career - such as the email newsletter, blog postings, and social networking interaction. Although I'm still struggling somewhat with that last one.

I am looking forward to getting the second book in my Black Earth series, The Broken Daisy, read and reviewed by Tiffany Cole in a few days. She enjoyed the first book in the series, End of the Innocence, giving it four stars, so I have high hopes for The Broken Daisy if only because I've heard other reviewers tell me they enjoyed End of the Innocence, but REALLY enjoyed The Broken Daisy. Let's hope I can keep that trend going with Dark Masquerade.

I think I may end up pausing my postings of draft excerpts of Dark Masquerade, at least until I've gotten my edits back from my editor. Once I start work on Bridge to Eternity, which I'll be chipping away at almost immediately following my hand off of Dark Masquerade, I will probably pick up the draft excerpt postings again, especially since Bridge to Eternity is set to be the last book in the Black Earth series.

Phew, I get exhausted just talking about all of this. But, hey, I couldn't ask for a more fulfilling career. Writing isn't only what I feel I'm good at, it's also a great passion of mine. When those two go hand in hand, one has the potential to become an unstoppable force.

This unstoppable force is going to go catch a few winks before starting up on Dark Masquerade again.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Black Earth: Dark Masquerade Draft Excerpt #5 - The Black Cathedral

Wednesday. Middle of the week. Hump day. Just means another draft excerpt from the novel I'm currently working on - Black Earth: Dark Masquerade.

With Legion's presence flooding the earth, Cynthia Ruin seeks refuge with Petrina, a woman she rescued from a cult group taking refuge on a boardwalk along California's coastline. And so begins this week's excerpt.

And if you want to catch up on the other excerpts I've posted over the last few weeks, here's a handy list -

Excerpt #1: Hortus Tenebris - The Dark Garden
Excerpt #2: The President's Dark Advisor
Excerpt #3: The Westgate Plaza Mall
Excerpt #4: Pearl's Sorrow

This week's excerpt is intended for mature readers. Enjoy!

Excerpt from Black Earth: Dark Masquerade -

Cynthia’s arrow wound felt worse than it really was. The arrow had managed to miss her ankle bone, but she had lost a lot of blood. So much blood in fact, she was surprised she was still alive.

Petrina had Cynthia’s foot wrapped in gauze and fastened with medical tape. Petrina bandaged her own head with a strip of gauze as well, and both women received a mild dose of painkiller that Petrina had in her medicine cabinet. Petrina explained to Cynthia she was a nurse. Cynthia found this fact to be fortuitous.

Petrina got Cynthia settled in the guest bedroom of her two story beach home. It was a mansion compared to other houses Cynthia had been in, and she felt quite intimidated to be in such a place. Especially considering the condition of the world at the current moment.

They were both eating sandwiches Petrina made them from what was left in her refrigerator - ham and cheese.

“Why were you hiding out near the boardwalk instead of here?” Cynthia asked the woman.

“My husband was shot by looters once the stars fell. They tried to break in here and rob us, but my husband…he was a brave man. He defended our home, defended me. He became mortally wounded because of it. I didn’t have what I needed to treat him here, so I brought him into the city to see if I could find a doctor willing to mend him. That’s when things really got out of hand.” Petrina turned and stared out the tall window at the other end of the kitchen, overlooking a swimming pool out back. “A group of…of looters, I guess…they found my husband and me. They tried to take me…either to rape me, or…I don’t know.” She took a cautious sip of the fresh coffee she had just gotten finished brewing and turned her gaze toward the marble countertop Cynthia was eating her sandwich at. “We managed to find a hiding spot in one of the buildings near the boardwalk. Near that horrible boardwalk. We waited in that building for days, sure the looters were still searching for us. I left to find food at different times. My husband slowly died in the process.”

Cynthia decided she wasn’t hungry enough to finish her sandwich. She set what was left on the counter and felt tiredness sweeping over her like a flood.

“He died. I was left alone to hide and survive. It was horrible the first day. It got worse after that. I was captured at one point. Nobody did anything to me. I managed to escape. Then those fanatics…those carnival freaks out there…they got their filthy hands on me and that’s when you found me.”

Cynthia found herself staring out the window at the lit up pool outside.

“I was told you’d save me. A child of ruin.”

“Who told you that?”

Petrina pointed to the ceiling.

“Please,” Cynthia scoffed.

“You’re not the religious type, are you?”

Cynthia shook her head emphatically. “Thanks for patching me up. I need to go.”

Petrina reached out and took hold of her arm, gently, as her mother used to when she was younger. “Please…please keep me company a while. I have nobody out here.”

“If you stop talking about your god like he’s real. Deal?”

Petrina grinned. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

“I’m not. I’ve seen enough proof there is no god. Take a look around. Look at all the darkness. Look at the fallen vessels, the destroyed cities, the President has -“

“She doesn’t control this world. She thinks she does. She’s being controlled herself.”

Cynthia huffed. “Well, I don’t doubt that. But there’s no way you can explain to me how your god exists and yet he sits up there in Heaven and does nothing about all of this. He just leaves you here to rot? Is that the way the caring, loving god I’ve heard so much about would act if he were real? This world is literally falling apart and I haven’t seen your god lift a finger to help us out of this mess.”

“Child, there are so many more worlds out there to explore. Mr. Silver…he found Anaisha. I have a ticket, you know, to get off this world and ride in one of his shuttles to Anaisha. A new world, a new start. I can buy you a ticket too if you wish to come with me.”

“You’re ignoring my question, as most people who believe in your god do.”

“I’m not ignoring it. If there are other planets, other worlds to explore, then we have other places to go. This may just be the end of the line for Earth.”

“Since you continually ignore my question about how you know your god exists, I’ll take that as an answer in itself. You don’t know that he exists. You believe in empty things and your faith is in a deity you wish existed because he sounds really merciful and loving. But he’s not, because he doesn’t even exist.”

“My God exists, and the proof is the fact that I’m still alive. Before being struck with that brick, I had prayed to God and He told me you would save me. A woman of ruin.”

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“Your name is Cynthia Ruin, is it not?”

Cynthia stood up from her barstool. “Are you a witch or something?”

Petrina shook  her head. “No.”

“How did you know my name? How did those men know I was pregnant?”

“You’re pregnant?”

“I’m out of here.” Cynthia turned to leave, stomping through the living room, not entirely sure where she was going to go once she left the security of the house. The clan of freaks from the boardwalk could have followed them here and could be waiting outside to ambush her. Cynthia stopped in the middle of the room, frightened at the thought of running into them again. She barely escaped once…she was certain she wouldn’t be able to again.

Petrina came up behind her and sighed. “If you’re going to leave, at least let me pack you a few things. Some food, maybe a weapon you can use in case you run into them again. You have a baby to protect, you know? I can’t let you just walk out there without some sort of protection.” She left the room, walking up the stairs toward the second floor.

Cynthia realized it might not be such a bad idea to stay here for a while. At least a day or two, let the boardwalk freaks get over their hang ups. Then she could travel safely to the next city. Set up shop there, find another apartment.

She stood near a large glass armoire full of miniature ceramic figurines and glass sculptures. Something in the case caught her attention and pulled it away from everything else around it - a statuette of a black cathedral. She drew closer to the case and gazed longingly at the statuette, realizing she had seen it somewhere before. In a dream.

“That was my husband's,” Petrina said, appearing behind her as if she had never left the room. “He purchased it at a swap mart a few days before the stars fell.”

Cynthia wasn’t sure why she asked the question, but her mouth blurted out, “May I hold it?”

Petrina glared suspiciously at her for a moment or two, and then opened the case, pulling out the statuette. “Please be careful with it.”

“I will,” Cynthia said, taking the object from her. Chills ran through her arms.

“I don’t have any idea where it originally came from,” Petrina explained, keeping a close eye on Cynthia and the statuette. “I just remember my husband being mesmerized by it. He was like a little kid in a candy store when he first saw it. An old woman - she looked like a gypsy with her rags and the way she was old and frail - was selling them at a little kiosk at the swap mart. I don’t usually like strange things like this in my home, but he had his little heart set on it so I couldn’t say no.”

Cynthia examined the statue. One tall tower that resembled a black spire was flanked by three - no four - smaller towers. It was the same tower from her dream of Ryn. She turned the tower over to reveal an etching, something done in a line of symbols that Cynthia didn’t understand.

Petrina reached out to take the statuette back, and Cynthia started to give it to her, but then her heart screamed at her not to. Something was strange about it, something about the way the black material it was made of shimmered in the lighting of the living area.  Something about the way the cathedral had been carved, with intricate lines and patterns embedded within the walls of the construct. And was that a small, stained glass window above the carved doorway?

The cathedral is Ryn’s world. The one he offered me to live in with him.

She noticed Petrina was pulling on the statuette now. “Do you mind putting that back now? It means a lot to me.”

“I can’t,” she whispered.

“Excuse me?” Petrina grabbed hold of the statue and attempted to wrestle it from Cynthia’s grip, but
Cynthia wasn’t ready to give it up. Not yet. Not ever. She pushed Petrina and the older woman fell to the couch.

“This is mine now. I’m taking it with me.”

“With you?” Petrina got to her feet. “You’re stealing me from? Stealing the item my dead husband cherished so much?”

Cynthia’s eyes were glued onto the statue, studying every line, every detail. She closed her eyes and felt a strange bond with the statue, a synergy. It was as if the statue called to her, as if it was a living breathing entity. As if it were Ryn.

“Give it back!” Petrina shouted, grabbing Cynthia’s arm. Cynthia struggled with the woman, but Petrina made a wild swing, hitting Cynthia in the mouth. She stumbled back and her head went through the glass of the armoire. Her back arched, she stayed still and silent, feeling the sharp broken shards of glass cutting through her neck.

Petrina went to help Cynthia, but Cynthia swung the statuette at her, warning her to keep away, even though she could feel the warm blood streaming out of her wounds. She kicked Petrina in the stomach, sending her to the couch again.

“I can help you!” Petrina screamed.

Cynthia’s body hung from the door of the armoire, her neck bleeding out across the furniture and the carpet. She cradled the statue as she would a baby…her baby…her precious little one whom she loved more than anyone - anything. She rubbed the statue and droplets of her blood stained the shimmering surface.

Petrina was shouting at the top of her lungs, scrambling to get off the couch. Her words came to Cynthia in fragments, and Cynthia kept kicking at her, cursing her, warning her to stay away from her cathedral. In a deep part of her mind and soul, Cynthia knew she was dying, bleeding out here in the living room of the woman she had rescued from the clutches of evil. Was there really anything special about this statue, about this inanimate object? It was a carving, of a cathedral. That was all. Nothing special. Nothing but the shimmering surface, the attention to detail in the stained glass window which depicted three colorful spheres. Nothing special.

Cynthia’s body finally fell to the floor. She took the statue with her and then cradled it as she felt her neck become lighter and the moisture in the carpet grow under her head. Petrina was at her side now, pressing towels to Cynthia’s neck, attempting to save the girl’s life.

But it was too late.

Her heart slowed and she found she couldn’t hold her eyes open any longer. It was the end. The end of the dark road to redemption. She had done her part, saving Petrina. But was it only to steal from her, to take the one token she had left of her deceased companion? Them’s the breaks, Cynthia thought. Them’s the breaks.

Will you come to me now? Will you be my dark princess?

She smiled. Yes, she answered the voice in her spirit. Yes, I’ll come to you now. I’m sorry I ran, I’m sorry I resisted.

She felt a tender embrace tug at every inch of her skin.

Come to me. I’ve been waiting for you.

Cynthia Scarlet Ruin felt darkness wrap around her. An energy or a pulse of some sort beat within the statue, within the dark cathedral, and she knew somehow that it was taking her life. Taking the breath from her lungs, the beat from her heart, the life from her bones. It was turning her into a shell, into a casing, empty and lifeless.

But the insides of that shell were going to someplace so much greater than this dark world.

Petrina’s voice could no longer be heard. Nothing could be heard but silence. Long silence.

Copyright © 2012 David N. Alderman 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Punch It, Chewie!

I don't have much to blog about today, only because I'm closing in on the deadline to turn my current manuscript in to my editor. It has to be in her email inbox March 15th - next week - and I still have a TON of work to do on it. The good thing is, I really believe I can reach my goal, but it's probably going to involve some all-nighters this week. And that's okay, because it will be worth it at the end.

Once I hand Black Earth: Dark Masquerade off to my editor, I will be starting on Black Earth: Bridge to Eternity (tentative title), the fourth - and final - volume in my Black Earth series, immediately. This is because the deadline for that book is May 15th, leaving me only two months to transform a NaNoWriMo draft into an award-winning, bestselling ending to an epic series.

Anyway, I'm off to brew some more coffee, down some more sugar cookies, and see how fast I can make the Kessel run. I'll still be posting an excerpt from my draft work on Dark Masquerade this Wednesday, so keep your eyes peeled!

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Hutt Gambit (Star Wars, The Han Solo Trilogy #2) - Book Review

As I sail through my 2012 reading list, I am really glad I decided to start it out with my favorite series of all time - the Han Solo trilogy by A.C. Crispin. I am now in the second novel in the series, The Hutt Gambit, and in this second installment, Han finds himself kicked out of the Imperial Navy with a Wookie - Chewbacca - glued to his side, indebted to him for saving the giant furball from slavery. And so starts the next chapter in Solo's adventurous life.

I love reading about Han's first confrontation with Boba Fett, learning how he and Chewbacca became the best of friends, and discovering where Lando Calrissian fits into everything. This chapter of Han's saga also explains how he obtained the Millennium Falcon. The Hutts make a grand appearance, and it's interesting to get an up-close look at Hutt politics and society. We also get a glimpse at some of Han's romantic relationships - post Bria, and pre Leia.

Although I am enamored by A.C. Crispin's writing of these epic novels, this book is not without a minor flaw or two. My biggest complaint is that at times - especially during Han's interactions with some of the smuggler folk of Nar Shaddaa - the dialogue seems to get a bit corny and seems to lose its rugged Star Wars feel. I found myself laughing at the way some of the smugglers interacted with each other, especially during the period they are planning their defense against the Imperial's invasion of their planet. That minor annoyance is not enough to make me want to put the book down by any means, but it was clear there was room for improvement in terms of dialogue and character personalities.

One thing I really liked about this book was that it begins to weave many subplots that become vital story lines later in the series and in the Star Wars universe as a whole. This includes the drama between the Hutt clans - including Han's first interactions with Jabba, Bria Tharen - Han's ex love - and her contribution to the formation of the Rebel Alliance, and the tightening of the iron fist of the Empire. This is definitely a great series to pick up before or after watching the original films, as the events in the novels lead up to the point we first see Han in A New Hope.