Friday, January 31, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #5 - Jed

Jed chugged back the ale and slammed the thick mug down on the marble bar. The sound did nothing to startle the multitude of patrons within Saddle’s Sasspire, but it did gain the attention of the fine young woman who had been standing near the jukebox. Jed picked her out of the crowd earlier, when he noticed the bright cerulean blouse she wore. The color stuck out to him, reminded him of something from his past, but he couldn’t remember what. Her blouse was simply a trigger to get him to start wondering what it was he was supposed to be remembering.

Unfortunately, Jed’s memory had been a little foggy after his second ale. Now that he had just finished his fifth, he found it tough to think at all.

The woman with the blue blouse made her way to him, her thick black hair streaming off her shoulders like liquid shadow. She wore a tight black pencil skirt, something most of the ladies wore in this part of Aberfield. The pencil skirt was dress code in most of the office buildings in the financial district. But here in the slums, she stood out like a tiger on a horses rump.

“Had enough to drink?” she asked, leaning against the bar, her eyes making visual contact with Jed’s. She looked a bit blurry through the ale, but still just as pretty as when he was sober.

“I’ve never had enough to drink,” he mumbled.


“It wasn’t meant to be funny.” Jed pushed his mug toward the bartender. “Another.”

The tall, thin man finished drying out a mug with his rag and shook his head. “No more for you tonight.”

“You kidding me?” Jed asked, pointing at the bartender, his finger swaying left and right.

“No. Policy,” he answered, pointing behind him to the black and red sign taped to the glass mirror:

“That’s a load of hogwash,” Jed  muttered. “I’ve only had five.”

“You’ve had eight,” the bartender corrected. “Have to follow rules.”

“Rules. This damn world and its rules. Can’t a guy drink until he can’t drink no more?”

“Not here,” the bartender answered.

“It was a rhetorical question.”

The woman in the blue blouse touched Jed’s chin lightly with her delicate fingertips and turned his head so he was looking into her face. “I hear you do jobs...for money.”

He let out a quick laugh, like the crack of a whip. “Doesn’t everyone do jobs for money?”

“Clever. You know what I mean though.”

“Do I?” Jed slid off the barstool and stood to his feet. He waited a few moments for the floor to stop moving and then started to make his way toward the entrance.

“Where does a man like you find himself on a night like this?” she asked loudly.

Jed stopped just short of the dining room, a thick wall of cigar smoke filling the cluster of round tables and wooden chairs. “Every night I find myself in the same place. Hell.” He stared at the wood flooring for a moment, waiting again for it to stop moving. The woman came up behind him. She didn’t reach out for him or put a hand on his shoulder or take his hand. She simply stood behind him, her hands folded behind her back, and whispered in his ear.

“Your wife is dead.”

He turned toward her. “You best go back to your music machine, lady. I have no policy against hitting women. Especially women who have no issue coming into a place like this.”

“I’m stating a fact. Your wife is dead. You have nothing now, except your fermented liver and a trigger finger that can’t get enough.”

“I don’t do those kind of jobs anymore.”

“Maybe you should. Might make you feel better about your wife dying.”

“Yeah, well, my trigger finger felt better when I blew holes through the man who took her life.”

“You’re lying. You don’t feel better. That’s why you’re in here every night, wallowing in your sorrow, drinking the bartender under the counter.”

“Oh, lady, I didn’t say I felt better. I said my trigger finger felt better. So good, in fact, that it decided it didn’t need to work anymore. It’s retired now. No more shooting. No more killing. Nothing. Now, get your pretty little ass back to the music machine and get the hell away from me.”

The woman took his hand in hers, and before he could protest, his vision filled with darkness. At first he thought she had caused him to go blind, but then images began to materialize upon the dark backdrop – images of a red army, its numbers filling the desert. They were attacking something big, a blurred object off to the side of his vision. He waited a few moments, and the blurred object came into focus: a cylindrical tower with spiraling stairs that wrapped around the outside, moving up and up and up until it disappeared into the dark clouds.

His vision filled with the bar scene again, and he fell flat on his rear end. Some of the patrons laughed, but nobody really paid him much mind. The woman reached her hand down toward him and helped him to his feet.

“You’re a Sayer,” he whispered. “I thought your kind were extinct.”

She shook her head. “No. I’m not like them. I don’t have multiple visions. Only one. That one.”

“Why did you show it to me?”

“I’m in charge of the well-being of the tower you saw. The Princeton. And I’m going to need your help defending it.”

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Survivor is Born (Tomb Raider Review)

I grew up around Lara Croft, but I didn't grow up with Lara Croft, if that makes sense. While everyone was oogling over one of video game's first female protagonists during her debut on the Playstation, I was busy being loyal to Nintendo and a certain well-known plumber.

That being said, over the past few years, I've made it a point to see what all the hoopla is about. My first Tomb Raider game was Legend on my PS2, and then Anniversary on the same system. Legend's level layout, gameplay, and story was decent, and I especially loved the character costumes you could unlock for Lara in her mansion. Anniversary was good, but because it was a remake of one of the original Tomb Raider games, it didn't seem to bring anything new to the table that I hadn't already seen in Legend.

A few months ago, my brother began prodding me to grab a copy of the latest Tomb Raider incarnation. During the holidays, I managed to spot it at Target for only $15 brand new, but I still wasn't convinced it was a game that I wanted to add to my ever-expanding list of 2014 titles for my Xbox 360. Then, just before Christmas, I stumbled across a $10 price tag for a brand new copy of the game at I grabbed it, and I have to put this decision in the top ten best decisions I've made in my life.

Tomb Raider is Crystal Dynamic's reboot of the Lara Croft character. The story places Lara at the very
beginning of her tomb-raiding adventures, when she's a mere adventurer on the ship Endurance. The passengers aboard Endurance venture into the Dragon's Triangle to search for the lost kingdom of Yamatai. And as most video game stories go, this is where everything hits the fan. A storm wipes out the boat, and Lara and her team are tossed on an island full of cult members, mercenaries, and strange supernatural happenings. A man named Mathias is attempting to resurrect the Sun Queen, and Lara is pulled by fate to put a stop to it before he tosses the island into utter annihilation.

But unlike most video games (at least the ones I've played) the story that takes Lara from innocent, timid, inexperienced young girl to brutal, assertive, seasoned woman is one of the best and most believable that I've ever played through. What makes the story more believable is the decision by the game designers to tone down Lara's sexuality and focus more on her character. While Lara was a video game sex icon in earlier years because of her well-endowed pixels, this incarnation of Tomb Raider forms a much more serious character.

Throughout the game, Lara's friends are being abducted and killed, she's being kidnapped and nearly-molested, and through the whole experience, you cringe at the various damage Lara takes - gunshot, fractures, scrapes, falls, etc. Her character is fragile, and you feel that fragility when you play as her during most of the first half of the game. She is a victim, she is afraid, and she is scrambling to find anything she can get her hands on to survive her next encounter with any and all who would try to harm her. The game itself is gritty, with dark themes surrounding a cult and its bloodthirsty followers, lending to the game's realism and edgy tone.

What I love most about this game is that Lara's story isn't one about revenge. The people close to her get killed off or abducted, and Lara herself is beaten, shot, cut, and other things. But this isn't a story about her going on a vendetta. It's a story about her trying to do the right thing and surviving to that point. Her origin story is about turning her from victim to survivor, and a survivor who goes on to become one of video gaming's most endearing and well-known adventurers. And you truly feel that survivor theme shaping her character as you progress through the game. The writers did such a wonderful job with her story, and the game designers did an equally impressive job building a game to show off that story.

As far as gameplay elements go, Tomb Raider does exceedingly well. Throughout the game, you collect salvage from enemies and crates and can use that salvage to upgrade your weapons, and a simplistic skill-tree turns Lara from a trembling flower into a brutal opponent. For completionists, which I am, there is much in this game to appease your obsession to find every little trinket that a game has to offer. Treasure maps, GPS caches, journals telling the backstory of the island, and of course artifacts litter each section of the game. There are also ancient tombs you will stumble across, each of which offers up a satisfying puzzle to solve for even more treasure. Along with all the goodies you can grab, there are also unique challenges such as find five of this item or destroy three of that item. And you'll eventually grab a skill that allows you to see treasures and then have them marked on your map. Fast travel between camps allows you to go back to previous locations and scramble to grab everything. The system is set up to make it convenient but not overly easy to reach 100% game completion.

This game easily fits into my top five favorite games of all time. The game didn't take me too long to complete, but the experience itself more than makes up for the lack of a fifty-hour runthrough I'm used to with games like Skyrim. I will be making it a point to go back and play the game all the way through again sometime in the near future, just because I loved the experience so much.

Tomb Raider also has multiplayer, but I haven't dived into that too much yet, and I probably never will. The only negative thing I have to say about this game is that 15 of the possible 50 achievements are multiplayer based, making them an agonizing task for those of us who don't like multiplayer but want to gain all achievements in our Xbox 360 game. 

Photos - Square Enix

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Spigot - Brand New Black Earth Story On The Untold Podcast

The Spigot is a story I recently wrote for Nathan Norman's Untold Podcast. Nathan turned the story into an audio drama, and I would love to have you all listen to it if you get a chance. The Spigot takes place after the events of my Black Earth series, but doesn't contain any spoilers really, so you can take a listen even if you haven't picked up any of the books in my series.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Taking Inventory

I know it’s been a while since I actually blogged on something deep. I’ve had my Flash Fiction Fridays and project updates, but that’s pretty much been it lately. Now that we’re finally through the holiday season, I have time to take a deep breath and start refocusing my efforts on what’s really important both in my personal life and in my writer life.

I have devotional time with God each morning, and lately I’ve made it a point to try and read the Bible from start to finish. The other day I began the Book of Numbers. The Book of Numbers can be a bit rough to get through because a lot of it deals with the census that God required the Israelites to take so they could prepare themselves to enter the promised land. When I read through the first chapter, I came across a side note in my Bible that talked about how we need to take inventory of our own resources whenever we get to a crossroads in our life – to take a census of all that we have: relationships, possessions, spiritual health, and even our time and goals.

I think this process is especially important where I’m at in my life right now. My wife and I moved here to the Bay Area almost a year ago to help start a church plant. When I first moved here, I nearly allowed the move and the church plant to deplete me of my own vision and calling to be a writer. Now I find myself no longer associated with the church plant and most of those involved with it, living in one of the most populated areas in California, and with my writing sales at a standstill.

This is hardly where I imagined my writing career would be at more than four years after I set out to do this full time. This isn’t to say that I’m where I’m not supposed to be. I fully believe that God orchestrated me to the place I’m at now. I am truly blessed to even be able to live in the Bay Area, stay at home with my son, and write for a living.

But, I’m at the very beginning of a brand new season, a rest stop of a sort, a place to evaluate my writing career and the direction I would truly like it to go in before I begin taking those first few steps into this season.

When I first started this journey to be a stay-at-home self-published author, I had no clue how to market, how to social network, how to really do a lot of things that are required of a self-published author nowadays. I did my best to get word out about my books, I even did book signings at the local used bookstores. I read articles full of advice from other self-published authors, many of which contradicted other articles that I read from other self-published authors. I stumbled and struggled through the process to try and figure out what I should be spending my time on – do you market all the time, write all the time, split it down the middle, or something in between all of that?

Now I’m at a point where I wake up in the morning and realize I am spinning a few dozen plates with none of them really having much direction. I keep announcing new projects that I’m not able to follow through on, set unattainable deadlines for books that I am writing, and pour myself into things that do nothing but eat my time and give little to nothing in return – such as Facebook.

It’s time to take inventory. Time to pour over the resources I have at my disposal and figure out better ways to use them to reach my end goal. God has given me so much, but I know I waste some of it simply by underestimating how valuable it can be. Like time.

So, here’s me taking inventory. At least for the first half of this year. These are projects I can solidly commit to, things I can honestly say I have the desire to pour my time and energy into:

The Crossover Alliance Anthology
Of Dreams and Faith
The LZR Project
Dark Horizons (Expired Reality #3)

These things will get done before the summertime, at which point I’ll evaluate my project list for the second half of the year.

For those who have been following me on Facebook, I am going to be streamlining some things this next week. I have too many pages to keep track of, so I’ll be shutting down my Black Earth and Expired Reality pages and streamlining all Black Earth and Expired Reality related announcements through my official author page, David N. Alderman.

And for those of you who have signed up for my email newsletter, I will be putting out a newsletter each month which will announce all of my projects and my progress on them. I will also be using my digital mailing list to send out various announcements, such as the release of a new project. I promise not to get too crazy with the emails, but I want to make sure I am keeping in contact with my fan base and spreading the word about the things that I am working on. If you still have yet to sign up for my newsletter, you can do it from the home page of my website.

I have an expectant attitude for this year. I expect to start making headway in the world (regarding influence) with my writing. But that expectancy has to be paired with prayer, effort, and wisdom or it’s all a pointless endeavor. The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions. I need to make sure that’s not the direction I’m headed in with my writing career.

Photo Credit - Seabamirum

Friday, January 24, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #4 - Silhouettes

My eyes may someday be my downfall. Would it be better to be blind? Would it be the best thing if I carved these tiny orbs out of my head and simply covered the dark recesses with a decorative blindfold? I’ve considered it many times. Many times. But I couldn’t do that. I have an aversion to pain. And I like being able to see.

But I don’t like being able to see the black and blue. I peer out across the concourse of the main subway station and I see a sea of black silhouettes – people. People like me, going to and from their daily routines. Nothing out of the ordinary. No terrorist bomber in the station. No nuclear holocaust. Nothing to cause alarm. Not with them, anyway.

Amid those black silhouettes the blue bleeds out like paint. Some have more than others. There are some I have to stare at for a moment to find the blue. But the thing about the blue is that it’s always there on each and every one of them. Each is a spotted lamb. Each is a marred creation.

Each has sinned.

The power I have been given is more a nuisance than anything else. It’s what I do with the knowledge this power grants me that is the real curse. I cannot help myself. The blue gives me desire to cleanse the silhouettes and make them black again. To erase the sin. To rid my vision of that horrible blue that reminds me of the sky in the middle of a sunny day.

There are some who I approach and convince to repent. Sometimes I get to see them weeks later and their silhouette is much cleaner than before. It makes me somewhat glad, but it does not take away this pain I have within me. The pain of insanity. So much blue. Some who I approach don’t listen to me, and I am tempted to purge them of the blue completely and finally.

There is one silhouette I cannot look upon though. One particular silhouette that if I were to see, I would fall off the ledge of anxiety and sink into utter madness.

My own.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday #3 - Crash

Yes, Flash Fiction Fridays are back! After taking a bit of a hiatus for the holidays, I'm back with my weekly dose of writing nirvana. Enjoy!

Pain in my left shoulder tells me I’m alive. It’s funny how pain – something we dread when we’re alive – can actually prove to us that we are alive. The pain is minor compared to the new pain swelling up in my right leg. A great weight is bearing down on it, but I haven’t the strength to open my eyes and see for myself what that great weight is. I just know that I’m in trouble.

The sound of rain pouring down around me brings to memory the storm. I was on a plane...going down somewhere over the jungles of Peru. Why...the plane was hit by a meteorite. Took out the left wing. Much like my left shoulder has been taken out, only the plane’s wing wasn’t just wounded, it was disintegrated in the blazing fire the meteorite was hurling toward Earth in. That’s why we fell.

We. I wonder if the others are still alive.

I force my eyes to open. Splintered wood and charred metal surround me in tangled heaps. I can only guess that our plane crashed into a wooden structure of some kind. Maybe a house. Maybe a temple. I don’t know. All I know is that I’m on a cliff. The sky is overcast and the rain is coming down as hard as it was when the meteorite fell, only I have a large section of the plane’s belly dangling above me to shield me from its onslaught.

I try to move and look down to find my leg pinned by a massive beam of wood. Oak, I think. I don’t think my leg is broken. I pull on it to see if it will budge, but it refuses. It is a stubborn piece of wood.

“Help!” I shout. My voice echoes through the canyons, reverberating my voice, patronizing my efforts to seek aid. Nobody calls back. Why would they? Everyone is dead. I just know it. I can feel it in my bones, sense it in my spirit. I am the only one left.

Lightning flashes across the sky. Thunder peels a mere second later. The storm knows I am the only one left, and it seeks to finish me off. The rain comes down harder, shifting – little by little – the curvature of the plane belly above me. The belly sits on a haphazard formation of oak beams, slipping with each powerful droplet of rainwater that beats against it.

If I must die, I guess I’ll die knowing I was the temporary survivor of Flight 287. I’ll also die knowing that the rumors that came out of the United States regarding the falling stars were true. I wonder where that infernal rock that hit our plane actually went.

Lightning flashes again, and the rain comes down harder, shifting the metal curvature above me even more. The right side slips off the oak beam holding it up, and I breathe in the fresh scent of rain for the last time.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Crossover Alliance Anthology - Call For Submissions

For many months now, I have been doing my best to build up a small community I call The Crossover Alliance. This community is formed of readers and writers who both create and appreciate reading edgy Christian speculative fiction - the genre that all of my fiction writing falls into. While a community is a very challenging thing to build from scratch - especially around a genre that has been built from scratch - sometimes you have to push a little harder to get things to the next level.

It was suggested to me a while ago that an anthology would be a great project to put together, seeing how our small community is full of writers who write in this marvelous genre, and putting out a call for submissions to such a project would help bring attention to our little corner of the world.

I am proud to say that we are now looking for submissions for the first Crossover Alliance Anthology, a collection of short written pieces that represent edgy Christian speculative fiction. All proceeds from the sales of The Crossover Alliance Anthology will be used toward maintenance and promotion of The Crossover Alliance community.

The Crossover Alliance Anthology will be published Summer 2014 in ebook (digital) format for various readers including Kindle, Nook, and the Sony Reader, and in paperback via Createspace. Entries will be accepted beginning Monday, January 27th, and the deadline for all entries is Saturday, March 15th, 2014. The tentative release date for the anthology will be Tuesday, June 24th.

Head here - - for submission guidelines and some quick info on the group who will be reading and voting on what pieces get included in the anthology.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January Update

Is it really 2014 already? I feel old. I remember watching the clock strike midnight in 2000, waiting for Y2K to send our country back into the Dark Ages. I was working at Jack-in-the-Box that year as an assistant manager and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. This New Years I spent some time with my dad and watched the ball drop in Times Square, grateful for family and this awesome journey God has had me on.

Anyway, I digress. Now that the holidays are behind me and the new year is before me, it's time to start sinking my teeth into my list of 2014 writing projects. Those of you who have been following my email newsletter and/or blog know that I have quite a lineup of awesome stuff coming down the line this year: VRKA, The LZR Project, Of Dreams and Faith, and Flash Fiction Fridays (which will resume next Friday, January 17th). I am also finishing a story for The Untold Podcast, something fans of my Black Earth and Expired Reality series will enjoy.

Aside from those specific projects, I am also going to be giving some serious attention to this blog. I have some personal experiences I have been wanting to write about and some great posts I want to put out in regards to my writing process as well, so in the next couple of weeks my blog will be off and running with more content than you can fit into Mary Poppin's bag.