It’s finally Fall!

Hello Fall! Oh how I have missed you! The turning of the leaves! The blessedly cold air! The stews, bread, and other cold weather food! Ah, it’s my favorite time of year!

August was a bit of a rough month, as you can tell by the fact that I didn’t have an update for you last month. I had a bit of a mental health hit, but thanks to adjustments to my daily brain chemistry supplement, I’m doing much better.

I also started a new novel called Nemetona, which was based on an idea I got while considering writing for LeVar Burton’s Short Story Contest for his podcast. I didn’t end up entering the contest because the idea expanded into novel size, and well, here we are. Coming off of August, it was hard for me to sit at the computer and write because I kept distracting myself with things like YouTube, new fountain pens, and other various things. So instead of typing the novel right now, I decided to put my collection of fountain pens and notebooks to good use and am writing it longhand. It’s been working pretty well so far (as in, I’m actually writing the dang thing!).

The notebook I’ve been using is awesome. I had to scour the internet to find more of them, but finally found a local supplier. What kind of notebook is this, you ask? From what I understand, the format is called the Oxford Lecture notebook. It’s lined, but with a blank one inch margin on the right. I love it because I can make novel notes in the margin without having to squeeze it between the text, or fight with the binding and holes! The one in the picture is from Clairefontaine (link is in French) so it has beautiful paper for use with fountain pens.

Speaking of pens and ink, I have new stuff!

The three inks are three more Pilot Iroshizuku inks. I’m quite obsessed with these inks. The colors are amazing, and the inks just work with any pen I throw at them. I think I have about half the collection now. I will collect them all!

The orange pen I bought from Jetpens and is called the Moonman pen from Korea. The cool thing about this pen is that you can swap out the regular fountain pen nib for a glass pen nib! I haven’t tried using the glass nib for writing yet, but I might try it later.

Underneath the Moonman pen is the new TWSBI Swipe, which is TWSBI’s first cartridge pen. This is also my first stub nib and I really dig it. It makes my writing look good without trying real hard! The grey capped pen next to it is a TWSBI Eco with a stub nib, which I just got today. All TWSBIs just really work so well and I adore them!

The funky looking pen in the picture is yet another Rotring Core pen. This one is black and blue-grey. My lord, these pens are my new obsession! They’re really comfortable to write with and have that cool scifi look about them. (And I’m super excited because I have a red and black one on the way!!) I still think it’s a shame that Rotring stopped making these pens.

I’ve been reading a lot lately since I’m backing off of most social media for awhile. Most of the books I’ve been reading are spicy romances because it’s hard for me to read other scifi while writing scifi. This month I’ve been reading Gail Carriger’s San Andreas Shifter’s series. If you like steamy paranormal gay male werewolf romance, then this will hit the spot. (Pun intended.) If you like your shifter smut of the cis het variety, I can recommend Zoe Chant’s Bodyguard Shifters series (actually, I’ve read a good chunk of all of her series, and all that I’ve read are fun, steamy reads with happy endings).

One more book note before I get back to novel writing: I’ve pushed out the publication date for the Survey series until early next year. No major problems or anything, it’s just logistics. I also want to say big thanks to my beta readers for being awesome people!

Released

The Four Keys – Download or get a paperback version from Amazon: US LinkGerman Link

I write fanfiction, too (all PG/PG-13): AO3 Fanfiction

In Progress

Survey Foundation Series

Survey: In the far future, on a globally sponsored science station, a woman discovers the key to making a functional AGI work in the midst of political unrest. (First Draft Complete – with beta readers)

Unity: A military chaplain and her bodyguard get embroiled in a major conspiracy that threatens the humans colonies of Unity and the AIs Nation of Survey. (First Edit Pass Complete – with beta readers )

Colony: After the events of Unity, Jenny returns to her home colony where she, Lulu and another agent realize that someone else was also behind the New Harmonists pulling strings. (First Draft Complete! –with beta readers)

Consortium: After the events of Unity, Jack and Marsha get assigned by Survey to help an AI who had been exiled and has asked for help. (First Draft Complete– with beta readers)

Legend Series

Nemetona: A lone Captain and his AI answer a distress call from a sentient species who are dying. (Writing — Longhand, so I don’t know the word count yet.)

Mercury Series

Mercury: The Mercury Generation Ship begins it’s journey to the Andromeda galaxy. (Started, but stalled.)

Rainy July with Fountain Pens

It’s almost the end of July, and I’ve been busy writing and editing. I’ve finished my initial edit passes of the first series of books, and they’re now with my beta readers. I still hope to have the books out by the end of the year, and the Wife and I are also looking into audiobook options. Watch this space!

The other thing about having the first four books out with my beta readers is that now I can start writing the next series of books I have in my head! I started making notes today and some lists about what’s going to be in each of the books and about characters. I’m excited for this series, since I get to go even more in-depth with some of my world’s culture that I couldn’t fit into the first four books. 

In other words, I have a whole new set of characters to torture! Poor things…

I’m not sure if it’s good or bad, but the weather in Zurich has been conducive to hunkering in my little bat cave while doing lots of writing and editing. Either it’s thunder storming and flooding, or it’s too hot leave my air conditioned room for long periods of time. (Long story short: I take SSRIs which cause me problems with regulating body temperature in the heat.) The thunderstorms are pretty dramatic here, but a couple of weeks ago we had a storm that reminded me of the times I’d been through a hurricane! The Wife and I had to run around closing windows and picking up hailstones the size of ping pong balls from the floor! It was a bit scary.

I haven’t been really reading much lately so I don’t have any books to recommend at the moment, but I do have a lot of new fountain pen things to show off!

This month’s pen haul is 5 pens and some more Pilot Iroshizuku ink! The black pen is my first Montegrappa pen, the Zero Gold, and it’s rather lovely. Nice weighty pen with a nib that has nice bit of feedback. Still trying to find the best ink for it, though, and may have to get some Montegrappa cartridges.

The three TWSBIs are the mini versions of the Eco, Diamond 580, and Vac 700. I now own all versions of TWSBI pens. The topmost pen with the cap off is actually my first broad nib. I filled it with the shin-ryoku ink, and it writes beautifully! I’ve always been a staunch fine nib person, but I think the larger nibs are starting to grow on me.

The green-ish pen on the right is my first Visconti pen, and it’s the “Iris” pen from their Van Gogh collection. First, I LOVE Van Gogh! He’s my favorite impressionist painter. Second, this pen really captures the colors from his Iris painting perfectly. I have no idea how they did that, but it’s spectacular! And third, the pen has a lovely magnetic cap that is just so satisfying to take on and off. It writes like a dream and feels really amazing in the hand.

And look at the box it comes in! I mean, really:

I’m in love.

I also got yet another awesome thing from Galen Leather:

This is a wallet that fits the passport sized Traveler’s Notebook. It’s really lovely, like all things from Galen Leather. The pen loop holds my Kaweco Liliput quite nicely! And the leather smell…oMG!

I also recently got these:

These are called EarHugz, and they work a treat! See, my only gripe about the Bose QuietComfort headphones was that the leather would get hot and sweaty, then stick to my ears (yuck). I tried to find some cloth earcup replacements, but couldn’t find them. Then the Wife suggested finding some sort of cover (like pilots do with their headphones), and I found these! They have a lot of cute designs. The donut ones are called “The Homer” (of course). Definitely recommend! Bonus: for each one you buy, they give money to a mental health charity. Win!

Well, it’s time for bed. Or to watch some Olympic coverage. Or both. Tomorrow, I start more novels!

Released

The Four Keys – Download or get a paperback version from Amazon: US Link German Link

I write fanfiction, too (all PG/PG-13): AO3 Fanfiction

In Progress

Survey: In the far future, on a globally sponsored science station, a woman discovers the key to making a functional AGI work in the midst of political unrest. (First Draft Complete –  162K words – editing)

Unity: A military chaplain and her bodyguard get embroiled in a major conspiracy that threatens the humans colonies of Unity and the AI Nation of Survey. (First Edit Pass Complete – 137K words – editing )

Colony: After the events of Unity, Jenny returns to her home colony where she, Lulu and another agent realize that someone else was behind the New Harmonists pulling strings. (First Draft Complete! — 133K words –editing)

Consortium: After the events of Unity, Jack and Marsha get assigned by Survey to help an AI who had been exiled and has asked for help. (First Draft Complete – 143K words – editing)

Mercury: Beginning of sequel series to Survey Intragalactic series. (Planning and beginning of first draft.)

It’s hot. So hot.

It’s summer in Zurich. 

And it’s friggin’ hot.

We bought a new portable AC for my room, so I have temporarily moved my computer into my bedroom so I can work on my writing without turning into a puddle of hot goo. My body is so not made for heat. It’s made for cold. (Plus, I take anti-anxiety meds on top of that which wreak havoc on the body when it’s hot.)

My original setup was this:

First Summer Setup

Which was fine when I was finishing my recent novel (YAY!). But now that I’m editing, I realized that a) editing, at least for me, is near impossible on the iPad, b) my computer is an Intel Nuc which is super tiny, and c) I have two monitors on my normal setup. Now, my summer setup looks like this:

2nd Summer Setup

I don’t know why, but I find it highly amusing that the laptop stand I got from Ikea, which my keyboard is sitting on, has a cup holder. Oh, and the keyboard that I use is the Kinesis Advantage 2, which you will have to pry out of my cold dead hands. Seriously, this keyboard is awesome! Surprise bonus: It’s easy to type on with long nails!

The Google Nest Audio is pretty good (the roundish-rectangular box under the monitor), and I can recommend it, especially if you use Spotify. 

Anyway, since it’s been above 30 C (86 F) for a week and a half or so now, having the AC in my room has been a godsend! It also meant that I was able to finish novel #4 (Colony)!!!! YAY!! 

I’m doing my usual “Holy crap! I wrote a thing!” for the last few days. 

This also means I’ve started the editing process, and it’s a bit surreal, as if I’m reading someone else’s work, but I know it’s mine. I also know I’m much closer to having it released and Out There, which is both a little terrifying, but very happy making!

Of course, I’ve gotten some new pen related stuff recently!

The leather folio is from Galen Leather, and it fits Leuchtturm1917 journals (my favorite fountain pen friendly journals) quite nicely. Galen Leather is the same company that made my wooden pen holders and other leather cases. I highly recommend them for really nice writing and pen gear! And they really have to stop sending me emails with stuff I want to buy, because I am really jonesing for the Writer’s Box. They had me at “historical reproduction.” *sigh*

Also in that picture, you’ll see I have this new teeny tiny pen. It’s a solid brass Kaweco Liliput pen (the pink pen next to is a Pilot Vanishing Point, for scale). It’s so cute, but with the weight, it’s not bad at all to write with! I also dig that you have to screw the cap on the end to post it, which also makes it a bit longer when you’re writing, too.

So, if you need me in the next couple of months, I’ll be here in my air conditioned bat cave, editing. Or writing tiny short stories based on my novels on Twitter with the writing prompts from #vss365. Or watching YouTube. 

Recently Read

Mercedes Lackey’s latest Valdemar novel “Beyond” which starts off a series about the founding of Valdemar. I liked it, over all. Two things: there’s a reference to Viva La Dirt League in there (Mornin’! Nice day for fishin’, ain’t it? Huh huh), and well, I think she REALLY disliked Donald Trump. Just sayin’. 4/5

“A Queen from the North” by Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae. This is a great royal romance set in a present time AU. Very cute, and I really liked how the relationship isn’t really about them falling all over each other, but the very real complications of being public figures. 5/5

Released

The Four Keys – Download or get a paperback version from Amazon: US Link German Link

I write fanfiction, too (all PG/PG-13): AO3 Fanfiction

In Progress

Survey: In the far future, on a globally sponsored science station, a woman discovers the key to making a functional AGI work in the midst of political unrest. (First Draft Complete –  142K words – editing)

Unity: A military chaplain and her bodyguard get embroiled in a major conspiracy that threatens the humans colonies of Unity and the AI Nation of Survey. (First Edit Pass Complete – 137K words – editing )

Colony: After the events of Unity, Jenny returns to her home colony where she, Lulu and another agent realize that someone else was behind the New Harmonists pulling strings. (First Draft Complete! — 112K words — with first readers)

Consortium: After the events of Unity, Jack and Marsha get assigned by Survey to help an AI who had been exiled and has asked for help. (First Draft Complete – 143K words – editing)

The Post Where I Write About Dinosaurs (Teaser!)

Wow, the whole month is nearly gone! I almost forgot to post my monthly update! The biggest news it that I am now fully vaccinated! It’s almost surreal to realize I can now leave the house. I’ll still wear a mask because aerosols, and I’m not an idiot, but at least, with the vaccine I won’t die if I get COVID.

It’ll take time to really get used to being able to go out and about again. The Wife and I are going to take it slow, though. Short walks around the neighborhood, etc. Anxiety is real.

On a better note, I’ve been writing the last of the novels for my first series. It’s been a bit rough going, but I’m really liking this story a lot. My favorite characters are “The George” which are brontosaurus like creatures on a colony that is modeled after Switzerland. Here’s an excerpt:

I nodded. “We can do that later. Right now, I have an important appointment with my nephew. If you’d take a seat?” I pointed with my chin towards the benches against the porch railing. I could finally hear the stomping of the George through the forest undergrowth. “Can you hear them, Nicoli? They’re on their way!” Nico forgot his shyness with the strangers, sat up and started waving his George plushie.

“What is that?” asked Marcus with awe.

“Wait,” I said, and a minute later the first George appeared, walking slowly and chewing off tree leaves as it came out of the forest into the clearing. “Remember, quiet, Nicoli,” I said. The child nodded solemnly, but was still waving his George. The first George was taller than the cars that were parked in the driveway, with a long neck and tail, green, scaly skin, and large feet like an elephant. It looked like a smaller version of pictures I’d seen of the Earth dinosaur Brontosaurus. They were sweet animals and Nico was in love with them.

“Oh my,” whispered Marcus as more of the George came out of the forest. 

“What are they?” asked the woman. 

I smiled. “They’re the George, or Onerosus modestus if you want to be scientific about it. They’re the major fauna on this continent. Don’t worry, they’re herbivores.”

“Fascinating,” she said. “But why George?”

I chuckled quietly. “The head of the science team that first came on to Schwyz who discovered them had a four year old who saw them and immediately called them George. No matter what else they tried to call them, George always stuck. They’re a huge favorite with the kids, including Nico here.” Nico looked up at me and smiled, then went back to staring at the George.

More of the George came out of the forest and wandered through the fields, coming towards the house. There were several small George, and when Nico saw them, he whispered, “Un-ka Ya-na! Baby George!”

“I see them! There’s a lot of them this time, aren’t there!”

Nico nodded. I pressed my wristcom to call the others, and Yuna came out first with a large bowl of the local lettuce-type plant. She started at the strangers on the porch, but didn’t say anything. She carefully brought one of the chairs over and sat next to us, handing a large leaf to Nico. His eyes lit up, and with his free hand he held the leaf high. One of the George finally saw the humans and came lumbering over to the porch, and with a deep rumbling “Mmmmwahw,” gently nibbled the leaf from Nico’s hand. Yuna quickly gave him another leaf, the toddler held it up and the George took it. I heard the rest of the family come out of the house, moving slowly with their own bowls. The other George saw the new humans and came over to investigate, including the young ones. Lina went over to Marcus and the woman and handed them her bowl of leaves. Marcus looked dubious, but the woman pulled out a couple of leaves from the bowl and held them up. One of the other George came over, gave its own “Mmmmmwahw,” and nibbled her leaf. When it was done it looked curiously at her bright red hair, leaned over, sniffed, then wuffed at the hair trying to nibble it. I stifled my laugh as she went wide eyed and still. The George, finally figuring out it wasn’t a new kind of leaf, blew out another breath, then went for the bowl of leaves. Marcus took it and held it up for the George, and the George munched happily. 

Yuna leaned over and said to Nico, “You want to feed the babies?” Nico nodded enthusiastically, and Yuna picked him up and took him down the stairs of the porch with the bowl of leaves. The little George came over to investigate, and Yuna helped Nico hold out the leaves for them. They all started to go for the bowl, which set Nico into giggles, which made all of us smile, even Marcus and the woman. 

The woman smiled at me. “Hard to resist baby giggles,” she said, then jumped as another George came up and sniffed her. Marcus put his hand to his mouth as the large creature blew into her hair.

“They must think you’re some sort of weird flower or something, Jess,” said Marcus. 

Lina shook her head. “No, they’ve just never seen a red-headed human before,” she said, quietly. “They’re not afraid of us, really, but are easily startled. My colleagues think that they might think that we’re strangely shaped members of their herds. This is the time of year where the herds start migrating north to spend the summer under the shadow of the Scherbhorn. There’s about ten herds, and most of them come through our fields. We keep their way as clear as we can since they use the same paths each year. They don’t have any natural predators, you see. They’re very gentle herbivores and very curious about us.” As she said that, another of the adults gave out a “Mmmmwah!” and leaned over to get pets from Lina. Another put his head near me, and I reached up with my left hand to give it a scratch near its ear earholes. They gave a satisfied, “MmmmmmmmMM,” stayed for a moment, then continued on it’s way. 

Nico and Yuna came back up the steps, empty bowl in hand, with Nico’s eyes wide and happy. The George let out a chorus of “Mmmmmwah’s” and ambled away from the house. When they had moved out of sight, Nico said, “I fed babies, Un-ka!” 

“I know! I saw! You did a really good job!”

“Bye-bye George!” he yelled at the retreating George. 

“Bye-bye George!” I repeated.

So, obviously, I had to find a George, and I found one!

Insert gleeful giggles here.

I’ve also gained some new pens and ink! In the picture are three really cool bottles of Iron Gall ink from Tools to Liveby in Taiwan. The bottles are cool because you tip them upside down and it fills the top part of the bottle so you can fill your pen, then you put the cap on and press it a few times so the ink goes back into the bottom part of the bottle. So cool!

The really weird looking pen is a Rotring Core fountain pen, which is no longer made by Rotring. If you don’t know Rotring, they are a pen company that makes some of the best pens on the planet! Their fine tip pens are stellar. Well, true to form, this fountain pen is amazing, but weird looking, and writes incredibly well. The grip is odd, but it’s actually comfortable. The only issue I have with it is that you can’t post the cap, but over all, that’s not a big deal. The smaller green pen is a Chinese bladder fill pen, that came as a freebie with the Rotring pen! It also, surprisingly, writes really well. 

I don’t have a picture of them, but I’ve been getting a lot of new ink, too. I’ve got a lot of new Diamine inks, along with more of the Pilot Iroshizuku inks (which I’m really obsessed with for some reason). I’ve got two more new pens on their way, but I’ll show those off next month!

And, last, but by no means least, I also now have a Tardigrade plushie, who is named Paul (after Paul Stamets on Discovery). He, along with my George, are my writing buddies. 🙂

Released

The Four Keys – Download or get a paperback version from Amazon: US Link German Link

I write fanfiction, too (all PG/PG-13): AO3 Fanfiction

In Progress

Survey: In the far future, on a globally sponsored science station, a woman discovers the key to making a functional AGI work in the midst of political unrest. (First Draft Complete –  142K words – with first readers)

Unity: A military chaplain and her bodyguard get embroiled in a major conspiracy that threatens the humans colonies of Unity and the AIs Nation of Survey. (First Edit Pass Complete – 137K words )

Colony: After the events of Unity, Jenny returns to her home colony where she, Lulu and another agent realize that someone else was also behind the New Harmonists. (Writing – 72910 words)

Consortium: After the events of Unity, Jack and Marsha get assigned by Survey to help an AI who had been exiled and has asked for help. (First Draft Complete – 143K words – with first readers)

I finished another one and GO GET VACCINATED!

Woo hoo! I have finished Consortium (#3 of 4) and am doing a bunch of additions and rewrites to Unity (the first one I wrote). Then it’s on to Colony. Then more editing. And after that, the pro-editor hunt begins! And hopefully, by the end of the year, the books will be out! I’m really excited for them to be out.

But, one thing at a time, right?

In other news, I have 3(!) new fountain pens from TWSBI!! Just look at these sexy pens!!

Rose Gold and Black TWSBI EcoT and Diamond 580. They just scream executive! So pretty!
TWSBI Draco Special Edition. Writes awesome and is a sexy best of a pen! Just look at it!

I’ve also started doing the Very Short Story 365 thing on Twitter. Every day is a new word prompt, and I’ve been using it a bit to play with some with my characters. I’ve been liking it a lot. I do it in the morning. It kind of primes the writing pump for the day. If you want to read them, go check out my Twitter!

I also ranted about Progressive Christians and told a super cute story about my neighbor’s kid on my Tumblr. 

And speaking of rants:

I am now among the ranks of the newly vaccinated. I got my first injection of the Pfizer vaccine last Monday. I AM SO FLIPPIN’ HAPPY ABOUT THIS!!! I felt a bit crap for a couple of days after, but then it felt like my body rebooted or something, and I feel great now. I am looking forward to getting the second shot so I can be FULLY VACCINATED! Yee haw!

And if you’re not getting yourself registered to get a vaccine when you can, WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU? DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT NOT DYING? DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT THE REST OF YOUR FAMILY NOT DYING?? REGISTER AND GET YOUR FUCKING VACCINE!

Your crazy, witchy, former-biochemist, Auntie Gina tells you to. (That is, unless you have an actual legit medical reason not to.)

Oh, and while we’re here: WEAR A DAMN MASK! OVER YOUR NOSE AND MOUTH! HAVING IT UNDER YOUR CHIN DOES NOT COUNT! (JFC, I can’t believe how many people leave their nose out of their masks. I mean, the whole point is to cover your nose and mouth! That’s where the aerosols/droplets come from! I mean, come on! It’s not that hard!)

*deep breath*

Just please, go get vaccinated, ok? Feel free to ask me questions if you like. I worked in biotech for 13 years, most of that doing testing of vaccines. 

We’ll get there, but only if everyone does what they should.

Released

The Four Keys – Download or get a paperback version from Amazon: US Link German Link

I write fanfiction, too (all PG/PG-13): AO3 Fanfiction

In Progress

Survey: In the far future, on a globally sponsored science station, a woman discovers the key to making a functional AGI work in the midst of political unrest. (First Draft Complete –  approx 142K words )

Unity: A military chaplain and her bodyguard get embroiled in a major conspiracy that threatens the humans colonies of Unity and the AIs Nation of Survey. (Editing/Re-writes approx 140K words )

Colony: After the events of Unity, Jenny returns to her home colony where she meets someone she didn’t expect. (Writing – approx 20K words)

Consortium: After the events of Unity, Jack and Marsha get assigned by Survey to help an AI who had been exiled and has asked for help. (First Draft Complete – approx 143K words)

March comes in more like a cranky bear.

Welcome to March, friends. It’s been a year since my Wife and I started quarantining, and I’m kind of over it. Switzerland has been slow rolling out vaccines, and while I’m happy for everyone I know gettings vaccines in the States (especially my mom and dad!), I’m a little bit jealous, too. I’d rather hear that people are getting vaccines, though. The more people who are vaccinated, the better things will get.

Folks who know me know I have depression and anxiety, and the last month has been rough for me. Between the anniversary of the pandemic, a former housemate passing away, and my own brain and body chemistry, the depression and anxiety decided that it wanted to do it’s metaphorical gut punch. What sucks about when it decides to show up is that writing takes a hit. I’ve managed by powering through a few days of writing, especially since writing makes me feel better. But right now, the biggest thing that helps is that when I write a chapter and I feel kinda meh about it, I read it to The Wife, and then she tells it’s awesome. Having someone to do that for you when you’re doing this kind of long art work is so awesome and helpful. 

I’ll get through. I know how my depression and anxiety brain works. I have medicine, and people, and writing. I tried to flip my body clock to days again, but ended up flipping back to being nocturnal. I’m kind of hoping when the days get longer I’ll flip back. But I’m still getting writing done, so I’m not knocking it. (To be honest, it’s only irritating when I have to do things like bring up packages or go to the drug store, etc.)

The other thing I’m trying to do for my mental health is really curating my social media. I keep trying to branch out a little with who I follow, but then I run into the bad side of Twitter (ie: the crap I left Facebook for). So, I stick to people I know and other authors, and that seems to be a sweet spot. Same with Tumblr, too. What really gets me, about all social media platforms is how it can show so many people who don’t give a shit about others on one hand, and show a lot of caring for others on the other hand. Interestingly enough, it seems that there’s a lot of people who show a lack of compassion regardless of their political affiliation. Or spiritual affiliation, for that matter. It’s hard to read that on a regular basis, hence the curating. Even in conversations I could take part in, there’s a whole bunch of thinking about whether it’s really worth getting into it. If you don’t hear from me for a few days on social media, it probably means I’m taking a break.

I will say, though, a lot of what I don’t say on social media is story fodder, so I suppose it all works out in the end?

On a happier note, yesterday I got a new fountain pen! It’s a Pelikan M205 Classic with a dark blue iridescent pen body. It’s my first Pelikan pen, and it’s really quite lovely! Filled it with fancy Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-Kai ink which is a lovely bright royal blue that matches the barrel! Fine tip and a piston fill. So lovely to write with!

Pilot M205 Fountain Pen
Pretty Fountain Pen!!

Zurich is experiencing typical weird March weather. I always seem to forget that I have four seasons here, and that March is always a weird weather month. Last week, we had temps around 18 C. Right now? It’s around 0 C and snowing. 

Hope you’re all staying safe and wearing masks. I wish more people would.

Released

The Four Keys – Download or get a paperback version from Amazon: US Link German Link

I write fanfiction, too (all PG/PG-13): AO3 Fanfiction

In Progress

Survey: In the far future, on a globally sponsored science station, a woman discovers the key to making a functional AGI work in the midst of political unrest. (First Draft Complete –  142K words – with first readers)

Unity: A military chaplain and her bodyguard get embroiled in a major conspiracy that threatens the humans colonies of Unity and the AIs Nation of Survey. (First Draft Complete – 128K words – with first readers)

Colony: After the events of Unity, Jenny returns to her home colony where she meets someone she didn’t expect. (Writing – 16975 words)

Consortium: After the events of Unity, Jack and Marsha get assigned by Survey to help an AI who had been exiled and has asked for help. (Writing – 112260 words)

Character Playlists

I’ve made some character playlists on Spotify to write to. Here’s the lists if you’re interested in getting a feel for the characters I’ve been writing. Some of the lists overlap with artists, but that usually means they’re going through similar stuff.

Survey:

Unity

Consortium:

I’m a freakin’ writing machine!

pic of my novel on google drive
Look at all those chapters!

So I woke up this morning still kind of in shock that I finished the draft of a 2nd novel last night! Holy moly! I’m really happy with this one, too, and it comes chronologically before Unity (the first novel I wrote) and sets up a lot more of the world. It also deepens a lot of the backstory that I didn’t have in Unity. 

Although, I suppose this is all moot to most of you, since the books aren’t out yet. I’m planning to get them out by the end of the summer (definitely by the end of the year).

I hope you all liked the little teaser story, though! John Smith is one of my favorite characters to write because he’s a spy, and I love spy stuff! He’s not the only spy in the books, either. There’s another spy character I really can’t wait for folks to meet!  (Spoiler: I was inspired to write her by mirror!Tilly, aka Captain Killy, on Star Trek Discovery.)

All this waffling is to say that I’m writing lots. I’m also on Twitter a lot more now that I’m off Facebook, so if you want to ping me, there is good. 

There’s so much I could say about politics, the pandemic, and all the stuff going on in the world, but you know what? I think I’m just going to revel in the fact that I got another novel written and get some actual sleep.

And maybe take a shower. After I watch Melissa Etheridge. And drink my tea. Yeah.

Released

The Four Keys – Download or get a paperback version from Amazon: US LinkGerman Link

I write fanfiction, too (all PG/PG-13): AO3 Fanfiction

In Progress

Survey: In the far future, on a globally sponsored science station, a woman discovers the key to making a functional AGI work in the midst of political unrest. (First Draft Complete!! 142K words – with first readers)

Unity: A military chaplain and her bodyguard get embroiled in a major consipiracy that threatens the humans colonies of Unity and the AIs Nation of Survey. (First Draft Complete – 128K words – with first readers)

Colony: After the events of Unity, Jenny returns to her home colony where she meets someone she didn’t expect. (Writing – 16975 words)

Consortium: After the events of Unity, Jack and Marsha get assigned by Survey to help an AI who had been exiled and has asked for help. (Writing – 74972 words)

Character Playlists

I’ve made some character playlists on Spotify to write to. Here’s the lists if you’re interested in getting a feel for the characters I’ve been writing. Some of the lists overlap with artists, but that usually means they’re going through similar stuff.

Survey:

Unity

Consortium:

Teaser Short Story: “Choices”

The following short story is a teaser for my upcoming Survey novel series. It’s set in humanity’s far future where humans have colonized a good part of local space.

Content Warning: violence, death, kidnapping

“Marcus, are you done with the programming I asked you for?” said the man standing at my desk.

“Yes, Doctor Mills. I finished it yesterday. Didn’t you get my email?” I sighed. Harry Mills was a great physicist, but a crap manager. Why he ended up head of this project, only the government knows. No, that’s a lie. I knew. He was made head of the project because he lowballed all the others who were fighting for the grant money. Most of those folks had gone on to greener pastures. I was grateful that this wasn’t my real job, or I would have quit two weeks in. 

Mills pulled out his tablet and tapped it. “Oh! Yes, so you did! Sorry, Marcus. Carry on.” He walked away, muttering to himself. 

Fucking space brain, I thought to myself. This has to be one of the worst assignments I’ve gotten. The Head of Intelligence must hate me, or maybe they just haze the newbies? I shrugged to myself and went back to the drudgery of coding the interface for the jump drive. Face it, Marcus Rohner, you’re stuck here for the duration, you might as well accept it. I sighed again, put on my headphones and let myself get lost in the code. 

Which is why I didn’t realize something was going on until my computer went out. “Shit!” I said out loud to the empty office area. Everyone else had been in the lab working on the jump drive. So either Mills and company fucked up the computer again, or… I took off my headphones and heard slow footsteps coming into the office area. I ducked down, then peeked carefully around the edge of my cubicle. A short man with a balding head and a black suit was walking steadily down the hall, going into each cubicle for a minute or so, then coming back out again. At the third cubicle he stopped as if listening to something, then said out loud. “Keep looking. He can’t be too far. They aren’t allowed to leave the compound, normally.”

Shit, shit, shit, I thought. I have to get out of here! I pressed the button on my wristcom that would have normally sent the mayday message to my handler, but when the display said “No Signal” I froze. Now what? I asked myself, when suddenly a little silver cube was floating in front of me. 

I stared at it, then tried to swat it away, but it evaded my hands. The short, balding man seemed to come out of nowhere and stood in front of me. When did he go quiet? Fuck. He’s way better than me. 

The man tsked and shook his head. “Well, seems that intelligence training isn’t what it used to be. Shame. Oh well, sedate him.” The cube quickly bumped my neck, jabbing me with a needle. The man looked at me with a disappointed look on his face, and my last thought before I blacked out was, Fuck

I woke up briefly in a gel tank with a breather over my face and the rest of me wired up for long term, high g sedated travel. I tried to sit up, but was strapped in. When I looked around, I could see the other scientists strapped in. When I started to panic, someone came over to the tank and said, “Oh, no, this won’t do.” A few seconds later my body went numb and I blacked out again. 

The next time I woke, I was lying on a cot in a large room. Mills and the other four scientists from the jump drive program were also waking up. “Bloody hell,” Derek, one of the engineers, said. “What bleeding truck ran us the fuck over?”

“I don’t know,” Tara, the other engineer, said. “My mouth feels like old carpet.”

Gail, the deputy director, was the first to try to stand. “Ugh, same here. You three ok?” she asked the rest of us. Kevin, the mathematician, nodded. 

“Yeah,” I replied. Doctor Mills groaned, but waved. I looked around the room. Besides the cots, there was a large table with chairs, something that looked like a food printer in the wall, and two doors. One was open and one was closed. Tara was closest to the open door, so she went to investigate. 

“Found the loo!” she said. I heard a door close. A couple of the others followed.

I stayed sitting while I surveyed the room, since my body felt pretty wobbly. There were no other obvious ways in or out. I got up and made my way carefully over to the food printer which, thankfully, was functional. I dialed in an electrolyte drink. “Food printer works,” I reported to the others. I dialed in a second electrolyte drink and brought it over to Mills. While the man might be scatterbrained, he was also much older than the rest of us, and the way we travelled here was hard on the body. 

“Thanks,” Mills said, taking careful sips of the liquid. I did the same. 

When we had all taken care of necessities and had something to drink, the closed door opened, admitting the bald man I saw at the lab. He was again wearing a black suit, along with leather gloves, boots and a metal briefcase. We all stared at him as he walked to the table, opened the case, and pulled out a small black cube and a larger silver cube. He closed the case and put it on the floor beside him, then sat at the head of the table. “Please, sit, all of you.”

“Who the fuck are you?” demanded Derek.

“I am John Smith, the Head Librarian. Sometimes I’m called the Grey Man. You are currently guests of The Library,” the man replied calmly.

“The Library? What the hell is that?” asked Kevin. 

“Apparently the name of wherever we happen to be,” said Doctor Mills. “All of you, sit down. I’m sure Mr. Smith will give us an explanation of why we were abducted.”

“No fucking way!” said Derek. “I want to know who the fuck you are, and where the fuck we are right now! And I think everyone should shut up until we can contact lawyers!”

Mr. Smith sighed. “As I already told you, you are guests of The Library. To be more specific, you are on board a Survey ship, which is also called Sun Tzu.”

I felt the blood drain from my face. Sun Tzu? Not many people had been on Survey ships, and fewer knew that there were seven capital ships, each of which had a specific purpose. While I didn’t remember all of them, there were two that intelligence officers were always briefed on: Musashi and Sun Tzu. These respectively housed the military and intelligence arms of Survey. It was the first time I had ever heard of Sun Tzu being called The Library, but no one in our agency had really good, or current, information. The legends of these two ships and their run-ins with Fleet definitely didn’t favor Fleet. 

“Survey?” Derek said. “Whatever! I don’t give a fuck who you are! Take us back right now!”

“Derek, shut up,” I said.

“Oh, fuck off Marcus!” He turned back to Mr. Smith. “We have rights! I want a lawyer!”

“I’m sorry…Derek, is it? That is quite impossible. You see, as you were sleeping, we’ve jumped over one hundred light years from where you were.”

“What?!” Derek yelled.

Mr. Smith gestured to the nearest empty chair. “If you sit down, I can explain things to you.”

“Sit, Derek,” Mills said. “I’d like to hear why Survey has captured government workers from a top secret laboratory and interrupted very important scientific work.” Derek obeyed the director reluctantly.

Mr. Smith leaned forward. “We have interrupted your ‘very important scientific work’ because if you continued as you were, you would most likely have destroyed the planet you were on, or the solar system, or maybe even the galaxy.”

Mills raised his eyebrows. “You’re kidding? We’re just creating a jump engine! This is ridiculous. This is only because you in Survey are so stingy with giving us engines that we’re trying to make our own!”

I was surprised. Mills usually came off of as completely scatterbrained, but now he seemed much more astute. Maybe I underestimated him? Or maybe he’s more serious when someone threatens his work? I wanted to shout at him to just do what Survey wanted, but Mills never really listened to me before, so I didn’t think he’d do it now. The others waited to see what would happen next. I had a feeling that Mr. Smith was not impressed with Doctor Mills. 

“No, doctor, I am not kidding. We have a very good reason for being stingy, as you say. The technology is extremely dangerous and must not be attempted by humans.”

“Maybe he’s right,” I said out loud. The others looked at me. “What? You don’t believe him? Come on, we all know that Survey has better tech than we do. I’ve heard some… stories… about Sun Tzu. Seriously, if they don’t think we should be fucking around with this, then they probably have good reasons for it.”

Derek started to say something to me, but Gail cut him off. “Why shouldn’t we work on it, Mr. Smith?” she asked. 

“The first time a human attempted to experiment with jump drive technology they destroyed an entire solar system whilst vaporizing themselves in the process. The second time a human’s understanding of jump drives was used, it destroyed two star systems, one of which had proto-sentient life on its fourth planet.”

“Fuck,” I said.

“He’s just saying that to scare us!” said Derek. “They don’t give a shit about us, they just want to make more profit off us and keep their trade exclusive.”

“Dude, seriously?!” I said. “Why would they bother kidnapping us from what we thought was a secure facility and transporting us a hundred light years if they didn’t give a shit about us? Why would they fake this? That would be a waste of resources. Just like bringing you along!”

“What was that you little shit!?” Derek yelled, standing up.

“Activate and mark,” said Mr. Smith calmly. The silver cube seemed to melt into six smaller cubes that suddenly launched themselves from their position in front of Mr. Smith, to right in front of all of our noses. I stayed absolutely still, remembering the last time I encountered one of these. Mills moved his chair backwards, nearly falling over. Gail, Tara, and Kevin moved back as well. Derek, the moron, started trying to catch the little silver cube, but it kept moving itself out of reach. It did shut him up, though.

The bald man sighed. “I suggest you stop that, Derek, and sit back down. I would hate to have to sedate you again.” Derek complied, glowering at Mr. Smith. “I am giving all of you a choice. You can live with us, in Survey, for the rest of your lives, pursuing other work in your field of expertise, or you can die. Here, today, right now, in this room. If you choose not to live with us in Survey, we can offer you a quick and merciful death. If you had stayed where you were, things would have gone badly for you anyway. All of those interested in this technology would have attempted to capture you, and if successful would have tortured you to find out what you knew. We had intelligence that one of those groups would have been your own government.”

“Mr. Smith, really…” Doctor Mills tried to interrupt. 

“Yes, doctor, you would like proof.” He rapped his knuckles on the table twice and a screen rose up from the middle. Then he tapped the black cube and footage began of a sun going nova. Rather than the typical collapse followed by the explosion, it looked like a wave passed across the star, consuming it in a massive fireball over the space of five seconds. The table in front of Mills lit up and I craned my head to see what it was. It lit up in front of Gail, too, and she scrolled through it. “Is this for real?” she asked Mr. Smith.

“Yes. That was the real time data that our brother ship, the Musashi, recovered at this event, the second use of human-derived jump equations. As you can see, the output is 1028 times more powerful than Earth’s most powerful nuclear weapon, and an order of magnitude more powerful than a Type Ia supernova. As I said, this blast took out two star systems and badly damaged the ship that triggered it.”

Gail turned white, as did Mills. Apparently the data was enough to convince them of the severity of the issue. Derek still looked confused, but watching a sun go nova in an obviously unnatural way seemed to keep him quiet for the moment. That, and the silver cubes still floating in front of each of us. 

“You will have a good life in Survey. There will be no need for you to apply for grants for any research you’d like to apply yourself to. You can also pursue other careers if you like. Your needs will be provided for. Our society isn’t based on capitalism, and you’ll find our resources more than adequate.” Mr. Smith attempted a smile, but it wasn’t reassuring. 

It didn’t seem a hard choice to me. “I’ll stay,” I said. Mr. Smith nodded. Everyone seemed unsure, except for Derek. He stood up again.

“No! I won’t agree! Send me back now!”

Mr. Smith frowned. “Derek, I already told you that we can’t.”

“I have rights! You can’t force me to stay! I want a lawyer! That footage has to be faked!”

Mr. Smith frowned. “That is your decision, then?”

“What?! No! You can’t do anything to me! I know Survey and Earth have a treaty!”

Mr. Smith stood, his face becoming hard as marble. For a short man he could be very intimidating. “Mr. Derek Edgars, all governments have those who work outside of laws and treaties to maintain order. Unluckily for you, that is me. Picket six, execute.” The silver cube moved so fast that none of us realized that it had gone straight through Derek’s head until it slammed to a stop on the other side of his skull. A spray of blood and gore spattered the wall behind him. There was a brief look of surprise on Derek’s face, then he fell to the floor. After a moment, I could smell urine. Tara ran for the bathroom, her silver cube following her. I managed to keep my bowels from doing things they really shouldn’t, but it was a close thing. 

“Aside from Mr. Rohner, would anyone else like to stay?” The others agreed quickly, studiously not looking at Derek’s body on the floor, as did Tara after she returned to the table. “Good. My assistant Jane will be coming in soon to brief you on your options within Survey. We believe we’ve found interesting postings for each of you. There are showers in here, with fresh clothing, if you would like to use them.” He picked up the silver case and opened it. “Pickets, return.” The silver cubes merged into a large cube again, one corner stained with blood. Mr. Smith put both cubes back in the case and closed it. 

He picked it up, then walked towards the door, his footsteps echoing in the room. As he reached the door, he turned to look at me. “Mr. Rohner, if you would come with me, please.” 

I stood up and immediately obeyed, relieved to leave the room, and the other scientists, behind. Mr. Smith led me through a maze of corridors until we came to a door. He palmed it open and we walked into a workshop area, where a woman sat at a bench repairing some sort of equipment. She looked up as we approached. “Ah, John. How’d it go?” she asked. 

“Well, Jo, we lost one, regrettably.” He opened the case and handed her the silver cube. “Sorry to have to dirty them like this.”

“Shame. Couldn’t be helped, I suppose?”

“No.”

She looked around Mr. Smith to me. “New recruit?” she asked.

“Possibly,” he said.

“Good luck, kid,” she said, taking the cube away. 

Mr. Smith motioned for me to follow him. When we eventually stopped, he palmed open a door to an office. “Please, come in,” he said. He took his jacket off and hung it on an old fashioned wooden coat rack, then sat at an equally old fashioned desk. He put the case on the floor next to him, then peeled off his gloves and placed them carefully on his desk. “So, Sun Tzu, what do you think?” Mr. Smith said. I took the chair across the desk from him.

“His academy and college scores look good, and, as you say, we can always use more computer experts. Unlike the others, he kept his wits about him. He’ll need some better tradecraft training, but that can’t be helped. He was woefully under-trained by UI.” 

“Um…I’m right here,” I said, not that I didn’t agree with that assessment. 

“Yes, Mr. Rohner, but you are currently being evaluated by Sun Tzu. You will keep quiet.”

I felt my eyes widen. It was true then? That the ship was run by an AI? 

“Yes, John, I will take him in. I’m sure you and Jane will find him useful.”

Mr. Smith smiled again, but it didn’t instill any comfort. “Congratulations, Mr. Rohner, you are now a full-fledged Survey citizen and welcomed by Sun Tzu to join the ranks of the Librarians.”

“That was the AI? They’re real?”

“I am very real, Marcus. And you may call me Sunny.”

“Sunny?”

“Yes. I let all of my people call me Sunny if they wish. I’m not so formal as my brother Musashi,” Sun Tzu explained. “You could choose to go somewhere else in Survey, but I think your talents would be better suited for projects here that are likely to be much more interesting to you.”

“Sure,” I said. “Um, can I ask a question?” Mr. Smith nodded. “What about the black cube? Where is that stored? I’m guessing that doesn’t come out for just anyone.” I asked.

Mr. Smith raised an eyebrow. “No, Marcus, it doesn’t. That recording is stored in a special vault. My assistant and I will take care of it later. Very observant, Marcus.”

“What happened to the ship that made that nova?”

Mr. Smith frowned. “He has exiled himself. Where? We don’t know. He sustained a great deal of damage both physically and mentally. Thankfully, he surrendered the data he used to create the nova to us.”

My brain started putting things together. “You think there are people who would want to get their hands on this, who wouldn’t use it for a jump drive, right? That’s why you took us. I’m guessing you torched the lab, too?”

The man nodded. “Good deduction.”

“And I can help keep this out of the wrong hands if I stay here?”

“Among other things,” Mr. Smith replied, looking like the cat that caught that canary. 

“Ok, Mr. Smith, Sunny, count me in.”

Mr. Smith gave a genuine smile, stood, and shook my hand. “You can call me John. Come. I’ll give you a tour of the stacks.”

“You mean, there’s a real Library in here?”

“Of course. Did you think it was just a code name?”

“Well, uh…” I said.

Mr. Smith laughed as he led me through the door.

Hello 2021 with Snow and The Four Keys Paperback Now Available!

This picture was taken about a hour or so ago, and it’s still snowing. I think this is the biggest snowstorm I’ve seen in Zurich so far! It’s so beautiful, and for once I don’t mind being stuck inside. Definitely a day for writing and napping, which is what I did. 

Like many of you, the terrorism/insurrection/coup attempt in DC rocked me. The Wife and I ended up staying up most of the night watching the live feeds. It’s one thing to have the thought that something like that might happen, but it’s another to see it playing out in reality. It wasn’t a surprise, and it amazes me that people were surprised that something like this was actually happening, but it was shocking.

I’m hoping that it shocked some people out of their complacency. 

Speaking of complacency, Switzerland is going into lockdown again on Monday, and I say it’s about time! I really don’t understand why so many people still insist on doing things that make matters worse instead of doing the sensible thing of staying home and wearing a mask when one goes out. They’re keeping the ski slopes open, which boggles my mind. The official line is “but it’s outdoors!” Well, yes, when you ski it’s outdoors, but you have to get up the mountain first, and the ones I’ve been up have gondolas where they pack you in like sardines. Even at half capacity, you can’t maintain 1.5 meter distance. *shaking my head* Then again, it’s been strange to watch just how many people in the west just don’t care about others. It makes me sad if I think about it too much.

We had a very quiet New Year, and I’ve been writing up a storm. I finally started a 4th novel, Colony, which I hadn’t been expecting to start already, but it seems my brain decided otherwise. I like how it’s starting, and one of the main characters is super fun to write because she has no fucks to give. It’s rather cathartic to write at the moment. 

One big thing of note: I’ve finally created a paperback version of The Four Keys! Click on the Amazon links below to order it. (It’s print-on-demand.)

This weekend is my birthday, and I’m going to make a cake. I’m still deciding between pound cake, or a yellow cake with cream cheese frosting. Tell me on Twitter what you think I should make!

Released

The Four Keys – Download or get a paperback version from Amazon: US LinkGerman Link

I write fanfiction, too (all PG/PG-13): AO3 Fanfiction

In Progress

Survey: In the far future, on a globally sponsored science station, a woman discovers the key to making a functional AGI work in the midst of political unrest. (Writing – 73569 words)

Unity: A military chaplain and her bodyguard get embroiled in a major consipiracy that threatens the humans colonies of Unity and the AIs Nation of Survey. (First Draft Complete – 128K words – with first readers)

Colony: After the events of Unity, Jenny returns to her home colony where she meets someone she didn’t expect. (Writing – 16975 words)

Consortium: After the events of Unity, Jack and Marsha get assigned by Survey to help an AI who had been exiled and has asked for help. (Writing – 74972 words)

Character Playlists

I’ve made some character playlists on Spotify to write to. Here’s the lists if you’re interested in getting a feel for the characters I’ve been writing: Jack (and Loki’s) List , Marsha’s List , Jenny’s List and Nigel’s List