Monday, September 30, 2013


So, me and The Coolness played in our first game of the season this Sunday past. As The Daughter had no games, she came along, too.

We play with two refs, one on each sideline (more or less, they move a bit infield but not across the half.) I did not recognize either ref, which was reason to be cautious.

We knew the team we were up against, having played them before on several occasions. We've usually ended each game on nearly-even footing, which lends a sense of accomplishment if we come out on top.

They have an excellent stopper, a bald guy who plays hard every play of the game. He's a bit rough, but that's not entirely undesirable at your central defense, given that the refs are there to call the game and keep everyone safe.

Bald Guy leveled a few of our players, some were on fifty-fifty balls, and therefore pardonable, but others were not. While not carding offenses, there should have been a free kick or two in there.

Despite this skilled player's best efforts, we kept the ball in their end most of the first half, opening the scoring in the last few minutes. After we re-set, they came charging up and spent the next few minutes right in front of me.

They got a shot off.

As I dove for it one of my players deflected the ball into the dirt, moving it from my stretching hand to under my torso. A clapped my arm to my side, but the ball rolled under me. I landed, hard, on my left shoulder. The point hurt less than the fall, but it still wounded pride. I got up, did the walk of shame into my net, and retrieved the ball. Play resumed for a minute before the whistle blew.

I commented to my team about the forcefield that seemed to accompany Bald Guy around the field, knocking people over. I got a few chuckles.

When I went back on the field, The Daughter was shooting at the goal with a bearded man wearing a baseball cap and what I presumed were his two children. Seeing us coming, they moved off the field, leaving a thermos at the edge of the box. I picked it up and called out to them. The daughter came over and took the thermos from me and ran off. They set up an impromptu field behind my goal, started playing.

My game resumed.

They were pressing pretty hard, but we were doing well.

One of the impromptu game's balls rolled onto the field while our play was at the other end, I heel-kicked the ball back to them, making no comment, hearing no apologies.

Some moments passed in play. I collected a save and booted the ball up field. One of our players, one of our fastest players, got under it and skinned it off his head to prevent the midfielder behind him getting a piece of it. He turned to give chase, and took a few strides when Bald Guy, knowing it was a goal scoring break, came in from the side and slammed Fast Player. Bald Guy went down, but Fast Player had seen him coming and managed to keep his feet under him.

The far side ref blew his whistle and called Fast Player for the foul.

"WHAT!?" I bellowed, outraged. I shouldn't have, but I did. It was so very clear to me that the call was  incorrect and only served to punish the person who'd kept his feet that I just lost it.  It should be noted that I am capable of stopping traffic with a shout. I have actually done so, on multiple occasions. I know I was loud.

I shouted it again before becoming aware of the ref on my side of the field, who was blowing his whistle and calling out to me.

I bellowed something more about a horrible call and, "Come on!" just as I realized he was telling me not to say another word. I said a few more things.  I let my base instinct to argue get the better of me and was duly given a yellow card.

I deserved it. Entirely. The far side ref made a shit call. I should have left it at that.

I did not.

Play resumed. The ball was back and forth across the center line and there were a number of shots, all of which I managed to save.

The ball was coming across the half when another loose ball from behind rolled onto the field. I jogged up and booted the ball to the left, clearing it off the field. There's a hill that rises almost immediately from the edge of the field, and acts as an automated ball-return.

"Dude, I was behind you." I hear Bearded Cap shout at me.

"You got the ball back, right?" I say, still watching the play.

"You didn't have to kick it up there, the ball wasn't even down at this end," Bearded Cap says. He's wrong on so many levels I don't know what to say.

"Playing here," I say, wanting him to stop distracting me. The game ball is around midfield still.

"The ball was down at the other end," he repeats.

"Not your call to make," I say, "you are not playing."

"You got a swollen head," he shouts.

"Wha- No! That's right, my head is quite large, PHYSICALLY!" I say as I turn to face the man and remove my baseball cap. Who the fuck is this guy, interrupting my game with his bullshit?

The ref blows his whistle, comes rushing across the field. FUCK! I think. He's gonna throw me out.

The ref, though, is a good one: he charges past me and tell Bearded Cap to take a hike.

As he walks back to his sideline, I say, "Thank you. I've never had that kind of shit happen before."

"I saw it all," says the ref. Then tells me, "Careful, you're on a yellow."

I bite my tongue. He has a point. Had he not known what was going down, I might have been thrown out.

The game ended in a hotly-contested draw at one to one.

As I'm walking off, the ref comes over and says, "The guy is still here."

I nod.

"Let's please act like adults."

At which point he lost me. "I was with you up till that, sir. I don't need to be told such things."

Probably thinking I was an ass, he began to walk away.

"Hey, ref, you made very good calls today," I said, meaning it. He had done a great job.

Just don't ask me about the other ref.

So, the game is over, I walk off, take a seat, start to get out of my boots. All the sudden, Bearded Cap is standing over me. "I just wanted to say: you didn't have to kick the ball, the game was in the other half."

"And I heard you the first time." I say, standing up. No way am I going to let this nutbag get into position to whack me, if that happens to be his intent. "You really shouldn't be saying anything to me just now."

"You shouldn't have."

FUCK, REALLY? "Were you playing?"


"Then it's not your call to make."

"It's just a rec league, man."

"Yup, one you're not playing in, so you're not the one making those calls."

"I hope you get picked up by the pros, they'll recognize your intensity," he says, walking away.

"Rrriiight, I'm the one arguing with the guy who was minding his own business, trying to change after a tight game. Yeah, that's the way this all went down."

He joins a woman from the team we just played and the two children who'd been playing with him in the backfield. This is when I first realize that his wife or significant other was playing in the game, on the field, against me.

Now, won't someone please tell me I'm not the jackass of this story?

Oh, and for those of you who know me, you'd have been terribly surprised by the distinct lack of profanity I used in the above encounters. I was quite proud of that, at least.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The First 1636: The Mughal Mission Snippet

A bit of the work in progress:

                Caid Murad Reis returned the wolf-smiles of his crew with his own. 

And why not smile? Surely finding a fat merchant becalmed so close to Sallee is a sign that God favors our enterprise? 

As there wasn’t a good man among the crew, such signs were less wasteful than the usual methods he had to resort to in order to ensure his commands were followed. Always, the new men among the crew wanted to test him, wanted to see if the white Muslim was truly fit to lead the brotherhood. 

Such behavior had only become more common since he’d sent his son off to Grantville to plumb their secrets. The other Captains all believed he was trying to place his son beyond their reach, or worse, questioned his conversion to Islam. They campaigned, in whispers, against him. Their short-sighted bigotry would eventually prove their undoing, but for now Reis needed every cruise he undertook to result in easy profits and many slaves.

The rowers of Allah’s Mercy were drawing them steadily closer to the foreign fluyt, as they had since sighting the vessel some hours ago. By his reckoning, less than half an hour remained until the sharks were fed the blood of unbelievers. 

Murad Reis, born Janszoon, shaded blue eyes with one hand, staring hard at the slack banner hanging from the mast of the taller vessel. Several pale faces at the stern of the ship stood staring at their approaching doom.

“Hamburg?” he murmured. 

“Would explain why they are alone–no convoys like the Spaniards or English,” his first mate, Usem, said from beside him. ”Though it’s strange they should be this close in to shore.”

Murad shrugged, “Not after the storms of last week, then the calm and current to drag them close.”

Usem nodded, white turban sparkling with jewels.

“Raise our banner, let them know who comes for them.”

“Yes, Captain.” Usem gestured. 

Moments later a young sailor unfurled the banner of the Sallee Rovers, a gold man-in-the-moon on a red background, from the mast.

“Brothers, we will soon set upon the infidel and take his goods, his ship, and the lives of any who resist!”

A crashing, ululating cheer greeted his words.

“Man the guns and make ready, then!”

Murad and Usem joined the crews of the three cannon in the bow. The xebec, like a galley, had limited broadside armament because of the oars, and so mounted three of its thirteen guns in the bow. Because it lacked the banks of rowers of a true galley, it didn’t have the sheer speed of such a ship, either, allowing them to make only about four, perhaps five, knots. Still, they closed the distance, coming to within six hundred paces.

A meaty thump, like a mallet striking flesh, came from the gun-captain of the starboard bow gun.  

A sharp crack reached his ears just as Murad turned to look at his slowly slumping sailor.

“Wha-“ the man gurgled, crimson staining his lips.

Something whistled through the air above Murad. Another crack rolled across the water to him. 

Murad ducked instinctively, the men about him doing the same.

He saw it then, a tiny flash of light from one corner of the stern of the fluyt, like a gunshot, but no cottony cloud of gunsmoke. 

Shooting at us, from there? That’sanother of his cannoneers reeled back, arm dangling by a thread of meat–impossible! 

Again the sharp cracking noise rolled across the waves.

“Down!” Murad shouted, unnecessarily. His men were already pushing tight behind the cannon, fighting for space.

Another flash. 

Something rang off the cannon directly in front of him with a sound like hell’s own hammer, then went whistling through the air between he and Usem. 

Merciful Allah, how many guns does this man have?

That evil crack again.

The men were now leaning forward, close to the deck, as if bracing against a gale. 

Murad raised his head, gauging the distance. Almost five hundred yards still separated the ships.

“Faster!” he bellowed, “Row faster!”

Usem rose up to repeat the Captain’s order. He lost his life for it. The round took him in the jaw, sending teeth and bone rattling wetly across the deck behind his toppling corpse.

“Merciful Allah!” someone screamed.

“Faster!” Murad barked, the now-expected crack punctuating his order.

  The slaves responded at last, pulling harder at their oars. Slowly, the ship built speed. Several breaths passed without one of the horrible flashes, only the groan of wood on wood and the cries of the man who’d lost his arm. They were nearly four hundred yards out when the next flash appeared.

A dimly visible red-orange light appeared at the end of the flash. Barely visible, it crossed the space between the two ships and sailed by well above the deck. 

This time, the crack of the gun was nearly drowned in the cheering of his crew.

“Down, you fools!” 

A second dirty streak of light was sent their way, again appearing to have gone high. Another cheer from the men.

“Closer!” he shouted.

The crew shouted wordless aggression. Glad his men were less afraid of the strange weapon than he, Murad looked up to offer a silent prayer of thanksgiving. It was then that he saw a tiny curl of smoke rising from the furled mainsail.

As he stared, another of the burning things struck the furled sail along the spar just port of the mast. It went in, and didn’t exit. Colored smoke began seeping from the hole as the noise of the shot followed the results across the water.

“Water the sail!” Murad’s shouted order held more of an edge of panic to it than he wished.

Nearly all the crew looked up and saw the reason for the order. A collective groan went through them.

Hassan, youngest of the brotherhood and the quickest climber among them, stood to his duty and grabbed the bucket line. In moments he was straddling the spar. He dragged the first of the buckets up and started to pour it over the growing smokey stretch of sail.

The next red-orange streak ended in Hassan’s ribs. The boy shrieked, overbalanced, and fell. Even striking the deck from such a height did not end the pain for poor Hassan, who lay writhing, as if the thing that struck him continued to burn inside his flesh.

The crew moaned. Hassan was well-liked. 

Murad stepped across the boy, who lay twitching like a wounded scorpion, broken limbs flailing.

Murad’s sword hissed from its sheath. 

A small mercy.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thoughts on A SEPARATE LAW

So, my serialized novella, A SEPARATE LAW, has its final episode up at the Spectrum Dispatch site. I think it turned out well. There were certainly a lot of kind comments on each episode, and even more within moments of the posting of the tale's conclusion.

It was my first experience of such immediate feedback. It was an interesting experience. I used to think some authors were a bit obsessive about reading reviews of their work on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.  Now I know how hard it is to resist hitting that refresh button every five minutes. That in mind, I'll stop keeping my nose in the air like I'm somehow immune to the writer's urge to stand up in public and moan loudly, "LOVE ME!" while stroking our tender ego parts.

Nuts and bolts wise:

The writing of this story was fairly easy, as I found it flowed very quickly out onto the page. This is not my normal experience of writing. I agonize, normally. I fail to complete.

At about 19,ooo words, it was nice to stretch a bit without the massive obligation of a door-stop novel.

I don't normally work from an outline, but one was required for this, and it helped immensely. Beyond the immediate help with the story, I was also outlining 1636: THE MUGHAL MISSION, so the experience proved very useful. Needless to say, outlining has become my new fetish.

David Ladyman, the editor for the project, was aces, working with me when I needed assistance and, more importantly, telling me the whys and wheres of the things that did not work in the initial drafts (And there were multiple drafts for each episode: sometimes the game designers required a change, but more often it was just because the writing simply wasn't as smooth as it needed to be.).  David was extremely easy to work with, and was very enthusiastic about the story throughout.

All in all, a very good learning experience for me. One I am sure will be of use for the rest of my career.

Oh, and I got paid quite well and promptly, which is always to be desired, and seldom experienced with short fiction.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013