Tuesday Tale

An excerpt from one of the North American Power stories, featuring Leigh Kendall, geologist and trouble-shooter.

Jake Nutter, the driller in charge of the John Marshall # 5, started pulling the bit as soon as he heard the sound and felt the vibration in the platform change, but he was too late. The heavy steel pipe dropped almost out of sight and all the available drilling mud vanished down the hole, pulled into a void that should not have been there. “Damn and blast it,” Jake swore. Once everything had slowed and the drill bit stopped, the roughnecks on the rig floor started pulling the pipe up enough to add additional sections, while the mud man worked to keep the critical fluid moving into the hole so it didn’t try and collapse. This was the fourth time in a week that something had gone wrong with this well, and although he wasn’t superstitious, Jake started to wonder.

He took a moment to climb down from the drilling platform. A hot summer Texas sun glared down on the crew and Jake pulled a clean-ish bandana out of his back pocket and wiped the sweat from under his hardhat. Typical August, and not as bad as some places he’d worked, Jake grimaced. I’ll go work in the Amazon before you get me back in Saudi he promised yet again. In Brazil you only had the environment working against you, not the environment and people too. The driller kicked a rock, making a puff of reddish dust as he walked over to where the geologist and the mud man were looking at the rig readings. “Not supposed to be a hole,” Jake stated.

Amos McKenna, the geologist, spread his hands in a “don’t look a me” gesture. “Here’s the seismograph, and here’s, well, something that’s not supposed to be there.”

“There’s nothing there.”

“Nothing’s not supposed to be there,” Amos growled. “We’re past the gippy layers and now that we’re under the Rodrick shale, we shouldn’t be hitting anything but sandstone until we reach the Lipscomb granite.” He pointed to the log from the John Marshall #4 mounted on the side of the trailer. Continue reading

Tuesday Tale: Second Editions

No matter the genre, or if it is non-fiction, authors need to triple check the final proof of their manuscript before it is published. Why? Well . . .

The crystal ball beside her desk began wiggling on its stand. Morgana reached over absentmindedly, patted the top to stop the vibration and waited for the incoming text. It was from Dolores.

“Hey, thanks for the thunderstorm you’re throwing my way! Better than fire or dust!”

Morgana frowned, rotated in her seat and typed on the magic-only keyboard, “Thppppth. That was supposed to stay up here. Mutter, mutter no more bargain bin eye of newt.” It really had been commanded to stay locally, but Waldo had muffed the winds aloft forecast.

“…and the voice in the back of my head says ‘lines you’d see in chat with an evil overlord’s friends… Um, was that eye of newt or Aya’s snoot?”

“Eye of newt. Gotta use water creatures to get water elementals.” Didn’t Dolores remember that? Oh wait, no, Morgana remembered, Dolores specialized in automata and mechanical charms, not the traditional elemental spells.

“Ah! No wonder the hellbender is going extinct; people keep mistaking it for a non-water creature!

“You got it. There was a terrible typo in ‘Summoners’ Monthly’ a few years ago, and…”

“Was it a typo, or a conspiracy of editors? Must we keep the blue pencil of evil back in the vault? Don’t they know not to mess with eldritch artifacts?”

“I’d let my subscription lapse by then so I don’t know. I heard that they started outsourcing their editors and that never ends well. Especially with spell casting. You’d have thought the disaster at Necromancy Digest would have been enough of a warning!” Continue reading

Friday Fragment

The beginning of an urban fantasy story. Sometimes the Devil really is in the details . . .

“ . . . and you really need more emphasis on the role of women and other marginalized groups, Ms. DeHahn. Look in the lacunae in the sources,” Dr. Eyrinie sniffed. “I’m certain that you can find material other, less objective, researchers have ignored, if not actively set aside.”

“Yes, Dr. Eyrinie.”

What she could see of her research proposal appeared to have been attacked by birds that had waded through orange juice. The professor used anything but red. “Red is too oppressive and negative,” the department chair had intoned. “We need to uplift and encourage students, not criticize them.” Melissa DeHahn thought that red, green, or purple plaid didn’t make much difference. Anything Dr. Eyrinie returned looked as if it had been bled upon. And that was if she liked you. She’d returned Robert’s paper in pieces, having changed, corrected, or marked every other word, then torn it in half. He switched advisors that afternoon. Melissa thought once more that he was the smart one.

“You see what I want?”

“Yes, Dr. Eyrinie.”

“Good. This has real potential if you can bring in non-traditional individuals and methodologies, Ms. DeHahn. And don’t forget theoretical and epistemological materials. Re-read Zhing L’clar’s article on post-Feminist structural critiques of Medieval sources, as well as Foucoult and Fanon.”

I’d rather walk over burning coals wearing magnesium socks. “Yes, Dr. Eyrinie.” She dutifully underlined that bit in her notes.

“Good. I won’t keep you any longer.”

Melissa did not flee, but she felt like it. Neither did she stand in the hall practicing her primal scream. Screaming made the secretary nervous, and poor Mrs. Whittier did not deserve any additional stress. Instead Melissa walked up two flights of stairs to the graduate student work area and faculty “Siberia,” cleared a space on the big, heavy conference table that someone had shoehorned into the room, and attacked it with the stress pillow. A long-ago grad student advisor of blessed sense and understanding had made a half-full pillow out of heavy canvas and sacking to be used when the urge to scream, break furniture, or throw things at faculty became overwhelming. Melissa would have preferred to go to the range for some recoil therapy, but not until she calmed down. Continue reading

Thursday Tale

I may have posted this before. I was reminded of it by Cedar’s post at MGC about Gothic romance and why it goes “thunk” for some readers.

Haunted Scotia?


The bitter, unseasonable east wind swirled around her, tangling her long skirts and cutting through her shawl. She peered into the night, searching in vain for some sign of life, some hint of a rescuer. The woman saw only darkness, felt only cold mist stinging her face. She’d snuck into the grim castle’s tower searching for answers to her questions, not expecting an unseen hand to slam the door behind her. She pushed long, dark hair out of her face and huddled next to the cold stones of the wall, trying to find a respite from the wind. Then she heard footsteps, slow, measured, heavy, coming up the stairs to the tower’s upper chamber.

Could it be Lord Gregory? Surely not. He should have been asleep, as exhausted as the others. But if not him, then whom? The woman pushed herself deeper into the small stone alcove as the first hint of light appeared in the doorway. The light glinted off patterns set into the floor, patterns that chilled the woman to her core. If only she’d refused James’s invitation!

# Continue reading

Friday Nibble

From the third RajWorld book. An excavation turns up something new.

(Cyril is Rigi’s 10-years older brother.)

“This whole place is passing strange,” Cyril snorted. “Lexi’s found something and is digging at it. In there,” he pointed. Rigi and Martinus peered in the open doorway. Something felt odd and she backed up for a better look. The doorway wasn’t square. They stood in shadow, so she pulled out her light again and started inspecting the door frame.

“Martinus, sit up. Grip,” she put the light in his mouth and he sat on his haunches, shining the light onto the surface at an angle. She worked quickly, letting her eye and hand take in the design without trying to focus or analyze. The doorway curved out then in, a bit egg-shaped. She didn’t draw the entire border in detail, just fifteen centimeters worth or so. “Thank you. Good dog, very good Martinus.” She took the light back and he sat normally. Rigi petted his head and back pad. “Very good Martinus.”

“Um, Rigi, that’s not standard behavior.” Cyril seemed to be giving Martinus a wary look for some reason.

“It isn’t? I programmed it, like I programmed him not to scratch the floor at the house.” It was mostly true. She’d come up with the behavior parameters and commands, and basic code, and the technicians had added in the details when he’d had his last major update at the depot. The military depot did all the heavy work on him now, since they’d done the repairs needed after he’d intercepted the bomb.

“Oh, OK then. He’s a strange m-dog.”

“Wooeef?” Continue reading

Saturday Snippet

This has been bugging me for several months, so here is the beginning (at least for now) of the story. It will grow, I can tell that much already. It is set in a tech level of the Eneolithic/Chalcolithic/Copper Age.

Shenora sniffed the wind. It smelled of baking bread, and people, and wet earth that should have been dry. It came from the east, from the great grassy lands between the village and the river. She waited and inhaled again, but no smoky bitter hints reached her this time. Good. Smoke on the east wind meant that evil moved on the land, this everyone knew. She hitched her load of wood higher against her hip and began walking once more. Evening would come soon, and she needed to have the fire fueled and the night’s wood in place, and to see if the pots had survived firing. She had not told Eldest Mother about using a new color on the bowl, and Eldest Mother might take it amiss if she saw it first. Continue reading