Thursday, March 10, 2005

Status as of March 10, 2005

I sent an email to my publisher, trying to find out where in the publishing process my book was being held up. Here's the response I received:

You are now with the text production department, and your book will follow the schedule outlined on the AQ web page.

I'm sorry I can't give you a date of any kind at this time, and your proofer might be several months more before they contact you, but after that the pace will pick up.

Thank you and gook luck!

So that's that. The manuscript officially went to the publisher on November 4, 2004, so it has been just over 4 months. I'm hoping some progress is made soon.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Excerpt from Voyage to Xanadu

(Warning: Strong language used)


    The truck bounced over the knoll, hurtling towards where Scott and Basil were standing. An electromagnetic shield, coupled with monitoring equipment, had been placed facing out towards where the truck just came from. The truck skidded to a stop behind where the shield had been set up. Henry and Ted stepped out.
    Basil peered through a set of binoculars, looking from where the truck came. "Where in hell did you set up the particle splitter/collector?" he asked, looking a bit puzzled.
    "Out there, about 20 miles from here," answered Henry. He gestured out towards the arid plain, scattered with dry shrubbery.
    "Is that going to be far enough?"
    Ted grabbed a soda and opened it to drink. He spoke. "We hope."
    "How much antimatter did the cyclonic generator give us again?" Scott asked.
    "0.1 picograms. More than enough." Henry reached over to the control panel and positioned his finger above a red button. "Ready?"
    "As much as we’re going to be," Scott said.
    Basil and Ted nodded.
    Henry pushed the button.
    The four crowded around the readout display to see what was going on. The readout began to show a chart, depicting how much force the mini-engine is releasing.
    "Pretty good. At this rate, we could fuel the ship for quite a while. Scott, monitoring any unusual radiation?"
    Scott peered at some monitors. "No. It's perfectly calm. And I’m registering an increasing amount of gravitons. The collector seems to be doing its job."
    The test continued on, uneventful, for another hour.
    "Henry," Basil asked, "how much now?"
    "Enough to propel an airplane around the world at top speed. It's rather amazing, the amount of energy within the particles of an atom..."
    An alarm sounded on one of the panels.
    Ted gingerly raised his hand. "Uh, folks, I don't want to spoil the fun, but what does that alarm mean?"
    Henry leaned over one of the consoles and looked at the readout. "Uh oh."
    Basil put his empty can next to a nearby boulder and sighed. "Why don't I like the sound of that?"
    Henry explained the alarm. "For some reason, the gravitons being created by the reaction are accumulating around the device instead of dissipating like I had hoped. I believe a combination of the atmosphere and the electromagnetic controls of the device itself is creating a pocket - similar to the pocket used by the warp drive. So it’s causing a warping effect, and the device isn’t handling it well."
    Scott screamed, "Isn’t handling it well?!? What the fuck does that mean?"
    "Well, there is speculation that it was a mini black hole that caused the Tonguska explosion in the Siberian forest at the turn of the century..."
    "Black hole?" Scott almost screeched. "You mean…"
    Basil put his hand over his eyes. "He means it’s going to blow up."
    Scott ducked below the makeshift shield and glared at Henry, horrified. "Damn it, I just knew it! How big of an explosion will it be?"
    Henry scratched his head. "As big as the Tonguska blast, probably."
    "Ugh." Scott shifted around in discomfort. "So... how long until it goes off?"
    "It looks like it could go any moment... Everyone, just keep down! The shield will protect us."
    "We hope." Basil said.
    Just as everyone took cover, there was a bright flash of light and an incredible explosion. After the noise and rumbling had subsided, the four looked out into the desert. A huge mushroom-shaped cloud rose into the sky.
    Scott shook in barely controlled terror. "Oh, God, we’re in for it now."
    Henry cleared his throat. "Yeah, well, we’ll manage somehow."
    Scott stared at Henry, looking like a deer caught in the headlights. "Ookaaay..." He turned back to the mushroom cloud.
    Henry looked down at the monitor. "Wow. That’s a lot of energy."
    "No shit," noted Scott, still transfixed by the mushroom cloud.
    "We'll need to have Judy work on the flow control design some more, I fear," Ted interjected. "Those gravitons, as she explained it, should've vented away from the device."
    Basil asked, "Uh, how much energy did that thing create?"
    "Plenty. We could run the ship for about a year with how much fuel we have back at home."
    "That's enough for us, isn't it?" Ted asked.
    "Yes. Scott, what did you pick up on the radiation scanner?"
    Scott swallowed, pried himself away from the telltale sign of their disaster, then peered at the screens on some of the equipment nearby. "A lot of infrared... not much in the way of gamma, which is interesting."
    Ted reached around for his cola, finding the can crushed. "Hey, what the..." He held up his soda can, almost perfectly flattened lengthwise.
    Scott peered at the oddity. "Looks like someone laid the can on its side and stepped on it."
    Basil glanced skeptically at Henry. "The explosion?" Basil asked.
    "Yes. In the explosion, the gravitons must have been released in a great quantity."
    "Why didn’t we get smashed?"
    Henry scratched his head. "I guess the radiation shield protected us. It does have an electromagnetic shield on it."
    "Based on your containment design?"
    "Well," Scott said, leaning back on the shield, "at least you prepared for every possible outcome. Almost."
    There was a moment of silence, as the quartet sat in the dusty air, staring at each other. Finally, Basil finally looked towards Henry and spoke.
    "I hope you did cover our tracks really good."
    Henry nodded. "Come on, let’s get moving. I’m sure someone will come and investigate soon. Basil, help me get this shield on the truck. Scott, open the tailgate!"
    Basil scurried and grabbed the other end of the large device. Scott pulled on the lever on the tailgate, but it wouldn't budge. Looking at the rear of the truck, it looked like it had been rammed into, just slightly. "Those gravitons of yours fucked up the rear of the truck, Henry. You'll have to heave it over."
    "Damn." Basil and Henry strained and pushed the shield over the tailgate. It slid into the back and landed with a thud. Ted and Scott then grabbed the monitoring equipment and threw it in behind. Scott and Ted jumped in the back of the truck. Scott yelled, " Go! Go!"
    Henry jumped in the driver’s seat, slammed the door, started the truck and gunned it down the dirt road. In a couple minutes, they were on the highway, heading east into the darkening horizon.
    "Good thing we set up camp so close to the highway," Basil noted.
    "Good thing it’s almost sunset," Scott yelled from the back.
    Henry nodded. "Hey, Scott," he yelled back, "do you see anything?"
    Scott surveyed the horizon. "No. Not yet, anyway."
    Henry sighed, his hands fidgeting on the steering wheel.
    "Why don’t you go faster?" Basil inquired.
    "Because we’d end up looking suspicious. Someone speeding down the highway away from the explosion site? How do you think that would look?"
    "Like someone scared shitless."
    "Henry!" Scott yelled. "I see two helicopters coming over the horizon from the south!"
    "Shit," mumbled Henry.
    The sun started going down behind the mountains.
    "Henry..." Scott hollered.
    "Where are they now, Scott?"
    "Moving towards our observation point, I guess. Jesus, Henry, can’t this thing go any faster?"
    "What are they doing?"
    "Damn it, I can’t tell! Just hovering there, I guess."
    "Basil," Henry requested, "grab the binoculars from under the seat and pass it through the rear window."
    Basil unbuckled his seat belt and fished around beneath the seat. "Got it." He clambered around and held them out the window. "Scott!"
    Scott turned around and grabbed the binoculars. He then turned back and propped himself on the covered shield. "Looks like they’re over where we were located. One of them is landing nearby, while the other is up in the air, observing. I don’t think they can see us."
    "Good," answered Henry. "Hold on." He punched the accelerator. The tires squealed loudly on the pavement as the truck lurched forward.
    "Shit!" Scott fumbled the binoculars. They fell on the other side of the shield and came to a clattering halt by the tailgate. Scott climbed over the shield and reached for the binoculars. He picked them up and inspected them. "Damn it! Good thing they aren’t broken."
    "Sorry," Henry called back.
    Scott got back in position and put the binoculars back up to his eyes. "Fuck!!"
    Henry pushed the accelerator harder, and the truck sped up. "What? What?"
    "One of the helicopters is coming this way!"
    "And the other one?"
    "Going the other way."
    Ted made an observation. "The highway. They’re searching the highway. They're thinking it's the only way we could’ve gone from where we were. If we took a dirt road, there'd be some dust left in the air."
    Henry nodded nervously. "How far from the hotel?"
    "Only a few more miles."
    Henry yelled, "Hey, everyone, get your disguises on! We haven’t got much time!"
    Scott jumped to the rear window and reached behind the seat, grabbing a long-haired wig and a mustache. "I’m gonna look like a freaking hippie."
    "We’re rock musicians, Scott. Get into the part," ordered Henry.
    Scott mumbled obscenities under his breath and put spirit gum on his upper lip.
    Basil grabbed his wig and a leather jacket with spikes on it. "Really, though, Henry, couldn’t we have selected better disguises? I feel like a dork."
    "Well," Henry noted, "considering that many rockers come this way on their way to California, this was probably the most mundane disguise. Better than the idea of bankers. Bankers? In the middle of the desert? Without a bank for miles?"
    "Well... we're just on our way to California." Basil shook his head and reached for the leather pants. "Besides, I look terrible in leather."
    "Bankers take planes, Basil. They can afford it. Besides," Henry continued, "I did research. Lots of weirdoes travel through here, so we really shouldn't stand out." He quickly added, "Too much."
    The truck neared a small community. Partially rusted roofs stuck out of the occasional group of desert vegetation.
    "We’re almost there, guys," Henry announced. He pulled off the side of the road.
    "What are you doing?" Scott screamed.
    "Putting on my disguise." He grabbed a large ten-gallon hat and a baby-blue western jacket from behind the seat..
    "Oh, Christ," Scott sighed.
    Henry jumped out of the truck and put his new clothes on. He reached back into his sack and produced a prosthetic nose. He mashed it onto his face and smoothed it on. He turned to the crowd in the back of the truck. "How do I look?"
    Ted shook his head. "Like a cowboy version of W. C. Fields with a bad case of leprosy."
    "Oh." Henry looked in the mirror and saw the nose was half off of his face. "Damn." He grabbed some spirit gum and pasted it around his nose. He then smoothed it back on and grabbed a little makeup. He turned back. "Better?"
    "As good as it’s going to get," Scott said. He turned back to the west and watched through the binoculars. The sun had almost completely set, and a cool breeze picked up from the south. "Henry, they’re probably fifteen miles away. Let’s get OUT of here!"
    Henry leaped back into the truck and gunned it into the small village. He slowed down and gingerly pulled into the parking lot of an old beat-up hotel. "Come on, let’s go in. And act casual."
    "Casual. Sure. In this get-up?" Scott retorted. He and Ted leaped out of the back.
    Basil squirmed out of the passenger seat and adjusted his leather pants. "God, I hate leather!"
    "Relax, Basil. Okay, everyone, deep breath."
    The four breathed deeply.
    "Okay. Rock musicians. On a mystical desert journey. That’s what we are. Act the part. But don’t overdo it."
    "Rock musicians always overdo it, Henry," Scott commented.
    "That’s just a stereotype, Scott."
    Scott gestured to his outfit. "And this isn’t?"
    Henry shrugged and walked into the lobby. The old wooden floors creaked under everyone's weight. A woman sat at the counter, pouring over a large book. The four walked past her towards the stairs. The woman never looked up. The four proceeded up the stairs, turned the corner, and opened up their rooms.
    "Whew," breathed Basil. He walked into the east-facing room with Henry.
    Scott and Ted went into the room on the other side of the hallway. Scott immediately stripped off his wig, locked the door behind him, turned off the lights and peered out the window.
    Ted made a remark as he climbed onto the bed, covered with moth-eaten blankets. "Gee, you like this cloak and dagger stuff, eh?"
    "Shh!" Scott put the binoculars back up to his face and watched. "Jesus! They’re almost on top of us!"
    There was a knock on the door. Ted and Scott jumped and stared at the door.
    "It’s me, Henry."
    Ted went over and unlocked the door. Henry walked in.
    "What’s going on?" Henry asked.
    "Shh!" Scott chided. They listened.
    Basil walked in, listening, peering at the ceiling.
    The sound of whirling propeller blades grew louder as the helicopter approached. Scott watched out the window as the helicopter, with its searchlight blazing, passed overhead. He watched it go by in the binoculars.
    "Getting a good view, Scott?" Henry joked.
    Scott ran past Henry and shot him a baleful glare. Scott went into the room across the hall and turned out the light. The other three followed him.
    Outside, the helicopter landed on the edge of the street in the middle of the town, about five hundred feet from the hotel. About eight soldiers jumped out and dispersed in different directions, remaining in pairs. Two guards remained by the helicopter.
    "Oh, fuck," Scott exclaimed. "They know we’re here!"
    "Not so," Ted explained. "If they knew exactly where we were, they’d all be coming towards the hotel. I only see two coming this way."
    "But they know we’re in this town!"
    "Shh!" Basil warned. "They’re getting closer."
    The four watched below as the two soldiers came toward the building. They started peering in the vehicles parked outside.
    "Oh, we’re screwed," worried Scott.
    "Shh!" the other three warned.
    The soldiers came up to the pickup and looked around it. One of them peeked under the tarp covering the radiation shield, then put it back down. The soldiers continued down the line of cars.
    Scott stood bolt upright. "Christ, are they dense?" he exclaimed.
    Henry and Basil grabbed Scott and pulled him back down. "Shh!!"
    The two soldiers below finished the line of cars. They nodded at each other, and one talked into a headset.
    "Looks like we’re okay," Henry commented.
    "Oh, really?" Scott responded. He pointed below.
    The two soldiers walked into the lobby below.
    The four men retreated from the window and sat up against the wall, in panic. They exchanged glances for a few seconds, then darted out of the room and clambered towards the corner of the hallway. They watched down the stairway and listened.
    "Excuse me, ma’am," someone said, "have you seen any suspicious characters come in within the past half hour?"
    "Who owns that blue pickup outside?"
    Henry and Scott stared at each other in terror.
    "Just a few rock musicians. They arrived just this morning. I guess they’re going to Hollywood or something," replied a female voice.
    "Did they ever tell you what that device is underneath the tarp?"
    "Some kind of amplifier. They say it’s part of their show."
    Another female voice chimed in, this one deeper. "Where are they staying?"
    "Rooms 11 and 12, upstairs."
    The sound of approaching footsteps could be heard.
    The four ducked back around the corner and looked at each other, horrified.
    "Quick," Henry whispered, "go back to your rooms and ... do something musical."
    "Like scream?" Scott asked.
    "Grimace musically. Strum your guitars. Whatever. Don’t let on. Tell them we heard something, and it kind of spooked us, because we didn’t know what it was." He motioned towards the rooms.
    The four split up and went to their rooms, shutting the doors as quietly as possible.
    Scott put his wig back on, then grabbed a guitar and fiddled with it. "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. We’re dead."
    Ted shot Scott a reproachful look. "Henry said, ‘keep cool.’"
    Scott shook his head and fidgeted some more.
    The sound of footfall could be heard outside, coming down the hallway. They stopped, right outside the door.
    A knock.
    Ted steadied himself, grabbed a nearby bottle of scotch, took a large gulp, splashed a little liquor on himself for good measure, and swaggered over to the door. He opened it. "Yeah, what’s up?"
    Scott strummed his guitar. A rather cacophonous sound emanated from it.
    The male soldier outside grimaced notably, from a combination of the smell and Scott’s lack of musical talent. "Uh, yeah. You are musicians?"
    "Yeah, man," Scott said.
    "Uh huh. Did you arrive here within the past half hour?"
    "Yeah, man."
    "Okay. Where were you and what were you doing?"
    "Hey, man, we were out having a joy ride, you know, out in the desert. We were going to hook up our wires and jam and groove with the animals but some weird thing happened and it kinda spooked us, man. I mean, it just wasn’t groooovy, ma-a-an..."
    "Ah, I see." The soldier looked around. He looked at Ted, still standing by the door, who had his eyes half-closed, looking like he was stoned. The soldier took a whiff and immediately cringed. "Uh, yeah. Well, have a nice night."
    "Hey, man, you wanna dig my strings?" Scott got up, leaped around and started banging on the guitar. "GreeeEEEAAAAGGGHHHH!"
    "No, no, that’s quite alright," said the soldier, backing away. He turned to the woman behind him, who just finished talking to the Henry and Basil in the other room. They talked to each other quietly for a moment, then walked back down the hall. The voice of the man could be heard. "Captain, nothing here. We thought we had something, but it turned out to just be a group of punks..."
    Ted rolled his eyes. "Jeez, if only the members of the board of directors could see this, I’d never live it down." He looked at Scott, inquisitively. "’Groooooovy, ma-a-an’? What kind of shit was that?"
    Scott shrugged. "Hey. Henry said to act the part."
    Henry stepped out of his room. "Yeah, but I also said, ‘don’t overdo it.’ Christ, I thought they were torturing you in there. What in hell was that noise?"
    Ted stayed Henry. "Don’t ask. It’s better if you don’t know."
    The four stood in the hallway for a minute, looking at each other. Then, in unison, they scrambled back into Henry’s room and peered out the window again.
    All they could see were the two guards next to the helicopter, its rotor still turning.
    "I wonder where all the other soldiers are," Basil said.
    Henry shrugged. "Don’t think it matters. So far, we escaped with our skins still attached."
    "So far," reminded Ted.
    The four sat in silence and watched out the window. After a moment, Ted tapped Henry on the shoulder and motioned to him that he wanted to speak privately with him. Henry followed to the far corner of the room, while Scott and Basil continued to observe the activity outside.
    The sky had turned a dark shade of blue, and stars started appearing in the sky. The searchlight on the helicopter reflected diffused light off the ground, casting an eerie glow around the area. After about fifteen more minutes of silence, eight soldiers seemingly came out of nowhere and converged on the helicopter. All ten climbed back into the helicopter, and the helicopter’s rotors started spinning with more speed. Soon, it lifted off the ground and headed further down the highway, its searchlight scanning the ground below.
    Scott and Basil breathed a sigh of relief.
    "Gods," exclaimed Scott, "I thought they had us there."
    Ted nodded from across the room. "Did you notice they were taking down license numbers off of the vehicles earlier, before they entered the hotel?"
    Scott nodded.
    "We’re going to have to ditch the truck," noted Basil.