Friday, July 18, 2014


To continue the overview…

…this will be long…

By 2012, I had fully committed to self-publish. I had published With Eyes Open… and found the process easy…mostly. So I decided the next project would be a collection of stories, almost all of my remaining completed stories. By this time, I had fourteen completed stories, and had plans for some. (“With Eyes Open…” and “A Voice in the Darkness” were in With Eyes Open…, “Wanderer” is an integral part of a longer work, as is “A God to Dance With” and “The Arc of Heaven”. “Brianna and the Three” is a very special case. While I liked the plot, the story seemed to fall short in execution. So I’m currently working on the third draft of the story.)

That left eight stories, which were combined into the anthology Campfire Stories.

Each of the stories deal with self-discovery, exploration and duty…and the consequences of each. Some of the consequences are rather low-key, some are very dire.

The stories are arranged in the order they occur in my fictional universe, not in the order they were written. My stories all take place in the same universe, with one consistent timeline that runs from 13.8 billion years plus one day in the past through to the year 7869.

The first story, “The End of Seconds” is the furthest into the past I’ve ever ventured. All the way back to before the beginning. I would always describe this story as being about the end of one universe and the start of the next universe. It would also address an annoying question I have never gotten a satisfactory answer to: Where did God come from? (I have no problem accepting an all powerful being that can create all of existence with the snap of his fingers. But all beings, even all powerful ones, had to come from somewhere.)

So I speculated that in the universe prior to this one, a group of researchers had mastered time travel. The system required them to download their consciousness into actual apparatus (the Cube) and travel back through time as energy. As the story starts, they are preparing for the longest trip into the past ever taken, all the way back to the start of their universe. The warnings of the chief scientist and an enigmatic stranger are dutifully ignored.

“Games of Life and Cold” had originally been planned as part of a much larger project that would’ve covered three novels and an untold number of stories. Sadly, I may never get back to the larger project.

The main characters are part of an artificially created race known as T’zentarna (translation: the Sentinels). The look almost human, except for their three fingers and opposable thumb. They were originally created as a science experiment. After their creation, they’re used as advanced scouts, explorers and (in the original project) soldiers. They would be confronted by another race, the Sqediqians, who thinks they’re the supreme beings in the Universe and consider all other beings nothing more than resources to be exploited.

I was trying for more of a horror story in this one, contrasting the peaceful ways of the Sentinels with the more barbaric ways of the Sqediqians.

With “If You Listen Softly…” I was trying to evoke the feel of a Twilight Zone episode. (The fact that I referenced The Twilight Zone in the story had nothing to do with it.) This is also the first story that hinted there are forces of nature watching over the world. Even though I don’t go into too much description of it, the house the story takes place in is pretty much the house I grew up in.

Ever wake up with the feeling something was wrong but you don’t know what? Happens to me all the time. What if the world had changed but you were the only one who didn’t know it? My main character had to deal with this situation; after being alone for years after the death of his wife, a man wakes up to find some new in his life, someone he doesn’t recognize but other people do.

Like “If You Listen Softly…”, “All My Yesterdays, Remembered” is a fantasy piece, even a little bit autobiographic. (The main character’s background is similar to my own, with a few changes here and there.) The story came about after thinking about someone going to their high school reunion, first at ten years, then twenty, and seeing someone who doesn’t seem to be aging. Tweaking the idea a bit led me to tell the story from the point of view of a guy whose childhood friend doesn’t look like she’s aged a day in decades.

“Symmetry” is the last fantasy piece (until the current novel project). It’s also another story that hints at the existence of forces beyond our reckoning. It also hints at resurrection, that souls move from one body to another at the time of death. I had started thinking about someone waking up and not knowing where she was or how she got there. The location became a subway car, the only other passenger being a conductor, who knows more about the main character than he says.

“Signpost” is set in the early twenty-second century, the early days of space exploration. Humanity has started spreading out into the galaxy, contacting one alien race, the Gregorians, and finding evidence of another older race, the Mengharans. The Mengharans left a series of markers behind but no one could figure out why or how it was done. Some questions are answered, new questions are posed.

The interesting thing about “Signpost” is that it was inspired by a Neil Diamond song. On the Beautiful Noise album is a song titled “Signs”, which includes these lyrics:  “Signs like moments hung suspended/Echoes just beneath the heart/Speak in voices half remembered/And half remembered play their part”. That led to a line a Mengharan says, “We speak every thousand years but there is never anyone here to listen to us.”

Evolution can be a bitch if there’s no else around.

“Last Light” is a hostage story, chronologically the first of the stories centered on EarthGov Security. Set in 2189, it’s centered on two of my favorite characters, Special Agents Caralynn (Carly) Adrasteia and Alexandra (Alexa) Sinclair. It’s a hostage story, as Carly and Alexa get drawn into a robbery and its aftermath. Interesting thing about Alexa…when I created her, I had no idea she was a lesbian and had a crush on Carly. (More on that when we get to On A Cold Wind.) “Last Light” was originally part of On A Cold Wind but it had nothing to do with the rest of the novella.

The same thing happened with the last story in Campfire Stories, “The Shape of the Truth”. When I wrote it, I had planned on using it to introduce Dari Loq and Maia, the main characters, their race, the Children of Li’jha, and their shape-shifting abilities. (In their natural form, the Children look like a sphere of Vaseline about a yard across. Their genetic structure is more of a jumble than an organized spiral like human DNA. They developed the ability to reorganize the genetic structure and perfectly mimic other life forms.)

Unfortunately, the novel it was supposed to be part of was put aside. I was making no progress on it, so I was going to let it sit for a little while. Knowing this was a complete story, I pulled it out, pulled out some foreshadowing that had been done and included it in Campfire Stories.

Overall, I’m happy with the stories and how they all turned out. They all do what I wanted them to do, that is to simply entertain.

Campfire Stories is available on Smashwords, Kindle, iTunes and NOOK. Find the links on my website, Wordboy’s Words –!books/cnec

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