Update on New Website

February 5, 2015

I ran into some major issues with the new website back around Christmas time. After much debate, I bit the bullet and had the sysadmin wipe out the database so I could start over. The second generation is now up and running. In the near future, I have a lot more content to add, but it appears to be functional. I’d appreciate comments either good or bad.
The new site can be found at: http://postorbitallibrary.com/

A New Website is Born!

August 17, 2014

This has been a long time coming. I’ve been working on a new website for the past month, and although it is nowhere near done yet, it is ready for testing. The idea for this project has been percolating for the past few years.

There are free stories, tutorials, and paper models.

At this point, I think it is time for some serious BETA testing. So I’m asking folks to take a look and if you see anything that doesn’t make sense or is obviously broken, please let me know.

Over the next few weeks, I anticipate making many changes, updates, and additions to the new pages. I hope you’ll enjoy following the developments.

The new site is: http://postorbitallibrary.com/

A Photo Challenge

June 5, 2014

I’m not sure how I feel about the following photo that I shot awhile back. Tell me what I should feel.

ironmaster__s_house

Let your creative side tell the tale behind the photo. You can write a story, a poem or even just one word. You decide.

Deserted Challenge

June 5, 2014

One of the better creative blogs that I follow is by sethsnap. Yesterday, he posted the following…

Your story- Deserted – by sethsnap

“I took the following photo on a country road near my house. It was late at night. I’m not sure how I feel about the photo. Tell me what I should feel.”
“Your Story is a SethSnap series in which you get to decide the story behind the photos. You can write a story, a poem or even just one word. You decide.” – sethsnap

Here then, is my response to his photograph.

Deserted – A Travelers Respite

 

I don’t know why my car stopped.
The gas gauge showed more than half. There were no ominous sounds or smoke. The engine died and I coasted to a stop.
This was all I needed after another hellacious day at the office. With a quarter of the staff out sick with the flu, one manager on vacation, and the owner’s semi-literate son throwing temper tantrums, I was at wit’s end.
After more than thirteen hours of playing referee during the office politics games, OwnersSon decided I was the perfect choice to go out of my way to deliver a package.
This left me on a deserted blacktop in the middle of nowhere when I should have been in bed.
I sat and waited a few seconds, then tried to start the car again. The lights dimmed and I became worried about the battery. I pulled my phone to call a wrecker. No bars!
The flashlight was where it belonged, so I took it, popped the hood latch, and stepped out.
I pressed the button and nothing happened. The flashlight batteries were dead.
Fatigue had me shaking, despite the warm summer evening, and I leaned against the fender, eyes closed, head bowed, arms folded.
“Relax.”
My eyes opened and my head snapped up. “Hello? Who’s there?”
The half-grown field whispered at me as a ghost of a breeze slid by. Cautiously, I turned, looked around, and saw no one. I raised my voice a little. “This isn’t funny. Show yourself.”
“Oh my! Aren’t we nervous tonight.”
I spun back and standing next to my car, was a young woman. She wore a simple sun dress with a floral pattern, was barefoot, and smiled softly.
“Sorry. I didn’t see you come up. My car died and I need a lift.”
“What you need is to stop and look around. It’s a beautiful night and you are way too tired to be racing down this stretch of road without taking a moment to enjoy the gifts you’ve been given.”
“What gifts? For Pete’s sake, woman. My car is dead, no flashlight, I just finished a double-shift…”
“Shssss!” A slender finger to her lips. “Just stop and look around.” She gestured at the field beside us and leaned against the fender.
I shook my head, folded my arms, and followed suit.
“This road has been here for ages. It started as a trail between giant trees, worn down by generations of hunters. Later on, great beasts hauling wagons, widened it. Now, it has been hardened to smooth the way for machines as well as the children of men.” She paused and looked wistful. “One thing has held true over the ages. When someone is troubled, here, they are granted peace, if only for a little while.”
As she spoke, my gaze followed the distant tree line. First, I noticed the faint glow of city lights, then a sparkling of farm yard lights as branches moved with the wind. I closed my eyes for just a moment, then opened them to enjoy the way the breeze flowed like waves over the field. As my eyes grew accustomed to the moonlight, what I first perceived as stark and foreboding was revealed as warm, golden tones, accented by shadows. Without thinking, my arms dropped and I placed my hands on the warm fender. I leaned farther back and took a deep breath. Then another. And slowly, I felt the tension drain from me. A single tree, standing proudly in the middle of the field, became a focus. The dark form became clear and distinct, with shades of green and brown, fading to black shadows. It was welcoming.
“Yes. You’ll do.” She interrupted the whispering night sounds.
I nodded and smiled, then stopped and shook myself. “Do for what?”
She was gone.
I shook myself again, blinking rapidly, and realized it was much lighter. The first glimmer of false-dawn lightened the eastern sky. How could I have been here all night?
I sat back down in the car to collect my thoughts. Mostly on reflex, I turned the key and the motor started. I let it idle for a second and checked my phone. It showed four bars. That was plenty of signal. It didn’t really matter.
There were no other cars around as I put the car in gear, I realized I felt better than I had in ages. Somehow, a bit of fresh air and an unplanned nap, had refreshed me more than I had thought possible.

A Challenge of My Own

I’m not sure how I feel about the following photo that I shot awhile back. Tell me what I should feel.
Let your creative side tell the tale behind the photo. You can write a story, a poem or even just one word. You decide.

ironmaster__s_house

Time for Change

June 4, 2014

It’s been almost nine months since my last update.

“Time if fun when you’re having flies.” – Kermit

There have been a lot of changes after I retired from gubmin service, last year.

Number One: I’ve survived remodeling hell and am now comfortably ensconced in the old family homestead.

Number Two: I’ve cut all ties with my previous publisher and am in the process of rewriting and re-editing a series of novels and short stories.

Number Three: Later this summer, I’m going to release a series of self-published works. As they become available, I’ll share blurbs, excerpts, and links.

With all that in mind, starting this week, I’m rebuilding this website. Some of the tutorials and previous postings will remain, but much of the outdated info will hit the bit bucket.

I’m really looking forward to a bright future!

Moving Day!

July 27, 2013

This is it! The last day I’ll be able to work with my desktop for the next month or so.

I’m retiring and moving from the DC area to south Florida. That will mean more time to write, edit, take photos, and relax.

I’ll still be available via email, but I hate touch-screen typing on the smartphone, so response might be a bit slow.

Hope everyone is having a great summer!

Kissing the Hand

May 24, 2013

The rush, stress, and practicalities of modern life have cost us more than we know. Many of the polite acts of chivalry have been abandoned. I know that a strong, modern woman is fully capable of opening their own restaurant door, but I feel it is my duty as a gentleman to graciously hold it for her. Perhaps she will reward me with a soft smile?

As recently as WWII, it was common among polite society for a gentleman to kiss the back of a lady’s hand when introduced. This fell into disrepute for several reasons. It is way too easy to trade nasty germs when lips meet hands, it requires an extra second or two from a busy day, and too many boorish men used it as an excuse to slobber over pretty ladies.

A knight and fine gentleman in the SCA taught me there is a polite and politically-correct manner with which to bring back this reminder of bygone manners. I would share this technique, now.

Step One: The gentleman takes her proffered hand and turns it slightly so that the back is facing up.

Step Two: He places his thumb over her fingers and bows slightly from the waist.

Step Three: Keeping his eyes on hers (not her breasts), he then lets his lips touch just his thumb.

Step Four: Don’t hold it over long. Just take a second or two at the most.

This simple technique provides the proper intent without drooling and smearing germs on her hand.

Keeping your eyes on hers, serves to hold her attention and let her know that you appreciate her as a person.

As the gentleman straightens up and releases her hand, the lady, in turn, should reward his chivalric display with a smile and a small curtsey.

I have used this technique at SCA events as well as at various conventions.  The only down side is that the gentleman might get a jealous glower from the lady’s companion.

Gentlemen, give it a try the next time you find yourself among polite society. If nothing else, it will start a discussion.

Upcoming TeeVee Shows

May 15, 2013

After looking at a handful of trailers, I’m looking forward to some new TV shows, later this year.

Sleepy Hollow

This is a new way of looking at the classic Washington Irving tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. It’s about an 18th Century soldier Crane who somehow winds up in the 21st Century under the watch of a small town police officer. Here’s the official trailer.

Almost Human

This is a cop show where a seriously ‘broken’ human cop is partnered with a ‘non-standard’ android. It does show some promise, if it doesn’t fall down the RoboCop path.  Here’s the official trailer.

Given that FOX’s track record with fantasy and sci-fi shows over the years, I am worried about both of these.

Crazy Ones

Another new show I’ve high hopes for is a comedy.

Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar have been cast as father and daughter in Crazy Ones.
This is a new sitcom being devloped for CBS.

The best part is that it will be produced by David E. Kelley! This is the same fellow that brought us Ally McBeal and Boston Legal. There doesn’t appear to be a trailer yet.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Joss Whedon is going to produce an Avengers spinoff that resurrects agent Coulson who was apparently killed in the Avengers movie. Here’s the full trailer.

Well? What do y’all think? Looking forward to anything new and exciting this fall?

Over the past few years, I’ve enjoyed a lot of new fantasy authors. It occurred to me that a list of the best might be appreciated by those who are just starting to read the genre. Among the following you will find two male, three female, and one husband and wife team. I can highly recommend all of these tales.

Ilona Andrews

Ilona Andrews is actually a husband and wife team. Together, they have produced some of the best fantasy novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

We’ll start with the Kate Daniels series. Currently, there are eight novels available.

The chronological order of the series, including Kate Daniels World:

  1. MAGIC BITES
  2. MAGIC BURNS
  3. MAGIC STRIKES
  4. Magic Mourns (Raphael and Andrea novella)
  5. MAGIC BLEEDS
  6. Magic Dreams (Jim and Dali novella)
  7. MAGIC SLAYS
  8. GUNMETAL MAGIC (and Magic Gifts) – Andrea’s book – Kate Daniels World #1

They just released the last of four books in The Edge series. This is a truly classic fantasy adventure with many memorable characters. The Edge is not a place most would care to live, but it is a place that you’ll feel you’ve been there upon reading the books.

  1. On the Edge
  2. Bayou Moon
  3. Fate’s Edge
  4. Steel’s Edge

http://www.ilona-andrews.com/

Their website not only includes a blog, appearance schedule, and news articles, but also has the first couple of chapters of each tale. An added bonus is an ongoing free weekly serial that when finished, they have promised to release as an ebook.

Treat yourself to a visit.

Kim Harrison

The best thing I can say about The Hollows series of books is that I consider the characters to be old friends and would love to meet them for real. Of secondary interest is how each book seems to surprise the reader with a little more insight. All the characters grow and change from their experiences.

  1. Dead Witch Walking
  2. The Good, The Bad, and the Undead
  3. Every Which Way But Dead
  4. A Fistful of Charms
  5. For A Few Demons More
  6. The Outlaw Demon Wails
  7. White Witch, Black Curse
  8. Black Magic Sanction
  9. Pale Demon
  10. A Perfect Blood
  11. Ever After

http://www.kimharrison.net/

Patricia Briggs

Although the tropes of vampires, werewolves, fae, and others have been overdone in recent years, this series has a refreshing new feel to it with memorable characters.

Merchy Thompson is a female German auto mechanic. She drives older Volkswagon models that she has rebuilt herself.

Both the Mercy Thompson series and Alpha and Omega series take place in the same corner of the multiverse. Like most serials, I would read them in sequence.

Mercy Thompson Series

  1. Moon Called
  2. Blood Bound
  3. Iron Kissed
  4. Bone Crossed
  5. Silver Borne
  6. River Marked
  7. Frost Burned

Alpha and Omega Series

On The Prowl [short story]

  1. Cry Wolf
  2. Hunting Ground
  3. Fair Game

http://www.patriciabriggs.com/

Kelly Armstrong

This is another series that should be read in sequence. The characters of Kelly Armstrong’s Otherworld will become friends and the reader will get sucked into the overall storyline.

  1. Bitten
  2. Stolen
  3. Dime Store Magic
  4. Industrial Magic
  5. Haunted
  6. Broken
  7. No Humans Involved
  8. Personal Demon
  9. Living with the Dead
  10. Frostbitten
  11. Waking the Witch
  12. Spell Bound
  13. Thirteen
  14. Werewolves
  15. Spellcasters

Men of the Otherworld (Anthology)

Tales of the Otherworld (Anthology)

http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com/

J.A. Pitts

More than a few authors have paid homage to the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). J.A. Pitts has managed a whole new viewpoint on Dragons and the Fae while wrapping an adventure tale around an unusual love story. Our heroine is a hiding-in-the-closet lesbian, trying to make a living as a blacksmith and prop manager for a movie production company. Anyone who has spent any time with SCAdians will recognize the cast of characters.

  1. Black Blade Blues
  2. Honeyed Words
  3. Forged in Fire

http://www.japitts.net

John Ringo

I think prolific sums it up. Since 2000, he has written or co-written with David Weber, Michael Z. Williamson, Julie Cochrane, Linda Evans, Travis Taylor, and Tom Kratman thirty three novels. These tales run the gamut from hard-core military science fiction to urban fantasy. Since this article is focused on fantasy, I’ll only point out two of his series that I believe qualify.

Special Circumstances Series

  1. Princess of Wands
  2. Queen of Wands

Council Wars Series

  1. There Will be Dragons
  2. Emerald Sea
  3. Against the Tide
  4. East of the Sun, West of the Moon

http://www.johnringo.net

Tanya Huff

She has written many, many novels, but these two gems stand out as something truly different.

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?Tanya%20Huff

Enchantment Emporium

The Wild Ways

It is interesting to note that Tanya Huff is the only popular author I’m aware of that does not have her own webpage. You can find plenty of interviews and reviews of her work, but even when the Canadian Broadcasting Company turned her vampire books into a TV series called “Blood Ties”, she managed to avoid the limelight.

There you have it. Fifty six novels that if you’ve not read them, you really should add to your TBR pile.

Be sure to share your reviews after perusing each one.

Author: John Picha
Edited by: Matthew Davies and Suellen Picha
Rating: Five out of five stars
Chip is an idealistic young man who tends to get lost in daydreams from time to time. He and his fellow Skyracos are armored super-cops, thinly scattered on many worlds, in an imperfect future.
Destiny City is a remote colony owned by the Arkon Mining Company. Chip is a junior part of the Skyracos wing brought in to assist the company security forces in quelling a riot.
It doesn’t take long to discover there is much more to the story than the mining company would have them believe. Sheer greed quickly overcomes compassion and common sense as the Skyracos are ordered to betray their ideals.
A saucer-shaped blimp hovers over Destiny City. The Painwell Pharmacare laboratory team within this floating research facility scrambles to find a plague cure while the Arkon Mining security teams battle the terrified colonists below.
The reader is given a peek into the minds of each of the major characters as the situation reels out of control. Chip’s idealism is put to the ultimate test as John Picha weaves an exciting tale.
I must admit I expected a lightweight space opera. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Skyracos unfolds in a manner reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut at his best. I found myself relating to Chip’s pain as he is tested under fire and learns some hard lessons. Skyracos is a dark story, well told.
You can find out more about this multi-talented author by visiting his website at: http://www.takejohn.com/
Pick up your own copy of Skyracos: The Mining Mess on Amazon.