I've been bummed since being cut from the #spsfc2 (Self-Published Science Fiction Competition) but while studying for work I dropped in on Amazon to do some shopping and found The Sequence at #37 in Genetic Engineering Science Fiction - On the Bestseller list! And 37000 over all is a big jump from my usual bounce between the 300k-500k mark.
Recently I've submitted a 250 word micro-fiction story to @NYCMidnight. First romance I've ever attempted and while trying to fit an entire story into 250 words is a challenge, fitting a romance within that restriction was...brutal!
But judging my last official review, I need to add some love to my novels. So watch for that. As always, I continue to write the sequel to The Sequence, hoping to have a completed draft before the end of 2022.
Cheers for now,
Revisiting Covid all over again.
Was a fun day when my pregnant wife sent me a text from the bedroom of a photo of a positive covid test. We’d attended a wedding three days prior, one of my wife’s friends apparently brought a viral hitchhiker along for the celebration.
I remained in denial.
The entire day and night was spent outdoors, we weren’t allowed inside the house. There were porta-potties. In any case we became infected, brought the pathogen home. It lived in my house now, and there is no escaping the contagious spread of SARS 2.0 it would seem.
I slept in the crawlspace to try to avoid it. Held my breath while bringing my wife food. None of which worked, and I refused to leave her.
I will not, leave, my wing-woman. Or wear a mask, as it were.
So I’m on the other end now, still a bit snotty, still sleeping twelve hours a day, but I feel like this is the last day. I have self decreed that I will no longer succumb to this bullshit disease. Looking forward to getting some writing done next week. Covid booster here we come…
It’s the Whistler Writers Festival starting tomorrow and I’ve got a couple of events booked. Workshop #3 - Preparing to Promote, which I’m excited for, as I genuinely don’t know how to effectively promote myself and my work, and Reading #1, where we get to meet some fellow independent authors. #Indieauthors!
OH! And here's a little snippet from the sequel I'm working on.
She opened the box, extracted her new glassware. Nokia frames, glossy, the colour of aged ivory licked with a faint patina and curved like bone, no straight lines. She jacked the supplied holomem, booted code, installed the cipher and got to the business of beginning.
Ah the blog. How I have neglected thee. The good news is I’ve been focussing on getting this second novel completed, the sequel to The Sequence. One of the many nice things about self-publishing…no deadlines. Nevertheless, it is TIME TO DO THE WORK. Speaking of work, I am one of two-hundred and eighty other authors with books currently being judged in the second running of the SPSFC! Officially SPSFC2. That’s the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition. I’m a little concerned that judges are currently only reading the first 20% of books and thinning the herd as such based on that. The Sequence has a slow start, but as the action begins, it relentlessly accelerates towards the climax, keeping the reader glued to the page after page after…you get the idea. Hopefully they read this and I can convince them that 50% would give them a much better idea of my writing style.
Here’s a link, and you can find them on social #spsfc2.
In addition! I made the Long List over at The CYGNUS Awards, they’ll be choosing the Short List from our group of 38 pretty soon so watch this space for any further information.
In October I’m going to be doing a series of short readings of The Sequence on Reels on my instagram account. If this is the sort of thing that interests you, go on over to @lucientelford and rummage away. If I’m feeling confident with it, I may include some teaser readings from future books.
Wish me luck!
Some more teasers!
Wondering about feedback so I'll pop up a couple of versions of an early piece of my second novel. Please feel free to leave comments either here or on social media. Cheers and thanks!
He followed Fong past a team of robotic diggers, Coradyne Technologies emblazoned along each of their multi-axis appendages, suctioning and shovelling dirt at the impossible pace of machinery, the corporate logo blurring from the speed. It moved unnaturally, like a human arm attached in series, double jointed against itself. The motion disturbing.
His gaze followed past Fong to a team of robotic diggers, Coradyne Technologies emblazoned along each of their multi-axis appendages. Centipedal robots, their composite outer shells glowed copper in the synthetic sunlight. The machines rocked and swayed as they suctioned and shovelled concrete and dirt at inhuman speeds, the logos blurring with their unnatural movement, like a human arm attached in axis, double jointed against itself in a disturbingly living motion.
Never show your first draft to anyone. Ever, they say.
I'm not exactly a rule follower, however, and I'm looking for some feedback on the opener of my next book. Remember, it's only very slightly edited, and shall be much more heavily polished come publication.
Any commentary is welcome, mostly feelings like, are you interested in reading further? Did it bore you to death? Do you want to know more about Orlando, the tech, or anything else?
May I introduce you to, my new protagonist...Orlando.
Off the chain, with her data exposed, Orlando had, in her view, one singular option. Run.
Seconds prior, lounged deeply into her well-worn and once-brown corduroy sofa, Orlando rode the data stream unnoticed, cruising for anomalies. Hunting for any sort of reported kidnappings, ransoms, or white-collar crime she could sweep in and solve for an easy pay check. But in an impossible blink of an eye and without warning she was knocked clear of the Blockchain’s security, her identity and location, even her cipher, suddenly exposed to any type of interested party. And there were always algorithms on the hunt for criminals like Orlando.
Unannounced, deep-set and time-jaundiced eyes shimmered into her glassware’s holographic interface. An Asian face, possibly Chinese. Age spots peppered his cheeks, thin wisps of lengthy gray hair protruded beneath his chin. A sadness drooped at the corners of his lips. A repeating hexadecimal contact number scrolled across her synthetic vision’s lower peripheral.
“Orlando. I am need of your services. I have unlimited funds and safe passage. I shall be contacting you through a secure tunnel via the hex below.” The face de-rezzed and she was left staring at the same police data feeds she had been cruising minutes before. Now however, outside the protection of the Blockchain, any swipe or communication would generate traceable and locatable lines of code, pointing directly at her.
Hunted. Fuck. First time. Could only be Cartel. After her last job, she’d taken a slight indiscretion with some of their less well-protected bank balances. A move certain bosses had taken a particularly dim view of. Life on the run was part of her normal, she'd been told she could hide for the Olympic team. But having been located like this, and purposely exposed, that was new. The Asian face in the stream was an unlikely fit for a multigenerational and local Cali Cartel. So not Cartel then. Not good.
She shut down her glassware, pulled the batteries, zipped the frames into their case, a faraday-cage on loan from her best girl, Ireland. Opened her single item of luggage, a long gray duffel containing only the strictest essentials; digital currency, clean underwear, soap. She yanked a roll of metallic tape from which she tore a strip using her teeth and sealed the glasses case tight. No signal from inside could escape, there would be no tracing her from the glassware.
With her duffel secure, she paused, gave the room in which she’d spent months of safety a final once-over, closed the door and ran down the stairs, two at a time. Was a twenty minute walk to Ireland’s, and there was no possible way she could arrange anything digitally to organize a quick quad-rotor Ryde without attracting someone's attention. A wanted thief, whether by law or the mob didn’t last long in the streets and alleys of big city Columbia.
I have no idea, and I mean no fucking clue if anyone reads this blog. I imagine a future employer (Ed I'm looking at you) may have a quick cruise to see if there's any questionable content, but really what I want to accomplish here is some ideas for the sequel to The Sequence.
This is an official spoiler alert, however minor. Please remember, first drafts are just that. They shall resemble very little of what ends up in print. So let's try it out.
May I request comments, additions, hatred, praise, anything at all is appreciated. And hey, those little facebook and twitter buttons also work, in case you feel like promotion...
So here's a prologue, not exactly a fave of the industry, but sets the stage without diving deep into backstory between novels.
There is nothing I would enjoy more than your feedback, and whether you'd enjoy a few more snippets from this sequel I've been working on since November 2020...
“What do you mean we’re letting him go? He’s got no legs, he’s not going anywhere.”
“What the boss wants, Woo. My hands are tied.”
Was bullshit was what this was. Woo paced. “I spent weeks on that case. Brought in Chen Rong specifically to remove the head from the snake.”
Behind the superintendent, pixels cascaded in silence along the window’s diagonal with a deepening tint as the late afternoon’s South Asian sunbeams descended into view. He imagined the Super’s boss, watching their conversation via some undisclosed lens buried in the window’s framework, waiting for Woo to snap.
The Super reclined, thick, ropey fingers interlacing behind his razored clean baldness. With some effort he lifted heavyset thighs atop his polished aluminum and empty desk, groaning as he crossed them. “This goes way above you and me, Woo. Let it go. This is no snake. This is the head of the dragon.”
“Heard that before.” He never figured the Super for a cop on the take. Meant Woo needed to be careful if he was to investigate any further. Triad lenses drifted on the wind, catching whiffs of gossip, whispers of data recorded on synthetic ears far too small to trace.
Woo noted the warning. Like he’d been told by the Nine themselves, they knew him now.
In case it’s not just me taking note, the world, in its current state, in my opinion is utterly fucked.
War in Ukraine. Over what? One man’s desire to re-ignite the USSR? Under what premise? I have questions. What we see on the surface cannot possibly be Putin’s end goal. Destroying the national infrastructure of a financially independent and prosperous nation is so 1900’s. It’s 2022. There are many more options to consider.
China’s continuing low key land grab using dredged islands as military bases on the doorsteps of competing nations (Australia as an example). Not to mention the debt-trap deals with impoverished Asian and African nations designed exclusively with China’s strategic goals in mind.
Deteriorating freedoms in the US based largely on religious and political positions, in the face of a movement to depolarize a growing racial tension, long since overdue. One cannot help but empathize with the pain of a nation so segregated, so culturally diverse as to be envious of, so full of dreams, and yet failing at every turn to grow, to change, to welcome betterment rather than today’s practice of instituting outdated, archaic ideologies.
What is happening in Canada’s Arctic? Perhaps take a deep google dive on a large undefended border where Russian military bases and assets have grown exponentially over the past decade.
There is a theme here, for anyone interested and paying attention.
The Hundred Year Marathon by Michael Pillsbury helps to shine some light on China’s activities globally over the last few decades. None of which has been chance, none of which has been coincidental.
The sequel to The Sequence has been in the works since 2020, and rewriting the first draft because of these increasingly foreseeable yet unfathomable political events takes time.
I weep for a Hong Kong that no longer exists. My life there carried a vibrance that beat with the pulse of the city.
I wish upon a star for our southern neighbours, armed and angry, and at odds. Your civil war is inevitable. Please, prove me wrong.
We support Ukraine. You stand for so much more than a pariah nation. Beware the Bear, in a straight fight you shall most certainly lose.
Day three. Play time was over.
These words I spoke to my sim partner, whom I was present to aid and assist through the process of returning to the flight deck after their two year Covid hiatus. It had been two months since I last flew a Boeing. My skillset felt rusty, my confidence did not.
Sunlight beaming through gaps in blackout blinds three hours early does not aid with lag, regardless of report time. Five in the afternoon arrives as easily as two. Sleep deprivation, as always, remains my greatest foe.
They say anyone can do this sober, anyone can do it well-rested.
I beg to differ. I rely on my training, on my decades of experience to guide us through multiple, unrelated emergencies. Engines fail. Reset. Cargo holds catch fire. Reset. We move from Vancouver to Sault Ste. Marie in seconds. Drastically changing weather and aircraft configurations. We do this for practice. We do this because we must.
Now that the simulators have finished, the writing desk awaits.
This is a 1000 word flash fiction competition piece I just wrote and submitted given the following parameters:
Six inches of layered fused silica glass separated Atlas from the dark nothingness of interplanetary space. She ran her palm along the window’s smoothness, waiting.
A bell chimed, a green light illuminating above a wooden door that did not open as she approached. Atlas grasped the steel handle, pushed it open into a piercing squeal. Metal hinges grinding. She left the door ajar.
A lone woman draped in a salmon-coloured tracksuit lounged in memory foam behind a paper-thin sheet of carbon monofilament, spun into the shape of a desk. Augmented glassware dangled loose off the tip of her nose. She looked up for a moment, acknowledging Atlas’ presence, her eyes then returning to the repetitive jitter of data ingestion.
“Atlas, is it?”
“My name’s Stacey. Take a seat honey.”
A foam chaise self-assembled at her feet, unfurling with an identifiable insectoid motion.
Atlas sat, reclined.
“Here for the mining position?”
The woman flicked a metal switch on the side of a glass box loosely bolted atop four spindly
metal legs, fresh popcorn emblazoned across its face in fiery red print. It erupted into life, visibly shaking.
“We have other positions you know. Most of them less...work, if you catch my meaning.”
The first kernels popped with a startling urgency. Like the snaps and pops of printed bullets
dropping into the printer’s “completed” tray. Fireable projectiles that she had carried easily across international borders as simple precursors, resin and molecularly unassembled propellant.
“You after maximum pay, hun?”
“That’s the idea.”
The popping accelerated, steam rose, wafts of exploded corn.
Her final assignment. A Mogadishu hotel room. A pulsing ceiling fan downdraft thick with the smell of old. And every few minutes, the plink of a new, 108mm cartridge dropping into the slowly filling tray.
The entire contraption shifted sideways, bumping into Stacey’s foam recliner.
“You want some popcorn honey? It’s almost ready. I got hot butter too.”
Atlas hated popcorn. The inescapable smell, like the hotel in Mogadishu, repulsed her.
“Sure. I’d love some thank you.”
She’d hit the target. Took her three days. Pissed herself twice stalking, waiting. The waiting was what she loved. The calm brutality of patience required to hunt and kill prey.
“What’s maximum pay?”
“Well honey you want to go out, like way out, I mean like Oort Cloud out, they gonna pay you shedloads. Everything planetary is obviously going to be a lot less pay.”
She’d lain prone after the kill shot, unmoving, unseen, but for far too long. She became the hunted. Dogs found her hiding in a stream, breathing through a straw. Got roughed up pretty good in a Somali jail. No rules those boys seemed to live by.
Kade’s team got her out. A bloodshed firefight rescue. So many had died so that she could live. If this is what qualified as living. Stuck on a deep space employment barge waiting for a drop off at a decades-long jobsite.
“How long til we get there?”
“On this crate?” The woman looked up from scrolling text beaming onto her retinas. “We got a three year standard orbit between Earth and Neptune. One year left until the next available transit.” She looked back to the data, the fingers of one hand maneuvering in a language only they knew, interfacing with the dataflow.
“Shuttle can pick you up in exactly two-hundred and forty days. Transit out to the target rock is roughly three hundred days, but you’d be asleep for that.”
“What’s it pay?”
“It’s not about the pay, honey, it’s the commitment that gets ya.”
She lifted the glassware off her head, a ring of flexible carbon fibre interfacing with her brain
through temple-mounted electrodes. The popping slowed. The tray filled.
“Be a decade, maybe more. Depends what they find, how good you are. Usual stuff.”
“How many crew?”
“Well that’s what makes this deployment so very unique.” She flicked a hand at the alabaster
wall behind her where a display of the solar system lit up in brilliant prime coloured holographic vectors.
“This here triangle is us, the Matador.”
“How many crew?”
“Looks like...” Her hand continued making delicate gestures. “Starts out as three, but then
once you’ve secured an anchor by yourself, they piss off and get the next team up and running.”
“So it’s a solo mission?”
“Mmhm.” She nodded.
Their eyes met. A decade. She’d lose Kade. Either to the drugs or the distance. And wasn’t
that why she was here? Wasn’t she doing all she could to get them both right? “I’ll take it.”
“Perfect. Let’s get you all signed up for Coradyne.”
Stacey leaned into Atlas, across the desk, faint whispers of raspberry, a riff of bourbon.
“It’s always Coradyne. They’re running every corner of the system.”
The woman beamed, the headset returned.
“You will of course be required to have trodes surgically implanted. It’s not painless but the
job requires the interface.”
“How do you mean, not painless?”
“I mean, it’s gonna fucking hurt. Like nails in your brain. But they give you good meds,
eventually it dulls.”
“Ever go away?”
“Not really, no.”
“Fucksakes.” She wanted Kade. For him to be here. Just to ride the orbital ferry even. But he’d never make it. Too hooked on dope. Too messed to even board.
* * *
Stacey had said a decade. Two and change had passed. Too distant to send comms home. Too distant to receive.
Atlas secured the final anchor and followed the carbon cabling to the SlingShip. Ignited the reactor, established Earthlink, and recorded a message to Kade, a farewell unplanned, from a place of hope, for something better for them both. With the push of a button the sling maneuver she had been orchestrating for decades began.
“Kade, I have lived because of your sacrifice. I had hoped to return to you but so many years have passed. I have found my new home among the stars, and I finally feel able to breathe.”
– Lucien Telford 2022
Fantasy author P.L. Stuart graces the pages of the second installment of The Drowned Kingdom Saga with bloodshed, deception, and a hero’s search for affirmation in the The Last of the Atalanteans. Stuart deftly spins long allegories of lore and legend into blinding moments of conflict, both internal and physical, as we learn more of Othrun’s past while he journeys forward into battle facing new foes, and forging new alliances.
Full disclosure, I received an Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which in no way influenced my opinion or the contents of this review.
Beginning where the first book left us hanging from a cliff’s edge, we find ourselves immersed in Othrun’s false quest. As Stuart beautifully writes, “A game. A play. Theatre.” A band of liars set to infiltrate the ancient Goldhall and return the throne to King Wely, rightful King of Lynchun.
This is a story of mages and spirits and swordplay, told through the narrow but widening eyes of Othrun. Ost, as he is now known, comes from a bigoted and closed-minded family of rulers now long dead. And while Ost retains these traits, we see in him the ability to grow beyond the values he was saddled with since birth. Stuart tackles some difficult themes here; racism, bigotry, sexism, and shows how a mind can be changed over time as Ost softens to his new and only world. A world he desires to rule.
Parts of this book read like a raid in World of Warcraft. Frantic, visceral sword-fights amongst vast battle scenes where Stuart brilliantly focusses his lens to keep the reader not only engaged, but begging for more. I could read 500 pages of P.L. Stuart’s armed skirmishes, he is a master of medieval conflict. And so he should be. With a degree in English, specializing in Medieval literature, Stuart is well-versed on the subject.
The author treats us to some brilliant prosaic dialogue amongst his furious storytelling. Gems such as, “With the blush of dawn,” and “All good kings are killers, and all kings good killers.” These lines had me physically nodding not only in recognition of great writing, but in agreement with the characters. In these moments I had suspended all disbelief in the face of Stuart’s clear glass prose.
Although the book begins by enveloping the reader in Ost’s and Atalantean history, which as we know is only written by the victor, by the end of Part One, the creeping build up to action hooks the reader as the mammoth arrives in Part Two. From here forward the story continues to increase in momentum through well-written tension-building and violent conflict. By the end of the novel, (spoiler) we are grateful for a moment of calm, and yet left wanting more.
The Last of the Atalanteans is an illuminating insight into a man once bound by tradition and aging beliefs who has lost his history, wiped from the planet by a cruel stroke of nature, and who must adapt to a new culture in order to fulfill his destiny, to rule the sole Kingdom before him.
— Lucien Telford, author of The Sequence