Friday, June 26, 2015

Administration Post for Q2 of 2015

As of this post, I'm deep into the novel manuscript. I'm on the final draft before I start doing the submission lottery (and, simultaneously, get on with the self-publishing option). Overall statistics remain steady, which is Not Good Enough; if there isn't a significant uptake in audience or engagement by the end of the year I'm shutting this blog down.

The other option, which I am considering, is a wholesale reformation. Now that I've been made aware of tools for self-publishing that are within my grasp (and thus cutting down the need for outside funding), I will consider over the latter half of this year taking this blog down for a time so I can complete reformat it as a front for self-publishing my work.

It's an option, should no traditional house or literary agent care to take up the novel manuscript. One way or another, I will get into this game; if I have to build up from ashes and dust, so be it.

As for this year, the next serial--The Harp Incident--begins next week.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Lord of the Arena-12

The launch bays in Duluth were far more evenly spaced, and the arena's layout forbade immediate firing upon opponents, so they came out at speed looking to engage right away. Twenty, some of them fighting their way into this event from beating previous undercard challenges, began the match and the fighting went fierce within moments of contact. Eric's car, this time, favored a new miniature railgun again mounted in a pair up front; this made itself felt by taking out one of his rivals in a single shot- catching the target across a corner in a snap-shot, piercing the armor on that quarter-panel and knocking out the powerplant, compelling the crippled car to crash into a wall and stop. The driver, an unknown, signaled his concession by hand and got out on foot via a nearby service door.

"First blood to The 30 Second Ace!" the arena announcer said.

The field quickly winnowed after that. Most of the kills were mobility kills; incoming fire compelled the driver to lose control and come to a halt due to a collision or being upended by a roll. As with Eric's first kill of the match, most of these drivers were themselves unhurt and surrendered to take advantage of the regulations requiring them to leave the arena in return for free passage from the remaining drivers. A few got injured or killed due to the collisions sustained, either of their own car or an opponent's loss of control taking them out. The others eliminated died due to enemy fire directly killing them; the suborned rival's car, as well as Eric's own, did this on a few occasions without malice- it is acknowledged that this is a known risk, so unlawful killing statutes don't apply.

"It's down to The 30 Second Ace and Milwaukee Red!"

The two circled and jockeyed like fighter aces for several long minutes, firing snap-shots and missing each other, and it was then that Eric recalled the report about Red's car. This lead to Eric using a wrecked rival's car as a ramp, one that launched him into the air as Red's car passed by below, and as Eric passed the peak of this arc he targeted Red. Red's car had come about hoping to get a shot off from the rear guns, but he missed the mark- Eric's car was just out of reach by elevation; Eric's car, seeing clearly the weak top section, unloaded the miniature railguns and ripped through that armor into the driver's compartment- killing the ringer instantly and ending the match. What remained of the car crashed into the far wall, and the remaining ammunition detonated to the joy of the crowd.

Eric landed hard, bruising himself something fierce, but managed to keep control and come to a stop. He waved over the medics, who helped him of the floor, but not before showing his fans his trademark victory sign: a fist raised to the north.

"There's your winner, Duluth: Eric Anderson, The 30 Second Ace- Lord of the Arena!"

Friday, June 12, 2015

Lord of the Arena-11

The Duluth arena soon found its underground bays filled with arena teams and their staff, preparing for the weekend card of arena matches. Scouts walked about the place, observing international regulations regarding what arena teams can disclose to rival scouts and speculating on the rest; the media hype escalated as the time drew near, and the local hospitals had ambulances on hand to deal with casualties- and representatives for one or another of the cloning corporations set up next to them. Arms merchants large and small set up their booths and representatives began hawking their wares to the public while liasons with the various teams met to dispense the material benefits of sponsorship: free armor, ammunition, arms or whatever they manufacture.

When Saturday came, the ticket-bearing fans came in their thousands to fill the stands as they do in arenas around what once was the United States and enjoy the 21st century revival of gladiatorial combat. No maritime combat today, alas, but instead a full and promising card of car-centric combat that began just after the lunch hour and went on well after dusk- with intermissions for fans to fill themselves on the food offered by the arena's array of carts, kiosks, and short-order restaurants (the last of which also having beer and ale on tap; this is Brewing Country, after all) so no time (for the fans) or revenue (for the arena) is lost.

The undercard events featured private disputes settled in the arena, the final Amateur Night fight, and even one fool taking up Trial By Combat against the State Patrol's best autoduelist. Some events were short and sweet, some long and exciting, some tedious, some disappointing, and in any event lots of money changed hands over bets informal and formal won and lost. All the while, Eric remained segregated from it all preparing for a Main Event match that had more at stake than fame and a fat purse.

When the last of the undercard matches concluded, and the arena organizers called over the intercom for Eric and his fellow competitors to report to their assigned launch bays, Eric's mind totally focused upon the arena match immediately before him. All thoughts of assassins, hitmen, the price on his head, and related treachery washed away. Eric sat in the driver's seat of his arena car, minding the lights and listening to his man up in the team's booth give the final pre-match situation report.

Most of it was nothing out of the ordinary: this team configured for high-speed ramming, that team installed a turreted laser, and so on. What got Eric's notice was that one of his opponents was not at all seen, even by his own team, without a helmet on since two events before the Main Event- and prior to that, he met with a well-dressed middle-aged man with a New York accent.

"Ringer." Eric said, "What's his car again?"

"Full-sized, paired anti-tank guns forward and again rearward. No gunners. Armor is standard grade, thin on top and standard beneath. Maneuverable but not speedy."

Eric punched a few keys into his car's computer. "Marked. Noted."

Friday, June 5, 2015

Lord of the Arena-10

The next couple of days seemed normal. Eric's staff went over his arena car, preparing it for the main event on the weekend by reviewing who else got into that match and scouting out the competition. Eric and his man split their attention between preparing for the arena match and checking up on the hitmen trying to work their way up to get him. There was no discussion over whether or not to eliminate them beforehand; they just did it- and the stronger of the two found his car's weapons failing to fire in a critical match the night that they arrived. The other succumbed to a far more basic problem of choking to death on his food. Duluth law enforcement, knowing who these two were, declined to do more than the minimum that statutory requirements put to them; they had easy outs to close the case, and they took them.

After Eric's man got off the phone with the lead detective and the local prosecutor, the two sat down to chat over lunch.

"Well, now that we closed that door, what's next?" Eric said.

His man poured them both coffee. "I already warned the arena staff to check for explosives and incendiaries. That should end the 'blow up some or all of the arena' approach."

"So, that leaves a sniper or a honeypot."

"No stick-up kids or turncoats?"

"You wouldn't let that happen."

Eric's man gave him that look.

"You wouldn't because there is no way you'd be able to stop the databomb with all your secrets coming out if I died and stayed dead for more than 12 hours. Keeping me alive keeps you alive."

And by "12 hours", Eric meant two. Driving and shooting weren't the only skilled honed in the rural roads of Minnesota.

"No women. Easy enough." Eric's man said, "That leaves a sniper. Minimizing exposure cuts things down to the actual match, again."

"Wait. There's one more option: one of the others gets bought off, either to make the hit or let a hitman go in his place. We can't control that."

"So they have to face you on your turf, on you terms, where you are at your strongest? Harsh." his man said, laughing.