The Veil War

"and then I was like, 'Holy crap, goblins!'"

Month: March, 2012


Kids, I just wanted everyone to know that Chapter 16 is inbound, scheduled for arrival for tomorrow. I would have posted today – even early this morning – had I not had a modest moment of inspiration that led me to rearrange and edit what I had prepared for you.

It’s funny, but I now have a little Ian Healy who sits in my head and keeps asking, “Does this advance the story?” I have no earthly idea what the real Ian Healy sounds like, but I can tell you that the one in my head is whiny and annoying. Sometimes he has a bit of a lisp, and his voice is a bit twee and high pitched. However, he is nearly always right, the bastard.

And after I post Chapter 16, I finish work and head for the hills to shoot at lots of defenseless water bottles, paper targets and other innocent, inanimate objects. There will likely be a fair amount of alcohol consumption and bacon eating. Note well, I will make every effort to pursue these activities consecutively, not concurrently. Which reminds me, a few weeks back I attended (as an observer) a training class run by F2S Consulting on the proper use of carbines. I have witnessed an epic amount of bad training in my life. A fair bit of mediocre training. The occasional good instruction. I can count on the fingers of no hands the number of times that I’ve seen as good a trainer as Jack from F2S. I admit that I know next to nothing about the use of weaponry in combat by way of personal experience. But there is a smell to competence, and Jack smells like heaven.

If you are ever interested in learning to shoot, to shoot better – F2S is the place to go. Jack taught some of the best in the world to shoot better, I’m sure he can help you. You can find his webpage here; and I can assure you that as soon as I can pry loose the cash, I will be taking his classes.

The Really Big Idea: M. H. Mead

I think I first ran across the idea of genetically engineered dogs in Starship Troopers. Granted, it wasn’t a major part of the story, but it got me thinking. Reading the Uplift Series by David Brin, I wished he had seen fit to have included uplifted dogs along with the dolphins, chimps and gorillas. I’ve always been a dog kinda guy. This quote is again apropos:

There was one species on Terra that lived in very close symbiosis with the domesticated primates. This was a variety of domesticated canines called dogs.

The dogs had learned to achieve a rough simulation of guilt and remorse and worry and other domesticated primate characteristics.

The domesticated primates had learned how to achieve simulations of loyalty and dignity and cheerfulness and other canine characteristics.

The primates claimed that they loved the dogs as much as the dogs loved them. Still, the primates kept the best food for themselves. The dogs noticed this, you can be sure, but they loved the primates so much that they forgave them.

There’s a lot to be said about dogs. Really, really smart dogs would allow rather more scope. And that’s what Margaret Yang and Harry Campion are attempting.

The Big Idea—Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion writing together as M.H. Mead

There are many things to consider when two people collaborate on a novel, but here’s a biggie—do we both love the story? Are we both willing to take this emotional journey with our characters? THE CALINE CONSPIRACY is about dogs, and neither of us has owned a dog in years. Could we let our personal history color our fiction, relive the pain of losing our pets, face the guilt we feel over their deaths?

Some dogs are easy to love. Ours weren’t. Take Hobbes, a goofy-looking mutt that Margaret adopted from the pound. For eight years, Hobbes was the only child Margaret had. She kept Margaret company when her husband was out of town and took daily walks with her. While Hobbes wasn’t affectionate, she was at least quiet and well-behaved.

That is, until Margaret’s children were born. Hobbes never got over losing her status. Once human children joined the family, she went from a sweet girl to a grouchy old lady seemingly overnight. She peed in the house, wouldn’t let anyone pet her, and perferred being alone to being with people.

Harry found Franklin abandoned at a Smokey Mountains campground when he was just out of puppyhood. Franklin was a gorgeous strawberry blond mixed breed who had a warm doggie grin for anyone who came his way. He liked Harry’s family, but he was never really one of them. Franklin was only truly happy when he was running free. He perfected the art of escaping from the fenced-in yard and Harry fielded constant phone calls from angry neighbors when Franklin soiled their yards, chased their children, and flaunted his liberty to their dogs. When forced to stay home, he communicated his displeasure by constant barking.

We gave our hearts to these dogs. We tried everything to help them be the special family members we knew they could be. When our efforts didn’t work, we tried harder. We failed. In the last few months of her life, Hobbes wet the floor several times per day and bit anyone who came near her. Franklin was a wide-roaming transient whose tags were often the only tether maintaining his connection with Harry’s family.

Which brings us back to THE CALINE CONSPIRACY. The main character, Aidra, is a PI who adores dogs. But years ago, she suffered the loss of her beloved Doberman in the most painful way possible. Even now, she refuses to get another pet. She knows that one way or another, even the most wonderful dog will break her heart.

Then Madeline enters Aidra’s life. Madeline is a caline—a genetically-engineered dog that is the ideal of the species. Calines are smart, loyal, gentle, and beautiful. They even smell good, as they emit pheromones that attract and calm humans. But there’s a problem. Madeline is accused of killing her owner and all evidence says she did it. Aidra is hired to clear Madeline’s name—a seemingly impossible task. But the more she investigates, the more she becomes convinced an innocent animal is being framed. Proving it takes everything she has, physically and emotionally, but in the end, she heals some of the scars from her past.

Writing THE CALINE CONSPIRACY healed us, too. Our dogs weren’t perfect. No dog is. Nor is any owner. We did the best we could, trying to give these difficult dogs a happy life in a caring home. Writing THE CALINE CONSPIRACY helped us remember the good times with hard-to-love dogs that we loved anyway. Dogs who, to the best of their abilities, loved us back.

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The old joke about Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms needing to be a a superstore not a Federal Agency was very true for me today. Got 250 rounds of .45 ACP, 100 rounds of 20 ga, six bottles of liquor and a carton of cigarettes.

That, my friends, is a happy shopping day.

Intelligence Enhancement

Great post by Greg Cochran on intelligence enhancement and science-fictional possibilities thereof. Previously, some very fun stuff on intelligence here, and here.

The idea that the Ashkenazi Jews had their intelligence boosted by selection effects over the last thousand years is a fascinating one. What I am imagining right now is that the same process could have effects on other abilities. In the context of my story, there are so many possibilities…

They don’t call it the world-wide web fer nothin

WordPress added a few features to its stats engine a while back. One of the nicer features is being able to see where people are coming from. Granted, this isn’t exactly rocket science; I’ve had this feature on self hosted sites for over a decade. For example, today we’ve already had visitors from most of the nicer Anglophone nations, Romania, and South Korea.

Sadly, the country stats don’t go back to the beginning. But here’s the top contenders for the most recent period:

Country Views
United States FlagUnited States 2,376
Australia FlagAustralia 293
Canada FlagCanada 242
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom 175
Mexico FlagMexico 59
Romania FlagRomania 47
Bosnia and Herzegovina FlagBosnia and Herzegovina 25
Hong Kong FlagHong Kong 23
Austria FlagAustria 12
France FlagFrance 11
South Africa FlagSouth Africa 9
Germany FlagGermany 9
New Zealand FlagNew Zealand 8
Brazil FlagBrazil 8
India FlagIndia 8

The UK is really slacking, being outpaced by three former colonies.

So, welcome everyone, no matter where you’re from. Drop a comment and let us know where you’re from. The person furthest from my current location wins 50 internet points.

Veil War Thursday…

… if only just barely. Here, at long last, is Chapter Fifteen.

Coleman turned the volume up and Lewis heard the level tones of a BBC newsreader. “…sources inform us that the destruction of the US fourth Infantry division south of An Nasiriyah is nearly total. The division had taken the role of rear guard for American forces retreating from Baghdad, and bore the brunt of the invader’s attention. Drone footage acquired by the BBC showed a scene of ruin; smoking hulks of burnt-out tanks the only remains of a once-formidable fighting force.

I apologize for the lapse in updates, but sickness and then taking care of all the crap I didn’t do when I was sick was time consuming. Such is life. However, you will be pleased to know that over the last couple days I’ve gotten quite a bit of editing done, and indeed some writing. I think that out of the kindness of my black heart, I might actually post some extra stuff maybe late tomorrow and over the weekend.

In other news, this is the 100th post. So yay, me.



The chapter is done!

But not ready to post. Since regaining human-level intelligence and energy levels, I’ve been rushing madly to catch up on all everything I didn’t do when I was besieged by microbes and shit. Among those things, of course, is the story.

I detected some issues I wanted to correct in this chapter; and after hand wringing, eye-wiggling, and soul searching, I’ve fixed them. But I haven’t yet proofed the words, and that will have to wait til tomorrow.

My apologies for this little dry spell.

The Really Big Idea: Russell Blake

I found Russell on the Twitter, locked in eternal combat with his mortal enemies, the clowns. Supported only by the love of his followers, alcohol, and a few brave Lithuanian sex workers; he guards us all from the evil machinations of the kōlobathristēs. Hatred of clowns may seem a slender reed upon which to build a relationship, but it has been a fruitful one. Russell typically writes adrenaline-fueled thrillers. And this book is no different. However, there is a bit of idea lurking in there, and I’ll let Russell explain it:

The Voynich Cipher

My latest book, The Voynich Cypher, is an action/adventure novel that uses the Voynich Manuscript as the basis of the underlying conspiracy/treasure hunt. I first became familiar with the Voynich years ago, when a friend of mine who is really into cryptography told me about it. It’s 240 or so pages of “quires” (chapters) with fantastical illustrations, written entirely in an unknown language, believed by most of the best cryptologists of the last century to be a cypher. It’s never been cracked, in spite of being a lifelong fascination for many notables in the code-breaking field. Controversy has surrounded the document almost since it was rediscovered in the early 20th Century, when it was bought by rare book dealer Wilfrid Voynich in 1912, from amongst the possessions of a recently deceased Jesuit general. It has remained enigmatic and inscrutable ever since, and has baffled and confounded generations of experts. Numerous theories have been advanced on the script, none of them correct, or at least not correct enough to decipher it. From time to time it’s been theorized that it was written in a hoax language, but those notions were debunked by rigorous study of the nuance of the text, which is far more sophisticated than any hoax would have required, or than would have been possible to create in the 1400s.

Authorship is a hotly debated aspect of the manuscript. Speculations have abounded – everything from 13th century father of modern science Roger Bacon, to Shakespeare (Francis Bacon), to flim-flam men, con artists and rogues. The truth is that nobody knows. The vellum was recently carbon dated to the mid 1400s, so it is in fact what it appears to be: a medieval document of unknown origin apparently written entirely in code or some unknown language, which chronicles medical, astronomical and botanical knowledge, if the illustrations are any indication. The Voynich Manuscript is truly one of the world’s most inscrutable mysteries, and is the most viewed document at the Beinecke Library at Yale University, where it has resided since the 1960s.

When I decided to try something different than the conspiracy thrillers I’m known for, I started looking around for a mystery. I wanted something that was genuine and verifiable that I could twist and mold into an entirely plausible story. The Voynich occurred to me almost completely by accident – I was reviewing candidate possibilities, and one of them was mentioned alongside the Voynich. That triggered my recollection of long discussions with my buddy, and I was on the road.

I wanted to create an enduring modern fable, something that was both social commentary and adventure, and that was completely non-disprovable. That’s a tall order, and became taller still when I began researching all the aspects of the saga I wanted to include. Months went into everything from Roman geography and arcana, to the Voynich itself, to numerous cryptography tomes, to the various authorship theories (I read several books that made logical, but ultimately incorrect arguments), to the history of the Catholic Church, to the Rosicrucians and Templars, to medieval secret societies, to Masonic lore. I put the book aside several times to write others, but always returned to it, drawn by what I felt is a compelling tale.

The Voynich Cypher is a special novel for me, because it represents my desire to spread my wings and attempt something I’ve always wanted to do, but never felt I had the chops for until recently – to write a Foucault’s Pendulum sort of book that a modern audience could relate to easily, but that didn’t pander. That type of book is hard – it’s difficult to move a plot along at breakneck pace and keep things unexpected at every turn, while imparting a tremendous amount of detail, and writing it was a challenge I’m glad I stepped up to. My hope is that readers who enjoy Dan Brown or Cussler’s work will enjoy Voynich, and that it will be compared favorably to their efforts.

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Viruses… winning…

My epic struggle with trillions of viruses continues. I thought I was better for a moment, but that was merely strategic misdirection on the part of the viral hordes. The Veil War chapter you were expecting will go up tomorrow. I apologize for the delay.

Little bastards hate me.

In the meantime, check out these cool articles about technology, drones and cyber warfare. Look, over there, shiny!

  • This one’s from a few years back, but Scott Locklin is fun. The Myth of Technological Progress. Read his site, too. Great pieces on zeppelins and battleships in there.
  • John Arquilla with Cyberwar Is Already Upon Us.
  • I Love You, Killer Robots – Slate on UPenn’s quadrotor drones. Check out all the videos. Also Boston Dynamics (of Big Dog fame) with the Cheetah, Darpa’s fastest running drone yet.
  • The best source on Drone warfare is John Robb. Just start scrolling down. Also, Daniel Suarez’ next book is about drones. I already pre-ordered mine – his books Daemon and Freedom(tm) are fantastic. Doesn’t come out until July, which sucks mightily. Drones will be in the second Veil War novel. Oh yes.
  • Put on your thinking cap – brain stimulation for enhanced intelligence. Want one.
  • I’d also recommend West Hunter, the blog for Harpending and Cochran, HBD theorists and cool cats. I have enjoyed their thinking very much indeed, and it informs how I’ve created the goblins and other humanoid monsters.
  • Speaking of things that have informed my thinking, Bruce Charlton has been a stimulator of thinking in regards to the outlook and mindset of the Crusaders in the story, and you’ll be seeing more of that as the story moves on. Look for posts on mysticism and magic, and Orthodoxy.

The Really Big Idea: DeAnna Knippling

“Only beer can save us now.” Truer words have never been spoken, unless they were amended to “Only whiskey can save us now.” That might be have an edge on truth. The last place you expect to find truth is on the cover of a book. In the book, sure. But the outside is renowned for not being at all like the inside. I didn’t drink until after high school – I started with meisterchow at my small midwestern college. Didn’t have money for much else. But when I moved out on my own, I transitioned to good beer. Craft brews, micro brews, homebrews. Loved it. That was a happy ten years. That beer would inspire a novel does not in the least surprise me, for in the immortal words of Homer, “Beer, is there anything it can’t do?”

Trying to Wrap a Beer Around a Fish

Sometimes we get thrown into deep waters and don’t realize until after we’ve learned to swim.  That’s how this book started out for me: I started a new job.  I had been working as a quality analyst at a bank doing some technical writing and editing. I wanted to get more into the technical writing and editing side of things, but…that bank.  It was a great place to work, as long as you knew the right people and knew how to keep your mouth shut, but apparently the people who wanted the same job knew better people than I did, probably because I was so good at keeping my mouth shut.  So I left the bank and looked around until I found a technical writing job at a military base.

Now, I know that to many people a military base is not the scariest place in the world.  But I had no experience with the military, with working on a government contract, or a thousand other things that you take for granted in that kind of world like security fences and eighteen-year-old guards with machine guns.  I knew Corporate America.  I didn’t know Government America.  In Corporate America, you fire people.  In Government America, you transfer them into another job and hope they don’t transfer back.  On top of that, I was dropped into a vat of ex-military guys.  Ex-military guys are not like people who have been working in corporate America their whole lives.  They’re more conservative for one thing, but in a way I wasn’t used to coming from the Midwest: one second they’d be talking about states’ rights and the next, they’d be talking about Thai food.  Where I grew up it was steak, potatoes, and Jell-O salad all the way: eating as a political statement.  I had trouble thinking of these guys as really conservative; they didn’t fit my mold.  They’d gone places, you know?  The rednecks I’d grown up with didn’t go anywhere and they looked down on people who did.

So here I am, my whole world shaken up, when over the cube wall comes a lot of talk about beer.  I mean, months of it.  I had to do something with all that information; I’m a nerd, after all.  So I started writing this story about a mouthy guy. I guess he’s conservative, but I never really worked that out consciously; who brews beer and doesn’t want to be bothered by anything outside his little world. He’s worked his butt off to get his world the way he wants it, and I could never blame him.  I threw in all kinds of characters: from the base, from people I’d grown up with, from people that I hated, from people that I loved.  People who had struck me as particularly intense.  Then I twisted them up a little, gave them unresolvable problems, and tossed them in with each other.  Because that’s what the base was like: a wide variety of people that had to get along, and had to get the job done, and didn’t have a lot of filters.  How do you get along with someone you disagree with, who won’t shut up, and who thinks that a drill sergeant is a good role model?  You work it out or the group falls apart, and I wanted to capture that feeling.  Not to say this is a political book; it’s a book about how people act when they’re in that kind of hothouse where everybody knows everybody else and they’re all trying not to kill each other, yet they’re not polite about it.  In the Midwest, everyone’s polite as a strategy to keep from killing each other. There are a lot of things you don’t say.  I found working out at the base like a long, cold glass of water: I could swear, I could say my opinions; I could be wrong, yet not be ostracized.  I got laughed at, sure, but not kicked out.  I loved it.

Ironically, before I started working out there, I didn’t care for beer.  Growing up in the Midwest, beer was American and you loved it or else you were a commie pinko.  And it couldn’t just be American beer; it had to be Coors or Bud Light.  I didn’t care for either one of them.  When I started drinking, I fell in love with gin and Jagermeister and tequila (not at the same time) and all kinds of spirits that tasted like something.  This beer stuff was for shit, and I wasn’t wasting time or brain cells on it.  After listening to hours and hours about homebrew, I finally got the nerve to try some craft beers.  I forget what I started with, really.  I’m sure I started writing before I started drinking the beer, because I remember thinking, “Well, if you’re going to write about it, you’re going to have to drink it.”  I picked up a copy of Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Beer from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and read it (good book) as research before I started drinking, and I think it was that book that tipped me over the edge. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Sam Calagione didn’t end up as part of the main character, too.  I want to say that Fat Tire was the first craft beer I had.  (And now I’m thinking, “Does Fat Tire count as a craft beer?  It’s everywhere.”  But it’s not, my husband went out to DC a while ago and couldn’t find any.  One of the good parts of Colorado culture is the beer, and you start taking it for granted.) “Huh,” I said.  “Not too bad.”  Since then, I’ve tried a lot of different things.  It took a long time before I really got into IPAs, but I’m starting to get better at them (it feels almost like acquiring a skill, learning how to drink IPAs).

I walked into the job (and the book) while getting my ideas all shaken up…by the time I walked out of the job (although finishing the book took years after that), I had learned how to drink beer, how to spout my opinion to whoever the hell I wanted, in whatever terms I felt like (and to get away with it, most of the time), and to let my mind get changed about people in a lot of the same ways the main character does.  At one point, he talks about how he used to judge people on whether or not they gave him more than they got–even down to the point of whether they liked his beer.  He doesn’t really come to any conclusions, but he does stop thinking about “the world” as one little podunk town, and “a friend” as someone who tells him what he wants to hear and does what he wants them to do.  I like to think I’ve changed a little in that direction, too.

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