Friday, November 21, 2014

The Chemical Hockey League

Fanthomas, (Wiki.)








Louis Shalako




Breathing easily, taking long deep breaths, Svetlana Beliveau blinked sweat out of her eyes, unable to brush away a few fine strands of blonde hair under the visor, and waited for the puck to drop. With total clarity she saw that the team hairdresser had missed three or four vital strands and left them long on her right temple. They tickled and annoyed her, falling into her right eye.

She spat and wished for a hydration bottle, glaring at Borge Sninka, looming in his white jersey. All these Finns and Swedes in the game. Coming over here and taking our jobs.

“Grrr.” She growled into his eyes as he stared back calmly, jaws working back and forth.

The hovering android waited until all the players were in position. The face-off was to the left of Howling Monkees goaltender Dave Bletchie and the score was one-nothing in favour of the Witches Brew in the red jerseys, which were her favourite.

With its characteristic twang the hatch popped open, the puck came down and her opponent Mark Sninka’s stick swept through the bulls-eye as she reacted with lightning speed, holding his stick back and knocking the puck to her own winger, number eleven Marcia Feeney. Sninka had anticipated the drop and it was whistled dead on the play. So now she would have to do it again.

“Asshole!”

“Thank you.”

Her heart always warmed to Sninka after a few shifts, he really was a nice guy, a proper gentleman. How they hell they achieved that was a mystery known only to his trainer. She refocused.

She skated out of the circle and arced around back in again. She put her stick on the ice in impatience as Sninka did his own circuit, mouth going, ordering last minute instructions to his winger and defensemen. She hunched. She banged her stick, so did he, and then they froze.

The puck dropped.

This time Sninka was caught on the wrong foot, and she managed to backhand it out of his reach then pass it to centre ice. Paula LeBlanc took a blinding slap-shot that gave up a dangerous rebound. Her forwards raced in and the defense waited for a pass back. She was right there at the right-hand hash-marks, pushing and shoving with Solomon. The Witches were playing their offensive zone well tonight, a good sign. There was a brief scrum in front of the net before Howlers goalie Dave Bletchie dropped and smothered it.

Androids hovered as horns and whistles blew, and players shoved and pushed and mouthed foul words at each other in the goal crease.

The game had a lot riding on it. The Witches were leading the series but the Howlers were only two places out and there was a mathematical chance of taking the number one spot before the first round of the playoffs. 

This would pay off big in the overall TV money apportioning at season’s end.

With two minutes left in the first period and thirty-seven seconds left in the Witches’ power play, they lined up for another faceoff and waited for the puck to drop again.

Svetlana was ready but Sninka was antsy and couldn’t get a grip on his emotions. He kept going too soon. 

Visibly upset, he was waved out of the circle by the robot’s signal arm and his place was taken by Howler right-winger Dale Skaggs.

Skaggs was blindingly fast lately, and he pulled the puck aside before she could even react, and his left defenseman Ed Smithers smacked it the length of the ice. Nine players raced after it, with the Howlers defense holding back and letting Sninka and Skaggs fore-check deep in the zone.

Maxim, (Wiki.)
Witches goalie Red Lincoln came out and dropped on the puck and the play was whistled dead. The arcs and edges of strong players on sharp blades knifed up a flurry of snowy rooster-tails.

A Howler got a little too close and there were precautionary whistles as Solomon and the Witches’ number nine May Belmont pushed and shoved. 

With a one-goal lead to protect and another two full periods to play, it was vital to take advantage of the player advantage, but the Witches just couldn’t make anything out of it. 

Play went back and forth with Howler Randy Booth coming out of the penalty box at full burst. With both sides equal and another set of face-offs in each end, the seconds ran down and then the horn blew.

Players filed off and down to the dressing rooms, Coach Linda Borzekowski’s mouth going non-stop all the way and the assistant coaches filling in the blanks with individual players.

Sports pundits and colour commentators ratcheted up for a twenty-minute stint as the stands began to clear a bit for bathroom breaks and to fetch more plastic cups foaming with the icy beverage of the Gods.

#

The dressing room was bedlam, with players streaming in, dropping into their trainer’s chairs, people rushing to and fro and everyone talking and shouting at once. The air was blue with ozone and condensation. It smelled like a dentist’s cabinet in there, she thought, or a recently-washed and waxed hospital hallway, or maybe an apothecary’s dumpster just before inventory-time.

Svetlana sat down and swung her legs up into the troughs and laid her arms in the prescribed positions, carefully blanking her mind of such extraneous thoughts. She was just vibrating. She hacked at sticky phlegm in the esophagus, wishing she could get it out. The taste in her mouth was the worst, it never left you. They kept poo-poohing it and never did anything about it.

Bennie and Amerigo dropped down on each side and began taking her skates off as legendary Doctor Cornelius Amiri put the view-mask on and plugged into her head. Women could take more pain and physical abuse over a longer term than their male counterparts, and he was privileged to work with one of the league’s premier stars. With their lower centre of gravity and the strong, wide-spaced hips to build on, they had a competitive advantage over the taller, narrow-hipped males.

Their pit routine well rehearsed, tugs and pushing at her ankles and wrists kept her aware of the outside world as they plugged in the transfusion and ion-swapping array tubes.

“Okay, Svetlana, how do you feel?”

Her emotions were ruled by the chemical performance enhancements and her feedback was crucial in monitoring the levels of gonane, phytosterols and brassinoids in her bloodstream. She must be objective. On the plus side, they were a goal up and Crabbe had thrown a massive check on Solomon early in the period that had set the whole tone from there.

She felt better already as the rejuvenating oxygenated blood flowed into her, banked in the early part of summer, after they had dropped out of the second round of the playoffs, and she had been allowed to binge on junk carbs for a three-week period to combat the resulting anemia.

Jsmeds, (Wiki.)
“I want to kill him.”

Amiri didn’t ask who. It didn’t matter, actually. What mattered was just the right combination, each chemical component had to be at their proper levels.

“Argh.”

“What?”

“It’s just that I feel kind of slow in the legs and hips today. I feel fat, if you want to really know.”

“Ah.” He had suspected as much, as her performance in the first period, the slow take-offs, the hesitation on her one and only scoring chance bore out.

One flick of the wrist and it should have gone in.

“Good girl. Don’t worry, we’ll fix that right up…”

Amerigo tugged at his sleeve.

“We got a problem.”

“What?”

“Pump failure or software glitch. Groin pump.”

“Shit.” He thought furiously, faster than any other sports doctor alive today as far as he knew.

His own brain’s performance enhancements, all chemical, were among his most dearly guarded secrets. A clicking at his pelvic area, near the right hip bone, confirmed it had just gone into overdrive.

“Okay, grab the other pump. And we’ll analyze the program for you, honey, before you go out.” He jacked into the laptop and selected a battery of bug sweeps. It might be hackers, one never knew these days.

Her wave-forms were all over the place, and the lactic acid suppression took time. The pump had to be changed immediately for it to have any chance at all in the next sixteen minutes. The reaction was exothermic, and you could only turn up the heat-exchange so much. It was optimal to go for core cooling of the body between the second and third period, but he had hoped to get some in now as well. More than anything, they had to find the problem. He gave her hand one last squeeze of reassurance and began to unbuckle the miniature unit from her pelvis, now exposed by Bennie in preparation for the pump-change. Amerigo was unwrapping the plastic from their new unit.

“How much more plasma do we have?”

Bennie shrugged.

“I don’t know, ten or eleven litres.”

Doctor Amiri did a very quick assessment. They only had so much in the bank.

“Okay, grab another litre and that’s it.”

His assistant stepped up and over and pulled open the fridge door with smooth alacrity. It was a polished routine. There was only so much time between periods and the coach wanted to talk to them as well. Benny poked the needle in. The blood doping bag hung inverted. He gave it a squeeze to get it started, looking down at the exit point on her ankle to verify the flow.

So Svetlana was doing good then, it was just that their own metering was off on the minute quantities of HGH-type steroids and pain inhibitors necessary for today’s professional athletes to get the best out of the musculature and skeletal framing they had been born with. There was the long history of repetitious injuries to consider as well. His mind raced, her spreadsheet and flow charts, graphs and wave-forms always in the forefront of his mind.

Over the working life of the athlete, optimal performance and high statistical averages in terms of games played, points earned, awards and championships, and the totals in the win-loss-tie columns had to be maximized for their full remuneration potential to be realized. Their initial physical conditioning could only take them as far as humanly possible. Men and women like him did the rest. As for some of the trainers and business agents around him, especially on the Howlers dressing-room floor, he didn’t exactly have the highest opinion.

Svetlana was the best because he was the best. She knew she wouldn’t be around forever, and they must make hay while the sun shone.



END

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Progress Report. The Evil Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff.

The (slightly) Evil Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff.

















Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff.





Dear readers;

Here at Shalako Publishing and Long Cool One Books, not to mention our recently-launched sister company, Larga Fresca Uno Libros, we’ve been on the internet for about six years.

That’s not very long at all, is it?

At the time, we had six unpublished manuscripts, not much skill and very little knowledge, either about publishing or even readers. That may seem odd, considering that we are readers ourselves, but of course our own personal taste doesn’t mean a thing in the marketplace.

What matters is what other people want to read.

Otherwise we would be writing entirely for our own vanity, and the audience for that sort of thing is rather limited.

After six years, a bit of a progress report would appear to be in order.

We have fourteen novels, and five different pen-names. We have something like thirty novellas in a slew of genres. We have sold short stories and given them away. We have read, and listened to many experts and authors of long standing and acknowledged stature, and we have distributed or sold over 70,000 books and ebooks. We have been published in seven languages, and published our own works in three. We’ve even had some small interest from more traditional publishers; not that we care to dwell on that or over-analyze. 

We have created something like, shit, a hundred and twenty or a hundred and thirty products in six years. 

And the sky is our oyster, an old Chinese proverb, one which I just made up out of expedience.

We reckon we’re doing all right, although there is always more to do—accept another challenge, question another authority, contradict another pundit, send up another genre, or merely unmask and uncloak another pompous chimera.

Hell, ladies and gentlemen, if things get bad enough, we might even write another book.

***

We have upgraded our skills, our knowledge and our processes.

We have six years of experience as independent authors and publishers.

We have been blooded.

We have been tested, and not found wanting, and when we were found wanting, we fixed it.

And then we came back for some more.

We are wanting no more, ladies and gentlemen.

"Any questions?"
***

Knowledge is power.

Power is money.

And money is sex.

Any questions so far?

***

We have met the enemy, and as usual, the enemy is us, and in something that doesn’t happen to everyone, we seem to have defeated our enemy, (those internal chimeras we all have and cling to with such tenacity) and to have earned our stripes in spite of all that, ladies and gentlemen.

For that reason, as well as other valid reasons, the time has come to pitch the fourteen year-old Pentium II Microsoft clone. Her job is done, and old Besty can go to her grave with a clear conscience.

She gave her all, and she will either be quickly forgotten or remembered with a curse of anything but affection.

Such is life—

Good riddance and thank Darwin for that, ladies and gentlemen.

Phase I is complete.

Let Phase II begin.

Which it will, very, very shortly.

If nothing else, new hardware and new software represent a new learning curve. All of that is going to be connected up to Louis’ head, ladies and gentlemen.

But then, the readers are getting smarter with every passing day.

We would be fools not to pay attention to that, ladies and gentlemen.

(P.S. Never mention this post to Louis, or the block will be broken and the poor fellow, who thinks he’s doing this all on his own, would be absolutely crushed.)

Essentially, I plan on embedding a terabyte of hard-drive and 8 gig of RAM into the boy’s skull, plus a few other system and software upgrades.

And, as usual, we’re going to make him do all the work, while we sit back and laugh at his torment, and in a final twist of irony, we going to let him think he is under-appreciated, ladies and gentlemen.

The only thing he gets out of it is the odd Happy Meal and the toy out of my box of Cracker-Jacks. I’m a bit old for that sort of thing anyways, but then I was old when they built the pyramids. As for myself, all I get is Stella and one or two other sturdy little hench-women.

We shall just have to make do, eh?

Heh-heh-heh.

(Ahem. -- ed.)

Thank you and goodbye.

The (slightly) Evil Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff.


END


Hey, check this out, ladies and gentlemen: my boy Louis on iTunes.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Goofing Off For National Novel Writing Month.























Louis Shalako



It’s Nano Month and thousands of people are madly typing away at a novel.

For some, it’s their first time ever. Taking the time and making the commitment, finding that focus, and jamming out the material is a wonderful exercise for writers at almost any stage of the learning curve.

In past years, I did participate to the extent that I had everything cleaned up, or set aside, but instead, I would try and write as many short stories as I could.

It’s still a good exercise, but I don’t do it out of speculation in the Nano sense—where maybe someone in traditional publishing likes your story and they pick it up for publication.

That does happen, and it’s part of the allure of National Novel Writing Month.

My perspective is a little different from the typical Nano participant.

For one thing, short stories are an essential part of my business plan—if I sell a story, it gets the moniker out there and helps fund further business activities. Here’s Playing the Short Game, Douglas Smith’s book on marketing short stories.

But there are other considerations. At risk of bragging just a bit, I’ve already written and published two 60,000+ word novels in 2014. I’ve written and published numerous novellas and short stories under five different pen-names so far this year. I’ve sold four stories this year, and who knows, maybe there’s still time for one more.

I’m not committed to Nano, but it’s a good idea not to waste the time. Starting into another novel, and trying to finish it before the end of the year, just so I could say that I did it, is essentially vanity. It also puts a lot of pressure on someone who has been working pretty hard for some years now, with a few short breaks here and there—none of which lasted more than a couple of weeks.

I also have a couple of websites that need some work.

I could conceivably put up thirty or forty book profile pages on Kindleboards, something I’ve been meaning to get around to. I’m fairly prolific as a writer, and this is just something I’ve been neglecting.

That job might not get finished, but it definitely needs some doing. Also, I need to learn how to change the marketing images on some of the pages that are already there. With the old images, I’m kind of reluctant to waste my time by posting them once a week. This may be problematical anyways, once you get a few dozen titles out there.

At that point, (assuming it's still November) my list of story ideas comes into play.

The thing to do is to either find the one big story that I absolutely must do—or just pick something, lesbian salamanders from hell or something, and just go. Just do it. Crank that first one out and go from there. The odds are I can still write a half-dozen stories by the end of the month and then I’ve got something to submit or just flog to all the reading junkies out there.

Taking care of business is important. I’ve never been able to write ten to sixteen hours a day anyway. After every novel there is a kind of downtime, where you sort of wonder what the hell you’re going to do next.

Sometimes it takes a while to figure out. The trouble is that time is precious and nothing lasts forever.

Creating new content is my number one overriding priority, and so we can only afford to goof off for so long.

But, at least I have a reason for not doing Nano.

For those who are participating, good luck to you and have fun with it.

Throw your heart and soul into it and you can hardly go wrong.

It’s okay to take a day off once in a while—although I tend not to. It's kind of hard to break that obsession.

In that sense it’s still fun.

Otherwise why would anyone ever want to do it, right?

Other than that, up above is the upgraded image for Time Storm.



END



Saturday, November 1, 2014

Discipline; Never Underestimate a Kid With a Dream.

Nothing can stop me.









Louis Shalako





A couple of days ago, I was crying in front of the computer. That went on for a couple of days.

Today, I feel all right. Yesterday, I was thinking back to one or two good lines in my recent novel, and laughing my guts out as I drove to the smoke shack. It was manic to some degree.

Life has its ups and downs, and yet we can’t let that stop us. This profession can be an emotional roller-coaster ride at times. Our own personality comes into play as well.

When I was having a bad day, I was still clicking on them buttons, editing that book or story, publishing this or that, making up a cover or just checking the emails.

It seems to me that we are just monkeys sitting in a room full of typewriters hoping against all odds to write Shakespeare.

It’s like a big lab experiment, and some little grey aliens are trying to determine our level of intelligence or creativity. These things are sent to try us.

And try us they do.

A button lights up, and we have to hit it, or hit them in the proper combination. If we do that successfully enough, a bell sounds and a banana pops out of the feeding chute or something; and there you go.

You’re performed your task successfully. You’ve gotten your reward. It’s a kind of feedback loop.

The same holds true for when you’re feeling pretty good and would much rather be elsewhere.

We still want that banana, and so we hang in there!

Much of my job entails waiting, waiting, endless waiting, for some page or program simply to open up. It makes the skin crawl sometimes.

Sometimes it’s all I can do not to scream at the thing.

And I can’t do it, can I? Think of the neighbours. Think of the little grey men and women in their little white suits and their big butterfly nets…

I’m not even allowed to scream, ladies and gentlemen.

 

***

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new mouse. The old one was atrocious for formatting even the shortest story.

I would practically be foaming at the mouth in frustration, (possibly even muttering dire imprecations), even suffering from some real pain, bearing in mind a compression fracture at T-6 vertebral level and the 2.5-cm benign tumor growing on there. I’m right-handed, the mouse is at a certain level, and as yet, I haven’t had time to whip up even the simplest prototype of an ergonomic writer’s cockpit, where all surfaces would be at the perfect height and angle to minimize writer-fatigue and injury. It just seems to cause pain in there, but then so did hammering shingles or pole-sanding a drywall ceiling. Things are better now.

No matter how good or how bad I might feel, the one thing that has gotten me this far is discipline.

It’s carried me a long way.

The truth is that I also had a goal.

Nothing was going to happen there unless I made it happen. This is a metaphor for all of life, as I am sure the reader would agree. Strange how the rest of my life has also gotten better.

Must be some kind of coincidence…right?

***

This is my younger self. That kid must have had some kind of faith, and he was as stubborn as all hell, as I recall. Some kind of faith that if he put in the time, the world, the fucking universe, would do the right thing...and it will. It will. Just you watch. You wait.

You'll see.

Just some fucking kid with a dream, ladies and gentlemen.

Thanks, kid.

If it wasn['t for you, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be where I am today.

Our goal, as you may recall, was to achieve our financial independence. Perhaps even break our psychological and moral dependence.

Our goal was to learn how to write fiction. Our goal was to write and publish a book—even if it killed us. 

Which it clearly hasn’t…and so we decided to keep going.

And we are in the process of succeeding, in spite of anything that the government, or society, or our fellow human beings can put in our way.

(That frickin’ Obama. Jeez! – ed.)

Let’s be honest: life happens to all of us.

We are succeeding, ladies and gentlemen, in spite of what our own perceptions also can (and do) put in our way. 

***

The difference is effort.

No honest effort is truly wasted, no matter how long it takes to pay off.

It’s the same as any other job. The only major difference is that I am no longer on piecework for someone else. I will never be laid off or run out of work.

I create my own projects.

I decide what gets to happen next.

I am my own man, and answer to no one.

On a Saturday night, where one person might go out and another might stay home, watching TV with family and friends, my mind is buzzing with new ideas and new insights on this big old machine we call the internet. 

The odds are that I am probably working, for working is my entertainment, I guess. I like it that much.

Every so often, we manage to crack one small variable in that larger personal algorithm, and then we see some real progress.

The learning curve doesn’t flatten out or anything like that—not unless you want it to.

But once you get a little ways up from the ground, you can see a long ways and everything down below takes on a whole new aspect.

It’s a pretty good feeling, as I’m sure the reader can imagine.

All it really takes is the discipline to keep at it.

And never underestimate a kid with a dream.


END

Here’s the latest in the Maintenon Mystery Series:



***