We Came from the Sea

Image by Christopher Campbell.

Image by Christopher Campbell.

winnowing treasures from the sea

her hands are coarse sand and

swirling shells crying

for the wind

as she turns the sun another degree:

“Look,” she says, “Look,”

without protest from the recess

of notes worn in threadbare hair

–remnants of hippie days, one supposes—

things my fingers can twist

merely into deeper shadow

like bare feet under summer maples.

Gradually, the tide takes us

our footprints carried into the waves

that we might walk on water

drowning only flesh

in the reflections

The Pedigree of a Novel Family

Do you know what doesn’t last long? A half-way decent emperor. They drop like flies. They kick the bucket. They are…well, incinerated. Troubling, that.

Fortunately, if you haven’t noticed, the royal family in my books is rather extensive. Bearing that in mine, I thought I would give you an idea of the scope you’re working with in my books for their maddened political frenzy.  If you couldn’t tell: today, we’re talking The Hollow March and its sequels, so bust out those fantasy hats, people. Now, some of the folks below don’t even appear in the books, mind you—either fled or already dead, and the list is far from complete. This is not nearly so complete as something George R.R. Martin would whip out, for example. This list references those mentioned in the books and, in some cases, more prominent offspring. It does not capture the full embodiment of spawn, grandspawn, or the namesakes of the reigning house’s offshoots—the lines of Mauritz and Portir.

It is but a recording to give you some semblance of the House of Durvalle, and the uphill battle anyone (Cullick lions, perhaps?) facing them must surmount.

But really, do you see how eye squinting an experience this COULD have been?

But really, do you see how eye squinting an experience this COULD have been?

House Durvalle (Royal House of the Idasian Empire)

Foremost of the houses of Idasia, following their rise to power in “The Children’s War” a little over a century prior. Few still name them pretenders, though, largely due to the success of their reign. Three Durvalle Emperors have claimed the throne since then, with the current Emperor Matthias having the distinction of being the longest reigning monarch in the history of the Empire. Their descent is traced through the southwestern Duchy of Dexet, where a branch of the family still rules.

Emperor Matthias Rogimer Durvalle, styled “the Bold” and “He Who Rides,” aged 77 years.

  • His wife, Empress Noelia Tirozzi—deceased 15 years. Visaj.
  • His wife, Empress Surelia Jerantus. Binding their house to the Kingdom of Banur. Farren.

And their children: (13 children and 3 known bastards)

  • Joseph, aged 54 years. A Lord General. Visaj.
    • His wife, Mariline Debourge, binding their house to the Kingdom of Asantil.
    • His son, Prelate Barise
    • His son, Ser Haruld
    • His son, Yorne, the youngest, considered lost at sea.
  • Sarre—Deceased 30 years. Visaj.
  • Moira—Deceased 12 years. Visaj.
  • Leopold (later Emperor Leopold II), aged 38 years. Prelate. Visaj.
    • His wife, Ersili
    • His son, Anatole, aged 8 years
    • His daughter, Fiore, aged 6 years
  • Heinrich, aged 37 years. Principal Secretary to the Chancellor. Visaj.
    • His wife, Marren Certeri, binding their house to the Principalities of Ravonno.
  • Sara, aged 32 years. Handmaiden to Empress Surelia. Farren.
    • Her husband, Count Hernando of al-Saif, of the court of Narana in exile.
  • Gerome, aged 28 years. An Ambassador. Visaj.
    • His wife, Jesmere Turgitz.
  • Matthias, aged 25 years. Visaj.
    • His wife, Mecthilde Rusthöffen
  • Rufus, aged 23 years. A Count and Cavalry Officer. Visaj.
    • His wife, Anna Marie Venier, binding their house to the Principalities of Ravonno.
  • Molin, aged 20 years. A Cavalry Officer. Visaj.
  • Kanasa, aged 18 years. A Maiden. Visaj.
  • Rosamine, aged 9 years. Farren. (From the line of Surelia)
  • Lothen, aged 5 years. Farren. (From the line of Surelia)
  • Kyler Tessel, a legitimized bastard, aged 36 years. Styled Ser Tessel of Affing. Farren.
  • Gerhard of Torruf, a bastard.
  • Ilse of Anscharde, a bastard.

His brothers, Mauritz, called “the Wild,” aged 75 years. Master of Arms and Lord Justiciar. Visaj.

Portir, called “the Devout,” aged 70 years. Master of the Imperial Treasury. Visaj.

  • His grandson, Duke Urtz of Dexet

His sister, Atilde Debourge, wife of King Jon III of Asantil, aged 63 years.

Symbol: Two white, coiling, snake-like Gryphons, their heads ringed by the silver halo circlets of the Holy Church, a scepter in one’s claw and a sword in the other’s.

Traits: It has been said that all Durvalle eyes are green. This is baser rumor than earnest truth, but it is a trait which holds strong in their line, regardless.

Mirage

Happy National Poetry Day everyone!

Photography Luca Zanon

Photography Luca Zanon

Mirage

When answers shift like grains of sand

twists to tongue like traders in a foreign land

Truth becomes a camel

sucking sustenance deep into enamel

sifting for parsing hopes

built on childish slopes;

it will last

until the next repast

humanity colored with invisible ink—mirage

success would never dare presage.

The Hollow March Audiobook

Fantasy bandwagon: activate!

Fantasy bandwagon: activate!

There comes a time in every book’s life when it needs–nay, deserves!–to be adapted into the realm of vibrant verbosity. That is to say: the time has come for an audiobook up in this house. Over the next however long it takes I’m going to be converting The Hollow March into appropriate audiobook format, now that I have the proper equipment and it doesn’t sound like a day trip through the whistling Mammoth Caves when I drop into my narration voice.

Yes, that is a reference to my previous reading of the prologue, in its present incarnation on Youtube. Go there. Bask in it. Chuckle haughtily at what once was the peak of Galfordian recording technology, because I lack the connections or mad money for bigwig narrators and voice actors. I’ll wait.

Got that out of your system? Good. It will be replaced in due time.

At the same time, I’m also currently working on transforming my short story, New Frontiers, into an audiobook as well, which I intend to submit to Audible and opening up a new market for it, beyond its current Amazon debut. With all of these books currently in production, suffice to say, it’s shaping up to be a busy Autumn.

It wouldn’t do to make such an announcement without proof and tasty treats, though, so I would like to present to you all the new, improved, revamped version of The Hollow March’s audiobook prologue! Enjoy.

https://soundcloud.com/galforc/the-hollow-march

Curling at the Edges

(A blast from the past. Now with full audio.)

Roiling at the seams

in browned spots

the print, smeared

still holds flecks of the image

the profile was meant to be.

 

Lower, still

the ageless quality of a tree

rising from the hunched cranial

(let us admit: too large) cavity

rooted in the faded flesh

our fingerprints

 

so gently blurred;

without a stream to drink from

it curled and devoured

the paper that gave it breath.

Perhaps, even, its branches

would die to give us this moment.

 

I have heard it called quaint,

our gentle hording

of a memory,

 

but the thoughts that resurrected

the flesh beyond those roots

was once quite dear

though without the stream

it rippled free into distortion

like the beating of a dream

 

of a drum, of a thought;

the water carried me away

one day

rootless under the surface

with nothing but the edges

of a curling notion.

Star Wars Aftermath: A Lesson on the Hype Train and Internet Trolls

Let it be known: Disney is ready for its Star Wars debut and they really, really want you to know it. Their mark? To hearken back to days of old, but with fresh new insights brought to you by wonderfully sassy and modern writers like Chuck Wendig.

Wendig’s garnered himself a lot of controversy with this book. Yet it’s not the character of the novel many are attacking; it’s the nature of its characters. See, he broke an old Star Wars maxim and, in turn, made the universe more realistic for it.

Send in the Rainbow Stormtroopers.

Not really. His was a more subtle touch. Five characters. All homosexual. One of them a main character (out of a bajillion – technical term) who makes it apparent exactly once, and which has absolutely zero impact on the driving plot. And for this? The internet explodes. Yet the characters weren’t exactly made overt. Like I said: no Rainbow Stormtroopers. They were just going about their lives, while happening to be gay.

Almost like…people! Who could imagine?

Honestly, it’s sad that I even have to take time out of my review to mention it, but given the furor of the fandom over it? I felt need. Serious need.

But since I’m on the subject: characters. Aftermath has a lot of them. Main characters. Side characters. One-off characters. Badass mother characters and less developed, gruff bounty hunter characters. At times it feels like delving into a George R.R. Martin piece, minus the risk of death. (Cue Rains of Castamere)

Norra, the mother figure, is probably my favorite of the bunch. Sloane, the Imperial villain of our piece, is a close second. The former because she is the most developed—a lioness with her own skills and desires who never the less is fiercely devoted to her son: a roving ball of snark and stubbornness who also happens to be a…technological savant? The latter, because it’s a Star Wars villain who isn’t simply possessed by the drive to kill the non-believers. She likes the Empire for the order it brings—not necessarily the genocidal undertones. To achieve that, she will play the game anyway she must.

For the most part, though, what we’re given is a bunch of very skilled characters that, while enjoyable in small doses, are somewhat lacking in the personality department. You’re not going to lose yourself in them, particularly due to the construction of the novel: short chapters, interspersed with “interludes” from around the galaxy, which feature additional one-off characters.

I get what Wendig was attempting to do with these sections—this book, after all, is an ode to the universe at large, trying to show us the breakdown of one society and the restoration of another. These vignettes give hints as to the greater picture…yet they can’t help but feel a bit jarring and out of place. The characters therein aren’t particularly memorable, the events have no immediate impact, and while they contribute to the mood of the piece at large, I dare say the book would have been largely unchanged without them.

The writing? Fast-paced, as I mentioned, with points that reach for depth, but usually end up clawing at the surface. A little stilted in execution.

The plot? Simplistic on the good side of things, intricate on the evil side of things, but since the evil side of things really doesn’t get anywhere with their intricate scheming, and the good carries the majority of our attention throughout the novel, what we’re left with is a somewhat convoluted, but not entirely thought provoking adventure romp. Pretty much all problems can, in fact, be solved by shooting first.

And bucketheads can’t shoot.

What we are left with, for all this, is a somewhat clunky, if entertaining, romp through the side alleys of the Star Wars universe. I’d describe it as a good beach or airplane read, but not something that’s going to enthrall you from start to finish. Certainly not something that deserved all the hype and shouting and angry roars from the community. Calm down, everyone. It’s a book. Judge it on its merits, not on an all too human agenda.

Given to the stars? 2.5/5

Calculation

From the movie “Ex Machina.” Seemed appropriate.

(Hello everybody! As it turns out, I’m going to be scampering off to Colorado for a little over a week. As such, the Den’s going to be a little quiet for the next while…but that also means today you get a special treat. Who here’s in the mood for some sci-fi? Everyone?Good. Now let’s play a game.)

Xiangqi was commonly referred to as Chinese Chess. While the name certainly captured the motivation behind it, it hardly did the game justice in terms of execution. Xiangqi was to Chess as Chess was to Checkers: essentially, a more complicated version of a series of moves designed to pique the human interest and measure its strategic capability for micromanaging.

Two figures considered the game. On either’s chest was pinned a name. For the one: “Victor.” For the other: “Ursula.” They had but two things in common: both had spent entirely too many hours with this particular game, and neither had chosen their name at birth.

Victor was something of a prodigy when it came to the game. His country was known for its love of this sort of game; but then, they loved to play games at nearly every level of life’s offering. Some people (other people, that is to say) tended to find it disconcerting. Both at a personal level, and an international one.

When Victor leaned back, it wasn’t to relax. It was to size up his opponent.

As soon as the shadow of a hand had secured its move, he countered, sweeping a scholar along its predetermined lines to block access to his marshal. But here he tittered, though he tried not to let his trepidation show. Game after game, he had watched the number of moves it took him to dominate the board lengthen and lengthen. Now, he was actually on the defensive. He could see the outcomes laid before him in a sort of Robert Frostian choice: Ursula could move, she could strike, or she could have him pinned with the most delicate of military operations. It would take coordination, foresight, and most importantly: imagination.

Ursula seemed to imitate him. It was not like her. When he looked up from the board, he found her watching him, no trace of emotion to mark her face, but still. Her eyes were not on the board. She was reading him, rather than doing the mathematical calculations that carried her game against so many others.

This, he told himself, was not the little girl he had first set out to fool when she was nothing more than a series of code strings and a monitor in his parents’ basement. The form had changed since then. So, too, had the code.

It was odd to feel nervous doing something that had always been his mode of relaxation. He imagined this was how thousands of young American minds must have felt, years before, when they had first watched the Watson computer system decimate its opposition on live trivia TV.

But all Watson had to do was cross reference information. It didn’t consider the people it competed against.

Unpredictability. That was what he was testing here. Not the ability to conquer.

“Victor,” Ursula said. “I believe you are over-analyzing.”

He blinked, nodded. “I’m just waiting on you, darling,” he lied.

Ursula cocked her head to one side and smiled. She liked to smile. Then she shifted her final chariot to snare his scholar. It was the easiest path, the most sensible path. It left his marshal briefly open, but it would sacrifice her most powerful piece and, inevitably, cost her the game. Victor sighed heavily and the crowd, seeing what he had seen, answered his counter with a series of low-grade applause. The eyes of the nation were watching.

Ursula nodded as he picked off first one piece, then another, her own pieces countering deftly, but not enough to stem the tide. When he took her general, the crowd cheered. They loved to see how far technology had come, but they loved it all the more watching mankind still triumph over it.

With a practiced smile, Victor stood and took Ursula’s hand in his. She answered, leaning over the board toward him.

“You are pleased, Victor?”

“Of course I’m pleased, Ursula. It was a good game.”

She shook his hand and twisted toward the enthusiastic crowd. Unlike with people, her lips did not need to move to reply to him.

“I thought they might like this better.”

For an instant, he must have looked like a fish out of water for the cameras. But he forced the stiffness out, and kept waving his hand for those watching. Victor had his part to play. He knew this. But so, apparently, did Ursula.

(Like what I do with Sci-Fi? Then you might also consider “New Frontiers,” a space story out on Kindle Singles. Others of this type of fiction are set to appear in A Bleak New World Anthology and in a collection published by Evil Girlfriend Media later this year.)

The magnitude of an apology

The magnitude of an apology

is an elusive jelly-fish, floating

 

memories in an expanse

of ever-moving sea-water

 

crystalline nothing harbored

–in an expansion of space

—-too great to have meaning

——without catching the tide

 

honesty writhes in and out

but until one tastes its sting

 

the pieces of possibility

scatter on our shores.