If you look close . . . you can’t see me (I’m taking the picture.)
So what have I been up to? Oh, you know. This and that. A little while back I attended Pensacon (the Pensacola Comic-Con), or as I’ve come to call it, The Last Con. Seriously; I was supposed to go to Emerald City Con a couple of weeks later, but Covid canceled that one . . . and then the one in Kansas City . . . and you get the idea.
I’ve been to several cons, now, and my experience as a con guest has been varied, but I can absolutely say that Connecticon (Hartford) and Pensacon both treated us authors like VIPs. At Pensacon I shared the booth with some great authors. You can see Jodi Lynn Nye and Phil Foglio up there. Jim Butcher was there, but didn’t make it into the shot. I will happily return to Pensacola. Phil and I became con-buddies; mostly because we were both interested in checking out the local food (we discovered an amazing hole-in-the-wall pasta place better than a 4-star restaurant). Both of us were scheduled to fly out the next day on the flight to Dallas. We went to check out the beach (one week pre-Spring Break) and dip our feet in the Gulf, ignored each other like two cats while we hung out in the hotel lobby doing our own creative thing before heading to the airport. Phil’s described what happened next. As eloquently as only an artist can.
Yeah. . . At least they comped him the hotel. I just got rerouted to Miami.
Then of course Covid set in and my lifestyle . . . hardly changed at all. It’s like I’ve been training for this all of my life.
So! Updates on the important stuff: my work!
WtC: Grrl Power. All the text work on this was completed in the spring; the hangup is the art. Dave indicated an interest in doing profile images for all of the character files, and some have been completed. Since it’s the last item from the Kickstarter, I may wind up doing a text-release for everyone who backed for it, followed by a fully formatted release once the art comes through. We’ll see. Meanwhile, all the RPG work has resulted in . . .
Super Powered Fate. This is almost complete. It’s a PDF supplement for tabletop RPG gamers who want to use Fate Condensed as the rulebook for their superhero campaigns, and it should be out next month.
Future Days. Book 9 of the series has been slow going. Since it needs to deal with the aftermath of Repercussions it’s going to be more like Wearing the Cape in structure than most of the rest of the books. Repercussions took place over a handful of days, one hit after another; Future Days will take place over more than half a year. However, like Book 8, it will be told from different POVs though still mostly Astra’s. It begins with Megaton’s experience, where Book 8 began, but goes beyond Book 8 before the third chapter. For everyone patiently waiting, I’ve decided to drop a teaser here.
Mal slipped and got a mouthful of Lake Peppas’ warm water as his head went under. Digging his feet into the sand, he pushed up and grabbed Ellie around the waist, lifting her laughing off her feet and dunking her in turn as her tiny rainbow drakes darted around his head. She sputtered as he brought her up, hair covering her face.
“Hey hey hey! I need to breath!”
“Then stop laughing! It’s—” He yelped and went under again as Megan took him out at the knees. Letting go of Ellie, he grabbed for the other girl but she pushed away and then Julie landed on his back, double-teaming him with her girlfriend. He came up again to see Jamal, holding the beachball and laughing at him. “Hey! If it’s boys against girls, then save my ass!”
The kid showed his tactical smarts by bouncing the ball off Mal’s head and Julie let go to lunge for it. Free of her weight, he wrapped his arms around Megan’s legs and heaved to easily lift and toss the shrieking Bee away. The Sentinels’ physical training regimen was really paying off. “Tiff would love it here!”
“You’re just bummed she’s not here to check out your abs,” Jamal taunted. “You can’t show off for your girl.”
Megan came up spitting water. “You’re going down, pretty-boy!”
“Julie’s got the ball,” Jamal pointed out as she spun. “You’re on defense now.”
“Then try it—hey! No fair no pow—!”
Jamal blurred in stutters, on Megan’s left before she could blink and fingers tickling sensitive ribs to turn her protest into a shriek before he stuttered again and held the ball. “Gotta balance your numerical advantage, ladies! I won’t speed while I’m it, don’t need to!” Spinning, he pushed away through the water, all three outraged girls splashing after him—and disappeared beneath a pile of avenging drakes.
Mal laughed so hard he had to brace himself as Jamal speed-swam from under the leather winged mass so fast he breached the lake surface like a dolphin. “You might want to rethink that, buddy!”
“So not cool,” Jamal gasped when he came up again, and Mal laughed harder when the beachball bobbed up in the middle of the rainbow scrum of drakes, Ellie’s little critters hissing happily as they swarmed each other for it.
“Anybody want to get the ball?” Julie asked.
“Nope.” Mal shook his head. “I think they’ve won.”
Ellie shrugged sheepishly, straightening her purple suit. “Sorry, they really don’t— What’s going on? When did Ozma and Brian get back?”
Everyone turned to look, and Mal’s gut tightened. What was Shelly doing on the beach in her office clothes? The girl had been planning to join their Littleton Vacation the instant her last Ouroboros meeting got out, but she’d have changed first, right? “I’ll be right back, guys.” He started wading in, and after a moment the rest followed.
Hope turned towards them before he hit the shore, calling out “Everyone!” Jamal blinked away to stop beside her as Mal picked up his feet to splash the last few yards to the sand, Ellie right behind him.
“In uniform, now! We’re going home!”
“Shit!” He twisted his changing ring and his swim trunks disappeared between one step and the next, replaced by his armored jumpsuit and helmet as he broke into a run. Beside him Ellie slipped and recovering her footing, his supporting hand on her elbow as she did the same, swapped her swimsuit for her new articulated armor Kindrake costume. Beachball forgotten, her polychromatic flock of flying lizards caught up to swirl around her, settling on her as they skidded to a stop in the forming circle. Pushing a drake-wing out of his face, Mal got a look at the group standing by the beach blankets.
What? Hope and Jacky stood in uniform beside Shelly, who was holding Cat-Shell—who’d gone to Oz with Ozma and Brian—all of them standing protectively over Shell’s sprawled gynoid cybershell.
What the hell?
Ignoring them, Hope gave Cat-Shell a quick ear rub. “Shell will be safe, I promise. Take care of everyone while we’re gone?”
Shelly nodded, stepping back and clutching her furry twin tighter as Hope beckoned them in. Everybody linked up, Mal clasping Ellie’s right hand and Jacky’s left even as he groaned. With the pouch of Travel Dust in Ozma’s hand, he knew what was coming. A couple of the drakes settled on his forearm, jostling for room, and when Hope looked around the circle and gave Ozma a nod, he closed his eyes against the blast of wind that caught them up and whirled them away.
Shitshitshitshitshitshitshitshit! He kept his eyes shut, swallowing repeatedly as the air buffeted them, throwing him about and yanking on his hold to the girls. He hated flying under anyone’s power but his own; it always flashed him back to his first, triggered flight when he hadn’t been in control and one-hundred percent positive he was going to die.
On combined family vacation last year, Tif had teased him gently for his nerves as their plane had made a controlled, easy taken off—which had been fine, she’d been holding his hand and stroking the short hairs on his arm, a great distraction—but Tif wasn’t there now and nothing said Not In Control like spinning through the “sky” propelled by Ozma’s teleporting Travel Dust!
The magic whirlwind felt like it went on forever. When it let them go, he opened his eyes to find himself looking down at the Dome and—
What. The. HELL?
Chicago burned below them. Fires filled the air with smoke between lit towers in the Loop, and to the south and west Mal could see at least a half-dozen rising white columns. Streams of fleeing people crossed Michigan Avenue into the open spaces of the parks. Letting go of Artemis and Kindrake he lit off, using just enough kick to slow his descent and let everyone else fall away from him before opening up on the thrust once he had enough room to avoid toasting anybody, as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing.
“Com-check!” Astra called. “Ast—”
“Astra, report!” Lei-Zi cut in on their single team channel.
“Full team present, directly above the Dome and closing fast!”
“Open channel, Young Sentinels com-check!”
They sounded off in order as Mal rocketed down Michigan Avenue, and then Lei-Zi fired orders. “Keep Jackson east of Michigan Avenue clear! Evacuate bystanders through the parks with Seven as overwatch! Multiple threats with standoff capability!” He could see the weird little tanks she described as Astra started calling shots. “Megaton take the mini-tanks first, Kindrake drop east of Michigan and protect bystanders, Ozma provide cover! Go!”
Targets. Now that he could handle.
Dropping almost to street-level for cover, Mal strafed the line of mini-tanks pushing up Jackson like something out of an invasion movie. Broad hot blasts to toast video and ultrasonic targeting sensors—there was no way he could blast through their armor without slowing enough to get pot-shotted himself. Twisting into a tight turn up State Street, he used the buildings as cover for his turnaround, looking for targets spilling north and south of Jackson to encircle the line the Sentinels held to keep the way open for evacuating bystanders.
A ripple of automatic fire echoed off the towers as some of the creepy-ass soldiers tried to bring him down but they moved way too slow and had no concept of leading their shots. Zombie soldiers? Really? Mal walked his blasts through them between mini-tanks. They ignored it but burned nicely.
At least we’ve got—
Astra’s inarticulate yell cut through the open channel and a ringing hit loud enough to filter over their coms. Mal went into an evasive, jinxing climb while trying to get eyes on her. Where? Where? Without Shell feeding them tactical intel they were freaking blind. “Astra! Where are you?”
Another yell answered, another crashing impact, more crashes, and then Astra came flying out of a business tower in a shower of glass—not flying, falling ahead of a hulking figure in black armor, flying above them on massive boot-jets and swinging a ridiculously huge sword. What. The. HELL?
Astra didn’t hit the street; pulling out of her fall, weaponless, she threw herself upward with a scream to smack into her attacker. Calling out their location, Mal pulled himself around in a g-pushing turn that made his vision gray out as she reeled from another hit and fell again to smash off an abandoned truck and hit the street hard. Big-and-ugly dropped after her, sword raised, and Mal hit him.
He’d dialed his blast for pure punch to throw him away from her and the hit blew big-and-ugly into the side of a till-now undamaged building. That felt good, but the mystery-villain didn’t even drop his weapon.
Okay, we go big then.
Putting himself between big-and-ugly and Astra, Mal drew the heat roaring through him into his center, maintaining only enough blast to stay in the air to stoke the burning pressure at his core as the armored villain shook himself free of the broken wall and came on like a flying freight train.
That’s it, ugly, come to daddy. Wait . . . wait . . . now!
Mal gave a shout, letting go with a point-blank blast of mixed heat and punch that blinded him before they crashed together. Smashing impact lower down radiated through his body and ripped his breath away as he hit the street beside Astra. The impact drove the air from his lungs as he reached for her, scrabbling to grab hold and blast them away.
Sudden pressure over his whole body told him Variforce had arrived to cover them with his fields and then his hair stood up beneath his helmet as a cracking explosion of electricity arced past him. Yes! Eat lightning and like it, ugly!
Mal thought Lei Zi’s blast didn’t do anything until the big armored sucker seemed to stagger in air—maybe she’d fried it’s boot-jet’s guidance systems? Then he vanished.
Crap, armored flying teleporting hulks. Not fair. Mal tried to sit up but golden fields weighed him down, tightening around his legs, and then Variforce was beside him.
“Don’t move, kid!” the older cape needlessly instructed him. “Help’s on the way!”
“I’m fine.” His head hurt and his legs throbbed hotly but he’d hit the street pretty hard and his bodysuit’s armor could only do so much but he was fine. “How’s Astra?”
“She’s out and you’re not fine. You’re— Just stay still, I’ve got you.”
“What are you talking about?” Mal managed to lever himself up on his elbows. “Oh. Shit.”
His legs were missing at the knee. Both of them, and he stared at the stumps like they were a magician’s trick. “Doesn’t hurt.”
“Adrenalin, shock, what’s missing can’t hurt. I’ve seen it before and I’ve got your legs too, you’ll be fine. We’ll get tourniquets around you and then we’ll move—”
Blasts rocked the street and the world went black.
That’s all for now, hope so see you sooner than you think!