Monday, June 6, 2016

Red Rain 2 - Not Really. It's Red Rain 1 Again!

One Hundred Sixty-Four Words from the Co-Author

Those of you who read this blog are very likely to already be fans of Aubrey Hansen. And if you're not, then I will leave you to discover the ample online material surrounding the authoress herself, including the earlier posts from this distinguished blog tour, linked to at bottom.
You probably know that some time ago I enjoyed basking in her fandom by writing a fan fiction sequel to her Red Rain. Much more recently in development, I pulled it off again but this time got my work in the freshly published prequel Project 74: An Unaccepted Short Story. This is long-time fans first chance to get a peek at what the published hybrid of Aubrey Hansen and David Hartung (that's me!) plan to produce this fall in the upcoming sequel. Aubrey did a lot of work to refine my draft, and you can be sure she and I will be working together to make sure that inserting my content into her world doesn't become a jarring experience.
Aside: Thanks to all of you who have provided reviews of that experience on Amazon. I take to heart your criticism and your praise. I want nothing more than to make all the old Aubrey fans out there happy with the upcoming content.
Without further ado, my contribution to the blog tour: a little excerpt from Red Rain!

Cea was silent. I glanced over at her. She was bent over the crate, holding the digital picture frame in her hands. The picture of Ephesus was still on the screen.
Cea frowned and squinted. 
“That’s my older brother,” I explained. 
She jerked her head up. Her face was colorless. 
“He’s your brother?”  
“Was.” I  looked  down  at  the  gray  sweater  in  my  hands.  “He  was  sent  to  Mars  on  scientific  business  as well... But his transit home exploded.”
“I know,”  Cea said quietly. 
I looked up again. 
“You know?”  
She nodded and stood up. She held the frame close to the wall, and the magnets snapped into place. 
“ I’ve met him.”  
She gave the corner a tweak, adjusting the position. She regarded the image for a moment, then glanced back at me. 
“This was the base he worked at.” 

Blog Tour Schedule
June 2
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Introduction and Excerpt
Laurel’s Leaves-Author Interview
Frances Hoelsema-Excerpt
Aubrey Hansen, Author and Screenwriter-Excerpt
Perpetual Gardener, Writer, and Mormon-Book Spotlight
The Overactive imagination-Book Spotlight
June 3
Grace Pennington-Excerpt
Gabriellyn-Excerpt and Author Interview
Joyful Peacock-Author Interview
June 4
Letters from Annie Douglass Lima-Excerpt
Another OtherWorld-Character Interview with Philadelphia
Jaye L. Knight-Excerpt
June 5
Mary’s Writing World-Book Spotlight
God’s Peculiar Treasure Rae-Book Spotlight
Rachel Rossano’s Words-Excerpt and Author Interview
June 6
Tale Weaver-Author Interview
Lisa Swinton Queen of Random-Book Spotlight
Irly Scribblings of David J Hartung-Excerpt

Friday, April 29, 2016

Beyond the Rim Installment 25

Thurgod commanded the gate to his compound to open as he flicked his hand. He watched as the latch gave way and the metal swung away. The smith god's rounded shoulders slumped, and his hand trembled at his side. He stepped through the gate, then reached behind and threw the gate shut again. The gate shut with a loud noise.
Thurgod proceeded to the door of his living quarters, but stopped as he saw its hinges turn open before he reached it.
"Is that you, child?"
"I heard the gate bang shut."
Thurgod took a tenuous step forward. "I am sorry, child. I was not thinking of your sleep."
Oorgo stood in the doorway, staring at the moonlit silhouette of the smith god.
Thurgod sniffed, and reached forward with his hand. "If you are  still in the door, I cannot come in, child."
"Sorry, master." Oorgo stepped away, and hearing the footsteps Thurgod stepped inside. He pictured his bed of iron only a few rooms away.
"That is not my name, child."
"Sorry, master."
Thurgod had taken half of a step towards his own door, but then paused and pointed his face at Oorgo. "It is I who should be sorry. I have woken you, and when you have obviously wanted to ask me a question, I have rebuked your sleepy head. What did you wish to know, Oorgo?"
"The Queen. What did she say?"
"What did she say?"
"When you went to talk to her."
"The Queen. Yes. Yes. I spoke with her tonight. She had questions for me."
"Questions about smith work?"
Thurgod remained still, frozen in his half-turn. "Questions from one god to another."
"But what about? Why did she call you away?"
"Are you afraid, child? What is the meaning of so many questions?"
"Are my parents coming?"
"What do..." Thurgod canceled his own question to catch Oorgo as the first sob nearly threw the boy over.
"The queen is terrible. She..."
"Your mind is too small at this hour, child. You need sleep." Thurgod cupped two of his fingers over the boy's mouth, but left his nose open. "Little boys should not be wakeful at this time, not after so much walking."
" parents..."
"I think that they are coming, child."
"You do?"
"If you were not going to believe me when I answered, why did you ask me?"
"Why did you ask me to tell you, if, when I told you, you would only ask why I thought so?"
Oorgo began to answer, but his answer was lost as his head flopped onto Thurgod's arm, and he was asleep again. The smith god carried the child back to the bed of straw, and before putting him in he remade the bed.
"The hearts of little boys should not be troubled with so much, but for now it has to be. You will be made stronger."
Thurgod's eyebrows raised.
"Yes. Stronger. You will have arms like mine. Metal will bend because you strike it. You will be a fine smith."
"Yes, child. You will carry a whole crate along the whole Way and not grow tired."
"A magic crate?"
"Yes. You will carry a Queen's Chest, full of secret things that you have made."
"What kind of things?"
"Things you invent. Things I could not make."
Oorgo tried to answer again, but only muttered a whisper.
Thurgod continued. "You will go through the city, and some will say, 'There is Oorgo.' And you will enjoy sunsets. And you will be the smith for people, as I am the smith for gods."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Beyond the Rim Installment 24

“Thurgod. You are delayed in answering my summons. Why?”
Cyllgod was not in her amphitheatric court. She was back in the Room of Green Marble, her personal quarters. It was an austere room, with tremendous ribbed doors as its gate, of metal a few inches thick. This room was hidden away within the mountain, away from natural light. It was only ever lit by the light that emanated from unrestrained godflesh, or the incantations of the demigods who attended.
Her question hung in the air as Thurgod silently took shambling steps towards her. “My lady, do you wear mortal raiment today?”
“I do. Projecting the image of clothes to the human minds may be well enough for thrall-gods, but it was time that the Queen of All Gods distinguish herself.”
“You have distinguished yourself among gods by draping cloth over your body? My queen, the body is but an option to us. It cannot be improved.”
Cyllgod laughed a single syllable. “Advisement on appearances comes from the blind god? You cannot even see what I wear.”
“It is more than your crown, Queen. A coat of mail, ill crafted by a lessor smith, this cannot become a the Goddess for…”
The Queen raised an arm, draped over with a deep blue sleeve. “Kor! Kor! None of that talk here! And I think that your crown would remind you of it. And here you have flattered me and saught to avoid my question. I sent a summons to you by my swiftest demigod, my personal messenger. You received it hours ago, many of them. You might have come during the day. Yet now it is night. I give you a chance to explain yourself.”
“I was summoned while my servant was with me, and he is of a tender age…”
“Now there is an interesting fact! You choose the most unusual servants, Thurgod. This boy cannot have seen fifteen winters, and you have made him the chief servant to the greatest smith there has ever been?”
“A strong arm can be put onto any man with enough labor. Knowledge of metals can be taught. That boy has what cannot be put in by any god within the Rim.”
Cyllgod folded her hands together and crossed her legs. “Oh? Are there gods beyond the rim?”
Thurgod dropped to his knees, beginning to pant.
“You know, Thurgod, you sometimes talk about the strangest notions. You talk about gods being made for something, and not for another thing. You talk about there being a world outside these mountains that is not pure desolation and emptiness. I’ve even heard you to whisper in your deepest soul about a god before all gods, before me. Are you going mad?”
Thurgod dropped to his face, writing on the floor as forbidden memories were aroused, and grunted a gross bellow, followed by something just better than a snarl.
Cyllgod laughed three syllables this time. “Why, you look mad! Look at you, so precious in your limitations! And to think that with your mind and body so castrated as it is that you still have the audacity to scheme against me in my own city.” Thurgod’s neck twitched furiously, but he clenched his teeth against making noise.
“Do you remember when you once walked outside this city? Do you remember what the trees looked like?” She pronounced each of the last three words delicately, with wet lips. “Do you remember having a face that did not appall every mortal….”
Thurgod rolled onto his back, seizing at the smooth floor below him. His roar of pain struck just the note to reverberate a dozen times in that stone room, shaking the metal doors on their hinges. His bass tone was complemented with sick harmony by the ringing laughter of Cyllgod.
Thurgod struggled to articulate. “Torment. You brought me here, to torment me?”
Cyllgod stood from her seat on the raised dais. “Oh no, no sweet Thurgod. I brought you here to ask you questions. But you were not going to answer them. You mean to keep a secret about that boy of yours. So if you will not comply and bring forth what you can but will not, then I will bring forth what you will, but cannot.”
“Liar. Queen of them.”
Cyllgod stepped forward, her leg projecting from dress she wore below her newly sewn robes of state. She stepped with perfect balance, her silver crown never wavering. “Queen of everything, to you, thrall-god.”
Thurgod repeatedly beat the side of his face into the ground, the Korlythe chipping at the floor. Thurgod made every effort to pronounce words, but only managed to produce foam.
With an infinitely graceful movement, Cyllgod was suddenly kneeling beside Thurgod’s head. “Oh, little Thurgod, my favorite little god. You hurt so badly. Shall I lift the pain?”
Thurgod’s breathing stoped, except occasional wheezes. He could only manage to whisper out the L sound repeatedly.
Cyllgod’s voice dropped two octaves from its usual pitch, and she muttered words not ever heard within the rim. Silver streaks churned around her face, concealing her bluish hue, until quietly she voice faded to whisper.
Thurgod took a series of sharp breaths. The air. Except for the scent of Cyllgod, it was clearer. It was like…

The mountain was cold, and the pair climbed in snow that was knee high. They both were fully aware of the cold, but they did not mind it. They were gods.
She did not care. She was with the smith-god, and this was a fine adventure.
“I remember when the flakes were taken from the sea. It will be long before they return.”
“You should tell me when they return. We can… watch them melt.”
She laughed a hearty chuckle, “You’re silly. What fun is there in watching snow melt? It is always melting.”
“Do you know where all of them are? Every drop and every flake?”
“I know when they leave the sea. I know when they return. They tell me all their adventures.”
The smith-god put his thick hand lightly on the other god’s face. “The flakes brushing your face now? What are their stories?”
“That was just an excuse to touch my face, wasn’t it?”
The smith was silent for a moment. “Apparently not a good enough one.”
She smiled. “I didn’t say you needed a better one.”

“Do you like it, Thurgod? Being a god again?”
Thurgod opened his eyes and realized he was breathing evenly again. Cyllgod was kneeling beside his head, which rested on the cool marble, which was wet with his own sweat.
“What. What have you done?”
“Korlythe is just an ornament now. I lifted the curse.”
“I hear. I hear the Sea.”
“Oh, all your memories must be rushing back in. It’ll be fine,” she rested her right hand on his right shoulder. “Just ease back into it. You’re a god again, a real god. Greater than the fledgling demigods.”
“A god again? I have always been a god. A god for doing, a god for doing smith work.”
“Yes. That is how you were made. But here, in this valley, within this impenetrable Rim, there are only two gods, and true gods do not need to stay as they were made. I was the goddess of beauty. I am now Queen of Gods. What could you be, Thurgod?”
“I am always the god for smithing. I should not be any else.”
Cyllgod was silent for a moment, and then she traced the forefinger of her left hand along the outline of Korlythe. “You do not need to wear this anymore. I could call the crystal golems. We could draw it off.”
Thurgod’s voice leveled. “What are you doing, Corsinial of Old? What are you seeking to take from me now?”
Cyllgod leaned over, putting eyes just peering into the top of Thurgod’s vision. “Take from you? I am seeking to give to you. To make you great. Let you become a true god.”
“Speak the truth plainly, Corsinial. It is unbecoming of you to conceal from me still yet, when you say you are releasing me from a curse.”
“You could be the Prince of Gods, and we could reign together. No mortal and no demigod should see a difference.”
“You and I. We are the only read gods here. Gods who have climbed the hill were First God once reigned.”
Thurgod was silent.
Cyllgod leaned her face directly over Thurgod’s face, only a few inches from his. “Together. Gods and rulers, together. As I wanted when first we came.” She paused, but Thurgod did not respond. “I was so glad when you were found in the camp. Not for the gems you carried in your belt, or for the golems you would build for me, but for you, Thurgod, my sweet…”
Thurgod spat, catch her full in the face. “I rule no humans. I rule no…”
Cyllgod struck him across the face as she stood up. “How dare you? How dare you assault…”
Thurgod was on his feet, “Are we not both gods? One god to another, Cyllgod, you are a liar, the Queen of Liars, a murderess, who plotted the death of Meldus, who ousted First God from the world.”
“I killed Meldus and I killed First God, and I’ll kill you, too if you do not learn to keep silent before your betters! Korlythe, awake!”
Thurgod felt the metal band tighten around his mind.

The cold snow did not bother his back. It did not bother her. They were gods. Her foam white hair spread across Thurgod’s chest from where she had lain her own head, watching the sky display Meldus’ glory. Rainbows of color flickered in the sky, and the smith scarcely cared for them. They were a good excuse.
Then there was a void, and there was no snow, and no foam white hair.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Beyond the Rim Installment 23

Oorgo and the smith god arrived at last on the fringes of the city as evening arrived. The evening was grey as the sunset was veiled by cloud, and the shadows of the mountains were now creeping up into the city. Still Oorgo's pace had not slackened, and he kept the chain taught as he went on ahead, fascinated again by the wares of this city's edge marketplace through which they had passed that morning. By now though the merchants and sellers were gathering together their wares and sealing them up, either to carry home or to leave in Queen's chests, metal boxes able to be opened only by the owner, a device of cunning for which Thurgod was surely responsible, though they bore the Queen's name. Oorgo paused and stared at one of these, fascinated as the merchant spoke to it.
The merchant muttered a nonsense password, "Cumunreal," and the box flipped its lid open. Oorgo jumped back, and blundered into a porter carrying away the greater half of another merchants wares.
The porter turned and muttered a curse as his load, carefully balanced across his shoulders, wobbled. Then seeing the chain he through down his load and said, "So now the gods make slaves of our children, eh?" He stooped and picked up a stone.
"Have not gods held humans by the nape of the neck all of your history?" said Thurgod.
"To think you lead a child around on a chain!" and he hurled the stone at Thurgod.
It struck the smith square in the face, but then rebounded in a random direction at the same speed with which it had flown in. A woman selling pottery ducked as one of her largest pots was shattered.
Thurgod bellowed in the direction of the porter, "Fool! How is that it is I that am blind, but it is you who cannot see? The child leads me!" and he gave a shake to the chain that connected him to Oorgo. "See, even now your anger is misplaced, and your own kind are hurt for it, and the gods pass on untroubled."
"I'd soon live to see the day you die, smith-thrall."
"And I have lived to see a hundred generations of men die, and am but a day older. It would be better if you let your anger pass, for it is fruitless."
The tension hung in the air for a moment, but knowing that another stone thrown could do no good, the porter turned and balanced his burden on his back again. He meandered to a side street, muttering, as the pottress chased after him howling her remonstrances, and asking who is employer was.
Thurgod resumed his walking, giving a tug on the chain to wake Oorgo from his petrified state. "The Queen waits for me, Oorgo. It would be better if we did not make her wait long." As Oorgo caught up to the god Thurgod scooped him up and placed him on his shoulders again, walking quickly.
"He broke the woman's pot."
"I am sure the courts of the city will settle that dispute."
"The queen's court is gonna do something about it?" asked Oorgo.
"No. There are other courts. Magistrates."
"I saw some magic crates. They opened when the man spoke to it."
"You have the wrong word again, Oorgo. A magistrate is a man who tells other men what to do when they are upset at each other."
"So are you a magistrate?"
"Am I man?"
"Then I am not a magistrate."
"Did you make the boxes?"
"They are called Queen's chests."
"Why didn't the stone hurt you?"
"I am made of godflesh, and godflesh does fear to be struck by a stone thrown in anger."
"What about copper? Can godflesh get hurt by copper?"
"No. Godflesh cannot be wounded by copper."
"Godflesh cannot be wounded by any thing you will find on the planet, child?"
"Then what's wrapped around your face?"
Thurgod stumbled, and toppled to the ground, forcing Oorgo to make a rough dismount, and also crash to the ground.
The child immediately began to breath deeply and to whimper. Thurgod had known children enough to know what would come next, so he roused himself from his reeling and said, "We are already too slow. We must move on."
"My arm hurts. It hurts."
"Did it crack?"
"You do not walk with your arms; your are not so small a child as that, nor are you an ape. The Queen requires that we move on."
"What's an ape?"
"I will only answer that question if you are walking."
Oorgo hopped up, but then winced as he felt his shoulder. Thurgod began speaking immediately, "An ape is a creature with huge arms, so huge that it walks with them like feet. And instead of feet, it may have hands."
"I saw a juggler once. Can apes juggle?"
Thurgod skipped a stride as he walked. "Can it juggle?"
Oorgo just nodded and made a little skip forward, gaining a half-stride lead on the smith god. "You know. Throw balls or things in the air and catch them and throw them."
"I, I, I have never seen an ape juggle."
"Have you ever seen anything?"
Thurgod slumped his shoulders slightly. "Yes."
"I mean besides metal. Have you seen things that aren't metal?"
Thurgod did not respond, but his breathing deepened.
Oorgo looked down and slowed his pace. "I guess you must have. You knew that sunsets on the mountainside are beautiful."
Thurgod jiggled the chain idly, toying with the slack as they walked together. "Yes. They are."
The pair then walked in silence for a few minutes, Oorgo hanging closer to the smith god as the darkness fell and they reached where the shadows of the mountains fell onto the city. They finally obtained the Way again, and walked with the sunset before them, just showing between the jagged mountain peaks.
The cobbles of the Way were cool before they descended onto the city streets, and the iron of Thurgod's gate cold when they arrived. Thurgod opened the gate and let Oorgo in, then released himself from the chain. "It is the privilege of humans to close their eyes and no longer see the world. May your dreams be good, child."
"When will you be back, Master?"
"When you are asleep, if the Queen does not delay me."
"Do you know what she wants you for?"
"I think I do, but the mind, or whim, of the Queen is unknowable to most."
"Who can..."
"No more questions. It is not the time for it." Thurgod shut the gate and turned away, lumbering his stocky form as he retraced his steps towards the Way.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Beyond the Rim Installment 22

Thurgod was suddenly interrupted in the midst of the story. He and the child were only one terrace from the top of the final descent to the Sixth Mine, preparing for the long and level journey along the causeway. As they approached the last turn there appeared a sudden flash of brightness before them, and after the flash an altogether more amazing sight.
A human shape between seven and eight feet tall stood before them, its form made of twisted vines of blue, just slightly deeper than the sunniest of skies, and a color altogether foreign to those within the Rim. Obscuring his woven blue interior was the wreath of flame, blue at its base and green at its tips, which robed every part of its body save for the face and hands, and the face was obscured by a red-flame beard. Oorgo jumped back behind Thurgod, unexpectedly called out of the story which Thurgod told.
"Thurgod, thrall of Cyllgod, and Master of Smiths, you are summoned at once to the Queen's Court." The demigod's voice betrayed not even a hint of the flame that surrounded him, but was interrupted with frequent noises of snapping.
"I will come," said Thurgod. "Tell our mistress I shall come when the child is returned to my compound."
"The walk is long. You will not then be to her court by nightfall, and will make excuse to come another day. She says you must come at once."
Thurgod inclined his head slightly to be pointing his face at the messenger. "Is this how I have been in the past? When has the smith god said one thing to the Queen and then done another? Am I now suspected of deception?"
"You should be silent and do as you are commanded, thrall. It is not yours to ask questions."
"Nor is it yours to command me, nothing-god."
"I am the emissary of the queen. You are to come at once."
"I will come when the child," Thurgod tugged on the chain that connected him and Oorgo, drawing the child close to him again, "is safely returned to the compound. You know that evil men do wicked things to children caught on streets at night."
"I will take the child home; he will be in my care." The demigod spread his arms wide, a sight which caused Oorgo to stand beside Thurgod's leg, peering out at the mosntrous arms that might have embraced a dozen men at once.
"Tell the Queen this, that the smith god will come to her court when he has taken his servant safely home, and then come to her at once."
"It will be late. The stars will be bright before you could arrive."
"Has the Queen learned to need sleep? Are we not gods, free of being ruled by daylight? Did we not once..." Thurgod did not finish that sentence, clenching his jaw.
"You dare the question the queen's power of divinity? To her own emissary?" The green flares of the god's flame increased, and he stepped toward the diminutive pair.
"Emissary is a grand word to describe a nothing-god. Stand aside, and the child will go home with me."
"I will not return to my Queen without your consent to come at once."
"Then you will walk with us, and be yourself late on your return."
The demigod completed his stride toward them. "It appears your servant is a distraction to you from your duties. I will take him home now."
Thurgod stepped forward to meet the demigod, leaving only two more of his own paces, or one of the messenger's, between them. "And if I disallowed it? What then, nothing-god?"
The demigod swung his elongated limb at Thurgod, grasping his shoulder and tightening the grip, with crackling and snapping intensifying as his flame beard changed to white in fury. But the smith god stood still, his metal-wound countenance unflinching.
Thurgod opened his mouth to speak, but snapped it to again, forestalling words that would have caused him pain. He reached up and flung the arm off his shoulder, and then said, "It is now you who delay me. Leave me now to return my servant to his home, or I will have the Queen know it was your own vanity that delayed me."
The messenger leered, glancing at Thurgod for only half a moment, and then rested his eyes on Oorgo. He said the boy, "We will meet again, child," and then he started, as though to leap at the boy. Oorgo  tried to run away but the line that held him to Thurgod caught him, and he fell backwards onto the seat of his trousers.
With a flash the emissary disappeared, with only half a laugh in the air.
Oorgo ran to Thurgod, sobbing. He gasped for breaths, "He had fire and...." "How did you..." " scary..." "...why did he..." "what did he..." "I hate..." but Thurgod clapped his hand over the boys' mouth.
"Have you not seen, child, that the business of gods is beyond a boy? Then it would be better if you cared not for it, no more than it affects you or your human kind. If I and a god should disagree then it would be better if you did not think of it until you may learn from it, and you are small child. The hour grows late, and we are far from home."
Somehow the words quieted the boy, though they were little comfort. The thought of the bed of straw and waking to Thurgod's hammer on an anvil latched onto the boys mind. Within five minutes he was running ahead of Thurgod again, nearly dragging the smith god forward.
"Why do you live so far from the mine?"
"I live very far from the Sixth Mine. I live above the First Mine."
"There is a mine under my bed?"
"Then why don't I hear picks and golems, and there are no carts?"
"There are none who mine there now."
"The causeway is like a big spine, if the city were a really flat animal."
"Yes, child."