A writer’s reflection Saturday morning at Write on the River

IMG_2414Another beautiful day and my iPhone awaits me– not for a phone call, as I talk on the phone only when absolutely necessary, like calling 911, or something on that level; perhaps an alien landing. But because there are probably 30-40 voice recordings on it from the wee hours of the morning, when I wake up, my mind full of thoughts about my Work In Progress (if I don’t record them at that moment they are lost to the sandman, my brain is a sieve, as my wife constantly reminds; seriously I can head up the stairs to get something and forget what it was by the time I get to the top of the stairs), and I need to go through them one by one, organize them, and then get back to editing. There’s also interesting tidbits like: Call garage door guy and replace the opener that caught on fire from the bird nest built on top of the halogen light in it.

But I’m taking a break for a moment and reflecting. Some people live in the past (often regretting), some in the future (often worrying) and the fortunate ones live in the now. Since I’ve written books about time travel and my current WIP is set in a dystopian future (as if that isn’t a trend!), and I’ve written historical fiction in mid-19th century, it seems I’m all over the place.

indexI often joke when I present at conferences that writers are not in the bell curve and we’re usually not on the good side of it. My mind is a dark and dangerous place. Some writers are fascinated by character and often stick with either a main one or a cast that they carry through multiple books– such as Sue Grafton. Others by place– you can link most of Dennis Lehane’s fine novels to Boston. Michael Connelly to LA and sometimes Vegas. Susan Mallery to Fool’s Gold, a place she invented. Others to theme.

imagesIf I had to pick one thing that fascinates me, it’s the mind. I’m on line with the concept in Albert Brooks’ brilliant Defending Your Life in that we consciously use very little of our brain’s capacity. It’s that other chunk that fascinates me.

I have to admit in most of my books my protagonist has been either Special Ops or ex-Special Ops (aka Dave Riley, Horace Chase, Mike Turcotte, Eric Dane, etc.) But I’m evolving (or it could be my wife co-wrote this with me). This current book, burners, is actually the first where the protagonist has no military connection at all: a burner, a young woman who cleans ‘tein vats 12 hours a day, every day, until her approaching Deathday: which is 31 days away at the start of the novel, at the age of 25, the median on which Dealer has predicted she and all other burners will die. There is some variance (I hated statistics in school), but not much.

It is as it is.

Theme is also important. It took me a long time to understand that– 20 or so books– I’m a little slow. Last night I was editing burners (technically the title isn’t capitalized) and I saw the theme I had when I started the book really reverberate. In this country the gap between the top 1% (actually, the top .1%) and everyone else is growing larger and larger. Is anyone really that important? Is one life so much more valuable than others? I believe it’s unsustainable, so I’m trying to write about a society that is unraveling because almost everyone is supporting that top .1%. Except it isn’t about money in burners; as you can tell, it’s about life expectancy.

So I’m taking a little time this morning to go out and sit on the deck and enjoy river as the bass boats go roaring by, the hawks fly overhead,  and, right now, the crewing team from the University of Tennessee goes rowing by with some yahoo coach in a power boat on a bullhorn yelling at them to go faster.

It is at it is.

Those who don’t study history???? Time Patrol- Black Tuesday out today!

Black Tuesday finalThose who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. The Time Patrol, though, has the mission to make sure history does repeat itself as the history that actually happened. It takes six changes to our timeline, all on the same day in different years in the past to trigger a time tsunami which will wipe us out. The Time Patrol’s mission: send six operatives back, one to each year, and make sure our history doesn’t change.

What was great fun about writing this, and about reading it I hope, is that I got to research a lot of history and not only learn things, but also think about WHAT IF.  For example, what if the first Internet message was a failure? Would computer development and networking gone another way with massive central computers and just terminals elsewhere, which was the way IBM and other large developers wanted to?

What if Sir Walter Raleigh had not been executed? Would have followed through on plans to escape to Spain and plot? What if Operation Credible Sport had actually been launched and the Iranian hostages rescued? Would Carter have been re-elected and not Reagan? Or if it failed, and there was a massacre in Tehran of both Americans and Iranians? What if the first Internet message wasn’t sent. If it was a failure?

Time Patrol: Black Tuesday is out today. Read it and wonder: What If?

The first date being attacked is 29 October, known as Black Tuesday in 1929.What appears to be a mission about the stock market crash turns out to be something altogether different; involving Meyer Lansky and other shady characters of the day.

But there are five other October 29th’s to go to at the same time:

There’s Roland in 999 AD, on board a Viking ship heading to raid an English monastery.

Scout ends up in the era of free love in 1969, at UCLA, on the day the first Internet message was sent. Or was it?

In 1980, Eagle finds himself in the swamps of Florida, part of a Ranger School patrol, on the day the final test run for Operation Credible Sport’s specially modified C-130 is being conducted. This is the planned second attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran.

black tuesdayMoms is high in the Andes on 29 October 1972, where a handful of plane crash survivors are struggling to stay alive; an event that will eventually be written about with that very title ALIVE!, a testament to the strength of human character. But it seems the Shadow wants no one to survive.

29 October 1618. Sir Walter Raleigh is to be beheaded. Mac’s mission? Make sure it happens. But Raleigh, and some other forces, are there to rescue him and change history.

Are the members of the Time Patrol up to the task of making sure our timeline stays intact against the sometimes devious, sometimes blunt efforts of the Shadow Timeline?

Nothing but good times ahead.

As long as the Time Patrol does its job!

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Where the Time Patrol Ended Up This Particular Day: 1929 Black Tuesday

Excerpted from Time Patrol: Black Tuesday

And then there are the most dangerous monsters: the ones disguised as human.

black tuesdayManhattan, New York, 1929. 29 October (where Ivar gets involved with Meyer Lansky, Joe Kennedy, Bugsy Siegel and just wants to come back)

Ivar was startled as a man darted out from an ally and ran into him. He felt wetness on his face and realized it was blood as the stranger collapsed to the ground. There was blood everywhere and Ivar’s instinct was to flee, but his special ops training upon “joining” the Nightstalkers allowed him at least to stand his ground for a moment.

“Are you him?” the man gasped.

Ivar knelt, trying to find the source of the blood, but it was everywhere and he hadn’t taken the emergency medical training as seriously as he should have. Then his hand sunk into the guy’s stomach, intestines like soft, warm snakes, and Ivar realized the man had been gutted. And there was a gurgling noise and Ivar knew the guy had been stabbed several times, including at least once in the lung as the sound indicated a sucking chest wound.

So some of the training had stuck.

The stranger held out a canvas bag. It was smeared with blood, but Ivar automatically took it. Might be a bomb, he heard Nada warning, but Nada wasn’t here. Wasn’t around in the then (or was it now?) either.

“What is it?” Ivar asked.

The man was looking over his shoulder. “Run. Run. They’re coming.”

“Who’s coming?”

“Them.”

“I’ll help you.”

The man winced in pain. “The mission is more important. Go!”

Ivar looked past the man and saw no one, but he had no doubt that whoever had wielded the blade would be following the blood trail.

Every instinct he had pressed Ivar to run away and leave the man as requested.

Ivar ripped off his overcoat and tied the arms tightly around the stranger’s chest and stomach, partially staunching the flow of blood.

“Come on.”

There was no protest. Ivar wrapped his arm around the man’s shoulder and headed off. Past the statue of George Washington, marking his inauguration at this very spot where slaves had been bought, sold, and rented. He turned into a dark alley, searching for a door or window.

It is 1929. The British High Court rules that Canadian women are persons. The 1st Academy Awards are given out and Wings wins Best Picture. The Graf Zeppelin flies around the world in 21 days. Stalin sends Trotsky into exile. All Quiet on the Western Front is published. Popeye appears for the first time in a comic. The Dow Jones peaks at 381.17, which it will not reach again until 1954. The first patent for color television is submitted. Rioting breaks out in Jerusalem between Arabs and Jews over access to the Western Wall.

Some things change; some don’t.

The world was indeed never, ever, going to be the same.

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Where the Time Patrol Ended Up This Particular Day 1980: Ranger School

From Time Patrol: Black Tuesday

Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, 1980. 29 October– where Eagle must make sure Operation Credible Sport (2d rescue attempt of the Iranian hostages) does not take place

“Lots of history at that there airfield,” Hammersmith told Eagle, while pointing with the end of a twig at the triangle of runways on the map. “March of ’42, ole Doolittle hisself brought his raiders there. Trained them to take off in a short distance, just like they was gonna do the next month off the Hornet when they bombed Japan. Can still see tire marks where they burned rubber on the tarmac, cranking those old birds to full power, then releasing the brakes. Those marks have lasted longer than then men who made them.

“Then right after the Big War, they tested some flying bombs they copied off the German V-1, launching them in this field, here, off the airstrip. Abandoned now, but some rusting launchers are still there. Use them as objectives sometimes for the students. Those old timers used Nazi scientists for that ‘cause after the war, the Russkies were the enemy. Kinda strange ain’t it, how yesterday’s enemy is today’s buddy, eh?” He didn’t wait for an answer and Eagle began to suspect there was more to Hammersmith than his first impression. “Airfield been abandoned for a long time though.” He looked up at Eagle. “Until lately. Been off limits for a bit.”

“So,” Eagle finally said, “you’re my contact.”

“Yeah. Surprised, ain’t you, son? Takes all kinds to keep the timeline ticking. I ain’t gonna ask you when you come from. I don’t want to know dick about the future. That would fuck with my head and my head’s already kinda fucked up. I done two tours in ‘Nam and sometimes I don’t think so straight. And I know you’re here only for twenty-four hours, so let’s not be dicking around. Let’s get this done. I don’t suppose you know what this is about?”

“You know what’s happening at Wagner Field?”

“Yeah. They’re testing a modified C-130 for short landings and takeoffs. Almost Doolittle like, which I kind find interesting. I gotta assume it’s got something to do with the clusterfuck in the desert back in April. Know some fellows from the Battalion who were in on that. So maybe we’re going to be trying again? And you’re here to make sure that happens.”

The last sentence was said not as a question and that was enough warning for Eagle to keep the details of today’s history from Hammersmith.

“Sort of,” Eagle said.

“Fuck me to tears,” Hammersmith said, and Eagle could only think of Nada saying the same thing, so many times. The ranger instructor was no fool.

“We gotta stop it, don’t we?”

Okay, Eagle had seriously underestimated the Time Patrol agent. “Yes.”

Hammersmith was silent for several long seconds. “Then that’s the mission.” A soldier accepting his duty. “Do we have to kill any of our own?”

“No.” Hope not, Eagle amended silently.

“All right.” Hammersmith nodded. “I can live with that. Time to get real.” Hammersmith shrugged off his rucksack and opened it. He dumped a sack on the ground. “5.56. Live ammo. Take the damn blank adapter off your weapon and lock and load. I’ll be your assistant patrol leader and I’ll navigate for you. The rest of the men have live ammo in their rucks and I’ve already passed the word to load up.” He slapped his own rucksack. “We got one M60 with eight hundred rounds of 7.62, claymores, some LAWs, grenades, pistol ammo. One of the fellas got an M21 if we need to pop someone at distance. Oh yeah, two M203s with fifteen HE rounds each.” He held up a shotgun with a short box magazine. “And I have my Lola. SPAS-12 shotgun, loaded with slugs.”

Eagle processed the inventory: Claymores were anti-personnel mines; LAWs were light-anti-tank weapons; an M21 was a sniper rifle. Live ammunition. The M60 was a medium machinegun, good firepower. The M203s were M16s with a 40mm grenade launcher slung under the barrel. And there was Lola, a semi-automatic shotgun.

So they were prepared for battle.

Eagle was starting to feel better about this mission, but Hammersmith put an end to that flicker of optimism. “We might not have to kill any of our own, but that don’t mean this is going to be a cake walk. I been in these swamps for years, sonny. Grew up down here. Walked many a patrol so I can get us the airfield. But things ain’t right.” He nodded out toward the dark swamp. “There’s something out there. Something that don’t want us getting to that airfield. Something bad, real bad. Evil-like. And it’s between us and the airfield and whatever it is you gotta do.” He paused. “I don’ suppose you can tell me what it is exactly you gotta do?”

“No, Master Sergeant.”

Hammersmith sighed. “Figured.” He turned off the flashlight. After a moment, they emerged from underneath the poncho and stood up.

Hammersmith became formal. “Let me know when you want to move out, sir.”

It is 1980. President Jimmy Carter decides to boycott the summer Olympics in Moscow in response to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Mount St. Helens erupts, killing 57 people. CNN goes on the air. John Lennon is shot and killed. The Iran-Iraq War drags on. Operation Eagle Claw, intended to rescue the American hostages in Tehran, fails. There are 226,545,805 Americans registered in the census. A Norwegian oil platform collapses in the North Sea, killing 123 crew and spilling oil. Reagan defeats Carter in the presidential election.

Some things change; some don’t.

Eagle took a deep breath.

This was going to suck worse than doing Ranger School again.

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