Being Not Achieving—What Vacation Taught Me

Being Not Achieving—What Vacation Taught Me — Kimia Wood

Some things you gotta see for yourself…

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on vacation with my family. And I’ve been sick the whole stinkin’ time.

You know how any vacation goes…the expectation, the planning, the packing and list-making… This particular time, we were camping – so the organization of “this goes in my tent”, “this smells like food, so goes in the bear barrel”, “this is only for the car ride” was intensified.

I always over-pack for car rides, vacations, etc. I had my list of everything I could get done (see below) and anticipation was especially high since this is the last extended vacation for our immediate family for the foreseeable future (four adults’ work schedules are hard to coordinate).

But God allowed something else to happen. Namely, a “sinus infection” that is still making my voice softer and weaker than normal! Continue reading

“Shadow”—A Christian Jason Bourne?

What makes my written work stand out from others in the genre?

"Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia Wood

Image credit: imdb.com

Ha ha! That implies that I’ve actually read books in my genre…or that I know what genre I’m writing in…

But seriously, my latest work (Transmutation of Shadow) is an action-packed secret agent mystery…sort of in the vein of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity…or the movie The Matrix (no, really, a beta reader said it reminded him of The Matrix…yas!)

And yet it’s different. How is it different? How have I made this genre my own? If you love running-and-gunning spies, but also want to train your palate with clean, uplifting books, read on:

Action and Adventure

Books in this genre are usually full of fight scenes and dramatic chases…and Shadow is no exception!

A quick pace follows our hero through the pages, as he hides under the radar, running from people he used to call friends. I’m no Tom Clancy, but I managed to slip in some cool spy maneuvers (like switching clothes and cars repeatedly!).

How is my writing different?

Mr. Ludlum’s fight scenes can be a little…bone-jarring. While I don’t try to gloss over the bloody realism of combat, I also don’t dwell on it. My story doesn’t need it. In the words of one critiquer, I handle everything from death to violence with “grace and elegance”.

Let’s face it: my main character is an assassin. His government pays him to “eliminate” undesirable elements…AKA to murder people.

I think this is one of the things that made my parents leery when I first started writing it – but they both agree that I’ve dealt with the subject with maturity (but not gratuity) and cheerfulness (but not glorification).

Language

Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Alistair MacLean, and others in their genre are prone to “spicy words.” Let’s face it: in the world of soldiers and spies, terrorists and mafia dons, you won’t catch many people saying, “Good golly, Miss Molly!” when they stub their toe.

I’m from a different culture.

To be specific, the homeschooling, church-y culture where “Jeez” is too strong, and “Good grief gravy!” is for when you’re really, truly frustrated.

I gotta snicker a little here, because this is an area where my first line of beta readers really raked me over the coals.

“He can’t say ‘shucks’! He’s in the Army Special Forces, for crying out loud. If the guys in boot camp caught him saying ‘shucks’ they would beat him up!”

So…I took advantage of the glorious tool of obfuscation, and peppered the manuscript with “I swore” or “I muttered a curse.”

Realism + opaque writing = something you can give your teen without blushing!

Sex

Robert Ludlum is especially bad this way, but Tom Clancy also doesn’t shy from a sex scene or two.

What about the Kimia Wood books?

Hmm, yeah, there is none.

My character doesn’t even have a girlfriend. And if he did, I have a moral compunction against including any illicit material. Just check out my full-fledged rant against romance fiction. After frothing at the mouth about characters sniffing each other like wild dogs, the last thing I’m going to do is give my book a steamy scene.

While I tend to associate the tag “clean” with sickly sweet little Amish romances or quirky romantic mysteries with brightly-colored covers, I can’t deny the strict reading of the label applies to my own work. If you’re not “dirty,” you’re probably “clean.”

Tone"Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia Wood

Alistair MacLean’s work are tense, but largely upbeat and empowering adventures. Tom Clancy’s are highly technical, with tension slowly and deliberately constructed from all sides.

Robert Ludlum stares deep into the abyss, and his work is accordingly heavy on the gritty realism of his topic. And Larry Correia, while he sprinkles humor and cool world-building throughout his books, knows how to ratchet the tension up to eleven and just keep cranking.

How am I the same but different?

"Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia Wood

Image from Pixabay

My book has been compared to The Matrix and Equilibrium. While I’m thrilled that my fight scenes evoked these same emotions, the tone of these movies is not what I was going for…nor (I think) what I achieved.

Both these movies have greyscale palates, with lots of dark costumes, rainy sets, and oppressive atmospheres.

While my protagonist is in a lot of danger (and goes through some pretty rough experiences) I wanted to stay upbeat and hopeful (with, dare I say, touches of humor?).

This isn’t your fluffy-creampuffs read…but it isn’t a GRIMDARK where you’ll leave the story feeling dirty and depressed. We put the “fun” in “run for your life”!

Theology

The best books show an honest picture of human nature, perhaps draw images from it to help us understand ourselves…and perhaps even say something profound about the universe.

Some authors (like Ian Fleming) simply provide some wish-fulfillment and let the audience have an exciting adventure. Others (like Robert Ludlum) paint vivid, honest pictures of humanity and the societies we build.

How do my works compare?

Transmutation of Shadow is fun, sure. A romp that lets us run for our lives, hide in plain sight, and experience the thrill of daring escapes all from the comfort of our reading chair.

But I tried to go deeper. As I’ve gotten older, and my writing has grown, I’ve decided “I don’t want to be room noise” – I want to say something worth saying.

As I let my conscientious Christian worldview inform my story-craft, I can deliver a story that’s about much more than a psionic assassin solving the mystery about himself…I tell a story about a killer forced to confront his own actions, to stop passing the buck, forced to find redemption.

Which only comes from Jesus.

As impressive as Clancy, Ludlum, and MacLean are, that’s a story I’ve never seen them tell.

Decide for Yourself!

Transmutation of Shadow is currently out with critique readers, but I plan to publish it some time this year. Stand by, and you can read this exciting science fiction/spy thriller with a humble yet determined protagonist for yourself!


"Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures – including WHEN SHADOW PUBLISHES!

Top Ten Book Quotes

Meaningful quotes can be hard to define, since they so often depend on the context.

But this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post is all about “Inspirational/Thought-Provoking Book Quotes,” so I’ve done my best to compile my favorites:

1Top Ten Book Quotes — Kimia Wood

“Why do they send these people here? Making themselves miserable and taking up the place of people who would enjoy Oxford? We haven’t got room for women who aren’t and never will be scholars…”

“I know,” said the Dean, impatiently. “But schoolmistresses and parents are such jugginses.…”

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Gaudy Night is a deep and complex examination of the role of women in society, higher education, and the interplay of individuals in a romance. There’s also a philosophically-grounded mystery. Highly recommended.

2

“Of course,” said Miss Twitterton, “they had to say he was popular with his colleagues. Haven’t you noticed that murdered people are always well dressed and popular?”

“They have to be,” said Wimsey. “It makes it more mysterious and pathetic. Just as girls who disappear are always bright and home-loving and have no men friends.”

—”The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face”, Lord Peter: The Complete Lord Peter Wimsey Stories, Dorothy Sayers

Ms. Sayers has quite a knack for conveying believable characters and revealing truths of human nature with a memorable turn-of-phrase.

I think journalism – and high-risk girls – haven’t changed.

3

Top Ten Book Quotes — Kimia Wood

“How in blazes do you know all these horrors?” cried Flambeau.

The shadow of a smile crossed the round, simple face of his clerical opponent.

“Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose,” he said. “Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men’s real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil? But, as a matter of fact, another part of my trade, too, made me sure you weren’t a priest.”

“What?” asked the thief, almost gaping.

“You attacked reason,” said Father Brown. “It’s bad theology.”

The Innocence of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton’s mystery short stories focus on the human psyche and the philosophical motives under-pinning the crimes. And his detective, Father Brown, is unassuming, humble, and brilliant.

You can find the first collection for free at Project Gutenberg!

4

You can thus get the humans to accept as rhetorical eulogies of “being in love” what were in fact plain descriptions of the real significance of sexual intercourse. The truth is that wherever a man lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a transcendental relation is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured.

The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

#truth

5Top Ten Book Quotes — Kimia Wood

“When she came to the lodge she was surprised to see it all dark and the door shut. As she stood at the door with one hand on the latch, a new thought came to her. How if [her husband] Mark did not want her — not tonight, nor in that way, nor any time, nor in any way? How if Mark were not there after all? A great gap – of relief or of disappointment, no one could say – was made in her mind by this thought. Still she did not move the latch. Then she notived that the window, the bedroom window, was open. Clothes were piled on a chair inside the room so carelessly that they lay over the sill: the sleeve of a shirt – Mark’s shirt – even hung over down the outside wall. And in all this damp too. How exactly like Mark! Obviously it was high time she went in.”

That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis

I was trying to think of something from my favorite book to include, and the quote that stood out in my mind was the last line…

6

“I think I should have liked to be a cook. Or possibly a hospital nurse, but I think I should have been better at cooking. Only, you see, those are two of the things Mother’s always trying to get people out of the way of thinking women’s sphere ought to be restricted to.”

Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers

7Top Ten Book Quotes — Kimia Wood

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,” said Gimli.

“Maybe,” said Elrond, “but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.”

“Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart,” said Gimli.

“Or break it,” said Elrond. “Look not too far ahead!…”

“Good…good luck!” cried Bilbo, stuttering with the cold. “I don’t suppose you will be able to keep a diary, Frodo my lad, but I shall expect a full account when you get back. And don’t be too long! Farewell!”

Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien

Gotta love Bilbo…

8

“Go and thrust both your hands into that fire,” she said quickly, almost hurriedly.

Curdie dared not stop to think. It was much too terrible to think about. He rushed to the fire, and thrust both of his hands right into the middle of the heap of flaming roses, and his arms halfway up to the elbows.

The Princess and Curdie, George MacDonald

I’ve used this on myself, when I had to do hard or scary things – like jumping off the diving board.

If you’ve read the book, of course, you know why the princess told him to do this, and the cool thing that happened because of it. But sometimes to get through the hard thing, we can’t let ourselves focus on it too much…just act.

If you haven’t read this great book (and the one that comes before it) – it’s free on Project Gutenberg!

9

It was a marvellous day in late August, and Wimsey’s soul purred within him as he pushed the car along. The road from Kirkcudbright to Newton-Stewart is of a varied loveliness hard to surpass, and with a sky full of bright sun and rolling cloud-banks, hedges filled with flowers, a well-made road, a lively engine and the prospect of a good corpse at the end of it, Lord Peter’s cup of happiness was full. He was a man who loved simple pleasures.

The Five Red Herrings, Dorothy Sayers

10

“Rope!” [Sam] muttered. “No rope! And only last night you said to yourself: ‘Sam, what about a bit of rope? You’ll want it, if you haven’t got it.’ Well, I’ll want it. I can’t get it now.”

The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien

Honorable Mention:Top Ten Book Quotes — Kimia Wood

The door thumped — someone on the other side had tried it, and found it locked.

“Get this door open.”

“Who’s there?” Captain Grit called back, flicking his lash experimentally. “I’m busy with –”

The door crashed against the wall, and framed in the sudden sunlight a huge, dark figure shoved forward, flashing a smile.

“He wasn’t talking to you.”

—Renegade (White Mesa Chronicles), Kimia Wood

Okay, so it’s kind of cheating…but I’m not the only one who enjoys this line, and it makes me grin every time I see it.

Have Any Favorite Book Quotes?

The hardest part for me with sharing meaningful book quotes is finding them again…since I don’t typically mark them except in non-fiction books.

What are some of your favorite book quotes?


Top Ten Book Quotes — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised under an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Start the White Mesa adventure for FREE by subscribing to the mailing list! You’ll get an e-copy of the post-apocalyptic novella Soldier, plus periodic updates on Kimia’s latest reading and writing adventures.

“Red Rabbit” by Tom Clancy

"Red Rabbit" by Tom Clancy — Kimia Wood A Soviet plot to assassinate the pope. A KGB communications officer trying to defect to the West. And star CIA analyst Jack Ryan, who…is there.

Tom Clancy builds his Cold War-era spy adventure slowly and deliberately…with detailed settings, in-depth character philosophizing, and realistic portraits of the mind-sets and world-views that create the situation.

Characters

Clancy’s recurring star, Jack Ryan, is a CIA analyst and teacher’s pet (and possibly the weakest character here). In fact, he does very little except agonize until the last chapter or so.

He does, however, act as a bridge. His ostensible role in the plot is as liaison between the British and American intelligence operations…and in this way, he also provides for Clancy to paint a clear and memorable picture of the differences between America and Great Britain.

A diverse cast

One of the things Clancy does with excellence is draw out the differences between different countries.

Ryan moves from America to a station in Britain, his homeland’s ally. Yet there are still so many things he must get used to: they drive on the “other” side of the road…everyone drinks tea, not coffee…words are pronounced differently (and some things are called by different names altogether)…the outlook on life is subtly shifted…even the TV shows are different (and Ryan doesn’t understand the sit-coms’ humor).

This underscores the culture shock of the Soviet “Rabbit” and his family when they flee a country of regulations, controls, and corruption to one of individual freedom. From assuming that the KGB watch and follow everyone at any and every time, to a place where you can walk onto a car dealer lot, pick out a car, pay for it, and drive away. From a nation where VHS players, bras, and nylons are luxuries snuck in through Hungary (and only affordable to the elite, like KGB officers) – to a place where they’re taken for granted, and every middle class family can afford them if they wish.

The ground-work for this change is laid with deliberate and poignant brushstrokes…perhaps slower than I would have chosen, but there’s no denying Clancy’s touch for choosing an exact turn of phrase to communicate his meaning, or for seeing to the heart of a mind-set he doesn’t hold himself and portraying it in believable philosophical prose.

This laying-bare of cultures holds the greatest value of the work.

Life Philosophies

A lot of time is spent in the different characters’ thoughts, dealing with their mental outlooks on life in minute detail.

Like the KGB chief…does he really believe in the Communist party’s rhetoric? Or does he rather believe in “power” – AKA himself?

When the communications analyst discovers that his government wants to kill the pope, what will he do? Should he blindly trust that his government knows best? Is he developing…a conscience?

What about Jack Ryan and his CIA overseers? Are they in this game for patriotism? To protect innocent people? Because the Soviets are inherently evil and must be stopped? When they hear that the pope is in danger, they debate whether they can protect him without revealing how they learned about it…because of course national security comes before the life of the head of the Catholic Church, right?

Some Complaining

Ryan’s loose Catholic faith adds an interesting dynamic, as he weighs his patriotism and religious feeling against the political concerns of his CIA bosses.

It also gives him something else to worry about, which seems to be most of what he does throughout the book.

When his bosses assign him to accompany some Brits on an operation as a CIA liaison, he freaks out and insists that he’s an analyst, not a field operative. He’s had some bad experiences with “hands-on” cases in the past…he has apparently stopped a terrorist attack in London before as a tourist (ex-Marine tourist, of course) and faced down a terrorist home invasion, but these experiences were only hinted at. Is there a different book I should have read first? Did Jack Ryan really need to be in this book at all?

His wife (an MD eye surgeon) is even more annoying – adding practically nothing to the narrative, nosing into Jack’s job even though she knows it’s secret, and nagging him for smoking/eating unhealthily. The only time her complaining seems well-founded, and actually lends sympathy to her character, is when her surgical colleagues leave a patient sedated on the operating table while they go for lunch and a pint. Remind me to never get medical care in Great Britain!

Cautions!

Clancy sometimes has trouble making it clear whose head we’re riding in, and you have to travel back through several paragraphs of mental narrative to get re-oriented.

There’s also sporadic language (including f-bombs and profanities) that seemed to get more intrusive as the book went on.

Also includes references to sex within married couples.

The Chess-man of Spy Thrillers

This book is about three-dimensional, conflicted people interacting with each other from different mental starting points. Mr. Clancy takes his time setting up all his dominoes, so that when they collide we say, “Oh, it was inevitable” as well as, “Oh, how is this going to turn out?”

If mental exercises, world-view exploration, and slow-cooking spy drama is your thing, you might enjoy Red Rabbit. I did enjoy it, but for my main spy-action reading, I prefer the bullets-and-fisticuffs of Robert Ludlum.


Red Rabbit is available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo (as paperback or audiobook), and the Book Depository (free worldwide shipping).

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s newsletter for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier. You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits!

Books I Meant to Read In 2018 but Didn’t Get To

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…Last year, my mother set each of us a goal to read fifty book within the year. So, I started scheming for titles to scratch off.

As these things happen, though, I hadn’t gotten to everything on the list before I reached my goal – and the year ended. For Top Ten Tuesday, here are some of them:

The Crown and Covenant series, Douglas Bond

This is a favorite of my brother’s, and I figured it’d be a good way to fill up my list of books read.

As it turns out, I did sample Mr. Bond’s work for the first time last year — but with Hand of Vengeance, which is a cool, stand-alone Saxon/Viking-themed mystery/romance.

Never Leave Me, Priscilla J. Krahn

This is one of several stories I received for participating in the Indie Author e-Convention (May 2018). I figured they’d be a good way to sample fellow authors’ work, while racking up some short reads for my list.

I’ve currently read about three out of five, I want to say — but this is one that I didn’t get to.

Monster Hunter Legion, Larry Correia

This is Book 4 in the Monster Hunter series (y’know, the series my brother chewed through like a machine gun chews through zombies).

I intended to read it, after reading some shorter, fluffier things to clear my head and palate…but the long and the short is I never bothered to load it onto my phone before I had hit my book goal, and December was over.

Next time.

October, J. Grace Pennington

I’ve consistently enjoyed Mrs. J. Grace’s work, and appreciated the spiritual themes she weaves into them.

From the description of October, I wasn’t so sure about it, but hey! she was giving it away for free!

As with so many other things, though, this one didn’t make it onto the list before December had run out.

(It is currently available free through Kindle Unlimited.)

Prize of War, Carole Towriss

This one I actually paid money for (during an indie author sale). It sounds like a cool story about Caleb’s daughter and nephew/son-in-law during the conquering of Canaan — but I didn’t get to it before the year ran out.

(It is currently available to read free through Kindle Unlimited.)

Time and Again, Richard E. Elkins, PhD, and Agnes Lawless Elkins

My grandparents gave me this book. It’s some kind of missionary book. It’s really skinny. I should really read it one day.

Jesus On Trial, David Limbaugh

My grandpa gave me this one, too (actually, he gave every family member one. That’s what he does when he likes a new book).

It sounds really cool (a lawyer’s analysis of the four gospel accounts and his journey to saving faith in Jesus) but once again, I didn’t make the time to get through it.

I did start reading the intro, but got bogged down with all the quotes I wanted to Tweet. Oh, well.

The Shattered Helmet, Franklin W. Dixon

I borrowed two Hardy boys mysteries from my grandma (as well as a boatload of Robert Ludlum, Alistair McLean, etc.). I only read one of them: The Sinister Signpost.

As a long-standing Nancy Drew aficionado, it was interesting to see the masculine side of things. (Nancy never got in that many fisticuffs.)

That’s what YA used to be like, kids 😉

The Nine Tailors, Dorothy Sayers

Wow, a Sayers book I haven’t read yet!

I started reading this one…it must have been 2017, because I would have had to start over to make it count for the reading challenge.

I faded out a few chapters after Peter fell asleep reading about bell-ringing sequences. I’ll try again one day – depend on it.

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen

I should read this. I really should. I have it in a big, thick, hardback three-novel collection.

It’s a New Year

This year, I’ve set myself the goal to read thirty books; because fifty was so stressful, that I didn’t like committing to reading long books.

Also I have other things to do…like bake cookies, write novels, play video games, and talk theology with my family.

Perhaps I can pick up some of the books I missed last year!


Kimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a free e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also get periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits (currently sent out every other month).

What a WoW Player Must Know When Playing AD&D

What a WoW Player Must Know When Playing AD&D

So you’re an experienced hero of World of Warcraft, but now you want to go back to the roots. Old school. Really old school.

Dungeons and Dragons, Advanced Edition.

Well…brace yourself for culture shock.

There are a couple…minor…elements that you should be aware of before diving in, sword blazing. In fact, before you even settle on what class of character to roll, you should check out these five crucial differences between WoW and D’n’D. Continue reading

The Sexist Guide to Christmas Gifts

Are you a girl trying to figure out what a boy would like for Christmas…or a guy tasked with finding a gift for a girl?

Maybe you drew your cousin’s name in the family gift exchange, and are stumped. Maybe you have a friend you want to show appreciation to, but are totally befuddled about what they’d like.

Perhaps your nieces and nephews have grown out of toys…but you can’t figure out what they’d like.

Have no fear! Behold: the totally sexist guide to getting the right gift for everyone on your list! Sure, a lot of gifts blur the lines and will work for any person. But if you want to avoid those blank, polite stares and get something that will thrill the heart of the opposite sex, read on!

Guy Gifts

Food

Don’t laugh. True, it’s the first thing that came to mind. But it still works. Continue reading

“Come Eat at My Table” by Ruth O’Neil

 Karin Miller has a loving, Christian husband, beautiful twin daughters, and a reputation for feeding everyone who crosses her path.

She also has baggage from her unhappy childhood – baggage she’s resistant to unload.

This book unwinds slowly, but surely – so much so that I didn’t realize how deeply I’d been drawn until the very end. Continue reading

Books 3 and 4—White Mesa!

The post-apocalyptic saga continues with the launch of books 3 and 4 this past week! Even if you haven’t read the first two books yet, you can still enjoy these adventures as Ben and Ricco face their own unique struggles in this harsh world.

(Scroll to the bottom for a peak at Gladiator: Chapter 1! Then find them at your favorite retailer, and in your favorite format!)

Books 3 and 4—White Mesa — Kimia WoodGladiator

Ben McConnell has heard all about the New Republic – the rising city-state that plays fast and loose with the deadly z-germ parasite.

Desperate to know more about their medicine and the program that spreads it, he slips into the city to recover a sample for White Mesa’s doctors.

Tommy Thaxton worries about Ben…but then, he worries about everything. Then Ben is captured, and he finds his concern well-founded.
When the White Mesa security council deems a rescue attempt too risky, it’s up to Tommy and a couple friends to face the dangers of the city and get Ben out.

Can Ben survive the fight ring without stooping to the gangs’ standards?

Will Tommy find a way to get Ben home – before he’s killed by the New Republic’s primitive criminal justice?

Amazon* — Amazon Kindle — Lulu** — Smashwords (all digital formats) — Barnes & Noble(paperback)— Kobo

*Part of Kindle MatchBook: buy a paperback copy, get the Kindle version free!

**In case you like paperbacks but want an option other than Amazon!


Renegade — Kimia Wood — White Mesa ChroniclesRenegade

White Mesa seems like a utopia in the midst of a gangland waste.

For Ricco, though, it means rules, chores, and endless lectures on morality from his dad…make that his adoptive dad. After being expelled from the militia and banned from all activities off the family farm, Ricco might only have one choice to make a life of his own: join the New Republic, his homeland’s polar opposite in the city.

How could he imagine the consequences his actions will have for his entire world?

Amazon* — KindleSmashwords — Barnes & Noble (ebook) — Kobo

*Part of Kindle MatchBook: buy a paperback copy, get the Kindle version free!


Gladiator

1–Burglar

The overcast night was dark except for the glow of the New Republic’s border lights, several blocks away. Ben glided from cover to cover down the city street, the echoing of Security patrollers’ boots creating a map of movement in his mind. Up ahead, he spotted the low apartment building he’d been making for, a pool of yellow light marking the torch by the front door.

Ben crept alongside the building, and crouched near a basement window. He could hear a sentry pacing and clearing his throat by the front door.

Inside, the Afflicted workers would be fast asleep in their dormitories, while the few guards watching them would be grouped together playing dice. The medical supplies – the Afflicted’s daily injection – they kept in one of the side rooms.

That much had been easy to learn, especially with the help of Daisy, the girl who lived across from his apartment. She’d been more than willing to show a new immigrant around the New Republic, and had never asked questions about Ben’s eagerness to learn. She did odd jobs and made deliveries for the black market, so her “live and let live” mindset made sense.

Slipping a screw driver out of his pocket, Ben eased it behind the plywood sheet that blocked the ground-level window beside him. It took several moments before it worked free and he leaned it against the wall.

Behind the plywood, two-by-fours spanned the space horizontally. Ben pursed his lips a moment, then rocked back on his hands, gripping the lowest board with his feet.

With a soft crunch, the board yielded. Ben balanced it on his leg for a moment, and pulled it through with his hands, setting it beside the plywood.

For an instant, he thought he detected the thumps of quiet feet on the edge of hearing. It wasn’t the first time tonight, but once again when he scanned his surroundings, he couldn’t pick up any unnatural movement.

Dismissing the sound, Ben rolled onto his stomach and snaked backward. His feet went through the window into the dark space beyond — then his legs, hips, and torso wormed after.

Ben dropped through the opening and crouched against the interior wall, waiting for his eyes to adjust.

He was in the Afflicted barracks – a place his friend Tommy had spent much too much time in. But short of passing alert guards, fences, (sometimes) electrified wire, and raiding the central HQ complex itself, this was his best bet for grabbing a sample of the medicine.

Whatever weird experiment the New Republic was doing with z-germ, Dr. Radcliff and White Mesa needed to know.

After Tommy’s mission in the New Republic – and the sorry wreck he’d been upon his return – the security council had ruled further “interference” with the New Republic too risky. But Dr. Radcliff really, really wanted a sample of the Republic’s medicine, Ben and his family had no objections to a covert mission, Ben had gotten a few months’ vacation from the militia (possibly with the help of General Thaxton), and boom – here he was, in the middle of the enemy’s base.

Assessing his surroundings, Ben found himself in a long, narrow room, tables and benches marching down the middle in orderly rows. Perfect for feeding zombies workers, or the guards who baby-sat them.

Ben glided toward a nearby doorway, ears pricked for any sign he’d been noticed. Muttering and clattering came from behind the door. The dice game.

He moved to the other end of the meal room, where a second door opened into a dark hallway. Feeling his way forward, Ben listened some more. Snoring or breathing sounds came from doors on either hand – the zombies.

How like the apartment building where he himself stayed! That had been a cinch to sneak around in, as well.

Halfway down the hall was a door that must be a broom closet of some kind (from the size and position). Pressing his ear to it, Ben could hear no sounds of breathing or shifting in sleep. When he tried the handle, he found it was locked.

Digging in the cargo pocket of his trousers, Ben fished out a long, skinny bit of metal and knelt beside the lock. Mr. Jones had coached him. He closed his eyes to force himself to work by feel. There wasn’t enough light here for his eyes to be any use.

Easy, gentle, twist…click! Ben grinned and tugged at the door, moving slowly to keep the noise down. The door glided open as the whisper of a creak sighed down the hallway.

Ben held his breath, but nothing in the building stirred. Rising, he squeezed himself through the door and blinked around at the new room.

Total darkness filled the internal space. Wishing he had a flashlight from White Mesa, Ben eased the door almost closed and pulled out a legacy lighter that he’d bought from a black marketer at great expense. The expense was because it had several drips of fuel in it still, perhaps scavenged from some abandoned house on the outskirts of the city, or some sealed apartment that had not yet been cracked by raiders.

With a flick of his thumb, light flashed in the room. Fire danced from the end of the lighter, then vanished as Ben let go of the button.

A table stood against the opposite wall. Two steps brought Ben to it. He had seen cabinets underneath it, but he groped on top for a black bag. Holding the lighter in his off hand, he clicked on his light again and poked in the bag, finding several needles, a few damp clothes – and several screw-top glass jars.

Ben grabbed one of these and held it up in his sputtering light. Tommy had described the substance as clear, and this was clear. He didn’t see any other samples of drugs around, and at the very least he could deliver it to a White Mesa scavenge team and come back to the Republic pending further instructions. The militia officers hadn’t sanctioned his mission, but the teams still stopped by at R6 in case he’d left a message or something.

Shoving his light back into his pocket, and securing the vial of drug, Ben slipped back out the door, pausing to lock it again before continuing down the corridor.

The sounds of the night had not changed. The snores and sighs behind the doors in the hallway continued undisturbed. As Ben pulled himself up through the window he’d entered by and slid the plywood back over it, he smiled.

A presence disturbed his senses. His instincts tingling, he whipped around, his back to the wall. A dark shape lunged at him out of the darkness.

Ben blocked, throwing off the attacker’s grab. Having felt roughly where his opponent’s head should be, Ben threw a punch. A loud thump against the pavement assured him he’d connected.

Footsteps surrounded him. Ben abruptly bent over to drop his profile and made a dash down the road toward the fence-line.

He rammed into someone with his shoulder, and someone else grabbed him around the neck. As he was throwing the second person against the wall of the building, the light of lanterns burst around a nearby corner.

Ben staggered and blinked, struggling to focus as dark figures darted around in front of the bright flames. Men – wearing the blue uniforms of the Security – surrounded him, most hefting the unloaded legacy rifles that served them as clubs and symbols of authority.

“You’re under arrest!”

As Ben was just getting his bearings again, one of the Securitymen threw his arms around him, trying to knock him to the ground.

Ben threw him off, only to trip over another guard and fall to his knees. Someone held a lamp up in his face, forcing him to squint and blink. Four or five others pounced on him, forcing him to the ground and dragging his arms behind him to bind his wrists.

“Ow! What gives?” Ben cried. Since force wasn’t an option anymore, he’d go for bluffing.

“Don’t you know you’re breaking curfew?” demanded a guard from above his head.

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“Just what were you doing climbing into that building?”

“What building?”

“That one,” answered a Securityman with a captain’s badge. “That we saw you climbing through the window of.”

“Oh, that.” It was time for the cover story, apparently. Tommy and Dr. Radcliff had made sure it was deep enough to be convincing.

“Well, I guess the patrols around here are heavier than I figured,” he chuckled.

“Actually,” muttered one of the guards, “We got a tip.”

A tip? From whom? And about what?

“Hey,” cried one of the Security as they pulled Ben to his feet. “What’s this?”

He unbuttoned the front pocket on Ben’s jacket and pulled out the glass bottle of drug Ben had collected.

The captain’s glare turned ugly. “We’ll see what you have to say about this,” he growled. “Back to HQ.”

The HQ, eh? The infamous inner compound, where – according to Tommy – the Alderman of Security did his mysterious experiments with ferals. What was waiting for Ben now? And how would he get the vial back?

Ben watched the guard hand it to the captain, who pocketed it. Dr. Radcliff needed that sample to find out exactly what the New Republic was doing with their drone program, and what it meant for the number of ferals in the waste.

With Security surrounding him on all sides, they headed toward the middle of the New Republic, and the main government compound. Ben reviewed in his mind what he was to say – Tommy had helped write the cover explanation, so it must be good.

Besides, even if it didn’t work, White Mesa could come get him, as it had come for Tommy. Mr. Grimthorpe and the security council would have conniptions, but whatever. His one worry was what would happen to the drug sample. He needed that, or his mission would be a waste.

Apocalyptic Stories – How, What, and Who

Apocalyptic Stories – How, What, and Who — Kimia Wood

Published in connection with the Indie Author e-Con 2018. Find more here

When you enter “post-apocalyptic” into Amazon’s search bar, you get lots of things. 30,000 results, to be exact.

But hey, there’s always room for one more version of civilization’s death throes, right? What if you want to craft your own apocalypse tale? Where do you need to start?

When eating an elephant or an apocalypse, start with one bite at a time. Continue reading