Preview: Sanity’s Edge, progress report

This is a short excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Sanity’s Edge. Our protagonists Jamai and Youssou have left their homeland in exile; Jamai has chosen to leave Youssou, due to his erratic mood swings, and has joined a branch of the Order of Elias in the hopes of finding a place among people of her own kind. This is proving not so simple as she believed.

This is still a draft version and will be liable to revision. Comments and critiques are welcome. Enjoy.

The debriefing began that afternoon. Cyrano had the appearance of a well groomed wild man. He was taller than average and had to duck stepping over the threshold into Alejandro’s casa. His was a thick body with a flat nose that might have been broken on more than one occasion. And he had a mane, a literal flame red mane and beard with no hint of a mustache. All that was stuffed inside a deep blue dress suit whose creases had seen better care than his beard.

The other fellow, Lloyd George, was not so tall but unnaturally thin and clean shaven, even to his scalp which bore the signs of week-old stubble. He was also in a dress uniform, though his seemed more comfortably ivied-in than Cyrano’s. His stare darted here and there, taking in the surroundings while being unfailingly polite to Alejandro and me.

I found the big man’s interrogatories usually came in the form of a one-way shouting match. That, combined with the fact that apparently I might have been a little soft spoken, made for a bit of a tense session.

“I suppose the first time was when I was seven and the village ant totem–”

“SPEAK UP, GIRL! I CAN BARELY HEAR YOU!”

“–and that’s when I found out our elder Odu Molefe had been collaborating with them the whole time, can you believe–”

“DON’T MIX SUPPOSITION WITH THE FACTS! FOCUS, GIRL!”

I had to endure two days of this interrogation before I could even slip in one question, perhaps the only one that mattered to me. The small fellow, Lloyd George, tapped his padd like a mad keyboardist while the fat guy Cyrano sat as a rock on the Mara Plains, glowering directly at me. Alejandro was getting up to fetch us all coffee when I blurted, “Is there anyone else like me?”

Alejandro paused, recalling the one occasion I’d put the same query to him. Cyrano scoffed, “Certainly not. That kind of power in so youthful–”

“No, I mean, are there any other gifted people out there?”

“Like you?” Lloyd George prompted.

“Yes.”

The two interlopers exchanged arched glances. Perhaps it wasn’t so much a telepathic exchange as they’d worked together so long as a team that they thought along the same patterns. At any rate it was Lloyd George who answered.

“Why yes, we have wards much like you in our branches all across the globe,” he beamed. “Some have similar power levels to your own, some can be quite innocuous. Alejandro for example–”

“There’s nobody exactly like you,” Cyrano emphasized, and here his bushy mustache twitched at the right cheek. “Your powers are unique. That is why we’ve taken such an interest in you.” He seemed prepared to move along but I wasn’t done.

“I had another question.”

“Oh, what now?”

“I was wondering if you could help me find something to do with myself. Some kind of employment…”

“You want a job?”

“Y-yes,” I nodded. “I want to do something useful. It doesn’t have to be anything big. In fact I’d prefer it if I could find someplace not so public, where I could disappear in the back or something.”

“What do we look like, an unemployment office?”

“No, but you must have connections.”

“For Chrissakes, what do you think you’re doing here? You’re a murderess!”

Some dishes clattered in the kitchen. “I’m sorry…?”

“Huh, she’s sorry,” Cyrano huffed, nudging his companion. “You damn well ought to be. You should be grateful we’re even taking you in. we could be breaking ten thousand laws just hiding your sorry ass!”

“I didn’t mean to kill them, I panicked!”

“And how do we know you won’t panic in the future? What’s to stop you from doing it again?”

“Because I remember it! Because I can’t get it out of my mind!”

I had to stop; I’d started breathing in shallow gulps. Alejandro had to catch me as I slumped over the table with one hand bracing me up. Cyrano was noticeably silent, though his spirit matched the slow boil in mine. “Getting back to this business with Sydney,” Lloyd George interjected, “may I ask, umm, how did you know all that?”

“She told me. I already explained that.”

“Impossible,” Cyrano said. “We–!” He hesitated, cracking his fists as he huffed more deeply than before. “These are things known to only a handful of us on the Order’s Inner Circle. Sydney Merryman is gone. That’s established fact.”

“You may be wrong,” I said. “From what I could perceive Massoud didn’t want to steal our bodies. I don’t think the vast majority of Sydelle’s kin want to. They’re not after our bodies, our children, for their own pleasure. That’s just what we think based on what Sydelle has told us. I think they just want their purgatory to end. I think they just want to die.”

Our guests exchanged another doubtful glance. Lloyd George began, “Cyrano, maybe we should consider–”

“Oh don’t you be stupid too, man! It’s pure bullshit. Talking spirits? That’s never happened before. In the last five hundred years not one soul has been recovered, not one! Am I supposed to take this shit to the Inner Council, tell them everything we KNOW is wrong, based on the word of a stupid girl?”

“But my vision–what I saw–!”

“Maybe you filtered what your thought was a vision through your own perceptions,” Lloyd George suggested. That creature suffocated you. Perhaps oxygen deprivation caused you to fashion your ideas into a comfortable narrative.”

“No.”

“Miss, it is a possibility we should consider–”

“I said NO. I know what I saw and I won’t be dissuaded from that by the Fat Guy here.”

“Settle down, girl,” Cyrano growled.

“Who the hell do you think you–”

“SETTLE DOWN!”

Was it me, or did the rafters shudder? Dust sifted down from above as he continued. “Our people have been watching those maniacs for five hundred years. You can’t come crawling up out of the bush at nineteen years old telling us how to run our affairs. You’re barely out of diapers.”

“I’ve lived more in those twenty years,” I corrected him, heat rising into my cheeks, “than either of you fucking toubabs.”

“Cyrano…” Lloyd George’s eyes shone bright. He slapped a palm onto his companion’s knee. The fat one’s brow furrowed as his knuckles popped with what should have been a painful balling of the fist I was glaring at.

I had no idea what he could do and didn’t much care. “Oh please, try it.”

Senores,” Alejandro called, though honestly I think his voice only penetrated the periphery of our mutual glares. “Let’s call it a day, debemos? We should give these tense sessions time to rest before we resume.” Lloyd George nodded at least. After a few more moments where our eyes locked, Cyrano swerved his gaze away.

I pushed off the divan without a backward glance at either of my two acosters. “You can see them to the door, padre. I don’t know why I’m wasting my time with you people.”

Alejandro followed me as far as the circular stairwell leading upstairs. “Thanks for standing up for me,” I muttered. “You don’t believe me either, do you?”

“You have to understand it goes against everything we know,” he said.

Sweet Ngai, I didn’t want to talk about this. “Maybe I’ll just leave.”

Both hands slapped on his hips. “And where will you go?”

“I DON’T KNOW! Maybe I’ll go back to the bushes I crawled from, or maybe I’ll see if they’ll have me back at Abyei-Bentiu! That’ll make everybody happy!” it should have been satisfying to slam the door to my room on his face, but somehow it wasn’t.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.         Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

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Kurt Vonnegut Slapstick (1976 novel) review

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I haven’t read a book quite this fast in a long while, and I was barely trying. Published in our fair nation’s Bicentennial year, we have the story of twins separated by their judgmental parents, and a granddaughter the brother twin comes to care for. Family is the core virtue of this satire, even to the point of ludicrousness. Don’t expect it to be an endorsement of what we laughably call ‘family values’. Our protagonist is essentially a modern Neanderthal who with the help of his sister Eliza becomes by turns a genius, an idiot, a pediatrician, the last President of the United States and the King of Manhattan after a flu and the Green Death destroys civilization as we know it.

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A means is also discovered to contact the Afterlife which turns out to be as boring as nails, so much so that it’s referred to as a ‘Turkey Shoot’. The biggest religion at the end of the world is the Church of Jesus Christ the Kidnapped. The insinuation that the Chinese are shrinking in stature may have been written in jest but by today’s standards or any other, it might be considered racist. The style is breezy and pure Vonnegut, sparing in detail and broadly farciful with even the most tragic of events. A step up from Breakfast of Champions.

Well, I am used to the rootlessness that goes with my profession. But I would like people to be able to stay in one community for a lifetime, to travel away from it to see the world, but always to come home again,…Until recent times, you know, human beings usually had a permanent community of relatives. They had dozens of homes to go to. So when a married couple had a fight, one or the other could go to a house three doors down and stay with a close relative until he was feeling tender again. Or if a kid was so fed up with his parents that he couldn’t stand it, he could march over his uncle’s for a while. And this is no longer possible. Each family is locked into its little box. The neighbors aren’t relatives. There aren’t other houses where people can go and be cared for.

–Vonnegut interview extract, Todd F. Davis (January 2008). Kurt Vonnegut’s Crusade; Or, How a Postmodern Harlequin Preached a New Kind of Humanism. SUNY Press. pp. 95–97. ISBN 978-0-7914-6676-6. Retrieved 13 July 2011^

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Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

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Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

 

 

Butterfly & Serpent: Smile

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Looking ahead a bit, I think. This sketch details where I want to take Jamai, although to be perfectly frank, this brash happy version, confident in herself and her sexuality, will have to pass through fire getting to this point. That’s where the third book in the trilogy, Sanity’s Edge, will take her. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is still available at amazon.com.  Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

 

HER MOTHER’S SUIT

[Another short post with my Deviantart OC, Lianna. Enjoy.]

DEAR DIARY: It fits perfectly.

The second I graduated from the Space Academy and got my Independent Pilot’s license, I wanted to try it on. Professor Chronitis kept all my parent’s belongings after he took me in, including Mama’s skin suit.

It still smells like her, all jasmine and roses.   I want to go to all the places she would’ve gone to. I’m gonna find every weird form of life she never got a chance to. I know it’s kind of weird, but sometimes it’s like she’s still with me, even though she’s been dead over 15 years. I do miss Papa; but I wanna do this for her more.

 

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Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.  Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

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Remember the ship where you were born: Lianna’s Story

I’m afraid when I started posting pix of my OC Lianna Jensen on my Deviantart page, I had no story to go by. Basically I was following the Jim Starlin method of writing, ie, I was making things up as I go. I hadn’t even given her a name until my fourth art set with her. Fortunately by then I also concocted an origin story, and it’s held up pretty nicely since. Enjoy.

 

I wasn’t actually born there. I was seven years old at the time of her launch. She was a Podship, the first of its kind, with a fully-automated wetwork to monitor our life-signs as we slept between the stars. Her Bangali designers christened her the Naga Sentry.    

M-21

Her solar sails could harness the currents of Dark Energy between stars. We weren’t scheduled to be awoken for another 100 years, once we reached our destination. She was billed as the Perfect Vessel to colonize the stars, and in a way she was…a perfect nightmare.   

Seventeen years into our voyage, our ship hit a solar storm, a corrusation of gamma-ray bursts within Sector 006. Oh, our sleeper-beds were undamaged…we were ray-shielded after all.   But the sheer energy billowing through our sails pushed us violently off course, into unknown space. The star-patterns weren’t any that the Navigation banks had been programmed for, so the passengers were awoken too soon in order for them to take charge.

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That might explain the subsequent behavior of the passengers and crew. We’d entered a sector where the Multiuniverses converged. The quantum energies flowing between these tiny, overlapping Multiverses began to affect our minds. You might say the adults all got cabin fever…

Even my parents. I-I mean, they adored each other…both as smart as whips…b-but they became like….like…oh God…

By the time the Naga Sentry left that sector and returned to a semblence of normal space, the only ones left alive were the children. The bully boys basically took over, organizing into their own little cliques. They kept some of the Smart Boys on, ‘cause they knew how to work the ship. Some of the smart girls attached themselves to the bully-boys in charge. Anyone who wasn’t attached was called a Loner. And culled.

They might just as well have called us lepers. It wasn’t easy being a Loner. You really had to be ninja. You had to be quick…you had to be sneaky…And you had to know where to hide…

There weren’t many Loners left by the time that lone mining tramp-ship almost collided with us. At least her captain had the decency to call the Space Port Authorities. You see, we couldn’t have  known there’d be such advances in sublight engineering in the decades since the Naga Sentry left port. Even the most common ship possessed speeds that had easily overtook our ship and surpassed it. Our mission had become irrelevent. In fact, we’d gone down in history as a legend; the Lost Ship they called us.

We were all pretty much in rags at that point, and didn’t care. Some of the career Terranauts were scared to be around us. Not one man though. He was one of the Observers who came with the rescue ship. I don’t know what Professor Chronitis saw in me, but…he offered me his hand and took me in, and raised me as his own daughter.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at Amazon.com.  Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

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Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run (2016) review

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I like that Bruce doesn’t just talk about the records and chart positions. You get into the process, the thrill of seeing Elvis on TV for the first time, the arrival of the Beatles and the Motown sound. You get to know the man and the people he performs with, their gifts and foibles and all the reasons he loves them.

He spent his childhood walking in egg shells around his father Doug, a man always on edge, seemingly disappointed in how life did NOT turn out for him, disapproving of his children. He was Bruce’s foe as well as his hero, and he grew up never knowing when the fuse would be lit.

Ten years of groundwork went into his apprenticeship in New Jersey. Behind his songs was the lingering dread that was only relieved on stage. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Bruce was diagnosed with depression, something I never knew about, that most of us didn’t know, and it was then, before his biggest hit Born In the USA, that he began treatment and got the help he needed. It took a lot of courage to express that part of himself, a never-ending specter that rises up and must be endured. This he has done with medication and the support of his loved one. It’s a long read but worthwhile, on a level with or even surpassing Bob Dylan’s Chronicles. Highly recommended.

Book review: Apollo 8

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Apollo 8: the thrilling story of the first mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger, author with Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 @ 2017 Henry Holt & co.

This was a mission of firsts which by no means was a sure thing. It may not be exaggerating to say this was the mission that saved the Moon Landing, the hurried preparations notwithstanding. Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to leave the Earth’s gravity field and surrender to another’s; the first manned mission to orbit another world; the first burn during a communications blackout on its first pass around the dark side of the Moon, to establish lunar orbit. That orbit would be the first time the eyes of man viewed the dark side of the Moon from close proximity. Then there was the burn to escape lunar orbit and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, all of which held the potential for disaster. Despite the fatigue that was inevitable on a six-day flight in a small, sometimes temperamental craft, with virtually the eyes of the world on these three men, the first trip to the Moon was an unqualified success.

apollo 8 crew

Though all three astronauts–Commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and rookie Bill Anders, along with their wives have their share, the focus is more on Borman, his service in the Air Force and his struggle to join the budding astronaut corps. For author Kluger it’s also a chance to revisit an old friend, Jim Lovell on his earlier career for his record-setting missions for Gemini. And for a last first, these gentlemen were the first to eyewitness the Earth rising over another world, and Bill Ander’s majestic photo has been immortalized ever since as ‘Earthrise’.

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It is also a story of the tragedy of Apollo 1 and the disorderly craft that killed Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White on the ground. Apollo 8 was a bold, on-the-fly idea that ultimately saved the Moon landing, and I want to thank Kluger and all those brave men who helped bring back the wonder of the Moon shots, before cynicism and division became the norm and divided our country.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

f & d cover

Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA