Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Roar of the Crowd Unveiled

Roar of the Crowd is the latest signature release from Rogue Blades Entertainment and I am in it. "Love and Revolution", which I wrote about a month or so ago, has been accepted for publication later this year. As it has been with the last two anthologies from RBE, this is an absolute thrill.

The special requirements and constraints applied to the submissions of this anthology proved to be complex and challenging. There had to be some kind of sporting-type event that included a crowd, they had to be involved in the story in an irreplaceable way, and there had to be some kind of fantasy element involved. Luckily it didn't also have to be set in the early afternoon of the second Tuesday of the month.

"Love and Revolution" sprang from the simple idea that the hero had to get his true love back. The rest just sort of wrote itself, complete with explosions, knifings, spearings, swordings, and more explosions. It's set in a gladiatorial arena in Roman North Africa around 250AD in the early afternoon on the second Tuesday of the month. I hope you all enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter

This month the CSFF is touring Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson. This is not your average Tinkerbell faery story. It has a bit more grit and gravitas than anything Disney could or would provide. For instance, the lead character takes up the un-faeryish name Knife.

In a world where faeries have lost their faery dust (and as I have written before, that stuff is crucial to success everywhere) you know you're going to get a great story.

Other tour participants for the month that you should check out:
Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Amy Browning
Melissa Carswell
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Victory Party

I have to tell you about what may be the most bizarre thing I've ever seen in my military career. When the exercise is over it is tradition for US and ROK officers to get together for a victory dinner where there is an excessive amount of drinking. The drink of choice is soju, a sweet vodka type stuff. The dinner was kimche and smoked duck and a variety of dipping sauces. The drinking started early with three shots of soju accompanied by toasts to the Marines and the Commandant and et cetera. Then more eating and drinking. Then more drinking. When the Korea 3-star General got up and made a final toast by downing an entire 500ml bottle of soju I realized that these Koreans are professional drinkers.

Next we get up from the table and head downstairs, I'm thinking to a bar of some sort. No, we end up in a 15x30 foot room with a curved couch and table in one half and an open area in the other. Its a private karaoke den.

Oh dear.

You've never seen weird until you've watched a drunk Korean 3-star General swaying about and waving his hand in the air while singing "Dancing Queen." The situation was surreal, with all the American officers sitting around the table drinking beer and the Korean Colonels and Generals out on the floor displaying a varying degree of English skills. I'm sitting back and singing along with everyone else (it's amazing how the lyrics of "Take Me Home, Country Road" just come back to you all of a sudden) but there's no way I'm getting up there. We go through "Surfin' USA" and "Enter Sandman" and really stumble our way through "Back in Black" because no one could sing it fast enough. I find it harder and harder to turn down the general who keeps pointing at me to take a turn. Finally I relent and choose "Born in the USA" by Springsteen. (The astute of you will know how that could be a problem.)

I got up and then I realized that the only way to sing this song is to scream it. So I did. Of course, two or three verses in I get to the part about killing the yellow man. Yikes. We get through the verse and the Koreans all keep singing and everything ends well. They even keep coming up to me afterward and patting me on the back and saying "Born in the USA!" So the night ended well and there was no international incident.

Now it's time to go home.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fairy Dust

I had a very interesting conversation with a couple of ROK officers yesterday. It was by far my most extensive conversation with them yet. Lots of puzzled looks and slow shaking of the head. Seems they don't understand the time honored Marine Corps tradition of "fairy dust."

Exercises of this size are very complex things. They are also very expensive things, with lots of people coming from all over and moving lots of things around the peninsula. There are several staff sections developing plans and coordinating actions and giving briefs and all that other stuff that goes into exercising the war plan. So the last thing the Marines want to do is get hung up on a show stopping problem that grinds all that to a halt. Enter fairy dust.

Let's say, hypothetically, you've got a refueling system that has eight miles of pumping capability and you need to cover a distance of twelve miles. In the real world you'd be screwed. But in Exercise Land you just sprinkle fairy dust over the problem and suddenly the distance you need to cover is only 7.6 miles. Problem solved!

The Koreans are a very by-the-book people. When I tried to explain what we were doing, the ROKs looked at me with a polite smile, sure that the crazy American must be wrong or the interpreter must be translating incorrectly. No, I explained, this is just how Marines deal with potentially devastating situations. You see, we're so confident in our ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome that we just don't let little things like physical impossibilities get in our way. It's worked for over 230 years, I don't see why it won't work for another 230.

So even after they pulled out a very thick binder and showed me where the exercise data showed twelve miles I just shrugged, smiled, and said, "Doesn't matter. For the purposes of the exercise, it works. We'll figure out how later."

And that's the essence of Fairy Dust.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lazy Day in Korea

Not much to do today except read through Wikipedia to my heart's content and watch a couple of bootlegged movies on DVD. Cop Out is much funnier with bad video quality and shadows of people getting up in front of the bootlegger.

The other major discovery today (thanks to no one feeling like changing the channel on the rec room TV) is that Sex and the City is just as inane and morally despicable with Korean dubbing as it is in its original Manhattanese. I remember reading once that everyone over here thought Americans all lived like the show Dallas. It's a sad thing that our image is not improving.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

International Relations

My job here in Korea is to be part of a coordination team that helps the ROK Marine Corps take over the warfighting responsibilities on the peninsula in the near future. That means that I have to attend a lot of meetings. Here's an interesting (and unclassified) event from yesterday.

We're sitting in a conference room with about six officers on each side. At the last minute, a Korean Lieutenant Colonel walks in and sits down. I'd only seen him before during the video teleconferences and I knew he was a big guy but he's even bigger in person. We had taken to referring to him with nicknames like Gigantor, The Beast, or, after he loudly corrected the behavior of a room full of ROK Marines, The Enforcer.

The meeting progressed and we worked through our issues. As we were wrapping up and talking about future operations, the U.S. team leader says, pointing at The Enforcer, "I know one thing, I'd never want to go into hand to hand combat with that guy." We all laughed and the interpreter translated. The Koreans all laughed, the big one the loudest of them all. The ROK Colonel leans over with a smile and says, "He, uh..." and you could see him searching for the words, "He, uh... He big, uh... big teddy bear."

You could tell by the smile on Gigantor's face that he was absolutely correct.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No Coke. Pepsi.

I found a little noodle shop that serves the local ROK Marines. I go in, look around, and see to great joy that they have reach-in coolers with sodas and juice. Most excellent! I start scanning the options. Mountain Dew. Lots of Korean stuff. Pepsi. Some bottled water. Within seconds my joy turns to horror as I see that neither cooler has what I really need. Darn it all to Heck!

Well, desperate times call for desperate measures. I'm typing this with a Styrofoam cup of icy Pepsi at my side.

Here's some more about the interactions with the Koreans over the last couple of days. Their word for yes is ye but to hear them pronounce it it sounds more like "yih", only with a drawn out 'y' sound at the beginning. I've also noticed that certain military words don't have translations and they don't even try. "DEFCON" and "H-Hour" spring to mind. The translators are fun to talk to because they keep asking if a certain word is proper, which is right up my alley. I probably gave one of them way to much information on the difference between 'possess' and 'have' but hey, he asked. There was also a smirk worthy moment when one of the enlisted translators called me "Sir Draper."

Since English is taught to them all through school, some are fairly fluent all by themselves. The Colonel who is in charge of the section I'm working with can speak fairly well. We were sitting in a video teleconference with several other units and towards the end of the meeting the video feed froze up and we lost the signal. We waited for a little while and it never restarted so he leaned back in his chair, shrugged, and said, "Hmmm. Game over."

So we're most of the way through Part A and the weekend will provide some liberty. I'm going to try to get to Osan Air Base and a western commissary and some real Coke. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

My Kingdom For a Coke

I've gone through two full days at my new post in Baran, Korea. The bunker I'm working in is impressive and feels like you're walking into the lair of a James Bond villain. Several ramps lead down to a blast door that's about a foot thick. Multiple levels within the bunker are complete with command centers and offices and huge conference rooms. I'll bet they have a hidden pool somewhere with sharks wearing frikkin' "lasers".

However, the one bad thing about this place, which is located on a ROK Marine Corps base, is that there are no Western amenities at all. No PX, no Burger King, nothing. Also, very distressingly, no Coke. Yesterday I began a recon process that will range further and further out, like the proverbial lone survivor in the post nuclear apocalypse looking for precious nourishment. Hopefully the two inches of snow we got last night will not hinder the process.

Working this closely with ROK Marines is pretty interesting. While most of them speak at least a little English, I have a translator assigned to me who spent seven years in Utah and speaks very good American. (There's one translator who I hear on some of the briefs that went to Oxford and has a British accent. It's weird.) It's interesting to see how the Koreans have adapted to our style of warfare, and by that I mean warfighting with PowerPoint as your primary weapon. Apparently Korean words like "next slide" and "click" are just "next slide" and "click" but said with a Korean accent. I've also noticed that "OK" means the same thing in both languages.

Well, that's that then. Breakfast is about to be served and then it's off to the bunker for another exciting day. But if I don't recon me a Coke soon, I may just create an international incident.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Feorhmaegen Finds a Home

We interrupt my running commentary on this year's Korea Trip to announce that my story, "The Feorhmaegan", has been accepted for publication in the anthology Through Blood and Iron by Ricasso Press. This is shaping up to be a great anthology with some outstanding authors of bone cracking mayhem. I'm thrilled to be a part of it and look forward to its premier later this year.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

And Then Sometimes Good Stuff Happens

So I'm laying in bed Thursday morning and it's about 4:30 AM. I knew I would be waking up early and thought I would maybe do a quick half load of laundry and maybe go out to breakfast or otherwise make a slow morning of it. The plane didn't leave until 9:30 so I had a few hours. Then I realized that I never checked my seats and didn't know if I had the aisle or not. So I quick fast jumped out of bed and called up my itinerary. Gasp! I didn't even have a confirmed seat. This is what happens when Admin waits 'til the last minute to book our flights. I also didn't have a direct route, stopping in Tokyo for a six hour layover. In the world of international travel, I was in a bad situation.

I quick fast got ready and ran to the airport only to check my bags and be told that the gate crew would assign my seat. This is also not good,; it means the plane is full. Time was ticking away and I could feel the chance of sitting in the middle approaching 100%. (Did I mention before this was an 8 hour flight?) So I wait and I wait and the gate crew finally shows up and starts messing with the seating arrangements. When it's my turn to ask for a seat, they hand me a boarding pass for 78B. I didn't know there were 78 rows on a 747. With a great deal of dread and more than a little bit of impatient grumbling I step on board and the steward points me upstairs.

Wait, I think. I've never even seen what it's like upstairs. How can it be that I'm actually sitting up there? But I was. Wanna know what it's like?

First Class Nirvana.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Things to Do In Hawai'i

If it's Wednesday night and you've got an egregiously long flight to Korea in the morning, there's no better place to spend some time than Calvary Chapel Honolulu. The building is nice and comfy and the people are warm and inviting. You've just got to enjoy a church where the worship leader sounds like Johnny Cash and the pastor quotes Sun Tzu. I found tonight's message on spiritual warfare especially fitting considering a few of the things I've encountered in recent days. But, as we all know, God is great and The Adversary is... not. I'm looking forward to stopping by a few more times this year as the Lord wills it.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

How to Get to Hawai'i: Step Two

Get on your plane and do a happy dance when the chick next to you decides to move over to an open seat once the doors close, thus giving you your own row. Fly through the turbulent Sierra Nevadas and out across the Pacific. Grumble a bit about the airplane's 'personal entertainment center' not working correctly but then get over it quickly because you really didn't want to watch The Blind Side anyhow. Read a little. Work through three slush stories for your editor friend who's probably getting a little ticked off that you're falling behind. Read a lot. Wander around next to the lavatories and stretch. Sit down and stare at the seat in front of you like a mindless drone for another two freakin' hours. Land.

Get your car and drive past Waikiki. (Because who really wants to go to the beach when you can go eat at the Rainbow Drive-In.) Get dinner and add fourteen points to your cholesterol in one sitting. Go to the PX and get some vino. (Plastic screw top bottles, baby!) Check in to your room and let everyone know you've arrived safely.


How to Get to Hawaii: Step One

Go to Salt Lake City. From Seattle this is obviously the best route to take, just ask the travel arrangers with the Marine Corps Reserve. Make sure you sit next to a well dressed man who spends his time reviewing Power Point presentations about streamlining your Tier 2 optimizations, recumbent cost curves, and reconstructing customer interactions. Oy. Thank the Good Lord Above that you're not that guy. Admire the view of the Great Salt Lake from angels 5. At that altitude you can see the olive green silty flats leading down to it. The lake itself has a purplish color, like the last sip of a good Pinot Noir. Then enjoy some fine Utah cuisine courtesy of Burger King. Continue on to your next flight.