A Necessary Update – 8/17/2018

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Hello, everyone. I apologize for not updating the website for so long, but a LOT has happened over the last 12-18 months, and I thought I should at least get back to adding my thoughts and such to let you know I’m still alive, still writing.

Almost one year ago (Labor Day weekend, to be exact), our lives pretty much came to a standstill when I went down to the basement to work after Carly went to sleep. It seemed like just another ordinary day, one where I played a video game on the computer at my desk for a few hours, then spent time with her until she went to bed, then would go back downstairs to work on whatever book or story I had going at the time.

The instant I came off the bottom step and my foot hit the carpet, I knew immediately that something was horribly wrong. The carpet rippled, waved, then sloshed. Yep, you guessed it, the basement was somehow flooding. As a homeowner, I can feel your heart dropping into your shoes after reading this. I guess the only positive thing I could say about this is that at least the house didn’t catch on fire. But a flood… a flooded basement is just… Wow.

The panic, the fear, the absolute chaos of worry and a thousand other emotions hit me all at once as I walked through the basement. I’d hoped it was just a little water, like the toilet or shower in the basement bathroom was suffering a slow-ish leak. But the magnitude of what was happening kept piling on more and more as I walked throughout the 1700 or so square feet of carpeted basement. Every. Single Room. Was. Flooded.

Anyone who has ever been through this, you probably know how the next few months went. Fighting our insurance company (who fought hard but in the end, lost, and had to pay for the restoration), living in half of a house that you, your wife, your brother, and six cats had previously enjoyed ALL of, the hard work of ripping out all of the water-damaged baseboards, carpets, padding, furniture, drywall… Then comes the worry about the potential for mold (which, by the way, the house had when we bought it as the previous owners had flooded the basement and never bothered to take care of it, letting it go into foreclosure, but that’s another story for another day). The interruption of our normal, daily lives was like a bomb had gone off in our psyche.

Once we were sure the insurance company would pay (about a month later, when we made it clear our policy damn well DID cover the damage), we were hopeful things would slowly get back to normal.

But then one morning I woke up, and I don’t mean to be too graphic here, but I kind of have to be, I stood in front of the toilet and began pissing blood.

I’ve never given much thought to my own mortality before, other than a few moments here and there after I turned 30, then again at 40. But standing there, at age 44, with a flooded basement and our lives turned upside down, I became so frightened, so sure that bloody urine meant that I was going to die, that I might have only a short time left on this earth, that I literally collapsed on the bathroom floor. The terror of believing your life is going to be over soon… There aren’t really any words or phrases to describe it. Compound that with the fact that I didn’t have health insurance, then add some googling to see that bloody urine was likely a sign of prostate cancer, bladder cancer, cancer cancer cancer. That’s all I could see and I got sick to my stomach once again.

Just as that cleared up (don’t worry, it wasn’t terminal, just FUCKING FRIGHTENING), and our basement was sloooooowly being returned to a livable state (there’s a whole long story in here about how the flooring company fucked us over at the last moment and delayed everything for another few weeks, but again, that’s for another time), some 20 year old dumbass kid hit Carly on her way to work and totaled her car. She was fine, no harm done to her, but the Honda was completely wrecked. The shitty thing about this, beyond losing a car that we both loved maybe a little too much for such a mundane thing as being “just a car,” is that my car was useless to her–mine is a standard transmission, and she had never learned how to drive a stick shift. And the fact that my Saturn is a piece of shit (but a reliable piece of shit) former courier car that has seen far better times but smells like you’d expect a college boy’s dorm after a week of partying… that didn’t help. Neither did our financial situation, as even with the insurance company paying to repair the damage, we were bleeding money on all the things our policy didn’t cover.This was sometime around January.

Then I got sick again, which started the cycle all over again.

But, as you can guess from reading this, things eventually turned positive. We bought her a very nice used Acura SUV, replaced all of the carpets downstairs with laminate hardwood flooring, and even finally wired up the basement with Cat-5 cabling so it no longer looked like a filthy nerd’s paradise ;).

It is now August, and I’m finally back in this chair, writing not just to you, but writing stories again. Somehow, I released Transfer back in May, but only because it had been finished back when the basement flooded the previous September, and all it needed was a couple of good, hard edits to clean it up. I powered through, I’m not sure how, but then collapsed back into a terrible state of depression, one that I’d been wallowing in since the flood. I tried, I really, really tried, to write once everything started getting better, which means from about March or April of this year. But other than fixing Transfer up and getting it published, my brain simply wouldn’t cooperate. I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than “what if my basement floods again?” or “what if I actually do have a terminal illness and pissing blood was just the first stage?” or “what if some other asshole plows into Carly on her way to or from work and this time she’s seriously injured?” or a million other things that my rat-brain tried to convince me would happen.

And, you know, all this time, since November 2016, there was the knowledge that somehow the citizens of this country elected Donald Trump as our president. You can imagine the blow to both of us over that, since we’re very vocal supporters of LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, civil rights for minorities, supporters of both refugees and immigrants, and so on and so forth.

By the way, if this last paragraph angers you, well, I guess the only thing I can say is “too fucking bad.” I won’t apologize for supporting all of those things, for being liberal, or possibly even a socialist. I’m a human being and the pain that many of my friends and family have suffered since the election isn’t imaginary for us, for them, and for everyone else that has been affected by it. So, again, “too fucking bad” if my anger towards our president and those who support him upsets your snowflake sensibilities.

Anyway, like I said, everything is finally back to normal. My brain is clear and roaring to get back into the thick of things. In fact, I’ve already finished another book, a collection of short stories and novellas that will be called “The Minotaur.” Trevor Smith is finishing up the cover for it, but here’s a taste of what it will look like:

“The Minotaur” rough cover by Trevor Smith

Yep, that’s a 12 year old kid battling the devil for his soul over a game of pinball. And yeah, I know it sounds weird, but it’s sort of my tribute to Stephen King. Plus there will be a bunch of other stories, some sci-fi, some not, who knows, you’ll just have to read it so you can send me angry emails telling me what a horrible author I am!

Right now, I’m finishing up a romance-time travel story which is, according to the few who get to read early versions, as mind-bendy as “Transfer” is. I’m also working on finishing up “Skydark,” which is a post-nuclear war adventure tale, then I’m going to try and finish up the other 8-10 books that are 50-90% done but got delayed by all the shit that has happened in the last year.

Okay, thanks for taking the time to read this, and thank you to everyone who kept me going during this last year+ of chaos, terror, and depression. I’m back in the driver’s seat, and I sincerely hope you’ll be right there with me in the passenger seat so we can enjoy these crazy, weird, sometimes dark and ugly, sometimes funny and charming stories together!

Travis Hill, August 17, 2018

“Skydark” cover by Tom Edwards

Tom Edwards just sent me the final artwork for my upcoming post-nuclear novel “Skydark.” Still working on this one, but it should be out sometime this summer (2017)!

Tom Edwards Design

“Skydark” by Travis Hill / Cover by Tom Edwards Design
Release date: Summer 2017 – click image for larger version

 

Deja Vu (freewrite)

(disclaimer: there could be a number of errors in this, but I literally just finished writing it about 10 minutes ago!)

ONE

I banged my palms on the steering wheel in time to the music while waiting for the light to change. Twenty more minutes and I’d be home for the weekend. My mind wandered to Marla, a woman I met a few weeks back on an internet dating site. We’d spent two nights together in those three weeks, and my brain hoped that it was only because of my work schedule that we hadn’t been able to connected more often. I felt my heart race at the thought of the skin-tight dress she’d worn the previous Saturday when we’d driven up to Boise for—

The blare of at least three horns shattered my concentration and brought me back to reality. I felt my face turn red as I wondered how long I had made the cars behind me wait to turn left onto Borah Ave. A glance in my rearview mirror once my foot hit the gas pedal made me turn even more red. Their multiple rude gestures and mouthed insults were the proper payment for any dumbass who couldn’t get off his cell phone or stop picking her nose long enough to notice the light had turned green.

I crossed over the first two lanes, my light still a bright green arrow, when a blur caught my peripheral vision. I felt my nerves tingle all at once as I realized a blue Honda wasn’t going to stop at its red light. I couldn’t decide whether to jam my foot on the gas or the brake, but the Honda was moving so fast that I never got to make the decision. A loud bang preceded the crunch of metal and glass by a quarter of a second, the airbags in my Chevy Cavalier filling instantly and whiting out my world.

Continue reading

General Megatron videobook project update

Here’s a couple more sketches from Vlad Momot for chapter 2 of “General Megatron.”

Vlad Momot
http://vladmomotart.tumblr.com (English)
https://vk.com/vladmomotart (Russian)
Twitter: @VladMomotArt / Instagram: @Vladmomotart

“General Megatron – Chapter 2: The Doom Lord” videobook sketches by Vlad Momot

“General Megatron – Chapter 2: The Doom Lord” videobook sketches by Vlad Momot

“General Megatron – Chapter 2: The Doom Lord” videobook sketches by Vlad Momot

“Launch Sequence” cover reveal

Hey, all. Jeff Brown (http://www.jeffbrowngraphics.com) just finished the cover for “Launch Sequence”!

Launch Sequence is a two-part sequel to “End of the Line.” Right now, LS’s manuscript is in Sirena’s hands (my new editor/proofer) and it should be ready to publish within a week or two!

“Launch Sequence” – the sequel to the bitter, dark science fiction novel “End of the Line”

Launch Sequence – Chapter 5

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5

*

FIVE

“Granite Base, this is Alpha-1. Launch Sequence stand-by.”

“Roger Alpha-1. Begin activation sequence.”

I listened to the comm chatter from Launch Control and the pilots while my goggles displayed vast amounts of information. The engine bay information window was bordered in red that turned to yellow as the Icarus’ power plant ramped up for blast-off. There were only two weapons pods, both defensive in nature, though I wondered how effective they would be should we pop out of the mountain only to find a thousand Kai warships waiting for us. I cycled through the acceleration creches, finding my parents’ two rows down from me, both a healthy green.

“Admiral Shaw, we’re cleared for launch,” the pilot’s voice said over the comm. Captain Jun was a female according to the display data next to her name, but she sounded like the gruffest, toughest Marine my brain could imagine.

“Roger that,” my father replied in a tight voice. “Let’s light ‘em up and get the hell off this rock ASAP.”

I turned my attention back to the engineering window. The fusion reactors had been steady at five percent until a few minutes ago when they began to slowly climb into the thirty percent range. I watched, holding my breath involuntarily, as the numbers inched into the low forties, then suddenly ramped up to ninety before leveling off and continuing their journey to one hundred. I expected the ship to vibrate or hum just like in all the movies, but I felt and heard nothing. I wasn’t sure if the gel in my creche was dampening any sensations. I could still hear the muffled noises of the last few sailors climbing into their own creches after securing the rest of the passengers. Continue reading

Launch Sequence – Chapter 4

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5

*

FOUR

Mom and Dad talked for a while, though not before sending me off to a corner of the room to read. I had finally calmed down enough to begin once again daydreaming of the strange, shiny ship being prepped a dozen meters down the corridor from me. I felt ashamed that I had cried like a baby, but my mother forced me to admit I’d sneaked enough looks at the holos on the Wire to have a terrifying grasp of what the Kai did to their enemies.

Both Mom and Dad admitted to being just as frightened. When I asked how come they didn’t seem scared, my dad looked away when my mom said they had both done their share of crying over the last few years and didn’t have much—if any—tears left in them. The thought of crying so much that I couldn’t cry ever again scared me almost as much as what I’d seen the Kai do to our colonies. The only thing more terrifying, according to Dad, was how once the Wire went dead, truly awful things happened.

There were rumors the aliens harvested humans for food, used them in disturbing genetic experiments, even dissolving every living person in giant vats of acid. The tales that made me shiver were the ones describing how the Kai set everyone on fire.

I’d burned myself with a nanosolder tool when I was eight. It took almost a month for the wound to completely heal, and hurt even with the pain blockers the doctor prescribed. I shivered again at the thought of that kind of pain all over my body. Continue reading

Launch Sequence – Chapter 3

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5

*

THREE

I tried to raise a single eyebrow again, as this was certainly different than any of the True Responsibilities I’d imagined.

“Hey, good one!” he said with a laugh, and it even made my mom chuckle. “You almost got it.” He changed back to Serious Dad. “Denny, you don’t pay much attention to the news, do you?”

“Not really,” I answered.

Adult news was usually boring unless it had footage from one of the colony worlds under attack, or an important space battle (but those were typically labeled “disasters”). Mom never let me watch any of those news stories, and had done her best to firewall my comm so I couldn’t pull grisly details (and pictures or video) from the Wire. I knew why she didn’t want me to watch them, at least I thought I did, and it had to do with her own experiences in combat.

Mostly, the news always sounded like a bunch of voices all talking at once. Today in blah blah blah, this bad thing happened, a lot more bad stuff happened, here’s the weather and then sports. I did my best to tune it out, but because of my accelerated schooling, thanks to both of my parents being officers in the military, I knew a lot more than most of my peers about what was happening in the galaxy.

I didn’t seek out the news that most adults paid attention to, but I didn’t ignore it either. A lot of the stuff going on around the galaxy made no sense to me for a long time, but I’d learned a lot of “context” (a concept I still struggled with) which made connections between people, places, and events easier to understand. Ever since I found out about Mom and what happened to her at Janus, I paid more attention than ever to any news that entered the small bubble of my world. Continue reading

Launch Sequence – Chapter 2

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5

*

TWO

The elevator opened up into a cavern so large I couldn’t see the far wall. Part of what was blocking my view of the other wall was a starship. I didn’t know how I could know that based on the limited section of it that I could see, but inside, I knew. There was an army of men and women in white lab coats scurrying around the ship like ants around their queen. I looked up toward the ceiling, but there didn’t seem to be one. The walls rose straight up until the darkness swallowed everything. The ship didn’t look like any ship I had ever seen before. It wasn’t that it was so alien that I couldn’t have imagined it, but it was just so… different.

I loved science fiction, both books and movies, though I hadn’t been allowed to see any of the scarier adult versions. I thought I had an idea of what every ship ever conceived of would or could look like. This one didn’t resemble a rocket, the old NASA space shuttles, nor even the Terran Navy’s almost uncountable variations in ships. It didn’t look like any of the Kai ships I had seen on the news and in documentaries.

As I walked along the new yellow line in the floor that began to glow once we stepped out of the elevator, I tried to figure out where the cockpit was, where the engines were, where the airlock for letting crew members in and out could possibly be on the massive vessel before me. The ship looked like a giant, slightly flattened egg with a polished silver outer hull that returned weird images of us as we walked by it. The reflective surface made me think of a funhouse mirror in the way that it distorted every shape it captured. Twice as we continued toward wherever Mom and the yellow line led us, I noticed that some of the reflections would simply wink out, almost as if we had become vampires for a few seconds. Continue reading

Launch Sequence I – Chapter 1

“Launch Sequence I” is the first story from “Genesis-6,” the (much more uplifting!) sequel to “End of the Line.”

 

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5

*

ONE

My mother held my hand so tight it began to hurt. She gave me a soothing look, but I could see the fear in her eyes. I didn’t really understand what was happening, but I knew all of the adults were scared. The thunderous booms that filtered down through the underground complex resonated regularly. Every thump caused Mom to jump a little, and each time she would squeeze my hand even tighter.

“Mom, you’re hurting me,” I said after another powerful explosion made the world around us vibrate.

“I’m sorry, honey,” she replied, relaxing her grip, then giving me a quick hug while holding a small smile on her face for a few seconds. “I’m just nervous.”

Another boom, this time louder than any previous, rumbled down the walls. I could hear other children crying, whimpering in the line all around us, along with the voices of parents doing their best to soothe them. Just like my mother was doing for me. I wondered again if I was dreaming.

—|—

A week ago, I was playing in the park, beating my friends at video games, and practicing with my school’s basketball team. At twelve years old, I didn’t pay much attention to the adult things like the news unless my father left the tablet screen open to the cartoons, though some of the cartoons made no sense. Chancellor Ryley was a woman who looked almost like my mother, and I didn’t understand why some cartoons showed her as a donkey, or why the aliens we were at war with were stuffing apple pies into her exaggeratedly large mouth.

Sometimes I liked to read the sports section. Earth was two hundred light years away, but they had all of the best sports leagues, as some sports couldn’t be played on colony worlds if the gravity or atmosphere wasn’t right. Once in a while my own name was in the local sports section, along with those of my teammates. Sometimes we got our pictures in the news as well. My father printed a hardcopy of the time I made the news by scoring the winning basket in the championship game when I was eight.

It was a distraction from the hushed whispering—sometimes even shouting and shoving—the adults did over what was happening in the Coalition. All of us kids were told not to worry about any of that, only to focus on the next game, the next day, the next homework assignment. It was easy for me, though it made me uncomfortable around certain adults, as they sometimes forgot to stop worrying and focus on the next game, day, or work assignment. Continue reading