Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Two – Part Two

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“Okay, half a dozen time-travel machines is  a bad thing, I get it.  What exactly does that have to do with us, though?  Isn’t the whole plan for us to go back in time and prevent the first one from being built at all?”

Vančura nodded, but didn’t reply.  He just folded his arms and stared at Armelle, waiting.  She frowned at him.

“What?”

“Follow the logic a little further.”

With an exasperated glare, she thought about it a little longer.

“So…  the best way to keep the STAd from being built is to keep me from publishing my paper, or keep me from coming up with the mathematics at all, right?  That should be easy enough; we just go back in time and I won’t do it.  Problem solved.”

In the dim light where he was wandering aimlessly around, Eddie was shaking his head, but she ignored him.  Vančura, however, only raised an eyebrow critically.  She threw up her hands.

“Obviously, you’re taking the logic further than I am.  Fine; what’s so important about this future having too many time-machines?”

He stared at her for a moment longer, then tapped a key on the super computer.  The screen flashed to a photocopy of a file, packed with typewritten text framing a single high-resolution photograph.

It was a photograph of the front porch of Armelle’s house.  In center, the three of them were walking down the steps to the truck they’d stolen, Armelle leading the way and Eddie following along at the rear.  Vančura, by some bizarre chance, was looking directly at the camera.

“Who…”

“Now, where’d y’spose dat came from?”

Armelle sounded stunned, but Eddie had stopped pacing around in the dark and was studying the photo intently.  A sharp look had spread over his face and even his slow drawl had a slight edge to it.

With a quick tap of keys, Vančura brought up two more pictures.  One was a shot of a massive armored door in the side of a hill, partially covered with brush and camouflage netting.  It had obviously been snapped from a long distance; it had been enlarged so much the pixels were visible, though it had been carefully cleaned up.

The other was a profile of a man in the passenger seat of a battered Humvee driving down an overgrown dirt road.  A note, scrawled by hand on the edge of the photo, read “Russia? China?”.

Armelle’s mouth dropped open.

“Is that…”

“Colonel Bosze?  Yes, it is.  Badly in need of a shave, too, it seems.”


End Chapter  22– Part 1

Uh….

Whoa…

Dang…

Wow…

And…

What the heck?

Okay, people, I am officially back to not knowing what’s next.  Colonel Bosze has some explaining to do to his author, ’cause he is AWOL!

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One

 

 

 

 

Twicebound: Chapter 15 – Part 3

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Header15-3The old engine sputtered and rumbled, but none of them paid any attention.  It had been doing that since Armelle had first turned the key in the ignition.  What neither Armelle nor Vančura could ignore was Eddie.

“How far now?”

“Ten minutes.

“‘Coz I’m gettin’ carpool tunneling symptoms in m’legs from sittin’ here so long.”

Vančura rolled his eyes and watched telephone poles go by.  Boredom was something he could handle; boredom with Eddie Kaul was not.  Armelle, however, took the bait.

“You can’t get carpal tunnel syndrome in your legs, Eddie.

“Yeah?  How d’you know dat?  ‘Cause maybe I’m special.  Or gots problems, not-normal like.

He frowned at Vančura as the big man let out a soft chuckle.

“There’s nothing normal about you, Kaul.  And you’ve definitely got problems, but the carpal tunnel problem is in your head.”

Eddie’s frown evaporated and he squinted thoughtfully up at the sky, apparently not noticing the roof of the truck between it and him.

“I didden know dats where the carpool tunnel was.  You mean I oughta be havin’ headaches and stuff like dat?”

They ignored him again, so he returned to the original question.

“How far now?”

Armelle shook her head at herself, then turned a slightly exasperated eye on him.

“For someone who’s terrified of where we’re going, you’re awfully eager to get there.”

He gave her an arch look.

“I’m bored.  An’ my legs is goin’ to sleep widdout me an it feels weird.  And once dey gets to sleep, I can’t run proper.  Don’ wanna go tru the knothole, but iffen I gotta, I wants to be perambulatory.”

They both stared at him, blinking, and he grinned back.

End Chapter  15 – Part 3


I’m not sure what Eddie is up to here… he’s an enigma wrapped in a confusing layer of bologna and ignorance.  And I think he knows it, which should terrify Armelle and Vančura, if they’ve any sense. If you figure out what he’s doing before I do, email me the detailed plan, would you?  It’ll make this novel a lot easier to write.

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen – Part One Chapter Fifteen – Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter 12 – Part 3

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Papers rustled and Vančura’s pencil scratched steadily.  On the other side of the kitchen, Eddie perched on a stool, holding an empty cup and examining the coffee pot intently.  He wasn’t paying attention to anything but the slow drip of the percolator.

Armelle, however, was watching Vančura.  She thumbed slowly through a stack of pages, glancing at them frequently.  Once in a while, she’d reach in, select a sheet, and hand it to the big man.

Finally, he leaned back in his chair and frowned.

“How’s the coffee coming, Eddie?”

“It’s comin’.  Don’ rush me.”

With an irritated sigh, Vančura looked down at his papers and then at Armelle.

“I’m out of my depth.  Most of this makes a sort of sense, but not enough to be useful.”

After a moment of thought, she tossed down the pages and shoved her chair back.  She stretched, then went over to the coffee pot, ignored Eddie’s complaints, and poured herself a cup.  Once she’d sugared it, she returned to the stool and leaned on the counter.

“You know the grandfather paradox, right?  Okay, you know  some of the possible explanations? The universe might have a safety mechanism, or time travel could spawn off parallel universes, stuff like that?”

Vančura nodded.  Behind him, Eddie scowled at her, injured, then turned back to his percolator.  She rolled her eyes and continued.

“It doesn’t actually do any of those things.”

The big man nodded again, thoughtful this time.

“I got that far. The math didn’t seem to add up to any standard explanation, but I couldn’t figure out what it DID add up to.”

“It’s pretty simple, actually.  Everybody goes in with this assumption that time is this utterly foreign stuff and we have to change our perspective if we’re going to work with it.  Basically, that’s a load of garbage.”

He laughed and retrieved a cup of coffee himself, sending Eddie into a further spiral of depression.

“So, all the other scientists are wrong?  You just happened to figure it out?”

Armelle gave him an arch look.

“Poke fun all you like, but yeah, I did.”

She sipped her coffee, using the pause to grin at him.

“Not that I didn’t have trouble, but once I got it, it’s pretty obvious.  Time is just as much a part of nature as anything else.  Not really a living thing, but everything in nature reacts the same basic way to the same basic stimuli.”

That got a slight frown out of him.

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Not really, but that’s not the whole explanation, either.  Here.”

She scanned the papers, then grabbed a single sheet and slid it across the counter.  It was mostly blank, except for a single drawing near the top.

TimeMap

Vančura examined it in silence, surprise gradually blooming.  At length, he looked up at her.

“Did you… use a typewriter to add these labels?”

She blinked at him. Twice.  Then she took a sip of her coffee, shook her head and blinked at him again.

“I hand you a map of time and you want to know if I used a typewriter?”

With a shrug, he tossed the paper back onto the counter and cocked his head.

“The graph is straightforward enough.  Like you said, obvious, once you know how it works.  Where the heck did you find a typewriter, though?  Those things are like hen’s teeth.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

He shrugged again.

“Is it my fault if time-travel is boring?”

End Chapter  12 – Part 3

Go to Chapter 13 – Part 1

Here’s hoping you had fun reading this installment of “Twicebound”!!  (If you didn’t, go back and read it again.  It gets better with… time. I’ll wait.)


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? They’re right here!
Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve – Part 1   Chapter Twelve – Part 2

Why Books Need Artwork

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Last week, my serial novel ‘Twicebound‘ got an upgrade.  I bit the bullet and hired an artist to create some chapter-header art for it.  (if you read ‘Twicebound’ you know all about it already)  It looks awesome and has gotten compliments from quite a few readers already.

But this post isn’t about ‘Twicebound’.  It’s about artwork. Specifically, the difference good artwork can make on your story.  The ‘Twicebound’ header art is just one example of how big a difference it can be.

A lot of authors (myself included) dislike the mandatory nature of book artwork.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I love beautiful covers and illustrations (most authors do).  The problem we have is that people are more likely to pick up poorly written books with high-quality art than books that are well written but have low-quality art (or none).

Your book has been edited by three well-known professionals?  It’s been formatted with painstaking precision?  Every reviewer you’ve sent an ARC has raved about it?  That’s great.   But if you put a stock art cover on it, no reader is ever going to pick it up, not when vast hordes of books with gorgeous cover art are competing with your book.  The fact that your book is far better written than those other books isn’t going to help you.

Why is this?  Good question.  I don’t have a good answer for you.  It could be because our snap-decision buying habits give precedence to a gripping picture instead of well-formulated blurbs.  It could be that we subconsciously think that a writer who put the effort into getting a beautiful illustrations for his book is more likely to have put the effort into writing a good book.  It could be a lot of things.  Frankly, though, it doesn’t matter WHY.  What matters is that it IS.

We’re writers; the covers and illustrations are part of our books, whether we like it or not.  So, put as much effort into making your book look good as you put into making it sound good.

Here are two examples, of my own experience.

Example00#Example01#

Example05#

These are screen-shots of an installment of ‘Twicebound’ from a few weeks ago.  The first is the actual episode post, while the second is the Twitter announcement of it.  The third is how Tweet view results.  (the engagement rate is 1.5%)

Sure, the readers really enjoy the serial, if the comments are anything to go by. There’s no denying, though, that the wall of text just isn’t… interesting.  At first glance, anyway, which is important for getting new readers.  And the Tweet… well, the Tweet is just boring.  No ‘grab’ to it, at all.  The statistics bear that out.

Example03#Example02#Example07#These pictures are the same thing, just with the newest installment of the novel.  The one with the new chapter-header artwork.  If that isn’t a massive improvement… I don’t know what is.  It’s eye-catching, intriguing, and just looks good.  And the numbers agree with me.  The engagement rate over four days (at the last check) is around 4% and the total impressions almost doubled.  Now, that doesn’t sound majorly impressive, except for one thing: the percentage for the first day was over 10% engagement at around 90 impressions.  THAT is an improvement.

Of course, numbers might not mean a lot to some people.  I just happen to be a numbers kind of guy.  If you want an example with visual punch, here’s one.

P76 coverThis is the original cover for my short story “Pyramid 76”.  I finished the story and had to have a cover to publish it with, so I whipped this one up on Paint.  It’s a standard self-published, no-effort placeholder.  My beta-reader hated it.  With a vengeance.  With good reason.  Would YOU want to read it?  Especially with THIS…

P76cover… as the competition?  After several months of letting Pyramid 76 languish with the garbage cover I’d rushed through, I finally got around to collecting the props necessary to create a new cover.  I took photos, selected the best one, then edited four different end results in GIMP.  Then, I let readers select their favorite and replaced the old cover with the new one.

The improvement here requires very large numbers and a mathematics degree to calculate it properly, if you ask me.  The original cover is a object lesson in what not to do with your cover.  The new one is cool, meaningful, and draws attention to the story in the best way possible.

As I’ve said before, the cover is part of your book; make it perfect.


What do you think?  Did I forget something?  Have you had a similar experience with your book? Have you ever turned down a book because of a bad cover?

Twicebound: Chapter 8 – part 3

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First off, my apologies to everyone who received a notification yesterday that this installment was out. In case you haven’t figured it out already, it was an error on the part of WordPress…. okay, fine, it was me.  But in my defense, they really shouldn’t have the ‘publish’ button so close to the ‘save draft’ button.  If they didn’t, you wouldn’t have gotten all prematurely excited about your weekly installment of…

 Twicebound

Chapter 8 – part 3

The cop car whipped around another corner, tires shrieking over the pavement.

“Look, I already told you, I can’t tell you yet.  Those log-chips in your shoulders keep track of how many times you’ve been through the STAd and what time you were logged into the Sandglass Project facility.”

Vančura’s voice was still cold.

“And your point is?”

The woman sighed and spun the wheel again, slaloming the vehicle onto the highway.  Her foot hit the gas and the big engine screamed as it rocketed the car away from the town.

“If you get caught by the cops, you’ll end up back at the facility and that creep Benwright will check your log-chips.  He’ll realize something was different on your last trip.”

“And?”

She glanced away from the road just long enough to give Vančura a scathing look.

“What do you think?  You’ve been punched back in time more often than anyone else alive and each time, things happened exactly the same way.  Until this time.  You think they won’t want to know what was different?”

With a heavy sigh, Vančura nodded.

“You don’t want us to know anything, so we can’t tell Bosze anything if we get caught.”

The woman rolled her eyes.

“Finally.  For a guy who’s supposed to be so clever, you’re pretty slow sometimes.  If Bosze thinks you know something, he’ll find a way to make you spill your guts.  He’s got access to resources you wouldn’t believe.”

In the back seat, Eddie started hyperventilating. The word “interrogation” wouldn’t have meant anything to him, but spilling his guts was a concept with which he was quite familiar.

“What’d we do t’get stuck inna middle of all dis?”

She met his terrified eyes in the rear-view mirror and her expression softened slightly.

“I suspect you’re just an unfortunate dummy who slept in the wrong drainage pipe.  Your friend…  nobody knows. Which is why I’m here.”

End Chapter 8 – part 3

Go to Chapter 9 – Part 1

Is ‘Twicebound’ the high-light of your week?  If it is, tell everyone about it on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section!

The next installment of“Twicebound” comes out each Saturday.  (On the condition, of course, that I succeed hewing my way through the Jungle of This-and-That and avoiding the grinning apes that guard the great Temple of Something-or-Other)

The previous installments? Right here!
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Six:  Part 1Part 2 –  Part 3
Chapter Seven:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Eight: Part 1Part 2

Twicebound: Chapter 8 – part 2

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Today’s installment of ‘Twicebound’ was in grave jeopardy.  Last night (Friday 24th), I was planning to work on the installment before bed, as usual.  Then, the power went out and stayed out until 8:00 am this morning.  Apparently, a tree hit a power-line in town.  Luckily, I was working on my laptop and it had a full charge, so I managed to finish the new episode.  The only problem was, the Internet router depends  on the house power.  We HAVE had multi-day power outages before, so I’m just happy the electricity came back on today.  I’ve never missed a Saturday installment before and I’m not eager to find out what you readers would do to me if I did.  😉  So, having luck on my side, here’s this week’s….

 Twicebound

Chapter 8 – part 2

“You’ve got no idea what you’re doing.  Heck, I don’t have any idea what you’re doing!”

“I know exactly what I’m doing.  I’m hauling you two out of a trip to the Sandglass project again.”

Vančura scowled at her, fingers clamped on the passenger side overhead grip as she spun the cop car around a corner.

“I mean you’ve got no idea what shifting us around in the time-stream will do.”

From the backseat, Eddie listened as carefully as he could.  Being slammed from side to side as the car screeched through turns made it a little hard to concentrate on anything, but he caught the woman’s laugh just fine.

“Oh, that.  Who cares?  You threw a monkey-wrench into the works the minute you volunteered to go through the knothole.  What possessed you to do that, anyway?  Bored, were you?”

Eddie couldn’t see the big man’s expression, but he didn’t need to.  The silence made it obvious that Vančura didn’t have a good answer to what was definitely a good question.

“Fine.  So, now that you’ve dragged us out, do you mind telling us why?”

She didn’t answer for a little while.  While they waited for a reply, Eddie realized he didn’t really care.  The lady had gotten him out of a drain-pipe.  He was still in a cop car, but this time he wasn’t headed for the jail.  That depressed him a little, since he knew there was food at the jail, but then again, there was no reason to think the woman couldn’t be persuaded to stop at a drive-through somewhere.  Then, she glanced at him and Vančura out of the corner of her eye.

“I’d rather not say, just yet.”

Vančura stiffened, but it was nothing compared to what Eddie did.  With a quiet moan, he leaned forward and banged his head on Vančura’s seat over and over again. He’d been wrong; it turned out he cared about the answer a lot.

“What’s with your little friend, Vančura?”

The big man eyed her caustically.

“I think he’s allergic to secrets.”

“We’ll have to find him an Epi-pen.  We’re in a stolen police cruiser, we just attacked two cops, and every one of us was being detained.  If we get caught, you can’t be knowing any more than you absolutely need to.  It’s protocol.”

Eddie, still thumping his head on the padding of Vančura’s chair, missed the importance of the word.  His friend, however, did not.

“Protocol?”

His voice went dangerous, dangerous enough to bring Eddie’s attention up from his self-inflicted concussion-in-planning.  After a second, the woman realized her mistake.

“Oh, blast.”

“Protocol?  Would you care to explain just how you have a ‘protocol’, lady?”

End Chapter 8 – Part 2

Go to Chapter 8 – Part 3

Do you wait for ‘Twicebound’ all week?  If you do, tell everyone about it on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section!

A new installment of“Twicebound” comes out every week.  (Of course, that’s assuming my Tesla turbine hover-cruiser hasn’t run out of steam and precipitated me violently on some tree or another.)

The previous installments.
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Six:  Part 1Part 2 –  Part 3
Chapter Seven:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Eight: Part 1

Twicebound Chapter 7– part 2

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With this, that, and the Easter season, I almost forgot ‘Twicebound’ was due today.  Fortunately, a calendar and some quick work with a keyboard saved my skin.  (assuming something terrible would happen to me if ‘Twicebound’ didn’t come out as promised)  Today, we get a small glimpse of the plans and plots behind the Sandglass Project, as well as an idea of just how clever Benwright and Colonel Bosze actually are.

Twicebound

Chapter 7– part 2

Bosze eyed the big man doubtfully for a moment or two, then shrugged.

“You’re walking on dangerous terrain, then.”

With a slight grin, Vančura looked back at Eddie.  His eye caught on the girl and the grin changed to a half-visible frown.  He turned back to the colonel.

“Granted, colonel.”

“Whatever.  Now, we lost contact with a strike force mission early this morning.  The task was extremely time-sensitive. The actual success of the strike wasn’t the objective; the brass just wanted to shake up the…”

The colonel paused, clamping down on a word before it could slip out.  A second later, he continued, slowly.

“Shake up the enemy. The fact that America knows about the location the strike force attacked was supposed to be a surprise to them.  The brass launched the strike for purely psychological reasons.  This morning, we lost radio communications with the force, before they even made contact.  There are more possible ramifications than our analysts can handle and all of them bad.”

Vančura nodded, obviously piecing things together.  Eddie just listened, wondering what any of it had to do with him.

“So, your superiors want the time-machine working properly.  Send a man or two through it with the intel on the strike force failure, let you get a head start on it.”

Bosze nodded, glancing meaningfully around at the three prisoners.

“Precisely.  Hence the need for test travelers.  An hours after you’ve gone through, we’ll send one of our men through with the information.”

He frowned suddenly; something had obviously occurred to him.  Then, shaking the thought away, he looked at Benwright.  The technician was staring at a tablet, tapping formulas into it absently.  When he noticed the colonel eying him, he started in surprise.

“What?”

With an exasperated sigh, Bosze pointed at the STAd.

“Spool up the knothole, Benwright. That’s what you’re here for.”

“Oh. Right.”

Before Benwright could start, Vančura interrupted again.

“One question, colonel.  How is it that we end up in exactly the same time every time you send us back?”

Bosze grinned, looking pleased with himself.

“So we do it every time, eh?  Good to hear we play it smart in all the time frames, eh, Benwright?  Frankly, Vančura, we can’t have you running around with that head-full of sensitive information.  The obvious solution was to make sure you can’t run for it, so we’re going to send you back to exact instant the police officer shows up.  Benwright just checked your file for the time and logged it into the knothole computer.”

With a last satisfied grin, he glanced at the control computer.

“Okay, Benwright, fire it up.”

Spinning his chair to the computer, Benwright started hitting buttons.  The ominous sound of the STAd powering on filled the room.  Eddie squinted up at the machine, wondering if he hated it or liked it.  Going through hurt, but at least there was a good meal or two waiting in the police station every time.  He made what he considered a philosophical expression as he was prodded forward.

Everything had a good side.  If the good side of the ‘knothole’ was food, he figured he could live with it.

End Chapter 7 – Part 2

Go to Chapter 7 – Part 3

Do you appreciate the weekly ‘Twicebound’ installment?  If you do, please tell everyone about it on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section below!

An installment of “Twicebound” comes out eachSaturday.  Assuming I haven’t been assassinated by egg-wielding Lagomorphs, that is.

The previous installments.
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Six:  Part 1Part 2 –  Part 3
Chapter Seven:  Part 1