Wind, Ice, and Willows

Mud squelched under his boots as he made his way up the dirt road. Willows waved in a frigid wind on either side of the track, their windward surfaces coated in a half-inch-thick layer of ice. The man zipped his jacket and pulled his collar up instinctively, before it occurred to him that he didn’t feel cold.

The mountain pass was enshrouded in clouds, obscuring the peaks on either side as well as the road ahead. Ragged streamers of water vapor raced past, chased by the razor-edged wind. The man paused and turned in a circle, taking stock of his surroundings. Alpine tundra stretched away into the mist on either side of him, dotted with lichen-covered boulders, scrub willows, and the occasional stunted spruce.

Back the way he had come, lights glowed weakly through the fog. A black SUV rested half off the road, its hood impaled on the end of a guard rail. There had been a sharp corner. Icy mud. A loss of traction.

Continue reading “Wind, Ice, and Willows”

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It’s hard to believe that yet another summer is nearly over. The leaves are turning yellow in my corner of the world, and the infamous low-lying areas experienced their first frost a few weeks ago. Where does the time go?

In my case, time flies when you’re screaming busy. I’ve been invited back for Part II of a superb speculative fiction anthology, Trumpland 2020: Divided We Stand, and am currently working on my entry.

Hel’s Fury, my submission for the first Trumpland collection, was extremely dark. It was kind of a worst case scenario, a hodgepodge of national news and the worst of my state’s own tendencies.

I’m happy to announce that my as-yet-untitled submission to 2020 will be much brighter. My goal is to highlight some of the good in Alaska and Alaskans, the spirit of community and resistance that I grew up with and still see occasionally in Alaska’s remote corners.

I’m also exploring Patreon as an avenue to get my short fiction in front of more readers and support myself while doing it. The first wave of September tier rewards are now live and I’m particularly excited about this month’s story, which digs into the origins of my cyborg OC Frank the Tank.

As some of you who’ve been with me the longest may know, Frank started out as a bit character in a piece of flash fiction.

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storm and rocks in the North Pacific

When the body of an influential visitor washes up on a remote Alaskan beach, Danny, Ava, and Cam find themselves in a storm of trouble.
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Warning: this episode contains imagery that may be disturbing for those who have experienced violence at the hands of law enforcement.

Halfway between the Old Village docks and the new airport, the rain turned from heavy to torrential. Water flooded the muddy road, falling faster than it could run away. Cam swore under his breath; his old raincoat was less than waterproof, and now he could add being soaked to the skin to his list of problems.

A collection of weathered metal buildings marked the edge of the airport. The largest was the airport manager’s office, the de facto entry and exit point those arriving and departing the village. Cam could just make out the shadow of a Cessna Grand Caravan on the gravel apron beyond the row of buildings.

He squared his shoulders and pushed open the door that led into the terminal. To his disappointment, the battered wooden benches were empty. A pot of stale coffee simmered on an ancient hot plate at the back of the room, under yellow florescent lights that had probably been manufactured before Cam’s parents were born.

He made a beeline for the coffee. It smelled like death and was just on the liquid side of sludge, but it was free. Cam poured himself a cup and used it to warm away the chill in his hands as he took in the cramped passenger lobby. Someone had left their backpack on a chair; it was bright blue, like the murdered outsider’s jacket. He wandered over to look at it. North Face brand. Expensive.

“Hey, stay away from that!” the airport manager snapped.

Continue reading “Between A Rock & A Storm Part V: Cam Goes Down”

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storm and rocks in the North Pacific

When the body of an influential visitor washes up on a remote Alaskan beach, Danny, Ava, and Cam find themselves in a storm of trouble.
Part I
Part II
Part III

“Is he gone?” Ava asked, her voice barely audible above the falling rain and the rush and splash of the tide.

Danny scanned the network of docks and the rainy gray ocean beyond as he lifted the last crab pot onto the pier. He nodded.

Neither of them mentioned what had just happened as they finished unloading the skiff, but the image of the Village Public Safety Officer pulling his weapon and pointing it at her remained frozen in Ava’s mind. All because she’d been hungry and picked the wrong moment to pull a meal bar out of her pocket.

Continue reading “Between A Rock & A Storm Part IV: Ava”

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Lightning has a strange smell. For me, it’s a combination of burned ozone and chlorine, as if I’ve been transported back to some crowded gym pool in my distant past. There is screaming, raucous and unintelligible, but after a moment I realize it’s just the gulls shrieking in alarm.

“–shelter!” Lynx is yelling. “Move! We need to head for shelter!” She bangs the nose of my kayak with her paddle for emphasis, then turns toward the hill that rises along the northwest side of Summit Lake.

The water is steaming. Thunder heads pelt us with fat, icy raindrops as lightning flashes overhead. I grit my teeth and count while paddling for all I’m worth. One thousand and one, one thousand and– The crash comes before I’ve finished the second beat.

Continue reading “A Meeting With Nature”

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Corrupt GVEA Logo

One of the hallmarks of my writing is an unflinching appraisal of the problems within our society, and what it says about where we’re headed. This commentary is heavily influenced by my own experiences. Enraging, traumatic, frustrating or humorous, in the end it’s all story fuel one way or another. What follows is a humorous look at some recent battles with my electric company.

Inspiration struck last night when I noticed that my ISP hadn’t charged my credit card when they should have.
GCI rep: We’d be happy to look into that for you. What’s your passcode?
Me: Heck if I know. I only have to call you guys once every couple of years. I’m really surprised your new e-bill system lost my payment– you guys are usually the opposite of GVEA.

For reference, Golden Valley Electric Association is my electric company and the gold standard of suck. Shortly after that conversation with my ISP’s billing department, my neighborhood was struck by a blackout.

GVEA: THAT’S for having the gall to criticize our broken payment system and lousy service.
Me: For freak’s sake, it’s barely even windy!
GVEA: I’m sorry, our outage line is currently out of service.

Continue reading “Commonplace Corruption”

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A huge wasp nest in a birch tree.

This has been a week full of unfortunate events and unpleasant discoveries.

The company I work for is having a rough time and there have been rumblings of internal upheaval, yet somehow the gears of corruption and good-ol’-boy favors keep turning. On the home front, I discovered a basketball-sized wasp nest hidden in the woods west of my house.

As you might imagine, both situations involve unpleasantness I’d rather stay far removed from. But when you discover a hive of scum and villainy right in your own back yard, what do you do?

Continue reading “Unpleasant Revelations”

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Friday evening found me crowded into a shed with a motley group of individuals. The shed was attached to the back of a slant-roofed little house tucked into a steep hillside a few miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska. The crowd included everything from grey-haired retirees to stay-at-home moms to workers in grimy Carhartts, and even a few professional transporters like myself. Chatter wandered between the heavy snow load, predictions of when the first willow blooms would be out, and speculation about whether the coming summer would be as poor for pollen collection as the last one was.

At the back of the shed, an elderly gentleman with wild white hair handed out buzzing cages; each sturdy 4 inch by 16 inch by 12 inch enclosure contained a queen and roughly 5,000 of her subjects, totaling 4 lbs of bees. (Bees are sold by weight rather than number for reasons of expediency.) This particular bee dealer is the only one in Fairbanks, supplying hundreds of backyard beekeepers in the area.

I’ve been transporting bees for over a decade now, but rumor has it this will be the bee dealer’s last year. That may mean the end of my yearly bee run, or it may mean a much lengthier run down to Delta Junction or Anchorage to meet another dealer. For now, I collect 8 lbs of bees, wrap their cages in my jacket, and climb up a crude staircase to the dealer’s parking area. Now comes the fun part.

Continue reading “The Bee Transporter”

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Today on the author blog, I’m going to do something different. What follows is the first page of a short story that will be released as part of an anthology this summer. Hel’s Fury is set in Fairbanks, Alaska, in a dystopian near future. And yes, the spelling is deliberate.

A Taste of Things to Come: Hel’s Fury

As Fairbanks Police Captain Nathan Spencer waded through the soggy snow toward the crime scene, a growing sense of dread supplanted his annoyance at being called out first thing on a Monday morning. Dozens of other pairs of boots had already made the same journey, clearing a wide path from the parking area to the underside of the nearby Steese Highway bridge.

To his right the Chatanika River rushed by, muddied by year-round mining operations upstream. A forest of scraggly black spruce marched off into the pre-dawn dimness on the far bank. To his left, a handful of Alaska State Trooper SUVs and several Fairbanks Police cars sat in the parking lot of an abandoned campground. Ravens circled overhead.

The crime scene was thirty-some miles northeast of Fairbanks, and fell under the Troopers’ jurisdiction. Spencer silently cursed whatever circumstance had connected the scene to one of the FPD’s many open cases.

A FPD detective named Henriksen met him at the edge of the highway overpass, expression grim.

“This had better be good,” Spencer snapped. “I’m going to be pissed if you called me all the way out here just because someone strung up a couple more drunks.”

The detective grimaced. “These weren’t drunks. That’s why I called you. These are some of ours.”

Continue reading “Sneak Preview: Hel’s Fury”

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This week on the author blog, Leland Lydecker reviews a book about his home town that gets almost everything wrong. That’s right, it’s Craig Martelle’s Endure: End Times in Alaska!

Cover of the absolutely godawful Endure: End Times in Alaska by Craig Martelle

Endure has garnered a lot of criticism for eschewing the explicit violence, conservative values, and thinly-veiled racism that are common components of the Post-Apocalyptic genre. I have no problem with that. The problem lies in the fact that Martelle hasn’t replaced the those themes with anything of substance. There’s no conflict. There’s never any real sense that Chuck and his family are in jeopardy. Endure is a survival story without the survival.

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