The Rocheport Saga-Part 2

Last week I talked a bit about my post-apocalyptic series The Rocheport Saga. I said it was part philosophy, part family saga, part satire, part libertarian thought, part action/adventure novel, and all post-apocalyptic speculation. I also noted that the series is written in epistolary form; that is, as diary entries. I’m very fond of the epistolary format because of the intimate picture it can give us of the main character’s thoughts. Provided of course he or she is a reliable narrator. If not, then we enter a mystery world of trying to figure what is real and what is not. Either way, the epistolary novel is an ideal vehicle.

The Saga is written in story arcs, not unlike television writing, and the first seven novels form the first arc. The arc itself is divided into three parts.

Part I comprises the first two books: The Morning Star and The Shining City. And might be called “Beginnings”. This is where the story begins. Where we learn about Bill Arthur’s dream and how he intends to go about it. His dream of creating a libertarian utopia and of returning to the 21st Century’s technology.

Love Is Little, The Troubled City, and By Leaps and Bounds form Part II. The little community of Rocheport faces enemies from without and within. Our hero, Bill Arthur, is struggling to hold it all together and to do so faces the ugly reality that he will have to betray a few of his most cherished beliefs.

Nevertheless, in By Leaps and Bounds we begin to see that it does indeed look as though the community has turned a corner and will in fact survive.

Part III comprises Freedom’s Freehold and the soon to be published Take to the Sky. Whereas Part II might be titled “Conflict”, Part III could be called “Hope”. The corner has been turned and Bill Arthur feels confident the people of Rocheport will usher in a new era of peace, freedom, and technological advancement.

While The Rocheport Saga is many things, it is all post-apocalyptic speculation. The series is a realistic attempt, I think, at speculating how civilization might come back from a massive catastrophic event — and come back better than it was before the disaster. Therefore there are no zombies or other monsters in the story. Nor are there aliens from space. This is a human story of human dreams and aspirations.

The Marquis de Sade wrote philosophy in the form of pornography. And pornography was a suitable format for him to present his philosophy.

The post-apocalyptic cozy catastrophe, I found, was the most suitable format for me to express my philosophy and social views. Because, at base, the cozy catastrophe is about building a better world.

Which makes it a vehicle by which the author can criticize the current world in which he or she lives and present a model of how the problems can be solved.

S. Fowler Wright used Deluge and Dawn to portray the legal injustices against the labor class and to challenge certain social assumptions. John Wyndham used The Day of the Triffids to hint at the dangers associated with bio-engineering and to point out the dangers of military weapons orbiting the planet. In Earth Abides, George R Stewart points out how a poor black rural working family would be much more capable of surviving, than a white urban couple in New York City. Pointing out how fragile our urban worlds are. Stewart also pointed out that when push comes to shove, we are all equal by having his white protagonist marry a woman who wasn’t white. All that in a book written in the late ‘40s.

The cozy catastrophe is the perfect vehicle for world building. For creating our utopias. I’m surprised that few writers see this and utilize this form. For in the end, all writers are philosophers. Our books are either our ideal worlds or a graphic picture of what we think is wrong with the current world.

And so, in The Rocheport Saga, I present my version of what utopia would be like. No government. Sovereign and self-responsible individuals. Family centered. Social and intellectual freedom. A place where people follow the Golden Rule, respect each other, and help each other. I think it’s a vision that is very appealing and attainable.

As always, comments are welcome! Let me know your thoughts. And until next time, happy reading!

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The Rocheport Saga


The Rocheport Saga is part philosophy, part family saga, part satire, part libertarian thought, part action/adventure novel, and all post-apocalyptic speculation. It is my contribution to the cozy catastrophe sub-genre of post-apocalyptic fiction.

The story structure is that of one of my favorite forms: the epistolary novel. The story is told by means of diary entries from a man named Bill Arthur, with occasional diary entries from other characters.

Bill’s diary begins eight months after the cataclysm that kills off most of humanity, the event he simply calls “That Day”. The first sentence he writes is “Today I killed a man and a woman.” He follows that sentence with a brief explanation of what life is like in the new world where everyone is faced with a daily struggle to survive and where some do not make it.

Today I killed a man and a woman. I didn’t want to, but I had no choice. It was me or them. This is how it is now. How it has been for not quite eight months. Everyone on his or her own. The quick or the dead. It wasn’t how it used to be, though. We complained about the old days. Now anyone who remains would do anything to return to even the worst of the old days. But they are gone and will not return for a very long time. Maybe never.

The focus in the cozy catastrophe is on building a better world out of the ashes of the old one. And The Rocheport Saga is no different.

There is no focus on and very little discussion of the disaster. It happened. It was horrible. And now we must move on. The milk is spilt. No sense crying over it.

And Bill Arthur doesn’t. His quest is to preserve as much knowledge as possible and bring the Twenty-first Century back on line as soon as possible.

Of course no story, even one that is essentially “plotless”, can survive without conflict, and Bill has plenty of conflict in Rocheport. All the way from the silly and inane to the deadly serious and life threatening.

Next week we’ll take a look at the books published thus far in the series and provide a synopsis of each.

Until then, happy reading!

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Movie Review: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow



This past weekend I watched a dieselpunk cult classic: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I loved it! The 1930s and 40s feel of the cinematography, the cheesy ‘tween war movie dialogue, the Art Deco and Streamline Moderne designs, the fabulous inventions, hero versus evil genius, the terrifying mechanical monsters, and let’s not forget that fabulous spaceship! Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow has it all.

The movie is part noir mystery and part comic book superhero adventure. The film is a blend of the 30s and 40s acting style combined with exquisite modern special effects.

The acting and plot are typical of the old B grade movie. The stuff I grew up with in the 50s and early 60s. And perhaps that’s why I like the movie. It’s all action and adventure. No complicated plot. Simply an evil genius bent on destroying the world and our superhero who has to stop him. There are no complex characters. No one is pouring angst all over the screen. Just action with a romance subplot to keep the personal level interesting. In fact the movie isn’t all that much different from Indiana Jones or Lara Croft. It is pure entertainment. Nothing thought provoking here. Just stuff to get your adrenaline pumping.

If you have no idea what a B grade movie is, then you may think Sky Captain is ridiculous. Clearly some of the reviews I read on Rotten Tomatoes indicated to me the reviewer had no idea what the director was trying to achieve. The movie is a tribute to the movie fare that entertained millions every Saturday afternoon at the theater.

The B grade movie was not much different than the dime novel or the pulp magazine. It was cheap entertainment and movie studios cranked them out by the score.

One very popular theme of the old B movie was that of the knight-errant story from the Middle Ages. It is the story of a knight who embarks on a mission of great importance. The traditional Western is classic knight-errant stuff. A gang of bad guys takes over a town. The lone sheriff comes to the town and cleans it up. Usually by killing the bad guys. The classic movie The Magnificent Seven is the knight-errant trope. And so is Sky Captain. Only he can save the world from impending destruction.

In my opinion, Kerry Conran did an admirable job in recreating the old B movie. All the tropes are there to relive your youth — provided, of course, you’re old enough.

Otherwise, sit back and simply enjoy a Time Machine that takes you back to another world, an older and maybe better world, when a movie ticket cost 50¢ and a bag of popcorn was a quarter.

Two features of the movie I especially loved were the fabulous art deco and streamline moderne designs of the space ship’s exterior and interior and the mechanical monsters. The space ship takes you back to Buck Rogers and the monsters are straight out of the comic books I used to read. Truly fabulous stuff there.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is highly recommended. Definitely five stars.

As always comments are welcome and, until next time, happy reading!

Hindenburg III docking at the Empire State Building
Hindenburg III docking at the Empire State Building
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Day 4 of the Give In To The Feeling Blog Tour

Give in to the feeling - Blog Tour

Today is Day 4 of the Give in the Feeling Blog Tour and I’m pleased to have with us today, Sarah Zama, who is the author of Give in to the Feeling.

You can check out the entire schedule on Sarah’s website The Old Shelter.

I first met Sarah, I believe, on either Goodreads or 8 Sentence Sunday on In either case, I’ve gotten to know her and her wonderful world of Roaring Twenties Chicago. So without further ado, let’s talk with Sarah!

CW: Your story is set in 1926 Chicago. Why pick that year and city?

SZ: Blood’s and Michael’s stories were originally thought to happen in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, but as I researched the time period, I increasingly became fascinated with the 1920s. It was a time of great change in the life of people, but also in their hears and minds. And since the story of my trilogy deals with change and coping with it, I finally decided for a shift in the time period.

As for the city, although every place has an interesting story to tell, as I researched the Prohibition I quickly realized Chicago and New York City were the cities that offered the most in terms of setting. So many things where happening and the two cities (the two biggest in the US) were in the forefront in the changing habits of America.

I finally decided for Chicago because I was fascinated with the ‘city of neighbourhoods’.

CW: You note on your blog you try to make your story as historically accurate as possible but it is also fantasy. What is your definition of fantasy?

SZ:  I said ‘fantasy’, but I could have more accurately said ‘speculation’. Fantasy, for me, is anything that isn’t, but could be. Speculative stories go a bit further than mimic stories may go. They go that extra step that subverts reality in some way or another.

All stories exist to expand on our experience, to let us experience things we are unlikely to ever experience in our life. That’s the whole point of every story. Speculative stories come down harder on us. They subvert reality in a way that exposes what is normally hidden or taken for granted, and with the use of symbols lay meanings in front of us in a way that is more challenging.

Not all readers are comfortable with this kind of manipulation, though. Readers may not understand the symbols, or the subversion, and see only the surface, see a story that has no connection with reality.

In the end, it’s all up to the individual sensibility.

CW: How much of your story is history and how much fantasy?

SZ: With regard to my 1920s stories, most of them are history. Setting, historical events, and societies, I tried to present as close to history as possible. But in these stories, the spirit world exists and mixes with the world we know freely.

CW: As writers of alternative history, we are asking “What if such-and-such did or didn’t happen?” And then we try to answer that question. As readers of alternative history, each of us has a threshold beyond which we can no longer suspend disbelief. Are there any elements in your story where you are pushing the boundaries of fantasy in a historical setting?

Well, my stories can’t be considered alternative history. As I said, I tried to be as faithful to history as possible. But as a reader of alternative history there are lines I have a very hard time crossing.

I think that history always makes sense. We might not like what happened, we might not accept what happened, we might condemned what happened, but there is always a reason why certain things happened. I ask alternative history writers to keep in line with this. Their alternative history has to make sense. There has to be a reason why something, at a certain point, didn’t happen the way it did. And the consequences, the way the alternate history evolves, also have to make sense.

The moment I start questioning the alternate history, I’m out of the story.

CW: What is it about speculative fiction and Dieselpunk in particular that attracts you over say romance or mysteries?

SZ: As I said above, I think this is largely a question of personal liking and affinity. I actually love mysteries… though I would never be able to write them. Romances? Not so much. And there isn’t an intellectual reason for that, I don’t think one genre is better than another, inherently. I do think some genres are better than others for me, because some genres resonate with me while others don’t.

The reason why I love speculative stories is that I think their subversive elements can be used in a very powerful way to question reality as we know it, and so it has huge potentialities for philosophical thinking. Fantasy, SF, Horror stories push elements of our reality to such huge extremes that they naturally cause questioning… if the reader isn’t scared away.

I mean, think of a story like Animal Farm. On the surface, you could say there is nothing realistic about it. But that story was actually depicting a very specific historical moment and contains a universal message of freedom and equality that still speaks to us more than half a century later.

I’ve been a fan of fantasy since I can remember. I’ve been into mythology and legends since I was very little. And I’ve always loved history since I studied it at school. When I was very little, I would watched 1930s and 1940s mystery films on TV with my granny. I suppose all of this fell together when I finally met Dieselpunk. It happen by chance, I just stumbled upon the concept, and I was instantly fascinated. Serendipity, I suppose.

CW: Give in to the Feeling deals with the spirit world. What is it about ghosts that interests you?

SZ: I’m not sure I can answer this. I’ve always been fascinated with the fact that the world we see and touch isn’t all there is. That if we can – and are willing – to go that extra step, we can touch and see a different world.

Maybe this is just a way of symbolizing our connection with our deepest self. I don’t know. What I know is that in my stories, when the spirit world and the real world come together, good things normally happen… although not always in an easy way.

CW: Is your book a “classic” ghost story? Or are ghosts just lurking on the fringe?

SZ: Give in to the Feeling isn’t a ghost story at all. There are spirits in it, but no ghost.

Ghost Trilogy is of course a ghost story. There is only one ghost, but it’s a very important character, central to the story. It is also the catalyst of all the changes, especially inside the characters. Dealing with this ghost forces nearly all characters to look inside themselves and deal with what they find there.

CW: Why did you choose the cover you did for your book? As I recall, you had an Art Deco look as a possibility.

SZ: I commissioned a graphic artist to do the cover. We talked about what I was looking for and what she could actually do for me. The result is a compromise between the two.

CW: What makes the main characters in Give it to the Feeling tick?

SZ: I think it’s the aspiration for something more and better. They are all willing to go that extra step, because they know it will bring good things to them. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always cooperate.

CW: Blood is a rather unusual name for a character. How did he get it?

SZ: A lot of people seem to like Blood’s name, it is very popular among those who have read parts of the story.

It is part of his Lakota name, which is Wewacipi, meaning Blood Dance. There is a story of how Blood received his name, but since this is part of Ghost Trilogy, I’d prefer not to reveal it now.

CW: What is your next writing project?

SZ: I’m still working at Ghost Trilogy. It is completely drafted and the first novel is nearly ready to go. I’ve actually already submitted to agents, which is why I know it is not ready yet… Books Two and Three are still at the second draft stage.

I’m also playing with the idea of a series of stories again set in the 1920s but in Europe. The main character is Ombretta Vivaldi, an Italian folklorist. I created her for a challenge and I became fascinated with her, but her story is still an embryo. So much to plan still.

CW: I remember Ombretta from several snippets you shared on 8 Sentence Sunday. She impressed me as a fascinating character. I hope we get to see her soon. 

What does the future hold for you?

SZ: Success for my stories, of course!

CW: And here’s wishing you lots and lots of success!

You may connect with Sarah at the following:

Contact Info and Links




Social Media:



Biographical Note

A bookseller in Verona (Italy), Sarah Zama has always lived surrounded by books. Always a fantasy reader and writer, she’s recently found her home in the dieselpunk community. Her first book, Give in to the Feeling, comes out in 2016.

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The Wonderful Machine Age – The Autogyro

Technology has been one of the hallmarks setting humans apart from other life forms on this planet. From the primitive flint hand axe to the satellites we don’t even think about that make modern worldwide communication possible, humans have used technology to make up for our physical limitations and to improve where we live and how we live.

Ever since we saw a bird fly, we’ve wanted to do likewise. We dreamed of flight and put it in our myths. We flew in stories long before any human achieved liftoff. Kites and balloons were our baby steps. Then the airship ruled our imaginations. On the eve of World War II fixed-wing, heavier-than-air passenger aircraft crossed the Atlantic. Even if the Hindenburg had not burned, the airship had been rendered obsolete by the Boeing 314 Clipper flying boat in 1939.

The Second World War saw the perfection of the helicopter, the building of the long-range heavy bomber, and the invention of the jet, as well as the invention of the long-range ballistic missile. Suddenly, in 1945, such things as balloons, blimps, and rigid airships seemed nothing more than relics of the past.

The balloon has been relegated to hot-air sightseeing excursions, for the most part. The blimp has been reduced to a novel sightseeing experience or eye-catching advertising. There continues to be talk of lighter-than-air heavy lifters for long-distance cargo hauling, but they continue to remain the stuff of dreams.

However, one of the dinosaurs is making a true comeback. Namely, the autogyro. An autogyro? What’s that? At the risk of oversimplifying, it’s an airplane that uses an unpowered rotor instead of wings to achieve lift.

Juan de la Cierva wanted an airplane that could fly safely at low speed. To accomplish his desire, he invented the autogyro. The first successful flight was on 9 January 1923 in Madrid. Below is a picture of the first Cierva autogyro.


Cierva got his wish. Sustained, lazy low speed flight is what the autogyro excels at. It can’t hover like a helicopter because the rotor is not powered. The rotor relies on the forward movement of the plane to make it spin and provide lift. Despite its inability to hover, the autogyro has a distinct advantage over the helicopter: cost. They are cheaper to buy and cheaper to operate. They also have a big advantage over airplanes in that they need very little runway to take off and virtually none to land. An autogyro can be in the air using no more than 30 to 200 feet of runway. An autogyro can’t stall, like a plane, and doesn’t end up in a tailspin. Cierva was certainly on to something.

Below is a later Cierva autogyro:


So why didn’t the autogyro take off? A couple reasons. Cierva was the main proponent of the autogyro. After all it was his baby. His death in a plane crash in 1936 was a major blow to those promoting the autogyro. The second reason was the helicopter. The principle of the helicopter (which the autogyro also uses) goes back to 400 BC and the Chinese toys that probably most of us played with as kids.


The first successful helicopter, the Bréguet-Dorand Gyroplane Laboratoire, built in 1933, took its first successful flight in 1935. In 1936 and 1937, the Focke-Wulf Fw61 was setting world record after world record and the world forgot Cierva and his autogyro.

Below are pictures of early British autogyros, which were soon eclipsed by the helicopter.

Pitcairn_Autogyro Kay British Autogyro

A good idea tends to stick around and the autogyro is a very good idea. The late ‘70s and early ‘80s saw the birth of the ultralight aviation movement. People wanted more than just hang-gliding. They wanted to fly and they wanted their desire to be affordable. Enter the autogyro, or the gyrocopter as it is often called today. Aside from personal use, many cash-strapped law enforcement departments are turning to the autogyro because it is a cheaper alternative than the helicopter. The autogyro’s ability to stay in the air at very low speed makes it a viable alternative to the helicopter for crowd control, traffic control, and city surveillance. And because today’s autogyro is small, it can easily go where planes and helicopters can’t. Versatility is always a plus.

Here are some modern autogyros. Aren’t they beautiful?

Calidus Gyrocopter AutoGyro_Cavalon Kalithea Gyrocopter Modern Autogyro

Once again an old idea, which some thought obsolete and dead, has made a comeback — thanks to modern technology, brought about by the wonderful machine age.

These autogyros are so cool, I think I’m going to get me one. They have to be better than bucking traffic on a clogged freeway. And weren’t we supposed to have flying cars by now anyway?

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Rand Hart and the Pajama Putsch – Cover and Sample Chapter!

Rand Hart and the Pajama Putsch is now available for pre-order purchase at Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and through the Tolino (Germany’s answer to the Kindle) network.

I’ve already revealed the cover, but I think it so neat I’m going to post it here and following the cover is chapter one. Just to wet your appetite. Enjoy!

Rand Hart 1 web version

Chapter 1: The Job

Thursday, 5 May 1938
On the Hindenburg
Over the Atlantic

Rand Hart looked at four jacks. He couldn’t imagine what the German’s hand was. Certainly the possibility existed the fellow had something better, although the odds were slim. Very slim.

The last round of betting saw the other American fold, some joe from Philadelphia’s high society. Now only Helmut von Osler, the well-known German industrialist, and he remained at the table. The chips in the center represented over five thousand dollars. Hart ran through the probability tables in his mind. He looked at the German. His black suit, blond crewcut, the gold ring on his finger, and the stack of chips in front of him. Hart looked at his own chips.

“I think it’s time, Mr von Osler, we see who’s bluffing.” Hart pushed all of his chips into the pile in the middle of the table. “That’s nine thousand dollars. And I call.”

The German counted his chips. “It seems, Herr Hart, I’m short two thousand. Perhaps I might write a check?”

“That gold ring on your finger. I’ll settle for that.”

The German touched the ring. Was that a pained expression which flitted across his face? He looked at Hart, looked at the cards in his hand, shrugged, pushed his chips into the center of the table, and took the ring off his finger. He held it for a moment, turned it in the light and seemed to be reading what was perhaps an inscription, then placed it amongst the chips.

Von Osler flipped his cards over. “Four eights, mein Herr.”

Hart turned his cards over and said, “Four jacks.”

“Mein Gott im Himmel. You are a very lucky man, Herr Hart.”

“Sometimes, Mr von Osler. Sometimes.”

The German shook his head. “I am done. I have lost enough for one night. Treasure the ring, Herr Hart. It was a gift from the Führer.” The German got up from the table and left.

A steward came and collected the chips. “I’ll take these to the purser, sir.”

“I’d like the money in American dollars.”

“Yes, sir.” The steward left.

Hart looked at the ring. There was a bit of fancy scrollwork and a couple small gems. No inscription. He tried it on several fingers before he found it fit the middle finger of his right hand. He walked to the promenade and looked out the window of the Hindenburg. In a couple hours, the sun would be up. Down below, on the Atlantic, Hart saw the lights of a ship. Otherwise, there were only the stars.

Yes, Hart thought, sometimes he was lucky. This past winter, for example. His time on the Riviera had been profitable. He’d been lucky more often than not. And a good amount of that luck he himself had made. It wasn’t all in the hand one was dealt or the roll of the dice. One also had to know what to do with it. Chemin de fer and backgammon. Those had been his main sources of income. They required thoughtful play. He never visited the roulette table. Luck wasn’t a lady often enough for Hart’s liking. And luck was all there was. Now he was looking forward to going home.

He chuckled at the thought of home. The sound, though, lacked mirth. He had no home. There was just the United States. That was home. And after the years away it would be good to spend a little time among his fellow Americans. Maybe he’d rent a room in a small town and do nothing more than have a beer in the local bar and chat about the weather or the crops. Maybe sit in the village park and feed the birds. He had enough money he could do nothing for a long time. A very long time.

But he knew himself better than that. No sense spending all his money. Maybe enjoy the summer in Ohio. Get a beach house on Lake Erie. Catawba Island or Put-In-Bay. Then, if Archie would have him, spend the winter in California. Come spring, take the train to Miami and pickup where he’d left off. The Brazilian Clipper to Rio, the Graf Zeppelin to Europe, and the Hindenburg back to America. The same as he’d done for the past few years.

The best gambling was in Europe. He could also get in a decent game or two on the Hindenburg or Graf. Like the one he’d just won. Always helps when several wealthy industrialists want to lose a little money. Little to them, that is. Of course, one wonders when they cheat. Hart shrugged. People are people and even wealthy industrialists are, at the end of the day, people. You just have to get a little more creative than they are.

He walked over to the stairs and went down to B deck. His cabin was on the lower deck, but he decided to stop in at the bar and smoking lounge instead. He went through the pressurized airlock. Four other passengers were in the lounge having a smoke. Hart took a seat by himself and set on the table a cigarette paper and a package of Briggs Pipe Mixture. He put tobacco in the paper and rolled a cigarette. When finished, he put it between his lips and lit it.

Yes, he thought, it would be good to get home. Be good to enjoy his winnings. Enjoy some time doing nothing. Nothing in particular.


Hart was roused from sleep by someone knocking on his cabin door. He got out of bed, went to the door, and called out, “Yes? What is it?”

“A message for you, sir.”

Hart slipped on a robe over his pajamas and opened the door. The steward handed him an envelope.

“Just a minute.” Hart rummaged through a drawer and gave the man a dollar.

“Thank you, sir.”

“You’re welcome.” Hart closed the door, sat on his bed, and opened the envelope. The note inside, written in a large hand with a double-broad nib, read:

Dear Herr Hart,

Please do me the honor of meeting with me at your earliest convenience in the dining area promenade.

Respectfully yours,

von Osler

Hart tossed the note and envelope into the wastebasket. “Wonder what the hell he wants?” he said to the mirror and then gazed at the ring on his right hand.

With a perturbed look on his face, Hart gathered his clothes and shaving kit and went to the shower. A man was just coming out. Hart nodded his head in greeting. The man did likewise. Hart entered what amounted to a little closet. He turned on the water. The temperature was good. The pressure, abysmal. He lathered up and rinsed off, singing “Amor ti vieta” from the opera Fedora by Giordano.

When done, Hart toweled himself dry, shaved, and dressed. The only downside to flying on the Hindenburg was the low water pressure of the shower. Then again, it did have a shower.

Dressed in a navy suit, white shirt, repp tie, Hart made his way to the promenade by the dining area. Breakfast was over and the dining tables themselves were empty. A few people were sitting on the seats by the windows. Most were probably over on the starboard promenade and in the lounge. Or the bar and smoking room.

He spied the German sitting in the far corner on one of the window seats and walked towards him. Von Osler stood and smiled. The smile seemed genuine enough. Perhaps the guy just wanted company. Upon reaching the industrialist, Hart shook hands with him, and the German indicated they should take a table in the dining area. They walked the short distance to the entrance through the low wall. Von Osler, in the lead, headed towards a table in the far corner. Hart frowned. He had the feeling this was not going to be a casual talk and he hadn’t even had a cigarette yet this morning. Standing at the table, von Osler indicated Hart should sit and he did so. The German took the seat opposite.

“I am pleased, Herr Hart, you decided to meet with me.”

“What’s on your mind, Mr von Osler?”

“I have a small job for you.”

Hart’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of job?”

“I want you to deliver a package.”

“What kind of package?”

The German took a small box out of his suit coat pocket, put it on the table, and said, “This.” It was about the size of a deck of cards, brown, wrapped with a brown ribbon, and appeared to be made of cardboard.

Hart reached for the box and was stopped by von Osler, who put his hand over it.

“I need this box in the hands of a certain person in Rio de Janeiro by noon on the eleventh of May. I will give you twenty-five thousand deutsche marks now and the person to whom you give this box — unopened — will give you another twenty-five thousand.”

Hart thought a moment. “That’s around twenty thousand dollars. Twenty Gs just to deliver a box?”


“What’s in it?”

“It is best if you not know, Herr Hart.”

“Okay, then why me?”

“Because I like your luck.”

“Sometimes I’m lucky.”

The German paused, as if searching for the words to say, then spoke, “You are a very creative poker player. I like and reward creativity.”

Hart looked him in the eyes. “You’re not so bad in the creativity department yourself.”

Von Osler smiled. “You see, Herr Hart, we already have the start for a good working relationship. We understand creativity.”

“And why would I need to be creative?”

“You might not have the need. Then again…” Von Osler shrugged. “Luck. She is not always the lady. No?”

“True enough. So you’re telling me I might need to get a little creative in getting this box to the ‘certain person’.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. I would say the odds are in your favor this delivery will be quite routine.”

“Only if Luck decides to be a lady.”

“As you say, Herr Hart.”

“Deliver the box and get a total of fifty thousand deutsche marks.”


“That’s a lot of money. Even for you, I bet. Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to turn down my offer.”

Hart looked out the window. The Hindenburg was a couple hours away from Lakehurst. The ocean was giving way to the New Jersey shoreline. These occasional odd jobs were nothing new. They helped for those times when even skill and creativity could not overcome one of Fortuna’s frowning spells. Most were very routine and this one sounded easy enough. There was a ship steaming west. Probably heading for the harbor in New York and maybe home.

“Must be something pretty big in that little box,” Hart said.

Von Osler picked it up and turned it over in his hand. A smile touched his lips. “Let us say history is inside.”

Hart looked at von Osler. “History, huh? I suppose I have to pay my own airfare.”

“You will agree to deliver my package?”

“Why don’t you just deliver it yourself? Or have some errand boy from your company drop it off?”

“It is best if my company is not involved in the transaction. Nor do we want the German government implicated in any direct involvement.”

Hart’s eyes bored into the German. “So this isn’t as innocuous as you make it sound.”

It was von Osler’s turn to look out the window. “Herr Hart, you are a simple man. Even, let us say, an invisible man. Yes?”

“I have no notoriety, if that is what you mean.”

Von Osler looked at Hart. “Precisely. That is what I mean. And you are skilled, creative, and lucky. You are exactly the person I was looking for. In point of fact, we’ve been watching you for some time. If this delivery goes well, we may have more work for you in the future.”

“Really? You’re turning me into one damn expensive delivery boy.”

Von Osler shrugged. “That is my business. So, Herr Hart, if the airfare is going to be an issue, I will add another three thousand deutsche marks to cover tickets and expenses. Will you accept my little delivery job?”

“If I don’t?”

“I have a person who will make the delivery. But…” Von Osler shrugged. “He is not as skilled, creative, or lucky as you are. With you…? Let us say it is like having four jacks instead of four eights.”

Hart turned his gaze towards the window and the ocean beyond. He’d been hoping to spend some time at home enjoying his money. And after last night, plus his winnings in Europe, he had quite a bit to enjoy. Now, however, fifty-three thousand deutsche marks were staring him in the face. And just to deliver a little box. By noon on the eleventh. He wouldn’t have much time. Probably have to catch a red eye out of La Guardia or Floyd Bennett tonight for Miami and then a three day flight on a Pan Am clipper. He pursed his lips. If he was lucky, he might be able to get in some poker or backgammon on the Miami to Rio flight and sweeten the job even more. There were usually at least a few high rollers making the trip. It wasn’t every day he got the chance to make this much money from a simple delivery. Once he got back to the States, there’d be plenty of time to enjoy his great big pile of cash.

Hart turned his attention back to the German. “Five thousand for tickets and expenses.”

Von Osler considered for a moment and then agreed. “Fifty-five thousand to ‘run my errand’ I believe you Americans say.”

“We say that.”

Hart looked out the window of the giant airship. The sky was blue with a big old cumulus cloud drifting along. The ocean was calm, placid even.

“Okay, Mr von Osler. I’ll do it.”

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8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #39

Last Sunday we began Chapter 2 of Rand Hart and the Pajama Putsch. Having received a few comments with suggested improvements, I rewrote the section posted last week and include it today for comparison. Today’s 8 sentences start after “Flamingo Palace”.

I intend to publish the novella October 16th. Here is last week’s revised snippet and today’s:

When Hart checked at the ticket counter in Miami, he discovered the Pan Am flight he wanted didn’t take off until eight the next morning. He bought a ticket for one of the five remaining seats and then left the terminal to find a cab. Two were waiting. The drivers standing on the curb by their vehicles. A big, white General sedan and a brand new, elegant, if old-fashioned, Checker. Hart picked the Checker.

“Where to, Pal?”

“The hotel closest to the Pan Am seaplane terminal.”

“Can do.”

The cabbie took Hart’s suitcase and put it in the trunk, while Hart got in the back seat. The cabbie got behind the wheel and the cab was rolling.

Within minutes, Hart found himself, suitcase in hand, standing before the entrance to The Mango House Hotel. The place was a three story stucco building painted a hideous shade of pink. Hart thought a moment and decided he’d never seen a mango that color and wondered why the owners hadn’t called the place the Flamingo Palace. Oh, well. As long as the bed was comfortable and the water hot, it probably didn’t matter what the name or the color was.

He walked in and requested a room. The clerk told him they had one and, after Hart signed for it, gave him the key. Room 305.

“Any place close by I can get a meal and something to drink?” Hart asked.

“The Highball, three doors down is a decent bar and at the corner,” the clerk pointed in the opposite direction, “Jimmy’s is a good place to get a meal.”

“Thanks,” Hart replied and took the stairs to his room. He wasn’t overly fond of elevators.

To be continued!

If you write or read Dieselpunk, join in the fun: 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.

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8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #38

Two Sundays ago I concluded Chapter One of Rand Hart and the Pajama Putsch. The chapter has gone through a few edits since its revelation in all of those 8 sentence snippets. The novella will come out the 9th or 16th of October and will have had the benefit of several pairs of eyes and an out loud read.

For today, I thought I’d continue on with Chapter Two. And so without further ado, here are the first 8 sentences from “Chapter Two: Milly” of Rand Hart and the Pajama Putsch.

When Hart checked at the ticket counter in Miami, he discovered the Pan Am flight he wanted didn’t take off until eight the next morning. He bought a ticket for one of the five remaining seats and then left the terminal to find a cab. Two were waiting. He picked one and, after the cabbie put his suitcase in the trunk, told the fellow to take him to the nearest hotel by the Pan Am seaplane terminal. The cabbie informed him he could do that and off they went.

Within minutes, Hart found himself, suitcase in hand, standing before the entrance to The Mango House Hotel. The place was a three story stucco building painted a hideous shade of pink. Hart thought a moment and decided he’d never seen a mango that color and wondered why the owners hadn’t called the place the Flamingo Palace.

To be continued!

If you write or read Dieselpunk, join in the fun: 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.

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Moving Into Autumn

It’s mid-September, which means autumn is underway in Minnesota. The summer heat and humidity has pretty much left us. Temps have cooled down and we’re waiting for the leaves to change.

My summer has been very busy. My pencil and keyboard are never quiet. I thought I’d give you all a peek into what I’ve been up to and what will be coming out in virtual and actual print in the coming months.

The Rocheport Saga

My post-apocalyptic steam-powered future series, The Rocheport Saga, is moving right along. The Troubled City, Book #4, is in the final proofread. I should publish it by the end of September. Once it’s published, I’ll begin editing Book #5.

Love is Little (The Rocheport Saga #3) and The Troubled City should be out in paperback by the end of the year.

Justinia Wright and Cozies

I love mysteries, but I’m fussy at the same time. I like private eye mysteries, preferably told by the ‘Watson’ character. I’m currently reading the Bertha Cool/Donald Lam series by Earl Stanley Gardner, written under the pen name of AA Fair, and the Sharon McCone series by Marsha Muller. Both are very good.

What I like most about mysteries, isn’t the puzzle — it’s the characters. So my mysteries are heavy on the lives of the characters and what I call puzzle lite.

My own private detective, Justinia Wright, has new cases cooking. The novel, But Jesus Never Wept, will hopefully see publication in October. I’m in the middle of typing it and doing the initial edit. I’ve also written two short stories which feature cases predating Festival of Death, the first Justinia Wright novel. These I’ll publish in October. And I’ve started on Justinia Wright #4.

I’m hoping to have the Justinia Wright series available in paperback early next year.

I don’t like cozies. At least generally speaking. Clerical sleuths, like Father Brown, are an exception. Having written that, the Muse gave me a cozy character and setting. Now what on earth am I going to do with that? Write the story, of course.

So in addition to working on the fourth Justinia Wright novel, I’m working on a cozy. I’m not sure how the cozy will turn out. So I’m not saying much about it at this point.

Rand Hart

On this blog and on 8 Sentence Sunday on, I’ve been serializing the first chapter of my dieselpunk adventure novella featuring a new character, Rand Hart. Rand Hart and the Pajama Putsch is with the beta readers and I’m looking to publish it in October.

I’m always puzzled when people ask me where do my ideas come from. Where do I find things to write about. I’m puzzled by these questions because stories are everywhere. One just needs to look. Everyone’s day to day interactions are stories waiting to be told.

Rand Hart is actually a take off of another character I created years ago and who is still in the drawer. I like dieselpunk and thought a gambler set in a dieselpunk world would be interesting. And so Rand Hart came into being. A retro version of my original character.

So where’s the story? The year is 1938 in the story. I started looking online for interesting events that happened in 1938 and stumbled on the May Pajama Putsch in Brazil where the Integralists tried to topple the government of Getúlio Vargas. Add the fact that a beautiful Brazilian movie star was involved and this was a perfect setting for a story.

Finding a story isn’t hard. What’s hard is finding the time to write all the stories.

Forget the Zombie Apocalypse

I’m not a fan of zombies. I think them ridiculous. I do, however, like post-apocalyptic novels; in particular, the cozy catastrophe kind. Okay, so the world as we knew it came to an end. Now what? It’s the ‘now what’ that I’m interested in. What happens after?

The sci-fi classic Earth Abides by George R Stewart was my first foray into the cozy catastrophe. I didn’t even know they were called that until recently. Other classics are When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide by Wylie and Balmer, The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, and the TV series Survivors created by Terry Nation. There are more, of course, and many are worth reading.

The Rocheport Saga is a cozy catastrophe. And who can write just one? A year ago I wrote a novella with some thought of it being the initial installment in a series. The series hasn’t yet materialized. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to go ahead and publish the novella. Look for Magdalena’s Tale sometime in November or December.

Lady Dru

Lady Dru fans needn’t despair. I haven’t forgotten you. Our intrepid reporter has some new adventures cooking. I’m thinking next year we’ll see at least two new tales From the Files of Lady Dru Drummond. We’ll also see more retro-futurism appear in the stories.

I was born in the ‘50s and I remember some of the wonderful things predicted for us back then. And, yes, I’m still waiting for my flying car.

Odds and Ends

Also coming down the publishing pipeline will be a vampire short story and a Cthulhu mythos story. Maybe December for those. As well as a couple other short stories of the macabre.

In addition, I’m trying to get all of my books uploaded to Draft 2 Digital which will make them available on Kobo, iTunes, Nook, Oyster, and Scribd, as well as the 17 vendors for those who have Tolino, Germany’s answer to the Kindle.

My psychological/supernatural horror novella, Do One Thing For Me, is now live on iTunes, Kobo, Nook, and Oyster.

I’m loving retirement. At long last I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do. We spend so much time doing things that are not important to obtaining our heart’s desire. We live sidetracked lives.

Simple living naturalist guru John Burroughs wrote we need to live lives that matter. The question is matter to whom? I think our lives must matter to ourselves first and foremost. If my life doesn’t matter to me, it sure as heck isn’t going to matter to anyone else.

I think writing is fun. But it isn’t all play. Every writer, whether he or she realizes it, is presenting his or her view of life, his or her world view. Writing is philosophy, whether we realize it or not. At base, my books are about people who must deal with life and who come away with some sense of how they are going to continue living so that, at the very least, their lives matter to them. And hopefully others.

Is that any different than what we should be doing?

May your autumn or your spring, for those of you on the other side of our wonderful world, be a fabulous one. Make the most of your day. For each one only comes once.

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8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #37

Last week we stopped in the middle of Rand Hart’s rumination over von Osler’s offer of a sweet pile of deutsche marks to make a simple delivery. Today we continue his ruminations and finish the chapter. It’s quite a bit over 8 sentences, however I just couldn’t see dragging out the scene for one more Sunday and post a mere 6 sentences next week. I hope y’all don’t mind. 🙂

He pursed his lips. If he was lucky, he might be able to get in some poker or backgammon on the Miami to Rio flight and sweeten the job even more. There were usually at least a few high rollers making the trip. It wasn’t every day he got the chance to make this much money from a simple delivery. Once he got back to the States, there’d be plenty of time to enjoy his great big pile of cash.

Hart turned his attention back to the German. “Five thousand for tickets and expenses.”

Von Osler considered for a moment and then agreed. “Fifty-five thousand to ‘run my errand’ I believe you Americans say.”

“We say that.”

Hart looked out the window of the giant airship. The sky was blue with a big old cumulus cloud drifting along. The ocean was calm, placid even.

“Okay, Mr von Osler. I’ll do it.”

This brings chapter one of Rand Hart to an end. I’ve finished the story and am now in the process of editing and at present it is with the beta readers. The tale is a 21,000 word novella. At present. I’m hoping to publish in October.

If you write or read Dieselpunk, join in the fun: 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.

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