Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hellfire Past from Hellfire Pass

During the British Colonial period, there was discussion of working with the government of what we now know as Thailand to create a railroad that connected the major tracks already in existence, allowing for faster travel across  to what was then Burma. These plans were abandoned, however, when the terrain was surveyed and the cost was realized.

 Fast Forward to WWII, and the Japanese have now taken much of the surrounding areas, including the adjacent railroads that they too would like to connect. They see something to make it more cost effective, however, that the British had not considered using: POW and Slave labor. The results were what is now known as the Burma Death Railway.

Given that few Americans were put to work in this area, it is a chapter of world history I knew little about from my U.S. education. This changed when I travelled to Thailand in December of 2014 and was able to tour many of the areas around Kanchanaburi. Aside from the memorials and museums dedicated to that dark period, I was able to hike a specific section of the brutal railway path that came to be known as Hellfire Pass.

The details of that chapter of history were brutal and tragic. Allied POWs as well as conscripted labor from all across Asia were subjected to brutality and misery on a scale that is hard to imagine. Standing in the pass that had come to symbolize the railway to many, staring at the sharp rocks that workers were forced to traverse barefoot, looking at the places where large chunks of a mountainside were hand chiseled away by workers over the course of 18hr days while living on 600 calories of rice and sometimes rotten meat... it was an experience I will not soon forget.

The experience inspired the short story that I am publishing today. It is a bit darker than some of my other stories, as befitting the history that inspired it. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it inspires at least some of you to learn more about these events. Like so much of our past, we cannot change it, but we can learn from it in hopes that we avoid repeating anything like it in the future.

Hellfire Past is available today on Amazon and Smashwords. It will be available on all other e-book sellers this week. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Greater Spirits Sample Chapter

Hello Folks,

    Book 3 is moving slowly but surely along. It will still be a while before I can tell you when to expect it, but since many of you have been kind enough to tell me how much you're looking forward to it, I thought I would share a chapter. It goes with out saying that, if you've not completed The Glacier of Gods and Monsters, there be spoilers ahead. You have been warned!

Jacob shook his head, trying to wrap his mind around everything he was hearing.  He wasn’t sure it would be possible to do so. “This is fucking insane, you know that, right?”

“Aye mate. I know how this sounds.”

Jacob didn’t remember anything from the time that the funky warrior in the mini-skirt had challenged him. One minute he was charging the dude, the next he was standing in some tropical hut that apparently only existed in Jack’s mind.
Oh, and Jack was apparently now the god of this bizarre land, and had used that power to rescue Jacob from whatever oblivion these ancient souls had consigned him to.
“So, you’re Hades now. You’ve got all the power. What do you need me to
 do this for?”

Jack shook his head. “I’ve got a lot of power, aye, tis true. But not all of it lad. Not by a long shot.” Jack waved his hand, creating a window that opened directly to a secluded beach where the waves were crashing violently on the shore. “These blokes, they were smart. Now that I’m on top, I can see how everything works. They aren’t actually bound to me. They’re bound to the helm I wear.  The distinction is important.”

“So you only get the power while wearing it?”

“Aye. But that’s not the issue. The issue is that the line of connection to the object means that any member of the council can break their bond at any time they wish. They do that, and all of the souls bound through them get yanked from my control.”

“Can’t you just order them not to?”

Jack shrugged. “Not everyone at once. Might could get one or two before the others figured it out and revolted. Then we’d be stuck with a war I don’t think we could win.”

Jacob stared out over the ocean for a bit himself, trying to take more of this in. “So instead you want me to start a war you don’t know if you can win.”

“Better odds.” Jack noted with a shrug. “If there’s anything I noted when I was alive, it was that people could be made to do most anything if they were scared enough. And with centuries of warfare in their recent memories, fear of ‘the other’ is ripe. It won’t take much to play up that fear to the point where even a minor misunderstanding will escalate.”

“But why would you want to do that, man? You know how many people would die if this thing went full on battle again?”

“They’re already dead, Jacob..”

“So am I, man, doesn’t mean I want to…”

Jack cut him off with a wave. “How much art have you seen since we got here, Jacob?”

The large black man considered for a moment. “None that I can think of. But I haven’t exactly been looking.”

“Well, I have. Much more so since taking the helm. There’s none.”

“Well, that’s a bit weird but…”

“No songs. No advances in technology. Hell, even though they’ve gotten some knowledge from a hand full of souls that have been banished over here, there’s no bloody advancements what so ever. These souls, they’re stagnate, Jacob. A bloody pool of dead River stuff that cannot change. Even with me in charge, it’s bloody unlikely that I could do much but make small alterations.”

“So your plan’s to kill everyone?”

“If it takes that, yes.” Jack turned back and looked his friend in the eye. Jacob noted a gleam of seriousness he rarely saw, along with a tinge of something else… madness? “Listen lad. I know this sounds crazy. But you’ll have to trust me on this. There’s a chance I can get us home. If so, then all of these fair folks can be returned to the River, to be recycled as they should have been millennia ago. But I can’t do that without a lot more power than we have. “

Jack turned back from the window and sat down on the edge of the bed, looking more exhausted than Jacob had seen him in a long time. “Trust me, lad. I’ve looked at this from many angles. I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought there was another way. But there’s not. We do nothing and we’re trapped here, like these souls are, till we all thin out so much that we’re nothing but bloody automatons going through daily motions with no idea why we’re doing it.”

Jack sighed, a tinge of sadness entering his voice. “Many of the souls here have already reached that point.  They’re just bloody shells, mate. There’s no true life left in them. No dancing. No singing. It’s all just a routine, most of which is set forth by the council to keep people going from one day to the next. Oblivion would be a blessing for them next to this.”

Jacob shook his head. “I don’t know man. Seems unfair, us playing god and all.”

“There’s no playing, Jacob. I am bloody god here. But there’s a reason they gave me the guise of Hades. I’m not the god of life. I’m the god of death. I can’t do anything to bring joy to these souls. But I can end their misery. I can end their suffering. And maybe, just maybe, by doing so I can truly free us all.”