Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Before I get to my latest Oil Gypsy post I must tell you about all my promotions for my novel Deadly Enterprise.

I have blog interviews up at Rachael Byrd’s site www.xanga.com/rachaelbyrd as well as on Novelspot at http://novelspot.net/node/1733 .
Actually my Novelspot interview is on the front page right now. I did have another but I’m going to have to send a note to the blog owner to find out the link to it.

I am on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=668091003 and I’m in the process of getting Gisel a page there. (I will need to get a gadget to connect my old laptop to my cable modem, so I can use a different computer for her. The site doesn’t believe me if I try to log on as her with the same computer I’m on.)

I’ve joined some more Internet sites to meet readers and others in the writing trade.
Both myself http://profile.myspace.com/198285372 and my main protagonist (Gisel http://profile.myspace.com/215889756 ) are on Myspace.

I’m on Book Place http://morganmandelbooks.ning.com/profile/w1r2i3t4e5r6 ;
Alternate Realities http://alreal.ning.com/profile/w1r2i3t4e5r6 ;
Nothing Binding http://www.nothingbinding.com/node/460 ;
Double Dragons’ Yahoo Group
http://ca.groups.yahoo.com/group/DoubleDragonPublishing_MeetTheAuthors/ ;
Zumaya Publications http://zumayapublications.ning.com/profile/w1r2i3t4e5r6 ;
Xanga http://www.xanga.com/private/yourhome.aspx ;
Bebo http://www.bebo.com/Chriskander ; and
Shelfari http://www.shelfari.com/Chriskander .

The last two are giving a few problems as I’m still sorting out how to make my site display Deadly Enterprise. Scratch that last, as I just received another helpful note from Lupita at Bebo’s customer service which has solved the problem. Still waiting to hear from Shelfari.

Mustn’t forget my original blogsite http://www.serial-adventure-fiction.blogspot.com and my website http://www.christopherhoare.ca The website isn’t updated yet, so I’m posting my news and promotions on the blog – as well as the Oil Gypsy excerpts, like the one following.

I can also be found on the Muse Book Reviews http://themusebookreviews.tripod.com/ , where I can be contacted to review your speculative fiction novel.

Whew! You can see I’ve been busy.


More from Oil Gypsy:

The PM of the Night Drive to Gialo got me into other troubles as well. The areas we often worked in had been fought over by the British, Germans, and Italians just 25 years before during the Second World War. One of my jobs as the surveyor who laid out the lines for others to follow was to watch out for mines and unexploded ordnance.

Our oil company client had provided a mine clearance crew when we worked farther north, but didn’t consider this area dangerous enough to warrant the expense. We were working in the area where the British Long Range Desert Group used to slip past the fighting formations to spy in the rear, and they sometimes tangled with the Luftwaffe or the Regia Aeronautica on their journeys.

We had found some wreckage from the war on previous jobs, a blown up LRDG truck, a crashed Sparviero, and the back half of a three tonner that we’d turned into a generator trailer. We also found unexploded bombs that the Italian bombers had dropped on fleeing trucks. We could have written a quality control report of the Italian munitions factories, because we generally found three craters to every unexploded bomb – a 25% failure rate. But these bombs were still live and dangerous if you messed with them.

We were lucky enough to have Luigi working on our crew. He had formerly operated his own mine clearance contract company around Tobruk and El Adem – places where several battles had been fought and three armies had buried mines and forgotten where they were. He and I worked out a routine to blow up any unexploded bombs that I found.

The book method was to use an explosive charge and a very long firing line. A quarter of a mile is a bit too close unless you can get under cover. We operated a vibroseis crew and had no explosives, caps, or firing line – so Luigi improvised.

I was designated driver, while he did the bomb end. I just had to park the Land Rover close enough to the bomb and with a clear route to get away when the time came, making sure the motor was idling smoothly and not likely to quit when we most needed it. He would clear a space around the bomb, cover it with charcoal, pour gas over it and make a gasoline trail to the passenger door of the Land Rover. When everything had been put away and the coast seemed clear he would drop a lighted match onto the trail and shout, “Let’s go, God Almighty!”

And I would drive away as fast as the terrain would permit until we reached a vantage point about a mile away where we’d sit and watch for the explosion. When the fire heated the bomb casing enough, the explosive would go off. It might take fifteen minutes or three times that, we just never knew.

And a mile away wasn’t always far enough. One day we both ducked when a piece of shrapnel whistled past, then sat up sheepishly. It’s too late to duck when you hear it – it could have already hit you.

On this particular occasion I discovered a bomb on the line the day Luigi went out on the plane for a week off. PM said, “Not to worry. I’ll come along to help you blow it.”

Firstly, he decided to drive and when we got to the bomb parked us the wrong way around facing a pile of rocks. Then he got out and walked to the bomb. Now wasn’t the time for Introductory Bomb Disposal, lesson one, but that’s what he expected. I think he listened to half of what I told him.

Next he bent down to scoop enough sand away from the bomb that we had enough exposed metal to pile our charcoal over. His hands were shaking so much that I had to do the scooping. I became concerned he might frighten the bomb. I left him with the charcoal and gas can, saying, “Don’t light anything until I’ve moved the Land Rover into the right position and we’re ready to go.”

He might have heard.

I maneuvered the Land Rover into the position we needed for a quick getaway, and then began reversing to get closer. I looked out the back window to see our fire over the bomb blazing merrily and PM hoofing it toward me with the gas can in one hand and a face like the target of a firing squad. I stomped on both pedals – brake and clutch – before running him over. He flung open the back door and tossed the gas can inside. “Let’s get out of here!”

He dived in through the passenger door and I revved and lifted the clutch before he’d finished closing it. We zoomed into motion – backwards toward the bomb. In all the excitement I hadn’t shifted out of reverse.

I stomped both feet on the pedals again. Grabbed the gear shift and muscled it from reverse to first gear. There was a strange limp feeling as the lever came off in my hand. PM stared – his eyes grew as round as saucers. He dived for the door handle to run for it. I revved the motor one more time and tried the clutch.

We lurched forward. Yep – the forks had gone into first gear before the lever broke off. You would never believe how fast a Land Rover can go in first gear – with a bomb behind it, anyway.
We buzzed away over the rocks and loose sand like a frantic chainsaw. I drove away up the hill to a vantage point – and passed another unexploded bomb sticking out of the ground as we went. I asked PM if he’d like to destroy this one as well, but he elected to wait for Luigi to come back.

That wasn’t the end of the story. It flew all around the desert and towns until I’m sure everyone in the country heard about the two idiots and the bomb. I had guys tell the story to me when I was in town. I found the variety of outcomes in these stories astounding. In some versions the bomb blew up under the Land Rover and killed them. In others it only pitched the vehicle onto its roof and they climbed out unhurt. In fact I think I heard every variation except the actual account what had happened.

I even ventured to correct some of these raconteurs with the eye-witness story, but nobody was ever impressed. They much preferred their own versions.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


The link to the novel’s page on Double Dragon Publishing is http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-466-9

The cover shows the protagonist firing at an enemy off-scene – a striking action that should attract the attention of browsers. I wrote a new blurb for the back cover and the web page and will paste it here.

Gisel Matah is the Iskanders’ top agent, but often her commanders' chief pain in the neck. Sometimes passionate, sometimes tough, sometimes acerbic, she's clever and always ready to twist their intentions to meet circumstances as she sees them.

Escorting young Yohan Felger across a haunt of outlaws to an enemy city was already a daunting task, but when her commanders changed her mission to include sounding out the leaders to switch sides it became a Deadly Enterprise.

On Gaia, an alternate Earth, the crew of the lost starship Iskander find themselves working for and against the inhabitants of a different 17th Century Europe. Building themselves a place in this world by promoting social change and an Industrial Revolution, they become enemies of the Trigons – also marooned star travelers, who now rule the Empire. But an enemy can be defeated with humanity when the person in charge is a rebel at heart.

And now on to the second half of the oilpatch story I posted last week.

Continuation of night drive to Gialo.

The oilfield warehouse was silent and in darkness when we arrived. No idiots here driving around the desert in the dead of night. It consisted of large hangar-like sheds, metal warehouse buildings, and a trailer park of sleeping quarters. We banged on doors until we woke up enough people that one could tell us where our guy was.

"He's not here. The plane landed at the Amoseas strip and they left him there."

Great. The Amoseas strip was closer to our camp, but in the other direction.

Our informant hadn't finished. "We'll divert our plane there in the morning and ferry him over to you."

How fortunate. They couldn't ferry us and the Powerwagon at the same time? Not possible. PM pronounced the verdict. "We'll have to drive back in time for work in the morning. Can't have them wasting any time wondering where we are."

Hell no. Wouldn't want to waste anyone's time.

I made sure I drove, not wanting to tangle with those oases again in the dark. It should be possible to make a wide swing around to the east and north so I could miss them entirely. No tracks to follow. We carried no map, other than the vague one in my head. And since I could only guess where we were in the darkness, I'd need a sixth sense.

Not to worry, the desert between Gicherra and camp had water closer to the surface and was quite distinctive with clumps of bush and the occasional palm trees. The desert I was intending to travel on was nothing but a bare gravel plain. If I could make a wide circle to get into the vegetated area we should be able to see the lights on the top of our camp radio antenna – set there to guide travelers at night.

First I drove northeast along a firm gravel ridge, bowling along at a good 80kph – great going for the desert. After driving for a while we could see the occasional house light from the oasis to our left – our western horizon if it had been morning and we could see one. Fine – exactly on course. Keep going like this for another half an hour.

When PM thought he'd like to take a turn at driving we'd left these lights far behind. We stopped to change places and looked about us. Nothing – pitch black in every direction. PM didn't like it – nothing like the city – but that was exactly what I'd intended. There were a good display of lights above – I pointed out the Pole Star and said we should follow it for half an hour.

We motored away, following the star, shy of a third to make us wise men, while I tried to plot dead reckoning maps in my head. The tricky part was to judge when we were clear of Gicherra and could turn west. We were just getting close to my guess for that point when PM spotted another light to the north of us.

A few rolling hills were next, and from the top of one I saw the new light as well. It wasn't in the sky – it was a camp light on the top of a radio antenna.

PM was jubilant. All his suspicions that I was a jackass who had got us both lost in the trackless wastes of the Libyan Desert evaporated. "There's our camp. You hit it right on the nose!"

It was nice of him to be so kind after all the night's bickering, but the more I saw of the light the more certain I was it couldn't be our camp. Not unless it had come loose of the ground a drifted tens of miles to the east in the night. But there was no way I could shake PM's pursuit of the beckoning light once he had it in his eyes. He wouldn't listen to any more of my navigating.

"Even if it's not our camp," he said after more of my argument. "They'll be able to tell us where we are."

Yeah – in the wrong place.

The terrain changed under our wheels again. We had left the firm gravel behind and this was getting more and more sandy, harder going that meant we had to grind along in third gear. The smooth gravel plain gave way to successions of rolling hills where we swooped up and down from one to the next.

I sat there puzzling where these rolling hills could be. I'd never seen this area before. Every time we swooped down into a valley PM lost sight of his light, and worried about it until he found it from the top of the next crest.

"I don't think we're getting any closer," I said at one of these summits. We could have spotted that camp light from a hundred miles away in the clear desert air.

In one wider valley we lost sight of PM's light for several miles. He speeded up as much as he could in the softer sand – maybe to catch it before it could wink out. Then our headlights – those insignificant glimmers before halogen lights – picked out a huge ghostly wall before us. The slip face of a sand dune about a hundred feet high. PM swung left to try to go around it and we dived off a smaller dune in the darkness. PM was not about to stop – he circled around inside a ring of sand dunes like a bug running in a tin plate. Every time he tried to turn north another dune thwarted him.

This could get dangerous. Flying off the side of a dune in the dark was not my idea of a ride, but the more frustrated PM got, the faster he drove.

"Hold it! Hold it!" I finally shouted loud enough for him to listen. "We don't need to reach that camp to find out where we are. We're in the Sand Sea of Calascano – it stretches all the way to Egypt – and if we have an accident here they'll never find us. We are too far off route."

The last got to him and he stopped. "What should we do?"

"We have to stay put until daylight. No way we can find a way out in the dark."

"Can you find a way out?"

"Sure. When I'm sure I'm not going to pitch off the side of a dune upside down"

So we hunkered down in the cab – tired enough we both slept until first light. In the growing daylight we found we were between two great chains of sand dunes stretching north and south around us. The camp whose light we had chased for miles was most likely outside the Sand Sea to the north. I took over driving and headed back south. After a few miles I found a gap between two dunes to our west that I could drive through and escape.

I continued going west, the countryside becoming flatter and rockier with the occasional palm tree and clump of brush. By dawn I found the road out of Gicherra stretched across in front of us and turned to follow it.

We arrived at camp just after the crew'd finished breakfast. The mechanics had just loaded up their Powerwagon to come and look for us.

It's always a blow to the pride if you get lost, and the natural reaction is to get angrier and go faster. But the rescue party will have a hell of a job if you're off the route they expect you to follow. Best to stop, and stay with your vehicle if you don't know which way to go. It's a lot bigger and easier to spot from the air than you are on foot.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Deadly Enterprise will be released next week.

Resuming my promotion activity I decided to post some oilpatch stories -- some funny, some thrilling -- from a book of mine called Oil Gipsy, that was never published. I've rewritten some of the stories from the somewhat pedantic style I had twenty years ago, and I intend to post one a week to my various sites on the Internet. Here, on Book Place, on Facebook, MySpace, and a few other sites. This is the first.

As an oilpatch surveyor, one of my jobs was to mark the route to the locations where we were working, which might be out of a remote town, a desert oasis, or an Arctic island. I started learning how to navigate in trackless wastes in the 1960s, in the Libyan Desert – a northern patch of the great Sahara – and I did it by driving in dead-reckoning straight lines. As much as possible.

An aside here – Sa'hara is the Arabic word for desert, so Sahara Desert is actually . . . well, you've guessed it.

One day in Libya our supply plane had been unable to land at camp because of a local sandstorm, and one of the crew members aboard was needed for work the next day. Our Party Manager figured the plane had probably dropped him off at the nearest oilfield strip, about three hours drive away. He also figured I'd like nothing better after work but to drive over – half the night – to go and fetch him. Since I didn't express a great deal of enthusiasm, he said he'd come along with me, for the ride.

He took the first driving shift, the daylight bit, after supper and started off in my survey Powerwagon with a great smile on his face. We headed down a desert trail to Gicherra, an oasis where most of our Libyan employees came from. No town planning in the desert; Gicherra was a maze of date palms, mud brick houses, rock walled fields, and dusty tracks wending between them. Probably still is.

PM drove happily into the oasis and we began following dusty trails all over the place, looking for the road out. Half the tracks he started down ended at a stone wall or a palm tree. The more he failed to find the road he wanted, the faster he drove. The dust cloud from our passage grew higher and higher. Pretty soon every track we started down bore a fog of fine yellow dust. When I recognized seeing the same broken down donkey cart beside a wall we'd seen several times before, I suggested we might be lost.

He decided to stop beside a group of small boys to ask directions.

If you know small towns, you'll soon realize that our Grand Prix de Gicherra was the most excitement to hit the place in months. PM should have realized this when in answer to his question, "Which way to Gialo?" each of the lads pointed in a different direction.

Instead, he said, "Climb on and show me."

Ours was an old style Powerwagon, with real fenders, running boards, and a stake-bed box. Every inch of space was soon filled with more small boys than you could imagine. Looking out the side windows presented a wall to wall image of dirty faces and gap-teeth grins. We could only see straight ahead because none of them had climbed onto the hood – it was probably too hot. Several hands waved in the windshield, pointing in different directions. PM looked at one of them and set off.

Lap two was even more exciting, because these lads knew far more trails than we had found. We bounced away over ruts and gullies, covered with excited, chattering passengers who lurched and clung tighter with every bump. This time we saw more groves of palm trees, more crumbling walls, more forks in the trail, more shuttered houses, than ever before. Every time we came to a split in the trail loud arguments would ensue as every passenger pointed out his own best option.

"Mist'r. Mist'r. Hekk'i – that way."

Mist'r. Mist'r. Henn'a – this way."

Old men would emerge from dimly seen houses, roused by the confusion and noise, to point in yet another direction.

At times we would speed away out into less habitable and more open regions, but each time some urchin would point out a trail that brought us back again. Several of these excursions seemed to me promising starts of a trail that might take us to open desert, but I was only the passenger. Who was listening to me?

Eventually we went past a certain house for the tenth time and even PM realized he'd seen it before. By this time some of our riders were becoming seasick, or perhaps had their eyes sealed tight by all the dust we were kicking up – so when he stopped at least half of them got off and wobbled away. Taking stock of the guides remaining, PM decided which of them had been more consistent – not that any of them had succeeded in showing us the way out – and told them he would follow their directions. Thus blessed with new authority and status these chosen few rode off grandly with us on lap three, with waves, catcalls and rude remarks to those dejectedly watching from the sidelines.

This time, with fewer conflicting directions, we soon found ourselves on tracks that didn't already bear our tire marks. We had only one guide on each running board, none sitting on the fenders, and perhaps no more than half a dozen in the back to pound on the cab roof and slide forward to peer at us upside down through the windshield. We emerged from all the houses and date palms into an open area of scrub brush. We even followed a trail that looked as if it might lead somewhere. With a promise of open desert before us, we stopped to let off our guides, all laughing gaily and waving the bottles of pop we'd rewarded them with. As they turned away to walk back to Gicherra, we set out on our own again.

After a few miles of circuitous wandering our trail set off in the direction of Egypt. Exactly where we didn't want to go. We stopped on a low rise and climbed into the back to take our bearings. PM was all for driving back to Gicherra to find another trail, but night was falling, so after a short, sharp argument we changed places and I set out across country.

As I mentioned earlier, my favoured method was to aim straight at where I judged my destination to be and hold to that line until I got there. I didn't exactly know where we were starting, except some distance east of Gicherra, and the destination was over the horizon somewhere to the southeast – but I was confident I would be able to find my way there. The only problem would be the oasis of El Erg, that lay somewhere unseen between us.

I held my straight line with ever increasing determination until, at nightfall, we drew closer to the last oasis. The straight line had to give way to detours around palm groves, thickets, and groups of houses. This oasis had the added attraction of patches of salt marsh, that were best avoided if we weren't to become bogged down with our smooth sand tires. But I estimated the extent of each detour and recovered my line at the end of them all. To answer PM's grumbling I even followed trails that appeared mysteriously under our wheels – at least until they diverged too far from the mental line I followed.

In the pitch darkness we found ourselves in the middle of a wide open area of incredibly rough terrain. The Powerwagon headlights were not powerful enough to reveal what was on the other side. On the horizon about us fitful lights would show briefly from distant habitation. PM considered these to be lighthouses calling us toward pleasant refuges. I figured they were more likely to be Sirens, luring us to our doom among mazes of oasis tracks. In bottom gear, clinging on tightly as we were flung about by the hummocks, we ground slowly on into the darkness.

Eventually a line of ghostly palm trees showed up in the farthest faintness of our headlights. We lurched and bounced with incredible toil toward them, Powerwagon groaning and stinking with hot oil and all the collected dust shaken out of its grooves and interstices. As we neared the end, the ground became smooth enough for second gear. I peered forward for any glimpse of a break in the trees wide enough for us to squeeze into.

I took the nearest and even shifted up – we were off again. Sort of. The trees proved to be as big an obstacle as the rough terrain because every time I found my chosen direction the trees would bunch together and send me off on another detour. Winding to and fro between the trees to find a passage we finally met a travelled trail – and houses. Judging by all the closely huddled buildings, this must be the middle of the village. PM was all for stopping to ask directions, but I suggested it might not be a good idea to pound on someone's door in the middle of the night calling out in broken Arabic. I'd prefer to take my chances with trails that wended somewhat in the direction I wanted.

After more and more oasis travel the trails became dustier, wider, more rutted and more heavily used. We emerged from the trees into the wide open space around the decrepit buildings that owned to be the Gialo gas station. There was only open desert now between us and our destination, and the crazily leaning gas station sign waved us goodbye. Only another hour of travel – we would arrive at midnight . . .

Friday, July 06, 2007

A funny thing happened on my way to publication.

Not rib tickling funny, because it has upset my buildup toward the publication date for Deadly Enterprise. Everything seemed ready at the end of June for the novel's release, but the publisher wasn't able to complete the cover work before leaving on a trip. The promise is now for it to be the first work finished around the 15th of July.

I hadn't updated this blog for more than a month in the expectation I would soon be posting a release announcement. So you can take this as a non-release announcement. I really will post a new blog page next time, with the link to the novel as soon as I learn that it's up.

I had a blog interview with Cheryl Maladrinos posted on her site on June 26th at http://aspiringauthor.blogspot.com/2007/06/meet-author-christopher-hoare.html
She asked some good ‘stretching' kind of questions that made me come clean on writing triumphs and disasters of the past. Missing a publication date is by no means the worst experience of my writing history.

On the rest of the writing front . . .
I've added a blog entry to my Zumaya Publications page on Ning. http://zumayapublications.ning.com/profile/w1r2i3t4e5r6 The site is a new one for Zumaya authors and readers to meet, and I'm there because of my fantasy novel "Rast" that is signed for publication next year.

The blog is an exploration into the work needed before our space heroes can zoom about on new planets without getting lost. It's an aspect of reality that most SF authors gloss over, probably because not many of them are surveyors . . . and because all these epic creators would probably be the first people to get lost if they were to join their characters in the plot. It's titled "Space Adventurer crashes on Re-entry". Go and take a look at it.

I completed my horror story for the next Twisted Tales anthology at Double Dragon and sent it off to the editor. No reply yet – I hope it didn't give him a heart attack. Never tried writing horror before, but my local writing group declared it thoroughly nasty – in the way horror is supposed to be – and it gave me the creeps, so I'm hoping it'll make the grade.

Not sure how many more of my blogs and pages I will be able to bring up to date this week. I was asked to dig out my old survey equipment to mark a fence line location for someone (for money, so I can't put it aside.) I spent half of one day out GPS-ing some survey evidence and will be out again tomorrow. Will be fighting off the biting deer flies and sweltering in the hottest days of the year tomorrow. The things I have to do to finance my writing habit.