First Contact

The Chaos Station website has a page of extras that includes playlists, excerpts, interviews, trivia, and cut scenes from the series. Some of the links have expired, though, due to the sad disappearance of many review blogs. Because I dislike the idea of lost links, I thought I’d repost some of the missing content here, on my blog!

First up, I have an exclusive excerpt from Inversion Point, the fourth book in the series. Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t read this far in the series, reading this excerpt will spoil certain developments in both Zed’s character and his relationship with Felix.

To view a full list of excerpts and extras, visit the Chaos Station website


First Contact

Zed stood on the bridge of the Jitendra, watching the movement of ships milling near the border of Species Four space. No matter how sophisticated spacefaring technology got, humanity never failed to put windows on their ships. In the case of a tiny vessel like the Chaos, the windows might be little more than glorified portholes, but they were there. Probably out of some weird human need to see where they were going. Right now, the view distracted Zed from all the bullshit careening between his temples—only part of which was nervousness about what he was about to attempt. Communication with Species Four. 

The rest of it was nonsense about Theo Paredes. 

Zed was generally a logical guy—he prided himself on his control over his emotions, control he’d earned through a ton of work, mastering himself so his troops would have complete confidence in his decisions and leadership. There was no logical reason for his hackles to rise whenever Theo looked at Flick—they were old friends. More than friends once, yeah, but… 

Just…but. It shouldn’t matter. 

And he sure as hell shouldn’t be thinking about it now. 

“Are you ready, Major?” 

He looked down at the young communications officer. Dear God, were they recruiting kids out of high school these days? Was the AEF that desperate? She looked all fresh-faced and eager—and why shouldn’t she be? The galaxy was at peace, shit was good. 

Unless, of course, he was about to find out that Species Four had been communicating a declaration of war. That would suck. 

“I’m not sure this is something you can really prepare for,” he told her, a rueful grin quirking his lips. 

Flick nudged his elbow. “I thought you were doing your meditation thing.” 

“Hmm?” 

“Looking out the window.” 

Right. Of course everyone had been watching him. Having eyes on him all the time was something he should be used to, wasn’t it? At least this crowd wasn’t getting any closer or reaching for him, trying to get a piece of him… 

Not helping. 

“I’m clear. I’m calm.” Zed repeated the mantra a few times under his breath, willing it to be true. 

“T-minus two minutes,” the communications officer announced. 

“All personnel, clear all channels. Repeat, clear all channels.” Theo’s voice rang with authority through the bridge. He wasn’t the commanding officer of the Jitendra, but he was the ranking official aboard. What he said, went—unless they found themselves in a combat situation. 

Really not helping, Zander. 

“I’m right here,” Flick murmured. “Not going anywhere.” 

Zed wanted to grab Flick’s hand, brush a kiss to his lips, but he didn’t dare do either. Not with something like ninety seconds left before the Species Four message sounded across all channels. He settled for shooting him a grin over his shoulder. “Thanks. Step back, though, okay? Just…you know. Being paranoid.” 

Flick’s brows drew low but he did as Zed asked, backing up a pace. 

“T-minus sixty seconds.” 

Silence descended on the bridge, interrupted only by the soft susurrus of officers manipulating holo interfaces. Someone shuffled their feet. Someone else coughed. 

“T-minus fifteen seconds,” the comms officer reported. “Ten, nine, eight…” 

Zed followed the count in his head. His mind was as clear as it was going to get by five. At two, he triggered the Guardian cuff, making sure it was open to all channels and frequencies—just in case part of Species Four’s message was getting lost on a previously unknown layer of communication. 

At zero, the message blared across the bridge’s speakers. Nonsense words, nonsense rhythm, all known languages mashed together into a nonsensical belch of sound. The Guardian cuff vibrated—then the nape of his neck tingled. Buzzed. 

And the bridge of the Jitendra disappeared. 

On some level, Zed knew he hadn’t moved. All the AEF officers were still there, Flick was standing less than a meter away on his left, Theo was nearby, and Elias, Ness and Qek were all hovering at the back of the room. He could not quite…sense them, but almost. His consciousness, his self, had expanded, opened. 

No sooner had he realized it than something slammed into him. A force, a presence, something that seemed to recognize him. Not physical, but—oh God, there and overpowering and he couldn’t stop it, he couldn’t stop the invasion, the flood, the massive influx of alien thoughts and feelings, concepts and ideas. 

It was like the Guardians, how they communicated. Images, layers. But where the Guardians employed restraint—and he could understand that now, they had always held back to ensure they didn’t overwhelm him—this barrage didn’t stop, it didn’t let up. It battered against him, like a spring-swollen river. He was little more than a bit of flotsam being carried away by it— 

“Zed! Get the fuck off me, he needs—” A grunt, a growl, and then a hand jerked his arm, pulling him out of his ramrod-straight posture. “Breathe, damn it!” 

The spell shattered. Zed sucked in a hard breath, as though he’d just escaped the grip of deep water. He sucked in another and another—but he couldn’t seem to get enough air, there wasn’t enough air— 


Want to read more? Inversion Point is available at your favourite online retailer!

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Bird Chatter

Once upon a time, Lex Chase hosted something called Flash Fiction Fridays on her blog. To those invited to participate, she would send a picture, a random sentence, and the encouragement to make of it what we could. “Bird Chatter” came from the following prompt: “Something about him is…off.”

It’s not the weirdest thing I’ve ever written (that distinction probably belongs to A Moustache Called Justice) but it’s definitely one of the most fun.

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Bird Chatter

“Something about him is…off.”

“Hmm?” Percy glanced over his shoulder to see who Jerry might be talking about.

Arrayed on the branch behind them were three brothers and four sisters, all with beaks clacking and feathers rustling. It was preening time, which meant gossip time. Nothing like a tidbit of scandal to go along the nitpicking of dust and mites, the resetting and smoothing of feathers.

“Him, on the end.” Jerry pecked at Percy’s scapulars as if he’d leaned over to arrange his feathers rather than gesture toward the next branch over.  

Percy tried not to turn his head all the way, though he prided himself on having a nearly 360-degree swivel. Not all blue jays could turn their heads all the way around. He’d need just about all that radius to take a gander at the bird perched at the end of the branch behind him, however.

After a few warm-up swivels, Percy swung his beak toward his target.

“Not now!” Jerry squawked. “He’s looking right at us. Turn around. Turn around.”

Percy let his neck unwind a little too fast. The rest of the tree rushed past his eyes in a dizzying blur and he swayed on his perch a moment before regaining his equilibrium. “I nearly had him in view!”

“You didn’t have to turn all the way around that way. You looked ridiculous, twirling your head like that. Just look the other way. Quickly. Now…no, wait… Now!”

Percy performed a less impressive five degree turn the other direction and looked at the bird perched at the end of the next branch. Oh, yeah, something about him was definitely…off.

“It’s his breast,” Percy reported once he faced forward again. He then leaned over to peck at the side of Jerry’s head. “Stop already. Any more preening and you’ll misalign my coverts.”

“I’m not even close to your coverts. Now sit still a moment, two of your secondaries are tangled.”

Percy extended his wing carefully to give Jerry access to his feathers. “He’s too blue.”

“I know! I mean, I like a blue breast on a guy.” Jerry snapped his beak.

Proud of his show of blue, Percy puffed up his breast.

“But there’s a right and wrong shade of blue.” Jerry twitched a secondary. “His is much too showy.”

“Maybe he’s related to Reginald.” 

“No, Reginald’s blue had a more violet tinge. You’re talking about Reginald who nested with Agatha last season, right?”

“I still can’t believe he left Arthur for that shrill.”

“Great eggs, though.” Jerry shrugged.

Percy studied the veritable swarm of birds perched along every branch of the tree. “S’pose you’re right. He came from Catherine’s nest, didn’t he?”

“No, I’m pretty sure he was Gertrude and Bartholomew’s egg.”

“Bartholomew?” Percy cocked his head. “One-eyed-Bart? Did you see his mating flight?”

“Oh, I know. I’m amazed he caught Gertie at all. If you ask me, she let him catch her. She always had a soft spot for Bart.” Jerry had finished arranging Percy’s secondaries. “Extend your wing a little farther, sweets, and I’ll have a go at your marginals.”

It would be useless to argue. Percy extended his wing and practiced swiveling his neck again. Three hundred, three-twenty-or-so, three—

“Stop that.”    

Percy turned his head the other way and took another peek at Mr. Blue. Blinked rapidly. “Who is he, anyway?”

“I don’t know! I’m fairly certain he joined the flock last flight. What makes him think he can just perch on any old branch, I just can’t say. Highly impertinent.”

Percy eyed the stranger again. His breast really was quite blue. “Perhaps he’s lost. You know, we could just ask him who he is.”

“What if he’s someone important? Admitting we don’t know his name would be the worst sort of insult.”

“If he was that important, we’d know his name, Jerry.”

Jerry huffed into his feathers, shifting the ones he’d just aligned. Retracting his wing, Percy ducked his head to tend them. Beside him, he could feel Jerry turning to eye the strange bird.

“It’s not just his breast,” Jerry murmured. “There’s something about his eyes and his neck. It’s too thick.”

Which would make it harder to swivel, Percy thought.

“You know, I don’t think he’s a blue jay at all.”

“What else could he be?”

“Ever heard about cuckoos?”

Percy raised his head so suddenly, he dislodged a marginal. “You don’t think—” He glanced over his shoulder. “I didn’t think they worked in disguise.”

“Maybe they do, now. I mean, you’d think we’d notice a different egg in the nest, but no one ever does, do they? So I can’t imagine why we would notice a different bird. But maybe someone did and now cuckoos are employing disguises.”

A shiver crept beneath Percy’s feathers. He scanned the rest of the birds on the next branch, then turned to look at Jerry, his little mind whirling with possibilities. “Maybe that’s what happened to Cornelius. There was always something odd about the bird that nested with him.”

“Oh my God, I think you’re right!”

Jerry began an agitated dance along the branch. “We need to do something. Say something!”  

“But what? What can we say? Maybe he’s a deliberate plant.”

“What? Why?”

“Maybe the cuckoos aren’t content to move in one nest at a time.”

“How horrible. Percy! Percy! You know what this means, right?”

“That we have to find female mates and make more eggs?” His wings were flapping independently of thought, fluff and marginals flying around him in a dusty haze.

“Say it ain’t so!”

“We need to do something Jerry. Do something, do something, do something.”

Jerry launched from the branch with a petrified squawk and fluttered upward with short jerky thrusts of his wings. Percy followed. Their panic alerted the rest of the flock, who didn’t bother to look for the source. They simply followed, as a good flock must. Soon, the air was filled with the beat of wings and the shrill of anxious cries as every bird swarmed the air. The sky was thick with birds until they settled into a pattern, following the leader to safety, which was apparently the tree next door.

Percy settled gratefully onto a branch next to Jerry and immediately started pecking his feathers back into place. Jerry chirped anxiously for a few minutes before settling. Then he began swiveling his head. He still didn’t have quite the number of degrees Percy had.

He stopped moving. “Percy, Percy.”

“What?”

“Don’t look now, but that bird over there. Something about him is…off.”

Counting Out

Counting Out is the last story in the Counting series! I first made it available to newsletter subscribers, now I’m making it available to everyone else.

A little bit about the story: it was meant to be 5000 words. Then 10000. I think it ended up somewhere over 20k, which makes it significantly longer than Counting Fence Posts, the first novella in this series. But that’s just fine because I love writing extras for my guys and I loved writing this story in particular.

(To read all the extras, visit the Counting series page.)

It was so nice to revisit a couple I knew really well, especially Henry and Marc–who were never meant to be a series, but decided they needed to be. (Story of my life, along with ever-increasing word count goals.)

I started writing Counting Out with one goal in mind: to end up with a super happy ever after, beyond the already pretty good happy ever after I delivered at the end of Counting on You. I wanted readers to close the cover on this one feeling as though this was it. That Marc and Henry are a team, forever and ever.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t keep writing them. They need a house next. And a dog and a couple of cats, and lots more cute and perhaps catastrophic moments together.

For now, though, I give you camping, as only Henry and Marc could manage it:

Counting Out (Counting #3.5)

Counting Out (1)Henry and Marc are going on vacation: seven days of camping and hiking in the Green Mountain National Forest. And this time, instead of getting stuck somewhere, they’re going to get lost. Before they’re found, they’ll visit a secluded waterfall, encounter a bear, and walk many hot sweaty miles. Marc will discover he hates trail mix and Henry will finally get an excuse to upgrade his cheap phone. There’s also a falling star and some super sweet wishes.

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A Family for Felix and Zed

I created Sim!Felix and Sim!Zed last year to celebrate two years of Chaos Station. I had so much fun playing the guys in a contemporary setting and couldn’t get over how much like their story counterparts they were. I selected their traits, so it shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was to see them acting like Felix and Zed. It was the little things. The stuff they did when I wasn’t watching over their shoulder. Their reactions. And the way their relationship blossomed out of the friendship they started with.

If you haven’t read the story I wrote for them last year, using screenshots from my play time, click here. With the third anniversary of the Chaos Station series approaching, I revisited my two favourite Sims and prepared to get busy with the kids I’d promised them. Continue reading “A Family for Felix and Zed”

Flash Fiction: “Dad’s Side of the Family” and “Falling”

One of my favourite aspects of flash fiction is the chance to explore another story for a while without having to commit. The world-building happens on the fly, while you’re writing, and the characters inhabit only that moment, or those moments during which the story happens. It’s like visiting another world for just a little while.

My flash fiction tends to fall into one of two categories: a peek at something bigger (or another idea for the Big Book of Ideas) or something that feels complete, even though it’s short. The latter is much harder to do, I think. To tell a full story in only a handful of words. The second piece I want to share today does it so, so well, though, and I wish I had written it. Alas, I did not, and I’m grateful to ‘Nathan Burgoine for allowing me to share his piece on my blog. Continue reading “Flash Fiction: “Dad’s Side of the Family” and “Falling””