Apr 02 2010

Mike Alexander’s Review Forum

Published by at 3:26 pm under Review Forums

My universe is one where there was a group of heroes who disbanded around the same time as the arrival of two friendly alien races. That was in the late 1980s, after the the Cold War ended with the United Nations becoming a benign world leader.

Now a new generation of heroes and villains is beginning to come out. This time around, these young people have powers on the level of gods, but fortunately some of the older folks are still around to teach them what to do.

The first story I have is about ColdStar, a college student who can control fire & ice. He learns that being a superhero is not something you can do alone. He quickly meets the black-budget government agency that manages people with Talents (powers).

Other characters include Novanna (a woman who explodes over Chicago), the Wolf Lords (fighting gangs in Southern California), Jade Shamaness (a magic user in the Southwest), and AfterImage (a teleporter in Miami).

Mostly, I want to write the stuff I would like to see in the genre. I do have a science background, so I am interested in a little realism, such as may be allowed in a genre where people fly and push planets around. If I can, I want to explore various ways to present my ideas. The Deconstruction of superheroes is over; I just want to put the pieces back together in different ways.

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “Mike Alexander’s Review Forum”

  1. B. Macon 05 Apr 2010 at 3:33 pm

    I like the idea of one generation being more powerful than the one before it. I think the concept is dramatically fertile, in part because it will probably cause the good guys to rely on protagonists that probably aren’t 100% experienced/competent. (No disrespect to Navy SEALs, but I think it’s generally more interesting to see a character struggle to fit into a situation he isn’t completely cut out for).

    You mentioned the arrival of two friendly alien races, but I notice that it doesn’t look like the aliens figure into the plot itself yet. For example, the Wild Cards series has Dr. Tachyon as a recurring character with a role even beyond causing people to get superpowers.

    How much do you know about the plot? What are these characters trying to do?

  2. Mike Alexanderon 06 Apr 2010 at 10:53 am

    As I said, I’ve been writing in a notebook all along, for +20 years. The plotline extends from our hominid origins to few thousand years down the line. A few years ago I sat down and organized the stories I wanted to write. The major books are set up like crossover story arcs. Each book centers around a theme, and quite often a single event seen from multiple viewpoints. Call it mosaic or braided, I’ve always interested in hearing the same story from different people. I hope to be able to pepper clues through the books about the universe destroying event that will be the closing book in the whole series.

    I essentially have an entire comic book universe in my head. If there is interest in this great. This would have been my dream job at 14, and I have another shot to take at this now, due to current life circumstances.

    Primarily, I want to explore the theme that you can’t be successful unless you have a support system. On top of that, actions have consequences, but some of those won’t be realized for years. Every short story/novella/book will be self contained, but read as a group, one will be able to see stuff happening in the background and recognize that it is a story happening at the same time. For instance, one character flies through a thunderstorm, not knowing that it is the result of two other characters fighting a villain on the streets below. The whole series is easter eggs, a grand experiment in writing one story with a quantum timeline.

    The first few books are about the new generation (2008-20012), then I flash back to stories from Cold War and World War II. This would be balanced by stories from various mythological ages. Each set of stories would explain things led to what the protagonist experienced.

    The new generation, born around 1989 or so, are all newbies to being superpowered (“Talents”). As we get into it, we’ll find that not all the previous generations (1940s-80s) are dead. Some have become gov’t agents, working behind the scene. The gov’t is mostly a single utopia, moderately governed by the United Nations. Former cold war spooks are in charge.

    Then, if there is still interest at this point, I would like to forward about a century or so, to another period where there are no Talents, beginning with an alien invasion from five hostile races. The books following this deal with the aftermath of this invasion, and living in a dystopia.

    *The first two Alien races have integrated nicely into society. One is a tall primate race (think capuchin monkey); the other is a semi-translucent mineral/electromagnetic life-form. Some are high ranking officials, others scientists or celebrities. They figure into the plot as a guiding force to help humanity improve itself. I do have stories centered around their histories and cultures. I wanted to give humans a push up, both in terms of gov’t and in society, before I bring everything chrashing down. In the future, a malevolent group of aliens appears, partly for conquering the Earth, partly in response to actions taken by Talents in the previous century.

  3. Mike Alexanderon 06 Apr 2010 at 11:06 am

    I also have the idea about the publishing house that “prints” these comic books, a false history that would be in the forwards and introductions. I don’t know how gimmicky this is, but I miss some of the flavor of the editor’s comments from the 70s and 80s, and would like to recreate that.

    I know I would need some success at writing the stories first, to develop a following, but would that be a doable idea, later on down the line? Creating a publishing house, with histories and personalities and lawsuits and the like?

    Hypertext is another fantasy of mine. Comics can be annoying with “the events in this issue take place before the events in ‘super snarky 143′” to explain someone being alive or having a different costume. It’d be great to click on “see issue #293” instead of digging through boxes.

    i’ve been thinking about this universe so long, it feels like it has taken on its own life, sometimes. Lately my notes about it have been not been about creating new characters, but dealing with ideas about metafiction, or: what genres do people read when they are living in a world where vampires, aliens, or superheroes are real?

    thanks again

  4. Koveon 06 Apr 2010 at 11:26 am

    You guys seem like you really have the whole writing thing down pretty good, any way I can get you to check out my writing on Kove’s Review Forum? maybe give me some pointers and/or advice? that would be awesome.

  5. Mike Alexanderon 06 Apr 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Here is the first part of Indian Summer: ColdStar (cold-shouldered reception)
    [rated R, just a heads up]

    * * * * *
    What has gone before…
    In 1985, three young men survived the Cold War to forge the Koventir Covenant. This document led the way to uniting the major world powers into one, benign, planetary government. Only China, South Africa, and certain parties of the Mideast declined. With the U.N. holding authority, everything was almost at peace.
    Four years later, visitors from another part of the universe arrived. The Nordaan and the Entarkans came on an exploratory mission, but wound up staying for the last twenty years. Anyone born in 1989 or later has never known life without extraplanetary intelligence. The two races generously traded technologies with the Earthlings, as well as history and culture.
    The arrival of the Aliens came with a small price, however. For the previous ten or so years, costumed heroes and their counterparts had made life more interesting for a while. Several heroes simply disappeared, while a few announced their retirement. Some of the villains were unable to compete with the new technology, and were thus jailed.
    Now, in 2008, there appears to be a renaissance. New heroes and villains, with talents far beyond those of their predecessors, have appeared on the scene. The question is not, who are these young turks, but who will guide them down the correct path?
    * * * * *

    Cold Shouldered Reception

    He flew above the St. Louis skyline, trying to silhouette the the Arch against the moon with his camera. If this shot worked, he’d make a big splash with the school paper. He hovered there for a few moments admiring the view, but decided to keep the pictures for his own private portfolio. Besides, how would he explain being a few hundred feet in the air? He was a college student- he couldn’t afford a helicopter tour at night!
    Looking down at the city, he realized he had drifted across the river and away from other familiar landmarks. He floated down and landed on some rich guy’s penthouse balcony.
    “At least I didn’t come down on a crackhouse,” he muttered to himself. Thinking about it, he figured out which part of town he was in. Looking down at the streets below showed an absence of any vehicle traffic. This was the Courthouse Sector, where only the city council and other officials lived and worked. He realized that there had to be a million cameras- hopefully there weren’t any pointed at him.
    Just as he was about to take off for home to study for the psych quiz, he heard a scream. It didn’t sound like a “having fun” kind of scream. He leaned over the railing to find out if he could see where the scream came from.
    On the next building over, across the street, a woman climbed up onto a balcony railing and was screaming at the man who was yelling just as loud back at her. The guy grabbed her ankle as if to steady her, but then raised his other hand and swung with all his might at her thigh! “Get down, you stupid cunt!!” echoed very clearly across the space between buildings.
    Even though it was a warm Indian Summer night, he also clearly heard a number of windows and balcony doors slam shut. The man swung again, but whether she slipped on her own, or he pulled at her ankle at the same time, it was not evident.
    The young student was over the railing after the woman, but he knew that he only had about a dozen stories to catch up with her. He concentrated, not knowing how fast he could fly. He also wasn’t too sure about the control he had over the two other abilities he had been experimenting with since the accident last winter.
    His legs strained, trying to make themselves more straight, and the heat emanating from them grew and grew, finally bursting into flames, vaporizing his tennis shoes. His speed increased, and he passed the plummeting woman.
    Since his hands were flat, he balled them up and thrust them out before him. The air crackled as the temperature dropped between him and the street. A solid sheet of ice formed from the ground up, twisting and looping, angling and spinning, until it was forty feet tall and looked like, well, any water slide you see in the small towns of the Midwest.
    The woman dropped as neat as you please into the mouth of the slide, and due to the twists and turns of the tunnel, she slowed to a stop right at the end, right above the pavement.
    She looked at her rescuer, and he didn’t know if the expression on her face was the result of her attack, the fall, or the unexpected carnival ride.
    Her face was bruised, accented with a split lip. Since she was wearing one of those catalogue nightgowns, it was easy to see that there were other wounds on her.
    “Who are you?” she whispered.
    “Call me ColdStar. Capital ‘c’, capital ‘s’,” he replied, trying to be flip so as to lighten the mood. “Are you okay? I’m gonna call 911. Stay here. Just stepping over to that pay phone right there.” ColdStar didn’t want to use his cell, because he didn’t think he could explain how he saw the events from a restricted part of the city.
    ColdStar made the call, and went back to her. “What’s your name?”
    “Susie.” She seemed to be going into shock, and ColdStar thought it would be better to keep her attention focused.
    “Susie, you’re gonna be okay. The ambulance is on its way. We’re in a rich neighborhood, so it won’t be long.” He paused, not knowing if it would traumatize her further by asking about what had happened. “I hope you don’t mind… who was that asshole?”
    Susie looked sharply at him. She got off the ice slide and moved over to sit on the hood of a car. “You haven’t been in town long, have you?”
    ColdStar shook his head.
    “That was my boyfriend. Let’s just say his name is Timmy. If you hear it again, I promise you that you’ll be hurting. You’re better off staying out of his business.”
    “Okay… whatever. I hope I didn’t hurt you any more by rescuing you the way I did.”
    “Think about the alternative, Captain Avenger- I’m not exactly complaining over here. In fact, I need to lay down.” Susie pushed herself back on the car and lay against the windshield, grimacing. She winced and closed her eyes. “You just need to watch out for yourself. Ow. Things aren’t what they seem. People aren’t who they say they are.”
    ColdStar thought enough was enough and walked over to the ice slide and started melting it down before it fell apart and onto Susie or the buildings.
    A moment later, he heard a door open, as well as approaching sirens. “It’s about time somebody came to help out,” ColdStar said as he turned and saw the same guy from the balcony, whom he assumed to be Timmy.
    Timmy was holding a gun. ColdStar got real nervous, ‘cause he didn’t know if he was bulletproof. He really, really, REALLY did not want to find out.
    “Get out of here!” Susie screamed. The man reached her first and swung his pistol at her. She rolled off the car to lay next to the tire. When ColdStar looked back at Timmy, the gun was leveled right at him; the slide started to pull back.
    “Oh, shit.” He squeezed his palms a microsecond before Timmy squeezed the trigger. The air vibrated with explosive energy as the bullet flew into a wall of ice nine inches thick.
    Before Timmy could fire again, ColdStar was flying backward across the street, forming new ice barriers between himself and his assailant. Timmy was running back and forth like a linebacker between the ice shields, firing as he went. ColdStar didn’t want to fly straight up and present a target he couldn’t defend, so he moved down the block.
    The police and medics arrived to see the gunfire and the first superhero battle most of them had ever seen. There were a few old-timers who knew what to expect, but it had been almost two decades for them, ever since Blackout and Marathon and the other Guardians went away. Even the veterans did not know what to make of the situation. All they saw was a storm of ice and fire and bullets and an unconscious victim. Guns were drawn, but put away immediately when the fire-and-ice guy flew up and away. The police and a few medics recognized Timmy and ran toward him.
    What’s going on, they asked. Who was he?
    The woman on the car, all bloody and bruised, lifted her head and croaked a reply: “Timmy… ColdStar… stop… him…”

  6. A1Writeron 06 Apr 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Based on your first post I am expecting the theme of “generations” to be a central theme. Based on the set-up, I as a reader anticipate conflict since I would imagine that less powerful and older heroes would be more methodical and cerebral whereas young power furnaces would just want to blast through everything. I would imagine the young heroes learn the importance of thought and subtly, and, once they do, they would be far superior than the older heroes which may cause a dramatic shift. Where at first, the young people were the conflict center, than the old guys may be the conflict center because they may not be so ready to accept how independent the younger heroes have become. This is just what I expect of that dramatic thread, based on those details of your set up. It’ll be interesting to see how you complicate this further or if you have plans to mess with this paradigm in a way that pushes it further. But the above is sort of the base min of what I expect, anything less I think would be missing a key dramatic component, but maybe any missing component would be amplified somewhere else in the story.

    I think the character names are great. I love AfterImage as a name. And ColdStar. These sort of compound names are slick and cool and presented in a “new” way which speaks to this new generation you are creating. In stories like these, any theme of generation will usually be read as old superhero conventions vs new superhero conventions (Silver Age(?) vs Modern Age) so I wonder how little details like names and costuming will be juxtaposable when it comes to the new and old heroes.

    I am curious about the disbanding of the old heroes and the seeming coincidence of alien races appearing. I’m curious as to if the break-up were amicable or dissonant. And if there was any attempt at reconciliation once the aliens came. That kind of major status quo changer makes me wonder why it didn’t change the status quo of the heroes, which further makes me think the old heroes must’ve been stuck in some kind of major funk to not think arriving aliens are something to become worried about. Regardless of how normal heroes are, they are still of Earth origins, aliens breaks a lot of conceptions of how we exist in the universe, not to mention the kind of paranoia and fear of change most cultures are susceptible to.

    The first chapter raises two critiques in me concerning how to work a setup chapter like this and perhaps questioning its necessity. I feel like if you are going to explain the whole world, it could be done much more thoroughly. I feel like it raises more questions than it answers, and not particularly in a “raising tensions” way. The lack of explanation makes it seem a little out there. Three men having such a major effect is plausible, but it’s lacking some serious narrative punch because of how vague it is. And since it’s expository, stated by a narrator outside the world, as opposed to being information we get by being rooted in the world, it seems reasonable to ask for more explanation up front. Knowing a narrator is withholding details doesn’t make me feel like I’m in strong authorial arms, usually you have to give enough to satisfy, kind of covering how much more there is to give. Also, it’s still kind of hard to get bearings on this world, it still hasn’t quite come alive, jumped off the page. This is something details solve.

    Personally, I prefer more in media res storytelling. All of the information we get here can easily be done in scenes and it’s my understanding you plan on using flashbacks and I think it would be so much more immediate to be there for your major status quo changers, even if they are backdrops/backstory: the aliens coming, the age of heroes–I feel these are things that might feel more immediate or explored through an observer. I feel like the more out there a world is, the more the world needs to be built up. Sometimes the slow revelation of worlds through details can be effective because you’d be surprise how much you can do with revealing very little.

    I haven’t read the first full chapter yet, but I look forward to it. I like how you have set up this elaborate culture, expanding the focus of many other superhero stories by incorporating politics. You seem to have this culture setup in your head, it’s just a matter of making sure you are really relaying to the readers who don’t know this world as well as you do, and seeing how you use all off this narrative DNA to really pull some stories out. I would suggest the best way to set up the world is to throw us in it. Drop us in and show us the place where superheroes zip around with very little surprise, then bring in the backstory as it becomes relevant to the main narrative thrust. If we see a world under one planetary rule, than we’ll automatically be more curious as to how that came about, which will really make us anticipate that backstory, instead of just going along because it’s the preface.

    As a writer there are always options, I personally think the two most effective ones are either to give us this world in vivid color in your preface, as opposed to such a quick summary, which may be more suitable for secondary novel–to refresh readers, or start us off immediately in the narrative and find ways to weave this backstory in. If the second is already your intention, than I would argue the preface isn’t even necessary. It just raises too many questions too soon.

    I hope some of this helps. Keep on truckin’!

  7. Mike Alexanderon 09 Apr 2010 at 9:42 am

    Thanks, A1.

    You’ve picked up on most of what I want to do. “Indian Summer” is primarily about one day, revolving around Novanna as a centerpiece. The other stories are kinda like people sitting at the same table. I will post another part of ColdStar’s story here (up until the 50% preview that I have at smashwords). Basically, I want to show a group of neophyte heroes starting out. Each of them are an intro to a world that never really stopped- the public just thinks they did.

    “Indian Summer” should be looked at like a collection of comics detailing an event- think “Darkest Night” or “Civil War”. They would have their own numbers, but the covers would have the logo for the crossover event. Maybe think of this as a trade paperback?

    If I do it right, each group of stories will reveal what the world is like. The next two collections will pick up a couple years later, with the characters showing some experience and deserving of the title hero. “The New World” concentrates more on the previous generation- sort of a “where are they now?” // training these new kids. “This Modern Life” is two stories, both crossover events. If I can make it that far, then a trilogy on how the UN got to be a utopian protector; and a book with tales of heroes from the magic/horror side of the universe.

    I’m crazy enough that I have stuff plotted out centuries in each direction. I don’t intend to detail every single year, but just touch down once in awhile to explain why things are.

    All will be revealed… I just hope I can do it at the right pace.

  8. Mike Alexanderon 09 Apr 2010 at 9:44 am

    PART 2 of INDIAN SUMMER: ColdStar (cold-shouldered reception)

    The next day, the young man known to Susie, Timmy, and the St. Louis Police Department as ColdStar woke up late for his geometry test. His roommate only happened to wake him up by chance with a bout of midday sex with his girlfriend on the other side of the room; it was Trina’s hoarsely whispered “harder, harder, but don’t wake Nicky” that was the final straw.
    Nicky got up and stomped out of the room he shared with Kent, muttering about how it was never too early in the morning for those two rabbits.
    Munching on Pop-tarts while cramming his notes, his gaze passed over his watch.
    “We are!!” replied Kent and Trina through the door, laughing. “We are!!”
    “Fuck you!!” Nick retorted as he ran out out of the apartment.
    “I’m not gay, and I don’t share!” shouted Kent, causing another round of laughter between himself and Trina.
    ‘One o’clock classes and I still can’t make them on time,’ Nick thought to himself as he hurried across campus. ‘Class with the head of the department, and I can’t make it on time. I am so toast.’
    At the door to the classroom, Nick peered through the window to see if the test was still going on. Suddenly the door opened, and there was Dr. Taylor! “Mr. Jennings! What a pleasure. Do join us. You still have approximately eight minutes to finish the exam. Have a seat. Class, I do think we own him a round of applause, so please, let us honor him.” A couple of the class wags gave him a standing ovation.
    Nick’s face burned, almost literally as he grabbed an exam sheet and went to his seat. Quickly, he applied some cold bio-energy to the paper when he noticed it smoldering from his embarrassment.
    Dr. Taylor continued. “Now, who won the pool? Robertson? Very good, you get fifty percent added to your score. You’ll make a fine statistician some day.”
    At the end of the class, Dr. Taylor lectured Nick on the importance of being on time, and then gave him twenty minutes to finish his exam. This made Nick late for his 3-to-6, but fortunately his teacher for that course was tardy as a matter of habit. Nick sat down two minutes ahead of the professor’s arrival.
    Walking to the journalism center that evening, Nick saw some of the Womyn Firsters (Women Fisters, but not to their faces) assembled on the steps of the administration building. Unfortunately this meant he had to walk past them.
    “Hey! That guy works on the paper! He has to let us in!”
    Nick hoped they didn’t mean him. He just hunched his shoulders and kept walking. One of the Womyn stood in front of him. He stopped just short of colliding, and was forced to make eye contact. She had a bad perm so fresh the chemicals watered his eyes. Nick thought she suggested the stereotype of the woman who went gay just so she could get laid by somebody. The thought emboldened him, but he still had to look away to keep from smirking.
    Looking past the Womyn’s face, he saw some of the staff from the paper standing behind the glass doors, motioning with their hands not to let the Womyn in. He rolled his eyes, and took a deep breath. After last night and Dr. Taylor, he did not want any more confrontations.
    “What do you want?” he asked.
    “Finally, someone is paying attention to us.” The Womyn poked a finger in his chest and continued. “Your comrades,” making him feel like he was a twentieth century communist, “won’t let us in to express our rights to free speech. They’re denying us our constitutional rights.”
    “No they’re not.”
    “What do you mean? They won’t let us in the building to go to the paper to print this article. It’s mandatory that we get in.”
    “They won’t let you in to the building? Do you know why?” She shook her head, as if daring him to come up with a nonsexist answer. “The building is locked after six o’clock. Only the administration, cleaning staff, and student employees can get into the building. That means if anything happens in there, we are are responsible. That means only responsible people on the university payroll with a key can get in. This is a private university, therefore, the buildings are all private property. What you are saying is that you intend to commit a felony by trespassing. I am a journalist here, and I may very well write an article, and quote you. Do you understand?”
    The Womyn were shocked. It seemed to Nick that no one with any testes, literally or figuratively, had ever stood up to them. Several passersby thought the same thing, and a crowd slowly formed around them, sensing something different was about to happen.
    The Perm shook her head as if to clear it from a similar thought. “But that doesn’t matter. We have a right to free speech. You have to print this article we prepared.” She pulled a sheaf of handwritten papers from her purse and thrust it in front of Nick’s face.
    He was stunned. No one in Wisconsin behaved this way. She must be from New York or something. “Free speech! No one’s denyin’ you anything! Go shout it from the Arch! Go to the real newspapers! The last time time you had something written in our paper the school almost got sued for sexual discrimination! What the hell do you want?!”
    “Discrimination? Hah! You can’t discriminate against men! They’re on the top of the social ladder. Men are the reason there’s two pay scales.”
    “There are more women employed than there are men, and most of them make more than we do! Don’t you read the Labor Department statistics?” Nick countered.
    “Well, they’re bigger and stronger and take what they want!”
    “That’s a function of biology!” Nick shouted back.
    “Biology is a social construct! Men made it up to justify the world they made.” The Perm turned her back and glared at the crowd locked inside the building.
    “What the hell are you talking about? Look at the staff in there- the entire editorial division is female! In fact, there’s more women than men on the paper. Don’t you know your history? Yeah, a lot of guys have screwed things up, but it was two MEN, Koventir and Marder, who forged the Covenant that stopped the Cold War from turning into World War Three. With out those two MEN, we probably wouldn’t be standing here arguing about free speech!”
    The crowd that surrounded them burst into applause. Nick hadn’t realized they were drawing this much attention. The Womyn Firsters looked stunned, also. The Perm swore and threw her papers at Nick. She stalked off, leaving her fellow Womyn no choice but to follow. The crowd cheered. Nick picked up the papers and looked at them. He shrugged his shoulders and went inside and was congratulated by the paper’s staff.
    His roommate’s girlfriend clapped him on the shoulders and grinned. “Good job. I thought I was gonna have to call security. They got turned down, you know.”
    “Huh? What do you mean? Security got turned down?”
    “The Fister Sisters,” corrected Trina. “After the last time they wrote for the paper, Administration said they had to get prior approval from faculty and the editors before they could print anything here. They went to the Dispatch and the Courier first, but the real papers turned them down. They had heard about what happened on campus and wanted nothing to do with them. So they got approval from Professor Julia, and tried to get approval from us.”
    Nick just shook his head and went to find an open workstation.
    “By the way,” said Trina. “I’m sorry about this morning. We didn’t want to wake you, but I realized that maybe Kent and I were being assholes. I’m sorry.”
    That deflated Nick. He had intended to rip on Kent when he got home, but Trina took all the inertia away from him. “Okay, whatever. Just try to keep your hormones under control. At least take it into the living room.”
    Trina nodded and walked away. Nick smoothed out the crumpled printouts the Womyn had thrown at him and tried to make sense of the handwriting, which he thought was the work of someone intending to go to med school.
    While he tried to interpret the bad grammar and spelling, Nick wondered about the woman from last night, and her attacker, Susie and Timmy. Very slowly, he realized that was what the Womyn wanted to talk about. One news sheet described a “vicious attempted rape by an unknown male Talent”. Apparently Susie was Susan Watkins, Special Assistant to the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Thomas (Timmy) Giannini, the Third. Apparently he had been on his way to visit her to discuss the stalker she feared she had. Luckily for her, he arrived just as Susan was under attack, and was able to defend her.
    Oh, shit, thought Nick.
    The “essay” written by the Womyn First organization went on to state that even though no super heroes had been seen since the Guardians retired in 1991, they were still around, and thus posed a bigger threat in hiding than if they were working in the open, as it was typical of men with power to “force their way upon women of stature”. The Womyn wanted to propose a mandatory ‘outing’ of all latent Talents, villain or hero, to prevent such things from happening again.
    However, they did applaud the exploits of some woman in Chicago who had just started heroing in the last couple days. It seemed to Nick that according to the Womyn, women could do no wrong. Well, he wanted to go to Chicago and find out about this “Sun Woman” who seemed to have similar powers to his, but he had better find out how Susie was doing. He hoped she could clear his name with the authorities. Nick wasn’t willing to be accused of something he didn’t do.
    * * * * *
    An hour later, Nick arrived at the hospital, but was turned away by the police at the nurse’s station on the ICU floor. He was able to convince them to let him talk to the charge nurse about Susie, using his student I.D. to prove his credentials. As he was talking to the nurse at her station, he heard the elevator open, and turned to see a group of suits arrive onto the floor. Nick froze, because Timmy was the first one off the elevator. He tried to turn away slowly so as not to draw attention.
    Giannini looked at Nick’s back, and asked the guards what this kid was doing here. They explained he was from the university paper, asking about the attack. Giannini looked at Nick and said, “Ms. Watkins needs her rest; she is still unconscious. If you have any questions, please take this card and contact my office. We can fax you a release for your school paper. Thank you.”
    As Nick walked past him, Timmy grabbed his arm and asked, “Where have I seen you before?”
    Nick looked at the P.A., and replied, “On campus, last month. You gave us a presentation on law careers. I was sitting in the front row. For the paper.”
    Giannini looked long and hard, as if trying to see the lie in Nick’s statement. “Okay.” He released Nick’s arm. “Good luck on the article.” He stared at the elevator doors long after the numbers counted down to one. “We can’t have outlaw Talents flying around,” he said to his female bodyguard, who merely nodded.
    In her room, Susan kept her eyes shut. She listened to Giannini’s voice get raised a few more times as the male nurse explained that “Ms. Watkins had not gained consciousness yet and no the doctor’s not here and would you please keep your voice down, sir, this is a hospital, not a courtroom.”
    A moment later the nurse knocked on the frame of the glass wall. “Okay, Susie. He’s gone, and I got hospital security to make him take his goon squad with him. You can open your eyes now.”
    Susie looked at him and said, “Thanks, Paul. By the way, when are you gonna shaving your head? Home Office has got to be having a fit about your undercover integrity.”
    “No way!” Paul grinned. “Why would a charmer like me try to hide my good looks?” He snapped his fingers and walked around the perimeter of the room, double checking for any possible bugs that may have been dropped while the Deputy P. A. was here. He put away the hand-held scanner and told her the room was still clean.
    “Thanks again,” Susie said. “If I hadn’t been able to threaten that doctor with a lawsuit, Giannini would have been here this morning.”
    “I can’t believe he was gonna call Timmy over your objections. Thank god for doctor-patient privilege.”
    “Yeah. Never go up against a lawyer, huh? By the way, sorry about pulling you off assignment. I suppose I owe you one later, don’t I?”
    “Yeah, but we’ll work it out, later. I needed the break anyway, this case is almost impossible.” Paul was looking out of the window at the police guards that Giannini had stationed on the roofs of the adjacent buildings. “I hope that kid you mentioned doesn’t try to come see you. If he does, he’ll be in a whole mess of trouble- there’s local law snipers situated.”
    “Oh, great. So what’s the woman’s name again, Novena?”
    Paul laughed. “No, it’s Novanna. Where do these Talents come up with their names? Yeah, so far she has flight, super strength, and what looks like solar energy projection.”
    “She sounds pretty powerful. I hope everything works out for you.”
    A cell phone rang, and he pulled the device out to answer it. “So do I. If it doesn’t, I wind up with a serious sunburn. Hello?” He listened for a moment, then placed the phone back in his pocket.
    “That was Home Office. They’re sending out a small spin detail: liaison, doctor, security. They’ll have you in a safe house by midnight. It took them long enough.”
    * * * * *
    Thomas Giannini drank in his limousine as it drove around the city. He wasn’t in the mood to go home for the night and deal with his wife just yet. Instead, he was having a council of war with his ‘lieutenants’, as he called them. He confirmed that the papers would have more details in the morning edition about this dangerous new Talent and the assault against himself and Watkins. He confirmed the next day’s appointments. Finally, he spoke his newest bodyguard, a young woman from the Los Angeles megatropolis.
    “Mercedes, was it?”
    “Yes,” she replied.
    “I understand you come highly rated from CORE Sec.” She nodded. “I can always appreciate new Talent, least wise that which I know about. What was your specialty?”
    “I used to be in a gang, but I got hurt. I’m much better, now. When I got out of the hospital I was offered a chance to make a real difference. New and improved, you might say.”
    “Yes, that is what they say about you…” Timmy turned to another aide. “Now, tell me what happened to the bugs in Watkins’ room, Raphaelli?”
    “Well. sir. They were transmitting just fine while we were on the floor, but as soon as we got off the elevator in the lobby they just… died.” Raphaelli shrugged his shoulders. “It’s as if someone dropped a small EMP drone in her room.”
    “Never mind,” said Timmy. “We got what we needed before that nurse showed up. Are the S.W.A.T. Units still in position on the roof? Remember, this kid is dangerous. Make sure they know to shoot to kill, Commissioner.”
    The Police Commissioner was sitting across from Timmy, and nodded agreement. “I chose each of the men myself. Four snipers, ten assault, and one Nightbuzz chopper. Did you want friendly fire, also? I can arrange a hit to your left leg, if you like.”
    All of a sudden the limo slowed down very quickly, and rounded a corner. The driver lowered the partition and said over his shoulder, “Mr. Giannini, sir, a call came in from the hospital- something about a U.N. Bureau Chief. I figure you’d want to go back there right now.”
    “Very good. Try to keep them off the I.C.U. floor, if possible- security reasons,” Timmy responded. He looked at the other occupants of the limo. “I knew there was a reason I keep him around. And not just because he’s my sister’s brother-in-law.”
    Everyone gave a polite chuckle, and got back to the business of discussing strategy.
    * * * * *
    Nick was sitting on the back patio of his apartment, debating whether or not to go out to the hospital again, but this time as ColdStar. He thought maybe he would try Susie’s window and see if she was awake, or at least alive. One thing for sure, he just about crapped his shorts when Timmy grabbed his arm.
    If I do go back out, he thought, I need to make up some kind of costume, maybe with some kind of mask. Yeah, that’s it. If I wanna be a superhero, I gotta look the part.
    Half an hour later, ColdStar was dressed and ready for action. A red windbreaker, a white t-shirt, and blue jeans tucked into calf-high Dr. Martens made up his uniform. To complete it he cut eye holes out of an old white bandanna his Dad wore back in the 1980s and tied it around his head. There would be time later to finesse the whole outfit better, maybe with some kind of symbol, but he needed to be incognito tonight. Now if he could just get out of the bathroom without Kent and Trina seeing him.
    “Duh, just take off the mask!” he told himself.
    Kent pounded on the door. “Dude, are you gonna be in there all night? D’ya got the shits? Are you flogging your bishop? Hurry it up!”
    Nick flung open the door. “What?!?! How about you learn about privacy, huh?” He stalked out of the apartment.
    “Wow,” jeered Kent. “He stood up to a bunch of dykes and stole some of their balls back! My baby’s all grown up! Sob, sob!”
    “Kent,” said Trina. “Shut up. Stop being an ass.”
    “What do you mean?”
    Trina shook her head. “Forget it.” She tried to follow Nick, but he was gone when she got into the parking lot. But, wasn’t that his car over there?
    * * * * *
    At the hospital, Giannini was greeted by a quartet of U.N. Security Officers. Only when he produced his credentials did they let him, and only him, go up to the I.C.U. floor. Upstairs, he found Susan and her old boss from New York conferring with a couple of slightly familiar figures out of history.
    Susan’s boss was named Chakha Dr’a-ng, a Nordaan who had risen quickly through the ranks of the U.N. to become the North American Security Secretary. Over six feet tall, with thick reddish fur, she looked like some sort of a giant furry South American primate. Through certain contacts, Timmy had heard she spent some time back in the 1990s hunting down former Cold War spies.
    The other two were vaguely familiar. One guy was as tall as Chakha, and had big, long blond surfer hair that was out of style at the end of the 1980s. The other was a little under six feet and had a severe military haircut and demeanor. All three wore the ‘unofficial’ fall uniform of khaki suits and dark coats, varied by individual tastes.
    “Mr. Giannini,” said Chakha in her trilling voice, the product of having a double set of vocal cords, the remnants of hunting abilities in her species. “I am glad to see you are unharmed. I am not aware if you have met my associates, Mane and Foxfire.”
    The prosecutor did a double take. Like everyone else, he grew up reading the comic books, or watching the movies in the theaters and the documentaries on the Biography Channel, so he knew all about them. These two guys were founding members of the Guardians, and both of them were serious players on that team. Mane’s Talent had something to do with being able to manifest different animal abilities, making him bad news as a bodyguard or a bounty hunter. Foxfire controlled fire at the elemental level, and could fly.
    “Well, no,” Giannni replied. “But I certainly am happy to see them here to help us out in this time of crisis. May I ask, that is why they are here?”
    “Yes and no,” said Chakha. “As a former employer in her capacity as legal counsel for the United Nations, Ms. Watkins is still entitled to protection. Due to the nature of the assault against herself and you, we felt that it was warranted to assign Mane as her bodyguard. We would like to offer Foxfire’s services to you.”
    “Thank you- your offer is very generous , but I think St. Louis can adequately protect her citizens against any threat, be it criminal or one of a Talented nature, so to speak.” Timmy was thinking to himself that things would get seriously fucked up if this freak squad stuck around.
    “Unfortunately, this is not an extension of goodwill. Due to the involvement of a new super-powered individual who remains an unknown factor, the U.N. must step in and investigate. We are superseding local auth-…” Chakha turned and went to the window, with Mane close behind. “What the hell is that noise?”
    “Yeah, what…” began Mane. He looked back at Giannini with cat’s pupils that quickly changed back into human eyes. “Are those silenced assault weapons?”
    Chakha and Mane pointed. Everyone who looked saw that they were indicating a large black mass floating over the street, just above the height of the two buildings. It appeared to be a giant black wasp, and it hung there, eerily silent.
    Chakha asked Giannini why he needed a Border Patrol helicopter inside of city limits.
    “Look!” shouted Timmy. “You haven’t seen what this guy can do. I have, and I think I know how to take care of my city.”
    Back outside, searchlights clicked on, breaking the night into a pattern of triangles and x’es. It looked like the World War II documentaries where the Allies hunted the sky for Axis airships.
    Both Giannini and Chakha received calls stating that ColdStar had been spotted a couple of blocks way.
    “He’s coming to finish me off!” Giannini shouted into his radio. “Shoot to kill! Shoot to kill! No reprisals! Self defense!”
    Mane slapped Giannini’s radio from him. “Are you nuts? Let us subdue him! We’re the experts!”
    Into her own radio, Chakha murmered three words: “Protect and Serve.”
    Outside, gunfire could be heard. The Nightbuzz helicopter rotated on an invisible axis and oriented itself toward a small figure looping and dodging through the searchlights and sapphire trails of tracer bullets. Even though the chopper was a stealth machine, anyone within a hundred feet could hear the whine of the chain gun powering itself up. ColdStar did not seem to be aware of it, being of course occupied with throwing up shields of ice and heat, wondering how the hell he had wound up in this war zone.
    Mane said, more to himself than anyone else, “Who does he think he is, Captain Avenger?” Susan caught his eye with a smirk on her lips. Mane grinned back.
    Suddenly the chopper pivoted to a different angle, and Susan wondered why. Following the position of the chopper’s nose, she saw that for every sapphire trace that went up toward ColdStar, an equally precise emerald trace streaked toward the source of the shots. The Nightbuzz pilot was trying to defend the snipers on the roof from an unknown attacker who was bathing the rooftops with light from its own spotlight. Susan looked at Chakha, but the Nordaan female only dipped her chin once.
    A new helicopter, a gunship, floated down in front of the Nightbuzz. That chopper tried to veer off, but a second gunship flanked it, aided by another Nightbuzz. This one was operated by U.N. Security forces.
    Chakha murmured to Foxfire. “You’re on.”
    Foxfire motioned everyone away from the windows. “Stand back.” He dropped his coat on the bed and stepped forward.
    The sound of the flames bursting from his body was a loud “FWOOMP”, and then there was only a hole where part of the glass window was, a three foot melted circle. A ball of emerald fire raced upward into the night sky. Mane had grabbed a fire extinguisher in preparation, and put out the small green fire indicating where Foxfire had stood. “For my next trick, ladies and gentlemen, I balance the budget!”
    With the stealth chopper held at bay by the U.N. military, Foxfire was able to flameburst to a high altitude and light the sky on fire, illuminating all the rooftops in that block with a green glow. Just to be on the safe side, he flicked his fingers and sent a few willow-the-wisps floating to the ground, to brighten the streets.
    Now that there was no cover, the remaining assault team members stopped firing, and ColdStar hovered for a moment. Foxfire thought he looked unsure of what to do. “He’s just a kid,” he whispered. ColdStar looped around and flew off, but Foxfire was too busy keeping the sky lit to see exactly how far he went once he got past the range of the light show.
    Inside the hosptial room, Chakha and Susan were both holding onto Mane’s arms to prevent him from going after Timmy.
    “What the hell was that? ‘Shoot to kill!’ You fucking moron!” Mane flexed his arms and shook his colleagues off. He picked up Giannini by the shirt and lifted him. “We woulda had him!”
    “Get your hands off me!” Mane pulled him close and growled in Giannini’s face. “I was doing what I know is right! You stupid oaf, put me down, or so help me I’ll bust you for assault and battery, and no amount of Talent, legal or otherwise, will let you see the light of day ever again!”
    “Mane,” said Chakha, gently. “Set him down. Nicely.” She positioned herself in front of Giannini and stared him in the eyes. “I told your boss that this was now under the jurisdiction of the U.N. We were unable to reach you or the police commissioner because you two were joyriding in your limo, afraid to come in under our protection. When you arrived, I told you that information. You disobeyed a direct order from a superior government official. I will not file charges of insubordination, but I will not omit your actions from my report.”
    The Nordaan warrior grabbed Giannini and lifted him from the ground, daring him to protest. “Thanks to your ‘control’ of the situation, you have made a potentially dangerous situation worse. ColdStar is an unknown agent. A very powerful one.” She shook the P.A. once.
    ”Thanks to you, my men were injured by yours. In defense of our lives and authority, all of the St. Louis Police Specialists you ordered up there are now either dead or permanently maimed. This loss is inexcusable. As part of the Covenant, my authority is absolute over yours. Do. You. Understand?”
    Timmy was set dropped on his feet. Despite that they believed his actions to be out of cowardice (since he wouldn’t be charged with anything), he knew it would be prudent to make his exit now. He nodded his head and rushed out of the room.
    Foxfire hovered outside the hospital, and floated in when Timmy left. Mane let out a long whistle when he heard the elevator door shut.
    “Holy shit, boss. I thought you were gonna let loose with a howl at the end there. I see why you took him away from me.”
    “Actually, Mane, his safety was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to let him think he got away with just a slap on the wrist.” She brushed her paws on the lapels of her coat, as if to wipe off something disagreeable.
    “What do you mean?” asked Susan.
    Foxfire answered for her. “We were able to neutralize most of Giannini’s strong men in the fire fight. Now he has to rely on a smaller number of people, and since he is most likely aware of your status, Susan, his trust has to be earned by his cronies.”
    “Great,” replied Susan. “I wondered if he knew I was still working for you.”
    Chakha stepped forward. “The question I’m more interested in is: does Timmy know you really don’t have amnesia about last night’s events? Attempted murder carries a life sentence, but I would be willing to bargain that down for his contacts.”
    “What about ColdStar?” asked Mane. “With all the cordite and exhaust fumes, I won’t be able to track the kid.”
    “Foxfire?” said Chakha.
    The ex-Guardian grinned. He held his hand palm up and flicked his fingers out. A small green flame hovered there, then floated over to Mane and took up orbit around his head.

  9. A1Writeron 28 Apr 2010 at 1:14 pm

    I’m happy I was able to find your forum. After my first post, I lost the link to it. I have you bookmarked now and look forward to reading chapter one, but first I would like to ask your permission to print it out for editing purposes. If you say no, that’s fine, I’ll read it on screen. I promise to only print a single copy and have it shredded once I’m done.

  10. B. Macon 28 Apr 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I appreciate your concern for the author’s rights, but generally I don’t think that peer editors need to ask for permission to print out copies for peer editing purposes. At least, I don’t.

    I think it’s a good idea to ask before distributing copies to third parties, though. (For example, if I think a manuscript is good enough to warrant an editor’s attention, I’ll ask first because it’d be sort of jerkish to pass it along before the author thought it was ready).

  11. A1Writeron 05 May 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Hi Mike Alexander, I’ve started to read chapter one and just had some ideas to share about the beginning (Part One).

    First off is the hook, I think it’s interesting to start off ColdStar flying above, giving us a sense of his character and establishing the setting then segueing into a battle. I do wonder though if maybe it would have been more gripping to start with the battle–if that would pull readers in more upfront. I feel this also depends on how the preface is to be worked. I think may payoff in the way of action may be necessary. If he finds an intense superhero battle and then quickly transitions to resuming his task of taking pictures, it says a lot about how familiar ColdStar is with his way of living without explaining it.

    Another reason I think it may serve to flip the plot moments is because I do think the picture taking moment needs to be slowed down a bit which you could do if there’s already been a great high octane moment like a superhero battle. We are just encountering this setting for the first time and not everyone is going to have the same awareness of what St. Louis looks like. The Arch was a great detail but you become vague when you begin to describe more. You say “familiar landmarks” but what are those?

    The comment about the crack house seems forced humor. Penthouses and crack houses usually exists in very different parts of a city. He should’ve known based on where he is the likeliness of landing on a crackhouse giving how different it would look. Flying, he notes “familiar landmarks” but yet can’t figure out where he is until after he lands. That doesn’t exactly ring true to me, especially given a superhero very familiar with flying over a city.

    There are moments where the details seem to get in the way of the storytelling. It’s like you have to stop to explain something. I’m thinking of when you explain his grip on his powers after some accident during the winter. Dropping details like that that beg explanation can be tough go with as you read more and more. You also vaguely mention two other abilities without telling us what they are. If you just show the superhero fight scene, you can show us the full range of his powers (in variety and intensity) and eliminate the need for such explanations, saving them for a time that is more relevant to the story. Right now, it just reads as background info. If when the battle is over he feels the need to sort of going over it in his mind because something went wonky, then that might be a prime time to go into how things started going off around last winter, or whatever.

    Also, you never mention his name early on. I’m not sure if you were trying to delay it, wanting the reader to get that info later or something. But I’m not sure what the motivation is. If we are in his viewpoint, it seems to me we should get his name, his human name at least–the name he most identifies with. It doesn’t seem 100 percent justified to not give his name. Maybe if it had started with the woman’s viewpoint? That way we can understand her situation without all of the explanatory dialogue, and we can see ColdStar swoop in from an outside pov and see the battle through her eyes?

    Ultimately, I like the impulses here. I like the setting up of the scene and getting COldStar as a boy and as a hero and the complications of the personal drama of the superhero scene. I think there is some show vs. tell work that can be done in setting up the world, some details that can be saved for a time when they can be more properly developed, and some clarity in laying out motivation (i.e. why is ColdStar so quick to move on and not figure the situation with the girl and boyfriend out?)

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