A. L. Buehrer What I Write and Why

Friday, October 19, 2018

I've Got an Even Worse Idea Than Usual

Well, time to shoot the moon again.

For those of you who don’t know me as well, I have a reputation for taking on projects that may or may not be possible and driving myself crazy. It’s funny because when I have some practical task to undertake, I prefer to find some clever way to shirk it. I’m not a deadlines person. I’m not a checklist person. But I like to prove things to myself now and then.

And it’s just about that time of year.

In November of 2016, I was in the first semester of my senior year of college. It wasn’t an ideal time to attack my first National Novel Writing Month marathon. But, you know, I didn’t relish college life and I took the opportunity to distract myself. I kept my grades up, but otherwise…well, it went better than I expected. I exceeded the 50,000 word goal of NaNoWriMo, and passed all my classes.

So, basically, I’ve decided that was too easy and have built on to the 50k words in 30-days challenge. I’ve given myself a timeframe and a wordcount. 100k words in 40 days.

The project begins 10/22/18

The manuscript will be the complete first draft of Dronefall III, entitled Rainchill. My daily minimum wordcount will need to be 2,500. Slightly more demanding than the traditional NaNoWrimo itinerary of 1,666.666666666667 words….

Shout-out to the crazy people who actually know how to write .666666666667 of a word.

I invite you to gawk at my bizarre antics throughout this 40-day period through the window of Stardrift Nights. Hopefully about twice a week I will be logging my progress and increasing panic here on my blog. I’ll be keeping you updated on total wordcount, where I am in my plot (sans any spoilers), challenges I’ve tackled, weird typos, snippets, records and anything else broken.

I wish you all the very best of luck on your own NaNoWriMo challenges this year. And whenever you need to assure yourself someone is suffering more than you are, feel free to come over to Stardrift Nights.  

The race is on.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Like Chimes in the Wind

I thought I would share a poem of  mine with you today, anticipating the release of my poetry book Songs from the Small Hours, and celebrating the turn of the seasons. (Fall is coming!)

Like Chimes in the Wind
Then autumn took hold

as bloodlessly as rain from off the eaves

a still morning broke

 the circulation changed inside the leaves

Like chimes in the wind

Like yellow warblers dancing in the light

Like voices through fog

Like hidden thrushes singing in the night

The taste of the air

Was like a stream from deep inside the rocks

And in every tree

The nervous feathers gathered into flocks

And then came the hush

Of wonder at the blue behind the gray

And smoke on the breeze

And as you breathe it in, it fades away

Like chimes on the wind

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Long-Expected Surprise

Guys! Guys! I have an announcement to make. Some of you might be able to guess it, but some of you won’t, so you’ll have to read on.

But not very far, because I’ll get right to the point. Dronefall is at last and finally available on Kindle. I caved and got professional formatting help, and Victoria Lynn did very well for a very reasonable price. I know a lot of people are hesitant to buy paperbacks. Even avid readers. Maybe even especially avid readers. Book-money is scarce, shelf-space is precious real estate and to almost everyone, I’m an unknown author. But a lot of risk just got removed.

It’s going for 99c right now. So, if you’re curious at all, you might want to swipe it while it’s cheaper than practically everything. If you’re ready to grab it right now, here's the link. Not ready yet? Okay…here's the link again. 

Alright, I’ll stop. But the fact that you are now able to hit a button and in seconds drop into a world I have been isolated in for uncounted hours is very exciting. Though I don’t have every scene planned from here to the end of book five, I have quite a map laid out, and my head is spinning with thrilling plot-developments. Well, they sound thrilling in my head, at least.

Anyhow, the first book of the Dronefall series with its colorful cast, non-stop mystery, unique setting and slow-burn suspense is waiting for you on Kindle. If you’re the kind of fangirl or fanboy that loves a complex story-world, quirky characters and a lot (and I mean a whole lot) of raw material for fan-theories, I promise you will have fun.

So, thank you for reading this post. I know it was kind of dumb and not very meaty. The meat’s in the book. And it’s currently 99c. Oh, and here's the link..

Monday, August 13, 2018

Halcyon Speaks Part Two

Welcome to part two of our interview with Halcyon Slavic, the main character of my most recent novel "Dronefall." In this interview we will get a glimpse of the story-world through her eyes. So, with no further introduction, we'll get back into it.
Exactly what is the role and function of the drone surveillance in your city?

Budapest has an enormous system of surveillance drones that persistently combs the city with cameras and tracking technology that lets them gather information from people’s phones and wearable devices. There’s a huge grid system that crisscrosses over most of the city, and I think that’s entirely owned by the police. Supposedly this massive amount of data-gathering is keeping a lot of crime off the streets that would otherwise be there. But of course, only a small percentage of the data relates to any crime whatsoever. All this information is always readily available to government officials, the police, and anybody who knows how to hack in and get it.   

And how does the public feel about this?

I don’t really think they think much of anything about it on a day-to-day basis. Most people will scoff at you for raising an eyebrow about it. They argue that the system has saved—however many lives, it varies by who you talk to. They say it’s all actually very secure, and if you are bothered by police watching you, you must have something to hide.

Honestly, I think it bothers more people than are openly saying so. Nobody wants to look paranoid. You can get a lot of harassment if somebody says you’re afraid of the government. It looks pretty backward to some people.

You grew up in an Advocates for Education and Social Development school. Who is AESD, and what was your experience like?

AESD is an international machine that has more or less monopolized school systems in the west. They’re kind of their own government—though their funded by the actual governments of all the countries that they work in. I don’t even know how they started, but they were set up to reshape civilization according to a brilliant agenda that’s going to save us all from ourselves.

I’m starting to suspect one of their main goals is to extinguish Christianity in the next generation, but I know better than to say that. It would get me laughed off—loudly.

Just going on my experience though, the notion isn’t particularly laughable. I wouldn’t say the quality of my education was particularly good, but one thing they certainly did was start teaching children to be revolted by religion—and one religion in particular—at an early age. They used a lot of films and VR in teaching. And a lot of shock factor. 

How would you describe attitudes toward Christianity among educators, students and the general public?

AESD teachers set themselves up as champions of acceptance. If you suggest that they have something against Christianity they will quickly deny it. And then they’ll go on to tell you what an oppressive, hateful, superstitious old religion it is and why it’s responsible for all society’s ills. To them, the thought of any rational moral person believing the bible is inconceivable.

Students are an odd lot. It’s hard to put them all in the same category. Most of them just follow along. They’ll believe or pretend to believe whatever they have to to get good marks and graduate. It’s a wonder any of them have opinions of their own by then. There’s so much opinion-sculpting that goes on in school. Some are just rebelling against their Christian parents—others might just be rebelling against their anti-Christian teachers. That’s how I started out.

There are still real Christians among the general public. But they tend to be bullied into silence by the rest. It’s definitely popular to have no respect at all for it. I’ve heard of a lot of people getting treated badly for voicing certain convictions, and when they reach out for more decent people to stop the unfairness, they are often met with silence. Decent people don’t want to look like they affirm Christianity.  

What do you think it would take to change people’s minds about Christianity?

I have no idea. I don’t even know if it’s possible. They’d rather blatantly lie to themselves than consider it. At this point, all I want is to get away from them. They hate the one thing that’s important to me—the one thing that gives me hope and peace. I don’t know what we could ever do for them, now.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Halcyon Speaks

The next two blog posts will be a two-part interview with none other than the main character of the Dronefall series, Halcyon Slavic. Today’s post focuses mainly on Halcyon herself, giving you a chance to meet her if you haven’t yet, and learn more about her if you have read Dronefall.

Tell us three things about yourself.
1) The first time I jumped off a train, I was seventeen. My technique was so bad, it was a miracle I didn’t break anything. 2) My favorite book of the Bible is probably Revelation. 3) I like to feed pigeons, and it makes me unreasonably resentful when people try to enforce rules against it.

Did you have friends growing up?
They would draw names at random and herd us into new “socialization groups” every week at school. This clever strategy almost destroyed any opportunity to make any friends at all, especially as we got older and slower at connecting. I hardly remember the names of any of the kids I grew up with.

Have you ever played any sports?
I played chess. Not that I was particularly good at that, either.

Can you play any musical instruments?
A rather plunky bit of piano. Music wasn’t emphasized in our educational programs, and I didn’t have the drive to become good. I can sing some, but I have kind of a rough voice.

What was your strongest school subject?
I did well in science, especially chemistry. Biology disappointed me, because we never actually got to dissect anything. I didn’t love math, but I could make it work.

Tell us three things you’re good at and three things you don’t do well.
I’m kind of good at criticizing myself—but then again, I don’t think I try hard enough. Anyway, I think I’m pretty good at holding my ground once I’ve got something figured out. I’m good at resisting peer pressure. I also have a knack for avoiding people I don’t like.
I’m kind of bad at finalizing things. I get overwhelmed with options and possibilities. I can kind of ruin my resolve by looking at situations from too many perspectives—which kind of cancels out my ground-holding skills sometimes. I can’t talk very well. I think that part of my brain must be slow. And I also can’t do anything with my own hair. My braids are terrible, and I end up with a frizzy, knotted mess if I try anything new.

Who’s your best friend?
Reveille Jacobs. She introduced me to train jumping and drone-tracking and Jesus Christ. In other words, she ruined my chances to live a normal life. I appreciated that. I might be stuck in mundanity without her influence.

Describe your relationship with God.
It’s there. Sometimes I question it, but it doesn’t disappear. It’s a quiet relationship. Nothing’s dramatic. Everything grows slowly. I get impatient sometimes, but I don’t know what more I’m expecting, when I think about it. He’s never asked me to do anything crazy, and I find that a little disconcerting, maybe.

Stay tuned for part two, in which Halcyon discusses her upbringing, her culture, and the powers under the surface of 2040's Budapest.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review of Akrad's Children

I felt I should take a break from promoting Dronefall and share a review of a recent read.
What? I get assigned a random book to read and review by an indie author I’ve never heard of, in a genre that often disappoints me and I…actually kind of liked it? What sorcery is this? It’s notoriously hard to entertain me with fiction. I was surprised how much I appreciated this book, even in spite of it’s flaws.

Things I Liked:

·         Dinnis The main character grew on me over the course of the book. Though honestly, I knew in the prologue that I was going to like him. Throughout part one, he was rather difficult to connect with, but things really picked up in part two, when his struggled become defined and his personality develops. Dinnis is quiet and has a bit of an edge. He has a lot of emotional reserve, and the author does a great job portraying that without judging it, which I really like. He’s resourceful, independent, and clever at getting what he wants in spite of odds and authorities that oppose him. He’s curious, creative, and intelligent, and loves his sister in spite of how hard she is to deal with and how little she returns his affection most of the time. It’s a rare thing, and a very good thing, when a character can make choices, good or bad, and I find myself saying “Yeah, that’s probably what I would do.” Dinnis was impressively relatable.

·         Sensory detail The author doesn’t skimp on detailing and fleshing out her scenes with all five senses. It made for a very immersive experience. All the sights, sounds, and notably smells of this story plunge you into the world like many books fail to. It made the characters and setting all the more vivid. If you want a book to transport you to a whole new world, try this one.

·         The story-world The South-American feel of this story-world was refreshingly unique. The settings were sweeping and often very beautiful. I enjoyed the different races and how well they were described. The culture, the costumes, animals, the food—it was all there to explore. I’d like to go there.

·         The royal intrigue I didn’t realize I was a fan of royal intrigue, but I’m starting to think I am. I like secret plots and the subtext that it lends relationships in the story. There are some good twists in here—or at least, they are twists for some of the characters involved. This author did a good job making the reader feel the shock of discoveries as they hit the characters, even if the reader already knew.

Things I didn’t like:

·         Some boring character tropes Akrad is kind of a moustache-twirler eeevil sorcerer type. (Not that I didn’t kind of like him anyway.) Dinnis’ sister is kind of a typical bossy little sister/proud princess/power-hungry type. There were a couple of side characters who I sort of rolled my eyes at. (Bitjarnan in particular…ugh, I can’t stand those kinds of characters.) But it wasn’t enough to bother me too much. You’re almost bound to have a few of those in high-fantasy.

·         Kids don’t always feel their age This was mainly an issue in Part one. Sometimes the children didn’t talk like children at all. It wasn’t constant, but it really stood out to me when it happened. It also felt a little weird for Dinnis to be so fascinated by Rasal at his. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be romantic, but it kind of came across that way, and I think he was eleven…I certainly didn’t have those sorts of feelings at eleven, but maybe I’m weird. This problem disappeared when the children grew into it a bit.

·         Presentation There were quiet a few typos throughout this book. I wanted to fix them. Typos aren’t a big problem for me, I know what it’s like to be indie and to read indie, but there was sort of a lot. I think the author could have caught most of them herself had she simply had her computer read it aloud to her. I do that. It really helps. Also, I might never have picked this book up judging by the cover. The writing is much higher quality than the cover art.

Things I thought were weird:

·         Yarmas So, most animals were real animals referred to by their English names, but yarmas were a mystery. I think they’re llamas, but they could be sheep, goats, or yacks.

Overall, I recommend this book for YA fantasy fans in the mood for a clean, detailed story of royal intrigue set in a vivid story-world. It’s an experience.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Excerpt from Dronefall Chapter One

I have something for you all. If you read the title of this post, you probably know what it is, so I won't tell you.
Here, you can read it.

As long as people jumped off trains, there would be hope for the world. 

 They called the Trans-Pest Express “The Blindworm.” It was really an enormous system of trains synced together in a network that spanned the entire province. They were fast, clean, and regular to the second in almost any weather conditions. No one operated them. They were completely automated. Daily routes stopped at all the right places at all the right times to fit the schedules of all the right people. But not everyone could be right, and ever since she first got her chance, Halcyon Slavic did everything wrong.  

  For example, she jumped off trains.   

  “The train will be stopping at station seventeen in approximately three minutes,” said no one, a disembodied male voice from a speaker’s grille in the ceiling. The passengers were already standing in the aisle, fluorescent blueish light burning down on the napes of their necks. At the back of the car, a young woman with dark hair and a thin, weaselish face sat with her back against the window and her legs crossed over the other two seats on her bench. She pulled back the torn sleeve of her sweater and checked the GPS on her wristband.   

  This was the best time. Not only were they approaching the prime location to jump— uphill, as the train began to slow—but everyone else had gathered away from the emergency hatch. She got up, flipping her hair over her shoulders. At this point in her life, she was more than familiar with the little idiosyncrasies of alternative exits. Dull light glowed in the socket of a switch at the top of the hatch. She stood on her toes and jammed the sensor so her exit wouldn’t trigger the emergency breaking system. The electronics were too easily fooled. Surely, if society hadn’t accepted this behavior, they would have upgraded by now. Why should she get off at the station and be tangled in the matted crowd when she could walk from here to her apartment in minutes? Especially after today.   

  A high tone sounded. Her eyes anchored on a lever beside the doors. She pulled it and the hatch slid open, dragging in a warm foggy wind.   

  She looked over her shoulder and down the smooth quiet aisle at the huddled commuters. They stood, heads hanging over their smartbands and Tarot phones, flickers of light changing in their eyes. Halcyon had seen some of them before. The woman with the scar on her chin was familiar. The thin, unshaved man with the prominent eyes was almost always on the same trains she rode, it seemed. Maybe she would see them again after tonight, maybe not.   

  The wind whipped through her hair in cloudy gasps as she edged out onto the running board on the train’s chromed exterior. Dew condensed on her hands, making them slippery on the bar beside the hatch. She squinted through the engine’s white breath at the dark ditches alongside the rails. Twilight lay heavy over the city. In a minute or two they would coast into the light-soaked residential area. There would be people everywhere, not watching out for train-jumpers.  

  She kicked off the running board, propelling herself far from the slithering train. The wind thundered in her ears and she landed on her side on uneven ground, rolling down into the ditch. Flinging out her hands, she caught herself and crouched on the gritty ground. That had hurt this time. Her disheveled hair tangled around her neck and lashed over half her vision. Sandy mud darkened the over-long sleeves of her sweater. The express glided by, steam roiling and snarling. In a few seconds, it disappeared in the fog, leaving its hissing wail to hang in its contrail until the whisper of rain washed it away.   

  Halcyon got up and scowled at the glow of the city down the glimmering tracks, pulling her sandy hand through her hair. On some nights she would lie awake and listen to the city. She didn’t know what the noise was, but it was always there, resonating into the sky, as if the world still hadn’t quite given up on the hope of being heard someday. Tonight it was loud. It was louder in the direction of the frozen fireflies that were the warning-lights for station seventeen in the middle of the residential area. Wiping her hands on her thighs, Halcyon climbed up the outside of the ditch and headed into the quieter part of the neighborhood.  

  As soon as she was on level ground, her gaze swept skyward. If only there was some way she could alter her pattern—take a different train or something. But then again, a change like that could set something off. Anyone else might have gone on with their life from day to day and never noticed, but Halcyon saw drones differently than the others on the street. She could recognize individual drones better than she could recognize individual people. But chances were the drone that had shadowed her for the past five days was better with faces than she was.  

  A cold raindrop grazed her cheek. Her eyes focused beyond the pacing lights in the layer of relatively clear air fifteen to twenty meters over the street. A canopy of twisting fog always gathered this time of night, above what was commonly called “the buzz level.” It wasn’t possible to see what the real sky-conditions were high above. Somewhere up there, it was raining.  

  Halcyon cut across the human current streaming inward toward the shifting neon and floodlights of the residential area. She dodged the blind commuters and looked up again. The buzz level was a river of LED lights. Half by accident, Halcyon had taught herself the configurations. Even in the uncertain lighting she recognized them flashing through the smog around the ornate ancient architecture of Buda.   

  Police and emergency UAVs were heavily lighted and outfitted with glaring strobes. They barreled across the ceiling of the buzz level—an altitude reserved for them in the city. She could pick out the regular square shape of a delivery drone moving swiftly and steadily through the more maneuverable traffic. Then there was a press drone on its way to tomorrow morning’s story. Photographer drones were stable, complex, and often “headless,” meaning at any time they could change their orientation and any side could become the front. For that reason, they didn’t typically have red and green lights indicating port and starboard.  

  Then there were the numerous cheaper models available to the public: Bi-Props with their two white-hot visibility lights, Owlets with their reflection-tape-lined foam wings and flashlight faces, clunky little quad-copters with blue and red LEDs on their arms. This was the usual crowd.    

  Her eyes roved through the buzz level once more as she approached the entryway of her apartment-complex. A triangular configuration ducked into a slower-moving stream of drones. She saw it turn end-over-end as it advanced down the channel between the buildings. An electrical tingle crawled up the side of her neck. She turned and the glass doors swept open in front of her.  

  She ground her molars together, striding into the low-lit lobby. Her eyes stayed on the floor as she approached the desk. The woman behind it stood with her back turned, facing the blank wall, talking to the tiny implant in her ear. Halcyon came up and leaned on the glass desk. “Bekka.” The woman turned and tapped a green dot under the surface of the desk. Halcyon pulled a microchip card out of her wristband and placed it on the screen that appeared. Numbers flashed on the surface for a moment. Bekka adjusted the tiny screen of light over her right eye, and turned away again, pupils contracted by the luminous images projected centimeters from her retina.   

  For a second Halcyon stood fingering her card and squinting at the woman’s back. She slipped the card into its slot in her wristband and walked to the stairway. When she got to the steps, she paused one more time to look over her shoulder. Bekka never did see her, she remained engaged with the blankness and the silence. Halcyon pressed her lips together and spun around, flying up the stairs.  

  She drew in a breath and strode down the hall, scanning the familiar numbers on the locked doors. Numbers had such personality when nothing else did. Thirty-eight B—that was home. She had always noticed something about the openness of the three, and the closedness of the eight, and the way the B was just a three with a bar through its teeth—but it hadn’t really meant anything to her until now. She closed the door behind her.   She crossed the room in the dark and stood at the window for a second. Something cold caught in her chest. Beyond the glass, that triangle of lights rolled over again. It boomeranged around toward the building. She watched it pace past the window and down the street a ways. Just as she stepped back from the window, it flipped over its axis and returned. She whirled around and tripped over the leg of an inn table, charging across the room.  

  The door slammed behind her and she dived onto her knees. She dragged a plastic box out from under her bed, knocked the lid off, pulled out a long garment of heavy fabric and held it against her chest for a second, looking back toward the door. She jumped up and flung open the door to the bathroom. There she found a small tub of something black in the cabinet. She took one more sweeping glance around her apartment before evacuating.  

  At the end of the hall outside there was a fire-escape. Not that way, it would trigger the alarm. How many times had she done this before in her mind? Downstairs—a sharp turn to the left. The unmarked door was unlocked. She darted out into the darkness onto a gritty floor and crossed the small room in three long strides. The distant hum and throb of the city leaked through the thin walls. A single bar of light burned sickly white over the door. Halcyon stepped back between two cast-iron shelves and caught her breath. She pulled the heavy cape over her shoulders and slipped her arms through the slits. It was semi-fitted and double-breasted from the front, but loose and asymmetrical from behind. The profile was more practical than it seemed. It was hard to read for certain eyes in the sky. She pulled back the sleeve of her sweater and tapped her wristband. A line of bright-blue lights awakened in it. She pinched the side of it and pulled out a tiny earpiece, clipping it into her ear. As soon as I’m done with this, I’ve got to get rid of it. I’ve got to get rid of everything that they could use to get me back here.  

  “Hello?” A slightly digitized female voice with a brazen American accent came through.  

  “Hey Rev. It’s Hal.”  

  “What’s up?” 

   “I’ve gotta get out of here.”  



  “Okay. Gotcha. Hang on.” There was a slight pause. Halcyon opened the tub of black pigment and leaned toward a fractured mirror on the wall. In the dusty light, she started to paint dark blocks on her face. “Okay, so where are you?”  

  “I haven’t moved yet.”  

  “I don’t think I can get to you from where I’m at. I want you to go to the turn-around at Kiscelli Crossing. There’s a place down the hill to your left—looks like it’s been through the end of the world. You’ve probably seen it before. I’ll have a friend meet you there.” 


  “His name is Zolt. I can’t give you a physical description, but you can trust him. I’ll tell him you’re coming.”  

  “Thanks, Reveille.”  

  “That’s no problem. Anything else?”  

  “No. I can’t say more.” She closed the tub and slipped it into her pocket.  

  “Good. Remember, keep under stuff, stay away from vents of any kind, and if you’ve got nowhere to go, drop and don’t move.”  

  “Okay.” She paused at the door to the outside.

  “And Halcyon, welcome to the underworld.”

That's all. You're welcome.