The Bulldozer

army bulldozer

Hey Readers. I was kicking back this morning and I wondered what to post this week. Well… I’ve gotten a fair bit of feedback about this short in the new alternate history series; so I thought to share it with you all.
To give you a taste of what is to come. Here it is, the non-spoileriffic short.
The Bulldozer.
“Fuck you, sir.”
Second Lieutenant Wayne Haskell of the 180th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion of the Virginia Army Guard covered his eyes for a moment. He wanted to scream. He wanted to be anywhere but here, the westbound exit off of Interstate 70 onto state route 65. It was a major logistics route into and out of the Baltimore and Washington DC area, and right now it was a nightmare of fleeing cars, many of them filled with those stricken by the Plague, the Crud, or what-the-fuck-ever.
His platoon, equipped with heavy bulldozers, was tasked with keeping I-70 westbound clear, no matter what. His company commander hadn’t left any room for doubt; Wayne had written orders in his pocket. 
Deadly force was authorized; usually one wouldn’t think of bulldozers as deadly. In this situation, they were.
Wayne looked at the pile-up of hopelessly entwined and burning cars before him. People were trying to help others that were trapped. Someone, or someones, were screaming. Screams such as he had never heard; high pitched keening, hoarse shouts. 
Someone was burning to death. 
The driver of the bulldozer, Sergeant Vogel, was a good man and soldier. Experienced. A veteran of Afghanistan, he had run the Ring Road looking for bombs. When he tired of the Regular Army, he had gotten out. After a while, he missed the service, and as with so many veterans, he found the Guard.
And now the Guard had found both soldiers, and their mission was clear. Keep Route 70 free for traffic, by any means necessary, no matter what.
Wayne’s mouth set in a grim line. He was a brand new officer, and here he was, in one of those fucked up situations they had warned him of in OCS. His instructors pasted a bland term on such moments. This was a “leadership challenge.” 
Bad enough, thought Wayne, to be a black man in a unit with a heavy Confederate lineage. But now I have to face down one of my best NCOs. A man I admire. A solid soldier, father and husband. Jesus. He shook his head.
Wayne spoke, he pitched his voice over the dozer’s idling engine and the screams.
“Sergeant, this isn’t an option. It’s a direct order. Push the wrecked vehicles off the road.”
The man’s face contorted into a rubber mask of anguish.
“Sir, there are kids in there! Babies! They are trapped. If I push these cars they fuckin’ die!”
Wayne rubbed his face. Vogel was right. But as an Army officer with a clear mission, Wayne was more right, if that made sense. It was time to either use reason or his M17 pistol, either or.
Lieutenant Haskell decided to try reason first.
“Vogel, look left.”
The Sergeant looked. There was a traffic jam as far as the eye could see. There were thousands of cars.
“Now look right.”
The westbound highway was empty.
“Clear the cars, Vogel, or more people die.”
“Sergeant Vogel, this is on me. Not you. Put the dozer in gear, clear the jam.”
The NCO let a string of profanity loose, but he acted. With a crunch and a roar, Sergeant Vogel followed orders.
Both men wept as he pushed, crushed, the wrecked autos aside. The rumbling diesel and the screech of tortured metal almost blotted out the screams.

Memorial Day 2020

memorial day 2020

There is exactly one occasion around here where we hang out Old Glory, and that’s Memorial Day weekend.

That’s not to say that people who put it up at other times are wrong; certainly not. If properly displayed the US flag can be flown year-round, at all times. Other examples of appropriate occasions to hang the flag would also be the 4th of July, Inauguration Day, Veterans/Armistice Day, Flag Day, the list goes on and you get my drift.

It’s a free country.

We choose to only fly the flag on this hallowed weekend, when we remember the dead.

This is not the weekend when you beat your chest and tell everyone what a great guy you are. This is not a weekend where it’s appropriate to use the sacrifice of 1.2 million Americans for political or commercial ends. Unfortunately, however, you see this too much; it is what it is.

That’s not to say you can’t have fun on this holiday weekend, because you can. Let me give an example.

In the now-distant past, when all of our WW2 veterans were middle aged, we held large family picnics on this weekend. Not on the day itself, but usually on the Saturday before. I remember my uncle Clyde, a tanker, the best. I also remember my Grandpa Magyar, an infantryman. We also had a cohort of Korea and Vietnam guys, they were young then, still in their twenties and thirties. These are with us today; but their ranks are thinning as well.

While it is true that us kids played, and everyone ate and enjoyed themselves, there was always a moment devoted for remembrance and a short prayer.

Does anyone still do this? I hope so.

Our fallen. We have a list, from the Civil War to present.

ferry cannon

The parade back then would be somber, a marching line of veterans, everyone headed to the cemetery for a short service by the VFW chaplain. One recollection I have of those days, the late 1970’s, was a Great War veteran. His sister wheeled him onto the porch every year in his high-collared uniform. He had no face.

Our dead. Our honored dead.

Fast forward to now. How to describe this year’s Memorial Day?

Nearly one hundred thousand dead of a terrible epidemic; well over a million struggling with the sickness.

There won’t be any large gatherings. At least, not if people use some common sense.

So I guess this Memorial Day will be spent here at home, remembering, with Old Glory hanging in the pleasant spring breeze.

I don’t think our passed-on ancestors would mind; they’d want us to stay safe and do the right thing.

“This we’ll defend.”






Hey everybody. I’ve been laying low lately. But then again we all have. Mostly. Hopefully you all have been staying healthy and reasonably safe.

My latest writing jag has been so crazy that I have no idea when we started it. I think in March. Somewhere around the start of the Siege, but I’m not sure. Just now checked the earliest document in relation to the series, it’s dated March 11, 2020. Or at least that’s the last time it was modified.

So I’m close to right. I think.

For us, the Siege started on the 12th of March, that’s when all the schools were cancelled.

That’s when it all went to hell.

But that’s OK. It gave me an excuse to deep-dive into a fictional series; a joint effort with a friend and mentor.

I have a tentative release date, but it’s just that, tentative, so it wouldn’t do to put things out there and irritate people when the inevitable delays creep in. There’s a lot of moving pieces involved in this work, a lot of new stuff that pulled me out of my comfort zone and caused me to think about various stuff.

Like structure. World building. Show-don’t-tell. Pacing.

So here’s where I’m at; I’m closing in on the end game of my part of the rough draft. This has been a serious case of fugue-state writing; and now that I’m close to the end it’s moving very, very fast.

The writing, that is, as well as the narrative.

This is my first effort ever that spans in excess of one hundred thousand words; my novels usually wrap up somewhere north of eighty thousand, south of the mid-nineties.

It’s been a real marathon.

The hammering of the keys has dulled out some pretty dark, lousy days.

This is the longest, most ambitious project that I have taken part in to date.

Now that the end of the beginning is in sight, I already miss it.



Note: The rough draft, the end of the beginning, is complete. 111,034 words. 7800 in one day, yesterday. I am burned.





Hello, all. It is with great pleasure that I can post a writing sample today from me and Australian author John Birmingham‘s tentative shared universe; it’s a dreadful place where the Black Death, or a modern version thereof, stalks among us once again. This piece has no name, just a number. It is called 4 (5); “Sinkhole” works better.

Here goes! A joint effort and sample, JL/JB.


Not in all of his days had Bob Parker seen so many damn flies. Looked as if his dump truck was gonna get swallowed by a great black wave of them, a living storm, as he drove into the glen outside of Bayonet Point, Florida. Nothing for it, but. The Pasco County Health Board was desperate for places to bury the dead and someone had pointed out this clearing in Forest Acres.

This part of Florida was famous for sinkholes; the yawning chasm that Bob backed up to had opened just a few weeks earlier. Before all this other business with the virus and stuff. It’d been huge, but the damn thing was nearly full of bodies already. In a few more loads the county people would have to find somewhere else. Still, that wasn’t his problem. Some poor bastard standing with a facemask backed him up. This guy was standing right next to the lip and all he had for protection was an an old bandana wrapped around his face. Bob was glad to be sealed up inside. He didn’t even have the air on.

Bob paid extra close attention to his hand signals. Last thing he wanted was to get his truck stuck in a pit full of corpses. The stench was overpowering on this sunny spring day. He thought for a second about spinning his wheels; his mind shut down. He made a face and gagged.

The guy by the pit halted him. Gave him a thumbs up. Bob worked the dump bed controls, the massive hydraulics whined as the cylinder pushed the bed upright. The tailgate popped open, the lumpy, oozing, farting and stiffening load dumped out into the hole. Bob heard the man by the pit call out.

“Truck’s empty.”

Bob called back. “All right! Coming down.” The hydraulics whined again, after a few moments the lift bed clicked back into place. With some haste, Bob pulled out of the lime-green field and went back into town for another load.

There was a problem, of course, but neither Bob nor the civil servants working for the Health Board could be expected to know all the facts about karst topography and the formation of sinkholes. Florida was basically a limestone finger, jutting out of North America into the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. Limestone dissolves when exposed to water. It decays into a series of interconnected caves, sinkholes and ridges known as karst topography. Lots of wells had been drilled into the limestone for drinking water and millions of folks depended upon these wells.

Wells that were directly connected to the sinkholes throughout the state.

A few days after Bob Parker made his runs, Elmer George, a retiree from New York who had sealed himself off in his house, opened his kitchen tap.

A stream of brownish water gurgled out.

“Jesus, Lord God!” He gagged. “But does that stink!”

He let the tap run in hopes that the pipes would clear out. The pipes gurgled and belched and quit running.

What the hell, he thought. He figured something must have clogged the sink faucet. He knew there was a small filter in there. He’d had to have a plumber clean it out once after doing a pretty poor job of tending to it himself. Elmer opened the window for the stench and shuffled at double time up to the hallway closet where he kept a small handyman’s toolbox. He’d be damned if he was paying some toilet engineer three hundred bucks to come out and do this again. Elmer pulled out a set of slip-joint pliers and returned to the kitchen. He unthreaded the filter from the faucet with care and set it aside.

Then he turned on the water.

A massive blob of something flew into the sink, along with a splash of the foul brown water. Elmer swore and turned off the sink with haste. He examined the gob, the blockage.

It was a wad of scalp and human hair.

Shadows of Annihilation, a review


BLUF: The best of the Black Chamber series.

Everyone knows that I dig S.M. Stirling’s work. I’m pretty sure I’ve read everything he has produced, and most of it is amazing.

Of course I jumped on it when I originally read the premise of his new trilogy; a Great War alternate history combined with his writing. A sure-fire recipe for success, really.

So why did it take me two whole months after release to read and review “Shadows of Annihilation?

Well, I’m not going to launch into stupid excuses or mealy-mouthed explanations. I’ll just say I’ve been subject to some heavy stressors; this does not make me unique in this year of our Lord 2020. In fact, I’d say that most of us have been mildly freaked out lately.

It’s been weird; I haven’t been able to read or watch TV.

I have been able to write or work.

So an Australian friend pointed out what should have been obvious: treat reading like work. So I did, and I am pleased to say that it’s time to do this review.

Well, what didn’t I like about this book?

Not much. It was fun.

What did I like?

A lot. I’ll touch upon a few things.

Stirling did a lot of research in this book; he beats me like a stepchild in that regard. But he doesn’t get as far into the weeds as Michener; that can get old. No, the cake is fairly well leavened. Just enough.

The pacing was excellent; I didn’t have a feeling of dead spots or places where I had to struggle through. The book did what it should. It hooked the reader at the beginning and accelerated through to the end.

Have I mentioned that Stirling books never fail to make me hungry? They always do. He describes food in loving detail; this book reminded me in places of a favorite of mine, Conquistador. There were so many delicious sounding, utterly exotic dishes named. I could only hope to try one-quarter of them.

This book didn’t have implausible scenes. I thought book two, “Theater of Spies,” had too many of those. Now, I can suspend disbelief as well as the next fellow, but I do like a spoonful of realism with my science fiction. I thought Mr. Stirling did a nice job with the concluding chapter of this series.

Finally, Stirling did a really nice job of fleshing out his characters. The antagonist Horst wasn’t just some SS recast, he was a flawed man doing his best for his people and country, just like our protagonist, Luz and her girlfriend, Ciara.

This series is worth checking out. If you haven’t read the last book, do so.

It’ll make you wish that TR, instead of the most-unimpressive Taft, had gotten another shot at the presidency. But hey, unimpressive presidents happen.

Not everyone can be a Roosevelt.

Read Stirling’s latest and shake your head at what could have been.