Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Middleport: The Senses of Weiland Kershaw - CH 1, Free Preview

Over the next few weeks, I will be offering a free preview of several chapters of New Middleport: The Senses of Weiland Kershaw.  This dystopian fiction book is the first in a series revolving around a main character that uses extraordinary senses to survive in a city controlled by ruthless rulers.  I wanted to take this opportunity to share a preview of my first book as a sneak peak into the fall release of part two that I'm currently working on.

Chapter 1 (Weiland Kershaw)

I know something is wrong when the shower cuts off.  It’s fortunate that all showers are only programmed for two minutes; otherwise, whoever has entered my hole of an apartment might’ve gotten the drop while I rinsed the daily filth.  You wouldn’t think that two minutes is enough time to break into an apartment quietly, but I guess it wouldn’t be a normal day without someone being killed.


“Do you hear that Weiland?”  I remember when my dad would sit me underneath the bathroom sink during his showers.  The cabinet doors to the sink would be closed, and it was his way of trying to adapt my ears to hear beyond outside noises.  I respond as innocently as possible, “Other than the water?”  My dad appreciated my humor when I was ready to answer his questions correctly.  He used to say that humor is the only way to see beyond the sunshine.

“The stove is on.  I can hear the coils firing up.”  My dad acknowledges me with a quick laugh, which means he’s very happy that I’ve guessed correctly.  He adds, “Soon you’ll be able to notice the change in temperature, but there will be time for that.”  He exits the shower and I stay below until he’s gotten dressed.  My father always wanted me to be able to feel or know the answer by experiencing the solution rather than attempting to guess.  This would include hiding underneath the sink to test my sense of hearing, jumping from the tall dresser to the mattress on the floor to test my sense of velocity and timing, and sometimes he would teach me to recognize traps that could harm, not only the senses that I had been attempting to acutely increase, but my life as well.

My dad would tell me that having a sense of things can help to avoid bad situations, but also there would come a time when I would want to have companionship beyond “dear old dad.”  I didn’t understand at such a young age, but he eventually made me realize that relying on your senses would help you to trust others; however, more times than not these instincts would tell you who not to trust.  He would take me to public displays to help me understand the consequences of trusting the wrong person.  These displays are always in various locations, so sometimes we would trek to the ends of the city to watch.  The additional reprimand of these shows is the fact that they’re done near the residence of relatives whenever possible, which is almost a blessing compared to being displayed at the center of New Middleport.  There has never been a sole survivor that was displayed at the center.  This area is the most vacant part of the city, because people are afraid to make a mistake when they are so close to what everyone has deemed the death show.

“Do you remember where the weapons are hidden in the apartment?  Do you remember where all the exits are in the apartment?  Do you remember where you should go when you are in absolute danger?”  My answer was always the same.


It’s a three man team this time.  Anyone that’s not a tracker calls them the breeds.  They normally scour the areas beyond the city, as they are the only ones besides the rulers that are legally allowed to leave Middleport, but they must be stretched for help if the breeds are coming across my doorstep for a second time.  They’re in charge of New Middleport recruitment, which is the rulers’ way of making them sound light-hearted like they’re going around and teaching people how to toast marshmallows.  Breeds are thug trackers that abduct individuals or even whole families for many reasons that are not for the faint of heart.  New Middleport is always in need of workers, spies, thugs, enforcers, and even bait.  If you get abducted, death will come one way or the other.

The rulers are good that way.  They have their ways of smoking out those that would vocalize displeasure with their city.  Spies are endless in the port.  They can be a stranger, they can be a friend, or they can even be a family member.  A spy has one goal, which is to catch someone doing something wrong and let the rulers make an example of those that are caught.  A spy is a bottom feeder, because they’ll accept anything as a reward to be a spy.  Some are forced into being a spy, but it’s still a choice to betray those closest to you.  There’s no denying that the term killed has become a staple in the daily life of port people.  The port is the nickname for New Middleport, because most people have to struggle to find used goods, let alone anything remotely new and there’s nothing middle class about such poor living conditions.

“Now where was I?  Oh, right.  You and your two thugs, excuse me, you and these two now quiet thugs were looking for something in this residence.”  The third breed is looking up at me from one knee, grasping the other in obvious pain.  I put the blade so close to his eye he doesn’t dare blink because of fear that he will get cut again.  The other two were fortunate.  They went quickly and without the fear.  Blood is pooling up so quickly around his feet now, I give him a quick smirk knowing that I’ve cut him correctly.  “If you were lucky enough to bring liquid protein that cut might not end your life.”  His eyes give him away.

His glance toward one of his fallen trackers tells me they have some.  The thug knows there's only one end coming between the two of us now that I know there's something of value and he makes a futile attempt to pull a knife from his boot.  His fingertips can only wish they were close enough to grab at something as he tastes another quick stab.  At this point, he can only squirm at his neck as he falls to the floor.  He gives me his final pale stare within a few seconds.  It is a gruesome scene, but nothing less if they would've gotten their hands on me first.  At least I gave them some dignity of ending it without demonstration.

© 2011 S. T. Lakata

Stay tuned for another free preview at the end of this week.  My book is currently available through the Kindle and Nook.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Like To Run

Why do I run?

I run to clear my mind.  I run to think.  I run to listen to music.  I run to be healthier.  I run because it's fun.  I run because it's difficult.

I guess the number one reason I run is because I want to.  It's never easy and there are sometimes aches and pains.  Sometimes my lungs can't sustain a long run.  Sometimes my legs can't sustain a long run.  It's okay if I can't run forever and ever and it's okay if I stop during a run.  I'm not a professional athlete or a very good runner, but you could call me the king of stop and go.  I run until I can't muster any more strength.  Then I stop and walk.  Then after I've gotten enough wind back, I get back to running.  This practice goes on and on until it's time for me to get back home.  I don't track how long I run or how far I go, at least not always, and that's okay too.

I'm comfortable with running.  I understand that it's something that I want to do and not something I need to do to prevent my heavier days.  Yes I'm tall, but it doesn't mean that 285lbs is good for a tall person.  Well, maybe if you are a defensive end for the NFL.  It's been a while since I was that lazy and chose to eat an unhealthy diet at all hours of the night.  I'm definitely not perfect, but I've changed some things over the past few years.  I want to do everything I can to be here as long as I can for my family, which is about to be a plus one at the dinner table soon.  That's a pretty good reason to keep up with moderation.  Now don't get me wrong, I love ice cream.  And when I say ice cream, I mean it's the only reason I want to eat cake, cookies, or brownies.  There needs to be some ice cream on top.  And yes, some might say that I go overboard when I do eat ice cream.  I'm working on that.

Back to running.  I like the feeling you get a few hours after running.  My lungs feel relaxed.  My body feels relaxed.  I feel happy that I've gone for a run.  It's the small things, but it doesn't take much to please this cat.  I want to be healthy when I can, splurge on ice cream when I can (in moderation of course), and just run when I can.  I don't have a perfect system, but I feel happy with the decisions I've made with food and exercise.  I'm happy that my wife and I both make good decisions with food and exercise.  We go for walks when we can and she goes to pregnancy yoga and I run.  I'll sometimes get on an elliptical machine to spare my knees, but it's definitely not the same.  The freedom to just run and put myself on cruise control is splendid.  I listen to some great tunes, zone out (with the exception of checking for traffic), and just keep going until it's time for me to get back home.

I guess I could've just said I like to run and maybe that would explain it just as well as what I just blabbered on about.  Maybe I could've explained it in four easy words.  Perhaps there isn't any need to explain the simplicity of it all and why something so simple can make a person happy.  I guess I can give it a shot.

I like to run.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Much More Than a Dash

I've mentioned before in earlier posts that I used to list my favorite songs on instant messenger during college.  I would post lyrics and my favorite songs for a given day or week in my profile (and away messages).  It was so fun to share what I was listening to with my friends.  I haven't done it since college and I completely forgot about it until a Twitter post. I'd like to thank Tom Hiddleston; you might recently know him as Loki in Thor and The Avengers.  He posts a "Song of the Day" and it completely sent me back several years to my college days.

I want to continue to post songs of the day (via Twitter) and it's great to see the response from others that will favorite or retweet these songs.  I had a huge response last night with my song dedicated to the first day of summer; "Stormtrooper" by Pepper.  If you are unaware of Pepper, they have a great sound.  I spent the summer of 2006 in San Diego with a friend, while I completed an internship.  We went to the beach every weekend and many week nights.  Every time we were on the beach, we would blast Pepper's Kona Town.  It quite possibly could be the best beach music and better yet, the best summer music.  They have some mellow beats.  They have some upbeat beats.  It's just a fantastic sound.  I think of that summer, the beach, and the many days I played their songs in college each and every time I listen to this band.  And how can that be a bad thing for someone that lives on the east coast in Baltimore and encounters winter every year?

Pepper can turn around anyone's bad mood.  The songs are infused with a sense of fun in the sun and remind me that there's a beach somewhere and the ocean breeze is brushing against me with my feet kicked up in the air.  I don't know about you, but that ability to transfer such a connection to someone is what makes a band worthwhile.

Again, a special thanks to Tom Hiddleston for reminding me that it is fun to share your music favorites with friends.  I'd also like to send an additional thanks to everyone that either favorited or rewtweeted my song of the day, which does include Pepper and Law Records. Yeah, that's pretty cool.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My First Book Review: The Academie

The Academie is another great example of why I love dystopian fiction.  Amy Joy brings you a story filled with a mysterious school, unthinkable laws, and a main character that is trying to deal with these laws that force her to attend this school.  Allie, the main character, attempts to adapt to a new life in The Academie, while trying to remember everything that she left behind.

Amy Joy does an excellent job in transferring Allie's emotions to the reader.  There were several moments that I found myself smiling, while reading exchanges between Allie and her beau.  This wonderful story provides elements that allow the reader to cheer for the heroine, while enjoying any reason she has to be sassy.

This book leaves you wanting more and I'm really looking forward to a sequel.

You can find this same review and The Academie for purchase on Amazon.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Alternative in Me

Every single day I try to fit too many things into my schedule.  I try to write. I try to blog. I try to search FB and tweet with others. I do dishes. I sometimes cook. I try to do anything I can to make Meghan's pregnancy easier.  One thing I always have time for, especially on my trek to and from work, is music. Now don't be alarmed. I sometimes am a little enthusiastic when I'm alone in my car and listening to some great tunes.  This should not scare you.  It might be a good opportunity to mock or laugh, but never fear.

My music tastes originate from my mom like my sporting tastes come from my dad.  I grew up listening to U2, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Queen, Genesis/Phil Collins, and so many other bands that include one hit wonders that I couldn't tell you the name of the band unless I looked it up.  Now, my favorite song of the 80s at the time could possibly be Run-DMC and Aerosmith performing "Walk This Way."  The end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s included LL Cool J and if anyone asked me my favorite song at its release, it was "Mama Said Knock You Out." I think it wasn't until just recently that I got rid of that single on tape. There was also R.E.M., Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, Metallica, and so many others.

The music that I listen to now revolves around the grunge era and alternative rock.  In the 90s and 00s, I listen(ed) heavily to Live, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Radiohead, Linkin Park, Incubus, Sev, R.E.M., Green Day, Beastie Boys, Outkast, Counting Crows, Korn, Deftones, Eminem, and more. I also enjoy(ed) Avenged Sevenfold (A7X), Seether, Zander Bleck, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Muse, The Killers, Lady Gaga, Weezer, Billy Talent, Silverchair, 311, and yes, I could keep going.

Music is a great way for me to unwind or get energized for any given day.  During my college years, I used to post songs of the week and day.  I would update my posts via AIM.  Do we all remember AIM?  I haven't gotten on instant messenger in probably five years, but I used to update my profile with songs, albums, and lyrics.  And there wasn't any particular reason to do it other than to share what music I was really enjoying.  So I think I might get back into that just for fun.

I'll be tweeting a song of the day every day at @STLakata so feel free to stop by and check it out.  I will also occasionally post my favorite songs from the 90s, 00s, or today.  For now, here's a list of some favorite songs while I was in college:
  • Figure.09 by Linkin Park
  • Thoughtless by Korn
  • Beverly Hills by Weezer
  • Just A Phase by Incubus
  • Sympathetic by Seether
  • The Wicked End by A7X
  • Same Old Song by Sev
  • Confessions by Bleed The Dream
  • The Man Who Sold The World (cover) by Nirvana
  • Street Carp by Deftones
  • Dani California by Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • King of Comedy by R.E.M.
  • Beautiful Disaster by 311
  • Across the Night by Silverchair
  • Tahitian Moon by Porno for Pyros
  • Gone by U2
  • Nothing to Lose by Billy Talent
  • Face Plant by Pepper
This is just a small glimpse of some favorites from my college years.  I hope everyone will share their favorite songs and stay tuned for future blogs that may have a touch of the alternative.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Movies + Comics, Again and Again

If you had to watch a movie in theater again, what movie would you watch?  I really enjoy seeing flicks in theater, but I've been much more frugal over the past couple of years.  I've already seen The Avengers in theater, but would love to see it again.  I have seen several movies over and over again in the theater, but they have to be great to see them multiple times.  I believe that The Avengers is one of those movies.  It's just so cleverly done.  Sometimes, you'll see a movie and there are lines meant to be funny or serious and it just feels forced.  That's not the case in this movie.  It's really cool to see a group of good actors come together for a comic book film, especially since comics were part of my earlier years.  Okay, I admit that I wouldn't mind getting back into them.  Comic books are so fun and can have fantastic stories, images, and color, which make them obvious for translating to film.

I've heard people contradict the believability of comic book movies.  I'll paraphrase what I've heard, "How can the Black Widow fight these monsters with just a gun?  She doesn't have any super powers."  That's what comic books are; they are the ultimate definition of imagination being brought to life.  And what else are movies for that matter.  Aliens break through a mystical wormhole and super heroes fight these aliens to save the planet, but a character's lack of super powers is what seems to be unbelievable?  Sometimes, that's what makes someone a super hero.  I'm also very curious and love to talk about movies.  What movie would you love to see again in the theater?  I would love to see The Avengers and would probably like to see that again over some other movies that I have yet to see.  On a side note, I'm surprised that they don't bring popular older movies back in theaters more often.  Pulp Fiction was brought back a short period after its initial release was over back in '94ish.  I am pretty sure that a lot of people would love to see that movie in theater again.

What other movies would be great to see again in theater?  How about The GodfatherThe Silence of the Lambs, The Hustler, The Goonies, Apollo 13, Hot Fuzz, Bad Boys, Forrest Gump, Iron Man, Die Hard, or The Shawshank Redemption?  These are just a few that I thought of, but who wouldn't want to see these movies in theater again?  Well, for right now, I'll settle for seeing The Avengers again while it's still in theaters now.  In the meantime, I think I might look through my collection of comic books.