Helen Goes Hunting – Prequel for “Cretaceous Crater” Part 1

Long time no see, everyone! I’m bringing this blog back to life and getting ready to begin a new Kindle serial, while also putting out more episodes of Arrivers.

After pondering the title of this new serial and finding it a little vague, I decided to change it from Queensland Crater to a friend’s suggestion of Cretaceous Crater.

The original title will stay as the name of the major landmark in the series.

Hunters going after cloned dinosaurs in a future Australia even more dangerous than the present Outback. That’s the premise. And here’s the first part of a FREE prequel for your reading pleasure!

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October 10, 2059
SE Queensland, Australia

Helen Larkwood lay stomach-down on the roof of the armored personnel carrier, dragging on her fourteenth “final cigarette” in a week. The scent carried through cold air to bait their trap. Her joints ached. Every day of her sixty-four years had left its mark.

The Outback had no right to be this cold. Or this green. Immature pines crowded the carrier like it had been parked in a Christmas tree lot. Nighttime mist dabbed her skin, beaded on the barrel and stock of her .50 caliber rifle. Downhill and to her left, a small pond rippled like a living mirror in the moonlight. The trees held birds and Archaeopteryx and bugs, each adding their music to the scene.

“Larkwood, you want me to smoke a few for you?” The annoyingly pleasant voice came from the radio by her gun. Clyde Marshall. A Yank. So of course he never knew when to shut up.

Scowling, she took a hand off the gun’s barrel and jammed the radio’s talk button. “Does silence mean the same thing in your country? Ceratos have good hearing.”

That, she thought, and it’d be rude for me to kill Nicotine right here and now. Better if she departed with it on good terms.

Ceratosaurus seemed drawn to tobacco smoke like catnip. And the team had been tracking a rogue male who seemed too smart to take the bait.

No reply came on the radio. Good. Maybe Clyde was picking up a little sense. Helen got back into position, feeling a slight flare-up of pain in her fingers.

Too old. Too tired. Leave this to someone else.

Clyde and the other members of her team waited a few meters beneath her, inside the carrier. Except for Jack. The slinky little creep was fifty meters to her right, not visible for now. He had wormed himself into the narrow space between two pine trees. A useful talent to have, given the resurrected carnivores stalking the Outback.

Peering through the scope, Helen could make out the shadowy rim of the Crater near the horizon, edged with rough rock that caught the light like shards of broken china. Almost thirty years since the Queensland Rock hit, and killed the country she had called home. Killed it, and left it blank for geneticists to fill the vacuum with primeval monsters.

Helen took one last drag on the cancer stick and spat it out over the carrier’s side. Another dead-end night.

Just then, the moisture-muffled air gained a new sound, a growl that sounded too deep for its owner’s chest cavity. But she knew it all the same.

To her right, Helen saw a pinpoint of white light blink three times, out amid the trees’ thickest crowds. Jack’s signal to her that he heard a Ceratosaurus call.

About bloody time, she thought.

She disengaged the safety on her Saurian-model K75 .50. The rifle was her brainchild, printed in her lab a year before Parliament had closed it down.

The job could have been left to someone else. Should have been. To his credit, Clyde was a talented shot under pressure – a necessity for him to take down four T. rexes during his career – and Jack was none too bad with high explosives.

But taking down a male Cerato meant stealth and speed. It needed someone who was motivated enough to fight for her next meal. And with Parliament’s bounty on these science experiments run amok, most of the money went to the one who delivered the killing blow. That’s what this hunt meant to Helen.

For a handful of ranchers on the outskirts of New Winton, it meant the safety of their livestock. For her, it meant regaining the life she had already lost, and enjoying it for a few more years. That was all she wanted now.

About two hundred yards off, her worn eyes picked up movement, and a distant silhouette climbed a gentle incline by a stream. Helen zoomed in with the rifle’s scope.

Time to get paid, she thought.

Fangs like knives lined the jaws of a horned demon, glinting in moonlight as the Cerato yawned. One could be forgiven if they mistook it for a small Tyrannosaur. Both dinosaurs had about the same body shape, the same shortened forearms. Key differences were clear through the scope, like the Cerato’s four fingers per hand instead of two, or the trio of short horns rising like the blades of push daggers above its sleek head.

A wash of relief and exhilaration charged Helen’s blood. She lined up her sights, tapping the APC’s roof thrice with the toe of her boot, to signal she was about to take a shot.

Oxygen flowed into her smoked lungs. Helen held the breath, let it out slowly. Her index finger curled around the trigger. She squeezed it.

A new sound blared into the tense night. The roar of a heavy engine.

In the same instant, the gun sent an armor-piercing round with a thunderclap. Her earplugs took the brunt of the blast, and the K75’s stock lunged into her shoulder. It hurt worse than she remembered.

Simultaneously, the Cerato had swiveled its head around to look behind it. Her round missed, and reduced a sapling behind the dinosaur to splinters.

She ground her teeth and chambered another round. The edges of her vision turned red. The timing couldn’t have been worse.

Who else is in a vehicle out here?

Helen pondered taking out their engine with a well-placed shot between the headlights. What were they going to do, send a little old lady to federal prison?

The dinosaur gave a quick cry and loped up the hillside. Twin headlights jumped into view. A huge APC like the one she sat on, longer than the Cerato. And it was catching up.

Helen grabbed the radio. “Who the hell is that?”

Clyde’s voice came back. “No one else is on the itinerary. That means we’re dealing with a cartel crew.”

“Damn!” Jack hissed. “And they won’t be the only ones out here.”

Helen swore. If the cartel didn’t already know they were here, her shot certainly gave their position away.

The black market collectors worked for various criminal organizations. Yakuza, the Russian Mafia, the Jade Knives of Beijing, even a few Central American cartels, all in the business of poaching Australia’s prehistoric animals, harvesting teeth and blood, sex organs and brains. Folk medicine still held sway in Asia, and stayed as lucrative as ever.

“Jack,” she said, “get back here. We’re going hunting.”

“What?” Clyde demanded. “You’re not suggesting-”

“I am. We are not losing our bounty.”

“We’re reporting this,” Jack insisted. “Leave it to the drone force to pick them off, Granny.”

She answered slow, level-voiced. Dangerous. “Now don’t make Granny put a boot in your arse. Back here. Now.”

—–

To be continued

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More Fiction! “Arrivers” and “Queensland Crater”

Long time no see, everyone! Hope you’re all having a blessed day.

I have been spending much time toiling away on new fiction projects. I’m currently waiting to hear back on a couple of stories, and am finishing a few others to go direct to Kindle.

In addition to “Descent,” the long-awaited fifth installment of the Arrivers serial (Due out June 30th) I am starting up another Kindle sci-fi serial for your reading pleasure: Queensland Crater.

Basic premise: right around the time we figure out how to clone dinosaurs in the early 2030s (and everyone wants them alive again without much thought for the implications), a small asteroid just so happens to hit the Outback, and wipes out most of the local ecology. Since Australia is actually large enough to support these animals in a self-functioning ecosystem (unlike a tiny Costa Rican island resort), the advances in genetic engineering enable us to make some very poor decisions, and rewild the Land Down Under with plants, big bugs, Pterosaurs, mammoths, and of course more dinos than you can shake a shotgun at.

Because when the general public clamors for something, it’s always wise to give them what they want.

Queensland1

Don’t worry, we don’t lose koalas and kangaroos forever. When you can rebuild a Stegosaurus from scratch, a wombat is not going to be much of a challenge.

After the law of unintended consequences hits Australia like a ton of bricks, hunters are called in to try and keep the new wildlife populations in check. So if you ever wanted to pick up a high-powered rifle and go T. rex hunting, you finally have a chance to learn what a terrible idea it is. The story follows hunter Tom Wells and his grandfather Clyde, trying to stay alive and make some money while cleaning up someone else’s mess.

[About hunting Tyrannosaurs: no, seriously, the bone pathology on Rex skeletons shows they were extremely hard to kill. They have injuries that should have been fatal, but show signs of healing. Kind of like Wolverine, but without the metal claws or Hugh Jackman’s roguish demeanor.]

So if this sounds like your cup of tea, I look forward to sharing it with you. The first chapter, Queensland Crater, comes out July 7, and the second, Welcome to the Hunt, should be out July 14.

See you at the Crater. Happy hunting!

Merry Rexmas

After a long absence, I am returning. Santa Claws, equipped with a giant grabbing claw, would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Unless he decides you look like food.

He sees you when you’re sleeping

He knows when you’re awake

You taste the same if you’re bad or good

So just run for goodness sake


Kronosaurus and Plesiosaur

I have finished another paleoart painting. This one depicts the giant marine reptile Kronosaurus, catching a Plesiosaur.

At the moment, I am continuing with my writing, and quite looking forward to presenting artwork at the Symposium for the Western Interior Paleontological Society, in March. They invited me to come set up a table in March, so I will be working on some more paleoart, as well as a few landscapes.

[I have started making prints for much of my artwork as well, so please let me know if you’d like to buy one. They make great gifts.]

Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas Dinner

Here is a commission I finished for a friend last night. Tyrannosaurus rex, getting ready to celebrate Christmas.

Contrary to popular opinion, T. rex most likely didn’t have vision-based movement. He would probably have seen you still or moving. So, in other words:

He sees you when you’re sleeping

He knows when you’re awake

You taste the same if you’re bad or good

So just run for goodness sake!

Paleo-Art in Progress: Spinosaurus Part 2

Now I can show the entire process, step-by-step, for how the Spinosaurus painting came to be, from preliminary sketch to the finished artwork. A scan of the painting is at the end.

Hope you enjoy the pictures!

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I first began with an initial sketch to set down the composition and shape of the dinosaur, as well as the eel he's catching.

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Next I added in some details and scale patterns that I thought would look neat. Note the little spines on his underbelly, somewhat like the spines on the throat of a bearded dragon.

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I copied the sketch on a sheet of tracing paper, then used that and a piece of graphite paper to transfer the shape onto an 8x10 inch masonite board.

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Here is where the trees and background begin to take shape, the water is filled in, and the two animals are given a contrasting color scheme for visual interest.

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Many details and highlights are added in, from the tree bark to the Spinosaur's eye.

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The finished work, with water highlights on the wet parts of the Spinosaur's hide, and dark stripes and spots for more of a natural pattern than just being entirely red.

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The final scan of the image.

Finished the Spinosaurus Painting

Here’s my latest finished painting. It is an 8 x 10 acrylic piece on masonite board. Scans of this and other paintings are forthcoming.

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A Spinosaurus aegypticus has just caught a large eel, which is still struggling to liberate itself from the predator’s bite. Unfortunately for the eel, Spinosaur teeth and jaws are designed to catch fish.