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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Writer's Digest et al

Back in May, I was collaborating with a good friend of mine. We decided to work together as writers in an attempt to spur each other on. This way, we would be responsible to someone else, held accountable for failing to submit or finish a manuscript. And it worked... for a while. Life has a way of getting in the way.

My previous job was very demanding, time-wise. It wanted us peons to spend most of our free time catching up. Even the fast writers were unable to adhere to the ridiculously strict schedule. Because of this, and the fact that I spent 10 hours a day writing, the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was write MORE. I realize now that writing is a BAD job for a writer, unless you are writing something you love and that you want to write. My friend, likewise, was spending most of his time working, and so we both fell out of the groove and lost touch a few months back. It is high-time we started collaborating again.

But I digress. One of the things I DID finish was a short story of mine. I submitted a version of this story to my school's literary magazine, and it was accepted. I was thrilled! A historical fiction-suspense-mystery-thriller short story was accepted with all the poems and life lesson shorts that seem to inundate the more "academic" mindset. My professors all loved the story, as did my peers. It wasn't until I joined a writing workshop that people were able to tear holes in it - which I was immensely grateful for! After all, the only way to make something better is to know where it's broken.

I fixed the story after doing an extensive amount of research into writing styles, current events, and locations of the time period. I daresay it was nigh-perfect, yet I would still improve upon it if I could. A writer never finishes, he just surrenders. I submitted the piece to a contest being held by Writer's Digest. I was told that my friend was able to get 9th place in the competition previously, and our quality if writing is comparable. I felt assured that I would at least make it into the top 100.

Yesterday, I finally discovered the results of this competition. After hundreds of hours on this 7-page story, I felt a little disappointed that it wasn't in the top 10... or 50... or 100. The story that won the grand prize was later disqualified for being previously published... twice. I read the thing, and though it was still well written, it had that same damnable "life lesson" feel that all of them seem to share now. It was not remarkable. But what does that say about my piece? Did it drown in a sea of submissions, or am I simply not as talented as I was led to believe?

I realize, however, that dwelling on this, brooding over it until it festers, is not going to help. It will just make me more cynical and less constructive. I have to keep writing. I will not be sending things out to contests for a while, as they usually cost money. I am unemployed, and finding work is proving to be an insurmountable obstacle in these tough times, especially in this area. I may be returning to school to pursue a degree in engineering. I am also soon to become a father. My wife and I are expecting our first child in March. In about 100 days, life as we know it will end, and a new one will take its place. A life of sleepless nights, diapers, crying, throw up, tantrums, penny-pinching, curiosity, discovery, and love. Through all this, I must still find the time to write. Perhaps it will provide further impetus or inspiration. And if I cannot return to school for whatever reason, I may well become a stay-at-home dad. Who knows, maybe I'll have a fatherhood blog coming.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How To Be A Thief - Chapter 9

Twin cubes careened down the soft, green velveted-covered pit and bounced chaotically off the spiked wall. As they eventually gave their energy away and came to a rest, they were greeted by a loud cheer.

"Seven!" shouted a young man dressed to the nines. He was surrounded by a crowd of spectators, all a clamor. Each person there was tall, beautiful, and well-dressed. Fine jewels gleamed from the necks of their owners. Several hands were embellished with rocks so large wars would be fought over them. The combined riches of the crowd would be enough to let an entire kingdom retire peacefully.

In the middle of this crowd, however, was a Man dressed to the elevens, as if being dressed to the nines was just not enough. Light seemed to come from his pure white and incredibly suave smile. The tuxedo he wore sparkled so much that it could probably be seen in a pitch-black room. Atop The Man's head was a short, stiff hat that was tilted ever-so-slightly; it would look odd on anyone else, but he made anything look good. His every movement was born out of some seemingly limitless supply of confidence, even as he leaned into the pit to simply pick up the dice. In fact, one might even believe that he, himself, was somehow the source of all confidence in the world, and that all other boldness was just a shadow on the wall of a cave.

Dice in hand, he grinned at the audience in general and winked, eliciting a sigh from every female and even several of the males. He brought the dice up to the woman who was standing beside him. Like him, she seemed to effuse a warm glow. She was tall, almost as tall as he was, with hair the color of the midnight sky spilling down her back and shoulders and constantly covering part of her face. The dress she wore revealed just enough of her perfect, lightly freckled skin to kindle the imagination of any who spent more than a passing glance on her form. No jewels graced her figure, as they would only detract from the splendor. Full, kissable lips were twisted in a seductive smile as she blew on the dice in The Man's hand. "For luck," the Lady said. At the sound of that voice, teenage boys would gladly go through puberty in a matter of seconds.

The Man threw the dice again. "Seven!" the young man called again, much to the delight of the onlookers. This time, the Lady leaned over, making sure to show off just a little more of her flesh to the handsome young announcer, and grabbed the dice.

"MURPHY!" came a shrill shriek over the crowd. The Man turned around with a confused, yet still strangely confident smile on his face.

"Ah, Skeps. I didn't expect to see you at such a… business," Murphy said as the crowd fell silent and drew back a little.

"Believe me, I would have spent the next eternity blissfully unaware of this establishment and all others like it." Skeps was a severe-looking woman with blond hair tied up in a tight bun. She wore a business suit with a long skirt that hid most of her legs. As she looked up and down the pair before her, she pushed up on the bridge of the small, square-framed glasses that adorned her face. "I see you brought your little… Lady."

Murphy frowned at her, an entirely unnatural expression for him. "Felicity," he said. "It means-"

"I KNOW what it means. Send her away; my business is not for the ears of Minors." Skeps drew closer and lowered her voice. As she did, the color faded out of the crowd and scene around them. Soon, it was as though they were walking in the middle of a 3-dimensional painting.

"What is this about, Skeps?"

Before anyone could answer, there was a small burst of light nearby. Out of it walked a young man, his arms full of books. The stack he carried was enough to hide his face from view, but a few glances gave away some of his features. He, too, wore glasses, but unlike Skeps, it seemed he needed them. "M-Mistress," he called out as he blindly walked towards them. There was almost no confidence in his voice.

Skeps rolled her eyes and sighed. "Can you not see I'm busy, Caret? This had better be important."

Caret lowered his arms just enough to peak over the books at Murphy. "O-oh! S-s-Sir Murphy! I-I'm sorry, I didn't… this wasn't on your schedule…"

"Meetings with him rarely are…" Skeps said under her breath.

"Ma'am, you wanted me to tell you when…" Caret started, but as he stared at Murphy it slowly dawned on him that there was a woman standing there with him. "L-Lady!" A fierce blush erupted on his cheeks, made even deeper when he stumbled and dropped all the books he was carrying to the ground in a series of muted THUMPs. "Ack!"

Murphy's smile returned as he saw this. Skeps could swear she saw a gleam of something mischievous in his eyes as he turned to whisper something to Felicity. The Lady grinned and nodded to him, politely curtseying to Skeps before walking over to Caret.

"Tell me what?" Skeps demanded in a terse tone. Caret was distracted as Felicity knelt down and started to help him pick up the books. It didn't help that she looked up at him and winked. "CARET!"

"Oh! M-Mistress! The Council of 6 is set to meet soon and you have been chosen as the Arbiter." Caret turned his attention back to the books, trying hard not to steal a glance up at the beauty helping him. It was not very often that the gods, minor or major, interacted with each other, and even less so with Caret. He spent most of his time with books. Fiction, nonfiction, educational, interactive, written, drawn - it mattered not. He had read almost everything that ever had been or ever will be written, so it was no surprise that he rarely got to see the other gods and goddesses.

Skeps set her jaw as she leaned in close to Murphy, her cold, steal-grey eyes staring straight into his. Her voice was low, but it was dangerous. "I will make this short and shorn. I know you were behind it, Fate. There are no coincidences, especially when it comes to you and your favored. One of my best judges has passed on, and now the Eye is missing. If I ever catch you involved in the death of one of my judges again, I will make sure the Council removes you. Permanently."

Murphy simply stood there, a small smile on his face. "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about, Order." He presented the dice in his hand to her. "For luck?"

Skeps narrowed her eyes, almost like she was trying to bore a hole through his skull with it. "Come, Caret!" she demanded. Before turning, she hit Murphy's hand, sending the dice flying towards the pit. A few feet up from his hand, they paused in mid-air. "There's a lot to prepare for." Felicity stood up as Skeps walked over to the them, grabbing the young god by the ear. In an instant, they, and all his books, were gone.

Without warning, color flooded back into the scenery and faces of the people as time began to flow properly once more. The dice bounced off the floor of the pit and bounced off the wall before coming to a halt. "Eight!" the young man announced as the crowd let out a painful groan.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Procrastination Station

Sorry about the lacuna in my blog. I will be posting more regularly now.

Yes, I'll admit it, I'm procrastinating again. But I won't be for much longer.

I took a job on VWorker.com. It seems like I'll be writing a school paper for someone, but I have no evidence and I want to be paid. Plus, it's relatively interesting. As far as I know, I'm writing content for a website. Content that needs a bibliography. It's due Thursday - I plan to finish by Wednesday.

This week is marking the beginning of a new chapter for me. I am going to start taking my goals much more seriously now. I tried to get all the gaming out of my system last week, and I'm not sure how successful I was. I have been playing Final Fantasy 12 for several months now and I am, I hope, close to the end. I was trying to finish it, but failed. Instead, I had to go through this 99-floor dungeon-crawl that took FAR too much time and patience, even after I gave up trying to solve the puzzles for extra hidden goodies. For the first time in that game, I was NOT blissfully entertained. Instead, I felt like hurdling the controller into my TV set in the hopes that it would somehow break the barrier of reality and hit one of the main characters in the head. Or preferably the writer who came up with that atrocious dungeon.

I also tried Final Fantasy 13. I am, as of yet, unimpressed. I heard that it was linear for the first 30 or 60 hours or so, but I didn't know they meant that the only path you can even WALK is a straight line. On top of that, you can, so far, only improve your characters along a straight path as well. But, I can forgive that. What I cannot forgive is the below-par story-telling. Not only have they failed to make me empathize in any way with the characters (some of whom are far too stereotyped), but they have done a piss-poor job of relaying the backstory. The only reason I know what is going on is because the game randomly adds "datalogue" entries with pages of text to read about the plot. And it constantly updates items in the menu, so there's always something "new" even when there isn't. I may give it a second chance... later. I've played over a dozen games in the Final Fantasy series and this one has quickly dropped to the bottom of the list.

I also spent time on Saturday at a local Oktoberfest, but I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping for scads of German fare, German beer, German music, German goods, and German dancing. I got the music and the dancing, and only a little of the food. The rest might as well have been a local craft fair. I'm sorry, but buffalo wings, pan pipes, centrifuges, gyros, and Bud Light have no business at a proper Oktoberfest.
What I did find, however, was the dirtiest port-a-potty I have ever laid eyes on. It was... a thing of putrid winsomeness. The squeamish should skip to the next paragraph. The outside of this yellow stall was normal, unassuming. It was, unfortunately, the only one available. The moment I stepped inside, I was treated to work akin to Van Gogh. I did not know feces could be such an effective medium. It was smeared on the walls, the toilet paper dispenser, the toilet paper, the seat, the ceiling, the floor... and it was signed with the artist's own hand print. I made certain not to touch any surface in that oubliette of ordure. I wish I could not make out some of the items the producer of that stall stool had eaten to produce the slurry of sludge.

There, that wasn't so bad, was it? What, you lost your lunch? Well, I did warn you... So, everything said and done, I do not think I will be returning to that Oktoberfest. If Greenville has one, perhaps I'll check it out, but I haven't heard anything.

Alright, perhaps I have procrastinated long enough. I am now off to write a rough draft about satellites. I will, tonight, be writing more of my web comic and attempting to get the long-awaited Chapter 9 of How to Be a Thief up. Oh, and I have an idea for another story I would like to start. I am thinking this time I will begin a blog dedicated entirely to this story. And perhaps I will try to develop a community. An artist or two would be fantastic, as would forums, fans, and ads. I will let you know when things get started.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How To Be A Thief - Chapter 8

The sun was high and fierce by the time Manfred and the others arrived at the predetermined meeting space. After they had captured The Duke, Mel sent Aryx off to relay a message to their client, the judge, saying when and where to meet. It was always a good idea to find a neutral place for these things, and the group had been using this one for several weeks with great results. Very little was spoken as they led their bound mark out of the busier sections of the city and into the ruins of the old sector.

Tall buildings filled with busy people turned into tall ruins filled with lazy pigeons. The crowds thinned until soon the only people they saw were each other. This part of Kell had fallen into disrepair long ago because it was too far from the merchants, temples, homes, and other sites of interest that had risen in the newer sections. In some parts, carts, buckets, ancient fruit stands, and children's toys remained behind - a testament to some long forgotten exodus.

"Where are you taking me?" The Duke asked eventually as Mel prodded him forward. His hands were tied behind his back and Mel kept her kukri pressed against his back.

"We are going to see Judge Aska," Mel replied with a grin. "You have something that does not belong to you."

Before The Duke could protest, the cry of a bird sounded from a clearing in the buildings. Aryx was perched atop a column, one of many that encircled a small stage, perhaps where an altar of a neglected temple was once placed. Mel grinned and raised her left arm. Almost immediately, Aryx launched from his vantage point and flew straight toward her, talons outstretched. The Duke squealed and ducked as the bird flew at him and grasped onto Mel's arm just a few inches behind his head.

"I was beginning to think that you would not show," came the resounding echo of a firm voice. Its owner stood on the stage in the middle of the columns, and what surprised Manfred the most was that this judge was a woman. She was tall, wraith-like in feature, and had a strong, angular face. It was a face that had condemned thousands of men and women to unfair punishments without flinching. Then again, in her court, there was no such thing as unfair. She was wearing the red robes of a judge, her graying, thin hair tied up in a bun. The moment Manfred stepped into view, her cold gaze shot to him. "Who is that?"

"He is… our apprentice. Pay him no heed. We are here to settle our bounty." Mel took charge of the situation, pushing The Duke in front of her as she stepped before Aska. Jesz sank back behind Manfred, all too eager to let Mel take the lead. If there was anything a thief did not like, it was a judge.

"This is true, let us stick to business." Judge Aska said as she took a step off the altar towards them. She was just as tall as Mel and gave off a fearful aura that commanded respect and attention. "Let us see if the item is still intact." She grinned and leaned close to The Duke, reaching up with a bony hand and tearing the patch away from his left eye.

"No! You cheated me!" he said, closing his eyes hard and turning his face away. "You said that in exchange for giving that false testimony, you would she me the truth about the witch who did this to me!"

"Oh dear Cameron, or should I call you 'Duke?'" Aska purred, a sound that was so grating it could cut cheese. She grabbed his cheeks with one hand, pulling his face up to meet hers. "I never renege on a promise. Surely you did see the truth."

"Yeah, I saw it, and I couldn't stop seeing it! No one should know what this damned eye told me! My girl was cheating, my boss thought I was a fool - even my own ma was keeping secrets I wished had stayed that way! This patch is the only way to stop it from telling me things!" He shuddered in Mel's grasp as Judge Aska pulled out a strange, pointed device with a small cup in the center. "Wh-what are you gonna do with that?"

The judge pointed this device, which looked like it could easily have been given a spot in Auntie Payne's Torture Digest, directly at The Duke's left eye. "I only lent it for a week. I'm just going to take back what is mine."

Manfred, Jesz, and Eaups were grateful that they could not see what happened next. The Duke screamed, and a moment later there was a strange sucking noise. The next thing they knew, there was an eye in the device. The eye did not look normal, however, but appeared to be put together from many overlapping layers of gold leaf. The iris and pupil seemed to be mechanical, but it was far too complicated and small for any jeweler, clock-maker or gold smith to assemble. In the back of the eye was a small, dark hole. Judge Aska grinned as she held it up in the mid-day sun to look at it. "Ahhh… Occam's Gazer. You're finally home."

The Duke clenched his eyes shut. Mel let go of the rope and let him fall to his knees. The object was back with its rightful owner and he was no longer needed. "Fine, take it! I never could find a buyer anyway." The Duke stumbled to his feet and pushed past Manfred, hands still bound, heading for the busier sections of town. Manfred was about to stop him when Jesz put her hand up in a gesture that said, "Let him go."

"It is with its rightful owner, now," Mel said, shifting her weight as she started to put the kukri away. "Now for our pay." Under normal circumstances, a proper exchange would have taken place, with money and item changing hands at the same time. But it was a tedious, stressful affair that often ended up in needless fighting or hostages. Besides, everyone knew you could trust a judge.

"Yes," Aska said as she continued to look over the eye. "You know, had you been in possession of this little gem, you would have seen the truth simply by looking through it." She held the device up to her face so that she could look at the group through the eye. "The longer you look, the more truth it tells you. Oh my, aren't' you a naughty boy," she said as she looked at Manfred and smirked. "Had you used it on me, you would have known that I can't be trusted. Why should I pay for something that belongs to me? But, since you know my word is bad, I can't very well have you leaving here alive, now can I?"

With a snap, half a dozen men armed with crossbows stepped out from behind several of the columns, all of them trained city guards. Mel pulled back, launching Aryx and taking her bow off of her shoulder. Jesz lowered her center balance and pulled out her pair of knives. Eaups held his staff out in front of him, and began preparing a spell. Manfred pulled out several long needle-like weapons which no one had seen before. But all of their actions were in vain, because each one already had an arrow aimed at them.

"I should have known," Mel growled behind clenched teeth.

"Oh, don't kill yourself over it," the judge said as she stepped back onto the altar area. "That's our job." With that, she raised her hand. In unison, the guards all raised their crossbows, improving their already deadly aim. "I wish I could promise that it won't hurt, but… what is that noise?"

For some time, the distant sound of thunder could be heard from somewhere in the city. But as Judge Aska and her guards prepared to attack, the noise had grown, and changed. Here it was a CLINK clink… there it was a rummmmble… soon it was replaced by the almost melodic, distressed sound of a bell that had fallen out of its steeple and was rolling along the ground. Behind Manfred and the others, Aska could see that it was indeed a bell, now bent out of shape and wobbling down the road. It collided with an abandoned fruit cart, which sent the cart careening into a pole. The pole teetered for a moment before slapping a sleeping cat on the back, which jumped a good ten feet in the air and landed on huge piece of masonry that was precariously balanced along a wall. Slowly the chunk of rock started to roll, making the cat jump off, and collided with the first column in the abandoned temple. The guards were all looking up at the column as it leaned forward, its balance fighting with gravity until finally it collapsed on the second column, which fell on the third and down the line. Too late the guards realized that they were directly in the line of fire.

"Sod this!" one of the guards said as he started to scramble away, but too late. The columns fell all around them, burying the guards in a cloud of dust and a ton of marble. Judge Aska looked up, the second to last column now leaning against the final column, which would fall directly on her. She started to back up, the last one holding steady until
MEOW! Jesz saw it all in slow motion. Aska stepped on the poor cat's tail as she backed away from the column. The cat then jumped at the judge, attaching itself to her head and face. Aska screamed and started to run wildly, dropping Occam's Gazer and pulling at the cat with both hands. Just as the cat was pulled free, Judge Aska ran head first into the only standing column. This small force, unfortunately, was enough to send the ancient piece of marble crumbling to pieces on top of her.

Within 13 seconds, everyone left alive, even the Duke, had made it a good 300 yards away from the rubble.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How To Be A Thief - Chapter 7.5

"What can go wrong, will go wrong." Over the years, this simple adage has come to be recognized as a law, and even more than just a law, but as Murphy's Law. It has proven itself time and time again, as countless magicians, engineers, cat burglars, performers and explorers can attest to. People have even come to add variations, corollaries and addenda to the law. A common magician's corollary says that any spell which seems to be a dud will inevitably go off at your mother-in-law's at the most inopportune time. Likewise, a famous cat burglar was quoted as saying, "The one trap you didn't plan for will always be the one you run into 20 feet from your mark."

Few people realize that Murphy himself had nothing to do with all of this. However, even though he did not make the law, there is a simplicity to it that he always found charming. If Murphy had a law at all, it would be, "That which Fate wants to do, Fate will do." Either that, or "Never bet against the blind man at 6-card flop."

One of the best examples of Murphy's Law was unfolding along the busy streets of Kell, right before the eyes of Miss Ruby. Ruby was known far and wide as the friendliest tavern wench above the age of 30 in the kingdom (though no one would ever admit this to her face). She had been sitting outside The Saucy Saucer for half an hour, waiting for the tavern owner to come around so they could discuss her pay. Ruby always made it a point to be fashionably late, but her boss always made it a point to promptly forget any important meetings until an hour after he should have been there. Strangely enough, it always worked out for them. They often had meetings to discuss her pay, but this time, as her boss approached, a rotund man with a permanent blush, something was different. Ruby was watching some scaffolding folding in on itself a block up with intense interest.

"Well Rube, what is it this time? Another pay raise? You know that coffee isn't going to pour itself." the round man said.

"What? Oh.. yeah… say, Mr. Goldberg, what do you suppose that is?" Ruby pointed up the street as a ladder teetered on two legs and fell over, hitting a fruit cart and causing the large melons to go flying every which way. One of the melons, a rather large, green thing with a rough rind, rolled down the middle of the street in front of the two onlookers.

"That's a watermelon," Mr. Goldberg replied.

"Yeah, yeah, but I mean.. this whole thing…" As the watermelon rolled down the street, it collided with a small boy on a bicycle, causing him to veer off course and run into a wall. The resulting collision knocked a potted plant off a window sill several feet up. As the pot shattered on the ground, a single shard of pottery launched itself with incredible precision, hitting a young man squarely in the back of the head, which made him stumble and run into a nearby barrel. Water poured out of the barrel and down the street, washing several rat-like clumps of dirt towards a group of young women. The screams which followed made a carpenter lose his footing and knock over an entirely new set of scaffolding a block down the street from the two onlookers.

"That? I'd say it's one o' them things we just don't get involved with, Rube," Goldberg said. Off in the distance, the sound of clattering wood, screams, and even an explosion or two could be heard as the city-wide domino effect snaked its way throughout the town. Murphy was rather proud of his work.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How To Be A Thief - Chapter 7

"Hustling and bustling" is often used to describe busy streets filled with merchants and travelers and random passers-by. Whoever thought up of this term, however, had not seen the mercantile streets of Kell. Both the words denote some actual movement, but for the most part there was no real movement in the streets from the hours of 9 to 11 and 5 to 7. This was the busiest time of the day for merchants, catching people going to or coming from their various places of business.
Since Kell was also a major port and the capital city of Mayford, everything imaginable could be found within its formidable walls. It is the very gridlock that keeps some purveyors of the less "popular" goods in business. It is, after all, hard to say "no" to someone who has been pushing for you to buy a jar of Uncle Bunk's Acne Creme, Expectorant, and Degreaser for the past hour, knowing that you get to spend another hour in his presence.

Manfred had never seen city streets so full of life and exotic fragrances. At least, he was pretty sure he hadn't. The quartet did their best to blend in with the crowd while keeping to the hustling and bustling alleyways and side streets which allowed passage at a time like this. Manfred was wearing the tight-fitting black pants he had on the night before, but a blue shirt had been purchased for him to help him fit in a little better himself. Nothing stood out like a man dressed entirely in black.

"How long was I out?" he asked conversationally.

Jesz chimed in with a matter-of-fact voice, not bothering to look back fully at him but just turning her hide to the side slightly. "3 years."

"What?!" The color drained out of Manfred's face for a moment.

"Oh yeah, we thought you weren't gonna make it. I was gettin' ready to harvest your organs for magical experiments. It's good pay." There wasn't even a hint of joking in Jesz's voice.

"Oh, do not listen to her," Mel said. "That is nonsense. Everyone knows an intact cadaver is worth far more."

"Ha ha, very funny," Manfred replied. "I don't believe you. If it had been 3 years, I would have grown a beard, wouldn't I? Huh?"

"Oh, I've been shaving you clean and selling the trimmings to witches," Jesz said loudly to be heard over the din. "But don't worry, Manfred, it'll grow back."

"Stop calling me that. That's not my name!"

"Oh, then what is?" Jesz looked back and winked at him. He was silent for a moment.

"Where are we going?" he asked the group in general as they meandered and slithered through the labyrinthine crowd. He would rather change the subject then have to try to out-think her.

"I told you, we are following Aryx," Mel said from the front of the group. Her eyes were trained on the sky most of the time.

"Yeah, you told me, but where is she lea-"

"He," Mel interrupted. "Aryx is a boy."

"Fine. Where is HE leading us?" Manfred rolled his eyes. "I mean, what is this bounty you're all talking about?"

Jesz looked back at him for a moment. "His name is Cameron Merlot, but he likes people to call him 'The Duke,'" she explained. "We were hired by some judge to find him. Apparently he stole something of hers and she wants it back… you know, under the table-like."

"Jesz!" Mel said sternly. "We cannot trust him! And stop flirting! I do have eyes in the back of my head, don't make me separate you two."

Jesz blushed slightly, her tanned face darkening as she turned her head to look forward again. "Sorry…" she said. She was third in line, behind Eaups, who had been silent most of the time they were following Aryx.

The crowd was beginning to thin out as the group worked their way to the outside rim of the city. In the distance, Manfred could see several large buildings standing as sentinels over the city. One was built like a majestic fortress with its own high wall surrounding it - which Manfred believed must be the palace. Another just off to the side of the first was a single massive tower that was crooked and gnarled, seeming to defy all laws of physics and common sense by refusing to fall over. The last, placed in the center of Kell and closer than the other two, stood like a series of sword-spires that dared to strike against the heavens. Each pointed spire was identical to the others and they were arranged in a 12-point circle. The sun reflected off the spires in a sharp rainbow across their surfaces.

"That's the Pantheological Cloister," Eaups chimed in. "Each spire is dedicated to one of the gods." He smiled, looking back at it. "I'm in that one farthest to the right from here." Manfred wished he could pause and get a better look, but Jesz pulled him along. Soon, his view was obstructed by wooden scaffolding and catwalks. It seemed this part of the city was under repair, and by the look of things, under constant repair. Some of the scaffolding was burnt with more replacing it. Buildings had several different styles of architecture all crowded on top of each other. There were even some parts that had permanent "danger" signs posted. "This is the Alchemists' District," Eaups said.

"Yeah, better known as Boom Town." Jesz chuckled to herself. "Some poor sap is always blowing hisself up around here."

"Sshh!" Mel pulled the group to a small alcove. Above them, Aryx was circling before landing on a nearby piece of scaffolding. With a motion to the others to keep out of sight, Mel peered around the corner, scanning the crowd. "That is him," she said as she spied that familiar eye patch. The Duke was sitting at a table talking with another man whose back was to them. "And it looks like that idiot guard of his is not even around."

Manfred backed into Mel. "I wouldn't be so sure of that," he said in a quavering tone. Mel looked back to find the other three with their hands up, a crossbow pointed at them. The brutish bodyguard from the night before approached them.

"Move it. 'Gainst the wall." Mel put her hands up as well, doing as she was told and backing up against the wall. She glanced up for a moment, hoping to call Aryx, but the bodyguard practically shoved the crossbow in her face. "Don't e'en think it, love. I ain't stupid, I know yer a hawker. I've been followin' ya."

"Not… you're not stupid… and I'm an… austringer," Mel said quietly, then bit her lip. Grammar was a pet peeve of hers. It had taken her years to get over Jesz's abuses of the language, and she liked Jesz. Yet now, despite having a cocked crossbow at point-blank range from her nose, she still couldn't help herself when a stranger polluted her mother tongue.

"What?!" the bodyguard demanded.

"I am an austringer, not a hawker. Austringers train hawks, hawkers sell goods." Her voice was steady and without inflection as if she was simply reading out of a text book. Although she knew that technically the bodyguard was correct, the connotation of being a hawker irked her even more than his atrocious grammar.

"Oh, I'm gonna turn you into hawk feed," the guard said with a wicked, mostly toothless grin. He raised the crossbow another inch and pulled the trigger.

Mel winced, but soon realized that she was still… wincing. And breathing. As she opened her eyes, she saw Manfred, holding the arrow and smiling at the well-muscled bodyguard.

"Did know I could do that, huh?" he taunted. "Wanna see what else I can do?" The bodyguard put his hands up slowly, seeing that Jesz was already pulling out a small blade. Yet before she had a chance to use it, he struck with incredible celerity at Manfred. It was simply not fair that such a huge man could move so fast, but, as Manfred was learning, life is hardly fair. He took the blow fully and was knocked back to the wall before grabbing onto the man's arm.

Jesz did not hesitate. She swing at him with a small but sharp dagger, the blade held backwards, away from the thumb. The man cried out as she sliced at his arm, but cross his other arm over his body to grab at her. Just as he was fast, he was also incredibly strong. His grip had her in tears almost instantly.

By this time, Mel was joining the fight, calling to Aryx for aid and pulling out her kukri. Eaups had already set up a spell to keep passers-by away from the fight, a long snake of smoke that surrounded the brawl. In all this commotion, however, no one noticed that The Duke was already running away.

"Oh no you don't," Manfred squeaked as he tried to breath again. He held firmly onto the man's arm and suddenly moved like a man possessed. His motions reminded Jesz a roaring river or winding stream. Manfred deftly ducked under the man's arm, twisting it forward and forcing his assilant to hunch over. This made the man let go of Jesz and try to grab Manfred, but it was already too late. With a pull, the bodyguard felt all the bones in his arm strain against each other and, in an effort to prevent his bones from snapping, he fell forward and landed on his back. His legs hit a large support of scaffolding and dislodged it, causing a catwalk to teeter to and fro precariously for several seconds before it clattered to the ground nearby. Following this, the entire scaffold leaned over, knocking of workers, parts of buildings, buckets of plaster, piles of stone and brick, and loads of lumber. Everything rained to the ground with a thunderous and ongoing clatter, moving quickly down the line of buildings. Just as it seemed to stop, a lone cat would jump off one unstable support and land on the back of an unsuspecting worker who was across the street on another catwalk. The worker thrashed about, knocking over more random construction tools and detritus before he, too, knocked one of the supports loose and sent scaffolding on the other side of the street crashing to the ground. The roar disappeared off into the distance as more and more dominos of industry fell.

By the time the dust settled before for people to see what had happened, The bodyguard had fled and The Duke was half-buried under a pile of wood and rocks.

"How fortuitous," said Mel. She and Manfred approached the entombed man. "Quickly, before the Alchemists' Guild gets here," she said, pulling out a rope from the mess.

"What about the city guard?" Manfred asked as he started pulling up masonry and crossbeams to dig the dazed man out.

"Oh, trust me. They are not the ones to be worried about for this mess."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How To Be A Thief - Chapter 6

The man in black was dreaming.

From the way his limbs twitched, it was either a very pleasant dream or a very unpleasant one. Jesz was squatting and watching him closely. To her he seemed very much like a cat - either chasing a dream-mouse or being chased by a dream-dog (or, in some cases, a giant dream-mouse). She picked up a stick and poked him a few times in the side, eliciting a grunt and some nonsensical mumbling.

"Hey… wake up!" she said and poked him in the face with the stick. The man didn't stir. She then noticed the bump on his forehead from where she hit him and a wicked grin spread over her face. "Wakey wakey!" she said as she poked the bump.

"Ouch! Stop that!" The man sat up, pushing the stick away from him. He was sitting outside on the dirt while three strange people looked at him expectantly. "Uh… hi?"

Jesz smirked and stood up, taking a few steps away from the man as he stumbled to his feet. She was wearing a red silk shirt with long sleeves and an intricate black leather vest. A pair of knives with hilts as red as her hair could be seen at her sides, strapped into her belt.
Beside her stood Mel, tall and statuesque. She was sporting the same brown and green blouse with tight black pants as before, her brunette hair in a neatly braided ponytail which reached the small of her back. Around her torso was a strap that carried a quiver at her side; a long recurved bow was held in one hand. Her other hand was held up and wore a leather glove to support a beautiful, young hawk. Its underside was off-white with dark banding towards the legs, while the rest of the hawk was a mixture of a ruddy brown and black with white tips. Tied to one of its legs was a thin strip of green cloth that flowed in the wind. It tilted its head severely to the side as it examined the man.
On the other side of Jesz, Eaups was sitting on the tree stump, looking a little dazed and confused. On his belt was a small mace, the traditional weapon of priests. He seemed content for the moment to gather his thoughts together.

"Who are you?" Mel asked pointedly. She took a stride forward, holding the hawk closer to the man. He stepped back.

"What? Oh… I told you, I don't remember!" he replied. "Who a-"

The hawk spread its wings and tightened its grip on Mel's hand, the leather creaking under its powerful talons. "Aryx does not like it when people lie," Mel said, holding the bird closer. "And he knows when you are lying." Aryx let out a piercing cry and flapped his wings at the man, the tips brushing against his face. The man couldn't help but look at the size of those dark talons.

"Really.. I don't remember," he said again, swallowing hard. His back was against the hut. After a few moments, Aryx folding his wings against himself and settled back on his perch, looking around with quick, darting movements.

Mel nodded, stepping back from him. "He is telling the truth," she said as she shifted her weight to one side, pondering what to do with him.

Jesz grinned as wide as a cheshire cat. "Oh? Then that means, we can name him!" She was practically jumping for joy at the prospect. "I say we call him Fred!"

"I say we call him Man," Mel the ever-practical said in sync with Jesz. Both girls raised their eyebrows and looked at each other.

"Let's not argue. We'll just call him… Manfred for now, ok?" Eaups said, getting off the stump slowly. He still felt a bit like a puppet.

"Manfred?! Look here, I don't know who you people are or what you want with me, but I need to get going…" Manfred said, holding up his arms in protest.

"Oh really? Going where?" Mel asked. "Yeah, I thought as much. Look, you need to rest. You just had an arrow sticking out of your side." She motioned to the patch on his bare torso.

Eaups smiled, looking a little more confident with his motions. "And besides, we've been told to help you."

"Help me what?" Manfred asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Um… I think he said to achieve your fate…" Eaups said quietly.

"Well, I feel fine right now," Manfred said, flexing one of his arms, "and I don't need a bunch of strangers telling me what I'm supposed to be doing. …You are strangers, right?" Manfred was not entirely certain of anything at this point.

Jesz frowned an angry frown and walked right up to Manfred, a very slight limp apparent from the night before. He was a few inches taller than she was, but that didn't stop her from pushing her nose right into his face. "We just saved your life, buddy. The least you can do is be grateful! And you were watching me changing in there," she pointed to her hut, "so that's gonna cost you. All in all, I'd say you owe me... us... a thousand gold pieces."

"A THOUSAND?" Manfred replied. "Where'd you get that number? I can't pay that!"

Jesz just grinned at him as she leaned back. "You'll just have to help us catch this bounty, then. The witch paying us said he's worth at least five thousand. We can take your share out of it. Of course you'll only earn half the share, as you're new, so you'll still need to earn 500 more."

Manfred screwed his face up, pointing at each of the strangers in turn and counting silently, though his lips still moved. "That… doesn't add up. There's only 4 of us."

Jesz matter-of-factly said, "No, there's 5. There's you… Mel… Eaups… me… and Aryx. The hawk." Before Manfred could complain, she walked up to him and put her hand on his shoulder, leading him into the hut. "Don't worry. I know you're a thief. You might need some retraining, but it'll all come back to, especially with Jesz, Pilferer Extraordinaire, showing you the ropes! Pretty soon you'll be able to make 500 gold pieces in a night!" She grinned at him.

"I.. I am? I will?"

Jesz nodded and led him to his shirt and tools. "Of course! You just get dressed and we'll find this bounty together, as a team. We could use a strong, handsome guy like you," she said with a wink, having apparently completely forgiven him of his peeping. "Now hurry up!"

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Spelling

It turns out that at the National Spelling Bee, protesters are complaining about how we spell words. They think our words are too complicated for most people. Their slogan is "Enuf is enuf. Enough is too much." This group includes ex-principals and teachers. Now, I have my own issues with the National Spelling Bee. I think it is a waste, and I can probably correctly spell 90% of the words they are asked to spell while having none of their "rigorous training." But, the bee is still popular and is promoting the English language, particularly the lesser-known quadrants. To have people protesting against what these young kids are doing right in front of their faces is atrocious. It is even worse that they are promoting ignorance.

I wonder if any of them have read the book 1984. Respelling all the words in the English language has a far-reaching effect that people do not seem to grasp. English is not just our language, but shapes our thoughts and ideologies. It is a direct link to our past as well. Furthermore, there is a beauty in the English language that poets, playwrights, scholars and authors can tap into, creating works of true artistic beauty that go beyond the meaning of the words. No one will want to read "2 b r not 2 b? that iz thuh kwestyun."
In 1984, George Orwell uses the concept of "Newspeak." The government takes words out of the language and replaces them with simple ideas, making sure nothing inflammatory is left. This makes it very difficult for people to plot an uprising if they cannot even put such concepts into words. In fact, they wouldn't be able to think of the uprising itself because the words do not exist. There is scientific evidence which supports this theory. By dumbing down our words, we will dumb down our society and people. We will also open the door to concepts such as Newspeak to be introduced. We've already got enough of 1984 going on in real life, we don't need to add to it.

There is also evidence which supports the theory that the Japanese and Chinese, because of the complexities of their languages, think more quickly than people who speak more straight-forward languages. They have to think more carefully when they speak and write and read.

So by all means, let's rewrite history, throw out the subtle philosophies of our language (ever wonder why "awful" is a bad thing, why the plural of "radius" is "radii," where "-ology" really comes from, or what the word "philosophy" truly means?), rewrite every work of art and literature of the past 500 years or so, stagnate the thought processes of our people, and limit the potential of our children, all because some people are to uneducated, lazy, or "special" to learn how to spell correctly.
Some may say this is a class distinction. I disagree. It takes no money whatsoever to go to your library and pick up a book. There are cheap classes that can teach you how to read and write. The internet is filled with good (as well as poor) resources for someone who is truly interested in using grammar properly. And all the kids who can't write because they text all day long? I think this is a call to parents to force them to put those cell phones down. Your kids do not tell you what to do, you have to be role-models for your kids. Just stop paying the bills. Make them earn money to pay for their texting AND their phone. Soon they will see that it's not all it is cracked up to be. I do not text, and I get along just fine. So have billions of other people.

Now, this rant should end now. I'm sure people disagree with me on some of these statements. They might not see the connections I am making with spelling and newspeak. But let us all agree on one thing: The English language is not broken. It is living, breathing, working. It is the official language of 53 countries. And I love it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How To Be A Thief - Chapter 5

It took Mel several seconds to get to her feet and discover that the man was awake and sitting upright. She stood in the doorway, pulling out a short sword from some hidden sheath. The blade was bent forward in the middle with the single-edge along the inside; a weapon Mel called a Kukri, though everyone else just called it broken.

"Keep back!" she yelled as she entered an offensive stance, her weight leaning forward.

The man in black was standing at the foot of the bed, his hand holding his head. His face was contorted in pain, giving the distinct impression of a man with a hangover. "What?" he asked, ambling forward.

Mel took a few steps back as the man approached. "Who are you?" she asked, keeping her blade in front of her as she backed away from the door. Soon the man was standing in the doorway instead, squinting in the sunlight. Jesz had fallen to the ground, still clutching her shirt to her chest and staring at him in dread. Next to her, sitting on the tree stump, Eaups had fallen asleep, his head hung in front of him.

"Who am I?" he asked, lowering his hand and looking over the three of them through half-closed eyes. "Who are you?"

Mel glanced over at her comrades briefly in confusion before looking back at him. "I- I asked you first!" she said. Jesz scrambled to her feet once more, her face still flushed in embarrassment.

"You did? Oh... well I'm... uh...." He looked up at them, a hint of worry in his expression. "I don't know."

Mel's voice had a sharp tone of suspicion to it. "I do not believe you. How do we know you are not just trying to dupe us into trusting you or letting you go? If the royal guards come looking for you, it would be best if we just…"

What had distracted Mel was the sight of Jesz walking right past her and up to the man in a huff, still holding her shirt up with one arm. Without a word, she pulled her free arm back and clocked him squarely in the face. The man didn't even try to evade it, but instead fell over as if she was a lumberjack and he was a mighty Scott's Pine. After the punch, she stood over him, red with anger. "How dare you oggle me when I'm vulnerable like that! I was saving myself!" Mel had to pull her away to stop the verbal and physical assault.

"QUIT IT" rang a voice from behind them, familiar yet foreign. With one accord, both Jesz and Mel turned around. Standing before them was Eaups, his eyes radiating a divine purple light and his hair suddenly long and wild. He looked over himself, inspecting his clothing and body. "UGH, what a terrible outfit. At least there's some purple in it. And this body, goodness. Ouch, or whatever his name is, should really start working out."

"Eaups?" Mel asked, wondering what was wrong with her friend. He'd never done THIS before.

"Yeah, that's the name." He sauntered closer to them in a suave, confident manner; it was very unlike Eaups. Although he had no pupils, they got the distinct impression that he was looking over the two of them carefully. "So you must be his companions. Interesting choice, but I think it'll work." He grinned and brushed a lock of his hair out of his face in a move that could launch a thousand swoons.

"Y-you are not Eaups," Mel stated. She was blushing but did not even realize it.

"Of course I'm not," not-Eaups said. "Didn't he tell you? He's my Avatar. I'm Murphy." He got blank stares from the two girls and a leg-twitch from the unconscious man. "THE Murhpy. God of fate, destiny, and all that jazz?" Blank stares. Murphy sighed. "Fine, I'll get right to the point." He straightened himself up and spoke in a distinctly divine voice.


Murphy then winked at Jesz. "Nice outfit, by the way," he said, then summarily collapsed on the ground, a rag doll being dropped. Jesz looked down at her outfit only to find that she had dropped her shirt. In a panic, she screamed, collected her shirt, and ran back inside, pushing the man outside with the others as she slammed the door.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Minor edit

I made a small edit to Chapter 4 of How To Be a Thief. IT's a little at the end, but I just felt that I should let everyone who missed it know.

I hope that at some point next week I will be able to make a post on a bunch of new projects I am working on with my brother and an old friend of mine. Work, however, tends to take up my free time...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How To Be A Thief - Chapter 4

Morning did eventually arrive, its cheery, cool light cascading through the trees and the open window of Jesz's hut. The bakers and farmers welcomed their friend the sun, the harbinger of the end of the bitter, dark pre-dawn, but to Jesz it was like an uninvited guest. It just let itself in whenever it wanted, traipsed about the place, and then did all it could to try to wake you up. And this morning, it seemed Jesz had only slept for about 37 seconds before it broke into her hut and made off with her last hope of getting any rest.

All night (or at least for 37 seconds), Jesz had been dreaming that when she awoke, the young man would be up, wearing nothing but an apron and making her breakfast: Sausages, eggs over medium (with all the crispy leftover bits sprinkled on top), and thick slices of ham all on toast and covered in cheese that smelled like decaying feet. Just the way she loved it. She also dreamed that she was in her own bed, that he was incredible handsome and intelligent, and that as he leaned in to say "Good morning," his voice was husky and sonorous at the same time.

The truth was not so kind. Jesz woke clutching a small bag of money, wearing a thin off-white shirt, with her legs splayed out haphazardly. Her hair had matted itself and now sported a variety of knots that would make any sailor jealous. The foot that hurt last night was only mildly sore now, though the rest of her body was sore as well. Red-rimmed eyes scanned the room as she sat up. There was no breakfast. There was no stinky cheese. She was still on the floor. The man was still unconscious, though in the daylight, he didn't look half-bad. She heaved a heavy sigh and got up, yawning profusely as she got dressed and started to go about her day.

"Good morning, Jesz," said a melodious voice the instant she stepped outside. The voice belonged to Mel, who was leaning against a tree stump. She looked well-rest and, as always, serious. She was clad in a brownish-green blouse with tight black pants, her brunette hair tied in a neat ponytail behind her. It was her typical "working" outfit, though Jesz always wondered why she often wore it when they were not on the job. Mel had the figure that most women torture themselves mentally and physically to achieve. She was fit, well-endowed (but not too much), has gorgeous long hair, and was tall. Jesz, on the other hand, has a slight build, had choppy, messy hair, was short, and was significantly less gifted in the bust department. Usually this made her jealous of Mel, but at the moment, she was far too tired to care.

Beside Mel, Eaups was yawning and hunched over a little. He waved at Mel while rubbing at the bags under his eyes. "Mo-yawn-orning, Jesz…" he said. White robes with light blue trim and just a splash of violet (for flare, as Murphy always put it) let the world know that Eaups was of the religious order, and his small conical hat told everyone that he was a last-year student. This, too, was his traveling gear, which made Jesz wonder if she had forgotten some important event.

"Um… Morning?" he said, then stifled another yawn. Jesz did not so much mean this as a greeting, but more an inquiry. Morning was to Jesz what Bigfoot and helpful lawyers are to most people - something you hear about, but never actually meet.

"How is the patient?" Mel asked. Jesz raised her eyebrow up at her.

"How are you so… awake?" she whined. "He's still sleeping, like I should be."

"Good, he made it through the night." Mel smiled softly, looking relieved. The truth was, she'd never had to remove an arrow from someone before, and was proud that he didn't die right away. "I will have to look in on him soon. But first, are you ready to go?"

Jesz, still wearing the thin white shirt and cat-print underwear, looked down at herself. "Go whe-" she started to ask before her cheeks flushed a bright red and she scrambled behind the door of her hut. "No, I'm not ready… You! Boy! Turn around!"

Eaups had honestly been too tired to see what she had been wearing, or not wearing as the case was. Instead, he obediently turned around, still yawning. "I didn see…" yawn, "nothing." Once he was turned around, Jesz scrambled back indoors and shut the door hard.

"We are going to find our one-eyed friend, Mr Giancolli," Mel said through the door. Aryx was able to pick up his trail this morning, so it shouldn't be too hard to get him by surprise, but we need to be ready just in case." Jesz hated these rushed missions with little planning; they led to more injuries or failures. But Mel loved the excitement. "Besides, I bet he is half asleep right now."

"He isn't the only one…" Jesz muttered to herself as she started to get undressed and pull our her own adventuring clothes from the chest at the foot of her bed. They consisted of tight, brown, leather pants, a long-sleeve, crimson, silk shirt and a pocketed leather vest, along with a few other accessories that weren't meant to be seen. "What about this guy? What if he wakes up while we're gone? I don't want him in my house."

Mel leaned her back against the door, arms crossed. "I seriously doubt he will be up anytime soon. But…" Her voice trailed off as she looked up at the sky in thought. "Maybe we should be careful. I do not think we can trust him. He was armed, and I think he might be from Drysen, not Mayford."

"So?" Jesz asked as she folded her white shirt and pajama bottoms.

"So… maybe he is not a thief."

"Nonesense," Jesz replied with a sputter. "I know a fellow thief when I see one. Those tools are for picking locks and hiding loot."

"Well if he's a thief, maybe we shouldn't leave him in here…" Eaups said in a brief moment of clarity.

Mel smirked, lowering her gaze again. "As if she has anything here that is worth stealing."

"What do you mean!? I've got that…"

"That what?" Mel asked, turning her head toward the door. "Jesz?"

The scream that followed was high enough to make dogs nervous and loud enough to make Eaups finish waking up. Before either of them could rush into the room, Jesz opened the door and rushed outside, knocking Mel over. She had on her pants, but was holding her crimson shirt up to her to hide her shame while pointing with her free hand at the man. He was sitting upright in the bed, eyes open, with a smile on his face.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How To Be A Thief - Chapter 3

The operation went well into the night. By the time Mel had finished, the particularly enthusiastic bakers and farmers were already starting to wake up. Eaups had helped take care of the man's accoutrements before heading back to the Cloister's dorms, folding the deep black shirt and putting it on the small bedside table. It was so dull and black that it seemed to swallow all light that touched it, making it difficult to actually see the folds in the fabric. On top of it sat a leather harness with a variety of unusual pouches, pockets, and sheaths, all holding a variety of weapons and tools that Eaups had never seen before.

Mel left to a series of complaints from Jesz.
"Does he have to stay in MY bed?" she whined. Jesz had dreamed of having a strong, handsome man in her bed. This was NOT the situation she had imagined.
"Yes, you need to leave him there," Mel explained. "Do not move him!"
"But... but... but... it's MY bed! And he's getting blood all over it! A-and germs! Man germs!"
Mel, who had been wiping her hands off, turned to Jesz and said, "Do not even THINK about moving him. He has lost a lot of blood and any movement might reopen his wound. If he wakes up, make him stay in bed."
"But Me-e-e-el!" Jesz said, bouncing in place and holding onto Mel's arm. Mel just stared at her intently, the stern look telling Jesz more than words ever could. With a loud sigh, Jesz let go of her and nodded. "Alright..."
Mel sighed as well, leaning over and giving Jesz a hug. "It will be alright. It is just for a few nights. But when he does wake up, you be careful. I do not trust him." She gave the sleeping man a glance from over Jesz's shoulder, then stood back up and picked up her bow and quiver. "Get some sleep," she said over her shoulder as she walked out of the door, leaving Jesz alone with a strange man in her hut.

The rest of that night was not kind to Jesz. She had set up a few blankets on the floor as a make-shift bed for herself. Sleeping on the floor was no problem for Jesz; she had slept on floors most of her life. In fact, she had only purchased that bed a few months before with hard-earned money, most of it earned by other people. This night, however, her back was hurting and her mind was racing, still upset over the botched mission.
First she started to hum, but soon the song was stuck in her head.
Then she tried counting sheep, but the sheep became small coins and kept her up with their imaginary jingle.
She had heard that doing math problems would help her fall asleep, but the only math she knew involved the small coins that were still jingling.
Eventually the jingling passed and she started to doze, until a shaft of light from the window hit her perfectly on the eye. The moon had been reflecting off a blade on the bedside table. Now her mind was racing again, this time with thoughts of who the man was and what would happen when he woke.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tools of the Trade Part 1

Everywhere I go, I carry around a small moleskine notebook, not unlike the one you see above. I go very few places without it - my wife will attest to this. In the past I have used very LARGE notebooks, but carrying them around was hard and I got tired of writing down ideas on napkins. For years, about the only gifts I ever got from (well-meaning but misguided) friends were notebooks. Next to my bed is a pad of lined paper and a pen just in case I get an idea while in bed. It happens. Moleskines, or some similar notebook, are essential to being a writer in my opinion. Or to any creative professional. You never know when inspiration will strike. I only wish it wasn't while I was driving so very often (yes, I have pulled over to write down an idea before). About the only negative thing about it is the elastic band stretches out and becomes useless (I might just cut it off). So it won't surprise you to know that my moleksine is chock-full of random, random, random chaos. Did I mention it was random?

In today's age, however, technology rules. eBooks are the next big thing (supposedly). Kindles can not only download novels, but they can access Wikipedia at any time. A small audio recorder is simple to find, and I should probably get one for the car (but knowing me, I'd never actually write down what I recorded). But what are the REAL tools of the trade now for keeping your ideas in check?

In my opinion, Google, the company that makes Big Brother look like a reality TV show, has a true gem. While they are currently working on Google Wave, their up-and-running Google Docs is truly a sight to behold. If you do not use it, you should look it over. If you do not have a google account, go make one. Gmail doesn't hurt that badly, and Google already knows who you are, where you are, and what you search for, so it's really not going to do much to let them help you with email.

In all seriousness, Google Docs allows you to write, draw, or make a spreadsheet online, so you can get to it from any computer with internet access. Nice for a writer. I keep one file for all my ideas. Actually, I keep one for plot ideas, one for character ideas, and one for other ideas. If you are trying to collaborate with someone, say an artist, classmate, or editor, you can share the file with them. You can let them edit it so the two of you can work on it together... in real-time... or you can just let them see it and not actually write over anything. Either way, this makes it easy to make collaborative works online, as well as get things edited in the blink of an eye. Personally, I think everyone should use this. Now, I do hear of some negative things... like Google owns anything you write in it. If that's true, I'd like to see the very interesting court case that would follow in case they decided to steal someone's idea. If you are really worried about it, I'm sure there are other sites that do similar things. Google Wave will become open source, so anyone can make their own Wave that will compete with Google and Google will have 0 ownership. I'm keeping my eye out for Wave...

Cross-genre Writing

I am currently an unfocused writer.

As you can see at the moment, I am writing a piece of fantasy for you all. I would like to post a CAVEAT about this story, "How to be a thief." That caveat is that I do not know where it is going. I am not editing it like I normally would. I am going 1 chapter at a time with a vague sense in the direction it is headed. I don't know what will happen 2 or 3 chapters from now.

This is not the norm for me. I am usually a very structured writer. Structured, but still unfocused. I write outlines, I research, I pour over every detail. If I am writing a poem you can rest assured that A) it is not some lame "free style" excuse for a poem - it will have meter, it will have rhyme, and B) Every last syllable, rhyme, and punctuation mark was debated at some point, possibly for a while. To me, writing is never finished. There is "finished" and then there is "good enough." My goal is to get it to the "finished stage," this will let me get it to the "good enough" stage, at which point I am tired of writing it and will simply turn it in (or from now on, try to get it published).

Still, my ADHD gets the better of me. I am unfocused partially because of that, but I am learning to get a handle on it. I am also unfocused because I love writing everything I can wrap my mind around (which is, believe me, a lot). This is really my first fantasy piece. I have written sci-fi, mystery, historical fiction, nonfiction (articles, interviews, reports, SEO), creative nonfiction, poetry, and even dabbled in romance a few times. Unfortunately, cross-genre writing seems to be reserved for academia and very closely related genres (sorry Piers, but going both sci-fi and fantasy is hardly sleeping with the enemy). So few writers have successfully crossed into CLOSELY related genres; fewer yet have made it into unrelated genres, and most of those were one-time gimmicks.

The publishing industry seems to be under the impression that if you write in one genre, you will be unable to transfer a fan-base... and if you can't do that, then why bother? Personally, I wouldn't mind creating a readership anew. And in today's world that seems to cater to the ADHD mindset, surely readers can actually understand more than one genre. they might even enjoy it. Do you honestly believe that Joe Readerman is only EVER going to read fantasy novels? If he picks up a creative nonfiction book by Tolkien, I think there's a good chance he'll peruse it, which might get him to try another, then another, then another. Soon you have Joe Readerman who *gasp* enjoys TWO genres!

I think at the moment I wish to write in creative fiction - something that requires real research. However, if I get noticed in any genre, I will be superbly exuberant. Perhaps I will become the world's first popular pan-genre author? Only time will tell.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How To Be A Thief - Chapter 2

Jesz was fuming. Not only did they lose the bounty AND break an expensive urn, but now her foot was in pain and she couldn't even be angry at the guy who did it. As she paced around her small, cluttered bedroom, Eaups could hear her muttering to herself. He sat in a creaky wooden chair that threatened to turn itself into a pile of kindling at any moment. On the bed across the room from him was a young man dressed entirely in black, unconscious. The arrow still protruded from his side and the shirt around it was damp with blood, though it showed no red.

"32 silver pieces for that ouch! darn Urn.... where is Mel? She mmmf! better have got him.... planned for 2 ow weeks.... another 7 pieces for that cart... what a OW waste... 100 gold pieces...." Eaups just watched her pace back and forth between him and the unconscious man. Every time she stepped on her hurt foot, she'd wince or cry out in pain, but that wouldn't stop her.

"Ummm... actually, I rented the ca-" he started to say, but stopped short when Jesz turned to him and give him a stare that would make the pigment in paint run away. Eaups put his hands between his legs and lowered his head. He was relatively young, no more than 18, and naivete exuded from his pores. His normally immaculate white priest robes and well-combed blond hair were covered in dirt, smeared with blood, and smelled like the inside of that old urn, yet he was still able to look so innocent and pitiful that Jesz's glare softened and she felt this sudden urge to cuddle him. Unfortunately, he was unable to leave well-enough alone and perked his head up again. "Maybe he's rich..." he offered in an attempt to bring up her spirits. If there was anything that would make Jesz happy, it was the promise of money.

"He is NOT rich," Jesz replied firmly, pointing at the man. She was no longer wearing the burlap sack that she thought looked like clothing. Instead, she was sporting a leather and cloth outfit that hugged her slight form. A red-hilted knife stuck out from a sheath at her side, matching the hue of her short hair. In her rage, however, she'd forgotten to remove the false nose, making it very difficult for Eaups to keep a straight face when he looked at her. He kept looking down at his lap in an effort to prevent himself from cracking up.
"Just look at how he's dressed!" she explained, hobbling over to the man and picking roughly at his clothes. Every time she did, the man would cringe as if in pain. "He's all in black, he was carrying a lock-picking kit and a knife, and he fell OFF A ROOF! He's obviously a cat burglar. A pilferer. A burglar. A THIEF!"

Eaups stifled a laugh as her nose bobbed in the air, then turned the chuckle into a cough and sighed loudly, lowering his gaze again and wringing his hands in his lap. "M-maybe he's a good thief..." he suggested. Before Jesz could reply, there was a knock at the door. Then two knocks. Then three.

"It's Mel. Finally," Jesz said, limping over to the door of her small hut and opening it. Mel stood there, her expensive robes torn and dirtied and an ornate archery bow hanging around her body. Although she looked pissed at first, as soon as she saw Jesz's nose sticking out of the doorway, her face contorted in a muffled giggle.

After a moment, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, stepping inside. Her long, brown hair flowed behind her and brushed over Jesz. Mel was much taller and more shapely than Jesz; even her hair couldn't resist the chance to make her jealous. "The bounty got away," Mel said. "I lost him in the merchant district and it's too dark for Aryx."

Jesz glowered as she shut the door. "I knew it. This is just not my OW day..." she grumbled as she followed Mel back to the bedroom - one of two rooms in the hut. She looked over at Eaups and shot a pointed finger at him. "You! This is all your fault! You said we had your god's blessing!"

Guilt creeped over Eaups' features. "We did..we do... that's the problem with Murphy. We might have his blessing, but we don't know what it's for."

Jesz scoffed, waving her hand dismissively, "I doubt he's even real." This was a slap in the face to Eaups.

"He IS real! I've seen him!" he shouted, standing up and putting his nose against Jesz' in a rare display of emotion.

"Guys, quit it," Mel said as she looked at the man on the bed.

"Maybe you're just seeing things, huh? It's all that incense in the air over there in that temple." Jesz retorted, pushing her nose harder against his.


"Well at least I have faith in something! You can only believe in what you see!"

"GUYS!" Mel, shouted, looking back at the bicker pair.

"WHAT?" they both shouted back in unison.

Beyond Mel, the man lay in the bed, eyes open, looking at them as they fought. He raised a hand, pointing to Jesz, and said in a very quiet, weak voice, "Nose." With a smile, he lowered his hand and closed his eyes, falling asleep again.

Jesz sighed, pulling off the bulbous nose and walking over to the man. "He can't stay here..." she said.

"It was your idea to bring him with us," Mel said. "Besides, Eaups is in a dorm, and there's no way my parents would let me keep a strange man in the house. Face it, you're stuck with him until he recovers." Some of the color faded from Jesz's cheeks as she realized this was true.

"What do you suppose happened to him?" Eaups asked.

Mel walked over to the bed and gingerly took hold of the arrow still stuck in him. She ripped his shirt open a little to look at the wound, then let her fingers drift along the shaft of the arrow to the colorful feathers. "This looks... familiar..." she said to herself.

Jesz, meanwhile, was watching the stranger's face as it periodically contorted in pain. "I guess he tried to rob the wrong house," she said softly without looking away.

"Not just any house," Mel replied, blanching. "The palace. This fletching is from the royal guards. I knew it looked familiar. See this banding in blue and white? If he was at the palace, we may all be in trouble for keeping him here at all."

Eaups frowned and moved closer. "I think maybe he was fated to run into us. I think we are supposed to take care of him," he said. "No one will know he's here. We can keep our eyes open for any alert on him, and if we don't hear anything, then I think we'll be ok." He smiled at Mel, then over to Jesz, hoping to sway one of them.

After a moment, Jesz took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Fine... if someone comes knocking on the door, I'll take the blame. But if he or anyone else kills me in the night, I'm coming back to haunt you, Eaups."

Mel nodded in agreement. "Alright, he will stay here for now. I will heal and bind him tonight, and check on him tomorrow. If he does anything funny, I can put this thing right back in him, you know." She gave Eaups a wicked little wink before looking back at the man's wound. "Alright, let's do this. Jesz, get me some clean water if you can. Warm preferably. Eaups, I need some clean rags."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

This code, WQZ32N3PF8XH, doesn't seem to be working

You may all be wondering what this code is. WQZ32N3PF8XH Well, I'm trying to use it to prove to Technorati that I am actually the owner and writer of this blog. For some reason, however, it doesn't seem to be working. It keeps rejecting my claim. I'm also not sure I am putting the feed in correctly. This is all an attempt to make this blog a little more professional, give it a little more exposure, and possibly give myself a few readers. So once again, oh Technorati people, that code you told me about is WQZ32N3PF8XH and don't you forget it!

Monday, April 5, 2010

How To Be A Thief - Chapter 1

It should have gone according to plan. When things don't go according to plan, it makes you look like an amateur. And to someone who has been training their entire life for this moment, nothing could be worse than looking like an amateur.

However, Fate is a fickle god. Most humans have very incorrect suppositions about Fate. To some, Fate is actually represented by 3 old crones sitting around a cauldron or sewing a tapestry while sharing a single eye between them. If this were so, Fate would be blind to most things that went on, but experience tells us otherwise. To others, Fate is seen as a nerdish, obfuscated figure in a robe toting around a tremendous tome which no one else can read. This sounds like a wonderful idea, because it puts Fate so far away from the rest of us.

For Eaups, the god of Fate was a slightly balding god with a penchant for the flamboyant, anything violet (and NOT purple) and a very annoying laugh. He also went by the name of Murphy. Eaups was very certain of this because he'd not only seen and met Murphy, but he owed the guy $20.

Eaups, pronounced "oops", was a priest in the Pantheological Cloister in Kell, the capital city of the Kingdom of Mayford. He was a star student, rising in ranks quicker than almost anyone in the cloister and permitted to be the youngest Avatar of a god. None of this, however, did anything to ease his mind as he hid in a large, rank urn that must have recently held something involved in a cow's digestive system.

"Stop squirming," came a voice from outside, that of a girl.
"Sorry, it's.. it's cramped in here and it smells like sh-"
"I don't care! You said this would work, and it better, or we are out $300." There was a sharp strike against the side of the urn, causing a dull CLANG to ring in Eaups' ears for some time.
"It'll work, Jesz. Trust me," Eaups said, though there was definite doubt in his voice.

Jesz wore a large burlap sack, trying to make it appear as if it might be a robe. In the dark alley, the illusion worked fairly well. Though her voice was young and sharp, her wrinkled hands shook as though she had palsy. In front of her was a large cart which carried the urn Eaups was hiding in, as well as a host of other nondescript items of pottery, basketry, and glass-works.
"Witch's brews, potions, charms, fetishes," she cried out in the voice of an old hag as she pushed the cart clumsily onto the cobbled road out of the alley.

There were a few other people on the road this night, which was typical of the neighborhood. In the day, it was a busy market place, lined with shops that sold everything from the obscure to the dangerous. By night, however, only the brave dared to venture down its winding lanes. By night, the road-side shops closed up and only carts remained. Carts were mobile, and with the proper lookout, even the slowest cart selling the most prohibited goods could make a decent getaway.

A tall, brunette woman moved up to the cart, a dark, expensive robe and cowl wrapped around her to conceal most of her features. It was an exquisite robe that screamed aristocracy, the kind that was only ever seen either being sold or being stolen on this street.
"What are you selling, madam?" she asked in a loud, gruff voice, an amusing attempt to conceal her identity.
Jesz leaned in and whispered behind clenched jaw, "Not so loud. Geez, where did you get that robe, Mel? I thought I said a rag!"
"It was the only thing I could find on such short notice," the woman answered back in a hurried whisper, then leaned back as she "inspected" a jar filled with what she hoped were pickles.
"Well you stick - Only the finest charms, fetishes, 'n potions, deary - out like a sore thumb!" The change in her voice from chastising to little-old-lady made Eaups shiver a little. She did that too easily.

After a moment or two of bickering and loud appraisal, Jesz shot a knowing glance to Mel and nodded beneath her hood. Two men had just come into view, one with arms ticker than Jesz's ego, the other with a large patch over one eye. As they wandered closer, Jesz moved around the cart, hobbling as well as she could, and Mel stepped back, holding the jar of pickles up the light of the moon as if inspecting it carefully.

"Charms, brews, and potions. Sir, you look like you could use a first-class item of genu-ine witchery," old-lady Jesz said as she picked up some items from the cart and moved closer to the man with the eyepatch. She held up a bracelet that looked like it was made of a lizard - or perhaps several parts of several lizards - and motioned it towards the man.

"No... thank you," the man added, holding his hand up in a gesture of dismissal. He knew better than to anger a witch. In fact, the eyepatch was a constant reminder.

"Yer lookin' to get even, ain't ya?" Jesz said. Although the only part of her face the man could see was a large nose that could only be attached to a crone, he could tell she was smiling. This wasn't any smile, but the smile of knowing a secret. The man stopped in his tracks, causing his companion to run into him before blushing and stepping back as if overseeing the transaction.

"How did you know that?" the man asked, raising his eyebrow.

Jesz cackled and tapped the side of her crooked nose. "Granny Beetle has her ways," she said. Mel ventured a glance over at the bodyguard, but rolled her eyes at the name Jesz chose to call herself. "If'n yer lookin' to get an eye fer an eye..." Jesz said, leaning closer. The man found himself leaning in as well. "Then you'll want a boggart's brew," she said, pointing at the urn Eaups sat in. Eaups had been holding his breath every since the man began to talk. That, however, was his cue. He closed his eyes and started to mutter a spell, his hands having just enough room to weave the necessary gestures.

"What's a boggart's brew?" the man said, his eye following along Jesz' crooked finger to the urn. He already seemed drawn by the air of mystery it possessed.

"Trade secret," Jesz replied with another ghastly cackle. "Boggarts're nasty little buggers that peck out yer teeth and leave ya gold," she said, eliciting a groan from Mel. The bodyguard turned to look at Mel, who looked back to him with a huff and moved to the cart to put down the jar of pickles.

Everything was ready. The man was starting to lean over the urn with the promise of money and revenge, Mel had put herself into position to block their escape, while Eaups was almost done with his spell.

Jesz reached down and started to lift the top of the urn. everything was in slow-motion. Jesz was pulling out her big guns. "Gar-an-teed," Eaups heard her say as he came to the last line of the spell. His mind raced with the thought of the bounty they were going to get as he looked up into the face of his unsuspecting vic-CRASH!

The urn fell over, shattering pots and jars on the cart and rolled off onto the street, slipping open. Eaups didn't have time to process what was going on - all he knew was the world started to spin and then the urn broke around him.

"STOP!" yelled Mel as she chased after the two men who had escaped in all the ruckus. She darted off after them, hiking up the robe to help her move faster.

"What happened?" asked Eaups to no one in particular. He blinked, took a breath of fresh air, and finally noticed Jesz on the ground with a stranger on top of her, a man, dressed in black, with an arrow sitcking out of his side.

Prelude to a post.

I am going to attempt something I've never tried before.

I am going to start writing something without having a definite storyline (well, I have some of it), without having everything completely figured out. I will be writing it for all of you Inter-nauts.

I will also be writing pure fantasy. I almost never do this. I like to research. But I'm discovering that right now I want an outlet for creativity.

So, here it is! A partially impromptu, episodical fantasy of my own devising. Fan art and movie deals are welcome.

Dystopian Society

I never thought I would have the urge to write a dystopian novel.

I should have known better. I may not be a sociologist, anthropologist, psychologist, historian or politician, but I am a thinker. At least, I like to think that I am. My favorite book is George Orwell's 1984. One of my favorite movies is Terry Gilliam's Brazil, which if you haven't seen it, you must. I've perused Hobbs, Aquinas, Plato (and his ilk), and other philosophers for the mere pleasure of it. I've read Gulliver's Travels several times, I took a course in Utopias, I own at least a dozen books on the subject...

I guess it was obvious that I would want to try my hand at the craft as well. And it seems daunting, believe me.

Recently, I found the subject of the story, and things just went on from there. If I am serious about this, which I think I very well may be, then I will not be posting it here. Nor will I give you, dear Internet, the details, or even premise. Suffice it to say it is a dystopia for our generation.

However, I would love some help in researching and perhaps some proof readers. And motivators. It will NOT be written otherwise, trust me. Anyone up for it? There is a pre-requisite, however. I must already know you (except for the motivators, of course).

Anyone wish to help?

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Well, from the lack of responses on the last post, I can assume one of two things: 1) no one cares enough to have an opinion on something for me to write or 2) no one reads my blog.

I suspect number 2.

And I don't blame people for not reading it. I just need to be more active, post more often, and actually talk about something interesting. And maybe, if I do something worthwhile, advertise it.

So, I will attempt to actually write something in here... chapter by chapter. What? Not sure yet, but we will see now won't we?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Absence makes the heart...

Yes, it has been a long time since my last post. One would think I'd actually given it up for Lent. My writing has not been as much a priority as it should be, I will admit. But almost daily I am reminded of the fact that A) I am getting older B) stories don't write and publish themselves and C) If I don't pursue my dream, I will regret it for the rest of my life.

One of the major stumbling blocks to my writing is.. well... my writing. At work. My job is to write content for hotel websites. I add keywords so they get more internet traffic while maintaining readability and accuracy. My wife believes that I hate my job, but this is not true. I do enjoy the work, but there are times when it gets... tiring. Recently I have actually been able to open up my writing technique at work, adding variety and ingenuity to what would otherwise be a drab, repetitive process. I've even used words that my editors have had to look up, which is both good and bad (often they change them, since most people don't want to look words up, but darnit, everyone should know the word "replete!"). However, this is not really enough... I'm too creative. Now, under normal circumstances, I would have no problems working 8 hours a day and coming home to write. My problem is that I have almost always been 1 hotel behind, and catching up is DIFFICULT. It means sacrificing time to try to catch up. Add on top of that the fact that my ADHD makes it hard to focus at work and suddenly I'm working extra hours and never quite catching up. Two weekends ago I got sick. I went to the ER because of it and lost two days of work, which really became 4 (having to redo the research). So now I'm SIX hotels behind. To catch up, I've been given only 2 hotels to do next week instead of 4 (so, since I'll do 4 hotels in reality, I'll have caught up by two). What about the other 4? Magic, apparently. I am always behind, and this means I work at home and on the weekends.

So when do I find time to write my own stuff? So far, I haven't. Since I got sick, I haven't played any games, read any books, or watched much TV (more than I should have, though). Even practicing guitar has taken a hit. I have actually managed to write a little (at least, do research) late at night. If my bosses and I can't figure out something to catch me up and get rid of all this unnecessary stress and work, then I will have to consider drastic changes.

In my writing, I have completed the research (so far) and am now ready to actually start writing it. I have to do it soon, though, or I will forget the research. Frankly, writing down everything I discover, forgetting it, and having to read what I've written later to rediscover my research will NOT save me any large amount of time. Normally my goal would be to write it this weekend, but work and other obligations will likely get in the way. Perhaps I'll be able to finish it by Thursday but I'm willing to bet that it won't really get done for two weeks (work + Easter = no time).

In the meantime, I've considered what else to use this blog for. My brother has been doing movie reviews, and I could do those as well. I've also considered writing an episodical story one chapter at a time. Many of my ideas would work very well in other media, such as movie/animation or comic formats, but it is apparent to me that these will never happen (at least no time soon). Perhaps I can post the ideas here and see what happens.

Anyone have any suggestions? Anyone interested in reading a story in chapters? If so, any desired genre?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lenten Service

It seems things have not been cooperating. But I will not let this defeat me.

My writing group did indeed meet last Thursday... but not to read. It seems the bookstore we have been frequenting for the past 17 years is closing due to financial difficulties. This is a real shame as I had just discovered the place and was looking forward to spending much time there. It was also so close to work. So last week was just that... our last week. At least, at that location. No one read or critiqued, instead they collaborated over a new spot. They have chosen as a temporary location a coffee shop nearby.

So no one read, and it wasn't much time for me to finish my paper (excuse, I know...). I wish to finish it by the next meeting.

Unfortunately, the next meeting is during Shrove Tuesday, what some of you know as "Mardi Gras." Mardi Gras is simply a celebration in which we use up all the goods, fun, and food (fattening foods, thus the name Fat Tuesday and its connection to pancake suppers) that we will be missing for the next 40 days of Lent. In the Episcopal Church, little celebration is had other than a pancake supper and some fellowship. Apparently some people celebrate it for 2 weeks or even since January 6th (Epiphany), ending it on Shrove Tuesday. In America it seems to have lost its meaning completely. Most Americans, even die-hard Christians (and Catholics, who really should know better) have never even HEARD of Lent, or may dimly be aware of it as Ash Wednesday (the day following Shrove Tuesday) is usually heralded by a few people with dark ashen crosses on their foreheads.

Allow me to elucidate. Easter is celebrated every year on the Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. A few years ago, this was very, very early (I believe March 23 or 24), and it is pretty early this year as well, but it also means that Easter doesn't fall on a specific day. The week leading up to Easter is Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday (the day Jesus was brought into Jerusalem on a donkey, named for the leaves laid on his path). Next is Fig Monday (named for the withering of a fig tree that bore no fruit), Holy Tuesday, Spy Wednesday (when Judas conspired with and was paid by the Pharisees to kill Jesus), Maundy Thursday (celebrated by a washing of the feet service; I have no clue where the name came from), Good Friday (when Jesus died on the cross), and finally Holy Saturday. The 40 days prior to Easter comprise a season of the Church called "Lent" which is a time of reflection, fasting, and sacrifice. Traditionally, Christians do not eat meat on Fridays (which is, in my opinion, not even CLOSE to a sacrifice). Often they give something up, like chocolate or spending money on shoes. It is also permitted to do a service in lieu of giving something up. Last year I followed the guidelines of Ramadan by not eating from sun-up to sun-down. This year I think a service to others is in order. Giving up chocolate or TV never seemed like it sparked a true devotion to God, no self-reflection. Sundays are an exception in Lent, as the church recognizes all Sundays as a celebration of Christ (something most people don't realize or forget).

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is when good Anglican, Episcopal, and Catholic boys and girls go to service to receive a cross on the forehead made form the ashes of last year's palm branches. These ashes symbolize that we are dust and to dust we shall return. This mentality may also have inspired some of the more macabre celebrations on Carnival (Mardi Gras) such as skeletons. The time between Ash Wednesday and January 6th is called Epiphany, named after the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 which is 13 days after Christmas (YES there are indeed 12 days in the Christmas season). Epiphany marks, supposedly, the day the Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem. Either that or it marks Jesus revealing himself as both God and man. I was always confused on that point. Gospel readings for that day tend to switch between the account of the Magi, the Baptism, and the Wedding at Canae.

I hope you all enjoyed your little lesson. What does all this have to do with me writing?

Nothing. Not really. In some small sense it was an attempt for me to actually write something longer than a paragraph. It may not be a well-written, well-composed, or well-organized creation, but it is there nonetheless. It ALSO means that I may be at a pancake supper during our meeting time. So I will write the rest of this short story as if I was going to read it to people, then I will move on to bigger and better things, maybe use it as a backup or just try to get it published. We will see.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Goals Part 2

Alright. Here's the scoop.

A while ago I went to a writer's workshop. Here, I found a publisher who was interested in a short story of mine. She said they were thinking of doing a monthly online short story publication, an eBook at half price because it's just a short story.

I was bad and never got back in touch with her. I need to do that and see if they're still interested or if they even went ahead with it. I never got back to her because my short story was not 100% up-to-par and complete.

I also took part in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - nanowrimo.com) back in November, but did not finish. I did not like what I had done with it, and I got a job which got in the way. But, those are really just excuses. Simply, i did not finish and did not succeed.

Finally, I am part of a writing group that meets twice a month. I haven't had anything new to show them in a while.

So I have new goals.

1) I want to finish the short story ASAP
2) I want to rewrite the book.
3) I want to have something to show my group EVERY meeting.

As there is a meeting this coming Thursday (it is the 1st thursday and 3rd tuesday of each month), I feel it is a reachable goal to finish my short story by then. I already gave it at the group, and it is too long to give at one sitting (limit is 5 pages, it is so far 8), but I should be able to give it again with just the updates.
I should also be able to start writing the book and using THAT as the thing I bring in each meeting. So I want to have that started for the second meeting in february.

Friday, January 29, 2010


It occurs to me that in order to fulfill my larger goals, I need to set a series of smaller goals. A professor of mine once told me that "a writer is born out of deadlines." This is something I need to take to heart. Without deadlines, nothing will get completed. So, I need to make REAL deadlines for each part of the writing process. And I need to have some kind of incentive, be it positive or negative, to complete it by that deadline (and it will have to be something more than the satisfaction of it).

I will set some deadlines soon. Right now I cannot due to time constraints, but soon I'll be able to.

Also, I need to look into the eBook store involved with the new Apple iPad.