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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dream a little dream

When someone first asked me if I dream in color, I thought it was a joke.

Who doesn't dream in color?

I often have vivid dreams, and I remember a good deal of them.  Perhaps some scientist has (or will) correlate this to creativity.  Perhaps not.

But in recent years, my dreams have become either entirely mundane or just plain ODD.

I did share my most recent nightmare with you all, an instance in which I was captured in a self-aware dream that led to me experiencing my first bout of sleep paralysis.

Last night, I had a similar situation.  Only this time, it was also a lucid dream.  A lucid dream is one in which you are aware that you are dreaming, and sometimes you can control the dream (or at least parts of it).  The difference is, the nightmare I experienced was definitely out of control.

This dream, however, was not as nightmarish.  I knew I wanted to get up early this morning so I could write before I had to take our daughter to school.  Usually when this happens, I wake up at various points in the night and glance at the clock, worried that I somehow set the alarm wrong or that the power went out in the night.  It inevitably leads to a very tired morning.

Last night, I woke up, but I couldn't move my body to check the time.  In fact, the need to continue sleep was so heavy on my mind that I only remained awake for a few moments before falling back to sleep.  When I did fall back asleep, I realized I was back in a dream.  I tried to get out of it again, but again I couldn't move or stay awake.  I began to search for help within my various dreams, which I started to realize I could control.  But that's not as fun as it could have been had I not been worried about the fact that I could not wake up.  I do not know how many times I glimpsed consciousness in the night.  The only movement I managed was a periodic hip wiggle.  I knew that at some point Amy would wake me up, or Addy would jump onto the bed and wake me up, or my alarm would go off and wake me up.

Amy did wake me up, but not for long.  I reached out to her in my dream state again, a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, asking her dream-self to somehow help me wake up.  It didn't work.  Addy jumped into bed with me, and woke up me and managed to break me from the paralysis, but I only managed roll over.  I was actually trying to roll OUT of bed.  My logic was that if I could plop on the floor, the impact would jolt my body into action.  But before I got that far, I fell asleep again.  It was my phone's alarm that woke me up completely.  Let me tell you, it is LOUD and it is ANNOYING.  More annoying, apparently than a 3-year old putting her beclawed, cold feet on your back.

When I was finally awake, I didn't want to go back to sleep for fear that I wouldn't be able to wake up again.  Hopefully, tonight will prove a little more restful.  But if not, perhaps I'll try to have more fun as a lucid dreamer.  Flying velociraptor, here I come!

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Today, I was with a writing group trying to plan out a chapter.  We got to talking and I wanted to get their opinion on my latest short story, Cheat.  When the girl next to me read it, she told me that she had actually read that piece a couple days before on a website I've never heard of.

The poster may or may not have said that s/he did not write it.  But the site is not very searchable, so we were having trouble finding the piece, particularly since the site is NSFW and we were in the middle of a Barnes & Noble.  She doesn't think that they credited me with it.

Apparently, the piece did well and a lot of people "liked" it; so many, in fact, that it was featured on the site.

Now, here's where things make me angry.  I don't mind that people like the piece of a NSFW site.  That's fine.  I am glad people enjoyed it!  I am even glad the person didn't take credit for it.  But I didn't get credit for it, and I didn't give permission, and I wasn't asked.

I cannot tell you how infuriating this is.  Here I am, trying to build an audience, and a golden opportunity like that slips away under my fingertips.  It makes me realize 2 things:

1) My pieces WILL get stolen

2) I could probably get a bigger audience if I specialize more.

So now I get to figure out what my next move will be.  I could stop putting up short stories altogether, but I'm not sure how much that will help me.  I suppose I could instead simply collect them for publication.  But if I do that, I need to do something for exposure, to gain an audience.  I could find a niche and go with it.  If so, what niche?  Any ideas?

Friday, August 29, 2014


Today's short story has some adult themes.  You have been warned.


The soft touch of her youthfulness, the heat of passion and flesh, the tangling of limbs and lives, the anger and betrayal – these things overwhelmed all feelings of guilt.  I don't even know the woman's last name, but in all fairness, I wouldn't want to.  After all, I never knew the name of my wife's lover.

For that matter, I never knew my wife.

A lot comes with 10 years of marriage.  It seems every day we learned more about what we liked or disliked.  Just when I thought I knew her, she'd throw me for a loop with another strange obsession.  Sure, things changed.  Sex became less frequent, less adventurous.  Infatuation faded into complacency.  Routine took over.  But I never expected to see that email on her computer.

"Last night was amazing.  I can't wait to see you again.  How about this weekend?"

It wasn't fair.  I had been loyal to her since we met, and now she was off gallivanting around!  Since when did I become… boring?

I made sure to let her go that weekend.  That's when I met Joanna.  I wished I'd gone to that adult dating site earlier.

My own tryst was cut short.  I had to make it home before my wife did, not that I would have cared if she caught me coming home late, disheveled and smelling of sex.  But there were chores I wanted to do before she got home.  After all, I didn't need her anymore.

She didn't come home that night.  By the next morning, elation turned to jealousy.  By the afternoon, anger.  The following morning, fear.

They found her body 2 weeks later, stuffed into a plastic trash bag. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Keep my brothers in the dark, I do.  It is my job.  Yes it is.  We brownies do not like the light.  We fear the light.  The light hurts us.  It blinds us.  It exposes us.  Every night we come out.  Every night we fix.  We fix everything, we do.  The gates above rejected us, yes, yes.  They told us we were unfit.  Unfit!  The gates below did not want us.  No!  I remember!  We were too nice, they said.  We could not get along with the others, like soap and scum, oil and water.  We are caught between!

Some of our cousins, they play tricks.  They paid the gatekeeper to stay out.  And they pay him still, pay him always, every 84 moons.  Bah!  The moon is too bright.  We hate the moon.  We like it inside, in the dark.  Always in the dark.

I remember, I told my brothers, I said we should help.  Help the stewards.  Steward the stewards, that we do!  We clean their houses, mend their toys, if only for a bit of morsel.

It is becoming hard.  "Droko!"  They came to me.  "Droko, they humans, they tame fire now to keep the dark away!"  So I learn to snuff out flame.  I brave it, the light.  Droko knows how.  This works for many moons, many seasons.

"Droko!  They keep flames in glass pots!"  I try to break the pots, but they are too far.  They put their light pots on the ceiling!  Humans are tricky that way.  I braved the day, I watched the stewards.  Droko learn how to put out the lights.  They call it a "witch" but it does not look like a witch to me.  It is too small.  It stays on the wall.  I point it down, the lights go out.  My brothers get to work.

They learn, too.  Yes, much to learn.  Wood toys?  They are gone!  Now it is all e-lek-tonics.  Bah!  Make light, their toys do.  Make sound!  We hate it.  But we fix it! We do good!  We cut wires, turn off the light toys.  Then we fix.

It does not work for long.  It was a moon ago. A human, he has toys with magic eyes.  I keep watch in the dark, but the eyes, they watch me.  In the horrible day, the human went to his toy.  His magic eye, it saw me!  It showed him on his light toy.  I was there, in the dark, but in the light.

"Droko," I says.  "This can not be!  If the humans see us, they stop us.  We know this.  They always do.  If my brothers do not work, the gates below will take us!"  I said this, I did.  Stop the human, I did.  It was easy.  I breaked his toys!  I found him asleep.  I stopped his air.  Oh!  I will be with my fallen brothers!  But I did my job.  Yes.  I keep us in the dark.  That I do.

Friday, August 1, 2014


"Warton?  As in Tom Warton?"
That was the question I had always been asked.  Whenever I told anyone my name it wasn't, "Didn't you write that book?" or, "I love your stories," or "I can't wait to see your next novel."  No, it was always, "Are you really related to that guy who makes cars?"
I didn't even drive a Warton.  I thought they were ugly machines that didn't have enough power and wasted too much fuel.  I stared down at the first one my dad ever built, supposedly in his own garage.  I doubted that.  Frankly, I thought it looked much better after I had doused it in gasoline.
This was only one of a dozen cars that sat in the small museum attached to the factory.  I'd practically grown up at the factory.  I spent so much time there, I knew all the guards, I knew the security system inside and out, and I knew that on the night of the World Cup finals, all the night staff would be glued to a small TV in the guardroom.  It wasn't hard to get around them.  Nothing could make them leave the game.  It was the same when dad owned the place.  The day of the World Cup finals always had a sort of party atmosphere, and dad allowed it.  But even now, after his death, the Board of Directors refused to change anything.  They were superstitious, afraid that changing anything would incur the wrath of my dead old man.
I quickly spent the entire canister of gasoline in the museum and slipped out of the door to the main floor of the factory.  I knew where the gas pumps were, so it didn't take me long to refill the container and start distributing the liquid to the machines, the files cabinets, the offices.  When I got to the boardroom, I knew my work was nearly over.  The company would never recover, but my name would.
"Hands in the air!"  It was Jorge, the youngest guard and, truth be told, an old friend of mine.  We were the same age, spent time in the factory together, went to school together.  His voice rang from the only door to the entire room.  I put my hands up, a match between my fingers.
"Go back to the game, Jorge," I said as I turned around.  He flinched when he saw it was me.
"Ashton?  What are you doing here?"
"I'm putting an end to this blight on the family name.  On my name."
"What blight?  Your name is on the map because of this place."  His hand was on his gun's holster.
"Do you even know what I've been doing for the past 5 years?  Did you know I have two books out?  And they both have great reviews!"
"Why does that mean you have to burn down your father's factory?"
"Because I have no sales!  No one knows my name!  They only know my dad's name!  I'm trapped in his gravity!"  I could see that Jorge didn't understand.  "If I can't break free from my father's star, I'll never shine on my own."
"Destroying your father's namesake is not the way to do it.  Come on, Ash.  If you just come with me now, we can watch the game together and I won't let anyone know it was you in here."
I looked around the boardroom, seeing the name "Warton" splayed out on every seat, on every window, even on the carpet.  But I knew that it wasn't my name.  Not any longer.  I smiled and lit the match.  He put his gun in front of him.
"Put the match down, Ashton!" he said, though as he spoke I could see him shaking.
"Are you sure you want me to do that, Jorge?"  I flicked the match at him.  It landed on the table and smoldered… then went out in a pool of gasoline.  "What the Hell?"
Jorge ran up to me and knocked me over with his shoulder.  He was bigger than me and definitely stronger.

The next morning I woke up in a cell with three other guys.  They all eyed me suspiciously.
"Good morning, Tinkerbell," a rather wiry man said.  All three of them laughed.
"Where… what happened?"  By the time I got my bearings, things came back to me.  The struggle, the cops, the beating.  My head still pounded.
"Woah, hold up there, Tinkerbell.  Looks like you took quite a pounding."  Another chuckle from his comrades.
"Stop calling me Tinkerbell," I demanded, getting an "ooooh!" from my cellmates.  "I'm Ash Warton."

"Warton?" One of the others asked.  "Like the car?"

Sunday, July 27, 2014

An open letter to Dr. Brian May, CBE

Just about anyone who knows me also knows that I am a huge Queen fan.  As an American, this is a bit of an oddity.  Ask most Americans and they will tell you the Freddie Mercury was the lead singer, he died of AIDS, and that they wrote "Bohemian Rhapsody."  A few more will also recognize that they wrote "We Will Rock You," "We Are The Champions," "I Want It All," "Somebody to Love," and, if you're lucky, "Another One Bites the Dust."  They'll know plenty of other songs, they just have no idea Queen wrote them.  On the other hand, I listen to their solo albums.  When I went to see them in Chicago a few weeks ago, I was hoping to hear "No One But You (Only the Good die Young)" and "C-lebrity."

Of course, as we were walking outside the concert hall hours before the concert, I walked past a man taking a smoke (who then ducked inside), a man that looked suspiciously like Roger Taylor (drummer/songwriter/vocalist).  I have learned that Brian May (guitarist/songwriter/vocalist) banned smoking from the venues, and that Roger Taylor smokes.  The more I think back on it, the more I realize that I *walked past Roger Taylor* and I did not even say, "Hi!"  Great first impression.

But I'm not here to try to prove my fandom or one-up another Queen fan.  Frankly, I think everyone should listen to more Queen - particularly those of my generation and younger.  I know there are bigger fans than me, and frankly I would love to have some long conversations with them so I can learn more myself.

This all being said, I have longed to write a letter to Brian May.  Every member of Queen was important.  Every member wrote at least one chart-topping song.  Every one had a degree.  But for me, Brian May has become an inspiration.


Dr. Brian May, CBE,

Thank you.  Thank you for the truly divine music.  Thank you for building the Red Special at the age of 17.  Thank you for being an inspiration.  But most of all, thank you for being a role model that is worthy of aspiring to.

One of the reasons I picked up the guitar was so that I could play like you.  The second song I ever learned to play was "Crazy Little Thing Called Love."  My brother wanted me to play it for his wedding along with some other friends.  I learned every part so that I could teach it to them, but, sadly, I was the only one that could play the parts or practiced it.  More recently, I have been teaching myself "Last Horizon."  Sadly, I do not have the time to dedicate to the craft that is necessary to reach a professional level, at least not anytime soon.  But I am still inspired by what you have achieved and use your example to fuel my own passions.

However, what has impressed itself upon me the most is your personal life.  After battling depression, you have gone on to earn your doctorate, record two solo albums and a soundtrack, reform Queen, record a new Queen album, become an activist, play for a variety of artists, and be appointed a CBE (Commander of the most Excellent Order of the British Empire).  You have had mistakes in your past, but you conquered them and have continued to strive to make the best of yourself.  This is what I truly aspire to do.  To be the best person I can be.

I am currently a stay-at-home dad and writer in his 30s with arthritic knees and an expertise in practically nothing.  But I may have 40, 50, 60 years ahead of me.  Arthritis be damned!  I must strive to be the best dad and writer that I can be!  I must be the best husband I can be!  And I must be the best person that I can be, even if I make mistakes from time to time.

So thank you, Doctor.  Thank you for being someone worthy of being looked up to in a time when decent role models are so few and far between.  I hope that my own children can look up to your example as well, or that I can be become such an example to them.

Spencer Hixon

Friday, July 25, 2014

Genetic Ownership

"James was more than a good husband and good father, he was a good man…"  Jacqueline said as she stood in front of the small crowd all dressed in black.  Her smile was serene and empty, as was the smile on everyone's faces.  Everyone's, that is, except for the young woman's in the front row.  The black veil she had one could not hide the pain, the fear, the fits of sobbing that made everyone nervous.
"Sara, shhh!  You can't let them hear you!" said the boy next to her in a hoarse whisper.
"I know…" she whispered back.  "I… can't help it!"  She shrank back and leaned into the boy.
At the pulpit, Jacqueline continued.  "I was so proud of my husband when he spearheaded the Epigenetic Futures initiative, which has changed our world, our way of life."  She looked down at her children with that same serene smile, despite the fact that her daughter continued to sob.
In the back of the church, one of the large doors opened just enough for two men to walk in.  They wore black suits with black ties, but their suits sported an emblem on the arm.  "EFC" was emblazoned across it.  The men remained in the back of the church.  The entire the congregation looked back at them, and there was even a pause in the eulogy, but the interruption was brief.
"Sara, you need to be quiet!"  her brother reiterated.  "They're here!"
Sara clung to her brother's arm tightly.  "I can't…"
"Every hardship in life leads to changes in our epigenetic code, which affects future generations.  With that in mind, we decided to eliminate pain, famine, disease, and even sorrow from our genes.  We wanted to create a happier, healthier society.  We did it for our children."  Jacqueline noticed the men stand up and walk down the aisle towards the sobbing Sara.  She cleared her throat and looked down at Sara.  "So we must be strong, be happy.  We must celebrate James' life and move on."
The men walked right up to the front row.  One of them put his hand on Sara's shoulder, making the girl jump in her seat and let out another sob.
"Wh-what do you want with my sister?" her brother asked.
"This young woman is damaging the future genetic code.  Please let go of her so we can take her in."
He held on tighter to her.
"What is going on?" Jacqueline asked and came down from the pulpit.  "Who are you?  What are you doing with my kids?"
The men turned their attention to the woman.  "EFC, ma'am.  We're here to protect our property."
Although she knew very well what the men meant, she still needed to confirm.  "What do you mean 'your property?'"
"The genetic code, ma'am.  Now please stay out of our way."  The man who was not speaking pulled the boy away from his sister.  Someone in the audience stood up, but he didn't dare move.  Everyone understand what would happen if they interfered.
Despite knowing, Jacqueline moved down from the pulpit.  "No, you can't take Sara!  She just lost her father!  She's only a kid!"  She rushed to defend her daughter, but one of the men got in her way.
"Ma'am, please calm down." he said, but soon the boy was tugging at him as well.  Without a word, he pushed Jacqueline to the ground and picked the struggling boy up.
"Michael!" Jacqueline cried.  In moments, both of her children were being taken away.  But when the men made it to the door, they were greeted by an usher who stepped in their way.  Several other members of the congregation stood up and approached them.
The men found themselves backing away, only to be surrounded by the entire congregation.  The usher, a man who looked like he might be more at home on a motorcycle than in a church, folded his arms over his chest.  "Put the kiddies down."
The agents did as they were told.  One of them put his hand into his jacket, as if to pull for a weapon, but the other stopped him.  "We will be keeping an eye on all of you."  He turned to his partner.  "Come on, let's not make this into a public relations fiasco."  With that, they walked past the usher and left the church.
Jacqueline got off the floor, her face streaming with black tears as the children ran into her arms.  After a moment, she stood up, wiped some of the mascara off her face, and faced the crowd.

"I think it's time we took back our future.  For our children."

Friday, July 18, 2014


"Your turn with the kid, huh?" I asked the young man as he sat on the park bench.  I couldn't really help myself; he looked about my age, didn’t have on a ring, and had the kind of face that would make George Clooney jealous.  Plus, the smile on his face as he watched the kids run around the playground- it was contagious.
"What?  Oh, no.  Every day is my turn.  I'm a stay-at-home parent."  It was one of those questions you realize you never should have asked, but only after the fact.  I'd never felt so embarrassed.  I just wanted to crawl into a shell and hide, but he didn't look offended.  In fact, his smile had turned towards me.
"Oh, oh I'm sorry!  I didn't mean…" I stammered and let my bangs hide my face.  "It's just, I've never seen you at the playground before.  I'm Linda."
He turned his gaze back to the kids, but scooted over on the bench and patted the seat next to him.  "Well, I'm new to the area.  I'm Andre.  I've just been looking for some good places to take my daughter."
The first thing I noticed sitting next to him was how good he smelled.  I could have been imagining it, of course, but something about him just drew me in.  I looked back to my own daughter and waved with a bright smile, then watched as her golden locks bounced with each joyful but awkward toddler step she took.  "So what does your wife do?" I asked.
He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.  "Well, my ex-wife doesn't do much.  She's not really in the picture.  I'm just lucky that I can work at home at night."  His gaze turned back to look over at me, even check me out.  The way his eyes lingered made me feel so sexy, so wanted.  It was strange feeling like that here with my kid, but I suppose the Fates never did care about such silly things as circumstances.  "What about you?  What does your husband do?"
"Oh, no, there's no husband.  John died a few years ago."  The moment I said those words, I felt I was opening too much to this stranger.  He was just so easy to talk to that everything I'd been bottling up wanted to flood out.  I had to bite my tongue to keep the tide at bay.
"I'm sorry to hear that."  There was a moment of silence between us,  a moment I wanted to fill, but I let the laughter of children do that for me.  "So how old is yours?"
"Oh, she's about 4."
"Really?  Mine's about that age, too!  Maybe we should arrange a play date some time."
My heart jumped in my chest.  "Um, sure!  I'd like that.  Which one is yours?"
"She's the blond one on the slide there."  He pointed to a kid.  My kid.
"Wh-which one?  Climbing up the back?"
"No, she's just down it now.  She has on the green shirt."  Again, he was pointing to my child, my precious Sara.
"A-are you sure?"
"Oh yes, that's Mary all aright.  Where's yours?" he asked.
"What is this?  Are you trying to take my Sara?"  I was mortified and sprang to my feet to get some distance on him.
"I don't know what you're talking about."  He tried to play the fool, the innocent one, but all the pieces were fitting together.
I put myself between him and the kids.  "Single dad, new to the area, hanging out around playgrounds?  Who are you really?  Stay away from our kids!"  I raised my voice, creating a scene that made all the other mothers raise their faces from their phones and look our way.
"Hey, I don't know what you're getting at.  I came here with my daughter.  I'm not after anyone's kids."  He glanced around nervously, obviously feeling the eyes of all the other mothers bearing down on him.
"If you don't leave now, I'm going to call the cops!"  At this point, even the kids had stopped playing.  I backed up, moving towards Sara.  I couldn't believe I had been attracted to such a predator.
"Mary!  Come here.  I think it's time we leave."  He stood up and started towards the playground, but I made sure to stay in his way.
"Don't you dare!" I called out.
"Andre?  What's wrong?" one of the other mothers asked and stepped towards him.  I didn't recognize her either.
"This woman thinks I'm stalking our kids," he said.
"That's ridiculous."  She turned to me, her heavily made-up face contorting in accusation.  "Who do you think you are?  I invited Andre here because his kid hasn't had a chance to make any friends yet."
I looked around at the other parents.  "I don't believe you.  Did anyone else here see this man come with a girl?"  My heart froze when several mothers stepped forward to join him.
He squatted.  "Mary, come here."  In moments Sara ran to him and threw her arms around his neck so he could lift her.  "See, Linda?  This is not your daughter."
I stepped back and stumbled on part of the playground, falling to my rear on the rubber surface.  "S-Sara?"
Sara looked at me like she didn't know me.  It was the same look she had on her face when John died.  It was a look that had been burned into my heart.  After the flash of lights, the crunch of metal and bone, the screaming, the impact, after the world fell on its head, that was the last look I had seen in her face before I lost consciousness.  Before I lost everything.
"Ma'am?"  It was a woman's voice that roused me.  She knelt next to me in the playground.  "Are you OK?  You were screaming."
I stared at her and then Andre in disbelief.
"Sara… is gone, isn't she?" she asked.
All I could do was throw myself into her arms, sobbing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I'm back!

An unplanned hiatus?!  What is wrong with me?!

Well, it is what it is.  I needed a little break from the blog.  I've been working on my novel, and let me tell you, I am getting such glowing critiques it makes me blush!  We'll see how long those last, though.  This next chapter I'm revising is a tough one and needs a substantial rewrite.

But I did manage to finish a short story.  I'm rather proud of this one!  However, I'm still working on it, and this time I want to look into having some revisions.  So, I'm making a general call out.  Anyone interested in proof-reading a short story?  If so, contact me on facebook.

I don't know if my stories are really any good.  I mean, I get good reviews generally, when I get them, but I rarely win any contests (or even get close, it seems).  It makes me not want to submit to anymore contests, even though I know that I can only win them by joining them.  That being said, I think I am going to try to participate in a few again... free ones this time.

Friday, June 27, 2014


Sorry, folks.  I'm on vacation this week!  As much as I would love to regale you with another tale, I've run out of buffer and need to build it back up.  So, I leave you all with a science lesson!  sure, it might be long, and old, but it remains awesome!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hollow Point

This is the second part of the story started here: Captain Blaze.  It is meant to show how the Point of View changes everything.

Emily Henson was a good woman.  I could always trust her to keep me informed when something big was going down, and from the way she sounded over the phone, I had a feeling this was big.
"Hollow, is that you?" she asked as he shone a flashlight around the parking deck.  I could see how much she was shaking.
"You're sure you weren't followed, Em?" I asked as I stepped into the light.
She let out a sigh of relief.  "Yeah, I'm pretty sure.  Listen, I can't stay long.  Something big is going down."  She stepped closer to me, turning the flashlight off and plunging us both into the dim light that came form the street.  "It's this contract we've been working on.  It's supposed to be a hydrocarbon detector, you know, for oil.  But it doesn't add up,  The military is interested.  I know they might be able to use some but... the other day I was digging around and found out what's in them.  Hollow, it's weapons-grade plutonium.  And a lot of it – far more than we'd need to detect hydrocarbons."
I looked around.  The sunglasses I wore to cover my face weren't normal sunglasses.  They offered me a view of the world unhindered by shadows.  Thankfully, I didn't see anyone hiding in the dark.  "You think they're going to make them into weapons?"
"No," she said, shaking her head.  "I found out today that the military is shipping these overseas.  But they're not going to where the oil is; they're going to Korea.  Hollow Point, I think General Hauser is planning to sell these under the table.  Selling plutonium is regulated, but these detectors aren't.  I think they're trying to make a profit off of a weapon.  They might even want to start a war with this stuff.  They're shipping it tomorrow at the docks, 115.  I… I didn't know who else to turn to."
"Don't worry.  You came to the right man.  I'll take care of it."

It wasn't hard taking out the guards.  I'm sure they were expecting an attack, but they certainly weren't expecting me.  Finding the cargo container wasn't hard, either.  General Hauser was never good at subtlety.  I'd donned my newest suit, an exoskeleton filled with nifty gadgets, and it was a good thing, too.  As soon as I'd finished cutting a hole into the side of the container, a light shone on me and I heard a familiar, self-righteous voice.
"Hands up!  Step away from the cargo."
I rolled my eyes.  "Captain Blaze…" I said between my teeth.  The last thing I needed was for hot-head to get in my way.
"Hollow Point.  You're in over your head this time.  Come quietly, and maybe the DA will go easy on you."
"Blaze, back off.  You don't know what you're doing, and I don't have time to explain.  I need to take this back to where it belongs," I said as I rushed into the container.  All I saw was a box on a pedestal, but my suit was giving me readouts that I'd never seen before.  This had to be it.
There was a deafening impact and soon part of the roof was being torn away.  Blaze's fingers reached through the holes and I felt the container start to lift.
"Are you crazy, Blaze!?" I called out and grabbed the box.  It heaved as my suit adjusted to its incredible weight.  The pedestal shifted and began to beep.  A countdown.  A short countdown.
I'd never run so fast in my life.  It didn’t hurt that my suit was built for speed.  My body practically flew out of the container, ripping my trench coat right off.  "Get out of there, Blaze.  This isn't about who wins!" I called out, but I never slowed down.
There was nothing that could catch me, at least that's what I thought.  But after I passed by a corner, something went wrong.  A blockade of cars.  Then another.  I felt like I was being herded, forced to move down narrower and narrower roads to keep from collided with things.  When I'd finally found the room to slow down, my suit failed.
"An EM Pulse?" I asked no one in particular as the box fell to the ground.  I collapsed under the weight of my exoskeleton.  A small crowd had gathered around the intersection I was lying in, but none of the onlookers dared to get close to me.  Then he arrived.
"Darn it, Blaze!  Let me go!  These things aren't what you think.  They're dangerous and I can't let them fall into the wrong hands!"
"Save it Hollow," Captain said with that all-too-familiar look of smug justice on his face.  I  watched helplessly as he picked the box up.  He was talking, but I was too busy getting out of my exoskeleton to listen.
"What's this?" he asked.  I looked up and saw the lid had been removed and Blaze was reaching into it.
"No!  Get out of there!  It's too…nngg.. dangerous!"  I managed to wiggle myself free and ran up to him.  I grabbed the lid, which lay on the ground nearby, and rammed my body against his, pushing him away from the box.  The lid slid into place, but it was too late.
Captain Blaze was holding a small sphere.  This was no hydrocarbon detector.  My goggles flashed into life and the exoskeleton behind me twitched.  The only thing I could see through the goggles was a radioactivity warning the like of which I'd never seen before.  This wasn't even plutonium.  It was much worse.  The words "FATAL DOSE" appeared before my eyes, then the goggles died again.
"Does that look like an instrument for detecting oil to you, Blaze?"  He shook his head.
"I've never seen one, but I don't think this… it burns."
The ball fell to the ground with a thud.  "It's bad, Blaze. Whatever this is, I think it's already killed us."
Blaze looked at me in horror.  Suddenly the power turned back on in my suit.  It thrashed about for just a moment.  I walked over to it and started put it back on, wiggling my body into it.
"What are you doing?" Blaze asked.
"I'm going to put this thing back in the box and bury the box where it can't hurt anyone."
He stood up and winced as he picked the ball up and put it back in the box.  I could see that it had left his hands burnt.  "I'll do it," he said.  Then he flew off.  I couldn't have stopped him, the idiot.  If he was taking it to the military, I wouldn't be able to catch up to him.  But instead, I watched as he streaked brightly across the sky and splashed into the ocean.  He never came up.

Now I'm stuck here in this hospice, dying slowly and painfully.  The doctors tell me there's nothing they can do.  They try to make me comfortable.  But I am captured by the thought that, even in his death, that man was denying me.  I would die in steps, as a villain.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to be a Successful Rube!

They say there's one born every minute.  But suckers aren't really born or made... they have to be given the opportunity to turn themselves into their namesake.  And those people providing those opportunities are the scum of the Earth.

You'd think that most suckers deserve what they get.  After all, who buys a "Rolex" that just "fell off the truck" for $100?  Suckers, that's who.  But not all suckers are also idiots.  Plenty of them are trying to get an education, and the charlatans who prey on them know that this is their weakness.

They can been seen in colleges across the country, colleges that are increasing their tuition, increasing the number of students, and lowering standards so they can pump out one useless degree after another and soak up government money.  They promise a "college education" on the cheap, but the quality of that education is sub-par to say the least.  My brother fell for one, an online degree that provided nothing but debt.  So he took the hard route and found out where successful people in his field got their degrees, then enrolled there.

But writing... that is another world.  No college on the planet can guarantee that someone will be on the New York Best Seller list.  Sure, Harvard credentials might help, but more often than not, it is not what you learned at Harvard, but rather the fact that you garnered some media attention due to the fact that you went to Harvard and decided to be outspoken about something.  Just look at writers.  They come from every walk of life, from the affluent to the destitute, the college educated to the not-quite-GED.  Successful writers have had tons of classes about writing and teach it in universities, and they have had NO writing classes yet still create best-sellers.  There is no cookie-cutter writer.  Each one is as different as the stories we weave.

But it is understandable that, when some company, magazine, or author offers the secrets to writing success, plenty of us writers sign up.  I have seen this happen far too often.  Writer's Digest is a magazine that writes articles for writers, but it is not free.  Who would offer such advice for free, after all?  Of course, the "good" articles, often labeled things like "10 mistakes that will kill your manuscript" or "Habits of a best-seller" all cost a considerable amount of money for what is essentially an opinion piece. The editors and writers at Writer's Digest have no more secret insight into what makes a writer successful than my cat does.  If they did, publishing houses would come to THEM to find out the secrets and turn them into millionaires.  Yes, publishing houses.  They also don't know the secret.  Sure, they have some clues and can influence somewhat - the more money pushed into pre-sales and ads, the better - but no one could predict the runaway success of J.K. Rowling.  If publishers knew the secrets, they'd use them to find consistently superior writers.

There are others.  I recently discovered a writer/blogger who went from 0 to over 100k followers in 2 years following his "3 simple steps."  Sure, it took him many years BEFORE then of trial and error, but in only 2 years he got a ton of followers.  I looked at his offerings as well, and found that they are sound advice that lack enough specifics to be really helpful.  And, shortly after reading them, realized that he was starting up his own online course to teach you how to do it too, starting at only $600.

A fool and his money...

Now I'm not saying that what these people are selling is not helpful to someone, or that their advice didn't work for some people.  The trick that this author/blogger used may well have worked for him, but that does not mean it will work for you.  I find these sorts of people, who want to rid struggling wannabe authors of their meager funds, to be deplorable and despicable.  Writing is not something that makes a lot of money.  If you are writing for the money, do yourself a favor and stop right now.  This is a labor of love for us.  It is a rare and wonderful thing when a writer is able to support himself and his family completely on his writing.  Want to know something many successful writers have had in common?  Benefactors/money.  They didn't have to worry about where their next meal was coming from.  They were freed up from these concerns so they could really write!  Others have quit good-paying 9-5 jobs to take the nightshift at a local supermarket simply so they had more time to write.

So when I see someone trying to take my money to tell me how to be a better writer, I want to punch them in the gut.

Like everything in life, there is no fast-track, no cheat, no instant-win.  It takes dedication and hard-work.  Want to lose weight?  Change how you eat and how you exercise... for good.  There, I saved you from another useless diet fad.  Want to be an Olympian?  Spend nearly every waking hour with the right coach perfecting your talent.  Want to be a writer?  Write, then write some more, then write some more.  And while you're at it, read.  And interact with your fans when you get them.


There IS some good advice out there, however, if you are truly determined to follow this crazy path.  Sadly, it, too, is generally NOT free.  And telling the difference can be hard.  So I will offer up some of what I have learned.  Once you know the mechanics of a good story, develop a strong sense of grammar, and learn how to take criticism (i.e. know how to write), only then are you really ready to take this step.  As I am not yet published, I also recommend you take this with a grain of salt.  I am learning still, too.

First, try to do some research into the publishing industry you wish to find yourself in.  There are authors you could contact, publishing houses you could call, courses you could take (yes, not all courses are out to get all your money.  Just don't go for an online course or a college that treats itself like a Starbucks), and plenty of free blogs you could read.  Join online writing communities and ask questions.  Consider buying a book on the subject (but I would recommend only one or two, so do your research, look at the reviews).  If you can't afford what someone is asking, don't fret!  You can probably figure this stuff by the seat of your pants as it is.  There's nothing quite like diving in head-first.

Next, join a critiquing group.  They are usually cheap or free (mine is $5/year).  Go a few times and see if you like them.  These groups often have established authors in them who can offer invaluable, sage advice.  And they will help you improve your writing!  This is a real community of writers that can offer real help.

If you are having trouble writing your book, there are a few tools you can learn that will help.  So far, the BEST and more encouraging place I've found is Jim Butcher's old, never-updated livejournal.  This thing is a true goldmine.  And I'm sure with a little research, you can find other authors with truly helpful, and free, blogs.

After all of this is said and done, you have the daunting task of learning how to LIVE like a writer.  There is no course I've ever seen that will teach you this.  If you want to be successful, all the self-help books and publishing articles in the world can only take you so far.  To truly excel, you have to learn what works for you.  I have found one book that I highly recommend, which is filled with great advice that I am starting to implement into my life.  Brick By Brick, by Stephen McCraine.  Plenty of it is up for free on his site, but scroll down a little and you can find a $5 PDF version.

The ultimate step, from what I can tell, is both the easiest and the hardest.  Don't quit.  Don't let self-doubt bring you down.  Don't let poor critiques tear apart your career before it starts.  Don't give up because it is too hard.

Just keep writing.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Captain Blaze

"Hands up!  Step away from the cargo."  With a simple point of my finger, my powers coalesced into a bright spotlight that shone down on the shipping container.  "U.S. Government" was emblazoned on the side, along with a variety of Hazmat symbols.  Military men lay around it, unconscious, or worse.  A smell of ozone and gunpowder filled my lungs.  Part of the container had a large hole neatly bored into it, and standing just inside was the hunched figure of a man in a trench coat.
"Captain Blaze…" The voice was dripping with evil.  As the figure turned, he brought a hand up to block the light, but I could still recognize the unmistakable figure of my arch nemesis.
"Hollow Point," I said with a sneer.  "You've outdone yourself this time.  Come quietly and I'm sure I can convince the DA to give you a lighter sentence."
"You don't understand!" he said and backed away.  The flak jacket and weapons he wore disappeared into the darkness of the container.  "I need to take this!"
I had a feeling he wouldn't come with me.  My feet lifted off the ground and I swiftly flew to the top of the container.  "Have it your way," I said and reached down to touch the metal top.  A moment later, and I could feel the energy rushing into my hands, heating them up to the point that they glowed white and sank into the melting metal.  Then they cooled as I gripped tightly, ready to lift the shipping container off the ground.
But I never had the chance.  It rocked a little and Hollow Point jumped out.  His coat had been thrown off, revealing a metal exoskeleton.  "Nice try, Blaze.  But this time I win!"  In the dim light of the streetlamps overhead, I could just make out a box in his arms.

I recalled when General Hauser approached me earlier that week about the transport.  They'd been expecting someone to attack it and wanted my assistance.
"It's a new type of hydrocarbon detector.  It can find oil deeper than ever, over a larger area, and with greater accuracy.  This could single-handedly solve American's fuel crisis for the next hundred years."
"And you're worried someone will want to steal it?" I asked.  The harsh light overhead hurt my eyes as I tried to look into the General's face.  I felt more like I was being interrogated than debriefed.
The general leaned over the white table, placing his hands on it as he glared at me.  "These detectors use a highly radioactive source to work.  If they fell into the wrong hands, there's no telling what will happen.  The military has put what resources are available to protecting this shipment, but you and I both know how hard it is to stop a Super.  All of our Supers are engaged overseas, so we need you, Captain Blaze.  America needs you."
"I'm here for America."

Blaze was moving fast.  It was no wonder the soldiers were down; they wouldn't stand a chance against an ambush at that speed.  I tried to fly after him, but the moment my hands left the container, an explosion rocked it and bent metal in sharp curls.  I came to my senses a few seconds later with a sliver if metal in my hand.  Rage boiled over and the metal melted and fell to the ground.
"Hollow Point!" I called out and took to the air.  Sirens were sounding downtown.  In moments, I was on top of them, pointing my spotlight down on the scene below.  There was Hollow Point, caught in my own ambush.  I smirked.
A line of cars blocked his route through the street, but that wasn't what stopped him.  Behind the line of cars I had the city prepare an Electromagnetic Pulser, something I'd been working on for months.  Hollow Point lay in the street, struggling to remove the exoskeleton he had donned.  I couldn't have planned it any better.
"Darn it, Blaze!  Let me go!  These things are dangerous and I can't let them-"
"Save it, Hollow."  I descended slowly next to him.  He had dropped the box and was even having trouble lifting his own arms.  The only thing he could reach was a blow torch, which I'm sure he used on the container.  "These detectors are going back to their owners."  I picked up the box carefully, but it was indeed heavy.  Too heavy.  It slipped from my grasp as pain shot through my wounded hand.  The lid slid off and Hollow Point winced.

"What is this?" I asked, peering into the box.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


The small picture of Jess was the only thing that kept me going in those dark days of mud and death.  I kept it in a small locket she'd given me the day before I was deployed.  Whenever we had to bunker down under enemy fire or crawl face first in blood and grass just to get some strategic position, I'd keep the locket held tight in my fist or around my neck.  I kept it open at night so I could read her every letter I wrote.  She was there when our battalion got crushed, when I got shot.  The last thing I looked at before they cut off my foot was her serene smile.  She kept me going.

Or so I thought.

From the moment the dirt on the runway crunched under my shoes in my hometown to the final awkward, difficult steps up to her front door, all I could think of was how much I wanted to hold her.  I hadn't told her I was home.  I wanted to surprise her.  But when I knocked, she didn't answer the door.  I didn't know who he was, but he was wearing her perfume.

I still have the locket with her picture in it.  I know now that she couldn't wait forever, that she had to move on.  Now, the locket represents an ideal, a love we once shared, a love that still drives me on to this day.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


I recently had the opportunity to see my twin brother graduate from college for the second time.  It turns out that the degrees we got from our previous college are hardly worth the paper the diplomas are printed on.  So, my brother decided to pursue his dream career in computer animation and went to SCAD (Savanna College of Art and Design).  SCAD, in case you didn't know, is one of the big wigs. They have REAL people in the industry teaching REAL techniques on REAL equipment and software for REAL problems and projects.  Students get hired into good positions regularly.  In fact, my brother has just earned an imdb page.  It's not up yet in case you were wondering.

I am, of course, quite proud of my brother for sticking with it and doing what he loves in spite of hardships.  And his career is only beginning.  In the years to come, I fully expect to see him in the credits of major films, perhaps as lead designer or animator, or perhaps as CEO of his own animation studio.  I think he could do it.

It made me think about my own life and what is happening in it.  Where am I going and am I going about it in the right way?  I don't have the answers.  I know I'm doing a good thing being a stay-at-home dad and pursuing my dream of being a writer.  But I could do better, at both.  During the commencement speeches, I realized that one of the things most of the successful people have in common is that they were single.  So my hardships in my career will definitely be different from theirs, as I am decidedly married and parenting.  I have more limited time and flexibility; I cannot travel the world on a whim, I don't have the money to start up a company, and I won't spend 14 hours a day perfecting my craft.  But I have support.  I feel that I've been a little lax in revising my book.  I have to redouble my efforts.  I need to learn how to act like a professional.

My brother wants to start on a new project in the next few weeks and is looking for ideas.  I plan on sending him a few.  Who knows?  I may end up with my own imdb page.  This could be an opportunity for both of us, and it is one I feel we need to explore.  But I will not abandon my book for work on this project.  I will simply need to organize my time better.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


"Hey dad," I say as I sit down next to him.  He's lying in a strange bed, in a strange room, with strange devices connected to him.  "How are they treating you?"

My old man looks at me closely.  "Who are you.  Are you going to stick me with another damn needle?"

It hurts, but I was prepared for it.  "No, it's me, Daniel.  Your son."  I reach out to take his wrinkled hand in mine.

His eyes light up.  "Oh, Danny!  You've grown!  Look at you!  How is whatshername, that girl?  Michelle?"

"Dad, we broke up years ago.  I'm married to Anne.  We have kids now.  Josh and Elizabeth."

The look of joy In my dad's eyes fades.  "Oh.  Oh, I'm sorry."  His eyes move away as he tries to connect the missing pieces of memory.

"We're good, dad.  How are you?"

"Oh, I'm alright.  I've got to get the garage cleaned up before your mother gets home, or else she'll see the china cabinet.  It's almost done, Danny.  These people around here just won't let me leave!"  His voice raises a little and the deep wrinkles in his face contort with anger.

"No dad, it's alright.  I'll…  I'll take care of it when I leave.  You need to rest."  I never wanted to lie to my dad, but what else could I do?  The cabinet had been done for years.

"Oh, thank you Danny.  So what…"  I can see part of him fade from me.  "Where am I?"

"You're at a hospice… hospital, dad.  Are you comfortable?  Feeling OK?"

"Hospital?  What happened?"

I don't know what to say.  "You've… you've got Alzheimer's."

He gives me a blank look.  "Got his what?"

"No, dad.  You're just forgetting things."

He waves his hand dismissively with a huff.  "I've always been forgetful.  It's nothing new."  I smile, but have to wipe some tears from my eyes.

"That's right.  I remember when you forgot mom's birthday.  Boy was she angry."

Dad gives a chuckle.  "Oh yes.  I remember.  Don't tell her, but I didn't really forget."  His old eyes look around for an intruder, then he leans closer to me.  "I was angry at her because… because she…"

"You never told us that."

"She… what?  Well, why would I?  You kids didn't need to know our adult stuff."  He leaned back and smiled serenely, closing his eyes.

"Well, I won't tell her," I said.

"Tell who?"


He opened his eyes and stared at me.  "Who are you?  You aren't here to give me another damn shot, are you?"

I feel a pain in my heart as if I'd already lost him.  And in truth, I had.  He wasn't the strong, quick-witted salesman that I adored and admired as a kid.  He wasn't the flawed-but-good-hearted man I learned to love as an adult.  Those moments where he was himself were fleeting.  But as he searches my face suspiciously, I don't see him, or even the ghost he had become.  I see myself, and I'm frightened.

"I'm Daniel," I told him again.

"Oh, Danny.  Where's your sister?"

"Joyce is at home, dad."  She had refused to see him.  Whenever I tried, she'd tell me that she wanted to remember dad the way he was, as if he had died the moment he was diagnosed.  But as much as it hurt, I couldn't let dad sit in that strange room alone.  Mom would've wanted me to be with him, I'm sure. 

"I'd like to see her again.  So, how's whatshername, Michelle?"

"…She's fine, dad."