Today, R.S.Guthrie Takes Over…

Rob-75x850-Cropped…Posting on my blog. He’s a great author of Books such as Black Beast and Lost. Both are phenomenal books. Give them a read. To check out what up coming novels he has coming (like Blood Land) Check out his blog robonwriting. Tell him beginingsinwriting sent you. Without further ado, here’s Rob:

The Self-Publishing Dream (Or Was It Nightmare?)

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It was so much simpler when writing was just a dream. I mean, everything works out in a dream, and unknown things like deadlines and marketing campaigns with their cost and timing and effectiveness aren’t in the dream—after all, their unknown, right?

And what about the slush pile you were planning to avoid by self-publishing instead of sending your manuscript into the maw of overworked, underpaid, tumultuous world of traditional publishing? Send it there you might never see it again and even if you did what were the chances of it not having a form rejection slip attached to it?

Here’s the rub: the slush pile has moved to the marketplace. Yes, the ability for any man, woman, or child with an Internet connection to publish a book is one of the most fantastic things to happen to the unpublished writer. Want to know what one of the absolute worst things to happen to those same writers turned out to be?

Same thing.

Now this is not all doom and gloom. If you’re like me (or you were a Scout) you like to be prepared. Know what you’re in for. Muster your courage. Become the warrior you were always meant to be. (And when you’re done fighting those bloody battles you’re really going to need that sword as a machete to cut your way out of the middle of the “Jungle of Unknown Writers” for the next few years.
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Writing the book is the easy part, my friends. It really is. You have about three or four other full-time jobs awaiting you after the completion of your masterpiece. You are the Marketing Department, the Accounting Department, the Art Department, the Accounts Payable department, the CEO, the CFO, and a few other jobs I’ve forgotten due to the anti-depression medication.

Okay, that’s more like six or seven jobs above and beyond AUTHOR. The good news is even if you went the traditional publishing route, were signed, and waited until you were old and gray to see your book on the shelves, you’d be expected to do most of those things yourself (at your cost) anyway.

So here I am going to lay out some things, high level, you need to think about and my opinion on them (based on semi-substantial experience):

1. Hire a cover designer. There are a LOT of them out there who work for major publishers (or even publishers in general) who do work on the side. You should not have to pay more than $100-200 for a really nice cover. Make sure that you get the spine and back cover if you are going to have a paperback made.
2. Have a paperback made. You aren’t going to make money off of it, but you owe yourself after dreaming all those years of seeing your book in print to finally see it in print! And people want signed copies (book signings are a great way to meet your readers and even if they aren’t giant revenue producers, they make you feel more like an author and things that bolster your confidence are going to be very important in the first year or two.
3. Hire an editor and a proofreader. Yes, two different people. I like to think of it as checks and balances because the professions do overlap so you get some bonus work by using two different professionals instead of just one. (I hope I didn’t just ruin half my relationships with editors and proofreaders.) Again, you should be able to find reasonably priced people for each but expect to pay a bit more for the editing. That’s hard work.
4. Whatever date you have in mind for your “release”, plan to send it to advanced reader/reviewers as far ahead of time as possible. They are called Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) and you need to leverage them big time. Some advertisers won’t even allow you to pay for an ad without a certain number of reviews and a particular average score (say 4.5 out of 5 stars). You’re also going to have better luck actually getting them to post the reviews if your book is already out there digitally published on Amazon (and wherever else). Trust me, you hitting “publish” and your book being “available for sale”, while majorly exciting for you, means nothing to the marketplace. Just another web page no one knows about…YET.
5. Get on every social networking site there is (Twitter, Facebook Author Page, LinkedIn, GoodReads, etc.). And do it now (i.e. ahead of the release of your book). They say buyers have to see your name 3-4 times before it sinks into their brain that they might want to buy something from you. You need exposure. Pay for a decent website. That’s one thing that’s going to cost you a little bit more—definitely one of those “you get what you pay for” things. But look at it this way: your webpage is like your home on the Internet (and will be for a very long time). It’s also Grand Central Station through which all trains of reader will connect to your books. Make sure it looks good and performs nicely.
6. Grow thick skin. I mean skin that makes an alligators look like rice paper. No matter how good you are, no matter how nice you are—in fact, many times inversely proportionally to these things—you are going to be disliked, poorly reviewed, and even hated. You won’t even know why. This is the hardest part for me. I take things personally. DON’T. EVER. If you write well and produce quality material, the readers who love you will one day come. To Hades with the rest.

I know this makes self-publishing sound scary. Guess what? It is. Nothing worth getting in this life is without hard work, crazy levels of patience, and the ability to levitate above all the crap and still get up every day and start it all over again.

If you are truly a writer—if it truly is a passion; if you love it—you’ll get up every day and get done what needs to get done.

I Heart WritingIt’s a love affair. Actually, it’s a marriage. Love affairs come and go. This is your passion; this is what you’ve decided to dedicate your life to—richer, poorer, sickness, health, good reviews, haters, etc.

No one can take away your talent OR your love. And the combination of the two (with a lot of determination and outlasting the others mixed in) will get you there.

Click this again.
Click this.

Thanks for those words, Rob. They are ones to study on. Now, if y’all will excuse me, my Kindle says I downloaded his new book, Blood Land already. Let me go read it. I’ll review it here when I’m done.

Dreams Image credit: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

Guy With Sword Image credit: aaronamat / 123RF Stock Photo

I Image credit: burakowski / 123RF Stock Photo

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Jennifer Steel And Other Changes

This week is the last one for Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. raw updates appearing on Fridays. beginning next week, Fridays will be the day of the guest post (I hope). Also, I aim to begin running simple contests beginning next Wednesday. Jennifer Steel Raw updates will Alternate with Carter Blake ones if I have more stuff to post. If not, they will come on Tuesdays. Without further ado, here is the last Friday Jennifer Steel Raw update.

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. (Raw Update)

Jennifer looked around the training room. With the exception of the colorful mats on the floor, it was pretty bland. The walls were a stark white and the ceiling matched. Rob pointed to the opening behind him.
“Ladies locker room. You will find a gi in your size. You’ve already been scanned.”
“I have a question, Worth.”
“Yes?”
“How did you know I would agree to join?”
“I know all, remember?”
“Right, you’re god. How could I forget?” she said sarcastically.
‘I’ve been too lenient with you mortals lately.” He grinned when she rolled her eyes. She shook her head and headed into the locker room.

She looked around, not really impressed with the interior. It looked like every other locker room she’d been in. Rows of metal lockers stood side by side like soldiers at parade. They were a nondescript utilitarian grey. Each had a copper nameplate near eye level for an average sized woman. Before each row of lockers was a long wooden bench. The benches were a varnished white pine. The floor was a rough textured tile that she could feel through her soft leather boots. As she advanced further in, she was first greeted by the stench of sweat and dirty gym clothes. This was followed by a variety of flowered scents that when taken in all at once, wasn’t all-together unpleasant. She knew these were the body washes and shampoos the others used after their workouts. She came to a locker with her name engraved on the nameplate. She reached out and lightly touched the beautifully flowing script.

Jennifer Steel,
Agent of the F.S.I.A.

The letters were etched fairly deeply into the metal. The way the letters streamed into each other felt marvelous. She allowed her hand to slide downward, enjoying the feel of smooth, cold steel. When her hand reached chest level, a beep sounded. Her hand had continued further past, so she stopped and raised her hand to that point again. Three beeps sounded this time, followed by a warm green light playing over her hand. From within the locker, there was a hollow click and the door swung open. She pulled it completely open and a light clicked on. There were two shelves about eighteen inches apart near the top of the locker, and an empty hanger dangling from a crossbar. She peered at the top shelf. On it was a turquoise jacket, pants and belt, carefully folded. On the bottom shelf was a grey sport bra and a pair of grey spankies, athletic underwear. Next to the underwear was a roll of white tape. She dressed, finding that the gi fit perfectly and was incredibly light and smooth. It had to have been made from silk. She grabbed the tape and headed out, barefoot, to the training room.

Rob was already there, dressed similarly except his gi was black and trimmed in red. He was doing some moves like a dance. But, he then snapped out a few kicks and punches in rapid succession. He dropped to the ground, sweeping his right leg around in a circle, then whirling back to his feet. He twirled through the air, kicking out first one leg, then landing on it and thrusting out the other one. He continued this for several moments before halting and smoothly moving into a series of rapid punches. She walked up behind him, causing him to spin while throwing a fist towards her face!

Into The Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake (raw update) [post 3 of 3]

I’m sure you are now wondering about Anderson, so before I go further, I’ll brief you on him. Anderson is an inch taller than me, yet I had sixty pounds on him. He has brown eyes, short, reddish-brown hair, and favors an outfit of black t-shirt and jeans. He positively vibrates with energy and is a lot of fun. Anderson is also a huge fan of BattleHammer and Japanese culture which is why I call him only by his last name.
He was sitting in his favorite place, a white leather recliner near the fireplace, when Lucas and I entered the living room. The entire room was decorated white. The Game Creator, on the other hand, was dressed entirely in black. I once asked if he had Goth aspirations; his reply was that he was simply lazy and with a closet full of black clothes, he didn’t have to worry about making sure anything matched. When he didn’t look up to greet us, I decided to needle him a bit.
“Hey, Mister Edward Cullen, how are you doing?”
Without looking up, he retaliated, “If you ever call me a sparkle fairy again, I’ll wipe out every character you create from now ‘til judgment day.”
“By all the hells,” I laughed. “That’s pretty harsh for an emo guy.”
That made him look up. “Fuck you, Carter.”
I laughed again. “This is Lucas Jackson. Has anyone else arrived?”
Anderson held out his hand and shook Lucas’ when it was accepted.
“Nope. You two are the first arrivals.”
Just then, Megan walked into the room causing Lucas to goggle. I’d had the same reaction when I first seen her, but I had gotten used to her and was mentally focused on Daphne. Megan was a petite, 157.48 cm. cheerleader for the Johns-Hopkins Blue Jays.
She had her long brown hair in a braid that went over her right shoulder. Her dark chocolate eyes sparkled with delight when she spotted me. I was one of her “most favorite people”, as she put it, because I always teamed up with her against her brother in water battles. She was wearing her cheer outfit of short skirt, halter top and sneakers, all in the school colors of Columbia blue and black.
“Hey, Carter,” she chirruped in her tiny voice. “How are you?”
“I’m good. How are you?”
“I’m eager to play BattleHammer. Who’s your friend?”
“This is Lucas Jackson. Lucas, put your eyes back in your head and greet the lady.”
He swallowed hard and mumbled a greeting. Megan smiled at him and went into the dining room where we’d be playing with a swirl of skirt and a quick flash of spankers. A few minutes later, Mike and Stacy walked in holding hands. Mike Reynolds looked like the identical twin of actor Jensen Ackles. He had the same light brown hair, blue eyes and short, stocky stature. Because he grew tired of being confused for the guy, Mike dyed his hair black, and wore contacts to make his naturally light blue eyes appear blood-red. His girlfriend was a fluffy young woman of 167.64 cm. She had very curly brown hair and golden brown eyes.
I made introductions all around and we headed in to the dining room to play BattleHammer. Much to Lucas’ chagrin, and my amusement, Megan was the first to offer to help him create his character. The poor guy couldn’t seem to get his tongue to work properly when she was sitting next to him. The others watched for a few minutes while Megan innocently tried to get Lucas to speak to her. Finally, her brother spoke up.
“For Christ’s sake, Megan. Get away from the poor bastard. Can’t you see he’s too attracted to you to speak?”
That flustered both of them. Lucas turned brick-red and Megan left the room. Stacy went to Lucas’ side and after a few minutes of talking quietly talking with him, got him to begin creating his character. I looked at Anderson for a few seconds, shook my head at his decision to be an asshole, and then went to talk with Megan. When Anderson pissed her off like this, only their parents and I could get her to speaking with him again. Once, their parents decided to let the siblings work things out on their own, but after a month of Megan and Anderson communicating through intermediaries, gave in and mediated.
I found Megan standing in the kitchen with a glass of wine, leaning against the white marble counter. She had her free arm wrapped around her middle like she was trying to physically keep herself together.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Not really,” she said. “I am mortified. Why does Keith have to be such an asshole?”
“I don’t really know, Keebles,” I said. “I think it’s a control issue.”
She smiled at the nickname I had given her as I knew she would.
“So, he’s trying to control me?” she mused.
“By all the hells, don’t be silly,” I said. “He’s trying to control the relationship he sees forming in front of his very eyes.”
She looked sideways at me.
“Yes, Keebles, even I saw the budding attraction between the two of you.”
“This has never happened to me before,” she confessed. “It’s like Lucas is a big, sexy and shy teddy bear I just want to hug, squeeze and cuddle up with.”
I grinned. That was an apt description, a big, shy teddy bear. I walked over to the pantry and pulled out a package of Megan’s favorite cookies, Keebler Elf sandwich cookies. I offered them to her.
“Munch these, and ignore your little brother,” I suggested. “After the game, if Lucas hasn’t asked you out, ask him.”
She laughed out loud. “You’re a smart man, Carter. I’m glad you’re friends with my little brother.”
“Oh, we’re not friends?” I said.
She opened her mouth to protest and took a good look at me: I had crossed my eyes and stuck my tongue out at her. She laughed again and tossed a cookie at me. I uncrossed my eyes and, more by luck than skill, caught the cookie with one hand. I crowed about my accomplishment and we left the kitchen laughing. Mike was deep in conversation with Anderson and Lucas was putting the finishing touches on his character. Mike looked up, saw we were in the room and pushed Anderson towards us. He walked over and spoke to his sister as I walked over to check out the new party member.

-Wow. Who knew you were a negotiator?-

-Stop with the comments, please! I’m trying to tell a story here. Don’t make me come back there!-

-Oooh! I’m so scared!-

In Defense of the Lonely Adverb [post 2 of 3]

The much maligned adverb has many detractors. I haven’t really been able to figure out why, other than from what I hear is the adverb represents laziness on the part of the author. Me? I think they’re acting snobbishly. Heh. Yeah, I did that on purpose. Here’s the thing: I’ve always felt that all words serve a purpose. Otherwise, why would they have been created & taught to us? Some passages could use adverbs and our readers won’t object. Hell, they may not even fecking notice. *gasp!* Say it ain’t so! Never. It is very true that most readers won’t notice your adverbs. How do I know? I never noticed them until I became an author and had folks point them out to me.

I’ll let author Robert Masello explain with an excerpt from his novel “Robert’s Rules of Writing” (I love that title for some reason):

“When it comes to writing, there is perhaps no more vilified part of the language than adverbs. Even Stephan King in his book On Writing declares, “The adverb is not your friend.” Like many writers, he considers them weak and weaslelly, words that cling to other words – verbs, adjectives and even other adverbs – draining them of impact, or just cluttering up the page.”

Okay, that’s a pretty strong argument against them. No writer wants their work cluttered with useless words, right? What else does he have to say about it?

“What drives most opponents of the adverb up the wall is the fact that these adverbs are being used – in their heated opinion – to do the work that a properly chosen verb, for instance, could and should have done on its own. For instance, instead of saying a soldier ran wildly, why not say he charged? Instead of saying the horse rose up defiantly, why not say it reared up? Isn’t that easier and more to the point? Well, yes and no. In a lot of cases, it’s true the right verb can do the work on its own, but sometimes it can’t. And I would submit that adverbs add a lot of leeway and variety that we wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Oh? Could you give us examples, sir?

“Take that horse rearing up for example – couldn’t he have reared anxiously, out of fear? And wouldn’t that have been misunderstood if that “defiantly” not been thrown in for additional clarification? In the hands of a better writer, maybe it would have been entirely clear why the horse was rearing up – maybe we would have known from previous pages this was one brave, unruly horse. But then again, maybe not.”

Okay. That’s a good point. Maybe some authors use adverbs for training wheels, or guidelines, for their readers. Maybe they aren’t certain things are clear enough and want to make sure their readers know where the author is going, or trying to say. I would also add this: Consider the solider from earlier. For me, as a reader, saying he charged is vastly different from he ran wildly. This is because to me, saying “charge” implies the solider is maintaining his discipline and training. I would accept that at the beginning of a battle, or one where he was winning. I wouldn’t expect, or want, that if the soldier’s squad is being routed. “The soldier ran wildly” implies to me that he’s scared and running for his life. Something didn’t go right.

So, do you think Robert’s book would be useful to you? You can buy it here. I own it an use it a lot.

Usually, I don’t like Mondays… [post 1 of 3]

…but today is actually a good one. Shocking, right? Today, we’re going to have three posts from me, this one and two others.

This first post is to remind you about an announcement I made last month (seen here). I had asked author R.S.Guthrie to guest post. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens, life got in the way. Mr. Guthrie got a bit swamped and he didn’t get a chance to write that guest post. He recently go a break and has informed me that he intends to send it to me by the end of the month. His guest post will touch on indie publishing and some of the tools he uses. Sounds epic, right?

If you haven’t checked out the books I mentioned in that last post (click the blue “here” above for the reviews), the links to get them are as follows: Black Beast and Lost. Click the links and buy them. Do yourself a favor by getting two great books and help R.S.Guthrie by supporting his work. Oh, click here to get to know him a bit better. He loves hearing from fans.

Later, I will post about the friendly adverb and I’ll add another Carter Blake update.

Reblogged: 8 Words to Seek & Destroy in Your Writing.

I found this an immediately had to share it. I never noticed these words before. Must hunt & destroy them from my writing…

From LitReactor.com:

Creating powerful prose requires killing off the words, phrases, and sentences that gum up your text. While a critical eye and good judgment are key in this process, some terms almost always get in the way. Here are eight words or phrases that should be hunted down in your story and deleted with extreme prejudice.

“Suddenly”
“Sudden” means quickly and without warning, but using the word “suddenly” both slows down the action and warns your reader. Do you know what’s more effective for creating the sense of the sudden? Just saying what happens.

I pay attention to every motion, every movement, my eyes locked on them.
Suddenly, The gun goes off.
When using “suddenly,” you communicate through the narrator that the action seemed sudden. By jumping directly into the action, you allow the reader to experience that suddenness first hand. “Suddenly” also suffers from being nondescript, failing to communicate the nature of the action itself; providing no sensory experience or concrete fact to hold on to. Just … suddenly.

Feel free to employ “suddenly” in situations where the suddenness is not apparent in the action itself. For example, in “Suddenly, I don’t hate you anymore,” the “suddenly” substantially changes the way we think about the shift in emotional calibration.

“Then”
“Then” points vaguely to the existing timeline and says, “It was after that last thing I talked about.” But the new action taking place in a subsequent sentence or sentence part implies that much already. You can almost always eliminate your thens without disrupting meaning or flow.

I woke up. Then I, brushed my teeth. Then I, combed my hair. Then I , and went to work.

“Then” should be used as a clarifying agent, to communicate that two seemingly concurrent actions are happening in sequence. For example, “I drove to the supermarket. Then I realized I didn’t need to buy anything.” Without the “then,” it would be easy to mistake this as pre-existing knowledge or as a realization that happened during the drive itself. “Then” can occasionally be useful for sentence flow, but keep the use of the word to a minimum.

“In order to”
You almost never need the phrase “in order to” to express a point. The only situation where it’s appropriate to use this phrase is when using “to” alone would create ambiguity or confusion.

I’m giving you the antidote in order to save you.

And after ten minutes of brainstorming for an example of a proper time to use “in order to,” I haven’t been able to come up with anything. Legitimate uses of “in order to” are just that few and far between.

“Very” and “Really”
Words are self-contained descriptors, and saying, “Think of tasty. Now think of more tasty” doesn’t help readers develop a better sense of the meal or person you’re describing.

Her breath was very cold chill as ice against my neck .

Mark Twain suggested that writers could “substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Another strategy is to find a more powerful version of the same idea or give concrete details. To say “It was very/really/damn hot” does little, but saying “It was scorching” helps. Even better?: “The air rippled like desert sky as my body crisped into a reddened, dried-out husk.”

“Is”
Is, am, are, was, or were—whatever form your “is” takes, it’s likely useless. When’s the last time you and your friends just “was’d” for a while? Have you ever said, “Hey, guys, I can’t—I’m busy am-ing”?

The “is” verbs are connecting terms that stand between your readers and the actual description. This is especially true when it comes to the “is” + “ing” verb pair. Any time you use “is,” you’re telling the reader that the subject is in a state of being. Using an “ing” verb tells the audience the verb is in process. By using “is verbing,” you’re telling your audience that the subject is in the state of being of being in the process of doing something.

Take this example:

I was sprinting sprinted toward the doorway.

If the description is actually about a state of being—”they are angry,” “are evil,” or “are dead”—then is it up. But don’t gunk up your verbs with unnecessary is, am, or was-ing.

“Started”
Any action a person takes is started, continued, and finished. All three of these can be expressed by the root form of the verb. For example, “I jumped.” The reader who stops in frustration, saying, “But when did the jump start? When did it finish?” has problems well beyond the scope of the content they’re reading.

If you’ve been doing yoga for six years, you could reasonably say, “I started doing yoga six years ago.” For you, yoga is an ongoing action with a concrete starting point. But when describing action in a story, there are few circumstances where “start” is effective.

Let’s take this case and look at the potential fixes:

He started screaming.

Is it a single scream? Use “He screamed.” Are you telling us his screams will be background noise for a while? Rather than clueing us in unnecessarily, show us the series of screams first-hand. Do you want to introduce a changed state, such as escalating from loud speaking into screaming? Show us the decibels, the gruffness of voice, the way the air feels to the person he’s screaming at, and the hot dryness in the screamer’s throat as his volume crescendos.

“That”
“That” is a useful word for adding clarity, but like Bibles on the bedstands of seedy motel rooms, the word’s presence is often out of place.

When “that” is employed to add a description, you can almost always move the description to before the term and make a more powerful image.

Ireland was nothing but flowing green hills that flowed green.

In many other cases, “that” can simply be dropped or replaced with a more descriptive term.

I was drunk the night that your father and I met.

Many other uses of “that,” such as “I wish I wasn’t that ugly”, can be enhanced with more descriptive language.

“Like”
I’m not just saying that, like, you shouldn’t, like, talk like a valley girl (though that too). Here’s the problem: “Like” is used to show uncertainty. And you. Should. Not. Be. Uncertain.

Be bold. When making a comparison, use force. Use metaphor over simile. Don’t let yourself cop out by coming up with a halfway description.

My eyes rested on the gun for a sliver of a moment. I snapped forward, grabbed it, and it was like the chill metal flowed from the gun into my veins.

One of the 36 articles by the infamously fantastic Chuck Palahniuk dives into the issue of like in great detail. It’s well worth checking out.

As always, Orwell’s final rule applies: “Break any of these rules before saying anything barbarous.” There are instances where each of these words fills a valuable role. However, especially among inexperienced writers, these words are frequently molested and almost always gum up the works.

Apply these lessons immediately and consistently to empower your words. Then, with practice, you will suddenly realize that you are starting to naturally trim the text in order to create prose that is very powerful. -Rob D. Young @ litreactor.com

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. (raw update)

Out in the hallway, away from the others’ sight, Rob turned to Jennifer and pushed her lightly against the wall. He had an intent look on his face, no sign of humor. “What the hell was that in there, Jennifer?”
‘Shit, he’s using my name. This must be serious,’ she thought. “What do you mean, Worth?”
“This is no time for games.”
She could hear his breath coming out of his nostrils. She wanted to laugh about it, but the pulsing vein in his jaw told her maybe now wouldn’t be the best time. “Maybe a clue?” she said in an attempt to be diplomatic.
“The swat on my ass,” he said through clenched teeth.
She blushed as she replayed that event in her mind’s eye. She grinned, eyes going wide, and showing teeth. “I got caught up in the moment?”
That adorable grin defeated him as always. “I have a request: Don’t do it again?” he sighed.
She shook her head, brow furrowed. “Oh no. Definitely not.”
He stared into her eyes for several long moments as if trying to gaze into her soul, then smiled. “Good. Thank you, blue eyes.”
She sagged against the wall as the tension drained from her body. She hadn’t been sure what was going to happen next. He was simply too unpredictable. It looked like she wouldn’t have to disappear from another guy’s life yet. “My eyes are hazel.”
He grinned, face lighting up. “Not under these lights.”
She smiled. “You’re weird, Worthington.”
His grin widened into a full-blown smile. “Yeah. It’s part of the reason why you’re so attracted to me.”
She lost her smile. “No, I’m not.”
“Of course you are. But that’s okay. It happens to everyone, eventually.” He sighed, “Oh the perils of being as pretty as me.” That caught her unawares, making her laugh. He had been messing with her again. Rob reached out and gently squashed the tip of her nose with his finger. “Beep.”
Outwardly, she smiled at his actions, but inwardly, she wanted to cry. It always happened this way. She’d meet a guy that she enjoyed spending time with, but wasn’t attracted to, and they’d look for more. After a bit of time, she’d disappear. She was sure it hurt their feelings a little, but it would hurt them a lot less in the long run. She decided to hang out with Rob one more time before vanishing from his life. She recognized the signs of him falling in love with her, but didn’t want to hurt him: he’d already been through a lot.
“Hey, Kirei-chan. Pay attention!”
“Sorry,” she said. “What does “chan” mean?”
“I erred earlier when I called you Kirei-kun.” He smirked. “When a male uses the honorific “kun” for a female, he’s stating a level of intimacy with her. Usually, they are lovers. I should have called you “Kirei-chan,” which would actually be more accurate. Because we are friends.”
“Oh.”
“Follow me.”
“Where are we going?”
“Training room,” he said with a sinister grin.
She raised her eyebrows. “What’s with the grin, Worthington?” He laughed aloud. “Don’t hurt Kirei, Worth,” she said in a small voice.
“Come on. Has Worthington ever hurt his Kirei?”
“His Kirei?”
“Indeed,” he rumbled.
“Oh.” She shook her head. “No, he hasn’t. Kirei is just being sure. Worth likes being mean to Kirei.”
“That’s different. Worthington wants to make sure Kirei doesn’t get used to him being nice to her. Because that would be boring.”
“Indeed,” she said, giggling.
Rob lightly swatted at her butt. “I warned you about using my words. Only I get to.” She blocked his hand with both of hers behind her, laughing with her tongue poked out. He smiled. “Okay, Kirei. Let’s get going.”

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. (Raw Update)

“So, tell me about this crush you have on Rob, Danni.”
Danijela smiled. Her eyes sparkled before she closed them. “My crush on Mr. Worthington was merely my cover. It wasn’t real.” Rob muttered something. “Would you repeat that a little more clearly, Mr. Worthington?”
“No.”
She chuckled. “Smart man.”
Jennifer scratched her head. “Wait a minute. You said Rob has a butt a woman could sink her teeth into. I remember the look in your eyes then. That wasn’t a cover.”
Danijela chuckled. “Indeed. I always was a sucker for a nice ass.” She then slapped Rob’s rump, hard. His eyebrows shot up. Jennifer grinned and also slapped his butt.
“Hey now.” He glanced at the two women on either side of him. “If y’all keep that up, we won’t get anything done today.”
The women looked at one another, eyebrows raised, faces reddening, and burst out laughing. They bent at their waists, clutching their ribs. Rob watched for a moment, differing expressions at war on his face. Finally, he grinned, threw both fists into the air, and shouted, “Yes! I made you both laugh.” He turned and walked to the center of the Operations Center.
Stevenson met him part way across. He lowered his voice. “You have to see this, Rob.”
Rob’s right eyebrow quirked upward. This had to be big. Sam never used his first name. He followed the analyst without saying anything further. The young man sat in his swivel chair and called up an image on the monitor. It was the interior of the cave where Jennifer had spent the night. A dark shape was huddled near the ash pile left from her fire. Suddenly, the shape rose to its feet, revealing itself to be a gaunt man in a tan leather duster. Long, stringy hair covered his face. As they watched, he began to blink in and out of sight. Every time he returned to sight, he was closer to the camera. Within seconds, he was right in front of the camera. In a voice sounding like it came from a mouth filled with rotten garbage, came, “Ah! Ah! Ah!” In the next instant, it appeared that he had eaten the camera. The feed dissolved in a spray of static. The monitor suddenly leaped forward as if something within was trying to jump out. Stevenson leaped back and to his feet as the monitor landed on the floor. The men stared down at the screen.
“Um, w-what j-just hap-happened?” Stevenson stammered. His eyes bulged, and his fingers dug into his cheeks, pulling furrows into them. He flinched when Rob grabbed his shoulders. ‘Christ! His skin is like ice!’ Rob thought.
“Hey, Sam. Look at me,” he said softly. The younger man looked at him. “Tell me about the Fibonacci sequence.” He knew that was Stevenson’s favorite integer sequence and it would get his mind off of what just happened.
“The Fibonacci sequence is named after Leonardo of Pisa, who was known as Fibonacci. Fibonacci’s 1202 book Liber Abaci introduced the sequence to Western European mathematics, although the sequence had been described earlier in Indian mathematics,” Stevenson began.
“Very good, Sam. Keep going.” Rob turned to discover Danijela and Jennifer standing behind him. He wasn’t surprised. He took them by their arms and lead them a little way away. He quietly filled them on what had just happened. “I don’t get it. Do you think that was what had been following you, Kirei?”
She shrugged. “I have no idea. I never saw anyone, or anything, remember?”
The director interrupted. “Mr. Worthington, I will have an agent investigate this. In the meanwhile, you should begin Ms. Steel’s training.”
Rob sighed. He hated leaving things to other people. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Don’t call me ‘ma’am’. I’m only ten years older than you.”
“Would “Yes, sir” suffice?”
Danijela threw a stapler at him. “Cheeky bastard.”
Rob laughed as he ducked. “Let’s go, Kirei.”

Into The Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake (raw update)

According to Gabriel Iglesias, there are six stages of fatness: big, healthy, husky, fluffy, damn, and uh-uh. He says he is fluffy. The difference between damn and uh-uh is you are still willing to work with damn. If a “damn” approaches you on a crowded elevator, you will look around, and probably let him on. If a “uh-uh” approaches you on a crowded elevator, you hold up your hand, while pushing the close door button rapidly, and say, “Uh-uh!”
I bring this up because I watched his show last night after Daphne left. It came on after Monday Night Raw, a professional wrestling show. And when I saw Lucas, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Uh-uh!’ and laugh out loud. He glanced over at me, shook his head, readjusted his glasses and started into the library. Dressed in blue jeans and a green and black Hawaiian shirt, Lucas was about my height and maybe three times my girth. He had long, thick brown hair that flowed down to his shoulders. A beat up red laptop bag hung over his right shoulder. As far as I knew, he was a loner. I didn’t know if he preferred it that way, or if he was lonely. I was about to find out, because Anderson, the Game Creator of my weekend BattleHammer game said we needed another player to “enliven the game”.
I opened the large wooden door of the library and walked in. It was like going back in time. The overhead lights were actual chandeliers suspended from the high ceiling. The librarian had an antique Remington typewriter and dressed like a bobbysoxer. The wall lights were arc sodium and cast an orange glow. The chairs in the reading room were stuffed leather and ashtrays were scattered around. I have no idea how the library got away with this the way the media and government were demonizing smoking.
I walked in between the towering bookshelves, the aisles deeply shadowed. I found Lucas debating between “A Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein and “Cobra” by Timothy Zahn. His laptop bag sat on the floor at his feet like an obedient dog. He glanced over at me.
“Are you stalking me?” he asked.
I laughed. “No way, man. My name is Carter. I was wondering if you ever played BattleHammer.”
“Why?” he asked suspiciously.
“The Game Creator says to get some more people. I thought of you because you’re always reading sci-fi and fantasy books.”
“I’ve never played it before.”
I was glad that the suspicion was gone from his voice. I heard interest.
“I can teach you how to play on the way over to the game. We have an all weekend thing scheduled. I’m sure you’ll love it.”
He looked back down at the books.
“Personally,” I said. “I’d go for the Zahn book; I didn’t enjoy the Heinlein one. My advice: get both of them and then choose.”
“With my schedule, I will only have time for one,” he said. “By the way, my name is Lucas Jackson.”
We shook hands, and I was happy to see him reshelf the Heinlein book. I walked with him over to the librarian’s desk and waited while she stamped the card with the due date. We walked out into the spring sunshine together on North Wolf street. A crowd of lacrosse players swaggered by. The captain of the team, who I tutored in chemistry on Tuesday evenings shouted over at us.
“Hey, Blake! Who’s your new girlfriend?”
“Aw, don’t be jealous, Stevenson!” I shouted back. “I’ll still let you fellate me!”
The jocks stopped at that.
“What the fuck did you say, Blake?” Stevenson said aggressively.
“Settle down,” I commanded. “Tuesday evening, seven pm., Chem 101. Don’t forget.”
The reminder deflated his anger and he waved for his teammates to follow him. Lucas and I trotted down the library steps and walked down the sidewalk.
“You shouldn’t taunt Stevenson like that, Carter. He’ll get you.”
“He doesn’t dare,” I said confidently. “He knows I’ll make sure he flunks Chemistry if he does anything. A fail and he’s off the team and loses his scholarship.”
“How can you make sure he flunks?”
“He trusts me to teach him the subject.”
“Oh.”
We walked down Wolf St in silence for a block, and then I remembered that I had promised to teach Lucas about the game.
“So, about the game of BattleHammer,” I began, “it is like Dungeons and Dragons in that it uses a D20 system. As a matter of fact, it is the last game created under the Open Game License. Have you heard of it?”
“Yes.”
“Right, so basically, to do anything that requires effort in the game world, you roll a D20, add the relevant modifiers and compare that to a Difficulty Class. Beating the DC means you succeed, missing it means you failed. Okay?”
“Yep. I’m with you, Carter.”
“Alright, for playing, that’s basically all you need to know upfront. If anything else comes up, we’ll fill you in as it’s needed.”
“Okay.”
We paused to wait for the light at North Avenue, then crossed. We had to hurry a bit because the warning light began to flash when we were about halfway across the busy street.
“The next step is to fill you in on the world and major characters, then I’ll tell you about your character’s future teammates. First, there are the gods. There are a whole hell of a lot of them, so I’ll fill you in on the ones our party has had dealings with. First up is Kellün. He is the god of the elves and woodlands. He has many allies and enemies, but the main ones we are dealing with are Morgrid the Soul-forger and Lucien, the Demon King. Morgrid is the chief Dwarf God as well as the God of the Forge. Lucien, as his title suggests is the king of the demons. Unlike D&D, which separates fiends into two groups, BattleHammer says all pure evil beings are demons. Another deity that I’m sure will pop up in the story is the father of the gods, Chokkan. This god is one of Anderson’s favorites because he is one Anderson created and the game company, Wow-wee, liked so much they purchased the specs for Chokkan. Now, he is the official father of all the BattleHammer gods. Are you still with me, Lucas?”
He waited until we scampered across Federal Street before he answered.
“So far.”
“Good,” I panted a bit. I glanced over at Lucas, who wasn’t even breathing hard. I was a bit envious. “Next are the major players of our game, otherwise known as our characters and the main bad guys. My character is a dwarf warrior named Drago the Clanless. His clan was wiped out by the main bad guy who I’ll tell you about shortly. Drago has vowed revenge. His allies are as follows: Luwaxana, a female elven ranger, controlled by Mike Reynolds; Shauna the Deft, a human thief, controlled by Megan Anderson, the GC’s older sister; and Ox Silverfist, a half-dragon/half-troll Warpriest of Kellün, controlled by Stacy Meers.”
“Wow, a half-dragon/half-troll? That sounds like fun,” Lucas mused, as we crossed East Oliver. It was pretty dead, so we didn’t even bother checking for traffic.
“Does it? Just so you are aware (and I should have mentioned this before), in addition to the half-bloods, humans, dwarves and elves, you could also have your character be a Leviathan, a deepling, or a Gnome,” I said, kicking an empty Pepsi can out of the way.
“Did you say a Ga-nome?”
“I did. In the world of BattleHammer, that is how they pronounce the name of their race.”
Lucas chuckled. “What are deeplings?”
We stopped at the corner of Biddle street and looked for oncoming cars. The day grew dimmer as a cloud scudded past the sun. “The deeplings are a race of underground fairies, similar to leprechaun. They average about four feet tall and are between thirty and fifty pounds. Due to this stature, folks who haven’t encountered them before tend to mistake them for human children. They are long lived like elves and dwarves, and reproduce about twice every fifty years. Deeplings are innate spell casters, and as such, they begin with a free level as a mage,” I responded.
“Cool. What about the Gnomes?” Lucas chuckled again at the pronunciation of the name.
By this time, we were near Patterson Park in East Baltimore. We walked up a pretty steep hill. Lucas took the hill with the same ease that he’d taken our rapid hike from the library. I tell you, I still have no idea how he managed to set such a rapid pace and not even breath hard. My face was hot, my skin greasy from sweat and I was panting like a dog.
“They are another race of midgets,” I gasped at the top of the hill. I motioned for him to stop so I could catch my breath. While he waited, cool and relaxed, I leaned over with my hands on my knees and tried to swallow my lungs again. After about ten minutes, I resumed. “Gnomes average about three feet in height with the women being noticeably taller and stronger. The males are generally smarter and more agile. They are natural pickpockets and rogues in general, so they start with a free level of thief.”

-Hey, Carter, they sound like Halflings!-

-Hey, are you wanna-be hecklers trying to get me sued? It’s bad enough that I’m referring to D&D so much! So shut up back there!-

Twenty minutes later, we arrived in Anderson’s neighborhood. It was a pretty affluent section of East Baltimore, not far from Patterson Park. His folks owned a townhouse that was about twice as wide as my mom’s row house. We walked up to the wide mahogany door and went in.

Bet you laugh as much as I did. The video is perfect.

Sweet Mother

Now how’s that for a title?  Okay, my beautiful blogging peeps, I love accessing you all as a test group of sorts for little things that I’m trying here and there.  I want to write and work on some videos.  I have some in mind that are “live action” and will involve actors.  Those will get going in a few weeks.  But, I also want to create a series of videos around pop culture news items and current events.  I’d like it to be a series of videos that are low cost AND that I don’t have to appear in.  Those are my parameters.  Below, in the video, is my idea in action.  Keep in mind that the video is NSFW.  So, if you’re sitting in a cubicle somewhere, put on headphones and enjoy.  To serve as an appetizer, here’s a ridiculous list…

 

Things We Should Be Paying Attention…

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