Writer Podcaster Geek

Author: Wayne

Before and After

Fiction Fragment Friday

Something little different this week, but I think very interesting. The first story I had published was called Sick Day and it was in Sojourn Volume 1. You can find links to it on my published works page. What very few people know is that Sojourn was not the first place I submitted that story. The first place I submitted it was to an anthology themed around exploration. I got general feedback that it did not fit their theme. For Sojourn I worked with the editors and they helped me really bring out the story that I wanted to tell. I learned a lot from that experience.

This week I’m going to share the first few paragraphs from both the original submitted story and the one that eventually was published. I wanted to show just how different a story can be after editing while still at it’s heart being the same story.

Before

            I sat on my back porch listening to a car alarm going off in the distance.  The wind blew through the trees and I could hear the occasional sound of birds chirping.  Basically there was nothing really out of the ordinary except for me.  I enjoyed the time I got to spend outside.  It was one of my few relaxations, but I had never been outside at noon on a work day before.    

            Workaholic didn’t begin to describe me.  I never used all of my vacation days and it took near death for me to take a sick day.  That should give a person some indication about how I was feeling on my second straight day away from work.  To be honest though I wouldn’t have taken either if my boss had not forced me to for fear of infecting the whole office.  Even staying home I couldn’t help but check in periodically to see how everything was going. 

            The wind hit my face as I shut off my laptop and leaned back in my chair.  There was something about the fresh air that just made me feel better.  I could breathe easier and actually put work out of my mind for a few moments.  It wouldn’t last for long so I had to enjoy it for as long as I could.  I wondered to myself, “Why can’t everyday be like this?”  Then I remembered the mortgage, food, bills, and other responsibilities that required me to work. 

            Those thoughts would normally have led me to check back in with work, but my dog had other ideas.  As I reached for my laptop to check my e-mail she came up between me and it to lick my hand.  She looked so cute and her face just screamed for my attention.  I sighed and rubbed her behind the ears.  She had been around me all morning, but I hadn’t really given her a moment of attention.  “Come on girl, let’s get your leash and go exploring.”

After

The tree branches swayed as the wind blew through them, causing the shadows on the ground to dance wildly. I could hear birds chirping, dogs barking, and a car alarm going off in the distance. In other words, it was a perfectly normal Thursday—with only one exception. I had never been sitting on my back porch in the middle of a workday before.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like being outside. Quite the contrary; I loved being outside. It was one of the few things I could do to relax. Long hours at work and a list of projects around the house just didn’t leave time for it. I had plenty of vacation time saved up at work, but I never took much of it because returning to work after time off just meant a larger stack of work waiting. That thought led me to refresh my e-mail and see five new messages waiting. I sighed as I worked through them.  

I had to be near death to take a sick day, and while I felt horrible that morning it was not my choice to take off. My boss was afraid that I would infect the whole office when I showed up the day before and couldn’t go a half hour without a coughing spell so he had sent me home with strict instructions that I could not return until my fever broke or I could hold a conference call without needing my mute button to avoid coughing in people’s ears. Instead I went to an Urgent Care and spent a half hour on a breathing treatment before being prescribed a round of pills and an inhaler.  That didn’t stop the e-mails and I spent most of that morning constantly checking in to see what was happening without me and if I could keep work from piling up.

I felt the cool breeze against my cheek and leaned back in my chair. It felt good. There was something about the fresh air that just made me feel better and helped fight off the coughing spells. I shut the laptop and set it on the table next to me. Tilting my head back, I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath. “Why can’t everyday be like this?” I asked out loud and then immediately answered my own question after a small coughing spell. “Because I have a mortgage, car payments, bills, and all those other responsibilities that need money.”

That thought process naturally led me back to my laptop, but as I reached for it a cold nose stuck itself in my palm. Chloe, my black boxer/lab mix, had decided that she had enough of my work for the day. She put herself directly between me and the laptop while proceeding to lick my hand. Her big eyes stared at me and she lowered her head. Her face just screamed for attention and as I rubbed her behind the ears my resolve melted away. “Come on girl, let’s go for a walk.”

Exodus

Fiction Fragment Friday

In 2016 I attended WorldCon 74 hosted that year in Kansas City. This was my first writing and fiction convention and I found myself incredibly inspired. I came up with the idea for a book series about a generation ship with each book focusing on a different generation. The first book would have been about those that chose to leave Earth and why they did so. It would focus on the struggles of adjusting to a life in space and giving up everything you had ever known. This is a series I am still working on from an outlining and research standpoint. The final version I’m sure will be very different than what I present here.


 “Mom the mail is on the counter.  There’s a big envelope from something called the Mayflower Project.”  My oldest son had no idea that with these words he was announcing that our entire lives were about to change.  Jeremy continued upstairs like it was any other day and probably didn’t even notice me rushing to the kitchen. 

 I grabbed the packet off the counter and stood there with my hands shaking.  The pile of bills under it taunted me, but for the first time they couldn’t bother me.  The big yellow envelope was indeed from the Mayflower Project and I knew that a simple rejection letter would not be nearly that thick.  I could feel my stomach twisting and turning with nervousness as I pealed open the envelope. 

Pain shot through my finger as I sliced it on the flap and I dropped the packet to the floor spilling its contents.  Blood pooled on my index finger and I instinctively sucked on it to stop the bleeding.  The coppery taste filled my mouth, but my eyes were focused on the floor.  A white folder filled with forms was laying spread open.  Next to it was a letter and I could clearly read the first sentence.  “Congratulations you have been accepted into The Mayflower Project.”   I dropped to the floor and grabbed the letter.  As I read I could feel the first tears start rolling down over my cheeks.

I don’t know how long I sat there crying, but the letter had splotches all over it.  I looked up and saw Jeremy standing there asking me something.  He looked worried, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying.  He looked so much like his father and I could feel the pain in my chest at that realization.  I missed Henry so much.  He trusted me to take care of everything after he was gone and I had failed so badly.  In less than a month we were going to lose the house.  What hope did a 17 year old and his 14 year old brother have with me as a mom?

“Mom what’s wrong?”  How was I going to tell him that in about a year I would be joining approximately 25,000 other people on a top secret spacecraft and he would never see me again?  How was I going to tell his younger brother?  I was no good for them, but I could give them one last gift.  A fully paid for college education and a real chance at a future here on Earth.  What more could a mother ask for?

**** Six Month’s Later****

“Ahhh,  I just don’t get it.”  I slammed the book on the table in frustration.  I had been studying for the Engineers certification test and just didn’t understand the underlying math.  Ten years experience with secretarial work had not prepared me for this.  If I didn’t figure something out I was going to be stuck in Janitorial because that was the only certification test I had passed. 

“Then stop trying.  Mom you don’t have to do this, we can figure something out.”  Jeremy started the same speech that he gave me every few days.

“No we can’t.  We would be on the streets right now if I hadn’t gotten accepted.  At this point even if I wanted to back out I couldn’t without breaching my contract.”  I watched as he lowered his head.  “Jeremy look me in the eye.  I started this for you and your brother, but now I’m doing it for me.  I can rest easy knowing your futures are taken care of and while I’m at it I can really do something for humanity.  There is nothing left for me to accomplish here, but out there I can be a part of something so much bigger.”

“Yeah I can see how dusting and laundry are more important than being here for our graduations or weddings.”

“That’s enough Jeremy.  This is hard enough as it is without you continuing to remind me of what I’m going to be missing.  You don’t think I know that I’ll never see any grandkids I may have?  You have a house and a guaranteed education ahead of you so you can provide for those grandkids.”  I reached out and opened the book again.  “Now either help me study or get out.  I’ll be damned if my contribution to the future of humanity is going to be laundry.”  I glanced up and I could have sworn I saw Jeremy smile for a moment, but as soon as he saw I was looking the expression vanished.

“Fine, I’ll be in my room.”  As he went upstairs I noticed that he didn’t stomp this time.  I couldn’t help but hope that he was finally accepting my decision.

****3 months later****

“What the hell do you mean you are going with me?”  I stood there staring at Jeremy holding the results to a successfully passed food services rank two certification test.  “How did this even happen?”

“I got the address from your paperwork and applied as soon as I turned 18.  I’ve been studying just as hard as you the last nine months and I’ve earned my place.  You can’t stop me any more than I can stop you.”

“Jeremy why in the world would you do this?  What about your brother?  Who is going to look after him if you aren’t here?  What about your future?  Are you really ready to live the rest of your life on a spaceship?”

“Are you?  I know what I’m getting myself into.”  He let out a loud sigh and for the first time I looked at my son and saw him not as a child.  He had to grow up so fast after his father died.  I wasn’t there for him so he had to raise his brother.  “Sam’s going to be fine.  Uncle Jeff has volunteered to move in until he turns 18.  With both of our sign on bonuses the house is going to be paid off completely.”

“but…”

“No but mom, I know you think I’m throwing my life away but I’m not.  This in an opportunity for me to really make something out of myself.  Why does it matter if it is on Earth or on a space ship?  It’s my life and I want to spend it among the stars.  Maybe this was about you in the beginning, but it’s not anymore.  Please mom, this is what I want.”

It was my turn to let out a sigh.  “Alright, I don’t like this one bit, but if this is what you really want.”

“It is.”

I pulled out my own certification test and set it on the counter.  “Well I guess my rank one engineering certification isn’t quite as impressive to a rank two food services.”  I almost fell as my oldest son grabbed me into a tight hug.  I could feel my eyes watering up, but was determined I would not cry.  “Ok not so tight.”  I chuckled a bit.  “Now how are we going to tell your brother?”    

NaNoWriMo 2020

I have never succeeded at NaNoWriMo. For anyone who does not know there is a website called NaNoWriMo.org that is dedicated to encouraging writers to write a novel in the month of November. They treat it as a contest, provide tools, and a community to help you reach your goal. I have tried this goal multiple times without success.

It always seems like something major is happening in November for me and usually it is work related. I have tried to participate while doing datacenter moves, builds, and disaster recovery exercises. I do not blame these things for my own personal failure at completing the challenge, but they did make things harder.

I know I can write a novel length work because I have done it. Still I have not done this and it is something I want to have achieved. So this year I will be trying once again to complete NaNoWriMo. I do not have anything yet that conflicts with this so if I fail I have no excuse other than I did not motivate myself to do it. That is actually the biggest reason I have not completed it.

I have not decided if I want to start something brand new or take one of my Fiction Fragment Fridays and develop it. I do have multiple chapters of most of them so that would go against the spirit of writing the entire work in November unless I rewrote it all.

Throughout November I will be blogging about this whether I am successful or not. I will be sharing challenges, successes, inspiration, and setbacks. I find that I do better when I hold myself accountable by setting expectations with others. That was how I finished my Skies of Glass Serial fiction years ago. Perhaps 2021 needs a weekly serial fiction story. A year long story is novel length.

Vampire Story

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks Story is chapter one of a novel I started writing but never finished. I have quite a few of those. The idea was to tell the story from two different character’s perspectives each chapter. If the characters interacted I would give the scene in both characters perspective. That got a little too much in dialog heavy scenes and I never worked out a way to make that work without too much repetition.


 “Hank, come back Hank,” William yelled into the otherwise silent night.  The ground was rough and he was starting to get tired from pushing his way through the heavy overgrowth.  A sharp pain hit him as a branch he had just let go of came crashing back against his neck.  “Ow, damn it Hank this isn’t like you at all.”  Blood dripped from where the branch had just struck. 

It had been five minutes since Hank had shot off into the woods pulling his leash loose from William’s grip.  William had followed him into the forest but had not seen or heard him for at least two minutes now.  Fear started to set in at the realization that he might never see his beloved pet again.  How would a house dog get by on his own without someone to feed and water him?   These thoughts were brought to an abrupt stop though as barking could be heard ahead. 

“There you are,” William mumbled as he rushed forward with renewed determination.  He was far from graceful as he tried to run in the direction of the barking.  Many new bruises and small cuts were earned as the forest seemed to do it’s best to slow William down.  Finally, the thick bushes gave way to a large open clearing.   On the verge of collapsing from exhaustion William stumbled to the ground caught off guard by the sudden lack of resistance.  Hank was in the middle digging at the ground.

 “Hank come on boy.  Come here.”   William struggled to his feat and walked slowly towards Hank afraid of spooking him. 

 Hank looked at William with his head tilted to the left.  He took a few steps forward, but then quickly turned away and ran back into the woods. 

“No, wait.  Why are you doing this?”  William shot forward after his dog.  As he reached the area Hank had been digging in something caught him by the ankle in mid stride.  His shoulder screamed with pain as it hit the ground.   For the first time William noticed that the dirt around him in the clearing was loose.  It was obvious that someone had done digging here recently.  He glanced back to see what his leg got caught on and was suddenly filled with terror.  A hand was reaching out of the ground and fingers were wrapped around his ankle.  Scenes from every horror movie he had ever seen flew through his mind.  Finally, though his mind went through all the logical options and decided that someone was buried alive there in front of him.

  “Hold on, I’ll help you.”  William started to dig in the dirt with his hands and found that the hand coming out of the ground had let go of his ankle.  He grabbed the hand and pulled with all his strength.  Suddenly another hand came out of the dirt.  It pushed against the ground and with William’s help a woman soon rose out of the loose dirt.  She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but they were ripped and dirty.  “Are you ok?  Who did this to you?”

She didn’t speak a word.  She just lay on the ground breathing heavily.  “Can you understand me?”  She stared back still looking very scared and confused.    “Look, it’s going to be ok.  I don’t know what happened here, but whatever it was it’s over now.  I’m going to get you out of here and we can figure out what to do from there.   Do you think you can walk?”  William reached out to her and helped her to her feat.  She stumbled a little bit but was soon standing on her own.  “I’m sorry Hank, but she needs me more right now.”  William turned away from her towards the direction he had come into the clearing.  “Let’s head this way.”

Hank lunged out of the woods and barked wildly at the woman.  He stood his ground and growled a sound that William had never heard from his dog.  “Hank what’s wrong with you?  Look he has never done this before.  I’m so sorry.”  William took a step towards the woman but stopped quickly and stumbled backwards to the ground.  She was snarling back at his dog with long fangs.  She seemed truly afraid of Hank.  After a few seconds she turned and ran into the woods. 

Hank turned to William and climbed onto his lap.  He licked his face and whined a little bit.  William started to pet Hank gently.  “What the hell just happened here boy?  Were you trying to protect me?”  He grabbed the leash still dangling from his collar.  “Come on let’s get out of here.”  William and Hank went off into the woods together in the opposite direction of the woman that William was just now realizing might not be entirely human.  He had a lot to think about on the search for a way out of the woods. 

************

She opened her eyes but couldn’t see anything.  It felt like something was pressing against them.  Movement was very difficult, but not entirely impossible.  When she opened her mouth, dirt poured into it.  The realization that she was buried underground hit her like a ton of bricks.  Panic overwhelmed her but screaming was impossible because her mouth and throat were now filled with dirt.

She franticly thrust her hands forward and found that the dirt was loose enough for her to push aside if she really struggled.  With no idea how far down she was or even what direction was up the only thought was getting out of the ground.  She clawed at the dirt for what seemed like hours, but in reality, was probably only a few minutes.  Finally,   her hand broke through the ground and into the air.

Her hand wrapped around something.  She couldn’t tell what it was, but it was solid enough to grip and maybe be used to get out.  Suddenly she felt fingers rub against her hand and realized that someone was digging from the other direction.  Help was coming.  Letting go of whatever she was holding; digging was once again the number one priority.  The hand on the other end grabbed hers and started to pull.  She managed to get her other hand out of the ground to help push herself up.  The combination of someone pulling her and her other hand pushing against the ground was enough to finally allow her to pull her way out of the ground. 

She just lay on the ground breathing heavily.  She looked up at the man who had helped her scared and not quite realizing what had happened.  The shock of waking up in a grave overwhelmed her still, but she was beginning to think again.  She also found that the longer she lay on the ground the more she started to feel hungry. 

The stranger helped her up to her feet and she found that even though she stumbled she could walk.  Memories continued to flood back to her.  She couldn’t remember who she was or anything about her life, but she was getting flashes of things she had done.  She wondered how she could have gotten buried, and as she did she began to get flashes of someone attacking her.  She saw herself thrown to the ground in the very clearing she lay in now.  She remembered pain as someone on top of her biting into her neck.  She reached for it and found two tiny holes. 

The hunger continued to grow in her.  She found that with each passing second it was harder and harder to think straight.  The man who had helped her turned away from her and seeing him with his back turned suddenly filled her with the desire to attack him.  Her eyes were drawn to his neck were a small line of blood was dripping.  She couldn’t understand where these feeling or this hunger was coming from.  It became too much for her and she moved to strike. 

Suddenly a dog jumped out of the woods and positioned itself between her and the man.  It barked loudly and growled at her.  She found that the sounds pierced her ears and hurt.  She heard a terrible snarling sound and realized it was her.  She didn’t seem to have any control over herself and found that she was behaving like a wild animal.  She was filled with fear of what she was doing and of the dog.  The barking and howling was still hurting her and the pain brought back a small bit of control.  She felt the need to run from the animal so she turned away and ran full speed into the woods. 

She found that she could run much faster than she thought she should be able to.  She seemed to flow into the woods being able to dodge every branch and brush before she even consciously knew they were there.  She saw a drainage pipe ahead and ran for it.  Quickly crawling inside she curled up into the fetal position.  She mumbled to herself.  “That poor man was trying to help me and I was going to attack him.  Who am I?”  She remembered the snarling sounds that she had made and the loss of control.  “No, what am I?”  The tears began to flow.  She cried herself to sleep lying in the drain. 

Lost

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks entry is the beginning of a novel I started but had never finished. I reached a point where I realized I needed to roll back two chapters and rewrite. I never did it. I like the world building I did and I am thinking about returning to this project and rewriting it. This one might be a bit rough from an editing standpoint, but that is part of what these fragments are. Very raw.

*******************

The ship shook so hard I was afraid it would rip apart.  For the second time in my 30 year career I was grateful for the regulations requiring seatbelts on all jump capable ships.   “Mr. Harrison report.”

“We jumped into an asteroid field sir.”

“What?  How is that even possible?  The Drake system doesn’t have an asteroid belt.” 

“I don’t know how captain, but we don’t seem to be in Drake.  I’m dodging as many of the big one as I can, but we’re getting banged up pretty bad.”

I glanced down at the display on the armrest of my chair and saw a sea of red.  “I think just about every alarm is going off.  Ms. Pike we need the magnetic field up now.” 

“Working on it Captain.  I can’t get the field stabilized with all these impacts though.”

See that’s the downside of being Captain on a research vessel.  You get access to all the newest technology, but most of it hasn’t been field tested yet.  They brief you on how it’s supposed to work, but until you actually try it you never really know the limits.  This was an example of that.  The Observer was outfitted with tubes running through the hull that could generate a polarized magnetic field.  It wouldn’t stop the large asteroids, but theoretically it should be enough to clear away any small objects.  Of course it was intended to be turned on before entering an asteroid field and there wasn’t anything in the documentation about needing open space to generate a stable field.

I found myself second guessing my choice of ship so hard that I almost didn’t notice it wasn’t shaking apart anymore.  I glanced down at the displays and saw various alarms flickering between yellow and red.  The magnetic field light was not on at all.  “Mr. Harrison not to sound ungrateful, but why are we not about to die anymore?”

“I had an idea Captain.  I brought us alongside one of the larger asteroids.  It’s blocking some of the small ones.”

“Good thinking Mr. Harrison.  Ms. Pike; how is that magnetic field coming along?”

“It’s stabilizing now Captain, and it actually seems to be working.”  She was smiling and I had to admit that we might survive this jump.

I reached down and touched the intercom button on my chair.  “Attention all hands.  This is Captain Donald Ryan speaking.  We have jumped, but our arrival area was not clear.  I want damage reports from all departments in 15 minutes.  At that time we will assess our status and prepare to move out of the asteroid belt.  Thank you all for your quick responses.  Captain Ryan out.”

I turned to my helmsman.  “Mr. Harrison I want to know how long it’s going to take us to get out of this Asteroid Belt.  The moment we are out I want all your attention trying to figure out where the Hell we are.”   

“Yes Captain.”

“Good work and fast thinking everyone.  I’ll be in my office going through logs.”  With that I unbuckled my seatbelt and walked across the bridge into my office.  Many captains would have stayed on the bridge, but I know just how nervous I can make people by staring over their shoulders.  For the good of the ship I try to give them space. 

My office is a fairly empty room right off the bridge.  There is a desk and a small round table for meetings.  In the back is a door leading to my bedroom where I have my own private bathroom.  It is all pretty small, but I have more privacy than anyone else on the ship and I am grateful for that.  I sat at my desk and started bringing up system logs from right before the jump.

My background was in ship systems so there was a small chance that I could find something in the logs.  I didn’t really believe that I would though.  It was more important to keep myself busy so my crew wouldn’t realize just how worried I was by the jump.  Being off on a jump wasn’t out of the ordinary, but jumping into a completely different system was unheard of.  

After a few minutes I gave up on the logs and just sat back thinking.  There were some power fluctuations listed just before the jump, but I didn’t really know if that meant anything or not.  I sighed.  I have a good crew and I needed to trust them.  Still it just didn’t feel right knowing that the best thing I could do for my ship was nothing at all.  The tension of not even knowing where we were was just adding to my ever growing frustration. 

After fifteen minutes had passed I left my office for the bridge.  It had been the longest fifteen minutes of my life.  My three department heads were all standing at attention waiting for me.  There should have been four, but my Chief Operations Officer had recently transferred and we had not yet found a replacement.  “Mr. Harrison I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to speak for Operations again.  Do you have the report ready?”

“Yes Captain.”     

“Now let’s start with Systems.  Ms. Pike?”

“All ship systems are online Captain.  Medical reported that the worst injury was a broken arm.  We were lucky sir.”

I nodded as a wave of relief flooded over me.  There was bound to be bad news, but a report of no casualties is always the best news a captain can receive.  I turned to a short man in his 20s covered in what looked like some kind of grease.  “Mr. Lee does the Engineering department have good news for me as well?”

The man seemed to choose his words carefully.  “Well Captain it certainly could be worse.  We have minor hull breaches on decks 1 and 4.  Since everyone was in jump position the hallways were empty and we were able to seal them.  We did lose some oxygen in the process though.  I have repair crews prepared, but thought you might want me to wait until we were out of the asteroid belt.”

“You do know me pretty well Mr. Lee.  Anything else?”

“Engines are online, but we lost a few thrusters to the impacts.  The ship is going to be a bit sluggish for Mr. Harrison.”

I glanced over at Mr. Harrison and could see that he was less than happy to hear this news.  “Mr. Glass do you have any damage to report?”

“No sir.  All supplies were secured and we shut the galley down before jump.”

“Excellent news.  Now that we know the state of the ship Mr. Harrison I think it is your turn.”

“Yes sir.  It will take us about an hour to get out of this asteroid belt.  I modified my projects after Mr. Lee reported.  At the moment I still don’t know where we are though.  This system doesn’t seem to have a functional telemetry beacon and the asteroids are preventing us from getting a good read on star position.”

I sighed in what had to be a very noticeable gesture.  “I was afraid that might be the case Mr. Harrison.  It is possible that the asteroids are blocking the telemetry beacon, but I have a sinking feeling that you are correct in your assessment.  I also expect that despite your not inconsiderable talents we will be in for a bumpy ride out of this belt.”

“You are probably right sir.”

“Unless anyone has anything to add I think we are done here.”  I waited a moment, but no one spoke up.  “Good, everyone please take your posts and notify me when your teams are all strapped in.  Mr. Harrison please prepare your course and be ready to peal away from this beautiful rock we have been admiring on my word.”

Mr. Lee and Mr. Glass left the bridge as Ms. Pike took her seat beside me.  I watched my chair display carefully as the various departments reported in and their icon’s turned green.  “Well Mr. Harrison if you’re ready let’s get started.”  Mr. Harrison took his position at the helm and in under a minute I felt the tell tale feeling that told me the ship was moving.  We were underway, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something off about this system.          

First Leap

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story is about the character Ricochet that I play on the Knights of Reignsborough Actual Play. He is a character I have truly enjoyed exploring over the years and have done a few pieces of audio fiction about him. This is a scene I wrote last week while sitting at my dad’s bedside in the hospital. It is the first of many scenes I hope to write and combine into a either a novel or a collection of short stories. It is with great pleasure that I present to you Ricochet in “First Leap”

Ricochet

I felt my muscles strain as I pumped my legs pushing myself closer to the edge of the roof.  I was sprinting faster than I ever had before as I passed the point of no return.  I was committed and there was no backing out now.  I bent down and leapt into the air. My body curled up and I did a flip forward in the air. 

As my legs extended to point towards the next roof over my life flashed before my eyes.  As memory after memory came, I realized that I wasn’t particularly proud of any of them.  I had never done anything of note and if I died now, I would not leave a legacy. 

Everything changed when my feat hit the roof.  All the fear faded, and I started laughing with joy.  I could feel my muscles tighten and grow.  Deep down I knew that I had to keep moving.  I ran faster and faster until leapt from the other side of the roof.  With each jump I got faster and went higher.  All thoughts of fear and regret were gone, and I was lost in a euphoric joy. 

I’m not sure how long I bounced around the city.  Afternoon stretched into evening and I could hear my stomach growl more than I could feel the hunger.  I landed on the roof of a four-story building and without pause leapt off spinning three times before landing perfectly on the ground.  I felt invincible.

Finally, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.  As it turns out the tunnel was an overpass I landed in front of.  The light was the only working headlight on the moving truck that hit me at forty-five miles per hour.  I could barely feel the skin on my arms and legs being rubbed off by the friction of sliding across the asphalt. 

I looked back at the truck as I skid to a stop.  The front had crumpled around me and was now glowing from the fire that had ignited in the engine block.  Through the windshield I could see the driver slumped against the steering wheel with blood on his face. 

“NO!” I screamed as I ran towards the truck.  All I could think about was how this was my fault.  I didn’t even question how I was doing it as I ripped the door off the truck and flung it across the street.  I snapped the seatbelt from around the man’s waist and pulled him from the drivers seat.  Throwing him over my shoulder I leapt onto the overpass just as flames engulfed the cabin.

“Uhm, I hope you took out the rental insurance.”  I think the joke was more to calm me than it was for him.  He was waking up, so I turned to leave.  “Sorry to rescue and run but I really hate answering questions.”  I leapt onto the nearest roof and continued to bounce until all feelings of guilt for what almost happened faded from my mind.  I probably should have been more worried that it didn’t take very long at all.

Estate Sale

Fiction Fragment Friday

            “OOH!”  Jen was squealing in glee as she dug through the box of jewelry.  It seemed like each new piece somehow managed to excite her more than the last.  I personally didn’t understand it, but had long ago learned not to get between her and her “shinies” at an estate sale.  A man could get himself hurt doing that.  Since I had no interest in jewelry or having my eardrums blown out by high pitched squealing, I decided it might be best to wonder into another room. 

At first her energetic rifling through other people junk had been cute.  That was five yard sales, two estate sales, and six hours ago.  My only consolation was that it was 3pm and nothing else would be open.  I had assumed that this estate sale would already be over when I agreed to one last stop, but I was just not that lucky.  There were so many better ways I could spend a Saturday.

I walked into the house’s library and started glancing through the books.  It was a large room with one wall lined by bookshelves.  There was a fireplace opposite the bookshelves, and two old chairs with holes worn into the upholstery sat facing it.  A coffee table held a few stacks of books, but it was the rows and rows of them on the bookshelves that caught my attention.   

Having been dragged to far too many of these events I had learned what to expect.  Estate sales would have mostly religious or children’s books.  Self help and cooking also seemed to be common place.  If I was actually lucky enough to find something science fiction there was no way I would know the author.  The best I could hope for would be an interesting compilation.  There was nothing else worth looking at in the house though so I figured with a library this big I should at least give it a try. 

I was so focused on the bookshelf that I didn’t see the power cord for the vacuum cleaner stretching across the floor until I had already tripped on it.  My arms flew up to try and break the fall, but I was spinning and landed hard on my shoulder.  It throbbed and I moaned in pain a bit until something caught my eye.  There was a book lying under the largest bookshelf.  Overcome by curiosity I couldn’t help but reach out to grab it. 

I blew the dust off the book and immediately started choking on it.  The book had been under there for a long time.  As the dust cleared I looked at the graphic on the cover.  It was an oval with a spiraling circle inside it.  “Well that doesn’t really tell me what you are about now does it?”  Flipping the book open I couldn’t tell what language it was in, but it was not English.  Since I couldn’t read it I tossed it onto the bookshelf.  “Well I guess today was a complete bust.”

“No way, today was awesome.”  Jen had finished with the jewelry and was standing in the door.  She had three necklaces and a ring in her hand.  “These are the best way to finish the day off.”  She smiled at me.  “I’ll even let you be a gentleman and buy ones of these for your loving girlfriend.”

I sighed a bit and pulled out my wallet.  “How short are you?”

“I just need $5 to get them all.”  I handed her the money and she kissed my cheek.  “You’re the best even if you are grumpy.”  She smiled at me and walked towards the living room where they had the money table setup. 

I rubbed my sore shoulder.  “Atleast someone’s happy.”  As I said it I saw a tiny little statue of a dog.  It had a marble in its mouth with a swirling design.  I couldn’t quite make out what breed it was supposed to be, but it looked very wolf like.  The tail twisted back around to make a loop and I realized that it would be the perfect size for putting on my keychain.  I grabbed the statue and headed for the living room.    

Jen had already finished paying by the time I got to the table.  She gave me another kiss on the cheek.  “Thanks again hon.” She held out a necklace with a very ornate key on the end of it.  The thing was jewel encrusted and I thought it looked pretty gaudy.  “I know jewelry isn’t your thing, but I got this for you.  I’m giving you the key to my heart.”  She reached up and put the necklace on me.  I thought about protesting, but she looked so happy that I didn’t want to disappoint her.  “Do you like it?”

“Oh course I do.”  I hoped that she couldn’t tell that I was lying through my teeth.  If she could she didn’t show any sign of it.

“What’s that book?”

I looked down into my hands and found that I was holding the book that was not in English and the tiny dog statue was sitting right on the swirling symbol.  I struggled to remember when I picked the book back up, but there didn’t seem to be any time I could have done it.  I just stared at the book.

“Andy are you ok?”

“Yeah hon.  I just, I don’t remember picking this book up.”  I rubbed my eyes.  “Maybe I’m just a bit tired.”

“Well hurry up and check out so we can get you back home.  I need you all rested up so we can go out tonight and show off all my new jewelry.”

I sighed thinking about how much I would rather just stay in and watch a movie instead of meeting our friends for a trip to the casino.  When I turned to the table to pay I let out a loud gasp.  An elderly woman I hadn’t seen approach was standing in front of the table about a foot away from me.  She started speaking in a raspy voice.  “Are you sure that is the book you want?  There are some lovely cook books back there.”  She looked deep into my eyes and I wasn’t quite sure what to say.  “No, I think this is the book for you after all, oh and I always loved that little statue.”   She limped her way back around to the other side of the table and had a seat.  “Three fifty.”

I felt like I was in autopilot as I pulled out my wallet and handed her my money.  I don’t even remember walking back to the car.  The next thing I was clearly aware of was that Jen had just asked me a question and I had no idea what it was.  This was not a good sign and my mind went into overdrive trying to figure out how to handle the situation.  If I didn’t give a good answer I knew that the drive home was going to be very unpleasant.  I had to think fast.  “I don’t know what do you think hon?”

Apparently that was an acceptable answer because she started talking about dinner options.  When I got in the car she turned to me in a very poor imitation of the old woman said, “I think this is the book for you after all.”  She burst out laughing and I couldn’t help but give a bit of a chuckle myself.  “That has to be the creepiest thing I have ever heard at an estate sale and I was hit on by a pervy old guy once.  Hey maybe she was flirting with you.  I just can’t take you anywhere can I?”

She continued to talk about absolutely nothing the entire way home.  I found myself wondering how a depressed introvert like me ended up with someone as peppy as her.  As I pulled into the apartment parking lot I had to ask myself what kept two so completely different people together?  As I looked at her and saw just how happy the morning had made her and I couldn’t help but smile back.  “I love you,” I said.

“Well that certainly came out of nowhere, but I love you too.”  She gave me a quizzical look, but if she had something she wanted to ask she decided to keep it to herself.  

Monster Hunters

 Fiction Fragment Friday

               Starting today I’m going to be posting fragments of fiction on Fridays.  These could be stories I started but never finished, attempts as flash fiction, or excerpts from larger writing projects I have done.  I’m hoping to generate some feedback and see what works deserve to be developed into full projects.  With that in mind for this first entry I present Monster Hunters.  This was written as flash fiction based on a writing prompt.


                “I’m not saying it’s your fault.  I’m just saying I’m probably going to blame you for it.”  James had a smirk on his face as he said it, but Lilly knew he was frustrated at being covered in green gore. 

                “You and everyone else.”  Lilly ran her hand over her face and shook the green gunk onto the floor.  “I swear I don’t know why I do this.  We risk our lives fighting creatures that people don’t want to believe exist only to be yelled at by Commander Lopez for collateral damage or exposure.  Plus we have to wear these hideous brown utility worker uniforms.”  She motioned up and down her body at the suit slopping even more green goo to the floor. 

                “In fairness you shot a nine-foot-tall six tentacled creature with a grappling gun in Times Square and pulled it down making a spectacular splat in front of us.  There were no less than 20 phones recording it.  We became a meme before we even called it in.”

                “Well Lopez can just wait to chew us out.  I got green gunk running down my ass crack and if I don’t get in a shower before the itching starts, I just might tell him what I really think of him.”

                James shook his head as he watched her storm off to the women’s locker room.  “It’s going to be one of those days.”  He sighed and then caught himself scratching at his neck.  “Son of a bitch.”  He headed to the men’s locker room as quickly as he could walk. 

September 2020 Update

                I had a lot of ideas for both this website and projects when the year started.  I was going to do regular flash fiction here, share story concepts to get feedback, and generally blog about topics related to writing and geek culture.  There are two other domain names I have purchased, and I was hoping to launch projects related to them by the end of the year.  As it turns out none of that happened.  When Covid struck one of the projects I had in mind became impossible with the lockdowns, but the other creative endeavors could have occurred.  I just found myself drawn into the events of the world and struggling with motivation.  Going forward I will try to do more regular updates on what I am working on and what to expect. 

Podcasts

                I have made guest appearances on GamersTable and Gaming with Gage.  I am still a regular host on both Fear the Boot and Funnybooks with Aron and Paulie.  These are generally weekly shows but have not been quite as consistent this year as they both have been in the past.  These shows have had to adapt to the changing world.  For example, the Skies of Glass Actual Play went from being recorded with everyone around a table to being recorded online.  I’m not certain what this has done for the quality of the recordings, but it has certainly changed the dynamics of the game.  In the case of Funnybooks there was over a month with no new comics being released.   

               In addition, early this year I started releasing a short weakly podcast called Fear the Boot: Game Notes for the $5 a month and up Patreon backers of Fear the Boot.  This has been a consistent release with no late episodes or missed weeks.  I have found it to be both a learning experience and something good for me from a routine standpoint in an unstable world.  The podcast is focused on both sharing how myself and other rpg gamemasters prepare for games as well as sharing insecurities.  While recording I have explored my own thoughts on running games and really examined why I do the things I do.  It is a project I am truly proud of and if anything has given me a sense of accomplishment this year it is this podcast.

Streaming

                Late last year was the start of a new experience for me.  When the podcast GamersTable did a Kickstarter for their new season one of the goals was a weekly streaming show on Twitch called Big20.  It is a roundtable conversation with GMs every week on a different topic while interacting with viewers in the chat room.  I have been a host on this show many times introducing me to live streaming on camera. 

                I have been involved in actual play podcasts for years, but this year I have joined a game that streams live on twitch.  It has been very different having a live audience and being on video while roleplaying.  The game is an East Texas University game with people I met through GamersTable. 

Writing

                Most of the writing I have done is on the roleplaying game Skies of Glass.  Two beta versions have been released to Patreon backers of Fear the Boot.  My contributions are combination of transcribing rules and writing setting as well as basic layout.  The project is coming along nicely but much slower than I would like.

              I expected with working from home exclusively since the pandemic that I would have gotten quite a bit of writing done.  This has not been the case.  I am not working any less than I did when I drove into work.  I have however gained time I would have spent driving and have been using that to cook my own meals and improve my health.  I have written a flash fiction story that I have not submitted anywhere yet and done some editing on previously written works, but I have not done much writing on my own projects this year.  I hope starting with this update to turn that around for the rest of the year.      

Gaming

                I started the year running a Dresden Files campaign for my regular weekend gaming group.  When Covid first hit I lost two of my players and this game had to be put on hold.  My Dresden game was serving as a creative outlet more than I realized until it was paused.  Every week I created a newsletter for my players writing articles about game and world events as three different reporters each with their own writing style and focus.  When the game was paused, I sat down and put all the story and NPC details in a document so I could return to it someday.  Doing so I really fleshed out quite a bit including a whole food truck scene with intermingled drama. 

                With the temporarily smaller group I started running a Superhero game in the Masks system.  The game has been going very well, but all the extra out of game creative work like the newsletter is not a part of this game.  I find the mechanics and just using a lot of genre traps makes this game fairly seamless to run.  The game has been great, and I do think I have come up with some fun ideas and concepts, but it is not the creative release of the Dresden Files campaign. 

Other Hobbies

                Last September I started building Gundam models.  This initially started at the Japanese Festival when I went to an event and built my first one.  I enjoyed it enough that I started picking up kits and eventually expanded to paint pens and panel line markers.  I am still not in any way artistic and do not do much more than slightly improve the look in some cases.  I have a problem relaxing and tend to need hobbies that let me relax while keeping my mind just occupied enough that it does not wander.

                I still find Lego kits work wonders for relaxation for me.  This year I have built a Space Station, Voltron, a boat, and various small kits.  I have worked my way through most of my backlog of Lego kits. 

Going Forward

                Nothing quite gives me the sense of accomplishment that creative projects do.  With that in mind it is well past time to get back to writing.  I plan on doing quarterly updates here at the minimum and aiming for monthly.  I will start sharing some of my writing snippets and work to schedule things more regularly.  Feedback and interaction with my creative projects help keep me active and motivated.  Deadlines and expectations also work wonders in that regard.              

Welcome

I want to welcome you to my new home on the internet. I wanted to create a single place that I could direct people in order to find all my various podcasts, actual plays, and writing projects. You can follow me on social media using the links on the right bar to get more up to date information.

What you can expect from this site is regular blogs that could be anything from project updates, reviews of geek materials, my rambling thoughts, or flash fiction. This will be the first place I will mention new projects going forward and serve as the launch site for them.

This site will be a work in progress and an experiment. Things that work I will continue with and things that don’t will be phased out.

I want to thank you for spending your time here and I look forward to making 2020 the year of long standing project completion.

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