About the next book I’m writing

I love comic books, and I’m going back to writing a comic fantasy.

I’m writing a book inspired off of three things:

  1. All of the writing books I read have said “Your character not wanting to die is an obvious and therefore boring motivation, yata-yata,” Challenge accepted. The main character in my new book wants to die. Woah–dark, and easily solved? Not so fast! He’s the undead, he’s already lived a full life and wants to get back to heaven.
  2. Orcs, goblins, pixies, and kobolds are B-tier fantasy creatures. Popular races, humans and elves and the like slap them down as quick as thinking and prance on their way. No longer. My main cast is full of secondary fantasy races.
  3. Ever feel left out? You’re hauling groceries on foot as rich teenagers cruise by on a party boat–during the Covid lock down. Yes, that happened to me. Got me thinking. Most people are a little bit in the margins, struggling just to make ends meet while the nouveau nobility gets to drive sexy cars and date expensive women. My book has just that, everything is a slog for the main characters while others get the “get out of jail free” card.

At the end though, I am optimistic. I hope my book inspires you to keep living and enjoy life fully cognizant of the bad hand you were dealt. You have a two and a three? Bluff!

No updates? Hmmm—-

I am writing a new book. I (foolishly!) promised a friend to have a first draft ready by April 2nd. I’m working something fierce on that.

I decided I want to rebrand (translation: lie a difference way) on fakebook so I created a different page there. Confusing everybody. Anyhow. If you see my ad’s on fakebook drop a small little “Thanks for being a friend” on them.

I’ll be a updating you all on the book soon. I think it will be a loverly hit. =)

Vapor Basin Part 2

 I sheathed my sword and stood with my toes curled over the piers edge.

“He’s going to swim for it.” I heard behind me. Followed by a patter of their feet. I leapt into the water.

Frantic, I pulled myself to the surface and clawed my way through. The water didn’t sting, and it was pleasantly warm. No biting pain from heat, acid, or something else but I kept my mouth tight shut all the same. The whole swim couldn’t have been longer than twenty seconds.

As soon as my feet found the sand, I trudged through the water and–once released from its wet hug–kept running. The gremlins must still be after me. The name basin did this place justice. Running uphill and in sand was not east. The sand stole the spring from my step. The fog cleared once I reached the crest. The climb-run was around twenty stories.

Fatigue hit me all at once. My heart popped over and over. I collapsed into my footprint, tossed over, and gazed over the sea of fog. Captured in a huge bowl. Like incense burned in a plate. A thought of beauty cut through my panic. I knew no matter how tired the gremlins were, I wouldn’t be able to put up a fight. I wasn’t exact sure where I was. Somewhere on the east-south point of the basin. The only way to get to the west and the citrus harvest on time was through the basin. There is no way I’d return there. In fact I now feared for any traveler like myself who didn’t mind taking a short-cut through the basin. If I was forced to go around I would miss the beginning of the harvest and wouldn’t get a foreman position. The cut in pay could mean I would only scrape by in the winter, hungry most days. if I missed it completely, my stomach would miss the chance at food completely. There would be no other work. Except for cleaning, but the women cared for their men and weren’t about to let some transient take their work. Or the gremlins could catch up and put me out of my misery.

Mount Raven and Mount Carvel were out west. Not couldn’t recall how near to the great Patterson orange fields. It was worth asking about for, if I asked causally enough. Couldn’t let others know what I knew, I had paid a tenth of my grasp for the treasure clue.

My breath returned and I meandered a way to a glade of trees. The shade coupled with a tinkling breeze. A blackberry bush was there. It’s fruit would serve as my dinner. I unfurled my sleeping bag. If the gremlins were on my trail they would have caught me by now. Only the edges of the sleeping bag were damp thanks to my tight packing. I stripped and laid out my clothes in the sun. Idly, I ate the blackberries. I laid out my scarf and piled berries onto it then knotted it on top. The sun set and I stopped foraging. The light was too low and I was getting thorned by the bushes more often than plucking a berry.

I put on my clothes, snuggled into bed, and slept.

Later. I ate breakfast off the bush. Years of stomping around in the wild has made me impervious to repetitive meals. My fingers were stained. Sparse trees dotted around in lumpy clumps. All the trees were small. The breeze picked up and took the last of the moisture off me and long grass flicked my legs. I traveled like this for a week, hugging more or less to the rim of the basin. Walking south more than west and curving till I walked west more than south. There was an east-west road that kissed the south rim of the Vapor Basin. That road would take me all the way to Wagnotville and the Patterson orchard. 

Below, in the fog, I heard sandy footsteps. I went up to the edge and peered in. Sword drawn. The gremlins have caught up. Likely a small group. I couldn’t let them send a messenger to tell them where I was. Either I would slay them all or be ready to flee. I held still, crouched behind a dry bush that didn’t complain of being rooted in sand. Voices came next from the fog. They were not gremlin voices, which were over pronounced. Big vowels to climb up and around their tall teeth. These voices were human, casual. I couldn’t make out what they were saying.

 Then five hoods peeked from the fog. Long grey robes followed as if the hand of a god was lifting a grey candle from a bucket of molten wax. I could hear them clearly but they were speaking a foreign language. The words merged together in an unending low chatter. They stopped and looked around. I froze. Needless to say, I didn’t trust five grey robed men coming form the Vapor Basin. For all I knew they had something to do with the gremlins. 

if they looked harder, they would have saw me. But their attention waned and they walked south into the woodlands. For a while, I kept still. Once satisfied with their distance I continued my journey.

They must have something to do with the gremlins. The gremlin told me the smell of blood directed them to the surface. Surely someone or something had bled before in the Vapor Basin. Why now? This was a time to be far away from here. I was tempted to flee south from the basin but there was nothing for me in the south. 

As I walked, I kept looking over my shoulder to see if any grey hoods would appear behind me. Growing paranoia fueled my rush. I traveled for one last day and came to the road. I climbed onto it and followed it west. I was hungry,  but in either direction there was nothing for miles. My hope was to meet someone honest on the road willing to trade. I would pretend I wasn’t hungry, of course, so they couldn’t drive up the price. Not that I worried for my survival. If the worst came, I could find a bee hive and plunder it, or scare an anthill and eat ants. There have been worse times in my life.

The road was paved before my time and it still held up. The stones fit so well together, large areas were still smooth toped. No beveled edges.

The raised stone road meant I could get to Wagnotville mostly in time. I preferred work and company to eating ants alone.

Nobody appeared on the road for hours. It was getting late. My feet pounded misery up my legs. Signaling strongly a time to rest. Start again tomorrow, we are done for today. The lack of travelers put me on edge. This was the main road east and west. When I left Tokenpoint out east, I heard of no trouble on the road. And if there was trouble on the roads, why hadn’t it caught up to me yet. The road felt less and less like a safe place. 

Behind me, far off, I heard voices. Certainly not an ambush but I stepped off the road regardless. I took care to step lightly from rock to root to rock again. My boots were clean from the road and would leave no dirt on those. Once away from the road, I wedged myself into the thicket. Thorned twigs scrapped and crunched. Safely inside my twiggy bunker I listened to the voices. Suddenly loud and clear to my eats as I became silent.

I desperately hoped for a normal caravan. I could introduce myself. Explaining my reasonable caution as to why I was jumping out from the bushes at them. Then travel with them. I needed news of the outside world. Was I the only one to come across gremlins and grey hooded travelers? Something had changed in the last month and I needed to know what.

Foreign language, the same tonality from before. As sure as silver shines, grey hoods were attached. Through the thicket and trees, I saw another five of them. Perhaps it was the same group from before. They may be tracking me somehow.

They stopped exactly where I stepped off the road. They talked. This was as close they could come to me without stepping off the road. Low chatter continued. I desperately wished to understand them. It surely some joke. Like they already saw me and were laughing with themselves on how I thought I was avoiding them. They held still. I tried to discern the swirl of shadows under their hoods. More than ever I desired a friendly face–not that they would provide.

Then, as one, turned and went the way they came. I waited until the voices lifted away and then returned to the road. I had not walked five steps before the danger I was in struck me. If only I knew what those cultists were. They could be peaceful monks, or looking for food sacrifices for the gremlins. I couldn’t know until it was too late. I was sure they knew about the gremlins. They had come from the fog. There could be worse in the Vapor Basin. The very knowledge about the gremlins could be reason to kill me. Was it just coincidence they stopped where I was and turned around?

I had two choices, both I hated. I could stay on the road and risk encountering the cultists. Or I could travel south a ways and then west, in the wild. Slower, dangerous.

The 8 best writing books in 2021 (and why you should read them)

Countless peddlers have long lists of “the best” books on writing:

  • “Top X books on writing” (AKA “The Amazon search results for books on writing with 4+ stars”)
  • “X books every aspiring writer should read” (AKA “Here’s a huge list of books I’m pretending I read”)
  • The “classic” writing books (AKA “Outdated bookshelf decoration”)

It’s easy to google “best books on writing,” copy paste them (along with stock Amazon descriptions) into WordPress, hit publish, and call it a day.

Let’s try a different approach…

I have read 21 books on writing and I want to give you the essential 8.

You’ll also learn exactly how it will help you. (Saving you 6.98$)

Why do people read fiction anyhow? Because we’re…

Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

Wired for Story is Made to Stick for writers. No wonder I love it so much.

This book talks about why people read fiction. It is more than just entertainment. Fiction helps us adjust our social sensors so we can live well with others.

Before I read Wired for Story, I didn’t put a lot of back story into my characters. I didn’t like flashbacks and, besides, the story only goes forward. Then I read fiction readers want to know people’s secrets. So I decided to put some there.

Story Genius, her second book on writing, is also good.

Don’t get cocky

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t by Steven Pressfield

All of Steven Pressfields books are awesome. (If I counted my rereads of The War of Art I would have hit my GoodRead’s goal this year.) This one hinges on two core concepts. 1) Empathy. 2) Process.

Empathy: Reading is hard. People are going to trash your work because they are busy. Bring your best work forward, start with the concept and make it appealing–no body wants your 101 pages of fantasy world history.

Process: Steal. Ad-men use existing ads (they call them the “swipe-file”) to build their new ones. Copy one persons work and it’s called plagiarism, copy ten and its research. I don’t need to tell you not to copy. If you would you won’t care. Everyone else has the good sense when it’s plagiarism.

Reference book for making this funny

How to Write Funny by Scott Dikkers

Scott Dikkers breaks out the ten tools to make things funny. But even more important he talks about the process of clown and editor.

The clown jokes about everything and writes it down in a notebook. Don’t let an idea slip. Trash or otherwise.

The editor picks the best and begins to nurture it.

Made my outlines powerful from sentence 1, (and made me watch movies better.)

Write Your Novel From The Middle by James Scott Bell

The title gives it away. But let’s go a little deeper.

Why write it in the middle? Because that is where the moment of reflection occurs for the main character. For Joy in Pixar’s Inside Out she is being forgotten and realizes the importance of sadness (Character and emotion). Or Gone with the Wind has Scarlett O’Hara realizes Tara must be preserved (James’s uses this example).

If you start in the middle, 1) you will ensure a strong character arc, 2) know what you have to setup to get there, 3) know what your act 3 climax is going to mean to the character and your readers.

Saved you 3.99$. (James Scott Bell’s book is excellent, pick up a copy.)

Side note: this book is well written. The metaphors are on point. Reads like a healthy conversation with an old friend.

The book that got me to understand scenes.

Structuring Your Novel by K.M Weiland

This book is potboiling normalcy until she talks about scenes. This book make me rethink how I plan my novels. Instead of going chapter to chapter, I need to make scene to scene work.

In particular, she has two types of scenes. One type is action oriented and the other is reflective. The reflective scene she calls the “Sequel Scene”.

A normal “Scene” is three parts, 1) a goal-seeking character encounters conflict, 2) he takes action to get his goal, 3) a “yes-but” happens, or just an outright “no-and”. IE: disaster.

The “Sequel Scene” also has three parts, 1) the character reflects on what just happened, 2) realizes something, 3) makes a plan.

By linking an action scene followed by a reflective scene the reader gets the experience of momentum and empathy.

There you go, saved you another 2.99$. Go buy the book though, there is way more on scenes.

The Psychological Primer to Creative Work

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book is about creative living. It is a collection of stories exposing dichotomies. Like how a novel is you pouring out your soul and shouldn’t be treated lightly and writing a novel is playful and you shouldn’t put much thought into it.

Do those two ideas work together?

They do, to make you. I like this book in combination with the War of Art by Steven Pressfield. The tone is completely different. The War of Art is a double espresso and Big Magic is a large mug of chamomile tea.

Write what you love and others will love it too

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury’s love of dinosaurs and comics sticks in my memory. Everything he loved as a boy was shamed out of him. (to the point he ripped his Buck Roger comics) But, when he took what he loved he started to “step on a landmine” of words.

No amount of structure advice, character archetypes, or whatever if you can’t find the joy in writing. Steven King, (James Scott Bell writes in his book Middle Your Novel from the Middle) Steven King is full of this “joy” and it drips on his works.

Action tip: alternate your books on writing between finding the zen/”Joy” and practical matters of how.

Complete advice from an authoritative source

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

This book is the one stop shop for everything. From plotting and opening lines to editing. (A whole section for non-fiction to boot!) Let me pick out one gem:

The best book titles are metaphors. IE, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”. He goes on to list more examples. I want to add to this observation with poetry hinges on the use of metaphor. Good metaphors and bad writing the poem will survive. Flip it, and it dies.

If you’re searching for a book title, I highly recommend metaphors.

The best way to learn writing isn’t from books

Take action on what you read or you are just wasting time. And reading books takes a lot of time. Do this:

Read a copywriting book. Just 1.

Then go out and do 2-3 of the things you learned in the book. Try it on for size, everyone has a different method and these writers are letting you try their style.

Make the concepts real and internalize them.

You’ll learn more from one book using that method, than if you were to just read 100 books in a row.

That’s all.

491 Words to use Instead of Said. Sorted and Ranked.

Dialogue attribution pins a quote to a character. The most common, and best word, to use is said. With said, in the ranked list below, are an additional 491 words to use.

All you need to know is: Said, Asked, Replied, Yelled, Whispered.

With Said being the king of dialogue attribution.

I’m obsessed with verbs. Years ago I loved abusing verbs to carry dialogue.

No longer!

Here are 492 verbs you need in tiered ranks. The three columns are manner, rhetoric, and emotion.

  • Manner is how the dialogue sounds.
  • Rhetoric indicates the function of the dialogue in conversation.
  • Emotion has verbs that describe the character emotions.

God Tier — Use 90% of the time.

MannerRhetoricEmotion
SaidAsked
Use Said way more than Asked.

Great Tier — Use 7% of the time.

MannerRhetoricEmotion
WhisperedRepliedCried
ShoutedAddedJeered
MutteredBeganBlurted
SangExplained

Fine Tier — Use 2% of the time.

MannerRhetoricEmotion
YelledBossedScreamed
CalledRecitedJoked
PuledLiedWailed
SlurredQueriedBawled
MimickedToldScolded
SquealedRemarkedVowed
HolleredArguedImplored
PrattledInterruptedCajoled
SplutteredTriedBegged
MumbledRequestedFumed
LispedAssentedTaunted
MewedAcceptedRetorted
RoaredReadRanted
CackledQuotedRaged
ChantedReckonedInsisted
StammeredRecountedSassed
BanteredRemindedCoaxed
BoomedOpinedDenied
CroakedCoachedExulted
BarkedExpressedBewailed
HissedGuessedGushed
HuffedDivulgedWhined (Whinged)
SqueakedAdmittedSobbed
BitConfidedSnapped
SpatDisclosedBlasted
YelpedDictatedWept
ShriekedRespondedUpbraided
DrawledInsistedPled
HowledNotifiedEntreated
GrowledPressedSniveled
GroanedMentionedTeased
PipedInstructedGagged
ScreechedDescribedThreatened
ShrilledDemurredWarned
ThunderedPuzzledScoffed
BabbledReportedChided
PurredSurmisedBickered
HummedNotedBoasted
EchoedRejoinedLaughed
PantedObjectedUrged
HeavedAdvisedCussed
LeeredHintedCursed
IntonedProposedChallenged
PeepedRecalledPrayed
QuippedWheedledPleaded
MoanedToastedGrumbled
BlubberedCommandedTempted
ChattedInquiredDared
ChatteredWonderedSwooned
RaspedInformedMocked
TrilledDeclaredShot
StutteredSpokeCooed
PromptedWhimpered
SuggestedCautioned
ClaimedGibed
Pointed outMarveled
ReassuredWhooped
ReasonedPraised
CounteredRejoiced
AppealedRidiculed
WishedMused
Went onChimed
ContinuedProtested
RipostedRibbed
CorrectedBurst
CommentedAttested
ClarifiedCrowed
CounseledFlattered
RidiculedProfessed
Concurred
Disputed
Provoked

(Barely) OK Tier — Use 1% of the time.

MannerRhetoricEmotion
YowledQuestionedCountermanded
ChokedAnsweredApologized
RumbledLecturedConfessed
QuakedObservedGriped
SniffedConfirmedSnobbed
Spelled (Out)AllowedSimpered
EnunciatedBetJested
GaspedRememberedFlirted
MurmuredVolunteeredExaggerated
ChewedWelcomedSnarled
WheezedAllegedSwore
YawnedTestedBeseeched
LiltedWent onExploded
GurgledAdvertisedOrdered
ArticulatedAddressedStormed
ExclaimedEstimatedDenounced
TwitteredExactedCondemned
UtteredPostulatedBadgered
ProclaimedIntimatedOogled
BellowedImportunedEgged on
SibilatedBroadcastedAssured
StatedCertifiedKeened
JoshedDeliveredScrutinized
GuffawedDenotedMarvelled
GiggledDisruptedWooed
ChortledDisseminatedLamented
AnnouncedDistributedDemanded
BreathedIndicatedReflected
GruntedPremisedCrapped
SighedPresentedTrailed
BlatheredPresupposedEmpathized
IntonatedGreetedContemplated
CaterwauledProbedContended
QuaveredProfferedGrimaced
PronouncedPromulgatedSmirked
ChitteredPublicizedGrinned
CoughedReleasedSmiled
CluckedReprimandedNodded
FalteredSearchedScowled
YakkedSharedCringed
YappedSoughtCowered
RambledSpecifiedBeamed
JabberedVouchedComplemented
NatteredTransferredCongratulated
Rattled onTransmittedCheered
Harped onSanctionedApproved
Nattered onVenturedWorried
DribbledOfferedVacillated
BurbledQuizzedSeethed
ChirpedPut inAvowed
ChirrupedThought out loudAsserted
ChuckledImpliedMourned
DeadpannedMotionedGloated
BleatedImpartedTattled
ElocutedConversedFretted
BandiedContributedComplained
WarbledSpeculatedEncouraged
BlusteredHypothesizedChastised
SneezedMaintainedBragged
SnortedAbnegatedNeedled
VoicedDefendedProdded
MouthedAffirmedRetaliated
SputteredTheorizedGroused
SniffledTestifiedForgave
ChorusedRestatedBubbled
GawpedPonderedShuddered
PepperedNoddedAccused
EffusedAcquiescedRefused
StressedFinishedAvered
NaggedPromisedAgonized
ImitatedRevealedAffirmed
SnickeredRepeatedComforted
StartedThanked
PersistedReckoned
AgreedCarped
DisagreedShivered
ConcludedInsulted
DecidedGoaded
InterjectedPestered
DebatedGrieved
DirectedConsoled
Verified
Reminisced
Insinuated
Deliberated
Related
Deflected
Conceded
Reiterated

Worst Tier — Don’t use.

MannerRhetoricEmotion
StumbledEndedSneered
ResoundedAlliteratedSulked
RhymedThought (Yes, I found this recommended.)Undertook
TrembledCensuredShrugged
GulpedHeldForetold
DrippedNecessitatedDoubted
OozedPointedTormented
HesitatedPublishedGrizzled
MonotonedRequiredRemonstrated
VociferatedRequisitionedSympathized
EmphasizedCommunicatedExasperated
AcknowledgedInclined
ConvincedDisposed
NegatedSpilled
Assessed
Considered

Some reflections on using this list

  1. Overall, Manner is better than Emotion which is better than Rhetoric.
  2. Less is more. Dialogue attribution should be used when the speaker is unclear, there is a change in dynamic, and there is irony between what is said and how.
  3. Don’t you dare use a verb that isn’t on this list, the worst tier is bad enough as it is. I don’t want to go about adding more because you want to use the adjective grizzled as a attribution verb. DEAR GOD. If you can’t find a verb that isn’t on this list and someone, anyone recommended you to use it, they are wrong.
  4. All the verbs I have found in the wild or were recommended on internet lists. The absurdity of many verbs are the fault of click-baity writers. None of the verbs in Worst Tier are bad. They must not be used for dialogue attribution. They are better literally anywhere else. The fact some yahoos recommend those words grinds my gears.
  5. Within reason, each word could easily fit into two or three columns. This is a principled rank and order. With all creative pursuits you got to do your own thing. Trust your own voice. =))

The reason why such garbage words are recommended online is because finding a new verb for dialogue attribution is a middle school assignment. The point of the assignment is to learn new words. Not write good prose. Other reasons include building a large list to seem smart.

When in doubt use said. Whoever said use something else instead of said should be dead.

That’s all.

Photo Credit: John Evjen

PUBLISHED! Book one of Space-Farming: Dangerous Weapons

Weighing in at 110,000 words and with four interior illustrations I am proud to announce book one of my space opera.

Charles Meyer, a gambling addict farmer with a temper, is barely holding on. And it gets worse.

He is attacked by disco-pirates, a villainous mega-tycoon, and a corrupt government. Charles gets into gambling debt with the casino.

With so much going on, he joins a criminal gang. Learns the value of friendship–with the help of a religious cult. And eventually hurts everyone he loves.

This is a book about being a tiny mortal bug in the universe and fighting impossible odds. It is blanketed with comedy.

Until the publication of book 2, I will be offering a free copy to readers of writingtemple.com. Sign up to my newsletter (Bottom footer on the left) to get a free pdf copy.

The next step is to get as much free publicity as possible. Submitting it to book lists and the like. Support me as I work on some short stories and book number 2, drop a comment!

Cover Design for Space-Farming #1

Novel #1 of Space-Farming in the Age of the Disco-Pirates was enjoyed by my beta readers. I am proud to publish it, but first the cover illustration, one last fine-comb edit, and some interior illustrations.

I do all my illustrations and covers, for better or for worse.

It will be published January once the final touches are done.

I am working on Vapor Basin part 2. It pales in comparison to finishing this novel.

Writing Update

I’ve been working on my next novel for the past three days. I’m making great progress on the first draft. (10,000 words) It’s the second installment on Space-Farming in the Age of the Disco-Pirates.

Well, you might be asking, where’s the first book?

My beta readers are still crunching it. I hope to get good feedback from them over Christmas. I don’t have a cover for the book. I don’t want to dip into my savings for a good cover design and a bad cover design is unacceptable. With all that in mind, I hope to have it released Mid January. You will really like this book. I released the first two chapters here.

As for The Basin. I’m really excited for this project. I only got one vote on the thingy but that’s enough to go to part II! I’ve started writing that. I’m hoping for bi-weekly installments.

That’s all.

Choose your Adventure: The Basin — Part 1

I was writing short stories and I’ve been editing them. I wrote a piece I called, A story’s price, but it didn’t feel right to submit it for a journal or something to publish. It’s bigger than a short story, it’s got its own world and everything. But, I don’t want to novelize it. So I thought, what the heck make it a choose your own adventure.

This is the first time I’ve tried something like this, so I’m interested to see how it goes. Heck, I don’t even think anyone regularly reads my blog so it might be a while before I get a vote.

At the end of each part is a choice–and you get to vote what are unnamed hero does.

Let’s begin.


Part 1

I could hear the fog. There was no life here, the last field mouse I had seen plunged into a brush two miles back. Fleeing the Vapor Basin. The lake of water sourced the fog peeling off the water’s surface. The Vapor Basin was a ruined city seemingly floating on top a poison lake. This route was a shortcut east-west. I couldn’t be late for the harvest out west. The Vapor Basin road was safe if one brought their own water and avoided breathing the air. Supersitions kept the foolish away, which was most everyone else.

Around my mouth, I tied my scarf. Deep fog kept my vision limited to about an arm’s length.

I kept to the main road. Many inviting ruins defied entrophy to the left and right. Everything useful had long been scavenged.

Then a metallic rattle cracked. From a manhole a thing–four legs, gangly, big head, grey but what wasn’t–it crept up from the manhole and whisked away into the fog.

This was the first I’d seen of life in the Vapor Basin. I ran after it. This would be a great story for the tramp trail.

I dashed around and through a building. Then slowed. I would never see the thing again, let along catch it. Surely it knew the alleys and could see through the fog. I stood in a ruined house.

Through a punched-out window, I gave one searching look into the fog.

It had stopped too. The grey form sat on a rock that merged in and out of the fog.  It sat on his hunches. Nibbling at something. Mindful of the ring, I unsheathed my sword. The creature may be dangerous.

it spoke, “I know you are watching me.”

The sword was only token protection. I knew quarry work and picking fruit. Strong but little martial skill. If the thing had unnatural strength or subtle means I would be ripped to pieces.

The thing turned. I could see it clearly now. Pale blue, small. Arms and legs like stretched tar. “have no fear. I am not dangerous. I only have sharp ears and quick feet.”

“And the ability to speak.” I couldn’t deny such a novel creature conversation.

“And the ability…” He muttered, trailing off, “Why are you here? This city has been plundered long ago. Unless the outside world has dire need of rusted manhole covers.”

“Things haven’t got that bad yet,” I quiped, “I should be asking the same of you.” I have traveled through the Vapor Basin before and have never seen the likes of you before.”

“I live underground,” the blue gremlin had no face covering. The fog must not harm him. I needed to know more. Every tall tale on the labor trail I paid no mind. This may be my only chance to satisfiy my curiousity.

I asked, “You said the city was plundered long ago?”

“I’d like my question answered first. Why are you here?”

It was his home after all. I obliged. “Citrus trees on the west coast are nearing harvest. I will be spending the summer there.”

“You’re a migratory worker then?” I hadn’t expected to engage in small talk. Certainly the gremlin would be obsessed with caverns and perhaps a tribal culture of sun haters.

“Yes.”

“Looking for stories to share?”

“Always.”

“Care to learn some history? And not the babble you are perhaps used to.” I instinctively touched my temple. The creature was reading my mind. I shook the thought away. I wouldn’t allow such paranoia. I was merely connecting with a cave denizen of a poisoned land.

“Gladly,” I said.

“I’ll tell you a story for a price.”

“What’s your price?” I asked.

The gremlin licked his lips, “I want to eat a finger. It has been years since I’ve had fresh meat.”

“my finger?” I recoiled, glad that I’ve kept my blade drawn the whole time. I was no longer connecting with the fiend. On my sword, water beaded in it’s blood gutter.

“Any finger. I recommend the littlest of your hand. You shouldn’t miss it.”

A finger for a story. I wished I hadn’t finished my own supply of meat. He might have traded for that. I couldn’t give my finger. Just meeting this gremlin was a story all by itself. When I worked at the quarry, I kept my fingers clear from my chisel. Anyone does the same. And now should I whack off a digit?

Yet, my curiosity grows. How could I cut this story off in the middle for want of a little finger?

I said, “How do I know you story is worth it? Or even if you are good for it. You could very well run away after you have my finger.”

The gremlin pouted, “I’ll tell you the beginning.” He said, “All this here you call the Vapor Basin was an ancient city. At the height of it’s glory, a man of hundred dying would be mourned for being cut down in his youth. Women and men worked the same offices. They could choose when to bear children and all the physical jobs were replaced by magic. Lightning sent messages to the far corners of the world. This culture tamed every beast. Even lesser-dragons were lap pets for society ladies. The poor were poor by choice alone. Monks studying virtue of having little.

“All of history hinges here in this city. Like a pinch in an hour-glass. You only know of four races–now five, including me. Believe me when I say, forty races used to live here.

“This is merely the frontispiece of my knowledge. More than idle curiosity, my reward can make you rich. Cities full of treasure are out there, undiscovered by your ignorant generation. I would give you the beginning of your new life, all it costs is a finger.”

I was convinced. But the anticipation of parting with my finger held me still. It would take some focus. I placed my finger under the edge of my sword. It had been a while since I chiseled anything off. Quarry workers were increasingly locals draining me of the few jobs I could get. To think I would chisel off my finger.

The thing leaned forward on his rock, spearing a long arm out for balance. “So?”

I said, “This is harder than it looks.”

One. Two. Three.

My hand screamed murder. I bound my hand with my handkerchief. Staining the last bit of clean cloth I owned. Once done, I tossed the finger to the gremlin. He snatched it and chew on it with needle teeth. Showing every evidence of pleasure.

I ignored his wet chewing. I held out my right hand. The otherworldliness of a four fingered hand was to be as familiar, as say, the back of my hand.

A forked tongue flicked and snatched a drop of blood off his lip. It said, “Payment given deserves reward.”

The gremlin told me everything he knew about history. The gods created the races in their own images. After thousands of years, the first civilizations began. After much bickering by sword and law, they collated into an empire. The empire mastered magic. The gremlin said there were two kinds of magic, but I had even heard a credible claim to even one type of magic. The empire crumbled and, in its crashing wake, every evil imaginable swept the earth. In no small to uncontrolled magic.

As a last hope for life, many races buried themselves in the ground and waited.

When they emerged, these people made the city. The city now ruined at the pit of the Vapor Basin. There was only one city, so it was called Polis. Magic poured from the ground here. In Polis, they only knew one type of magic. It was powerful enough alone to make a society like the one he previously described. The gremlin said the creation story I was told as a child originated from the races emerging from the ground. Safe from the magic wars of the past. Our religion denied many thousand years of history.

There were seven towers spread out to all corners of the compass. These outposts were where Polis sent lightning-messages too. The gremlin told me where one was. In the valley between Mt. Raven and Mt. Carval. Here I could prove if the story was worth my finger. Buried treasure.

For unknown reasons, the gods poisoned Polis’s water and drove the peoples away. From here on, the myths and history I knew were more-or-less accurate.

Intently, I listened. Struggling to file away every word. I had paid a finger after all.

He finished by saying, “And that is all I know. I must apologize.”

“For what?” Other than taking my finger, of course. This fact was ever present on my mind.

“This was a trap. My brethren have been trapped under the city for thousands of years. All I needed to bring them to the surface was the scent of fresh blood.”

I leapt up and looked behind me.

The ground writhed with gremlins. Each grinning with needle teeth. Their pale forms crawled soundlessly in the fog. Dilated nostrils.

A pause while everyone calculated the turn of events.

They leapt at me and I leapt away. I ran away from the crowd of gremlins toward the first one. The first gremlin leapt at my face. I severed that educated head from it’s twitching body. Behind, I heard countless naked feet slap the stone streets. Immediately, rubble and walls emerged from the fog. I dodged. The sounds of feet ever present on my heels. At any moment a half ring of needles would sink into my calf.

Suddenly, water appeared on both sides. The ground narrowed from a path to a pier. I ran across the pier of stone over the lake. I wheeled my arms in from for balance. Then the pier stopped. I just about fell into the water. Threw my arms forward and regained balance on the pier.

All around me was the poison water. The air was warm.

Behind me the gremlins crept on the walk way. Not one of them swam in the water. The one at the front stopped just out of my swords reach. “You can either give up now, or wait till sleep takes you. Why prolong your suffering?”

They wouldn’t risk the water and they knew I could hold them off one by one.

I stabbed at him. He lost his balance and plunged into the water. The others panicked and retreated. They stopped once they reached a thicker part of the pier, four abreast. I was trapped. Poison water on one side, gremlins the other. I went back to the end of the pier. None of the gremlins followed me back–they could wait. When I fell asleep, they would cut my throat and then down their throats.

Perhaps I could fight through the gremlins. With my sword, and a little luck, I could cut through them. 

Over the water, lay the shore. It’s image wavered in the fog. I could swim for it.

He will swim for shore. Part II to be released soon…

Book review and Short Story of Ready Player One

I finished that drivel called Ready Player One.

Here is my full Goodreads review.

I hate it so much I wrote a parody short story.

One Player Ready

A parody short story of Ernest Cline’s novel, Ready Player One, by Edward Evjen

Everyone my age remembers something about the ‘90s. How fortunate. Because that knowledge has just now become extremely valuable.

[How so? A little narrative trick. Your disbelief is still set. Let me give you a set up that’ll stick.]

I’ve heard of William, of course. A man of ambition. Made a gameshow on television. Everyone, and I mean everyone, watched because the world was a scary place.  This made William rich beyond belief. He died and left his whole estate—billions of smackers—to anyone that could win his new gameshow. The gameshow was announced on the day of his death. It had three parts. Seasons as we called them. In five years, no one had won the first season.

In order to win the money, one had to know everything about the ‘90s. The game show asked about cartoons and music and video games and all that jazz.

When the gameshow contest was first announced, everyone tried to win. Even my mother and father who I was practically estranged from tried to sell their childhood to get the money. Now five years later only the most dedicated button-pushers still logged in and tried. So, named because we pressed a large red button to ring the buzzer. The first person to press the button, got to answer the gameshow question. If you pressed a button out of turn, you would be banned from the game for life. Eventually, button-pushers was truncated to Butts.

The scariest man in this scary world was the mean CEO of WOW incorporated. He would kill you if you used the wrong cable provider. He was trying to win the contest too and hired thousands of wonks to get past the first season. But he was no Butt. Only real people could be a Butt. Not a hired nostalgia-grubbing square. We called all the WOW game-show contestants Wangs. Because they were dicks.

This is how I and my friends became rich.


[You might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned a single ‘90s property yet. For efficiencies sake they are collected into long lists. Be sure to read the lists. This is essential to enjoy the short story. No cheating.]

My name is Charlie. But shhh, I prefer to use my online name. Which was Popular. The name, literally, was Popular. [Here I exercise thematic naming. A lesser story would try to ape a by-gone culture of chivalry. Which would then not match the plot. Using my big brain, I have chosen a name that represents the short story’s theme. Money was the second choice.]

I snuck away from home and got to my hideout. By email, I chatted with my friend. His name was Eff.

 He was a strong white man who was cool. Unlike me, I was uncool. He had money. I did not.

“Eff, How much do you know about the ‘90s?” I asked.

“Everything, Pee,” Eff shortened my online name to Pee. Eff and Pee, the greatest Wang destroying Butts around.

We then quoted a whole Wikipedia article with personal jabs to trick the reader into being entertained. And another, and another.

“Eff, How much of a good person are you?” I asked.

“Very good. I will give the money I win to the poor. This declaration will be the only way you know I’m a good person. Otherwise, I never act in a charitable manner. Are you a good person?”

“Ummm.” I said, “Nah.”

[At this point in the short story, the reader is encouraged to go to the Popular Culture section of the Wikipedia’s article on the 1990s. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1990s#Popular_culture&gt; Click on any blue hyperlink and read line by line alternating between Eff’s voice and then Charlie’s voice.]

[After you are done that, go to a property that has now fallen out of favor. For example, the article on the Phantom Menace. Read it line by line, again, alternating voices. One difference this time. Have Charlie like the property. Meanwhile, Eff should rip it to shreds. This is easy, have Eff say, “How can you like this shit?” every three lines, to which Charlie replies, “That’s not fair!”]

[Clever readers will be writing this all down and will have a blockbuster novel half written when done. I expect a quarter of the royalties.]

[Do not. Under any circumstance read any other article about the ‘90s. It is vital to this short story’s narrative that you only have a positive feeling about the ‘90s.]

Once I finished emailing with Eff, I got ready to join the daily gameshow hosted each night at 6:00PM. Eff and I never traded ‘90s secrets or theories about William. Which was understandable. Eff had a vague plan for the vague poor he had likely only read about on the news. Me, I was going to buy a private island. As long as WOW’s wangs didn’t win though, we’d both be happy.

I logged into the gameshow. My modem screeched and whined. If only I wasn’t so poor!

The first question, “What is the name of the first episode of the Cosby show?”

I pressed my button as fast as I could. But some Wang beat me too it. Calamity!

The Wang said, “Theo’s Economic Lesson.”

That was correct. But everyone knew that. Wangs were posers. Each had a team whispering the answers into their ear. I however had watched all eight seasons 4000 times. I had also watched Roseanne, Coach, Empty Nest, Mr. Belvedere, 227, Cheers, Growing Pains, Night Court, The Hogan Family, A different World, Amen, ALF, Perfect Stragers, Family Matters, Charles in Charge, Saved by the Bell, My Two Dads, Newhart, Dear John, Designing Women, The Golden Girls, Who’s the Boss?, Head of the Class, and of course, how dare I not mention, Seinfeld.

And I watched Frasier, a spin-off from an older show named Cheers. You can tell I watched it because I mentioned a little cool fact about it.

I also watched Friends, That ’70s Show, Ellen, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Full House, Nurses, Murphy Brown, The Wonder Years, Living Single, Step by Step, NewsRadio, Blossom, The King of Queens, Major Dad, Fired Up, Jesse, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, For Your Love, The Steve Harvey Show, The Larry Sanders Show, Sex and the City, Arliss, Dream On, Grace Under Fire, Mad About You, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Naked Truth, The Jeff Foxworthy Show, The Jamie Foxx Show, Smart Guy, The Wayans Bros., Malcolm & Eddie, Clueless, Moesha, The Parent ‘Hood, Unhappily Ever After, Roc, Martin, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, In Living Color, Sister, Sister, Boy Meets World, Ned and Stacey, Becker, Veronica’s Closet, Two Guys and a Girl, The Drew Carey Show, Wings, The John Larroquette Show, Caroline in the City, Sports Night, Home Improvement, Will & Grace, Married… with Children, Evening Shade, Cosby, Spin City, The Nanny, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Suddenly Susan, Cybill, Just Shoot Me!, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Dharma and Greg.

[Please, for the love of all that is holy, recognize a television show you adore. I beg you. The joy from reading a beloved name is the only emotional moment you get. I desperately need you to like the off-hand mention to something you love. Please. I beg you. This trick makes you believe my short story is good by hijacking your nostalgia. Don’t leave me hanging.]

“Correct!” The game host said. And proceeded to ask questions about thirteen other TV shows. [See above.]

Why only TV shows? There must be a pattern here. I scratched my head and pondered. Me, and millions of true Butts the world over have been trying to solve this mystery for five years. Not to mention the effort of all the Wangs. I pondered and wondered and pondered and wondered.

And then. In a flash of inspiration. I got it.

I pressed my button, and immediately regretted it.

The Host stopped mid question and asked, “You can only press the button to answer a question. I hope you have a good reason for this.”

I sweated bullets. I knew I should have waited for tomorrow to try my theory.

If I got kicked out of the gameshow I would be permanently banned. In front of my computer. I chewed my fingernails. My lips smacked drily. Hopefully my poor-ass mic didn’t pick it up.

They were waiting.

I had to give it a try. I said, “The answer Theo’s Economic Lesson is wrong. The correct answer is Pilot.”

At that moment, the buzzers started blazing. Confetti shot around my gameshow avatar. A famous ‘90s song started playing. [Editor note, do research on ‘90s music, add relevant song here.]

“You got it!” The Gameshow Host said, and immediately started doing Will Smith’s Jiggy dance.

The screen shut off. I opened a window to the scoreboard and saw my name at the top. Popular is Popular was all the rage in the news. Only two more seasons to go now. What were the chances I could solve it though? It took five years to see the hidden patterns in season one. In season one, the questions were all about the first episode of a TV show. And I had cracked it. Would it take another five years to solve the second season?

Interest in the game show grew to an all time high now I had won.

But the good times got cancelled.

Boom! An explosion. I looked outside and saw my home in flames.

Everyone I knew in real life was dead.

Eh…

WOW had tried to kill me. Those dicks.

Now, whenever I used the internet, I used incognito mode.


Grr. I’m so angry all the time. People lied to me my whole life and now I am going to tell you all about it. I never talk to women so I masturbate all the time but I’m not a creep either so don’t get that into your mind. No one would ever get anything accomplished without masturbation. I read that on an online forum once and I have never read truer words. Beating meat is the closest I feel to joy. Pulling spunk, choking the dragon, you name it I do it. Women too, you bet your ass any nerd woman who ever got anything accomplished fingered herself all the time. God, I wish I could write a short story about porn. Then I wouldn’t have to have this Wikipedia article open all the time. That’s right, I curse using the name of God. I hate religion. It’s all a bunch of nonsense. Like unicorns and the Easter bunny God, Jesus, all of them are so fake. I hate you mom and dad for taking me to church when I was young. Grr. And the world is going to shit. Because we are so capitalist we hurt the environment, and the poor, and… everything. We are hurting everything. Because everyone wants money so bad. What’s so good about money? Grr. I’d never write a character who is obsessed with getting rich. Voting in politics is useless. It’s always someone I don’t like. And I hate my edittor so much. She is some porriage brained corpertist who doesn’t understand art. This my life! How dare anyone someone edit my life!!!!!

[Leaked Email conversation with Editor.]

[2020-12-08 15:36:56

Dear Edward Evjen,

Remove that entire section in the middle about you being angry all the time. It adds nothing to the story. If you want to write a philosophical treatise in a book, it should at least mirror the characters journey. But even then, I would recommend you cut the whole section. Why? The part of Atlas Shrugged that everyone skips is the philosophical treatise. And she had the soundness of mind to

  1. Research and reflect.
  2. Mirror it to the novel’s themes.

If do you do not remove this section, or if you ever send me a garbage rant again. I shall quit being your editor.]

[2020-12-09 13:42:42

Fuck you! Seriously fuck you! This is my life story how dare you edit my life story! You’re not my mom, my boss, or god. Even if I believed in god! Haha! Take that! How dare you mention Ayn Rand. I read on a blog post once she was a capitalist. So, grr. I hate her too now. Why should I ever research and reflect! I feel strongly I am on the side of reason and intellect and science. So fuck off and go editor some other fucking writers work. I’m so angry.]


See how smart I, Charlie Owen Cringle, am? I am not like other people.

Eff and I met some Chinese people. They didn’t like us at first but now they do. [Redacted Chinese stereotypes: 1 page]

After winning the first season, everyone figured out the trick. Because they were literally there, in the room—watching me. Negating the whole reason to have three different stages. All you had to do was wait for the third stage and then try to win. As such, most everyone waited Season Two out. Let some idiot waste his time to solve the second season.

And I’m not like most everyone.

The second season was all music themed. We had questions about [Editor’s note, the list of bands and musicians is publicly available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1990s#Music&gt;. Read that Wikipedia entry until you find a band you like. Once flush with recognition, switch back to this short story and pretend Edward’s story created that emotion.]

Of course, I’m cool. I knew every song. But no matter how many questions I answered, I was still getting nowhere. Fortunately, I was the only person logged into the gameshow. No one could beat me to the buzzer.

The whole contest was nerve racking. William was a clever man who knew so much about popular culture. And he got rich. Because anyone who could read so much and watch so much would have loads of free time to both work 9 to 5 and become a multi-billionaire on the side.

And I wanted to be a billionaire. All I needed was ‘90s references.

Go!

[Redacted ‘90s musical reference.]

I memorized all the lyrics and I recited them.

[Redacted ‘90s musical reference.]

I memorized all the lyrics and I recited them.

[Redacted ‘90s musical reference.]

I memorized all the lyrics and I recited them.

No matter how many questions I answer, I just wasn’t understanding the trick. I got up from my computer to piss. Maybe Eff would have a clue.

I emailed, “Hey, Eff.”

“Hey, Pee.”

“Any ideas on how to beat the music questions.”

“Think, Pee, what do you have… that soulless boomers don’t?”

And then I got it. Wangs would only know the lyrics, but they wouldn’t know the tune!

I slammed the button. Risking again being perma-banned.

“This better be important.” The host said.

And I started to sing Heart’s All Gone Interlude, by the popular 90’s band Blink 182 from the Album Neighborhoods. I sung it perfectly.

I won! Again, buzzers. Again, Confetti. The host danced The Carlton and I won the second challenge.


Oh no! All the Wangs clogged up the third game show. No empty seats were available. No Butt was able to log on. What ever could the Butts do?

And I got captured by WOW. I was taken to their secret lair. All hope was lost…

…Except it ain’t. I was smart. This was going according to my plan. I revealed my location and got myself captured. Once inside I cut the fiber optics cables and ran away. Right as I left, someone said, “who are you?” By then it was too late.

[Give me a break. I can’t write a spy scene with suspense. It’s not as easy as making a Wang catch on to the Spy early in the scene. Then the audience could read the ever-changing tides of conflict. Watching Charlie avoid suspicion and narrowly avoid capture. Oh wait? It is that easy?]

I was now a fugitive.

Some old white guy emailed me. He wasn’t in the story till now. He, and you’ve got to believe me here, gave me a free plane ride to a private island. Eff and our Chinese friends came too. First time flying. But I’m too cool and angry to look at the ground drop away majestically.

The plane landed on a private island. The mysterious benefactor liked me and now I wasn’t poor anymore. Now I had no reason to continue the contest. But, 1) I hated Wangs, and 2) one sugar daddy ain’t enough. I wanted to be the sugar daddy.

On the tarmac, I met Eff for the first time in person. She—not a boy?!—was an overweight African American woman with a birthmark. A white blotch covered the right side of her face. In the Hollywood ugly sort of way. And when I say overweight, I also mean in the Hollywood overweight sort of way.

“Hi, I’m Charlie Owen Cringle.”

Eff said, “Hi, I’m Franny Obvious Pandering.”

“You’re beautiful. Wanna have sex?” I was so horny all the time and this was the first woman I had made eye contact with. One doesn’t watch the Cosby Show 4000 times and talk to anyone in the same lifetime.

Franny said, “I’m a lesbian. I was kicked out by my mother. She told me to be a white man online so I could fight the system. Turns out she didn’t like lesbians.”

“Understandable. Have a good day.” I said, “Now that I know you are an overweight African American Woman with a birthmark, shall we explore these complicated intersectional aspects in the last fifth of the short story? Or should we continue on my power fantasy.”

[My research only got as far as learning this: Non-Traditional Beautiful Overweight African American Lesbian Woman were an intersectional minority. Everything got complicated after that. Who has time for all that reading? I’d rather watch the Cosby show for research. So, I wrote what interested me.]

With the fiber optic cables cut, the Wangs logged off. Finally, the Butts could log on and be part of the gameshow. We were slamming buttons left and right but not getting closer to the key. Oh say what? Oh yes, the third season was all about movies, Titanic, Jurassic Park, Independence Day, The Lion King. Do any of these ring a bell?

Every question was something like, “Who created Mrs. Doubtfire?” Duh, Chris Columbus. Every true Butt knew that. Next question, “Who created Saving Private Ryan?” Duh, only an idiot wouldn’t know it was Steven Spielberg. “Who created the Matrix.” We were getting all the questions right. Only some uncultured idiot wouldn’t know the answers. If you do anything with your life other than consume entertainment you are a disgusting waste of flesh. May hell shallow

You

WHOLE!

What was the key? What was William’s last secret. I didn’t know.

But then I got it.

It wasn’t a question about the director. It is a myth to say the director created a film. Anyone who knows anything knows writers create stuff. Got that? Writers! Don’t you dare trash talk writers, okay? Or ignore us, okay? I hate being ignored. I make no money writing and I desperately need the recognition. [Redacted whining: 20 Pages.]

“Who created Toy Story?”

I slammed my buzzer halfway through the question. I could be banned if my answer was wrong.

Risking it all, I said, “John Lasseter.”

Buzzers. Confetti. Cotton Eye Joe dance.

I did it. I really won. I really did. That meanie from WOW and all his Wangs are so fucked. Now that I’m a billionaire, I’m going to have him assassinated!

The score board went black.

A pre-recorded message of William popped up.

“Hey, kid, good job at winning my gameshow. Surely after all the entertainment you’ve watched you are a kind, cultured person. Use your new money for good.”

What was this bat talking about? I watched all that stuff to get the references. Why would any of it change my life?

“Ummm,” I said, “Nah.”


Now you’ve read a short story of mine.
Some light, on the theme, I’ll shine.
A nostalgia parasite.
Kill it on site.
Trash that pandering novel by Cline.


The End

Damn, that felt good to write.

That’s all.