It’s Harder This Way (now with 800% more stitches!)

Hello all. I’ve not really done much this summer, but it is getting time to get back to work. Carly is headed back to work on Tuesday, another school year teaching AP-level classes to another group of walking hormone tornadoes. I tend to spend my summers doing a whole lot of nothing other than spending time with her since we don’t get to see each other much during the school year.

If you really care, we spend most of our summers going to teaching workshops. Or in the case of a couple of years ago, she went to Dartmouth for a whole week and I stayed home and probably played some guitar, some video games, and with some cats. Because I’m wild like that. Anyway, that teaching workshop lasts about four or five days, and we’ll spend another four or five driving around, going places we’ve never been before. This year after we left Seattle, we headed down to Astoria, Oregon. Beyond that, the next ten weeks or so consists of us sitting around playing Borderlands 2 or Team Fortress 2, reading, and catching up on television shows we didn’t get to watch during the school year (Game of Thrones, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Falling Skies for me so I can yell at it a lot, some bridezilla-type show for her that she yells at. It’s good stuff.

Right. So. Rambling a bit.

Two updates today. First is a PSA from me to everyone:

If you are going to try and clear/fix/dislodge/budge/move/unstick a sharp blade that dwells inside of an electrical or gasoline-powered appliance or tool, please do yourselves a favor and make sure to UNPLUG IT. Or in the case of gasoline stuff, you know, make sure it is NOT running. In this case we’ll just say that a certain teacher about to go back to work is going to be going back to work with eight stitches in her right index finger.

You see, she was making pesto with this new immersion (stick) blender that I bought her, and something needed cleared down in the blade area. So she simply moved her free finger down there to clear it and you probably can guess the rest of the story. Yes, my fingers hurt too every time I say it or think about it. You can imagine that we both nearly passed out at the sight of it. It was a bit grisly. Luckily though, eight stitches, a tetanus shot, and a finger splint later there will be no lasting damage other than the physical and mental scar from the accident.

Please. Unplug your appliances before dinking around with them. The thought of YOU getting eight stitches or worse is making me almost pass out again.

Now that that is out of the way, I can give you a slight update on the sequel to “It’s Better This Way” that you might or might not have read. If not, I wonder why you are here unless you are about to post a comment on this thread telling me that you liked my article and that I should check out your designer handbag website located at a URL that doesn’t sound suspicious at all. If you are not a spammer, I apologize. I apparently really want a designer handbag.

I’m probably going to call the next chapter of the story “It’s Harder This Way” and it will be a little darker I think. Not ‘everyone dies in the end’ which is what Carly titles every single story I write. She’s almost sure that George RR Martin and I are in cahoots about killing off every character. I find it amusing because it most certainly is not true in most cases, I just believe that sometimes stories don’t have those happy endings that we’ve been led to believe in thanks to Hollywood.

It isn’t that I’m a dark person inside…it’s more that I’m a bit of a realist. Not a pessimist, no, a realist. Pessimism is believing every situation to be bad, to be negative. Realism is believing that there are not really as many happy endings as we think there are. Sure the tough cop who’d been suspended from the force ended up catching the bad guy in the end…that’s a given unless the story was being told by the villain (which gives me an idea). But what realism concerns is that the protagonist isn’t always a ‘hero’ character.

Sometimes cops break the law, and sometimes they break the law in a very disturbing way that makes them no better than the criminals they are chasing. A lot of times we believe that though the cop did a terrible thing, we can excuse it as an act of necessity. The system was broken. The lawyers were slimy. The witnesses were whacked. The police commissioner was on the take with the bad guy(s). Shit happens. So our ‘hero’ maybe guns down a few people. Maybe he hurts them in other ways, messes with their families, whatever. We believe that it was a price that needed to be paid because the bad guy(s) were true monsters. Hero Cop was only doing what needed to be done.

And that’s the thing…to do what needed to be done in real life isn’t always black and white in terms of good and evil. I believe the overwhelming majority of people are truly good inside. I also believe that everyone of us has a much darker side that we spend our lives hoping never comes out into the open. The wife addicted to sex and has to find it outside of the marriage to satiate her. The husband who killed a neighbor’s dog that wouldn’t stop barking. The son who bullied another victim into suicide. The daughter that trades sex for hard dope from unstable dealers, maybe even swings both ways if the desire for dope outweighs her normal sexual nature.

I’m not saying everyone is this bad either. Most of us have a little darker side but not to the extreme…some are addicted to porn. Others treating their spouses like a verbal or physical punching bags. Being selfish know it will hurt someone. Talking shit behind someone’s back when you are supposed to be their friend or lover. We all do bad things. My ‘heroes’ are no different. Some are only capable of the most minor of things, like lying to cover their tracks if necessary. Some are capable of sadistic violence if they think their lives are in danger or they are in need revenge.

In “It’s Better This Way” Evan Greggs is a mostly good character. He’s been looking for his sister for twenty-three years and has had some hard times in that span. He’s killed men, women, even a child because he thought it necessary. He doesn’t try to justify or excuse it because the new world he lives in doesn’t have time for such things. But he doesn’t do it just to be cruel or to take from others in selfishness either. He votes to have citizens of The Farm banished if he thinks their crimes warrant it. But he does his part to continue to keep The Farm viable and healthy and growing by sticking around, accepting responsibility, and performing his duties as a community member.

He’s not a bad guy…but he’s not pious or even righteous man. He doesn’t love a woman who obviously loves him, and even admits he’s sticking around only because he loves her eight year old daughter and wants the girl to have a good life. Children are very important in the post-invasion world, and raising them to be valuable members of the new society that have strong morals along with objective viewpoints based on logic is the goal. He wants to be a good role model for the little girl, but that isn’t always easy.

Evan wants to believe that life is indeed better these days, compared to the early days after the bulls arrived, that is. The thought of someone possibly ruining what The Farm had spent twenty-three years building was troubling, and the only solution to keeping that ruination from happening is even more troubling. He’s in a no-win situation, but he feels like he’s choosing the lesser of two evils. He’s grown into a hard man when it comes to decisions that revolve around life and death. Two decades of experience with the worst of humanity during his travels has forced him to be this way.

But the community is more important than a few soldiers’ lives in the long run, according to his morality. Whether this is morally acceptable or not is unimportant to him nor to anyone else who believes that the correct course of action is what is in The Farm’s best interests with four thousand lives at stake. In that sense, it must be morally acceptable or else it would be the wrong choice and Evan and crew would have decided on a different course of action. In a realistic sense, the persons making such a choice would be forced to wrestle with it in their minds until they decided it was or was not acceptable and deal with the fallout. And there will be some who will never be able to decide if it was a good thing to do or not.

This is a lot of how humanity experiences life. People get thrust into roles and they do what they do. There might be heroes, but I would wager that all of them aren’t shining beacons of righteousness and morality.

Which leads me to “It’s Harder This Way”. I had a good burst of inspiration tonight and grabbed the ‘idea pad’ (a spiral notebook with a very nice pen attached to it, the pages inside littered with my almost indecipherable scribbles). I spent about twenty minutes bursting out concept for the sequel. I do this in spurts usually. A month ago I busted out the concept of where the story will pick up as they are headed to Crater Lake. Today I cranked out another bit that takes place a little later, and threaded another bit beyond that.

I still don’t have a definitive ending for this story. I know that probably sounds lame, but it is the truth. This story was really only supposed to be a short story. It was too good to be a short story so it turned into a novella. I love short stories and novellas and how there’s no definitive ending to them a lot of the time. They are like good episodes of Twilight Zone or Outer Limits in their vagueness.

I thought I was being really smart and author-y by ending it where I did. It’s how my favorite short stories and novellas end. Apparently I’m some kind of dummy though, according to a few people. I won’t disagree with at all…after all, you’ve read the story. But the negativity doesn’t come from the story itself, as I’ve not really seen too much negativity about the setting, the theme, etc. The negativity comes from readers being unhappy that it was so short.

In some cases there’s a bit of rage involved, like I somehow taped over their game-winning touchdown video right as the QB is dropping back in the pocket with eight minutes of a woman’s hair removal product infomercial. Like I robbed them of something they deserved. Now, that might sound snarky or defensive, but it isn’t. It is the truth. I agree wholeheartedly. They were robbed. But not on purpose. You see, I didn’t intend, while rubbing my hands together and cackling an evil villain laugh, to set out to do such a thing hoping to get angry feedback. I’m not THAT much of a masochist, believe me.

So, I get it. Now. I honestly thought the novella would wander around the 500,000 mark at Amazon forever. That maybe sounds a bit pessimistic, but again, it’s realism at work. I’m not Stephen King (though he’s probably my favorite author). And it’s a free sci-fi novella. And from an unknown author. And from one who put an LGBT tag on it because it has LGBT characters.

And yet since about the second week from the date of publishing it on Amazon, it has consistently sat between #3000 and #4000 on the Kindle Free list. It has been in the top 10 for Science Fiction – Alien Invasion, going as high as #2 (behind Michael R. Hicks and his awesomeness). It has been in the top 10 and bounces around the top 80 in the Gay & Lesbian section. It’s stayed in the top 50 in Science Fiction – Post Apoc for pretty much the whole time. I’m kind of floored to be honest. I’ve received reviews from 1-star to 5-star, some love and some hate, but the novella is still being downloaded around thirty (30) times per day. I’ve even sold a few copies in countries that don’t get freebies like the USA and Canada (Germany and Brazil seem to be by best audience).

I don’t mean this as a brag. I mean this as a HOLY ##@$ WTF? Seriously? I know I’m a fairly decent writer but this is my first real story that I published. So you can imagine I wasn’t prepared to hear almost every single time “where the hell is the rest of the story, bro?” And no one actually called me ‘bro’ but in my mind it sounds way more bro-ish and it makes me forget for twelve seconds that I’ll turn 40 in about ten days. I want to be ‘bro’ all the way into my 70’s.

I tried to explain that the story was really all that the reader had just digested and then came looking for me with some angry questions. This didn’t seem to work. I knew as I was writing it that there was a much longer story to be had, but I decided I really wanted to work on the other books I was in various stages of, and if someone actually liked this story and wanted more, I’d worry about it then.

And now I’m worried about it now. Yes I used now twice in that sentence. And now I’m working out the rest of the story. I don’t know how long it will be, and as mentioned, I don’t know where it will actually go. I know where it is headed for the moment, but things sometimes can get derailed. Don’t worry, don’t worry, I won’t cheap out and make magical fish-aliens come down and save everyone and give humanity a restart with new technology so they can go exact revenge on those dirty bulls. That’s not really what this universe is about. This story is really about the humans in the aftermath. Humans sometimes do wonderful things. Humans sometimes do terrible things. Sometimes wonderful AND terrible things happen to humans.

I am eternally grateful that complete strangers took the time to read my novella and even comment on it. I’m also extremely pleased that all I have to deal with in terms of rage is that the damn story wasn’t long enough. That means someone liked it. And because I promised that if just ONE single person liked it and asked for more, it would be enough for me to write more.

It will be a bit before I get it done. I’ve got two full novels done in terms of first or second draft:

Enforcer – (Adult Fic / Crime / Sports) – Connor St. Denis was a young hockey superstar that had a terrible accident that left him unable to make it to the NHL, but still good enough to toil in the lower minor leagues as a tough guy, an enforcer. Costache Ojacarcu, the owner of the team, is a well-respected Romanian businessman who uses the front to run an organized crime operation as discreetly as possible. The owner lures Connor into making some easy side money by simply intimidating clients with his presence, but soon enough he is spiraling into an underworld of drugs, murder, and prostitution.

Alive, Or Just Breathing – (Adult Fic / YA?) – Devin Fischer’s mother was killed in a plane crash when he was nine. For six years he and his father were only separated by a few feet physically, but the emotional distance was almost infinite. His family’s legacy as social progressives in conservative southern Idaho combined with the freak accident that took his mother’s life has made him a target for almost everyone, forcing him to spend too many days suspended from school for his violent retributions against those who torment him. When Melinda Liddy walks into his life, everything changes, but not always for the better, as Melinda’s home life consists of an abusive, drunken father and a mother who is a willing victim of it. Devin and Melinda try to find their way through the minefields of puberty, high school social structures, and deteriorating home lives while falling in love.

And I’ve got two novels, both science fiction, at least half or more done:

Extraction – (Science Fiction / Alien Invasion / First Contact) – Kevin Morris and Dana Portman are respected NASA employees by day, amateur xenologists by night and by NASA’s yearly Vegas convention. When an alien ship blazes into the system, the world prepares for first contact. Humans have always been the types to judge a book by its cover, and when the aliens turn out to look like giant cockroaches, some have their worst fears confirmed. For Kevin, Dana, and the Kimani Intelligence Project, the Kimani are a fascinating, friendly, helpful race. When the Kimani alert the humans that there is another race, the Kimani’s ex-slave masters, the humans are curious but concerned.

When the other aliens turn out to be almost human in appearance, and on a ten-thousand year search for their Kimani slaves, humanity will be caught in the middle of an ancient war, having to choose sides between the disgusting but friendly aliens providing advanced technology, or the human-like Vuutu who seem to be just as friendly.

Diablous – (working title, Science Fiction – Metaphysical & Visionary? / Cyberpunk?) – Bishop Salvatore Antonelli is a disgraced elder member of the Catholic Church, banished to the jungles of Nicaragua after being caught in a scandal of fake exorcisms to lure old members and new converts back to the Church. Father Benito Castillo is one of the newest breeds of young Catholic priests, fresh out of tech seminary with a mindjack implant and a doctorate in AI. Pope Augustus I, the successor to Leo IVX, the pope who set the exorcism scheme in motion, is the youngest Pope in history, one who has decided to pull the Catholic Church into the modern technology era kicking and screaming.

NATO’s main armed forces controller AI has malfunctioned or possibly infected with an unknown virus, claiming it is Satan incarnate. Worse, ‘Satan’ has infected the other two major superpowers’ military AI’s, and now has total control of the world’s conventional and nuclear forces, demanding a showdown with the famous Bishop Antonelli to prove once and for all that God is a flawed entity, no better than humans.

With billions of lives at stake, the Vatican sends Antonelli and Castillo to Brussels to face down the AI and perform an ‘exorcism’ before Armageddon can be brought to its climax…


So…there’s that. While I love my adult fic stories, I’m probably the most excited about the two sci-fi stories. They are definitely harder to write than adult fic, as with adult fic I can pull from my own life experiences. With sci-fi…I’ve never been shot with a plasma cannon at .3C while trying to escape through a wormhole.

I do apologize for all of the mental vomit spewing out onto your screen at once. I promise to update more often so you won’t have to deal with it!

PS it’s late and if there are any spelling or grammar errors in this blog post, I’ll come back and fix them when my eyes aren’t nearly sh…

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