Monday, November 3, 2014

Catharsis or just confession? I'm not sure.

With my apologies for, in my own mind at least, letting everyone down again, I want to share a little of my life lately.

For starters, I am now single.  My girlfriend of approximately four years (discounting the three months she was seeing someone else before agreeing to a serious relationship with me) dumped me last Sunday.  Via text message.  I won't go into detail beyond that little gem, nor will I expound on her cheating on me on Valentine's Day with the guy she'd been seeing.

So, as you can imagine, my life's been a mess for, if I want to be honest, a year now. With that in mind it's a small miracle that I got Reagent Protocol finished and published this year.  Now, that particular book hasn't been well-received, and I have some ideas on that, even though I still think the story and characters are in some ways superior to previous works.  One of these ideas, simply put, is a lack of feedback while I was writing it.

Not so simply put, I have a method for writing that probably is a little less self-reliant than it should be.  When I struggle with a sentence, or if I wonder about a passage, I like to ask people to read the parts in question and give me some feedback.  Frequently, the simple act of posting the questionable content in a chat window, e-mail, or what-have-you, gives me insight.  This insight usually leads to small changes, but the feedback I get from the friend(s) I shared with is frequently invaluable to me.

The fact that I don't have a professional editor to help me is also a reason why I find this particular exchange so useful and valuable.

I won't lie and say that the feeling I get when my friends ask me for more of the story to read (especially when it's unsolicited) is unwelcome.  It's very encouraging, actually.

I've had none of that for a very long time.

The net result is that I wrote the last half (or more, I can't remember) Shawn Doolish part of Reagent Protocol without any appreciable amount of feedback and an unbelievable amount of personal stress from an unhappy relationship.  Actually, I wrote the whole think with no real feedback.  The reasons for this are several-fold.  Many of my friends are no longer in my life in any way.  Most of those have moved on, or at least moved away from the only ways I had to contact them.  Of those remaining, none of them have the free time they used to, so I can't ask them to do more than peek at a line or two once in a great while.

Some of you would ask, why not ask the girlfriend for her help?  Well, um, that's a good question, actually.  It warrants a good answer.  I'll give one, just not quite yet.

During the last two years I haven't been exceptionally productive, writing-wise.  Actually, that's incorrect.  Since I published Subject 12, I haven't been very productive.  I wrote The Grand Granger and Reagent Protocol in these intervening years, but neither is especially long, nor particularly successful.  Oh well, as teenagers say all the time.  But I haven't been very productive, it's really that simple.

So, why?  I've been distracted, depressed, busy, and in a relationship that appears to have been far more one-sided than I'd ever thought.  My girlfriend was rarely supportive of my writing.  Or of me, for that matter.  When the chips were down and I really, truly needed support because my world was collapsing around me and it wasn't entirely internal, she was there for me.  That's something that I respect her for, but as for the rest of the relationship it just didn't work.  I threw everything I could into it; I changed behaviors and goals, spent money I couldn't afford to spend and barely had, sacrificed friends and damaged relationships with other people I cared about, drove an hour to visit her two and three times a week, and found myself including her in every decision I made whenever she was around (other than the food I ordered at restaurants), all just to be with and try to make happy a woman who felt that she was making me miserable.  At least, that's the story she tells.  To be honest, I believe she was unhappy with herself and her medical problems, and her refusal to compromise on virtually anything drove me batty.  I wont go into more details, but I will say that her cheating on me wasn't the worst thing that happened, even if it felt like it at the time.  The things she's accused me of indicate such a negative opinion of me that I honestly don't know why she wanted me around at all, and to be honest with myself, it really hurts to think someone I care about thinks so badly of me.

It was, in short, a bad relationship.  It ate up my life, leaving me little else to subsist on. That little else did not include much writing; I did get some done on various projects, but not enough to say I did enough, and the quality has, no doubt, suffered from my distraction and stress.  We fought constantly.  Due to this relationship I've gained and lost over sixty pounds in the last year.  If that doesn't tell you what my life has been like, I don't know how better to explain it.

That's not to say it was all bad.  We did share some good laughs, some good times, and some good food.  If I hadn't been trying to show her that I was changing, I wouldn't now own a fedora that I wear a lot (though it's borderline amazing that I found a hat that fits me).  Yes, I said a fedora, not a damn trilby.  If you don't know the difference you should look it up, because pimps, hipsters, and neckbeards wear the trilby, Indiana Jones and Humphrey Bogart wore a fedora.

But I seem to be getting a little off-topic, don't I?  Sorry, I do tend to ramble.

At this point I should answer the question I asked earlier.  Why couldn't I ask my girlfriend to read what I wrote?  Because she didn't like it.  Any of it.  She says she enjoyed The Grand Granger, and I believe her, but there was nothing else she found entertaining, amusing, or at all interesting.  She constantly got after me about my writing -- that I was complaining about being blocked (I didn't do it that often, but, yes, I admit I said I was blocked and it was bothering me.), or that I needed a "real job".  She said I was waiting around for something good to happen, hinting that I needed to give up on my dream.  She'd moan about how she lost the manuscript for her book, a poem collection, and never let me forget that at some point I apparently compared her work (which I've never read, I want to add, because she never shared) to someone else's (which I never did, having never read hers) whose work I described as being in an archaic style.  Okay. So, I should give up on my dream because she lost her manuscript and gave up on hers. That was my takeaway.

Why would I get support for something important to me when she secretly hates that I'm trying to do what she couldn't bring herself to do?  So, no matter what, I couldn't ask her for the support I needed, and having lost (and driven away) friends that used to do it for me (and would make her jealous that they were doing something she patently refused to do), I had nobody to do it for me.

This situation hasn't improved, but I'm going to try and work around it.

As for how I'm doing, I have to answer with a simple, "I'm okay, thank you." and not expound too much.  I really am okay.  I'm a little depressed, I'm pretty lonely, and I have two nights that I have to work between ten and fourteen hours apiece without any real break.  It's decent money, but it's a couple of long nights, and this is the first year that I won't have any visitors to help break up the monotony.  On top of this, I've watched almost everything I care to on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.  Did I mention it's not a hard job?  Well, it's not.  My duties include staying awake, walking around, and making sure the drunks don't go through the area.  Actually, I'm responsible for making sure people don't come in and steal or break stuff.  But what it amounts to is keeping the drunks (Friday and Saturday night at a hotel with a bar, in a college town.  Need I say more?) out and telling people to come back in the morning.

Those nights, though, are going to be very difficult for me if my brain decides to take a trip down memory lane.  Or if it decides that it's time to go over every failed relationship I've had, and remind me of every mistake I made in the last one.  You know, typical post-breakup stuff we all go through.

Anyway, I apologize for spending so much time talking about something other than what I've been writing.  I just wanted you guys and gals to know why I haven't been talking much, doing much, or writing much.  I also guess I just wanted to show everyone that yes, I'm a human being too, with all that entails.

Thanks for reading and for your continued support!

Friday, September 12, 2014

I found this gem while digging through old compositions on my desktop. I really need to spend more time on my desktop.

I found this little gem on my desktop, which I don't spend nearly enough time on lately.  It's from at least ten years ago, but I still like it.  There's a whole story in here somewhere, but I don't know if I'll ever dig it out.

In any case, enjoy!  Posted as-found, corrected only for formatting.  I call it "Butcher Bullet" for reasons that will become obvious.

The young recruits sat in a row, their new uniforms chafing their still-soft, as yet unused to such harsh clothing but toughening fast, skin. The day was overcast but still hot; sweat was starting to half-moon under their arms. The dark cloth was unsuitable to such conditions as the recruits had experienced so far; the long sleeves were the only symbol of rank, earned by surviving their third week.
The instructor only had one arm, the other ending just above the elbow – the rest had been replaced with a cybernetic prosthesis that whined quietly as it moved. He strode around the scarred wooden table with a purpose, the quiet whines of the cybernetics almost drowned by the sounds of his mirror-bright boots hitting the wind-hardened earth. The crease in his trousers was sharp enough to shave with and one recruit snickered quietly at the thought of this two-meter-tall instructor staring into his shoes to shave with his pants.

“Recruit Thompson,” the DI said as he came to a stop in front of the assembly, “do you find something funny about today?”

“N-n-n-n-no, Sir!”

“Then, if I have your permission, I'd like to begin.” The air chilled slightly. Strangely, the recruits started to sweat even more.

“Yes, Sir!”

The DI placed two rifle magazines on the table and stepped forward.

“My name is Gunnery Sergeant Smith. Some of you may have seen me talking to Colonel Park so you know what weight I pull around here. You will shut up, you will listen and you will not repeat a word that I say to you today. I have you for an hour and a half and I do not intend to use half of that time. The rest of the time you will spend talking amongst yourselves like the plebes you are and you will, no doubt, discount everything I say to you. That would be a mistake, but it's what almost every single one of you little pukes has done for the past fifteen years so I don't expect anything different this time. What I'm about to tell you may save your life or may get you killed, it all depends on how good or how goddamn lucky you are. In case any of you doubt it, I have seen combat and I have lived through it. I have over two hundred CK's, that's Confirmed Kills for those of you still not up on military speak, as a sniper. They don't count the ones you get with an assault rifle in a general melee. I have been wounded sixteen times, earning a citation each time for bravery above and beyond the call of duty, been awarded two medals of honor, five bronze stars, three silver stars, and given the highest award for soldiers by six foreign governments. The last time I was wounded I lost my arm and my combat fitness rating, and have been pulling this REMF duty ever since. I have refused promotion more times then I can count or remember and turned down at least twelve cushy civvie jobs. Civvie jobs that all I'd need to do was smile and pose for photos at seventy times the pay I'm getting now. Why do I stay? Because maybe, just maybe, I can save one of your sorry butts a year. Some of you will be soldiers – the best job, finest title, and highest honor, a man can have. If I can keep one of you alive to come home to your mother or wife and kids, then I have been paid in some currency far more valuable than money.

“No doubt some of you are asking yourselves, 'I've never heard of this pompous windbag. If he's half as decorated as he's claiming to be I should have, right?' I have an answer for you; no, you shouldn't have. Every single medal they've pinned to me has been kept so hush-hush you couldn't even breathe where the people with the security clearance to know about it live. And if any of you have any bright ideas, you're the last group I have before I leave for another camp. As of eighteen hundred hours today, I'm a ghost.

“The more observant of you no doubt noticed that I put two things on this table here. The ones with a functioning brain probably figured out that these are thirty round magazines for the RAKS assault carbine, with which you are becoming familiar. What many of you do not and up till now have had no reason to know about is that there is a custom-made, semi-automatic-only variant of it called the RAKASHA. Whereas RAKS stands for, as your instructors no doubt beat into your heads till you can see it when you close your eyes, 'Rifle, Automatic, Kalashnikov, Short-barrel', the RAKASHA stands for 'Rifle, Automatic, Kalashnikov, Specialty, High Accuracy' and is so damn expensive a civvie could buy a family sedan for less. The object I have in my right hand is the magazine for the RAKS. You will note the how the translucent plastic allows you to count how many unfired rounds remain. This is a nice feature on the range but is damn near useless in a firefight because anyone who takes his eyes off the enemy long enough to count shells instead of shooting them usually earns a large hole that spurts blood. There is a reason you've heard the phrase 'when in doubt, empty the magazine' and I can assure it doesn't mean with your thumb.

“Recruit Thompson, would you please tell me how many rounds are left in this magazine?” He held the translucent green plastic rectangle over his head, accompanied by the whine of servomotors.

Thompson stood up, sweating and looking nervous. “I can't see from here, Sir.”

“Recruit Thompson, that's the smartest thing you've said today. This should illustrate my point perfectly. First, it's damn near impossible to see how many rounds are in the magazine in low light, so don't bother to look. Try to count your rounds as you fire, if you can and need to; it's more reliable. Thirty rounds mean ten trigger pulls, after that you'll just be making your rifle go click. Recruit Thompson, have you seen a RAKS yet?”


“About how much of the magazine was inside the rifle?”

“About half, Sir.”

“Thank you. You may sit down now. 'About half of the magazine.' That's twenty rounds, my dear recruits, that you can't see. That's my other point. Making the magazines translucent was, as I said, a fine idea for the range. In combat, if you take the time to look at your magazine without damn good cause, you'll be coming home in either a large box or several small ones. This is a fine magazine; very rugged and far cheaper to produce then an all-metal one, which was their alternative. However, it can be distracting, and distractions mean death for the men in a hot zone. This is now you my dear recruits.” He stabbed his cybernetic finger at them to punctuate his point and put the magazine back on the table. The servos whined as he pushed his wide-brimmed cap back to expose the faint scar on his forehead. “The RAKS is general issue and so is the ammo for it. Some instructors will tell you to load twenty-eight rounds into the mag to ease pressure on the magazine spring. This, in theory, causes easier feeding so it doesn't jam.” He paused, a twitch at the corner of his mouth the only giveaway to his emotional state. “Some instructors have not only not seen combat but haven't left this camp, other then to go to the cathouse in the village, in twenty years and the only med call they've seen is for VD. I'm not going to say these are the same instructors, but I will say that I have eaten more dirt then they've seen on a two day training maneuver and I always load thirty rounds. I have had one jam and that was because a cartridge blew up in the chamber. That's how I got this. There's a reason the RAKS is general issue – after I picked myself up and could see straight again I stumbled away with the rifle in tow. By the next day I had it unjammed and was back on the line.”

The recruits whispered amongst themselves at that point, hushed arguments over believing him or not.

“Some instructors here, probably the same ones who say not to load those last two rounds in the magazine, seem to think that the equipment our enemy uses is nothing but cheap junk. My arm came off to a single round from some of that 'cheap junk', fired from far enough away I was down and hadn't found my arm yet when I heard the report. That 'cheap junk' has mowed down more soldiers in my vision than I care to think about. That 'cheap junk' is being held by dedicated, well trained, men and women who seem to show up at the worst possible time and always seem to have more then enough ammunition. Their weapons are not as reliable or as powerful as ours on average, true, but power is a relative term. Does it really matter if the slug that just tore through your left lung was traveling at twice the speed of sound or only half that speed?

“Speaking of power, I wish for you to look at this next magazine. Please note, those of you that can see, the notch on the left hand side. This is the slider for the locking pin on the RAKASHA's bolt. The pin engages this notch and holds the magazine perfectly stable during the feeding cycle – the round fed into the chamber suffers no deformation or vibration from the loading, especially on follow-up shots. The action of the RAKASHA is a gas-tap, delayed buffer system that only unlocks the bolt and ejects the shell only after the fired round has left the barrel. The special magazine locking system I just explained is for added accuracy and, I assure you, works damn well. For this reason, the standard magazine will not function in the RAKASHA, which is fine because the standard magazine has been found deficient in both primary and followup shots at ranges over three hundred meters. However, since there is no locking pin on the bolt of the RAKS, a RAKASHA magazine will function perfectly fine in the other weapon. There is no improvement to accuracy, however, from such a substitution.”

He walked around the table and picked up the other magazine. He pushed the top cartridge from each, set them on their primer end, set the magazines behind the cartridge that came from them, then walked back.

“From a distance, these two cartridges appear to be identical. They are not. The one on my left, standard issue; full metal jacket, lead core, standard primer, non-expanding, explosive muzzle velocity. This is called the surgeon bullet, so called because early versions used to have an insufficient jacket and distinctly higher muzzle velocity – this caused them to explode inside a soft target, such as your body, making lots of hard work for the cutters. Now it's called that because it leaves a nice, clean hole all the way through. This is what you are issued, this is what you will use. This is the only ammunition you can legally possess in a war zone.” He picked up the other cartridge. “This one is not standard issue. As those of you in the front row can see, it has a hollow tip. This makes it a hollow-point bullet. This shifts the weight to the rear making it more accurate, but it also means that it does expand. It is, therefore, illegal in a war zone and carries a penalty of death to anyone caught with it. It is issued only to snipers, and only on soft-target, single-kill missions. I did not just say that, you did not see it, this bullet does not exist, it never did, it never will. I doubt any of you will see it after today, but if you do, remember this; load it last so it's fired first. We call this one the butcher bullet because anyone who's hit with it might as well go to the butcher because they're just so much wasted meat.”

He slipped the second cartridge into a pocket and buttoned it closed.

“Another weapon of note today is the Crow. The Crow is our standard-issue submachine gun. Actually, it's called the CAW, Close Assault Weapon, but since a crow goes 'caw' the name is pretty obvious to figure out. I, for one, felt like a fool asking someone to pass me one of the CAWs before de-assing an APC. The Crow fires our standard pistol cartridge at six hundred rounds per minute in single shot, three round bursts, and full auto, and thereby compares favorably to our enemy's five hundred and fifty with both single shot and full auto capabilities. Our pistol cartridge, however, is not as powerful as our enemy's standard submachine gun loading, nor as accurate, but it suffices.

“Only a fool keeps his weapon on full auto all the time. It's wasteful of ammo and it's hard on the weapon, particularly the silenced variants some of you may one day live to use. The Crow should be set, as a general rule, on three round burst mode unless special circumstances arise. These are suppression fire when you cannot see your enemy, extractions, executions and when employing a silencer device. Anyone who tries to fire their Crow on full auto with a silencer deserves to lose their fingers, like they will, when the gas pressure ruptures the cheap metal housing. This is something you should damn well remember because your regular instructors don't mention it for some reason. The Crow is a fine weapon to about half the range you'd use the RAKS. Beyond that and the bullet has lost enough velocity to be nearly worthless except to kick up some dirt, which, while it may make someone keep their hear down, isn't very useful. If you train with it you'll notice how much closer the targets are, though smaller, then the ones for the RAKS. Now you know why. The difficulty is the same, but it's all an illusion.

“The last two things I'm here to speak about, if any of you are actually listening, are the pistol and radio discipline. One is a poorly designed but cheap-to-manufacture device that might save your life, the other is a well designed, rugged, useful tool that will save you. Anyone wish to guess which is which?”

A tentative hand went up in the back row. Though the owner of the hand's face was obscured, the instructor addressed him by name. “Put your hand down, Recruit Brownfeather, you're wrong. The radio is not cheap to manufacture because the chemicals in the power cell are exotics. Before any of you start to think that I'm pulling your leg, I'm going to ask you all a question. How much do each of you make in a year serving here? Double that. That's what a combat radio costs. That's why there's only one per squad that you're all linked into via that headset you've all been grumbling about over chow. Your radioman is your lifeline; keep him alive or you're all worm food. As for radio discipline, I only have three things to say. One, keep your messages brief, to the point and as full of details as you can. That way there are fewer questions, less air time, less chance of getting traced and less lag before the air support or artillery hits. Two, never keep a channel open, especially if you're scouting. Send short, coded messages when you have to and shut up the rest of the time. Third, when the crap explodes, and it will, the first thing you do is hit the panic button before you return fire. I take that back. First you duck.

“The issue pistol has several major issues. First off, it's inconsistent when it comes to feeding. While this has been addressed by a stiffer magazine spring, the angle of the loading ramp remains the same. It doesn't like the truncated cone shape of the issue ammunition and will jam on average once every fifteen rounds because of it. Issue magazines are twelve rounds. Do the math. Another glaring problem with the pistol is the sights. Whatever genius decided to put a graduated ramp at the rear of a pistol's slide obviously never fired one in combat. It comes loose at the slightest provocation and blocks your view of the blade, making sighting impossible. Don't trust it. The power of the issue ammunition has already been addressed, but remember what I said when you have to use some. In the pistol it's even worse because of the shorter barrel, and the muzzle flash and blast are tremendous. Finally, we have to consider the fact that everything is made by the lowest bidder the government can find. Since the standard issue pistol is considered a secondary or even tertiary arm, the standards applied are about as loose as a bride's thighs on her honeymoon. Don't trust it. Use it if you have to, but don't trust it.

“I could lecture you for the next week for eight hours a day and still not give you half of what I learned the hard way. I could spend the next month running you through drills and giving you proper hands-on training with these weapons and their counterparts and you still wouldn't be ready for combat. Nothing we can do here will prepare you mentally for the blood and terror you're going to have to deal with without destroying you as human beings. The best we can do is train your bodies to react properly, your minds to make the right decisions and give you the most important pearls of wisdom we have found and hope to hell you adapt enough to come back alive and sane. The instructors here are full of crap, but they're well trained, and so will you be when you graduate. Common sense says that an individual's chances of survival in a battle are better if he runs away, yet, statistically, more people die during the 'mopping up' phase, after the line has broken. Therefore, mathematically, your chances of surviving as a whole are significantly higher if you stand and fight. Remember that when things get hot and you'll do well for yourself, your squad and your army.

“I wish you all the best of luck and I hope there's a single smart one among you who'll remember what I've said here. I hope I kept someone's mother from getting a folded flag to show the neighbors what she sacrificed. I am leaving now but you have just over an hour to wait here and relax before your next instructor arrives. Use that time well.”

He saluted them. Then, rather then wait for them to return the salute, he turned on his heel and marched off, the faint whine of servos disappearing when into the hot, still, summer air.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Research, Reagent Protocol, and The Future

Hello, everyone.  This is going to be a quickie, but I felt like I owed you all something to prove I was still alive.

First off, I want to touch on what I do for research.  I frequently do hours of research (though to be fair, it's done online and some of it comes from Wikipedia, so you can give me as much credit for accuracy as you wish) for small details, just to make sure they're right.  For example, the Sanskrit I used for Skorpion's gloves in Reagent Protocol and the mythology associated with the word I chose for poison took me over two hours.  That doesn't seem like much, when you consider the years some people spend researching certain subjects, but most of these people are doing research for entire books, or series, etc, not just a small aspect of one.  I could have picked almost anything, but I wanted something different, perhaps unique, to make the book stand out.  Besides, I do pride myself a little bit on accuracy, even if it is fictional.

Let me give you another, specific, example of the research I do.  When attempting to find some way for Shawn to forge the one ring (couldn't resist) he made in Reagent Protocol, I watched a demonstration of something called crucible steel.  When I say demonstration of it, I mean a demonstration of everything from the forging of a sword from the steel to the actual refining of the ore.  That's where I got the idea for the oven he melted the ore in, actually.  Okay, that's where I ripped the idea from.  I just added a little magical pizzazz to make it fit better.  If you have any interest in seeing this demonstration, I can highly recommend an episode of Nova where they make a Viking sword roughly a millennium ahead of its time.  For those of you with Amazon Prime video streaming, you can watch it through that service in high definition.  You'll want Nova Season 8, episode 11.  If you're anything like me, just watching the sword getting forged is very entertaining, but in the finest traditions of the Nova show, it's also very informative and moves along at an excellent pace.  If you're not a Prime subscriber but you are a Netflix subscriber, you can watch it there, too, if you'd like.  Just do a search for "Secrets of the Viking Sword" and it'll come up fine.  If you don't subscribe to either, you can watch on PBS's website for free (assuming you're a resident of the USA or have a proxy set up properly to view content).  I found it fascinating.

So, if you've ever wondered why I'm so specific about certain details in my writing, it's because I have reason to be.

Anyway, speaking of Reagent Protocol, I have plans to eventually add another short story to it.  After all, I've only showed what, arguably, are success stories for those seeking redemption.  Not every story has such a happy ending.

Moving on to the future (don't want to disappoint people by not coming through on that), my plans seem to fluctuate with whatever I can create at the time.  At the moment I'm working on a (hopefully much more successful and, outlined, much longer) followup to The Grand Granger.  I'm in very early stages of the rough draft, but we'll see where the tides take us.  That's not to say I'm not also pecking away at Guild Files: Rogue, but it's definitely taken a back seat.  Why?  Sociopaths are easy to create but hard to write.

Take from that what you will.

On that note I'm going to wrap things up.  Yes, I'm still alive.  Yes, I have reasons, and reasons aplenty, why I haven't been more talkative or creative lately.  No, I'm not going to share them.  They're personal and this isn't a blog about my personal life.

Thanks for reading and be sure to tell all your friends about how awesome at least some of my writing is!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Number Five, Still Alive!

Other than the clever-ish title, I don't have too much to say other than I'm still alive and I'm currently doing the early-stage work on a new Confederation universe story.  Everyone likes pirates, right?

And some more information about the Tal'Red will be revealed.  Maybe.  After all, a little mystery is a good thing, right?

Thanks for reading!

(Oh, and if you haven't checked out Reagent Protocol or Triggerbreak yet, now would be a good time.  If you have, thanks!  Also, please tell your friends!)

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Writer's Curse

I did laundry tonight.  For various reasons I'm not going to go into I'm not working on Rogue at the moment, but the urge to write is still strong.  How strong?

I wrote this tonight.  It's rough, but it's what I wrote.  This is what my brain does to me frequently.

The first thing I noticed about him was his hat.  I supposed this was intentional.  Everything else about his clothing was hard-wearing, worn, and possibly even a little shabby.  From his almost-olive-drab t-shirt, blue jeans that had holes in one leg, shoes that looked like they'd seen better months, unzipped jacket that looked tough enough to stand by itself when taken off, three-day stubble, and single ring gracing the middle finger of his right hand, I'd have been forced to say he was halfway to vagrancy.
But there was more.  His beard was growing out from a neat trim but was still well-maintained.  It was a fussy style, too.  His sideburns grew down his jawline, along his jaw, and into a goatee.  His neck, which looked like his razor needed replacing, was shaven – aside from the stubble.  His hair was long, but he'd pulled it back in a loose tail so it wasn't in the way, and just starting to gray a little at the temples.
His middle was thick, like he was used to eating big, or at least heavy, meals, but not so thick as to make someone think he was fat.  His legs were well-hidden by the jeans, but the thighs looked ever-so-slightly strained over the muscle moving when he walked.  Actually, when he paced.
He kept his hands in his pockets, but he hooked his thumbs into the belt loops just above them, like he was used to resting his hands on something hanging off his belt.  His eyes darted from door to door and looked out each window.  He never looked over his shoulder when he changed direction, but you could tell his awareness was keyed up.
He didn't pace like a caged animal as he waited for his clothing to finish getting mauled by the industrial washing machine.  No, he moved too slowly and deliberately for that.  His pace was measured and cautious, like he'd grown used to watching where every footfall went.  He never moved in one direction too long, either.  He didn't turn his head, he turned his whole body to check behind him.  And there was more.  Whenever he didn't have his hands in his pockets, his thumbs locked in his belt loops, he moved his arms in a curious way.  They swung like coiled springs, ready to loose their tension in less than a heartbeat on anyone incautious enough to come too closely.
I felt the corner of my mouth curl ever-so-slightly in a half-smile.
The hat, though.  His jacket was faded and starting to fray around the cuffs, his shirt had bleach spots from a hurried hand putting the cap back on the bottle, his jeans were torn in several places on his left thigh, and his shoes sported soles that were obviously more than half worn and the bodies were starting to deteriorate, but he had that damn hat.  Everything else he was wearing was obviously hard-used and designed to take it, but the hat was new and, aside from a few stray cat hairs, well-cared for.
It looked good on him, don't get me wrong.  It just stood out like a sore thumb, and nobody could say it was laundry day and that's why he was dressed down.  He was far too comfortable wearing the shabby clothes to be that image-conscious.
The hat was a fedora.  Not a damn trilby, a fedora.  There's a big difference, just so you know.  Anyway, it was black, with a smaller brim than I would have expected, but nothing too obvious.  It rode his head comfortably, and he was patently used to wearing it because he didn't hit it on anything he could have.
It just seemed, well, odd.
His right leg was minutely stiff and he had a barely-discernible limp from it, but nothing that would disqualify him from a ten-kay march.
No, the more I watched him the more I came to the conclusion that the deliberate movement was to conserve energy, that the thickening middle was from eating habits from long periods of privation and heavy exercise rather than laziness, his hat was a peacock tail, and that this man had spent some serious time first in the suck and then in the shit.  And, like so many other veterans, still spent part of his time there.  At least he did in his own head.
He didn't engage anyone.  The only time I caught his eye I could see a stare that went beyond the horizon.  I didn't try to hold it.  He wanted to be left alone and it was the least I could do for someone who still hadn't come home.  I left him alone to continue his solitary march through hell.

Well, there you have it.  By the way, if you're not following me over on Google + you're missing out on a few things.

If you want updates on Rogue or Reagent Protocol then follow me there or on Twitter, because I post there more than I do here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reagent Protocol and a Pricing Change

Reagent Protocol is live in the Kindle store and for sale at the very-reasonable price of $2.99 US.  For those of you not in the know, Reagent Protocol is the followup to the successful Subject 12, or Volume 2 in the Guild Files series (for those of you who keep track).  Sales are off to a modest start, so why don't we see if we can't boost those?

With the release of Reagent Protocol, I'm lowering the price of Subject 12 to $2.99 to match.  Sorry for the one person who bought it at $3.99 earlier in the month, but I'm keeping those extra few cents.  The price change should be reflected in the Amazon store shortly.

So, pick up a copy of Reagent Protocol for yourself.  It's DRM-free, for those of you who pay attention to such things.  Actually, why not buy a copy for your friends as well as one for yourself?

Thanks for reading and thank you for your continued support!

P.S.  I will get back to work on Rogue after I get some things in my life settled and myself back on a good track.  My physical health has to be a priority for a while.  I'll update people on what's going on if anyone's interested, otherwise I'll just go back to blogging about my books.

P.P.S.  Did I forget to mention Triggerbreak?  It's not a bad book, in my opinion, and it's a great way to support your favorite, starving author.

S. W. Douglas

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Reagent Protocol is LIVE

I don't know if you can buy it yet, but the link is live.  Have fun, boys and girls!  So, without further ado, a link.

And by the way, it's DRM-free, for those that care about that kind of thing.

Reagent Protocol Countdown

Reagent Protocol has been pushed to the Kindle store.  I'll post linkage as soon as I have one that works.

Thank you for your patience and support!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Guild Files: Reagent Protocol coming soon

Since I'm mobile I'll keep this as brief as possible. Reagent Protocol, the second book in the Guild Files universe, will be done in a few days. The cover is holding me up at the moment. While I'm sure many of you reading this wouldn't care what I used for a cover, it's still important for overall sales.

On another note, to all those who find this blog via Google, looking for my second Guild Files book, stop by and drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Triggerbreak is live!

Triggerbreak is live over on Amazon.  Go get yourself a copy if you feel it's worth it!  The page is still a little rough -- I'm working on it as best I can within the system.

Don't forget to read the preview if you want.  Make sure the book is something you want before you buy!  Thanks for reading and thanks for your support!


Hi, everybody!  (Hi, Doctor Nick!)

Since I'm sure at least one person reading this is interested, my personal life is still a shambles.  I'm doing the best I can and trying to continue getting my life back in order (a very long-term project), but my emotional state can only be described as "in turmoil".  It's impossible to keep this from affecting my professional life, but I'm doing what I can to minimize the impact.  While I'd like to go into detail, I won't.  It's not really important and it's personal.  I won't go dumping personal details on you because this isn't Facebook or Myspace.

Now, with that out of the way, down to business.  Several years ago I wrote a book about a PI.  I never named this character, nor did I even have a title for the book.  Sound familiar?  It should.  I already admitted that I suck at titles.

I wrote this book back in 2006 or so.  That was well before I started working on Subject 12.  As such, any resemblance between the two can be attributed to good ideas, bad ideas, or just plain cussedness on my part.

I needed a break from Reagent Protocol because of my emotional state and the association I was developing between the story and the problems going on in my life at the time.  So I took one in editing Triggerbreak (not the original title) for publication.  Why I did this after such a long lapse between when I last touched finger to key to edit the book is a question that has many answers.  I've touched on my money problems.  I've touched on my need to get my life in order.  I've already said I needed a break from what I'd been doing.  I've also always felt that the story, while a little rough, was worth publication.  I've even started work on a sequel to it, though I haven't worked on it in months if not over a year or more.  But it's definitely a secondary piece;  the Guild Files universe is where I'll be doing most of my work because the story I've been writing is far from over, and it won't end even after Rogue is finished, though much will be made clearer about Hammer and the, let's face it, strange title of Subject 12.

So, the question on everyone's lips at the moment has to be "What is Triggerbreak about?"  Well, it might not be, but work with me here.

Let me post the jacket blurb I already posted on Google+.  Which, for the record, you should be following me at because I really do post more there than here.  And Twitter.  Probably should be following me on all three, actually.

I hadn’t liked my brother-in-law from the moment I met him – I liked him even less when I found out how he spent his Saturday nights. I’d never even heard of Turk before he cracked one of my ribs and the local Mafia boss put him in his place for it. I’d never met Betty before the night I saved her life.

Tracer was the best fixer and information broker in the city. She was the go-to girl and everyone knew it, even if they couldn’t afford it. She was probably the best ally I had. Nick ran the Gentle Arms Hotel; he was the high priest of the only Holy Ground in this godforsaken town and my best friend. Jared was crazy, an ex-spook, and the most trustworthy man I knew.

When I got up that morning all I’d wanted to do was get drunk, smoke a few cigarettes, and forget about everything in my life that had gone wrong. Seems somebody had other plans, though. That’s why they left me in a pool of blood with a head wound that sent me to the hospital.

Now, with two psychopaths and a hired gun trying to kill me, the question is simple. Can my friends and I pull my fat out of the fire before someone does more than just cave in the back of my skull?

I finished editing the book the night before last.  I have a cover, I have it formatted, now all I have to do is file the copyright and publish it to Amazon.  Yes, this will be a Kindle exclusive unless I get requests to the contrary.  With luck you guys can get copies of it within the week, unless Amazon refuses it for some reason.  After I get all that done I'll be going back to Reagent Protocol and getting back to work on it.  As soon as the book is available for sale (and I'm aware of it), I'll post notice here, on G+, and on Twitter, so you'll know ASAP.

Also, and finally, has anyone ever looked at Patreon?  I know people have told me about Kickstarter, but Patreon sounds more like something I'd be able to work with.  Unfortunately, it also sounds like it's geared FAR more towards webcomic authors and recording artists than novelists.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your support!  I look forward to entertaining you all for quite some time to come!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Reagent Protocol

Good insert-time-of-day-here to all who see this.  Hopefully you're a human being rather than a bot of some kind, but just in case, 11001010 10011001 01010110 01010101 01010100 00111010 10010001 11101010.  I have no idea what that means, but it seemed good.

Back to the flesh and blood readers.  As I've been telling you, for the last few months I've been hacking away at the main story in my upcoming release, Guild Files Volume 2: Reagent Protocol.  While I haven't fielded any questions, I'm sure there are some, so I'm going to try and answer a few.

First off, is Reagent Protocol a sequel to Subject 12?  No.  I already answered this, but I'll go into a little more depth here.  While it's not a direct sequel (in fact, it takes place during the events of Subject 12), it sets up characters that make appearances in Rogue, and it expands the overall universe in ways that I plan on taking advantage of.

Second, is Reagent Protocol an anthology like I had discussed before?  Yes and no.  It will bundle Banshee, which you should be familiar with (if you're not, click that link), and the story I just finished the rough draft to, which is about Shawn Doolish, a 200 year-old shadow mage who has left the Villain's Confederation and joined the Heroes' Guild. Current word count on the Doolish story is over 67,000 words.  Banshee clocked in around 10,000 words, so we're looking at probably around 80-82.5K words total when I get some reader feedback and do my editing.  And no, I haven't done the Guild Intelligence file(s) for the main story yet.

Third, what does Reagent Protocol mean for the publication of Rogue?  Well, obviously I haven't worked too intensely on Rogue while I've been working on Reagent Protocol.  While I need to keep many irons in the fire so I don't get too burnt out on any one project, the lion's share of my attention does go to the project that I feel is of the highest priority, and that usually is the one that I feel the most inspiration for.  In this case, Rogue just didn't make the cut that often.  I'm still working on it, I swear, it's slow going.  I do, however, plan on making it my next Guild Files release.

Fourth, do I still have plans for an anthology of short stories set in the Guild Files universe?  Not as such, no, and certainly not immediately.  I do, however, plan on possibly tacking another short story or two into Reagent Protocol, provided they fit the criteria for a Reagent Protocol story.  I'll explain what I mean about that in the actual publication.

Fifth, is there any way you can read the rough draft and give me reader feedback?  To be honest, possibly.  I've had a couple of offers and, even if I haven't responded to them, I've heard them and remember them.  The issue at hand is twofold.  Of highest priority would be the fact that I need feedback both on the story as I've presented it.  Is it good enough? Are the characters believable?  Are they exciting?  Is the story plausible within the constraints of the universe?  Are there any gaping plot holes...  That's a lot to ask of anyone, especially someone I don't know, and that doesn't even cover the other part.  If you think you can handle all that and get back to me in a timely fashion (by Monday the 27th), I'll consider the first three people who contact me with a valid e-mail address.  Drop me a line on Google+, Twitter, or in the comments here.  Thanks!

Those were the only questions I could really think of, so I'll wrap it up here.  I'd planned for a character map of the main characters, but this is getting long already and will only get longer from here.

Now, on to why many of you might be interested in reading this blog post at all, the excerpt.  Keep in mind three things.  This is a rough draft.  That means what you see here may not bear any resemblance to the opening of the published story.  Secondly, this won't be the same excerpt as you'd get from Amazon when I get the book published.  That will, if memory serves, be substantially longer than what I'm posting here, and cover at least in part a different section of the story.  Third, I will not change this when I publish. Consider it a glimpse into the creative process if you so wish.  If it stays the same, then you'll know I did good.  If it changes dramatically, you'll be able to see the difference. Also, though this goes without saying to anyone who has read Subject 12, there's a content warning for language.  You have been warned.  So, with those things in mind, enjoy!

Reagent Protocol

The day was hot, as hot as Alaska ever got this far inland and north. The dust kicked up by the landing plane drifted away on the gentle breeze, the perfect touch to finish off the lovely day, but both Guild members were thirsty and a little irritated from both the long walk and the total lack of cloud cover. The air might not have been particularly warm compared to where Ergone had been born and raised, but the sun felt hot. She could feel it prickling her skin wherever it was exposed.

“This berk better be worth it,” she said to herself.

“Don’t fancy the walk back, love?”

Ergone shot him a dirty look. He smiled and raised his hands in submission. “It’s just the way I talk. I don’t mean anything by it.”

“Two years we’ve known each other and I’ve told you to knock it off what feels like every damn day, Skorp. Don’t make me chastise you in front of the newbie until we have a chance to feel him out, alright?”

“I’ll try. Can’t promise more than to do my best, now can I?”

Ergone stared at the plane as it taxied back from the other end of the landing strip. Something about it gave her an odd feeling. The noise from the twin engines was enough to drown out any casual conversation anyway.

“I hope he doesn’t expect anyone to carry his luggage,” Skorpion shouted over the engine roar. “He can hire one of the Narboski brothers to haul it back to the hall on his own damn time!”

She didn’t bother to reply. The wind had shifted and the smell of the engine exhaust hit her like a heavy pillow. Suddenly the air felt thick and hot and like the breeze had evaporated. Her vision focused on the tiny aircraft’s door as adrenaline pumped into her system, the sound of the engines coughing as they died ringing in her ears like twin gunshots. She felt like running away and she didn’t know why.

“Hey, Skorp? Do me a favor and don’t go anywhere.”

“I wasn’t planning on it. What’s up? One of your hunches?”

“Yeah. Be on guard but don’t do anything too obvious.”

“Right.” His stance shifted into one far more alert than the playfully-insolent one he’d been in a moment before. “If we have to dance I’ll wait for your lead.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” she said, watching the door pop open.

The pilot stepped out first, yawning and stretching as he normally did. He waved at the pair of supers watching him and cracked open the cargo compartment, levering one of the sides back and fishing inside for the luggage. Two black suitcases appeared and were placed gingerly on the packed soil. Only when they were on the ground did the sole passenger disembark.

Ergone gasped as a wave of discomfort washed over her.

The newcomer was of slender build with hair long enough to brush his shoulders, though it was graying at the temples. On his fingers were several rings with various stone settings glinting in the light. His clothing was black and resembled military-issue battle-dress, though the blouse wasn’t buttoned and his undershirt was a green so dark it would have appeared black except in contrast to the ebon fabric covering most of it. He squinted at the sun and waved his hand over his head. The area around him dimmed instantly and followed with him as he moved to pick up his luggage.

“Shadow mage,” Ergone breathed, her stomach slowly twisting into a knot. “Oh, fuck me, a shadow mage.”

Skorpion was about as magically-inclined as a chimpanzee with a twig and a termite mound, but even he shuddered at the sensation of Ergone drawing deep-earth energies to herself and slamming down a magic shield thick enough it actually warped the light traveling through its insubstantial form. She muttered half-heard phrases as she summoned the power of the stones and trees around them.

The newcomer straightened and, spying the two supers, waved cheerfully at them. He said something to the pilot and pulled an envelope from the breast pocket of his battle-dress blouse, handing it over with body language from both parties involved that indicated refusal wasn’t acceptable and that what was being given was a gift. When that was completed the stranger picked up his two bags and started walking toward the pair of supers waiting for him.

“On my mark,” Ergone growled through gritted teeth. “Take him from behind. Don’t give him a second to prepare or react...”

“Hi,” the man said, smiling brightly. “I’m... surprised there isn’t a car. No problem, though, right? After all, walking is good for the constitution.” He dropped the bags and extended his hand toward Skorpion. “You would be The Scorpion, correct?”

Giving Ergone a quick glance he relaxed his stance slightly and shook his head. “Just Skorpion, mate. With a K.”

“Ah, right. Right. I’ll remember that. And you,” he said, recognizing that his offered handshake wasn’t going accepted and turned to Ergone, “would be Ergone.” His smile faded slowly. “You’re a witch, aren’t you?  Well, they said there would be surprises.” If he noticed the shield – a certainty, she reminded herself – he gave no indication.

He bent over and opened one of the bags, rummaging around for ten seconds before saying “Aha!” and straightening. He didn't call attention to how tense Ergone had gone at the sudden movement. “My file.” A large crypto-pouch, sealed with an official Guild biometric lock, dangled from its carrying handle in his left hand. “It’s keyed to open only for you, madam.”

Ergone stared at the pouch for a second longer than even she was comfortable with. Then she looked up at the earnest face and affable smile, back to the pouch, and realized that she had to make a decision right then as to whether she was going to give up her only chance to defend herself if he was anything other than he appeared. She chose not to.

“This is going to be difficult, isn’t it?” The smile faded from his face. Sighing, he replaced the crypto-pouch in his bag and zipped it shut. Straightening again, he flashed Skorpion an embarrassed grin by way of apology and then nodded to himself before removing a ring from his right hand. He brought the stone to his lips and kissed it, causing Ergone to snap her hand back; energy crackled and hissing around the ring so strongly even Skorpion could see and hear it. Ignoring this reaction, he slipped the ring back on and brought his hands behind his head with exaggerated slowness in an attempt to keep Ergone from releasing the pent up magic in her hand.

His fingers worked for three and a half seconds before he got the catch released. A black chain appeared between trembling fingers and a small pendant emerged from under his shirt. He wrapped the chain around his right hand and brought the pendant up to his lips. He whispered “Behave” before extending his arm, slowly, toward Ergone. The smile reappeared but with a brittle edge.

“I didn’t take it from anyone or use anyone to make it, madam. It is entirely mine. It will behave for you as long as you are careful to handle it lightly and don’t tease it.”

Ergone’s mind went blank except for a phrase burned into her memory from sheer repetition. Every treatise, every scroll, every lesson she’s uncovered, heard, read, or translated had said, in one form or another, the same thing.

A shadow mage never surrenders the Beast he wears around his throat, for to do so the mage would surrenders whatever is left of a blackened soul.

“Maybe this will help make up your mind,” the mage said quietly but with a very resigned note to it. He flicked his fingers and the shield exploded, but all of the energy dissipated away from them instead of violently grounding itself in each of the people standing there. “I’m a level five.”

Ergone, gasping with shock, released the pent-up energy in her hand into the ground with a purple spark that was momentarily brighter than the sun. Skorpion, fed up with knowing he was missing about three quarters of what was actually going on, snapped. “Would someone please tell me what the fuck is going on here?”

“This gentleman has just proven to me that he is on the level,” Ergone breathed, her eyes locked on the small cage hanging from the black chain. Something inside its midnight-black interior moved. “Because if he wasn’t he could have killed both of us and there wouldn’t have been a thing we could have done.”

“Don’t say that. I had plenty of time on the walk over to feel out your shield and find its weak points. You’re actually very good.” Sincerity oozed out of every pore as his smile returned. “Go on, take it. It won’t bite if you don’t provoke it, I promise.”

The books had warned her against ever touching a shadow mage’s caged... Actually, they’d never gone into detail about what it was, simply that she should never touch it. Come to think of it, they’d never told her why she shouldn’t touch it, just that “badde thinges have happened to thofe unwary enough” to have done so.

The mage sighed. “Ma’am, I promise you, as long as you treat it with respect it won’t harm you. Regardless of what you may have heard, it’s really quite tame.”

“Oh, for the love of,” Skorpion said, his irritation finally getting the better of him. “If you won’t take it, I will!”

“Don’t!” Ergone and the mage shouted in unison as Skorpion reached for the necklace.

“Do not touch it,” the mage continued, pulling his hand away. “While it might behave for myself and for the lady here it would not hesitate to devour one who is not... aware of what it is they hold.”

“Bollocks this,” Skorpion replied, shaking his head. “I’m going to grab some bitters at the store. Come along if you like or stand here pulling your pud. Either way, sod this shit.”

They watched him walk away until he was out of earshot. “That could have gone better,” the mage hazard, glancing down at his necklace and the caged darkness that twisted within. “I’m sorry, I’m not used to dealing with people who don’t know the risks.”

“Skorp’s a good man in a pinch, but his patience can wear thin quickly. Wait until you meet Ookami. He’s a frigging werewolf, if you can believe that.” She coughed. “Not that I have anything against werewolves, of course.”

“So I was told. Look, I’m making a mess of this. Are you going to take this or not? I’d feel better if you did, honestly, because you know what I’m giving up. If the others don’t trust me it’s not a big deal. If you don’t trust me this whole situation will go down the toilet faster than an unwanted pregnancy on prom night.”


Well, folks, that's the excerpt.  I hope it whet your appetite for more!  As you can see, I have been working.  Is it of the same caliber as Subject 12?  I can't say for sure.  I just know I enjoyed the characters and I'm looking forward to sharing the rest with you when it's ready.

On a final note, I will say that I'm planning on having the cover for this book professionally done.  While I'm proud of the jobs I did on Subject 12 and The Grand Granger, I just don't have the mental or emotional resources to spare to dig around for an inexpensive stock photo to doctor up, and the last time I looked I couldn't find anything that fit my mental image of what I wanted anyway.  I found a place where I can get it done inexpensively and of high quality, so I'm planning on farming it out to save myself the hassle.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Google+ Anyone?

While I wish this was a post saying "Look over here, it's a new book!", that's a little further away.  The good news with that, however, is that I'm very nearly done with the rough draft and I have a few commitments to read the draft when I'm done so I get some feedback.

Stay tuned.

No, this post is me pointing to my Google+ account.  I'm trying to increase my direct interaction with my readers (that would be you), and Google+ seems like the most direct way I can.  I know some of you would suggest Facebook, but I have numerous problems with that.  Suffice it to say, Facebook is a non-issue, so we'll drop it now.

So, if you want to interact, you can head on over to G+ and drop me a line.  If you have a gmail address you have a G+ account, as far as I'm aware, so the cost for admission is pretty low.  I don't know much about G+, not being a Facebook user, but I'll try to keep things either on-topic or at least light.  I'm learning, and all this is pretty new to me, but I'm going to give it a shot.  I'm not giving up my blog or my twitter, so you'll still be able to reach me either place, but G+ might get updated a little more frequently.  I'm going to try.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Apologies, More Delays, and a Little News

First let me apologize.  I seem to do that a lot, but it's always sincere.  My current project was put aside due to relationship issues taking up all of my mental resources.  Those issues are appearing to improve, but as those have begun to clear others have come to light.

I won't go into too many details since this is supposed to be about my writing and not about my personal life, but when my personal life intrudes into my writing and I let you guys down I feel I have to explain.  As such, I'll give you the top two non-relationship issues I'm facing.

First, money.  I don't have a regular job or regular source of income other than book sales, and those have sunk like the Bismarck, leaving me with little in the way of resources.  Money worries, in short, are stressing me out.  This makes me want to write more, obviously, but just because I want to write doesn't mean things come out easier or faster.  To help remedy this situation I looked for some freelance writing jobs online and found that I was in so far over my head I couldn't see daylight.  The systems for doing the work were confusing, the escrow fees were incredibly high, and the bid averages for anything that I'd be comfortable doing were so low that I'd be essentially working for free, especially with the escrow fees.  I may revisit the idea in the near future, but what I saw was very disheartening.

Second, my place of residence is falling apart.  I'm not really exaggerating, either.  Half the electricity in the house is wired through the same breaker and simply flipping it on throws sparks in my face as it slams back off.  Every time it drops below zero (like it does every winter for days at a stretch up here) I lose water.  I've already had a pipe burst requiring the services of a plumber (more money gone) and spent days without power in the last couple of weeks.  I'm currently without hot water except at one faucet, and that sink needs the drain replaced because water doesn't just leak, it runs in a steady stream out the bottom.  While I'm moderately handy, I don't have the tools to perform the repair myself.

I have many other minor reasons that keep getting in the way, too.  It's hard to think about being creative when all you can think about is how you are losing a person you love, how you can't afford to pay for things you need to have done, and how every other minor thing in your life seems to be coming up at once.  My car's trunk stopped shutting and seems to pop open at the smallest bump.  Just what you need when you're in the middle of an ice storm, right?  I've lost almost 20lbs due to stress because I just couldn't eat, which I needed to do, but the reasons for it are very unhealthy.  I just caught a cold that triggered another sinus infection flareup and if it hadn't been for some penicillin I could inject myself with, I'd be having extreme difficulty breathing right now with another case of bronchitis if not outright pneumonia, and I'm 17 days away from being able to see my doctor.

I need to relax and I need to write.  I've managed a few thousand words lately that I'm actually happy with, so maybe I can have something ready for publication by the end of the month.  I'd like to do that, both for all of you and for myself, and I need the revenue stream boost, but I can't make any promises.  I've broken too many to you guys already.

Having said that, I will make a promise.  I will answer any questions you guys ask.  I'm actually hoping to hear pretty much anything from you guys, so I'm going to ask you guys for two things.  First, if you have any questions, ask.  The worst I can do is not answer you.  Second, spread the word.  Tell people about the book(s).  You know Subject 12 and/or The Grand Granger is/are good.  I'm sure you know some people who would enjoy reading about Hammer or Reg and Xii.  Encourage them to take a look.  You'd be doing me a huge favor, and I appreciate that.

And, I have some news about that inquiry I received back in 2012 regarding the movie rights to Subject 12,  From the looks of things, the woman who contacted me left ICM Partners shortly, if not immediately, after contacting me.  This not only means that I have a good reason for not hearing back, it also means I have no way to contact anyone within the company to possibly expand upon that inquiry.  I do feel somewhat better knowing why I never heard back, but I just want to put the word out there that I am interested in representation, a movie deal, whatever.  Just contact me with whatever you have to say and I'll get back to you ASAP.  Thank you.

So, thanks for reading and for all of your support over the years.  As I get this piece closer to publication I'll update you again!  Take care and here's to both a prosperous and happy new year to you and yours!