Monday, May 29, 2017

Defeated by Memorial's Day Weekend

Hello Lovelies,

I wanted to take a moment and acknowledge that I've been missing for the last couple of days. This was, unfortunately, self inflicted. I originally had content for the last couple of days in the form of a short story that was based on something less than fiction. The intent was to end with the final piece coming out today on Memorial's Day. However, at the last minute, I elected to remove the story and, due to the demands of the weekend, I had nothing to replace it with.

I sincerely apologize.

In short, the story was a piece that revolved around my older brother. I believe I've mentioned him before, but he served as an Army Ranger. The piece I was going to post revolved around a few very real instances for my brother and what he experienced in the name of the American people. However, I elected to remove it because it also ended how his story ended: in his death. I won't go into the finer details, but it was simply something I wrote that it was too tender to release, even a few years later.

With that said, I know that many Americans see this day as a day to barbecue and stay home from work, but I'd like to provide a reminder. Whether you believe in your government or not and whether you agree with what our leadership is doing or not, the boots on the ground are men and women who are willing to put forth their lives in honor of something greater. Remember them and remember everything that they do and remember those that have been lost both in and out of the field of battle.

To all of our Veterans, Thank you. You are remembered. And to any Americans who live beneath their cloak of protection and willingness to give their lives, may you honor them in your own way.

Thank you all, I promise we have more coming soon. I just kind of screwed up my own timestable the last few days.

- RB

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Lost - A Reexamination and What's to Come

Hello Lovelies,

First and foremost, I wanted to take a moment and say 'Thank you'. I'm glad that all of you enjoyed 'Lost' so much; particularly since it was experimental. In short, I had read something that got my brain buzzing: 'What language does a deaf person think in?' It got me thinking about what it would be like to remove one of these key elements in description; i.e. one of the character's senses. Since I could easily go either direction, deaf or blind, I felt that a blind character would be able to translate a more thrilling story for the little creature feature running around in my head.

Who knows, maybe I'll do a deaf one sometime. Need to think on that one.

However! All the same, I'm glad you guys enjoyed it. I know a few of you were requesting more and I'm debating on it. I feel it's likely that if I revisit Cecilia's world, it may be as a collection of short stories revolving around the 'creatures' and mankind's interaction with them. Yet, I'm still not sure. I was actually growing very close to Cecilia and Gordo both. Cecilia in particular was actually supposed to die at the end. My intent was to end with the same sound of her heart beat slowing down as it had sped up at the beginning of the story; specifically as she died in the vacuum of space where there is, ironically, no exterior sounds.

But I just couldn't do it.

I chewed on it and considered how to get there and I just didn't want to. As many of you pointed out, Cecilia had been desperately hurt and writing and reading her pain was actually kind of taxing on an emotional level. I wanted her safe and I wanted her to escape the 'creatures'.  I wanted her to get out of there.

Also, I love Gordo. He is fat and fun. But I'm just making excuses here.

I unno, maybe I'm a bit crazy, but I have a bad tendency of creating a situation and characters and just kind of going along for the ride. It's almost like I'm finding out the story as it comes out of my least for the good ones. Might need to get checked out for schizophrenia, but hey.

That aside, I may revisit it, but I'm not sure. The likelihood of hitting the overarching world is more likely than returning to Cecila herself, but I'll let you know. For now, I promised to return to 'Kappa in my Closet' and I feel like I owe it to all of us just because the story will be a bit more light hearted than the panic-fueled world of 'Lost'.

So, let me leave you with this question. 'Lost' was born from an experiment...a test of my own writing skills to see how well I could cover a blind character's interaction with the world without writing her as 'LOL! I can't see! 8D' My question to you is this:

Have you ever done any experimental pieces to 
stretch your writing capabilities?

As always, I'd love to hear from you, the readers. Have a wonderful day and I look forward to you joining us again soon.

- RB

Monday, May 22, 2017

Lost - Final Part

    The marines ran down the hall at full speed.
    Having exited the hive, their boots clunked heavily on the hard metal of the corridor and their armor rustled as they moved.
    While the rotten egg smells had gone, there was a now a bizarre scent of anti-septic cleaner that had been overwhelmed by the stench of blood and excrement. The results of the fighting. It covered more of the walls and floor than any of them cared to think about.
    Cecilia clung tightly to Gordo as they went.
    To her amazement, he never tired. He was like a statue of man and muscle and determination. Even with her in his arms, he never even seemed to slow and he always stayed in the center of the seven other marines.
    A precious package protected on all sides.
    "How long, corporal?" the woman yelled as they ran.
    "Two minutes, Sergeant Raynor!" another man shouted in return.
    A screeching roar echoed through the hall and the beast that it came from was almost instantly blown away; the echoing booms of five pulse rifles exploding all around her. She tried weakly to cover her ears, but they had barely recovered from their last onslaught and the jackhammer thuds made less difference than before.
    The monster made a single heavy thud followed shortly by an undignified squelch as one of the marines ran through its remains.
    "Right here!" the corporal shouted.
    They turned hard and barreled down the way at top speed. It was only then that Cecilia realized that the constant klaxon that she had expected to hear was now fading. It was replaced with something else.
    Human voices.
    There were screeches and roars and the occasional boom of a pulse rifle, but the echoing sounds of people quickly grew louder and louder. The sounds of congregation. Of panicked people talking quickly. Of babies crying and people shouting and the sounds of people hurriedly shuffling about.
    "Private! Report!" Raynor yelled.
    "Civvies are boarding now, Sarge."
    "The hell took so long? We're supposed to be leaving."
    "Took those techies longer than expected to put the hunk of junk back together. Was supposed to be decommissioned, ya know."
    "So I keep hearing." Raynor growled through her teeth. "There's a little medbay on the shuttle right?"
    "Five minutes more." another marine yelled.
    Raynor slapped Gordo's arm.
    "Alright, Gordo. Get her on the ship. Hawk. Follow them and give her a once over."
    "Sir." a female marine responded.
    "We'll hold the line while the rest of them get loaded. Be ready to drop what you're doing if we have another wave of these assholes make a break for it. I think they know what's coming."
    "Sir." Gordo said in confirmation before dropping his voice to a slightly more gentle tone. "Alright, little lady, let's get you some painkillers."
    Cecilia whimpered in response and felt tears begin again. This time it wasn't pain. It was joy. Raw and unmitigated, she felt entirely grateful for the huge man holding her and the men and women around her who promised to fight to the last breath to keep her safe.
    Gordo and Hawk made for the ship.
    She felt them shoving past people. More than a few of the other passengers barked and guffawed for a moment, but quickly silenced their complaints as Gordo and Hawk pushed their way through. They were all panicked, talking rapidly and easy to upset, but no way were they going to pick a fight with the marines. Certainly not marines carrying an injured civilian.
    Soon they were through the shuttle and Hawk was closing the door to the medbay while Gordo gently placed her on the table. The fear and chatter quickly dimmed as Hawk latched the door.
    "Easy, girl. We got you." he crooned reassuringly.
    "Thanks Gordo." Hawk said as she approached Cecilia.
    "No problem." he responded before softly taking Cecilia's hand in his own gargantuan paw.
    "Alright, honey." Hawk said in a quiet tone. "Talk to us."
    "Cec...cecilia..." Cecilia offered weakly.
    "That's good. Your name's Cecilia?"
    Cecilia nodded in response.
    "Alright Cecilia, my name is Private Juliana Hawk and the big guy who carried you here is Private Romero Gutierrez."
    "They call me Gordo." he offered with a soft chuckle and a hand squeeze.
    "Only cause you're so fat." Hawk said sarcastically.
    "Ha! My old CO tried to make me run once." Gordo snarked before leaning down close to Cecilia's ear. "Once."
    Cecilia giggled a little at the dumb joke and immediately doubled over in pain. Her voice escaped in a half scream but the two marines were there to hold her.
    "Easy sweetie. We got you. Relief's coming." Hawk said. "Don't move."
    She felt a prick in her arm and, at once, a wash of euphoria, numbness, and just a hint of nausea ran through her whole body. It spread from her arm to her stomach and up the back of her neck to her head just as her fingers began to tingle.
    Cecilia let out an audible moan as her entire body physically relaxed.
    "There ya go." Gordo said with a laugh. "That's the good shit, ain't it?"
    "Mmmyea." she moaned softly.
    "It's alright, you're safe." Hawk said reassuringly with a soft touch to her hand. "We're gonna do some tests. Scans and such to make sure you're not bleeding out on us inside. But first I need to know, did they do that to you?"
    "Do wha?" Cecilia asked drearily through the haze of drugs.
    "The aliens. Did they do that to your eyes?"
    "Eyes? What about my eyes?" she asked, reaching up tentatively tentatively to make sure they hadn't been plucked out.
    Hawk quickly took her hand.
    "They're still there. You're ok. I'm going to guess you were blind before all this happened?"
    "Blind?" Cecilia confirmed with a half of a nod. "Blind."
    She waved a hand in front of her eyes and made a rude noise with her lips before saying, "No lights on."
    Cecilia could hear both of the marines audibly sigh in relief.
    She let out another moan as a fresh wave of drugs bounced around inside her brain. Those same silvery gray eyes slid shut.
    She could hear Hawk talking and she could feel Gordo holding her hand, but it didn't register anymore. She felt the shudder of the ship as it roared to life and a soft lurch as the ship left its dock. It didn't matter though.
    The drugs were too powerful and she was too weak at this point. And, more importantly, she was safe.
    She was going to be ok.
    Cecilia slipped away into a deep, dreamless sleep.
    She was safe.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lost - Part 3

    Cecilia's fall was short lived. Sliding down the cold metal, she found herself ricocheting off the sides of the tunnel. Slamming this way and that, she tumbled downward for what felt like an eternity but only lasted for some twenty or thirty seconds; smashing against her broken ribs and almost assuredly breaking some more bones along the way as her already abused body was beaten about like a undignified pinball.
    She came to stop at the bottom after a short, vertical fall straight down onto something surprisingly soft and squishy.
    Not that she noticed.
    Curled in on herself, all she could do was wail. Her sobs heaving her entire body and only making the pain from the fall that much worse.
    Losing her hearing not ten minutes ago was stressful and a bit painful. This was all pain. Lots and lots of pain.
    Her ribs felt as though several knives had been jabbed into her torso and her hands mindlessly wandered to see if she actually had been stabbed by something. She wasn't. On top of that she found that she couldn't quite turn her head and her left arm didn't seem to be responding the way it was supposed to and didn't seem to be sitting in her shoulder correctly. Anything didn't feel directly broken or dislocated started to feel swollen and her joints began to feel locked.
    Cecilia thought this might be what it would be like to have been run through a blender.
    The room she was in smelt odd. It was like rotten eggs with a hint of fresh manure that had just started to age long enough that the scent wasn't as sharp or nauseating. The ground was warm and wet to the touch; with a little give but more elastic then anything else. Around her, there was the sound of movement; squishy, sloshy sounds that didn't sound human.
    "" she barely whispered.
    But no help came.
    There seemed to be a stirring of activity. Some movement far off.
    Too far, she thought. 
    And so, curled in on her self, her body weakly heaving from the abuse, as she passed out from the pain.

    Cecilia was awoken in a start by the sound of pulse rifles.
    In a second of panic, her hands snapped up to her ears to protect them from the roaring booms, but she had forgotten about her left arm. It barely responded and, instead, sent shooting pain up her spine that took her breath away from a moment.
    This, with the fear of the rifles and the sheer shock of everything else, was too much.
    She screamed. Loud, long, and hard.
    It was a horrible, desperate cry. Primal in its intensity and singular in its purpose. It begged anyone, any human that could hear it, anyone of the same species: please help me.
    Save me.
    The pulse rifles, still loud, seemed to ebb. As if someone had stopped firing.
    "Did you hear that?"
    "I think we've got a survivor!" Cecilia could barely hear a young woman shouting.
    Yes. YES! she thought, her mind begging her to find shelter. To find her own kind and escape this nightmare.
    She tried to push up off the ground. Tried to escape.
    She couldn't.
    Her left arm wouldn't support her weight and, when trying to push off with just her right, she found that the pain in her ribs was too much. She screamed again just from the effort.
    "Over there!" a man shouted.
    Cecilia tried and failed again. Tears were streaming down her face as she fought against the agony. She could hear the roar of the rifles growing louder and the sounds of men and women running.
    Along with something else.
    There were roars and hisses now. They seemed to come from the very walls. To unfold from the darkness around her like shadows given some monstrous kind of life. They must have passed right over her while she was out cold earlier. Or they just never cared about her to begin with.
    Now they cared.
    "I think I see someone!" the woman shouted.
    "HELP!" Cecilia managed to scream before doubling over on herself again. She coughed and her mouth filled with the startling taste of copper. Blood.
    "We're coming!" someone else shouted.
    "Son of a bitch! More!"
    The hissing at Cecilia's sides changed to violent roars that were cut short with the blaze of pulse rifles some short distance away. She felt their warm blood splash across her back and hair and the sticky, slick feeling made her retch. A half-second later, two heavy thuds shook the ground she laid on and did not get back up.
    "Cover me!" the woman yelled. "I'm going for her!"
    "We've got you!"
    The marine sloshed and squished her way towards Cecilia and, a moment later, she felt warm, soft hands wrapping around her good arm.
    "I've got you, honey." the woman said with surprising tenderness. "Come on."
    "I...I can't." she sobbed. " ribs. My arm."
    "I know, sweetie. I know." the woman said softly tugging her up to a sitting position. "But we can't leave you here. They're going to destroy the ship. We have to get you off."
    Cecilia, who had been curled in on herself, her eyes shut, finally glanced up in the marine's direction.
    The marine gasped when she did.
    "Oh are you down here?"
    "Down the air shaft?"
    The echo of pulse rifles intensified suddenly.
    "We gotta go!" the man yelled.
    "Gordo! Rifle slung! We need a lift!"
    "You got it, Sarge!"
    The ground shook as someone else came running; his armor and weapon clanking and clattering along.
    "Holy shit." the man began. "Is she...?"
    "Obviously." the woman said shortly. "She's pretty banged up and I don't trust her to be able to get out of here easy. Gonna need you to carry her."
    "How did she get down here?" he asked shortly. "How is she even still be alive if she's..."
    "Not now." the woman barked.
    "Sir." the man said shortly before leaning down next to Cecilia.
    She felt a second pair of hands wrap around her. Bigger. Warmer. Cecilia unconsciously leaned into them and sniffled.
    "This is gonna hurt, darlin'." the big man said. "So I'm sorry in advance.
    All at once, Cecilia felt herself leave the ground. Pain shot through her as the marine scooped her up and she screamed in response. The man cooed her softly and cradled her to his chest and she sobbed.
    But, her unconscious mind countered, she was safe. He was big and warm. He smelt of gunpowder and sweat and grime. His arms were large and hairy and muscled. She could hear his heart pounding, heavy and steady, in his chest. He was one of many marines with their guns and their grit and their determination to keep her alive. He was human and he would keep her safe.
    She felt the sobs calm slightly and she held tight to his armor.
    "Fall back!" the woman shouted.
    "Let's go!" the man yelled in unison.
    Cecilia held tight as they moved. They were surrounded on all sides by the other marines; seven others from what she could tell. They moved in unison, fleeing the hive as quickly as possible. And, as they moved, she heard whispers.
    "Did you see her eyes?"
    "My did she get down here?"
    "Do you think they did that to her?"
    "Enough chatter!" the woman barked.
    "Sir," an unknown male voice said, "We only have five minutes til the last dropship departs."
    "Then let's not miss our bus." the big man holding her said.
    "MARINES! WE ARE LEAVING!" the woman shouted. A moment later, the entire group took off at a run.


(Hello Lovelies, I'm glad you've been enjoying this little romp. There will be one more after this and then we will see about returning to 'Kappa in my Closet' along with a few other things! All I can say in my defense is that I was inspired because of the upcoming 'Alien: Covenant movie. Not gonna lie, I'm enjoying my version better. haha! See you soon.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lost - Part 2

    The pulse rifle kicked like she was holding a jack hammer upright. The barrel jerked up and ripped itself out of her hands. The room reverberated with the sound of a dozen explosions.
    A moment later, there was a thud as the creature hit the ground. The entire floor shuddered with the impact.
    Cecilia barely registered it.
    Her hands quivered and her entire body shook with terror. The BOOMs from the gun had been replaced by a high pitched ringing that threatened to drown out her hearing. She strained to hear anything but the penetrating 'tiiiiiiiiiiiing' in the throbbing pain in her ears.
    It was just too much.
    Curling up right there on the floor, Cecilia began to rock herself in place and sob uncontrollably. She screamed and clawed at her own ears as if the action would restore what was lost. As if it would stop the pain in her ribs and hers. As if it would bring back her hearing.
    Whatever it was. The thing. The creature. It had stopped moving. Stopped advancing. Even if it hadn't, Cecilia couldn't imagine her response would have been much different.
    After all, she couldn't hear.
    And so she cried.
    She stayed like that for an indiscernible period of time; eyes shut down and hot tears running down her face. Body convulsing through heaving sobs and soft wails.
    But she also listened.
    She listened for anything; trying to hear anything else but that high pitched ringing sound. She didn't care past that.
    Just stop the ringing. Stop the pain.
    In anger, she kicked the gun at her feet. It clattered away.
    It was that clatter that was the first new noise she was able to register.
    Her sobbing stopped and she opened her eyes.
    Reaching out, she grabbed the butt of the discarded pulse rifle and dragged it back. The rifle clattered back along the grooves of the floor and she openly gasped with joy. She pushed it back and forth a few more times just to be sure she heard it right.
    Soon, more things returned. She could hear the klaxon now. Its wailing scream high in the distance. After that, she could make out the sound of running and things moving through the halls above. She could hear a few terrified screams.
    Slowly but surely, the ringing abated.
    Throughout it all, the the thing never moved.
    Cecilia let out a long, controlled sigh, followed by a much less controlled whimper, and pushed herself from the floor.

    Cecilia had considered taking the gun with her, but quickly elected not to. She'd rather have her hands open and her ability to move around unimpeded. More importantly, she couldn't bear the thought of firing the thing again.
    The sound was just too much to handle. She'd rather deal with trying to run from one of those monsters.
    She had no idea what the creatures were that were loose on the station. They were big and ran around on all fours. They had great and terrible claws that raked grooves into the floor in shrieks of metal and they roared with a fierceness that made lions sound like pussycats. They seemed to be able to climb the walls and ceilings as easy as they walked on the floor.
    And they were loose.
    Cecilia could hear them running around above her. They moved like rhinos; thumping and galloping and slamming through whatever was in their way.
    It made her glad to be down here. Wherever here was.
    More then once she worried the floor would give way or she'd find one hiding in a shadow somewhere. But the moment never came.
    While she initially thought she was in some sort of a hallway, Cecilia quickly realized that there weren't any doors. After a quick walk, she realized that there was some kind of piping or conduits running along the wall and she had to squeeze through a few areas to keep going. Doing so was agony with her broken ribs.
     All the while, there was a vague, nauseating smell that seemed to waft in little puffs of breeze.
    Perhaps a maintenance tunnel?
    As time droned on, she was surprised to find that the world above got quieter and quieter. She groped her way along the tunnel and the sounds of galloping on metal started to fade. The screams stopped. The klaxon dulled into a soft wail. If she strained her ears against the growing silence, she started to hear a rustling sound. Almost like-
    Cecilia, following the noise, took a step forward and found nothing to catch her. She fell forward and her head slammed hard into cold meta. She immediately lost what little footing she had and slid forward.
    Her screams echoed off metal as she slid down the slick, angled tube towards infinite.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lost - Part 1

    All at once, reality seemed to explode into existence in a flash of pain and sound and smoke. Cecilia's senses burned and she found herself on the ground, clutching ribs that were alight in agony and seemed to have a bit more give than regular, non-broken bones should have.
    Around her, the world wailed.
    A klaxon screamed its warning for all who would hear, barely drowning out the sound of men and women screaming, boots stomping on hard metal, pulse rifles firing, sounding like a jackhammer on a steel drum, and the roar of something monstrous and unknown in the distance. All of it was muffled even more by the crackling booming of fire.
    She sat up quickly and screamed.
    "Ellen?! Kera?!"
    She couldn't remember what happened or how she got here, but she knew she wanted to find her sisters and quickly. Had they been with her? Were they ok?
    It didn't matter though. She had bigger issues.
    All around her, an inferno raged. The fire licked at her skin and she had no idea how to get away from it. Each time she breathed in her lungs were being seared with smoke and she felt herself coughing and hacking; an action that was getting progressively faster and therefore worse as she began to hyperventilate. The world seemed to close in around her as the panic threatened to send her over the edge.
    "ELLEN?! KERA?!"
    Someone running towards her?
    "Ma'am!" a voice screamed barely audible over the roar of the fire. "This way! Come this way! We have to get you out of here!"
    A marine.
    "I can't!" she said quickly, the panic only taking a firmer grip. "I-I can't!"
    It was all she could muster. The world burned with fire between them.
    "You have to! Come on! Please! Just run towards me. Run as fast as you can. I'll be here to catch you!"
    Her throat tightened and, despite the blazing inferno around her, Cecilia's palms went cold and sweaty. She shut her eyes tight.
    "Alright." she said, her shaking voice betraying her. "On three."
    "On three." the marine agreed.
    "One." she began.
    Before she could muster a 'Three' there was an echoing crash and a screeching roar as the metal of the hall bent and screamed in defiance of a preternatural force. The marine screamed back, firing the pulse rifle at something. They were silenced a moment later and all fear of fire was wiped away as the marine was slammed into Cecilia's chest, thrown like a ragdoll, sending them both sprawling backwards. The combined force and weight sent them clean past the flames and down a chasm that was open in the floor.
    Cecilia hit the ground below with a sobbing cry as the marine, dead weight, crushed her with their bulk; broken ribs burned and stabbed in protest of the pressure.
    "Get off!" she yelled and pushed against the dead marine. "Please get off!"
    Above her, she could hear the thing. It scrabbled and moved across the metal of the hall above with the sound of someone raking a dozen pickaxes against a grated chalkboard. It seemed to blend into a terrible crescendo of oncoming death with the klaxon as she desperately clawed at the body that weighed her down.
    She kept pushing, kept trying to get the corpse off of her shattered ribs and weak body. She felt the load soften slightly as the heavy pulse rifle clattered down next to her.
   The creature was just crawling through chasm she had fallen through, growling softly under the klaxon and the claws, when she managed to free herself from under the dead marine and scuttled backwards in terror.
    Cecilia only escaped back an inch or two before she hit the wall.
    Above, the creature seemed to realize she was trapped. It made its way slowly, carefully, down to the next level; it's growl growing into twittering, high pitch that reminded her of a cat stalking a bird.
    She shut her eyes tight, sobbing.
    Her hands fell to the pulse rifle on the ground beside her.
    She had never used one before. No official training of any kind. But she knew the concept of a gun. You point it at something and pull the trigger. Hopefully you have the right end pointed towards what you want to die. 
    The creature roared. Maybe it recognized the threat of the gun. Maybe it was just done playing with her. It scrabbled forward with that same high-pitched, gut wrenching sound of claws on metal.
    Cecilia grabbed the weapon's stock, raised the gun, and squeezed the trigger; praying it was even vaguely pointed in the right direction.
    Pulse rifle's are so much louder when you're the one firing them.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

Hello Lovelies,

While I hadn't originally intended or scheduled to do anything for Mother's Day, I've been reading more than a few of the wonderful posts that you've all put up and I have to say: I'm inspired. So, I wanted to take a moment and wish everyone a very Happy Mother's Day.

While I myself am not a mother nor do I believe it's likely I will ever become one (that whole 'being a dude thing' doesn't work well for that regard), I have to say that I always tend to be a little introspective on Mother's Day. While I don't really talk about it, my mother actually died some time ago; pretty much right after I turned 18.

The thing I only recognized later on and the thing that many people are very confused by is that I actually didn't know much about my mother's past. I remembered her birthday but not the year she was born. I know that she grew up in New York and that's where she met my father before they eloped and ran away together. I know that I was named after my grandfather who had already passed on and that, to this day, I only have a single living relative from that side of the family. That's basically it.

The reason for it, however, (and again, I didn't realize this until MUCH later on) was that she raised me to not look back. She didn't talk about her past or where she came from. She didn't talk about the long lost or abandoned family. She didn't want me dwelling on the forgotten or the escaped. She wanted me to enjoy the now and to look forward to what was to come. I don't doubt that she more than anyone else in my history helped make me the person I am today.

Even more than that, she is the one that nurtured and instigated my love of reading. As a kid, she read to me more nights than I can count (dad also gets credit here to). But once I stopped asking to be read to, she kept it going. She always found a way to get a new book for me. To find something that would interest me. And, when I got a little older and started to think of nothing but video games, she made a deal that I had to do an hour of reading for thirty minutes of game time. Likewise, once I got even older, she encouraged me to start writing AND to start telling stories to other people. 

I will never claim that she was the sweetest person in the world, yet there was no falseness to her. If she showed you love, it's because she treasured you with all her heart. If she told you that you were screwing up, you probably already knew you were. She had this brutal honesty that was always matched with a well-thought out and kind word. She was never cruel, but she did have a tendency of calling me out on my bullshit (of which there was plenty).

The one thing I will always remember about my mom was her smile and her laugh. Even now, having lost her over a decade ago and having little more than two photographs of her, the one thing I will forever remember is that image. Silver haired with emerald and gold eyes like my own, her head thrown back and laughing loud at my silly bullshit.

And, the one thing I will regret, is that I wasn't there when she passed. My mother died of cancer twelve years ago. While she had previously gotten and beat it into remission, it returned quite unexpectedly and with vigorous speed. Having moved from her ovaries to her brain, it laid her out and gave me my first true understanding of loss. In my stupid, younger years, I had come to California to visit my dad and, afraid to see my mom like that, I refused to come back. Up until then, I always trusted she would get better. Maybe she'd feel bad for a while, but the doctors would fix her like they did before.

She suffered for two weeks. One morning, fifteen minutes after asking where I was and why I wasn't there, she died. To this day, I will never forgive myself for not being with her through that...all because I was scared because of how I'd feel because she was dying.

Maybe I didn't learn enough about not looking back.

While this all took an unintentionally sad turn, it does boil down to my point. Tell your Mom you love her. Give them a great big hug and a kiss and take them out for dinner or make them dinner or whatever it is you can to show your love. You will have them as long as you do and lose them when you do so make your moments count and make sure they know you love them. And, for all of you mothers in the crowd, I hope you have a wonderful and Happy Mother's Day.

I'll see you soon, my lovelies. <3

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Critical Failures vs. Spells Swords and Stealth: A Comparison in Quality


I mentioned a little bit ago that I'm big into the game "Dungeons and Dragons" for a number of reasons (I won't bore you with the details; you can check that bit out here). Well, because of that very post, I decided that my itch was strong enough to go grab a D&D fictional story. While there are a number of them out there that do the job and do it well, I decided I wanted something a little more meta.

Cue finding the 'Spells, Swords, and Stealth' series by Drew Hayes.

I was immediately enamored.

I finished the first book within two days and bought the second one without hesitation. The story, in short, circled around four characters within a tabletop RPG game known as Spells, Swords, and Stealth. These characters run into a bit of an issue when the REAL players show up in their sleepy little town. They are then forced to go off on an adventure of their very own where they'll face hordes of goblins, monstrous demons, mad kings, insane wizards, and a dungeon designed to destroy any who would enter it particularly real players. Oh, and did I mention that this is SOMEHOW happening in real time while actual people are playing, leading to those very books to change their information based on the adventures of the "NPCs" that our story focuses around?

And that's just book one.

I proceeded to devour all three books in the series and am waiting on baited breath for the next one to come out (although I unfortunately don't have any release dates). The writing was so good and it blended well-known game elements seamlessly with well-thought out fiction and story telling elements. On top of that, it worked fantastically to combine meta knowledge regarding the 'real world' with the happenings of the 'game world' that it constantly left you thirsty for more.

Overall, it was EXACTLY what I wanted that I went searching for more of the same. Since Drew hadn't produced more of that series, I decided to follow Amazon's recommendations regarding the "Critical Failures" series.

Man, that book is aptly named.

First, in defense of a relative comparison, I will say that I did not read the entire series like I did with 'Spells, Swords, and Stealth'. The book is surprisingly well reviewed on Amazon and has high praises but, in my own defense...I just... I couldn't. Perhaps the others are better. However, given the teeth gnashing pain of getting through Book 1, I didn't want to waste my time or money if Book 2 was a repeat of the first.

So what's the book about?

In short, it's built on a similar overall concept. It's built on meta knowledge regarding tabletop roleplaying games. A bunch of friends who invite a brand new game master to play with them quickly realize that insulting him might not have been the best choice. And, if a few vulgar jabs, the game master transport all of the friends into the game world that they were playing a moment before. Dealing with the results of their actions, they're taken on a great chase from the law of the land where they experience all manner of monster and threat to life and limb as they learn the ins and out of living the game only to end in showdown that goes a little bit more sideways than you might imagine.

Sounds like fun right? What could go wrong.

In short: really bad writing.

To start, the book feels unpolished. The overall tone and flow of the story is incredibly choppy and tends to rock the book's pace like a new driver trying to learn a clutch. It gets where its going but not without banging your head against the dashboard a few times. Even worse, there's a point where it literally walks in a circle thematically by having one group go somewhere, while another group goes elsewhere ONLY to have them switch spots looking for each other AND THEN do it again. Quite literally having the characters just walk in circles.

However, the one that gets called out most in other commentary (and what I even took offense to) was the raw vulgarity of the writing. In the book's defense, most tabletop gamers are some foul-mouthed motherfuckers. We like to shoot the shit and make all sorts of bad or silly jokes. But there's a difference between bullshitting with your friends and turning that crap up to 11 and writing it down as a story.

Nearly endless cussing. Vulgar commentary. Rude asides. And so. Many. Fluids. Shit, piss, vomit, snot, cum, blood, and literally anything else that can come out of a body can and does. Characters ejaculate from healing magic and one character legitimately shits himself regularly. Men slip and hurt themselves in all manner of bodily fluids and there is regular conversation and focus on this vulgarity throughout the book.

I'm all for a sense of reality and, let's face it, life can be gross. But focusing a narrative on a character regularly shitting himself is bad writing. Once makes a point. Multiple times is just foul.

When all is said and done, these two stories seemed a fantastic comparison because, in my own opinion, they take the same subject matter and show the best and worst ways to do it. 'Spells, Swords, and Stealth' provides an interesting narrative and builds a world around it with a pace that leads you through your environment while still tying you back to the original game. 'Critical Failures' throws you into the story headfirst and than can't decide how it wants to proceed. 'Spells, Swords, and Stealth' provides a fascinating story within the context of the game while still showing you meta elements that ties everything together. 'Critical Failures' regularly has characters bitching about concepts a non-player will likely not understand and features more blood, piss, shit, and vomit than an emergency room that caters exclusively to frat-houses.

Overall, if you're looking for a fun and interesting story, I'd definitely recommend Spells, Swords, and Stealth. Maybe I'll return to check out Book 2 of Critical Failures one day, but that will likely be when the book is free and I'm very bored.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Just a Little News

Hello Lovelies,

Today, I just wanted to drop a little bit of news. Cover a couple of things going on, a few things going forward, and generally just give a quick update as to the overall state of things.

First and foremost, I hope everyone has been enjoying "Kappa in my Closet". The idea stemmed from a conversation my wife and I had sometime back about a very real attic entrance I have hiding in my closet. While we've only been up there once and there have always been ongoing jokes about any manner of spooks, ghouls, and monsters that like to hide up there, a conversation regarding a Kappa was always my favorite. In short, it's what inspired me to write what we've gotten so far.

With that said, I'm considering continuing the story. However I'm not 100%. It was originally meant to be a fun imagination piece; simply a 'holy shit, what the hell?' kind of bit, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it's been fun so far. My only real problem is I have no idea how the hell a river monster ended up in Alex's closet.

Gonna have to think about that one.

That aside, I wanted to let you know that I've been considering everyone's input regarding the Book Reviews and I think I'm going to use it as an avenue for things that spark my interest versus random reviews. As mentioned before, this is not and was not intended to be a book review site...but let's be blunt here: I read a LOT. And, being the opinionated ass that I tend to be, sometimes I just get an itch to share my thoughts.

Why do I say this now?

Because I'm doing a comparison piece in the next post.

Yea. Now what?

With all things said and done, I wanted to take a special moment to thank everyone for their input. You're all wonderful and I want you to know I read every comment I receive. They really do help drive me forward.

But enough mushy stuff!

Drawing some inspiration from something Liz said the other day, I have a question for all of YOU:

What is your guilty pleasure genre?

Personally, I've always loved the creature feature. They can be zombies, monsters, aliens; pretty much anything where humans are pitted against beasts supernatural or otherwise. As mentioned in a previous post, my enjoyment is due to a reflection of man's prowess in the face of adversity, but adding big baddies just makes it so much fun.

What about you? What movie/book/play/etc. genre can you just not get enough of?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Kappa in my Closet - Part 3

    Alex screamed. Long and loud.
    The creature before him seemed to twitch in response. It shook its head softly for a minute as if in shock or annoyance at the sound.
    Alex paid no mind.
    Instead, forgetting himself, he scampered backwards. Anything to just get away from the monstrous creature in front of him. That huge hooked beak. That mottled green screen. The...
    He fell backwards through the opening to his attic. His hands grasped at open air as he tumbled and he tried to catch himself on the lips of the edges, but it was too late.
    At the same time, the creature began to lunge forward. Its eyes were hungry, its claws were sharp.
    Absently, Alex wondered if he would fall before the monster got him.
    He was halfway through the opening when he got the answer.
    With inhuman speed, the creature was on him. Even as tumbled back through the opening, it crossed the attic with inhuman speed. Its large webbed claws wide open and closings around both extended arms.
    I'm dead.
    The thought was instant and twisted his guts into knots. It was so sudden and so alien it washed away all others. It was only forced away by the feeling of his arms being nearly dislocated as the creature pulled him back up into the darkness of the attic.
    Drawn back up to the waiting monster's beak.
    Alex screamed again and closed his eyes.

    "Stop it!"
    Alex stopped screaming in a gasp of shock. A moment later, he felt himself sat down on the lip of the attic.
    The creature's claws were vicious and an odd mix of slimy and sticky; kind of like a frog's skin. They let go of Alex's arms a moment later.
    "That's better." the creature said again with another shake of his head. "So loud."
    Alex couldn't do anything but squeak in response. His heart was pounding so hard it felt like it would tear through his ribs. His face was flushed, his eyes were welled with tears, and his thoughts were a muddled mess of emotion and panic.
    Yet he was alive.
    The monster settled down across the way from him and shook his head again; giving each ear a soft smack like a swimmer trying to extricate a bit of water. He paid Alex little mind for a moment while Alex, on the other hand, stared in amazement.
    After a minute of endless staring, the creature offered him a kind of odd smile.
    It reminded Alex of the time he'd given a turtle a strawberry.
    "Are you okay?" it asked tentatively.
    The creature's voice had an odd pitch that he didn't notice the first time. It sounded like one of those funny voices a clown might do. Really nasally and-
    "Kid? You okay?"
    "Uh. Yea." Alex said with a little nod.
    Was he dead? Did the monster already eat him? Why would he-
    "Good. I was worried for a second. Didn't want you to crack your head open on the dresser. That was a nasty fall you could have taken."
    Alex couldn't respond. He just stared.
    The creature was actually smaller than he originally thought. It seemed like he would only be a bit taller than himself. The real girth came from a massive turtle shell on his back. His skin was mottled and scaly like a reptile's. Except...
    "What's wrong with your hands?" Alex asked absentmindedly.
    The monster held up his claws to inspect them. The flesh was quickly drying into a cracked, gray-brown. Moving from the finger tips down towards his hands.
    "Oh damn!"
    The creature reached up and tapped the top of his head. For the first time, Alex noticed that it was concave; like a bowl. Set amidst a bowl cut of gray hair, it resembled a weird soup dish more than the top of someone's head.
    "Oh damn oh damn!" he repeated again, turning from Alex and running towards the pool.
    Alex couldn't help but watch. His shock turning to mild confusion and curiosity.
    As he watched, the creature dipped his head directly into the kiddie pool; splashing water everywhere. He stayed that way for a few seconds before coming back up. He repeated this a few times more before Alex realized the thing was making a strange effort to keep his head steady and upright each time he did.
    Finally, on the fifth try, the creature resurfaced and seemed satisfied.
    He walked back to Alex and plopped back down again. This time, the bowl on top of the thing's head appeared to be full of water.
    "What are you?" Alex demanded indignantly; more confused than scared now.
    "Me? I'm a Kappa!" it responded in that odd voice.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Kappa in my Closet - Part 2

    Slowly. Painfully slowly. Alex poked his head up over the lip of the hole leading up into his attic. This was immediately preceded by his flashlight which darted around in every direction.
    The light sliced a white beam through the dark, dusty surroundings.
    The area closest to him was about what he expected an attic should be: large, empty and dirty. The walls were covered in a thick coat of dirt and cobwebs. A long, cardboard box that was probably older than his mother was shoved into a little corner.
    However, moving his light carefully over the area above his room, Alex started to notice oddities.
    First and foremost, the floor in this area looked disturbed. Tracks and streaks of clean wood could be seen everywhere in the thick dust. On top of that, empty, plastic water jugs littered the ground all about, particularly in the corners where they were piled in the hundreds. It all led to...
    "A kiddie pool?" Alex asked in confusion.
    Sure enough, there, at the far end of the attic, situated just above where his bed would be, an oversized kiddie pool sat surrounded by a veritable wall of empty, plastic water containers. It appeared old and worn, the designs having peeled and faded at many points.
    Alex, overcome with surprise and curiosity, crawled up into the filthy attic.
    The roof overhead was just tall enough to allow him to stand, but not much else. Cobwebs tangled up in his hair and spiders went unnoticed as they fell from the rafters and skittered away.
    The flashlight's beam was focused solely on the kiddie pool which, to Alex's shock, appeared mostly full with the exception of several splashes here and there.
    Splashes that looked distinctly like footprints.
    "Hello?" he asked dumbfounded, moving the beam side to side.
    A rustle of plastic and a few falling jugs was his response and he stepped back in surprise towards the open attic door.
    "Hello?" he repeated again. "If you're in there: come out now!"
    His voice cracked and shook as he spoke, betraying his fear.
    Nothing moved this time.
    "If you don't come out, I'm gonna call the cops!" he yelled at the suspicious pile of empty jugs. "They'll come and they'll take you away!"
    Still no answer.
    Alex turned to look briefly at the open attic door one more time. The air seemed to burn his lungs with the stench of dirt and dust and god knows what he was looking at but...
    Slowly, he stepped closer to the pile, his beam focused on it once more.
    The problem with wandering around in the dark, particularly when you're feeling scared and not looking where you're putting your feet, is you tend to miss things. Alex sure did.
    He was already falling backward when he felt the half eaten cucumber under his foot roll forward.
    There was a crack and a THUD and everything went dark.

    Alex woke to darkness.
    Actually, that's not accurate. It was dark, but he could still make out a faint glow.
    No. Not a glow. A flash.
    His flashlight!
    Alex sat up in a start and immediately regretted it. His head was throbbing and felt like someone shoved a steel spike into his brain. He shut his eyes tight and clutched his forehead only to feel something warm and sticky in his hair.
    Alex glanced up at the noise and saw a very large man sitting in the kiddie pool, fumbling with his flashlight. The beam cut here and there, but failed to illuminate the odd, rotund man before him.
    His breath hitched in his throat.
    The man, whoever he was, was large. Had he been up here the whole time? Alex could barely make out some sort of a weird, flat top haircut but what was more noticeable was his bulk. The man's torso appeared, quite literally, round.
    Alex sat there frozen as he watched the man fiddle with the light.
    Who was this man? How was he in his house?
    He glanced over his shoulder towards the exit and, as carefully as he could, he started moving back towards it.
    Alex made it maybe a foot before the wood creaked loudly. In the relative quiet, it made him flinch with how loud it was.
    And it was not missed.
    The man turned to look at him dead in the eyes.
    Tiny beady eyes.
    A long, hooked beak.
    Green skin that showed faintly in the flashlight.
    He wasn't a man. He was a monster.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Kappa in my Closet - Part 1

    "Alex!" his mother called from downstairs. "Did you take the water again?"
    Alex came running downstairs to find his mom tapping her foot incessantly. Her face was turned up into a half-scowl and she nodded towards the empty spot in the bottom of the fridge where the several gallon jug of Arrowhead should have been.
    "Did you?" she asked again, her eyes narrowing.
    "No, mom!" he shot back quickly.
    They had been having similar variations of this same conversation for months now. Really, ever sense they had moved into the little condominium near the river. At first, he thought it was just a weird happenstance, like his mother had forgotten she used it or they had forgot to buy some at the store. But now...
    "Look, I don't mind you drinking it." she snapped with more irritation than anger. "But you have to tell me so I can get some on the way home from work, honey."
    "I didn't drink the water." Alex shot back.
    "Then where did it go, huh?"
    "I don't know! Maybe it was the ghost!"
    Alex's mother let out an exasperated groan.
    "There's no ghost, Alex."
    "Yes there is! I've been telling you that ever sense we moved into this place. It sounds like someone's walking around on the ceiling."
    "It's just the wind, sweetie."
    "I know the difference between the wind and someone walking!"
    Alex's mom glared down at him for a minute, trying to decide what to say. This argument had been getting worse over the last few months but he refused to give up the story. Finally, with a sigh, she got down on one knee.
    "I know it's been hard, honey. Getting up and moving half way across the country wasn't easy on me either but..."
    "But mom it's..."
    "But..." she emphasized, cutting him off. "But I'm sure if you let yourself relax a little, maybe make a few friends, everything will be just fine. I miss dad too, but that doesn't mean you should stay cooped up all day."
     Alex opened his mouth to protest but nothing came out short of a small squeaking noise. He shut his lips tight and felt the tell tale burning behind his eyes.
    "Oh honey, I'm sorry..." his mother said, pulling him in tight for a hug. "I know...I know."
    A sniffle escaped and he could feel the tears readying at the thought of his father, but he shook it off. Instead, he wiped his nose with his sleeve and gave his mom a smile.
    He was acting like a kid, not the twelve year old he was supposed to be.
    "It's ok, mom. Promise."
    "I didn't mean to upset you, sweetie."
    "It's ok." he reassured her again.
    "Alright." she said with a little nod.
    His mother stood up and went back to pulling the groceries out and setting them on the counter.
    "Why don't you go play outside? I'll call you for dinner when it's ready."
    Alex gave her a little nod before turning for the stairs that led to his room.
    "Make sure you tell me about the water next time." she called after him. "The same goes for cucumbers too!"
    "Okay mom!" he called back, but saw no further point in arguing.
    He hated cucumbers. If she didn't know that by this point, he doubted he'd have any luck convincing her otherwise. She probably just forgot she needed to buy some.
    After dinner, the sun had set and Alex had settled in at his computer. He had taken his mom's advice earlier and gone to the river near his house but it had proven uneventful.
    Turtle River was cool and all, but was way too big and a little too fast for him to really have fun in. Given he didn't know how to swim and he didn't have an adult with him, he had to settle for just sitting on the little beach watching the water bubble and tumble over itself. Plus, given it wasn't quite summer yet and he had to leave school early this last year, Alex was stuck alone again.
    Thinking about it, Alex couldn't help but sigh.
    Now, he was just relaxing. His mom had headed out for her work at the lab and he had just started up a round of "Astro Chicken" when he heard it again.
    Thump. Thump. Thump.
    Alex's gaze snapped skyward to the ceiling where just a little bit of dust seemed to drift down following the footsteps. He'd heard the sound more than a few times during their months in the condo, but it was almost always when he'd been in bed and half awake. This time it was clear as day.
    He stood and examined the ceiling closely.
    There were no footprints on his ceiling of any kind. No sign that anything had been there. But he had definitely heard it.
    He kept searching.
    A few minutes of closely examining his ceiling later, Alex found himself in his closet. He was staring at a soft indentation over his dresser. It was square and about the size of a trashcan lid. When they'd moved in, his mom had said it went to the attic and he remembered thinking thoughts about dingy old boxes full of clothes and more dust than his nose could handle.
    Now, he thought about stories of ghosts and monsters.
    The sound came from above his room again, but curiosity held firm. Maybe something was in the attic? Maybe it was just an animal or something.
    Swallowing hard, Alex retrieved his flashlight from his desk and returned to the closet. Carefully, he crawled atop his dresser and, using the light, pushed gingerly on the square, indented section of ceiling.
    It gave.
    He pushed harder and he felt the tile slide away, revealing darkness and drifting dust above him.
    He shone his light up but all it showed was a slanted, wood ceiling.
    Something was moving again. Faster than he'd heard before.
    Again, Alex tried to steel himself. Maybe it was just an animal. Maybe something had just gotten into the attic and, seeing the light, had gotten scared and tried to hide.
    "Yea. That's it." he said to himself.
    He was going to look and see some little nest of raccoons huddling in the darkness. Or maybe there would be some kind of a squirrel or even an owl tucked back into a shadow.
    Monsters weren't real after all.