Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Short Pause

So, here I am! At long last, ready to take a short break from writing for the last month of the year and work on promoting and marketing. To say my brain is exhausted would be putting it lightly, but I am confident that 2015 is going to bring some wonderful things. I will blog soon about my year goals and how much of them I actually achieved, what I'm planning to do in the following year, and how I'm feeling after publishing five books this year... not to mention the other writing projects. But for now, I'm taking a short pause to breathe and walk through my neighborhood and see my family and just read a good book or three.

OH! And of course, to leave you with this excerpt from my most recent book, EPILOGUE TO SURVIVAL.

Enjoy!

Part XI:
LESSER DARK


The plan was flawless. As flawless as the mind of a human.
Stop the source, the opposition, at any cost. Better to lose a few in the beginning
than billions in the end. People can recover – the land can recover. Life will go on.
Never doubt. Believe. Trust. Know.
The rhetoric sounded so fierce, so believable, so worth any sacrifice, sitting in
that air-conditioned, insulated conference room deep under the sands of a desert. It
made his heart swell with fervor and patriotism, made him proud to be a part of the
great minds that conceived of the plan to stop the advance of that other, far colder
intelligence. No matter the cost, there was no price too high to pay for the safety of
their children and the world’s future. So he believed. So he had acted in accordance
with his conscious. He pressed the first of many buttons. He watched and hoped. He
believed.
He was wrong.
The plan was simple. Destroy the opposition before it finished destroying us.
Intelligence showed where it was located and what might be the necessary amount of
force to destroy it.
And they could. They had the power and their systems were completely closed.
There was no way any foreign programming could go undetected. Orders could not be
changed or reinterpreted at the last moment. Nothing could take control and
reprogram the missiles. Nothing from the outside. Their facility and machinery were
completely insulated. They were safe from any attacks it might send.
Which is why he never saw the attack from within coming. One of his own. Many
of his own. Men and women he trusted – spies, captains, lieutenants, intelligence
officers... from all ranks they came, following every order he’d ever given. Perfectly.
Obediently. The best of the best. His colleagues. His friends.
Until the moment he said, “Initiate.”
And they did. Oh they did. But it wasn’t just one button – it was all of them. Every
single one. Commands to other missile control centers. Initiate permissions for bomb
sites he didn’t even know existed, buried deep within the ground. All protected in their
perfect, insulated, enclosed system, only able to be activated from within.
But the enemy was within.
When the men and women – the traitors, all – finished initiating destruction for
the entire human race, they turned on the others in the control room and began
shooting before anyone had time to react.
The General had been one of the first ones hit, shot from multiple guns both in
front of and behind him. It was only because he’d been wearing a bullet-proof vest that
he was still breathing.
But the marksmen knew their job well. He wasn’t dead yet, but if he didn’t get
medical help soon, he was likely to bleed out. Yet where in the world would he find a
medic or doctor, when he’d locked the command center and closed off the outside
Arrogance. It’s what they always said. What the good doctor accused me of. But
even she could have predicted this.
He dragged himself across the floor and under a desk for cover as bodies flew
around him. He’d heard the traitors methodically stomp across the room and silence
screaming men and women. From his spot against the floor, he watched bodies thud
to the ground. Worse, many of those bodies still harbored life – fluttering eyes and
gasping throats.
One such man was one of his two most trusted assistants. An Assistant
Commander. One of the finest he’d ever known. But as he fell to the floor a few feet in
front of the General, none of that mattered. The Assistant Commander thrashed his
head wildly, looking for help to escape, even as his body started to fail.
As their eyes met, both men saw the extent of the other’s wounds. They
understood then that their hope to survive was futile. No one was coming.
The General attempted a soothing, conciliatory smile at the Assistant
Commander, but he quickly stopped himself. His colleague – his friend – deserved the
truth. Instead, he shook his head and watched the light in his Assistant Commander’s
eyes fade. The General witnessed his horror, his confusion, his pain. The final question
lingering in his eyes.
Why?
After the Assistant Commander died, the General closed his eyes, unwilling to
see anymore. Instead, he concentrated on blocking out the noise and trying to figure
out why a man might turn against his own kind.
Is it because he has deemed the behavior of his peers unacceptable? Is it a cry
for recognition, a warped belief that any attention is better than none at all? Is it an
attempt to seize power, to feel more in control? Or is it bitter vengeance against
perceived injustices that refuses to die until he takes out as many people as he can?

But then... why kill people you called friends? Or even family? Why them? They
trusted you, held you close, invited you for holidays and birthdays to celebrate your
relationship, one built on years of shared hoped and realized dreams.
I believed in these people, and thought they believed in me. Where did we go
wrong? Should I have listened more closely to Dr. Lehrmann?

The questions circled in his mind, taunting him, offering no easy answers.
His senses came fully alive as he realized absolute silence had fallen. No
screams. No labored breathing. No gunshots. It was finished.
But was he alone?
He let the silence gestate for a while longer, trying to hear if anyone else might
be alive. Or worse, if one of the traitors was still around. But there was nothing.
Finally convinced, he allowed himself to take a deep breath, struggling to ignore
his bullet-riddled body.
A hand suddenly grasped his ankle in a steely grip and yanked him from his hiding
spot. Agony tore through his open wounds as they split further. He groaned, unable to
do little more than feebly kick his legs in response.
A man crouched next to him. He lifted up the General into a leaning position and
cradled his neck in strong arms. Blearily, nearly unconscious, the General opened his eyes.
“You...” he whispered.
It was his assistant. The Commandant. A man he’d known for over thirty years.
He’d been his best man at his wedding, was Godparent to one of his children, had
saved his life on the field decades before. He knew this man.
The Commandant looked down at the General, expressionless. His had been the
first bullet to hit the General.
“You’re... going... to finish it...” the General gasped as he stared into the
Commandant’s eyes. “You knew... it was the... lesser of... two evils... you knew...”
The Commandant’s face remained impassive as he stared down at the General.
After several long seconds, he lifted his hand in front of the General’s face. He flinched,
but the Commandant didn’t move. He merely switched his gaze from the General to his
palm. Bewildered, the General fought to remain conscious as the Commandant stared
at his hand.
The skin rippled suddenly. A grey dot formed in the very center, swelling the skin
like a pustule until it squeezed out through the Commandant’s pores and formed a tiny
ball. The Commandant then pressed his palm to the General’s forehead.
He closed his eyes in relief, thinking maybe his friend had come to his senses and
was giving him a final benediction. The Commandant’s action were unforgivable, but
still, the General would rather die in the arms of someone on his side.
But when the Commandant lifted his hand, the grey ball remained attached to
the skin on the General’s forehead. He felt a sudden pressure that quickly turned into
sharp, biting pain. The ball was burrowing through his scalp and into bone. Through
It was headed to his brain.
“W-why?” he asked a final time.
This time, the Commandant responded.
“You must all die.”
The grey ball entered the General’s brain. A final, fleeting thought floated through
his mind. Why are his eyes red?
The Commandant watched distantly as the bullet completed its job, ricocheting
through the dense tissue until it was torn mush. Then he recalled the grey ball. When it
was once again resting on the General forehead, he pressed his hand against it,
pushing it back into his skin, letting it reabsorb back into his system. Then he let the
General’s body flop on the blood-soaked concrete floor.
“You should’ve asked why the bombs were necessary in the first place. Old
friend.”
The Commandant turned and surveyed the scene. For the moment, his job was done.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Crux

Why do I do it?

Why do I put up with the traffic, the summer heat, the constant packing and unpacking, the change in venues, the need to change my setup, the early mornings, the growing costs to be a vendor/artist, the exhaustion post-events, the feeling of disappointment when people look at my bookmarks but refuse to look at my books, the discomfort when someone tries to talk down my prices, the outrage when I see that same person pull out a fifty for some pre-fab goods? Why put up with all this?

The crux of all this frustration is that I do it because I want to.

I want to write.

The changing landscape in authorship today, particularly for indie authors, is that we do not get the luxury of sitting back and relaxing once our book is finished. In fact, despite the hundreds (if not thousands) of hours spent working on it, getting a book published is merely step one. That is partly why, when people ask me how to become a writer, I look at them sternly and say, finish your rough/first draft. Because is step one is 'getting published' then the steps leading up to that are similar to negative numbers. Or perhaps, I think back to my days studying aikido and how my sensei described getting a belt... every color led to black, but getting a first degree black belt was like starting at zero. Only once I had one of those would I be ready to actually start understanding the fighting style. In the same way, only once a person is published is she/he able to begin to understand that his/her work has just begun. 

Getting published is the first step. Getting readers to buy your book is the second. 

That's it. Only two steps. But just as step one is the result of sincere dedication and hard work, step two is a process that doesn't end the day you turn in your finished manuscript. Instead, that's when your grass roots campaign begins and you find yourself at multiple events, packing and unpacking, lugging tables, agonizing over displays, and dressing up in an attempt to become relevant and convince that one reader to buy your masterpiece. All while juggling other jobs, family obligations, friend activities, and that new book you're itching to start.

But you do it anyway, exhaustion and all, because writing is what you live for. It is, quite simply, what you do. However, in today's writer's market, it cannot be all you do. 

That essential fact is the crux of it. If I must write, then I must also be willing to work to sell my writing, as dictated by the current demands of the market.

If that sounds challenging, just remember this: you made it through step one, which means you're halfway there. Don't stop now.