Tag: Free Fiction (page 1 of 2)

From The Vault: The Drifter’s Hand

Courtesy impactguns.com

Last week, I posted some Flash Fiction that put some old gods in new situations. This has been an interest of mine for some time. I thought I’d pull in some old stories of mine and see what else can be done. Like this one – The Drifer’s Hand.

It would be silly to try and translate every story from the Eddas in this way, but I still feel like there’s more story, here. I don’t know if I’ll do anything with it, but maybe… Just maybe… We’ll see, I suppose.


The Eddas are full of manliness, with epic tales of heroes facing down monsters and often paying a dear price for being who and what they are. And many Old West tales bring us images of stalwart, stoic men standing in dusty roads, eyes narrowed at an opponent, unwilling to back down even if it means a bullet for their trouble.

It felt, to me, like a match made in Asgard, and the result is The Drifter’s Hand.

You can read the text below, or download the PDF here. Either way, read, comment & enjoy.

[spoiler]
For a good portion of the late 1800s, the Arizona boom-town Midgard was every bit as prosperous and populous as her sisters. She never quite grew to the proportions of Tombstone, though, and as the new century approached she began to shrink. There was talk of the railroad going through or near the town, but local lawlessness kept the Santa Fe people from really committing to any sort of construction.

The stranger approached Midgard on a strong but tired horse, his hat half-tipped over his eyes, his beard disheveled and lips cracked from the road. His boots were caked with mud and his duster had more than a couple holes in it, some natural wear and tear while others clearly indicated the paths of past bullets. He seemed heedless of the looks he was getting from Midgard’s locals as he rode into town, his horse unerringly heading for the nearest trough of fresh water.

As soon as his steed was positioned to wash away some of the dust from the road, the stranger swung down from the saddle, tying the horse to the nearby hitch. Removing one of his gloves, the man bent to the trough and drank some of the water himself. Flicking some droplets away from his beard, he turned and headed in the direction of the saloon.

His spurs tapped against the wooden floor. The mid-afternoon crowd in the saloon barely numbered a dozen, roughly half of them at or near the Faro table in the corner. The man behind the cards, a well-groomed gent with a dark waistcoat and thin mustache, glanced up at the stranger before declaring the player to his right the winner. The stranger removed his hat and approached the barkeep.

“I’d like a room, if one’s available.”

“Ain’t seen you ’round here before,” the barman observed as he placed a shot glass on the bar and produced a bottle whiskey. Seeing it, the stranger nodded. “You just passin’ through?”

“I’ve been on the road quite a while. Not sure if my last stop’ll be Tombstone or further west.”

The barman nodded, pouring the drink. “Well, there’s a room available for the night, if you want it. Dollar and a half a week to occupy it, and that entitles you to breakfast in the mornin’.”

“Sounds like a good deal.” The stranger was rummaging under his duster for his money when the saloon doors swung open again, permitting a stocky man in a widebrimmed hat to enter. The sash around his waist, the band at his arm and the kerchief tied around his neck were all the same color, the red of blood pumping from a gaping wound.

“Oh, horseshit.” The color drained from the barman’s face.

“It’s Tuesday, Dwight,” the newcomer bellowed. “Fenris wants their money.”

“I don’t have it all.” The man behind the bar, his hand shaking, produced a modest iron box with a handle. He opened it and pulled out a small wad of bills. “The rooms ain’t been full all week and not many people been stoppin’ by…”

“Stuff it.” The newcomer snatched the money from the shaking hand offered to him, and quickly counted it. “This is all? What about that city slicker in the corner?”

At mention of the corner, the crowd around the Faro table scattered. The man who’d been dealing raised his eyebrows at them.

“Looks like he just lost most of his profit,” he observed, not looking at the newcomer. “I already paid Dwight for this week.”

The newcomer slammed a fist into the table in frustration and grabbed Dwight by the lapels. “I oughta break your face. You holdin’ out on Fenris? You know that ain’t smart.”

“I’m sorry! I’ll have it tomorrow!”

“Tomorrow is when Fenris comes through here and burns this stinkin’ waterin’ hole to the ground!”

The sound of a gun being cocked echoed through the saloon. The newcomer’s eyes slid to his right, towards the barrel pressed to his temple. The stranger set down the shot glass with his right hand, the left occupied with gripping the Colt Peacemaker.

“I think now’s a good time to leave,” he told the newcomer.

“You lost your marbles, stranger? This ain’t your concern.”

“I plan on sleeping here. If you and whomever this Fenris guy is plan on burning the place down while I’m sleeping in it, I’d say that damn well makes it my concern.”

“Fenris ain’t one guy. Fenris is a force of nature! It’ll sweep through this town like a plague outta the Bible!”

“Well, you can tell Lucifer all about it when I send you to meet him. Which’ll be in 5 seconds if you don’t haul ass.”

The newcomer’s face slackened, his eyes flicking between the hard countenance of the stranger and Dwight’s disbelieving expression. At the fourth second, he swallowed. “This ain’t over.” He backed away from the gun, and then shook a fist at Dwight. “This ain’t over!”

“It is for now,” the stranger said. “Disappear.”

He did. Dwight poured the stranger another whiskey.

“Nobody’s stood up to a Fenris man for months. You must really not be from around here.”

The stranger knocked back the shot. “Mind telling me who or what Fenris is?”

“Wolves of Arizona.” The voice came from the man behind the Faro table, who stood and walked over to join the stranger at the bar. “Thieves, bank robbers, kidnappers and murders. Just the worst sort of cowboy. Most of ’em just wear the red sashes. Fenris folk go the extra mile with those red kerchiefs and armbands of theirs.”

“Heard most of the cowboys were down near Tombstone.”

“So they are, stranger, so they are. One for me too, Dwight.”

“Right away, Mr. Frey.” Dwight produced a second glass, cleaning it quickly to pour the dealer his whiskey.

“Needless to say,” Frey went on, “you’ve made yourself an enemy, and one that won’t easily be placated, Mister…”

“Tyr. Jim Tyr.”

“Pleased, Mr. Tyr. Arthur Frey, at your service.”

“You can just call me Jim. Mr. Tyr’s my father.”

“In that case, Jim, why don’t you call me Art?”

Tiwaz rune

“So why are we playing poker now, instead of Faro?”

Art shrugged. “I like changing the game. I call.”

Jim rubbed his trimmed beard and considered his hand. Three threes wasn’t a strong one but it wasn’t bad, either. He didn’t fold. The locals at the table did. Art turned his cards over, showing a straight. Jim leaned back and gestured to the pot.

“All yours.”

Art smiled a bit and raked in the winnings as Jim turned back to his supper. Dwight had waived the fee for his room earlier, and after coming back from a bath and shave, Jim had found a plate of warm food waiting for him, also courtesy of the barkeep.

“I hear you ran off one of the Fenris boys.”

Jim stopped in the middle of slicing a bit of chicken with a dull knife.

“He was hassling Dwight and threatening to burn the place down. I’m sleeping here tonight. Didn’t want to wake up on fire.”

“An understandable concern, stranger, but most folk around here don’t want to piss off the Wolf.”

Jim looked up. The man standing over him wore a dark patch over his left eye and the star of a United States Marshall.

“They aren’t afraid of you, I take it?”

“They know I can’t be everywhere at once. And when I’m gone they think it’s fun to shoot my deputies. Always have plenty of witnesses to say it was self-defense or some such, though. Everybody’s afraid of ’em. They, on the other hand, don’t seem to be afraid of anything.”

“They should be. Every man’s got the same blood, same skin, same tendency to die when shot or stabbed.”

“Now there’s a pitch-black observation.” The Marshall leaned on the bar. “Where are you from anyhow, Mr. Tyr?”

Jim bristled. “Back East. Grew up around Arlington.”

“You fight in the war?”

He looked at the Marshall. “Yeah. Did you?”

Before the Marshall could answer, the doors of the saloon burst open. Three men walked in, all wearing the red of Fenris. Dwight ducked behind the bar and the music stopped.

“Odin! Where is he?”

The Marshall turned. “Right here next to me, Luke Hundr. And you ain’t taking him tonight.”

Luke stalked towards the table, his two cronies in tow. Art made a move to stand, but Jim shook his head. He stepped away from the others and hooked his thumbs in his gun belt.

“You looking for me?”

Luke scowled. “Hear you pulled a gun on my man Butch.”

“Butch was shaking down Dwight for money he didn’t have. He threatened to burn the place down. Since I’m sleeping here, I asked him not to.”

“You’ve got it wrong, stranger. Butch wasn’t going to do a thing on his own. WE will burn this place down. We put up the money for Dwight to open this little establishment, and if we want to burn it down since he can’t pay us, we’ll do just that.”

“Not in city limits,” Odin said. “You got a permit for this land, Luke? if so, you’ll want to evict Dwight and foreclose.”

Luke waved a hand dismissively. “That takes too long. I want my money or my land. If I can’t have one I’ll take the other.” He smirked at Odin. “And I know you got a hangin’ to be at tomorrow, Marshall. Got that nasty murderer Surtur locked up an’ ready to swing. Wouldn’t want to miss that, would you? Been chasing him, what, ten years?”

Odin’s eye narrowed and his mustache curled around his face in a frown. Luke looked past the Marshall at Jim.

“Tomorrow, you meet me out in the street or I burn this place down with you in it. Got it?”

Jim crossed his arms. “So you and all of your boys can shoot me at once? I didn’t fall off the stage yesterday.”

“It’ll just be you an’ me. We’ll settle this.” Luke smiled unpleasantly and tipped his hat to Odin. “Have a nice trip, Marshall.”

The Fenris men left in short order. Jim rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“Regretting pulling that gun on Butch?”

“I don’t do regret, Marshall. I take it he’s met men in the street before?”

“Many a time. Like I said, always plenty of witnesses saying the deputy or other poor sod drew down first. They say Luke’s got a sense for traps. Any time more than a couple of my men have been waiting for him to show, he doesn’t.”

“And I gather Luke won’t be showing up alone.”

“Probably not.” Odin patted him on the arm. “Nobody’ll think the less of you if you’re gone before dawn.”

“And leave them to burn Dwight’s place down? No way, Marshall. I’m not letting a mongrel like that run me out of town, and Dwight’s place is better standing and unscorched.”

“I have to agree.” Art Frey had resumed shuffling the cards, but wasn’t paying much attention to them. His eyes were on the men discussing the showdown. Music was playing again and people were going about their business. “This is our town, Marshall. It doesn’t belong to Fenris.”

“Art Frey, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.” Odin looked the gambler over with his good eye. “Siting here behind your cards for months not doing a damn thing about these hooligans. Why now?”

“They never threatened Dwight like this before. It’s be a very lean time. He hasn’t had lodgers, nor I many punters. Dwight and I got a good partnership going. I don’t want to see it end in flames.”

“Do you even own a gun?”

“Matter of fact, I do. Damn peculiar Henry rifle. Most people find it’s too heavy in the barrel or the stock, but if you know her balance and how to use it, the damn thing very nearly aims itself.”

Odin looked back to Tyr, who shrugged. The marshall then ordered three whiskeys, drank with the men and replaced his hat.

“I need to see to Surtur’s transportation. We’ll be gone before dawn. I wish I could delay but the judge is eager to put this on in the books. Good luck, gentlemen. You’re gonna need it.”

Odin left the saloon. Art turned to Jim.

“I hear you served in the war?”

“51st Virginia. You?”

“I’m a Massachusetts man, myself.”

They drank their next shot of whiskey in silence.

Tiwaz rune

The horse at the hitching post turned to Jim, as if to ask a question. The drifter saw the look, knowing what it meant.

“I don’t know what I’m doin’ out here, either.”

The dawn broke over Midgard, painting the town and the surrounding parched lands in pinkish reds. The stagecoach with Marshall Odin, his prisoner and deputies had already rattled out of town. The sound of hooves brought Jim’s attention back to the street ahead of him. Around him, the signs of the shops swung in the morning breeze. The large sign for the livery stayed in place, dominating the second floor of the barn on the north end of town and sheltered from the wind.

Jim stepped away from his horse, hands held at shoulder height. He didn’t want to get shot before Luke Hundr had a chance to get off his ride. Eight men on horses came around the corner and down the street. Jim frowned.

“I’m here like we agreed, Luke Hundr.” He waved his right hand. “My gun hand’s empty. I thought you said it’d be just you and me.”

Luke smirked as he swung down from his horse. The other Fenris men stayed mounted, and Jim saw one of them was Butch, the beefy face under the wide-brimmed hat leering at him. Nobody else was out in the street or even near windows Jim could see. That was probably a safe bet on their part.

Without a word, Luke drew his pistol and shot Jim. The impact of the bullet half-spun the drifter to his right and sent him to the dirt. Jim had been shot before, which didn’t make it sting any less, but helped him fight down the sense of panic that always came with it. He saw his right hand, ruined, pumping blood into the dust.

“I told my first lie when I was six years old,” Luke told Jim as the hooting from his men died down. “I ain’t quit since then.”

“Yeah, well. I may not have the experience you do, but I ain’t always a hundred percent truthful either.”

Luke cocked his head to one side, leveling his pistol. “Really? Do tell.”

“For one, I ain’t alone either.”

From behind the livery sign came a loud crack. Butch was taken right off the back of his horse, a hole opened up in his chest. The others’ mouths opened in shock and Luke turned to see what’d happened. That was his mistake. In a flash, Tyr grabbed the pearl handle of his Colt with his left hand, drew the gun and fired. His shot caught Luke in the shoulder, spinning him fully towards his men. Jim rose behind him, the wide eyes of the mounted Fenris men on every move he made.

“For another, I’m a southpaw.”

The second bullet shoved Luke to the ground, his skull shattered from the impact. Tyr, his right hand at his side and streaming blood down his leg, aimed his gun at the next Fenris man. When another tried to draw down on him, the Henry rifle made itself heard again, dropping the offender. The remaining Fenris wheeled their horses, and two more were shot down as they rode for their lives.

Jim sank to his knees. He holstered his gun and raised his right arm with his left hand, trying to slow the bleeding by elevating the wound. Art Frey appeared beside him minutes later, the Henry rifle slung over his shoulder. His clothing was still somehow immaculate, despite having to climb into the trestle of a stable in the dark.

“Here, Jim.” Art handed him a flask, which Art discovered was full of single malt scotch. He nearly coughed when it hit the back of his throat. The gambler helped him to his feet. “Let’s get that hand looked at.”

“Whatever hand I’m holding next, Frey, it’s going to beat yours. I’m feeling pretty damn lucky today.”

Art chuckled. “I’ll take that bet, Tyr. Now, let’s make sure you don’t bleed to death before I take the rest of your money, too.”

~ fin ~

[/spoiler]

Free Fiction: Miss Weaver’s Lo Mein

London circia 2009 Canary Wharf; Courtesy Shutterstock

Since this week’s Terribleminds flash fiction was a single sentence, and my weekend was too jam-packed to make use of Brainstormer, I dug around and found an as-yet unpublished work of fiction. This is in the tradition of most of my other free fiction, in that it reworks an old tale in a new way. Specifically, this is a Chinese folk tale done as a modern romance. I hope you enjoy it.

If you’d prefer to read the story in PDF-form, check out this page. If you’d prefer a format like MOBI, let me know and I’ll see what I can do!


To say that Caroline Weaver didn’t get out much would be an understatement.

In terms of creature comforts, she wanted for nothing. She had a spacious apartment within walking distance of her father’s office. Weaver & Weaver had been in the commodities business practically since there was a commodities business, and it was a long-standing, solid and above-board company handed down from eldest son to eldest son. When Joe’s sons and wife were killed in a car accident, he turned to Caroline and immediately began grooming her to take his place when he was gone.

The loss of her brothers and mother left Caroline numb, dedicated solely to her work. She knew how important it was. Her dad was counting on her. If someone who wasn’t Weaver took over the company when Joe passed on, it wouldn’t be Weaver & Weaver anymore, would it? It was something that consumed her. She ate organic food, slept near a laptop, never took vacations and no relationship she tried lasted longer than a couple months. Some of her co-workers joked the only guy she could stand on a regular basis outside of her father was “the lo mein guy.”

His cart was always parked across Broadway from the office building. FRESH CHINESE was the declaration on the placards bolted to the hammered metal sides. Paper lanterns hung from the opened side doors, a little MP3 player hooked up to speakers piped quiet Chinese tunes, and the smell coming from the cart was always something divine to Caroline, never greasy or fatty. It was the man behind the cart, however, that really kept her coming back.

“Morning, Miss Weaver! The usual lo mein?”

He was her age. He kept his dark hair short, and his eyes always had a glint of mischief in them, a laugh just waiting to explode from his mouth. More than once, Caroline reflected that there was a significant lack of laughter in her life.

“Yes, please. How’s the beef?”

“Absolutely delicious.” He grinned as he spooned noodles into her take-away container. “But you know that! You never get chicken or shrimp.”

“It’s just that the beef is so good,” she admitted. “Is it local?”

“Yes, unfortunately.”

“Why is that unfortunate?” Caroline was speaking before thinking. That never happened. She’d been visiting this cart for months, why was she suddenly so talkative? She watched him, carefully sprinkling spices on top of the pile of beef and noodles in the paper box. Why couldn’t she look away from his eyes today?

“It’s not as good as the beef back home. My father’s a cowherd, like his father and so on and so forth.”

She blinked. “‘Back home’? You’re a Chinese native?”

“Why is that a surprise?” He let out a short, barking laugh. “Is it because I speak English so well?”

“Well…” She shuffled her feet. The last thing she wanted to do was offend him. If nothing else, she didn’t want her food spiced with spit.

“I get it all the time.” He was still smiling, handing her the lunch. “I was educated at a school upstate. My father was here for years trying to secure an export contract for his beef. It never happened. He couldn’t afford to move us all back home, so I stayed to make enough money on my own to do it.”

She handed him a few bills from her purse. “Here, and keep the change. I hope you make it home someday soon.”

“Me too. Thank you, Miss Weaver.”

His smile was infectious. She turned, face to face with a construction worker who wasn’t as happy with their banter as she was. Blushing, she hurriedly crossed the street. She didn’t stop blushing until well after she returned to her desk. She still wasn’t sure what’d possessed her to talk to him like that. She tried not to think about it as she got her chopsticks out and ate her lunch. Hours later as she was plowing through a pile of work it occurred to her she’d never asked his name.
That’s exactly what she did the next day.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I didn’t think to ask your name yesterday.” She paused. “I’ve been coming her for months and never once have I asked your name. Wait… how do you know mine?”

“You answered your cell phone once while I was making your lunch. That’s rude, you know.”

His deadly serious face made her crestfallen. “Oh…”

His eyes glimmered and he grinned. “I’m just playing. I didn’t mind. Folks behind you might’ve, but I can’t tell them how to think.”

She returned his smile. “I’m sorry. I’ve just been working a lot lately.”

“Aren’t we all.” He handed her the beef lo mein. “I’m Yuan. Sorry if I didn’t say so before.”

“No, really, it’s my fault for not asking.”

He handed her the lunch he’d made her. “Think nothing of it, Miss Weaver.”

She paid him, along with the tip she usually added. “It’s Caroline.”

His smile lit up his entire face, and the rest of that afternoon flew by for her.

Over the next few months, Caroline and Yuan began to learn more and more about each other. She didn’t know much about baseball, but he hated the Yankees. He hadn’t gotten to do much reading since establishing his business, and she was a huge Harry Potter fan. They shared a taste for older rock’n’roll, with Caroline marking the death of Jimi Hendrix every year and Yuan considering himself a Beatlemaniac. Caroline didn’t go to the movies much, and Yuan promised if they ever did, it wouldn’t be to see a romantic comedy.

“I don’t know if I’d have the time to go see a movie.” The skies above were threatening rain that day. Yuan smiled as he stirred a fresh batch of lo mein noodles, intent on giving her the first portion of it.

“But you’d be open to the idea?”

She smiled. “What makes you think I wouldn’t be?”

“Don’t people in your line of work usually associate with others in the same industry or social circle?”

“I guess, but most of them are entitled self-important arrogant douchebags.”

Yuan snorted in laughter. “Well, I can’t say I’m any different. I mean, these are the best noodles in the city.”

“But I can attest to that. I’ve tasted your noodles. I only have vapid claims to go on from those clowns. I have no interest in seeing their golf swings or art collections, and they think I’ll be eager to find out how good they are in bed when their cologne could knock out a herd of angry rhinos? No, forget it.”

Yuan shook his head, grinning. “I think this is the happiest I’ve heard you. You really enjoy trashing your peers this much?”

“No. I enjoy talking to you this much.”

He looked up at her smile, and for a moment, he was at a loss for words. He handed her the lunch box. She took it, touching his fingers for a moment before handing him the cash.

“Thursday night, the cinema over on 55th. Seven o’clock?”

He nodded. “I’ll be there.”

The movie showing on Thursday night was a little independent production, and it was neither romantic nor a comedy. Still, at times the movie seemed absolutely superfluous, as Caroline was in the company of someone who made no demands of her and had no expectations. It wasn’t an industry event where she was supposed to hobnob with this client or that CEO, it was simple, straightforward, uncomplicated.

She didn’t want it to end.

He walked her to her door afterward, kissed her good night and took the train back to his self-described “rathole”. She was still walking six feet off the ground when she came into work on Friday.

“You seem to be in excellent spirits.”

She came out of the pleasant memories to look at the man standing at the door of her office. Her father. Tall and thin, with a bald head and bright blond sideburns flowing into his distinctive mustache, he entered the office and closed the door behind him.

“Yeah. I… I was on a date last night.”

“A date? With whom? That nice boy Howards from the exchange?”

“No.” She hesitated. How much did she want to tell him? How much could she? “You wouldn’t know him.”

The lift he’d had in his mustache disappeared. It was the most she’d seen him smile in a while, and now it was gone. “Well, maybe I’d like to. Give it some thought.”

He left her to her work, and the morning dragged by for her until she headed downstairs for lunch.

“You look awful,” Yuan commented as he stirred the noodles at his cart. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s my father. I told him about our date, and…”

“…he’d be less than impressed with me.” He nodded slowly. “He’s a high-powered executive. I understand.”

“Yuan, he’s not a bad man, but the company is all he has. I’m important to him because of the part I play in it.”

“Can’t you be important to him because you’re his daughter?”

“I was, once. Now he’s pinned all his hopes and future on me.”

He touched her hand, gently. “That’s a lot to ask of someone.”

She looked in his eyes. “Yuan, I’m sorry. I don’t want to stop seeing you. I… you make me so happy sometimes I can barely contain it.”

He smiled, and gently handed her her lunch. “I’m glad we agree on that. Look, you’ll see me here every day. When you’re ready, we’ll talk about how to handle this ‘dad’ situation of yours. It’ll be fine. I promise.”

Nodding, she gave her usual generous tip, taking a moment to kiss the bills before putting them in his jar. The grin splitting his face was priceless. She returned to work in better spirits and made it through the rest of the day.

The next day, however, it was Yuan’s turn to be followed by a dark cloud. He showed Caroline a form that’d been delivered to him in person.

“It’s a deportation notice,” he told her. “My visa’s been revoked.”

“How is that possible?” She studied the form. It made no sense.

“After my student visa expired, I applied for residence. Despite the fact my work permit from my previous visa hadn’t expired, they’re saying this-” He gestured a his cart and its delicious-smelling food. “- is illegal, and they’re deporting me for it.”

“That is bullshit!” She slammed the form back onto the cart. “What was this officer’s name? I’ll find him and sort it out.”

He shook his head. “I’ve already found a buyer for the cart. I’m going to go home, help dad with the farm. The money I’ve made here isn’t much, but…”

She took his hand, ignoring the people behind her. “Yuan, they don’t have to run you out like this. It isn’t right. We should fight this, together.”

“Even if we do, I’ll either be doing it from China or from jail. I’d like to hold on to my freedom, even if it means leaving a country supposedly founded on it, and you.”

Caroline felt tears coming to her eyes and tried to blink them away. He touched her face and smiled faintly.

“It’s a smaller world than you might think. I don’t think it can keep us apart for too long.”

She leaned into his touch, kissed his hand. “I’m going to miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too, Miss Weaver. Here’s your lo mein.”

She didn’t remember the trip back upstairs, nor leaving her lunch on her desk. The next thing she knew she was in her father’s office.

“This was your doing.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” He didn’t look at her. Six financial reports were on his wall of televisions at once. He said it kept his mind sharp.

“Yuan’s deportation. You had something to do with it.”

“People shouldn’t be here on expired permits and visas. If they can’t be bothered to renew their paperwork properly, they’ve got no place here.”

“His work permit’s fine, you just don’t like the fact that I’m interested in someone in a lower tax bracket from you!”

“I don’t like your tone, Caroline.”

“And I don’t like the way you try to control my life like it’s a game of chess or something! I’m your daughter, not a slave or a pawn!”

“You’re also the best employee I’ve got, and this is our busiest time of year. I need you completely on your game with no distractions. You can have all the girlish flings you want third quarter, just as long as I don’t have to see it by looking out my window.”

Caroline felt her hands curling into fists. She stared at her father as her nails bit into her palms. Finally, when she couldn’t think of anything constructive to say, she turned and walked out, returning to her office. She managed to make it through the rest of the work day and get herself home before she broke down into tears.

It was a dismal month that followed. The corner across the street from the office was soon occupied by a hot dog vendor, a large gentleman with hairy shoulders who tended to undercook the dogs. She tried to focus on her work, and as her productivity didn’t dip too far, her father either didn’t notice the way she dragged herself through her days, or simply didn’t care. Caroline suspected the latter.

Finally, after returning home from work, she found an envelope with international postage on it waiting for her. She got into her apartment, tore off her coat, sat at her tiny kitchen table and clawed the envelope open.

Dear Caroline,
I’ve never been all that good at writing things out. I try to deal with what’s in front of me and not live inside my head, in words and pictures. I’m sorry if that meant I came across as cold the last time I saw you. Leaving you tore me apart. I loved that little cart and I miss it, almost as much as I miss you.
We don’t have the Internet out here on the farm, as my father thinks it’s a superfluous expense. So I’ve taken to riding the train to the nearest library. Still, I have the credit card I got while I was in the States, and I used it to buy you a copy of this software that teaches you Chinese. The code for downloading it’s enclosed with this letter. I’ve also sent you a voucher for an airline ticket, which should bring you out here around our New Year’s celebration.
You’ve got six months to learn enough Chinese to not piss off my dad.
No pressure.
I’m kidding. I’m sure you’ll get along fine. Still, a few key Mandarin phrases won’t hurt. I’m sure your dad won’t be too happy with you skipping town on him, and I know your work is important to you. I’m not going to ask you to run away or anything like that. Just come see me, or at least write back.
I miss you more than words can say.
Love,
Yuan

Sure enough, the envelope had a print-out with a download code and another with information on a cross-Pacific flight. She read and re-read the letter several times, and a plan began to take shape.

The exchange of letters between her and Yuan quickly became preoccupied with the particulars, as she practiced her writing of Chinese characters and he gently corrected her sentence structure. She saved all of her excitement and anticipation for after hours, ensuring her productivity remained at its usual high level. With her father pleased, he left her relatively alone. She worked her vacation request through the HR department like any other employee, knowing that her father tended to ignore the scheduling calendars of other people in his company as long as nothing they did interfered with his meetings. The Friday before she left, however, he knocked on her office door.

“A two-week vacation, and I’m only just now hearing about it?”

She didn’t look up from her paperwork. “I’m the top earner in the company three months running. I’ve earned some time off.”

“The HR calendar doesn’t say where you’re going.”

“I didn’t see how it was anybody’s business.”

“What if you’re going someplace dangerous?”

“You mean like five blocks from here? I’m not going to stay shut up in this office or my apartment because of a minority of ultra-violent whackjobs.”

“I see your point.” He lingered at the door, watching her work, before he disappeared. When he came back, he closed the door behind him and placed an envelope in front of her.

“What’s this?”

“I moved you up to first class.” He stood before her desk, his face inscrutable. “I won’t have you on a cross-ocean flight for hours on end cramped in a coach seat. My daughter deserves better.”

She looked at the envelope, then up at her father. “You know where I’m going, then?”

“Yes. And I know why.” He paused. “You’re right. You deserve your vacation, and the reason you’re taking it there is my fault. I was… I was scared.”

She blinked, breath caught in her throat. He tapped the envelope, not looking her in the eye.

“I know this won’t make up for what I did. But I had no right to take away something that made you happy just because I feared it getting in the way of business. I’m your boss, but I’m also your father. I can’t let one overwhelm the other.” The muscles in his jaw danced. “I know people say this company’s all I’ve got. But, really, Caroline… it’s you. You’re all I’ve got. And I’m scared of losing you.”

She took his hand. “You’ll never lose me, Dad. Not really. But I can’t always be here. Not when my heart is somewhere far away. I miss that little Chinese cart and the sweet guy behind it more than anything, and I’m sorry it took you this long to understand that.” She smiled at him. “Don’t be scared. I’m going to come back. But I need to see him. You understand that, don’t you?”

He nodded. “Take the time you need, be safe and come home. We’ll be waiting for you.”

She got up from her desk and hugged him. It was the first time they’d hugged in years. Phones rang elsewhere in the building. Emails poured into inboxes. The Weavers ignored them. For that moment, they weren’t co-workers anymore. They weren’t commodities traders. They were a family.

Two weeks later she was in China. Fireworks exploded in the streets. Paper dragons chased parades and lanters swung as people went hither and yon during the festivities. Yuan and Caroline walked hand in hand.

“I’m sorry my dad’s not in better health.” Yuan smiled a bit in spite of his mood. “It turns out I came home at just the right time. Getting into the groove of running the farm took longer than I thought it would, but we’re seeing better business than ever.”

“I’m glad something good came out of that. I was worried for you.”

“I know.” He squeezed her hand. “And your Mandarin sounds good. I know you’ll keep practicing when you go home.”

She leaned her head on his shoulder. “Let’s not talk about that yet. I know I have to, that it’ll be a long time before we make this work. If we ever do. For now… for now, I just want this.”

He nodded, and smiled. “Let me take you home, then, and make you some lo mein.”

Firecrackers popped nearby. Miss Weaver smiled at her cowherd. “I can’t wait.”

The Future of Free Fiction

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

With March here, I’m taking a look at how this Free Fiction project’s gone so far. It hasn’t been bad, but it hasn’t been that great either, especially if I want to do anything significant with it.

I think the idea of retelling old myths with newer genres still has merit, but getting it out to people in such a way that I know it’ll be enjoyed and distributed, as well as being quality writing I can truly be proud of, is going to take more than dashing off a story as quickly as possible to meet a deadline.

What I’ve already written is not my best work, taken overall. Some of it’s not bad, some of it needs some revision and editing. Rough patches need smoothed over, sketchy corners need to be filled in and it all needs to flow together properly. This is something that will take some time, and it will mean that the end result will be different from what’s currently sitting in that subdirectory of the server.

The big question is if people will be willing to pay for the final result.

Anthologies, even on a service like Kindle or B&N’s BuyIt, can be a dicey proposition. They’re cheaper than mass market novels, to be sure, especially with some publishers still trying to figure out a reasonable price point. Blizzard, seriously, $13 for the Kindle edition of The Shattering? Maybe the price will come down when the paperback edition arrives, but I’m not going to hold my breath, if I’m honest.

The question becomes, if I mean to blend these currently raw ingredients into a tasty anthology to earn some extra bucks, what becomes of the extant fiction? For one thing, I need to move it to a monthly schedule for the time being, until things on my end of the keyboard shake out a bit more. Maintaining a day job, working on a new novel, churning out query letters for a completed work and brewing up articles to feed into my pitching machine can be a difficult schedule to juggle, and I mean to up my game on all writing fronts. I’ve been letting my real passion lurk in the areas of ‘hobby’ and ‘passing fancy’ for far too long, and it’s time for me to change that.

What I think will work best is paring down the current offerings in the Free Fiction section to samples. A synopsis of the story, background on the origins of the myth and the genre, and a snippet of the actual text. This will pique interest, show my writing chops and maintain the content in the area, without needing to worry myself overmuch over the final fictional product right away. I can also release samples of novels and other works this way, and if a story does spill out of my brain with no place in either a novel or anthology, up it goes on Free Fiction!

Writerly types, those of you with real ink to your names, I need you to sound off. Is this a good idea? Am I going in the right direction? Or should I forget the thing entirely and keep on filing those TPS reports?

Free Fiction: Miss Weaver’s Lo Mein

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

Okay, I’m going to be honest. This isn’t likely to be my best story ever.

I haven’t been editing as thoroughly as I could have over the weekend, which makes this essentially a first draft. And as Hemingway put it, “The first draft of anything is shit.” So it’ll probably be better when it gets bundled with my other retold myths. Anyway, appropriate for Valentine’s Day and based on the Chinese folk tale “The Princess and the Cowherd” (a.k.a. The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl), I give you “Miss Weaver’s Lo Mein.”

[spoiler]
To say that Caroline Weaver didn’t get out much would be an understatement.

In terms of creature comforts, she wanted for nothing. She had a spacious apartment within walking distance of her father’s office. Weaver & Weaver had been in the commodites business practically since there *was* a commodities business, and it was a long-standing, solid and above-board company handed down from eldest son to eldest son. When Joe’s sons and wife were killed in a car accident, he turned to Caroline and immediately began grooming her to take his place when he was gone.

The loss of her brothers and mother left Caroline numb, dedicated solely to her work. She knew how important it was. Her dad was counting on her. If someone who wasn’t Weaver took over the company when Joe passed on, it wouldn’t be Weaver & Weaver anymore, would it? It was something that consumed her. She ate organic food, slept near a laptop, never took vacations and no relationship she tried lasted longer than a couple months. Some of her co-workers joked the only guy she could stand on a regular basis outside of her father was “the lo mein guy.”

His cart was always parked across Broadway from the office building. FRESH CHINESE was the declaration on the placards bolted to the hammered metal sides. Paper lanters hung from the opened side doors, a little MP3 player hooked up to speakers piped quiet Chinese toons, and the smell coming from the cart was always something divine to Caroline, never greasy or fatty. It was the man behind the cart, however, that really kept her coming back.

“Morning, Miss Weaver! The usual lo mein?”

He was her age. He kept his dark hair short, and his eyes always had a glint of mischief in them, a laugh just waiting to explode from his mouth. More than once, Caroline reflected that there was a significant lack of laughter in her life.

“Yes, please. How’s the beef?”

“Absolutely delicious.” He grinned as he spooned noodles into her take-away container. “But you know that! You never get chicken or shrimp.”

“It’s just that the beef is so good,” she admitted. “Is it local?”

“Yes, unfortunately.”

“Why is that unfortunate?” Caroline was speaking before thinking. That never happened. She’d been visiting this cart for months, why was she suddenly so talkative? She watched him, carefully sprinkling spices on top of the pile of beef and noodles in the paper box. Why couldn’t she look away from his eyes today?

“It’s not as good as the beef back home. My father’s a cowherd, like his father and so on and so forth.”

She blinked. “‘Back home’? You’re a Chinese native?”

“Why is that a surprise?” He let out a short, barking laugh. “Is it because I speak English so well?”

“Well…” She shuffled her feet. The last thing she wanted to do was offend him. If nothing else, she didn’t want her food spiced with spit.

“I get it all the time.” He was still smiling, handing her the lunch. “I was educated at a school upstate. My father was here for years trying to secure an export contract for his beef. It never happened. He couldn’t afford to move us all back home, so I stayed to make enough money on my own to do it.”

She handed him a few bills from her purse. “Here, and keep the change. I hope you make it home someday soon.”

“Me too. Thank you, Miss Weaver.”

His smile was infectious. She turned, face to face with a construction worker who wasn’t as happy with their banter as she was. Blushing, she hurredly crossed the street. She didn’t stop blushing until well after she returned to her desk. She still wasn’t sure what’d possessed her to talk to him like that. She tried not to think about it as she got her chopsticks out and ate her lunch. Hours later as she was plowing through a pile of work it occured to her she’d never asked his name.

That’s exactly what she did the next day.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I didn’t think to ask your name yesterday.” She paused. “I’ve been coming her for months and never once have I asked your name. Wait… how do you know mine?”

“You answered your cell phone once while I was making your lunch. That’s rude, you know.”

His deadly serious face made her crestfallen. “Oh…”

His eyes glimmered and he grinned. “I’m just playing. I didn’t mind. Folks behind you might’ve, but I can’t tell them how to think.”

She returned his smile. “I’m sorry. I’ve just been working a lot lately.”

“Aren’t we all.” He handed her the beef lo mein. “I’m Yuan. Sorry if I didn’t say so before.”

“No, really, it’s my fault for not asking.”

He handed her the lunch he’d made her. “Think nothing of it, Miss Weaver.”

She paid him, along with the tip she usually added. “It’s Caroline.”

His smile lit up his entire face, and the rest of that afternoon flew by for her.

Over the next few months, Caroline and Yuan began to learn more and more about each other. She didn’t know much about baseball, but he hated the Yankees. He hadn’t gotten to do much reading since establishing his business, and she was a huge Harry Potter fan. They shared a taste for older rock’n’roll, with Caroline marking the death of Jimi Hendrix every year and Yuan considering himself a Beatlemaniac. Caroline didn’t go to the movies much, and Yuan promised if they ever did, it wouldn’t be to see a romantic comedy.

“I don’t know if I’d have the time to go see a movie.” The skies above were threatening rain that day. Yuan smiled as he stirred a fresh batch of lo mein noodles, intent on giving her the first portion of it.

“But you’d be open to the idea?”

She smiled. “What makes you think I wouldn’t be?”

“Don’t people in your line of work usually associate with others in the same industry or social circle?”

“I guess, but most of them are entitled self-important arrogant douchebags.”

Yuan snorted in laughter. “Well, I can’t say I’m any different. I mean, these are the best noodles in the city.”

“But I can attest to that. I’ve tasted your noodles. I only have vapid claims to go on from those clowns. I have no interest in seeing their golf swings or art collections, and they think I’ll be eager to find out how good they are in bed when their cologne could knock out a herd of angry rhinos? No, forget it.”

Yuan shook his head, grinning. “I think this is the happiest I’ve heard you. You really enjoy trashing your peers this much?”

“No. I enjoy talking to you this much.”

He looked up at her smile, and for a moment, he was at a loss for words. He handed her the lunch box. She took it, touching his fingers for a moment before handing him the cash.

“Thursday night, the cinema over on 55th. Seven o’clock?”

He nodded. “I’ll be there.”

The movie showing on Thursday night was a little independent production, and it was neither romantic nor a comedy. Still, at times the movie seemed absolutely superfluous, as Caroline was in the company of someone who made no demands of her and had no expectations. It wasn’t an industry event where she was supposed to hobnob with this client or that CEO, it was simple, straightforward, uncomplicated.

She didn’t want it to end.

He walked her to her door afterwards, kissed her good night and took the train back to his self-described “rathole”. She was still walking six feet off the ground when she came into work on Friday.

“You seem to be in excellent spirits.”

She came out of the pleasant memories to look at the man standing at the door of her office. Her father. Tall and thin, with a bald head and bright blond sideburns flowing into his distinctive mustache, he entered the office and closed the door behind him.

“Yeah. I… I was on a date last night.”

“A date? With whom? That nice boy Howards from the exchange?”

“No.” She hesitated. How much did she want to tell him? How much could she? “You wouldn’t know him.”

The lift he’d had in his mustache disappeared. It was the most she’d seen him smile in a while, and now it was gone. “Well, maybe I’d like to. Give it some thought.” He left her to her work, and the morning dragged by for her until she headed downstairs for lunch.

“You look awful,” Yuan commented as he stirred the noodles at his cart. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s my father. I told him about our date, and…”

“…he’d be less than impressed with me.” He nodded slowly. “He’s a high-powered executive. I understand.”

“Yuan, he’s not a bad man, but the company is all he has. I’m important to him because of the part I play in it.”

“Can’t you be important to him because you’re his daughter?”

“I was, once. Now he’s pinned all his hopes and future on me.”

He touched her hand, gently. “That’s a lot to ask of someone.”

She looked in his eyes. “Yuan, I’m sorry. I don’t want to stop seeing you. I… you make me so happy sometimes I can barely contain it.”

He smiled, and gently handed her her lunch. “I’m glad we agree on that. Look, you’ll see me here every day. When you’re ready, we’ll talk about how to handle this ‘dad’ situation of yours. It’ll be fine. I promise.”

Nodding, she gave her usual generous tip, taking a moment to kiss the bills before putting them in his jar. The grin splitting his face was priceless. She returned to work in better spirits and made it through the rest of the day.

The next day, however, it was Yuan’s turn to be followed by a dark cloud. He showed Caroline a form that’d been delivered to him in person.

“It’s a deportation notice,” he told her. “My visa’s been revoked.”

“How is that possible?” She studied the form. It made no sense.

“After my student visa expired, I applied for residence. Despite the fact my work permit from my previous visa hadn’t expired, they’re saying this-” He gestured a his cart and its delicious-smelling food. “- is illegal, and they’re deporting me for it.”

“That is bullshit!” She slammed the form back onto the cart. “What was this officer’s name? I’ll find him and sort it out.”

He shook his head. “I’ve already found a buyer for the cart. I’m going to go home, help dad with the farm. The money I’ve made here isn’t much, but…”

She took his hand, ignoring the people behind her. “Yuan, they don’t have to run you out like this. It isn’t right. We should fight this, together.”

“Even if we do, I’ll either be doing it from China or from jail. I’d like to hold on to my freedom, even if it means leaving a country supposedly founded on it, and you.”

Caroline felt tears coming to her eyes and tried to blink them away. He touched her face and smiled faintly.

“It’s a smaller world than you might think. I don’t think it can keep us apart for too long.”

She leaned into his touch, kissed his hand. “I’m going to miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too, Miss Weaver. Here’s your lo mein.”

She didn’t remember the trip back upstairs, nor leaving her lunch on her desk. The next thing she knew she was in her father’s office.

“This was your doing.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” He didn’t look at her. Six financial reports were on his wall of televisions at once. He said it kept his mind sharp.

“Yuan’s deportation. You had something to do with it.”

“People shouldn’t be here on expired permits and visas. If they can’t be bothered to renew their paperwork properly, they’ve got no place here.”

“His work permit’s fine, you just don’t like the fact that I’m interested in someone in a lower tax bracket from you!”

“I don’t like your tone, Caroline.”

“And I don’t like the way you try to control my life like it’s a game of chess or something! I’m your daughter, not a slave or a pawn!”

“You’re also the best employee I’ve got, and this is our busiest time of year. I need you completely on your game with no distractions. You can have all the girlish flings you want third quarter, just as long as I don’t have to see it by looking out my window.”

Caroline felt her hands curling into fists. She stared at her father as her nails bit into her palms. Finally, when she couldn’t think of anything constructive to say, she turned and walked out, returning to her office. She managed to make it through the rest of the work day and get herself home before she broke down into tears.

It was a dismal month that followed. The corner across the street from the office was soon occupied by a hot dog vendor, a large gentleman with hairy shoulders who tended to undercook the dogs. She tried to focus on her work, and as her productivity didn’t dip too far, her father either didn’t notice the way she dragged herself through her days, or simply didn’t care. Caroline suspected the latter.

Finally, after returning home from work, she found an envelope with internation postage on it waiting for her. She got into her apartment, tore off her coat, sat at her tiny kitchen table and clawed the envelope open.

Dear Caroline,

I’ve never been all that good at writing things out. I try to deal with what’s in front of me and not live inside my head, in words and pictures. I’m sorry if that meant I came across as cold the last time I saw you. Leaving you tore me apart. I loved that little cart and I miss it, almost as much as I miss you.

We don’t have the Internet out here on the farm, as my father thinks it’s a superfluous expense. So I’ve taken to riding the train to the nearest library. Still, I have the credit card I got while I was in the States, and I used it to buy you a copy of this software that teaches you Chinese. The code for downloading it’s enclosed with this letter. I’ve also sent you a voucher for an airline ticket, which should bring you out here around our New Year’s celebration.

You’ve got six months to learn enough Chinese to not piss off my dad.

No pressure.

I’m kidding. I’m sure you’ll get along fine. Still, a few key Mandarin phrases won’t hurt. I’m sure your dad won’t be too happy with you skipping town on him, and I know your work is important to you. I’m not going to ask you to run away or anything like that. Just come see me, or at least write back.

I miss you more than words can say.

Love,
Yuan

Sure enough, the envelope had a print-out with a download code and another with information on a cross-Pacific flight. She read and re-read the letter several times, and a plan began to take shape.

The exchange of letters between her and Yuan quickly became preoccupied with the particulars, as she practiced her writing of Chinese characters and he gently corrected her sentence structure. She saved all of her excitement and anticipation for after hours, ensuring her productivity remained at its usual high level. With her father pleased, he left her relatively alone. She worked her vacation request through the HR department like any other employee, knowing that her father tended to ignore the scheduling calendars of other people in his company as long as nothing they did interfered with his meetings. The Friday before she left, however, he knocked on her office door.

“A two-week vacation, and I’m only just now hearing about it?”

She didn’t look up from her paperwork. “I’m the top earner in the company three months running. I’ve earned some time off.”

“The HR calendar doesn’t say where you’re going.”

“I didn’t see how it was anybody’s business.”

“What if you’re going someplace dangerous?”

“You mean like five blocks from here? I’m not going to stay shut up in this office or my apartment because of a minority of ultra-violent whackjobs.”

“I see your point.” He lingered at the door, watching her work, before he disappeared. When he came back, he closed the door behind him and placed an envelope in front of her.

“What’s this?”

“I moved you up to first class.” He stood before her desk, his face inscrutable. “I won’t have you on a cross-ocean flight for hours on end cramped in a coach seat. My daughter deserves better.”

She looked at the envelope, then up at her father. “You know where I’m going, then?”

“Yes. And I know why.” He paused. “You’re right. You deserve your vacation, and the reason you’re taking it there is my fault. I was… I was scared.”

She blinked, breath caught in her throat. He tapped the envelope, not looking her in the eye.

“I know this won’t make up for what I did. But I had no right to take away something that made you happy just because I feared it getting in the way of business. I’m your boss, but I’m also your father. I can’t let one overwhelm the other.” The muscles in his jaw danced. “I know people say this company’s all I’ve got. But, really, Caroline… it’s you. You’re all I’ve got. And I’m scared of losing you.”

She took his hand. “You’ll never lose me, Dad. Not really. But I can’t always be here. Not when my heart is somewhere far away. I miss that little Chinese cart and the sweet guy behind it more than anything, and I’m sorry it took you this long to understand that.” She smiled at him. “Don’t be scared. I’m going to come back. But I need to see him. You understand that, don’t you?”

He nodded. “Take the time you need, be safe and come home. We’ll be waiting for you.”

She got up from her desk and hugged him. It was the first time they’d hugged in years. Phones rang elsewhere in the building. Emails poured into inboxes. The Weavers ignored them. For that moment, they weren’t co-workers anymore. They weren’t commodities traders. They were a family.

Two weeks later she was in China. Fireworks exploded in the streets. Paper dragons chased parades and lanters swung as people went hither and yon during the festivities. Yuan and Caroline walked hand in hand.

“I’m sorry my dad’s not in better health.” Yuan smiled a bit in spite of his mood. “It turns out I came home at just the right time. Getting into the groove of running the farm took longer than I thought it would, but we’re seeing better business than ever.”

“I’m glad something good came out of that. I was worried for you.”

“I know.” He squeezed her hand. “And your Mandarin sounds good. I know you’ll keep practicing when you go home.”

She leaned her head on his shoulder. “Let’s not talk about that yet. I know I have to, that it’ll be a long time before we make this work. If we ever do. For now… for now, I just want this.”

He nodded, and smiled. “Let me take you home, then, and make you some lo mein.”

Firecrackers popped nearby. Miss Weaver smiled at her cowherd. “I can’t wait.”
[/spoiler]

The Paths to Self-Publication

Good Luck road sign

So. Self-publication. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought lately.

If you’re anything like me, though (and if you are you should really think about seeing a professional), you have a habit of catching just a whiff of a new endeavor and throwing yourself at it to the expense of all else. If that’s the case, let me caution you to STOP.

Read this, this and this.

True, Chuck is no self-publishing expert (and he even tells you so) but he likely knows more about it than the average self-publishing wannabe. Which is a category I definitely fall into. My queries are still out in the wild, howling their agent mating calls, waiting for some sort of response even if it’s just a shoe getting tossed at them so they’ll get off the agent’s fence. It’s not the novel I’m thinking of self-publishing.

As I continue working on my Free Fiction entries, spinning new ideas and laying out words, I see a pattern forming between some of the stories, things that readers can latch onto. As much as the anthology is a hated article of fiction, and combining that with self-publication means I’d be infecting my work with the literary equivalent of the Black Plague, an anthology of myths re-cast into different settings may still have an audience.

I don’t think you’ll be seeing it available any time soon, because I have a few things I need to do.

First, I need to write more.

No-brainer here. Right now I’ve got two solid stories and one that may be more a continuation of the first than a stand-alone narrative. I’ve got a new one in the works and ideas for at least three more. And I don’t want to just dash them off and slap them into a PDF for sale. There will need to be edits, revisions, cuts and fusions, all that good stuff that makes decent ideas into great stories. You’ll still get Free Fiction on a (semi) regular basis, but mostly I’ll be posting the raw stuff.

Next, I’ll need a cover artist.

Somehow I’ll have to find room in my budget to pay somebody for this. Considering I want this to be a product I’m proud of, willing to show to others as evidence of my style, inspiration and ability to produce, I don’t want it to look like something a fifth-grade drew in MS Paint or a photoshopped image with kitschy filters and lens flares all over the place. This should look professional, even if I’m a complete and total amateur.

Finally, it’ll come time to market the thing.

I’m not a marketing guy. I tend not to be inclined to schmooze. It makes me an inadequate salesman, even when I’m trying to sell myself. In social situations I always fear talking about myself too much, artificially redirecting conversations to make them about me, basically wishing to avoid behavior that’d get me branded as a self-centered douchecopter.

Yet that’s a good chunk of what will get a self-published work in a position to earn its keep.

Once it’s up on the Intertubes, it’ll sit there unless acted upon by an outside force. Newton’s First Law of Internet or something. And since I created the thing, I’ll have to be that outside force. I honestly have no idea what the best or most efficient way of doing so is going to be, but I’m willing to give it a try.

It’s something that could go any number of ways. Hopefully I don’t pursue one of the ways that pitches me head-first into an unforeseen pit filled with red-hot magma.

In other news, it’s entirely possible I’ve been playing Minecraft a bit much lately.

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