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Monday, December 31, 2018

The Wibbly Wobbly, Timey Wimey New Year's Day Thoughts.

And no, I'm not talking about the Doctor Who's New Year's Day special. Which to me just seems to avoid dealing with Christmas. At any rate, that's not what this blog post is about. More about the strange time warp I've experienced this past year, wondering how long it will last.

Yes, my last "productive" year was in 2013, five years ago. And most of that was editing a couple of books and publishing them, that I'd had in the works for some time. I did write some short stories, which can be found in book two of my Ethereal Worlds anthology in 2013, but not much else, that I recall, at least. It was the last year I did NaNo before 2018, but like this past November, I didn't finish then either. The last year I finished NaNo was 2010.

But, despite all that, 2018 has been a more productive year than any since 2010. That was back when I was writing all the time, up until 4 am, going to a full time job, then coming home and working on writing until early every morning. That all ended in May 11 of 2011. That's when I discovered my wife had been having an affair. That's when my fantasy and sci-fi writing came to a full stop until almost two years later, for varied reasons. But by the time I started to get back into it in 2013 is when my Parkinson's symptoms first appeared and it tended to zap all motivation to write, not to mention the physical difficulties in doing so. That was the main reason for my big break in getting much writing done, if any, for the last five years.

Until now. 2018 will go down as a much more productive year, primarily because of the Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery I had back in September and October of 2017. It not only has made me physically able to type up a storm again, but also has brought back the motivation to do so. So much so that I've finished two novels during 2018--the final book four of The Virtual Chronicles series and a stand-alone novel I've titled Rebellion--pulled together and did some edits on a couple of non-fiction books I've had in the works--one of them I'd been planning on pulling together since 2003 or 2004--started another couple of novels, as well as writing a few short stories here and there, one of which I'm thinking would make a good first chapter for an episodic style novel. I've published two novels this year, the previous book four of The Virtual Chronicles: Reality Game, and another novel I've been editing for some time now, first written back in 2008: The Magic Within, I recently went full bore on editing that one here in the last days of December. Though it will have a publishing date of Jan 2019, I did all the work publishing it in 2018, obviously.

So to say I've been productive is a bit of an understatement, at least if your the kind that believes that getting out one novel a year to be productive. I know others who regularly put out three to four books a year will find it productive, but not overly so. Still, for me, it was very productive, thanks to DBS. That's the wibbly wobbly, timey, wimey aspect of this past year, in that I feel sort of like I did back in 2011 right before the affair happened.

So, what are my plans for 2019? Yep, I'm calling them plans instead of resolutions. That's because they are plans that can change, not outside demands that I must fulfill if I want to be true to my word.

As far as publishing, I have so many books in the works which could potentially be published this year, I could have as many as four or five books published this year. On the novel front, I have at least two that I'm planning on publishing this year: Rebellion and The Dragon Within (a sequel to The Magic Within I just published). Once those novels have been published, it will put my total novel count at nine novels published (not including my three anthologies)! That's novels, not total books, which at that point would be more like around sixteen books. If I publish three novels this year, the extra would likely be Deep Brain Invasion. All depends on how quickly I can finish writing and editing it as to whether I can get it in before 2019 ends.

Then the other two books I plan on publishing in 2019 is couple of non-fiction books: Healing Infidelity Through Faith, and Looking into the Orthodox Church. Both of those I wrote, complied earlier writings on corresponding blogs, and am currently in the editing stages. So I expect they will be ready to be published this coming year under different pen names: Rick Copple (my given name, if you can call that a pen name) and Timothy Copple respectively.

Aside from my publishing plans, I'm planning on finishing writing Deep Brain Invasion, and working on writing and editing book three of The Legend of the Dragons' Dying Field (book two, The Dragon Within is finished writing, save for a tie up chapter or two, and currently being edited), which I've titled The Dragon Without. I have a few chapters on that one, so a long ways to go. If I get writing on that one soon, I could publish it sometime in 2020. Also, my recent Christmas story about Joel, the mysterious Guardian Angel of Reality Chronicles fame, I'm hoping I'll get started writing more episodes of that one, enough stories to make it into a full novel.

That brings me back to the title of this post, because yes, I do feel Joel is quirky enough to be sort of like the Doctor, at least personality wise (sort of a combination of David Tennet and Matt Smith) with Holly as his "companion." Given the problems with Doctor Who this past season, it may be the only Doctor Who-like stories coming out anytime soon. The main difference is angels don't regenerate. Nor will he have a TARDIS. My big decision is what time period to place these stories in? Mainly in relation to the events that happen in The Reality Chronicles and The Legend of the Dragons' Dying Field. Because Joel's an angel, he could be in any time period. I could place if before any of that happened, or during those stories, or after?

I would think it couldn't be before, very easily, because for around 100 years before the story in Reality's Dawn took place, he was entrapped by his bell. During might be tricky only because I haven't finished writing the stories in The Legend of the Dragons' Dying Field where Joel occasionally pops in for appearances, without Holly tagging along. No telling at this point whether Joel will play a more major roll in any of those unwritten books, assuming I make it that far. So I'm leaning toward those stories happening at some point after those in TLDDF. How long after that is another question I'll have to answer.

Those are my thoughts currently on 2018 and the up and coming 2019 as I sit on a snowy, Colorado New Year's Eve day. I pray your new year will be a good one. No telling what all will happen in 2019! Let's go explore it!

Friday, December 28, 2018

First Book of New Series is Available

Start off the new year with a new book, a new series, and a new hero! That's right, on the heels of finishing one series, I'm off to start a new one, that is planned (though that could change at any time) to be a five-book series.

The series is called The Legend of the Dragons' Dying Field. This first book, as you can see, is named, "The Magic Within."

This series is set in Sisko's world from The Reality Chronicles, and as the name implies, does indeed involve dragons. From Sisko's world you'll encounter Kaylee, Josh, and Joel. But the main character is Cole, the baby born to a "dead" Gabrielle at the end of "Reality's Fire," which is recapped in the prologue of this book and can be read in the sample provided on my site. Now 18, he is ready to go find his place in this world as he searches for what to do with the magical ability he was born with. What he and George, his unique friend, discover is a new world rich in traditions, where people work to hide the dragons from society at large.

The book is currently able to be pre-ordered, available to your ebook on January 1, 2019. So order as soon as you can to get it at the start of the new year. Here is a link directly to the Amazon page. Thank you for your support. Following is the book's blurb.

---------

Reality transforms into myth. Myth becomes legend. For most, dragons and their Dying Field are the stuff of legend. Merely bedtime stories told to children. But how much truth is there in the old legends? What secrets do the Dragons’ Dying Field hold? Cole and his friend George seek to discover the truth, to help George avoid an early death as well as to help Cole avoid his mentor’s death.

Within Cole resides a deep magic from above. Inherited from his father, it enables him to do magic beyond mere spells by thinking them into being. But what happens when he encounters a race of people who are immune to his magic? Who have a deeper magic?

Follow Cole’s journey to not only help his friend, George, deal with his “sped-up” life, but also to discover the true magic within, and his own place in The Legend of the Dragons’ Dying Field.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

They Walk Among Us

I started working on this story yesterday when I received news of my brother Rob's impending loss to cancer. He died earlier today. This Christmas Story, which revisits Sikso's world, is in honor of him. May he rest in God's arms and mercy.

-------------

A heaviness settled over Holly’s heart. It was Christmas morning. Why should she feel sadness at such a time?  She shuffled her feet through the leaves scattering the forest floor. She took her sword out and hacked at a couple of branches.  Even that didn’t seem to help. Gloom hovered around her and she had no idea why.

It must be the curse of the steam house. Yes, she had been cursed by the place. All of Reol’s children go in at age thirteen. Sisko went in and received a miracle ring. She went in and other’s feelings affected her own. That meant someone close by must feel sad. But why? Christmas was such a happy time.

Holly huffed. The only way to get rid of this sadness was to find who was sad and make them happy. Interestingly enough, she wasn’t affected by everyone’s feelings. Just certain people. She had no idea how it worked. It just did.

An old man came toward her, a cowl covering his face. As he passed, he stopped and asked, “Do you make tea?”

Holly stopped and stared at the man. His eyes appeared to glow from within the cowl. She wondered at the question. “Well, yes. I could make tea.”

“Do you make great tea?”

She shrugged. “That depends on what your used to.”

The “old man” brushed his cowl back to reveal a young man’s face. His blonde, shoulder-length hair swayed with the wind. “Good answer. But it has been a while since I’ve had a cup of great tea. If you could make me some, I would greatly appreciate it.”

Hospitality demanded she make him some, though she didn’t quite feel like doing it. Then again, maybe it would take her mind off of this sadness she felt. “Sure, follow me.” She turned around to head back to town. “One thing I should tell you, I live alone. If you don’t mind being seen in my house, it’s okay with me.”

He smiled. “Why should that concern me?”

Holly smiled back. “Because, you’re a monk or something. In case you didn’t think it would look proper.”

He held out a hand. “Where’s my manners. I’m Joel.”

Holly accepted his handshake. “My name is Holly.”

“Holly, if you don’t mind me asking, why do you live alone?”

She gazed at his eyes, trying to determine why he asked such a personal question. “Isn’t it obvious? No one will have me.”

“But why? You’re good looking enough, if you don’t mind me saying. You appear to have a pleasant personality.”

“You’ve only known me for about, say around five minutes. How do you know what kind of personality I have?”

He shrugged. “Anyone who can make great tea can’t be all bad.”

“You’ve yet to taste my tea, sir.”

“So true. We shall see.”

They finished the walk to her house in the town of Reol. She made tea as they continued to chat. After a while, she poured him his tea and he sipped it.

Joel sat the tea down. “Not bad, not bad. Not as good as I’m used to. But then, not much else is. However, I can tell by the taste of it that something is off.”

Holly nodded. “Now you know I don’t have the greatest of personalities, right?”

“There is a hint of sadness in this tea.”

“Sadness?” How could he know? Did the sadness come from him?

Joel took another sip. “Yes, that’s what I’m tasting. Sadness.”

“How can you taste that from the tea I’ve made? Is it because you are sad?”

“Me? Sad?” He laughed as if that were the craziest thing he’d ever heard. “No, I’m here to help you!”

“Me? Me? You came specifically to help me?”

He nodded as he took another sip.

She pointed a finger at him, “If this is some strange way to pick up ladies, I’ll have you know I’m fairly handy with a sword.” She reached for hers, propped up against the table.

He waived a hand. “That won’t be necessary. I’m not here to pick you up. What would be the point of that?”

She gritted her teeth. “You don’t have to be insulting.”

“What? It isn’t that you’re too heavy. Just no point in it. Don’t see what is so insulting about that. Taken in the right way, that should be a compliment.”

Holly stared at Joel for a moment. Was this guy a bit crazy or just acting the part?

Joel pointed at her. “If I didn’t know better, and I happen to do know better, I’d think you were a bit schizophrenic.”

She laughed. “It isn’t that, though it could appear that way.”

He stroked his chin. “Let me guess. You feel what others feel.”

Her jaw dropped. “How did you know?”

“Oh, I have my sources.” He grabbed something out of his bag. “I have the solution to your sadness. It is the right tea leaves. It’s not so much how you make it, but what you put into it.”

He rose and grabbed the teapot before Holly could say anything. She watched as he filled a pot with water and placed it over the fire in the hearth. As soon as the pot was boiling, he took it off and let it rest a bit before pouring it over the tea leaves. Soon, he was pouring fresh, heavenly smelling tea into her cup.

Holly took a sip. Then another. Before she realized it, she had drank the whole cup. She’d never done that before. She only sipped tea. “Boy, you are right. This is good.” Then it dawned on her. “That’s funny. I don’t feel so sad anymore. As a matter of fact, I feel happy.”

Joel smiled knowingly.

“What did you put in here?”

“Nothing. Just some tea leaves. The real difference is you.”

Holly shook her head. “No, I mean, what’s blocking me from feeling the sadness of someone else? I don’t lose those feelings until they are fixed within the person.”

Joel nodded knowingly.

“No, I mean, really. People’s emotions that I pick up on don’t pass away that quickly.”

Joel continued to nod and smile. “You’ll get it eventually.”

Get what? Oh! “Are you suggesting that I’m the one who was sad? That I was picking up on my own sadness?”

“Not picking up on it. It is simply that you are sad.”

“Sad over what?”

“That you are alone on Christmas? Or will be?”

The sadness settled in over her again. “Maybe you’re right. I had never thought of it before.”

“More like you've always pointed to an external reason why you felt sad. But it was really you all along.”

She poured more tea into her cup and drank again. “So, how do I fix it?”

“Why, by not being alone. Of course.”

She thought a moment. “But who wants to spend much time with a moody person like me? I can be happy one moment and angry the next. That’s why I tend to be so alone.”

“You could come with me.” He smiled. “Not that I’m suggesting to pick you up, but you are welcome to come with me.”

“That’s a fine offer. But first, where are you going?”

He shrugged. “Could be most anywhere, or at any time.”

“Any time? Don’t tell me you’re a time traveler.”

He held up his nose. “A time traveler? Really?”

She huffed. “What else do you call it?”

He sighed. “Well, if you’re going to come with me, I suppose I’ll break our rule and reveal to you who I really am. Only, you cannot speak a single word of this to no one else.” Joel moved closer. “And I mean, absolutely no one else. For me to tell you this means you are going to go. Either that, or I’ll have to erase this time from your mind.”

She laughed. “As if you could do that!” When he didn’t laugh, she said, “Can you?”

“I’m an angel.”

She simply stared at him. “Seriously?”

“Yep. A real live, from heaven, speaker to the big Boss upstairs, angel.”

She continued to stare at him. “Prove it?”

“How?”

“I know. Aren’t you guys supposed to have flaming swords?”

“Got one right here.” He stood and pulled a sword out from under his cloak. It burst into flames and his whole countenance grew brilliant. The area lit up like a star coming out of hiding.

Holly held her hands over her eyes. “Okay, okay. I believe you!”

He sheathed his sword and the room regained it’s normal lighting. “So are you ready to come with me?”

Holly though a second. “I’ll need time to get my stuff together. I’ll need clothes and such. Do you have an idea where you are going, though? When will we return? What will be our goal?”

Joel threw up his hands. “I haven’t the foggiest. It all depends on where I’m needed and what the problem is?”

She smiled as she rose. “Okay then. Looks like an adventure is in order.”

Holly dashed to her room and quickly threw together some clothes and other items she figured she would need. What did she feel now? A touch of excitement with a sense of dread.  The question was, how much of it was her and how much Joel? Did he dread this? He wouldn’t have asked if he dreaded it. Unless, of course, the “Big Boss” was forcing him to do this. She paused. “Nah. Couldn’t be. It would be natural that I would dread what might happen if I go with some ‘angel’ I’d just met.” She grabbed her bag and slung it over her shoulders. “But exciting too. Who knows what wonders I’ll see with an angel.”

Then she realized where the dread came from. She entered the room where Joel had grabbed his bag and was waiting. She asked him, “Joel, does this mean I’m dead?”

Joel shook his head. “My my, no way. You’ll always be alive.”

“I know we’re made to live eternally, what I mean is whether I’m now going to be dead to this world?”

“Nope. Not going to happen. At least, not yet.”

The dread disappeared. Yep, it was her dread. “I’m ready.”

He reached out his hand. “Hold my hand.”

She stare at his hand for a second. She knew everything would be different from here on out. No more wondering what she would do, because she didn't know what would happen, but God did. She reached out and grabbed his hand.

In a flash of bright light, the pair disappeared from the house, leaving nothing stirring but dust.

--<O>--

The brightness receded to reveal the outskirts of a city. Holly still felt Joel’s hand in hers. She asked, “Where are we?”

“Not sure, but the information I have says it is Belenor. Sikso’s old second home.”

Holly frowned. “I thought you said you had no idea where we were going?”

Joel turned to her. “I didn’t. God tells me when we arrive at a location.”

“I didn’t hear anything?”

He laughed. “Of course not. It is an internal sense that He gives me. A sixth sense, so to speak.”

“Do all angels have that sense?”

He paused. “Yes, as well as some humans.”

A wave of anger overcame Holly. “Why don’t I have that sense then. Am I not good enough!”

Joel didn’t seem to notice the rise in her voice. “Not at this time, apparently.”

“You’re all powerful. You give it to me. NOW!”

Joel’s lips turned downward. “I’m not all powerful, nor can I give it to you, as much as I might desire to.”

Holly stomped her foot on the ground. “Why not? It is Christmas, after all. I deserve a good gift for once in my life. Not this curse I’ve been . . .” Holly froze and then said, “I’m sorry. I feel anger from someone here. We should go find them and fix it before I say or do something I’ll regret. However, why couldn’t you give it to me.”

He smiled. “Because, my dear Holly, you have to have faith before you can get that sense.”

She thought for a moment. “Faith? Faith? What is faith, you, you . . . I’m doing it again. I mean, I know what faith is.”

“Do you?” Joel’s self-assured smile mocked her.

“Of course I do! You crazed an—”

Joel flung a hand toward her and a gag went over her mouth. “I said, you can never speak what I am. Ever.”

Her red face nodded abruptly.

Joel waved his hand and the gag disappeared. “Come. Let’s find this angry person before it eats you up.”

“I can fully agree with that. Damn this curse.”

“Now, now. Let’s not play God.” Joel began walking quickly toward the town gate.

“I’d like to see you deal with something like this. Ha!”

Joel swung around and stared deep into her eyes. “I have dealt with something like this before. For well over 200 years. You don’t know what I’ve been through.”

Holly grinned with her eyes tight as she continued. “I’m sure that is minimal time for an ang—”

Joel held his hand into the air.

"I mean, powerful being as yourself. How long have you been alive?”

“Not important.”

“I’ll bet it is. How long? 1000 years? 2000, 3000? Come on, how many?”

Joel turned around and went into a jog. “We need to find this person. Now!”

Holly dashed after him. “Ah ha! Running from a young woman’s questions, are you? I’ll not stop until you’ve answered me!”

--<O>--

Joel entered the local tavern. He stopped a man heading out. “Hey, do you know anyone who is angry a lot around here?”

The man let out a belly laugh. “Sir, that would be at least half the town.”

“On Christmas?”

“Especially on Christmas. One half is angry about the other half’s happiness.” He stepped out of the tavern.

Holly’s voice echoed from outside. “Hey, watch where you’re going, buster!”

Holly entered the tavern. She said, “Can you believe that guy? Ran right into me without so much as an apology.”

Joel rolled his eyes. “I can see why you live alone, now.”

“Don’t you roll your eyes at me!”

“Calm down, will you? Everyone in the tavern can hear you.”

Holly scanned the room. Almost every eye centered on her. She smiled sheepishly. “Sorry  folks. You can resume your meal.” Then she turned back to Joel and said sternly but quietly, “Don’t think for one minute that I’m letting you off the hook.”

Joel grabbed her by both shoulders. “Focus, Holly. Focus. How in the past have you found the person who has the emotions you’re experiencing?”

Holly thought for a moment. “I’m not sure, exactly. As a matter of fact, I believe they find me.”

Joel looked up to the ceiling. “Funny, that’s what Sisko said. As a matter of fact, that’s what I’ve experienced as well.”

“Well, I don’t find this funny at all!”

“Nor do I, young lady,” a gruff voice sounded from behind her.

She spun around to see a big, muscular, lumberjack-type fellow glaring down at her. She said, “What of it, big stuff.”

“I don’t make a habit of slapping ladies, but in your case, I just might make an exception.”

“I’d like to see you try!”

Joel quickly stood in front of Holly. “Ignore her, sir. She’s not herself today.”

The man looked him over.

“It is Christmas, after all.” Joel gave him his best smile.

The man waved his hand at them and went on to order from the bar. “Just keep her quiet.”

Joel turned back to a gagged Holly. He waved his hand and the gag disappeared. She opened her mouth to speak. Joel put a finger to his lips.

Holly said quieter, “Will you stop doing that?”

“As soon as you control yourself.”

She shook her head. “I can’t seem to control the emotions. They are really strong. Like the person is in this room.”

Joel turned to look at the lumberjack at the bar. He was arguing with the barkeep over the price of his ale. “Could be him. How do you fix it?”

“I don’t know how to fix anger. Usually it passes after a time. It is sort of hard to develop any empathy with someone who is angry too.”

“Why not?”

Holly’s eyes grew wide. “Did you not see how I and he responded to each other?”

Joel nodded. “Yes. I’m surprised your still alive before I came along.”

“It has never been this bad before. Most people are angry for very brief periods of time and over certain petty things. So it usually passes fast. And to be honest, I think this curse has protected me from feeling the worst of it. That is, until today.”

Joel placed his hands down on the table. “Hear me out before you say anything.” He paused until she nodded. “Okay. First, I wish you’d stop calling what the steam house did a curse.” Holly started to say something; Joel held up a hand to stop her. “I know it has been difficult for you.”

“You can say that again.” Holly held her hand over her own mouth.

Joel grinned. “But the steam house only gave you that ability because it saw in you that it would bring about a change for the good. It is like any desire. It pains you until you satisfy it.”

She wrinkled her forehead. “So you’re saying I need to satisfy it somehow? Like what? I don’t understand.”

“By helping that guy over there overcome his anger.”

She sat back in her seat. “That’s an awful tall order you’re asking me to do.”

Joel grinned. “Faith is always a tall order. But with God’s help, doable.”

She stared at the man at the bar, grumbling about something new. She pitied the man to have to  live with this anger day in and day out. She’d only experienced it for an hour or so, and she felt like a mess. She hated living it. She hated him for giving it to her. For the steam house giving it to her, for Joel bringing her here. She hated, hating.”

She rose from her seat and walked toward the man. She tentatively tapped him on the shoulders. He swung around and growled, “What do you want!”

She struggled within herself, but she was determined not to let his anger get the best of her. “I wanted to ask, for, for . . .”

“Get it out lady or get out of here.”

She swallowed the words that wanted to come out. “For your forgiveness.”

He stared blankly at her for a moment. “My forgiveness? I don’t think anyone has ever asked me for that before. Well, except when I was about to beat them to a pulp.”

Holly’s anger began to melt away; it must be working. “And, I wanted to let you know that I forgive you as well. Do you mind if I pray for you?”

“Ha, if you think it will do any good, go ahead.”

She nodded. “Father, forgive us of our anger and heal us of our afflictions that have caused it. Amen.”

The man had wet eyes. He blinked back his tears. “Thank you. You have no idea what I’ve been through. But thank you for that.” He stood and walked out of the tavern.

Holly’s own anger had vanished. She stepped back to where Joel sat. She wore a big smile.

“Looks like you did good.” Joel crossed his arms.

“What? Are you going to say ‘I told you so?’”

“Wasn’t planning on it, though I did.” Joel uncrossed his arms and leaned over toward her. “Where did the faith come from? What is the faith in you?”

Holly ran her fingers through her brown hair. “I’m not sure if I have the terminology right or not, but I believe my faith is trust in God’s ability to use me for His purposes. So I believed, and I went up to the man. The rest happened.”

Joel nodded. “You’ve about got it. But it came when you started looking at what the steam house gave you as not a curse, but a ministry. You can empathize with others like no one else can. You can heal the inner spirit, not merely the outward body.”

“You mean, like Sisko did?”

“Sikso had faith, a great faith. Still, he only scratched the surface of what it meant to heal someone, to really save them. And his faith needed the ring to operate.”

“Okay, my mind is completely blown. You’re telling me that I can heal like Sisko could, without a ring?”

“Yes.” He held his right fingers together into a point and said, “It is a gift. A Christmas gift to you. From God. And I have one too.”

“Really? A gift for me?”

Joel nodded and touched her head. He mumbled some words, then said, “That’s it. I’ve given you the ability to turn on and off your gift of feeling other’s emotions.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Just say, ‘Emotions off,’ and ‘Emotions on,’ to turn them off or on.”

“Why didn’t you give this to me before? It would have made things so much simpler.”

“Because until you’d learned what you needed to learn from that ‘curse,’ as you put it, you wouldn’t have had the faith necessary to use it properly.” Joel stood and stepped out of the tavern. “Ready to go home?”

“Sure, but can I do one thing first?”

“What?”

“Can I give you a kiss on the cheek?”

“I suppose that would be permitted.”

Holly reached up and gave him a kiss. Then she said, “Thank you, Joel. For the best Christmas ever.”

“You’re welcome.” Joel smiled.

Holly jumped up and down. “I’m ready to help the next person God sends me.”

“Cool.”

They clasped hands. As they faded into a bright light, Holly said, “I’m still curious. How long have you lived?”

The light dimmed until nothing but the dirt on the road stirred.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

New Novel Out: Reality Game!

Yes, after publishing the third book in this series back in 2013 (has it really been that long? I'm afraid so,) I've finally finished the series with book four: Reality Game. For the handful of people who have been waiting all this time to find out what happens to our heroes--Jeremy, Mickey, Bridget, and Natalie--your wait is over!

This series started with an idea I had back in 2006: what if one could have virtual reality and reality interact? Sort of like Star Trek's holodeck in reverse. So I came up with the planet Zori, where blobs of sentient goo lay around on the planet, were made movable through the virtual technology of an alien race. They could construct virtual bodies and houses and such. Then, another more military race, came to their planet and took over the virtual technology to construct a world taken from Earth's movies and TV shows, then he created a virtual "game" which was to virtually transport players from Earth to Zori to fight his war with another planet's inhabitants.

At the end of that book, Mind Game, they obtain superhero masks that allow them to be any number of virtual superheroes, allowing them to help the citizen's of Earth. But then the planet of the more military people who invaded and took over Zori, now attempt to take over Earth using a virtual army. That's the story's premise in the second book, Hero Game.

The third and fourth books, Virtual Game and Reality Game respectively, constitutes a whole story about the rise of the a para-military organization: Earth Security Enhancement League, to power by commandeering the Virtual Reality machine to initially combat another alien invasion, but later, to take over Earth to establish a one-world government.

So while you could read this last book and pick up on what has happened before enough to make sense out of what is going on, it will help to read the other three books before this one. At least, I would highly recommend reading Virtual Game as it is part one of the same story that this book is part two, to. LOL.

You can go to Amazon to get this book and also the others as well. Thank you for your support! And I would greatly appreciate as many as can, to read it and put a review on Amazon. As that will affect sales greatly.

I'm excited to make this final volume available. What else am I working on? About three or four other projects, one a new more adult book called Rebellion that is in the editing stages, which should be out sometime next year if all goes according to plan. I'm in the middle of writing Deep Brian Invasion, my NaNo novel that I obviously didn't finish writing in November. Also I have a couple of other non-fiction projects in the editing stages I'm working toward getting ready. So plenty in the hopper, not to mention all the ideas I have partially worked on over the years with the full intention of getting back to them at some point. Like a whole 5 book fantasy series that I have 2.25 books written up at this point.

So while I could resurrect this series in the future if I have the desire to, I don't foresee that happening at this point as I figure all that I plan on writing someday will take me beyond the point I'll be able to write. So I'll have plenty of other stories to write into old age. And if I should by chance finish all that I have planned, I'm sure I'll be able to come up with new ones at that point. All that to say that I expect this to be the final novel. I could write some more short stories in this world, perhaps. But full novels? I think this is it.

So I'll leave you with the blurb for this book that is also on Amazon's page. I'm excited to offer to you, Reality Game!

Note; The paperback of the book is now out as well as the ebook I've linked to several times. Just in time for Christmas!

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The final conclusion to the exciting story of two teens who found themselves using virtual reality in reality, and using that virtual reality to defend Earth from aliens, and now, from a force within Earth itself.

The story picks up shortly after events in the last book, Virtual Game, where our heroes, Jeremy, Mickey, Bridget, and Natalie, are fighting the Earth Security Enhancement League (ESEL), a world-wide military organization put in place to defend the planet from alien invasions. But who will defend the planet from the head of this league: Commander Fisher, who plans to secretly install a one-world government using the virtual machine? Our heroes using their virtual powers, that’s who!

Though one can read this book and get enough context to enjoy the story, it is best to read the first three books preceding this one: Mind Game, Hero Game, and Virtual Game.

Get all four and enjoy the Virtual Chronicles story in full, today!


Thursday, November 1, 2018

NaNoWriMo - Day 0.5

On this beginning of Nov. 1st, I decided I would give a half-day progress report.

So, I attended the Denver NaNo kickoff party. I went in hopes of getting to know some people. As it turns out, it wasn't as organized as Austin's kickoff party used to be. I arrived at the designated coffee shop, walked in, looked around to see if anyone was in charge. No one approached me. The first person to actually talk to me was handing out "grab bags". She told me "welcome". Aside from some brief interaction of a practical nature with two other people, that was it as far as "getting to know" anyone. Rather, I noticed I was the only older guy there. Most of the people came into the shop, sat with friends, and talked for two hours until midnight. Aside from a brief announcement by whoever was in charge and the countdown to midnight, I could have been alone at home doing the same thing.

I'm not knocking the group. I'm sure it tends to be more of a college thing, and so has gravitated to what it currently is. I'm an intruder to that group. I had expectations, I suppose, that it would be like Austin where I knew different folks and all and there were a lot of college age folks, but there were also a lot of older people like me. So, chalk up one to knowing better next time.

On a positive note, however, I got around 1200 words written in 1.5 hours. Not great, but not bad for a PD patient on DBS. I can type faster but still not quite as fast as I did before PD. At least I can make a good run at getting 50K in a month now. Before it would have been very difficult to pull off.

So I wrote until around 1:20 am, then packed it up and went home. Today's schedule is to go do a Zumba class, then I'll return home, probably take a nap, then see how much I can get written before the day ends. I'll report tomorrow on how well I did today. Until then, see you later!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

It Is Finally NaNo Time Again!

After a four year break in any attempts at doing National Novel Writing Month, I'm now taking another stab at it.

For those who don't know, National Novel Writing Month, otherwise shortened to NaNoWriMo, or its even shorter version, NaNo, is when writers from all over the world get together online to encourage each other to write a novel in a month of at least 50K words.

"Nay, nay," I can hear someone saying. "You can't write a novel in a  month! At least not a publishable novel."

"Nay, nay," I say, most of my published novels were originally written during NaNo. The only exceptions to that is Reality's Dawn, and two that are recently done but not published yet, Reality Game and Rebellion. And all of those the bulk of them were written in around a month or less. Professional writers write even faster than that.

What takes me so long is editing!

Anyway, I'm going to write my third novel this year, come November. Except, this one will be special. It is my Parkinson's novel. I plan upon publishing it, to have most, if not all, of the proceeds go to Parkinson's research. I'll probably donate it to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

It is called "Deep Brain Invasion," and obvious spin on Deep Brain Stimulation, otherwise known as DBS. DBS is a procedure I went through last September where two leads are planted into one's brain, where electrical impulses from a battery pack, also implanted, block the erroneous signals from the brain that cause the tremors and problems with other muscle movements. It isn't a cure, but does help people like me live a "normal" life for a while longer. Hopefully, for years. Prior to this, around every four hours I would take a dose of my medication that would result in about an hour of feeling "normal." The other three hours, using my left hand wasn't easy.

Anyway, due to that, I not only can type more freely, I also have a story for my Parkinson's novel. I came up with the idea shortly after the surgery, and wrote out a short story that will end up being my first chapter. I've written one other chapter. Now I simply need to write another 50k words this coming month to hopefully finish it out.

So this is special for several reasons. The last time I finished a novel for NaNo was in 2012, Virtual Game which is currently out for sale. That was the 4th year I had ever won NaNo. It was to be my last . . . until now, that is. I fully expect to finish this year, and hopefully for years to come.

Anyway, I wanted to let my readers know that I'll be posting my progress and other related things, hopefully each day of November. If you want to follow my progress, subscribe. If you don't want to be bombarded with daily or near daily posts of my progress during November, then unsubscribe, at least for November.

You have been warned!

But seriously, I hope you'll stick around and cheer me on to the finish line.

Friday, October 19, 2018

7 Suggestions to Writing Action Scenes

Here in Colorado, I missed a chance to attend the local writer group this past Sunday. Basically, I'm not used to going to anything on Sunday afternoon. So I missed even the reminder I had set to go off to, you know, to remind me of the upcoming event. I regretted missing it, because an author was going to discuss writing action scenes. Since I do write such scenes, I was interested in what he would have to add to my knowledge base.

So, since I missed that, I thought I would share what I do know about writing action scenes. Then I'll go next month to the next meeting. If I remember, that is. To look at my phone, that is.

So, what do I know about writing action scenes? I know I don't know it all, but what I do know, I'll share.

Definition of an action scene.


First, we need to define exactly what we are talking about when we refer to "action" scenes. We are talking about whenever any action that moves the plot forward needs to take place. It could be running from something or someone, or a fight, or a car chase, or even a board game. Any action which involves increasing tension until it resolves to some degree.

A lot of authors say they don't like writing action scenes. If so, they are probably doing it wrong, and it comes through in whatever action scenes they do write. What they generally mean is they don't like writing fight scenes. But an action scene is much more than fighting, as I've described above. Most every book will have some action scenes in it, even romance. Thus the need for us to examine how to write them in a manner that not only becomes enjoyable, but realistic.

Now, here are seven suggestions I have for writing action scenes.

1. Keep in mind the purpose of an action scene


Why have an action scene? What do they accomplish?  Two words: tension and resolution. That's why so many climaxes use them so often. But the goal, whether one is talking about action scenes in movies or in a book are to create tension about what will happen to the character, to put him or her in jeopardy that you are not sure they will escape. If you are having an action scene purely for its own sake, you're missing the whole point of having one in there. Instead of it being an important plot-moving element, it becomes mere plot decoration. Sort of like having a token action scene because it is expected.

Basic rule of thumb, if it does nothing for the tension of the story and the character(s), it is best to cut it or just say it happened without describing it.

2. Action scenes have a narrow focus.


By that, I mean that when a character goes into a battle or such, he or she focuses on the battle rather than a lot of other stuff going on around them. They won't notice the color of a drapery unless it falls on them or their opponent. So sensory data gets narrowed to whatever is going on in the battle or action. Think of all the adrenaline going through their veins. They will tend to only focus on the task at hand, or if well trained, only relevant data like noticing a fist coming at them from the side.

So your writing will need to reflect that narrow focus. Don't take time to describe any scenery except for that which directly is relevant to the action, to make sense of it. For instance, you could say something like, "A blue Dodge van careened toward them." But you wouldn't want to say, "We ran past a blue Dodge van as I plunged my fist toward his face."

To be realistic, you only should notice what your character would in that situation.

3. Action scenes happen fast.


This is good news for people who write an action scene: you don't need to spend pages writing out blow by blow accounts of everything. What does this mean for writing them?

It means action scenes should only be as long as required to describe the action adequately enough that the reader doesn't get lost. Probably one of the harder action scenes I've written was in my book, Mind Game, where I describe a space battle between three ships. It was a challenge to give enough detail that people could follow or get a picture in their minds as to what was happening in this three-dimensional-movement environment, but not so much that I made it appear longer than it would in real life.

Let's focus on sword fighting, for instance. Most sword fights happen in two or three moves. You rarely see the types of sword fights you see in movies where they battle it out for several minutes. It usually takes 2 to 5 seconds. Therefore, your writing should reflect that. If you have them swinging at each other more than three times, it starts to work its way toward non-realism.

That also means you'll want to use brief, short, sentences to describe action scenes. Conjunctions are not your friend if they are tying two long and complete sentences together. Break them up. The only thoughts of the character need to be focused on the battle or action at hand. This is not, generally, the time for long monologues or thoughtlogs as the case may be.

4. Focus more on the experience of the pov character than on the action itself.


That could be counter to what I just said above, but a balance needs to be maintained. Describe the action as necessary, but what the reader is really interested in is the character's experience. This is where showing can be very handy. Take these two examples:

Example 1: I hit him in the mouth and he slammed his fist into my gut.

Example 2: I swung my fist. It rammed into his jaw with a loud crack. My lungs expelled their air as a force slammed into my gut. I collapsed. The steely taste of blood rose into my mouth.

See how the second example raises the tension more than the first? The first just conveys what is happening. The second conveys what is happening to the character, what he or she is experiencing.

5. Don't have your characters talk a lot in an action scene.


What they do say should be short, to the point, and matching the drama of the moment. You might get "Look out!" or "Duck!" What you shouldn't get, unless your writing a literary piece, is long thoughts and discussions that put all the action on pause.

Just think, if you are in an action scene, like I was one time after my car spun out on the side of the road. The car's wheel stub was on fire, I didn't talk much. I ran as fast as I could to a nearby gas station to tell them to call the fire dept.

You wouldn't expect (though you often get) long discussions between characters. Or friendly banter like Spiderman or Deadpool. Those two are character traits. You don't often see much dialog (there are always exceptions) for instance, in Captain America's fights. There always tends to be pauses in the action to discuss something, but other than for characterization, you don't want most of your characters to say a lot during action scenes. Whatever they do say, should be to move the action forward or to build further tension.

6. Don't attempt to mimic the movies.


Movies use a lot of action scenes. Camera work is designed for it. You can see what is happening, and just seeing the main character dangling over that pool of acid is enough to keep you glued to the screen to see whether and how he escapes, or not, as the case my be.

However, as in point 4 above, just describing what happened from a camera pov is boring in writing. I've had people tell me they tend to skim and/or skip action scenes in most novels. The reason is they don't increase the tension in a novel as they do on the silver screen.

That's why point 4 is so important to include in any action scene. The tension will come more from what will happen to the character. So whether we are talking being hit or being dealt a bad hand in a poker game, we had better know what it means to the character's pov or you haven't conveyed good tension.

7. Your point of view will be an important factor how and what is described.


The above assumes you are writing in first or third limited person. If you are using an omniscient pov, however, your tactics can change. Keeping in mind the building of tension, you will have more freedom to get by with abbreviated action scenes. You can pull back for a broad view of a fight, as J. R. Tolkien does in Lord of the Rings, or you have the freedom to go into a specific head for a more personal view.

In either case, you do what will build tension most. For instance, I recall the scene in the movie, Lord of the Rings, where you have an extended fight scene with orcs and Legolas at Helms Deep. However, in the book, Tolkien only describes it in a sentence or two, referring to the sun glinting off Legolas' blade as he swung his sword over and over. In that pov, he could get away with that brief description. But to have focused on what happened, blow by blow, as he killed orc after orc, would have been tedious and wouldn't have built the tension as it did in the movie. Some complain that the movie's fight scenes were too long as well.

In first or limited third person pov, you would have to use a telling transition to skip over all that, something like, "My muscles grew weak as I hacked away at orc after orc. After several minutes of killing, I saw a bright light coming over the hill." But the omniscient pov has the value of being more descriptive in this instance.

Summary


So keep tension in your action scenes. They should build tension through them until it resolves, or partially resolves. All the above points focus on that aspect and making them as realistic as possible. If you can accomplish that while breaking any of the above suggestions, more power to you. But keeping the above points in mind will help to keep your action scenes pulling the reader into them, instead of something to skip over.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Scary Ride

My Halloween story for 2018. Enjoy!

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“Mom, can I go?” I held out a flier to her. It read, “This Halloween, ride the Spookiest Roller Coaster you’ve ever rode in your LIFE!”

My mom scanned the flier. “Stephen, is Greg going with you to this?”

I nodded. “Everyone will go there. I don’t want to be the only one in school who hasn’t gone.”

She shrugged. “Don’t see any reason why not. But, be back in time to take your younger brother out trick-or-treating. Okay?”

“Oh, I guess.” Though I’d rather spend the evening with my friends. But I couldn’t tell mom that. I smiled instead. “Thanks, mom.”

“You’re welcome, son.” She returned to cooking dinner. Was that a hint of a smile I saw on her as she turned away from me?

I pulled the phone from my pocket as I walked into the living room. I called Greg. When he answered, I said, “Hi Greg. I’m in. Mom gave her okay.”

“Me too. But only if I was back in time to help with the dishing out the candy.”

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, my mom wants me back in time to take my brother out trick-or-treating.”

“Bummer.”

“Yeah, but it is what it is” I smiled. “Though, she didn’t say exactly when I had to be back.”

He laughed. “Be careful. When the clock strikes midnight . . .”

I chuckled at his attempt at humor. “What? Will I turn into a vampire?”

“Or worse, a ghost.”

“See you later, Joker.”

He continued laughing. “Bye, Casper.”

The line went dead.


# # #


The entrance appeared to be a standard “scary” ride entrance. A simple sign that had letters dripping “blood” that said, “Scary Roller Coaster: The Scariest Ride of Your Life!”

I pointed at the sign. “I’ll be the judge of that.”

Greg brushed his auburn hair back. “Yeah, these rides rarely live up to their hype.”

After several minutes, we finally entered the carts. Attendants came along to ensure everyone’s bar was locked in place and seat belts were snapped together.

Over the loudspeaker, a cackling voice said, “Enjoy your scare!”  The ride lurched forward and we entered a dark hole that the rails wound into. In the darkness I heard the clanking of the chains as the carts were pulled toward the top of a drop.  The tension grew greater with each second that brought us nearer the drop that we couldn’t see.

Finally, with a flash of lights, a giant stood on the top of the tracks as we sped past his legs. He reached down, barely missing the last cart as we careened down the first big dip. A dozen or so ghost lit up the dark as they flew just above us. Over the loudspeakers we could hear “Ohooooooooooo” and laughing, mixed in with screams from people in the carts.

Then the whole place lit up with sparks. Screams came from somewhere deep inside the building. Then everything grew dark. The coaster continued on its journey in silence, but nothing else happened for a few seconds. Then light once again lit up the building and died off quickly. The ghost came back to life, glowing as before. Except, this time, they brushed against me as they flew by. And the feeling was like nothing I’d ever felt before. A deathly coldness numbed my body where they had brushed against me.

As the roller coaster reached a new peak and started to dive into a new dip, a row of traditional monsters appeared beside us and reached out. Except this time, they were grabbing people.  They had problems pulling anyone out belted in as we were. One person in front of me screamed as the monster pulled so hard on him, only to have him slip from his grasp.

This was either a very convincing acting job, or something had gone terribly wrong. The facial expressions of the monster appeared genuinely disappointed at not pulling the guy out of his seat. One thing was for sure: these were not robotic monsters.

Then the lights darkened for a few seconds. When it reappeared, a vampire sat in the seat right in front of me. The vampire leaned over and sunk its teeth into the neck of the person sitting next to him. I screamed, by reaction to what I was seeing.  Then the vampire turned its head and looked me in the eyes. These were not the eyes of a robot, but of a real person, who now had the blood of his last meal dripping from his teeth.

His stare sent shivers down my spine. Then the lights went out again. Someone tried to nuzzle in between me and Greg. I couldn’t take it anymore. As the coaster continued rolling through banks and turns, I undid my seat belt and lifted my bar. Centripetal force kept me pinned in.

The lights came on and Greg no longer sat there. But the vampire did. He started to reach over toward me. About then, the coaster went through a twisting roll. I barely had time to grab the bar before I fell out of my seat. The vampire, however, wasn’t so lucky. He fell downward. As the cart came out of the twist and started going up, I worked my way back into my seat and buckled back in.

My heart was pumping now. But it raced even faster when I saw a bat flying beside the coaster. As it attempted to move toward the cart, I kept batting it away. Then as if it willed it to happen, the lights fell dark again. I kept swinging my arms wildly in hopes I would keep the vampire away.

The lights reemerged from the darkness and my heart froze. The coaster careened toward a “track under repair” sign, with the frayed edges of the track hanging over a precipice. I started frantically trying to get my seat belt undone. I pulled on it frantically, but nothing would give. As the end of the track approached, I braced myself. I hoped mom would understand why I missed taking my brother out, assuming I even survived this crazy ride.

The cart blew through the sign, which busted into fragments. Then the cart sank, but I felt something pull me up and out of the cart. When the lights came back on, I looked up and saw the vampire, holding me with his hands, flying through the air.  I was doomed to become a vampire!

We landed on a platform a little ways off. Then he let go and smiled.

I said, “Don’t you want to drink my blood?”

He shook his head. “Nope. I enjoy a good beer now and then, but no blood.”

I stared at him. My eyes, no doubt, betrayed my confusion.

“That’s because,” he said, “you’re on ‘You’ve Been Had’!”

I blinked. “What?”

A door opened up to the side of the platform and everyone yelled, “Surprise!” Cameras surrounded me.

Greg approached me and said, “We got you good, eh?”

“You mean, this was all an elaborate set up?”

“With the help of some good actors, yes.”

I breathed in deep. “Everyone on the cart was an actor?”

Greg laughed, “Several, not everyone.” He pointed at me, “You should have seen your face! We’ve got the whole thing on video.”

Mom’s face popped up in the crowd. “Which we’ll have fun watching over and over again. Now, Stephen, let’s get on with trick-or-treating.”

I pointed a finger at Greg. “I’ll get you back for this, if it is the last thing I do.” Because, I thought, the ride almost was the last thing I would ever do.

“One things for sure,” Greg said. “This was the scariest ride of your life.”

I breathed a sign of relief. My heart still pumped hard from the experience. “On that, we definitely agree.”

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Cosmic Cowboy

It is said we all run from something. I was running. Probably for most of my life to tell the truth. On one such occasion, a special man came into my life. I had decided to move to a seaside community of North Carolina, named Cedar Island. That’s when I encountered him. A man known as Cosmic Cowboy. I say a man, only because he was as old as a man. Yet he only appeared to be around eight years old.

He stood there at the end of my driveway when I pulled up in the moving van, as if he was waiting for me. And for all I knew, perhaps he was, now that I know what I know.

“Hi, Conan,” he said as he examined me.

“How did you know my name?”

He pointed at my head. “Your hat says it.”

My hat. Of course. I’d forgotten my name was written across it. A gift from my wife one anniversary. “So, what’s your name?”

“Everyone calls me Cosmic Cowboy.”

“Everyone? Including your mother?” I wondered at such a strange name, if true.

“Yep, even my mother. Says so right on my birth certificate.”

“That’s a strange name to give a kid. Where is your mother?”

“She’s dead.”

“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that. What did she die of?” I watched his eyes for signs of sorrow, but didn’t see much.

“Old age.”

Old age? “How did that happen? You don’t look to be any older than 8 or 10 at the most.  Did she give birth to you in her latter years?”

The strange boy shook his head. “No, she was quite young when she had me.” Then he stared at me as if that should make perfect sense.

“What about your Father? Did he die of old age too?” I asked.

“Nope. He died of hard work.”

By now, this was starting to sound ridiculous. I scanned the area, looking for someone watching us and laughing.

I returned my attention back to the boy. “All right, Cosmic. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a van to unload. Though your welcome to help, if you’re able.”

“No problem,” he responded. “I’ve already unloaded it for you.”

I glanced at the parked van and back to Cosmic. “You did not.”

He waved a hand toward the truck. “See for yourself.”

I stepped toward the moving truck and slid open the door. It was empty! My first thought was that he had stolen my stuff, somehow. “What did you do with it?”

“I put it in the house, naturally.”

I raced to the house and opened the locked door. There, before my eyes, was all my furniture, as if I’d worked several hours moving everything. This was impossible!

I turned to see Cosmic walking up the steps toward me. I pointed inside the house. “I, I, I, I don’t understand. How did you . . .”

He smiled. “I told you, I’m Cosmic Cowboy.”

As if that explained everything. “But, I never saw you . . . the front door was locked? What you did, assuming you did it, is impossible.”

His mouth grew taunt. “Nothing is impossible with faith.”

Here it comes, the catch after his little magic trick.

Cosmic cocked his head slightly to the left. “Why do you say in your heart that it was a magic trick?”

I was dumbfounded. Was he a mind reader too? “Well, I’ve seen some magicians do some pretty impossible things before. I’ve even seen one make a whole house disappear. I don’t know how you did it, but it must be a trick like those things. At any rate, I suppose I should thank you and everyone else who might be involved with this trick.”

“George,” rang a woman’s voice off in the distance.

Cosmic said, “Gotta go. My mother is calling me.”

“I thought you didn’t have a mother and that she called you Cosmic Cowboy?”

“She’s my adopted mother.” Then he ran down the road and out of sight.

I shook my head. Pretty impressive introduction to this small community. Still, something about Cosmic, or George, caused me to wonder how much of what he did and said was real and how much was all a deception.

I stepped into my house. I adjusted a thing or two here and there, but overall, everything was placed where I would have put it. If it was a trick, it was a very impressive one. But it had to be a trick of some kind. What he did was impossible.

So, I traveled in the direction of where he’d run.  In this small community, there were not many houses he could have ran to, especially the direction he went. An old two-story house greeted me. I knocked on the door.

A young lady answered the door.  “Hello, sir. Can I help you?”

“Yes. Is there a child who lives here who goes by the name of Cosmic Cowboy?” I felt silly using that name. I felt sillier when she said:

“Cosmic Cowboy? Where on earth did you hear such a name?”

“Eh, from the boy. Is there a little boy about eight or ten who lives here?”

She glanced at the living room where the television was going, playing some cartoons. “Yes, my son, George.”

It matched the name she’d called out. I struggled to find the words. “I, eh, I wonder if I could see him? Just to know if it was the same boy?”

She gazed at me for a moment before turning her head to the living room and calling out, “George! There’s a man who wants to see you at the door. Come here.”

“I don’t wanta,” came back from the living room.

“George Kilwasky, you come here now.”

In a short time, a boy appeared at the door. It wasn’t Cosmic.

I bowed. “I apologize for the intrusion, ma’am. That isn’t the boy who I’d seen before.”

She nodded and promptly closed the door. I stepped down the porch, only to be greeted by Cosmic.

“Hi, Conan.” He sat down in the porch swing.

“So, do you live here?” I asked.

“If by live, you mean do I dwell here, the answer is yes.”

“So George is your brother then? Pardon me, I mean your adopted brother?”

“In a manner of speaking, you could say that. An alter ego really.”

I rubbed my head. “So you’re suggesting that George is really you?”

“No, not suggesting it. Telling you that it was me.”

“But how? You look nothing like him?”

“It’s this way, see. My mom doesn’t know anything about my Cosmic Cowboy life. She only knows she adopted me in the 80s.  When she named me George. That’s when I named myself Cosmic Cowboy, after a song I heard over a radio at the time. A song by Barry McGuire.”

“How did it give you these abilities, though?”

“Oh, I’ve always had these abilities.”

“What do you mean, always? How old are you really?”

“You really want to know? If so, take my hand.” He held out his palm, face up.

Could I trust him? What would happen? I stared into his eyes and gained a confidence I didn’t know I had. I firmly planted my hand in his.

The world around me started swirling, and I almost pulled my hand back out of his. Yet, I held on and he held onto me. Next thing I knew, we were in space. Was he an alien of some kind? His face took on a flashing bright smile that hurt my eyes.

“Why did you come to Cedar Island, Conan?” I heard him say in my head.

He could see through me, I could not lie to him or myself. “I was running away.”

“Away from what?”

“My family.”

“Why, Conan?”

“I was scared.”

“Scared of what?”

“Scared of failure, I suppose.”

“No, that’s not what you fear.” He gazed upon my face and it no longer hurt to stare into his eyes. “You fear not meeting the expectations being placed upon you.”

He’d nailed it. I hadn’t even realized it. Yet, he was right. The expectations of my father, my mother, my wife, all because of a newborn baby that had come into my world and scared the hell into me—literally.

“That’s right, Conan. When you run from that which you fear, you only give it strength. When you face it, it loses its power over you.”

That’s when I felt how ancient he was. He was like an alien to the human race.

The world returned with a swirl and he let go of my hand. “You know what you need to do, right?”

I nodded. “Yes. I need to go back. Face my fears. As overwhelming as they might feel right now.”

He smiled and nodded. “I believe you’ll discover they aren’t as overwhelming as you might think and you’ve created some of them yourself in behalf of others.”

I nodded and returned to my “house” to load everything back in the truck. When I opened the door, the house was empty. I raced to the truck and flung the door open. All my stuff was now in the truck. Packed and ready to go. I shook my head. Did he just move everything back, or had the house stocked with my stuff been an illusion?

I grabbed my phone and looked up the lyrics to “Cosmic Cowboy by Barry McGuire” on the Net. Yep, George was indeed the Cosmic Cowboy. He’d been with my all my life. Time for me to leap. I hopped back in the truck and headed to my true home—my family.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Commentary on Commentaries

Yep, I found another gem while going through some stuff. This one from September 20, 1979! I would have been 19 years old when I wrote this. That would be shortly during my first semester at college. Based on the markings, it appears it showed up in the school newspaper. Could easily be said to be the first thing I ever officially "published." It's a silly piece, but I think I'll go there anyway.

---------------

Ricky Copple
September 20, 1979
A Commentary on Commentaries


I consented to create some conclusions and comments about commentaries. Many commentaries can be creative, catchy, or constructive. However, can the "common person" collect the conclusions that could create a concise consensus? Can commentaries continue to claim that creative and constructive criticisms and conclusions are being conducted? In the coming paragraphs, I will concentrate upon these concrete questions.

First, commentaries can be catchy. Many a creative commentary has been conducted as a catchy collection of ideas. The common commentary can draw your consciousness to keep its contents contained in your cranium. One catchy use has common words or letters through the contents, while in others it can create a commotion in the consciousness. Commentaries can also concentrate the consciousness of contemporaries to a contagious problem which can cause it to be catchy. The creative commentary can be contagiously catchy.

Commentaries can also be constructive. A concise constructive commentary can construct the credibility of composers, conservatives, candidates, conductors, kids, con artists, and other contemporaries. A colossal credibility can be created by a creative commentator. Other constructive commentaries can collect the conclusions and comments of experts on a contagious problem. A credible commentary can be very constructive in its outcome.

Lastly, commentaries can be creative. Can you create a commentary? A creative commentary is created by a creative commentator. If you can create a creative commentary, it concludes that commentaries can be creative and that you can be creative. Klutzy commentaries are to be condemned. Only colossal commentaries can be creative. Commentaries can also create more freedom for the creator to create. The common column consist of conclusions of collective data while a commentary can cross the creeks and climb the crevices of the consciousness. Commentaries are considerably creative if colossal.

Can commentaries be catchy, constructive, and creative? Close, concise criticisms, and comments in one's own consciousness can create the conclusions to these common questions. You can now conceive my conclusions and comments on commentaries. What can you conclude?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

It Was the Night Before Christmas and Everyone Was Stirring!

This is a play I wrote a long, long time ago. I'm not sure of the exact date, but I suspect it was around 1990 or 91.

Yep, in preparing for our move, I've been digging through lots and lots of old papers and such. Every once in a while, I come across little gems like this one. I apparently started several different short stories and such. Most of the not all that great, though a couple of them have good premises. But most remain unfinished. But occasionally I run across something like this one that I did finish and is good!

Now when I say "good," I don't necessarily mean according to what I can do today. This was long before I started writing professionally. So I'm going to retype this, flaws and all, though I'll correct any typos and grammar errors I find as I go.

But one thing this confirms for me is that all my life I've been a writer. I know of stuff I wrote as a teen in high school and college. But I didn't realize just how much I'd written in the other times. Most of it I had forgotten about.

One note on this play. It was originally written to be presented in a church setting. If anyone reads this, and wants to use it for that purpose, be my guest. But it will, as a result, have a more overt gospel presentation in it.

So with that, I present to you, my Christmas play, "It Was the Night Before Christmas, and Everyone was Stirring!"

---------------

Narrator: This is a story about a family on Christmas Eve. A time of joy, relaxation, and fun. Or is it? Let's look in on this family and see.

Be prepared to sing with us when the hymns numbers are announced. And now, I introduce to you, "It Was the Night Before Christmas, and Everyone Was Stirring!"

Scene: Opens with Dad sitting in his recliner reading the newspaper. Other living room decor can be used to give the appearance of a living room in a typical house.  After a few seconds, two of his children, between the ages of 7 and 10 come running in and stop in front of him.

Son 1: Daddy, could you tell us the Christmas story? Pleasssssse!

Dad: Well, I'm a little busy right now.

Son 2: Pleeeeeease, Daddy! We want to hear it!

Dad: Why don't you ask your mom to read it to you?

Son 1: She told us to ask you.

Dad: (with exasperation), Oh, okay. (Yells to his wife), Honey, where is the Christmas Story book?

Mom: (pokes her head out the kitchen doorway) I lent it to our pastor, I didn't think we would need it. (Ducks back into doorway)

Dad: Well, maybe I can tell it from memory. (Kids get excited.) Once upon a time, there was a big fat man who lived at the North Pole--

Son 2: No, no, Daddy. Not the Santa Claus story. The real story, about Jesus.

Dad: Oh, well, I guess I will need a Bible for that. (Yells to his wife.) Honey, where is the family Bible?

Mom: (pokes her head out the doorway.) Probably among all of your other books. Now quit bothering me. I'm trying to fix dinner. (Ducks back into the kitchen.)

Dad: (He walks over behind stage and begins to pull several books out from behind a "wall". Finally he comes to a big Bible.) Ah ha! I found it! (He blows the dust off of it as he walks back to his recliner.) Let's see, (he opens the Bible up) I think the story is in 1 Kings.

Son 1: No dad, it's in Luke. Chapter 2.

Dad: (Somewhat sarcastically) I knew that. I wanted to see if you both knew that or not. (Opens the Bible to the table of contents.) Looks like that would be page 1057. Wow, a long book. (He flips some more pages until he reaches the page number.) In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree--

(At this time, their teenage son runs across stage and into the kitchen. Dad gets distracted and stops reading. In a few seconds, the teen runs back across stage, headed to the "front door.")

Dad: Whoa, son. Where are you going?

Teen: I'm going to the Church Christmas party. Mom said I could. (He points toward the kitchen.)

Dad: Well, you haven't asked me.

Teen: Well, can I?

Dad: No! Sit down, I'm reading the Christmas story.

Teen: But I've heard that story a thousand times. And besides, they will probably tell it at the party tonight anyway.

Dad: It doesn't matter, I only do this once a year, and now is it. Besides, this is a family event; so sit!

Teen: (dejected and frustrated) Oh, okay. (He walks over to the "front door" and opens it. He yells to his friends in the car.) Sorry, I can't go tonight. Bye. (He waves his hand. Then he comes over and sits with his head in his hands appearing sad.)

Dad: All right. (Looks back to the Bible and says in a monotone voice) In those days . . .

(After a few sentences a knock on the door sounds out.)

Dad: Now who could that be? (He walks over to the door and opens it. Several teens enter the room with their youth pastor.)

Y.M.: Hi Mr. --use a name of someone from the congregation--, we thought that since --teens name--  could not go to the party, we would bring the party to him. (He gives the signal for everyone to begin singing. The congregation joins him at this point singing, "Deck the Halls.")

Dad: (After the song is over, says) You might as well take over. I'm sure not getting anything going.

(Youth Minister now leads the congregation in singing a couple of Christmas Hymns)

Church Teen 1: Once upon a time, there was a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem. However, this was no ordinary baby because his father was not Joseph who Mary was betrothed to, but God Himself. This baby was named Jesus and He was the Gift of God to the world. Jesus was born to die upon a cross so that we all might walk in newness of life as He walked. For this reason, we give gifts to one another. Jesus gave us life. What gift shall we give Him?

Church teen 2: Let's pray. Our loving Father, how wonderful a gift was given to us on that first Christmas morning. You, yourself, healed their sicknesses, loved the unlovable, fed the hungry, taught the wandering sheep, and forgave the repentant sinner. How wonderful a gift was given, our very own souls. Our very own life. Let us therefore rejoice at your birth, and let us give of ourselves to You. For the only gift that we can bring of any value to You is our complete dedication: our lives for Your service. Thank you for this season, this family, and your gift to us, Jesus Christ. Now, let's go and not only give gifts to each other, but you also. In Jesus' name, Amen.

(The Youth Minster and teens start to shake hands with each other and to leave.)

Mom: (Pokes her head into the room and says:) Come and Eat! (Then quickly ducks back in.)

Teen Group in unison: Eat! (Everyone runs into the kitchen with the family until the stage is empty.)

Mom: (In a couple of seconds stomps out of the kitchen and onto the stage looking angry. Stops center stage and faces audience.) How many times have I told my husband not to invite company over with discussing it with me first! (Begins to walk toward the "front door" On her way off stage, she says:) I'm going out to eat!

The End

Friday, June 15, 2018

Notes of a Time Traveler

I've decided to attempt to put out one of these short stories a month again. One, because now that I can type better, I'm able. Two, because I'll need something to read to my writer's club, and three, because it will help to populate new stories for Vol. 3 of my next Ethereal World anthology. So here is my June 2018 offering, a time travel tale that I hope will be a bit different from the others you may have read. Enjoy!

Day 1: June 14, 2018 - Jerusalem


Today is the big day. Today I go into my time machine, which I’ve worked on for the last five years in earnest. I’m keeping these notes as to document my experiences.

Dr. Johnson said it could never be done. There were plenty of skeptics to join his camp. Today I prove them all wrong—that we can go back in time!


“Dr. Ransom, are we ready?”  John’s booming voice echoed among the sterile halls of the laboratory.

“Just about,” I said. “Only a couple more tweaks to this machine.”

He nodded and went back to his final preparations.

The door creaked open and Dr. Johnson, along with a couple of his students, entered in.

Dr. Johnson pointed at me. “Today, students, we are here not to witness history in the making, but a fool.”

I put down my wrench. “Dr. Johnson, why are you here if you don’t believe this can be done?”

“Two reasons, my dear Ransom. One, to watch you fail. Two, to teach others what not to do when conducting scientific research.”

“And if I succeed, what then?”

Dr. Johnson chuckled. “Then they will at least know the dangers of time travel, would they not?”

I chuckled. “That’s part of the question we are going to answer. What are the dangers associated with time travel?”

Dr. Johnson threw up a hand. “Why, everyone worth their salt knows that. There is the causal loop issue, the ‘Grandfather Paradox,’ and the ‘Fermi Paradox.’”

“Ah, but those are simply theories yet to be proven. Obviously since no one has ever time traveled before.”

Dr. Johnson pointed at me. “And exactly how do you intend to prove these theories?”

“Glad you asked.” I had hoped to explain this to someone. Who better than a skeptic? If he was convinced, then others would be too. “My plan is to change something in the past to see whether it changes things here in the future. That will verify or confirm the possibility of the “Grandfather Paradox.”

Dr. Johnson laughed. “So, you’re going to go back in time to kill your own grandfather to see whether you still exist or not?”

“No, I’m going to kill yours.”

Dr. Johnson abruptly stopped laughing. He frowned, but he slowly changed it to a weak smile. “Surely you jest?”

I refrained from laughing at him. “My dear, Dr. Johnson. If you don’t believe that I can go back in time, why are you so worried?” I had him.

He mumbled a bit then said, “It’s just the thought of it. That’s all. Go on with your ‘experiment.’”

“No, nothing so grand as murder. Rather, if I successfully go back in time, I will be wearing the clothing of the time, except for two thing: a cigarette lighter and a digital camera. Somethings no one in 33 AD had would have ever seen. I’ve taken a picture of that section of the history of the lighter in case it changes. Upon my successful return, we’ll know not only that time travel is possible, but also whether changes we make to the past, if possible, affect our future or not. If your history books show that I, Dr. Ransom, invented the lighter, instead of Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner, then we will know it is possible.”

Dr. Johnson nodded. “Seems a reasonably safe proposition. Only problem, it won’t solve the Grandfather Paradox.”

“One piece at a time, doctor. If this works, there will be other trips and tests to prove or disprove the theories.” I smiled at him, then returned to my work. He appeared to get the message, as he and his two students took a seat against the wall.

Shortly, I had made the final adjustment. “I’m ready, John.”

“Everything is a go on this end.”

“I’m dressed, and I have my cigarette lighter and my digital camera with me.” I stepped into the cylindrical chamber.

The whole machine was powered with nuclear fusion, so as to not run out of power anytime soon. The cylinder sat on a square base and had the “engine” sitting behind it. It appeared a simple device on the outside, but inside, it bent time and space to fold in upon itself.

I set the dials on the inside of the machine to 33 AD. The power meter rose until it crossed a red line, indicating there was enough power to initiate time transference. “Here we go, John!” I pushed the button that started the time folding. Electrical currents circulated around me until I could no longer make out the details of the laboratory. Then, in a blinding flash of light, it happened. Time folded in upon itself. I felt sick to my stomach and threatened to vomit, but refrained from doing so.

Day 2: June 15, 33 AD - Jerusalem


I have succeeded! I have traveled back in time. I feel different, though I cannot put my finger on it. Just something feels different. Hard to say. Just different is the only way I can describe it. At any rate, I’m thrilled that I have been successful. My next task is, I think, to leave something here. Oh yes, my lighter.


The electrical flow lessened, and a much different landscape appeared.

I exited the cylinder. Before me was a horde of people listening to a man speak, a common occurrence in that day and age. Such was the extent of their entertainment. No one appeared to have noticed me or my time machine appearing. I walked out and stepped into the crowd. Someone gave me some bread and fish to eat. I thanked them.

Who should I give my cigarette lighter to? As I listened to the man talk, I realized where I’d heard what he was saying. It was the Beatitudes. I couldn’t believe it, I was actually listening to the historical Jesus give one of his most famous speeches. This deserved a picture.

What exactly was a picture? I wasn’t at all sure. I looked about myself for a strange object, and found one. It was red and an oblong cylinder. It looked familiar. I pushed down on the button. A spark flew out and ignited something which burned a pure flame. It frightened me, so I dropped it. But by the time it hit the ground, the flame had gone out. I picked it up. Why did this look so familiar?

A man next to me had been watching me. He said, “That man is a witch! He brought fire up from that strange stick!” However, everyone was so hanging on the words of Jesus that no one paid the man any attention. Then it came to me, this was a cigarette lighter. Why and how I’d forgotten that, I couldn’t say.

I was going to give this to someone, maybe Jesus? Sure, he’d know what to do with it. After Jesus stopped talking, a swarm of people gathered around him, most wanting healing from some disease. Just like the “fairy tales” about him said.  Most such healings were nothing more than the Placebo Effect. If they believed their body would be healed, their body would do everything in its power to make it happen. There were no scientific studies showing such “miracles” to be real.

I gripped the lighter and pushed my way through the crowd. I held the lighter for him to see it, hoping it would attract his attention. It did.

He spotted it and swung around to face me. “You do not belong here.”

Did I? I couldn’t remember. “I most certainly do. What’s gotten into  you man?”

He simply stared at me, in kindness, but also pity.

I noticed the strange object I had in my hand. “Take it, it is for you.”

He nodded and took it from my hand. He pushed the button and a flame popped up. He watched it before releasing the button and the flame when out. Whispers of “He is the Son of God” ran across the crowd. I wondered why he was called the Son of God when he did it, and why I was called a witch when I brought forth fire? Though in all honesty, it did appear to be magical. Maybe there was something to this Son of God thing after all?

That’s when I saw the strangest sight. Some odd machine, vaguely familiar, starting to phase in and out. Then all at once I recalled that I came here on such a machine. It appeared firmer to me then, more solid. I needed to get back to it, though I wasn’t sure why.

As the day wore on, I felt less strange, except for the fire stick and this confusing box of buttons and dials I had hanging around my neck. I even began to question why I was keeping this journal. What purpose did it serve? The first entries sounded foreign to me.

Day 3: June 16, 33 AD – Jerusalem


I had a moment of clarity for a time shortly after I awoke this morning. I was sleeping on the street along with several others. During this moment of clarity, which I’m going through now, I realized what was happening to me. We had been theorizing that if we changed something in the past, it would change the future. The truth was, the past would change us. We became part of the past. 

That would explain the Fermi Paradox—the idea that if time travel were possible, then we should have countless examples of people from the future showing up at random, but we don’t. Now we know why. Anyone who travels back in time will soon be sucked into that time period.

I had to get that down before I forgot.

As I awoke, I knew I had to get back to that hill where I had appeared yesterday. This was my only chance. Who knows how long it would be before I was permanently sucked into this history. I had to get back to prove, to prove . . . something. I just knew I needed to get back.  Back to that strange machine I saw yesterday.

I pushed my way through the crowded streets until I came to the hill Jesus had been speaking on yesterday. Solid as ever stood the strange machine, the time machine. I pushed my way up the hill toward it, until I stood before the contraption.

Why was I up here? The outline of the machine grew faint. I put forth my hand and opened the cylinder-door. There happened to be a nice seat inside, so I sat in it. As I rested, I noticed a dial with numbers and a button. What was this? Oh yeah, a time machine. Those numbers must be years. I think I came from 2000 and something. Then I noticed another button that said, “Return.”

“Of course, that is to return me to my time. Sort of like a ‘Home’ button.”  I pushed it.

Day 4: June 17, 2018 – Jerusalem


I barely returned. I wasn’t sure what I’d find. But I discovered the same effect was at work no matter what time period one was in: you get enveloped by that particular history. Well, at least we know one of the dangers of time travel: the potential of forgetting about one’s own time period. This finding should be greeted with enthusiasm!

I opened the door. The laboratory was as I had left it. As I exited the time machine, all shook up, Dr. Johnson greeted me.

He said, “Congratulations, Dr. Ransom, you’ve proven that time travel is impossible.”

“What are you talking about, sir? I did travel back in time.”

“But you didn’t go anywhere.”

I scanned his eyes. “I most certainly did. I spent a couple of days in 33 AD. Listened to Jesus himself give the Beatitudes.”

“Did you get any pictures.”

I sighed. “No, I did not, because of what I’ll call—since I discovered it—the Ransom Effect. That’s the effect where a time traveler starts acclimating to the new time period to the point of forgetting about their original one.”

Dr. Johnson pointed at me. “What do have to prove that you actually time-traveled?”

“I have very little, other than this.” I pulled out a picture from my pocket and placed it on the table. “Who invented the cigarette lighter?”

“Why, everyone knows it was Jesus who showed us the light.”

I pointed at the picture I had thrown down which clearly showed that Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner was the inventor of said lighter. “There is proof both that I went back in time, and that I’ve subsequently changed history. Though if I’m not mistaken, I’ll gradually get sucked into this reality that Jesus was the inventor. But I gave Jesus that lighter.”

Dr. Johnson stuttered and stammered. “I, ah, I’m not sure, that is, I don’t think this proves anything. How do we know that this photo isn’t modified?”

“Because I took it moments before I left. . . . At least I think I did.”

Dr. Johnson stood straighter. “You see, from my perspective, you went in, sparkly stuff happened, and you came back out.”

“Well, duh,” I said, “that is why it is called a time machine. I come back at the same time I left.”

Dr. Johnson headed toward the door. “Another hoax. Come on, students.”

The students followed him out the door.

I tossed a rag toward the door. “Stupid people.”

John handed me today’s paper. “Here.”

I took it from him . Across the top it said, “New Archaeological Find Verifies the Existence of Extraterrestrial Life.” The accompanying picture showed my digital camera. The article claimed it could have only come from an alien. I quickly padded my chest, it was no longer strapped around my neck. I’d lost it somewhere along the way.

Then something else caught my eye. An ad, which said, “Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Lighter. No man can come to the Father without me.’” Following that was a cigarette ad.

“John, I thought cigarette ads were banned?”

He laughed. “Dr. Ransom, we’d have to violate the constitution's first amendment to do that.”

“Why?”

“Because it is a sacred rite of the Church to smoke. For the government to ban it would violate the freedom of religion clause.”

“I don’t even want to ask what the cancer rate is now.” Yes, unintended consequences ripple through time, even over something as seemingly insignificant as a cigarette lighter.

This is the final entry of this particular journal. I’ve deduced or induced four major points. One, that time travel is possible. Two, that the time period one enters will cause one to forget about where one came from and that they will eventually become part of that time period. Three, that two explains the Fermi Paradox, though we will still need to prove that. Four, that one can change time. Next I’ll check the validity of the Grandfather Paradox, using Dr. Johnson’s grandfather, once I discover a way to offset number two.

The good news is that I successfully went back in time. The bad news is that no one will believe me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Convicted in Total Blackout

Starry the Space Hippie Series

---------------

Starry Skyward inhaled deeply the aroma. “Ah, what a wonderful smell.”

Tramal, Starry’s half-alien wife, set a plate down in front of him. “You’re favorite.”

The people in the mess hall scurried around them. They were here to do a show. At least that is what everyone thought. They were also here on a secret mission, to discover why or who was causing this starship to breakdown, usually at a critical point in a mission. It gave the starship Herman a mission success rate of 0.01. Compared to the fleet-wide rate of 0.8, it was pretty lousy.

Captain Glover didn’t appear to have a clue, and invited Starry and Tramal over to help him figure out what was happening.

At the moment, however, the only thing Starry could think of was the plate of grits in front of him. He slurped up a spoon of it. He frowned. “Not as good as my mom’s.”

Tramal smiled. “Nothing is ever as good as your mom’s.”

Starry pointed at Tramal. “Of course, you’re right.”

“Of course.” She ate a spoonful of her own. “Now, do you have a plan as how we can capture this person or persons?”

“Of course! Don’t I always?”

“No.”

Starry smiled. “Well, I probably shouldn’t use absolutes then.”

“Absolutely not.”

“I figure we’ll wait for the next incident to happen, then go from there.”

“Let’s hope it isn’t the final one, then.”

Starry nodded. “For sure. But until something happens, I don’t know anyway to figure it out.”

“It shouldn’t be too long then. According to the captain, we’re coming up to another critical mission point.”

Starry smiled. “Until then, we eat these grits.” He shoveled another spoonful into his mouth.

# # #

It was time for Starry to do his comedy routine. He moseyed onto the stage. He wore his blue jeans, and his blue-jean vest, with a collared shirt, unbuttoned almost halfway down his chest.  He grabbed the microphone. “Peace man! I’m Starry the Space Hippie. How did that happen? I don’t know, man. I just popped out to hippie parents on a space ship. That’s when I knew I was . . .” Starry slid one foot out as he spread his arms. “Cool, baby!”

Amidst the spattering of laughter, the ship lurched, almost knocking Starry off his feet. After regaining his balance, Starry attempted to reassure the audience. “So cool, in fact, that little shakes like the one we just received was a common occurrence. Especially on our hippie space ship. We held it together with seaweed and duct tape.”

Another jolt hit, so strong that it knocked Starry off his feet. Then an announcement rang over the ship intercom: “Stations! Everyone to their stations! This is not a drill!”  The audience ran from the room as if draining down a drain, leaving Starry alone.

Starry hopped off the stage and headed to the door. “I know I wasn’t very funny, but I don’t think I was that bad.” He sought out Tramal—he found her in their room.

She raced up to him and hugged him. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”

Starry raised an eyebrow. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

She stared at him for a moment. “Because the part of the ship where you were close to is gone.”

“Gone? You mean, like vaporized or something?”

“Yes, something like that. They’re not sure exactly what happened. They’re investigating it as we speak.”

Starry thought for a moment. “Sounds like this could be a clue. Do you know what their mission was this time?”

“Yeah, they were having a diplomatic mission, meeting a sensitive race who is thinking of joining our alliance. According to what I just learned from the captain, a rouge ray shot from weapons control and hit their ship. They naturally responded, but we didn’t have any shields up. So . . .”

“Then who authorized the weapons to fire should be in their computer data banks.”

“That’s what they’re trying to determine. However, the captain isn’t hopeful as he says every other instance has been erased beyond recovery. Thus why they wanted us to come.”

“Let’s go see if we can have a look.”

Tramal nodded and they left, walked down a series of halls back to the area where Starry had been performing. They encountered a couple of guards around the door.

One of the guards said, “No one is allowed beyond this door.”

“But,” Starry said, “the captain is expecting us.”

He shook his head. “No exceptions. Captain’s orders.”

“Except for these two, soldier,” a voice said behind them.

Starry turned to see the captain approaching. “Thank you, sir.”

The guards opened the doors and waved Starry, Tramal, and the captain on in. The three went to  the data control location, where several were busy working on evaluating the data. As the captain approached, he asked, “Any progress?”

The soldiers stood at attention and saluted him. One of them said, “No luck, sir. Like all the previous times. No record of who authorized the firing of the ray blast. We’re in the process of attempting to retrieve the data, but it doesn’t look good.”

The captain sighed. “Pretty much as I expected.”

Starry cleared his throat. “Who would have authority to erase data like that?”

The soldier faced Starry. “Aren’t you the comedian guy? Why are you here?”

“Humor me,” Starry said with a slight grin.

The captain nodded. “Go ahead and tell him, soldier.”

“Well, the senior staff would all have the authority to modify such information.”

“So, that narrows it down to . . .” Starry waved his hand in a circular motion.

“The three lieutenants, the second in command, and--” the soldier glanced at the captain.

“Me, of course.” The captain finished the soldier’s sentence. He turned to Starry. “I want to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. We have a critical mission coming up that several transports are depending on us for an escort through some enemy territory.” He lifted a hand toward the missing bulkhead. “As if this wasn’t bad enough.”

Starry nodded. “I understand, Captain Glover.  I’ll see what I can do. You mind if I have a look at the records in question?”

The captain waved a hand toward the console. “Be my guest.”

“Tramal, would you like to assist?”

“Most certainly, dear.” She sat next to Starry at the terminal as the captain left the area. “What exactly are we looking for?”

“Mostly what was before and after the deleted sections. Any clue will do.”

She lifted a finger. “Ah, I see. Say no more.” They both busied themselves with examining the records.

# # #

Starry groaned and stretched his hands into the air.

Tramal said, “What’s the matter, dear? Too much data for your poor brain to handle?”

He laughed. “No, just activating thinking muscles. I think best when I’m stretching.”

“Hum, did you come up with anything?”

“Possibly. I’ll need to run a test to verify it.”

“What kind of test?”

“A blackout test.”

Tramal’s skin changed to a pinkish hue. “I’ve never heard of such a test. What is it?”

You’ll see, right about . . . now!”

Every light in the whole ship blacked out. Screams could be heard down the hall. Emergency lights kicked in. Faint flickers of light entered the room where they sat. After a few minutes, light levels returned to normal.

The captain stormed in, obviously not very happy. “What is going on here? The records say the blackout originated from this location.”

“Very tricky, captain,” Starry said.

“What are you talking about, man? I’m not here to play games with you. I want you to figure out who is doing this.”

“And the person who is doing this is you, captain.”

“That’s absurd.”

“Not so absurd when you think about it. The records that were erased were very selective, not at all the kind of records a person would delete. That meant the records were being deleted via a virus that was activated whenever a crisis would erupt.”

“Yeah, so what?”

“A crisis just erupted with the blackout. I set a recording tracker to save any info generated from it.”

The captain’s face fell. “Oh.”

Starry pushed a button on the console. “And that virus has your fingerprints all over it, captain.”

The words, “Authorized by Captain Glover” flashed on the screen.

Starry glanced at the soldiers standing around him. “I suggest you take him into custody.”

The soldiers stood there a moment, then one of them said, “Sir, you are under arrest.”

The captain bowed his head and held his arms out. They took him away.

Tramal shook her head. “The only thing I don’t get is what was his motivation?”

Starry fixed his eyes on his wife. “Why, it’s elementary, my dear Tramal. He was planted by the enemy. Their ultimate goal was to give the transports in the next mission to the enemy.”

“How did you know he was from the enemy? He seemed so cooperative.”

“He was cooperative in order to not cast any suspicion toward himself. However, it’s in the logs. Shortly before the deleted records, he’s recorded as saying to the soldier on watch that they should stand down as it concerns reviewing what he had for lunch that day.”

“Which was?”

“Grits.”

Tramal appeared confused. “What’s wrong with that?”

“It wasn’t so much what was wrong with grits as what went with it. A side of communications from an unknown source. I suspected that was enemy communications and I was right.”

Tramal smiled. “I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

Starry held up a finger. “That’s if it is an old analog clock. However, if it is digital, it is either on or off. And this one,” he pointed to himself, “is on!”

Tramal laughed. “I guess so!”

Starry smiled. He’d always wanted to disrupt that old saying. He couldn’t have done it better if he’d planned it.

Starry dusted his hands off. “Case closed!”