"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, December 25, 2011

BEAST, Part 3

Merry Christmas and Happy Channukah to all of my readers! Today, with the help of my friend, author Tony Healey, I offer the final installment of your Holiday treat. So, before you begin racing to visit your in-laws, relax for a moment with your cup of chai and enjoy part three of our sci-fi adventure. (Pssst, if you missed parts one and two, scroll down. You'll find the links in the column to the left.)
Just a friendly reminder, some of the situations and language in BEAST are not what all of my readers expect of my blog, but I choose not to censor Tony's story. You've been warned.
BEAST is a preview of the forthcoming novel THE STARS MY REDEMPTION due out at the beginning of 2012.
If you like what you read here, then please leave a review on BEAST’s Amazon page here: BEAST
If you leave a review I will gift you the full novel for FREE when it becomes available. So simply leave your review and I will make sure you get it.
Tony Healey



PART THREE

Abe sparked a welding torch so that he could see in the pitch black, and walked back to the reactor. Squatting down, he cut through several of the coolant control pipes, and then turned the torch on the pressure control panel. He heard the whine of the reactor as it already started to overheat from insufficient coolant.

If the Draxx came into the engine room and discovered how he had sabotaged the ship, they wouldn’t have the time to fix the pipes, nor would they be able to shut down the reactor since he had destroyed the control panel. In case they tried to disable it manually, he also welded the emergency levers so that they couldn’t be turned. He had locked the ship into a cycle of overload, and it was so simple. The ship would explode once the reactor reached critical temperature.

It wouldn’t take long.

He listened for noise outside the engine room entrance before venturing outside and climbing the ladder to the main corridor. There were no Draxx about; none patrolling.

They’re confident they have everyone locked up, he thought.

Red emergency lighting flashed in his eyes and there was the low wail of the klaxons that the Draxx hadn’t silenced.

He padded silently along the corridor, making his way to the aft of the ship. He was passing the crew’s quarters when he heard a thump come from one of them. The door was locked. He forced it open with his robotic arm; the door mechanisms straining to keep it locked shut. He saw Lorna on the floor, hugging her knees. It was her quarters, then.

She was screaming at him as he walked in and pulled her to her feet.

"Come!" he growled at her.

She stopped screaming.

"Come!" he said again, dragging her with him out into the corridor.

"Where are the others?" she asked him.

"Locked up in the officer’s mess."

"Oh God..." She said, clinging to him as they walked. She was terrified.

They came to the intersection that would take them to the left, to the mess room, the gym, and the medical bays, and to the right which led down to the hangar deck. He paused at the corner. Lorna went to press ahead, not paying attention, and he shoved her back. When she looked up at him he had one finger up to his lips. Peering back around the corner he saw a Draxx foot soldier pulling apart a wall panel, throwing wires and circuitry everywhere.

It was at least eight feet tall, with a long snout filled with small but sharp teeth. Its thick tail swished from side to side, as it tore at the wall panel with its clawed hands. It had brown armour about its chest, and a belt with daggers and a pistol attached to it. Abe could tell it was preoccupied and ignorant of the fact that there were humans still roaming the ship. He left Lorna cowering around the corner and crept out behind the reptile. As he got less than three feet away, the Draxx seemed to sense him because it paused what it was doing and started to turn.

He wasted no time. Abe leapt on it, wrapping his mechanical arm about its neck. With his other arm he reached for the pistol on the reptile’s belt. The Draxx bucked and tried to toss him off, turning in circles and screaming with a hair-raising roar. It was trying to get at him with its claws, and Abe knew that if it did, the thing would probably tear him to bits. He pulled the pistol free of the belt and jabbed it into the Draxx’s side.

He fired.

An eruption of clear fluid and yellow flesh flew from the creatures torso, splatting up the wall. He fired again and again until it dropped to the floor. He climbed up off of it, stood, and as it convulsed on the floor, he fired at its twitching body once more.

Abe went and took Lorna by the arm. She was shivering and shocked. He looked left, as far as he could see up the hallway. There was no movement. He checked the way to the hangar deck. It was clear.

He went right, dragging Lorna along with him.

“That... that... thing...” Lorna was muttering.

“A Draxx,” Abe said, pulling her with him. “Don’t worry about it. It’s dead now.”

Lorna was looking down at it as he pulled her past it. In her slightly dazed state she was starting to realize where he was leading her.

"Where are we going?" Lorna asked him.

"To the lifeboat. We're getting off this ship," he said.

He made her move quickly down the ladder that led to the hangar. There was another way of getting to the lifeboat, but it meant using the main entrance and he didn't want to expose himself like that if there were Draxx in the hangar bay. He climbed down after her, the two of them reaching the floor of the hangar behind several large cargo containers. He peeked around one of them, and looked across the hangar. It was empty. He didn't know what the Draxx were after, but they weren't looking for it this end of the ship. It wasn’t cargo they were after.

The lifeboat was in the middle of the hangar. It was a large saucer shape, with a pointed front, and a cluster of small engines at the back.

"Up!" he said to Lorna, lifting her up from the floor by her arm and dragging her out to the lifeboat. He accessed the controls to the entrance and stood back as it slid open. He shoved Lorna inside first and then climbed in himself.

Abe watched the entrance hatch close automatically behind them and then he mounted the flight controls.

Inside the ship there were places for up to twelve people. Lorna sat down in one of the seats and buckled herself in. As Abe started the engines, she said behind him “I thought you were saving the others, not leaving them there.”

He said nothing.

Abe accessed the hangar controls, opening the bay doors and exposing the hangar to the vacuum of space. A rush of escaping atmosphere from inside the hangar flew past the front viewport like mist, sucked out. Abe brought the engines online, and pushing a lever the lifeboat slid forward through the hangar bay doors and out into space.

"Why have you left them behind?" she asked him.

He ignored her. They left the Royale behind.

"We have to go back for them!" she shouted at him.

When they’d come a safe distance from the Royale, he cut the engines and spun them about so they were looking back at the ship, and at the large spherical Draxx ship hanging from it like a tumor. Seconds later there was a bright white flash, the explosion consuming the Draxx vessel as well. The lifeboat was rocked by the resultant shockwave, the overhead lights flickering.

"You’re a monster..." Lorna said, although he suspected that she was not as sad about her companion’s deaths as she was making out. He sensed her relief at having survived, despite the fact he had left the others to die.

Abe shrugged.

He’d been called a monster before.

“Look, love, there was no way we could rescue the others. The ship was overrun. And I wasn’t risking my skin even trying.”

Lorna nodded.

“So you would have left me as well,” she said.

Abe grinned at her.

“Don’t matter, does it? Found yuh so no need to grumble,” he said.

There was a moment of silence between them.

“Now what?” she asked him, slumping back in her chair.

“A planet called Ractor Prime in the Alpha-Nimoy system, about three week’s journey from here. We might just have enough rations and fuel to get us there… if we’re lucky,” he said.

Lorna rolled her eyes.

“Three weeks!”

Just a spoiled brat like the rest of them, he thought. I knew her concern for the others was just an act.

“I can’t believe I’m trapped in this tin can with you for three whole fucking weeks!” she said, releasing herself from the safety harness around her seat and standing up.

Abe remembered Lorna standing with the others in the officer’s mess as the footage played of him grunting on top of her. She had stood there, laughing with them. Laughing at him. Her mutual affection towards him as he had nailed her had seemed so genuine.

He stood up. Lorna watched, startled, as Abe started to unbuckle his trousers. He had a considerable appetite, and food would not abate it, as Lorna would come to realise.


Tony Healey hails from the UK. His first novel, The Stars My Redemption, featuring the main character from BEAST (and an engineer named Laurie), will be available on Amazon in early 2012. His short story, "Redd," which also centers on the main character from "Beast," appears in the anthology, Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front which is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for the amazing low price of 99 cents (about 86p). All proceeds from Resistance Front will be donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

BEAST, Part 2

Here we are! As I stated last week, my friend and fellow Kindle All-Stars member, Tony Healey, has commandeered my blog for the last three Sundays in December to share with you his short story BEAST. You may find Part 1 by clicking this link. BEAST is for sale on Amazon (at the bargain price of .99) if you'd prefer to read it on your Kindle device or app. Tony is also offering a special deal to my readers which he describes below.
Just a friendly reminder, some of the situations and language in BEAST are not what all of my readers expect of my blog, but I choose not to censor Tony's story. You've been warned.
BEAST is a preview of the forthcoming novel THE STARS MY REDEMPTION due out at the beginning of 2012.
If you like what you read here, then please leave a review on BEAST’s Amazon page here: BEAST
If you leave a review I will gift you the full novel for FREE when it becomes available. So simply leave your review and I will make sure you get it.
Tony Healey


PART TWO

The same afternoon, a man sent by Wang had tracked him down as he was making arrangements for the contents and cargo of his starship; he couldn’t keep hold of the lightweight cruiser now he was a man with a price above his head. The best thing was to disappear for a while. He didn’t bear Wang any malice for the way he’d probably reacted; he knew he would have dealt with it the same way.

His understanding for the way Wang was reacting, combined with the knowledge that he had botched a job and was now facing the consequences of his own sloppy work, was what made him want to run. Normally he would have sought Wang out, killing all of his men first, and then making an example of the man for wanting him dead. But this was a different situation.

For the first time in many years he had failed to carry-through with a job. In the process he’d killed a man’s young daughter – an immoral act, even by his standards. And for the first time in twice as long, he was going on the run and hiding. He didn’t want to kill Wang, despite him being an evil crime lord who didn’t exactly deserve to live; he was still a Father mourning a child.

Abe had murdered, raped, robbed and pillaged. He’d double-crossed and back-stabbed and tortured people in the past. But he’d never willingly killed a child. He was a monster by anyone’s standards, but that was one line he’d never crossed.

Abe had gone to where his private starship was stored in a hangar and had begun to rig it with explosives. He would connect a timer so that a few hours after he’d left it would blow and maybe trick everyone for a short while that he was dead. He would be long gone on the Royale before people started asking questions that he wouldn’t be there to answer. As for the starship, it wasn’t the first he’d lost, and it wouldn’t be the last. He would get another one, whether he had to buy one or borrow one. Ships were like taxis to him.

On his hands and knees attaching a charge to the underside of his ship, he’d heard the sound of boots walking toward him on the sandy floor of the hangar. He stood and turned to face his visitor and saw that it was a Klebin male, dressed in light body armour, holding a long-barrel laser rifle. The assassin motioned with the rifle for him to get up and stand to one side, and Abe did so willingly.

“Haaands aaaap,” he said.

Abe grunted in acknowledgement and put his hands behind his head.

“Wang sent yuh?” Abe asked him simply.

He wanted to know if this was someone collecting the hit Wang had undoubtedly put on his head, or whether it was someone with a genuine grudge from his past; they showed up every now and then.

The Klebin smiled, showing all three rows of yellow, sharp teeth. His eyes were pure black, like all Klebins, due to living on a dark world with very little sunlight; their skin was almost always white, with a few exceptions.

“There’s a pretty rewaaard for yaaaaa Laroche. Waaaaaang is paying gooood money, and he don’t mind yaaaaa being in a body bag either,” he said.

Abe shrugged.

“Wang’s got more savvy than to have me dragged-in alive, mate. That’s why he’s sent a half-brained dickhead like you to bring me in dead,” he said, starting to laugh.

“What aaare ya laughing at?”

“Well, you think you can kill me…” Abe said.

His assassin frowned.

“Whadaya mean? Ya think I can’t kill yaaa?” he said, agitated, getting a bit closer to Abe and jabbing the rifle in his direction. “Look at ya, Laroche. I have ya at gunpoint. In a second ya head’s gonna resemble a--“

That moment of anger, that split second of clouded judgment was all Abe needed. He stepped forward and reached for the barrel of the rifle before the Klebin even knew what was happening, twisting to the side as he fired off a few shots reflexively that reverberated in the confined hangar like small atomic explosions. Abe yanked the rifle free of his hands, spun it about and smashed the side of the Klebin’s head.

A few pointy teeth flew from his face as the rifle connected with brute force and a soft oomph sound.

“Wahhh!” the Klebin yelled as he stumbled to the left, reaching for his holster and the extra pistol he had there.

Abe flipped the rifle up, so that he had it by the butt, slipped his finger over the trigger and blew the Klebin away. The alien hit the other side of the hangar with the full force of the blast, shot at close range, and sat slumped against the hangar wall with blue blood bubbling from the giant hole in his midsection. He made a rattling sound from the base of his throat, his hands momentarily grasping for his throat, and then he was still.

Abe tossed the weapon inside his starship, and walked over to the Klebin, dragging him across the hangar. He bundled him inside, and closed the hatch, setting the timer as he had planned to before he was interrupted. Now when the ship blew up, and they sifted through the wreckage, they would find a body too. It wouldn’t take them too long to run a test on the charred remains and see that it wasn’t human but it was extra time he had brought for himself. It wasn’t until after he’d walked away from the hangar that he’d realized he was splattered with blue blood, not that it mattered.


If the crew knew how he had arrived onboard, and of the reputation he had amongst other degenerates and villains such as himself, they wouldn't have taunted him the way that they did. Several days ago they had convinced one of the women, a blonde called Lorna to sleep with Abe so that they could secretly film it for their own amusement. She had come into the engineering room and started talking to him, being unusually friendly.

Gradually she had gotten close and closer to him, running her hand across his wide, muscled back, feeling the scars that swirled like gnarled bark beneath his oily clothing. She'd slowly un-buttoned his shirt, kissed his chest, kissed his neck, sucked his bottom lip.

He'd picked her up, easily, like carrying a child she was so light, and carried her small frame from engineering to his bunk opposite. It was not as luxurious as those the crew slept in, but he had slept in worse. There was a bunk and a wash basin. He needed little else. He’d lowered her gently on to his mattress and had made short work of removing her thin trousers and her uniform top.

She was younger than him, with small breasts that grew erect once he had played with them. Little did he know that the rest of the crew had planted a small recording device there in his quarters and had watched the whole thing, as he had kissed and slobbered over Lorna, taking her twice; first roughly and savagely with her squealing beneath him, and then slowly, holding her in his arms and kissing her gently as he drove himself powerfully in and out of her.

Intimate contact with a woman was a seldom act for him. Usually he would just pay a prostitute when he caught the urge. Every few months he would get that aching in his groin, and the impromptu erections that made him have to pay for relief. The women were of differing quality, at both ends of the scale. Since losing his arm, and his eye adopting that dead white colour, women who weren’t in the business to charge him to stay in their bed for the night hadn’t looked his way. He paid to fuck, but the fact was that you couldn’t pay anyone to be intimate with you.

He understood how his appearance repulsed most women. He’d been stitched up and put back together so many times, he was completely unrecognizable as the same idealistic and handsome young man who had joined the Terran army all those years before. He’d been fresh-faced, zealous... and very, very na├»ve back then. That had been before Massa E Kym and other battlefields, when the spirit and heart of that young man had been blasted to smithereens by the harsh realities of interstellar war.

For Abe the black gulf of years between who he had been then, to the man he was now, seemed to span centuries. Millennia. Only the stars themselves ever remained the same.

All of the women aboard the Royale were good looking, petite, all the product of fine breeding and good upbringing. He was of different stock, he knew that. But it hadn’t stopped him looking at them as they had passed him, regarding the slight curve of their hips, the gentle motion of their bottoms as they walked about the ship. He had noticed Lorna, too, with her golden hair and her soft features. Obviously the rest of the crew had seen him noticing her too, hence their little joke on his behalf.

For people who acted like they were of a higher breed than the humans from the outer colonies, the rest of the crew had certainly gone lower than he’d have thought them capable of when they’d convinced Lorna to sleep with him for their amusement.

After he’d finished, Abe had got up off of the bed and handed her a towel.

“Use that if yuh like,” he’d said.

She’d smiled at him politely, but had had a strange look on her face. She had seemed so eager to sleep with him, and had certainly been game when he’d brought her to his quarters. He knew when a woman was excited, and he had known that she was genuinely excited, and ready, to sleep with him when he’d stripped her off. Now she looked as though she were ashamed of herself. As he stood dressing himself and watching her clean herself up, it struck Abe that Lorna had the same look that so many of the prostitutes he slept with had when he had finished; sexually satisfied, but left feeling dirty.

He had learned to grow a thick skin against the repulsion he saw on their faces after sleeping with him and in the same manner he dismissed Lorna’s expression as just another example of that repulsion. It was a bit like eating a seafood dinner and then afterwards, remembering that you didn’t like fish.

Standing to dress herself, Lorna had said “I’ve got to get to the Command Centre.”

“Yuh,” he’d said.

A few hours later he had gone to the mess to fix himself something to eat, and he found almost the entire crew in there laughing and joking. They had quieted when he walked in, and when he’d looked at the vid screen he’d seen why. There he was, driving himself in and out of Lorna on his bunk, grunting like an animal. He looked from the vid screen and then at the crew as they started to laugh again.

“Really fucking funny,” Abe said, the vein in the side of his neck pulsating.

They laughed even more. One of the male crewmembers, Cooper, rewound the footage back to when Abe had been pulling his clothes off, a big grin on his face. He laughed as the footage played, and he sounded like a jackal. Abe saw red and lunged for Cooper, grabbing him by the neck with his metal arm and lifting him up till his feet dangled off of the floor. Cooper grabbed for the place around his neck where Abe’s artificial hand was closing, gripping hard.

“Funny now?” Abe asked through gritted teeth.

Lorna had stepped out from amongst the crew, and Abe looked at her, knowing that the planting of the recording device in his quarters had not been orchestrated by the crew alone.

“Stop!” she shouted at him.

Cooper was turning purple. Abe released his grip and he dropped to the floor. The other crew rushed to him, their attitude completely changed from when he’d walked in only moments before. The humour had left the room. On the vid display, Abe was on top of Lorna, his breathing heavy.

He looked across at Lorna. For a split second he thought he saw... what? Guilt?

Any other time, Abe thought, I would have snapped his neck.

He would have smashed the vid screen, too, if he knew he wouldn’t end up spending hours replacing it after. 

Without saying a word Abe left the mess room and headed for his quarters. He located the recording device and crushed it in his bare hands, reducing the small box to a crumpled fistful of black scrap. Then he’d returned to the engine room, expecting a visit from Captain Anderson for what he’d done to Cooper, but not receiving one.

Sitting on his bunk that night, replaying the love making, the embarrassment of them all laughing about it and the incident with Cooper, he had contemplated walking down to the crew’s quarters and doing some damage to Cooper to make an example of him. Perhaps maul him. Grab his face and squeeze his head until his eyeballs started to pop from the sockets.

But eventually he’d convinced himself to just lie down and let it go for the day, and he had done just that.

He’d let it go, sure… but he hadn’t forgotten it.


Abe had sat in the engine room, in the dark, listening to the sounds of shouting and screaming on the upper decks. This had gone on for several minutes, and then there had been nothing. The ship was more or less silent, save for the continual grinding of the reactor gears, and the gurgling of the coolant pipes in the engine room. He could hear no more activity.

After perhaps half an hour sitting in the dark, the comm. panel on the wall started beeping. He got up and walked over to it. He had a direct call, from the officer’s mess.

Abe hit the RECIEVE button.

It was Captain Anderson; he was perhaps the oldest person on the ship, and Abe hadn’t seen much of him since coming aboard. Whilst the ship was in transit he preferred to remain in his quarters, doing God-knows-what. He’d heard talk of Anderson building model ships. Grown men playing with toys was an alien concept to Abe and he didn’t understand it. Anderson distanced himself from the crew, and Abe had wondered if he knew what his crew got up to whilst he hid himself away in luxury.

"Frank? You there?" his voice sounded frayed, stressed. “Engineer?” Whatever had happened must have surprised Anderson, too, because he sounded pushed.

Abe smiled.

"Yuh. Here."

"Where have you been? The ship's been overrun. The enemy has taken over the command centre."

By the enemy he meant the Draxx, of course.

"I'm in engineering," Abe said simply.

"Thank God. We're locked in the mess at the moment. They locked us all in here after they breached the airlock. I don't think they had the foresight to disable the internal comm stations. At least they didn’t execute us…" Anderson said.

Abe grunted.

"You need to come and get us out of here, Frank, on the double."

Abe nodded but didn’t say anything.

"Frank?"

"Yuh. Still here."

Anderson sighed.

"Frank we need to get to the lifeboat. It has enough room and supplies for all of us, and it might be our only chance of escaping this ship. Once they've got what they want, they'll blow this ship up with us in it. That’s how they roll. You know that?"

“Yuh,” Abe said. He knew it.

Trouble is, he thought, do you have any idea how I fucking roll?

There were frightened voices he could hear in the background.

Those fuckers, he thought to himself. Quivering in their boots like children. If only I had footage of that!

In the pitch black, with the thought of them frightened half to death, he grinned as if he were the very darkness itself, incarnate.

"Come and get us Frank," Anderson said. “You’re our only hope.”

"Yuh," Abe replied, simply, closing the comm. channel.

The final installment of BEAST will magically appear here on Christmas Day at 8:00 a.m.
Tony Healey hails from the UK. His first novel, The Stars My Redemption, featuring the main character from BEAST (and an engineer named Laurie), will be available on Amazon in early 2012. His short story, "Redd," appears in the anthology, Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front which is available on Amazon for the amazing low price of 99 cents (about 86p). All proceeds from Resistance Front will be donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

BEAST, Part 1

Here's the treat I've been promising. My friend, and fellow member of the Kindle All-Stars, Tony Healey will be my guest for the remainder of December. It is my pleasure to present to you Tony's short story, BEAST, in three parts. BEAST is for sale on Amazon (at a whopping .99) if you prefer to read it from your Kindle app or device. He also has a special deal just for my readers, but I'll let Tony tell you about it.
To my readers with more sensitive "ears," please note that there is just a bit of colorful language in the story that is not generally spoken on my blog, but I've chosen not to sensor it. You've been warned.
BEAST is a preview of the forthcoming novel THE STARS MY REDEMPTION due out at the beginning of 2012.
If you like what you read here, then please leave a review on BEAST’s Amazon page here: BEAST
If you leave a review I will gift you the full novel for FREE when it becomes available. So simply leave your review and I will make sure you get it.
Tony Healey


PART ONE

He knew something was up when he heard the sound of another ship clamping itself to their side. From experience he knew the sound a starship made when it hit against another ship.

Abe was on his hands and knees in the engine room cleaning the proton filter plates when he felt the rumble and vibration of what could only be a gravity well drawing close to the ship and he’d wondered if it was an asteroid skimming past them. But then he’d heard the unmistakable scrape of metal on metal and a loud crash.

He stood and listened, forgetting about the proton plates. By the sound of it they were on the starboard side of the Royale. The security seals on the airlock would not open easily for them, whoever they were, but they would cut through in no time at all.

If they were Draxx, then they would be inside the ship in only moments. If it was an attack by pirates or mercenaries, then it depended on their equipment. Some melted the seals, some blasted them clean off... and some simply breached the ship itself by drilling through the outer shell. That was a much less common method of gaining access, though, as you risked hitting major ductwork and blowing both ships. But if you were that desperate to get inside you’d take that risk. Abe knew that.

He wondered if he should go up to the command centre and offer his assistance to the rest of the crew, or remain in the engine room and see who their visitors were before taking action.

Fuck 'em I’ll wait, he thought.

He took the heavy metal rod he’d been using to clean the filter plates and smashed the lighting panel. The engine room was plunged into complete darkness. He didn’t want intruders being able to flick the light back on. Abe sat and waited.


Frankenstein was their nickname for him, and he supposed he really did look a bit like the eponymous Monster. In fact he didn't mind the name. He quite liked it. None of them could have guessed at his real name. They took the name he’d given them – simply ‘Frank’ and nothing else – as gospel.

If only the rest of the crew knew where he had been over the years, what he’d done, they wouldn’t have taunted him the way they did. The crew were all from Earth – the very core world around which the whole of the Terran Union radiated -- and they were all more refined, a far better breed. They were handsome people despite their inherently disgusting natures, clean and well-groomed.

There was a distinct class divide between those born on Earth and the people of the outer colonies, who were decades behind the advancements of the rest of the Union. As you moved further and further away from the core worlds, the standards of living and society deteriorated. Some of the more backwater worlds were at least a century behind other worlds simply due to their distance from the rest of Galactic civilisation.

Abe's duties on-board consisted of working in the engine room, and maintaining anything mechanical on-board. This meant that he was almost always dirty and covered in grease and sweat from his labors. The others mocked him, called him names because of his uncleanliness. He also carried out general janitorial duties and the crew wasted no time in telling him when one of the toilets were broken or blocked-up.

Normally a ship of that size would make do with a replicant engineer and maintenance crew member. But the Union heavily sanctioned the creation and use of replicants. In layman’s terms, Abe knew that that meant they held the monopoly on them and used them strictly for their own ends. So only ships who in some way either operated for the Union or were owned by the Union were allowed replicant crews.

The crew mocked his appearance, his gravelly voice, his slurred speech. He was the odd one out, the man with a robotic arm and a broken face, the dirty one, the Beast, the Monster. In a way he might as well have been a replicant himself for the disregard they showed him.

He ignored them. Their comments didn’t bother him. Abe had faced death and beat it enough times to not let a few spiteful remarks get under his skin. He kept his calm. When he reacted, people died. It was that simple. He only needed the job to maintain a low profile for at least a few more months; otherwise he would have killed them all already.

He’d thought to himself, I bet they think they’re enduring me. But I’m allowing them to keep on living.

I’m enduring them.

They treated him as though he were scum, and he supposed that to them he was; those clean men and women in their clean white ship, transferring mineral shipments back and forth from the Alpha-Nimoy and Zara-X systems. It was easy work for them, and it was easy work for him. Compared to what he normally did, it was like having a holiday, a good rest.

Before taking the job, he had been contacted by a crime boss on the planet Farian, a man known simply as Wang. He’d offered Abe a lot of money to find his daughter, kidnapped a few days before by a rival gang moving in on Wang’s territory, transporting and selling narcotic star salts like 4Fava and 3Bz. Abe had done a bit of digging, bribing people for information, beating a few to a pulp to find out what he needed. He had discovered that she was being held in a compound hidden in an area of thick forest on the planet’s surface, and that she was guarded by at least twenty men.

After joy-riding a borrowed shuttle to the edge of the forest, he had proceeded on foot to the compound. He'd been a bit over-zealous in blasting a hole in the side of the compound with an A10 missile launcher, hoping to not only gain entrance but also throw the henchmen into disarray. However it had had the adverse effect of killing the girl he was meant to collect, the explosion erupting too close to her cell and killing her instantly.

He’d fled the scene knowing that now he would have both gangs after his skin. After hiding out for a few days in the busy capitol city of Farian, he’d met a man due to start work as an engineer on-board a ship called the Royale.

He told Abe that he hadn’t even met his new employer yet, and that a friend had set him up with the gig. After buying the man a few drinks, Abe led him outside on the pretence of going to another bar. He wasted no time and knocked him unconscious, locking him in a metal dumpster with a gag around his mouth and his arms tied behind his back. When – if – anyone found him, it would be days later.

The following morning Abe arrived at docking station 11 and met the Requisitions Officer of the Royale, who agreed to take him on despite being obviously uncomfortable in his presence. If it had been for anything else, he wouldn’t have been employed. But because he looked like a scarred-up engineer with years of experience under his belt, he was taken-on no questions asked. And he could talk the talk. He could always talk the talk.


Part 2 of BEAST will magically appear next Sunday, December 18, at 8:00 a.m.
Tony Healey hails from the UK. His first novel The Stars My Redemption, featuring the main character from BEAST (and an engineer named Laurie), will be available on Amazon in early 2012. His short story, "Redd," appears in the anthology, Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front which you will find HERE for the whopping price of 99 cents (about 86p).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Perfect Needle

I've found I enjoy knitting even a bit more than crochet. I like the simplicity of knitting in that one only has two stitches to learn. The rest is technique. If you can knit and purl, you can do anything. I've also found that knitting is much easier on my hands than crochet so I can do it relatively pain free for a longer period of time. Of course, crochet works up quicker. They both have found a place in my crafting. But enough about the crafts themselves, I want to talk about tools.

Earlier this year, I pulled out the pair of aluminum needles that I got years ago in my learn-to-knit kit and finally taught myself to purl. I found the aluminum to be awfully slippery and I kept losing stitches. Not a great start to my knitting career. Soooo. . .

I pulled out the plastic needles that I purchased years ago and tried again. I found I liked them much better because they had a good "tooth," more friction and held the cotton yarn I was working much better than the aluminum. However, I found as I continued to use them, the amount of friction continued to increase and made it more difficult to work the yarn. I ended up finishing the project with them (after all, it was only a washcloth), but I hoped I'd find a happy medium.
FYI, a great way to cut down on the friction is to run waxed paper up and down the length of your needles. This deposits a small amount of wax on them and makes the surface a bit more slick. Since my bamboos are only 8" long, I use this trick when I need to use my 10" acrylics.
I thought about purchasing a pair of wooden needles, but they were prohibitively expensive. Then I discovered bamboo.

You see, I'm a Bargain shopper with a capital B. After a gazillion years in retail, I know better than to pay full price for anything and I will generally wait for it to go on sale or clearance before I buy. I'm also moderately hooked on eBay. Bully for me, right?

Well, thanks to my nose for finding bargains and my eBay addiction, I found bamboo needles galore for dirt cheap. Did it matter to me that I would have to wait two weeks or more for shipping from Hong Kong? Heck no! The set of 8" needles I purchased ranged in size from 2mm to 10mm and have developed a lovely patina as I use them. Because they're natural, I don't find them to be cold in my hands like the aluminum can be. And they're so lightweight they're even easier on my weary hands. I like them so much that I purchased a 5" sock set from the same seller. I even bought a set of Tunisian crochet hooks in bamboo.

Don't get me wrong, I find the aluminum comes in handy for working with yarns that tend to be sticky. One in particular that I've worked is a cotton wrapped with a polyester filament. For the really slippery yarns I go to my acrylic needles or the plastic ones. You see, in shopping for needles I found so many for so little money that I now have needles for any occasion and I couldn't be happier about it.
You can find my collection listed on Ravelry. So what are your favorite tools? Leave me a comment and let me know. 
Happy Knitting!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How I Blog

I hear the groans now, but please bear with me. The last thing I ever intended to do when I began this blog was blog about blogging, but I assure you, there's a method to my madness. As I've fallen in with more writers and bloggers in recent months I've found myself explaining my blogging methods repeatedly, so much so that my fingers are getting tired. So I decided it was time. It's time to write the dreaded blog about the hows and the whys of the blogging habits I've developed. 
Any of my regular readers know, if they've bothered to notice, that I blog on a (somewhat flexible) schedule. In general, my blog articles are scheduled in advance to post on Sunday morning at 8:00. There are times that I veer from that schedule, but I'll get to that later. Suffice it to say I'm fairly consistent in my blogging practices and it seems to suit my readers and me quite well. First I'll explain to you why I do it, then I'll explain to you how I do it.

The "Why" of It All:

When I first began blogging, I found myself full of ideas and wanting to share them and would post randomly any old time I was struck with inspiration. Then I got busy in other areas of my life and went an entire month without a single post.

I found I was giving in to practices I'd seen happen to many blogs. The blogger loses interest, or forgets, or just fails to find the time to blog in any sort of reasonable period. That, my friends, is the easiest way to lose your following.

If you lose your motivation to write your blog, your readers will quickly lose their motivation to read it. Sure, they may still show up as followers; they may even still receive emails telling them to visit your blog. The question is, are they reading it? You could have a million followers, but if your followers aren't readers, who cares?

At some point early in 2011 I decided it was time to schedule myself "blog time" and stick to it. Easier said than done. However, blog sites offer this wonderful feature that allows you to pre-program your posts. That means when I have all sorts of inspiration, I can bang out two, three, or four posts in an afternoon and schedule them to post based on my schedule. It also means I can draft "spares" and save them for those weeks when I simply do not have the time to deal with the blog.

The happy side effect of this is that virtually all of my blogging stress is now gone. I have a set deadline for every article and I have structure. You see, I'm not naturally organized; I have to work at it. By giving myself a deadline and a schedule, I force myself to remain organized.

The "How" of It All:

As I stated at the beginning of this article, I schedule my posts for Sunday morning at 8:00. Why that day and time? Because even if I have no time during the week, I can usually find a couple of hours on Saturday to sit down and write a post last minute if I need to do so (as I am currently doing with this one*). I also find that it's a great way to spend a Sunday morning. I wonder how many of my readers get up at whatever time on Sunday and spend a few minutes over their morning coffee perusing their favorite blogs and websites. I can tell you that I get quite a few hits throughout the day on Sunday and on Monday mornings.

Are you one of them? Let me know by leaving a comment. I'd love to know your reading habits so I can offer you more of what makes you return.

Now my blog has become a bit more diverse in the time since I started it, so I keep a schedule in my planner that tells me on which date I posted each entry. Because I tend to post crochet patterns, recipes, my own writing, and articles about my favorite pet project, the Kindle All-Stars, I have quite the realm from which to draw.

The last thing I want to do is beat my readers over the head with the same thing every week, so the calendar gives me a spot where I can say, "Okay my last recipe went up on this date and I'd rather not post more than one each month, so this one can go here..." You get it? I'd rather spread out and give you a little nibble here and there of each topic.

Yes, there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. April is National Poetry Month. I enjoyed dedicating that month to poetry this year. I like poetry. I write terrible poetry, but I still have a mind to share that love. Will I post nothing but poetry in April of 2012? I don't know. I haven't yet decided that.

A wonderful exception: A writer friend (Tony Healey) asked if I would post chapters of his latest novel in advance of its release. Of course, but we decided rather than post a month of chapters on Sunday mornings, we'd do a special mid-week edition instead. That series is coming soon.

Holiday exceptions: July 25, commonly known to retailers as "Christmas in July," fell on a Monday this year, so I posted on Monday instead. The same held true for Halloween because I wanted to "treat" my crochet-inclined readers to free patterns on each of those two days.

You see, even if you choose to blog on a schedule, there's no need for rigidity because, after all, it's still your blog. It's your path. Follow it as you see fit and figure out what works for you.

Sunset in Rimersburg, PA courtesy of Valerie Lapcevich

Happy Blogging!

*This post was inspired by a question from a pal on twitter after I made an offhand comment about blogging on a schedule. I knew there was no way possible to explain my habits in 140 characters, so I decided to delay the post I had originally planned for today. Incidentally, that tweep was writer Susan Smith-Josephy (@SuSmithJosephy).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Guest Post from My "Little Bro"

David Hulegaard is a dear friend of mine. I've said more than once that I'd walk through fire for him. I lovingly refer to him as my "little bro" for many reasons: He's the same age as my younger brother, give or take a few months; he's a gamer, just like my little brother; and he's one tough cookie with a soft, warm heart, just like my real  brother. 
You see, if not for David, I would not have met Bernard Schaffer, the founder of the Kindle All-Stars Project. If not for David, I would not have been given this insanely wonderful opportunity to work with the most amazing group of people it has become my pleasure to know. If not for David, I would not be proofreading and editing for some outrageously talented independent authors. Our mutual respect and affection speaks volumes in this age of disconnection and discontent. 
So, when David mentioned he needed a post for his blog, I offered up my services in the form of an interview spotlighting my work with the Kindle All-Stars Project. The post actually benefits us both. It fills a gap in David's blog and it gives me a bit of exposure to readers who might otherwise not see my work. 
Now, as I've been too crazy busy to offer you all something meaningful to read this beautiful Sunday morning, I'm stealing back that interview which David posted on his blog a few days ago. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you take a moment to visit David's blog as well. 
Help support the Kindle All-Stars Project. Get your KAS gear here.
photo by Bernard Schaffer

Working with all the fantastic people that comprise the Kindle All-Stars project was like a dream come true for me. As a new writer, in the professional sense, it’s intimidating trying to get “out there,” and even after a full year of doing it I still don’t always know where I’m going. A lot of time as an independent author is spent waiting for the next opportunity to come along. Anthologies are a great place for an unknown writer to land and show off their work.

What I realized while getting to know some of the other authors involved with this project is that there are some amazing people out there that deserve to be more well-known than they are. Though I am proud of the work I have done, let’s be honest, I’m still a little unseasoned. It becomes painfully apparent when I read the words of people like Richard Roberts, Natasha Whearity, Tony Healey, Courtney Cantrell, and William Vitka. I talk to them and interact with them on Twitter daily. Not only are they incredibly talented writers, but they are friendly, pleasant, and always happy to discuss our craft. Imagine my surprise to find that the majority of these writers have less than 100 followers on Twitter. That’s just not right.

Sure, the Kindle All-Stars project has some big names attached to it, but you already know them. Who you don’t know is Laurie Laliberte. As hard as everyone worked to make this project become a reality, no one was more essential to its release than Laurie. She started out just like the rest of us—an aspiring writer looking for an outlet to share her story. But before it was all said and done, Laurie became the backbone of the entire project and earned a lifetime of respect from every person involved.

Why? How? I thought it would be best to let Laurie tell you in her own words. It’s my pleasure to have her as a guest on my blog today. Not only is Laurie my contemporary, but she’s also a dear friend. I am proud to know her, and it’s my honor to introduce her to you.

What was it that first attracted you to the Kindle All-Stars project?

I got involved for a purely selfish reason: my desire to publish. In my defense, I got involved with this whole project a day or two before Bernard made the decision to donate the proceeds to charity and I wholeheartedly embraced that idea. My KAS story is my first published fiction piece. I figured I’d take a chance and send Bernard my manuscript. I was in shock when I got the email back telling me he loved my story “except…” then the editing began. 


You have two pieces of work featured in the book, but let’s start with your short story, “Fear of the Dark.” Why did you choose this story for your submission?

“Fear of the Dark” was one of those pieces that’s sat, literally, for years. Every so often I’d pull out the manuscript, give it a quick once-over, maybe tweak it a little and then tuck it away again. It’s similar to the way I’ve always handled my resume, whether I’m job hunting or not: I keep it up to date just in case I need it. I published “Fear of the Dark” on my blog earlier this year (under the title “Prey”) and it was the one piece in my fiction arsenal that I knew was closest to publication-ready. Additionally, it’s a story I’ve always loved and the one I’ve most wanted to see published.

I pulled “Prey” when I submitted it, but its sister piece, “Predator,” is still on my blog in pretty rough condition. 


Most of the authors featured in this book that I’ve spoken to have all mentioned the edited process as their biggest challenge. What was it like for you?

Yeah, because I got on board so early in the project, I’ve had the opportunity to see Bernard Schaffer in action, both as a writer and an editor. He’s a tough editor, but he’s even tougher on himself. That said, I found Bernard’s editing process very easy. Most of the authors with whom I’ve spoken would not say that. I’m my own worst critic. I was also blessed with a few teachers in high school and in college who were terrific writers and extremely demanding editors, so I developed a very thick skin when it comes to my writing being critiqued by others. No amount of constructive criticism can bring me down. It simply motivates me to improve. I actually said to one of my college professors, “Stop telling me what’s right. Tell me what’s wrong so I can fix it.” That was the last college course I took.

My biggest editing challenge was leaving the story alone. After it went through its final edit, I closed the file and swore I wouldn’t look at it again. About a month later, I sent the file to a buddy, another KAS author. I reread it then, absolutely hated it, and ended up completely rewriting and resubmitting it. I’m really glad I did because I’m thrilled with the final product. 


Would you describe yourself as a perfectionist or a tinkerer when it comes to finalizing your work?

I am most definitely a perfectionist, a control freak. Until I began working with Bernard, I wasn’t much of a tinkerer. Once I get a first draft down and have a direction set in my mind, I don’t really mess with it a whole lot. I take that piece or premise and expand it to get it “just so.” The benefit of working with an editor like Bernard, who is such a good writer in his own right, is that he helped me see what else could be done with this story and then set me loose with a different mindset than I originally brought to the project. He reminded me that, when it comes to writing, your only limitation is yourself and I was limiting myself. I think I was too close to this piece and rather than letting go and letting the story develop, I was holding it close and smothering it a little. Once I loosened my grip, I found the story had such potential and that’s when it really blossomed. It was emotionally draining at first, but now I’m so glad I did it because it’s definitely the best piece of fiction I’ve written to date. 

What does “Fear of the Dark” mean to you personally?

Wow, first the obvious: I’m terrified of the dark. I’m not as bad as I once was, but that fear is still there. I had a lot of nightmares as a kid, but the one that scared me the most, that I carried into adulthood, is the one that’s described in the story. I still have that nightmare occasionally. I no longer live alone, but when I did, I had night lights in almost every room of my apartment.

“Fear of the Dark,” as a project, is about me embracing, owning, and then letting go of my fears. It was really therapeutic for me. Of course, you’d have to know me to get that from reading the story. 


When you first began work on your story, were there any real life elements that wound up sneaking their way in?

The biggest part of the story, the walk home from the bus stop in the dark, was the inspiration. The thought that kept me from losing my grip on my way home that night was, “I’ve got to absorb every detail, because when I get home I have to write this down.” I think I wrote the first draft the next day in all of an hour.

Every major element in the story came from my real life experiences: my own fear of the dark, the nightmare, the upstairs neighbor, even the magazine article mentioned in the story. They weren’t all presented as they occurred in real life, but they all came from real places. Even Antonio answering the door in nothing but his boxers. There’s so much of me in this story that when discussing it with my friend David Hulegaard after it was done, I told you I felt “skinned and gutted” by it. 


How would you describe “Fear of the Dark” to a new reader about to sink their teeth into it?

A woman steps off a bus to find herself in the middle of a blackout. The story takes you with her on her trip home… and just a bit further. It’s written in the third person, but it’s very much a stream of consciousness story line that bounces a bit in the way that your mind would wander on a walk in the dark. 

Your second piece in the book is a short essay called “We are All-Stars.” What has this project meant to you?

I really haven’t stopped to let myself think about that too much because every time I do I get completely overwhelmed. I mean, how many first time authors can say their work is appearing next to two living legends, their favorite living author, and a group of writers who’ve become very close online friends? How many people have the good fortune to recognize that they’re potentially making history? It’s just too much for me to process. Ask me five years from now and I’ll be able to answer that question, but I can’t right now because I don’t even know. This Project has the potential to literally change lives. It’s already changed mine. 

How did you get from Laurie Laliberte, author of “Fear of the Dark,” to Kindle All-Stars second-in-command, La Consigliera?

Divine Providence? Dumb luck? Karma? Fate? Call it what you want to call it, it all boils down to being in the right place at the right time and answering the right tweet.

The morning after I got Bernard’s email telling me my story was officially part of the project, he tweeted that he was trying to put together a team to handle publicity. I responded. He told me to contact his point person, and we’d work from there. With 20 years in retail and a few years running my own online business, I had plenty of experience selling and dealing with social media. That, and Bernard and I just clicked. I like to think we’ve become friends. I went from offering a few suggestions about handling interviews and twitter to running interference right down the line. My biggest problem is that I have a difficult time saying no to certain people, and Bernard is a person to whom everybody has a difficult time saying no, so dealing with him in that respect is like a double whammy for me. There’s only one thing he’s asked of me that I refused and it’s more a postponement than a flat out no.

Incidentally, the nickname “la Consigliera” came about because Bernard was asked in an interview to describe my role in the KAS. He said he was the Don but I was the Consigliere, the one you really had to watch out for. Smart man. 


Do you have any favorite stories in the anthology that you’re hoping readers will home in on?

That’s a tough one because I really don’t want to play favorites, but I do have a few I really love. Out of fairness, I’d rather not name names.

Bernard sent me a handful of pieces to read because we were getting close to the wire and asked me to vote yes or no on them. One in particular blew me away. I emailed him with the writer’s name and a note that said, “If I have to, I’ll fight you to the death to make sure this piece gets in.” Another made me sob when I read it the first time; one infuriated me; one made me laugh hysterically. A few have gotten under my skin to the point that I absolutely had to read more of each author’s work. I think our readers will react in a similar manner. Every piece in this book has merit and deserves to be a part of this anthology. And I think every writer will find new fans when all is said and done. 


Now that you’ve had a taste of this whole book publishing process, what’s next for you? Will you write more stories?

I will continue to write; I would anyway, but this whole thing has really rekindled my love of writing fiction. I’ve got about a zillion ideas rattling around in my brain right now. One of which I really want to pursue either as a novel or a series of novellas. However, I’ve found, through all of this that I really enjoy the proofreading/editing/publicity angle, so I’m planning on continuing that as well. I’ve already been doing that for a couple of years, just not with fiction writing specifically. 

Looking back, what would you say was your favorite part of being involved with this project?

The learning experience would have to be my first because I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time. But I wouldn’t change any of it. I’ve met so many people, forged friendships, working relationships, possible partnerships. I tweeted a few days ago that the toughest part for me will be not being in touch with Bernard every day. Yeah, it’s not going to be easy for me when we’re done here. I don’t even want to think about it. My mantra through all of this has been a line from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Fire bad. Tree pretty.” 

Want more? Visit Fringe Scientist and see read my interview with Tony Healey of the Kindle All-Stars and contributing author of the short story "Redd."


David K. Hulegaard is the author of two Novels: The Jumper, which is currently available, and Noble, a revamped version of which will be released soon. His short story "Mabel" is featured in the forthcoming Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front. If you are interested in reading and reviewing a beta copy of this book, please contact me at KindleAllStars@gmail.com for further details.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Letter Home -- Thank You

On Memorial Day I talked about my father and what little I know of his service in the Navy. Today, I want to offer a simple, humble thank you to all the men and women who sacrifice so much for the freedoms we all enjoy.
This song is performed by the sister of an old acquaintance and former Bostonian. Her name is Gina Gonzalez and she toured for the USO with Gary Sinese's Lt. Dan Band a few years back. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Gina, but her brother Rob is equally talented and a joy to know. I can't think of a better way to say thank you than to offer this, one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, as a tribute. (Thinking of you, Sharon.)



A side note: I will not be offering up my usual Sunday morning post for your reading pleasure this week (although it is possible I'll have a guest blogger). I simply won't have the time as I'm in the midst of proofreading the 536-page tome that is the Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front. I'll be back with a vengeance next week.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Mid-Week Post? Whaaa?

I know. I KNOW! I so rarely break schedule, but this is so important to me. It's a call to arms. I'm looking for volunteers to read advance copies of the Kindle All-Stars Presents:  Resistance Front anthology. I actually have TWO pieces featured in the book. One was DEMANDED by our editor, Bernard Schaffer, at the eleventh hour. (What can I say? I can't say no to a handsome face. LOL)
Anyhow, details are below, but I need to add that the manuscript is about 540 (double-spaced) pages. I'm proofreading it now and can have it in your email by Thursday, November 10. Great reading for the holiday weekend!
I may be biased, but I am amazed by the talent of the authors in this collection. It's such an immense honor to be counted among them.


If you are interested in receiving an Advance Reader Copy of Resistance Front, please email me at KindleAllStars@gmail.com so I can put your email on file.

**Your email will NOT be shared. Furthermore, it will be used for this one purpose and discarded. You will NOT be flooded with spam.**

Here are the basics:

1.  When we are ready to share it (within the next 2 weeks), the ARC will be sent to you in .doc format.

2.  We're asking you to read it and pre-write a review (more on that in a minute).

3.  On the day the book goes live on Amazon, we will send out emails, tweets (with the hashtag #ResistanceFront), and post to facebook to alert everyone involved. We would like you to purchase the book for 99 cents on Amazon and post your review.
If you've pre-written it, you'll just need to copy and paste.
After Amazon's fee, the remainder of your 99 cents goes directly to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The book should be live during the last week of November or the first week of December. When concrete dates are available, they will be posted here.

Then you're done. Your purchase on Amazon is like any other ebook, in .mobi format, readable on any Kindle device.

If you have any questions not answered here, please direct them to me at the email address above.


I have a few more surprises coming up too, so you can expect the unexpected from me over the next couple of months including some book giveaways, exclusive interviews, and other KAS-related goodies.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Guest Post from a Fellow Kindle All-Star

Frank Zubek is an online buddy of mine. We met a couple of months ago when we both began work on the Kindle All-Stars Project. As a writer, he's very passionate about the state of the writing industry today as well as our nation's reading habits. I asked him for permission to post this essay when he sent along a draft copy of it a while back. It appeared originally in his blog a couple of weeks ago. I'm in the process of re-editing Frank's novella, Charlie's Corner and it will be re-released soon. In the meantime, check out Frank's blog. 

The State of Literacy- And The Lack Of It

By Frank Zubek
www.whatbrickwall.blogspot.com/

Have you bought a book or newspaper or magazine to read this week?

Or checked something out of the library?

Or at the very least, been to a used bookstore?

Why not?

Unfortunately, you’re not alone. Here are some depressing numbers.

America has an estimated population of over three hundred million people.

If we discount very young children, text happy teens, people who watch television and senior citizens, there are, by my personal estimate, just under fifty million people in America who can read. Many of them make enough money to afford to buy books and if not- they certainly have access to a library.

And yet, they don’t read. At least not according to the numbers that I dug up. At best maybe a few million people read for entertainment.

Here are a few examples:

Only a handful of the most popular magazines out there boast monthly circulation numbers of up to ten million.  A few dozen barely have circulation numbers in the upper six figures. Here is a link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_magazines_by_circulation (and you might find it interesting that this link features the circulation numbers of magazines from around the world- a world with a population over six billion people).

Another example for you: A few of the most popular newspapers claim circulation numbers of three million daily readers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_newspapers_in_the_United_States_by_circulation

And yet I wonder just how much of any newspaper is read from front page to back?
Aside from skimming a headline or two from the front page or metro section, I think the most read portions of any newspaper in any part of the world are: Sports, obits, comics and the coupons.

Are you shocked? I think you should be.

Why?

Dozens of magazines folded this year and an entire bookstore chain closed down (Borders). I have no easy answers nor am I an expert on the industry. I’m just a humble Cleveland writer with a couple of e-books to my name. But I am concerned about the next generation and I want to do something.

I am well aware that there are a large number of distractions out there that are more fun to do than read. Television, sporting events and electronic games just to name a few.

And I’ll admit that books aren’t for everybody.

And yet I still feel that the number of people who read for entertainment purposes is far below what it should be (when compared to the numbers of sports fans or fans of any number of popular television shows).

Of course, there are excuses for NOT reading and I’m sure that you’ve heard them.

EXCUSE NUMBER ONE: Books are too expensive. And I’ll grant you that. But most major cities have good used bookstores nearby. If you prefer shopping online Amazon has a used book selection.

I’m sure with a little bit of sacrifice, you can find the money you need for a book. Maybe skip a box of smokes one week or buy a book instead of those lottery tickets?

EXCUSE NUMBER TWO: I don’t have time to read a book.

It seems to me that more people seem to find the time to make up excuses NOT to read than they do to simply make time to read. I find that sad.

But allow me to poke holes in that excuse also.

By reading a book just fifteen minutes a day, you should be able to finish an average book of three hundred pages in no time. (Your reading speed may vary)

Sure, reading a book is a solitary experience. And maybe that’s another reason why people avoid it. When it’s just you and three hundred pages full of words it can be a bit intimidating.

But that’s still no excuse.

I understand that being at a football game or in a movie theater is more comfortable. It’s a communal experience.

So why not read with the family/kids/friend? Read aloud or take turns reading? Especially with kids as it will help them with their grades in the long term.

EXCUSE NUMBER THREE: I prefer shorter stories.

No problem. There are plenty of short story anthologies out there. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_literary_magazines

Go to a Barnes and Noble store and ask them about Tin House or Glimmer Train or Zoetrope. Any one of these magazines features a good number of interesting short stories, essays and poems.

If you’re not sure where in the store these books are located- ask the clerk. Most will be happy to help you out because they want to make the sale.

If money really is a problem- why not ask the library and see if they can get one or two literary magazines in their catalog? You never know until you ask. And even if their budgets do no allow for new purchases, many literary magazines allow for subscriptions.

If nothing else, the library has thousands of copies of various anthologies.

Can you handle at least a thousand words in one sitting? Check out free short stories here:

www.everydayfiction.com

PEER PRESSURE
We all suffer from it at some point in our life.

Are you shy about being seen with an actual book in your hand?

I understand that. So why not invest in a Kindle? Or a Nook? (Check Barnes and Noble)

It’s the newest toy (people love toys- people get jealous if YOU have a toy and they don’t) and both are affordable to most budgets. Even these days! Hell, even I have one! And I’m broke!

Once that’s done there are a few hundred thousand books available on Amazon or through Barnes and Noble that you could choose from that start at 99 cents. Even more are free! Do a little homework!

Not sure what to get? Amazon books have starred reviews from honest customers. So the more three, four and five starred reviews a book has, the better your chances at a great reading experience!

If you prefer some pictures to go along with your reading material, may I suggest…

COMIC BOOKS
They aren’t “just” for kids anymore. In fact Barnes and Noble, Books a Million and many libraries carry a wide variety of them now. And they come in graphic novel form now- so you can read an entire story arc in one sitting and not wait month to month for the story to unfold. And comics are no longer JUST super heroes these days. You will be shocked at the variety.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_award-winning_graphic_novels

And if you have an iPad- some comic book companies have made certain comics they publish available through APPs.

By the way- short stories are a great source of material for Hollywood.

Were you aware that many movies were made from short stories? Yep! Check out the list here in this link. After you see the film- make the effort to read the source material!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Films_based_on_short_fiction

Okay, so now we have a book or magazine in hand.

We need: PLACES TO READ.

Books can be read at more places than “just” the beach.

You could read on the subway to and from work.

Taking the bus? Get that book out of the briefcase or purse and start reading.

Audio books. The library has a variety available. The classic cassettes, CD’s as well as digital formats

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playaway

Does the lawn need to be cut this weekend? Make your kid cut the lawn for you and sit down with an ice tea and catch up on a novel (or magazine article)

Don’t have kids? Call up the neighbor and give THEIR kid a few bucks for the chore. Meantime- YOU can sit back with an ice tea and catch up on that magazine article you’ve been meaning to look at.

Instead of Letterman or Leno- catch up on that novel-
Did you know that their shows have twenty minutes of commercials? IN fact ANY one- hour TV series you watch has twenty minutes of commercials. If you watch just one show a week that’s over an hour and a half worth of reading per month!
So instead of surfing around the 350 available channels on your overpriced cable subscription, hit that mute button and read for seven minutes until your show returns.

Bored with the treadmill at the gym? Set it for a slower speed and read a book or magazine while getting in shape! (Or if you want to look cool- this is where those Playaway audio books come in handy. Another idea- take a Playaway Audio Book with you when you ride your bike)

Waiting for the wife while she’s shopping? A book or magazine is a great way to kill time.

And finally, there’s always the bathroom. (Just be sure to wash your hands afterward!)

WRAPPING UP

So you see? You really haven’t got any excuse for not reading.

Again- I don’t have all the answers. But I find it sad that the numbers I’ve discussed here are accepted as the standard for the industry.

In fact, the industry itself seems to accept these numbers as “the standard”.

I wish I knew how to spread the word and get people more active in the enjoyment of reading. Because the industry could sure use the boost and so could the economy.

In fact, this essay hasn’t really got a proper ending.

Nor should it. Because the fight for literacy is an ongoing process-and we’re losing!
Just ask a Borders employee. Yes, the literary landscape has certainly changed in the past few years.

For one thing- Borders is closed.

For another, libraries are now used more for the computer access and video selections than for the books.

And e-books, once thought of as a fad, are fast becoming an industry in and of itself.

Truth be told- I love the traditional books as well as the e-formats. I do not support the theory that e-books will wipe out paper books. For one thing, it’s THANKS to the e-format that literacy numbers have jumped the past few years. And isn’t that the point?

Thousands of years ago stories used to be told around campfires at the end of the day and now they are told both on paper as well as electronic devices.

It’s the SHARING of the story that originated from someone’s imagination that matters. We need to keep that alive- not fight about the downfall of paper books because of electronic ink.

People are READING!

Let’s keep focused on that okay?


Now go out there and spread the word! Post this on your blog!

Mass E-mail it to friends of yours who read.

E-mail it to a few who don’t. Print a copy or two and mail it to someone you love.

In fact, the Holidays are upon us again and I bet you’re stuck for a gift, right? How about a gift card to a bookstore for a friend? (Because maybe things are tight for them financially and you know they love reading)

Were you also aware that Neil Gaiman has suggested a new tradition for Halloween? It’s called “All Hallows Read”     http://www.allhallowsread.com/extras/
Give someone a scary book to read for Halloween. This way they get a treat and not cavities.

Do you have more ideas or are you aware of other people and places spreading the word? Feel free to chime in here and post it below. Please add more ideas to this post as you see fit.

In fact- I hereby grant you permission to copy/paste this and post it on your blog. If you like, e-mail me and I’ll grant you an interview to go along with it. Just send me a list of questions.

Lets spread the word about literacy. Because I’m well aware that it’s going to be mostly people who DO read who will read this. It’s up to all of US to get people who don’t read BACK into the habit.

I can be reached by e-mail frank.zubek@yahoo.com
My Blog: www.whatbrickwall.blogspot.com/
And also twitter @frankzubek

Thanks for your time and for sharing this essay.