Busted!

This is a short story I wrote for a contest in a Facebook writing group. The task was to take a Bob Seger song and use the lyrics to tell or inspire a story. I’m going to admit that I’ve never listened to much Bob Seger and I don’t own any. My options were limited while searching Spotify, but luckily the first one I found struck a chord and the words began to flow. Below is my take on Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s Shakedown. (Lyics and a Youtube of the song is at the bottom.)

 

I’m called Law. Not because it’s my name, but because of what I do. The irony is that I don’t actually carry a badge, but that’s never stopped me before, nor will it stop me now. They run. Every single damn time. And I catch them. Every single damn time. One of these days, the game of cat and mouse is going to get old. But, until then, I enjoy the chase.

The Shakedown

The neon buzzed outside my window, turning the entire room a shade of alien green. The vacancy signed flicked off, submerging everything in darkness. Then, before my eyes could adjust, the obnoxious green glow returned. I’d only been in the room a few minutes and already glad I didn’t need to sleep here. This was recon, and my target was in the bar across the street.

The vacancy sign hung down off the building splitting my view down the middle. It was like paying for the obstructed view seats at a game, but, in this case, it worked to my benefit. I could position myself to see around the sign; in turn, I remained mostly hidden from street view. The chances of being spotted while tucked behind a giant blinking thumb was slim. I could survive the light and the sound long enough for my target to show.

I’d tracked many through this spot. I knew the ins, the outs, and the details. They always showed. It was just a matter of time. They always thought they’d bested me by this point. They would have burned their last bridge, used their last lifeline, cashed in their final chips. I chuckled to myself—I liked to stay a step ahead of their two steps ahead.

I barely had time to get comfortable in the worn and ragged chair when my target crashed through the bar entrance, tripped, and tumbled face down into the street. Before the poor sap could stand and dust himself off, I was next to him in the street, hand under his arm, helping him to his feet. He thought he was safe, so he relaxed and got hammered. Same shit, different day. I shook my head as he staggered and I hauled him, by his collar, into the shadows of the alley.

The Breakdown

I pulled his sorry ass all the way to the end, where I tossed him up against a dumpster. The clang of his skull against metal reverberated against the walls. His eyes fluttered as he tried to clear the cobwebs.

“Wh…who are you?”

They always asked the same questions. I liked to have a few different answers to keep myself from getting bored. His worst nightmare or the end of the road were two of my favorites. This time, I simply pulled back the side of my duster to reveal the pistol strapped to my hip.

“Oh, my God. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to,” he blubbered.

“Shut up. Do you even know what you’re copping to?”

His eyes glassed over. “I…well…”

“That’s what I figured.” I cleared my throat and launched a ball of spit and mucus at him, aiming over his shoulder. He flinched. I missed—on purpose. Making them sweat wasn’t usually part of the contract, but, as I’ve said, I like to keep things interesting. This time there was no contract. I was flying solo.

My target shifted and moved an elbow underneath his body. My foot connected causing a pop as the steel toe cracked ribs. He groaned and fell back to the ground.

“I know you didn’t do it intentionally—cuz you’re not that smart—but you lost me for a few days. If you were smart, I’d give you credit, but you did it by accident. Hence the steel toes,” I said, tapping the toe of a boot against the dumpster.

Huffing between pained breaths he managed to expel a question. “What…do you…want?”

“It’s quite simple really,” I said. “Tell me where Honey took the kid.”

The pain on his face disappeared, replaced by stone-cold fear. “If I tell you, he’ll kill me,” he sobbed.

Ha! “If you don’t tell me, I’ll kill you and then I’ll find them anyway. Your choice.”

It was like I could see the wheels turning, his mind working out his best chance of survival.

“Let me give you some motivation.” He squinted at me in confusion. “Five…four…” I reached for the gun at my hip.

“Okay, okay,” he cried. “To the docks, he’s got a warehouse, like in the movies.”

I smiled all nice and pretty for him. “That wasn’t so bad, now, was it?”

He shook his head slightly. I pulled my arm back and cracked him once across the nose. He slumped backward. I tossed a card onto his unconscious form on my way out of the alley.

The Takedown

There were a lot of warehouses scattered around the docks, but I knew the one I needed. Anyone who was anyone in this business knew which one–it wasn’t exactly a secret. Honey thought he had such a sweet setup that he was untouchable. I guess it was part of how he got his nickname. The other part of the two-fold reason was that he was quite fond of using “Sweet!” as an exclamation for nearly everything. He liked to joke that there wasn’t a judge in the state who could make a criminal charge stick.

That was about to change.

Honey and I had done business before. He would hire me, and I’d do the job. The cash was clean. I’d move on. Every so often, Honey would ring me again. Another job. I made sure to avoid jobs that would conflict with his business ventures. He paid well, and I didn’t see a reason to burn the bridge. Until I caught of whiff of one of his dealings that crossed more lines than a two-year-old coloring a crossword.

If I’d known finding the kid would be as easy as knocking on Honey’s door I wouldn’t have wasted my time tracking that loser middleman. I shook my head and knocked on the maintenance door on the waterfront side of the warehouse. The secret knock. The one only his hired guys knew.

“Who is it?” A gruff call came from the other side of the door.

“Law,” I responded in an equally gravelly tone.

There was a click and a squeak as the lock was pulled back and the door opened. The guy on the other side was new. At least new enough that I didn’t know him. But, it had been a while since Honey had hired me.

“What’s the password?” the grunt stared down his nose at me.

God, I hate this part. “Worker bee.” I rolled my eyes.

“Is Honey expecting you?”

“No. But he’ll see me.”

He shuffled his feet and wrung his hands. My confidence was larger than this grunt’s physical size and I could tell that unsettled him.

“Today, Junior. I got shit to do.”

The grunt turned and waved me into the building. “Wait here.”

He returned quickly and ushered me upstairs into the overly plush office that seemed completely out of place in the rundown grungy warehouse, then left the two of us alone to talk business.

“Law!” Honey laughed. “It’s been too long. How are you?” He rose from his oversized ornate desk and met me halfway into the room.

I met his enthusiasm with a fake smile and a warm handshake. “I’m good. And, yes, it has been too long.”

Honey reached for the decanter to pour me a drink. Just like a stereotypical criminal underworld boss. I hid a smirk.

“What brought you to my neck of the woods? Should I be concerned?” he joked.

I didn’t respond. He turned back to me holding a drink for himself in one hand, one for me in the other. I took the drink and slugged it while Honey’s eyes settled on my other hand which held my pistol. His drink fell from his hand and bounced on the lush carpet.

“Whoa, now, Law. I’m sure that, whatever it is, we can talk about this.” He instinctively raised his hands.

I raised the gun. “Sorry, Honey. Not this time.”

“Nah, it’ll be alright,” Honey said, his voice cracking with fear.

“You crossed a line that you can’t uncross.”

Honey opened his mouth again to plead his case, but they called me Law for a reason. I felt the recoil as I pulled the trigger. The red of Honey’s blood splattered the wall behind the desk as his body landed with a muted thud.

“You let your guard down, Honey.”

Lyrics to Shakedown

Audio of song via YouTube

Review of Rise by Brian Guthrie

I watched a video of a writer giving a lecture to college class and he discussed his reasoning for writing fantasy as opposed to other genres. The paraphrase of his answer was this: he can include the excitement of a thriller, the intrigue of a mystery, the relationships of a romance, and all with the inclusion of dragons.

But why stop there? In Brian Guthrie’s Rise, he starts with a science fiction setting based on a familiar idea, the scarcity of water, then takes the world and literally breaks it into dozens of floating pieces (or shells in this case) and tops it all off with the addition of dragons.

rise

The main character Logwyn is  is tasked by her Queen to find and interview four individuals in hopes of understanding and piecing together the answers of a problem that threatens to destroy everything. Unlike many fantasy novels, it is not necessarily Logwyn’s job to take action, but instead to sort the pieces of the puzzle in hopes of uncovering the answers that seem to be eluding the Queen. That perspective, along with the recounting of the tales from her interviews give plenty to hook and draw the reader deeper into the world.

The twist of having the world broken into different shells instead of kingdoms or regions adds another level of complexity. Most people grow up knowing about the other shells, but never visiting or meeting others from any other than their own. Logwyn’s puzzle effects them all, but isn’t the only connection. Across the shells is a network of knowledge and information. The network controls the flow of water to different areas of different shells and that network is breaking down, decaying.

The more you read and the further you dive into the world the more you get sucked in wanting to not only help find the answer for the Queen, but the desire to learn the stories of these people Logwyn is interviewing and what is it that connects them all so deeply.

Where are the dragons you ask? If tracking down four different stories and solving a problem that threatens the whole of existence isn’t enough, there are always dragons striking seemingly from nowhere while raining terror and stealing lives when unexpected. The dragons hold an additional puzzle piece, but what, and why? Those questions and others are left hanging while the reader pines for the next installment of this epic series.

Interested? Buy Rise from Inkshares – tiny.cc/risenovel

Don’t forget the upcoming sequel. – tiny.cc/fallnovel

Follow him @nidfar on Twitter to find out what he’s working on next.

Idea Envy

Before I started writing with more serious goals in mind I was a reader. I wasn’t a voracious reader, but I read a lot. On occasion I ran across a book or story that forced me stop and think about how cool and inventive one aspect or another was. In the last few years, as I write more, I don’t read as much I did or as much as I would like, but I still run across those ideas which make me stop and say “Wow!” The biggest difference between me then and me now, is that when I find those moments, I step back and think, “That’s genius. I wish I’d thought of that.”
 
A few books in recent memory fit that bill for me. Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain (only the first book, the last two seemed rushed), Daemon by Daniel Suarez, and most recently V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. These moments of adoration aren’t limited to books. Robert Kirkman, the well-known creator of The Walking Dead comic, also writes, Outcast. I’m hooked on the back and forth battle between the main character’s personal demons and the demons attempting to take over the world. Then every once in a while, I find a movie or TV show that makes me feel the same. Some of the intricacies of the criminal underworld in “John Wick” are jaw-dropping. “Stranger Things” on Netflix pulls you in with a beautiful blend of horror, 80’s nostalgia, and a dash of sci-fi.
 
I love finding these worlds, characters, plots, and details scattered throughout different media. The desire to stumble upon that next moment is what keeps me going back. I don’t believe that any writer sets out to create that sense of envy, but I do believe that they attempt to bring something new to the table with each project. The knowledge that those fresh and ingenious ideas are still out there drive me to create new stories, new characters, and new worlds in my writing.

Today I’m Gonna’ Run

The Glorious Outsiders

Today I’m gonna’ run.

I’m gonna’ run from the madness and the anger and the fear, I’m gonna’ run from the TV stations, and the radio and the internet. I’m gonna’ run to feel the earth hard and firm beneath my feet, to feel the cold wind against my skin, and in my hair. I’m gonna’ run to feel my heart beating harder and faster inside my chest, to know I am still alive, and that this is still a life, to feel my breath coming short, to feel my legs working, to feel my body getting stronger and leaner and harder.

I’m gonna’ run to exert power and control over me, my body, my life. I’m gonna’ run outside, to be under the sky, and upon the earth, to see sky over my head and dirt under my feet. Today I’m gonna’ run through dark trees and see light…

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I Can’t Quit Reading

A little over a week ago I ran across an article that discussed a serious problem that can affect some readers – the inability to quit reading a book you don’t like.

I suffer from this affliction. I can count on one hand the number of books that I have put down, unable to finish, in the last ten years. 3. If I include the number I wished I had stopped reading, that number climbs. Technically, if I go back farther, into college for example, the number grows significantly. But those books are a different story and not ones that I count as part of this problem.

The writer of the article from BookRiot.com mentions that a bookseller at local bookstore has been trying to talk her out her problem for nearly a decade. Her argument for completing books she doesn’t like is much grander in scale than mine. She wonders if the end of said book answers a question that she has always pondered. Her bookseller friend mentions two points; (I’m paraphrasing and inferring) first, if you didn’t like the first 200 pages why would you like the second 200, and second, you won’t ever be able to read all the books you want anyway.

My reasons could only aspire to be as lofty and existential as hers. I simply feel that once I’ve decided that I’m not enjoying a book, I’ve devoted too much time to it to simply put it aside and move on. You’d think I’d know that by the time I was 50 pages in, but I continue to give books another chance. I think, maybe if I read another chapter or another 15 pages something will happen that will change my perspective. The next thing you know, I’m over halfway through a book I’d rather burn than finish, yet I continue to slog through to the end.

Before reading her article I had two questions. The first, she answered as I now know that I’m not the only one that tortures myself like this. Second, is there a way to stop? The three books I’ve stopped reading over the last 10 years have all been extreme cases. I would have to purposefully set aside time to read in hopes to move closer to the end. After too long attempting to read the book I came to realize that I no longer remembered what previously happened in the book.

Maybe one day I’ll come to realize that it’s okay to put down a book I don’t like and move on to the one on my shelf calling my name. Until then, I will just have to continue to be selective in picking my reading material.

Do you have any books you haven’t finished? Why?

It’s Leap Year!!: a great reason for an e-book sale!

If you haven’t picked up this book and read it yet, do yourself a favor and do it this weekend. You won’t regret it.

M.P. McVey

As a child, I was always confused by the idea of leap year. I was bewildered by the idea that one out of four years would be longer than the rest. Imagine a child born on that day and only having a birthday party every four years … what  a travesty.

But as I got older I realized the importance of Leap Year. The Gregorian calendar, by which we live, is not a perfect tool. After all, a day is not truly a day–seeing how it takes our rock 24 hours and 59.178 seconds to complete a full rotation.

This seems like such a small, insignificant amount… even at the annual total of six hours. But science is very finicky when it comes to things such as math. Astronomically speaking, each and every second matters when it comes to celestial events and seasons.

Life would be different without it. Without…

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Piled High and Deep

When I wrote my last post a few weeks ago I had the best intentions, as I always do, to blog more frequently. This time I wasn’t going for anything spectacular. I hoped to have a new post every two weeks. Well, I’m a week behind. But, it’s better than nothing.

In those three weeks I’ve added more writing projects to my plate. It seems that the more I sit down and work on any one writing project I find others that both interest me and call to me.

With help from my wonderful wife I have started in on edits to a short story that I wrote more than a year ago. I hope to have it finished and ready to be sent out for consideration soon. (Mental note: I should probably give myself a hard and fast deadline on that.)

I have also decided to tweak and work on another story I completed some time ago. One of the writing groups I’m a part of on Facebook (I love being in touch with other authors on Facebook) is putting together an anthology. This will be the second one that will include stories submitted only by authors of this group. The group is large, but I’m hoping that my story will stand out enough to warrant inclusion. If chosen it will see ebook and hard copy availability. That idea alone is exciting.

As if I needed more stories to work on, I ran across another anthology that’s accepting submissions. The cool twist for this one is to take a public domain story (fairy tale or other such) and retell it with a sci-fi bent. I think I’ve narrowed it down and am brainstorming a way to rework and retell The Elves and the Shoemaker. At this point I just need that one little thing to make it really unique and then I should be off and running. Really hoping that once the pieces come together I can knock out that story in an evening.

All of this on top of continuing to work night after night on Hush. I’m making progress, but beginning to feel like I need to put a cap on it. Not that it is getting too long, I just need to have an ending in sight. The new trailer for Netflix Daredevil Season 2 is going to be my motivation. Set to debut March 18th I’m going full bore to get a draft of Hush completed by then. We’ll see.

At this point I’m just excited that my continued daily work on Hush hasn’t drained my creative juices, it appears to have just fueled them. Excited to see what I can come up with in the next month. Time to check some projects off the To-Do List.

A Look Back, A Look Forward

Last year about this time I decided I would try a new way to motivate myself, mostly in regards of my writing. I looked back at what I’d accomplished as a writer in 2014 and posted goals I hoped to achieve in 2015. Needless to say, I accomplished very little in regards to those writing goals. Not for lack of trying. And I’m okay with that.

For much of the year my writing goals got sidetracked by my other hobbies (such as I have time for). But it was not a total loss. I learned a lot about what I need to do in order to be productive as a writer while continuing balancing all the other aspects of my life.

The largest achievement I made in my writing was in thanks to a Writing Challenge setup and orchestrated by a couple of authors from The Fantasy Sci-Fi Network. The goal is meant to help motivate and garner results in the “What About Bob?” mentality. Baby steps. It’s really quite simple. Write 100 words (or more) a day on a project that fits in the realm and purview of FSFNet. In October I took the challenge to heart and between October 1 and December 31 I wrote at least 100 words each and every day. 92 days. I totaled 30,261 words. The best part of this challenge was that I created and fostered a good habit. The other participants were fabulous motivators. We cheered and supported each other the whole way along.

Each and every one of those words I wrote in those three months was added to my horror/paranormal novella. By the time the challenge ended I progressed from a novella, to a full-blown novel. This piece is likely to end up over 70,000 words when I finish the first draft. It’s exciting. It’s invigorating. It’s addictive.

I’ve continued on with another challenge supported by the FSFNet. Thus far I have nearly 8,000 more words. While a few hundred are for a short story that desired itself written, the vast majority are added to that 30,000.

The task of completing the story I set forth writing is moving towards its conclusion. I can see an ending and with it the completion of a draft of my first novel. An amazing achievement in itself. I have every intention of working on this project after completing the draft. I’m going to edit and edit and edit. My wife and alpha reader is already looking forward to reading it and helping me strengthen every aspect of the story. From there…I have a few ideas, but nothing concrete yet. Ideally, the novel will be ready and available by the end of 2016.

Once that project is on to edits, I have other places my mind wants me to write about. I’ll visit those as I attempt to maintain my new found habit and addiction to writing. Practice makes perfect. And so I will.

I have a few concrete goals in mind, but unlike last year I don’t think I’m going to lay them out here. They are tucked away for me to know, and hopefully as the milestones are passed, I can share that excitement and adventure with you.

P.S. One final note about the growing horror/paranormal novel that is my current focus. For those that I’ve spoken with about my writing in the past know titles are quite often the hardest part for me. I have decided on a title and plan to reveal that to family and friends on my Facebook page this Friday. Hopefully, you’ll stop by and tell me what you think of it. And maybe, if the creative juices flow steady enough until then, I’ll toss in the synopsis or a rough snippet.

A Boy and His Dog

Over the last couple of weeks my wife and came to a very difficult decision. One of our two dogs needed to find a new place to live. We’ve had one dog since the winter after we got married, we celebrated 11 years this summer. Our other dog we adopted around 3 years later. They were our kids until we had kids. Like a lot of families when human children arrive the animal children are required to take a back seat. One of the dogs has adjusted more easily than the other. I’m sure their breed mixes have something to do with that. The chow/lab mix has grown more and more displeased with his place on the totem pole as time has gone on. The lab/retriever mix continues to be as happy-go-lucky as always.

The final straw came recently as the chow/lab began to become more aggressive. Growling under his breath. The choice became clear. We couldn’t trust him around our boys (4 and almost 1 year old). Last week I drove with him to a local shelter and surrendered him over. I hope that he will have a chance to live his remaining time with a loving family (without smaller children – which seem to annoy him).

I’ve already witnessed the largest benefit to giving up one dog. Our remaining dog (the lab/retriever mix – Duke) loves the boys and loves to play. Before the weather turned colder this week I was able to take a walk with all 3 boys in the afternoon after their naps. D wanted to hold the leash. While initially a little uneasy, I knew that Duke would listen to me better than our other dog ever would have. We gave it a shot. D had the best time being able to walk Duke.

walkingduke

Seeing this just solidified to me that we made the right decision. While we made the decision for one reason, it’s clear now that the benefits will be much greater than if we continued on the way we had and my boys can go back to loving and living with the happiness that is a dog.