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  1. Cia

    Chapter 67

    It was cold and dark on the planet’s surface. How many of these planets were we going to go to that were so harsh? Beings had adapted to all sorts of planets, but I honestly got Captain’s desire to retire to a quiet, warm planet. Something with a lot of sun. “You okay?” Captain asked. He lead the way, while I lagged a step behind instead of walking beside him. “Fine.” I didn’t like the lack of people in the port. It was good to keep others clear of the shuttle, but it made blending in harder. Not that there were any humans out and about. Everyone on the planet we encountered was an alien being—we were definitely standing out. We stopped at a few shops to trade, making it seem as if we were assessing the potential of adding this planet to a route. I knew from listening to others, though, that it was a flimsy cover. It was just too far out to be worth the cost and risk to run goods, even at the prices these merchants were willing to pay. Marvil led the way out of the last shop, and I followed. He abruptly halted, and I ran into his back. “What are you doing—” A contingent of guards stood outside the shop on either side of the doors of a hovering conveyance. Captain pushed forward to stand in front of me, and Deke stood beside him. I was behind the wall of muscles in no time flat, a guard behind me and two flanking me. “That is not necessary.” The being who descended from the vehicle was calm, but his men tensed when he stepped closer to Captain, eyeing him up and down. “I would not hurt the hidden one.” “And you are?” “The one you are looking for, no matter what you are trying to prove with this display. I believe you already know my name.” Deke glanced over his shoulder. It’d been some time; how long, I wasn’t quite sure. My years in the cell had stretched longer than the years Captain and Deke told me I’d been in there, each day the same nothingness and pain. But the punishment for failing to kill this being had been harsh. I thought it’d been for taking comfort in his touch, for the weakness of feeling. Either way, his face was blazoned in my memory still. This was definitely Anyas Ober-Candro. I nodded. “This public display is not seemly. I would speak you with you, since you are obviously seeking an audience with me, if only to remove you from my planet.” “It’s not that simple,” Captain said darkly. Anyas sighed. “It never is.” He waved an elegant hand toward the conveyance. “There is enough room inside for everyone.” There was enough room for our group and his guards, though some of them stayed on the outside of the vehicle. We trundled off through the deepening gloom. I thought it’d been dark before, but the windows showed how dark it could really get. “It will soon be too cold to be outside as the full sun fades. At least for outworlders,” Anyas said. “I thought it best to collect you before you froze to statues in the boulevard.” “We have climate suits.” “Not good enough, especially for the young ones.” Anyas looked at me. “If I had known what you were before, I would have done more. You were good, very good.” Captain growled and leaned forward, blocking Anyas’s view of me. “Excuse me?” “Not what I meant. I would never be so crass.” Anyas waved one long-fingered hand. His dark skin gleamed against the pale cream of the vehicle’s interior, the low lights reflecting off his shiny skin. “He never revealed his true purpose, never let on his intent to harm me. The guard who warned me thought the spy’s data was in error but would not risk my life and his position by failing to secure me immediately. You let me go.” I nodded once. “I did.” “Afterward, I researched you. Found what you did.” Panic struck me. I didn’t want him to reveal it, to say what I’d done in front of the others even if I was pretty damn sure they were getting the picture already. “Prisoners aren’t given a choice.” “No, and the kind of training my kind is capable of is impossible to counter. That is why I am so surprised you have. Both of you.” He looked at Danie, his arched eyebrows rising. “Very surprising.” “That is partly why we’re here,” Captain said. “You’re an Elite. Most of the universe thinks your kind is a myth, but we’ve found out you’re not. No, your kind is sitting back, pulling strings, starting wars and trying to control everything.” “Trying to?” Anyas arched that brow again. “We’ve been doing it for millennia. Manipulating lesser beings is simple, for the most part.” “Until humans spread across the universe,” Danie said. “Humans never do what is expected.” “No, they do not.” Anyas again looked at me. “That’s why we came—for help. You owe me. You wouldn’t like those assholes creating a new order by using what they stuck in me and in Danie anyway.” I was done being vague. Obviously Anyas knew why we were there. He was willing to talk in front of his men. Everyone with us knew exactly what was going on. “Exactly what I meant.” Anyas’s smile widened. “How delightful. You surprise everyone.” Captain glanced at me and then at the Elite staring at me. He was tense, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t because of what I was saying. “He doesn’t surprise me. Kohen has the ability to get to the heart of a matter, and he is always focused on doing what is right.” Pride swept through me along with a warm surge of love. I’d made him doubt me for a few seconds, maybe, but we were still in sync.
  2. Here we go again, another day, another author feature! We hope you guys enjoy getting a glimpse at some of these favorite stories from the past that kept readers enthralled in earlier days of the site. This nearly 200k story is a perfect example. Monday's graphic teaser should've whet your appetite, now let's see if I can hook you in completely with an excerpt. There is a LOT of drama going on in this story... but that's because the story starts off with a bang and the hits keep coming. You get a good look back at the action and an idea (though, omg, a run at the gate is crazy!!!) of what is to come with this excerpt. And, of course, Topher's stellar writing style and clean editing. If you want to read more, click here.
  3. Cia

    The Wrong Nuts...

    The picture says it all! LOL Who's picked a book or story to read thinking it was one thing and found it to be totally different from what you expected? How'd the mistake come about: tags not added, vague description, description didn't really fit the story, you didn't pay any attention to anything but the title...? Did the mistaken read turn out be a good thing or bad thing? Let's not flame anyone, discretion might be key if your story involves a piece of GA fiction that you have a not-so-great experience with in this way.
  4. Welcome to 2019 and the first of our Classic Author features! This month I've another oldie but goodie, Topher_Lydon's epic, The Falcon Banner. This science fiction series had quite a following, and if you haven't read it yet, you're really missing out. Length: 182,459 Description: A lone man picks up a battle standard cast down three hundred years before. beginning a journey that will lead him to find the lost fleet, and a forgotten ship at the edge of nowhere. Darien Taine must accept his role, guiding his crew on the long road to free their people from Amsus tyranny. Uncovering along the way the sins that led to humanity's downfall, and reforging alliances long thought forgotten. Three hundred years of slavery, of persecution and of tyranny are at an end. If you want to spread the word about Topher_Lydon's story, download the graphic below and add it to your signature! Make sure you come back on Wednesday to see the excerpt I chose to share!
  5. Cia

    eBook Publishing

    What so many Indie authors don't realize in their rush to get in the door is that a lot of this begins well before you ever sell the first copy of a book or eBook. #5 is a big one that should happen well before you begin publishing. This is part of 'branding' yourself. You need a home base such as a website or blog, you need graphics and recognizable artwork or logos or profile images, and you need social media. You need to be part of the community of authors and readers you wish to publish into before you publish. #1 is next. Then you have the book idea written, cleaned up and edited, and you should really format it. If you have done #5, you have an audience to hopefully tap to help spread the word. You should create ARCs and send those out ahead of time to review sites (those can require 1-3 months scheduling ahead of the publish date if you wish to get reviews for that timeframe) or ARC reader groups. This can be done with an unedited proof copy, but you clearly want something that is relatively well done, so you don't want to send out a rough draft too early just to get it out there. Once you are in the throes of proofing and formatting and waiting for the ARC reviews to roll in to help pre-promo your sales, you should be marketing. This is there in #3 and #6 and #7 but you need to be organized about it. Create cover reveal and book release day tours where other people will promo for you, but you will still need to collate all the promo material and/or do blog posts for them such as promo posts, exclusive excerpts, interview questions, etc... You should have promo images for all the various sites and want to update things like your headers. Free stuff is good (but don't give away the new book because then people won't buy it), a newsletter can be done if you follow all the EU guidelines, a contest (Rafflecopter and Random.org are useful for those) that provides entries for shares/tweets, etc... is a great way to spread word-of-mouth. There's one thing I know that is a key to success both here on GA and in the publishing world: keep the content coming! The more you write (and publish), the more readers you will gain (and sales you will make). Disappearing, taking long breaks, not finishing things... those are all death knells to your selling potential.
  6. Cia

    Author or Poet Against My Username

    No, you don't need to be a poet to post poetry. However, some poets do NOT want to be categorized as authors, so to accommodate them we have a category just for poets. I will change your group back to author. If you are going to post flash fiction or poetry, please make sure you've check out the FAQ posting guidelines for fiction under 1k in length.
  7. I read a writing tip today that seems sort of obvious... "Try to leave out the part readers tend to skip" (Elmore Leonard). But what part is that? It had to vary, but there's probably an overall consensus about the types of scenes or story elements that readers gloss over, skip past, or just stop reading. So share your thoughts to help GA authors improve our craft!
  8. Cia

    Chapter 66

    “I think you have all forgotten that I am the captain of this ship,” Captain said. He stood with his arms folded behind his back while the rest of us sat at the table in the conference room. He looked at each of us in turn. I squirmed when it was my turn, just as Freska did. His steely-eyed stare was uncomfortable when I knew I was in the wrong. Danie sat and stared, but he didn’t know better. He’d learn—even a machine could make an error. Maybe he wouldn’t feel what we did, but Captain would make him sorry somehow if he felt the need. “My crew gathers information and provides that to me. Then I issue orders. Then my crew follows my orders. If I am not available, then using your best judgement is expected, but I do not like being disregarded.” His last words thundered, and I hunched my shoulders. “This ship, this crew, this mission, will only succeed if we can learn how to work together.” His gaze swept the table again. “All of us.” Captain took a deep breath through his nose and let it out slowly. He pulled the chair at the head of the table back and sat slowly, his back straight. “So, let’s ensure that we move forward properly, shall we?” His words were calm, but his voice held a bit of a growl. “I’m sorry, Captain Querry,” Freska said first. “I should have—” He held up a hand. “You have the least blame in this. I gave you the command of this ship and a mission. You carried it out admirably. Because of you, we know things and have a plan, of sorts.” “Yes, but I found Danie. And with my gifts, I feel I should have known what he might do. I should’ve guessed he’d try to convince someone other than me, and Kohen would be the logical answer. I could’ve anticipated and stopped the conflict from happening.” “By that argument, I know Kohen best and should have foreseen that he’d try to stop Deke’s purchase and redirect our course.” I flinched. “I’m sorry. I should have asked first, explained.” “Yes, but then it might have been too late. Deke… we both feel the sting of being used, being fooled. But we can’t take it out on you for trying to do what you think is right.” Captain sank back in his chair. “And maybe, if I’d been thinking more clearly and objectively, I would have seen what Kohen has seen so clearly. But I think none of us are very objective right now.” He glanced at Danie who was watching everyone with his head tilted slightly. “Not even you, our A.I. friend.” Danie frowned. “What do you mean by that, Captain Querry?” “You watch us, but especially Kohen. I think you have questions and needs you don’t know how to handle. You are a machine, but also a living being. You may be evolving, Danie, like Freska thinks. But you do not know how to act toward other beings. You cannot take actions such as you did with Kohen. That harmed him.” Turning to me, Danie blinked. “I did not mean to harm you.” I wrapped my arms around my chest. “I know.” Still, he had. He’d brought up things I didn’t want to remember, but he’d also helped. “But you also prompted memories I’d forgotten.” I looked to Captain and he must have understood, giving me a nod. I explained about our course change, what I remembered about the Elite I’d been tasked to kill but failed. “So, you think this one might be able to help us?” Freska tapped her fingers on the table. “Maybe. If we can find him.” “If that’s what the Captain orders,” Freska looked at him, waiting for his nod, “then I can make that happen.” She grinned and wiggled her fingers when I asked her how. “Oh, just a little skill. Gotta know how to ask the questions.” Captain and I stood in the command center as we orbited the planet in the far-reaches of the Elite’s galaxy, just out of sensor range of the satellites ringing the giant. I shouldn’t have doubted Freska. As soon as we got into range, she’d used the ship’s A.I. system to slip into the planet’s network like a ghost. We now knew even more about the Elite than even his parent probably did. If they had parents. Maybe they were cloned. They certainly liked their medical technology. “Shuttle?” Deke asked. “We’ll never get the whole ship down there unannounced.” The city Anyas Ober-Candro lived in was small. It boasted a spaceport, but one that didn’t see many full-sized ships other than scheduled supply runs or passage liners. “I rigged it to bounce their sensors.” Freska stood beside the navigation console. “Even with their advanced technology?” “You know they almost exclusively use A.I.s to run their systems?” she asked. “Apparently their condescension isn’t exclusive toward humans. They look down on all beings, even the ones they program to be like them. All I had to do was treat the A.I.s like they were worthy of being treated, and I was given the keys to the kingdom.” Freska didn’t look gleeful like she’d sounded that one time on the comms. She sounded angry. “Maybe we can teach them a few lessons,” Deke promised. He caressed the weapon at his right, but he bristled with them. “Let’s go.” Captain turned to lead the way and Freska, Danie, Deke and I followed. Aparoe sent a large kit, and there was a team of security waiting by the shuttle, almost as well armed as Deke. One had combat medic training they’d refreshed with Aparoe on the last leg, just in case. Captain was covering all possibilities. He turned to me when we sat, sliding his hand across the back of my neck, pressing our foreheads together. “Stay safe,” he whispered. “I need you.”
  9. Cia

    Content Policy

    Thank you to all the site authors who took the time to respond with such measured, supportive responses and showed so much loyalty to GA. I appreciate you have answered quite well why we do have some content guidelines in place for Stories as well as the hard work site staff always go toward trying to make fair decisions when working with authors who choose to make GA a home for their fiction that might address sensitive subjects. I will elaborate more on the other areas of the site, because, yes, the other public areas for the site community do have more restrictive content guidelines. That is because we are restricted by Google's policies in order to be able to run their ads which maintain the revenue needed to keep the site running and up-to-date.
  10. Cia

    Writer Burnout

    Reading is and always will be my relaxation of choice. I don't get to do enough of it... Okay, okay, no matter how much reading I could do, I'd say it wasn't enough. LOL Audiobooks have been a help to get in an extra hour a day--and get me out of the house in the chilly January rain at 5:30 AM for that morning 3.5 miles because I try to limit listening to them to just my workouts. Otherwise, reading is usually just a nighttime thing and I'm giving up sleep. On the other hand for me, burnout usually means a project has dragged on too long or I am facing a block because of a deadline or expectations to finish the story and am struggling to power through it. That leads to me being full of well... I won't say it here, but it rhymes with bukitol. So my usual means is to overcome burnout, without giving in to the urge to stop writing, is to write something else because a short break leads to that becoming a LOOOOONGER break for me. I like to stay productive, so I'll look to something new, like flash fiction, or a challenge, or a contest I know is coming up online, or the anthologies. And, to make it fun, I'll write something completely opposite of what I'd usually do or incorporate some sort of writing challenge to adhere to in style. The result might get trashed, or I might develop a character or plot I like and keep just those bits for another story. But it keeps me writing while not pressuring me to do anything about the projects I already have going. And sometimes the new content sparks just what I need to get back into them.
  11. Welcome to 2019! The Can't Stop Reading book club continues, and this winter month drags on without a holiday and with so many facing a post-festivities let down. So let's have some fun with fanfiction story by @Laura S. Fox titled Nude Pics Please! She shares some information and backstory on the original Chinese comics this is based on in her story note, so make sure you check out all the info! So enjoy the story and come back to catch my review with Laura and share your thoughts on this 23k novella on the last Monday of the month, January 28th. Nude Pics Please! by Laura S. Fox Length: 23,019 Description: To give a little bit of context for anyone who didn't read the manhua, the characters starring in my little fanfiction piece here are He Tian and Mo Guan Shan, two boys who are sort of in a cat and mouse game. This story starts after He Tian sends Mo Guan Shan a dick pic to tease the guy. The characters are aged up, so they are in their last year of high school and of legal age. A Reader Said: Great story! Really enjoyed reading this. ~ Ricknc Don't forget to come back and share your thoughts on the Discussion Day on Monday, January 28th!
  12. Cia

    Chapter 65

    “What did you do, Kohen?” Captain stood, approaching the navigation console and looking at the screen. He frowned. “You know I can override this lock out. It’s a maintenance code.” “I know.” I shook my head once, tilting it. “Did you really think I would try to stop you?” Captain turned slowly without changing out heading, even though we were going to jump soon if he didn’t. “I don’t know. You’re not acting like yourself, and that bothers me. Especially after… what happened.” He glanced around. “The supply run is not safe. Deke doesn’t need those guns.” I shot him a look. “We have enough ordinance on board, and we have foodstuffs and the medical supplies Aparoe wanted.” “Why wouldn’t you ask me first?” He gestured toward the console, ignoring the shocked stares of the crew in the command center. “Can you honestly say you would have listened to me?” I crossed my arms over my chest. “All you keep saying is that I need to rest. You are treating me like a victim again. Well I’m not!” I insisted. My hands curled into fists and I leaned forward to invade his space. “Will you ever stop trying to protect me?” “No, Kohen, I won’t. What… he did.” Captain’s lips shook, then he firmed his jaw as he took a breath. “I wouldn’t let that go, not for any of my crew. But this is different.” He glanced at my head. “I did this. This isn’t something that was shoved in my head my someone else.” I’d had that fear for a long time, but my mind was my own. Yes, Danie had invaded it, but I knew what was his memories and what were mine. But it also gave me a unique insight, and when we sat there, I’d been studying the star charts on the overhead Nav screen. The one with our next leg of the journey had shown the galaxy where we’d planned to go based on the symbol. A planet smack dab in the prime habitable zone with several satellites around it was the focal point. But there was someone I’d met once… a test I’d failed. I thought it was because I’d given in to the comfort he’d offered, the touch. I thought they were simulations, visions stuffed into my brain through the wires they’d attach. Not just that I’d failed to kill him. But now, with what I’d realized they’d really been making me do. Everything in my file had said one thing, but the truth of the Elite’s plan was another altogether. They weren’t trying to give me an aversion to touch to alter my sexuality; they were programming me to dehumanize me while altering my brain and body. I’d been a failure, in more ways than one. The being I’d seduced wasn’t an easy mark. From a dark world, the ebony skinned man had sought out my pale body to enjoy but as he curled around me afterward, he recognized me for what I was. Before he’d escaped, he’d told me about his world, explained how the sparkling glimmers of the glowcers would shine on me and turn my milky skin to scintillating brilliance in the low-light of his world barely lit by the elemental beings. One of Danie’s memories was of Elites with glowcers, their dark skin matching that of my target’s. And only one planet in that system matched the muttered pillow-talk that had captivated me and made me fail to even try to attack the being I’d been ordered to kill. Surely if the Elite was a target of those who’d tried to alter my mind and turn me into an A.I. then he would be an ally. If we could find him. If he hadn’t been killed by someone else. But it was better odds than getting a damn planet-killer and keeping it on board like Deke wanted. Then again, by the looks Captain and Deke gave me, maybe I should have explained why I wanted to avoid making that supply stop and jump ahead in the journey with a slight detour before I made the change. It might have been better to ask first. Of course Deke nearly drooled when he viewed the specs of the weapon as he contacted the seller, so keeping him off that planet might be better for all of our health. We were at a standoff. I had information I needed to share to make him understand, and it was hard to not be able to just tell Captain what I knew and have him know this was the right course. I opened my eyes wide, and I gasped. “Kohen?” “This is what Danie faced. He couldn’t figure out another way to convince you. I was his only hope. Now I’m facing the exact same thing.” I let out a sharp bark of laughter. “How do I share with you what’s in my head, what I know is true, and get you to believe me?” Captain stepped close. “Talk to me,” he said quietly. He glanced at the console. “Before you do stuff like this in front of the crew.” “If we don’t go now, we might lose the chance. I don’t know if he’s still alive, but the Elites have to know something is up. We’ve taken some of their men, Danie is gone, and we have a limited window before they realize that. But we will need allies. More knowledge, more people.” “And you think we’ll find it there?” “I think so.” “Captain Querry, we had a—” “Deke, I am sure you can cobble something more than deadly enough together to replace your weapon. Talk to Freska; I’m sure she knows every inch of the ship and her components.” “You want me to release her?” Captain considered me. He unlocked Navigation. “Keep us on our current heading,” he ordered the crew. “Deke, get Freska and Danie. I think it’s time we all sit down again.”
  13. Cia

    Chapter 64

    “Kohen, are you up to talking?” Captain was still holding me. His hand was gentle on my head and neck as he stroked me and rested his hands on my skin, letting me absorb his warmth. “How’d you know I was awake?” I asked. “I could sense it. Like I know how much you like this.” He had his hands wrapped around my neck from behind, his palms against the sides of my neck and across the bare skin of my shoulders. His thumbs stroked up and down the knobs of my spine on the back of my neck but stopped short of the ports in my head. “You’re so warm.” I groaned, tilting my head forward when he dug his thumbs in, and then sighed. “He really wasn’t trying to attack me, or you through me. I think he honestly thought it was the best way to share his truth in a way that I would have to believe.” “He invaded your mind.” Captain growled. “And allowed me to invade his.” And here I was, forced to use that unique insight to actual defend him even though I was still pissed and hurt and—yes—violated by the way he’d done it. “Danie appears human, but he’s an A.I. He can’t be judged by our sensibilities. Honestly, it’s best to view him by alien standards; he has a completely different genetic make-up based on what’s inside his body. Add in he was brought online instead of growing into a being in a society in any sense of the word. “We are actually more alike than I want to remember. When I’d shut down because I’d existed in my lonely world of my cell without contact with other beings, I’d been nearly as alone as he had. Danie doesn’t understand what he did to me as wrong—to him, it was logical. It had the highest probability of success for creating a bridge of understanding because I had to believe what I saw and heard and felt for myself inside his mind.” I turned in Captain’s arms. I tucked one hand under my head but stroked my other hand over his chest, cupping his pec and thumbing his nipple. I smiled a little when it tensed and he took in a quick breath, then moved my touches across the strong caps of his shoulder and up his neck. “Did you know that we have the same signature, Danie says? Like the exact same person in two bodies.” I touched the synthgar curled behind his neck, and it opened its eyes. They glowed briefly, then it curled tighter and went back to sleep. “I think it’s partly this guy.” “Just partly?” “We were already getting close before you offered him to me with the bond. Weren’t we?” I asked, suddenly not quite sure. “We were,” Captain assured me, brushing his fingertips gently over my cheek. “And I need to work harder, if you’re not sure of that.” “Oh, good.” How’d we get on this conversation? “We’ve had a lot going on.” Captain sort of huffed and chuckled at the same time. “That is very true. And every time I turn around, you’re discovering something vital, or rescuing someone, or revealing some secret plot just in the nick of time. You’re an overachiever.” “I’ll try to stop,” I said. “Maybe after you singlehandedly pull off this mission like we’re all waiting for you to do. Then we’ll take a break, if you’re still up to retiring with this old guy.” Captain inched closer. “I’d love to.” “Good.” Captain said the word on a quiet breath against my lips, then claimed them in a kiss. By the time he’d finished caressing my mouth with gentle pecks and soft strokes, I was a puddle on the bed and actual fell asleep. “On approach. Captain, are you sure I should be….” The crew member at the navigation station looked nervous. “You’re fine. The ship likes you just fine.” The look on her face was skeptical. “Not as much as she likes Freska,” she muttered. “It’s another supplies run. Just set the ship down, Supply will arrange for the transfer, and Security will keep us safe.” Captain had objected to me leaving our quarters, insisting I needed more rest, but I wanted to stay close to him. I’d spent ages alone in my cell, not really knowing if the times the doctors and scientists from Brox released me and used the programming in my head to force me to do things were real tests or simulations, but it had all been for a purpose. I knew more now, saw the truth behind Freska’s report on Danie’s memories, and knew the Elites were behind everything. It was so damn predictable it was almost pathetic. Power-corrupted beings seeking more power ruins lives of those who have none. But this snake was so much bigger and more complex than we’d thought. “Allies. We need allies,” I muttered. “What, Kohen?” Captain turned, but I’d already pushed navigation out of the way. My hands flew on the console and star charts appeared and lit up. The ship reversed direction and began to pull out of the galaxy we’d entered. That symbol I’d seen echoed in the star charts was burned in my brain, but instead of the center star where we’d planned to approach, I’d plotted a course to one out of the way on the outer rim, even farther out. “We need to go here,” I said. Deke was hovering near me. “Captain?” “Kohen, what did you just do?” Captain asked. “This is bigger and more complex than even we know. We need to go here to find allies,” I said. “What makes you think that?” “I just know.” “Do you? How?” Deke asked. “Kohen, I need you step away from Navigation. We have supplies to pick up. We have a plan I already ordered.” Captain stood. I moved away from the console. Deke stepped closer to it. He tapped the console then turned. “It’s locked out.”
  14. This month's featured CSR story was Geron Kee's The House of Storms. Did you catch the feature at the beginning of the month featuring it? There were a lot of positive thoughts urging readers to check it out! If you did, make sure you share your thoughts below in the comments, but first, as always I pumped this month's author with all sorts of questions during an interview, so check that out! Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning, or do you not see much point? I make my bed. Or rather, we do. If you were an animal, what would you be? A porcupine. Even a tiger will not mess with a porcupine. And porcupines know it! What's your favorite room in your house? Do you plot or write there? My home office-library. I write here, and I read here. If you had to only work on one project for the next year... what would it be? That's a tough one. I have a folder of unfinished stories, that were interrupted by one thing or another, and to which I just never got back to. If the contents of the folder could be taken as a single project, I'd like to finish those tales. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Deadlines. I use a lot of my free time to write, and there never seems to be enough of it. I tend to no longer write entries in anything that has a specific date for which the work is required. If you are referring to the mechanical aspects of writing, I feel fairly comfortable with that. Mostly, I just wing it! Were the Hardy Boys a childhood favorite of yours? I found them very quickly after coming to The States at age 9. My dad had a large library in storage at his parent's house, which was reclaimed when we moved here. I think my dad has never parted with a single book in his life. He had most of the Hardy Boys series, and they were the editions published in the forties, before they were abridged in 1959. The Abridged editions are patently inferior to the originals, and I was able to get a really good dose of the best of that series. Your characters use fun time period slang, like “the gas”. Was it easy to sprinkle in time-period specific phrases or did you find modern slang creeping in? If there was any accidental modern slang in the story, no one pointed it out to me. I generally research anything that I am unsure about before adding it to one of my stories. That said, we all have some 'fake' facts in our heads - things we think are true, but aren't. Those sorts of things can get into a tale under the guise of a fact I feel certain of, and then just prove to be wrong later. But, again, no one said anything, so I hope I got it right. Do you have a favorite scene in The House of Storms? Actually...I kind of smile at the scene where the power is out at the hotel, and then comes back on, and Frank and his boyfriend, who are holding each other in their room, and Joe and his boyfriend, who are doing the very same thing in their room next door, turn and spy each other through the open connecting door between rooms. Neither brother knew the other was gay until that point. Great pair of detectives, huh? Was there any red herring or detail readers didn’t pick up in the mystery you wish they would have? I don't think there was any discussion on the clues, so I actually don't know if people missed things or not. There were a few red herrings, but I kept them to a minimum. Hardy Boys stories tended to telegraph a little bit of what was coming, and I did the same, so I am not certain how much of a surprise the ending was to readers. As a boy, my general reaction to having the bad guy revealed at the end of a Hardy Boys story was, "I knew it!", rather than, "Didn't see that coming!" I think most readers simply had their suspicions confirmed at the end of my version, too. Can you sum up The House of Storms in one sentence? If it was as fun for readers to read as it was for me to write, than I consider it a successful tale.
  15. Actually, I'm an 8. It depends on usage. Sometimes popular usage does outweigh "correct" usage, especially when it comes to writing fiction. It all depends on the characters and usage the author is going with (narration versus dialogue). Certain things I am a super big stickler on like people are who, not that. Dialogue punctuation is HUGE because I think even if people don't know they know the rules, done incorrectly, it does distract readers. I like these kinds of topics because it shows respect for the craft when authors want to know or improve the basics.
  16. Cia

    Chapter 63

    Danie’s invasion into my brain was neither painless nor left me unaware of his foreign presence. Unlike the link with Captain, this wasn’t welcome. I couldn’t stop it, just like all those other times. Like a vid that I couldn’t stop watching, my past flashed through my mind. I knew Danie was in there, seeing it too, and that pissed me off. But then something new happened. When my anger flared, my mind latched onto Danie’s. The connection between us went both ways, and as he saw my past, I saw his. The history Freska had mentioned before he was officially switched on was horrific to experience. I’d tried to shut down my feelings, to become a robot doing only what they ordered me to do, but I’d done that on my own to survive. Danie hadn’t had a consciousness, if that’s what was what made an A.I. actually become an artificial intelligence that was aware and everything. He’d been a shell that had basic commands and functions, and the beings around him treated him as such. But that kernel inside him had already been growing, unbeknownst to them, so it was a true form of Hell. Or maybe that was just because I knew he was in there as they did… things to him. My throat burned with the scream that burst out of me when Danie’s connection was yanked out of the port’s in my neck. I collapsed to my knees, one hand against the wall, and vomited. Those memories weren’t mine, and I didn’t want them. My hand shook, and I panted, desperately trying to blink through the flood of tears streaming down my face and obscuring my vision. “—shouldn’t kill you now?” “I wasn’t trying to hurt him.” “You did. He didn’t do anything to you. Why did you attack him?” “It wasn’t an attack. I was attempting to connect so he would know the truth. So you would know the truth.” I looked up. Captain had a weapon drawn and pointed at Danie. Freska was standing in the corridor staring at us with her mouth open and her eyes wide. “You were inside my head, my memories,” I rasped. I shook, disgusted by the mess at my feet. I lurched upright. Captain caught me as I stumbled, the hand holding the weapon on Danie not even wavering. “The bond goes both ways; I wasn’t trying to read your memories and past, but there was some crossover that was unavoidable. I am sorry.” Danie looked fine, not even sick, and that pissed me off. “How could you do that to me?” I’d never really thought the ports would make me vulnerable; not like that, not here. I put a hand over them. Danie cocked his head. “You don’t trust me. You think I’m going to do something to hurt you, or this ship, or the mission against the Elites. Don’t think I didn’t catch the subtext of your body language and comments.” Captain narrowed his eyes. “And this attack was your way to make us change our minds?” “It wasn’t an attack, I already said that.” Danie turned toward Freska, and Captain’s arm lifted slightly. “Tell them I wouldn’t do that.” “Danie, stay still and stop moving for space’s sake. Captain, I know you are scared because Kohen was scared. Please stay calm.” Freska spoke softly, and she didn’t move toward us. “But he’s okay. Danie wasn’t trying to hurt him. Linking is just shocking at first and hard to control.” “I would never hurt Kohen. He’s like… family. The closest I may ever have.” Danie shook his head. “I just wanted him to understand.” “I know, Danie, I know. Just stay still, okay?” “Kohen, think back over the time you were with Danie. You were experiencing either your memories or his, right? There are no blank spaces or times?” “What does that mean?” It’d been like a flood of images from both of us. Blank spaces and times? “Nothing felt blank.” “Your brain is comprised of partial electronic parts. Those times you recall from your past being fuzzy, or blank, that you said you went away in? Those were times they were programming you. I know you have fears that Danie might have done something like that to me or you. But there are no blank spots in my time with him, which I can prove if I have to do a download, and I’m sure if you review what just happened, you’ll realize you don’t either. He didn’t do anything to you; he was just trying to share with you.” “I can’t…” I shook my head. It was starting to throb, and my mouth tasted foul. “I want to go back to our quarters.” “Okay, Kohen, okay.” Captain stroked his hand up and down my arm, holding me close. “Kohen, hit my communicator please.” I did what he asked, not caring to ask why. “Deke, I need you.” “Captain!” Freska finally took a step inside the observation room. “No. This might have been an attempt to get us to trust him, but it was a fail. I won’t harm him, but he won’t have a chance to do it again. He will be kept away from Kohen.” Deke jogged into the room, his weapon also out and at the ready. “What is it, Captain?” “Take Danie and Freska to their quarters, please. They are to stay there until further notice.” “Captain Querry, our mission….” “No, Freska. I don’t want to hear it. Not from you.” He waited for Deke to usher Danie and Freska out, then he finally put his weapon away. Cupping my face, Captain stroked my cheeks. “Are you okay?” He studied my face, his gaze drilling into me. I put my hands over his. “I don’t know.” My head ached. “Can we go lay down?” “Yes, of course.” Captain led me to our quarters, stripped me, and cradled me against his body in the bed. He stroked my forehead. “Try to relax.”
  17. Write 100 to 500 words in a plot with the three themes, based on your roll. And, to the glee of the Grinch, also known as me, who wants to hoard them all, you can just use words with just one beat in your whole plot. Whew! What a test of your skill! Just say you want to play, roll the dice, and share your themes. *It’s a help, not a cheat, if you find words in the book or site with lots of words that show more words that mean the same thing. Post your piece not seen by Dec. two-one and send me the link. Not sure just what any of this means? Send me a PM. Need to vent re: the grinch theft of the words? Join in here where you say you play to talk on any day.
  18. Cia

    Superhero Surprise

    Oh, just a single chapter. This was for the anthology, so I wanted to show the theme in a different way than I usually write. Thanks, Parker! I have kids, and I work with them, so I get to see and hear and experience how their minds work a lot. He is very literal, isn't he? And he definitely ends the story in a good place. Sometimes the real surprise is how little it takes to make a child truly happy. Life is rough for many, including kids. They can be super versatile and capable of seeing the silver lining and making the best of things. The little things can be the best, if you have the right attitude. Thank you, Mikiesboy! I always write hoping that the story will feel "real" to readers, no matter what it is. I don't often go for regular contemporary stories, but this one was vivid when I got the idea. I'm glad it resonated with you, and this is a beautiful review. Thank you. Barrett makes what could be a depressing story seem cheerful and fun and amusing, which is exactly what I was going for! Yes, they do. Kids love heroes, and dress up, and being important. Barrett got to do all of that, and he really was a hero. I'm so glad you enjoyed the story! Just the story as is, unfortunately. This was for the anthology, so it'll stay a short. I do tend to write things that could go longer, but don't always expand them. And since I have kids and work with them, I get to observe and experience life through their eyes all too much (sometimes) so it wasn't that hard to really sink into the characters. Thank you!
  19. Cia

    Summary But No Link to Story

    There should be content to read at this time. Thank you for the heads up.
  20. Did you catch Monday's feature of this month's Classic story, Someday Out of the Blue by LittleBuddhaTW? We shared the ad and a graphic you can add to your signature, plus a glowing review from a fan. If that didn't convince you to read the story, how about this excerpt below? I picked this excerpt because I wanted to point out all the drama this poor guy is going through. And, while most teenagers think they have a lot to shoulder under or face burdens that feel super dramatic and heavy, Connor really does. But, like so many other teens, he thinks he has life under control. He can handle it. He knows what's best... or does he? Want to read more? Click here.
  21. Alas, this must be too hard this year! I have but two to share, but they are for your joy to read on the morn!
  22. Cia

    Chapter 62

    Danie approached me. I put down my fork, suddenly not as hungry as I’d been before. “Hello,” the A.I. said. I nodded to him briefly, chewing the bite in my mouth. “Hello,” I said politely when I could finally swallow. I had to wash it down, and still it felt like a lump stuck in my throat. “What are you doing here?” That came out harsher than I intended. “Just getting something to eat.” Danie shrugged and glanced away. “Sorry I bothered you.” “No, I’m sorry.” I was being rude. “I didn’t mean to say it that way. I just was wondering why you were in the com if you’re an A.I. and stuff.” “Still housed in a human body,” he said. He rubbed his belly. “It gets hungry.” “Oh. Well, sit down.” I didn’t actually want him to sit down with me, but where else was he gonna sit? He didn’t know anyone else. Could an A.I. be uncomfortable in social situations? I was, but I knew enough of the crew to nod and say hello, mostly because of my work with Luca and Priella. Captain didn’t have to hold my hand the whole time. I picked at my meal while Danie ate methodically. When his plate was empty, he set down his silverware and let out a breath. “That was interesting. Food flavors are so different.” “They are. I remember some things, from before. Not much because I grew up on a really poor planet. We didn’t have much.” “You remember growing up?” Danie leaned forward. “What was that like?” “Um,” I said, scrunching my forehead. “Like anything else I guess.” How did someone explain growing up? “I was small, then I wasn’t? I was free, then my parents sold me? I rubbed my arms. “The memories aren’t great. I don’t like to think about it.” “Oh, I see. I do not know how old this body is, if it grew up or not. The memories I have start when my mind came online, though Freska found things from before that time. I was able to access them once she did.” And that was part of what freaked me out. What if there was more she hadn’t accessed? What if he’d been online longer than we knew? What if Danie wasn’t the victim Freska thought he was, and he was a danger to the crew, to Captain? “That would be disturbing. I know remembering my past took time. Be patient. Maybe look up meditation techniques. Those helped me.” I pushed away who’d helped me with them and focused on the good they actually did. “There are some good vids that explain the process.” “You won’t teach me?” I blinked, startled. “You want me to?” “Do you do this meditation?” “Yes.” “We are a lot alike, Freska says. She said I should try to get to know you. That you could help me.” Danie cocked his head. “But you don’t seem like you wish to.” Maybe honesty was the best policy. “I don’t know if we can trust you. You are an unknown. I worry about what they might have done to me, programming and changing with my brain. You have even more parts that could be used against us.” “I wouldn’t hurt Freska,” Danie said. Uh-huh. I raised an eyebrow. “Just Freska?” Danie rubbed his chest. “She’s… she’s in here. I don’t know how to explain it. When I think about it, about anything happening to her, it changes. My heart speeds up and my breath speeds up. I have a physiological response to a mental thought. It is strange.” “That’s called nerves. Emotion.” So apparently he did have some, but he was even more disconnected from his than I was. “Why did you stare at Captain and me before?” “You share a signature. All beings have one, and there are infinitesimally small changes to each one making them unique. But yours are so similar, I cannot find any differences. You are like one being with two forms, even when it’s clear you are not one being. It is a puzzle.” And computers loved puzzles. Maybe there wasn’t something bad behind the way Danie stared at Captain. Maybe he wasn’t a spy. Maybe. “Let’s go for a walk.” I needed to move after eating. We took care of our dishes, ducking past a few crew members coming in to eat just as we were leaving. “Hey, Kohen. Captain said he’d be off shift soon.” One of the crew must have just come from the bridge. “Oh, um, thanks.” I couldn’t remember their name, but the bristly alien didn’t seem to notice and kept walking with the others after it delivered the message. “Do you need to leave?” Danie asked. “No. I’m fine.” Captain had left me to go confer with the crew for all the stops we needed to finish making. We’d already made two, taking on new gear and supplies. The next stop was apparently for modifications to the ship, which had Freska on edge and needing his reassurance. Before he left, we’d been very close, and the synthgar had left its place and wallowed in our mixed essences, touching both our skin as Captain held me close. Somehow, our bond just kept growing stronger. Sometimes I thought I caught a flash of what he was thinking, feeling, even when we were apart. “Can we stop here? I like to look out,” Danie said when we came to an alcove with a viewport. “Sure.” It was quiet, the corridor not widely used between shift changes. “What do you and Freska think I can do to help you?” “Well, this, for starters.” Danie’s hands clamped down on my shoulders, and one of his fingers slid open, revealing parts just like Freska’s. The tendrils snaked from his fingertips to the ports on the back of my skull before I could shout, piercing my bone and entering the brain to take control.
  23. Cia

    Superhero Surprise

    “I am Repel!” He stood with his elbows stuck out, akimbo, small fists planted on his hips. Repel liked that word, akimbo. His teacher had read it in a book that week. “All the bad things bounce off of me and stick to the bad guy!” “Resmell is more like it,” his older brother said. “Go take a bath.” “But… this is my super hero outfit,” Barrett said. “That’s the neighbor’s dog towel, and it stinks. I swear, Barrett, if it has fleas and you got them in here….” Gideon yanked the towel off. “I’ll tell Mom.” “Ow!” The rough cloth scraping over his head pulled on his ears. “You’re mean!” He sniffled and ran out of Gideon’s room, heading for the bathroom because if he didn’t take a bath, Gideon would tattle. He was a meanie. All Barrett wanted to do was be a superhero, like the boy in the book Ms. Oliver read. Everyone in his class loved the book and played superheroes during recess. He even saved his big brother and their parents—two of them—then the whole family went out for ice cream. Two scoops. In a bumpy cone with a pointy bottom and chocolate and sprinkles. Barrett sighed. He would never get to save his big brother or get ice cream in a cone like that. He turned the water on, the turned it to the line on the handle that Gideon put there so he wouldn’t make it too hot and burn himself like a stupid baby. He wasn’t a stupid baby. Gideon pounded on the door. “And take off those underwear and pajamas and get clean ones. And this time put the underwear on first, you dork!” He kept grumbling to himself as he walked away, or maybe it was one of his friends on his phone. He never got off it anymore. Maybe Barrett didn’t want to save his brother anyway. “Meanie.” He stuck his tongue out at the door. Ms. Oliver had read another book. This one was about a chef. He made yummy things out of ordinary food, and everyone loved it all. Even the stinky fish with its head and eyes still attached. And carrots. No one really liked carrots. How could they? They were orange. Orange was a bad color. It was too loud. Barrett didn’t want it in his stomach making it rumble and grumble. Carrots, and yucky orange melon, and peppers and pumpkin, and those nasty candy things. And the orange drink that wasn’t the fruit stuff, that was bad. It tricked you into thinking it was the orange drink which was the one orange drink that wasn’t too loud, mostly because it was sour. Barrett studied the bowl. He’d dumped in the cereal and milk, because they went together. But then he wanted to add eggs, but they weren’t fluffy like he was used to, and the white parts seemed like they would be really crunchy. His eggs weren’t usually crunchy. But his cereal was, so maybe it was okay. Soon school would be over, and Barrett would have to make lots of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. He had to know what to do. So he had to practice and make things like the cook in the book. That rhymed! He smiled. “Cook, book. Cook, book.” He stirred the bowl. “It’s missing something.” He started to rummage through the cupboards. “What are you looking for, Barrett?” his mom asked. “It’s not time for dinner yet.” “I’m making you dinner!” He was excited to show her, and she must have been excited to see because she ran into the kitchen, sliding to a stop beside him. She hit the counter hard. Ouch. “Baby, you’re not using the stove, are you?” “No. I wanted to, but the turny parts are gone.” “The knobs. Good.” She let out a big breath in a whoosh, like he did when he pretended to fly. “Does it smell good? Do you like it?” Barrett shoved the bowl closer under her nose. “Um, what is it?” “Breakfast surprise.” She made a face that morphed into a sort of smile, asking slowly, “What’s the surprise?” Her eyes were really wide, so he thought he did it. He grinned, happy it worked. “Pickles!” “Gideon, wake up.” His brother groaned and rolled over. Barrett shuffled his feet, glancing at the door. “Gideon! Wake. Up.” He yanked on the covers, pulling them off, then shook his brother hard. “Damn it, Barrett, I’m sleeping. Go watch cartoons until later—” Gideon sat up, taking a deep breath. “Did you find the stove knobs?” “The knobs are still in the freezer. The smoke is coming in my window, not from the kitchen.” “Shit, someone’s place is on fire. Go get shoes on.” Gideon hopped out of bed, throwing clothes on his skinny form. “Already on.” Barrett lifted one foot. “Coat. Backpack for school. Grab your stuffy too.” “Okay, okay, don’t be so bossy.” Barrett went back to his room and grabbed all his stuff. Should he make his bed? His mom normally made him make his bed, but Gideon didn’t care if he did it before or after school. And there was smoke. The fireman in the book said get down low and get out. Barrett squatted down and tried to walk without standing up. He wobbled and fell forward, smacking into the door. “Ow!” “What are you doing?” “The book Ms. Oliver read about fire safety said to get low and get out. I’m low.” “That’s if there’s smoke in here. It stinks, but the smoke is somewhere else. Stand up, let’s go.” Gideon grabbed his hand, his backpack already on his shoulder. They knocked on doors on their floor, making people yell and be mad until his brother said fire. It must have been a magic word because no one yelled after that. Barrett danced from foot to foot. “We gotta go.” “You have to pee? You can’t go right now, damn it. We have to go outside.” Gideon made a face. “I said we gotta go. The book said wait outside in a safe place. This isn’t outside. We’re not safe. We gotta go wait for Mom.” Barrett started to pull Gideon toward the stairs. “Mom will make it safe.” That’s what it said. Wait for your grown up. He could do that. “Stop, wait. Barrett, quit pulling so hard.” Barrett didn’t stop until his brother was following him, happy Gideon was finally listening. They got outside, and it was cold. Barrett was glad he brought his coat, but his legs got cold when Gideon made him sit on the sidewalk. “My butt is freezing,” he whined. “I wanna stand up.” “Don’t you dare,” Gideon said. “You stay there where you’re safe.” He was on his phone. “Are you cold, young man?” A stranger, a fireman came up beside them. He held out a silver thingy. Barrett just stared at him. “He won’t answer you because you’re a stranger. Sorry.” Gideon held out a hand. “I can give it to him.” “I will too!” Barrett jumped up. “He’s a fireman. I was just looking at his hat and stuff. They’re not like the ones in the book, but I think they’re cool.” He took the silver packet. “What’s this?” It crinkled when he squeezed it. “A blanket. Just open it up. It’s thin, but it’ll help warm you up.” Barrett shook the rectangle, not really believing the fireman, but he didn’t want to call him a liar either. “This is a blanket?” “Just put it over your shoulders. You’ll get warmer, I promise.” “Oh,” he said on a long breath. “Oh, wow. Wow. Look, Gideon! It’s like a cape. This is so much better than the dog towel.” He clutched it around his neck. His brother couldn’t take it away, but… oh… “I wish I could keep it,” he said. He looked at the fireman from the corner of his eye, rubbing the silver stuff. “You can keep it,” he promised. “It’s the least we can do. You and your brother got your whole floor out. Building this size, I can’t believe the fire alarms weren’t working.” Gideon snorted. “Believe it. Not like we’re living the high life in some condos or anything. I didn’t even smell the smoke; Barrett did and woke me up.” The fireman smiled and put his hand on Barrett’s arm. “Well now, it sounds like we have a real hero here. You saved your brother and everyone else.” “I did?” Barrett couldn’t believe it. He saved them? And he even had a cape! “But I didn’t have to fight any bad guys.” “Fire can be a pretty big bad guy. It takes everything away from some people, and you can’t talk to it or ask it to stop. You just have to get out or really bad things could happen. You helped people get out before the fire could hurt them. Good job, buddy.” Barrett wiggled with joy, unable to stay still. He was a hero!
  24. Cia

    Superhero Surprise

    Barrett just wants to be a superhero, no matter what anyone else thinks. Even mean ole Gideon!
  25. Well the year is nearly over, but we have one last feature for 2018 for readers to enjoy from our Classic Authors. This story features some of readers' favorite themes here on GA: coming of age, first love, and jocks/geeks themes. Length: 223,509 Description: Connor Matthews, a shy boy who comes from an abusive family is accidentally hit in the head by a lacrosse ball one day, which leads him to meet Ryan, an attractive redhead, and his younger brother, Toby. Connor gradually learns to come out of his shell, but not without some traumatic experiences along the way. A Reader Said: Without a doubt one of the best stories I've ever read. ~BadBart If you want to spread the word about LittleBuddhaTW's story, download the graphic below and add it to your signature! Make sure you come back on Wednesday to see the excerpt I chose to share!

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