Summer Pace by Kenneth Buff

Summer's here, which means I'm freed up from my day job, and have more time to work on my writing. By more time, I mean all the time I want. Which is good, because getting a book polished enough to publish takes a lot of time.

I've been burned on editing before, I paid a lot of money and received numerous complaints on the quality of the job, so I now personally go over my draft numerous times, as well as have my writing-critique group go over it. I've got a whole process for this, and it works really well. The only problem is that it takes a lot of time. My critique group is probably the aspect that takes the most. We meet every two weeks and go over 20 pages of each others books (but if you're Quinn, you only do 15 pages). Once I have my critique-group's comments, it takes me about a month to edit through my manuscript with them. Then another few days of full time editing to get all the material added (or cut) that I want, and then another full day to get the typos. After that I spend a week or so getting the cover ready, and the description of the book for Amazon. And this all happens after having spent three months writing the first draft. It's fun, and I enjoy each step of the process (editing is actually my favorite part), but it is worth stating that it is a time consuming process.

I'm unfortunately a person who often cares about other people's opinions. Or, at least in select situations. Like most people, I'm a walking-contradiction, but for the sake of this anecdote, let's just say I often care too much about other people's opinions. So, I post a lot of writer updates on my Facebook page (Kenneth Buff—Author), and one day a friend of mine made a comment that "it seems you jump around a lot from project to project." By this, my friend meant that I don't finish projects. I just get one mostly done, and then move onto something else. Which, I understand when you just glance at it from the outside, that could be what you see. But I can tell you, the process is not fast. At least not when you're having other people give you a high quality edit for free. I could pump them out faster, but I don't want to give up the insights I get from my group (though, now that I'm not working, I do predict my publishing pace will increase).

Living: Jeet Kune Do Style by Kenneth Buff

As I said in my previous post, I love to talk to people. What I didn't cover in that post is that I love to take the information that I learn from talking to people (or even just from observing them) and apply it to my life. I like to think of it as a sort of social Jeet Kune Do. For those who don't know, Jeet Kune Do is a martial arts form that Bruce Lee invented. It takes the useful parts of various other forms of martial arts, and does away with the parts it finds not useful. This is what I like to do with my life. I'm the guy who actually takes you up on your suggestion (Hey, Buff [I'm a teacher, so everyone I know calls me by my last name], you ever tried a dark chocolate roasted Twinkie? You should. It's delicious). If I like it, I'll keep doing it. If I don't, I'll chop it up to a learning experience (I guess spanx are not a good substitute for actual fitness).

I've done this for the majority of my adult life. The oldest example I can think of that I still do today is how I eat my bananas. This was several years back (way back in 2008), a friend of mine had seen a youtube video about how to peel a banana. In the video the guy talks about how he was at the zoo, and he saw a monkey peeling a banana upside down, from the non-stem part first. And so the dude tried it, and he found that it was much easier. He found that all you have to do is pinch it from the bottom and it just starts to peel. Once I saw this, I was immediately sold. I tried it out, found that opening a banana "upside down" is in fact way simpler, and I've been opening mine this way every since.

I do this with almost everything. I'm constantly looking for ways to simplify, and improve my life. As most of you who frequent this blog know, I'm a writer, so I try to follow other successful writers to see what they're doing. One such writer I follow is Hugh Howey (author of WOOL). He's a super interesting dude, who's got all sorts of life philosophies. I've read all his non-fiction books, I follow his blog, I follow his Facebook page. Hugh shares pretty much everything that he does that he thinks might be useful to someone out there, from his wardrobe (he limits his style of clothing to make it easy to decide what to wear in the morning), to his fitness (he does the five Tibetans every morning), to his diet (he eats yogurt with raisins for breakfast everyday). And I've taken a lot of what works for him and have applied it to my life, doing what makes sense for me, and tossing the rest to the side—the way Bruce Lee would have done it.

I already have a pretty simple wardrobe (when I'm at work it's jeans, Converse, and a polo. Off work it's shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops), but Hugh's is even simpler: cargo shorts, flip flops, solid color v-neck. I considered the idea of an ultra simple wardrobe, but seeing as how making a decision on which t-shirt I should wear is like a 60 second decision process (at most) there really wasn't any incentive for me to go this route (but Hugh donning flip flops year round did inspire me to hit Amazon up until I found a pair of flip flops that were in my style. Prior to seeing a male that I knew embrace the flip flop, I'd written it off as an ugly piece of clothing. Now I see it as an extremely comfortable and utilitarian piece of footwear). Once Hugh suggested doing the five tibitans every day, I said, "Okay, I'll try that." And I did, and I've been doing a modified version of them for over a year. I started off doing all five, but after a few months I nixed the spinning in circles bit as I didn't see any benefit to, well, spinning in circles. Later I added pushups to the mix, bringing my four Tibetans back up to five. Over the summer I hurt my shoulder doing one of the moves improperly, so I nixed two more, and now I'm down to three, which I still do every morning, and have seen real measurable results (my muscle mass has never been better, and my back has never felt stronger). I also tried the plain greek yogurt with raisins. I did this too, for over a year. Being a special education teacher, I don't have as much time as I'd like, and as simple as pouring a handful of gourmet raisins into a bowl of yogurt sounds, it was actually becoming too much for me to force down (maybe it was that I had to switch raisin brands? I don't know), so I ended up switching to Greek Gods' strawberry flavor and Greek God's black cherry. In case you're wondering, neither are as good as bacon and eggs, or biscuits and gravy, but for the dude (or girl) on the go, it works.

This is how I live my life. Constantly open to new ideas on how to do things, whether it be dress, cooking, cleaning, or any other lifestyle thing. I personally love it. You can't know what you're missing until you try something new. And if you live your life without trying new things, well, then honestly what's the damn point? If you hit 40 and you've done everything that you're ever going to do, why keep going? I want to live my life constantly learning, and applying what I learn to my life, and to the lives of those I affect (my family, my students, and my readers). To me, there's not a better way to do it, but if someone thinks there is, I'll be the first to try it.

To Talk Or Not by Kenneth Buff

I love talking to people. Sharing ideas, feelings, and just bullshitting. I think it's actually when you're just bullshitting, when you're talking to someone informally, that you learn the most. And man, do I love to bullshit, about almost anything (most things interest me, within a certain context). My wife was making fun of me for putting so much thought into my footwear before making a purchase (I was considering comfort, how the shoe will wear, how it will do in rain, if I could disc golf in it, etc.), and that's just one of the things I would love to ask someone. I'd like to know if other people think about the utility of their shoes before they buy them, I'd like to know what they do when their car starts going to shit (do they take it in to the shop, if so, where? Or do they fix it themselves?), what they like to eat for dinner, and if they prefer rock or country music. It's the little things that make people people, after all.

Now, there are lots of reasons for why I enjoy talking to people about bullshit (bullshit meaning non-work, or socially required things), and some of them I probably don't even realize, but I think a few of the important ones are as follows: 1. You don't really know someone until you know random bullshit about them. It's the little things that make us human, and what's the point of being one if you don't have any human friends you know things about to hangout with and shoot the breeze? 2. They may actually know some cool shit they could share with you. This is one of my favorite reasons to talk to people. Maybe I need a root canal, and after talking with you I now know the perfect dude in town to see about getting one of my teeth drilled and filled. Or maybe I'm struggling with making that decision of going with a Honda or a Kia, and after talking with you I decide to go with a Chevy (I'd never buy American, but for the sake of this example, let's say I did...and it was because you!)

Well, damn. I've gotten off the original intent of this post, and created an entirely different one. Well, to finish this thought, I'll just say this: talk to your fellow man. If you're already doing it, fabulous. If you're not, what are you waiting for? Life is short. I know, some of you out there are thinking, "What the hell is he talking about? Everybody talks to people." Sure, we all "talk" to someone, but talking and bullshitting is not the same thing, and everybody secretly knows that bullshitting is actually more real than just regular talking. So let me rephrase the final point of this post: bullshit with your fellow man. No ifs, ands, or buts. Just do it.

Words and Phrases to Not Use When You Write by Kenneth Buff

Now, there are many good resources out there to help you become a better writer (or editor, rather)—couple of my favorites are Self-Editing For Fiction Authors, and Eats, Shoots and Leaves—but after I read some blog posts that were needlessly long on this subject, I figured I'd give a condensed version (big fan of brevity here) as well as provide some things that drive me crazy that my writing buddies do that I know appears no where else in published fiction (because they're things you should not do).

All right, first thing is first, stop using adverbs. Quick review in case you've forgotten, adverbs are what they sound like, they're a word that modifies, or "adds something" to a verb. Like slowly, quickly, etc. Most of these end with -ly, but not all of them (some other big ones that don't end with -ly are just, began, and started). The reason we don't use these words is because they weaken the verb.

Example: Mark quickly pulled the trigger. Versus: Mark pulled the trigger.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but it's a rule for a reason. Nine out of ten times the sentence will be stronger without the adverb. Avoid these like the plague.

Don't describe exact distance or exact passage of time. Unless you're writing a story where the exact passage of time is integral to the story (maybe the MC only has so much time before the bomb blows up, or the serial killer is going to drop his wife off a bridge if he doesn't get there by a certain time, or whatever) you don't need to give it to me.

Examples of doing this: Mark stopped talking for five minutes before finally saying something.

Without the passage of time it would look like this: Mark stopped talking. He brushed back his hair, and stared off into the empty street.

So, instead of just telling me that time passed, you need to show it. See how I got rid of the telling of exact time, and replaced it with a beat? (a beat is an action a character does) That's what you need to do when you feel tempted to tell me time passed.

Another example: The heroes made camp, sleeping for eight hours before waking up and disassembling their tents and cookware.

Here it is reworked:  The heroes slept. When they woke, their bodies on edge from a restless night, they...

So, really there was more than one problem with that example. One, it tells the exact passage of time, which is boring to read, and two, nothing happens in the sentence that I want to read about. So in the reworked sentence I made them tired, which tells us they didn't get much sleep without me just out right saying it, and from there the sentence trails off on what we assume will be some description on where their journey in the story is going to be next, rather than just some description of them mindlessly disassembling their camp (Who cares about that! Get to the story!).

Now, the rule of not telling exact time goes the same for distance. I don't need to know that Jim was standing five feet to Jennifer's left, or that the coffee pot sits twenty-five feet away in the kitchen. I can fill that in myself. Just give me the action, paint the scene, and I'll use my imagination for all the little details. Including exact distance only makes me feel that you (the writer) don't think I'm capable of inferring anything, which makes me want to stop reading.

Example:  The soldier was fifteen feet from Marcus' blade. Marcus road toward the man.

Reworked: The soldier stepped back, staying out of Marcus' reach. Marcus road toward him.

In this version we've cut out the exact distance, but we've still shown the reader that the soldier is not close enough for Marcus to attack. This is better because it shows where the soldier is through an action, while also cutting the on-the-nose description of "fifteen feet."

Well, there you have it, a few things that you should avoid while writing fiction. This is by no means a complete list, but hopefully it will help point you in the right direction. As I stated at the beginning of this post, if you're serious about writing, you ought to head on over to Amazon or AbeBooks and pick yourself up a copy of Self-Editing For Fiction Writers and Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

 

 

Spring Break by Kenneth Buff

It's that time of the year again. The time when teachers get to live regular lives. Ones where we don't spend the majority of our none sleeping time working or thinking about work. I am beyond looking forward to it. Planning on getting some writing done, hanging out in the hot springs, maybe see a movie. The main goal will be to relax, recuperate from a draining school year, but I'm hopeful that I'll get some serious writing time in as well. Heck, it was in a hotel that King started writing The Shinning, and I myself have penned a Dick and Henry short while on vacation in Colorado. This year we're going to Arkansas. Hot Springs, Arkansas to be exact. As you might guess, their claim to fame are natural hot springs. I'm planning on spending a good chunk of time hanging hot spring side, kindle in hand, with some kind of not-water drink at my side (coffee, Mai Thai, who knows, teacher vacations can get crazy).

We're staying at a BnB that Miranda says is ran by an older woman who loves to knit and decorate. The way she described the place made it sound like that hotel from Gilmore Girls that was Alice in Wonderland themed. Only we like that kind of shit—unlike Lorelai—so it's cool. Yeah, it should be pretty great. 

Logan: Review by Kenneth Buff

4.5/5 Stars

4.5/5 Stars

Logan is the latest installment in the Wolverine/X-men film saga. It marks the 9th time Hugh Jackman has portrayed the character of Wolverine, and also serves as his last outing in the series.

The beauty of Logan lies in that it hardly qualifies as a superhero movie at all. Yes, Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman are playing their iconic superhero characters they established on screen 17 years ago in X-Men, but these portrayals of the Wolverine and Charles Xavier are nothing like we've ever seen on screen before. Logan is a burnt out, aging mutant, whose filled with more rage and regret than we've ever seen him with before (this is easily Hugh Jackman's best performance as the character), and Xavier, wow, talk about character evolution. Charles is no longer the wise calming character we've come to know these last 17 years, he's now a confused, scared, and often times angry, old man who's looking for as much redemption as Wolverine. But, putting aside the character defying expectations of Logan, the film does not move like a superhero movie, nor feel like one. Its pacing is slow, and deliberate. Every scene carries weight, developing the characters, revealing motives and traits, while pushing the story forward. It's a film that has more in common with Hell or High Water than it does Ironman. And the movie is all the better for it. Its themes, and tragic story mesh perfectly with the western genre the movie inhabits.

Now, it's definitely worth saying that this isn't a movie for kids. Which I know seems strange, but this is not your summer superhero movie. Logan was not designed to get as many 12 and unders through the door as possible, it was designed to give an emotional gut punch to adults with even a vague sense of who these characters are: a man cursed with immortality, and retractable metal claws, and a powerful psychic who can no longer control his awesome abilities. Much of this emotional gut punch comes from just how well written the screenplay is—never have Jackman and Stewart been given so much to work with with these characters. But another major factor is just how believable Stewart and Jackman's on screen relationship is. These two really do come off as if they've known each other for decades, and have become almost father and son in the process (the fact that these two actors have been making these films on and off for the last 17 years only strengthens this aspect of the film).

All of Logan's parts add up to an intensely entertaining film that satisfies as both the greatest entry in the X-men film franchise, and as brilliant twist on the modern western film genre.

Letter To Indie Authors by Kenneth Buff

All authors feel pressure at some point. I think most people do in general, but authors may be more susceptible to this. By pressure I mean that feeling you get in your gut that you're not doing enough, you're not "succeeding" enough. These thoughts are of course arbitrary. They're something you've concocted in your mind off of fantasies of what you think success is. In reality, success is whatever you want it to be. You decide what the benchmarks in your career should be. If you're being fair, you'll make these benchmarks realistic. That means you're not shooting to be the next Stephen King, or even some lesser known best seller. You're working to work, writing stories because you enjoy it, and you realize any eyes that end up on letters forming words that you wrote is just a bonus. This is the mindset you need to have if you're an indie author. It's a good mindset to have in any creative field, but it's especially useful if you're an independent author. This is because now anyone can be a published author. This doesn't mean anyone can write (or rather, will write) a story worth reading, it only means that the market is flooded with fiction, and your book is one among many. That being said, your book being one of the many is in itself a huge accomplishment. You put in the work, taking the time to hone your craft, trimming the fat off your story, and adding the necessary beats and developments that were needed. Bravo. This is success. Take a moment, soak in the benchmark. Now do it again. Because you're a writer dammit, and that's what you do.

Now, if you're looking to do this to find an audience to speak to, to share your brilliance on the page, then this may not be the thing for you. There's no guarantee that any of your stories will be read outside of your circle of loved ones. This is the reality of the modern publishing industry. When the doors are open to everyone, production will inevitably exceed demand. This is both a benefit and a detriment, as all of us now can publish our works, but they may or may not find much of an audience. This is why if you're going to commit yourself to writing down those ideas clawing away at your brain, you need to do it because it's what you love to do, and for no other reason, as nothing outside of publication (which come on, is huge) is guaranteed. So, fellow indie authors, keep plugging away at those stories of heroes, assholes, and characters in between, knowing that for the first time in history your stories have the opportunity to be read by anyone in the world, and that you have the opportunity to be paid for them. But also, these opportunities are not guarantees. Keep those things in mind, and you'll do fine. Art is a battle, just like anything else. You can give up on it when it gets tough, when your doubts creep in, or you can keep going, wading through it all hoping that you somehow come out on the other side clean. The truth is that if you do come out clean, it's not because you somehow didn't get shit all over yourself crawling through that broken sewage pipe, it's because you stopped along the way and changed your clothes.

Interviews by Kenneth Buff

So, as I said an earlier post, I'm planning to interview three of my local author friends. All three are indie authors, two of them have at least one published novel, one of them has several books written and has one he's in the process of publishing. I'll share their coming of stories and also delve into where they are now as we talk over coffee and tea on screen for your viewing. Should be a lot of fun, and hopefully enlightening for everyone. I find that you don't know how others think or approach your craft (or profession) until you start talking to them about it. Often times new ideas and ways of thinking sprout from these types of discussions, so I'm looking forward to it. I have an interview scheduled with author Sasha Abernathy next Wednesday, and I'm hoping to lock up one this weekend with two other local authors. Until then, stay posted.

To Do List by Kenneth Buff

Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying- Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption

To keep myself on track I'm going to post my writing objectives for the week. They are as follows:

  1. Start scheduling video interviews of three fellow writers that will be posted on youtube and on my blog.
  2. Write and record a pitch for Clive Barker's Project Green Light Contest. The contest is for a horror movie (I'll submit a pitch of an adaptation of Bad Dreams). The winner will get a budget of 300,000.
  3. Write

Pretty simple list, but the top two will take some time, so I need to get on them. So, with that I'm off to write a point by point list to hit for my pitch of Bad Dreams.

 

 

A Life of Teaching by Kenneth Buff

Hey, guys. Long time no see. A lot has happened since we've lost shot the breeze. We have a new president, he's nominated a bunch of terrible cabinet appointees who have mostly been confirmed at this point (one of which wants to destroy my career field), and other stuff too. 

So, you might (or might not) be wondering, "Kenneth, where the hell have you been?" Well, I've been working. Working my ass off, really. As my wife will tell you (if you ask her) I have a bit of an ADD problem (a little one), but when I focus in on something I'm hyper-focused, grinding at it. This has always how I've been with my writing (been harder this year with my new job), but this is the first year of me teaching that has really required me to dive in head first, sinking hours of non-contracted time a week planning and researching better ways to help my students. It's a tough job. And it's one that's so important I can't imagine doing it without dedicating myself to it. Doing it any other way wouldn't be affective. At school I often lose my plan (sometimes lunch) due to children throwing fits, so that requires me to stay late and get things printed out. Any phone calls to parents have to be made after school (I have no other time to do this), all the research I do over my kids specific disabilities (which are wide ranging) I do at night on the couch. I also spend time outside school hours cutting, gluing, and laminating educational games for my kids to play. I'm in my classroom at least every other Sunday catching up on my classroom "to do" list, which never, ever, has an end. When I find something new in my research that I think might help my students, I hop onto Amazon and see if I can afford purchasing it (I often do).

Now, I'm not by any means an a-typical teacher. This is the norm of this particular career field. It's populated by passionate, hardworking, women and men who are overworked and under paid. I now find myself among them, so if you don't see me for awhile, know that I'm probably off laminating some purple construction paper to make a more dynamic Magic E board game for my kids.

Wasting Time by Kenneth Buff

Anyone else feel like they do this too much? I know I need breaks to keep myself going (as much as I screw around online, I do get a lot of writing work done when I sit down and do it), but I just can't help thinking after my third or so comment on a MoviePilot thread on Facebook, or a comment on a Robert Reich or Hugh Howey post that I'm just wasting my breath. Throwing precious energy and time into something that might as well be an empty void. I think that for a moment, but it usually goes away. See, I can't help but counter ignorance when I see it. The internet is an open public forum, like a courtyard in a park, so when I see someone yelling something stupid in the middle of it I can't just walk by. The only thing I can do is choose to walk in a different park, but everyone seems content on having their online get-togethers in Facebook Park (I don't bother with the other sites. I gave up on "being hip" over a decade ago).

I think another reason I can't help reading the comments after a post from one of the above mentioned groups or figures on Facebook, is that I truly want to know other people's thoughts on the subject, even though I should know by now that I will often be annoyed with some of the conclusions others reach, or at least in the way they choose to voice these opinions. I think part of this is just a part of my personality. I've always enjoyed being social with people no matter their opinions on anything. You fall in love with a person's personality, you learn what they think about George Bush later, and by then you've already decided if you love them or hate them, so anything else is just a quirk that warms your heart that much more to them. But another reason I think I'm drawn to discussions on the Facebook comment sections is that at certain age (cough, 30) all your friends have moved off, had kids, or landed jobs so stressful their personal lives have been crippled. Combine that with my social disposition and it just makes sense that I "waste" time in the public forum of Facebook Park.

Do I wish I didn't do this? I don't know. At most, it's 30 minutes of my day. Maybe those 30 minutes get my mind primed, gutting the fluff so I'm ready to mine for rubies. Maybe it doesn't. Either way, I don't think it's a big enough slot of wasted time for me to address it at this point—but thought I'd bring it up anyways, as it's a peculiar thing I do that I sometimes wonder: "why the hell am I doing this?"

 

Dick and Henry and the Temporary Detective Unboxing by Kenneth Buff

Just got the box in the mail. Here's the video of me checking it out for the first time.

A Few Words on the New Book and the Series by Kenneth Buff

It's been a long road, but Dick and Henry and The Temporary Detective is now complete, and up on Amazon. I started this one over a year ago when Miranda and I were living in Colorado. I knocked out a lot of it during NaNoWriMo, but didn't complete it in November. It went through my writing group, got another draft, and then a thorough edit. The final version is something I'm very happy with, and I hope readers enjoy it.

This is a series that I envision writing for some time. I plan to follow Dick as he grows through life, aging physically as well as emotionally. To me, the most interesting part of this series is the relationship between the two title characters, so of course Henry will play into Dick's growth, but whether Henry will continue to fit into Dick's life or not is something you'll have to follow the series to see. And of course, on top of the personal growth and struggles of the characters, there will be a new mystery in each book that can be read without having read the other books in the series. The Temporary Detective does feature a villain who was introduced in a short story titled The Headless Hoverbiker (which can be found on Amazon in the short story collection for free) as well as one other character from that story, but despite this, the novel can be followed without having read the short stories.

Well, those are my insights and some of my plans for the series, I'll keep you updated on the series as it progresses.

 

Dick and Henry and the Temporary Detective Now Available by Kenneth Buff

It's finally here! Dick and Henry and the Temporary Detective is live on Amazon. The print is still waiting, but the ebook is up and ready, so get your Kindles fired up, your next adventure is here.

 

Publishing Article by Kenneth Buff

I just finished reading a random blog post I stumbled upon on twitter. The post was over self-publishing and how it's a "train wreck" and how Amazon is evil, and no one's making as much money as they used to. These claims were backed up with incomplete data and personal anecdotes. These sorts of posts get me going for a couple of reasons. One being the obvious bias the authors have against Amazon. The disdain for them in these articles is so strong you can practically taste it. Now, I'll admit from a consumer perspective I love Amazon, from a business perspective I like them, but don't feel any kind of undying loyalty (if another company came around that offered an audience who wanted to read my books I'd publish with them and with Amazon. Currently no such market exists). 

The second reason these anti-Amazon articles get me going is because they generally lack meaningful data. This article claimed their $4.99 book is only 299 Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP), which is absurd if true. That would mean this author's charging $4.99 for a short story. My novels are well over a 1,000 pages in the KENP format. So if a reader reads an entire book I have enrolled in Kindle Unlimited I will get roughly $5.00, where if they purchased it I would make $2.70. These numbers are typical for any author publishing the standard length of an average novel (60-70k) and charging the suggested prices. Knowing this, I was not only irritated when I read this post today, but also confused. Does this person not realize their book has more KENP pages than their post states that it does, or are they really over charging that much for a short story? Who knows, but the claim is ridiculous either way. If they are charging that much for a short story the data is irrelevant to the vast majority of authors who follow common pricing, and if they've simply misstated the data it only underscores that their argument holds no water (that being Amazon has ruined their income by having changed their KU payment formula over two years ago).

I won't get into the other argument this article stated, that the self-publishing industry is a train wreck. You can read plenty of articles that claim this, but if you look at the data you'll see the opposite trend. If you're genuinely interested in this I'd suggest checking out Author's Earning Report, or checking Hugh Howey's blog, which is a great resource for self-publishing information. 

Doubt by Kenneth Buff

Crippling doubt. Every writer feels it sometimes. I think every person does. I doubt a lot of things. Mostly about myself and the decisions I'm making. Not so much my abilities. I know what I'm good at and where my interests lie, but my problems come when it's time to decide what to do with those interests and strengths.

I'm afraid that no matter what decision I make I'll have to sacrifice something that I'll later wish I hadn't sacrificed. I'm afraid that if I pick a career that pays well it will eat into my time for family and writing (though the job I have now already does), and I'm afraid that if I decide to stay at home or work part time that I'll feel a crippling guilt for not contributing to the family, and that we'll "miss out" on all the things Americans want (house, new car, etc.). I write this because I'm at a point in my life where I have to make this decision. And choosing not to decide is also a decision, if a somewhat less active one.

Life will go on either way, but what that life looks like will be different, and wish I knew which one would suit myself and my family better. Because currently neither my wife nor I have a high paying career (both teachers), and we both accumulated a lot of debt in college, so having one of us stay home on a low income just doesn't make sense if we want to get out of our apartment and into a house, keep the car we recently purchased, and afford the cost that comes with being parents. It's a tough choice, but one I have to make.

One thing I can say, is that no matter what decision I make, my writing will not stop. Even now, with a job that I often work late into the evening preparing for the next day, I still find time to continue working on my next novel or story (just finished a new short story I hope to have edited and published before Christmas). Because that goal hasn't changed. I'm three years into my ten year plan. Can't stop now.

Writing Prompt by Kenneth Buff

I feel dizzy. I want to get up, grab my wife and follow the note's directions, but my ass feels like there's an anvil that's been sewn in it. I can't move. I'm frozen. I look at the note again, it reads: GET OUT NOW WHILE YOU STILL CAN. I didn't see the man's face, just the back of his head, which looks very much like the back of everyone else's head who's here tonight. This is gotta be some kind of prank. A sick joke someone's playing on me because I'm being honored tonight, that's all it is. There's no reason to be worried at all.

 

“Frank.” My wife is looking across at me, she looks concerned. “Are you okay dear?”

 

“Fine,” I say. “Never better.” I take another drink of my wine and look at the stage I’m about to go on.

 

“Don’t do it, sir.”

 

I turn my head, looking for the voice I just heard in my ear, but there’s no one near us.

 

My wife looks more worried than before. I can only imagine how I must look. I fix my tuxedo and put my hands down on the table. “A bug flew in my ear,” I say.

 

She smiles, knowing there’s no bugs in here.

 

“Don’t go on the stage, sir.”

 

I smile at the voice. And look across at my wife, “I need to use the bathroom, I’ll be right back.”

 

“Sure,” she says. “Don’t be long though. You’re going up next.”

 

I nod. I scan the room as I make my way to the restrooms. Everyone looks preoccupied with their tables. No one looks at me. I’m the next honoree, but right now I might as well be a stranger at a park.

 

I pull out some change for the guy at the door offering warm napkins and go inside. I look around, there’s a guy in the stall, no one at the urinals. I rest over the counter and stare into the mirror. I look the same. Getting older, no longer a 20 something man, but that’s all. I don’t look crazy.

 

“You’re not crazy, sir.”

 

My hands shake, and I struggle to keep myself standing up. I grit my teeth. “What the fuck?”

“There isn’t time to explain. Simply know that you are not crazy, and that I am here to help you. The note was true. You have twenty minutes before you’re supposed to take the stage. In fifteen it will be too late.”

 

“Too late…what the hell are you talking about?”

 

“The stage isn’t what you think it is, sir. This isn’t a celebration, it’s an assimilation.”

 

A guy walks in behind me and spreads his legs in front of a urinal. 

 

“You have to get out now.”

 

“Shut up,” I say.

 

The guy taking a leak shakes and leaves without washing his hands.

 

“Leave me alone.” I splash water on my face and head back out.

 

Pamela’s waiting for me. She takes my hand in hers. “It’s time to take the stage.”

 

“Already?” I say.

 

“There’s a ripple,” the voice says. “It’s starting earlier since we’ve changed things.”

 

“Changed things?” I say. Pamela’s smile disappears.

 

“Don’t speak, sir. She’s working with them.”

 

Pamela pulls me toward the stage, but I stop walking. “Frank,” she says. “It’s time.”

 

“No,” I say. “I’m not going.”

 

“Frank…you’ve earned this. This is what you’ve always wanted.”

 

“She’s not talking about what you think she is,” the voice says. “Get out now.”

 

“I’m not going,” I say. “I’m leaving.”

 

She looks horrified. “But you can’t.” She looks around at the other guests like she’s thinking about reaching out and grabbing one.

I move back from her faster. I bump shoulders with someone, but don’t bother looking at them. I keep my eyes on Pamela, who looks like a wild animal.

 

“They’re afraid. They know this is wrong. Run, sir. Run!”

 

I do as the voice says. I run past the busy people who are no longer talking to one another, they’re all staring at me now. And as I run through the double set of glass doors I can hear their piercing screams behind me echoing off the glass. 

Word Nightmare by Kenneth Buff

Sometimes old lovers become our worst enemies. In the software world, Word is that lover turned enemy for myself. I used to love that little bastard. It was white, so it reminded me of paper (my first love), it had a little word counter at the bottom, and it seemed pretty straight forward. You typed words into it and it brought your story to life on the computer. The only downfall of course to anyone who formats their own ebooks (which should be everyone who writes books...don't pay for something you can do yourself with 30 minutes of internet research) is that formatting with Word is a real bitch, and if you're like most writers, you did manual indents and the like, which really turned your file into shit.

I bring this up because tonight I formatted a short script for a friend so he could upload it to KDP. I figure it'll be a 10 minute job, but of course I forgot all the bullshit of bad formatting that goes along with Word and the habits of most writers. This is precisely the reason I gave up on Word. It only took me one manuscript written in word for me to get sick of manually deleting every tab and extra space (command+f doesn't seem to work on "tabs" in Scrivener). Now my formatting is easy, and the process couldn't be more pain free. Because of this, I haven't really delved into learning how to format in Word, because, why the hell would I? Makes it hard for me to give any advice to friends who still use it that isn't simply just "use Scrivener." I'd really like to make my job easier when formatting manuscripts, so I'm not spending hours cleaning up stupid garbage that shouldn't even be in the file (it's all bullshit that's mostly been caused by the writer, and they don't even realize they've done it...meaning they don't realize how fucking hard they've made my job).

Yeah, so I guess the overall point of this post is, don't use Word. I know it's a hard habit to kick, but if you're serious about publishing your stuff, stop using it as soon as you can. Buy Scrivener, import your stuff into it, format it so that it no longer looks like shit, and then after you've spent a couple hours doing that, and realizing that it would have taken you literally less than a minute to do it if you would have just written it in Scrivener, you'll no longer feel like wasting your time.

Moon: Chapter Excerpt by Kenneth Buff

Here's an excerpt of the novel I'm working on now:

Stillwater

I’ve made it a little deeper into the Oklahoman heart. I’m stopping here for the night, mostly because it’s quiet, and because of all the damn signs. I just can’t resist a good road side attraction. I stopped in Kansas to see the world's largest Czech egg. Not really as cool as it sounds. Just a giant fake egg with a diamond painted on it. But those damn signs make it seem so awesome! I also stopped to see the world’s largest largest prairie dog and to meet Jesus in the wheat. Kansas has some weird shit on the side of their roads.

The attraction for Stillwater was this place called “Eskimo Joes.” Seems oddly racist, and not sure why an Inuit would have a giant smile and be into dancing (are those stereotypes I never learned? Maybe they’re more into them down here), but still, there were a half a dozen signs indicating that this is the coolest place in Oklahoma, and I’d be a real idiot to pass up the chance to rip it off for whatever the hell it is that’s so special about it.

I found the place. After burning rubber down a number of side streets I finally found a sign pointing me in the right direction. Hell of a little thing. Looks like this place was popular even after the collapse. All the glass is broken, and the walls are stripped down to the bare wood paneling.

I’m carrying the Colt and on my hip, and the pump action in my hands. This place seems like the perfect hangout for anyone who doesn’t mind a light breeze and wants to bask in the once awesome aurora of an Inuit named Joe. His smiling face is painted everywhere. He’s on the floor, the walls, bright plastic cups that are strewn around the floor. Not sure if he was a local cartoon character, or some kind of midwestern legend, but he seems to have had some significance to these people.

I tiptoe up the stairs and I hear a creaking at the top that isn’t coming from my feet. I bend down, and listen intently. There’s running and then the door to my left blows apart in a rain of plywood and buckshot. It flies over my head, burying into the banister behind me and the mural of Joe on the wall. I aim the shotgun at the hole in the door and I make it a little wider. I fire off another round, not hearing a scream or moan I stop and peek through. There’s no body, just a long hall with more doorways on either side. I think about entering when I hear stomping coming from the room to my left. I turn and see a young boy with a gun. I bang my shotgun against his and his gun flies out of his hands. He grabs mine and jumps on me, kneeing me in the cock. My grip on the gun loosens, but I don’t let go. I fall to my back and he’s still trying to wrestle the gun out of my hands. He’s biting down on my fingers and jumping up and falling back down onto my cock with his knee. I turn to block him, and his knee digs into my leg instead. 

I gurgle with anger, and let the shotgun go. He falls back in surprise and looks at the pump action like it were an early Christmas present. He’s remembering that there’s a scraggly man in front of him that he needs to kill, he’s about to point the shotgun at me, but before he can I pull the Colt off my hip and I fire three rounds consecutively, hitting him on his left side. One of them has hit his heart, I think, because he’s bleeding everywhere, and he certainly looks dead. Even so, I stand with my gun pointed at him, still afraid he’s going to rise and dive his fist into my balls. He doesn’t though. He’s a bloody mess, the tie-dye shirt with a smiling cartoon Inuit is soaked with red. I grab my shotgun from his dead hands and roam the abandoned juke joint, searching for my prize.

I walk away with a stack of plastic cups with the cartoon character stamped on them and a half-dozen teacher themed shirts with Joe in various movie character roles. I briefly wonder what the hell it was the kid wanted to kill me for. Protecting his boxes of plastic wear? His tie-dye shirts? Or was he killing to keep himself from being killed? 

 I throw the shirts to the back and fire up the Sub. I decide I’m going to spend the night sleeping on the campus lawn. I’d ripped off some camping equipment from a mountain store on my way through Nederland, and I’ve been itching to use it. I can’t think of a better place to try it out than a manicured lawn on an Oklahoman college. I just hope I don’t get bit by any fleas.

Dick And Henry And The Temporary Detective: Chapter Two by Kenneth Buff

TWO

A NEW DIRECTION

 

Alex screamed as the robot twisted her leg back to its natural state. The bones cracked and splintered as he did it.

“I thought it wasn’t supposed to hurt,” Alex said, her voice high and unnatural. 

“The injection numbed your nervous system, however, some pain is inevitable,” Henry said.

“Okay.” Alex poked the robot under his eyes, in the place where the nose would be on a human, and then giggled uncontrollably.

“What the hell’s wrong with her? She hurt her head in the crash?” Dick asked.

“Her head is fine,” Henry stated. “The medication has dulled her mind as well as her body, but the effects will pass shortly.”

Henry pulled an electronic brace from the med kit and slipped the woman’s leg into it. The device conformed to her, slipping wires into the bone.

“Maybe this would be the best time to interview her,” Dick said.

“Nicrahelm is known to induce increased levels of honesty in humans. I believe you would be most wise to begin your interrogation before the effects fade.”

Dick nodded. He bent down to his knees in front of the woman. “Ms. Flinton.”

“Mrs.,” she said, smiling.

“Sorry. Mrs. Flinton. I don’t know if you know what we just escaped…it was a terrorist attack. Station 1, it’s been destroyed.”

“Serves the greedy bastards right.”

“Were you in anyway connected to the attack?”

Alex’s smile faded. “What? No! I told you, the only thing I helped out with was planning to destroy the hover bikes on Kiev. Only she didn’t destroy them…”

“Do you think your wife is behind the attack on Station 1?”

“I…I don’t know. I never wanted this to go this far. I just wanted to hurt their accounts, not put people’s lives at risk.” She sat up, her enlarged pupils alert. “Why would Maggie do this? Why would she betray me?”

Alex’s head sank, she tried to hide her tears behind her balled up fists. Dick patted her on the shoulder. “Hey…it’s all right. We don’t know who’s behind the attack yet.” Dick looked over to Henry.

“That’s correct, sir, though I have several leads.”

“Which are?” Dick’s knees popped up like an unwound spring.

“Would you like me to list them all?”

“Probably not. Tell me the one that’s most likely to lead us to the terrorist?”

“Would you like the details of the lead, or simply the location we would need to route the ship?”

“Both. Give me the location and explain it to me while I re-route.” Dick hurried back into the cockpit and stood over the dashboard display. “Where are we going?”

 “The location most likely to—”

“Spit it out, Henry.”

“Grolla, sir.”

Dick typed the coordinates into the computer and the ship steered itself toward the Juonides galaxy. He’d send a scan to MG headquarters later, getting the investigation approved, and hopefully adding a bounty to his contract. But right now they needed to move while they had the lead. Hell, he thought, it might even lead us to Maggie Flinton if she’s really involved in this. Two for one. Jesus. The world’s crumbling and I’m worried about getting paid. But I have too…no one else will do it for me.

Dick took a seat in his chair, and turned it to face Henry. His body sagged against the cushion, exhausted, his chin resting in his palm.

“So what’s in Grolla?”

“Glyceride.”

“Glyceride? Never heard of it.”

“I would not have expected you to, sir. Having a working knowledge of archaic chemicals is not within your job parameters.”

Dick waited, but Henry didn’t continue. Dick sat up in his seat, his arms raised in the air. “Well, what the hell is it?”

“It is a soft, greyish substance rich in oxidants. It is found naturally in the plant life of three known planets, Triri, Asnarth, and Grolla. It was primarily used in the second half of the twenty second century as the igniting chemical in explosive devices.”

“So, what does that have to do with the attack on Station 1? You think the terrorist used glyceride?”

“I do not think, sir, I know. After the guest docking bay of Station 1 was torn away from the station by an explosion, and you and Alex Flinton spun inside of it, I made my way to the wreckage. I set my target for one of the side walls, which I knew my small torch would be able to penetrate. But my calculations didn’t take into account the affect the bay’s artificial gravity would have on its rotation. This caused the wreckage to reach me much faster than I had anticipated. I was lucky to grab a hold of the front of the bay before it passed me by, if it had I don’t believe we would be speaking with one another.”

Dick swallowed a lump in his throat. “No, probably not.”

“While I was hanging onto the front of the bay, inches away from the glass shield, where the bomb had exploded, I noticed a grey residue frozen where the station’s joint had once been.”

Henry pressed a rectangular orifice on his chest and a compartment holding a glass container slid out. Henry held it out to Dick. “It is glyceride. There are traces of other chemicals commonly used in bombs of this grade, but it is the glyceride that is the most difficult to obtain. That is why Grolla is currently the best location for us to investigate.”

Dick held the glass up to his eye. It looked like engine grease to him, but if Henry said it was bomb residue, then that was damn sure what it was. “What about the other planets this stuff is found on?”

“Yes, Triri, Asnarth, both of which criminalized the sale and extraction of glyceride from their plant life after it was discovered such sales were largely going to terrorist organizations. After the laws were approved Grolla became the only known planet to produce and sell glyceride, and that is true to this day, though the use of the chemical in explosives has virtually ceased.”

“Until today.”

“That is correct, sir.”

Dick tapped his fingers together thinking about all the money invested in the ever expanding station, the lost product, ships, and possibly life. His skin shuddered as he thought of the poor souls who may not have made it out alive.

“Why the stations? What would they have to gain?”

“There are many possible gains.”

“Always.” Dick sighed. “Just tell me what you think dammit.”

“I can tell you what I know. Which is that Perceived social justice is the most likely motivator for the destruction.”

Dick sat up rigid in his chair. His spine felt like a piece of rebar had been implanted in it. “The bastards. Damn bastards!” His fingers curled into fists.

“Human actions can be difficult to understand,” Henry said. “Would you like me to provide a reading of Tomas Eviens The World Through A Weeping Tree: Why Humans Behave Irrationally and Kill One Another? I can provide various accents from either sex. Studies show the majority of human listeners prefer a female reader with an east Earth Continent accent. New Zealand is the most popular.”

“No, I don’t think so. I think I need a drink.”

“I will boil you a stimulate.”

“Make it black.”

“Black it is, sir. British Breakfast or Auroran?”

“Surprise me.”

 

*    *    *

 

Without a hyper drive, the trip was slow. What should have taken a little under an hour was stretching into two. Dick stared at the dashboard display, marveling at the vast blackness that surrounded him. He never tired at admiring its beauty, its purity. It occupied so much, yet it was really nothing at all. Everything and nothing, all at once. It didn’t get much—

“It is your move, sir.”

Dick jerked in his seat. “Right.” He looked down at the board. The black pieces were everywhere—Dick was red. Henry had already taken Dick’s first row, and now they were moving toward the back.

Dick moved diagonally, taking one of Henry’s pieces. Henry countered, taking two of Dick’s.

“You know, sometimes playing you really sucks the air out of the game.”

Henry sat back on his stool. “I am sorry to hear that you feel faint, sir, but my environment detectors sense no changes in the present oxygen levels. Perhaps you should lie down for a moment?”

Dick shook his head. “No, that’s not what I mean. You take the fun out of the game. Make it hard for me to want to play it.” 

“Am I not playing the game properly? I’ve checked several third party manuals, and none seem to point to any mistakes in my gameplay.”

“Exactly! You don’t make mistakes. I can’t get a move in without you taking three of mine!”

“That is not entirely correct. With your most recent move I only took two of your pieces.”

“Two, three, what does it matter! The game’s yours, Henry.”

Dick swung his arm at the board, sending the pieces flying.

Henry bent down, picking up the scattered red and black circles. He placed them back onto the board in the exact locations they were before.

Dick rubbed his temples, trying to release the pressure building behind his eyes. “Henry, I’m sorry. I think it’s just stress.” He thought about the crumbling station once more.

“I understand, sir. Perhaps I should decrease my knowledge of the game. I could delete the file containing Parson’s Strategy from my positronic brain. This would increase your chances of winning by 30 percent.”

“You wanna go easy on me? No way. I’ll beat you on my own, or I’ll lose like a man.” 

“Then I believe you will likely continue to ‘lose like a man.’ Without modifications to my files your chances of winning are below two percent.”

“I think I know why you don’t have any robot friends.” Dick reached for his tea.

“I do not have any friends, sir, robot or human.”

Dick’s eyebrows raised. “So what am I then? Just your Captain?”

“Yes,” Henry said. “Though your use of the word ‘just’ implies that being my captain is of little importance, which is not the case. Your life comes before any other in my positronic brain. Any loss of life is a hardship for me to endure, but a loss of your life would be most unbearable. I am not sure my circuits would be able to endure it.”

“You and your definitions, Henry. They’re meaningless to me. You get so caught up in them you can’t see what’s right in front of you.”

“I see you quite clearly.”

“No you don’t.” Dick shook his head. “Your definition of loyalty sounds like a hound’s to its master. And you’re no hound, Henry.”

Henry stepped forward, his heavy feet clicking on the floor. “Captain, your heart rate is elevated, perhaps you would prefer a depressant rather than your tea.”

“Tea is fine.”

“Would you like me to get you a fresh cup? The temperature of that glass has fallen below 90 degrees.”

Dick puckered his lips and leaned forward, the cup in his hand. “Sure, Henry, why the hell not?”

The robot walked to the water dispenser and Dick leaned back and continued to rub his temples.

“You get really lonely up here, don’t you?”

He looked up to see Alex Flinton taking a seat in front of him.

“That’s Henry’s seat,” Dick said.

“Oh, do you think he’ll mind?”

“He won’t…but I do. We’re playing a game.”

“Really? Looks to me like you’re losing a child’s game to a robot.”

Dick stiffened. “This is not a child’s game. And who asked for you opinion on anything, detainee?”

“You’re playing checkers, Captain. I haven’t seen anyone outside of primary school do that. Why don’t you play a grownup’s game, like chess?”

“I do play chess.” Dick paused. “I just do it on the scanner.”

Alex laughed. “You play it with other pilots, don’t you? On the scanner…because you’re afraid of losing to the robot, aren’t you?”

Dick stood from the table and straightened out the bottom of his shirt. “I appreciate your concern Mrs. Flinton.” His voice was gruff, the words curt. “But what I do with my harvest bot isn’t your business. But what you do is mine. Right now you’re outside of your allocated space on the ship.”

“I have allocated space?”

“Yes. It starts at seat A and ends at seat D.”

“The bench?” She almost laughed. “You want me to stay on the bench the whole ride?”

“I could improvise a cell if the space is too informal for you.” A slight grin cracked Dick’s face.

Henry returned. “Here is your tea, sir. 215 degrees, just the way you like.”

Dick took the cup. “Thanks, Henry.”

“Of course. Would you like to continue the game, or are you now engaged in a socially-rewarding conversation?”

Alex’s lips spread wide as she broke into a laughing fit.

“No.” Dick said, his face stretched in a thin line. “I think the conversation will do for me, thank you. Would you mind watching the display?”

“Of course.” Henry turned. “Let me say, if I may sir, that it very much pleases me to see you increasing your social interaction with other human beings.” 

“You may, and I’m glad you’re pleased.” Dick took a sip of his tea, it was British Breakfast. Delicious. 

Alex forced her mouth closed, a smile still stretched across it. “Henry,” she said to the robot. “Dick tells me checkers is your favorite game.”

Henry looked at Dick, and then back to Alex. “Recreation is an important part of the Captain’s daily schedule. It releases endorphins, which promote good health. My favorites are the ones that bring the most positive emotional response to him.”

“Oh, I see. You just want Dick to be happy.” Her eyes were more narrow than they were before.

“That is correct, ma’am.”

“Then you should consider playing chess with him next time the two of you play a game. It’s his favorite.”

“I did not know this.” Henry turned to Dick. “Perhaps we can play a game of chess the next time your mood requires enhancement?”

“Sure.” Dick sighed.

“I am opening several review manuals now.”

“Great. Can’t wait.”

The robot trotted to the display console and took a seat behind the helm.

“That was a nasty trick.” Dick stepped toward her. “But if you’re done, I’d prefer it if you took a seat.” He motioned toward the bench of seats labeled A through D.

“Right. I am a criminal, aren’t I?”

Dick glanced down at the number 93 pinned to her breast, and thought about the degrees of crime he faced. The woman in front of him, Alex Flinton, was an accessory to theft, at the very least. Perhaps she had more involvement with the destruction of the stations than she was letting on, though he doubted it, for she would have died had he not stopped to save her. Then there was Maggie Flinton, Alex’s estranged wife who’d ran from Dick on Kiev, destroying his ship’s hyper drive, stealing the hover bikes from the planet’s factory and abandoning her own wife. And lastly there was the unknown terrorist, the person or persons responsible for the destruction of MG Station 1.

“So what’s your plan to capture my wife?” 

Dick didn’t say anything, his mind was still lost in thought. 

“That is your plan, isn’t it?” Alex raised her voice. “You’re not going to try to hurt her, are you? All she did was take some hover bikes.”

“And destroy a space station.” Dick doubted this, it didn’t make sense that she’d risk her wife’s life, estranged or not. But he wanted to press Alex.

“That wasn’t her!”

“We don’t know that.”

“I know…” Her breathing was labored. She took a deep breath before continuing. “But that was never part of the plan. And besides, you’ve no evidence to think it’s her. Isn’t that how investigations work? Aren’t you supposed to have evidence before you go around accusing people?”

“I don’t know, I’m not a detective.”

“Technically you are, sir,” Henry said. “Your print now identifies you as Temporary Detective Richard Shannon. I took the liberty of confirming your assertion of the existence of a new contract. It is indeed valid, despite the recent demise of Robert Parker.”

“Thanks, Henry,” Dick shouted from the back of the ship.

“You’re welcome, sir.”

“Don’t bullshit me,” Alex said. “I want to know what you’re planning to do.”

“I’m not discussing that with you. You’re a detainee. You’ll be placed under the care of the nearest company site, and Henry and I will continue our investigation. You can read about the results on a display.”

Alex took a deep breath. “Please…” Dick could almost hear the sound of her pride cracking in her voice. “All I want to know is what your plans are for my wife. She’s pregnant…just tell me you’re not going to hurt her.”

The pressure of Dick’s next choice of words weighed heavy on his shoulders. He had no intention of hurting Alex’s wife, but he couldn’t show his hand to the other side. He was a detective now, not just a transport pilot talking to a pit crew at a station—Henry confirmed it. There were protocols for this sort of thing…and he didn’t know a damn one of them. “I wish I could promise that.”

“What? Did you not hear me? I said she’s pregnant, you bastard.” Her eyes welled up and her lips shook with rage. “If you hurt her, I swear I’ll…I’ll make you regret it the rest of your life.” Alex stood from her seat, grabbing a handrail to steady herself, she walked back to the rear cabin and lay on one of the bunks. She turned to her side, trying to hide her tears from Dick.

Dick gritted his teeth. All he did was make the situation worse. 

Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t, he thought. One thing is sure, now I know she won’t underestimate me.

 Dick joined Henry at the helm. “How far are we from Grolla?”

“Another 38 minutes and 28 seconds, sir.”

“Good, I think my legs need a stretch.”

“Agreed. Your step count is low for this week.”

Dick smiled bitterly. “Space stations do that.”

“That is why interplanetary law requires all corporations operating in space to equip their stations with physical recreational facilities.”

“Please, Henry, I really don’t want to hear about how I need to hit the gym.”

“Yes, sir.”

“How far is the closest MG site from Grolla?”

“Now that Station 1 is dismantled, Kiev would be the closest location.”

“And how far is that?”

“Three hundred billion, sixty three—”

“I mean, how long would it take to get there?”

“Without a hyper drive, the trip would take 3.5 days from our current location.”

Dick thought about time again and how he didn’t have enough of it. He was already thirty years old, and he had nothing to his name. No home, no cruiser, not even a personal companion bot. He was a man without, and the answer to this problem now took the literal form of a woman. A woman named Maggie Flinton. For it was her name written in the contract that promised the change in fortune he so desperately desired. 

“All right,” Dick said. “I guess she’s coming with us.”

“That would be the best decision, sir.”

No, he thought. I don’t think it is.