Six Things That Need Fixing by Kenneth Buff

Last night I was getting ready to work on my new story, when something I read from Blake Snyder's Save The Cat popped into my head. It was his Six Things That Need Fixing. This refers to the character flaws your hero needs to have at the beginning of the book, so that they'll have something to have transformed from by the end of the book. I was thinking about this, and realized that I'd almost naturally included these things in some of my novels and stories, but others I had to add them in various drafts. Me being a person who likes to improve and grow with each story I write, I figured I should try and squeeze in the things I know I'm going to need (like Six Things That Need Fixing), so that's sort of what I've been doing today. Well, I've been writing, letting the story flow, but also trying to keep in mind that I need to develop these characters why I continue to move the story forward. It's a fun thing to do, but it's nice to have some mental maps in your head to help guide you.

Now, the number six is just an arbitrary number. All you need to keep in mind is that the character needs to have several things that aren't right in their life, and some of these should be internal things (character traits, internal struggles, etc.), while others need to be external. By the end all of these things should be in some way improved, if not completely gone. I think having some of these things only improved rather than completely cured can lead to a story that feels richer than one that seems to have waved a magic wand over the character's problems. Of course, all of these changes happen after the hero's journey, so maybe they've earned those major changes. It all depends on the story, and the world you've created within it. Personally, I think the changes that take place in the character from the beginning of the book to the end of the book are the most rewarding aspects of any story, so this is something you'll want to make sure you've hammered home in your final draft. You want it to be obvious that the hero of your story has gone through some kind of transformation, and that this in itself has helped contribute to the story you're telling.

Scrivener: Why You Should Use It by Kenneth Buff

Okay, so over the weekend I posted a link to a video series that gives a fairly detailed overview of how to effectively use Scrivener to format ebooks and print books. But I think some of you out there may need a little more convincing to even make the jump from Word to Scrivener, and that's what I hope to convince you to do in this post.

So, let's start with what Scrivener is. It's a writing program. Just like Word, only it's much more user friendly and has many more uses, and it's cheap ($45, an incredible deal for how much it does). Like any new program, for you to be able to use all the extra bells and whistles (which I mostly don't use, FYI) you'll need to spend a little time playing around with it, but if you just want to fire it up and start writing, you can do that without reading any tutorials or watching any videos. It's simple. Here's a screenshot of my latest work in Scrivener to give you an example of what it looks like:

So if you look on the left you'll see where it says Manuscript. That's the bread and butter section. That's where you write your book. Scrivener works as a digital binder, giving you multiple files for each chapter. That is really irrelevant to you though, all you need to know is that pressing Command+n creates a new page that you can then start your new chapter on. This makes editing your work later so much easier, and also makes formatting your work easier as well (importing Word documents into Scrivener is also easy, but requires a little extra work to delete all the manual line breaks and what not that you've probably put in it in Word). Another really cool thing about the manuscript line is that the titles you have listed there will become clickable links when you format it into an ebook, so everything you see there will be listed in the ebook, and if it's a print book those chapter names will be listed in the index (if you choose to put in an index, which as easy as a click of a button).

The character and place templates are also really useful. Prior to Scrivener I of course used Word, but Word being a really crude writing tool, it had no place for me to put my character information, so I used physical note cards. Which worked fine, but after six books the note cards really start to pile up (I'm also a really disorganized person, so anything physical made out of paper gets messy in my house quick). The built in templates have really helped me to keep my world's clear in my mind, and to keep all that information in a nice central location. Here's a screen shot of the character template:

Here's a screenshot of the places template from my upcoming novel, Dick and Henry And The Temporary Detective:

You can get as detailed with it as you want, I was simply using it to keep the places straight in my head. You can also make sub-categories if you want. For Dick and Henry I made a list of the good guy characters and the bad guy characters.

My absolute favorite writing feature is the full screen mode (which is accessible by the click of a single button). Using it blocks out everything else in your screen. There's no word count, or anything else present, though you can add these features if you'd like. You can also move the mouse and see your current word count for the page you're on. You can click project and then project targets on the top bar on the Mac version and then look at your word count for the entire project. This brings up a bar graph showing your progress towards your chosen word count goal (this can be edited at any time). Here are some screen shots of these features:

Full screen mode in Scrivener. If you prefer the white page you can write in the binder mode. I personally prefer the full screen mode.

Full screen mode in Scrivener. If you prefer the white page you can write in the binder mode. I personally prefer the full screen mode.

Project targets.  Can be viewed in full screen mode or in binder mode.

Project targets.  Can be viewed in full screen mode or in binder mode.

So that's the basic gist of writing in Scrivener. There's also some note card features if you want to storyboard on Scrivener, I don't use it, but lots of people swear by it. The biggest reason you should use Scrivener I haven't even covered yet, that is something for another blog post. But I'll go ahead and touch on it here. The biggest reason you should use Scrivener if you're a writer is because you should be self publishing. In today's world there's no sense wasting time querying agents when you can be making more and getting your name out there by DIY. I'll give you my thoughts and advice on this in a future post, and I'll cover formatting with Scrivener in another—which is where you get more than your money's worth with Scrivener (you can easily make any file type you may need your book to be with Scrivener).

But for now, that's all I have. Gotta get started on my word count for tonight.

Scrivener: A Quick Overview by Kenneth Buff

So, today I was browsing Facebook while getting ready this morning, and I noticed an add in my feed, from someone I assume is an indie author, advertising payed videos on how to use Scrivener. I clicked on it, assuming the comments would be filled with indie authors telling this joker to stop trying to gouge writers for their hard earned money, but I didn't find this. Instead I found the bolded names of Facebook users in their friends comments, recommending them pay this guy money to learn how to use a program that is well known and shared among the indie community. Needless to say, this inspired me to drop a video in the comments that likely gives just as much detail as this guy's video lecture will give, only the video is 3 minutes long and free. It's the first in a 7 part series that explains the most useful functions of Scrivener for writers in detail. Every video is under 10 minutes, and as I said before, they're all free. There's no catch. Because of this I figured I should contribute to the conversation of indie publishing. I'm not an expert by any means, I just study the experts and am experimenting with my works based off of their suggestions and off of my own experiences. I'll write more in the future about how I use Scrivener, what I've learned by using it to publish, and why you should use it to if you're a writer (forget Word, that thing is the devil...trust me. I used to love it too, just like everyone else). But for now I need to get to work on some touch up stuff on Dick and Henry and get some writing in for my next project, so I'm going to paste the video below I've mentioned. Please share it with anyone you know who's considering paying for information on Scrivener.

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

The final draft of Dick and Henry And The Temporary Detective is now finished. I'm just waiting on the final edit and cover art before I release it on Amazon. To celebrate this I'm sharing with you guys the first chapter from the new novel. Enjoy.

 

ONE

A NEW ASSIGNMENT

 

Dick sat across from Bobby Parker, the Resource Director and Product Manager of Miracle Grocer. His hands rubbed against each other nervously as Bobby reviewed the report from Dick’s last transport.

“It says here the hull was damaged.”

“Yes, that’s correct. The woman, Maggie Flinton, rigged a microwave bomb to take out the ship’s hyper drive.”

“I see that.” Bobby was staring at the screen of the report, rubbing his clean shaved chin as he did so. “And the woman escaped?”

“Yes, sir. Without a hyper drive we didn’t have a chance.”

The director’s fingers tapped against the desk; sweat ran down Dick’s back. “It looks like you did everything you could. The woman got away, but you captured her lover, that’s good. As a pilot, we can hardly hold you responsible for the escape. Without your intervention, we may not have known the identity of the hover biker thief. You can expect a pay scale increase of two percent on your next deposit. I’ll make sure it gets there.”

Relief washed over Dick, he was going to come out of this thing ahead after all. Well, hopefully he would. He still had to ask one more thing: “So the damage…since it was caused by the thief, I won’t be penalized, will I?”

Bobby set the report down on his desk; he leaned forward in his chair. “What? Dick, what are we talking about here? Of course you’ll be docked for the price of the repairs. You were the active pilot when the damage occurred.”

Dick’s body stiffened. “How much is the damage?”

“I don’t know, Claims hasn’t appraised it yet. It’s still in the dock, but we’re probably looking at somewhere around fifty, maybe a hundred thousand credits for a new drive, and then there’s the body patchwork and paint.”

One to two month’s salary. He was never going to get ahead. He might as well kiss the dream of an Earth home goodbye.

Bobby shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry, nothing I can do.”

Dick pressed his lips into a thin line. “I understand.” He stood and grabbed his jacket off of the chair, mentally preparing himself to return to the lonely life of a Transport Captain.

“Unless,” Bobby said, “you’d be interested in tracking this Flinton woman. Your record shows that you’ve had great success solving unusual cases for the company before. If you were to be interested in continuing these services, for say, a monthly rate of salary and a half, I don’t think anyone would argue against it.”

Salary and a half? That was a ridiculous deal. Dick had never heard of Miracle Grocer paying so much for a pilot, but if he were to say yes, he wouldn’t be a pilot, not in function. “A true detective would make three hundred.”

“You’re not a true detective. Seventy-five is generous.” Bobby’s eyes narrowed.

“But with the damages to the ship, I’m still not making what I need for an Earth retirement. And then there’s the danger. I couldn’t do it for less than two hundred.”

Bobby’s eyebrows raised. “You’re a little young to be thinking about retirement, Dick.” The Resource Director paused. 

Dick didn’t fall for the trap, he waited Bobby out, giving him time to weigh the counter offer.

Bobby let out a breath of air and placed his hands on his desk. “But I think we can agree to two hundred credits.”

Dick grinned. “Then count me in.”

Bobby grabbed a pad-pen from his desk, inserted a credit chip into his hand display and wrote up the details of the contract. Bobby turned the hand display to Dick. “It’s pretty plain, but feel free to look over it if you like. Two hundred thousand a month for a temporary investigation into the case of the missing Kiev motor bikes.”

Dick looked over the details; it all seemed sound. There was even mention of a bonus if he captured the woman in the next six months. He pressed his thumb over the print reader and a green bar filled with acceptance.

“When do I start?”

“Immediately, if possible. Your harvest bot can pilot the ship if you need to rest, but we want to conclude this matter as soon as possible, and we’re confident that the man who discovered the problem will be able to solve it.”

Dick swallowed a lump in his throat. “Right, of course. I am part of the team that discovered the problem…Speaking of Henry, where is he? I haven’t seen him since we’ve docked.”

“Who?”

“My harvest bot. HN-R3.”

“It’s in the engineering bay. Its systems were due for a software update.”

It. Dick hated when MG employees insisted on referring to Henry as if he weren’t sentient. Henry was the real reason Dick was able to solve any of the mysteries he’d been conned into investigating for Miracle Grocer in the past. Without him, he was just a pilot, a damn good pilot for sure, but that didn’t matter much. In this hour and eon, being a pilot didn’t offer the type of life one would call comfortable. Exciting—maybe to some, but comfortable it definitely was not.

“What about my ship?”

“Your new contract entitles you temporary access to warp units. Your print will get you access to the ship yard.”

Dick smiled and handed the display over to Bobby. “I guess that’s it.”

“I guess—”

The floor shook below Dick’s feet. He grabbed the back of the chair in front of him; it flew into the air and was cut in half by the glass pressure shield as it closed. Dick watched through the glass wall as Bobby Parker, and the other half the office, flew out into the vast black abyss of space.

The sound of alarms blared in his eardrums, cutting off any thought. Dick covered his ears and looked through the glass for his manager. Bobby now looked like a small doll, his skin paper white and hardly visible as he drifted farther into the black.

Dick turned and pressed his thumb against the print reader, the sliding doors opened and the flashing red light spilled into the room. Dick rushed out, bumping into the sides of the hall. He ran past men and women dressed in suits panicking in the halls. 

“Alert, alert,” a stern voice said over the loud speaker. “There has been a structural breech to the station. Please proceed to the nearest emergency pod.”

A woman grabbed Dick’s arm, and pulled at him. “The pod is this way!”

Dick shook his shoulder. “Let go of me!” Her face was horrified, and she released him. 

The labels above the doors were clearly marked. CAFETERIA. GYMNASIUM. BOARD ROOM. He ran past them, watching people scramble from the doorways; folders with hardcopy information spilling out of their hands. 

Then he saw it: ENGINEERING BAY. Dick stopped at the door, bent over heaving, he looked through the round glass window just in time to watch the room split away from the station just like Bobby Parker’s office had. Henry was motionless, his body pressed against the wall of the room, a cord coming from a docking station connected to his side. 

Henry was floating away.

Dick beat his fist against the wall, screaming at him to wake up. Dick pressed his thumb against the print reader. A red glow emitted from the reader along with a low buzzing sound, denying him entry to the room that was no longer there.

“Henry!”

The sound of the alarm now seemed louder in his ears. He couldn’t grieve, he had to escape. He dug his hands into his pocket, searching for his access card for Transport 1. He felt the card, along with something else. It was his communicator for his company assigned harvest bot, HN-R3. 

Yes! That was what he needed!

He pulled out the device and inserted it into his ear. He pressed the button on the side and spoke: “Henry…Henry, this is Captain Dick Shannon, ID number 1611, requesting a response.”

Dick saw a flicker of light appear in the darkness where the engineering bay had drifted.

“Sir, this is HN-R3, reporting.”

Dick slapped his hand against the glass. “Henry, we have a big problem here. The station’s been attacked.”

“I see that, sir.”

Dick snorted. “I know you do, you’re drifting away from it. It looks like whoever did this attached explosives to the joints of the station.”

“I believe you are correct, sir. I suggest you find and enter an escape pod as soon as possible.”

“A pod? Pods are self-guiding. I need something I can pilot so I can pick you up. We’ve got a new mission.” Dick wondered if this were still true. The man who assigned the mission to him—and the contract he had signed—were currently drifting somewhere aimlessly through space, and would probably never be recovered. 

“Negative, sir. Your safety is of my primary concern.”

“Henry, as long as I stay in the main corridor I’ll be fine. The explosions are just happening at the joints of the station. Give me directions to the bay and I’ll fire up a bird and come get you.”

Dick could see tiny pieces of debris flying past the light in the distant space, and then he saw a white stream of air trailing behind the robot. 

“I cannot allow you to take such a risk. I calculate a 73 percent chance that the persons responsible for this attack will not stop at the removal of the outer rooms of the station, based off all known space station attacks. It is likely the perpetrator plans to continue dismantling the station after the rooms are removed, splitting the joints that connect the main halls until nothing is left of the station.”

Dick looked down at the floor. He could see one of the main joints that connected the hall. He suddenly felt off balance, like the floor was moving below his feet.

“Shit! You’re right! I have to get out of here.”

“That is correct, sir.”

His heart raced in his chest, stealing blood from his brain, weakening his thoughts. “But, Henry…how will I find you?”

“I will be fine, sir. Your safety is what needs to be secured at this moment.”

Dick ran from the door of what was the Engineering Bay and continued in the direction the screaming people had been coming from.

“How far are you from the station?”

“I am currently 1,898 decimeters from the ship.”

“Decimeters? Dammit, Henry, what the hell? You know I hate metric!”

“Yes, sorry, sir. I see that in your preferences now.”

“All right. Just tell me how many football fields away you are.”

“The issue has been corrected. I am currently 622 feet and eight and seven sixteenth inches away from the ship, or approximately two and seven hundredth football fields away.”

Dick wiped sweat away from his head and hurried down the hall, passing the doors of rooms as they floated away. Dick looked behind him, hoping someone would be there who could lead him to the nearest pod. The hall was completely empty.

“Henry, can you pull up a map of Station 1?”

“Yes, sir. I have one open now.”

“I need to know where the nearest escape pod is.”

“I am currently out of reach of the station’s network. In 10.87 seconds I will be able to direct you.”

Dick stood in the hall, the floor shaking under his feet as the room to his right detached from the station. He stared at it, the thing looked like the glowing house of an Earth Christmas village, floating away into the darkness of the space to be forgotten forever. Its lights would die, and its insides would be eaten by the rocks of space, and then it would be no more. He couldn’t let that happen to him and Henry.

“The station’s sensors are indicating that the last pod on the blue side is located in the Station 1 Family Nursery. It should be close to your general location.”

Dick let out a sad laugh and pressed his palm against the glass window of the room that had just detached. The sign above it read FAMILY NURSERY. “Why do these things always happen to me?” He saw images of the broken bot on Oculus throwing itself into a pit, a bobsled crashing down toward his body off the side of a mountain. This was worse than those things. This could very well be the end.

“To what things are you referring to, sir?”

Dick shook his head. “The room, it’s gone. It just floated off.”

“Yes, I see that now. The network has updated.”

Dick looked down at his hand and wished briefly that his thumb would open the door. Might as well get it over with, he thought. Join Bobby Parker on the other side.

Wait…his thumb.

“Henry, where are the warp ships located?”

“They are in the orange hall, just 40 paces from the Station 1 Family Nursery.”

“All right. Meet me there.”

“Sir, you will not have access to the warp bay. As a transport pilot you can only enter the guest ship dock, which is located in the yellow hallway. I suggest you run for the yellow hallway. It is still attached, and will be for the next 10 minutes.”

“You know how long the rooms will be attached?”

“I have just calculated it. The explosives seem to be on an automated timer, each one firing 0.78 seconds after the next. There are 468 rooms—”

“Henry, I don’t need your methods! Just tell me how long until the warp bay detaches?”

“Four minutes, but it would be pointless to waste time on the warp bay, sir. You will not have access.”

“But I will, Henry. I signed a contract for the new mission, right before the station was attacked I signed it. The hand display flew away with the room, but the screen said it was accepted, so it should be fine…right?”

“That is correct, sir. If the display read ‘accepted’, and the terms of the contract indicated it, then you will have access to the warp bay.”

That made Dick’s skin shiver. Did the contract state that he had access to the warp bay? He couldn’t remember reading that. He just knew Bobby said he would have access, but with Bobby dead and everyone abandoning the station, that wouldn’t get him into the bay. He had to play it smart. He would definitely have access to the guest dock, his old ship, Transport 1, would be waiting there, it would be hyper drive less, and low on fuel, but it would be waiting there none the less. But then there was the mission he was assigned to think about. There was the bonus Bobby had written into the contract. Flinton must have had at least a two month’s lead on them, and that was just counting distance. They still had to figure out where it was she had gone, and what it was she was planning to do.

“I’m going to the warp bay.”

“I will meet you there, sir. I will enter the ship through the re-entering chamber after you’ve left the station.”

“Sounds good.”

Dick slowed as he passed a room with the label DETAINEES written above it. He thought of the woman Henry and him had brought to the station: Alex Flinton. Surely someone had thought to empty the detainee room. They wouldn’t just leave her there, right?

He stood in front of the door, his knees shaking, his heart pounding. He didn’t have time to think. 

He reached for the print reader and pressed his thumb to it. The screen lit green with acceptance and the doors slid open.

“Welcome, Temporary Detective Richard Shannon.”

Dick smirked at the door’s greeting. He hadn’t looked at the contract’s new label for his position, apparently he was now Captain Temporary Detective, Dick Shannon. He couldn’t wait to run that one by Henry. 

Dick ran past the empty cells. He stopped at the Fs, and looked through the glass shield to see Alex Flinton, lying on the floor with her hands over her eyes. Her cell was a mess. She had torn the frame of the metal bed apart and tried breaking the shield with a piece of it. The glass was pressure resistant, but there were scratch marks where she had beat it.

Dick pressed his thumb over the keypad to the door and entered his employee ID number. The glass shield raised. “We have to go.”

Alex lowered her hands from her face and looked up at Dick, her opened mouth slapped shut when she saw who he was. She stood and hurried out of the room.

“Henry, I have the prisoner, Alex Flinton.” She was speeding ahead of him. Already trying to escape again, he thought. Well not this time, lady. He increased his pace, catching her. “No one grabbed her from her cell. We’re headed to the warp bay.”

“Negative, sir. The warp bay will detach in approximately 89.32 seconds. You will not make it from your current location.”

“We’ll hurry!”

Dick was at Alex’s side now, he grabbed her hand and pulled her along, running as fast as he could.

“That will not be enough, sir. Running at your top speed, you will not beat the explosives detonation. You will be 37.67 seconds too late.”

“Dammit, Henry. Round up!” Death was beating down on his door, but the damn numbers still drove him crazy. He wanted to laugh from the absurdity. Laugh that he would die on this station with a woman who’d once tried to kill him who he was now trying to save, and with the voice of a harvest bot in his ear, describing to him exactly how it would happen.

“Sorry, sir. You will be 38 seconds late.”

“Dammit! Damn! It!” Dick’s brain ached from the adrenalin rushing through him. He needed access to those warp ships to catch Flinton, to fulfill his contract, make his pay, and then retire to a quiet Earth life. But right now he just needed to survive. “The guest dock. Henry, how long do we have before it detaches?

“Approximately 6 minutes.”

Alex tried to pull her hand from Dick’s, but he gripped it harder. “What are we doing?” she said, her voice angry and full of fear.

“Trying to stay alive. Run faster!”

 

*    *    *

 

The doors to the guest dock slid open. The wing was filled with abandon ships of all varieties, but there was only one Dick was interested in.

“This is crazy,” Alex said, her breaths hard and labored. “What the hell is happening? Why is the building falling apart?”

Dick’s face contorted. “I don’t know, but it’s not an accident.” He kept his pace up, hurrying down the entrance runway, looking for his damaged ship. Dick found it. The words TRANSPORT 1 were printed on the side of it in large block letters.

Dick inserted his access card into the door and pressed his thumb to the print reader. He turned back to Alex who was still in the runway. “Are you coming?”

 She was dressed in a yellow jumpsuit—detainee number 67 written on the breast pocket—her arms were crossed over her chest. “I’m not getting on that thing. Not again.”

“This place is going to be floating away in a matter of minutes. If you want to go with it, that’s your choice.”

Dick walked inside the familiar quarters of his ship—he left the door open. Dick took a seat behind the helm. “Henry, how are we doing on time?”

“You have less than two minutes, sir.”

Cutting it close, he thought, as always. He checked the pressure gauges of the ship, tapping their digital screens awake.

He smiled at the sound of stomping feet echoing behind him. Alex took a seat in the back cabin, her arms still folded across her chest, her face locked in a scowl. 

Dick closed the door. “All right,” he said to Henry. “Are you in place for pickup?”

“I am 60 feet outside of the exterior doors, awaiting your exit. I will latch onto the re-entering chamber door as you pass by.”

“Got it.” Dick inserted his card into the ship’s ignition and flipped on the display.

“Good evening, Captain.”

“Evening, Computer. Activate hover pads and unlock breaks.”

The ship shook as the landing magnets came off of the station’s guest bay and folded back into the ship.

“Computer, open communications with Station 1’s automated systems. We need the guest bay airlock opened.”

Lights on the dashboard display lit as the computer opened communications.

“Your request has been denied. Miracle Grocer Product Stations require an attendant present for all arrivals and departures from any docking bay. Currently there is no one present on the station.”

“No shit.” Dick looked out at the empty docking bay, his heart sinking.

“Henry, we’ve got a problem. The doors won’t open without someone physically present at the station. Can you override it somehow?”

“Sir, brace—”

Dick couldn’t hear the robot over the shaking and rattling of the ship. The docking bay tore away from the station, leaving a gaping black hole in the bay where the door just was. Everything in the bay was moving in slow motion, drifting weightlessly. And then the glass shield closed over the opening. The ship hurtled toward the roof of the room as the velocity of the explosion combined with the room’s sudden gravity propelled them.

“Activate landing magnets! Computer, activate magnets!”

The ship’s magnetic arms scraped against the walls of the bay, the squeal of metal on metal echoing through the chamber. The ship jerked to a stop as the magnets latched onto a side wall. The transport swayed side to side, as the room spun through space. Dick watched the landing gears bending and buckling on the ships in front of them.

He turned to look behind him, all of the important equipment was attached to the ship, the only things strewn around were his clothes and a few checkers pieces.

“Computer, increase the linear gravity by 100 percent.”

“Gravity increased.”

 Dick unbuckled himself and moved toward the back cabin. 

Alex Flinton was sprawled on the floor, her blonde hair twisted in a mess that resembled the same twisting of the bone in her leg. Dick looked away, holding back vomit. “You need strapped in.”

Dick pulled her to a cushioned bench in the cabin and wrapped the straps around her shoulders and stomach.

Her pupils were enlarged, the light in them gone. He put a hand over her chest, checking her heartbeat. It was fast, but still there.

“Henry, we need to get out of here.” Dick sat back down in the pilot’s seat and strapped himself in. “I don’t know how long the landing gears are going to hold. The ship is swaying pretty hard.” Dick looked at the ships in front of him. It was their landing gears he was more worried about, not Transport 1’s. If the other ships’ gears were to snap they would roll around in the spinning bay until they came crashing into his.

“Sir, I am currently on the outside of the guest docking bay.”

“On the glass?” Dick squinted his eyes. “I don’t see you.”

“No, the glass is not penetrable. I am on one of the exterior walls. It is unmarked, so I cannot give you an exact location. But if you use the ship cameras you should be able to see my torch. I’m making several cuts in the wall along the joints.”

“Computer, split screen on all cameras.”

Dick scanned the screen as eight different boxes filled the display. “There. Computer split screen with cameras A and CB.”

A bright red light sprayed through one of the metal walls on camera CB. “I see you, Henry!”

“Excellent, sir. I will finish making the necessary cuts in the wall’s joints, and then I will mark where you’ll need to impact the wall.”

“Impact? You want me to ram the wall with the ship?”

“Precisely.”

Dick looked down the runway. It was short, and filled with at least three other ships that he could see. “How fast do I need to be going?”

“For the impact to successfully breach the wall, the ship will need to be going at least 230-miles-per-hour.”

Dick choked on his own laugh. “Henry, that’s not possible in this space. I can get to 150, maybe, but not 230. Can’t we rig it with explosives or something? There has to be something we can use in the bay.”

“Creating an explosive that would form the appropriate sized breach with the resources available in the guest docking bay would take between 20 and 45 minutes, depending on the availability of certain common compounds. I do not believe we will have enough time to attempt that.”

Dick beat his fist against the control console. “Then what the hell do we do? If I can’t get the speed we need to ram it, and if we can’t make a bomb to blow it open, what else is there?”

“Sir, you can get the necessary speed from inside the bay.”

“I can’t, Henry, it’s too small.”

“That is why you will have to circle the bay. One complete loop, without slowing the ship or coming into contact with any foreign objects, would result in a speed exceeding the necessary 230-miles-per-hour.”

“You want me to circle a spinning rectangular box?”

“It is the surest way to escape this scenario.”

Dick straightened up in his seat. He contemplated asking the robot what the success rate of this could be, but he didn’t bother, he knew it was low. And with his head aching, and body drained from stress, the chances would be even lower than what Henry would say. Might as well say goodbye. 

“Goodbye,” Dick said.

“Sorry, sir?”

“Nothing,” Dick cleared his throat. “Computer, warm thrusters.” The ship shook as the engines’ ignited their fuel. “Lock camera CB on current location and minimize screen to sandbox.”

Dick turned to the rear cabin. “Alex, we’re getting ready to fly. Hold on. It might be a little bumpy.”

She said nothing. She lay there against her seat straps, incapacitated. 

“Increase thrust.” Dick held his thumb over the manual release switch for the landing gears. “On my mark, increase thrust by 30 percent.”

Dick wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Let’s give it everything.” Dick pressed the switch and the ship shot forward, grating the side of the bay wall as they flew toward the glass shield.

Dick pulled up on the control wheel, passing over the swaying ships. He turned the ship with the room, almost like he were dancing underwater inside of a submarine. He looked at his speed display, 80-miles-per-hour, and the shield was getting close. He needed to pull away from the wall, but without slowing down that would be impossible. The tail of the ship would smack against the shield if he tried turning without slowing, possibly ripping the ship in half. He couldn’t risk it…but he had to escape while there was still time.

“Hold on!” 

The glass was yards away when Dick pushed the wheel forward and increased the thrust, flipping the ship in the narrow bay.

“Increase thrust 85 percent. No, 90! 90 percent!”

The ship cracked through the air, spinning like an energy-ray. Dick dug his feet into the floor, his teeth smashing in on themselves as they lifted. 

The sound of crashing metallic thunder filled the bay, shaking the walls around the ship.

One of the abandoned ships ricocheted across the room in front of Transport 1. Pieces of it ground off like sawdust as it bounced off the walls. Shards of glass and metal sprayed across the front facing cameras of the ship, tapping the screen with titanium hail. Dick pushed the wheel forward, steering the spinning ship under the lifeless wreck crashing above.

Dick could hear Alex getting sick in the back of the ship. He held back his own vomit.

They were getting close to where Transport 1 had been latched. Close to where Henry was cutting through the ship’s joints.

“Henry, we’re coming in hot. We’re reading at 215 and rising. Where’s your damn mark?”

“I’m sorry, sir. My fuselage was not meant to withstand prolong stints in the vacuum of space. The fuel for my torch has frozen. I’m rerouteing all non-essential circuits to power internal heaters.”

“We’re about to pass where the ship was parked, Henry. We don’t have time for this, reroute all circuits to power the heaters!”

“Yes, sir.”

Henry went silent for seconds that felt like hours; the sweat trickling down Dick’s face stung the corner of his eyes. “Come on…Please…”

“Yes!” Dick screamed as red sparks shot out of the wall.

Dick turned the wheel and increased the thrust to full power. He closed his eyes tight as Transport 1 shot through the wall. The carbon-steel gave way, tearing like tissue paper as the ship jerked its way through.

“Haha! It worked, Henry!”

Dick slowed the ship, steering it clear of the docking bay still hurtling through space.

“Computer split screen on all cameras.

“Henry, you out there buddy? I’m not seeing you.” Dick scanned the screen, looking for any sign of the robot. “Henry?”

Dick turned to the sound of the re-entering chamber doors opening. The robot walked through them, his body beaten from the debris.

“Henry!” Dick jumped from his seat and ran for the robot. He stopped himself from throwing his arms around him. Instead, he grunted and slapped the harvest bot on the side of his cold steel-arm. “Why didn’t you answer me? I was worried I was going to have to turn on the ship’s electrical detection.”

Henry pulled back his index finger and an electronic screw driver twirled. He inserted it into a bolt on his chest and removed a small plate. Beneath it he pulled out a small transistor card. The copper wiring was charred black. He threw it on a workbench, and rummaged through a drawer until he found a replacement and inserted it into his chest.

“I’m sorry, sir, but the rerouting of my primary circuits resulted in the overheating of my language card. Otherwise I would have informed you of my successful attachment to the ship’s hull.”

Dick looked at the robot. His bronze paint chipped in places, his voice card sitting on the counter, fried. “No problem, Henry…I’m just glad the whole thing worked. Craziest thing we’ve ever done.” He laughed, but it felt hollow.

“It is not crazy to follow a strategy of relative statistical safety. It has been argued by some humans that is the exact opposite of crazy.”

“Right, right, right. You can pull up a quote of anyone arguing anything, but that doesn’t change that we’re lucky to be alive.” Dick grinned. “That I’m lucky to be alive.”

“You and the female captive, sir. She is still alive as well.”

Dick’s eyes widened. “Shit. Grab a med kit. And pull open a medical file on setting a broken leg.”

“I will open multiple files.”

Dick hurried to the back of the ship, stepping over the checkers pieces strewn across the floor.

New Schedule by Kenneth Buff

For awhile now I've had a goal of writing a thousand words a day, which is an obtainable goal for me (or at least was), but not a very realistic one with my lifestyle and my writing style. I like to have time to think about my story throughout the week, to let ideas grow and strengthen. I chose the 1k a day words because it's what Hugh Howey suggests. If you write 1,000 words a day, then you'll be able to write two novels a year and still have time to edit them. I haven't been having trouble writing novels, it's the editing that takes time (I have three novels written I need to publish, one of them I'm currently editing).

The big issue that's been slowing down my editing lately is my new day job. I'm now working as a special education teacher in Oklahoma for an emotionally disturbed classroom. It's a high stress job that has high rewards when you see success, but the success is something you have to work hard to achieve, and even still, there are major setbacks. That being said, I'm spending a lot of time outside of work either preparing for this job, or I'm feeling so stressed from the job that I'm unable to convince myself to sit down and write (editing in that mindset doesn't even come up as an option for me).

Despite this, I'm making it work. Weekends are my bread and butter for editing. I try to spend at least a solid four hours going over Dick and Henry, smoothing out the story, cutting fat, and strengthening characters who need strengthening. It's been a fun process, and I'm convinced the final product will be something people who are fans of the series will really enjoy. I'm also getting some new writing done during the week now (I did convince myself to write a little a couple of nights on a new story I'm working on. The experience was almost like therapy, distracting me from the stresses of my job that I've been finding difficult to let go).

What the future has in store for me I have no idea, I'm just taking it day by day. But I can tell you what October-November has in store for me, or rather, what I'll have in the Kindle Store by then. Dick and Henry And The Temporary Detective. I hope you guys are ready for it.

Dick and Henry: The Temporary Detective by Kenneth Buff

I'm currently working on what I hope will be the final draft of Dick and Henry: The Temporary Detective. This is a book that was first started in Longmont, Colorado, and I am now finishing in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

It started off as my NaNoWriMo project, but I didn't quite finish during November. The contest definitely helped me stay on track, kept me writing most days, but I still ended up writing it in my usual span of three months (the first draft anyways). I had my writing buddies take a look at it (another three month process) and now I'm working on my latest draft (which I'm hoping will be the final, but if it's not, the next one will be). I'm getting really good at editing this time around, which is nice. Or really, drafting. The characters have improved so much with every draft I've done with this guy, and I wouldn't have been able to do it without the feedback and support of my writing group, so guys, if you're listening, thanks.

Yeah, this is a bit of a stream of conscious post, but eh, it's been awhile since I've updated on here with what my latest project is, so I needed to do a post. Been a little crazy with the move and new job, but things should level out in the near future and I'll be able to hit this draft pretty hard. If not, I'll still be able to hit hard on the weekends, which is what I've been doing this weekend.

Dick and Henry: The Temporary Detective should be ready by November at the latest, but I'd like to get published by October, which is a very realistic date, pending the cover art. Check here (the blog) and Facebook for updates

 

Classroom Rules by Kenneth Buff

I'm taking an online class and this weeks assignment in a behavior class I'm taking is to make classroom rules. Since I already teach a class, it wasn't very difficult to compile my list. Here it is in all it's glory:

I teach a special ed classroom at Skyline elementary for students with academic and emotional needs. I teach KG through 4th. Here are five original classroom rules I have for my room.

1.) Only two people can be in the firetruck tent.

2.) The firetruck tent and the reading buddies are for reading, not playing.

3.) Everyone's needs must be met (teacher's and students').

4.)  In Mr. Buff's room we practice non-violent communication when we have disagreements.

5.) If our hands go in our mouths we must wash our hands or use the sanitizer.

(Rules 3 & 4)

Most of these rules will be discussed the first day of services with my students. I'll stand in front of the class, I'll model what emotional needs are, and we will compile a list of our emotional needs on the board (the kids will be very involved with this) and then once I've done this with all my groups (I'll take a picture of each classes needs on the board so I can compile them later) I'll compile them onto the bulletin board so the students will be able to see the needs that we've decided as a class must be met by everyone for us to feel safe and comfortable. If these needs are not met we will use non-violent communication with whoever is involved in the situation until we have come to an agreement on how to have everyone's needs met. I will teach the students how to use non-violent communication by modeling the skill, and through guiding them by being the mediator during disputes (all disputes will require non-violent communication in my class).

These rules will be effective because students do not want to be angry, and using non-violent communication elevates anger, and satisfies everyone's emotional needs. Having the rule about emotional needs needing to be met will be effective for the same reasons. No one wants to be unhappy, so as we build our class community and discuss feelings the students will feel become better able to realize when their behavior has interfered with someone else's needs.

(Rules 1 & 2)

The rules about the fire truck are mostly logistical. It's a big tent, and we could squeeze in about four third graders, but it's just too crowded for that, and it's too distracting to have that many children that close together (not a lot of reading happens when you have four kids sitting side by side in a cloth firetruck tent). So the rule exists to meet our academic objectives of becoming better readers, and the children respect this rule because it makes sense. When this rule is violated I remind them (redirect them) that the rule is that only two students can be in the firetruck tent, and that they need to figure out who's going to stay in and who's going to leave to find another reading spot. They almost always sort it out themselves.

The tent is only for reading because I teach academics, so that's what we use it for. The kids understand this, but if they forget I remind them, tell them what I need from them, and they almost always comply in a reasonable amount of time. If they do not comply in a reasonable amount of time, we have a discussion about it (using non-violent communication, I would explain my needs that are not being met and how that makes me feel. I would ask them to help me come up with a plan to meet my needs and their needs).

These rules are effective because the kids understand why they exist, and they perceive them as being just rules.

(Rule 5)

This one is mostly because it just grosses me out. It's more of an unspoken rule that my kids who like to stick their hands in their mouths find out about me, because I ask them to use the purell every time they do it. The kids understand that this is considered a health thing because germs live in your mouth, and when you stick your hand in it you get germs on your hands. I've never had a kid not comply when I've asked them to wash their hands or use the purell, but if I did, I would explain to them why it's important to wash the germs off their hands (lots of students use the work area they are in, some of the younger kids may have a week immune system, it's gross, etc.).

This rule is effective because the kids understand why it exists and usually agree that germs are bad, or at the very least understand that other people think it's gross (including me) so they conform to the social norm of washing their hands (thank goodness).

The Lines by Kenneth Buff

If you spend any time on Facebook at all, you've noticed the lines in the sand forming. The meme's flying, the if-I-offend-you-unfriend-mes, and it's all a little, I don't know, rage building possibly? I definitely feel emotionally charge after 45 minutes of reading strangers comments on the posts of public figures I follow. People clamoring for Gary Johnson (don't get me started on that line in the sand, it's one that particularly irks me, but, okay, since you asked I'll delve into that later) in the comments, decrying that Hillary is just as awful as Trump. People tell me that Wiki-leaks-dude is going to release more emails, revealing how awful Hillary really is (because so far nothing has proven any wrongdoing on her part...literally nothing has), to which I respond, "the Internet also said Anonymous was going to hunt down and kill ISIS. How'd that work out?" Needless to say, I don't believe Internet rumors. The only one I've seen come to fruition was the Fappening (the hacking and leaking of Hollywood actresses nude selfies), make of that what you will.

Now, I'm personally not happy with the election. I don't know many people who are (and, honestly, people usually aren't happy during elections. People love to complain.), but I'm unhappy for different reasons. Mostly because we passed up the opportunity for a guy who cares deeply about the American people, and had a vision for pushing the country forward (talking about pushing forward social programs, infrastructure, ending the corrupt campaign finance system and reversing the outrageous income inequality in this country). I'm sad that we didn't' choose progression, but I'm happy and hopeful, because we (the country) showed we're hungry for these ideas, we're just not fully ready to leap into them. But we will be.

I'm obviously not happy that we have a xenophobic fear monger spreading hate across the country. Didn't think I'd see a Republican make it so vogue to be openly full of hate, but really, I'm honestly not that surprised. Trump is the logical conclusion of the standard Republican stump speech amped up to 11. He straight up says the things they only hint at with thinly veiled coded language. At first I enjoyed watching the Party of Hate go up in flames, swallowed by the very ideas they've been pandering to for decades, but now it's nothing short of scary. Especially since he's running against someone who's got her own set of electability problems.

So, I've already said I'm disappointed we didn't vote for progressivism, but I'm also disappointed that the Democratic nominee has so much baggage. Now, there's absolutely no proof that Clinton is corrupt (though there is that the DNC is. Emails reveal they intentionally sandbaged Bernie Sanders' campaign, and if you were following the election you already noticed them obviously doing this), but there's lots of things that suggest this is probably the case, but I'd almost argue it's on the a similar level of Romney, or any other standard politician. I mean, this is by no means a situation I want to find myself in as a voter, voting for a candidate I'm not happy about voting for (thanks to Obama I've been spoiled for the last two elections, actually being able to vote for someone inspiring and genuine), but that's where we are.

Now, about that line I mentioned earlier, the Gary Johnson people. The Libertarian Party in itself has the most ridiculous platform I've ever heard of in American politics. The goal is to abolish most laws, get rid of taxes, and allow you to own any weapon you want (I've had Libertarians tell me they'd be cool with everyone owning a nuclear weapon...and they were serious). So, you want the Wild West. Everyone fends for themselves, and if someone pisses you off, well, it's a good thing you have that gun mounted over your door frame. Without law you by definition have lawlessness. Without taxes you by definition have no social programs or infrastructure—the very things that make modern society modern. Take those things away and we've traveled back in time, where the news comes from the traveling caravan who made it past the blood thirsty marauders to let you know everyone in the town next door is now dead. No thanks.

Well, those are the basic lines we have this year, and those are my thoughts on them. If you're feeling down about them, know that you're not alone. I'm there too, but I have hope for the future, and I believe we'll continue to move forward. Progress is inevitable. We may bitch, we may moan, but progress will win. It always does.

 

Life: Why I Moved Again by Kenneth Buff

It's going well for me. I've moved back to my old home (Oklahoma), got my old job back (special education teacher) at my old school in my old classroom, and I may even be moving back into my old complex. Though I've said "old" a lot, I don't see any of it as a sickly animal clinging on for dear life. I see it all as a comfortable shoe that I'm not only familiar with, but very happy wearing, and now that I'm older, I look damn good in them. Meaning, now that I'm older and more experienced, I know how to teach my ass off, and am ready to get back to it.

Leaving Colorado to move back to Oklahoma was an easy decision for me. Living back here now (Oklahoma) I do miss certain things about CO, but nothing that makes me want to pack up anytime soon. I do like that Colorado lacks bugs (there are some insects there, of course, but not like here), that the weather is mild compared to Oklahoma (at least in the Front Range, maybe the High Country is more extreme, I don't know), and that everyone's into being outside (because the weather is mild, and there are mountains to walk around bug-free). That being said, there are many perks to living in Oklahoma, especially if you've been here very long at all. One, everyone knows my name. It's like the town I live in is Cheers. And it's not because I've been here forever (though, that helps). If you spend a year here you'll bump into people you know shopping at Walmart, or eating at Chick-Fil-A (a local delicacy). That can either be annoying or heartwarming, depending on your constitution, but in terms of forming a career, it is a huge perk.  Which brings me to item two, I matter here. Not saying teaching doesn't matter wherever you do it, but the school I was working at in Colorado, we (the faculty) weren't all on the same page as far as what expectations should be (should we help the kids, or just sit back and collect a check), and the sheer amount of students with needs that weren't being met was not only daunting, but demoralizing. Here I am fortunate to work with passionate teachers who care about their student's well-being. And because the community is small, I KNOW I'm having a measurable affect on my community. I feel a part of it, which is a huge pull for me. Three, I can afford to live here. A teacher's salary in Longmont, Colorado is the same as it is here, only in Longmont the median price of a house is $500,000. Here it's $130,000. Those prices will buy you a decent home, something like 1,300 sq. ft. That's a huge price difference, and me being almost thirty, I'm ready to settle down and plant some seeds (pun intended), so being able to afford a house is another huge bonus. Four, you don't have to own a Subaru in Oklahoma. In the mountains my 2002 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 (known on the internet as the "Two point slow") did not cut it. The car is an automatic 4 cylinder with so many problems I've fixed I could literally write a blog post about them. It's a car that could rightly be called a POS, but it works. Gets from point A to B, and does so efficiently, as long as point A and B do not include mountains (found this out when the 2-point-slow wouldn't go over 20 climbing a mountain, and the engine started smoking...turned out it just needed oil—it leaks it. I would have kept going, but my wife didn't want to push it. I wanted to see what the Slow could do, but alas, I'll never know). But here, owning a shitty car is not a handicap. You can get away with driving anything on the Great Plains, and that is another perk for someone who's been part of the working poor their entire life (the mountain of debt I'm in has made it difficult to get out of that caste even with a career job, but I don't really mind. Life is cheap here, and debt is just a number. Sort of like age, and both do disappear when you die).

Well, those are my reasons for coming back to the Land Heaven Forgot. It's a great place to start a life. I can't wait to see where it takes me.

 

 

Ubiquity Does Not Equal Victory by Kenneth Buff

I've noticed lately that some of my friends and family are getting a little down about the election (Can we call it that? How many months until November?), and I can't blame them, it's like watching a train wreck. Hillary is cleared of any wrong doing about using a private email server, but the director of the FBI investigation calls her "extremely careless," while on the other side of the isle Trump compliments Gaddafi and Tweets an anti-Semitic picture of Hillary Clinton (David Duke ends up endorsing the Tweet, everyone else who isn't affiliated with the KKK says its anti-Semitic...except of course, for Donald Trump). So I understand looking at those things and thinking "shit," but I don't understand the fear that Trump will win. While I'll say it is possible for him to win—this would require Hillary to make a mistake so huge I can't even conjecture one that would be plausible—it is extremely unlikely. I do, however believe I understand why people are starting to believe he will win, and I believe that reason is simple. He's everywhere. You can't turn the television on for an hour of news without him being mentioned. Some idiotic statement he's made will undoubtedly be one of the top 5 headlines on any news site, and it's even likely one of his Tweets will be the top story. It sounds like a bizarre satire of the American political system, but it's in fact reality. Now, putting aside the fact that this is insane, that we've allowed a sociopath to take over the airwaves, the fact still remains that he can't win the presidency. Here's why:

  • Demographics: He doesn't have them. It's no exaggeration to say Donald Trump is the candidate white supremacists have been waiting for. He's the guy who has made being racists vogue again. So, generally speaking, if you're a minority (and there's a 37% chance that you are) you're not going to vote for this guy, if you're a woman (and there's a 47% chance that you are) you're not going to vote for this guy, or if you're a person who cares about either of those above mentioned demographics you're not going to vote for this guy.
  • The race hasn't even started yet: Hillary hasn't even begun to hammer at this guy. She's thrown light punches, but as November gets closer those punches will get harder. He'll play dirty of course, it's what he does, but insults will only carry so much weight in the general election, especially when there's a mountain of bullshit that will be used against him.
  • He's the weakest candidate in modern history: Trump won a major party nomination off of one demographic for a political party that is primarily made of that demographic (white uneducated males). His campaign has no infrastructure, and no cash. Trump has no policies. Other than "I'm building a wall" he has no concrete proposals, everything changes depending on the crowd and his mood. And if that weren't enough, he's also one of the most disliked candidates in history.
  • The Republican Party is 26% of the electorate: Which means he needs to win over independents to win, the 42% of Americans who decide elections. Despite the name, independents are formed of Democratic and Republican leaning voters. In 2008 14% of these voters voted Democrat who said they were Democratic leaning, while 14% voted Republican who said they were Republican leaning. Only 12% were truly independent, who claimed to have no leaning prior to the election. So a Trump victory comes down to winning 7% of a diverse voting block. He can't do it. He doesn't have the numbers on his side.

So, that's my thought on the matter. Trump will not win the presidency, but that won't stop him from Tweeting and saying whatever garbage happens to pop into his "very good brain" between now and November. So, in the meantime, make sure your registered to vote, and never give up hope on good winning out.

The Safest Time In History by Kenneth Buff

I'm a big news guy. I read it, I listen to it, and some days watch it. Just little spurts here and there. NPR in the car, the Huffington post in the mornings on my phone while I eat breakfast, Nightly News in the evening before dinner. It's part of the routine, and it's a productive way to fill those minutes in between other blocks of the day. Usually I enjoy these little moments of information. Finding out what's going on in Congress and around the world helps me to feel less angry, because at the very least I understand the motives and the events that led up to the current events, which helps things feel less out of control. In other words, it helps me feel like a member of society, instead of some loan cog, sitting motionless around spinning wheels. But lately it's been hard to not feel discouraged. ISIS, mass shootings, the BrEXIT, and Donald Trump are all anyone seems to be talking about these days. And when this is all the stuff you hear, it begins to feel that we must be living in a terrible world indeed. It's in those moments that I have to remind myself that we live in the safest time in history. Humans existing today have the highest life expectancy of any humans ever in the history of the world. Our chances of being murdered, of dying of disease, of being killed by another human being in any way (including terrorist attacks) are the smallest they have ever been in history. It's a great time to be alive.

So if that's the case (which it is), then why doesn't it feel that way? Why does the television (radio/newspaper/cell phone) fill us with fear? Because that's what they choose to focus on. That whole news idiom, if it bleeds, it leads, is undeniably true. Talk to anyone in the business and they'll confirm it. Hell, flip on the news and confirm it for yourself, it won't take you long to notice the pattern. So, why does the news choose to lead with bleeding? Simple. It grabs our attention. Showing graphs of the historic peace on Earth isn't as gripping as a plane going down across the planet, or a train falling off the tracks. Now, should those things be news? Sure, but should they be hammered over our head and spun into a greater threat than they really are? Of course not, but that's just what happens every time any disaster happens. The anchor takes it home, makes it personal by asking some expert what the odds are of it happening to us, and then asks us to think of the families, et cetera, et cetera. Yes, people dying is tragic, we should do our best to improve technology and culture so that it happens less (Which we are always doing. Progress has proven to be inevitable), but filling ourselves with fear over things that are very unlikely to happen does nothing to better ourselves or our society. It clouds our judgment by skewing our perspective of the world.

I don't believe that because we've hit a historic high for human safety that we should stop, and nor do I believe we ever will (As I said, progress has proven to be stubbornly persistent), but we need to keep things in perspective. For every 8 deaths there are 19 births. Life is winning out. So instead of turtling up, or getting stress headaches over the world supposedly going up in flames, just remember, that you live in the safest time in history, and that's a great thing.

The Power of Editing and Other Eyes by Kenneth Buff

So I started my 2nd draft of Dick and Henry tonight. I take my laptop with me to my favorite coffee shop, drink my tea, chew on my scone, and I read what my writing buddies have said about my chapters. I already know some of what they've said. I know the major things I should work on, the big character and plot issues that need addressed to satisfy the reader. But I want to know the nitty gritty stuff of the scenes I'm about to work on, so I read their comments. I see that there's a lot of work to be done here, but rather than that looking daunting, it looks fun to me. I see it as an opportunity to not only improve the work, but to come up with something fun to say, to find the meaning of the scene and the motivations of the characters. Because there's nothing particularly wrong with the scene, I've set it up well, it's just the finer points that are off. The characters aren't talking right, not behaving the way their motives should dictate. So I fix those things, and I add some depth. I breathe life into the scene, and I feel like the characters are becoming real. Are becoming more than just things I've imagined, but things people can relate to, things that don't seem like things at all. Which is how I know I'm doing my job right.

This may be the most fun part of writing. It's the part most writers hate, but I'm finding that with each subsequent book I write that I enjoy it more and more. I also think it helps that the writers in my writing group all have such a great relationship with each other. We're not afraid to speak the truth. Which I can tell you, if I hadn't been told what was lacking in my scenes from someone other than me, it would have taken me too long to discover it. It's impossible to overstate the importance of outside eyes on your first drafts of your books. It's a pivotal part of the process for me. It's the weed killer for my garden. It keeps the dung beetles off my trees. Keeps the Dutch Elm at bay. But yes, here I am again feeling like I'm improving my work and my art more than I have ever before, and I'm positive that I'm right, because it all just feels right. But, I'll let you guys decide. Hoping to have Dick and Henry out by November, but if I keep up this pace, it could be out in September. Until then, don't forget to check out my latest books, Sunborn and Phidelphius.

My 2016 In Writing by Kenneth Buff

2016 might just be my best year for publishing, well, since I've started anyways, way back in November of 2014. I've just published Phidelphius, half of my editing group has already gone through Dick and Henry: The Novel, and I just finished up the first draft of Lady Luck. It's looking like I'll easily get two books published this year. Hell, if I'm feeling ambitious, I might shoot for three. Now none of this means I'm working faster than I have in the past. I've always written a lot, I'm just now getting more efficient at everything else. The big thing being editing.

So with that in mind, here's my current goals for the year:

  • Finish a second draft of Dick and Henry in a month. Have it edited by my editor in one month. Commission the cover which will be done in one month. Release the book on Amazon in September or October.
  • Have the writing group start editing Lady Luck as soon as the other half finishes editing Dick and Henry (hopefully in one month). Start on second draft of Lady Luck, hopefully finish in one to two months (most likely one month). Go with different artist for Lady Luck cover, hopefully finish the cover in two to four weeks. Publish in November.

So, those are my tentative plans. Things have been going pretty solid at the Buff writing mill, but I'm going to pause that part of the factory and focus on rewrites and good old fashioned editing.

Well, that's it for today's update. Oh, and if you haven't, make sure to grab yourself a copy of Phidelphius while it's still hot off the presses.

Phidelphius Unboxing by Kenneth Buff

Student Debt, Debtors' Prison by Kenneth Buff

I've always joked about it. Having accumulated a ridiculous amount of debt so fast and having received nothing tangible for it. An education is of course a great thing, but depending on your chosen career field, and the amount of student debt it took you to get there, well, depending on how those things went, the situation can sometimes look bleak.

So let me confess. I'm a teacher. I'm a writer too, but teacher mostly. In college I was a dumb kid. I was offered a bunch of money with bad interest rates that weren't explained to me very well, and well, now I'm not so dumb, and I can see the real world implications of what I've drowned myself in. In college taking large sums of money that offer you the chance to go to Europe and drink legally at the age of 19 (that's not what I did or why I went, but it was the popular thing to do for many of my classmates) it's really hard to say no to it. It's also nice to have a little extra when that Geo you've been driving gets struck by a Tundra and you'd like to replace it with an overpriced European car, because hey, Europe is cool, that's why we've got all this money for, remember? But needless to say, I graduated with a lot of debt, probably twice the amount necessary to get the degree I got, and the career field I chose was not a high paying one, despite the amount of work and energy required to teach, and despite the importance teaching has on the future of society. But that's another thing for another time. But my point is, I was dumb. I had no one older than me to look to for advice, and everybody else was taking in the cash too, so who was I to say no? I'm not better than Jimmy. In fact, Jimmy might be better than me if I don't take the money, he's got a new Xbox in his apartment. Who would I be if I were left behind?

So I was dumb. And now I'll pay for it. Not just in the literal since of repayment, but in the sorts of limitations that go with having lots of debt. I try not to look at the numbers, to stare at the interests rates too long, because if I do, I'll feel nothing but an all consuming bout of depression. And as we all know too well, life is very short. Even if you're indebted for half your life, as I will more than likely be, you're still alive. You still eat, laugh, love. Nothing of real value has been lost. And even if it had, wallowing won't water the money tree. So, I choose to stand, instead of fall. Hoping one day I'll work hard enough long enough to find the key to my self-made debtors' prison, but if I don't, if I never see the exit of this metaphorical place, I'll still have my life, and everything that comes with it. What more could I ask for?

That's Why It's An Idiom by Kenneth Buff

I love learning. It's a quality I think every good teacher needs. In my opinion it's a quality every person needs in order to have a life that's worth living. I'm not insinuating you should knock yourself off if you don't have a particular taste for Nietzsche or DIY home improvement projects, but I do think everyone should be constantly striving to understand something. It's really the biggest problem we face, well, if we avoid all the other problems we face. Starvation, cancer, random and cruel death, if none of those things ever happen to us, eventually we run out reasons to keep going, our bodies literally wear out. I think the same goes for our minds.

Now, I've written before about my particular learning style The old learn by failing. It's not a bad strategy. You look at what doesn't work and then don't do that. Only I tend to be the thing I'm looking at that didn't work. There's better ways to learn things. Reading (about other people's failures; about their successes), videos, talking to people. It's really endless in the world we live in. We can become quasi experts in almost anything. You can learn how to publish a book. Build a table. Raise a guinea pig. Whatever it is you're interested in, you can do it. You don't even have to be interested in it. You might need to learn how to do something out of need. Car breaks and you can't afford to pay to have it fixed, but you can afford the part. Type in your car's symptoms into google and you'll find an answer, probably even a video detailing how to make the repair step by step visually. 

The thing that is so awe inspiring to me about getting older is that I feel that I'm becoming a better learner. I'm less stubborn, I'm more patient, and probably not as much of a pain in the ass for other people (though that'll never be fully cured till I'm dead). To me, not only does my life have more purpose since I've dedicated to one of improvement, in gaining more knowledge and skill in the crafts I've chosen to craft, it's also more enjoyable. There's less worry over simple shit. The little things that can eat you up. You know, those things. You know what they are when you see them in other people. When the woman at the grocery counter curses the bag boy for putting the vegetables in the bag with the meat. When the college frat boy threatens to call corporate if they don't return his dirty flat screen at the service desk (yes, there's a pattern here with my examples...I spend too much time inside Walmart). But it's these things, the little things that we think if only they were right. If I could just have this one thing be the way I want it to be. Then my life would be perfect. That's a lie we tell ourselves. A story. Because there's always something else. Nothing is ever perfect. And here's a secret you already know: There is no perfect. Perfect is an idea. It doesn't exist, and it can't. Google defines perfect as having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be. We know this never happens. We believe we've experienced perfect moments. But even in them we could find things that weren't ideal, but those things just add to our endearment of the memories, the fact that we endured less than Nicholas Sparks perfection and still found enjoyment in any moment makes it that much more special. When really that's just life. That's existence. Things are neither inherently good or bad, they just are, and we assign our feelings towards them and give it a label. I think this is something all of us know, on some level. Our coffee wasn't cold today because we've been spited, it just happened to be cold today for whatever reason. Shit happens. That's why it's an idiom.

But I guess, all I'm really trying to say is that I'm enjoying the aging process. I think it's done me good. I'm sure at a certain point I'll think it's done me bad, and I hope to be lucky enough to live long enough to be able to say that. Because nothing is certain. That's why it's an idiom.

 

Phidelphius Is Here by Kenneth Buff

So that's another one in the bag! You can snag Phidelphius today in ebook or paperback by clicking here for the ebook or here for the paperback. Also, Sunborn, the first book in the series, is on sale today for 99¢, so take advantage and grab both books if you don't have either. They're also both in Kindle Unlimited, so if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber you can read them both for free (as well as my other books).

I'd like to say some thanks to a few people for helping this book to be the book it's become. Thanks go to Quinn Baldwin, Sasha Abernathy, and Kyle Frederick. Their comments and suggestions helped shape where the story ended up going, and I'd like to thank them for their time and honest opinions. I'd also like to thank Michael Rubi for being a constant reader of my first drafts, and for helping with cover design, text, and formatting. Thanks also go to Tony Cleeton, thanks for lending your eye. Lastly I'd like to thank my wife. Thanks for letting me spend countless hours working on these things, babe. I swear they'll help pay the electric bill one day (or at least the water bill).

Poem by Kenneth Buff

The nights are lonely. The nights are long. Fill the time, but it all feels wrong.

The door is open, but there's no one home. I sing her song to an empty room, I hear applause but there's no one home. I've loved empty, I've loved strong. I love her more when I belong. I want to belong. I want to belong. It won't be long till I am gone.

 

Phidelphius & Writing Flow by Kenneth Buff

Well, the time is finally here (almost). The art is in for Phidelphius, the edit is done, now the only thing left is the text. My text buddy (or typography buddy, if you will) is in Mexico right now, so it'll be a little bit before that's completed, but the book will be available on Amazon by next week. So that puts me at just under a year between my last publication (Sunborn was published in July of last year), which means I need to publish these guys a little faster if I'm going to meet the quota I've set for myself (2 books published a year). That quota is totally doable for me, I just need to get more efficient at a couple things. Those things being editing (which I'm getting my team to be faster at) and cover art. I definitely write two books a year (at least first drafts), so all there is after that is sanding down of the rough edges and then packaging (editing and cover art). Editing is becoming more efficient as I do much of the final steps myself, but the first major steps of editing I rely heavily on my writing group, which is great because their eyes catch story and character things that need strengthened that I might not otherwise catch without them. And the as for the art, I'm going to play around with covers with a few of my coming titles, trying more of a bear bones approach (one it'll be cheaper, but it will also get the books out faster, which is a win win).

But alas, I started this post to let you guys see the new cover, so here it is:

Pretty cool art, right? My buddy Maciej Wojtala did the art for this guy and Sunborn and Dick and Henry. He's looking for more indie authors to work for, so if you're interested in hiring him, check him out on his site.

 

Filling You In by Kenneth Buff

So, I wanted to fill you guys in a little on where my current projects are. So Phidelphius (the sequel to Sunborn) is going to be released sometime in the next two weeks. The final draft is completed and edited, just waiting on artwork. I have two other completed novels that need to be redrafted and edited several times. Those are Dick and Henry: The novel (real title still to be decided) and a dystopian sci-fi called The Breachers. Dick and Henry will come out first, it'll be released somewhere around the end of the year. Then either The Breachers or Lady Luck will be next. Lady Luck is a dark fantasy that I'm currently working on about a guy who just can't seem to get things to ever go his way.

The process of releasing novels has become a long one for me, but in a lot of ways that's good because it ensures quality control. I'm trying to strike a balance between releasing a good amount of novels a year (2 is ideal) and making sure the edit and rewrites for them are as strong as I can possibly make them. It's been a learning experience, getting down a project flow that works for me, and I'm always adapting as things change. But I'm definitely working on it everyday, writing, editing, and planning out the future of my two current series (Sunborn and Dick and Henry).

Speaking of my series, if you have any comments or suggestions for Sunborn or Dick and Henry, feel free to reach out on here or Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads. I know some people have expressed their excitement for a full length Dick and Henry novel, but if you have anything you'd like to see in a future novel or story with those guys, let me know. Same goes for Daniels' adventures in Sunborn. If there are certain aspects about that world or Daniels' history that you'd like to know more about, drop me a line. The world definitely gets expanded on in Phidelphius, but the third book in the series (possibly final book) will take things even further, so let me know if there's anything you're dying to have revealed and maybe I'll work it in somewhere if it fits the story's current progression. No promises of course, but hey, you never know.