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.

2016 Writing Calendar by Kenneth Buff

Been a while since I've updated my agenda on my blog, so with the year almost being over, thought I should do that. Here's the current projects I have and the dates or rough estimates of dates I have for editing of them and publication.

  • Dick and Henry And The Temporary Detective. Dick and Henry is now complete. I'm waiting on artwork for this cover. Once the artwork is complete I'll format the file and work on getting some text on the art. I want this to be published by the end of November, but it could come out sooner if things move quickly. Estimated Publishing Date: Mid-Late November, 2016
  • Lady Luck. This is a dark fantasy about a man who's cursed to never get what he wants. Right now it's under the editing pen of my writing group, we should finish with it in January or February, and from there I'll write the second draft, edit it, and then edit it again. Estimated Publishing Date: Spring 2017.
  • The Breachers. Is a dystopian novel about a world where the state test doesn't just decide if a child moves onto the next grade, it decides if they live or die. Classroom manager Albert Hadley must make the decision to the save his job or save the children he's been hired to categorize. The first draft of this novel is complete. I expect that this will be the next novel for my editing group to work on after Lady Luck, though there is a chance The Moon could jump ahead of it in line if I complete it in the next two months. Estimated Publishing Date: Winter 2017–Fall 2018
  • The Moon. This is my current work in progress. It's a multi-POV blending of genre's, that spans across multiple geographic locations. I'm 20,000 words into it right now, and I plan to finish around 70,000. I expect to complete this in two to three months, but this may be optimistic. Depending on when this project is complete it may or may not be the next work to go into the editing mill of my writing group. Estimated Publishing Date: Fall 2018

The Moon by Kenneth Buff

If you don't follow me on Facebook, you should look me up. My author page is: Kenneth Buff—Author. I post excerpts from my books, and screen shots of my writing progress in Scrivener. I do this because I get excited, and because I like to share where I am. There's a bit of a fear that because writing is such a long process that my reader's may forget about me, or assume I've given up on publishing new works. This is not the case of course (me giving up writing, I don't know whether people assume this or not, but it's a slight fear most writers I know have), but I still like to post to let people know I'm still around, and it's just fun. I post on Facebook because it's quick and easy, and I often just post the image or quote, so no need for a blog post. But, if you don't follow me, here's a little taste of what my Facebook followers see:

Screenshot from my work in progress, The Moon.

Screenshot from my work in progress, The Moon.

So, this is what I'm working on now. It's a multi-POV story that takes place in multiple locations. Been fun to write something different, and to take the advice my writing group is giving me about my other works and then applying those ideas to this story.

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