Operation: A Novel Diet


Earlier last month I developed something of a strategy for plugging through my creative writing endeavors.  As of now, that largely consists of my seventh and most probable novel attempt to date: ‘Doubting Puppet’.  But, between my own lack of discipline, direction, and motive, I was running behind on my prose work.  As such, in a stroke of inspiration both brilliant and asinine, I created a “Diet” that demanded my attention as an aspiring author.  It came to me one night while I was trying to sleep (the darnedest and most frequent time for these things) and I started making rules/conditions, which I would then apply to my life a couple days later.

The basic premise: I can only eat as many calories one day as the number of words I wrote the day before.

Don’t misunderstand the intention of this idea.  I like food.  My goal is to eat food.  Therefore, calling this a “diet” isn’t completely accurate, but for now that’s its moniker.  The goal is to write more, at the cost of food.  And, with a few modifications along the way, it has worked.  My average prior to 02/16, when I started the diet, was roughly 400 words.  As you can see, it’s jumped tremendously.

02/14 – 857 words
02/15 – 232 words (+Editing in preparation)
02/16 – 1400 words approx. (Begin Operation)
02/17 – 1500 words approx.
02/18 – 1200 words approx.
02/19 – 187 words (Inhibited by work)
02/20 – 1,124 words
02/21 – 2,446 words
02/22 – 800 words
02/23 – 1,840 words
02/24 – 1,430 words
02/25 – 600 words approx (Inhibited by work)
02/26 – 650 words approx (Inhibited by work)
02/27 – 2,200 words approx.
02/28 – 750 words approx.
03/01 – 1,519 words
03/02 – (Forgot to record, but approximately 800 words)
03/03 – 2,250 words
03/04 – 1,124 words
03/05 – 0 words (Inhibited by work, birthday, and surprise friend)
03/06 – 0 words (Inhibited by work)

I went into the operation with a fully realized expectation that this was just a prototype.  As such, near the beginning I wasn’t as strict on myself.  I needed to leave room for the idea to adapt and flesh itself out.  Here are the conditions that have come out of that:

  1. If I work out for at least 30 minutes on one day, I may add 300 calories to my count for the next day.  This number does not change if I work out more than 30 minutes, yet I want a solid workout, so I am encouraged to not waste time in the gym.
  2. The calorie count doesn’t apply to a couple select drinks.  Water, Milk and Orange Juice (because screw the system, I love orange juice) do not subtract from the calorie count, while things like soda, energy drinks, and other high-sugar juices might.  This was established since the beginning.
  3. Regarding condiments.  Because you cannot accurately judge the calorie count of condiments (or say, a chopped pepper) these, in small amounts, will not detract from the calorie count.  If there are large sums of either of these, then use your best judgment.  I’m not going to break this down into a science, since the focus is supposed to be on writing more, not wasting time counting every little calorie.
  4. On a more complicated level, calorie counts may be stockpiled or ‘saved’ in a bank (I document these things).  Say I have a friend coming from out of town.  We’re probably going to be hanging out a lot and eating out a few times.  Not a whole lot of writing is likely to get done, and eating out means a lot of calories.  At the end of a day, if I have unspent calories on my quota, I may choose to put them into this bank for later use.  Also, as a contingency, the bank STARTS with a 1,000 calorie deposit at the beginning of the diet (this concept was added after a week of prototyping).  This is intended for emergencies when you aren’t able to get any writing done on any day.  From testing the diet personally, I’ve also determined that it is wise to dedicate all or at least half of the first day into the bank as well, since you’re almost certain to run into complications and it will provide extra buffering for later.
  5. As general principle, and for raw simplicity, the daily diet routine works on a strict 00:00-00:00 time standard.  That means my calorie count for the day starts at midnight and ends when midnight comes again.  Anything left over is put into the bank, and any words written after midnight transfer to the next day’s calorie count.

Because of a sudden spike in work hours and a rogue friend coming to visit without much warning, I have not gotten much writing done the last couple of days.  That’s okay.  That’s what the bank is for, even if I’m expecting to be bankrupt by the end of the day tomorrow.  Again, this is largely experimental and subject to further modification, but I do feel mildly brilliant for coming up with it.  Because I try to eat healthy, this has kept my diet regulated and has snuffed out overindulgence, while keeping me future oriented.  As with any commitment, it requires dedication.  The diet isn’t overly strict, so it doesn’t feel like there’s much backlash or negativity associated with it.  If anything, the program has made life a little more interesting and exciting.  Plus, if things go according to plan, Doubting Puppet will be done before long.  So that’s cool.


Edwin’s Dilemma Short Story (Part 1)

I’ve been away for a while, for any number of reasons not worth outlining here, so I apologize.  Nevertheless, here is a new short story called Edwin’s Dilemma.  Or rather, it is the first segment of a marginally larger story.  This Christmas I approached my younger brother with a proposition.  He comes up with the plotting and outline of a story that I can update every 3-5 weeks (estimated to last a year, we’ll see) and I will bring that story to life.  This is the consequence of that team-up.  Not my usual cup of tea, but I like it and think it has potential.  Enjoy.
P.S. Recently powered off two books that I recommend: “Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson and “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. Check them out, especially if you have a ‘nerd’ lean.  One is about superpowers the other is about videogames. Can’t beat that.

Edwin’s Dilemma – Part 1 (1,797 words)

                For once, traversing Kastern was comfortable.  The streets, while in need of maintenance, were mostly clear.  It might have been cold, but Edwin considered that a grace this time of the year.  Things had been so humid and warm that it was nearly boiling, which resulted in fresh worries as to whether his new fortune could melt or not.  Could rubies melt?  Could diamonds?

                Edwin swung back his wineskin and filled his throat with something distinctly fruity, “Bismark, what is this one?”

                “Red.  You ask like I know anything about fine wines.” Bismark studied the rings on his hand.  They could hardly fit around the callous, “Wearing these makes me nervous.”

                Waving it off, Edwin plugged the wineskin again, “Nervous for what?  You could out-arm anyone in the city.”

                “Not in these clothes,” the man grimaced, “I feel like a nobleman’s fool.”

                “A nobleman’s confidant.  Carry yourself like one Bismark.  It will be important when we make audience with the king.”  Edwin grinned.  He still liked the sound of those words.

                Bismark shook his head.  Kastern was kind to the right people: the wealthy and the acclaimed.  There was even some mirth in the street urchin and thief culture, some level of status and reverence that grew out of their underhanded accomplishments.  Kastern was not so kind when the latter breached their territory and aimed for greater riches.  The caste system was there for a reason.

                Then again, maybe their transformation was something else.  Or maybe they were just stupid.

                “I feel cheap,” Bismark said, “Like I’m only pretending to know what I’m doing.  And how could anybody possibly walk in such restricting trousers?”  He moved his legs up and down like a marionette, “God forbid.  You can hardly even bend at the knee.”

                Edwin shrugged, caught off guard by the tightness of his nobleman’s doublet, “That’s what servants are for, my uneducated sir.  To bend for you.”

                Frowning, Bismark set himself to a dull and uncomfortable stride, “Would you stop talking like that?  I’m losing more faith in this enterprise with each passing minute.  How can we possibly expect to look the part of wealth when we are tripping over ourselves?  Both linguistically and literally.”

                “You say all of that,” Edwin said, “Yet you use words like ‘enterprise’ and ‘linguistically’.  Trust me, we’ll do fi–” Edwin cut his words short, a sharp tip prodding the small of his back.  “Bismark.”

                A grungy voice spoke, “Don’t move!”

                Holding up his new confidence on thin leg, Edwin spoke slowly. “What is it you want?”  A half-expected, but inevitable swing of events.  Kastern thieves always aimed for the less protected of the noblemen.

                He could almost hear the thug smile, “You made it out.  You made it rich, young urchin.  I want out too, and I want out big.”

                “Can’t say I blame you.  It’s pretty great on the other side.”  Edwin felt the sweat on his forehead growing thick.  Bismark stood only a few heads away, but wouldn’t dare make any snap motion that could get his lord killed.

                The smile faded, “Brat.  You’re still too new to this.  Have you already forgotten?  Noblemen should never walk the streets on their lonesome.”

                Edwin shrugged, “I do have my confidant.”

                “What?” The thug snorted, glancing at Bismark, “That wilt?”

                “Yes,” Edwin nodded slowly and snapped his fingers once toward the sky.  On cue, a long-shaft arrow struck away the thief’s knife.  Bismark spun with practiced motion and, in three swift movements, ripped their offender to the ground, resting a knee on his throat.  Edwin chuckled, “I also have eight guards tailing us, should someone try exactly what you have done.  Even without them, Bismark is one of the greatest underground fighters in Kastern.  No luck, bud.”

                Edwin looked out over the rooftops, where silhouettes matched the bitter night.  “Bismark, let the man go,” Edwin said, “If he follows us one more step, our friends will introduce him to iron.”

                Bismark nodded and released, returning to Edwin’s side like a passive sentinel.

                “Now leave,” Edwin said.  And like that, the thug hurried off, a dog threatened by another kick.

                “That was actually rather pleasant.  Well handled, my lord,” Bismark said.

                Edwin continued his trek towards the king’s palace, “It’s easier when you’ve been in their shoes.”

                Nobles and royalty everywhere.  Edwin sniffed, taking in every scent of their richly clad feast.  The king’s palace was to the brim with lords and ladies, come together for a night of gratitude and celebration.  Edwin wasn’t sure why.  He was too busy scanning over every figure in the room.  They wore their wealth in a way he didn’t yet understand.  Something about how they moved and held their heads.  Their riches didn’t show just on the outside, but innately, within their souls.  It was their confidence and morality.  These were people who understood the world in a brighter way, through a lens that Edwin could never afford.  They were fools.  And now he was one of them.

                “I don’t even recognize some of these odors,” Bismark said, catching the fragrances against the air, “Is that roasted beast?  It smells like the Kingdom of Kings.”

                “Bismark, focus,” Edwin said, “Our priority for the evening is to meet the king.  Do you see him?”

                Edwin had never seen the king, but it became obvious very quickly.  Crowns usually made men distinct that way.  Their sire was of an older cut, but not so old that he was expected to roll into his grave anytime soon.  His back was firm and his gaze forward, looking toward the future and over his peers.  Even from his past as an urchin, Edwin had to admit this man was a good king.  Better than many he’d heard of in historical texts, and he owned his authority with honor.

                “We seem to be in luck,” Bismark said, “It looks like he’s making friendly banter.  The question is do we make the cut?”

                Edwin didn’t hesitate.  He wore his chest out and chin up, stretching a mild, but practiced smile.  Bismark followed behind, reluctant.

                Waiting politely for the King to finish an exchange with one guest, Edwin stepped in, “My liege,” he bowed to what he thought was the perfect level, “It is an honor, truly.”

                The king smiled, “I do not believe I’ve had the chance to meet you,” he glanced over at a person who seemed to be his advisor.

                The young advisor perked up and shuffled through a couple sheets of lambskin parchment, “Um, oh, this is Lord Edwin of Lower Kastern.”

                Brows lifting, the king grinned, “Ah, that’s it, then.  The one who recently inherited his fortune.  Welcome, son.”

                Edwin bowed again, “I wasn’t expecting my reputation to precede me,” he held out a hand, “Again, I’m honored.”

                The king took his hand in a worthy grip, “Lord Edwin, it’s my –”

                Just then, the king of the realm sneezed forth like a maelstrom.  A million fragments of moisture poured from his nostrils and lips, all across their interlocked hands.  It was beautiful in the eyes of none.

                Edwin clinched, not wanting to be rude, but feeling effectively disgusted.  Somehow in his many reveries, he hadn’t expected high royalty to sneeze.  Thankfully the king withdrew from their contact and his advisor offered a cloth to clean Edwin’s hand.  This must have been a recurring theme for the night.

                All in all, their conversation carried on in a smooth and prompt fashion.  Not wanting to rob their high King of too much precious time, Edwin and Bismark left the man to his lordly business.  The rest of the night was simple and short.  Together they traversed the labyrinth of socials, making connections that only a year ago Edwin would have never expected to build.  The anatomy of the royal circles was elaborate, filled with more politics and gossip than his interest cared to handle.

                By the time they left the king’s palace, Edwin felt a unique sort of exhaustion.  Upon their departure, his shoulders slumped and his face fell.  Keeping up impressions was hard work.  When they returned to the manor Edwin purchased in his new wealth, he and Bismark split off to their own separate quarters.

                That night was filled with good dreams and nightmares alike.

                Heat spun through Edwin’s skull, and walking straight was a step short of brutal.  The morning had not been kind.  He was sick, sicker than he’d ever felt.  Worse even than the time he’d accidentally swallowed Lacrydine.  The sicknesses were not similar, but regardless, what he now experienced was worse.  That was impressive in its own, horrible way.

                “My lord!  You look dead!”  Bismark said, in spite of himself.

                “Thank you for your flattery,” Edwin sniffed, “I’m sick.  The apothecary can’t identify it.”

                Bismark sized up Edwin with concern, “Your skin is so pale.  Go lay back down, immediat–” Bismark caught himself and cleared his throat, “Rather, I suggest you lay back down and get some rest.  It can’t be good for your health to be up and about.”

                Edwin shook his head, “I tried, but I’m too restless.  I cannot figure out how I could have come down with any disease.  This is the first time in years.  My immunity is usually much more reliable than this.”

                “What do you think the cause might have been?”

                For a long moment, Edwin was stuck in a mental silence, half-conscious.  He was startled awake with force, like a beam of steel through his chest.  The King.  The king had sneezed on Edwin’s hand, spreading some sort of rich man’s disease.

                “That monster,” Edwin said, “I cannot forgive him.”

                Bismark’s forehead crumpled, “M’lord?”

                “The King.  I am stricken with an illness from the King.”

                Clarity, confusion and horror broke through Bismark all at once, “Surely you don’t mean–  My lord, please do not be taken with haste.”

                “My new life.  At the epicenter of my transformation,” Edwin said, “He has ruined it!  The king has destroyed all of my plans.  My ambitions!  A disease that even the doctors cannot cure?  Something worse than drinking raw Lacrydine?  Certainly there must be compensation.”

                Trying to maintain an air of control, Bismark seemed to let Edwin fume while he gathered his thoughts, “You are making rash conclusions.  Please, I beg that you return to your bedchambers.”

                “No,” Edwin stumbled to the window and peered out into the new day, “I can’t do that, Bismark.  I need to get revenge before it’s too late.  I must hold retribution for what he has taken from me.”

                “You mustn’t!  Think this through, Edwin!” Bismark pleaded.

                “Yes, it is so.  I wish there were an alternative, but there is not.  For his crimes, I must kill the king.”

End of Part I

Two Short Poems

As anticipated, I was not able to write a short story this week.  I did manage to get some work done with the RPG script, but not much else.  I hope all of you had a satisfactory Thanksgiving and weren’t trampled the day after.  Because people seemed to like my last poem “Termites” (it got more ‘likes’ than any of my stories, which I find interesting because I don’t think I’m good at poetry), I’m going to post two more shorties. The first one was published in my college’s literary magazine, and the second I made for a class. I’m going to post brief explanations afterwards.  I dislike needing to explain them, but I’ve had multiple appeals asking me to explain my poems after the fact, so I’ll put them down should anybody want to know.  Enjoy, God bless, and rock on.

“The Light That Guides Me Home”

To the blinding, burning light
Drink me up
Reduce this mortal coil to dust

In one instance I find you
A blast brighter than no other
A callous
masquerade of God

No mercy for me
nor child
Nor the widow soon to be
Our curtain slowly closes

I pray your light never reach them
Your words never deafen
Their innocence and peace

Please forgive me, holy terror
But I hate you so much
Damnable synthetic device

Too simple, you fulfill your design
Pull in your pin
cooked in a palm
Thrown with no aim at all

What am I doing here
with your grace open before me
Opening your jaws
of shrapnel and white?

No matter
of little consequence now
Envelope my soul, I ask
nurse my body to death
And call me into that final goodbye.

“The Red Thread of Fate”

Spun upon my finger small
Chanced by fate’s design
to the cheek
Gently, gently tugging along

Oh, curse you, red thread of fate
For evacuating my apartment
Dragging me into winter’s hymn
Sacrificing my marrows
to Mother’s song

How she catches my eye again
That delicate soul
with her glissade and spin. Dancing
on snow-touched lakebed.
A dwelling for the child in her soul
so sweet and I
can only fawn.

Calling me out here, hm, red thread of fate?
With what to say? 
I fret to stay and linger
Tear you from me
If only I could
and not let my heart flutter ‘til dawn

Moonlight blessing touch this heart
Give this thumb-twiddling man
Words to weave
in spite of himself. With
confidence tempered, nice and strong

Red thread of fate, I am so afraid
But already she has seen me
there is no retreat.
I join her on lonely white sea

She takes my hand
a gesture sudden and unexpected
but hardly upsetting
We begin our own ballad
to which we slowly ascend
I voice my heart like a trumpeter swan

Spun upon my finger small
That red thread of fate holds tight
Welcomed to wrap my heart
And gently, gently tug along.

In sum: The Light That Guides Me Home is from the perspective of a soldier who’s watching the blast of a grenade in front of him, certain to take his life.  The Red Thread of Fate is a mild love poem based on lore from some Eastern Asian countries such as Japan and China. You can read more about it here:

And Then There Was Music (A Top Ten List)

I’ve determined that along with my Tuesday short-story updates, I’m going to be incorporating a small tuft of music with each post.  For no other reason than because I viciously enjoy many different flavors of music and think it would be seven levels of awesome if someone else enjoyed any of it too.  To kick off this process, I’m going to be drawing from a pool of “top ten” lists that me and my friends have made over the last couple years.  Here I will now post my “Top Ten Songs of All Time”, which was probably the most soul-burning list that we had to make.  In fact, you might as well consider them closer to “Ten Songs That Cooper Really, Really Likes That May or May Not Be His Top Ten”. There are so many hundreds of songs that had to be labelled unworthy, despite my appreciation for them.  I also love finding new music, so any who might read this post, please feel free to share your interests in a comment. 🙂

With the exception of the very last installment, these are in random order.

Shattered – Trading Yesterday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_LOOKssMpA “Shattered” by Trading Yesterday. Album: More Than This. This song won the Annual Stephen Music Awards 2012, a self-imposed music competition done by my friend Stephen every year. The reason this song is on the list is because of the change of pace found at 2:25 in the song. The build up of additional instruments and vocals becomes increasingly grandiose until at a precipice and the singer’s raw emotion draws you into his zone.

Trading Yesterday – Shattered (MTT Version)


Broken Mess – The Classic Crime http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srgW52CnYik “Broken Mess” by The Classic Crime. Album: Vagabonds. I had a difficult time deciding what my favorite work by this band was, but ultimately I had to go with this one. It starts off sort of pessimistic, a conversation between two brothers: the singer, and his brother who was recently betrayed in his marriage. But it builds into the revelation that love is bigger, stronger, and more beautiful than we imagine or first understand.

Broken Mess – The Classic Crime with lyrics


Just Another Birthday – Casting Crowns http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Tu6NQ4L01w “Just Another Birthday” by Casting Crowns. Album: Come to the Well. You know that Annual Music Award thing? This is my pick for this year, as of now. The song tells of a young woman and her life over the course of five years and how she is desperately looking to find the approval of a father who never cared about her. Watch the music video (the link I’m posting), it will tell the story. What really does it for me though is the bridge. All of the song, every last mistake she’s made, every inch of her torn heart, is pulled into one sentence that echoes in her mind as she lies on an abortion table. A cry to Jesus: “Be a father to the fatherless”.

Casting Crowns – Just Another Birthday


On Fire/Souvenirs – Switchfoot http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhcJh-gF1-8 “On Fire” by Switchfoot. Album: The Beautiful Letdown. The oldest on the list and one of the most beautifully crafted songs I know, delivered by who I believe to be a sensational artist. A humble worship song, sung by Jon Foreman, a voice of this generation. So delicate and simple, yet it hits you so thoroughly. The reason another song is on here is because it might be replacing On Fire very soon. “Souveneirs” is from the same artist and equally as good. It’s a bittersweet, final goodbye to a best friend sort of song.

On Fire-Switchfoot


Butterfly Fly Away – Miley Cyrus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGKDKF-jA10 “Butterfly Fly Away” by Miley Cyrus. Without argument, this is the most controversial song on my list. You don’t know how much I didn’t want to put this on the list, because I don’t like Miley Cyrus or any of her other songs. But when I had to be real with myself, I realized that this song touches me too much to not put down. This song appeals to my inner father and I also love the acoustics. The only real problem I have with the song is that note she tries to hit at 1:02. I almost dropped the song for that alone, but alas, here it is.

Miley Cyrus – Butterfly Fly Away with Lyrics


Fin* – Anberlin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Htm4dvI8nzc “*Fin” by Anberlin. Album: Cities. I wasn’t sure whether to put this song on the list or not. It has a bit of a depressing tone to it, but the stride of the melody walks you through what is ultimately a breathtaking piece. The greatest strength of this song I believe is the magnitude of the vocals later on, matched with the dramatic turns in musical style. At 2:52 it evolves a more rock sound. Listen to his voice there! He’s belting out. And then at 3:43 the children’s choir enters the fray, with the singer’s quick return, giving it this almost surreal, entrancing speed. But then it mellows down again by 6:00 (It’s a long song) and opens up space for the singer to deliver his soul to you on a platter. Never mind, this song definitely deserves to be on this list.

Anberlin Fin WITH Meaning!


Pieces – Red http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Uw8mIcQJn8 “Pieces” by Red. Album: End of Silence. My favorite song by Red. It has a similar ability to Atonement (My #1 song, which you’ll see later), in that as soon as the first couple notes of that piano are played, I suddenly melt. The deep, low rhythm just carries you along, into the song of a man who is forced to be real with himself and with God, realizing how hopeless he is without. Later in the song, the tone picks up into what I would call a “sigh of relief”.

Pieces – Red – Lyrics


Last Night – Skillet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XCvXyhYLSE “Last Night” by Skillet. Album: Comatose. This song almost didn’t make it on the list. It was competing with a few other Skillet songs from the same album (best album imo) and I almost decided to drop Skillet in general. This is the song with the hardest sound on my list and musically is good, but nothing terribly fantastic. What really sets it apart is the meaning. It is a song told from the voice of God to a girl who wants to commit suicide.

Skillet – The Last Night


Mark Schultz – Walking Her Home http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ODSx0UfAcA “Walking Her Home”. Okay, so it sort of kills me that I had to choose between this and “He’s My Son”, because both of those songs are so good that I don’t even know what to do with myself. Nevertheless, I picked this one, because I love songs that tell stories. Starting young and progressing through the years, the song talks about a romance that begins at the age of eighteen and lasts through the lifetime and beyond. Emotionally compromising if you listen to it at the right time.

He was walking her home By Mark Schultz (With Lyrics)
And then, for my absolute favorite song of all time…
Atonement – Final Fantasy XIII http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lZC8IUj-cw “Atonement” from Final Fantasy XIII. This is my #1 favorite song of all time. It is the only song on the list that is purely instrumental, and it is the only one from a videogame. The song itself is very good and will eventually appeal to the deep parts of your heart, if you let it. I thought it was alright at first, but the more I listened to it, the more enraptured I became. My connection to this piece is bound to be stronger than most because over the last few years I have built many other associations that connect me to it. Now it’s at the point that regardless of what mood I’m in, whether happy, sad, upset, etc, this song sobers me into a contemplative and appreciative mood. I love it.

Final Fantasy 13 OST – Disc Three – 05 – Atonement


That’s all of them.  While the continuum of music I listen to is vast, you probably noticed some running themes. First, at least half of them have to do with or somehow include God.  Second, they are all songs that appeal to emotion, something that I actively try to stimulate.  Third, most of them are rock songs, a sub-genre of rock, or closely related to it.  I found this interesting for myself, because I thought with how many instrumental songs I listened to, some of those were more likely to appear on the list, but I guess not.  Again, comment with your own favorite songs, God bless, and enjoy your weekend. 🙂


The Bamboo Cutter

I made it!  I really didn’t think I’d have a story done by the end of the day.  Between finishing Breaking Bad, working, conquering the world, all of my recreational activities, and raw procrastination, I had a very difficult time coming up with a story this week.  To the point that I asked my friend for an idea what to write about.  This is the result.  I am an amateur with humor and only make good satire when the stars align, so think of this as a ‘serious humor’ of sorts.  It’s a little rough because of how rushed it was, but oh well. 1,064 words.


The Bamboo Cutter

                Until recently, Lenny was only familiar with the troubles of men, and was not sure how far those troubles could extend to the panda.  But in a change of fate as prejudiced as it was spontaneous, it was suddenly clear where his worth rested in the cold, black heart of Earth.  It might not have seemed like much, but that yogurt had weight.  It meant something.  It was an ultimatum, a final straw in his long-since-thinned patience.

                Lenny was a panda, worn in the womb of the world, and he wanted yogurt.

                You might not think it, but life is largely the same for pandas as for men.  At least, as far as America is concerned.  And not only pandas, but since the turning of the age, all forms of bear-life had begun their acceptance campaign into the democratic culture.  Though Lenny was not particularly fond of his white, polar cousins.  But they were all treated equally and with due fairness, as is the supposed American way.  Except for now.  Now Lenny was a bump of broiled distaste, because one young, human cashier had determined that pandas and their kin weren’t allowed to have yogurt.  Not of the strawberry, peach, or vanilla varieties.  The only ones that mattered.

                Instead of shrugging it and moving on to another employee, Lenny decided to let the discrimination sit and roll in his huge, beer-born, panda belly.  With the taste of a strawberry memory teasing him and yogurt profoundly absent from his life.

                That morning had been bruise-colored, with only scattered clouds and a fatigued, blurry sun.  The bumpy road to work was hell with a hangover, like a tent peg lodged firmly between both eyes.  It throbbed and throbbed, and in the meantime Lenny’s anger swelled, releasing itself during the lunch hour when Carl called him into the office.  Lenny knew he didn’t work very hard.  He was never ambitious and despite fitting the mold as a perfect bamboo cutter, his productivity was on a years-long decline.  So it wasn’t a surprise when Carl dropped the bomb that he was being laid off.  But of course, it still hurt, even through his thick bear-skull and last night’s vodka.

                Now it was evening and Lenny’s fur was disheveled with a long day’s toil of hating himself.  He tried to vent some of that anger at Smokey’s Everybear Gymnasium, but succeeded only in pulling two different muscles.  Afterwards he wanted to shower, but there was only cold water, and after swearing his way through that treason, he learned that there were no towels offered for drying, either.  Certain that it wasn’t enough just to take the low road, Lenny figured he had to be colorful about his frustration, so he promptly crapped on the floor before leaving.

                The roads were mostly clear, and he was pushing eighty-five.  Lenny’s soul was lost in the orange inferno of passing streetlights.  Both his mind and what was left of his heart tracked back to his family.  They deserved better, and for the small part, he tried to give them better.  A year after their daughter was born, Lenny and Jean almost split off.  Nobody would blame his wife for abandoning the poor bamboo cutter.  He was emotionally absent and known to beat her on rare, but not too rare, occasions.  It wasn’t really his fault.  Lenny was just repeating the gestures of love from his old man.  But he never hit Heather, their daughter.  That would have been too much.  If it had ever gone that far…well, it didn’t.  So he was at least thankful for that much, even if his relationship with her was on the rocks right now.

                Growing faster than Lenny could blink and with the dark, spitfire attitude of her young mother, Heather had reached the glacial pit of adolescence.  In her furious, relational charges, she had hooked up with Castor, the Mellick’s son.  A polar bear.  Lenny threw back a swig of Captain Morgan every time he thought about it.  Why a polar bear?  Why those narcissistic, ill-educated oafs?  He could only hope that the relationship would be as short as his own high school bouts with love, and that his naïve daughter would learn to shoot for higher standards in the aftermath.

                Man, strawberry yogurt sounded divine.

                It was in the throes of his reverie that Lenny saw the dancing beams of blue and red in his rearview.  He swore and groaned the only way a panda could.  Why did his back suddenly itch in that one spot he couldn’t reach?  Blast it.

                Lenny pulled over and waited with impatience as the police officer moved to his door.  Lenny rolled down the window and sighed, not even bothering to hide Mister Morgan, his partner-in-crime.

                “Good evening,” the officer said, “Do you know why I pulled you over tonight?”

                “Because I have a bumper sticker that says ‘Kiss me, I’m Asian’?”

                Brows tenting, the officer pursed his lips, “No.  Reckless driving.  Thirty over the speed limit, plus a little bit of swerving,  His body slanted as he caught sight of the beer, “How much have you had to drink tonight?”

                Lenny pulled in a chest of air and tried not to hick as he released it, “How many are usually in Captain Morgan’s crew?”

                Unamused, the officer penned something on his clipboard.  “License and registration?”

                “How about this,” Lenny bargained, “I will take any ticket that you have to give me, I will even go to jail for the night, if you go over to that convenience store and buy me some yogurt.  You have no idea.  I would kill a man for some vanilla right now.”

                Blinking slowly, Lenny looked dumbly at his steering wheel.  Did he just say that out loud?  Curse you Morgan, curse you.

                The follow transpiration was a pitiful attempt to reclaim his credit as an honorable driver, but with constant backdrops and poor decisions that ultimately landed the panda in overnight jail.  On his way to the bunks, Lenny thought it could be worse.  He wasn’t terribly interested in seeing Jean and Heather right now anyways, jobless and wasted as he was.  At least, it seemed like it could be worse, until he found that the entire cell was to the rim with polar bears and their filth.

                And not a trace of bloody yogurt to be found.


The Project

I wrote my usual short story for this week’s update, but I liked it enough that I’m going to hold off on posting it until after I’ve put the bad boy through a short-story competition.  As such, I’m just going to share about a project that me and my friend Michael have been working on since early July.  Something that I will unceremoniously dub “The Project”, for the sake of this post.

I don’t know about him, but it’s on my bucket-list to help make a videogame.  I didn’t think that meant I’d be spearheading one.  Mind you, we aren’t doing this completely from scratch, but pretty close.  We both purchased a wonderful program called RPG Maker during the Steam Summer sale, and since the purchase have set off on what we know is going to be a long and hard journey to complete a videogame.  The purchase was especially appropriate because we both love traditional JRPG-style games (that is, Japanese Role-Playing Games. Think early Final Fantasy, Golden Sun, and Pokemon).  Michael is the chief executive whatever and head programmer of the Project, while I am the head scriptwriter.  We both do some of everything, though.  I leave a lot of the technical computer-program-y stuff to him, because I’d have a better chance of chucking a baseball into orbit than understanding most of that jargon.  Anyways, here is the basic lore and premise of our game:

“Sixty generations past, in response to the corruption and evil of the world since its birth, a terrible creature known as The Almighty materialized to “reinitialize” or reset the world, wiping it of its crime.  However, when peril was at its worst, there were eight beings that believed in the good of humanity and sought to prove to the Almighty that humans were not hopeless.  Rejecting their campaign, The Almighty continued to sew a path of destruction.  Realizing that the only way to preserve humanity was to take action themselves, these eight heroes waged war with the Almighty and struck him/it down.  They were heralded as saviors and penned in history books as the “Prides” for millennia to come.  However, though The Almighty was beaten, it was not destroyed.  His spirit fragmented into several separate entities, which lie dormant across the planet.  Over time, some have awakened and caused trouble for humanity, causing wars, disastrous natural phenomena, resurrecting the dead, and more.  But time and again they would be put to rest.

Now a dark dawn is approaching.  A few of the Fragments are already awake and wreaking havoc, while rumor tells the others shall not rest much longer.  In a time where humanity is strained with discord, failed loyalty, betrayal, and every matter of crime, there seems to be no uniting force that can oppose all of the Fragments or stop them from polymerizing and forming a new Almighty to end the world.”

Of course, that’s only a brief history, which is cheap and easy to make.  As for the actual plot of the game, we have some wonderful things in development and already possess a solid three hours of gameplay.  Hiro, our protagonist, has been incredibly fun to write (sarcastic, witty characters usually are) and his relationship and influence on others is inspired.  We have had many hurdles already, most of them on my end and most of them relating to my ineptitude with technology.  Alas, we are still trekking on, expanding our world, refining our battle system, crafting a story that is turning out much better than originally expected, and enjoying it along the way.  I find myself growing quite fond of our cast, regardless of how ignorant, remorseless, or psychotic some of them might be. 🙂

We have no intentions of selling the game, as we are amateurs doing this for kicks, but when it’s completed we will likely put it on Steam or some other related site for free.  I’m going to post periodic updates on our progress, so hopefully at least some of you will be interested in following along.  Heading out, I shall depart with a couple of my favorite in-game quotes.

Baldur:  “I cannot be destroyed.  Not by you, nor by your friends.  Congratulations, you have done what humans are best known for doing.  You have failed.”

Taiyo: “Catch you later!” *Explodes*
Jade: “Did…did she just explode?”
Hiro: “Yes…I think she did.”
Jade: “That’s what I thought.”

Daughter of the Rain (Short Story)

A short story that takes up a more traditional fantasy mantle.  This one is shorter than my previous stories, sitting at only 834 words.  I’ve got a story I’m working on for next week that I find particularly interesting, so look forward to that.  I might be giving an update later this week about the RPG game me and one of my friends are making. In the meantime, smell the flowers, make a friend, count the stars, listen for colors, and enjoy. 🙂

Daughter of the Rain – 10/31/13

A chord of aching compassion sifted behind Ira’s chest.  He unfurled one hand slowly, reaching out towards the lonely creature under the wagon.  With a pout and limp, it fell back over itself.  Ira drew his arms to his core for warmth and sighed.

“How long have you been here?” He cast a half-attended glance to his side, maybe looking for somebody.  An owner possibly, or someone that might be able to help.  They were alone, so he returned his attention to the young beast.  It was longer than his arm and slender as the Crystal River, smooth tufts of hair gathering where scales were absent.  Ira stirred.  Between its dainty paws and the mercury glow of its eyes, the fledgling creature gathered old thoughts of a pet hound from his youth.

But this was hardly a hound or even a mutt.  Something in its build reminded Ira of a gargoyle, or one of those spirits from his father’s library.

It whimpered something low and rolling, scratching its broken claws into wet earth.  Ira pursed his lips and settled his knees into the mud.  Whatever it might be, it was hurt and made the distinct cry of having been betrayed.  It was something shared by men and beast alike.

Fumbling in his coat pocket, Ira broke off a chunk of stale butter-bread.  The rain reached down and made it soft.  He extended the supplement until the whole of his arm was beneath the wagon, his cheek against its hardwood carapace.  For a long minute there was nothing, but soon after, something nuzzled his fingers and lapped the food out of his hand.  It tickled. Ira dipped his head under the carriage to watch his new friend lick up the last of the bread.  “I don’t want to leave you here,” Ira fell back on his haunches and cast his head low, “But I don’t know where to take you.”

Curious silver rings peered back at him, now suddenly interested but resilient in wariness.

“I would never hurt you,” Ira said. He did all he could to keep his tone soft and distinctly motherly. “But words are fickle, aren’t they?  Like water.”

To his surprise, the young creature moved closer, one leg damaged enough that it could only drag.  Ira eased back into the rain, providing a space for it to join him.  The gargoyle’s eyelids flittered as the rain came against them.  Several deep lacerations crept along its sides, staining the surrounding fur in a blood darker than oil.  A swell above one eye seemed to just be healing, but that was the best of it.

Reciting the importance of caution to himself, Ira made clear to the beast that he was a friend, and then reached out until they were touching.  It purred meagerly and let him run fingers along the scales of its crown.  “I’m sorry.”

The gargoyle rustled its jaw and came closer.

“I’m so sorry.  Please forgive us.  I forget how cruel we can be.”

If the creature acknowledged or understood any of Ira’s words– which it may, he couldn’t be sure that it didn’t– then it would be a hideous deed of him to abandon or send it away.  Ira was dirty and unwanted even among his own kin.  What could he offer?  If it came with him, it would die before the week closed.  There was no home with warm hearth-fire to greet them.  No quiet place that was safe from the rain.

Perhaps sensing his own conflict, the gargoyle slid its head onto Ira’s lap and closed its eyes.  Ira heaved a single dry sob and clenched both fists before laying his head atop the beast’s own.  “What is your name, I wonder?”  A rhythmic, throaty tremble came from the beast.  A noise and feeling like a great cat’s purr.  The rain bid forth with greater fury, crushing the wagon’s steeple.  The collapse startled them both, and the creature looked back to Ira with a gaze of mixed pity and comfort.  An idle wind tossed the rain slantways.

“I think I have something,” Ira grinned with a trace smile like honey, “Ysuna.  Hmm?  A Southern word.  I think it’s religious.  ‘Daughter of the rain’.  How does that sound?”

As woefully inadequate as Ira felt most of his decisions were, this one seemed right.  Seemed strong and pure.  The creature must have agreed, because it licked its frothy pink tongue against the flat of his arm.

Gathering the injured creature into a cradle, Ira made a point to avoid hurting Ysuna any more than she already had been.  “Come on, let’s get out of the rain.”  Ira laid Ysuna on her better side, back against the inside of the wagon’s wheel.  There was just enough room for him to crawl underneath the carriage and rest beside her.  “We will rest here, and when the rain stops we will find someone who can help.”  Ira stroked the beast’s brow, “Hold on until then, okay?”