Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Open Letter to a Thief

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
I claim no rights to this image.
No, I'm not talking about the popular PC game.  I'd like to open up this post with an apology. I'm sorry if this post is a little pessimistic or angry or harsh. I'm just a tad bit upset and I thought that venting those feelings out in a blog post might help me get over it. I might delete this post later, but I had to get this off my chest now.

The world just keeps finding new ways to show me how much it's full of lazy assholes. For those of you who don't know yet, my wife had her car broken into this evening and some items were stolen. The worst part of this is that I'm stuck here, about 1300 miles from my family. I can't be there to help and protect them in their time of need. It's one of the worst feelings in the world.

I'm not terribly upset about losing those possessions, after all, it's just stuff and our insurance is likely to take care of it all. I'm really upset about how some low-life, lazy asshole saw that stuff in our car and said to himself, "Man, how easy would it be for me to break this glass and take those things? I might make a quick $100 pawning all of that crap."

Open letter to the jerk who broke into our car:

Hey, asshole! I worked really hard to make the money that bought all of that "crap". Some of that stuff were gifts to my wife and kids. When I think about my daughter crying because she is missing something that you took, it just makes me so angry that I would beat you into a pulp if you were standing in front of me right now. If you knew me, you would know how out of character that is for me. Jeez, I quit karate because I couldn't hit my sparring partners. You, I'd have no problem with.

Crime is NEVER a necessity to survive. It's a lazy person's excuse to make money because he doesn't want to buck up and EARN a living by WORKING. There is NO EXCUSE for not having ANY job. Walmart and Target are ALWAYS hiring. Just walk into one and fill out an application! Walmart and Target won't hire you because you're an idiot and they know you'll steal from them? Try McDonald's or Burger King! Or maybe, and this might be a stretch, DON'T STEAL! Most people don't have a job because they don't want to lower their standards to the level of job that is available.

Guess what, asshole? When I couldn't find a job in my field after I graduated from college, I worked at Target in the produce section. During the worst part of the recession, I managed to find a job. Sure, it wasn't what I wanted to be doing. Sure, it was menial and not at all aligned with my interests. It paid me! It put food in my family's mouth! It's what normal people do!

If I somehow managed to lose my job and couldn't find one in my field, do you know what I'd do? I'd work at Target again! Or, if Target wasn't hiring, I'd find work somewhere else until I could find something better! If you show people that you're a hard worker and that you can be trusted, better opportunities will come along.

Oh, and if you claim that it's "too hard", well guess what, that's life! Life is hard! Just ask the dinosaurs, or the dodo. Get over yourself!

And, hey, I believe in the class struggle. I do believe that "The Man" is trying to hold you down. Do you know what? Fuck "The Man"! The best way to beat them is to show them that you can work hard and provide for yourself and your family. Stealing from your own people doesn't help anything, it just makes matters worse. The reason that the lower class is still the lower class is because of a lack of solidarity. You don't see billionaires sniping at each other in any serious way. No, they're too busy banding together to keep the lower class down!

This tirade has gone on long enough, I think. I'm tired of giving you so much attention. You're such a coward, thief. Grow a pair and get a job, like the rest of us.

Your friend (not really),

PS: I put the "not really" in there because you're probably too stupid to get sarcasm.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Celebrity Sightings

Stan Lee
Normally, I'm not much of a fan of Hollywood. It seems to me that the film and TV industry is full of large egos, bad attitudes and crappy role models for youngsters. Now, I know that this is a generalization and that there are many stars who stand out as shining beacons of kindness and humility in a sea of condescension and callousness. This post, however isn't about my perception of Hollywood. It's about my short brushes with a few of the people that I've actually run into from this world during my project that was in Los Angeles.

I wanted to wait until that project was over to write this post, and so I have. The project ended, for me at least, a couple of weeks ago and I've moved on to a project based in Seattle. During my travels to LA, I've encountered five celebrities that I recognized. Oddly, though our project was in Woodland Hills (apparently where a lot of stars lived), all of my encounters were at the airport or on airplanes.

My first celebrity encounter was Stan Lee. I saw him when I was sitting at PDX for a layover. He got off of a plane and I was too stunned to even approach him. It was cool seeing such a geek icon up close. I've been a fan of his since I was a kid.

The next was about a month later. A coworker and I were heading home and we saw Henry Rollins (or a guy who looked EXACTLY like him) riding a plane back to MSP from LAX. Several others near us whispered about it, but no one ever spoke to him to ask him, that I heard anyway. My wife and I watched "The Chase" the other day and although he looked a lot older on the plane, I'm sure it was him.

A few months later I saw John Cho and his family get off of a flight from Detroit. No one else seemed to notice who he was. I was tempted to shout out "Sulu" or "Harold", but I refrained.

Then, a few months later several coworkers and I saw Danny Trejo on a flight from MSP to LAX. He must have been promoting one of his movies in Minneapolis as he was wearing a hat with the movie logo and had a bag with the logo as well. He's a lot shorter in person than I thought he would be, but still looks very intimidating.

The very next week I sat directly behind Wilmer Valderrama in first class going from MSP to LAX. The two of us actually spoke and all I remember about it was that I handed him his bag from the storage bin and told him that my daughter was a fan of Handy Manny. He smiled and said, "Thanks."

Henry Rollins
There are a few celebrities that, if I saw them, I would totally geek out and rush to say hi. If I'd had the presence of mind, I would have so done that when I saw Stan Lee. Otherwise, I think that they are just people too and unless they're purposely inviting people over to say hi, they have a right to being left alone just like everyone else.

A coworker of mine met John DeLancie on a flight from LAX to MSP and got his picture taken with him. I was jealous of that and definitely would have gotten my picture taken too if I'd been on that flight.

Have you ever met any celebrities? Were they cool with you coming up an saying hi?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Story a Week 16 - Propheteering Part 4

Greetings, dear blog reader! It's the weekend, albeit near the end of that, so it's time again for a Story a Week! This week's story is a continuation from the stories from a couple of weeks ago.

Please read on and if you like it, tell your friends! If you feel like it, leave a comment.


Cuddlington stood up after looting the minotaur's possessions. He turned to the sorcerer and asked, "Melbrid, ye figger that wand out, yet?"

The young half-elf nodded uncertainly. "I think so," he said, "I've never seen anything like this wand before. It's some kind of teleportation wand, but it doesn't use the traditional teleport spell. It's pretty unique."

The dwarf shrugged back at him. "So? Can ye activate the blasted thing?"

Melbrid nodded back and Cuddlington turned to where Rixi and Meentha were standing. Cuddlington had noticed that Rixi wasn't friendly at their first meeting, but he was glad that the rogue was becoming fast friends with the pantheron ranger. "Lasses, ye all ready to move on?"

They both nodded, so Cuddlington waved them over to where he and Melbrid were standing. When the four of them were all standing together, the dwarf nodded to Melbrid. The sorcerer mumbled some mystical words and waved the wand over their heads. Cuddlington closed his eyes.

When he opened them, he was immediately confused. He found himself standing in the market of his birthplace, the great dwarven city of Goldendelve. He looked around for his friends, but they were nowhere to be found. He did spot a familiar face, however.

"Ah, there ye are," the other dwarf said as he approached where Cuddlington was standing, perplexed.

"Pultin? died five years ago..."

Pultin Hammerfast stopped short, stunned. Suddenly, he burst into laughter. "Yer sense o' humor hasn't improved in all the time I've known ye, Cuddles."

Cuddlington ignored the jibe and looked around the marketplace. Pultin wasn't the only thing out of place. The market looked old, too. Cuddlington left Goldendelve two years ago, but he still remembered how it looked when he left and this wasn't it. Cuddlington looked back at Pultin. His cousin seemed eager and impatient for some reason.

Cuddlington then noticed how he was dressed. He was wearing an exploring outfit with light chain mail and was carrying a pick with several weapons strapped to his belt and back. He glanced down to himself and noticed that he was similarly outfitted. 'Oh, no,' he thought, 'today is the day that Pultin dies.'

He looked back at Pultin with apprehension. Pultin looked back with confusion on his face, "What's wrong? Yesterday ye were excited t' go on this expedition to try and find a new vein o' mithril."

Cuddlington shook his head, "No, we should go another day."

Pultin started getting angry. He said, "We been planning this for months! We finally talked the Guards into allowing us out for the day." Pultin studied Cuddlington. "What's yer problem?"

Cuddlington figured that he couldn't tell Pultin the truth. Hell, he wasn't sure what the truth was, yet. He wasn't exactly sure what was going on. "I just don't feel right about this."

Now Pultin was truly angry. "Nonsense! We're going and that's final!" He put his hands on Cuddlington and turned him around, then pushed him forward. "Walk," he ordered.

Cuddlington grudgingly obeyed. Suddenly hope surged within. 'Since I know what's coming, maybe I can change things,' he thought to himself.

The two dwarves made their way to the south gate. Pultin spoke to the guard there and slipped him a small pouch. The guard nodded and waved them through. The two dwarves walked through the small door and out into the first antechamber outside of the gate. They crossed the long bridge that spanned a carved out gorge. Cuddlington looked down and saw the spikes below them. He knew that the bridge was rigged to collapse if an enemy happened to make it past the first ring of defenses. They approached the opposite side and Cuddlington saw the soldiers manning their positions on the wall in front of them. They were facing a dozen or so arrow slits that opened into the tunnel beyond.

As Cuddlington and Pultin approached the wall, the captain of the wall guard shouted, "Open the gate, two friendlies exiting!" The gate slowly began to rise. The captain came over to them smiling. "The two of ye are crazy for goin' out there," he said, "but I must admit that I'm more than a little jealous. Sounds like a smashing adventure to me."

Pultin slapped Cuddlington on the shoulder. "Ye see, even Regin wants to join us," he said.

Regin smiled again and waved the two of them through. "Ye all know the passwords fer when ye return?" he asked.

Pultin and Cuddlington nodded and walked through the doorway. Cuddlington noted more subtle traps and defenses as they made their way through the hundred yard long tunnel. At the end of the tunnel was another small door. The two cousins walked through and out into the openness of the vast underground world known as the Great Underneath. Cuddlington knew that two dwarven scouts were stationed outside of the entrance tunnel, but he couldn't see them.

Pultin started heading east, but Cuddlington hesitated. Pultin sighed as he stopped and turned to him. "What is it now?" he demanded.

"Maybe we should go west instead?" Cuddlington suggested.

Pultin shook his head. "Ye heard the gnome trader that came through here a coupla months ago yerself. He told us about the vein and where to find it."

Cuddlington sighed too and nodded sullenly. "Yes, I remember. He even had a sample that he took from the vein."

"Pure mithril," Pultin said with wonder in his voice. "And so close to our city! It's a wonder that no one ever discovered it before."

Cuddlington nodded himself, but he knew the real reason already. He looked around nervously as the two of them headed east. Pultin noticed his nervousness and said, "Don't look so nervous, Cuddles. We're close to the city. Not much to be afraid of this close."

"Nonsense," Cuddlington retorted. "The Great Underneath is full of danger. Drow, Illithid, Aboleth, Hook Horrors, Duergar, just to name a few."

"Yes, but none o' those creatures dare lurk anywhere near Goldendelve," Pultin said.

Cuddlington sighed again and followed his cousin further into the Great Underneath. The two of them walked in silence for a few more minutes when Pultin stopped. He was looking around and Cuddlington remembered what happened last time. Pultin was lost. Here was Cuddlington's chance to change the way events had unfolded five years ago.

"I think that we should go right," Cuddlington said with as much confidence he could muster.

Pultin glanced in that direction, but shook his head. "I think that it's left," he said.

Cuddlington glanced left with apprehension. "Let's try right first," Cuddlington said, "We'll go for a little while and if ye still feel that it's the wrong way still we can turn around."

Pultin glanced back at Cuddlington and shrugged. "Sure," he said, "I've been known t' be wrong before."

Cuddlington smiled inwardly as he and Pultin headed right. The two of them walked in silence for fifteen minutes before Pultin stopped and shook his head. "I'm not feelin' it," Pultin said. "This ain't the right way."

Cuddlington shook his head and said, "I'm sorry, Pultin. I woulda sworn it were the right way."

Pultin shrugged it off. "No harm done," he said.

'I hope harm avoided, in fact,' Cuddlington thought to himself.

The two of them headed back the way they came and soon passed the intersection. 'I hope that a half an hour was enough delay,' Cuddlington thought to himself.

They continued on and Pultin started nodding. "Yep, we've passed a couple o' landmarks that the gnome described. Just a few minutes now and we'll be there."

Cuddlington nodded and looked about alertly. A moment later he stopped suddenly. Pultin stopped and looked questioningly back at Cuddlington. He motioned for Pultin to be quiet.

Suddenly the world went black. "Drow!" Cuddlington and Pultin yelled at the same time. Cuddlington instinctively ducked and was thankful for that as he heard a crossbow bolt whiz by. Cuddlington stayed down and pulled a small stone out of his pouch. He also grabbed a short sword from its scabbard. Steadying himself, he took a deep breath and rolled forward out of the sphere of blackness. He heard the drow in front of him jump back and smiled as he closed his eyes and dropped the stone. He heard the drow gasp in pain as the bright light from the stone blinded him. Cuddlington stabbed out and grinned as he felt the sword sink into the dark elf's flesh.

Cuddlington carefully opened his eyes and saw the drow glaring at him with his last breath, mumbling curses in their evil language. For the first time since the short battle started, Cuddlington paid enough attention to hear how Pultin was doing. He looked back, but his friend was also inside of one of the spheres of absolute darkness that the drow were able to summon at will. Cuddlington couldn't tell how the battle was going, but he didn't dare enter the fray blind.

Suddenly, he had an idea and a smile spread over his face. He dropped the pack on his back and took a few steps back. He grinned again as he charged headlong into the darkness. He spread his hands and first felt one body run into his, then another. He pushed both combatants out of the sphere's other side. It was still very dark, but at least his infravision was kicking in.

The drow kicked Cuddlington in the chest as he pushed away from the two dwarves. The breath was forced out of Cuddlington. Pultin stumbled back, but stayed on his feet and growled at the drow. The drow smiled wickedly at the two dwarves, very confident and sure that even though he was outnumbered, he would be victorious. He pulled out two wicked looking sabers.

Cuddlington stood and grabbed the axe off of his back. He saw Pultin holding a similar weapon. The drow said, in dwarven, "I don't have to kill you two, you know. You can still come back as slaves."

Cuddlington and Pultin growled back and charged the drow. The drow deftly parried their blows and counter attacked. The dwarves relentlessly attacked the drow, who seemed to be easily deflecting their blows in a whirlwind of blades. This went on for a few minutes when suddenly the drow kicked out. The blow struck Cuddlington on the chin and he fell back.

Cuddlington watched in horror as the drow quickly turned his full attention on Pultin. He quickly disarmed the dwarf and quickly sliced two gouges across Pultin's neck. Cuddlington quickly drew the small warhammer from his belt and chucked it at the drow from a sitting position. The drow apparently thought that Cuddlington was out of the fight as he didn't even hear the hammer whirling through the air. The hammer struck the drow squarely on the back of the head and the drow fell over the body of Pultin.

Cuddlington quickly crawled over to where the two bodies were. He roughly pushed the drow off of Pultin and heard the elf groan. Cuddlington drew one of the elf's own daggers and stabbed it into the drow's neck. He turned and checked on Pultin.

His cousin was still alive and breathing haggardly. He looked at Cuddlington and weakly groaned, "Never even saw the mithril."

Cuddlington sobbed and said, "It's there, Pultin. It's there." Cuddlington knew that it was there because the last time this happened the dwarves had been busy digging samples of the mithril out when the drow ambushed them.

Pultin smiled weakly at Cuddlington. "At least ye can make the claim..." Pultin's eyes closed as he finished saying his last words.

Cuddlington closed his eyes and began weeping. Last time this happened, he did make the claim and quickly sold it off and left Goldendelve a few months later.

Cuddlington opened his eyes and was startled to see the wizard Yif standing in front of him.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Story a Week 15 - Bullying

Welcome to another edition of Story a Week. This week's story took me quite a bit longer to write than the other stories that I'd written so far. It happens to be about twice as long as the average for this project, but that's not the main reason that it took so long. If you read my writing style post, I talk a little about it. It's also because I wanted this story to be good. The story is kind of a drama, but it's about a topic that is very close to me and geekdom in general. The story is about bullying.

Before you read the story, I'd like to point out that I wasn't bullied overly much in high school like a lot of my friends and fellow geeks worldwide were. I figured out early that if you don't let them get away with bullying you that they'll find an easier target. I never had to fight physically either. My last fight was sometime in middle school and it was in my neighborhood, not at school and was definitely not a bullying situation.

But, I digress. Bullying is for me, and most parents that I can think of, an important topic. My kids are little, but I don't want them to be bullied now, or at any time in their future. I'll try my best to teach them the lessons that I learned and help them on their way, but I can't always be there to help.

Anyway, read the story and let me know what you think.


Doug sighed heavily as the school bus pulled up in front of him. 'Time to start another day of hell,' he thought to himself. He took a deep breath to try to steady the butterflies in his stomach as he stepped onto the bus.

From the back, he heard two of the jocks yell out, "It's Duuuuh-g!"

Doug hated the way they turned his perfectly normal name into an insult. He tried to ignore them as he looked nervously around for a seat. 'It must be my lucky day,' he thought to himself as he spotted an empty seat halfway to the back of the bus. He sat down and breathed a sigh of relief as the jocks seemed satisfied with their first jibe of the day and left him alone.

No one sat with him the rest of the drive to the high school, but Doug didn't even notice. He had his head buried in "The Return of the King". He'd read it many times before, but it still captivated him. He glanced up when the bus came to a stop and was surprised to see the school outside the window.

He quickly put the book into his backpack and took his place in the line to get off the bus. He entered the school and tried to make his way up to his locker. Every minute or two someone purposely ran into him even though the common area wasn't very crowded. Doug took it all in stride as he made his way to the locker. He entered his combination into the lock on his locker and opened it up. He saw several pieces of paper laying on the floor of the locker and bent to pick them up.

He opened up one of the pages and saw a crudely drawn picture depicting himself and a couple of his male friends in lurid embraces. Angrily, he crumpled the paper up and stashed it in a plastic bag he kept in his locker for garbage.

He was startled by the first bell ringing a moment later. He placed the other two pieces of paper on the top shelf of his locker for later perusal and slammed his locker shut. His first class was biology and it was on the other side of the building so he had to hurry.

Doug was in such a hurry that he didn't see the leg that tripped him. As he picked himself up off of the floor, he heard a couple of jocks laughing at him. Doug shook it off and hurried to biology class.

He smiled for the first time that day as he entered the class and saw his friend Jason. Jason was sitting at his desk with his head in another copy of "The Return of the King". The two of them were reading it in parallel. "How far are you?" Doug asked as he sat next to Jason.

Jason looked up and replied, "Sam and Frodo are in Cirith Ungol."

"Oh, that's it? They're just getting to Mount Doom..." Doug stopped talking when a girl walked in the room. It wasn't just any girl, but the girl of Doug's dreams. Her name was Lindsay and Doug felt the world get a little less crappy when she walked in the room. The world seemed to slow to a crawl whenever Doug was even near her.

Jason watched as Doug stared at Lindsay as she walked across the room to her desk. He tapped Doug on the shoulder and laughed as his friend practically jumped out of his chair.

Doug blushed as his friend said, "Whatcha starin' at, Doug?"

Before Doug could say anything the teacher walked in the room. After setting his things down and doing the roll call, the teacher said, "We're going to do a lab today." The class moaned and the teacher said, "I've randomly chosen your partners." Another moan.

The teacher started reading off names and tables in alphabetical order. Doug didn't pay much attention until the teacher read off Jason's name. "Jason, table three." A few moments later, the teacher said, "Doug, table two."

Doug wasn't paying attention enough to know who else was going to be at table two; he just knew that Jason wasn't going to be his partner today. After the teacher finished reading the names, everyone got up and moved to the lab area.

As Doug was walking to table two, one of the jocks in the class blocked his path. Doug tried to step around him, but the jock moved to block him again. Doug sighed and looked up at him. "What can I do for you, Jeff?"

Jeff stared hard at Doug. "I know that you have a silly crush or something on Lindsay. Don't try anything funny during the lab, or I'll beat your ass in." Jeff took a half step towards Doug and menacingly said, "Got it, dumb shit?"

Doug nodded emphatically. "No funny business," he said. Butterflies began fluttering around in his stomach. Doug barely noticed when Jeff purposely bumped into him as he passed by.

Doug saw Lindsay sitting at table two and the butterflies quickly became jet fighters engaged in a dog fight inside of his stomach. Nervously, he walked over to the table and sat down without a word.

Lindsay, who had been writing in her notebook, looked up and smiled at Doug. "Hi, I'm Lindsay," she said.

Lindsay's smile was disarming. Doug's heart leapt into his throat and threatened to choke him. "I'm Doug," he managed to squeak out.

The teacher said, "We're going to dissect a frog today. Jake and Matt, can you help me pass out the equipment?"

The two conscripted students began passing out scalpels, goggles and other dissection equipment. Lindsay looked excited and said, "Oh, we get to dissect frogs? That's awesome!"

Doug was taken aback by her attitude. Most of the girls in the class were making faces about their assignment. Doug stammered out, "You-you're excited about the prospect of cutting open a frog?"

Lindsay nodded emphatically. "Oh, yes. I'm not sure what career I'll be going for after college, but I think that I'll be majoring in Biology." She paused and shyly smiled. "I really want to be a biologist or zoologist. I think anyway. Who knows? I've always loved science. Look at me babbling. Do you know what you want to do?"

Doug shrugged. He was starting to feel more at ease, though he was still quite nervous. "I don't know. My parents want me to be a lawyer like they are, but I'm not one for arguing. I hate conflict. I'd much rather design video games or, oh, I don't really know."

The teacher came up to their table and plopped a dead frog into their specimen tub. "Thanks!" Lindsay said to him.

She must have seen Doug's reaction to the dead frog. "Do you want me to do the cutting and you can fill out the worksheet?"

Doug gulped and looked up from the frog. "Yeah, I think that would be for the best," he said as he pushed the tub towards Lindsay.

The rest of the lab went well. Lindsay did all the cutting and removing of organs as Doug tried his best not to look too closely and filled out the worksheet. After a while, Doug realized that Lindsay was being somewhat flirtatious. He tried to look casually at Jeff and noticed that the jock was staring angrily in Doug's direction. Doug quickly looked away and concentrated on finishing the worksheet.

When they were finished with the dissection, Lindsay said, "It was fun doing the lab with you, Doug. You're a good lab partner." She put a hand on Doug's arm which was resting on the table.

Doug stared down at her hand on his arm and said, "Thanks. I did have a lot of fun doing this, too."

Lindsay smiled at him one more time and got up from the table. "I'll see you later," she said before returning to her desk.

Doug stared after her. He quickly glanced around for any sign of Jeff, but he didn't seem to be in the classroom any longer. Doug shrugged to himself and returned to his desk. Jason was already sitting in his own desk and looking at Doug worriedly.

"Doug..." Jason began.

Doug sighed. He knew what was coming. "Yes, Jason?"

Jason wouldn't meet Doug's eyes. "Jeff is going to kill you. He snuck out of class a few minutes ago. I heard him tell one of the other neanderthal's that he's going to get a couple of friends and wait for you in the hall."

Doug looked over at where Lindsay was sitting and smiled to himself. "Totally worth it," he said to Jason.

Jason shook his head. "Whatever you say, man."

The bell rang and everyone proceeded to the door. Jason and Doug parted ways outside the door. "Good luck," Jason said to Doug.

Doug smiled and shrugged at his friend. He turned and saw Jeff standing a couple of feet in front of him, an evil smile on his face. Doug stopped and took a step back. Someone behind him grabbed both his arms and said, "We'd like to go for a little walk, Dougy."

Doug didn't think he could escape the strong hands that held him, so he said, "Whatever you say, it's not like I have a choice."

"Good boy," the muscle said. Another linebackeresque student came alongside of Doug and the four of them walked together towards the special needs classrooms where there was less foot traffic.

A few minutes later, Jeff looked around to make sure no one was in sight and nodded to the other two jocks. Jeff stood over Doug and growled, "I told you not to get too friendly with Lindsay, dork. Now you're going to pay for it!"

Jeff punched Doug hard in the gut. When Doug doubled over, Jeff rammed his fist into the back of Doug's head. Doug fell to the ground in a heap and put his hands on his head to try to protect it from the blows that he knew were coming. Instead, he heard a yell come from down the hall and he heard footsteps running down the hall in the opposite direction.

A moment later, Doug felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. Someone said, "You okay, son?"

Doug looked up to see one of the special education teachers looking down at him. "Uh, yeah, I think so," Doug said. He tried to sit up and gave up on the idea when his head started to swoon. "Um, maybe not," he mumbled.

The next few minutes were a blur to Doug as the teacher called down the hall to another teacher. The two of them picked Doug up and carried him to the nurse's office. Doug started to become more aware of the situation and the throbbing in his head as the nurse looked him over. "What happened?" Doug asked.

The nurse said, "Someone hit you pretty hard on the head. You're not showing any signs of a concussion, but I'm going to keep you here all the same."

"Oh," was all Doug could say.

The nurse shook her head at him and said, "The principal wants to talk to you. Are you up for it?"

Doug gulped and nodded, then quickly wished he hadn't. The nurse said, "I'll send him in with some Tylenol."

A moment later, the principal came in with two small cups. One contained Tylenol and the other contained water. He handed them to Doug, who quickly downed them. "What happened, son?" the principal asked.

"I'm not sure, sir," Doug replied nervously.

The principal looked at Doug sternly. "You know that we have a zero tolerance policy for fighting on the school grounds, don't you Doug?"

Doug nodded and then immediately wished he hadn't. His head started pounding again. The principal repeated his question, "What happened?"

Doug replied again, "I don't know."

The principal sighed and said, "I'm going to have to suspend you for fighting, Doug... That is, unless you tell me who did this to you."

Doug's mind raced. He didn't know what to do. The principal shot Doug an impatient look and Doug finally said, "Alright. It was Jeff. I had a lab today with his girlfriend and he beat me up for being friendly with her."

The principal shook his head. "Jeff's a hothead, that's for sure. A lot of the football players are. They're going to be awfully disappointed when I've suspended their star quarterback for two weeks."

He must have seen the worried look on Doug's face. He added, "Don't worry, Doug. They won't know that you told me about this. There are cameras in that hallway. We caught the whole thing on video."

Doug was confused. He said, "Then why did you need me to tell you about it?"

The principal walked over and sat down on the cot next to Doug. He put his arm around Doug's shoulders and said, "Son, you have to realize that this world is filled with people who will bully you. The best way to handle them is to stand up for yourself. If I had let you get away with protecting them because you were afraid of a reprisal, I would have been doing you a disservice." The principal stared off into space, as if looking into the past. "I was once a lot like you, Doug. I was bullied a lot as a teenager. My father found out about it and taught me the lesson that I'm trying to tell you. Don't let them get to you. If they see that they can control you by fear or fighting, they will. If they don't see that fear in you, they are likely to decide that you're too much trouble than it's worth."

Doug felt something that he hadn't felt since the first time he walked into the high school a little over three years ago. He felt... unafraid. The feeling was new to him, but he liked it. The principal patted him on the shoulder and stood up. "Now, I do want to warn you that it might not always work. Some people are just jerks for the sake of being jerks. I think, though, that if you stand up to Jeff and his buddies that they will back down."

For the first time ever, Doug looked forward to the next time he would see Jeff, though at the same time he was glad it wouldn't be for at least two weeks.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Last week's Story a Week (and my writing style)

Hello everyone. As you may or may not have noticed, I haven't done a Story a Week for last weekend yet. I've written about half of it, but I've encountered a case of Writer's Block (yes, it warrants the caps). The story is another one of those that is out of my traditional genres. I'm not going to give the genre of the story away, yet.

Because I'm writing a post anyway, I'll give you all an insight into my writing style. I'm not what most people would consider to be a planner. Both in my life and in my writing. For example, when I clean, I don't say, "I'll clean the bathroom, then the hall, etc." I just go about the house picking things up and putting them away, then finding the next nearest task and doing that. It works well for me. I write the same way.

When I start writing, I don't have more than a vague idea of characters and plot. I may have been brainstorming the ideas in my head for a while before I attempt to write, but that's it. For my science fiction and fantasy works, this is fine. I can write a first draft quickly and effectively without much hassle. For other genres, it turns out to be a lot more difficult for me. The story I'm working on right now is the same way. I have a vague idea of characters and plot, but I don't have a timeline or any of the background that a lot of writers prepare before they even touch the keyboard. It's been frustrating and enlightening at the same time. It has shown me my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing.

So, what am I going to do? I'm going to continue to write, of course. After I finish the story that was supposed to be finished last Saturday, I'll post that. For the few weeks after that, I think that I'm going to go back to the fantasy plotline that I've already posted some stories on. This is partly due to laziness, but also because the story flows well for me. Also, I've just started a new project at my day job and I'll be pretty busy for the next month on that and something else going on in my personal life (a topic for a future blog post).

So, stay tuned (and patient)! I'll have the story up within a couple of days. Also, please tell your friends, coworkers or whoever about the blog and my Story a Week project. If you have an opinion on anything I write, please leave a comment.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Story a Week 14 - Propheteering, Part 3

That's right, it's time (late actually) for another edition of my Story a Week. This one is a continuation of the last two. I don't think I'll continue this storyline next week, but I think that I will return to it later on.

I'm planning a post this week about some very exciting news in my life. Stay tuned!


Rixi walked briskly through the labyrinth next to Cuddlington. The dwarf seemed to know where he was going, not pausing at intersections and not waiting for the others. She whispered, "Do you really know where you're going?"

Cuddlington glanced behind him to see if Melbrid and Meentha could hear. Satisfied that they couldn't, he whispered back, "To be honest, lass, no. I do know that we're heading in a generally southwardly direction, which is my goal. I'm guessing that the exit is that way."

Rixi nodded, that made sense to her. She looked up. She still couldn't see the ceiling. "Do you think we're under the mansion?"

The dwarf shook his head. "No. I'm guessing that we've been teleported somewhere when we fell down those holes. I don't know, or care, where. I just want to survive this so that I can get my hands around that wizard's neck."

Rixi giggled then suddenly stopped. She heard a howling sound from all around them. The rest of the group stopped as well.

Melbrid, looking around nervously, said, "Where and what are they?"

Meentha replied, "I think that they'rre gnolls or wolves. Perhaps even werrewolves."

Melbrid gulped. Still nervously, he asked, "Where are they, then?"

Cuddlington answered this time. "There are two packs of them, whatever they are. One pack to the north and one to the east." He looked towards the way they were heading. "The next turn heads east. They'll be there. I'm guessing the other pack is trailing us."

Rixi knew what to do. She pulled a belt pouch off her belt and walked between Meentha and Melbrid to the rear of the group. She opened the bag and poured caltrops along the width of the path. "That will slow them down," she said.

She turned back to see a sly smile on Melbrid's face. The sorcerer walked up to the trap and waved a hand over the caltrops. They disappeared from sight. "They won't even see it coming," he said.

Cuddlington interjected, "We must hurry to reach the intersection before our enemy. Prepare your weapons."

Meentha and Cuddlington ran down the path. Melbrid held Rixi's elbow and said some mystic words. "You are now hidden from sight as well. The first attack you make will break the spell, so make the best of it."

The two of them sprinted down the path after the warrior and ranger. The four of them rounded the corner and stopped short. They saw a pack of wolves about two hundred feet away running towards them. There were about a dozen of them. Meentha drew her bow and fired.

Melbrid pulled a wand out of his robes and shot a fireball towards the wolves. It exploded in the middle of them and sent them flying. A few of the wolves didn't get up, but the rest shot up and started running again towards the group.

Just then, Rixi heard a bunch of yelps and squeals from the other direction. She looked and saw another group of wolves had found the hidden caltrops. The group was now limping towards them slowly rather than running. Rixi moved along the wall slowly towards the first group of wolves.

She tensed as the wolves approached. They passed her as if she weren't there and she let out a sigh of relief. She saw Cuddlington charge into the group of wolves to keep them from Melbrid and Meentha. Melbrid pulled out a different wand from his robe and shot some magic missiles at one of the wolves surrounding Cuddlington. Meentha shot more arrows into the wolf pack.

Rixi gingerly approached the melee and pulled her short swords out. She stabbed into the nearest wolf. The beast howled and fell to the ground. Pretty soon the group had the rest of the beasts down. Rixi looked up in time to see the other group of wolves standing about fifty feet from the group. They were growling, but keeping their distance.

"No one make any aggrresive moves," Meentha whispered. She put her bow over her shoulder and slowly approached the group of wolves. A couple of the wolves backed up a couple of paces. Meentha howled and the wolves suddenly froze in place. The ranger howled once more and the whole pack howled with her. Meentha strode confidently into the pack and started petting the wolves. They began to lie down around her and she turned to her friends, smiling. "They'll stay herre," she said.

Rixi noticed Meentha glance sullenly at the dead wolves as the group walked by them. Rixi put a hand on the pantheron's shoulder. Meentha turned her head and smiled.

After another hour of wandering through the maze, Cuddlington motioned for the group to stop. "We're approaching a large open area. I'm sure that there will be some obstacle we'll need to face," he said.

"How does he know that?" Melbrid whispered.

Rixi giggled. "Dwarves can speak to the rock," she whispered back in a gruff voice.

The two friends laughed and Cuddlington looked back at them questioningly. Rixi laughed again and made a dismissal wave. The dwarf shrugged and turned away, then began walking.

The group rounded the corner and saw the path open up into a larger space. Rixi saw movement in the distance, but couldn't make out what it was. As they approached the opening to the larger space, the movement ceased.

"Maybe we should do some preparation before we go out there," Rixi said nervously.

The group turned to her. Melbrid nodded and said, "I have a couple of spells that will aid us."

Meentha nodded too, "As do I."

The two of them cast a few spells on the group. Melbrid finished by casting an invisibility spell on Rixi once more. Now prepared, the group walked out into the open. Rixi didn't see anything in the room. She looked around for an enemy, but didn't see anything.

Rixi saw that the area was square and about two hundred feet on each side. There was another entrance directly across from the one that the group entered from. Cautiously, Rixi crossed the room as the rest of the group milled about the entrance. When she got there, she heard a loud thump from behind her. She quickly turned and saw a very large minotaur standing, facing the rest of the group.

The minotaur and the group faced off with each other. Slowly, Rixi approached the minotaur from behind. She heard the minotaur boom, "Hold, trespassers! Do not move."

Cuddlington replied, "We just want to get out of this blasted maze, ye big oaf! If ye can help us, fine, otherwise, get out of our way."

The minotaur bristled and said, "Brash words, little one. I will only help you if you defeat me and I will most certainly not move for you."

Cuddlington glanced at Melbrid and Meentha. They each subtly nodded at the dwarf. He shrugged and shouted a battle cry as he charged the minotaur.

The minotaur laughed heartily and shouted a battle cry of his own. His cry was cut short as an arrow thudded into place in one of his shoulders. He shrugged it off and hefted his large warhammer. The head of the hammer slammed into the stone floor as Cuddlington deftly dodged the blow.

Rixi decided that she'd been an observer for too long and she drew her two short swords. She stood behind and beneath the minotaur.

Looking up, she decided that the monster was at least twice her height. Not letting that faze her, she launched herself up in the air and stabbed her two short swords into the minotaur's back. She put her feet at the small of the minotaur's back and pushed off. With a roar of pain, the monster fell forward a couple of steps, but caught itself.

Rixi landed with the grace of a cat and looked up. One of her swords was still firmly planted into the minotaur's back and she held the other in her hand. She was so busy thinking about her next move that Rixi didn't see the warhammer coming.

The next thing Rixi knew, she was flying through the air and landed hard about twenty feet from where the minotaur was now battling Cuddlington. Rixi tried to stand, but fell back to the floor gasping in pain. She could feel that several of her ribs were broken.

Suddenly, she remembered the healing potion she had. She quickly reached into her pouch and grabbed the bottle and chugged.

She gasped in pain again as her ribs righted themselves and she heard a snap as the ribs mended themselves inside of her. The pain ceased and she stood. She looked down at her empty hands, then saw her remaining sword lying near the feet of the minotaur. Cursing to herself, she drew her remaining two weapons, two daggers, from the sheaths in her boots.

She saw that the minotaur was slowing. Many arrows were protruding from his skin and several burn marks from spells dotted his body. He was still trying to smash Cuddlington. The dwarf looked pretty beaten up, as well and didn't look like he could take much more from the monster.

Rixi steeled her nerves and sprinted towards the minotaur. She launched herself into the air as she neared. She planted her two daggers into the monster's lower back and used her momentum to drive herself upwards. She grabbed the short sword from his back and plunged it into the minotaur's right shoulder.

The minotaur let out a long, pain ridden roar and fell to his knees. Rixi landed beside him as his legs gave out and he crumpled, face first, to the floor.

Cuddlington limped over to Rixi and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Ye did well, lass," he said to her.

The dwarf went around to face the minotaur and knelt down near the monster's face. "We've beaten ye, monster. Help us find the way out and I'll put ye out o' yer misery."

The minotaur groaned and tried to sit up, but couldn't. His legs were motionless and Rixi realized that she must have pierced its spine with one of her daggers.

"All you need to do is search my pouch. In it you will find a wand that will open a portal to the next test that the wizard has planned for you," the minotaur groaned.

Cuddlington swore. He stood up and said, "When I get my hands on that wizard..."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Story a Week 13 - Propheteering, Part 2

This week's story is a continuation from last week. I could see this one going on as a serial for quite a while, but I'll come to a good stopping point after next week and see what happens after that if I want to continue this storyline or find something new. If you guys have a genre you'd like to see me write in, please let me know and I'll make an attempt. This project is mostly about trying to expand my horizons and get some writing practice. Going outside of your comfort zone should be a part of that too.


The four companions stood around for a few moments staring at each other. Finally, Rixi got bored of it and started examining the walls more closely. After a few minutes of examination, she spied an almost imperceptible seam running vertically along one wall. She checked further along the wall and saw another seam there too. "I've found a door," she said.

The other three crowded around her and she began to feel claustrophobic. "Back off," she growled. "One at a time, you're squishing me."

Melbrid looked first. After a moment he shrugged and said, "I don't see anything."

Meentha looked and shrugged as well. Cuddlington approached the wall and stared for a moment. He ran his hand along the wall. "Ah, I don't see it, but I can feel it."

The sorcerer and ranger stared at the two of them in disbelief. The dwarf said, "Just 'cause ye can't see somethin', don't mean it don't exist."

Melbrid shrugged and asked, "Well, how do we open it?"

Cuddlington reached into his pack and pulled out a small pick. Melbrid and Rixi laughed. Rixi asked, "You always carry that thing around with you?"

The dwarf replied, "Yes, ye never know when ye'll need something like this. Sure comin' in handy now, ain't it?"

He swung hard at where the door was. The pick and the dwarf's hand went right through the door as if it wasn't there. Cuddlington started to lose his balance when Rixi caught him. He quickly pulled his arm back and said, "Thanks, lass."

Rixi nodded. Since she was eager to get to the other side, she cautiously put her hand on the door and it went right through. She pulled it out and took a look. "It doesn't feel like anything and it doesn't hurt," she reported.

Melbrid was visually apprehensive. He approached the door, took a long look at it and reached his hand out. It didn't go through the door. "I don't know how you two are doing that, but I can't seem to do it too."

Meentha let out a low growl. Everyone looked in her direction. "I don't like enclosed spaces," she said and strode forward and walked right through the closed door.

Rixi and Cuddlington shrugged at each other and followed. The room they entered was about as large as the dining room far above them was, except that it was empty. Rixi looked back at the door. "Melbrid still hasn't..."

Just as Rixi was speaking, Melbrid stumbled through the door. Sheepishly, he said, "I think the door was checking for our desire to begin whatever test Yif has in store for us. I had to get a little riled up in there before the door would let me through."

As Melbrid finished speaking four orcs appeared out of nowhere on the opposite side of the room from the friends. The two groups stared at each other in disbelief for a moment. Then, the orcs all growled in unison and drew weapons. Cuddlington grabbed his war axe from his back and charged at the orcs with a fierce war cry. Meentha unslung her bow, fitted an arrow, drew back and fired. Melbrid began waving

his hands about mystically and chanting.

Rixi, startled and scared, slunk to the back of the group. She drew her two short swords. After a moment, she saw that the combat could

turn in the orcs favor; she gathered enough courage to sneak around and flank the four orcs that were concentrating on trying to take down Cuddlington. She successfully snuck around behind them and stabbed one of them in the back. The orc screamed out and fell to the ground.

Another one of the orcs turned on Rixi. The rogue slowly backed up to the wall behind her. The orc was about to swing at her with his crude long sword when an arrow struck him in the head. The orc died with a surprised look on its face.

Rixi looked back at Cuddlington just in time to see him finish off the last orc. The dwarf had a couple of small wounds on his arms, but wasn't fairing too badly. Everyone else was unharmed.

As Rixi approached the rest of the group, Cuddlington beamed at her. "That was a good move, lass!" the dwarf exclaimed.

Rixi blushed and sheepishly said, "I had to do something and I can't fight direct like you. Sneaking around is what I do best."

Meentha pointed at the wall behind Rixi. "A doorr has appearred since we defeated the orrcs," she said.

Rixi turned and saw that this door was just a normal door with a handle. She shrugged and started towards it when Cuddlington stopped her. "Just a moment, lass," he said. "We should check the orcs for anything useful they might have."

The four adventurers each began going through the belongings of an orc. Rixi found a couple of silver coins, but nothing of particular

use. All the same, she put the coins into a belt pouch. She looked up when Cuddlington let out a whoop of joy. As she walked over to him, she asked, "What did you find?"

The dwarf looked up; he had been looting the body of the biggest orc. "I found two healing potions. I hadn't brought any along and it looks like we might need them sooner or later. Who knows what that Yif character has planned for us." He handed one potion to Rixi and

the other to Melbrid. Rixi tried to refuse him, but he said, "You two are the squishiest of the four of us. Chances are you'll need them more than Meentha and I." The pantheron nodded her agreement.

Cuddlington strode over to the door and opened it up. He let out a slow whistle. Rixi trotted over to see what was up. As soon as she saw, she said, "Wow."

The door opened up into a chamber so large that none of the group could see any of the other walls. The ceiling was also out of sight.

Across from the doorway were three entrances into an elaborate looking labyrinth. Melbrid walked over and saw what the others were seeing. "Oh, crap," he muttered.

The four of them walked through the door and it closed behind them. "Which one do we choose?" Rixi asked.

Melbrid and Meentha shrugged. Cuddlington glanced at the others, then strode confidently towards the entrance on the right. Rixi glanced at the other two and smiled as she turned to follow the dwarf.