Well, Reading Until Dawn Con has come, and gone. Amidst the whirlwind of booze, book talk, booze, games, booze, more book talk, and let’s not forget the booze that was RUDC17, I even managed to keep my pants on. Though, if I’m being honest, I didn’t start with pants, so that might have had something to do with it.
Just as I did for RUDC‘s inaugural year, I left exhausted in the most wonderful way. On Sunday, while I rested Pickles and reflected on what it is that makes RUDC so special– Pickles is my liver– it occurred to me that the thing I enjoy most isn’t the swag, the games, or even the copious amounts of alcohol, it’s being in the space of people like me. People who love words and escaping to other worlds as much as I do. People who understand what I mean when I talk about the voices in my head. (Don’t worry, they don’t talk to me, just each other). People who fan so hard that they share my oddly specific knowledge of [insert obsession of choice here].
While I’m usually completely content with my own company (I’m never really alone; I have the voices), sometimes it’s fun to make obscure references I don’t have to explain; and it’s always nice not to feel like a raving lunatic when conversation turns to [again, insert obsession of choice here]; and, frankly, not all of my nearest and dearest share my zeal for Harry Potter (hard to believe, I know), but that’s just the way of it… Okay, my whole family loves Harry Potter (the books, not the movies) so that was a bad example; however, if you’ve ever been with a group of people who didn’t get it when you asked if they thought Trump’s hair was a horcrux, then you know what I’m talking about. You need to be around your people every once in a while.
My new marketing guru, Jennie Marts, talks about finding your tribe. I’ve never had a tribe. Partners in crime, sure, but never a tribe. I suppose that’s what RUDC is for me: the tribe I never knew I wanted.
Welp, it only took me a year, but I finally had my Fallen teasers updated with the new website (yay adulting!). I’ve posted the full collection under Fiction Fans so they’re accessible to all my beloved Cannes-Can’s. They’re there for sharing, so don’t hesitate to save and post them EVERYWHERE. Seriously, spread that shit like a mouth-herpes outbreak at a college beer pong tournament. I know that’s gross, but I fucking mean it.
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to register for Reading Until Dawn Con. Party with me in person and collect a plethora of booty while you’re at it! (Like, pirate’s booty, not literal booty; get your minds out of the gutter). Anyhoo, RUDC is in less than two weeks, which means pantsless dancing is bound to ensue; you don’t want to miss it.
June 3rd– and, therefore, Reading Until Dawn Con— is less than three weeks away. Please excuse me while I squee myself.
Okay, I think I’m done. (We’ll see). Anyhoo! It’s not too late to register. Join me and my cast of characters. The plushies, not the fictional char– You know what?It doesn’t matter, they’ll all be there: plushies and fictional characters alike.
Cannes-Can’s special pillow fort edition of Story Corner will include coloring; readings of a few of my favorite scenes from Fallen, Book 1 in the Fallen Series; nursery rhymes (naturally); and the pilot debut of Real Shit, personal narratives as modern day fairy tales (they’re going to have morals and everything).
About a year ago I had the opportunity to do an author interview with the fantastic Aaron Michael Ritchey and Cody May for a Colorado Author Interview series. The videos are officially up! If you ignore the fact that all my dates are completely wrong, I actually did a pretty good job staying focused during this interview for a change (mostly). Go me! I hope you all enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed filming it!
You can see the updated news for my Fallen and Game of Thorns series(es) by following the links On My Nightstand (or just clicking the links I included in this post). And don’t forget to check out the rest of the author videos from this series here.
The smell of baking bread, lentil beans, and fish filtered into Belle’s awareness. It was the potency of the fish in particular that woke her, and her eyes fluttered open. Discombobulated, she tried to remember what had happened. Clearly she was in an alleyway in the market, but the memory of how or why she was there eluded her.
Fully aware of each and every pebble digging painfully into her, she sat up. With hands made clumsy by their violent shaking, Belle took a moment to attempt to fight the panic threatening by focusing on the mundane task of brushing off the gravel still sticking to her naked skin. Despite her efforts, her heart sped up, stuttering over itself. Her breath sawed in and out of her lungs. Dirt, and what looked uncannily like blood, caked itself into the creases of her knuckles and underneath her fingernails. One nail had been broken. Ripped off all the way to the midpoint and her finger throbbed in acknowledgement.
She would need to check a calendar to be sure, but she would guess that it had been exactly twenty-nine days since the last time. The last full moon. Ambivalence consumed her. Snaked its way up from her belly and threatened to choke her. She wasn’t sure if she should laugh maniacally because she might be losing her mind, or sob because she knew for a fact that she wasn’t.
The above is the original Beauty of the Beast flash fiction, which was written for an author spot with Alpha Heroes promoting the first ever Reading Until Dawn Con. The Mad-Libs style interview with Alpha Heroes is what planted the seed for the whole Game of Thorns concept. You’re welcome– I mean, thank you. See the original interview here and check out the strange directions Belle was taken after I released her into the loving care of Reading Until Dawn Con’s other featured author’s here.
October of last year, I plunged ass-first into the world of self-published writers. Almost a year later and I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. Don’t care, it’s still some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Just maybe don’t use me as the foremost authority on writing, or publishing, or adulting.
While I’ve done pretty well staying focused on the writing part of publishing…sort of. Focus is relative… Anyway, by choosing to indie publish, I am not just responsible for the writing, but everything else that comes with it. Like PR. To do this effectively, I’m told I need to find a niche. You know, brand myself, or something. Apparently drinking gin and ripping my pants off in public is only ideal marketing for strippers. Or so I’m told. I don’t know, it’s hard to remember when I’ve been drinking.
But I digress.
It’s likely that I will continue refusing to wear pants (viva la revolución), but that doesn’t mean I can’t also attempt to focus. And by focus, I obviously mean meander less. As a natural scatter-brain, focusing on just one thing is sort of like attempting to force a square peg into a round hole. It doesn’t matter how hard I push, it just won’t fit. However, there is something I already do on a consistent basis that doesn’t involve drinking or pantsless dancing– shocking, but it’s true. Drum roll, please…………
It’s research. When I write, I do stupid amounts of research. This is partly because I care about getting the details right and partly because I’m prone to falling down the rabbit hole once I get started. I come across a number of strange and interesting bits of information in my quest to find the exact piece of data that I’m looking for. What better place is there to share all the often useless knowledge that doesn’t make it into the final cut than right here? You’re welcome.
Without further ado, as the Fallen Series was largely influenced and inspired by Ancient Greco-Roman society, I’ll kick things off with some fun facts about the ancient world:
In Ancient Greece throwing an apple to a woman was considered a marriage proposal. In part two of this fun fact, catching said apple meant she accepted the proposal. So, ladies, if you’re single and intend to stay that way, beware of flying fruit.
Anyone that saw the movie 300 knows that in Ancient Sparta boys began military training at age 7. But did you also know that military service lasted until age 60? Assuming, of course, they lived that long. That’s what I call job security.
Music in Ancient Greece was a form of mathematics as well as art. This might explain why I’m terrible at both; they’re actually the same thing.
Beard trimming became an art in Ancient Greece. So much so that barbers became leading citizens. So, basically Greeks were the first hipsters. At least we know who to blame.
Ancient Olympic competitors ate sheep testicles to enhance performance. So evidently, performing enhancing drugs have been a problem since the outset. Go figure. In additional news, only men were allowed to compete in the early Olympics and they did so in the nude to ensure that no women participated in the games. Imagine running that way. Was the chafing worth it, boys? Was it really?
God I love useless trivia so much. Bask in it with me for a moment. Do you feel that? That warm tingling sensation is the feeling of information you’ll probably never need burrowing itself into the synapses of your mind. Ahhhh… Enjoy 😉
It’s a hostile world, perhaps exceptionally so in the online world. My step-dad, a software programmer, has been saying this to me for years. I always knew he was right, but it wasn’t until I found myself on the receiving end of what is ultimately an act of cyberterrorism that I truly internalized the lesson. I think, by now, most of us know that if you get an email regarding a distant relative and a small fortune that it’s probably a scam, and you should delete that shit ASAP. I mean, I don’t know your family, maybe it’s legit. Not where I’d place my bet, though.
But what if you requested the information?
My company posted a help wanted ad on Craigslist. Because I handle all of our communication with the outside world, it made sense to funnel applicants to me. We received lots of legitimate inquiries and have successfully hired employees this way in the past, so when I received an email referencing the ad I posted with a resume attached, I wasn’t suspicious. It caught my attention that it was password protected, but resumes frequently have personal information on them, so again, it didn’t really red flag for me. When it was all said and done, it only took 4 clicks for a complete stranger to thrash my entire world.
I was hit with Cerberware encryption software, which seeks out and encrypts your most important files: your .docs, .jpegs, .mp3s– basically, your documents, pictures, and music. Files that have the highest sentimental, monetary, or utility value to the user. The twats don’t steal them, they just make them completely inaccessible to you, the owner. Cerberware Ransomware is a 2 MB encryption code. I don’t know much about computers, but in essence it’s so big that it would be impossible to decode without a “key”. And that’s where they get you. You see, they send you this lovely notification telling you what you’ve been hit with, describing what encryption is, and then demanding– in my case– $679.00 to sell me the key I need to access my own property. The real kick in the teeth is the part where they tell you that this isn’t malicious and together we can make the internet a safer place.
Did I mention that in the event that you attempt to recover your files through other means, the Cerberware will corrupt them, rendering them permanently irrecoverable? Oh, and the assholes give you a deadline. I was given 5 days to pay the discounted rate and if I missed it, the amount would double. Fail to pay by the second deadline and they corrupt all your files anyway.
Not malicious? Fuck you very much.
As soon as reality came crashing through my confusion, I experienced the gut-wrenching horror that I am– was– 58k words into a novel that I needed to get to my editor in three weeks and nearly half of that was completely unrecoverable. At a conservative guess, the irrecoverable material represents around 80 hours of work on my part. That might not sound like a lot, but I have a full time job. That 80-hour effort has been spread out over months and it doesn’t include any of the time spent on research– files that I also lost, by the way.
The word ‘devastated’ comes to mind.
My knee-jerk reaction was to call my step-dad, upon which I received the comforting news that, “These guys are bastards. You’re going to have to pay them.” What he means is, I need to pay them if I’m going to have any hope of getting anything back. After extensive research, what we found is that there are some reconfiguration programs that people have tried, but success rates are low– and by low, I mean practically zero. We also discovered that there are lots of reports of people paying the money and receiving nothing for it. Discouraging, to say the least.
Not surprisingly when the shock wore off, it made room for anger, at myself– for not backing up when I knew better– and at whoever did this. Perhaps naively, because I know that there are some truly terrible people out there, but I find myself oddly hurt that someone would do this. My moral compass might not always point True North, but I do take special care not to do things that I know will be hurtful to others, so this level of intentional cruelty is somewhat incomprehensible to me.
There’s no denying, all my options suck some serious hairy ball sac, so what do I do? Try to make the least crappy decision and hope for the best. Oh, and kiss my files goodbye.
To whoever did this,
I’m certain that you will never read this, but it makes me feel better to say it. I don’t know whether you believe the diatribe you’re spouting or if you’re just that much of an asshole, though I suppose it doesn’t matter. Whether or not you would have released my own property to me, your scheme works because people pay, which is a sort of endorsement of what you’re doing. I cannot in good conscience allow myself to financially support the deliberate harm you are causing.
You say this program isn’t malicious; I’d laugh at the sheer audacity of it if I wasn’t so compelled to cry. My friends tell me you don’t deserve my tears– and they’re right– but I know the truth. My tears are mine alone. I’m a drop in the ocean to you. Not even a blip on your radar. You don’t give a shit about my tears, just my money, which isn’t yours to have either. While I’m not exactly winning in this situation, neither are you, and that’s enough for me. It has to be.
To me, the work you stole is worth the amount you’re demanding. More, even. However, in spite of the fact that it literally makes me ill to think about my loss, I won’t pay you. Not one cent. Not ever.
Kindly, take your lack of maliciousness and choke on it.
To Anyone Reading This,
Life frequently gives the test first and teaches the lesson second. The internet is a hostile place. Don’t open things from people you don’t know, no matter how legitimate it might seem. It’s just not worth it. Perhaps even more importantly, back-up your work. Even if we’re cautious, accidents happen. Shit gets through. Computers crash. The worst sometimes happens. There are no words to express how desperately I wish I’d been on a back-up regimen. It takes only moments and I could have spared myself a great deal of agony. Discipline weighs ounces; regret weighs tonsClick & Tweet!. Don’t set yourself up to run your race with weights around your ankles.
You might have guessed, but I lost half of what I’d written of Destroyed. The story’s still there, right where I need it: in my head. I can– and will– rebuild, but it would be a lie to say I’m fine. I’m not fine. I’ve spent the past ten days grieving. The task of re-writing and finishing in time to publish by October 2nd feels insurmountable. While it feels insurmountable, the only way to truly fail would be to quit. There’s nothing else for it except to get up, dust myself off, and keep on creeping on. So that’s what I’ll do.
Don’t let the bastards get you down. As an avid reader, I know how insufferable it is to wait for the next book in a series. I adore you all and would never make you wait longer than absolutely necessary. Bear with me Destroyed is coming.
Augustine made his way slowly through camp with Cato by his side. The sun had been up for several hours, but many of Augustine’s soldiers were still sleeping off the previous night’s debauchery. Arms were thrown over eyes. Heavy snores disturbed the stillness of the morning air. Looking at the disorder around him, it was hard to believe they would be ready for an invasion by sundown, but Augustine knew from experience they would be.
“Everything is in place.” He meant it as a question even though Augustine framed it as a statement.
Cato had more than enough familiarity with him to know he expected an answer, though, and hummed his assent. “Yes, we’ve been assured the bulk of the guards around the perimeter will have been removed from duty and none of the guards will be in place outside the bedrooms. Grabbing the royal family should be simple.”
Even if they did not have inside help, taking control of the palace would not have posed a challenge. The place was severely under protected. The real test would be in ensuring everything was done quietly and without raising alarm in the rest of Galilae. This was why Augustine had decided to enlist help, even if it was risky to trust such an important task to a man that was about to betray his own kingdom.
Quiet laughter drew Augustine’s attention. A small group of his soldiers sat around a makeshift table playing a game of dice.
“I cannot believe you returned to camp so early,” Lucius teased good-naturedly. “Were it me, I might have never returned.”
“She was a sweet girl,” Seneca defended.
“A very sweet girl,” Lucius insisted, indicating to the rest of the players that she had a large pair of tits.
A much louder bout of laughter followed that statement.
Seneca shoved Decimus. “Take your roll, or should we skip you while you take your cock in hand?”
More jeering ensued, but Decimus grabbed the two dice from the table. “Not a chance, boy. General. Captain.” Decimus greeted both Augustine and Cato with a nod. The other soldiers hadn’t noticed their approach and snapped to attention. “You care to join us?” Decimus continued, the only member of the group un-phased by their presence. “This is a new round.”
“I think not,” Augustine said lightly.
“Feeling unlucky? That does not bode well,” Decimus jested.
“I make my own luck,” Augustine retorted. “This is a game of chance, there is no skill involved.”
Decimus smiled genially and raised his hand to roll. “Suit yourself.”
Before he released the dice, Cato interjected. “Just one roll, General, lest your men think you believe yourself too good for them.”
Augustine met his friend and second’s smirk with a glare that held no heat. “You are a real shit, Cato,” Augustine said, to which Cato’s mouth curved in spite of the jab. “One roll,” Augustine agreed. “Where does everyone stand?”
“Seneca is at eight, Lucius threw snake eyes – bad luck, friend – and I’ve yet to roll.” Decimus held up the dice. “Superiors first.”
“Best for last,” Augustine deferred and Decimus threw an eleven.
“I do apologize for making you look bad,” Decimus teased and handed over the dice.
Augustine snorted as he rolled, wasting no time on superstitious rituals. Cheering erupted at the double sixes staring toward the sky and Augustine smirked at his Lieutenant. “The Throw of Aphrodite,” Augustine told him. “You lose.”
“The gods favor you,” Decimus chuckled, handing over the coins Augustine had won.
Of course they did. His record would suggest they always had. “Never forget it.”