7 Lessons About Blogging That Last Year Taught Us

The internet is a constantly evolving animal. Blogger advice received today might not be accurate tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean there is not lessons about blogging to be learned.

Well, maybe not that quick. It does often seem like things change overnight.

Last year was a huge year for blogging. That knowledge is a big part of what prompted me to start this blog in November.

I’m a big numbers person. If you’ve read my Tale of a New Blogger series, you already know that. In my free time, not that I have a lot these days, I enjoy looking at stats. I know. I told you I was a little crazy.

 

Blogging is a constantly changing world. Last year taught us many new lessons. This post reviews seven of them. | #blog #blogging #blogger #Bloggingbeginners

Recently, I was curious about how many other bloggers got their start last year. There doesn’t seem to be a clear answer to that question. I pulled up estimates from 5 million to 200 million.

Part of the difficulty is that sites view blogs differently. I tend to think of sites like mine as blogs. But many statisticians view profiles on social media like Tumbler, Facebook, and Twitter to be blogs. Hence, the big difference in estimations.

The other reason for no answer is the big blogger platforms have stopped releasing blog stats.

While I was researching this question, I came across two great posts that reaffirmed some of the lessons I have already about blogging and a few new ones. Here are the top 7 lessons about blogging.

 

7 Lessons About Blogging

 

1. People Love Blogs

Blogs have become the go-to for people looking for advice, instruction or purchasing recommendations. An astounding 81% of internet users feel that blogs are a reliable source to get this information.

That means that 4 out of 5 people reading your posts trust what you have to say. There’s great power in that but also great responsibility. It’s one of the most important lessons about blogging from last year.

That said, most readers prefer to skim posts. On overage, only 37 seconds is spent on a blog post. Readers tend to skip as much as 60% of blog content.

Does that mean you should write shorter posts?

In a word, no.

Why You Should Drop Back And Punt

 

2. Size Does Matter

In further reviewing lessons about blogging from last year, Google states that their top-ranked content from blogs was between 1,140-1285 words in length.

In addition, word count is increasing overall per last year’s stats. The average length of a blog post in 2016 was 1,054. In 2017, that average jumped to 1,142.

Why?

Long posts perform better. In fact, if your post is recommending a product or service, 9-times as many leads are produced from long posts when compared to short posts.

Longer posts, even if the reader only skims half of it, engender trust in your reader. Of those readers, 61% will ultimately make a purchase based on that recommendation.

There are some bloggers writing very short posts and being successful. As a rule, though, the longer posts produce more page views and better lead rates. Writing longer posts may be a crucial one of the lessons about blogging from last year.

 

3. Pictures Draw Traffic

The next of our lessons about blogging from last year is the importance of pictures and images.

Everyone likes a nice picture. Think of the posts you are most drawn to as you are browsing social media.

This fact is sometimes forgotten by bloggers. Stop forgetting. The blogging stats in this area are impressive.

Blog posts with pictures and/or infographics average 94% more page views than text-only posts. That’s nearly double.

Videos, and this was a surprise to me, increase results from organic search by as much as 157%.

You may see videos on this site in the near future.

In regard to infographics, their use grew from 50% utilization to 58% in just one year. Condensed infographics are frequently the top performers on social media as well.

One of the best ways to add pictures to a post, is to be sure to include a tall image that can be pinned to Pinterest. Read the following post to learn more.

Why Bloggers Should Include Pinterest Pins in Their Posts

 

4. Frequency Makes an Impact

So I’m a little torn on this one. When I first decided I was going to start a blog, I visited many sites that recommended posting every day. When I browsed those sites what I frequently found was an abundance of garbage.

I hate to be brutal, but that’s the truth. Some of the bloggers are getting a lot of page views, but I honestly don’t see how. At least, I can’t imagine them getting much return traffic.

With this blog I’ve tried to follow the quality over quantity mindset.

But I might have to rethink that concept. I hope to never publish garbage, but I am seriously thinking about increasing post frequency.

In the continued lessons about blogging, last year, of more than 1300 bloggers polled, bloggers that posted more than daily saw more than double the results as those posting once a week. Those posting daily saw about a 10% increase as opposed to those posting 2-6 each week.

Again, I’m not sure how I feel about this stat. For one, these results are from a poll, not hard data.

Can polls be trusted?

Some people are not entirely honest when it comes to polls. Two, I can’t help but wonder if the increase in results in not purely just a result of putting out more content.

This brings two expressions to mind. One, even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then. In this case, even a terrible blogger will produce something of value from time to time.

The second expression is something one of my old bosses used to say in regard to sales, “If you throw enough stuff at the wall, something is bound to stick.” It applies both to sales and to lessons about blogging.

One hard stat I could find was that 16 blog posts a month seems to be the magic number if you can’t post every day. Per one study, posting 16 times in a month produces 3.5-times the results as posting just once a week.

I am going to give this topic some serious thought. Probably I’ll stalk a bunch of blogs to see if I can discern real value in posting every day. I’ll write a later post on what I find.

One caveat, I hope I didn’t offend anyone with my “garbage” comment. If I follow your blog, please know that means I don’t think your blog is garbage. The ones I was so disappointed in will remain nameless. If you visit many blogs, you likely know which ones I refer to anyway.

 

5. Odd is Good

It seems like I have heard this somewhere before, but it still surprised me. List posts with an odd number of items are 20% more effective than those with an even number.

Yes, that is why this post has an odd number in the title.

On the top of lists, up to 36% of readers prefer a list article over a traditional text post.

I’m more than a little odd, so you will see me continue to be so. At least now I have a valid reason for it.

 

6. Updates Are Worth Your Time

If you’ve been blogging for any time at all, you’ve been told not to forget your old content. My blog is less than six months old, so I don’t really have any old content. Well, maybe some of the earliest stuff. But I digress.

Taking the time to update an old blog post can increase search result value by 75%. Merely changing the title of an old post can raise click rates by more than 10%. Yes, only about 55% of bloggers revisit old content.

Ask yourself, what is easier? To spend a day, or 3.5 hours on average, to produce a new quality post OR to spend an hour revamping an old post? Actually, changing a post title takes less than five minutes.

The older I get, the more I need things to be easy. This morning I revamped two blog posts to increase SEO and improve quality. It took me less than an hour total to refresh both posts.

 

Tale of a New Blogger – Part 6

7. Content Shouldn’t Be Deleted

I imagine that over time it may be tempting to delete old posts or poor performing ones. That recommendation is that you don’t.

About 10% of posts continue to increase in traffic generation over time. They are referred to as compounding posts and produce around 38% of total blog traffic.

There doesn’t seem to be a clear path to what makes these posts compound. Most were well-performing posts at publication.

Occasionally, and apparently, at random, an old post will sometimes take off. Maybe it’s just a matter of the right person sharing the post at the right time.

Whatever the case, as a blogger you quite literally put your blood (okay, hopefully not blood), sweat and tears into your blog. Don’t diminish the value of that effort by deleting posts.

If the post is truly bad, take the time to turn it into something great. But don’t delete it.

 

Additional Stats of Interest

Of the posts that go viral, 25% inspire a sense of awe or shock from the reader, 17% make the reader laugh.

A business can see an increase of up to 97% in inbound links from having a blog.

There are a lot of social media, content, and email marketing stats I did not use in this article. If you would like to read those or refer to the site that I consulted for most of these stats, you can do that here.

Have you learned any blogging lessons recently? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Blogs grow in popularity through recommendations. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with others or on social media. I will be eternally grateful.

 

Blogging is a constantly changing world. Last year taught us many new lessons. This post reviews seven of them. | #blog #blogging #blogger #Bloggingbeginners

12 Steps to a Happy Family

12 Steps to a Happy Family

Everyone strives to have a happy family. Today’s world throws a lot at families that makes this an ever challenging goal.

You have likely seen the good news posted by some “experts” that divorce rates are down. Unfortunately, those reports are only telling part of the story. While it is true that divorce rates (at least in the US) are dropping, the truth is that the rate of people getting married is dropping faster.

You can see the details as reported on the CDC Website.

 

 

But divorce isn’t the only problem. With so many distractions and time stealers in this digital age, many children and teens are feeling forgotten and unloved.

What can you do to ensure that you have a happy family? Here are 12 steps you can take:

Lesson 13: I’ve Learned that friends may come and go, but family is forever and must be cherished.

 

 

1. Talk to Each Other

Communication is most effective when there is a true sharing of feelings and words between family members. Getting all family members to talk is sometimes a challenge. Teens especially may tend to be closed off and silent.

The matter is not hopeless. Take the time to change a few of the things you are already doing and communication will flow more freely.

Talk when you are together.

No doubt there is time that is spent sharing meals or taking trips in the car of by public transportation. How are you using that time? If you are on your phone the entire time, there is no strengthening of the family.

Instead, take that time to talk to your family. Ask questions of each other and listen carefully as they speak. Try not to react too quickly, even if you hear something from your youngster that upsets you. Stifling them will only lead to more silence.

 

Limit distractions. 

Phones and other electronic devices are wonderful tools for staying connected to the world around us. They can likewise be large impediments to family communication. Checking text messages or social media alerts when a loved one is speaking will not show them that you care about what they are saying.

Set times for your family that are media free. Turn off phones or put them in another room during family dinners or when your teens come home from school. Take that time to listen to your family uninterrupted and you will draw closer.

Be flexible.

Family communication often cannot be scheduled. Your teen may want to talk late at night when you are ready to go to sleep. A younger child may want to tell you everything as soon as you pick them up from school.

Do your best to make yourself available to listen even when you are tired or have other things to do. Granted, you cannot stop every action to give your loved one your full attention. But if they see you making a consistent effort, they will feel valued and more likely to talk again later.

You can read another post about choosing your words carefully in this post.

2. Forgive Each Other

The silent treatment is a go-to response for hurt feelings in many families. This treatment may go on for days and even weeks when one family member refuses to forgive another for some offense.

As a result, this wall creates division in the family. Work hard to forgive each other quickly.

Sometimes it’s a matter of just asking yourself a few questions. Will what hurt me matter in 10 years? Is an apology necessary, or can I just overlook the offense? Am I being too sensitive?

Forgiveness means letting go of resentment and the offense that hurt you. It doesn’t mean that you need to pretend the offense never happened or should minimize it.

Holding on to resentment damages not only the family but you often on an emotional and physical level. It can create a rift in the marriage and distance parents and children.

This means if there has been a wrong committed, you should take the time to sit down and talk it out. Both of you should listen as the other explains their point of view. Then, do your best to move forward. Don’t continue to bring up offenses that you have forgiven.

 

3. Be Loyal to Each Other

Loyalty is at an all time low in this world. Too many people are quick to throw away relationships at the first sign of difficulty. This lack of loyalty is why divorce rates are high and why less people are getting married.

You chose your spouse for a reason. Continue to show each other proper consideration and love and your loyalty and commitment to each other will grow. Decide in your hearts that you will stay together come what may.

Take divorce and separation off the table from the start of the marriage. Divorce rates were lower in times gone past for that very reason. Most people did not consider divorce to be an option.

 


 

Family loyalty starts with your mind. How do you think about your spouse? Do you imagine someone else may be a better fit for you? Are there times you regret your marriage?

If any of those answers show weakness in your relationship, take action now to strengthen ties with your mate. Schedule time together and work on open communication. Examine what areas of your marriage are creating stress and then work together at fixing them

Children that are raised in an environment where their parents are loyal and committed to each other grow up to have strong relationships both with their parents and with their future families.

 

4. Support Each Other

The expression goes, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’.” Your family is your most important team.

For a couple, this means changing a mindset from “What do I want to do?” to “What would be best for us to do?”

A family should be more than just a bunch of people living together. Make a united front on dealing with money, making family decisions, and child rearing.

Some couples try to keep separate lives in many respects and then wonder later why their marriage failed.

Work toward the success of your team by always working together.

 

5. Plan With Each Other

Closely associated with teamwork is setting goals. For a plan to be most beneficial, it involves flexibility, planning and plenty of hard work.

Both family and individual goals should be encouraged. Plans may involve necessary things like nutrition and exercise, or a reward to work towards like a special family vacation or weekend trip.

Decide as a family what things you would like to work toward. Pick a realistic deadline and set out the steps that will be needed to reach your goal. Think of any hurdles that may come up and how you’ll be able to overcome them.

In addition to family goals, help your children to set personal goals. Achieving goals can produce more happiness, stronger friendships, and more self-confidence among family members.

 

6. Value Each Other

Valuing your spouse includes showing them respect. Expressing value is demonstrated in how you interact with your family. Do you frequently criticize each other, or are compliments more common? Are you quick to listen to each other, or do you walk away from or dismiss conversations?

Strengthening your respect for your spouse and family members is a very internal process. Meditate on a list of qualities about your mate, perhaps even writing them down. Then tell your spouse why you appreciate those qualities.

Think too of how you would like to be treated. What actions make you feel valued and appreciate? Think of several areas and have family members do the same. Then take some time to discuss what everyone came up with and how you can do better as a family.

 

7. Lead Each Other

Parental example is a vital step in achieving a happy family. Leading involves not only stating what you think should be done, but making sure you are doing the same thing yourself.

For example, you may want to teach your children that lying is wrong. Will you later ask your child to tell an unexpected visitor that you are not home simply because you don’t want to speak to that person? Or will your teen hear you call in sick to work when you are not sick?

Think about the guidelines that are important to your family. Do you have rules about what movies or video games can be played? Are there friends you want your kids to avoid? Does your family value words like “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry”? How do you act in these areas?

The way you live your daily life will affect the way your family lives theirs. Show your family how they should live by the example you set.

 

8. Instruct Each Other

Every family has a core belief system. For many this involves honesty, strong work ethic, and politeness.

To have a truly happy family, these areas must be clearly defined and effectively taught.

A good work ethic can be taught from a very young age.

Give your child chores to complete and make sure they follow through. Chores not only teach responsibility but the importance of doing things for others. Learning to care for what’s important creates stronger and more independent adults.

Standards for politeness should also be taught to the very young. Saying “please” and “thank you” and learning to share are essential lessons. Set the example in these areas and your child will more likely follow suit.

 

9. Trust Each Other

Trust engenders confidence and consistency. Believe in your family and that they will do the right thing.

Learning to be trustworthy is not an automatic process. Teach your children the relationship between trust and freedom. A teen that respects a curfew will be more likely to receive occasional exceptions.

Teach your children to be honest at all times, even when they might upset you. Show them the consequences when they are not honest. Set the example in being honest yourself.

In addition, patience adds to contentment. Rather than giving your child everything they want when they want it, teach them to work towards something and to wait until the right time. Teaching patience can go along with teaching how to handle money and the importance of savings.

Lessons should likewise be taught about being reliable. Teach your family to follow through. Dependability is sadly lacking today. If you assign a chore, see to it that it is completed. If your teen commits to doing an activity, make sure they do it.

Again, set the example. Show that you are dependable in the way you treat your job and commitments. If you make social plans, make every effort to stick to them. Demonstrate your patience by telling your family something you want and then let them see you patiently work toward it.

 

10. Strengthen Each Other

Standing up for what you believe in is the key to identity. Core beliefs, moral character, and ethical standards all shape that identity.

Help your family develop their identity by assisting them to discern their weak and strong areas. What traits stand out? Which traits need improvement? Consider aspects like generosity, punctuality, and work ethic. Make sure your young one knows their strengths. If they have trouble coming up with a list about themselves, tell them what strengths you see in them.

Teach conviction. Does your family follow a moral code? What is the basis for that code? Why should it be supported?

Have a family discussion about identity. Remind your children that they have both a personal and family identity and that their actions affect both.

 

11. Work With Each Other

Many devalue hard work. Some have a “gimme” mentality and expect to be taken care of and served.

Teach your family to be industrious. Show them the value in learning to do new things. Help them to feel pride in a job well done. Whether it is  homework, a job, or household chores – look for ways to be more do better and more quickly. As skills develop, so will work enjoyment.

Learning balance is about finding the right middle ground between laziness and overworking. Take time for recreation for your family, but also show them how you complete the necessary things first.

 


 

The world is a big place. Even small actions can have a mighty effect. Show your young ones how even small chores benefit others. As they grow, this lesson will carry with them and help make the world a better place.

Demonstrate your work ethic by doing more than expected. Show your children how to take pride in their work and that there is often more to a job than just completing it. Taking out the trash is important. Cleaning up any mess that might be created in the process is the extra step.

 

12. Guide Each Other

Discipline is on the decline. Crime and violence are increasing. There is no doubt there is a connection.

Your family should know that there is right and wrong and that consequences result from doing the latter.

Discipline and guidance are more than yelling and spankings. When your child does something wrong, sit with them and explain to them why it was wrong. Help them to see how the bad conduct affects others. Affirm your love for them while helping them to understand the importance of reasonable rules.

Guidance comes into play with you spouse as well. Is one of you working too much? Are budgets being properly followed? How much quality time is being spent with the family?

It’s too easy to develop blinders to the things you are doing. You should be willing to talk, and listen carefully with an open mind if you are corrected.

Discipline must be consistent. If something is wrong, it is always wrong, no matter where you are or who you are with. Just like the law is always the law. Speeding is speeding whether you see the police or not. Family rules should be the same.

 

Love Each Other

Love was not included as a step because a truly happy family knows that love is an essential part of all 12 steps. Discipline in love. Speak in love. Forgive with love.

Love is more than just a warm feeling. It’s that effort to always see the good in your family. Peace and calm are fruits of love. Love first, and all the other steps will come easier.

Even in this dark world, a happy family is possible. If everyone works together and keeps love at the forefront, your family will achieve this goal.

Read the other life lessons here.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with others and on social media. You can also pin the image below to Pinterest. Thank you!

Every family wants to be happy. Read 12 steps your family can take to reach that goal. #Family #Happy #Happiness

Every family wants to be happy. Read 12 steps your family can take to reach that goal. #Family #Happy #Happiness

Every family wants to be happy. Read 12 steps your family can take to reach that goal. #Family #Happy #Happiness

10 Poems From Poets You Don’t Know – Yet

10 Poems From Poets You Don’t Know – Yet

Here is a collection of poems from poets you may not already know. Click on each title to read the poem.

 

A Face in the Mirror (poem)

 

A Wife’s Poem……..

 

 

 

A Mindful Poem 

 

Poems {Third Edition}

 

Dance With Wolves

 

In Terra Pax

 


 

Poem: Poet For Sale Sonnet

 

Riot — A Poem

 

Whispered Silence

 

https://ryanleeking.com/2018/04/18/poem-gulf-shores/

 

Which one did you enjoy the most? What other poems have you enjoyed recently? Feel free to leave links below.

Paradise WIP – Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Author’s Note: Hello, readers! Here is the next chapter in my science fiction work-in-progress. Thank you so much for sharing this journey with me. I have only written 11 chapters as of today. That means I have to get to work as you are almost caught up with me.

Please keep in mind, I am sharing this first draft with you as it is being written. That means that this has not been properly edited and may have some inconsistencies. I am doing my best to keep it correct, but the demands of life lately mean I have not gotten to write as much as I would like. That, in turn, means that I can’t always remember everything as I write it. If you notice any glaring mistakes, feel free to email me through the contact link.

I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 9

The room was rumbling again. I knew I was back in the bunker before I opened my eyes. Dank cold surrounded me and this time I was moving. I was lying on a med table being pushed along a dark corridor.

“What’s going on?” I asked. It was too dark to see who was with me.

“Hush,” Sam whispered from behind me. “We need to be quiet.”

We were no longer in the bunker. There were no lights other than a small headlamp on whomever was leading us.

“Can you walk?” It was Max’s voice this time.

“I think so,” I replied. Nothing felt broken and there was no severe pain this time.

“Good. We may need the med table for others. Walk carefully and do not touch the walls.”

I slid down from the table onto uneven ground. I struggled to gain my balance.

“How are you pushing this thing?” I questioned.

“Not easily,” was Max’s dry reply.

Sam gently grabbed my arm. “Are you sure you can walk. You have been out for some time.”

I had not returned to the same moment this time.

I took a step. My legs were weak but stable.

“Put your hand on my shoulder and walk directly behind me,” Sam instructed. “The walls are very wet, and we are not sure what has been poisoned.

I maneuvered my way around Sam and we started forward.

“What happened?” I asked after several minutes.

“We had to abandon the bunker,” Sam whispered. “At least for now. The Plax were hiding in the darkness. Scouts were able to find another bunker.”

“Another bunker?” Sam had told me it was a miracle that they found the first one.

“Yes. Everyone is surprised. Even the scientists that survived did not know there was another one. It doesn’t have much for supplies, but it is sound and it doesn’t appear the Plax have found it yet.”

We walked on in silence for some time before we came to a large cavern. There were a few lanterns scattered around and about forty or fifty people.

“This spot seems secure,” Sam told me in almost her normal volume. “We’ve got guards posted at every entrance and a good distance up in every cave. We will have to rest here.”

In the light I could see that Sam was carrying two packs on her back. She slid one off and handed it to me. “This one is yours.”

“You should have given it to me sooner.”

“I needed to see how stable you were first. Last time you seemed fine until you collapsed. You have been unconscious again for days.”

“How come? What happened?” I asked.

“We don’t know. We thought first maybe it was an illness but no one else has had similar symptoms.”

I thought back over the last few days from my perspective. “Sam, there is nothing I need to tell you.”

We found a spot relatively isolated and I started to tell her about my experience in the compound. She stopped me after a few minutes and went and got Max and a few others and had me start over. I told them the whole story from waking up with no memories to what had happened with Peadar and the weird room with the girl named Jasmine.

“It is very disorienting,” I told them. “This feels so real but then I wake up there and that feels so real.”

“This is real.” Max reached out and touched my arm and her voice was gentle for the first time. “Roman, try to cling to this world with all your might.” Then turning to one of the men near her she went on, “It must be a probe. It is amazing he survived it. Does the new bunker have the equipment?”

“Not entirely,” the man told her. “With what we have brought we should be able to set up what we need in a few days.”

“Good,” she replied. “Sam, I want you to stay close to Roman. It would be good if we could keep him awake as much as possible until we can get it out.”

“Get it out?” I did not like the sound of that.

“It’s a type of bot,” Max told me. “We checked at the lab but I must have missed it. Sometimes they are in the water. The Plax will inject us if we they get close enough. It must have happened while you were unconscious and before we found you.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“These bots have on purpose. They all head to your brain and set about reproducing. They build a sort of neural link. With it the Plax can take over your mind and make you see whatever they want you to see.”

“But the work and the food. And Paul. I mean Peadar. Peadar is there.”

“If it really is Peadar then he is somewhere with a link himself. No one has seen him since the explosion that we thought killed him. More likely it is projection they created to test you and their virtual world.”

It did not seem possible. I had lived weeks if not months in the compound. I had participated in mudane tasks like showering and cleaning my shoes. How could it not be real?

“Their technology is very advanced,” Max went on. “We are still just scratching the surface of what they can do. Trust me, though, Roman. This is the real world. You have to try to hang on to it until we can get them out.”

Hours later, most in our party were quietly slumbering. Sam had been peacefully sleeping for a while when someone rustling nearby caused her to open her eyes. She noticed that my eyes were wide open.

“You need to rest,” she whispered. “We have a ways to go. It would be best if we did not have to carry you.”

“I know,” I whispered back without looking at her. “I just can’t seem to close my eyes.”

Irrational fear had wrapped its cold hands around my brain and squeezed any hint of sleepiness from my grasp. If this cave was the real world, then how did I live such a normal life in the compound? If the compound was the real world, why did my back hurt so much lying on the cold ground with my head propped awkwardly on my pack? There was no way to reconcile the two worlds.

Sam reached out and held my hand. “I am right here,” she tried to console me. “We will fix this. I will be with you the whole time.”

“Sam, you don’t understand. The other world, it is just as real as this one. I eat food and it is delicious. I sleep in a comfortable bed and dream. I run barefoot through plush grassy knolls.”

“You barefoot?” she couldn’t help but laugh. “I am your wife and I have rarely seen you without your boots on.”

I could not remember if what she was saying was true. My boots did feel oddly comfortable. Others had taken their boots off before nestling in to get some rest. The idea to remove mine had never occurred to me.

“I am trying to be serious.” I was frustrated but not because Sam was laughing at me.

“I know you are, dear.”

I opened my mouth to speak again, but one of the larger men near us loudly cleared his throat, giving us a not so subtle hint. Sam giggled quietly and squeezed my hand tighter.

“You need to sleep,” she ordered me.

Sleep never did come. I heard every breath, every movement, every drop of water. If I was in reality, I did not want to slip away again.

Traversing the caves was much harder the next day. We had mostly been on level or gently sloping terrain up to that point. Now we had very narrow passages, low ceilings at waist level and steep and windy paths. Every one kept reminding each other not to touch the walls. It was nearly impossible to keep that command. In many places we were touching both walls, the cave ceiling and crawling on ours knees. We were all wet through and through but none of us showed any signs of illness. Each time we reached an opening big enough for four or five people to stand together, Max would set up a check point to take a look at everyone’s vitals. Sam and I were in one of the last groups.

“How is everyone?” I asked Max when she came to check me out.

“Exhausted, understandably,” she said dryly. “How are you feeling?”

Every muscle in my body hurt and I had cut both knees and my arm on sharp rocks protruding from the walls and floor. “Just fine,” I lied to her.

“Ever the good soldier.” It was clearly an insult and not a complement.

“He is fine,” Sam came to my defense.

“Has he slept?” Max was not to be discouraged.

“Not that I know of.”

“That’s probably for the best. The more time he spends away the more ingrained the bots will become.”

“Away? You make it sound like I’ve been going on vacation.”

Max ignored me and went on to checking the next person.

“Can we rest for a moment?” I asked. Twice I had slid on some of the steeper sections and had bashed my right thigh in the same place both times. Watching the headlamps disappear in front of us we could see that the next section had ever lower ceilings and narrower openings.

“Gladly,” Sam agreed.

One of the walls looked relatively dry so we sat against it out of the way of the remaining travelers.

I closed my eyes for a moment. It did not really change things to close my eyes. The passageways had become so narrow that only a little light shown from nearby lanterns. Some had even turned theirs off to conserve battery. Still, closing my eyes brought my eyes a little relief from the straining in the dark.

“Tell me about us,” I said, my eyes still closed.

“Us?” Sam asked.

“Yes, us. I do not have any memories before a few days ago.”

“Oh, it is not a very exciting story.” She tried to be light but I could hear the catch in her voice.

“I don’t need exciting,” I told her. “I just need something.”

She did not have a chance to say anything else. Out of no where the cave shook violently. Max fell to the ground where she had been stooped examining one of the group. Instinctively everyone turned their lanterns up to the highest setting.

A few rocks fell from the ceiling and walls but then all was quiet again.

No one spoke for several minutes, all on high alert. Finally I could no longer help myself.

“Plax bombs?” I asked, barely audibly. Sam was close enough she heard.

“That was different,” she told me. “Not sure what. Unlikely to be Plax. We have come through some pretty tight places. They may scurry like bugs, but they can’t seem to go through small openings.”

“That’s one relief.”

“Don’t get too relaxed,” she continued. “If it wasn’t a bomb, and it definitely wasn’t an earthquake with the suddenness, then we have some new phenomena to contend with.”

That did not sound good.

Click here to read Chapter 10.

Paradise WIP – Chapter 8

Chapter 8

This is chapter 8 of my current science fiction work in progress. At the end of Chapter 7, our main character Rick, or Roman depending on the reality, was told he was sick and had been drugged.

Be sure to read the story so far by clicking this line.

New chapters are posted on Tuesdays.

It was a bright room. I knew that before I opened my eyes. I hoped I was back with Sam and Max and Menton. I knew that I was not.

My first attempt at opening my eyes, all I saw was white. White light, white ceiling, white walls, white everywhere. I closed my eyes again. It was too much.

Several minutes later I tried again. It still was way too bright. I was in a bed. White rails, white sheets, white blanket. My arms were tied down with white wooly cuffs around my wrists. I could not see them, but my ankles also seemed to be strapped. The room was large enough that I could not see all of it. Still, I was certain I was not back in the bunker. This was another new place.

Not willing to leave me alone and awake for long, moments later I heard the door open. In walked Vann with a young, dark haired woman at his side.

“Why am I tied down?” I growled through gritted teeth.

“Relax, my friend,” Vann cooed with his fake smile. “You are not well. Our aim is to correct that. We cannot have you harming yourself in the meantime.”

“What is this place?”

“This?” Vann glanced around the room. “You are in our Core, the reconditioning center. Everything is fine. Just relax and you will be yourself in no time.”

“I am myself now!”

“I know you feel that way.” Vann patted my shoulder. Had my hand been free I would have ripped his arm off his body.

Turning to the young woman, he continued, “I think a level four will fix the problem. Are you capable or should I remain?” He did not even fake cordiality with the woman. He was cold and demeaning.

She, in turn, kept her gaze fixed downward, never making eye contact with him. “I am capable.” She spoke barely above a whisper.

“Good. I will be back to check on your progress.”

The young woman did not move until the door had closed again. She moved closer and adjusted the blanket around me.

“Are you comfortable?” she asked in a much louder voice than she had used with Vann.

“Seriously?” Now I wanted to hit her.

She continued straightening the blanket around me. “They are listening.” The words came out so softly that I almost did not hear them.

“Who?” I asked her.

“Please be silent,” she whispered. “Blink once for yes, twice for no.”

I was confused.

Louder again she said, “This process only takes a short time. Then you will be allowed to rest again. You may be back in your own room yet tonight.”

I did not understand anything, but I remained silent.

“Do you know me?” The whisper came again, so quiet it could easily be missed. Her mouth did not move at all. I blinked twice in response.

“I know you,” she continued. “General Pierce. They consider it a great victory to have you here.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but she grabbed my hand tightly. Her eyes told me that silence was the only option.

“My name is Jasmine. You saved my father. I will help you, but you must do everything exactly as I say. Do you understand.”

I blinked once.

“Good.” Then louder she continued, “It is best if you can lie very still. Things will go much quicker if you do. Any movement sometimes stops the reconditioning probes.”

She walked away and came back pushing a machine that looked like it had a light on an extending arm coming from the top. The end of the arm was an open circle with three rows of tiny blues lights. She positioned the circle above my forehead.

“I need you to close your eyes,” she was whispering again. “You should be unconscious for this part. It’s important that they do not see any movement or reactions.”

I blinked once my understanding.

Jasmine pushed a few buttons on the machine and it started to hum. The lights got much brighter. I closed my eyes obediently.

“We have about fifteen minutes.” Her whisper was a little louder but not much. “The light from the reconditioner messes with their viewing displays so they cannot clearly see your mouth move. It is important that you move as little as possible and barely open your mouth.”

I opened my mouth barely a crack and whispered, “I understand.”

“Good. I am sure you have questions. I will try to tell you what I can.”

“What is this place?”

“We are in their core,” she told me. “Primarily they do reconditioning here, but they can also heal physical wounds if someone is injured.”

“What is reconditioning?”

“You don’t remember?” She seemed momentarily surprised. “I suppose that makes sense. Reconditioning in the way they control our minds. They can delete or change memories and completely alter our personality.”

It was hard for me to keep my eyes closed.

“You are not reconditioned?” I asked her.

“No, here in the core they do not need the pretense. Those of us who work here know what they are.”

“What they are?”

“They are Plax. Surely you remember Plax if you remember anything.”

“Who is?”

“Vann and the other.”

“No.” That could not be right. “I just saw a Plax. They have four silver eyes and can run on the ceiling.”

“You have seen one? Not many of us have. Not in their true form, that is.”

“True form?”

“Yes. You saw what they really look like. They are shape shifters. They can make themselves look like almost any creature. In some of the mods I hear they look like animals from Earth.”

Dozens of questions flooded in to my head. I struggled to remain still.

“Why are you working with them?”

“Not by choice. They have my little brother and sisters. They have all the children. We work to keep the others safe. Though once we turn eighteen we are not allowed to see them again. I work to keep them safe and I hope they really are.”

“How long has it been?”

“I am twenty-one now. I have not seen anyone under eighteen since I turned.”

A little bell rang out on the machine.

“I have to turn up the brightness. This may be uncomfortable.”

She was right it was.

“Try not to squint. I do not think they can see but we must be careful.”

“I’ll do my best.” The lights were so bright that my eyelids offered almost no protection. Reflex was trying to make me turn away or cover my face.

“Tell me about the mods.”  I thought the distraction might make it easier.

“We do not have much time left,” she told me. “When I am done I am going to give you a mild sedative. I have to give you something because they will check. You should remain alert enough to know what is going on. It is very important that you act like everyone else going forward. They must think that the reconditioning worked. It would be very bad if they knew what I was doing.”

“I will,” I assured her.

“I’m sure it will be hard,” she went on. “You must smile and interact with the others. They want the appearance of paradise and harmony. That includes Vann. You must act genuinely happy to see him.”

“That will be more of a struggle.”

“It is important. There is much more at stake than just you and me. You are special, General. You have a gift they did not think possible.”

“Gift? What do you mean?”

I heard the door open again and Jasmine quit speaking.

“Just a few more minutes,” she called out.

The little bell on the machine rang again and the lights turned off. Jasmine leaned in very close. “Act like them,” she whispered. She pressed something against my neck. I felt myself slipping away. Things did not go completely dark, though. I could still hear and comprehend what was going on. I heard footsteps and knew that Jasmine had left the room.

“They should leave them alert enough to walk.” It was Gregg’s voice. “I hate touching them.”

“I carried the last one.” Todd was there too.

“Very well,” Gregg exhaled. He slid his arms under me and picked me up. I was able to open one eye slightly and hoped they would not notice. They carried me out of the room into a hallway. Without turning my head, I could not get much of a view. There were several other doors. At the end of the hallway two doors opened. They stepped into a small room. I guessed it was an elevator though I did not sense any movement. A small display appeared, and Todd pressed his hand against it. Then a single door appeared and opened. Moving through the door, I could see we were outside and it was nearing dusk. Outside I recognized the little building with the locked door. I was right. It did lead somewhere important.

They carried me back to my room and put me in my bed. Gregg laid down on the other bed and Todd left.

I wanted to sleep but could not get my mind to quiet. I had not learned enough. Something sinister was happening and people were expecting me to be part of the solution. If only I could somehow restore my memories, so I would at least know what battle I was fighting. I did take solace in meeting Jasmine. I was not alone. Paul may not be himself, but now I had him and Jasmine. If no one else in the compound was real, at least I knew they were.

At the first glimpse of light I hopped out of bed. Gregg was awake and watching me.

“Good morning,” I called out to him. I forced a smile even though it felt unnatural.

“Good morning.” There might have been a bit of suspicion in his voice. It was best I not oversell it.

I showered and changed into a new outfit and headed out to the dining area. Gregg stayed at my side until we were approaching the dining area. Todd and Vann were waiting near the entrance.

“Good morning, friends,” I greeted them.

“Good morning,” Vann replied. “Are you feeling better?”

“I feel great,” I told them. “Was I unwell?”

Vann studied me closely for a moment. I stood strong with my beaming smile.

“No, I guess I was mistaken,” he finally said. “Please forgive me.”

I continued on to one of the tables while the three of them remained at the entrance. I had passed the first test.

Gregg stayed with me another two nights. Now that I knew what he was, I found it impossible to sleep with him in the room. He did not sleep either. Every time I glanced his way, his eyes were open and fixed on me.

The third night I came back from the vineyards and only my bed was in the room. I had passed the next test.

Even with Gregg gone, I found it difficult to sleep. Was it possible that what Jasmine said was true? And if so, what was the dream about the bunker? I needed more answers.

It was several more days until I dreamt of the bunker again. I decided that exploring was temporarily out of the question and that Paul should probably be left alone for a while. I did not want to do anything to put either of us under further scrutiny. I poured my strength into working in the vineyard. The vineyard did not seem very large but amazingly, each day I went out there were always grapes to be picked and new vines to be tied up.

If you are enjoying this story, please share it with others and post it on social media.

Leave your comments below of what you think of the story so far and what you think might happen next.

Click here to read Chapter 9.

Tale of a New Blogger – Part 4 – Path to Becoming a Successful Blogger

It’s been a roller coaster ride. Blogging is a new adventure every day. Some are great. Some… well let’s stay positive. So it goes on the path to becoming a successful blogger.

For the most part, it’s a fantastic journey.

This blog went live in November 2017. In this series, I am sharing my real blogging experience as a newbie and as it happens. Share in my triumphs and downfalls as I continue to learn how to be a better blogger.

Work! Work! Work!

If you want to be a successful blogger, you have to be prepared to work. I continue to be surprised at how much time it takes.

To blog with the ultimate goal of making a living from your blog, you must be willing to put in the time along with the blood, sweat and oh so many tears.

Don’t get me wrong, I am having a blast. Every night as I am preparing for bed, I think about how thankful I am to be living the life of a writer.

I really hated the last years of my career in financial services. But this, blogging, I enjoy every day.

Even the days with less than anticipated results.

In total, I spent just over 100 hours on my blog in March 2018. Just glancing at the numbers I can see some of my mistakes.

Actually, my number one mistake was fear. I am so concerned about money coming in that I am sacrificing my blog time to take freelance gigs.

The tradeoff means that my blog isn’t growing at the rate I would like.

For the remainder of April, my goal is to produce more quality content each week, promote more on Pinterest and to learn as much as I can about successful blogging.

 

 

Continue to Learn

In Part 3 of this series, I mentioned how my assistant has joined Billionaire Blog Club. Unfortunately, his time in March was also commandeered by things outside of his control.

What he has learned so far has been really helpful. Together, we have been working to increase SEO and Pinterest presence following the tips that Scrivs and other bloggers share through the Billionaire Blog Club network.

If you have thought about joining a blogging community, BBC is the one you want to join. The wonderful bloggers in the community have created an atmosphere or encouragement and support.

BBC is only going to be opened for limited time periods so that the owner, Paul Scrivens, or Scrivs, can concentrate on helping all of the members without being spread too thin.

But even if the program isn’t currently open, I can’t recommend the Free Blogging Boot Camp enough.

It’s a great way to get a better idea of whether blogging is for you. You will also see Scrivs style so you can decide if it’s a good fit for you. Being part of the Boot Camp also means you’ll be notified the next time BBC opens to new members.

Blogging is not for everyone, and neither is BBC. That said, I do think it will be an important tool in becoming a successful blogger. We are really enjoying the program so far and learning a lot.


Promote More

The one area I feel like a successful blogger for last month is social media. My Twitter account has finally reached a point where it continues to grow organically whether I am able to get online or not.

Pinterest, with the help of both Billionaire Blog Club and the wonderful course I purchased from Carly Campbell, Pinteresting Strategies, is showing real improvement.

March 2018 Daily Views

You can see from both images that I didn’t really get serious about Pinterest until near the end of March. But the impact has been phenomenal.

Average daily impressions for the prior month were just 335. But this month they were 1,553, and that’s with not really getting active until the end of the month.

March 2018 Monthly View Average

I can’t wait to see the final numbers for April 2018!

Another things that has really pushed the Pinterest growth was adding Tailwind. I started with the free trial and fell in love.  Tailwind is like having an assistant to handle some of my work for me, and I can’t imagine working with out it.

I upgraded to a higher level to have access to more options, but this investment will pay for itself in no time.

 

 

Interact

Visitors to my blog were down in March. Page views remained pretty consistent.

I am honestly not sure what caused the drop. There was less content published in March and that no doubt makes up part of the difference.

April is off to a great start and traffic is starting to roll in from Pinterest. These numbers should change a lot in my next report.

Connect with me on Pinterest

As you can see, Facebook and Instagram were a little neglected in March. Both still saw some growth so I am happy with that.

Twitter is probably the channel I enjoy the most. Of my now 7000+ followers, almost all of them are creators and most are authors or bloggers.

Being part of such a large community of writers gives me the encouragement I need to keep writing day after day, and will in time lead me to become a successful blogger.

 

Where’s the cash?

Earn?

My hope was to be one of those bloggers that had an amazing income story to tell after just a few months.

The truth is, in March I earned maybe $1.00 in total. I am not even going to look for the numbers because I know they are quite low.

There is no one to blame for this downfall but me. I have been so concerned with immediate money coming in that I forgot the time spent on my blog is an investment in my future to become a successful blogger.

That said, moving forward I am scheduling time to work on and promote the blog each day. The numbers may not increase a lot in April, but I am confident that the May numbers will show results.

12 Awesome Motivational Quotes You Should Know

Recharge

Having a blog means there is always something you can be doing. It’s important to take time to step away from you computer or phone to recharge.

I read a post over the weekend, 50 Unique Self-Care Ideas, and it got me thinking that it has been far too long since I have spent any time on just me.

Down time and excursions are now being added to my calendar like anything else I need to do.

An income is worthless if you aren’t finding enjoyment in life.

Don’t get me wrong, I love blogging. But my friends were missing me. And I was missing them.

50 Unique Self-Care Ideas for Mental Health

Takeaway

In conclusion, here’s a summary of what I learned this month:

  1. Community is important. Billionaire Blog Club is giving me the support and encouragement I need to really grow. Go visit Scrivs site today.
  2. Learning is important. What I learned through Pinteresting Strategies has helped create real and tangible growth on Pinterest. Take a moment to visit Carly.
  3. Investing is important. Really it’s a not a significant amount if you choose the monthly option, less than most people spend at Starbucks each month. Tailwind is growing my Pinterest base even when I can’t be manually pinning.
  4. Recharging is important. Take yourself on a date. Just you and you alone. 50 Unique Self-Care Ideas has many great ideas to help you recharge.

Until next time…

Review – Mall Hair Maladies by Kristy Jo Volchko

Book Review: Mall Hair Maladies by Kristy Jo Volchko

Mall Hair Maladies is told in first-person from the perspective of fourteen-year-old Tanya Sheffield. As she states in the beginning of the book, “All it takes is one chance meeting or moment to change everything.” Tanya’s life is changed by meeting her new best-friend, Randi Gattano. That friendship puts several things in motion that change everything in Tanya’s life over the course of 12 months.

The year is 1985 and Madonna’s career has just launched into the stratosphere. Teenage girls, Tanya and Randi, are on joint mission as super fans to see the star in concert. Along the way, they are two typical teenage girls trying to survive their freshman year and all the challenges that life throws at a teenage girl.

The book is written for the tween audience. For those of us that were children or teens of the 80’s, it is equally enjoyable. Maybe even more so.

 

 The Good

Kristy Jo Volchko does a great job of sharing the teenage mind. The book has a quick pace and a sense of urgency throughout as Tanya is ever working toward her primary goal of seeing Madonna in concert. The dialogue is enjoyable to read and keeps you invested in the characters.

My favorite part of the book was all of the 1980’s references. From words like psyche and bodacious, to smoking in the school bathroom and clouds of hairspray in the school halls, many of the references could have easily been pulled out of my high school experience.

As loyal Madonna followers, the girls work hard to have the biggest hair, more jelly bracelets than an arm can hold, and iconic fingerless gloves, even if they must make the latter themselves. There are grooming malfunctions, fashion agonies and plenty of teen angst to keep young readers connected to the story.

Other items that really struck me were the release of Madonna’s movie, Desperately Seeking Susan, and the character reading Flowers in the Attic, both iconic items from the 80’s. Music references from Huey Lewis to Hall and Oates add texture to the tale. I even found myself pulling up an 80’s playlist to listen to as I read the tale.

 

The Not So Good

Honestly, there is nothing negative for me to say about this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the romp through the 80s through the eyes of two teenage girls. I’m pretty sure I was friends with both of them once upon a time. Volchko writes at a comfortable pace with an easy flow. There’s enough detail to let you fully experience each scene without feeling too wordy.

 

The Rating

Whether you are searching for a wholesome book for your tween or looking to relive a little nostalgia for yourself, you will be very happy with Mall Hair Maladies. The book is very entertaining and each reading session left me with a good feeling and happy memories.

Mall Hair Maladies is volume 1 in what will be a series. Look for the sequel to be released in 2019.

I am thrilled to give this book a 5 out of 5 stars look forward to seeing what Kristy Jo Volchko releases next.

    • Series: Mall Hair Maladies
    • Paperback: 268 pages
    • Publisher: Cackleberry Creek Publishing; First edition (February 2, 2018)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0692972749

Please share this review.

Paradise WIP – Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Author’s Note: Each Tuesday I share a chapter from my current science fiction work in progress. As you read, please keep in mind this is a first draft. There will be mistakes an inconsistencies.

If you missed the beginning, click this line to read all the chapters so far.

I would love your feedback. Please share a comment. Enjoy!

 

Hours seemed to pass. I was dehydrated and finding it harder and harder to keep moving. Sam had gone in search of water so I determined that some must be in the room where we now were. Most of the broken wall had been pulled away and I was certain no more would fall on her. My next task was to find water.

Some of the shelves had boxes on them, but inspecting one after another they were empty. I was ready to go search further into the facility when I saw the edge of a silver box under a pile of rubble. This was an important box, my brain told me. I expended the last of my strength digging away enough rubble that I was able to slide the box out the rest of the way. Thank the skies! It was water and food!

The bottles were very small, each holding just a little more water than would fit in the palm of my cupped hand. I knew it was wrong but I drank two immediately. I then opened a silver package with red letters reading, “rations” on the outside. This must be food. I took a bite and it tasted like a combination of sawdust and mold. Still, I was starving so I fought my gag reflux and ate on. I took three bites, albeit large bites, and closed the package back and carried the silver box over to Sam. Slowly I was able to poor one bottle of water down her throat.

Sam’s breathing was much stronger now. I knew I had saved her but I did not know how. I needed to finish digging her out but my energy was completely spent. I cleared away a spot next to her and lay down on the cold concrete. Immediately I fell asleep.

“Roman,” it was Sam’s voice though much weaker than I had first heard. I sat up and flipped on the lantern.

“Hey, you’re back,” I smiled at her.

“You too.” She tried to smile back but the pain was too severe.

“I need to finish digging you out,” I told her but she shook her head from side to side.

“Others?” she asked me.

I knew what she meant. “I saw three on the way here,” I informed her. “All dead.”

“Max?”

I did not want to further frustrate her, but I had no choice.

“I don’t know who Max is.”

She squinted her eyes. I was not sure if it was from pain or frustration or both.

“Doctor,” she finally said. Sam must mean the woman in black.

“I have not seen her.”

Sam exhaled slowly. “Find her.”

She tried to lift her head from the floor but immediately collapsed back in pain.

“You can’t go anywhere,” I told her.

“You,” she looked at me. I saw the pleading in her eyes. “Important.”

Against her wishes, I forced her to drink another bottle of water and then set out to find Max.

I did not know where to go. Most of the dust and smoke had cleared. Only a few lights were flickering here and there. I decided that since I had found no one alive on the way to find Sam that I should press on further in that direction.

Several doors past the metal one, I saw scrawled on the wall, “Med.” This must be the right area. Most of the doorway had collapsed and only a triangle of open space remained at the bottom. I kicked at the debris a few times to make sure it was solid and then got on the floor and crawled through the opening.

It was a disaster but this was the room I had first woken up in.

“Max,” I called out. The room was larger than I remembered and most of the white lights were now in pieces on the floor. “Max,” I called out a little louder.

Suddenly a hand came from behind and covered my mouth. “Turn out the light and be silent,” a woman whispered in my ear. Obediently I switched the lantern off. The woman pulled me backward into a metal cabinet. There was barely enough room for one in the cabinet, but she pulled me closer and tried to shut the door in front of us.

“What are we doing?” I whispered.

“Silence!” she hissed at me.

There was a noise in the room. I did not know what it was but it made my blood cold and I froze where I was. I heard the noise again, a little louder. It was soft rattle working its way up a long gullet. The woman clutched me tighter. Neither of us was breathing.

Glass crunched on the floor not far from us. Something large had crushed it. The rattle sound was closer. Something was being dragged alone behind it.

My heart was pounding. Fear gripped me that whatever was outside the cabinet would here it beating. I let in a small breath. The woman pulled me tighten and clasped her hand over my nose and mouth.

The thing in the room had heard something. It turned swiftly toward the cabinet and debris scattered on the floor behind it. The dragging sound must have been some sort of tail.

I stared unblinking through the small gap opening where the cabinet door could not close completely. Four silver eyes appeared just inches away were getting closer.

Suddenly there was a blinding flash of light in the room. I caught of glimpse of the creature jump to the ceiling and skitter away. A second later two flares lit up and cast red light around the room. There was nothing in the room but two men holding flares and medical equipment. Whatever the creature had been, it disappeared that quickly.


“You can breathe,” the woman removed her hand and not gently pushed me from the cabinet. I spun to look at her and it was the woman in black.

“What in the name of all that is good…?” I could not even finish my sentence.

“Plax,” one of the men said. “Aliens.”

“He knows,” the woman barked.

“Are you Max?” I asked.

“You know I am,” she grunted. For a doctor, she had no bedside manner.

“Sam is hurt, buried.” My thoughts were racing. I could not make sense of what had just happened.

“She is OK,” one of the men offered. “Menton is with her. We need a carry board to bring her here.”

“How bad?” Max ignored me and asked the men who had saved us.

“Bad,” the men did not hold back. “She has bots. She may be all right.”

“I’m glad she had the sense to be carrying her bots.”

“I got the bots.” Everyone in the room seemed to be having a normal conversation. My head was spinning.

“The general does something right,” Max kicked some debris out of her way. She pulled a large box from another cabinet and pulled out a replacement light. She climbed up on a med table and put it into a slot in the ceiling. The room was immediately flooded with white light. I had to shield my eyes for a moment to adjust.

“Well go get her,” she pointed to the door. One of the men handed his flare to the other and then picked up a med board. I followed after them.

When we got the Sam she was completely uncovered and sitting up against a shelf.

“How?” The only other person was a woman I guessed would be Menton. She stood to salute me and stood at least a head taller than me. I looked at the large chunks of cement that had been covering Sam and asked again, “How?”

“Augmented,” Sam whispered. Then to Menton she said, “Doesn’t remember,” and nodded slightly in my direction.

Menton was still standing at attention. “At ease,” I finally told her.

Menton reached to pick up Sam but one of the men stopped her.

“Max wants us to use the board,” he told her and she stepped away.

“You are like Paul,” I commented more to myself than to Menton. “I mean Peadar.”

What I imagine was generally a very stoic grimace briefly reflected a flash of emotion.

“Like Peadar was,” she commented.

“Is,” I corrected her. “He’s not entirely himself upstairs, but he’s still an ox.”

Forgetting herself for a moment, Menton grabbed me shoulders. “Peadar is alive?” Then catching herself, she dropped to her knees and apologized. I lifted her chin so she would look at me again.

“Peadar is alive. At least I think he is. I am not clear on what is going on. I just saw him yesterday. Or today. I am not clear on that either.”

The men had Sam loaded up and we followed them back to the med center.

“Tell me about Plax,” I requested of Menton while Max was working on Sam.

I could see the rage in her face. “What do you want to know?”

“Everything.”

She looked at me confused.

“Something happened. I’m having trouble remembering things.”

“Reconditioning?” she asked.

“I think so.”

She nodded slightly.

“Plax are vermin,” she began. “They destroyed our planet and work to destroy us.”

“They are exterminating us?”

“Not all of us,” she answered. “We are a novelty to them. They are playing with us.”

“Playing? The creature I just saw did not appear to be playing.”

“No, it probably would have killed you,” she said matter-of-factly. “But death is not always the end.”

“No?” That could not be right.

“I saw Peadar die,” she told me. “Held his head in my hands while he breathed his last breath. Now you tell me you saw him only yesterday.”

“How can that be?”

“No one knows.” She shrugged.

“Did I die?” I wanted to make sense of what was happening.

“We thought so,” Menton said. “But here you are. No one has ever come back here.”

“Here?”

Max had come up behind me.

“Plax hate light. We have fortified this area. They will not be back tonight. You need to rest.”

She pressed something against my neck and I collapsed before I could object.

A second later I opened my eyes. I was back in my bed in the compound. Gregg was sitting on the bed next to me and Vann and Todd were standing nearby. I was covered in sweat.

“He is sick,” Vann commented. “Take him to the core.”

I wanted to jump up and run. Gregg pressed something against my neck and there was darkness again.

That’s it for this week. I would love your feedback. Please share a comment. Enjoy!

Click here to read Chapter 8.