Tag Archives: Wolfe Butler

Paradise WIP – Chapter 22

Chapter 22

Chet was not one for conversation. He pointed to a table and then disappeared through another door at the far end of the room. Slowly, conversation started up again, though in hushed tones.

“Who is that?” I finally was able to ask.

“That’s Chet. He leads the rebellion against the Hyatt. He thinks they are more dangerous than the Plax,” Sam told me

“More dangerous? How can he possibly think that a group of humans are more dangerous that aliens that are trying to eradicate the human race?”

“It’s personal,” Sam whispered in a low tone. “You’ve seen him. He augmented more than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Chet was a large man. I couldn’t remember seeing another man even close to as big, though that wasn’t a big deal with so few memories.

Paradise WIP

“So, what’s next?”

“Chet will let us know,” Sam said.

“Let us know?” I was not happy with that answer. The mission was dangerous enough. I needed to be the one calling the shots.

“Since we went underground, Chet has become the unofficial leader above ground. You’ve been incapacitated for too long. Someone had to fill the void.”

“But I’m back now.” As I said the words, I realized how wrong they were.

“You may be back, but you’re not the general we all were following. You will always be the face of the rebellion, but until you regain your memories, you  won’t be  the general we need to lead us.”

The words stung. Anger toward Sam welled up inside me, but I knew she was write. I couldn’t remember things like tactics or battle plans. The weapon I held felt like a foreign object. There was no way I could lead effectively.

A few minutes later, Chet came back into the main room and walked over to our table.

“We do this today,” he stated. “We leave in an hour.”

Review: Working Stiffs by Scott Bell

* * * * *

Chet gathered us exactly an hour later. A platoon of twenty soldiers joined him and our group of four.

The long walk to the rebels bunker had not been too bad, but the walk back up the base revealed just how steep the incline was. I started to struggle early on. My legs burned and breathing was harder than it should have been. I was determine, though. If Sam was going to die on this mission, I was going to die beside her.

“Mechs have been spotted about five miles south of here,” Chet told us when we were back in the military base. “That will be our best chance.”

“What’s a mech?” I whispered to Sam once we were outside. Chet immediately spun around and glared at me. He put a finger to his lips and it was clear there was to be no conversation on our journey.

It wasn’t long before I would find out. Chet walked with a stride three times the length of an average man. Most of us were jogging to keep pace with him. My legs were on fire, but I refused to stop.

Along the way, we passed crumbled building and abandoned vehicles. Sam explained to me later that the Plax had disabled most vehicle through persistent electronic pulses that fried electronic equipment. It was the same reason we didn’t carry communication devices. Our energy weapons still worked, but their guidance systems did not. Fighting relied entirely on the skill of the soldier rather than on any help from the weapon.

I couldn’t help but not that while much of the military base was standing, most of the other building were either completely destroyed or missing at least one exterior wall making them virtually unusable. I thought back to the time in the bunker when I had seen a wall crumble before my eyes and shuddered.

The mech came into view as we were entering a clear. Later I learned that the clearing used to be a park where people gathered on weekends to play group sports. I couldn’t imagine that world looking at the dead foliage and abandoned vehicles that now filled much of the area.

Book Review – A Sword in Time by Cidney Swanson

Not much farther in front of us, I notice one building still standing. The rest of our group noticed it at the same time. Like bugs scurrying away from light in the middle of the night, everyone quickly found cover. I was slow to move, but Sam grabbed me by my body armor and pulled me down behind an abandoned vehicle.

“What’s going on?” I asked her.

“Mech,” she answered.

I was confused. I hadn’t seen anything. Are they small?  I asked myself.

Learned around the corner of the vehicle, I looked into the clearing to see if I could pick out the object that had brought so much fear to our group.

Just then, the building I noticed turned and began moving in our direction.

“What the…” I couldn’t help myself, but Sam silenced me by slapping her hand over my mouth. I saw fear in her eyes as she shook her head from side to side.

So, this is where I’m going to die, I thought to myself.

The building, it turned out, was actually a mech, a large Plax robotic creature that destroyed buildings and captured humans. Nearly as tall as a two-story building, it moved with surprising speed and agility.

My eyes were glued in fascination. How could I have forgotten such a thing?

From my side view, I noticed Chet’s hands were moving. Soldiers in groups of two started to make their way to nearby vehicles. The plan appeared to be to surround the mech.

It wasn’t clear if the mech had noticed us, but it did continue moving in our direction. I watched as Sam disabled the safety on her weapon and pointed at mine. She pulled three balls from a pocket near her should. I imagine they must be some sort of grenade.

Book Review: Contained by S. L. Harpel

The grenade were blue and perfectly smooth, with the exception of a small round button at the top.

“Press and hold it for three seconds,” she whispered to me. “The button will sink deeper into the grenade once it’s armed. Throw it as far as you can. The explode on impact or in five seconds.”

She handed one to me. I looked over the Chet expecting him to be red with anger, but he only nodded in our direction.

“Come on,” Sam said, “He wants us to head around to the West.”

Quietly we hurried from vehicle to vehicle.

“Why didn’t Chet silence you?” I whispered to her when we reached a point she thought was far enough.

“It knows we’re here,” Sam informed me. “There’s no need to be completely silent now, though loud noises will review our position.

A sizzle pierced the air and the vehicle we had just been near turned to ash. Every hair on my body stood up to take notice.

“If I say run,” she whispered again, “Don’t think about it. Run, and with every ounce of energy you have.”

Author Interview: S. L. Harpel, Author of Contained

Chet’s team was now firing at the mech. The goal seemed to be to disable it by destroying the legs it was walking on. Every soldier was making short, controlled energy bursts before quickly moving to another barrier. I watched in horror as two of Chet’s soldiers were too late to run and turned to dust in a flash of light.

“Get ready,” Sam told me. We both armed and tossed our grenades and then sprinted to another vehicle.

Grenades exploded as we exchanged weapons fire with the mech. Then, all at once, the firing stopped. Shaking, I cautiously started to look around the vehicle we were currently hiding behind. The mech had stopped firing and was slowly rotating to the right. First one of the four legs broke off, and then another. The rest of the unit dropped hard to the ground. The force of the impact shook the ground so hard that I lost my balance and toppled on to my back. All was then quiet for a second until we heard one of Chet’s soldiers cheering.

“Let’s go look at the spoil,” Sam told me, but I grabbed her arm.

“Sam, no,” I stopped her.

“What’s wrong?”

“This was too easy,” I told her. “Something is wrong. I’m sure of it.”

She squatted back near me. Sam kept her eyes on the fallen mech, but I scanned the area behind us. There was two concrete pillars standing not far from us, the remains of a building. With my hand still around her arm, I started to pull Sam up and started to run toward the pillars.

“Roman, what?” She looked at my face and we ran toward the pillars. Far away from us, I saw Menton and Benjamin running away from the clearing as well. Chet himself was moving away, but five or six of his team had gone close to inspect the mech from a closer vantage point.

“Move!” Chet yelled out. Most of his soldiers responded, but the ones closest to the fallen carcass kept going closer.

Sam and I had no more than reached the pillars when white light filled the air. I squeezed my eyes tightly closed, but the light was still too bright. We were knocked to the ground as the ensuing explosion robbed us of our sense of hearing.

Lights continue to flash around me for several minutes after the blast. Sam was up and saying something, but I couldn’t hear anything. I rolled to my side and looked toward the clearing. Where the mech had been was a large burning crater. Of his group, only Chet and five of his soldiers remained.

Book Review: Tokyo Story by Tereza Mackova

Sam was screaming at me, but I still couldn’t hear anything. I tried to read her lips, but the flashing lights made it difficult. Menton was there and picked me up and threw me over her shoulder again. I could see Chet waving his hands, but my group was unwilling to go to him. Instead, we were running back north toward the military base.

Menton most have run a mile before any hearing started to come back.

“Put me down,” I yelled out to her. “Put me down.”

She set me on the ground and Sam and Benjamin came running up from behind us.

“Why are we running now?” I demanded. “There’s nothing left.”

“We were stupid,” Sam said. “We should have known the mechs would self-destruct. Why didn’t any of us know that?”

It was a reasonable point. I wondered myself. Even without my memories, my instinct was to get away from the fallen enemy.

“But it’s gone now,” I demanded.

“The mech is gone,” Menton corrected me, “but now more will be coming. The blast will register for miles.”

I was mad at myself again for not realizing that.

“The Plax will descend on that area,” Sam agreed. “They will make sure none of their tech is left behind.”

“Nothing could have survived that explosion.”

“We did,” Sam said. “That’s probably why Chet didn’t run. They are probably looking for tech.

“We should move,” Benjamin offered. “There’s no safety in these streets.”

He was right, so we continued on at a rapid pace.

We were within one hundred feet of the door of the base when something dropped from the sky right in front of us. We all froze in place. There was no doubt it was a Plax, and we were possibly the first humans to see one.

The creature was a goldish brown color and looked like a large insect. it’s triangular head had four gold eyes and a jaw that opened from side to side. There were six legs on its lower long body and four arms on its upper body. The back of the upper body had two sets of wings. Another one dropped from the sky as we stood there, blocking our online route to the safety the base would provide.

As we stood our ground, I couldn’t help but think, There’s a reason why no human has ever reported back about seeing on of these things.

 

This and That: Checking in With Wolfe Butler

Hello, readers! It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post about me. So much has been going on that I feel like I need to check in with my audience and give a quick update on everything from building a launch team to growing an ice plant. As a result, I’ve decided to take some time off from my different series.

As usual, Wolfe is trying to go in more directions than are humanly possible (I don’t know why I’m referring to myself in third-person.) If I didn’t, though, I wouldn’t be me.

From hiring editors to killing plants, here’s what’s been going on in Wolfe Butler’s world.

Why You Need a Professional Editor

If you’ve followed me for any time at all, you know that my debut novel, Getting Home, was a labor of love that took me 15 years to complete. I finally self-published it simply so I would stop working on it. My goal was to go back to it at some point so it could be polished to perfection.

A couple reader’s pointed out some small grammar and typo mistakes. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so those mistakes have become an obsession of mine.

I decided not to wait and to dust off the manuscript. I raised the price on Amazon so no one would be interested in buying it for the time being, and I decided to get the help I needed to polish it into the gem I know it can be.

Through a little searching, I was able to find a great editor within just a two-hour drive from where I live. I am working with the wonderful and talented Angela B. Wade. Even though the book was finished, Angela is helping me do a developmental edit. Angela can also be found on Reedsy if you want to work with a great editor.

 

Picture of an edited page

The Bad and the Good

When it comes to getting good and bad news, I always opt for the bad first to get it over with and so I still have something good to look forward to. Angela has helped me to see that there were some serious revisions needed in Getting Home due to plot holes and some confusion from inconsistent point-of-view.

On the positive side, as I work through the entire manuscript again, I’m finding that it’s actually a fairly decent piece of fiction. Yes, I know I shouldn’t say that about my own work, but I have been pleasantly surprised.

After almost seven months of not looking at it, I sat down to read it cover to cover. I was pleased to find some good writing. Yes, there are lots of things to fix, and I’m so thankful to reviewers like Kristy Jo Volchko for their kind reviews in spite of glaring mistakes. However, there is some good writing, so I can’t wait to do a new release for my passion project.

While I am disappointed with myself for putting my work out into the world in an imperfect state, I am so grateful to Angela B. Wade. She is helping me to put the book in order and has pointed out a few flaws that I would never have noticed on my own.

If you are an indie author, I strongly recommend that you consider working with a professional editor like Angela B. Wade. If you feel like a professional is outside of your budget, then, at the very least, find a teacher or other wordsmith in your life that is willing to give your manuscript a once-over before you launch.

You will be surprised at how many mistakes a fresh set of eyes can find.

Why Bloggers Should Include Pinterest Pins in Their Posts

Building a Launch Team

One of the reasons for today’s post is that I am looking to build a launch team. There are two main reasons.

One, as I just mentioned, Getting Home will soon be re-released. I would love some help spreading the word.

Two, my current work-in-progress, Paradise, is also nearly complete for book one. My goal is to have it live on Amazon by mid-October, which means I have a lot of work to do between now and then.

I am coming to each of you to ask for help. In the coming days, I will be creating Facebook groups for each book. Please consider applying to join my launch team. In addition to my eternal gratitude, you will also receive a copy of the book when it goes live.

 

Shuttle launch

What Does a Launch Team Do?

Many of us have done book tours, whether online or in person. Developing a launch team is very similar. All I would ask from you is that you read the advance copy I will send to you and then leave an honest review once the book goes live. It would also be great if you were willing to post about the launch on your blog or social media accounts.

Now, I don’t want to cross any lines, especially with Amazon. If I send you an advanced reader copy (ARC) copy of either book, you are under no obligation to write a final review. I would love it if you would, but would fully understand if you did not. It would be good to include in your review that you received an ARC, but I don’t think it’s a requirement.

Please reach out to me if you have any more questions on launch teams.

You Gotta Have Help

Another huge change I have made in my daily life was adding CrowdFire to help me keep up with my social media accounts. I was spending hours each week on social media, primarily on Twitter and Facebook.

I still spend a fair amount of time on each platform, but CrowdFire has cut out a lot of the I spent posting to separate platforms and keeping up with followers and unfollowers.

CrowdFire has a free option, so you can check it out and see if it is something that will work for you. For me, it has saved me hours each week and worth every penny I paid for the upgrade. It also will help you post and repost blog posts and will post to Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Shopify, Etsy, Vimeo and more.

The biggest way it is saving me time is by helping me add new followers and remove those that have chosen to stop following me or become inactive. It turns out, over the last eight months, I have unknowingly followed a large number of spam accounts.

Those accounts become inactive in time and bloat your numbers when it comes to the accounts you are following. Removing those inactive accounts gives you room to follow new, legitimate accounts.

The best news? It only takes about 10 minutes a day to keep things up to date, and you can do it all from the CrowdFire app right on your phone. Honestly, I do it most mornings before I even get out of bed.

The Versatile Blogger Award – Wolfe Butler’s Take

The World of Self-Publishing

When I self-published in November 2017, I knew nothing about the subject. I thought I had done a lot of research in advance, but the months that have followed have taught me just how little I knew at the time, and how little I still know today.

To help me grow, I have teamed up with a self-publishing group. I will be posting more about this in the near future. The short story is they are teaching me about book design, layout, and effective book promotion. I can’t wait to share everything with you in the coming weeks.

That said, I will also be sharing my updates on how self-publishing is working for me. Hopefully, that will mean lots of success story posts.

 

Ice plant

My Yard Hates Me

Okay, so maybe that statement is a little harsh, but I am really struggling this year, and I’m not sure what I’ve done wrong. I’ve had both pampas grass and knock-out roses die this year. Pampas grass! I didn’t know it could even die.

The Ice Plant I wrote about in Why You Should Drop Back And Punt is still not blooming, though it’s supposed to bloom all summer, and even my impatiens, which are one of my favorite flowers of summer, are barely blooming this year.

The only things I can think of is that we’ve had a lot more rain and a much cooler summer this year than normal. If you have any tips, please let me know.

There’s No Time to Read

Last, I want to comment on my lack of book reviews. With everything going on in my world right now, plus trying to still do some freelance writing, there has been very little time to read. That means that the books I have from talented authors like O.J. Lowe and Caron Allan are being neglected.

While I will eventually (probably not until winter) get to those books, I do want to see more reviews go live on this blog. To that end, I am talking to a few other bloggers and reviewers about posting their reviews on my site. Again, more on this will be coming soon.

If you are interested in writing a guest post book review for my site, please send me a note through the Contact Page link. Also, if you are interested in becoming part of my next launch team, please contact me as well.

That’s it for today. Thank you for stopping by. Don’t forget to check out CrowdFire for social media management. The free version will give you a good idea as to whether it is the right tool for you.

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Wolfe Butler shares what's new with his personal blogger experience. | #blog #blogging #WolfeButler

 

Paradise WIP – Chapter 21

Author’s Note: Welcome to another week of Paradise, a science fiction work-in-progress. If you have just stumbled upon this site, each week new chapters are posted as they are written. This is a first draft so please keep in mind that there will be mistakes and possible inconsistencies.

Last week, the chapter ended with Menton jumping into full flight mode. Let’s see what happens next.

Read the story from the beginning by clicking here.

 

Chapter 21

Everything blurred past me as Menton bounded along down the hall with gazelle-like strides. She had seen or heard something to make her run but wasn’t willing to take the time to clue me in. She was running in the same direction we had been walking, so at first, I wasn’t sure if she was running to safety or running into battle.

The wait for an answer was short as just as swiftly she swung me down from her shoulder and set me down against a wall.

“Don’t make a sound and don’t move,” she commanded me. In another second, she had bounded so much further down the cave that I couldn’t see where she went.

My headlamp was still shining, but the cave was wider where I was sitting and the light did not penetrate the dark far enough for me to see the opposite wall. A chill caressed my spine as I imagined what could be in the dark.

Chapter 21 alien invasion, science fiction work-in-progress is now available to read online for free . New Chapters are posted each week. | #scifi #sciencefiction #firstdraft #amwriting #amwritingscifi

The shriek of weapon fire soon startled me into the reality of our situation. The orange light flashed in quick bursts far ahead of me in the tunnel. Frantically, with my heart in battle mode, I began to search the wall behind me for an opening. I was sure there was a reason why Menton had put me down where she did.

Crawling forward a little, I did find another opening in the rock. It was a little bigger than the last one I had to crawl through and not near as long. My head was clear of the wall before my knees had entered the opened.

It was dank and musty on the other side. Water was running down the far wall and in a stream that cut a path at the base of the wall. The “far wall” is a bit of a misnomer because the opening was so small I could almost reach it from where I stood. A quick inspection of the other three walls revealed nothing but a few cave crickets. I huddled close to the entrance after taking off my chest plate armor. The only weapon I had been carrying had disappeared during Menton’s epic sprint. I decided that if anything stuck a head or anything else through the opening that my armor would be enough to chop its head off.

Weapon fire continued far up the cave but the sound was muffled from my new vantage point. Moments later the firing stopped and an eerie silence enveloped me. There was some comfort in the trickle of the water running down the wall even if the water might be poisoned. At least I wasn’t in total silence.

It seemed like a long time before I heard movement outside the opening. I readied my shield to bash anything the came through.



“Roman?” came my name in a whisper. A wave of relief washed over me as I realized it was Sam’s voice.

“Sam?”

“Yeah, it’s me. It’s safe now. You can come out.”

I clung tightly to the shield as I slithered back out of the opening. Sam was the only one there to greet me.

“Where are Benjamin and Menton?” I asked, fearing the worst.

“Up ahead,” she nodded. “Don’t worry, they are fine. Whatever was here is gone now.”

“Gone where?”

“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be here getting you.”

“Nice,” I reproached her.

“Of course, I’m kidding.” I was looking at her but I was sure she was smirking at me.

“I lost my weapon,” I told her, changing the subject. “It must have fallen when Menton was carrying me.”

“Menton has it,” she informed me.

“Menton has it?” I was incensed. “What was I supposed to use to defend myself.”

Sam laughed out and then caught herself because she was still trying to be quiet.

“Roman, she knew this part of the cave was clear. She took her stance at a bottleneck to make sure nothing got past her. You were never going to need your weapon.”

Read 7 Reasons to Never Give Up

 

I wanted to put faith in her words but would have felt more secure with some form of defense in my hands.

Menton and Benjamin were standing guard at the choke point.

“Did you see anything?” I asked them.

“We never do,” Benjamin replied. “And that’s the problem.”

“So, what do we do?” I asked.

Menton turned to me and I was sure there was a hint of disapproval in her eyes.

“Um, General, sir,” she started, “I don’t hear anything. It should be safe to move forward.”

“What did you hear?” I wanted to know, still unsure as to how she knew there was trouble ahead.

“Enhancements,” Sam muttered, gesturing to her ear.

“Ah, okay.” I dropped the subject.

Our pack trudged forward and soon came to a large metal sliding door. It took all four of us to slide it open far enough that we could get through it. On the other side was the interior so large that I couldn’t see the other side.

“Where are we?” I asked just inside the door.

“They used to build airplanes here for the military,” Sam informed me. “Everything has been long since scavenged, though.”

For reasons that weren’t clear to me, Sam insisted we close the sliding door behind us. The stubborn door insisted on the strength of the four of us combined before it was willing to budge. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if one of us did not make it back from our mission.

Read Why You Should sometimes Drop Back And Punt

 

The hangar led to a number of builders that once had been a military base. Every room and hallway was strewn with debris and years of collected dust and cobwebs. I couldn’t help but notice that every so often there was a glass box on the wall with a red button inside.

“Sam,” I finally started, “what’s the deal with the red button.”

“Blast doors,” she told me. “They still work as far as I know.” She pointed to a metal seam that ran vertically up the wall near one of the buttons. “Press the button and a metal door instantly seals the corridor. Be careful, though,” she warned. “The doors are propelled by explosives. If you are not clear before you push the button, you will lose a hand or worse.”

I made a mental note, “Stay away from the red buttons.”

Deep in the base, we entered a small room just big enough for the four of us to lie on the floor.

“We’ll stay here tonight,” she told me. “Nothing can get into this room once we seal the door. Tomorrow we meet our help.”

“Who exactly are we meeting?” I asked her.

“You don’t want to know,” was her only reply.

*****

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Exhaustion pulled me quickly to the floor. It seemed like I had no more than closed my eyes when there was pounding on the door. My heart began to race, but Sam was confident that the Plax would not knock and she sprung open and opened the heavy door.

Standing outside the door was a mountain of a man that would have made even Peadar appear small. With a sour grimace on his face, he only said two words, “Let’s move.”

I was able to learn that his name was Chet before his harsh stare told us that he did not want any talking. Not far from where he had found us, we came to what appeared to be a dead end. The wall in front of us began to move and gave us a view of a long, downward sloping corridor. We walked down the corridor for at least twenty minutes before we reached a door. Along the way, there were the dangerous red buttons every fifty feet or so.

The room we entered was large. At least thirty people turned to look at us as we entered, and the room fell silent.

“Volunteers?” Chet barked out, and all the hands in the room went up with the exception of the four of us from the bunker. There was a distinct impression that “volunteer” did not carry the meaning we were used to. Something told me it was going to be an unforgettable day.

Author’s Note: Thank you for coming along with my on this journey. I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Paradise WIP – Chapter 20

Author’s Note: Hello, readers! I don’t know about you, but these summer weeks seem to be flying by. That said, I have set the goal of finishing the first draft of Paradise by the end of August. I will continue to post a new chapter each week, but hopefully by fall, you’ll be able to have a copy of the finished book. More news coming soon!

Last week, we left Roman disappointed that he was not able to communicate with Jasmine like he had planned. I’m not giving up hope, though, and neither should you. This week, we’ll learn a little more about Peadar, Menton, and the Hyatt. Enjoy!

 

Chapter 20 of the dual-reality, science fiction work-in-progress is now available to read for free online. New Chapters each week. | #scifi #sciencefiction #firstdraft #amwriting #amwritingscifi

Chapter 20

I went to sleep that night trying to formulate a plan of how I might be able to reach Jasmine, but the next time I opened my eyes, I was back in the caves. Someone was dragging me along the corridor.

“Stop!” I called out. I couldn’t see who it was because they were pulling me by the back of my body shield.

“General?” It was Menton’s voice. She let go of my shield without warning, and my body fell hard against the ground.

“Where are we?” I asked, struggling to get myself up.

“We’re heading back to the bunker. You’ve been unconscious again.”

I thought back to the event that had sent me mentally to the compound again. A rush of gratitude swept through me as I realized I would not have to make my way out through that tight passageway.

“How long was I out this time?”

“Less than eight hours,” she told me, and that gave me some relief. I hoped it meant that I could trust that the compound really was the construct and that I was back in the real world.

“Good. Where are Sam and Benjamin?”

“They continued toward the surface.”

“Without us?” The mission was going to be dangerous enough with four people. There was no way two people on their own could accomplish it.

Read the story from the beginning. Click below.

Paradise WIP

“Sam didn’t want to give up. You were unconscious, so she decided it would be best for me to take you back. You may still have bots in your head.”

“I’m pretty sure I do,” I agree. “But there is no way Sam and Benjamin can do this on their own. How much of a lead do they have?”

“A couple hours. We didn’t come out into the corridor until this morning.”

“Good. That means if we move quickly, we can catch them. How far are we from the surface?”

“Not far,” she told me. “They should reach it in the next couple of hours.”

“Then we better hurry.” I started walking in the direction of the surface.

“Sir,” Menton was beside me in a flash and took hold of my arm. “You’re not well. You’ve been very weak and were just unconscious. I have orders to take you back to the bunker.”

“I’m alive,” I told her, a bit more brusquely than I intended. “The success of this mission has much better odds with more people. Even if my only asset is to serve as bait, it’s still better to have four rather than two.”

From her face, I could see she was considering my words strategically, but I also knew what instructions Sam had probably given her. She would have been told to ignore me no matter what I said.

“But, sir,” she finally said. “Sam ordered me…”

“I’m sure she did,” I cut her off. “It’s all well and good for Sam to give orders if I’m unconscious. However, when I am awake, I am still the general. Then I give the orders.”

It didn’t feel right for me to say those words. Everyone kept telling me I was the general, but I wished I had the benefit of years of memories and experiences to back up my rank.

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Menton was a good soldier. There was one thing the Hyatt did well, and that was to ingrain the importance of hierarchy into their soldiers.

“Yes, sir,” she replied letting my arm free, and we started walking at a brisk pace.

She was right, I was very weak. It was only a matter of minutes before I started to feel the drain of fatigue and my legs seemed to grow heavier with every step.

“What happened to me?” I asked her in an attempt to distract myself.

“We’re not entirely sure. You got stuck in the entranceway to the saferoom. I had to pull you through the rest of the way, but you were unable to talk and were shaking and rocking back and forth. Sam tried to calm you down, but in a few minutes, you were just unconscious. You didn’t move again until a few minutes ago.”

“Do I have a history of claustrophobia?” I didn’t really want the answer. It wasn’t a great trait for a general to have.

“Sam says that you’ve never liked tight spaces, but she’s never seen anything like it. She thinks there might still be bots at work, struggling to regain control. That’s why she wanted me to get you back to Max.”

The fact that I’d been back in the compound made that likely true, but I decided not to share that part of my episode with Menton.

“We’ll go back soon enough,” I assured her. “But not without our prize. This mission will be a success.”

“Yes, sir.”

We walked on in silence for several more minutes. The distraction had not been enough. Fatigue continued to pull down on me.

“Menton?” I started some time later.

“Yes, sir?”

“Could you talk to me?” I felt like a child asking a parent to read a book.

“Sir?” She stopped and looked at me.

Sometimes, the best you can do is step back and try again. Read Lesson 15 for more.

Why You Should Drop Back And Punt

I didn’t want to appear weak, but I knew there was no way I would be able to keep going for very long without something to think about other than the weight of my legs and body armor.

“I’m struggling,” I told her honestly. “I’m weaker than I want to admit, but I don’t want to go back. Maybe if you talk to me, you can distract me.”

“I could carry you,” she offered. The option was appealing, but I wanted her to save her strength to protect Sam when the time came.

“I’m not there yet,” I told her. “I just need something else to think about. Something to concentrate on other than the weight of my legs and body armor.”

“Okay.” We started walking again, but many more minutes passed without her saying a word.

I glanced over at her face. She appeared to be perplexed but wasn’t saying anything.

“Menton?” I said after more minutes passed.

“I don’t know what to talk about, sir.”

I chuckled in spite of myself. She was unfazed or at least appeared to be.

“Tell me about Peadar,” I finally said.

“Peadar? But you remember Peadar.”

“I only know what I’ve seen of Peadar in the compound. I don’t know if any of it is real, but you knew him well, didn’t you?”

Even in the darkness, I could see the hint of tears develop in her eyes. They shone like crystal on her otherwise stone face.

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“Yes, sir.” There was sadness in her voice.

“Tell me about him, please.”

“What would you like to know?” she asked me.

“Whatever you want to tell me.”

She didn’t speak again for some time. I was about ready to give up and just ask her to carry me when she finally started talking.

“We met when we were with the Hyatt. Neither of us had been there for more than a few days. Peadar was kind. Most of the other kids were already soldiers or had the soldier mindset. Peadar was different.”

“How so?”

“Fights were common in the barracks, especially among the fish.”

“The ‘fish’?” I didn’t remember that term.

“Yes, sir. That was what they called us, those of us that were new. We were fish because we had been recently captured.”

“Captured?”

“Yes, sir. You know about the Hyatt, right?”

I knew a little from what Sam and Peadar had told me, but I didn’t remember anything about “fish.”

“Let’s say I don’t,” I told her ambiguously.

“Yes, sir. The Hyatt’s recruitment process isn’t one where they ask people to join them. Instead, they go out to areas, or at least they did when there were more of us on the surface, and look for kids that have lost their parents or become separated from their families.”


I struggled to remember the world on the surface, but no memories were forthcoming.

“Once they find one, or several, they start tagging them.

“What’s ‘tagging’?”

“Tagging is done with a type of dart. They shoot the kids with the dart. There’s a toxin in the dart that makes the kids pliable, almost like zombies, except something in the toxin makes you obedient to orders. There’s also a tracking bot in the dart. Once you’ve been tagged, the Hyatt can always find you. Even strong kids, like Peadar’s brother Mical, who might be a little less responsive to the toxin, can’t escape. The Hyatt wait for you to stop running and then surround you. Once captured, they take you back to one of their camps. They call the new kids, ‘the catch of the day’ or ‘fish.’”

“That’s terrible!”

“Yes, sir,” she agreed with little emotion in her voice. “But most of us wouldn’t have fought if we could have. We were living on the streets, constantly running. Sleep was rare because you never knew when the Plax would show up. The Hyatt offered food and a safe place to sleep. Most of us would have gone with them without the tagging.”

“But you later felt it was important to escape?”

“Yes. Mical saw it first. The Hyatt aren’t much different than the Plax. They did feed us, clothe us, and give us a place to sleep, but we were nothing but tools to them. If one of us was captured or died in the street, they just left us. Even if you were badly injured, you were left behind. I was not a small girl to start with, so it was pretty much guaranteed that I would be on the front lines with the big guys like Mical and Peadar. Mical knew we could have something better. He believed in you.”

“But I was a kid myself, wasn’t I?”

“Yes, you and Mical were the same age, but you were different. Even in the streets, you would share what you had. You wouldn’t eat so that others could. The Hyatt didn’t target you because you weren’t big enough physically. You watched over the other kids that were left behind. Many would have died without you.”

I wished I could remember more of my past.

“I had been alone on the streets,” she went on. “I didn’t have siblings, and my parents just disappeared one day. I was living in the shadows but didn’t escape the Hyatt’s notice. I wasn’t little, but I also wasn’t a fighter. I had been in the barracks for a few days. There was plenty of food, but the bigger kids often took whatever they wanted. They would take your food even if they weren’t hungry, just for the sport of terrorizing other kids. The rough kids usually became the troop leaders.

“Peadar said he had been watching me for a few days. I was keeping my head down, so I really hadn’t noticed anyone. Evening meal was delivered and the kids flocked to get what they could. I waited until most of the kids were gone and went up and got some small portions for myself. I made my way back to a dark corner, but a group of bigger kids followed me. They demanded I give them my food, as they had each of the days prior. Peadar was at the back of the group, and I figured he wanted something from me as well.

“I clutched the little food I had taken. I knew the kids wouldn’t let me go back to get more, and I was so hungry from days of not eating. Just then, I saw a kid fly across the room.”

“Fly?” I asked.

“Yes. Peadar decided he wasn’t going to watch them torment me anymore. Peadar was a big guy before the augmentations started. So, he picked up a few of the kids closest to him and tossed them as far as he could. It only took four before the rest of the kids scattered. I almost ran myself, because I wasn’t sure what Peadar would want with me, but he just came and sat on the floor next to me. He handed me his food and said, ‘Eat.’ Mical came a few minutes later and sat on the other side of me. They protected me from that day forward.”

I felt anger rising inside me as she spoke – anger against the Hyatt for stealing and abusing these kids and anger for the Plax that they had tried to steal Peadar’s memories away from him.

I’ve Learned – Lessons 1-10

“Peadar was very kind,” Menton went on. “Mical became a troop leader and got all three of us assigned to his troop. Peadar kept me safe, kept everyone safe that he could.”

“And were you…” I stopped. I got the feeling there was romance between them, but I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate for me to ask that question.

There was silence again for some time. I was reviewing the memories I did have of Peadar when Menton suddenly spoke again. Her voice was barely a whisper.

“I wanted it,” was all she said, and I was fairly sure the words weren’t meant for me.

Suddenly, Menton’s arm shot up with a tight fist, and she froze in her tracks. Instinctively, I froze as well. She closed her eyes and listened for a moment. I listened, too, but didn’t hear anything but the sound of water dripping in the distance.

“Someone’s close,” she whispered, and in a flash, she had scooped me up and over her shoulder. There was to be no debate this time.

Author’s Note: Thank you for coming by to share another week in my journey of writing this book. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or through the contact page.

I am putting together a Resource Page for writer’s and bloggers. Many resources are free or have free trials. Be sure to check out the page.

If you are enjoying Paradiseplease share it with others and on social media. I thank you in advance.

See you next week!

Chapter 20 of the dual-reality, science fiction work-in-progress is now available to read for free online. New Chapters each week. | #scifi #sciencefiction #firstdraft #amwriting #amwritingscifi

Paradise WIP – Chapter 19

Author’s note:

Hello readers! Thank you for coming back to the next chapter in my science fiction work in progress. If you are new here, Paradise is a tale of one memory dealing with no memory and living in two realities. Last week, Roman had returned to the compound, though that shouldn’t have been possible after the surgery Max performed. This week, something new is discovered in the compound.

Please keep in mind, this is a first draft, and it is being shared as it is written. If you notice inconsistencies or glaring errors, please let me know. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Enjoy!

 Disclosure: This site is a participant in the Amazon Services, LLC. Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links. Any purchase made through such links will award me a small commission or referral fee, at no extra cost for you.

 

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Chapter 19

The next morning, I again woke in the compound. It didn’t make sense that I should be back there, but I decided to make the best of it.

I was sure that the key to figuring out what was going on could be found in the reconditioning center. Whether the compound was real or not, that center was important to that reality.

It was clear I couldn’t immediately go back to watching the door to the center. They would be watching me. Likely, they had been watching me for some time.

However, they were playing the game differently this time. Not only had they let Peadar come visit me, even telling him I had been injured, but they also allowed us to continue talking. We were even able to sit together at mealtimes.

Peadar was not impressed at the new way I was devouring large amounts of food, but I didn’t care. Real or not, I wanted to enjoy every morsel for as long as I could.

Paradise WIP

For several days, a group of barn workers sat around Peadar and I. It wasn’t clear who among them was the spy or if they all were, but we took the hint and spoke only about things in the compound.

The group quickly grew bored with us and soon let us sit at one of the fringe tables by ourselves.

“What happened?” Peadar asked me one day.

“What do you mean?” There were strawberries on the menu that day, and I was enjoying eating them in small, blissful bites.

“In the center. I know you didn’t fall.”

“No, I’m sure I didn’t fall,” I told him. “But I can’t tell you what happened. The whole time I was gone, I was back in the bunker. I don’t know what happened here.”

“And I’m still not in the bunker?”


I paused from my strawberries for a moment to look at him.

“No, I’m sorry. You’re not there. You died protecting me in that reality.”

“So, if this isn’t real?” He wasn’t really looking for an answer, and I offered none.

He looked down mournfully at his plate. “And we’re sure this is the construct?”

“Honestly?”

He looked back up at me. “Yes, sir.”

“I can’t say unequivocally. I thought for sure the bunker was real. Max found bots in my head and removed them. Life felt normal there, although awful most of the time. The people in the bunker seem just as real as anyone here.”

“So, this might be reality?”

For a moment, I imaged Peadar as a young boy, and I was having to find a way to tell him that his favorite pet had died.

“Again, I can’t say. I don’t know how to figure it out.”

He didn’t say anything for some time.

“Well, then, sir,” he finally said. “Perhaps that should be our new mission.”

It was then that I noticed a girl walking our direction from the barracks. My mind didn’t register anything at first, but it did pick up a hint of familiarity, so I did a doubletake.

“Who’s that?” I asked Peadar, nodding my head in the girl’s direction.

“That’s Jasmine,” he told me.

“Jasmine? From the center?”

“Yes. You really don’t remember?”

I was confused. “Remember what?”

5 Important Things June 2018 Taught Me About Blogging

“The night we saw Gregg and Todd come out of the center, Gregg was carrying something.”

Yes, I remembered that. It had been too dark to see what it was.

“It was her,” Peadar went on. “They let her keep her name, Jasmine, but not much else. They really did a number on her.”

“What do you mean?”

Peadar paused for a minute like he wasn’t sure how to convey what he meant. “She’s not right,” he finally said. “Not upstairs. Something isn’t working right.”

“Still,” I replied, turning my head so no one would notice me paying attention to her, “she’s been in the center. That makes her our best ally.”

“Maybe.” Peadar did not sound as enthusiastic as I felt.

Jasmine didn’t have a work assignment. Instead, she seemed to be just wandering aimlessly around the compound. She didn’t wear the smile that most people did. In fact, she didn’t wear any expression at all.

I watched her much of the afternoon as I was working in the vineyard. There was no discernable pattern in where she walked or when, and I didn’t notice her interact with anyone.

When it was time for evening meal, I watched for her to come in to the dining area, but she never did. After feasting on corn, okra, and candied carrots, I set out to search for her. As luck would have it, I found her near the barn where Peadar worked, and no one else was around.

“Jasmine!” I called after her, but she continued walking at her slow pace.

“Jasmine,” I called out again softer as I got closer. Still, no response.

Finally, I caught up to her and grabbed her gently by the arm. She turned to look in my direction, but I got the clear impression that she wasn’t seeing me.

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“Jasmine, it’s me.”

“Hello,” she said methodically, but her stare and expression remained unchanged.

I lowered my voice to a whisper. “It’s me, General Roman. I need your help.”

No response.

“Jasmine, you’re the only one that has been in the center. I know it’s the key to everything here. I need your help.”

“Hello,” she said again in her monotone way.

Peadar was right. This definitely wasn’t the girl I had talked to in the center.

Just then, Vann appeared from nowhere just behind us.

“Rick,” he said with the smile I wanted to rip from his face, “I see you’ve met Jasmine.”

I didn’t say anything.

“I’d prefer you let her go.” It was clear that Vann was giving me an order, though his smile remained unchanged.

“We were just talking,” I told him.

“Really?” His tone was sarcastic. “Jasmine doesn’t talk a lot, and not usually to people she’s just met.”

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I wanted to confront Vann, but after my conditioning, I wasn’t supposed to remember Jasmine or the center. I also wasn’t sure what they had done to me in the two months I’d been in the bunker, so instead I stood there silently.

“Jasmine used to work in another part of the compound,” Vann started to inform me. It surprised me that he said that because everyone had always said there was nothing other than the part of compound we saw every day.

“She was a very good worker, but one act of carelessness, and she was unavoidably hurt. We’re doing what we can to help her, but I fear she may be forever altered.”

I let go of Jasmine’s arm. It shocked me what Vann was saying. He was giving me a warning. I had a choice to confront him or to pretend like I knew nothing. There was no doubt that Vann couldn’t be trusted, so I opted to remain silent.


Vann came closer and put his arm around Jasmine.

“Come on, young one,” he told her. “Let’s get you back to the barracks.”

“Wait,” I stopped them. I knew it was a mistake, but Jasmine was one of my people. She needed my help.

“Jasmine, has someone hurt you?”

Nothing changed in her pretty face. Her eyes stayed unfocused and fixed forward, looking right through me. After a moment of silence, she muttered another monotone, “Hello.”

Vann’s pleasant smile changed to more of a smirk. “I told you, something unfortunate happened to Jasmine. She’s a dear sweet girl, and we’ll do what we can to help her. In the meantime, she’s a good reminder for all of us as to why we need to follow the rules.”

If I had any doubt that I was being warned, that doubt was now erased. Vann may not have been sure if I remembered Jasmine from the center or not, but in either case, he was letting me know, if I failed to play nice, there would be serious consequences, to me and my people.

Author’s note:

Thank you again for stopping by today to read the latest chapter. What do you think so far? Leave your comments below or send me a message through the Contact Page.

Be sure to visit the new Resource Page for bloggers and writer’s.

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Chapter 19 of the science fiction work-in-progress is now available to read online. New chapters posted every Tuesday. Come join in the fun! | #scifi #sciencefiction #wip #novel #firstdraft

Continue to Chapter 20

Paradise WIP – Chapter 20

5 Important Things June 2018 Taught Me About Blogging

Hello, readers! I can’t believe that another month is already here. I’m officially starting my eighth month as a new blogger, and June taught me some valuable lessons about blogging.

If you are a new blogger or a veteran, you probably know that June 2018 was a little crazy for a lot of us. Many bloggers that relied on BoardBooster were terrorized by messages from Pinterest about how BoardBooster was not an approved partner. Then, when things didn’t look like they could get worse, BoardBooster shut down completely near the end of the month.

Life is constantly changing, and blogging is no different. Here are the things I learned as part of my blogging experience last month.

 

Disclosure: This site is a participant in the Amazon Services, LLC. Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This post also contains affiliate links. Any purchase made through such links will award me a small commission or referral fee, at no extra cost for you.

 

What is the first year of blogging really like for a new blogger? Read part seven in this ongoing series chronically Wolfe Butler's path. | #blog #blogging #blogger

Tale of a New Blogger – Part 7

Each month, I publish a post about my real-life experiences as a new blogger. I share the good, the bad, and the sometimes very ugly. In time, I hope to have an amazing success story, but there is a lot of hard work and time that goes into building a blog in the meantime. You can read the previous six posts by clicking this line.

As I stated, June was a rather eventful month for blogging communities. All the blogging Facebook groups and all the chats over at Billionaire Blog Club (BBC) were on fire over the BoardBooster issues, but even in the face of trials, there are always important life lessons to be learned. Here are five of them from June.

 

1. Life is about change

It’s been said that the only constants in life are death and taxes. Everything else changes. That is especially true of blogging. In the seven months I have been a new blogger, things have changed in large and unexpected ways more than a few times.

BoardBooster, if you did not know, was a means of putting blog content on Pinterest. It was super easy to use and created a ton of new traffic for those of us that were using it. Many of us, myself included, were devastated when they couldn’t reach an agreement with Pinterest and were thus forced to close their doors. They will be missed!

But, as they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (That’s really an awful expression. Who would ever skin a cat?) Into the rescue stepped Tailwind. Well, actually, Tailwind was there all the time. Their product has many of the same features that BoardBooster had, so a great flock of us made an exodus to Tailwind.

I will devote a future post to Tailwind because I am still only a couple weeks in and just learning my way. However, I am happy to say that my Pinterest traffic did not fall as a result of losing BoardBooster.

June 2018 Pinterest Traffic
June 2018 Pinterest Traffic

This graphic shows my average monthly viewers on Pinterest and average number engaged with my posts.

As you can see, I was just finding my way with BoardBooster at the beginning of June, and my numbers went up dramatically as a result. I stopped using BoardBooster around the 20th. There was a negligible dip for a few days, but then things headed back north. I will keep you posted.

 

2. The best bloggers honor their commitments

You will likely see me write a lot about BBC in the coming months and years. I have rarely been overwhelmingly impressed by a company or person, but Paul Scrivens, or Scrivs as he’s better known, the man behind BBC, really impressed me in June. Within days of BoardBooster’s announcement, Scrivs created and launched a series of detailed training videos about Tailwind for BBC members.

I wrote in detail about BBC in Tale of a New Blogger – Part 6, so I won’t go into a lot here. Billionaire Blog Club is a program you can buy into for a low fee that pays for your membership for life. Once in, you have access to all the new products and training materials as they become available, without ever having to pay again.

The last few days I have been learning about search engine optimization (SEO) and affiliate marketing. BBC has 23 step-by-step training videos about SEO and 22 about affiliate marketing, with more coming soon.

BBC is currently closed for new members, but should open again in the next few weeks. If you would like to see if it would be a good fit for you, I highly recommend the 12-Day Blogging Bootcamp. It’s 100% free and will give you a good idea of Scrivs’ writing style, and what things you can hope to learn if you become a member. My membership has already more than paid for itself.

 

3. You gotta have help as a new blogger

Twitter is still my favorite social media platform. However, my Twitter obsession was taking up so much time that I was not properly writing, editing, or formatting new content. I still don’t have a good email list program in place, and there’s two other blog series I’ve been meaning to start for some time now.

There are several products available to help you simplify your social media life. I have fought against the idea, especially after I spent two months on one product and was thoroughly underwhelmed by it.

That said, in June, I stumbled upon CrowdFire. I was very negative going in, but it was free, so I decided to give it a shot.

I’m not going to lie to you. CrowdFire doesn’t do everything I would like it to, and a few things not in the way I would prefer. That said, it does do a lot of things that save a ton of time.

Most important to me, CrowdFire has been unbelievably useful in cleaning up my followers and accounts I’m following. When I started on Twitter last November, I didn’t know much about the platform. As a result, those first months, I followed pretty much everyone I came across.

That process lead me to following hundreds of spam accounts. In just one month, CrowdFire has helped me clean up almost all of them. It also works well with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and seven more platforms.

The free option gives you a lot of functionality. I have no reservations about recommending it. I chose to go the paid route once I saw all the time it could save me, but the free option is definitely worth checking out. Click on CrowdFire to take a look, and help me out in the process.

4. Blogging is a fickle mistress

Every time I think I am finally getting a handle on blogging, something completely blindsides me. My assistant started a blog of his own in March of this year. His blog is Speaking Bipolar, and you should check out his posts on dealing with mental and chronic illnesses. He’s on a mission to get more men especially talking about mental health.

 

June 2018 Blog Stats
June 2018 Blog Stats

 

Well, you would think that since this blog is four months older than his, my traffic should be at least some higher than his.

My June traffic was up. In fact, June for a record-setting month for me.

However, record setting was only 820 total views from 527 visitors, which isn’t terrible for a new blogger. For Speaking Bipolar, he saw nearly 3,000 page views from 2,300 visitors in June. For July, we are comparing our processes to see where I am falling behind.

 

5. Social media is key

As much as I don’t always love the idea, social media is the most important thing for a new blogger. Unless you buy ad space, which is something I am considering for July, the only way to increase traffic is to increase exposure on social media.

The good news, my Twitter account continues to grow rapidly. Using CrowdFire and following their tips has continued to grow my list of quality followers.

Twitters state June 2018
Twitters state June 2018

 

What most excites me the most about Twitter is that my followers are probably 80% bloggers and writers. I seem to be picking up quite a few musicians in recent weeks, but I’m great with that, because I love music almost as much as books. Almost.

I hope to have 10,000 followers by the end of July. That’s not too bad for a new blogger. Sorry, I just had to pat myself on the back for that one.

My other social media accounts are not growing as fast, but that’s because I don’t give them the care they deserve.

 

June 2018 Referrers
June 2018 Referrers

 

The numbers are low, but I’m getting about 12% of my traffic from Facebook, and that’s with doing little more than posting new blog posts to my page and account. Clearly, Facebook is deserving of some TLC even if it’s not my favorite brand.

 

Odds and Ends

 

Am Editing

To finish up today, I want to share with you a few other things. One, I took the plunge in June and connected with a professional editor. I am working with the talented Angela B. Wade who is based just a couple of hours south of me in Chattanooga, Tennessee. If you are looking for an editor, I strongly recommend Angela.

She works with authors from everywhere, so don’t be disinclined just because she is from Tennessee. I have learned a lot from her already, and we’ve only been working together for a couple weeks.

Together, we are working on revising Getting Home. I know, I said I was going to let it sit for a while, but it desperately needs a better cover. I decided that if I was going to update the cover, then at the same time I should finish polishing it. Getting Home is my most precious baby, so I’m not sure I will ever be completely done with it.

 

I’ve Learned Series

You may have noticed that I am posting less often in the I’ve Learned series. The reason why is that I have decided to turn it into a book. That was actually my goal from the beginning. So, as far as that series, I’ve been spending more time on editing and revising posts and content than on writing new. Never fear, it will continue to be an ongoing series for as long as I am here.

Working with Angela has taught me so much about how a book should be written, so I am trying to get this one right on the front end. More coming on this topic in the future.

 

Printable Coming Soon!

One of the new series I am working on is a collection of writing tips and techniques. As part of that series, I will be creating printables. The first one, which will be free to everyone, will be on character development. I hope to have it out by the end of July.

 

Take Aways

Tailwind is a great product for scheduling and posting on Pinterest. They are an approved partner, so there should never be any issues with Pinterest. Try the free trial to see if you like it. You can also post to Facebook and Instagram through Tailwind.

Check out Billionaire Blog Club’s 12-Day Blogging Bootcamp. It’s free and with no obligation. It will give you a great chance to see if BBC might be something you are interested in down the line.

CrowdFire is a great app for managing Twitter and for posting to Facebook, Instagram, and more. There’s a lot you can do with the free version, so you have nothing to lose by checking it out.

Please show my assistant some love, and visit his blog:  Speaking Bipolar

If you are looking for a talented and professional (not to mention eternally positive and optimistic) editor or freelance writer, contact Angela B. Wade. She would be happy to give you a quote for any of her quality services.

That’s it for my new blogger experience for this month. What’s going on with you? Please share your latest news in the comments below.

Blogs grow primarily be readers sharing their content. Please share this post on social media or by email. I thank you in advance.

Until next time…

 

What is the first year of blogging really like for a new blogger? Read part seven in this ongoing series chronically Wolfe Butler's path. | #blog #blogging #blogger

 

Paradise WIP – Chapter 18

Author’s Note: Hello, friends! Welcome back for this week’s installment of Paradise. When we left off last week, another belief was brought into question. Even though Rick was sure that the bunker was the real world, in the last moments of last chapter he woke up back in the compound. I promise at some point it will all come together.

I appreciate each and every one of you taking this journey with me. Please share this story with others and let me know what you think.

Paradise WIP

Chapter 18

 

“Pea…” Peadar grabbed my arm to stop me.

“Rick,” he said the name forcefully. “Do you know where you are?” His eyes weren’t blinking.

“Um, I think,” I tried to sit up, but something was holding me down.

“Don’t try to move,” Peadar said. “You’ve fallen and hit your head. We need to make sure you’re okay.”

Gregg and Todd stood expressionless as centurions behind Peadar.

“Fell?” I asked, but I didn’t really expect a response.

Nothing made sense. The compound was supposed to be a construct of my mind. It was created by microbots in my brain. Max had performed surgery on me and removed the bots. I shouldn’t have been seeing anything from the compound.

Something in the hall caught Gregg’s attention. He nudged Todd and the two left the room.

Peadar leaned in close and started to whisper in fast, eager words.

“Sir, we may not have much time. Remember, you have to call me Paul. I don’t know what happened to you. They told me you fell. You were in the center for several days, and when you came out your head was bandaged, as it is now. You’ve been unconscious for two months. We all thought we had lost you.”

I tried to make sense of what he was telling me, but my mind was clouded. I had just been in a cramped, awful place in a dark cave. Now I was in a bright, open and comfortable room.

“Sir, they are going to make me leave in a minute. They don’t like that we are friends. It was supposed to stop after the last time they reconditioned me. I don’t know why they came to tell me about your accident. They have let me come sit with you for about 15 minutes each day.”

I looked at Peadar, with fear obvious in his eyes. I wanted to hug him. It didn’t seem likely I would seem him again, and yet here he was. At the same time, I couldn’t grasp the meaning of what was happening. If the compound was a construct created by bots, then it wasn’t real. Peadar wasn’t real. I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing.

In addition, I had never lost time in the compound before. Several times I had been unconscious in the bunker, but never before had I stayed unconscious in the compound. Something had changed. Someone had changed the rules.

Book Review – A Sword in Time by Cidney Swanson

My head was pounding, but I ordered Peadar to help me up. Standing was out of the question, so I pushed myself back to lean against the headboard.

“I don’t understand,” I told him. “I shouldn’t be here.”

“Speak softly, sir. I’m sure they are trying to listen.”

I glanced to the door. From my limited vantage point I didn’t see anyone in the hallway outside.

“Peadar.” He glared at me. “Paul, I shouldn’t be here. Max said I wouldn’t ever be here again.”

“What do you mean?” he asked. “You’ve not been anywhere.”

“I was back in the bunker,” I whispered to him. “For a long time. Max found bots in my brain. Sam and I were just setting out on a mission to capture a Plax.”

I swear Peadar’s dark skin turned white for a moment as he glanced toward the door.

“You can’t talk about them,” he whispered. “Not here. You’re not supposed to be remember them. Especially not now.”

“Why not now? What’s happened?”

“Sir, I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that you were in the center for several days. There’s no way they didn’t try to do at least some reconditioning while you were there. Even if someone came to your aid again this time, you have to pretend like it worked.”

I nodded slightly. I turned my head to the right and could see the vineyards off in the distance through the window. Irony struck me for a moment. Even though the compound was open and beautiful with every attempt at simplicity, it was far more complicated to live in than the bunker.

“Time’s up.” Gregg appeared in the doorway again. There was no attempt at a fake smile on his face. In fact, his contempt for me and Peadar was clearly evident.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Peadar told me, and he obediently got up and left my room.

*****

I improved quickly. The first day I woke up, I couldn’t even get out of bed. By the end of the second day, I was able to get up and move around some. The third day, I was able to take my meals in a communal dining area.

I knew the food wasn’t real, but after months in the bunker, I savored every bite. There seemed to be no need to restrict myself to three bites, so I ate with fervor, devouring everything I could get. Fruit especially garnered my attention. There was no way to have fruit in the bunker.

The fourth day, they removed my bandages. I saw no evidence of any damage to my head and wondered why it had been bandaged. Vann came by that day and attempted to tell me that advanced medical techniques had allowed my head to heal in such a way there wouldn’t be scarring.

Tale of a New Blogger – Part 6

“How did I fall?” I asked him.

“Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t know.” His fake smile never wavered. I imagined smashed the lamp on the bedside table over his head.

“How do you know I fell, then?”

“Gregg found you.” He nodded to the brute behind him. I remembered watching him change from a tiger into a man and a cold chill ran up my spine.

“Where?” I asked them.

“Not far from the vineyard,” Vann told me. “We think maybe you were climbing a tree.”

“Climbing a tree? Why would I do that?”

“Isn’t that the question?” he chuckled, but he was the only one in the room that found it funny.

I may not have remembered the details of my past, but I did know how to read people. The look on Gregg’s face told me that not only had I not fallen out of a tree, but I had also not been in any accident.

“You’re doing much better,” Vann went on. “You can return to the vineyards tomorrow if you would like. Or, if you prefer, you can continue to rest for a few days.”

As comfortable as I found my bed, I was ready to get up and set about discovering just what was happening.

“Tomorrow sounds good,” I told him.

Vann and Gregg started to leave, but then Vann stopped in the doorway and turned to me. He was still smiling, but there was no warmth in his voice.

“It would be best, Rick,” he spit my name out like something that tasted bad, “if you stayed close to the main buildings. Go to the dining hall, the barn and the vineyard, but only those areas. There is no need for you to go exploring. It would be awful if you had another accident. We might not find you in time.”

If there was any doubt in my mind, it was now gone. Vann’s words confirmed, not only that they had done something to me, but that they knew I had been exploring the area around the compound.

Chapter 18 in Paradise, the science fiction work in progress by Wolfe Butler. New chapters posted on Tuesdays. | #WIP #scifi #sciencefiction

Continue on to Chapter 19

Paradise WIP – Chapter 19

When You Are Stumped By Your About Page

When You Are Stumped By Your About Page

As the Toby Keith song goes, “I wanna talk about me.” Well, not really, and that was kind of the problem with my About Page. It’s not always easy for me to talk about me.

I know there is probably some standard format that should be used for an about page. In part, you should talk about the website or writer. If you have visited my About Page before today, you noticed there were very few words on it. There were two lonely paragraphs that didn’t say very much.

 

Today, (actually yesterday now, as this will be scheduled to post tomorrow. Confused? Yeah, me too!) I decided to put some words on the page. I have never been one to conform to social norms, so I decided my about page should be different as well.

The thing is, ultimately, I had a lot of fun writing it.

I rarely visit about pages unless I need to know where a business’ main office is located or when the site was established. That means that more than likely, most people will never visit my about page. So, to make sure you don’t miss it (really, it’s nothing spectacular), I decided to copy it into a post.

About Wolfe Butler

Welcome

Welcome. I am so glad you stopped by. My name is Wolfe Butler. I have been an avid reader and writer most of my life.

Like so many other writers, I did not believe in myself enough to think that I could make a living as a writer, so I pursued a professional career in financial services. Twenty years later, and I am not as young as I once was, but I am taking the time to pursue my passion. This time, I intend to really give writing a chance.

About pages are sometimes boring. To hopefully combat that, I have decided to offer a unique approach.

10 Things About Wolfe Butler

  1. I love pasta and cheese

    Yes, I know that simple carbohydrates are blah, blah, blah (insert diet and fitness jargon here), but I don’t care. I love pasta. And all pasta has to have cheese with it.

  2. As a child I published a weekly newsletter

    That may not be a big deal today, but growing up in the 70’s, there was no one else I knew that was doing it. Each week on my electric typewriter (does anyone even remember those now?) I would type up a family newsletter. Every effort was taken to type slowly and accurately as I used carbon paper to produce copies as I typed. I still have a few of them and may share them on the blog at some point in the future.

  3. I’m addicted to TV

    If you follow me on social media, you may already know this one. Science fiction is my number one genre, but I also love court shows and anything music related. Plus, I’m a big binge watcher on Netflix and Hulu. I don’t like much for talk TV, but I do watch every episode of The View. Right now, my favorite shows are For the People, Grey’s Anatomy, The Big Bang Theory and Marvel’s Agents of Shield. I’m ticked that Rise was canceled when the show was finally finding its footing.

  4. I have reading ADHD

    No, not really ADHD. I don’t mean to downplay the condition for anyone that lives with it. What I mean is that I find it difficult to only read one book at a time. In fact, right now I am reading five, and they are all good books. I don’t know why I can’t stick with just one of them, but I have pretty much always been this way.

  5. I love the outdoors

    I no longer have the energy or stamina I once did, but I still love hiking. Many of the state parks in Tennessee feature waterfalls, a particular favorite of mine, and most have relatively easy, well-marked trails. One of my favorite parks is Fall Creek Falls. It’s a short walk on level ground to see the featured 300-foot waterfall, though some of the other park waterfalls are a little more complicated to get to. I also love Cades Cove and the amazing views near me in the Smoky Mountains.

  6. I love gardening and yardwork

    If you saw my yard, you might not believe that, especially this spring with all the rain we’ve had. My yard is a bit of jungle right now. I’m also a very eclectic gardener so most of my flower beds are not well organized. I concentrate more on making sure that something is blooming all year rather than on garden symmetry. It looks messy, but I like it.

  7. Volunteering is one of my passions

    I think it stems from spending a lot of time with my grandmother as a child. Volunteering and community care are important facets of life, so I try to do my part. Several times a week, I visit the elderly or provide them with transportation to doctor’s appointments or the grocery store. I love older people. Their stories have given me so much inspiration that I have applied in my own writing.

  8. I love thunderstorms

    This love has been shaken a few times in recent years by a few tornados and severe windstorms, especially the ones that have cost me precious trees on my property. But I love lightning and thunder and the sound of rain falling. If I’m not out on the porch during a storm, you will probably find me sitting near an open window so I can hear what is happening outside.

  9. I’m a little OCD

    No, I’ve never been diagnosed with anything, but I have enough friends that have been diagnosed to know that my obsessions are at least a little unusual. I’m a bit fixated on even numbers, so the volume on the TV and the temperature on the thermostat generally have to be set to an even number. Routine is another area I’m a little obsessive in. I like things to happen at the same time each day or on the same day each week. Maybe that’s why I like Sheldon so much on Big Bang.

  10. I am fiercely defensive of my friends

    I’m generally a very happy and easygoing guy. That said, I am very protective of my close friends and relatives. I will not listen to negative things being said about my friends, and if someone goes after them, well, you best just look out. Because I am coming for you.

I hope you like my crazy take on an About Page. You can learn more about me in my I’ve Learned series.

 

Paradies WIP – Chapter 11

Chapter 11

The next morning, I awoke again in the compound. For a few minutes I pondered what the other me in the bunker would be doing. Was I unconscious there again? There was no way of knowing.

I decided it was best to not bring attention to myself. I went back to keeping the stern look on my face and went back to work in the vineyards. As much as I was enjoying the food, I forced myself to go back to only eating three bites. Rations existed for a reason and there was no excuse for me to be a glutton just because food was available.

Paul’s six guards were more vigilant at keeping us apart, but I caught Paul glancing my way frequently at noon meal. When I could get even reasonably close to him, I would call out a word that I hoped would be familiar to him. Mical. Football. Menton. Something had to click.

Each night after first rain I made my way back to the barn hopeful of seeing Paul.

For two weeks I was in the compound and kept up my new routine. One night while waiting in the quiet dark barn I sat with my back against the crate contemplating what else I could try to reach Paul.

Paradise WIP

“Sir?” A voice came out of no where and I sprang to my feet. Paul was there and had scared me half to death.

“Peadar?” I whispered. In the darkness I didn’t see him, but he was only a few feet from me. He had come naked as I expected he would. “I brought you clothes,” I told him.

“They will see,” he objected.

“Not these clothes.” I retrieved his outfit from under the crate and he put them on. I felt more at ease once he was dressed.

“I keep mine hidden under the carpet in my room,” I told him. “You might find a better option.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You can stop with the ‘sir’ business. Are you fully back?”

“Not fully, sir, er, I mean,” he stopped talking.

“Ugh. Sir is okay if that’s what you prefer.”

“I do, sir, thank you.”

“Do you know who you are?” I asked him.

“Some. I remember you. And Mical. And Menton. There are some gaps, but every day I am getting new glimpses of my past. Thank you for working to bring me back.”

“Everyone thinks you are dead.” After the words were out, I realized how abrupt they would hit him.

“Everyone? You have had contact with the others?”

“Yes, well, sort of,” I told him. I started to explain to him the dreams or waking hours in the bunker.

“And I am dead there?”

“We think so,” I told him. “Menton says you threw me clear of a grenade blast. There was nothing left of you to find.”

Peadar sat down hard on the crate and it creaked loudly in protest.

“I don’t remember,” he said slowly. “Do you think I’m really dead?”

“I can’t say. I don’t know what this place is for sure. What’s the last thing you remember from the other world?”

“I remember we went to the surface,” he told me. “It was dark and cold, the sky was red. There was something we needed, but I can’t remember what right now. The Plax had come out of nowhere. We were surrounded. Then I was in the reconditioning center.”

“Whatever they did this last time was more successful. Do you remember anything?”

“Not much.” Even in the dark I knew he hung his head. “What I do remember is a vague blur until a few days ago. When you kept saying ‘football’ it got the bots in my brain to get to work on repairing the backup. I may have lost some in the process.”

“I hope not,” I told him. “I have already lost so much of my own that we need everything you know.”

“I will try to remember, sir.” Peadar stood back up at attention.

“At ease, soldier,” I told him. “None of this is your fault.”

His silence told me that he believed that at least some of it was.

“I know where the reconditioning center is,” I told him. “But I’m not sure how we can get in.”

“Sir?”

“There is a door to an underground facility. Much more high-tech than our bunker. The door is sealed, and I don’t know how they open it.”

“Where are we now?” My comment about him dying was weighing heavily on him.

“I honestly don’t know. Max thinks it might be some sort of neural construct we are connected to. She says I might have bots in my brain.”

“Maybe,” Peadar agreed. “But that wouldn’t make sense for me. Even if deactivated for a time, my augmentation bots would set out to destroy any foreign bots the moment they were reactivated. They wouldn’t be able to keep me in a neural construct. It was a possibility that the Hyatt prepared for.”

“Then what is this place?”

“Maybe this place is real and the other is the construct.”

I thought of Sam. What if she wasn’t real? I did not remember her before my first night of dreams. My heart wept silently at the thought of her not existing.

“The other place must be real,” I insisted. “Sam. Max. Menton. They have to be real.”

“The people are real. I remember them. What I am saying is maybe they are the ones in a construct. You might only connect when you are exhausted enough to really sleep.”

His thought process made sense. I had not been back in the bunker for two weeks. Every night of those two weeks I had slept little with my plan of hopefully finding Peadar. The times I was in the bunker, when I returned to the compound I was never missing time. But when I went to the bunker, often considerable time had passed.

“If you are right,” I didn’t want to imagine that he was right. “How do we get them out? Where are they?”

“Before my last reconditioning, I had been thinking a lot about this place. There is no way this compound is on Earth. Everything was dead, the sky still filled with debris. No one has seen Earth’s sun in years and yet we see this sun every day. We can’t be on Earth.”

A cold chill ran up my spine. I hadn’t considered that we might not be on Earth.

“What about the others?” I asked him.

“I expect they have to be here. Maybe in the underground facility you saw.”

“I did meet a girl there. Jasmine I think was her name. She was one of our people.”

“So, there might be more of our people down there,” he said.

“Then our first priority is finding them.”

Tale of a New Blogger – Part 3

Peadar and I decided that we would only meet every third night. He felt it was important that I try to sleep. Sleep while in the compound was somehow the gateway to our comrades in the bunker.

Of course, sleep was a great concept. Actually sleeping was different matter entirely.

A thought started to grow in my mind that the compound was the construct. No matter how hard I worked in the vineyard, no matter how much I sweat out in the sun, come darkness I was seldom tired enough to actually sleep.

Part of my mind tried to play it off. I was a soldier. We had been fighting the Plax for years. My body could have adjusted to needing little sleep.

When I was in the bunker, though, I always felt tired. My body had been damaged several times, and the aches and pains were very present.

If the bunker were reality, then most likely Peadar was really dead. Somehow the Plax had found a way to salvage his consciousness. I kept that thought to myself. I knew Peadar was already thinking about it too much. There was no sense in my adding to his anguish until we had clear facts.

The next night that we met I took him to the entrance of the reconditioning center. There were no lights around it so we easily were able to inspect it up close.

“There has to be some sort of electronic signal that releases the door,” Peadar explained to me as he careful explored the door edges. “It’s almost perfectly sealed. There’s no way we can pry it open.”

“I agree.”

There was nothing else to the small structure. Had I not seen the door open, even distinguishing what was the door would have been difficult. The remainder of the exterior was smooth.

“Do you remember them having any type of control?”

“No, I was unconscious when they took me in. I’m guessing the door opens automatically when you are coming out.”

“We will have to conduct some surveillance,” he suggested.

“I was thinking the same thing. There’s some thick underbrush over there.” I pointed to the area just beyond the pool with the black liquid. “I think we would have a clear line of sight from there.”

“How should we work this?” Ever the soldier, Peadar looked to me for direction.

“You can’t be missing during the day. Your six ‘friends’ would quickly notice if you disappeared for anything length of time. I probably can’t be missing a lot, but no one has ever questioned me when I have gone exploring during the day.”

Peadar only nodded in agreement.

“We’ll meet here every third night rather than in the barn. The first night, I will keep watch from first to second rain. The second night you will. The third night we can watch together as we share intel.”

“Yes, sir.”

Author’s Note: Thank you to all you dear readers that are traveling this journey with me. You are almost caught up now with how far I have written, so I have to get busy at writing more content.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the story so far. Please share you comments below or drop me a note through the contact page.

Click here to read Chapter 12.

Paradise WIP – Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Author Note: To make up for not posting last week, this chapter is a little longer than the others. I hope you enjoy.

Read the tale from the beginning by clicking this line.

Everyone tromped on the next several hours in silence.  No one was saying it, but we were all thinking the same thing.  Whatever the most recent rumble had been, if it was the Plax it was something new and very worrisome.  We had come to another fairly large opening and several of us were sitting around in silence.  An agonizing scream came from a man in the cavern we had just exited.  Sam, Max and I were on our feet and running in the blink of an eye.

I was the first to reach the dark skinned man but as that was stooping to touch him Max screamed out at me, “Don’t touch him!”

The man was thrashing about having some sort of seizure. His eyes were rolled back in his head and a yellowish foam was coming from his mouth.

“What happened?” Max barked at a young wide-eyed woman nearby. She pointed to a wet wall not far from us.

“What can we do?” I was frantic to help the man. His convulsing seemed to be slowing.

“It’s already too late.”

We stood in silence as the man’s body shook violently one last time and collapsed lifeless. The wide-eyed woman let out a soft whimper.

“Is there anyone behind you?” Max was all business.

“A few,” the woman said in barely a whisper.

“Stand guard and make sure no one else touches the wall.”

“Understood.”

I felt like we needed to do something for this poor woman but Sam lightly tugged my arm. “We need to keep moving. People are tired and starting to let their guard down.”

“But… the man?” I was having trouble finding words.

“He’s gone.” There was a coldness in Sam’s voice I had not heard before. “We must get the others to safety.”

“But the body?”

Sam stopped and turned to me, her headlamp blinding me for a moment.

“You really don’t remember, do you? The body is contaminated. If we touch him, we risk getting poisoned ourselves.”

I turned and looked down at the now lifeless body. I felt something should at least be said about his passing.

Menton came running up just then. “Stand back,” she ordered.

The wide-eyed woman hesitated for a moment and Menton brusquely pushed her away from the body. She held a small object that I thought at first was a flashlight. She pushed a button and bright light did come out illuminating the man on the ground. His entire body glowed for a moment and disintegrated into an outline of ash. The woman cried out in grief.

“We must keep moving. It is not far.” Menton was a true soldier.

The wide-eyed woman glanced at the wet wall and then at the cavern behind us. Menton was clearly moved though her body stayed rigid and at attention.

“I will stand guard,” Menton told the woman. “Sam, take her with you.”

It was another 3 hours of the worst terrain we had seen.  One area was so confined that we have slither through on our stomachs pushing our packs in front of us.  Not much farther from there we came across the old bunker door.  I was amazed that we had managed to get all of that equipment through small openings.

The new bunker was much older than the one we had left.  Much older and much less comfortable it reminded me of the interior of an old submarine.  All of the hatches had a large lip at the bottom meaning we had to carry all of the equipment over each door opening.  Max chose one of the larger rooms to turn into a medical bay and started setting up and equipment.

Sam and I spent some time exploring the bunker.  We found a large area that we designated as the barracks and another slightly smaller area that we decided would be the mess hall.  The bunker had been used in many years in most areas we went to the left footprints in the dust on the floor.  Some of the civilians set about trying to make the place a little more homey. Some others started cleaning just to keep their minds off the things we have been through.

At the end of a long corridor we came across another bunker door that looked like it might be an exit.  The door was covered in rust and frozen in place. A team was working on opening it but did not seem to be making any progress.

“We could cut it open,” one of the men suggested.

“Probably not a good idea,” Sam told him. “We have no idea what might be on the other side of that door. There may be a reason it can’t be opened. Station guards and carry on.”

The team nodded. Two of them turned their backs to the door to stand guard and the rest of the team went back up the corridor to explore further areas.

They’re really wasn’t a whole lot more to explore.  One by one people started to find their way to the mess hall and sat around and small quiet groups.  Menton came in and sat down not far from where Sam and I were sitting.  Seeing her again brought an idea into my head.

“Menton, you knew Peadar well, right?”

A look of pain washed briefly across her face.

“Very well, sir,” she answered.

“Tell me about him. There has to be a way to reach him again.”

“You probably knew him better, sir. You and his brother were very close.”

“Yeah, unfortunately I don’t remember any of that.”

Menton started to tell me what she knew. She tried hard to be the soldier giving a status report, but a quiver in her voice occasionally gave away the depth of emotion she felt toward Peadar.

Peadar and Mical were orphans. They were in their early teens when the Plax arrived. Their parents had been killed in the first Plax attack. Both were already strong and athletic. Like so many other orphans, the Hyatt took an interest in them. The Hyatt enticed orphans with promises of food and shelter, but then quickly begin to work on modifying them into the soldiers they wanted them to be.

I had known them before their parents had died but lost touch with them after they were taken by the Hyatt. Later I had run into Mical while he was on patrol in the city center. He was so augmented that I did not even recognize him at first, but he saw me and cornered me away from the crowd. He told me that their augmentation wasn’t complete and that he was afraid of what it would mean for him and Peadar when it was. He already felt like he was losing himself.

Already the leader, I had set out a plan to free Peadar and Mical from the Hyatt. Another Plax attack gave us opportunity and I was able to whisk them away in the heat of battle. I hid them in the basement of a nearby abandoned house for several months as they learned to fight their programming and become members of the general populace again.

Both boys had loved football. I was surprised I remembered football. Visions of professional teams on vid screens flashed through my head. Professional sports had been one of the first things to go after the arrival of the Plax. All able-bodied and athletic people were quickly conscripted to be soldiers, first by the government and then by the factions as they took control.

Menton and Peadar had never been romantically involved officially, but it was easy to see on her face how much she cared for him.

Since being freed from the Hyatt, Peadar had always felt deeply indebted to me and put my safety first. He had died when a grenade had landed nearby. In an instant, he had scooped me up and thrown me free of the blast radius. No one ever found a body so it was believed he had died in the explosion.

Menton had given me a fair amount to work with. I was optimistic that if I ended up back in the compound that I would now have something that would help me to reach Paul/Peadar. I did not want to go back, but if I did it would help to have an ally.

 

I did not intend to, but at some point I must have closed my eyes and fallen asleep. When I next opened them I was back in the compound. It was another beautiful sunny day. I jumped out of bed and took a hot shower. Even if it wasn’t real, the hot water felt amazing. I couldn’t help but think of the man I had just seen die in the caves for accidently touching poisoned water. I shook involuntarily and goose bumps come up all over my body. Even in the hot stream from the shower, the chill of the vision ran through me.

I was drying myself off when I heard the morning meal bells. Vann and his henchmen were standing outside the entrance to the dining area.

“Good morning, gentlemen,” I nodded as I walked past.

“Someone seems happy.” Vann was smiling but I still felt a twinge of contempt in his voice.

“I guess I am. It is strawberry waffle day,” I told him.

I savored every bite of my breakfast. For the first time I ate everything that I was offered, every strawberry, every bit of scrambled eggs, every sliver of bacon. If this is a simulation, I thought to myself, it is an amazing one.

I didn’t know how much time I was going to have this trip, so after breakfast I made my way to the barns where Paul worked. No one was at the barns. To wait I leaned against the wall near the entrance that I thought Paul would use.

A few minutes I noticed Paul walking towards me, leading a group of six other men. When the men caught sight of me the redispersed so that Paul was in the middle of the group. I continued looking off into the distance even when they got close to me. The three closest my each kept an eye on me, the last stopping after Paul and the other five were well into the barn.

He smiled but there was no doubt he was angry about seeing me. “Brother, shouldn’t you be at the vineyards?” he asked me.

I turned and locked eyes with him. There was something foreign in those eyes, but I could not decide what. He continued to smile and I only looked at him. After a few minutes he gave up and turned and went into the barn without another word.

I decided to keep my post. No one was going to force me to work so there was no need to go busy myself in the imaginary vineyards. At least now I finally had an answer as to why the work was unending even though the vineyard was relatively small.

The sun was unusually hot compared to my days so far in the compound, but I stood my ground hoping to be given a chance to get close to Paul. When the noon meal bells rang I was almost to the point of giving up to go explore more of the compound. The large oak was on the other side of the barns so I did not expect anyone to come back out of the door where I was stationed. To my surprise, the man who had spoke to me that morning came out with Paul close behind him. I blurted out, “Football!” before the man noticed I was still there.

His attempt at smiling was less sincere as he turned to me.

“Friend, are you lost?” he asked me.

Paul stopped too to watch the interchange, confused as to the tone the man was using on me.

“Football,” I said again. “Football. Football. Football.”

“I don’t understand what you are saying,” the man came closer.

Something in Paul’s face changed and I knew I was reaching some part of him.

“Mical. Football. Menton.” I tried to use single words that might trigger something in Paul. He didn’t respond but I noticed the way he was blinking changed. He started blinking three times in quick secession then he would pause and blink three times again.

I started to open my mouth again, but Vann and the two white tigers appeared from seemingly no where to my right. I jumped at the sight of the tigers.

“Good day, brothers,” Vann smiled to the three of us. “Isn’t it time for noon meal?” His question was more of an order than a question. The man and Paul went back into the barn leaving me alone with Vann and the tigers.

“Something is different today,” Vann continued surveying me. “Are you felling all right?”

I glared back at him keeping one eye fixed on the tigers. They seemed mostly disinterested in me but hung close to Vann’s side.

I noticed black stains on the side of Vann’s shirt and pants. Vann noticed me looking and commented, “Ah, yes, I had a minor mishap earlier. I slipped on the path near my sleeping quarters. I should go and change into clean garments.”

I remembered from my exploring that there was no spot near Vann’s sleeping area that was not either grass or a clear running stream. I had seen that color before. Near the entrance to the bunker there was a pool of something that resembled used motor oil. A plan began to form in my mind.

Still apprehensive, I decided to head back to the rooming house, making my way quickly past the tigers. They did not pay me any attention, but I still glanced frequently over my shoulder as I walked back to the house.

Inside the house I went to the room where clean shirts and pants were kept. I found a set that would fit me and another that I thought would be big enough for Paul. I pondered his size for a moment and then put the second set back and took the largest set I could find. The rooming house was empty as was the area outside. There was no need to conceal the extra garments from anyone.

I made my way to the pool of black liquid. To the touch it was a little thinner than oil but smelled much worse. I dipped a sleeve of one of the shirts into the liquid. Immediately it turned black. A portion of the stream ran nearby so I went and tried to wash the shirt in the water. Much to my joy, the black seemed to be permanent. Whatever it was it would be the perfect dye.

Back at the black pool I carefully put all of the garments into the liquid. A small splash cast some of the liquid onto my hand. It stained my skin just as quickly. It was a small spot so hopefully wouldn’t be noticed. I broke a branch from a nearby tree and used it to stir the clothes in the liquid. Then I used it to carry each garment one by one to rinse in the stream. I had perfectly colored black garments that would help me with my nighttime adventures.

That night after first rain I changed into my new black outfit and ran off to the barn to the spot where Paul and I had met to talk. There was a crate against the back wall that had clearly not been moved for some time. I lifted it and hid Paul’s clothing underneath.

Paul did not show up that night. I waited until second rain before heading back to my room. There really weren’t any hiding places in my room for my new clothing. I wasn’t sure if my room was ever inspected but someone evidently cleaned it because there was never a speck of dust to be found.

I noticed a section of carpet was loose in the corner. I pulled it up and carefully flattened the linen garments beneath it. The carpet was now slightly raised but not so much as to be readily noticeable. I grabbed one of the chairs and put it over the clothing. The bump in the carpeting was safely hid underneath the chair.

Click here to read Chapter 11.