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Jul 19, 2014

Confessions of a Rich Douchebag

The past week has been an interesting one on the email front.  This isn't a bad thing. I love hearing from people - minus maybe scammers and bill collectors - but usually the most these various contacts have in common is "When is your next book coming out?" (which is a much more awesome question to hear than "When are you cutting off your fingers to spare us from another book?")

This week, though, I have gotten no less than three that started with some variation of "To whichever secretary or personal assistant gets this, please forward it on to Rick because..."  Add to that a fourth exchange in which someone mentioned that they were glad to hear I was a regular person and not some "rich douchebag" and I have to wonder if my email address has gotten mixed up with Donald Trump's again.

Each time it's been met with a bewildered "WTF?" from me, but then I realized this isn't all that different than similar such thoughts I've had in the past.  I've always been an avid reader, long before I ever dreamed of spewing forth my own words to paper.  Naturally, many of us are aware of the truly big sellers - the JK Rowlings, Stephen Kings, Tom Clancys, and James Pattersons of the world.  These are the folks that we turn on the TV and have a fair chance of seeing on a talk show, on the news, or a commercial. While we don't have access to their tax records, we can be fairly certain they're not exactly digging through the neighbor's trash for old cans of beans.

I likewise used to assume the same for many of the authors whose books I've picked up and read over the years. After all, if I found a book amongst the sea of others, that person must be pretty damn famous - sitting on a yacht drinking cognac from a crystal snifter while multitudes of hard-bodied models frolicked around them. Then, as I added more books to my resume, I began to become acquainted with some of these fine storytellers.  Don't get me wrong, some of them are doing pretty darn well indeed, but most are a long ways from snorting coke off a $10,000 hooker's ass. And that's where the fantasy begins to break down.

The thing is, just like any other profession, the big name superstars are few and far between. The vast majority are average Joes and Janes who are trying to make ends meat. The harsh reality is - and this goes double for anyone jumping into this fray looking for a quick score - it's very difficult to make a living as a writer. That illusion of authors taking Dom Perignon baths with supermodels is just that, an illusion (albeit a pretty damn cool one). As I said above, I can understand it too.  In the real world, though, many writers jump for joy if their work brings in enough to cover a trip to the grocer's each month.

Before you get the wrong idea, this isn't a sob story - no "poor me" here. I have been incredibly fortunate in my foray into this jungle.  My children may not be wearing $60,000 Air Jordans (and for that price you can be sure as hell those babies would be locked behind bulletproof glass), but they're not clad in potato sacks either. The awesome part is that many don't realize you don't need mega-millions for something to be life-changing. Going from, say, living paycheck to paycheck to being able to put even $50 in the bank at the end of each month makes a world of difference.

At the same time, while I am flattered that multiple (hopefully nubile) assistants are attributed to my operation, it's just me here - putting in a lot of hours at night so I can hopefully bring a smile to a few faces. I still hold a day job and this remains a part-time endeavor for me - albeit one that I am hopeful will some day be full time. In short, if you ever meet me on the street you can feel free to approach - sure in the knowledge that a legion of bodyguards isn't about to descend to beat you to a pulp.

Still, if the fantasy of me playing demolition derby with Bugati Veyrons while I burn $500 bills to keep my feet warm works for you, then by all means go for it.  I may not be a rich douchebag, but I certainly wouldn't mind being one some day...err sorta.

In the meantime, I shall continue to try my best to entertain. Now if you'll pardon me, I have some Grey Poupon to hand out at traffic lights...  

Jul 11, 2014

July 13th is national Geekiness Day! Everyone geek out!

The title says it all. I'm putting my gadget geek hat on along with SingleHop, an awesome one stop shop for anyone in need of internet services ranging from private clouds to managed hosting (learn more here). We want to remind everyone that July 13th is Geekiness Day - a chance for us all to embrace our inner geek and be proud of...

Wait a second.

Why would I pick one day to be proud of who I am?  That's ridiculous. Conversely for anyone trying to fit the lifestyle on that one day, I say wait for Halloween - that's the one day out of the year we can be somebody else. Me? I usually choose to be some kind of clawed monster, but I'm weird like that.

What I have never chosen to be is a geek. It is simple me. I am who I am and I just so happen to take joy in things that culture has deemed to have a bit of a dorky subtext to it.

So be it, I say!

My name is Rick Gualtieri and I like:
  • Playing Dungeons and Dragons
  • Watching cartoons
  • Collecting Transformers
  • Sporting a Decepticon symbol tattoo
  • Playing with medieval weapons that I have a better chance of killing myself with than mastering.
I'm proud to be able to:
  • Quote Conan The Barbarian nearly verbatim
  • Build my own PC from scratch
  • Debate whether Vegeta could beat the snot out of Superman
  • Know the dimensions, armament, and maximum warp speed of the various Enterprises
  • Look at a programming language I've never learned and instantly have a moderate clue as to what it does
None of this is bragging, nor a desperate cry to be pitied for that matter.  It's is simply what I enjoy - what makes me happy.  Why do I need a day to celebrate that?

Unless there are presents.

There are presents, right?

No? Well that sucks.

Then I say it again, why do I need to day to celebrate being me?

Once upon a time I thought the designation of geek was the social equivalent of the Black Death. These days, I'm a little older and a wee bit wiser - enough to know that the only real stigma to be had is in believing oneself to be inferior to another for any reason. Pride in oneself and confidence are what count. Those show through no matter who you are or what you enjoy doing.

On this day we're supposed to  raise our glasses of mead (or strawberry margaritas...hey, I gotta be me!) and toast to who we are, and why shouldn't we? But that doesn't mean we can't do the same tomorrow or every day thereafter.

Huzzah!

Happy Geekiness Day 2014 everyone!

Interested in geeking out some more? Check out SingleHop's blog where their employees are celebrating their favorite geek out moments. I am especially fond of this post...Steampunk and PC building, is there any better match made in heaven?

Jul 5, 2014

Vote for the Winner of the Worlds of Bill Fanfic Contest

The Worlds of Bill Fanfic Contest is over!

It's now time to pick the winners.

Your finalists (please be sure to read them all).

THE TROUBLE WITH TOM

THE HUNTERS AND THE HUNTED

YO JOE

DUNGEONS AND DREADLOCKS


Note: Please only one vote per person.



Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.


As a reminder:

1) Grand Prize winner will:
  • Win the awesome sum of $300 cash money!*
  • Have their winning entry published as a bonus story in the upcoming Tome of Bill Compendium (volume 2).
  • Receive a signed copy of the Goddamned Freaky Monsters paperback
1 First Prize winner will:
  • Win the slightly less awesome, but still pretty cool sum of $150
  • Receive a signed copy of the Goddamned Freaky Monsters paperback
1 Runner-up will:
  • Win a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate
All finalists will:
  • Be published on this blog for the world to see, enjoy, and cast baleful judgement upon.
*Note: might be a check


Dungeons and Dreadlocks: A Worlds of Bill Fanfic Contest Entry

I am pleased to present to you the final entry in the World's Of Bill Fanfic Contest.




Dungeons and Dreadlocks

By PandoraTHExplora

“So you’re in?”

Bill’s question hung in the air of the apartment around them.  Sally looked at the four men staring back at her, all of them with an expression of disbelief muddled with excitement.

“Yeah, sure,” Sally said, an eye-roll and a sigh later.  “I’m all in.”

Ed, Tom, Dave, and Bill looked at each other briefly and then scanned the room for cameras, as if they were on some kind of prank show.  To imagine that Sally could ever be cajoled into attending this kind of nerdy event was unheard of, let alone to volunteer? INSANE!

“What’s your deal, Sally?” Ed said, arms crossed and waiting for the real story to come out.  “We’re all going because there’s a sweet D&D tournament at this festival.  Why the hell are you all of a sudden interested in our nerd-dom?”

“I just am,” Sally responded curtly.  She slowly walked towards Ed with a look of heat and want in her eye, “and if you have a problem with that,” she bent down, pinching his cheek ever-so-subtly, “you just let me know, k?” She punctuated her statement with a playful double-tap of his cheek.  Ed couldn’t help but blush, clearly turned on by Sally’s vampiric-ly hypnotic way of making even the most demeaning things sexy.  Bill rolled his eyes, while Tom – donning a “Keep on Truckin” T-shirt, with Optimus Prime proudly on the front – slowly finished a seven-layer burrito.

“Well, then, I guess it’s settled,” Bill Ryder, legendary Freewill and fighter of all things evil, declared. “Team Freewill is going to Ren Fest.”

***

That following day, the Renaissance festival met Bill and his team with all things medieval and mystical – fairies, trolls, and knights gathered in a holy realm of fantasy and, much to the befuddlement of Bill, sunlight.

“Remind me again why we’re able to walk around right now in the daylight?” Bill asked.

Ed, sporting a pair of neon blue plastic sunglasses, which anachronously clashed with his grey wizard cloak and scepter, couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He shot a skeptical eye at his long-time best friend, Bill, who was draped in typical Ren Fest apparel, as well.  Bill had chosen to wear his traditional custom-made chainmail, with a black tank top undershirt and loose-fitting jeans.  He had owned the chain mail for several years, but because of the past trials with Alexander the Great, his chest, arms, and torso filled it out in a way that – unbeknownst to him - was becoming much more pleasing to those of the female persuasion at the festival.

Ed ignored an obvious wink from a beautiful-looking girl at his friend, stopped in his tracks and stared Bill straight in the eye.  “For the last time, Christy is able to cast a spell one day each year over a specific one-mile radius where all vampires and creatures of the night are able to walk in the daylight safely…obviously.”

He pointed up to the sky with exasperation, where a shimmer of a veil gave only a slight hint of its existence to those who really looked for it.  “Bill, her spell is protecting you and Sally right now so that you can walk around until the D & D tournament.  We’ve talked about this multiple times.”

Bill thought to himself that this sounded vaguely familiar – what was it?  Oh yeah! BAD TV SHOWS! For the second time in the past few months alone, his real life paralleled bad TV show plot lines.  In this case, TV was always throwing in explainers to allow characters to do something traditionally out of character for the sole reason of forwarding the plot.

“Riiiight,” Bill said.  He quickly dismissed the brief moment of clarity, and went on to discuss the pertinent matter at hand.  “So, when does the D&D tournament start again?”

“Not till eight,” Dave interjected, a half-eaten turkey leg in his hand. “We should kill some time until then.”

“Agreed,” Ed said.  He lowered his blue sunglasses in the direction of a solitary tent, which seemed to stand apart from the rest of the knick-knack booths and vendors of the typical Ren Fest crowd. “And I know exactly where to kill it.”

***

Bill’s eyes locked onto what Ed was seeing.  The tent itself seemed rather plain – a wooden pergola of sorts, draped in cheap-looking pink and purple fabric, but the woman it contained was the spotlight.  She was calm in her demeanor - long black hair, pale skin, and a trace of Asian decent with a far-away look within her eyes.  A chalkboard hung above the entrance to her tent, with the words haphazardly sketched into it, Julie the Jewel-Maven, Palm Reader and Life-Seer. Enter if you dar.

“Dar?” Bill said, eye-brow upturned.  “I think Julie should dare to run a spell check.” He raised his hand as if to high five his friends around him, but soon realized that Tom, Christy, and Dave, were running off to test their skills at the knife throw.  Sadly, his high-five was left-hanging.  Sally, in the meantime, also appeared distracted, her short, blond frame stood on tip-toe as if constantly scanning the crowd for something important.

“And then there were three,” Bill muttered under his breath.

“Make that two,” Ed corrected, noticing that Sally had become mesmerized by a glass-blowing demonstration.

“Alright, well,” Bill stated, “Well, Julie the Jewel-Maven looks fuckin’ hot….Let’s do this.”

Ed puffed his chest out, raised his head high, and placed a strong hand on Bill’s shoulder.  With a dramatic show of theatrics, he brushed his wizard’s cloak aside, brought his scepter in front of him, and said in a booming voice, “When it comes to hot psychic chicks, WE SHALL TOTALLY PASS!!!”

****

The tent’s curtains opened, seemingly on their own, to welcome Ed and Bill.  The confusing smell of incense and barbecue wafted in the air.  The usual sounds of the festival – laughter, heralds, knights jousting, and the like – were muffled by the enclosed intimate space of the psychic’s lair.

Ed took the lead.

“I heard you read palms?” he said, a half-smile cocked at the ready.

Julie the psychic recognized his question with a slight-movement of her head.  Her eyes closed, she said in a deep voice, “Enter, sir.  You are welcome in my home.” Her voice had an air of deep, ancient gravitas, the kind you only hear in high-budget movies.  She breathed in heavily through her nose, exhaling through her mouth, hands opening and closing with each breath, as if taking in the universe with each second.

Bill noticed that each breath in and out also punctuated her chest quite beautifully as she did so.  Bigger, smaller.  Bigger, smaller.

Nice, he thought.

“Should we begin?’ Julie said, locking eyes in Bill’s direction.

Bill’s undead heart skipped a beat.  The sudden confrontation, as slight as it was, wasn’t something he was ready for, and something deep inside him felt an odd need to retaliate. Something dark, something hidden, that didn’t want to be discovered.

“I’d like to get my palm read,” Ed interrupted the silent confrontation.  He sensed it from the start.

Julie’s eyes remained fixated on Bill for a moment. She broke loose after what felt like an eternity.  “That is fine. Come.” She motioned to the chair next to her.  “Sit.”

Ed quickly took a seat next to the psychic, eager to touch hands with someone that wouldn’t feast on his blood the second he looked away.  Something inside of him was excited about the chance to do something cheesy, ordinary, and as corny as a palm-reading at a renaissance festival.

Bill’s eyes never left Julie’s hands.  He felt something was wrong.  He knew it inside, but he couldn’t pinpoint it.

Julie pulled Ed’s hand into hers.   “Give me this,” she stated solemnly, squeezing even tighter and pulling hands dangerously close to her chest.

Ed blushed.

She took a deep breath.  She traced lines in his palm, nodding her head back and forth.  Each movement, Bill noticed, was accented by a look up to Ed….then to him.  A look to Ed.

Then a glance to Bill.

The back and forth between her eyes to Ed and to Bill was odd.  At last, Ed said, “What the hell is going on?  Are you reading me or him?” He jutted a finger out to Bill, who sat with a shrug and honest-to-goodness look of I have no fucking clue on his face.

Julie then dropped Ed’s hand in a sudden movement.  As if guided by some other force, Julie turned to Bill and gripped his hand in her palm.  She stared straight into his eyes.  Bill realized, for the first time, her eyes were strange – one eye blue and one eye green.

“What the hell is up with your eyes- “ Bill began.

“You are the one….this can’t be right,” Julie interrupted.  Her left hand began clutching his forearm tightly, the right hand prying his fingers open to reveal the vision.  Her pulse raced, and she was afraid.  “The thing inside you…I can’t…don’t let it come out.”

She was more than afraid, Bill realized.  By the sound of her heartbeat, the look of perspiration on her forehead, and the sound of her breathing, she was terrified.

Bill’s instincts to the confined space and aggression started to kick in.  He felt the black seep into his eyes.  The fangs grew, quietly and softly in response to the need to attack what was now an easy target – a prey.  However, the human side of him fought the urges back.  Some still human part of Bill told him to breathe.

To calm down.

That this was wrong.

Through his will, Bill suppressed the instinct to fight and he felt his body return to normal.

Julie stood up.  She pointed a finger in Bill’s direction.  Suddenly, her entire demeanor changed.  From terrified, she turned into a woman of anger and importance.  She screamed, “A dark one is coming for you!” and pointed a finger at Bill.  A wave of wind surrounded her body, lifting the hair and fabric around her.  “He seeks your blood.  Beware, Freewill, BEWARE!”

Bill looked to Ed for answers and this sudden climactic turn of events, while his friend simply sat there, eyes wide and jaw open.

A few seconds of awkward silence passed until a sarcastic voice interrupted the pivotal session.

“A psychic, really?”

The two men looked to the tent’s entrance, where a now beautifully coiffed Sally stood, eyes rolling and hand clutching a roasted turkey leg.

“Holy shit, what happened to your hair?” Bill blurted.

Sally’s hair, usually as stylish and golden as the next bombshell’s, now glistened in the sun and moved in exaggerated waves, as if she had just stepped out of a Pantene commercial.

“How did your hair get so shiny?” Bill continued.

“I KNEW IT!” Ed shouted, now out of Julie’s mesmerizing proclamation.  “You only came with us to Ren Fest because you were looking for that ‘magic’ hair elixir you kept telling me about.”  He said the word magic in finger air quotes.

Sally winked at Ed.  She had forgotten that she had told him about that little piece of vanity.

“Just call me L’Oreal, baby,” Sally cooed, tossing her newly rejuvenated locks into the wind.  “’Cause you know I’m worth it------oh, Shiiit”

Before anyone in the tent could blink, Sally had crouched into a predatory stance and leaped five feet into the air.  While she would appear at lightning speed to the human eye, Bill’s vampire eyes followed her movements as if they were in slow-motion.

Sally soared in the air, fangs lengthening as her eyes dilated.  Her right hand reached back behind her in a tight fist position, while the left extended in a position of defense.  One left leg jut out and cut one of Julie’s four chair legs, and while the psychic sank, another leg came up on her back, holding Julie in place against the table’s edge.  Sally’s right hand expertly came down in one swift motion to pin Julie’s head against the table, right-cheek smashed into the cheap, plastic cloth, allowing only an inch of mouth available for the psychic to utter a single word.

“DaFuckIsWrongWithYou?” Julie squeezed out.

Before the psychic could sputter out anything else, Sally reached down into Julie’s forehead and clenched a tight fist around her skin.  Her fingernails clawed deep into Julie’s flesh, digging for something right above the psychic’s eyes.

“Sally, I agree…what the hell are you doing?!” Bill said, mesmerized by the situation and torn by the need to either tear his friend of this stranger or watch in horror.

Without responding, Sally gave a facial expression of I got this in Bill and Ed’s direction, and flung the remnants of tattered, leathery skin on the table in front of them.

“Look for yourself,” she said, heaving Julie’s head up, and showcasing the most disturbing thing they’d seen in a long time.

Where Sally had savagely removed Julie’s forehead skin, in its place was revealed a glowing sphere, slightly smaller than a baseball, lodged directly within her skull.

“She’s called an Orisy,” Sally stated, matter-of-factly.  “They’re pretty much the lowest of the low on the totem pole of this world’s seers,” she continued.

Bill stood slowly, his body alert at the idea of another group of seers entering his realm.  After the last batch of eye-burning self-mutilators, he wasn’t sure he was ready for another round of future-seeing crazies.

“And you know how you can tell who one of these nasty creatures is?” Julie strained to lift her head and eyes up to see Sally. “By the giant freakin’ crystal ball in their head,” she continued, disgusted, slamming Julie’s frame back into the tabletop.

“We don’t have time for this,” Julie spat. “The dark one…he comes for your blood.”

She shot a now bloodied eye in Bill’s direction.  “He is close, Freewill.”

Sally pushed her knee deeper into Julie’s spine, exuding a hiss.

“He is right outside.  Exit if you dare.”

Suddenly, Ren Fest’s only soundtrack was a shrill scream.

***

Bill, Sally, and Ed escaped the pink pergola’s hypnotic embrace and raced into the daylight.  What they witnessed was pure chaos.  Men and women abandoned their medieval props, toppling tents, and racing towards the exits.  Children were swept up into the arms of those who knew better than to ogle at the fires before them.  Once care-free, skipping minstrels now dropped their instruments and pummeled fairies in the search of refuge.

Other Renfest attendees, though few, watched in confused ignorance, believing this all still to be part of the show.

The smell of sulphur wafted thick in the air.  Women cried.  A distant ambulance rung out its siren song.

“Come closer, Freewill,” a voice waded through the abyss.  It was a man, calm and steady.

“I know you are near.”

 ***

Bill stepped out from the smoke, a wave of human bedlam around him.  With all the madness he and his friends had been through – witches, ancient vampires, and not to mention let alone ONE but MULTIPLE bigfeet -  one evil-sounding Ren Fest nerd would be easy enough to handle.

Or so he thought.

“I’m right here, douche-nozzle,” Bill shouted.  “Who wants some?”

The voice laughed, and brought with it a shadow of a man.  “I am he,” the figure roared, his hands lifting slowly up to reveal his presence.  “The name is Wizard Delonius Marcooth, but you,” he breathed in, “may call me Dreadlocks.”

All of a sudden, the figure was surrounded by a halo of fire.  The red and yellow lights illustrated a black cloak, tied at the center with what looked like flexible human bone. The hood hung low against his back.  The shadows of flame revealed a sinister smile, razor sharp teeth, and ice-blue eyes.  His hair, surprisingly enough, lay thick and long in the style of dreadlocks.

“Seriously?” Ed whispered.  “The guy calls himself Dreadlocks and he freakin’ HAS dreadlocks?”

“SILENCE!” the voice boomed.

The wizard sunk his right foot back into the ground in a defensive posture, his hands closing in as if to capture the essence of the air around him, and he muttered an incantation under his breath.

“If I had to guess,” Dave said, stumbling into the fray, “that’s a standard Ryu Hadoken pose if I’ve ever seen one.”

Bill, Ed, and Sally looked with the same surprised expression at their friend’s sudden arrival within the middle of the climactic scene.  Christy and Tom were not far behind him to back up their team.

“We heard someone was calling out the Freewill?” Christy said, putting her two fists up in a boxing style ready stance.

Tom clutched his shirt with an image of Optimus Prime and looked solemnly in the group’s direction, “Transform and roll out?”

Bill looked at the rag-tag team of heroes surrounding him.  Then, he took in the sounds and sights of everything else – fire, chaos, and an evil wizard trying to demolish a piece of this world, his world.  He closed his eyes.  Taking in a final breath, he raised his head to the sky, exhaling a slow, controlled sigh into the darkening setting around him, and he said without a single question in his voice….

“Who wants some.”

***

The wizard Dreadlocks’s eyes glowed white with power.  He held his hands in front of him, and they trembled as they contained the power of the elements around him.

“Well, I think he’s about to shoot a fireball blast at us,” Dave said.

Without thinking, Christy stepped forward from the group of five and brought two hands – palm out – in front of her.  A thin, blue shield of light suddenly arose from the ground in a semisphere around them.

“I got this,” she said, awaiting the inevitable fireball.

Dreadlocks pushed his arms forward, and the earth shook around his feet.  The rocks and dirt shivered, and the swords, jewelry, and crafts from now empty vendor renaissance booths clanged together in a nervous cacophony.  Deep cracks suddenly formed in the dirt around Bill’s team, and a few of the members had to jump to escape falling into the crevices that formed.  Where the earth fractured, a small hiss seeped into the air.  First beginning as a sigh, it grew into a growl, a moan, and then – without warning – the sounds of a thousand screams bellowed into the night sky.

“Well, damn,” Sally called.

The noise escalated – the screams near deafening. 

“What is this?” Bill shouted, covering his ears.

“Fucking zombies,” Sally replied, and she marched towards an opening crater.  Crouching down and plunging a hand into the gap, she tightened her grip on an unseen monster and let out an exasperated yell to whoever would listen, “First, Orisies, and now this?!”  She brought an undead corpse to her eye-level, allowing Bill and the others to see the first of what they were dealing with.

The creature looked human but with muscles and ligaments much larger than average, and they were exposed to the naked eye.  Each sinew and cartilage stretched, exposed to the air around it.  Its fingers had grown at least five inches in length and each was tipped with a rancid-looking claw.  Its rib cage jutted from its lean torso, and instead of eyes, skull sockets glowed green with a fire that only ancient magic could conjure.  This particular zombie chopped at the air around it, trying in vain to get a taste of Sally’s torso.  Fortunately, Sally still had a solid amount of vampire strength to keep the zombie from getting its wish.

Dreadlocks, as they all soon realized, hadn’t blasted a fireball, after all.  Instead, he had sent a spell into the ground to grow zombie minions who, apparently, were intent on eating their flesh.

Because….why the fuck not.

***

Christy’s shield held strong, keeping at bay a dozen or more flesh-challenged creatures from entering the team’s area.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t formatted to hold back zombies that arose within its perimeters.

“Bill, we got a problem here,” Christy said, her palms still up while sweat formed on her brow.

“I’m on it!” Tom barked, seeing that two zombies were approaching dangerously fast to his girlfriend.  Grabbing an authentic Scottish Cutlass sword from an abandoned vendor booth, Tom grounded himself between Christy and the approaching monsters and resumed a warrior’s stance.  Gripping the sword with two hands, low and controlled, he kept his left foot back and planted, ready for a spring attack from either side. Fortunately, each creature adopted the 1950’s style of zombie fighting, in that what they lacked in speed, they made up for in persistence. As such, he began by spearing the first monster in its heart, bringing the sword down through its torso, and then finishing it off with a gentle slice of its scalp. The second zombie, in typical uncaring fashion, continued its course to attempt to eat his flesh and was met with a kick to its face and impalement by the Cutlass.

“These things aren’t so damn tough,” Tom said to Christy, who didn’t hear him from the concentration she continued to put into her spell.

Bill noticed that Ed and Dave had also picked out their chosen medieval tools for battle.  Ed was busy holding back a zombie with mace, bludgeoning their heads in with its spiked edges, while Dave had discovered the power of a battle axe.  Sally also seemed to have herself neck deep in the majority of the zombies, as they somehow sensed she was one of the few to pose actual danger upon their master.

Dreadlocks brought his hands up to the sky, readying himself for another spell.  If the first spell was about setting up zombie defense, Bill was sure that the second spell was all about offense.

He wasn’t about to let that happen.  It was time for him to take Dreadlocks down.

“Christy!” Bill yelled. “If you see Dreadlocks over there shooting any actual fireballs at me, you could do me a big favor by…you know…stopping them from burning me to death!”

Christy nodded without looking at Bill, the power of the spell too much for her to manage even looking anywhere else at this point.  But, that was all he needed.

As Bill ran towards Dreadlocks, he felt his own instincts take over.  The world, with his heart, slowed.  Suddenly, the images around him were becoming very crisp.  He could sense how Christy’s muscles tensed with the pressure and exertion she put into the shielding spell.  Her breaths became quick and she exhaled small cries with each one.  He smelled faintly how Ed’s leg now boasted three gashes, a trail of blood grew from him knee to his ankle.  Sally, in all her beautifully coiffed glory, was leaping in a perfectly executed cartwheel above a zombie and snapping its neck mid-air and searching for a landing spot where she could do the same thing to the surrounding monsters around her twice-over.  Somewhere, a few miles away, a newborn vampire was enjoying his first meal on a human – its flesh soft, ready, and willing to be taken.

It was so easy to just take what he wanted.

Bill’s eyes dilated and his fangs came first.

But Dreadlocks was too fast for him.  Plunging his hand quickly into the dirt, the wizard murmured an incantation and carved a symbol into the ground.  He sealed it quickly with a slap of his palm, and brought a hand full of dust into the air.  He opened it, blew into his hand and said, “Minuere.” The dust swirled around Bill’s head, and he was suddenly filled with the sensation of a hundred pound weight on his shoulders.

“A weakening spell,” Christy moaned, more to herself than anyone around her.  “How can he---Too strong---“

Bill fell to the floor.  His muscles giving way to the spell around him.  Dreadlocks walked calmly towards the falling vampire.  From his pocket, he drew a small syringe, and whispered a spell over it.  To Bill’s horror, the syringe grew in Dreadlocks’ withered old hands into something grotesque and living.  The plastic syringe grew to have veins, and the needle snaked in and out into the air. Part machine and part organic, the syringe became a being in itself, writhing and living in the wizard’s arms, like another minion and much like a pet that wanted to be satisfied.

While Dreadlocks walked, distracted, Sally saw this as her opening and, in less than a heartbeat, she raced towards him – fangs at the ready.  However, Dreadlocks smelled the unknown vampire blood and shot a spell – blue, burning, and bright - in her direction.  Bill watched in disgust as Sally, the warrior, got thrown into a tree 30 feet beside him.  The wood splintered, but Sally’s body could take the beating.  Ed fought off one of the last zombies around him and ran to Sally’s aid.

“She’ll be fine, Bill,” Ed said, in a whisper, knowing he would hear.  “Just get this bastard.”

Bill was down on one knee.  He clutched at his heart, as the spell that Dreadlocks had put on him not only weighed on his surrounding body, but also on his internal organs, as well.  He watched as his best friends fell before him – a zombie crushed Tom’s hand here, another bit Dave’s leg there.  It was all too fast.  All too easy.  Had this all been what they had fought for?  To die at the hands of a wizard and some low-level zombies?  Had they gone through all this shit just to die?  Is this how the world ends?  Was this how he would let his friends down?

That’s when Bill felt it.  The darkness.  It came quietly.  Gradually.  Something in the pit of his stomach that clawed from the depths, a desire to escape.  He felt his hands grow and clutch the ground.

The syringe’s needle poked at his skin and, from a distance, a scream pierced the air.

“Eat this, Dread-SUCK!”

Out of nowhere, a spinning blue crystal ball came flying through the air and crashed into the mutated syringe.  Dreadlocks wrenched back in horror as his creation jerked in his hands, becoming slowly engulfed by a wave of energy and light.  The needle shattered into glass pieces on the ground, and the rest of the machine disintegrated as the orb’s power ate into its very being as the wizard held it until it was only emptiness.

Dreadlocks stood in horror.  His face white, matched the bones around his cloak.  He staggered back, his hands drawing up to his face in a way that seemed to question his own purpose.  How could this be?  Could he be defeated?  Dreadlocks felt the tendrils of borrowed magic seep from his body, dissipating back into the world around him.  He grasped at the air, hungrily, attempting to steal it back to carve the magic into his own dark desires.  Unfortunately, the world had had enough of his games for the night.

And so had Bill.

Bill stood up, restored by the spell’s unraveling.

His friends watched – shared fascination and horror at what was to come.

Bill felt the injuries healing themselves in his body.  His muscles tightening, cuts closing.  Fangs sharpening.  Claws lengthening.  Something dark was rising.

This bastard was going down..
.
.
“The Tome of Bill is copyright Rick Gualtieri. This story is licensed under the Creative Commons as derivative, noncommercial fiction.”




This one snuck in just at the deadline.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to post it until now.

Nice to see the core cast in action in an interesting little tale. I think the ending is to leave things to our imagination, but I have a feeling Bill and his friends pulled through just fine. Thank you, PandoraTHExplora.

And that is it. The contest is over. Voting will commence shortly.  A big thanks to all the entrants.

Jul 1, 2014

Yo Joe. - a World's of Bill Fanfic Contest Entry

I am pleased to present to you the next entry in the World's Of Bill Fanfic Contest.




Yo, Joe.

By Tim St. Croix

Fuck my life.

My name is Joe. Impressive name I know, with a name like that there are honestly only two jobs destined for me in life; mechanic is one, janitor is the other. I somehow broke the mold and wound up working as a patrolman in the 1st precinct of New York City. This area encompasses a single square mile, but that square mile is Soho and that is pretty much where this story goes to die, literally.

I was 28 at the time, and while not ripped, I was fit. After all, you occasionally have to chase down on foot a teenager who stole a 99 cent soda from a bodega. Those little fuckers can run. That, however, is neither here nor there. The whole point of this is that due to Gordon having his sixth kid and out on “paternity leave” as they call it, I was stuck working the night shift. Usually not a bad gig, but things had been kind of strange. There was an ominous feeling in the air, and there had been an unusual amount of homeless going missing.

I just finished the standard patrol, and parked in an alley with Michaels, Gordon’s partner -- fucking paternity leave -- and was busy chowing down on some greasy, grey hamburger when what felt like a dead body hit the roof of the cruiser. We got out and checked; I was mostly right. It was a body, just not exactly dead and not exactly human. Then again I did not specify which type of dead body, soooo… I suppose what happened next was mostly my fault.

It started to get up, and when it looked at Michaels, it felt like a vacuum sucked up my testicles so far up into my body I could swear I was gargling them. That right there is fear. So, not even realizing what I was doing, I had drawn my handgun and promptly emptied a solid clip into the center of it’s mass. Michaels after his initial shock followed suit.

We then proceeded to drag it off the roof and examined it, for what, I had no fucking idea, but in stressful situations you go through the motions. This stops you from thinking and gives you something to focus on. Turns out, the thing had a wallet and it was just some schmuck from Jersey by the name of Ted Green. At this point, every single bad movie and video game went through my head in what, I guess could, legitimately be called forethought. I turned to Michaels and pretty much tried to warn him as best as I could without legitimately coming off as a basket case.

“We need to shoot it again,” I said.

He looked at me.  -- This fucker rarely spoke.--

“I’ve seen every bad science fiction and horror movie ever made, and this is the exact moment some cop or soldier or dumb blonde teenage heroine thinks they just took out the bad guy, only for it to hop up behind them and gut them like a fish. I honestly don’t know about you but I don’t want to die like a bitch.”

His eyebrow twitched probably on purpose, and then he nodded silently, we switched out our clips and proceeded to empty a full load into its face  -- heh full load-- its blood and brain smearing out in a fan shaped pattern in the alley. Sorry not it, Teds. Teds brains and blood. It was at that moment out of the corner of my eye that what is now the bane of my existence decided to canabalize Officer Michaels.

Sure, she was missing some skin and most of her dress and seemed to have lost an eye in a fight with something -- as you can guess the something was Ted -- but it is hard to ignore, even in that state, how fantastic Sally looked. As she continued to chow on Michaels she seemed to get better, and I am not afraid to admit I was simultaneously scared and kind of turned on.  Creepy, right?

I was not stupid, however, and tried to shoot her.

Okay, I take back the not stupid part because yeah, not a great idea.

I don’t remember what happened after she backhanded me across the face, but I’m sure you can guess the rest, especially seeing as how you are reading this after the fact. For some insane reason she took a shine to me, or maybe she just wanted a bitch boy, but what happened is I pretty much wound up being the janitor for a coven of vampires, you know lug out the stiffs and drop ‘em in the east river type of deal, a coven run by a homicidal psycho bitch from hell named Sally…

Fuck my life.


“The Tome of Bill is copyright Rick Gualtieri. This story is licensed under the Creative Commons as derivative, noncommercial fiction.”




Ah, Sally...she's quite the little minx isn't she? Pity that Joe ain't gonna get the same treatment as Bill.  Oh well, that's what you get for not being the Freewill. Thank you so much your entry, Tim.

The contest is just about over...will any new stories sneak in just under the deadline?  I guess we'll see.

Jun 22, 2014

The Hunters and the Hunted - A Worlds of Bill Fanfic Contest Entry

I am pleased to present to you the second entry in the World's Of Bill Fanfic Contest.

Note: This one is pretty long (albeit the payoff is more than worth it). I've included about the first 2000 words here with the rest available via PDF.



The Hunters and the Hunted

By Patrick Christensen

I had already known that even in the best case scenario this weekend was going to suck, however fleeing for my life before the Wild Hunt took my expectations of disaster and laughed at them for not being hardcore enough all the while rolling them for their lunch money.

Normally you couldn't convince me to venture into a forest for love or money, except I'm here because my dad guilted me into it and bought me a sweet new desktop as the lure for his trap. Let me try again, you can get me to wander into a forest with love and money but you better have a goddamn lot of both.

My dad and I get along great I swear, it's just, I'm a geek and my dad... isn't. In fact my dad is an avid outdoorsman, which makes us something akin to oil and water. Mostly we accept each other as the flawed individuals we are, but occasionally we try to get one another to appreciate our hobbies which is why my dad has seen all of Firefly and I can light a campfire using steel and flint. Don't judge me, I resisted as best I could, but some knowledge just seeps in.

Anyway, when I moved to California for college I swore that I was done with nature. Trees? Who needs 'em. Fresh air? Overrated. Sunlight? Bah, at least indoors I'm at less risk of skin cancer. My dad on the other hand gave me several recommendations for good hikes in the local area. I ignored him, but over the years his hints became more insistent until last week he finally took action.

I'd just graduated this year with a comp-sci major and managed to get a job in an electronics repair shop. Yeah, not the most glamorous use of a degree, but it was a job and I'm kinda desperate moneywise. Fucking student loans.

So by chance my birthday was last week, only a couple weeks after entering the workforce and my dad decided to buy me something nice as a combo birthday/graduation thing. That something nice was a new high end desktop. Okay my dad didn't actually buy the computer, he told me to pick what I wanted and he paid for it. Neither of us are idiots. Anyway, along with my nice new toy he bought me top end camping gear, I mean tent, backpack, portable stove, the works. Now just when I was about to smile and politely put the gear in a closet until I could throw it out my dad looked at me and said, "Son I'm proud of you, you've started out on your own and as much as it pains me to say you don't need to rely on me anymore. This is a moment every parent knows is coming, but when it arrives we aren't ready for it."

Crap, I was tearing up a little. I mean sure I'm not really an emotional guy and all, but he was looking so lost as he was saying this I couldn't just look away. Embarrassedly I shuffled my feet a little and started to mumble something about how he'd always be part of my life, even if we didn't see each other quite as much when he looked at me and said.

"I hope the gifts I've given you remind you of me and you put them all to good use."

The slight emphasis on all gave away the game. He was guilting me! On my birthday! I was preparing to angrily tell him off for pushing his expectations on me when I reconsidered. Damn it, this was my dad, the guy who went along with my hobbies just to find a way to connect with me. The guy who actually sat down with my D&D group and gamed with us for a session just to understand what I was doing with my time; which, while hugely embarrassing for me at the time, was actually pretty cool of him to have done.

I looked my dad in the eye and said, "You got it dad."

That was all it took, some things can be communicated with only a look and a tone of voice. My dad graciously acknowledged his victory by not mentioning it any further. The rest of the day passed and we made small talk until it was time for him to go.

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A week later I'd looked through some possible hikes and selected a two day backpack through a trail not far from where the I-5 meets the 89 in Castle Crags State Park. So it was going to pretty much be: drive in, hike for half a day, set up camp, spend a night outdoors, hike out, go home and get blitzed. My dad had actually bought equipment for both me and my friends on the idea that misery loves company. I wouldn't actually mind company as a night alone in the woods wasn't all that appealing, but when I explained the situation to them they just laughed at me.

Assholes.

Okay fine, if our positions had been reversed I would've found the whole thing hilarious, but I wouldn't have laughed in their faces. Probably.

So maybe my friends and I aren't the outdoors type and expecting them to join me in my exile was a bit much. Still they're good people as evidenced when my buddy Mike expressed his concern for my safety.

"Hey, haven't a lot of people gone missing on hiking trails lately?" He asked, "maybe you shouldn't go out right now. I could see you being abducted on your own and butt-raped by hobos or something."

"Don't worry about it," I replied. Sure it was cool he was worried about me in his own way, but he was questioning my manhood and that couldn't be allowed to stand. "It's the beginning of hiking season, there's always some idiot who overestimates his orienteering prowess and gets his dumb ass lost."

"Alright," he sighed, "but you better not get bit by a werewolf."

I laughed. Yeah Mike may be a bit rough around the edges, but I know he'll look out for me. Not enough to, you know, actually go camping with me, but he'll be there in spirit.

"You're way too much of a wuss to be a werewolf. You wouldn't do anything cool if you were turned. If something that awesome happened it should happen to me."

Yeah, I don't know why I hang out with him either.

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So Saturday found me dragging my skinny carcass up a trail carrying the weight of the world on my back. Alright so maybe it was more like 60 pounds, I'm not exactly a bodybuilder; anything over 20 pounds took effort.

The hike was like every other pointless expedition I've been on. Lots of exercise punctuated by repetitive scenery. Look a tree! Some sort of squirrel thing I'm pretty sure isn't actually a squirrel! Another tree! Excitement!

Fortunately I managed to straggle into a campsite before daylight was completely gone, nothing sucks more than trying to set up camp in the dark. I even managed to get my tent set up before nightfall. Hah! A triumph of man over his environment! My stomach grumbled to remind me that I'd been burning energy lugging Sisyphus' stone on my back all day so I started making an extra large pot of pre-made stew. Iron chef I am not.

She appeared just as the stew was ready to eat. From the moment I saw her I knew there was something about her that drew me to her. That would ensure I would follow her every whim, even if it had me braving the depths of hell, just that she might look at me with favor or perhaps turn her smile my way. Perhaps it was the way the firelight reflected in her warm brown eyes giving the impression of overflowing vitality. It could have been her shy smile that looked like it might either flee or embolden itself into a different aspect. Mayhap it was that her every movement flowed with an otherworldly grace. Or maybe it was because she was half naked.

I'm a guy, sue me.

For a second I thought I was hallucinating because there is no way any sane person would wear what she was wearing. Her outfit, and I shit you not, was a medium length skirt and a short top, what's the word for it? Oh yeah, a jerkin. Both of which were made entirely from animal skin. When I say that I don't mean she was wearing an ensemble of fur or leather. I mean someone, probably her, had hunted down small four legged critters, killed them, skinned the little bastards, and stitched their dead hides together into what I could only describe as an Animal Rights Activist's worst nightmare using what I strongly suspected was sinew. I also suspect she hand-sewed it together herself; the stitching was uneven causing the hides to push together and pull apart creating a tapestry of gaps that revealed tantalizing glimpses of her bare flesh.

She drifted slowly into the light of my fire and asked, "Would you mind if I shared your fire?"

Alright, was she suspicious? Possibly. Was she crazy? Probably. Was she hot? Definitely! Decision made I stood and welcomed her, "Fair lady be welcome at my camp, for it is truly fortunate I am to share such a wonderful evening with one so beautiful as you. Please find a... rock and be seated."

Gah, okay not the smoothest beginning. I'm a little out of my depth when it comes to the opposite sex. My strategy in these situations is to be as dorkishly amusing as possible in the hopes that chicks would find me charming enough to stay around and hopefully go from there. It wasn't exactly the best plan, but it was what I had and now it was making me sound like the lead of a bad romance novel.

"A gentleman!" She exclaimed, "I've been forestbound for some time now and most I approach aren't so kind as you, it was what made me so cautious in approaching your camp." She smiled as she dragged a rock to the fire. Whoa! She chose a large one for her seat, weak she was not.

So apparently when a crazy chick approaches you from nowhere at night, talking like you grew up in a Renfaire was the way to go. Learn something new every day I guess. I was about to reply in the same vein as I had started when the act of sitting teased open a slight gap in her skirt around her waist and I found my attention riveted by what was revealed. Or more accurately what wasn't revealed, for one second I got a flash of thigh and nothing else. I think she wasn't wearing underwear.

I tore my gaze up to her face, fortunately she was looking at the stew instead of at me. That was good because I'm pretty sure gazing at a woman's crotch like you have x-ray vision pretty much precludes any chance you have of dancing the horizontal tango. My thoughts raced, I hadn't seen any cloth through the gap in that one instant but maybe she was simply wearing a thong or something skimpy like that. On the other hand, what if she was starkers under there? Maybe if I played this right I would have the opportunity to find out for sure.

Quickly to make up for my slight preoccupation I offered, "Um, I'd offer the rest of the stew since you seem hungry, but I, uh, don't have any extra bowls or eating utensils."

"That's no problem!" She exclaimed happily and proceed to grab the pot and eat from it with her bare hands.

Okay that was unusual. The pot was off the fire, but it should still be hot enough to burn. I guess it wasn't as she wasn't screaming and flailing her hands about, instead she was sitting there devouring stew as if it was her last meal on Earth. Still it wasn't weird enough for me to ask her to leave. To be fair she could have walked in and announced she was the sovereign queen of the moon and then proceeded to attempt to find out what this thing humans call love is from me and it still wouldn't be weird enough for me to ask her to leave. Actually if that was how things went tonight I'd be completely okay with it.

I was just finishing my portion, watching her eat may have been fascinating but it grew awkward after a bit, when she slurped the last from her cupped hands and looked up at me. Realizing I had seen her lapse of etiquette she immediately grew embarrassed. She coughed a bit looked, down at her hands, seemed to decide that since she'd already lost it she might as well continue on, and licked them clean.

"I'm really sorry about that." She apologized to me, "It's been so long since I last had cooked food I forgot myself. Most of my meals I take raw. Still it was an inexcusable lapse and as your guest I am ashamed."

Raw? I guess she was some sort of back-to-earth vegetarian or some other such nonsense. Wait, that couldn't be right. She'd eaten the beef along with the veggies so meat probably wasn't an issue. Maybe she lead some kind of hunter-gatherer lifestyle? Eating plants she harvested, hunting animals for food. No, she'd still need to cook the meat, unless... raw? No let's not think about that, back to the situation at hand and no time to spare for what only happened in my imagination. Probably.

"It's no problem, if you were willing to risk cooking your own hands along with the stew just for a meal I can't fault you for it," I allowed. I faltered for a second then recalled basic social graces and scooted forward a bit offering my hand, "My name's Robert by the way."

"Where have my manners gone?" She wondered aloud, "I'm Ruth and it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance." With that she took my proffered hand and shook it firmly.

"So you're a Bobby, huh?" Ruth continued, "So Bobby what brings you up this way?"

"I'm not a Bobby." I explained seriously. I knew it probably didn't seem that big a deal, but I was no Bobby. It's important to stick to your principles a after all. Otherwise you get stuck as Bobby for the rest of your life. "I am a Robert or if you must shorten it, a Rob."

Ruth pouted cutely, "But that makes you sound like such a fuddydud."

Fuddydud? Who used fuddydud anymore? "That's fine, so long as I'm a fuddydud named Robert," I countered. "Anyway I'm up here because-"

"That really doesn't matter," Ruth interrupted, looking sharply at the sky.

Wow, that was rude.

"I hadn't realized the time," she continued, "I was going to talk with you some more, but my friends are going to be waiting if I stay here much longer."

Oh. Yeah of course she had friends, this was starting to feel familiar; a hot girl had walked up to me out of nowhere, smiled a little, and then asked me to do her homework... I mean share my stew. Fuck, I was back in high school! Now would come the part where she was happy to get to know me, but she had things to do as far away from me as possible and she would appreciate it if I didn't tell anyone she had ever talked to me.

"You see my friends and I are having a party out here," damn it here it came, "and I was wondering if you would perhaps like to accompany me?"

There it was- Wait, what? She was actually inviting me? Holy crap I'd never been invited to a party by a hot chick before! Oh man I could actually score tonight, I mean she must like me at least a little if she was inviting me to her party...

In the middle of the forest...

During the dead of night...

Alone...

Fuck me. I had almost fallen for it. I had almost been stupid enough to walk off into the woods with an obviously crazy woman wearing animal hides. I was an idiot. I looked that treacherous bitch right in the eye and stated as firmly as possible, "I would love to come."

What the hell? Maybe all that sparkled really was gold. Maybe to get what you want in this life you simply had to take what chances would come no matter how insane they seemed. Maybe as she was carving out my heart in sacrifice to her dark gods I'd get a chance to cop a feel.

I mean, you never know, right?...



“The Tome of Bill is copyright Rick Gualtieri. This story is licensed under the Creative Commons as derivative, noncommercial fiction.”




Wow, 60 pages of story set in another slice of Bill's universe. Both ambitious and awesome - a kind of parallel to Bill's own origin story with a really fun twist. Thank you so much for both your entry and for helping me kill an afternoon, Patrick! Your effort is most certainly appreciated.

Have a story idea of your own? There's still about a week left to go in the contest.

So what are you waiting for? Get writing!

Jun 20, 2014

Picking Sides in a War of Giants

Within the publishing world the ongoing contract turmoil between Amazon and Hachette is well known. It’s caused quite a stir and has most definitely raised a lot of emotions on both sides.  Now before I go any further, let me just say I’m only talking about the two multinational giants in this fight.  My heart goes out to any authors caught in the crossfire who are seeing their livelihood suffer as a result.  My hope is that this gets resolved one way or the other quickly so we can all get back to competing based on the strength of our stories not on how much muscle either titan chooses to flex.

Recently, Salon.com published an article detailing why it was in the best interest of self-publishers to support Hachette. Personally, I found it to be a bit too condescending for my tastes and the logic behind this conclusion to be questionable at best.  However, it did stir up a lot of intelligent debate across the various forums I frequent. Even more so after I declared that I was on Amazon’s side in this.

Interestingly enough, this is a controversial choice even amongst self-publishers, but to me it makes perfect sense.  Hachette is a completely neutral entity to me.  They’ve neither harmed not helped me in any way.  On the other hand, I have seen great personal benefits working with Amazon over the past three years of my publishing career.  To that end, I wanted to dispute some of the arguments that I've seen presented in this.

1: Amazon isn't your friend. They’re a corporate behemoth who cares nothing for you.
And Hachette isn’t?  Seriously, let’s not be silly here.  I liken this to job recruiters I’ve worked with.  I don’t fool myself into believing that any of them care about me beyond what dollar amount I represent.  However, some of them put forth a much better effort than others.  The truth of the matter is Amazon gives me access to great online marketing tools (Author Central), their customer service is top notch, they've given me a chance to reach their top 100 via offering Bill The Vampire as a Kindle Daily Deal, and whenever I've seen their booths at a convention the people manning it are always super friendly and enthusiastic toward authors.  All of that counts in my book.

2: If Amazon wins, they’ll drop royalties, kill the KDP program entirely, and/or start eating babies.
I am reminded of the phrase “If pigs had wings, they'd be eagles.”  I've stated on more than one occasion that I'm here for the long haul.  To do so, one must plan for the long term.  That includes keeping one's eyes open and tracking which way the wind is (or will be) blowing. What I won't do, though, is panic at every potential doomsday scenario.  I'll keep my options open, my eggs spread across multiple baskets, and adjust my plans accordingly. Right now the waters are fairly pleasant and my goal is to keep on the current path and avoid unnecessary freak-outs until such time as it makes sense to adjust course.

3: If Amazon wins you might find your sad little independent books next to $5 James Patterson offerings.
*Gasp* you mean I might have to...compete!? Say it isn’t so!  Here’s a little tidbit of information, I’m already competing. I take this job very seriously.  I don’t price my books the way I do as an apology for being independent - as my way of saying “I charge less money, so you shouldn't expect much.”  No. I price my books the way I do because I find it to be fair.  I don’t charge $9.99 or more for a single novel because frankly I don’t want to pay that much myself when I buy an ebook. I consider my current prices to be a fair trade-off of value for the customer vs. a royalty rate for myself that I’m quite happy with.

Should I wake up tomorrow to find myself competing on price with the big boys, then I shall do my best to compete. Assuming I’m not already there, I fully plan to keep challenging myself so that when you see my book on a shelf (virtual or otherwise) next to a multi-million selling author the only real difference that will catch your eye will be the title and author name.

If I fail in this, it will not be for lack of trying.

4: Amazon is playing dirty pool in these negotiations.
Uh huh, and Hachette didn’t conspire to fix ebook prices with their cronies a while back.  Let’s not be silly and assume either side is up for sainthood here. This is a corporate starship battle and both sides are trying their respective Picard Maneuvers.

5: But Amazon doesn't deserve your blind loyalty!
Who said anything about blind loyalty?  I haven’t renamed any of my kids Amazon Gualtieri or gotten their logo tattooed on my body.  I’m well aware of the work and expense I put into my books.  If I've been lucky enough to earn a following then I’d like to think it's due to the enjoyment they get out of my stories.  However, to ignore Amazon as a major reason that I was able to connect with those wonderful people would be both silly and revisionist history.

I'm simply stating that in a struggle between them and a faceless entity that I owe no allegiance to (and that doesn't affect me, my kids, or the environment in the short term) that I’ll stand behind the company that has done right by me.

Too many authors, indie or otherwise, decry Amazon's policies and practices these days without giving them proper credit for revolutionizing this industry and continuing to be at the forefront of it. I choose to remember those who have empowered me to reach as far as I have.

What does the future hold? Who can say?  The whole indie book revolution could end tomorrow for all we know.  Would that make me sad?  You bet.  Would it take away from what I've been able to accomplish?  Not in the least and no matter what happens going forward I will never forget the opportunity I was given nor those who had a part in it.