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Nov 28, 2011

Teaser for Bigfoot Hunters

Since man first walked the earth, people have seen the unexplainable;
Lights in the sky, ghosts from the past, monsters in the mist.
Do they exist or are they just our imagination?
Science has scoffed at these stories...until now.
My name is Dr. Derek Jenner and I dare to believe.
Together with my team I will find what is out there waiting.
The truth cannot hide from me.
I am...the Crypto Hunter.

- Intro to The Crypto Hunter, Tues night 9:00 PM on the Adventure Channel

************************************

Prologue

Gil Harris loved camping. He couldn't remember a time when the prospect of being outdoors didn't cause a tingle of excitement deep within him. Something about being away from the normal hustle and bustle of society really called to him. He couldn’t imagine a better place to be right now, just a man in his mid-thirties experiencing the joy of waking up to the sounds of birds chirping and deer crashing through the underbrush. He took a deep breath. The air smelled clean. It smelled right.

Having spent his youth growing up in Detroit, one wouldn't have expected to find such a love of the outdoors. During the majority of the year, Gil had been a typical city boy enjoying the occasional after-school game of B-ball with his friends, watching TV, and causing the usual mischief of a kid his age. Gil's mother, however, had insisted on a different course of action during the summer. Every year she would sign him up with the Boy's Club of America or the Fresh Air Fund and make sure he spent a good chunk of the summer months where there were trees to climb, grass to run through, and campfires to tell ghost stories around. She had claimed it was to broaden Gil's horizons, show him that there was a world beyond the asphalt and scarred building facades of their neighborhood. However, Gil wasn't stupid. He knew it was mostly to make sure that he didn't fall in with a bad crowd.

While school was in he was kept fairly busy by his studies. His mother would accept no less. However, once school ended idle hands could easily become the devil's playthings. Gil had seen his fair share of friends get themselves into increasingly more serious levels of trouble from year to year. He'd come back at the end of each summer to find that some of his friends were in trouble with the law, some had become addicts, and occasionally one would just be gone...never to be spoken of again.

Some of the other kids from the inner cities were bitter about being sent to camp. They'd complain endlessly of being stuck out in the boonies and do their best to find a way to be kicked out of the program and sent home. Not Gil, though. From the moment he had stepped off a bus and gotten his first taste of nature he had been hooked. No matter how great the preceding winter had been, come June Gil would be itching again for the outdoors. It was a love that had never left him.

It didn't matter to Gil even when there weren't others to share his enthusiasm. By his junior year in college he had saved enough to purchase some decent gear of his own. That way, whenever there was a long weekend that didn't require him to go back home, he was ready. He'd pack up his gear, in the old clunker of a Manza he had bought for $400 from his uncle, and just pick a direction. Any would do as long as no skyscrapers marred the view ahead. The wilderness was like a sort of soul-mate to him. Girlfriends had come and gone, friends had moved away, jobs had changed, but the outdoors were the one constant in Gil’s life. It was, he thought, his rock for lack of a better term.

That thought caused him to chuckle, as it always did, as he walked upstream towards his little camp. He had spent the morning fishing in a little spot that he’d found during some cursory exploring. He had bagged a few keepers but in the end had set them all free. Gil wasn’t much of a cook and his wife, Maria, would have sooner filleted him than gut a bunch of fish.

He frowned ever so slightly as his thoughts went back to his family. He loved them with all his heart, make no mistake about it. His wife was a lawyer for a global energy syndicate. She was the smartest, prettiest, and funniest person he had ever met. Sure that last one typically only appeared after a good number of cocktails but it didn’t matter. For Gil it had been love at first sight. Then, after three years of trying to win her over, it had finally been love at about the thousandth sight for her. They had been married in the suburbs outside of Chicago and had honeymooned in Barbados. Gil had argued in favor of a campout at Yellowstone instead but had been overruled almost immediately.

If Gil had one regret about marrying Maria, and even he had to admit it was minor, it was that she did not share his love of the outdoors. During the course of their nine years of wedded bliss he had made absolutely no progress with regards to changing her mind. Her idea of roughing it was a weekend of being pampered at a spa. The squirrels and chipmunks around their suburban home were the extent of the wildlife she would tolerate. To her the woods were an insufferable hell of biting bugs, poisonous snakes, and all sorts of things that wouldn’t bat an eye at eating her alive.

So too, sadly, had it been with Carl. The birth of their lone child had been nearly mind-blowing for Gil. Not only was he now a father but his child was a boy...a boy to carry on in his father’s footsteps and share in his interests. That last part, sadly, had not come to pass. Carl was a great kid in almost all aspects. He got good grades, was popular, and was even polite...a rare things in kids these days. He was everything that any parent could hope for. However, he also shared his mother’s disdain towards Gil’s passion. Sure Gil could convince his son to come on the occasional weekend layover but the boy usually grew bored within an hour of setting up camp. To him Mother Nature had nothing to offer that could compete against his PSP.

Thus Gil was forced to compromise, usually in their favor. He’d get a weekend here or there and he’d always reserve at least three days out of his yearly vacation towards a getaway. However, these were typically lone outings. Family trips were almost always decided in Maria’s favor, especially since she was smart enough to usually plan them close to either a theme park or fairground. In doing so she knew that Carl was always sure to side with her. Gil had to admit it was hard to plan a good camping trip within walking distance of a killer roller coaster. Sure lots of those places had dedicated camp grounds. However, they were often so congested and filthy that he would have preferred a week sleeping in his mother-in-law’s backyard.

Gil was suddenly brought out of his reverie by the loud snap of a stick he had stepped on. It was silly but it seemed to have nearly the same report as a gun going off. No wonder, Gil realized a few moments later. All had gone quiet around him. Gone were the chirps and chatter of creatures scurrying through the underbrush. Gil stopped walking and looked around. He was suddenly glad he hadn’t kept any of the fish he had caught. Silence like this usually meant that a predator was near.

Gil was no fool. Loving the woods had meant learning about them too. He’d heard similar silences before. Still, he wasn’t particularly worried. A black bear would typically give a person a wide berth. As long as cubs weren’t involved, they were often happy to leave people alone. An angry cougar could be a potential problem. However, they were typically ambush predators and the stream upon which he walked had a nice wide bank. He was probably too far away from the brush and to close to the water to make a good target.

He decided to give it a few minutes. If thing didn’t go back to normal by then, he’d begin hooting and hollering. Most animals in these woods would think twice before charging a full grown man making a boatload of freaky noise. Worst case scenario; he had bear spray in his jacket pocket. An eyeful of that would send even the ballsiest blackie running for the hills.

A low grunt from across the streambed caught his attention. Gil turned and began scanning the area for signs of movement. The noise hadn’t been a familiar one but Gil wasn’t fool enough to think he had heard every sound in Mother Nature’s arsenal. The grunt came again, this time a few yards to the left of where it had originated. A wild boar perhaps? Gil didn’t think they were indigenous to these woods but that didn’t necessarily rule it out. More likely a feral pig. Either way, that could potentially be a worry. Pigs could be nasty fuckers when they wanted to be. Gil didn’t relish the thought of having to climb a tree all because he had stumbled across a nasty side of bacon with an attitude problem.

Whatever it was, it was moving. It was apparently aware that Gil had heard it because a few seconds later it ended all pretense of sneaking about quietly. Gil heard a series of leaves crunch underfoot and then the distinct noise of branches being snapped as something moved past them. Considering the sounds, something large was out there and it was no pig.

That probably meant a bear. In that case, best to end this game now and scare it off before it got bold. Gil bent down, taking care to keep his eyes on the area the noises were coming from. He picked up two flat rocks from the stream and stood up. At once he started banging them together. The loud noise reverberated off the trees. It would have been enough to rattle the resolve of most bruins he had come across in his adventures.

He stopped what he was doing and listened. There was silence for about two seconds and then a sound carried back to him. It was the same sound he had just made. Was it an echo? Suddenly it happened again. Impossible, thought Gil. Bears didn’t bang rocks together. It would have been quite the task given their lack of opposable thumbs.

Almost immediately all the tension went out of Gil. “Carl! That better not be you!” he yelled towards the bushes.

This year, for the first time ever, Gil had won the argument over the family vacation. He had offered his wife a compromise of two days in San Francisco in return for driving East through the Rockies and taking a week long camping trip deep in the backwoods of Colorado. Neither Maria nor Carl had been happy about it but even they had to admit that fair was fair. Both had promised to keep an open mind and to try to enjoy things. Gil, in return, had assured them that if the campout was a disaster then next year they could have their beaches and their amusement parks with nary a peep from him.

Unfortunately, three days in and it was looking like Gil might be forced to live up to his word. No matter what sights he showed them, his family had been unceasingly miserable. Truth be told, Gil was glad they had slept in today. His little fishing excursion was the first real enjoyment that Gil had so far gotten this trip.

However, if his son was now playing tricks, that gave Gil some hope. It meant the child had finally given up on grousing in front of his Game Boy and had decided to live a little. Sure, he’d read Carl the riot act when he saw him. The woods really weren’t a place to screw around in if you didn’t know what you were doing. Still, he was within spitting distance of their camp so the risks were low. He’d go easy on Carl so as to not spoil what little progress had been made.

“Last chance, Carl. Come on out!” Still no response. Either the child was being obnoxious, a not unheard of thing, or it wasn’t him. They were pretty far out but this was still a known camping area. It was very possible he had stumbled across another hiker who was now having a little fun at his expense.

He was thinking these thoughts when he noticed the normal sounds of the forest had finally returned. Whoever had been lurking there, having what they no doubt thought was a good joke, had moved away from the area. Gil sighed. Assholes; even in the big woods you couldn’t always escape them. Oh well, Gil wasn’t too upset. He had played his fair share of pranks on fellow outdoorsmen in the not so distant past of his youth. No harm done, he thought as he continued on his way.

Gil rounded a bend and he could see the site about a hundred yards away. Odd, he suddenly thought, where were the tents? He should’ve been able to see them this far out, especially the gaudy orange one he shared with his wife. It stuck out like a sore thumb in all but the deepest of woods. In the clearing where they had made camp, it was practically a beacon.

Oh shit! He was afraid this would happen. Bored and miserable, they had gone and packed everything back up in the SUV. He wouldn’t have put it past them. They were probably thinking that if they put up a united front he’d have to cave in and drive them back to civilization. Well they had another thing coming. As far as Gil Harris was concerned a deal was a deal. He had no tolerance for welchers, especially in his own family.

As Gil got closer he noticed that things weren’t as he had first assumed. The site wasn’t stripped clean after all. Maybe he had caught them in the act. No, there was no movement. If they had been scurrying like ants to pack things up, he’d have seen them by now.

It wasn’t until Gil reached the edge of the camp that a sinking feeling began to enter his gut. The bright orange tent was still there. It had just been pounded into the dirt, flattened actually, and was plainly missing a few large chunks. However, there was still enough color left for it to be unmistakable. A moment passed while this sank in and then Gil dropped his fishing gear and sprinted full speed into the camp.

“MARIA! CARL!” he began shouting as circled the center of the campsite. Here it became evident exactly how bad things were. The tents were destroyed and the sleeping bags torn apart. Debris was spread across the entire area. It looked like a tornado had hit. Hell, it looked like someone had dropped a bomb on the place.

Gil had never seen anything like it. He’d seen hungry bears attack campsites before. They’d make a hell of a mess but nothing like this. The thought of bears brought another uncomfortable feeling to the pit of his stomach. Not wanting to, he forced himself to look more closely at the surrounding area. It didn’t take him long. Gil was no tracker but the rust colored stains on the grass surrounding the area told him a grim story.

Gil refused to believe it. It had to be something else. The SUV! He was sure of it. He’d go there and find them waiting for him. Then they’d all have a good laugh and drive off together. He held onto that thought like a drowning man. It was the only thing that was keeping him on his feet. He continued shouting for his wife and son as he raced to where the SUV had been parked, about fifty yards hence at the edge of the trail they followed to this spot.

Gil ran through a copse of trees and tripped over something hard sticking out of the dirt. He pulled himself to his knees and saw it was the passenger side door of their Dodge Durango. Gil suddenly felt like he had stepped out of reality and into one of the horror movies that he and Carl would occasionally stay up late to watch. In the eerie silence of the forest it was almost unreal.

The silence! Gil hadn’t noticed it while he had been shouting Maria and Carl’s names, but now he did. The sounds of the woods had once again retreated into nothingness. For a few seconds all he could hear was the beating of his own heart. Then he heard another of those grunts from earlier.

Gil turned towards the sound. Less than twenty yards away, just outside of the tree line, stood a nightmare. It was nearly nine feet tall and at least twice as broad as Gil, all of it muscle...hairy muscle. It stared at Gil with red rimmed eyes. The eyes bespoke of intelligence tinged with madness. Brown fur covered the creature from head to toe with the exception of around its mouth. There the fur was stained that same rust color as the grass in the campsite. The creature opened its mouth wide and let loose a roar that sounded as if it had escaped from the gates of Hell itself. Gil’s bladder emptied as the beast charged him.

The next two minutes were both the longest and last of his life. Much of what came out of his throat, while he could still make noise, was little more than inarticulate screams. However, there was one thing that would have been obvious to any onlooker bold enough to have stayed and bared witness. During those few minutes, Gil Harris loved camping a whole lot less than he usually did.

**********

Bigfoot Hunters
By Rick Gualtieri
...coming soon!

Nov 15, 2011

I'm not dead yet

I realize that I've been a little remiss on keeping this blog as current as I should. Truth be told I feel quite inadequate compared to some of the voracious bloggers out there. Forget a few times a week, or even once a day, I see some out there who update their blog with a frequency that I can barely maintain on Facebook or even Twitter.


Well ok maybe I'm exaggerating a bit on that last one. Still, I can't help but feel a bit bad about the fact that I maybe update things a few times a month a best. However, please do not take that as evidence of my creative laziness. Actually the opposite is true. I find I only get so much time per day to devote to writing. Thus I prefer to cram as much of that time as is humanly possible into both writing and/or editing whatever book I am currently working on (that would be Bigfoot Hunters as of the time of this post).

I also tend to like to save my blog time for when I have something to say, preferably something that hasn't been said already by a million other people. After all there are plenty enough posts out there on "why I write", "how I promote my writing", and "what motivates me as a writer" etc etc.

That being said, I do plan on being a little more diligent on updating things as we move into the holiday season. Soon enough I'll start posting samples from my work in progress. In addition to that I'm looking into a few "interviews" with the various characters from my existing books as well as maybe a short story or two to keep you warm during the yuletide months. In short, don't fret. I'm not giving up on all of you. You may not come here and find "My 6 AM post", "My 6:45 AM post", or "My 7:27 AM thoughts on trying to write before I have my coffee" but rest assured I'm not going away anytime soon. Whether that's a promise or a threat will remain to be seen.

Nov 4, 2011

But Is It Art???

To create art or to entertain? Regardless of whether you write, act, sculpt, or stand on a street corner miming your way out of an imaginary box, this is a question that will probably be raised either by yourself or others. For me at least this one has always been ridiculously easy to answer. From way back in elementary school whenever I would write a goofy story or get up to make a presentation, worrying more about filling it with bad jokes than content, it had always been about entertaining the crowd. I just can’t stand the thought of being boring to people. Whether they’re laughing or crying...hell, whether they’re loving or hating me...it doesn’t matter as long as they’re reacting because if they’re reacting (outside of leaving) then that means they’re probably not bored. That to me was always the goal and as I move into my life as a story writer I find it continues to be my goal.

That’s not to say that art is a bad thing. It’s not and there’s a definite purity to be had in attempting to create it. Is it possible to create art and entertain at the same time? Of course! Don’t be stupid. However, I find the motivations behind each to be two very different mindsets, at least insofar as my observations have shown. For example; several years back I used to be a part of my college’s drama society. Once the actors got out on stage it was difficult to tell our mindsets apart. However, before the show you could always tell the difference between the thespians and the entertainers. The thespians were serious...sometimes (but not always) morbidly so. They were the ones who would go off by themselves beforehand in order to embrace their character...to become their character. The entertainers would often be more social prior to going on stage. Their main concern: knowing their lines, knowing their cues, and making sure not to step on any laughs or applause.

Was one better than the other? No, I don’t think so. At the end of the day as long as each was dedicated to their craft the end results were always good. As for dealing with the two types: personally I always thought the artists had a tendency to be moodier as well as showed a proclivity towards being more pompous. However, in all fairness, I find that entertainers tend to be the far more obnoxious of their two when they put their minds to it...and believe me, we often do.

So too am I beginning to see that difference in the writing world. There are people who just want to spin a good yarn and there are people who want to write the next Tale of Two Cities. I continue to be in that former crowd. My goal is and will continue to be to entertain my readers. That is at the forefront of my mind when I write.

Don’t get me wrong, though, if I somehow wind up creating art (probably by mistake) then that’s great. So be it! I’d be more than happy to be remembered for the ages for some great literary work I have yet to create. Just know that if such a future ever comes to pass and a century from now students in some high brow literature class are debating the socio-political undertones of one of my works...well know that I’ll be looking down (or up) and laughing my ass off.

Nov 1, 2011

Renaissance: aftermaths, explanations, and alternate endings

The Rule of Three Blogfest is over and so is my short story, Ren Faire. I hope you enjoyed it. If you missed it you can find the links below:

Part 1: Bill
Part 2: Tom
Part 3: Ed
Part 4: The Finale


Since I didn't give much introduction during any of my parts, preferring to let the story stand on it's own, I figured I'd give a writer epilogue of sorts. I think it's always cool when one of my favorite writers lets me into their heads to see what fuels the madness, I hope you will too. As an added bonus, at the end of this I have posted the alternate ending to Ren Faire.

For starters let me just say, I enjoyed the ever living hell out of this contest! It was great fun both writing about the town of Renaissance as well as reading the other entries. You did read the other entries, right? Well if not then you should. Follow the Rule of Three links at the top of any of the parts of my story to discover all of the other wonderful stories out there. Don't worry, I'll wait for you to get back.

Alright, all set? Yeah I know, your eyeballs are probably bleeding now. Sorry, I should have mentioned first that there were a lot of other stories. However, they were good weren't they? Well worth the eyestrain if you ask me.

So back to Ren Faire. I had been considering writing some short stories to expand upon the world of Bill Ryder, my main character from Bill the Vampire. When I read about the Rule of 3 Blogfest it seemed like a match made in heaven and part one practically wrote itself. Why on earth wouldn't a geek like Bill and his two dorky friends, Ed and Tom, want to go to a Ren Faire? Things like that (Comic-cons, Star Trek Conventions etc etc) are practically etched in their DNA. Unfortunately, as is the case with such hastily made road trips, it turns out that Renaissance is only the name of the town. They don't actually host Ren Faires there, and my guess would be a good deal of the residents wouldn't even know what one even was. Hijinks thus ensue.

I also figured plopping my characters into this town would be fairly unique amongst the entries. Renaissance was presented as a town of mystery and secrets. There were literally infinite possibilities for epic fantasy and adventure there. Thus, I figured that's probably the route that many of the other stories would take. Many of them did and they're darn fine tales. However, my take was to make it a full blown comedy, one in which the many mysteries of Renaissance would be treated as little more than a side annoyance by our characters.

Therein lies the comedy. After all, this is a place with a deep history. Many great deeds have been performed in Renaissance, some heroic some wicked. What better fun than to introduce a bunch of characters who would completely dismiss the entire thing as a "Bumblefuck of a town"? Of course, the other parts of the comedy are in seeing them get sucked into Renaissance's dark history regardless. Bill, Tom, and Ed are not heroes. They're just clueless dweebs who somehow manage to stumble upon crap like this, a modern day Scooby-Doo gang if you will...albeit with a lot more four-letter words.

As for the process of writing all of the parts, I'll go on record as stating I had no idea what the ending would be when I started out. We were told that each week we would be given prompts, so each week I purposely left off on a cliffhanger...the thing being that I didn't know what the resolution to the cliffhanger would be until such time as I saw the prompts and started writing. Chaotic? Yes. A lot of fun for me as the writer? Also a big yes. I also figured that stayed true to the challenge. I didn't want to write a full-on story and then try to awkwardly fit the square shapes of the story into the round holes of the prompts.

And that's really about all there was too it. I went into this with the goal to have some fun, entertain a few people, and torture my characters a little. At the very least, I know I succeeded in the first and third of my goals. Judging by the kind comments people left here throughout the story I like to think I succeeded on the second as well. Regardless, if you took the time to read my story I thank you wholeheartedly!

So what about that alternate ending? Well, if you follow me on twitter then you probably read something about it on the last week of the contest. Either way, it's nothing earth shattering that really changes the ending. I had just originally gone down a different route before abandoning it in favor of the "official" ending.

The word count limit left me with a conclusion that felt too small. Thus I scrapped it at the last minute and started over. Personally, I'm much happier with the new "official" ending, although you'll see that this ending might fit a bit better with the pace and linear storytelling of the first 3 parts. Thus, rather than let it go to waste, I offer this "alternate" ending here as is. Enjoy with my compliments.

As for further adventures in Renaissance, I am told there will be a sequel to this blogfest in 2012. I'll be keeping an eye on that. If time permits, you might just see Bill making a triumphant (or not) return to Renaissance again sometime in the near future. Time will tell...

**************************************

Part 4: Alternate "Epic" conclusion

Possession is a curious sensation. It’s less horrible soul-raping and more like being shoved to the passenger seat of your car. Annoying, but only traumatic insofar as how lousy the driver is. Speaking of which...

As my body advanced, Ed yelled, “You’re the one with the sword, idiot!”

Tom hesitated for a moment then yelled. “Sorry Bill!” as he swung the weapon. I was hoping he was aiming to cripple not kill. However, before he could connect, I saw the nails of my hand elongate. With one slash they cut through the blade like it was paper. Holy crap! Kymara had better mastery over my vampire powers than I did. I really needed to start practicing.

“Insects!” she mocked through my lips. “You cannot stop the prophesy.”

“Prophesy?” Ed asked.

“Yes!” she replied like some comic book supervillain. “Once every century the two sides awaken to do battle. This time, with my help, Heriot’s Pass shall fall and my pets shall be free to ravage the surface. Behold! Even now the combatants stir!”

Sure enough she was right. An unearthly glow began to surround the army of corpses. Suddenly there were multiple sharp sucking sounds as if long unused lungs were taking their first breath in decades. As if in response, the sounds of deep growling could be heard from the other side of the gate. Oh boy!

My roommates, to their credit, used the distraction to rearm themselves. Unfortunately they both grabbed for the same weapon.

“Let go! This one’s mine!” Ed said, yanking a mace from one of the not-quite dead soldiers

“I saw it first.” Tom replied as he tried to take it from Ed.

I could feel my lips turn up in a smile. Kymara wasn’t afraid of them, big surprise.

However, then Tom lost his grip on the weapon. He stumbled back and slammed into one of the soldiers.

“Wait!” Kymara’s voice suddenly cried out. “What are you doing!?”

The collision caused the soldier to tumble into the one adjacent to it. That one likewise toppled into the next in line. One by one, like dominos, they fell. As each hit the ground its desiccated body crumbled into dust.

“NOOOOO!!” screamed Kymara and then suddenly she was gone and I was me again.

As the last of the soldiers disintegrated, the light from them faded and so too did the growling sounds.

I looked around confusedly while Ed barked, “That’s it!? That was pathetic!”

I was just about to agree when Tom yelled, “Take this, bitch!” and shoved a broadsword into my thigh.

Yes, it hurt. A whole fucking lot!!

“ASSHOLE! It’s me!” I screamed as coherently as I could...which wasn’t much.

“Alright, I freed Bill!” he triumphantly yelled to Ed. Goddamn, what a moron!

**********

The “battle” over, my companions helped me limp back to the surface. On the topic of getting out of this asshole town there was no argument. As we finally exited the store I saw the sun still peeking over the horizon. I put my executioner’s hood back on and we headed towards Ed’s car.

We had just reached it when the sound of a motor caught our ears. Another car was approaching. It pulled alongside us, slowed, and the drivers’ side window rolled down revealing a man dressed in barbarian attire.

Upon seeing me, he turned to his companions. “See!? A town called Renaissance definitely has a Ren Faire in it.”

In response, Tom put a hand on my and Ed’s shoulders and said, “Told you so!”

*sigh*

The End