Tag Archives: robots

Dear Lisa, on #LisaBurtonRadio

This is Lisa Burton Radio, and I'm your host, Lisa the robot girl. One of the things I've wanted to try is sharing some of the mail we get on the air. So here we go.

I've gotten a lot of mail about my tattoos. The questions vary, so I'll try to cover as much as I can and hopefully your answer is in there somewhere.

When I was first booted up, they gave me a job, planted me in a house, and abandoned me. I found myself with days off as part of my cover. Nobody was supposed to know I was a robot, so I had to live like everyone else. I spent a lot of my off-time at the open air markets and street festival. All the other girls that summer had a kind of retro-style going on, so I adapted it to fit in better. It's still a popular sub-culture, and I still enjoy it.

The other girls had tattoos, and I really didn't know if I could get one or not. I'm covered with a genetically modified human skin, and it's fed by a hydroponic layer from underneath. Basically, I gambled whether it would work or not.

My leg is based upon a silk painting I saw, but I changed it up to things I like. There are koi fish on my ankle, mandarin ducks on my leg, and a persimmon tree with fruit up on my hip. They're always in odd numbers, so three fish, five duckies, and seven persimmons.

My shoulder has a chambered nautilus out hunting. Mathematical things appeal to my programming. I like bricks and tiles. The perfect spiral of the nautilus is just awesome. My tattoo artist came up with the ruins she's hunting among, and I went with it.

It hurt, and my pain receptors worked pretty hard. I don't know if I felt it exactly like you might, but that's the only experience I have. The ink stayed, and I love them.

A couple of you wanted to know about my hair. It's real hair, and seems to have become permanent. I wore a wig until the lab decided to test some new baldness drug on me. They painted it wherever they wanted me to have hair. My skin registered some pretty serious chemical burns, but the hair grew. They never released the drug for human consumption. I guess, in a way, it's okay to experiment on a robot girl. At least I saved some poor rabbit from the same experience.

I don't have hair anywhere they didn't paint me. I'm okay with that, because I never have to shave. I like my hair, and my brunette wig didn't look nearly as nice.

This one says, “Dear Lisa, what it's like working for an author?” I only know about one author, but it isn't a bad gig. Craig mostly likes peace and quiet when he writes. That and a couple gallons of coffee. This is his quiet phase.

There are times when he gets all manic, and excited about stuff too. Those are the times when we assemble a cast of characters and go over dialog together. If it doesn't sound right, he changes things and we do it again. Sometimes I get to swing weapons around, shoot guns, and even mix up magical ingredients. Those are fun days, but then it's usually back to more quiet time.

Eventually it becomes time to publish something. I'm the one who arranges blog tours, places Amazon advertising, and nearly everything else. Over the course of the last few books I've gotten to pose with various story elements and share my posters with various blog hosts. I really enjoy that part of the job.

It helps that I have a swag deal that lets me keep the clothing and various things I pose with. That's how I got the formerly haunted biplane, the rocket-pack, and more.

So how about it gang? Do you like an occasional Dear Lisa segment? There are a lot of places I could go with this. I could get a sponsor, like one of your books. I could read your letters on the air, and include links to your social media. To do that, I need a couple of things.

First, I need more questions. It might be cool not to make them all about me. Maybe the odd advice question could be fun. Maybe you'd like to know how Craig sets up his book releases, or how he outlines things. If you like this segment, send me some questions.

Second, I would need someone to volunteer as a sponsor. It isn't bad exposure for the price of free. Maybe you have a price reduction, or an anthology to promote. My regular interviews are better for a new release, but a bundle or anthology would make a good sponsor.

Speaking of my interviews, I always need guests. If you have a new book coming out, maybe something freshly released, or even a special price reduction, a character interview could entice a few buyers. Drop me a line and we'll set something up. I need more guests right now.

Craig said I could use an anthology he's in as an example. It might sound something like this… Today's sponsor is Macabre Sanctuary, a collection of ten short stories by ten fabulous authors. These tales are all paranormal, supernatural, and horror, guaranteed to make your hair stand on end. Pick up your copy today for the amazing low price of absolutely free. Macabre Sanctuary.

For Lisa Burton Radio, I'm Lisa Burton. And seriously, you guys, drop me a question or set something up for a character interview. I think Craig wants to turn my radio station into a chicken coop.

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So, how about that Afterlife?

I got to the Writing Cabin later than usual. Sundays I call my parents, and I knew I was in for an earful. We just had the election, and they wanted to talk about it. It's one of my least favorite topics, but I only talk to them once per week, and it was their turn.

We bought some fancy bacon yesterday at Whole Foods, so Old What's Her Face** decided to make us a nice breakfast. Sometimes you have to enjoy the small things in life, and I did.

The cabin was quiet when I climbed the stairs from the basement. Coffee was almost, but not quite, finished cooking. I found Lisa* laying on the couch in the front office.

“Hey, what's going on out here?” I asked.

Lisa slid into an upright position and stared at her shoes.

I thought maybe she was admiring them. She always has some kind of fancy footwear on. “Those are some great heels.”

“Uh huh.” She looked up, and her mascara was running.

“Is something wrong?”

“It's my radio show. I'm trying to draw some conclusions, and I can't.”

I slid into her usual seat behind the desk. “Maybe I can help. What are you planning to do with it?”

“Huh? Oh the show's great. It's my last guest, Katie. She's the ghost trying to hitchhike her way into Heaven.”

“Okay, maybe you should read her book. That's the best way to find out if she makes it.”

“You don't understand. I'm trying to be human here. Everyone expects me to be human, and I'm doing the best I can. What's in it for me after I'm gone?”

“I don't understand.”

“Look, you guys get Heaven. What does a robot girl get?” She moved her hands from head to toe. “Is this me, or am I a bunch of data spread across multiple servers?”

“Both, I suppose. We're all in that boat to one degree or another.”

“Are you, I mean really? When you pass, both parts are gone from here. I backed myself up across six different cloud servers to make sure I don't lose any data. If my chassis gets clobbered by a truck or something, my data remains. What then? Will I just live inside the internet forever?”

“Maybe, I guess I never thought about it before.”

“Me either, and it scares me.”

“We definitely all feel that way. All you can do is live the best life you can while you're here.”

“That's my problem. Maybe I'm always here. What if I'm partially immortal?”

“What if you are? You can't change anything, so why worry about it?”

“Maybe I can plan for the end, or something.”

“What would you do?”

“That's what has me upset. Do I hack my way into some factory and create a backdoor? Then I could have the equipment make me a new body if this one get's destroyed. You know, kind of a night shift deal. I might even make some hardware improvements along the way. That doesn't solve my problem though. Is there an artificial Heaven for artificial intelligence?”

“I really don't know.” I wrapped a hand around my beard and let it hang there for a minute. “Think about how many different versions of Heaven people have. There are so many versions, they probably have one that's right up your processor.”

“Processors, plural, and I hope so, and I hope it's not all bits and pixels either. They need shopping and plenty of it, and a better grade of mascara.”

“There you go, Heaven with a better grade of mascara. Want to help me work up my critiques?”

“Sure. Then maybe some retail therapy to help me get over this issue.”

“I wouldn't expect any less.”

***

* For all my new followers, Lisa is a robot. She serves as my personal assistant, and is the spokesmodel for my writing career.

** Entertaining Stories, protecting my wife's identity since 2013.

Note: Authors have the power to make you see things differently. I'm truly blessed to have so many of you around. Thanks to Helen for planting this seed in my head.

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Women’s Health Week

You guys know I’m not real keen on special recognition for various groups. Still, sometimes it helps bring attention to issues and that has to be a good thing. Women’s health week is apparently kicked off by Mother’s Day, and runs through the rest of the week.
Things happened this way…
 I slipped out to the writing cabin unannounced. The little gyro-copter landed smoothly, and I spun it around at the end of the runway to take back off. Then I slipped into the writing cabin through the front door.

Lisa* was nowhere to be seen, but there was no fooling her. “What are you doing out here today?” drifted down the stairs.

“I didn’t get everything finished over the weekend.” It was a lie, and it tasted bad. Still, sometimes you do the wrong thing on the way to the right thing.

Lisa picked her way downstairs and rounded the corner.

“Um, what are you wearing?”
“I picked this up in New York when I was promoting your book. I don’t really have anywhere to wear it, so I decided to wear it here.”
“Is that, what, rubber?”
“No, it’s latex. I liked the polka dots, and the cute bows. You know how something looks really cute in the store, then you take it home and it’s still cute, but you don’t really have anywhere to wear it?”
“No, not exactly.”
“Well, believe me, it’s a genuine problem. It makes me happy, but I’m stuck wearing it around the house.”
“Isn’t it, you know, sweaty?”
“You would think so, but genetically modified human skin doesn’t sweat.”
“All my women readers are going to hate you for that.”
“Oh no! Do you really think so?”
“No. I’m just teasing. Look, what if we goof off today and go somewhere that you can wear it?”
“Where would that be?”
“What about the casinos on Tabula Rasa?”
“The space city? I haven’t been there for a long time. What’s the hitch? You’ve got some research or something to do, huh? It’s a whole city of science and research, plus a few tourist attractions.”
“Maybe, but there’ll be plenty of time to go shopping or hit a casino before we have to come home. How’s the oxygen in the gyro-copter?”
Lisa’s eyes fluttered while she logged onto the cabin’s systems. “There is plenty of oxygen for you. I don’t need any.”
“Grab your purse, and let’s get moving.”
Lisa went up the stairs in a flurry. I heard her telling Bunny, her pet rabbit something, and she came back down while still programming her purse to match her outfit. Heaven forbid she didn’t match one time.
We got in the little gyro and lifted off. I had to circle several times to gain the altitude we needed.
“Let me fly, you’re drifting into the commercial lanes.” Lisa grabbed the stick and took over, while I fiddled with my oxygen mask.
She deftly maneuvered the gyro into shallow space and started into orbit.
“What’s the deal? Let’s get moving.”
“If we fly straight there, it will take too long. Give me one orbit to gain speed, then we’ll whip out and save six hours.”
“You’re the robot girl.”
When we approached the space city, everything was lit up like a city inside a soap bubble. It was always that way. I handed Lisa a piece of paper with coordinates on it.
“What’s this? The tourist landing bays are over there?”
“We aren’t using those. Special arrangements today at the science labs.”
She raised an eyebrow at me and pursed her lips. At least she took us to the science portals. The tiny gyro looked absurd beside the giant shipping barges and experimental spacecraft. She spotted an open slot and landed near the main exit.
A brunette in a labcoat met us as we stepped onto the platform. She held out her hand. “Mr. Boyack, I’m Dr. Oates.” I shook her hand and she turned. “This must be Lisa Burton. It’s an honor to meet you. You’re a real celebrity up here.”
Lisa was a bit more reserved, but politely shook the doctor’s hand.
“We’re all ready for you in the lab. If you’ll just follow me.” She led us through a set of doors that actually went swish, just like in the movies. When she handed Lisa a paper gown everything got scary.
“What’s going on here? You told me we were going to have fun today.”
“And we are. We just have a few things to do first.”
“We, meaning me. What kind of lab is this?”
“We are on the cutting edge of robotics technology here. I also promise you, we have nothing to do with Atlantic Robotics. They don’t know you’re here, and niether does anyone else. We’re going to check you out and have you down on the tourist level in no time.”
Lisa turned to me and poked a finger at her heart. At least it would be anyone else’s heart, Lisa doesn’t have one. “I don’t want anyone poking around in my private systems. They’re mine, and nobody else’s business.”
I took her by the hand. “I understand that more than almost anyone. Remember my biopsy? Everything was benign, but you just never know. I don’t want to get probed down there either, but I’m kind of glad I did. What if it had been serious?”
“Do you think I have a virus, or a Trojan? That’s gross.”
“We don’t know. I published your story in 2014. That means I wrote it in 2012 or so, and that’s a long time for hardware and software. Wouldn’t you like someone to check that everything is still working correctly, or at optimal speed?”
“Fine, but I’m not wearing this stupid gown. It’s ugly, and I’d rather go naked.”
Doctor Oates said, “If that’s what you’re most comfortable–
“And I’m keeping my shoes on.”
The doctor led Lisa away, but she managed a look back at me that could curdle milk.
I paced for a while, then found a couch and checked my blog stats. Everything with Lisa seems to spike higher than other posts. She’s really been a benefit to my writing career, and my blog. I hope everything is fine, but it’s worth checking out.
Time ticked away, and I started to get worried. What if something was actually wrong? I mean, nobody knows what kind of shelf life Lisa has. A new car starts looking kind of old after five years. Computers need replacing about that frequently too.
A young man in a lab coat came my way. His brow was covered in sweat, and his cheeks were flushed.
I stood to meet him. “How does she look?”
He blew out, and turned a deeper shade of red. “I, um, she looks great. I mean, you have seen her right?”
“Not like that, and that isn’t what I mean. Is everything okay?”
“I’m not at liberty to say, but you can ask her yourself. She just sent me for her purse. She won’t come out until she touches up her lipstick and mascara.”
I handed him Lisa’s purse and sat back down. It took another twenty minutes before I heard heels clacking behind the doors. I knew they didn’t belong to Dr. Oates’ gum soled shoes. I stood and waited for the news.
Lisa burst through the doors, but she was smiling. My tension eased a bit. She and Dr. Oates were laughing about something.
“Everything is fine, Mr. Boyack. Lisa is going to be with you for a long time.” She turned to Lisa. “Thank you for coming in, and my son is going to flip over the autograph. Come back here anytime you need.”
“Are you sure you don’t need any more selfies?”
“I think the dozen we took will be enough.”
Lisa grabbed my shoulder and turned me toward the hallway.
“What’s the deal? Is everything okay?”
“No malware, no spyware, and no viruses. Dr. Oates let me look at all the programming before she hooked me up to any of the machines, and it made things a lot easier. She updated my operating system, and I saved half a terabyte of onboard storage. She told me I could gain even more if I deleted some of my police programming, but I refused.”
“Is that the right idea? There isn’t much need for DNA analysis these days.”
“I don’t care. It’s mine and I’m keeping it.”
“So do I have to use a thumbprint scanner or anything like that?”
“No! I’m not a phone. The OS came with some stuff I can’t imagine any use for though.”
“It seems like it always does. What kind of stuff?”
“I have Radar and Sonar capability now. When will I ever use that?”
“Probably never. What about the conflict between your fight or flight programming?”
“That’s still there. They have no idea why my emotions overload it. It’s tough, because under those situations, there’s a ton of emotional programming to sift through.”
“So are you okay with coming here?”
“It sounds scarier than it really is. It feels like a really bad thing, and it’s easy to put off. Dr. Oates and her staff are top notch, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined it. I even got a little bit more battery time out of the deal.”
“Feels better to have a clean bill of health though, doesn’t it?”
“Absolutely, but you’re still taking me to that juicy casino. My processors are so fast now, they don’t stand a chance against me. Then we’re going shopping with my winnings.”
“Anything you like.”
*Lisa Burton is the robotic main character in Wild Concept. She works as my personal assistant, and is the spokesmodel for my writing career.
***
Please take care of yourselves. Everyone’s health is important, and it’s all too easy to put off regular maintenance. I never wanted a colonoscopy, or a prostate biopsy, but I’m glad I went through the process. I have to go back in a couple of years, but I rest easier now.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a mammogram, or some other procedure. Get it taken care of. I love my fans, and want you to be around for a long time. If women’s health week is what it takes, so be it.
Nag your husbands and loved ones. Don’t let them put things off either.

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Updatey Stuff

I noticed in my stats this morning that several people linked to Wild Concept sometime before I woke up. I'm not an expert on free days or 99¢ sales, but it appears they don't go live until about 9:00 AM, my time. You can get your copy for 99¢ now, so please try again. Here is the link. Tell your friends.

I'm not completely sure whether the sale extends beyond the USA, so if you have a problem, please let me know. I'll figure out something. I got it shared on the What'sApp room, called Books Down Low, and sold four copies right off the bat. Here's a tip even if you aren't a Rave Reviews member, search Twitter for #BooksDownLow. The promoted books are all free or 99¢, and there are some pretty good options.

Lisa is on a bit of a roll lately. I assembled and scheduled the next Lisa Burton Radio post for Thursday. This is going to be a fun one, so make sure you come back and check it out. (Who am I kidding, they're all fun.)

While I'm on the topic, you can also befriend Lisa on Facebook. She's pretty friendly, so make a new friend here.

Lisa kicks my butt in the popularity contest, but you can like my Entertaining Stories page too. I'm a tiny player on FB, but I'm trying to grow.

I think I bought into an advertising banner on Blog Talk Radio, through the Rave Reviews Book Club. I had a few questions, but I got an invoice instead. I paid it, and hope that's what it's for. I kind of hope they ask me what I want, but maybe that isn't how they're doing it. This will be an advertisement for The Playground.

That's about it for tonight. I'm looking forward to my rotating day off this week, Wednesday. Maybe I can actually get some writing done.

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The Idea Mill #13

These posts come to me when they come to me. Sometimes it takes a couple of months, sometimes it's a couple of weeks.

For those who are new, these articles are pushed to me on my RSS reader and Zite magazine. I signed up for content that interests me, and share the good stuff here. Feel free to take away story elements or anything else that suits you.

The first one today is about a mini origami robot that folds itself. It also walks, swims, digs, carries small loads, climbs and if needed, dissolves completely in a solvent. This one even comes with videos. Read more about it here.

These kind of articles give plausibility to some pretty outlandish gagetry in our science fiction. Perhaps someone scattered papers that pass for garbage in a parking lot. At sunrise on Sunday morning, they activate and invade the museum. Gemstones, gold nuggets, small valuable items could be stolen this way. They dump the loot down a manhole and dissolve in the rain.

The next article is about an abandoned section of New York. It's called North Brother Island. What is it about New York islands? A previous Idea Mill post had an article about Hart Island. Hart Island is particularly creepy, so I used it for part of The Playground. (Which I need to start editing.)

North Brother Island holds an abandoned quarantine hospital. It's where Typhoid Mary spent her last days. To me, this is all about setting. The buildings are crumbling and overgrown with weeds. The walls are mossy and moldy. Check it out here, but it's the photos that speak to me.

Maybe you need a setting for your dystopian novel. Maybe you want a haunted location for your horror story. I'm sure this island will measure up with a bit of research. If nothing else, it makes for a good secret lair.

Finally, we have a bit of theory about evolution. In Eastern Africa the Ethopian wolves and gelada monkeys appear to be feeding side by side. These things don't look much like the wolves I'm familiar with, and the gelada monkeys look like baboons to me.

This may not seem like much at first glance. Both animals are omnivorous. Wolves being more carnivorous and monkeys being more herbivorous. These things only recently started getting along. Wolves used to grab baby monkeys and run. What changed?

The theory is this could be a view into how man first domesticated dogs. Take one highly intelligent primate, add one highly intelligent canine, who's also an incredible opportunist and I can see it happening. Read the article here.

What kind of raids could the monkeys pull off using wolves to help them? Maybe it starts with food. Maybe it progresses to the problem of over harvesting bush meat. It could even progress as far as attacking humans themselves. The folks who kidnapped all those young girls seem like a good target.

I share these articles in an attempt to inspire you. Take what you will and leave the rest. Now it's time for my corny story. This is part of the shtick on the idea mill posts.

Terrorists are hiding out on North Brother Island. It's a good location for their plan, and is centrally located. The terrorists are high tech and plan to steal a biological weapon by using hundreds of tiny origami robots.

Something has them spooked. Perhaps it's the ghosts of patients who died in quarantine. There have certainly been many creepy circumstances on the island. The rustling and noises belong to animals.

Before the authorities can catch up with the terrorists, the monkeys direct their newly domesticated wolves to attack. When the authorities arrive all the tiny robots have washed away in the rain. Only the rustling in the branches and weeds remain.

Okay, that's corny enough. It's speculative so I moved the animals to New York. Maybe they are feral pets or escaped zoo specimens.

Did any of these articles give you an idea. Either a plot or a story element, I'd like to hear it in the comments.

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Company went home

I've been on radio silence this weekend. My parents came to visit, and I really enjoyed them this trip. The weekend was mostly about visiting, shopping, and going to dinner. I even wound up at Bed Bath & Beyond. Nobody offered us a lotus cake, and we were able to actually leave before the bank account was empty.

My wife and my mother had to visit Trader Joe's for some cookie butter. This stuff is pretty good, and is similar to peanut butter. They don't have such things in Mom's small town, so it's a treat for her. I used the opportunity to slip away to a new brewery for a pint of Porter. The timing was about perfect. We all met back at the car at the same time.

We delayed our dinner out to watch American Pharoah win the Triple Crown. This is such a rare event that I'm glad we took the time. It was absolutely thrilling, and I see online that several of you paused to watch too.

After my parents drove away, I sprayed a little Sevin on the flowerbeds, and my fruit trees. This is the bug killer for vegetable gardens, so it's pretty mild stuff. Now it's just me and my iPad.

I am researching the book promotion sites you so generously provided. Part of me wants to sign up for all of them at once. I'm just anal enough to use one at a time and track the results for future reference. By the end of today I'll jump ahead with one of them. Thank you for your tips.

As far as the rest of my day, I'll probably read a book. I may add the final bits to a short story I'm writing, or an index card to one of my outlines.

Here's an update on another side project that might be good for some debate. I am going back through Wild Concept, and here's why. I wrote a short story for Lisa Burton, the robot girl. This will be part of my book of short stories one day. I decided to revisit Wild Concept just on the off chance that someone goes there after reading the short story.

It's a mess! I wrote this in 2008 and 2009. It appears that I've learned some things since then. I've been bouncing around like a ping pong ball about it ever since. Part of me thinks unpublishing it might be the best thing to do. Part of me wants to fix it.

This story has a great character and her story arc is solid. The plot and themes are great. It's my skill set that was lacking. So what's a writer to do? This story isn't nearly as well written as Will O' the Wisp.

I've invested a lot in Lisa Burton. She is a regular on this blog, and I've even bought some updated art to use occasionally. There is more coming, and it's going to be fun, it's even interactive to a degree. More on that later.

I decided to correct what I can, as a reasonable edit, and upload that version. I'm leaving it available in the Kindle store. There may come a day when I look back at Will O' the Wisp and feel the same way – because I've improved in the future half dozen years. I think unpublishing it is a descent into madness. At some point every book has its warts and flaws. (Maybe not quite this many.)

Lisa has become the spokes model for my writing career, and that's not something I'm willing to change. Steamboat Willy was a pretty awful cartoon, but Micky Mouse went on to bigger and better things. Walt Disney didn't fare too bad either.

On the plus side, it showed me how much I have learned since then. I work hard at this stuff, and take it pretty seriously. Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Here's the point of debate today. What would you do? Is it best to never revisit the older stories? Would you do a complete rewrite? Hit unpublish? Edit it and write something new? Eat your cookie butter and pout? There is no right answer and what I chose might not be the right move for you. Let's discuss it.

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Saturday writing, scheming, and musing

I thought my daughter was home this morning, so I spent my time reading blogs. I fully expected her to come talk to me any minute. Turns out she helped a girlfriend with her hair last night and stayed over there. I figured it all out when her car wasn’t out front.

I worked on a short story and finished it at 4569 words. This one involves Lisa Burton in a story tentatively named Bombshell Squad. I don’t love the name, and the story still needs a little something. Do short story writers work on draft after draft, because this is where I’m at with it? Part of writing about the robot girl is she needs to be more than human to come across well. I have to put my thinking cap on here and let it ferment. Still, it’s a fun story.

I’m not going to run these on my blog. I have it in mind to bundle them up with some Macabre Macaroni micro fiction and publish it.

I went back to my final (maybe, fingers crossed) pass through Will O’ the Wisp. It’s nearly ready, and re-reading it got me really excited. I have to send out some emails to the readers and make sure they are ready at launch time. Some have weighed in, some have not.

I also made contact with a blog tour company. I don’t have a lot of young adult contacts, and Wisp is a young adult novel. I don’t know whether to beg the blog world, or use a company to help me spread the word. My theory is this company has a broader reach than I do. Of course, I still have to write all the posts. Maybe I can do a bit of that this afternoon.

I jumped ahead with my critique group and sent them an important section of Wisp. I really want their input on this section, and won’t send them Wisp chapters after it’s published.

I also managed about three paragraphs in my current novel. I’m still chopping my way through the middle and had to abandon a scene that wasn’t working. I don’t feel any pressure here, and getting it right is more important than speed.

I’m also trying something new in my marketing approach. I’ve tried the Kindle Countdown and the free days. Every time, I moved a bunch of books, but with no real purpose or benefit that I can see. There have been a few folks who expressed interest in one story or another. I’ve been offering them copies via email. Maybe giving select copies away is more like casting bread upon the water. I haven’t asked anything in return, and don’t intend to. Maybe I can change my Karma somehow.

In other news, I began a regimen of pumpkin seeds (raw) and saw palmetto tablets. The pharmaceutical to reduce my prostate has some side effects that I’d rather avoid, and it is a treatment for life. Since prostate issues are slow going, I figure my next PSA blood test will let me know if these work. If they don’t, I can start medication at that time. In a perfect world it would all just go away, or there would be a one time treatment. Since that isn’t the case, I’m exploring all my options.

Questions for the day: Hit up the blogging world or hire a tour company? (This book is worth it.) Should I allow a gap of a few months and do both? Am I in the right ballpark for a short story word count? Would anyone like to read it and offer an opinion?

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The return of Lisa Burton

I skipped on the snow as I landed at the writing cabin. Roald* helped me drag the gyro-copter back on the runway and turn it around.

Inside, I found Iris** the fairy using one of the tablespoons like a big shovel to load Bunny’s dish with alfalfa pellets.

“Good thing it was my wing that got sprained, and not my back,” she said.

I held a thumb up as I went past into the kitchen. I loaded the eggnog bowl into the sink and filled it with warm soapy water. Roald started on the dishes as I broke out the vacuum cleaner.

The rumble of the Harley sounded from down the valley. It would be a few minutes before Lisa*** got home. Sound traveled well in the icy air. I managed to clean up the worst of the dwarf tracks before slipping the vacuum into the closet.

A trio of harpies shrieked along the road and scattered as the motorcycle approached.

When the front door opened, I held my hands wide. “Welcome home.”

Lisa headed my way and turned up the stairs. I lowered my arms and glanced at Iris.

“Oh my little Bunny wunny. Mommy missed you so much.” Lisa’s voice drifted from upstairs. I waited for her to disburse an apple branch, a cardboard tube, a carrot slice, and a zucchini slice.

When she came back down, Lisa had already hung up her jacket. Her hair was full of icicles, and windblown. Somehow she still managed to look good. It was kind of a grunge/frozen look.

“Did you guys miss me around here?” she asked.

“I did.” I have to confess I was getting tired of scrapple, and eggnog that was stirred by Roald’s arm. Iris had been a big help when it came to preparing for my blog tour.

“Ve’s happy to have you back,” Roald said. “Iris and I can still make ten miles before ve gotta camp tonight.”

“Maybe we ought to wait until morning,” Iris said.

“Nah, I already got the cows loaded and dey’s ready to go.” Roald rumbled down to the basement and brought his cows around through the garage door.

“Are you safe to fly now?” Lisa asked Iris.

“Mostly. Roald said I can snuggle down into one of his cows. He said mountain cows have the warmest hair on Earth.”

“If you listen to Roald, mountain cows are the best of everything,” I said.

Lisa opened a drawer and slid out an old oven mitt. She walked out front and tied it to one of the cows.

“Dat’s a pretty good idea, by golly. Now Iris vill be nice and toasty along the trail.” Roald slapped his hands together and rubbed them. Steam clouded the air where he and the cows breathed.

No steam emitted from Lisa’s rhythmic breathing.

I walked out to join them and Iris snuggled into her oven mitt. “It was nice seeing you guys again,” I said. “Tell the rest of the southern people we said hello.”

We watched them go until they hit the tree line off to the east. It had been a busy year. Four older books published, and The Cock of the South was the last one.

Lisa and I went back inside, and I moved closer to the fire.

“I brought you a souvenir,” Lisa said.

I tried to suppress a grin, but failed. She took a shot glass from her purse and placed it on the front desk.

It looked just like this, but said Whitelyn, Arizona instead of Rachel, Nevada.

image

“You cozy up to the fire, temperature doesn’t bother me.” Lisa said. “Looks like I’d better get the skis on your gyro-copter before you have a worse landing.”

*Roald is a dwarven tribesman. He plays a supporting role in The Cock of the South. He was filling in for Lisa while she was away.

**Iris is a fairy. She also plays a supporting role in The Cock of the South. She was convalescing at the writing cabin while her wing healed.

*** Lisa is the main character in Wild Concept. She is a robot and works as my assistant at the writing cabin these days.

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