Tag Archives: writing cabin

It’s been too long

I got to the writing cabin relatively early this morning. Lisa Burton met me at the door. She wore a tight knee-length khaki dress and a matching envelope cap.

“What’s with the outfit,” I asked.

“Veteran’s Day is next on the calendar. Things are still kind of boring out there, so I try to celebrate everything at home. You haven’t been out here in a while. What’s the occasion?”

“Nothing special. Just trying to keep the boredom away. I’ve been doing some storyboarding and looking for graphics. I have a lot of cool poster ideas for you as I write the next few books.”

“I’d love to go over your ideas. Maybe I can get some outfits ordered.”

I headed toward my office and turned on the lights. Lisa had placed sheets over everything, so I pulled them away and piled them in the corner. “Problem is that all the cool ideas are several books away from the ones I’m writing next. Things will have to come to me as I write those.”

“I’m sure you’ll come up with something. Maybe I can help.”

I walked down the hall to the paranormal office and threw the switch. A spark and hum revealed the same slip covers over all the furniture.

I thought as I pulled them all back. “I might be able to use that garrison cap in a story. Hang on to it.”

“For the hat?” she asked.

“Yeah, why not. I have a mission in a future story that will require him to be flat. Lizzie might come up with a performance outfit using it, too.”

“That seems worthy. I’ll keep it within easy reach. What are you working on today?”

“Nothing in particular, but I’m getting close.”

Lisa pushed me back to the main office and my desk chair. She moved the iPad in front of me. “I’ll get you some coffee. Maybe just relax and enjoy a fresh cup. See where it takes you.”

I sipped my coffee, then opened a new folder, created a blank document. A little copy and paste, and I’d created a title page and copyright data. I wrote one sentence, then another.

I knew in broad strokes what has to happen, but didn’t really plan a way to execute that. I worked on some dialog and it led toward the planned event. Might as well execute the plan and see what happens.

I dabbled, and backspaced my way along, not really expecting much. When I glanced down at the bottom of my document I’d written 3000 words. My jaw fell open.

Lisa had her own cup of coffee. She held it toward me. “Take all you can…”

I clinked her cup. “Give nothing back.”

Lisa snapped an open palm salute. “I I I I.”

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Back to the writing cabin

I got a decent start this morning, and didn’t take time to look at any social media. There is a particular section of the book I wanted to complete.

Lisa met me in the kitchen in her pirate garb, then followed me to the office. “Are you going to include the adventure with Waltus, or not?”

I’ve been toying with this section for a long time. It goes in, it gets cut, it goes back in, etc. The main issue boils down to a lot of making ready, setting sail, and traveling. The arctic is a fascinating place, but the interesting bits are few and far between. I know, I’ve been there.

I didn’t want it to be unrealistic, but have to keep the modern fiction reader in mind. I decided to include a bit of crush/romance because people on a ship are still people. Then I added Waltus back into the story.

People seem to love the root monsters, and their tales kind of reflect the truth, but aren’t documentaries either. Instead of living through the adventure, I had James come across the aftermath and ask what the hell happened. Flattop isn’t maybe as animated as the other monsters, but he did a good job filling his captain in about the attack by Waltus on the ships.

This all played out against a stark icy landscape that posed an obstacle to getting the ships where they need to go. I included some wandering around on the sea ice, and eventually found a laborious way to move all three ships. I stopped after moving the first one, but I have two more to go. I’ll likely shorten those parts up, because readers will have already seen that action.

It was 12:30 when I looked up. “Okay, Waltus is back in. I should probably work on my next Story Empire post.”

“I want to read it,” Lisa said.

“You’ll have to wait until I leave. I need to start researching my next post.”

“Killjoy.” The WiFi went down.

“What happened? I need to look up some data about the Guardian Archetype.”

“I turned it off.”

“Don’t be a brat. You can read Lanternfish after I leave. I need the Internet so I can get my next post ready.”

“Nope, I’m the Threshold Guardian. You can’t complete your task without appeasing me.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me! I can’t believe you… oh. I get it. Now turn the WiFi back on so I can rough out this post.”

Lisa smirked, then spun on her heels and left. The WiFi came back on, and I managed to rough out my post, and even found a decent graphic for it.

Old What’s Her Face and I have a combined errand trip this afternoon, and I might even get the post scheduled before the evening is over. It came to well over 3000 words of new fiction, but I didn’t keep an exact count again.

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A writing day

I got to the writing cabin late this morning. It felt good to not have the alarm clock dictating my day for a change. Lisa Burton was nowhere to be seen.

There was hot coffee in the kitchen, so I helped myself, before heading to my office.

Lisa’s voice came over the intercom. “What’s it going to be today? Lizzie and the hat, or a little bit of piracy?”

I picked up my pirate hat and pulled it on. “Why do you want to know?”

“Because I want to wear the right outfit.”

I turned on my iPad, then took a seat. “I’m thinking Lanternfish today.”

“Thanks, I’ll be right there.”

I dedicated a lot of words to adjusting to a fleet of three ships. Serang’s ship still needs some things, and those had to be created. I ended that section with a pennant for her to fly and by painting the name Kirin across the rear of her ship.

This is a neat callback to her origin tale, but the language has changed. Quilin is the name from her country, but Kirin is the name from Giapon. The appearance of this magical creature always marks great change in her life. (His appearances are more symbolic than an actual animal showing up.)

Then I moved back to Lanternfish. Mule is still working on the knife he found in Giapon, and it’s going to play a larger role later in the story. He’s also trying to hide his animalistic ear from Yoshiko, who was the girl presented to James as a concubine.

Lisa showed up in her pirate gear. “Reporting for duty.”

Lisa Burton

“Cute, but you may want to put on more clothes. They’re sailing through arctic waters right now.”

“That’s bogus. Do you know how hard it is to get deliveries right now? I’ll button my vest, but I can’t get any new clothes for weeks.”

“We’ve all had to adapt.”

She looked over my shoulder. “You need to end Mule’s suffering. He obviously likes that girl, but he’s ashamed of his ancestry.”

“James isn’t going to have a clue. What do you suggest?”

“Have one of your con men tip him off. They’re supposed to be great observers.”

“Oh yeah. Then he can act like a father and try to make things right.”

Lisa left me to my own devices, so I moved the ship further into the arctic, added some tiny bits of arctic wildlife, and an encounter with the Northern Lights. The root monsters wanted to know if Saint Elbow was coming back.

James convinced them that it’s Saint Elmo, and the Northern Lights are different.

I ended my day by sailing them directly into a wall of ice that blocks the passage. The last discussion was to sail around or wait for summer.

Lisa brought in a plate with a sandwich.

“Bologna? Really?”

“I’m having a hard time getting things right now. It’s bologna or nothing.”

“I like bologna. This won’t last forever, then we can get a variety of food and you can buy more clothes.”

***

It all sounds a little slow, but the delays can work to my advantage. While they’re trying to get there, the war rages on. I need the situation different so James has to adapt on the fly. I think that’s better than knowing where all the advantages are and trying to turn the tide.

I’m going to add in a monster encounter, probably tomorrow. Lanternfish has plenty of monsters and it’s been a while since one showed up. This one is going to be more like a gigantic version of something that already exists, but I may change it up a bit as I write it.

This will also provide an opportunity for the root monsters to tell the tale, because they were largely left out during the section in Giapon. I know everyone likes the root monsters, so I want to keep including them.

Right now, I have the obstacle, a supply stop, then the war. I hope to wrap it up in the traditional second book style of total disaster with a glimmer of hope. That will allow me to exploit that glimmer of hope into the third book in the trilogy.

It came to about 3500 words today. If I can write my monster encounter, then clear this obstacle, I might have enough for my critique group by tomorrow night.

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A different kind of effort

I got to the writing cabin late today. The dogs let me sleep in, and I didn’t feel the pressure to get anything in particular accomplished. Don’t get me wrong, I had a list.

I worked my way into the paranormal office and decided upon the chair and ottoman instead of Patty Hall’s old desk. My back is still bugging me this week.

Lisa showed up with coffee.

Lisa Burton

“Thanks, you’re a lifesaver.”

“What are we working on today?”

“I’m going to read through The Viral Blues. I need to make a list of those silly little graphics to see what I have to order.”

“I wore my hat so I could help you.”

“I see that, but I don’t think that one appears in this story.”

“Do you want me to change? I have a closet full of them.”

“It’s fine. Honestly, I’m just reading mostly.”

Doubt, the raven, soared in on silent wings landing on my chair back.

“Do your damndest. I don’t think you can distract me today.”

Brrrrrr. Kaw. Kaw, Kaw.

Lisa walked to the haunted window and opened it. Today’s image was of a bunch of hillbilly vampires at an old shack. “What do you suppose he means?”

“No idea. I don’t speak raven. He’s not going to get to me today.”

“If you’re just reading, I have an episode of Lisa Burton Radio I can work on.”

“Whatever you need, just keep the coffee hot.”

Lisa went to take care of her business.

I finished my read through. There were several sentences without periods and odd caps in the middle of sentences. I fixed them, but they are obvious cut and paste errors. I might have to do one more pass on this one.

I also completed my list of graphics. I’ll get those to Sean Harrington after the cover shows up. I’m still worried about having all the promotional stuff by September.

My next step will be to send this one off to the formatter, but I need the graphics first. That’s something to keep in mind as this unfolds. I like to get everything ready ahead of time.

I spent the rest of my day reading a short story. My reading always seems to fall behind, but this summer I might get a bit accomplished.

Hope all of you are having a wonderful weekend.

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So it begins

He stares at me through obsidian black eyes. Eyes as black as his heart.

How I allowed this creature to live in my writing cabin is beyond me. My sanctuary. My place of creativity and fun, invaded by a malignant presence of his kind. Stealing my joy, causing me to hate my own stories.

His name is Doubt, and he seems to show up about this phase of every book.

He sets his wings and glides to my desk

I opened the Serang manuscript and started my word searches. My critique partners made sure I cleaned up all my stupid errors. Doubt paced back and forth across the desktop, knowing, waiting.

It wasn’t until I got to its/it’s and started finding mistakes, then he croaked out his evil laughter.

What made me think I could be an author?

***

“Hey! You are an author.” Lisa entered the room. She wore a pencil skirt with blouse and jacket. “This happens to you with every story. I don’t know why you let him get to you like that.”

“I start out with such good intentions. The story is fresh and exciting. I’m into it with new characters, settings, problems to solve, even enemies to face. It’s even exciting to reach the end. Then I get to this phase, and it all seems to suck so bad.”

“That’s because you’ve mentally finished the story. You’ve carved something from raw stone, and you’re proud of it. Then you realize a bit of sandpaper and polish would make it so much better.”

“But, I thought it was beautiful.”

“It is, but it isn’t finished until you polish it up a little. It’s like using makeup.”

“I don’t use makeup.”

“It’s an analogy. You write them all the time, so you ought to be able to follow one. Your blog is like lounging around the house and watching TV, maybe picking up some sticks in the yard. It’s you, and you have a casual vibe going on. A book is like going out for a big evening. You want your hair, nails, and makeup right. Maybe you spring for a new dress, which is like your cover art.”

“Okay. I think I’ve got it.”

“You may not like the work that goes into it, but you’re going to like the reception when you finally get to the party.”

“So if I want my book to go to the party, I need to put the work in so it looks and performs its best?”

“Bingo!”

“Okay, I’ll do the work… and he still sucks.” I pointed at the raven.

“He’s a bird. You’re putting your own emotional baggage onto him.”

“He wears it well, though.”

“Basic black is always in style.”

“Maybe I should take a lunch break.”

“Nope. You’re looking for any reason to put this off. I’ll make you a sandwich and bring you some of those new M & Ms you liked. The sooner you get Serang ready, the sooner you can get to the new story I’m in. I’d feel a lot better if you got that far before I have to leave to pose for all the promotional artwork.”

“Fine! And bring something for the raven. It’s rude to eat in front of him without offering him something.”

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It’s time

Otto woke me up around 6:00 this morning by putting his huge wet head across my forehead. When he gets like this, it’s usually best to get up and feed him,

After dog chores, and making a bit of coffee, I headed for the writing cabin.

I radioed ahead and Lisa was ready for me. She already had her pirate gear on. I breezed past her and made for my office.

After a quick check of social media, and baseball standings, I stared up into a pair of malignant black eyes.

Doubt opened his wings and sailed off his perch, landing on my desk. He made one of those guttural throaty noises only a raven can make.

“I get it,” I said. “It’s time to get on with it.” I opened up the manuscript for Voyage of the Lanternfish.

Doubt croaked at me as I read the first page. I found a couple of wordy passages and fixed them.

These weren’t direct enough, and the repairs helped me get into a deeper point of view.

I kept going.

Doubt interrupted me a few places, and I gave most passages a second thought. I didn’t fix many.

“Not this time, buddy. I have a lot of things to doubt in my life, but this manuscript isn’t one of them. I like this story, and you aren’t going to cloud it up for me this time.”

I kept moving. By the time the day ended, I’d moved through 187 pages. This likely doesn’t mean much, because all writers write differently. My style is a lot of white space on the page. I’ll likely have more pages than some other author.

It took most of the day, but it was a good day. Doubt tried his best to put me off his game, but it didn’t work.

I have tomorrow off too, and intend to keep going. This is a good story, and I want to have it ready as soon as I recover a bit of promotion money.

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A small update

I sat at my desk and did some blog chores. I scheduled a post for a guest, assembled and scheduled another interview, and responded to an additional inquiry.

I got up and carried my iPad to the paranormal office, turned the skeleton key, and went down three steps onto the cold stone floor. The gargoyle in the corner looked like an old friend. I placed my hat on its head, crossed the pentagram inlayed into the floor, and rolled open the top on Patty Hall’s old desk.

There are already a couple of micro fiction pieces on my disk, so I reviewed those. They aren’t great, but they have the bones of something better. One of them has a bit of a science fiction thing going for it, but that’s okay for Halloween.

Still, they could be better. They could always be better. I needed at least a couple more ideas to pull off Macabre Macaroni this year.

Lisa came in wearing her full pirate regalia. “There you are, matey. I thought you were in your office.”

“This is my office too, technically.”

“True. I just got a text from Lorelei. She’s going to be stopping by.”

“If there were ever a time for the Muse to show up, it’s this weekend. Why are you still wearing your pirate gear?”

“We both know it’s just a matter of time before you decide to start editing. Doubt the raven has been hyperactive lately. He knows it’s coming too.”

“Sometimes I wish Lorelei had given me a different animal. One that means cash and lots of it. Some kind of golden goose or something. Don’t they have those on Olympus?”

Lorelei swung around the doorframe. She wore a blue summer dress, and her brunette hair spread clear to her shoulders. “Are we feeling a little overworked today?”

“Yeah, in some ways. I have lots to do, and I don’t seem to be getting everything accomplished.”

“Is that a new perm?” Lisa asked.

“Yes. You like it?”

I leaned back in my chair so they could get all the girl talk out of their systems. I may have emitted a small sigh.

“Okay, look. I know you have tons of ideas,” Lorelei said. “I’m no slacker in that department. What seems to be the problem?” She moved to the couch and patted the seat beside her.

I sat beside her, but stayed rigid. She leaned into my side. The sandalwood she always wore was intoxicating.

“I don’t have a bunch of great ideas at micro length. I have at least three that will work at novel length, and two that might make good novellas, but need about three that will work for Macabre Macaroni. Then I need to–”

She placed a perfectly manicured finger to my lips. “You’re just out of practice. Take stock for a minute. You’ve done your blog chores. You have a couple of micros, and maybe the raven can help you with them. Something will come to you. It always does.”

“I’m supposed to be reading, editing, and spending some quality time with BookBub too. When am I supposed to do all that?”

“You have four days. Pace yourself and it will all get finished.” She leaned in and kissed my cheek. “It doesn’t matter what you work on. You’re working and things are forging ahead. Now, I’m going to catch up with Lisa and leave you to it.”

I went back to the desk and stared at a blank page for a few seconds, but not before watching her walk away. Then I wrote out a story about a cell phone app that seemed to fit the coming season. To be honest, I like it better than the two I already have. A Muse is a wonderful thing. She doesn’t have to say a word, and the ideas just show up.

I checked my calendar, and I need two more by the middle of October. There really is time for everything. Sometimes I get angry with myself when I think I should have gotten more accomplished.

I’ll earmark some specific time for BookBub after I call my parents tomorrow. That will be my priority. If there is time remaining, I’ll go back over the micros I have and see if I can make them better. Then I may actually open one of those books I’ve been promising to read. Monday will be for whatever’s left. Maybe I can get the next interview settled.

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Now what?

I got to the writing cabin late today. Old What’s Her Face had to work and the dogs let me sleep in. Since this never happens, I took full advantage.

Lisa Burton sat in the front office drinking a bottle of peroxide.

“Stop! What are you doing? Don’t you know that stuff’s poisonous?”

“Really, after all this time you don’t understand the robot part of robot-girl?”

“Then why?”

“I’ve been out stumping for Quantum Wanderlust. The hosts usually have tea or some kind of special snacks. I eat it to be polite, but my holding tank needs cleaned on occasion.” She stepped from behind her desk wearing yet another new knee length dress; black with white polka dots. She proceeded to cartwheel across the office floor.

I turned away as her dress flipped up. “Stop! Nobody wants to see that.”

“Marilyn Monroe made a statement when her dress blew up.” She placed her hands on her hips. “Would you be more comfortable if I jumped up and down instead?”

“No, I don’t think that would make me comfortable at all.” I wrapped my hand around my beard. “Tell you what. I’m going to my office and you can do whatever you need to do – out here.”

“Fine. I can’t go around smelling like I have halitosis.”

I stomped off to my office and got started. Today was singularly unproductive to be honest. I pulled up my collection of storyboards and all of them need some work. I intend to write another novella next, but want to dive deep into another novel right on its heels. Neither storyboard is ready for prime time.

Storyboarding is my way of outlining. I always write faster with a good outline/storyboard. This means I need some solid daydreaming time. I may have to turn off the radio during my commutes, because that usually attracts the Muse. I have some great ideas, some fun vignettes, even some good characters, but no story yet. At least not ones I’m content with.

I feel bad about it, because I’ve only put out The Enhanced League this year. Enhanced League did great for about two weeks then flatlined. Yak Guy is close to ready, but I want to try something different with it. Here I am facing October, usually my best month of the year, with nothing new to promote. I’m going to push some of the older stuff, and I might come up with something for the baseball playoffs. Maybe I should have started on The Hat sooner and gotten it ready for an October release. Fact is, I didn’t so there’s no use dwelling on it.

My mind is in a weird place too. I got another great review for Panama today, and Quantum Wanderlust is starting to get a few reviews. Sales are kind of dismal though. There are so many free and 99¢ titles available I don’t know what else to try to get readers. It isn’t really about the money, but it would be nice to cover the expenses in putting the books out.

I never actually step away, but this is as close as I’m going to get. I need some time with my thoughts, but those thoughts are going to be about my storyboards so I can keep writing stories. I will try to come up with something that resembles a plot and character arc for the storyboards I have. This may take a few days or it may take a few weeks. No telling.

While that’s going on, I have a list of short stories I could dabble at. It never hurts to have a few of those in the bank, and they could lead to a future Experimental Notebook.

Regrouping for me. Do any of you ever get to this phase? I never see other authors talking about it.

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A good writing day

I landed out at the writing cabin at quarter to seven. I moved the little gyrocopter to the elevator and went in through the basement. It's still too dark to risk walking to the back door out here, and I didn't need the mammoth migration to decide my gyro looked like a good butt scratcher.

Lisa* had the office all ready for me, and handed me some coffee as I passed through the kitchen.

Yak guy wound up rescuing the children, now he has to figure out what to do with them. It's a long way to safety, and there is no home to return to. It was a good section, and I got about 2500 words in. We killed the bad guys yesterday, and today was a toning down that brought new problems. Now there's the possibility of more bad guys out there, being discovered by them, facing the wilderness, and keeping a bunch of kids safe and sound.

I weaved my hands behind my head and reflected on it – for about three seconds.

“Hey, you kids, put that down. Get out of the paranormal office. Yes, that's sharp.”

“Lisa, what's going on out there?”

“You wrote all these kids into existence, and I can't watch them all.”

“Can you get Yak Guy to help?”

“He's trying, but they're everywhere at once.”

“Run them all outside, and position them like a baseball team.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yup. It's nice out, and I'm going to write another Enhanced League story. They can fill in while we work on dialog.”

I moved my iPad to the deck, and looked at the position players. Our grass was dead, long, and muddy, but I used my imagination and hacked my way through. Lisa fetched some equipment from the basement, and she and Yak Guy each fielded a team. The yak himself served as the umpire, and the kids actually listened to him.

It wound up qualifying as a short story, and not a micro, so I felt pretty good about that too. If you add them together the word count is the best I've done for a while. If you include this post, it will break 5000 words.

I put my hat back on, and put my iPad away.

“Hold it, buster. Where are you're going?”

“Home. All this ball playing reminds me that I need to play some too, with Otto.”

“What am I supposed to do with all these kids?”

“I don't know. Make them clean your radio studio?”

“My studio, and the cabin are spotless.”

“Make them play baseball until they're all tired.”

“I don't even have enough food for all of them, and where are they going to sleep?”

“They aren't picky. I wrote them a bunch of tents, put them in there.”

“Right, with all the creepy stuff that wanders around this cabin, I'll have to guard them all night.”

“It isn't like you sleep anyway.”

“I still need to recharge, and I like to take a bubble bath at night. What then?”

“Look, you're going to have to improvise. You have the yak, and Yak Guy Ted can help too.”

“Fine, but after these books are drafted, I'm putting in for some leave.”

“You should. We'll be in edit and beta mode and you can get away then.”

“I will too. Don't think I won't.”

“Okay, bye. Good day today.”

Whatever.”

*Lisa Burton is my personal assistant, and the spokesmodel for my writing career. She's also a robot, and makes regular appearances on the blog and in cyberspace.

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A day of celebration

I got to the writing cabin late today. I have family responsibilities on Sundays, and won't shirk those. I went into my office and started on all the things a writer has to keep up with.

I answered several emails, checked Twitter and Facebook, then proceeded to WordPress. Lisa* brought me some coffee, and I looked away from the computer. “Guess who just won a Planetary Award?”

“I don't know, who?”

“Me. My short story, Something in the Water, won a Planetary Award over at Planetary Defense Command.”

“Oh.”

“I thought you'd be more excited. I'm excited.”

“It would have been nice to have Bombshell Squad win something.”

“I get your point, but Something in the Water was a fun story, and it caught the judge's attention. Besides, you've been getting plenty of attention. Wild Concept sold some copies during its 99¢ sale, and the UK sale is still going on. They may even surpass the US store.”

“I suppose. It's just that you've grown as a writer. Bombshell Squad is a little better writing than Wild Concept.”

“I don't get your point. Something in the Water is just as recent, and reflects the same amount of growth as a writer.”

“Should we celebrate, or something?”

“I think we should. We'll get the enchanted beer horns filled up and drink them dry. Make sure you post a picture of the haunted biplane on the blog too. People may want it for a phone background, or even a computer. Besides, you're in the picture, and some people might like that too.”

“That's a good idea. I love my flight jacket.” Her eyelashes fluttered, and I knew she was online.

Lisa scowled. “I have some bad news too. It looks like someone held a kegger out at the island. They defaced the Moai with spray paint and left garbage everywhere.”

“That sucks, why do people have to act like that?”

“Don't know. Do you want me to take a sandblaster out there and try to clean it up?”

“No. Today we celebrate. Drop a note to the National Park Service fairies. They'll take care of it.”

“You're not going to make those poor fairies scrub those giant statues, are you?”

“It's kind of their job, but no. They use dermestid beetles.”

Lisa's eyelashes fluttered again as she searched the Internet. “Gross, those are the kind of beetles scientists use to strip bones clean.”

“Right, they use them for museum displays. I think even the cops use them to study the bones of murder victims. The fairies keep a large herd of them, because they eat garbage and even spray paint.”

<Snort>

“What?”

“Do the fairies use tiny little dehorning saws and branding irons?”

“I have no idea. I'll bet they have an informational page on their website. You should check it out.”

“I'm going to, and if they don't I'm going to shoot them an email.”

“For right now, let's celebrate.” I whistled for the enchanted beer horns, and they both trumpeted. Lisa filled them up while they wagged their tails and helped us celebrate. Lisa doesn't need to eat or drink, so I'll probably empty both of them myself.

*Lisa is my robotic personal assistant, and the spokesmodel for my books. She even has her own Facebook Page.

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