Edward Owen – Author

Monthly Archives: December 2013

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The Million Dollar Mentor

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No human being on this planet was ever born knowing how to do anything except cry. As babies, our survival depends on our ability to get food, shelter and our diaper changed. An argument could be made that crying is an instinctual behavior and not the result of conscious thought. That would mean that we are actually born knowing nothing and all of our behaviors are indeed learned. For the sake of argument (and getting to the point of this post) we’ll go with that premise.

At some point, someone taught you to read (a safe assumption given the nature of our current communication). Unless you were a prodigy, they didn’t just hand you a copy of ‘War and Peace’ and let you go to it. Or even ‘Fun with Dick and Jane’. Nope, most likely they read stories to you first. In my opinion, this is one of the most important things parents can do for their children. The fact that my mother read to me when I was little is the biggest single reason I’m a writer today. I was reading on my own before I started kindergarten. The point is, someone with a skill (reading) showed me how to do it. And I later showed my boys. Once we end up in school, our teachers normally take over this role.

Mentoring has many similarities to teaching. One person is passing along knowledge to another. However, whereas in teaching the student often has little or no ability at all, I would argue that a mentor is one who helps us improve skills we already possess. Let me explain.

If you are unable to write because you do not know how to spell words in the English language, you need to go to school and learn this basic skill. A mentor cannot help you improve a skill you do not have. To be a better writer, you have to be able first to write. Most of us can string words together into a sentence that can be read and understood by others. That’s writing as basic communication. Email messages fall into this category. (Although I have received a number of emails that were so poorly composed that I had to read them several times to figure out what the sender’s message was – and don’t even get me started on text messages.) Writing well implies that there are those who read your words by choice because they elicit some type of emotion from said reader.

If it is your desire to write in this way, I suggest you seek out one or more mentors to assist you in your most worthwhile of journeys. There are a number of ways you can do this. Critique groups are a type of mentor. If they are done correctly, you get the benefit of a wide variety of experiences and opinions. Whether they are online or in person, make sure the critiques are done in a positive and helpful manner. Honesty is crucial but harsh or cruel remarks are uncalled for. If you find yourself in such a group, talk to the leader/moderator. If their response supports this kind of behavior in any way, leave the group immediately and find a new one. (If you are in Los Angeles, CA; Portland, OR or Missoula, MT, look us up: Coffee House Writers Group)

Writing partners can be great mentors if they have some experience. At the very least you can bounce ideas off of them and they can keep you going through the stalls and bouts of writer’s block (I don’,t really believe in writer’s block. More on that in another blog.) Depending on their experience and skill level, they may even be able to help you improve a great deal.

We live in the age of communication. The internet is ubiquitous (nope, you have to look it up ha ha!) and a vast resource. One of my online mentors is Kristen Lamb. If you want to be a better writer, subscribe to her blog here. I have dozens of writer friends all over the world and they are always ready to help. Reciprocate. Offer your opinion and volunteer to be a beta reader. Not only will you be giving the author valuable feedback, you will be learning as well.

One person who has helped a great deal is Arial Burnz, a good friend and the editor for my short story collection, Nightmares and Body Parts Vol. 1 The Karma Collection. Yes, you can buy it. (Shameless self promo, see links on the side, I hope). Arial has not only helped with my writing but my website and the design of my book cover. Yes, it is awesome to have talented friends. In return I helped her and her husband repair part of their house. (Writing and Drywall, that will be the title of my autobiography.) Read Arial’s blog here. (She has a thing for hot Scottish vampires and writes about them.)

Mentors don’t have to have all the answers, just enough to get you over the hump and on to the next level. Pay attention to what they say. Stretch out of your comfort zone. Then pay it forward. My niece is in high school and she is a writer. I help her as often as she asks me to. Maybe she’ll mention me in her Pulitzer acceptance speech. Until next week, Dear Reader, dream of awesome mentors.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #21- Full Moon Fever (Fiona’s Adventures in West Hollyweird)

Today we get to meet someone from Fiona’s past

and another who may well be a big part of her future.hunk 01

 

Full Moon Fever

Fiona leaped over the bar, fangs bared and eyes black as onyx.

“Listen up, Sheamus ’cause I’m only going to say this once. You and the rest of the mutts wanna come in here you either play nice or I’m going to neuter the whole lot of you.”

The shaggy beast rose to its full height towering nearly two feet above her head.

“Oh, come on Fee, is that any way to treat a friend?” The combination of Irish brogue and werewolf growl was so comical it was all she could do to keep a straight face.

“Don’t play that ‘friend’ crap with me. I’m serious as a silver bullet. I know a guy who’ll give me two-fifty each for ‘wolf nads …” Fiona grabbed Sheamus’s crotch and extended her nails. “And I won’t use a knife either!”

The werewolf howled. Fiona released her grip and he crossed his legs.

“Damn lass, who pissed in your O-neg this morning? Fine and dandy, we’ll be on our best but cut us some slack …”

“Oh, no, don’t you even think about blaming this on the full moon. You can’t handle it then report to lock-up. I got customers waiting. We good?” Fiona bounced back across the bar without waiting for an answer. It was like this every month. Damn lychans … their cycles were worse than human females. The three hulking ‘wolves slunk to the back of the room with their tails between their legs.

“Brandon, can you clean up the mess out here, please?”

“S’up, Fee-dog?” said a grotesque figure at the end of the bar. The skin of the face was drawn tight over the skull which sported a skateboarder’s skully. The figure wore a sagging pair of jeans. Fiona rolled her eyes.

“Really? Doncha think two hundred is a little old to dress like a teenager?” she said.

“Aw man, don’t be dissen my cred, Fee. My peeps think I’m da bomb.” Brandon adjusted his hat.

“Yeah? Just how much cred does an unemployed zombie have these days?” Fiona snatched Brandon’s beanie and stuffed it in her pocket. “Dress code violation” she said over his protests. “You’ll get it back after your shift. Get busy.”

The bar was packed with customers all clamoring for drinks. Fiona was a blur, mixing, pouring and serving all manner of refreshments. A few even had small creatures immersed in foul smelling liquids. It was a fair bet that most would kill a human. By the time Brandon had cleaned up the shattered table and chairs she was caught up with all the orders.

“FEEEEOOOOOOOHHHNAAAAA!”

The cry reverberated across the club and caused Fiona’s fangs to extend to their maximum length. She looked through the crowd as a flamboyant woman in a flowing purple robe approached the bar. Several waif-like men and women following in her wake.

“Dahling, the place is a smashing success. It seems you’ve found your calling,” she said pushing several customers aside.

“What do you want, Claire?” Fiona made no effort to hide her fangs.

“Now, now, dearie, is that any way to greet your friends?”

“Lately my ‘friends’ have become pains in my ass,” said Fiona. “Good news for me since you and I aren’t friends by any definition of the word and I can be blunt. What the fuck are you doing in my bar?”

Claire’s smile vanished and her fangs slid into view.

“That attitude is exactly what landed you in this cesspool in the first place, Faeleneus.

Fiona bristled at the use of her family name.

Sensing her adversary’s ire, Claire smiled around her fangs.

“I’m guessing nothing short of a stake through the heart will change that.”

“You’re right, Claire. A stake through your heart would make me downright giddy.”

“In your dreams,” said Claire with a wave of her hand as if dismissing the matter. “I’m here because the Council wanted you to know that you’re no longer on your own.”

Fiona paused in mid pour and studied Claire’s face trying to get a read on her. It was a sure bet that any news she had to share would not be good. At least, not for Fiona.

“And what does that mean, exactly?” she said as she finished pouring the drink.

“It means that another clan member has been relocated to West Hollywood.”

“No fucking way! There aren’t enough humans here for one of us.” Fiona’s eyes turned black with rage. “And when you say ‘relocated, what you really mean is banished. I hope she’s ready to starve to death …”

Claire cut her off in mid rant. “Oh Fiona, you always were such a drama queen. She is a he and his name is Ricardo.” Claire motioned to someone across the room. A shadow pushed through the throng and materialized at Claire’s side. Dark eyes, sallow skin and a mane of raven hair adorned the most gorgeous man Fiona had ever seen, undead or otherwise. She clutched the front of the stainless sink with such force that her fingers dimpled the metal.

“Ricardo, this is Fiona. She’s a dear friend of mine.”

The man extended his hand. Fiona did the same and felt her knees buckle when he touched her. Sexual energy rolled off of him like a string of tsunamis. If she had had any strength at all she would have jumped over the bar and torn his clothes off.

“Ricardo, it is a pleasure to meet you.” Pleasure was an understatement.

“Good to meet you,” he said. “Wow, Claire didn’t tell me you were like so totally hot.”

Fiona’s heart fell. “How long have you been turned?”

Ricardo laughed. “Dude, it’s been like two months. What a freakin’ rush, right?”

Claire’s Cheshire cat grin ignited Fiona and she crumpled the edge of the sink.

“Well, you kids have fun. I have places to go and people to see.”

Claire turned with a flourish and left Fiona alone with Ricardo.

“So, you wanna hook up later?” he said.

… to be continued

Ray Bradbury Challenge #20- The Price of Freedom

There is a good chance that this story will end up as a longer work. The idea actually started while listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”- “We are yours, Overlord…”  That started the wheels turning. Comments, as always, are welcomed and appreciated.

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The Price of Freedom

Jamry was bleeding and his body hurt. That was the good news. It meant he was alive. The bad news was, unless he found someplace to hide and soon, he wouldn’t stay that way much longer. His options were not particularly good. The carrier had hit a mine and lay on its side belching black smoke into the morning sky. That was sure to attract one of the Overlords’ patrol ships. He was surprised they weren’t here already.

Sidmar had not been so lucky. The blast had driven the controls up into her skull. She was dead before the vehicle stopped moving. Jamry didn’t have the luxury of mourning her death. She had chosen the life of a soldier. An early, violent death was almost a certainty in their line of work.

Traveling the open road was the most direct route but it left him exposed and vulnerable. He would have to travel through the jungle. It would be slow but would allow him to remain hidden. The shadows between the trees held a danger all their own. Jamry smiled at the thought. Most of his youth had been spent cavorting through the eternal twilight beneath the deep green canopy. It was his second home. He made sure to leave a trail that the hunters could find with some effort, but not so obvious that it would cause them suspicion.

After he had put a respectable distance between himself and the wreck he stopped to tend his wounds. He had left enough blood that his pursuers would assume his injuries to be worse than they actually were. Leaves and roots with amazing medicinal properties grew in abundance. Within a short time his body was dotted with blue and green poultices. By tomorrow they would cover only minor scars.

Jamry retraced his steps and climbed the trunk of a towering tree, taking care not to disturb the bark or the branches on the way up. His uniform adjusted to blend with his surroundings and he focused so his skin did the same. He would be invisible from above or below. Now he would wait.

The hunting party moved like smoke through the labyrinth of growth that choked the jungle floor. Jamry did not hear them as much as sense their presence. The jungle was a living thing and the change in its voice told him he was not alone. The first hunter was hardly more than a shadow as its blurred form passed beneath him. Jamry counted four figures as they clustered at the end of his trail. It was hardly fair; the battle would be swift and decisive.

He slithered like a creature born in the canopy, keeping the trunk of the tree between his body and the hunters. The tempo of the sounds around him remained steady as his feet touched the carpet of leaves covering the ground. He peered around the tree. One of the hunters was within arm’s reach. Jamry could see only a vague outline, but it was enough. His short blade pierced the thin armor, found its mark and the hunter slumped to the ground. Jamry dragged the body behind the tree as it wavered for a moment before coming into view. He had seen hunters up close before. Bred by the Overlords for the single-minded purpose of finding and killing his people, they were an abomination. He felt no more remorse at killing them than he would one of the flying pests that inhabited the jungle.

The remaining hunters noticed their missing comrade and moved toward Jamry. He pulled his long blade from its scabbard and waited until the first hunter passed him. His blow severed the enemy’s head from its body. It rolled across the ground, still encased in its helmet. The other two brought their weapons up and fired but the energy beams missed and burned through the foliage behind him. With only two adversaries left, Jamry took his time.

His blade again bit into enemy flesh, this time cutting off the arm holding the weapon. Blackish-blue fluid sprayed from the limb and the hunter fell to its knees clutching the stump with its remaining hand. Jamry pivoted toward the last hunter but his strike was late. The hunter dodged the blade and slammed the butt of his weapon into Jamry’s ribs knocking him to the ground. Jamry rolled out of reach of the hunter and in a single motion pulled his short blade from its sheath and threw it, burying the point in the hunter’s throat. His enemy fell forward and lay still in the leaves. Jamry ran his long blade through the soldier’s back, flipped the body over and retrieved his weapon. He dispatched the last remaining hunter in similar fashion, cleaned their blood from his knives and slipped unseen into the depths of the jungle.

The Overlords had invaded his planet and the war had raged for a millennium. Jamry was the fourth generation of soldier in his family. Today the losses were heavy for his enemy, but his side had paid a high price for them. Neither the transport nor a soldier of Sidmar’s skill were easily replaced. The Overlord’s would produce more hunters but would pay dearly in terms of energy and materials. Some of them would surely kill many of Jamry’s people before they died. It was unlikely that Jamry would live long enough to find a mate and his family line would die with him. That was regrettable but it did not slow him from his mission. Freedom from their enemy would not be purchased in his lifetime but he was willing to pay his share of the cost.