Kill the Messenger Part-Two

Paul looked all around him. The Amber Thane was nowhere to be seen.

“Son of a bitch!”

“Hey! Knock it off! No swearing in the Forty Seventh Fusiliers!” snapped the soldier.

“Uh, sorry, sir?” said Paul.

The soldier laughed, “I’m just funnin’ you, swear all you want. One of the few rights we have, that and complaining. Just don’t do either around the Major.”

“Major Veronika?” asked Paul.

“The one and only.”

It turned out, fortunately, for Paul, that the Major insisted on meeting each new recruit personally. The soldier, whose name was Dominic DéMarche, brought Paul to her tent. There was a meeting going on, officers stood around a table, there was a heated discussion going on when they entered, which stopped as soon as they entered.

Dominic saluted sharply, in contrast with his informal demeanor.

“Major! New recruit!”

Paul tried to mirror the salute but it lacked the polish of his new companion.

The officers parted, and revealed the Major. Wearing a burnished breastplate over a red jacket, tight blue breeches with a gold stripe up the side, polished black boots, and a pelt of what looked like a leopard, if leopard spots were bright yellow, blue, green, pink, red, orange and purple on a black background.

She had chestnut hair, skin like honey and dark eyes with copper flecks. There were crinkles at those eyes; she had the worries, the responsibility of command. There was an air about her, it wasn’t just that she was gorgeous(she was) but upon meeting her, Paul had this sudden urge to make her proud. There was a great stillness about her, not that she was inactive but more as if she would always be there, whatever came and that inspired an instant loyalty.

Dominic nudged Paul, who stepped forward.

“What’s your name son?” she rumbled.

“Paul, Ma’am, Major, Major Ma’am,” stammered Paul.

She smiled indulgently, “Welcome to the painting forty seventh. Private, sort him out.”

“Yes Major!” barked Dominic.

“Excuse me Major,” said Paul.

Everyone froze. Paul knew he had made a faux pas, but it was better to get this out.

“Yes?” asked the Major, which was laced with an undercurrent of ‘this better be good’.

“I came here with the Amber Thane.”

All the others were dismissed and exited quickly. Paul explained how he had delivered the letter from Looseleaf and Parsnip, his subsequent squirehood with the Amber Thane, and trip trough the painting.

“Damn his eyes!” said the Major as she pounded the table.

“He was very excited about seeing you,” added Paul.

“Too excited to get spectacles!” she replied.

“I’m sorry?” asked Paul who didn’t understand how those two things were related.

“His eyesight is ghastly! But he’s too vain to get the help he needs! Now, who knows where he ended up!”

Paul, who learned to deal with all sorts of oddness since moving to the Borough, still hated listening to someone rant about their significant other.

There was no right thing to say, so after trial and error, mostly error he had to admit, he found the best course of action was to nod periodically and make small agreeing sounds.

“Of course, he does have such lovely eyes,” said the Major as she smiled.

“Hmmm?” offered Paul.

“You are a fine squire, Paul of the Borough, I thank you for bring me this news,” she said.

It occurred to Paul that he had very little choice in the matter but he saluted anyway, which seemed to please her.

“I need to send out scouts, if I can find him before the enemy, we could-“

The rest of that thought was cut short as Dominic entered.

“Begging you pardon Major, but a messenger has arrived,” the private said.

“Bring him in,” she said.

Two other soldiers, one in arctic cammo, the other, a woman dressed in Greek Hoplite armor escorted the messenger in. It looked like an abstract impression of an avocado colored man, or woman, the gender seemed, like it’s appearance, a matter of perspective. One leg was much longer than the other, it’s arms undulated like silk scarves in the wind and it had two eyes on one side of its head, which seemed to be two dimensional, or at the least, very flat

“Major Veronika, I come with a gift,” it said in a voice that sounded like it was speaking though echoey mesh.

It opened what could have been a sack or a lumpy smudge and produced the helmet of the Amber Thane.

Paul looked at the Major, if she felt any fear or shock; it was simply evidenced by a minute flaring of her nostrils.

“What are your terms?” she asked the abstract messenger.

“Leave the Umber Valley or we will be forced to make the Amber Thane a palimpsest,” said the messenger.

“Damn your same sided eyes!” shouted Dominic.

“Calm yourself private,” said the Major evenly.

“Sorry Major.”

Walking up to the messenger, the Major regarded it with a quiet contempt.

“We will not surrender one inch of canvas, not one classically rendered tree or bush. We will not rest until this painting has been restored to its former glory, and your ill-rendered rabble has been wiped clean from this classic masterpiece.”

Paul began to clap, her delivery was so moving, but he quickly stopped when it was apparent that no one else was following suit.

The messenger made wheezing, rattling sound, and shook its head.

“The brave and valiant Major Veronika, so dedicated to her cause that she’ll sacrifice her one true love for her ideals. You didn’t even hesitate, we will have to tell the Thane as we scrape the pigment from him and make him one of us. His rage will be unquenchable. Perhaps your death at his hands will silence his scream. For a while.”

“Lock this thing up,” ordered the Major.

Dragged from the tent, it made the same wheezing rattling sound. Paul thought it might be laughter.

“Private, inform my officers that we must prepare to move ASAP. Take the squire here and begin the lantern light maneuver,” said the Major as she moved to the table and rolled out maps.

Dominic grinned and saluted, “Yes Major, right away!”

He clapped Paul on the arm and said, “Lets get you some weapons,” as he lead him to another tent.

Weapons, as it turned out meant a bandoleer of brushes and a belt of paint bottles.

“So no real weapons?” asked Paul.

Dominic laughed, “My friend, theses are better than any gun or knife. With those, all you can do it kill. But with this,” he said, twirling a brush with panache, “you can create anything!”

Paul thought that a philosophical attitude for a solider, which spoke well of Dominic’s mental state, but gave little confidence to the future of whatever the lantern light maneuver was.

“Hmm,” mused Dominic, “We need to get you into a proper uniform.”

“Do you have a spare?”

Holding out his thumb at arm’s length, Dominic regarded Paul, quickly dipped his bush into a jar and started flicking paint at him. Paul felt as though he has been suddenly doused in cold syrup.

“What the-“

“And there!” interrupted Dominic.

Paul was about to give his new friend a good yelling at, or at least let him know that he was not happy about having paint flung at him, when the sensation faded and he felt normal. At least as normal as he got these days.

“You look a proper solider now,” said Dominic with a smile, “Look.”

Dominic pulled a drop cloth off a mirror, and Paul looked at himself. He now wore a uniform like Dominic, ironically minus the paint splatters, but with a tall fur hat, with brass accessories.

“But you just waved the brush around, how…”

“It’s all the mind’s eye. If you can think it, you can make it.”

Paul, whose artistic endeavors were strictly of the stick figure school, had his doubts that he could create anything even close to realistic. But

Dominic assured him that it was easy as he lead him to a wooded area just outside the camp.

A clump of bushes were pushed aside to reveal a tunnel leading downward,

Dominic lit a lantern and they entered. The light was warm and bathed everything in warm light. It made Paul feel as though he was looking through a windowpane made of pale honey. The tunnel was painted in rich dark brown tone, which evoked damp earth, held up with wooden beams rendered in glowing detail, Paul could see the swoops of the grain and the pegs that were fitted with great skill.

“Did you make this?” he asked his companion.

“I did the beams,” said Dominic with a smile.

“They’re very good,” said Paul.

“Thank you, I’ve quite proud of the way they turned out, it’s a pity so few will see them.”

“Because?”

“It is a secret tunnel after all!”

“Right, yeah…”

They continued in silence for a while, until Paul asked what he was thinking.

“Uh… Where are we going?”

Dominic stopped and shook his head, Paul was afraid he asked a stupid question.

“My friend, I must apologies, in my haste I forgot that you had only now joined us. You must think me a fool!”

“No, you’re not a fool, it’s just that I want to be able to help, so… if I knew what the plan is…”

Dominic clapped him on the shoulder and grinned, “I would expect no less of the squire of the Amber Thane! You’re raring to get right to the action!”

“Right!” said Paul with considerably more enthusiasm than he actually had with regards to action.

“This is of course, is a rescue mission, this tunnel leads directly under the enemy camp. Once we reach the end, all we need do is paint a tunnel up and we rescue your master.”

Paul didn’t think of the Amber Thane as his master, but this was clearly not the time to bring that up. Dominic continued down the tunnel and Paul hustled to catch up.

“Do you have a map of the enemy camp?” asked Paul.

“That would be worthless, it shifts according to their whims, Abstract Dogs!”

“But how do you know we’ll come up in it?”

“The location is fixed, it’s the layout that changes.”

“Right…” said Paul “But there is a plan?”

“Of course! We tunnel up, find the Thane, and escape, while the Major leads the rest of the 47th Pigmenteers in an all out assault!”

Paul didn’t think that was a plan, so much as a hopeful wish, but Dominic seemed quite confident, so he continued onward.

After a period of time, it was difficult to gauge, what with no sun, and his phone saying that time was old, they arrived at the end of the tunnel.

Dominic took out a paintbrush with a flourish and began to create a ladder.

Not a crude sketch, but a solid oaken affair, the joints were joined with cuts in the wood that clearly needed no nails or studs. It was one of the sturdiest things he had ever seen. Paul had once put together a bookcase from Ikea and he felt fairly handy afterwards in spite of the handful of bits that he was left with and was unable to identify.

“That’s very… good,” Paul said quietly.

Dominic smiled a smile that said, ‘I know, right?’, but he managed a slightly humble thank you.

“Now, it’s your turn, when we get to the top of the ladder, you will create something to break through the topsoil,” said the artist warrior.

“Are you sure you don’t want to do it?” Paul asked, “Those stairs are really good.”

“You’ve very kind (I am an excellent artist), but I couldn’t,” insisted Dominic.

“It’s okay, I don’t mind (I’m not really any kind of artist),” Paul said with no trace of false modesty.

“No, I literally can’t, when two soldiers collaborate on a mission, they must both contribute,” explained Dominic.

“Right…”

Dominic clapped him on the shoulder and grinned, “Just think of something that can dig and still be silent.

Paul thought about that conflicting set of requirements. Everything that came to mind that could dig was by definition, loud. Bulldozers, jackhammers, even shovels and picks made noise. A few weeks ago, he had seen something that was called a Geo-Pinnace, a cylindrical tube with a huge drill bit on the front, or the prow, as he had been corrected by the pilot. It had cut through earth and stone like spoon through flan, again as described by the pilot, but it had made a hellishly loud racket and even if he could paint it (doubtful), he had no idea how to start, let alone steer it.

Paul’s mind began to wander as he racked his brain trying to find a solution.

He thought of his Aunt Natalie, who loved two things, baking and puzzles, both physical and mental, mostly mental. When he would visit, she would give him a riddle, which he had to solve before she would give him some of her excellent cookies. This was just the sort of thing she’d test him with, and when she’d eventually told him the solution, which she often did, as she was fond of her nephew and ultimately a bit of a soft touch. But if she took it easy on Paul, she was at war with Josiah, the cat that lived next door, who clearly was born only to drive Aunt Nat to distraction and destroy her small garden.

Josiah, who was gink-toed, could dig up a garden with infernal glee. Nat swore he tunneled in under the fence. Paul had once seen him pop up from under the earth and then leap across the yard pulling a long tomato vine and winking just before he escaped to the safety of his own yard. Paul wasn’t sure if he had imagined the wink or if it was a story that Nat had told but that cat could dig…

“I got it,” Paul said.

The dirt shifted and Paint Josiah emerged into the Abstract camp. Paul and Dominic followed, they were shielded by two large crates but they could as easily been any large…things.

“Very clever, painting that badger in an abstract style, if someone sees it they will won’t know we’re here,” whispered Dominic.

“It’s a cat actually,” said Paul quietly.

“Right,” replied Dominic with a knowing wink.

Creeping around the ‘crates’, they saw six Abstract soldiers standing in a circle at attention, though their bodies seemed to be fidgety. Arms, legs other parts stretched or shrunk with no real pattern, at least that Paul could see.

“What are they doing?” asked Paul in his softest voice.

Dominic didn’t reply but tapped Paul gently on the shoulder and looked up. Hanging, from an absurdly long chain was an even more absurdly large birdcage. Inside, however, was not an absurdly large bird, but the Amber Thane.

“Blaggard! Let me loose at once!” bellowed the imprisoned knight.

“You’ve been asking that since we put you in there, what makes you think that we’ll change our minds now,” asked one of the guards in a hollow, echoey voice.

“I will never give up! I will fight till my last breath and beyond!”

“Can he do that?” asked the largest guard breathlessly.

“Dunno,” replied the first guard, “but it won’t matter in a bit.”

“Ha! You have a broad yellow stripe running down your back!” sneered the Amber Thane.

It was true, there was a long splash of bright saffron along his back.

“Yeah, so?” asked the guard.

Dominic pulled Paul back behind the undetermined things.

“We must act swiftly, these abstractoes are about do something terrible,” whispered Dominic, “I’ll tackle the guards, you free the Amber Thane.

“What should I-“ said Paul but Dominic painted a large armored tiger with a saddle, leapt upon it and road off to attack the guards. The great cat savaged the guards with claw and tooth, and Dominic unsheathed a saber from the saddle and slashed away. Paint was splattered everywhere.

Paul, who was not at all prepared for this, or any battle if he was being honest, tried to think of how he would open a giant bird cage that was twenty feet or so above the ground. Hook and ladder, cherry picker, giant robot claw? He had little confidence of being to able to paint any of those and unsure if they would work. A cat that resembled a badger was one thing.

“Now my friend!” shouted Dominic, whose tiger had herded what remained of the guards directly under the hanging cage.

Pulling up memories of doodling in elementary school, Paul created his favorite thing to draw.

PEW PEW PEW, went the laser pistol, severing the chain and sending the cage, with the Amber Thane within, to squish the last of the guards.

“Well done!” cried Dominic.

The Amber Thane picked himself up from the floor of his cage and bellowed, “What new impressionistic deviltry is this?”

“It’s me,” said Paul as he moved up to the cage.

Whatever else he had to say was cut off by the grip of a resin gauntlet encircling his neck and lifting him off his feet.

“If you think you can play dice with my sanity, you will die with that as your regret!” said the Thane.

Dominic leapt off his battle tiger, rushed up and said, “Amber Thane, we’re been sent by “Major Veronika!”

“Where is she?”

The sounds of battle could now be heard in the distance with ever increasing volume.

“Hah! Of course, she leads the attack!” said the Amber Thane with a wide grin, “Let us now join the fray!”

Paul, whose vision was fading into a grey haze, croaked, “Let. Me. Go.”

Squinting, the Amber Thane pulled him close and said, “It’s you,” and released him.

Dominic helped Paul to his feet.

“My temper got the best of me, I did not meant to strangle you,” said the Amber Thane with little regret.

“We should join the rest of the regiment,” suggested Dominic.

“Not before I recover my blade and helm!” insisted the Amber Thane as he strode towards the exit.

“Your… Helm is back at the camp, they sent it to show that you had been captured,” said Paul, “Dominic can paint you a sword, right?”

“It would be a honor!” Dominic said.

“Nay, it must be my own blade, it was gifted to me by the Azure Thane upon my ascension to knighthood,” declared the Amber Thane.

“Of course,” deferred Dominic, “you need say no more.”

Paul, however, thought that some explanation was in order, but since he was in the minority, he pushed his concerns down, something he found himself doing more and more since moving to the Borough.

“A frontal assault is the best course of action!” declared the Amber Thane.

“I have an idea,” suggested Paul.

[irevuo] 19 Must-Read Books That Will Help You Bridge “The Creativity Gap

I’ve always believed that consuming a lot of content is a surefire way to develop the creative muscle. The more we feed our brain, the more we get this itch to create something of our own.

But there’s an issue with this. As Ira Glass so eloquently stated, we have developed taste, but there’s this disconnect between the quality of the content we consume and the quality of the content we produce.

That’s why I also believe that creatives have to feed their brains with other types of content: the content that teaches one how to be creative, how to develop the proper mindset of a content creator.

That’s why today I’m sharing with you a list of must-read books if you want to become a better content creator, whether you’re an artist, a writer, a blogger, or a vlogger.

[irevuo] The Wordstar Method

A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner. – Seth Godin

George R.R. Martin is the best-selling author of the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

To this day, his epic saga has sold more than 90 million copies worldwide, and it was turned into a record-breaking television series by HBO.

But unlike the worlds he imagines into existence, his writing habit is by no means magic…

[irevuo] Lessons on Time Management From the Richest Stoic

In AD 65, Seneca the Younger was ordered to take his own life by the Roman Emperor Nero. Seneca followed tradition by severing several veins in order to bleed to death, while also ingesting poison.

This order was a response to Seneca’s supposed involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate Nero. Former consul and advisor to the emperor and one of the richest and most powerful men in Rome, Seneca decided to embody the stoic philosophy to the very end. He accepted his fate with calm, even though those around him urged him to beg for his life.

While Seneca’s words of wisdom touched on countless aspects of life, he is perhaps best remembered for his piercing thoughts on the value of time.

This wisdom is relevant to this day, or maybe even more so, as we live in a world that makes it easy to lose track of time as we immerse ourselves in countless micro-distractions.

Carpe diem, as the Romans used to say, is an art that needs tinkering with as we do our best to seize time rather than waste it.

Kill The Messenger-Part One

Here is another story set in the Borough, the same place “An Odd Missive” took place. Like that story, it will be broken up into three parts, this being the first. Enjoy, faithful readers.

The Amber Thane stopped and lowered his sword to the ground, where it, with a flash, blackened a small patch of grass.
“By the rules of Chivalry, I must accept,” puffed the Amber Thane as he removed his helmet and put his sword in an insulated sheath.

It was at this point, the point at which he could see that the armor his would-be foe wore was made out of amber, and there were even some insects trapped in the breastplate. Paul’s first instinct was to ask how it was made and how was it better than metal armor, but whenever he asked, what he thought was a reasonable question, he received an answer that made things less clear. So he had learned to just accept what he saw.

Under his helmet, the Thane was sweaty, his hair was soaked though and his mustache drooped so much it looked as if he was trying to make a break for his chest hair, which was in turn was trying to escape from behind his breastplate. Paul could relate.

“Now, what is going on? Why are you trying to kill me?” asked Paul, who, while leaning calmly against a marble column, was prepared to run.

The Thane held out the letter Paul had been directed to deliver by his bosses, Messrs L. Parsnip & P. Looseleaf.

“This insult will not stand!”

“What insult?” asked Paul as calmly as he could.

“Do you not know the contents of this missive?”

“No. Like I said, I’m just the messenger,” Paul said.

“It will not stand!” declared the Amber-encased man.

“Can I read it?” asked Paul.

“This is nothing but lies and twattle!” stated the Thane as he waved the letter like flag.

Paul sighed. “Listen, I’m sure it is twittle-“

“Twattle! ‘Tis a common word, are you a simpleton?” sneered the Thane.

“Right, ‘twattle’, but I didn’t write it, so if you don’t mind?” Paul said as he extended his hand.

The Thane grimaced but handed the letter over with a muttered, “Very well.”

It read thusly:

Greeting Amber Thane!
We hope this letter finds you both hale and hearty, or at least one those two. If you recall, you had made enquiries for our services in discovering the location of your lost love, the Major Veronika. We will always happily aid the cause of true love and are most delighted to report that we have had word of where the Major is.

However, her location is a rather a dangerous place, so please, know that where she is, is not the result of anything we have done, but merely the result of diligent research.

And where is she? You might well ask, and rightly so, after all, this was the task set before us.

The thing is, she now fights in the Oil Brush Wars. We had a dispatch from the front that informed us that she had taken command of the Forty Seventh Pigmenteers, stationed, at last report, in the Umber Valley.

If you wish to proceed, as we know you will, please feel free to employ our apprentice for your quest.

Yours in Truth,

Messrs L. Parsnip & P. Looseleaf, esquire

“Isn’t this good news?” asked Paul.

“That My love is lost in the forests of the Moon? The dread place from whence none have returned!”

“Wait, what?” offered Paul.

“You are simple, ‘twas unfair of me to try and smite you,” said the Thane, “I am sorry,” he said loudly and slowly.

Paul, who was not a genius but far from simple, mustered his patience.

“That’s not what it said.”

“Do you not have your letters?” asked the Thane gently.

“My letters?” asked Paul who knew the conversation had, much like a small dog off his leash, gotten away from him.

“Those squiggly little marks on the paper,” said the Amber Thane slowly, and in the manner of someone who believes he is not being understood, loudly.

“I know how to read,” snapped Paul.

The Amber Thane smiled indulgently, “Of course you do.” And then patted Paul on the shoulder.

Wanting to move things along, Paul said, “This says that Major Veronika is fighting in the Oil Brush Wars, and is stationed in the,” he consulted the letter once more, “Umber Valley.”

Grabbing his helm, the Amber Thane looked at Paul and said, “Come, we must move quickly.”

“We?” asked Paul.

“Did not the missive say you were to aid me, as directed by your masters?”

That part you could read?, thought Paul, who had no choice but to follow the clanky armored man.

They wound through narrow streets, lined with small shops, each built in a variety of different styles, from grey stone to rustic log cabin to something that resembled a red jelly. The sorts of shops were as great a variety as their architecture, Harford’s Puzzles and Mysteries, Lubin’s Artisanal Honeys and Equations, Don Alejandro: Primate Tailor since 1737, amongst many others.The trip was made on a mechanized horse by the Amber Thane and a burro by Paul.

This was an uncomfortable ride, though Paul was told was the preferred mount of a squire (which made him think that either squires were hated by their knights or had low self-esteem), but they did eventually arrive in front of a small storefront, with small windows which displayed small paintings, which were draped with velvet cloths.

The sign above the door read, Mrs. Po, dealer in Rare and Dangerous Art, below which was written in small gold letters, Bellum infernum est.

“Where are we?” asked Paul as he tied up his burro.

“Prepare for the worse day in your life,” replied the Amber Thane.

This day had already been pretty terrible, so Paul was unsure what could make it worse and he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

“Are you going to buy a painting?” he asked hopefully.

“We are going to war!” declared the Amber Thane as he strode through the front door. Well, strode was the intent, but given the smaller size of the door, it was more of a purposeful squeeze, but he did get inside without destroying the door which was an accomplishment in itself.

Paul followed; the gallery was small and narrow, lit by gaslights, giving the place a sinister feel, which was only reinforced by the rows of paintings hung, covered like the ones in the windows.

Paul reached to look under one of the cloths but had his hand slapped, quite hard, by the Amber Thane.

“You are simple! Do not draw us into a battle we do not know!” said the knight.

“Sorry,” said Paul, who felt as though a verbal warning would have worked just as well.

They approached the back of the gallery where a small desk sat, and on which was neatly arranged on a pale blue blotter, an ink bottle, pens, a cloth bound ledger and a small metal bell, which the Amber Thane rang, delicately.

From behind a curtain, the sound of a door opening was heard and a small woman, about five feet tall, emerged and smiled. It was difficult to tell her age, the flickering gaslight sometimes made her seem like a young woman in the early twenties and some times she had a grandmotherly air about her. The fact that this all happened in the blink of an eye was disconcerting to Paul, but if it affected the Amber Thane, he did not show it.

Bowing to the woman, he said, “Mrs. Po, I have come to join the war.”

“Have you now,” she said with a smile, “This was to be expected.”

“I, and my squire, wish to join the Forty Seventh Pigmenteers in the Umber Valley,” said the knight.

“Wait, what?” interjected Paul.

Mrs. Po looked him up and down.

“He does not seem like much of a squire, so skinny,” she remarked.

“He is a bit simple as well, but time is pressing,” added the Amber Thane.

“Excuse me, I am not simple! I have a college degree!” said Paul who felt as though he needed to speak for himself.

Mrs. Po and the Amber Thane stared at him for a moment.

“I take your meaning,” said the small woman.

“We are ready to leave immediately,” said the Amber Thane.

“As you wish,” she said, opening up the ledger and turning it to the Thane and Paul.

“Do you swear to fight till all is dry and pigments set?” asked Mrs. Po.

“I do!” shouted the Amber Thane.

“What does that mean,” asked Paul.

“Tis but a formality,” loudly whispered the Thane.

Paul knew that things like this were never just a formality, much like Looseleaf and Parsnip’s offer of his services to this crazy knight, so he did what he did, whenever he was in a situation like this, which was more often than he’d like. He said, “Yes.”

Just sign here,” said Mrs. Po who turned the ledger to face them and handed them each a pen.

After signing, and counter-signing, the proprietress led them to a particular, covered painting.

“Whatever you do, do not close your eyes, you could end up anywhere like that,” she scolded the two men.

“I know the rules!” huffed the Amber Thane.

Mrs. Po grasped the edge of the cloth covering the painting and said, “One, two, three, OPEN EYES!”

With a flick of her wrist, she revealed the painting. Paul couldn’t be sure because what was next happened so fast, but it looked like the painting was half oil landscape and half abstract. Any further art critique Paul might have had flew out his mind as he found himself, with the Amber Thane racing through a corridor of color.It was like falling into a magic spin art tunnel, in spite of that being a favorite childhood activity, did little to abate the terror he was experiencing.

Tears poured down his face as he forced himself to keep his eyes open, as Mrs. Po instructed. It was like the world’s most painful staring contest with a volcano of paint. After what seemed like a long time, a black dot appeared at the center of the maelstrom of hues. Expanding rapidly, it enveloped Paul and all went black.

Light and color faded back into vision. Everything looked different, the only way to describe it was, old timey. Not the most artistic description, but it was the best Paul could come up with at moments notice.

Looking around, he found that he was in a camp. Not day or sleepaway, but a military camp. There were soldiers, drilling, setting up tents, digging holes, all the sorts of activities that an army might come up with for soldiers to do when there was no one to fight. Paul had a cousin who had joined the army and described it as long ass times with nothing to do, mixed with a few minutes of scary ass shit.

Paul was pretty sure that it was a paraphrase of something more elegant but most probably true.

“New recruit?”

Paul turned and saw a man, in what looked like a Napoleonic uniform, but he wore it with a casual air, unbuttoned coat, open shirt, hand rolled cigarette hanging from his lips. It was also paint splattered. Which was easily the most casual aspect of his appearance.

“I guess we are,” said Paul.

“We?” asked the solider.

END PART ONE

[irevuo] You Either Die an Artist or Live Long Enough to See Yourself Become a Creative Entrepreneur

A couple of years ago, Damien Hirst shocked the art world by painting his own canvases.

Much like another of his contemporaries, Jeff Koons, Hirst is quite infamous for hiring teams of artists to work on his collections of art under his supervision.

On the other hand, Vincent van Gogh, universally acclaimed as one of the greatest artists of all time, sold only a few paintings while he was alive. Even though a prolific artist, he only found fame after his death.

The stereotype of the starving artist is romanticized to this day. The artist as a solitary genius, the creator of beauty so sacred that we can’t help but love and fear at the same time.

“He’s a true artist,” we find ourselves saying, and it’s these words that conjure up the vision of someone whose inexorable destiny has always been to create, even at the expense of having to endure a lifetime of poverty and frustration and social alienation…

The true artist is often misunderstood. They’re utterly and inconsolably alone with their art.  They hide behind the walls of their studios and offices, refusing any sort of contact with the outside world.

But times are changing.

[irevuo] The Basics of Marketing and Selling a Self-Published Book

So, you’ve just published a book. Congratulations!

Now, what?

Now, you need to figure out a strategy to get it into as many hands as possible.

In this tutorial, we’ll go over the basics of book marketing and develop a simple yet effective framework we can deploy in order to sell as many books as possible

Let’s get started.

[irevuo] Writing: Profession or Religion?

J.D. Salinger once wrote, “Do you know what I was smiling at? You wrote down that you were a writer by profession. It sounded to me like the loveliest euphemism I had ever heard. When was writing ever your profession? It’s never been anything but your religion. Never. I’m a little over-excited now. Since it is your religion, do you know what you will be asked when you die? But let me tell you first what you won’t be asked. You won’t be asked if you were working on a wonderful, moving piece of writing when you died. You won’t be asked if it was long or short, sad or funny, published or unpublished. You won’t be asked if you were in good or bad form while you were working on it. You won’t even be asked if it was the one piece of writing you would have been working on if you had known your time would be up when it was finished.

[…]

I’m so sure you’ll get asked only two questions:

“Were most of your stars out? Were you busy writing your heart out?”

If only you knew how easy it would be for you to say yes to both questions. If only you’d remember before ever you sit down to write that you’ve been a reader long before you were ever a writer. You simply fix that fact in your mind, then sit very still and ask yourself, as a reader, what piece of writing in all the world Buddy Glass would most want to read if he had his heart’s choice. The next step is terrible, but so simple I can hardly believe it as I write it. You just sit down shamelessly and write the thing yourself. I won’t even underline that. It’s too important to be underlined.”

I’d like to analyze this paragraph and tell you what I think about writing being either a profession or a religion.

Tiny Robots

Here is a short story that I wrote a while ago. It is not an epic tale but I suspect if you live in the five boroughs, you might relate. And if you live somewhere else, this is glamour of big city life.

If there is anything worse than finding bedbugs in your New York City apartment it’s tiny robots. While the robots are not going to devour you like the bedbugs and are not high on the ick scale, they are in fact, downright adorable. They have little sprongy antennae, wide (relatively speaking) round eyes, rubber soled feet and if they were not dangerous as all get out, they would be wonderful toys.

They were designed to look that way by Professor Hieronymus Superious, a genuine mad scientist, who had made the original tiny robot to build a much larger robot. Why build tiny robots that in turn would build a larger robot? Well, he was a mad scientist and maybe not the most rational person, especially since the intended use for the larger robot was world domination, or at least the five boroughs.

Once the tiny robots gained sentience, they reasoned once the big version was built, they would be recycled. Their logic was sound and they turned on their creator who was subsequently arrested by the F.B.I.’s Mad Science Division. The tiny robots disappeared into the infrastructure of New York.
The first thing they did was got rid of all the vermin. Rats, mice, water bugs and rumor has it, an albino alligator were purged from the sewer system and out of every building.

Everyone was pretty jazzed about them in the beginning. The mayor even declared an annual robot day, it was June 13th. But once they started to cannibalize people’s electronics, they became extremely unpopular.
A sentiment I could get on board with as by the time I got home, after some drinks with friends, those miniature jerks had already dismantled my microwave and re-purposed it to build more cute little automata. A chorus of beeps, pings and chirps sounded as they fled into the walls, under cabinets and though any and all available nooks and crannies.

My cat Mac, an orange tabby, was perched on top of the bookshelf, watched the rapid robot exodus. I’d be annoyed, but a cat will only chase the minuscule machines once, super low voltage shocks are not deadly but they do make an effective deterrent. There was an uneasy détente between cats and robots and as long as they kept to themselves, no one got hurt.

I put my now cold dinner on the counter next to the husk of my former microwave, and thought about how to deal with this. Legitimate robot exterminators were very expensive and I knew my landlady would not be shelling out for one.

Since they had not gotten to my laptop, I searched for a more financially reasonable solution. Amazon offered several robot repellers though third party sellers but the reviews for them were mixed at best. There was a mini-EMP machine but everyone in the block would need remove all their electronics while it went off and it was way to much money.

It occurred to me that crowd sourcing might turn something up, so I posted on Facebook, twitter and instagramed a pic of my ruined microwave.

“So sorry!”, “That blows!”, “Call one of the robot killer guys”, and “Sux to be you.” Were among the replies. Mostly sympathy, but no new answers until I got a PM from my old roommate who was now living her boyfriend.

“Becca, Kurt and I had the same thing happen, so I know how bad this sucks. There is a someone who can help you, send her a message, R_hero78@automata.net, and put REFERRAL:CASSIE HOROWITZ in the subject line, she can help you.”

Since my options were limited to watch every piece of electronic equipment I owned be disassembled or emailing a perfect stranger for help, I took the second one. If Cassie was messing with me I’d… well I wouldn’t beat her up, but I might unfriend her but if I was being honest, I probably wouldn’t even do that. So I send the email, explaining my problem.

Almost immediately I got a reply, I’ll be there in thirty minutes. Please do not leave your apartment or turn off the lights and have some food ready to eat.

I did all of it and heated up the take out I brought home in my actual stove, which I last used to make last year’s attempt at Thanksgiving dinner. After managing to both burn the outside of the turkey and maintaining a frozen center, we had Thai delivered.

Exactly thirty minutes later, my buzzer sounded.

She wasn’t what I expected. I though she might be a kindly aunt type with white hair in a sensible ponytail and a twinkle in her eye or a hot nerd girl with big glasses and elaborate tattoos and skinny jeans. Instead, she was slightly overweight with weary eyes, dressed in a peacoat over a food-stained hoodie over a tee-shirt with Korean lettering and the image of pink and blue monster. Her jeans were definitely not skinny but they were speckled in what at first looked like paint but turned out to be minute burns.

“Is the food ready?” she asked.

“Yes!” I replied and took it out of the oven. I hadn’t burned it, which gave me a sudden and secret burst of pride.

“Put it on the table,” she said as he took a handful of plastic pipes from her battered messenger bag.

She began to assemble a small tower, about three feet tall with a base that was made of Legoes. Pressing a switch, a pattern of lights flickered up and down the height of the tower.

“What is that?” I asked.

“It overrides their programming,” she said as she began to eat.

I now had this stranger in my apartment, eating my food and it occurred to me that I didn’t even know her name

“I’m Rebecca Lee, “ I said holding out my hand.

Wiping her hand on her jeans, she shook mine and said, “Call me Lucius.”

“Just one name?” I asked, shaking as long enough to cover my own hands in grease.

“Yep.”

“Like Banksy!” I said.

Lucius grunted and said, “Sorta.”

So I sat and watched her eat for ten minutes or so. She ate like she was alone, which made me wonder what I looked like when I had dinner alone, which was more often that I liked. I decided that I was more ladylike but resolved to stop eating out of takeout cartons.

“Excuse me,” I said, “but what comes next?”

Lucius nodded to the living room over my shoulder. I’d like to say I just took the sight in with the cynical weariness of a true New Yorker but I was born in Wisconsin so I screamed.

Standing in flawless symmetrical rows, the tiny robots gazed at the small, though not to them, tower. Their micro eyes blinked in a synchronistic rhythm with the lights.

“WHATTHEHELLDIDYOUDO!” I yelled without breathing.

“Relax,” Lucius said, “They’re being reprogrammed, they won’t do anything.”

“They’re on my laptop,” I whispered.

“It’s fine,’ replied Lucius, who spoke at a normal volume. “And you can shout if you like, they can’t hear you now.”

While it was an unnerving sight, they covered the entire living /bedroom, but they did not dismantle any electronics.

“What are they going to do?” I asked.

“Hmmm?” murmured Lucius

I turned, looked her in eyes and said, “You said they are being reprogrammed. To do what?”

Lucius took a bite out of a spring roll, chewed and said, “More productive tasks.”

“That’s a little vague.”

She shrugged and we sat in uncompanionable silence for while.

“Listen-” I began.

“What?” interrupted Lucius.

“I don’t want to seem rude, but are you a…”

She regarded me with mild disinterest.

“Well… You know…” I finished.

“I don’t.”

“What?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she said.

I took a deep breath, and said, “Are you a mad scientist?”

Lucius laughed. It sounded like a princess might laugh. It was so unlike her appearance all I could do was stare. The giggles slowly stopped.

“No,” she said, “I’m not a mad scientist. I don’t have a trust fund.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“It’s tough to have the money or time to build a teleporter or spaceship when you have to work nine to five.”

“Oh. That makes sense,” I said.

A series of musical notes sounded from the tower. Lucius wiped her mouth and took a battered grey metal cylinder, unscrewed the top and lay it on the floor. The tiny robots then marched into the opening and when the last of them filed in, she sealed the top.

My phone pinged and I jumped a little.

“My bill,” said Lucius.

It was very reasonable, much less than I expected.

“I take PayPal,” she said as she disassembled the tower and put it back in her bag.

I sent the payment and she was ready to go.

“Thanks for getting here so quickly, you really were a life saver,” I said.

Lucius nodded as she looked at her phone.

“I have another job,” she said. “If they come back, just message me.”

“Great!” I said holding out my hand but she had already walked out. I had not made a new besty but my place was free of tiny robots and that’s all I cared about.

I cleaned up and was browsing new microwaves online, when it occurred to me that Lucius never said what she was doing with the tiny robots. She said she wasn’t a mad scientist. Why would a stranger who was hired strictly through referrals lie? Oh…

[irevuo] The Basics of Email Marketing for Indie Writers

Building a mailing list is literally the first marketing decision any author should make.

This is because the mailing list is the central element of every author’s marketing strategy. It is the one thing you own and will always be able to control.