That BLOG Thing

Transformations (and Honesty)

Please don’t buy the first two “issues” of Blue Daunia if you haven’t done so already!

It’s an ongoing process, this “art” of writing.  Ongoing not only in the sense of the writing itself, but also in the sense of learning.

Two months ago, I thought I had wanted an ongoing monthly serial.  That’s what the Blue Daunia saga was meant, from the outset of inception, to be.  I regaled myself with the starry notion of reviving the old-school dime novel serials, or even of putting the comic book “continuum” thing into text form.

I did not find the schedule of such a task to be overly rigorous… it was, and is, quite possible to maintain and sustain a monthly serial.  So it’s not really the difficulty of the undertaking (as massive as it is) that has recently caused me to change my mind on the format.

And indeed, the format is changing.  I’ve come to realize how daunting a task the marketing of a monthly serial can be.  Here are a couple of the problems:

A)  The Time In-Between:  I mean this from the point of view of the reader, not the writer.  Where a series is concerned, the modern-day audience is trained to digest installments on a weekly basis, as per television… or by binge-digesting the “season”, as per Netflix or Hulu.  True, when I speak of Blue Daunia I am speaking of the written word rather than an audio-visual production, but the modern take on output and consumption has been formed nonetheless.  Furthering this analogy, as I am equating “issues” of a “serial” with “episodes” of a “series”, I would also equate “novels” of an ongoing “saga” with “sequels” of a “movie”: with a series of novels and movies alike, the reader/viewer is content to wait a year or more between larger, novel- or movie-sized chunks.  It is as expected as the weekly interval of episodes of a series.  (This having been said, I will not be making my potential readers wait even that long… I plan on publishing a Blue Daunia novel every 6 months or so, not every year or two).

B)  The Pricing:  I pose a question to those who may be reading this:  When you are seeking out new reading material, would you rather discover a series of novels that piques your interest and pay $4 (give or take) for a novel-sized volume and realize you only missed out on one or two others that  you would have to invest in…. OR… Would you rather discover a serial that piques your interest and realize that, while the current issue is only 99 cents, you’ve already missed 22 issues and would have to invest 22 bucks to catch yourself up, and then realize that it will have to wait a month between each portion?  Or, to put it another way:  if, three years from now, a friend of yours talked up an excellent serial they’ve been reading as something you should really check out, how would you feel when you discover that, having been three years, there are 36 one-dollar issues you would have to invest in just to have to read 720,000 words (roughly 3,600 pages) just to catch up to where your friend is?  The marketing and price-to-volume logistics are troublesome, to say the least.

So, as much as I would love for you to do so, I’m here and now asking you not to invest in the first two “issues” of the Blue Daunia saga available on the Kindle store.  As much as I would love your support and your dollars, I’m going to be honest… as soon as the third chunk of what has turned out to be a three-part story arc is complete (later this month, October 2017), I’m going to release all three parts as the proper First Novel of the Series of Novels it really should have been all along.  For the several dozens who have already invested in the first two issues, I am still going to publish the tail-end as “Issue #3”, as I feel it is only right to do so, rather than to make these loyalists essentially re-purchase the first two issues all over again, just for the sake of being able to read the conclusion of the first story-arc.  But for everyone else, you can (if I may so humbly request you do) pick up the first NOVEL of the Blue Daunia saga, which will be known as Volume One.

From that point on, the series will be handled in novel format, like Fleming’s James Bond or Rowling’s Harry Potter.  The reasons for doing so, much like Problems A and B above, are two-fold:

A)  I’ve jammed myself up with Issue #3 in terms of the length and pacing.  I’ve spent the first two issues building up slowly to the action, and both of the first issues were 20,000+ words.  But now that it’s all set up, the action of the 3rd issue, if so published, would be so lightning-fast compared to the first two as to seem alien to the reader, not only in terms of pacing but also in terms of page-count:  you see, I’ve not much more to say to finish the first tale other than another 10,000 words or less, half or less the length of the first two issues… and could therefore not justify charging the same price (which I will have to do anyway, sadly, as 99 cents is as cheap as Amazon will allow a Kindle book to be).

B)  I won’t feel so confined by a set monthly word-count, and can allow future novels in the series to breathe a bit more, develop at a more natural pace, than trying to time everything out in a monthly 20k-word allotment.  I can develop the characters more thoroughly… add subplots whereas the current telling of the tale focuses on following one specific set of people along one path towards a unified goal.  I can build the world more strongly, vibrantly and dynamically, adding politics and struggles and regimes and rises and falls.  I can even do spin-off novels of certain characters (Redwood and Morlana spring to mind).  And, most importantly to me personally (again being quite honest here), I can explore other much-dreamt-of writing projects in-between, not the least of which is this blog itself (which I have woefully neglected), as well as other non-fantasy novels which have long been brewing in my mind.

To current readers of the series, I apologize for any inconvenience all of this might cause.  As I’ve stated, the 3rd chunk will still be made available separately, so that you don’t have to re-purchase what you’ve already bought by buying the first novel.  But yes, from now on, Blue Daunia will be a series of novels rather than a monthly “comic book in text form”.

Anyways… Cheers!  And Happy Reading and Writing!

The Impact of Images on a Young Mind

“I would study every single frame of the artwork of a man whose name I did not know at the time was Alex Raymond”

When I was a wee-little lad, back in the early 1980s, there was a movie HBO played almost every afternoon and every night, every summer, seemingly all summer long.  The film’s soundtrack featured music by, as I would later learn, a band called Queen. . . a rocking, constantly thumping and completely action-inspiring collection of tunes accompanying a movie known the neighborhood over as Flash Gordon.  Little did I know at so young an age that the film was actually being enjoyed the world over, by countless fans of all ages made hungry for more fantasy sci-fi thanks to Star Wars.

The movie itself was a great watch for a youngster. . . full of action and dramatic conflict and strange creatures and races and even men with hawk wings!  The ages-old story didn’t hurt the film’s popularity either: that classic struggle and triumph of good over evil.  It was fairly clear-cut, but it was also my first taste of conflict on one side of the equation. . . why were the Arboreans acting hostile toward the Hawkmen and vice-versa?  Weren’t they both “good guys” and fighting the same fight?  At the age of 6, I had never seen anything like that before.  I remember being not so much confused as hurt by it, like when friends or parents argue.  Looking back on that now, it’s how I know I was compelled by the story, because I was reacting to the dynamics of fictional conflict.

But as much as I enjoyed the movie, I didn’t have to fast-forward my VHS taped-from-HBO cassette to get to my favorite part.  All I had to do to reach that point was to merely hit PLAY.  Over and over and over again, I would watch Ming the Merciless wreak havoc on earth with his array of “natural disasters” from the control panel in front of him, and I would stress with awe-inspired abandon as General Klytus cackled with glee.  And then the drum beat would start up with its steady, relentless pounding, and the bass-line would kick in to match it, and then. . . oh sweet jeebus!

With every beat of the drums and every nuance of the powerful guitar, I would be bombarded with a steady flow of the most gorgeous comic book imagery I still have ever seen.  And beyond the events of the movie, which I’ve seen a hundred times in my lifetime, I had no context for these images. . . and therein lay the beauty!  An angry general pointing down a vast hallway, Flash pointing a pistol toward the reader, two swords clashing, a tidal wave washing over Flash’s body (so frail and flimsy in the wave despite all his strength), beautiful girls in beautiful gowns and dresses, the faces of Flash and Dale with eyes closed and a caption reading “. . .and knew that real death could not be far off”, hawkmen swooping overhead in organized formation, Flash standing atop a cliff with his cape fluttering out behind him as he overlooked a vast crowd of people in the canyon below, rockets rockets and more rockets, mad scientists mixing devious chemicals in funny-shaped flasks, massive cities towering ever upward with their future-gothic spires. . . and all while someone I did not know was named Freddy Mercury sang out rock-n-roll power followed by softly crooning about the courage of “just a man.”  Pardon my french, but it was goddamned magnificent!

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I wore that old VHS tape out.  Not just from constant screenings of the movie, but from watching, re-winding and re-watching that opening title sequence a thousand times or more.

My main point is the utter lack of context.  The images alone, flashing by (pardon the pun) at such a rate that the blink of an eye would cost the viewer half a dozen drawings or more, was enough to instill in me such an overwhelming sense of adventure and story-telling that I would eventually resort to pressing pause at the beginning and then moving through the sequence frame-by-frame.  I would study every single frame of the artwork of a man whose name I did not know at the time was Alex Raymond.

In adulthood, I have acquired a few volumes of the Raymond Flash Gordon Sunday comics serial, but while reading through them (as I occasionally do), I cannot shake the feeling that it somehow just isn’t the same. . . that it somehow just isn’t as good as what my childhood imagination was conjuring with the images as taken out of context.

And this, to me, is one of the main reasons and inspirations for writing.  You get the chance to tell your story.  You get to pull the imagery from your own mind, the situations you’ve conjured up and built piece by piece from various bits of inspiration all around you, and form it into something you want to make.

I’m not claiming that my writing is better than that of Alex Raymond, nor that the tale of my characters is more compelling than that of Flash and Dale and Zarkov and Ming.  Not by a long-shot.  But what I am saying is that I get to create, every single day if I so desire, worlds and conflicts and armies and characters that are my very own, inspired by as many or as few things as I have ever dared to love or hate or dream, and that’s a pretty powerful feeling to be able to pluck for absolutely free.  Seriously, can you think of any hobby with as low a start-up cost as writing. . . except maybe the hobbies of standing or sitting?

Anyway. . . cheers to Alex Raymond, cheers to Flash Gordon. . . and cheer’s to Queen!

New Covers to Pay Homage to Series’ Roots

I wanted to update the covers of the Blue Daunia series. . . something to reflect my love for the comic books of the 1980s (a huge influence on the series) as well as pay homage to the series’ roots in the pulp fiction genre.  So, moving forward. . . for now, anyway. . . the covers will look like this:

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A minor change, really. . . just added that corner price/issue designation and upper brand designation banner which is a total ripoff of the Marvel comics from the early 80s.  I dig it, though.  Others may disagree, and if you do, please do drop a comment and let me know.  As for now, however, I’m really into this aesthetic, as the whole point of the series was for me to have a comic book in text form (which is essentially what pulp fiction and the “dime novels” were).

And speaking of the series, just a friendly reminder. . . the first issue is still FREE on the Kindle store from now through the end of tomorrow (9/22/17).

Cheers!

Blue Daunia Issue #2 Now in Paperback

Well, the paperback is now available.  This leg of the story, I guess you might say Act II of a three-act arc, was a labor of love, and while the old adage maintains that you’re not supposed to favor one of your own children over another, I must say, I absolutely adore this issue.  That’s a difficult thing for me to say, too, because despite marketing’s main goal and purpose being to play up the hype and appeal of your product, I’m a bit modest really when it comes to my own work.  But I will allow myself the indulgence of telling you this, with all sincerity:  If you pick up these first two issues (the first one currently being free for two more days on the Kindle store), you might find the first one slow-building, but I firmly believe you will not be disappointed by the end of the second issue.  I really do feel that strongly about it.  I’ve often heard and read the advice “write the book you would like to read”. . . well, Issue #2 is that book.  I’m serious when I say I don’t like to brag, but it’s just such a quick-moving, fun 122-page read!

Speaking of the FREE first issue, here’s the link to that. . . good through the 22nd.  And Here’s the link to the second issue in paperback, as well as the in the Kindle store.

And, just because I wanted a longer post, the following is the introduction from Blue Daunia Issue #2:  The Sinister Sleep of Shevara:

INTRODUCTION

For Christmas of 1992, I got my first word-processor.  I was 17 at the time, and had big plans for that thing, which is fitting, because it was a big thing, literally.  I want to say it was a Smith Corona, but whatever it was, the thing was the size of a small suitcase.  It had a built-in printer, a thin green monochrome calculator-style LCD screen, and a 3.5” floppy drive.  That last one really excited me, you see… because at last I could rack up volumes of my upcoming masterpieces and save them all on such tiny little storage media.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas that year, I could barely contain my excitement, because I already knew I would be getting this thing, and I had worlds to create!  I was very much a fan of comic books back then, and even moreso what they represented to me:  vast universes in which a creative, resourceful individual could create characters both mundane and mystical, and in which the stories of these characters and their interactions with each-other could be told in a continuous series.  (Incidentally, this is the same reason I love Dungeons & Dragons, but I digress).

More than anything else in the world, at that moment, I wanted my own comic book universe, which I could mold and shape and tinker with to my heart’s desire.  But here’s the thing… I cannot, CANNOT, draw.  My stick figures sometimes get mistaken for ampersands, if that tells you anything about my artistic abilities.  So what was I to do?  Well, I could write.  Everyone seemed to say so.  Sometimes, every now and then, they still do!  So that was my angle… I would do a comic book universe in text form, and store every story on those tiny little floppy disks, because surely, those would never, ever get lost or fall prey to the hands of time.

So Christmas rolled around, and I got the gigantic word processor, and I cannot for the life of me think of a single blasted thing I wrote on that thing, except maybe a school essay or book report or some-such.  Oh, and the screen could be tilted upward at different angles to better catch the light, because there was no contrast control… but whenever I would tilt the screen forward, it would ease itself on back down again.  So I did what I had to do:  I got the rifle-like weapon from JetFire of Transformers toy fame and wedged that behind the screen when I lifted it.  That sure learnt it!

So, what am I trying to get at, amidst all this rambling?  No, I’m actually asking you, because I honestly don’t remember.  There was a point at some… point, I’m sure of it.

Oh!  Manufactured universes.  Fast-forward 25 years, and I’ve finally made myself one!  And here it is!

Azaria
An exotic world not unlike our own, but entirely beholden to the mythology, legends, and pantheon forged by the almighty sea. With a myriad of cultures that run the gamut from backwater to highly advanced, Azaria is a world whose sole provider of technology is as secretive as it is powerful, at times competing with the oceanic pantheon itself for ideological supremacy. But there is something else beneath the shimmering surface, deep within the Hadopelagic Zone… waters so deep that all cultures unite in referring to them as “the Blue Hell”… something darkly intangible and unspoken. Could there be a third force, ancient beyond all recorded knowledge, vying for supremacy?

Daunia Bluehaven
In her ongoing quest to investigate the disappearance of the brother she barely knew, her adventures aboard her father’s final ship design would lead her crew all across the coastlands of the world of Azaria.

Set sail with the crew of the Blue Daunia on their harrowing oceanic journeys. The swashbuckling monthly serial continues here. Join Daunia and her crew as they traverse a world of towering cliffs and arctic tundras, dense tropical forests, sweeping mountainscapes, cavernous subterranean depths, marble palaces, gothic spires, dusty libraries and raucous drunken inns. In the life of a freelancer, you never know where your next job might take you, or what odds you might face to get it done.

In this second installment, the crew continue their stay in the port town of Illunstrahd, though far from the recreational stint they hoped it would be. Along the trail to solve a few grisly murders, death seems to haunt their every step. Exhausted and uncertain of their fate, they come at last to the ancient temple of the demi-goddess Shevara.

Blue Daunia Issue #2, and Free Issue #1!

After a three day delay, Issue #2 of the Blue Daunia series is finally available on Kindle, and will be available in paperback on Amazon and CreateSpace very soon.

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I have to admit, I’m proud of this powerful cover image, courtesy of Donna Chiofolo Photography.  There’s just something about a lone seagull amidst stormy clouds that really captures the feeling of hopelessness in what I consider a gripping last chapter in this issue, if I do say so myself (which I certainly seem to do).

Also, from now until September 22 (2017), the inaugural issue of the series can be had on the Kindle store for FREE!  It’s hard to beat free reads.

I would like to take a moment to apologize for my absence of late.  I think it’s been a week or more since I’ve posted anything to my blogsite.  This is not from any sort of disinterest in my followers or potential future followers. . . on the contrary, I’ve had a heck of a crunch-time this past week trying to make the deadline and polish a quality product on Issue #2.  They say honesty is the best policy, and that’s the honest truth. . . a deadline paired with a day job is not a fun combination, especially when you allow yourself to get behind in that deadline goal.  So, my many apologies, and Happy Reading & Writing, all!

MCU and the Changing World of the Comic “Book”

Ahhh, the Marvel Cinematic Universe….  You’ve changed something in your intros, haven’t  you?  But is the change a good or bad one?

My friends and I first noticed it while watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  We saw it again at the beginning of Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Prior to this, the marvelous movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe had used actual comic book art during the “Marvel Studios” opening logo splash.  To kick off these two new films though, we got slightly painted-over photograph stills of the various actors in-character in various action poses, probably nicked straight from the frames of the films themselves.  Both styles performed the same visual job:  a slew of comic book characters from the Marvel universe duking it out against villains, and the sound and “look” of pages being flipped through… all to indicate that we are about to enter into that larger-than-life realm.

“I’m just not sure I like that,” said a friend of mine as we left the theater from the screening of Guardians.  “No, I’m sure I don’t like that as well as the actual comic book art,” said the same friend after Homecoming.  I knew what he was getting at.  He was lamenting the iconic imagery he had grown up with.  To an extent, I agree with him.  To a larger degree, however, I think I get Marvel’s point.

I grew up in an era when comic books were 75 cents, and could be purchased at any gas station, drug store, grocery store or corner convenience store.  I’m sure comic book stores existed back then, perhaps in larger towns, but not in SmallTown U.S.A.  My father scoffed at the 75 cent, 32-page format.  He often recounted to me the comic books of his youth: a nickel for an issue as thick as a magazine and a dime for something along the lines of the thickness of a composition notebook.  Despite the astronomical price of 75 cents, though, I remember stopping at a gas station during an 8-hour drive to a vacation destination, my parents realizing I was bored with the one or two toys I had kept loose for the drive, and loading me up with half a dozen comics for less than five bucks.  The things were just everywhere.  You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a store that sold a revolving display rack’s worth of comic books.

Fast-forward 30 years, to present-day Earth.  If you want a comic book today, you either have to sign up for a digital subscription, go into a Books-a-Million or Barnes & Nobles, or venture into a specialty “Comics” or “Comics & Cards” store.  Not only that, but you had also better be prepared to spend $3.95 to $4.95 for a single, slim-as-they-ever-were issue, if not moreso for a special edition with an exclusive gatefold cover.

And every place I go which might feature a comics conversation, the conversations are always about the older stuff, from years ago, either on its own or as it relates to the modern movies and their storylines (or conflict with).  Rarely, if ever (and now that I think of it, honestly possibly never) do I hear a conversation about the new issues or new storylines, whatever they may be… I’m not even able to tell ya what they are!  For me, personally, the true notion of the comic book as well as the true notion of buying a current issue… that all ended in the 90s, well before RDJ donned the Iron Man armor or Chris Evans lit up as the Human Torch (checking for old-school MCU fans here).  And from the aforementioned evidence stemming from conversations, I’m willing to bet that the same holds true for countless others around the world.

I think Marvel knows this, too.  In fact, I think that’s what’s happening with the opening “Marvel Studios” splash at the beginning of the newer MCU movies.  You see, to me, comic book superheroes (which are largely an American invention) represent a sort of American mythology, if there ever was such a thing.  We needed these heroes back in the day, perhaps to help us mentally deal with the scares of WWII, perhaps to steer us more sanely through the Great Depression… and we need them more than ever now (I’m not about to throw up a list of political or world problems facing us today, that’s for a different type of blogger).  But no one wants to go out and spend 5+ bucks on a single 32-or-less page issue.  If we want the older stuff, we can still grab a graphic novel compilation for $10-20… it’s there if we need it.  But if we want the newer stuff, WE GO TO THE MOVIES.

Seriously, that’s what we do now.  Is that a bad thing?  A ding for the industry?  I say no.  And then I say “which industry?”  See, I think Marvel is doing just fine, and they’re doing this level of “fine” with their movies… the illustrious MCU.  Maybe comic books are in trouble… maybe they’re not (I really can’t say, other than the aforementioned conversations), but the American mythological icon which is The Comic Book Character… well, that’s alive and kicking much ass on silver screens the world over!  They’re in the toy aisles of every major department store.  They turn up in Happy Meals and Halloween costume stores.  They dominate notebook covers and computer wallpapers and sell out RedBox copies and cereal boxes everywhere.  The modern day comic book superhero is doing just fine.

But that’s the thing.  Putting everything together… the overwhelming slant of the conversations, the way books have shot sky-high in cost and aren’t on every corner store and may never be again, the dominant strength of the movie-machine juggernauts and the merchandising based largely on the movie images rather than a drawing…. do the math, because I assure you, Marvel has.

Here’s the gist of what I’m getting at:  The cinematic universe IS the new face of the comic book… the books had their chance, and they had a damn good run for maaaany a decade, but the torch has been passed now.  It simply has.  Like it or not (and I personally do like it, and think it would take an overly-sentimental curmudgeon to not [for reasons as simple and un-weighty as “I just don’t like it and I’m gonna fold my arms and huff about it just because, so there”]).  I think Marvel knows this… I think they are well aware of this passing of the torch, and I think they’re silently even acknowledging it… and I firmly believe this is why the new opening logo splash for the MCU depicts lightly painted-over live-action stills rather than comic-artist renditions.  They’re not going to come right out and scream “We successfully killed the old-school comic book!!!”… first of all because someone would get all bent out of shape and “boo-hoo” about a statement like that, but secondly because it’s simply not true.  The movies haven’t killed the comic book… greed and pricing within the industry took care of that all on its own.  The movies simply gave the American Mythological Superhero his new home… “comic books” as a notion and ideology got with the times… and our once-beloved ink-and-print fantasy universe is alive and well on the big screen.  The new opening splash says, very subtly, “this is what the stories are now… movies, not overpriced specialty books.”

I, for one, embrace it.  To hell with paying five bucks for a jumped-up flyer with all the content of a grocery store ad.

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Word Count Goal

A thousand words of the saga per day.  That’s the personal, ongoing goal I’ve set for myself in writing the Blue Daunia series.  I usually hit it.  Hell, I actually usually exceed it!  Rare indeed are the days I fail to meet my goal.

I thought today might be one of those rare days.  Spoiler alert:  it wasn’t; I made it.  Exceeded it, actually.  But it was certainly no thanks to my good friend James.

A bit of background:  James is very good when it comes to the technical aspects of computers.  He knows his networking, is fairly proficient in making machines do what he wants them to do, and has even worked for a fairly major networking specialist company.

So anyway, I headed to a famous coffee shop around 6pm, ready to “clock in” and get to work toward my 1,000 word goal.  James would be joining me shortly, as he often does, with his laptop and his big ol’ book on some sort of programming language he’s trying to learn. . . phpBB+ Omega Beta or something (is that a thing?).  I don’t mind his company during my “work” nights, as he’s one of my longest-term friends and a decent fella to bounce ideas off of, and usually keeps to his own studies when I’m trying to lay the hammer down on some text.

At about 6:30, I’ve already gotten 200 words pounded out on my AlphaSmart Neo2 when James saunters in, his trusty laptop bag on his shoulder.  He plunks it down on the table and hits the line to order his drink (I’ve already settled in with my iced black tea with mango).

At 220 words, James is back at the table, pulling the PhpBbPbPBp book and the laptop from the bag.  He goes to hook the power brick to the laptop and plug it into an outlet, when he realizes that the back left part of the black plastic chassis is cracked, and although this is where the brick attaches to the computer, that particular connection still feels firm.  Nonetheless, the little orange charging light won’t light up, and on the screen the little lightning bolt is failing to appear over the tiny image of a battery.

I’m a decently resourceful fellow, so I pinch the chassis firmly together and offer a “now try it.”  No dice.  Not charging.  “Let’s try a different outlet”. . . or two, or hey, five.  It’s a no-go.  This thing has just had it, with the indicator suggesting that there is only an hour and a half of battery life remaining before shutdown (and we all know how that goes).

James whips out his smartphone and quickly checks his checking and savings account levels.  “Son of a bitch,” he says.  “Oh well. . . feel like riding around with me to a few places and shopping for a laptop?”  He has determined that he can afford roughly $400 toward a new one, which he was going to get on Black Friday of this year anyway, as his current machine is over 3 years old (a veritable dinosaur in computer years).

“Sure,” I relent.  So much for my word goal for the day.

We hit Best Buy first.  He likes an Asus and a Dell he sees there, finding the Lenovos to be either too cheap or far too expensive, with no middle ground in evidence.  James is a bit picky when it comes to his laptops, as we all should be, so he wants to shop around.

We hit the interstate for a few miles and head for the area’s ritziest Wal-Mart.  I can practically feel my word goal vaporizing before my very eyes.  If you happen to find yourself at the Wal-Mart at the rich end of Montgomery, Alabama, and you are there for the purpose of searching for a laptop computer, I pray to God you have your heart set on an HP, because that’s exactly what you’re going to find there.  HP, HP, and other HPs.  There was one which seem to fit the bill, but it’s only 7:53, and there’s a Target right down the road.

Oh Target, you silly little creature.  For all your mouses (mice?) and memory cards and gig sticks and styluses and carry cases and screen protectors, you’ve only got two laptops for sale, haven’t you?  The one on clearance with the crushed and open box, and the one you’d have to skip two mortgage payments to purchase.  James reluctantly picks one, though:  the Dell we saw at Best Buy, that very first place we went to. . . the place that was right across the street from the famous coffeehouse.  8:27pm at this point, and Best Buy closes at 9.

Word goal?  What word goal?

We hit Best Buy for the second time at 8:42. . . just enough time for absolutely no one to offer to help us.  I’m going to jump ahead ten minutes here, because it basically amounts to us having to flag someone down with flare guns and whistles.  At 8:59, we’re out the door and heading back across the street.  That particular location of the coffeehouse closes at 10, so that gives us an hour for James to get his new machine set up and running and for me to try to hammer out a few more paragraphs.

Have you ever tried to get some writing done when a clumsy box and scraps of cardboard and twist-ties and plastic bags and pieces of foam of various sizes are bombarding the area within two feet of you?  Try it sometimes!  I humbly invite you to do so.  Or don’t. . . because neither did I!

The new machine is now sitting on the table before us, in all its Dell glory.  The power brick is firmly attached on the PC end.  Time for James to plug it into the outlet.  Nothing.  No orange charging light, no little blue ring around the power button, no magical first-time screen illumination. . . nothing.

It’s at this point that Tevaris, one of our favorite baristas, comes walking over.  “James, man. . . you havin’ any luck with that outlet?”

James:  “No, why?”

Tevaris:  “We think some sort of breaker got tripped.  None of these outlets are workin’.”

James:  “How many of them?”

Tevaris:  “NONE of the front-of-house outlets, man.”

James:  “For how long?”

Tevaris:  “Since this afternoon.”

Alrighty then.  Sometimes you just have to apply palm firmly to forehead, and while I cordially declined to do so, James obliged himself in earnest.

The next part of the plan involved driving BACK over to the ritzy end of town, where the ritzier Target and ritzier Wal-Mart were.  Our destination:  the ritzier famous coffeehouse, this one open until 11pm.  We arrived at 9:30.  James plugged both machines in, and immediately got the orange charging lights on both.  “Damnit” he hissed.

“Had you really rather they were both broken?”  I asked.

“Almost!” he replied.

For the next hour and a half, he fumbled around with setting up his new machine, which he decided he might as well keep, seeing as how he was in need of a new one anyway.  And for the next hour and a half, I hit somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,115 words.

The moral of this little tale:  never count your chickens if you don’t even have an outlet to plug your incubator into. . . or something.  Something about chickens, I’m almost sure of it.