Cheese with Imagination

I recently shared grilled cheese sandwiches with Imagination. At his insistence, we had to eat while sitting on a hovering porpoise named Gomer. The waitress was not amused.

“Should I be concerned that you’ve been spending more time with Reality lately?” Imagination handed me another half-sandwich. “Your subconscious says that you haven’t been yourself.”

“I’ve been busy,” I protested. Gomer flew through a hoop and Imagination fed him a slice of deep-dish pepperoni pizza. “I have a day-job, you know.”

The diner fell into a black hole and Gomer glared back at me. “We don’t buy it,” Imagination scowled. “I’m beginning to think that in your effort to boost Reality’s self-esteem, you’ve forgotten the value of Imagination.”

“Hasn’t this little feud of yours gone on long enough?” I swallowed the last of my sandwich. “You guys used to be pretty tight.” A passing unicorn speared a sandwich on its horn and melted into a sunset. “Now you’re just showing off,” I said. Imagination grinned and picked a squid out of his hair.

“Look,” he said. “Everyone thinks that I’m only good for art projects and kid’s TV shows. Governments, corporate offices, and schools devalue my role and tell people that I don’t have any place in their life.” Gomer snorted. “It’s bad enough that a large portion of the culture thinks I’m limited to providing filters and GIFs for their social media,” Imagination continued. “Even those of you who know better get bogged down in your schedules. It’s as if you were ashamed of me.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I answered. Gomer nipped at my leg. “Where would we be without you? The only reason you’re in this predicament now is because of that stupid tiff with Reality.”

“He started it.”

“Look, you know that he can’t help it if he has no imagination whatsoever. That’s his thing. It’s not like you’re exactly realistic, is it?” Imagination frowned and pulled a chocolate battleship out of his ear.  “I think if either one of you was going to imagine a way to resolve this impasse, that would be you.”

Gomer cleared his throat and said, “I’ve been telling him that for years. No one listens to the imaginary flying porpoise.”

“Fine,” Imagination sighed. “I’ll talk to him on one condition. You have to keep me in the loop and stop shutting me out. I want to be involved from now on.”

I peeled away a thin layer of the waning sunset and folded it into a hot grilled cheese sandwich. “Oh, you will be.” I took a large bite and reveled in the creamy cheesy goodness. “Tell my subconscious I said, ‘Hi.'”

“You just did,” said Gomer.

Coffee with Reality

I had coffee with Reality the other day. In the past, we haven’t always been comfortable with each other. Oh, we would nod in passing to acknowledge the other’s existence, but it always felt awkward.

Anyway, that morning I saw Reality hunched over a mug and sitting alone in a corner. I gave my usual, “Oh, look who’s here,” nod, but I didn’t get a response. I grabbed a mug of Sumatra (black, no cream, no sugar) and eased past the morning java zombies. “Mind if I join you?” Reality glanced up and launched an eyebrow. I took that as a yes and pulled out a chair.

We sat for several minutes, with the silence only broken by an occasional sip. Well, if we were going to get anywhere, it looked like I had to be the one to start. “No offence, Reality, but you don’t look so good. What’s going on?”

Sip. “Did you come here to gloat?”

“What? Why would I do that? Look, you look like you’re having a hard time and I was trying to be nice.”

“Sorry.” He stared into his coffee for a moment. “Did you know it took me four attempts to order my coffee this morning?” I shook my head. “Every time I gave them my name, they said it was offensive and that I wasn’t welcome here.”

My eyes widened. That’s usually the kind of response that I get. “I don’t understand. You were always the center of attention. Everyone wanted to hang out with you. People searched everywhere for you. What happened?”

He sipped slowly. “You know how different groups of people think that they’re the only ones who really know me?” I nodded. “A long time ago, some people divided up human intelligence into different facets, as if they were independent and contradictory entities. They pitted cognition against emotion and both of those against volition. For a time, rationalists ruled. The logical aspects of intelligence were prioritized above all else.” He took another sip. “The pendulum has swung back and the prevailing belief now holds that non-rational thought is superior to rational thought. As a result, logic has not only been devalued, it has been discarded as worthless. Since so many people saw me as associated with rationalism, I’m no longer welcome. Since you write silly fictional imaginary stories, I thought you’d be pleased.”

I took a deep swig and pondered the situation. “No,” I said. “I find this rather troubling. You see, the only way that an imaginary world works is if the reader understands the difference between what is real and what is imagined. If the idea of a three-headed squirrel accidentally eating the moon seems ‘normal’ to a reader, the imagination doesn’t stand out. It gets lost in the noise.”

Just then, a young woman stopped by our table. “Do I know you? Did you used to be famous?”

He raised his mug and sighed. “You probably knew me as Reality.”

“Ew.” We watched her flee.

“That is so weird,” I said. “That’s usually the reaction that I get.”

“It’s all so unnecessary,” he complained. “There just no reason for the conflict. Why is it so hard to accept the idea that rational and non-rational thought can be complementary rather than contradictory? Why are humans so obsessed with dividing up their minds and personalities into artificial constructs?”

I emptied my mug. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it’s easier to break complex problems down into small pieces, solve one part, and then go to lunch.”


“Or get more coffee.” I pointed at my empty mug. “You see, we’re drowning in a flood of information we don’t understand, ideas that are too big, a world that’s too complex, and a life that is often hard. It can be overwhelming and some people have given up on trying to make sense of things. They don’t want to feel stupid, so they tell themselves that the smart thing to do is to solve one little piece of the puzzle and take a participation trophy to commemorate their victory.”

“But that’s…”

“Yeah, I know.” I grabbed his mug and stood up. “I’m going to get us a refill. In the meantime, I think you should wear a name tag.”

“You mean, ‘Hello, my name is Reality?’”

“Yeah. Look, you can either sit here whining about your hurt Feewings or you can be yourself. Where’s the Reality I used to know? Where’s that guy who read Alice in Wonderland and said he didn’t like it because it wasn’t real?”

“I said that about your stuff, too.”

“I know. I read the reviews. Look, I’ll get the coffee and you just sit there and be yourself.” I gestured towards the rest of the room. “They’ll come around in time.”

For the first time that morning, Reality smiled. “Thanks. I appreciate it. You know, I wouldn’t have imagined that you and I would get along this well.”

“Imagining isn’t your thing,” I said. “You should leave it to the professionals.”

“About that,” started Reality. “We should talk about some of your delusions.”

“Can’t hear you,” I interrupted. “Coffee time.” That conversation required a lot more caffeine.

Shaved Bunny Surprise

Well, it surprised the bunnies.

I should back up a bit. There’s weather outside. There’s all types of weather, but in July, in the Northern Hemisphere, people are driven by a highly illogical and ultimately self-destructive instinct to go out in it. Convinced that this will be fun, they bake themselves to a crispy texture and then retreat into the safety of the indoors.

I know what you’re thinking, but I disagree. There’s no way the Phelogs of Kragnos 5 would have worn hats made from live ducks. They don’t have heads.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Heads. Humans have them. In fact, human heads are filled with squishy stuff that loves to imagine things. Some people enjoy doing something with their brains in the summer other than attempting to calculate just how much lake water they can drink while being dragged behind a boat at 45 mph. Some enjoy reading. Well, they enjoy reading and glancing up occasionally to chuckle at those who are being dragged around the lake.

You’re probably thinking right now about a huge platter of chili cheese fries, aren’t you. Hey! Stay with me now. Let’s try to stay on topic, okay?

So, people in July… You’re a person, right? Then, you would know. You’d like to have some actual fun while you’re having “fun” this summer. Even if you’re the sort of person who enjoys going out there and turning over only when one side starts to bubble, you’d like to have something better to do while moaning and begging your cousin not to slap your back again. That’s where the bunnies come in.

Why are you giving me that look?

Yes, bunnies. Before you ask, I probably should have thought that through a bit more, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Right now, we’re talking about fun. No, I don’t mean the kind where you brush a half pound of sand off of your sandwich or the kind where you realize that picnics and army ants are quantum entangled. I’m talking about reading. It’s the sort of fun for your brain that doesn’t involve seeing how many layers of skin you can lose before passing out. It’s actual fun. The only thing that’s not fun about it is the fact that you might run out of books to read.

I know. I get it. You’re probably wondering what this has to do with the theory of Quantum Chromodynamics, aren’t you?  That’s exactly the sort of distraction that caused the problem with the bunnies in the first place.

Hang on… That’s right. Bunnies. BundleRabbit ( has your summer fun solution. Now, I know what you’re thinking so let me just say that it’s important to keep reading before going out into the backyard with some duct tape and chasing wild rabbits. If it’s too late and you’ve already taken certain steps, you’re probably also thinking that you don’t want the tape to pull the hair off of your hares, but let me just say that attempting to shave them first will not end well.

Assuming that it’s not too late and your arms, face and chest are not wrapped in bandages, let’ me explain. This summer, starting today, in fact, the Sci-Fi July Fever Fun bundle is available at all of the best eBook sites including Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes. This bundle includes 11 full length novels for only $9.99 USD. I know. Even the bunnies’ mouths are gaping. Featuring books by Dean Wesley Smith, Russ Crossley, Rebecca M. Senese, Blaze Ward, Tracy Cooper-Posey, Steph Bennion, Michael Warren Lucas, Rebecca S. W. Bates, Barbara G. Tarn, Robert Jeschonek and Ubiquitous Bubba, this bundle is infinitely more fun than an actual bundle of rabbits.

You can view the book trailer here.

On an unrelated note, if you pictured me splashing a little after shave on a bunny and lightly smacking its paws against its cheeks a la Home Alone, you should be ashamed of yourself. You’re thinking of it right now, aren’t you?

I don’t know how those thoughts get into your head.

Anti-Survival Traits

Doomed. There’s just no getting around it. Some fictional characters just have it coming. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I don’t like them. In fact, some of the ones who shout, “Hey, guys, watch this…” are some of my favorites. Sure, there are characters who shuffle off their respective mortal coils in a rather forgettable manner. There are some special ones, however, whose inescapable demise claims the comfy chair in your memory and hogs the remote. It seems to me that there are a few common characteristics that the hysterically doomed share. I think of these as “Anti-Survival Traits” for the simple reason that the existence of one or more of these traits often ensures eventual and (sometimes) legendary destruction.

The first of these, of course, is Snarkiness. You know what I mean. It’s your mouth’s instinct to act in your own disinterest. Fictional characters afflicted with this trait can’t seem to help themselves. When everyone else knows that the best survival strategy is to shut up, this character will mouth off at the worst possible time.  It’s that uncontrollable urge to take an otherwise innocuous statement, infuse it with a snide tone, and drop it like a live mic. This is the guy in the back seat who waits until the officer is handing your license back to you to sneer, “Nice haircut…” In fact, the Snarky character’s best hope of survival is based on the hope that their target lacks the wit to get the joke.

Some characters also suffer from Coyote Syndrome. This is an unfortunately condition where the character is incapable of learning from past mistakes. While some may confuse this disability with Optimism, the differences are significant. For one thing, an Optimist will consider a dire situation, be fully aware of the shockingly low probability of a positive outcome and yet choose to remain hopeful. Fictional characters who suffer from Coyote Syndrome will consider the same situation and remain blissfully blind to the absolute certainty of disaster. It’s not that they think, “This time, maybe I won’t land on my head.” Instead, the inevitable and utterly predictable outcome never occurs to them. These characters exhibit genuine surprise each time they fall off of a cliff, miss the trampoline, or notice the growing shadow of an approaching boulder. Groups of people containing a CS character can usually be identified by their tendency to face palm. Where I come from, these characters are often accompanied by an onlooker who shakes their head and declares, “That boy just ain’t right.”

Enthusiasm is a positive and desirable characteristic. Ridiculous Enthusiasm, however, is the opposite. Characters with this unfortunate condition do not limit themselves to leaping before looking. They just leap. How deep is that hole? This character will let you know. They’re loud, pushy, oblivious to danger, and certain to become a cautionary tale. These characters spring into the face of Danger not because they are brave, but because they think, “What could possibly go wrong?” While the rest of the group has the sense to sneak quietly past the sleeping dragon, this clown will kick it in the nose. Oddly enough, this tactic does not always result in a sudden and dramatic departure from the land of the living. In some cases, the character escapes only because the hideously dangerous threat he faced simply could not believe he could be that stupid. These characters seek attention and are often the ones to shout, “Check this out, dude…” They are beautiful, in their own way. At least, their explosions are.

Curiosity is known to have offed a feline or two. Insane Curiosity takes self-destruction to whole new level. While other characters see the warning signs, frequently including words like, “Danger,” “Warning,” or “High Voltage,” Insanely Curious characters will disregard them. They are the button pushers. They will enter a mad scientist’s lair, stand on the big red X with a dozen lasers focused on them, and push the big red button. “What does this do?” are their most common last words. Unfortunately, the disastrous results frequently impact other people, leaving the Insanely Curious character free to see what the rest of the buttons will do. If/when there is a self-destruct button, this character will be the one to push it. While it may seem that this trait has more to do with the poor survival probabilities of their team, this character usually triggers their own demise in the end. While that may be of little comfort to the team members they’ve already disintegrated, it is a type of poetic justice.

Pride goes before a fall. This is a well-known truth. “Pompous Arrogance goes before a stain on the pavement,” may be a lesser known phrase. Characters displaying Pompous Arrogance take mere pride to extremes. Their displays of self-interest and conceit make even politicians and celebrities wince. They don’t simply feel that they are better and more important than everyone else, they know it. Even worse, they want to make sure that everyone else knows it. Nothing sets off a Pompously Arrogant character like encountering a Snarky character. Oddly, these two traits have a way of searching each other out, finding one another, and ending up seated at the same table at the reception. This character’s eventual unhappy end is often delayed, much to the dismay of everyone they meet. In many cases, characters with this trait will wait to go down in flames until the very last minute. Unlike the tragic deaths of other characters afflicted with various Anti-Survival Traits, the messy spot that marks the site of the Pompously Arrogant character’s departure is often widely celebrated.

Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list and I haven’t discussed the comically tragic potential when two or more of these traits coexist in the same person. I’ll leave that to your imagination. Mine is busy making snarky comments.

Bubba’s Philosophy of Fictional Conflict

According to legend, there is a small speck floating alone in a vast, empty forgotten stretch of the universe that has not experienced conflict. Unless you happen to be this miniscule particle (and I think the likelihood is low), conflict is a part of your identity. If, by some freakish chance, you are that tiny speck, you just ruined a perfectly good setup. I hope you’re happy with yourself.

Anyway, people have created a number of different techniques to handling, resolving, avoiding, causing, and denying conflict. In the real world, there are several ways to deal with it. Fiction, however, is not the real world.

Here’s the issue. For many years, authors, editors, publishers, and university professors who have never held a real job have developed a set a rules for each other that govern the ways in which a story may be told. Those who follow the rules are “good” and those who do not are “subhuman illiterate hacks.” Some of these rules govern and define our culture’s Philosophy of Fictional Conflict.

Tyrannical Rule #1: Conflict must exist between a minimum of two parties and a maximum of three. Conflicts with less than two parties make no sense and shall not be permitted. Fights between four or more parties confuse the minuscule and fragile minds of readers and are, therefore, banned. Conflicts between fractional numbers are ridiculous and may cause an editor’s head to explode. Irrational numbers are right out. Authors who flout this law will be ridiculed and chastised in public by their betters until they either surrender their right to write or shrivel in shame. We’re good with either outcome.

Tyrannical Rule #2: All conflict must be created in such a way that the antagonist must be omniscient and omnipotent. Evil must always be infinitely stronger than good. The protagonist must have absolutely no reasonable chance of success. The antagonist must also have one weakness. Two or more weaknesses will not be allowed under any circumstances.

Tyrannical Rule #3: No matter how impossible or unlikely, all conflict must be resolved in only one way. The protagonist must overcome all obstacles through extreme debilitating suffering. Regardless of the mechanisms or methodologies employed by the protagonist, the only reason the protagonist wins the fight with their antagonist is by persevering through immense suffering just a moment longer than the antagonist. No other method of resolution will be allowed for any reason. Any suggestion that a conflict can be overcome by any other means will be met with extreme hatred, explosive derision, and the panicked shrieking of all good authors, editors, publishers, and university professors who have never held a real job.

Tyrannical Rule #4: No variation, deviation, or modification of these laws will be tolerated. Any author who dares question one or more of these rules will no longer be allowed to think with their own brain. Only authors who conform completely in every conceivable way to these laws will be considered “creative.”

Well, I disagree. I’ve listened to my fellow authors. I’ve heard their point of view. I understand that using commonly accepted thought processes and storytelling methods makes it much easier for a reader to predict how a story will go before they ever crack it open. That’s my problem with it. I want to be surprised by the story. I want it to go places that I didn’t expect and for the characters to do things I didn’t predict. To that end, I have created Bubba’s Philosophy of Fictional Conflict.

Bubba’s Rule #1: Conflict comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s a part of the character’s personality, world, and culture. Some are sharp and intense while others are more trivial. Characters facing different types of conflict will appear more solid than those that only face one at a time.

Bubba’s Rule #2: Neither protagonists, antagonists or any other fictional characters are all powerful or all knowing. Get over it. Some may be stronger than others, but attempting to ramp up the drama by exaggerating the antagonist’s power is pathetic and weak. Having a protagonist find and exploit an antagonist’s one and only weakness is predictable and, therefore, to be met with a sarcastic eye-roll.

Bubba’s Rule #3: Conflict resolution must not be predictable. Protagonists may overcome obstacles in any number of ways including outwitting, surprising, appeasing, distracting, or talking with the antagonist. Conflict resolution that can be predicted before a book has been opened must be the one form of resolution that cannot be used. Any suggestion that conflict must be resolved only by suffering will be met with water balloons filled with jellyfish.

Bubba’s Rule #4: Exceptions will be made for each and every rule as necessary to fit the story. Rules will be considered to be guidelines rather than absolutes. Authors are required to think with their own brains.

Bubba’s Rule #5: Bubba’s Rules shall not be binding on any other person. No other author, editor, publisher, or university professor who has never held a real job will be required or expected to comprehend or accept these rules.

After all, I’m not looking for an argument.

Self-Centered Reviews

Every once in a while, I ignore the GPS of conventional wisdom and veer onto a poorly lit side street. From the condition of the road, this appears to be one of those times.

One of the conundrums facing independent authors is the task of securing a sufficient quantity of reviews for their work. Common sense says that new readers may not be drawn to a new book until a critical mass of reviews have been written for the book. No one wants to be the first to dive into new waters. That never ends well in a movie during shark week. As a result, independent authors end up lurking in public places, begging for reviews and (occasionally) offering to wash windows in return.

One alternative to this rather pathetic display is the use of non-reciprocal reviews. The idea is that multiple authors come together and agree to read and review books by another author in the group, but not the author who is reviewing their work. That way, no one is able to trade one fawning review for another. When the system works, everyone wins. Honest reviews are written for each book and the street corners and viaducts remain free of loquacious beggars.

The problem is that most authors are human. While some will honor their commitments and write honest reviews, others will not. Some will speed through the book, skimming an entire novel in a few hours in an effort to spend as little time as possible on the review. Some may read it, but won’t bother to write their own review and will just copy and paste reviews written by others. A certain number of cretins will happily accept reviews for their own book while failing to review others.

Yes, that is reprehensible and no, there is no excuse for such behavior. The issue is that many authors are so consumed with their own self-centered desire to rack up as many reviews and/or accolades as possible for themselves that they don’t care that they are cheating other authors in the process. Even worse, they don’t care about the impact on potential readers.

Chasing after them, begging for them to honor their commitment is an obvious waste of time and energy. Scrambling after reviews in a mad race to reach a magic quantity that will coax readers to your shelf is an insane game. The solution is obvious. We can choose not to play.

If someone wants to write a review, they will. If not, there is little an author can do to persuade them to do so. While many authors may disagree with me, I would like to think that books will eventually find their audience. That may be naïve, but I would rather follow this course than hunt down self-centered reviewers.

Hang on, I think I recognize this street. I’m back on track now and my GPS can stop recalculating. You can relax now.

The Unconscious Mind and Cheese

I’m not sure, but I think a caffeine deficiency can keep my unconscious mind awake. It’s a little bit like having a college roommate who has a schedule opposite to your own. You know about each other’s existence and you may occasionally leave notes for one another, but you never actually sit in the same room. You walk in, see the state of the apartment and wonder, “What happened here?” or “What was he thinking?” or “How did melted cheese end up there?”

I don’t know about yours, but my unconscious self usually keeps to himself. Most of the time, he’ll stay in his part of my brain with the lights off. However, on those occasions where I’ve been too busy to down the minimum amount of coffee for the day, my conscious mind will get drowsy and my unconscious self will emerge from his crawlspace. We’ll exchange uncomfortable pleasantries and he’ll complain about the excessive quietness. We’ll both eye the dishes in the sink and then one of us will change the subject.

He’ll close the window blinds, turn off as many lights as possible, and slink into the shadows. His eyes glow just a bit, so the net effect is a tad unnerving. “Are you awake?” he’ll whisper. I’m not always sure what he hopes the answer will be. I’ll usually pull myself up and pretend that I’m fully alert. While not convinced, he will usually make some excuse and then slip back into his crawlspace. Just before closing the trapdoor, he’ll say, “Stay out of my room. You wouldn’t like what you’d see.” The door will creak closed and metal will scrape as heavy locks grind closed.

“Right,” I’ll declare. “…As if I’d want to see your lair.” He knows I do. However, I know that he knows that I do and that he still got away without doing his own dishes or explaining what happened to the couch.  I’ll pour some more coffee and rub the sleep from my eyes. “That should knock him out for a few hours,” I’ll crow. Deep down, I know that it’s only a temporary fix and that as soon as I fall asleep, he’ll sneak out and lurk, unrestrained, throughout my brain.

That reminds me, I’m going to leave him a note telling him to stop using all of my cheese.

Sweet Serial

Serials. They’re not just for breakfast anymore.  I’m experimenting with a different technique in writing my current novella.  I’m taking it serially.  Instead of waiting until the whole thing is done before releasing it, I’m writing and releasing each scene as I go. I’ve been posting additional scenes on Wattpad for Deeply Disturbed Donuts.  I just released the fifth scene today.

I’m enjoying this because I feel like there’s an immediate sense of accomplishment with each scene.  As one is finished, it is out there, vulnerable and twitching on the Internet. I like the idea that a reader can follow a story in real time as each scene is uploaded.


Deeply Disturbed Donuts

Sugar is the least of your concerns with these donuts. They’re not natural. They do strange and unpleasant things to people. Everything about the donut shop screams, “Do Not Enter!” Urban legends whisper unbelievable stories of bizarre accidents caused by these donuts. Some say that the people who eat them may never return to normal. Very few have ever dared to enter the shop. Legends say that even fewer have returned. Even more terrifying, however, are the descriptions of the owner, a dark and mysterious woman known only as, “Chaos.”

Deeply Disturbed Donuts is a novella that I’m writing. I’ve uploaded the first part to for those who are eager for an early taste. I am not responsible for any unexpected side effects you may experience. You’ve been warned.

If you are the sort whose curiosity gets the better of you, I have one piece of very important advice. Whatever you do, do not eat the donut with the furry purple frosting. I think that’s probably a good rule of thumb in general.

Artificial Preview

For those who like to snag an early glimpse, I’m posting a draft of the Prologue to the third book in The Other Universes series, Artificial Stupidity. For the rest of you, I thought you might appreciate the warning.

I’ve just started work on the book, so I can’t provide many details. I can, however, offer a sneak peak that explains the title. If you are one of those people who either can’t wait, have an unhealthy amount of curiosity, or just like to click links, I’ve posted the Prologue on Wattpad.

This book will bring the major storylines to a close, completing what began in Reality Challenged and Blithering Genius. I hope to see some of the characters again as they spin off from this trilogy.

If you care to do so, I would love to hear your thoughts on the Prologue, characters, or things you’d like to see happen in this book. Who knows? You might get your wish.