Number Nerd

16384
16384

I’ve waited two months for this day. Ever since the day I passed 8192 Tweets!  Today I have tweeted 16,384 times! That’s TWO TO THE FOURTEENTH POWER! That’s 4000 in Hexadecimal! That’s 100000000000000 in Binary!

Yes, I’m a huge nerd. Yes, NO ONE ELSE seems to get it (Except for @Cylithria, God bless her).  But to me, this is an epic and wonderful moment.  I’m happier about this than about hitting 10,000.  I think in binary.  This is who I am.  Deal with it.

#NumberNerd out!

Storytime Mondays: A Shameful Ballet

A Shameful Ballet

The following story was originally written in the summer of 2011, and posted on the same online collaborative writing and roleplaying site that Gabby and Tock originated in. The character here is Aamon Dukushu, a superpowered crime lord/terrorist who was the most feared man in the entire city. He is a killer, a monster, a drug lord, an anarchist, and the ruler of an entire underground city of rebels. He possesses supernatural senses that allow him to read movement without sight. He is known as “King of the Underground.”

The story below is the result of a strange train of thought I had. I’m not sure what first planted the initial seed in my mind, but I remember it growing. After multiple twists and turns, this train of thought led to the question: “Can I write a post where Aamon (killer, criminal, terrorist) is willingly performing at the ballet, while he is not on any drugs or being mentally influenced in any way? And have it be believable for him In Character?” The question rang with such uncertainty in my mind that I was compelled to challenge myself to attempt it. What follows is the result.

———————————————————

Aamon entered the New York City Ballet Hall by the back door, having easily picked the lock and disabled the alarm. He was depressingly sober today. That was something he’d have to remedy as soon as he got home. It had been a long few days. Too long. Too much time out of the Underground. Too much time away from his family. Such was the way of things, when business called.

The target of this evening’s venture was the young Miss Autumn Tortino, daughter of the late Antoine Tortino, who himself was once head of the Tortino Crime Family. Aamon had personally helped the man shuffle off this mortal coil just three days before. Several other high ranking members of the family had met the same fate, leaving Miss Autumn Tortino to become heir to the family’s legacy and business ventures. She was also heir to her family’s debts. Debts that were going to be paid.

Aamon walked casually through the back hall of the theatre. It didn’t take long for a member of the staff to find him here, nor was it hard to tell that the Underground King did not belong. Unfortunately for the man, Aamon was sober, and thus not in the mood to deal with him. Before he could even get a word out, Aamon swung a leather-gloved fist into the man’s face. His senses read the shifting of the man’s muscles as he staggered back from the blow, and Aamon used this to judge the man’s balance and center of gravity. He grabbed the man by his wrist, his other hand reached up for the shoulder, and he pulled the man down and forward with enough force to flip him over onto his back. Still holding the man’s wrist, Aamon twisted as the man fell and brought his foot up to the man’s face. He pressed his thick black boot under the man’s chin and pushed hard, locking the man in place.  The man’s mouth was pinned shut by Aamon’s boot heel so that he couldn’t scream. He jerked the man’s body with a quick twist and a loud snap and the pressure on his face and neck from Aamon’s boots broke the spinal cord. The man went limp, and Aamon muttered, “Fucking hell, do I need a nice thick joint. Or some of Twiggy’s ‘sweet tarts’…” He dropped the man and walked away. Being sober was hell on his mind, but he hadn’t had time to stop home for ‘goods’ after the last few days of dealing with the Tortinos. He’d managed to run through the stash he’d brought with him by early this morning, and it was most irritating.

Autumn was a spoiled brat who had used her family’s connections to buy her way into the lead role of tonight’s production. Ballet was her passion, her obsession. In truth, she was quite good. Not good enough to have earned the lead on her own, but talented nonetheless. Tonight was the opening performance; Autumn’s pride and joy, the night she had awaited for months. The night she had lied, cheated, stolen, begged, and even killed to make happen. It was the ultimate culmination of all her hard work and dreams. And the King of the Underground was here to crash her party.

By the time Aamon reached the stage, a gun shoved in the Producer’s back had prevented any further problems from arising. Whispers quickly spread in a panic across the backstage area, as performers and stage hands wondered what was going on. They were determined not to stop the show, however, and Aamon didn’t see any reason why it couldn’t go on. Autumn was nearly finished her main solo: a dance of loneliness and heartache, for in the story her love was destined to be taken from her, and she was to be forced into a loveless marriage. The climax of the tale was soon approaching, as her love came for her to whisk her away, so they could abandon their old lives and start anew in some far off land.

The male lead, a pompous looking sap with a fake bulge stuffed down his tights, was about to go on stage. Aamon pointed his gun at the pansy, pulling back the hammer to show he meant business. The dancer held his hands up.  He didn’t say a word— no doubt he didn’t want to ruin Autumn’s solo. Aamon silently gestured with the gun, and the man obligingly backed away.

Aamon had business to ‘discuss’ with Autumn, and he wasn’t about to let her ballet performance delay this urgent meeting.

Aamon took off his thick leather coat and gloves and handed them to a trembling stage hand. He locked eyes with the timid woman for a long moment. Fighting back frightened tears, she nodded. It was clear she knew better than to go anywhere, or molest Aamon’s things. She stood obediently, serving as coat rack for the night, as Aamon tucked his pistol away in his belt. He then stepped up to the edge of the stage, awaiting the ‘cue’. He was dressed rather oddly for a ballet performance: thick black boots that would likely scuff the polished stage, heavy leather pants, and a gun and knife at his belt. His shirt bore a touch of lace at the cuffs and a frill at the neck, so that almost helped him fit in.

Autumn’s delicate steps took her to the edge of the stage, where she was supposed to meet her love in joyful surprise. Instead she found Aamon, and a gasp of shock escaped her lips. Aamon stepped onto the stage, his thick black boots thudding on the wood of the dance floor. Autumn began backing away, her steps uncertain and tense. A murmer began in the audience. This strangely dressed man clearly seemed out of place. Autumn licked her lips, her eyes seeking out the director offstage. He had no guidance to offer her.

As Autumn backed away, Aamon pursued, his steps light, though hardly filled with grace. The show’s choreography called for a lover’s pursuit, with Autumn playfully dancing across the stage, forcing her lover to follow. It was meant to be a game, a dance of seduction. Instead, Aamon brought a more deadly tone to the pursuit. His senses read the fear in Autumn’s heart, and the hesitation in her steps. Reflex led her feet to follow the long-practiced choreography without conscious thought. Aamon didn’t know the steps, but his senses read Autumn’s every move before she made it. He was able to follow her lead with ease, anticipating where she would move, judging any sudden shifts by the vibrations in the floorboards as she shifted her weight. She fled. He pursued. A deadly dance of tension and grace had begun.

The lover’s pursuit would lead to a playful dance, running around trees and rocks like young ones at play. Following the steps, Autumn tried to run behind a tree, but in flight from the one she feared. Aamon moved faster, reading her movements and intercepting her, slipping an arm around her waist and pulling her close. He dipped her, leaning over her intimately, tension bleeding off of them and into the crowd. Her body trembled, her eyes were wide and unblinking, and the deep fear he sensed in her rapid heartbeat set Aamon’s senses afire. He smiled, showing her just how much he was now in control. Realizing her fate, Autumn’s posture became submissive, her muscles loosening as she accepted his lead. He pulled her out of the dip and back to her feet, their faces pressed close, her eyes wide and startled, a light sheen of sweat upon her brow.

Next would come the dance of true seduction, as Autumn’s lover would drop to one knee, professing his love, then slowly rise, bending his form near her body provocatively, sparking a deep desire within her. Aamon didn’t kneel to anyone. His hand lashed out, stopping just short of her face, palm forward and fingers splayed wide. She flinched, then his hand moved lower, never quite touching her, but always just a breath away from her skin. He traced a would-be caress down her neck and chest, hovering over areas only a lover might touch. She leaned back with his movements, following the gesture and lowering herself before him. Kneeling, she looked up at him with wide eyes as his hand rose again, tracing a line just before her face, then pushing forward so that she was forced to lean back. She knelt and leaned backwards so far she was forced to brace her hands against the stage. Aamon’s other hand slipped around her waist, lifting her to meet him. It was the dance of seduction, the dance of control. She was clearly under Aamon’s power.

They wove a lover’s dance next, their bodies close, the tension thick in the air. Their forms wove across the stage in what was meant to be a dance of freedom, love, and forbidden passion. Yet laced through it now was a tense forcefulness and the dirty tinge of shame. Autumn’s graceful beauty was now lent towards a dark dance, but it was one that she accepted willingly, with the submission of one who accepted who and what she was. Aamon led, and she followed, never far from his body as they danced of dark secrets and the choices one made out of desperation. The crowd watched with a dark fascination, too shameful to call for the dance to stop, too enraptured to look away.

The tension built to a head as Aamon twirled the girl’s form around him, weaving a rhythm of passion that always kept him in control. More than once her eyes, her posture seemed to lead her away, seeking the freedom off the stage, just out of reach. But each time, she turned willingly back to her partner, knowing and accepting her role. Her body danced the dance her heart could not, and she allowed her beauty and her form to be taken with passion, but without love. Deep shame etched her features as the dance drew near its close, and she leapt through the air to be caught by her lover on stage. Aamon snatched her from the air, then brought her roughly down to the ground, rather than carrying her off into the night as should have been. She bowed low before him, her eyes locked on the ground, as he looked down at her with the eyes of a man who had taken what he needed, and had no more use for her. Then, a gesture of mercy; he leaned down and lifted her chin with his fingers, and she rose to her delicate feet once more. Heart thumping in her chest, she bowed deeply, the danced on her toes back away from the King, dismissed from his presence. Without a glance at the crowd, Aamon followed, and the curtain fell behind them.

Off the stage, Aamon didn’t even look at the girl who had just allowed him to dance the intimate dance with her. Autumn lowered her eyes, unable to look at anyone, least of all Aamon. She whispered to him, “You’ll have your money by tomorrow…” Aamon smirked, and retrieved his coat and gloves from the frightened stage girl, who had stood silently through it all. He then walked away without a word, leaving Autumn to her shame.

Storytime Mondays

Storytime Mondays

There has been a severe lack of stories making their way onto this site lately. The only posts I’ve been making are occasional blog posts updating about my revisions (or lack thereof). I’ve decided to fix that.

Like many writers, I have about a bajillion old stories sitting around. Many were written in creative writing classes. Some were written for fun. A lot of them SUCK (at least, in my own overly-self-critical opinion). But what they all have in common is that they’re all sitting on my computer, collecting proverbial dust, and not being read.

So starting tomorrow, and continuing until I go, “Oh, CRAP, I forgot I was supposed to do that this week!” I will be posting something new every Monday. The content will range from short stories, to poems, to random writings I have lying around. Some might be excerpts from the ‘old’ Gabby and Tock before I rebooted them for “Manifestation.” Some will be other characters I wrote in the same setting with them. Some will just be old story ideas I never did anything with. Hopefully, though, they’ll all be interesting.

And if you follow me on Twitter (@cantrelljason) feel free to nudge/nag/remind me if I forget!

I’m on Goodreads

I just signed up for Goodreads.  I’m still poking my way around the site, trying to get the hang of things.  Though since Goodreads has the ability to link to my Twitter account, I was already able to connect with a few hundred of my Tweeps and add them on Goodreads as well.  If I didn’t find you yet and you want to ‘friend’ me, feel free to send me an invite!

I also have very little idea right now how Goodreads, y’know, works.  I’m open to any suggestions or advice about how to proceed.  I’ve written a couple of book reviews, but I’m not sure how many other options there are.  It seems like a rather extensive site and I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface.

And with any luck, my own book will be added and made available review… once I finish revising and get it published!

A New Goal

So, after getting back into revisions yesterday, I checked my ongoing progress and decided on a new goal.  I have exactly 200 pages left to revise as of this moment.  It’s three minutes from midnight, and that will give me sixteen full days left in February (too bad it’s not a leap year).

I would REALLY like to have Draft Three completed by March 1st.  Then I can get it out to beta readers and start getting some serious feedback.  Therefore I am setting a goal of TWELVE AND A HALF PAGES PER DAY from now until the end of the month.  If I can keep up with this goal (and that’s a BIG ‘if’), I can finish revisions by March.

I don’t know how it’ll go, what with school and all. But I’m setting the goal, and I’m going to try my hardest to keep up with it.

Wish me luck.

Back in the Saddle

So over the past week, when I’ve revised at all, it’s only been like, a page.

Tonight I managed 8 pages.

I still don’t consider that to be much, compared to what I was doing before the new school semester started.  The heavy load of reading for classes has been bogging me down.  I’m working on catching up on it and (hopefully) will be caught up soon and be able to set up a more regular schedule for myself.

In the meantime, I squeeze work in where I can, when I can.

Here’s hoping I manage another 8+ tomorrow.  I’ve got 160 to go in Draft Three.  If, somehow, I could manage 8 pages every day (it was about an hour’s worth of work), I could be done this draft within three weeks.

A Poem and a Story

I’d like to tell you a story about a poem.

The main character of my novel, Manifestation, is a girl named Gabby Palladino. Gabby is a poet, and I study a lot of poetry as part of her character development. I’ve also written a number of in-character poems for Gabby that are based on her experiences in the novel. I’ve mentioned on the blog before that some of these poems have been published, and you can read a few online (“Shadow,” “Peace,” and “I Think I Felt My Soul Today” are all on the blog).  The one you see below is one of the first poems I wrote, long before Manifestation was ever published.  It represents a rather dark period in Gabby’s life, where her thoughts turn to mortal sins.

You should read the poem first, before I tell you about the curious consequences it brought.  Keep in mind that this poem represents the emotional state of Gabriella Palladino after the tragic events she lived through in Manifestation. In other words, it’s based on a fictional character’s reaction to fictional events.

“Prayer of Life”

Dearest Lord, I beg you please
As I pray, here on my knees
Forgive my sins, and my mistake
Forgive the life I had to take

Forgive my heart, forgive my soul
And know it never was my goal
To take a life with my own hand
Oh please, Lord, don’t let me be damned

I used to think my soul you’d keep
But now my sins may run too deep
To earn forgiveness. What’s the cost?
Is my soul already lost?

Please God don’t let it be true
Too late to come back to you
Must I wander, on my own?
My soul forgotten, my sins unknown?

Please God, I don’t want to die
Without ever knowing why
This curse, this power came to me
Oh, when will cruel fate let me be?

Tortured, lost, and all alone
But the choices were my own
To leave, to live and never know
What fate my future might next show

Please, God, it’s to you I pray
I just don’t know what else to say
My tears fall down upon my bed
My own blood I would gladly shed

But that’s the greatest sin of all
To take my own life, I would fall
From whatever grace I’ve left
My soul, the devil’s final theft

But damnation, I deserve
So if I can just find the nerve
I may just do it anyway


I may just do it anyway…

As with “Shadow,” “Peace,” and a few others, this poem was submitted one year to Avant, the Rowan University literary magazine.  I was hoping to get the poem individually published before I included it in a collection of Gabby’s poetry for Arcana Revived. It was rejected, but did receive a rather unique bit of feedback.  Here is an email I received after this poem was submitted for review:

Dear Jason,

I am the emergency on-call counselor this weekend for Rowan’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center. I am contacting you because of the poem you submitted to Avant, which has worried a number of people. I have read it over as well, and am also very concerned about you and would like to speak with you as soon as you get this email.

Please call me at ***-***-**** no matter what time you get this message.

****************, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Rowan University

I removed the therapist’s name for confidentiality purposes.

When I received this email, I cracked up laughing.  The poem was, quite obviously, intended to have the sound of a suicide note.  I was drawing upon the tragic events of Gabby’s life in order to make it sound as dark as possible.  Apparently, it was SO dark that someone at the literary magazine thought that I, the author, was suicidal!

I cleared it all up by explaining to both the psychologist and the literary magazine staff that the poem was written entirely from the fictional perspective of a character in my novel.  Yet I couldn’t stop cracking up, and the reaction gave me quite a sense of pride.  Despite the fact that it had been rejected for publication, it clearly had an impact on the people that read it.  It was dark enough to make those who read it fear for my personal safety.  I consider this a huge compliment, since that’s exactly the feeling I want to invoke in the reader . . . as long as it’s Gabby, not me, that they’re worried for. She was most definitely suicidal at the time of the poem, and I’m glad that a professional therapist thought that I expressed that realistically.

One of the most important parts in writing a novel is making the reader care about your characters.  It’s an issue that I struggle with constantly.  In order for this novel to work, the reader must care about Gabby and what happens to her.  One of the reasons I’ve written her in-character poems is to draw upon the reader’s emotions, with the hope of forming an empathetic connection between Gabby and the reader.  It’s my hope that if a poem like this can draw such a profound response, then maybe the entire novel will have the strong emotional impact I’m striving for.

Of course, if you want to learn what Gabby went through to put her in this frame of mind, well, that’s another story.

(This post was edited and updated on 10-27-14.)


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

A Little Peek At Bad Ass Tock

Revisions continue to be very slow at the moment.  I’m working right now on getting caught up (as much as I can) on school work.  I’m currently done about 1/6 of what I need to have done by next Thursday.  My goal is to push through all of the school readings/assignments before the end of Monday.  Then I can have a nice long revision session Monday and plenty of free time Tuesday and Wednesday.

At least, that’s the plan.

Meanwhile, writing on Book Two continues.  The main reason I’m able to work on writing instead of revisions is that I can write on my cell phone at work.  Usually I do this during slow periods when there’s nothing else to do (and before you think I’m a bad worker, I’m usually doing this while the cooks are watching music videos on their phones, one manager is watching a soccer game, and the other manager is playing games on his phone).  I also get some writing done on the phone at other times, such as when I’m at the laundromat, when I’m waiting in between classes at school, and when I’m standing in a long line at the store.  These environments aren’t the most conducive to revisions instead of writing (and the App I use for writing is text-only, so I can’t revise without losing formatting).  Thus I am able to squeeze in writing here and there, wherever I can, but I can’t do the same for revisions.

Since I’m making good progress on the sequel (26,000 words and counting), I thought I should post another little preview of it here.  I’m not currently doing a post-by-post draft as I did with Book One, but I like to give some sneak peeks here and there nonetheless.  I was also especially proud of this scene:

“Oh shit,” one cop said.

“YOU ‘URT MY BABY!” Tock screamed. She reached into her tool belt and pulled out a handful of thick screws. She hurled them with the force of a shotgun firing, the collected energy from the bullets channeled into them and magnified a dozen fold with the extra mana she charged into it. The second cop was pelted with glowing shards of metal that pierced his flesh and punched clean through the other side.

It needs polishing (this is an unrevised first draft I wrote in between pizza orders at work).  But I like the way Tock is coming along with her powers, her attitude, and her badassery.  Yes, badassery is a word, I don’t care if Spellcheck is putting a red squiggly under it right now as I type this.  Screw you, Spellcheck!

A Severe Lack of Revisions

According to the “properties” of my .doc file for “Manifestation,” the file for Draft 3 was “Created ‎Friday, ‎December ‎28, ‎2012, ‏‎3:21:50 AM.”  It was last “Modified ‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎29, ‎2013, ‏‎1:08:47 AM.”

That means that after working steadily on it almost every day for over a month, I haven’t touched it in 9 days.

Most of this has been because of school.  I’m three weeks into my newest semester at Rowan University.  I’ve had a lot of reading to do (though no real homework assignments yet, other than reading).  I’m still adjusting to my new schedule.  I’m trying to develop a new routine that lets me fit school and revisions in at the same time.  This past week or so was quite a failure.

BUT I haven’t given up.  It’s just a bump in the road.  Tonight is the first night in a week I’m getting back to revisions.  I have no homework or readings due until next Tuesday, which gives me all weekend to work on them.  Which means I’ll put them off until Monday and do them all Monday night.

So I’m about to dive into that, for a minimum of an hour tonight. Wish me luck!