Virus, Episode One

Tuesday, AC April 4

(AC stands for accepted calendar, the calendar that all Stations have chosen to use)

It’s been three months since we left our heroes, cleaning up Station 86 after the AI dog attack. The station of First Contact is shaken and its people are afraid.

Most of them expected that living on a space station, too far away from Earth for direct communication to be possible, was going to be dangerous. Perhaps they hadn’t expected the dangers, like terrorists and human error, would be so familiar.

The station had suffered a great loss of life. Many of those lost had been police officers, fighting to protect civilians. The station’s police training program had stepped up its recruiting efforts and hurried its program. Officers were promoted to detectives and replaced with new, hastily trained cadets. Commissioner Schultz said to them that, as she was green herself, they would learn together.

This learning was taking place with varying degrees of success, much to the dismay of Detective Sennett Montgomery. Still without a partner, she’s been assigned to work with the cadets who haven’t mastered all of the skills they need to be on the streets. Whether they’ll survive to reach the streets has yet to be determined.

She stood behind a row of such cadets in the shooting range. Her hair, caught in thousands of braids, was pulled well away from her face in a ponytail. She wore simple jeans and a police t-shirt, with the 86 stars over her heart. The cadets were dressed the same. They aimed at a row of human-shaped targets set roughly twenty yards away. From the looks on their faces, an observer might have thought the targets were prepared to shoot back.

“Let’s try it again,” Sennett said, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Fire when ready.”

The cadets fired. Some of the targets fluttered or staggered, hit off center. Others didn’t move at all.

“You guys know you have sights on the air guns for a reason, right?” Sennett asked, “It’s not cheating if you use them, I promise.”

“Why do we have to do this?” one girl whined, “My aunt said you needed people to do paperwork and stuff like that. I mean, I know we all have to go through the training, but we don’t really need it.”

Sennett had to resist grabbing the girl by the ear and shaking her. “What’s your name?” she asked.

“Alexis,” the girl said.

“Alexis, your aunt’s a filthy liar. We need people for everything, especially officers to walk a beat. And even if you are going to ride a desk, you’ll still need to know how to shoot. You wear the uniform, your job is to serve and protect. So you need to know how to protect people with an air rifle.”

“But you saved the whole station with a disrupter,” a young man said. Sennett thought his name might be Bill. “Why aren’t we training with them?”

“Disrupters are illegal,” Sennett said.

“You have one,” a ma’sheed girl named A’vril said.

“I don’t,” Sennett replied, “I turned mine in after the AI dog attack.” She stamped on a button on the floor, setting the targets back in place. “Try again. Use your damn sights this time.”

She took a few steps away from the cadets as they took a few shots. Her wrist pad was blinking, indicating that she had messages.

The first one was from her brother, Mason. Going to Godfrey’s food cart, can’t get April from school. I’ll grab dinner.

Sennett sighed with relief. If she had to get April, she had an excuse to leave early.

The next message was from Liam, her new roommate. Hey, Sen. Simulator battery is wearing out. I’d go get another one but, you know, I can’t. Peace.

“Probably used it all up making junk food,” Sennett muttered. Reluctantly, she went back to her cadets.

A’vril was aiming for one of the targets. She took a deep breath and fired. The target fell, snapping onto the ground with a satisfying sound that Sennett hadn’t heard all day. “I did it!” A’vril cried, jumping into the air with her weapon still in her hand. When she landed her finger hit the trigger, this time unintentionally. The blast of air hit Alexis, throwing her back several feet.

“Oh, shit,” Sennett said, “A’vril! Put down your weapon and get running on the track. Can someone help Alexis up?”


Sennett looked behind her as Bill hurried to help a groaning Alexis to her feet. Commissioner Schultz was walking towards her, also dressed in training clothes. Everyone in the room except for Alexis stood at attention.

“Commissioner,” Sennett said, “How can we help you?”

“I just came down to see how our new officers were doing,” Schultz said, “When do you think they’ll be ready?”

“When Hell freezes,” Sennett snapped, casting a glair in A’vril’s direction.

“Why don’t we stop here for the day,” Schultz said, “all except for A’vril. You can keep running for a while.”

To the girl’s credit, the only credit Sennett had seen fit to give her that day, she didn’t complain. She just continued to run.

“Sennett, do you have time to talk?” Schultz asked.

“Haven’t you been here since six this morning?” Sennett asked. Even so she went to the rang, and lifted one of the weapons.

“I have,” Schultz said, “I’m getting ready to go home. But I like to shoot for a while before I head out. It relaxes me.”

“I guess you could use some sort of relaxation,” Sennett said as Schultz selected another air gun. “With the state of these recruits, I fear for the lives of everyone in the station.”

She stomped on the lever to bring the targets in place.

“Don’t worry too much,” Schultz said, “Remember, you’re working with people who need extra help. Not all of them are in such bad shape. That’s why I wanted you to work with them.”

Schultz fired once, twice, three times. The targets snapped cleanly against the floor.

“I thought it was because I was bored at a desk,” Sennett said.

“You were the one who’s been complaining about being bored,” Schultz said.

“Of course I’m complaining. You’ve got me doing paperwork and making schedules.” Sennett set up the targets and started firing. The targets snapped into place, but that didn’t surprise Sennett. They were only set up for twenty-five yards.

“What do you expect of me? You don’t have a partner. We don’t assign lone detectives to cases. I could put you back in blues and have you walking a beat again. But I thought you deserved better than that. Put the targets back, please?”

Sennett grimaced, then changed the settings to forty-five feet. “Sorry I broke the one you gave me, Commissioner,” she said, “In my defense, she was a useless fat sack of fat.”

“Is that how you talked to her?” Schultz asked, taking her shots.

“You know I didn’t,” Sennett said, as all the targets snapped back, “I was polite to a fault until I caught her taking bribes from that drug ring.”

She set up the targets again. “Then she had the audacity to accuse me of colluding with gun runners because Liam’s under house arrest at my place.”

“That’s only because he didn’t have a house to arrest him under,” Schultz said, watching Sennett knock the targets down.

Sennett replaced the target. This time, she set them at sixty feet.

“You’ve been through a hell of a lot in the last year,” Schultz said, “Your foster mother died in front of you, your little brother, your daughter, and the whole station. You didn’t take a single day off after that.”

“I didn’t really have the option,” Sennett said, “We had assassins on the station.”

“And you saved us, along with your friend Godfrey,” Schultz said, “You’re a hero.”

“I’m not a hero,” Sennett said.

Schultz shot, knocking down the first two targets. The third, farthest from her, only shuddered. “Hum, I need to get in here more,” Schultz said, “Anyway, we’d all barely caught our breath before the station was attacked by AI dogs. While we were dealing with that, the whole station found out that your daughter was half Khloe. You can’t tell me that you haven’t being harassed over that.”

Sennett fired three times, knocking all three targets down. “How about we leave my daughter out of this conversation?”

“Okay,” Schultz said, “let’s talk about something else. How long have you been wearing that caffeine cuff?”

Sennett glanced down at the copper colored band on her wrist. “You know that members of The Core are still around. April’s a target,” she said.

“Then I’ll send some uniforms to keep an eye on you, “ Schultz said.

“No,” Sennett said, “We’re short staffed as it is.”

“It’s not your job to worry about that,” Schultz said. She sat the air gun down and turned to look at Sennett. “I want you to take some personal time. A couple weeks, paid.”

Sennett sat her gun down as well. “Am I being suspended?” she asked.

“Of course not,” Schultz said. “But you need rest. You need to heal, physically and emotionally. I’d say the same to any of my women, not just station heroes.”

“I am not a hero,” Sennett said again, “and I don’t need to be taken care of.”

Schultz sighed. “Alright, I guess that wasn’t the right way to do this. Sennett, I know you’ve been carrying a lead bullet weapon,” She turned to give her a hard stare. “Look, I’ve been dancing around it, but you are messed up right now. Anyone would be, in your situation. But a messed up detective who’s starting to ignore the law endangers the whole station.”

Sennett opened her mouth to protest, but Schultz held a hand up. “It could be a suspension if you want.”

“Fine,” Sennett said. “I guess I could use some time off.”

On the transit home, Sennett tried to see the positive side of the situation. At least if she wasn’t going to work, maybe she could get some sleep during the day.

That is if she was able to sleep during the day any better than she could sleep at night.

She left the transit on level three, the level that housed the elementary and grade schools. It was crowded with children and teachers, hurrying to and from classes. Many people recognized Sennett and waved greetings.

Some gave her dark or suspicious looks. She made a point of smiling widely at them. She’d been dealing with the looks, and the comments, since the station had found out that April’s father had been Khloe. She didn’t think it was worth her time to get upset about it. The stares and whispers of the casual racist couldn’t hurt April. Terrorists could.

When she reached the lower grade playground she saw a crowd of kids. April and her friend Khal’Lee were visible right away. Khal’Lee because he, like all other Ma’sheed, had glowing skin.

April stood out for the same reason she would always stand out. She was half Earthian and half Khloe. Now that everyone knew, she no longer wore her seeming bracelet to pass as Earthian. She was taller than most of the children. Her hair was still soft and wild, brown like her eyes. But her skin was bright pink.

As Sennett walked towards the children, she noticed one of the playground monitors talking to a woman she didn’t recognize.

“Mommy!” April called, running over to her.

“Hey, Baby,” Sennett replied, catching April and giving her a big hug. “Do you know who that is?”

“No, Mommy,” April said.

“She’s visited the school a lot this week,” Khal’Lee said.

“Huh,” Sennett said.

Just then the woman saw her. She waived and walked down the fence towards them. “Detective Montgomery!” she called, “I was hoping to catch you.”

Sennett sat April down and said, “Stay here a minute, okay?”

“Okay,” April said.

Sennett walked over to the fence. “What can I do for you?” she asked.

“You’re April’s mom?” the woman asked, “She’s a beautiful little girl. Really extraordinary. But, I guess you already know that. Did you have a normal pregnancy with her? I mean, normal for an Earthian?”

“That seems like a personal and rude thing to ask someone you’ve just met,” Sennett said, crossing her arms.

“Right, right. Sorry, I get excited,” the woman said. She held out her hand. “I’m Doctor Oswald. I’m from Station 6, and I came to ask you some questions about April.”

“What exactly do you do, Dr. Oswald?” Sennett asked.

“I’m a genetic researcher,” the doctor replied, “We’re interested in learning more about the connections between the humanoid races.”

“I bet you are,” Sennett said.

“You see, April’s the first half-breed we’ve ever had. And she represents a wealth of information that we thought we’d never see. What we’d like is for you and her to come to Station 6 for a few days, maybe a week, to run some tests. Not anything big!” she held her hands up, just as Sennett was opening her mouth. “Not anything that would make your little girl uncomfortable. Just some basic blood work and observations on the two of you. And her father as well, of course.”

“You can’t have done much research,” Sennett snapped, “April’s father is dead. He died before she was born.”

“That is unfortunate, very unfortunate,” the doctor said, dropping the smile from her face. “Terrible, little girl growing up without the nurturing aspect of her father. Must be hard, being a single mom.”

“Yeah, it’s terrible, I’m a fighter, all that,” Sennett snapped.

“Anyway, of course we wouldn’t ask you to come just out of charity,” the doctor said. “My company is prepared to offer you a substantial amount of money for your time.”

“I don’t really need money,” Sennett said, “I have a good job and my house is paid for.”

“Of course, of course,” the doctor said. “I didn’t mean to suggest anything otherwise. And really, this shouldn’t be about money. It should be about the benefit to all of humankind. The knowledge we might gain April is incredible. Are you the only woman who can carry a child from another race? What is it about you and her father that worked to produce a child when so many other couples have failed. I’m sure you can see how valuable she can be.”

“I understand my daughter’s value, yes,” Sennett said. “I’m sorry, I’m not interested. I value my privacy highly.”

“I don’t think I’m making myself clear,” Dr. Oswald said. “We wouldn’t be doing anything troubling or invasive to your daughter. As I said, it’s just-,”

“Just some blood work and observation, I understand,” Sennett said. “You’ve made yourself quite clear, Doctor. Please, don’t take this as a personal rejection. It’s just that I hate the thought of my child becoming a lab experiment. Sorry you made the trip for nothing, Station 6 is a long way away.”

Before the doctor could respond Sennett turned, took April by the hand, and started towards the transit.

“Mommy, what did that lady want?” April asked, adjusting her backpack. “Did she see a crime happen?”

“No, Baby,” Sennett said, “she wanted to run tests on you.”

“Why?” April asked.

“You know why,” Sennett said, giving her hand a squeeze. “In the whole universe, you’re the first person to ever have a mom and dad who were from different planets. The doctors want to find out how you happened.”

“So that other people can have kids, even if they’re from different planets?” April asked.

“That’s right,” Sennett said.

“Like Mr. Godfrey and his wife?” April asked.

The transit train arrived, and they boarded. Sennett waited until they’d found a seat before she said, “Yeah, like Godfrey and Ki.”

“But they really want to have a baby. Can’t we do the tests, and so maybe it will help them?”

“It’s not that simple,” Sennett said.

“But why not?” April asked.

Sennett sighed. “Don’t worry about it, Honey, okay? That’s grownup stuff.”

April looked confused but didn’t push the issue further.

Bailey was waiting for them when they walked through the door, sitting politely with his tail wagging. He was an artificial intelligence terrier, with a silver body and the unnerving habit of behaving like a dog of flesh.

“Go put your shoes away and get started on your homework,” Sennett said, “I’ve got to get this installed and start dinner.”

“Okay, Mommy,” April said, but it was an empty promise. She was kneeling on the floor, stroking the dog. He opened his mouth and dropped a green rubber ball on the carpet for her.

“Bailey, no,” Sennett said, “not until her homework’s done.”

The dog scooped the ball back up right away. April groaned, but headed for her room.

Liam was sitting at the kitchen table, flipping through screens of text. He glanced up when Sennett entered the room.

The former gun runner was a tall, thin man with muscles that Sennett hadn’t been able to see under his oversized coat when he’d first arrived at her doorstep. His hair was nearly shaved. He closed his screens when he saw her. “What was that?” she asked.

“Letter from some friends,” Liam replied, “Did you get my message?”

“I got it,” she said, opening the side of the simulator to shove the cell in. “What did you do today?”

“Read some, ran the vacuum,” he said, giving a theatrical sigh.

“Yes, I am aware that you’re bored,” Sennett said, sitting down at the table. “And for the next few weeks, we’ll be bored here together. I have to take a vacation.”

“A vacation? That don’t sound like you,” Liam said.

“It’s not,” Sennett said, “Commissioner Schultz thinks I need some time away.”

“That ain’t a bad idea,” Liam replied, “Some time away from the station, in general, might be good for both of you.”

“I can’t leave, the school year hasn’t ended yet,” she said. “I don’t want this situation to effect April too much.”

“You don’t want the fact that a terrorist group is going to be hunting April as soon as they know she exists to affect her?” Liam asked, raising an eyebrow.

Sennett was walking, arm in arm with Lo. He was smiling at her, his pink crystal-like hair catching the lights above them. She noticed that he had a little gravy on his cheek. She laughed, licking her thumb to wash it off with.

“Stop that,” he laughed, “I can get it.”

“Sorry,” Sennett laughed, “It’s what my mom used to do if there was something on my face.”

He pulled a napkin from his pocket and wiped his face. “You are going to be a great mom,” he said.

Sennett heard the click, and she realized what was happening. It wasn’t real, it wasn’t ever real.

Even so, she saw Lo’s smile fade into a look of surprise. He fell against her, bringing them both to the ground.

Hot blood covered her as she tried to see the wound. It wasn’t real, it couldn’t be real.

Sennett sat up in bed. The feel of hot blood on her skin was replaced by the sweat that had soaked through her nightclothes. Tears were streaming down her face.

She got out of bed, stripping her clothes off and throwing them in the bin in disgust. It had been over five years. Was she going to dream about the night Lo died for the rest of her life? She pulled on a fresh pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, then stumbled out into the living room.

Liam was asleep on the couch. The lights were off, but the wall screen was on. Mason, Sennett’s little brother, was sitting in one of two armchairs. With pale skin, a soft build and dark hair, it was clear to anyone that they weren’t siblings by birth.

“Thought Liam was staying up tonight,” Sennett said, taking the other armchair.

“He was, but I couldn’t sleep,” Mason replied, “Kept hearing things outside. It’s just some stray cat, but, well, you know.”

“Yeah, I know,” Sennett said. “Someone came to April’s school today. A doctor. She offered me a lot of money to let her company run tests on April.”

“What kind of tests?” Mason asked.

“Blood work and observation on Station 6. She said it’s to help couples like Godfrey and Ki have kids.”

“But you said no?” Mason asked.

“Of course I did,” Sennett said, “Those kinds of tests get shared, which means April’s name would get shared. So far only Station 86 knows about April. It’s safer that way.”

She tapped her earpiece so that she could hear the show without waking Liam. They’d both still be there when the exterior lights came on for the day.

Missed Seeming or You Can’t Trust The AI? Click here to get caught up.

Virus is now available, with a bonus extended ending. Click here to download now.

Copyright © 2017 by Nicole C. Luttrell

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law

You Can’t Trust The AI is just 99 cents, starting today!

Have you gotten your copy of You Can’t Trust The AI? Do you want to get it before Virus starts tomorrow?

Today’s the day to do it, because it’s only 99 cents!

Sennett, Godfrey and the rest of Station 86 are trying to put their society back in order after the Core attack. Then a mysterious ship from a dying station arrives, bringing artificially intelligent robotic, murderous dogs.

Godfrey, Mason and April must get to the hospital safely, while Sennett is trying to protect Marshal’s Joy and Howard. But the AI dogs are nothing compared to the terrors they left behind on their own station.

Click here to get your copy today!


2017 Writers Gift Guide

Every year I post a gift list for writers and readers. So every year, it becomes harder not to repeat myself more than I already do. I really had trouble when I sat down this year, trying to think of something that hasn’t already been suggested. I didn’t just want to post a list of links to things that you can buy that happen to be super popular right now.

Basically, what I’m saying is that this post is going to ramble a little. I have some direct suggestions, a little bit of advice, and some links. None of these is affiliate, I’m not making any money if you click on these.

To start off, here are links to my 2015 and 2016 lists.

One thing I try to do every year is suggest gifts that you can give people that don’t cost any money, only time. Normally I suggest things that other people can do for writers. But, as many of you are writers yourself, I thought I’d give you a list of things you can do for your family.

  • Plan a whole day off, as often as you can, to be a parent, partner, friend. This is one that I try to do at least once a month. Most days, I feel like I’m focusing on my to-do list, and not my kids and spouse. I decided to change that in 2017. I planned coffee shop trips and date nights with the kids and my darling husband, to make sure that I’m getting one on one time with all of them. But we also plan fun days. These are whole days I don’t do any writing or chores. We both just focus on the kids and each other.
  • Remember your supportive family. The people in your life who help you out with your writing. Maybe they take the kids off your hands so you can write. Maybe they pick up extra chores to give you more time. Maybe they just listen to your endless writing rants. Whatever it is, give them some extra love back. Pick up some chores for them, or watch their kids.

And if you do want to spend money on someone, I have three suggestions for you.

  • A subscription to a subscription box that will make your loved one’s life easier. Snack subscriptions are awesome, but get creative! There’s a subscription box that sends hair ties and bobby pins every month! Because those suckers are sentient and they do run back to the manufacturer to be resold and we all know it.
  • Donate to Puerto Rico relief or their favorite charity of choice.
  • Finally, I can’t suggest enough the YBY 2018. Literally, I already have the digital version and have read it like three times. Oh, and this year Lisa made one for nonbusiness type people! Which I think was brilliant. Because not everyone is a crazy person who’s trying to start their own business. Some people are just living their lives. This will help them live their lives better.

Oh, and here are some gifts that I have for you!

Seeming, Station 86 Book One, is totally free this weekend, for Black Friday and Cyber Monday! Click here to get a totally free e-copy for yourself or as a gift. (You don’t have to tell anyone it was free.)

You Can’t Trust The AI will be on sale from November 28th to the 30th. It’s only 99 cents. You can have both of the books, spend only a dollar, and be totally ready for Virus when it starts on the 29th. Don’t forget both Seeming and You Can’t Trust The AI have extra episodes that were never on PBW.

I hope this quick gift list helps you out this holiday season. And please post below, telling us the best gift anyone has ever given you below.

Seeming is free this weekend!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Personally, I’m spending the day enjoying leftovers and writing out my Christmas cards.

Something that you should be doing today is downloading Seeming for free! Because to celebrate the premiere of Virus next week, Seeming is going to be free until Monday. Don’t forget, it has an extra episode that was never published on PBW.

Station 86 is shocked when a Khloe assassin begins killing members of the all-powerful council. Officer Sennett Montgomery and Councilman Godfrey Anders swear to find the assassin after Godfrey’s wife is falsely accused. But the killer and the council itself are not what they seem. Neither, as it turns out, is Sennett’s daughter.

Here’s a link

Get the book for yourself, or as a gift for someone. Happy holidays.


Working around your kids

My kids attend cyber school. That means that they’re always home, all of the time! Which means if I’m going to work at home, I have to work alongside them.

This used to be harder than it is now. They’re teenagers now, and when they were little kids it was way more of a challenge. But even when they were little, I got stuff done. And they never caught the house on fire, which I consider a plus.

It’s a hard thing to master, but if you can work while your kids are at home, you’re going to be a lot better off. Here’s what I do to get it done.

Check in with them before you start.

Transitioning from one activity to another can be hard for kids. Especially if they’re transitioning into something that they might not like. My kids are teenagers, and I still use some specific phrases.

We’ll be cleaning up in five minutes so we can start making dinner.”

“I’m going to turn the tv off after this episode because it’s time to do your homework.”

It’s going to be time to take a shower in five minutes.”

Here are some things you might notice about these phrases.

  • They give a specific amount of time, 5 minutes. This gives enough time to prepare, but not enough time to forget.
  • I clearly say what we are going to transition into.
  • They don’t leave room for arguments.

So, if I know that I need to spend some time answering emails from clients, or writing, or editing, I will say to my kids, “In five minutes I’m going to go into my office and work for an hour. If you have anything you need from me, please tell me in the next five minutes.”

It’s clear, it’s specific, and it doesn’t leave room for arguments. In fact, it does one other thing. It gives my kids the opportunity to say or do anything that they need to before I get to work.

Establish a few simple rules and enforce them.

It’s important to establish certain rules with your work time. Your rules are going to vary, depending on your own specific situation and child. And they’ll change as they get older. Your rules should include what’s okay to interrupt for because there will always be some things that they have to interrupt you for. Your rules should also include how long you’re going to work. This is probably the most important rule. I know it can be easy to get into a grove when we’re working. We love our work, after all, or we wouldn’t be doing it.

But your kids are way more important. And they need to know that they can trust you when you say you’ll be wrapping up at a certain time. If they can be sure of that, then they’ll be more able to allow you this time. More than that, they’ll know that you will keep your promises to them.

The important thing with all of your rules though is consistency. You can’t waffle on a rule one day and expect them to honor that rule tomorrow. And, why should they? Keep just a few rules, and stick to them religiously.

Have some work time toys or videos.

I used to do this more when my kids were little. We’d have a box of toys and DVD’s that were just for Mom’s work time. As little as three, they knew that these were the special toys, that they could only play with when work time came.

This made the time not only bearable for them but pleasant. They learned that mom having her own time meant that they had their own time to do something fun alone.

Learning to play alone, in fact, spend time alone, is an important skill for everyone. Sadly, it’s something that not everyone learns. This time that you spend working can be a time that your kids spend learning how to be happy, all by themselves.

They might like to help you

Depending on what you do, your kids might be able to help you out. I obviously don’t have my kids editing client work for me. But they can help pack books to send to people. If you have a physical product, your kids might be able to help pack things or sort things. They might be able to help clean brushes or sweep up. Or, they might just like to sit near you and do an art project. Or write their own short story. Anything you can do to include them in your work is good for all kinds of reasons.

First off, it’s time you’re spending with them, and being productive at the same time. It’s the best case scenario when you think about it. You can’t do all of your work with your kids, but you can do some of it.

Letting your kids help you also encourages them to equate work with enjoyable activities. We don’t really teach kids that they should like their jobs. We teach them to look for jobs that have good security, and that will pay well. But that’s not going to really make them happy. You’re trying to start your own business so that you can do something you think is fun. Why not introduce your kids to that concept? Wouldn’t it be nice if your kids sought out jobs where they were happy with what they’re doing?

Don’t plan work time during homework time.

This used to be my default. It seemed like such a good idea, right? They’re busy, so you can be busy too!

Except that your kid might need your help while they’re working on homework. Or they think they do. Or they don’t think they do, but they really do. Anytime I tried to do work while my kids were doing homework, I was barraged by questions. Or, I found out that they didn’t do their work at all, because, “I needed your help, but you said I couldn’t bother you when you’re working.”

I usually try to do social media stuff while my kids do their homework. I can pick that up and set it down as needed.

Here are your actionable items this week-

  • Set up a few rules for when you’re working at home. Make sure that you and your kids can stick to them.
  • Make a work time box for your kids, with toys, books or movies that they’re only allowed while you’re working.

Happy Thanksgiving

If you live in the states, I hope you find the time to read this. I know it’s Thanksgiving week, and I’m sure you’re busy. So I’ll make it brief.

I spend November focusing on gratitude for all of the great things I have in my life. I feel like Thanksgiving is a highly underrated holiday, more of a carbo load to prep for Black Friday. But I really love this whole month long love fest for the things that we have.

One thing I’m exceptionally grateful for is you.

I say it often, but I don’t think I can ever say it enough. I appreciate every single person who reads Paper Beats World. 2017 has been a great year for me, writing-wise, and you were all a huge part of that. Sometimes writing online can feel like screaming into a crowd of other people screaming. So your likes, shares, and comments mean the world to me.

I always try to find ways to give back to you, for all the love that you’ve given me. And I realized that I have a lot of new followers recently who might not know about something I did earlier this year.

I have two collections of short stories that are totally free. They’re available on Gumroad. Here are links to both.

Days, and Other Stories


They download into your Google Books if you have that. While many of the stories have appeared either on PBW or in other publications, there are at least two never before seen stories in each collection.

Now, I really want to ask two favors of you. I know that Friday is the official start of the Christmas season, and a lot of you reading this are eager to get out there and do some serious shopping.

I would ask you, please, to not hit the stores at crazy stupid hours.

Look, I used to work retail. When we opened our store at 5:00 in the morning, that was super fun! People were excited, we were excited. It was a fun day. And, my team and I were still able to enjoy Thanksgiving with our families. I had to go to bed early, but not super early.

Then we started opening at 7:00 on Thanksgiving night. And staying up all night long. That meant that retail managers, like myself, were not able to celebrate the holiday with our families. I actually worked from 6:00 on Thanksgiving night until 9:00 Black Friday morning. And guess what, retailers aren’t going to stop doing this sort of things to their employees until people start telling them that it’s wrong. Trust me, the people who work in these stores don’t have a choice. There’s a strong feeling in retail that everyone is replaceable. Stores don’t have any trouble replacing even an entire team, even in the middle of the holidays. Please help.

The other thing I would ask you is this, and I’ve said it before.

Do the things for the holidays that you want to do, not what you think you’re supposed to do. Bake cookies if you want to bake cookies. Decorate if you want to decorate. Send cards to people you actually want to keep in contact with. Buy or make gifts for people who it brings you joy to buy for! Christmas has a crazy high suicide rate, please don’t add to that.

Happy Thanksgiving. Please enjoy the time with your family.

Keeping a future ideas log

Sometimes in business and writing, you’re stuck. You know you need to be doing something, creating something new or something different. You need a project, damn it!

I usually don’t have that problem. I usually have way more ideas at one time than I can realistically work on. This is the best of problems to have, like having too much coffee.

It can also blow. You’ll run into the same situation I often find myself in. You can’t work on everything, or you won’t get anything done. You can’t let progress slow to a crawl on the project you’re working on right now to give into the excitement of a new project. Worse, you can’t give up on your current project because you think that this new idea is better. Spoiler, it’s probably not. It’s just that when you’re in the middle of a project when the excitement of the new thing is gone and the end game is a long way off, anything you work on seems crappy. Everything new seems so much better.

When I come up with a new idea, here’s what I do. I write down all of the details I have at the time. Anything that has already occurred to me in the midst of that first spark. I write it all down and keep it in an Evernote document. (I don’t use my bullet journal for this because I might very well move onto another one before I get to this idea. I don’t want to carry it over.) This gives me immediate satisfaction because it’s an action towards this new project. It also captures that excitement, I hope, and stores it until I’m ready.

I compare it to a trick I’ve learned from curbing compulsive shopping. For me, it comes from a feeling of lack. I feel like I don’t have money, I can’t have this thing I want. My stubborn streak comes out. But if I say, “I can have this, if I really want it,” then I usually don’t. If I say, “I’m not giving up on this new project, I’ll get to it when I’m done with this one,” I’m happy. I might even put a mark on my planner, three or four days after the deadline for the current project. This is enough to keep my inner child happy.

Having that new, shiny project looming is also an incentive to work on those projects might give you a push during the tough times of your current project. As we already discussed, and as you’ve probably experienced, every project is harder to work on after it’s cooled. When you need a little extra push, knowing that you have a next big idea can give you a little extra push. Hopefully, it’s not enough of a push for you to rush your current project and do a crappy job on it. Just enough of a push to get back to work.

Finally, I’m afraid I have some bad news. Not all of your ideas are the best. Not all of my ideas are the best. No one comes up with nothing but stellar ideas. But in the heat of a new idea, everything seems awesome! Everything’s not. Sometimes distance will help you figure out if this one’s good or not. There’s a good chance that when you go to your future ideas log, you’re going to realize that your brilliant idea is shit. In giving yourself some time, you might save yourself some time by avoiding devoting time to a bad idea.

Here are your actionable items for the week. Open a document on whatever you like to keep notes in. I like Evernote, but that’s up to you. Title your document Future Idea Log. Now, promise yourself that you won’t finish the project you’re working on right now. If a new idea comes to you, give it some headspace. Give it space on this document. Then get back to work.

I’m going to take a little break this week from promotional writing and business advice. I’m doing this for a long overdue rant that I hope benefits you. I hope that because if I don’t say something about this I’m going to lose my ever-loving mind.

A little background, first. I watch Leah Remini’s show about Scientology. I love it. I’ll spare you my whole fangirl attack. The point is that I think what she and Mike Rinder are doing is important. So when I saw they were doing an AMA on Reddit, I might have lost it a little.

So while I’m scrolling through the questions and answers, sipping a coke and just feasting on the crazy cult stuff (I have weird interests, sorry) I came across a question that pissed me right the hell off.

Someone asked Leah who did her nails. She’s uncovering horror stories and secrets about Scientology, a cult that has ruined people’s lives. Who the hell cares about her nails?

Yeah, Leah looks pretty good on the show, I’m not going to lie. Her hair’s done, her nails are done. Her makeup’s on point and her wardrobe’s expensive. But that’s not the point of what she’s doing here! Hell, Mike looks good on the show, too! They both look like gasp a makeup crew worked on them before they were on national tv. Shocker. But I didn’t see anyone asking Mike who his hairstylist was.

This might seem petty. But I don’t think it is. We’re treated differently, as women in the business. Mom-prenuer, power suits, screw all of that. We’re all living under this cliche image of running our businesses with our babies on our hips while looking damn good. But we can’t look that good, or we’re too self-absorbed.

First off, no one heralds a man who’s going to college, going to work or starting businesses with babies in tow. Do people think we’re the only ones who do that? Single dad’s don’t exist, maybe? Or is it just shocking that a woman can do it too?

But I’m getting off topic.

The point is this; women who succeed are often still judged by their appearance. But let’s take a look at who’s doing the judging.

People who haven’t succeeded, or who haven’t succeeded as much.

I don’t mean to say that caring about your appearance is bad. I love me some Too Faced and Mac. But I’m a writer, not a fashion model.

So if someone starts talking to you about your looks, don’t take it. If you’re conducting a professional interview and someone wants to know about your weight, your makeup, your nails, then I’d advise you to look real hard at their credentials. Because the people I admire don’t give a shit about that. The people who are working, producing, earning, creating, don’t care if your nails are done or not.

Here’s your actionable item this week. Do as much or as little for your appearance as you want. Be happy with you. Then get back to the work. Because we’ve got more to give this world than our looks.

World building questions to answer for a more realistic world

If you’re participating in Nanowrimo, you should have 16,670 words by today

Are you struggling with world building? That’s okay, we all are. It’s probably the most time-consuming part of the planning process.

But it doesn’t have to be. Unless you are really writing an epic story that is more about the world that you’ve created than the characters, you can answer a few simple questions and get to story writing. And if you haven’t done any world building at all, now’s the time to start. Even if you’re writing a modern-day story with no magic at all, you should still figure out the answers to these questions. The world details are what make the story real for your reader. And, believe it or not, someday people might want to know how we lived in 2017.

What’s your character eating?

On Station 86, people eat simulated food, or small amounts of naturally grown food from Earth or one of the other humanoid planets. Godfrey’s a cook and loves cooking Earth American food for his customers. Sennett, always busy, drinks something called Klav every morning for breakfast. It’s a rich drink, a juice from a fruit grown on Khloe.

This tells us a ton about the world. It’s cheaper and easier to simulate food than growing or raise the original thing. The inclusion of food from other worlds tells us that people on Station 86 are open to other cultures.

Godfrey and Sennett’s food choices are telling about who they are. Godfrey is very Southern. He shows affection with food, takes care of people by feeding them, reacts to stress by cooking. He loves the recipes from his childhood and is very rooted in his history.

Sennett’s not one to put too much thought into her food. But she loves klav, and Khloe food in general because it reminds her of the husband she lost.

What are they wearing?

Traditional clothing from different worlds and countries tell us a lot. Are men or women held to the same level of modesty? Do they favor wools and furs, or light cotton? Do certain colors represent anything?

What your character is wearing, especially in relation to what is expected of them in their society, is telling.

What are they listening to?

What sort of music is popular in the world of your characters? This is all about setting the scene. Are string instruments popular? Do people play winds? Do people sing?

What kind of relationships do they have?

How are marriages handled in your world? Are they handled by families or because someone falls in love? Do people raise their own children?

Who lives with whom? Do you have extended families living together, or just nuclear ones? Do men and women live separately?

This gives you all sorts of ways to tell about the culture and what they value.

What pets do they keep?

People who live hard by don’t keep useless pets. They don’t have fluffy cats or toy sized dogs. They don’t have any animal that doesn’t have a job.

Does your character have a hardy sheepdog or a Pekinese? Do they have a rat chasing ban cat or a pampered tabby? Have they perhaps gone to extremes and own a pet that they keep in a cage and does nothing?

Where do they live?

Houses that people make are suited to the locations that they build in. In Pennsylvania, we build thickly walled houses because it gets freaking cold. In the city, we build tall apartments because space is at a premium. In the south, they build sprawling mansions with lots of windows to let in the breeze.

What’s the weather like in your world? What kind of houses do they build?

What kind of money do they use?

Do they even use money? I mean, that’s the first thing you need to decide. Lots of societies don’t use money. But if they do, who’s on their money? In Station 86, paper and coin money is only used on planets. The stations use credit systems.

Think about how people use money in your society. Is your character well off or struggling? These things will all factor into your character and the world.

At what age is someone considered an adult?

This is a factor that a lot of people don’t consider, but it’s more important than you think. The longer someone is considered a child, the longer life spans tend to be. So if your character’s nineteen and still considered a child, that would tell us something about the world. If your character’s 47 and considered seasoned, people don’t really live that long.

Take some time and answer these questions. Your world will be richer and more realistic for it.

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