Elliot Chan – The Network Executive (Short Story) By Rock Kitaro
Training to become a Paramour was about what one expect from any covert Special Forces operation. Except, we learned Tai Chi and a form of kung fu called Wushu. Also, the training didn’t take place over some eight-week boot camp period, but over the course of three years by which, you have to maintain the appearance of an everyday civilian by progressing in your respective fields. For me, that was in the TV industry. I got an entry job at MBC straight out of college and began working my way up as a production assistant.
The Paramours had posts all over the world. However, our headquarters was in this big country house in the English county of Derbyshire, right along the Derwent River, not far from the Chatsworth Estate. Its official title was the Leigh Estate. But the Paramours called it, Hollow Rock.
Many of the actual facilities were underground and shielded from aerial coverage, such as the firing range, the armory, and it’s inventory of the most badass vehicles I’ve ever seen. The first time I saw the place, it was breathtaking, the beauty of its green luscious splendor. It was vast, remote, and serene with singing birds and the trickle of creeks. Everything had this quaint, old British feel to it like a step back in time. Peaceful and soothing. It was just what I needed to accelerate the healing process…by which I was able to move on from the murder of my adoptive parents.
I reconnected with “Jake” at Hollow Rock. His real name was Col. Jacob Buchanan, having served in the Gulf War and conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo. His story was a sad story. I mean…damn. But I’ll let him tell you himself. Jake became my closest friend and confidant. I told him what happened to Marvin and Sharon and he commiserated with me.
I remember one of my first conversations with him, after I went through the inaugural training sessions and my peers saw that there was more to me than meets the eye. We were walking along the stone bridge over the clear stream of the Derwent when I asked him something that’s been on my mind since I joined.
“Here’s my problem with the Paramours. It’s sort of like the superhero in a comic book. They foil the evil plan but they don’t kill, so the villains keep coming back. I don’t get that. It’s illogical. You said the Paramours don’t kill. To know that this secret society exists but no one’s doing anything to make them public? We don’t even turn them into the authorities, so they just keep on killin’ and ruinin’ innocent lives. Does no one feel guilty about all that?”
Jake, with his cold blue eyes and crew cut, stared out over the river.
“Elliot, do you know what a Paramour is? By definition, do you know what a paramour is?”
A question with a question. Friggin love those.
“It’s like a person’s who’s loved the most.” I answered.
“It’s an illicit lover, a secret lover to a married person. In that sense, I think Lord Byron named us precisely when he founded the brotherhood. Granted, not all of us are married or have ever been married, the key word her is love. You never met your mom. Do you love her?”
His questions were getting annoying.
“I don’t know. I guess.”
He scoffed, shaking his head at me like the rookie I was.
“It’s like this, Ellie. When you’re here, we train you, we give you the tools and trust you to assist your brothers out in the field. If you kill, if you choose to kill, you’re no longer a Paramour. You’re not one of us. Not in your heart. But once you’re put in a position where you have that choice and you choose not to kill, you’ll know what it means to be one of us.”
“Alright, I get what you’re saying. You can’t kill the woman you love, sure. But what if someone else, what if one of your comrades kills the woman for you? Because you can’t do it yourself, but you know, you know without a shred out of doubt that the bitch needs to die. Like, put down. For good!”
He started chuckling.
I threw up my hands. “You get what I’m saying, right? When does it end? How does it end?”
“The same way it always ends.” He told me.
“Well!? Let’s hear it!”
“I can’t tell you, son. You stick around long enough, you’ll find out for yourself.”
Anyways…Marcus Angel was also there. I couldn’t believe it. When I came to Hollow Rock he was still in a coma due to his extensive injuries and to be honest, his situation didn’t look good. He was shot multiple times. He had broken ribs and a fractured skull. He was on life support, costing the organization $5,000 a day but they had no intention of giving up on him. It was endearing, their level of compassion. Of course I wouldn’t find out until later how much everyone was depending on him to regain consciousness.
It wasn’t just military training that I learned over the course of three years. The Paramours were all about refinement, the stuff of gentlemen. The education, the in-depth history taught to me was more than I ever knew existed. I learned six different languages and took acting classes to both suppress my emotions and convey the right ones to elicit any response I wanted. The Paramours focused on stealth, intelligence, and tactics of subterfuge. Perception was everything and like a chess master, I was conditioned to think five moves ahead.
After three years of training, the Paramours started taking me on missions in the field. At first, it was just to observe and shadow other experienced members. My non-descript Asian appearance was extremely helpful. It didn’t matter what country I was in, there was something about me that whispered, “nothing special” or “harmless foreigner.”
Then came the first mission where I had a more pertinent role. It was in the summer of 2018. The leading Paramour was a revolutionary named Arsen Masol. My unit was posing as documentary filmmakers and I was the cameraman. Arsen’s mission was to provide the authorities with proof that deputies within the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) were being blackmailed and coerced to stay in the European Union.
What does this have to do with the Paramours? I had no idea. And honestly, I didn’t need to know. It was Arsen’s mission. He had his reasons and we were there to support him. I never doubted for a second that when the time came, my newfound comrades would assist me in my personal mission as well.
That’s the thing about us Paramours…we’re intensely loyal. When you’re in hostile lands or investigating in countries where things like due process and evidence are laughed at like bar jokes, everyone’s afraid. The fear of death or imprisonment was inevitable. But we weren’t alone. Our comrades were with us. They had our backs.
We’ve been shot at. We’ve been wounded. We’ve been caught. We’ve been killed. But no one has ever revealed our existence to the outside world. Even the Society didn’t know about us. The Paramours who were declared dead to the world could never leave Hollow Rock. That included men like Marcus Angel. Should he ever reappear, he’d jeopardize us all.
After five years of running with the Paramours, it was my turn to step up to the plate. It was a difficult decision that I knew would change my life forever. Once I crossed the threshold, there was no coming back. From here on out, I’d have to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder. The Society wouldn’t stop until I was killed. That was the risk I was willing to take to find my mother.
Det. Griffin has gone mad. He’s just been through a traumatizing ordeal. Cloud explains why he was punished and in the midst of his self-righteous condemnation, Cloud discovers sins of his own.
The Slave Quarters
Chapter 20 – I’ve Seen Some Things
By Rock Kitaro
The next morning, Jessica, Leanne, and I arrive at the precinct promptly at nine. There was a vast difference on Moor Street between today and yesterday. No crowds. No screaming faces. Just littered trash.
The ladies pick up the pace as we step off the elevators. I end up falling behind with my hands in my pockets. There’s a square patch beneath my left eye to reduce the swelling. I’m pristine in my black suit and tie. One could safely assume I just came back from serving as a pallbearer. It wouldn’t be too far off from the truth.
It’s touching to see them all so concerned about Griffin’s well being. I understand why and I don’t blame them…but still…if only they knew what I knew I wonder if they’d be so quick to lend a helping hand. Yeah, probably. Perhaps that’s why the guilt’s beginning to gnaw at my conscience. In any case, it’s too late now. The damage is done.
On the 3rd floor, deputies and detectives are huddle around the desk closest to Griffin’s office. Agent Dixon sees Jessica and Leanne coming. He receives them with open arms. Leanne fires off question after question by which Dixon simply proceeds to nod. Jessica covers her mouth in shock. Everyone hears the click of a door handle and a round of shushing quells the conversations.
It’s Samantha Griffin…the wife. She leaves her husband’s office as two suits from Internal Affairs enter in her stead, closing the door behind them. I recognize Samantha from the photo on Griffin’s desk. That sandy blonde hair and the soft freckles bridging her nose, its Sam alright. She has the toned body of an avid tennis player, active and fit. She’s about my age, a couple of years younger than Griffin, but her tan complexion is now pale with grief.
Jessica and Leanne exchange awkward glances before approaching to introduce themselves. As soon as they reveal their involvement with the case, a despondent Sam breaks down in a gripping scene of tears, collapsing into Leanne’s arms. It’s as if she just learned her son was killed in combat. Leanne doesn’t know how to react. She keeps gawking up at Jessica but even Jessica’s at a loss of words.
Instinctively, Leanne lowers Samantha to the carpet and settles her against the side of a desk. There, she and Jessica console the wife with false promises about Griffin’s recovery. It’s all so melodramatic. I should be more sympathetic but I’m not.
“I saw the tape,” a country voice crawls over my shoulders.
Agent Dixon continues with, “It doesn’t make the darnest bit of sense. The boy just stands there while the sum’ a bitch walks up and splits his head open like a jack-o-lantern. Never seen anything like it. Beginning to think this place really is haunted. That’s what the papers is callin it after the last suicide. But what’s stickin in my craw is that the suspect seemed to have no concept of pain whatsoever. Just kept pounding away. Not even when his eyes popped out and his lips smashed in like a banana.”
As discreet as I assume he’s trying to be, Jessica and Leanne overhear. Jessica in particular looks up with a fiery glare. It’s no longer that she doesn’t believe it, but more so she smells foul play. Two suicides in the span of five days is a coincidence Jessica’s not willing ignore. She abruptly stands and straightens out her pantsuit, holding back her ire with a clenched jaw and slow steady breaths.
“I’m gonna need to see that video,” she politely demands.
“Yes, ditto.” Leanne says in a whispery exhale.
Dixon extended his hand to direct them toward the conference room in the corner of the bullpen. He informs them, “It should still be queued up. The D.A.’s in there right now so tread lightly.”
“It’s gonna be okay,” Leanne assures Sam.
Jessica doesn’t wait for Leanne to get up. She promptly marches into the conference room and takes over. No one rebukes her when she takes command of a laptop and starts the video from the beginning. Leanne enters the room choking on her own tears. Dixon helps Sam off the floor and escorts her to get her some coffee.
All the while, I say absolutely nothing with my hands in my pockets. I only observe as if I’m sitting inside the theater of my own head with eyes as my own personal big screens to the real world. And of course, as per usual, I’m conflicted by what I see. It’s all so morbid, so morose, the complete opposite of last night’s triumph. There’s so much pain and suffering in plain view. All of it’s my fault and the only one I want to apologize to is the wife. But I can’t. I won’t.
Be cold. Be cold, Cloud. Don’t let the tears soften your heart as it has time and time again. Don’t forget what happened. Don’t forget what led you down this path. Be cold. Harden your heart. This is the path you’ve chosen. Now see it through, dammit. Walk.
Cloud Beaudry casts judgment on the Slave Quarter Killer. Maggie is unleashed. (warning, graphic content)
The Slave Quarters
Chapter 19 – Flickering Lights
By Rock Kitaro
There’s something about an individual who isn’t afraid to admit his mistakes that warrants my respect. I prefer someone like that over those who hide their flaws yet presume to openly criticize the faults others, forgetting that we are all imperfect. We are all marred by error. That is to be human. No one is without sin. Especially me.
I admit it.
Bigots beget bigots and the accusers of hypocrisy are often the biggest hypocrites. To accuse another man of being too judgmental would in turn make me judgmental. I’m aware of this. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one.
The thing about today’s society that drives me wild is the implied expression of what is and isn’t acceptable. If a man slips up and makes an offensive comment, it could spell the end of his career. One sentence is all it takes. Demons behind computer screens will dig into the wounds and rip it open all in the name of justice. They call it social justice.
I don’t condone racism. I deplore it. In fact, I’m quite sure I’ll never understand it. But in this day and age, what seems more prevalent than racism is the backwards ass standards by which other flaws are swept under the rug. The glorification of sex, rudeness, and riches runs rampant. Despicable bullies now use their self-proclaimed victimhood to silence those they disagree with. They walk about with their heads held high, as if hurt feelings aggrandized them moral authority. At some point…all of this has become acceptable.
Shameless is confidence. Ambition is blurred with greed. Protesters embark for the sake of bringing purpose to their own meaningless existence. And those who simply just want to live their lives on the fields of neutrality are guilted into wars they never wanted to fight.
It’s not out of hate that I mention these things. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t waste my breath. I love you but I have no place amongst you. That doesn’t make me cool. It doesn’t mean I’m better. In fact, it’s lonely. I wouldn’t want anyone to have to walk a mile in my shoes. But it is what it is. I am a man from the outside looking in. The guy on the hill overlooking the fog infested city, the one in the bell tower weeping over debauchery below.
That’s me. Cloud Beaudry, the walking contradiction. The man who sees the unseen, who hears secrets from grave. I know at some point I’ll be judged by the same measure. But quite frankly, if one were to peer into my soul right now they’d see over a hundred middle fingers raised in defiance.
This is my creed, my manifesto, if ever I’m caught and made to be held accountable for my actions on this day. Everyone remembers the killers. No one remembers the victims. I’m about to change all that. I’m sorry Det. Mark Griffin. I’m sure you think I’m like everyone else in assuming you’re cool or something to aspire to. But I’m not. I find you detestable. I’m here to hand down your sentence.
For those still scrambling for the pieces, allow me to introduce special investigator, Cloud Beaudry. When people think of spoiled, entitled, Millennials with bad work ethics who complain about everything…let’s just say that Cloud forces everyone to rethink those stereotypes. And it probably has something to do with the fact that he’s tormented by a curse that allows him to hear and see ghosts all the friggin time. And of course, when you know secrets that are supposed to be buried, you tend to make enemies among the living.
Five years ago his mother was killed and the local police was quick to pass it off as an accidental suicide. It was a dark, depressing time in his life where Cloud was on the verge of ending it all. Then he met Maggie. And for seemingly no reason at all, she helped him avenge the death of his mother. Cloud was grateful. So grateful, in fact, that he vowed to hunt down those responsible for killing Maggie back in 1959. And unfortunately, there are still names on the list.
Chapter 3 – Meritocracy
By Rock Kitaro
It’s a brisk morning, just before the auburn glow makes its ascent. I was once told that this is the best part of my day and it goes downhill from here. But that’s just a matter of perspective, one I choose not to entertain. There’s nothing like busting out a 5K at five in the morning. There’s no one around. Barely any traffic. With Korn’s “Take a Look in the Mirror” album blasting through my earbuds, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come. It doesn’t make me proud, it just… it strengthens my resolve. And I need that strength. Else I would have killed myself a long time ago.
For those still scrambling for the pieces, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cloud Beaudry. Ever since I was a child, I’ve always been able to hear, see, and feel the presence of the dead.
It started with my ancestors during the Salem Witch trials. The family matriarch wasn’t a witch herself, but was hanged for speaking up in their defense. Since then, a wretched curse has been passed down the Beaudry line from generation to generation.
This curse…you can call it a curse, however, I choose to believe it’s just some twisted sick coincidence. For instance, every generation in my family gave birth to just one scion. Every family member died before they reached the age of forty-five. And nearly everyone has been regarded by his or her peers as crazy or delusional. I’m probably the first to embrace the paranormal instead of letting it drive me insane.
To me, the traditional concepts of weird or normal are no longer relevant. I’ve trained this ability to interact with the dead so well that it’s now about as familiar as my sense of sight or sound. I know. It sounds unbelievable. That’s why there’s only one person on Earth I’ve told this to.
I’m only thirty but the atrocities I’ve faced have advanced me well beyond the years of any average Millennial. That might sound like I’m bragging but I’m not. Dread doesn’t even begin to describe my life. When I was growing up, I couldn’t remember a single night that I didn’t hear people screaming for help. Dark twisted faces, weeping dead children, relentless murderers and the toe curling sounds of ripping flesh and wet hacking…I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone.
Dark eye circles of sleep deprivation stayed with me until I was at least twenty-one. It was during that year that something snapped in me. My mother. She was raped for the second time and nearly beaten to death. I’ll never forget sitting by her hospital bed with a permanent scowl lined with crusted dried tears. I never had any best friends. I never had a social life where people sought me out. But paranoia and fear followed me every day of my life almost as constant as the sun and the moon.
It was fear of letting shit like that happen to my mother again, the paranoia of forever being a loser, the butt of the jokes, and everyone’s punching bag. It was fear of failing to make something out of myself. The fear of going mad by watching the rotten assholes move up in the world while decent honest hardworking individuals are stepped on because they lack “ruthless ambition.”
I won’t say I embraced the fear. I only use it as motivation. I turned this negativity into a fuel for production. It’s what prompted me to take my fat ass in the gym and shed 140lbs over the span of four years. I dropped from 320lbs to a healthy, athletic180. Working out and martial arts became a source of therapy for me, an outlet for my frustration. It was fear that prompted me to stay in shape, which is why I’m on this exhilarating jog around my subdivision.
As far as my encounters with dead people, I’ll not go so far as to say I’m no longer terrified, but it’s more like I gradually adopted an air of defiance. I strengthened my mind and stopped worrying about what ghosts could or couldn’t do to me. I laid awake on countless nights watching the blinds rattle and the shadows crawl along the ceilings. Then I’d close my eyes and drift to sleep, fully aware that I may never wake up again. If any demented phantom stared at me from the fog or through some milky reflection or behind that dead tree in the distance, I’d glare right back at them.
If they wanted to kill me, they were more than welcome to try.
After my mother was raped, I switched majors and enrolled into law school. I would’ve preferred to send assholes off to prison as a prosecutor, but defense attorneys made way more money. The idea was to get a good paying job so my mother could quit waitressing and stop sleeping with every flannel-wearing cowboy who just so happens to throw a wink at her.
That plan went up in flames just days before I was about to graduate. After four years of endless studying, of sacrificing the holidays and weekends to climb my way to the top of my class, someone went off and killed my mother. Her body was found floating beneath a bridge on the outskirt of Athens.
The police heard about her promiscuous reputation with men. They also heard from neighbors and co-workers that she believed in aliens and claimed she could speak to ghosts. Eventually, the detectives ruled her death as an accidental suicide. They said she got drunk, bumped her head on the railing, and tumbled over to drown. She was only forty-two.
I can’t even begin to describe how livid I was. My worst fears had come true. This woman was my life! She was the reason why I toiled so hard, put up with so much shit, why I sacrificed so much. Nothing else mattered. We had come so far! Only for it to end like this!?
No one showed up for her funeral. It was just me and fifty white chairs on a cold rainy day. The rage in my heart, it forced me to ask questions no decent human being should ever need to ask themselves. The police were wrong. I knew it from the get-go but as a mere law-grad I was powerless to do a damn thing about it. The outcry of inner demons demanded an audience and to be honest, I was about ready end the torment once and for all. Perhaps it was hitting rock-bottom that lured me to Maggie.
Everyone’s heard of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. But what if I told you that before they were the shining examples of chivalry and virtue…they were a bunch of hot-blooded youths ready to sword-up and throw down with the best of them. And in a dark world where nearly every kingdom is plagued with death and destruction, Britannia is fertile to give birth to legends.
17-year-old Morgan le Fay is strong-willed enchantress who knows she’s destined for greatness but feels shackled by the expectations of being borne a lady of the court.
Her only friend in the world is the self-sacrificing, Gawain, an adopted prince who everyone seems to think will be the next Spartacus. However, four years earlier Gawain was abducted and enslaved by Hibernians, the sworn enemy of Cornwall.
Spurred by a prophetic vision, Morgan defies the king and treks into enemy territory to get him back no matter the cost and she’s not alone. She tricks Gawain’s little brothers the violent Agravain and pretty boy Gaheris into coming along. And Tristan, the Champion of Cornwall, is about ready to wring her neck when he finds out she escapes the palace.
After clashing with the likes of Vikings and conniving kings, the upstarts finally rescue their prize but the battle was far from over. Morgan’s world comes crashing down when it appears that Gawain has fallen for one of his captors, the beautiful Princess Isolde.
Consumed by rage and betrayed by her own magic, Morgan unleashes a treacherous scheme that sends Cornwall headlong into the throes of war. And in spite of all her deceit, designs, and destruction, Gawain still loves her. His duty as an older brother and heir to the throne demands he hold her accountable. In the end, Gawain and Morgan come to the same conclusion. If they can’t live with each other, one of them has to die.
With the conflicts squashed between Majestic and Sailor Jupiter, G-Force and the Sailor Scouts are finally able to finish their movie together. However, Majestic soon learns that Chris’s future doesn’t just depend on their success in the entertainment industry, he’s also depending on Ken and Ryu’s help in future battles. Turns out, Chris comes from a clan of Mortal Kombat warriors with the powers of Sub-Zero…. He’s destined to become Sub-Zero.
Chapter 4: Sub-Zero
The first week of the movie shooting went well. The second week started off good…but ended with a fight between Serena and me. I had enough of her complaining and gave her a piece of my mind. Ken intervened with a kick that bruised my ribs something fierce. Ken…he was usually a cool dude, but I saw from his eyes that he’d mess up anyone who messed with Sailor Moon.
Ken also started teaching Chris and I proper Shotokan Karate. He taught us to utilize the body in self-defense. His style used an array of kicks and powerful punches as well as these crazy acrobatic moves.
Our schedule was hectic. It was hard to ever find time to relax and just have fun. Chris found it easy to have fun, while I’d focus on training. I remember Chris throwing water balloons at the girl one time. He could always be depended on to lighten the mood.
Every morning since we started shooting the film, Chris and I would run as fast as we could to school as part of our training. During class, we’d do push-ups as quietly as we could without disturbing everyone. Chris out would tire out and quit before me. But I was more determined.
From three to eight, Chris and I would join the other cast members to film the movie. At about seven, mom and dad would occasionally visit us on the set and serve us dinner. When I got home, Chris and I would spar for a while, using techniques Ken taught us. Of course, Chris would pucker out early so I’d have to practice by myself. I didn’t stop until Dad made me. The next day we’d wake up and do it all over again.
Right now, I’m in between projects. I just finished “The Perennial War of Paramours” that I’m now pitching to agents. And while I wait and endure that process, coupled with some rare vacation time, I thought I’d spend the summer working on probably the most precious thing I ever created. Or as my friend Eduardo once put it, “It’s the world I created to escape the world I was in.”
I think every child with an active imagination has done this. Where they’ve taken characters from their favorite shows and video games and imagine a world where they play a role in the character’s lives. Essentially, its fan fiction.
Well, when I was a kid. I had the same dream, the same world, the same characters. We’re talking about characters from Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Sailor Moon, Mortal Kombat, Dragon Ball Z, even the X-Men. And this dream lasted from the age of ten until I was probably twenty-one. I was always a pudgy, goofy, awkward, heavy-set kid, always striving to be liked and loved by everyone. My character in this dream world was quite the opposite. His name was Majestic (I know that sounds stupid.)
Unlike the real me at that time, Majestic was a gifted athlete. He always had to do the right thing and never hesitated. He put himself in danger for the sake of others, selfless, yet always coming out on top through sheer will and determination. And unlike the real me at that time, Majestic had friends. He was loved. He felt wanted. He had people who depended on him and he never let them down.
Perhaps, I should start from the beginning to how this all went down. I’ve never shared this with anyone. It’s really embarrassing, but if I’m honest with it, it’ll probably make you laugh and remind you of yourself when you were a kid. I hope it does.
“The Literary Tempest and Combative Seas” A Stage in the Sky Update by Rock Kitaro Date January 23, 2017
DNA ft. Suzanne Vega – “Tom’s Diner – Long Version”
If this is your first time here allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rock Kitaro. I’m an author specializing in the themes of revenge, rivalry, and rebellion. However, I’m thinking about adding romance to that list because “love” is almost always the main source of motivation for my characters. They just don’t know it. Neither do I.
I haven’t reached my goal of signing with a traditional publishing house yet, but I will. And when I make the best-sellers list you can look back on this piece as a proof of perseverance. I hope it encourages others who are coming up to plan on running the marathon, don’t quit after the sprint.
Allow me to begin by saying that the reason why I’ve exercised restraint in posting so much this past year was because I thought it would be prudent to say as little as possible. Ever since I was 23, I’ve committed myself to succeeding as an author in the publishing industry.
I’ve sacrificed weekends, holidays, vacations, money, and heart-felt relationships to get this far and I don’t want to ruin it by shooting myself in the foot. I thought that being an artist meant freedom and liberty through self-expression, but that’s a problem if your opinions aren’t welcomed by those whom you need to progress in this industry.
It’d be one thing if I was a non-fiction writer in which my platform was built upon provocative opinions as if that’s exactly what you were going to pay for with my books. However, I am a fiction novelist. I have to present myself to agents and publishers as someone worthy of investment. Allow me to explain.
“Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan” – popularized by John F. Kennedy
They say that silence is a sign of consent. I don’t think so. I believe that a wise man knows when to exercise patience, bide his time, and strike when the time is right. At present, the scene is chaotic. The waters are rough. Those who sail these seas are bound to get lost, stranded, or shipwrecked. Some have made it though. Some because they had head start. Others, because they don’t mind riding the waves created by the first adventures. And there are those who have emerged because they’re that damn good, far better than myself. Like, Roshani Chokshi. Her writing is ridiculously beautiful. And that’s alright. That’s okay.
With so many every day bravely joining the fray, I can’t help but wonder if my patience is really a sign of cowardice. As I get older I see my peers entering the next stages of their life while I continue on this road I’ve been traveling for seven long arduous years. Then, I think of the scene from HBO’s “Rome” where a young Octavian says, “The graveyard is full of middling swordsman. Best not to a swordsman at all than a middling swordsman.”
When I started self-publishing in 2011, I had no idea what I was up against. I didn’t think of trends or what was in-demand for the market. I simply wrote what I wanted in my own voice with the hopes that others would like it too. I had no idea about the highly selective nature of agents or publishers. I assumed that if you created a great, original story and show them something new, you’re in.
I won’t go so far as to say I was naïve, but I will say there’s more to it than that. It appears that after the success of books-turned-movies franchises like “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight,” and the “Maze Runner” everyone and their mothers have flocked to the publishing industry with the next best idea.
In 2012, when I self-published“The Three Kings of Ybor,”my e-books were just seven of 300,000 published that year on Amazon Kindle. I predict the number has only increased over the years as Hollywood continues to blast trailers that start with that deep husky voice saying, “Based on the best-selling novel.”
This isn’t a complaint. To realize what you’re up against and state it clearly shouldn’t be considered complaining. It makes things difficult but not impossible. In fact, it only makes the reward of success that much sweeter. If Lord Byron’s climb to success was but a hill on the beach, then mines will be to the top of Mount Everest. And beneath my feet will be the millions of books published by those shipwrecked, stranded, and lost.
But still…just as one wouldn’t climb Everest in the middle of winter, it’s best not to join the arena when destruction and obscurity is certain and swift. Until then its best that I build my ships, fortify its defenses and stock up for a voyage in which I might not reach land for many years. And build, I have.
By the end of 2015, I finished my flagship masterpiece called, “The Pierce Syndicate.” I promoted it to Literary Agents for a just a little over a month. This isn’t nearly enough time for me to call it a viable campaign, but something happened to me.
I confess, I became doubtful. Not because my story wasn’t ridiculously awesome but because “The Pierce Syndicate” is a huge project, well over 46 chapters and separated in two volumes. I put myself in the shoes of an editor at a traditional publishing house and asked “why would I take a chance on such a big project from a new author?”
The answer is, I wouldn’t. Not without recommendation. Especially these days where the entertainment industry leans heavily towards pop culture, an area I don’t like to be associated with.
Thankfully, God took pity on me. In the depths of my doubt, I honestly feel that the greatest creator noticed me standing alone under that single lamppost in the night’s freezing rain. He saw me look up to the sky and ask him, “What should I do?”
I think he smiled. Because in the span of a three-day weekend I dreamt of a new story in its complete entirety. I couldn’t believe it. The entire story, beginning, middle, and end just hit me like an epiphany. If that’s not a blessing, I don’t know what is.
In February of 2016 I set about writing “The Slave Quarters,” a crime mystery featuring my characterCloud Beaudry and his bundle of sunshine, the conniving ghost Maggie. I’m afraid of writing the plot here because it’s never been done and I don’t it to be stolen. But the coolest thing about this story isn’t even the plot. It’s the first-person narrative in which you’re put in the shoes of a very manipulative (for a good cause), misanthropic detective who’s chalk full of hidden agendas and ulterior motives. I think that’s what makes him so human though. Because I believe almost everyone has ulterior motives. The only difference between Cloud Beaudry and most people is that he’s aware of it. It’s very entertaining, just wait and see.
The “Slave Quarters” took me only three months to write from beginning to end and it was the coolest thing about 2016 by far. I enjoyed it so much. I’ve never been on a cruise. I’ve never been to Disney World. But if I had to pick between a cruise, Disney World, or spending three months writing that book, I’d gladly choose writing the book. Because I am able to travel through time and space. I smell, hear, and see things that don’t exist, that haven’t happened. My ability is that good. Articulating it is always what I have room to improve on.
By July 2016, I started querying it to Literary Agents. This was a campaign that lasted from July till the end of October. And while I know this is a process that every author has to go through, it wasn’t enough for me. The period of July through October is four months. To spend four months of my life just mailing query letters and receiving rejection after rejection (which is to be expected) would drive me insane. I needed to keep creating, keep writing, keep building more ships! I needed more cowbell!
Thus…by the end of July and after reading the “wish-list” of over 100 literary agents who clearly want strong female protagonists or stories centered around women as the main character, I revisited a dream project that I conceived back in 2009. Lol, again, this is an original story that hasn’t been done and the last thing I want is for someone to read this and steal my characters, thus ruining a genre that I’m hoping to resurrect.
I will say that the title is called “The Knights With No Lords”. The main character is a strong female protagonist, but if you know me, then you know I’m a practitioner of the Byronic model. My characters struggle with a sense of what’s right and wrong, mainly because their dark selfish desires are obstructed by the knowledge of what’s good and decent.
I confess, “The Knights With No Lords,” is probably the toughest project I’ve ever worked on because the female lead is seventeen. I already told you about my imagination. Sometimes I have to go places I don’t want to go in order to write emotional dialogue that feels true. When it comes to the romance, I drew on my own personal experiences. While frustrating, it’s also funny as hell. There’s always some virtue or personal conflict preventing me from being with the woman I want. Again, not pleasant, but still entertaining nonetheless. It’s led to thoughts like this:
“If good girls fall for the bad guys, then who do the bad girls fall for?”
I’ve presented that question to a friend of mine and he said, “nope. The bad girls still fall for the bad guys.”
Haha, I don’t know. Either way, “The Knights With No Lords” explores the idea. I’ve finished it just before Christmas and I’m now in the process of editing it. I’ve even enlisted one of my closest friends to help on that endeavor. By April, I plan to have it copyrighted to start sending it to query agents.
We’ll see if my female protagonist is good enough to win the hearts of those agents. And I do feel a little sad in saying that. Part of me acknowledges that I wrote this book for agents more so than the reader. But maybe that’s what I needed to do all along. Either way, I won’t stop building my ships. My android and thumbdrive is full of premises and projects just screaming to be developed. It’s all a matter of patience, diligence, and perseverance.
That’s the main thing I wanted to share with you. I haven’t been posting on this website in a long while because, as you can see, I’ve been a busy man. And I know there are producers and agents who would say, “But still. You gotta keep giving people something. You have to keep your online presence known.”
And to that point I won’t say I that disagree…but more so I just have a greater deal of self-respect for my work. I’ve come a long way from launching vessels that wind up lost at sea. Twitter and Facebook may have been a viable marketing platform in the past, but now it’s
oversaturated with peddlers of their products.
If you tout your own work it doesn’t have the same strength as someone else saying on their feed, “You gotta check out this author!”
In my seven-year journey I’ve been through the trials and errors. I’ve marketed myself through social media for at least two years and you need money to advertise and draw customers to your books. You really do have to spend money to make money and I’ve racked up a debt. I’ve done crowd-funding campaigns. I’ve reached out to my family and friends. I’ve contributed to other blogs, supported other authors, and made myself a part of writer communities.
Again, these aren’t complaints. Football players practice in the sweltering heat to prepare for Sunday. Olympians train and sacrifice so much just for one summer to reach gold. Singers and actors exercise discipline and practice for their roles. If you make up your mind to do something and fully commit yourself to it, you’re going to have to work hard and it won’t happen overnight unless of course you know someone or wore born into money.
There have been so many times I’ve thought about quitting. The pressures of life, commercialism, societal expectations, familial responsibilities, devotion to God, intimate relationships, and the tense corporate ladder that I’m expected to climb. It’s like they’re all a bunch of Apaches firing arrows at me as I ride my steed with no cover in sight.
If you were to ask why am I trying so hard…because there are a multitude of authors who have succeeded and maintained healthy relationships with spouses, children, and cool circle of friends. They’ve attained that proverbial balance that people keep telling me about. So why can’t I?
The easy answer is that I’m just different. I wrote another article about that so I won’t get into it. I will tell you there’s a quote from Pres. Theo Roosevelt that resonates deeply with me. He wrote: “Dark care rarely sits behind the rider whose pace is fast enough.”
Pres. Roosevelt wrote this after his first wife and his mother died in the same night. To cope with the pain, he ventured into the Wild West and kept himself busy with the rigors of frontier life.
I dare not compare my pain to Roosevelt, but there is pain in my heart. That’s why I can’t even go on vacation for more than three days before the angst surfaces. I wonder if this is the case with other workaholics. For me, keeping my mind focused on a story or project keeps my mind from wondering about old flames. It’s morphine to regret, loneliness, and despair.
I recently told one of my exes, someone who’s still one of my best friends, that I see her face everyday. I know that sounds creepy by today’s standards, but she understood and was touched. And I wasn’t lying. When I think about my exes, or enemies, or failures and embarrassment, the emotions rush over as if it’s happening all over again.
Oddly enough, this doesn’t work so well with the positives for some strange reason. For the positives, I have to seek in the real world what I’ve done and remind myself of how far I’ve come, or those who do support and love me. I’m not sure why I’m like this. But it doesn’t matter.
At this point, I’d like to point out that I’m not a miserable person. In spite of all the pitiful sad stuff I just told you, I really do like the man I’ve become. I’m tall, strong, caring, and generous. The few friends who have stuck with me over the years, I treat like jewelry because they are rare and extremely valuable. I laugh at just about everything and I have a strong relationship with Jehovah our heavenly father. I started reading the bible from start to finish about a year and a half ago and I’ve just started 1st Timothy.
Also! I’ve taken up boxing. It’s tough but I enjoy it. If you scroll down, you’ll read one of my essays about how I used to weigh 378lbs. Now I’m down to 215. I can run, jump, and fight like a son of a gun. So don’t pity me. I have my scars just like everyone else but I wear them like a champion! Not to mention, God’s blessed me with the ability to turn my negatives into a positives. Even when I step into the boxing gym, depleted and fatigued from the work-out the night before, all I need to is think about certain group of people and I’m Mike Tyson in his prime if only for an hour.
It’s like my life is a steamroller. To keep going I have to chuck coal into the furnace. With all the times I’ve stumbled and fallen down, my fuel supply if infinite. I have no doubt that I really am going to live life till the wheels fall off. But still…I plan to live life my way, seeking first the kingdom of God. We can’t all be party animals and thrill-seekers. Not all men are in it for the thrill of the chase. Some of us like to stay put and build.
There’s one other subject I’d like to discuss. It’s about Facebook and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying what I’m about to say.
Facebook has become a platform of pictures and political correctness. In 2016, I’ve posted hundreds of thought-provoking questions and theories that get little to no interaction. But let someone post a picture of their vacation, their material things, their visage (as if we forgot what they looked like yesterday) then people flocked to that with likes and comments.
People say, “You shouldn’t expect praise or likes or…”
All of that’s bullshit. Why post anything if not with the hopes that someone in this expanded universe would see it? There’s nothing wrong with admitting you hope people will like what you put out, and what’s worse than people not liking it, is people completely ignoring it. And as an artist, I refuse to rehash old gems once I’m published as if I just thought of something new, when in reality, I’ve had it for years. For that matter, I’ve decided on my 30th birthday to stop posting on Facebook. I’ve decided to stop scrolling down Facebook to see what my friends and family are up to. And dude, I’m telling you…it’s done wonders for my health.
If you try it, you’ll find yourself washed with that nostalgic freedom, to a magical time where you only found out what people were up to when they friggin told you. Ignorance is a bliss! A magical bliss where you can walk to work and smile at other humans without worrying how they feel about some stupid current event/fad/trend/movement.
It really was one of the best decisions of my life and I’m lovin every minute of it. So while everyone is riled up on a daily basis about what’s going on in Washington DC, New York, or Los Angeles, I sand down the rails of my ships and check the hulls for leaks. I smile knowing that I’m drawing closer to God and wait patiently till the day that I cast off.
“But Rock. What if that day never comes? What if the seas stay rough and only continue to get worse? Don’t you think you’re wasting time? You’re going to waste your life waiting forever. There will never be a perfect time. You need to just go for it!”
I smirk, wipe the sweat from my forehead, and peer outward to those dark stormy clouds.
“You might be right. Knowing me, at some point, I am going to say fuck it and just go for it. Maybe I am wasting time building all these ships that might never see the open seas. My ambition isn’t so dulled that I’m contempt with having these magnificent pieces linger away despite the immense pleasure I’ve derived in constructing them. I guess that’s what you should look out for.”
“In the thick of the chaos as ships become tangled with ships, and cannons blare, and the torrential downpour becomes so heavy that you can barely see the light of day, look out that you’re not caught in the way of my formidable fleet. At least you’ll be able to hear me coming. I have a tendency to laugh out loud when I’m scared out of my mind.”
I confess. Sometimes when I start a new chapter, an overwhelming fear grips me and prevents me from moving forward. I know people get tired of me talking about being a writer, as if I’m bragging about some gift that no one else possesses. But it’s more than that. It’s like setting sail across the Atlantic at a time when people still believed that there was an end to the world. It’s like crawling to a tunnel to get to the other side with no light to guide you.
It’s that kind of fear. Today, I literally stared at a blank page for over half an hour. I know what I wanted to say, what I wanted to convey, but how? Sometimes I think I get so bombarded with my predecessors and this obsession to surpass them that I think it erodes my own God given ability. My own voice. My brutal honest, that incorrigible honesty that lands me in more trouble than I care to recall.
I can’t say that it’s all courage and bravery, because even when I finish the chapter, the fear still lingers. But it’s different. It’s no longer a debilitating fear, but an exhilarating one. It’s about commitment. There’s no aborting it when your life or livelihood is on the line. You have to see it through to completion. You have to follow your path or at the very least go as far as you can without knocking on death’s front doors. And since the fear isn’t going away, you just learn to embrace it like a comrade or companion.
I guess what I’m trying to say is…that without this fear, none of what I’m doing would be fun.
Most played song during the creation. – Piano Guys “Moonlight Sonata” –
Around this time last year…I came to a crossroad where I presented myself with two options to take in life. I could have gone to Afghanistan to work for a private contracting company and made a lot of money, obviously from hazard pay. My second option was to stay in Tampa, Florida and commit myself to finishing a novel that I’ve been outlining for two years.
After writing my first novel, “The Three Kings of Ybor,” I knew how difficult this task would be. The difficulty, mostly coming from the fact that I knew I’d have to isolate myself. As difficult as isolation is to myself, its even more difficult when you have to explain yourself to people why you can’t hang out with them or visit. They look at you like you’re weird and hit you with cliché lines like “tomorrow isn’t promised and we may never get the chance to see you again.” They’re of course oblivious to the fact that I’ve considered this when I was weighing my options.
Two circumstances happened that aided in my decision. The first was the sudden emergence of ISIS that heightened tensions in the Middle East. The second was the amount of vacation days my current company finally provided. With the vacation days I was afforded, I knew I’d be ten times more productive on consecutive days off. Its takes time to fully enter one world from another.
Thus, I took the path of finishing a novel that I’d already written six chapters to. It’s called “The Pierce Syndicate.” Here’s what I’ve accomplished.
This is the Pierce Syndicate Synopsis:
In the year 2210…Three years after the Kennedy St. Massacre, the imperial government has taken notice of the lawlessness and organized crime that infests the largest city in the American Empire. Major Gideon Rose of the Sedona Unit has been dispatched to infiltrate the syndicate with permission to eliminate the worst offenders. He soon finds out the bloody way that this is easier said than done.
Tampa Bay has become a powder keg of rival clans, genetically enhanced enforcers and corrupt corporate figures with their own horde of bulletproof cyborgs. In a volatile world where the various criminal factions control nearly every aspect of commerce, all enterprises are taxed and governed by the board of directors of the Pierce Corporation with CEO Isaac Pierce serving as the head of the syndicate.
The criminal empire Isaac has worked so hard to build hangs in the balance as his health begins to deteriorate. This sign of weakness is just what his enemies and disloyal allies have been waiting for. If that’s not bad enough, the cutthroat Eliza Christie is still using August the 18th as a vigilante militia to wreak havoc on syndicate affiliates in a devastating war of attrition. Despite having an ambitious heir apparent who’s eager and waiting to take over the Pierce operations, all eyes are settled on Isaac’s more popular and feared nephew, Braden Pierce, the syndicate’s most prolific assassin.
Contrary to all of the hype, Braden is actually a calm, respectful, scholar who only comes out of his shell in the heat of intense combat. The fragile peace and stability that’s kept the clans from going at each other’s throats over the years goes up in flames when someone tries to kill millionaire socialite, Alma Monteiro. Aside from being one of the most beloved philanthropic figures the world has ever seen Alma is also Braden’s sole love interest.
Thus, Braden is placed in the middle of a bloody power struggle where he’s forced to choose between leading figures in a splintered syndicate and protecting the ones he loves. In this action-packed epic that spans three months, the body count racks up as eccentric billionaire, a rogue mob boss, and dangerous fugitive comes out of hiding, all with their own agendas to replace the Pierce Syndicate.
I knew I was committing my entire 28th year of life to finishing this book. I accepted it, embraced it. And I tell you…it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I’ve cried so many times through out the year from pressure, through personal failures, and tragedies I’ve witnessed in the book and outside of it. I’ve fallen to depression and daydreamed about how this world would be without me. With my other books, it wasn’t so difficult because I had already written the outline and scripts for them years before I started working two jobs. I was more or less translating a piece of work from one medium to another.
But with the Pierce Syndicate…for nearly an entire year half of my mind was in one world, the other in this one. Every waking moment where someone didn’t demand my attention, I was in the shoes of another character. When I walked the halls in a mood, I wasn’t angry or sad…but I had taken on the persona of one of my characters and hadn’t snapped back to reality yet. I felt exposed and possessed. I did wonder from time to time whether I was going insane. On my best days was when I was conflicted the most. It was usually after I attained a bit of knowledge that made me feel superior over my peers, yet battled myself to hide that superiority and appear meek and humble. It made me question whether or not simply thinking of a bad deed was just as bad as acting on it. It was so silly. But its what I had to do.
And throughout such agony and ecstasy, I created this 669-page masterpiece. On August 3rd when I finished…hahaha! I know it sounds crazy, but I really did imagine myself getting off a train at Grand Central Station. It’s like I’ve been gone for so long and I’ve finally come back. I know its hard to believe how much of an impact this story will have on the world. Perhaps…by reading me declare it, every fiber of your being will deny its greatness. I’m sure you’re thinking that I should probably keep my high opinion to myself and let the readers decide…but modesty in regard to my work has never been one of my talents.
On August 3rd when I finished…hahaha! I know it sounds crazy, but I really did imagine myself getting off a train at Grand Central Station. It’s like I’ve been gone for so long and I’ve finally come back. I know its hard to believe how much of an impact this story will have on the world. Perhaps…by reading me declare it, every fiber of your being will deny its greatness. I’m sure you’re thinking that I should probably keep my high opinion to myself and let the readers decide…but modesty in regard to my work has never been one of my talents.
What I learned this past year…
Everyone is blessed in his or her own way. No one on earth has everything. Even a man born rich will lack the sensation of starting with nothing and building himself up. I know when I share my literary accomplishments it might seem like I’m bragging, but that’s only because I’m probably the only one doing what I’ve done. If you knew a lot of writers who were posting about their written accomplishments… it wouldn’t seem like I was bragging. It would seem normal.
Think about it. I don’t post selfies of concerts and events I’ve gone to. I don’t even hang out with friends nor do I have a girlfriend who I can post photos of. I’m sure you do. And I’m sure your friends do. So it’s normal. It doesn’t seem like they’re bragging or boasting, does it?
The truth is I’m deprived of what so many are blessed with, and yet it seems people still…let me put it this way. A girl once told me that I complimented myself so much that there’s no need for her to do so. That truly made me feel sorry.
My accomplishments don’t come with trophies. I don’t have spectators for my triumphs. My creations won’t pay off for years to come, but it will pay off. Of that I have no doubt. I can’t doubt myself because doubt is venomous to me. Being an author, I don’t enjoy the luxury of instant gratification that other jobs have. If a farmer plants seeds, he reaps the harvest in a matter of months. Most jobs of a 40-hour work week enjoy the reward of a paycheck once or twice a month. But as an Author…and a single/unmarried author at that…I won’t see the fruits of my labor for years.
All I have to go on is my passion and confidence. These might seem like strong qualities, but if anything, this past year has taught me how fragile I really am. I had no choice but to remove myself from anything and anyone who could be perceived as a threat to that passion and confidence. Cynicism, skepticism, and opposing expectations about what I should be doing with my life are all threats. If it sounds like I’m being sensitive…you’re right. I am extremely sensitive in the textbook definition of the word. Nothing escapes my gaze. Your choice of words, your expressions, your enthusiasm or lack there of…I receive it all. My mind focuses more on the “why” than the “what”? I wish I could ignore it but I can’t. Accepting it is the best way I can hold my head up and smile.
The reason why I’m writing this is to reach out to you. My friends, family and associates. I can’t blame you for not comprehending if I don’t at least try to explain why I’m so odd. I want you to know that if I go out of my way to avoid you, to avoid speaking with you r to avoid making eye contact with you…its not out of hate, but the love I bear thee. It’s because I care too much about what you think. Seems I was deprived of the ability to “brush it off the shoulder” when it comes to those I want to impress. Unbeknownst to these coveted ones, their opinions can create obstacles, obstacles that take time and a great deal of mental effort for me to get over. That time is precious to me, time that I could be spending creating, building, progressing.