Tag Archives: Writing

Opening Lines

The opening line for my novel, the one based on my blog serial of the same name is probably not yet what it should be.

My memory of that day becomes clearer as the events become stranger.

It’s not a bad hook, but I think it’s too vague to serve for the whole novel, which is meant to do more than simply hold a reader’s interest. This line tells the reader (a)  the narrator is remembering things and that her memory is sometimes fuzzy, and (b) the events in the book are strange. (b) is true and worth communicating in an opening line, but probably not sufficient. (a) is utterly worthless, perhaps even misleading. Placing it in the first line suggests that fuzzy memories are a key element of the novel, which they are not.

What is the main theme, though? Robots are becoming as smart as humans, and their motives are as difficult to understand as they are counterintuitively mundane. The protagonist Diane has a dead husband Benjamin of whom she often thinks and whose death is mysteriously intertwined with the world in which Diane now lives.

I should not reveal too much, though. An opening line should not be a spoiler.

How about this?

Despite what people might think to look at me, I personally wasn’t around to see the plains of North Carolina and Kentucky rise into the Blue Ridge Mountains, the wintry glaciers retreat from modern day Wisconsin, the once prolific Montana bison driven to near extinction by a foe it would never understand. It’s the sort of change no one expects to live long enough to witness firsthand.

It all started with a change I may rather have died than live to see. One involving the little library off Old Fayetteville Road.

It’s certainly more epic. It clearly tells the reader “this is about the United States of America,” and I can work in references to the events in this line throughout the book as Diane visits these locations in her journey. It also says “the protagonist is old” and “something big is going to change in the universe of this book.” Also, there’s a library. It is a little odd, though, just how epic it is. I intend my book to describe a historic paradigm shift, but are the behavior of ice sheets, tectonic plates, and large mammals an appropriate allegory?

Despite what people might think to look at me, I personally wasn’t around to see the mule give way to the tractor. I didn’t witness the horse and buggy be replaced by the car, nor did I watch John Henry kill himself in a desperate bid to prove he was better than a drilling machine. A drilling machine that has certainly become ten times more powerful, cheap and efficient since. What I did see starts at a place that I thought would be the end of my story.

This probably has the opposite problem. It may be too on the nose, so to speak. It says “Machines are replacing people.” I don’t want to bash anyone over the head. Let them get into the story, then I can work them towards the more important points.

Probably the best thing to do will be to revisit this several times, especially after I have a first draft written of the whole book. Then I’ll have a clearer sense of how my theme comes together, which will help me craft the opening couple sentences. I also should keep paying attention to opening lines of other books.


Before I Became a Bestseller

I heard that J.K. Rowling wrote her first copy of “The Sorcerer’s Stone” on a typewriter. I heard that Chuck Palahniuk wrote “Fight Club” between screwing bolts in an assembly line. Harper Lee had a rich friend just buy her a year off from work so she could write “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It turns out there are a lot of stories about how people got their writing done before they were famous. Let me tell some stories about before I became (will become) famous.

Each line of code I would write I’d add a comment that was the next line of my story.

I fashioned crude tablets from North Carolina clay on which to write my ideas.

I would whisper my horror stories to my sleeping girlfriend at night and gauge how bad her nightmares were by how tired she was the next morning.

I was so poor I couldn’t afford paper, so I just told my stories to my dog. When I needed to remember what I’d said my dog would bark my stories back to me.

I drank and drank until I didn’t know who I was. I was drunk every day. I still drink like that. I’m drunk right now. What? A novel?

I made a rule for myself that every fifteen seconds I had to write a sentence of my story.

My wealthy uncle died and left me in his will a years’ wages. The next line in his will was that a sniper would have a gun trained at my head for the whole year and would kill me if I did not make sufficient daily progress on my novel. Thanks, Uncle!

I worked cleaning houses alongside sentient, box-headed robots for a month, inspiring me to write my story about sentient, box-headed robots who clean houses.

I listened to the stories I would hear from my Uber drivers, then passed them off as if they had happened to me.

My first novel was written entirely in Microsoft Word 2007. I was so breathtakingly impoverished I could not afford to upgrade to Microsoft Word 2010, which adds hundreds of productivity-enhancing new features.

I spent a year wandering the world, meeting people, taking in sights and having new, mind-expanding experiences. I didn’t get much writing done.

My father demanded a new novel every day before suppertime. I seldom had one ready, and he would calmly inform me what a worthless fool I was and that he didn’t love me. Now I write a bestselling novel every day and my father is dead.

I would have vivid fever dreams when my cat slept on my face, and would shave stories about them into my cat’s fur. I got my big break when I happened to bring my cat to the vet on the same day as Brandon Sanderson.

I lived among the destitute. I ate what they ate, slept where they slept. It wasn’t for a novel or anything, I just couldn’t find a job.

I would fashion stories about my psychiatry patients. The trick is to say you’ve changed the names.

When I was feeling down about my work, I would shout at my wife. When I wasn’t sure what I was doing with my life, I would write an angry email to my congressperson. When I couldn’t think of how to finish a chapter, I would kick a cardboard cutout of my dog. My wife doesn’t let me kick our real dog. I’m going to shout at her again when I get home.

My visit to heaven after a near-fatal car accident inspired me to write my book “101 Health-Food Recipes on a Budget”

My Battlestar Galactica/Big Bang Theory slash-fiction just took off.

My homemade Dungeons and Dragons Campaign just took off.

I opened my phone one day and pressed the button to autocomplete the next word in the sentence over and over again until I had a novel.

This moron just pushed a button to let me write a novel for him and thought he would get the credit. What kind of phone could possibly win the Nobel prize for literature? This kind of phone.

I was writing a shopping list for my trip to Lowe’s Foods and it just took off.

Playing fast and loose with D&D

As a new dungeon master, one who has already complained about the tabletop role playing game’s restrictive mythology and overwhelmingly combat-oriented gameplay, I like to take an open-ended approach. Here are some examples of what I have already done and how my players have reacted.

Giant spiders in a dungeon are not part of the dungeon’s evil plan, but mere inhabitants.  In fact, in my dungeon they were serving a useful purpose – eating the massive supply of zombies that the dungeon was producing.  They were so pleased with the preponderance of food that they set up their egg sack in the dungeon, which fortunately they were able to move out before the adventurers caused the dungeon to sink back into the earth from which it came.

What made this especially fun with my party was that we had a druid. Being sometimes a spider herself, she is able to understand the clicks and hisses of the giant spiders.  At first I whispered in her player’s ear what the spiders were saying to her and to each other, but then I switched to text messages. Colleen, for reasons of her own, decided not to communicate the spiders’ messages to her party.  I may get all of my players’ phone numbers so that I can give player-specific information when necessary.

Also, rather than being helpless victims of monsters and passive spectators of heroic glory, townsfolk will often take action against the dungeons that plague them.  Thus far, the townsfolk have noted the predictable pattern in which the zombie invasion occurred and set up a bonfire to burn them up before they can get into town.

Not to say I didn’t have any challenges.

One thing that surprised me when I was trying to make my own scenario was how well-versed some of the players were in D&D mythology. They gave me a lot of trouble for having a non-metallic dragon be the supposedly benevolent ruler of a small country, as it is well known that dragons of solid colors are evil and hate humanoids.  I was not surprised that they were curious, but even so they were good at getting information out of me. One of my non-player characters ended up being much more knowledgeable than he probably should’ve been, given his apparent disinterest in anything to do with the main quest.  One of the players was intent on laying bare the nonsense at the heart of what I was asking them to do, pointing out that if they were helping a pair of colossal dragons it was difficult to imagine what task they could solve that the dragons could not. At first my retired, cynical wizard character, who had actually been encouraging the party not to get involved just shrugged. Unfortunately, I then lost my cool and he suddenly launched into a pep talk about how overwhelming the odds seemed when he and his party saved the multiverse from the great necromancer thirty years ago. Not in character. Bad dungeon mastering.

When my characters were following the road to the main city, they found the bridge was out.  I had some spiders follow the river north to another crossing, and even had one of the friendly NPCs suggest north was the way to go, but my party is delightfully stubborn.  They felled a tree and we role played all the skill checks that each of them would need to make their way across.  Almost all of them fell in the water, but they had concocted a clever rope system that would prevent them from being washed away.  This is the kind of thing that I love to do in any game – find easy solutions to ostensibly tough problems. They are skipping a significant chunk of the content in that forest, but not the plot-important stuff, so it’s fine.

Cover image from: http://sandara.deviantart.com/art/White-Dragon-391820143

Freewrite: Human Garbage Can Vs. The Cookie Fairy

Here is a prompt I found on a writing website:

One day you come into work and find a cookie mysteriously placed on your desk. Grateful to whoever left this anonymous cookie, you eat it. The next morning you come in and find another cookie. This continues for months until one day a different object is left–and this time there’s a note.

So, here is my story.

They call him the human garbage can. This is not to be confused with human garbage, in fact, he considers it a compliment. His mother, for whom the noble impulse not to waste food was more of a compulsion and his father, a man famous for his iron stomach and a holder of t-shirts from close to a hundred restaurant eating challenges saw their son’s plastic bag-lined aluminum stomach as nothing short of a dream come true.

His parents never had trouble getting him to eat his vegetables. Rather, they had to make sure that one or the other of them was at the table at all times until everyone’s plates were spotless, or they would be. At three he had to be taught not to eat the bones of the chicken, even though he had already figured out how to leverage them against the sides of tables until they snapped into small enough pieces that they could be swallowed. At five years old he began to cry when burnt beans stuck to the bottom of the pan were scraped out into the garbage and won the right to have these mixed into his own supper instead. At ten he was memorizing recipes for orange peels, cherry pits, sour milk, and the grease from cooking chicken along with detailed analyses of the real expiration dates on food, which were oftentimes much further in the future than the packaging claimed. By eleven and a half, his leftover casseroles had halved the family’s food budget, although he was the only one who ate them. His doting parents no longer fed him, they simply gave him access to the kitchen after they and his older sisters had finished eating. In college, he amazed his dorm-mates with his ability to deconstruct a milk jug with a pocket knife and use a rubber spatula to scrape out an entire tablespoon of extra milk.

At 25, an office-worker at a waste-management facility, Bryan Clax seemed to have adjusted to society. He kept his true passion for making the most out of food at home. Until the cookie. The cookie, a wide, thin sugar cookie with big chocolate chunks, was perfectly edible. From childhood, Bryan had trained his nose to be acutely tuned to any signs of rot or danger, and this cookie was none of those things. But where had it come from? It was just sitting there on his desk, as if a cookie fairy had come to place it there as part of some arcane trial. He didn’t even like chocolate chip cookies.

Bryan tried to offer it to his co-workers, but they had heard about his habits and no one trusted his expert opinion that it was safe. Finally, just to be rid of it, he wolfed the pastry down and sat to work.

The next day there was another cookie. Thick, moist peanut butter. Bryan did like peanut butter cookies. He ate this one without thinking. When the following day a mint cookie with a dot of raspberry jam was there, however, he panicked. He looked at Paul working silently on his computer, his bald head and long beard bobbing to a beat on his headphones. Mary was chewing gum and paying no attention either. Or maybe it was an elaborate trick. He had already made a fool of himself demanding that someone in the office eat the cookie for him on Monday. He ate the cookie.

This continued for a month. Bryan watched his weight assiduously and was horrified to see his body’s response to daily cookies, but they were there. No one else would eat them, so it fell to him. Another month passed and Bryan could see a distinct paunch forming underneath his shirt. Still the cookies kept coming. He could not let them be wasted.

It was three months later on an chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookie that Bryan snapped. He would not tell you this. He would say he casually and politely asked each person in the room by name to please stop sending him cookies. The story is different from the perspective of the people he named. No one stepped forward, and he ate the cookie.

The next day, Bryan’s desk was covered in cookies. A paper-thin wafer in a light coat of purple grape flavor powder rested precariously on his pencil holder. A still hot tray of macadamia nut cookies had left burn marks on his reports. A row of decorative cookies in shapes and colors for every conceivable holiday outlined his desk making a sugary rainbow. Oblong biscuits dipped in chocolate rested neatly on the keys of his keyboard. On his inbound papers holder sat an exquisite gingerbread house glued together with peppermint cream cheese frosting and featuring a full front yard complete with multicolored macaron stepping stones and a lady finger lamppost. A tiny gingerbread man smiled a huge frosting smile and reached an arm out in a gingerbread wave of greeting. In front of the picture of Bryan and his wife was a colossal chocolate chocolate chip cookie cake with “For Bryan” spelled out on it in white chocolate frosting. A graham cracker stand held the cookie upright so it could display its message to all.

Instead of no one looking, now everyone was. Bryan, still in his coat and carrying his laptop bag, was shaking, his mouth working in useless silence. Keeping watery eyes on his desk, he reached down to place his bag and struggle to remove his coat, which was now too tight after three months of cookies. When he was done, Bryan stepped towards the display. He reached out one tremulous hand toward the macarons and stopped. Then he took a breath, smiled at all his onlookers, and peeled off a sticky note. After writing something down and sticking the note to his desk, he picked up his coat and bag, and left.

“What does it say, Paul?” shouted Mary over her gum as Paul rushed forward to look at the note.

“All it says is ‘Free cookies.'”

In a few moments, an  email came in from Bryan to the whole staff, “I am working from home today. Someone has been very kind to leave me an elaborate cookie display, which I very much appreciate, but I have already eaten my fill of cookies. Please everyone help yourself to the cookies on my desk. Interns especially.”

Mary and Paul watched for the rest of the day as people they had never met throughout the office arrived and consumed each last bit of the cookie display until only the big cookie cake was left. Paul’s eyes stayed on that cookie for the next few hours while more people filtered in and left disappointed. The one huge cookie was not something people were ready to eat on a whim. Finally, as Paul looked on, Mary sighed and stood. “I suppose this has gone on long enough.”

She walked to the huge cookie, laid it on its side and cut it into eight pieces, spitting her gum into the garbage can and picking out the white chocolate “Brian” piece for herself. In an hour it and its graham cracker stand were gone. “I didn’t know you were a baker,” said Paul.

Mary swallowed her slice of cookie, “Who said I was?” she asked.

When Paul said nothing, Mary continued. “My friend is, though.”

When Bryan returned to the office the next day, he was overjoyed to find nothing but crumbs left on his desk. They were still perfectly good crumbs, and actually quite flavorful.

Writing Group

I recently tried to co-lead a writing group. The one I went to was getting so popular that it routinely had a waiting list almost as long as the roster of the event itself. The organizer was thrilled when I offered to help by splitting the group in two and letting the waitlist participate. When the library we met at closed for renovations we moved to a coffeeshop, noisy and with an implied expectation to buy expensive sugar and caffeine. I suggested my school library, which is huge and open to the public.

My group in the school library was a tremendous success. We found a place easily and it was quiet and undisturbed. A woman from India shared a poem using a ship metaphor to describe her life. Next we listened to a prologue of a post-apocalyptic medieval story. After the devastation, royalism returned, so it’s a story of futuristic princes and court politics.

Then I got a notification that the official organizer was moving the event back to the coffeeshop. As it turned out, her group got kicked out of their room. Understandable how that might upset someone. Shortly after we decided to split our groups. I would run one on the Tuesdays that hers did not meet.

This time I found out that I could reserve rooms at the library as a former student. So, we now had a guaranteed location where we would be the ones kicking people out if it came to it. Futuristic royalism again and another man maybe a little older than me came to share excellent, insightful writing advice along with the most metal short story ever written, about a noise band who play so hard their fingers fall off and they fuse with their instruments to become horrifying monsters. I read from my revised Cleaners novel, which is shaping up to be radically different from the online version.

The next week, I continued the successful reservation strategy and got the metal man and the poem-writing woman again. They both agreed that when one of my characters is thrilled that her house is so clean “It’s like my kids never existed” she is committing a crime against motherhood so ghastly that no real parent could possibly find her believable. The metal man read a supernatural heist / horror story about glowing blue rodents and the poem-writing woman asked for advice for a relative writing college admissions essays.

The metal man told me that I can’t use “giggled” as a synonym for “said.” He explained that this was simply a rule because you can’t giggle and talk at the same time. I see the concern, but I tried giggling and talking at the same time a few times, and I believe it is possible. This may be a rule I’ll have to break.

The Barbarian of Pelor

[This is a character backstory for a medieval fantasy roleplaying game I’m playing]

My adoptive family said that Pelor placed me on the steps of their community center as a test of their faith and compassion. Certainly it was hard to propose another explanation for how an infant such as myself had made it all the way into a town so secluded most members had never seen another race of any kind. As well, there is no doubt that I indeed tested them.

In later years, I have been told that just to look at me one might not be blamed for thinking there was no human blood in me at all. Please don’t say that to me. The music director at the community center, who I sometimes would privately think of as my mother, told me once that I had the prettiest voice of anyone in the village. I loved nothing more, and still love, for that matter, singing the hymns and quoting the words of the Almighty. I keep my book of Pelor on me at all times, although by now I hardly have to pull it out to remember the passage that I’m looking for.

Oh, but I was going to tell you how I tested them. Well, I was always a… an emotional child. I was also large. Before I could talk I could destroy just about anything, and when I was frustrated I did. You can imagine how frustrating it would be, finding it so hard to be quiet and demure as Pelor asks of women.  As far as my family was concerned, I was just “different.” I had to learn from travelers that there was a name for what I was.

I don’t want to give the wrong idea. I owe everything to my family and to Pelor. In time I became better at feminine virtue. I felt free in the woods, so I spent much of my time studying plants and collecting herbs for the local clerics. Even if I couldn’t always keep my face calm, I learned how to keep my actions in check. Whenever I was upset I would repeat scripture to myself in my head, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city,” is a favorite of mine. Over time I grew to trust that men would take care of me, even though they were mostly smaller and weaker than me, and it was easier to accept my role in Pelor’s grand design.

At 13 years old, I was already as tall as I am today. I not only had to duck to get through doors, my shoulders were so broad that I had to pull them in. It was actually a few days after my birthday that we heard the commotion in the town. I was wearing my simple brown dress, sweeping the floors between the pews when I heard the screams coming outside the door. My body tensed, and I started to feel the strange stirrings in me that I often got when reading the more violent sections of Pelor’s holy text. I breathed deeply and told myself Roman would handle it. He was a fighter that was visiting us at the time. Kind man, but terribly rude. He was so handsome in his armor, and I enjoyed his valorous tales. I wanted to quietly smile at him and make polite little gasps along with the other women who surrounded him in the evenings, but he wouldn’t let me. Instead, whenever he saw me he insisted that I do unladylike things like arm wrestle him and I had to politely excuse myself from his company and listen to my friends retell his tales of adventure afterwards.

So, with effort, I continued to sweep the pews as the chaos continued just outside the double doors. “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Pelor…”

The fight continued until late afternoon. In the early evening I listened to Josephine tell me the hair-raising tale. A troop of zombies had wandered into town from who knows where. As was expected, the menfolk had come out with pitchforks and torches, led by Roman in his full armor and great sword. After a long battle they had managed to disable them all. Josephine said they’re going to have a bonfire to burn the zombie remains for good measure. I noted my thrill of pleasure at the idea of Roman showing off in the light of a huge fire, and thanked Josephine but told her I was just going to go upstairs to bed.

That night I woke to another scream. This time, it was accompanied by an audible curse that could only be from Roman. I ran to my window and looked down at my hero. Roman look different from when I had seen him before. He wasn’t injured, that would be ridiculous living in the company of a small troop of low-level clerics, but the way he moved, his armor looked heavier than before. He put on the same show of bravado as he always did, but it was easier to see through it after fighting zombies almost all day. He was holding a torch in one hand, so he couldn’t use his two-handed sword properly.

I put one hand to my chest and one hand to my mouth with a gasp as I saw what he had come out to meet. Josephine had described to me what looked like human corpses come to life, which was terrifying enough. This look like a corpse of something that might be human, or might once have been. It was covered in gray flesh hanging loosely on its body like an ill-fitting suit over an empty skeleton. Its arms and legs seemed too long for how thin they were, at the end of its fingers were not nails but claws like the knives I’d use to chop meat to cook for a Sunday night dinner. The gray lifeless eyes of the zombies were not there, but rather they glowed red in the night. I whispered another verse to myself and practiced my breathing, my eyes glued to the window.

Roman and the creature sized each other up for only a second. Then they were on each other. The first thing Roman did was shove his torch at the thing, evidently hoping it would catch alight. It was too quick for him, and sent the torch scattering away. I could see in the dark better than my friends, and I saw Roman’s eyes locked on the glowing red ones of the creature, probably the only thing he could see. Roman moved his hand to wield his great sword, but the thing’s claws raked his beautiful face, leaving deep gouges that just barely missed his eye.

“No!” I shrieked, forgetting myself. I pressed against the glass and watched in an overwhelming mix of emotions I could not begin to describe. The fight seemed to stop for a half second, then I saw the fight had not stopped at all, It was only Roman who was no longer moving. I felt a tear run down my cheek. I knew I was losing control of myself, but I was so full of emotion there was no room for shame.

The greatsword fell out of Roman’s stiff hand, and long arms reached around him to pull him towards the being’s rotting, toothy mouth. Suddenly I was on the ground right in front of Roman and the creature. Everything was out of my head. All of my upbringing and careful training and practice was gone. I screamed every foul word and improper slur directly from the heart of my being and charged the creature, shoving it away from Roman so it fell on the ground.

When I ran out of awful things to say, I just shrieked and sobbed and groaned and roared and gnashed my teeth and and kicked and tore at the creature. My white nightgown was covered in dirt and blood and rot as I placed one foot against the creature’s chin and pulled on its arm. In my frenzy I somehow thought I would simply tear this creature limb from limb. Somewhere behind me I heard a chuckling, then came Roman’s voice, barely a croak. “M-Mary, the- the sword.”

Of course! I tried one more tug at the arm for good measure, then I sprung away and scrambled to grab the greatsword. The thing was up by the time I’d gotten the sword. It opened its mouth to lunge for me, and I lifted the sword over my head with both hands and, with an explosion of fire inside my chest that I will never forget, I brought it down in front of me.

The next morning, I was the talk of the town. It was terrible. The shame I had forgotten during the event was full on me once more. I had betrayed every one of the virtues Pelor had vested in me when he made me a woman. Despite everything I had done and everything I had tried, I had shown myself to be the slave of my emotions.

I hid in my room in my filthy, tattered nightgown, trying not to look at the window I had smashed through the night before. Even my body, a betrayal of Pelor in size and shape alone, was now covered in hideous scrapes and bruises. I was acutely aware of my indelicate size as I sat on my bed with my hands in my lap staring at the floor. “Mary,” said the parishioner, “Roman told us what happened.”

“I have failed you. I have failed Pelor and this community. Give me whatever punishment you see fit, but please don’t throw me out. This is all I have.”

I would’ve continued blubbering, but the parishioner interrupted me. “Mary, Mary. You saved this town. You saved Roman’s life. You have done nothing wrong.”


“I don’t think this is the right place for you Mary.”

“You are throwing me out,” I wailed.

The parishioner pressed his lips together, unsure how to deal with my outburst, “Roman wants to take you as an apprentice.”

I practiced my breathing and recited to myself under my breath.  “No. This is the right place for me,” I muttered.

“You’re welcome back anytime, Mary. You always have a home here.”

So in three days I said goodbye to Josephine, my mother the music director and my other friends, and was off.  My time with Roman was a whirlwind.  It might not be an exaggeration to call it the opposite of my time in the parish.  Whereas I could not bring myself to heel enough to satisfy my village, the people I saw on my travels seemed universally to find me too uptight and religious.  My handsome Roman, contrary to whatever fantasies I may have had about our long trips on the road in only each other’s company, seemed seldom to remember that I was a woman at all.  When other men made loud and obnoxious note of my sex, instead of defending my honor himself, He would just look at me and pantomime swinging an axe.  I can tell you that to this day, I have never raised arms over such small matters.

After a few months of this, the only thing that made sense were the moments of genuine danger, during which I began to feel that Pelor had a different plan for me than for other women. There was no shortage of genuine danger. Traveling with Roman, it began to feel strange if a week went by without some violent conflict in which we had to defend helpless villagers from a supernatural threat. The world outside my parish was a terribly violent place, and I loved it. It felt like hundreds of times that Roman had to chastise me after a fight for throwing my shield at a foe and leaping on top of him.  Fight after fight, I learned to strategize through the fog of adrenaline and blood. At least, strategize enough to decide between wielding my greataxe with two hands or a war hammer in one hand and a shield in the other.  Eventually, my weapons became a part of me, and when anger came over me, it was not mindless rage, but a controlled battle frenzy.

After two years of failing to turn me into a swearing, spitting, brawling sell-sword that he had decided I should be, Roman dropped me off at a church of Pelor in a large city.  Even the weathered priests here did not see where I would fit in. The only thing that made sense were fighting and Pelor, but it was clear that didn’t include Pelor’s worshipers. So, I paid my respects at the shrine and I left, with no one but Pelor to show me the way.

Sam’s guide to money

This is a guide for managing money. If you don’t have money, don’t despair! Put this guide down and find a way to get some money.  If you do have money, you’re in the right place!  This simple guide will help you to get the most out of your legitimately earned cash.

In the distant past, the ancient philosopher Benjamin Franklin discovered a secret that has helped people with money to make good use of it ever since.  Sitting beneath a fig tree, Benjamin Franklin had an amazing enlightenment.  “My word, a penny saved is a penny earned!” he shouted, startling a flock of bald eagles and marking the tree as a holy site thenceforth.

At that time, Benjamin Franklin’s teachings were only theoretical. As it was difficult to calculate the precise amount of money that one was saving at any given time, one could not empirically validate his claims until much later.  Now, however, the technology for measuring saved money is so common that many stores will provide it to you as a free service with your purchase!

If you are shopping at one of these stores, you can learn how much money you have saved by simply looking at your receipt.  Consider that one penny saved is equal to one penny earned, and a quick rule of thumb you can use is to convert the dollar amount you saved into pennies, then with the 1 to 1 ratio calculate how much you’ve earned and finally convert pennies back into dollars! The larger this number is, the more money you have earned!

As most receipts can tell you, simply shopping at any store is often enough to earn money.  However, to get the best return on money earned to money spent, one should seek sales.  As many of you probably know, tomorrow is the fourth of July.  In America, this is a holiday during which we celebrate our own nation’s Brexit from Europe.  We refer to this day as “The Fourth of July,” and in celebration we launch great artistic works of fire into the air in states where it is permitted by law, and launch great sales to customers in all states.  Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom is not lost on Americans, and so you will find many people driving to earn as much money as they can on the 4th of July by saving as much money as they can by making as many steeply discounted purchases as they can. The best shoppers are not distracted by the notion of whether something is useful in their lives. The reduction in price is all that matters when earning by saving.

Keep your eyes open in the stores on July 4. If you pay close attention, you will notice that the people who buy the most deals are the wealthiest, thereby proving Benjamin Franklin’s ancient wisdom correct.  You will know they are the wealthiest because they are the ones with the money to buy the most deals.  This bears out the old American saying by the Roman philosopher Plautus, “Ya gotta spend money to make money.” Armed with your new knowledge tomorrow, it’s time to get out there and celebrate our country by getting filthy stinking rich.  When you’re rolling in your piles of $100 bills in your beachside mansion, take a moment to look at the picture.  Do you recognize that man?  It is good to give your respects. A simple “Thanks, Ben,” will do.