Happy Halloween, and Amazing News

Happy Halloween, everyone!

I hope you’re having a great time scarfing down candy and small children (for the Gingerbread House-dwelling witches among our readers).

To celebrate, we have a new story by yours truly to get you in the holiday mood.

First, however, some news.

In the next week or so, this site (There By Candlelight) will finish being transitioned over to the company site for There By Candlelight Press. All of the personal writings and blog posts from both myself and Jennifer will be moved to our personal sites (www.jennlyons.com and cmikelyons.wordpress.com although my own will change once I purchase my own domain name).

Both of those sites are live now, and you should check them out and re-adjust any ‘followings’ you may have to them.

Additionally, you should know that Jenn’s first book, Marduk’s Rebellion, is available for purchase (currently from Amazon and Smashwords, with other sites to follow as they propagate through). Check out her site for details and how to purchase, or just to congratulate her on a job well done.

Her second book, Blood Chimera, will be available in 2014 from World Weaver Press.

Now, as promised, here is a Halloween Story for your amusement: The Claim.

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Brunch! is over, and other updates.

Well, my idea of having Brunch! The Page Where Spam Goes to Die was cute and all, but sadly the spammers aren’t very clever. They keep sending me the same six or seven basic messages over and over, rather than keeping it interesting. As a result, I’ve decided to take down the Brunch! page and simply squash the spam as it comes in.

With a HAMMER!

In other news, the first week of my serial novel read-along-as-I-write-it was a success, in that I wrote just over 2200 words. Today’s update is complete also, bringing us to 2700 words. It is up here on this site (here) as well as on my Watt Pad account, should you wish to get your reading done that way.

Lastly, let me just say that driving around on brakes that are failing is quite the ‘exciting’ experience. I don’t recommend it.


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Back from the dead, new Thing happening

Hello faithful readers (both of you!).

Yes, I’m back. I know it’s been a while since I posted anything. Life has been happening. I finished a novella, decided to upgrade it to a novel, then decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do right now, and started another book. A ‘trio of four’ as DNA might have said. Maybe.

Who knows.


Back in February of this year, Chuck Wendig put up a blog post about how to write a novel in a year. It turns out, it’s not that hard if you break it up into small chunks. He recommends 350 words per day, five days a week.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Here, with you. This is, mind you, in addition to the other books I’m writing offline. However, here online, I’ll be posting between 350-500 words per day. Yes, it’s a serial novel! And you thought those days were over, didn’t you? Admit it, you totally did. That’s okay, I did too.

Starting today, you can head over to the Serial Novel page and follow the progress. It’s free, it’s only 500ish words a day, and it’s free. Did I mention it’s free?

It’s totally free.

So kick back, crack open a cold bottle of Liquified Flobotinum, and enjoy!

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Departure

First off, let me begin this by saying, ‘Go see the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.’ It was a very fun movie, and I can’t wait to see the Goblin Town sequence in a video game (hint hint, designers).

That said, there were a few decisions that the production team (writers, director, and producers) made that seemed out of place, strange, or just plain pointless.

Warning: Everything below is a spoiler.

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Filed under Down With The Sickness - Rants, Moving Pictures - Movies and TV

The Blame Game

On December 14th, 2012, a man picked up several firearms, went to the school where his mother taught, and began killing people. This was a horrible, horrific event that shocked and sickened me to my core. That this was not the first time something like that has happened in no way lessened the horror.

In the aftermath, as I watched the feeds on Twitter and Facebook, I began to notice two trends.

The first trend was people expressing their emotions: offering condolences to the families of those slain, or expressing their disgust and outrage, as personal tastes dictated.

The second trend I noticed was people using this as proof that either all guns should be banned, or as an example of why every American should be packing a gat on their hip. Some day, I will find the humor inherent in the fact that both the pro- and anti-gun lobbies are using the exact same event as ‘proof’ that their beliefs are correct. Not today, however. It’s still too close.

But then I made the cardinal mistake: I replied to the FB post of an acquaintance.

I really should know better.

My acquaintance posted a link to an article on Thinkprogress.org titled, “It’s Easier for Americans to Access Guns Than Mental Health Services.” I responded flippantly that there are many things in America it is easier to get than mental health services. Then I sarcastically named a few, including garbanzo beans (because I really like that word. Garbanzo).

An acquaintance of my acquaintance then jumped in to berate me for ‘making mental health care seem ridiculous.’ This surprised me, as that was not the point of my reply at all. All I was trying to do was shine a light on the fact that the author of the original article was using this tragedy as a platform for his own personal anti-gun stance, and doing so in a deliberately misleading and frankly absurd way.

‘Guns are easier to access than mental health.’ No s#!t, Sherlock.

Guns are physical, manufactured items. I’m not an expert on firearm factories, but I can’t imagine it takes more than maybe half an hour to manufacture a Glock on the assembly line? And given the asking prices, I predict it costs somewhere in the vicinity of $50-$100 to make one. On the other hand, to ‘manufacture’ a therapist takes years and years of college, and tens if not hundreds of thousands in school loans. And once you’ve ‘made’ your therapist, curing someone of whatever mental ailments they suffer from isn’t instant, that also takes time and money. It has been a while since I last looked at the prices for an hour of therapy, but back then it was around $200. For $200, I can get a LOT of garbanzo beans.

But as I sat here and thought about this semi-argument I was almost having with a complete stranger, I started to think about what this says about us as a species and a society. I composed several follow-up posts in my head, and although I never posted them, they got me to thinking.

See, here’s the thing. Right now, a lot of people are blaming this tragedy on guns. Leaving aside the absurdity of blaming the tool for the way in which it is wielded, this is simply the latest in a long line of excuses that society has come up with in order to avoid having to put the blame for events like this where it actually belongs.

In the ’60s, it was Rock’n’Roll music. If someone killed someone or committed suicide, it was Rock’n’Roll’s fault. In the 70s, it was Heavy Metal. In the 80s, the cause of every evil was Dungeons and Dragons. In the 90s it was video games, and in the 00s, it was violence on TV and in the movies. And now, the fault lies with guns.

It is interesting that we’ve moved beyond the social and are now blaming the method, but that’s not the point. The point is, we keep pointing fingers at things that are, at best, peripheral influences on unstable people and crying ‘Satan is in the Rock’n’Roll/Heavy Metal/D&D/Video games/Violent TV shows/Guns.’

The fact is, sometimes people go crazy. They’re broken. Maybe it’s environmental, maybe it’s genetic. Maybe it’s a chemical imbalance, maybe it’s a non-supportive home life, maybe it’s stress. But people sometimes go nuts. And sometimes, when they go, they take others with them. It’s horrible and sad and scary, but it’s not exactly ‘news’ that sometimes people snap.

So why do we blame these other things, these external forces? Why does society feel the need to point fingers at rock’n’roll or heavy metal or video games or guns and cry ‘Demon! Unclean!’?

I ask this, but the truth is, I know why.


Each and every one of us, in the darkest hidden parts of our minds, where we don’t like to go and hate to even acknowledge that we have, we know that the guy who picked up a gun or a knife or a bomb and killed a McDonalds full of people could have been us. ‘There but for the grace,’ and all that.

But we don’t want to believe that it could be us. Our subconscious minds, quite often, refuse to even accept the possibility. But if ‘crazy’ is a result of environment or stress or genetics, all these things that we tend to believe we have no control over, then we have no control over going crazy. And that is simply unacceptable.

So we find other reasons. Reasons that we, ourselves, don’t do. “That kid who did these terrible things played video games,’ your mind says. “But I don’t like video games, and I don’t play them. Therefore, if video games are the reason he went insane, then I’m safe. It can’t happen to me.” And just like that, we have rationalized away our fear that we could be next and put the demon of insanity into the sacrificial pig of things we don’t like, things we don’t do, and things we’re safe from.

A man picked up several firearms, went to the school where his mother taught, and started killing people. And because someone doesn’t like guns, it’s the guns’ fault.

Obviously, that’s horsecrap. People were going insane and killing each other long before we had easy (or any) access to guns. If there were no guns, that man (he was 24, according to the news report I read) could have gone into a liquor store and bought several bottles of Everclear and made Molotov cocktails out of them. Or made a bomb from various products found at Home Depot. Or picked up a knife (20 of the 28 people he killed at last report were children).

We are all descended from someone. We all live in environments and we all eat and breathe. We all have stress in our lives. So if those things cause insanity then we’re vulnerable. You are vulnerable.

But if you don’t like guns and don’t own one, then guns are a ‘safe’ target. Guns can be the culprit, and you are secure in your invulnerable ivory tower of sanity.

Good luck with that.


Filed under Down With The Sickness - Rants, General

FJJ Investigations, Inc. – Prologue

Loosely inspired by a friend’s Facebook post. Merely a prologue. 


It was after midnight and the music was pumping at Z-Rez when the suit approached me for the first time. We were there celebrating, never mind why. Red had poured herself into a skin-tight black Keshiro Takeda dress, and guys were lining up to buy her drinks. Vee was, unsurprisingly, over at the DJ’s station checking out the newest Zeiss Ultrabass thumpers, and I had lost track of Mutt and his ward hours ago.

Me? I was enjoying a well deserved Ichiban when the suit darkened my booth.

“Mr. Jones?” his voice held just the slightest note of uncertainty, which told me that he only knew me by verbal description. Whoever he was, he didn’t have a file on me or he’d know my face. I hadn’t been reprofiled over a year. I had been considering trying a stint as a brunette, but always decided against it. My hair was pretty much my signature.

“Mr. Johnson,” I nodded back. Someday I’m going to meet a suit whose name really is Johnson. Or maybe the bigger suits know that’s what we call them, and never assign anyone with that name to low-level grunt work like this.

He smiled, an expression as plastic as his features: handsome in a bland, non-threatening way. The perfect corporate shill. No doubt the result of extensive reprofiling. “I represent certain people,” he began, slipping into the booth opposite me. “Certain people who have heard of you and your team. We want to hire you.”

My own smile could be measured in picoseconds. “Of course you do.” My voice was heavy on the sarcasm. It’s good, in these negotiations, to establish dominance from the very beginning. And nothing does that better than feigning disinterest. If he was any good at his job, he knew I knew that, and I knew he knew, and so the dance went. “Let me guess,” I went on, “your boss did something and now someone else knows about it and you want expendables who won’t be missed come next quarter’s accounting to go sort it out. That about sum it up?”

He paused, for just a fraction of a second. Maybe he wasn’t as good at his job as I had thought. “No,” he shook his head. “That’s not it at all. Someone broke into our offices…”

I nodded as he trailed off. “And you want us to find out who and retrieve whatever it is they took.” It wasn’t a question, but it was wrong as it turned out.

“No,” he shook his head again. His composure was back, and I realized that I had guessed wrong and forfeited the advantage. Dammit. “We know who did it and we have already recovered the property,” he continued. “What we want you to do is figure out how they did it.”

“Why not just make them tell you?” I asked, and from the self-satisfied smirk, I knew the answer as soon as I asked. “Oh,” I nodded, “no one left alive to question.”

He nodded smugly. “We want you to recreate the event. Figure out where how they did it. The pay is quite good by your standards.” He produced a small holopad from his suit pocket and slid it across the table at me. The figure displayed was as handsome as his face.

I thought quickly. The fact that, even after catching the perps, they still didn’t know how it was done implied certain things. “You think you have a mole,” I said, and he nodded again. “Double that,” I said, pointing at the display. It was a gamble, but I was pretty sure he would go for it. Most people don’t come to us unless there is something so incredibly wrong with their problem that usual avenues of inquiry just wouldn’t cut it.

I was right: he nodded without hesitation. “Done.”

I should have asked for more. Damn. “Done,” I repeated and it was sealed. He collected his pad and slid a card across the table in its place. The card was for the Senior Vice President of Information Security at Grünenthal Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH. I stopped myself from whistling just in time. I pocketed the card and nodded.

“Tomorrow, 8 AM,” he said as he stood. He smoothed out his suit, flicked an imaginary speck of dust from his shoulder, and turned to go. He was swallowed up by the crowd in seconds.

I sat there for a time, thinking about the case. GBI was one of the Big Boys, an Orbital with connections and branches in almost every nation left on Earth. It was said that they flat-out owned the Greater Southern California Republic. If someone was stealing from them, and they couldn’t figure out who did it, it had to be someone very powerful. And that meant very dangerous. We would have to be on our toes the entire time.

I clicked my jaw to activate the subdermal and called Vee. “We have a job,” I said without preamble when she acknowledged me. “Find Mutt and Shag, and meet me at the Van in ten. And give Shag some DeTox. I need him coherent for this. I’ll get Red and meet you guys there.”

“Of course you will,” Velma’s voice dripped sarcasm, and I flushed. My infatuation with Daphne was a long-running source of amusement for the others in the group. I disconnected without replying. Sometimes it’s best not to respond to that kind of thing.

Still, I was in a good mood. We had a new job, so close on the heels of the last. If this kept up, we’d be able to afford those new Nokia plugs Shaggy wanted, and upgrade the Mutt’s biodermal implants. Things were looking good for a change.

I should have known better.


Filed under Seed, Snippet, Words words words - Writing and books

Where did you go?

The metal frame is cold in my hand as I look down at your face, perfectly centered in the rectangle of glass. As I stare at your image, I remember a different time when you were full of life, and I wonder; where did you go?


I remember you as a child, in the sandbox at the local park. You were fearless, and would approach anyone your age and simply begin speaking to them. It was impossible to resist your games, even the sullen boy who kept glancing at the library on the corner and claimed to hate playing soon found himself running and laughing with everyone else, fingers cocked into Star Wars blasters and shooting at each other. “Pew, pew!” everyone cried, and “Ahh!” you would clutch your chest dramatically, stagger a few times, and then fall over. Then it was back on your feet, and now the game was playground Parkour, everyone rushing this way and that, using the equipment as springboards to launch themselves high into the air, or to spin around in a tight circle until, one by one, parents would come to pick up their children. But that was okay, you said, you would see them all again next week.


I remember you as a teen, hanging out during lunch with your friends on the semi-circular concrete bench of the quad at school. You smiled so easily back then. Sitting on the back of the bench, with your sketchbook in hand, you would draw funny pictures based on things that were happening around you. You had that talent for finding humor even in the cruel teasing and casual bullying of children. I still have the picture you drew after Mick, the bully, wedgie’d little Ron Goldman. In the picture, Mick looked surprised that Ron was showing no pain as his underwear was yanked up, and just enough of Ron’s shirt was open to reveal the big red Superman “S” on his chest.


I remember when you embraced skateboarding. With a beat-up old deck you bought at a garage sale for two dollars, you would go to the park and ride for an hour or two every day after school. You never minded the bumps and scrapes you got, claiming with a laugh that they were your ‘battle scars’ and that ‘chicks dug them.’ You let your hair grow long to fit in better with the other skaters, and started wearing baggy cargo pants. Even when they invited you to go tagging with them, you managed to turn it into something different. The others were spraying their names or obscene slogans on walls, and you made little pictures of alien planets, or recreated Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. And when you got caught and the shop owner made you work every weekend for two months to clean off all the paint, you accepted this as just and right payment for your fun. You even won that shopkeeper over to your side; he gave you your first job, working part time after school.


I remember you in college, sitting on the couch in Julie’s dorm room with your guitar on your lap. You had been flirting with learning to play for a few months, and you were so enthusiastic that no one had the heart to tell you how bad you were. But you obviously figured it out on your own, for I remember that one night when you started playing a song about yourself, making fun of your terrible singing voice and your inconsistent strumming. Even now, I remember you laughing as you sang, shaking your head. Then you apologized to everyone for putting them through all of that, and you put the guitar away for the last time. I saw it a week later in the window of the pawn shop just off campus. But oh, how you loved to play in those few short weeks.


I remember you getting ready for your first serious job interview. Mom straightened your tie for the third time, and you laughed and pulled her hands away. “I got this,” you told her with a cocky grin. I don’t think she ever realized how nervous you really were, or how excited you were at the opportunity. It was only a paralegal job, sure, but it was in the law industry, and you were going to make a difference. You had a plan, of course. Two years of paralegal work to get to know the industry, then you’d take your LSATS and go to law school. You were going to be a junior partner by 26, and a full partner by 30. The long hours didn’t bother you, you said. You could handle it.


I remember you getting ready to go to Spain. With great enthusiasm, you packed your bags. Some conference for work, an excellent chance to network with others. You hadn’t yet gotten around to those LSATS, but that didn’t matter, you said. This was going to be a game-changer. If things went well with your presentation at this conference, you’d have your choice of firms to work for, and could make whatever conditions you wanted. Your timeline may have been set back slightly, but you were still on track, you said.


It’s late now. I have to get to work. Time to get going. I give you one last look in the mirror, push back a wayward strand of hair, and set it back down on the table by the door. I try not to think about the lines on my face, or how my hair is turning more salt than pepper. I try not to think about the expectations I once had, before the daily routine ground them out of me. I try not to think about the past, but still, every now and then I wonder; where did you go?


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