Thursday, August 19, 2010

Makin' Bacon: A Short Story

A couple months ago I wrote a 2000 word short story for a contest, the object of which was to describe what was happening in the above "fanart" showing writer John Scalzi as an orc and writer/actor Wil Wheaton riding a unicorn pegasus kitten (I named it Purrgasus!). The results were announced today and, big surprise, I didn't win. I don't feel too bad about it since it's my first short story and there were over 300 others entered in the contest. Since there's no chance that my story will ever be published I thought that I would post it here. Enjoy!


Somewhere on Mount Fail, late morning.

“Is someone making bacon?” The lone Scalzi orc gave several sniffs and abruptly abandoned his pursuit of the Evil One to search the human soldiers’ camp for any sign of the savory meat. He paid no heed to the gagging sounds the soldiers made when he passed into their sight, nor to the Evil One and his feline monstrosity, who were rapidly making their escape.

The captain of the soldiers groaned and hid his eyes from the green-skinned orc, lest he be sick again. How could he have been foolish enough to let the Evil One go? He even cheered for him as he flew away! Vainly he tried to rally his company. “Prepare another net! Bring him back down!” he ordered. The soldiers pulled themselves up and gave it their best but it was far too late. In the end, they could only watch helplessly as the Purrgasus and the Evil One disappeared into the distance.

“Curse you, Wil Wheaton!” the captain screamed, tears of hate and frustration escaping from his eyes. Though the object of his anger had vanished from sight, an obnoxious cackle was carried back to the captain on the foul-smelling wind. It was followed by the Evil One’s parting words: “Yes, I am that gooooood!”

Fifteen minutes earlier…

Mount Fail spewed its ash and cinders over the burning land for miles and filled the sky with stinking clouds of sulfur and ash. Below all this, in a slight hollow halfway down the volcano’s side, hid six dirty and weary soldiers. They had camped there for days now, holding their heads low and covering themselves with fireproof cloaks to guard against the flaming debris that floated down from the volcano’s mouth. It paid to be cautious on Mount Fail. Only that morning the seventh member of their company had rushed to be first in line for breakfast and neglected his protective cloak. The sight of his crimson uniform bursting into flames would give his fellow soldiers nightmares for years to come.

Their captain flicked away a small pile of accumulated ash from his cloak. “Not long now, eh lieutenant?” he said to the fresh-faced young man crouched next to him.

“Sir, are you sure this is a good idea?” asked his second-in-command, pulling his cloak tighter around his shoulders. “How can we possibly be a match for so much evil?”

“Oh come now! Have I ever led you wrong?” replied the captain. “The Evil One will come and we will capture him, I give you my word! As I always say, ‘He who is on the side of rightness…should watch out for his left!’” The captain laughed and clapped the lieutenant on the shoulder. The younger man spent a moment trying to understand the captain’s proverb before deciding that it was impossible.

“Something’s coming!” the lookout called from her position near the top of the hollow. She pointed to a creature emerging from the ring of smog that hugged the peak of Mount Fail. With a single deadly horn, two foul brown wings and a mouth crammed with cruel, needle-sharp teeth the legendary Purrgasus was unmistakable. On its back was a rider – the Evil One.

The captain jumped to his feet. “Ready the net!” he ordered. The soldiers scrambled to comply while their leader kept his eye on the man riding the flying beast. “Steady… Steady…” He watched him draw closer, waiting until he was just within range. “Now!”

The soldiers flung out the net and trapped the Purrgasus and its rider, pulling the struggling pair down to earth. The lieutenant and the lookout dragged the man out of the net while the others rushed to lash the hideous feline creature to the ground. Though it mewed pitifully, the captain was not moved. He knew that if given half a chance the Purrgasus would gleefully disembowel him. Ignoring the creature, he turned to the human prisoner.

“Let me go!” cried the bestubbled man, struggling against his captors as they removed a golden spear from his hands. Once the shining weapon was freed they passed it to the captain, who examined it briefly before responding to the prisoner’s plea.

“I think not, my friend,” the captain said. “The Traykee Purity Guardians will pay us a pretty penny when we deliver your head to them!” He poked the golden spear at the man’s neck.

“What?” The prisoner gulped.

“Are you hard of hearing?” asked the captain. Moving closer to the man he loudly replied, “I said, the Traykee Purists will pay us well for your head, Wil Wheaton!”

The man’s reaction surprised the captain. Instead of cowering in fear, he laughed. “Wheaton? You think I am the Wheaton?” He laughed again and shook his head, albeit carefully to avoid the spear still pointed at his neck. “I’m afraid there has been a misunderstanding – I am not Wil Wheaton.”

The soldiers looked at the man in confusion. Had they made a mistake? But their captain was not so easily swayed. “You’re a silver-tongued devil, Wheaton. How can there be any doubt that you are the Evil One? You’re just as the tales describe - riding on that feline monstrosity, carrying the golden spear of Epicosity and wearing the legendary Harlequin Sweater, knitted from finest mithril!”

The man nodded in agreement. “Yes, yes! And were I in your position I could only conclude the same. But please, let me assure you that in truth I am but a lowly orc. They call me John of the Scalzis, and my clan has been at war with the Evil One for eons. Why, it is only because of the trickery of the Wheaton that I appear before you thusly!”

The captain narrowed his eyes at the man and asked, “An orc? Do you take me for a fool?” He spat in disgust and pressed the spear tightly against the prisoner’s neck, causing the man to gasp.

“But I tell the truth!” he begged. “Only minutes ago I was battling the Wheaton at the pinnacle of Mount Fail. He was nearly defeated – all that remained was for me to remove his impenetrable Harlequin Sweater so I could stab him through the heart and utterly destroy him. However, no sooner did I pull the garment from his body than did the Evil One knock me to the ground and make his escape on foot! I was disheartened until I realized that, in his haste, he had left behind his creature, spear, and sweater. I took these things for my own and set off to find him.”

The captain shook his head and scoffed. “If you are a Scalzi orc, why do you look like a man? Where is your mossy green skin? Your pointy orc ears? Your splendid orc armor?”

“I see you are very observant!” the man replied. “It is obvious why you are the leader of this band.” The captain unsuccessfully tried to hide the smug grin that crept across his face. The prisoner continued, “Since you are such an intelligent man, I will let you in on one of the Wheaton’s greatest secrets. This enchanted Harlequin Sweater not only protects the wearer, but also disguises their appearance. When I removed the sweater from the Wheaton’s back he reverted to his true form – a horrible, putrid golem. And when I put the sweater on myself to replace my armor that the Evil One threw into Mount Fail, I was changed from an orc to a man!”

The captain pondered the prisoner’s story. Enchanted garments did seem to be packed with multiple magic powers these days. Why, just a few weeks ago he had come across the Mystical Mittens of Mott, which not only made the wearer invisible but also protected their fingers from frostbite. Perhaps the prisoner was telling the truth after all. He lowered the spear and the man gave a sign of relief.

The lieutenant noticed his superior’s change in attitude. He waved for one of the other soldiers to take his place holding the prisoner and came to the captain’s side. “Sir, should we not make him remove the enchanted sweater?” he asked. “That would prove beyond a doubt whether he is a Scalzi orc.”

The captain gave a great sigh. “You have much to learn, lieutenant. Of course we cannot.”

“But why?” the lieutenant asked.

“Tell me, have you ever seen a shirtless Scalzi?”

“No sir, I have not.”

“Then pray you never do!” The captain shuddered. “Now, please stop wasting my time and bring me the leftovers from breakfast.”

“Sir?” The lieutenant was bewildered.

“Don’t ask questions, just do as I say!” The lieutenant scurried away and returned several moments later carrying a platter filled to the brim with crispy, greasy bacon.

The captain took it from him. “Watch and you’ll see why I’m the one in charge here.” He stepped forward and offered the platter to the prisoner, saying, “Here friend, you must be—” but before he could add ‘hungry,’ the platter had been snatched from his hands and the prisoner was quickly devouring every last crackle. The captain gave a satisfied smirk. “You see?” he asked the lieutenant.

“See what, sir?”

“That you should never doubt me!” the captain answered. “Do you remember this old rhyme? Things made of meat, the Wheaton won’t eat…”

“But things made of pork are like catnip to orcs!” finished the lieutenant. “Of course!” He smiled for a moment, then frowned when another thought occurred to him. “But could not the Wheaton be acting? Pretending that he enjoys bacon so that we will believe his story?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the captain replied, watching the prisoner greedily lick the platter clean of grease. “Nobody’s that good.” He turned to the soldiers guarding the Purrgasus. “Cut it loose,” he commanded. To the prisoner he said, “I am deeply sorry for the misunderstanding, John of the Scalzis. You are clearly telling the truth and are free to go. We too wish to see the end of the Evil One, so may the gods shower good fortune upon you and your noble quest!” The captain held out the golden spear.

The man took it and replied, “Thank you, friend.” He mounted his feline steed and raised the spear in a salute. “I shall not fail!” At that, the Purrgasus beat its wings and the pair rose up into the burning sky.

“A cheer for the heroic orc!” the captain shouted and led the soldiers in a passionate “Hip, hip, hurrah!” They were so intent on their celebration that not one of them noticed when a real Scalzi orc appeared at the top of the hollow, wheezing and snorting in exhaustion from his run down the side of the volcano.

“Hey! Stop that guy!” the orc gasped between breaths. “Don’t let him get away!” Startled, the soldiers turned to look at the newcomer. That was a grave mistake, however, because the orc was wearing no shirt. Upon beholding that repulsive sight every last man and woman retched, heaving up the contents of their stomachs until the entire company lay weak and dazed on the ground.

The captain struggled to his feet but fell again when he caught another eyeful of the Scalzi orc’s chest. “In the name of all that is sacred, clothe yourself!” he cried.

The orc rolled his eyes. “Gee, I’d love to! But that jerk in the clown sweater stole my armor and threw it into Mount Fail!” The green monster roared in frustration at the departing Purrgasus and its rider, but stopped when his attention was caught by a smell rising from the stomach-churning mess in the camp. “Is someone making bacon?”

The End

Friday, August 06, 2010

Printing Your Own Book

Last November I participated in National Novel Writing Month, an event held online every year where thousands of people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. I "won", which means that I did write a 50,000+ word novel in 30 days. One of the perks of winning was a free proof copy of my book from

CreateSpace is an online self-publishing company affiliated with It's free to get a basic account and publish a book as long as you do all the work yourself; you only pay for the actual printed copies. You upload a PDF of your book to the site, formatted exactly how you want it to appear in the final book including page sizes, numbers, etc. You create a cover for it, either by yourself or using one of their pre-formatted covers. For my book cover, I took a photo in my backyard (an antique key on some grass) and inserted it into one of CreateSpace's covers.

Next, someone at CreateSpace checks to make sure that your book will print correctly. It's a very basic check - mainly just to be sure that your PDF is the right size and nothing is going to be cut off on the edge of the page (they don't check for typos, missing pages or anything like that). Once your book has been checked you can order a proof copy. The cost depends on the size and page count of your book (mine was free thanks to NaNoWriMo, including free shipping!).

Your book is shipped to you, you check it over and if you're happy with it you can make it available for others to purchase at and Or, if you're like me and you only want to have a copy for yourself, you don't have to make it available to purchase at all.

The hardest part of this (besides writing the book!) is formatting the PDF. It took me several days to get my book set up correctly. CreateSpace doesn't give you much help with the formatting, probably because they would prefer that you pay them to do it for you! So I used this website from self-published author Lisa Shea which goes through pretty much everything you need to know about printing your own book. She also gives her thoughts on the other two big self-publishing sites out there, Lulu and CafePress.

All in all I was happy with my free copy from CreateSpace. It was 224 pages long, which included my NaNoWriMo story plus a 43-page short short I threw in to make it a bit longer. I think the cover turned out nice, though you can see in the top photo that the front didn't turn out centered like it was in the second sample photo - it's cropped closer on the right side. Finally, the copy I got was a proof copy but the only place it said "proof" was on the very last page of the book. That's a good thing, because I was worried it was going to say it on every single page!

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