50,000 Word Challenge: Part 2

Fox Red - Omaha Beach by DuneChaser
This is the second installment in my 50,000 words in 30 days challenge. It’s a completely unedited first draft written with the primary goal of getting out as many words as possible in a short time, so don’t expect too much from it. More parts will come each week as the challenge progresses. You can read the previous chapter here.

Chapter 2: An Unlikely Hero

“A dinosaur,” Eli muttered to himself, “it’s really a dinosaur… How…”

The man on the back of the pteranodon reached an arm down around the beast to the harness around its slender body. His fingers slid down to one of the round bombs and unhooked it from its holster. He held it out over the shoulder of his mount as it quickly glided toward Eli and Sgt. Lewis. The monstrous shadow silently slipped over the two men and the beast’s rider let the bomb slip from his grasp.

“Move!” Sgt. Lewis shouted grabbing Eli and wrenching him from his reverie. Snapped back to his senses Eli sprinted after Sgt. Lewis up the steep slope towards where the the other soldiers had been bombed. Glancing back over his shoulder, Eli caught a glimpse of the rounded black mass gracefully gliding down to the spot they had stood a moment before. It fell heavily onto the sand and instantly a fiery explosion blossomed where it landed.

The shock-wave slammed into Eli and Sgt. Lewis like a truck. Eli’s breath was pressed from him and he landed roughly face-down in the sand and dirt. A warm trickle rolled down his forehead and glided around his right cheek. Sgt. Lewis was already back on his feet and was pulling Eli up by his uniform. “Come on, we have to keep moving before that thing turns around.”

Regaining his footing Eli stumbled after Sgt. Lewis toward the pillbox at the peak of the path. He could hear soldiers shouting down on the beach as they saw the beast, followed by the dull booms of the bombs its rider dropped. Eli turned around again just in time to watch the pteranodon swing back over the casement topped cliff and disappear from sight. Sgt. Lewis grabbed him again and pulled him along until they reached the pillbox.

They collapsed against it with their backs to the concrete, charred pieces of the soldiers that had been trying to open it smoldered, sitting scattered at their feet. A drop of crimson fell from Eli’s cheek and formed a bead in the sand. “I’m bleeding,” Eli muttered distantly.

Sgt. Lewis glanced at his forehead.”You were nicked by shrapnel, you’re fine,” he grunted. “Now, what did you say that thing was exactly?”

“I’m not entirely sure but, I think that was a pteranodon,” Eli said, still not entirely believing it himself. Sgt. Lewis lifted his eyebrows slightly, looking for more explanation. “They’re dinosaurs,” Eli continued, “well, o.k., pteranodons aren’t technically dinosaurs since dinosaurs have to be from the Saurischia or Ornithischia groups but they…”

“They’re dinosaurs,” Sgt. Lewis interjected, “got it.” He surveyed the top of the cliff from their position behind the pillbox, the stock of the carbine tucked against his shoulder. Low concrete walled trenches ran from casement to casement and formed a network at the top of the cliffs. Set back from the cliff at the top of the path was a two-story concrete bunker with a large metal roll-up door on the front. Sgt. Lewis expected there to be more German soldiers in the trenches, but it was strangely deserted looking. “The shooting has died down…” he muttered.

He was right, Eli realized. The relative quiet that had fallen over the beach was nearly as frightening as the explosions and gunfire it had replaced. “Why do you think the Germans stopped firing?” he asked.

Almost before the words had left Eli’s lips, another shadow fell over him and Sgt. Lewis. They instinctively crouched and looked skyward. Sgt. Lewis raised his weapon instinctively, then swore loudly and lowered it again as he took everything in.

A line of the pteranodons soared overhead in a very slight v-formation. There were at least ten on each wing not including the monster flying at point. The riders all unhooked their bombs in unison and began releasing them one by one as soon as they found targets. Shouts and screams mingled with gunfire as the soldiers still on the beach scrambled for cover and returned fire.

Sgt. Lewis lifted his weapon again trying to get a bead on one of the flying monsters. He had just peered down the sights when behind them at the top of the path the large door began to grind upward. Sgt. Lewis jumped to his feet and trained his weapon on the door as he and Eli backed away from the pillbox. Eli’s foot caught in a clump of grass pushing through the sand and he fell backwards. Scrambling to get back to his feet he glanced under the slowly rising door.

The light coming through the widening opening glinted off two sets of three ebony talons. Each talon was contained in a long toe which traced upward and joined its companions in forming a thick, muscular leg. Each leg looked like the twisted, sinewy trunk of a tree wrapped taught in a leathery, scaled skin the color of moss covered bark.

Eli didn’t wait for the door to get any higher. “Run,” he blurted out as he clawed his way to his feet.

“What?” Sgt. Lewis asked, noticing Eli’s wild-eyed expression.

“Run!” Eli shouted over his shoulder, legs already pounding as he raced down the sandy slope to the seawall. Sgt. Lewis glanced back at the door. The opening had grown to about six feet and he could clearly see the two enormous legs, shifting impatiently as they waited for the door to release them. Sgt. Lewis turned and ran after Eli.

Eli’s heart pounded in his chest and his lungs burned as he ran for the gap in the wall. He heard Sgt. Lewis gaining on him and looked back to see that he had almost caught up. Behind him, at the top of the cliff, the door finished its ascent.

Atop the two powerful legs sat a powerful, equally muscular body. Enormous hips tapered forward leading to a thick, s-shaped neck. Below the neck, two three foot long arms were tucked in close to the body – surprisingly small in relation to the rest of the gargantuan creature. At the end of its neck, held around thirteen feet off the ground, its monstrous head made up for the diminutive proportion of its arms. It opened its jaws, revealing the five foot long rows of gleaming daggers that were its teeth and bellowed. The sound was strange to Eli’s ears. It was as if the trumpet of an elephant and the roar of a lion had been blended with the sound of rolling thunder then amplified tenfold. He suppressed an instinctive shudder as the sound met his ears.

Eli had always wondered what a tyrannosaurus would sound like.

The monster launched itself through the doorway, its toes spreading as they sank into the dirt and sand under the massive weight. Over the titan’s sides were draped two long, flowing banners. Each was dyed the color of blood and bordered all around with a band of jet black. In the center of each banner was a black shield, embroidered with a silver eagle resting atop a swastika – the Heeresadler. Strapped over the tyrannosaur’s shoulders, nestled into the slight depression behind its serpentine neck, was a black leather saddle. Two long reins draped from each corner of the creature’s massive, slavering jaws to the hands of the man seated on its back.

Eli was mesmerized as the tyrannosaur thundered toward them. Sgt. Lewis raced past him down the hill reaching up with his left hand and smacking Eli firmly on the forehead. “Move!” he shouted.

Snapped back to reality he turned and chased after Sgt. Lewis. The ground shook as the tyrannosaur charged down the path behind them. Eli didn’t dare hazard another look over his shoulder. Chest heaving poured all of his strength into racing down the hill. The ground shook more violently under Eli as the sandbags and entrenchments that lined the incline blew past him in a blur. He could hear the heaving of the tyrannosaur’s breath behind him. He wasn’t going to make it. Suddenly, Sgt. Lewis’s right arm shot out from in front of him and grabbed Eli’s collar as he felt a blast of hot, moist air wash over his back. Sgt. Lewis left hand lashed out and caught the edge of a pillbox, the momentum swinging himself and Eli around to the left seconds before a wall of teeth and flesh roared past.

The rider tugged hard on the reins as the beast roared in frustration. The tyrannosaur tried to stop but its momentum continued to launch it down the hill. The claws on its feet dug into the sand but it was futile. The monsters feet slid out of it and it fell to its right side continuing to slide down the path in an avalanche of sand.

“Now’s our chance,” Sgt. Lewis barked, dashing out from behind the pillbox to race back up the hill. Eli forced himself to follow him, his legs burned and he still hadn’t caught his breath, but the thought of what waited for them at the bottom of the cliff drove him to move.

The rider pulled back hard on the reins, as the tyrannosaur lumbered back to its feet. Pointing it to the path he whipped the reins and kicked hard with his boots. The beast looked up at the sandy incline and hesitated, unsure of whether its weight would hold after the painful fall. Shouting in anger at its disobedience, the man pulled a long metal bar from the loop where it hung on the saddle. He pressed the end of the rod to the back of the creature’s head and a loud crackle sounded as the end touching the tyrannosaur’s skull flashed with the blue glow of arcing electricity. The beast bellowed in surprise and obediently charged forward up the slope.

Eli and Sgt. Lewis breathlessly reached the top of the cliff as the monster below began its climb. Its ascent was slowed by the shifting sands underneath its massive weight but it was gradually gaining ground. Overhead the squadron of pteranodons soared back from where they came, on their way to replenish their supply of bombs. Sgt. Lewis headed to the left and dropped into the trench leading to the nearest casement. Eli followed suit and started to run past, bent on getting away from the tyrannosaur. As he stepped in front of the doorway to the casement, gunfire erupted from inside. Sgt. Lewis caught Eli by the back of the collar and pulled him back from the doorway. Eli felt a sharp sting as a bullet grazed his left arm, the top of his sleeve blossoming in red.

Sgt. Lewis pressed him back into the wall of the trench. He snatched a grenade from a loop on Eli’s chest and pulled the pin. The release flew off the top and landed softly in the dirt a few feet away. Eli’s eyes widened as Sgt. Lewis clutched the grenade close to his chest, his eyes pressed close in concentration. “Three,” Sgt. Lewis whispered as he wheeled around and lobbed the grenade through the door of the casement then pressed Eli back into the wall. Shouts of frantic German came from the doorway. Before they had time to react a blast roared from the doorway with a flash of fire and a rolling wall of smoke.

A deafening roar sounded from behind them and Sgt. Lewis looked up to see the tyrannosaur had crested the top of the hill and was pounding toward them over the packed dirt. He grabbed Eli and threw him into the smoke-filled casement, diving in after him as gargantuan jaws snapped down on the spot they were standing.

Eli coughed and rubbed his eyes as the smoke slowly cleared. The tyrannosaur was struggling vainly to force its head into the door of the casement but the concrete held fast. Its slavering jaws filled the doorway as it tried to push its way in. All Eli and Sgt. Lewis could see of the monster was a wall of gnashing teeth draped over a tongue the size of a man and encased in a scaled hulk of muscle. A slight foam bubbled from its nostrils with each heaving breath as it snapped at its trapped prey.
Sgt. Lewis scowled and lifted his carbine. He fired several rounds into the monster’s snout and throat, small red pockmarks bursting open in its scaled flesh. With a snort the tyrannosaur yanked its head from the doorway. The men could see its two legs straddling the trench, then it slowly stomped out of sight as if it were headed back down the incline. Sgt. Lewis surveyed the inside of the casement, ending with a disapproving glare at Eli. “Pull yourself together, it’s embarrassing.”

Still coughing, Eli pulled himself to his feet. “If anything tries to come through that door,” Sgt. Lewis commanded, “you shoot it. Understand?” He turned away from Eli and stalked over to the opening in the casement overlooking the beach. Pure carnage lay before him on the beach. The landing craft had finally stopped their delivery of soldiers, and the beach was carpeted in bodies. Two more tyrannosaurs raged down on the beach, one in the center and one at the far edge. Unlike the one he and Eli had faced, their saddles had been outfitted with MG42s and their riders fired into the pockets of remaining soldiers on the beach.

The U.S. soldiers fought back as much as they could, but the monsters and their riders were too much for them and they were slowly being forced back into the waves. A plume of smoke blossomed from behind the shingle and traced to the side of one of the tyrannosaurs. The rocket exploded on contact and with a painful bellow the creature fell to the ground. It writhed in pain on the beach, kicking up giant waves of sand. It, at least, would never get back up. Sgt. Lewis shook his head and pulled his pack of cigarettes from his pocket. Lighting one, he turned back toward Eli.

“I thought I told you to cover the door,” Sgt. Lewis growled. Eli was dragging what was left of the torn bodies to the center of the casement. The struggle to not be sick was evident in the pale green that flushed his face as he worked. The bodies all in a pile, he began to methodically remove the laces from their boots one by one. “What are you even doing?” Sgt. Lewis asked, anger replaced by puzzlement over his behavior.

“That tyrannosaur’s still out there waiting for us.”

Sgt. Lewis strained his ears to listen. Over the faded gunfire and screams from the beach below he could hear the footfalls of the monster that had penned them pacing outside. They were trapped. “There’s another one down on the beach,” he remarked. Eli froze his strange work for a moment in consideration, then resumed. “That still doesn’t answer my question,” Sgt. Lewis continued.

“Tyrannosaurs were probably scavengers in addition to hunters,” Eli explained as he worked, “even if we’re wrong on that, I’m pretty sure he won’t pass up a fresh kill. I’m guessing they didn’t feed them this morning so they’d be hungry for the battle.” Eli shuddered a little. “I think we should give him a little snack.”

As he was speaking, Eli had woven several of the laces into a cord, roughly six feet long. At the end, the cord split into ten equal length sections of a single lace. Digging through the pile of bodies again, he started unhooking their belts. Once he had removed all the soldiers’ belts, he carefully examined the mangled pile of corpses. His searching eyes quickly stopped on a soldier that must’ve been very near to the grenade, because he was little more than a charred torso. Sgt. Lewis stood dumbstruck, idly puffing on his cigarette. Eli’s explanation had made nothing clearer.

Intent on his mysterious labor, Eli dragged the torso from under the pile and pulled it to the hallway leading out of the casement. Retrieving the pile of belts he had removed from the soldiers, he began strapping them all back onto the length of the bloody, dismembered torso. By the last belt, he had run out of room and he stood over the torso, surveying his work in deep contemplation. Finally, he removed the two grenades from the last belt. He tucked one into the only pocket still showing under the belts. Shuddering again, he gingerly wriggled the other into the man’s open mouth, the pin sticking out from between his teeth. As he knotted each of the ten individual laces at the end of the cord onto the pins of the grenades, Sgt. Lewis finally understood. He shook his head. “You are out of your mind, Watts.”

“I don’t see any other way out of this,” Eli replied, finishing the last knot. “I just hope it works.” With that he hoisted the torso up over his shoulders. He was still visibly fighting back his revulsion but something else stirred in him now alongside it. His hand shook less as he reached up and took hold of the long end of the cord. Taking one last deep breath he dashed through the casement door into the sunlight. He was no more than a few feet into the trench when the tyrannosaurs roar thundered over him. His head snapped to the right and and every muscle froze as he saw the beast barreling toward him, head lowered and jaws gaping in anticipation.

Move, Eli screamed in his head. Move, move, move, move!

The tyrannosaur’s powerful legs drove it to close the distance quickly. Its dripping maul filled Eli’s view. The rows of dagger-like teeth were less than ten feet from Eli when he broke the iron grip terror held on his muscles. Screaming at the top of his lungs he hurled the torso into the monster’s looming jaws and collapsed to his knees. With a loud snap the tyrannosaur’s jaws clamped shut, only a hand jutted out of the side of its mouth. It lifted its head up, the momentum carrying the beast forward. Eli held his makeshift cord in a death grip as one massive, taloned foot slammed down inches from where he crouched. The beast paused and lifted its head to gulp the torso down whole. Eli seized the opportunity to bolt back through the doorway into the casement.

The rider, thinking that his mount had swallowed Eli, scowled at him savagely as he darted out from under the tyrannosaur and pulled the reins hard to the right, bringing the beast around to bear on him as he slipped back into the casement. As the beast lunged forward to jam its head into the doorway again, the rider saw the cord trailing from Eli’s grasp, the glint of grenade pins bouncing on the end of it.

“Nein!” he screamed, struggling to free himself from the saddle as the tyrannosaur plunged into the tiny, cement doorway of the casement. Eli and Sgt. Lewis barely had time to roll around the corner of the hallway inside when the gullet of the beast erupted in a cloud of blood, fire and torn flesh. The force of the explosion resonated through the chamber, and Eli and Sgt. Lewis clamped their hands tight over their ears. With a ground shaking thud, the limp body of the tyrannosaur collapsed into the trench. The explosion had all but severed its head, only a thin strand of sinew where the front of its neck had been attached it to its charred shoulders.

The colossal head lay in front of the doorway. It slumped slightly to its side, jaws still open, and completely blocked the exit except for a small opening in the corner where a thin shaft of light beamed in. Eli slowly slid down the wall he had flattened himself up against and fought to control his pounding heart. He slowly became aware of a warmth running down his leg. Was I hit? His thoughts raced, imagining his legs drenched in warm, sticky blood from some grievous wound. He forced himself to look down at his legs and quickly snapped them shut in embarrassment. It wasn’t blood that soaked his pants, but his own urine. He forced himself to his feet and hoped Sgt. Lewis hadn’t noticed.

If he did, he didn’t have time to comment. As Eli rose loud, furious German swearing echoed through the gap between the severed head and the doorway. “Filsy Americans!” shouted a heavily accented voice through the opening. Eli stretched up to look through the hole and saw the tyrannosaur’s former rider standing outside.
He was dressed entirely in black, accentuating the deathly pallor of his skin. A short black hat sat askance atop his head, in the center of it gleamed a polished silver skull. His face was thin and jagged. Sharp cheek bones jutted out from a sunken, scowling mouth. Short-cropped flaxen blond hair framed the sides of his head. On his right collar two lightening bolts were stitched in silver, on his left a series of four small squares. The rider’s left hand was pressed tightly across his left eye. Blood was smeared over his hand and forehead and flowed freely from where he pressed it to his face. His remaining eye glared at Eli and Sgt. Lewis with a frigid hate that fit the icy blue of his iris. With his right hand he leveled his Walther P-38 at Eli’s head.

Sgt. Lewis jerked Eli from the opening just as the shot rang out. “Know zis, Americans…” the rider shouted, spitting the last word out like venom, “my nahme ist Heinrich von Schädel, Sturmbannführer. You have murdered meine little Liebchen. You vill pay for zis!”

Sgt. Lewis whipped his carbine up and stepped to the hole firing two quick shots, but von Schädel was gone. He swore under his breath. “A Sturmbannführer…” he said, “do you know what this means?”

Eli stared back at him blankly.

“You nearly just bagged a major in the SS.”

Eli still didn’t seem to grasp the gravity of the accomplishment. He heard a strained and painful bellow through the casement opening overlooking the beach and ran over to look. The last tyrannosaur stumbled and collapsed to the surf heavily. Its carcass was riddled with bullet holes and the banners hanging from its sides were blood soaked and cut to tatters. Cheers rose from the soldiers on the beach as they started to recover the ground they had lost. The brief moment of triumph passed quickly, and the cheering gave way to panicked shouts as the squadron of pteranodon bombardiers swept back over the battlefield.

“We have to do something about those things,” Sgt. Lewis said as he stepped up to join Eli. He looked around the chamber they were in. The two MG42s were completely destroyed by the grenade he had cleared the room with. “You’re the paleontologist. What’s their weakness?”

Eli stared back at him dumbfounded. “Their weakness? I don’t know. All we’ve ever had to study are fossils and remains. How they got living dinosaurs…”

“It’s not our problem how they got them, it’s our problem how to kill them. You did great with that grenade thing, think!”

“I am, I am…” Eli closed his eyes in concentration. “Let’s see… they’re sticking together in a squadron. They have the bombs, but didn’t look like they had any other weapons. They fly out for a bombing run and then head back.” His eyes opened and he looked at Sgt. Lewis. “They must not have a very long range with all that weight. Otherwise they would give them more bombs to drop. If we catch them on their way back, they would have no way to return fire.”

Sgt. Lewis considered what he said for a moment. “Alright, the first thing is to get out of here then.” He peered out from the casement opening at the vertigo inducing drop to the beach below. That way was out of the question. He and Eli walked over to the massive head jammed into their only exit. Thick saliva still dripped from the teeth and mingled with the growing pool of blood seeping through the doorway. Both men leaned into the snout and pushed as hard as they could, their feet slipping on blood-slick concrete, but couldn’t make the gargantuan carcass budge.

Stepping back they surveyed the wall of flesh that confined them. There would be no moving it, their combined strength wasn’t even close to being enough to shift the jaws. They couldn’t slip through between the head and the door either, the beast had wedged itself in tight. The only opening was the one von Schädel had fired at them through, and it was barely enough to get an arm through. Eli sighed loudly as he realized there was only one way out.

Placing a hand on the creature’s snout, he leaned into the partially open mouth. Its scaled skin felt rough and leathery, with a faint diamond pattern pressed into it. In its throat, behind ragged and bloody folds of torn flesh, he could make out just a glint of sunlight. That was their way out.

“We have to crawl through the throat,” Eli said.

Sgt. Lewis took one last long pull on his cigarette then tossed it to the ground. “Are you serious?” he asked.

“The hole’s more than big enough, and we’re never going to move that thing. It’s our only option.”

Sgt. Lewis stared into bloody, dripping tunnel of flesh and teeth. “You’re going first.”

Eli gingerly stepped over the row of front teeth. His foot sunk into the soft gums next to the tongue, and he carefully ducked his head under the daggers hanging above him. The still-warm tongue was slick and bumpy under Eli’s hands as he crawled forward toward the back of the tyrannosaur’s throat. A warm, thick glob of saliva dripped onto the top of Eli’s head and he realized, as it slid down the back of his neck, that he had lost his helmet at some point during the fighting.

The thick stench of rotting meat rolled from the back of the monster’s throat making it hard to breathe. Eli wondered if the Nazis had fed it livestock, or men. His hand slipped off the slick tongue and fell down to the sharp teeth below. Expecting to feel a six inch long tooth impale his hand he flinched instinctively. Instead, his hand landed on something cool and soft. As his fingers curled around it, he realized Sgt. Lewis must have caught his fall. Eli turned around to thank him for holding his hand and realized he was still standing at the entrance to the mouth. A lump formed in his throat. He looked down to find his fingers curled around the hand of the man he had thrown to the beast. Leaning over the side of the tongue, Eli vomited.

“Ugh,” Sgt. Lewis groaned from past the curtain of teeth, “I shouldn’t’ve let you go first.”

His stomach now emptied, Eli pushed on and slid down the back of the muscular tongue. Pushing and groping through the curtains of flesh, most thick as a side of beef, he finally found a place where his hand pushed through and he felt a cool breeze on his blood-soaked hand. He grabbed hold of the slabs of charred meat at the edge of the hole blown in the tyrannosaur’s throat and pulled himself through. Gasping, he slid out onto the dirt of the trench. Climbing to his feet he peered back through the small gap. “Your turn.”

With a lot less vomiting and a lot more cursing, Sgt. Lewis followed suit and within a few minutes the two men stood in the trench alongside the carcass of the behemoth. Both men were completely drenched in blood, and a pool of it rose to their ankles. Sgt. Lewis struggled to light a bloody cigarette.

With the tyrannosaurs defeated, the battle had pushed its way up the paths to the top of the cliffs. Gunfire rattled from the trenches and casements. The German soldiers had taken back up the fight. Sgt. Lewis carefully lifted his head above the trench walls and scanned the area. The trench network ran on into the distance, dotted with bunkers and pillboxes. Ahead of them to the right was the two-story building that had housed the tyrannosaur and its rider. The inside of the building was bare looking. In the center of the room a steel chain as thick as a man lay coiled in a heap, one end affixed to the floor. Along the wall to the right of the door was an enormous pile of matted down straw. In the back corner, Sgt. Lewis could just barely make out what looked like gigantic piles of dung. It was evident they had housed the beast there for a while.

To his left, above the casements and bunkers, he could make out the tops of two more identical buildings, each one sitting at the top of a pathway up the cliff. A dark shadow passed over them and both men instinctively ducked, looking skyward. The pteranodon squadron flew overhead from the beach, returning to wherever they were resupplying with explosives. Sgt. Lewis tracked them as they went. They were headed toward to tall tower in the distance. It’s cement block walls rose sixty feet in the air, then broke into four pillars at the top, supporting large arched openings. Men waited on the platform inside the archways to resupply the beasts or take over for a fallen rider. As the pteranodons glided toward the tower, their shadows passed over something that made Sgt. Lewis smile.

Eli must’ve seen the same thing. “What about that big gun?” he asked.

“It’s an 88,” Sgt. Lewis explained, “they’re using it to shell the beach, but I think it’ll work.”

“I don’t see any other option,” Eli observed.

Sgt. Lewis nodded. Sloshing in the blood, they crept along the body in the trench, not daring to show themselves above it for too long. Sliding over the top of the tyrannosaur’s leg, they inched to the corner. Sgt. Lewis used his mirror to ensure it was clear around the corner, and they waved for Eli to follow. Moving as fast as they could while crouching, they advanced to the next corner. The artillery piece was only about fifty yards away in a straight line, but they couldn’t risk a dash on top of the trenches. They would have to snake their way to it. Sgt. Lewis’s mirror flashed in the sunlight as he checked the next corner. Six German soldiers stormed down the trench toward them.

Sgt. Lewis quickly slipped the mirror back into his pocket. Pulling his carbine up he whipped around the corner, keeping to a crouching position. Six shots rang off in quick succession and he lowered his weapon. Motioning for Eli to follow he slipped down the trench. Eli crept along after him, and found him inspecting the bodies of the soldiers. He pulled a short, black weapon from under one of the bodies and slipped the strap off its limp shoulders. “Give me your rifle,” he ordered.

Eli slipped his own strap off his shoulders and held the weapon out to him without question. Sgt. Lewis took it and handed him back the black German weapon. It was made of stamped metal, about two feet from barrel to end, with a long thin magazine clipped into the bottom. A thin metal stock folded back down over the body of the weapon. Eli slipped the trap of the firearm over his shoulders and hefted it in his hands. It was lighter than his rifle.

Sgt. Lewis slipped the strap of Eli’s rifle over his own head. “I’ve seen you shoot with this thing,” he said, patting Eli’s rifle. “I feel a lot better with you having that Schmeisser, it’s got a lot more bullets. You see a Kraut, you just point that down the trench at them and squeeze the trigger till it’s empty.” He paused and thought for a second. “Just make sure I’m out of the way first.”

They continued snaking along the trenches until they came to the last corner. Sgt. Lewis carefully slid his shaving mirror out to get a look. The 88 mm gun was draped loosely with a green cargo net, set up in a shallow open area dug in the trench network and walled with extra sandbags. Four men operated the weapon busily. One stood along the edge of the sandbags, binoculars pressed to his eyes surveying what he could see of the beach. He was shouting orders to the other three men. One sat with eyes pressed up against the targeting system attached to the gun, another spun wheels and cranks making adjustments to the aim as the man in the targeting unit barked directions. The fourth man scurried between a crate of shells and the gun. He slid a shell into the giant weapon and turned away, hands shooting up to cover his ears. A second later it fired, the blast shaking dust from the walls of the trenches. He immediately turned to retrieve another shell.

The dark shadows swept over Eli and Sgt. Lewis again. The squadron of pteranodons had resupplied and was gliding out over the beach to rain more fiery death on the soldiers fighting their way up the cliff. “Now’s our chance,” Sgt. Lewis said and rolled out around the corner dashing toward the 88. He lifted his carbine to his shoulder and opened fire. The man with the binoculars fell first, a red cloud erupting from his throat as he toppled backwards into the trench. The next shots found the chest of the man loading the gun and he crumpled over the case of shells.

The other two men ducked behind the artillery piece. Sgt. Lewis’s shots glanced off the metal of the gun as he rolled behind a stack of crates at the edge of the open area. The two German soldiers leaned out from behind the gun and fired at the crates and into the trench, one with a rifle and one with the same weapon Eli now held. Sgt. Lewis calmly reloaded his carbine and took a long draw on his cigarette. He flicked the butt casually over his shoulder at the artillery piece.

The German soldiers waited, their weapons trained on the crates. Eli was in shock, peering cautiously around the corner at the end of the trench. His mind raced for a way to help Sgt. Lewis. The soldiers at the 88 didn’t know he was there, but he didn’t want to risk firing the unfamiliar weapon with Sgt. Lewis between them.

Sgt. Lewis let his reloaded carbine hang from its strap and picked up Eli’s rifle. Without looking, he slid the rifle over his shoulder resting on the crates and began squeezing the trigger. The German soldiers ducked back behind the 88 as rifle bullets zipped past wildly. Sgt. Lewis didn’t seem to care where he was aiming, some rounds bounced off the gun, others missed the cover of the soldiers by almost ten feet. After the eighth shot, the empty clip was ejected with its distinct metallic ping and it bounced in the dirt of the trench.

The German soldiers heard the ping and shot each other a quick look. Realizing that he was out of ammo, they charged from their cover weapons raised. Sgt. Lewis tossed Eli’s empty rifle to the ground and rose, spinning around to bring the carbine to bear on the soldiers. They had only a second for their triumphant grins to widen in horror, then with two sharp cracks fell to the dirt dead.

Eli crawled from his hiding place at the corner and rushed to join Sgt. Lewis as he stepped up to the targeting piece. “Do you know how to use this thing?” Eli asked.
“Not a clue,” Sgt. Lewis replied, peering into the eyepiece. “Can’t be too hard though, right?”

In the distance the squadron of pteranodons was wheeling back around to return to the tower. They didn’t have much time. Sgt. Lewis abandoned the targeting piece and turned to the cranks. Wheeling one around the barrel of the gun began to lift. He turned the other and found it rotated the gun around its mountings. The sight apparatus was useless to him, they would just have to wing it. Looking out at the gliding monsters growing nearer, Sgt. Lewis looked down the long barrel and spun the two wheels until he was satisfied. “Slam the shell in when I tell you,” he ordered.

Eli shoved the body of the soldier off the shells and pulled one from the box. “Now!” Sgt. Lewis yelled and Eli slid the shell into the chamber. He turned away and covered his ears as he had seen the German do and the world shook as the 88 fired. Their first shot sailed just in front of the pteranodons. Their formation wavered, unsure of whether the close call was an accident on the part of the artillerymen or not. Sgt. Lewis adjusted the gun again and watched the approaching squadron as Eli readied another shell. “Now!” he shouted again.

Their second shot proved better than the first. The artillery shell made contact with the body of the pteranodon just to the left of the squadron leader. The shell tore through the tender flesh of the pteranodon and the man riding it and kept going, its target evidently too soft to detonate the shell. The mangled creature and rider tumbled out of the sky into a heap at the edge of the cliff. The squadron broke formation, now quite sure that this was no accident. Sgt. Lewis spun the wheels frantically as they approached, trying to line up another shot. On his command Eli slid another shell into the chamber, and a second pteranodon was torn in half, its maimed rider still clinging to its shoulders.

There was not time for another shot as the pteranodons soared overhead toward the tower. Sgt. Lewis seized the handle that rotated the 88 on its base and been cranking furiously. Slowly, the gun was brought around to bear on tower. He quickly adjusted the barrel to aim lower and they fired. The ground shuddered and a cloud of smoke blew over Eli and Sgt. Lewis as the shell sailed toward its target. Sgt. Lewis’s aim was off though, and the round drifted to the left of the tower exploding in the trees that backed it.

He was adjusting his aim as the pteranodons, resupplied with bombs, launched themselves one by one out of the arches of the tower and resumed formation heading directly at them. Raising the barrel to meet the oncoming bombers, they fired another shot. The rider in the line of fire saw it coming and pulled hard to the left but was too late. The shell shredded his mounts wing and the pteranodon flapped wildly as it steeply banked to the ground below. The artillery shell continued its course and struck the cement brick tower near its center, blasting an eight foot hole in its wall.

The pteranodons were closing on them too fast. “Move!” Sgt. Lewis shouted and darted toward one of the trenches leading away from the gun. Eli dropped the shell he had prepared in the dirt and dashed into the opening of an opposite trench as the riders released a hail of bombs above them. Eli dove into the dirt of the trench and covered his head as a succession of explosions made his stomach twist in knots. Dirt showered down on him and he could hear heavy chunks of steel landing in the dirt. He turned himself around to look at the artillery gun.

It lay in a twisted, smoldering pile. The remains of the crates of shells were scattered around the open section of the trench and large splinters of wood jutted from the surrounding sandbags. They had to find another way to fight back. Eli struggled to his feet and tried to peer through the smoking wreckage. Sgt. Lewis had gone down the trench on the opposite side of the gun, but Eli could see no sign of him. He looked back down the trench he had dove into. About ten feet ahead of him, three U.S. Soldiers lay dead in the dirt. As he looked at them one thing caught his eye. One of the soldiers was a combat engineer, and in his hand a tightly clutched satchel lay in a pool of blood.

Eli stumbled down the trench toward the bodies, his ears still ringing slightly from the explosions. As he stepped into the intersection of the trenches a flash of movement caught his eye to the right. Three German soldiers huddled against the tench walls. They looked up as surprised as Eli and began to raise their weapons. Without thinking Eli lifted the cold metal weapon hanging at his waist. Clinching his eyes shut tight he squeezed the trigger. The weapon jerked to life in his hands and he struggled to hold tight as fire leapt from the barrel. Within a few seconds the rattle of gunfire was replaced with a soft click. The smell of gunpowder burned Eli’s nostrils.

“Next time,” came a familiar voice from behind him, “you might want to keep your eyes open.”

Eli unclenched his eyes. The three German soldiers lay in a ragged, bloody mess in the trench ahead of him. The dirt and walls were sprayed with red and pockmarked with Eli’s wild spray of bullets. Eli shuddered. It was one thing to shoot at a monster, another thing to kill a man.

“We need to find another 88 before those things come back,” Sgt. Lewis said peering into his box of cigarettes. He tossed it aside with a sigh when he found it empty.

“We don’t have time,” Eli replied, prying the bloody satchel from the dead engineer’s hand. “Cover me.”

“What are you doing now?”

“Just cover me,” Eli called back, scrambling up the edge of the trench. What remained of the squadron of pteranodons was turning around over the beach and beginning to return. Eli flinched as a shot came uncomfortably close to his ear and heard Sgt. Lewis return fire with the rifle. He ignored it and ran forward to a low concrete bunker. Eli tossed the satchel up onto the concrete roof ahead of him and grabbed on to the rough edge. With a heave he pulled himself up on top of it and crawled to his feet. He started to raise the German weapon at the oncoming pteranodons, but realized he had only taken one magazine and let it drop. Instead, he picked the satchel up off the ground and began jumping up and down waving his arms.

“I’m over here!” Eli yelled at the top of his lungs. “Come get me!”

Sgt. Lewis glanced at him over his shoulder. “I hope you know what you’re doing,” he shouted as Eli continued to flail around.

His display hadn’t gone unnoticed by the riders. The squad leader guided the squadron down towards Eli on the way back to the tower, drawing a pistol as he approached. Wait for it, Eli thought, wait for it… The rider’s pistol shots tore chunks of concrete out around Eli’s feet. Now! Eli opened the satchel and sparked the flash fuse inside. Holding the bag by the straps with both hands he twirled and flung it sideways like a hammer at the pteranodons. The satchel spiraled toward the lead pteranodon, the shoulder loop catching on the tip of the long crest that rose from the back of its head as they soared over Eli toward the damaged tower.

Eli turned to watch them return. The bag spiraled down around the pteranodon’s crest and tangled in the straps. The beasts rider struggled to free it as they approached the roost at the top of the tower. Understanding flashed in his eyes as he realized what was tangled around his mount. Frantically, he pulled a knife from his boot as his pteranodon glided to a landing in the tower but it was too late.

The satchel charge detonated. A cloud of smoke and fire billowed from the top of the tower. The pressure detonated the store of bombs readied for the harnesses and a series of smaller explosions echoed over the cliffs like firecrackers. Finally, the top of the tower supported by the arches crumbled and fell. The pteranodons were no more.

————————————

Continue to part three of the 50,000 word challenge.

Photo Credit: Dunechaser

50,000 Word Challenge: Part 1

US Army Fire Team by DuneChaser

This is the first part of my 50,000 words in 30 days challenge. It’s a completely unedited first draft written with the primary goal of getting out as many words as possible in a short time, so don’t expect too much from it. More parts will come each week as the challenge progresses.

Chapter 1: The Invasion

“I’m a paleontologist not a soldier!” Eli stuttered to the soldier next to him. The boat bounced through the surf, the salty mist making him shiver. “I shouldn’t be here!”

“Shouldn’t be here!?” the soldier shouted back, “I shouldn’t be here! I’m a dentist. At least I help people. No one’s going to miss a pale-whatever.”

Eli frowned. “A paleontologist!”

“A pale-whatever!”
Eli started to explain what a paleontologist does, but before he could the driver yelled from the back of the boat.

“Thirty seconds to landing!”
Eli tugged at the straps of his helmet. He was beginning to feel sick.

“Twenty seconds!”

The driver’s voice barely registered. I shouldn’t be here he thought, I should be in class right now. I should be home. Machine gun fire exploded above him.

“Ten seconds!”

Eli couldn’t breathe. The sharp pops of gunfire mixed with the deep thuds of artillery on the beach ahead.

“Five seconds!”

Eli’s knuckles turned white around his rifle. Get up the beach. Take the objective. Get up the beach. Take the objective. I wish I were back hom-

“Contact!”

The soldiers lurched forward as the bottom of the transport dug into the sand. Eli felt himself move, as though his legs weren’t his own. The front of the boat unlatched and crashed down into the water and sand.

“Go!” The soldier in front took two steps down the ramp before gunfire raced up the lowered door. The bullets found his legs and tore up his torso. His shredded body tipped forward slowly, arm still outstretched, pointing to the beach he would never set foot on.

Time slowed for Eli. He watched the wave of death crawl up the boat toward him. The soldiers in front of him shoved forward attempting to get to the ramp. The dentist stepped on the lifeless back of the soldier in front of them, almost scrambling over the edge of the boat. He got one leg over the top before erupting in a cloud of crimson and tumbling into the water.

Eli was next. His legs were cement. Red fountains raced up the backs of the dead soldiers. He wouldn’t even make it off the boat.
He clamped his eyes shut, waiting for the bullets to end it.

Instead, the world exploded to his left.

Eli’s eyes snapped open. He only caught flickering images. Corpses floated in front of him. The boat hung over his head. The crackle of gunfire and rumble of shells had been replaced by silence broken only by a faint ring in the distance. Before he could make any sense of it, darkness swallowed him.

The dark was cold, but Eli welcomed it. At least it wasn’t painful to die he thought. The cold forced its way down his throat. It filled his lungs and pressed on his chest. He choked for air but there was none. His elbow sank into something firm, but yielding. There was something rough under his palm, like sand.

Like sand. I’m not dying! He kicked hard fighting to get traction. His equipment tugged at him like an anchor. He burst to the surface, gasping for air. The top of his head struck something solid.

Eli’s hands felt above him, tracing along cold metal. He could barely see shapes bobbing on the surface of the water around him. He realized that the giant object above him was the overturned boat.
When his eyes adjusted he squinted at the dark shapes bumping into him. Bile surged in Eli’s throat as they came into focus. They were body parts.

Fighting the urge to vomit, Eli clamped his eyes shut again. The ringing in his ears grudgingly receded and the sounds of the battle crept back. The metal above him shuddered as gunfire swept over his shelter.

Ok, Eli thought, I’m still alive, that’s something. What now? The dark blobs of dismembered bodies bobbed around him. He stared at the water. A familiar boom resounded to his right. The boat shook and water sloshed in his shelter. They’re still shelling the beach.

He had enough air to stay put for a while, maybe long enough for the battle to end. If a shell hits the boat, will it hold? How much of me will be left? He didn’t want to go home in a shoe box. I’d rather die on the beach. He gulped down the biggest breath he could and dove into the water.

The light filtering under the boat was like candlelight through a glass of red wine. Eli followed it between the boat and sand. His boat had landed right in the center of the beach. Dozens of other transport boats littered the beach disgorged of men. Most were intact, though a few were twisted and torn. The water was choked with bodies.

The sand was littered with steel hedgehogs and sloped out of the water leading to a low shingle. The shingle was lined with razor-wire and backed by a seawall. About two hundred yards behind it was a sheer cliff topped in sections with concrete casements. In several places the slope lessened so paths of sand and dirt could snake to the top.

Each casement was open in the front, and through the mist and smoke Eli could see machine guns raining lead onto the beach. Piles of sandbags filled the gaps between the casements. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers scrambled up the beach, returning fire and finding cover where they could. Ahead of Eli a steel hedgehog was nestled in the sand like a discarded jack. On it’s close edge was a deep crater.

That’s where he would go.

Gunfire swept the boat to his right as he dashed to the crater. His legs gave out and he rolled the last foot. Still gasping for breath, he took a second to survey his position.

He was still a long way from the shingle. The crater was deep enough to keep him below the gunfire, but a stray shell could still find him. He tore the plastic bag off his rifle and found it mercifully dry.

Another shell exploded and a rain of sand fell around Eli. The patter of falling sand was punctuated by a soft thump – the sound of a burnt and bloody hand landing to his left.

A louder, more solid explosion from towards the cliff shook Eli. Soldiers had detonated explosives, obliterating a large swath of the razor-wire and tearing a hole in the seawall. Men were pouring in through the breach while others provided covering fire.

Eli sprinted toward the shingle. He fired his rifle wildly in the direction of the cliffs as he ran. The German soldiers didn’t seem to notice. Seeing an opening, he dove and rolled into another crater.
When he pushed himself up into a crouching position and realized he wasn’t alone.

Another soldier sat across from him resting his back against the edge of the crater. His sleeves were rolled up to the elbow exposing the dark skin of his forearms. He lowered the cigarette from his mouth and looked at Eli.

“You’re in my hole.” he said. He took another slow draw on his cigarette.

“You’re a medic, aren’t you?” Eli managed to stammer.

The man looked down at his chest where a large red cross was printed on a white square.

“No. I just figured it’d make it easier for the Krauts if I came with a bullseye on my chest.”

“What are you doing? Why aren’t you fighting?”

“I’m taking a smoke break,” he said.

“You’re what?”

“I’m taking a smoke break,” he repeated.

The ground shuddered as another shell fell uncomfortably close to the crater.

Eli glanced at the name on the man’s uniform. “Look Mr. Lewis-”

“That’s Sergeant Lewis.”

“Fine, Sergeant Lewis. We have to move. If one of those shells lands here…”

Sgt. Lewis nodded. “There wouldn’t be much of us left.”

Eli crawled his way up to the edge of the crater. His eyes just cleared the edge when a bullet zipped past his ear. Another struck only inches in front of him, spraying sand in his eyes.

“There’s three up there, behind some sandbags,” Sgt. Lewis said.

“Maybe four. They’ve had a bead on me since before you blundered in. I think they get a kick out of popping medics.” He took another long drag off of his cigarette, then tossed the smoldering butt from the crater. “I can’t get near them with my carbine. I wasn’t about to make a dash for it, so I figured I might as well have a smoke.”

“Where are they?” Eli asked.

Sgt. Lewis gestured to crawl over and sit with his back against the sloped wall of the depression. He pulled out a small shaving mirror and angled to show the top of the cliff. Eli could just make out four men hunched over the top of a section of sandbags, their rifles were trained on the hole he and Sgt. Lewis were in.

Taking a deep breath Eli crawled as close as he dared to the edge. Shots tore deep rivets in the sand around Eli. He pressed his cheek to the rifle and peered down the sights.

Bam! Bam! Bam! Ping!

The empty cartridge flew from the rifle. Eli slid back into the hole to reload, but his hands were shaking too much. Sgt. Lewis lowered his mirror, smoke curling around his head.

“Well, how did I do?”

“You missed. By a lot too. I can’t tell but I think they’re laughing at you.”

Eli fumbled around in his uniform for that new cartridge. This time he was able to get ahold of it and slid it into the rifle with a click. Sgt. Lewis looked him up and down and sighed, twin streams of smoke billowing from his nostrils.

“Don’t waste your ammo,” he said. “Hold these and give me that.” He tossed the mirror into the sand and handed him his cigarette before snatching Eli’s rifle. He made sure the cartridge was in place, then crawled to the edge. Eli grabbed the small mirror from the sand and held it up to see the soldiers.

Sgt. Lewis took a deep breath and held it. Four sharp cracks sounded from the rifle and he let his breath back out. Eli’s mouth dropped.

So did the mirror. All four soldiers had fallen.

“Here.” Sgt. Lewis slid down and tossed the rifle back. “Now give me back my smoke.” He scooped the mirror from the sand where Eli had dropped it. “You’re an awful shot.”

“I’m a paleontologist.” Eli stuttered for the second time that day.

“Well, thanks for bringing the rifle…” Sgt. Lewis squinted at the name on Eli’s uniform. “…Watts.” He grabbed his carbine and crawled to the edge.

“Call me Eli.”

Sgt. Lewis paused at the lip of the crater.

“No.”

He dashed toward the shingle, sprinted over the sand and rocks and pressed his back against the seawall. Eli couldn’t help but feel a little inadequate. If he was going to stand any chance of seeing tomorrow it wasn’t going to be on his own merit. His best chance for survival was against that wall.

Eli forced down the knot in his throat and bolted after Sgt. Lewis. A shell exploded to his left. Too close. He heard someone screaming. He glanced where the shell had landed but didn’t see anyone so he kept running. Sgt. Lewis watched his dash, not trying to hide his look of disgust. Eli reached the wall and Sgt. Lewis clapped a hand over his mouth. He realized it had been him screaming the whole time.

Sgt. Lewis let go when he stopped screaming. Before Eli could catch his breath, Sgt. Lewis slipped through the hole in the wall. Eli stumbled in after him.

“Wait,” he choked out. Sgt. Lewis ignored him. The cliff loomed to the left, topped by one of the casements. Ahead of them soldiers were pushing up one of the steep paths that wound to the top. They were making good progress, using the sandbags and pillboxes the Germans had set up as cover.

A shadow passed over the squad as they fired from the cover of a pillbox near the top. A small dark object dropped into the middle of them and exploded ripping limb from limb and stripping flesh from bone. Sgt. Lewis froze. Eli caught up to him. The shadow that passed over the soldiers was now gliding down the path toward them.

Sgt. Lewis swore quietly. “What is that?”

Eli followed his gaze skyward. When he saw what Sgt. Lewis was looking at, the blood drained from his face.

A giant creature soared in the air above them. It was a dark, mottled brown. From wingtip to wingtip it easily stretched over twenty feet, though its frame didn’t look to be much bigger than a man’s. The beast had no feathers, but its body almost looked fuzzy like it was covered in tiny hairs. Sunlight diffused faintly through the thin, stretched membranes it glided on. It tilted the long beak of its crested head toward them. It wore a harness holding more of the small round bombs that had killed the soldiers on the path. Eli thought he could see the outline of a man on its back.

“Pteranodon longiceps…” He whispered.

Sgt. Lewis refused to take his eyes off it.

“Speak English.”

Eli responded quietly.

“It’s a dinosaur.”

———————————

Continue to part two of the 50,000 word challenge.

Photo Credit: Dunechaser

NaNoWriMo Challenge: Write a 50,000 Word Novel in 30 Days

Remington by Mark Grapengater

Doing it all on a typewriter will not be part of the challenge

I realized today that it’s been a long time since I’ve tried to take on any challenges. It’s time that changed.

I have always been a voracious reader. When I walked into a library or bookstore as a kid I started drooling like a 400 pound man in a Golden Corral. By the time I was around 6 years old I had devoured every single book my parents had given me and Mom was forced to surrender her sizable Stephen King collection – by 7 I’d finished them all.

I remember the very first book report I ever delivered in school. The kid before me had just rocked his presentation of Green Eggs and Ham. As he passed me on the way to his seat he allowed himself a smug little smirk in my direction – he knew that’d be a tough act to follow.

I gathered my things and strolled to the front of the room. Turning to the class I unveiled my visual aid with a flourish, a posterboard Crayola marker drawing of a viking beheading a cannibal in battle. Eyes visibly widened as they took it in. I quietly cleared my throat.

“My book report will be on Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crighton,” I explained.

The look on the teacher’s face was fantastic.

However, I digress, the point is I really love to read. Bound to my love of reading is an equally strong love of writing.

The writing process has always fascinated me. Fiction writing in particular. The ability of someone to tell a truly riveting story, to shape genuinely human feeling characters and to carry an enthralling narrative to a neatly bound conclusion has always captivated me.

Good or bad, I’ve always wanted to write a novel.

Enter NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. In essence, it’s a yearly “contest” where people sign up and try to write a full 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

Now, the idea here isn’t to pump out a ready-to-publish novel in 30 days. First of all 50,000 words, while definitely within the bounds of what constitutes a novel, is really a pretty small novel. Maybe two Goosebumps books put together or so – about 200 pages depending on your formatting. Second of all, first drafts don’t get published – they get edited. And edited. And edited some more. Then, when you think you’re ready to go, they get edited. The goal here isn’t for everyone to just rock out fantastic books in under a month.

So what is the point? There are a few of them. The first is to get people who have always wanted to try to write a novel to step up and actually give it a shot. Having a 50,000 words written in one month framework helps people who have been toying with the idea of writing but who don’t know where to start a clearly defined path to follow (not to mention the giant community of supporters the site provides).

The second goal, one not necessarily stated, is to help people develop a little discipline. If you want to cross that finish line of 50,000 words, than you need to write around 1,667 words per day. Miss a day, and that means you have that much more to make up. Tackling this challenge helps teach people to sit down and commit a minimum amount of effort toward a goal every single day, without fail. I think that’s a much more valuable lesson than proving that everyone can write a novel if they want to.

My Personal Challenge

Remember how I mentioned I’d been thinking it’s been a while since our last challenge? Well, lucky me, NaNoWriMo will be held in November this year – and I’m doing it.

To make it a little more interesting, I’m going to let everyone here on Road to Epic follow along. Each week I’ll be posting that weeks worth of my writing. Now, don’t expect this to be refined, eloquent prose – you’re getting the raw, unedited first draft stuff. It probably won’t be pretty, but that’s alright. I’m also going to share my NaNoWriMo profile so anyone who wants to can follow along there.

That’s not all, I’m also going to commit myself personally to 60,000 words in those 30 days. 50,000 just isn’t quite enough in my opinion, I think I can do more.

The one caveat is, I’m not going to guarantee by the time I hit my 60,000 words and 30 days that my novel will be finished. I’m not sure how long I’m going to need to tell the story I want to tell, so if I need 70,000 or 100,000 words to do it that’s how many I’ll write. The first 60,000 of them however will be written between November 1st and November 30th.

Anyone done NaNoWriMo in the past? What do you think about the whole idea? Have any good story ideas you don’t want? Share in the comments!

Update: I’m finished! I managed to meet my 60,000 words plus a little extra – more coming on what I’ve learned from the whole experience soon. In the meantime, here are links to each update I’ve posted of what I wrote:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Photo Credit: Mark Grapengater

The One Reason People Fail at Developing Good Habits and How to Avoid It

As complicated as... by Aunullah

Developing good habits is easy... if you can avoid making it complicated.

Developing a new habit is difficult.

Okay, so that’s not entirely true. Let me rephrase that a bit. Developing a good habit is difficult.

It’s easy to develop bad habits. We do it all the time. People get in the habit of hitting the snooze on their alarm clock and curling back into oblivion. They get in the habit of spending their evenings mesmerized by a flickering television while mindlessly cramming snacks into their faces. They don’t usually get in the habit of eating healthy, working out, or spending a little time everyday learning something new.

Why is that? Let’s take a look.

Why People Fail

Developing good habits is fundamentally different from developing bad habits. The reason developing bad habits is so easy is because it’s almost always something part of us wants to do deep down. Not in the way that we want a goal, but in the way that we naturally always want to take the path of least resistance.

The same just isn’t true of good habits. Good habits are almost always something that we want to do because we know it’s good for us, but deep down don’t want to do because it involves work, difficulty, sacrifice or a break in our usual routine. No matter how much you gear yourself up and tell yourself that you really want to go workout first thing in the morning, by the time your feet hit the floor in the morning all you’re going to remember is your driving need for coffee.

Now, there are ways to get around our limited supply of willpower and make the habit stick. The thing is, just about everyone I’ve talked to who have tried it and failed had one single thing in common. They made the same mistake I did at first – too much enthusiasm.

Rewind a little bit to when I was first trying to take control of my life and start taking things in the direction I wanted them to go. Caroline and I decided that we were going to make some serious changes. We wanted to learn instruments, we wanted to learn languages, we wanted to write lots of articles, we wanted to practice our martial arts, we wanted to get in shape, we wanted to eat right, we wanted start businesses… oh, yeah, and we were still in college.

I remember one of the schedules we concocted in our fervor had every single minute of the day blocked out with a different prescribed activity. Literally zero free time.

I think it goes without saying that we failed, and we failed hard.

I don’t think we managed to stick to our ridiculous schedules for longer than one full week. Honestly, I’m impressed with myself for even completing one week.

There was just way, way too much stuff to handle all at once. There was no way we were ever going to manage that schedule long enough for any of those things to develop into habits because it was just too overwhelming. It seems really obvious to me know, and yet I still constantly see people making the same mistake I made without ever realizing it.

Developing a good habit is difficult. It just doesn’t make sense to try to developing 10 good habits all at once, but people still do it all the time! Then they get frustrated because they failed and wind up giving up until enough fire builds in them again and they make another futile attempt to will themselves into starting 10 new habits at once. It just doesn’t work.

How to Succeed

We may have failed back then at developing all those habits, but since then we’ve managed to pick up a lot of those habits successfully. What was the difference? Taking our time.

Rather than try to force ourselves to do everything all at once, we took it slowly. Ridiculous schedules were thrown out of the window – instead one item at a time got picked to be slowly developed into a habit. We would move onto the next item only after the first had been pretty well entrenched as a new habit.

It was very, very slow; but it worked. We started with working out. A time was chosen three times per week and we focused all the energy we’d formerly spread around all our other activities into just being absolutely sure that we managed to work out three times a week. It felt pretty good to make it a complete week without missing a single workout. It felt awesome to make it three weeks without missing one. By the end of two months of never missing a workout, we were elated.

By that point it had become automatic – exactly what we were going for. The key is to remember to not get too crazy with it. I know it’s hard, I really do. If you’re anything like me, when you decide you really want to do something you go all out. Fight the urge to spread yourself too thin and focus all that energy onto one single task.

Promise yourself that you are not going to worry about any of the other things, and all you want to do is stick to this one thing. To own it. Tell yourself that you are going to absolutely dominate this one thing. Then, and this is actually a pretty important part, actually go out and do it.

The best part is, you don’t even have to think of it as focusing on developing a new habit. Just focus on doing it when you said you would, on being there, and after a little while you’ll find you don’t have to force yourself. You’ll realize you don’t have to think about it anymore, that you just feel like doing it – you’ll realize you’ve developed a new habit.

What do you think? Ever had success trying to develop a bunch of new habits at once? Have something else you think should be added? Let us know in the comments!

Photo Credit: Aunullah

Lessons from the Master: A Finger Pointing at the Moon

Hello Moon by Stephen Poff

Don't miss all that heavenly glory.

“Don’t think. Feel. It is like a finger pointing out to the Moon, don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.” – Bruce Lee

It might surprise some to learn that, in addition to arguably being the greatest martial artist that ever lived, Bruce Lee was a philosophy major. His writings, heavily reflecting both his love of martial arts and his love of philosophy, are widely regarded as some of the best on martial philosophy. However, for some reason people often fail to see the applications outside of martial arts.

Take the quote above for example. Lee often expressed that his study of martial arts was the best method of self-expression he could find for himself. His martial arts were not an end in and of themselves, but rather a path to self-knowledge. The finger pointing at the Moon was study of the martial arts itself – if you focus only on the study of martial arts you miss the ‘heavenly glory’ of self-knowledge.

On a slightly more shallow level, this quote expresses another truth about martial arts training. Many people who study a martial art get hung up on whether or not their style or their training method is the best it possibly can be. People argue over whether to do kata or sparring, if traditional arts are better than contemporary arts, if hard styles or soft styles are better and on and on when really – none of this matters.

True proficiency in the martial arts comes when you have gotten beyond the training and can ‘feel’ what you need to do intuitively. When muscle memory takes over and, rather than thinking, you just react; then you are a proficient martial artist. People who focus too much on analyzing the training miss out on the true goal of being able to blend elements of the art together in new ways without needing to think about it.

So what other areas of life can we apply this to?

Language Learning

If there is one area where people most seem to completely miss the Moon for their focus on the finger, it’s in the area of language learning. People go crazy about figuring out which method is the best to learn a new language. They try local courses, Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone, online programs and everything else they can. As much money and time as they spend focusing on finding the perfect learning method, they never realize that studying a language isn’t the answer and that you can learn it all for free.

When people start getting too obsessed over the method, they completely lose track of what their goal was in the first place. In the end, all language learning methods are fine as long as they get you where you want to go. Personally I’m a big advocate of learning through immersion and speaking from day one, but if you find a way that works for you that is entirely contrary to everything I suggest – awesome! What matters is that you reach your goal, not how you reach it. Don’t concentrate so much on the method that you miss out on your goal.

Entrepreneurship / Business

I know that most of the people who are interested in living the kind of life Caroline and I are working towards tend, like Caroline and myself, to feel a very strong proclivity toward entrepreneurship.

It makes sense, particularly given that owning your own business and being able to make a living without being tied to one particular location is a huge asset in really being free to live how you want. The problem is, entrepreneurship can be really complicated. Do I start a blog? Do I develop a product? Do I try to make my living off of affiliate links or advertisements? How do I handle all this social media stuff?

Most people, when faced with a complicated situation, turn to the experts for advice. This is where a lot of people can get into trouble though. Not because the experts give bad advice, the majority of the real experts give fantastic advice. The problem is that the prospective entrepreneurs fall victim to paralysis by analysis and information overload. They get so hung up on optimizing minutia like post timing and Twitter strategy, that they lose sight of what they were trying to do in the first place.

If your goal is to build a fantastic blog then worry about creating awesome, useful content before you worry about your social media strategy. If your goal is to sell a new product, make sure you’ve created an incredible product and are connecting with your customers before you worry about tweaking every little bit of your sales pitch.

General Self-Improvement

By now you should be seeing a bit of a pattern. When people set out to do something, it’s an extremely common mistake to focus on the method more than the goal.

Once you’ve realized this tendency you can check yourself in any endeavor you take to improve yourself. Whether it’s learning a new skill like swimming, or working towards your dream of traveling the world. Nothing worth doing is ever easy, and there are always systems and methods to help you do those things. Always remember though that those systems and methods are just fingers pointing to the Moon, if you concentrate on them too much you’ll never realize your true goal.

Do you have any other specific areas where you’ve found you or others tend to focus too much on the finger? How did you get past that tendency? Share with us in the comments!

Photo Credit: Stephen Poff

My Goals for This Year – A Piece of My Annual Review

Goal Setting by AngieTorres

It's important to have yearly goals to work toward.

Every year Caroline and I have an annual review. (Well, actually twice a year but we’ll get to that in a second.) First, if you don’t know what an annual review is, then please go read ‘How to Conduct your Own Annual Review’ by Chris over at The Art of Non-Conformity. Honestly, even if you’re familiar with annual reviews, go read the article again first – it’s one of the most useful posts on Chris’s site and considering the quality of the rest of his stuff that’s high praise. Really, go read it. I’ll wait.

All done? Cool.

So where do we come back in? Well, Caroline and I do things a little bit differently. Due to all the holidays, and a small horde of binding familial obligations encircling the New Year, I’ve found it’s just not practical to conduct our big annual reviews at the end of the year.

On top of that, while I like Chris’s structure of one big review at the end of the year and quarterly reviews at each season, I see my year beginning on my birthday. I first started circling the Sun on August 6th, 1987 – so that’s when I figure my years should begin.

Of course, the concept of a year is largely an arbitrary thing, blah blah blah, subjectivity, human perception of time, I know. Like I said, the main reason is because I like to take my time on my annual reviews and that’s extra difficult around the New Year. I also feel like saying ‘I will accomplish [blank] before next year’ sounds like a doomed-from-the-start resolution, whereas ‘I will accomplish [blank] before I turn [age]’ sounds like a firm commitment. Maybe it’s just me.

Anyway. So far, we’ve mostly just gotten the past year’s successes and shortcomings mapped out as well as a general outline of our goals for the coming year. I won’t subject anyone to our full annual review, unless people really want to see it, but since this blog is as much about accountability on our part as it is about helping others live out their dreams I am going to post my goals here for everyone to see, divided into general categories.

This Year’s Goals

This list may change as the year goes on, and I’m not going to post the full list, just the highlights. With that in mind, here’s what I’ve got planned so far for what I’ll accomplish before I turn 25.

Road to Epic Goals

  • Reach 4,000 unique visits per month.
  • Stick to our Tuesday/Thursday post schedule for the entire year.
  • Write at least one guest post for another blogger per month.
  • Complete and implement a custom theme for the site.
  • Finish at least three of the RtE side projects I’m considering.

Health/Fitness Goals

  • Have my bodyfat percentage tested by a reputable facility (BodPod etc.)
  • Learn to complete 5 free-standing handstand pushups.
  • Learn to deadlift at least 350 lbs.
  • Run a mile in under 5 minutes.
  • Complete one marathon.
  • Attend a Crossfit gym for at least one month.

Travel Goals

  • Spend time in at least 4 different countries before next year.
  • Return to China and Korea.
  • Spend at least two weeks in Japan, preferably one month.
  • Attend the Wik Family Reunion in Chicago.

Language Goals

  • Have at least one conversation with a native speaker per week in Korean and Japanese.
  • Finish reading the first Harry Potter book entirely in Japanese.
  • Read one entire book in Korean.
  • Re-Learn Mandarin Chinese to fluency in 6 months.
  • Learn 1,000 Mandarin Chinese words in 30 days.
  • Make a short video in either Japanese or Korean.

Financial Goals

  • Earn at least $4,000 per month off of our own projects.
  • Completely pay off our debt (minus our mortgage) which currently amounts to around $9,000.
  • Find and explore at least two new sources of income.
  • Sell at least 30 unnecessary possessions.
  • Secure an investor for one of our non-blog side projects.

Miscellaneous Goals

  • Write an entire novel in 30 days.
  • Film a Parkour video.
  • Construct a set of Sasuke/Ninja Warrior training equipment.
  • Rejoin a martial arts school.

There you have it. That’s most of what I have so far set to accomplish before my next birthday.

While it’s probably not your birthday, what are some of your goals for this year? Have you given it any thought? Share some in the comments!

How To Make Progress Without Even Really Trying

Path of Least Resistance by Billtacular

It's all about finding the path of least resistance.

Every living thing on Earth is really, really lazy – and you and I are no exception. There’s a good reason for it too, food and water can be hard to come by for species without supermarkets. Even we had to be concerned about finding enough food before about 10,000 years ago. Several billions of years of punishing any and all inefficiency shaped pretty much all life into remarkably efficient things and have hardcoded one basic tenet into all organisms – take the path of least resistance.

When you have limited amounts of energy to expend it just makes sense. If you burn up more energy to catch dinner than you take in by eating it, you’re just not going to last very long. Taking the path of least resistance meant using the least amount of energy necessary to achieve your goals. In the past, that meant effiency. Efficiency meant survival. Everything worked great.

Fast forward to now. Once we came up with agriculture, we set in motion the outsourcing of all our efficiency problems to technology. We don’t have to chase down a rabbit to get enough calories to keep our body working, or wrestle an elk to the ground to feed our family. We walk to the fridge, open it, and can eat more food in a sitting than our ancestors got in a week.

We just don’t have to worry about being efficient anymore, in fact, technology has made our lives so comfortable we have to purposefully do things that are inefficient from a survival standpoint to not get fat. If you tried to articulate to a person from 50,000 years ago that you go out and run around because you get too many calories each day then you better be wearing a poncho because their heads would probably explode with how ridiculous that is.

Times may have changed, but we haven’t – 10,000 years is a blink on the evolutionary scale. Less than a blink, really. If all of human history were one 24 hour period, agriculture would be discovered around 11:58 at night. We are still the same as our ancestors were back when dinner meant killing something twice your size and exercise meant keeping out of a Smilodon’s stomach.

That means that the proclivity for taking the path of least resistance is still alive and well within us. The problem is, it’s just not necessary anymore. It used to be the key to survival, now technology is. Embittered by its obsoleteness, that drive to take the path of least resistance now chooses to manifest itself as an affliction endemic to modern life, motivation-sapping laziness.

You know the feeling. You should go work out, but you really just don’t feel like it. You need to clean up your desk, reoganize your office, and tackle that stack of papers, but you can just worry about it later. You could be learning a new language, practicing Parkour, or working on starting your own business – but that’s hard, and improving your life can wait, you’re almost to the part where you fight Ganondorf.

So How Do You Fix It?

Good question. Thankfully, it’s easy to do. Even better, you won’t just be fixing the problem, you’ll be using the problem against itself to achieve your goals even faster. That’s a personal-development irimi-nage right there.

Step one is to identify and understand the problem itself. Here it is, you have a natural inclination chiseled into your brain to always favor the path of least resistance. That path tends to be the lazy one that leads you away from your goals and toward self-destructive, time-wasting activities.

Step two is to determine what about the problem we can change to remedy it, and the best way to make those changes. Now, some people might jump to the willpower fix. Sure, it may be easy to say, “Well, I’ll just fight it. Tough it out! I can make myself be productive!”

That may work for a bit, but there’s two problems. The first is, you have a finite amount of willpower. Eventually, it’s going to run out and you’ll be right back where you started. That’s just not sustainable. Secondly, you’re talking about fighting your very nature, here. There are some battles you should just avoid in the first place and fighting your base instincts like that is one of them.

So what can we change then? Look at things a slightly different way. The problem isn’t that you have a tendency to take the path of least resistance. The problem lies in where you wind up when you take that path. So what would happen if you redirected things and >made the path of least resistance go to where you wanted to wind up?

Rather than be naturally inclined to do things that work against you, you’d be inclined to do things that further your goals. That means you can get more productive things done without even really trying.

Step three is all about implementing it. This may take some creativity, but it’s usually not too difficult. Determine what things you can change (they’re usually little things) that will make it easier for you to do what you need to do than to do something that wastes time. It doesn’t just have to go one way either, like Caroline mentioned when she wrote about barriers, you can do the opposite and make it extra hard to engage in negative behaviors.

When you start putting these techniques into proactice, you’ll find yourself doing the things you need to be doing without even thinking about it. Before too long, you’ll find yourself progressing towards your goals without having to put in any extra effort.

I prefer ‘show’ over ‘tell’, so let’s look at some examples.

  • Pre-Arrange Your Workout – Have trouble going out in the morning for sprint training, heading down to the gym or going downstairs for a bodyweight strength training session? Get everything ready the night before. Lay out your gym clothes wherever you normally get dressed in the morning, have your shoes and your keys next to them ready to go if necessary. That way there’s no excuse not to get right in your exercise clothes and get started.
  • Freeze Your Credit Card – This is a really old one, but it’s still an excellent example. If you have issues controlling yourself when it comes to using the credit cards, drop it in a container of water and freeze it. That way, it’s a serious pain to pull it out and use it and you’ll only do it if you really need to.

  • Clean Your Fridge – Anyone who’s tried to lose weight knows struggling with temptation is brutal. So, why even let yourself be tempted? Donate all your junk food to people who can’t afford food in the first place, and stock your fridge and pantry with good, primal foods. That way, when you get hungry and go digging through the fridge, you only have good options. If you want to eat garbage, you’re going to have to go out of your way to do it and, chances are, you just won’t bother.

All these are just the obvious examples. If you’re creative, you can find tons of ways to make doing what you need to do easier, and doing what you shouldn’t be doing harder. If you’ve had any success with this, let us know how you did it! The options really are endless.

Complacency Is Your Enemy

Sleeping Puppy by Richard Stowey

Don't get too comfortable - there's always room for improvement.

My philosophy in life has always been one of optimism. The bedrock of this optimism is largely a well-developed sense of appreciation of everything I have. I understand that life is fleeting and that I am beyond fortunate not only to live in a developed, first-world nation where something like access to clean drinking water is a given let alone the fact that I’m alive at all.

This sense of gratefulness is like a search lamp, the brilliant beam of which I can shine on my problems to view them in a proper light – a light that reveals how petty it really is for me to bothered by most misfortunes. Unfortunately, the brighter the light the darker the shadow it casts and that sense of appreciation is no different. That dark shadow is complacency.

Complacency is the direct nemesis of ambition. Unfortunately, it seems now so many people who advocate being grateful and not taking what you have for granted also push its poisonous side-effect as if it were an added virtue.

I’ve heard it a million times, “Why worry about working so hard for more? You should be grateful for what you have.” or maybe “Don’t be greedy, be happy where you are with what you’ve got.”

On the surface, this kind of sounds like good advice. Half of it is. You should be happy with what you’ve got and not take it for granted. You also shouldn’t let it bother you too much if you don’t have something you want.

The problem is, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still try to get it.

Let’s say you’re stuck in a dead end job that makes you miserable. Those people would tell you you’re selfish for wanting more than that and should just accept it and be happy. That is ridiculous. Taking that advice and embracing complacency won’t make you happy and will just leave you with a mountain of regrets on your deathbed. Not a good idea.

I say that yes, you should be grateful even for your dead end job and you shouldn’t let it destroy your mood. However, and this is the key part, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve your situation. It just means that while you try to improve your situation you shouldn’t allow the current one to bother you so much.

You should always, always be trying to improve some area of your life. I’ve said this several times before and it’s not going to be the last time you hear it from me, but the truth is none of us have very long to live. You shouldn’t just be happy for every moment you get, you should also be trying to make the next one even better.

In the end, it comes down to finding the right balance. If you’re not grateful enough, you can burn away your whole life always trying to get and do more and never have actually had the chance to enjoy any of it. If you’re too complacent, you can settle into a life that ultimately will never make you as happy as it could have. Either way your short flash of existence is squandered and that is a tragedy in the strongest sense of the word.

It’s like the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” That suggests you should just take what life gives you. You should take what life gives you but you should also add some work to it to make what life gives you even better. I say, “When life gives you lemons, go to the store and buy some sugar and vodka and sell that lemonade so you can go get something you actually want.”

Of course, my version doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well…

Have anything to add to my mild rant about complacency? Let us know!

How To Remember Anything Forever with Memory Hooks

At Rest by DigitalART2

Now you can learn to never forget too.

I have always had a serious problem with remembering things.

I forget people’s names after I meet them. I could never memorize any vocabulary in foreign language classes. I forgot to do my homework. I forget everyone’s birthday. Sometimes, I walk into a room and can’t even remember why I went in there in the first place.

It’s kind of a big problem.

Or at least, it was a big problem until I figured out a nice little trick to chisel anything I need to remember into my brain, with only a half-second of effort. Now, I can read a vocab word, hear someone’s name or be presented with an interesting bit of information just once and never forget it.

So what’s the big trick?

Tapping Into Emotional Memory with Memory Hooks

What does emotional memory mean? To simplify it a bit in order to not get too bogged down in psychology and neurology stuff, there are several ‘levels’ to our brains. To generalize a bit, the really analytical stuff, math, logic, language etc. all happens in the higher, newer levels of your brain. All of the more subconscious stuff, emotions, impulses, desires, heart and breathing regulation & long-term memory, for example, are down on the lower, more primal levels of your brain.

Now, if you’re like me in the past, you try to memorize something by activating those higher levels of the brain. Usually by sitting and repeating it over, and over, and over until it is drilled into your brain. The problem is our brains don’t really like that.

Our brains may be built to hold a lot of information, but when it comes to living things efficiency is always the rule. This is one reason people like taking the path of least resistance. Our brains are no different, they don’t want to just suck up every last tidbit of information and store it forever, that would be inefficient. Your brain only likes to store things that matter.

Sure, to you, all those words on your vocab list do matter. To your brain though, not so much. Your brain really only wants to store information in the long term that it knows will really impact your life. For instance, it’s not necessary to remember for twenty years that there were exactly 134 tiles in the back-splash of your parents’ kitchen when you were a child. It is important to remember that planting your hand firmly on the burner of a hot stove is a stupendously bad idea.

How does your brain tell which one of these things is important to file away for life? By the emotional response the event triggers.

Counting the number of tiles in your parents kitchen is likely to elicit no real emotional response – other than boredom which is anathema to our brains. Slapping your hand down on a hot burner, however, will trigger lots of emotions – pain, fear, excitement, possibly confusion. All of these emotions trigger the release of lots of chemicals in your brain, it knows it’s something really important and it remembers it.

Here’s a good test, which is easier to remember – an exciting, wonderful or traumatic event from your childhood, or what you ate for breakfast last Tuesday? Which memory is more vivid?

Unless you have a very unique brain, or a car crashed through your wall while you were having breakfast last Tuesday, the childhood memory is probably way easier to recall, even though it was so much farther in the past.

This is the reason why the old-school, repeat-it-10,000-times rote memorization method just doesn’t work. There’s no emotional attachment, other than boredom, so your brain just doesn’t want to hang on to that information.

The trick then is to find a way to make your brain form an emotional attachment to the information.

Hooking Up Your Memory

What’s the best way to form an emotion attachment to the info? Memory hooks.

A memory hook is a strong visualization of some kind that hooks a strong emotion into the memory of whatever information you’re trying to store. Essentially, you take whatever information it is, a name, a vocab word, a definition, whatever, and then come up with some kind of visual that reminds you of that piece of information.

The visual can be anything, though it needs to be as vivid and detailed as you can come up with, and needs to have some kind of emotion tied to it. Any emotion will work, although I usually go for humor since coming up with ridiculous situations is easier for me. Longer, more involved action sequences also tend to work better than isolated mental images too.

Rather than try to explain the process, I think it’s a little easier to just walk you through one I used during our Korean challenge to memorize the phrase ‘chalmokkesumnida‘.

Now, chalmokkesumnida is a phrase used to begin a meal, similar to ittedakimasu in Japanese on bon appetite in French. Since that was the case, I wanted to have some kind of mental image that tied into meals.

When I say ‘chalmokke’, to me it kind of sounds like ‘Chow Monkey’ in English. Now a Chow Monkey would obviously be some kind of monkey that brings chow. Alright, so far I’ve got a monkey bringing food to someone or something.

Next, the ‘sumnida’ part kind of sounds like ‘Suupa da’ or ‘It’s super’ in Japanese. So now, the people the monkey is bringing the food to speak Japanese. From there, I figure if anything is going to be super, it’s chow monkey. Ok. He’s now a food delivering monkey superhero, complete with a cape, mask, and big ‘C’ emblazoned on his chest delivering food to hungry people everywhere, or at least in Japan.

Now, we take it one step further. You have a hungry family all sitting around their breakfast table in Japan one morning, a father, mother, and two kids. There’s no food on the table, and one of the childrens’ stomachs growls loudly. Suddenly, Chow Monkey blasts through the wall like a furry, simian Kool-Aid Man and dumps a breakfast feast onto the table. There’s food from everywhere, it’s like all the buffets of the world rolled into a giant katamari of breakfast-deliciousness. Their eyes glistening in hunger, everyone at the table shouts ‘Chow Monkey suupa da!’ with joy and dives into the food as Chow Monkey soars away to save another hungry family.

Is that ridiculous? Sure. But now every time I sit down to eat, I think of Chow Monkey and ‘Chow Monkey suupa da’. From there ‘chalmokkesumnida’ flows right out.

Now, written out like this, it makes it look like an extremely involved process. Really though, all of this happens in a split second. Your brain comes pre-installed with a fantastic imagination, and it doesn’t take much thought to come up with something goofy like this. Chow Monkey was born a few seconds after sitting down to eat with some Korean friends.

It may seem silly, but next time you need to remember something give it a try. Before you realize it, whatever you were trying to memorize will be burned into your mind like the Banana Phone song. Just see if you don’t think ‘chalmokkesumnida’ next time you sit down to eat.

Have you had any success with this technique? Share some of your mental images and memory hooks in the comments!

Update: If you’re interested in learning more about memory hooks I discuss them and the above example in more detail along with other memory strategies in my book How to Learn 1,000 Words in 30 Days on Amazon Kindle.

Set Goals. Fulfill Your Dreams

Greatest Goal II by Scott Wills

Setting goal posts in your life is the best way to realize your dreams.

It is extremely difficult to achieve your dreams if you are a failure at setting goals.

As someone who always used to really, really hate planning and goal setting, believe me – it makes all the difference. I used to be of the opinion that setting goals just kind of got in the way. They were nice to have as a general reference point, but they weren’t important to the actual process of being productive.

Honestly, me feeling that way was probably largely a result of how terrible I was at setting proper goals. I was really terrible too. Being so awful at it made it even harder to achieve what goals I did set, which just made me more frustrated with goal-setting in general.

Eventually, I learned what I was doing wrong. I wasn’t S.M.A.R.T.

Get S.M.A.R.T.

Jokes about my general lack of intelligence aside, what I was missing out on was the S.M.A.R.T. method of goal setting. That’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

Sticking to this method makes sure that your goals aren’t absolute failures like my old ones were. What does all that mean? Let’s take a look.

Specific

It is absolutely pointless to make goals if they are vague. Sadly, I didn’t realize that years ago when I was making goals like, “Exercise more”, “Lose weight” or “Make more money”. That’s like someone asking where you’re going and replying with, “To a building.” Technically, if your goal is “Lose weight” than you could drop half a pound and be done.

Goals must be specific to be worthwhile.

Change “Exercise more” to “Complete 3 strength training sessions per week” and “Lose weight” to “Lose 5 pounds per week” and you’ve got some specific goals.

Measurable

This should go without saying, but a goal that isn’t measurable isn’t really attainable. Even if it should go without saying, that didn’t stop me from setting ridiculous, unmeasurable goals in the past. Here’s a particular gem, “Get better at guitar”.

It boggles my mind at this point that I could set as stupid a goal as that and still be literate. Not only does it fail our first criteria by not being specific, how will you ever know when you hit ‘better’? Is better being able to play a bunch of scales, is better memorizing a song, is better rocking a Jimi Hendrix medly while blindfolded upside-down in a shark tank? Who knows?

If you don’t assign a quantifiable component to your goal, than there is no way to ever know when you reach it. Only a moron would make a goal that is, by its very nature, unreachable. Don’t be a moron.

So how would that nebulous, immesurable goal be improved? Well, how about, “Memorize three songs” or “Perform at least 2 songs in front of an audience”. Even, “Practice guitar for 1 hour 4 times per week” would have worked.

Attainable

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be ambitious. In fact, I’m all for setting big goals, since most people seem to really throw their all into something when it’s a really ambitious goal. Try to keep your goals ambitious but realistic. After all, setting a goal that is essentially impossible is about as futile a gesture as you can make.

Sadly, I don’t have any examples of my past stupidity to showcase for this part. My goals were always too vague to ever really be considered unrealistic. The key is dancing right on that line between ambitious and crazy. A blatantly unattainable goal like high-fiving the Queen of England or learning to communicate with algae via telepathy is pointless is one thing. A crazy sounding but attainable goal is another entirely.

My best advice is to use your gut to figure out if something is attainable or not, don’t always listen when other people call you crazy for it.

Relevant

By relevant, I mean relevant to your life. Your goals should be something that you are passionate about, that you have a reason for doing. When you’re committing to something to something to sit down and set some goals toward its completion, take a minute to think about your reasons for doing it.

If you honestly can’t think of any good reasons for setting the goal or for accomplishing what you’re setting the goal toward, then you’re probably not gonna care much about the goal.

For example, if your goal is to lose 30 pounds, then you better have a really good, relevant, personal reason for setting that goal. Whether it’s health, wanting to be able to do more active things or whatever. You need a reason.

If there isn’t a real, driving reason behind a goal then there’s no reason to stick to it.

Timely

Timely may be last, but that’s only because if the order was rearranged the acronym would be all messed up.

Not giving goals specific, timely deadlines is one of the biggest mistakes bad goal setters make. It may seem harmless, but “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

For those not familiar with Parkinson’s Law, this basically means that no matter how difficult a task actually is, work on it will fill however much time you set for it. If you set too distant of a deadline or, even worse, none at all than inevitably things will pop up to fill that space. Other projects with nearer deadlines will be moved to the front of your list, you’ll procrastinate, you’ll not know where to begin, you’ll fret about doing it properly, etc.

If you make your goal, “I want to lose 30 ponds by the end of the year” then there’s no real pressure to get started. You have the whole rest of the year! You can start working out tomorrow. In the end, you’ll probably put it off so long that you’ll never really commit to it in the first place.

If, on the other hand, we make that “Lose 30 pounds in 4 weeks” then you know the very same day you made the goal you would be giving all your junk food away, restocking the fridge with healthy food and probably going for a HIIT session. All because you know if you’re going to make your 4 week deadline, you need to be working now.

Using the S.M.A.R.T. method, I’ve been able to train myself to set goals that actually help me get where I want to go, rather than get in my way and demotivate me when I inevitable fall miles short of attaining them. Hopefully, it can do the same for you.

Have you had any success with the S.M.A.R.T. model, or do you use another goal setting technique? We always love to hear about other stuff that works.