The Toilet Paper Universe

tpuniverseBy Jon Ricson

She said, “It doesn’t matter how the freaking roll goes on the dispenser, Jon. Just replace it!” I could practically see her seething on the other side of the door.

I said, “Okay, but it does matter…”

She said, “Who cares if the toilet paper comes over or under the roll?”

I said, “You’re kidding right? It HAS to be over!”

She said, “Like it makes any difference in the universe.”

I sat there (on the toilet, as she had knocked on the door while I was using it) and I pondered the roll. I pondered the universe. I pondered if I was done yet.

I imagined a universe inside the toilet roll dispenser. A universe that had no Milky Way above it at night, but an unending roll of white. The citizens of this universe lived generations, nay millennia according to whether the Great White Sheet blessed their prosperous, life-filled galaxy.

If the Great White Sheet came over the Great Roll, the populated galaxies enjoyed an age of great prosperity and long life. Each spin of the Great Roll above brought both relief and awe, as well as sometimes a strange but accepted odor.

But if the Great White Sheet came under the roll, millions perhaps billions would die. The universe would suffer greatly until the Great Roll changed, and brought a reprieve.

I heard the shouts and the cries of that doomed universe. I felt their anguish and grunted.

I tried to explain all this to her, in great detail. She remained silent on the other side of the door. Perhaps she was imagining the toilet paper universe as well. Perhaps she too could comprehend their deep despair and suffering if the roll was put on the wrong way. Perhaps she was finally getting it!

After a very heavy sigh she said, “Just wash your hands when you’re done.” Then she walked away from the door.

I replaced the toilet paper carefully making sure the paper came OVER the roll.

As I washed my hands, I smiled. I had a deep satisfaction knowing that, at least for this roll, all was right with the universe.


This Precious Present

16506480_sI sat on the bench watching the students run back and forth. Oh how I envied them.

I had been one of them but that was literally ages ago. Even my teaching years were enjoyable; growing and shaping young minds. Now my profession kept me busy, when I was here.

As I sat in my reverie of times gone by, a young lady who I had once taught approached and smiled.

“Excuse me, but aren’t you Professor Wells?” she said, seemingly embarrassed to ask.

I smiled at the pretty young thing. Best not to tell Jane about this chance encounter. Nary a chance she’d believe it so random.

“Yes, I am,” I answered, noticing for the first time the man sitting reading a newspaper on a nearby bench. She and I chatted for the next five minutes, and her body language told me we were heading towards areas other than former student and teacher. In my eyes these were harmless affairs, but I knew in other eyes they were crimes I had been committing for years. I felt both ashamed for my lewd behavior, and yet titillated at the new possibility.

Finally she heard a class bell and winked her goodbye.

I watched her walk away and shook my head. “Herbert, you damn fool,” I muttered to myself.

Then the gentleman, who looked quite out of place on the bench, stood up and slowly walked towards me. He sat down quietly and shared my view of the campus.

“Professor Wells, huh?” he said. It didn’t take long to realize he was from the future. As was I.

I sighed. I had wondered when they would find me.

“Took a little longer this time,” I said.

“You can’t keep coming here,” he said. “It’s not allowed, you know that.”

But I had come here, repeatedly through the years. Life as I lived here in the latter part of the 18th century would never be allowed where I am from. The women, the study, the writing, the vitality. In my true time, there’s no such thing as promiscuousness, higher learning, art, war, or anything that brings life its grand experience. Just the peaceful, advanced yet sadly backward and boring people of the future. The real Eloi…

“So I guess we have to go back right now,” I said, sighing. I looked around at the trees, the people, even the sorry weather of England. It was true, this was my favorite time and place to live, at least that we could get to. The next few centuries were not just off limits, they were technically impossible for some reason.

He looked around, taking an admiring last look. It was intoxicating to people from our time.

“Not easy to leave is it?” I smiled.

He sighed, and nodded. “I can truly see why you like to come here.” He stood up. “But we’ll both be in trouble if I don’t bring you back. We don’t even know what the impact of your repeated visits as this ‘H.G Wells’ will do to the timeline.”

As far as I was concerned, H.G. Wells was who I was, and if this world had never known him, it would be sadder for it.

I stood as well, straightened my tie, and followed him to a secluded thatch of trees. In a moment, he had activated the small device and the world I loved began to fade.

But unlike the Time Traveler of my stories, I indeed would return. For my only crime was to write, love, and live in this precious present.

2014 Wrap

constantWell, it’s 2015 already. I’d feel more upset if I hadn’t been so busy!

Not much action here on the blog/site, but lots of stuff getting done.

2014 saw 3 more stories make it into anthologies, and the first full League of Sol Planets book, “Constant”, made substantial strides. Unfortunately, I’m only about half done on the entire book which continues to grow in it’s scope. I may release the first story, “The Streams of Mars” as a teaser this year if it keeps dragging out. Each chapter/story of the book stands on it’s own.

Two independent stories, “I Before E”, a time travel short short based around a spelling bee, and “Me and Jeff in the Dark”, a story about a guy and a cockroach in a box, will be on an upcoming anthology from the SciFi Writers Group I write with on LinkedIN. I’ll also be putting those and other shorts up here as the year progresses.

I also wrote a longer 3000 word short story called “Deep Regret”, which is set in the League of Sol Planets universe, and deals with asteroid mining and space pirates. This got picked up recently for an upcoming anthology.

I’ll be also featuring a short story per month this year that I’ve written for the group in recent years. No reason for those to stay hidden. Stay tuned!


Fe Fi Fo Fum and Your Little Dog Too!

14836419_sAnd so it was in the Land of Upz that the three decided to rescue Dot (and her little dog too) from the wicked giant, who had imprisoned her in the great Emerald Fortress.

“I think I have a plan”, said Manny Quinn. He was a plastic sort who had until recently served as a scarecrow in a field, and thought himself quite the genius, although he was kind of a poser.

“Good,” said GoldenBoy, a robotic forest guide who wished for a new compass, but whose real talents lie in his gold excrement. “We’ve got to save Dot!”

The cowardly Cheetah waffled as usual, but wanted to help Dot. Not quite king of the forest this one, and although he was very fast, he was mostly a scaredy-cat.

They watched the giant’s guards march in and out of the fortress. Manny snapped his fingers. “All we have to do is knock a giant out cold, then get on each other’s shoulders and wear his clothes. We can walk right in!”

GoldenBoy’s metal frame shivered loudly and a golden brick dropped at the Cheetah’s paws.

“Really?” said the Cheetah.

GoldenBoy grimaced. “Sorry.”


Meanwhile deep in the Emerald Fortress, Dot sat bound in a chair. Poor Rosanna was leashed to the chair next to her and muzzled.

Dot had almost loosened her bonds when then the giant walked in.

“Fe Fi Fo – ooh, a pie,” and he gorged himself on a gigantic chocolate dessert.

No wonder they grow this big, Dot thought.

“So”, the giant started, still licking his fingers. “I told you I’d get you and your little dog too. But I’m so full now I don’t need to eat you.”

Dot rolled her eyes. “Lucky me.” She looked around at the room, green everywhere. “You need a new decorator. Just because it’s the Emerald Fortress doesn’t mean you couldn’t have a splash of blue or red for goodness sake.”

The giant looked around and shrugged. Rosanna offered a muffled bark. He frowned and put his foot directly over the little Schnauzer.

At that very moment, the doors burst open, and in ran the strangest giant Dot had seen yet. His uniform didn’t at all fit, and in the face he looked just like…”

Manny screamed. “Dot! We’ve come to rescue you, and your little…”

“I got it,” Dot said. The giant’s guards poured in behind them. GoldenBoy, who had been on the bottom, tripped and they all three came crashing down near Dot.

They scrambled to their feet as the evil giant and his guards crowded around them.

“Hey,” the evil giant said to his guards, “There’s that little robot that poops gold! I was looking for him!”

The giant reached down and picked up GoldenBoy, which immediately produced more gold on the floor. Rosanna sniffed it through her muzzle.

“Leave him alone!” screamed Dot, and she threw a brick at the giant’s head. It struck perfectly and he toppled like tall timber.

“What a world,” he slurred as he fell. “Killed with a poop brick.”

Actually the guards were quite thrilled at this. They would eventually build a statue that commemorated Dot, which would stand long after the fortress was in ruins.

She was a little miffed later though when the good fairy told her she could have left anytime simply by saying, “There’s no place like home.”

“Really? And you’re telling me this now?” Dot said, not happy.

And so Dot returned home where, unfortunately, she’d have to deal with pretty much the same idiots.


Sure enough, she woke up in bed. Uncle El (short for Elvis) gave her some warm tea and she smiled. “This is delicious! All they had in my dream was green tea.”

“Uh, thank you, thank you very much.” He propped her pillow up. “You gave us quite a scare you know.”

Dot nodded. “It was quite a trip, and quite frightening at times. She looked at Tony, who looked just like the Cheetah. “But I don’t have to tell YOU that.” Tony smiled, but cowered more into the corner.

Then she smiled at Danny, who stood in a thoughtful pose. “But thanks to some quick thinking, I was rescued.”

Next to him, Roy wore a pained expression. “I’ll be right back!” he said, and rushed off in the direction of the bathroom.

“Yep,” Dot said petting Rosanna, who was gnawing on a giant bone. “There’s no place like home!”

The Fool, Montresor

(The Flip Side of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado)

25120604_s“Amontillado!” I said. The fool, he thought I believed him. The headpiece I wore in celebration of the festival jangled its small bells and I shook my head.

“I have my doubts,” said Montresor. Of course he did. He should!

“Amontillado!” I said once again, or more than once. I scarce remember exact events as my wits were lessened due to the festival proclivities.

Then the fool Montresor began rambling on about Luchesi! What madness! Luchesi was an oaf.

“Come let us go,” said I.

“Whither?” said he.

“To your vaults.” I laughed to myself as I said it. This would be great sport.

He tried to persuade me otherwise, but I would have none of it. And soon we were at his miserable hovel (he suggested his servants were out, but I doubted he even had them in employ.)

I was still feeling the effects of the festival spirits, yet kept up with him down into the abyss of his vaults. Would we never get to this supposed Amontillado? I was having my doubts he had any at all. It was perhaps some old cache of Merlot, or worse, Cabernet.

He kept babbling about my health, but I would not hear of it. He would not deter me from showing him my superiority as usual in all matters wine.

Along the way he stopped to have a mediocre bit of Medoc, and babble about his family arms. A human foot on a snake indeed. He would be under my foot as usual, as my talents would show soon enough.

After a last swig of Medoc, I gestured as one of the brotherhood. Of course, he did not comprehend my actions.

“You are not of the Masons?” I suggested. Then he produced a simple trowel and said that it showed he was a mason. What a buffoon!

We proceeded on.

Finally among the bones of his pitiable ancestors he directed me to small enclave in which the Amontillado was stored. He mentioned Luchesi again and I would have no more. I entered the room.

When I came to the end of the room, of which there was of course no pipe of Amontillado, I stood mystified. What was this fool doing now? What point was this?

Perhaps the inebriation masked my reactions, but before I knew it the fool Montresor has clasped chains around my waist and padlocked me there. Why? For what reason?

“The Amontillado!” I shouted. Where was it? And why must I be chained to taste it? Did he not trust me to try it, even though he must know I would laugh in his face?

He began to use his trowel to seal the small room with brick and mortar. What madness! I laughed heartily. Perhaps this was his attempt at humor. I would play along.

“A very good joke indeed – an excellent joke! We will have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo!”

It was a lie, he probably knew I would not share wine with him especially after this event.

It became apparent as he began sealing up the room that my initial suspicions of him were too soft. He was indeed mad! He was quite insane! The poor wretch had lost control of his faculties and truly meant to do me ill.

“For the love of God, Montresor!” I shouted.

“Yes,” he said in a tone most chilling. “For the love of God.”

As the darkness of the room increased, all save one small rock to be inserted by the “mason”, the fool Montresor, I dipped my head in thought. The bells of the headpiece jingled.

He called my name. I did not respond. He tossed in his sconce. It went out quickly. He called again.

The fool placed the last stone and I began to formulate my revenge. I sniffed and coughed internally. The nitre in the enclave was quite strong. No matter. I would escape from this child’s trap.

I coughed again, and felt my head getting lighter. Yes. The fool Montresor would…regret his…actions…

…he…would regret…his actions…the fool.

Hell to Pay

Spender looked over at Parkhill and their mutual expression was, Oh shit.

The senator was on a tour of the NASA facility and the Mars Rover Curiosity was the main event right now. Unfortunately when the senator walked through, they were live. LIVE!

“So we’re live eh?” the senator asked, impressed. “Ooh, what’s that shiny thing over there? Looks like a silver mirror in the dirt.”

Spender swore under his breath. There would be hell to pay, and he hoped he’d have a job in 24 hours.


Marge had had one margarita too many, again, and tequila made her a mean drunk.

She looked up at one of the many TV monitors in the sports bar, including the strange broadcast on some science channel showing footage the Mars Curiosity Rover.

“Puh-leeze,” she started again. She had already made a scene over her onion ring mountain appetizer about how the whole space program had been a giant hoax and men were just jumping around on a stage somewhere in the Sixties. “Why that just looks like the desert not 25 miles from here. We camp there all the time Harold.” She took a big swig and wiped her mouth with her hand, then burped, loudly.

Harold had never been a conspiracy theorist, and it had led to heated arguments for 19 years with Marge. He didn’t play along tonight, she was out of control enough.

“See Harold, see?!” Marge bellowed, and more people began giving them that strange sighing and quick look that let you know you were disturbing them. “It even that looks like that place we hiked to last time until those men made us leave, said we were trespassing. Phht!”

Harold unfortunately remembered. It was on that very trip he had lost one of his most prize possessions. His great-great grandfather had brought the unique mirrored pocket watch all the way from Switzerland when their family first came to America in 1926. It didn’t open easily, and didn’t really look like a watch at all being the only strange piece like it ever made. Marge had warned him to be careful with it. Now thanks to his carelessness, the one of a kind pure silver heirloom was lost forever in the desert.

Marge continued her tirade after sucking the last of her third Margarita through the small straw. “I told you not to take the watch, but you had to take it everywhere…”

“Okay dear,” he stood, he’d had enough. He put his hand out to help her up, and she began grabbing her things.

As she got up, Harold looked at the screen behind her and saw the Rover had found something. Then they showed a closeup picture of the object.

Harold froze. It was his great-great grandfather’s watch. HIS watch. They hadn’t opened it yet, and because of it’s strange shape and unique design, they didn’t know what they had found.

Harold moved quickly between Marge and the nearest monitor, blocking her view. He was sure he was turning red.

She was right. Dammit all to hell, she was right and he would never hear the end of it. That “Mars” Rover was 20 something miles from Pete’s Sports Bar.

He spun her towards the door, and she bristled. “What are you doing? What’s the rush?” But by that time she was past the TVs and into the doorway.

Harold spent the drive home hoping to God she never found out, but knew she would…and there would be hell to pay when she did. And not just for Harold…

Social Media Marketing for Authors

css-social-media-iconsIf you are an author (or any creative person), Social Media is a goldmine waiting for you to find it. Why? Because it’s the way to do exactly what you want most in the whole wide world: find devoted followers of what you write. And the best part? It’s mostly free.

So this is my primer on Social Media based off what I found works for the various artists, writers, as well as my own brands that have seen 500% growth in followers since May. Yep, 500% growth.

What is my big secret? I paid attention to it. Here’s how I break it down.

“Come on, you do it…We all do it…I do it, I love to do it. I just did it and I’m ready to do it again, don’t tell me you don’t do it!” – Mel Brooks as King Louis, History of the World Part 1

Yes we all do or have done Facebook (sometimes to our everlasting shame), but what we need for business is a Facebook Page. This is different than your normal personal Facebook account. This is a way to find people who may like your writing, and this page is devoted only to your writing. No personal stuff here.

This is where your FB friends may find out about what you do professionally (or semi-professionally), and learn a whole different side of you.

Facebook Ads are nice for growing this page beyond friends and family. I use FB ads every day to grow different followings and spend about $5 a day. You can do more or less or none. One jazz group page we grew with international followers up over 5000 likes.

The key with Facebook is to not mix business with friends and family, and that’s what a Page allows you to do. Use your personal FB account for friends and fam, and use the page for business/creative push.

I was slow to come around on this, but actually like it for business uses better than Facebook (and maybe equal to LinkedIn).

Since Twitter is only quick messages, and they don’t sit static on a page like FB posts do, you can post out tweets much more frequently to catch users who may be on at that moment. It’s like commercials that are on TV all day, but since different folks are watching at different times, you catch a wider audience if you repeat the commercials.

I also love how EASY it is to get followers on Twitter. Unlike Facebook where every “friend” is scrutinized because of privacy issues and “do I like them that much?”, Twitter followers are much more like impersonal viewers that can choose to like a particular post or not, or ignore it completely in their feed. And they may not see your posts if they aren’t on Twitter at the moment you post. Also, you aren’t necessarily “friends” of the person like on Facebook (and that can be a good thing!)

So, you can go for volume on followers. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is simply follow tons of folks. A quarter of them will follow you back right away. Then, after a week or so, you can go delete the ones that don’t if you like using a myriad of free programs.

The second easiest way is Twitter Ads at It’s about the same price as Fb ads, and from what we have seen adds about a follower for .50 cents to a dollar. Right now (first of 2013) Twitter ads are offering $100 free advertising. We have seen 100-150 new followers per Twitter acct. using this free promotion. Jump on it!

Well I have loved LinkedIn since I found it, and now with the strength of the Groups, I love it even more. From the AOL days, groups have been great for creative types of all kinds. I remember being in Star Trek writing groups and others on AOL. And this past week, actually posted a short story in a contest on one of the groups I was in. GREAT fun!

Your LinkedIn account works simultaneously like a love child of a Facebook and Twitter Post, but the real strength of LI is the groups. Like AOL Groups, then Yahoo Groups, and Facebook Groups before it, LI Groups are becoming the go to source of finding like minded SERIOUS people. I think Yahoo and Facebook brought too many, um, yahoos and not so serious creatives to groups. But LinkedIn has been careful to present itself to serious business-minded folks, and creatives who think like this are people you
want to be around.

Different Strokes

But why repeat the same message on a Facebook Page, a Twitter Account, and a LinkedIn Profile?

The same reason you’d use TV ads, Posters, Internet and Social media, and tie ins if you are promoting a national movie or product. You’re trying to capture a large audience in the place they hang out. Not everyone loves Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Main Point for the Hard of Reading: You do an LI account and groups, FB and Page, AND Twitter because different people prefer different social platforms and may miss your posts if you only do one. And they are all free! Hello!

You are going to have many folks (like Grandma or casual fans) who only mess with (and sometimes live on) Facebook. So you must have a presence there.

If a person lives on Twitter, but doesn’t mess with FB anymore (as many younger folks do these days, or those who hate the privacy issues on FB) they may catch a post about your new book from a Twitter post.

If they prefer LI for business, or groups, same thing, they may see it there.

Tying It All Together

I hear you grumbling already. THREE social media formats? I can barely do one, and would rather not have to do THAT one! I want to spend time writing my books and stories and other genius ideas, not posting to all these things all day long.

I appreciate that. I feel your pain. I totally get where you are coming from. And I call bullshit.

I can go in using a great little program called Hootsuite and post to all my followers in several different brands in minutes. Minutes!

Yes, many times I am pushing a blog post I had to write (like this one, which did take some time). But the actual reach out to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groups and Pages took mere minutes.

Hootsuite is an online app that lets you add all your accounts, from Facebook, to Facebook Pages, to Twitter Accounts, to LinkedIn Accounts, even to the LinkedIn Groups you are in. Then you can make one post and send to all of them in a click. What’s really useful is the scheduling feature. In 10 minutes you can schedule a tweet an hour for the next day, and then go to bed with tweets starting out to the world before you even wake up. It’s a beautiful thing.

Listen people, I run a busy company with 30-50 clients at any one time, write 2-5 blogs per week, am working on various short stories and novels, have two music albums of my own in the works, and watch an impossible amount of TV. We get done what we want to get done. A tool like Hootsuite though has made it much easier for me to keep my social media in order.

It’s Not About Sales

This is a sticking point with marketing and always has been. How much does this make me? How do I justify the time by sales I will see from it?

The thing to remember about Social Media is it’s not how many “sales” you get, but how many followers. People who will see your posts, tweets, follow links to your blogs, etc. And how many people follow those people’s tweets and posts, and so on.

“And they told two friends, and they told two friends…”

It’s about building an ever-expanding online world of followers, that you then post to when you have updates, new stories, novels for sale, etc. Your blog then becomes a place they come to, and then what’s on your blog? Links back to follow you on whatever social network they aren’t following you on.

Follow me? (@jonricson on Twitter btw – wink 😉

And unlike others who may say something about social media good or bad, I am only speaking from a concerted effort I decided to try last May. Since then I have seen an unheard amount of new followers, fans, and yes, sales and new business because of social media outreach. I can attribute several clients directly to Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn.

So Where’s the Real Value?

The real value is bringing people to trust you and your brand. When they see consistency, quality, and market share, they see legitimacy, and that is what we need for our creative brands to succeed whether we are first time or self-published writers, or growing published authors.

When I send out a message to a throng of followers based on one of my brands, I build trust with my audience, I get new people following me, and I can expect 100 reads very quickly to my blogs or whatever I’m posting about.

THAT to me is valuable. Is it valuable to you?

Have a great week!


Jon Ricson is a writer of many things including science fiction, and detective mystery short stories, blogs, and books. For more on what he is writing besides this blog, check out and

Would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to post a comment and keep the conversation going…