An excerpt from SUN TZU'S THE ART OF DORK

Make the jump for an excerpt from my novel ‘Sun Tzu’s The Art of Dork’. The section is from chapter four, and concerns TL James attempting to figure out which individuals he will draft into his army. Hope you enjoy! Visit to pre-order the e-book.

–John Lincoln

When I got home I took out my copy of ‘The Art of War’ and opened to the blank last page that every book gives you in case you need to make notes. Usually, this seemed an absurd notion. As a collector of things, I would never mark a book up. That would be akin to painting an action figure with an alternate costume; or, even worse, like writing your name on the side of a Blu Ray case to claim it as your own.

But in this case I was able to justify note taking in the back of my book. I managed to do this in two ways. The first was that the manuscript was only four bucks, so I could always pick up another copy easily. Secondly, if this plan did work out, the book as a whole would prove as a relic of the war waged. As such, the notes would essentially add to the collectability of the piece because I would be the only person who would hold any value in it. It would be elevated to the sacred level of ‘priceless’.

But, just in case, I put down the pen I was holding and grabbed a pencil. On that last blank page I wrote ‘Thomas Lewis James + Minnie Dawkins.’ I had wanted to draw an ampersand, but never learned how. Sadly, I was stuck with that simple looking plus sign. We didn’t feel connected enough. I drew a small heart around the two names. I was immediately happy that I had switched to an erasable form of writing. The heart felt presumptuous. A circle was much better.

I was just about to continue before deciding that a circle was too plain. It was an ambiguous form of coupling that did not necessarily show the tenderness the situation deserved. How many things do we circle mindlessly while writing? How could that possibly represent the love I felt for Minnie?

But that heart. That heart was too generic; too… done before.

It took me several minutes before coming to an obvious choice: a heptagon. It had seven sides, and Minnie and I met in seventh grade. Plus, this being my sophomore year of college, it meant we met seven years ago (and the allusion to the hotness of Seven of Nine from Voyager couldn’t hurt).

So, I drew as close to a perfect heptagon as I could around our names before proceeding. From one corner of it I drew a line outwards and wrote ‘Jen: headquarters/female perspective.’

From a second corner I drew another line and wrote ‘Kevin: sidekick.’ From a third, was ‘Alex: information’.

I paused here, trying to figure out what came next. These were the three I knew. I was sure there were some more people that had to be the keys to this locked web.

But what else did I need? There were seven corners on this heptagon, and I had only filled three of them. Surely I would need seven if it was a heptagon I had drawn. Where was I going to find four more people as aligned to my cause as I was?

Which way to look at it? Find the person and fit them to a role, or find something I need and then find the appropriate person within my circle of friends?

I found my mind once again wandering to the chapter entitled “Use of Spies”. Specifically, rule nine which stated that “having local spies meant employing the services of the inhabitants of a district.”

Sun Tzu had dedicated an entire chapter to the application of spy techniques. It would be unwise of me to assume that something comprising one thirteenth of his treatise would be inconsequential to my victory.

The truth was painfully apparent. I needed a spy. One who was an inhabitant of my love’s district. The closest I had was Jen. She was at least on campus. But I was translating ‘district’ to mean ‘dorm’ in this case. I needed someone who was at least in Minnie’s dormitory, ideally on her floor.

I had nothing. So I drew a hesitant line from a forth corner and wrote ‘????? – spy.’

I did not like the idea of having to spy on Minnie. But, I knew that any espionage I chose to engage in would be done tastefully. It’s not like I’d be peeking in on her changing with night vision goggles from a nearby building. That would be too Jimmy Stewart of me. No, this sort of espionage would be purely of the fact-finding variety.

So, that was the fourth cog. But three more corners stared emptily at me like orphans looking for a good home. How could I satisfy them?

“Please sir, I want some more.” I said out loud, my mind had wandering to orphans. I started running through the dialogue from an episode of Family Guy when Stewie mimics that particular allusion.

Money. The thought flashed in my head for no good reason, interrupting the punch line of the Family Guy joke. I would need money. I didn’t have a job to speak of, not since I quit Blockbuster months back.

I knew that there may be equipment to be purchased and, possibly, the services of people to be bought. Plus, what if I actually did get a date? How would I afford it? I could certainly get dinner for two at Wendy’s or, if I stretched it out, Applebee’s. But beyond that, or if I were to need to take her out twice in one week, what would I do?

I piqued my brain. There was not much to find. I actually drew the line and wrote ‘Mom and Dad,’ before deciding this was unacceptable. I had to do this on my own, so I erased it. When Minnie asked me how I could afford her marinated sirloin tips at the Capital Grille I couldn’t exactly say ‘allowance’.

Fortunately, I thought of my friend Will. Remember, he was the one who shelled out fifty plus bucks for my copy of Seven Samurai when we were only fourteen. Plus, while everyone else graduated and went to college, he instead opted to start his own business and start school. Right after graduation I ran into him at Borders on new-movie Tuesday and he had a stack of Blu-Rays which dwarfed mine. I made a comment about how he was doing well, and he told me “If you ever need money, come see me. I can hook you up.”

Now, I assume he meant with a job, but maybe he could be talked into a loan. And, if I stretched it an extra step, if I was in need of a sponsorship for the purpose of gaining Minnie’s hand, maybe he could help. This was something worth investigating. For now, I wrote ‘Will: Bankroll’ over the spot I had previously etched ‘Mom and Dad’.

After a bit of serious pondering, I realized that I had just been thinking about the owner of The Keeper, Keith, and how he owed me a favor. If there was ever a time to cash in something like that, this was the time to do it. So I drew myself a sixth line and wrote ‘Keith: A Favor’.

The seventh name was not coming. I went through an entire list of people. I thought of roles I would need, but came up with nothing. But there was that last spot on my heptagon, waiting.

Then it hit me. Sure, I needed a seventh person. Sure, they needed to fill some role. But maybe neither that person nor that role is evident now. I then remembered 6:27 in ‘The Art of War’.

Well sort of. Despite my memorization of many of the lessons, I couldn’t come up with the verbatim phrasing. I knew it had something to do with evolving strategy. Or it mentioned the evolution of strategy. Or, at least, it had the words ‘evolve’ and ‘strategy’ somewhere in the text.

Suddenly, I realized that I was taking notes in the book, so I could look it up. I did. Under the chapter ‘Weak Points and Strong’ I found “All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”

So it wasn’t exactly what I needed, but it was close enough for me to draw a bold line from that last blank spot of my heptagon. And with the utmost confidence I wrote ‘?????:?????’.

Thanks for reading! Again, the site to pre-order the e-book is


~ by johnlink00 on December 27, 2009.

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