2017 Anti-Resolutions

  1. I will not rush to get my anti-resolutions out on time, because anti-resolutions, like a fine wine, take time.
  2. I will not share posts on Facebook which inform others that Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or others are giving away millions of dollars, Xboxes and emus. Those emus are mine!
  3. I will not start rumors about a mysterious, dark horse candidate named Bud Wiser preparing to run for President in 2020, even though his campaign would surely prove intoxicating to the American people.
  4. I will not make fun of politicians who talk about The Cyber and know nothing about The Cyber except that The Cyber is really important because they clearly must know something I don’t know since they have decided to turn The Cyber into a noun when the rest of us think of it as an adjective.
  5. I will not make funny red hats paraphrasing or parodying political propaganda, no matter how great I might make them (again).
  6. I will not try to get French fries recognized as their own, nutritionally-important food group.
  7. I will not blame Apple products for all of the world’s problems when it is abundantly clear that Google is to blame for many of them.
  8. I will not claim that stories about the lack of commercial success of my unauthorized autobiography are just another example fake news trying to undermine me.
  9. I will not allow my cat to continue making wardrobe decisions for my son.
  10. I will not rest until President Trump identifies me as overrated on Twitter.

Written based on the Today’s Author Write Now! prompt on December 30, 2016, in which we are asked to creatively list ten things we will not do in the coming year.

Read More

Mourning’s Light

Written based on the Today’s Author Write Now! prompt on January 4, 2013, in which we are asked to write about an unnaturally foggy bay.

For most people, silence is empty. I, however, have found silence to be full of stories – more stories, in fact, than the noise surrounding it. To me, the breaks in the noise of life provided a soundless symphony, spinning tales of joy and agony, elation and misery. But lately the silence has become a deafening roar threatening to overwhelm me as I sit here alone, with you by my side.

“Remember the day we got married?” you whisper, breaking the silence for the first time in hours. You speak so quietly I can barely make out the words over the other sounds in the room. It is as if you are speaking from oceans away. You look up over the edge of the newspaper you’ve been pretending to read all day. “I wish we still felt… like we did that day.”

The doctor bursts into the room as she and countless others of her kind have done innumerable times before, thwarting my attempt to respond. She smiles as she forces a bucketful of pills—my main source of calories for the day—into me. I know she is trying to help me, yet I stare at her blankly, wishing my silence could make her understand that I’d trade all the pain killers, anti-inflammatories, steroids and stool softeners in the world for a chance to actually live the life these pills are supposedly extending for me, instead of watching each day slip away through a foggy, chemical haze.

“Remember when we had dreams?” you say after she leaves. “Imagine the stories we could tell if we’d followed even a few of them. Well… it doesn’t matter anymore…”

“It does matter!” I want to scream, but your gaze has drifted so far off you wouldn’t hear me anyway. So I remain silent. We seem to communicate better if I stay quiet.

But the truth is I do remember. I remember our unfulfilled dreams of seeing the world as well as the dreams we did realize before I fell ill: a happy, healthy family, playing catch with the kids, building tree houses, singing songs on the front porch and eating ice cream on days so hot we were really sipping a chocolaty-milk soup.

I remember because—despite what your silence says— I’m not dead yet.

Here in the nursing home, surrounded by swarms of doctors with their fistfuls of pills, I float from one appointment to the next and tolerate wave after wave of tests. Through these long months you have been my lifeboat, my beacon in the night. But you don’t tell me about life outside these walls anymore, presumably so I won’t miss it. You don’t mention the news or politics or—anything. You just sit here quietly. The story your silence tells is of a world grown distant and cold, a world no longer within my reach.

Still, I try to stay connected. I know who won the election. I know my beloved New York Mets will find new ways to snatch defeat from victory again this year. I know the kitchen staff are serving me decaf coffee even though they say it is regular. I know they still haven’t found enough programming to fill the 313 channels on my television.

And I know that none of this matters.

At the end of the day, all I really want is to know your thoughts and feelings. I want to know how you are doing. But your silent stare out the darkening window tells me that even these things are unimportant. All that matters is that the hours have grown short on me.

“I love you,” I say breaking the silence as you prepare to leave. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

You turn away silently and I see, for you, the mourning is already here.

My day waning, I turn off the light and rest my head on the lumpy pillow. I’ve never before been afraid of the nighttime, but the sudden darkness makes my heart race. Lately the night just seems to be a little bit darker—and a little bit quieter—for a little bit longer.

I feel cold despite the thick blankets covering me. As I drift off, I hear doctors and nurses talking frantically in the distance, but even their noise cannot keep the silence at bay. It fills me with memories of things I said when I should have been quiet. It reminds me of times I remained mute when I should have spoken. It spins tales of you and me and the days we thought would last forever.

But no matter what we do to stave it off, day eventually succumbs to night. And the night, when it comes, will be dark.

The silence tonight seems empty. I see myself alone on a raft, drifting silently through the night into a foggy bay. The air feels damp and cool against my skin, the fog so unnaturally thick I can hardly see what is ahead of me. I turn to look behind me. Only shadows and faint echoes of the distant ocean remain. Ahead of me, far across the bay, I hear a mourning dove, its cry telling me not to fear the darkness. For even after the darkest night, in the morning there will be light. And the light will be something to behold.

Read More

FGC#7: Magnolia Day

This post is for the Write Anything Form and Genre Challenge: Write a Tanka Poem

Magnolia Tree, March 23, 2012

Photo: Magnolia tree in my front yard. March 23, 2012.

 

sweet smells fill the air
pink blooms paint the bright blue sky
springtime storm winds blow
petals dance and fall like rain
renewal for weary souls

 

I wrote this poem while staring at my Magnolia tree. It has bloomed several weeks early this year, due to our unseasonably mild winter and early spring.  The blooms only last a few days under the best of conditions, but with the wind, rain and cooler temperatures we’ve had this weekend, the ground has now turned pink from all the petals that have danced to the ground. My family has a tradition of carefully watching the flowers as they bloom and also the weather forecast to predict what we call Magnolia Day –the day where the blooms are best, the fragrance is intoxicating and the weather is nicest. We sit out under the tree and have a picnic. When the winds kick up, the petals fly around the yard, falling like rain. If you look carefully, you may see some petals raining down in this photo, as it was breezy when I took it.

Tanka is a traditional Japanese-style poem written with a 5/7/5/7/7 verse which focuses on love or nature. It is over 13 centuries old, and as a result the rules for it have changed many times. There are forms where titles are not allowed and others where titles are acceptable. There is a tradition of a ‘change’ or ‘pivot’ in the third line as well, though that does seem to be optional. Rhyme, even accidental, is apparently considered a flaw.

 

Read More

Coming Soon to a Paperback Near You

Within the next few weeks, you will be able to purchase your very own paperback copies of not one, not two, but three anthologies in which I have stories.

First up, we have two books in the Chinese Whisperings lineup:

REDBOOK-front-cover-132x202yandycover-136x202

My story, Out of the Darkness, appears in Chinese Whisperings: The Red Book; my story, Thirteen Feathers, appears in Chinese Whisperings: The Yin and Yang Books.  The Chinese Whisperings books are mainstream fiction anthologies consisting of inter-related short stories which were written sequentially – each subsequent author wrote based on what had been written previously.  Twenty-two authors from around the globe contributed stories (ten of us in The Red Book and all twenty-two of us in The Yin and Yang Books).  The Red Book was released in eBook format on January 1, 2010 while The Yin and Yang Books were released electronically on October 10, 2010.  And now, after many, many visits and pranks from the entity lovingly known as the CW Fairy**, the paperbacks are finally shipping!

See those links above? The ones that serve as the title for my stories in these anthologies?  Click them.  They bring you to a story teaser as well as behind the scenes commentary about the stories.  I’m told the excerpts, and the behind-the-scenes details, are must read material!

The paperbacks were supposed to be available on October 11, 2011.  But the aforementioned CW Fairy decided another prank was in order and as a result the date slipped a bit.  But now you can pre-order the paperbacks directly from eMergent Publishing right now.  And as long as Amazon.com can keep the CW Fairy at bay, you’ll be able to order from them in the next week or so.

The third book coming out in paperback form this month is the Literary Mix Tapes anthology called Eighty-Nine:

front-cover-EIGHTY-NINE-125x202

My story, “All I Wanted,” appears in this anthology.  The Eighty-Nine anthology has twenty-six authors from around the world creating stand-alone stories inspired by specific songs from the year 1989. The song which inspired my story is “Funky Cold Medina” by Tone-Lōc.  This anthology is speculative fiction.

I don’t have fancy links to an excerpt or behind-the-scenes commentary for this story… but I do have a link that might be even better:  For a limited time, you can enter to win one of three free copies of Eighty-Nine.  That’s right—between now and October 25, 2011, all you have to do is click on that link and then the button in the middle of the page that says “Enter to Win” and you may win a free copy of this anthology!  Good luck—and if you win a copy, stop back and let me know!

I also have a fancy link to a video book trailer for this book, too.  It’s only the teaser trailer at the moment, but it is still fun!

Eighty Nine releases officially on October 25, 2011.  You can pre-order it now through the Literary Mix Tapes website.

As always, I thank you for your support of these projects.  I’ve been blessed to work on these anthologies with some amazing emerging authors. I hope you get a chance to pick up one or more of these books and if you do or if you have already done so, I’d love to know what you think of them.  Post comments here or, even better, on Goodreads.

________________________________________________________________________
**The CW Fairy is a filthy, awful, vile beast that no one has ever seen, but most everyone involved with Chinese Whisperings has interacted with from time to time. Trust me—you do not want to meet the CW Fairy in a dark alley.  Or in an airport lounge.

Read More

The Red Book in an Alternate Dimension

Jodi Cleghorn and Dale Challener Roe have thrown down the gauntlet and challenged me to think about my story, “Out of the Darkness”, and what character I might wish I’d have written about if I could do it all again. Not being one to back down from a challenge, and especially not being someone who wants to stop the ball from rolling on this sort of thing, here are my unscripted and written-way-too-late-at-night thoughts on the subject.

As background, The Red Book is the first in the Chinese Whisperings anthologies.  It has been available as an eBook for almost two years and is coming out in paperback form on October 11, 2011.  The book was co-written by ten authors from around the world, many of whom have never met or spoken outside of social media and email.  The book was written in a one-after-the-other process where one author would write their story, the next author would choose a secondary character from the prior story and write that character’s story, and so on… providing a unique and interesting exploration of the lives of ten distinct-but-related characters. None of us knew what we were getting from the prior author until we got it and then had to choose our character.

I was the eighth author in the book.  I was also one of the last authors added to the mix, a replacement player of sorts when someone else couldn’t go.  That meant I had a lot of insight into where the characters had gone and I also had a lot of big footsteps to follow in terms of keeping the story writing at a high quality. Being a computer (software) geek, I built a spreadsheet detailing every major and minor character that appears in every single story before mine, along with details about them and what we knew about them. I had the honor of following Jasmine Gallant in the writing process and her terrific story, “Not My Name” had plenty of characters from which I could choose.  Specifically, (as I refer to my spreadsheet) I had seven choices:

  • Ronnie
  • Professor Jacobs
  • Frankie
  • the short female cop with bushy hair
  • the tall cop
  • Susie
  • Verity

If you read my thoughts on writing “Out of the Darkness”, you’ll recall that I started thirteen separate stories as I wrote (the thirteenth being what became “Out of the Darkness”). Three of them focused on the short female cop with bushy hair. One was related to the tall cop. One was about Frankie. All the rest were about Susie.  Ultimately, I chose to write about Susie, a character who actually appears in two stories before mine, Paul Servini’s “Discovery” and, of course, Jasmine’s “Not My Name”.  In these stories we learn about where Susie ends up and about one of her stops along the way.  But we don’t know how she got on this path in the first place.  In “Not My Name”, we see Susie through the eyes of Sam as she comments about how tired he appears. It was Sam’s thought, “You’d look tired too if you were me,” which made me choose to write about Susie because Sam’s reaction made me wonder why he assumed Susie was not as tired and not struggling as much as he was. I saw an opportunity to look at how we should not just assume we understand what someone is going through, whether they are happy or sad or look tired or energetic.

But what if I could do it again?

If I could do it again and was still required to choose a character from “Not My Name”, I’d write about Verity.

Verity appeared in Dale Challener Roe’s “Not Myself” and is simply a captivating character. I like how she was caring and compassionate—to me she was caring and compassionate almost to a fault.  I like her outlook on life and how she seems to look for the positives even in bad situations.  At least that’s how I imagined her.  She stayed strong and steady, even as others around her felt their world crumbling.  The description of her sigh in “Not Myself” intrigued me. Essentially, Verity just feels like a character who has a lot of positive stories to tell…and if I had another shot I think I might help her story be told.

If I could choose any character in any story, I’d choose the veggie delivery boy who appears in Jodi Cleghorn’s “Mercurial”.  Why? Well, the vegetarian in me feels there are not enough stories about vegetables and the people who love them.  And frankly, I think it would be a heck of a compelling read.

“We should run away together,” said the veggie delivery boy.

“No, no, we mustn’t,” sighed the short female cop with bushy hair. “Mama would be so disappointed.”

“Well…” said the veggie delivery boy as he bent down on one knee, “if we cant-eloupe, then how about we get married?”

“I’m not real sure that’s a good idea,” she replied, scratching at her head.  “I think my cats don’t really like you all that much. But, don’t despair, we all like your veggies.”

Ahem.  Well, I did warn you that I’m writing this way-too-late-at-night.  I’m sure the story would be more compelling if I were writing this in the morning.

Anyway, I’m pleased to have chosen Susie Lim as the focal point of “Out of the Darkness”.  There are things I’d change about the story, things I’d do differently, things I’d add or remove.  But all-in-all, I’m glad I picked her and had a chance to get to know her and the people around her. You can read an excerpt from “Out of the Darkness” as well as read some behind-the-scenes commentary, as well as story excerpts and commentaries from the other authors in the anthology by clicking over to the post on the Chinese Whisperings website.

And I am tagging Paul Servini to talk about what he might do differently if he had another shot at “Discovery” for The Red Book.  Take it away, Paul!

 

Edit: You can read each author’s thoughts on hypothetically revisiting this project by following these links:

Annie Evett

Dale Challener Roe

Jodi Cleghorn

Paul Servini

And for an added bonus, read what Dan Powell might have written had he been involved with the project.

Read More

The Supreme Ruler of the Universe: An Autobiography Written Especially for the People of Earth

Some people say that I’m pretty special.

I just laugh. Me? I’m nothing! I’m just like any other guy of superior intelligence, better than average looks and awe‑inspiring charm, imagination and athletic ability.

Really.

Yet, there are still some people who insist on calling me “special.”

I hear you and I know what you are asking.

You’re asking, “What is the reason for all this hype over a seemingly average Joe?”

You’re thinking there must be something about me that causes everyone to stare at me with that glazy look in their eyes, some reason why people step aside out of respect whenever they see me enter their vicinity. “What could it possibly be?” you wonder.

Read More