My 2013 Anti-Resolutions

Written based on the Today’s Author Write Now! prompt on January 1, 2013, in which we are asked to creatively list ten things we will not do in the coming year. Of course, for obvious reasons I need to stick with a nice, round number like thirteen…

  1. I will not pay $1000 for a Twinkie, whether it is in its original packaging or not, even though I have always wanted to try Weird Al Yankovic’s vegetarian Twinkie-Weiner sandwich.
  2. I will not ask my doctor for a prescription for my daily Starbucks coffee just so that I can submit it to my insurance company for reimbursement.
  3. I will not take all the silly, little sweaters we have for the dog and put them up for sale on eBay… even though the neighborhood dogs, cats and squirrels make fun of him whenever he goes outside wearing one.
  4. I will not tell visitors to my home that the boxes, bags, candy wrappers, shoes and laundry baskets full of intermixed clean and dirty clothes are there so that the cats and the dog who thinks he’s a cat can have a cheap, no-fuss and varyingly-complicated obstacle course to play in.
  5. Likewise, I will not tell visitors to my home that the boxes, bags, candy wrappers, shoes and laundry baskets full of intermixed clean and dirty clothes are there so that my children can learn about what life in college will be like. Well, I probably won’t…
  6. I will not proclaim that I have a five point plan to solve every issue I face in 2013.
  7. I will not ask the police to protect the driving public by blocking off the streets in our neighborhood before I take the teenaged neighbor girl out for a driving lesson in my manual shift car; I may, however, wear a helmet, safety goggles and/or wrap the car in bubble wrap before we go, though…
  8. I will not be a contestant on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. I have not yet decided about the possibility of appearing on “Married to Jonas”, though.
  9. I will not be a Spice Girl.
  10. I will not be in the running to be the person Jenny McCarthy kisses for New Years 2014.
  11. I will not give up on my quest to ensure that everyone knows that the Mayans were not actually wrong.
  12. I will not include a chapter about my stint as the backup third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies in my unauthorized autobiography. I will also edit out the chapter about how I was screwed out of my gig to be Fergie in The Black-Eyed Peas.
  13. I will not spend much more time making plans to introduce as many types of insects and fruits to the little neighbor girl as I possibly can.
Read More

Release Announcment: Deck the Halls

I am pleased to announce that Emergent Publishing will release Deck the Halls: festive tales of fear and cheer worldwide on December 6, 2012. My story, “Yuletide Treasure” is included in this anthology.

front-cover-dthDeck the Halls: festive tales of fear and cheer
Editor: Jodi Cleghorn

Original Artwork: Andrew McKiernan

Cover Design: eMergent Publishing

ISBN: 978-0-9871126-4-­4 (paperback)
978-0-­9871126-­5-1 (eBook)

Pages: 226

DECK THE HALLS traverses the joy and jeopardy of the festive season, from Yule to Mōdraniht, Summer Solstice to Years’ End. The stories journey through consternations and celebrations, past, present and future, which might be or never were.

Along the way you’ll meet troll hunters, consumer dissidents, corset-bound adventurers, a joint-­toking spirit, big-­hearted gangbangers, an outcast hybrid spaceship, petrol-toting politicians, mythical swingers and a boy who unwittingly controls the weather.

Heart-warming and horrifying, the collection is a merry measure of cross-genre, short fiction subverting traditional notions of the holiday season.

Read More

The Iliad (in about a Page)

I have ranted about my hatred of summer reading programs many times in the past, specifically zeroing in on how they focus solely on “The Classics”, a term which is defined as “The Stuff Most People Would Never Read If They Had a Choice.” A friend of mine recently lamented needing to write a one-page summary of “The Iliad” and how hard it was to condense everything down to just one page. It has been a long, long time since I read The Iliad but I decided to take a stab at it.  The following is what I came up with — it fits on one letter-sized Microsoft Word page (.5 inch margins on all sides). My daughter enjoyed it and thought I should share it with the world.  Since I live only to make her happy, I’ve posted this, the first in what looks like will be a series of approximately one-page summaries of The Classics (and other things).  Enjoy!

This one time, at Battle Camp, there were these beautiful maidens. The maidens, Chryseis and Briseis, had been captured from the town of Chryse by the Greek army because that’s what armies are meant to do when they finish sacking their enemies. Chryseis of Chryse, cried out to her daddy. Her dad, Chryses, was all too familiar with his daughter’s many crises, but she had him wrapped around her finger so he knew he had to help. Seeing as he was a two-faced priest of Apollo (the god, not the lunar mission) he kindly offered a huge ransom for his daughter’s safe return while also viciously praying for Apollo to destroy the Greek army. Apollo, being a compassionate god, complied and sent a terrible plague into the camp. When Agamemnon, a more important Greek army dude than I am, learned that the plague decimating his people was due to the beautiful maiden, he reluctantly agreed to send Chryseis back to her daddy.

Read More

No Fun! or, The Forgotten Tale of Harvey S. Whombaker

Author’s Note: 

Since my kids were first born, I’ve been telling them that one of our family’s primary rules is:  No Fun! The reason for this rule is simple:  Fun, invariably, leads to head injuries.  They are certainly allowed to have a pleasant, good experience. They are welcome to have an enjoyable time. In fact I encourage it. But they may not, under any circumstances, have fun

This has become somewhat of a running thing with my family and friends — neices and nephews know the rule and make sure to tell me what they think of it all the time.  Most recently my nephew, who is also my Godson, gave me a homemade card for Father’s Day which was entirely made up of attempts to prove, once and for all, that fun is acceptable. Well, for his fifteenth birthday this past week, I felt I needed to give him a heartfelt reply to his thoughtful Father’s Day gift.  Fifteen minutes before it was time to leave to go to his party, I came up with the idea.  And here it is in its pure, unedited form.

Eh? What’s that you say, Sonny?  You want to have fun?  Fun? Really, now…

You think fun is okay? You think fun is nothing particularly dangerous, just another run-of-the-mill three-letter-word that implies frolicking and laughs and giggles? Really? Well, my boy, you should consider rethinking your opinion about this evil, dangerous little word. Especially now that you are fifteen and are reaching an age where, soon enough, you’ll be telling stories about the good old days whilst lecturing youngsters about how things were when you were their age…

Now, recite for me the sad, sad tale of Harvey S. Whombaker.

What’s that you say? You don’t know who Harvey S. Whombaker was? Eh? Don’t you pay attention in school?

What? You do pay attention in school and they’ve never mentioned Harvey S. Whombaker? Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle… what are our tax dollars paying for if schools don’t talk about Harvey S. Whombaker and his tragic tale anymore. When I was your age, all we did was talk about Harvey S. Whombaker! Yes, it’s a terrible tale, but it’s a lesson everybody should learn by the time they reach their teens. I’ll bet they don’t talk about Harvey S. Whombaker anymore because someone decided that it was too much trauma to kids’ “delicate, fragile, little minds” to hear such tales of reality. I’ll bet someone in charge—probably the same person who decided that everyone who plays a sport deserves a trophy for “trying hard” when, back in my day, you only got a trophy for winning!— I bet that person said in their tiny, whiney voice: “Oh, no, we can’t talk about Harvey S. Whombaker anymore! It’s not a fun story and kids today need fun stories in order to keep them engaged and enthusiastic for school and life and playing their rock and roll and other children’s music on their wax cylinders and their EyePogs and their whosits and whatnots.”

Aww, look. I’m so upset about this, I just spilled my coffee!

Kids today need fun stories? Really? I’ll tell you what kids today need! They need a swift kick in the butt, that’s what they need! They don’t need trophies for finishing last! They need to be told, in no uncertain terms: “You lost! Get over it! If you want a trophy, WIN next time!” That’s what Harvey S. Whombaker would have said and that’s why it is so tragic that his tale is not being taught in our over-priced, underperforming schools.

But I digress….

Where was I?

Oh, Harvey S. Whombaker. Right. So, since you know not of the tale, nor of the origin of the National Organization Fighting Unlawful Nonsense (NOFUN), I will briefly describe the tale to you.

Harvey S. Whombaker was a mild-mannered 15 year old boy from the town of Squaresvillingtonton. He was a boy like any other—he enjoyed vegetables, rocks, trees, pulling weeds and mowing the lawns of his neighbors. And, really, what else is there for a teenaged boy to do or think about?

Well, one day, Harvey S. Whombaker was out in the field, working to cut down some invasive bindweeds that had taken root in Sally Fally’s broccoli garden in the valley. Sally Fally was the smartest, prettiest girl in all of Squaresvillingtonton and Harvey S. Whombaker was sweet on her. He didn’t realize it–though the rest of the town did–but she was kind of sweet on him, too. The fact that he didn’t realize this should not be a surprise, even to you kids of today, because, as I said, there were few things that could invade a boy’s mind when it was full of rocks (and trees and vegetables and mowing and bindweeds).

But on this fateful day, so long ago, Harvey S. Whombaker was in the field on a blazing hot afternoon, covered in dirt and mud, his arms and hands ripped apart by the bindweeds he was pulling. Some of the other boys from the neighborhood came out and they started playing fieldball (Since you don’t know the story of Harvey S. Whombaker, you certainly don’t know that fieldball is an ancient predecessor for today’s football, played with large boulders and, of course, beets.). They convinced Harvey to leave the bindweeds for later and join them.

Harvey turned out to be a natural at fieldball. He was tossing and catching the boulders, dodging and weaving past the whizzing beets, scoring goal after goal. After his thirteenth goal, he looked up and saw her – Sally Fally, standing there with the sun right behind her, making her beautiful hair shimmer and shine with a brightness he had never seen. She offered him a jug of fresh water from the well and he started walking toward her. Suddenly, a giant boulder, tossed by one of the other fieldball players who assumed Harvey was paying attention, came down from the sky – seemingly from out of nowhere – and hit Harvey square on the head.

And that, my friend, is when Harvey S. Whombaker discovered gravity.

What’s that you say?

Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity?

Yes, yes, I have heard that tale, too.  I wasn’t born yesterday after all. But, you see, Harvey S. Whombaker discovered gravity first – a full thirteen years before Sir Isaac Newton did. But nobody remembers Harvey or acknowledges his amazing accomplishment and I’ll tell you why: Harvey S. Whombaker was busy having fun for the first time in his 15 years on the planet when he discovered gravity. Sadly, the fun he was having led, as fun always does, to a head injury.

And thanks to the head injury, Harvey S. Whombaker could not remember his discovery of gravity.

So why do we remember Sir Isaac Newton? Well, I’ll tell you – he was sitting by a tree, his mind filled with pleasant, good, experiences with things such as calculus and physics, when an apple fell, seemingly out of nowhere and hit him on the head. He could have been severely injured, of course, for that was back in the day when an apple was a good, healthy product, not some expensive, disposable music thingamajig. But that’s not the point.  The point, my boy, is that since Sir Isaac Newton was not out frolicking and having fun, he sustained no injury. Instead, he picked up the apple, looked at it and said, “Groovy, man, that apple fell on my head as if it was acted upon by an unseen force. Clearly, that unseen force needed the tiny apple to come nearer to my head, which is much larger. Though I dare say that my head wanted to be near that apple as well for I can feel that it did! This unexpected and superbly enjoyable experience has taught me that an object must attract every other object in the universe with a force proportional to the product of their masses… and, also, inversely proportional to the distance between them. I shall call this unseen force ‘gravity’.”

Sir Isaac Newton wrote all of this down and the rest, as they say, is history.

I can see that you are sad about the tragic tale of Harvey S. Whombaker but let me finish with this thought. All was not lost for Harvey. He kept on working in the fields, toiling away at ripping out bindweeds in Sally Fally’s broccoli fields in the valley. Sally Fally, for her part, bringing him water when it was hot out. They shared many seasons of glorious, wonderful broccoli together, but Sally’s father would not allow her to marry Harvey because, as he said, “Any boy who would choose to have  fun over pulling out bindweeds, even just once, is not worthy of my daughter’s love.”

Harvey went on to found NOFUN in hopes that future generations would learn from his mistake. I hope you will learn from him and heed this advice:

Fun is not funny.

Learn this, and remember Harvey. Before it is too late.

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

Deck the Halls, a Literary Mixtape

Exciting news!  Earlier today I received the edits back for my story, Yuletide Treasure, which is to appear in the upcoming Deck the Halls anthology.  This anthology, originally planned for a release late in 2011, is now planned to be released as a Christmas in July (2012) publication.

The premise for Deck the Halls is to have stories written by emerging authors from around the world, inspired by the lyrics of the holiday traditional, Deck the Halls (you know, “Tis the season to be jolly, Fa-la-la-la-la, La-la, La, La” and all that). My story is themed on the line “While I tell of Yuletide Treasure”, the eighth line of the verse.

I won’t give away any secrets about the story, of course, but you might find that there is some wrapping paper, a dead Great Aunt named after my daughter, a reindeer or two (or more), some teenaged angst, some – well, you’ll just have to read it to find out more.

I’ll let you know more about the publication date and availability as we get closer and I learn more specific details. I believe there will be excerpts or previews available online on the Literary Mix Tapes website at some point, but I do not have the details of that as of yet.

For now I just wanted to share the exciting news as I get ready to revise and edit!

Read More