Mercury Marshmallow Men

by Nick Diaz and Rob Diaz

(A note about ‘Mercury Marshmallow Men’) 

My son has been struggling in school with writing.  He has been putting together extremely brief answers to essay questions and largely not enough details about anything.  The other day, he got a ‘D’ on a story he had to write. This was because he was supposed to write a complete story and he, instead, wrote three or four sentences.  His ideas were very good, he simply didn’t explain them or explain what happened before or around the ideas.  He acknowledged that he really didn’t do the work but he didn’t know how to expand the simple ideas.  So, I decided to try to help him learn how to build a larger story, essay or answer from a brief idea. We sat down and took the last email I received, which was an update on NASA’s MESSENGER probe.  I said, “So, MESSENGER gets to Mercury and finds flashing lights.”  We built up the concept of the story from there over a 10 minute conversation in which we asked “okay, why?” and “Okay, what did it smell like?” a lot.  Then, based on our brief notes, we started writing.  This story is the result of our efforts.  We both worked on this and in spots it is probably clear who was leading the effort.  But ultimately this was collaborative.  And, it was a lot of fun. We’ll probably do it again.

It had been only thirteen days since NASA’s MESSENGER spaceship first went into orbit around Mercury on March 17, 2011. Scientists on Earth were studying the data being sent back from Mercury when they noticed that the spaceship had recorded several bright flashes of light on the dark side of the planet. Over the next few weeks, the scientists directed the spaceship to spend more and more time focusing its cameras on the crater where the light was coming from. They used the spaceship’s cameras to zoom in and take close up pictures. They were surprised – shocked, actually—at what they saw.

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Nothing But Flowers, A Literary Mix-tape

It has been my privilege and good fortune to be asked to be a part of a new anthology!

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“Nothing But Flowers: tales of post apocalyptic love” is the second offering from Literary Mix Tapes (a quarterly crowd-sourced short fiction anthology inspired by music).

Inspired by the Talking Heads song of the same name, Nothing But Flowers explores the complexities and challenges of love in a post-apocalyptic landscape. From plague to fundamentalist governments, comets and war, from terra firma to outer space the people on these pages face up to what it means to love and be loved when you’ve lost everything.

My story, “Escape from Paradise”,provides the “comets” portion of the above blurb as it details the last-minute attempt to escape of the last outpost of humanity.

You can get information about this book and about the many, varied authors from around the world by checking out the Literary Mix Tapes website.  Starting on February 17, 2011 you should be able to purchase web-access to the stories or an eBook version (ePub, mobi or pdf format) as well as pre-order the paperback.

All proceeds from this anthology go to support the Grantham Flood Support fund, supporting the victims of the January 2011 flooding in wide areas of Queensland, Australia.

Thanks to all who have or will support this great and worthy cause.

As an update, you can now purchase the paperback version of this anthology from amazon.com. It is available here:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/098074461X

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My 2011 Anti-Resolutions

(written based on the [Fiction] Friday prompt on December 31, 2010: “What are your Anti-Resolutions for the coming year?”)

Note:  Most people put in 5 or 10 of these… but somehow, 13 seemed more appropriate for me.

  1. I will not continue trying to find a legitimate way to claim my coffee investments as a business expense, even though I drink most of it during business hours.
  2. I will not blame Microsoft for everything that is wrong with technology in the world; clearly, most of the blame belongs on Apple.
  3. I will not blame the cats or the dog for smells that most certainly came from my daughter.
  4. I will not sing about compost and pig slop at my next audition for a role in a musical; clearly, it’s better to sing about gang violence and infidelity instead.
  5. I will not continue to float the idea of coffee-flavored cigarettes and coffee-flavored alcohol products because I am completely against supporting such addictive behaviors as smoking and drinking.
  6. I will not go into local steak houses just to place “Meat is Murder” stickers on all of the tables, chairs, menus and light fixtures; I will make sure to order a blooming onion and use the “For Customer Use Only” restroom first.
  7. I will not allow my son to blame the cats, the dog, his sister or his mother for smells that most certainly came from him.
  8. I will not continue my lobbying efforts to make March 30 a national holiday in honor of the glorious day in 1971 when Starbucks opened its first store in Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington.
  9. I will not continue to blame science for letting me down by not having invented flying cars and teleportation devices yet when it is obvious that these technologies do exist and have been suppressed and hidden by a little-known, right-wing government conspiracy.
  10. I will not make my apocalypse story be about December 21, 2012 because the world doesn’t need another story about that specific apocalypse on that specific day; clearly, the real apocalyptic event would be due to a shortage of broccoli and garlic on December 22, 2012 and will take everyone by surprise because of the media’s focus on December 21. (Multi-million dollar movie contract for this unique idea… here I come!)
  11. I will not goad my wife into breaking her anti-resolutions by bringing Caxton or the Great Vowel Shift up in otherwise ordinary conversations, even though it would be a lot of fun to watch her try to avoid her inevitable rant about the subjects.
  12. I will not make fun of the dog for wearing the ridiculous outfits my wife puts on him; I’m sure that if he had opposable thumbs, he’d change out of that stuff and into ripped jeans and spiked studded collars as soon as he got out of her line of sight, just like any self-respecting dog would do.
  13. I will not continue trying to find a legitimate way to claim my coffee purchases and intake as a healthcare expense, even though I drink it for the health of those around me and I once had it prescribed by a doctor (No lie! This happened on November 9, 2010 – along with a slip for antibiotics and codeine-laced cough medicine, I got a slip for a cup of coffee).
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Thirteen Things I Can Live Without in 2011

At the beginning of a new year, we often think about the things we need or want more of in the coming year.  Today, I’d like to think about what I’d really like to do without this year.  This list, in no particular order (aside from the first one), should not be considered all-encompassing.  It is simply what came to mind when I started thinking about this.

  1. I can live without another deadly hurricane, flood, volcanic eruption, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, mine collapse, airplane crash, ship sinking, school shooting, hate-based crime or terrorist attack.  Oh, and I don’t need any more wars or sabre-rattling speeches or threats from leaders of any nation or negative election campaign advertisements from leaders or wannabe leaders of this nation, either.
  2. I can live without hearing anything more about Rex Ryan’s wife’s feet or how much he loves them.
  3. I can live without seeing another television advertisement for prescription drugs. I’d especially like no more drug commercials with catchy jingles, plumbing-less bathtubs in the desert (or on the beach), green-colored mafia-backed blobs that move into the lungs and invite their extended family, butterflies that make you sleep and then wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go (with brushed hair and full makeup on), or legal disclaimers about the possibility of death as a side effect. I also don’t need to see advertisements for miraculous seasonal allergy medicines with a side effect of “head cold symptoms” because, like, why bother?
  4. I can live without another oil spill. Unless it’s a nice splash of extra virgin olive oil on a fresh, green salad. Perhaps with a little vinegar and garlic, too.
  5. I can live without hearing about how WikiLeaks is the worst thing that ever happened to the world, how it needs to be shut down, hidden and vilified as a terrorist website and how Julian Assange is a traitor to every nation on the planet and therefore deserves to be tortured, jailed and/or put to death for leaking confidential information.
  6. I can live without hearing about how WikiLeaks is the best thing that ever happened to the world, how it needs to be protected as a true, honest and important source of information everyone needs and how Julian Assange is an international hero who is being turned into a martyr who will eventually be tortured and either locked up or put to death in order to further the cause of leaking confidential information.
  7. I can live without hearing the politicians in Congress talking about how they’ve now come to Washington to “change how things are done around here” and “fix everything that’s not right.”  What the heck have you been doing for all the prior years you’ve been in Washington?  Seriously… every new Congress has said they’re going to change how things are done, but the only thing that ever changes is the portion of the country that’s angry at any given time.  So just shut up and get on with pissing off the 50% of the country who didn’t vote for you.
  8. I can live without hearing anything more about Bernie Madoff. Give a small amount of money to his wife and then let her get a job like the rest of us losers.  Then sell his homes, sell his cars, turn all of his assets over to the victims of his Ponzi scheme and let him rot in jail.  Maybe make him file his victims’ tax returns, by hand, as well.
  9. I can live without hearing another Justin Bieber song. Baby, oh baby, do I not want to hear another Justin Bieber song.  Throw David Archuleta into this category, too.
  10. I can live without hearing about health care reform or about the plan to repeal health care reform (is that called “health-care-reform reform”?).  And if the current plan is called “Obamacare”, will the new one be called “Whocares”?  Seriously, the subject is giving me a headache and I can’t afford to see a doctor about it. And, really, does it have to be this difficult?  As someone who is about to lose health coverage for himself and his family AND has a pre-existing condition, I want solutions, not rhetoric from a bunch of idiots who DO have coverage!
  11. I can live without hearing or seeing anyone being a Lady Gaga copy cat and wearing an outfit made of raw meat.  And this has nothing to do with me being a vegetarian – I don’t think I’d want to hang around with anyone wearing an outfit made out of raw onions, either.
  12. I can live without hearing someone use the statement “Global warming is not caused by humans” as a reason to justify their stance that there is no reason for us to find better, more efficient and cleaner ways to use  and generate energy. Even if climate change is not being caused or exacerbated by humans, there’s no reason we should be breathing dirty air, drinking polluted water or turning the planet into a giant, toxic strip mine.
  13. I can live without an iPad, an iPhone and a Wii. No, really.  I can.
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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.

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And the Winner Is…

The first thing I want to say is thanks to everyone who posted comments describing their worst travel experiences. I’m sorry that you all had such harrowing experiences, but I thank you for sharing them. I, personally, have had many bad experiences. One of them includes paint can lids flying out of the back of a truck while riding down Route 95 South in heavy traffic. Another is roofing shingles flinging off a pre-fabricated building that was being pulled by a big truck – this also occurred on Route 95 south.

Still another bad experience, and possibly the scariest

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Launch of the Yin and Yang Books (Chinese Whisperings)

As many of you know, for the past eight months I have been involved with the second set of anthologies coming from the Chinese Whisperings brand. Last year’s debut anthology, The Red Book, was an exciting event consisting of 10 authors from around the world. It is a great book and has generated a lot of interest in the project. (You can read about The Red Book or buy it here!)

Today, the second Chinese Whisperings project launches!  Initially planned to be called “The Jade Book”, this follow-up anthology project was expanded to include 22 authors from around the globe and became two separate but interconnected anthologies known as The Yin Book and The Yang Book (or the combined The Yin and Yang Book). Again, you can learn about or buy these great anthologies right here!

The blurb for the two anthologies only tells a little of what happens in the books:

In the international terminal of a large European airport, Monday morning is about to get a whole lot worse. At 7.35am Pangaean Airlines, one of Europe’s major carriers, is put into receivership grounding all flights, stranding thousands of passengers and impounding tonnes of luggage. But all is not as appears on the surface and the sliding-doors moment of one woman deciding to abandon her suitcase will ricochet through the lives around her.

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Sheridan, Illinois Vacation Day 0.5 (reprise)

And so we have come to Saturday, the last day of our vacation, though it is really the second day of our un-vacation travel time.  Or, the reprise of day 0.5.  No matter what you call it, it is not really part of the vacation in my opinion.

It is, however, very much part of the travelling.

Let me begin today’s post by telling you this simple fact:  last night was awesome!

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Sheridan, Illinois Vacation Day 0 (reprise)

Warning: this blog post is possibly filled with all sorts of negativity, hostility and travel-related bitterness.

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Sheridan, Illinois Vacation Day 6

Well, this is it – the last real day of our vacation. Tomorrow we get the pleasure of loading up the car, packing ourselves into it and driving half way home. Tomorrow we get to visit new restrooms and eat crappy food along the side of the highway. Tomorrow we get to find out what we forgot to do during this long, lazy week.

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Sheridan, Illinois Vacation Day 5

Today was much like the past few days. No internet, no joy for Rob. I got up to write some more and finally got the rest of my Chinese Whisperings stuff completed!  Of course, without internet, I couldn’t get it to my editor.  The deadlines were coming and going fast, but there was nothing I could do about it.  As Douglas Adams said,

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Sheridan, Illinois Vacation Day 4

I got up early today figuring I’d head over to the Activity Center to find and use the internet.  My withdrawal symptoms from not having internet or email are getting worse, not better, so I need my email fix and I need it now!

So, I journeyed to that crib and I let myself inside… sorry, went to a Tone Loc place there for a second; all better now… So, I went inside the Activity Center and was met by a big, ugly monster with fangs, horns and blood dripping from its rotten, fetid mouth. 

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Sheridan, Illinois Vacation Day 3

I woke up this morning and immediately set to work on my Chinese Whisperings commitments. These included some author biography work as well as a behind-the-scenes look and, most importantly, more work on the re-writing of “Thirteen Feathers”.  It was my goal to get these items emailed out to my patient and loving editor by the end of the day.  Well, to be honest, I hoped to just get the bio and behind-the-scenes bits out to her; the story probably needs another thirteen hours of revising beyond what I can do today.

So, I made my morning coffee and settled in to write.  Words, so often my friends, have been failing me lately, but even so I’ve been able to get some to flow onto the page.  Apparently, though, my life-long struggles to write about myself continue and I struggled greatly with my bio.  Who’d have thought that writing approximately 100 words could take so long?  I mean, I can usually bang out a thousand words or more in thirty minutes – even faster on a good day!  But tell me to write about myself and, well, it’s like I’ve never written or spoken a single word in my life.  This is why I never changed jobs despite being miserable for a long time at my old company – I didn’t know how write the cover letter!  And the resume – limit me to a few bullet points and I am dead in the water!

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