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Category Archives: Story

Oh yeah? Well I heard different!

Until recently, I used to think that upon reaching a…ahem…certain age, I would see the evolution of my writing process level off and stabilize, a sort of “We’ve arrived, darling, so you can relax now!” moment where I could rest on my laurels and, at the very least, not get actively worse.

In other words, I would transition from the very rough and immature writing that is the (extremely self-evident) product of my inept youth to the more mature, polished writing that comes with life experience and practice.

Lots and lots of practice.

Ultimately, my expectation was this evolution in my writing would hit ‘peak’ maturity (or as ‘peak’ as my maturity allows) and then I’d be settled in and have very little left to learn or add to my repertoire.

And as with just about everything else I think about life, I was wrong.

Recently I was asked if I’d like to adapt some of my written work into a radio drama. I’d never written a radio drama before, the closest I’d ever come to it being writing a couple of plays in college many years ago.

Many, many years ago.

I remembered listening to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” and “The Empire Strikes Back” radio programs even many more years ago, and I had nothing but fond memories, so naturally I said yes.

I’m glad I did.

Writing for a book (or short story) is a very different process than writing for a radio program. There’s the oft-repeated old saw applied to writing that you must “show, don’t tell,” which is basically an instruction not to dump a lot of boring exposition into your prose when you can describe the events instead.

To wit:

“He was so angry with himself for eating the whole pizza in one sitting.”

vs.

“Reginald stared hard in the mirror, disgusted with the weak-spined man, if ‘man’ was the right word, staring back. Even his internal organs couldn’t hide their disdain at the selfish act of desecration his dining choice represented – his heart burned with the fire of a thousand suns and his stomach quivered and heaved with the sort of restless fury that could only portend a long, violent session on the commode. A commode that, Reginald realized with shame, he didn’t deserve. ‘What was I thinking!? A whole pizza? And with pineapple on it!?’ No, there was a special place in hell for Reginald, and he would make no effort to resist his well-deserved journey there.”

This is also good advice if you are being paid by the word.

But paradoxically, writing for the radio is literally telling, not showing. The medium precludes showing the audience anything.

OK, I know, technically the written word also imposes this same limitation, but you can have picture books and there is an accepted convention that you can describe events and people’s thoughts outside of your characters’ dialogue. So it’s easier to ‘show’ in a short story or novel without sounding all stilted and overbearing.

Yes, you can just have a narrator explain the unspoken bits in your radio drama in-between stretches of dialogue, and there are examples of radio shows that do just that. But I didn’t like it. It felt like taking the easy way out.

Well, I say I didn’t like that approach. Not entirely true. My disdain for the approach wasn’t strong enough to prevent me from trying it (I’m a big fan of the easy way out), but the feedback I got for that draft of the script was, to be blunt, that it flat out doesn’t work. No doubt this reflects more on me and my writing than on the technique itself.

Denied the easy way out, I was forced down the more arduous path of “figuring out what the hell to do to make this damned script work.”

At first, I felt limited by the different requirements for a radio script. But I slowly came to discover that the constraints of radio weren’t limitations at all. In actuality, they opened up new possibilities and pushed me to expand my understanding of storytelling.

It was a journey of self-discovery, and while an unwilling passenger at first (“Wah! I don’t wanna go! I’m already a mature writer! Wah!”), in the end I’m glad I stuck with it.

Where did this journey lead me? To a heretofore unknown-to-me tool to add to my writing arsenal, a skill not just limited to crafting radio dramas, but something which can also be applied and is essential to improving my prose in general:

How to show while telling.

What is showing while telling?

Well, it isn’t flashing your second grade teacher while tattling on a classmate about his nose-picking addiction.

It’s taking into account that a radio story is conveyed through actual sound waves moving through the air and physically striking the listener’s tympanic membranes, not photons bouncing off words on a page and being silently absorbed by the reader’s eyes.

It’s embedding narrative information in dialogue without sounding (too much) like the dreaded ‘info dump.’

(I have to admit, it’s really hard to avoid the ‘info dump’ feel, but I actually like that about some of the older radio dramas. So for me, at least, a little bit of over the top exposition adds to the charm. A little bit.)

It’s revealing needed details via the flow of action and events instead of a character saying it.

(In my case, I turned a letter read by the main character in the book into a barbershop quartet that sang the content while interacting with the main characters (by which I mean they got punched a lot). And I liked the result so much, I fully intend to back-fill that change into the book!)

It’s including audio effects in the script – like the sharp crack of a bullet striking a car windshield followed by squealing and the violent roar of the car crashing into a wall – to further convey information that just can’t be reasonably worked into the dialogue.

(Do you really want to hear, in the heat of the action, a character say, “Oh no! A bullet just hit our car’s windshield and broke it! I can’t see! Oof! We just crashed into a wall!”)? No. You don’t.

It’s also hard and I’m definitely still learning.

I discovered, in other words, that I have a lot more evolving to do.

Can you hear me now?The drama of which I write herein, a chapter from my in-progress novel, Luck Be A SpaceLady, was one of four produced this year by the KFJC Pandemic Players. Social distancing was observed at every stage, which makes the final result all the more impressive. I encourage you to check them out, but especially (because I’m a selfish attention-seeker) their production of my script, found here in MP3 format.

 

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Cover Reveal!

So my most recent Marlowe and the Spacewoman entry, the short story Malware, is coming out on October 30th, giving you just enough time to get a copy before the US election. If you’re looking for something to read to pass the time while you wait for the results / shelter in place to avoid the angry mobs protesting the outcome, might I suggest you consider including Malware in your library?

Here’s the cover, drawn by Chris Harrington. I asked him to give me an angry door, the angrier the better, and I think you’ll agree he delivered!

You can't see it from this perspective, but Marlowe has just dropped a flaming bag of dog poop and is looking for the doorbell

WARNING: Objects in mirror (particularly doors) are larger than they appear

If you want to check out more of Chris’ work, follow this link: https://shorturl.at/htxST (Warning: it only works if you’re logged into Facebook).

In the meantime, I’ll be posting updates as the publication date gets closer.

 

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With humidity like this, who needs a steam cleaner?

It was a hot summer night. The sort of hot that left you feeling warm all over.

Really, really warm.

The sort of warm that led to misdemeanors. And maybe, if you were lucky, a high crime or two.

My kind of night.

Unlike me, a fair number of the good citizens of this city were loitering in the shadows and the sickly yellow pools cast by the sodium streetlights, listlessly nursing the futile hope that the evening air would provide some relief from the ungodly warm.

As I passed one particularly rundown tenement, I was met with the hard stare of an old man slouched on the stoop, his suspicion baked in by the oppressive weather. Knuckles white and unyielding, he held a struggling, foam-covered cat in one hand and a straight razor, paused mid-air as I passed, in the other.

Just before he passed out of my peripheral vision, he resumed shaving the cat, I could only assume to help her beat the heat too. Didn’t look to me like either was too successful in that endeavor. But if one was less successful and less happy with the result than the other, this hissing told me it was definitely the cat.

I’d been tailing a mark in the green light district, where the road signs never slept and the cars never stopped. It made crossing the street a real exercise in life insurance actuarial tables.

And not the good tables.

My mark was a married man, but his wife had a hunch he didn’t act married. Hired me to get the scoop, dig up the beans, look under the rocks for the ugly, ugly truth.

You’d be surprised how much ugly truth can hide under a rock.

Even a small one.

As a general rule, I hated this sort of work, but as an even more important general rule, I liked having the dough to pay my bills. Office rental doesn’t come cheap, and neither does life insurance in my line of work.

Plus the slap and tickle on the side cases generally worked out better for my clients than the shoot and stab murders I sometimes found myself (and my clients) embroiled in.

What’s a little infidelity when you get to wake up the next day still alive?

Of course, more than once, my efforts on these more unseemly cases led to murder after the fact. After I reported the bad news to the aggrieved spouse.

Sometime right after.

There was probably irony to be found in this, but for the life of me I couldn’t see it.

The jilted spouse turning to murder then getting arrested before paying my bill might have contributed to that myopia.

And if life in my line of work had taught me one thing, it was that some wrongs even eye doctors can’t fix.

– – –

I’m bored and my imagination tends to wander when I should be trying to sleep. Tonight, unlike most nights, I didn’t ignore the impulse and then realize the next morning just how stupid the idea was. No, instead I jumped on the Missus’ computer and started typing away.

My apologies.

 
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Posted by on 23 June 2019 in Mystery, Noir, Story, Writing

 

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If H. P. Lovecraft had written for the New Yorker

Bit of a break from my writing prompt series, but don’t worry, I’ve got three more entries written and that fiendish carnival cult nurse is eager to return.

Instead, I want to write about something new: an entirely different writing prompt exercise!

After you’ve finished rolling your eyes, but before you click off to another site, let me explain. Not too long ago, a friend of mine posted a blog entry about a creative writing book written by Jeff VanderMeer called Wonderbook. She made it sound intriguing enough that I went out and bought it.

The book is about the creative process, has a lot of pictures and essays and, well, read my friend’s blog post. It’s late and I don’t feel like describing it when someone else already has. I will say that while I find the book interesting, it does require…focus, and because of that and my current circumstances¹, I have struggled a bit with it. Not to say I don’t like it, because I do, but it feels, to me at least, like a well-written textbook on an interesting subject rather than a light read that you tear through in one sitting.

Oh no, definitely not one sitting.

In keeping with this textbook feel, it has exercises. I just finished Chapter 1 and got to my first writing prompt, which I will reproduce below. This prompt is different from the WRITE THE STORY prompts in my other posts, in that WRITE THE STORY is a writing journal where each page gives me a bunch of words to integrate into a story. This exercise from Wonderbook just presents me with a picture and says go.

So, without further ado, the writing that resulted from the first prompt! Temper your expectations – this is no carnival cult nurse escapade…

I don't know. There's something fishy about this whole thing...

Insert New Yorker caption contest entry here. Mine? I’m pretty sure that isn’t the book I’m looking for.

 

Adolfus stared with no small amount of irritation at the apparition rising before him. The Emperor would be displeased with his fallen angel if Adolfus’ failures continued along these lines. An explosion or a smaller, more colorful conflagration, while still failures, were at least entertaining. But a giant, winged singing fish, conjured from a painter’s palette? That had been done before.

The owl on Adolfus’ right shoulder clicked with consternation, while the cockatoo on his left issued forth a stream of obscenities. “That last variation should have worked,” Octavius, the owl, finally sputtered. Tersius just continued to swear until Adolfus flicked her beak sharply and she fell silent.

“If you can’t be helpful, be quiet,” Adolfus scolded. Both familiars lowered their heads, in thought, submission, and shame as Adolfus stroked his chin, going over the incantation silently, trying to see the source of the error.

The winged fish, oblivious to the trouble it had caused, burped and then broke out in a wet, throaty rendition of Fidelio.

“I’m sure it sounds better under water,” observed Octavius.

¹ Life has been a little more…chaotic and uncooperative of late, and I’ve been using these writing prompts to break out of the funk I keep finding myself in. That, along with an improv class I’m taking, have been surprisingly effective, so I will continue to use this tool until such time I either feel better or the head honcho at Simon and Schuster stumbles across these vignettes, offers me a huge, multi-million dollar contract, and I find myself catapulted into literary fame. Or once I’ve gotten through the two books I’m currently using. Whichever comes first. I’m kinda hoping for the multi-million dollar contract option, but I don’t think Simon and Schuster can really afford me these days…
 
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Posted by on 22 July 2018 in Art!, Life, Story, Writing, writing prompts

 

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I not only forgot I’m lazy, but the solution to the family mystery as well!

Back in February of 2017, I posted the first result of a writing prompt found in a book I’d received as an Xmas gift. It was Part One of an epic series of blog posts I was planning.

The epic series did not fare well, given that this is Part Two.

The book is called Write The Story and like my planned series, it has not fared well either.

In my household and on Amazon.

A used copy (not mine!) is now available on Amazon for less than a buck and a half, though why you’d want a used writing prompt journal is beyond me…unless you’re even more lazy than I am!

Reader: I can’t believe you finished that entire writing prompt book in one day! You’re normally so lazy.
Writer: Hey baby, never doubt me. It was a piece of cake. It practically wrote itself.
Reader: Why are you giggling?

My intention at the time had been to regularly use the prompts to write and then share the inanity here.

Easy content!

Except being lazy is even easier, and until recently I had written only one additional prompt.

And I’m also forgetful, because I completely forgot to post the second entry. Which I only discovered just now, as I was getting ready to post the third entry, written a mere one year and three months after the second entry.

(I’m nothing if not prolific…by sloth literary standards.)

So instead of the most recent entry, today I am posting the second entry. As before, since the prompt book itself is copyrighted, I am not reproducing the instructions, just underlining the words I was told to include.

A Family Mystery Uncovered

It all started on Sunday, when my sister showed up with a notebook. My notebook. My secret notebook, chronicling my adventures when I was marooned on that island with the carnival cult nurse.

Without preamble, I issued my sister a demand to return the journal which, thankfully, was written in cipher. However, she refused.

“I have to admit to feeling a great deal of curiosity when I found this,” she said. “So much so that I scanned each page, used OCR to convert it to a text file, and then hired someone to decode it. After a marathon hacking session over the weekend, they succeeded. And revealed to me the…interesting…story of those months you spent stranded on that uncharted isle.”

“Really?!” exclaimed my kids, eavesdropping and now excited. “What happened? Daddy never talks about it!”

“Yes,” said my wife, ice in her voice. “What does his journal say?”

“Perhaps we can arrange a mutually beneficial swap,” I suggested, a clammy cold sweat setting in. “I give you something in exchange for the journal.”

Which is why I’m at my sister’s house today, putting up wallpaper while my wife and kids are visiting my mother-in-law for an extended period. My arms, neck, and shoulders are aching with the exertion.

Fortunately, there’s a nurse waiting at home for me, and she knows how to make me feel better. So it was with a light heart that I returned home, crossed the threshold, and…found my wife and kids had returned.

Awkward!

 
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Posted by on 4 June 2018 in Mystery, Story, Writing

 

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Strange Request in a Writing Prompt book

This past Xmas, the Missus got me a writing prompt book as a gift.

Given that we had agreed not to exchange Xmas gifts, this resulted in me

A) noticing an extra package for me under the tree and
B) making a mad dash to the store on Xmas Eve to pick up something for her.

This is how the Missus ruins my Xmas every year.

But as the end of February approaches, I have finally overcome the trauma of last-minute Xmas shopping on Xmas Eve and reached a point where I can start using the book. And I’ve decided, unless I have something better to blog here, I will start posting these entries rather than letting this space lie ‘fallow’ for months at a time.

You have been warned.

Since the first page of this book clearly states that no part of the book can be reproduced without permission (I’m paraphrasing here, not flat-out reproducing!), I’m a little reluctant to spell out the prompts. Instead, I will underline the words I’m supposed to use in my narrative…in my narrative. Without further ado, my first exercise!

I went to the carnival to have fun. Instead I sprained my wrist fending off a pickpocket wearing a mask. Hardly inconspicuous. The pickpocket or the sprain.

There were some uncomfortable moments at the first aid station as I flirted with the attractive nurse while my wife and kids looked on, becoming less and less sympathetic towards my predicament.

Things only got worse when the police showed up. The pickpocket was a juvenile, and I’d sprained my wrist while grabbing him, causing the twerp to twirl sideways, fall down against a bike rack, and break his arm.

Apparently this had stirred up a bit of a controversy: a forty-something man breaking a thirteen year old’s bones. The only reason I wasn’t immediately arrested is because the kid fled when the cops showed up. Still, the arrival of the police and the departure of my wife (and kids) left me a little shaken.

However, the nurse was both sympathetic to my plight and receptive to my overtures, so the day wasn’t a total loss. She gave me an apple and instructed me to return in an hour when her shift ended.

I found a bench, had a bite of the apple, and then watched the white flesh turn brown due to oxidation as I waited for the hour to pass. That long, endless hour.

The nurse and I spent a pleasant afternoon walking and talking in the shade of the sassafras trees that ringed the carnival site. But in the end, as I leaned in for a kiss, she pulled away and invited me to join her cult.

Awkward! So I found a piano bar and requested “Particle Man”.*

* I feel I need to address that last sentence, which is itself more than a little awkward. You see, I got so focused on making sure I used all of the prompt words that I forgot that the story was supposed to be about a strange request made at a piano bar. In fact, when I went back to make sure I’d used all the words and discovered this oversight, I wrote underneath the subject the comment “Tots forgot about this!” and then went back and added that last line. You see, I had no choice. I’d literally used every available line on the page, and having written using ink, I could not erase the work to try again.

Strangely enough, the out-of-focus pictures properly show the paper as white, but the in-focus ones cast them as a yellowish pallor.

You see? When I say I left myself a comment in a writing prompt book, I Do. Not. Lie.

We've reached the end, my friend...

And when I say that I ran out of room and had to mash in an awkward last sentence to tie the whole mess together, I Do. Not. Lie. Again.

If you’re interested in the book I’m using, it’s called WRITE THE STORY. I make no endorsement, as I’ve hardly scratched the surface. Though I must admit, the title on Amazon is Write The Story Art Teaching School Kids Adults Class Project Leaning, which is not only awkward but appears to have a typo in it. But the two exercises I’ve done thus far are…writer prompty and have been fun.

 
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Posted by on 27 February 2017 in Guilty Until Proven Innocent, Life, Story, Writing

 

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Mon Dieu, ces films sont terrible! [Enjoy, pig-dog English-speaking viewers!]

French films are the only weapon the Federation has that continues to be effective against the Borg.

Why on Earth did I agree to show these French films on the main viewscreen? Unmake it so!

I was watching a French film the other day, and it finally dawned on my why French films are so (in?)famous for having…shall we say, adult content.

They’re boring.

And pretentious.

And just when you reach the point in the film where a sane viewer would say, “Good grief, this movie is boring! And pretentious! I am going to stop watching!” the first naked lady makes an appearance.

“Oh, hang on, this just got interesting,” you think to yourself if other people are in the room, or say aloud if you’re alone.

And if you’re all alone, sitting in a dark room while watching a French movie and talking to yourself, you’re a sick bastard. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Freak.

French film directors, realizing their propensity for using their movies to lecture you about topics ranging from existential nihilism to abstract pony-saddling techniques, and not being complete idiots, throw in some racy sexy bits right about the point where most intelligent film-goers (film-goers, because the French don’t make things as crass as movies) would leave the theater with a roll of the eye and a snort of disdain.

But a naked lady keeps us in our seats.

Often, just to be safe, these directors will throw in a second naked lady, and, on occasion, as a bone to female and homosexual film-goers, a third, naked, male participant.

Sadly, they almost always ruin what would be perfectly entertaining scenes by having the characters continue to talk.

I find this horribly distracting, especially if they’re talking about pony-saddling techniques while they go at it.

And being French films, muting the volume doesn’t help. Those damned, sanctimonious subtitles are still there, popping up at the bottom of the screen, their silent siren call irresistible to all but the most astigmatic of eyes.

So while there’s a lot of pink bobbing and bouncing on the top three-quarters of the screen, I find myself reading some arrogant dissertation on Man’s inhumanity to Man, and Holy Moly, is that kind of posture possible when non-gymnasts have sex?

So you stick around because the top three-quarters of the screen compels you to, even after the love/lust/orgy/what-the-hell-is-that-pony-doing-here scene has ended.

Because hey, there might be another one of those scenes soon.

There isn’t.

Not soon enough, anyway.

No, instead you have to watch the characters, who are nothing more than annoying, two-dimensional substitutes for metaphors, move around on the screen in such a dull manner that your eyes naturally drift down to read more pedantic crap about how small and insignificant individuals are in the universe. All of this surrounded by the cacophony that is known as the French language.

Give me Esperanto over French any day.

But these directors know their stuff. French film academies must have commissioned thousands of studies involving millions of people, to learn at just what point you need to stick another flagrantly naked people scene into a movie to prevent a mass audience exodus from the theater.

The French term for this type of scene is bébé scandaleusement nu de personnes oh ouais!

I just call it disgusting.

Very watchable disgusting.

Sadly, this hopscotching from one nucleus accumbens-loving scene to another has a terrible cost for the viewer. We think, with each well-framed gyration of bare skin, that we are one moment closer to an exciting filmatic climax, that the infuriatingly smug presentation of the central theme of the film is some form of crude foreplay that serves, in its inept, pleasure-killing manner, only to make us appreciate the naughty bits all that much more.

Much like, as my dad used to say, your lip feels so much better when you pull the needle out of it.

Turns out, that’s not true.

Not even remotely.

So just as your lip continues to hurt like hell after the needle extraction, these scenes are not all the more titillating because they are surrounded by the cinematic messaging equivalent of blunt force trauma. If they were, all French films would end with a bébé scandaleusement nu de personnes oh ouais!

But they don’t. The directors assume after the last sex scene that we are spent and limp in our chairs, unable to resist one final not-even-thinly-veiled homily about whatever idiotic point their movie is supposedly about.

Although watching a pony talk to me about different types of saddle bindings while both I and the pony are in a semi-conscious state is definitely a surreal experience.

Just not one I recommend.

So the directors take advantage of our near-somnambulistic state to hammer home their message. Usually via a drawn-out monologue voice-over while presenting us a car’s-eye-view of someone driving down a long and winding road, the destination unknown and unknowable, the driver of said car unknowing.

When the film gets to this point, I am left not knowing why I sat through the entire movie. I yearn for the ability to travel back in time, not to prevent myself from seeing the movie, but to kill myself before seeing the movie in order to create a paradox that destroys the entire universe, thus protecting alternate universes from this form of visual drivel.

It takes me a few days to get over this feeling and abandon my time-travel development efforts in the basement.

Which is probably in everyone’s self-interest.

I liken this French approach to ending films to a hard, swift kick in the man-globes right after a session of oh-so-fine-lovin’.

Like a French film, I go into it suspecting nothing so dire awaits me, and afterwards I always feel vaguely used, deeply unsatisfied, and in a tremendous amount of crotch pain.

Or as the French call it, douleur de fourche.

Des bâtards!

And now, a word from our sponsor: me! My books are available!
 

The Santa Claus Gang:

The Santa Claus Gang: A Marlowe and the Spacewoman short story

Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

Marlowe and the Spacewoman

Kleencut (FREE!):

So bad it won a Voidy for the next THREE consecutive years (would have been FOUR, but 2012 was a leap year)

 
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Posted by on 15 December 2012 in Angst, Conspiracies Out To Get Me, Story

 

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Do you have a gang problem like I have a gang problem? I didn’t think so.

The Santa Claus Gang: A Marlowe and the Spacewoman short story

The Santa Claus Gang: The gift that keeps on giving…to me

I’m excited to announce that The Santa Claus Gang, a short story set in the Marlowe and the Spacewoman universe, is now available for sale.

To celebrate, I’ve decided to donate all the proceeds from the sale of The Santa Claus Gang to a charity that is near and dear to my heart.

Me.

That’s right, if you act now, not only do you get a fun short story, but you’re helping to feed a starving author.

A starving author with kids.

Hungry kids.

And a hungry wife who isn’t just hungry, but complaining about not having the lifestyle I promised while wooing her: the glamorous lifestyle of a best-selling author.

I wasn’t a best-selling author then, but I had faith. The Missus knew I wasn’t a best-selling author yet too, but she had faith.

After some cajoling on my part.

But the problem is I’m still not a best-selling author, and I can’t afford the life of luxury I promised my wife. While I still have faith, the Missus’ faith and my hungry kids’ adoring faith is growing thin.

And, as the Missus keeps reminding me, faith isn’t edible.

So I’ve decided the only thing to do, the only way to make ends meet, is to donate all profits from the sale of The Santa Claus Gang to myself.

In addition to food, we recently had to let the nanny go. That’s right, we had to lay off the nanny. Just who will my kids huddle against for warmth during the cold dark nights now that she’s gone?

Cold because I had to shut off the gas to the furnace as a cost-saving measure.

It’s a Greek tragedy, and I’m not just saying that because the Missus has My Big Fat Greek Wedding on the TV right now.

Our tiny yet back-breakingly heavy, non-HD CRT television.

When I think of the paltry childhood memories of sports programming my kids will have, it makes me weep.

Bitter, standard-definition tears. The worst kind of tears.

Due to financial constraints, I am unable to store the books in a proper warehouse, instead stacking them in the corner of my kids’ room. Now the e-book versions don’t take up a lot of room, but the paperbacks are definitely encroaching on the kiddos’ play space.

Not to mention they are terrified of the cover, waking up in the middle of the night screaming about the scary books coming for them.

And without a nanny to huddle against for a false sense of security, how will they not be permanently scarred?

My only hope, our family’s only hope, is to move that merchandise out the door as quickly as possible.

So if you won’t buy the book for my sake, buy it for my kids’ sake. Or the author’s sake.

So, to recap:

  • The Santa Claus Gang is available now
  • All profits go to feeding the author and his family
  • Anything left over after food purchases will be put towards hiring a new nanny (who isn’t as young and voluptuous as the last one, which bothered the Missus for some reason)
  • Buying a paperback version brings my kiddos one step closer to having a safe space to retreat to, which they need when their daddy goes on his drunken benders*
* Proceeds from sales of The Santa Claus Gang will not be used to procure liquor for the author. That’s what the money from Marlowe and the Spacewoman is used for.
 

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The Blog Hop of (Self-Promotional) Shame, or Chain Letter: The Next Generation

My friend and FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive #4 (she’ll kill #3 to move up, no doubt) Kit Campbell tagged me to participate in something called a ‘blog hop’.

I’m not sure how you get a blog to hop; I expect it involves a trampoline, a laptop, and a high likelihood of damaging said laptop. Or perhaps dangerously overclocking your computer. Either way, I’m not sure it’s worth the risk. On the other hand, I’m terrified of Kit.

To avoid Kit’s wrath, I must answer some questions about my latest work in progress, then chain letter five other bloggers (hopefully authors, or this whole exercise doesn’t make any sense) with the same task.

I may or may not be on blogging terms with five other authors, so I might end up breaking this chain and dooming all previous participants to bargain-bin obscurity.

So be it. I only hope Kit is merciful because I tried.

Ve vill find out if you are ze naughty or ze nice. Ve haff vays of making you talk!1) What is the working title of your book?

Crap. The first question would be a toughie.

I’m actually struggling with this question right now. The working title is the unworkably horrible Marlowe and the Spacewoman Versus the Santa Claus Gang. I know.

But hey, you can help a struggling artist out, and I can experiment with WordPress’ polling functionality for the first time.

2) Where did the idea for the book come from?

This is a short story set in the Marlowe and the Spacewoman universe. I originally wrote it years ago as a Christmas story that I sent out to friends and family. I recently decided to revisit (and re-write) the story and make it canon. This proved to be a lot of work, as this short was actually written before the Marlowe and the Spacewoman novel and contradicted the novel in many places.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Science fiction, with a dash of mystery, a touch of humor, and a hint of the absurd. Also, half a cup of milk and a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine-y bits go down.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I could see a young Sigourney Weaver or an old Elle Fanning (with her hair dyed black) playing Nina. But honestly, as long as the actress comes off as vaguely Greek, I don’t care.

Since Marlowe looks like Humphrey Bogart, Bogart would be the perfect casting choice for him, except that actor has been dead for decades. Someone willing to undergo a lot of plastic surgery, I suppose.

House, as always, would be voiced by Stephen Fry. Yes, I know, you hear “House” and “Stephen Fry” and you immediately think I mean “Hugh Laurie”. Well, you’re wrong.

Though Laurie could play Marlowe. Hmm.

5) What is the one two sentence synopsis of your book?

Can Marlowe and Nina stop the redistributionist Santa Claus Gang from stealing the entire stock of the Xmas season’s #1 toy, the Prussian Robot Death Squad Commando Now with Live-Action Grappling Hook!™, saving the poor conglomerate that manufactures it from financial ruin?

Let’s hope so, because remember, corporations are people too.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published. Most of the agencies have restraining orders against me, making finding representation difficult.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I wrote it something like fifteen years ago, so honestly, I can’t remember. But knowing my approach and writing habits back then, I probably cranked that puppy out in one all-nighter.

Ah, to be young again.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I suppose comparing it to Marlowe and the Spacewoman wouldn’t be entirely cricket, would it.

Isidore Haiblum’s Tom Dunjer books come to mind, for those of you who enjoy obscure references.

Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide series.

The missus says the writing reminds her of Terry Pratchett. I can see that, and find it very flattering to boot!

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

When I was young and naïve, I started this tradition of writing Christmas stories and making them into mini books I sent out to friends and family in lieu of a card. This was the second or third such story, and I was hard pressed for an idea. I had recently written a short story called Semi-Sentient Soap Scum on the Prowl (which later became the novel Marlowe and the Spacewoman), and decided to write a sequel.

There might have been rum spiked with a suggestion of eggnog involved, but my memory’s a bit hazy.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Everyone who does not read this book dies within a week of not reading it. Or will, once I release it. So, does the potential of saving your life pique your interest?

Also, if you hadn’t guessed, this story involves Prussian Robot Death Squad Commandos. With Live-Action Grappling Hooks!™ even. Who can resist that?

And now for the truly unpleasant business of dragging other innocent victims into this hopping menace: Regretfully, I condemn Lisa, Scott, and Tamela. I share all my other author blogging friends with Kit, and she already tagged them, leaving me short two. But she is evil, after all.

(If you’re an author, you have your own blog, I haven’t tagged you above, and you’d like to be tagged, let me know and I’d be happy to grow my authorial army to better rival Kit’s.)

And now, a word from our sponsor: me! My books are available!

Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

Marlowe and the Spacewoman

Kleencut (FREE!):

So bad it won a Voidy for the next THREE consecutive years (would have been FOUR, but 2012 was a leap year)

 

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Don’t Break This Chain Letter, Or I Will Drive Down To Your House And Kill Your Pet Rabbit

I was recently tagged as part of some sort of internet mime or meme or something. Surely my friend was well-meaning, but clearly she has no idea of the gravity of the situation.

I don’t pretend to understand exactly what an internet meme is (presumably some part of the internet’s tubing, maybe washers or something to prevent evil (and porn) from leaking out?), but ever since the tragedy that ensued after I broke that chain letter in grade school, I don’t take any chances.

Please forgive me, Bowling Green, Ohio. I was a skeptical fifth grader! I didn’t understand the consequences!

As part of preventing an apocalyptic outcome of global proportions, I am expected to answer the following questions.

I will do so with all the careful thought and consideration due a questionnaire that could, if answered incorrectly, end all life on Earth (and, most likely, Europa as well, may Arthur C. Clarke rest in peace).

1.) What was the first story you ever wrote? Spare no embarrassing details.

I found a story I wrote in first or second grade in my mom’s memory box a few years ago. As I recall, since I have only the memory of finding the story, not of actually writing it, the story involved a monkey called Super Duper Monkey, and he flew out to an island with a dinosaur on it, and, I think, sharks surrounding it. He carried someone or something to the island or back, I can’t remember, but it had awful hand-drawn illustrations too.

What I can say with certainty is this: I was a talentless hack in second grade.

2.) What’s your favorite nonfiction topic to read about?

Toss up between Astronomy and technology news. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid, but given the path I ended up traveling down, and my non-Adonis physique, the only way I’ll get into space now is if I’m an  expert on some awesome piece of technology that is our only hope against the alien fleet / giant asteroid / gamma ray burst / dwarf star heading towards Earth. So, Astronomy and tech news.

By the way, is any of the above doom related to the internet chain meme? Because if so, I can help. Just get me on the next Soyuz launch.

3.) How much research do you feel like you need to do before you start a new story?

This is tricky. I always start out wanting to do a ton of research, but then I get bogged down in the details, or discover that my premise is absolute rubbish, or I’m pretty sure my sources are wrong and I’ll look like a fool. Case in point, I once wrote a play set in the 1950s, so I spent an inordinate amount of time researching Stalin and the Red Scare and nuclear testing during that time, and ended up writing a play about aliens who talked like 1920s gangsters.

The director forced me to heavily redact the script before performing the play. The 1920s alien gangsters did not make the cut.

I’m still haunted by this.

4.) Writing challenges (ala Nanowrimo) – useful, or merely stress-inducing?

Lately, the only thing that gets me writing. If I don’t have a challenge, I can’t justify to myself (or the missus) why I should spend all my free time in the man cave writing rather than feeding my children and changing their poopy diapers.

Recently, though, the missus has started insisting on the challenges being more life-threatening than cerebral. I goofed and left her one too many poopy diaper to change.

5.) Why do you write your main genre?

I’ve always loved sci-fi, and I wrote a lot of short stories in that genre when I was younger. I think I just sort of fell into the ‘write what you wish you could be doing’ camp.

I didn’t expect to find myself writing humor, though. Didn’t even think I could. That play I mentioned earlier? Supposed to be a comedy. It might have been amusing, but I don’t think I’d lived and seen enough back then to be consistently funny. Now that I’ve done it though, I love the world and the characters too much to give them up.

6.) What genre/author/book do you secretly love but would never admit to in polite conversation?

Twilight Saga. Awesome books. I can only dream to write at that level of quality.

Not.

I can’t think of anything I’m ashamed of loving. If it’s good enough to love, I will embrace it openly. For example, Pride and Prejudice. Awesome book. Not exactly a manly sort of admission to make, but it’s fun and clever and a pleasure to read. Even if Jane Austen’s editor did re-write all the dialog. 🙂

OK, maybe I won’t admit to enjoying the fanfic that ships Flo from the Progressive car insurance ads with Mayhem from the Allstate car insurance ads, but clearly no one would ever admit to that. It’s acknowledging on a primal level just how screwed up an individual you are to read it, let alone write it.

7.) What’s your favorite movie-adaptation of a book?

Can’t say I have a favorite. Books and movies are entirely different animals, so it’s hard to come up with a movie that does a book justice. That said, I’ve always loved 2001: A Space Odyssey. The book was written by Arthur C. Clarke at Stanley Kubrick’s request – it was a true collaboration. The book is still better, and frankly, while visually stunning, the movie makes no sense unless you’ve read the book. But still, I will stop and watch the movie if I come across it while channel surfing.

Is that close enough to favorite?

8.) What is your favorite type of cephalopod?

Cuttlefish. They can hypnotize you by cycling the color of their skin. It’s awesome. All hail the Hypno-Cuttlefish!

9.) What is your writing tool of choice?

Typing on a computer. Faster than anything else. Voice recognition is cool, but too slow for me and I only use it when I must.

I LOVE fountain pens, the gleam of the still-wet ink on paper, and will use one occasionally, but like most of my romances, simply not practical.

10.) What are your feelings about the proper usage of whom?

If you correct me on who/whom, you best be doing it from a great distance.

Actually, I’m a bit of a stickler for grammar, but my knowledge of the rules of grammar is not always up to the task. Also, I tend to ignore rules I think are stupid, like commas ALWAYS having to be inside the quote. Sometimes they shouldn’t be, so I don’t follow the rule.

It is possible, given what I just said, that I’m not using the word ‘stickler’ correctly.

I remember in third or fourth grade, when I first learned of the word ‘whom’, I turned in a homework assignment where I used it as often as I could. It came back covered in red, every single ‘whom’ crossed out and ‘who’ written above it.

Scarred me for life.

11.) What are you doing to bring yourself closer to your writing goals?

Trying to get my ‘brand’ out there with a blog. Finally gave up on traditional publication for my first novel, since trad publishing doesn’t seem to view absurdist noir thriller sci-fi satire as commercial enough, and self-published it. Became addicted to twitter (seriously, ask the missus!).

I’m not sure how that last item is supposed to help me, but I’ve been assured by other writers addicted to twitter that it does.

 
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Posted by on 21 March 2012 in Conspiracies Out To Get Me, Life, Story

 

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