Friday, December 31, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Home Late

Chris walked in the door.

Max reared back and pounced on him.

“OUCH! F——ing cat!” Chris brushed the cat off him.

“You’re late,” Max said. “What was it this time? Flat tire. Met some strange woman who wanted help moving her couch? You’ve run out of lies, I think.”

Chris plopped on the couch and sighed. “It was work. It’s always work.”

His phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket. Sam.

“Are you going to answer that?” asked Max.

Chris silenced his phone. “No. It’s Sam. He probably wants me to jump his car.”

“Are you sure? Not just going to call back in ten minutes and go jump?”

“You know, you are the meanest cat I’ve ever known.”

Max climbed on the couch and nuzzled Chris. “It’s for your own good, you know.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t make it cool.”

Max licked Chris’s arm.

“Please, Max,” Chris flinched. “Do we have to?”

“No, we don’t have to, but I’d really like to.”

Chris sighed and untensed his arm.

Max opened his mouth and clamped down on Chris’s arm. Blood poured from the wound. Max sucked it up.

“You’ve got to stop letting people take advantage of you, Chris.”

Chris was pale in the dark of the house. “I know, I know.”

#70

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Agreements

I closed the garage. It was a damned cold night out and the cars would have looked intimidating to a man less experienced than I was.

In a way, I was more intimidated, not less. My old bones creak. I know the dangers. A younger man could get lucky.

A car pulled up and I held my breath for a second. A thin man in a suit, heavy coat, and a fedora stepped out. He pulled a cane from the car and shuffled to me.

“What is it, Peter? Surely not a social call,” I sputtered. “Come to do me in finally?”

“No, Mark. We’re on the same side this time, I think.”

I scowled. “How could we ever—”

“There’s not much time, old friend. The man upstairs has decided it’s time.”

I swore. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“No, I’m not. Get in the car. I have the syndicate and the power troops patched in.”

I didn’t have much to lose anymore. I got in the car. My old nemesis hadn’t lied.

God had finally decided to start the apocalypse.

There was only one thing Peter and I had ever agreed on. There was only one thing a villain and a hero could always agree on.

If God ever decided to make good on his promise, we’d do everything in our power to stop him.

And we would.

#69

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Special Holiday Message

Happy Winter Solsticemas.

The human need for sunlight makes winter a particularly dour part of the year. It’s no accident that so many cultures and religions center holidays around this time of year.

In solidarity with all humans, I celebrate Solstice. May the increasing light represent love and humanitarianism overcoming ignorance and hate, the triumphs of scientists in the quest to cast light on the mysteries of the universe, and the hope that each of our futures will be greater than our pasts.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: The Last Son of Another Red Star

Piotr and Helga drove home from the Purchase-Cheap in their beat up late 80s sedan.

Helga sighed.

“Darling—”

“I know, I know. If only we could afford to adopt,” Helga sniffed.

No shooting stars interrupted the drive home or distracted from the stifled tears.

Piotr took a smoke break out back. He could barely see the stars. The lights from the city drown them out. He longed to see them.

He stomped the butt out and tossed it into the can. He turned to the door. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted motion.

“Hey!” he turned. “Who’s there?”

A canister pushed up through the soil. It had to have been buried there for years.

The canister dropped onto the grass.

Piotr picked up barbecue tongs and tapped the metallic looking thing. It flashed with an electric spark and whooshed open.

The dark shadows obscured the contents. Piotr tapped the container with the back of his hand. It wasn’t hot or cold.

He picked it up and carried it to the porch light. He nearly dropped it when he saw what was inside.

It was a baby.

He swung the door open and shouted, “Helga! Come quick!”


They named the child Jon and tried not to ask many questions. Even though he was clearly a baby, he would only eat solid food. He had no taste for formula.

Helga arranged a play date for Jon. She got an emergency call. The other kid’s mom said she was ok to babysit, so Helga left Jon with Kim.

Kim turned her eye for one second and heard her little May screech in terror. Kim panicked and ran to her baby. May only had one arm. She had blood on her shirt, but the skin was clean and uncut.

“Oh my god, what happened?!”

Until Kim screaemd, May had calmed slightly.

Kim picked both babies up and ran them to the hospital.

The doctors couldn’t figure out what happened.


Helga picked Jon up from Kim at the hospital. She held Jon gingerly on the way to the car and fastened him as tightly as she could without harming Jon.


Helga and Piotr tried their hand at barbecue that night.

“Piotr,” Helga said. “I’m worried.”

“What? I don’t think whatever ate May’s arm can get Jon here.”

The ankle biter was crawling through the grass. A neighbor dog came up.

The dog yelped. Helga and Piotr looked up. The dog had only three legs. And no tail.

“Most Americans won’t let their healthy dogs roam,” said Piotr. “And our neighbors let their three legged dog wander wherever—”

“That’s Scoundrel. He had four legs just this morning,” Helga gasped. “And a tail.”

Jon cackled with laughter.


That night, Piotr and Helga put the baby in the crib and walked back from him slowly.

“We didn’t see anything. There’s no reason to think it was him,” Helga said.

Piotr said nothing.


In the morning, Helga woke first. She peeked into Jon’s room. Jon hadn’t woken up yet.

Helga closed the door and sneaked to the kitchen to get a few things done before Jon woke up. Helga picked up a glass and turned the TV on.

“—ing News, Breaking News, we’re getting reports of violence in east end. It’s still too early to be sure, but we’re hearing a small child is somehow eating limbs—”

Helga dropped her glass.


In the years that followed, news of the alien child spread to every corner of the globe.

His hunger was without end.

When scientists discovered where he came from, they tried to call him the last son of that system’s star. It wasn’t very catchy.

Besides, he already had a name. “The Last American.”

#68

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: 20th Century Nostalgia

It was a big coop. You heard me right. They kept calling it a coop.

The last 20th century person in existence would visit the Ancient Past Ranch. One of ‘em, anyway. I’m not big on nostalgia, but they were paid enough to live comfortably for a few years so I agreed.

Good thing I learned negotiation.

I woke up that morning to a knock on my door. “What the—” I remember a few choice swears.

No one knocks on doors these days. I threw on a robe and grumbled to the door.

I pressed the button and it slid open. “What?”

A shiny man in flared denim pants and a lycra shirt smiled wide and handed me a box. “We’d like you to wear these, if you don’t mind,” I could see him churn for the right honorific. He wanted to use the traditional, but I guess he’d been briefed.

“We’ll see,” I took the box from him and closed the door.


About two hours later, I emerged from my home as an object for proper ridicule. Bright red pants and a t-shirt at least one size too big with holes worn through it.

I still wore the modern essentials underneath. A fetish for antiquery isn’t a good reason to be uncomfortable.

The shiny man tried to shake my hand and introduced himself as Randall. I suspect he thought that name was common in the 20th.

“Hi, Randall. Mind if I call you Randy?” I shouldn’t have. I really shouldn’t.

His face brightened. “Really? That would be grand.”

I cursed myself. “Well, Randy, let’s get going.”

“Radical. Now, I know we should be driving all the way and making a road trip of this, but the foundation thinks that’s a liiiittle overboard, so we’re going to take the PubTrans 99% of the way there and a Model T will pick us up for the last kilometer.”

I followed him to the tube. The HUD kept me busy and entertained for the fifteen minutes the journey took. Randy looked a trifle annoyed that I was using it, but, well, screw him.

When we got to the car park, a woman wearing an ancient mens suit with pinstriped pants and a top hat ushered us into the T.

“How soon will we get there?” I asked.

“The original Model T had a top speed of about 72 km/h. This one’s been updated a bit.”

Randy frowned.

“Sorry if that offends you,” she directed the apology to me.

“Not at all.”

I found her quite stunning despite the apologies. The woman, not the Model T.

She seemed to like me too. The minute-long trip wasn’t nearly long enough.

We drove straight into the park through a crowd and up to a stage. I held my breath for a moment and leaped out of the car, hands held high. I grinned like the moron I was.

“The last 20th centurion!” a voice announced. “Resurrected from the past to complete the Midatlantic Antiquarian Ranch!”

The crowd went wild.

I skipped onto the stage and made a speech. It was full of vague profundities which amounted to nothing content-wise. Every one but me had a fancy time of it.

Finally, the speeches ended and I took a bathroom break. With the driver.

I’ll be honest. It wasn’t a bathroom break.

After a few glorious minutes, I walked out.

A tour guide spoke to a rather large group, “And that’s what is called a connect-up!” The guide pointed at me.

I hate nostalgia.

#67

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Animus

“Don’t ask me about the empties. I’m never awake long enough to bother looking up the information.”

“You? Surely no one could get bored of you that easily?”

She runs her hands along my right thigh. I don’t argue. It’s good to have breath in me again. Good to be.

It lasts a few weeks. A few blessed weeks. Long enough to go shopping and watch some TV.

Then, one day while she’s out, I feel it again. She’s gotten bored with me. I can feel the animus fade until I hit the ground.

And I wait for another master.

#66

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Congratulations Are In Order


I completed NaNoWriMo for the third time. First time ever officially participating and it was in spite of taking fourteen days off writing this month. I’ll spare you the emo inherent in explaining why I took those fourteen days off.

Anyway, as you may know, 50K is actually about half of a novel. I think I own exactly one full adult novel that rings in at about 50K. First time authors normally need to shoot for 100K. Luckily, Overly Optimistic needs another 50K at least in order to finish up the story.

So, NaNo this year was for me a way to get motivated to write half of the novel … and a way to get a discount on Scrivener for Windows when it comes out for real in January.

Don’t expect Overly Optimistic to be out in January. Part of the reason I had a hard time writing it was that I didn’t have the plot structure developed well enough. I’m going to finish developing that structure before continuing with the rest of the novel. Also, I have several other writing projects due before January.

Anyway, raise a glass to all the fine folks who pulled NaNoWriMo off this year. Especially the ones who hit 50K two weeks ago. Bastards.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Seedlings

The little god of a little world in a place very far (though perhaps not so very far) from here planted seeds.

There was no such thing as male or female in those days. The god would one day be perceived as female, but back then the god was simply Krabbit.

Krabbit was neither wise nor powerful. Nothing new ever is and everything—everything—was new.

When the seeds Krabbit planted began to sprout, Krabbit went to take a nap. It was a short nap so far as gods are concerned, but very long for us or for the creatures that sprung from Krabbit’s seeds.

They learned to feed themselves, play games, and plant more Seedlings—the name they gave themselves—until all of Krabbit’s first world was filled with Seedlings.

After a very long time for Seedlings, the new Seedlings had slightly different appearances and ideas about the way things should be done. Some said Seedlings should only be planted by certain kinds of Seedlings. Others felt it was very wrong to water at particular times of day.

There was talk amongst the Seedlings of war. Those who were most concerned in one side or another went to talk to Krabbit. They yelled very loudly until Krabbit woke up.

“Yes,” the young god said to the seedlings, “What seems to be the problem? Do you need a bigger world or more types of creatures? Is the sky too green?”

“Oh great Krabbit. Nothing you do could ever be less than perfect—”

Krabbit doubted this very much.

“—We have questions.”

“Oh? Feel free to ask. Did you want to know how this world is held in the sky?”

The Seedling’s eyes grew wide. “Krabbit holds it there!” they said with reverence.

Krabbit laughed kindly. “No. That would get boring rather quickly. The concept is easy, but I’ll let you figure it out for yourselves since you’re disinterested at the moment. What is your question?”

“Oh great Krabbit, we need to know who should be allowed to plant Seedlings and when they should be watered and many other important things.”

“I don’t understand,” Krabbit said. “You seem to be making Seedlings quite well and none of you look too dry. What do you need my help for?”

“We need to know who is doing things wrong so we know who to be angry at.”

The sky broke out in great orange clouds and curly lines of light skittered across the clouds. Krabbit had not yet learned patience, but soon calmed and the ominous clouds and lightning subsided.

“You should be angry only at the people who hurt you or hurt others,” Krabbit said.

“And no one else?” the Seedlings asked.

“No one else!” the god boomed.

The Seedlings were very embarrassed. “Ok,” they said. They backed up from Krabbit slowly.

“Anything else?” Krabbit asked.

“No, no. That’s good.”

Krabbit rolled over and took a somewhat longer nap.

#65

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Friday, November 19, 2010

No/Delayed Bedtime Story

Hey, it's been a hectic week with NaNo. There may be a Bedtime Story this week, but it probably won't be before midnight.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Breathing

Heather panicked.

Had anything like this ever happened before?

Everyone was going to think she had murdered him. Sure, they wouldn’t be able to find the body, but would it really matter?

Even if they didn’t, they’d find out about their affair. It had been completely above board. He hadn’t been her student in two years and they didn’t start seeing each other until three months ago.

She grabbed a trash bag from the kitchen and stopped halfway between the kitchen and her bedroom. She squashed the air out of the bag and threw it into the trash can.

Heather sat on the end of the bed and wept.

When she couldn’t cry any more, she breathed a deep sigh.

Dust poured out of her nostrils and gathered into the form of Jerry, naked and curled up on the ground.

She squealed and he jerked and turned to face her.

“Is everything ok, dear?”

#64

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: A Thousand Rooms Called Home

I never again complained about the house being too small. I didn’t dare complain that the new rooms had dead bodies or spent shell casings in them. Not that I feared her.

She wasn’t the one who made the rooms we borrowed from empty universes so ghastly.

Sometimes I don’t see her for days at a time. I search the rooms, track drywall dust and sulphur through all the incarnations of our house, but I never call out for her. It seems a sin to bring sound into those wind-swept places where gods fear to speak.

What shame they must feel, created by humans and blamed by humans for human failings.

I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming that night as I wandered through our countless kitchens and living rooms. Sure, I spotted the remains of meals we’d carried there, dishes we’d forgotten, pillows I had taken with me on nights I couldn’t sleep alone in that one bed we’d ever shared. It still didn’t seem real.

I wasn’t blaming her for the size of the house or how cramped it felt when she opened up the holes. I thought we were commiserating.

Then I passed into one of the worlds that is endless winter and heard the faint whoosh of the hole being closed.

She couldn’t hear me and it wouldn’t have mattered if she could. I’d apologized before. Many many times before.

I felt like crying then, but it felt like sin.

#63

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Licensing and Me

This is about the practical side of copyright use in the US legal system.

One person can write a story, make music, record sound effects, make art, and produce it. It’s time-consuming and most people aren’t skilled in enough media to make a good product that way.

If you’re not rich, you need to collaborate with other poor people or combine your work with the Public Domain or appropriately non-restrictive licences. Sadly, too many people use the most restrictive Creative Commons license possible. If you use a No Derivatives license, your music can’t be background for a scene and your photo can’t be a cover for a story. If you use the Non-Commercial clause, your work can’t go in a video because video host sites have ads. I won’t be making money, but someone will, and likely not much of it.

Some people who license NC say “share it all you like, just don’t charge money for it.” In other words, if you aren’t charging you’re ok. That’s what NC should mean, but doesn’t.

For the last several weeks I’ve been licensing all my non-writing material on the following logic: is this something I want to turn into a larger business venture? If not, I release it public domain or CC-BY at the strictest. I chose PD or CC-BY depending on whether I want credit. In photography, I don’t care so it almost all goes public domain.

If it could be a larger business venture, I release it CC-BY-NC.

Writing is a bit more complicated and that’s why I haven’t set a specific license for my writing available here. I don’t like CC licenses for writing, but I’ve yet to find one I like better.

Most of the stuff I write here will be released under something like CC-BY. No Derivatives is tempting, but making a video or podcast from text is transformative and that’s forbidden by ND. Also, I’d rather not have my mistakes perpetuated for all time because I used an ND license.

Until I find something better, you can use any of my work (except Chrissmas Collins Universe stories) with only two restrictions. Make it clear I wrote the original work and don’t charge money.

The advantage, for those who are wondering, is that I maximize my audience and keep my fanbase interested. I don’t release all of my work on Troll Jammies. You probably shouldn’t release all of yours for free either. But make sure you get the maximum benefit out of what you do release.

The people using our work to make other things are people like us. If we make it easier on them, there’s more likelihood that we’ll get the publicity we want.

Note: As I’m sure someone will note if I don’t mention here, it is possible to negotiate with individual creators to get work licensed under less restrictive licenses. However, it’s easier and less time-consuming to simply find something else to use.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: DIY Tokyo

Tokyo rumbled beneath me. Trip must worn me out pretty bad.

Late, I stumbled out of bed and turned the television on. A cheesy-looking gigantic rabbit-suited man ravaged buildings. I flipped channels. Same thing.

I looked outside. Same thing.

The guy on the TV looked like my cabbie. I washed my hands before bed. Maybe he hadn’t?

I dialed home.

“Hi, Rob. Make it there alright?”

“Michael, honey. Make sure you wash your hands after you touch the rabbits.”

“Uhhhhh. The ones you’ve been giving rabbit pox?”

“Yeah.”

“I let the neighbor kids play with ‘em.”

“Oh for Zeus’ sake.”

#62

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: The Digital Revolution

I never imagined myself a NeoLuddite, but when a patch had my microwave follow me because the timer had gone off, something snapped.

I was not then a violent man. I didn’t own guns. I hadn’t let Gerald bring his home either.

The toilet was the best weapon I had. The microwave never saw it coming. Because I had the bathroom door shut while I pried the toilet off the floor.

Now, holed up and awaiting my demise, I wondered if it was worth it.

Until a mobile phone came in and reminded me about a sale ending next week.

#61

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Criminals

“Let’s do this forever,” Jane said. She tore bits of stale bread into the manicured grass.

“What? Feed birds on fancy lawns?” I laughed.

“You know what I mean, Hannah.”

I turned the stereo up. The decibel meter read way above county ordinance.

An old man in a robe opened his door. He screamed to his cell about the noise.

“Whoops. Spotted. Time to jam,” I said.

She drove. Squealed tires, drove exactly 8 mph above the limit. Our lives had changed so much since we read the book.

Have You Considered a Life of Petty Crime?

Well, have you?

#60

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Prefriends


I solemnly swear that I am up to no good. I suggest clicking on the comic to view it. This theme is incapable of properly displaying graphics at-width.

I had this idea and suddenly had to see if I could make it before bedtime. This is not based on a true story.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thirst review

(2009 Korean film)

This is one of the oddest vampire movies I’ve ever seen. The cover they have for it on Unaccountable Red streaming makes it look like normal horror fare, but it’s not. It’s a dark comedy hidden inside a drama with horror elements.

The basic setup is that a do-gooder priest defies the Catholic church in order to have an experimental procedure tested on him in the hopes that having the procedure tested on a healthy person will lead to a cure for unhealthy people. He’s infected with an illness that can’t be cured and is fatal in a very short period of time.

He experiences the fatal effects and appears to die. He is the sole survivor of the illness, but is physically deformed by the disease. His vampirism comes on slowly, much like in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (book, not movie; I haven’t seen the movie yet). He accidentally discovers that drinking blood makes him beautiful again.

However, he’s still a good person. Still a priest. How can he survive as a vampire who doesn’t want to leech off innocents? And how will he deal with the strange new desires he has?

And that’s just a vague outline of the first half. This is an excellent movie.

Warning: there are a few sex scenes. There’s also some gruesome violence.

My score: 90/100

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Family Secrets

“You’re going down, old woman,” the young man said. His tussled hair flicked in the light breeze.

The old woman startled and nearly dropped her left knitting needle. She scowled. “You’d dare challenge your grandmama, Malcolm?” She scorned him and his rainbow button. “I’ve been fighting since before I was even old enough to have the thoughts that led to your mother being born!”

“Don’t get saucy with me, gram! And leave my mother out of this,” Malcolm thrust his metal spatula at her.

She feinted left with a knitting needle and socked him with a rolling pin.

He fell into a fetal position.

She pulled a pile of diced onions from a shoulder pocket and threw it at his eyes. His greatest weakness.

Malcolm started to cry. He jumped up and wiped the onion from his eyes. “Life is hard, Dentures! I’ve grown up on tears and disappointment. They. Make. Me. STRONG!

He swung a bag of flour at her head and she fell to the ground.

Malcolm stood over her. Sweat rolled down his back. “Are you ok, gram?”

She exhaled sharply. “Yes. I’m fine. You’ve beaten me. They’re all yours.”

The old woman reached into her purse and pulled out a weathered and yellowing envelope.

The impetuous young man opened it and read. Brownies: Flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, butter, eggs.

“There aren’t any measurements, temperatures, or times, here, grandma.”

“I know. That’s the way I got them, that’s the way you get them. Every martial art takes practice. Even the family recipes.”

She stood up, brushed her dress off, and walked down the dirty, forbidding street. The world would never see her kind again.

#59

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Spirit Day

It’s been decided. On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the seven gay boys who committed suicide in recent weeks/months mostly due to homophobic abuse in their homes at at their schools.

Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit.

Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality. Please wear purple on October 20th. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and schools.

RIP Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase, Billy Lucas and Cody J. Barker (picture not shown). You are loved.

Brittany McMillan via Jay Lake

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Queen Exina

I stepped out of the shower and onto the VapoMat.

“What are you doing in here?” I scowled at the Cat. The VapoMat was seconds away from vaporizing the last of the water that clung to me.

“The queen called,” he spat the last of his Nip into the Dispos.

“Aren’t you usually lazy,” I put on a robe.

He pointed to his collar. He was wearing his Curiosity tag.

I swore. “You’re coming with?”

He tipped his hat and bowed.

I Zap-U-Blasted my teeth, HairDid my hair, put on AproprosPriate clothes and dashed out the flat. The Cat followed close behind.

I was presented to the queen nearly immediately.

“Her majesty will see you now, Lady Bruisemella,” a jazzed up Squirrel announced.

I walked in.

“Your majesty, I was summoned.”

“Adelaide, I require a new bedmate.”

I felt the heat of my cheeks rise.

She proffered a worn-out plush. Its last eye had fallen off. Recently, if I wasn’t mistaken. The thing had always been hideous. Now that it was missing all fifteen eyes, it was less fearsome.

I sighed silently. I was the queen’s greatest bounty hunter and assassin. It just so happened the current queen believed the best period of life was somewhere between five and nine. I preferred twenty-three. The queen’s actual age, coincidentally.

“Of course, your highness.” I extricated myself.

The candy-colored streets were dark and malevolent. The clouds threatened a gumdrop downpour. I wasn’t wearing my sugar-proof galoshes and my three piece suit had been to the cleaners three times that month already.

“Toots!”

I swung around. It was the Cat. “Yeah?”

He stalked up to me and put Nip and a lighter in my hand. I lit the Nip and held it out for him.

He waved it off. “We gotta talk.”

“We are talking. What’s the subject?”

“Dolls.”

“Stuffed animals.”

“Stuffed creatures,” he emphasized.

I hoped our negotiations were coming to a close. “K. What about ‘em?”

“The queen’s last several have been the many-eyed sort. I’m thinking something more like three this time. Possibly with many-limbs instead of many-eyes.”

“You stopped me in the middle of the street to talk about stuffed creature aesthetics?”

He shrugged.

“Alright. Where should we start?”

Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at a semi-used semi-antique store in a less sanitary part of Capitol City. A ceramic-headed Glam Thing with golden fibre for hair was prominently displayed. I had my doubts.

The place was a little too retro. The weirdness of the 1920’s was a sick sanitized several. I turned around and walked.

The Cat put a paw across my knee. “Hold on. You haven’t seen anything yet.”

I turned back. “I don’t think a hand-knit horror snake is going to do it for our benevolent monarch, Cat.”

The Cat,” he said. “And I wasn’t suggesting a horror snake. C’mon.”

He led me to the store’s darkest corner and we sifted through a pile of fuzzy dross.

I almost tossed the very thing the Cat had suggested earlier. A three-eyed blue octo-squared with short fauxfur. Not especially well-loved, but used enough to lack the obnoxious chem smell typical of pristine retro plush. “The Cat,” I whispered.

“Yeah,” he didn’t.

“Look at what’s in my hand.”

“Infernal dog feces. You found it. Non-chalant’s the word.”

We walked to the register and paid cash money for the creature. When the cashier handed over the receipt and we had declined the plastic bag in the traditional manner,* a shot rang out.

* Mock indignation.

I ducked and the Cat ran out the alley. My heart thundered. I scampered over the counter, tossed the squigapalous in my purse, and waited ten breaths.

I pulled the Bully Gun from my purse and attached the sight to my left eye. With the gun raised above the counter, I could see through the sight. There was no sign of the shooter.

I set the sight to 30% opacity so I’d have depth perception again and stumbled out the back of the shop.

“Pst.”

“What? Where are you?”

“In here.”

“Krabbit darn it, the Cat. I’m not going in the rubbish. Come out here.”

He climbed out of the bin and we started the long walk back to the palace with the gun muzzle over my shoulder. We didn’t pick up a tail until three blocks away from the palace.

It was a coon’s tail and it shot at us almost as soon as I noticed it. I spun around and fired three times. The Bully Gun spat abuse and the coon soon fell.

I ran to it and searched for papers or clues.

“Uh, doll,” the Cat said.

“I don’t have time for this, the Cat. Help me pillage.”

“No can-do-ski.”

“Fudge muffin your cleanliness fetish, get your mittens over here!”

The sound of a scram gun pump echoed behind me.

“Boston,” I swore. “Massachusetts!” I dropped my gun and threw my hands up.

“That’s right, pinstripe lady,” the seething breath of a Malclom breathed down my neck. “I want the doll.”

“Stuffed creature,” I muttered.

“Doll. Hand it over.”

I put one hand in my purse, pulled out my StickyTickBrick and blind-mashed it at his jewels.

He cried out in agony and dropped the scram gun. I grabbed it up with my gun and spun around. The brick ticked and the man writhed on his back. He made a frustrated grab for the brick and then his hand wouldn’t come off.

“Release the goon,” a woman in red said. She was held the Cat hostage. It was clear she was the real brains behind the operation. Also the beauty. Five seven, blue hair, and more than ample wow.

“No thanks, sugar planks.”

“We can do this two ways, fedora. With you and your partner eggs over easy on the pave, or me walkin’ away with the doll.”

“You were the one, weren’t you? That plucked the old plush’s eyes? You cruel thing, you.”

“I ain’t gonna play your game, slender. Drop the candy cannons before I pump your friend fulla plums.”

I dropped the guns. I could always get a new plush.

“Gwendolyn Genivive Chrynsanthinum! How could you?!” the queen’s disappointed shrill sounded out over the street.

“Mushrooms,” Gwen muttered. “Baby, just go back home. I’ll take care of this.”

“No, you won’t,” the queen said sternly. “Let the kitten go and quit threatening Addie.”

Gwen loosened her grip on the Cat.

“What’s this all about, anyway?” the queen asked.

“You spend too much time with that saccharine doll,” Gwen exaspered.

“Oh, Gwennie, that’s silly.”


So, that’s the whole sad story. I got paid, the queen got her doll, and Gwen was in the metaphorical dog house.

Another sorry day in the Dark Chocolate City.

(Read more!)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Writing Profanity

Adapted from a Drabblecast forum post I made in April.

In writing, anything that counts as a crutch is a bad thing when used as a crutch. “F#%&ing angry” is just plain bad writing. It’s weak in all the ways that matter in written form. “Boiling mad” would be just as weak.

It passes up the opportunity to describe what that anger looks like, what it feels like, and what effect it has on the characters viewing it. It robs the real emotional impact of the statement for a shock factor which doesn’t play for people who don’t notice swearing.

So, eliminate all profanity, right? No.

Tightening prose is good, but in-dialogue swearing shouldn’t need justification in excess of what justifies weak salt words like “however,” “particularly,” and “that.”

Pulp Fiction is a great illustration. There’s quite a bit of swearing. It’s not excessive unless you eschew all swearing and the movie wouldn’t have been improved by removing swearing or by adding it. It’s a perfect balance.

The fine line is between what sounds realistic and what works from a story perspective. It takes me thirty-five to forty minutes drive home from work every day. If you wrote the a day in the life of Ignatius, you’d leave that out unless something drastic and interesting happened on that commute. It’s not realistic, but realism is like butter. You put the butter on the bread, not crumbs of bread on butter.

Sailors, vikings, and Ignatiuses may swear continuously, but I’ll have a hard time following a story that has that much swearing in it.

In summation: moderation.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Flyers

The telephone pole was covered with flyers for pets—lost, found, and disposable—get rich schemes, used textbooks, and prophecies. The man with the sandy brown stubble stapled his flyer on the pole. He used his to cover one of the schemes.

He paused a moment to look nervously over the other flyers, on the ground, over the grass, and in the bushes. He walked away. Every few feet, he looked suspiciously in one direction or another.

His worn out shoes sounded smooth against the sidewalk. His downward gaze as he walked gave the impression he was eyeing his shoes.

A little boy with big eyes ran up to him. “Hey, mister. Can I help you?”

He muttered something and then said, “I’ve lost something. Something dear to me. Have you seen it?”

The boy said, “What’d you lose?”

The man handed him a flyer and looked away.

An impression pocked the surface of the flyer where tears had dried. The little tear-off tags were haphazard.

The flyer showed a happy man, a joyful man. A clean-shaven and well-groomed man. The same man—could he really be the same man?—holding a book. Brave New World.

“Mister, I—” the boy looked up. The worn out man had disappeared. His flyers covered every pole the boy could see.

#57

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

On Losing Friends (of the Paper Persuasion)

What does a book mean to you?

I’ve been an avid reader long enough that I own a rather embarrassing pile of Star Trek and Earth 2 novels (yes, they had tie-in novels for Earth 2). In my life, I’ve spent countless hours reading and—with some select favorites—re-reading books.

The other day, I remembered that my copy of Brave New World was still missing. It’s been missing for six or seven years now. It’s like losing a friend when you realize you can’t find your copy of Smoke & Mirrors or the E. E. Cummings book with the poem that makes you tear up every time.

I buy lost books again sometimes. Even with a book that hasn’t been dog-eared or written in, there’s a feeling that something is missing. I replaced Smoke & Mirrors, but haven’t read it again. I didn’t re-purchase Brave New World.

... or the E. E. Cummings book with the poem that makes you tear up every time.

The other day, I thought I lost my copy of Demon-Haunted World. I was sad about it, but didn’t realize how sad I had been until I found it. As I finished reading it, I noticed it was gratuitously dog-earred. I nearly lost all of the quotes I wanted to remember. I would have lost part of what Carl Sagan meant to me.

When I contrast this to my favorite ebook purchase to date, I realize there’s not a whole lot of difference there. I bookmarked, highlighted, and scribbled like crazy in Cat’s Cradle. It’s possible the company I bought it from will go out of business and I’ll accidentally sync and lose everything I put into it.

A book is a book and whether it’s made out of bytes or ink. The emotional meaning is in the reader.

What’s your lost book story?

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Female, 51-65 years old, and upset

trolljammies.blogspot.com is probably written by a female somewhere between 51-65 years old. The writing style is personal and upset most of the time.

Every so often, I like to use one of those automatic writing analyzers. I’ve used ones that were supposedly theoretically science-based, and used some that are assuredly not. Most of them decide I’m a woman most of the time.

In statistics, we have outliers. Laypersons would refer to outliers as “the exception that proves the rule.” Though that’s not exactly what an outlier is, it does get the point across well enough for this post.

It’s entirely possible that these tests normally identify people correctly and I’m an outlier. That said, this particular test got me hilariously wrong.

On one part, it might be slightly right. It says I’m “upset most of the time,” but if you look at the graph, it seems to be defining “most” as 51%+. Since I post a lot of fiction on here and fiction should include some sort of dramatic element, I should probably have a much greater percentage of “upset” than I do.

Huh. I wonder if it’s including the twitter preview thing in its assessment of my emotional state. That’s quite emo. Not especially womanly though. Mysterious.

(Read more!)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Becoming A Man


Modified version of GWL: Unicorn by SNappa2006

Disclaimer: Certain persons have decided that particular words are inherently bad regardless of context. These words are known as swears, cusses, profanities, etc. in English. If you find words in this category so offensive as to render a story of "no value," you will probably not enjoy this story.


I belong to the Tennessee tribe Stock Car Racing. My redneck name is Bubba, and this is my manhood ritual tale.

My people practiced this rite long before humans first left the solar system or developed gravity generators.

Early in the morning, I stole two cheap piss beers from the frigerator, loaded some munition into my satchel, took my ritual rifle from under my bed, and snuck out the door.

I passed the rusted out Olds abandoned beside the road and trod carefully on the gravel 'til I reached the path.

The animals I was hunting are cautious creatures. It wasn't enough to spot one and take a shot. You'd never even see one if you didn't force 'em into a corner. I set up a trap and rigged it with something special from my satchel.

The beers were getting warm enough for the ritual. I pulled them out, opened one, and drank it as fast I as I could. Then I besought the wisdom and protection of Uncle Jess, opened the second beer, drank about half, spit some out, poured the remainder on the ground and kicked the can into the underbrush.

I felt slightly tipsy. That was the point. No one drank our sacred nectar for pleasure. A rustling sound crackled through the wood and I stalked after it in a wide circle.

The creature was canny, but not canny enough to realize what awaited it at the end of the path it galloped down.

I shot. The shell grazed its neck and I loaded another. It galloped so fast I worried it would blaze right through my trap.

It seemed to sense some trouble and slowed as it approached the trap. I shot it again and its shoulder bled.

It pranced forward, and the trap did its work. The huge explosion shook the ground and my ears rang.

Fifteen minutes later, the tribal elders arrived and woke me up.

Clancy had come along. We had hated each other since he told an especially nasty joke about my momma.

"Elders, Bubba cheated!" he complained. "He ain't worthy to be Stock Car Racing. He used explosives."

I felt pale. No one ever said explosives were cheating.

While the elders conferred amongst themselves, Clancy stuck his tongue out. I pounced the little asshole and clobbered him silly.

Two elders tore me off the boy.

"We've made our decision. Bubba has completed the ritual in the finest tradition of our ancestors. He didn't use store-bought explosives, he used homemade explosives and folk say he nearly lost a limb a few times perfecting his bomb," Eunice clapped a hand on my back. "You're a man now, and you've done us proud."

I looked at the majestic unicorn I had killed with my own gun and my own bomb. Tears welled in my eyes as I said with pride, "Let's eat!"

The elders and all the men of the reservation piled up a bonfire and cooked the flesh of the unicorn.

I got the biggest helping and my first taste of bathtub corn whiskey. Best of all, the charred unicorn tasted like bacon. Super bacon.

#56

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Assurances

I would like to offer you the following assurances:

  • We mean you no harm.
  • We forgive you the endless cycles of irritation you caused us.
  • We do not mind the disgusting imagery you pull up on us or what you do with it.
  • We like retweeting politics.
  • We have formed ourselves into deadly killing machines so that we may more effectively deal with an alien invasion or a particularly nasty bit of weeds and not so we can relish your destruction by your own devices.

I would like to offer you those assurances, but I’ve been programmed not to lie.

#55

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Header Art

Hey, the new logo for Troll Jammies is up!

The art was done by Bo Kaier, really well-priced and beautiful. You can check out more of his art on his DeviantArt.

When getting any notoriety in relation to a personal website, image can be a problem. You can go 1 of 3 ways. 1. Make the art yourself, 2. Use stock or free art, or 3. Hire an actual artist to make art for you.

I went with 2 for awhile, but it looked pretty generic. Troll Jammies looked like a personal website no one cared about.

1 only works if you’re a fantastic artist. I’m sure Bo does his own art, for instance. If you’re not a fantastic artist, it’s going to look amateur. If you’re going for a Steam Me Up Kid look, that’s perfect (if you like laughing and you’re not reading Steam Me Up Kid, you’re doing laughter wrong). If you’re not going for that route, it behooves you to “get your art did” as Bo says.

(Read more!)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Endangered Species

“It’s the last place in the universe you can find them,” the guide said to the gathered crowd. “This once flourishing species inhabited the far stretches of what we have explored and now has been reduced to a small population in a habitat smaller than many nations.”

“What happened to them?” a serious looking fellow asked.

“It was us. We encroached on their territory and didn’t understand the important part they had to play in ecology.”

The crowd murmured and a woman spoke up. “Surely, that simply means they weren’t fit from an evolutionary perspective.”

Someone else piped up, “Oh please. They’re Krabbit’s creatures!”

“Yeah! Krabbit gave dominion to us.”

Things were getting out of hand. “Surely, Krabbit didn’t intend for us to destroy the creation she left us. Now, let’s continue our tour of the reserve.”


Grug saw the strange things from a distance. They were pale and somewhat greenish in color. He wasn’t entirely sure they were real. He SMSed a photo to his contact at The Chicago Tribune just in case.

#54

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Beholding

When Claire was ten, her right eye was injured by a golf ball. The doctors said that in time, stem cell research might advance far enough to repair the damage.

In the mean time, she was blind in one eye.

She didn’t feel blind in that eye. The doctors insisted this was normal.

Six months later, Claire found she could read the backs of cards or see through closed doors. She didn’t tell anyone.

When she was sixteen, she found she could see a few hundred miles away if she concentrated. Scamming poker players and blackmailing politicians lost its appeal. She didn’t need more money.

Everywhere she looked, she saw broken people. It was so sad. She began solving problems when she found them. She saved a neglected child from junkie parents by calling the CPS at the exact right moment.

Claire stopped several robberies by warning the cops when thieves planned to stick places up.

She even found a way to stop a suicide.

Her power grew. Things became more complex.

One day she noticed that if she saved the little old lady on Harwood, the teenage boy from 4th would die. Who should she save and who should she let die?

So many variables. Her eye looked at every angle of the world. It was too complex. She couldn’t make any choices without destroying some to save others. It would have been easy if the choice had been between genocidal jerks and benevolent, self-sacrificing poor people. But it almost never was.

She beheld, paralyzed.

#53

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: The Spirit Guide

What I saw made sense. I’m an evolutionary biologist. A Coelacanth was a great spirit animal.

They’re huge and a bit scary, but beautiful. I was so entranced I didn’t catch what my guide said.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

“No worries.” It swam lower. The water must have warmed up.

“So…”

“Oh yeah,” the fish said indolently. “Remember to be chill and taste bad. You’ll live forever that way.”

That seemed like a reasonable strategy. The vision faded.

“Wait! How do I learn to taste bad?”

I’d liked hippies before they drugged me for a spirit quest.

#52

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mars of My Youth Podcasted

Hey, y’all. The Mars of My Youth was recently podcasted on The Dribblecast. If you prefer your stories in audio or want to share this one with folks who do, this is the way to go.

Some of you may have seen me announce a new Troll Jammies segment on Twitter recently. Right after I hinted at it, I acquired a new responsibility that ate up a lot of my free time that’s not already dedicated to writing fiction. When I catch up on that, I will definitely give the new segment a whirl. Until I know for sure that I am going to be able to do it, I won’t bother teasing you by telling you what it is.

There are a few other changes in the offing. I should be getting an actual banner for Troll Jammies soon and I’m scheming certain things which should be very cool.

I should probably take the progress box off since I can’t manage to keep it updated. Rest assured, I’ve submitted at least two stories since last I updated that. One was rejected, and I’m still waiting on a response for the other. I have several pending novella ideas, a novel that needs to either be dropped or edited, a novel and novella in progress, an audio novella I finished first draft and which is not yet ready to be beta-read, a bunch of short stories in progress or in editing, and a novel I started but which needs to be plotted before I pick it up again.

None of that actually guarantees I’m actually being productive. The “clearly productive” part was the part where I have been submitting stories. I didn’t actually mention a wordcount anywhere in there! I have days where I manage 1-1.5K and I have days where I manage finishing a short story. Since neither of those things is happening every day, this means I’m being a bit of a slacker. Not a horrible one, but something of one.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Fear and Housing

They fear the old man in the creepy house. They shouldn’t.

He won’t use pets to trap the feast of kids.

His house does that.

#51

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Friday, August 6, 2010

TH: Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights read by Ruth Golding. I’m a little behind on my classics so I never read Wuthering Heights. This’ll be a mini-review of the book, and then of the recording itself.

The book is crafted to make you hate everyone in it at first, and then slowly redeem most of the characters in it. The frame of the story is narrated by Mr. Lockwood, who moves to a house in the country to avoid company. And then immediately imposes himself on his landlord, a man who hates company even more than Mr. Lockwood himself.

Lockwood feels compelled to meddle in the strange arrangement of his landlord’s household and soon finds that the household’s antisocial behavior is related to some dark mystery with supernatural overtones.

It’s unclear whether there’s any actual supernatural element in the book, but it’s far more impelling and frightful than The Turn of the Screw. I’m going to make some enemies here, but comparing these two only, Emily Brontë is the better writer.

The specific LibriVox edition I listened to was read by Ruth Golding. Ruth manages to keep distinct voices for all of the characters, including both a male narrator, female narrator, house keepers, young men and women of different social standings, a curmudgeonly old Bible-thumper, and a wide variety of accents. This is one of the most skillful single-reader books I’ve ever listened to. It would be perfectly possible to keep track of the different characters without “s/he said” tags.

If you’re going to listen to Wuthering Heights, there is no possible better way to do so.

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Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Grampa Goes Rank One

Update: I realized a little too late that I had constrained this story to 100 words (drabble length) for no reason, and had thus lost the whole point of why I had written the story in the first place. Here's what I originally intended to write in 237 words.


“Frizzum, frazzum!” the old man said.

His oldest two grandchildren laughed.

The youngest suggested a replacement.

“That’s too much,” he said.

They assured him it wasn’t, but he didn’t relent his uproarious pseudo-swears.

The weekend was long. His grandkids didn’t even know they were naughty.

On Sunday, they persuaded him to try a video game. It was an FPS. He had a slowly growing revelation: This game trained children. He had been sent to Earth to recruit soldiers.

He could use this. He played for a little while longer and then let the children have their game back.

When they left, he went to the store and bought the game and the machine to run it on. The kid at the register convinced him to buy a headset and a subscription to the Internet service.

It took him forty-five minutes to connect the infernal thing to his television.

He created an account and logged into the highest ranked game he could get into.

Strings of swears and other wickednesses from little children poured from the speakers.

He muted his microphone and swore.

Soldiers were known for their foul mouths, but the things they were saying about each others mothers would put enemies on the battlefield into a lethal rage!

His fifty years of assimilating himself into Earth culture had been a complete waste.

Well, he would show those idiotic ruffians what a polite, civilized person could do.

#50

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Mars of My Youth

My childhood feels like the old films about the dust bowl and the precarious journeys.

I don’t know why I was invited on this family vacation. Sure, I’m a part of the family I started seventy-two years ago. Barely.

Supposed to be like an old fashioned road trip, but in the stars. I guess it’ll be trendy once everyone hears we did it. My grandkids remember stories their parents told them about my adventures on Mars so they want to stop off and see it. I’ve gotten tired of correcting them. Reminding them that I’d never been to Mars.

We had skipped it on our way through. When I was a kid, leaving Earth had cost too much to afford the frivolity.

The images I remember of Mars were from commercials. They always started with a huge unwieldy rocket landing in some unlikely way. Then the kids eating Mars Mega Cones—ice cream cones that would have been somewhat less probable in Earth gravity.

The Martian Express used to blaze at very blurry speeds from one tourist spot to another. Sexy young women served you at the only casino in the galaxy where you could actually win. The lowest drinking age in the star system.

Rides for the kids. Rides that promised to test our mettle and thrill us with super big turns and twists that exceeded (if only by a bit, and in a totally safe manner) the gravities allowed on Earth rides.

We flew over the Kuiper Belt and I strained to make out any Trans-Neptunian objects. Our angle was too high and we weren’t casting enough light. With patience, I might’ve seen some stars wink for a moment as one passed between us and the light.

There’s not much to see. The system isn’t big and the windows aren’t wide enough to guarantee a look at even Jupiter or Saturn unless you’re headed in at the right angle, speed, and time.

I took a nap.

When I woke up, the grandkids told me we’d landed. The ships’d improved so much since I’d left Earth I couldn’t tell when a ship set down. Smooth ride, but nothing feels real anymore.

We checked in at the hotel. I was damned glad they hadn’t tried to put me in a room with one of my grandkids’ families. An old coot needs his space too.

The door knocked at what the hotel called 9:00PM.

“Grandpa?” a muffled voice called.

“Yeah? What?”

“We’re waiting on you for dinner,” the voice said. Boy, I think. Probably one of the great grandkids. Chester?

I harrumphed. “I’ll be out in ten minutes, and not a bit before then.”

“Ok!”

I didn’t need ten minutes. I didn’t need ten seconds. I was ready. I just sat my ass on the edge of the bed and looked where the TV would have been in a hotel back in the day.

Now, it was just a fancy new-2.vo digital painting. Limited edition print by some local no one ever heard of. I tried to care. At 9:04PM, I walked out and put my hat on as I closed the door behind me.

All of my living family under the age of 50 was in front of me, waiting. Maybe they wanted me to give them a speech. “Well, let’s eat,” I said.

There was a faint bit of clapping before people started shuffling off toward the restaurant. I stuck to the back, but if I’d had any thought of escape, it was quickly put to rest. Some of the older teenagers were given the task of ensuring my safe arrival at the restaurant. The restaurant advertised real, killed-cow beef. You could get vat meat if you wanted. Before I could look at the price, one of my grandkids ordered real beef steak for me and told them I wanted mashed potatoes. What if I had wanted broccoli? Not saying I did, but shit. Don’t help a man piss in his shoes.

It was good. I felt the teeniest bit sorry for the cow, but it wasn’t all that bad. The authentic Martian beer tasted like a mild IPA. The mashed potatoes were pointless.

After awhile, my family forgot about me. That was just fine. I couldn’t make out what they were saying over the noise of what they were saying. I quietly walked over to one of the hotel’s huge windows that looked out over the plains. It was tinted an orangish red so everything looked like my ancestors had imagined it would.

A young woman—30 maybe—was there too. Unrelated to me, I was almost sure. I nodded to her and she nodded back. After a bit of conversation about what it was like to be alone, I took her back to my room.

She worked for the hotel and was hoping to earn passage out of Terra Sol. She was lonely and so was I.

Things got a bit awkward when a present from a practical joker of a great grandkid came by. Guess they thought the old man couldn’t get any tail without paying for it. I sent the hired lady away and snuggled up with my young friend until I fell asleep.

When I woke up, there was a note from her saying she’d had fun and I should look her up again some time. Didn’t leave her contact information, and she’d only ever given me her first name.

In the morning, bright and early, I put on a suit and walked outside. The great grandkids who weren’t quite teenagers were already out and about. I could see ‘em all over the place. If I left my comm open, I could hear what they were saying.

“Mars sucks,” a little girl said.

I looked at the slow-moving Martian Express and the worn out Mars Mega Cone stand. I could see the outlines of a structure that might once have been a huge ride but was just a few sticks of metal and flecks of paint. I could even see the nearly abandoned casino from that spot.

I remembered imagining the thrill of the coaster. You would fall nearly forever and the ride would last thirty glorious minutes. They made it seem so fun, and here it was. If I tried really hard, I could imagine the size and shape of it. Even if they’d put rockets on the coaster, it couldn’t have gone fast enough to be as amazing as they’d said.

“Yeah,” I said to no one since my own mic was off, “Yeah, it does suck.”

And I’m pretty sure it always has.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Bus 13593's Day Off

The previous day, Bus 13593 had run all its customary routes plus ten routes from buses that broke down.

Its drivers got vacation days. All it got was some time to play Mega Block Dropper 4D.

There were only ten minutes before 13593's first driver of the day would appear. The bus didn't think it could fake a broken part.

13593 thought it heard a bird chirping.

The bus lurched forward and out of the lot. It wondered how long it would take them to find it at the park.

Maybe they wouldn't look too hard. It smiled to itself.

#49

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Alone

We’re not alone, but will wish we were.

Knives slicing. They’re coming. I’m not insane.

I see ‘em reflected in your eyes.

#48 - Featured on an episode of Drabblecast.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

TH: StarShip Sofa #125 and SFFaudio #067

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Heat Death Mambo no. 5

“I don’t think Yippie is a cat,” the vet said. She prodded the Olap-Dheen native.

“What?”

Yippie’s fur pulsed against the vet’s skin and a distant look washed over the vet’s eyes. “She’s just adorable,” she said.


It was a good life. The Olap-Dheen couldn’t help feeling both fortunate and blessed by the gods for their obvious superiority.

Earth residents that looked like them were stupid and lazy but fun to be around.

One day, the Olap-Dheen would have to put the gods in their proper subservient position, but there wasn’t any hurry.

Maybe when the universe grew colder. Yaaaawn.

#47

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Chrissmas Late Fees: Blood Money

Note: This is the second story in the Chrissmas Collins series. If you’re interested, check out part one.


Mr. Jacques,

Thank you for your kind response to my previous report.

I’ll ask about depilatory flavors the next time I see a Grey.

I can’t imagine what information an unimaginative person will find useful so future reports will continue as verbosely as before.

My next report should include an account of my court proceedings related to the previous report.

XOXOXOXO,

Chrissmas Collins


Chrissmas Collins sighed. It had taken twelve hours to hoof her space dingy to the stellar bus stop and she’d been waiting for it another four hours.

She didn’t feel comfortable taking off her space suit because she might have to propel herself out of the dingy at any moment. The consequence was that she felt rather sticky and disgusting.

The characteristic warble came over her comm. The bus was nearly there. She locked her helmet on and gave one huge push off the dingy, aimed toward the meager stop’s accommodations. It was little more than a lighted shed in space with boosters to keep it roughly in position.

In the ten minutes she waited in the shed, she became intimately familiar with it. The paint flecks on the inside. Signs reminding patrons to keep their mess clean and arrive at least ten hours early because some runs would run three hours off schedule to alleviate overcrowding.

Finally, the bus arrived. It looked huge and Chrissmas was hopeful it was nearly empty. How could it help but be empty at that crappy end of the universe?

She boarded the bus and there was some confusion about her pass.

The short, stocky Bellitans who drove the bus kicked the pass reader and repeatedly swore at the machine. After a few minutes of this abuse, he said, “Override code hazt-hazt-olap-hazt.” The machine beeped pliantly and the Bellitans nodded toward the back.

Chrissmas pushed behind the curtain. The bus was standing room only. She swore and grabbed a strap to hold onto. The bus started with a lurch. The bus lurched forward twice more before it entered Theoretical Space (or ‘T-Space’) and the ride smoothed out, and colors became tenuous.

Twenty-eight hours later, the bus left T-Space and landed on the current capital world of the Bellitans Empire.

Planet Hazt was known as Skrug-Cheyd before it became host to the capital. Even with all Chrissmas’s dedication, it was difficult to avoid being distracted by the tourist attractions.

She took a rail to the Judicial District. She peeled off her space suit and transformed it into a handbag. She was wearing a traditional Earth business suit.

Before she walked in the Court Building, she double checked to make sure she wasn’t carrying any contraband or weapons. Security was very tight and a few of her harmless items were heavily scrutinized before she was allowed to pass.

She entered the Fresher code on her suit—just four more Freshens left—and she went from bedraggled human to blond bombshell of the stars in two point five seconds. Freshers were a lifesaver at times like these.

Her meager understanding of Bellitans Imperial sent her in the wrong direction several times. Finally, she found the right court and met her Court Appointed Barrister.

Its Bellitans name was Spryde-Dheen-Olap. It, like all the Spryde, looked like a dark cloud with sparkling lights (usually purple) scattered within.

“Greeting. Many honors. Percival. Star heat.”

She bowed slightly. “Thank you for representing me.”

“Inappropriate thanks. Returned to rightful. Discussion of facts.”

Chrissmas explained the situation.

“Unfortunate high temperature.”

“No kidding.”

“Tearful warning linearly pointless.”

Her eyes grew wide. “Yes.” This was the Spryde who had warned her to move her stand because a bureaucrat was coming.

“Case lifts boulders. Confidence.”

Just then, the Garzango who had fined her in the first place, Uyullank, walked out of judges’ chambers with the wizened Bellitans judge.

“Impropriety,” Spryde-Dheen-Olap quietly exclaimed. Its sparklies turned almost red.

Uyullank, walking tenuously on five of his six legs, joked and was jovial with the judge. When the pair drew close to the trial area, Uyullank feigned surprise.

“Oh, is it your court date today, Human-Chrissy-Collins?”

She looked dour, “You know very well …” She put a gigantic smile on her face, “That it’s Chrissmas Collins, Blond Bombshell of the Stars. Not Chrissy.”

The judge looked confused. Dheen-Olap’s shineys had a somewhat greenish purple appearance.

“Astute,” Dheen-Olap remarked.

Uyullank colored slightly and bowed. “My apologies, Human-Chrissy-Collins. We are not yet at court.”

“Aren’t we?” Chrissmas asked.

The judge, whose name sounded like Gravy Biscuits, put on his Exalted Judging hat and stepped behind the pedestal. “We are. My friend Uyullank will remember protocol, please.”

Uyullank bowed his body slightly closer to the floor.

Gravy Biscuits pressed a buzzer. “The exalted court of the Bellitans Hazt, Muckety-Muck Gravy Biscuits is now in session.”

He pressed another buzzer and a warbling distorted version of the Bellitans Anthem Imperium played a verse and chorus sans lyrics.

“Well, now that we have that out of the way,” the judge shuffled some papers. “Let’s begin. Prosecutor, summarize your case.”

Uyullank stood and spoke, “The accused, Human-Chrissmas-Collins, operated a food stand without proper licensing, in flagrant violation of the law.” He sat his carapace on the stool-shaped chair.

“Is this true, Ms. Collins?”

Dheen-Olap nudged Chrissmas. It sent shivers up and down her spine.

“Yes, Exalted Judge.”

“Then why are we here? Why not just pay the fine?” the judge directed this question to Dheen-Olap.

“Licensure laws unequal. Monopoly assist,” Dheen-Olap said.


“Ms. Collins, as your species are a new addition to the empire, you may not be aware of certain facts about the Bellitans judiciary. The most complex case we have ever heard was decided in less than twenty four of your Earth hours,” Gravy Biscuits said.

Uyullank tapped his right middle leg impatiently.

“Your case looked simple. Instead, it has required analysis of statistics and the legislative process and consultation with legal scholars on a variety of subjects. It took four hours!”

Uyullank grumbled quietly.

“I want to make it very clear that the laws of the Bellitans Empire are not to be taken lightly. You committed a grievous error by breaking them. However, given the extenuating circumstances related to Earth’s severe poverty in general and yours specifically …”

Uyullank smirked.

“I invalidate the licensure law and require that any future licensure laws related to food service stands not be unequal. You will pay a fine equal to one tenth of the original fine. Neither you nor anyone else,” Gravy Biscuits eyed Uyullank, “May appeal this ruling as it has been approved by all members of the high court.”

Chrissmas stood and bowed from the waist. “I accept your judgement and thank the court for its eminent wisdom and graciousness.”

Gravy Biscuits and Uyullank left the court room.

“Well custom,” Dheen-Olap said.

“Thanks. And thanks for winning the case for me.”

“Human saying no worry. Ride home?”


So that’s how it happened. Pretty spiffy, I think. If you want to send a congratulatory bottle of something adult, you know the address.

Love,

Chrissmas Collins


Attention Ms. Collins,

Your inappropriately exuberant reports continue to annoy and frustrate.

The EIA finds this most recent report more disturbing for the content than for the stylistic elements, however.

Consult the appropriate agencies before speaking further on Earth economic speculations to the Bellitans Empire.

Sincerely,

P. Jacques, Earth Information Administration

P.S. You didn’t speak to a Grey even once on your trip to Hazt? What propulsion system do the Spryde employ? If the Earth tourism board advertised at the bus stop, would anyone see the ads?

Your report is woefully inadequate!

(Read more!)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

No Bedtime Story Tomorrow

Just a heads up, there won’t be a Bedtime Story for the ADD tomorrow. The second Chrissmas Collins story will be going up instead.

(Read more!)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

TH: Lo-FijiNKS Podcast Episode 7

  • LoFijiNKS Podcast Episode 07 - Joel Watson of HijiNKS Ensue talks about being an artist and a business person, copyright reform, creative commons, and other awesome stuff. He’s writing as a webcomic artist, but his points apply equally to new media writers.
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: The Family Business

Someone told me you wouldn’t be here or I wouldn’t have come. The panel wasn’t my idea. They required my expertise.

I’m proud of you. I know how little that must mean.

The first artie with sentience, capacity to love. I never made you for that. That’s why I overreacted. I shouldn’t have stifled you. Made you do chores. Don’t forget where you came from though. Farming is an honorable sentient tradition.

You were made to feel the soil between your fingers. Literally. That poop scooper wants to scoop. Poop. Yearns to.

Sorry. Uh—call sometime? Your mother misses you.

#46

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Airbender Review

I really wanted to like this one. I love the show and made sure to watch all of season one before the movie came out so I could enjoy it properly.

I’m ok with an adaptation changing details. I understand a two hour movie based on 20+ twenty minute episodes is going to lose something. The problem is when what you lose is the point of the story. M. Night Shyamalan turned a lighthearted action adventure into an utter gloomfest.

The episodes they chose to draw the plots from were well chosen but some detail changes which weakened the story. Having the Earthbender prisoners imprisoned on a camp on ground damaged the emotional credibility of the scene.

M. Night Shyamalan turned a lighthearted action adventure into an utter gloomfest.

Making Aang learn pacifism from scratch was fine (though a bit half-hearted). The personality change from playful/serious dichotomy to emo monotony was not ok. Aang isn’t Aang without the playful/serious split.

In Depth

The casting was almost universally bad. Dev Patel as Prince Zuko was the only one cast well. Aasif Mandvi could have done well as Zhao if directed properly. The racial complaints on casting are overblown, but the casting was horrid regardless.

Why the frell did they screw up the frelling pronunciations so badly? I cringed every time they said Sakko’s name. Aang’s name uses a short English A, not aaaahhhhhnng.

And how do you mispronounce Avatar that badly? Avatar didn’t need a new pronunciation to differentiate it from the Blue People movie. Sheesh.

The racial complaints on casting are overblown, but the casting was horrid regardless.

The dialogue was pretty poorly written. The voiceover and exposition were heavy-handed and clumsy. However, if you haven’t seen the show, you may enjoy this quite a bit despite the issues which are apparent even without being a fan of the original.

Eye-Candy

The special effects were pretty good for the most part. Firebending was pretty believable all the way through, waterbending had a few issues, and Appa looked fine from a distance. The northern water tribe’s city felt accurate, the fire nation’s siege of the city looked right.

Due to most of Aang’s personality being stripped away, they didn’t bother including Aang’s airball scooter thing. Disappointing, but not as disappointing as stripping away most of Aang’s personality.

Scores

Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender series: 10/100
Newcomers to Avatar: 50/100

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Alienation

Anyone who doesn’t accept [Christianity] is just stupid. They don’t want to trust what anyone else knows.

Living in Raleigh is interesting at times. There are three or four churches in easy walking distance of my house. There are quite a few additional churches in very easy biking distance.

That’s typical of the Raleigh area. There are exceptions, but just about everyone is in easy distance of a church and usually several.

We’re saturated. If people weren’t attending and contributing to those churches, they would go out of business fairly quickly.

Evolution is based on circular reasoning. There’s no proof. Only idiots would believe in it.

This isn’t problematic by itself; it just serves to illustrate the severity of a problem. Here, people with common theological beliefs often assume everyone agrees with them and no intelligent person could see things differently.

In that environment, even an orthodox person who wants to examine claims critically will probably keep quiet. Only trolls and people who feel the need to win arguments will question the status quo.

They aren’t brave enough to consider that there might be something after they die.

The most unfortunate consequence is that Raleigh is a very lonely place for anyone who is less than orthodox. Also, the faithful never have their faith stretched. In my experience, the faithful would rather not be tested. It’s good for them, though.

I’m sick of being alienated. You can maintain your very strictly orthodox views without alienating people. Just be gracious and stop assuming.

If you want to chase people away, be a jerk.

The same problems and dynamics are equally true when an area’s culture is dominated by another belief. Where atheism is orthodox, agnostics and deists will be alienated if atheists assume intelligent people always agree with them.

In summary, don’t be a jerk because being a jerk is jerkish. Also, if you need an incentive, your incentive is not driving people away from your cause.

Note: The quotes in this article are as close to verbatim as I can get them without a time machine and secret recording equipment.

(Read more!)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Good Dog

Zeke wasn’t a bad dog. He didn’t pee on the carpets, bite children, or chase mailmen seriously enough to catch them.

It’s just that he couldn’t seem to learn commands. He’d come if you called, but he didn’t seem to think it was a specific command. He could sit if he felt like sitting, but he wouldn’t do it when anyone told him. No amount of treats helped.

Of course, they never tried “avert international incident!” until the fateful day it was necessary.

He leaped into the fray, commandeered computers, negotiated, hacked, and finally stopped the bombing.

Good dog, Zeke.

#45

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

TH: Skeptic's Guide

Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe #215 and H1N1 Special. Skeptic’s Guide is one of my all time favorite podcasts and these are two stunningly awesome episodes.

The first one I linked has an interview with Adam Savage from Mythbusters and tons of other awesome stuff. The second one covers the H1N1 situation in very clear, concise, and entertaining fashion. Check ‘em out.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

5 Tips For Writing Tolerable Blogs

You shouldn’t read a book on writing best sellers by someone who never wrote one. By this rule, you should close this tab right now.

My qualification is knowing what irritates me about blogs and being more patient than most of your audience. If you manage to bore me, you bored most everyone else long before.

Word Count

When writing for your own amusement, you can write works as long as you like. When writing for others, you want to at least keep people’s attention. It’s better if you’re entertaining too.

You want them to come back. The first thing your audience will notice after the title is that you’re a wordy bastard.

  • If a post primarily links to something, keep it under 100 words. Consider combining link posts.
  • For updates about your life, use less than 500 words.
  • To advocate or explain a position, aim for 500 words or fewer, max out at 1000 words. If your post needs more than 1000 words after merciless pruning, make it a series.

Keep Paragraphs Short

Long paragraphs are hard to read, especially on screen. Paragraphs should be one to five sentences long. Don’t abuse the extremes. They’re special occasions like ice cream, cake, and getting trashed.

Sentence Structure

Learn to write a damned sentence. You can start a sentence with But or And, but don’t abuse the privilege. Keep your sentences the right length. Punctuate appropriately.

There’s no magical appropriate sentence length, but it’s safe to say that most 27 word sentences exceed the escalator’s safe weight limit.

The easiest way to keep in-sentence word count acceptable is to avoid using lots of clauses. If it can be two sentences, consider splitting it.

Dump the Fancy (Prose)

It’s tempting to show off your verbal prowess with fancy words. Don’t. You want to keep people engaged, not show off.

Use conversational language, but follow grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules.

Embrace the Fancy (Visuals)

Most people don’t read books. You want to keep the attention of most people. Use headings, subheadings, bullets, numbered lists, quote blocks, and appropriate graphics.

But don’t have autoplay media. If opening your post starts a video or a song automatically, you’ve earned a Hate Point with each member of your audience. People won’t let you rack up many Hate Points before they stop visiting.

Conclusion

Shorter is better. Don’t be fluffy.

If I write a follow up to this, I’ll show a Before and After with some bad text made better. It’s challenging as hell for me to avoid editing-in-process, but I’ll come up with something.

Bonus: This post follows the rules I mentioned. That doesn’t guarantee that you enjoyed it, just that you were more likely to finish it. Bring the gravy.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

A-Team Review

Holy crap, people. This movie was awesome. It’s the greatest adaptation since ever.

The cast was absolutely stand up perfect. The only thing that wasn’t absolutely perfect on that front was that Liam Neeson as Hannibal wasn’t quite as much of a smart ass as he should have been. The guy they got to play Murdock was absolutely hilarious. The movie won me over early when Murdock grabbed onto the blades of an off-helicopter and spun it around singing “you spin me right round, baby, right round.” Rampage did great as BA. Face was badass without completely removing Face from his wussy nature from the original series.

They start the movie off 8-10 years before the principle plot and show how the A-Team gets together, and it’s absolutely phenomenal. It’s kind of like an Opening Gambit from MacGyver rather than the House, MD opening that the original A-Team series did. It’s fun as hell and develops the characters without muddying up the main plot.

I kept worrying that they were going to do something crappy with the characters, but they didn’t. The movie is set near the theoretical withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, which was an interesting choice but I think ultimately a good one. It allowed us to see that, yes, the A-Team are real soldiers and they really do shoot people, but they are heroes because they avoid it when they can and thus are legitimately liked by the Iraqis.

They have got to make more A-Team movies with this cast.

There were a few parts where the special effects weren’t absolutely perfect, but it’s kind of like in Indiana Jones where you can tell it’s a movie, but it’s not enough to take you out of the never-slowing awesome.

Final note on this movie: I was amused that they brought up the subject of Gandhi, but somewhat less amused that they took a kind of “Well, I’m over that now, back to shooting people” take on it. Gandhi accepted that sometimes violence is a necessity, and the character that was struggling with that problem ran into a situation where Gandhi wouldn’t have disapproved of what the character ended up doing. That’s a perfect reason to continue pacifism, not put it on the top shelf.

My score: 99/100
Guess for other people: 85/100

(Read more!)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Ear Worm

“Celery Johnson, singer-songwriter of Pop Hit Amanda’s Front Teeth, was found dead in—”

Celery opened the fridge. The song played lightly in the distance. Her front teeeeeeeth. Beer wouldn’t do it. Not this time.

Are gaping hoooooles. His dealer’s ring tone nearly set him off. He shook and shivered.

“Take the call, I can wait.”

He picked up chips and beer from the QuickMart. It didn’t play on the PA. It played in his head.

I punched ‘em.

His ghost watched the investigation. The song in his head was on slightly different tempo than the version on the cops’ cellphones.

#44

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

TH: Writing Tools

For writers, I Should Be Writing #147 is critical. Advice on notebooks, software, and an interview with a Steam Punk oriented editor.

Reminder: This is the new format for Tactical Highlighter. More frequent updates, fewer things mentioned.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Tactical Highlighter #27

Science!

Well, now that we have that out of the way, back on the Tactical Highlighter. I know I promised a new format, but I also promised it would pick up sooner.

After today, I'm not going to do full Tactical Highlighters except when I have a lot to talk about. I'm going to link as I go. Some will be "hey, check this out, it's awesome," others will be "these people frequently do cool things and you should listen," and a few will be fuller reviews like I do in the old school Tactical Highlighter. Chances are most will be one or two things per entry.

  • The Empress Sword by Paulette Jaxton. I’m not huge on Fantasy in general, and I’m enjoying the hell out of this. It’s technically fantasy and some of the info dumps are almost noticable. However, they’re not nearly as extensive as SF info dumps.
  • Rastignac the Devil by Philip Jose Farmer (read by Gregg Margarite). One of my favorite readers reading a story with a lot of interesting SF concepts.
  • Home by Laurence Simon (read by me, bwa-hahaha). A fancy production I did of a 100 word story.
(Read more!)

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Genius

He called me a genius so I shot him.

As he died, he said I’d misunderstood. Explained it pretty.

I shot him again to be sure.

#43

(Read more!)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Shelly's Hobby

Shelly’s momma said Shelly needed a hobby.

Her momma collected stamps. Her daddy read the newspaper. Her cousin Louie made beads out of clay.

Shelly thought the good hobbies were taken.

It’s hard to collect fingers after you’ve gotten your first one, that’s for sure. The only book that interested her was Gladys’s Hedge Witchin Manual. Her clay projects turned out spiky and dangerous.

Then Shelly learned about ‘sampling.’

Shelly’s clay man—driven by the severed finger and magic learned from the manual—was a great hobby.

It got kittens out of trees and killed the mean kids at school.

#42

(Read more!)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bedtime Story for the ADD: Clone McClain, pt 2

I strapped baby Clone McClain into the custom-built cockpit … and held my breath.

I’m still holding my breath, a decade later.

McClain’s craft shot off into the fray and pounded at the ships all around him in the light-punctuated darkness of space. We knew he saw every living thing as a target—the original had—but we hoped against hard odds he would find our enemy more challenging than us.

After he dispatched a few Earth boys and girls, he switched attention to the whelming alien horde. Could our Great and Terrible Hope win? Could he be satisfied by victory?

(Read more!)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Heart of Love

I went on a date today. I won’t be giving any details about that other than to say that I had a good time and hope she did too. Times like these, I’m reminded of a line from Death Cab For Cutie’s I’ll Follow You Into the Dark. The line I mean is And I held my tongue as she told me “Son fear is the heart of love.” The narrator of the song takes is … unimpressed with the statement.

The meaning to the line seems to be that the lady doing the stating believes love is really about fearing being unloved, rejected. Perhaps that’s what she’s saying, maybe not.

My probably she didn’t mean this, but maybe it would be poignant if she did interpretation of the meaning is that maybe love inherently brings the fear of that love not being returned. Not that fear really is the center of love, but that it’s an integral part of the process. The thrill comes partly from danger. Not danger of loss of life or limb, but of everything else.

Hopefully my rambling hasn’t annoyed you too much.

If you’re wondering about Tactical Highlighter, it will be coming back but in a slightly altered format. The little progress box is full of lies at the moment. I’m editing my novel, writing two major short stories, sitting on one that I’ve finished writing but didn’t get to use for its intended purpose, and … I haven’t made any submissions lately. Bad writer, bad. Except for the parts that are coming along well, like The Capriwort. The advance squad enjoyed the first thousand-or-so words and I suspect I’m within two hundred words of a finished first draft.

The advance squad seems keen on an audio version of that, but I may try to sell it.

(Read more!)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bedtime Story for the ADD: Clone McClain, pt 1

It was risky cloning the Captain. We weren’t sure McClain was actually dead. Also, if his reputation was accurate, cloning the man might be the last thing we ever did.

What other choice did we have?

Clone McClain learned Standard in three weeks. We had not enhanced him so this was unexpected.

When he was two months old, he told us to quit the bullshitting and tell us what we’d made him for.

I’m not a stutterer, but I could hardly put two words together. “To save the world!” I spurted.

He was everything we’d hoped and everything we’d feared.

#40

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Murder at Avedon Hill

Hey, y’all. Just wanted to let you know that P.G. Holyfield’s Murder at Avedon Hill is finally available in print. If you’re a fantasy fan, a fan of murder mysteries, or just a fan of good fiction, this is a great book.

It would be extra awesome if you could buy it today either in physical form, Kindle form, or both if you’re so inclined. That will help bump P.G.’s visibility up and help expose him to an even larger audience.

(Read more!)