Blog Archives

“One More For The Road” — Learning to drive in a future where nobody knows how to drive

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Yes, this one is about acquiring an archaic skill that nobody needs — driving an uncomputerized car in a time when cars not only drive themselves, but have no user-accessible steering wheel, accelerator, brake, not even a switch for the headlights. Where your car not only drives you, but it also comes to your side when you call — literally.

Stories that simple are never that simple, and there’s a lot more than that to this novelette — which, by the way, is available as preorder until its 27th July 2016 release, and of course as an instant purchase after that at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and Google Play Books.

It’s about learning to see past the context of your time and place in history, learning to see what in your society helps and what holds you back, about a woman going hand-to-hand with caveman tech just to see if she can.

I posted more about it in an earlier post.

I also wrote a short description that appears where it is sold: “Angela’s world is automated — the cars drive themselves. Houses and tablets and phones are always listening to tell you how to do things and warn you against things you’re not supposed to do. When she and her boyfriend inherit an old-style manual-drive car, it inspires her to try to master it — and to realize how little a person actually controls in a technological,automated world.”

And I think you should buy a copy because I enjoyed the hell out of finishing it and loved seeing how it ended — I think that enjoyment and love shines through in the finished product.

Thanks.

[Also, just so you know, over on Patreon my patrons got a free copy a few days ago (and you can still get one by becoming a patron and scrolling down to the post and downloading your preferred format) — not only did they not have to wait for the preorder to release, but they also didn’t have to pay. Good deal, no?]

Genre Is Small — inspired by the Star Wars Greeks of Travis Durden

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Some art that made me say, “cool!” and a few tweets led to some bigger thoughts on genre writing – which is a pretty normal thing, small ideas leading to larger ones, if you’ve done some writing or pretty much any art I can think of or serious thinking.

I found Travis Durden’s Star Wars Greek statuary through a tweet I saw a couple of hours ago (on the 27th — this post first appeared on my Patreon page  (would you like to support a not-quite-starving writer? Please do! Because every penny helps tear down the budget worries that often occupy my mind when I’d rather be writing) in the wee hours of the 28th) (tweet posted below). Durden’s art is seriously neat stuff.

 

Which lead to this tweet:

 

And this one:

And finally this one:

 

After I graduated from kiddie books so many years ago, I cut my reading teeth on science fiction. I tried reading the paperbacks my father brought home from used bookstores and quickly learned to look for the short story collections and anthologies — I’d recently learned to read, it was hard enough to work through all the words I didn’t recognize without trying to figure out what was going on in a whole novel. But the shorter short stories, in those early years, I could wrap my mind around those. And remember (well, you might not have known, so I’m telling you) this was in the mid-70s, when certainly many authors in science fiction and elsewhere may have been experimental in their writing, but the mainstream in short science fiction stories was heavy with straightforward plots, traditional story arcs, and mysteries resolved with a single final twist. There’s plenty of that now, to be sure. But either there was more then or those are what I remember because they’re the stories I understood as a child.

 

That’s a long way to go to say that science fiction seemed huge to me, but it did. It seemed huge and very distinct because it was my entire fictional world then. Nursery rhymes and the little stories found in early reader books — if you’ve had or been around small children just learning to read much, you’ll recall them — hardly counted.

 

And science fiction is distinct, or at least distinctive. The definition has been endlessly debated over, but most of us who read much of it recognize it when we see it. The same goes for the other genres I mentioned in that last tweet. Horror is distinct enough that we notice the difference, for example, when we read a Stephen King horror story as opposed to a Stephen King something else. Legends have a pretty distinct definition. Magical realism blurs the lines — sometimes it’s fantasy, sometimes it’s science ficiton, sometimes it’s literary, sometimes, sometimes, sometimes.

 

That’s the genre that really makes the point, with its blurryness.

 

They’re all blurry, really. Think of Star Wars: get a SW fan who calls it science fiction and a SW fan who calls it science fantasy in the same room and watch the genre boundary argument fur fly.

 

We love to dicker over what story counts as which genre and who’s that writer whose work is called X but really it’s more Y don’t you think?

 

To say they’re all fiction is too simplistic. But there’s that in pointing out that genres are small things that cannot really contain a story, not the large and well-defined things we’re tempted to think of them as, that we often reflexively think of them as after a scholastic lifetime of being taught the boundaries of genre.

 

They’re all stories. They’re all about human beings and what human beings do and think and feel and wonder. All of them, even the genres where there is debate as to whether or not they’re fiction or nonfiction: mythology, legend, religion.

 

They’re stronger when they wander, stories are. When we get it into our minds that we can’t write in X event because we’re writing science fiction or that Y character doesn’t make sense because we’re reading fantasy, we weaken the stories that we might otherwise love, whether we’re reading them, writing them, or representing them in other forms of art. For centuries fiction and poetry have derived inspiration and imagery from religion and mythology and legend (assuming you divide stories that faith has grown up around into those rather than lumping them together). Star Wars is beloved science fiction in part because it incorporates elements of fantasy and legend and even, at least in the beginning, of the Western movie.

 

Try picking out a few of your favorite stories that have won wide acclaim or are considered enduring classics. Give them a read with this in mind, and look for where the genres blur. You don’t need a story that glaringly throws seventeen genres together; one that’s mostly in one but draws in bits of others is just fine — even better, in fact.

 

Much like the ancient advice that a single stick alone is weak but a bundle of those same sticks is strong together, I think you’ll find that stories that gather together elements of different genres are the strongest.

 

And I also think that it’s more than worth the effort to seek them out as a reader, and to try to create them as a writer.

Thirteen Word Story: Misanthrope’s Paw

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After his robot armies finished their bloody work, the last human discovered loneliness.

Relativity For Your Mouth

Our perceptions are WAY more dependent on our expectations and preconceptions than we like to think.

Do you think, perhaps, that this extends beyond food to our social and political worlds? I’m wondering, too, how it has colored my perception of short stories and novels I’ve liked or disliked in the past.

Hmm!

Eulogy For An Internet Badass –OR– Why I Cut Arguments Short And Don’t Hesitate On The Block Button

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A 13 word story:

Decades arguing at strangers

Found dead on his laptop

Stroked out on trollrage

————-

I’ve had my share of internet arguments. Some of them were lengthy, acrimonious, and frankly, in hindsight, utterly ridiculous. Happily, I haven’t gone full ridiculous in quite some time, and I don’t think I’ll be going back in the future.

I still don’t hesitate to disagree online, or even to argue. But these last few years, I have come to understand that no matter how outrageous I find the other person’s position or statements to be, there’s no profit in giving in to anger. “Argument” doesn’t have to be about rage. It’s possible to argue with a bit of sense. And when it’s apparent that the other person is trolling and raging, well, that’s what the block button is for. Just about every place you can have an internet argument has some version of blocking.

I used to avoid using block functions, as if doing so was some badge of open-minded honor. Well, I do take some pride in maintaining an open mind in general. But that doesn’t mean I have to waste my time dealing with abusive people, or with people whose primary or even sole recreation is making other people angry on the internet, or with people who just want to argue to argue.

There are enough trolls online that the trolls can find their own kind to bother after I’ve blocked them, and enough reasonable people, even reasonable people with whom I have deep and fundamental differences of opinion, to find good conversation online no matter how many thousands of people I block on social media and elsewhere.

For as long as I can remember, I have been quick to anger, and my anger can burn very hot. My father was the same way; some of it is my disposition, but it is also a behavior reinforced by his example in my childhood. Later in life, he began to learn to step back from his anger and engage his brain before his temper got him in trouble.

As I recall, he started to really ‘get it’ in his 40s. Well, that’s where I am now.

I guess the apple only fell so far from the tree.

Anyhow. I have no intention of ending up stroked out from rage in front of my computer — because I know how easy it would be for me to end that way if I were to give in to the troll side of the Force.

Garbage Music: a Story About Listening, Understanding, and Things Beyond Words. Also, Australia.

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A short story, about 5000 words.

Young Jacinta Jaara likes to sit by the old landfill mine and listen to the music ancient Neyerneyemeet plays. The music speaks of her of the old days, when the people of Australia were divided, before the war that changed everything. Soon, Jacinta’s curiosity will lead her to an even more profound change, a change of growth, learning, and understanding.

And there’s the blurb. You can preview the first thirty percent and decide if you’d like to shell out a paltry 99 cents for the whole thing on Smashwords — and I hope you’ll look. If you don’t look, how can I persuade you that you want to see the rest of the story?  🙂

Another Cover Redesign: Visions of Odd

I don’t know how many more of these redesigns of old covers I’m going to do.  I’m kind of attached to the covers I did a year or year and a half ago.  I’m kind of attached to the old cover for this one.  But it’s a bit clunky, and looks a little more like… well, like an amateur did it.  As expected.  I was an amateur then.  I am a somewhat more skilled amateur now.

Still, I love the new cover (which is the one on the right of the image below, if you hadn’t guessed).  I’m happy with my work, and with my progress.

If you’d like to actually read this ebook, it costs a buck ninety-nine and can be found at any of the fine retailers listed under ‘buy my books’ to your right.  Seven stories, all flash fiction and vignettes, about 8,400 words.  I think you’ll be pleased.

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Culinary Adventure: Chocolate Rosemary Bread Pudding

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From time to time… okay, often… I decide to embark on a culinary adventure.  Sometimes it’s as simple as buying a new spice and trying it out on everything that I cook for a week or two.  Usually it’s trying something I haven’t tried before.  Lately it’s bread pudding.  This is the second one I’ve made.  The first was much the same, only with the zest of an orange rather than the cocoa powder.  Both have come out delicious.  I’ll give you the recipe of this one, if you’re interested in trying it out.  It’s not as sweet as some bread puddings I’ve had.  So pairing with ice cream or a sweet sauce of your own creation is recommended.

I am a ‘by eye’ home cook.  By that, I mean: I am not a chef, I have never been a food service professional of any description, my understanding of recipes is that they are rough guidelines meant to be played with, and my concept of measuring ingredients is sloppy at best.

Stuff for Chocolate Rosemary Bread Pudding: one jumbo ramekin… I guess the thing is about 8″ across.

One loaf of french bread or similar (about a pound)

One loaf of rosemary olive oil bread (about a pound) (I’d have added the leaves of a healthy (what, maybe 3 or 4 inches long?) sprig of fresh rosemary, minced, if it hadn’t already been rosemary bread)

A stick of unsalted butter

7 large eggs

3 1/2, maybe 4 cups of milk (I measured 3 and freehanded the rest when the mixture was too dry. You want wet, but no free liquid wandering around)

Cocoa powder — I’m guessing I probably put half a cup in.  Maybe a little more.  It’s definitely chocolatey.

1 cup sugar

Molasses — at a guess, a quarter cup?  I drizzled it in until I was happy with it.

Cayenne pepper — a pinch. Less than half a teaspoon, more than a quarter.  You don’t want to taste it, you just want it in the background giving the chocolate a little boost.

—–

Cut the bread roughly into cubes.  Put about half of them into a large mixing bowl.

Melt the butter.

Drizzle the bread with melted butter and sprinkle with cocoa powder & cayenne.

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl of their own.

Add the milk, sugar, and molasses to the milk and beat until the sugar dissolves.

Pour about half of it over the bread and mix it around a bit with your (clean) hands until the bread soaks up the liquid.  This reduces the volume of the bread, giving you room to add more bread and liquid until it’s all in there.  Try not to mix it up too much.  You don’t want mush, you want the bread soaked but most of it still holding its shape.

Grease (butter, shortening, lard, or other edible solid cooking fat) the ramekin and flour it.

Put into a 350 degree oven and cook it until a knife plunged into its chocolatey heart comes out mostly but not completely clean, and hot.

Let it rest for half an hour on the counter.

Remove from ramekin, slice, and devour.  If you haven’t tried it before, chocolate plays remarkably well with a bit of rosemary.  If you want to try it with ice cream, I’d start with good old classic vanilla.  I think it’d be a good counterpoint to the relatively aggressive and rich flavor of this bread pudding.

This Ought to be Interesting

So, tomorrow I begin final preparations to load myself onto a Greyhound bus and head from Norfolk, VA to Washington, D.C. for a school thingiee.  This ‘thingiee’ will last a week and will involve attending lectures, role-playing exercises meant to build skills to use in mental health counseling, being videotaped, meeting with academic advisors, and plenty of other stuff.

Since my means are humble (read: my family lives close to the belt and has little to spare beyond meeting a modest set of bills that keep a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and the internet we need to attend online classes and for me to publish new ebooks), this will be a trip on a shoestring.

I’ll be staying in a hostel because D.C. hotel prices that’s why.  I’ll be taking the Metro across town because this thingiee takes place in the Crystal City section of Arlington nearby, and the prices are much higher there.

I’m looking forward to meeting some interesting people and hearing some interesting stories.  I hope some of those stories will enrich my writing.  I enjoy traveling, but haven’t been able to do any in years.  I don’t expect I’ll get to do any sightseeing since the thingiee schedules plus transit time will fill most of my days.  Such is life.

But I’ll have reading material along, and some notebooks to work on my writing, and the internet through my phone so maybe I’ll have the chance to drop a few things on my blog here and my Facebook author page as well.  The Greyhound rides alone will give me a nice chunk of writing time, so I’m hoping aside from the school-y enrichment I will get a step closer to building enough new wordage to let me complete a new collection of stories soon.

No matter what happens, this ought to be interesting.  Traveling on a shoestring always is.  Here’s hoping nothing goes terribly wrong. 🙂

What Sorcery is This? –or– This Is Just A Test

Blog posts by email? Whatever will they think of next?

Wait… I’m a few years behind the curve on this one? Well. I guess I’m not quite as clever as I thought I was.

Is anyone, though? Fix it so we live ten thousand years and learning will still be a lifelong process. And we will still pass on knowing that we know very little—or that’s what we will realize if we’ve learned anything at all.