Monday, December 31, 2012

100,000 Hits

I don't run many milestone posts, but I had to do this one. Sitemeter has long been flawed, but it's been monitoring my blog for so many years that I've grown attached to its often incorrect, often low-balled numbers. Usually the number on my page and the embedded counter don't even match up. Thanks to you, yesterday the counter finally ticked over 100,000 unique visits to The Bathroom Monolouges.

It stalled out at around 99,000 several days ago, and I thought Sitemeter was finally going belly up. A shame, really, since it'd be a wonderful way to ring in 2013. I love round numbers.

While it's a milestone, it's also an excuse to thank you. Thank you for every visit, every reading, and every comment you've left. Thank you for laughing, even when inappropriate, and cringing, especially when appropriate.

The Bathroom Monologues have been a weird rabbit hole to descend into. Between hits 1 and 100,000 I've made my first pro-rate sale, gotten my first partial-request, done anthologies and writing conventions. I'm deep into writing a second novel while still figuring out the best home for the first. A lot of a career has ticked away as you've clicked. Thank you, sincerely, because you've made much of this art worthwhile.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

10 Things I Learned About How I Read the Internet in 2012

1. If you’re ranting, I will skim. I am not interested in vitriol, particularly because I’ve read so much of it that it all sounds the same to me. I want claims, evidence, and information. I can tell when you’re bending facts, and every time you make a leap of logic in order to continue attacking the opponent, my hand is getting closer to closing the tab.

2. If I’m tired or had a long day, and I have to use my scroll button at all in order to get to the point of your post, I will close the tab. More interesting was the discovery that this most frequently occurs on bad blogs and The New Yorker website. At my most generous, I will tab over and return to your work later. I don’t know when stream of consciousness and images became such a problem, but jeezy-creezy, learn to organize information.

3. Hell is somewhere north of Youtube’s comment section.

4. As much as I love long-form journalism, I don’t want to read it off a screen. 2012 was the first year where text on my monitor started to blur from reading too often. Even before eyestrain became a serious health problem, I hated clicking through five or eight pages for a single article. Somehow the digital space has not reproduced the desire to consume great lengths of text, especially not when I’m spending so much time editing my own on that same screen. Will a tablet or Kindle change this? I don’t know. The Kindle does seem gentler on the eyes.

5. List posts are starting to work on me, but in tenuous fashion. Clearly they work enough for me to write one that includes discussion of them. I used to disdain them as the lowest possible thought, but now I’m so immersed in internet culture that I recognize a little of their utility. Now it’s merely any list that has two useless, redundant, boring or common sense items in a row that will get me to ditch out. Maybe I’ve already done so to you.

6. If there is a pop-up ad begging me to sign up for an RSS feed or mailing list, or to LIKE you on Facebook, I will close the tab immediately. You do not throw advertising in my face before I’ve read your content.

7. I don’t need gurus or motivational speakers. Seth Godin is for other people. When these things work for other people, they make me happy because those people are finding satisfaction. When those people try to turn me into a follower, I tune out.

8. Dozens of people will unfollow you if you tweet about trying to find a liver donor for your dying cousin.

9. Dozens of people will retweet you in an effort to find an Alzheimer’s patient who wandered from home.

10. It’s still big a mixed bag. Bring on 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: The Original Tuesday

The meteor shower began Tuesday and ran into August. Isaiah only noticed them on his morning drive to work, with his left arm propped in the window, rolled down to enjoy the blow-by breeze. A shooting star cut his arm quite severely and he needed two band-aids once he got into the office.

Every morning the shooting stars found ways to cut Isaiah. They sliced his neck and gashed his brain. Soon he couldn’t type because of the bandage around his right hand. He wound up leaving the band-aids over his eyebrows because, even if they’d healed, the sting of removing tape from the fine hairs was too much for him.

Soon. Soon his office mates mocked his plethora of band-aids and gauze, and the special glasses needed to correct his vision after one comet collided with his eye. Some doubted his stories. No one else saw the meteor showers, but no one needs to see you cut in order for you to bleed. This, Isaiah learned.

There was a comfort to his adhesive, self-healing armor, and once Isaiah thought about it that way, he didn’t see why everyone didn’t want adhesive, self-healing armor. He replaced his socks with fresh gauze, and tailored shirts of hospital linens, and whenever he spilled something on himself he merely applied antiseptic and dressed the emergent area, and would then go back to eating his meatball sub and reading about the rites of mummification.

One Tuesday (after the original Tuesday), Isaiah removed his brain using a chopstick and a dental pick. Immediately nagging thoughts ceased to worry him. No longer was he affected by the peer pressure, or the second-guessing of his father, or by upcoming elections. Somehow it was only after pulling his amygdala out through his nose that Isaiah realized there had always been upcoming elections, and would always be upcoming elections, and no matter the result, he’d never been too satisfied with them, and so he would return to calculating obscene equations and reading about the lovers of pharaohs.

That was, no doubt, what made Isaiah remove his heart. It was easier than the brain on account of the passages between his ribs being more plentiful and generally broader than his nostrils. No sooner did he remove his heart then he found it much easier to talk around women. The ancient Egyptians did not believe the heart to be the seat of lust, but they were all dead, being ancient. This was another revelation he’d experienced since removing his brain, and he enjoyed explaining these things to the many women he met as they sheltered from meteor showers.

Women found him exceedingly clever these new Tuesdays. No other man had thought to bring a star-proof umbrella to the office, and so every lunch break he had his own personal harem clustered around him, at least until they made it to the deli. Then his harem scattered and took numbered tickets. It felt nice to be so popular.

Being so popular, Isaiah took more risks. He donated all his blood at a local drive, and several more organs for kids who needed transplants. He didn’t understand why people would want still more organs, but if so, then fine, have both of his kidneys, and both of his lungs, and all of the bone marrow you can eat, little medicinal vampires. He soon forgot why people wanted these things at all, and read long into the night of his occult texts to decipher why, and failed to decipher it, and decided their words had become deceiving because he tended to read them by the light of the meteor shower. There were no other lights these Tuesdays.

He came in second in the office footrace. He took a pottery class and sculpted himself a new face to wear over all his band-aids. One time his heel snagged on a sewer grate and his bandages unraveled until there was nothing left of him. Isaiah balled himself up and forced himself to go to work. He was out of sick days, and he thought the vampire in Accounting fancied him. He wondered if he might offer himself to wrap around her for when the months turned cold.

Then came August.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: I hope my death inconveniences people.

"It was only this morning that I realized. I always thought I was more easy-going, just bury me and chat, think about the good times, and please God, let someone tell a joke during a eulogy. If you’ve ever been at a funeral, you know jokes during eulogies are the greatest public service west of clean water.

"But I was driving down the turnpike to work, and it kind of bubbled up in me. I wasn’t behind a funeral procession or anything. The morning was orange, and I was tired as every day I ever drove into the station. It simply stirred up in me.

"I hope my death inconveniences people. Not necessarily that an aneurysm makes me plow my pick-up into a fruit stand, but my family. I feel I’ve put enough hours into my life that I deserve to really shake up the people I leave behind. Let them cry and gnash their teeth and feel uncertain how the world will be without me. Not me to contribute to the household budget, or shovel the driveway, you see, but the uncountable, unquantifiable shitstorm that is the loss of a guy who worked really fucking hard and deserved you to feel like hell now that he’s gone.

"Never realized how badly I wanted to be mourned. Kind of fucked up."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Welcome to Best Reads 2012! If you've got a list of your own on a blog or tumblr, give us a link in the comments and I'll add you to this post.

This was a great year for my reading. My New Years Resolution was actually useful for once: to give up on books that made no engaging impression. I read some things that infuriated me, or non-fiction that I strongly disagreed with, but that’s good for me. What I didn’t do was wade through 600-page tomes of sloppy prose and stale characterization. That let me blaze through more inspiring books this year than in any recently remembered one. I actually ran into a problem mid-summer where I’d read so much fiction of incredible quality that merely good fiction few too unambitious and made poor impressions on me. That’s an unusual problem for me.

And so I’m very happy to run a list of those books that shook me up the strongest this year. These are my favorites. There’s no order to the list because I wouldn’t even say most are better than each other – they’ve different, with different appeals and strengths that don’t compare easily. Fantasy, SciFi, YA, comic books, literary fiction, classics, bestsellers… it’s been a good 2012 for reading.

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
The most ambitious success I’ve read all year. It begins with a dynamite premise: in the far future, a space colony is ruled by a caste of humans who have deified themselves by hording the only technology from the old world, living as Hindu gods in hedonism over a superstitious world. To embrace this rich concept, Zelazny leaps from style to style, his intros written like holy sutras and poems, some chapters done in punk or pulp narration, some in the style of religious retrospect, a seduction in monologue, then omniscient narration of a god turned predatory animal. One chapter features a dozen ellipses and paradoxes; the next ten don’t have a single one.

Beyond the success of seamless style adoption, Lord of Light also has the utmost faith in its readers. That premise of false gods? We don’t even know what they really are until deep into the novel, up which they might be real gods, or this might be a surreal fantasy.Halfway through you won’t even be thinking about the things you’ve figured out that the text hasn’t said, but has presented so many gaps that you’ve filled in. The ending is the greatest achievement, because there are at least two gigantic secrets on the final page that Zelazny never tips his hat about, but if you’ve been paying attention to their technology works, will rock you back in your seat. We’ve all seen twist endings. Precious few writers leave so many secret twists for you to find if you’re thinking.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
I dearly wish I’d grown up with this, because if you gave me Ged’s story at the same time as Bilbo’s, I might cherish them equally. It’s beyond succinct – it’s almost a true “good parts” version of an adventure story. Not too much time in Wizard School, not too much exposition on anything, with highly invested and personal stakes that take us around an incredible archipelago. It’s only a shame the later books in the trilogy didn’t land for me. I respect LeGuin writing them in different styles and taking them in different directions, but it was only this story that got me. It reads like it’s made only from 100% premium ingredients. And that dragon showdown?

Let the Right One In by John Avidge Lindqvist
As I said on the Halloween episode of Consumed, take whatever version of this you want. The Swedish move features some of the best child acting I’ve ever seen, Let Me in is a high-end remake, and the novel is the most robust version of all of them. It’s equal parts classic monsters (vampires and ghouls need their prey) and familiar monsters (child prostitution, bullies going too far), without choosing one as better or easier. The true achievement is that in an excessive harmful world, finding a kindred spirit validates continuing to live. It’s not a mere love story between two kids, but a story of two kids who are everything to each other: playmate, philosopher, leader, hero, boyfriend, distraction, confidant, and most crucial to the childhood experience, personal enigma.

Akin to Lord of Light, it also deserves a shout-out for its ending. In this case it’s because, four hundred pages in, there were still at least five different ways I could see the book ending. It doesn’t build up a solitary resolution; there are so many messy parts that can collide. What’s delivered is the best kind of ending: the one that is fitting to the characters.

Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore
It seems like I always have a comic book on my list, but that’s because geniuses are attracted to the art form. Randall Nichols sent me this for Christmas two years ago, I believe in an attempt to embarrass me in front of my family when I unwrapped it and they all saw the sexy cover.

It may be the first Romantic-type work to make my #bestreads list, though according to conservative definitions, it’s not a Romance. Love is a prime motivation for most of the characters, such that the story is really about what this emotion does to people who can’t effectively approach or change each other. Love for a dying friend, love for a friend who can’t reciprocate, love you don’t understand – all told idiosyncratically, and as affecting when it’s funny as when it’s defeated.

Among Others by Jo Walton
In the Hugos this year, I actually voted for China Mieville’s Embassytown, yet Among Others is the contestant that’s stuck with me the longest. Based largely on Walton’s own childhood, the novel is the diary of a troubled girl. Something – we’ll find out what – severely hurt her leg, killed her sister, and caused her to be taken away from her mother’s custody. Yet as maudlin as some entries are, others are flighty in exactly the way teens actually are: naively judgmental, ignorant in the way of someone who never gets to talk to other people about sex or drugs or culture, flipping between enormous topics with only passing interest.

And then there’s the layer of her claiming to see fairies and know magic. She could be in a Fantasy world that no one else knows about, or crazy (we suspect her mother is, if she isn’t an evil witch), or a helpless teen mythologizing her own life to make it more livable. Her voice is so artless that figuring out the truth is slippery, right up into the end.

Embassytown by China Mieville
I’ll stand by Embassytown, though. It’s perilous SciFi, the kind of gutsy stuff precious few writers will even try. In a pocket of subspace, humanity has met and ghettoized an alien species that is truly unlike us. They speak from more than one mouth, they modify intent through external organs, and they have no capacity to fabricate – they can’t lie or even construct fiction, and host contests for who can get the closest to saying an untruth.

It’s Mieville, though, so it isn’t about bad-bad humans and goody-good aliens morally shaming us. Rather that alien culture is dangerous and has its own troubled histories, and we colonists are an external force driving social change. There’s a lot of Marxist stuff packed into the novel’s cheeks, but again, it’s Mieville. His language penchant for atypical characterization make even the most didactic passages worth studying.

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
Marketed as “The Secular Rapture,” Perrotta presents a world where one day, millions of people have simply vanished. No apparent cause is ever discovered, and there’s no commonality between the victims. The novel is about dealing with loss, and we watch a cult rise, a family fall apart, a man turn into a drifter, and a mother turn into a walking ghost. Unlike 9/11, this is something we can’t punish anyone for or beat. The event is a crucible, resonating with the many ways in which humans lose, and the many ways loss affects us. It has a bit of a Mitch Albom ending, but I hardly minded. Perrotta had certainly earned it.

Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
The only author on the list that I actually met this year, and a very nice one. I would not have expected a friendly volunteer firefighter to have written this incredibly cynical novel about a hundred thieves and politicians backstabbing each other, but I’m glad he did, because Lynch has an incredible balance of wit and world. He pulled off flashbacks that I actually liked, for crying out loud. It’s easily one of my favorite recently-published Fantasy novels, and one of the strongest debut novels I’ve read in at least a decade. It even possesses strengths of picaresque, so often being about specific cons or ploys that only mushroom into something bigger later.

It’s the road novel without the road, but with mob bosses who raise sharks and dump their enemies in kegs of horse urine. And yet, for all its incredible (and sometimes, incredulous) cynicism, my favorite scene is a precious moment where two vagabond boys you expected to enter a blood feud give each other peace offerings and try to talk out why they don’t understand each other. How come mediation only showed up in one of the darker Fantasies I read this year?

More Best Reads!

Katherine Hajer
2. Cindy Vaskova

14. Alexia


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Book Reveal: David's Christmas Present

So yesterday we played the annual Bathroom Monologues Christmas game. I set up a word puzzle, this time being sixteen clues to the twelve letters in a book title. Four clues were red herrings. We had a few players on the blog as well as a few more on Facebook and Twitter, but no one got it this year before my brother - which is fair, since it was the title of his Christmas present. Some people, Richard Bon in particular, got very close. Let's go down the rabbit hole on the answer.

1. It's on the tip of your tongue. It's also in it.
-The letter 'T,' which Elephant's Child guessed. You move the tip of your tongue to pronounce the 'T' in 'tip,' and it's one of the letters in the word 'tongue.'

2. There are four red herrings in this puzzle - letters that don't belong. This is one of them.
-So naturally, this isn't a letter.

3. This letter is something two Christian afterlives have in common.
-Either the 'H' or the 'E' common in both 'Heaven' and 'Hell.' In this case, it's the 'H.'

4. The 1st, 4th, 5th and 7th presidents of the United States all had this letter in common - on a personal basis.
-'George,' 'James,' 'James' and 'Andrew' all have one letter in common: 'E'.

5. If #4 is a red herring, then this letter is one of the three initials from the document that severed the colonies' ties to Britain.
-This is just a red herring, but it would have been 'D,' 'O' or 'I' - the famous Declaration of Independence.

6. Commonly used to freeze things, but you have to keep it under high pressure.
-There are a few plausible answers, but the one in mind is liquid nitrogen. Nitrogen has a single-letter periodic abbreviation: 'N.'

7. This is a letter that occurs more than once in the phrase "red herring."
-Either 'R' or 'E.' This isn't a red herring, and our letter of choice is 'E.'

8. If #7 is a red herring, this is the only vowel in a certain form of precipitation. Do we have any today?
-It's winter in New York, so it would probably be 'snow' or 'sleet,' and thus, probably either 'O' or 'E.' It's the most obvious answer: 'O.'

9. What marks the spot?
It would have been 'X,' but this is a red herring. That's our third red herring.

10. Vote yay or nay.
'Y' or 'N,' the most obvious, right? And now we know it's 'N,' giving us the word 'Neon.' Maybe I'm being too cheeky.

11. Honey producing insect.
-A 'bee,'  or, 'B.' Richard Bon tore up a lot of this list last night, and nailed all of the final five letters to figure out it'd be 'Bible.'

12. Four Romans get drunk at a bar. Three get kicked out. Who's left?
-The punniest: four minus three is one, and in Roman numerals, that's 'I.'

13. If #12 is a red herring, then this is the first letter of the northmost country in Africa.
 -Did you think it was Morocco? Algeria? Tunisia? Actually a red herring in itself, but our final red herring.

14. The only letter used twice in the one-word title of the bestselling book of all time.
-Everyone got this one. It's 'B,' from 'Bible.' While some of you would call up a double 'L' or 'E' from 'The Holy Bible,' I knew David wouldn't, particularly since the final word of the secret book's title is becoming obvious by this point.

15 The only consonant used twice in the name of an animal famous for spitting.
-'Llama' gives us 'L.'

16.  Once you use it here, this letter will be the most common one in this title
-'B' and 'E' appeared twice so far, but 'B' doesn't make so much sense here, does it?

Leaving us with John Kennedy Toole's The Neon Bible.

The clues you couldn't have known are that my brother loved John Kennedy Toole's other novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, and while we were painting the house earlier this year said he wanted to read what else Toole had written before his death. But you were on relatively similar footing, since he forgot he said that to me. He always forgets when he mentions books like that. It's how I know what to pick.

Thanks to everyone for playing!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Can You Figure Out What's In This Present?

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is my present to my brother. He's a pathological poke-and-shaker; he loves figuring out what all his presents are before he opens them. And so every year I get him a physical book, something he can't identify from its shape under the wrapping paper, and with it comes a series of clues as to who the author or what the title is.

In recent years I've shared the clues here on the blog. I'd like to invite you all: answer as many of the clues as you can in the comments, and see if together you can't figure out his gift before he does.

Don't be shy, even if you only know one answer, because that could solve the puzzle for the group. Check back every so often to see if others have gotten further ahead. It's a tricky one in this year. There are four "red herrings" - letters that aren't really in the title of the book, which you'll knock off as you get closer.

1. It's on the tip of your tongue. It's also in it.

2. There are four red herrings in this puzzle - letters that don't belong. This is one of them.

3. This letter is something two Christian afterlives have in common.

4. The 1st, 4th, 5th and 7th presidents of the United States all had this letter in common - on a personal basis.

5. If #4 is a red herring, then this letter is one of the three initials from the document that severed the colonies' ties to Britain.

6. Commonly used to freeze things, but you have to keep it under high pressure.

7. This is a letter that occurs more than once in the phrase "red herring."

8. If #7 is a red herring, this is the only vowel in a certain form of precipitation. Do we have any today?

9. What marks the spot?

10. Vote yay or nay.

11. Honey producing insect.

12. Four Romans get drunk at a bar. Three get kicked out. Who's left?

13. If #12 is a red herring, then this is the first letter of the northmost country in Africa.

14. The only letter used twice in the title of the bestselling book of all time.

15 The only consonant used twice in the name of an animal famous for spitting.

16.  Once you use it here, this letter will be the most common one in this title.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I won a Liebster Award!

I was surprised recently when Mark Beyer gifted me this Liebster Award for blogging. Is another blog game with a few simple rules:

1. You post 11 random facts about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions your presenter gave you.
3. You pass the award on to 11 other bloggers.
4. Compose 11 new questions for your recipients.

I’d like to thank Mark for a most unexpected gift. Now, given that I just did a random facts game this month, I’m going to skip that feature and go straight to the interview. If you’re dying for more information about me you can read that, or follow me on Twitter. Many random facts appear on there.

On to Mark’s questions!

  1. Do you have a favorite blog-post title you came up with?
    It may be for a story post that I’m holding off until 2013: “The Only Thing Worse Is The Cure.” Positively smitten with that title.
2. Which is your preference, Books or Movies?
Different media for different moods. Sometimes I want to re-read Jurassic Park, sometimes I want to re-watch it. Sometimes I crave to go sit in a theatre, or fire up Netflix, and sometimes I want nothing more than to hike down to the lake and read, you know?

3. What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?
Sudoku, the ending was so obvious that it was insulting. Really, what would this mean? I know immediately after a bad experience with a book I may think “This is the worst ever,” but I don’t believe in quantitative assessment to this degree. Books can fail in too many ways, and then have the audacity to succeed for anyone else. If you want your mind to boil over at disparity, just follow a Twilight hashtag for an hour.

4. What 3 books would you want with you on a desert island?
A 4G MacBook to e-mail for help, and then whatever two books are on the top of my reading pile to tide me over until the Navy arrives. Right now that would be Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You Mr. Rosewater and George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons.

5. How would your life change significantly if there were no computers?
Computers store all the information on my health and medication, and with my health, there’s a decent chance I’d be dead after a bit. Also with all the failing computers ending internet and cell phone communication, the riots would get pretty bad. No stop lights. No flights. Most cars have chips in them, so lots of accidents. Plus I’d lose this computer with all my writing on it, which might send me out for a deliberate car accident. To have loved and lost computers would be worse than to have never known them at all.

6. How much sleep do you need overnight?
8-10 hours depending on how badly the syndrome is hitting me. My body goes into heavy repairs at random.

7. What’s the last thing you made?
A mistake. I’m great at making those, especially when I like someone.

8. Hold your breath for as long as possible and time yourself. What’s the result?
I used to play this as a kid, and I’m be punching at the air and squeezing my nose to make it to sixty seconds. I made it to sixty-four while typing answers to the rest of this. Asthma can suck it.

9. What’s the average (guesstimating) length of your blog posts?
Under 1,000 words. It varies wildly – I did a weekly Monster Haiku feature for a while, and my #fridayflash bounce for length weekly. If I routinely went over 1,000, I don’t think I’d be nearly as far along on my novels.

10. What are you going to have for lunch tomorrow?
With family arriving for the holidays all throughout the day, I’m hoping we get lazy and do tacos. Something on the stove for everyone who walks in. This reminds me to check if we have any shells.

11. What art do you have on your walls?
None. I used to decorate my walls as a kid, and was very into comic book posters in my teens. As an old man, it’s not really my style. I have a bookshelf and a mirror. My grandparents once tried to get me to adopt a giant photo of Bobby and John Kennedy, but it looked too morbid. I bring the morbidity whenever my room needs it.

There we go! But before we depart, I’d like to pass this quiz on to a few people:

I think they’ll have some fun with my questions. And those questions? Why, they’re right here:

1. If you were given sheltered time tonight to watch any one movie, during which no one would walk in, call, or text to bother you, what would you pick?

2. What’s the last book that left you envying the writer?

3. What did you envy about that book?

4. What’s your favorite phone call that you’ve ever received?

5. What is the most recent food you couldn’t resist?

6. What is the sickest burn anyone has ever laid on you?

7. What is the sickest burn you’ve ever laid on someone else?

8. Has there ever been an instance where it felt like any media had made you more violent? Can you recall an instance?

9. Has there ever been an instance where it felt like any media had made you kinder? Can you recall an instance?

10. You’ve got a friend named ‘John’ who tends to listen to musicians one song at a time, and dislikes albums. You’ve got a band you want him to try. What song do you recommend first?

11. The ghost of a loved one is going to try to communicate with you through a car stereo. It’s all that was available at the time, don’t judge. You don’t have to tell us who it is or what they wanted to say, but you do have to tell us what the song would be.

And there we go! Please link me back here once you answer, folks - I'm pretty sure this will be entertaining.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas (At War)

This was posted under duress. My full apologies for this thing existing.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
The Pentagon sent to me:
Twelve drumlines drumming,
Eleven specialists sniping,
Ten sergeants sleeping, 
Nine generals posturing, 
Eight drones a-flying,  
Seven SEALs a-swimming,
Six guys a-laying,
 Five useless things,  
Four polished turds,  
Three French leaves,  
Two armored cars, 
And a cartridge in an MRE!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: A Necessary Getaway

He moved north at the first opportunity. Way north. He cut all ties, even to his mother, which was the hardest on him. He was a mama's boy.

His hair went white from all the stress, including his beard. He took that as a sign to change his appearance and began dressing in pants as soon as they were invented. All the sedentary hiding made him gain tremendous weight, face filling out, giving him rosy cheeks in the snowy environment.

He stayed in doors as much as possible, but always came out around his birthday. It was too lonely, even with the elves that had found him and made camps all around his house. They fashioned him thick, orthopedic boots and gloves that comforted his scarred extremities. It allowed him to take up carpentry again.

The gregarious wee folk did so much for his spirits that he reached out to a similar-sized people: children. He still only went south around his birthday, but brought a sack of the toys from his workshop for those boys and girls who had the right attitude. There were always more gifts to give, too, as the elves copied his work and began production for every decent child.

And associating with children turned out to actually help, for in his old life he had been an average-sized Jew, but to them he was a giant. So his new identity was a jolly mammoth with a white beard and a bag of presents. He was safe. No one down there ever guessed that Santa Claus was an alias.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: The Sleeping Beauty Incident

The wizened fairy buzzed around The Prince’s head like a halo, shooing him into the chamber. He bowed at the threshold, taking in the musty room. A bed wide enough for ten consumed more than half its breadth, sheltering a solitary girl who couldn’t have been a day older than himself. Her slenderness, and that porcelain complexion, haunted him from first sight, because this wasn’t first sight. This was the girl from his dreams.

The Prince knelt on the covers, hands hovering over her shape, uncertain how to go about this. She was so pale, and her breathing so shallow that she could have slept in Death’s arms.

“Go on, go on,” the old fairy coaxed from the doorway. “She’s been dreaming of you, too, for so many years.”

Heart thudding against his ribs, The Prince lowered until he finally felt her breath sweeping his cheek. He took the narrow peak of her chin, holding his breath for fear an exhalation would blow her away in the breeze, and pressed his mouth to hers in a kiss he’d dreamed nightly for months. She moaned into his mouth, body arching under him, and he lowered his left arm to sweep her from the bed. Yet as soon as his hand touched the small of her back, a palm thrust into his forehead, pushing him away, and her body lurched, curling into the covers and burying her face in the pillow.

“Five more minutes,” she mumbled. “Just five more minutes…”

The Prince furrowed his brow and looked to the window. The wizened fairy was checking her watch.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

10 Elements of Reality Not Allowed in Fiction

No one would put book shelves in a cemetery. Cut it.

Realism is allegedly the goal of fiction. It’s alleged exclusively by real people, which seems somewhere between a bias and bigotry to me.

Regardless, realism is cherished in fiction. We coddle F. Scott Fitzgerald for nailing a feeling, or a poet for putting a thought we’ve all had into verse. Meanwhile an implausible romance is shameful, someone walking in at a convenient time is contrived, and nearly every character is accused of being unrealistic. Realism is considered a requirement for good storytelling – except in a million different cases. Here are ten of them.

1. Characters have the same last name and no relation to each other. Happens millions of times every day in the real world; has happened, perhaps twice, in the history of fiction.

2. Coughing, sneezing and hiccupping for no reason. Someone in my family gets the hiccups at least once a week, and never because they’re nervous a dragon is nearby.

3. “Uhm, uh, you know, well, like, it’s just – you know what I mean.” These oral pauses allow real people to gather the best wording for their next point, although it’s a tiny minority of fictional characters who ever use them. I’m most acutely aware of this dissonance when I’m editing novels; I spend hours a day cutting every needless word, and become absolutely irate with everyone I meet who talks like an actual person.

4. Characters notice a conflict between each other, talk over their opinions honestly, figure out a simple compromise, and drop the issue. Half the editors I’ve met would chastise you for squandering conflict if you wrote sensible resolution.

5. A heart monitor flatlines because a node disconnected. This has not only happened to me, but is by far the most common cause of flatlining for every medical technician I’ve ever talked to. People whose business is to save lives make fun of your fiction about life and death scenarios.

6. The “good” political party wins and yet the “good” party members are never satisfied no matter what the new administration does. They become deeply jaded by what they identify as the failings of their leaders, seldom recognizing much of their disappointment stems from their own ignorance over what is plausible. Our real would actually be a great satire about idealism and phony pragmatism.

7. Cold wars. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. spent decades embroiled in one, and the closest they came to blows was psyching each other out over missile placement. You seldom see a Dark Lord who the rest of the world just refuses to trade with, and who fails so catastrophically to lead his giant tyranny that the capitalists have to sneak him loans.

8. The neighbors losing their shit the night after a Horror movie/novel when it turns out eighteen people have been stabbed to death and the mailman was actually a sadomasochistic zombie. I don’t know about you, but if somebody revs their motorcycle too loud my neighbors obsess about it for years. The closest fiction gets is in a sequel, years later (or one year later, on the anniversary), and then those nervous locals are just introduced for body count.

9. The superhero that just does the right thing because it’s right. A pragmatic idealist motivated by his or her own mind, not a personal tragedy or preposterously corrupted city. What’s funnier is our popular misconception that all superheroes are already like this. Actually, even Superman isn’t that anymore.

10. The serial killer who is impossible to catch because law enforcement is incredibly complicated bureaucratically and logistically, not because being crazy is a mental superpower.

That ought to be enough to get us started. Do any others come to mind?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Consumed Podcast 14: The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey

It's a particularly polarizing episode of Consumed this week as all three of us congregate over The Hobbit. There's high praise and analysis for its visual style, Howard Shore's score and many points in the acting, but also heavy questions of pacing and how the surprising number of fight scenes are handled. I seem to have stunned Max with one claim about "amateurish" elements toward the middle of the podcast. We get deep into it, so if you want a fix for Peter Jackson's latest, then this is the podcast for you.

You can download Consumed #14: The Hobbit right here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Mr. Mines

You don’t know I am, so let me introduce myself: I am the woman who hammered that shrapnel into your ankles and knees while you were under.

You’ll be reassured to know every piece came from one of your landmines. None were the one that took my son’s legs, though I tried to find some. It would have been even more appropriate. As it is, all the charred steel now shredding your muscles and tendons is stuff you bought and put out there.

The handcuffs are for your own safety. If you pulled those shards out, you might bleed to death or get an infection. Mothers are very worried about infections. Did you know one summer when he 11, while playing soccer, he got such a bad gash that he needed injections in his calf every three days for four weeks? Of course you didn’t think about that, just as I don’t care what you were before you became a warlord or whatever you think you are.

We’re ten miles from your nearest compound. That’s a lot of walking to do with your joints full of metal. It might even be impossible, but maybe you’ll get lucky and waddle your way into screaming range for one of your lackeys.

I’m going home now. My son’s funeral is tomorrow, because he didn’t make it back to base, what you left of him. He only made it ten miles. Ten miles with no legs. Can you imagine?

Well, you will.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: “Love is in the air.” –Anonymous

“Wrong. Nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon dioxide are in the air.”

“No, you’re wrong. That is the air. I’m in the air, from ground level up five feet and fewer inches than I’d like, and several cubic feet around for that elevation. I’m as in the air as I’m ever in the water of a swimming pool.”

“No, those elements are what makes up air. It’s like you having a heart and lungs inside you.”

“Yes, but it’s poor grammar to say I’ve got a heart in me, even though most living humans have one. A heart is a part of me; it is me. I’ve got half a fish taco in me. It’ll be part of me later, and part of the septic.”

“That is not the same as pretending ‘love’ is in the air.”

“So pheromones don’t count?”

“They’re a stimulant, not love.”

“So love isn’t a chemical?”

“All brain reactions are chemicals. That’s all love is.”

“So I’m in the air, and I’ve got brain chemicals in me, and love is a brain chemical. Therefore love is in the air. Find my wife around here and stimulate me a bit, and there’ll be an excess of love running rampant.”

“That is definitely not the same as pretending love is floating around.”

“What if someone skywrites the letters L-O-V-E in the sky?”

“Then you could say it. But nobody does that, and you know that. You’re just saying that to annoy me.”

“Sure, but I love doing it. It’s in the air.”

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Last Isle of Civility

"You could be poor enough to be forced to skip meals, and not a single public worker didn't, and you could be poor enough to starve, and many poor souls did, and you could be poor enough to reuse teabags, and we often had to suffer the indignity, but no one in the country could be so poor as to go without tea."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Evidence of a Dream

I've never had the grasp of days. It could have been four weeks ago, or perhaps six, that the dreams began. Perhaps it was only two, but it surely feels a deal longer than that. I've never been the sort to reckon my dreams, and that is why the same ones recurring nightly struck me. It seemed every time I put head to pillow, I was visited by a young man with grey hair, in an ivory suit. He usually brings a switchblade with a pearl handle, like my father used to own.

Sometimes he throws acid or scalding coffee in my eyes. Sometimes he lurks by the stairs and seizes my ankles. Every night is a little different, whether I try to escape through a window and fall into a garden of thorns, or hide under the bed and he finds my ankle sticking out, or I simply charge him and have my tendons slashed. Every night it's the same end. The same pearl-handled switchblade.

After a week, I took to writing down what happened, to record, to perhaps show a psychiatrist. Evidence of a dream is a troubling thing. Also, it’s ridiculously hard to find one who’s taking new patients this time of year.

Now you might tell me to disregard the dreams. Yet three days ago, I saw him in broad daylight. His ivory suit, his grey hair, his utter lack of wrinkles. He was having demitasse at the cafe across from where I always eat lunch.

He has been to the cafe every day for the past three days. Those I’ve counted. He has demitasse and nothing else, and never looks at me, at least when I’m looking at him. Today he brought his mail with him; he opened the envelopes with a switchblade. I nearly threw up when I saw him pull it from an interior pocket. That was no letter opener, though he applied it to four letters, and read them studiously. Three he tucked into his ivory jacket. The fourth he left on his table, with a hundred dollar tip, weighed down by his cup.

Whatever you'll say of me, I'll hear nothing against my venturing to his table after he caught his cab. I had to see the scene. It was a need.

The demitasse was unfinished, still steaming in the mid-day gloom, smelling faintly familiar. I could have sworn that drink had been thrown in my face some night. I took the envelope as his waitress came over. She nearly called the police on me, but I insisted that I knew him and had to return the letter for business.

The envelope bore my address. My specific P.O. Box at the towers, and for several minutes all I could think was to throttle the manager for giving this ivory-suited stranger a double of my key. It made me feel positively insane, too much be a hideous dream, and I drew out paper to write everything down, because in dreams you can’t make time work so neatly. Because I needed record and evidence that this was happening.

But the letter. The letter inside the envelope, one sheet of paper, folded three times in the way I've done since third grade. Even the handwriting was familiar. How my a's and o's look the same. How I forget to dot things.

The letter in the envelope was the one I’m writing now.

My palms broke into a sweat and I nearly crumpled the thing up. I want to incinerate it, but my hands wouldn’t let me. They had to preserve evidence.

What’s crazy is that as I’m writing this, I can’t think of anything else to say. The letter’s words, its statements, its facts are all my mind can conjure. It’s as though his stolen mail is all there is. I can’t invent anything else. My imagination turns on me. Every sentence chronicling what I’m thinking is another step down what this sheet of paper says. I couldn’t even avoid going home, even though I read on and knew better.

I’d write more. I’d start scribbling, draw something since the letter has illustration, just to deviate from its ugly omniscience. I’d like to invent who you are – to find out who I’m writing to. Why haven’t I dreamed you? Or have I, and I can’t remember? But there isn’t time for that question, or to invent an answer.

I don’t have the time, for I saw him outside, just as I read that he’d be there. He was across the street a minute ago. Now someone is buzzing my apartment. It’ll be worse when he stops buzzing and stops waiting. I’ve dreamed what happens then.

I need some place to be, some place to hide or defend that I haven’t dreamed him in before. I’ve latched the windows, unplugged appliances, thrown away all the heavy objects he’s ever wielded, and what do I find? There’s no corner of this apartment he hasn’t killed me in before.

There’s someone knocking at the door. Have I ever let him into the apartment before? I can’t remember how he gets in. I’m no good at remembering dreams.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: When I Read Historical Fiction

His hypoallergenic dog fed and napping downstairs, and his wife having texted that she’ll be locked up until six in the Hayworth divorce case, he sits down to write. He sits at a prefab desk, in his memory-foam office chair, wrists resting on an ergonomic keyboard that he bought at 24% off on Amazon, eyes flipping between his ultra-thin monitor and the view of the suburb out his glass window. The urge to go for a popsicle goads him, but his eyes fall on his grandmother’s photo, hanging on the wall. She’ll give him hell when he makes his weekly call if he’s behind on word count again.

So he consults two tabs in Firefox and the text book balanced on his waist basket. He sucks a poppy seed from between his teeth, then shakes his head at the confluence of claims between the three sources. He scratches at the scabs from yesterday’s vaccination – the soreness is obnoxious – before convincing himself of plausibility.

‘No,’ he thinks to his fingers. ‘People aren’t really like that. More believable if Caesar had…’

And he types what really happened in the Roman Senate over two thousand years ago.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Come Join #bestreads2012

For the rest of December we'll be doing a little community chat between The Bathroom Monologues and Twitter. #bestreads2012 will be all about your favorite books from the last year.

The blog hop will launch on Wednesday, December 26th, the day after Christmas. Up until then, anyone on Twitter is invited to an open chat about their favorite books of the year using the hashtag #bestreads2012. If you’ve got a blog or Tumblr, you can post a list of your favorite books there, only make sure to come back and link it here by the 26th so I can include you in the blog hop. For those without Twitter or blogs, you're still welcome to discuss your favorites in the Comments section here. Everyone is invited, readers and authors alike.

So think on it. What are your favorite books that you read this year? Not what was written or published in 2012, but that you personally read and loved for the first time. Fiction, non-fiction, prose, poetry and sequential art are all welcome. I guarantee you a comic book will show up on my list. It's a romantic comic, too. My list will be between 5-10 books long, with 1-2 paragraphs for each entry on what I got out of them. You can handle the number and format as you like.

Feel free to launch questions below. We'll field them together.

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