Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Bathroom break in the middle of the X-Files pilot episode

“You’ll think I’m crazy, and that’s fine so long as you don’t dismiss the facts. A string of young, Caucasian girls have been found dead in relative wilderness settings, of unknown causes in each case, each with extremely similar markings on their lower backs and no other signs of violence. There seems to be a connection between many victims and mental institutions. The FBI is not investigating what happened at any of those institutions, or if anyone worked at more than one of them. They have not autopsied a single body. A reasonable person might at least consider the work of a serial killer or cult. I think when you follow this you’ll realize it’s got to be aliens, but you have to at least be reasonable enough to pursue what is going on in this case and why the bureau has buried it.”

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: He/She

Her dress was soaked.

His umbrella was broad.

Her shiver was enticing.

His chivalry was charming.

They stood together for the ferry.

She wrung out her skirt over the edge of the dock.

He struggled not to stare at cotton-silhouetted curves.

She asked about his accent.

He called it “Nova Scotian.”

She’d always wanted to visit the Americas.

He’d always wanted to leave them.

She’d heard Americans were full of vitality.

He’d heard Europeans lived longer.

She’d like to see their wilderness.

He’d like to taste their wine.

She owned a vineyard.

He blessed their luck.

She invited him to a tasting on Tuesday.

He looked for dry scrap of paper to copy the address.

She said her husband would love to meet him.

The ferry was nowhere in sight.

His jacket was drenched.

She stood closer.

He was warm despite the weather.

She inquired if he had the sun in his shirt.

He said nothing.

She felt inside his lapels.

He jerked away.

Rain spattered them both.

Somewhere, the ferry’s horn sounded.

She was so sorry.

He didn’t want an apology.

Her husband was too distant.

He wanted her to take the umbrella.

Her husband had two mistresses, she missed human touch, and her eyes were wet.

He said it was the rain.

She felt inside his lapels.

His coattails dripped.

Her lips were dry.

They never felt so good.

The ferry came.

She knew the pilot.

He shied to the back of the boat.

She snatched his scrap and scribbled directions, puncturing the wet paper with haste.

He hesitated.

She rode with the pilot, laughing about spring rain.

He tried to catch her looking at him.

She was practically in the pilot’s lap, so keenly interested in his morning.

He tried not to glare.

She never touched the pilot’s lapels.

He wondered at the paper in his hand.

She glanced once, the sun reflecting in her eyes.

He was free on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Unidentified

UFOs circle the country fairgrounds. They flash, strobe and terrify. They lower, three unknown objects, and sweep the hair of the tallest citizens, and spook the cattle, and everyone runs for their cars. UFOs whiz away into the sky.

A fortnight passes. UFOs circle the downtown shopping plaza. They flash, strobe, and terrify. Car alarms go off from their proximity, and eerie musical notes emanate from the fillings of old men. Electric doors rebel and remain closed, trapping shoppers to stare at the unknown. UFOs whiz away into the sky.

Another fortnight passes. UFOs circle over the city’s only annual night-time parade. They flash, strobe, and intrigue. Citizens duck for cover, and once under cover, argue about whether these strobes are a different color than last time, or how there are fewer this time. Everyone now clearly sees that they are saucers, sleek and well-illuminated. They are identified. The FOs whiz away into the sky and the parade resumes, if awkwardly.

Another fortnight passes, and the city congregates down by the docks, out in the open. They have blankets laid out and hotdogs grilled up, all in time for the light show. As it circles overhead, citizens hug each other a little tighter, or munch caramel corn, or try to snap ironic photos of themselves “holding” the saucers aloft. They’re welcome.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Very Inspirational Award

So a little while ago Cindy Vaskova bestowed this Very Inspiring Blogger Award upon me. The real compliment  was Cindy finding my writing inspirational at all. It's one of the nicest things a writer can say to another. I mean, unless it turns out I inspired you to strangle your neighbors. Then I'd probably be closer to 'Neutral' than 'Flattered.'

The game requests you reveal seven things about yourself, and that you hand it over to fifteen other people. I've played a lot of games where you reveal personal details, and tried my best to come up with new stuff this time. Please tell me if I repeated something. I'll probably owe you a private revelation if you get me.

1. I root for the villains a lot. For instance, I’ve always thought the Ring Wraiths were really cool, and enjoyed the way they adapted into the movies. When the Nazgul attack in Peter Jackson’s Return of the King, I cackled so much that a friend turned to me, put her hand on my arm and said, “You’re enjoying this too much.” If only I could dive-bomb some good guys on my pet pterodactyl.

2. I’ve never had a drink of alcohol.

3. I’ve never smoked anything. For a year in my teens I needed a nebulizer for my lung medicine, which I guess counts as inhaling controlled substances.

4. I once dieted and exercised so hard that my gallbladder overreacted and I had to have it removed. I almost went bankrupt with medical bills. Healthy living, everybody.

5. One time while I was in the hospital, my brother and father gave me a bunch of rare football cards. I was so surprised that I flatlined.

6. I don’t have as much of a conscience as I have a modular sense of what some people might object to. When I love what I’m writing, even this modular sense goes on the fritz, and sometimes I’ll ask a friend to read it over to ensure it’s not horribly amoral. The most recent case was Exorcising Mother (thanks be to Max Cantor).

7. One reason that I’ve never bought Meme Theory is that human beings are not unconscious repetition machines. It’s not blind luck or survival traits that necessarily cause us to adopt an idea or behavior; we are quite often intelligent designers, altering a notion upon reception, or after a period of mulling it over. For instance, I’m changing how this award works. I’m going to pass it to three people, and I’m going to include the stipulation that you have to tell why you’re naming them.

So, I'll be passing this on to...

1. Stephen Hewitt of Café Shorts. While his blog is updated infrequently, every story he posts is lovingly crafted with provocative language, characterization and plotting. He is one of those fiction bloggers who not nearly enough people read. I deeply admire writers who experiment with different material, and Stephen does this with almost every piece. Sometimes the inspiration is simply that I should be as good at crafting the whole piece of fiction, with all its wiggling bits, as he is.

2. Elephant’s Child is obviously not her real name. However, it’s what she goes by on the internet, and I respect that. EC has one of the most positive blogs on the web. Even when she’s grappled with health problems and personal tragedies, she’s fostered compassion from her community of friends and followers. It’s something I’d like to be able to inspire as easily as she makes it look.

3. T.S. Bazelli is very transparent about her writing process. There are status updates, she's also happy to discuss what she got out of an article, a writing camp, or even her latest set of edits. She's been incredibly kind to me as both a beta reader and discussing her own process. I love transparency in how we get fiction to work.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Tears For Wishes

Polly knelt in her single circular window sill, trying to think of an appropriate prayer. A pillow was tucked under her swollen left knee. He’d be home tomorrow and she still hadn’t recovered. Everything she knew was about honoring thy parents, so how did you ask the sky to stop them from hurting you?

Asking God the Father felt wrong, but so did asking His son. Tears rippled up in her little eyes until she spied an orange streak in the sky. A shooting star, she thought, a message. A chance. She clasped her fingers together and wished, and wished with all her heart, that Dad would stop yelling at Mom, stop grabbing her, and just, just, just stop.

Polly was a very lucky girl, for that orange streak wasn’t a shooting star. It was her father’s plane crashing.

Wishes come true.

Monday, December 3, 2012

True Stories of John: Social Neurosis and Tony Noland

The other day I made a joke about enjoying child abuse in fiction, because that’s the sort of person I am. It was in Tony Noland’s fiction in person, and he responded like so:

I don’t know why I’m compelled to share what went through my head. Maybe it’s that I want affirmation that it happens other people, or maybe I’m just getting off on embarrassing myself. Here is a taste of my neurosis, scribbling down minutes after he messaged me.

Did I call Tony a dick?

No, I definitely didn’t. We are not good enough friends for me to get away with that level of insult-humor yet.

Did I say something like, “Hey, you’re a dick”?

I don’t remember anything like that. We haven’t had many conversations recently…

Wait, this morning I posted a story about an author. Tony’s an author. Did he think it was about him?

My author wasn’t a dick. That’s really judgmental of him.

Wait, my author wasn’t on Twitter. He left a note on a car. Is that a form of messaging, and thus like Twitter? Is he saying that character was too aggressive in promotion, and it made him think of his own regrets?

That’s fucking crazy. He can’t have thought that.

But did you call him a dick?


Okay, so he thought the author story was about him, and took it as an extreme burn on him. How do we tell him that? We can’t just say, “That story you saw as an extreme burn wasn’t about you,” because that’ll acknowledge the intent, and then he’ll think it was already in our head, and then he’ll be even more offended thinking we lied.

I guess the other sane option is that he’s talking about somebody else. Somebody else made the comment while we were joking about child abuse. That seems much more reasonable. Let’s ask him.

No, if we do that, then he’ll think we’re pretending to have not called him a dick. Or pretending we’re so important we don’t remember clearly deeply offending him. After already putting him a bad mood, he doesn’t deserve more grief from us.

So is the only option to say nothing? I mean, I know the internet makes it feel like if I say nothing then everyone will forget it, but the internet is a fucking liar. That really just makes people stew. I don’t want him to stew over something I don’t remember doing.

The honest thing is to ask him what he’s talking about, and of course he’ll respond emotionally about it, but I can parse facts and defuse from there. If it was somebody else, I can jump into that conversation and defend him so he feels better, and get whoever was mad at him now mad at me, and enjoy a week of that Twitter feud. Or it’ll turn out I really did call him a dick and now he hates my guts and thinks I’m a liar, and kiss that friendship goodbye. Regardless, it’ll be a week of thinking way too long about what to tweet.

Then it’s settled. I’ll say nothing.

I talked it over with him later. It turns out it was someone else. I don't know who. Some dick.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holiday Cards for Recovering Veterans

The short: the Red Cross is collecting holiday cards for veterans recovering in American hospitals. It's to participate, will take one minute of your day, and could seriously touch someone who needs it. Click here for every bit of information you need to send a card.

If that's all you need, then awesome. But we're going to run a little long because we should discuss this. Firstly, in the last two weeks a false message has been circulating through social networks, particularly Facebook, asking people to send holiday cards to soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital, where so many wounded veterans recover. It appealed to a spirit of charity and compassion. It was very nice except that it was a hoax; Walter Reed doesn't have staff to handle that kind of mail, has no such program, and the address was likely posted by a troll trying to annoy them using your kindness to do it. It's despicable.

However, the American Red Cross is running a program like that. Somehow the Walter Reed drive gained more attention than the Red Cross one, but organizations like Snopes have crossed the two stories so that anyone moved by the hoax can still do something kind. It's my favorite thing I've ever experienced through Snopes, and they'd had some amazing hits over the years.

The Red Cross has very few rules about this drive, and they all seem quite sensible to me.

  • Ensure that all cards are signed.
  • Use generic salutations such as “Dear Service Member.” Cards addressed to specific individuals can not be delivered through this program.
  • Only cards are being accepted. Do not send or include letters.
  • Do not include email or home addresses on the cards: the program is not meant to foster pen pal relationships.
  • Do not include inserts of any kind, including photos: these items will be removed during the reviewing process.
  • Please refrain from choosing cards with glitter or using loose glitter as it can aggravate health issues of ill and injured warriors.
  • If you are mailing a large quantity of cards, please bundle them and place them in large mailing envelopes or flat rate postal shipping boxes. Each card does not need its own envelope, as envelopes will be removed from all cards before distribution.
  • All mail must be postmarked by December 7th.

They're pretty much asking you to keep it short. You can be any religion or irreligion, and say almost anything. You can send your cards here:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

So you've got a week to write two sentences to someone who was injured serving our country. That seems reasonable to me. I'm not a card-giver or letter-writer. I have a nerve imbalance in my hands that makes it excruciatingly painful; keyboards and e-mail were godsends to me. But today, once I finish my allotment of edits on Last House in the Sky, I'm going to fill out some greeting cards.

If you want, take a photo of your card, or even you holding your card. If I get a few, I'll find someone with a working camera around here and post one of myself and my own awful handwriting. We could do a meta-post of them next weekend.

The Red Cross website has details and videos about the campaign. In case anyone wants to make this real campaign viral, here's a tidy image to post wherever you please:

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