Monday, March 19, 2012

My 1st attempt at Flash Fiction

         Good morning, todays post will be a piece of flash fiction.  Flash Fiction is basically a short short story.  These stories are usually told in 1000 words or less and most often with around 500 words.  They’re created to show people that an author can strip away the ‘stuff’ and present a barebones story that still grips the reader.   Up until the other week I’d never tried it.  My stories tend to be more grandiose and epic in scale with lots of world building going on.  Strange new worlds and new civilizations, to boldly go, and that all that jazz.  The idea of stripping this away and giving the reader 500 words was…well…very foreign to me.  To be honest I’m not sure I succeeded.  Usually these pieces of flash fiction stem from a writing prompt of some sort.  Mine did not.  It was an idea that jumped into my head most rude like and sat there squatting on my turf for several days.  The idea didn’t do anything, didn’t even pay any rent the little bastard.  So I decided to send it on its way as a Flash Fiction piece.   I’m not sure if it’s as much as story as it is a scene.  I’ve almost not posted it twice now but today is the day.   According to the great Wayne Gretzky (an NHL icon of scoring for those non-sports types) “You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” so without further ado….here’s my shot may it be straight and accurate.

'The Voice in my Head'
                Pain radiates from my core outward, numbing my finger tips and twitching my limbs.
                My eyes, open, stare at nothing.  My world filled with shadows pulsing slowly in sync with the slow gentle beeping next to my head.  I try to look but can’t.
                My body’s numb, heavy.  I can’t move.  I try to call out.  Nothing but a raw gasping choke escapes parched lips.
                I don’t know how long I’ve been here but I know there are a hundred and twenty-nine black holes in the yellowed ceiling tile above me.  A hundred and nineteen in the one next to that.  Rorschach like water stains framing those tiny little holes.
                “Nathan can you hear me?”
                The voice is gone.  I want it to come back.  I desperately need it to come back.  I experiment by moving my head slightly.  It moves.  I see the room, its yellowed walls closing in on me.  A monitor’s black face staring at me.   An antiseptic chemical stench fills my nose, stings my eyes.  I need to move but, my legs still won’t work.
Crusty eyes slowly open.  I can move.  Waves of joy crash over me.  Freedom.  Slowly I move an arm.  I curl swollen fingers.   It hurts.  Each little tendon curling and uncurling, bones and muscles working together.  It’s a small thing but, it’s a triumph.  
                I push cotton covers back.  I raise my hand to my eyes.  A metallic glove covers it but, it moves and there is a joy that overcomes caution.  Slowly swinging legs over the edge, I sit up.  I wear powder blue scrubs, long sleeved and dirty.  They stink.  I stand, something off, I feel heavier and slower than I should.  The room is featureless, no windows, the walls that same stained yellow.
                “It’s not time.”
                The voice again.  I try to spin around but fall to one knee.  No one’s there.  I try to speak, I open my mouth.  Nothing.  Why?
                Who are you?
                “It’s not time.”
                I stand on unsteady legs that don’t feel right.  My foot doesn’t look right but, my vision swims with the effort.  One stumbling step, then two.   Fire sears through my limbs.  I feel myself falling.  Hand snakes forward, grabbing a dresser.   Wood crumples beneath my grip.  I look down at the hand.  Not a glove.  Skin.  Not my own, larger and longer and silver.  I release the dresser like it’s on fire.  I turn it over and drink it in.  The ‘skin’ is tight, heavy, and metallic.  Then I focus beyond the hand.   A reflection in a mirror over the dresser.  I step towards it.  My mind screams.  Wide eyes stare back at me, eyes I knew once.  Eyes framed by a face I’ve not seen before; round features, silver skin.   What have they done to me?
                “We’ve made you better,” the voice says as if reading my mind, “We’ve brought you home.”
                I try to scream.  I see my mouth open.  Nothing comes out.  The world swims, tumbles and blackness.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gettin' my geek on at Wondercon...

                I love comic books!

Emperor's Royal Guard

                That probably comes as no surprise to those who know me but to those who don’t I’ll give a brief background.  I’ve been collecting comics in some form or another since I was about 8 or 9 (that’s around 1982 or so for those of you keeping track) and trading GI-Joe issue #25 (along with a gazillion other comic books) back and forth with my best friend on the front porch of his house.  Back then we were quite upset when the books went from sixty-five cents to seventy-five cents.  Comic books were my gateway drug to the science fiction and fantasy books I took up in my late teens and continue to worship at the age of 39.  There was maybe a year or two around 18 that I stopped but it wasn’t all that long of a period of time.  I read them, I read about them and I listen to podcasts about what’s going on in the industry.  I’m hooked. 
                Over the years I’ve gone to about seven comic-cons in San Diego.  (Once I went to a Star Trek convention but that’s another story for another blog post) Back in the 90’s the San Diego comic-con was a fairly humble affair but really fun with great deals to be had and new products to ogle.  Slowly it has gotten to the version we have now; a large four day orgy of pop culture.  I took the family two years ago and while it was fun and filled with eye-candy galore it was PACKED!!!!  The San Diego International Comic Convention has reached epic proportions, which is cool for the industry and awesome if you have the time and patience for it.  I have neither. 
                So along came a new year and a growing desire to check out a comic-con.  I didn’t really care if it was San Diego or not.  I just wanted to attend one.  I did a little research and came up with Wondercon 2012.  The Wondercon is a yearly affair but usually held up in San Francisco.  Due to some construction on the hotel it’s usually held at they decided to move it down here.  (According to rumors running rampant there is a more sinister reason for the move but I won’t go into that here) For twenty dollars a single adult could go. (kids under 12 are free which as a father of three I think is just awesome…great way to take a relatively inexpensive family day)  So we got two tickets and the time off and prepped to venture out into the unknown.

Our Badges and Lanyards!

                The con ended up being on the one weekend this winter that Southern California has had a ‘real’ storm.  It rained, and it rained hard and, though the walk from the car to the convention hall was relatively short, we got soaked!  All was not lost as the kid’s flagging enthusiasm regained momentum at the sight of about a dozen stormtroopers in full regalia just inside the convention doors.  I believe I read they are from the 501st but don’t quote me.  Whoever they were the costumes were simply awesome.  There was also a volleyball tournament and a cheerleading competition going.  It was quite the site to see all of these people mixing in the foyer.  Cheerleaders sharing a hallway with geeks made for some pretty hilarious looks.  The Geeks seemed shy and unsure how to look at cheerleaders and cheerleaders looking at the cos-players (people who wear costumes of their favorite heroes/heroines) as if they had some sort of skin disease.    

Bumblebee & Optimus Prime anyone?

Blair Butler from G4

                We got our badges and headed into the Con and let me tell you, I was excited.  The best part of the day?  The convention didn’t let me down.  To be honest it was pretty much perfect.  I’d have liked to see a few more of the comic companies there with slightly bigger displays but everything I wanted was there.  We had stars (I saw Blair Butler, Kevin Pereira, Jim Lee & a host of lesser known comic book artists), we had cool cosplayers (I already mentioned the 501st but there were also some other really awesome costumes like the Baroness, Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, and Han Solo), and there were the deals.  It was nigh on perfect.  It really took me back to some of my first San Diego cons where the aisles weren’t totally packed and the dealers were friendly.  Artists were smiling and generally everyone seemed to be having fun. 

                I have to admit I’m a little bummed that this is a one-time deal because if it wasn’t I’d already be planning my trip for next year with an extra day to attend so I could go by myself one day and really get into the artist alley.  With the kids it was a little difficult to do much more than skim the surface which was fun, but getting deeper and chatting with some of them would’ve been the icing on the cake.  There were also a bunch of panels that I just couldn’t get to because the kids would not have wanted to sit still that long. 

                In the end though the Twins had a blast and I think even the Five year old enjoyed himself.  My wife is always supportive of my comic book love and I think she too had a great time.  She doesn’t read the comic books but we’ve been married for nearly 19 years and she’s picked up a nugget of information from me over the years.  All in all Wondercon 2012 was a roaring success from this comic book loving fathers point of view.

A very cool nearly life size Hulk sculpture from Gentgiant Studios

Some replica props from the upcoming Avenger movie.

A very cool Shadow Trooper from 501st

Zantana (Zartan's Sister), The Baronness, & a Cobra Soldier (I think they might've been looking for the Joes)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Odds and Ends...or Sunday of Sniffles.

               Today is a beautiful day and I’m sitting here enjoying it through open blinds.  I would’ve liked to have gone for a ride today but instead I’m sitting here sniffling my way through my Sunday.  I feel better than I have in the last four days but still not great.  I wasn’t even up to writing yesterday.  I did get some editing done though so it wasn’t a complete loss.  The sun is shining and there is almost no wind it’d be a great day to be turning the pedals over.  I’d just like to stop feeling bad, this battle with my nose is getting old and I know if I go and ride I’ll regret it.  So it is with a little sadness that I sit down to write this.  I’m not in an overly creative mood so this won’t even be all that long…but I’m hoping there will be pictures. 
                I am working on kind of a cool blog post for Monday though.  I’m working on my third revision and getting my editor (okay she’s also my wife) to go over it so that I can almost look as if I know how to write English.  I only have two words for you; ‘Stupid Commas’ I hate the little bastards and yet I know they’re very important to the whole ‘making sense’ side of writing.  I probably should’ve paid more attention in that 11th grade English class and a little less time writing Star Trek fan fiction. 
                I had another idea drop into my head last night and I’m obsessing over it a little too much so I’m probably going to start something on that now.  I’d like to get published and I realize it’s going to be fairly difficult with a full novel length manuscript so I’m trying to get away from thinking all Epic like and instead concentrating on a smaller chunk of time/space to work through so as to create a short-story.  There are a dozen or more little e-zines that I might be able to submit to.  One of them might/possibly/maybe will publish it.  First though I’ll be sure to jot some notes down so I don’t get distracted and lose the nugget of an idea my Muse tossed my way.  She gets quite irritated with me when I do that.  Or maybe it's just my inner child doing his utmost best to distract me from the slightly muddled mess my second manuscript has become.  I'm gonna have to break out the machette on that sucker and cut away some major chunks to get it back on track.
                So without further ado we go to The Pictures.  Enjoy and watch out Monday for something a little different. 

And this is where it all happens...not that pretty but it is fairly functional

And this, dear followers, is a picture of The Manuscript!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Goals, goals...the magical fruit....

                Goals, we all have them.  These little gems are the alleged back bone of a successful life.  We build our futures one goal at a time.  Is your goal to big?  No problem we can just break them up into smaller more time sensitive ones.  We even spend agonizing hours thinking about them while hunched around the almighty Facebook (or Twitter…or both for all of us truly addicted simpletons) typing our little selves into a corner with our new year’s resolutions.  There is even a tiny sub-genre of book authors who devote oodles of time to helping you, yes you, come up with these little ditties.  Each year we declare our intention to achieve and each year we fail at a few of them.  We are the masters of aggressive mediocrity by hitting a .300 average when it comes to meeting our goals.  One has to wonder, do they really matter?
                 Despite what it sounds like I’m not really bashing on them because they do actually work.  I just question whether they are the Holy Grail we’d like them to be.  I wanted to ride 1500 miles last year and I declared this to everyone who mattered.  My sister-in-law challenged me and together we set out to hit our goal and we did.  (She kicked my butt by hitting 2011 miles while I topped out at 1800.)  When I hit the fifteen hundred mile mark I did it on a ride that destroyed my bike.  (I mean this literally).  The bike was so tweaked there was no riding it ever again. Topping that off was the fact that it was a ride that I didn’t even finish.  Yet, I’d hit the magic 1500.  I should’ve been happy, elated even.  I should’ve danced a jig and thrown my arms up to the heavens.  I didn’t.  Only a few knew I’d done it and even fewer cared.   I wasn’t stronger or faster and I certainly hadn’t morphed into Lance 2.0.
What did I expect to happen exactly?
I’m not really sure to be honest.  Do we ride all year, strive to get out and hit the pavement as often as possible (with the rubber side down of course) and rack up the miles no matter what?  To what end?  To see the numbers pile up on an excel spread sheet?  (It is pretty cool though)   Some people focus on a race or a series of races.  Do they magically change with success or is it simply enough for them to ‘Do It’?  I wish I knew because as I stare at the pile of pages in front of me and realize that the goal to finish a manuscript of novel length is gone like a great puff of smoke I’m sort of left with the eternal question, ‘What now?’  Certainly it’s not going to get published simply because I wrote it.  (I’ve got a pretty big ego but it’s not that inflated)  Sure it’s an achievement not everyone can claim and yes I agree it is a start.  Many people say they’re going to write a novel and never even get this far.  But now what?  Editing?  (I’ve already started) A new goal maybe?   
Or perhaps it is the journey that is the important factor.  It’s not the goal as so many self-help Yoda’s would like us to think it is.  It’s not the perfect body at the end of six weeks or after a week of the latest vegetable cleanse.  Maybe it’s the journey that gets us to the goal that is important.  The goal isn’t the life changing moment but the journey that gets us to it.  Was it the 1500 mile mark or the many rides it took to get there, good and bad, that were important?  Not too many parents look at their kids and think ‘Just wait till they get to eighteen and then we’re done.’  (Although I’m sure when I was sixteen that thought floated around the evening dinner conversation on more than one occasion) For me it’s the journey to eighteen for my kids.  The years, month and days that it takes to get to eighteen is the important part.  This is even more important when like me you have an unconventional schedule where I’m little more than a part-time Dad for much of the time.
As I begin working on writing as something a little more than a hobby, goals will be made almost by default.   I will probably even strive to hit my riding/writing goals this year. I’ll get the ‘Project that can’t be named’ edited and maybe even a second draft completed.  I think though that I, along with many others, have to stop putting so much stock into our goals.  They are important to have but they are not the greener grass on the other side of the fence.   We don’t magically change simply because we attain them.  We need to remember to focus on the journey that gets us to a completed goal.  Goals are important for sure but we need to keep our selves focused on what they really mean.  The goal should not be the end all and be all of our existence so that when we attain it we end up with a letdown and then the dreaded stagnation because the heavens didn’t open up and the angels remained mute.   As with all things goals and our striving to attain them must be tempered with moderation.  Don’t give up though it’s not all bad.  Continuing the earlier baseball metaphor, we need to keep stepping up to the plate, keep swinging that bat for better or for worse because once every now and again we’ll smack a deep fly ball that just squeaks over the center field wall, just don’t forget to enjoy the sound of the crowd going nuts and the feel of the bases under your cleat.  The home run will just get added to the stat line but the experience is the thing that we’ll take with us when we can’t play anymore.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I write, therefore I edit....

              Will the real story editor please stand up?  I can tell you this right now, it’s not me.  Nope, no way, no how!  This is seriously one of the harder things I’ve had to try and do.  I’m not liking it one bit but I’m trying to press on as best as I can.  I’m almost giddy from the relief that I don’t really have a deadline on this since I’m currently unpublished with no agent to breathe down my neck.  Of course I wouldn’t mind if I did have an agent breathing down my neck (it might make the process go faster) since that would mean I might actually be able to realistically sell this thing.  Still, if I ever hope to sell it, I need to have a more precise, more cohesive, and better written (or in this case rewritten) beast to offer.
                When I sat down with the venerable ‘project that really wasn’t’ after it was printed I was damn proud.  I sat there for a minute or two….or four or five and admired my handiwork.  There it was sitting proudly, it was shining a grand spectacle of my glorious achievement.  It was one spiral bound ode to perfection, my pinnacle achievement in my quest to become an author.  The heavens opened and the angels sang.  Well at least in the privacy of my office they did.
Then with a smile and mental pat on my back I opened it to delve into the creative goodness that the cover could barely contained.  I read the first page with a frown, it wasn’t bad.  There was potential for a good story, it wasn’t quite glowing but it hadn’t taken on the evil tint that was to come yet.  Five pages in and it felt like I had ran my shiny, sparkling Lamborghini grill first into that graffiti covered K-rail at the end of the road.  Steam poured from the hood, the engine hissed angrily at me and when I walked away it was quickly and with amazement that I could’ve created such a wreck.  I didn’t turn my back on it for fear that it was going to magically transform into some beast of a Decepticon and rip me to shreds with wild abandon and a maniacal giggle.
I’ve come up with every excuse to keep from returning to it but like the good trooper and with my head bowed by defeat I trudge silently to my desk and begin anew.  The bathrooms and the floorboards are very clean right now.  I have resorted to taking the hour or so I get to eek out for writing each day and breaking it up.  I work on my new project for forty-five minutes or so and then open the ‘project that can’t be named’ and work on a page or two.  It looks a little better after getting to explore another story first.  My fresh writing has been reduced to being the nine beers I need to pick up on the ugly girl with buckteeth and military issue glasses over in the corner.
                To be honest I’m not sure it’s really all that bad but this editing thing has a way of making you look at yourself in a mirror and forces you to deal with all the imperfections.  I walk around most days thinking I’m not getting old and those aren’t crow’s feet I see at the corner of my eyes.  There is no way I’m getting a step slower and my best years are not the ones that have past me by!  Yet that damn mirror tells me different.  It’s that glorious wakeup call that reminds you, ‘Writing aint easy’.  (and yes…you are getting older!) 
                Re-reading my work is a little like passing that mirror over and over but it’s also not a bad thing.  It’s a reality check and while my image in the mirror is not pretty, especially with no shirt on….ugh…shudder.  No, I can look in that mirror and see that maybe I’m not as old as I should be, nor as fat as I could be.  Maybe I’m slower than ninety percent of my friends on the bike but I still ride!  I’m still trying.  That’s how this editing thing is going.  I’m still trying.  There are nuggets of gooey goodness in there.  Some dialogue that jumps off the page at me and I am able to sit back and think, “Damn, that rocked.” The nugget could be a description, an idea, a plot point….something that is just plain good.  For every five or six lines I run into something that keeps me going.  I think at this point I’m doing it just to find little tidbits of the genius I know I can produce.  I’ll find one just as I think there is no hope and that gives me the courage to go on till I find the next one.
                So I’m about forty or fifty  pages into a nearly two hundred page tome.  It’s slow going but it is going forward and that’s the best direction to be going in no matter what you’re doing.  They say you have to re-write over and over and over again before you have a finished peace.  I’m hoping that’s the case, I haven’t gone back to reread the items I’ve fixed and rehashed but I just know they’re going to rock in a way no one’s ever rocked it before. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I think I'm turning 39, I think I'm turning 39, I really think so....

               I turn thirty-nine on Friday.  It’s amazing I’ve made it this far with most of my sanity still intact.  I look back on thirty-nine years and my first desire is to think of all the things I didn’t do, decisions I didn’t make, and to lament the mistakes I made.  Yes, I will admit that I’m a ‘glass is half empty’ sort of guy but I think to a certain extent this is something that a lot of people do.  I have this sense that I have one year to fix all of the rights and to take care of those things I didn’t get done.  It’s as if I’ve been given a terminal diagnosis by the local hack of a doctor.   Yet, I take pause, thirty-nine isn’t really all that old, is it?
                Growing up, forty seemed to be so old and now even sixty doesn’t seem that old.  Just the other day the famed Davey Jones passed away at the age of sixty-six and I read a lot of posts and tweets that sixty-six was too young to die.  Really?  It seems pretty old.  That must make, at thirty-nine, an infant right?  My Mom always said I didn’t really become human again(I think she saw me as some kind of vomit spewing alien from the age of sixteen to my early twenties) until I turned twenty-five.  Does this mean at thirty-nine I’m finally starting to mature and grow into my own skin?  If I’m just now maturing into the adult I was raised to be then why can’t I be a fire-fighter anymore, a policeman, a soldier?  It’s true I wouldn’t want to be any of these but, come on man, to be denied based on my age!?  Its age discrimination I tell you!
                So what mistakes did I make that I regret?  Let’s just say they’re too numerous and depressing to dwell on.  Instead, I think, we’ll acknowledge that I made them and move on.  As my birthday sweeps over me and the joy of massive amounts of attention and birthday wishes from all (come on who doesn’t love all the attention?) escalates to near euphoric proportions I’d like to look at everything I have because you never know when it’ll all be yanked away from you.   I read today about a conservative activist who died at the age of forty-three.  Forty-three!  That’s really  young guys, I’m not ready to go at forty-three.  Nope, no way, no how.  The report was that he died of natural causes.  Folks, no matter what you die of…forty-three is just too young to go.   I have more years behind me than I probably, realistically, have in front of me.  At the very least I’m about as half-way to the great unknown as I’m going to get.  I think dwelling on the negative aspects of my past is about as useful as….wings on a pig.
                Instead, I’m choosing to spend my one and only thirty-ninth birthday dwelling on the good things in my life.  The happy moments of my past and the exciting world we live in.  Think about it for a second.  For all you late thirty something folks reading this and passing the years in my company remember when we still bought vinyl?  I can remember like it was yesterday the first CD player I experienced.  My girlfriend at the time had gotten it. (I think it was her parents but I can’t remember) We listened to Oingo Boingo on it like there was no tomorrow.  Twenty one or so years later and CD’s have pretty much gone the way of the eight-track.  I know I haven’t bought one in years.  Remember when we used to send notes to each other in class….yeah me neither….okay I’ll admit it I do in fact remember those days.  (Though with all my heart I try not to…*shudders*)  We wrote everything from love notes to questions about what we were doing after class.   It’s sad that the current generation will never learn how to fold them into that little origami shape that kept them closed.   And now I’ve descended into the realm of;
                “Back in the day sonny I remember we used to play video games from cassette players,” in my best old persons voice, “Our phones took up whole rooms!”
                So I’m going to make a choice! I’ll look at the good and the happy.  My ‘smart pill’ encounter on my first Boy Scout camp out.  The three weeks I spent with my brother and my parents driving from Vista to New York City and back in our blue Isuzu Trooper and tent trailer.  My wedding day.  The day my girls were born.  The day my son was born.  I’ll think of the growing I’ve done and the fact that through thick and thin I’ve been with the same woman for twenty years and I love her more now than I did back in the day.  I’ll be happy with my job (for the most part) and count my lucky stars that not only am I working but that I managed to fall into career that almost suits me.  I’ll dwell on the hobbies I’ve chosen to participate in and the friends I’ve made over the years.  These are the things to dwell on as I hit thirty-nine and teeter on the cusp of forty.  It’s been quite a ride but in all reality I’m just getting to that highest point of the roller-coaster, that first hill before you descend into the stomach turning twists and loops.  It’s all thrilling and downhill after this.  It’ll go fast and be over before I know it so I’m determined to dwell on the good bits, discard the bad and get on with it.  So join me won’t you; throw your hands in the air and let’s scream all the way to the end….here it comes….and away we go!!