July 31, 2011

WRITING ADVICE – Kristine Kathryn Rusch #1: “Short Stories”

I first ran across the work of Kristine Kathryn Rusch when her named appeared on the bottom of a standard rejection form I got from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, where she was head editor for several years. A short time later, I ran across one of her short stories (“Retrieval Artist” in the June 2000 ANALOG), which of course, led me t0 her RETRIEVAL ARTIST novels. I’m a fan now and started reading her blog a year or so ago. As always, I look for good writing advice to pass on to you as well as applying it to my own writing. I have her permission to quote from the articles. You can find the complete article referenced below, here: http://kriswrites.com/2011/06/22/the-business-rusch-short-stories/

As I mentioned above, I stumbled across Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s novels through a short story I read and fell in love with. Oddly enough and LONG before I ever made it to reading her website, I was responding exactly as she had planned: “A good short story can be a gateway drug for the reader, getting them into a writer’s work without a lot of commitment.”

I have since then started collecting her RETRIEVAL ARTIST books as well as venturing into her other novels and short stories.

Unfortunately, I have no novels to direct readers of my short fiction to – something I’m trying to remedy. This brings me to a fact I just realized: I have no short stories written in the world of ANY of my novels (like Kristine Kathryn Rusch, I write in multiple genres – short stories in science fiction for young people and adults, historical fiction for young people, contemporary fiction for young people and adults, science labs for all ages, articles on writing, and essays. I have a teen science fantasy novel in first draft form and two picture books nearing completion as well).

I’m adding that peculiar endeavor to my list of things I need to accomplish by Christmas. I’ll keep you posted (or you can watch this blog to see what I “test drive” here).

As to publishing in multiple places “on line”, that was an endeavor I set off for in the fall of 2001 with my first online publication in a defunct online magazine called GATE WAY. The fact that the “story” was only a vignette and was mostly me noodling in a universe I am seriously developing now isn’t important. I wanted to dip my foot in the waters of online and found it chilly but invigorating. Since then I’ve had five stories in online venues – three SF, one a writing article (actually IN the online version of THE WRITER magazine) and one children’s story (which was reprinted in paper and after suggesting a teacher’s activity book to go with the paper magazine, got the go-ahead, wrote it and then had the project cancelled…)

But my problem is that I am way too scattered and – until I started reading her essays, articles, fiction bits and pieces and advice – I had no plan, no purpose and certainly no framework to hang my future as a writer on.

That has started to change because of the kriswrites.com (http://kriswrites.com/) website. The series of articles to follow at roughly monthly intervals will chronicle how I put together a coherent platform on which to build a writing career. I’m excited to see it happen – I hope you’re excited to see it grow.

By the way, I’ve also garnered wisdom from the other people whom I’ve written about based on their writing advice: Lin Oliver (co-found of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and author of the HANK ZIPZER series (along with TV legend, Henry Winkler); Nathan Bransford (former agent and currently author and web commentator); Jack McDevitt (hard science fiction and award-winning author); and Mike Duran (debut novelist and a-bit-right-of-center pop culture blogger and a monthly columnist for NOVEL ROCKET (formerly NOVEL JOURNEY, named one of Writer’s Digest 100 Best Websites in 2008, 2010 and 2011)). [If you click on WRITING ADVICE on the right in the LABELS column, Lin Oliver’s advice begins on November 23, 2008; Jack McDevitt’s on August 2, 2009; Nathan Bransford’s on April 18, 2010; and Mike Duran’s on December 5, 2010.]

image: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_6XXutOu1Dpw/SMMMse8dTtI/AAAAAAAABWA/cAq2GTdMqVY/s320/the+disappeared+rusch.bmp

July 27, 2011

IDEAS ON TUESDAY #22: Rare Earth Magic

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.



Fantasy Trope: the Quest…
Current Event: A real quest – two articles: http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/engineering/news/important-rare-earth-elements
http://www.questrareminerals.com/strangelakeproject.php



Te quest in the articles above is a quest for real stuff, in this case, rare-earth elements. But what if one of those elements turned out to have MAGICAL properties when refined in a particular way – and at a particular time?

Say lanthanum, which is used in Prius car batteries, when it is processed at midnight on the night of a full moon…

So, Molycorp, the only American company producing rare earths gets the ore and because rare earths are in such huge demand, they begin processing day and night.

Brendan is eighteen – just graduated from high school and while he doesn’t want to go to college yet, he’s very intelligent. Starting out shoveling ore, he pretty much stays there all summer. One night, as all of his friends have shoved off for college, he’s feeling sorry for himself. He’s working the graveyard shift and whining about his life on Facebook when someone breaks into the factory.

In fact, a GROUP of someones breaks in. They’re creepy. Ooky. Mysterious. Spooky…who and what are they. And after he slips around a corner, he knows that they are after the rare earth metal run tonight that comes off the automated line at midnight. They don’t sound nice. Midnight is just three hours away.

What does he do?

Image: http://www.molycorp.com/images/graphic/lanthanum.jpg

July 24, 2011

Slice of PIE: Radio, Television, Internet, Ebooks Triumph! The Piano, Radio, TV, Paper Books are Dead!

In an 1838 letter to Francis O.J. Smith [regarding the telegraph], Morse wrote: "This mode of instantaneous communication must inevitably become an instrument of immense power, to be wielded for good or for evil, as it shall be properly or improperly directed."

H.G. Wells wrote in "The Way the World is Going" in 1925: “I have anticipated radio’s complete disappearance…confident that the unfortunate people, who must now subdue themselves to listening in, will soon find a better pastime for their leisure.”

“Television replaced radio as the dominant broadcast medium by the 1950s and took over home entertainment. Approximately 8,000 U.S. households had television sets in 1946; 45.7 million had them by 1960.” http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/150/1930.xhtml

Hans Moravec, was quoted in a 1995 article in Wired titled "Superhumanism": "The robots will re-create us any number of times, whereas the original version of our world exists, at most, only once. Therefore, statistically speaking, it's much more likely we're living in a vast simulation than in the original version. To me, the whole concept of reality is rather absurd. But while you're inside the scenario, you can't help but play by the rules. So we might as well pretend this is real - even though the chance things are as they seem is essentially negligible."

“The Matrix is a science fiction action franchise created by Andy and Larry Wachowski and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The series began with the 1999 film The Matrix and later spawned two sequels; The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Matrix_(franchise)

An article by doubleface on MSN.money states that “The Paper Book Is Dead” – (http://money.msn.com/shopping-deals/article.aspx?post=c7f0c03d-2968-49db-a8ed-60b513fb8677) because:

1) Profit margins for publishers on ebooks are higher

2) Libraries allowed to lend books 26 times (HarperCollins) then have to rebuy it (see number 1) but will NEVER have to replace books borrowed less than that; libraries have limited funding and ebooks are cheaper

3) Readers pay less for the book

4) Reader ease –it’s easier to carry six ebooks to Cancun than to carry six paper books

While we haven’t yet reached the stage of computer complexity implied by the Matrix movies (at least I don’t FEEL like we have…), every other death knell sounded for some form of media has proven either premature or absurd. As well, those same criers seem to ignore the flexibility of media to adapt. They also completely miss other technological developments that create entirely new uses or venues for the media form that is on the verge of disappearing.

For example, do they even manufacture cars without radios?

Are satellites used more for spying or checking up on your sweetie’s tardiness?

While CDs for music have slowly disappeared, the technology jumped sideways and has become the primary format in which people “own” movies – often made from films that were originally printed on flammable cellulose and must be stored under extreme special conditions.

We cannot predict the “death” of anything. Announcing the death of paper books – whether through bold proclamation or condescending admission – is a tad premature. It’s also wealth-centric in the extreme. Ereaders are beyond the means of the majority of the world’s population, where books are easily within the reach of that same population.

“Availability of ereaders: This is an important factor as well. In many parts of the world it is impossible, or way too expensive, to get your hands on an ereader. As an example of this, I have searched high and low in Cebu City, the second largest city in the Philippines, and not been able to find any ereaders. I know this situation is slowly changing, but it has a long way to go before ereaders become universally available, and at prices that people can afford as well.” http://www.ebookanoid.com/2011/05/04/ebooks-will-not-kill-paper-books-at-least-not-for-a-long-time/

Finally, when you consider the number of used books shipped overseas to schools, training centers, libraries – the International Book Project alone has shipped nearly six million books since its inception in 1966 – you cannot help but wonder what would have happened if there had been no paper books and they sent old Kindles, Nooks and Sony Ereaders instead.

Would developing countries have the level of literacy they have today if there had been no paper books? Another point is that once in print, a book is very difficult to edit; the printed word is more-or-less permanent. But what will happen when rural Russians get their first electronic copies of THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO – after it has been thoroughly cleaned up by the central book store? Or what will the electronic version of HUCK FINN look like in a northern middle school after the school board gets a phone call challenging the language?

If the “e-revolution” continues and the source of affordable paper books flowing to developing countries ceases, we may face another kind of revolution fast on its heels.

My point however is to ask what exactly will we DO with old ereaders? To what creative use will they be put when the poor manage to finally get hold of the cast offs?

What entrepreneur will discover a way to make paper books indispensible the way auto makers made the radio indispensible – did I ask if they even MAKE cars without radios?

Image: http://www.radiomuseum.org/images/radio/sears_roebuck_co/silvertone_1904_724353.jpg

July 21, 2011

A SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH #28: July 14, 1946

This series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So I added some speculation about things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH, click on the label to the right. The FIRST entry is on the bottom.

“Do you think they saw us?” Freddie Merrill breathed.

“If they’d’a seen us, they’d’a killed us,” Tommy Hastings whispered. “What are they doing here? I thought we left them behind!”

“Who cares what they’re doing here! We go in the opposite direction!” Freddie leaned back from peeking around the corner just as the door of the store they were hiding in front of opened. Both boys scampered onto the sidewalk.

The man who walked out shouted, “What are you doing here? No hooligans in my store! Now get out before I call the police!” He shook his fist at them as they dashed across the busy street, dodging cars, bicycles and a bus. Freddie started off down the sidewalk on the other side of the street heading south. Tommy hesitated, followed after him then stopped.

Freddie said, “If we can make it up the hill soon enough, we should be able to hitch a ride with…” Freddie stopped and turned around. Tommy was staring after him, hands stuffed into his pockets. When Freddie glared, Tommy dropped his gaze to the ground. Freddie stomped back to his old friend and said, “You’re not thinking of keeping on going, are you?”

Tommy didn’t look up and shrugged instead. Freddie grabbed his shoulder, but Tommy jerked away, still not looking up. Freddie said, “You’re not thinking of staying in town, are you?” Tommy shrugged again. “The mobsters are here!” Freddie shouted. Passersby glanced at the boys and a few gave them wide berth. “The witch is probable here, too!” Tommy scowled and finally looked up. Freddie added, “And your communist uncle!”

“He ain’t a communist, he’s a socialist,” Tommy said sulkily.

“Same thing!”

“What do you know about socialists and communists?”

Freddie glared at him for a while then he twisted his mouth sideways and finally said, “About as much as you do, which is to say – nuthin’.”

Tommy grunted and digging his hands deeper into his pockets, he replied, “True. But I wanna find out, ‘cause if my uncle is a socialist then maybe Dad or Mom is, too.”

“I thought you said your mom don’t talk about her brother hardly at all.”

Tommy shrugged, “She don’t. But that don’t mean I can’t talk to him. Charlie’s dad was dead set against him but that don’t mean I have to be. He’s my uncle and I want to see him.”

“What if he’s messed up with the mobsters?”

Tommy snorted, “And the witch?” He thought a moment. “Maybe I’ll leave and never go back. But maybe not. I wanna talk to him at least.” He finally met Freddie’s gaze full on and said, “If he’s as important at Charlie’s dad says he is then he can protect us from the witch and the mobsters no matter what.”

Freddie shook his head but said, “It still stinks, but goin’ with you has got to be better than hosing down milk tanks and listening to Mr. Fairlaine rant about socialists.”

Tommy nodded, adding, “And letting Charlie pick on you.” He turned and started walking north along North Shore Drive.

Freddie ran up beside him and said, “He wasn’t pickin’ on me! He liked me. He was picking on you!”

“He was not! He liked me. He thought you were stupid,” Tommy fired back.

Freddie grunted and said, "I don't think he liked anybody -- least which his own son."

Tommy had nothing to add as they headed north toward the mansions.

Image: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4141/4892039733_c9b1aa3fa7.jpg

July 19, 2011

IDEAS ON TUESDAY #21: Yo Mummy!

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

Horror Trope: artifact of doom

Current Event: A real-life, right now mummy kidnapping! http://www.examiner.com/art-in-new-york/ancient-egyptian-artifacts-discovered-smuggling-bust

Oh, we LOVE our mommies…er…mummies!

100 pieces of King Tutankhamen’s funerary stuff, as well as a bunch of “fake stuff” (they call them replicas) is currently on display here at the Science Museum of Minnesota – which is what’s inspiring THIS post.

So OBVIOUSLY, the stolen sarcophagi (which, BTW, in Latin means “flesh eater”…ew…) are bad luck for the New York antique dealers who went down in the bust. So far, the curse of THESE mummies hasn’t reached the Jordanian collector being sought after by his countrymen.

But let’s say that he made a clean get away and he’s tipping a few cold Mountain Dews in his air-conditioned house in Jordan even as I write this. He’s pocketed his finder’s fee and he figures he’s home free and is just opening the file on his computer for his next heist. It picks up a virus like so many other computers and his AVAST program supposedly eats it up.

The next time his fourteen-year-old son, Itamar goes online to update his Facebook and chat with his friends all over the planet, the computer virus from the sarcophagi takes a little leap from the hard drive, onto his hand and after he’s done with his session, he yawns and rubs his eyes, passing a biological virus to the moist membranes of his eyes.

Late in the morning – because his dad is pounding on the door to wake him up he rubs his eyes and notices his vision is a little foggy…

Image: http://www.downloadost.com/ost/big-la-momie-the-mummy-ost.jpg

July 17, 2011

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Accurate Measurements in Writing

GOOGLE “give up writing” and you get a quarter of a billion results. It’s a popular theme whose response ranges from when you should hang it up to exhortations that real writers never give up.

I’m not talking about giving up writing today – or any day for that matter. What I want to talk about is success and measurement, or I suppose I could say I’m talking about measuring success – but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about either.

First of all, measures. Many if not most writers, measure success by publication. That measure has grown increasingly inaccurate with the advent of ebooks and Create Space. Anyone with a novel can format, price and place it on Amazon.com, Smashwords or any of dozens of places where for some amount of credit transfer, you can read their words. The ones who do that feel that they are published and therefore successful.

While I haven’t put my stuff out there yet in that way, I have read a couple of books that have been. Both have been deeply disappointing. I’ve even tried to read a couple put out by “indie presses” or independent presses, specialized publishers whose editors accept work based on their strict criteria who then contract and work with writers. Unfortunately, I haven’t read one of the indie novels that I really liked yet, either (and FYI, one was paper the other electronic).

Books I’ve read by “small press” publishers – which range somewhere between the indie presses and the megacorps – have (in my experience) been uneven. Of course, every novel I read published by TOR, DAW, VOYAGER et al has been fabulous, right? No, they haven’t. But I have found them consistently freer of grammatical and formatting errors; easier to find; more reliably reviewed; typically more smoothly edited and almost always more pleasingly jacketed.

All of the above then I’ve written to say that publication alone is no longer a measure of success for a writer of ANYTHING.

So what do I measure success by now in my own writing? Production? Harrumph – everyone knows the “infinite monkey theorem” that states, “…a monkey hitting keys at random on a computer keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.”

Quality? Possibly, but how so? I CAN say that my work has been edited and published in magazines that still exist and are recognizable to the authorities in the field: ANALOG is generally recognized in the science fiction field and CRICKET is generally recognized in the children’s fiction field. So are THE WRITER and TURTLE MAGAZINE. The problem there is that it has been some time since I sold anything to any of them despite a consistent (if not frequent) flow of submissions. I sold my most recent publication in FUN FOR KIDZ magazine over two years ago. Checking my records, I see clearly that I have not sold anything since then, except for a teacher’s guide for a story collection for which I received a kill fee when the project was cancelled. So if I exclude the “time thing”, I can say, based on those criteria that I am successful.

My question though is this: Though by the above criteria I am “successful” – why don’t I FEEL successful?

Thoughts and comments are ALWAYS welcome!

Image: http://quksaceagjke.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/poppins.png

July 16, 2011

July 14, 2011

No IDEAS ON TUESDAY...

Got SO behind this week because I taught a brand new West Suburban Summer School class called Time & Time Travel and hit several bumps, knots and tough issues.

Completely behind on my writing...

Ask me if you want details.

I'll return to my regularly scheduled blogging posts tomorrow...

July 10, 2011

WRITING ADVICE: The Last Mike Duran!

I have never seen Mike Duran. We “met” online a couple years ago because of a little…altercation I caused by saying something less-than-nice about Christian speculative fiction on his blog. Mike, being both a specfic writer and editor, won me closer to his side with gentle and wise words. Since then I’ve found that Mike has lots of gentle and wise words. I’m looking at how some of them have had an impact on my own writing in these WRITING ADVICE posts. (Quotes are used with his permission.) He also participates in “ONE OF WRITER'S DIGEST 101 MOST VALUABLE WEBSITES FOR WRITERS, 2008 & 2010”, NOVEL JOURNEY athttp://noveljourney.blogspot.com/. The source of this article is my reading the column for the last few years and a few questions Mike Duran agreed to answer. My sincere thanks to Mike for allowing me to use his blog as inspiration for writing advice!

This “final Mike Duran” WRITING ADVICE isn’t exactly advice – unless it’s a word of caution.

After reading COACH’S MIDNIGHT DINER (2007) because I’d stumbled across an ad for it and was curious what “Christian speculative fiction” was, I read all the short stories and finished…vaguely disappointed. I found Mike Duran’s website, deCOMPOSE and I’ve been a “follower” since August 1, 2009 and I comment whenever the Spirit moves me.

That being said, I made a few observations after my curiosity was piqued after a comment Mike Duran made on the May 2010 blog, “What is your ‘brand?”

That blog contained the following question: “…Why are you reading this? How you answer that question not only helps me determine what my brand might be, it probably says something about yours as well.”

I asked myself the question and came up with a good answer. But then this led me to another question much later that had a decidedly cynical bent: “Why are more people reading (and commenting on) your blog now who WEREN’T reading and commenting before you got an agent and had a book published?”

Working at keeping this from edging into sour grapes, because I’m fascinated by the idea of public adulation of people who are deemed/voted/declared “significant”, I know that from personal experience as an “adorer” and sycophant, I hung around certain people so some of their “greatness” would fall down on me.

The same thing happened to Jesus – he absolutely had at least twenty or so people who REALLY cared for Him. The rest were there to get healed or fed. Granted, he didn’t care WHY they were there as long as they heard the Good News, but the fact is that most of them wanted something from Him – like to follow the new King of the Jews, or have their burdens lifted or their sicknesses healed.

Noting Mike’s increased popularity, I asked him a series of questions:

How do you keep that from going to your head?

What do you say to yourself when you get 153 comments on your blog to keep your heart humble and your vision on the Glory of God and your mission to write the best dang book you can because you feel God’s call on your heart and you can’t NOT say what He’s urging you to say?

What advice would you give to those who are venturing into the secular world of writing – where the problem is even GREATER because they have no one to praise but “celebrities”?

In part, Mike responded to all of them with a single answer – as they ARE intimately related - by saying: “Surely, authority, accolades, recognition, or power is not something that should be sought. Jeremiah 45:5 says, ‘Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.’”

“…there's a sense that the best influence one can have is the influence achieved indirectly. People who don't aspire to positions of authority are often the most authoritative leaders.” (Mike used this statement as a Facebook post shortly after he wrote this to me. When I asked him So -- did you come up with that before or after you wrote my email letter? Mike responded: “During.” July 3 at 9:04pm)

“A. W. Tozer said, 'God uses a man greatly only after He has hurt him deeply.' So in a sense, real influence (from a biblical perspective) stems from brokenness. Which is why we authors and bloggers must constantly check ourselves, and (gulp) aspire to brokenness.”

All that to say, blogging or author popularity is a combination of things, some sought, some bestowed. While some follow [the blog] because they genuinely love [the] stuff and benefit from [the] wisdom, others follow [the blog] because they want to be on the bandwagon or the crest of a potential trend wave.

Mike responded, “It's not easy to parse people's motives, nor should we. The popularity of my blog is probably a combination of things: tenure, controversy, niche, industry cred, representation, being published, being active in social networking, etc. So I'd be reluctant to pin it on any one method or dynamic. While I am still rather surprised and definitely blessed by the number of hits and comments my blog has begun to garner, it isn't the primary goal I am seeking. That goal is much deeper, grander, and independent of whether or not the ‘numbers’ validate me.”

At one point in his life, Mike Duran was a pastor, shepherding a standard church flock through its growth and life. After his season was done, he moved on to other things. I note though that even though he’s now a “writer”, he is as much a shepherd as he was with a brick and mortar church and while he didn’t affirm that opinion…he didn’t deny it either!

Thank you Mike Duran for contributing your writing advice to my career!

Image: http://www.10minutewriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/MIke-Duran.png

July 7, 2011

THE RECONSTRUCTION OF MAI LI HASTINGS 27

I read the play version of Daniel Keyes’ FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON when I was in eighth grade. It has stayed with me for decades, a haunting symbol for both the overwhelming possibilities of the human intellect and the overwhelming impossibilities faced by a profoundly challenged human mind. I’ve started and stopped this novel a half a dozen times in eleven years. I want to bring the original idea into the present millennium. To read RECONSTRUCTION from beginning to here, click on the label to the right and scroll four pages back until you get to the bottom.

Job stepped up beside CJ and said, “Who do you think you are?”

The college student in the U of M Police uniform snapped, “Corporal Mat Bassinger.” He leaned forward, “Who are you, boy?”

Job glared up at the student, then in a flash, stomped on his instep and brought his knee up into the student’s face as he hunched over the painful strike. He staggered backwards, falling on his back side, blood gushing from his nose.

CJ stared until Job grabbed him and said, “Let’s go before he gets up. I think he’ll be mad.”

The two boys dashed down the street, keeping near the houses until they were past Dr. Douchebag – Dr. Chazhukaran from the U of M’s research hospital – and his fake army. Then they ran full out until they got to Job’s apartment building. Job led the way to the garage and stopped to open it. Inside there were five bicycles, boxes, suitcases, lamps, tables and kitchen chairs. CJ said, “This is all your stuff?”

“No, I just broke into someone else’s storage locker and we’re going to steal their stuff.”

“But…”

“Come on, stupid! It’s our stuff. We gotta ride to get the hospital or there won’t be anyone around to protect your mom and Mai Li.” He stepped in, grabbed a bike and fed it to CJ, then grabbed another and rolled out on it, adding, “By the way, I was on rLife and Coach Jalfroun said you got an offer to compete on the math team for MacDonald-Chandrasekhar Academy next year!”

“Dr. Douchebag has a high school and he wants me to go there?” Job gave him a weird look so CJ said, “That doctor who wants to take Mai Li? His name is Chazhukaran – he has an academy…” They biked down the street, side-by-side, taking less busy streets but still making their way to the hospital.

“Not your doctor, stupid! Chandrasekhar was an East Indian astrophysicist – he liked math. There’s a school that gots his name and they want you for their math team when you get to ninth grade.”

“But I’m going to Hosterman with you and everyone else!”

“Not if you can go to an exclusive high school. You need to go there so you can get a good education.” The street intersected a busy road and they took to the sidewalks instead of the street, occasionally riding up on the grass when there was a walker.

CJ said, “I don’t want to go to some fancy school!”

“You gotta go where you’ll get the best education,” Job called as the boys split to go around a lady with a double stroller and two sleeping twins. “Don’t matter where it is. ‘sides, we live two blocks away from each other, we’ll still be friends!”

They reached the hospital and stopped, looking around for a place to leave the bikes. Job said, “You get in there. I’ll find someplace to stash ‘em and catch up with you. Got your cell?” CJ nodded and jumped from the bike, looked back at Job then sprinted into the hospital.

It didn’t take long to find them. There was cop talking to Mom as he stepped up beside her. She patted his shoulder while she went over the details of Dr. Douchebag’s attempted kidnapping – the cop’s words – and he entered them into his palmpad.

When he was done, CJ said, “What’s happening?”

His mom shook her head and took him by the hand – she hadn’t held him by the hand since he was eight! – leading him deeper into the hospital. They took an elevator up, riding in silence with a couple doctors and an old man with no hair in a wheelchair. The others got off, leaving them alone. Mom finally said, “They said that Mai Li is unconscious and is running a high fever. There’s a chance she’ll have a seizure if they can’t get the temperature down.”

“What did you tell them?”

“I couldn’t really say anything. They asked if she was using drugs, but I don’t know. I couldn’t exactly say she was a Dr. Douchebag experiment.”

They were silent until the elevator doors opened again and they walked out.

That was when they saw the five police officers standing around the door of one of the rooms. They all turned to look at them and one stepped forward and said, “Ma’am, we had a call from the U of M hospital to place your daughter under quarantine.” Mom stopped then walked ahead, pushing past the cop. “Ma’am, you can go…”

“Then you’ll have to shoot me, officer,” she said as she kept walking.

image: http://c69282.r82.cf3.rackcdn.com/5225.jpg

July 5, 2011

IDEAS ON TUESDAY #20: Evil Overlord List – Don’t Laugh TOO Hard…


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.
F Trope: dark lord
Current Event: While this isn’t exactly a current event, it IS a current list! Read it if you love fantasy because you’ll see everything your favorite Evil Overlord has ever done to cause his, her or its defeat. http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html
I ran into this list something like ten years ago and I read through it at least once a year. I don’t write fantasy often, but still dabble and have a couple of worlds I’d still like to write stories in. Anyone who was reading this blog two years ago might remember my pieces of flash fiction for a concept called THREAT OF MAGIC. In it, I have developed (using the Evil Overlord List!) a reasonable world…
Ah, but this isn’t about ME! It’s about an idea. I can’t even say that I came up with it, either. An author who teaches a writing workshop, Teresa Neilson Hayden has her students use this method for generating stories.
Today, I’ll ask you to try this one – or go to the website above and choose your own: “If I learn the whereabouts of the one artifact which can destroy me, I will not send all my troops out to seize it. Instead I will send them out to seize something else and quietly put a Want-Ad in the local paper.” (this is #49)
We’ll update this to the 21st Century and have a smart 15-year-old girl who collects small statues skimming through Craigslist looking to add to her collection. The ad asks for a small statue of a man squatting, with arms wrapped around his knees. It also states that this is a fairly common object – but what the buyer is looking for is a heavy, iron version of this; probably rusted about fifteen centimeters tall. The head has a small gold ring set on it and in the ring is a tiny diamond. The buyer claims it was made by their father and the ring is their mother’s engagement ring. The ad offers $5000 for the figure.
The girl looks up from her laptop. The statue sits on her shelf – in fact, it’s the center of her collection. She shakes her head. She starts college next Fall. She could use the cash. After all, it’s only a statue.
She bookmarks the ad and returns to surfing. She eventually ends up on msn.com where there is breaking news of a daring raid on an Egyptian museum by art thieves…
Have fun!

July 3, 2011

SLICE OF PIE: What Do I Think I’m Doing?


A few days ago, I was wondering how much time I spend writing my blogs, essays, flash fiction, and guest blogs.

It didn’t take long to realize that figuring out THAT number was going to be like trying to find and separate aluminum needles in a dumper of iron filings with magnetic tweezers. There were too many variables: Do I include research? Are hand writing articles then editing as I enter them into a word processing program (as I’m doing as I write this) one act or two, requiring the measurement of TWO periods of time? Do I include noodling? Do I include editing?

How much time I spend writing wasn’t going to give me a very useful number – plus it was going to be well-nigh to impossible to calculate.

A number I COULD figure though, was how many words I produce a week.

Ah! Here I had a reasonable methodology. I post four times a week: a Sunday piece of writing like a Possibly Irritating Essay, a Slice of PIE, or Writing Advice. Tuesdays it’s Ideas on Tuesday; Thursdays I post a piece from a novel or book-length fiction I’m working on in one of four categories; Saturday is my BREAST CANCER REAPER essay (the name of which, BTW, I am thinking of changing – go to the site here: http://breastcancerreaper.blogspot.com/2011/07/resources-and-possibility-of-new-name.html and give me your input!)

In addition, I do a once-a-month post at Friday Challenge and sporadic articles for that spot. Oh, and an occasional post on Chila Woychik’s blog at Port Yonder Press (http://portyonderpress.com/aboutus.aspx).

All told, it comes out to about 7200 words a month. I’ll add another 2800 words to that to encompass a modest estimate of my project writing so I come out with a nice, round 10,000 words a month. At that output, I should be able to pump out one decent SF novel a year or a couple of YA/Teen novels.

And I haven’t…why?

Because I like blogging, I like interacting with people in the blogosphere and, if you must know, I think I have “something to say”.

My next question though is this: if I REALLY wanted to write novels, then what do I think I’m trying to do blogging so much?

Your thoughts?

Image: http://www.ariionkathleenbrindley.com/old-man-at-computer.jpg