Monday, April 20, 2009

4/20/2009 Flash Fiction - "All's Well that Ends Well"

Over at the Absolute Write forums, there's a weekly challenge to write a piece of Flash Fiction (as I understand it, less than 1,000 words) based off a prompt that's posted at 6:00pm PST every Sunday. The idea is that once you see the prompt, you have 90 minutes to plan, write, and edit the piece. I like the concept of this challenge, as it gets my mind thinking and my fingers typing.

This week's prompt was "All's well that ends well." My story is below. I'll probably try to do this often, although I doubt it'll happen every week.

All's Well that Ends Well

The TV winked out as the pitcher wound up for the 3-2 pitch in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 7. "No!" Carl screamed as he lunged out of his chair. The Cubs were one pitch from winning their first World Series in 101 long years. He'd waited his entire life, and now the TV died, just as it was about to happen.

Carl hit the television several times, checked the power and cables, but nothing turned it back on. The ceiling light was still on, so the electricity wasn't out. Running to the den, he threw himself into his computer chair and hit the power button on the PC.

"Come on, come on," he muttered as the computer booted into Windows. Once it was ready, he pulled up the Cubs website, only to see the score tied at three. The Royals had tied the game on a solo home run, and had men on second and third, two outs.

Carl couldn't actually watch the game, but the website tracked it well enough that he could follow what was happening. Until the PC turned off. He gaped at the screen for a moment, then punched the power button. Nothing.

Did a breaker blow? Carl looked around, noticed that the light was on. He was sure that he hadn't flicked its switch. And the glow coming from it denied the possibility of a blown breaker.

What was going on? Carl walked through the house. The lights in the bedrooms were on, as was the kitchen's. Every light was lit, but the rest of the electrical components were dead. Clocks, stereo, land-line wireless phone, DVD player...all dead. He walked to the living room, picked up his cell phone from the coffee table, and saw with relief that it was on. Flipping it open, however, revealed no signal, despite the fact that it never had problems at home. Just about everywhere else in the god-forsaken town where he lived, yes, but not home.

Carl rubbed the back of his neck, working on a knot of tension. Something weird was happening, but more importantly, he had no way of knowing if the game was over. He wandered through the rooms, then out the front door. Lights shone from every window in the neighborhood.

He strode to the Stewart's home. Vic was a baseball fan; he probably had the game on. Carl pounded on the front door, but received no response. "Come on!" he yelled. "I know you're in there, Vic. I can see the lights."

Leaning on the doorbell with one hand, he continued to slam his fist against the door. But after a minute or two, gave up. He ran to the next house, pounded on their door. Again, no response.

Walking slowly back home, Carl sighed. He didn't like this electricity business, or his neighbors ignoring him, but those problems could wait. The game, he had to know what happened in the game. Lost in thought, he looked down, and would have fallen on the ground if it were there to catch him. Instead, he saw nothing but the serene blue of a summer sky.

Whipping his head around, Carl tried to figure out where he was. Blue surrounded him on all sides, as far as he could see. Still walking--he could feel the movement in the air--he didn't see to be going anywhere. Of course, with no reference point, how could he tell?

He slowed to a stop, sat down. He couldn't see what he sat on, couldn't even feel it. But his body told him he was sitting, so he chose to believe it. After waiting a few moments, the blue changed, began to darken, until it became the deepest, darkest night.

Wonder if the Cubs are still playing, he thought. For no reason he could determine, he stood up and started walking. First one direction, then another. It was pitch black, yet he could still see his body. No lights anywhere, but somehow, he could see.

After awhile--minutes, hours, days, he had no way of knowing--Carl grew bored and lay down, closed his eyes. He lay there unmoving for what felt like hours, but was probably closer to a few minutes, when a voice boomed out, "Carl Trudeau, you have been judged, and found wanting."

Leaping up, Carl opened his eyes and saw nothing but the eternal darkness. "Who are you?"

"I am Judge. I have found you guilty. Your punishment is upon you."

"Guilty? Of what?"

"Of being a shallow, lonely man with no interests beyond the fate of a few grown men playing a child's game."

"It's baseball! How could I not love it?" His voice echoed in the dark, bouncing on unseen walls and magnifying in volume as he waited for a response.

"You abandoned Melissa for love of the game. For your arrogance and callousness, you are imprisoned for eternity."

Melissa. It came back to her, like everything else. The bitch. "I told her from day one how much I loved baseball. It's not my fault she didn't believe me."

"You put a game before your wife. You have earned your sentence."

Angry tears caused Carl's vision to blur. Odd that perfect darkness blurs, he thought. "Will you at least tell me what happened in Game 7?"

The voice hesitated, then whispered. Carl strained to listen, but couldn't make out what it said. Another voice whispered, but he had no better luck with it. Finally, Judge spoke again. "I have been ordered to give you this much, at least. The Cubs won in the 10th inning."

Carl jumped, adrenaline pumping through his body. "Yes!" he shouted, and danced through the darkness.

"Do not be joyful, mortal. You are still imprisoned for eternity."

"The Cubbies won," Carl replied. "My life is complete. What they say is true. All's well that ends well." With a contented sigh, he strode away, into the darkness.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I've just finished reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print, 2nd edition by Renni Browne & Dave King, and wow, is it ever an excellent book. If there are any aspiring writers reading this post, I highly recommend picking up a copy.

I borrowed it from my local library, but I have no doubt that I'll be picking up my own copy very soon. It's full of helpful tips, exercises, and new ways of looking at writing. As I it, I felt decent about most of my writing, as I avoid most of their "don't" lists. Then I got deeper into the book, and several chapters seemed to speak to me personally, pointing out the flaws that plague my writing.

But not only do they show examples of what's done wrong, and what's done right, Browne and King provide explanations, exercises, and tips on how to correct the problems. Perhaps the most useful inclusion is quotes from manuscripts before and after editing, with a discussion about what they fixed, and why.

Most "how to write" books I've read tell what not to do, and maybe provide an example or two. A few will go into a little detail about why to avoid certain pitfalls. None so far had the excellent, practical advice that Browne and King provide.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

This is the first time Jenny and I made Easter dinner. Normally we go to my grandparent's house. But this year too many people were sick, so it was just the two of us. We made the following:

Cola Basted Ham
Scalloped Potato Gratin
Green Bean Casserole

Everything was delicious. The ham was good, although not as good as the Honey Baked Ham we normally have at Easter. Still, it was an acceptable substitution. The potatoes were creamy, cheesy, and awesome (we added some cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon). And the Green Bean Casserole is a standard at our holiday feasts.

Hope you and yours have a great Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Airleaf Publishing stole from authors, Indiana declines to prosecute

This post at Writer Beware! Blogs is about Airleaf Publishing, a now defunct company run by Carl Lau, and the roughly 2 million dollars it has stolen from authors. Now comes word that the United States Attorney of Indiana, Timothy Morrison, has decided that their actions do not meet the criminal codes of Indiana.

This is ridiculous, as evidenced by the litany of crimes listed in the post. Bonnie Kaye, a writer's activist, is organizing a petition to deliver to Timothy Morrison urging him to prosecute. If you're interested, click here to see the Writer Beware! Blogs post to get Bonnie's email address and let her know you'd like to sign the petition.

Monday, April 6, 2009

First full day of baseball!

What a wonderful day it is. Baseball is back, and oh how I have missed it. I don't follow any other sports, so when baseball's offseason rolls around, I feel deprived.

But it's back, and the Mets won today! A nice 2-1 win in which Johan Santana pitched well, and the bullpen, the key point of failure the last two seasons, put up 3 1/3 shutout innings. Exactly what the Mets needed.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

First revision of Jack O'Lantern complete

Today I finished my first pass of editing on Jack O'Lantern. It's amazing how much lousy writing I found when I read it. But at the same time, I found some real gems in there. Reading through and making the notes about what needed to be corrected was the easy part. Getting in there and actually doing the editing was difficult, and not fun. It got discouraging after awhile. Editing focuses on the bad writing, after all, and then fixing it. And so when I went through page after page, and saw the mistakes pile up, the poor sentences compound, and the just plain "what was I thinking?" moments keep coming, I got discouraged. I'd work on 20-30 pages at a time, and then just shove it aside when I hit a hard part. But the manuscript was always there, always nagging at me to get back to it.

Now I'm done with that first editing pass. And there's still so much more editing and revising to do. There's at least one whole chapter that I need to add, to flesh the story out a little. There are probably a lot of little details I could use to put in, things to make the story and world come alive. But hell, at this point, I'm happy. Another major step in the writing process complete.

Friday, April 3, 2009

All will soon be right with the world

The baseball season starts Monday! I cannot say just how much I hate the offseason. Yes, there are trade rumors and free agent signings to keep up with, not to mention Spring Training, but it's just not the same as regular season baseball. I bought Extra Innings from DirecTV, so I'll get to watch just about every Mets game there is this season.

Tomorrow the Mets play the Red Sox in their final exhibition game. It's only their second game at their new stadium, Citi Field. MLB Network will be broadcasting, and you can be sure I'll be watching. I can't wait to get a look at what their new digs looks like.

Ah, baseball. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rock, Radio, and my favorite songs

As I state in my Blogger profile, my favorite genre of music is classic rock, with a spotlight on the 80's. I love the big hair bands, the hair metal, the anthem rock, the power ballads, the over-the-top songs and performances. It's what rock is all about to me. And more than anything else, I love the sound of the guitar that was popular then, especially the solos. The lead guitar was on equal footing as the lead singer in so much of 80's rock, and that's where it belongs. There's not a lot of current rock that I enjoy, and it's mostly because rock now focuses more on beats, rhythms, and repeatable riffs rather than meticulously intricate guitar playing. I also love long rock epics, and there's very little of that anymore. Almost everything now seems to fit neatly into the 3:30-4:30 minute range, to please radio producers, I imagine. And when a song is "too long," parts are cut out - usually the instrumental portions that are just as important to the feel of the song as the chorus and hook.

This is one reason that about the only radio station I listen to (when I'm not listening to my iPod) is 95.5 KLOS in the Greater Los Angeles area. They play tons of classic rock, they'll play 20-minute songs, they'll even play entire albums. It's great, and I discover more awesome songs all the time.

Without further ado, here's what I currently consider my favorite 20 songs.

20) Right Side of Wrong - Bon Jovi

This song has one recurring theme with most of my favorite songs: it tells a story. I love storytelling (as is evidenced by my writing and voracious reading), and doing it to great music is awesome. And I think Jon Bon Jovi has a great voice that's just perfect for it.

19) Shooting Star - Bad Company

Another story. Great vocals, great story, and some beautiful guitar solos. I especially like how the second solo builds, and builds, and builds to the climax.

18) More Than Words - Extreme

I saw Extreme in concert last year in Vegas at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay. Great show, and this song was incredible. It's very different from most on this list, as it's very stripped down and almost simplistic. The guitar is incredible, and the harmonies and falsettos are beautiful.

17) Turn the Page - Metallica

The Bob Seger version is okay, but Metallica took this song and made it shine. The grittiness that James Hetfield brings to the vocals makes it a more powerful story.

16) You're All I Need - Mötley Crüe

I love power ballads, and this one is a great one, even if the lyrics are twisted and disturbing. It shows a diversity to Mötley Crüe's music that is often overlooked.

15) Paint it Black - The Rolling Stones

I'm not a big Stones fan, as I can generally take 'em or leave 'em. Something about Paint it Black really appeals to me, however. I love the main guitar riff, and the lyrics are fun.

14) Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd

What would a top 20 list of classic rock songs be without Free Bird? It's so iconic, so great, and the guitar solos so could I pass it up?

13) Paradise City - Guns N' Roses

As is typical for GnR, the guitar riffs and solos in this song are nearly beyond belief. Slash is easily my all time favorite guitarist, and he's in fine form in this song.

12) Juke Box Hero - Foreigner

Another story. This one makes it mostly on the power of Lou Gramm's voice. The slow beat of the intro pulsing in the background, he describes the scene and the scream of the guitar, and I can see what he's describing. Awesome.

11) Hotel California - The Eagles

Yep, another story. I love how, similar to Free Bird, the lyrics end relatively early in the song, and the rest is just pure instrumental. I want to write a book using this song as a base, but something tells me I'd never persuade The Eagles to let me do it.

10) The Unforgiven - Metallica

A lot of Metallica fans think that they went "commercial" with the black album. I disagree; I simply think they expanded their abilities and reached new heights. This song is, you guessed it, another story. The song contains everything that defines Metallica to me: great, soft intro leading into powerful vocals and heavy guitar, and a great solo.

9) Cliffs of Dover - Eric Johnson

The only pure instrumental song on this list, this one is all about the beauty of a well-played electric guitar. Great intro, catchy chorus, and awesome solos.

8) Dry County - Bon Jovi

An epic song with a compelling story, sung by Jon Bon Jovi's hauntingly mournful voice. And the band's best solo of all their work.

7) Don't Stop Believing - Journey

One of the greatest karaoke songs of all time, and I don't even like karaoke. But when this song comes on in the car, when I'm alone, I sing as if I was on stage.

6) Foreplay / Long Time - Boston

Boston's Peace of Mind and More Than a Feeling just missed this top 20. I love their very-distinctive sound, and Brad Delp was one of the greatest vocalists in rock history.

5) God Gave Rock and Roll to You II - KISS

I just love this song. Guitar that practically sings the lyrics, good solo, and a great premise.

4) Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen

Freddy Mercury just may have been the best vocalists ever. Simply incredible. And Queen just may be the best band ever. Only their innovative, groundbreaking style could bring about a song such as Bohemian Rhapsody. Who else can merge soft a cappellas, heavy guitar solos, rock and roll, bell chords, and fricking opera?

3) November Rain - Guns N' Roses

Probably the most beautiful guitar solos I've ever heard, and Axl Rose singing beautifully. What more needs to be said?

2) 18 and Life - Skid Row

Sebastian Bach's performance is so guttural, so passionate, that it feels real. He makes you believe Ricky really exists, that his trials and tribulations were actually happening.

1) Sweet Child o' Mine - Guns N' Roses

Sweet Child o' Mine features one of the most famous guitar riffs of all time, one of the first that aspiring guitarists try to learn and play as soon as they get their instrument. It's ironic that Slash had to be convinced by his band mates to include the riff in a song, as he thought it was too simplistic and used it as part of his warm-up routine. Axl Rose was at the top of his game when he sang this song. It's just a shame that Axl is so adamant about never working with the rest of GnR again as long as he lives. He may release new albums using the same band name, but everybody knows it's not really Guns N' Roses.