I have one complete novel, and by this time my excitement has devolved into nostalgia. Nostalgia is just another brand of brain crack. It’s sweet, comforting but it wears off fast and leaves you with a bitter aftertaste like Splenda. It wastes lean tissue on building temples to the past and your feet fixed to the ground.
To move forward, you’ve got to go all Sampson on the Temple of Nostalgia and their false idols called Pride and Delusion. Obliterate this temple so it’s not even worthy of a historical landmark.
To move forward, I have begun a second book, whose premise and plot I will reveal once the gut draft is done. This adventure involves dyslexia, a little-known glam-rock subgenre, conspiracy theories, Ayn Rand, and spelling bee’s.
Rapture Express is being proposed to agents and publishers. So far, I’ve gotten one rejection consisting of two words, “No, Thanks.” I appreciate the terseness but wouldn’t have minded at least a reason why they dropped my proposal like wet turd. So, I pressed on with the other proposals, in hopes someone will ask for the complete novel. Every writer says this is the most excruciating part of your career – finding that one publisher or agent who is willing to risk their reputation on you.
The reason I abandoned epublishing Rapture Express is because I am faced a few hard realities of epublishing. There’s a concept in marketing called ‘low hanging fruit.’ That is, people want what is easily accessible, packageable and recognizable. In this case, my work doesn’t adhere to a defined genre. Amanda Hocking writes supernatural fiction, which has eager readership. Also, the hard part of building my readership is that few genre-readers will consume little else. They may have read some classics and a smidge of current novels, but the majority of the Kindles are bursting with ripped bodices, swoony vampires and badass spook killers. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I love a good Stake with a side of Ripped Bodice.
I’ve known a few print writers who are doing well ebooking, but they had established their reputation in print along with decades of building their careers. Neither a Hocking nor print published I be.
For now, I’d rather build my reputation in print, then work on the epublishing angle later. Terrestrial printing isn’t dying, but the marketing vectors are changing and I believe future schemes will favor ebooks and audiobooks. You still can’t beat hardbound proof that someone out there thinks you’re publishable.
So, the quest continues. I will submit and query while continuing to produce work. That is job #1 – keep the words flowing like a burst aorta.
As so ordered by Our Lord’s Regent On Earth, Chuck Wendig, I submit my contribution to the worldbuilding challenge. If you’re a writer, I encourage you to participate in the TerribleMinds weekly flash fiction challenge. If you’re writing skills need a jolt of inspiration, then these challenges are honeybuns from heaven.
Blackbloom’s original name is lost to the eons, along with the civilization that sculpted its polyhedral temples or its gridiron of canals. Its first settlers, the humans, named it Blackbloom for the continent-spanning blast pattern that resembled a charred black flower with five serrated petals. Some theorized that a comet or a meteor had ended Blackloom’s original civilization. Human archaeologists studied the blast’s epicenter and concluded the blast pattern was caused by a massive energy discharge. Upon this discovery, dozens of races embarked to Blackbloom, eager to discover, and possibly master, an energy that murders worlds.
I’ll get to Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge, but first I want to discuss the inspiration of short-short story. If you want to skip the editorial, scroll to the bottom. However, if you would give the mic for just a sec, I promise not to waste your time.
My thoughts and my conscience have been wrapped around the Troy Davis execution. Not too long ago, I was among the ‘try em’ and fry em’ lobby. Now, I’m not so adamant.
Ten years ago, I worked as an Editorial Assistant for he Bradenton Herald, the sled dog work I did to become a better writer. Supervised by three tired and overworked women in their 30’s, I wrote obituaries, corrected copy, wrote event notices and selected that day’s Letters to the Editor. Before everyone had a blog or access to message boards, the Letters to the Editor page was the people’s forum to sound off about national policy or the trash collectors smashing up homeowners’ garbage can.
Many times the letters were eloquent, thoughtful and sometimes downright hilarious. We had a usual cast who wrote in. We had our resident One World conspiracy nut or the East Manatee County farmer who wrote hilarious rants against the local farm board, hectoring on their “conspiracy to have farmers stand in line for seed like Soviets do for toilet paper.”
My work volume increased when the report of a murder blazed across the front-page, especially if it involved a child. The public outcry was justified, but many of the letters were un-publishable. Some called on bringing back public executions or letting the victim’s family pull the Old Sparky’s switch, or hunt them down in an open field like rabid game. I would get a couple that would frighten me. Some contributors described graphic ways the murderer should be disposed of in details that would shudder Steven King.
It worried me that these people walked the streets, mowed their lawns, and played with their children, but in their minds crawled fantasies of torture and dismemberment. They didn’t just want to do such things to a murderer, but to somebody, anybody. All they wanted was the moral justifiability, and the opportunity. These were the people that bought guns not just to protect the homestead, but in hopes that a lowlife would break into their homes or try to rob their business. Get them in their sights, squeeze the trigger. They longed for an act of justifiable psychopathy.
Death Penalty advocates claim that executions perform a public good by performing an act of revenge in the name of the citizenry, cooling off the public bloodlust. The people and the victims’ families can resume their lives heartened that justice has been done. The beast is dead. They even seem to accept that a few innocents are executed, but it’s justifiable since our system may not be perfect, but it works better than most. At least we’re not Iran or Saudi Arabia.
That’s right. We’re not. We can do even better.
Was Troy Davis guilty of murdering off duty officer Mark MacPhail? Innocent? Eight witnesses recanted their testimony, no murder weapon was found, but that did not sway our Supreme Court or Governor. Many protested, too many cheered. Troy Davis at least deserved the murder investigation to be re-opened since people lied. Mark MacPhail’s family deserved to be certain that the right man paid for their loss. Justice may not have been served last Wednesday night.
Thankfully, advances in forensic medicine and crime scene investigation may avoid executions of the innocent. Also, Drug War reform and drug courts may decrease the police dependency on informants and plea copping. Yet, I believe states should start a moratorium on executions until some of the irregularities of the system have been reformed. Damn right we’re not Iran, so let’s make sure the guilty are punished.
Here’s my take, in fiction, on the Death Penalty. I’m going to expand on this story, here’s the short and sweet.
Wally slid his Juror disc into the game PlayCube console, cracked open a Mountain Dew, picked up his controller and waited for the countdown to hit 10:00PM. Minutes before Travis Sturgeon’s appointed time, a court clerk read his sentence, and, a picosecond before Sturgeon’s last breath, selected a random Juror ID among millions from around the state. Only God and the computer knew whose ID was called, and Wally thumbed the Delete key, hoping he was the reason Sturgeon was now twitching and defecating himself, then ordered tacos.
Breathing and writing. Suddenly both have become crucial to my health and sanity.
Why does addressing a query letter always feel like I’m asking a girl to dance, knowing that there is a 99% chance of “No?” At least with a girl, I have the following factors in my favor: A) Pity. B) They want to get back at their recently paroled boyfriend. C) I’m the one they’ve been waiting for.
Women have some pity. Agents and publishers do not. Their trade demands they be callous creatures, for the reading public is unforgiving and certain of what’s readable and what’s pulp-able. They view a proposal through a black eye on a segmented stalk, coolly discerning its marketability. At times, they will take a stumbling leap of faith on a new writer, but only if they know their landing is cushioned.
Here’s the part in the off-Broadway musical where the protagonist sings of their desire to be loved for who they are or to be transported from their dismal village to a place where magic is commonplace. I’m bellowing this aria to the stars, who stare down and say, “STFU.”
So, I dropped that fat envelope into the mail slot and heard it go ‘thud’. I walked away and convinced myself that I would face acceptance and rejection with steely countenance. Yet, I know if I do get a “Right to Represent” contract in the mail, I’ll be flitting around like Tiger on a double-shot espresso. If I get rejected, at least I have an addition to my letterhead collection. “Welcome him children. Treat him well.” Then I go and sob in the dark, clutching my Louder than Bombs album. You’ve just haven’t earned it yet, baby.
I’ve had health issues recently. The doc says I can’t sleep and breathe at the same time. So, I just don’t sleep, which makes me cranky-er. I spent two nights at a sleep clinic where every limb and muscle is tagged with sensors. When I did fall asleep, I dreamt I was a multi-port USB hub. Later I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, which means my air passages are like the stretch of I-75 between Macon and Valdosta – too narrow and usually obstructed.
This week they will be fitting me with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. The CPAP is a machine which forces air into your mouth and nose, and is as hideous as the breathing machines in Intensive Care Units. After testing it one evening, I slept soundly. Usually, I would wake up feeling like slammed a 6-Pack of Natty Ice tall boys. For once, I felt refreshed. Although it might freak out my wife, I look forward to sleeping with the CPAP. I think I get mine customized to look like Darth Vader’s headgear.
Also, I’ve started exercising. The only way I can exercise is to convince myself that I’m not actually exercising. I’m watching Star Trek: Voyager while incidentally lifting these dumbbells or riding the exercise bike. It’s like marriage. I’m not actually chained to this woman for the rest of my life by a vow, solidified by a Magic Ring of Purity. I’m lifelong roommates with a gorgeous BFF with “benefits.”
Soon my ‘hot dog neck’ and skinny boy pooch will be no more. I saw a picture of Patrick Stewart recently, and the old Cap’t looks trim and fabulous and he’s 71. My middle aged carcass has no excuse.
So, if I get an acceptance letter or forget to breathe, I will post here.
Submitted for the Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge was to choose three words and use them in a story. I chose enzyme, lollipop and blister.
“Enzyme Lollypop?” the clerk said.
The infinite selection of corn-sweetened narco-supplements assaulted her senses like sharp confetti.
“Oooh. Can’t metabolize that again. Got the skin blisters.” Mitz said, scanning the menu.
“But we got new flavors. Tanga-phetamine. Kiwi-Strawberry with Zoloft Swirl. Double Chocolate Cake with Benzedrine Sprinkles.”
Mitz processed the choices. She knew she couldn’t actually “taste” anything. Conversion meant giving up real sensation.
“Ok. I’ll take the Double-Chocolate.”
The clerk wrapped the pops in wax paper as Mitz touched the paypad. “Immortality never tasted so good,” Mitz said, inserting the pop into her feed slot.
They bought it. I convinced Amazon that I was a real author. Don’t tell anyone. Suckers.
My Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Anthony-Elmore/e/B005N2ZMTY/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
I published this last year. My sentiments are about the same, although knowing Bin Laden’s ribcage is now a coral reef under the Indian Ocean warms my heart, some. Libya, Syria and other Middle East nations topple the statues and stamp portraits of their leaders. Kaddafi reminds me of Norma Desmond, a demolished drag queen sifting through the ashes for a bone shard of past glory. Now, can we move forward? Can we shelve the Patriot Act and bring our troops back to their families?
I usually don’t talk politics here, but this really is things that really need to be said. I don’t like being asked “Where were you” on this day. A better question was where were you on October 26, 2001 when the Patriot Act was passed?
Where were you when on March 20, 2003 when the Iraq War began, spurred by questionable WMD intelligence?
Sure, some folk said, it could have been worse. We still had the right to protest and shop, often in the same mall. We all over-quoted the Trotskyist-Syndicalist Ben Franklin’s quote. Something about “those who sacrifice a few rights for some stuff…yadda…yadda…I wonder who’s winning on Survivor.”
I wanted to protest, but I hate crowds. What does freeing Lenard Peltier have to do with an illegal war and nullification of the Bill of Rights? Why are these Anarchists in $150.00 docs preaching to me about the exploited workers and blood oil on a Tuesday afternoon? Why do all the anti-war commentators on the news channels have high, nasally voices? Why do all the pro-war commentators remind me of paranoid shut-ins who listen to police scanners and read Weekly World News.
Why didn’t I do more? Heck, I was actually doing well. My career was doing well and had disposable income. I met a nice girl who would become my wife and best friend. I rediscovered my love of writing. I upgraded my cable.
I walked around, thinking: “I’m not worried about the terrorists.” Yet, I knew nothing kept a Jihadist from walking into a Target wearing a dynamite vest, pushing the plunger, while I sampled the chicken sausage. I’d sooner get hit by a car or hit by a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting than be victim of 9-12.
I remember saying I support the Troops, even though none of my friends and family served in the military. I’d pass by that glass case in Home Depot with pictures of teens in uniform, barely old enough to smoke, faces serious and determined. I looked for fear in those faces and remembered that I didn’t fear much at 18. Bring it on, Life!
They were other people’s sons and daughters. Not my problem. Hope they come home safe. Hope they find WMD because at least it would be worth it. Hope my country doesn’t short change them on medical care like they did with the Vietnam vets. Then some of those kids came home in flag draped coffins and our leader, His Lord’s Regent on Earth, barred photos of them.
Anyway, I had shelves to build. Laminate or natural wood?
Then they caught Saddam. Sic Sempre Tyrannis. In with the new boss, same as the old boss.
I voted for the New Boss and people wanted their country back. To where? To when people got hoses and dogs turned on them to have the privileged of sitting at a Woolworths lunch counter? When women kept their traps shut, covered the bruises with foundation and rouge, and men ruled as Kings of their castle? When a good beatin’ built a kid’s character?
There are no lines to read between.
The country still doesn’t feel right, but what did it feel like before?
I submit this hastily written piece for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. BTFO.
“And for my next trick…” the magician said as the flames died down.
Doug leaned on the table, fighting the peer pressure to applaud with the audience. It’s a dime store trick. He’s got a torch under his sleeve. Same shit. Same Antiqua.
He emptied his glass of champagne, clapped a couple of times, looked at his equally disinterested date, checked his phone messages. Nothing was happening in cyberland. Figures.
“…I will need a volunteer,” the magician said. “You, sir.”
Doug noticed the Magician pointed at him. He looked around hoping he chose someone else.
“Yes, you sir.”
Doug looked at his date, who rolled her eyes leftward. She was blonde like lonely men dreamed about, built like sea bound sailors lusted about. He knew she would sleep with him that night. She’s paid in full.
Had to look like a good sport. “Ok,” Doug said and rose from his seat. A ragged chorus of cheers rose from the audience. He stood in front of the magician and waited to become a spectacle.
The magician was a short, roundish Trinidadian man with a crinkled straw hat, a simple blue blouse and slacks . The hotel billed him as a folk magician who performed authentic West African and Caribbean Indian tricks. “You no seem impressed with magic,” the Magician said, his dark face scowling.
“Seen better at childrens parties.”
“Then this one impress. I tell you story.” The Magician turned and fumbled through a burlap pouch tied to his waist by a woven belt. He pulled out a sachet.
“In de’ day before the White Man come, our world was the island. We knew nothing of the world beyond. But then the White Man come and my ancestor found the world was so big. Then the Conquistores took my ancestors land, everything. One ancestor gathered a handful of earth from his village and put it in this pouch. He say, this is our earth and no one will take it away. There are many earth pouches like this. This one was passed to me by my great-great grandfather.”
Get on with it Uncle Remus, Doug thought. His phone vibrated in his pocket but he had to know where this story was going.
“Today, I will give you this earth. Stand here,” the magician pointed to a well-lighted spot. Doug shrugged his shoulders and stood in the place. The Magician opened the sachet, then poured the earth at his feet, then walked backwards drawing a circle around him. In less than 30 seconds, Doug stood inside an earthen circle.
“This is now your earth,” the Magician said, pointed to the circle. He outstreatched his arms, “This is our earth. May I see your phone.”
Doug reluctantly handed the Magician the phone. “I see on this phone that there is a signal. Five bars. I can make a call.” He showed it to a woman in the front row to confirm this was true. The Magician handed Doug the phone. “Do you see a signal?”
Doug checked the phone and the readout said, “No Signal.”
“Make a call,” the Magician said.
Doug called his voicemail, but only static answered back. He knew this island has cell phone towers and internet connection, but the phone was dead. Something else was odd.
The scene around him was blurred, and he could hear voices but they seemed disconnected, as if someone was talking across a pool. He looked at the magician, who glowered.
“There is no signal in your world.”
“This is stupid.” Doug took a step forward outside the circle’s perimeter.
“Uh-Uh-Uh. This is our world. Not yours,” the Magician said, pushed him lightly backward. “Our earth. Our water. Our air.”
Doug slapped his hand away and stepped forward, and immediately started choking. “Can’t breathe,” he gasped. He feared he was having another heart attack.”
“You are not in your earth. You in space. No air in space.”
Doug stumbled backward into the circle and he inhaled a thick draught of air. He looked to the magician, to strangle him. Yet, all he could see of the Magician was smudged impression as if he was behind frosted glass. The glass grew more opaque.
“Your earth is farther and farther away, as the sun is from the Earth. Soon it will be as far as the Earth is from Heaven.”
Drugs. Hypnosis. It had to be. One of those weird Indian mushrooms. He reached out to the translucent wall that bordered his earth. It’s surface was cold. Soon, the wall darkened. All was black around him.
“Let me out!” He pounded on the wall. “I want out!”
He felt around the wall for an opening. He even tried to jump as high as he could, feeling around for a handhold or something he could use to escape his earth.
Exhausted, he fell to his knees. The solitude felt as real as the walls around him and he longed for another voice, even the bad breath of the people he loathed.
Voices and light struck his senses like gas fumes. The wall- gone. The audience sat at their tables, applauding and cheering madly.
The Magician extended his hand. “Your earth does not exist anymore. I have swept it away.”
Doug looked downward. The earthen circle lay in a neat pile at his feet. He stumbled back to his chair. “Ohmigod. That was so neat. You really thought you were trapped in there,” the hooker said.
“You could see me?” Doug said.
“Yes. You were like freaking out.”
The scene around him appeared vibrant, anxious with life that he had never noticed before. Wind nudged the dry palm trees. The waves churned and crashed on the bone white shores. People chatted, their faces lively and orange in the torchlight.
He put a one or two 100 dollar bills on the table in front of his paid companion. “You’re paid up.”
That evening, he called his wife and told her he was coming home.
I couldn’t make it to DragonCon this year. I needed a break from getting bottlenecked in narrow walkways with Stormtroopers and Klingons. Instead, I opted for the flat, sunny spaces in Florida. I visited with family, ate too much, saw the Nekromantix in concert and fed a pot belly pig.
the In my podcast days, I used to do a DragonCon Report. Below are links to those reports which includes tall tales of sharing hand sanitizer with Malcolm McDowell, rubbing elbows with Christopher Judge and Johnathan Frakes and making an jackass out of myself in front of three Babylon Five cast members.
I published this short-short story in Planet Magazine in 2000. I’m re-publishing it for the Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge, Wendig have mercy on my ramshackle soul. As I read this old piece, I recall that shortly after I abandoned writing. I didn’t fear being untalented. In actuallity, few published writers of note were born with this innate to work random bits of language into an adventure, a love story, an extra-solar epic or supernatural gore-fest. They just made it happen in spite of it.
I knew that at the time I didn’t have the nerve. I was encouraging to get published in a noted Sci-fi website, but I knew following up would be much harder. Then next stories didn’t come so easy as if i was tying my shoes with chopstiks. I laid my pen down and put aside the childish idea that I would make a living making stuff up.
Nearly five years later, I still didn’t have the nerve, but realized it would have to be built from the ground up. It’s still growing ,and feel it growing under my skin, bits of story and drama channeling at light speed. I’ve gotten this far. Can’t stop now.
"Hellooo Ms. Anderson-Lee"
Doug Douglas screamed at his kids to get out of the doorway. He carefully wedged a new 27” TV through the narrow doorway. He looked for a place to set it down on the worn beige carpeted floor toys scattered about. A video game was sprawled across the bare floor, game cassettes strewn about. The controller wires snagged Doug’s feet as the lumbered across the living room. He set it down with cautious ease on the sofa. Within twenty minutes he pulled the tv out of the box, removed the Styrofoam braces, then put the new tv where the old, busted set used to be. He impressed himself as he matched the male and female cable cords to right slots and had the cable box, the VCR and the video game patched in like a telephone worker figures out the vermicelli of wires in junction box.
He cracked a beer, sat on his lazy boy, and studied the newfangled remote control. It had more buttons than a 747 cockpit. Fucksakes, he said, you need an engineering degree just to watch Monday Football. How do you turn this goddam thing on. Different shapes confused him, arrows, triangles, ovoids, letters denoting functions he never would use. He contemplated returning the damn thing.
Seventy Years before Doug was born, Fargo T. Farnsworth, the raconteur inventor and boy-genius, demonstrated his new invention, the cathode ray television, to a wealthy cadre of Connecticut venture capitalists. “Imagine”
He said, gesturing the inactive gray bulb, no bigger than a headlight. “Million upon millions of people experiencing as single moment together, all transfixed by the same imago, all one nation. Lets see Wilson and his League whip this.
“Sounds to me,” said one the investors, dipping his stovepipe hat to him,” like the framework that will make laudanum look like camoline tea. I think this is good idea, but not for this time, especially with a world to rebuild”
Fargo flipped an array of toggle switches and the bulb came alive. The image was mottled as reflection in a gray pond, then they sharpened, and the figure of a beautiful girl appeared. She began to sing. The stovepipes leaned in around the tube, transfixed by the darkly sensuous beauty of the woman. Fargo stood aside, smile beaming. He had set up the demonstration before the Stovepipes arrived, the girl was in a studio next door. The field of stipipes bayed words like remarkable, ingenious, I could touch her. They turned to Ferris,
“This could make us millions, nay, billions” he postulated.
“Im still enmarveld with radio, this…is indescribable”
“Come with me to the studio, and I’ll show how the pictures get there to here. “ He said, “as well as the lovely nightingale.” They all exited too the studio, leaving the lab empty except for the TV.
Moments later, a middle aged, salt and pepper bearded man entered the studio. He looked cautiously around, have in marvel that he was actually here, but also bottling a rage spurred fifty years after Doug Douglas fumbled with the remote control. His name was Dr. Hughes Farnsworth, a given name since he was not a blood relative of Fargo. The “Doctor” title was ornamental, since the last literature class concluded ten years ago, in his own time. Dr. Hughes approached the TV, seeing the stovepipes vying to kiss the hand of the nightingale and gazing into the opalesque eye of the camera. Inside him, he wanted to take a bat to the infernal machine that had enslave generations to the spectacles its cursed screen, that had put him in the street. But that was not his plan. He too saw the Berlin Wall come down, the Second Moon Mission, the horror of the Oklahoma bombing. He knew these images instructed many about events around the world, made them tactile. But in the same frame, It dulled the intelligence of many, reducing their fickle attentions to mere blips, disconnected them from their local culture, from each other. So he thought. He was obsolete. This was his Oklahoma bombing.
In his satchel he took out a blueprint then compared it to the vacuum tube menagerie of the TV. He found what we call the channel changer, the device which made it possible for moderns to switch channel. A device which made device controllable for the populous. “It is a fantastic machine designed for the dullard.” He found it, removed it and put it in his pocket. He glanced a minute at the stovepipes scrabbling across the screen. It really was a wonder, in this time.
His mission was accomplished, his one way trip through time complete. He wished he could send a letter of apology to Dr. Bhopa for time-jacking his prototype. But it was necessary. His next order of business was to carefully gut the machine of its circuits, then burn them and the capsule beyond recognition. Anyone who found the charred heaps would think it was another failed, queer looking automobile. He was a scion of this time now, he would die years later in a Nashville soup kitchen of tuberculosis, a disease his future tense immune system couldn’t fight. They buried him a paupers mass grave, but he died satisfied that he had save culture.
Its Doug Douglas’s time now.
He brings in the Tv, puts in on the console where the older set stood. He unpackages the control, which looks like something between a scientific calculator and a telemetry panel for finding satellites. But since classes in geometry, astronomy, and calc was compulsory for finding the eight channels of the machine, he didn’t feel embarrassed he was only a pipe fitter with only a first year understanding of engineering.
“Ok, let’s fire this thing up. The cosine of the telemetry of the satellite squared by the root. Put in Maxwells equation, say a little prayer and….Hellooo Ms. Anderson-Hawking.”