One Way Ticket to Mars, the Green Monster, and a Better Condom for Bill Gates

I usually try to keep my writing timeless because I’m a bit allergic to topical rants, but this has been an especially odd week so I can’t resist. So I’ve decided to veer left, to do that which I usually don’t, and talk about what’s going on outside my window. The three mini segments below are nothing more than little snippets of thought that came to as I sampled the odd slice of pop-culture pie that was the third week of April, 2013. As a point of reference, I was eating Cadbury Crème Eggs and listening to Bryan Adams when I started writing this. Yes, I know the former is for Easter and the latter is for fourteen year old girls in the early 90’s, but whatever; this is my office/bedroom and I’ll do as I please. Here it is:

***

I loved being an Alaskan, I despise being a New Mexican, and lately, I’ve been contemplating what life would be like as a Martian. Mars One is a company based out of Helsinki, Finland, and if you send them a short video and a small fee, they’ll think about giving you a one way ticket to Mars in 2023. Jesus. Right now, if I didn’t have a wife and two daughters, I’d be rehearsing in front of my webcam instead of typing this nonsense.

Can you imagine how ridiculously cool that’d be? My wife, the pragmatic, has pointed out the obvious: the mission probably won’t happen, and if it does, everybody is going to die. They’ll probably have to deal with wayward asteroids and weird little extremophiles and insanity induced extraterrestrial cannibalism (fingers crossed) but that’s half-empty thinking. Hell, the incalculable amount of street cred that’d come from my first Martian Tweet would almost make the entire trip worth it. A short video, a small fee, and boom: I’d be the first red planet rock star. I’d wake up every morning dressed like an extra from Barbarella (look it up kids) and do a few anti-gravity aided back flips. Sure, it’d get old, but that first moment of pure gravitas, when my boot imprints upon some other world, would be worth it.

But it’s not going to happen. I have a wife and kids and credit card debt so my place is here. But what about you? Maybe I can inspire you to throw away your terrestrial existence and go to Mars in ten years. Then maybe you can write my name on the endless red dunes and give me a bit of that vicarious fame. I’ll tweet about it, comfortable on my blue planet, and consider my mission accomplished. You can sign up here: http://mars-one.com/en/about-mars-one/contact/21-faq-selection/251-do-i-qualify-to-apply

***

If ever there was an allegorical creature that’d represent the United States, it’d be the Hulk. It’s a shame that these jihading terrorists aren’t fans of Marvel Comics because it’d save everybody a shit ton of grief if they were. I guess I just don’t understand why they, the terrorists, can’t learn from history. It’s as if they’re doomed to repeat the same failure over and over like that damn proverbial fly that constantly runs into a window in an attempt to define insanity. They bomb and hijack and kill and then die but it really doesn’t do a damn thing besides strengthen the hatred between our two cultures. Yes, I realize that’s their aim, in part, but they’ve got to realize that they’re losing.

And Boston? Seriously? That place is literally a town full of Irish bad-asses that’ve dedicated their lives to worshiping a lost cause: the Red Socks. Those two brothers kicked the Hulk in the shin. He’s going to grow and turn green and yell something about smashing, and next year, the Boston Marathon will be twice the size it was this year. They’ll run the same route past a soon to come memorial with pride in their eyes and middle fingers in the air, and if anything, Boston will be stronger. Hell, even that damn wall in the outfield of Fenway Park is called the “Green Monster”, but I guess jihading half-tards aren’t fans of baseball either.

***

I have no clue what I’d do with sixty billion dollars. It’s a hard figure for me to fathom. Seriously; that’s the same thing as sixty thousand million dollars, which sounds like a number my four-year-old would make up, but it’s not. It’s the balance that you’d find at the bottom of an ATM receipt in Bill Gates’ pocket.

It’s probably better that he has it and I don’t, because while he’s the type that forms foundations and cures diseases, I’m the type that’d pit a polar bear against a velociraptor to finally put an end to the argument. And yes, with sixty-billion dollars, you could totally go all Jurassic Park and resurrect the velociraptor, so shut up. My point is this: while I’d wake up and use my fortune to do a double back flip in a Lamborghini (which I’d land perfectly in a pool full of pineapple jello), Bill gates is the type that wakes up and decides to create a better condom.

The dude’s a superhero. With one fell stroke and a bit of latex, the intrepid billionaire plans to take on STD’s and over population. Or rather, he’s going to pay you to take on STD’s. Well, you know, that doesn’t sound exactly right but whatever. Bill Gates is offering up one hundred thousand dollars (which I imagine he found in one of his couches or something) to the first person to design a condom that people will actually use. Here’s the link if you think you’ve got a worthwhile idea: http://www.grandchallenges.org/Explorations/Topics/Pages/NextGenerationCondomRound11.aspx

It’s perfectly logical when you think about it. Either he invents the perfect condom today, or Apple beats him to it tomorrow. They’d probably call it the iDom and it’d be white and sleek and freakishly expensive. We’d all flock to the gas stations to keep up with the trends as soon as the iDomS and iDom2 came out. Actually, you know what’s really weird? The spell checker on this PC has no problem with “iDom2” so maybe I’m on to something. Shit. Okay, for the record, the iDom was totally my idea first and I hereby claim all inherent rights associated with the name and demand my one hundred thousand dollars.

***

Anyway, both of the books I’ve published will be free for the next five days. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

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Flash Fiction

“The man prattled on about his prized fighting rooster while his wife fried chicken and smiled.”

-Unknown

I was scrolling through my twitter feed when I came across the above posted piece of flash fiction; I read it and continued scrolling. When it sank in, when I realized how awesome it was, it was too late. I scrolled back through the insipid string of tweets with a frantic thumb upon my iPhone, but I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t figure out who wrote it and my desire to give some random author a virtual pat on the back was left unsated. I’ve posted a couple tweets since asking “which one of you wrote the flash fiction about the fighting rooster” but nobody has responded. Sure, a few quasi poets awarded my tweets with stars because they probably thought I was trying to be funny, but I wasn’t. Twitter is like an enormous room full of strangers who are all talking to themselves, or at best, at each other, and my repeated attempts to find the author of this rooster related flash fiction were nothing more than the quiet shouts of yet another avatar. Oh well. I hate quoting someone else’s work without giving proper credit, but in this case, I must; the little piece is just too cool.

On the surface, the story is nothing more than a banal slice of bucolic life, but underneath, it’s dark and wonderful. You start thinking: holy shit, wait a minute, is she frying his prized fighting rooster? Is she about to feed it to him? I pictured a neglected wife living amongst flowing wheat somewhere in the bible-belt. She’d married a man that’d rather spend his time with a bottle of bourbon and his friends while they pitted rooster against rooster. He came home late one night with a caged rooster and a handful of small bills before passing out on the couch. The wife couldn’t take it anymore. She took the rooster out back to the slaughter house and wrestled it from its cage. She held it down against a smooth butcher’s block with one hand as it crowed for release. She screamed as the cleaver fell and arterial blood, red and foaming, sprayed across the walls and her “kiss the cook” apron. The next morning, breaded the meat before dropping it into the hot oil with a smile; her husband sat at the table nursing a hangover while he waited for his breakfast. He placed his hands on the red and white checked table cloth and tried to strike up a conversation with his estranged wife. He talked about that which mattered most; his prized fighting rooster. She smiled. He deserved the breakfast that was coming.

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe she too loved the rooster but he lost his last fight. They could’ve been frying it up as some sort of morbid send off. Or maybe it was an entirely different chicken and the wife was just smiling because she loved to hear her husband talk, and I’m a demented ass for taking it to the darkest place possible. Or maybe there’s a darker place yet, to which you took it, but that’s exactly my point. That little story was awesome, and it’s part of the reason that I’ve decided to dedicate this third and final segment on emerging writing styles to “Flash Fiction”.

 

Part 3: Flash Fiction, and Emmie Mears

 Emmie

Photograph taken by Colleen Barrett of Blue Tree Photography

My go-go-gadget Wikipedia search on flash fiction tells me that James Thomas coined the term back in ’92, so out of the three styles I’ve touched on, this one is by far the youngest. You could argue that flash fiction is nothing more that super short fiction, which has been around ever since Aesop and his aphoristic little tales, and you’d be right, but this is my blog so there’s no point in arguing with me. To define it, flash fiction is a short medium no longer than one thousand words.

From what I’ve seen, flash fiction seems to be a “writer’s writing” (just like Magnum P.I. was a “man’s man”). Authors love it. They write it and post it and submit it to all sorts of little contests but most casual readers seem to prefer something a bit longer. But that’s just my take on things. In my opinion, the great flash fiction is something that leaves you guessing; wondering exactly what was going on. Like the story that I started this piece with, I’d say that masterful flash fiction leaves things unresolved, yet it also leaves the reader satisfied. That’s a hard feat to pull off, but Emmie Mears is a literary samurai and pulls it off as if it were nothing. I stumbled upon her website, and a piece of flash fiction she wrote thanks to Twitter, and after reading it, I started taking super-short form writing seriously.

Emmie would tell you that she’s not technically a short form writer, and that she has four completed novel-length works of urban fantasy, but whatever. It’s my contention that all you have to do to be considered a “flash fiction writer” is write flash fiction. Seriously; can you name an eminent flash fiction author? Well neither can I, so this is the piece I went with:

“I didn’t expect it to be so wet.

Oh, I knew it rained in Scotland. How else would everything be such a virulent shade of green? Somehow when I pictured majestic mountains shrouded with twilit silver mist, that mist lacked the power to turn my hair into a fro.

Right now the expanding mass of curls atop my head didn’t make number one on my list of problems, but it also didn’t help my visibility as I squinted into the engine of my rental.

Steam rose from the metal, along with the acrid tang of seared rubber. One end of the betraying belt flopped against the oil dipstick.

I’d come here looking for magic. I’d found wet feet and a fro. Two hours to wait for AA – that’s what I got for picking a nameless glen in Sutherland over a pub in Fort William. My brain taunted me with the memory of malt vinegar over chips and Glen Ord scotch.

The forest to the west looked drier and less cramped than the tiny car. I squished into the underbrush and picked my way to an oak tree, sitting on the cushion of moss to wait for my rescuers.

The air smelled of peat and crystal water, clean. A deep breath afforded a small comfort against the damp seeping through the seat of my pants.

Bright in the gloaming, eyes met mine through the trees…”

That was an excerpt from “Rustle” by Emmie Mears. For the rest of the piece, you’ll need to visit Emmie’s site here: http://emmiemears.com/2012/02/20/rustle/

This is usually where I’d summarize the piece of writing I chose to blog about, but it’s unnecessary; my summary would be longer than the piece itself. But please follow the above posted link and read the rest of the piece because Mears did exactly that which I spoke of earlier; she left me guessing but satisfied. It takes Mears a mere three hundred words to lay down depth and substance, setting and suspense, and I think “Rustle” is a perfect example of what “flash fiction” should be. Furthermore, Mears is a true wordsmith and an author to watch. The short fiction that can be found on her website is well worth the perusal, but you’ll have to wait if you want more because that’s all there is. However, Mears is a badass author with a real life agent, so you probably won’t have to wait long. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, please visit her site and blog here: http://emmiemears.com/

Sihpromatum

Savannah’s book is still carrying a five star average after forty-two reviews and I’m pretty sure that’s a record. Even if it isn’t, this is still a pretty impressive book. I know I’ve blogged about her work before, and to a lot of you, what comes next will seem familiar; I’m reposting my first blog about Savannah (or at least a portion of it) because her book is now only 99 cents. It’s seriously worth it. If you buy it now, one of these days you’ll be able to say you read it before she was famous. Get it here: http://www.amazon.com/Sihpromatum-Grew-Boobs-China-ebook/dp/B008YZ0184/

SW

I’ve typically been annoyed by the fact that people think that an incredible event automatically translates into an incredible book. Kanye West’s mother went through the incredible journey of raising a superstar so of course she should write a book about it, right? I picked up her book, tritely entitled “Raising Kanye”, while I was in Hastings a while back, thumbed through it, and then dropped it back on the shelf as quickly as possible lest it steal some of my intelligence. I’ve read that 90% of all Americans believe they have a story to tell that’s worthy of a book deal (I guess I lied when I said there’d be no more statistics). Here it is: it doesn’t mean that you’re fated to be an author just because you’ve been through something extraordinary.

However, sometimes the yen and yang fit together perfectly and someone with such a story really does create a noteworthy book, and that’s what happened in “Sihpromatum” by Savannah Grace. The sub-text for her title is “I Grew my Boobs in China” and the word “boobs” may or may not have been why I originally gave this title a chance but I’m glad I did. Everything about this book just feels professional. It’s a nonfiction story that I suppose should be classified as a memoir, but it reads like a novel which is absolutely awesome. Sevannah’s style is polished and well beyond her years and she has some serious talent. I kept hunting through website for a publisher’s accreditation because it was hard to believe that such a work was self published. Sihpromatum is the type of book you’d expect Oprah to be throwing at her guests in one of her “favorite things” episodes (which I’ve never seen because I’m a manly man); it’s seriously that good (I mean, you know… if you’re in to that sort of thing). All joking aside, I don’t want to do Savannah’s work a disservice by pigeon-holing into the “chick-lit” category because to get something meaningful out of this book, the only prerequisite is to be human.

Sihpromatum

“SIHPROMATUM (Sip-row-may-tum): A blessing that initially appears to be a curse.

Sihpromatum is a memoir series of one family’s four-year backpacking adventure around the world. The first installment, “I Grew My Boobs in China” is the beginning of an intensely fascinating, sobering, and emotional memoir of Savannah’s introspective and innovative family adventure.

In 2005, 14-year-old Savannah Grace’s world is shattered when her mother unexpectedly announces that she and her family (mother 45, brother 25 and sister 17) would soon embark on an incredible, open-ended journey. When everything from her pets to the house she lived in either sold, given away or put in storage, this naïve teenage girl runs headlong into the reality and hardships of a life on the road.

Built around a startling backdrop of over eighty countries (I Grew my Boobs in China relates the family’s adventures in China and Mongolia), this is a tale of feminine maturation – of Savannah’s metamorphosis from ingénue to woman-of-the-world. Nibbling roasted duck tongues in China and being stranded in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert are just two experiences that contribute to Savannah’s exploration of new cultures and to the process of adapting to the world around her.”

I have two young daughters and while I can see immense strength in both of them, I can also feel that innate fragility in their youth that I’m so desperately trying to protect. That’s why Savannah’s story is so captivating. Even as a grown man I’m not sure I could handle the hand that was dealt to Savannah. Her story is incredible, and when you pair that with a natural prose and a love for storytelling, you get an absolutely viable book that belongs in the company of anything pumped out by the large publishing houses. I’m sure this book would’ve made it to the proverbial shelves even if self publishing wasn’t possible, but maybe not. Maybe the suits I mentioned in my first segment would’ve passed Sihpromatum by and chosen instead to publish the memoirs of a combat Marine thanks to gender. Who knows; all that matters now is that this book exists and it deserves attention, as does Savannah Grace.

On a personal level, Savannah comes across as fearless and genuine. It’s as if all her doubts have been melted away thanks to her struggle; I’d compare it to the way an athlete looses fat during their training.

Her story is a startling one about a young girl that looses everything before regaining something better by experiencing the world first hand with a brother, a sister, and a mother. Savannah writes a tale that stresses the importance of following a dream and staying positive despite the mirage in front of us. It’s a tale of that “trial by fire” that we all look for in our literature and I hope you’ll give it a chance. In any case, I’ve just written close to four thousand words in three segments about female authors and I need to get back to my own work before I too grow boobs.

Sihpromatum can be purchased through Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Sihpromatum-Grew-Boobs-China-ebook/dp/B008YZ0184/

You can find further reviews, blogs, and information on how to purchase this book through Smashwords or Kobo via

Savannah’s site here: http://www.sihpromatum.com/

If you’d like to email the author directly you can do so here: sihpromatum@gmail.com

And everyone’s a fan of Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Sihpromatum-I-Grew-my-Boobs-in-China/367565703312088

Urban Fantasy

Fantasy is usually segregated; compartmentalized into some far away world with weird places and otherworldly people. It’s almost as if the classic authors thought their fantasies were too bold to fit in the real world, so they spun realms more suitable. The old books, the ones wrought with mechanical typewriters and ink ribbons, are all the same. There’s usually a hand drawn map on the first page with randomly placed mountains and a compass rose. Then comes the narrative or the action or the dialogue but there’s always one constant: the story is somewhere else.

 

That’s why I’m reading more and more urban fantasy. I just sobered up from a Jim Butcher bender, every second of which I loved, and I’ve been looking for other authors that can offer the same type of fix. I guess I like my wizards with a side of Burger King; my werewolves on Main Street. There’s nothing wrong with juxtaposing fantasy against the mundane of the here and now.

 

I understand that some of us prefer a complete departure, a mental escape into Mordor, but why not Chicago? I think reality blends seamlessly with fantasy, and if you find an author that does it well, I’d argue that it’s more enjoyable. Urban fantasy isn’t as new as Steampunk (the genre from last week) or as flash fiction (next week), but it’s still a burgeoning style that deserves attention. And I’ve found an absolute ninja of an author to highlight as an example.

 

Part 2: Urban Fantasy, and Patrick O’Duffy

Patrick O'Duffy

 

It takes balls to write exclusively in the narrative. Paragraphs uninterrupted by the artifice of dialogue, with block after block of black words, scare the shit out of most of us. You’ve got to have serious chops to pull it off, and O’Duffy does. He’s like the dark offspring of Ian McEwan and Justin Cronin (but with more parentheses). When I first downloaded his book and started clicking through it on my Kindle, I got a bit worried because there weren’t any quotes in sight, but his intelligent style more than made up for it. His descriptions are only bested by his imagination, and the dude does vocabularic plyometrics without coming across as pompous. The result is a novella full of decadent prose that I read in two sittings.

 

O’Duffy is prolific (fifteen different titles are available via his Amazon author page) and I can’t speak for all of his work, but Hotel Flamingo is a simply awesome book. I had one of those “ah shit; why didn’t I think of that?” moments when I started reading it because the premise is truly original and it stands out. Compared to the other self published authors I’ve found, O’Duffy is doing jumping jacks in a field of authors doing sit-ups. The setting of Hotel Flamingo is obviously a hotel, but the work itself is a grouping of small but connected vignettes that are separated by room: 22 characters, 22 rooms. Man that’s cool.

 

When I asked Patrick about the book, he said he wrote it as an online serial piece. He came up with the idea for a new character in a new room each week, and then he’d write it and post it. He said it was “an attempt to kind of write around a story, rather than straight at it, making a mosaic out of character studies and vignettes that added up to more than the sum of its parts.” That’s a bit hard to believe after reading the piece because it’s all just so fluid.

 

I’ll finish by saying that Patrick O’Duffy knows what art is; he even comes right out and says it in the middle of his work: “Art achieves its purpose without audience. It’s meaningful even if unacknowledged.” “Art” is one of those terms thrown around far too often, but to Hotel Flamingo, it applies. O’Duffy’s work is meaningful, and it deserves the acknowledgment. Please buy it, please read it.

 

You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Hotel-Flamingo-ebook/dp/B004XQVOZ2/

 

Patrick’s other works can be found via his author page here: http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-ODuffy/e/B0034NKLV8

 

For more, please visit his site here: http://patrickoduffy.com/

Hotel Flamingo

The cleaning lady eats time. The manager mourns his multi-gendered parent. A pirate radio DJ listens for God. An accountant prepares to kill again. And that’s only in four rooms of the Hotel Flamingo, where the room service is terrible and reality flakes and crumbles around the edges.

 

There’s a part of town where the dealers meet, where the forgotten people hide, where reality cracks and peels like cheap wallpaper. Where normal is a dirty word. If you’re in this part of town, maybe you might stay at the Hotel Flamingo – a refuge for resentful angels, feral symbols, disgraced magicians, broken-hearted foundlings, bad dreams, and many others.
22 rooms. 22 characters. One mosaic novella following a tangle of destinies through a hotel packed with weirdness, coincidence, and impossibility.