Thursday, April 28, 2011


    They are pixels on the most massive screen and nothing more. They are part of the grandest and most ambitions piece of art ever conceived. They are my masterpiece.

    My blue minivan pulled up to the weathered gray house. I had ridden my bike past it countless times over the past week, and I was confident he was a single man and wouldn’t be expecting any visitors. He would be alone. He would be perfect.
    I grabbed a clip-board off the dash and locked the van. After walking across the street, I swung open the rusty chain link gate that led into his front lawn. There was no walkway to the door, only the tall, unkempt grass littered with bags of recyclables that had yet to make it to the curb.

    The world’s most beautiful and magnificent piece of art should mirror the most beautiful and magnificent thing in nature, in mathematics. No, not Pi. That’s for amateurs. The number e holds that distinction.

    At the door, I hear the TV blaring at an obscene level; it was on one of those cable news channels. It took me three tries with the doorbell before I heard the sound cut out and the rustling of a person getting off a chair. The door swung open and a bald man appeared. He looked me up and down then said, “What’d you want?”
    “Hello sir. I’m here with the Children of the World Fund.”
    “I’m not interested.” The man started to close the door when I stuck out my foot. It blocked the door and the man didn’t try to force the issue. He just shook his head and said, “Don’t make me get my gun.”

    If I could write the number e across the country, the biggest equation ever written for the greatest number ever, people would remember me for all of eternity.

    I smiled. “That won’t be necessary.” I pulled a silenced handgun from my coat pocket and pointed it at the man’s chest.
    He opened the door and backed up. “Take whatever you--”
    “Sit down, please.” I closed the door; the man stumbled onto his couch.
    “What do you want?”
    “I want to make art.” I pulled a paintbrush from my other coat pocket and dropped the clip-board to the floor.
    “You want to paint?”
    “In a sense.” I aimed the gun at the man’s head and pulled the trigger.

    There was some guy I heard of that put streamers up and down a highway for miles and miles. But I don’t know his name. If those banners, however, were covered in human blood, people would be saying his name for generations.

    I walked over to the body and dipped my paintbrush in the pool of blood and began to paint my equation on the wall above the couch.

    Once I had cleaned up and went back to the van, I took a push pin out of the glove box and placed it in the little town of Chokio MN. It was coming together, one piece at a time. My masterpiece was almost complete. The equation, written in bodies across America, was only a couple pixels away from making me immortal.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Update on my novel

It's been a while since I've talked about the main novel I'm working on, which is currently called Bleed Well. Right now, I'm still getting chapters back from Betas, and they have given me some pretty good advice. I hope to have the edits they have suggested done by the end of May. (Yes I know I didn't reach my goal of being ready to submit by the end of April, so I've pushed it back) But I feel like things are coming along well.

What I've found odd though is that some days I can read a section of my novel and feel like a complete hack. My prose sounds choppy, characters seem flat, the story sounds preachy, and the plot feels invisible. But then other days I'm in awe of my writing. I still don't know why I have this variation, but it does seem to follow my mood.

Overall though I am happy with the project, but since it's my first novel, I don't have high expectations for the reception it will receive from agents/publishers. Even if nobody else reads it, I'm glad I have written it, because I feel like I've learned a lot from it, plus I feel like I've really started to establish my voice.

Hopefully I'll perhaps post a sample chapter up in a couple days to get some feedback from the community

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Game #4

 The man sitting at the table looked up at me from the stack of disheveled cash. He huffed and tilted his head off the side as I fumbled in my pocket for my wallet. I pulled out a ten and handed it to him and he grabbed his pen. “Who you putting this on?”

    I looked down into the pit at the six men sitting in a circle. I had talked with the one wearing the red headband earlier, and I hoped he would make it. “The red headband.” I said. The man nodded and gave me my receipt as I stepped off to the side to take my seat.

    Next to me was another man, a corporal like me, dressed in an identical uniform. He nodded as I took out a pair of cigarettes, offering him one; he refused.

    “Another Tuesday night, huh?” the man said.

    I lit my cigarette and took a puff. “Yea. You got a leave coming up anytime soon?”


    “Me neither.” I looked down at the ring. “Who’d you got your money on?”


    “What do you mean? You’re not betting?”


    “Why not? It at least makes this a little more interesting.”

    The man nodded his head and turned towards me. “Can’t do it. I don’t even want to be here.”

    “You spend your entire check already?”

    “No. I just can’t bring myself to bet on this.”

    “You one of those Mormons or whatever?”

    “Nope. Just don’t like this.”

    “Why you here then?”

    “Nothin’ else to do.”

    We stared at each other for a moment, then he reached towards my pocket and grabbed my pack of cigarettes. “I could probably use one, actually.”

    I nodded.

    He sat there, smoking my cigarette for a minute then turned towards me once more. “You don’t have any problem with what goes on here?”

    I shrugged my shoulders. “What else we supposed to do with them?”

    “I know. They’re all fucked. But it doesn’t seem right. We shouldn’t get enjoyment out of this.”

    “Why not? Either we do it during the day, or they can do it themselves here at night. During the day, we’re the ones doing it and it sucks. Here we at least get some form of excitement.”

    “I know. I know. But what about their dignity?”

    “Dignity be dammed. They could have avoided it. They caused this whole mess. I’d be home right now, bringing in the harvest if it wasn’t for these animals.”

    The man dropped the cigarette to the ground, it was only half-smoked, and crushed it under foot. “How do you know they caused it? Because command told you? It could have been us.”

    “You better be careful. You’re walking a mighty fine line.”

    “Fuck the line. There’s so many damned lines right now I don’t know where to step. Command tells you one thing; your conscious tells you another. Fuck the line, man, fuck it.”

    I turned away from him and stared down into the pit, watching the man with the red headband. He had also been a farmer, lived pretty close to where I grew up too. We talked about how much we loved the land and just wanted to be back home.

    “It’s not like I want this to happen.” I said. “But what am I supposed to do?”

    “You don’t have to make a bet.”

    I turned towards him to say something, but the game was about to start and our commander walked into the center of the ring with a shiny revolver. Our commander spun the barrel and handed it to my guy; he was the first to go. I watched intently, while all around me the crowd chatted amongst themselves. As a group, they only really got into it at the end.

    My guy looked up into the crowd, his headband was covered with sweat, and he found me. Our eyes locked for a moment, and I could see the fear in his eyes. He hesitated and the crowd began to pay attention and boo. The commander kicked him and my guy closed his eyes before bringing the gun up to his head and pulled the trigger.

    The bang filled the room.

    I looked down at my receipt and tore it in half before pulling out another cigarette. I turned back to the man next to me. “You’re probably right.”

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Just what is a passive sentence?

Aside from “don’t use adverbs.” the biggest advice it seems that young writers are given is “don’t use the passive voice.” The problem is that, unlike adverbs, the passive voice can be a bit fuzzy.

The basic definition is to have the verb in front of the subject. These forms are easy to see and identify such as the example below.

1) The dishes were washed by John.

In that example, John is obviously the subject, washed is the verb, and the dishes are the direct object. But there are other types of passive construction that can be more difficult to spot. Take the example below.

2) I was punched by a bully.

Here, the noun ‘I’ is the first word of the sentence, but if you look carefully, it’s not the subject. ‘a bully’ is the subject. Additionally, the subject can even be implied, making it far more difficult to identify.

3) I was punched in the nose.

Yes, this is passive because of the implied subject. ‘I’ does not do the action of punching, and that is why it can’t be the subject and thus it becomes passive. (Note, the subject could be ‘by somebody’ and it would come right after the verb, punched.)

Now this is where things can get really fuzzy. You can have a subject that sorta does some of the action in combination with another subject that would still be passive, but it’s a little more vague.

4) Alex got elected to county examiner.

Here, Alex does some of the action, and he is first. But the other subject would be ‘by the people’ and that would come after elected. Here, Alex is more involved, but there is still a subject after the verb. This is called a ‘reflexive passive’.

The next example I have seen is generally regarded as a ‘pseudo-passive’ because we are about to cross the line where the noun before the verb is more active than before, but there is still another entity doing action.

5) My family had our apartment checked for bugs.

The family does not check for bugs, but they actively caused the checking of the bugs by having somebody else do it. This is called a ‘causative passive.’ And this become more and more pseudo the more active the subject becomes such as the example below.

6) My family got somebody in to check for bugs.

Some people might even debate whether that is even passive at all, but we could all agree that this is very close to the line.

Now that we’ve established what is and isn’t really passive, what about sentences that have ‘was’ in them? I’ve seen a lot of people in critique groups call sentences that had the word ‘was’ in them passive for no other reason than the word was there. But is it?

Probably not.

“I was walking” is not passive. It is a tense called ‘past progressive.’ Now if somebody keeps using that tense, there might be something else going on in their writing, but it does not mean it is passive.

Hopefully that cleared things up for a lot of people, and hopefully I got the grammar all right.

Keep writing!

  © Blogger template Brooklyn by 2008

Back to TOP