Friday, June 24, 2011

300 Club

Dave stared at the monitor with Joe and Alex peering over his shoulder. Joe leaned forward and and watched as the number on the screen dropped another tenth of a degree. It was going to happen eventually, and no amount of wishing or praying would stop it. But at least once it was over, he would have his glory and a funny looking merit badge.

It hovered at -99.8 for a while, then dropped to -99.9. Dave turned around with a smile carved across his face, and it ate away at Joe. “Come on buddy. It’s going to be great.”

Alex patted him on the back. “It’s one of the most exclusive clubs in the world man. You’ve got to do it.”

Joe leaned forward. “Are you guys sure that this is accurate. I mean, when was it last calibrated?”

“I did it yesterday. You’re not getting out of this.”

“This is really stupid, you know. Really stupid.” Joe walked back to the far end of the room and looked at the map pinned up against the wall, putting his finger over Madison, Wisconsin. “It’s 180 degrees warmer back home. My wife is probably at a barbecue and my son has a baseball game later today. Why did I come here?”

“Because you’re at the bottom of the world man, living in the most hostile environment on the plant. That’s so hardcore, who wouldn’t want to?” said Alex.

“Yea, how many people can claim they know what a 300 degree difference feels like?” chimed in Dave.

“Far too many, and they don’t need me. And why can’t wear my underwear?”

“Dude, do you have any idea what’d happen to you once that shit freezes. It’s be like having a hundred razor blades all around your junk. You don’t want that, dude.”

Joe nodded, and Dave turned around, focusing back on the monitor. “Any second now...and we’ve got it. Minus 100. Alex, crank up the sauna!”

Alex left the room and Joe sat down next to Dave. The number dropped a to -100.1. “Won’t we get frostbite?”

“On the lungs perhaps. Just wear your face mask.”

“Does everybody?”

“Most. I forgot mine once, and it wasn’t all that terrible.”

Joe sunk back into the chair and watched a bad action movie with Dave until Alex came back.. “Sauna’s officially at 200!”

Dave went back to the computer and clicked off the screensaver. “Minus 101.3. This is going to be a good one.” He turned to Joe. “Time to strip.”

There were ten men and one woman in the sauna, all with towels wrapped around them. With each breath, Joe struggled to breath the hot, humid, air further funkified by the other sweating bodies. Dave, still coordinating everything, looked at his watch. “We’re almost there. Everybody ready?”

Joe reached down and felt his orange face mask sitting next to him. When he looked back at Dave, he had begun clapping, and started a countdown as he looked at his watch.

“Five...four...three.” Joe removed his hand from the mask and joined in the clapping. “!”

Everybody dropped their towels and poured out the door, Joe caught up in the middle, with adrenaline surging through his body, ran naked down the hallway. In the entranceway, steam clouded the air and Joe felt a shiver creep up his spine even before the door opened. Once it did, the wind assaulted his naked body and the feeling of a million needles momentarily paralyzed him. It took a push from the woman behind him to get going, and once he made it outside, Joe took off, following the rest of the group towards the pole.

He tried to catch up with them, but as soon as he took his first deep breath, he felt his lungs freeze over. Joe reached up towards his face and realized he had forgotten his mask. He turned around and looked back towards the entrance; it was too late now.

Joe pushed forward, slowing down, trying to keep his breaths as shallow as possible, but every time he sucked in some air, he felt his lungs freeze a little bit more. By the time he reached the ceremonial pole, he could feel the sweat on his skin freeze and each swing of his arms seemed to crack the skin just above his shoulder. Ahead of him, Joe could see a couple people round the geographic pole just a couple steps ahead of him. He pushed forward and circled all 24 timezones in a matter of seconds. But when he turned around, the door back to the station appeared almost miles away. I’m going to die. Fuck.

Joe slowed down to a trot and tried to keep his breathing as slow and steady as possible, extracting as much oxygen from each breath before a new set of the coldest air on Earth came rushing back into his corpuscles, sending those cells into a cryogenic hibernation, hopefully to someday wake again.

Before long, he gave up his trot and began walking. Joe thought he was the last one out there, but before long, he heard somebody come up from behind him. It was Dave. He was covered in frost, with the frozen water even clinging to his eyelashes. Joe tried to blink, but his eyelids, like Dave’s, were too stiff to close.

Dave slowed down and stayed next to Joe, he too had forgotten his mask. He stuck with Joe all the way back to the entrance where the relative warmth of the building hurt his lungs even more than the cold, and they immediately began coughing as they walked back to the sauna.

Everybody was trying to warm back up and unfreeze their lungs, but they all smiled. They had done it. They had earned their patch.

Alex sat down next to Joe and extended his hand. “No face mask. Dude, you are fucking hardcore!”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Acceptance Speech

I've never written an acceptance speech for anything, and well boy was I surprised last week when Chuck Allen bestowed upon me The Versatile Blogger Award.

This award is allegedly for those adroit bloggers who can leap around the page with ease and variety. Well I don't think I cover a vast array of topics here worthy of this award, but Chuck felt that the flash fiction pieces I post most Fridays show enough dexterity that he thought of me when nominating others.

I am very honored that he thought of me, and now in accordance with the rules of "The Versatile Blogger Award" I must list 7 things you probably didn't know about me and then some other bloggers deserving of this distinction.

1: I've recently begun wearing a fedora. My lovely wife found one for super cheap at the store, asked me to wear is (I think just to see how ridiculous I looked) and boom, it worked. So now I'm a member of that cool club of fedora hat wearers. I like my hat...perhaps I'll post a pic at some point.

2: My second toe is longer than my big toe. I always thought that was kinda cool because it made me unique, but then I started running marathons. As it turns out, running shoes are not designed for this, and after 26.2 miles, I tend to get pretty bad blisters on those toes and under the nail. This lifts up the nail and eventually kills it. So now my freakish toes are even more freakish as half of the year there is no real toenail on them.

3: I have a pretty large garden on my balcony. I've got plants in 5 gallon buckets, planters, milk jugs, and even a salsa container. When you don't have a yard of your own, you just have to bring the yard up to you. I hope to have a pretty good harvest this year and I'm already seeing one of my promising banana pepper plants popping out a pretty good pepper. (say that 6 times fast).

4: I once promised my wife I'd take her to a hockey game if she took me to the ballet. Yes, she likes hockey and I like dancing. We have a strange relationship and that's just how it is. I like to think that all the girls are jealous of her that she has a husband that wants to go dancing all the time, and I know I have some guy friends who are mad at me for "using up" one of the few girls that like auto racing and hockey when I don't have too much of an interest in them.

5: I'm afraid of sock puppets. Yes, you read that right. For some reason they just freak me out. Other people are afraid of clowns, well I honestly don't see how this is much different...creepy things. Ick.

6: I might soon be invested in a rock band. My wife and I are friends with some members of Key to Chaos and we think they are pretty awesome. So while they struggle with finding the money to record an album, we're talking about staking them with some of our own cash. Risky investment, but could be a pretty fun one, and we'd be helping out some friends.

7: I hate lawns. Prepare for a long and possibly offensive rant on this one. I think people who have a huge lot in the suburbs in which they build their big ass house and then cover that acre or so of land with grass is just the stupidest thing ever. First off, in most cases you'll spend more time mowing the damn thing and fertilizing it, and watering it, and doing all kinds of crap with it then you will ever spend enjoying it for recreation. You might as well just hop on your bike and go to the nearest park whenever you get the itch the throw the ball around. So not only is it useless, but then when you also consider that it sucks up for the average American family, 60 GALLONS OF WATER DAY in watering, you can see that it is a useless bother that sucks up valuable resources. I mean, seriously, you're going to do all of this just so that you can prove to all your friends how much extra money and time you have (which is why lawns came into a status symbol of wealth) Well I've got three words and one swear for you. Buy a fucking Porsche. Get out of the 18th century. But then 'what will I do with my yard?' you'll say. Well, if you want fresh produce just out your door, you can plant an edible garden. But if that's not your style you could instead plant a garden of native plants and wildflowers. Not only are they resistant to whatever droughts your particular region is accustomed to, but they also generally choke out most typical weeds and don't need much maintenance. Oh, and then when I'm out and about in the 'burbs and it just so happens to be raining out, I'll typically see these stupid ass people with their irrigation systems WATERING THEIR LAWN DURING A RAIN STORM. Seriously, if you're too lazy to flip a switch when you think you need to water your status symbol, then you shouldn't be allowed to have one. Automatic timers on irrigation systems...what a complete waste...and end rant.

Now that you've made it past that, here are four other bloggers whom I feel deserve this award as well.

First would be Raven Corinn. Her worlds and ability to take the fantasy genre and keep bending, keep morphing it into her own unique style makes me instantly think she deserves this award. Plus, for some of her pieces she doesn't even need to type a single word! Handwritten stories scanned onto a blog. Awesome stuff.

Second would be Rachel McClellan. Her blog contains a wide array of topics useful to writers from tips on craft, to contests, and even the occasional musing post. Yet all of it ties in well with her style and keeps you wanting to come back for more.

Third, I have to mention Sonia G Medeiros. Again, great posts on craft, the life of a writer, and random musings. I've really taken her idea of morning pages and (tried with some success as long as my laziness doesn't get in the way) and seen it work really well.

Finally, I come to Jessica Lei. You want to talk about versatile, here is a woman who mixes craft, publishing, contests, and daily musings into a seamless blog. It's still a pretty new blog, but I have a feeling she will be getting a lot of attention as the snowball grows.

Congrats to everybody, and please wear this badge with much honor :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Query Letter

This is the current draft of the query letter I'm writing for my novel Bleed Well. If you have any suggestions, please please please let me know so I can make this as good as possible.

    When Fredrick finds a small deer following him through the forest, he remembers the teachings in the temple about how the creatures of the forest were gods and should be treated with respect. But instead of treating this as an honor, his frustration with life, love, and his failed dreams grab hold of him and refuse to let go. He picks up a rock and bashes in the deer’s skull.
    Later that morning, Fredrick confesses to one of the village elders about his profane actions in an attempt to figure out why he killed the deer. But instead of giving him answers or assuaging his concerns, the elder rebukes him and warns the gods are going to be furious. Shortly after their discussion, the elder’s premonitions become reality when a nearby volcano erupts and disaster strikes the village. After the fires are put out and all villagers, dead and alive, are accounted for, the elders gather for an emergency meeting. Unanimously, they determine Fredrick was the cause of the disaster and banish him from the village forever.
Homeless and alone, Fredrick must embark on a journey to right his wrongs and appease the gods in order to save himself and everybody his loves from annihilation.

Again, any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated

Thursday, June 9, 2011


This was very difficult for me to write, as it took me pretty far out of my comfort zone. I'm not sure how well it works as a piece, but hopefully some you find it interesting.

    I bounced around on the faded leather bench in my pickup as we drove along the border. My son sat next to me and kept a lookout with a shotgun sitting on his lap. I turned the wheel a bit to the right and sent us traveling slightly north. My son turned towards me and said, “Why you goin’ that way?”
    “Let me do the driving.”
    “What’d I just say?”
    He looked out the window and apologized as I pointed us further north. All I could think about were those goofy dreams I’d been having lately, and all I wanted was an answer. Nothing made sense anymore.
    They were so real; I could have sworn it really happened. I remembered everything about them for days and even weeks later, unlike regular dreams which faded away before you made it to breakfast. But the strangest thing was that the dreams all had the exact same people. I knew their names...hell I knew my name. “Marco Garcia.” I whispered.
    “Who’s that?” my son asked.
    I put out my cigarette on the dash. “Just some spic.”
    “What’d he do?”
    “Never mind.”
    “Is that where we’re goin’? We gonna get em?”
    “I said never mind.”
    I laid off the gas a little and let my truck coast to a stop on the rutted back-country road. This was a good a place as any to figure this out. I turned off the engine, leaned back in my seat, and closed my eyes. My son started asking if I was fine, but I shook him off.
    After a couple minutes, I found myself in a small shack with Cielo cooking up some chili relleno on a crude wooden stove. I scuffed my feet on the dirt floor, looked up, and said, “Smells good.” I knew I said it in Spanish with how it came out of my mouth. Weird thing was, I didn’t know a lick of that language.
    “You always say that, trying to sneak an early taste. But you’ll just have to wait.” she said. Again it was Spanish, but I had no trouble understanding.
    I got up to take a look at the meal. The one thing I didn’t mind about these dreams was the food. The moment you put it in your mouth, it made a man sit up straight. Shit, it was better than anything I could have gotten at the best steakhouse in Texas. From outside, I heard an older car roar up the road, and I turned back to take a look at what was going on.
    A man got out of a beat up old Chevy. He walked up to me as I stood in the doorway. Guy was one of those punk spics that always made me laugh with his cheap suit jacket and stupid little moustache with just enough hair to darken his upper lip. “Marco, get the hell out of my way.”
    I bobbed my head, spit into the dry dirt, and firmed up my position. “What you here for?”
    “You know damn well.”
    I turned towards Cielo, who stood in the back with a tear running down her cheek. “Not today.” I said.
    Cielo ran up behind me and grabbed my shoulders. “Marco, don’t do this, please. Just let me go with him. It’s not worth it.”
    I tried to remember why she had to go, but the reason eluded me. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of this.” I said.
    “Like hell you will.” said the punk.
    I reached towards my right hip where I usually carried my gun, but it wasn’t there. I forgot, Marco didn’t have anything to protect himself. When I looked up, that punk spic’s fist flew towards my face, and I didn’t have time to react. I fell to the ground and watched him push Cielo out of the way as he kicked at my head with his cheap boots.
    I was relegated to watching out of my one good eye as Cielo, my God she was my wife. Perhaps not back home, but here she was and I loved her. I reached out my hand to touch the bottom of her dress as that fucking punk walked her to his car.
    He drove away in a cloud of dust as I lay there, helpless.
    When I woke, my son was tugging at my arm. “I think I see a couple there.” He pointed off into the distance where I could see a small group of illegals hiding in the brush. “Let’s go get em!”
    I reached up to where that punk punched Marco, and even my jaw felt stiff. After shaking my head, I turned the key in the ignition and started driving off.
    “You’re gonna let them get away.”
    “I know.”
    “Why? They’re right there.”
my son pleaded.
    “I’ve got my reasons.”
    “We can’t let them just get away like that. I wanna shoot me some--”
    “Shut up!” My son slid over towards the door and folded his arms over his chest. “We’re not shooting anybody.”
    “You’ve got a duty to your race.”
    “I know. That’s what I’m doing.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Opening my Kindle Highlights Archives!

The think I love most about my Kindle is that when I read, I can highlight passages I find to be...well worth looking at again. Then I can download them to my computer and sort them out for viewing later on to inspire me.

Well I thought I'd share some of them with you. These are all from classic works, so they might not work in modern writing, but they are still really great IMO.

I now present..."The Archives"

Utopia (Sir Saint Thomas More)
the priest's vestments are parti-coloured, and both the work and colours are wonderful. They are made of no rich materials, for they are neither embroidered nor set with precious stones; but are composed of the plumes of several birds, laid together with so much art, and so neatly, that the true value of them is far beyond the costliest materials. They say, that in the ordering and placing those plumes some dark mysteries are represented, which pass down among their priests in a secret tradition concerning them; and that they are as hieroglyphics, putting them in mind of the blessing that they have received from God, and of their duties, both to Him and to their neighbours. As soon as the priest appears in those ornaments, they all fall prostrate on the ground, with so much reverence and so deep a silence, that such as look on cannot but be struck with it, as if it were the effect of the appearance of a deity.

Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens)
Crimson with fury, Oliver started up; overthrew the chair and table; seized Noah by the throat; shook him, in the violence of his rage, till his teeth chattered in his head; and collecting his whole force into one heavy blow, felled him to the ground. A minute ago, the boy had looked the quiet child, mild, dejected creature that harsh treatment had made him. But his spirit was roused at last; the cruel insult to his dead mother had set his blood on fire. His breast heaved; his attitude was erect; his eye bright and vivid; his whole person changed, as he stood glaring over the cowardly tormentor who now lay crouching at his feet; and defied him with an energy he had never known before.

Then came the loud ringing of a bell, mingled with the noise of fire-arms, and the shouts of men, and the sensation of being carried over uneven ground at a rapid pace. And then, the noises grew confused in the distance; and a cold deadly feeling crept over the boy's heart; and he saw or heard no more.

It was market-morning. The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle, and mingling with the fog, which seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily above. All the pens in the centre of the large area, and as many temporary pens as could be crowded into the vacant space, were filled with sheep; tied up to posts by the gutter side were long lines of beasts and oxen, three or four deep. Countrymen, butchers, drovers, hawkers, boys, thieves, idlers, and vagabonds of every low grade, were mingled together in a mass; the whistling of drovers, the barking dogs, the bellowing and plunging of the oxen, the bleating of sheep, the grunting and squeaking of pigs, the cries of hawkers, the shouts, oaths, and quarrelling on all sides; the ringing of bells and roar of voices, that issued from every public-house; the crowding, pushing, driving, beating, whooping and yelling; the hideous and discordant dim that resounded from every corner of the market; and the unwashed, unshaven, squalid, and dirty figures constantly running to and fro, and bursting in and out of the throng; rendered it a stunning and bewildering scene, which quite confounded the senses.

The Bargain Lost (Edgar Allan Poe)
The ceiling, itself, was of brown and highly-polished oak, vaulted, carved, and fretted, until all its innumerable angles were rounded into a dense mass of shadow, from whose gloomy depth, by a slender golden chain with very long links, swung a fantastic Arabesque lamp of solid silver. A black, heavy, and curiously-pannelled door, opening inwardly, was closed, after the fashion of that day, with a chased brazen bar; while a single, huge, bowed, and trelliced window glared out upon the waters of the Adriatic.

Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
The heat in the street was terrible: and the airlessness, the bustle and the plaster, scaffolding, bricks, and dust all about him, and that special Petersburg stench, so familiar to all who are unable to get out of town in summer--all worked painfully upon the young man's already overwrought nerves. The insufferable stench from the pot-houses, which are particularly numerous in that part of the town, and the drunken men whom he met continually, although it was a working day, completed the revolting misery of the picture.

Swann's Way (Marcel Proust)
plastering all the room and everything in it with a smell of soot, making the room like one of those great open hearths which one finds in the country, or one of the canopied mantelpieces in old castles under which one sits hoping that in the world outside it is raining or snowing, hoping almost for a catastrophic deluge to add the romance of shelter and security to the comfort of a snug retreat;

Please let me know in the comments section if you found these to be useful. If they seem popular, I'll hopefully post more.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Human Error

    Alex grabbed his notebook off the small wooden table and studied the diagram once more. He needed to be sure it was indeed the top row, third from the left, that he wanted. He put the notebook down and looked back up at the wall where, arranged in a grid, dark holes filled up entire plane. Taking a deep breath, Alex extended his hand out into the one of the holes and released a surge of energy from his fingers.
    Instantly, he felt the power vortex lift.
    His heart began to race as he looked back at the notebook lying on the table. “Third from the left” he said out-loud as he looked at the wall where he counted the holes. One...Two...Three...Oh my god. Four. I released the fourth one. He felt his mind pull away from his body as he stood there, helpless, looking at the fourth hole.
    He reached in and tried to pull it back, but it was too late. The damage was done. He rushed out the door and stood atop the tower overlooking the city. He could already see the dragons diving in, terrorizing the helpless citizens.
    From his perch, he saw the city guard mobilize as soldiers filed out of the barracks with spears raised into the air as they tried to stick one of the dragons. Alex wanted nothing more than to go down and help them, but there was nothing there he could do. It was too late.
    He went back into the room and pulled his notebook off the table, running his fingers over the diagrams. The simple drawing with its clear markings seemed to mock him as he waited for his power to return. He gripped one of the pages while he listened to the screams coming from below. Alex ripped it out of the notebook and crumpled the paper, tossing it out the door and over the ledge of the tower.
    He leaned up against the wall, facing the holes, and slowly sank down until he was sitting on the floor. Above him on the table, the notebook was within sight. He grabbed it and threw it towards the door, but it didn’t make it over the ledge, falling back into the tower. While he was sitting there, he could feel the tingling sensation return and he sprang up and rushed towards the fourth hole where he rammed his hand into and pulled back the power.
    Within moments, he could feel the reassuring presence of the power vortex, and he ran out onto the ledge, looking back into the city. The dragons fled, but they left behind numerous dead bodies on the city streets and small fires that dotted the homes below him. Alex looked up to the sky where he could still see them hovering, waiting for their chance at another attack, then he picked up his notebook.
    He set it back onto the table and counted out the holes once more. One...Two...Three. Then he stuck his hand back in, releasing the power once more.

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