Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Dream Job

I've finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

Not an artist, like I wanted to be as a kid.1
Not an actuary, like I briefly considered in high school.2
Not a computer animator, like I yearned to be into my early 20s.3
Not a web designer, like I have been the past 10+ years.4
Not even a novelist, which I'm still striving to be today.5

No, what I want to be when I grow up is a dad.

I'll be getting my wish soon enough; my son is due in one month. Many people have told me I'll be a great dad, and I believe them. I'm going to be a wonderful father.

Now all I have to do is grow up.

1 I figured out early on I'd never be willing to sell anything I made unless I disliked how it turned out. To date, I've only parted with pieces as gifts. No money has ever exchanged hands.
2 And I mean briefly.
3 It's just as well. That industry never really caught on anyway.
4 Don't worry, Maureen. I'm not quitting. Yet.
5 Although I'm doing a piss-poor job of it. Since the beginning of last year I've now written 127 blog posts, but only 1½ chapters in my novel. (Also, eight short stories, but that hardly excuses the depressingly low chapter count.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Not My Genre"

Back in January, I started hanging out with a new crowd. But now I'm having second thoughts.

The writers' group meets monthly at a local library, and each month it critiques three member-submitted writings. This past week, one of them was mine.

My short story — which I also plan to use later as the first chapter of a novel — involves two costumed crime fighters trying to foil a bank robbery. No special powers, just gadgetry. All pretty easy to understand, I thought. But oh, did I underestimate the reading abilities of my writing group.

Fourteen fellow writers were there that night to critique my piece. Of those, seven admitted it wasn't the sort of story they would normally read. Fair enough. Yet, of those seven, only two proceeded to give me any sort of feedback beyond that. The other five went about it different ways, but basically what they said boiled down to: "It's not my genre, so I have nothing for you."

Since when does "not my genre" excuse people from doing their part? 1 Even if you don't understand the technology I describe, is it really that hard to take a critical look at the dialogue, or the pacing, or the interplay of characters? I don't read romance and rarely opt for women's or literary fiction, but I still give thoughtful feedback for each of those excerpts. But hey, if that's not the accepted practice in this writing group, I guess I can prepare some excuses for next time:
  • "Stories with this many adverbs and such unexpected shifts in perspective aren't really my style. My apologies."
  • "I'm sorry, I don't usually read books set in 1982. I don't have anything for you."
  • "I only read paranormal steampunk cyber-werewolf murder mysteries with female protagonists. But you went with male. Too bad."
Not all the writers are useless, of course. Five others truly enjoyed the story, and I did get some useful feedback from the group as a whole. Still, part of me wants to leave this motley crew for a true critique group, or at least break off into a splinter group with those who aren't concerned with genre.2

So, has this ever happened to you? What do you do when someone in your group isn't pulling his own weight?

1 This wasn't an isolated incident. Another writer submitted a sci-fi story a few months ago and got a similar response. His concepts were tougher for the average reader to grasp, however, so I was certainly surprised when my story became its equal. Apparently, the elder statesmen and stateswomen of the group (and I suspect all the offenders are over the age of 60) can't handle anything that isn't culled directly from real life.
2 We could call ourselves the Genre Assassins. Or Bob. Bob's a good name for anything.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Virtue May Be Its Own Reward, But I'll Take These

As much as I enjoyed the A to Z Challenge, I was also relieved when May rolled around and I could get back to my regular "whenever I damn well please" posting schedule. But after spending the past two weeks recovering from blog overload (or "bloverload") by retreating into the real world, I feel it's time I finally gave some recognition.

Of course, since my ego is the size of a Buick, what I want to recognize is that my blog has been recognized. I'm talking blog awards, people. I've recently received three of them from four fellow bloggers (only one of whom is a fellow), and as is my practice, I've Photoshopped them into oblivion.

Matthew Vanacore over at FilmMattic was the first to bestow the Stylish Blogger Award upon me. If you like movies like I like movies (and I like movies), you owe it to yourself to check out his blog.

Then check out Marian Allen, who determined I was "crazy all over the inside of [my] head," and then also gave me this award, presumably because my craziness is so stylish. Nonetheless, I didn't think the award really lived up to its name, so I went to work:

Marian's award also came with the stipulation that I share seven things about myself. Normally, I ignore stipulations, but luckily for Marian, I enjoy making lists:
  1. For Halloween in kindergarten, I dressed as a carrot.
  2. The day I bought my first car, I got into an accident... before I left the dealership.
  3. For Halloween in first grade, I dressed as a carrot.1
  4. I haven't set my alarm clock for a time ending in 0 or 5 since I was 15 14.
  5. Once, while playing volleyball, I dislocated a thumb. The thumb wasn't mine.2
  6. I can hold my breath for upwards of 15 seconds.
  7. When I was two years old, I tried to jump into the Grand Canyon.3

At the tail end of the Challenge, Elizabeth Mueller passed this award along to everyone who made it through to Z, which I thought was a very nice gesture on her part. My decision to embellish the award wasn't nearly as nice a gesture, but I didn't let that stop me:

And finally, Deirdra Coppel over at A Storybook World handed out an award to everyone in the Challenge. She chose the Creative Blog Award for me, though for the life of me I can't think of why. I couldn't even come up with a inventive way to improve her award; all I did was add depth, contrast, and color:

Well, that's it for today. Maybe next time I'll do something more stylish, or creative, or survivory.4 But for now, I'm going to retreat once again into the real world, and see if I can maybe win an award there. Wish me luck.

1 In both instances, it was an orange felt costume, with a green felt cap, and had C-A-R-R-O-T in bold black letters down the front. Booya.
2 Despite being a short white guy, I can jump high and spike hard. (Unlike Nathan Fillion's character, my nickname of "The Hammer" is because of my fist.) Anyway, after his partial block, the guy popped his thumb back into place and proudly played through the pain the rest of the night. I have no idea why. They were just pick-up games.
3 I failed.
4 For instance, Bridget, I know you still want me to create the Deviant Blogger Award. I'll get started on that once I finish the Procrastinating Blogger Award.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pirate Haiku Contest Winners!

Thank you everyone, for making it so bloody difficult to choose the winners. If you haven't done so already, make sure to check out all the entries.

All of the haiku were fantastic, even if my sister Naomi tried to win with stuff pirated off my Talk Like a Jewish Pirate Day post, and her husband Josh submitted an entry pirated from last year's contest. (At least he admitted it.) Sadly, nobody anonymously entered any spectacular ninja limericks this year, but that may have been because the theme this time around was pirates. Still, 'twas a shame. Yar.

Now, I should point out that there is no method to my madness, and thus, my judging of your entries was both extremely subjective and overly erratic. Thus, if your haiku aren't listed below, it's clearly either because I'm not smart enough to appreciate it properly, or because you never wrote the damn thing.

Baygirl32 especially captured the spirit of the contest with her entry:
Arrg arg aaaarg arg aarrgggh
Aaarg hhharr har aarrggh har rrar har
Yo Ho ho HHo Ho
But it fell just short of honorable mention, getting only a regular old mention instead. These, on the other hand, did one better...

Honorable Mentions

Hannah Kincade said she might or might not have pictures of the following event. Pictures might have sealed the deal...
Swinging from the door
She is naked, knife in hand.
"Yargh! Pirate knife fight!"
The Rare Poet's was one of the rare few to incorporate another form of piracy:
a bootlegged copy
of Jack Sparrow's latest flick.
such sweet irony!
This was Mary R's first haiku ever:
Before Blackbeard's Ghost
I ran around on two legs
Now it's just the peg
Naomi, as she likes to do, presented us with idiots:
Incredibly dumb
Pyromaniac Pirates
sink their own vessel
Budd introduced us to pirate Date Night:
A hook on the hand
A patch on the missing eye
And she's the looker
Laura also found inspiration in piratical romance:
Come buxom wenches
Come fondle my wooden leg
And I'll hook ye good
And the ever-entertaining Chris Phillips carved up a few creative entries, including this'n:
Polly won't shut up
Another cracker you say?
You'll be delicious.

First Place - Traditional

Once again, the Traditional prize proved to be the tougher category, with the majority of the entries straying toward the comical. It was a hard fought battle, but in the end, my brain outsmarted itself and selected this entry by Sarah Ahiers (Falen) for the first $25 prize:
Moonlight brushes sea
Waves capped in silver and gold
Treasure for all men

First Place - Humorous / Creative

And the humorous champion is Joelle, who's always looking for new reasons to be pantsless:
Too many buttons
For me hook-hand to manage.
Naked pirate time.

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks again to everyone who entered!

Falen and Joelle, I've sent you each an Amazon gift card in your email. Please let me know if you haven't received it yet.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Great Tebahpla

a.k.a A Fond Look Back on the A to Z

Thar be but two days left to enter me Pirate Haiku Contest. It ends Saturday, 5/7 at 5pm.

Although the following retrospective may only appeal to me, I'm still going through with it. You know why? Because I'm me. And I like things that appeal to me.

Anyway, like many participants in April's A to Z Challenge, I started off strong, and even without eating my Wheaties. I'd written the first week's worth of posts ahead of time, so I began visiting other blogs left and right. Things were good for a while, but I couldn't keep up the pace. Halfway through, I began to tire, and soon real life interfered. By the final week, I only had one of the last six posts written, and I barely made it to any new blogs. I regret I wasn't able to visit more bloggers, but that's really my only complaint. I found new and exciting blogs, wrote a few inspired posts, and gained followers who are delusional actually enjoy what I have to say. It was a great month.

By the way, in case you missed them, here are the posts I feel were my cleverest, craziest, and Jesus-meets-Hitchhiker's-Guidiest, respectively:

First Conceived: C (A to Z Contest), Q (Questioning Qwyjibo),
V (Vampires vs. Velociraptors!)
Last Conceived: P (Primordial Pluperfect Prepositions)
Fastest to Write: P
Longest to Write: A (A Ragman's Anagrams, or how Justin Bieber = Inert Jubbies)
Done Weeks Ahead of Time: H (The Half Humphrey), R (Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic),
T (The Top Ten Things That Threaten to Topple This Theocracy)
Done Last Minute: W, X, Y, Z
Most Read: C, B, A, and for some reason, O (Oh. Em. Gee.)
Least Read: Y (The Sometimes Y), P, N (Nothing, Nil, Nada.)
Most Misplaced: K (Kurious Khemical Kompounds)

Also, since so many people asked about the letter images (technically, no one asked, but you shut up), I'll share the background on those. I painstakingly created them myself, using 24 different fonts and practically every Photoshop layer style known to man (plus a few others only women know about).

I wanted to get all the letters in one place, so you'll find them below. Hover your cursor over a letter to display the title of that day's post, and click to go to the post itself. (If you hover over the same image in the post, you'll get an alliterative sentence using that day's letter.)

So, will I do the A to Z again next year? I don't know. All I know is that if I do, I won't be nearly as creative as I was this time around. Creativity takes time, and I'll have a 9-month old in the house, so I'll be rather short on time. Maybe I'll just go for witty instead.

That, or haiku. Everyone loves haiku. (Hint hint.)

By the way, the images look even better against the dark background of my blog than they do here. You should click through and check them out there.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

That Wasn't All, Paul (The Other 45 Ways to Leave Your Lover)

In Paul Simon's iconic "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," he only repeats the same five methods over and over, and it's always kind of annoyed me. So I did what any rational person would do: I finished his song for him.

For reference, here's the original chorus:
Just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don't need to be coy, Roy, you just listen to me
Hop on the bus, Gus (you don't need to discuss much)
Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free

(listen to it as an mp3)
So what are the other 45 ways? I'm glad you asked. Sure, a bunch of these are actually ways to get your lover to leave you, but in my defense, it's not exactly like Mr. Simon stayed on task, either. Here are the ones he left out:
  1. Drive off in a truck, Buck
  2. Jump in a van, Fran
  3. Catch the next plane, Shane, and sit in 3B
  4. Ride on the rail, Dale (watch out for the fail whale)
  5. Travel by cars, Lars, and head for the sea
  6. Escape in the dark, Mark
  7. Run off in the night, Dwight
  8. Slip out at dawn, Shaun, while she's still asleep
  9. Just flee in the morn, Lorne (so you can watch more porn)
  10. Skip out 'fore she wakes, Jake, and don't stop to pee
  11. It's fine to be rude, Jude
  12. You gotta be curt, Bert
  13. You need to be mean, Gene, don't show her pity
  14. Dump her in a tweet, Pete (yep, that there's the sweetmeat)
  15. Change all the locks, Knox, and get a new key
  16. Just tell her she's fat, Pat
  17. Insult her bod, Todd
  18. Call her a freak, Zeke, I don't think she'll agree
  19. Say she's a dyke, Mike (that she looks just like Ike)
  20. Make fun of her rack, Zach, she won't find it funny
  21. Fool her with a con, John
  22. Lie, cheat, and steal, Neil
  23. Take her to the bank, Frank, and snag all her money
  24. Forge all of her checks, Dex (and only eat Tex-Mex)
  25. Slip her a pill, Will, and then you can flee
  26. Just get with her friend, Ben
  27. Sleep with her sis, Chris
  28. Make out with her mom, Tom, she'll be so angry
  29. Find a new girl, Earl (one with some unfurled curls)
  30. Start dating a man, Dan, she'll be done with thee
  31. Throw her in a ditch, Mitch
  32. Leave her to rot, Scott
  33. Kick her to the curb, Herb, that's what I want to see
  34. Send her on her way, Jay (and right before payday)
  35. Toss her from your house, Klaus, then throw a party
  36. Shave her pet cat, Matt
  37. Go jump off a cliff, Biff
  38. Fake your own death, Seth, that sounds good to me
  39. You just have to leave, Steve (no need for a reprieve)
  40. Just fly far away, Clay, that'll work guaranteed
  41. Slide out of bed, Fred
  42. Just turn the knob, Rob
  43. Step out the door, Thor, you just listen to me
  44. Head 'cross the lawn, Vaughn (and soon you'll be long gone)
  45. Just push through the gate, Nate, and set yourself free*
* This is advice for a different Nate. I'm perfectly happy where I am, thank you very much.

And hey! Don't forget to enter my Pirate Haiku Contest, which ends this Saturday, 5/7.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pirate Haiku Contest!

** The contest is now closed. Check out the winners. **

Announcing The Wheel’s 2nd Annual Haiku Contest!

Last year, it was ninja haiku. This year’s theme: Pirates.

It's not difficult:
You just write five syllables,
Then seven, then five.

And you write about pirates. The eye patch-and-parrot types, sure, but also those with illegally obtained music, or any others you might think of. With so many different types of piracy out there, I'm not about to restrict you.

So, write your own pirate haiku in the comments section below. Two lucky winners will receive a treasure chest full of gold doubloons $25 Amazon gift cards.

I will be selecting the best haiku in each of two categories:
  • Humorous/Creative
  • Traditional (i.e. eloquent, evocative, etcetera)
The deadline to submit a haiku is this Saturday, May 7 at 5:00pm (Eastern Time). Please review the official rules below before entering.

Pirate poetry. Let's make it happen, people. Good luck!

Official Rules:
  1. To enter, post pirate-related haiku in the comment section below. Multiple submissions are allowed, but if you submit more than five (5), you may begin to get on my nerves, and I'll get our resident witch doctor to curse you. (Oh, the profanity!)
  2. Standard haiku rules apply. To qualify, each entry must be a three-line poem, the first line containing exactly 5 syllables, the second line 7 syllables, and the third line 5 syllables. If you miscount, I'll know I can't count on you, and both you and your entry will be sent into the briny depths.
  3. The contest is open until Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 5:00pm, Eastern Time. If you try to sneak an entry in after the deadline, you will be caught hiding below deck and stranded on a deserted island. Like your carcass, your entries will be picked apart by scavenging birds. They will no longer have enough syllables, and be disqualified.
  4. Entries must be in English. (i.e. Using Japanese kanji will not help you win for best traditional haiku. If I can't understand you, obviously you're plotting mutiny against me, and I'm not about to let you steal this contest which I've been captaining for years. You will finish in dead last. Because my first mate will slit your throat.)
  5. Anonymous entries will not win. If you try to hide your identity, clearly you're running from something, and I don' t need that sort of trouble. I'll feed you to the sharks. Or to the shrieking eels. Then I'll claim any valuable writing you had on your person as my own.
  6. Prizes will be awarded in each of two categories: Humorous/Creative and Traditional.
    • Two (2) first place winners will each receive a $25 Amazon gift card for which to purchase booty.
    • An indeterminate number of Honorable Mentions will receive bragging rights over everyone who doesn’t win. Also, honor.
  7. I will act as sole judge, and select the winning haiku based on the aforementioned criteria, as well as other criteria I make up as I go along. All decisions are final, and will not be changed under any circumstances unless bribery is involved.