Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

And Don't Call Me Shirley

Well, I did it again.

Long-time readers (all three of you) may remember I once won a writing contest on agent Janet Reid's blog using the devastating combo of bacon and bad puns. This past weekend, I did the unexpected and won a second time.

Sorry, let me rephrase that so my meaning is clear: I did the unexpected. And, I won.

If you've been here before, you know I try to incorporate humor into pretty much every post I write.1 It's the same with my fiction. Prior to last week, I believe I'd only ever written one story completely devoid of humor.

And then there were two.

My winning story contains no wit, no wisecracks, and no wordplay. See? I'm not a one-trick pony. I can turn all sorts of tricks.2 Okay, that came out wrong, but what I mean is when a story calls for it, I can be a serious writer. Seriously.

My prize: An ARC of Veronica Roth's Insurgent, the second book in her wildly popular Divergent trilogy, which doesn't hit bookstores until May. (After I won, I went out and got the first book, since I hadn't actually read it yet. I finished it in under two days.)

As per the rules of the contest, entries couldn't exceed 100 words, and had to contain these five:

choice - destroy - risk - sequel - allegiance

My winning entry:
Maeve's brother died the week she was born; her parents never quite recovered. She traipsed through life as a ghost, the sequel to a book never written.

Only Rakesh had been there for her. To his people she held no allegiance, but she was indebted to him.

In the packed marketplace, the bulky vest weighed on her body, though not her mind. She knew her actions today would accomplish little — you couldn’t destroy what was already ruined — but still, better her than Rakesh. Maeve didn't regret her choice.

She risked a glance at her watch. Ten seconds.


Oh, and one last thing. Reading this story, you probably assume I came up with the idea because of the choice-destroy-risk-allegiance grouping of words. You'd be wrong. It was the exact opposite; the entire story stems from the word sequel. I knew that would be the toughest of the five for me to fit into a passage and have it sound natural, so that's where I put my focus. Luckily, I hit on the phrase "sequel to a book never written;" the rest of the piece flowed from there.

But enough about me. The competition for this prize was fierce; Ms. Reid claimed it was her toughest contest decision ever. Thus, there's some fine flash fiction on display over at her blog, so go check out the other finalists. No, that's not a suggestion. It's an order. Go.

So, what have we learned today? Step outside your comfort zone. You may be surprised with the results.

1 Whether I succeed is a matter of some conjecture.
2 Also, I'm pretty sure I'm not a pony. (Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit biology.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Excuses, Excuses

I'm too congested to think straight. I'll write tomorrow.
My seven-month-old has a fever.
What a great book! I'll just read one more chapter.
And now my wife's sick, too. Wonderful.
Well, this Super Bowl isn't going to watch itself.
I'll only go on Facebook for a minute.
Okay, I'm pretty sure my cold has a sinus infection.
Just one more game.
We've had this Netflix movie for a week already.
Seriously? The cat has hookworm?
So tired. I'll only close my eyes for a second.
I should take some new photos of the baby.
I need to catch up on a few blogs.
Second fundraiser in two weeks? Sounds good.
Great. Now I'm sick again.
It's been a looong day. I'll just watch one episode.
How hard can it be to give a cat a pill?
This book's even better. Thirty pages to go.
You know, I haven't talked to Rob in forever.
It's so nice outside. We should go for a walk.
Tomorrow. I'll make the time tomorrow.
I need to touch-up that last batch of photos.
My desk is so cluttered. I can't work like this.
In fact, the whole house could be cleaner.
Pitchers and catchers report.


Actually, strike that. I have one legitimate excuse...

My son wants to spend time with me. And how do you say no to that face? You can't. It's not physically possible. Thus, I will be spending as much time as I can with my son.

Luckily for me, he has a bedtime now. New rule:


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For the Love of...

If you've read my post on the subject from last year, you know what comes to my mind when I think of Valentine's Day: LOVE.1

That might seem a bit harsh, but how else am I supposed to feel about a holiday that depresses millions of single folk every year? That cares more about selling things than it does about selling the emotion behind the day itself? But lest you think I'm too critical of this unabashed marketing ploy holiday, I've filled the following passage with heart:
"I wish my husband bought me more gauche art made with ear trumpets and fresh earth."
"I hear that."
My wife and I show our love for each other every day, not just when the calendar tells us to. And we don't do it with stuff.2 It's not that difficult a concept. Hell, the Google doodle gets it. Sure, if you liked it you should have put a ring on it, but when it comes to love, there are plenty of ways to show how you feel without reaching for your wallet.3

For instance, you could prepare her favorite meal, give him a card you made yourself, clean the house while she's at work, or write him a romantic poem. Don't think you have the creativity for that? No worries, I've done it for you:
She loves you.
It's only love,
Real love.
Can't buy me love;
You've got to hide your love away.
All you need is love.
Love me do.
P.S. I love you.
Now remember: If you share your love throughout the year, Valentine's Day becomes just another day, no different from any other except in how it immediately precedes the second best time of the year for scavenging chocolate off of co-workers' desks.

You're welcome. Happy Tuesday.

1 Load of Veritable Excrement.
2 Except that time I bought her a Nook. But that was completely different. It was Christmas.
3 Or, if you're not in a relationship, make Hallmark reach for its wallet. Clearly, Valentine's Day is nothing but blatant discrimination against single people. There, I've practically won your case for you already. All you need to do is lawsuit up.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Playing the Percentages

Last week, I conducted a social experiment involving the observation of societal norms in a closed setting. Which is to say, I sat in my car and people-watched.

On the way home from lunch with some friends, we had stopped at a grocery store and pulled into one of the spots reserved for Customer with Child. Perhaps you've seen these; the designated spots are relatively close to the building, and meant as a convenience for parents who need to lug a baby in a car seat over to the shopping carts, or who have to corral small children into the store. In our case, The Professor had just fallen asleep, so rather than disturb him, I stayed in the car with him while Denise went inside to pick up the few items we needed.

Over the next 15 minutes, I observed the comings and goings in the other Customer with Child Parking spots nearby, and what I discovered was startling: Of all the other customers who used these spots, not one had a child with them.

Let's do the math. (Okay, I'll do the math. You sit back and watch.) Six different cars filled those other spots during that 15-minute span. With ours as the lone car with a child, that means only 1 in 7 was using the spot as intended.1 Of course, this is just a small sample size, which doesn't really tell us much. But let's say I'd continued observing from that spot for four hours. If I extrapolate the numbers, that means only 1 of every 97 people would have used the spots appropriately.2

Use of Customer with Child spots isn't enforced like it is with handicapped spots, so of course you'd expect a few people to take advantage of the system. But the numbers don't lie: As my pseudo-scientific experiment proves, a stunning 99% of people are motivated by selfishness and greed, and care not for the plight of young mothers and fathers struggling to carry such a heavy burden.3

And there you have it. I don't know what this says about our society as a whole, but I know what it says about me.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am the 1%.

1 Never mind that we weren't actually using the spot as intended. We'd intended to. Oh, never mind.
2 What, you don't trust my math? Every 15 minutes, another 6 childless customers would roll into those spots, for a total of 96. Plus me, sitting there the entire time. Thus, 1 out of 97. So there. You extrapolate your way, I'll extrapolate mine.
3 Okay, so the numbers might not lie, but I might be stretching them a bit. It's not 99% of everyone; it's just 99% of those who use the Customer with Child spots. But considering none of those spots was vacant for more than 30 seconds, I'm still talking about a far higher percentage of the overall population than you might think.