I am Anthologized

Those who read this blog know that I have had success writing flash fiction, and that I have landed four stories with the online magazine Every Day Fiction.

Well, EDF just announced the story line up for their “Best Of” print anthology for stories they published during their first year, and my story “The Journey” has been selected for inclusion.  I was totally floored.  Of the four stories I have sold to them, I feel that “Becoming Cottontail” is my best, but since it was published at the start of EDF’s second year, I figured I would have to wait for the “Best of EDF ’09” for a chance at this honor.

There were a lot of very good and very fun stories that did not make the cut.   Stories I really liked, and authors that I have come to respect, did not make the cut.

In some ways I feel that my ninety-five word bundle of quirky weirdness is undeserving.  But then again, after it got some initial rejections, it bounced around in my head for eleven years before this fresh version spilled out, so perhaps that counts for something, eh?

Even though it is sinking in that I did the work, I still owe a heap of gratitude to Steve Goble for giving me the encouragement to face rejection again.   And I owe even bigger heaps of hugs and love to every single member of my family for more support than a husband and father could ever wish for.

Nope, I’m not crying, that’s some dust that got in my eye…


Has it been a year already?

A year ago I received an email from the editors of EDF.  The story I had sent them, hadn’t been rejected nor accepted.  Just the fact that I had heard back from them was a benchmark of sorts for me.

Brief history of Deven the writer.  I wrote stories when I was in High School.  I even was brave enough to send a few stories out, all of which collected rejections.  My creative writing teacher was abysmal and I stopped.  I did not enter college right away because I wanted to earn some money and pay off a car and during that time I wrote some more but didn’t send any stories out.  When I did start attending college, I took another creative writing course (much better than the high school one) and wrote some more, but did not send any stories out.  I puttered with ideas, and wrote some things just for me over the intervening years until the mid 1990’s.  I reconnected with good friend Steve Goble who had recently sold a story and was doing fiction online with friends.  I joined in.   I caught the bug again.   This time I did send stories out.  I got a well deserved rejection from the Star Trek “new voyages” contest; and I also got rejections for a flash story I sent to Analog and the now defunct Aboriginal SF.  But then, I stopped again.  My mind believed that crappy high school teacher who told me that I could not write, and never would be able to.  But the stories would not leave me alone and I jotted down ideas whenever they came to me.   Jump forward to two years ago, and reconnecting with Steve again.  The urge to write blossomed again and I started a few stories that are still unfinished as I write this.  Steve had gained success with writing and was branching out.  He asked me to send him a story for an anthology idea he was working on with his wife Gere and friend TW Williams.  I was honored and sent him one.  He rejected the story, but gave me a detailed critique on it.  The story was good, I just needed to work on the craft of writing.  Hell, I could deal with that!  It was such a boost to realize that with a little work I could turn this story into a good story.  A month later I sent EDF “The Journey“, the story I mentioned at the top of this long winded post, which they held onto for four more days before accepting it.  The Journey was an expansion (can you believe it?) of the story that Analog and Aboriginal rejected in the 90’s.

Has it really been a year since I finally convinced myself that I could actually write?  The time has flown by and it has at times seemed very surreal.   “The Journey” was the only story I sold in the 2007 calendar year, but I have sold an additional five this year.  But that is for another post.

Thank-you Steve, and Doris, and Justin, Chris and Derek, and EDF, and everyone else that has given me support and encouragement this past year.  Writing makes me feel more complete, and I am happier and healthier for it.  Thank-you, Thank-you, Thank-you!

Guess Who’s NOT On Time For Dinner?

The recent dearth of posts here at Blogtide Rising is partially due to my participation in a comedic dinner theater production–Guess Who’s NOT On Time For Dinner?
Performing in community theater has been wonderful for me. Not only is it fun, but it has been a great outlet for dealing with work related stress. I was looking forward to this particular production because the author/director wrote my part specifically with me in mind. I think it worked out well. There were times during rehearsals when he and the other actors were laughing at my portrayal of my character.

The play itself was marvelously funny. The author, Delmar Burkitt is a local playwright with two plays published by Elderidge Publishing Company. He enjoys audience participation, and this play had a lot of that. The play takes place within a restaurant that is set up on the stage which is where the audience is seated.  Most of the cast are restaurant staff–with a few customers tossed into the mix. The waiters are actors and we actually took (limited) orders and served the audience their meals. The major acting segments took place prior to drink orders being taken, in between each major meal service, and of course after dessert. The in between times were filled with live entertainment and with the wait-staff actors doing a large amount of improvisation with the customers as we took their orders and served them food and drinks.

I was an overly nervous waiter on his first night working solo. I taught myself how to make my leg shake as if I were terrified; and how to shake a pitcher of iced tea so the ice would rattle while I was pouring yet still keeping the spout steady so that I really didn’t spill anything (the trick is to shake up and down, not side to side). I had a brown paper bag that I hyperventilated into when a (fake) tray of drinks was dropped by one of the other actors.  Other cast members playing the waiters were a young lady with a *fake* cold, a forgetful gentleman, a bookworm, a chatterbox, a college student studying forensics, a klutz, a music lover with headsets constantly blaring music, and finally a multiple personality disorder sufferer who decides to experiment by not taking his medicine before starting work.

The ad libs were wonderful, especially those of Woody Roll who played multiple personalities hilariously. The live entertainment was real, and was necessary to give the audience a chance to eat because as long as the actors were on stage interacting with them, very little food was eaten. Boone Brabson and Nancy Cupp performed several popular country songs including “Margaritaville“, “Luckenbach, Texas” and “Crazy”.

It was tremendous fun, and Delmar was even asked to take the show on the road to Circleville, but he declined. It will be some time before I can be in another of Delmar’s productions. He is writing a play for the Waverly High School Drama Club, and won’t start on his next community theater project until after he recovers from that.

As always, Delmar’s productions are for charity and this time the beneficiary was the Waverly Enrichment Group.

Review: Mermaid Avenue (vol. I & II) – Billy Bragg & Wilco

Mermaid AvenueBilly Bragg & Wilco

Mermaid Avenue Vol. II – Billy Bragg & Wilco

Two albums in one review.

These days instead of me recommending music to my boys, they have started recommending music to me. Justin and Trish recommended these because they figured they would fit into my taste in music, and into my love of history. OK, they didn’t come right out and state it that way, but I am fairly sure that is what they were thinking. They were right.

A little background on these two albums. The most interesting thing is that the lyrics belong to Woody Guthrie. He wrote the songs (mostly) while living on Mermaid Avenue in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. These were the WWII and post-WWII years when Woody was at his peak creatively, but waning physically and mentally from the early effects of Huntington’s Disease. He wrote hundreds and hundreds of songs during this time period, but unfortunately because he learned to play the guitar “by ear”, he did not record or write down the music. When he died in 1967 all the tunes he kept in his head were forever lost. All that remains from this outpouring of music are the lyrics.

Enter Nora Guthrie, Woody’s daughter and Arlo’s younger sister. She approached some currently popular singer/songwriter/activist types and asked them to put music behind some of the lyrics. The result is this two album set by Billy Bragg and Wilco. Nora did a good thing here. While the music may not be Woody’s a new generation, like my son and daughter-in-law, have now been exposed to the wonderfully creative and outspoken mind of Woody Guthrie. When I first started listening to these albums I was a little hesitant. But the songs grew on me, and it was not long before my toes were tapping and I was singing along with the choruses of some songs. During the pauses between songs, I swear I could hear Woody singing “Car Song” and “This Land is Your Land”.

There are some wondrous songs on the first album of the set. “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key” really grabbed me. I was humming it the rest of the day. Billy Bragg wrote the music (filled with minor keys) and the backing vocals of Natalie Merchant complemented his lead vocals perfectly. “Hoodoo Voodoo” was a fun song that would have been perfect for any live performance, but especially one with children in the audience. Jeff Tweedy, the front man from Wilco, did a wonderful job with the lead vocals.

The second volume also has some fantastic songs. Natalie Merchant provides lead vocals for the whimsical “I Was Born” and Jeff Tweedy provides an Arlo Guthrie like performance on “Joe DiMaggio Done It Again”. The ballad “Remember the Mountain Bed” has some of the most beautiful lyrics I have ever encountered. Woody was a romantic. “My Flying Saucer” isn’t actually a science fiction piece, but isn’t it neat that Woody would use that phrase to create a song. “Stetson Kennedy” delighted the lay historian in me.

Overall these are two remarkable albums. The music is solid and I am going to keep my eyes and ears open for music from both Billy Bragg and Wilco. But it is ultimately the lyrics that carry the day for me. Part of me hopes that Arlo Guthrie and perhaps Bob Dylan will tackle the task of creating more music for Woody’s lyrics, but perhaps this is to much to ask from a son or a protégé.

Pundits label Woody Guthrie a socialist, but in reality I think he is more of a progressive than most right wingers would like to admit. What matters is that at a time when the European fascists were in power, Woody toured our nation with a guitar with the words “This machine kills Fascists” on it. And at a time when citizens were being accused of being un-American communists by small minded unreasoning politicians, Woody kept singing, “this land belongs to you and me”.

He is one of the most gifted, pro-American, songwriters this nation has ever had.

Thank-you, Trish and Justin, for recommending these albums to me. I recommend the same for everyone else. Give them a listen.

A Parent’s Nightmare

(Everyone is okay)

The phone rings.  It seems that some lady decided to go the wrong way down a one-way street in Portsmouth.  Chris was going the correct way and could not avoid her.

Head-on collisions scare me.  Most people don’t realize just how violent they can be even when low speeds are involved.  The laws of physics, conservation of motion, kinetic energy, the effects of frail bodies bouncing around inside steel shells: I know enough about these things to understand that I should be scared.  While waiting to see if Chris needed us in Portsmouth, I decided to take a walk to drive off the nervous energy.  I got about .3 mile when Doris pulled up in our car to head south.

Chris could not avoid the other car, but he was able to scrub off a lot of his momentum.  Thank goodness for good brakes and good tires on our 1985 Nissan pickup truck.  The right front fender and bumper were crumpled, and thanks to the tow truck driver, he pulled the fender out so that it would not rub the tire, the pickup truck is still drivable.  Based on the age of the pickup, the insurance company will want to total it.  I am not sure I want that.  I couldn’t replace the truck with anything else, based only on its bluebook value.

I am going to check the front end and make sure no supports have been broken.  If that is the case, then I am going to loosen the fender bolts and hammer the sheet metal a bit straighter,  replace the side running light bulb that was broken, align the headlights and put it back into Chris’ hands.

Chris is okay.  The truck is a little banged up.  I should be able to relax, right?

Heh.  Tell that to the nightmare that woke me up this morning…

Procrastination Cessation …

Hello. I am a procrastinator. I sometimes can keep my head down and get things done, but over the last year I have really let a lot of things slip. I am going to rectify that.

I stumbled across an interesting meme here on the internet. It is called “101 Things to Do in 1001 Days“. The idea is to complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days. The tasks must be specific (i.e. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (i.e. represent some amount of work on my part). I realize that some of the tasks on my list may not seem to fit the requirements, but I think that even the most mundane ones will be stretching (and hopefully breaking) my procrastination. I like this meme because it gives focus like other “beating procrastination” exercises, but it also sets a time table that won’t cause panic or frustration. 1001 days is approximately 2.74059 years. That is a long time.

I am going to participate. But a lot can happen in 2 and three quarter years. Kids get married or graduate from college. There could be more grandkids. We could win the lottery. For this reason I am reserving the right to revise this list based on a major life event. I mean, if I win the lottery then fixing the van is not a stretching task anymore, right. A stretching task to replace the van task would be setting up trust funds for loved ones, or building them houses.

My list of 101 Things can be found on the sidebar as a sub-page under “About Me.” It contains such mundane things as taking care of all the broken door knobs in our house, and using and returning a power washer I borrowed from a friend over a year ago. It contains necessary things like doing my back exercises and and cleaning up my pack-rat messes (I am a hoarder of useless things. It’s genetic.) The task list has a few hard things like learning to read music (which I have failed at before), and important things like working with my parents and sister on formalizing the ownership of the family farm to protect it from seizure should my parents’ medical costs spiral out of control. It also has fun things for me, like going on a “get away” with just Doris (beach, cabin in the woods; something we have talked about for years), and reading all the Hugo Award winning novels that I have not yet read.

I took me the better part of a week to create the list. I strove hard to keep all the tasks realistic and important, even the fun ones. Don’t wish me luck, tell me “It’s about time!”

Proud Papa

I don’t think I have bragged about my boys enough.

All three of these young men are extremely intelligent, independent, creative and fun to be around. They have many similar traits. They are all quick witted. They have a broad sense of humor. They all have eclectic tastes in music (my fault) and reversing roles, they have all started to share their favorite music with me. Granted all of these things manifest in differing ways, but they are all strong well rounded personalities. They seem to know what direction they want their lives to go, and I am doing my best to keep out of their way. I know they will come to me if they need help or advice because they already have. All three are “man enough” to give out hugs and tell the people they love that they love them. They make me so very, very proud.

Justin is our oldest. He has a very good eye for pictures: stills and video. He is also a natural sketch artist. The avatar I use at the top of the navigation column is a rendition Justin did of me several years ago. It is a subtle caricature that looks enough like me that if you saw me in real life (without a ball cap on) you would know who I was. I have a carefully preserved crayon drawing of Charlie Brown that Justin did before he entered kindergarten. He didn’t have to tell me it was Charlie Brown, it was that good. I see his talent for seeing things with an artistic eye showing up in the mundane parts of life. These have shown up as slide show pictures on his computer’s screen saver. Ordinary events become extra-special. He does even better with pictures of people. I hope someday to sit in a movie theater and watch a film he’s directed.

Chris is our middle son. He has a mind like a steel trap. During much of his younger life I thought his talents leaned only towards science and math. I was wrong. Yes, he has that talent set, but he also has a creativity that can only be described as ‘thinking the box never existed’. He has discovered computer programming, and has discovered that he likes it. Just for fun he created a computer simulation of a Rubik’s Cube. He has discussed computer theory with me, yet I do not think that he has taken a computer theory class yet. For him the light bulb of understanding what computer programming is has come on. I just hope the freedom of creativity within the computer programming industry remains flexible long enough for him to flex its limits. Oh, and he installed Linux on his laptop because Windows is obsolete (archaic and useless).

Derek is our youngest. His kindness and wit have always made my heart skip for joy. If he is given any time at all to think about just about anything, he can come up with a humorous twist on it. He created a faux Subway restaurant advertisement featuring Zombies and the catch phrase “Eat Flesh!” OK, maybe you’d have to see it. Currently he is building his creativity confidence at art school in another state. I really like his work. I am not a professional graphic artist or critic, but I have seen “professional” work that is not as good as some of his school work. He has a very good artistic eye. He can show mood and emotion in his work. There is one little sculpture that he told me about that I am dying to see. I’d rather see Derek first, though. I really miss him.

I have been showing my proud grandpa side around here lately. I think the main reason why I can be such a proud grandpa is that I am already proud of my grandson’s father. Owen’s uncles are no slouches either.

It hit me tonight while chatting with Chris and Justin (and missing Derek) that if they were not my sons, they are still men that I would want to have as friends.

I love them.

This gave me happy tears!

This is the best film of the year.

The creativity and talent of Justin just shines in this. But then he had wonderful, beautiful people to film. Owen and Trish. The song is “The First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes.

This is worth the wait if you don’t have broadband. Enjoy!

Two Wrongs…

As a kid I heard the phrase so much that it became one of my basic rules for living. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” For me it ranks right up there with ‘What Thumper’s Father Says’ — “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Both apply in this case.

In this case it is one of those fake emails that seem to continually circulate. It is one of those stupid emails that angers me. It preys on the emotions of people and is written in a way that insinuates that if you do not agree with it you are somehow unpatriotic.

Doris’s response to this email covers my feelings about it very well. Go ahead and read it on her blog. I’ll be here when you get back.

Why is it that so many people seem to forget basic decency? Things, simple things, we were taught as children seem to be forgotten as soon as we climb onto whatever bandwagon is passing by.

That email pokes fun at the Koran/Quran and I can’t help but wonder if the creator of the email, or any of those that keep forwarding it, have taken any time to consider how they would feel if roles were reversed. What if it was the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, or a Harry Potter book that was being “desecrated”? Have all of these people forgotten that other basic golden rule of living; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The events of 9/11 did not give us permission to behave poorly. It was a terrible thing, but as a nation our responses to it have made us a weaker and morally poorer people. I’d like to point out a few rules to live by to these normally Christian folks that keep passing this kind of hateful thing around. They let emotion replace reason.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-31. NIV) Jesus- The Sermon on the Mount.

Cruising for Hot Spots

The internet broadband connection went away again. For nearly two full days we battled connecting to the internet. They both needed to check things online, so last night Doris and Chris grabbed their wireless capable laptops and off we went into the great sprawling metropolis of Waverly in search of wireless hot spots. A year ago anyone attempting this would have been on a wild goose chase. My how the world of technology is changing–even here in this sleepy little town. Doris read that our public library had gone wireless. I read that a local motel had a hot spot. We figured it was worth a try.

We encountered more than just a few wide open wireless internet hot spots. Some signals were a little weak, and the wireless configuration on Doris’ laptop is a little kludgey (that is a technical term for the “special” software Dell and Microsoft use), but we found a usable connection and both Doris and Chris were able to get a few minutes of necessary internet connectivity.

I am more convinced now than ever that wireless is the future of communication as long as the government does not legislate in favor of big outdated telcom corporations.

Imagine this: You have in your hand a wireless device that serves not only as a PDA, but a VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone. As long as you have a valid account, you can use the phone anywhere there is a wireless hot spot. Free of any charges beyond the initial VOIP provider charges.

It is not a big stretch. Just last night Chris and Doris used a hot spot connected to who knows what ISP. We didn’t care, we just rode the bandwidth–free of charge.

I may borrow Doris’ laptop and go out cruising for more hot spots, just to see where they are. Hotels, libraries, restaurants, schools, taverns and even private citizens are setting up hot spots. Most are wide open and free to the general public. I knew things were like this in the big cities, but it never occurred to me until last night that wireless was so pervasive here in my little hometown.