Monday, February 27, 2012

Swimming With Sharks!

It was just another Wednesday when literary agent Janet Reid told her faithful chum readers to stay tuned because something was brewing. This usually means we are about to be tested with fire.




On Thursday, we found out that the prize was worthy . . .  Insurgent is the sequel to the wildly successful Divergent. And this was an ARC. Whoever holds it also holds the right to say, "Could you believe the ending to chapter 7? Oh yeah, that's right, you haven't read it and won't be able to for SEVERAL MONTHS." And then nod sympathetically.



The challenge was to write a 100-word story using the following words:

risk
choice
destroy
sequel
allegiance

My entry was originally titled "Outside The Wire," which was military slang for leaving the protected compound or "green zone" and going on patrol.

***

It was raining lead in beautiful downtown Baghdad. Ducking into a storefront, I risked a moment’s respite only to find the space already occupied.

He was my age, another modern-day Crusader bound by ancient allegiances and trained to destroy. 

My Kevlar and his Keffiyeh framed tired eyes and harsh lines that sleep would never erase. 

“Stop fighting and I can go home,” I said.

“Go home and I can stop fighting,” he replied.

Silently we made our choice. The sequel might end differently, but no killing today. 

Nodding, we backed through our respective doors. Back out into the rain.

***

This was another unpubbed flash I had in my portfolio that needed reworking and editing. In the cauldron, it became better.

A few comments later, I got all the prize I needed from a reader:

***

"I hereby cast my non-binding, unsolicited vote for Terri Coop's Baghdad Rain (as I've christened it). And for her very healthy fear of clowns. Seriously, check out her blog if you want to cry yourself to sleep tonight. (Shudders)"

***

First thing I did was change the title of the tale. In my hard drive and memories, it is now "Baghdad Rain."

The first sign of storm clouds came with this tweet:

"I'm despondent due to the number of people who confuse the meaning of "allegiance" with "alliance" "

::cue JAWS theme music:: OH NOES! ::run and quadruple check my entry:: Sigh of relief. I have used the word in its strictest sense, which is duty and loyalty to country and government. 

Back to the Oscars TwitterParty. 

Then this tweet appeared in Ms. Reid's feed:

I can't pick a winner in the INSURGENT contest! 8 finalists FINALLY winnowed from the 155 entries, but I can't pick ONE!

And then she introduced us to www.drawastickman.com as a distraction. Uoooohhh . . . shiny . . . 

Later on came another tweet:

"For those of you wondering about the contest results on the INSURGENT writing contest, I've had to call in reinforcements to help decide."

Hmmm . . . sounds interesting and ominous. The stakes were climbing. Yesterday morning the results posted. I am both proud and pleased to have been named one of the eight finalists out of 155 entries. I didn't bring home the prize, but that's okay. This contest was a cage match and making the title round was what mattered. 

And in the prize post was a hint that future competitions are going to be ramped up.

***

One entry however made me want to read the next page.

***
So, now along with setting, character, conflict, and resolution, there is going to be an undefinable standard of enticement. Did the ending both resolve the current conflict and hint of more to come? Is the 100-word flasher, in reality, the first act of a larger story? 

All I can say is . . . Bring it . . . 




Saturday, February 25, 2012

Feral Furniture Friday (On Saturday)



Not exactly feral, but a rare daylight appearance. Why, yes, I am the photographer of this fine collection of feral furniture. Why are you looking at me like that?

The Lawn Art Game


I'm starting a new feature. With the coming of Spring, the lawn art blooms. However, this collection is a repository of the unwanted and unloved that I spied on a narrow path between two houses. 

Kitsch Salad: Rock, Paper, Scissors



This is my new favorite geeky desk toy. "Rock, Paper, Scissors." The problem is that I keep losing to myself.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Punk Rock Bagpipes . . .



Queen's "We Will Rock You," played on the bagpipes. The best two minutes of your evening.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Story of Book - Part 5

Book and I sincerely apologize for not posting last week. Life just got in the way. However, this last week the weather let Book and I do some walking and go on a couple of adventures.

First, we wanted to continue showing you around Fort Scott and our architectural treasures.



This is the public library built in 1902 on a grant from the Carnegie Foundation. They keep all sorts of treasures in there.


Next up is the Scottish Rite Temple and Masonic Lodge. Take a second to expand the pic and check out the stone detail. It is incredible. Book is in there, all the way at the bottom. Book was having a bit of trouble in the 15 mile-per-hour wind that day.


This is our old home. Our first shop, purchased in 2003. The building is one-third of the original opera house, one of the first in this part of Kansas. The stone fascia dates to before the Civil War. This cool storefront and tile were installed in 1912.


Pretty windy, so Book and I headed home, stopping for a minute in our back deck hidey-hole to enjoy the unusually warm day.


On Tuesday, my birthday, Book and Kindle took me out to lunch because they're sweet like that. I know we told everyone we were going out for cheeseburgers. But, at the last moment, a big plate of sketti was irresistible.


Back deck of the italian restaurant. Book and I hope to hang out here come Spring. In the background you can see our home - all three leaking drafty stories of it. Built in 1888, we like it!


Book is so thoughtful. He chopped the vegetables for our side dish for dinner!


The next evening Book and I had to run to Wal-Mart. What is neat about this pic is it is the eastern exposure showing the western sunset reflected off the clouds. Totally mellow.


Off to work I go. I like walking around Columbus, Kansas. Treasure are tucked where you least expect them. Book wanted to know if these would fit in the car.


Thursday is court day. The Cherokee County courthouse was built in 1955 with nice art nouveau touches. This fountain is fantastic when it is on. Just wait until summer!


Another shot of the grand and gracious aluminum staircase with marble newels. I think the stairs are a molded composite. The stairs are one continuous peace with stylish curved edges.


Common midwestern courthouse architecture has an open staircase, usually three stories with large windows in the front of the building. The staircase provided air circulation to the public areas of the building. 

Book and I are snuggled in tonight waiting for a snow and ice. We both hope you have the best week ever and join us next Sunday for part 6 of "The Story of Book."


No Rest For The Wicked

I am very pleased, as in totally pleased to announce that my short story "Coulrophobia" has been accepted for the upcoming anthology, "No Rest For The Wicked" coming out in 2012 from Rainstorm Press. Edited by the awesome Stacey Graham.


This collection of tales about haunted objects is still accepting submissions as of the date of this post. Check out the website for details. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Feral Furniture Friday

On this week's episode of "Wild Furniture Kingdom," my safari down the back alleys of America to see what you are hiding, I present, "Godzilla Piano," the upright grand edition.


Sam will never play it again . . .

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The 25 Signs of Being a Writer, or Insanity, I Can Never Keep Those Two Straight

If you don't exhibit some or all of these characteristics, you have no business calling yourself a writer. Quit denying it. Roll with it.

From the #WTF Files: Poo-Pourri

I was cleaning photos off my old phone before activating my new smart phone (birthday present to myself) and found these two fine specimens.

Now, these "products" weren't in a joke shop. These were counter displays in a nice pharmacy - gift shop in a conservative little town in the midwest. I am imagining the salesman trying to convince the manager it was a good idea. Or maybe he plunked them on the counter and ran.

I introduce to you "Heavy Doody," poo-pourri, a "before you go" spray to deal with those . . . um . . . big odors. Notcie the manly packaging and point-of-sale display. Heavy Doody is obviously for the man of the house ::caveman grunt::


But what about the lady of the house? Obviously Heavy Doody is just not the right product for her daintier . . . um . . . excretions. So, we have "Deja Poo" poo-pourri for the gentler sex.


No dear readers, I am not making this up. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Kitsch Salad

And before I tend to my work for the day, here are some more classic salt and pepper sets to season up today's serving of Kitsch Salad :


Poor sick berries are sick . . . . 


But, happy feet are happy . . . .


And always remember and never forget, "Give a Hoot! Don't Pollute!"

Why I Fear Clowns

Coulrophobia is defined as an irrational fear of clowns. Well, I don't suffer from it because there is nothing irrational about my fear of these creepy cretins. For the best of the worst in clownfoolery, visit my other blog:

Why I Fear Clowns . . .



The Story of Book

The Story of Book had to take a week off while Writer got some work done. Will be back next week with more adventures!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Feral Furniture Friday . . . A Day Late

I keep intending to make my Friday deadline. Hey, it's my party and I'll take a by if I want to.

In today's episode of Wild Furniture Kingdom, blue recliner discovers it is not nice to mock the keeper of the keys . . .


See ya next week (on Friday or thereabouts)!

Purgatory Chasm by Steve Ulfelder A 125 mph Thrill Ride

You wouldn't know it by looking at my 1995 teal green Mercury station wagon that resonates down to its rims at 67 mph and my intense dislike of left turns in traffic, but I have a real fondness for racing.

My dad used to take me to stock car races and drags when I was a kid and I was a teen before I learned that most little girls didn't spend their birthday at the Auto-Rama.

However, I'm not a pit bunny and I don't have Jeff Gordon pillowcases. My first degree is in engineering and I have a real appreciation for the art and science of racing. That's important because main character Conway Sax isn't just a mechanic, he's a former racecar driver and race mechanic. That makes him part of a special breed and gives Purgatory Chasm its unique flavor and cadence. You will enjoy the book more if you are already knowledgeable in the sport or are open to learning something about it.

When I read genre, I want the jargon, language, and mood to be authentic. Whether it's military, cop, or legal fiction, if it doesn't feel real, then I'm not going to buy into the story. Steve Ulfelder uses his racing experience to put you into the mindset of a driver. Conway's actions and motivations are filtered through the concepts of target fixation, situational awareness, and the red mist of rage. His knowledge, reflexes, and attitudes are used to maximum effect in this sharp-edged hardcore murder mystery.

Conway Sax also has another loyalty and that is to the Barnburners. Part AA-group, part Star Chamber, the Barnburners are serious people who abide by their own creed: loyalty and sobriety. When a Barnburner is hurt or in trouble, Conway Sax answers the call without question. Even when it hurts himself and those he loves. The Barnburners have his primary loyalty.

Enter Tander Phigg - long time Barnburner and even longer time jackass. The request is simple on its face. Phigg would like Sax to retrieve his special Mercedes, apparently in the clutches of an unscrupulous mechanic. However, when Sax finds himself sprawled on the garage floor with a lump on his skull and a headache to match, he discovers something he already knew, when Phigg is involved there is no such thing as simple.

Phigg can't even die in a straightforward manner. Suicide or murder staged to look like suicide? The evidence is split and Sax decides to follow the leads and play out the hand. After all, Phigg was a Barnburner. . . 

Enter a cast of characters where everyone has an angle, everyone has an agenda, and everyone has a secret. Ulfelder serves up a nicely woven web of potential suspects, setting them up and knocking them down with ease (I hope to see more of the Beet Brothers in future books). I had my suspicions, but wasn't 100% sure who the killer was until the actual reveal. Then, in the manner of all good murder mysteries, you see the clues were there all along. 

In a nicely crafted subplot, Sax must also deal with the specter of his father. The rat-racing and rock-running illustrate the eternal conflict of a son who both wants to please and beat his father and a father who is simultaneously proud and threatened by his son. The resolution is elegant and bittersweet.

So, if you like your books fast moving, action-packed, and with a ring of truth in the characters and settings, then Purgatory Chasm is for you. Go get it now! I was lucky. I scored this great book as part of the prize booty in a contest on his agent, Janet Reid's blog. The other prize was an ARC of "The Whole Lie," the second Conway Sax book. Why, yes, you should be jealous. 

Overall, I give Purgatory Chasm four snaps up and throw in the bag of chips for this line: "A street car is a tool. A racecar is a weapon." Ulfelder will only get better as he keeps writing.