Jan 31, 2012

5 Questions with Terre Britton, Author, Painter and Lots More

Courtesy of Terre Britton

1. Can you describe yourself in three words?

(Thank you, John, for giving me this terrific opportunity to connect with you and the writing community.)

Three words? Courageous. Open-minded. Enabler.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was on a train speeding away from the Sinclair Ross-ian desolation of my Canadian Prairie childhood, through the magical Group of Seven forests of Algoma, and on toward what would become the root of my long-anticipated adventures: Art College.

Finally, life on my terms! A familiar youth mantra.

It was autumn and the train tracked through a narrow, misty corridor flanked by hills and trees. I was dazzled by the visual pop of iridescent leaves contrasted with a sea of black trunks and brilliant green conifers. With no paints at hand, I began to wildly scribble my emotional responses on paper. As an aside, but a literary aside, the sway of the day/nighter eventually took its toll

Jan 28, 2012

What can Darth Vader teach you about writing?

Vader. The ‘chosen one’ of the Jedi order. Born of virgin birth on a desert planet. His name is Skywalker – what else could it be?

What can Darth Vader teach you about writing? To learn the answer, you must ask yourself what makes him such an enduring figure in popular imagination.

Jan 27, 2012

And then a Troubadour Came Crying

It must be a real baby growing inside of me. The man, the hairy man with the head of a deer that always comes after midnight, sometimes he says it’s a girl; when I make him angry, he says it’s a bundle of snakes. I don’t like that.

Painting the Sky

Dan woke up next to Paula. The sky was lavender and the sun wouldn’t come up. Dan fixed breakfast with the sunless lavender sky framed by a narrow window. The potted periwinkle was still asleep -- petals balled into an indigo fist. 

Jan 25, 2012

Port Me to a Tablet, I Want to See the World

Data packets are hard to swallow these days. They give you indigestion. I beeped for my human mother, a 30-something hermaphrodite called Marv.

Marv opened the door and I greeted her with a click-belch. Couldn’t help it.
“Marv,” I said, “my tubes are clogged. Must be the SCSI.”


Inspired by the video below: a Jim Henson film for AT&T.

Cold War Two

The Prime Minister sat staring at the phone in the lobby, grinding her teeth. Mr. Prime Minister came in.
“Charlotte, must you sit and stare at that phone all day?” he asked.
“Ghost,” she mumbled, “ghost’s in there.”
“Ach! Not again,” Mr. PM said. “What does it want?”


Have you got a short story to submit? Are you researching publishers? Check out my growing lists on Twitter: Literary Magazines (280+ magazines and journals) and Publishers (220+, all shapes and sizes).

Jan 21, 2012

What can Monty Python teach you about writing?

Monty Python’s Flying Circus was an educational TV program which ran on BBC TV from 1969 to 1974. Forty-five episodes were broadcast in Britain, and two additional ones in Germany, where spectators needed a supplementary dose of education.

The Flying Circus was the brainchild of a select group of Oxbridge-educated psychologists, podiatrists (or is that pediatricians? I always forget which is which), barristers and architects. It may surprise you to know that the concept for the program was originally suggested by Eric Idle’s great-grandfather, an indirect descendant of William Shakespeare and the first man in Britain to report an encounter with a bar of soap.

This would surprise you because it is mostly not true.

In fact Monty Python owe their existence to the patronage of a Dutch-Slovenian aristocrat, Baron Von Took, who brought the troupe into the main BBC building one day thinking they would make good pets.

Not a good idea.
Things got out of hand when a shortsighted production assistant mistook the six shaven apes for human beings and put them in front of a camera. Terror & hilarity ensued as the Pythons ran amuck all over the BBC, stealing people’s lunches, putting on dresses and pretending to be actors. It’s recently come to light that at least four and a half of them were old lady pensioners from Crawley.

The head of the BBC came up with a revolutionary notion: “Let’s tell people that this debacle was intentional. We’re, uh, experimenting -- Yes! Now there’s a word that captures the zeitgeist -- Hodgkins, are you getting all of this? Good. -- So, we’re experimenting with a new format, something no-one’s ever tried before. Gentlemen,” said the topmost Top Executive of the BBC, smacking his fist on the table, “we can turn this around. Fear not the wrath of the House of Lords. I’m going to put such a spin on this disaster, it’ll make the Second Coming look like two mentally-handicapped children trying to light their beefers on fire.”

So, what can Monty Python teach you about writing a novel, story or play? Not much, admittedly, but keep reading to find out.

Jan 20, 2012

Blandy's Catalog of Alien Cooties

Total operatives available for nuclear delousing: 54. The GCC* scanned and approved the parents’ credit gene. One by one the operatives stepped into the quantum elevator and re-manifested atop the infant’s head, relativistic delousers in hand.

Operative 21, Frank Schlepkin, was the first to spot a panzer-louse.

*Genomic Credit Control

The Rainbow Trap

Despite the wife’s protestations, Mr. Dubcek rebuilt the giant prism in his backyard. The dream-spirit hiding in certain Diazepam batches (though not in others) had revealed to Dubcek the healing power of rainbows caught in triangular enclosures -- geometric amplifiers, the spirit called them. 


Rainbow healing is indeed a thing. Not that I would try it.

Jan 18, 2012

This Story Prompt Was Blocked by SOPA

This story prompt was blocked by SOPA.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Learn why Wikipedia has gone dark today.


But actually:

Not giving you a story prompt would be the lazy way out. I just wanted to draw your attention to a piece of legislation with the potential to ruin the Internet for everyone. Without further ado, the prompt is below.


The policeman leaning on the white rail, he must have seen her. GG Amato held up an invisible polaroid of his niece, Maris.
“Excuse me, officer,” he said, “have you seen this woman?”
The policeman sipped his vitamin water.
“Over there, GG,” the cop said, pointing left.  

What Evil Lurks in Surrey?

The Great Magento kept his good eye on the summoning circle. The Dark Lord would finally answer Magento’s calling!
“Perfect Pizza, how may I help you?” asked a disembodied voice.
“Beg pardon?” Magento mumbled. “Is that you, Lord Choronzon?”
“No, mate. Perfect Pizza, Epsom Road. Take your order?”


Always be very careful with summonings -- all the demon phone books are outdated, so the numbers may have been deactivated or reassigned by now. Poor Magento hasn't got a clue.


Today on The Expert Vagabond, Matthew Karsten teaches you how to seduce an ostrich, which is a real-life skill. If you're looking to begin a new career, 'ostrich seducer' sure sounds a lot better than, I don't know, loblolly boy.

Jan 14, 2012

What can Woody Allen teach you about writing?

Photo by Mariusz Kubik
“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.

Allan Stewart Konigsberg (b. 1935, Brooklyn) is America’s most prominent philosopher, a gifted clarinetist and lover of cities, as opposed to nature, a place of unimaginable cruelty.

He also makes movies. You may have seen one or two -- probably Sleeper, or the Bergman-influenced Love and Death. Owing to the profound, philosophical bent and pessimistic spiritual views expressed in Konigsberg’s work, Allan Stewart is to the box office as a bar sinister to a family crest: recognized no doubt, but still an object of disdain. For the masses, you see, prefer movies about giant robots and nubile young women in short shorts. (If you’ll excuse me, I need to check a little something on my Netflix queue.)


(Done.) The morose Mr. Konigsberg legally changed his name to Heywood Allen at the age of 17 and started writing jokes for an agent. What a pedestrian endeavor for one with the heart of a Franciscan friar! Allen’s first published joke went like this:

“Woody Allen says he ate at a restaurant that had O.P.S. prices -- over people’s salaries.”

Having failed miserably in his attempts to become a humorist, Konigsberg turned to filmmaking.


Sleeper was an exploration of the alienating power of technology:

Whereas Love and Death plumbed the depths of Self and examined the role of individual choice regarding praxis and emotional distress:

Another milestone in Konigsberg’s oeuvre, Annie Hall, contemplates the arbitrariness of the world:

So, what can Woody Allen teach you about writing a novel, story or play?

Jan 13, 2012

The Other Village Idiot

The giant rubber duck glowed in the shifting light of June, nudging rowboats aside and flustering all the real ducks.

rubber duck by Florentijn Hofman

Naked and shivering, Jaworski sat on the monstrosity’s back and offered apologies left and right. An ash-blond prostitute noticed in passing that Jaworski resembled her granddad.  

Another Fun-filled Night in the Mariana Trench

I thought we were cloaked, but the mermaid tracked us down anyway.
“Commander,” I said, “hostile in pursuit.”
“Damn! Prepare the ultrasound,” he said.
“There may not be enough power left, sir.”
“There won’t be any power left if she reaches the fuel cells, sailor. Hit that button now.”


How much do you know about the Mariana Trench?

Jan 11, 2012

The Tiger's Egg

A nightmare of a thousand miles begins with an oar-stroke. Fog dances languidly around us, veiling the squads of mosquitoes that plague Gunnar and me. Nights weigh heavy on my chest and I dream of the cold, healing waters of Mag’s Well. Somewhere down this river is Gunnar’s chimera.    

Guest Prompt by @KellySGamble

The package had been addressed to me, removed from Dad's private safe just hours after his death.  My hands shook as I held the documents.  I was sure of their authenticity, but unsure of my responsibility to share them with the world.  They would change history.


What startling revelations might be tucked away with those papers? A photo of Hitler standing next to an alien creature at the Eagle's Nest? A letter from Teddy Roosevelt discussing the outcome of a secret American mission to the moon? Documented evidence of an iPhone... in the year 1914?


Kelly's fiction has won awards from Writers Weekly, Writers Courtyard, Women on Writing and the Ground Zero Literary Project. She is working on a historical novel about the Hoover Dam, and blogs about the oft-peculiar characters that gravitated toward the Dam during its construction. You can also connect with her on Twitter.

Jan 7, 2012

What can Mel Brooks teach you about writing?

“You’re always a little disappointing in person because you can’t be the edited essence of yourself.”

Mel Brooks (b. 1926) is an American film director, screenwriter, comedian, actor, and one of the sacred kings of postmodern comedy.

Among his cinematic triumphs I would count:

Young Frankenstein

A reimagining of the Frankenstein story, starring the immensely talented Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman and the actor’s actor, Peter Boyle, whose ‘monster’ is second only to Karloff’s.

Young Frankenstein flirts with black comedy but never crosses the line into full-on abjection. Although filmed in black and white, its cognitive/moral palette is anything but.
Sometimes the characters play a game of inference and innuendo with you -- what is a schwanzstucker, after all? You decide:

Blazing Saddles

Where Brooks puts clich├ęs through the meat grinder and no-one knows what to expect. With the opening scene, you get your first taste of anachronic minestra:

(If you ask me, this seminal movie provided the germ for Brokeback Mountain. Yep. Right here.)

At the end, you find out that Blazing Saddles exists in a time loop and you’ve been watching metafiction. Pretty daring for a 1974 comedy. I mean, 99% of the entertainment Hollywood churns out 38 years later does not subvert or question its own logic unless somebody forgot to stopper a plot hole.     


A disastrous kitchen sink of a movie that revels in its sloppiness. It is infantile, incoherent, plagued with facile jokes... And you know what? None of that matters, because it is a joyous, unpretentious romp. Spaceballs is no worse than much of the science fiction it parodies. Yes, I would definitely count it as a triumph.

Just stop for a moment to enjoy this scene:

So, what can Mel Brooks teach you about writing a novel, story or play?

Jan 6, 2012

A Troll Enjoys the Great Outdoors

Hide-and-seek was the favorite communal sport in Disichel, Alaska, especially when ‘Mad Max’ Mackenzie came down from his cabin to stock up on beer and red licorice.

On a day like any other, nearby Cordova welcomed a new chief of police -- a devout worshiper of the San Diego Padres.   


Struggling with writer's block? George Angus has got three good ideas for you today.

Have you checked out the lists I curate on Twitter?
Literary Magazines (210 magazines and journals) and Publishers (186, all shapes and sizes). New ones added every week.


Here's a thought: You could help save Eyak, a dying language in Alaska. You might even win an Amazon gift card.

Lady, I Can't Sell You on eBay

“Please hurt me,” said the lady of the house. No, she purred it more than she said it. Then she unbuttoned her blouse. Licking her lips.
“Wha?” Antoine cast a quick wary glance to the left and a quicker one to the right.
Someone in the shower made fart noises.

Jan 4, 2012

A Secret Place in Heaven

Medea borrowed an angel's surveillance gear to spy on her husband. She'd also borrowed a set of wings.

Mason had no idea she was watching: At 2,000 feet she passed for a large circling bird.  You have to be careful with Empyrean kit, though. 4-dimensional technology taxes the brain.

I Will Cause Them to Fly Before You

It doesn’t all begin with the man dragging a millstone up the barren hill. The two that taunted him partway now trudge silently behind the criminal, coiled whips like rattlesnakes caught in their creaking belts.