Archive for September, 2011

Living the Assassination Vacation

My wife and I are wandering around downtown DC, looking for a place to get a quick lunch.  The conveyor belt sushi place we wanted to try was opening late, and she wasn’t much in the mood for sushi anyway.  So we pull out a Pre, see what’s around, and end up at a Chinese/Japanese place a few blocks away that promises both fantastic sushi for me and the cooked fare she’s more interested in.

Outside the restaurant is a historical marker.  I point excitedly.  “This is the place!”

We go inside as I try to explain my excitement.  The marker outside informs us that we’re about to have fusion Asian cuisine in a building that was once the Mary Surratt boarding house.  It was in that building that the plan to first kidnap Lincoln was crafted, and where the plan evolved from kidnapping him to decapitating the government by assassinating Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William H. “Let’s Buy Alaska” Seward.  Surratt was the only woman involved in the plot who would end up being marched up the gallows, executed alongside three other conspirators.

This isn’t what excited me about the place.

Nope, I was excited because this was the place.  The one Sarah Vowell talked about, the one from Assassination Vacation.

I have few books that I consider favorites, that I go back to time and again.  Assassination Vacation, specifically the audiobook, is one of them.  I’ve read the text once, but I’ve listened to the book probably a dozen times.  It’s what I listened to as I hiked the Memorial Bridge from the Arlington National Cemetery to attend Barack Obama’s inauguration, chosen because I was staring at the Lincoln Monument, and a large part at the beginning of the book talks about the structure.  It was only later that I considered a book about presidential assassinations was perhaps not the best choice for that morning.

But it’s part of the history of the area.  It’s part of what it is to live so close to the District.  The place is covered by history, it is history.  Certainly other cities have their historic elements, their old towns, their colonial areas, but no city to me feels more like walking immersed in history like walking around downtown DC.  Even when I’m doing something silly, like participating in the Post Hunt, there’s still the Surratt House.  There’s Ford’s Theater.  There’s the little house across the street where Lincoln died.  There’s all the little things talked about in such loving detail in that book I love so much.

This came back up two weekends ago as we returned from the Charlotte Hall Farmer’s Market.  Driving there I had seen a sign that got me excited.  “Mudd House.”  I’d known from the book it was in an out-of-the-way part of Maryland, tough to get to.  One of those you have to know where it is things.  This is where Booth came after the assassination, leg broken, to get medical attention.  Vowell actually mentions its geographic obscurity to bust the myth that Mudd had nothing to do with the assassination, that this was too remote of a location to just randomly stumble upon.  I mean, it is right there on Samuel Mudd Road, I’m not sure how anyone could miss it.

There was a Confederate flag flying, and a bus tour departing (“Booth Escape Route Tour” according to name badges).  We stopped because we had to stop, it was a part of the Booth/Lincoln story that permeates the DC area we hadn’t yet been to.  The tour doesn’t try to hide Mudd’s involvement, his guilt in the affair.  He was a southern sympathizer, a common thing in occupied Civil War Maryland.  Hell, the state song “Maryland My Maryland” was written at the time and is a call for secession.

I’m not sure in the end whether going to all these sites is about retracing Booth, or retracing Vowell.  The book’s odd premise of doing presidential assassination tours has changed into being almost a meta tour for my wife and I.  Let’s go see the things that Sarah Vowell saw putting the book together, perhaps just to get a better perspective on the stories that she tells.  We don’t actively seek them out, but we stumble upon them, and really that’s the fantastic part about living in this area, that there is history just waiting to be tripped over.

And the Surratt House restaurant?  It’s called Wok and Roll, 604 H Street NW.  It really is quite good.

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Mercurial Mercury

I went to school in the mid 80s to mid 90s.  At that time most of what there was to know about the general natures of the planets were known.  Mars was a lifeless rock.  Venus was a hellacious greenhouse.  The asteroids were chunks of rock that never became a planet, not a planet that blew apart.  We had gas giants.  We had Pluto.  And then there was the great unknown abyss.  Really, the further one got from the sun, the less was known.  There certainly had to be something out there, something a little farther than Pluto, but we weren’t taught about Oort Clouds and Kuiper Belts.

We were taught that the moon was tidally locked to the earth, which is why we always see the same face.

And we were taught that Mercury was tidally locked to the sun.

In looking around for outdated scientific theories, it never occurred to me that there was one residing firmly inside my own head.  Because in spite of what every science teacher who touched on astronomy taught me in school, Mercury is not tidally locked.  What’s more, this has been known by science since 1965.

1965.  As in for at least 20 years before the first time I was likely taught about what tidal locking was and what astronomical bodies it applied to.

I’m not sure exactly what to chalk that up to.  Certainly teachers who are covering general sciences and aren’t astronomy-specific aren’t going to keep up on every new development.  It’s probably just what they learned in school, what the textbooks still said, any number of possible excuses.  I’m not trying to point any fingers or assign any blame here.  Instead, I find it an interesting exercise in the speed at which new scientific knowledge proliferates.

We probably think of ourselves as living in a very connected age, one in which new bits of information can fly around the world.  We aren’t reliant on monthly scientific journals, weekly news magazines, daily news papers.  We have the internet, a constant source of the new, the updated, and the changing.  And yet, in this world, there is still obsolete scientific knowledge out there.

From a story telling perspective it means there are two Mercuries.

On Mercury classic we have a world where one side is exposed to all the heat and radiation spat out by the sun, shooting around in an orbit half as far as the earth, and one side impossibly cold, exposed only to the unfeeling harshness of space.  With no atmosphere, there’s no potential of the heat getting shared around the planet, so the dark side approaches absolute zero.  Here, stories can take place on the delimiter between the two, trying to constantly walk that tightrope between too hot and too cold.  Or under the surface.  Or in protective domes on either side.  It’s an interestingly static world.

And then we’ve got modern Mercury, spinning on its axis so slowly that a Mercurial day is two Mercurial years long.  The heat of the day and the cold of the night would be just as drastic as on the static planet, but now the delimiter moseys slowly around the planet, meaning that anyone looking to walk that tight rope has to be in constant, but slow, movement.  Considering the length of a day on Mercury and the diameter of the planet, some quick envelope math suggests the line between night and day is moving at just 2.25 miles per hour.  Compare that to the nearly 1000 mph that would be required to constantly stay on the day/night line on planet earth.  Life under the surface may not change, but settlements on the surface need to either prepare for that continual 2.25 mph trek, or be prepared to withstand both extremes that the planet offers.

Both planets present their unique challenges.

So I suppose this is in part an exploration of the natures of Mercury, old and new, and in part a warning about relying on what you are certain about when crafting a story.  Because I could have told you with certainty until yesterday that Mercury was tidally locked.  If you’re intentionally using old/bad science, that’s fine and dandy, but if you’re looking for realism, make sure the reality in your head matches the reality around us.

Mercury photo released by NASA to public domain.

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Administrata

Topic the first: Fortnightcaps.

I’ve enjoyed doing the Fortnightcaps for the last few months, and I still intend to continue them through the end of the year.  However, after much deliberation, I’ve decided that the project will not continue into 2012.  This decision comes for a variety of reasons.  First, the project was intended to get my brain working on a twice a week basis, coming up with a story idea and bringing it to quick completion.  I still contend this is a great exercise for writers, but it’s an exercise that I’m now doing twice most weeks thanks to Five Minute Fiction and Hump Day Challenge.

That’s a reason, but it’s not really the reason.  Since I already did some pulling back of the curtain on Friday when showing my pageview stats, I’m going to talk a little more about my site views.  Fortnightcaps by far account for the worst traffic that I get on this blog.  According to my bitly stats, the last five links that I put up for Fortnightcap stories got 0, 0, 1, 1, and 1 hits.  Now, this website isn’t primarily a vehicle for generating hits, or else I’d be doing all the stupid SEO stuff that my spam comments are always talking about.  But when we’re talking about any kind of creative output, there’s the necessity to keep in mind the viewing audience.  Anything story I put on this blog has its first publication rights used up, making it harder to potentially turn around and put out to anthologies, magazines, or any other publication venue.  If I’m burning the rights on stories and then having no one actually read them, then I ultimately feel like I’m doing a long term disservice to myself.

So while this blog isn’t primarily a hit generating site, I still have to keep hits in mind when I do something like burn story rights on here.  I’ll probably keep a similar project going on in 2012, just not on the blog.  I’d like to thank anyone who has read and enjoyed the Fortnightcaps thus far, and hope you will enjoy the few months left in the project.

Topic the second: #flashathon

I like to mention this occasionally to keep it in people’s minds, and will probably do it more and more as the date arrives.  I’ve not talked about it in awhile because I haven’t really had news to share.  I am starting to put feelers out to bring in “guest inspiration” from other writers and blogs.  We’re getting closer and closer to the date, as you can see in the countdown on the right hand side of this blog.  1 month, 10 days as of this morning.

For those who might be new, or haven’t seen me talk about it before, the #flashathon is going to be a flash fiction marathon hosted on this blog October 22nd.  It will consist of 12 hourly posts, each of which will provide some sort of optional story inspiration (probably in the form of a word or phrase).  Participants in the #flashathon are then encouraged to write a flash fiction piece either using that inspiration or inspiration of their own.  The goal is 12 stories in 12 hours.  Or however many hours you can/want to participate in.

More details can be found in the Flashathon tab at the top of every page.

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One Decade

Remembrance feels like the right thing to do today.

I can remember the biggest news in DC 10 years ago yesterday.  Michael Jordan had scheduled a press conference the following day that was widely assumed to be his second un-retirement, this time with the intent of playing for the Washington Wizards.  It’s such an odd thing to remember, but it was that last bit of the new cycle that included Jordan, shark attacks, and Chandra Levy.  I suppose it says something that all those stories feel much older than a decade, like something fifteen or twenty years old.

In my own life the news was me finally landing a job after graduating with a Computer Science degree into the bottoming out of the tech market.  My job was to start on the 17th, and include regular trips to the Pentagon.

September 11th I slept in.  That wonderful sleep you get when you’ve landed a job but it hasn’t started yet, so there’s nothing to get up early for.  No need to hit the help wanted websites, ship out resumes, or go to work yet.  I went online to talk to a friend, who mentioned how she was glad that a friend of hers had stopped working at the World Trade Center a month earlier.  Why?  Hadn’t I heard?  A plane hit the building.

It feels like a cliche to say I assumed she meant a Cesna.  Isn’t that what everyone says, everyone who only heard the news, wasn’t watching CNN or any other news channel when it hit.  Five years ago CNN showed their feed from 9/11 online in real time.  Just before the planes struck, they were talking about new maternity fashions.  That was the last news story before the news story that changed CNN, that reinvented 24-hour news, that created ticker bars.

I went downstairs and turned on the television, curious what was going on.  Within seconds the second tower was hit.

I experienced what could only be described as shock.  I didn’t cry, I wasn’t angry, it all just compartmentalized itself and my brain coped by shutting it all away and not thinking about it.  The only moment of clarity I can recall was thinking “it’s gone, it’s gone” when the first tower fell but the person on television was having a hard time figuring out what the new billowing smoke around the building meant.  Couldn’t he see it?  Didn’t he see it crumble.

I was watching the local CBS station here in the DC area.  They broke into the coverage of the World Trade Center with breaking news.  Something that was somehow more important than the Towers coming down.  It was the Pentagon.  Smoke billowed out of it.  That’s when my mom called.  I still lived at home at the time, both my parents worked.  My mom at a school, my dad in a job that took him to the Pentagon occasionally.  She was frantic, she didn’t have his work phone number, could I read it off the chalk board by the phone.  We were able to quickly contact him, all was well, but it was a moment of sheer panic.

The rest of the day I served as point of contact, letting relatives know we were alright.  I broke the news to my grandmother when I called her with the news that we were okay.  She hadn’t heard, didn’t really want to hear.

I remember one oddly morbid moment.  I walked outside, expecting there to be some indication that the world had gone mad, that there was something different about this day.  But there wasn’t.  It was a beautiful day.  Not a cloud in the sky, lightly crisp air, you couldn’t want a better early fall day.

I have a horrible memory for dates and times and events.  But that day I can walk through beat-for-beat as it happened.  Even the odd little bits that stick in from the day before.  I remember everyone coming home, and trying to be as normal as possible.  We had dinner.  We watched the news, because there was nothing else to watch for the next few weeks.  We went to bed.  And we woke up to what’s called now the “Post 9/11 World.”

We’ve lived in that world now for a decade, and that’s such an odd period of time.  It’s enough time for children to have been born and grown up enough that they need to have this thing explained to them, a thing that is part of all our collective experiences, but occurred before they existed.  Every year Beloit College puts out their “mindset” list, meant to explain to professors the world that their new students grew up in.  In another five years children who were 3 on 9/11, too young to understand what happened, will get to college, and I just wonder what the Beloit list will say that year.

More than anything else, that’s how I think of this anniversary, just the fact that we’ve managed to go on, that ten years have passed, and how much those ten years were like the ten previous.  Security has changed, technology has changed, politics have changed, but people are people.  We carry on and we live lives, much as we have after every disaster.  We didn’t give up, as a species, after the Black Death, after World Wars, or after 9/11.  Is it wrong to bring up Doctor Who in this context, because I love his constant wonderment for the resiliency of the human species whenever he gets to a future where they should have given up, but haven’t.  I love that because it is us, it’s who we are.

It’s so easy to close the book after ten years, it’s a nice round number, but there’s really nothing that makes today much different than yesterday or tomorrow.  Not like what made that horrible day a decade ago different that days of shark attacks, Michael Jordan, and maternity fashion.

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About About Me

This is going to be a somewhat meta post.  It’s also going to cover some ground that I’ve seen covered before, but trying to approach it in a more specific direction.  See that second tab just below my name?  The one that says “About Me”?  According to Google Analytics, if you’re reading this blog there’s about a 10% chance you’re going to click that tab.  I’ll pull back the curtain and show you the actual numbers in fact.  These are the stats since January 1 of this year on page views for this site:

Yeah, I know, not setting the world on fire, am I?  But that’s not the point.  The point is that of nearly 600 page views for the main page, there were 56 page views of my About page.  It’s about a 9.4% rate of people clicking through to learn more about me.  I may have some pages or posts that end up more specifically popular in the short term (right now it’s my post about acceptance in Memory Eater) but the about page is the all time star of the site.

Which I took as a lesson in the importance of making that page accessible, making it accurate, and keeping it up to date.  That’s my face to the world, the longer biography, the links to my presence on social media websites, my email address.  It’s who I am, it’s how to contact me.  And for a writer, contact is one of the most important things we have going for us.  It’s how we network, how we talk to other writers, to editors, to publishers, to anthologists, to fans, and those conversations are all important ones.

Check out your own stats, whether you’re using Analytics, Jetpack, or another site visit tracking software.  See how many people are looking at your about page, then make sure that you’re giving them something you want them to see.  Gotta say, looking at those stats really drove it home for me more than any blog post I’ve seen about the importance of an “about” page, and made me update my about page with new information.

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Fortnightcap: Carbon Offsets

Carbon Offsets

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

The auditor walked back into the house, cross referencing some tables.  “That behemoth outside, that your only car?”

“Yeah,” said the homeowner from his kitchen.

“My data says that gets about 13 miles to the gallon.  Sound about right?”

The homeowner emerged with a glass of water and sat down at his dining room table.  “Give or take.”

“And how far do you drive it each day?”

“Sixty miles round trip to work.”

“Sixty?” the auditor said with an appreciative whistle.  “That’s over four gallons a day.”

“You almost done,” he asked.  He was nervous, he wanted to get this over with, couldn’t even remember why this audit seemed like such a good idea to begin with.

“Yup.  Just want to make sure I’ve got everything.  You live here alone, drive to work 60 miles a day at just 13 MPG.  Your electrical bills show that you use about 1500 kilowatt hours of electricity a month.  You eat out more than you eat in, and when you do eat in you’re getting delivery.”

“Is that bad?”

“I don’t judge the way people live, I just audit it.”

“So.  So how do carbon offsets work?”

“Well,” the auditor sat down at the table, “we determine your carbon footprint, then we give you the option for how many carbon offsets you want to purchase.  That money goes to fund projects that are carbon negative but politically difficult to get funding for.  Wind farms, for example.  So you end up helping take some carbon out of the air while at the same time continuing to spew plenty of it into the air.  Hence ‘offset.'”

“So it’s like an indulgence?”

“You’ll make people uncomfortable if you talk about it that way.  Between us, yeah, the idea is to let people feel better about themselves without changing their lifestyle in any meaningful way.  And let me tell you, sir, you are a magnificent bastard when it comes to carbon footprint.  You’re a god damned carbon Sasquatch.”  The inspector rose from the table, and stepped around behind the home owner.  “It’s rare that I find someone with a bigger carbon footprint than mine.”

“Do…do you buy offsets?”

“No,” the auditor said, pulling the garrote wire from his watch, “I’ve found other ways to offset my usage.”

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.  Wind turbine picture released to public domain by creator.

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Eat This: Mango Ice Cream

This weekend found me at the Charlotte Hall Farmers Market up in Maryland.  I’ve heard stories of this particular market since my wife went two years ago, so I was excited to finally check it out for myself.  It was an odd duck, simultaneously larger and smaller than I expected.  The entirety of the affair was larger, a massive sprawl that included semi-permanent antique stores, a strip containing vendors of questionable repute, and several people selling kittens, puppies, baby rabbits, chicks, kids (goats not human), and various extraneous animals.  The farmers market portion was smaller than I expected, only a few booths with actual fresh fruit and veggies.

At one of the booths the vendor was passing slices of mango out.  Mango is one of those flavors I always expect to like more than I do, and this showed me why: because I’d never had a proper tasting mango before.  It was sweet, tart, even a little bready in a good way.  $5 would get me a box.  Without asking how many in a box I handed over my $5 and in return got a crate of 12 mangoes.  Which…is a LOT of mango.  That meant the trick was what to do with all of them and before I even got home I had set my mind on mango ice cream.

This is the recipe I landed on, thrilled that it included coconut milk, one of those flavors that pairs with mango more perfectly than almost any other combination of flavors.  It drove home how good the mangoes were that I got my 2 cups of cubed mango not out of 2-3, but out of 2 with enough left over for a quick snack.  I also made one change to the recipe, a last minute audible.  With the ice cream churn already running I hit the idea of cubing a third mango and dumping it in to get actual mango chunks in the final ice cream.  This was no small feat, as disassembling a mango feels less like cutting a fruit and more like butchering a piece of meat.  In the end, it was the right call.  Easily the best ice cream that’s come out of our home churn, just barely topping the lychee ice cream from a year ago.  It’s a little icy, but the combination of the coconut, mango, and lime flavors results in a wonderfully tropical taste, and the big hunks of frozen mango add little juicy splashes to each bite.

We’re down to just two mangoes left now.  Probably one by the time I get home.  Never figured I liked the fruit nearly as much, and wouldn’t have guessed I could eat so many of them so quickly.

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A Writer Reviews: Abraxas

There are two ways to pull writing lessons out of movies.  What I typically focus on is looking at what good movies do well, but sometimes it’s just as important to look at what bad movies do poorly.  And for that reason I present Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe.  This is…not a good movie.  It’s a public domain science fiction film from 1991 starring Jesse Ventura as…well, basically the Terminator.  I understand the movie does have some defenders who will give reasons that this movie about a quasi-robotic killing machine being sent to kill a young boy has nothing to do with Terminator, and that’s not really the purpose of this post anyway.

I watched the movie thanks to Rifftrax, and for god’s sake if you’re going to watch it, do it that way.  Being public domain, it’s also available for free thanks to Google Video.  If you really hate yourself that much.  The plotline wasn’t really deep enough even for the 87 minute run time, the lighting makes it frequently impossible to know what’s going on, and Ventura really isn’t a strong enough actor to carry a movie like this, especially given the “what is this…love?” plotline he’s expected to work his way through.  There’s any number of issues to pull out of this movie, but I’m going to focus on just one:

Don’t write checks your story doesn’t cash.

Or, as it’s more frequently put, don’t make promises in your story that you don’t intend to carry through on.  Early in the movie the female lead, Jim Belushi’s ex-wife Marjorie Bransfield playing the movie’s far less capable version of Sarah Conner named Sonia, shares a sweet moment with the city-cop-in-the-country Carl.  We’ve all seen that moment early on in movies, setting up the couple that is going to come together over the course of the movie, even though he starts the film far too nervous to ask her out.

Yes, it’s a cliche.  How useful cliches are in movies is a subject for another time.  But that’s clearly the plot line being set up for these two characters.  But that’s where it ends.

Because that’s when Abraxas comes along.  The romance between the 10000+ year old alien and the single mother of a potential doom bringer features Ventura not understanding love, wandering in on Sonia in the shower, and at some point learning what this human emotion means and decides that he feels it towards Sonia.  It’s the B Plot and really isn’t given enough time to develop as the movie is almost too short for a B Plot of such a theoretical depth.

But in the end it means Carl is left out in the cold.  And without any real acknowledgement that he was left out in the cold.  There’s no moment of “aw man, I wanted to date her,” there was no fighting for her, and there was no follow through on the initial implication that it would be Carl and Sonia ending up together, not Sonia and Abraxas.  There was that initial promise, but it was left out to dry with no actual follow through.

Now, there’s no reason that a movie that features an awkward desired romance between two characters must result in those two characters ending up together.  But this is where the writer has to be aware of cliches.  If you don’t want to carry through with a cliche, don’t start the cliche.  If you do start the cliche, realize that the audience (whether viewers or readers) are going to expect it to either be brought through to completion, or at least some sort of acknowledgement that this was the route the story was taking.  Turning cliches on their head can be a fantastic story-telling opportunity (though in itself can also be a cliche).

But starting a cliche just to then drop it?  That’s no way to approach a story.  Know your cliches, and don’t start anything you don’t plan to finish.

And don’t expect Jesse Ventura to carry your movie.

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Livin’ On Spongecake…

I’ve told this story before, but not on this relaunched blog.  I was freshly reminded of it last night when Twitter exploded with mentions of Jimmy Buffett as his annual tour stop in the DC area exposed all the Parrotheads among the people I follow.

Story takes place five or six years ago, I can’t exactly remember which.  I was at my old bachelor pad, hadn’t met my now-wife yet, so I was spending a lot more time at baseball games than I do now.  That particular day, a Saturday, I decided to head down to Woodbridge to catch a Potomac Nationals game.  One of the players from the big league club was on a rehab assignment, coming back from injury.  Can’t remember who, though I do remember the autograph hounds being very disappointed that he was cutting them off at three signatures each.

I hadn’t checked the promotional calendar before I went.  This was mistake number one, as I arrived amid a sea of middle aged people decked out in Hawaiian shirt and foam parrot hats.  It was Jimmy Buffett day down at Pfitzner Stadium.  Really, that’s not too bad.  I don’t dislike Jimmy Buffet music, I just don’t actually understand what about his songs have created such a devoted fanbase.  But more power to him, more power to them, everyone gets to live and let live.

Single A baseball is Single A baseball.  There’s more attempts to keep attention focused on the field and everything is a little more intimate.  I was in a pretty good seat, as being accustomed to big league prices a first row seat right at first base was comparatively cheap.  And I was getting into the game, it’s always fun to cheer a little, dance a little, just generally enjoy being at the ballpark.  This, I recognize now, was mistake number two.

Apparently the grounds crew look for people like me.  People who look like they’re boisterous, having fun, and willing to sacrifice a little bit of dignity for the promise of free stuff.  Thus a few innings into the game I was approached by a member of the team’s cheer squad asking if I’d like to participate in something called “sing for your supper.”  I’d get a chance to go out onto the field, sing a song, and they’d give me five coupons for a free footlong Subway sub.  I was leaning towards no, shockingly enough, when they said my entire row would also get one coupon each.  Now I had the crowd on my side, pushing me to go out there.

What would the song be?  Well, it was Jimmy Buffett day.  So it would be Margaritaville.  Did I know the song?  Would I prefer another Buffett song?  No, no, I can sing Margaritaville.  Who can’t?  Great, meet over at that gate in the middle of the fourth inning.  Mistake number three.

I’m not sure why I thought they’d only ask me to sing the chorus.  Why I didn’t think they’d start the song from the beginning.  But when I got around to the gate I was immediately asked if I knew the first verse.  What?  No.  I knew it had something to do with spongecake.  So there were then four of us, all mid-20s, trying to desperately figure out the lyrics of the first verse of Margaritaville.  None of us knew the song beyond the chorus.

Oops.  Too late.  Get out there, here’s your mic.

It’s still the only time I’ve ever been out on a professional ball field.  Everything looks different from that angle.  I was standing between home plate and third base.  My strategy?  Pretend I was having mic problems.  I muttered something about spongecake.  Tourists covered in oil.  That’s as far as we got waiting for the bit to start.  Next two lines?  We were at a complete loss.  There were shouts to sing louder.  I’m not sure if I could have, even if I knew the song.  It was a gut wrenching combination of stage fright and just not knowing the song, the closest real life example I could imagine to the classic “I didn’t study for this test” dream.  At least I was wearing pants.

Finally, the chorus was near.  Redemption and salvation.  I’d nail the chorus, hope that was what people remembered, and then limp off the field.  Unfortunately that’s also when the grounds people started waving me over.  The inning break was over, I needed to get off the field.  So I walked off, but I wasn’t going to not sing that chorus, damn it.  It’s what I knew!

Then it was over.  I returned to my seat with a few pats on the back.  Nice try.  You’ll get them next time.  The kinds of platitudes you expect to hear a pitcher get after giving up three home runs and being pulled before getting a single out.  I’d blown it, and that was that.

I still get a little bit of panic when I hear the song today.  I still haven’t learned the lyrics.  I’ve tried, as some sort of redemption, but there’s a block there and they just won’t stay in my mind.

There’s two epilogs to this story.  Epilog the first is that I met someone a few weeks later who was at that game, was talking about the guy who didn’t know the lyrics to Margaritaville, can you believe that?  Mistake number four was admitting that was me.

And those Subway coupons?  Only good at the restaurant immediately outside the stadium.  So I never even got to use them.

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State of the Writer: September 2011

August has come and gone.  Here in the DC area we got shaken up by an earthquake, brushed by a hurricane, but we’re still standing.  Now we head into another month and it’s time once again for an accounting of who I am and what I’m doing.

Obviously the big news of August was mentioned a few days ago, being first short-listed then ultimately accepted by The Memory Eater.  That puts two of my stories in the pipeline for upcoming anthologies.  I’m still hearing occasional news about Steam Works, and the guy behind Memory Eater is super enthusiastic, so I doubt either will meet the same quiet end as my ill fated first anthology pick-up.  That means I still have three stories out, at least one of which (hanging out at Writers of the Future) I expect to hear news back on this month.

Originally August was going to be about getting back to work on Capsule, but I got hit with the full inspiration for a short story I’ve been meaning to write for awhile called The Ghosts of Venus.  Wrapped up the first draft yesterday, and I’ll say it’s first draft good.  It needs a lot of work, and it’s going before my beta reading group this week.  Speaking of which, check out the new CVS Website.  It’s still a little light on content, but it’s also freshly relaunched, it’ll be growing.

August started with the announcement of the Flashathon, and I’ve been posting new information as I have it.  If I’m counting correctly today marks 50 days ahead of the event.  We’re putting plans in motion to have a few hours of guest inspiration as part of the event, which will be just damn cool if it actually happens.  Details will come faster and faster as the marathon approaches, I’m sure.

September dawns with me not sure what my next writing project is.  We’re coming up on the deadline for the Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations anthology, but my concept for that is still in a very natal form.  I’ve got another story concept that has nothing to do with any current anthology calls but could be good for making a general tour of the journals.  Or maybe this time I really will get back to work on Capsule.  Anything could happen, it’ll probably come down to what inspiration hits me first.

State of the Writer’s Beer:  We’re giving Lazarus Ale a little more time in bottle, so very little New Peculiar was drunk this month.  I’m under a promise not to start brewing another batch until we’ve gone through at least another dozen bottles of our current batches.

State of the Writer’s Blog:  Added several states to my goal of getting visits from all 50.  This month saw the first visits from Alaska, Nevada, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Delaware.  This leaves me just Montana, both Dakotas, Arkansas, and Louisiana to go.  I knew I should have had Renee pop into my blog briefly while she was in New Orleans.  The month also saw the site smash previous viewership numbers with over 275 hits and 400 pageviews.  Those are still tiny numbers, but they rapidly growing numbers.  It was as recently as May that I crossed 100 hits in a month for the first time.  Hopefully with the upcoming Flashathon and publications, numbers will improve that much more.

State of the Writer’s Pseudonymous G+ Account:  I said in my last post about the Google+ pseudonym issue that I would feel pretty safe if I made it to the end of the month.  Well.  I’ve made it to the end of the month.  So either the policy is being very poorly enforced, or initials don’t count towards the pseudonym policy.  Either way, I’m feeling rather more comfortable that the account will remain.

So now, that’s a month over and retrospective given, let’s look ahead.  Onward to September!

September poster product of WPA and released to Public Domain by the US Government.

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