Fables Free

Well, I know at least one of you read fables, so I thought I would post this here for your enjoyment. Vertigo (DC Comics) has posted downloadable copies of Jack of All Fables #1 and Fables #1 on their web site for free in .pdf format. This is a good way to try out some comics before you spend any money on them. Enjoy!

My New Workspace

Since my desktop computer died last Thursday (R.I.P. Herbie 1999-2007) I decided to bite the bullet and buy the notebook computer I have been dreaming about purchasing for a long time. What helped my decision was the necessity (the above mentioned computer death) as well as 0% financing for a year from Circuit City as well as a free printer and router with mail-in rebate. The actual process of purchasing the computer was brutally horrific, what with the warranty spiel (no thanks), and the “we don’t have the printer in stock, so you won’t get any of the items for free”. Luckily, my wife, who I call “The Closer”, a baseball term, was there to make sure we got everything they advertised. Anyhow, with Helen and Karen posting pictures of their workspaces, I thought I would post a picture of my new workspace (Herbie 2):

laptop.JPG

Note this isn’t a picture of my actual notebook, as I wouldn’t display a completely random picture of a generic football player doing his best Statue of Liberty impression, but it is a picture of the laptop I purchased. Notice I opted not to take a picture of my workspace in my home. I do this as a service to you, my dear reader, as it is currently too gruesome and NSFW as my poor old computer is just laying there. guts strewn about.

The great thing about the notebook computer is that hopefully my new workspace won’t be in any one room anyhow. I hope to be more productive a writer as I will be able to write in bed, in the office, or in the kitchen. I think I’ll stay out of the bathroom, though.

Interview with Machine of Death “Creator”

I have mentioned a few times that the next project I am working on is a submission for the Machine of Death anthology.  Check out the Machine of Death website for a description of the project.  There was a interview a couple days ago with Matthew Bennardo, one of the creators of the project, which goes into his reasons for being involved in the project as well as the publishing of the project.  If you are interested in submitting something for the Machine of Death, this may be a useful article to check out.

Fiction Friday – Contest Update

Despite all of your well-wishes and crossed fingers, my entry for my local writing contest was not selected, though the judges did say they had a difficult time choosing a winner. I’m really proud of my submission, though, so I thought I would post my entry here. Note that this is just Chapter 1 of a five-parter, and therefore I was trying to plant little hints for other writers to follow up on. Also, I was really trying to build interest in the story, to get people to look forward to the next installment. Check it out, loyal reader, and let me know what you think. Here is the beginning provided by the newspaper:

Chance Amberton wasn’t sure what to expect, but then, he had never waited for a stranger to step out of the night. His phone had rung around noon as he, late again for class, stuffed notes and folders into a battered briefcase. A quavering female voice spoke, a student. They hadn’t met, but she needed to see him — for what she wouldn’t say. Could they talk that evening in the HUB?

So here he was, loitering on Pollock Road at 9 p.m., a balding Penn State professor meeting a mysterious woman like some noir detective. A trickle of sweat ran down his back despite the chill. Though divorced for years, he couldn’t help feeling as if he had skulked off to an illicit rendezvous. Of course, it could be a joke, the latest from the department’s resident prankster, Slauson. It seemed just his speed.

Chance’s breath swirled, and he thrust his hands into the pockets of his maroon ski jacket. A few students passed by, all bright fragments of cell-phone conversations. Nobody wrung their hands. Nobody sighed. He peered down the sidewalk. He knew her name and not much else, not why she had sounded so anxious, nor why his heart was starting to pound. Maybe she wouldn’t show, and he could laugh this off in the hallways at work.

He heard her footsteps before she emerged from the shadows. She wore a faded leather jacket, the sleeves too long, a backpack slung over one shoulder. Her boots poked out from the tattered flares of her jeans.

“Mr. Amberton?” she said, looking him in the eye through her brown bangs.

“That’s right.”

She glanced down for a second, then squared her jaw.

“I’ve got something for you.”

Here is my entry:

Chance took the clasped manila envelope from Amy’s outstretched hand, studying her face for signs of chicanery. He would not put it past Slausen to use one of his own students against him, rigging a seemingly benign envelope with some nasty prank. This possibility troubled Chance, but what concerned him even more was that his wife had served him divorce papers using the exact same type of manila envelope, knowledge that only Chance and his ex-wife Barbara were privy to.

Chance’s heart rate rose as the sweet, pulpy smell of the envelope filled his nose bringing with it memories of the worst night of his life. Someone clearly wanted his attention. Was Barbara trying to take even more of his hard earned money?

“What’s this?” asked Chance finally, as he began to undo the clasp and peer into the envelope.

“No!” replied Amy, closing the envelope before Chance was able to see its’ contents. “Don’t open it in front of me!”

“Why not?” said Chance.

“My boss told me not to be there when you open it,” replied Amy.

“Well, who’s your boss?” asked Chance, trying his hardest to stay calm. It wasn’t working. Chance would not need to do any cardio work tonight, as there would be little possibility of his heart slowing down anytime soon. There was little that scared Chance more than the unknown or the unexplained.

“Someone very familiar to you,” said Amy, slowly putting distance between herself and her clearly agitated professor.

“But, why..?” asked Chance.

“It will all be revealed in time,” answered Amy as if reading from a script. “Gotta go study now.”

Chance had always noticed something unusual about Amy, something he could not quite put his finger on. Amy dressed not quite like the other young women in his class, in clothes by designers he had never heard with styles he had never seen before. Also, Amy had just transferred into the Physics department that semester from a university Chance never heard of. It was more than that, though. There was something familiar and yet foreign about her, as if she was an old friend he had yet to meet.

As Chance walked toward the Hub, he fought the urge to deposit the envelope into the black metal garbage can, still furious that he had wasted his time coming to the Hub in the first place. As it were, he figured he might as well see what was inside the envelope, even if it meant a face full of confetti.

Chance walked around the Hub, toward the doors facing Old Main. He always preferred this entrance, as it gave him a chance to walk past the large saltwater aquariums. Pausing briefly to check on “his clownfish”, Chance continued on to the Union Street Burger Company, ordering his usual Union Street Burger meal and sitting in his usual back corner booth.

Holding the envelope like a freshly soiled diaper, Chance gingerly loosened the clasp and in one swift motion emptied the contents onto the table. In front of Chance lay a key, a piece of paper with an unfamiliar address scrawled on it in handwriting very similar to his own, and a copy of the Centre Daily Times.

Chance was puzzled by the key and the address, but what caught his eye most was the newspaper. On the bottom fold of the paper was the headline “Happy Birthday Penn State” and the accompanying picture was of a building Chance did not recognize. Flipping the newspaper, Chance was stunned to see at the top of the page the date of October 9th, 2055.

Seeking answers, Chance grabbed his cell phone and called the secretary of the department, asking for Amy’s phone number. After several unsuccessful attempts, Chance resigned himself to the fact that Amy would not answer any of his calls and decided he would see her in class the next morning. Chance would soon discover Amy had dropped out of school that very night.

RIP Hard Drive and My Pirate Short Story

Well, I have officially put my Shimmer Pirate short story project to rest and will not be submitting it.  To start, I simply was not feeling my story and I’m not so sure the idea was any good.  I figure why waste the editor’s time if I’m not even thrilled with the story.  I’m disappointed in myself, but it is what it is.

What really forced my hand, however, was a computer problem I am having at home.  Let me paint the scene for you: It is 8:30 at night and we have just finished eating, playing with our daughter (which involves helping her walk everywhere), and then giving the extremely tired and hungry baby a bath.  My wife then went to feed the baby, which usually puts her to sleep.  My job was to take out the trash, as today is trash pickup day.  I briefly stopped into our “computer room” to check that trash can and immediately heard a clicking sound.  My heart sank because I knew it could mean only one thing:hard drive problem.   Sure enough, I moved the mouse around to “wake up” the monitor and staring back at me was “Operating System Not Found”.

At this point, I’m sure I said a few NSFW words, but didn’t panic.  Sure this computer held several unrecoverable photos of the early days of my daughter’s life as well as much of my writing, but everything will be ok, I thought.  Luckily, I have been through this before.  My hopes are that the hard drive isn’t totally corrupt and I can find a PC somewhere to install it, just to get the data (i.e. pictures and writing).  Hopefully the hard drive is just not strong enough to support the operating system.

Any way you look at it, it is going to be days or weeks before I have a working computer in my house, which kills the idea of some late night editing on my story.  I guess the only positive about this whole mess is that it forces my hand to finally replace my old computer and buy a laptop, which will allow me to hopefully do more writing (portability is a good thing).

Currently Reading – Fables

After finishing Good Omens, I dove right into my next reading obsession, Fables. For those who don’t know, Fables is a comic book published by Vertigo comics in which characters from our childhood fables, such as Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, Pinocchio, and Red Riding Hood really existed in a land called the Homelands, only be be forced to escape to the Mundane lands (our reality) and live in a community in New York called Fabletown. Though this is a “comic book”, there are no superheros or anything like that and in fact, these stories are not intended for children. What the story does have, is elements of fantasy and adventure and interesting characters that are not always good or always evil. Fables has won seven Eisner awards.

I just finished reading the excellent collection of Fables comics titled Fables VOL. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers, which collects issues 19-21 & 23-27 and deals with an invasion of Fabletown by an army of soldiers made of sentient wood created by (Gipetto of Pinocchio fame).  I read the whole thing in two nights, which is amazing for me and is an indicator of how well written the story really is.

If you would like to learn more about Fables, check out this excellent guide on the Fables story thus far which details all of the major characters in Fables and also provides descriptions of all of the trade paperbacks.

The Wait is Killing Me – Again

Yesterday I completed a 600+ word entry for a writing contest with my local newspaper. What happens is that the newspaper starts the story with a few paragraphs and then the “readers” finish the story. There will be five installments and the prize is a $25 gift card (last year it was a Barnes and Noble gift card) I have entered an won this one a few times in the past, and I really believe in the project, so I took time away from my other projects to work on this one.

I should find out by Friday if my entry has been chosen. I’ll tell you what, though, the wait is killing me. I am extremely happy with my submission and I really hope it gets printed as I think it is a lot better than my previous entries. Working against me is the fact that I have won a few times in the past (I think this works against me, I’m not sur) and the fact that my entry has a few “sci-fi” elements, which may or may not fly with the judges.

Either way, I will post my entry here sometime this week or the beginning of next week for your enjoyment. Cross your fingers for me.

What I’m Up To

I haven’t seen any new writing contests or advice today, so I guess I will just give you a little update about myself.

  • I think I’m developing some tendinitis in my right arm stemming from shoveling snow (thanks for plowing me in Mr. Plow), picking up 20 pound babies, and playing hockey. It’s one of those things that will improve with rest, something I will not get any time soon.
  • My daughter is doing great (now 9 months old), though she still isn’t sleeping much. Her favorite activity is walking around the house, supported by us holding her under her arms, as evidenced by the developing holes in the knees of my pants. She can also stand for a few seconds on her own, though she gets brave and lunges back, causing her to lose her balance. We are there for her, though.
  • I just finished Good Omens, and the ending did not disappoint. This has become one of my new, all-time favorite books and a rare one that I will surely read over and over again. A bonus of the copy I have is that there is a section called “Gaiman on Pratchett” and “Pratchett on Gaiman” in which each author talks about the other. Cool stuff. Gaiman describes how when Pratchett was first starting out, he had a full-time job and wrote 400 words every night no matter what. When he completed his first novel he still had 100 words remaining, so he started his second novel.
  • I have three writing projects I am currently working on or am thinking about. First, I am taking part in a local short story competition with my local newspaper. They start the story, then the readers finish. I have been won this a few times in the past, and have a lot of fun with there. Secondly, I need to finish my pirate story for Shimmer and submit it inner critic be damned. Lastly, I have been brainstorming and jotting down ideas for my submission for The Machine of Death. That one I am really excited about.

Anyhow, that is me. What are you up to?

Neil Gaiman – Even the Pros Have Doubts

I found today’s blog post by Neil Gaiman heartening, as it shows that even “Rock Star writers” have self-doubts about their writing and geek out when they manage to overcome these roadblocks. Below is his post, but be sure to check out his blog as well. By the way, I don’t think I have mentioned this week how much I’m enjoying Good Omens.

In 1985 or 1986, watching my son Mike wheel his tricycle around the graveyard next door to our house that we used because we didn’t have a garden, I thought of an idea for a story about a small boy who wandered into a graveyard and was raised by dead people. Then, deciding I wasn’t a good enough writer, I didn’t write it.

Over the years I’d pick up a scrap of paper and try to write a scene from near the beginning, conclude I wasn’t good enough yet, and put it aside.

Recently I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t getting any better. So I wrote a short story called “The Witch’s Headstone”, which will probably be chapter 4 or 5 of the book.

And today I finished writing Chapter One of The Graveyard Book, and it’s a real book. I know it’s a real book because there are all sorts of things I don’t quite know yet, and I can’t wait to find them out.

Happiness.