New Theme

Hey there. Yes, you are at the correct site. I’m trying out a new theme. What do you think? Do you like this one better than the other one? Can you find everything the same?

This one gives me the ability to add my own header image, so I will have to get on that.

Update: The header is a picture called Pale Blue Dot which is an image of Earth from 4 billions miles away captured by Voyager 1, showing our place in the solar system.

Fiction Friday – How to Buy a Time Machine

I thought I would post a little Ficlet I wrote the other day for you all to enjoy. This was inspired by a search I did on Ficlets yesterday for the tag “Time Travel”. On the results page for “Time Travel” there is a box on the right hand side for sponsored links, which I’m guessing is some form of the Google Ads. Anyhow, inside the box was a link that said “Time Travel Machines” from eBay. The accompanying text said, “Whatever you’re looking for you can get it on eBay.” Sadly, when I clicked on the link, there were no true Time Machines. They must’ve sold out. Anyhow, I turned the whole thing into the story below:

How to Buy a Time Machine

Sam was having a crummy day, a lackluster week, and a downright disappointing life. His girlfriend broke up with him, his car broke down again, and his project at work could most optimistically be described as stalled. As Sam thought of what he said to Amy, his stomach ached with regret. Maybe his mother was right: think before you speak.

“At least I have Ficlets,” Sam thought, settling behind the desk in his home office. Not much of a writer himself, Sam enjoyed browsing the stories on the site, vowing to one day work up the courage to post.

As always, Sam began by searching the tag “Time Travel”. The notion of time as a road, able to be navigated from beginning to ending in much the same way his Neon traveled the turnpike, had always excited him.

As he was about to click on the most recent story, something in the “Sponsored Links” box caught his eye. The Ad Title said “Time Travel Machines” and the text read “Whatever you’re looking for you can get it on eBay”.

Curious, Sam clicked the link.

As always with Ficlets, you can create a prequel or sequel to this story (you will have to log in first).

Feedback?

No Sleep

Man, this story is kicking my butt. Right now I have about three different versions of the story, all with the opening two paragraphs you all helped me with the other day. I was up until 11:30 last night working on it, though I’m not sure I got anywhere. Of course I had a hard time sleeping last night, because I had a hard time turning off the problem solving portion of my brain. Once I fell asleep, I’m pretty sure I dreamt about my story, though none of the dreams were particularly helpful. It must be contagious because even my wife had a nightmare about my story, and she hasn’t even read it yet (I gave her the synopsis in the car).

The good news is that although the deadline is tomorrow, that is an early submission deadline. The hard deadline is the end of April. That said, I want to finish this thing as soon as possible, because I enjoy sleep.

Any of you out there have anything that’s keeping you awake at night? Any stories about writing projects that just drove you nuts, or am I alone here?

Thanks! (followup to feedback post)

Thanks to all of you for the feedback on the short story excerpt I posted here yesterday. All of you treat yourselves to a nice ice cream cone. You deserve it.

Those of you who are just reading this today, it’s not too late to give me your $.02 (I accept checks and credit cards as well as cash). I have taken all these comments to heart and am open to any suggestions.

What I have learned is that I have a pretty decent opening for my story that seems to do its’ job in hooking the majority of you all. I’m also pretty confident that my “story idea” and concept are interesting. This was good to hear but now I’m feeling a great deal of pressure. You all spent a good amount of time helping me here and I don’t want to let you down. The due date for the project is Saturday and sitting at roughly 1600 words I’m close to my target word count of 2000. However, I’m not sure if the words I have written keep the suspense of the story going. Honestly, I’m not sure if my story is interesting.

From the opening paragraphs we have Sarah at her party, mere hours away from either great relief or death. Add to that a strange ticking sound that seems to be growing in intensity and you would think I would be able to keep the tension going for a measly 2000 words and the story would just write itself. Well, it’s just not happening.

This can easily be accomplished. I’m just not sure if I’m a good enough writer yet to pull it off. I keep on holding out hope that some great idea will pop into my head and the day will be saved.

Sorry for all the rambling and the whining. I had to get those frustrations off my chest. To make up for it, here is a link to an article by a writer and former editor about what they look for when combing through their “slush piles” (link via John Scalzi at the Ficlets blog):
What I Learned from Reading Slush

******************************************UPDATE**********************************************
I have an idea! All might not be lost! I was making things too easy on poor Sarah, and therefore I have stripped away her friends and family and put her alone in the house with only the ticking noise to keep her company. I have had to cut 50% of my story, but I like this better.

The rewrite is now a race against time, much like my story.

How is This – Feedback Please

I have a request for all of you. I am nearing the home stretch (and deadline) of the project I have been working on for the past month. The story I am writing is for a Theme Anthology, and it deals with a machine that with just a blood sample, will predict how you will die. The catch is that though the machine is never wrong, it is sometimes vague or misleading. For example, OLD AGE could mean run over by an old guy in a car. Anyhow, I have posted the opening paragraph of my story below, in which I’m trying to hook the reader to convince him or her to continue on. Put yourself in the place of an editor, would continue on with the story? Also, is there anything grammatically or stylistically you would change? I would really appreciate any constructive feedback you have. Anyhow, on to the story..

Sarah glanced at the atomic clock hanging in the family room of her parent’s house, just above the bookcase which held her many science fair trophies. Her parents and few remaining true friends had thrown her a birthday party, but she was feeling mixture of dread and anticipation rather than happiness. “4:00 PM,” she thought to herself. “I might be dead in less than four hours, but at least I’ll know for sure.” Sarah had received the prediction, BOMB AT 18, from the Annulment Predicator nearly a year prior, and she had barely slept a wink since. Adding to her anxiety was the constant ticking sound she had been hearing the past two days, an audible reminder that the end was near.

*****************************************UPDATE*******************************************
I was thinking about this and reworked the above paragraph a little. Here is the updated version (now two paragraphs):
******************************************************************************************

Sarah glanced at the atomic clock hanging in the family room of her parent’s house, just above the bookcase which held her many science fair trophies. Her parents and few remaining true friends had thrown her a party to celebrate her birthday, but she was feeling mixture of dread and anticipation rather than happiness. In less than four hours she would either be dead or nineteen years old, and although she preferred the latter Sarah awaited the closure either scenario would bring.

Sarah had received the prediction, BOMB AT 18, from the Annulment Predicator nearly a year prior, and she had barely slept a wink since. Adding to her anxiety was the constant ticking sound she had been hearing the past two days, an audible reminder that the end was near.

So, what do you think?

My Daughter

My daughter and wife came to work to visit me today. Below is one of the pictures (the picture is a little fuzzy in some places, because of my crappy Photoshop skills). Yes, she is this adorable in real life.
babyandball.jpg

Tagged – Four Things

I’ve been tagged by Karen for a Four Things meme and here are my answers. I don’t normally do these things, but I’m out of ideas for today and I thought this one was interesting (and easy to fill out 🙂 ):

Four Jobs I’ve Had:
1. Summer Camp Counselor (4-8 year olds)
2. Snow Shoveling
3. Computer Programmer
4.

Four Movies I Can Watch Over And Over:
1. The Natural
2. Princess Bride
3. Original Star Wars Trilogy
4. The Fugitive

Four Places I’ve Lived (I’m going to be a little vague here):
1. Small Town, Pennsylvania
2. Newark, Delaware
3. College Town, Pennsylvania
4. Small Town near College Town, Pennsylvania

(I think I see a theme here of small towns 🙂 )

Four TV Shows I Love (back when I had time to watch T.V.:
1. How I Met Your Mother
2. Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey
3. Myth Busters
4. Gilmore Girls (something my wife and I enjoy watching together)

Four Places I’ve Vacationed:
1. Charleston, South Carolina
2. Outer Banks, North Carolina
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Any other beach

Four Of My Favourite Dishes (I’m a meat and potatoes guy):
1. Steak
2. Homemade Beef Noodles (made by my late grandmother, these were truly heaven and unfortunately no one has been able to duplicate them)
3. Strawberry Pie (homemade by my Mom)
4. Stuffed Grape Leaves (made by my Greek grandmother)

Four Sites I Visit Daily:
1. http://www.ficlets.com (http://ficlets.com/authors/strugglingwriter)
2. http://www.scalzi.com/whatever
3. http://www.giantitp.com/Comics.html (The Order of the Stick web comic)
4. http://www.salon.com (I’m a liberal, gasp!)

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:
1. Home
2. On the Ice playing hockey
3. On a peaceful holiday
4. And did I mention at home?

Four Books I’ve Read Lately (I haven’t read much lately because I’ve been concentrating on writing):
1. Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
2. The Complete Peanuts 1961-1962 – Charles Schultz
3. Fables Volume. 4: March Of The Wooden Soldiers
4. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

Tagged:
Whoever would like to do this

Our Little Actress

My daughter, 10 months old, has been cracking me up lately.  Last Thursday, out of nowhere, she debuted a new laugh, which I guess could best be described as a “fake laugh”.  I really wish I had some audio of the laugh to share here, because it’s just too funny.  She still has her “hearty laugh”, the one that makes her whole body move, but the new one comes out when she sees something that, I guess is funny to her but doesn’t trigger her spontaneous laugh.  It’s really cute.

Also over the weekend, my daughter has started a “fake cough”.  It first happened Friday when my parents were visiting and my Mom coughed.  Right after that, we heard a little cough and turned to my daughter and she was smiling.  I think she uses it now any time she feels we aren’t paying her enough attention.

Finally, little one has a new favorite word: “up”.   To her, “up” means “hold me under the arms and help me walk around”.  She says “up” constantly though sometimes it comes out “bup”.  I smile every time I hear this little voice, though she does wear us out with all the walking.

My Story Won’t Cooperate

The funny thing about stories is that sometimes they just won’t cooperate.  My current work in progress, deadline March 31, has gone through countless revisions and two completely different “plots” and just will not bend to my will, not matter how hard I try. Both stories are over 1000 words long, but I don’t feel as if either are any good.  On top of that, my wife has had to endure reading both stories.  Last night she read what I thought was my almost final draft and made some revisions, but watching her read the story, I don’t think she liked it (which is ok with me).

As I was thinking about all of this, a third idea popped into my head, an idea that I think will make a stronger story.  So, I’m starting at word zero again (not throwing away the other drafts).  Don’t tell my wife, though.  She’ll probably kill me (just kidding obviously).