Free Fiction.

I’ve recently stumbled across this website, which offers, on average, one to three short stories from many well known (and some not so well known) authors. It’s a wonderful site.

Here’s a story available from Kurt Vonnegut. And here are several from Neil Gaiman. And finally, Arthur C. Clarke. (there’s also quite a few great stories from Greg Egan worth checking out)

Here, also, is a link to where you can find a free downloadable mp3 of Neil Gaiman reading his story, A Study In Emerald.

There’s also, of course, the Daily Lit, which is a wonderful way to rediscover some literary classics (or to sample them for the very first time).

As far as free webcomics worth your time are concerned, there’s FreakAngels, by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield. It’s nine chapters in as of this entry and it’s marvelous.

Do you know of any more free online fiction I should know about? Feel free to comment.

I haven’t had a decent cup of tea in quite some time. I have a little box in my cupboard filled with various inexpensive store brand teas, but none of them are cutting it for me. I must find affordable tea that is worth drinking.

Springtime In Minnesota

Sometime last week, I opened our front door to find a vision of green grass and of cascading raindrops. I stepped out onto our porch, inhaled deeply, filling my lungs with the refreshingly crisp air, and smiled. After a long and brutal winter, Spring had finally arrived.

I returned inside, got dressed, and went for a walk in the rain. Something I hadn’t done in far too long. I enjoyed myself so much that I fetched the camera and took this picture:

I was planning to post this in a blog entry heralding the return of spring. It was to be an entry chronicling my long walks in the rain, how much I enjoy breathing the post rain air, how happy I was to be without snow once more.

This morning I awoke to find this:

I was not pleased.

The man with the perfect hair, the wicked smile and the killer suit standing in front of a green screen on the television said some areas had gotten over a foot of snowfall. One look outside and I believed him.

Ben, cleaning the snow off the car.

Ben was happy to clean off the car until we told him he’d have to help me shovel the driveway as well.

Then he was rather unhappy.

The snow was cleared and we went about our day (grocceries, mailing of bills, various boring activities).

The weatherman reappeared upon our television screen, wicked smile and all, and he reassured us that the snow would dissipate and the sun would be seen again very soon.

This time I was not so quick to believe.

The wife and I had heard that The Sarah Jane Adventures would be airing tonight, on Sci-Fi. Being the huge fans of all things Doctor Who that we both are, we were sure to tune in.

It was… Fun. And lighthearted. And I got the feeling that, while the show had the same producers and visual effects team as the new Doctor Who series, it may not have had the same writers.

It was very corny and funny and more like a taste of a low calorie version of Doctor Who than anything else. But I enjoyed it very much and will be tuning in again next week.

Coincidentally, the new season of Doctor Who begins next week as well, and the amount of arm flailing and fanboy-and-girl giggling in the house is absurd.

I’ll leave you with this link, which details how a Florida law has been passed allowing people to take guns to their place of employment.

I’ll just let you ponder that for a bit.

The One Where I Talk About Jonathan Coulton

I’m not sure how I first found the music of Jonathan Coulton. It may have been Wil Wheaton’s blog, it may have been Twitter, it may have been The Fabulist, I just don’t know. But I’m certainly glad I did.

Here’s hoping I’m your first introduction to Jonathon Coulton’s music.

Start here. I reccomend Code Monkey, Ikea and his cover of Baby Got Back. Go ahead, listen to a few of the songs there. I’ll wait.

Good, right?

Here’s a video:

I enjoy supporting geek music. I enjoy listening to geek music and thrusting geek music on others, whether they want me to or not. I mean JoCo, as he’s known on the streets, started out as a software engineer, for Chrissake. Can’t get much geekier than that.

Since I’m in a sharing mood, I’ll share with you a few other cool things to check out.

How about The Fabulist? Without the Fabulist, I certainly wouldn’t know what was cool and hip. And for that, I owe them a great debt.

And The Spout. Great little website that’s still in it’s early stages of development. It will someday be a grand presence on the intrawebs, one to which we will all bow and worship ( and I’m not just biased due to their showcasing my work. ).

Are you on Twitter? No? Why the hell not? It’s a great little social tool. Plus, if you follow Warren Ellis, you get messages like this every morning. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy?

Right. I’ll be checking in on my unfinished piece and I’ll see if there’s any progress I can make before bed.

The Writer’s Dilemma.

It was 3:25am when the wife left for work. It was 4:00am when I finished watching The Brady Bunch. It was 4:15am when I decided to browse my “unfinished fiction” folder, a folder that is far too full for my liking. It was then 6:24am before I was able to sleep.

Why? Because I stumbled across something I hadn’t read in well over a year. Something stirred in me as I read it and I decided to continue it. So I edited what there was, about four pages, taking out certain things that didn’t work and adding things that did, until it’s current page count of nine pages and well over three thousand words.

Here is where the dilemma appears; I find myself uncertain of a few things.

I’m uncertain as to what it is I’m writing. My short stories are usually kept at around or under one thousand words. Here I am nine pages and three thousand words later and I’m uncertain as to what nature of beast sits before me.

I’m uncertain as to where to go from here. I know where I want the story to go, but it won’t go that way. If I sit back and try to let it do it’s own thing, it just sits there.

I’m uncertain as to why it chooses to come so slowly. Five pages came pouring out of me in the wee hours of the morning. Five pages and then it all came to a grinding hault.

The above things are not permanent blocks, only temporary hindrances. I will finish this piece eventually, and all writers experience what I’ve stated above, so I am not concerned. Merely frustrated.

I’m not concerned about the uncertainty of the story’s nature. How many novels started as a mere short story in someone’s mind?

I’m not concerned about the uncertainty of where to go next. There’s a certain excitement that comes along with the lack of knowledge of what happens next. It’s more adventurous that way.

I’m not concerned about the uncertainty this particular story’s annoying habit of starting then stopping. I will be rewarded with a much higher sense of accomplishment once it finally finishes.

The life of a writer.

According to this website, Spanish scientists have found the smallest planet outside of our own solar system ever discovered. It’s only 50% larger than Earth. The scientists claim it won’t be long before we’re stumbling across worlds much like Earth.

This story, about a man using a hedgehog as a weapon, has been bouncing around the internet for a couple of weeks now. Why I’m only just now posting it is a mystery.

Someone has created working color televisions for your doll house.

A homeless man in Seattle fashioned himself a home in the form of a complex and elaborate tree house, as a means of beating the system.

Well the system found him and he’s been evicted from his leafy home.

The story ends well, though. At this link.

“Filmmaker” (if you can call him that), Uwe Boll reacts to an online petition asking him to stop making movies.

How does he respond? By calling Michael Bay a “retard” and calling George Clooney’s movies “Bullshit”.

Class act.

Points Of Interest: A Link Thread.

Robotic Colon Snakes.

As if the idea of colonoscopies didn’t sound uncomfortable enough, now researchers are developing self-propelling probes that crawl inside the colon and grip its sides with the aid of sticky films.

Via: Warren Ellis

Vibrating Vinyl Beaver.

Jeremy Fish has created Barry the Beaver, a ‘vibrating vinyl friend’ for all your needs — collecting and otherwise.

Via: The Fabulist

Talking Fish Sparks Madness.

After a moment of stunned silence all hell broke loose. Mr Rosen’s co-worker Louis Nivelo became convinced that the talking fish was the work of Satan and ran around screaming: “It’s the devil! The devil is here!” before finally collapsing into a pile of packing crates.

Via: The Daily Grail

In closing, have a story by Greg Egan:

Oceanic by Greg Egan

The swell was gently lifting and lowering the boat. My breathing grew slower, falling into step with the creaking of the hull, until I could no longer tell the difference between the faint rhythmic motion of the cabin and the sensation of filling and emptying my lungs. It was like floating in darkness: every inhalation buoyed me up, slightly; every exhalation made me sink back down again.

The Blog About Death.

A friend of mine passed recently. I call him friend because, though we weren’t close and though I didn’t know him too well, we shared some good times and I will miss him. I won’t name him here, in fear of his closer friends and family being unappreciative of my mentioning his death in a blog.

It’s tough. The way he died is tough to handle (motorcycle accident). The details surrounding his final days are tough to wrap my mind around (his fiancee and best friend had just picked up the wedding dress and maid of honor dress the day before his death). The fact that he was only one year older than myself (25) is tough. The knowledge of what his fiancee, closest friends and family are going through is tough. It’s a situation wherein, though I wasn’t close enough to him to truly feel the impact of his death, people who I am very close with were close enough to him to feel such pain. Knowing that is tough.

I know a few people out there who have experienced loss recently. And I suppose you could say this blog is dedicated to them, in a way.

What this person’s death has done for me is it has served as a reminder of sorts. None of us truly live here. We’re all just visitors, and tragically, some of our visits are cut shorter than others. You have to do your best to take each day as it comes and remember that the next day may not be right around the corner. Tomorrow may not be a brand new day, so make today the best you can. Tell the people you love that you love them, now and always, until forever runs out and then some. Take some time for yourself, to do what you truly love to do. Take five minutes, every day, to step outside and truly appreciate everything.

Yes, the world is in pretty bad shape right now. But if you look hard enough, you can still see the beauty it has to offer. Lean into the wind and breath deeply. Count the stars in the night sky, watch the clouds slowly trace their way across the heavens above you. Appreciate everything that has been given to you, because tomorrow you may not get the same chance.

Much of this is probably sounding pretty generic. It probably sounds like something you already know, whether it’s been recently brought to your attention due to the passing of a loved one or it’s something you hold in the back of your mind. But let me tell you this: We deserve to be reminded from time to time.

So, go hold a loved one. Go tell a friend you appreciate them. Go have that extra slice of pizza. In short: Don’t sweat the small stuff and appreciate what you have while you have it.

Consider yourself reminded.

Blogging: The Silent Killer.

A real, Honest-To-God, New York Times Headline for Sunday April 6th:

In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop

The article claims pro blogging is akin to a sweatshop.

They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.

The whole article reads like a Dateline: NBC piece gone wrong.

Jack Schofield over at The Guardian did a great little piece on it, but Marc Andreessen probably made the best point:

Reworded for brevity:
Blogging Causes Death

He also listed the following possible headlines for future NYT articles:

Blogging Causes Herpes
Bloggers Shorter than Normal People
Want To Contract Malaria? Try Blogging
Bloggers Have Bad Breath
Leprosy and Blogging May Be Connected
Hitler Probably Blogged
Now Bloggers Aren’t Even Wearing Pajamas
Blogging Fad Almost Over

Hitler Probably Blogged is probably my favorite.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure being obligated to blog on a daily or sometimes hourly basis just to pay the rent can be stressful. But to compare blogging to a virtual sweatshop is a little extreme. I bet there are plenty of exhausted little six year olds, over in some third world country, who would love to stop sewing the Nike logo onto sneakers and start typing on a keyboard about Barack Obama’s chances at making it to the White House.

The whole thing is just laughable and I hope to hell it was intended as a tongue-in-cheek story. Because if it wasn’t, then the credibility of that news organization just took a hit.

Then again, it is The New York Times.

On a side note, I’m aware I’ve been blogging quite a bit lately. I’m trying to make this a semi-daily blog and I’m sure I’ll fall into a decent algorithm of posting.

For the time being, I’m a blogging fool and I’m sorry for flooding your RSS feeds.

I swear I’ll stop before I drop.

Q&A For April 2008: The Questions

I’ve decided to do a monthly Q&A. These were always a favorite part of the MySpace blog, so I thought I’d move it over to the ol’ WordPress Machine (old man speak) and make it a monthly endeavor, as opposed to a “whenever the fancy strikes me” sort of deal.

So, here we go. Ask me anything, anything at all, and I’ll respond in a later blog entry. Make it about writing, or about my life, or about my favorite cheese, I really don’t care.

Babbles And Rambles, My Words All In Shambles.

It seems the late night pre-bed ramble may become a habit, you poor bastards.

It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Not just rain, but a thunderstorm is reportedly on its way through. I’m sure there are those who will see a thunderstorm in their weather update and groan.

“Ugh, rain.” they’ll say, “Just when the weather was getting nice.”

I’ve never understood the bad wrap that has accompanied rain. The scourge of childhood weekends, the ruiner of trendy hairstyles, the cause of distress to the owner of a recently washed car. All practical problems, all understandable, but they are also each clouds with their own silver lining.

For every wet weekend a child was forced to enjoy indoors, there was the series of puddles said child was then able to splash in on the way to school Monday morning.

For every trendy hairstyle ruined, there was an umbrella salesman able to feed his children.

For every recently washed car doomed to bear unsightly waterspots, a muddy jeep that hadn’t seen a drop of water in weeks got a well deserved shower.

There’s even that children’s rhyme from decades ago:

Rain, rain, go away,
Come again another day.

Rain, rain, go away.
Come again some other day.
Little Arthur wants to play,
In the meadow by the hay.

Rain, rain, go to Spain,
Never show your face again.

Rain, rain, pour down,
But not a drop on our town.

Rain on the green grass,
and rain on the tree,
And rain on the housetop,
but not on me.

Rain, rain, go away,
Come again on washing day.

Rain, rain, go to Germany,
And remain there permanently.

Rain, rain, go away,
Come on Martha’s wedding day.

Rain is generally seen as a symbol of depression, the poor hapless bastard in question generally seen marred by a small black cloud, constantly pouring droplets of liquid sadness upon his head.

It just doesn’t make sense. Rainy days should be seen as days of cleansing. A chance to wipe the slate clean and start again with the next day’s sunlight. A time when one can step outside and breathe deeply the scent of rebirth.

I’ve always loved rainy days. Even as a child, I’d go for walks in the rain. No umbrella. Just me and the showers. Of course, my mother disagreed with this fascination and I often found myself being dragged back indoors before I could get very far.

But even today, I revel in the chance to take a stroll around the neighborhood while the tiny droplets of renewing glory.

Maybe I saw Singin’ In The Rain too many times as a child.

Charlton Heston has passed away. I’ve just read this. I may not have agreed with his stance on guns, but I certainly respected him as an actor. His presence will be missed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing over the last few days. Not just blogging, but writing. The last thing I wrote, this short story entitled The Incident On The Roof Of The Grand Hills Hotel In This Current Year, felt great. It was cathartic, really. It was as though I was getting a fix of an addictive substance I hadn’t had a taste of in quite some time.

I may continue work on any of the number of things with which I currently find myself blocked. Or maybe another short piece will come to me. I’m not sure yet.

Another well written article on Charlton Heston’s death.

Which reminds me, it’s been quite some time since I’ve seen The Agony and the Ecstacy.

It’s late, the words are starting to swirl together into one large messy spiral, and so I believe it’s time for bed.

An Ode To The Guy In The Golf Cart

Two and half blocks from my house, there lives an old man. On the outside, he’s a typical, unassuming, grouchy-in-appearance old man. He wears a hat that proudly displays his devotion to the United States Navy, he wears pleated slacks and loafers, he wears aviator sunglasses. All commonplace amongst many male senior citizens, which would lead you to believe he is just another generic geriatric.

But you would be wrong. Because this old man drives a golf cart.

There is a golf course within walking distance of here. But as near as I can tell, this old man happens to own his golf cart. He owns it. He drives it around town, one leg allowed to hang out of the left side of the cart, his foot dangling less than an inch from the gravel. There are no golf clubs, he wears no cleats, he just… drives his golf cart around town.

The police officers drive right by him, many of them smile and wave at the old man, which leaves me to wonder; Is it illegal to drive a golf cart on a public street? I’m not implying I would like to drive a golf cart down the 405 in L.A. traffic, but am I allowed to get my cart on in small town Minnesota? It may be the size of the town, it may be the age of the cart owner, it may even be a combination of both, but I’d like to know who I have to talk to about owning my own golf cart. It’s listed amongst my life goals now.

During the long winter months, he’s nowhere to be seen. I imagine golf cart tires don’t handle icy roads too well. (I’ve no idea what he does with the golf cart when it snows. Maybe he has a special golf cart tarp, maybe he has a shed where he keeps it, I don’t know.) But as soon as the weather warms up, the second the ice and snow melt, you can hear the distinct whine of his golf cart motor as he crawls down the road at what could be no more than five or ten miles an hour. And it strikes me at that point… I actually miss that sound.

The old man is nice enough. He’ll nod in your direction if he sees you, a greeting I feel is as warm and fuzzy as he’s willing to get with strangers. I’ve even seen him go so far as to wave at children. And I’m sure he’s done many things in his many years worth mentioning. He was probably in the Navy, he may have actually saved lives. He probably has children and grandchildren, of whom he is proud, to whom he may very well be a hero. I’m also fairly certain he has a name.

But I will never know him as a war veteran, I will never know him as Frank, or Bob, or Bill. I will always know him as “Golf Cart Guy”.