Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And I'm Still Alive

Yeah, if you've played Portal you're cursing me about now.  That song will be in your head all night.  You're welcome.  Anyway, I'm not just posting to torture you.  I'm actually on to say hello, and to wish all of you a happy belated Easter or Passover or Non-Denominational Spring Holiday!  Don't you love P.C.?

This week, Chuck over at Terribleminds has a very interesting challenge going on, though I'm not 100% certain I'll be doing it this week.  Lots going on, including being head first in a writing jag (yay, writing jags!).  Not to mention, guess whose daughter will be waking her at 4 am on Friday to watch a little wedding going on in England?  Ah, well, I suppose I did the same thing to my poor mom when I was my little girl's age, but for Charles and Diana.  It'll be a strange circle around to an odd closure...sort of...maybe.  We'll see.

Speaking of Portal (you're still singing it, aren't you?), Portal 2 is out.  I'm actually looking forward to it, especially since I'm a big supporter of little-things-that-could.  Portal was only meant to be a little "crash course" type of game, stuck to a bigger game, in order to show off the very cool graphics and abilities that the creators had discovered/made.  And look what happened.  A sleeper hit!  I would say cult classic, but it's pretty much permeated popular culture, so not so much cult but more classic.  Hopefully I'll be out of the pool of 65k words (that's my goal) soon so I can play the game, before everyone and their mothers and aunts leak out spoilers.  Yeah, it could take me a while to surface.  Lucky for my kids and hubby I know how to set alarms, so no one starves and mini-us'es are (surprisingly) educated by yours truly.

Um, yeah, so that's it.  Just a little tag to say hi, and see how everyone is doing.  Maybe I'll actually try that Three Sentence Challenge over at Terribleminds.  It would indeed be a challenge for someone who doesn't just talk way too much, but writes too many words, as well.  Oh, you should go over and check it out.  Brilliant, I tell you.  These people are brilliant.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Random Word Flash Fiction

It's time again, boys and girls, for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction!  This time it was a little different.  Seems he found an interesting word generator and decided to use it for this week's challenge.  We had five random words to use in our story: Figure, Dusk, Flirt, Mobile Phone, and Wig.  We can use them any way we want to, whether slang or actual definition, and we can use a form of the word, like cell phone for mobile phone.  This one took me a little while to formulate, but I've posted the image that really kick-started the short story I wrote.  It's much fluffier than my last one, so don't expect anything heavy.  Still, I hope you enjoy it.

Here's my entry for the Random Five Word Flash Fiction Challenge, in 1,000 words or less (it's actually 941).
Caroline stared down at her cell phone and cursed.  Ben had said he would be here, right in front of the brick wall with the vintage hand painted Coca-Cola advertisement.  He was almost forty minutes late, and dusk was beginning to set in.  How long was she supposed to wait for him?

She heard a moan come from behind her and sighed.  Either someone was getting lucky in the parking lot, or the zombie apocalypse had begun.  In her current mood, she couldn’t decide which she’d prefer.

She checked her cell again, saw another minute had passed, and tried not to be irritated.  Ben was notoriously late, but his other qualities tended to balance that out.  Sure, he would probably be late to his own funeral, but he was funny, smart, had amazing eyes, and even more amazing rear, liked Simon Pegg, and wasn’t put off by her affinity for vintage advertising art, like the Coke sign.  But his tardiness did get old at times.  Especially those times when she started to wig out because she was afraid something had happened to him.  Like now.  Because her imagination was way too vivid, it flirted with wild ideas like car accidents, muggings, holes opening up to swallow him down to the world of dinosaurs in the center of the earth.

Caroline shook her head.  She wasn’t going to think like that.  It only made her feel like an idiot when he showed up, usually racing around a corner, mostly out of breath, full of apologies.

She was about to call him when she heard a sharp whistle.  A sharp whistle that sounded remarkably like Ben’s.  Wrinkling her brow, she turned to look first right, then left, nearly looked behind before she remembered the moaning couple.  The sound came again, as if floating down from the roof tops.  But that wasn’t possible…unless….

She looked up, directly across the street, and saw a figure standing on top of the three story granite building.  She craned her neck, squinted her eyes, and saw the outline of a familiar man.

“What are you doing?” she called, completely baffled, slightly miffed, and very amused.

Ben waved to her and yelled back in a voice that betrayed his smile.  “Wait right there!”

She cocked an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest, but did as he’d asked.  This, she decide, ought to be good.

She heard the sound of material unraveling, and a split second later saw a giant image on canvas flutter down the wall where Ben had been standing.  She immediately recognized the advertisement; it was a 1940’s magazine ad for Chesterfield Cigarettes, but it was slightly altered.

Instead of the fresh face of the model, Caroline’s face had been drawn in.  She was holding a cigarette case; the wording above read “ – and it’s Always Ben and Caroline for keeps”, with their names substituted for the simple “ABC” Chesterfield had used.  The cigarette case itself had the requisite “ABC” carved in the top, but the small cigarette packets were replaced with images of wedding bands peeking out of velvet boxes. 

The boldest part of the ad, the words printed brightly across the bottom, had her blinking, her mouth hanging open, closing, opening again.  What should have said “Always Buy Chesterfields” had been replaced with “Marry Me Caroline”.  The tilted card again read “Always Ben and Caroline”, completely ignoring what was originally printed there.  And finally, the smaller script across the very bottom had been replaced by “The Right Combination of the World’s Best Love…Marry Me”.

She put her hand to her throat, felt hysterical giggles and breath taking excitement mix.  Her eyes filled with tears as she gasped for air.  Behind her, the moaning couple finally emerged.  The woman, a leggy redhead, paused to read the sign.  She turned to the brutish man standing beside her and elbowed him in the gut.

“Now that’s how you propose to a lady.”

“Figures some other guy would find a better way,” the man sighed.  “Don’t get your wig all twisted, sweetheart.  You know I love you.”

“Yeah, yeah.”  But the redhead linked her arm through his and the couple strolled away, her stilettos clicking along the sidewalk as they went.

By the time she was left alone, Caroline had managed to gulp in enough oxygen to keep from fainting.  Then she saw Ben’s figure appear across the way, watched as he jogged to her, the purple light of dusk a halo around his dark blond hair.

He was grinning like a maniac when he reached her.  “Forgive me for being a little late?”

“Ben, when did you…how did you…”  How was she supposed to form a sentence?

He laughed and pulled her into his arms.  “I wanted to surprise you.  I love you, Caroline.  Have since the night I tried to flirt with you at that modern art exhibit.”

“It was a terrible show.  Except for you.”  She snuggled closer, smiled.  “Your pick-up lines were terrible.”

“Yeah, they were, but I made you laugh, which was the whole purpose.”  He pulled back, rested his hands on her shoulders, and stared down at her.  “Marry me, Caroline?”

“Will you be late to the wedding?”

He shrugged.  “Of course.”

Caroline smiled and shook her head at his honesty.  “In that case, I’ll be sure to tell you the wedding is an hour earlier than it actually is.  That way you’ll be on time.”

Ben whooped and scooped her up, spinning her around as she threw her head back and laughed.  He might be habitually late, she thought, but the man sure knew how to make up for it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Who's Down In Whoville

I love Dr. Who.  I watched the series when I was a kid, thanks to PBS, and I was addicted from the first episode.  Okay, I can't quote the dialogue.  But I refuse to believe that makes me any less a Whovian.  And, yeah, I actually know that's what Dr. Who fans are called.  I'm such a geek.

All over the world, we're counting down to the Easter start of Dr. Who.  New baddies, old baddies revisited, new places, people, and time.  I can't wait!  It's like torture waiting for the new episodes, especially when you consider the last one was the Christmas special, and before that it ended in June.  That's practically a year!  Okay, more like ten months, if we don't count the December episode (what a tease!), and the waiting is so hard.  Think excruciating.

So, in celebration of the upcoming Dr. Who series (as they call seasons in Britain), we started watching Dr. Who (the new ones) from the first episode.  What's so great about the show is we can watch it with our kids.  It's just scary enough to satisfy the "yikes!" factor one likes, and sci-fi/fantasy enough to satisfy the other.  It's a great compromise for my family, since our kids are old enough to watch more adult style shows, but are still too young for a majority of prime time television.

Anyway, I'll stop sounding like a reviewer and go back to fan girl.  Dr. Who is coming!!!!  Just thirteen days until we get to see The Doctor, Amy Pond, Rory, and the Tardis, and River Song!  Yippee!!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Flash Fiction The Cocktail

Yes, it is time once again for another installment of Flash Fiction, thanks to Chuck at Terribleminds.  He makes them so interesting, it's hard to say no.  This weeks challenge is all about The Cocktail.  Ah, liquor!  He asked for us to create a story using the name of a cocktail as the basis; oh, and it couldn't be more than 500 words.  So it was definitely a challenge for me.  This one is a little darker than my last couple of Flash Fictions, but hopefully you'll still enjoy it.  And you'll definitely want to hop over and read the other entries; they are terrific, as usual.

I won't tell you which drink I chose.  You'll find that out at the end.  And as an added bonus, you'll find the recipe for the cocktail I used after the story.  
“He’s dead, Jim.”

They never got tired of that line.  “Yeah, I’m a doctor not a street sweeper.  Ha freakin’ ha.”

The man in the black trench coat chuckled.  “Bet you hear that a lot.”

Turning, Jim stared at the body sprawled in the alleyway.  “Why this one?”

Trench Coat raised an eyebrow.  “All the years you’ve been doing this, and you still want to know?”

“Got a right to know.”  He shrugged.  “Like to know what I’m working with.”

A long sigh.  “Not a nice guy, this one, but brilliant.  Writes mathematical theories, has an idea about folding space and time.  Interstellar travel.”

“Will it happen?”


The drizzle became rain, hazing over the distant orange of streetlights.  Jim studied the gangly corpse before crouching down to see the face.  Twenty-something, sharp cheekbones, buggy eyes, wire glasses, crooked nose with a slanted look.  His skin was losing the flush of life.  He stank of alcohol, vomit, excretions.  A kid, supposedly worth the risk, maybe a world changer.  He’d seen too many of them fail, even with another chance.

Trench Coat shuffled in a puddle.  “Get to it, doc.”

Jim grunted.  “Yeah, sure.”

He grasped the shoulders, heaved the body over, looked into the dull hue of blue irises.  He took the jaw into his hand, forced the mouth open, tried not to gag at the stench.  One deep breath…he leaned closer, parted his lips, breathed out.

Tingling started in his scalp, traveled along his neck, spread like bubbling water to his throat, torso, feet.  Energy searched for escape.  It found its way from Jim, surging in blue pulses, rushing into the inert body.  Jim’s world grayed, shimmered, slammed back in a hard squall of reality, his signal to tear away.

The body jerked, muscles taut, the heart kick-started.  Jim rocked back, covered his eyes with his palms, pressed them against the sockets, reached for equilibrium.  He ignored the scuttle-scrape of Trench Coat, the slosh of the revival in the gutter.  Pull the energy back, rebuild one pulse at a time, store it for the next call.

“Wh…where…?”  Hoarse, confused, reeking.

“You’ll be all right.”  Trench Coat knelt beside them.  “Here, let me help you up.”

Standing, thanks, leaving all happened in a staccato deception.  The boy would be used because of possibilities, enslaved by the signature of the thing that had saved him.

“See ya around, doc.”

Scoffing laughter, a head shake of denial.  “I’m not a doctor.”

A snort of derision, shuffling of hard soles over wet pavement.  Then he was abandoned, left alone to renew his depletion.  He hated the miracle, hated his absorption of the experiment he’d agreed to.  A handful of them as saviors; so noble, so righteous, so wrong.  Recover the lost; some went crazy, some screamed to get back.  Some didn’t remember.  Those were the scariest.

He wanted his life back; girlfriend, friends, career…but he’d given them up.  What he’d said was true; he wasn’t a doctor anymore.  He was a corpse reviver.


The Corpse Reviver is actually a cocktail that's been around for quite a while.  Here’s a little more detail about the origins of this drink.  After I read exactly what this cocktail is supposed to do, and how it was/is used, I was pleasantly surprised to realized just how well the drink fit in with the story that was forming in my head.  The site is also where I found the recipe roundup of both the original Corpse Reviver as well as the Corpse Reviver 2.  Yep, it was so good they made another one.  Enjoy!

To make a Corpse Reviver, you’ll need:
  • 1 ½ ounce brandy or Cognac (for recipe 1)
  • ¾ ounce apple brandy or Calvados (for recipe 1)
  • ¾ ounce sweet vermouth (for recipe 1)
  • 1 ounce gin (for recipe 2)
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau (for recipe 2)
  • 1/2 ounce Lillet Blonde (for recipe 2)
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice (for recipe 2)
  • Dash of Absente or Absinthe (for recipe 2) (optional)
  • Cocktail shaker
  • Cocktail glass
  • A stirrer (for recipe 1)
  • 1 cup ice
  • Maraschino cherry (optional)
  1. Before you make a Corpse Reviver, decide which recipe to use. Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book” dubbed the two recipes that have survived as #1 and #2, and that’s how bartenders commonly refer to them today. While the first recipe is considered less popular than the second, both recipes make powerful, balanced cocktails. Choose the one that best suits your mood–or the one that sounds least nauseating when you have to prepare it.
  2. To make a Corpse Reviver #1, chill a cocktail glass. Combine 1 ½ ounces of brandy, ¾ ounce of apple brandy, and 3/4 ounce of sweet vermouth in a cocktail shaker. Add 1 cup of ice, stir the Corpse Reviver with a stirrer for at least 30 seconds. When it’s cold, strain it into the cocktail glass and serve it immediately.
  3. To make Corpse Reviver that’s a bit more potent, make a Corpse Reviver #2. In a cocktail shaker, combine 1 ounce of gin, 1/2 ounce of Cointreau, ½ ounce of Lillet Blanc, ¾ ounce lemon juice, a dash of absinthe (if you have it on hand), and 1 cup of ice. Place the lid on the shaker and vigorously shake the mixture for about 30 seconds, until it is well chilled. Strain the drink into a cocktail glass and garnish it with a maraschino cherry. Serve your Corpse Reviver cold.
  4. Feel free to experiment to make your own Corpse Reviver. This family of drinks used to include innumerable variations that didn’t stand the test of time. Since any hard and fast rules also died out, make your own Corpse Reviver using any concoction of liquors or liqueurs that make you feel a little more alive the morning after.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Unexplainable Explained Flash Fiction

Yep, it's time for another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge, and this one was hard to choose.  He asked that we go here, take a look at the pictures, and then choose one to write a short fiction about.  I chose #15, because the story of it just jumped right out at me.  I hope you enjoy it!  And don't forget to go over and check out some of the other excellent entries, cause they're all going to be totally unique.

“I figured out a way to make the money.”

She stopped stirring her coffee and stared at her friend.  “I told you I wouldn’t be a part of anything illegal.”

He grinned devilishly, his blue eyes bright.  “It’s not illegal.”

“Good, because if we’re going to open our own shop I refuse to use dirty money.”

Trent shook his head and leaned in closer, blocking out the rest of the patrons in the coffee shop.  “It won’t be dirty, I swear.  You never trust me, Rachel.”

“I did once…and only once.  Then I had to wake Jake up to come bail us out.”

“He’s a very understanding fiancĂ©.”

“With a good sense of humor, lucky for me since he thought the naked car dancing stunt was hilarious.”

Trent waved his hand dismissively.  “I was the one who was naked.”

Rachel snorted.  “I was the one holding the camera filming it.  Nothing else that’s illegal, got it?”

He sighed and leaned back.  “If I promised on a stack of every religious text available, would you believe me?”

She raised an eyebrow.  “Maybe.”

A couple walked by, absorbed in each other, laughing like giddy larks, bumping into their table as they maneuvered toward the door.  The man gave a negligent apology over his shoulder; Trent turned his head away from Rachel with a smile and faced the couple.  She didn’t see what he did, but there was a sudden moment of shocked silence as the two stared, seemingly dumbfounded, at Trent.  Then the pair burst into raucous laughter.

“I think we’ll head over to the museum,” the man said, cuddling his date closer as they hurried out.

Rachel slanted her eyes in suspicion.  “And just what exactly was that about?”

Mischief covered her friend’s face as he shrugged.  “Oh, nothing.  Just the brilliant way I’m making the rest of the money.”

“I shouldn’t ask.  I’m not sure if I want to know.”

He sipped his coffee leisurely, watching her over the brim of his cup.  He had that look again, the one that screamed trouble.  She let out a long breath of defeat.

“I have to know.  What did you do, Trent?”

He tilted his head, catching the rays of the spring sun that danced through the picture window, and opened his mouth.  But instead of rolling out words, he rolled out his tongue.  She blinked, stared, leaned up, blinked, squinted.

There, on his tongue, was a picture of the Mona Lisa.  There was no denying the image that was splayed across the tender flesh.  Her first thought should have been how horrible a tattoo on that particular area had hurt him; instead she thought of the museum and their much touted Vincent van Gough exhibit.

“You…what did you…how did you…”  She clicked her mouth closed and shook her head.

Trent pulled his tongue back in and chuckled.  “Don’t worry, it’s not permanent.  I have a whole sheet of these, all of them with a van Gough work on it.  I put it on in the morning, and by the time I go to bed it’s faded off.”


“The museum is paying me.  I sold my body for advertisement.  Brilliant, right?”  He looked like a cat who’d had some particularly tasty cream.

She couldn’t deny he was right.  It actually was a brilliant idea.  Plus it wasn’t illegal.  Rachel’s laughter started soft and gentle, then slowly rose into a near hysterical sound.  Holding her stomach, she ignored the rest of the patrons staring at her, then laughed even harder when Trent stuck out his tongue and wagged it around.  A moment later the rest of the coffee shop was filled with merriment, the sound skipping out the door and into the street.

“So…what do you think?” Trent asked over the cacophony of laughter.

“I think,” she gasped, “that the museum is getting a bargain.  Just promise me you won’t rent out your X-rated parts.”

He didn’t reply; he slowly tilted his lips into a wicked smile and sat back to sip his drink.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Oh, Medical Crime Dramas, I Want To Love You

Show, we need to talk.  I just watched you, and I did so because I love Dana Delaney.  She's just one of those actresses who can take a small moment and make into something so personally intense, you feel like a voyeur.  But what I want to talk about isn't Dana Delaney, but her character; and not just her character, but all the M.E.s and C.S.U.s, etc. that are flashing across millions of screens right now.  Because frankly...it all feels terribly wrong.  And you're one of the culprits.

All right, show, I'm willing to give you some poetic license.  I'm even willing to suspend a huge hunk of reality for television.  Take "Castle" for example; I love that crime-drama-comedy (I'm a Nathan Fillion fan from back in his Firefly days).  I'm open enough to go for the whole "writer shadowing cop to get a feel for his next character".  In fact, I think it's a wonderful thing to showcase a writer actually doing these things so he/she can get a feel for what cops go through, because that translates over to the work.  It's just too bad some television writers don't seem to be doing the same for the medical personnel, including you, show.  (I'm excluding "Castle" because their M.E., Lanie Parish, actually appears to do her job and not everyone elses'.)

Facts are facts, dearest show, and the hard truth is M.E.s do not play detective.  That is not their job.  They do not go out and question suspects.  They do not solve the case all on their own.  Yes, they definitely contribute; their information is key to helping detectives solve crimes.  However, the over glossing, over dramatized medical dramas give a false sense not only of the reality of what it is to be in a C.S.U. or to be an M.E., but it also creates a terrible ripple effect.  You, show, are only adding pebbles to the waves, waves which are called the "C.S.I." effect (any guesses where they got that name?).  Juries think that there is always solid proof; there's undeniable evidence of the bad guy, DNA spread everywhere, security cameras that take pixel perfect images that can be blown up to see reflected faces in car windows.  Really?  Cause you lost me at DNA everywhere, show.  I might give you a few blood spatters, and as I've proven I'm willing to let myself float along in a little bit of fantasy; but please don't insult my intelligence.  I want to like you, medical-crime-thriller-drama show.  Don't make me hate you.  At least try to pretend to infuse the insiest winsiest bit of pseudo-reality into your plot.

Now if you want to see anything close to what a "real" M.E. might do, dear show, then check out N.C.I.S. (the original) and dear Ducky (the character I wish were my uncle).  If you like the British scene, try Midsomer Murders (which is an excellent show in and of itself) and the ever stoic and prosaic Dr. Bullard.

I don't want to put down television writers, or the shows they create (well, okay, some deserve it, but I don't want to lump them all together), or even you, newest medical-crime-thriller-drama.  TV is a fantasy world.  I get that; most people do.  However, being a writer I just want to bash my head into the floor when I see plot bunnies running like wild llamas all over your script.  Trying for some reality in the words and actions of the characters can only help; make at least some of it believable - and not just the tongue twisting medical jargon.  It can be done.  I've seen it happen.  And if you can't do that, then don't be a medical-thriller-drama that has their medical staff solve crimes for the police.  There are plenty of excellent medical dramas that don't: House, Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, ER, St. Elsewhere, and that's just to name a few.  Even canceled ones, like "Leaving LA" (just a few episodes, but if you haven't seen it, you must!) are prime examples of medical dramas done beautifully.  And some of them, really most of them, have the whole "solve the mystery of X's death/deadly medical issue" written in, so you don't even have to abandoned your beloved "thriller" or "crime" undertones, show.  As a matter of fact, "Leaving LA" is actually set in a Coroner's Office.

Okay show, I realize you're already airing.  I know you can't change stream midcourse (even if you're paddling toward a waterfall, which is actually harder to steer away from).  But isn't it possible to fuse some of these past, much prized medical shows' magic into your story?  I think it is.  I really, really do.  And I think there's got to be someone out there who can do it, because I believe you deserve at least a small chance to live past five episodes, show.  Mainly because of Dana Delaney...but still, you deserve it.  And the viewers deserve it, too.