Monday, November 3, 2014

Bitter Apple Mash

Good evening, campers!

Hey, I know it's been a good while since my last post and I have 1001 excuses. Would you believe....? Nope, I don't either so let's just move past that, shall we.

Today I submitted my fifth attempt to grab the golden ring at mashstories.com. You might remember my first two were shortlisted, "Begin the Countdown" aka "The First Cosmonaut" and "My Big Fat Mythical Greek Wedding". If you haven't read them, and may I say I am very disappointed in you, check them out at mashstories.com or look for the past posts here. I still laugh when I think about the audio reading they did for "MBFMGW". It is hysterical.

To celebrate my latest endeavor I am posting my last attempt. The words we had to use exactly as shown were:  OXIDATION   LOVE   ALPHABET. Immediately following I'll post the judges's comments.

That is one of the best things about this contest (other than it's free and they do such a great job if you get shortlisted and that they are all really nice people and care about helping you better your talents) is the honest feedback.  I gathered split the judges on this one. That's okay. Sometimes a judge may miss the point I am trying to make but that is my fault. I read what they say and take it to heart. And then make it better next time. (Oh, wait until you read the newest one. It just clicked. It feels so perfect. Hopefully I'll be directing you to their website for viewing.)

So without furthering the boring preamble I present to you....


BITTER APPLES
by Bill Bibo Jr


"You understand, Eli, it's not my fault. It's the alphabet's."
I watched him walk across the room, direct and with purpose. He threw open the closet door with a force that cracked the wall. Great, not only do I have a broken heart but now I have to fix the wall. I got off the floor and went to the kitchen. A can of gypsum putty was under the sink. Taking a butter knife from the drawer I returned to the wall. I'll fix what I can. Best not let it wait.
"I warned you. Thirty-one days is all we'd have together. Then I had to move on. It's more than a rule, it's a promise I made to myself. It can't be broken."
I looked over at him through tearing eyes as he grabbed a handful of shirts and shoved them carelessly into his suitcase. The bitter salt stung the cut on my face. It didn't have to be this way. We belonged together. I turned to the wall and stabbed the butter knife into the putty.
"Life is too short. And it is filled with too many beautiful women. I can't limit myself. It wouldn't be fair to them or to me."
There was too much of the creamy paste on the knife and a glob slipped to the floor mixing into the carpet. Wonderful. This couldn't be going better. I set the can down and went for a paper towel. The last thing I needed was a ruined carpet too.
"Love is like an apple. When you first see it at the store it's shiny, beautiful, perfect. You hold it up and admire it. You want it, you have to have it."
He took t-shirts and underwear from a drawer and stuffed them deep into the suitcase as well.
"But that shine comes from a waxy coating protecting the apple from oxidation. When you take a bite, when you taste it, that coating is broken exposing the delicate flesh to the air."
The paper towel, dampened by my tears, worked well on the carpet. Most of the putty cleaned up except for a slight white residue.
"Now you have two choices. You eat the apple entirely leaving only the core which is of no good use to anyone, or you save it only to watch it turn brown with decay."
He zipped the suitcase shut.
"After 31 days I move on before that love starts to rot. The alphabet is the only way to be fair. It's too hard to choose. So I find a girl whose name begins with the next letter and move on. You see that, don't you, Eli? It's the only fair way."
I wiped my face.
"I guess when I get to the end I'll decide what to do then."

My hand tightened on the butter knife. Maybe I should tell him my full name is Elisheva but my family has always called me Ziva. Maybe I should decide for him.


So what did you think? Here's what the judges said....

Here are some of their comments - you'll see you've produced quite some polarized views from them! 

- The strongest element of this story is its characters. We learn much about Eli's personality through her internal dialogue (and are left to wonder why she never says anything aloud). Eli's observations and the lover's own dialogue give us a sense of his personality, too. 

- While I liked that the story begins at the end of a relationship, I felt Eli's reaction didn't make sense. If he had warned her in advance that they would only have 31 days together, why was she so upset? Had something happened to make Eli think she was different? If so, a reader needs to see it in the story to understand her reaction. 

- It's not often that I feel like a male writer accurately captures the interiority of a female narrator, but this conflict feels very realistic. I like how she focuses on fixing the wall, instead of addressing the more pressing issue of this man leaving. 

- I think there are a few moments where the action falls a bit flat. "I set the can down and went for a paper towel," doesn't really leap off the page. As opposed to "He zipped the suitcase shut." In zipping the suitcase, we're getting action and sound. Less setting, more zipping? 

- I think this has a good idea behind it, but the characterization is all over the place. I think that the bits of character action that Eli does while having the argument are interesting, however, and I think that's the strongest writing in the piece. 

- You may want to work on your dialog, try reading aloud when you write it as it can help you create natural-sounding speech.

- I am a Bibo fan, and there is some great stuff in this story. The detail of the paper towel helping the carpet, awesome. 

- This has a huge plot hole. Why is she so surprised and angry when he "warned" her that it would only be 31 days? I get her outrage at his ego as he makes himself look more and more like an ass and less like the Adonis he claims to be, but come on, woman. Her glib tone seems at odds with her tears as well. 

- I look forward to reading this author again next quarter. 

- Very difficult to write about love in the face of such misogyny; even more difficult to justify why the girl must be weak and pathetic. 

- I liked the way a terrible event was interspersed with focus on a menial task - but it's not a new device, by any means. 

- Otherwise, the narrative wasn't varied enough in terms of sentence structure or length to keep me interested. 



Now it's your turn. Please post your comments below. I'd love to know what you thought of it.


My newest story "The Invasion of Summerview Lane" had to use the words BLOW-DRYER, HONESTY, COCKPIT. I think you might be surprised what I came up with. Fingers crossed that the polarization is lessened.

If you want to read see what the winners came up with head over to mashstories.com. It's a great variety and always a great read. Here's a little secret too. 500 words takes a hell of a longer to write than to read. Enjoy yourself. The writers did.

That's it for now
As always thank you for reading me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Location, Location, Location

Greetings, y'all.

Sorry about that. I've been spending too much time in Gainesville, FL for this summer. What's in Gainesville? Not much except for the University of Florida. And a few really excellent restaurants.

One great way to keep your writing fresh is obvious. Keep writing. Write every day, write whenever you can. But how do you find the motivation to write at night after taking notes in 12 hours of meetings?

Necon Ebooks has a contest each month. They give a topic, a theme, and you give them a story in 100 words. You might remember I've mentioned them before. I've won this little contest a few times and received Honorable Mention a few times more. It's a great exercise. It's short, it's sweet. You can do it over a lunch break, or before you drop off to sleep in a lonely hotel room in Gainesville, FL.

Last month the theme was Location, Location, Location. I diligently and in the nick of time sent off a couple of my best for consideration. Alas (you know you're a writer when you can use the word "alas" and not blink an eye) I didn't place this month. I still think they were good, so I will present them to you. They follow immediately. Let me know what you think.

If you'd like to try it yourself, follow the link. Necon Ebooks
And always, thanks for reading me.


Roommate wanted. No Cats.

Sunday morning he noticed the small door in the baseboard of the guest room. Just the day before the baseboard had been clear and uninterrupted. Now, a little off from the corner, a door was carefully cut into the wood. It was so expertly crafted that it looked as if it might open at any time. The door knob even turned in his hand but the door refused to move.

"It's a fairy door," his friends said. "It's good luck."

He liked the idea and so did nothing about it. When the cat disappeared he began to wonder.



Keeping With The Exercise Program

Bob watched from his window, a cup of lukewarm tea in one hand and a piece of half-burnt toast in the other, as his car ever so slowly slipped into a sink hole at the foot of the driveway. The mailbox was next. The light post hesitated, unsure if it should follow the mailbox but relented and jumped in. The front garden disappeared followed by twelve bags of mulch Bob no longer needed. As the front walk fell in, paver by paver, Bob headed to the back door. At least he lived close enough he could walk to work.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Learning to Write With Michael Jordan

"Wait a minute? Did I read that right? What has Michael Jordan to do with writing anything?"
Great questions. And in response, here's your first lesson. Create a title that grabs the reader's interest. If you're here, it worked. If you're not, then you don't know what you're missing. I might have called this article "Learning the Hard Way" but what fun is that. This way I got to hang out with Michael Jordan, if only figuratively. So here goes...

Recently I received a slap in my authorial face and it woke me up. It wasn't hard slap. It was more like gentle pat on my cheek, more out of thoughtful concern than malice. Still like the title of this piece, it got my attention.
But let's get down to it. Michael, why don't you make your first point.
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life."
In other words three-peats are tough.
Many of you have followed my recent successes on a fun new website mashstories.com. The concept is remarkably easy. They give you 3 unrelated words and you give them 500 in return in the form of a comprehensive short story utilizing those three words. I was fortunate to make the shortlist for their first two competitions with my stories "Begin the Countdown" and "My Big Fat Mythical Greek Wedding." If you haven't read them yet, go to mashstories.com right now and read them. It's okay, we'll wait right here for you.
***
Back? What did you think? Pretty great, right? I thought you'd like it. I'm very proud of what they did.
I didn't win the big money but just making the shortlist was awesome, twice. First, they published both stories on their website. Then they created a very professional audio podcast each week featuring a different shortlisted story. Both are excellent but I love what they did with "My Big Fat Mythical Greek Wedding." When I first heard it I was laughing out loud and I already knew all of the jokes because I wrote them. (Be warned they do mispronounce my last name in both stories. It's "bye-bo", not "bee-bo". I let them know both times and we've had a good laugh over it.)
For a long time I had signed up for a twitter account but I never really used it. Then I read an article on how writers need to brand themselves through social media and how publishers actually look to see how many followers you have when considering your book. Really? Okay I'd better get with it. I thought this would be the perfect time to begin. So I tweeted my successes and retweeted many of the kind words by mashstories. And a funny thing happened. People read my tweets. Now I actually had followers, new ones every day, people I don't even know.
Then a couple of other successes came through. I can tell you I was feeling pretty good. So I sent off my entry, "Brother Robert's Discovery", for Mash Stories #3. Third time's the charm, right, this was going to be it, big money.
What was that, Michael? You have something to say again?
"Sometimes you need to get hit in the head to realize that you're in a fight."


Ah, yes. Then came slap. It came in the form of an email from my good friends at Mash Stories. Though kindly, it was short and to the point.

Dear Bill,
Thank you for sending us "Brother Robert's Discovery". We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to shortlist it this time. Don't be disappointed, but do try us again for the next quarter’s competition.
Thanks again.
All the best


Whoa! What? I mean, I thought we had a good thing going here. Now you don't want me? Are we breaking up? I was crushed. I sat in the corner and put on some John Mayer.
Yes, Michael, stop waving your overly long arm. I see it. You have something else to say?

"Be true to the game, because the game will be true to you. If you try to shortcut the game, then the game will shortcut you. If you put forth the effort, good things will be bestowed upon you. That's truly about the game, and in some ways that's about life too."


I hate it when you're right, Michael. I rushed it. In my defense I could fill a basketball stadium with excuses. I had so much work at the office in the next month, having to travel to Gainesville twice in the weeks to come, then family commitments, friends visiting, the summer was booking up. When was I going to write it? Best do it now and send it off quick. They'll love it and post it early and I'll get tons of votes and win the big prize! Great plan. Hooray! Let's do it!

I came up with a brilliant concept and wrote a fine story, but I didn't let it sit and gel and mature. I wrote it, read it over, and sent it off just a few days later, a full month or more before the due date. I went on with my daily chores knowing full well that soon First Place would be mine. It was inevitable, I mean, they love me.

A few days later at lunch I read my story over. That was when I saw the first typo. Dang it. (trying to keep it family friendly). But I still had a chance, maybe they'd love the story so much that they'd overlook it and let me fix it before they publish it. Just to be safe I didn't reread the story again.

Slap time. Wake up, Bill. You've got mail. Whack!

So what do you take away from all this? What are the lessons learned?

The big one, the easy one is don't rush it. It's fine to write your story in a few short days, but let it sit, do something else, come back later and read it over. You'll find ways to make it better. You know you will, you always do.

Don't be overconfident. Everything you write isn't golden. You're not perfect. No one is, even your idol. Vonnegut had stories he kept in his drawer that he or his publisher felt weren't up to his standards. They only got published after he was dead, and then he had no say in the matter.

Don't get lazy. Spellcheck will not find the wrong word if it still is a word and not just the wrong word. Someone once told me to accurately check your writing read the story backwards. Start with the last sentence, then read the next to last sentence, then the one before that. When you write a piece you spend hours hunched over it, delving deep into it. You get to know it, and anticipate it. You see words as you think they should be, not as you have actually written them. Reading the sentences out of sequence lets you focus on each sentence independently.

Finally, don't take it personally. You write words on paper, electronic or real. Readers, especially judges, react to those words. (Note: misspelled, wrong, or left out words judges react to a lot.) Just remember they aren't reacting to you as a person, just words on paper. They probably still think you're pretty cool. I still like them. (Hey, I did get a shout out today in their newsletter.)

So finally, yes I am ending this entry someday soon, here's what you've been patiently waiting for. I present to you my story "Brother Robert's Discovery". The words we needed to use were cathedral, monkey, relativity. The story is exactly as I sent it to mashstories.com. Nothing has been changed, nothing has been altered. I leave it naked before you, typos and all. Immediately following the story are the judge's comments. (That is one of the best things about Mash Stories. Feedback. They will tell you what they thought, giving you the chance to grow and get better.)




Brother Robert's Discovery
by Bill Bibo Jr


Brother Robert ran through the cloister, a stack of papers clutched tightly against his chest. He didn't stop when Prior Matthew called to him from the garden. He didn't stop when he ran into the cathedral, his footsteps echoing in the vast chamber. He only paused as he crossed the nave and passed in front of the altar, to genuflect in thanks to his Lord. He must speak to the Abbot. Something glorious has happened.
When he reached the door to the Abbot's office he looked down at the papers in his hand. A tear fell from his cheek striking the top sheet. He cried out and quickly used the fabric from his sleeve to blot it up. Summoning his courage and his joy he entered.
William the 123rd, the Abbot of the Monastery of the Immortal Bard, sat hunched over an ancient manuscript, a large ornate magnifying glass in his hand. Two candles on either side illuminated the manuscript and very little else in the room.
"Who doth interrupt my study? Who stills my contemplation?" the Abbot said not looking up from his table.
Brother Robert leaned gently forward and said, "Father, please excuse this intrusion. I have glorious news."
The Abbott looked up to see his young student rocking side to side and all but bouncing before him. He saw the papers in the young man's arms. He nodded to continue.
"Father, it's my cellmate. He just finished this. I brought it right away," Brother Robert said. He placed the stack of papers in front of the Abbott and retreated to safety by the door.
Abbott William grunted and poked at the papers with his magnifying glass lest they bite him. They didn't. He picked up the top page and began to read. He took the next page and then the next and the next.
"Father, what does it mean?" Brother Robert asked.
The abbot glanced at a few more pages before replacing all of them on the stack. He sat back in his chair staring blankly before him.
"I no not," said Abbot William. "For these centuries following the Great War our order was tasked to retrieve all knowledge that was lost. Some doubted our methods, but we persevere. Given enough time, and our eternal patience, the writings of our Lord will be recreated."
"But this manuscript entitled "Relativity: The Special and the General Theory", I make no sense of it. It has no rhyme and little reason. Tis worthless, I fear." he said dropping the papers into the basket by his desk.
"Brother Robert, return to your cell. Wait by the side of your monkey. Tend to his needs. Keep his typewriter clean and his ribbon dark. Tis 'Hamlet' we want. Tis 'Hamlet' we need. Not this, this dribble. Go now and waste not my time."
His heart heavy Brother Robert walked back toward his cell. At the cloister he paused, looked up to the open sky, and wondered what was out there.

the end




The jury's comments:

- The narrative drive is strong and with more thought and attention it could have been a contender.
- I was gripped by this story, deciding at the opening paragraph that I was going to like it. The idea(s)
behind it are sharp and entertaining, as well as thoughtful and thought provoking. However - and
unfortunately there is a 'however' - as I read on, the quality of the writing seemed to go downhill. There are a few typographical errors, and there is even an error of verb form in the opening paragraph ('has
happened' should be 'had happened' because the story's written in the past tense). There is also a lot of
punctuation missing - something that is probably vital in helping the writing flow.
- I love the pace of this and the build up to the revelation at the end.
- My main problem however is the dialogue between the brother and the Abbot towards the end. It seemed to come apart. And there was a typo: "I no not" should be "I know not". There is plenty that is good in this story; but that piece of dialogue is bothering me.
- The idea of the monkey at the typewriter eventually producing Hamlet is a nice touch. A good joke to slip in.


There you go. My writing soul laid bare before you. The good, the bad, and the lazy. Sure I have my excuses. We all do. But readers don't care. They want to read your story, not your excuses. Live and learn. Correct my mistakes, look back but don't dwell, and move on.

And, Mash Stories, look out. You haven't seen the last of me.

Okay Michael, just one more. What do you want to say?
"In reality, I never want to grow up."

Well played, Mr Jordan, well played.

For more quotes by Michael Jordan, go to http://www.brainyquote.com

And as always, thanks for reading me.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Still Walking and now hard copies!

"Monster Hunter:Blood Trails" is now out in paperback and hardcover versions. This is very exciting to me. My work is in hardcover. I'm feeling like it's Christmas. One day I hope this won't be a biog deal. Naw, I hope I'm always excited like this.
I'll probably spend my check on extra copies for the family.
If you like a good monster story, you might like this. Check it out.

Monster Hunter Blood Trails (Legends of the Monster Hunter)

Then spread the word!!!!!
And as always thanks for reading me.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Long Walk From Winter

My latest short story "A Long Walk From Winter" is featured in the anthology Monster Hunter Blood Trails by Emby Press. It tells the tale of Adam, Victor Frankenstein's creation, who, long after Victor has died, searches for something to believe in. Could he find it in an Alaskan mining town called Redemption?

Check it out. You might like it. But be warned, it is not a comedy.
The ebook is out now, paperback and hardcover versions coming soon. 
As always, thanks for reading me.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Monster Mash (Stories)

A few months ago I discovered a new website called mashstories.com. Billed as a place where writers can gather, grow, and maybe even get a story published. The main challenge is the quarterly competition where you are given three seemingly unrelated words and then you have to give them meaning depth and a soul and all in 500 words or less.

I love this!

There is nothing more creative than being given such exact restrictions and finding the connection. It's fun, challenging, and it's such great practice.

Their first competition used the words, animal rights, bunker, tennis ball. What? How do you make sense of that?

You take the words inside, let them sit there in the back of your mind, rolling around with the dust, the muck, the zombies, the devils, the angels, all your problems, all your answers, and then it happens. Something clicks and from those three words comes a life, a story starts to grow. You write a sentence or two, that becomes three or four, and before you know it where you needed 500 words you suddenly have 700.

Oh, crap! Too much, now you have to cut, edit, another aspect of the writer's journey.

I was lucky. My story clicked early. I called it "The First Cosmonaut". It felt perfect. I loved it. And then the judges did too! It was shortlisted and published on their website mashstories.com but they wanted to change the name to "Begin the Countdown". I still like mine better but I didn't hesitate. It was a flash fiction story they loved. Go, do it, put it up, let people read it, call it whatever you want.

Okay, it didn't win but the founder of Mash Stories wrote me and told me she liked it and thought it should have been in the top three, but alas (only writers use the word "alas") she wasn't a judge. When you take the challenge in the spirit of fun, never expecting to win, and then you get shortlisted and published on their site, hey, that's a win any way you look at it.

Encouraged I tried again. This time the words were Andromeda, dentist, democracy. Really? Are you kidding me?

So things are gelling in the muck in my mind and something comes out that I did expect. My first story was bittersweet. And with this new story came a staple in my repertoire. Comedy. "My Big Fat Mythical Greek Wedding" was shortlisted. And is currently in the midst of voting. hint, hint, hint again. GO NOW! I'll wait here...

Then Mash Stories creates a magazine and now my first story is in print form. Download, keep it, send it to me I'll sign it too.

And then Mash Stories does a podcast and I'm featured this week.
Whoa! Hold on! This is too cool. My story is being read aloud and in a very professional sounding production. Was that my story? Hey, it was pretty good. This is too cool.

Mashstories.com. What a great site. I'm loving this.
I've already sent in my third story for their competition. The words: cathedral, monkey, relativity. Fingers crossed. I'll be sure to let you know the progress.

In the meantime this is really fun.

I should get back to that novel........



Monday, March 17, 2014

The Writing Place

"This.. is you."
Those words Laurie spoke when she walked into the finished room. For weeks she was wondering what I was doing in there. Now she knows. And she liked it.
It's the first time I had a space totally mine, from top to bottom.
It used to be Shaun's room but living in Minneapolis, now with his fiance Hannah (Yay, Hannah!), he's not going to need it anymore. It's mine now. [evil diabolical laughter]
Now how about a short tour.

 the entry, welcome to my world, don't be scared, I already am

 from the door, note the mirror I trimmed with little 1" tall monsters painted gold, above that is an autographed photo of The Supremes I got as a kid at The Heart of Illinois Fair in Peoria

 my desk, that's as clean as you'll ever see it, the cardboard tubes are my wire management system

 the shelves are made from spindles of a chair I found on the side of the street, the shelving boards are leftover discards that were being thrown out and given to me by my carpenter son-in-law Justin

 the crowning glory, my desks faces an entire wall covered with chalkboard paint, at the top is an inspirational quote "You have your dream office, now make your dreams live." by me to me.

Now excuse me, I have to get busy.

As always, thanks for reading me. Keep it up.