Wednesday, February 29, 2012

CATCH it! Today!

Today I want to take a few moments of your time to plug a most excellent program run by Laurie Bibo through the Madison Senior Center. It's called CATCH Healthy Habits and it trains volunteers aged 50+ working with children in grades K-5 to learn about the benefits and fun of good nutrition and exercise.

(In the spirit of full disclosure I must tell you that Laurie is the most awesome person in the world and has been kind enough to be my lovely wife for near 35 years. Yes, I'm biased but you really should check this program out.)

Watch this news report from NBC15 in Madison, WI, featuring (yes, you probably guessed) Laurie Bibo!

"CATCH Healthy Habits: Sign up today!
Kids need more exercise. You want more fun!
Are you looking for a lively, social way to improve our community while contributing to the well-being of our children? Only one hour per week with CATCH Healthy Habits will make a difference! Join this intergenerational program that pairs teams of adults 50+ with groups of children, K-5th grade, to encourage healthy eating and physical activity...
Sign up now for this exciting program! Call the Madison Senior Center at 266-6581 to schedule your training, adding your name to our growing list of volunteers. For more information, visit, or contact Laurie Bibo, CATCH Healthy Habits Coordinator at; (608) 267-8673.
Bring a friend!"
 politely borrowed from the February 2012 issue of The Messenger, the Madison Senior Center's newsletter

Please help spread the word about this great, awesomely fantastical program. (Hey, I'm a writer. I can use lots of big words.) Tell your family, tell your friends, post it, tweet it, put it on Facebook, or better yet, volunteer yourself. You'll love it.

PS Here's the link to the video so you can share it too!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"The Red Sedan" - flash fiction

Wow, what a week! First it was our grandson's first birthday party (Happy Birthday, Nolan) and then it was our daughter's [insert number here] birthday (Happy Birthday, Melinda). 

It is a well documented fact that when you have your first child time speeds up, the days, months, years go by faster, and you're left wondering just where it all went. No one told me that when you have your first grandchild time speeds up again. But now it goes by in a blink. 

Well, at least I managed to squeeze out another entry for this week's PLOTTO contest with Tin House. I like this entry. It was fun to write. It even has a touch of autobiographical flair. I trained as a clown for a bit, but that's a story for another time, or another contest.

Last week's prompt was :  {A’s} profession is a hazardous one—aviator, automobile racing driver, steeple jack, “human fly”—and {B} considers this fact an obstacle to their marriage. 

And, finally, here is my story for week 3. It has no title (I ran out of time, imagine that) but you can call it "The Red Sedan".

The red sedan was trouble. Cherry red, two sizes too small, it proclaimed in elaborate lettering nearly bigger than life itself "Slambini Bros - The Greatest Show This Side of Akron". Stacy peaked through the blinds in horror as it pulled into the driveway.

Alan had come anyway. She had asked him not to, begged him to stay away. What's done is done, she said. It could never work out. She couldn't watch him destroy himself. She had to end it quickly to ease both their pain.

The doorbell rang. She knew he would stand out there all night if she didn't go to the door.

Alan stood on the porch, a bouquet of balloon roses in his hands and a goofy sad smile painted on his face. He had dressed in his best, his "Sunday" outfit.  The jacket, cherry red like the car and two sizes too big, had a pink plastic flower on the lapel. His orange pants waved in the breeze unable to cover the massive shoes.  Stacy shuddered seeing those shoes, the initial cause of their problems.

She could see the car over his shoulder. He had brought his support group, his family and friends from work. Eight so far and more continued to climb out from the tiny automobile, each dressed more colorful than the last and each with the same pink plastic flower on their lapel. They stood quietly on the driveway ready to cheer and act stupid though choreographed manner if things went Alan's way. Stacy didn't think things would.

When they first met, a blind date set up by a well meaning ex-friend, Alan was dressed a bit eccentric but not too far from normal. Stacy thought him quite good looking, very charming, and he made her laugh more than anyone she had ever known. She fell quick and hard.

Months later Alan finally confessed to working in the family business. His parents owned a circus. Alan was a clown.

Remembering it now Stacy felt her stomach turn. As child her parents had taken her to a circus filled with elderly wrinkled Shriner clowns. Nightmares followed and the fear never left her. Still she agreed to go to a performance. It was worse than she could have ever prepared for.

Alan was a hapless and terrible clown. In that one performance a show dog missed Alan's pants and bit a piece of Alan, he got an eye infection from sour pie in the face he was not expecting, and tripped over his shoes hitting his head on the circus ring. The Emergency Room physician said Alan had a concussion. It was then she decided to end it.

Alan smiled at her from the porch. Stacy's heart melted. She opened the door. A stream of water rushed from the flower in his lapel hitting her full in the face.

The door slammed shut.

A collective yet comical sigh came from the driveway as the clowns turned back to the little red car.

The winning story was about a fire eater. Heck, everyone knows that's dangerous. I'll bet you hadn't considered how dangerous clowning might be. As always you can check out the winning entry (which again is pretty damn good, dammit again) and in case you decide to join me, find out more about the contest here:

Week Four’s Prompt:  
{A}, a pugilist, believes that a friend whom he killed by a chance blow in a practice bout, is present in the ring every time he has battle.

[psst: A pugilist is a boxer]

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"If It Wasn't For bad Luck" - flash fiction

 I love flash fiction. It's short and sweet. Get to the point and get out. I especially love it when I am given a direction on what to write. Here's the theme, now how do I interpret this? It's a great way to get those creative juices all juicy and flowing, making a delicious mess all over the carpet.

For two weeks now I've entered a contest run by Tin House. The rules are simple. Each week on Wednesday they give a writing prompt taken from "PLOTTO: The Master Book of All Plots" by William Wallace Cook. You then have until Monday at noon to write 500 words or less.

This week's (week 2) prompt was:  {B} finds that the knob and lock on the door of a hotel bedroom are in disrepair; the lock apparently locks itself, and the knob will not turn. 

And now for your reading enjoyment, what follows is my entry.

If It Wasn't For Bad Luck

The key slides into the lock of the hotel room door. It fits easily.

I step back. A wave of water runs from the holes in my shoes, mixing with the blood dripping from my hand.

Glad I don't have to clean that up. After tonight I don't have to clean nothing, no more. Sheila and me, we'll have all the money we need. It's all just on the other side of this door, waiting for me.

Thunder cracks like a shot in the dark. I move the gun to my pocket and turn the key with my good hand. Click. Was there ever a sound so sweet?

Tommy was supposed to meet me to divvy up the loot from the job we pulled. Only Tommy didn't bring the money. Things was too hot now, he says to me. We have to wait, keep quiet a little longer, he says.

But I showed him. No one cheats me. It may be a day or two before I can hold anything in this hand but he ain't gonna cheat no one no more.

The door knob slips in my hand. Too much blood. I wipe it off and try again. The knob doesn't move. The door doesn't open.

I pound the door. But no one is there. Tommy lies dead in the alley below. Lowering my shoulder I hit the door hard. Nothing. Again.

Across the hall a door opens. Some old geezer with a young doll on his arm. They see me, dripping rain and blood, the gun in my pocket.

"What the hell you lookin' at?" I yell.

The door slams shut.

Have to hurry. The geezer's probably calling the desk or the cops.

The third time's the charm and door swings open. One light on the night stand drives the shadows to the furthest corners of the room. The suitcase, my chance for a better life, waits on the bed.

I move to it. The door clicks behind me.

Sirens. The rain beats hard on the window but I can see out enough to see the squad cars pull up to the hotel's front entrance.

I grab the suitcase forgetting my bad hand. The pain is amazing. It drops to the floor. I kick the suitcase toward the door and grab the door knob. It doesn't move. I shake it, hit it, kick it. It doesn't move.

More sirens. Cops are probably moving to the back door. Only minutes before they come up here.

The window. Three stories up. How bad could it be? The way my luck is going today, pretty bad.

I grab a chair, maybe try to break down the door, but I hear the elevator doors open. The corridor is filled with footsteps.

I reach into my pocket and grip my gun. It burns my fingers, still hot from Tommy. More footsteps.

I throw the gun on the bed and grab the chair. I throw it at the window.

Wish me luck.


So I didn't win. But it's only week 2. On to week 3. Besides, it's great practice.
Care to join me? You can check out the winning entry (which is pretty damn good, dammit) and find out more about the contest here: 

The Week’s Prompt:
{A’s} profession is a hazardous one—aviator, automobile racing driver, steeple jack, “human fly”—and {B} considers this fact an obstacle to their marriage.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hey, NASA! So What Have You Done For Me Lately?

NASA has just released its annual report of the benefits that came from the Space Shuttle program in the last year. Entitled Spinoff 2011 it details 44 advances that benefit us all. They include everything from ventilator technologies sustain critically injured patients to modeling programs increase aircraft design safety, from retrofitting gas vehicles into hybrids to NASA missions that inspire online video games. One is even based here in Madison.

High-Pressure Systems Suppress Fires in Seconds
By applying principles from a new kind of rocket engine—developed by Orbital Technologies Corporation of Madison, Wisconsin, under SBIR contracts with Marshall Space Flight Center—to fire hose nozzles, company subsidiary HMA Fire improved the performance of its ultra-high pressure fire suppression systems, which extinguish many fires in significantly less time and using less water than traditional systems.

Pretty great stuff. So what do we do now that there is no Space Shuttle Program?You can find out more about Spinoff 2011 here:

Oh, and that online video game? It's called Moonbase Alpha and you can find out more about it here: I'm headed that way now. See you on the moon.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Are Things Heating Up?

Today I joined a new website for writers wanting to connect with agents and publishers. It's called Inkubate and the idea behind it is quite unique.

It’s better here.

We’re working hard to create a place writers will love. We want you to be as excited as we are, because we believe you’re looking at the future of publishing.
Inkubate is the only site designed specifically to show your work to the people who can put you in print: publishers and agents.
This may be just our first launch, but we have big plans. In a few months, publishers and agents will view the library of profiles and works you’ve built. The more you add, the more attractive you—and we—become.
We’ve been working with publishers and agents to build the features that will help them find great work like yours. So we invite you to post some work. It costs you nothing, and it could put you in the perfect place to be seen, read, appreciated and discovered.
Help us by uploading your work and following us on the blog, on Facebook, and Twitter…and contact us to let us know what you think!
We’re out to make the business of writing fun again.
Sounds good to me. So what's it about?

The idea here is that publishers and agents see a section of your work and then if they like it, they post a bid to be able to negotiate with you. Intriguing, right? I saw this first written up in the New York Times and HuffingtonPost. I was interested then. I had "Hamburger Madness", my second novel for middle grade readers, complete but not ready. I updated the draft and now it's done. Let's see if we get a nibble.

Fingers crossed.

UPDATE 2/11/11:
I have 5 invites to Inkubate  that I can pass on. If you are a writer and wish to join, leave a comment or send me an email.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How To Be Cool While Trying Very Hard

After some deliberation I have decided to 'trunk' this story, that is file it away forever. I still like it, and had a fun time writing it. After the story I'll tell you why it won't be submitted anymore.

How To Be Cool While Trying Really Hard
by Bill Bibo Jr

Edwin spotted them the moment he stepped off the train. On the concrete platform just a few steps from where he stood was a pair of sunglasses. The frames were a deep blue, almost black, with a dark gray tint to the lenses that hid the wearer's eyes. She must have dropped them.
He bent down and retrieved them before someone hurrying by broke them. The station platform was very crowded at this time of day and he couldn't see very far into the crowd. If only he were taller. People pushed at him from all directions. He had no idea which way she had gone. Disappointed he slipped the sunglasses into the pocket of his sportcoat and moved toward the exit.


"Edwin, when was your last vacation?"
Edwin looked up from his laptop. His sister stood in front of him, her arms were crossed in a stern manner. In her eyes there was sadness and concern.
"I don't know. I guess I don't remember," he said.
"My point exactly," she said pulling out a chair from the table. She sat down beside him. "You need to get away. Leave work for a week or two. Go have some fun."
Opening her purse she took out a bulging manila envelope. She handed it to Edwin.
"What's this?" he asked, holding the envelope as if it might be filled with anthrax.
"Your vacation. It's all taken care of. In that envelope is everything you need, hotel reservations, itinerary, transportation, restaurants, things to see. You leave in two weeks. That will give you time to make adjustments to your schedule. The best part is that you're going by train. Do you remember how much you loved trains as a child? You told everyone that you were going to be an engineer when you got older. Oh, Edwin, don't look at me like that. It will be exciting. You'll have an adventure."


Edwin waited on the station platform watching the conductor and the steward so intently that they let him board early. He found the perfect seat in the middle of the car next to a window overlooking the station. Edwin set his bag on the seat next to him to discourage anyone from sitting there. There was nothing worse than trying to make pleasant conversation with a talkative neighbor.
The book his sister had given him was fiction, the latest spy thriller about an international conspiracy out to control the world. This trip was his vacation and she would allow no serious thinking on his part. He took the book out of his bag and set it in his lap. He'd give it a try, but only because she'd check on him later.
She had also provided him an assortment of snacks though there was too much chocolate. He took out a few anyway and arranged them in the seat pocket in front of him. Suitably prepared he leaned back and watched the other passengers hurry about the station.
He saw her approach from the opposite end of the station platform. Everyone saw her approach. The sea of people hustling about in every direction simply stopped to watch her pass. She was amazing. She was all legs and boots with long blond hair that flowed endlessly behind her from beneath a dark wide brimmed hat. Darker yet sunglasses hid what Edwin knew must be glorious eyes. If he had allowed himself the frivolous luxury of such dreams, she could have stepped directly out of one.
Edwin closed his eyes and concentrated hoping that the force of his will would make her come to his train, to sit in his car.
Cautiously he peaked out the window. For a terrible second or two he thought he had lost her, that she had walked on by and was now gone forever. But there she was talking to the conductor next to his car. The conductor nodded and pointed in Edwin's direction. She looked up following his gesture and Edwin ducked back into his seat. Had she seen him staring? What would he do if she did get on this car?
The doors to the car opened. When he dared to look up she was walking down the aisle toward him. Hypnotized he could not look away. She moved with such grace and confidence that he knew she was used to being the center of attention. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and she was here walking down the aisle toward him.
On an impulse he grabbed his bag from the seat beside him, pretended to look for something deep inside, and quickly put it on the floor at his feet. When she reached his row she paused for a moment and smiled at Edwin, but then continued on. She took possession of a seat a few rows behind him on the opposite side of the car.
Disappointed, though at the same time very much relieved, Edwin quietly retrieved his bag back and replaced it on the seat beside him. He opened his book. He read the same paragraph over three times. She had smiled at him and he couldn't forget it. He didn't want to forget it. She was so beautiful. Who was she? Maybe she was an actress or a model. For the first time he wished he had paid more attention to the movies and television his sister watched. She would know who this mysterious woman was.
Edwin sat up in his seat and tried to causally look back in her direction. She was paging through a magazine, the dark glasses still hiding her eyes. She flipped a page and then looked up. Seeing Edwin, she smiled.
Edwin collapsed back into his seat nearly dropping his book to the floor. There he goes again, staring at her like a lovestruck child. Why had he looked back? She must think him to be a terrible person.
But she had smiled. That's right, she had seen him and then had smiled. A second time. A horrible thought raced through Edwin's mind. What if she had smiled at someone else? What if it hadn't been directed at him, that he had only imagined it?
Edwin inched up a little taller in his seat to look to the front of the train car. Several rows in front of him was a family with two young children getting settled for the ride. A few rows beyond them sat an older woman knitting, probably making something for a grandchild. To the side of her was a young couple, students most likely. None of them could be the recipient of the smile. The trajectory wasn't right. It had to have been for him.
Pleased, he slouched down and looked back. The slit between the seats was narrow but just wide enough he could see her clearly. She was paging through her magazine, never pausing more than a few seconds on a page. The dark glasses remained. Why hadn't she removed them? It made her so mysterious.
He sat back in his seat and opened his book but the words wouldn't come into focus. Had she kept her glasses on so as not to be recognized? What if she was a spy? Or maybe an international jewel thief? Was she on the run from the authorities? Or perhaps beginning a vacation too? Do spies take vacations?
An image filled Edwin's mind, one of an isolated tropical beach, the two of them alone on blanket in the sand, sipping exotic drinks filled with fruit and paper umbrellas. Two servants stand a discreet distance away, ready to wait on their every whim. She leans forward and kisses him on the cheek. This is the best vacation she has ever had, she tells him it is all because she had found him on the train. A gust of wind blows her hat high into the air. Edwin leaps to his feet to run after it. When he returns she is gone. A single red rose marks her spot on the blanket.
Another image came to him and another and another. She was in all of them, laughing, smiling, telling him how lucky she was to have met him.
The hours passed and their destination arrived too quickly. As the train slowed he found himself wanting to do something crazy. He would wait until everyone else had left then he would go up to her, say something clever, and ask her name. Maybe even ask her to dinner.
The train stopped with a sudden jerk and Edwin felt a hand grasp his shoulder. He glanced up. It was her, his mysterious woman.
"Thank you," she said. "I would have fallen if you hadn't been here."
She moved toward the exit, away from him. Edwin's mind was in a panic. His plans were crumbling. He must say something now.
She looked back over her shoulder, hesitated for a moment as if she might say something more to him, but smiled and removed her sunglasses. Her eyes were a brilliant blue that removed any courage Edwin had found to say something. He sat and said nothing. She waved and stepped down to the station platform.
In a rush Edwin gathered up his things. He threw the book into his bag and tried to stand only to be thrown back roughly into his seat, his seat belt clutched tightly around his waist. He fumbled with the buckle losing valuable seconds, knowing with each one he was letting her get farther away.
Then the realization hit him. It was too late. He had his chance and he didn't act. He froze. She was gone. Now he may never see her again.
He sat and waited, waited until the grandmother had gathered her knitting, the students their backpacks, and the family their various traveling supplies and all had left the train car before he made a move to the door.
Edwin spotted them the moment he stepped off the train. On the concrete platform just a few steps from where he stood was a pair of sunglasses. The frames were a deep blue, almost black, with a dark gray tint to the lenses that hid the wearer's eyes. She must have dropped them.
He bent down and retrieved them before someone hurrying by broke them. The station platform was very crowded at this time of day and he couldn't see very far into the crowd. If only he were taller. People pushed at him from all directions. He had no idea which way she had gone. Disappointed he slipped the sunglasses into the pocket of his sportcoat and moved toward the exit.
An arm grabbed his and he turned around to look into the bluest eyes he had thought he'd never see again.
"You found them. My sunglasses. How wonderful," she said. Her voice, soft, gentle, silenced all the world around him. "How can I ever thank you?"
Somewhere deep inside of him a voice struggled to get out.
"Coffee?" Had he said it aloud?
"I'd love to," she said. "I know the perfect place just a short walk from here."
She put her arm in his and together they walked out of the train station.
There was a small cafe a few blocks from the station. Edwin didn't say a word as they walked fearing he would say something stupid and spoil the perfect mood.
His mysterious woman guided him to a table outside by the road in the shade of blue awning. Once seated and she had given the waiter their order, two coffees black, she removed her sunglasses and set them on the table between them.
"Why do you wear them?" Edwin asked nodding to the sunglasses. "Your eyes, they are so beautiful, they should not be hidden."
"That's very sweet," she said and laid her hand on his. "I hadn't realized you were so charming. I'll bet back home you drive all the ladies mad. I'll have to keep my guard up."
Edwin felt his face redden.
"Are you an actress?" he asked.
"Once, there was a time when I thought I might, but I took a different path." She looked out over the road. "Can you keep a secret?"
He nodded but when she didn't turn to face him he said, "Yes."
Still watching the road she said, "I wear them to not draw attention to myself."
Edwin nearly laughed. Everything this woman did, every move, every breath screamed "Look at me." If you saw her in the simplest market or an eloquent gala affair there was no way she could hide in the background. Edwin remembered watching her at the train station, how the people parted to let her pass by.
Her laughter was sudden and sweet. "We both know that is not true. No, I wear them because they complete the package. The added mystery, well, it's almost expected in my line of work." She turned to Edwin. "You promised to keep my secret no matter what happens next."
All he could do was nod once again.
"Very good. I will tell you. I'm a thief."
This couldn't be happening to him. Nothing happened to him. Yet here he was sitting at a romantic roadside cafe with a mysterious and beautiful woman who had just declared that she was a thief. Should he tell the waiter? Should he call for the police? Should he just sit and watch her? His sister will never believe this.
"You must think I'm terrible, confessing to you, a total stranger, that I rob people for a living."
"No," was all he could say.
She looked back out over the road. This time something caught her eye. Sliding her chair back she stood and said, "I'm sorry. I have to leave. Something's come up."
Edwin stood. She wrapped her arms around him, encircling him, and kissed him on the cheek. "My hero," she whispered in his ear.
Before he could say anything that might keep her there for a second longer, she ran off, and waved down a passing taxi. Here long legs folded into the back seat. With a final wave in his direction, she was gone.
The last remnants of her presence lingered at the table and Edwin felt for the first time empty and very much alone. She was gone and he would never see her again. He didn't even know her name.
He waved to waiter for their check. When it came on a small silver platter he reached back to his back pocket for his wallet. But his wallet was gone. He looked under the table. It wasn't there. Had he left it on the train? Had it fallen out somewhere as they walked to the cafe?
He was about to retrace his steps back to the train station when he saw on the table a pair of sunglasses. The frames were a deep blue, almost black, with a dark gray tint to the lenses that hid the wearer's eyes.
Edwin sat down. He reached for the sunglasses and put them on.

the end

 I wrote this story for a contest in a magazine called The First Line. They supply the first sentence and you create the story that follows. The editor responded to my story with compliments on my writing. He really enjoyed it and almost went with it BUT he felt it was too much like the movie The Tourist starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. Funny thing is that at the time I wrote this story I had never heard of The Tourist. Now I have. Too bad, I like this story, but I can see a slim resemblance and think other editors might too. So it gets filed away.

No writing is wasted. Every time you do it, you better your craft.

I hope you enjoyed "How To Be Cool While Trying Very Hard." Please leave me a comment here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bipolar Red Wine

An engineering group we work with had a new voice mail system installed just a day or two ago. In a fit of technological one-up-manship their new system will transcribe your voice message and present it as a text message.

When I first heard this I thought it was great. Then I heard that my message had fallen victim to the bane of many innocent people, the spell checker.

Earlier in the day I had received an email from said engineering group with a cryptic red line drawn across the plan. I called asking about this red line

The text which was delivered stated that "Bill Bipolar" called and was asking about "the red wine".

I think their system needs some work.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Guilty Pleasures - There's An App For That

On Monday my favorite reality show, my favorite guilty pleasure, began its 4th season. What am I talking about? Why of course it's Ru Paul's Drag Race!

photo from

This is one amazing show. Not only is there sex, violence , and emotional backstabbing, but these contestants are some of the most creative people you've ever seen.

The opening show was called "Rupocalypse!" in which Ru Paul, Super Model to the World and the host and creative mentor, promised to take things up a notch this season and blow the roof off of the competition. And did she deliver. In this episode the contestants had to create a post-apocalyptic gown made only from the materials they could remove from past contestants all made up to look like zombies. Just a minute, let that one sink in a bit, we're talking about Zombie Drag Queens! (Laurie turned to me and say, "There ought to be a story or two in that." You know it!

Zombie Drag Queens. How could it get any better?

Yes, it did because the winner created one of the most startling and amazing outfits I have ever seen. It took the Drag Queen genre and turned it on its ear. This outfit was so different from anything the others tried. It was frighteningly wonderful. Elvira, one of the night's guest judges, adored it and said as only Elvira can, "It was something to die for."

New episodes are on LOGO every Monday night. Past clips, and full episodes can be seen at

Also there's a free app for your iPhone with news, photos, clips, and links to Twitter accounts for all the contestants.

Also also there is even a Drag Race fantasy league contest where you can win "great" prizes. I'm drafting my team later tonight.

Watch this show. Seriously Well, not so seriously, but you won't be disappointed.  
Did I mention Zombie Drag Queens!?


UPDATE 9:19 PM 2/1/12