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Friday, December 13, 2013


I know what you're thinking.  No story for today?  Really?  After that terrible conclusion?!  How could you not leave us hanging?

It's true, there will be no story for today.  Christmas is in full swing and it's our first Christmas in a house we actually care about.  So, of course, this means it's the first year I've tried to put up lights (which was a rather pitiful attempt).  They ended up on the garage today while the remainder of the house will remain unadorned.  I haven't been able to do it in the day, since I watch Addy and have been shopping constantly, and at night we've been reaching the balmy temperatures of 9 degrees... 2 degrees....  Fahrenheit of course, and WITHOUT wind chill factored in.  So today, when my wife came home early and we were 30 degrees with no wind, I headed out to the garage to hang the things!  The last time I tried, I discovered that our gutters have very special gutter covers that completely encapsulate the gutter and are welded into position, so that I was unable to put any light clips on the house at all.  Let's hope the off-brand stick-on clips I found will hold.

It has been quite a year for Christmas.  Addy hasn't been old enough to appreciate it until this year, so we're going full-force and it is TIRING.  I don't know how Santa does it.  A few elves (or at least Gru-type minions) might help.

On top of this, the deadline for the Dark Crystal is looming.  I've been trying to focus on it instead.  It is quite likely that I will not be able to give a normal update until the new year.

So, since you don't have a story to entertain you today, I will leave you with my all-time favorite Christmas carol.  Enjoy!  Hopefully I'll have something up next week, but we'll see.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Save Point - End Game

There was no hesitation in my heart or hand as I put the Save Point on the table in front of Maeva.

"I'm tired," I said.  Her eyes were so full of youth, energy, everything which had faded from my own long ago.

"What?  Is this why you invited me over?  Then go to bed earlier, silly."  Her lips pursed into a half-smile as she glanced down at the smooth object that sat on the kitchen table.  The low, romantic lighting made the Save Point seem somehow insignificant.

"No.  I'm tired of this.  Of secrets, of predictability.  And more than that, I'm unhappy."

The joy drained from her.  Even as I watched the hand of terror grip at her heart, I still found it remarkable how beautiful she was to me after all this time.  "What are you saying, Glenn?"  Her hand worked its way up to the side of her neck.  I'd seen that pose before.  It usually meant I would be using the Save Point soon.  But not this time.

"Mae, I'm not who you think I am.  I'm not even sure I know who I am any longer."

Her brow furrowed.  My hand reached into my pocket out of instinct, ready to load a save file, but instead my fingers wrapped around a box.  She was already picking up the device, turning it over in her hand as if it was the only thing keeping her from drowning.

"Where did all this come from?  We've been dating for a year.  How do I not know you?"

I sighed and leaned back in the chair.  I'd forgotten the old apartment, and found my attention wandering.   There were so many memories; things we'd owned together, things that defined our lives.  I noted the things that were missing which I would find so essential in the years to come.  It's funny how easily you forget.


My mind jumped back to the young, beautiful woman in front of me, and I smiled in spite of myself.  "Mae, that thing you're holding.  I stole it.  I don't even know how long ago.  It…  It lets me save a point in time, then return to it whenever I wish, in my own body, as if I'd never left it."

Her arm fell away from her neck and she rolled her eyes.  "Right.  You had me really worried there," she said and kicked me under the table gently.  "Is this some sort of game of yours?"

"In a sense.  It turns life into a game, I suppose."

"Oh?  And what sort of game is life?"  She wiggled in her seat and leaned against the table, putting her chin in her hand as she toyed with the device.  "Are you gonna tell me how I die?"

I shook my head.  "I've seen you die a hundred times, Mae.  I never got used to it."

"This game isn't fun, Glenn," she complained, her voice softening.

"No, I suppose it's not.  It's not fun when you never have any regrets, never make any mistakes.  I've grown old with you so many times, but it never felt real.  It was always just a game."

"Are you saying this, we, are just a game?" she asked as anger and pain crept into her voice.

"Not anymore.  Do you remember how you told me you didn't want someone that was perfect?"  She shook her head.  "Oh, I'm sorry.  I'd forgotten that that never happened.  Or it hasn't happened yet."

Her anger faded, and soon she was holding my hand and caressing the back of it with her thumb.  "Are you feeling ok, dear?"

"Yeah, I'm alright," I said, gripping her hand tightly.  "Mae, I've been thinking long and hard about this, and I know this is a big decision for you.  If you say no, I'll understand."

Her cheeks flushed and her breath caught in her throat.  "Y-yes?" she managed to squeak, the Save Point all but forgotten.

"I want to move to Haiti.  There's a group volunteering to build infrastructure, a school, houses…  and I'd love you to come with me."

The elation fell from Maeva like a bird hitting a reflective window.  "Haiti?"  I nodded.  "Y-you're not… proposing?" she asked me and gripped the Save Point in her fist until her knuckles turned white.

Somehow, it hadn't occurred to me that this was the night I proposed.  I pulled out the box in my pocket with a dumb-founded expression and then grinned.  "I suppose in a sense I am," I said and put the velvet box on the table.

"I… um…  Haiti?  Why Haiti?  How will we live?"

"Mae, I'm not lying about that thing you're holding.  This isn't a game or a joke.  I can't live my life like that anymore.  I've never been to Haiti, and neither have you.  I know people there need help, and I think we could help them.  It's… new.  It's risky.  It's life."

"I can't go to Haiti!  We don't speak Creole!  What if another earthquake hits?  What if we starve?  What about kids?"

Kids…  I didn't have the heart to tell her that we were never able to conceive.  "We'll manage.  I know we will."

She shook her head and pushed the jewelry box back over to me.  "Glenn, this is too much.  I can't…"

With a simple nod, I stood up and kissed her on the cheek.  "I've always loved you, but maybe I'm getting too old.  After a thousand years, perhaps I should give someone else a chance."  It wasn't the romantic farewell I'd imagined, but we'd had plenty of those before.  This was something different.  Without the Save Point, this was goodbye.

I'd made it to the airport terminal before she finally caught up to me, her high heels in one hand, the jewelry box in the other, and a smile on her countenance.  The Save Point was nowhere in sight.  She threw herself into my arms and, for the first time, I was truly happy.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Save Point - Load Game

I never imagined they'd find me.  There was no evidence, there were no witnesses.  I made sure to cut every link to me.  In fact, when I stole that Save Point, I thought it would be years before anyone realized it was missing.  I knew I was wrong when I started seeing glimpses of old coworkers at school.  It had taken months to fake my death – years if you considered how many times I used my Save Point.

After Maeva started to notice my changes, I had to use it less.  If I was perfect, she'd never go out with me; she made that abundantly clear.  At first I made a lot of mistakes on purpose.  In fact, I had formed an algorithm at that determined how much interest she showed in me versus  the number of times I used the device in a given week. Being perfectly imperfect was hard, but it was worth it.  In retrospect, I believe it was my limited use of the Save Point that led them discovering that I was still alive.

I was lost in thought as I walked to class.  This was going to be the day – the day I asked Maeva out.  But when a hand landed on my shoulder, I was startled into reality.

"What?" I asked.

"I said, long time no see, Devin.  Or should I say Glenn?"  The face next to mine was disturbingly close and held a twisted smile hostage. Her grey eyes displayed no real emotion.  "Are you enjoying yourself?" she asked.

"Catherine?"  My hand immediately went to my pocket.  I had to restart.

"Tsk.  Trying to use the Save Point already?  I thought you'd at least want to know why I'm here before resetting," she said with a roll of her eyes.  She was 5 years older than me, and it would have been a lie to say that I didn't once have a crush on her.  But that was before I met Maeva.

"Fine.  What are you doing here?  How did you find me?" I inquired, putting my hand in my pocket anyway. I just felt safer knowing the Save Point was there.

"I didn't find you.  We did.  It took a while.  We figured you'd be using the thing to avoid us, but you've been slipping, Glenn.  To be honest, I'm a bit disappointed."  She looked over me in disapproval and prodded my ribs with her finger.  I looked around at the other students making their ways to their various classes, glad that I didn't see anyone else I recognized.

"You're just here to gloat?  Cause I'm not going to let you have it back."  My finger had already begun to activate the Save Point.  All it needed now was a single tap and the world would reset to that morning.  Then I could avoid her all day.

"Not at all.  I don't want you to get hurt is all.  Did you think you stole the only prototype there was?  I've been through this conversation a hundred times already.  It always ends with you getting hurt.  And with your Save Point in my hands."

My hand paused.  "What are you saying?"

Catherine showed me her device, a Save Point that was smaller, easier to use.  On its sleek sapphire screen, she was already prepared to load a file.  "Mine will load faster than yours, every time."

It slowly dawned on me what would happen if she loaded first.  How many times had I gone through the same actions with Catherine just watching me?  How many times had I made a jerk of myself?  If we kept up like that, I know she'd eventually get the better of me, get what she was after.  "What is it you want?" I asked.

"We just want the Save Point back.  I don't want to see you get hurt again, so please, don't resist.  Besides, I'm sure you don't want that girl to know that you're a lying thief."

I walked with her away from the university crowds and down one of the many alleys that worked between the buildings.  "If yours is so much better, then why is it you want this one?  Worried I'll sell it?  Why would anyone give this power up?"  I narrowed my gaze at her accusingly, backing her against a brick wall.  She just looked away.  I could tell she was thinking up a lie.  "You don't want the device.  You want me.  You know I've got a save file from the moment I stole it, and you want it.  You need me to do something."

Catherine sneered.  "They told me you were smart," she muttered.  "Yes, we need your file.  And you're the only one it will work for."

"I'll delete the file.  Right now."  I tapped for a moment on the Save Point.  She just laughed.

"And I'll just reload to this morning again.  Devin, how's this.  If you don't agree, I will make sure you never see Maeva again."

"Maeva…" I sighed and hung my head.  "There's no way out of this, is there?"

"Now you're getting it."

"Fine.  What do you want me to do?" I asked, defeated.

"First, delete your save file from this morning.  There you go.  Now give me your Save Point.  I need to download the file into mine, then we can-"

I handed the Save Point to Catherine.  As I did, however, my fingers brushed over the surface.  When she took it, it began to whirr.

"Oh no you don't!" she said, but before she could activate her own Save Point, I slammed my body into hers.  She fell against the brick and gasped as I took the device back.  There was a bang, a searing pain, and then–


I was back at the beginning, the freshly stolen Save Point in hand.  All that time with Maeva, lost.  I sighed.  At least I knew what to expect, just as soon as I got out of this building in one piece.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Save Point - New Game

"Mmm, I love mushrooms," I said as I slid my brown plastic tray along the three steel rails at the university cafeteria, grabbing a piece of mushroom pizza.  I glanced over to the girl next to me, Maeva.  She scowled.
"Ugh.  Mushrooms are gross.  I could never eat a fungus."  She walked past me with a flick of her long red hair.  It might as well have been a middle finger in my face.
"Dammit," I muttered under my breath.  I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small round device that was mostly made up of a touch screen.  "Save Point" was printed on the back.  After a moment's fiddling, the screen prompted me.
-Load game?  Y/N-
With a smile I pressed the Y and heard the familiar high-pitched whirr while the world faded away.  Click!  When it came back, I was standing outside the cafeteria.  Maeva was just walking in.
Even seeing her for the hundredth time today, she still made my heart race.  This time, I'd make sure to get things right.


"Ewww.  What a waste of perfectly fine pizza.  I don't know how people can eat mushrooms," I said.  I gave her a sidewise glance to see her reaction.  A slight smile was all I got as a reward, but I'd take it.  Maeva and I made our way to the tables with full trays.  "Say, uh.. Maeva?  Mind if I sit with you?"
She shrugged.  "Sure.  It's a free country."
This was my chance.  My hand slipped into my pocket once we got situated.  By now, I knew the screen prompts on my Save Point by heart.  Just a moment later and I had a quick save.
"So have you started that assignment yet?" I asked her.
"Which one?  The term paper?  Hell no; it's not due for a month!"
"Oh, well, I was wondering if you'd like to go to the library together and study for it."
"What, you think I don't know how to study?" she said and leaned back, her arms crossed over her chest.
"Huh?  N-no!  That's not it at all!  I just thought that… aww dammit."  Whirrrr….  click!


"…Hell no, it's not due for a month!"
"Yeah, me neither.  Got any ideas?"
She just shrugged and started poking at her banana pudding like it was trying to escape.  We ate on in silence for a while.
"So, I was wondering, if you aren't busy, would you like to-"  I reached for my pie, but accidentally brushed my hand against my drink and poured it all over her tray.
Whirrr… click!


"So I was wondering, would you like to go see a movie together?" I asked.
"Sorry, I don't go to the movies," Maeva said.
Whirrr.. click!


"I don't like clubs."


"I can't dance."


"I can't stand bowling."


"I'm afraid of heights."
I was at a loss.  I'd tried everything I could think of, but it seemed none of my dating sims had prepared me properly.  "Well, how about-"
"I'm busy, Devin.  Look…  Let me ask you something?"  This was new.  She leaned forward with an expression of hurtfulness in her eyes.  "What happened to you?  You used to try so hard at things; you used to have so much passion.  I remember when you tried to impress your friends by bringing your guitar to school, but you could barely get through 'Mary Had a Little Lamb.'  Even though they laughed at you, you didn't give up.  You still brought it every day.  And now, a month later, you're some kind of virtuoso?  You get all As, yet you never seem to study.  When we first met, you blushed whenever a girl even smiled at you.  Now all the girls are tripping over themselves to get to you and you don’t blink an eye.  Tell me, why is it you have time to ask me out?  I'm swamped with homework!  How can you be finished with this project already?  It was assigned a week ago."
"But I haven't-"
"I saw it on your computer yesterday when you were busy flirting with those girls in class.  It's fine if you want to flirt.  I'm a big girl, Devin.  I can do things on my own.  I don't need a guy who will wipe me off my feet and do everything for me and be so.. perfect.  I want someone who will stumble with me as we travel together.  Do you understand?  Once, for a short while, I wondered if you'd be that guy, but whatever happened to you in the last few weeks has really changed you.  You're too perfect."
I was stunned.  I let the Save Point go and slipped my hand from my pocket to the table.  "I didn't know you felt that way, Mae."
"You never asked."  She went back to eating.
When she finished, I stood up and offered to take her tray.  "I'm sorry I upset you.  I only wanted to impress you," I told her.
"If you still want to impress me, then try to get to know me.  I feel like you're just trying to… find some cheat codes to my heart or something.  It's gonna take more than that.  Let me get to know the real you.  I want to see my blushing Devin again, not this ladykiller.  Awww, see?  There's a blush!"
I gave her an awkward smile and walked with her towards the exit to the cafeteria, putting the trays down on the rack.  "I guess I'll see you in class tomorrow, then?" I asked her.
"Yeah, see you tomorrow, Devin."  We waved and I watched her go off to her next class. I fumbled with the Save Point in my pocket.  Had it killed my passion?  Was it cheating at life?  If I kept using it, would she notice?  When I pulled it from my pocket to power it down, the screen flashed into life.

-New Game? Y/N-

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Michiana Mom's Group vs sexism

I've been trying to find a group that has regular playdates for my daughter, playdates with kids her age.  Ever since we moved, she hasn't seen any of her old friends and hasn't really made any new ones that are her age.  This may be my fault, but I am trying to remedy it.

I knew this was going to be a problem when I was out with her at the grocery store the other day.  A family passed by with 3 kids, one of whom was her age.  Now, I thought she would go ballistic because they were in a kid's shopping cart (the one with the little car on front) and she usually goes crazy if she sees anyone else in one.  This time, however, she pointed at the kids and started to shout, "Friends!" over and over.  She wanted me to follow them, and even pointed out where they were in the store the rest of the trip.  It really broke my heart.

I decided to do a little digging.  I'm looking into the Notre Dame Women's group, which sometimes has playdates.  I'm not sure how frequently, however, but they are definitely on my list.  There are a few other moms groups in the area, though one stuck out as head-and-shoulders above the others.  The Michiana Mom's Group on meetup.com had good reviews and sounded like the kind of place Addy would like.  Kids below 5, regular playdates (8-10 a week!), family outings... perfect!  I'm sure she'll have a lot of fun there and make a bunch of new friends.  There's just one problem.


Apparently, The Michiana Mom's Group can't handle a stay-at-home dad.  This is the charming (insulting) email they sent me explaining why I was not allowed into their group:

Thank you for your interest in our Michiana Moms Group. Our group mostly caters to 5 year olds and younger and while our group does have activities planned for the whole family to be involved in and we do have dads join in on occasion at public events, our group voted that it is just for moms (as we encourage site breastfeeding, private home playdates, post and pre-natal care discussions, not to mention some cultural restraints with men outside the family, etc.).

We hope there are no hard feelings and want you to know that there are some more parent groups in the area on Meetup as well as Bigtent.com and we hope you are able to find what you are looking for. Again, thank you for your interest, we wish you the best of luck.

This, by the way, is printed on their "about" page: We strive to make our group an inclusive, safe and friendly place where we and our children can come together to play and learn, share the common experience of parenthood, and support the neighborhoods in which we live.

This does not sound inclusive or friendly, and it most certainly isn't supporting the neighborhood I live in.  I don't know if I should be more insulted that they think I cannot be mature enough to handle breastfeeding and natal discussions as an adult or the fact that they think this email is friendly and inclusive.  I tried to respond to them, but all my emails are flagged by Meetup.com's spam filter and never sent.

This is walking a very fine line between community support and sexism.  That's right, sexism against a man.  I understand why a group of people, be they men, women, children, or what have you, would want to have a place where only they could meet, a place they could talk freely and openly, a place without judgement or stress, a place of acceptance.  And, I understand that mothers may want to take their kids to that place, especially stay-at-home moms whose kids are not in daycare.  I ask, however, why "mom" is not "parent" in a situation like this.  Let's face it, 90% of our experiences are the same.  Men are capable of being stay-at-home parents, of being nurturers.  We go through the same things every parent does.  I change far more diapers than my wife does.  I'm the one dealing with potty training (and could use help).  Addy comes to me for comfort more than to mommy.  There are very few things that are different, such as breastfeeding.  And there's a really good chance we don't care if you breastfeed - not because we're perverted, but because it's just part of nature and being a parent.  The Le Leche League goes after businesses that tell women they aren't allowed to breastfeed in public.  It seems backwards to me that a mom's group would kick a man out because they're worried about it.

But look at the victim here.  It is not me.  I don't care that they wouldn't include me.  It's my daughter.  She's the one who has to wait now until I can find a less close-minded play group.  She's the one who is not getting the chance to make friends with their kids.  I wouldn't be in the group because I like hanging out with moms.  I would be there to help Addy make friends.  I want her to get into a regular schedule of playdates.  Sure, I'd love some adult conversations once in a while, or some time where I'm not cleaning the house/cooking or preparing meals/acting as the only object of Addy's attention/writing.  But I am used to this being my schedule, I can live with it if I have to.  I can't live with knowing that Addy's best and only friend is currently a cat.  I try to take her to the playground (despite the cold), but she's either alone or overwhelmed by rowdy boys.  I try to take her to events at the library, but she's usually either too old or too young (what a fun day it was when we had to cancel Addy's special treat because she was too young to celebrate Mickey's birthday).  Our outings consist of walks, me chasing after her while she's on a bike, playing together in the yard, going to an empty or way-too-crowded park, visiting the zoo (which is now closed for the season) or a museum (which are small around here and not worth visiting more than once a month, if that), and going on errands together.  Perhaps I just need to find more things to do, perhaps I'm just missing something.  I sure wish someone would point it out.

As I look at the other meetup groups for parents (which aren't nearly as local), I notice a trend.  All the members are women.  I have a feeling I will have to fight tooth and nail to find a group for us if this is the case everywhere.  Sexism, believe it or not, exists against men as well as women.  And, like in all cases, it affects everyone.

It's depressing knowing your kid has no friends.  It's more depressing knowing you're the cause.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Unnatural Selection

Never a dull night.  Nick and I were called out to a distant corner of the preserve last night after an alarm went off.  The moon was full, casting a silver pallor on the snowy ground so bright we didn't need our headlights.  I always hated how the alarm system was built.  When it went off, it meant we had 5 miles of fencing to inspect.  Usually we found nothing more than a downed tree or, worse, a section of rust.  But this time, the cut and twisted wires greeted us in plain sight.  There's something about full moons.

Ditching the pick-up was our only option.  The trail was impossible to see from it.  Even with us following the trail on foot, it quickly disappeared into the powdered northern scrub.  We tried to find it again, but tracking at night is never easy, particularly when the snow is loose and easily carried by the wind to cover footsteps.

"What was that?" Nick asked, turning.  He pulled his rifle off his shoulder and crept into the underbrush.  I followed suit.  We crouched at the edge of a clearing and peered through pine needles.

""It's just old Jimbo," I said with relief.  Jimbo is my name for him, the leader of the pack, the alpha.  "Oh, and he brought some friends shuffling along, too.  I didn't realize there were so few left."

"I'm sure the others are nearby, Simon.  Shh!  Over there."  Nick pointed the muzzle of his rifle off to the side of the clearing.  A small group of high-school kids stumbled in.  Despite their attempts to keep quiet, they quickly attracted the attention of our endangered residents.  A young man in a blazer giggled as he threw a can of cheap beer at Jimbo.  Of course, cheap beer was always involved when kids came snooping.

"What are they doing?" Nick asked.  The young man drew closer to Jimbo, taunting him.  Another held up a smartphone to record the event.  I put my hand on Nick's rifle to lower it.

"They're just being stupid.  It's called 'zipping.'  They try to see who can get closest without getting bitten."

"Shouldn't we stop them?  Don't they know how dangerous this is?"

I nodded.  "Of course.  That's why they do it.  Let's go, but, keep the shooting to a minimum."  We got back to our feet and crunched through the snow just as Jimbo reached out for the intruder.  "Hey!  What're you kids doing?" I yelled in my most authoritative tone, like a parent scolding a toddler.

The startled kids stood in place like gazelle on high alert.  Jimbo was slow – all of them were when they got as old as he was – but he still managed to grab the idiot's arm.

"Crap.  Kid, move!" I yelled and ran towards them.  I could only hope to get to the zombie before it bit him.

"Do I shoot it?" Nick asked breathlessly as he ran behind me.

"You can't.  They're endangered!  They're protected!"  By the time I got to the kid, Jimbo was already on top of him.  I pulled the zombie off of him and looked him over.  No blood.  "You alright, kid?  That was one of the stupidest things I've ever seen someone do," I said as I helped him get back to his feet, but kept a firm grip on his shoulder.  "You know it's illegal to trespass on government land."  He nodded.  Nick was doing a good job keeping the zombies at bay as I walked them all back towards the hole in the fence.  "I can have you arrested.  The Unnatural Preserve is here to keep the last of the zombie outbreak safe from punks like–"

A gun went off in the distance.  Nick and I looked at each other for a moment, then rushed into action.  "Get out of here, now.  Or I will have you all arrested," I called out as we ran to the pick-up and jumped in.  In moments we were speeding towards the sound of the gun.

"Poachers?" Nick asked.

"Probably.  They like to take their teeth and fingers and sell them to rich people in China.  Then there are those who want revenge for loved ones who died in the outbreak."  The truck crashed through the trees to the scene of two men and a group of zombies.  It was the rest of the herd.  They'd been captured in a net.  One of the poachers was hunched over the female zombie I call Sandy, his knife drawn.  I knew that there couldn't be more than about 10 of the zombies left in the preserve, maybe the world, and now there would be one less.

The men looked up when they heard us barreling towards them.  They pulled out their own rifles and began to open fire.  Nick steered the car towards one while I jumped from it and struck the one with the knife.  The world was a blur as we struggled over his gun next to Sandy's body. I felt a stabbing pain shoot up my spine as he kicked me hard in the shin, but it wasn't enough to stop me.  As soon as I wrested the gun from his hands, the poacher pushed away from me and ran for the fence.

"Simon, are you OK?" Nick asked as he backed up.  The other man, it seemed, made his escape as well.

"He got me in the shin pretty good.  It might be broken.  Take me to town," I told him and crawled into the back of the truck.

The truck bounced along as we headed back to the city.  I inspected my leg.  Of course.  It was an infection.  Sandy hadn't been killed after all, and now I was to be her next victim.  By the time we get to town, I'm sure I'll have turned into one.  But I'm glad, to be honest.  There are a lot of people in town.  Unprepared people.  Jimbo won't be alone for long.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ultreia Ink: Write Night

I had the wonderful fortune to go to and read at Ultreia Inc.'s writing event tonight, Ultreia INK: Write Night.  It is located here in South Bend at a place called LangLab.

So, Ultreia Ink was awesome.  It is a very cool not-for-profit group based in SB that does what it can to support the arts– every kind of art.  LangLab is a building that they frequently use, and LangLab is the most incredible place I've ever been to.  It's an old factory that is filled with open rooms that house artists doing things like pottery, sculpture, paper-making, music recording, wood-working, music-making, dancing, etc.  There are spaces for everything - from a green room for bands to a coffee roaster to a place for people to crash to a place to keep the remnants of a beloved hometown shop.  My inner child wanted to use the building for hide-and-seek or laser tag.  The dumpster-diver in me wanted to rifle through all the old electronics and windows and miscellany.  And the artist inside wanted to use the building itself for art.  The building seemed to go on forever.  Sometimes when I peeked into a room, I wouldn't see piles of computers or pipe holes peering down on the floor below.  I would see the potential of the space.  Of the things that have been accumulated.  But, more importantly, I would see the potential of the people that gravitate towards it.

Of course, they do more than just house artists.  Every week they have bands play.  There is an art gallery that displays local art.  There's a make-shift library in what is currently a make-shift salsa dance studio.  Yoga classes are taught on Wednesday nights.  Ultreia also hosts events, like the one I just went to.  It is the kind of place that makes me want to offer what time and talent I can to help ensure its continued success and further its reach into the community.  So, in short, LangLab is the epitome of the modern "underground" art scene.  I only hope I can contribute more.

The event itself was very nice.  My priest showed up, and it turns out we have a lot more in common than I thought (and, trust me, we already had a lot in common).  We enjoyed the Zen Cafe coffee, had wonderful conversations with all sorts of people, and, of course, listened to great compositions.  There were 10 readers, plus 2 impromptu competitors, making a total of 12 pieces.  I enjoyed all the writers, though a few stuck out in my mind as particularly excellent (and no, I was not one of the excellent ones.  If you know me, you know I always think my writing is sub-par).  My favorite would be hard to pin down, but it would be between the poem about Muhammad Ali (entitled, "What's my name, fool?" by Lonnie Ray Atkinson) and the short poem by Chad Morgan without a name:

I don't write poems
I just write facebook statuses that have gone out of control.

(I'm sorry if I got it wrong, Chad, but I quite enjoyed all of your pieces!)
The only gripe I really have about the event is that the 3-minute time limit was not strictly adhered to... or even remotely adhered to.  I would probably not have edited my piece down if I had known I could take more time on it.  Of course, I just now realize that I forgot to give them my feedback card. Oh no!  That means I'm going to have to visit again and drop it off.  Deary me, whatever shall I do?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Current events

I will be reading "Three in the Morning" at an event called Ultreia, INK: Write Night.  It will be on Tuesday November 12th.  The event starts at 7:30 and is located at LangLab (1302 High St., South Bend, Indiana).  Feel free to come and listen if you're in the area.  Or  you could participate!  There's also going to be an impromptu writing competition!  I am thrilled that I was chosen to read, and I can't wait to share my story with others.

I would also like to remind you all to please go vote for me on this Halloween contest here.  My story is "Medical Power of Attorney."  He also has fixed the problems with the stories' texts getting messed up.  :)

Last month was a personal best for hits here.  I was just a few shy of 1000 readers, and the readers to my Deviant Art page more than made up the difference!

My contest entry for The Dark Crystal is nearly half done (rough draft at least).  I had to delete a large section of it because one of the characters went off-script and it turned out to not work.  Actors...
I have decided that after I have finished this entry, I will look for some physical publications to send some short stories to, as well as some online ones.  I can't wait!  I will be keeping you updated as to what my research unveils.

Friday, November 1, 2013


There are three rules that every liar should follow.  Rule number 1: Always be confident.  Rule number 2: Maintain a certain level of ambiguity.  Rule number 3: A spoonful of the truth will go a long way.  Obey these rules and you'll soon have the world at your feet.  Of course, it is the unspoken fourth rule that is most important; don't get caught.
Being a professional liar is hard.  It takes sharp wits and a sharper tongue.  You can never stay in one place too long, so you're always trying to build up your clientele without attracting too much attention.  After all, if everyone knows that you lie for a living, no one will trust what you say.  And if you're fingered, the best case scenario is usually jail.  That's why, when Tercelin Andrews walked into my life, I demanded payment up front.  He was a politician, the mayor of some shit-hole town nearby, and very good at spinning any story that might hurt his career.  I was confused at first.  Why would a politician need a professional liar?  That's when I found out about his side job.
Terc had managed a small business that sold contraband under the table.  Drugs, weapons, even people.  Now that his face was plastered all over the news over some political scandal, the business wanted him.  Thankfully, I was able to contact them before things got out of hand.

"Mr. Spitz," the sharply-dressed man said.  I had to correct him.
"Please, call me Ben."
"Mr. Spitz, do you mean to tell me that Tercelin Andrews is not Daniel Barryl, the same man who walked away with 100 grand ten years ago?"
"That's precisely what I'm saying," I told him.  Terc opened his mouth to talk, but I quickly interrupted him.  "Ten years ago, my client was a student of law at a prestigious university."
"Which university?  Where?" asked the woman next to him.
I did not hesitate.  "The Martin Institute in Jefferson, Georgia."
"We have found no records of such a place," the man said.
Terc again tried to speak, but a quick kick under the table silenced him.  "Of course not.  It burned down years ago.  Sadly, the fire was started in the records department by a disgruntled student, so all the records were lost."
 The woman pulled out her phone and started to type.  The internet, both an ally and a foe.  The man continued.  "That may be, Mr. Spitz, but we have analyzed photographs of Mr. Andrews next to photographs of Mr. Barryl and the two match to an accuracy of one in 500 thousand.  How do you explain that?"
"There are 300 million people in the United States alone.  That means 600 Americans would also fit your profile."  I hate being on the defensive, and statistics is the worst kind of lying.  It was time for offense.  "Why are you after this Mr. Barryl?" I asked.  "If he owes you that much money, surely you would have requested police presence."
"That is not your concern, Mr. Spitz.  Your only concern should be proving that your client is not Daniel Barryl.  Onto the next item," he said.  "We have copies of Mr. Andrews' campaign finances and the numbers do not add up."
Easy.  "Mr. Andrews has received numerous donations from anonymous sources.  Now, unless you have some real evidence, we will be leaving.  Any further accusations will be met with appropriate-"
"Sir, the Martin Institute did burn down," the woman said.  "In 1942."  All eyes turned to me.
"Well I…"  I had no words.  Instead, I jumped to my feet and pulled Terc to the door.  We had made it outside before a large hand pushed me to the ground.  Terc just kept running.  Another hand raised high in the air and slammed down into my back hard.  Soon the image of Terc getting into his car vanished into stars.  Another heavy blow.  Tires screech as they pull out of the parking lot and down the road.  Again, the hand starts to descend.
"Woah, woah, woah!  Hold up there, Ted!  I think he's gone!" The hand stopped.
"You alright, Stan?  I didn't mean to hit you so hard."
"Yeah, I'm okay.  God you're strong.  But it looked good , right?  Sure convinced me," I said as he pulled me off the ground and helped me stand.  After rubbing my back, I pulled off the prosthetic nose and brow.
"Oh yeah, he's long gone.  I doubt he'll be looking for you anytime soon."  The man and woman joined us outside.
"He's our man, alright," she said.  "As per our agreement, we'll give you a week to get out of here before we act."
The man sniggered.  "Even if he pays us, we'll probably still release the story.  No one crosses us and gets away with it."
"I'm glad I was able to help your business.  Sorry, but my friend and I better get going.  Our flight is in an hour."  Without a further goodbye, we walked away from the pair and around the corner.
A police cruiser passed by, then another.  Soon sirens were blaring at the old office space behind us.  He grinned at me as I took out my contacts, turning my eyes blue.  The both of us started shedding our clothes as we walk.  His hair came off, followed by a false chin.  I gave a sigh of relief as I reached under my shirt and finally unbound my chest.  Padding slipped out and fell to the ground.  "Well that was fun.  Who are we going to bust next?" I asked in my real voice and took off my wig.  It felt wonderful to let my hair down.
"I dunno, dear.  Maybe we should lay low for a while.  I'm tired of all this subterfuge."

I looked up at my husband and elbowed him.  "You're such a bad liar."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween Contest/Halloween Origins

Hello everyone.  This post, I will admit, is blatantly an attempt to get myself a few votes for a short story of mine on a halloween contest!  I would greatly appreciate your vote for "Medical Power of Attorney" here.

However, just pushing my work leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.  I want to provide a little something for your time.  So, here is a brief history of Halloween!  I know that plenty of people who do not hail from the United States simply do not understand the purpose of this holiday.  Is it just an excuse to dress up, make a fool of yourself, and get candy?

Well, in a sense.  But it has a much more devious origin.  Now, I'm no expert, and I'm sure you could do some research and prove that what I'm saying here is wrong, but this is my understanding of its origins.  (Yes, I know, I usually actually research this stuff, but I'm a bit pressed for time here.)

Halloween is a sort of portmanteau of "All Hallow's Eve" (Hallow E'en = Holy Evening).  Why is it Holy?  Well, because...  maybe a little more background is needed.

Originally, the Gaelic peoples celebrated the end of harvest at Samhein, which is halfway between the fall equinox and winter solstice (that is to say, the change between number of daylight and night time hours is greatest at this time of year).  Samhein, pronounced "s-ow-in", was supposed to be the day when the world of the spirits was closest to ours.  Often the dead would return home. Feasts would take place where they were beckoned, with places set at the table for them.  This is where mummers started (which continues into Yule/Christmas).  Mumming is, essentially, dressing up and acting out certain scenes in exchange for food.  That's right, Christmas caroling and trick-or-treating are two parts of the same practice.  They would often decorate gourds or dress up inanimate objects to scare away the evil spirits, which was sometimes symbolized by the mummers.

When the Christian church was trying to take hold in Western Europe, it decided that it needed to adopt certain major festivals as its own, or at least put religious festivals near the gaelic ones so that it would be easier for the people to convert.  To be a counterpart to Samhein, they created All Saint's Day on November 1st and All Soul's Day on November 2nd (both of which are still celebrated).  Now, back in that time, it was common practice for the day to begin when we would consider to be the night before (the eve).  This is why we HAVE Christmas Eve!  So, All Hallow's Eve is essentially the start of All Saint's Day.  The customs of the gaelic, however, were strong enough to leak into All Saint's Day's customs, so Halloween has held onto some of them.  The modern version of halloween is, however, fading.

Nowadays, most kids go to the mall or to "trunk-or-treat" in a sort of "gimme candy" mentality.  The spirit of going to neighbors to scare away the evil spirits in exchange for food (trick-or-treating) is mostly gone in some areas.  We *do* still carve pumpkins, which are tastier and larger than gourds (and more distinctly American).  And there are still parties, though bonfires aren't that common.  There has been a recent resurgence of Samhein in some areas.  I can only hope it spreads.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


In case you were not aware, I have a mirror profile over on Deviant Art.  I post up my short stories on there in an attempt to increase my audience.  In fact, I've also started posted to Tumblr, so combined with Facebook, FridayFlash.org, Google+, and Twitter, I have a pretty decent internet presence.  Over time I hope to see my audience increasing to even greater numbers!

Deviant Art has some communities which will accept submissions and show them off.  It's a good way to get your art out to a larger audience.  But they also have something similar that's sort of built-in to the system: Daily Deviations.

There are moderators, or judges, for each type of artwork (all of literature is lumped together to be judged by one of 4 people).  If you or someone else submits your art to them, they will look it over and determine whether or not to feature it for a day as a DD.  Most art doesn't make it, and a few times the judges will give you some feedback.  If you make it, lots of people will get to see your art (but you won't be eligible for a DD again for 6 months)!

Today, Sunday the 27th of October, my story was one of the Daily Deviations.  In particular, this story.  Suddenly I go from having at most 10 views a day to nearly 100!  And comments, glowing comments that have me grinning from ear-to-ear!  I swear, this is dangerous; it'll give me a big head!

So, I wanted to thank neurotype for accepting Three in the Morning, as well as everyone who enjoyed reading it!  It is one of the most thrilling and joyous things for me to know that other people like my work and are entertained by it!  If you are here on my blog because of DA, welcome!  I hope you will stay and watch me pick at my brain for a while!

I also would like to welcome anyone and everyone from the South Bend NaNoWriMo group who has discovered me here.  I'm very grateful to have the chance to write with and get to know you all!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Medical Power of Attorney

"I bet you're wondering what you're doing here," the voice said.  Mark tried to open his eyes, but his world remained enveloped in darkness.  The only sounds he heard were the familiar sounds of a hospital room: the rhythmic beeping of a heart monitor, a respirator, and of course the indistinct, male voice.  "Well, it's simple, Mark.  You're now my patient."

He tried to remember what had happened.  The shifts in the ER all started to run together year after year.  He recalled waiting on a car accident victim to arrive and then… nothing.  He was here, listening.

"It's amazing what a little medical knowledge can do.  Just a little bit of drug A can cause a seizure.  A little of drug B and you lose complete control of your skeletal muscles.  But you know what's really amazing?  Lawyers."

Mark tried to open his eyes again.  A hazy light slowly filled his vision, but everything appeared to him as blurs.  The voice was more distinct now.  Mark realized that whatever had happened to him was starting to subside, whether that was a concussion or something more sinister.

"Do you remember, Mark?  Ten years ago, when you killed my mother?  Oh, sure, you said she was a lost cause, but I know my mother.  She was strong, she was a fighter."

Mark's head rolled to the side.  He vaguely became aware of waves of pressure on his chest.  He'd never felt what it was like to be on a respirator before.  And there was something else.  Pain.  It started as little more than a tickle, then sank into a deep ache in his bones.

"Oh, you're finally coming to, hmm?  Well, that's good.  I don't want you to miss any of what I have in store for you.  You see, I've been learning ever since that day.  I knew that someday I'd have you.  The years of schooling, the debt, it would all be worth it.  And befriending you, oh that was the best part!"

Mark felt a sharp pain in his belly, followed by warmth flowing into his chest.  His side began to swell.  But now he knew it was friend of his.  This wasn't an accident.

"I never expected you to actually sign over your Medical Power of Attorney to me.  That was truly my finest hour, though I have a feeling this next one will be up there, too."  The voice was clear as a bell now, and very close.  Mark wanted to cry when he realized who it was, Jonathan Bieser.  Jon was a groomsman at his wedding and a sympathetic ear at his wife's funeral.  Jon was the kind of guy everyone loved.  They had worked together for years.  Jon was often his anesthesiologist.

"First, I knew I had to get rid of Ellie.  So I experimented on her with the same drugs I'm using on you.  That's how I learned how much to give so you still feel everything, and how much to give you so it'll look like a heart attack.  But I'm not going to give you a heart attack, Mark.  That's too easy.  What shall I do with you, hmm?  Let's look at your medical charts."

The pain from his belly took second stage to the unbidden fear Mark felt.  He tried to move an arm, an eye, a finger, anything, but his entire body felt like it had been detached from his brain.

"Oh look, it says here you have appendicitis," Jon said as he scribbled something onto a paper in Mark's chart.  "Tsk tsk tsk, that could be fatal, especially for someone in a coma like you.  I guess we'll just have to take that out.  Oh, and of course I'll approve of the surgery.  As your medical attorney, I'll approve any and all surgeries to save my dear friend's life.  Oh, and look here, we won't even need to anesthetize you.  It seems you've already been prepped."

Mark's heart started to race.  He put all his concentration into moving his arm.  There was an emergency button somewhere next to the bed.  If he could just get someone to see that he wasn't in a coma, he'd be safe.  His arm moved and fumbled with the small beige controller beside him.

"Oh, no you don't!  We can't have you waking up now, can we?"  Jon plied his hand away from the controller.  A moment later, another sharp pain, this time in his arm, told Mark that he had lost.  "There we go.  It'll be time for your emergency surgery soon, doctor.  You go have fun while I think up of more ways to torture that body of yours.  So many organs to play with."

Sunday, October 20, 2013


It has been a while since I've made a religious post, but as a religious person I feel I should be able to write about my faith on my blog.  This post is also about grammar and etymology, so I'm pretty certain I just lost the rest of my audience.  C'est le vie.  I completely understand if you do not wish to read on, and I am in no way evangelizing.  If you do read on, I hope this piece helps you in your own spiritual journey, whatever that may be.  (Also, my religious posts will likely remain rare.)

If you are a Christian, you (with a few exceptions) should believe in the Holy Trinity.  The Holy Trinity states that there are three distinct persons in one God.  This is one of the Mysteries of Faith, because we do not completely understand it.  But there are some interesting doctrines and dogmas that may shed some light on the relationships between the three.

Today in church our priest was talking about the stewardship committee, which has decided to address stewardship in terms of Imagination, Inspiration, and Ignition.  Imagine what we can do together.  What inspires you?  What is it that gets you going, that you are passionate about?  Each of these words, Imagine, Inspire, and Ignite, has an interesting root, but "inspire" is the one that interested me the most.  Spirare is latin for "to breathe," so inspiring is breathing into, as in breathing life into.  Other interesting words that share this root?  Conspire (to breathe together), expire (to breathe out), perspire (to breathe through), aspire (to breathe on or after).  It's a pretty awesome word.  In a sense, breath is life.

Two other words share this root.  The first is "spirit."  Now, I've heard it told that the Holy Spirit is the love that the Father and the Son share for each other.  It is the Holy Spirit that breathed life onto the Earth and inspired the Apostles at Pentecost (thus mirroring God giving Moses the 10 Commandments, as they are both celebrated on the same day and both celebrate the new life of their religions).  Catching any themes here?  In 325, the Council of Nicaea had to combat a growing number of doubters, gnostics, blasphemers, and sacrileges.  To do this, they created the Nicene Creed, which sums up the core beliefs of the Christian Faith.  And in this, they claim that God the Father is the Creator, that God the Son is Begotten (not made) of the Father, and that the Holy Spirit (the giver of life) Proceeds from the Father and the Son.  "Begotten" and "Proceeds" are very specific terms, chosen to show that the Son and Holy Spirit were in the beginning with the Father, that they are not dependent on the others, that they are not created.  There is another word that they use to describe the relationship between the Holy Spirit and his counterparts.

Spiration.  Spiration is defined as the action of breathing, that necessary thing to life.  It is also defined as both the act of God in breathing life into others and the manner in which the Holy Spirit is related to the Father and Son.  So you could say that The Holy Spirit is the breath between the Father and Son, the life between them.  Their conspiring.  So, put together, the Holy Spirit is the breath and life between the Father and Son, and the love shared between them.  Love and life and breath all together.  This may  give you a glimpse into what God means.

The Holy Spirit is not as venerated, it seems, as the Father and Son.  After all, the Father is the one who created all things, rained down fire and brimstone, and gave us the 10 Commandments.  The Son is the one who gave us new life, who raised himself from the dead, and who opened the Gates of Heaven.  The Spirit...  put tongues of fire on the heads of the Apostles, but that is about it.  It seems the Spirit isn't very active, or at least he is subtle in his actions, so there's less to attribute to him (even though it could be argued that we are currently living in the time of the Holy Spirit).  Sure, April is the month dedicated to him, and 1998 was  an entire year dedicated to him, but I feel the Holy Spirit is underrated.  He is the breath that stokes the fires of our hearts and minds, who tempers our thoughts and wills, and who inspires us to do God's work.

So, I urge you to think on this, pray, and take a moment to Breathe.