Who had the cancer?

An interesting phenomenon seems to have developed about my FridayFlash, "Romance... With Lasers". If you haven't read it, go do so, then answer me this:

Who had the cancer? The man or the woman?

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#FridayFlash: Romance... With Lasers

Romance... With Lasers

by Tony Noland

She ran her fingernails across his chest, idly playing with the stands of gray among the black. Well, no, she thought, not idly. Janine wanted to let Skip rest a bit, but also to stay awake. He was the best man in the world, but he was a man after all, and liable to fall asleep after sex. Neither of them were as young as they used to be. She knew that he needed to pace himself, especially these last few years.

Gently, she tugged his chest hair and dragged the edge of a fingernail across one of his nipples. Under her hand, she felt his goosebumps rise, and his hips twitch, just a bit. No, she smiled, this was just a breather, not the end of the evening. She wanted him, needed him to be ready for a third round. It was their last night together for a long time, and she wanted as much of him as her body could hold. Everything about him was precious to her and if she could, she would be saturated with him. His laughter, his enthusiastic (if not terribly graceful) dancing, the way he had always been so patient with the kids...

The tears started again. No, goddamn it, no! She'd sworn to herself that she wouldn't ruin the evening this way, that she'd be strong. Her eyes closed tight as she fought to hold them back. She felt his arm shift on her back as he pulled her into a closer hug. When he lifted his other hand from her arm to stroke her hair, she lost the fight and wept. She took her hand from his chest and covered her face, shaking with her sobs. Tears ran down her nose, matting his chest hair. It brought out the smell of him, the smell of his skin that she knew so well and would miss so much.

She knew he was making comforting noises, shushings and murmurings of love and kindness that she could hear through the sound of the blood pounding in her ears and her own hoarse breathing. After a bit, he shifted under her, twisting away from her. She sat up to let him go, then realized that he was only reaching for the box of tissues on the bedside table. He turned back with not just one tissue for her, but had brought the whole box.

"I thought you might need more than one," he said.

A fresh flood of tears made her double over and she clutched at his hand, pressing it between hers. She kissed his fingers, held them against her cheeks and kissed them again and again. After a bit, she let go so she could wipe her eyes and blow her nose. It took half a dozen tissues. When she finished, he leaned forward and cupped her cheek with his hand, tilting her face up towards his.

"Now, then," he said softly, "I know you have a lot on your mind. But if you're interested, I believe I might have strength left for another trip 'round the park. What do you say?" She laughed and the tears started again. "Ah, nope, sorry," he said, "no crying allowed during sex. Unless it's cries of passion. I'd take that as a compliment to my technique."

Janine leaned forward and locked both hands behind his head, crushing her lips against his in a bruising, primal, lover's connection. He hugged her in close and they fell back on the bed.

It was the tingling of her bruised lips that she focused on all the next day. The drive to the hospital, the paperwork, the ill-fitting gown, the endless delays. Throughout it all, the only thing that seemed real was the diffuse ache in her lips, the feeling of puffy soreness. She clung to the feeling as though it was a shield.

Six separate times they'd had the procedure explained to them, by the resident, the surgeon, the neurologist, and others whom she didn't know. Shave the scalp, peel back the skin, remove the top of the skull, use scalpels to slice out the big chunks of cancer, use lasers to burn out the tiny chunks of cancer, replace the skull and scalp and then... wait.

During the surgeon's explanation, Skip told him to be sure to change the oil and the timing belt while he was in there. Skip smiled. Janine smiled. The surgeon didn't.

And, to be strong, Janine focused again on the dull pain of her bruised lips.

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Poetry for the Royal Wedding

William and Kate, lovely pair!
They each have their burdens to bear
Will gets the throne
But AFTER Charles (groan!)
While Kate gets to pop out an heir.

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Twitter Fiction: "Channeling the Pros"

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Wednesday #Poetry: Foolish, Mercy, Relish

Welcome to my regular Wednesday poetry corner, brought to you by Three Word Wednesday and One Shot Wednesday.

Today's words are Foolish, Mercy, Relish.

'Twas foolish (with waistline expanding)
To eat with such relish commanding.
Though he knew he'd feel worse, he
said, "Good lord have mercy!
These chili-cheese dogs are outstanding!"


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10 Ways To Feel Like A Failure Forever

10 Ways To Feel Like A Failure Forever

1. Set unrealistic goals. Make plans to lose 50 pounds before your high school reunion. Write three novels this year. Begin exercising AT LEAST an hour every day, beginning tomorrow. Double your income. Get your mom to stop being such a nagging harridan. Whatever someone else took thirty years to achieve, make plans to do it in one. Then, when it doesn't work, wallow in that failure until the next unrealistic goal setting.

2. Set stupid goals.
Take an honest look at your life and compare it to someone on TV. It could be a rich and beautiful celebrity in the slam on her latest drug charge, it could be the star of a reality show where contestants compete to see how many Trichinae worms they can eat before suffering a perforated intestine. Promise yourself that you will match the performance of your new role model before the beginning of summer. That way, even if you succeed, you fail.

3. Dismiss your successes.
"If I were a REAL writer, I'd have a novel done by now, not just an anthology of fantasy, horror and lit-fic." Whatever you do, DON'T celebrate anything. By denying all successes, even the initial ones, you habituate yourself to deny ALL successes. Perpetual failure!

4. Question your own decisions. Once you've set a price for that anthology, let the doubts gnaw away. Did you set it too high, thereby shutting yourself out from any chance of wide sales? Did you set it too low, thereby devaluing yourself as a writer? Constant fretting will suck the joy out of everything you attempt, helping you to achieve that eternal state of "I suck."

5. Only listen to critics.
The world is full of people who are more than willing to tell you that you did it wrong, whatever "it" is. If you want to feel like a miserable failure forever, embrace these people. Hang on their every word. Go back and change what you did to implement their specific criticisms, if possible, again and again to change it back and forth among the conflicting criticisms. Remember: it can always be improved, so nothing is ever finished. And if you never finish anything, you can feel like a failure forever.

6. Only listen to friends.
Don't you deserve some love and support? Aren't you a valuable person? The fact is, by insulating yourself from the harsh truths of the real world, your little bubble of friends and supporters can create whole new realms of misery for you to wallow in. If you never even TRY to compete, it's fundamentally impossible for you to win anything at all. That's instant failure right there, a bone-deep kind of failure that, paradoxically, feels like success... at least until you see your friends start to actually succeed.

7. Do only one thing. By focusing all of your energy on one endeavor, you adopt what scientists call "social tunnel vision". This makes you incapable of conversing with other people about topics other than your own narrow specialty. If you work hard at it, you will become incapable of even understanding subjects other than your own. If you become exceptional at it, you will regard anyone who is not utterly passionate about YOUR subject to be a mouth-breathing wanker, and your condescending attitude towards the world will reflect this. You will be the failed, lonely little king of the tin-pot kingdom you've made for yourself.

8. Ignore your body.
Eat nothing but crap and never break a sweat. Never, ever exert yourself physically. This will give you less energy, less stamina and poorer health. That way, every single thing you do will be harder because it will take more effort. Soon, nothing will be worth that much effort, and you will berate yourself for being a useless slug. Failure as far as the eye can see.

9. Ignore your mind.
Avoid deep thoughts and people who have them. When it comes to politics, religion, music, or any other topic, settle on a position and don't let yourself stray from it. DO NOT get into rational philosophical discussions with people who hold differing (or opposing views). That kind of thing inevitably causes you to think. In terms of feeling like a failure, this one is subtle. You can go your entire life thinking you're OK, but then, when the end of life approaches, BOOM, you realize that you've never examined any of your beliefs. Terror sets in as you live in anguish, wondering if you've been a failure all your life and didn't even know it. A classic.

10. Spend all your time wondering if you are a failure.
The great thing about this question is that, if you ask it in the right way, the answer will always be "yes". There is always something you could have done better, faster or sooner. In a 28,000 word publication, you might have a typo or a stray comma. At a party, you might tell a joke that falls flat. LET THESE FAILURES DEFINE YOU. Focus only on what you did wrong, even if it represents less than 1% of your overall performance. Don't ask yourself, "Am I a failure?". Instead, ask yourself, "Am I perfect?". If the answer is "No", then the answer is "Yes", and you will feel like a failure forever. Congratulations!

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"Blood Picnic" anthology - now available

At $2.99, makes a GREAT gift!
Now available at Smashwords:

Blood Picnic and other stories
Ebook By Tony Noland
$2.99 Rating: Not yet rated.
Published: Apr. 21, 2011
Words: 28379 (approximate)
Language: English

Ebook Short Description
"The versatile Tony Noland has gathered some of his best flash fiction and short stories for this diverse collection. These 28 stories range in style from fantasy and horror to magical realism and literary fiction. Whether you’re looking for potent true-to-life tales or want your fiction full of zombies, flying carpets or deals with the devil, this collection will amuse, delight and surprise you."

Available for $2.99 in formats suitable for Kindle, iPhone, Nook, Playbook, PC, Mac and other e.reading platforms.

More information, including a preview of contents and a longer description, available at Smashwords.

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#FridayFlash: Now Hiring: Canine Farming Technician

Now Hiring: Canine Farming Technician

by Tony Noland

"It's... not quite what I expected."

The Operations Manager paused and looked at Henrique Marcos. "I thought you said you grew up on a canine farm."

"I did. My parent had a small operation in Florida. We ran about two hundred."

"Two hundred? Pssht," he snorted, "small is right. We've got two hundred head in this rack alone."

"Yes, I can see that. The heads, I mean. We just had... y'know, the whole body. This is just a little... well, like I said, it's not quite what I expected."

Mr. Daniels, the Manager, flicked on all the work lights and they walked into the room. Stacked floor to ceiling and swaying gently on movable shelves, row after row of human heads were secured onto steel trays, held in place with wide steel straps cinched tight over their eyes. Masses of tubes and wires were stapled onto the glistening gobbets of neck flesh at the base of each one. A large rod made of teflon-coated steel was pushed back against the molars and bolted in place, effectively holding the jaws wide apart. Every one of the pale, drawn faces twitched, making unfathomable expressions.

On this rack, every head had gaping, bleeding holes where their canines used to be.

Henrique said, "Are they... alive?" As soon as he asked the question, regretted it. "I mean, of course they're undead, I know how it all works, but I've never seen it done this way. It's just... I don't quite understand..."

"Look, kid. The operations manual you got during orientation should have explained all of this. Didn't the HR guys show you the videos?"

"I saw the safety videos and the ones about records management, HazMat regulations compliance and one about cultural sensitivity, but -"

"Oh, yeah, the cultural sensitivity thing is important. We've got some Catholics on staff who get pretty touchy on the subject of immortal souls."

"- but the file for the facilities overview video was messed up. The HR guy said I could come back and watch it another time."

"Yeah, well, don't bother. I can give it to you in a nutshell." Mr. Daniels stepped closer to one of the trays and waved a hand at the head. "OK, we keep vampires so we can extract their canines, right?"

"Sure, it's the basis of Immortality Serum."

"Right. Now, back in the old days, canine farmers would keep the vampires staked in place to a board, yank the canines out every week or so and send them off to be processed into the Serum. For little mom and pop operations like you grew up on, two hundred was about as many as you could handle, right?"

"I guess so."

"OK, so this is modern, scientific management, what the hippies call industrial farming." He took a pen from his pocket and pointed at the wet, pulsing, flesh around the grayish-pink vertebrae. "What do you see, Henrique? Or rather, what *don't* you see?"

Not wishing to be made a fool of, Henrique paused to look, then gave the obvious answer. "Um... a body?"

"Exactly! Turns out, the heads don't need to be attached to the body for the canines to regrow. They just need a source of blood and some means of pumping it through their system. Ordinarily, that would be their heart, but here, it's all pumps and tubing."

"But where's the body?"

"They're stored at a facility outside of Tuscon. The head maintains a psychic link to the body, so you can't just get rid of it. However, if you let the body flail around for a while, it uses up its reserve of energy. Then you can let it dry out, which helps the head to calm down, too. You gather up the bodies and stack them like cordwood out in the desert. The first HBS farms had a real problem with the heads going dormant, but the electrostim wiring fixed that."


"Head-Body Separation. Increases the efficiency of production by a factor of a thousand or more over the old board-and-blood canine farming."

"We used cow blood back home."

Daniels shook his head. "Not here. Synthetic hemoglobin suspended in a saline matrix. Without a body attached, they don't need much in the way of nutrition, just enough calcium oxalate to keep the teeth growing. Yep, we've got around twenty thousand head in this facility, producing about a hundred and sixty thousand teeth a month. And we're not even the company's biggest canine farm, not by a long shot."

Henrique whistled. "That's amazing. It would have taken us years to do that kind of production."

"Not only that, scientific farming yields a higher grade Immortality Serum. No matter what the hippies in the Local Serum movement say, the fact is, you can't supply the Serum needs of nineteen billion people without this kind of production efficiency. And I'll tell you something else, Henrique." Daniels leaned in close, as though confiding a state secret. "The company has big plans for us here."


"Yep. We're going to be testing a new kind of synthetic hemoglobin, one based on a gamma subunit. If everything goes as the R & D guys hope, it'll make a new kind of Serum, one that will let people go outside during the day."

"You're kidding!"

"Nope. Just think of it: for the first time in over two hundred years, people will be able to withstand sunlight again while still enjoying the benefits of the Immortality Serum." Daniels hooked his thumbs in his belt loops and thrust his chest out. "God, it's a great time to be alive!"


My thanks to @thefourpartland and @MarcNash for the prompts "Days came to a strange end" and "canines", respectively.

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The versatile Tony Noland

Title: Blood Picnic and other stories
Description: The versatile Tony Noland has gathered some of his best flash fiction and short stories for this diverse collection. These 28 stories range in style from fantasy and horror to magical realism and literary fiction. Whether you’re looking for potent true-to-life tales or want your fiction full of zombies, flying carpets or deals with the devil, this collection will amuse, delight and surprise you.

As Donald Trump would say, "This is the most spectacular, most amazing, most incredible sales blurb ever! Ever! It's incredible!"

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Wednesday #Poetry: Cleanse, Knead, Melt

Welcome to my regular Wednesday poetry corner, brought to you by Three Word Wednesday and One Shot Wednesday.

Today's words are Cleanse, Knead, Melt.

O sable with soft, chocolate pelt
That beauty's a bad hand to be dealt
Your skin they will flense
  Then knead it to cleanse
I'll use you to make her heart melt.

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The Big Interview

Today over at Write Anything, you can read the transcript of my interview with God Almighty. Initially, I was happy to do the show, but He had some really pointed questions for me about my writing.

Specifically, He really got detailed about my novel work-in-progress, "Goodbye Grammarian". It was a pretty tough interview, as He spared no effort in exposing the truth about what actually constitutes writing. Is editing, planning and fleshing out character motivations enough? Is that really writing?

You can go check it out here.

p.s. I had no idea that God Almighty used an APPLAUSE sign for his audience. Show business... who knew?

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RIP, Sarah Jane

Lis Sladen died today. R.I.P. Sarah Jane, one of the best Dr. Who companions ever.

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What the heck is a caltrop?

In one of my stories, I referred to a mass of caltrops, flung outward by an explosion of gunpowder. The reaction by the vast majority of my readers was, "What the heck is a caltrop? I had to Google that." This was repeated recently by one of my beta readers, who was also unfamiliar with this little gem of medieval warfare.

Clearly, just because I might be familiar with caltrops, and I know the difference between a flintlock and a wheellock, should I assume my readers are as well? While it might serve to aid simplicity by choosing another, more familiar object, it's also instructive to see how other writers have dealt with this issue. I raised this with a top-flight reference librarian, and received an answer today.

I present, therefore, a section of "One Corpse Too Many" by Ellis Peters, one of the Brother Cadfael mysteries:
"There's a herdsman's hut there in the piece where the track is in the woodland, though only along the edge, the fields still close. We were in this stretch when Nick's horse fell lame. I lit down to see, for he went very badly, and he had picked up a caltrop, and was cut to the bone."

"Caltrops?" said Brother Cadfael, startled. "On such a forest path, away from any field of battle?" For those unobtrusive martial cruelties, made in such a shape as to be scattered under the hooves of cavalry, and leaving always one crippling spike upturned, surely had no part to play on a narrow forest ride.

"Caltrops," said Torold positively. "I don't speak simply from the wound, the thing was there embedded, I know, I wrenched it out."
There you have it. I'm not sure how precise this explanation is, but you get the idea that it's unobtrusive, sharp and cripplingly dangerous. For my own story, I'll have to add in a bit more description than "razor-sharp caltrops", but not too much more. My thanks to the the reference librarian - the chocolate is on its way.

Caltrops, by the way, are still used by modern armies for anti-vehicle applications (to puncture tires), and by guerrilla warfare groups to slow the advance of non-motorized ground troops. They'll go through the sole of a boot just as easily as into a horse's foot.

p.s. I sometimes use unusual words. I don't like to make my readers work for the punchline, but I'm not opposed to it, either.

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Selling whalemeat to Greenpeace

I love this graphic guide to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, etc. Mark Ragan linked to it on Twitter. It discusses and compares how good each site is for establishing or promoting a brand, talking to customers, driving traffic to a site, etc. Best quote: "Attempting to build your brand on Reddit is like trying to sell whale meat to Greenpeace. It won't happen, and it's likely to turn very ugly if you try."

You can read the guide here. Good stuff for anyone interesting in marketing or effective self-promotion.

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Tony seemed like such a nice bloke...

I love the comment Jason Coggins left on my FridayFlash: "And there I was thinking you were such a nice bloke." In point of fact, I am a rather nice bloke, the kind of guy who tries to find the kindest possible interpretation of events. I'm the sort will buy the first round and the last if he sees you're a bit short of cash, but who wouldn't dream of embarrassing you by doing so.


My work typically doesn't deal with the perpetrators of incestuous sexual abuse, or with their victims who find empowerment (and closure) via a Smith & Wesson snub-nosed revolver. I don't typically write characters who are vicious and nasty, the kind of people who make you recoil and cringe with revulsion and anger. The things I post here don't usually leave you speechless or punch you in the gut, a sentiment expressed by many of the comments on that story.

To be honest, I think that kind of writing is too easy.

It's much harder to make you laugh or to make you like a character. It's really hard to make you like someone so much that you feel bad when bad things happen to them. To make you hate someone in a flash piece is pretty easy. I just have to make them obviously despicable.

  • An old woman who slaps a small child across the face, hard and repeatedly, while hissing, "Stop it! Stop crying, be quiet! Stop it!"
  • A sweaty man who is deliberately rude to teenage checkout clerks because he knows they can't talk back to him.
  • The self-righteous couple who quietly steal the "bad" books from the library in order to protect the community from "filth" and "perversion".
  • That guy up the street, the one with the beer belly and the distorted tattoos on his flabby arms, who thinks that anybody who didn't serve in the military shouldn't have any say in how the country is run.

All of these are tropes and archetypes, of course. I could make them rude or racist, arrogant or greedy, foul with body odor or leering with unwanted sexual advances. Pretty straightforward to make them hateful, actually.

What would be harder, much harder, would be to present you with someone you instantly hate, then make you come to like them as the story unfolds. John Grisham did that with the white supremacist father on death row in "The Chamber". That's not the kind of transmutation you can pull off in a flash fiction piece; there just isn't room for it.

Rest assured, however, that in my longer works, I'm trying to do just that kind of thing. Complex characters with complicated and conflicting motivations, making the best decision possible among a collection of bad options. Sometimes they have sex (or almost do), and this can be either a good thing or a really, really bad idea, depending on the circumstances. They make mistakes, suffer, learn and grow.

Some of my characters are happy, then sad, then happy again. Some were never really happy to begin with, although they've been successful in hiding their pain and loneliness, even from themselves. Those characters would recoil in fear if happiness were to present itself, preferring the security of their prison cell to the uncertainties of the wide, sunny world. The process of coaxing them into the light takes some time, and the telling of it takes space.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, just because I don't typically write mean, rotten, nasty stories doesn't mean I don't know how to.

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Been sick all week, so don't expect much.

My #FridayFlash for this week is "Death of the Horrible", written in response to a challenge by John Wiswell. It's not my usual type of story. In fact, it's rather... sick.

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Wednesday #Poetry: Evident, Illusion, Tragic

Welcome to my regular Wednesday poetry corner, brought to you by Three Word Wednesday and One Shot Wednesday.

Today's words are Evident, Illusion, Tragic.

An evident shine of the tragic
In blue waters, "hot" and pelagic,
The cesium glows
And iodine flows
No illusion, but simple black magic.

I'll feel better about eating Japanese seafood when the reactor gets cleaned up.

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Bruised, pierced, angry and smoking - the edgy me

Just for @nemone7, I herewith immortalize the bruised, cranky, smoking, "edgy" avatar I used today. I goes well with the story I posted yesterday in response to John Wiswell's prompt.

Booker Prize? Not likely, bub.

Note: since this was intended for a Twitter avatar, I didn't spend a lot of time on the detailing of the image manipulation. Also, it's apparent from the bruising pattern that my assailant was rather sinister, i.e. left-handed.

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Death of the Horrible

Quoth Wiswell: "Make me regret the death of a horrible person based on some relationship he/she had to a living character."

"No, Daddy. You won't touch my baby. I won't let you hurt her like you hurt me."

"Shut up, you stupid little bitch. You grew up skinny and mean, prob'ly all dried up, too, just like your momma."

"You can't scare me, Daddy. Not anymore."

"Put that gun away, Candy. You hear? Put it down, now!"

"No, Daddy. My little girl is pretty and she's perfect, and that's why you want her. Well I ain't never gonna let you set foot in this house again. You done bad, Daddy. You done evil bad to me, and I ain't gonna let you do it to Crystal."

"Why, you ungrateful, ugly cunt! I made a woman outta you when you was so pig-ugly, no boy would come near you. You ought to get down on your knees and pray God I don't slap you for disrespect! Get down on your knees, you bitch! Get down! Get -"


"AAHHH... Candy... baby..."



BLAM! BLAM! click. click. click.

"Daddy... oh, Daddy,... I don't care any more. I don't care 'bout myself any more. Why couldn't you see that? The doctors wanted me to come to you, said the genetics was all a hundred percent certain. You was the only one could donate them stem cells as could cure my cancer. I told them I didn't care, that if you was my salvation, I'd druther die. They didn't believe me, didn't think things could be so bad 'twixt a daughter and her Daddy."

click. click.

"I know I'm gonna die, Daddy, but you ain't never gonna touch my little girl like you touched me."

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Writing for love? What love?

I could write an angst-ridden blog post about feeling torn among various competing projects. This would focus on the difficulty in shunning bright, shiny new (or old) projects and committing to my primary WIP when I'm at the hard, sloggy part.

I could write an entirely different angst-ridden blog post about the frustration of trying to put together an anthology of flash fiction which consists of a mixture of science fiction, fantasy, horror, lit fic and magical realism. I'm a victim of my own flexibility. Fourth-fifths of the book will bore or tick off every possible purchaser. And what the hell would I title it without setting up 80% of the readers for disappointment?

I could write any number of complaints about not enough time or resources, lack of energy, inadequate focus, marginal equipment, the inadequacy of my skills as a graphic designer/editor/literary agent/promoter/social media expert/blacksmith or whatever else I need to be.

I could write about how, for some popular Twitterers, posting tweets "without filters" means being funny, sexy, provocative, outrageous, etc., while for me, "without filters" would mean being whiny and depressing on a regular basis. Do I filter myself too much? Not enough?

I could generally moan, bitch and complain about what I'm doing, not doing, experiencing, not experiencing, and so on and so forth.

Instead, I will post a funny video, about the process of creating a sequel to a popular piece of entertainment, specifically, the movie "When Harry Met Sally".

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Best straight man ever:

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#FridayFlash: Yellow and White

Yellow and White

by Tony Noland

From his vantage point on the peak of Mt. Fuji, Specialist 1-C Andrew "Banjo" Randall looked up the Big Valley to watch the first sunrise, a pinpoint explosion of white light between Kilimanjaro and Denali. Once RK-2034-B cleared the frozen haze of the rim, the glare was like looking into the navigation lights of a cargo hauler. He returned his gaze down to the valley floor, still dark with the shadows of the cliffside mountains. It had been a cold night up here, but as soon as RK-2034-A rose, the hoarfrost would sublime away and he'd be able to see well enough to detonate the charges.

Banjo checked his watch. Another half hour before true dawn. As was standard practice, days on this planet were counted according to the rise and set of the larger star. At this point in Bullseye's orbit, that meant about 11 hours of nighttime, 31 hours of daylight. Under a hotter star, such a slow rotation would have made this planet unusable, but RK-2034-A was only a yellow giant. There had been a push by some of the younger guys to name the two stars after characters in one of the historical melodramas: Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Bill and Hillary. It was the usual crap born of youthful enthusiasm and off-watch boredom. In the end, almost everyone ended up using the path of least resistance that guys always ended up using around binary stars, and called them Yellow and White.

It didn't take many tours on terraforming jobs to lose the romantic idealism.

The only reason the mountain peaks had names is that some military geologist had gotten cute when drawing up the survey maps. It was just as well, though. To coordinate their assignments, the various work crews had to call the mountains something, after all. A clockwise "One", "Two", "Three", etc. would have worked just as well as Fuji, Everest, Olympus, Hood, Kilimanjaro, Denali and Vesuvius. It didn't matter, though, and it was easier for the guys to use the names already on the maps.

Living habs, workshops and loading depots had been set up on the little shoulder slabs around and between the main peaks. The crews ion-blasted the tops off several of them to get some flat ground. If these peaks had been formed by geologic activity, the foothills would have been rounded. As it was, all of it was jagged slag, a couple of billions of tons of deep-crust ejecta flash-melted by a massive asteroid strike, and then flash frozen into these leaning daggers. Twenty kilometers across, ninety kilometers long, and eleven kilometers deep at the far end of Big Valley, from orbit it looked like the kind of gouge a thrown rock makes in wet sand.

It wasn't just the most interesting feature on Bullseye's surface, it was the only feature. This was a lightweight world with a thick crust and a small, cool core. Aside from its strategic location near the Chiorrian Empire's northern frontier, the entire RK-2034 system was worthless. All it had was Bullseye, its four tiny moonlets and a few comets. No goldilocks planets to colonize or ice worlds to tunnel into, no gas giants to siphon for warp core fuel or asteroid fields to mine for minerals. The only reason mankind was developing this world at all was as a covert listening post, and, potentially, a forward launching platform for a NovaStrike salvo if the Chiorrians got ambitious again.

Yellow's dim edge peeked over the horizon, silhouetting the cliff edges. Banjo checked his watch again. The communications crews would be up on the mountains already, moving into the last phase of mounting the Planck-space sensor grids on the cliffsides. The main bulk of the personnel, the crew responsible for hiding the fusion reactor down on the valley floor wouldn't get going until Yellow fully cleared the mountaintops, at least another hour.

The Third Arm War had ended in victory for mankind forty-six years ago when Earth used the Nova bomb to drop artificial black holes into the suns of a few of the Chiorrian colony worlds. Just over two billion people died in that attack. Well, Banjo thought, not "people" exactly. In his mind, "people" still meant humans, so technically, Chiorrians weren't people.

People or not, though, they paid extremely well when they had to. He keyed in the command to set off the charges and felt the ground jolt under him in a staccato tremor. The mountains silently shivered and began to crumble down into the valley below.

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Definitions: self-pub, indie pub, traditional pub

In light of Nathan Bransford's question of the day (Who Should Have the 'Indie' Label: Self-Publishers or Small Presses?) I thought I'd add my two cents:

Self-pub: you publish the book yourself. Even if you contract someone else to do the editing, line editing, cover, layout, etc., those are one-time fees that you pay, not percentages. You design and execute your own promotional campaign. The majority of the money that comes in on every sale goes to you, with a percentage split going to the distributor such as Amazon, Smashwords, etc.

Independent pub: you publish the book through a small press (e.g. local/ regional distribution, narrow genre range). The publishing house works with you to do the editing, line editing, cover, layout, editing, etc. for a percentage of sales (small or large, depending on your contract). You may or may not get an advance, to be repaid out of sales. You do the promotion, working with the publisher's promotional efforts. The money that comes in on every sale goes to the publisher, with a percentage split going to the distributor (which might be the same as the publisher), your agent (if you used one for the deal) and ultimately to you.

Traditional pub: you publish the book through a big press (e.g. national/international distribution, wide range of authors). The publisher does the editing, line editing, cover, layout, editing, etc. for a large percentage of sales. You may or may not get an advance, to be repaid out of sales. The publisher arranges the promotion, which you carry out in addition to your own efforts. The money that comes in on every sale goes to the publisher, with a percentage split going to the distributor (which might be the same as the publisher), your agent (which you almost certainly used) and ultimately to you.

This is how I see it. I recognize that emotional, economic and/or philosophical positions on these three methods may vary.

I now open the floor for comments.

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Wednesday #Poetry: Adamant, Fabricate, Peculiar

Welcome to my regular Wednesday poetry corner, brought to you by Three Word Wednesday and One Shot Wednesday.

Today's words are adamant, fabricate, peculiar.

From a mutant about five-foot-eight
A psychopath we'll fabricate:
With adamant claws,
He'll heal without pause.
Peculiar, but he will be great!

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100 for Queensland - cover

Just got word that the anthology "100 Stories for Queensland" will be out for a worldwide release date of May 3. Here's some cover art to tide you over until then:

Click the image to enlarge. How many familiar names can you spot?

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To the son of a bitch who wronged me: thank you

Dear son of a bitch,

I realize this open letter may come as a surprise to you, not least because I open it by referring to you as a "son of a bitch". I'm sure that, in your own mind, you not only did nothing wrong, but were, in fact, a pretty good guy throughout. This is one of the reasons I hate you.

Please believe me, I could have used any one of a number of much, much stronger sobriquets, but "son of a bitch" will do. Anyway, my point in writing this is not to vilify you, but to thank you. That, I know, would come as no surprise to you, since you will gladly take credit for any good thing, whether you had any hand in it or not. The fact that you have no idea what I'm talking about wouldn't deter you in the least from patting me on the shoulder in that condescending way and telling me that you are happy to share your insights and wisdom.

You son of a bitch, I'm not going to get angry at you all over again, because I have (mostly) moved past that. No, I want to thank you for helping me to be a writer.

It was you, you rotten son of a bitch, that made me use my writing for more than the sloppy, emo private journal spew it had been up to that point. I'm not sure of the exact alchemy that caused my inchoate scribbling impulse to crystallize into a focus on plot and character, dialogue and scene-setting, but you were in the thick of it.

In the same way that a really ferocious intestinal parasite infection can be the goad to a lifetime of healthy eating, with all the golden benefits of health and happiness that arise therefrom, I have you to thank, you son of a bitch, for forcing me to think that I could express myself through my art.

"Express myself through my art"... such a phrase would have seemed ludicrous coming from my pen, utterly inapplicable to my life before you worked your hideous, poisonous magic. Seeking to destroy me, you inadvertently created in me more joy and beauty than you could possibly know.

Please don't misunderstand. I still hope you choke on a chicken bone, preferably right in front of me in a crowed restaurant, so I can pretend to everyone that I don't know the Heimlich maneuver. With luck, the jagged edge of the bone won't kill you, but it will rip apart your trachea and prevent you from speaking ever again. How drained of venom and strength your words will be if they must be written, instead of dripped in the ears of the unsuspecting!

But still, such things are too much to hope for. You will go on doing what you do, and I? I will now go forward to do what I do, with a heart light and happy.

So thank you, you damned son of a bitch. You tried to derail me, and instead put me on a different track, the line that leads through Wonderland.


Tony Noland

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Eleven things I learned from organizing GAFDFFBS

Ah, a quiet Saturday morning. The Great April Fool's Day FridayFlash Blog Swap is now a happy memory, although as of this writing I still have a number of stories to read and comment on. It was fun, it was interesting, and people had a good time.

But, of course, that's not enough. That's never enough. Every experience, the great ones the banal ones and the sucky ones, every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow, if you're willing to invest a little time and thought in an after action report. So what did I learn from organizing the GAFDFFBS?

1. It's easy to get Friday Flash authors to volunteer for fun writing things.

2. It's hard to get some Friday Flash authors to even remember having volunteered for fun writing things, let alone read the FAQ on how to carry it off, or meet their deadlines.

3. The logistics of setting something like this up aren't really all that hard. The tricky bit is communication with the participants.

4. No matter how much promotion you do, no matter how much of a pest you make of yourself in the initial call for authors, no matter how open and encouraging you are, no matter how repeatedly you remind people of the deadlines to sign up, you will still get people who want to sign up late AND you will get other people who, on the day of the event, will say, "Wow, this sounds really cool. I wish someone had said something about it in time for me to participate."

5. Whatever happens, don't take it personally. It's not about you. Probably.

6. As projects go, this was pretty straightforward. I linked people up and let them do their thing, providing instruction, encouragement and enthusiasm as necessary.

7. Where problems can be solved simply, simple solutions are the best.

8. Where problems CAN'T be solved simply, there is no substitute for hard work and creativity.

9. Empathy, proactive kindness and understanding are essential human qualities. Don't ever let someone tell you that the work is more important than the people. Projects come and go... people live on.

10. Color-coding of cells in Excel is a good way to reassure yourself of a project's status. As blank white shifts gradually to yellow, then green, it will seem that no problem is insurmountable.

11. Some problems are insurmountable. For those, you work hard, do your best, run it flat out right up to press time, then freeze the project and go to press. If it's still broken when it all goes live, paper over it with a smile and do better next time.

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