#FridayFlash: Plea Bargain, part 2

Plea Bargain, part 2

by Tony Noland


"The barrel of the Glock... he's pushing it into her mouth. She's smiling, wide. Biting into it... biting into the metal. Her fangs... my God, the fangs are all bloody. She's not scared until he says 'Wooden bullets, babe.' Now she's trying to pull away, but she can't..."

The psychologist paused the DVD, freezing Jesus Ramirez on the screen. The video was in low-res black and white, which made the prisoner's anguished, twisted face resemble a cathedral grotesque.

"Well?" he said. "What do you think?"

"The question is, what do you think?" The assistant district attorney sipped his coffee before reaching for the file on his desk. "I'm predisposed to have an opinion about Mr. Ramirez's veracity, but you're the doctor. Is he crazy or is he lying?" He flipped through the thick file, looking for something as he spoke. "Don't get moral on me, Tom. He's no different than any other thug we've got locked up, and no more deserving of your protection."

"No more deserving of unwarranted condemnation, either."

"If he's still lying after two years in psychiatric holding, then I'm going to push for willful obstruction of justice and get him back on death row. If he's crazy, he gets another two years with you. Look, don't try to save his life just to be a nice guy, OK? Some people kill and then lie about it. It happens. Calling it what it is makes the wheels of justice turn." From the thick file, he lifted a set of stapled papers and began to read them, adjusting his glasses to peer at them more closely.

"I don't think so. This session was the first one where I felt like he was telling the truth. I mean it, Quan," he said, overriding the snort from the ADA, "and that's not just wishful thinking. He's got his tells and body language cues just like anybody. I went back over the recordings of this session and the three after it, where he repeated this same scene in different ways. When I analyzed them, he was telling the truth each time."

"What he believed to be the truth, you mean."

It was the psychologist's turn to snort. "Of course that's what I mean. We're not talking about vampires here. We're talking about someone who's divorced enough from reality to believe that his father killed his mother because she was a vampire. Ramirez is smart and tough, and barring this replay, he tests out as normal in world-perception, and negative as a psychopath, sociopath or autopath."

"What's an autopath?"

"Someone who doesn't see himself as a real person, but as an object of loathing and hatred to be destroyed. Autopaths do all kinds of weird stuff, all to get themselves in trouble. They cook up the craziest lies and then believe them with all their heart, despite all external evidence. I thought that he might be one, but he doesn't fit the patterns at all."

Absorbed in reading, the ADA said, "So what are you telling me? Is he crazy or not?"

"He believes crazy stuff. If he were unshakably convinced that he were Theodore Roosevelt, or that he could fly, I wouldn't be hesitating. Delusions like that permeate a patient's entire worldview. This, though... aside from the vampire stuff, it's a description of his mother being murdered before his eyes." He shrugged. "That could be enough to snap somebody into a delusion. You know, she wasn't really my mother, she had to die for some other reason, etc. That kind of psychological distancing from a painful event can lead to psychosis. But again, he doesn't fit the patterns."

"Did you read the coroner's report on the mother?"

The psychologist blinked. "I glanced at it, but I was more interested in Ramirez than in the forensics. Why? It was a gunshot to the head, right?"

"Three gunshots. One delivered from inside the mouth, two into the forehead from different angles. First one blew out the back of the skull down low, where it meets the spine. The other two ripped off the top of the skull and the right side." He turned a page, kept reading. "The entry and exit wounds are consistent with the version Ramirez is telling you. Also..."

"What? Also what?"

The ADA read on for a little while before answering. "Also, the coroner reported that no bullet fragments were found, either in the remaining soft tissues or embedded in the bone. However, he did report finding wood fragments."

"You're kidding."

"Nope. Little slivers of..." he turned a page, "... hawthorn wood. The coroner thought identifying the wood might help somehow. He makes a note here about maybe looking for evidence in a woodshop or someplace where sawdust or wood slivers might be found. But, he also says that, quote, 'the explosively destructive exit wounds cannot have been caused by a wooden implement, as they are consistent with copper-jacketed slugs, tumbling high-velocity slugs or other comparable impact rounds', unquote." He tossed the report back onto the file. "The guy's a goddamn poet. So, Tom, what is this? Sounds like the killer used wooden bullets, maybe alternating rounds with something special, maybe something military grade. Is this our boy? Did he do it?"

"I... I just don't know."

"Let me rephrase that. I think he did it. I think the whole 'my dad did it' thing is bullshit, and I think the vampire angle is bullshit, too. The question is, how bullshit is bullshit? Is he in it up to his eyeballs, or is he crazy? Come on, I've got other cases to try. I can't spend all day on this."

"OK. He's traumatized by seeing his mother demonized and murdered right in front of him. Induced psychosis that made him unaccountable for his subsequent actions."

"That's your conclusion?"

"Yep. Give me more time with him and I'll get to the bottom of the psychosis. Then he can go back to prison."

The ADA closed the file and said, "Good enough. He's yours, and you're welcome to him." He stood and came around the desk to walk his colleague to the door.

"Oh, hey," said the psychologist, "one other thing. Did the coroner notice anything about the mother's teeth?"


Read PART 3

A Van Gogh Earth

From NASA comes a visualization of the Earth's ocean currents:

A NaNo novel I wrote in 2006 relied on disruption of both the Gulf Stream and the Humbold Current to destroy the world. Interesting to see if visualized this way.

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Wednesday #limerick: fragrant, jostle, remnant

Each Wednesday, I compose a limerick using the words from Three Word Wednesday. Today's words are: fragrant, jostle, remnant.

An uncovered remnant, white lace;
My old life, brought close my face.
Her fragrant perfume
Can an old love exhume,
And jostle what I've tried to erase.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And don't forget, if you'd like to read more of my limericks inspired by Three Word Wednesday, you can buy my e.book, which is cleverly titled:

Poetry on the Fly: Limericks Inspired by Three Word Wednesday

Only $0.99 - what a bargain!

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White and Nerdy: the checklist

In response to questions by Janet and by Peter about how accurate (or rather, how consanguineous) "White and Nerdy" is for my own life, I'll do some full disclosure below. First, the video:

Now, the disclosure.

White and nerdy checklist (shamelessly taken from this post on the XKCD forums):
  • Mowing front lawn
    • Used to. I have people that mow my lawn for me now. In return, I give them food, shelter, education and a weekly allowance.
  • First of my class
    • Nope. B average in high school, B- in college. I established pretty early on that the marginal rate of return of "grades" vs. "effort expended" hit a sweet spot at a B.
  • D & D champion
    • Used to be.
  • MC Escher
    • I like Escher, but Hopper is more of a favorite.
  • Tea
    • Coffee, thanks.
  • Rims
    • Nope.
  • Action figures
    • Nope. I left action figures behind in the 4th grade.
  • Steven Hawkings in my library
    • I bought, read and understood Brief History of Time when it first came out.
  • Myspace pimpout
    • Never been on MySpace.
  • Decimal places
    • Nope.
  • Ain't got a girl
    • I stopped chasing after girls when I caught up with the woman of my dreams.
  • Still wear braces
    • Never wore braces.
  • Mayo sammiches
    • Mayonnaise is mostly empty calories that I can do without.
  • Minesweeper whiz
    • Back before the invention of Freecell, sure.
  • Fast fingers
    • I touch-type at around 35 wpm.
  • Calculus just for fun
    • Used to, although I don't have much call for it these days.
  • Soldering gun
    • Yep, and a mini-soldering iron, too.
  • Happy Days
    • I like that one, but my favorite theme song? That would be "Greatest American Hero".
  • Pingpong whoop-ass
    • I'm not very good at ping-pong
  • Trivia ace
    • I've been asked not to play. People fear me.
  • Fluency
    • I'm fluent in English, barely literate in Russian and have a smattering of Portuguese. No Javascript or Klingon.
  • Segway
    • Nope. I do have a bicycle, though.
  • Schrodinger equation
    • Optimist: "That glass is half full." Pessimist: "That glass is half empty." Schrodinger: "That glass gives me an idea..."
  • Extension cords
    • I have too many to count, but I would never give one as a gift.
  • X-Men comics
    • I used to collect them, still have several year's worth in a box somewhere.
  • Pens in my pocket
    • Only one, but it's a rare Parker 51, tan with double-diamond caps.
  • Ergonomic keyboard
    • Yep. Wireless, too.
  • Shopping online
    • All the time.
  • Wikipedia
    • I've written articles and edited others'.
  • Monty Python
    • Idiom?
    • TKTK
  • Websites
    • Welcome to it.
  • Fanny pack
    • Used to. Now I have an exploration vest with umpteen pockets, the kind photographers wear. Same function, somewhat less dorky looking.
  • Sale at Gap
    • I remember when The Gap sold blue jeans and nothing else. 1981?
  • Bubble wrap
    • No comment.
  • Badminton
    • Can't recall ever playing it.
  • Whiter than sourcream
    • Pretty much.
  • Clubs
    • High school: drama, chorus, speech competitions, rifle club, chess club, school newspaper, bowling club, track team (shotput & discus)
    • College: drama, Kuviasungnerk
  • Kirk or Picard?
    • Picard
  • Ren Faire
    • I've enjoyed every Renaissance Fair I've gone to.
  • Underwear with my name
    • Nope
  • Star Wars Holiday Special
    • Saw it when it was broadcast, but not since then.
  • Bowling
    • Yep. I own my own shoes.
  • Identify the extras in the video?
    • Seth Green and Donny Osmond
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Dead Space Monday

There's no real reason I should feel compelled to post something on Monday, merely to avoid leaving this space blank. The arbiters of bloggish style, taste and productivity say that posting every day is the key to success, money, and really delightful interactions with attractive members of your preferred gender for sexually focused attention-seeking.

By those lights, this posting is the biggest mistake I could make, since it is utterly devoid of content.

Oh, sure, it has words. Maybe even a bit of right-brain humor, but actual content? No.

And yet, is that a bad thing? Even when I have nothing meaningful to say, no copper-bottomed contribution to the marketplace of ideas, is the fact that I'm posting anyway of any value?

To you? No. All you get is introspective blather.

To me? Well...

I get to say that I've posted something instead of nothing. I composed and typed these sentences, which has had a salient effect on my mood.

CONFESSION: I have a massive amount of stuff to do today and in the rest of this week. Yet I was sitting, rather paralyzed as I contemplated what to do first, how to do it, etc. My time was NOT being spent productively. Curious, of course, to think that composing, typing and posting a meaningless, vapid piece of fluff could count as "productivity", but Ernest Hemingway used to re-sharpen his entire mugful of pencils before he began writing.

There is a power to these pre-writing rituals, power which is not purely talismanic. The physical effects are as real as the emotional. This power derives not from the words that come from them; these words are of no more value by themselves than a singer's la-la-la-la, mi-mi-mi-mi during warmups. No, it's from the effect they have on our brains. "I have now cleared my throat," says Mr. Brain, "and am ready to sing."

Which I shall now do.

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White and nerdy

What would a Sunday be without a video that was sent to me with the note, "OMG, this is YOU!"?

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#FridayFlash: Plea Bargain

Plea Bargain, Part 1

by Tony Noland

"It doesn't do any good to lie in therapy, you know."

"I'm not lying."

"But you're not telling me the whole truth, either."

"You don't need to know the whole truth."

"But you need to tell the whole truth, don't you? I can't help you otherwise."

"You don't want to help me. You're only here because they pay you."

"And you're only here because it's part of the plea bargain you negotiated."

"And? The public defender they gave me was a moron. That plea bargain was bullshit."

"It wasn't bad work for a moron. With your mother killed, your father missing and eight other unexplained disappearances hanging on you, that plea bargain was the only thing that kept you off death row. Pretty potent bullshit, Jesus."

"I didn't kill anybody."

"So you've said. Listen, every three months I file a report with the DA about the patients they send me. If I tell the DA that you're not making a good faith effort in these sessions, then the deal is off."

"The DA is a bastard."

"So you've said."

"How much do they pay you per session?"

"Not enough. Describe your father's hands."

"My... what? What does my father have to do with anything?"

"Indulge me. What did your father's hands look like?"

"How the hell should I know? He was in prison until I was twelve. And when he got out he was an abusive drunk. End of story. It wasn't like we played basketball together in the school yard."

"See, that's what I'm talking about. Is that the whole truth? Is that everything you can say about your father? Just for a minute, forget about what he did or didn't do. Forget about who he was, or the things he said or didn't say. Just take any memory you have of him where you can see his hands and freeze it, like a single frame from a DVD. No action, no talking, no emotions, no nothing. Have you got it?"

"Yeah, whatever."

"No, not 'whatever'. Make the effort. Do it for real or I'll throw you over to the DA. Now, have you got an image of your father? A still frame?"

"Yes, I've got one."

"Is it a clear image? Jesus? Is it a clear image?"

"Yes, it's a clear image."

"Good. Hold the image steady. Fix it in your mind. Keep it fixed and zoom in on his hands. Just his hands. Can you see them? I said, can you see them?"

"Yes, I can see his hands."

"Describe them."

"They're hands. What do you want from me? They're hands."

"Are they large? Scarred? Tanned? Look at the image and describe his hands. Tell me what you see. Not what he'd doing or what he's wearing, just his hands."

"They're hands. Regular size, dirty. Some cuts and scrapes. The knuckles are pretty scraped up."

"Are they bandaged?"

"No, just scraped up and bloody."

"How bloody? Is there a lot of blood or is it just some scraping?"

"Pretty bloody. Some has run down onto his wrist. He's got one bad bite on his... I mean, one bad cut on his right hand. It's bleeding."

"Are you on his right or his left? How are you seeing him?"

"I'm on his right."

"What is he holding?"

"It's a... nothing. A cigarette. He's holding a cigarette."

"No, he isn't. What's he holding?"

"I told you, a cigarette."

"Is it in his right hand or his left?"

"Uh, his right."

"That's not the truth. Stop running from it. Look at his hands. What's he holding?"

"It's... a gun. He's holding a gun."

"Right or left?"


"And in his other hand? What's in his other hand? Calm down, don't run from it. It's a freeze frame, no action. Nothing is happening. It's a frozen moment, nothing is happening. Your father's hands are bleeding, scraped and cut and bitten. Blood is on his hands. It's a frozen moment. Do you see it?"


"In his right hand he's holding..."

"A gun."

"What kind?"

"A Glock. A big tactical Glock. Plastic grips, blackened action, mounted laser sights."

"Good. Look at the scene, but remember that it's frozen. There's no action. Whatever he just did or might do in a moment, this scene is frozen, like a single image from a DVD on pause. OK?"


"Here comes the hard part, Jesus. What's in his other hand?"

"I... I can't see it."

"Where is his other hand? What's he holding?"

"He's holding... I can't see his hand. It's in her hair."

"Where is his hand? What is he holding?"

"Her hair. He has her hair wrapped up in his fist, his left fist. She's screaming. Her hands are tied behind her back and she's screaming -"

"Jesus, calm down. The scene is frozen, remember? No movement. Nothing is happening. Freeze the scene in your mind."

"OK... OK."

"Can you see the gun? Where is he holding the gun? Remember, the scene is frozen. Nothing is happening. It's frozen. Where is the gun?"

"It's in her mouth. He has the barrel shoved into her mouth, shoved far back in. He's got her mouth forced open with it. She's... her lips are pulled back and... she's..."

"And what? What do you see?"

"She's laughing. She's daring him, not scared at all. Until..."

"Until what? What is he doing?"

"The barrel of the Glock... he's pushing it into her mouth. She's smiling, wide. Biting into it... biting into the metal. Her fangs... my God, the fangs are all bloody. She's not scared until he says 'Wooden bullets, babe.' Now she's trying to pull away, but she can't..."


The story continues with Part 2.

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Lucky Seven - Goodbye Grammarian

I was tagged by Carrie Clevenger for a fun lucky seven post. Here's the rules, which I've very efficiently copied from Carrie's post:

1. Go to page 77 in your current manuscript
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next seven lines as they are - no cheating
4. Tag 7 other authors (Done on Facebook)

Here's my lucky seven. This is taken from "Goodbye Grammarian":

"...department chair did some checking around and finally called the police.

She'd been gone for at least a week. No one was able to provide much useful information for the investigation. No, they all said, she hadn't been acting strangely, at least not for her. That more or less ruled out a simple wandering off due to senile dementia. She didn't take vacations, she didn't travel, she had no major medical procedures scheduled, either in Lexicon City or out of town. Since there'd been no contact and no ransom note, the police explored the obvious angle of homicide, that a jealous colleague had had some hand in the..."

Thanks, Carrie!

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6 Ways To Make Money Writing Crap

All of us would love to write a multi-million dollar best seller, but guess what? Your writing might be crap, keeping dreams of success at the bottom of a bottle of cheap scotch.

But don't despair! Here are 6 ways to make money writing crap that you can use to make your blog profitable, make your book a success and get that cute barista to remember your name.

1. Launch it into space. Take your crappy writing, etch it onto a copper plate, attach it to a deep space probe and launch that sucker. When the aliens find it, read your prose and attack Earth, who will they want to set up as suzerain over their newest colony/factory world? YOU!

2. Bikini, bikini, bikini! Put a great picture of a bikini-clad hottie on your blog, and you'll get hits no matter how bad your writing is. Ad revenue! You can also post pictures of hot guys, because some women are on the Internet, too!

3. Insult everyone on Twitter. In as shrill and whining a voice as you can muster, make the argument that you don't expect anyone who uses Twitter to appreciate or even understand your writing, let alone like it. Since people who use Twitter have short attention spans, they will only read the first couple of paragraphs of whatever you wrote before denouncing you. Controversy + free publicity + blog hits = ad revenue!

4. Sophomoric juvenilia.Use outrageous profanity and physiologically improbable sexual exhortations all the time. Regardless of what you're actually writing about, people will flock to you just to see the caged monkey stuffing poo up his nose.

5. Defend/attack homosexuality. Regardless of what you actually believe, write out a screed either defending or attacking homosexuality. Then, two weeks later, claim you had a change of heart and write a screed doing the exact opposite. When your erstwhile defenders turn on you, run to your erstwhile attackers and ask for help. Then, when the traffic is high, switch back again. Lather, rinse, repeat! (Don't bother doing this with gun control, abortion or the designated hitter rule. Played out. Trust me.)

6. Run for president. The best part about this one? You don't have to write it! Hire a ghostwriter to plunk down 80,000 words of whatever you feel like spewing, add in a few family anecdotes and you're done! But I can hear you asking, how does this make money? Easy! Find a billionaire to bankroll your campaign through a superPAC, and he or she will single-handedly funnel millions of dollars into building your profile. No matter how distasteful and pathetic you are, that river of money will keep you propped up and high profile long after you should be dead and buried. Ad revenue!

I would love it if you would leave a comment below and tell me how fantastic this advice is!

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Wednesday #limerick: amateur, diligent, nurture

Today's Three Word Wednesday words are:  amateur, diligent, nurture

The diligent amateur scribe
Finds nurture with those of his tribe
Thus assuages the pain
Of a scribbler's mien
With spirituous liquors imbibe

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Do you add words or subtract them?

Much has been made of the plotter vs. pantser approaches to writing. Plotters have a plot worked out ahead of time, either as a general outline or as a detailed story map. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants, letting the story come to them as they write.

Everyone has their own native predilections, comfort zones and mental happy places. However, the best writing comes from a combination of these approaches. Plotters need to loosen up and let inspiration take them off the rails they've carefully laid down for the story. A bit of surprise from unexpected twists and turns can serve to electrify a piece. Similarly, pantsers need to incorporate at least a bit of structure to keep the narrative moving forward in a coherent manner. It also avoids massive blind alleys and internal contradictions that complicate editing.

But what I want to ask you about is peripheral (or perhaps corollary) to the plotter/panster divide.

Are you a putter-in or a taker-out?

In his "On Writing", Stephen King says to write the first draft, then start cutting in revision. His manuscripts get cut by 20%, 30 % or more in the trimming and shaping. (Given his prolific nature, it's amazing to me that he actually writes a lot more than we ever see.) What's interesting here, though, is that while he acknowledges the plotter/panster divide, he assumes rewriting-by-cutting. In fact, almost all of the writing books I've read assume rewriting-by-cutting.

I rewrite by adding in. My first drafts grow as relationships are fleshed out, motivations clarified, scenes polished, plot moved forward. This has always been true. I want to get the idea down first, then add flesh to the bones.

Granted, there are entire scenes, characters and subplots which are cut. However, these are more than made up for with new scenes, new characters and new subplots which serve to support and drive the main characters and plot elements.

What do you do? Add or subtract? Both at the same time? First add, then subtract? Vice versa?

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Happy Monday! Really!

Back from a few days offline. Waiting for me are:
  • > 400 e.mails:
    • ~50% Junk
    • ~25% Read & Respond Later
    • ~15% Respond Right Now
    • ~10% Respond Two Days Ago/Where The Hell Are You?
  • A rejection of a story I submitted, nicely phrased with an invitation to resubmit something else more appropriate to the venue
  • A review which calls a recently published story "predictable, unmemorable and unremarkable"
  • More looming deadlines
  • Misbehaving computers
  • Jet lagged brain fog and dehydration headache
It's a good thing today started off really well, including some extra sleep, or I'd find all this pretty depressing.

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#FridayFlash: British Columbia Must Burn

British Columbia Must Burn

by Tony Noland

The chronoprojection deck filled the room with mottled green and brown, with blotches of white and blue here and there. Standing above the deck, Tyler could make out patterns: swirls, curves, some areas with speckled admixtures, others with concentrations of one color interlaced with another.

"Canada, in all its glory."

Tyler turned to look up from the landscape. "What am I looking at here, Ian?"

"I told you," his friend said, "Canada, in all its glory. From the open expanse of Hudson Bay to the rugged shore of British Columbia."

"I know it's Canada," Tyler said, "I can read the label on the display. But what am I looking at? What are you showing me?"

Ian scrolled his mouse. The view zoomed in, rushing downward from the apparent vantage point of low earth orbit. Brown and green smears resolved into mountains, valleys, forests. In a few seconds, the deck displayed a river, running east to west. It bumped up against a mountain range and turned north. Again, Tyler looked at Ian, who clicked a command. More labels appeared on the deck display. It was the Mackenzie River running into the Mackenzie Mountains.

"Who's Mackenzie?"

"Alexander Mackenzie was a trader and explorer. About seven hundred years ago, back in the 1790s, he led one of the expeditions to find the Old Northwest Passage."

"You mean the one that didn't exist?"

"Right, that one. This was back before the polar ice cap melted. Back then, if you wanted to get from Asia to Europe, you either went west, around India and Africa, or you went east, around South America. If there had been a water route across Canada, Asia and Europe would have had much closer economic ties, much earlier."

"OK, so he was one of the poor bastards who went looking for it, didn't find it, and got a river and a mountain range named after him. So what am I looking at?"

"Notice the timestamp on this projection? It's today. Canada is not only lush, warm and fertile, it's also one of the economic powerhouses of the world."

"Ian, I wish you could do these experiments of yours without being so overdramatic. Of course it is. After the ice caps melted, and the U.S. withered in the heat, Canada became the breadbasket of the world and the crossroads for goods between Asia and Europe. I know the history. Now, for the last time, can you please tell me what I'm supposed to be looking at?"

The scene rose and flew again, settling to a higher vantage point over a spot almost 800 kilometers to the south. "This is the Peace River," Ian said, "and this -" the scene flew to the west "- is Williston Lake, high in the mountains of British Columbia."


"So, there is water passage from Lake Athabasca in Saskatchewan running westward all the way up to Williston Lake. This system of rivers and lakes existed in Mackenzie's time, just as they do today. Back then, of course, they were almost primeval. The Native Peoples didn't do any major earthworks, like canals or dams."

"Again, so?"

"Watch." Ian touched his controls and the scene began to flash from green-brown to white and back again, the typical indication of reverse-time scrolling. Tyler watched the increase in flicker until the delta-T was twenty years per second, when summer and winter blurred together. There was an abrupt transition in the early 2200's and much of western Canada became white. "That was -"

"- the melting of ice caps in the Global Temperature Realignment. Yes, I know. How far back are you going?"

"Thirty thousand years. Let me increase the delta-T... there." The scene flickered and slowed to a stop. The mountains were capped with wide expanses of snow. "Now, here comes the fun part." The view rose again, up to the original height that encompassed most of the continent. Ian rubbed his hands together and said, "Watch this." He issued a command and the sun skewed across the sky into the western ocean, leaving what would one day be called Canada in complete darkness. "This part is going to be in realtime, so give it a minute."

"What will be? What did you do?"

"Just watch."

It took more than six minutes of waiting, but when it came, it was spectacular. An enormous fireball exploded past the observation viewpoint, splintering into a hundred massive streaks. They rained down on the continent, blasting into it with horrific force, meteorites the size of mountaintops smashing across the landscape in a line of destruction that stretched for 400 kilometers or more. Even from the high, high viewpoint, it was clear that the impact ripped a series of massive holes in the earth's crust, sending ejecta rebounding up into the atmosphere.

"Wow. Did you speed up the delta-T?"

"No, this is unfolding in real time. See how the shockwaves are setting the forests on fire? Amazing, isn't it?"

"Yeah, it's impressive, but so what?"

Ian smiled and nudged the controls. "You, my friend, have just witnessed my latest work of art. I had to alter the orbit of that asteroid very precisely 800,000 years ago to get the timing and location right. Watch this." As the delta-T ran forward, the flicker of the screen gave way to a complete covering of white. "I timed it so that the dust from the asteroid strike would get caught up in the general glaciation trend. It made that ice age come on a bit earlier, but not much. Now, we let the glaciers grind back and forth for a while, and... presto!" The scene slowed and halted.

Across western Canada, a series of crater lakes marched across the  mountains, a straight line of blue circles ranging from huge to tiny. In between, long fissures, ground deep and smooth by the glaciers, connected the lakes in an unbroken line of water running from Queen Charlotte Sound to Lake Athabasca.

"I present to you, the Northwest Passage!" Ian beamed, obviously quite pleased with himself. "From Lake Athabasca eastward to Hudson Bay is trivial. Once the European settlers land and find this watercourse, it won't take long for them to establish direct trade routes to Asia. Theoretically, Canada will become the same economic powerhouse it is now, but five hundred years sooner."

"Theoretically? You mean you didn't check? You don't know for sure what's going to happen?"

"No, of course I didn't check. That's part of the rules of the Alternate Reality Society's annual Consequences of Natural Events competition. You're allowed to make one change to a natural event, then the judges evaluate the impact it has on human history. I'm going to enter this into the Economics division. Since they give extra points for artistry and technical difficulty, I'm a shoo-in for the Most Unlikely Superpower award!"

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25 writer's biographies

There's a list of 25 inspiring biographies of writers over at OnlineCollege.org which has just expanded my virtual TBR shelf. Some of these were already on the list, but many are new to me. The post gives summaries of the books and why you should read them, but here's the list of titles, for easy reference (mine as much as yours):
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The Sci-Fi Film Alphabet

From Stephen Wildish.

Very cool. I've got A, B, E, G, I, J, K, M (maybe), N, O, P, Q, T, U, W, X. What are the others?

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... and AFTER the story is published?

My post over at Write Anything is about the story I published in the "Ride the Moon" anthology: how the process worked, what it was like to go through the revisions, what I've done since sending it off to the publishers and how it feels now that it's out. You will also get an idea of just how ridiculously detail-obsessed I am when it comes to writing science fiction.

Go check it out!

Also, although I'm sure I've done this before, another shout out to Janet Aldrich (@tec4_cleveland) and Larry Kollar (@FARfetched) for their terrific beta reads of "Sunset at the Sea of Fertility". Thanks, guys!

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Book launch today! "Ride the Moon"

Today is the book launch for the spec-fic anthology, "Ride the Moon", with the kickoff of the print edition being held at Audrey's Books, 10702 Jasper Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T5J3J5. Why is this book so terrific? Here's the description:


Werewolves and Vampires aren’t the only frightening creatures
birthed by the Moon…

For thousands of years, the Moon has inspired stories and legends about heroic animals, violent deities, and criminal humans. In modern times, those tales have been overshadowed by vampires and werewolves. It’s time for the Moon and her denizens to take back the night.

Follow us down a twisting path of fantasy and science fiction and rediscover the magic of the Moon. From Mermaids that collect souls to lunar colonies on the brink of disaster, inside these pages you will find out which lunar gods still walk among us and what new breed of monster you should be fearful of.

Ride the Moon contains 19 speculative fiction tales that showcase the breadth of writing styles from around the globe.

With stories by: Krista D. Ball, Marie Bilodeau, Kevin Cockle, David L. Craddock, Theresa Crater, Isabella Drzemczewska Hodson, Ada Hoffmann, Claude Lalumière, C.A. Lang, Amy Laurens, Billie Milholland, Tony Noland, Jay Raven, A. Merc Rustad, Rebecca M. Senese, Lori Strongin, Chrystalla Thoma, Shereen Vedam, and Edward Willett.


All the stories in this anthology are great, a strong mix of styles and voices. My piece in this anthology ("Sunset at the Sea of Fertility") is a dark, claustrophobic science fiction story about the horrific consequences of a massive solar flare smashing into both the Earth and the moon (specifically, the lunar colony referenced in the publisher's description). If you like my flash fiction, you'll love my full length short story in this book, along with all the others.

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#FridayFlash: Heatstroke


by Tony Noland

I didn't ask for this life. I never asked for anything back in the pet store. Food and bubbles, yes, but what's wrong with that? Give me food, bubbles and don't scrape the glass when you clean my tank. Life was so good back in the pet store, so peaceful, serene. A goldfish could be the fish The Great Spawner intended for him to be. But this? Is this the kind of life for... the kind of... is this...

I didn't ask for this life. This isn't the life I want, not the life The Great Spawner wanted for me, I'm sure of it. I just wish I could think clearly! There was something important, something that was right at the tips of my tail, but what is it? Not vague dissatisfaction, oh no, there's nothing vague about MY dissatisfaction with this place. This bowl, the dull, tasteless water that... the water that... this bowl...

I didn't ask for this life. I couldn't have, could I? To be alone? Have I always been alone? It's so hard to remember! I was so happy in the pet store. I had food and bubbles. It was all so serene and peaceful. And there was nothing wrong with my mind. I'm sure of it. Whatever they did to me when they scooped me out of the tank at the store, it did something to my mind. Was it the bag? The bag? Was it... something...

I didn't ask for this life. I never wished for a playmate before, it never occurred to me to have to ask. My brothers and sisters, my crèche-cousins and relatives, I remember being surrounded by them all. When did I become so alone? Was it just me they bagged? No, there was someone else. Or was it several of us? Then where are they? If I'm all alone, where did they... where did they... where...

I didn't ask for this life. I feel like I've been here forever, but it can only have been a day or so. Surely not longer than that, please Merciful Spawner, not longer than that! But why do I feel so tired? So heavy in this stinking, airless water? Why do my bones ache and my gills itch? I'm not an old fish, I'm young! I'm young and strong! But how long have I been here? Been here? How long... here...

I didn't ask for this life. Did I ever ask for anything back in the pet store? No, I did not. Was life good back in the tank at the pet store? Yes, it was! My family and I had food and bubbles, and what more could a goldfish ask for? Then there was the net. And the bag. And the sunlight through the car window, heating us up. All six of us, getting so hot, choking in the airless water... airless water... hot....

I didn't ask for this life. Did I just say that? Hello? Where am I? What is this place? Hello? It's not a tank at all, really, just a bowl. How am I expected to live in this stinking water? Where are the bubbles? Where is the food? Where are the rocks, the gravel, the little castle? This is just glass, slimy smooth glass and airless water that smells like... water that smells like... smells like... death...

I didn't ask for this life. I didn't ask for anything. Oh, god, there's something wrong with me, something wrong with my brain. I feel like my mind is swimming in circles, going nowhere, looping back on itself endlessly! Help! Somebody, anybody, help me! Please, help me! I'm trapped in here, with no bubbles at all! I'm going to die in here, help! Die in here... die... die...

I didn't ask for this life. Alone. Old. Dying. Why can't I remember? Where am I? What has happened to me? I was young and strong and happy. Now? I'm old. Great Spawning angels, look at me, I'm OLD! But how? I've only been here... how long? It can't be more than a day, can it? What happened? How could I have aged and withered so quickly? How could the life have been.... life have been... taken...

I didn't ask for this life. I didn't ask for anything back in the pet store. Or did I? Wasn't there that one time? When I was so hot, I thought I was going to die? But that wasn't in the pet store tank. It was in a bag, a plastic bag in the sunshine. Yes! Yes, and the water was growing so hot, it felt like I was suffocating, like my brain was bleeding, yes, I remember now! And all of us, all six of us started swimming like crazy, trying to... swimming like crazy... trying to... crazy... crazy...

I didn't ask for this life.


My thanks to @girl_onthego for the story prompt, "a psychic goldfish with a thirty second memory".

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How to keep going

Today over at AMwriting.org, I talk about endurance as a writer. How do you keep it going for the long haul?  From the post:

It’s easy to write when things are going well. The words splash and flow like wine from a bottle, intoxicating you and everyone around you. It feels like the party will go on forever. It doesn’t take endurance to write during times like this. It takes a fast pen and a quick mind to capture it all.

But then…

You want to write, you need to write… but you can’t. You’ve got no ideas, or at least no good ones. Your prose sounds trite, your characters are wooden, you’ve written yourself into a corner and your stalled WIP is crap. The screen is blank in front of you and your fingers on the keyboard are useless.
Whatever happens, just keep writing.

Pop over and give it a read.

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Wednesday #limerick: deviant, miniscule, trivia

Each Wednesday, I write a limerick using the prompt over at Three Word Wednesday. Today's words are: deviant, miniscule, trivia.

He thought she said "deviant" septum
 A miniscule slip, but it kept him
Hoping that this Olivia
thought sex was just trivia;
Wild imaginations o'er leapt him.

~~~~~ * * * ~~~~~

Are you kidding? You still haven't bought my collection of limericks? Why don't you love life?

You can read more of my limericks inspired by Three Word Wednesday in my e.book, which is cleverly titled:

Poetry on the Fly: Limericks Inspired by Three Word Wednesday

Only $0.99 - less than a hot dog at the convenience store!

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What is stopping you?

Today over at Write Anything, I talk about what I do well, what I do poorly, and how I can tell the difference.

The silence in the room was strained, but it turned especially uncomfortable when Dr. Glassenkopf began to take notes. The scratching of his pen somehow threw the silence in high relief, made it unbearable.
“What are you writing?” asked Tony Noland. “I haven’t said anything.”
The pen stopped...

Check it out.

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Book review: "On The Road"

An unfocused Peter Pan expresses his confused discontent with the purposelessness of his life by drifting back and forth across the country in the company of similarly addle-pated losers. His bone-deep narcissism allows him to remain convinced (despite all evidence to the contrary) that a succession of starvation-wage menial jobs, casual petty theft, abusive sexual relationships and escapist substance abuse is noble, heroic and illustrative of the inner workings of where it is so totally real, man, I mean like totally and on the upswing REAL.

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The periodic table of storytelling

From ComputerSherpa over at deviantArt comes the periodic table of storytelling (click to enlarge):

I've seen this before, but was reminded of it by Dan Powell.

ComputerSherpa discussed the response to the periodic table this way: So apparently the Periodic Table of Storytelling [link] has become ridiculously popular. :omg: This has never happened to me before; it is downright surreal to feel like all of a sudden the Internet is looking at you. 

Excellent work - I salute you! Professional-quality prints are apparently available now - contact ComputerSherpa for details.

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#FridayFlash: Dinosaurs in the Duckpond

Dinosaurs in the Duckpond

by Tony Noland

I don't know why this should be so hard for you to accept. John Carmack is blowing millions on building those goofy vertical takeoff spaceships down at Armadillo Aerospace. Bill Gates is throwing away almost a billion dollars trying to end malaria. If they can chase expensive pipe dreams in their retirement, why do you begrudge me my little genetics experiments? Sure, it's a long shot, but I made my fortune seeing opportunities where other people only saw brick walls and hallucinations.

Besides, once we get through just a few more generations, we'll have all the ancestral genes fully repaired and they'll look like proper apatosaurs. Our computer models suggest that they'll end up being about one-fortieth the size of the largest members of the class, the ultrasaurs and seismosaurs and so on. They'll be a little bigger than a Great Dane.

Oh, did I say "suggest"? Sorry, I meant "prove". Our computer models prove they'll be perfectly manageable. And, of course, if any single individual apatosaur ends up pushing the bell curve toward the larger end of the spectrum, well, that's what culling and selective breeding is for, isn't it? After all, meat protein and leather are some of the ancillary products we expect from this project. It won't just be about fashionable companion animals.

Now, as you can see, the ducks are perfectly happy to swim in the same pond with the neo-ducks. See them circling, keeping their distance? This batch of neo-duck is five generations removed from the original breeding stock, so they are really starting to show the apatosaur physiognomy, especially in the teeth. In the first couple of generations, the gene-boosting caused plenty of changes, believe you me! However, they were mostly expressed as changes in blood chemistry, internal organ structure, behavior, and so on. Nothing too visible. In fact, if you were to look at the F1, F2, or even the F3, you probably would have just thought they were funny looking ducks. There's no mistaking these F5's, though! Their breeding cycle turns out to be fast as hell, too, which is a big time-saver.

OK, here come a flock of them. See how they use their wings to walk? That's a behavioral reversion that showed up as a transient phenomenon in the F4's, but the F5's grew out those ridge talons on the wing joints, so they do it all the time. It's hilarious the way they walk, isn't it? They look so ungainly, like their stumbling over their own beaks. Right now is an awkward time, since the anatomical changes are coming in. For the next few generations, they'll have to be mostly aquatic, like ichthyosaurs. It'll be at F12 or F13 that they'll re-emerge onto land permanently. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, you know!

And there they go, the whole flock down into the water. Really, though, I guess we should start calling their groupings a herd. They've been "neo-ducks" since F3, when they lost the ability to interbreed with the parent stock of true ducks. I'll have to speak to Dr. Singh, though, see if we can't come up with a better term for the next few generations, until we can switch to "proto-apatosaur".

Here, watch what happens when I clap my hands.

See that? See how dumb they are? Every one of them turned this way. That's a sauropod for you, among the dumbest of the dinosaurs. The ducks just scattered, but even at the F5 stage, these neo-ducks don't have sense enough to run. They lined right up and oriented themselves towards us. And we didn't teach them that wedge shape, either, with the big ones in front. No sir, they came up with that themselves. Must be instinctive. We think it's so the littler ones can be protected back in the back, while the leaders do that dumb show of hissing and baring their teeth to scare off whatever's bothering them.

Our animal psychologist believe that behavior means they'll be especially easy to domesticate when the time comes. If all the neo-ducks are all so willing to take orders from the leader of the flock - or herd, or whatever we end up calling them - then the proto-apatosaurs and the true apatosaurs will follow the same instinct, only to a much greater degree. All we have to do is establish the farmer as the leader. They'll practically tend themselves. Think what a labor saver that will be! It'll be the best damn thing to happen to American agriculture since the Rhode Island Red.

Hey, how's about I put you down for one of the first pairs of apatosaurus-hide boots, now what do you think of that? Should have 'em for you in two years' time, or dinner's on me.

Yepper, these things are gonna be glorious once we're finished with them, just glorious! So much more practical than spaceships or pie-in-the-sky vaccines. You won't believe what a difference they'll make to the world.

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The idea behind the story...

Today over at Icy Sedgwick's Blunt Pencil blog, I'm discussing the idea behind one of the flash fiction stories that appears in my anthology, "Blood Picnic". The story is "Grey Ghost Gone", and it's about a superhero who has to stop being a superhero. You can read my thoughts about the story and why I wrote it, as well as the story itself, over in the blog post.

As for "Blood Picnic", you can pick up the anthology from Smashwords, Barnes & NobleSony, Kobo and Amazon. Enjoy, and feel free to review it!

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