Monday, December 26, 2011

Expansion Joints, part 37: "Present"

On Delivering Christmas Cards and Stockings

There's no time like the
present day for having a
run in a red suit.


This is my response to part 37 of the Expansion Joints Challenge, Poetry Potluck's Christmas Special, and The Purple Treehouse's Haiku challenge. I hope you enjoy the puns, and the deliberate ambiguity of leaving out any commas in the title, as well as the haiku itself. The syllable count is right, at least, even if the form isn't quite up to classical standards. The inspiration is drawn in part from the wonderful Porky's Expanse! post on dissociative Santa analogues in alternate universes. The sentiments in the poem are all something they could agree on, I'd wager.

Expansion Joints Challenge, part 37: Present

When this exercise was hosted over at Porky's Expanse!, he always chose the word for the Expanders! challenge based on some relevant happening or theme. I endeavor to maintain the tradition. I'm not going to try to fill in for the whole time that I've been away in one post, so I'll just lay out immediate events, such as the recent winter solstice, the first since the 1600's to have a lunar eclipse and a meteor shower, and Christmas and other holiday celebrations. After far too long an absence, I am finally here, now, (or, alternatively now, and/or now, or even now), regretting that I can give you all only that most humble of gifts, my words, which are unlikely to win any literary awards. With that perspective in mind, the word of the week is "present".

If you aren't familiar with the Expansion Joints project, it all began over at Porky's Expanse!.

The rules are just as they are described over at Porky's: as much narrative as you can cram into fifteen words, one of which must be the word of the week.

This can take the form of

1. An epyllion,or litle epic, a stand-alone fifteen-word narrative, or

2. An epos, or 'epic'. Instead of an independent 15-word story, you can choose to develop someone else's story from a previous week, or extend your own story from week to week. Just write the next installment. If it has 15 words, uses the word of the week, and continues the story, you've done it.

There are two important things to think about if you choose epos. First, you should have the permission of the person who wrote the story you will develop. If anyone writes a 15-word epyllion or adds to an epos and is happy for others to develop it later, please say so, with something like 'for use in an epos'. Second, by using specific elements of someone else's story, we technically create a derivative work, so it's best to avoid this.

There are a number of generous contributors who have given express permission to use some of their writing as the basis for epos:

Porky, the founder of the project, offers up all of his contributions.

GDMNW has opened up the three stories here.

Dave G_Nplusplus makes any of his Expanders! stories available for use in an epos.

Arlequin has an epos running on his Expanders! page, and he has graciously extended permission to play with any or all of the contributions there.

Andy, over at The Creepy Corridor, has also made his epos posts available for expansion.

C'nor, at Lunching on Lamias, gives consent to use any of his entries, which are partly located on his blog, but mostly strewn throughout the comment threads here.

And, as always, feel free to use any of the stories on this blog that are tagged as "Expansion Joints" in an epos.

Words that have previously made an appearance in an Expanders!/Expansion Joints include: food, fort, stuff, elf, rogue, pass, fool, hammer, note, temper, table, twisted, missing, sacrifice, spirit, rush, tie, line, free, break, cut, opening, close, shock, balance, field, blow, file, die, fall, vent, skip, back, stand, plague beat, and pin, in case you are of an historical bent, or wish to write a complete set.

When you've finished writing your entry for this week, either post your 15-word story directly in the comments here, or leave a link in the comments to the blog page where we can find it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

E-Book Extravaganza!

I know it is a bit late in the holiday season to be putting out a list of book suggestions, but if you happened to come across this blog, chances are good that, if you haven't gotten at least one bookseller gift card from friends and family already this year, you soon will, and I wanted to take this opportunity to review a few pieces (some by request, some because I just like them), and highlight a few things I think are really worth reading (and even spending money on!) that might otherwise have slipped under the radar. And, in case the good folks at the FTC are wondering, no one paid me to write these reviews, and I didn't promise to only say nice things in them...which is good, because that's not what I did. If any of these sound too much like publishers' blurbs, I blame my sordid past as an advertising copy writer, and my enthusiasm for the works. If you don't own a dedicated e-reader, don't forget that Amazon has free Kindle e-reader apps for Web browsing,PC, Mac, iPad, Android, and other smart phones. If you can read this blog, you can read an e-book.

Here's the quick list, so that I can get this out to you before the new year:

Fantasy / Sword and Sorcery:

Dragon Fate, by J.D. Hallowell

This is pure classic fantasy and adventure by a masterful storyteller, complete with dragons, magic, and swordplay. With smooth, effortless prose, this is definitely a step up from the usual fare, and the fact that it tells an engaging tale while barely rising to a mild PG rating makes it a great choice for fantasy fans of all ages from 'tweens to adults. A complete story in itself, it is also the first book of a series. For those who are wary of starting an intriguing but incomplete series for fear of getting trapped in a Robert Jordan-esque fiasco, you can breathe easy here: the second (and final) book in the series is already in the publisher's hands, and should be released early in 2012. I consider this the Godiva chocolate of mind candy, a perfect book to curl up with on a lazy afternoon...or two, or three, unless you are a speed-reader, because this is not a short book. That said, even at 140,000+ words, it was over too soon.

History / Politics:

Rule And Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party, by Geoffrey Kabaservice

If you are at all interested in modern American history and politics, or if you simply wonder how we wound up with the Republican Party we have today, this is a must-read. It begins with a clear analysis that places the Republican Party as it existed in mid-century in historical perspective, and goes on to reveal how, far from being the consequence of a spontaneous rightward shift in American values, the face of the modern Republican Party is the result of a systematic war that it is has waged on its own moderate wing over the past five decades, with devastating consequences...and it's by Geoff Kabaservice, so I know that you'll enjoy every insightful, witty, and erudite word.

Poetry /Short stories:

The New Death and others is a somewhat dark and eclectic collection of poetry and short stories. Some of the pieces are real gems. (Under the Pyramids is reminiscent of the sort of thing I imagine would have resulted if Rudyard Kipling had been an H.P. Lovecraft fan, for example.) Others fall a little flat, and a few are just silly or forced. The collection is a little heavy on puns, and on cats, neither of which fazes me in the slightest, but might put some readers off. Of course, if you are reading this here, you use the internet, so cats and puns are probably things you are used to by now, although you may be reluctant to pay for them, since they are so abundant for free in the local environment. The work as a whole could have benefited from a more critical editor, one who might have organized it differently and questioned whether every piece really needed to be included, as well as helping the author refine some pieces further. But honestly, the whole collection is only a dollar, and there is definitely at least a dollar's worth of entertainment value here, even if you have to hunt for it.

The Phoenix and the Dragon:Poems of the Alchemical Transformation, by Adam Byrn Tritt

We begin and end the list with dragons, today. While my usual preference is for formal poetry, the kind with strong meter and rhyme, I make an exception for Adam Tritt's unrhymed, more free-form work. Gabriel Erector, Pits, Recognizing Kali in a Young Girl, and the title poem, the Phoenix and the Dragon, have all been perennial favorites of mine since I received my copy of the first printed edition some years back. The recent release of the e-book (and the impending release of the illustrated "Bud the Spud", Tritt's twisted children's story), brought them back to my attention. While at least a broad general knowledge of world religions, philosophy, and history is useful to get the most out of these poems, they would certainly still be accessible and enjoyable without that perspective. Adam Tritt excels at taking the ordinary and revealing the extraordinary within it. You can get a deeper feel for his work at his blog.

I wish all of you the happiest of holidays! Enjoy!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Flash Fearsholiday: Hanukkah Horrors

This is my response to this weeks' (soon-to-be-released?) Flash Fearsday, a 140 character (or 140 word) microfiction horror challenge. I went with a Hanukkah theme in honor of the upcoming holiday...


"We can hold out if we keep the fire going. They avoid it."
"One day, max."
"When do the others get back?"
"8 days."
"G-d help us."