Friday, March 22, 2013

604 words (posting more daily updates here)

As badly as yesterday sucked in terms of novel creation, today ROCKED. Solved my opening 12.5 k problem, and yes, +L. T. Dalin +Paul Kater +Nina Mideast Journal +Adella Thompson +C.M. Skiera +Eustacia Tan and +Brian Meeks, your sound critiques helped get me there. (Proof available upon request.) And I plunged deeper still into Act I! :)

Today's word count: 604.

Theme: Surprise.

Excerpt: He will not harm you, little one. Nothing will harm you. Given the element of surprise, I can kill an attacker, man or woman, with my right thumb. A matter of knowing the pressure point.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I just realized that yesterday was the tenth anniversary of my shahada -- AllahuAkbar!

Save the Bees (Bee Neonicotinoid Petition)

Back in the seventies ...

... we were all worried about killer bees ...

... but now it turns out ...

...the bees need to worry about killer humans.

A simple message today: 

Ban use of neonicotinoid pesticides ...

before they devastate bee populations in the US!

Learn why this is important here.

Sign this petition

And spread the word.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Islamic blasphemy laws on trial in Pakistan, xenophobia on trial in USA

+Robert Taylor 's article on the Washington Times website raises tough questions about the disturbing populist movement to impose blasphemy penalties, including death, in "many Islamic countries." He cites Pakistan as an example.

Pakistan's ugly, growing populist movement to find non-Muslims upon whom a sentence of blasphemy can be imposed is a troubling trend, and Taylor is right to cover it. He appears to have soft-focused the causes for the recent vigilantism, and the considerable internal opposition in Pakistan to hard-line application of the laws, but that's not my point here.

When Taylor concludes his piece by predicting that the "blight" in the "Middle East" will continue until "Islam undergoes some degree of enlightenment," he crosses the line into good old American xenophobia, which is just as ugly.

Consider: No amount of obstruction of justice on behalf of pedophiles on the part of the Catholic hierarchy would make it acceptable, or sane, for me to call the previous pope a "blight" upon "America" that will continue until "Christianity undergoes some degree of enlightenment."

My point: Baptists in Charlotte, North Carolina are not responsible for the excesses of Christian extremists, such as the cardinal in California who now faces criminal charges.

Similarly, Sunni Muslims in Charlotte, North Carolina (of which I happen to be one) are not responsible for the excesses of Muslim extremists in Lahore.

This is America. We find ways to get along.

And in this country, responsible journalists shouldn't sling mud at entire religions in print.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hannah Ruth Levinson is a filmmaker working on an immigration documentary in Charlotte ...

... and has a cool #crowdfunding initiative going to support her powerful new film FROM THE BACK OF THE LINE (trailer below). She writes: "Through digital filmmaking, we aim to tell the personal stories of undocumented immigrants living, working, and raising families in Charlotte.".

+Hannah Levinson and her crew are doing good work here in North Carolina, reminding us that even though we are all immigrants hereabouts, some of us have more obstacles to deal with than others.

Hannah needs a measly three thousand bucks to finish FROM THE BACK OF THE LINE, which looks to me like an important film. People are kicking in ten, twenty, and thirty bucks at a time here. Maybe you could, too.

Hannah, when you hit your goal, will you tell me your top ten novels of all time? Hope so!

Flash Fiction, Doug Karlson, and the Bunny Apocalypse

Nice stuff today from +Douglas Karlson , who amps up the weirdness factor considerably in the seventh chapter of +Ksenia Anske 's #BunnyApocalypse flash fiction project. You can read his fine work here.

You should check out Doug's book DEVIL'S REEF on Amazon.

My chapter -- the third in the coney canon -- shows up here,

You may want to read the Bunny Apocalypse Saga from the beginning to get all the bizarro fun the law allows.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Flash Fiction: The Apocalypse Collective

It's been a wild ride on +Ksenia Anske 's Bunny Apocalypse flash fiction project. I just wanted to take this opportunity (before the end of the world as we know it) to thank her and all the members of the newly dedicated Apocalypse Collective. I do hope we get to work together again soon, and want to propose a date of, hmm, NOW to discuss the next project, whatever it might be.

Share your brilliant ideas on the next Apocalypse Collective project below, please -- and thank you thank you thank you to our quarterback Ksenia and to +Dustin McKenzie , +C.M. Albert , +Becky Flade , +Seth Werkheiser , +David Eccles , +Rosalind Nazilli , +Kai Kiriyama , +Mistress S , +Sandra Hould , +Aliaa El-Nashar , +Andrew Hovenden , +Lori Lesko , +Douglas Karlson , @JLlicea, @michel_lee_king, @barrynova,  @mconeill2, @coreyalex, @agirlmadasabird, and @writer_danielle.

I'll go first: ZOMBIE WHITE HOUSE. A dedicated family of the walking dead overcome their differences to elect the first Zombie president. Zombies across the country rejoice. (Other suggestions? Hmm?)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My entry in the Bunny Apocalypse flash fiction insanity

It's live!

My chapter in the Bunny Apocalypse flash fiction saga -- the product of 20 committed, unbalanced, writers, all of us quarterbacked by +Ksenia Anske, can be seen here.

Don't. Eat. The. Eggs.

The opposite of identity theft (from +David Eccles)

Five years ago, a weirdo stole my identity and started buying stuff with a credit card I never applied for.

I started chasing myself around the country, wondering what terrible thing I had most recently done or said. Every day, there was always something new and nasty that I had supposedly done. ("Hey! I just changed my address again!" "Hey! I just stole a phone!" "Hey! I'm wanted by the police!")

The opposite of identity theft is what +David Eccles , one of twenty partners in the Bunny Apocalypse flash fiction project, did here. David went out of his way to find every vaguely interesting or praiseworthy thing I had done over the past decade, and made me do it all over again without even realizing it. ("Hey! I'm humorous! I should tell people!")

With +Becky Flade, David wrote the initial (and perhaps most difficult) chapters of the Bunny Apocalypse chapters. They set up a great yarn, and they deserve extra porridge for that. David also knows a good set of virtual bunny ears when he sees them. Becky, still a little shy about putting on the ears online. Perhaps some childhood trauma involving coneys.

Anyroad. David's a good lad, a funny individual in both sense of that word, a card-carrying multiculturalist, and a relentless advocate on behalf of the protection of that fearfuly endangered species, beards. Follow him on Twitter at @vikingbeard and you will have a good friend by lunch. And maybe a beard. It's contagious, you know.

Do check out +Ksenia Anske's  blog for a reliable bunny chortle or three, all this week. Someone interesting is going up there today, I hear. I might just be posting about that in a view hours.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Flash Fiction: The Bunny Apocalypse Begins In Earnest

The #BunnyApocalypse Flash Fiction project I have been working on with 20 cool writers has officially begun.

Chapter One, by the gifted +Becky Flade, went up today at +Ksenia Anske's blog. You can check it out by clicking here.

One chapter a day; mine goes up Thursday. Read 'em all!

But don't eat the eggs.

Keeping it visual department: Above, a bizarre piece of Danger Bunny #anime that, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with the Bunny Apocalypse. Other than the theme of danger and the word "bunny."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The crumbling wall between church and state

My tax dollars should not pay to fix this.
(Photo Credit: AFP.)

An article in the Economist highlights the current debate over a bill passed by the House of Representatives to rebuild houses of worship damaged during Hurricane Sandy last year.

This is a bad idea.

Public money should not be used to support religious institutions. We should not use federal funds to repair churches, synagogues, mosques, or any other religious buildings. Retaining this policy does not discriminate against religion. To the contrary, as the ACLU argues, "This principle is not discriminatory or hostile to religion. Rather, as James Madison forcefully argued centuries ago ... it is one of the most fundamental ways we have to protect and defend religious liberty for all.  It protects the conscience of each of us, ensuring that no taxpayer is required to fund a religious institution he or she may not believe in."

That the bill has gotten even this far suggests that there is a serious problem in Congress. Our lawmakers have apparently lost touch with the Constitutional principle of separation between church and state.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Flash Fiction and the #BunnyApocalypse

So having avoided, for the most part, the whole Flash Fiction thing, I got an invite from +Ksenia Anske , saw myself typing "YES," and realized I was going for it. The topic: EASTER BUNNY APOCALYPSE.

Today I logged my 500+ words. And it really clicked.

Quite happy with my chapter -- there will be twenty, all on this same insane theme -- and the nineteen other writers are now filling in their slots, or have already done so. Follow the Spring madness on Twitter by searching on #BunnyApocalypse. The stories will be posted on Ksenia's blog starting on March 12. Many thanks to +L. T. Dalin for pushing me to try this kind of thing.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pixar's Ultimate Story Template

From Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling, brought to my attention through the kind offices of +Ksenia Anske :

A. Once upon a time there was ____.

B. Every day, ____.

C. One day, _____.

D. Because of that, ____.

E. Because of that, ____.

F. Until finally, ______.

If there is a better condensed story template out there, I haven't seen it.

Here is how it was used to pitch FINDING NEMO:

Act I is sentences A, B, and C.

(But note that C is the transition between Acts I and II, so it seems to me to belong in both Acts.)

Act II is sentences C, D, and E. Notice that the pitch above switches to present tense to mark the transition into Act II.

Act III is sentence F.


Now to see if my novel fits. (Or make it fit, dammit.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

On writing: Gut-check from Ernest Hemingway

"I happen to be in a very tough business where there are no alibis. It is either good or it is bad and a thousand reasons that interfere with a book being as good as possible are no excuses if it is not. You have to make it good and a man is a fool if he adds or takes hindrance after hindrance to being a writer when that is what he cares about." -- Ernest Hemingway

(With thanks to +Buzz Malone, who posted this on G+)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Four novels I had to leave off my list of top ten favorites

THE 100 GREATEST NOVELS OF ALL TIME, a group I moderate on Google+, asks participants to submit a list of ten favorite novels. Inevitably, people complain about great books that did not make the cut for such a list. Here are a few of mine.

FREEDOM/Jonathan Franzen Not for the faint of heart, or those eager to fast-forward past national or familial dysfunctionality all in its varied manifestations. Funnier, by far, than most reviews I saw gave it credit for. And yes, darkly troubling in places. Reading this book got me to get up off my posterior and start hitting daily word counts on my own novel JIHADI.

BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS/Kurt Vonnegut Sci-fi writer Kilgore Trout realizes that a fan is taking his stuff literally. I devoured this at age thirteen, when I went on a major Vonnegut binge.

BEOWULF/Seamus Heaney, translator Others in our "anything-goes" G+ group are feeling free to include Homer as a novelist, so I suppose I should have considered more closely my decision to exclude this. The great Ur-Story that inspired Tolkien -- and everybody who ever built a story around a superhero.

THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY/Douglas Adams Yes, I loved it. But I couldn't see my way through to knocking off Dickens or Hugo Nabokov to make room for it.  This is currently topping the charts in our group's weekly rankings. Shows you what I know.

What novels would you put on your own personal Top Ten list? What novels would you reluctantly leave off?