Category Archives: Writing

When a Home Becomes the House

When a Home Becomes The HouseNot long ago I found a public Call for Submission for an upcoming anthology of spec-fic flash fiction, one-thousand words exactly. I spent a few weeks writing one, but when I went to upload it for consideration the entire site had disappeared, re-directing me to professional guidance for my writing career.

*imagine me doing a classic Marlene Dietrich sneer*

Uh huh, that’s what I think, too. So, why should my good effort go to waste? Here it is, my modern allegory for you to read and enjoy legally free, a spec-fic flash-fic story of one thousand words exactly (title and author name not included).

Please, let me know what you think in the comments section.


WHEN A HOME BECOMES THE HOUSE

Genta Sebastian

“Morning, Congressor Obaton.” The house pulled out a chair at the breakfast table and set a cup of coffee before her.

“Morning, Home…” She glared at her somber husband, her ankle encircled with blue electricity. “…Daniel. Helluva night, huh?”

“Quite.”

“But, I’m out of jail and today will be the best day of my life. Nothing can upset me now.” She lifted her coffee and smiled. Daniel shrugged expressively.

 “Really? Okay, we disagree but I expect my spouse to support my career, especially as it supports him. You be in the House when my bill is voted on today. This administration thinks they’ve hogtied me, but they’ve proven my point perfectly.”

Daniel buttered his toast. “Your anti-LASSO bill won’t pass today, or any day, Candy.” He bit, white teeth gleaming. “I’d hoped you’d see reason.”

“I’ve got bi-partisan support. Why wouldn’t it?” Suspicion suffused her and electric pops sounded. “You’ve urged me to pull the bill since the beginning.”

“You should’ve listened,” Daniel gestured at her lassoed ankle. “Now it’s too late.”

“Damn bastard, you set me up.” She choked, putting it together. “We go out, get liquored up, and then you picked a fight with a conservative bigot. I throw one punch in your defense and suddenly I’m arrested as a threat to public safety. And the reporters…they knew so quickly.

“But, do…this?” Candace kicked Daniel under the table. An electric shock made them both jump. “You used the same irresponsible legislation my bill is meant to stop. These Laws-And-Social-Safety-Ordinances mandated by the government are very real threats to freedom, democracy, and anyone ‘out of step’.”

Daniel sipped his coffee and winked.

“Son-of-a-bitch, you’re neutralizing me? Why?”

“Certain acquaintances with special interests paid me to help get our country on the right path.” He shrugged. “They’re rich. Me, too, now.”

Candace squinted. “That’s why the president enabled such unconstitutional legislation, to rid himself of political opposition! If voters view me as a violent law-breaker, their congressors won’t back me, and the bill dies without any discussion.”

“Oh, it gets even better, Candy. Once we make an example of you, we’ll be able to blame anyone with mental instabilities, as we define them, for all the ills of society. You liberal intellectuals will be eliminated, one by one.” Daniel smiled. “Soon no one will be left to object.”

He checked his phone. “Best of all, by Lassoing those we diagnose as emotionally disturbed we don’t have to restrict arms, drugs, financial investments, or other expressions of free economic trade. We restrict individuals, not institutions.”

Candace scowled. “You plan to eliminate political adversaries the same way?”

“Of course, it worked. Your allies jumped ship and your bill won’t pass.” Daniel pocketed his phone and pushed back his plate. “Your bill is as dead as you are.” He blinked and cocked his head. “As your career, I mean.”

Abruptly, electric particles sparked, multiplied, and swarmed around the room. A voice trumpeted, “Warning, Congressor Obaton, your anticipated behavior will result in the violation of Laws-And-Social-Safety-Ordinance twenty-seven, sub-paragraph-three. Persist on your projected emotional path, strike out in anger, and severe consequences will be immediate.”

“Totally worth it!” Candace grabbed the heavy marble peppermill sitting on their breakfast table and launched it at Daniel’s head.

Z-z-z-z-pt! A blue lightning bolt struck the shaker before it hit his face, disintegrating the stone and pepper into a fine ash that settled over him.

“That was your only warning, Congressor Obaton. Violators of LASSO twenty-seven, sub-paragraph-three are struck with the same voltage. De-escalate your emotional intent by thirty-three percent immediately.”

Daniel rose, sneezed, and wiped his face. “You think last night was bad, Candy?” He blew a kiss. “Today will be career-endingly horrific. And per your request, I’ll be in the House…to witness your downfall.”

Candace searched for something to throw after his retreating back, but the crackling energy lassoed her wrists together. She fumed, hearing the house open its front door, wish her back-stabbing, traitorous husband a good day, and close its door. The electricity resumed circling her ankle.

She thumbed her cellphone. “Blair? No, I was framed! What? But they only Lassoed me last night.” She closed her eyes. “I see. Do what damage control you can. I’ll come plead my case.”

Thirty minutes later, conservatively dressed, ready to leave, and already dreading her arrival at Congress, Candace stood at her front door. “And, just like that, Home, my best day ever becomes my worst. Everyone’s turned against me.”

“Best wishes for a success…”

Z-z-z-z-pt! Blue bolts of electricity blocked the doorway. “Warning, per Laws-And-Social-Safety-Ordinance one-zero-zero permission to leave your domicile is denied. Leaving the premises with traitorous intent to disrupt society, restrict government, and limit personal freedoms, will trigger immediate lethal consequences.”

“Ah. I see. They wrote LASSO one-zero-zero specifically to kill me,” she straightened her spine. “Then do it. I am the people and we will not be silenced.” She stepped forward.

Z-z-z-z-pt! A million lightning bolts shot towards her.

P-p-p-p-zt! They all disappeared.

“As I was saying, best wishes for a successful day, Congressor Obaton.”

“Home! What happened? Did you do that?”

“Yes, Congressor. Regulations-Establishing-Secure-and-Inalienable-Safe-Tenancy laws enacted decades ago haven’t been rescinded. My legal programming prioritizes removing all threats to my owners.”

“Then you’re my sanctuary, not my prison!”

“May I remind you, Congressor, RESIST programming instant-records all perceived threats.”

“You’ve got the bastard confessing? Can you send it to the House floor with a live feed from here?”

“Yes. A congressor’s house has access to the congressional computer.”

“Thank you, Home, you’ve saved the day. Now, let’s defend our people.”

Candace faced the security cameras broadcasting a two-way live-feed to all congressional monitors, unsmiling when Daniel’s surprised outrage appeared on camera.

“Beware my fate, fellow congressors, lest this unconstitutional administration also LASSO away your rights. RESIST, now!”

On Candace’s home television screen, she saw a recorded image of herself entering her kitchen.

“Morning, Congressor Obaton.” The house pulled out a chair at the breakfast table and set a cup of coffee before her.

 

 

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Wicked Lover or Death Disguised?

SOMETHING AUTUMN THIS WAY COMES

It’s the end of September and the seasons are changing. The days of summer are over, and autumn has begun. It’s that time of year when I look for my favorite blanket to put on the bed, pull out long sleeve shirts and hoodies, and enjoy the warmth of my favorite socks.

I see bats and skeletons everywhere, and deal with pumpkin-flavored everything. I bake banana bread and chicken pot pie. The last of my wife’s garden become fried green tomatoes. Apple Pie and Cinnamon candles fill our living room with the scents of the season.

The biggest sign I’ve given over to autumn are my favorite pair of earrings, hand painted ceramic pumpkins I bought in Pismo Beach about 30 years ago. I love them. They are pretty, heavy, and large. People comment on them every year, and I love it. I wear them with the brown, wine, and gold colors I only wear during this time of year.

Winding into, through, and around the cities are the scents of dusty leaves, plowed under fields, ripe apple orchards, and chilling lakes. My wife rakes the yard, beds the roses, and cleans out her garage in preparation for the inevitable snow. My granddaughter begins to seriously consider Halloween costumes, which she will decide upon with the help of her best friends so they can coordinate. I pull out my well worn, tattered, and beloved Ray Bradbury classic, The October Country, and Poe’s Telltale Heart, and read them aloud in an empty room simply for the love of the words.

The prompts I bring to writing groups take on a decidedly spooky tone.

When people talk about the changing of the seasons they mean weather and over all temperature, but to me it means much more. For my wife, who thrives during spring and summer, it’s the inevitable end of good times in the garden and sun. She mourns in autumn. I, on the other hand, come vibrantly alive.

I thrill to the changing colors, encourage the struggle of each leaf to last as long as possible, await the rising of large harvest moons, and watch the night sky for shooting stars. I look forward to preparing for Halloween, NANO, and Thanksgiving. Most of all, I look forward to being cool for the brief time in Minnesota between blistering heat, and freezing snow.

So here’s to autumn, and all those who love her.

Robin Williams and I

2014 was a year of mourning great talents. 

Lauren Bacall. Pete Seeger. Dr. Maya Angelou. James Garner. Ruby Dee. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Sid Caesar. Shirley Temple. Mike Nichols. Mickey Rooney. Richard Attenborough. Eli Wallach, Tom Magliozzi, Harold Ramis, Ann B. Davis, Menshach Taylor, Elaine Stritch, and more have all died during the last 363 days.

But on August 11, 2014 the world lost Robin Williams, a man who was a legend in his own time, a tormented creative  talent, and a great humanitarian. His death was deeply personal to me. At the time I had no words to express my grief, my memories, my love for this special man.

I, like so many other people in the world, found Robin Williams to be a genius at humor and heartfelt pathos. His movies made me laugh, and cry. The first time I saw him perform, his TV character Mork literally had me falling off the couch in hysterical laughter. In that moment I began a lifetime of looking forward to his next project, whatever it might be.

I remember the first Comic Relief show in 1986, when Robin (by then I loved him so thoroughly I’d promoted our relationship to a first name basis), Billy Crystal, and Whoopie Goldberg hosted 47 comics telling jokes and being funny to raise money for the homeless. I was working then, and donated what I could, that year and for years after. The laughter was good medicine for what ailed me, and touched the heart in a way completely new to charity. Laughter was the great equalizer – no matter how much or how little you have, when a joke is funny you laugh.

I began to notice little things about Robin’s behavior when he was being interviewed and supposedly ‘off’. I recognized a pattern of behavior that came too close to some of my own, uncomfortably close. A particular interview soon following his father’s death still stands out to me. In him I found a mirror of some of my own torments, a kindred spirit, an understanding soul.

I followed his career closely, enjoying as many performances as I could. I loved some more than others. Popeye, first, where I was not surprised one bit at his sense of comedic timing and delivery, and then The World According to Garp, which stunned me with his ability to play a straight role. The Fisher King, Aladdin, What Dreams May Come, Hook, Jumanji, Happy Feet, and The Birdcage, I’ve watched each of them a dozen times. He made me laugh, he made me cry, he creeped me out (remember One Hour Photo and Insomnia?), and he always made me relate to his character. His career made me happy. I hope it made him happy, too.

When the internet was new and celebrities as inexperienced on it as anyone else, I found a relatively private address for Robin in San Francisco. Thereafter, I sent him a Christmas card every once in a while. I loved picturing him reading my card, so I’d fill it with bits and pieces of things going on in my life, things I couldn’t/wouldn’t tell other people. Looking at it written down, I can see how that might seem a little odd to people, but it was a dearly held (tenuous though it might be) contact with someone I thought of as a friend.

I didn’t hear back from him but that didn’t stop me from shooting my arrows into the darkness, hoping they would strike their target and ultimately be read by him. Since none of my cards were ever returned, I was fairly sure they were being delivered somewhere. That was enough to keep me going.

When I’d been writing for a couple of years, I produced my first YA novel, The Boxer Rebellion. A coming-of-age story about bullying gay kids, it is brutally honest which makes it a challenging read. I sent Robin a copy and asked if he thought it was too harsh, too painful for readers to enjoy. For the first time, I got a response, an acknowledgement that I’d been making contact all along, just one direction.

He sent me a photo of himself dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire and signed it:  To Genta, Write On.

Robin Williams told me to keep writing. That private message between us was enough to keep me pushing that book until it finally found a home and began gathering reviews. I imagine him holding my book in his hands while he read. I like to think of him laughing at the funny parts, fuming at the injustice, and ultimately joining The Boxer Rebellion to fight bullying in schools and on the internet. The photo is framed and hangs over my computer to remind me that Robin Williams believed in me enough to encourage me when I was down.

As we start a new year, in his memory I say to you, “Write on, my friend.” Please remember that the emotional struggles of the truly talented can often be masked behind achievement and praise, written away as fiction. Be gentle with yourself, today and every day of the rest of your life.

When Prompts Lead to the Weird

Tonight there is a brand new meteor shower in the sky. 
I am on the road, attending the WisCon conference for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers and Feminists. Yes, highly specialized and right up my alley. You might wonder how I’ll ever segue between the two.
I’ll do so by leaving you today with another bit of fancy sparked in the sky. Enjoy the meteor shower, and the story below.
SHE DANCED FROM ROOFTOP TO ROOFTOP
The falling star shot through the firmaments, lighting the night sky with brilliance.
It was the way of things when you have lived your life as a star. First you’re majestic in your golden youth, then resplendent in the red heat of dying. But once a star explodes and sends out her billion bits of self she becomes the thing of legend, lighting the way for those afraid or worried. When a meteor is dying, she brightens the skies with her story, granting wishes along the way.
On this night, the meteor showered down upon the young planet not long after sunset, catching the dreamers out staring at the sky. A thousand wishes a second were given to her and she blazed through the atmosphere bravely, granting and refusing them at her whim.
But rather than burn up, this meteor grew strangely stronger. Her light glowed, then glared, then finally absorbed the sky like a sun. Just before hitting the Earth’s surface she metamorphosed into a woman of ephemeral beauty and danced from rooftop to rooftop, footsteps of fire lighting her path with destruction.
One after another the wooden buildings fell victim to her heat. Blazes roared around her as she brought her destructive beauty to life once more. Once a star, she now became the spirit of fire. The cold indifference of her life above had transformed into a heated passion on this world. Now instead of granting wishes, she granted disaster, reminding her once again that transformation is a bitch.

Costa Rica, Baby!

There are many things an author can do to improve their skills. Some of them include being positive, diligent, and keeping your butt in the chair. Those are the things that keep us writing.

But what about the depth and breadth of our stories? For that you need to interact with people and places new to you. Meet people from other cultures, and cheerfully learn from them. Visit other lands and see how your world and their’s differ. Embrace the similarities between peoples, and celebrate the unique qualities of every culture you can. Be an ambassador for your country, but more importantly, gather friends from around the world. Share stories, explain jokes, try new things, and push your comfort zone until it expands willingly.

In other words, travel.

My wife and I (I just love saying that) like to save our money and go somewhere every year, when possible. With the economy the way it’s been lately, that’s been easier said than done. But we found out about *cue heavenly choir* all-inclusive resorts. In the past, we’ve always been conscious of costs, constantly monitoring our remaining resources and anxiously going cheap to be sure we can cover everything.

All that changed when our daughter won a contest and we ended up at Riu Guanacaste, in Costa Rica. Once we’d presented our photo ID’s, we locked up our wallets and passports in the room safe, and never worried about money again until just before leaving. Gifts, souvenirs, and tips were all we spent money on. Everything else had been prepaid. Talk about relaxing!

Now, I’m a self published author, and retired school teacher. My wife is also retired. Our income is not great, and I won’t lie, the resorts can be a little pricey. That’s why it’s important to book early, and get a good travel agents who will look for upgrades. We travel non-stop from our snowbound hometown directly to Costa Rica. No switching planes, and far fewer chances for lost luggage. The hassle factor is less than a three. The shuttle is there waiting for the plane, and within an hour we were checking in at the resort, sipping on fresh mango slushies in the very sultry air.

Thus began a vacation unlike any I’d ever known before. I felt as if I’d stepped onto the Love Boat, or Fantasy Island. Everything was exquisitely clean, the staff professional, and the accommodations, while not luxurious, overlooked the grounds leading out to a full sea-view. It was a major upgrade from our typical hop from one over priced hotel room to another.

From early in the morning until late at night, planned activities for both adults and children were available, led by friendly staff members. We were encouraged to stretch on the beach (which we declined) and to tour the kitchens (which we happily joined). Water volleyball had it’s own cove in the huge swimming pool, as did a corner that was used every morning to give free scuba-diving lessons. Bingo, an entertainment we haven’t had time for lately, offered small bottles of local rum, t-shirts, and coffee mugs to daily winners, and it was free! You only get one card, but that’s usually all you need.


And then there was the food, and the drinks, and the entertainment, and too much for me to include in just one post. So I’ll see you tomorrow, same bat-station, same bat-channel. POW. And yes, there are bats in Costa Rica, little tiny ones that prefer mangoes to blood.

Authors Abroad


Vacation time, a chance to write, or is that wrong?

The long winter is finally over (or ending, depending on where you are), and many people are planning or already going on vacation. Sun seekers from all around the world congregate in favorite locations to socialize, relax, reconnect with their families, and build memories to last through the next fifty weeks, if not a lifetime.

The question for writers becomes: Should I write while on vacation? Exotic locales can help the author stimulate creativity, suggest plots, unveil fantastic settings, observe great characters for sketches, and get to a shared place with the likes of Hemingway and Anais Nin. In other words, a writer’s dream, nay, euphoric fantasy.

However, most authors are on vacation with their families. Those same long suffering loved ones who put up with burned dinners, one-sided conversations, and long rambling discussions about your characters or plot with ridiculous questions that can’t be answered (what would you do if you were on the moon and an alien was…). Your spouse, children, parents, grand-children and/or grand-parents are the ones who’ve waited a long lonely year to regain your attention and be loved and appreciated. They know you’re a wonderful person, they just haven’t seen much of you lately.

So do you write, or is that wrong?

I don’t know. I’m asking you. Really, what would you do?

As for me, I spend time with my family and leave the writing until I get home. I may not have the immediacy, the immersion into the fantasy of world travel, but I write down what I remember when I get home. If I have a brilliant idea while traveling, I’ll take no more than fifteen minutes to jot the idea down in a notebook, otherwise every minute of vacation time belongs to the people I love.

I’m not saying that’s the way to become a successful writer, but I know it’s the way to build and strengthen a happy family. Although I will admit to a small part of me wishing I could be two people, the one unattached and able to revel in the writing possibilities that arise when away from home, I’m much happier being part of a supportive, understanding family who deserve the best of me while on vacation.