Tag Archives: collaboration

Best of 2018


A disclaimer: Glen over at the Scenic Writer’s Shack wrote this up for AI a solid month ago, and due to some truly epic foolery and lameness on my part, well, it sat in the posting queue for all the intervening time. So while it’s a little bit late for a year-in-review post and we should be on to the bigger, better things 2019 is sure to bring, the fault here is entirely mine. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t do to have a voice singing my praises go unheard, so — here’s Glen!

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It’s time again to unfurl the star-spangled fan-flag and heap praise where it’s due.

I’ve always believed every five-star, Michelin rated blogger deserves their own personal cheerleader. From 14 000 km’s away I just happen to be Pav’s. The U.S / Australian alliance has been going strong since at least as far back as World War II and there’s every reason to think that a list such as this one can only further bolster those relations.

Matt, the Atlanta-based chief notions officer and gifted scribe behind ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED, and I have never met. It’s also unlikely we ever will meet. But that hasn’t stopped me two years running now (read last year’s honour roll list HERE) from honouring him and his Halydron Collider of Ideas superblog with a pick of what I consider his twenty finest posts during the year.

Ready?

Time to enter Matt’s hallowed sandpit.

Let the countdown begin… 

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1.  (Sorta) Safe landings, or Hell Week in the Theatre (April)

In the kind of truly majestic extended metaphor only Pav himself could conceive, we are treated to a white-knuckle cockpit view of the staging of a High School theatre production – complete with all manner of organised chaos including actor’s laryngitis, sprained ankles and ill-fitting costumes. Trying to land a rickity Cessna light aircraft during a violent thunderstorm seems a walk in the park by comparison.

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2.  Bend One Over For Me (August)

The pro’s and cons of library book enrichment – the practice of marking pages by folding over the top corners or even inscribing words in the margins – are uproariously unpacked in this classic post. Matt admits his librarian wife may not share his enthusiasm for what he terms “marking the trail for others.”

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3.  Canine Curling (April)

Because Pav’s dog follows him from room to room in their house she gets labelled an Attention Whore Dog. When the neighbours have a yard sale complete with all the accompanying noises of cars coming and going, doors slamming and muffled voices from the driveway – noises his dog associates with Matt and his wife coming home from work – the results are high-grade comedy.

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4.  Word of Mouth (July)

Vampire flash fiction you can really sink your teeth into. Any story that includes a character named ‘Thierry’ is welcome by me.

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5.  A Buffet on Cheat Day (August)

Our Matt finally sees the light does a glorious tango with the joys of non-fiction reading. In the process he rolls out perhaps his best analogy of the year – something about a salad bar, leafy greens and piles of mashed potatoes.

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6.  A Foolproof Method for Decluttering Your Home (July)

Self-confessed clutter expert Pav details a nine-point plan to home-treat your inner hoarder. This post came with a picture of our budding pro-author’s bedside table playing host to nine books, a pack of highlighters, his keys, a tape measure, a pair of socks, two notebooks, a pair of socks and several headphones. Expert indeed.

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 7.  Hammer Time (A Scientific Study in How Dumb You Can Be) (March)

While trying to drive in a nail he bangs his hand with a hammer. Accidentally. In front of a student. We shouldn’t laugh. But we do. A lot.

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8.  I am Not The Target Audience (June)

Our Acccidentally Inspired ‘host with the most’ applys his considerable film critiquing abilities to that classic of children’s cinema The Little Mermaid (1989) but concludes he probably shouldn’t examine kid’s movies so forensically. He freely admits to messing with his son’s head when called upon to answer questions from him relating to the movie.

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 9.   Honk if You… (August)

Pav gets honked at while he’s out jogging by an early morning motorist intent on delivering an unprovoked ‘thrill beep’ designed to unsettle and unnerve.

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10.  Lots of Time, Not Enough Time (June)

Different surroundings and routines while on vacation play havoc with Matt’s writing process. Top shelf analogies come flying thick and fast including the restaurant reservation one, the swanky gym on the opposite side of town one and the behind bulletproof plexiglass one.

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Channeling his very finest Star Wars ‘Jawa’ chic, dress-up Matt posted this photo of himself early in the year. It’s mysterious, quirky and ‘awkward-author-ish’ enough to easily earn my Pic of the Year Award.

11.   It’s Still There (August)

Matt liken’s the feeling of getting back to work on writing the novel he hasn’t touched in a while to turning on a cobweb-covered tap around back of an old abandoned farmhouse and finding, to one’s relief, twisting the faucet still produces cool, fresh water.

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12.   It’s Begins (Again) (August)

Eight years in the job allows Matt to reflect that teaching is an occupation with a built-in automatic renewal system called ‘Summer Break’ that allows employees to annually ‘degunk’ themselves.

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13.   Just One More Page (August)

Our doyen of the priceless quip acknowledges some books are more sleep-inducing than others before going on to concede Stephen Hawking’s A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME (1988), though intellectually stimulating in the extreme, is, excitement-wise,  definitely no edge-of-your-seat, white-knuckle thriller.

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14.   Kids with Guns (March)

Eight year old with a toy gun on the loose in a public playground. “BANG BANG YOU’RE DEAD.” Scarey. Not Funny. Real.

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15. Things not to Say to an Atheist (January)

Continuing to mine the more serious vein of ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED, this post impressed for its sheer degree of restraint in the face of one-eyed religious zealousy. Matt receives an intelligence-accosting comment on his post from a god-fearing church-goer who claims to pity him for his lack of bible-centred faith. Logic and a cool head win over flapdoodle every time. Praise be the Pav!

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16. The Spell is Broken (March)

Pav slaps his own wrist for overusing the phrase – ‘The Spell is Broken’ in his novel. Bad Pav will need twelve umbrella drinks and a good lie down to get over his own chastisement.

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17. Caveat Pre-Emptor (Or, Why it’s Okay to Brag a Little) (February)

Never one to toot his own horn, Pavman does the hard stuff, invents a way to claim significance for just about anything and cites one of his literary heroes Douglas Adams in the process. And as a finale worth reading to the end for, unceremoniously boos off stage so they never want to come back disclaimers, self-sabotage, false modesty and the pimple-faced rat that is the wholly wretched practice of knocking yourself down before you’ve properly gotten up. Empowerment came gift wrapped and placed neatly outside our doors in this grand post.

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18.  It’s Like This (November)

A spot on a favourite jacket. A conspicuous spot on a favourite jacket. Into the corner it goes. Fhthump!

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19. An American’s Guide to Canadian Food (May)

Fresh back from a vacation in Canada, self-confessed non-foodie Pav concludes the stuff to eat there is weird. Beware: this post comes with a harrowing account of what ‘Dulce’ is.

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20. The Trooth Fairy (September)

Reading this post was like pulling teeth. A LOT like pulling teeth. Includes the completely glamorous use of the word ‘unmoored’. Because he can.

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Cold Blood


Chuck’s challenge this week: The four-part story, part 1. That means it’s time to buckle up, because I’ll be taking on stories started by other authors and extending them in my own twisted ways, and they’ll be taking my creations into new and exciting directions of their own.

It was a bunch of fun last time it happened, so I’ve got high hopes this time, too!

So, how do you go about writing the beginning of a story that you won’t be able to write the ending to? Lots of unanswered questions, lots of plants (no, not that kind of plant), lots of hints at what might have come before, but not a lot of concrete. At least, I think that’s a good way to go about it. At any rate, that’s what I’ve tried to do here.

Enjoy, and if you’re here from the challenge and thinking of using this story stem, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

Cold Blood

Cold.

The weather reports had called for cold, but that was the first thing Lem could process, and the only thing, for that matter. Despite the sleeping bag her legs were snarled in, the stocking cap smushing down her short hair, and the two hoodies she had layered up the night before, the cold had seeped into her toes and her fingers in the night, and she could barely feel them.

She sat up, and a crack of thunder sounded in her skull. Too much whiskey the night before; yes, that had been a mistake. And not a drop of water around before bed, either. All the water in their flasks had frozen. Was still frozen, she discovered, turning a heavy flask over. It would have been funny, if her head hadn’t felt like it was tearing into two halves down the middle. She poked Mark to wake him up.

But Mark wasn’t there.

His sleeping bag had been right next to hers when she passed out, but now it was rolled up and neatly secured with paracord in the corner of the tent. Next to it sat Mark’s pack, which was also arranged and collected and ready to depart. But no Mark.

She peeked her head out of the tent — sucking in a sharp icy breath, because god help her, it was even colder outside — and looked around. There, the ring of stones around the pile of ash from last night’s fire. There, the funny little outcropping of trees that Mark had said looked like a bunch of aliens dancing around a maypole. There, the dusty trail leading off into the woods. In the distance, the burbling sounds of the river. But no Mark.

Lem cleared her throat, sending another shockwave through her pounding head, and stumbled out into the grey morning. She tried to call for Mark, but her voice was hoarse and tiny in the predawn mist. It wasn’t unlike him to go for a little explore before she was awake, but something felt off. The sleeping bag, his pack. He hadn’t lit a fire. And he’d had as much to drink as she had, if not more. By rights, he should be the one sprawling on the ground in the tent, unable to shake the fog out of his head. She called out once more, Mark’s name issuing out in a great cloud of vapor. Three crows exploded out of a nearby bush and went flapping off into the sky, cawing at one another and at her pitilessly as the grey swallowed them up.

An hour later, Lem had built a fire and thrown a few sausages in the pan, figuring that when Mark returned she could have a bit of breakfast ready. She’d thawed out a canteen and chugged a good quart of water, and that had helped, too. But the hour had come and gone: she had gathered kindling, listened to the thick sizzle of the gristly meat, and then devoured them herself, all without seeing or hearing any sign of Mark. It was only when she was cleaning up from the meager meal that she started to get uneasy.

Not at the thought of being alone in the wild; she carried a gun and was well-trained in its use. That had been her father’s insistence when she took up hiking, and she dutifully loaded it before every expedition, even though she had never had cause to use it. Nor was she uneasy at Mark’s absence; he liked the solitude of the woods even more than she did, and he would be back soon enough with some clumsy excuse about forgetting to leave a note, and they’d kiss and laugh over it and that would be the end. It was the cold, she realized. The sun was up now, casting long, skeletal shadows through the trees, but it was getting colder. Unseasonable was not the word. The chill was unnatural.

She chuckled at herself as she thought it, and went to pack away her mess kit back in her pack, and that was when she spotted it. It was frozen solid but unmistakable, dark crimson in the dust, glittering with the scattered sunshine; A tiny disk of blood that looked like it might have frozen before it hit the ground.

She bent to examine it, the vapor of her breath seeming to melt its surface just a little, tiny droplets condensing on the angry red ice. Now that she’d spotted this tiny pool, the next one seemed to catch light at the edge of her vision. She rose and walked toward the new spot, and then she saw the next patch of ice… and the next, leading toward that strange snarled copse of trees.

For a fleeting moment, she thought of her gun. Her tent was only thirty feet away, just as far from her now as the weird interwoven trees that had caught Mark’s fancy the night before. It would take only a moment to retrieve it. Then came a sound that made ice of the blood suddenly surging through her veins. The cracking of a twig underfoot, but not under her foot. Under another foot entirely, just beyond the edge of the trees encircling the clearing.


Some Stories You Should Read


 

This post is a shameless plug for some fiction written by myself and other authors.

Chuck Wendig, over the past three weeks, organized a 3-part Collaboration Challenge over at his website.  I played each week, writing the first 500 words of my own story (There Are Things in the Well), writing a second 500 words for another story (Clank), and finally writing the conclusion of a third story (A Recipe for Disaster).

I’m happy to say that both of the stories I collaborated on aside from “A Recipe for Disaster” were picked up and concluded by other authors.  Yesterday I reposted the finished version of “There Are Things in the Well“, and today I saw that there have actually been two part 3’s written for “Clank.”  In no particular order, you can find them here (Clank 1) and here (Clank 2).

It’s been a fascinating exercise, first of all, to pick up and continue the work started by another author, and second, to see what strange new directions other authors take with material I’ve started.  In short, a really cool little idea.

Thanks to Angela Cavanaugh, George Kaltsios, Underastarlitsky, RoseRed, Matthew Gomez, and Clay Ashby for their unwitting collaborations.


Clank


Chuck’s challenge for the week: Write the middle of a story.  Our goal:  Take the 500-word story begun by another author, and continue it.

I hijacked the story started by one Clay Ashby, Clank.  It’s got some of my favorite stuff: Sci-Fi, mystery, robots, a sense of desperation and lostness.  In short, it would be right at home here in my Flash Fiction collection.

Clay’s bit begins the story.  My bit follows the asterisk.

 

Clank

My eyes opened with a metallic clatter. A single dim lamp reflected its yellow hue on the ceiling above. Instinctually I was able to sit up and balance myself on the table. At least I think it was instinct because I certainly don’t remember ever doing it before. My legs dangled over the edge and my feet didn’t quite touch the floor. The thought of lifting myself off the table and falling, even just that little bit, worried me, but I did it. My feet clanked on the rusty floor as I stumbled, trying to find my balance. With my feet spread wide I was able to stabilize, so I lifted my head to look around.

Large gears turned inside the walls, visible through crumbled sheets of wood and iron. My head began to whistle, beginning at a high pitch and increasing until it was nearly impossible to hear. The sound was terrifying and at first quite annoying, but the mild vibration was soothing, and it seemed to help me keep my balance. I took my first step, a step that was a little too big, but my foot landed on the floor and held firm. The vibration inside my head was helping me. I was sure of it, so I took several more steps. No problem at all! The vibration in my head made it almost easy.

There was only one exit from the room, a dark hallway. I decided to go. I didn’t really have any other choice. Every step I took was loud. It made me uncomfortable, like I was being watched. I tried to step softly, but it was no use. Metal contacting metal simply could not be made quiet. The hallway continued on without ending and my deliberate steps made progress slow. The glow of lamps from the room behind me began to fade. With every step it faded more. I wasn’t sure how much further I could go, so I stopped, unsure if another step forward would be wise. I was able to turn my head all the way around and look at where I had come from, a faint yellow spot now. There didn’t seem to be any reason to return, except fear. The room was vacant and square, with nothing useful inside. My only option was to move onward into the darkness.

I took only one more step, no clank. Imagine if I had turned back at that moment. I was only one step away from a new type of ground, but I would have never known it. With my arms slowly flailing, in search of obstacles, I continued into the pitch black. Still no clank from my feet. The silence combined with the dark made me feel like I was walking into nothingness, but that eerie feeling was certainly better than the creepy clank from before. At least I felt hidden now.

When my face met a solid steel door I thought I had finally made it to the end. I leaned into it and pushed. The metal moaned from stress and a few rivets popped, but it gave way easily enough. Unfortunately this door, my supposed salvation, revealed almost certain doom.

*

As the door creaked open, antiseptic white light spilled out from the room. Beneath my feet, muffling my footsteps, was a lush carpet covered in cascading geometric designs.  It led into a room that, not unlike the first, was small and square.  Unlike my room, this room was furnished with the soft carpet, and a single bed in the center of the far wall.  In the bed was a human shape, its head propped up on a ponderous stack of dingy pillows, its body bundled beneath a thick sheet.

I didn’t know how I knew the word “human”, but the shape made sense to me the moment I saw it, and the word for the shape sprung into my circuits unbidden.  It was a male human, spotted and wrinkled with age, a wisp of white hair fluttering above its head.  I hadn’t noticed the tower of wires next to the bed, but the human grabbed this tower and wheeled it next to him as it advanced toward me on steps as shaky as my first ones.  The wires snaked from a contraption set atop the tower, dangled by the human’s knees, and ended at an interface in the human’s arm.  No, not wires.  Tubes, delivering a cocktail of silvery liquids into its bloodstream.  It stared at me, this human, its eyes wide and red-rimmed and disbelieving.  It reached out a withered hand to touch my shoulder, my fingers, my face.  Then it squinted, appraising me, measuring me.  Finally, it spoke.

“Identify yourself.”

The command surged through me, irresistible and pervasive.  I would have answered if I could, but my circuits did not contain any information to identify me, no matter how much my processors spun and whirred.  A bit of loose machinery in my torso wrenched itself loose with the effort and a resounding “Clank” echoed through the room.

He frowned.  “Report status.”

Again, I felt compelled to answer, and again, my drives buzzed and hummed, but I could not respond.  It began to dawn on me that there were gaps and rusted connections all throughout my cognitive circuits, whatever those were.  I blinked at the man, my eyelids clicking softly.  He blinked back, his mouth tightening into a frown.

A familiar frown.

“Do you know who I am?”

The compulsion overtook me again, but this time, my neural network lit up and my consciousness flooded with images: a classroom full of people, a dark lab after hours, a chalkboard covered with equations, the soft face of a beautiful woman, the grave face of a doctor, a medical chart covered with indecipherable figures, and hours and hours of treatment and tubes and injections and suffering.   The heavy clunk of ancient clockwork intensified within the walls.  The high-pitched hum in my head was causing my entire body to resonate.

The old man whacked me in the head, a thin “clunk” reverberating through my metal skull.  The images departed.

“Do you know who I am?


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