Monthly Archives: October 2013

My First Podcast!

The logo used by Apple to represent Podcasting
Podcasting: it makes your head turn purple and shoot out beams of light. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s something fun for your Monday: I recorded my first podcast for the Dribblecast, the fan podcast of the Drabblecast. That means if you go to this link, you can hear me read “Funeral on the Ocean Floor,” a short story written by my husband Jason. You can also download it for free on iTunes on the Dribblecast’s podcast channel.

I had a blast producing this one, as I have zero experience doing any sort of recording or audio editing. Through a huge coincidence, I got to use professional-grade equipment to record and edit the track. I’m especially proud of the background music, as I pieced it together myself from audio loops – look at me get technologically advanced, hey! Special thanks to the random guy who quite cheerfully spent an hour of his time teaching me how to use the software and hardware, and to Tom Baker for uploading the episode for me (twice).

Anyway, give it a listen if you have a few minutes, and let me know what you think! Happy Monday, friends!

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Motley Microfiction: Girls With Guns

The night’s broken by frenzied clack-clack-clacking. French Couture Barbie leads the charge, flanked by her lieutenants, Lifeguard Barbie and Olympic Skater Barbie.

And they’re all clutching little pink assault rifles in perfectly manicured hands.

They cover ground on painfully long legs, running on heels and tippy-toes. Long hair snaps like flags. Those eyes never blink, those smiles harden at the corners.

Schoolteacher Barbie floors the Dream Car. Riding shotgun, Astronaut Barbie operates the turret. Wheelchair Barbie lobs grenade after grenade from the periphery.

Stewardess Barbie, old and worn, hops along one-legged with a flamethrower and dares anyone to disrespect her.

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Last week, the Barbies descended on the Jones household.

It started when a friend of mine asked to leave something at our house for a mutual friend to pick up later. Much to my amusement, she carried in a couple large boxes full of Barbie dolls, still in their packaging.

So tell me, what would YOU do in a situation like this?

Jason’s approach was to build a tower of sparkly princess goodness out of them, which you can see on his blog here.

Me? I chose to write a commemorative drabble, of course!

While I find Barbies inherently funny as an adult (French Couture Barbie – LOL!), I wanted to capture a sense of dignity for the poor things in today’s story. They’re condemned to a frozen existence, always poised and smiling no matter what may really be going on beneath the surface.

I think they’re ripe for a revolution.

GI Joe better watch his back.

Motley Microfiction: Canny Maggie

Nessie’d goon belly-up in the Loch.

“Nessie’s deid!” cried the seven Alisdair lads.

“Dunderheids, haud yer wheesht!” said canny Maggie. “The tourists gonny be here soon. Take ‘er oot o’ the Loch.”

Malcom, nae one to footer about, flayed Nessie’s hide clear off. The Alisdair lads formed the lang neck while their seven sisters sewed them in. Maggie clouted ‘em, arse-first, into the watter, where they bobbed about like blootered choobs.

The lads took a maddy, neck and limbs flailin’ about. The bus arrived. The tourists, none th’wiser, took pictures o’ Malcom’s arse.

All’s fish that comes to the net!

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English: Apparently a sighting of the Loch Nes...
Nessie. The middle lump is Malcom’s arse! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Call this story the Loch Ness Monster meets Voltron: “I’ll form the long, skinny neck!” It pays when people work together for the common good, even if that good is duping tourists out of their money. They paid to see Nessie, dangit, so Nessie’d better make an appearance!

Really, though, this was just my excuse to browse websites chock full of Scottish dialect words. Can you figure them out without looking them up? Like every good dialect, there were a plethora of, well, “colorful” terms of a rude nature that I wish I could’ve found an excuse to use. Instead, though, you’re stuck with a tame rendition!

I do apologize to Scotland, however, for what is probably terrible usage of the words I did include. It’s so hard to write accurate dialogue for a dialect that I don’t already speak. I always love reading well-written regional accents, but I worry about being disrespectful if I try to recreate them myself.

For today’s piece, in addition to referencing some dialect dictionaries and checking on how the words are used in context, I spent some time reading the poems of famous Scottish poet Robert Burns to get the feel. Check out “Tam O’Shanter”, one of my personal favorites, if you enjoy poetry.

Do any of you writers out there like to write in a dialect from time to time? What do you do to ensure accuracy, and more importantly, what’s your favorite strategy for dealing with dead Loch Ness Monsters when YOU run across ’em?

Coffee is Hospitality: The Art of Friendship on the Internet

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to mention it on my blog, but last Friday, the Drabblecast featured one of my stories on Episode# 299 – “The Revelations of Morgan Stern”. For those of you who are regular readers, it was my story Dear John, a little tale framed around themes of loss and hospitality. The production of my story absolutely blew me away, and I was especially moved to have this one picked because of the story behind it, which you can read about in the original post.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been blown away by a series of loosely connected events that have left me moved and humbled by the kindness, thoughtfulness, and love of people I’ve only ever met online. It took me by surprise; to a degree I’ve always carried the unspoken assumption that there’s a clear and obvious distinction between the people you deal with face-to-face and those you deal with on the internet. As if the one is more “real” or counts for more than the other.

And while nothing will ever replace my friends and family, I think I’m wrong to undervalue the extended network of friendships made possible through the power of technology. We’re something like pen pals, many of us separated by half the world, and yet brought together by common interests. We celebrate each other’s triumphs. We feel one another’s pain. And sometimes we push each other to levels of courage that would be impossible normally.

After all, hospitality is coffee. Sometimes you invite people into your home and share a cup together. But other times, you invite them in from afar. You – yes, you – have joined me in my living room on many an evening to swap stories and jokes over a beer. Other times, we’ve sat at the kitchen table while I poured out my frustrations, fears, and sadness. Right now, we’re sitting in the student lounge together at my college as I finally recognize what a good friend you’ve been to me all along.

I’ve been lucky enough to go for a run with those of you involved in the production of the podcasts I listen to. Together we braved the heat, rain, and cold, set records, jumped over snakes, waved to neighbors, high-fived children, and snarked at catcallers and other rude folks.

All of this was in my head when I listened to a recent metacast from the folks at Escape Artists (behind the podcast magazines Escape Pod, Podcastle, and Pseudopod). The gist is that these podcasts are endangered species because of high readership but low support. You can read a partial transcript here and a summary here.

Coffee is hospitality. We mark our friendships through such rituals, through a mutual give-and-take where we loan support when the other needs it most. Sometimes this support is emotional. You’re both broke, and the best you can do is commiserate. Other times, you have the luxury of being able to extend a hand when needed.

I think the biggest difference between internet friends my face-to-face friends is that I’ve always found it easy and natural to practice hospitality towards people who are physically there. Online, there’s just enough distance that you forget to offer the coffee. You forget that you can. I mean, I can’t pour caffeine into my keyboard and expect it to come out on your end, but there are other ways of extending hospitality all the same.

Anyway, I’m changing that. Since I’m not completely broke, I’ve decided to repay both Escape Artists and the Drabblecast for their gift of friendship by becoming one of their paid subscribers. It’s the financial equivalent of getting together and buying them coffee once a month. I can most certainly do that.

If you’re also a fan of these shows, I’d encourage you to do the same if you’re able. If you’re not one of their fans, why not give them a listen? You might find something worthwhile, as I did.

How about you guys? How do you view your internet friends versus the ones you meet face-to-face? Who do you like to support around the blogosphere and interwebs?

Medical Microfiction: Glottis

Guardians

When the sunset is slanting, what keeps the ones who prowl at bay?

The guardians do.

There, just beyond that stand of pines, they’re waiting like a pair of hands to spring upon the spider, a noose to choke off hot breath.

Children linger in the fields. The sunset slants in, and the prowlers come running with quick little legs, their great big jaws a-gaping.

And just beyond the stand of pines, the guardians spring upon them, saying, This far you may go, and no further.

They do not relish their work. They hold the line and pray for mercy.

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Coronal section of larynx and upper part of tr...
A view of the larynx, or the voicebox. Can you spot the two “guardians”? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I always get excited when I write a blog post about something related to my happy little corner of science (namely, Speech Science). Today we’re talking about the glottis, which is found in your larynx, or voice box. It produces the buzzing sound that gives you a voice. If you place your hand on your throat and hum, you can feel it vibrating.

The glottis is made up of your two vocal folds (also called vocal cords) and the space between them. This area is the gateway to your lungs. Its responsibility is to make sure we don’t let anything liquid or solid down the wrong pipe. Think of them as the guardians in your throat, ready to snap closed and hold the line against bad things that want to enter.

Why might they be unwilling at the end of my story? This is to illustrate how they work when we’re speaking. While they can seal the throat during eating, the vocal folds don’t shut all the way when speaking. They’re in a state of flux, tensed just enough that the air pressure from your lungs can break through their seal, thus producing vibration and speech.

Of course, on another level, I think the reluctance of the guardians in today’s story is an illustration of profound goodness. Even when fighting something we all agree is evil, the best among us may feel a little sadness and regret that the evil exists to begin with. The best soldier may long for a day when war is unnecessary. The best doctor may hope to work herself out of a job by curing diseases.

Motley Microfiction: Smonday

I slipped sideways into the space between Saturday and Sunday.

That’s where you can pawn away your weekend goals for extra time: your three-quarters-finished steampunk novel (stalled at Chapter 13), blueprints for the shed (mouldering since Christmas), a sincere apology to Sarah (drafted but undelivered), the ‘64 Barracuda you mean to restore (running to rust in the driveway).

Things you’d do if you could find the time.

“Buying time?” asked the pawnbroker.

“Nope. Redeeming.” I flourished my Z’s, a chainsaw orchestra’s worth, scraped together from a lifetime of mortgaged hobbies.

If you play your hand right, Monday will never come.

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Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, also known as Leadb...
Cockatoo: a self-portrait of myself before I started reading Eric’s blog. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ah, unfortunately for me, Monday did come, because here we are. But what a great Monday! I had an awesome weekend as things stand. Got to spend time with some wonderful friends, work on my writing projects, and had an unexpected encounter with internet awesomeness (long story there).

To top it all off, I wake up this morning and see this post on my friend Eric Alagan’s blog naming Medical Microfiction as his blog pick of the month! Just… wow! I admit it: I got all teary-eyed. Eric is a writer himself, and a gifted one to boot, with a range that spans from deep and contemplative to silly and hilarious. You’re already following his blog, right? …Right? Because, if you’re not, I should warn you that not-following-Eric’s-blog can cause Vitamin D deficiency, and may lead to delusions that you’re a cockatoo. Just sayin’.

I’m headed out the door now, but later today I’ve got plans to finally put together a “Best-Of” list of posts for anyone who’s new to these here parts and wants to get a sample of what we’re all about, and for longtime readers who’d like to revisit some old favorites.

Happy Monday, all, and may you redeem those weekend goals with extra time you didn’t know you had.

Motley Microfiction: Catastrophe

Everyone’s gotta die somehow. Umet died flinging cat food at strays at 2AM, which isn’t a safe thing to do in your car while topping 90.

Welcome, thrummed a thousand purring voices. Last thing Umet remembered was faceplanting the telephone pole. Now it was a swarm of cats.

“Where am I?” he asked. “What happened?”

It not total useless. We has accept its worships. Seize action of divert from traditioning sapiens afterlife.

“I don’t understand.”

The cat swarm parted, and Umet noticed the lounge chair.

It sittings. Pleasures cat forevers. Welcome!

Claws plucked at his pant leg. Like licking flames.

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Cats Eyes
That wide-eyed innocence hides an evil plan to rule your lap for all eternity. (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I wrote this piece after hearing a friend’s story of someone who drives around at night feeding stray cats. I love the fact that someone like this really exists, don’t you? He strikes me as a sort of cat Batman (Catman?), champion of the strays, and I’m sure that powerful forces of karmic feline alignment are taking note.

But that raises another question: if cats have their own afterlife, and their gods decided to reward you, how would these rewards stack up to what the human afterlife has to offer? Every cat I’ve met leads me to believe that for cats, Heaven would be a weird and wacky place, dominated by strings and laser pointers and nice, warm laps.

Someone’s got to provide that lap, y’know. Poor Umet. Let’s all thank him for taking one for the team.

Want more cat stories? Check these out: