1. What is the working title of your next book?
2. Where did the idea come from?
PHP? Some techie kid wanted to hack websites more quickly, I think. Oh, you mean for Oh Sandy!
There was this nasty, nasty hurricane a few weeks ago that devastated many people here, and it’s winter now. I worry that people won’t have enough to eat (at the very least, I worry they don’t have places to live or clothes to wear). So I decided to hit up my clever, funny writer friends to put together a humorous anthology. All proceeds will go to The Foodbank of Ocean and Monmouth Counties, places that were absolutely trashed by the storm.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Well, humorous short fiction and non-fiction. Although I think we’ve got a couple poems that might go in too. So really, quality, funny or quirky work that touches on the themes of disasters and/or New Jersey. Hey, it’s not too late to submit.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
It doesn’t really apply here, but I will say that I’d like to meet Ewan McGregor.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Learn PHP (Not very compelling, right?)
Oh Sandy! An Anthology of Humor for a Serious Purpose
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Oh Sandy! will be my first, and probably last, foray into self-publishing. (It seems to me that the market for self-published books is so oversaturated, that it’s very unlikely a particular work can rise to the top. The ones that do are super-hyped by their authors, among other things.)
My tech books are all negotiated through my agency with various publishers.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?
Head First PHP, like gestating a baby, took about 9 months.
Oh Sandy! is still a work in progress, we’re accepting submissions.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Other charity anthologies, I guess. Although I don’t know of any humorous ones.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The people who lost everything. How easily it could have been me. A year ago I owned a place on the Jersey Shore, a place that no longer exists as of a month ago. Years back I lived in another house that no longer exists, one that was destroyed by Katrina. Hurricanes don’t much like me.
But the sense of how close we all are to losing everything, even our lives, makes me want to do something. Even just to provide a bit of food for hungry people.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
We’ll see when it’s put together. I will say I’ve got some great submissions from both well known and unknown writers. It’s a gorgeous mix.
I never thought it could happen to me. A car full of cheerleaders was stranded by the side of the road. Not a one of them had the first idea of how to change a tire. I don’t think they even knew what a spare tire was! It seems like such a basic thing to know, but no, none of them knew. Well, that’s not entirely fair, one of them, a short blond, knew that there was such a thing as a spare tire, and had an idea it was in the trunk. But when she opened the trunk and didn’t see it, she became very confused. They were all surprised when I pulled up the rug in the trunk, extracted the spare tire and the jack, untightened the lug nuts a tiny bit, jacked up the car, removed the lug nuts, pulled off the flat tire, put on the spare, replaced and tightened the lug nuts, lowered the car, tightened the lug nuts a little more, put the flat and the jack in the trunk, and closed it. The blond gave me ten bucks. I didn’t see that coming, that’s for sure!
1. Only accept submissions accompanied by the rejection letters the author wishes you to send him when you reject his work.
2. Accept all submissions from everybody and pay well for them. Keep the submission address secret, however. Give clues that make no sense.
3. Soften the sting of your rejections by rebranding them as acceptances with terms. Make the terms impossible.
Hint: Use fairy tales as inspiration. “Fetch me the goose that lays the golden eggs.”
4. Give each submission a number. Use a random number generator to select the accepted works.
5. Only accept work that has already appeared in those high-falutin’, hoity-toity, Pushcart perused print journals. Hint: Backdate your issue so it looks like you found them first.
6. Use the same ideas that made Angry Birds a sensation. Let your readers launch criticisms at the works in an attempt to destroy them.
7. Create an issue in the style of a 12 year old girl focused on unicorns, cute boys, and menstruation.
Warning: Reject all submissions containing sparkly vampires involved in sexual affairs with human girls 1/10th their age. And Justin Bieber.
8. Create the “All Rejection Letter” issue. Use the rejected rejections to reject the rejected work.
Warning: Don’t inadvertently reject the accepted rejections.
9. Use your Facebook and Twitter connections to help choose the work to include.
Hint: Only mention the title of each work, since no one has an attention span anymore anyway. In fact, this item is way too long. Sorry.
10. Accept everything, and I mean everything, I send you. Even angsty emails.
1. Pick the most depressing news story you can find and use it as a backdrop for a romantic comedy.
2. Write a list of what’s wrong with everyone else.
3. Pick a feature of a famous person’s face and describe it in 500 words. For example, Michele Bachmann’s eyes.
4. Take a shot every time you write a sensory detail.
5. If you’re right-handed, write a story with your left hand. If you’re ambidextrous, try using your toes.
6. Write an ode to your credit card. For verisimilitude, include the number and expiration date. (You may send it to me and I’ll provide a free critique.)
7. Write a letter full of death threats to a celebrity. Be extra creative! (For even more fun, email it!)
8. Write a short story entirely in dialogue. Use only Pig Latin.
9. If that toilet could talk, what would it say?
10. Since there’s no such thing as a new story, paraphrase your favorite work.
She looks at the the cages, and shakes her head. An adorable blinded baby basilisk smells her and mews in her direction.
“Cute,” she thinks.
She walks on. A heavy man with a combover and a tight white polyester suit steps in her path, stopping her progress down the row of the pet shop.
“May I help you, miss,” he says, for all the world sounding like Jeeves, but in every other possible way not resembling Steven Fry at all.
“Uh… no thanks.” She steps back. He loves garlic and onions, she thinks, his breath is foul.
“Are you perhaps looking for a new companion, miss? We have all varieties here. A phoenix, perhaps?”
“No, I’m just browsing.” She turns away, tries to escape him down a side row. She sees that she’s ended up precisely where she does not want to be. The dragon aisle. Her eyes tear up in spite of her attempt to not think about Bob.
“Ah, I see you like dragons. May I say you have sublime taste, miss.” It’s not just his breath, but his body odor that nauseates her further. She wants to run, but she’s stuck, held still by an unexpected wave of grief.
“For a lady of your discernment, may I suggest a pygmy dragon?”
He reaches into a cage and pulls out a tiny, red, sleeping beast, the size of a kitten.
“I can’t. Put it away. It’s t..t.too soon.” She stutters, she gasps. “I told mom, I told her. It’s only been a day. I can’t do this.” She backs into a cage, frightening a winged monkey into shrieks.
“I have to go.” She staggers back, finds her way to the main aisle, and staring at her feet, walks out as quickly as she can, tear blind.
He slowly plods in the direction of her lawn. He marches, quietly. It takes him days. First, his legs are very short. Second, he can only walk when no one is looking. Third, he knows, by virtue of experience, that nighttime is best, and so he moves at night, the humans asleep.
This is not the first rodeo for Charlie, oh no. He’s tried this before. It was Enid, that other time. He tried walking during the day when no people were around. And it was fine, except he was discovered again and again and again. Gentler days. When he was discovered then, people returned him to his point of origin. Maybe those were kinder days, or maybe it was his home address being painted on his stand, but he always ended up back where he started.
Not this time. He knows if he’s caught now, he won’t be treated so kindly. But he’s determined. He knows what he wants. Who he wants.
He met her weeks ago. She was visiting her friend, next door. Her red hair flowed over her shoulders. Her green eyes twinkled. It was love, and he needed to be hers, oh yes. His ceramic heart palpitated, felt as though it would thump out of the hard wall of his painted chest. He sent her a photo, taken in the dark, risking a flash. Himself, holding a flower. He heard nothing back, but then why would he?
It’s almost dawn, but he’s nearly there. He risks the stalking cats, he ignores the bleary eyed businessmen in their BMWs as he walks the last few feet to her cottage, her gorgeous garden, her porch.
He’s come prepared, has Charlie. He pulled up an armful of daffodils. He cradles them, he stands at her door. He waits for her to step outside and see his smile, sense his love for her, his colleen.
He freezes. He waits. He stills his beating heart.
She opens the door. She sees him and stops. She stares.
He can’t even look at her, she’s that beautiful. He wants to be her gnome forever. He smiles as he watches an ant crawl over his foot. At last she speaks, she says,
“Gloria? There’s a fucking gnome on my porch. It’s freaking me out. I don’t know what you were thinking, putting it here, but I want it gone when I come home. Freak.”
It’s always now.
Just stop. You’re thinking. “Oh, it’s a bit of fiction about a sentient dog. The dog probably talks and goes all Lassie, or Old Yeller. Or Benji, and shit.” No, I don’t.
What I do is sleep. And I have maybe four exciting things happen to me each day. Food, mailman, my person, walk. Oh, and then food again.
You know what I’d do if I had your hands? I’d go rip into the bag of dogfood. No, I’d open the drawer and eat the cookies. And then I’d open the refrigerator. And I’d drink all your beer, oh yes I would. But I can’t open the fridge, much less a can of beer. All the best things are undogcessible.
I want you to come home. I want steak. I want any human food, really. I want you to get on the floor and eat out of my bowl for a change. I will pretend not to watch, but I will, and I want to lick you on your face.
Maybe a small and very precise elephant, a girl elephant, who can use the ever so slightly protruding second digit of her round right foot to apply dainty but massive pressure to something small, about the circumference of a dime. No, not a dime, it’s exactly the size of an eraser.
Elephant. Okay. I’ve gone too far. I do that. He makes this hand gesture when I go too far, he holds his thumb and index finger an inch or so apart. “You’ve gone this much too far, ” it means.
Lola, that’s what I’ll call the elephant, it seems she’s pressing her toe against my chest. It’s been there for a week. Okay, this doesn’t make sense, I’ll start again.
There was this spot on my skin. On my breast. Above my heart. And this got me wondering, is it possible the deep thoughts I have that I shouldn’t have, can they physically manifest? Did a spot coalesce on the skin above my heart because I’ve thought things I don’t dare confess?
The elephant Lola seems to think so. She started by pointing an accusing, but blunt digit at my heart.
I went to the doctor. I never go to the doctor, but Lola, she pointed and I was afraid. I’ve never had thoughts like this before, never had a spot like this. Elephants, do they get dangerous spots? Do they have thoughts, unconfessed thoughts, that they shouldn’t have?
50/50, my doctor said. He whipped me back, stuck me with a needle, and whisked away the tiny elephant toe print in seconds. “You’ll hear from us in a week,” he said as he rushed out to keep the door from hitting him in the ass.
I’ve been waiting and Lola has been pressing her toe into my heart.
I don’t ask for much. No, don’t grunt at me, it’s true. Give me a smooth boulder and a stone I can hold in my hand for grinding, maybe a sharp bit of flint for scraping. A new stick I can dig with, my old one’s really worn. Shrgk’s mate just got her a new stick and he even smoothed it for her so she wouldn’t get splinters. Thoughtful, that Grlg is. Shrgk doesn’t know how good she has it. All she does is sit on that stack of hides and pop out babies. Every time I look at her, she’s all like, “Blrkg, look, a new baby. I just thought I was getting fat.” Then she laughs. How I hate her laugh. Everybody oohs and ahhs over her babies. And there I am, bent over, grubbing around with this old stick, looking for roots. Her stick, I don’t think she’s even used it yet. I know what she can do with that stick of hers. Except that would be a waste of a good stick.
I could use some new hides. Yes, I know these are new, but they’re too small. I’d have to stitch them together to do anything with them, and you know how much I hate sewing. Look, grab that piece of coal, I’ll show you how you can hunt down a big animal.
Whaddya mean, I’m backseat hunting again?
Sometimes, when it’s bitterly cold, freezing outside
and there are piles of snow, and the air is dry,
the kind of air that gives you chapped lips,
the edges of the mountains of dirty snow,
I mean just the ice at the edges,
turns to vapor without ever bothering being liquid.
Is the vapor lucky? It can move with the whim of the breeze,
and the dirt, the muck that it mixed with as ice is left earthbound.
Being water first, that gets messy,
and boy, does that grime get mixed in. Seems like it’ll never
break free. Some gets pulled into the earth, sucked up by
the greedy seed pods, some drips down into the sewer.
Some lucky droplets do evaporate, straight away.
Sometimes, when it’s cold at night, freezing,
the water vapor remembers being solid.
It coats the windshield of your car
and becomes frost. The vapor, now ice,
longs for a chance to melt as you turn on your defroster,
and, for a time, be water.
I'm a tech book author and fiction writer. I hope for world peace and a cure for lactose intolerance. Oh, and to win a really big lottery. I'd do pretty much what I do now, but I'd do it from a fancy house in some interesting place. And I'd invite you over.