Friday, April 26, 2013

Odds Bodkins!


Odds bodkins, False Idols and Other Short Stories is in the top 20 for April's Indie eBook Cover Awards! Thank you, oh amazing Elena Nazzaro, for all your professional advice.

TTFN
-Tony

Thursday, April 25, 2013

An Open Letter to the Loasthsome, Boil-Covered Lice Who Are Running facebook.

Dear facebook -

This blog is NOT "unsafe." And thank you for providing a button, and asking people to PLEASE MARK IT AS SPAM if they don't recognize it. You do realize that's a textbook example of the loaded question fallacy, right? Like going up to someone and asking "Have you stopped beating your wife?" The android app won't even complete the link, even if the user approves it. Go fornicate yourself with a rusty cactus, Zuckerberg, you slimy piece of malodorous refuse.

Sigh.

On the lighter side, I had a bizarre dream last night: I drove down the street where I grew up, but it became more and more narrow and twisted. It lead to a house. There was a huge line waiting to enter what looked like bathroom stalls in the yard, but there were blood and body parts everywhere. Sounds of chainsaws and screaming came from inside. I kicked one of the stall doors in. A "victim" stood in the back, screaming, while a "maniac" carved a dummy up with a chain saw and sprayed corn syrup everywhere. I asked what the hell was going on. They explained that they had to fake the massacre because of the bad economy. I asked just how this was supposed to help, but before I could get an answer, I woke up.

Feel free to analyze.

TTFN
-Tony

Addendum: About ten hours later, and facebook seems to have stopped calling me bad names. Do you think I hurt their feelings? 



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Another Pleasant Flushing Wednesday...

It's Wednesday. There's no way to make that sound exciting, like when announcers for Monster Trucks used to proclaim "THIS SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY AT THE MEADOWLANDS ARENA... SEEEEEE BIGFOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!"

So now I have to keep myself entertained while I'm unemployed. I have a 400+ page novel to polish, I want to publish a graphic novel online with one page a week, my friend Marc of baze and his silly friends have kindly asked me to animate one of their songs for a video, and I have work to do around the apartment. Also, in addition to walking, I want to get a few hours of stationary-cycling time in. My plan to ride every time I use the X-box is working well, except while my legs are not tired, it's a pain in my tuchus. Literally. I hope it gets better, but you'd think that my cheeks had enough padding that I wouldn't notice.

Time for lunch - in the words of Donny Osmond, you can tune a piano, but you can't tune a fish!

TTFN
-Tony

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bioshock & My Infinite Tuchus

For passing my A-test and publishing my short story collection on Amazon, I gave myself the gift of Bioshock Infinite. My rule is, however, that I am only allowed to play it while I ride on my exercise bike. Here's hoping it's as addictive as everyone says! 

TTFN
-Tony

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Story Notes, Part 3

And now, the exciting conclusion of story notes for "False Idols and Other Short Stories"!

Shattered Possibilities 
The late great Peter Bergman of the Firesign Theater said that when they wrote their first album, Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him, they decided to make the jokes as subtle as possible and layer their meanings. That way, people would listen to the album over and over, trying to figure it out. I wrote this story with that plan in mind, but I think I chickened out and added a little too much explanation. 

This story does have a hidden inspiration, however. I'll tell you what: Whoever figures it out first, if you're ever in NYC (while I still live here,) I'll take you out for a sandwich at Katz Deli. Your mouth will love you for the rest of your life.

Soul Mates
I've always wrestled with my weight. Some years I win, some years I lose. It depends if Pluto is in line with Venus, and how good the local Chinese takeout is.

The thing I absolutely love about this story is how vile every character is. Don't get me wrong, there are good and bad people in Suburbia, just like everywhere else. But it's always a great setting for black comedy, and sometimes my sense of humor gets a little dark...

The Autumn People
This is my favorite short story that I've written. I read an essay by sci-fi giant Harlan Ellison, in which he said that writing subtext into fiction was essential. I started by writing the first sentence, about the bar table being worm-eaten. The story unfolded from that point.

9-11 has been a taboo subject for fiction for many years, but it's impossible not to write about something so prevalent. And if you live in a NYC apartment, it's impossible not to come across an insect or twenty over the years. Mix all that up with the sludge at the bottom of my brain, and this is the result.

Thank you, I hope you enjoy reading these.

TTFN
-Tony 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Murder Train a Comin'


Illustration Friday: Train

I listened to this song this morning while taking a walk. So when the word of the week turned out to be "train," I thought it made an appropriate subject.

TTFN
-Tony  

Story Notes, Part 2

Continuing from yesterday, here are the story notes from False Idols. Enjoy!

All Part of Being a Dragon
This was the last story in the collection to be written. It went through a few different forms. Originally, I wrote a very different story, with Azrael and Theresa as the main characters. He was an android priest, in a post-apocalyptic future where locusts ruled the planet and humanity was enslaved. I may still write that one, but the characters were wrong for the story, and it didn't go anywhere.

I recently re-read Philip K. Dick's classic novel Ubik. One of his prevailing themes is "What is reality?". I started a novel years ago about "angels" whose job it was to keep the "Tapestry" of the universe together, but other projects got in the way, and I never finished it.

If you're a fan of this blog, then you've read my many rants about the NYC MTA over the years. When my original story didn't work, I tried putting Azrael and Theresa on the E train I was stuck on. Azrael became a cyborg, and immediately started complaining about the quality of the subway system. Echoes of my unfinished novel came forth, and he became an angel in service of the Tapestry. Of course, an angel needs a devil to fight, but nothing is ever that simple - especially if you're up against an army of demonic chickens. 

Heaven 2.0
One of my closest friends pointed out that my stories had no heroines, so I decided to write one full of them. I had just spent the weekend visiting friends of mine, and one of their daughters owns an albino boxer. I wondered where the ancient feud of dogs vs. cats came from. I searched online for legends about dogs, and found some fascinating ones. The same goes for cats.

A bunch of other ideas went into the writing of this. The economy is still reeling from the sub-prime-loan fiasco, and I thought about how banks promise you the moon, but then eviscerate you with the fine print. I installed a new program, and pondered over the fact that no one really reads the convoluted legalese of software user agreements.

That, and I had just bought a Jimmy Durante album for my father.

So I combined all of these things into a story. Yes, it's an age-old Pact With the Devil tale, but with a fresh twist. And VGA graphics.

Flawed Copies
I wrote this story a few years ago, but as a piece of literary fiction for a class at UMUC. The main character was a man whose wife had committed suicide, and whose violent tendencies had caused him to lose custody of his daughter. Then I read an article about how in a few years, they will be able to clone sperm from female DNA, making us Y-chromosome carrying bastards redundant. I imagined that this bit of genetic engineering would create certain "perfect brands" of women that were bred for certain jobs. But life is life, and we didn't get this far without mutations of the genes. No matter what science comes up with, nature always finds a way of forcing its original blueprints.

Stay tuned tomorrow for part three. Until then, have a great weekend.

TTFN
-Tony

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Story Notes Part 1


I’m going to add a Story Notes section for False Idols to my website, but I thought it would be fun to add them here first:

Ad Aware
Health Care is a hot topic right now, with many Americans clamoring for universal coverage - but in the end, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Meanwhile, advertising is now omnipresent in our daily lives. You can’t go to the movies without having product placement rammed down your throat. Television channels display ads on the bottom of the screen during shows, even on channels I’ve paid for. Video games costing $60 a pop have ads integrated into the gameplay. (And who am I kidding, what is this post except an ad in disguise?) Combining the two issues was the next logical step.

False Idols
This story has a long history. There is an excellent site called Illustration Friday. They put up a new topic every week, you illustrate it, post it on your website or blog, and link the result. In addition, it has a very supportive community. So a few years back, they had two words – Ancient:
and Travel:
Both pictures had a classic science-fiction feel to them. I devised a rudimentary storyline about a rocket captain (inspired by Ray Bradbury’s Captain Wilder and David Ossman’s Firesign Theatre character Mark Time,) who crashes onto an an alien planet, which is inhabited by Bug Eyed Monsters and the idols they worship. Over the span of a year, I animated about 90% of it:

You have to love loop soundtracks.

Then, as always, real life got in the way: There was work, two kids, and I began to focus more on writing than animating. I came back to the animation a few times with the intent of finishing it, but I realized contemporary standards had passed me by. Some shots look beautiful, others look very dated. I would have to re-model and reanimate most of it. So it sat on the shelf, or rather, in the hard drive.

I decided a few years ago to put the short stories I had written over the years together and sell them on Amazon. I figured that nine was a good number. I had five written, I needed four more. So, on my Andriod, I fleshed out the story during my subway commute.

While the animation started out as an homage to classic sci-fi, I realized there was no logical way to make a rocket landing work. So the unnamed captain became Travis, whose escape pod crashed. He was a criminal... no... a good man who broke the law to do what he had to do because... 

And viola, a story was born.

The story has two main themes. One of them is obviously genetically modified crops. “Intelligrain” is a blatant play on Monsanto’s SmartStax brand of genetically modified seeds. Now GMCs in and of themselves might not necessarily be bad things, and do have potential benefits. However, when they cause diseases and overwhelm other crops, and when the corporations that make them are deeply entrenched in our government (e.g., The Farmer Assurance Provision, aka the Monsanto Protection Act, coupled with the fact that a former Monsanto vice president and lobbyist was appointed to the FDA as Deputy Commissioner for Foods for a start) then something has gone very wrong.

The other theme is religion vs. science. I consider myself agnostic, by which I mean I really have no idea if there is a higher power or not. While I don’t subscribe to religion (though I was raised Catholic) I am happy that so many of my friends take comfort in their faith. I have no issue with nativity scenes at town halls, prayers at graduation ceremonies and football games, or what have you. What I DO take umbrage over is when fundamentalists pass laws that make teachers include creationism in a science class. You can read my rant about it in depth here, but it shocks me that we’re in the 21st century and this is even up for debate. If you want to do god’s work, then learn how his creation really works so you can do so. Here endeth the rant.

The Arena
This story is actually twenty-three years old. When I was a junior in high school, my creative writing teacher gave us a picture to write about. It was a blurry black-and-white photocopy of a bullfighter. He was standing against a wall, but the way I held the paper, I thought he was lying on the ground. I wrote a short story called "Toro". It had pretty much the same plot, except it took place in Spain in the 1940s. It was easy to adapt into science fiction - and as such, is possibly more believable. Spain became Ganymede, and the bull became the Flopper. I suppose its clockwork mechanics are another throwback to Bradbury, although the Steampunk subgenre is gaining in popularity.

That’s enough for now. Stay tuned, I’ll cover the next three stories tomorrow.

TTFN
-Tony

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Target Audience and Vocabulary

Dad: "We love your book son, but there must be a paragraph missing."
Me: "Uh oh, where?"
Mom: "You had a word we didn't understand, and then you're suddenly talking about a round cross or something"
Me: "...Was the word 'Ankh'?"
Dad: "That's it!"


TTFN
-Tony

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Suspicious of Terror

So here we are again: another act of violence, which falls under the blanket name TERROR. That word has become so omnipresent in the last twelve years. Now, we have suspicious packages lurking behind every corner... smoking cigarettes, wearing baggy pants, not having a facebook account...

TERROR. It's such a dominant word that the word "suffering" is lost in its shadow. Suffering is twisted into fear mongering and pitchfork raising for the sake of news headlines. The problem is, no one has stepped forward and taken credit for this yet. Gone are the days when Osama bin Laden or Cobra Commander would appear on television and announce that there are bombs buried everywhere throughout the United States, and they will be detonated unless we deliver the head of Justin Bieber on a silver platter. Now we all just have to wonder.

While I'm sure it will make my grandfather roll over in his grave (he hated Mister Rogers) I have to admit that Reverend Fred summed it up best: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Or in the words of Bill and Ted, "Be excellent to each other."

TTFN
-Tony

Sunday, April 14, 2013




On sale now for Kindle at Amazon.com

When I was young, I would check classic science fiction short story collections out of the library, and stay up all night reading them under the covers with a flashlight. Here is a collection of nine short stories of contemporary science fiction. Some are humorous, some are dramatic, all are filled with imagination. I can't pretend to be up there with the classic giants, but I'd like to hope someone will stay up all night reading these.


TTFN
-Tony

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hello there!

I'm sorry I haven't been here in a while. Life has been hectic with work, and all my free time has been spent editing my ebook. Every time I think it's perfect, I go over it just one more time, and catch some stupid mistake: Hyphenating the same phrase sometimes, but not others, putting an apostrophe after an initial to make it plural, sometimes calling a character Elisabeth and other times Elizabeth... I'm being as anal as I can, but it takes a while.

I got laid off last Friday, but I worked the past couple of days at the Javits center, breaking down the car show. I shouldn't be out very long before the union sends me out again, but it will give me time to do all the things I need to catch up on.

Here's hoping everyone has a fantabulous day - I know I will! 

TTFN
-Tony