Thursday, December 31, 2009

Days With You

This is the video for the song for one of the titles I used for the Tales from the Tomato Patch stories I wrote (one of the ones way back over the summer, not the more recent ones). Anyway, it's a fitting way to end the current year (Plus, Catherine and I are in it a couple of times--we were at the show it was filmed at--in the background, mostly shadowed, in the second half of the video. If you spot us, leave the time marks in the comments.)

Tales From the Tomato Patch #11

We made it! The final story in the Tales From the Tomato Patch series. I had a lot of fun writing these (even though I didn't get a 1,111 word story in the mix like I had planned), and I hope you've had fun reading them. I'm also glad I got to finish them before the year let out. I had a lot of plans this year, and many of them didn't come to fruition, but more on that in my New Year's post tomorrow.

As for the Tales, well, I may well write more of them as Jason releases more albums. So this may not be the final tomato, er, word.

That's the future, for now here's story number eleven, enjoy:

“Almost Time”

I looked for you. There was only the bottle of coins.

Story title from the Jason Webley Quartet’s album
The Cost of Living, 2007

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #11: The Cost of Living by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tales From the Tomato Patch #10

Story number ten:

“There Is No Number 11”

“…stop all this ridiculous talk about an exit 11, there is no number eleven,” the woman sounded exasperated. “It’s not on the map.” They passed exit 13.

The man drove on in silence for several moments. Exit 12 came and went. Clouds gathered overhead, fog rolled in, making it twilight at 2 pm.

“That’s what he told me.”

“Well, he’s an idiot,” she replied.

After a mile he shouted, “Explain that!” Exit 11 loomed in the glow of the headlights.

“I don’t understand. It’s not on the map…”

Before she could protest, he turned toward it.

“What if he’s wrong?” She said.

“What if he’s right?” He answered, as they disappeared.

Story title from Jason Webley’s and Andru Bemis’ collaborative album
How Big is Tacoma, 2006

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #10: How Big is Tacoma by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tales From the Tomato Patch #9

Story number nine:

“Goodnight Evelyn”

She was beautiful in her bed, still in the moonlight like a porcelain doll or a statue, with the sheet tucked beneath her chin.

He had traveled through time, space and the myriad dimensions to find her. An entire species of sentient avians was lost in his search, a planet cracked and spread like dust in the cosmos. One dimension was swallowed up by a demon with six heads and eleventy million eyes as payment for her location.

It was all so he could see her again.

And here she lay, breath shallow, eyes restless under their lids, he had only this to say:

“Goodnight, Evelyn,” he whispered. “Daddy loves you.”

Story title from the Evelyn Evelyn album produced by Jason Webley and Amanda Palmer: Elephant Elephant, 2007

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #9: Goodnight Evelyn by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tales From the Tomato Patch #8

Story number eight:

“August Closing His Mouth After a Long Summer’s Yawn”

Yuri walked unnoticed among people. This would seem surprising given that he was a large man who sweated profusely even in the cool night air, a handkerchief always dabbing at his forehead.

Yuri was used to the lack of attention, as if he were a tree or a bench or an ill dog in the street, they grazed his body as they passed but didn’t look. He felt the press and sting of their presence.

Yuri rarely had fun, only sometimes in the early morning hours before the world woke up. In quiet moments while the birds flew and the sun rose. Then the air was warm and dry and breathable.

Story title from Jason Webley’s album Viaje, 1998

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #8: August Closing His Mouth After a Long Summer’s Yawn by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tales From the Tomato Patch #7

Story number seven:

“Quite Contrary”

The ladybird alighted on the branch above the spider’s web, her hindwings folding under their red and black shard. She stared at her fellow predator, asleep in the center, surrounded by the mummified corpses of recent meals.

She sighed.

“Why are you sad, little ladybird?” The spider asked, waking up.

“I wish,” the ladybird replied, “that I could make such an elegant home as you to trap my prey.”

“Ah,” the spider said, his eight eyes shone. “But I can share mine with you, and a meal as well.”

“Really?” The ladybird rushed onto the strands with joy.

It wasn’t until her second leg stuck she realized what the spider meant.

Story title from Jason Webley’s album Counterpoint, 2002

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #7: Quite Contrary by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tales of Pending Rejection: Time Traveling

Hey Gang,

Forgot to update this with all of the holiday madness, but I had another acceptance recently. There's a cool little e-zine out there called 50 to 1, they publish 50 word stories and first lines (ostensibly of longer works, basically what they want is something intriguing that makes you wonder what the story is).

I submitted two 50 word stories and two first lines, and they accepted one of the first lines! Whoop!

You can find my entry to the most recent issue here, but check out the other pieces, it's cool what you can do with only a few words.

Tales From the Tomato Patch #6

Story number six:

“Eleven Saints”

The first saint was there when she was born on a mild sunny afternoon.

The second saint loomed under a tree when she fell off her tricycle.

As she entered her teens, the third saint sabotaged her first date, thus losing her only chance at everlasting happiness.

The fourth saint smoked heavily and told her weird stories.

The fifth, sixth, and seventh saints guided her haphazardly through her twenties.

She listened to the eighth saint patiently as he worked through his issues.

The ninth saint chatted with her baby’s first saint in the delivery room.

The tenth saint was… best forgotten.

And during her final breath, the eleventh saint was ready.

Story title from Jason Webley’s and Jay Thompson’s collaborative album Eleven Saints, 2006

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #6: Eleven Saints by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Stomping around the homestead and a long overdue return to the Tomato Patch

Happy Christmas Eve!

Today is the first day of an eleven day vacation for me. Day Job is a distant memory until January 4th, and things are winding down here at home. The rest of the year will be a holiday festivities-filled, life assessing, office organizing, TV show catching-up on, book reading bonanza.

Things good and bad went down this year, and I think I inadvertently grew up a little more than I planned, which is OK. I also have more focus on the future, and a better handle on the present than I've had in a long time. I continue to learn to live.

One bit of unfinished business that's been buggin' me, though, is my Tales From the Tomato Patch series. I left off back in July at tale number five, and due to various events both in and out of my control, I never finished.  The good news is, I have now. I spent part of the past month polishing the unfinished fragments and laying out the final stories in an acceptable order. So to celebrate the end of 2009, and continue the party for Jason Webley's eleventh anniversary of his first album's release, I will post the final six stories in the series between December 26th and December 31st. One each day at 11:00 am.

While they're all short stories (some as short as 11 words), finishing the series is actually pretty big for me. I have a habit of not following through, and the fact that I did with this makes me happy. Hell, the fact that I've kept up with this blog all year makes me happy.

For those that need a refresher, you'll find the first five stories here:

2 AM
February Relaxing Her Fingers After a Short Winter’s Grip
Days With You
Clown Car to Mulberry

Now, enjoy your Christmas, make merry on the New Year (obviously you'll hear from me before then, but just in case), and we'll talk soon, kids.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter... not so magical anymore

I'm sure most know by now of the massive storm that hit the east coast over the weekend.

In my last post I remarked out how the Lego Hoth pictures made me almost wish there was snow outside my window right at that moment. You can see where this is going--be careful what you wish for and all that.

I did enjoy looking at it as the snow fell overnight. I enjoyed it less so during the two shoveling sessions (one a midnight jaunt, the other a clear morning adventure) with brother-in-law Ben and my Betrothed.

26 inches in my part of the world is more than enough to keep me going for the rest of the winter, so let's hold off with any more, Mother Nature, shall we?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The magic of winter and legos

Haven't posted in a while, and will start up again soon with a bunch of cool stuff, but I couldn't resist showing off this:

I have a personal ban on Star Wars* going on at the moment, however the internet conspires against me constantly, and the above picture is just one example. Aside from the fact that it features Chewie (my favorite character, to whom I have a shrine... really... sort of), it's part of a series of awesome pictures of Legos on Hoth by photographer Avanaut on Flickr. There's even a cameo by Dr. Jones.

They're beautiful, funny and haunting all at once. Almost makes me wish there were snow outside my window right now (but I'm cool with there not being any). It's amazing what people can do with something as silly and wonderful as Legos.

This made what had been a kind of crappy day end on a high note, so I thought I'd share.

*It's more of a ban on the unwieldy and overbearing juggernaut it has become since the prequels (as opposed to the one it was before - you know what I mean), but awesomely creative people keep doing cool things like this, and I'm reminded of why the world can be a wonderful place.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tales of Pending Rejection: 4 poems out, 3 picked up & gettin’ Nasty... again

It’s been a good week submission-wise. My poem "The Sun Shines Down" was accepted two days after I had submitted it. You can find it here at the Black Lantern Publishing website (up already, pretty cool).

Buoyed by that success, I decided to head to the files and see which of my older poems deserved a new look (yeah, yeah, I’m supposed to be writing new stuff, and I have a lot of that scheduled for this holiday weekend, but I was eager to send out more). I found nine poems that weren’t cringe-inducing, and for various reasons never found a home the first time around.

I sent out four additional poems to two new markets, Rose & Thorn Journal and The Lesser Flamingo. While I have to wait at least a few weeks on the ones for Rose & Thorn, I heard back within hours on the ones I sent to The Lesser Flamingo (I love that name): both of them accepted! But not until the January issue. I’ll remind you, no worries.

I'm also giving "Nasty in the Cupboard" another run, in the daily journal Everyday Weirdness. It's a pretty cool publication and I'd be happy to be included. We’ll see what happens there.

None of these are paying markets, of course, but I’m good on that for now. Day Job keeps the bills in line and the internet pulsing. I’ve still got five more poems to dole out, and a couple of markets in mind before I start turning out some newer material. Needless to say it has been a good week thus far, made better by the fact that Day Job only lasts three days for the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tales of Pending Rejection: Nasty in the Cupboard & The Sun Shines Down

For over two weeks I've left you hanging. You've probably been wondering, nay pining to know where I stand with my weekly story and poem submissions. I know, I'm sorry.

But here's the good news, I've kept up on the submissions. The first story submitted, "The Six Stages of Grief," is still out and awaiting response. I've since threw out and had tossed back a 100 word flash story called "Nasty in the Cupboard" to a flash horror market called MicroHorror. Nasty was an old story written years ago, but I always liked it ad would like to see it published eventually.

That was week two, this past week I wrote a new poem called "The Sun Shines Down" and submitted it to Black Lantern Publishing. This was the first poem I had written in a while, and I'm a little nervous about it, but I like the imagery I got down on the page and am hopeful.

I'm also going to keep a running tally of these tales of pending rejections on the sidebar, updated as I submit and hear back from various markets. [Edit to add: I'm removing the tally, as it's not really a good motivator for me, and an annoyance to update - 01/12/10]

Next up: I have an idea for a superhero short story, and I have a market in mind for it. We'll see if I can pump it out in time and save the day! (sorry)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NaNo no more, and an interesting couple of weeks in the meantime

Since the last time I posted a lot has happened in my corner of the world. I decided that 2009 was not the year to do NaNoWriMo. This decision was arrived at in a sensible manner by me stressing out and over-thinking my novel (the opposite of what you are supposed to do, and precisely the habit I signed on to learn to shed)—then scrapping it eight days into NaNo to try another idea that’s been floating around my noggin, only to have the same problem. Add in the Day Job, a couple of home improvement projects we had scheduled for November (that are actually happening in November) and my proclamation of submitting a short story or poem a week for as long as I could keep it up, and, well, you know…

A few drops of paint from the above mentioned home improvement projects sparked a few days of in-house arguments and tension recently that was really not about a few drops of paint. Fortunately, things are better now—or are on the road to being better in some cases—and I think points, counter-points and viewpoints are better understood by all. Plus, the bathroom is shaping up nicely.

One of the more surprising developments was my return to writing for BLAM! Ventures. As I noted here previously I had decided to leave the company. For a variety of reasons my timing was horrible and my exit was not how I had hoped it would be. I had intended to finish out several projects I was working on, but I was for better or worse being shut out during the conversation with my partner and could not make this point (and that is not his fault at all). However, I felt I could not stay any longer as I would just be stringing them along and make things worse down the line.

The happy news is relationships on that front have been patched up as well. I also find myself able to finish off the one project that I had left mid-stream I was personally upset to leave, which is co-writing the first story arc for the SF comic book series The Gilded Life, to be published sometime in the not-overly-distant-future by Archaia. I should have the remaining scripts done by the end of 2009 (three scripts in a little over 40 days is not quite on par with Bill Willingham’s recent announcement of 30 scripts in 30 days, but I’ll take it).

My contributions to the other major project I was working on, the Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes illustrated novel, will still be there, though I am not writing anything beyond what I have already. Frankly, I’m good with that. I enjoyed delving into the world more than I thought I would, but at this point in my life licensed projects are not what I am interested in writing. I’ve too many worlds crowding the real estate in my mind already, time for them to come out and be seen.

One interesting thing that came from my separation from BLAM! Ventures was the notion that I had somehow sold out in leaving. It had struck me as odd at the time though I didn’t pursue it, but further consideration has brought me to the conclusion that it’s an incorrect thought.

The way it was presented to me—at least what I got from it—was the reason I had sold out was more or less that I chose to pursue a life with my future wife and not make my career as a writer/creator my defining identity.

Here’s how Selling Out is defined on Wikipedia:

"Selling out" refers to the compromising of one's integrity, morality and principles in exchange for money, success or other personal gain. It especially refers to the attempt to increase social appeal or acceptability through this compromising.

The Urban Dictionary also has multiple definitions for Selling Out. The few I read say much the same thing as above, just cite real world examples (and those not always correct in my mind). 

By the above definition, I think the opposite is closer to the truth: staying with BLAM! would have been like selling out. Had I done that, it would have been purely for any payday or notoriety as a writer I might receive. Staying with BLAM! in the long run would have compromised who I am today, and wouldn’t have been very helpful to their cause, either.

This is not to say BLAM! Ventures is an unworthy endeavor. I am proud of the books I was (and for a while yet, still am) involved in. I think the company and the projects they are pursuing are pretty awesome all around and will enjoy reading/watching them when they arrive at my local comic store, bookshop, television set, theater, etc.

Of course, Catherine (the future wife I talked about earlier) is a big part of where I’m at today and headed in the future, but the shift in my direction as a person began long before that. Indeed, those prior changes are what allowed me to be ready for Catherine when she came into my life a few years ago. They’re also what finally prodded me to make the major decision to leave BLAM! Ventures in the first place. Once I would have defined myself solely as a writer, now I’m more interested in defining myself as a person—someone who is complex and at times unfathomable to himself and others (hence some of the household stress sparked by the renovations), and who is learning to live his life in a way he never did before.

As far as I am concerned, I’m not selling out. I’m anteing up.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Story submission

I submitted a flash story I wrote a while back to Every Day Fiction tonight. This was the first time in a long time I tried that. It was actually six 100 word stories that told a larger tale, I just gave it a new title ("The Six Stages of Grief"), did a bit of fancy formatting (not really, just added a few extra words, six of them being "stage"), and there you have it (can you guess what the other six words were?).

I was so happy having done it, I started a story submission tracker spread-sheet thingie on my Google Docs. After I had done that, I realized I didn't really have much else to submit. Certainly nothing recent. I wondered what to do.

That was when the AH-HA! moment happened... write more stories. And a few poems (mostly free form, but maybe a sestina, the format has always fascinated me). But mostly stories.

My new goal is to write one flash story or poem a week, and send it out for however long I can keep it up. I know, it's crazy, especially now with NaNoWriMo going on this month. I can't help it, I'm feeling free and enjoying it, and I want to take advantage while it lasts.

NaNo update tomorrow, bed now.

NaNoWriMo: Days 2-4

Day One started with barely a whimper, 59 words. That's where my total stood until tonight, just after midnight when I ground out an additional 349.

Days Two and Three were zero word days, and when you're supposed to be averaging over 1,600 words a day, that ain't good. November's young yet, and I'm not too worried at the moment. I am a little surprised how the beginning is shaping up, but then, I really don't have much clue how things are going to play out in general so I shouldn't be.

My main character is a mystery still, I knocked him down a bit from my original vision of who he was so he wouldn't turn into a silly Mary Sue character. He's still got some of me in him, but hopefully not so much that it overpowers him and ruins the story.

Total word count as of Day Four: 408

Just remember kids, Day Four isn't over. And like the profile on the side there says: I'm magic...

Good night.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It has begun!

59 words written since midnight rolled around. It's a small start, a mere fraction of the final goal. But I'll take it.

Time for bed now.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

T-minus less than two hours

Less than two hours to go until yet another Halloween passes by and I can officially begin my NaNoWriMo novel.

Halloween was pretty quiet on my street this year, only a handful of kids came, mostly in groups. One four or five year old proceeded to grab a large handful of candy as I was telling him "You can take a.... couple. OK, then." He looked up at me, and without a word ran back to his parent who were holding his bag. All the other kids were polite, saying "thanks" even when they grabbed a handful instead of a couple. We're still left with half a cauldron of candy, which Catherine and I will split between our offices and let the hungry hordes descend upon.

So, NaNo is imminent, and I've gotten very little done in the way of plotting. Right at the start I'm thinking I won't hit the 50,000 word mark. That's all right, however, a start is what I need this year so whatever I end up with is good.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NaNoWriMo update: The Greatest Year

Made a little progress on my story notes today during lunch, think I might have a hook into the first book. This is good because the first book will set the tone for the three subsequent ones in the series, and it was the one I knew almost the least about (that honor belongs to the final one). Books two and three are centered around holidays so I have lots of fodder, but the first one takes place during summer, and the Fourth of July just isn't that exciting for me.

The post subtitle--The Greatest Year--is the name of the entire series. Actually, it's more of a working title that I can use here, which because I'm lazy I will shorthand TGY1 for the first book even though I hate when they do that with movie titles.

I'll reveal more as I go about writing it, so you get a better sense of what it is without spilling the beans wholesale. In the meantime, all you need to know is it's an adventure that takes a kid from the last vestiges of childhood to the brink of adulthood; with fallen friends and lost family, in a setting that's less than familiar, but still feels of home.

Unless I change my mind. Then your guess is as good as mine.

Camera Culture

I only recently discovered This American Life, Ira Glass' seminal radio show about, uhm, life in America. Each week's show centers around a particular theme, examining it from various points of view through stories and essays.

Now I say "recently" discovered, but only in the I've-actually-started-listening-to-it recently sense. I first heard of This American Life when Showtime produced a six episode series back in 2007. A cursory look into the series sparked my interest. I had learned it sprang from a radio show, and told interesting stories about people and ideas and other assorted things, but simply never got around to it.

A few weeks back I was listening to the Search Engine podcast, hosted Jesse Brown, and he interviewed Glass about his career in radio, noting that he was one of his heroes. Curiosity piqued again, and my growing love of podcasts providing the perfect vehicle to find out more, I subscribed to TAL's feed and became a fan.

Tonight I came upon this YouTube clip (via Boing Boing, another on my internet loves, and the inspiration for a future blog post) from the Showtime series, though I'm not sure which episode. It's animated by Chris Ware, cartoonist of Acme Novelty Library fame, and tells the tale of school kids and fake cameras and how it all went horribly wrong...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Devil's Dogs (and a llama)

Not those Devil Dogs. Though I imagine these are dry on the outside and squishy on the inside as well.

Via The Art of M. S. Corley. He's also done some pretty awesome mock book covers for Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia and other series.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Eight Days...

...and counting.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 and a change of direction

After not being able to really able to devote the time necessary since I discovered it a couple of years ago, this year I'm going to do NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month! What is that you ask? I'll let them explain (click through to the site for further info):

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month's time.

Who: You! We can't do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era's most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

My biggest decision to make after deciding to do it was figuring out which of the several suitable backburner projects to pursue: 1) The near future genre mash up with giant monsters, luchadores, Lovecraftian creatures, alien invaders and more; or 2) a contemporary horror/thriller set in a city you can’t easily escape; or 3) a YA novel about a boy whose twelfth year takes several unexpected turns (there's some magic in it, but it will most likely be of the wonderment kind since he's not a magician). The first two are pretty massive undertakings, containing large worlds inhabited with lots of characters and I haven't had too much opportunity to really think them out yet. That's what knocked them out of contention.

The YA book, well, it's a bit smaller in scale (even though it is the first of four) and somewhat more fleshed out in my head. I've just over a week to get down further notes, ideas etc. (you can't start actually writing until November 1st), and plan to spend part of this weekend doing just that. At the end of each day you're supposed to update your word count on their site, I'll do it here as well, perhaps with occasional excerpts and updates on the action. The goal is 50,000 words in 30 days. Tough on a full time Day Job, but not impossible. I'm excited for the challenge, and the new direction in my writing.

That new direction comes at a price, however. I've posted before about my involvement with the upcoming Planet of the Apes novel, as well as my own creator owned comic series, both produced by the company I co-founded--BLAM! Ventures--and the latter to be published by Archaia. For reasons mainly personal, as of October 1st I have left BLAM! and both of those projects. It was a difficult decision, but one a long time coming and which I believe will be best for myself and for BLAM! Ventures in the long run.

My friend and BLAM! partner Drew Gaska has been stewarding these projects and more at BLAM! for a while now, and I know he will bring you nothing less than the highest quality entertainment. When they arrive I will be trumpeting them to all who will hear, and I will be eagerly awaiting to see the final product myself.

The funny thing about all of this is for the longest time I have been disheartened with my writing life and fully expected to back away for months at the very least before trying again. A week ago, though, I saw the link to NaNoWriMo and the spark I got quickly spread to flame. I feel a desire to write that I haven't in years. It may not last, I may fall back to where I was before on the brink of giving it up, but for now the words call to me again. And I believe I am back in the business of listening to them.

Nine days and counting...

Personally I don't care for the word

But since the holidays are coming, I figure I can make an exception.

Let's hear it for randomly placed objects!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Does he wish he was in Dixie...

...or was the owner of this bike just a really big fan of The Dukes of Hazzard and couldn't afford a '69 Dodge Charger?

Saw this at a local movie theater in Holbrook, NY. Couldn't tell if the gas tank had a confederate flag on it or not, that would've been too much.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

AISFP interview (I'm interviewed, not AISFP, silly)

Exciting news! My first interview for the Planet of the Apes novel I'm co-writing is up at Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing podcast right here.

I was interviewed back in July by Lou Anders for the podcast during San Diego Comic Con. The interview itself was a bit unexpected, I had invited Lou over to see the booth and say hi as I had only meet him in person once before and was curious to get his reaction to what we were doing with POTA. When he told me he was doing short interviews for Shaun Farrell over at AISFP and asked if I would like to participate, I was quick to say yes.

Anyway, Shaun (another guy I would someday like to meet in person), has now put the interview online. You can find it here, my segment begins at 37:26 but I encourage you to listen to the whole show because AISFP is always entertaining and informative.

Enjoy your evening, and tomorrow to, should you have it off.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oh, hey, and another thing...

Yeah, so, uhm, the other big(ger) news: I got engaged!


Catherine and I are getting married next May. I realized this morning I had posted that on Facebook last week, but forgot to note it here.

Here we are at my sister and brother-in-law's wedding shower in 2007 (also, Happy Anniversary to them, married 2 years now--but together 9(ish)!):

(photo by Kim Shapiro)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New glasses

So, after many years of not seeing an eye doctor, my primary care physician told me to go.

And I did.

And now I have spanking new glasses, shown here:

My eyes were not that bad all things considered. One eye is nearsighted, the other farsighted (they even out, see?), and I have astigmatism. The lenses make the world clearer, thus making the reading and driving I was advised to use them for a bit more focused--one hopes on multiple levels.

I wore glasses briefly as a young teen, but either wasn't given much choice, or there wasn't much choice as the frames I had were large and heavy despite being rather thin (no, they weren't Buddy Holly frames, but they did have presence and they were a pale gold color). I didn't wear them long, at the time I didn't feel I was getting any benefit from them and they quietly went away.

I do see an immediate improvement with these, however, but I do hope the slightly wonky feeling my eyes have right now is just a matter of adjusting to the new element. The only real drawback to my chosen frames is something I discovered while typing this entry. The shape doesn't allow for easy checking of the keyboard as I type. If my glasses are up high on the bridge of my nose for better viewing of the screen, I find myself looking under the bottom rims when I glance down at the keyboard. I'm one of those in between typists--I don't hunt and peck, I use more than my index fingers--but I can't fly across the keyboard with my eyes on the screen and hope to get anything legible out of it.

I'm sure a solution will be found, or I'll get used to quickly adjusting their position. Or, I'll become some sort of mutant head contortionist and bend my neck in all sorts of directions to obtain the perfect keyboard view. In the meantime, I've bored you enough with my tales of clear vision and posable body parts.

Goodnight all.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The I Haven't Read Your Angry Robot Book Interview, with special guest Chris Roberson

The Introduction

I met Chris Roberson briefly at the BookExpo America held in New York City in 2007. It wasn’t a planned thing, more of what I would come to think of as fortunate circumstance.

I was attending with two purposes in mind: the first to touch base with my then prospective, now current comic publisher Mark Smylie of Archaia; the second reason was to meet Lou Anders, the editorial director of Pyr, who happened to be one of Chris’ publishers. Lou introduced us and had nothing but praise for him. Before went parted ways Lou, excited about Chris’ work, made sure I and my companions had copies of the ARC for Set the Seas on Fire and the chapbook for the novella Line of Dichotomy, both being books not even published by his company—but that’s just how Lou Anders rolls, I’ll have more on him in another, future entry. The two stories represented his two major series, the Bonaventure-Carmody sequence and the Celestial Empire universe respectively. Chris graciously signed all of our copies, with a note to read Cordwainer Smith—a subject of conversation at the Expo, and he’s is on my reading list, really, I’ll get to him—and we were shortly on our way.

Not too long afterwards, intrigued with the setting of the Celestial Empire stories (in brief, an alternate reality where China has become the major superpower on Earth and vies for
control of the stars with challenger the Aztecs), I finally sat down and read a few of them available online. I quickly fell in love with the concept and the storytelling and have been a fan since.

I had set up an interview with Chris for earlier this year for his YA novel Iron Jaw and Hummingbird, but unfortunately that fell through due to reasons on my part. Chris has been kind enough to agree to second interview, this time to talk about his latest offering, Book of Secrets from Angry Robot Books. Fueled by a lifetime love of all things pulp, cartoon, comic and stuff that’s just plain cool, Chris Roberson is an intriguing mix of influences, with a style and voice wholly his own.

We talk about Book of Secrets, of course, but I also wanted to get a broader picture of the man behind the words. With that in mind I touched on a few other topics, including his recently announced creator owned comic book series with artist Mike Allred called I,
Zombie from Vertigo, a brief note on his own publishing company MonkeyBrain Books, and the cutest little blonde kid on the web, his daughter Georgia (pictured below with dad).

The I Haven't Read Your Angry Robot Book Interview

Manakalita Manifesto: As the title of this interview series implies, I haven’t read your book yet (‘cause that’s the gimmick here), and know little about it beyond the description on the Angry Robot site and the few reviews I’ve read. I’ll be linking to the Angry Robot page for Book of Secrets, but can you expand a little on what readers can expect?

Chris Roberson: Book of Secrets is a murder mystery combined with a secret history of mankind, wrapped up in a story about a man coming to terms with his heritage. Oh, and there are gangsters, masked avengers, highwaymen, mythological beings, cat-burglars, and more, to boot!

MM: Books of Secrets began life as a novel called Voices of Thunder. Was this a part of your output during the publishing era of your writing group Clockwork Storybook?

CR: It was indeed. I actually started working on the story that ultimately became Book of Secrets shortly after I graduated from college in 1992. I’d written two novels in college (which thankfully will never see the light of day), and when I began working out the story of Spencer Finch, the Black Hand, and the secret history of mankind I figured I’d have it written in another year or two, at most. As I continued researching and outlining, though, the story kept getting bigger and stranger. Over the course of the next decade or so I wrote bits and pieces of it here and there, but it wasn’t until I was part of the Clockwork Storybook writers group that I decided it was time to finish the damned thing. That version of the story was published as Voices of Thunder through the CWSB imprint, and probably sold a dozen copies, if I’m being generous. I was never entirely happy with that version, though, and kept noodling with it over the following years, until finally a year or so ago I got it to a point where I was willing to let the world see it in its finished state. Angry Robot got in touch to see if I had anything to submit, and things took their natural course.

MM: Does Books of Secrets tie into any of your other fiction or is it a stand alone? I’m thinking specifically of the Bonaventure-Carmody sequence.

CR: Book of Secrets is entirely standalone, but you’re not wrong in thinking that there might be connections between it and the Bonaventure-Carmody novels, though most of the connections are from the other direction. That is, in several Bonaventure-Carmody novels there are references to characters and situations from Book of Secrets (most notably in End of the Century, published last spring by Pyr), some obvious and some less so.

MM: I read a bunch of reviews in preparation, and perhaps my favorite quote from the lot is the Random Musings review: “This tremendous modern fantasy is like The Da Vinci Code rewritten by the Coen Brothers.” That’s quite a mash up there, what was your reaction upon reading that?

CR: It’s not a formulation I would have come up with on my own, probably, but I think it fits the book as well as any “It’s This meets This” formulas. My conscious models in writing the novel in the first place were people like Umberto Eco, though I’ve since recognized fellow travelers in reading the novels of Arturo PĂ©rez-Reverte and Hal Duncan.

MM: How did you become a slave to the metal overlords at Angry Robot? What enticed you to join the ranks? Is the “angry” part of their name just for show and they’re really just a bunch of mellow mechanical constructions?

CR: I’d worked with Angry Robot publisher Marc Gascoigne in his days at Black Library and Solaris, and the scars had all healed by the time he contacted me in the early days of Angry Robot. Honestly, he had me at the words “Angry” and “Robot”—everything else after that was gilding the lily.

MM: Being that Book of Secrets was originally self published, I wanted to know what your take on that aspect of publishing was. In pretty much every other form of entertainment the DIY method of getting your work out there is no longer looked down upon—if, indeed, it ever was in some of them—yet in the literary field it is still considered bad form and that strikes me as such backward thinking. What are your thoughts on this?

CR: I essentially self-published four novels, and don’t recommend that anyone try it. There are the occasional success stories, but for every one person who sells a healthy number of copies of their self-published book there are literally thousands of writers who manage to sell only a handful to their friends and family. One of the inherent problems with self-publishing prose, I think, is that it takes time to judge the quality of a novel or story. You have to read it to see if it’s any good. (You can often tell if something is horrible in the first sentence, but the difference between “good” and “mediocre” can often take pages and pages of suffering to determine.) If a musician self-publishes online or on CD, you can tell within a minute or two if this is something you’re going to be interested in. A self-published comic? Glance at the cover and one or two interior pages. Independent movies can be trickier, but there’s an example where they’ve managed to established a process for self-produced and self-financed films to reach a wider audience through the various film-festivals and such.

In the days of Clockwork Storybook, we had this utopian vision that if we simply produced good work and put it out there, the audience would find it. We did a monthly webzine with original stories and art, and published novels and story collections by the members. But though we managed to get some good reviews from “mainstream” genre outlets, the books themselves were just lost in the sea of crappy POD and self-published titles. (There’s often a reason why those thousands of self-published authors never sell any copies.)

If someone has already established a large following, whether through being published before by high-profile mainstream publishers or by having a heavy-traffic blog or something like that, then I think self-publishing might be viable. But for a writer just starting out, it’s an absolute waste of time. If your goal is to have published a book, it’s fine, but if your goal is to actually have people read that book, or maybe even have a career in writing, then it’s the wrong row to hoe.

MM: OK, so the last question has kind of shifted us off topic a bit, but since we’re tackling a slightly off topic subject, perhaps we could jump on a few more. You can consider it a lightning round if you like. Though you’re more than welcome to give more than a one word answer. Here we go:

According to Wikipedia, there are two other Chris Roberson’s out there of note, both athletes. What do you know of them and are they worthy of your name?

CR: All I know about them is that they show up constantly in the automated Google searches I do on my name, and that I can’t help but feel a nonsensical bit of pride that I’m still the top couple of hits on Google for “Chris Roberson.”

There are a few other Chris Robersons, though, including an artist in Chicago, an academic, and a musician. I think we should form a League of Chris Robersons and take over the world.

MM: You have an adorable little girl named Georgia to whom you devote a lot of space on your site. What’s the best thing for you about being a dad?

CR: My daughter is an antidote to depression. It’s just impossible to be down when I’m around her. In addition to being beautiful and a genius (objectively speaking, of course) she’s also hilarious, and can always manage to crack me up. We spend a lot of time together watching cartoons, reading comics, and drawing pictures of monsters, robots, and aliens. What could be more fun than that?

MM: You’re a publisher as well as a writer, guiding MonkeyBrain Books with your wife Allison. Often you call your publishers your “masters” or “overlords,” do you make your authors do the same for you?

CR: Ha! No, and I wouldn’t let them if they tried. Many of the writers I’ve published are people I admired even before I started the publishing company, and one of the main reasons I started MonkeyBrain was so that I could publish more books by them to put up on my shelf. My novel End of the Century is dedicated to three writers who have been particularly influential on me—Alan Moore, Michael Moorcock, and Kim Newman—and it’s no accident that I’ve published books involving each of them.

MM: All right, the lightning round is over. I just want to wrap this up with a couple of congratulations and then give you the final word.

You’ve been nominated for a Sidewise Award, which honors works of alternate history, for your novel The Dragon’s Nine Sons. This is your second nomination—a wonderful achievement in itself—and hopefully your second win, since you took the short-form prize home in 2003 for “O One” a short story also set in your Celestial Empire universe. I know this news has been out for a while, but with the presentation of the award coming up soon at Anticipation, the 67th Worldcon in early August, I figured it was a good time to remind people.

CR: Actually this is my fourth nomination, if I’m remembering correctly. I’ve been up three times in short form, and once in long form. I don’t have any expectation of winning this year at all, given the contenders I’m up against. The only way I’m taking that plaque home is if the jury somehow mistakenly believes that Terry Pratchett is spelled “C-H-R-I-S R-O-B-E-R-S-O-N.” Nation is arguably the best book he’s written in a long career filled with great books, and deserves all of the accolades it can get. (Though I wouldn’t mind seeing my pal George Mann win for his novel The Affinity Bridge, though, come to that.) [MM: UPDATE - Apparently the jury did see fit to misspell Mr. Pratchett's name, Chris won the Sidewise award for his novel The Dragon's Nine Sons. Congrats, Chris!]

MM: The more recent, and equally exciting news, was the announcement from Vertigo of your creator owned comic with Mike Allred called I, Zombie. The details were laid out at the Vertigo panel at San Diego Comic Con this year and expanded upon in a very fine interview at Comic Book Resources, so rather than rehash those particulars, how about you tell us just how cool is it to have your own comic book?

CR: It is ridiculously cool. I’ve been a comics fan my whole life, and been to the comic shop every week for new release day for the last thirty years or so. And I’ve been a fan of Allred’s work for nearly twenty years (has it been that long?), since the days of Grafik Musik. Getting the opportunity to write comics was already mind-blowing enough, but having the chance to work with Allred as a collaborator? On an ongoing creator-owned book from Vertigo? Unbelievable.

(I just hope this is my karmic reward for all of the bad shit I’ve had to endure the last few years, and that I’m not racking up a karmic debt that I’m going to have to repay sometime down the road!)

Where to find Chris and
Book of Secrets

Book of Secrets is out now in the UK, and available October 15, 2009 in the US and the rest of the world (because there are just too many of you countries to name).

For more on Chris Roberson, visit his website.

Yes, there was a second day at Comic Con

But, no, I'm not going to rehash it here.

For all the fun and excitement, pop over to The Conspiracy Apes, the blog I started to chronicle the happenings leading up to the publication of our first Apes novel Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes next spring.

I do have some other things going on here at the Manifesto, however. Yes, I will someday finish my Tales from the Tomato Patch series of flash stories. No, it did not happen by the end of July like I had hoped. This was due in no small part to my trip to San Diego, and the fact that my health was absconded by some variation of the flu shortly after returning home. Life is better now, but there was a night of chills and a 102 degree fever where all seemed lost.

But before I get back to the stories, I have an exciting new development with this blog: the introduction of interviews!

I had mentioned the possibility of this before, and it's time has come. A long time ago I had worked for a comic industry periodical called Comic Culture, and among the feature stories and reviews, I also got a chance to conduct interviews with creators. It was probably my favorite aspect of working for the paper (aside from transcribing the tapes, hated that part of it). I loved getting the chance to sit down with people I admired, or getting to know creators I knew little about. I talked to Stan Sakai of Usagi Yojimbo fame, who was really nice and who I crossed paths with again a couple of years ago. Sadly that time he was late for a panel, I for a meet up with friends, and I didn't get to talk to him for more than a few seconds (it was a phone interview anyway, so I didn't even have the opportunity for him to say "Hey, you look familiar...." I also interviewed both Walt and Louise Simonson, on separate occasions, the second of which my partner and I were treated to pancakes made by Louise.

So, I had a good time doing them and have lately wanted to do more. The next post will see the first of what I hope is many interviews with people I admire from the literary and comic worlds. It features author Chris Roberson, who I became acquainted with a couple of years back, and is also one helluva nice guy in his own right.

I hope you enjoy this new facet of the Manifesto, and I'll be back soon with more Tomato Tales. Promise.

Friday, July 24, 2009

First Day Down

First for me, the others have been here a day or two already.

Settling down finally after a long day of travel, booth monitoring, premise explaining, convention wandering and dinner searching.

Dinner was something of a comedy of errors, pretty much all on the kitchen staff's part. From a late entree to an undercooked burger most of the stuff that could've gone wrong did. The waitress was good though, got everything right in the end and took my dinner off the bill.

I'm alone in the hotel room right now (I'll post a view later) and enjoying the quiet and not having to walk or stand for a while.

Time for sleep.

Edit to add:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

San Diego Comic Con

This is a big convention:

More later...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sis!

Today is my sister Dana’s birthday. I can be pretty crappy at showing the love, but I’m trying to get better at it. So here’s to you, sis, enjoy your day. See you at The Olive Garden for dinner tonight and for Chocolate-covered Strawberry Short(Cup)cakes later!

Birthday bonus: Cuteness abound!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Ultimate RickRoll!

This is awesome! How come this did not happen before now?

I'm a fan of Nirvana. And, yes, I even like Rick Astley (go ahead and do your worst). So this so works for me.

Cobain on the other hand, probably Rickrolling in his grave.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Other things that occupy my time

News of the POTA novel I posted earlier is the highlight of the day, and indeed we've been getting a steady stream of people signing up for the mailing list and I expect we'll start hearing from news outlets shortly, but I’ve got a few other doings in the works.

I’ll be continuing my Tales from the Tomato Patch series shortly, with an eye for finishing up by month’s end. I’m enjoying these stories, but they’re not always as easy to write as I had hoped. That, and I have, you know, a novel to work on and stuff. There’s six more to go, and it occurs to me now that I should pop over to the Jason Webley forums at his site and maybe let them know about it. Something to do this week maybe.

I will also be starting my I Haven’t Read Your Angry Robot Book Interview series soon. My first interview will be with Chris Roberson, author of Book of Secrets, which is due out on August 6 (I hope to have it up by then). Chris will be at San Diego Comic Con to promote his newly announced Vertigo series I, Zombie. Follow the link for a brief description, it sounds cool (and I’ll sneak in a question about that for the interview). I still have yet to choose who my next Angry Robot interview victim subject will be, but I’ll wait until after the con to decide.

Also, I have a few scripts to write in what I believe will be our second Critical Millennium series from Archaia. The first series, set in the Dark Frontier time period, is scheduled to debut in the spring (which, along with the POTA book, means a lot of product coming out from our camp next year).

That’ll do for now. Talk to you soon.

Beans. Spilled. Finally.

So, I hinted earlier in the year about a big project I was working on. If it hasn’t already, news should be filtering out soon, though for the sharp eyed among you, you probably already know this. While we waited for a few things to fall into place before the news could be officially released rumors have been circulating among fans for a few weeks now, and the news broke on one the Planet of the Apes fan groups a couple of weeks ago.

Yeah, that’s what I said. Planet of the Apes.

To add to the pre-announcement hype an image was posted last week on Joe Jusko’s DeviantArt page.

Yeah, that’s what I said. Joe Jusko.

What do Planet of the Apes, Joe Jusko and I exactly have in common? We’re both working on a new illustrated novel set in the POTA universe (the Heston one, not the Wahlberg one, you can breath easy now) and being put out by the company I started with my friend and co-writer Andrew E. C. Gaska, along with our other co-writer Erik Matthews.

Yeah, that’s what I—waitwaitwait. Neither Andrew, Erik nor I are gonna really spark any name recognition in you. At least not yet. Back to the news:

The book is called Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes, it’s the first of two we have signed on for with Fox (though I’m only in on the first one), and it’s going to be a wild ride for long time fans of the series. We’re staying true to the spirit of the original films, filling in gaps while revealing untold tales, and generally having a grand time with it all.

Conspiracy centers on the character of John Landon, the navigator of the Liberty One mission that crash lands on a mysterious planet ruled by Apes. Where the movie focused on Heston’s character George Taylor, Conspiracy shows you what happened to Landon. Those who have seen the movie will know his fate, what you don’t know is how he got there. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

The coolest part, at least to my mind, is the fact that this is an illustrated novel. That means we were able to bring on board a lot of top notch talent from the comic book and illustration worlds. Not only did we get Joe Jusko, but Ken Kelly, Matt Busch, Tom Scioli, Arthur Suydam and more. Twenty plus artists have contributed, along with a cover image by the legendary Steranko! These guys are pouring their hearts into the work they are doing and what I’ve seen so far is amazing.

I've been sending out press releases all weekend and forwarding links to our website to get the word out. Take a click over to the site we’ve set up for it and have a look around. Also, be sure to visit us at Comic-Con International in San Diego this coming week (July 22-26), we’ll be exhibiting at booth 2547, showing off a handful of paintings, offering a couple of prints for sale, along with their respective artists at the booth to sign them (Jusko and Sanjulian!), and have a couple of other “while supplies last” assorted goodies.

You can, of course, check back here for periodic updates, where I’ll hopefully offer some different perspective than you will find on the official site (hey I like traffic, too). Either way, take note of the progress, because it’s going to be awesome.

Edit to add: Oh yeah, the book will be out sometime in the Spring of 2010.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tales From the Tomato Patch #5


Once again, long time between entries. And yes, the Eleventh Anniversary show has passed us by. That's OK, I started the celebration here early, I can stretch it out. For those new to the blog (and I expect some new people shortly with news that will be breaking in the next day or two), start here to find out what this whole Tales from the Tomato Patch business is about. The rest of you press on!

I've been busy with Day Job, and busy with some other matters which have caused me to hold off on entries for a bit. While Day Job must continue, and other matters still prevail, I promise to get cracking and bring the remaining stories to you by month's end. Six more to go from this point, and without further delay, I give you tale number five:

"Clown Car to Mulberry"

They had packed into the car, less like sardines, but still way beyond what they should have.

Springtime was a powerful elixir to the young, many songs were sung of fortunes lost and status won. From the tundra of the campus to the ivory tinted beaches, the blinding white light would not be the same. Neither would they, each secretly hoped.

It’s funny how something so small as a used condom on the road could stop your progress (best not to ask how). And an evening spent on a damp roadside, watching dreaming buffalo float in sharp contrast to a moonlit field of lime green grass, can leave you wanting cookies.

BONUS! Check out the song that inspired it. It was written by Jason Webley with a bunch of college kids while he was on tour in late 2007 and a lot of fun:

Story title from Jason Webley's collaboration with a bunch a show stragglers and/or college kids from Nov/Dec 2007 (Sorry, I have no more information, but if you do let me know in the comments!)

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #5: Clown Car to Mulberry by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tales From the Tomato Patch #4

Story number four:


The sign read:

The Lonely Artichoke Hearts Club
~ Singles Support Group ~
We meet every Thursday evening.

Bring three artichokes, your favorite recipe,
and any ingredients you need.

We’ll supply the love.

Byron had been lonely, and he liked artichokes, so on Thursday he found himself at a small apartment with a middle-aged mother of three grown boys. They were joined by a former college football star, two septuagenarians (one black, the other white, both life long friends), a transgendered woman, a retired math teacher in a dusty tweed sports coat, and the lovely Lola.

Both the college football star and Lola smiled at him.

He didn’t think he’d be lonely anymore.

Story title from Jason Webley’s and Reverend Peyton's collaborative album 2 Bottles of Wine, 2007

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #4: Artichoke by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tales From the Tomato Patch #3

Yeah, this is a long time coming, and I'm running out of time to get these up, so, here's number 3, with a promise of the fourth one Monday evening.

"Days With You"

H. Chang had shuffled back and forth between stovetop and deep fryer and freezer in the kitchen of the Pensive Dragon Palace everyday for nearly twenty years.

His wife had left him and come back five times during the first five years the Pensive Dragon was open. After the sixth time, she hadn’t returned.

Still, H. Chang walked the walk in his kitchen. He never missed a day, never opened late, closed early.

His wife had called in the morning, telling him she was back home.

“I miss my days with you,” she said.

A crowd stood outside the restaurant at 4:30 when she arrived.

The Pensive Dragon Palace was closed.

Story title from Jason Webley’s and Sxip Shirey's collaborative album Days With You, 2009

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #3: Days With You by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gaiman & Palmer

Here's a tale about a writer and a musician and a little cafe in Manhattan:

Last Wednesday Catherine and I headed into NYC to see Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer at Housing Works for SPIN’s Liner Notes event (the blurry picture above is the best I could get with my iPhone from where I was). It was the second entry in SPIN’s new series pairing a writer and a musician.

It was a very cool night as they traded off spinning stories and singing songs, pausing only to auction off an advanced copy of Ms. Palmer’s photobook Who Killed Amanda Palmer, which Mr. Gaiman wrote stories to accompany; and to interview each other with audience questions, during which it was revealed to the world they have been dating for several months now (and I thought that was lovely for them, good on you guys! I did have to resist the urge to title this post “Gaiman & Palmer sittin’ in a tree…” thought that would just be in poor taste).

You can find other places online to give you a rundown of who performed what during the evening, but I will let you know the auction generated $1,300.00 for Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, an organization that supports homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with AIDS. (Other reported amounts for the auction itself varied, from reports of $1,100.00 to $2,000.00, but being there I watched in amazement as it crept up to the $1,300.00 as both Palmer and Gaiman at times proclaimed “Naked Amanda Pictures!” to the audience.) The night has a whole garnered something like $10,000.00 for the charity. Awesome.

I had seen both of them live once before, each on a different occasion. Neil Gaiman I met at a convention years ago in NYC not too long after I had discovered Sandman. It was a signing, where the convention volunteers wrangling the line made sure to tell everyone not to talk to Mr. Gaiman because he didn’t like that, and generally made him sound to be some sort of fan-hating monster. My friend and I thought this weird, and I was worried the experience would be short and uncomfortable. It wasn’t. He was very pleasant, saying something to me which I can’t recall now as he signed my copy of Death: The High Cost of Living #1 and some random Sandman comic (which I wish was issue number 42, the first one I had read – huh, 42, I just got that – but of course was not). I’m shy in person, and take a while to warm up to people, so I’m sure I mostly responded to his kindness in brief. I do recall leaving there thinking the convention staff at that signing were idiots, probably trying to make themselves seem more important that they were. Mr. Gaiman proved to be nothing more than the incredibly wonderful and charismatic guy he was then and is now.

Amanda Palmer I saw in concert with Catherine on New Years Eve 2007 as she played with her band The Dresden Dolls. It was an awesome show where New Years came six minutes late because someone stopped watching the clock or something. It didn’t matter. The energy of that night was incredible, and though I had only become a fan a few months prior (I sense a theme here), I became one for life that night. It was an extra special night because that was Catherine and my first New Years together, and a grand way to spend it.

That’s my story about Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. I have more to say on both, and will do so soon enough but this was a bit timely and timeless as far as events in my life go, so I wanted to share now. Moby was there, too, but aside from passing ten feet in front of me, he doesn't really figure into this tale.

One odd off-shoot of the whole affair occurred over on writer John Scalzi’s Whatever blog. A reader emailed to scold him for not letting the world at large know via his corner of the internet about the Gaiman/Palmer romance. He went on a little rant about why, even if he had advance knowledge of such relationship, he was not obligated and/or inclined to do so. While he sometimes gets a little too snarky for me (though I hang on because he is damned entertaining in all other aspects), Mr. Scalzi has a pretty much spot on sense of what is right/appropriate, and let the anonymous emailer know exactly what he thought of the scolding. It’s weird how some people view those working in entertainment.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tales From the Tomato Patch #2

For those who just wandered in, this is the second in a series of stories celebrating the eleventh anniversary of Jason Webley’s first album. This one is 111 words long. For the deal, see the last entry on June 1. There isn’t a “Tales From… #1” , because I didn’t think to name this series of posts until after the first was up.

So as not to be quite as loquacious this time out, we’ll get to the story and I’ll save further commentary for a future post (enjoy!):

"February Relaxing Her Fingers After a Short Winter’s Grip"

Oksana exhaled slowly, watched the tendrils of condensation form, rise and disappear in the air. Her golden hair caught the mid-winter sun and held it haloed around her head.

All about her men, women, children, and animals paused to stare. She paid them no mind as another cloud of breath was fashioned before her, though not quite the same as before. This one was thinner, easier to see through.

The city had all but stopped as Oksana slipped off the ledge of the retaining wall she sat upon, and walked further into its heart. For those who had witnessed her that day, in that moment, hope had touched their hearts.

Story title from Jason Webley’s album Only Just Beginning, 2004

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #2: February Relaxing Her Fingers After a Short Winter’s Grip by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, June 1, 2009

First things last (edit to add: Tales From the Tomato Patch #1)

Welcome to the end of the first day of June, I hope you enjoyed it.

Yesterday I returned from a ten day vacation that had me traveling from New York to North Carolina to Florida and back home again. It was a good trip, but exhausting, so I wound up taking an extra day off from the Day Job to recover (which I have mostly done now, so sadly back to work tomorrow, excuses gone).

Last time I promised to start exploring the things I love here on the manifesto through a series of profiles, and also conduct a separate series of interviews. This post contains neither of those.

Instead, I offer up the first of a series of short short stories inspired by my favorite musician: Jason Webley. I told you here about the awesome concert of his Catherine and I went to last January; this upcoming July 3rd marks the eleventh anniversary of his debut album Viaje.

One of the things I should have done was write a profile of Mr. Webley first, but time is slippy, and, well you know. The profile will now come at the end of this series of stories, and may be the better for it. You’ll learn a bit about him through the story titles, because each is named after a song on one of his many albums.

One thing you will notice about Mr. Webley is he has a thing about the number eleven. It’s the name of his record company, figures into some of his songs, and in general is a good number to have around (he also has a thing for tomatoes, but I still haven’t figured that one out quite yet.). To honor that, all of the stories I write will be either 11, 111, or 1,111 words long, and, of course, there will be eleven of them all together between now and his anniversary concert on July 3rd.

I only have one written, the one below, and a few others sketched out, so this may well end up being a seat-of-the-pants type operation. I hope you’ll excuse that and know this is all in celebration of an artist I admire and am inspired by. Most of the stories will have nothing to do with the songs they are named for, though some might. Some might borrow a few words, others an image or two, but you need not be familiar with the songs to enjoy the stories. I will try and get permission to post the songs in the future (and if I can figure out how), so those who have never heard his music can have some fun at the juxtaposition.

I believe that covers most of what you need to know going in, except that today is also Jason Webley's birthday (a fact which I either didn't know or didn't recall, but works well for this first post anyway). With that, I will leave you with the first of eleven tales (a short bit consisting of eleven words), I hope you enjoy and will see you in a few days with story number two:

“2 AM”

Tired and bone weary. The accordion’s suddenly heavy.
My heart remains.

Edit to add: Story title from Jason Webley's album Against the Night, 1999

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #1: 2 AM by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.