Tokyo Pizza – A rollicking good time

Tokyo Pizza was written by Michael Lane as an entry for the 30 hour #nanowriwee contest held by Harper Collins. It made it to the shortlist and it was a well deserved accolade. I had the pleasure of reading Toyko Pizza in its raw state at hour 31 of the contest and even then it was an amazing bit of literature.

Polished up for Amazon, its even better. Its main character is easily identified with from the very first paragraph, and the author never let that lapse throughout the entire novella.

The writing is quick paced, slick and tongue in cheek. With a full cast of characters that are unique, paired up with realistic surroundings made this a rollicking fun read. The ending had some nice twists which I didn’t see coming, and I appreciated the fact the author was able to catch me by surprise.

Definitely worth the time! I highly recommend it.

You can find it here on Amazon! Get it while it’s hot.

http://www.amazon.com/Tokyo-Pizza-ebook/dp/B00C7IHSX0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365703677&sr=8-1&keywords=tokyo+pizza

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Dark Dreams

The  baying  of hounds echoed  in the sultry night.  Their undulating cries grew closer, as the pack reached the courtyard.  Long claws skittered up the marble steps and spilled into the hallway. Their scent was ripe. The coppery scent of blood hung in a miasma about their swirling forms.  Panting  tongues dripped saliva along the pristine halls as they sought egress into the apartments within the building.

A  small child huddled beneath her bed, staring at the partially opened window of her bedroom.  Shivering, she held her breath, hoping they wouldn’t find her.  Desperation winning over fear, she slipped from her hiding place and struggled with the window pane, pushing it down against a pair of scrabbling paws  with all the might her  ten year old body could muster.

On the foyer  beyond, a solitary shadow reflected in the dim light that passed through the shattered pane of the front door. Slim and well built, he tossed back his heavy mane of unruly hair, and howled at the moon.

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The Lake

Sam liked to fish. He loved it. He spent hours talking about it, days pouring over maps of where to fish, and weeks planning his fishing trips. This week he was excited, as he packed up his truck  “Old Blue”.

His canoe,tackle  and camping gear went into the back of the dinged up pickup.  His cooler was a close second, secured right up front on the bench seat, and filled to the very top with beer and ice.  Clothes, he didn’t consider too important, so they got bundled up into a tight wad and stuffed somewhere in the back seat.  Sam figured that they’d be okay back there if he felt the effort to change into something that didn’t smell like fish.

Several hours and a few dozen country songs later, Sam turned off onto the trunk road.  Slamming “Old Blue ” into four wheel drive, gears grinding painfully. Sam happily bounced along over ruts, rocks and a few small trees.  The winkle of deep blue appeared now and then between the trees as he approached “The Spot.” as he had privately dubbed it.   Sam had been looking at Google Earth at work one day, rather than working and had discovered that there was a small lake up this road.   Odd, since he’d grown up in the area and never remembered seeing or hearing about it before.

He had hunted up some  maps, asked the guys at fishing store, but no one seemed to know anything about the place.  In Sams mind that meant only one thing.  It was his.   All his, and there must be fish.

His heart beat faster as he slowed the truck to a crawl and realized that he could just manage to turn off the road and into a narrow overgrown lane that led right down to the waters edge.  He stopped the truck close to the steep edge, grabbed a beer from the cooler and stepped out to take a look.

The lake was small, maybe a mile and a half long.   The sun sparkled along its surface and the light breeze tossed the occasional wave up against the rocky shoreline just below him.  Cracking open his beer, a loon’s call echoed from across the lake as he looked around for a place to set up camp.   Leaning back against the front bumper of his truck, he looked around for a place to set up his camp for the weekend. As far as he could see, there was no other signs of life.   Just him, the lake and a whole forest around it.

Sam couldn’t believe it, he was still astonished that no one could recall this lake at all.  It was perfect.  Looking down at the pink shale that crunched underfoot, he walked further down towards the shore to investigate,  using the occasional shrub as a handhold to keep himself from sliding right into the lake below.   Reaching the water, he bent down to flip over rocks, searching for signs of life.   A crawdad or two would be good, perhaps some other hatches.

The steep incline was having another effect that Sam wasn’t aware of.   His old pickup truck had had a long and busy life.   With only first gear holding it in place, it popped out and the truck began to roll.  Picking up speed , it headed straight for the lake and for Sam.

Sam didn’t have a chance. By the time he turned at the noise, the truck was on top of him and carried him straight into the deep water, with a splash. Burbling a few times, it disappeared beneath the dark tannin waters.

No one ever knew there was a lake there.

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Brain Candy

I am a reader first and a writer second. I’ve always read.  The highlight of my young reading  life as terrifying as it sounds, was when I was 7.  I remember I was 7 because we live in Grande Prairie Alberta at the time, and I read Black Beauty.   I loved that book.   I loved horses (what little girl doesn’t?) and I loved to read.

After I finished that particular book, I still remember vividly hunting around for a book in the house that wasn’t a baby book.   As a now wise and accomplished 7 year old,  I had decided that all my Disney books and such that occupied my bookshelf were now baby books since I had conquered Black Beauty.

My parents were and are still avid readers,  so off I went to peruse their bookshelf.   I found a book that was large, heavy and to me – the absolute definition of a grown up book.   It was the complete collection of  Shakespeare’s works.

It took me all winter, but I read it.   And than I read it again.   I don’t remember understanding half of it, I probably didn’t.   However its a memory that stayed brilliant in my mind and I do remember that ‘Taming of the Shrew’ came out as the winner in the which was my favorite class.

And a reader was born.   Since then I’ve read thousands of books.   I like it all.   I like bodice rippers as I call them, I love me a great detective book.   Adventure and carousing, I’ll take that too.   I can read horror, but its a bit more work for me.

I read Fountainhead in 3 days in high school, but as an adult I had to force myself to read Atlas Shrugged.   But then I’ll turn around and happily zip through a Dick Francis book in an evening (I still love horses! That’s never changed.)

Then I began to write, and for years I never finished anything, because I kept thinking but I don’t have anything to say.   I often wondered how other writers got around that issue.   I’ve heard the usual caveat  ” write what you know”.    However for me,  my life has never been particularly exciting, I went to school, got a job, rode my horse, got married and had children.   That’s about all I know. (Not that I’m complaining – it’s been pretty damned nice over all. )

Of course being married to a journalist and author also prompts me to discuss books and how we write them much more than I ever used to.   I used to just shrug and think – no one will be interested in what I write, because I don’t have anything insightful deep or meaningful to say.

I was wrong.

Maybe it’s because I’m old enough now, or wise enough (Doubt that!) but I had a epiphany one day.   I know stuff.   Hell I know a lot of stuff, and what I don’t know I can damn well make up, after all fiction is art.  In my opinion art breaks the rules, because it can.

So I’m off to write.

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Wallflower

I am a wallflower.

We belong to the most unique of groups.  A glorious tribe of people who refuse to conform. We are the dreamers, the artists, and the geniuses.  We belong in a way that that regular  people can’t understand.  They will never understand. We sometimes deign to include them in our circles, but our tribe never truly accepts them. One could question why.  Unless you are truly a wallflower, you won’t get it.

We live in the shadows.  We watch the grand parade with eyes that truly see and ears that truly hear. We are the cynics, the disbelievers, and the truth seekers.  Vanity holds no place in our hearts.  The cold cruelty of your words and actions cannot touch us.   We have seen the fire and felt the ashes grow cold beneath our palms.  Collectively we have watched the phoenix rise time and again.

We are the questioners, the philosophers and the story tellers. We hold our own truths and follow our own honor code. You cannot belong unless we agree to let you. You label us.  Incorrectly.  But we allow it. To you we are the geeks, the nerds and the losers. We don’t care.  Because we know history,  and history always repeats itself.

We are your future.

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The Phone Rang.

Her world had ended.

In a nightmare of twisted metal, with the smell of gasoline on a chilly winter’s night.  The phone had rung late that evening. Expecting a call from her son to tell her he was heading home from work, instead a strange voice replied to her cheerful hello.
“Is this Mrs. McCallum?”
“Yes, who is this?” was her immediate reply.
“This is Corporal Bourne. Do you have a son named James McCallum?”
Even two months later she couldn’t recall the rest of the conversation. Only the final result of it. Her handsome, athletic son was gone. Driving too fast on an icy road, his car had gone out of control and spun off the highway, tumbling  end over end to finally rest in a nearby field. Days passed, nights passed. Yet the agony was still fresh. Every breath she took ached in her chest, tears threatened constantly. She missed him so much. She found herself sitting on the couch for hours on end.

Remembering.
They say mothers always remember. It’s a curse. She could remember every detail of his life. From the moment she first held him, the first time his baby blue eyes cleared and really looked at her. The fact that he not had a hair on his head until he was two.  That his teenaged cousins had spent all one night wondering if he was alive.   He spent an entire wedding reception fast asleep in his baby seat on the buffet table.  He had slept like his life depended on it.
And the later years, when he’d beg to be swung between his parents, tiny hands tightly wound into theirs. Always yelling  ‘Again!’ as they  walked hand in hand down the road.  His first teetering bike ride in front of the house, the sheer triumph on his face when he managed to go more then a few feet.

The day she made him believe he was magical.  James would stand in front of the garage doors, yelling ‘Open Sesame!’ and to his amazement they always opened. She would hide in the bedroom over the garage with the remote, and open the doors every time he yelled.  Just to hear him laugh.
There were the tough days as well. When she and his father separated, and James had to learn that money didn’t grow on trees. And she shed more than a few tears than, going without for years just to give him that ‘little bit more.’ She never knew if he understood, but she hoped he did, and she hoped that he would be okay with it.

Eventually.
James got older, and taller, and smarter. In his teenage years, he moved away from being her little boy. But to her, he would always be just that. He moved onto girls, fast cars, and caring more about what his friends opinions were that what hers might be. But she was okay with that, it was part of growing up, so she always told herself. And she still loved him as much as ever. She was content to stand back in the shadows and let him grow into the man she had always hoped he’d be one day.
Then the phone rang.

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The Technical Side of Things.

We all post, read and write a thousand things over the course of our working life in regards to writing that ‘book’. One thing that I never see discussed much is how to keep your working documents (aka manuscripts) safe from disaster. Being that most of us are dependent on electronic devices for producing/editing/storing our works in progress.  I thought it was worthy of a conversation.

I come from a network security background, and I still work actively in the field, where I spend hours a day teaching other people how to keep their data safe and secure.

For the average writing joe, there are a variety of options available. From using using a zip drive to USB stick right up to storing your manuscripts in the cloud.

Personally I’m a fan all those mentioned above. They have their own peculiar pros and cons.

External hard drive :

Pros : easy to use. Allows you to maintain a redundant copy of all your work.

Cons : you need to carry it around with you, making your portable life a bit less portable.

USB stick:

Pros: Same as the above.

Cons: They are small, I tend to ‘misplace’ them occasionally,  ok.. well a lot. So this option is never a great one for me.

Cloud Based:

There are a ton of cloud based document services around these days, and I prefer these. They are portable in that I can access them from any pc, anywhere anytime. They are usually quite secure, and many are free to use. They do have memory limits but they are quite generous, and a few books in the works isn’t going to make a huge dent.

Regardless of which you choose, depending on keeping your work only on your own computer is a dangerous option. Back it up, store it somewhere on a daily basis. You never know when your computer is going to go sideways on you.

A great list of cloud-based document storage options can be found on cometdocs blog here:

http://blog.cometdocs.com/best-free-online-document-management-tools

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The Crowd Roared

       Kara wiped the rivulet of sweat from her cheek. She squinted against the sun. She hated this particular soccer pitch which faced east and west. No matter the time of day, there was always  half of the game where she struggled to see down the field. Kara tensed and then relaxed, trying to keep her body limber as she scuffed a cleat against the turf.

       Her eyes narrow, she rolled her shoulders, keeping herself prepped for that moment when the soccer ball made it past the fullbacks and  then there was only herself and the ball that would matter. Her ball. It was Kara’s private rule. Once that soccer ball made it inside the penalty box it was hers.

Pulled from her musing, she scowled and flexed her fingers. The roar of the crowd warned her of the other teams’ breakaway long before the two forwards sprung free of the pack and began to head up field towards her. The soccer ball twitching back and forth at they played it between themselves, showing off for the crowd. Her defense had been left in the dust, dim figures outside Kara’s interest now, as they lumbered along behind the two speed freaks.

Kara’s instincts took over, shifting eagerly from foot to foot, gauging the best place to move into to narrow the open angle of the goal line behind her. Picking her spot, she made a mental note of it, while watching that leather orb flash back and forth across the green as it was moved towards her.

       Concentration narrowed her focus, she could hear nothing but the tap of cleats against the turf, the feel of her hamstrings as she crouched. The warm heat of the sun on her face, the tingle she always got in her hands when she readied herself to save the day.

Now!

Springing out her crouch, she slid belly forward into the grass. Both arms swinging wide, she roped the ball mid-pass into her chest and rolled over it protectively. The smell of peat rose in her nostrils.

   The crowd roared again.

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Thursdays Child.

Ever wonder about Thursdays?  No one ever seems to pay much attention to this poor maligned day.

Mondays

Unofficially suck for most of us. Especially those like me who can’t seem to get it through their heads Sunday night that they really should put down whatever great book they are reading and damn well go to sleep.

Tuesdays.

No one cares, other than it’s better then being Monday.

Wednesday.

Well it’s halfway through the week for us working stiffs, and we spend most of our time aggravated by the fact that it isn’t Friday.

Friday . We all care, because its almost over until the next round.

Thursdays just seem to slide by without a mention from anyone.  I seem to get most and the best of my work done on a Thursday. It seems to be the day of the week that my brain finally has admitted it’s  a workday, and catches up to the real world. It’s odd I know. But then I’ve been accused a fair number of times, of being odd.

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Are you a self-starter or a self-finisher?

In the language of my real job. Aka the one I have to show up to every morning, it’s known as being a ‘self-starter’. I’ve often wondered how a person really is supposed to parse that into a functional state of being.

Sure I could say I’m a self-starter, in effect I do qualify. However if I wanted to be technically correct, I would have classify myself more as ‘the idea girl.” I’m great at ideas at work – how to make things work better, faster, more simply. KISS is my motto.

When it comes to writing, I’m the idea girl as well. I’ve got a million (ok maybe not that many) ideas, beginnings, endings rolling around in my head. I think the more important question that should be asked of people like me is. “Are you a self-finisher?”

Not so much!

I can finish my projects, but they seem to drain the life out of me. Especially when the idea monkey is jabbering away inside my head, hopping up and down with the NEW SPARKLY ideas that are desperate to see the light of day.

My new experiment on an idea I have *yes a writing idea* is I’m for sure going to break one of those million writing rules that I’ve yet to learn, and write my next story from the end to the beginning. Take that you self-finisher people!

P.S. I’ll hand in my report later.

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