Scott Bartlett

Guest Expressed: “Scott Bartlett & Royal Flush”

Today I’m happy to welcome a special guest and a fellow humourist – Scott Bartlett (yup, that’s his smiling mug on the left). A while back Scott reached out to see if I’d like to participate in his blog tour and help promote his newly released novel called Royal Flush. I agreed, because I’m always happy to help fellow humour writers and because I’m secretly hoping for 47,23% of the book’s future revenues.

So now, without further ado, I give the word to Scott:

Hey, Nest Expressed readers! I’m Scott, and I come to you today with a guest post as part of the blog tour for my humour novel, Royal Flush.

I want to write about the sort of thing that inspires fiction writers—about what, exactly provides the grist for stories. I’m going to do that in reference to my book, and to do that, I’ll first have to tell you about said book. Which, incidentally, is a very blog-tourish thing to do.

So that worked out well.

Royal Flush asks the question: can a man who throws his dates in a dungeon succeed romantically?

It’s about a man known only as the King, who rules a land known only as the Kingdom—a land unrestricted by geography or history. The book is divided into four parts, and in each one the King fails spectacularly with yet another woman. (Whether he fails in the final part is something I can’t divulge here, of course.)

It may not surprise you that the chief inspiration for this story was a high school career completely devoid of romance. Not for lack of trying, though—I asked out numerous attractive girls, and was rejected by them unanimously.

I wasn’t bitter—in fact, the sheer consistence of it began to amuse me. My self-esteem was intact, too, being a helpless egomaniac. But I started to think about the sorts of person likely to encounter utter romantic failure. I decided it might be funny to write a story about a man whose lack of luck with the ladies stems from being incredibly depraved and moronic.

At this point I feel I should note that I did not base the King on myself.

Do you believe me?

Anyway. The point I’m trying to make is that no matter how fantastic a story is (I’m talking about a story’s relationship with reality, not its quality), the inspiration usually comes from normal, everyday things. And with its tendency to flout the laws of physics and logic, its zombie advisor, and its passing mention of dragons, Royal Flush is fairly fantastic.

The Kingdom Crier provides another example. Run by Editor Duke Edward, the Kingdom Crier is the seemingly all-knowing news outlet that busies itself with publicizing every embarrassing detail of the King’s personal life. It’s more of a tabloid, really, and in the past the King has attempted to shut it down by ordering its entire staff beheaded. But such is the tabloid’s popularity that legions of peasants gathered to picket the castle’s drawbridge until the King rescinded the order.

Inspiration for the Kingdom Crier came from my distaste for tabloids, which I developed during my three-year stint working at a grocery store.

I took Introductory Linguistics in university, and in every example sentence the teacher used to illustrate English word order or whatever else, the same two people seemed to get recycled endlessly: John and Mary. “John and Mary took a picnic basket with them to Signal Hill.” Et cetera.

Thus was the Traveling Linguists’ Guild born—a group of nomads who travel from place to place, working on their unified theory of language. They drag two prisoners around with them named John and Mary, who they use in presentations.

The Traveling Linguists’ Guild comes to the Kingdom to ask the King a small favour. Their unified theory is nearly complete—it applies to every language they’ve encountered, except for that of a single troublesome tribe, who they ask the King to exterminate. The King agrees.

Did I mention that the King isn’t based on me?

Scott Bartlett has been writing fiction since he was fifteen. His recently released novel, Royal Flush, is a recipient of the H. R. (Bill) Percy Prize. Click here to buy the ebook ($3.99) or to order the print book ($12.99).

Arriving Guy

Guess Who’s Back?

No, it’s not Elvis Presley. He’s dead, remember? Ooooor, is he?

Anyways, it’s just me.

Hope it’s not a let-down after I’ve gotten your hopes up with the whole Elvis thing!

My girlfriend and have returned from the fun-yet-hectic family trip. We have slept in eight different places in four different cities during the past two weeks and are now patiently waiting for this incredible achievement to be entered into the Guinness World Records.

We’ve had our good share of drinking, minor injuries and other fun things. We’ve met a bunch of interesting characters. One of them was a girl of around six. Whenever she misspoke she would perform a “system reset” by closing her eyes, shaking her head side to side and saying “oi-oi-oi” in rapid succession. Another one was a guy who complained about amateur guitar players always choosing to play depressing songs. I’m not sure I’ve noticed this trend, but then again, my attention span is…wait, where was I?

What does this have to do with anything?!

In my home town of Kharkov we’ve come across this classically “Engrish” sign for the Children’s Railroad:

To put in two ends comes true free of charge!

In a tiny town of Mestecko in Czech Republic we’ve come across this simple and straightforward road sign:

It’s like two drunk guys arguing while giving you directions…

All in all it’s been great, but I wish it lasted longer. That’s what she said.

Also during the holiday I’ve gotten a pleasant surprise. Remember the “Pulling The Plug” piece I’ve submitted to DudeWrite’s flash fiction contest? Well, it’s been picked as the winner by 2 out of 3 judges, as well as getting the most popular votes, along with another great story from Chiz-Chat. You can read more details and the judges’ comments at DudeWrite, in case you want to, like, read more details…and the judges’ comments.

But enough about me, let’s talk about a few other humourists for a moment.

Another awesome surprise was Martin Bannon sending me a signed copy of his recently released Senseless Confidential. It was waiting for me in the mailbox yesterday when I arrived. I have won Martin’s “leave a comment, win a book” competition. At this rate I think I should start playing the lottery. That’ll teach me to make stupid decisions like playing the lottery! I haven’t started reading the book, but knowing Martin and judging from the great reviews it’s been getting I’m already excited to check it out.

Also I have finally started on Martin Little, Resurrected by Ella Medler. I must shamefully confess that I’ve only gotten through the first two chapters for now. However, it’s already clear that it will be a fun read! Though hey, don’t listen to me, check out the reviews for yourself.

Finally, I will have a special guest on the blog this Wednesday. His name is Scott Bartlett and he’s doing a blog tour for his book Royal Flush, which is also collecting great reviews. So you’ve got that to look forward to now!

How about all of you? Have you had any vacation? How has your life been without my posts in it for a whopping two weeks? Same? Slightly not the same at all? Kind of the same, yet also different?

Yellow Sign

Guest Expressed: “5 Ridiculous Road Sign Errors”

Today’s guest is Francesca, who takes us on a journey through odd mistakes on road signs. Enter Francesca:

Everyone loves a good mistake. From misinformation communicated by television presenters, utterly untrue stories printed by the tabloids, and spelling mistakes combined with punctuation errors to make even the smartest professors look stupid, we love to heckle, and heckle we do.

We’re subjected to this kind of brainless overlook now and again; some of it small and grin-worthy, the rest bigger and extremely entertaining. However mistakes involving road signs, an integral part of our everyday lives, seem to be appearing faster than the Jersey Shore autobiographies.

Road signs are notorious for spelling mistakes, and the people behind them are none the wiser unless there’s a complaint from an extremely bored motorist, or a media official raring to gloat. The importance of road signs is rarely underestimated, with new signage created every day to make sure drivers’ safety is paramount.

But sometimes these signs go wrong, and we’re not just talking a missing letter.

The Contenders

Swansea Council made a simple request to its translation team to create a dual language road sign, which read, “No entry for heavy goods vehicles – Residential site only.” However, with no one in the office at the time, an automatically generated “out of office” Welsh-reading reply was sent back to councils officials, who assumed it was the translation. Unaware of the actual translation, the council went ahead with the print, so that the Welsh part of the sign actually read “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any works to be translated”, leaving the lorry drivers more confused than Lady Gaga’s stylist!

There are plenty more examples of slip ups on road signs. Workmen who painted a “Keep Clear” message onto a road in Essex, obviously had spatial awareness issues as they didn’t leave enough room to actually finish the sign. We’ll all make sure we “Keep Clea” of that road!

One of the most ridiculous gaffes came from B3159 country road just outside Dorchester. It’s concise, clear, and free from spelling mistakes. Unfortunately, the sign is actually meant to read “Old Bullock Road” – this spelling mistake gives it a completely different meaning altogether!

Stay Klam

So what more can we pull out of the signage gaffe bag? We’ve had the Welsh council not being able to read their own language, lazy builders with seemingly faulty measuring tapes, and signs that don’t make sense. Let’s klear the rest up!

A road sign outside a fire station in West Sussex was subjected to the upmost grammatical torture, as blundering contractors were made to paint over a sign informing drivers of gas works, reading “Keep Klear”. To make things worse, the fire station was informed through Facebook by a disgruntled passer-by!

And finally, do you, don’t you? Apostrophes can be confusing to say the least, especially if you skipped a couple of English classes like the creators of this sign.  But drivers with a keen eye for grammar have been left fuming with the incompetence Hartlepool council after this bewildering message informing drivers of the availability of a parking bay. Who’s sign is it anyway?

This article was written by Francesca on behalf of The IS Group, who always make sure that the signs they produce are free from spelling mistakes!

Christmas Card

Guest Expressed: “5 Of The Worst Christmas Cards Ever”

Today we hear from Sebastian who shows us why it’s not always a great idea to get too creative with your Christmas cards. Enter Sebastian:

What makes a bad Christmas card, and why? Terrible Christmas cards tend to involve misguided attempts at humour, wacky poses, and some awful Photoshopping. What might have seemed like a good idea at the time often ends up being head scratchingly bizarre.

Thankfully, the Internet makes it possible for any of these cards to serve as a lesson for us all. Some of the worst offenders are listed below, as are some suggestions for not making the same mistakes with your Christmas cards:

1. Jorge Santini’s Family Card

Jorge Santini, the Mayor of Puerto Rican city San Juan, decided that his official family Christmas card for 2011 should promote a local zoo and wildlife sanctuary. The result: pictures of his family sanding over some bizarre scenes, with the best being a jaguar mauling an antelope, with the family standing nonchalantly in the background.

2. Naked Father

It’s quite hard to tell what’s going on in this photograph. Is the father naked, and if so, why? Moreover, didn’t anyone look at this photograph before it was turned into a card, and perhaps think that it wasn’t the best idea in the world?

3. Disturbing Decisions

The sort of card image that’s going to come back and haunt someone in the future, or at the very least disturb them in the present, this circus themed card is wrong on many different levels.

4. Hard to Tell What’s Going On

There’s probably a good explanation behind the design behind this card. The idea was probably suggested by the child in the middle, which may explain the somewhat less enthusiastic look on the faces of the other two participants.

5. Dog Embarrassment

My personal favourite, this nativity scene is defined by the look of mortification on the dog’s face. Probably the pinnacle of pets being unwillingly dressed up for the Christmas season by their owners.

Alternatives

While these cards may be in questionable taste, there are many ways in which people can design great looking cards without having to resort to stupid pictures. Some of the best ways to achieve this is by taking a traditional design, rather a photograph, and work around that with personal messages and touches. An image may be used, but not as the focus of the overall card – group family photographs on Christmas cards rarely manage to look good.

Handmade cards represent one option, and have the potential for being more personal if you’re only planning to send out a limited number of cards to people. For when you do need to send out a lot of cards, many Internet services provide templates that can be printed out and sent, or modified online for you to send as e-cards, or to be posted free of charge. The upside of doing this is that you still have a unique card, but one that has a high quality finish. Moreover, doing so means that you aren’t taking the risk of making a card that’s as outright disturbing as the ones above.

Sebastian is working with Vistaprint promoting their wide variety of christmas cards. They also offer a personalised Christmas card service, although I’d suggest putting more thought in to your image than the unfortunate subjects of this blog post.

Black Leather Jacket

Guest Expressed: “How to Avoid Looking Like Justin Bieber”

How many of you have always wanted to look like Justin Bieber?! Zero? Yeah, I thought so! Well Stuart Green is here to show you exactly how to avoid such a disaster! Enter Bieber:

Bieber Fever

Justin Bieber is a funny kind of guy, at least in the way he is perceived by “fashionable” men. Anyone who wants to retain a shred of credibility and confidence in their “manhood” will probably call him every name under the sun. The paradox of people such as Bieber is that, because women fall over themselves to get a look at him, men try to ape the look in order to illicit the same reaction. This is despite not being remotely famous for anything themselves and in some cases not even knowing what “You Tube” is.

For others, avoiding the “Bieber” is an important task. How can you avoid falling into the trap, or altering your look just enough to get away with it?

Hair

When it comes to avoiding celebrity trends, the hair is always a tricky one. The very best hairstylists in the world and importantly, ones used by celebrities, are proficient at producing a haircut that allows two or three different styles to be used. Although you do not want to follow in the footsteps of Bieber, having one of these haircuts can actually be of great help to you, as you can wear an easy to manage matte product to help with the styling, and simply change it on the fly as you go.

The hairstyle is the thing that will link you most to any celebrity look, such is the publicity that even the quickest visit to a salon seems to engender these days.

Jackets

This is where the celebrity paradoxes really come into strong focus. Although men everywhere do not want to look like Bieber, stores everywhere are reporting a surge in popularity in the Bomber jacket, regularly worn by the man himself. In fact, I would go so far as to say they are the trademark garment in his appearance.

So, the answer here is quite simple. To avoid looking like him, do not wear a bomber jacket. This will not be as easy as it sounds, however, as the surge in popularity for these garments is likely to see them featuring strongly in men’s fashion for at least the next six to 12 months. You may want to look at vintage track tops or blazers as an alternative, because everyone will be wearing them soon, with shops selling little else.

Taking fashion tips from celebrities is not a bad idea, except when everyone else is doing it. This will definitely be the case with Bieber over the next year or so. You have your work cut out to avoid becoming a lookalike by stealth. Consider any and all clothes purchases carefully, and pay that little bit extra for a haircut if you need to!

Stylepilot is a leading UK fashion retailer and personal stylist website that offers an extensive clothing range from mens coats, underwear, socks, and t-shirts.

Guy Waving Goodbye

So long, and see you shortly!

It’s that time of the year. My favourite time of the year – vacation time!

So it’s time to put on those shorts and get a tan! Or, in my case, get burned, turn red and then peel for weeks.

Tomorrow my girlfriend and I will embark on an epic(ish) journey to visit our families together. First stop: Czech Republic. Then Ukraine. Then Czech Republic again, because repetition is someone’s mother (can’t remember whose).

This means I’ll be taking a two-week break from blogging. I may throw a couple of guest posts on the blog to keep things alive, but you won’t be hearing my beautiful voice (or, more accurately, reading my beautiful words) until mid-August. You’ll have to instead peruse the archives for some yet unread posts.

You could also head on out to some other blogs instead, you traitor! To help you execute your betrayal, here’s a list:

  • Carrie Rubin – always an entertaining read and plenty of chuckles!
  • DudeWrite – where you can read a bunch of great posts by dude bloggers every week!
  • Ella Medler – writing tips and amusing musings. Alas, Ella stole my idea and is also leaving on a two-week vacation. Still, there’s plenty to read on her blog!
  • Michelle Franco – on the verge of releasing her second book, but maybe she’ll find time for a few blog posts?
  • Marty Beaudet / Martin Bannon – insights from a writer who travelled the world and learned way too many languages!
  • Rachael McGimpsey – funny commentary on the world, occasionally in poetry form!
  • Ria Majumdar – sometimes fiction, sometimes observations on life, always a fun read!
  • I can also recommend one of my all-time favourite comedy websites – Cracked.com

That’s it for now – see you in August! Avoid accidents and embarrassments if you can, don’t end up like this cat:

Yellow Drill

An open letter to my wall drilling neighbour

Hi there, fellow Earth dweller,

Notice how I didn’t call you a “fellow Earthling”? That is because I know your secret. That’s right, you alien creep, I’m onto you!

How did I figure you out? Because you are, quite frankly, very shitty at blending in! I gather you’ve only recently arrived to our beautiful planet and our social norms and behaviours are still unfamiliar to you.

Don’t worry, I’m on your side, which is why I’m writing this letter to give you an introduction to how things work around here.

We do this thing here on Earth, it’s called “sleep”. Stay with me as I explain, because this concept must be quite alien to you. That was something we call a “pun”, but I’ll cover those in a separate letter.

No – that’s a “bun”, but yes – it’s delicious!

Essentially, every night we humans fall into a temporary coma that lasts for a number of hours. This coma is usually accompanied by vivid hallucinations, which occasionally feature riding into battle against anthropomorphic cookies on two-headed fire-breathing unicorns (maybe that’s just me). Every morning this mini-coma ends and we experience an acute case of almost total amnesia, making us forget 90% of our hallucinations.

It’s a bizarre concept to grasp, but it’s kind of necessary to us Earth-based lifeforms. We do it to avoid dying, among other things.

Over centuries mankind arrived at an optimal time of day for “sleeping” – night time. Our whole society is based around this night-time-sleep cycle. This is why we usually start our noise-generating activities (see: drilling) after 8:00 in the morning, which is the time most of us cease to sleep, otherwise known as “waking up”. You see, loud noises wake us up, because we have ears and therefore can hear stuff.

…although we sometimes wish we couldn’t

This is why many of us may find it highly unusual when you start drilling at 6:30 in the morning. Even more so when you do it nearly on a daily basis.

At first I thought you may be one of us, but that you were simply unaware that other human beings exist and can therefore be woken by your drilling. Then I have remembered that our modern building is equipped with windows, giving you a relatively unobstructed view of the outside world and other humans inhabiting it.

This is how I have come to the (correct) conclusion that you’re an alien unfamiliar with our customs. And if I could deduce that, others will soon follow…unless, of course, you are willing to follow this one simple rule: don’t drill before 8:00!

I’m pretty sure you don’t absolutely have to start drilling that early, unless you’re trying to ascertain the effect drill vibration has on Earth’s spinning speed and the timing of sunrise. The effect is miniscule, if you’re wondering.

Even when measured with this oversized watch

To give you some positive feedback: until now you have done quite well in disguising your identity, seeing how the layout of our building and the amount of apartments make it rather difficult to pinpoint exactly where the drilling is coming from. That is also the reason I’m not giving you this “Earth 101” introduction face to face.

Don’t press your luck though. Earthlings have a tendency to become irritable when under-slept and deprived of their nightly unicorn skirmishes.

Anyways, I hope this letter finds you in good health (or in good structural integrity, however it is you guys measure well being). If you follow my tips you are sure to blend in nicely among us, letting you work towards taking over our planet at your own pace.

Should you have any further questions as to e.g. how our society functions and the meaning of the words “shut up, you bastard” that you keep hearing every morning from apartments directly adjacent to yours, feel free to ask.

Until then, keep up the good work, but only after 8:00, deal?

Your future human Earth-slave,
Daniel