Microchip With Orange And Blue

Introducing “Nano”

Many a moon ago, when I was many moons younger, I told you I’d be doing more fiction. Then I forgot all about it and posted zero fiction, apart from the occasional “totally true story.” That’s because I’m an unreliable, untrustworthy asshole who will never amount to anything and also smells funny. My mom was right!

Jokes aside, I’ve been slow on the fiction front, so I’m trying once again to rectify this. To that end, allow me to introduce to you—Nano.

What’s a Nano?

Nano is one billionth part of something, and…wait, wrong notes. Nano is potentially a novel. At this stage, there’s only a single chapter. Consider it a sort of “pilot episode” for a TV series. If people like it, it may continue. If everyone hates it, I’ll cry like a baby and call everyone “poo-poo heads” and other evil names. I’m not above that.

Nano‘s first (and, so far, only) chapter came about as a result of a random writing session—a fully “pantser” happening. I had it written up in the middle of last year, then didn’t do anything more with it. Now I am. I have no overarching plot in place and no clear idea of where it’s heading. It’s just a something that may turn into a something bigger. There.

On the plus side, it has a sort of eBook cover, so you know it’s legit:

Nano Cover

Why the chapter-by-chapter approach?

Because writing a whole novel is like, really hard, you guys. Seriously, I have the attention span of a rabid rabbit. I can’t possibly focus on one book long enough to push out a complete work. I’m no Carrie Rubin, with her fancy concepts like “outlines” and “writing tools” and “actually knowing what the hell the novel is about.”

So instead I’m pushing out a single chapter, to see how that goes. Maybe I’ll get some ideas from the readers. Maybe I’ll be able to gauge the response and get motivated to write further. Maybe the chapter will sink into the bottomless void of self-published strings of words, never to be seen again. The sky’s the limit.

Earlier this year I submitted the chapter to JukePop Serials, and I’m happy to say they’ve accepted and published it.

What’s JukePop Serials?

JukePop Serials is a website that publishes curated serials from different writers. It’s free to sign up and read the stories. Try it.

JukePop Serials is one of the few places on the Internet that is attempting to rekindle people’s interest for serial fiction. Readers get to follow their favourite stories as they develop. Authors get exposure and compete for cash prizes by collecting votes. Personally, I’m in it for the chance to construct a novel with reader involvement and feedback.

What can I do?

You can go read the first chapter of Nano, for starters.

If you don’t like it, no harm done. Walk away from it silently and pretend we’ve never spoken before. I have your IP address and know where you live, but don’t let that worry you.

If you like it, awesome. I’d be happy if you gave the chapter a “+” vote, because that’ll help me get visibility and encourage me to write more chapters. If you have constructive criticism, bring it on. I’m thick-skinned, so don’t be afraid to hurt my feelings—I’m a soulless monster and have none. Ha. Haha. HAHAHAHAHA!

If you love it, you’re my new best friend. I’ll call you Besty McFriendster, because I’m mentally five years old. You’re always welcome to leave a comment, or even a mini-review, directly on the JukePop Serials site. This could be super valuable for when I develop things further.

In conclusion: Please join me on this wondrous journey as I stumble forward in a blind attempt to slap together a semblance of a novel. Read the first chapter here.

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Fictive Fiction

Do you know why I started blogging? Oh, you don’t? And you call yourself a fan?! Oh, you don’t? You’re tired of passive-aggressive rhetorical questions?! OK fine.

Before starting the blog, I’ve taken a couple of “creative writing” and “fiction writing” courses, because I want to create…fiction…through writing.

I’ve always looked at the blog as a way to get my words out into the web-o-sphere and get a steady following. Once I had people hooked I’d eventually unleash my horrible novel / collection of short stories / unicorn colouring book onto them. They’d have to be polite and buy it. Then they would read it, smile, back away slowly and block me from their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

But the last laugh would be on me, because in the process I’d have sold upwards of, like, twenty books and gotten around 100 dollars from the deal. Then I’d buy two bottles of fancy liquor and get wasted alone in my underground lair. Note to self: need to rent an underground lair.

Early sketch of lair. Suggestions for improvements welcome.

Then I started the blog and something happened: I realised I enjoyed blogging in its own right. It’s a bit surreal to think that some words I jot down can be read by a bunch of people all around the world just seconds after I click the “Publish” button. Sure, sometimes they’re forced to read juvenile humour and a collection of carefully arranged swear words, but what the fuck, shit, right?! Hearing that I’ve managed to make someone laugh is extremely rewarding. I really get a minor sense of achievement if I can remotely put a smile on someone’s face. The drawback, of course, was that I got so carried away with the humorous lists and funny observations that I never got around to doing much fiction.

Then I found out about DudeWrite‘s Flash Fiction contests and something happened: I remembered that wanting to write fiction is how I got into this blogathon business in the first place. Since then I’ve submitted flash fiction pieces to every DudeWrite’s monthly challenge. There were three in total. I’m both happy and humbled that each of my pieces managed to bring home a prize so far.

My first piece “Pulling The Plug” shared the victory by popular vote with a great piece by a  fellow blogger Chiz Chat – “The Bunker” – in the first DudeWrite Flash Mob for July 2012. August Flash Mob also had three external judges independently picking their favourite pieces. Two of them have picked “Pulling The Plug” and had some really encouraging things to say about it.

The second piece “High Stakes” won the popular vote in DudeWrite Flash Mob for August 2012. During the same flash mob the DudeWrite editorial team picked a winner of their own – a humorous story by the Chubby Chatterbox called “Stupid Men and the Sea“.

Finally, just today I found out that my third piece – “Code Wet” – is the winner of popular vote for September’s Flash Mob challenge.

I always try to keep an element of humour in my fiction piece in order to stick to the blog’s main theme. These regular contests at DudeWrite really give me a solid reason to practice fiction writing. I have every intention of submitting at least one fiction piece every month to these Flash Mob’s for as long as DudeWrite holds them. I guess what I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is – thank you DudeWrite for reminding me about my original priorities! I’m planning to start weaving more fiction pieces into my future blog posts and I hope that you’ll stick around for that transition.

Don’t worry, though, I won’t leave you without funny commentary on human stupidity and mockery of insane people. I have too much fun doing that.

How about you? Why do you blog? Is it practice? Fun? Do you have a political agenda? Are you a member of an ominous yet extremely ineffective secret organization that wants to take over the world through writing?

Flash Fiction: “Pulling the plug”

Alright all of you goths, emo kids and retired rappers. Today, in addition to grossly misjudging the demographic and social status of my core audience, I’ll be doing something a little different. Wait, come back, it’s nothing like that!

Today I’m doing fiction. Flash fiction, to be precise. I’m entering a flash fiction contest on DudeWriteYou can read the details and submissions by other writers directly on DudeWrite, but here are the two main rules my fiction piece had to follow:

1) Be under 500 words

2) Begin with the following prompt: “If you’d told (me, him, her, them) two weeks ago that…”

And with that, let’s go:

“If you’d told me two weeks ago that you’d still be keeping it around today, I would have never agreed to bring it here in the first place,” Jen’s fingers rapped rapidly on the kitchen table.

She was upset. Again. With good reason, too. I had let this madness drag on for too long.

“Look, Jen, if I can just keep him here until…”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, stop calling it a ‘he’! Do you even realise how crazythatsounds?!” Jen slammed the palms of her hands against the table in tact with the last three words to make sure I knew just how crazy I sounded. I knew.

“OK, if I can just keep…it…here until next winter, then…”

“You’re notfuckingserious!” – slam, slam, SLAM! Jen had officially turned our kitchen table into an impromptu drum kit. I couldn’t suppress a smile. Jen didn’t like that. One bit. She cocked her head to the side and squinted, evaluating whether I was even worth talking to. For a few moments we just stared at each other silently, Jen clearly contemplating spousal homicide. Then something softened in her expression. She walked over to me and took my hands into hers.

“Sean. Listen. I get it. Sometimes you have a really, really hard time letting things go. I remember when you had kept that dying frog in the house for days until it finally…”

“…croaked?” I interrupted. Jen let herself smile now too.

“Yeah, until it croaked. Well, I hope you see how this is different. You’ve taken the concept of ‘holding on’ to a whole new level now. It’s time to move on. Pull the plug, Sean.”

She was right. It was time to pull the plug…

…I opened the door to the basement and slowly made my way downstairs. The freezer was humming softly by the far wall. He was inside. As I got closer my heartbeat quickened. Bum, bum-bum, bum-bum-bum, bumbumbumbumbum.

I tentatively reached for the plug, but stopped. I couldn’t. I had to see him one more time before I did it. I opened the lid and looked inside.

There he was, lying on a clear bed of ice. So peaceful. So calm. So white. This was it. In a matter of hours there’d be nothing left of him except a pool of water, a carrot and a couple of black buttons. With one decisive motion I yanked the plug out of the socket and let it fall to the floor. It’s OK. There’d be another winter. And another one. And another after that. I’d have plenty more just like him. Plenty more.

A droplet of sweat ran down my neck as I took one last look at the already melting snowman.

“Bye, Frosty” I whispered.

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08-08-2012: I now proudly announce that this little piece has been picked as the winner by 2 out of 3 judges and also by popular vote. Check out the results at DudeWrite.

And just like that…

A snippet of something I’ve worked on over a year ago. It may or may not be turned into a complete work at a later stage. Any comments are welcome.

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And just like that, after eight years with the company, I am fired. Without too much hassle either. No big “we-appreciate-all-your-work-but” routine. No wishing me luck in the future, as phony as that would have sounded under the circumstances. He doesn’t even seem to acknowledge there is a live person in front of him as Graham Fowler, our CEO, gives me the boot. He shoots off the “times are changing” speech and reads out the details of my severance package so quickly and with so little emotion that one would think he is giving me a quick update on the weather forecast.

(“Partly cloudy, with a chance of rain…”)
“…three months’ full wage and twenty vacation days.”

(“South-eastern wind at 4 m/s…”)
“…bonus for July will be paid out at the start of August.”

(“Low pressure front is moving in from the North…”)
“…don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out”.

Fowler doesn’t quite say that last part, but he may as well have. I am in and out of his office in less than two minutes – quite a speed record. I guess it beats being fired via a text message, although I’m sure the amount of words Tom used wouldn’t exceed the standard 160 characters. That is it. Goodbye and fuck you very much.

As I walk past reception to clean out my office, Linda Harp, the receptionist, jumps from her desk and as quickly as her oversized heels allow scampers towards me. With the intensity worthy of any Hollywood actress she flings herself forward and locks her arms around me in an awkward hug.

“Oh Carter, I’ve just heard! That’s so unfair, especially after they’ve just promoted you last year! Are you going to be OK?”

This dramatic display of deep concern would be touching, if only Linda wasn’t a scheming bitch who hated me from the day I started here. Her boyfriend at the time had been fired two days before I joined. Even though his departure had nothing to do with me (and everything to do with his imbibing every known drug during work hours), Linda has had a personal vendetta against me ever since.

This in no way manifested itself in her outward behaviour toward me. On the contrary, she was never anything but exceedingly friendly to my face. At the same time she somehow forgot to inform me of urgent FedEx packages arriving in my name. She failed to mail important documents upon my request and I suspect that only a tiny portion of personal messages left for me had actually ever been delivered.

For some inexplicable reason I easily picture her drawing blood from chickens in secret rituals aimed solely at bringing about my eventual downfall. Looks like her efforts finally bore fruit. Only Linda knows how many innocent birds were harmed in the process.

I conclude that walking to the office with Linda hanging from my neck may prove a challenge. Her make-up alone must weigh five kilos, not to mention the spray-on tan that she wears all through the year. I stop and gently put my hands on her elbows to fight my way out of the chokehold she has me in.

“I’ll be fine. Gotta pack up some stuff and get the hell outta here.” I try to keep it brief and slip away. I should have expected that Linda would not let go so easily, now that she has the chance to savour what I can only imagine is the highlight of her week, if not year.

“So what are you going to do now?”, she persists.

“I dunno. Maybe apply for your job?”

That instantly puts a dent in Linda’s fake smile and she finally ceases the hug. Her eyes skim nervously across my face to gauge whether I’m being at least partially serious. She actually finds it believable that I would apply for a job I am so insanely overqualified for just to spite her. Poor crazy Linda.

“Easy now”, I assure her, “I have no intention of staying here in any capacity after this”

“Well, good luck then…”, her friendly act is promptly melting away. I silently nod and Linda makes a sharp one-eighty. She is done with me. I press on to the office as Linda click-clacks back to her seat.

My office is the last one down the corridor, to the left of the “Athens Conference Room”. Athens is where we hold our weekly briefings. “We” being the software team, consisting of four developers, two testers, and yours truly – Director of Software Development. Former Director, I remind myself.

The door to my office stands open and a man in blue overalls is busy scraping my name off the glass pane. My first name is already gone and he is working on the capital “T” of my last name. Yet another speed record of the day – my name is out of the office before I am. I squeeze past him and he jumps, startled:

“Hiya, Mr. Tenney. Sorry about that, orders from the top. Have to get this cleaned up before noon.”

“Don’t worry about it…Bill?”, I struggle to read his partly covered name tag.

“Phill”, he says and offers his hand for a shake.

Bill, Phill, cleanup drill. I absentmindedly shake his hand as my eyes scan the interior of the office. Two bookshelves filled with assorted literature on the stock market and software development: magazines, journals, textbooks. By the window stands a large desk, upon which rests a lamp, a few paperweights and a collection of office supplies. Recently orphaned internet and power cables are scattered on the floor.

Thanks to my new buddy Phill my personal stuff is already packed in a box by the desk: my trusty laptop, a few photographs of Nikki and myself, various personal books and notes, the stress ball painted as Homer Simpson’s face and my diplomas. Eight years fit neatly into one cardboard box. Quite a footprint I’m leaving behind.

I grab the bag and head out without further, throwing a quick last glance at the office. I was king of this here little world a mere ten minutes ago. Good-bye now, may your new master be kind to you and may Linda have mercy on the poor schmuck. I walk past Linda on my way out. This time she does not even bother looking up from her computer screen. Bridge is burnt. Love is gone.

My software team is away at an off-site workshop. This morning I had difficulty understanding why I was not attending the workshop with them. My brief heart-to-heart with our charismatic CEO cleared that up. I don’t even get to say a proper bye to the guys. The man above must have carefully crafted this shit of a day for maximum impact, including Linda’s Oscar-nominated song and dance. By “man above” I mean Graham Fowler himself, obviously.

I take the small flight of stairs – seven steps – down to the front door and push it open with my hip, still balancing the “box of shame” in my hands. I edge my way outside and the heavy door swings shut behind me. Clang. A loud, career-shattering noise. What a full stop in Carter Tenney’s saga.