Friday, September 29, 2017

Liz Phipps Soeiro is a moron.

Let me tell you about one of the top five Halloweens I've experienced in my life. I was at my Sister-in-law's house in Oak Park, Illinois. I sat on their front porch with my oldest son who was a senior in High School at the time. It was after dark and we were taking our turn watching for trick-or-treaters while the rest of the family was inside the house.

Here's a picture of us. I'm in the gold mask I made from a pattern I purchased on the internet. He is dressed as Burt Macland, a frequent persona of Andy Dwyer, a character from the hit NBC show, "Parks and Recreation." But enough about us, let's get back to why this was a special Halloween.
My niece had decided to collect old books and give them out with the candy. At first I was skeptical. Would a child really want a book instead of candy? I remember my Halloweens as a kid and a homeowner handing out anything besides candy was basically asking for eggs to be thrown at their house.

Toothbush? Egg.

Rasins? Egg.

Pennies? Egg.

Pretending you're not home? Lots of eggs.

I suppose that if someone handed out eggs, we might have said thank you because eggs can get pricey, then thrown the eggs at their house.

I am a Catholic and I observe the traditions of All Hallows Eve (yes kids, that's where the term Halloween comes from) but I also dig on the secular observation of what has become, scary candy day. Notice, I didn't say the word book in there. So there my son and I sat, waiting for the eggs to come a' sailing through the air because we were giving out candy and books. Big surprise, that never happened.

What did happen was a line forming because the trick-or-treaters were thoughtfully perusing the book box for a title that would resonate with them. The parents were in on it too, making suggestions and reminiscing, albeit briefly, about when they had first read some of the titles. No one complained. No one lobbed a poultry byproduct. They smiled and said thank you. Parents came together with their children. Unlike eating too much candy, no one argued about a child reading too much that night. What I learned that night was a simple lesson. Giving a child a free book makes the world a better place. This is why I am completely furious about Liz Phipps Soeiro!

In case you haven't followed the news, she is a librarian who recently declined a box of free books sent to her by the first lady. Why you may ask? Well, after reading all about Liz at the The Horn Book Blog, it appears Ms. Soeiro is only interested in library programs that increase her bragging rights, not about what's best for her students.

She wrote a well publicized letter to Mrs. Trump about why her choice of Dr. Seuss titles was cliché and inappropriate. She also branded the good Doctor as a racist (?!?) and stated clearly that her library had over 9,000 volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree so they didn't need her books.

What a piece of work...

I encourage you to read more about Liz as I have, then you'll see how absolutely full of herself she is, and I'm not sure that's the person any parent wants in charge of deciding what books their children should read.

Now that I got that off of my chest, I just need to do one more thing. My other son will be upset if he sees that I put a picture of his brother in my blog but not him.
Done, and done.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Funeral Hopme

I have a friend who organized a Facebook group with the intention of allowing it's members to practice their writing skills. He provides the prompts and we write. His first assignment was simple enough, kind of like painting fruit, I suppose. He asked us to describe one of five commonly encountered environments. I chose the one he misspelled, the Funeral Hopme. I really like the creep factor of the story and hope you do too.

The Funeral Hopme
by Edward Varga

“There it is, dad. See the sign?” The tattered scrap of plywood was nailed to a puckered and sour fencepost at an angle canted to the horizon. Dreary and faded paint applied by hand and obscured by endless days of fading at the hands of the sun beckoned the living pair and their cargo. At a distance, Paul believed it was just another impromptu advertisement for a prehistoric forest attraction left over from the pre-interstate days. The younger and sharper eyes of Paul’s son Jacob deciphered the words. “Funeral Home, two miles.” Below the words was a scratchy red arrow, arched from bottom corner to bottom corner of the wood, like a bridge from the roadway intersection to somewhere else. “Actually son,” Paul said with a know-it-all fatherly tone, “they misspelled home. It says ‘Hopme.’ Sounds like just the place.” For two-point-one miles, the only sound Paul and Jacob heard was the crunch of gravel under steel belted radial tires.

Through the dusty window, a yellowed backlit advertisement flickered with the joyful phrase, ‘Kodak film for color prints.’ The bikini clad woman pictured next to the words was nearly indistinguishable. Judging by the age of the device, Paul thought, she might not even be alive any more. The tinkling of the brass bell on the door was still polluting the stale air inside of the low ceilinged room when a gaunt figure in a black coat entered. “Well, I see you’ve made it.” He smiled and looked expectantly at the older man and his younger shadow. Paul stepped forward of Jacob defensively and said, “I’m sorry, we might be in the wrong place. We’re looking for the --”

“I know where you hope to be, and let me assure you, this is the place.” Jacob was studying the large metal carnival style letters on the wall and mentally counting how many of the individual round light bulbs had burned out. “What’s a, ‘Hopme?’” he asked with the impulsivity of youth. Paul saw it then too. The factory made letters spelled, ‘Hopme,’ this time without possible mistake. The man in black opened his arms wide and said, “This is a Hopme, a Funeral Hopme, to be specific.” Paul crossed his arms and said, “And… what is that?”

The man seemed disappointed in their ignorance. “The word, ‘Hopme’ means a few things, rest, justice, equality, ending, all rolled into one. It is hard to find an equal translation in most languages, so most of the time we say that Hope means, getting your just deserts. Now, before we can proceed,” the man stepped to a counter with a ledger, ”we need to have information for our register. She was your, wife, yes?” Paul stammered as he caught up with the conversation. “Um, yes, but… how do you --”

“Please, we are experienced with this sort of thing. She’s already been unloaded from your car and our staff is preparing for what comes next.” Jacob felt a breath of manhood enter his body and he said, “What does come next?” The man put down his pen. “Please young man, I see the worry on your face and I assure you there is no reason to be afraid. Well take care of your mother in exactly the way she deserves. Now, what I need from you, Paul, are any experiences we don’t already have in the file. I see here she and a former paramour had regular, um, interactions. There was hidden spending as well, the tendency to use physical intimacy as a weapon, and she spent quite a lot of time on the phone with you destroying your self esteem with ammunition provided by her mother. Anything else?” Paul shook his head, no. The man continued, this time looking deeply into Jacob’s eyes. “Unfortunately I don’t get to go over our files with you. It’s about your age. However, I can say this. You had a terrible mom.”

“So, with that sorted out, the rest of the process is quite simple. If you’d care to join me outside, it looks like everything is ready to go.” The man spread his arms again as if herding geese toward the door. “Oh, I almost forgot, do you want any souvenirs? Perhaps a picture or two? Our film is half price.” Jacob looked at the modest shelves covered with cypress wood toothpick holders and commemorative silver spoons. He wanted to indulge what remained of his childhood by looking for the miniature license plate with his name on it but decided against it. “I’m good, dad. Let’s go.”

The man in black’s heavy heels made hammering sounds on the plank floor in front of the Funeral Hopme. The horse hitched to the wagon next to Paul’s car twitched with each solid report. The three men looked over the fresh pinewood box. Paul and Jacob tried not to make eye contact with the driver on the buckboard. Chills grew as suddenly the desert air became as cold as the bottom of the ocean. “Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure servicing you today. Please do keep us in mind should you experience any other losses while you are on your trip.” The man in black was just about to signal to the wagon driver with his hand when Jacob spoke up. “Wait, I have a question. What comes next?” The man in black’s head turned as if on a swivel. “We are going to take your mother’s body into the desert, and provide her with her just deserts. Now be a good boy, and let us get to work.” The man signalled and the cart lurched forward.

Jacob sat next to his father in the car as they rode the two-point-one miles back to the highway. He smiled, recalling how festive the wood spoked wheels on the wagon looked as they rolled away.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

This blog post will be doubleplusgood

Isn't it wonderful that George Orwell's dystopic-before-the-word-dystopic-was-cool novel, "1984," is experiencing a resurgence at the bookstores? Our conception that all news is fake, and that shadowy organizations are limiting the truth from us, seems to proliferate the zeitgeist. But why should this bring about an uptick in sales for "1984?" Let me start by looking at the Primary theme in "1984" that we discussed in my eighth grade English class, which was coincidentally back in 1981.

Big Brother


Certainly we've been aware that a Big Brother exists well before now. It's Google, and the dozens of other information partners that allow the Federal Government and an infinite number of Private Corporations to plow through our personal information which we freely share with them for the sake of convenience. Such outrage we all had when we found out our texts and photos were being data mined! Then we remembered that without Google and the like, we'd have to start keeping paper calendars and whipping out the palm pilots again, and we decided letting them look at our data wasn't so bad after all. Then the DNC's plot to kill the campaign of Bernie Sanders came to light. So it's not Google, but the DNC, they're Big Brother! Wait... wait... what about the Alt Right? And the panelists on The View? Oh, hold on, don't forget Hollywood's Gay Mafia. Are they all Big Brother? Did they all conspire to earn more royalties for "1984?" The simple answer, I guess so.

Well, I cleared all of that up. 2017 marks the fruition of George Orwell's vision. We have no privacy, and "1984" is still a big seller. But hold on. "1984" was clearly written about the communists and how they edited history based on their political system. Look at this.

Here is a side by side photograph of members of the Soviet Era space program. Let's go all "Highlights" magazine on this one and ask, can you find all the differences in theses pictures? If you're stuck, let me give you a hand. One of these guys fell out of favor with the party, and was erased from the picture. Pretty sneaky, eh? I hear what you're saying, why not just throw the picture away if you don't want to see Ivan any more. Simple. This is much worse. Hey, wasn't Ivan in that picture? What are you on about? Who's Ivan? This is the world of "1984," where Winston sits at his desk and revises news stories to doctor details toward the favorable, and eliminate key players who are now disgraced. Is this really where we find ourselves today? Too bad Ivan didn't have a facebook account. Then again, maybe this is where the idea of face swapping came from.

Thus, conclusively I've proven that our society is no closer to the world depicted in "1984," until I consider Ariana Grande.

Newspeak


One of the clearly ignore themes of "1984" is how the English Socialist (IngSoc) system seeks to limit creativity and philosophy by shrinking the English language through Newspeak. Periodically words are removed from the lexicon which requires the construction of new words from the ones that remain. If something is good, it remains good. If it's really good, instead of being marvelous, or special, or indescribable, it becomes plusgood.

Ice cream = good
Steak = plusgood
Orgasm = doubleplusgood

Ed, there are a lot of mother's out there concerned that you have written the words orgasm and Ariana Grande in the same blog. Explain yourself. Follow along, children. As I write these words, the world is reeling from another senseless terrorist attack carried out by an Islamic extremist, this time after an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester England. The audience was decidedly young, and right now the death toll stands at 22, with the youngest victim identified as 8 years old. Social media is reacting just the way we've grown accustomed to, a mix of sorrow, anger, and rehashing of the time Ariana Grande said she hates Americans.

Yes, it's true. In 2015, Ms. Grande was caught by a security camera saying the words, "I hate Americans. I hate America." What inspired the hatred of her home country and it's citizens? It should come as no surprise that it was in reaction to donuts.

Ariana and her boyfriend were in a donut shop looking at trays of Homer Simpson's favorites. Then she did the unthinkable. When the clerk turned away, Ariana moved in and motioned as if she was licking one of the donuts. Then more donuts arrived! I would be outraged as well, Ms. Grande, so it doesn't seem weird at all that more donuts, God's greatest gift to mankind, would inspire you to say, "I hate America. I hate Americans." She said it, not me. I suppose everyone's entitled to their own, wackadoo take on the evils of America, but given what just happened after her concert, the word choice seems beyond poor, but maybe it's just an example of Ariana, and everyone born after 1990, practicing newspeak.

Our vocabulary is shrinking, and it's not because of an oppressive political party. We are gladly giving it away and with it our ability to fully express how we feel and what we experience, and I want to see it stop. I'd like to share with you now the rules I am giving to my children about the words they use to describe their experiences. Number one, "Hate" is reserved for Adolph Hitler level evil shit. How can you describe your feelings for math class in the same terms that you describe how you feel about the mastermind of the Holocaust? You can't. Likewise, Love is reserved for describing my feelings for people special to my heart. Should I really use the same word to express my feelings for chocolate ice cream as I do to express my feelings for my wife and children? No. I love my wife. I love my children. Bacon double cheeseburgers are close, but I really find them satisfying and flavorful.

With regard to the "hate" speech, back in 2015 Ariana's press agent explained that she said the hated America because of all the bad food choices that were available. Let's take a lesson from Ariana. Expand your vocabulary. Expand your feelings. Make the feeling of love special again. Learn new words to express how you feel, and use them. 


Monday, May 8, 2017

Query-tastic!

I've been at this writing-and-trying-to-get-published-thing for about eight years now. In that time, I've learned a great deal, mostly that there's always more to learn. There are a few facts I've discovered which I will share with you now.

Fact 1 - writers are not timid
You want to be a writer? Grow a pair. Get cocky. Someone reads your stuff and they don't get it, do not go home and throw yourself on your bed and cry into your pillow.

Fact 2 - confidence comes with a price
You want to be a writer but are having a hard time growing a pair and want to know how to address the problem. Writing helps. Writing every day really helps. Reading and writing every day will encourage enthusiastic creative testicular growth.

Fact 3 - find your muse
I once met an author who lives in Manhattan. She told me that her primary motivation for writing is the mass of people she meets at cocktail parties that are always asking if she is still writing. Not wanting to say she hasn't come up with anything lately, she writes all the time so she can keep the drinking crowd at bay. I'm not going to tell you what my motivation is. When I'm famous, I may write a book about it.

Fact 4 - act professionally
Dreams tend to bring out the child in all of us, namely, when our dreams don't come true, we pout like children. A good portion of trying to get published comes with the word no. We put our best foot forward, no. We enter a new flash fiction contest every week, no. We send letter after letter to an agent list longer than Santa's 'nice' spreadsheet, no. Get used to it. At some level agents are friends to us all, keeping a ton of shitty books off the shelves of your local bookstore, which will soon to be closed and converted to a mattress store.

Fact 5 - know how to present your work
And to fulfil this, you must know all there is to know about alchemy, because you have to scrape your shit together, and turn it into gold. In all the writing I've done over the last 2,920 days, the most important skill I've had to master, or attempt to master, is the ability to tell someone, in writing, what makes my book so special.

Remember this formula, all you budding authors, Hook, Synopsis, Bio, Closing. It is these four segments that make the best query, if you do them right. The hook grabs with a simple premise, usually something from the beginning of your book. The Synopsis is not a chapter by chapter outline, but a simple paragraph that includes enough detail to make a mini storyline of it's own. The Bio has pertinent information about your writing skills. Only include things that make you a better writer! And the Closing is a quick, thanks for your time, tell me what else you need, end. You should also include some contact information, just in case.

I'm pretty proud of the query I just came up with, so I'm going to put it in this post. Remember, I have a 101,000 word science fiction novel to sell, and in less than 450 words, I'm going to try to get someone excited about it.

Let's see how I did.


When scientists are baffled, and corporate investors angered, by the unexplained misbehavior of dozens of drone spacecraft sent to collect minerals from the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, the lucrative mission is taken over by three manned spacecraft, one of which is destined to become the last sample of human life in the universe.

Slade Hobart, captain of the mining vessel Laersk, believes that she is the last living human being, and as such, feels a responsibility to chronicle the final days of mankind in a celebration and condemnation of her own species. From the command chair of her marooned ship, she keeps watch over the pile of bodies that were her crew, now resting frozen and dried on the surface of Ganymede. Close by her side she keeps the body of only one, Joseph, a teenage boy who stowed away on the multi-year mission to pursue his prophesy of the end of man's days. Captain Hobart struggles not only with the boy's interpretation of events, but with her role in guarding the final human specimens. After she realizes that travelers who attempt to return to Earth face only death, then can she accept her fate and find meaning in sacrificing her life to help human kind make the next step in their development. Years later, explorers from a different world make an expedition to the Laersk's crash site. Exposure to the body of Joseph causes one of their crew to become ill. By the time the exploration team reaches their next destination, that crew member has died and is buried on the surface of a barren planet, the seed bed for human life to begin a new phase of development.

“Banished Children of Eve” is my 101,000 word science fiction novel with the flavor of Arthur C. Clark's, “2001 : A Space Odyssey,” and Stanislaw Lem's, “Solaris.” Often more about humanity's undue confidence in it's own creations than space travel and other worlds, it's best accomplishment is making the reader question what their role is in the human story.


I am a creative fiction staff writer for the independent “Bachelor Pad” magazine and several of my works have received honors in Amazon and NYC Midnight competitions. I recently self-published a paranormal fantasy romance novel titled, “Atypical American Girls,” and last year wrote my first screenplay as a part of an incubator project with Cary Granat, producer of the “Scream” franchise and “Chronicles of Narnia.”

It is my hope that you will allow me to present either a portion or the entire novel to you for review. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Edward Varga
<contact information redacted>




   


Thursday, February 23, 2017

the boy in the water

James looked into his backyard and saw something unfamiliar. For a 3-year-old boy, this unfamiliar thing looked like a giant monster. It was large and yellow, growled noisily, and puffed black smoke. Slowly on the grass between the trees in his back yard it crawled on top of metal belts that squeaked and clanked. At the of he monster was a giant arm with a scoop for a hand, fitted with large dangerous looking teeth.

James looked away from the window where he watched the machine and turned to his mother. “Mommy, what is that?” His mother said, “Well young man, I think you better ask your father. Let’s pay him a visit.”

Hand in hand, James and his mother walked out of the house and into the back yard toward where the now silent machine sat. James could see his father talking with another man. In his father's hands he saw a large piece of paper with lines all over it. His father and the other man were talking while looking at the paper and pointing to the back yard.

“Dear, when you have a second, James has a question for you,” his mother called out to his father. “Just a moment and I'll be right there,” his father answered back. James watched the other man nod at his father and then roll the paper up and place it under his arm. He then turned and climbed onto the machine as his father jogged back to James and his mother. “Now,” said his father, “what is your question young man?” Pointing to the yellow machine, James said, “What's that?”

“Oh,” said his father, “this machine is going to help me introduce you to a friend of mine.” “You mean, that man?” James said pointing at the man on the machine. “No not him,” his father said gently, “Soon I will introduce you to the boy in the water. Now, things are going to get noisy and dusty here today so you and your mother better get along.” “But who is...” James started to speak, but the machine roared to life and his mother nudged him back toward the house.

All day long, James sat by the window so he could see what was happening. He watched with wide eyes and great concern as the machine tore large pieces of grass from his yard. Then it started digging and made piles and piles of black and brown dirt with its large claw. As the sun rose high in the sky the piles grew and grew. And as the sun fell the machine pushed and spread the dirt around so they didn't look like piles anymore but like dark hills in a circle. Finally as the sun was setting, the large yellow machine clanked and squeaked as it rolled away leaving the back yard for good.

Just then James heard the kitchen door open, followed by his father and mother talking. He raced around the corner from the living room and said, “Do I get to meet him now?” Pausing for a moment, his father answered, “The boy I want you to meet will be here in the morning so we better eat supper and get a good night's rest.” James sat with his mother and father and ate supper, all the while keeping one eye looking out the window, hoping to see the boy his father told him about.

James did not sleep well that night. He kept thinking about the boy. In the morning as his room grew lighter with the rising sun, James heard a knock at his door. “James,” called his father as he walked in, “I have a present for you.” His father held out a bag toward James. Inside he saw a pair of rubber boots. “Put them on quickly. I want to introduce you to the boy in the water.”

James jumped out of bed and quickly placed his feet in the boots. He was excited to finally meet the boy who lived in the water. Dressed only in pajamas and the new shiny rubber boots, James followed his father into the back yard. “Where are we going?” James asked his father. “We're just going over here,” answered his father as he pointed to the fresh dirt piles in the back yard. James and his father walked to the top of one of the dirt hills and stopped. James looked down and saw the hole the machine had dug was now filled with water. Looking up at his father he said, “What's this?”

“When I was a boy,” his father said, “we had a pond in our back yard.” Holding hands, he and James walked carefully toward the water's edge. “I would spend every day in the summer by that pond feeding ducks that would come by to swim and trying to catch frogs. Then one day I met him.” James asked, “Met who?” His father smiled and said, “The boy in the water, and look James, there he is now.” His father pointed at the water's edge and James looked down to see a handsome little boy looking back with a big smile on his face.

That summer, and everyone after, James and the boy in the water played at the pond together. They caught frogs, fed ducks, chased salamanders, and skipped stones, but most of all they smiled at each other. Year by year, James grew older as did the boy in the water until one day, James wasn't looking at a boy in the water anymore but instead saw a handsome young man who was ready to leave his home.

That day he thought of his father, and all of the summers, and the large yellow machine. A cold breeze blew, warning James that Autumn was coming. Soon school would start and he would have to abandon the back yard for his studies at a school far away.

“Hey,” he said to the young man in the water, “I just want to let you know I had fun playing with you. Thanks for sharing all that time with me.” James looked back at his house, then back at the water. “I'm going to go away for a while, but someday soon, maybe in a few years, I hope to be able to bring someone to meet you.”

And as James turned to walk away, so did the boy in the water. The boy then turned back and watched James walk away, thinking of his memories of the little boy who was now a man. He watched the leaves of autumn land on the shimmering water surface above him and closed his eyes, hoping that while he waited for James to return he would dream of all they had done together, all those summers so long ago.

Monday, February 6, 2017

create

Create something. Build a believable world from nothing. Challenge those who peer inside to reconsider what they know and how they think. Satisfy that need within everyone of us to be told, a story.

Go on. Do it.

That's what I tell myself every day. I tell myself to go and be creative. Imagine a situation which will welcome a reader and leave them so satisfied that they can't wait to share their experience with a friend. I tell myself to force my fingers to push the keys in the correct order, to make sense of the screaming and laughter in my head, to push it away so it may grow and blossom.

Words are my crayons.

When we were children we had no problem making up stories. As soon as the burnt umber Crayola from your new 64 pack touched the paper, a story bled from it's body. It was a story locked away inside of the wax by an evil witch that sought only to spread the silence of a world disengaged. As we grew, however, we became the witch shutting out the story.

Let your thoughts take flight.

My son put up with my nonsense as he grew up. With no mother around, I did what I could to escape the slog of single parenting through exercises of fantasy and passionate speech. Maybe it rubbed off on him, as he is in college now, studying film making. It is the way he unleashes the story from his own crayon, and I kinda like what he does. This is the latest film he made, using only a dry erase board and the time honored skill of stop motion animation.

video

Watch this brief journey of his mind, then take heart, and go be creative yourself.