Sunday, April 29, 2012

I do not like Green Eggs and Spam. Except when that Spam happens to be hilarious.

Despite the precautions I've taken to avoid this on my Contact Page—putting spaces in my email address and spelling out "dot"—my level of Spam mail has still increased quite a bit since starting this blog. And I've got to tell you, some of them are downright fantastic. So I've decided to share my favorites with you from time to time.

So without further ado, here is my very first serving of Green Eggs and Spam:


Dear Beloved,

       My name is William Cheung (Executive Director and Head of Personal Banking), I have a confidential business worth 24.5 million US Dollars for you to handle for me. Kindly reply me via personal email: williamleung@w.cn for details if interested.  Thank you.

Regards.

Leung.


I don't know if it's even possible for me to tell you all the things I love about this email. Spam emails often just begin with "Hello" or "Hello Friend." They might begin with "Dear David," if your name is in fact Barbara. 

But "Dear Beloved?" How can you not love that? I believe it is how people should begin all business proposals from now on.

Another reason I adore this email is that our friend, William, changes his last name partway through the email. He even signs off with merely his last name, which is different from the one he offers in the first line of the email!

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to be "handling" Cheung Leung's very profitable but confidential business. He must have me confused with some spy/accountant with whom he had a torrid affair in Singapore. 

I'm sorry I can't help you with your millions, Cheung Leung. I hope you find your number-wielding Mata Hari, wherever she is.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When in doubt, pronounce it how it’s spelled. It’ll work roughly 39% of the time.


So my last name is Karger. It's either Romanian or Austrian—no one in my family is sure. But what I do know is that people are often tempted to pronounce it as “Kar-JER.” More tempted, evidence shows, than they would be to pronounce it correctly.


Evidence

Different Ways I’ve Heard “Karger” Pronounced in My Twenty-Three Years of Life





One friend in high school called me "Frogger." When I asked him why, he said, "Duh. Because it sounds like your last name."

So you see, it seems my surname has the power to confuse and perplex the masses. 

In case you guys were wondering: It's Kar-GER. Coincidentally, that's also how it's spelled.

But, shhh, it's okay if you didn't realize. Pronouncing things correctly is difficult. I say this with no irony or sarcasm whatsoever. I interned at a fashion magazine and tried to pronounce "Herm├ęs" several times in my four days there.

I did not once pronounce it correctly.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Updated: It’s time to put those tax forms down and tune in for my Out-of-Context Dialogue contest results!

Hello my bros, and my brotastic ladies. I hope April has been kind to you thus far. It has been very busy for me. I work in publishing and it’s Book Fair season, which is the busiest time of the year before Summer Slowness sets in.

Somewhat inconveniently, I’ve also just fallen deep into a new story and would very much like to be writing that instead of doing pretty much anything else. As a result the blog’s been a bit neglected—I hope you’ll bear with me till the end of the month, when more regular updates should continue.

A few weeks ago I announced my Out-of-Context Dialogue contest. I’ll bring you up to speed on the rules: I provided a list of five jumping off points to writing a brief out-of-context dialogue between two characters. I encouraged readers to send their dialogues to me and I promised to post dialogue I liked best on the blog today to distract you all from taxes.

I posted the contest on a fairly impulsive whim. I could see that a lot of my readers seemed to be writers like myself, and thought how cool it would be if we could help each other out with our work in some small way. Writing stray bits of dialogue like this sometimes helps me when I get stuck, and so the contest was born.

But after posting I had a lot of second thoughts. I knew I had a few readers but could I really expect any of them to be willing to essentially complete a homework assignment for the chance to win, uh … nothing?

I told myself that it wouldn’t be so bad if I had to cancel the contest due to lack of submissions. A little disappointing, yes, but maybe it had been a silly idea in the first place. The blog is barely two months old, after all.

But then I got my first submission, and more followed. You guys didn’t seem to care that the contest had no prize other than a sense of writerly community with one another. And, as you’ll see in the dialogue below, you really put some time and effort into your submissions.

Thank you so much to everyone who submitted. You gave me the joy equivalent to roughly nine days straight of looking at nothing but pictures of puppies in baskets.

So, without further ado, I’ll announce the winner: Robert Sakai-Irvine!

He’s a longtime reader and awesome Twitterer, coming to us all the way from Japan. He gives me license to say that I already have a global readership, and I thank him a million times over for that. His was the jumping-off point that by far proved to be the most popular:

Someone is trying to convince the person he or she loves not to move away.

You romantics, you.

Robert informs me that his dialogue has to do with the world of a story he’s currently writing, though he doesn’t plan to include this scene in the actual book.

Here’s Robert’s lovely dialogue:


Five-minute walk

“Why?”
He cleared his throat, stared at the floor between them. “Because it’s going to happen to everyone eventually. It just makes sense to get a head start.”
“We talked about this,” she said and kicked the bag sitting next to his feet on the white foyer tiles. “We talked about this! Last night even! How can you… You said you wouldn’t… How could you lie to me like that!?”
He looked up at her, eyes pleading. “I didn’t lie, Pria! I wouldn’t! I meant every word I said, but over night I just kept thinking about it and thinking about it, and in the end, you know, why wait? It’s such a good opportunity; even better for the people who go early.”
Pria gritted her teeth, eyes hot and stinging with fresh tears. “They’ll change you, Evan,” she said in a choked voice. “You don’t think so, but they will. You won’t really be you anymore. And who says everyone will go? I’m not. None of our friends are.”
“Pria, please. They’re here. They’ve found us. Do you think they’re going to just pack up and leave? No. They don’t work that way. The moment they showed up, our futures were decided for us. I simply want to make the move before the stampede starts.”
“I won’t go. Not ever,” Pria said. “I don’t want to be ‘revised’. I don’t want those little things in me. I’m happy being the person I was when I was born. I thought you were, too. That’s what you said last night. That’s why I love you, Evan. I love you, but if you go out that door, if you go to them, well then you won’t be that man anymore, will you? You’ll be one of them – machine perfect, revised. You’ll be gone.”
“Come on,” he said, reaching out for her. She dodged his hand. He sighed. “This doesn’t have to be the end, Pria. I won’t be gone. The Quarter is only a five-minute walk away, for crying out loud. Just five minutes.”
“Yeah,” she spat, taking a step back. “Five minutes and a whole goddamn world away.”
There was a polite tap on the door behind Evan. He looked around and shrugged. “That’ll be them, I guess.”
“I can’t believe you,” Pria said, raising a hand to cover her mouth as tears ran freely down her cheeks. “I can’t… I can’t believe you.”
Another tap, tap, tap.
“I gotta go, Pria,” Evan said, scooping up his bag and turning to the door. He paused and looked over his shoulder at her. “I love you, Pria. And when you take citizenship, I’ll be waiting for you.” And he slid the door open.



Don’t you guys totally want to read the book that scene belongs to now? I do. It makes me think a bit of the movie Gattaca. Thank you for sharing your writing with us, Robert. And keep working on this story so we can all read it.

When I announced the contest, I also said readers were welcome to leave jumping-off points for me to write a dialogue, which I would run alongside the winner’s. The wonderful DragenEyez offered two dynamite suggestions that I believe are better than any of the ones I offered up. Because I thought the suggestions were so good,  I attempted both of them. I’m indecisive and lazy, so I’m just gonna post them both. Thanks again, DragenEyez!



Someone is trying to explain a rather embarrassing event to someone else they really don't want to explain it to, like their mom or boss.

Laney rolled up her sleeves to do the dishes, causing her mother, Margaret, to cry out in alarm.
“Laney!” she cried. “What happened to your arms?”
Laney’s face turned bright red and she shoved the sleeves of her pale blue blouse down with force. “Nothing.”
Margaret turned her imposing gray stare on her daughter. “Laney,” was all she said, but her stern tone did its job admirably.
Laney sighed, turned from the kitchen sink, and rolled her sleeves back up.  A long, pink scrape ran from her left elbow to her wrist while a smaller but more dangerous-looking circular scrape decorated her right elbow.
“So you know I went to Mark and Sheila’s engagement party last night, right?” Laney asked, avoiding her mother’s eyes. “And how it was in Mark’s sister’s dorm room?” Margaret gave a nod. “Well, there was a window set into the wall right near the ceiling. You could use the couch to climb up to the window’s ledge and sit.”
Which of course Laney had done. She’d long been fascinated by high-up places, from roofs to mountains.
“Did you fall?” Margaret asked.
Laney hesitated then shook her head. “Um, no. See, I decided it would be cool if I jumped from the ledge onto the couch. It was only a five-foot jump—I thought I could make it. But, instead I…” She reddened again and mumbled something indecipherable.
“You what?” her mother prodded.
“I overshot, scraped my arms on the couch, and landed on the floor on my tailbone,” Laney said in a rush, like pulling off a band-aid. She peered at Margaret, her green eyes wary.
“Hmm,” was all Margaret said for a few moments. “And how drunk were you at the time?”
Noting the smile threatening to claim her mother’s mouth, Laney burst into embarrassed laughter. “Considerably. How did you know?”
Margaret laughed as well. She put an arm around her wayward twenty-year-old and led her to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. “You’re a smart girl, Laney,” her mother replied as she sprayed Laney’s war wounds with Bactine. “I would have a lot more to worry about if you pulled these kinds of shenanigans sober.”


A kid trying to explain to someone why magic is without a doubt real.

“You know those moments when you see something strange out of the corner of your eye, but when you take a closer look it’s not at all like you thought?” Godfrey asked, his pale eyes bright and excited.
Jane nodded. “It happens to everyone, doesn’t it?”
“I do believe you’re right,” he replied. He paced back and forth across the room and Jane couldn’t help but grin. His enthusiasm was contagious. “When it happens to me I always think I saw something fantastic. A black plastic bag blowing in the wind becomes a flying ghoul—the corner of a white truck is the shoulder of a unicorn.” His eyes locked on hers. “Is it the same for you?”
Jane put her chin in her hand, considering. “I suppose. But it’s more that I just notice something out of the ordinary, and think it warrants closer investigation.”
“But here’s a question.” Godfrey pointed at her. “Do you ever look back just once? Or do you have to stare long and hard at that lamppost or branch and convince yourself that it isn’t a wizard’s staff or a dryad’s reaching hand?”
As he spoke, Jane realized he was right. Whenever she did have those jarring moments of uncertainty, when a shadow slithered just beyond her vision, she always stopped for a little while to inspect her surroundings. It was silly, really. If there truly had been anything unsettling nearby, Jane would’ve done right to keep going. But a part of her craved that bit of unusual enough to stick around and search for it.
Godfrey gave her a slow smile. “I don’t think we’re the only ones, Jane. I think we, all of us, can’t quite believe that our corner-of-the-eye fantasies aren’t real—no matter how strange they might be. And that is because somewhere, deep down, we expect the fantastic. It isn’t about wanting something more out of the world, or thinking anything at all. It is an innate reaction that grabs at us before we have a chance to rationalize what we see.”
Godfrey finally sank into a chair beside Jane. “If there weren’t truly magic to be had in the world,” he said softly, “I think we would’ve stopped expecting it long ago.”


I used a loose interpretation of the word “kid” in the second one. These guys are at least in college if not older. And possibly British. I don’t know. And I’m not going to admit quite how closely that first dialogue is based on a conversation I had with my own mother over Christmas.

Both dialogues were a blast to write—as was reading your submissions. I hope the others who participated in the contest aren’t too disappointed. This is all just a bit of writerly fun. There weren’t even prizes, remember? (Sorry, Robert.)

I had a great time with this contest, and I hope you did too. I was really blown away by how many of you guys put yourselves out there to participate. I kind of want to do something like this again. Maybe not another contest, though. I’ve never been particularly competitive so I feel weird causing others to be so.

What would you guys think of finagling some kind of internet peer editing circle? It would be like passing our writing exercises over to the next desk to be critiqued, except the next desk is really some stranger’s email inbox. So I would be critiquing one writer’s exercise, and someone else entirely would be critiquing mine. Beyond that I could hook you guys up into a little massage train of critique-ees and critique-ers. I would probably just post the dialogue I critique and my own, along with the critiques I receive. But if I did this enough times, you’d probably all get a dialogue on the blog eventually.

I probably won’t do this for a while, since I am quite busy at the moment and want to know what you kids think first. Discuss in the comments, Velocininjas, and I’ll get to thinking of more potential jumping-off points in the meantime. I don’t know about you, but it has been a wonderful day of fun writing times for me and I thank you so much for that.

Now I’m off to finish Twilight 5, better known as 50 Shades of Grey. (It’s selling extremely well so I’m reading it for reference, okay? Reference.)  I plan to tweet a bit about it after I’ve finished reading later tonight. This will hopefully amuse my Twitter followers and keep me from breaking everything in my apartment in a bad-writing induced rage, so win-win.




P.S. So I know it looks like I liked my own post on Google Plus. Or plussed it. I can't keep up with the ten million ways you can show internet approval these days. I just want to clarify that this was not intentional. I was playing with Tiny Dancer's new iPad and hit the +1 accidentally when I was trying to reply to a comment.

I have to wonder if this is how Apple corrupts people. Between the unpredictability of a touchscreen and the crops of "like" buttons that decorate most sites, it's only a matter of time until you like something of your own. You can't undo it, and soon you decide, "Fuck it. I do like me. I plus me. I would retweet my fucking face off." And then it's just all downhill from there.


P.P.S. I'm buying an iPhone soon. Lord help me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I posted this on Facebook last night, but then I realized it might make me look like less of a slacker if I pretended it was a real post.


Hey Velocininjas,

I know I have officially betrayed the weekly schedule I originally set out for myself on this blog. I doubt there's been much of an outcry about this. And, let's be honest, that weekly schedule lasted about three weeks before I started posting way more often. So, really, I'm like eight weeks ahead. Or something.

But don't worry. I plan to go back to far more regular updates by the end of the month. I've just hit a time when everything's piled up at once, as things are wont to do. That's life for a person with several jobs, I'm afraid, and I love all those jobs too much to complain about any of them.

I will, of course, post the results of my Out-of-Context Dialogue contest on Sunday, April 15th. But that will probably be my only post until the end of the month. Though I may sneak attack you with a surprise post. Like a ninja.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Updated: Brooklynian adventures in the name of research.

While conceptualizing a new project, I am big on visual resources. I’ll play on Google Images for days, buy books full of period photographs, and make horrible drawings until my hands cramp. Strangers may feel inclined to combine this behavior with my obsessive love of film, and decide that I must be a very visual person.

But the thing is I’m really not. I’m auditory all the way, folks. If I were truly a visual person, I don’t think I would need to do all this stuff. I’d be able to come up with beautiful settings and decorate the houses of my characters all on my own. But instead I usually need the real world, and often a pen and some paper, to lend me a hand.

On Thursday I showed you some of the sad little monster sketches I made to help me conceptualize a new project. This project is a whimsical yet creepy story aimed at the youngest audience I’ve ever written for. The plot will be quite fantastical—there are all those monsters to consider, after all.

But certain parts of the story will take place right here in my own little pocket of Brooklyn. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for almost three years now, and I like to think I know my neighborhood pretty well. I’ve never really thought too much about what it would be like to be a kid growing up here, though.

So last week I decided to go on a bit of an adventure. I walked around my neighborhood, camera phone in hand, and snapped a few shots of the sorts of sights I think might be significant to a child like my protagonist. 




I thought the nearest elementary school would be a good place to start. This is Queen of All Saints, where they teach K-8th grade. It lies right across the street from the schoolyard at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, which is where the fantastic Brooklyn Flea Market takes place each Saturday. There’s also a great place to get ice cream right around the corner. 

I’m pretty jealous of these kids, I’ve got to say. My elementary school would’ve fit in this one’s supply closet.




This is LaSalle Hall—a dorm belonging to the nearby Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School. I love the look of this building, and the barren trees give it a slight gothic feel. For fun, you guys should drag your cursor over this picture to highlight it. It will suddenly become the GREATEST HAUNTED HOUSE THAT HAS EVER BEEN HAUNTED.





This is a mural I’ve walked by several times on the way to one of the many wonderful restaurants on DeKalb Avenue. I barely notice it anymore, but I bet an imaginative child always would.





Here’s some info on the mural. Tillie’s was a much beloved coffee shop that closed just a few months ago. I still get sad each time I walk by its papered windows.











These are just a few scenery shots—the kinds of sights my protagonist would see on the walk home from school.





I had almost forgotten how happy creepy-looking shadows used to make me as a kid. Is it a tree? Is it a monster? Is it terrifying?

Yes. Yes, it is.




At this point I took a detour in Fort Greene Park. Several young parents were out playing with their children, soaking up the last of the day’s sunlight. I overheard a group of preteens playing Hunger Games, and there was a spirited argument over who got to be Katniss.

I remember having similar tussles over who got to be the Pink Power Ranger when I was a kid. Katniss is apparently this generation’s Pink Ranger. And now I’m pretty sure I have more respect for this generation than I do for my own.

I eventually sat on a bench and made some failed attempts at sketches, but first I wandered around a bit.








After a bit of sketching, it started to get kind of cold out. So I decided the Brooklynian adventures would have to recommence another day.





***




On my next outing, I went straight to one of my favorite buildings in Brooklyn. I have no idea what purpose this building serves. It’s always under construction of some sort. I could probably figure out what this building is used for, but I don’t really want to. It can just remain the haunted prison/boarding school/mental institution of my dreams.





You can barely see them in the first picture, so I had to take a closer one to show you these gargoyles. I want to propose marriage to this building, you guys.




Danmander tagged along on this expedition and pointed out the very old bike chained to the building’s fence.

When we looked at the sign above the bike, we realized that wasn’t what it was at all.





Walking to the coffee shop, I saw some lovely door murals.






Never change, Brooklyn.


As I got closer to home, I noticed a fairly ordinary home with a barren potted tree out front.




After taking some time to look at Brooklyn through my protagonist’s eyes, it was easy to imagine the tree bursting into bloom.


And so concludes today’s Brooklynian Adventures! I may go on more and would be happy to share some of those with you as well—let’s see how you guys like this first one.



Update:

So apparently highlighting the haunted house picture ONLY works in Microsoft Word 2003. And it appears that you all have the correct version of Word, as opposed to the nine-year-old one you insist on installing on each new computer because you have trouble embracing change. 

So I played in Photo Manager a little bit to give you some idea of this building's epic haunted house possibilities:






I dare you not to set your nightmares at this haunted house tonight. I DARE YOU.