Monthly Archives: October 2012

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #3: Love Story

Round three of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59 word stories) was all about love, man. Write a love story. Well, okay.

“The End.” Closing the book and getting up from his bedside chair, Hal gently kissed his daughter’s forehead. “It’s time to go — I’ll tell Mom you love her. See you tomorrow.”

Leaving the coma ward, Hal reminded himself he needed to stop by the florist on the way to the cemetery; Sunday will be the four year anniversary.

So, 1-2, or 0-3? RESULTS

My story was submission #1 in the head-to-head — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Two stunners, right off the bat. Each of these uses an economy of language to deliver a very real, very resonant emotional sense to them. It’s a tough call, but I have a favorite. Even though the very first sentence doesn’t seem to fit the tone of the rest of the story, #1 is simply luscious and very sensual. WINNER: #1

NOVAK – I love the subtext of #1. “Stolen from his neighbor’s tree”… Fanfreakingtastic. It’s hard to tip your hand too early in 59 words, but I felt like #2 did it. Until it didn’t, and there was another reveal. Ultimately, the subtext in #1 needed a little more “text”, and #2’s double-take worked for me, so it gets my nod.

ANDY – Oooh, boy. Here we go. Starting this challenge off with a good fight, aren’t we? Both are very impactful in their own ways, and this is going to be a hard one to call. #2 has the right emotional impact. The language and subject matter of #1 are just too compelling. I’m going with #1.

WINNER: Christina Pepper

  • Thanks to my bro Big Al for the story idea, although the one he pitched would have been a challenge at 200 words.

Congratulations, Christina. Here’s your orange!

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Card Blitz

Last few days I’ve forayed into several trades from different sites, and picked up several nice Twins cards, including autos and relics…


clockwise, from top left: 2004 Donruss Studio Private Signings Gold #117 Shannon Stewart [15/23] (auto); 2005 Leaf Certified Materials #213 Garrett Jones [293/299] (auto); 2004 Leaf Certified Cuts #273 Jason Bartlett [438/499] (auto); 2004 Leaf Certified Materials #275 Jason Bartlett [440/500] (auto)

…among them was a slew of ’90s cards from my wantlist, several s#’d cards, my first black refractor, first triple AU…


clockwise, from top left: 2007 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Signatures Silver Stitch Silver Ink #GP Glen Perkins [20/60] (auto); 2005 Topps Chrome Black Refractor #231 Kevin West [008/200] (auto); 2000 Topps Autographs #TA7 Matt Lawton (auto); 2005 Topps Chrome Refractor #241 Glen Perkins [494/500] (auto); 2007 Upper Deck SP Rookie Edition #137 Glen Perkins (auto); 2005 Donruss Signature Series INKcredible Trios #IS-46 Jacque Jones/Lew Ford/Jason Kubel (triple auto)

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Play With The Prose II — Challenge #2: Private Journal Entry

Round two of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59 word stories), and this time against Spookymilk himself! Not to be daunted, I totally played off the challenge directions: to write a private journal or diary entry. Well, I can do that!

The attendant looked up as the exterior door opened and a soldier schlepped in, snapping off a sloppy salute. “I’ve got the post commander’s WSJ, sir.”

With obvious disapproval, the attendant straightened the private’s tie, brushed away doughnut crumbs, took the paper from under the private’s arm, smoothed and refolded it, and handed it back. “Knock first, then enter.”

So how did I do? RESULTS

My submission was submission #1 in the head-to-head — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Story #1: Yeah, I get it. Wall Street Journal. That trombonist is going to be very winded at the end of this season, I can tell already. #2 gave me a nice chill, though, so I don’t feel any remorse in awarding it the win here. WINNER: #2

NOVAK – #1 – Private? Check. Entry? Check. Journal? Check. Well played sir or madam, well played. #2, I love the concept. Somehow – and I’m going to blame the 59 words here – it misses just a bit of the impact I expected it to have. Still, there’s enough there, and a high-enough level of execution, that it’s enough to win the challenge. I still want to encourage the kind of wit we see in entry #1 though.

ANDY: Didn’t you just break the rules, #1? I hate that. But in another way, it makes my job easier. #2 wins by default. But I enjoyed it a lot anyway, #2. I’m intrigued, and I’m thinking you won anyway.

WINNER: Kelly Wells

  • Sorry, Andy, it was pretty cagey, but it did followed the directions.
  • I’m pleased to see I have one of the judges in my back pocket now. Thanks, Philosofer 😉

Congrats, Spooks! Now, I need to come up with something I love to turn in for Sunday’s challenge.

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #1: Showdown

Yes, it’s back!  Play with the Prose was universally well liked, and with a few tweaks, a sequel has begun.  The biggest changes: all of the challenges will be Fiction 59 format (a complete story in 59 words or less), and competitions will be head-to-head, so with 16 contestants there will be 15 challenges total, followed by a post-season. There are three judges this time around, to forego any chance of a tie.

The first challenge had me paired up against Erik S; we were tasked with writing about a showdown.

Verlander shakes off the sign. He looks to first, then throws over to first, but Schumaker gets back easily. Count is still 2 balls and 2 strikes…

…so now all you need to roll is a 4 or a 9, and the lounge suite is yours!

Georgia placed the remote on the kitchen table and sat forward on the edge of her chair.

So how did I do? RESULTS

My submission was submission #1 — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Story 2 suffered from a lack of atmosphere, unfortunately, although it was a strong story idea. In so few words, you have to sacrifice something, and the writer went for a sense of place over a sense of tension. And let’s face it, in a story about a showdown, tension’s what you’re looking for. Meanwhile, story 1 revealed itself marvelously. WINNER: #1

ANDY: I don’t really feel invested in Georgia’s story in the first one. I was hoping for a better payoff in #2, but the story kept me more engaged while I was reading it. So, #2.

NOVAK: Both stories here leave me wanting more. I have a feeling I’ll be saying that a lot judging Fiction59. Story 1 is a little more complete, but we don’t quite get access to the character’s motivation for changing the channel, which is something I think would wrap up the thought completely. The name Georgia is absolutely perfect for it. So much imagery caught up in that single name. Story 2, we’re left with all sorts of tension, but I want details. I think the writing in Story 2 showed a little something more, so it wins this battle for me.

  • My idea here was not so much a showdown between Verlander and the baserunner Schumaker, or between a game show contestant and Lady Luck, but between the ballgame and the game show.

Good job, Erik. My work is now cut out to get back to .500 again. Next challenge: a private journal entry. I already have an idea percolating…

Go Cards! (The Team And The Cardboard Kind)

Until the completion of Spookymilk’s inaugural Play with the Prose challenge (in which I took 3rd out of 16), business trips, etc., I haven’t been able to post any trade posts for quite a while. Also, amazingly (or not, after last year’s success) the Cardinals are successfully moving along through the NL playoffs, so a shout out to them!

I’ve been trying to keep up the trade bait page, so give it a look and make an offer. Meanwhile, here are a few of my recent pickups. Besides some recent Topps Twins autograph cards and a slew of 90’s and early 2000’s Twins inserts and parallels, I was able to beef up my GU/AU/plates/uncirculated collection:


clockwise, from top left: 2012 Topps Retired Numbers #RN-RC Rod Carew (manu-patch); 2003 Topps Chrome Red Backs Relics #RBCR-TKH Torii Hunter (jersey); 2011 Topps Pro Debut Solo Signature #SSA-DBR David Bromberg (auto); 2008 Upper Deck X Signatures #BB Brian Bass (auto)

Trading lately has been pretty much on The Bench. I’ve found a number of traders with which to deal for Twins cards:


clockwise, from top left: 2002 Donruss Playoff Piece of the Game #POG-17 Cristian Guzman (jersey); 2005 Donruss Zenith Z-Jersey Prime #ZB-22 Shannon Stewart [130/150] (jersey); 2005 Fleer Showcase Wave of the Future Red #WF-JS Johan Santana [251/610] (jersey); 2005 Fleer Platinum Lumberjacks #LJ-JJ Jacque Jones (bat)

Look for card updates a little more often now…

Spookymilk Play With The Prose — Playoff Challenge #2: One Month To Live

Round 2 of the Play with the Prose playoffs — okay, I’ll admit it: I was a little peeved about advancing out of round 1. It’s not like I phoned it in or anything, but last week and this week have been busy, and I wouldn’t have been too heartbroken to have had my season end. Still, I’m still in it, so the new challenge was to write about someone knowing they have one month to live, in 500 words or fewer.

Hal noticed the large foldout tucked into a family history book from the recently discovered cache of his late, great uncle’s memorabilia. All the intricate writing and curiously connecting lineages of the family tree drawn upon it absolutely fascinated him. Tracing various lines with his finger, he located his Uncle Ted, where Ted’s remarriage a month ago was duly recorded…and yet, this book had been in storage for at least four years. Hal noticed other recent family events were also noted with their dates as well. Looking closer, he began to identify dates in the future, some as far as 2080. How could that be? And then he froze at an item in his own small rectangle:

Harlan Joseph MILLER
DOD 10-5-2012

His own death, barely one month away! Hal quickly refolded the page like it was about to burst into flames, and put it back on the shelf.

For the next four weeks as Hal tried to go about his life as a HS sophomore, when he thought about the prophetic missive he found himself alternating between an icy chill down his back and uneasily trying to dismiss it. He never told anyone – how could he? He wasn’t sure he believed it himself.

On that fateful day, Hal thought about saying something on his Facebook page, but couldn’t see how he could and not have it look like a suicide note. Throughout the day he kept picturing himself in bus crashes, falling down stairs, ingesting spoiled cafeteria food (which it was most days), even seeing Ms. Tingle naked and subsequently having a heart attack. Still, he returned home from school just as alive as ever.

That night he gave his parents each a hug and went to bed. He lay awake a long time, wondering how it would feel dying in his sleep, which of course kept him awake. He put his headphones on and found a good station with some quiet music playing…and came suddenly awake at three in the morning. Hal threw off his headphones, got up, and walked over to the storage room and lifted down the box containing the family history book. He carried it back to his bedroom, where he carefully unfolded the large page under his desk lamp. There is was, just as he’d remembered it. This time, though, he scrutinized the area around his name closer.

Married 6-6-2018

There was a wife, kids, grand kids – his line continues! After spending over an hour tracing different lines and studying the foldout further, Hal came to a conclusion: he’d found more than one name misspelled and other minor discrepancies – his death date was a typo. Hal sat back in his chair, a heavy weight lifted off his chest. He refolded the page, flipped off the desk lap, and climbed back into bed. The last thought he had before falling back asleep was, “I need to check Facebook and find out who Carly Lynn Fassbender is!”

So…what happens now? RESULTS

The judges’ comments:
K: I rather enjoyed the fact that I finished with a happy ending this week. I always like that, actually, to cleanse my palate after the ball-kicking depression everyone else puts me through. The story is told in too unexciting a way – I think there was potential to show us some close calls with death before the narrator finds out he was all wrong – but I like where the story took me in the end. The theme was a bit of a cheat, but for me, it was fine. BRONZE

P: This sort of feels like cheating. It’s also a little weird to have Facebook be such an integral part of the story (being referenced often). I really like the idea of a person finding a family tree book with prophetic information in it, but the fact that it’s riddled with typos sort of ruins it for me. BRONZE

  • My work with genealogy gave me my initial idea for this one. And my work with family tree documents riddled with typos (like my own, no doubt) led to the final direction.
  • Not a whole lot of body to this one, but what do you want with 500 words?

Time to do some exploring now for some well-deserved rest!

Thanks again to spooky and Nibbish for your fine adjudicating, and to all the other participants, and best of luck in the finals!

Spookymilk Play With The Prose — Playoff Challenge #1: Small Decision/Huge Consequences

Round 1 of the Play with the Prose playoffs, for which I qualified as one of the top six in the regular season — the challenge is to write a 500-word or fewer work in which a seemingly small decision results in huge consequences later on.

Sept. 23, 1999
Mars loomed large in front of the Mars Climate Orbiter as it sped towards its rendezvous. After gliding through space for 286 days, MCO had finally reached the critical point in its journey where the orbit insertion burn would occur. Unfortunately, the orbiter was 100 kilometers closer to Mars that it should have been, and its struggling engines overheated in the Martian atmosphere. Instead of slowing into an ever-decreasing parabolic orbit, it plowed across the thin atmosphere and escaped Mars’ gravity to be lost for good.

Jan. 13, 1997
Jeff Kehler, a software engineer with Lockheed Martin, relaxed in his Colorado home, a remote in his hand. He had scrolled through most of the cable channels when he stumbled upon a rerun of the first episode of Cosmos. He was pretty sure he hadn’t seen it since it first ran back when he was in college, so he settled down for a little guilty pleasure. When the episode ended, it was followed immediately by the second episode, and Jeff realized that it was a Cosmos marathon! After the seventh episode, Jeff changed and got into bed, and while he knew he had final integration testing tomorrow, he also knew that his VCR wasn’t working, so he continued to stay awake, finally shutting off the TV after the last episode, at almost 4AM.

Sept. 27, 1999
While internal mission analysis had already begun, an external “MCO Failure Board” was formally commissioned. When a $125 million project fails, fingers need to be pointed. The folks at JPL in Pasadena were convinced it was the navigation software from Lockheed Martin, while the Lockheed Martin engineers in Colorado were sure it was the operations of the JPL scientists that caused the error.

Jan. 14, 1997
Jeff Kehler snapped awake in his chair in the test lab, the integration testing already well underway. He quickly tried to remember at what point he was at when he fell asleep, but could not recall for sure. In any case, the other testers were at lunch, and with a couple quick calculations he could tell that the simulation was already showing a noticeable discrepancy, no doubt due to his failure to apply the expected mid-mission flight corrections. After waffling a bit, he quickly overrode test protocols and made a manual course correction before the others returned. He then decided he’d better pause the simulation to get some coffee. The remainder of the day’s simulation completed within test tolerances.

Nov. 10, 1999
MCO Failure Board released their phase 1 report describing the probable cause of the mission failure. It was determined that a systemic failure of communication between NASA’s JPL and Lockheed Martin, specifically the use of metric versus English measuring systems, was the root cause. Deeper in the report it faulted the integration testing for failing to identify the discrepancy prior to launch. What the report failed to ultimately uncover, though, was that the blame for the huge setback to the exploration of Mars fell directly upon the late Carl Sagan.

Will there be a “next week” or not? RESULTS

The judges’ comments:
K: I love this one all over. Yes, it’s a gimmicky structure that totally works as a storytelling device and yes, the science is interesting, but there’s more than that. This is a human story about an eager character with very important shortcomings, and how those flaws affect his life and career. So many sci-fi writers forget to ask their readers to connect with a character or with a real story; this writer – and we all know who it is – NEVER forgets to do that. GOLD

P: Heh, funny. I like the back and forth narration of this story, and the joke at the end is definitely good. The perils of staying up well past one’s supposed bedtime come through time and again, though rarely with such catastrophic results. This may be the best pure example of the challenge. BRONZE

  • I meant to preface this with Based on a true story, but forgot. For the most part, the portions not focused on Jeff are true.
  • I didn’t get this finished until late as it was. I didn’t have anything come to mind otherwise, and this one really sounds a bit clinical and documentary-like. The thought that Carl Sagan could be blamed for setting back space exploration though tickled me a bit. I really need to rewatch Cosmos sometime, though.
  • I intentionally interleaved the story because, really, this thing didn’t have anything else unusual going on with it.

I seriously did not expect to be moving on after this one, and now I have a busy week to have to work out a story for the semi-final round…wish me luck.