Brain Cookies

Screenshot 2018-11-07 12.55.17That’s right, loyal Brain Cookieteers, I wrote a book. A whole one. All by myself! And you can buy it!

Red Darkling is a character I created for “Code Red,” my contribution to the Circuits & Slippers anthology. She wouldn’t let me go with telling just one of her adventures, though. Soon I had a loose series of five stories about her and a growing number of supporting cast members: the irresistibly sleazy Woodman, Bonk the glitchy cat, a bartender named Chuck.

I finally realized Red wasn’t going to shut up until I shared everything she wanted me to share. So, I stitched the original stories together, figured out a plot, added a bunch more adventures, repealed and replaced half the plot, edited the crap out of it, and got the manuscript done.

All I needed then was to beg a phenomenal artist to do the cover, figure out Amazon’s publishing platform, smash the manuscript into the right format, agonize over arcane details like tag words, and click “publish.”

I think you’ll like the result.

RED DARKLING is only $2.99 in the Kindle store. Don’t worry if you don’t have a Kindle–you can download a free reader app for your smartphone or tablet. Or, you can wait a month or so for the paperback version to come out.

I can’t wait to hear what you think, so leave me a review! Put it on Amazon if you really want to get on my good side, and not end up skinned alive by rabid fazzers in my next book.

Only kidding.

Maybe.

Oh, you can also drop by my author page on Facebook, or hit me up on Twitter @la_guettler.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

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If you’re like me, you’re a bit on the warped side. Strange. Unusual. Out of the ordinary. Weird.

It’s all right. Own it. Nothing to be ashamed of. Still with me? Shall we continue? Okay.

Without further ado, I present to you, my fellow Weirdos, the short story anthology you didn’t know you were missing:

Weirder Tales: An Omnibus of Odd Ditties

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Gorgeous cover art by Jason Kemp of Tenkara Studios. 

 

Weirder Tales contains a fresh set of bizarre tales from the WPaD collective, including two of my own:

  • The Hole: A young girl discovers a hole in her closet. But…a hole to where?
  • Good Times: A man cleaning out his father’s garage finds a new project he just can’t put down.

Plus these from the other writers, poets, and deviants:

  • People who eat Tide Pods turn into detergent-craving zombies
  • A gift of a fishing bobber turns deadly
  • A woman lost in the desert makes friends with an ancient creature
  • A grieving father consults a psychic to solve his daughter’s murder
  • Two friends embark on a fantastic adventure during a game of Dungeons and Dragons
  • A call for help from an abandoned house leads a man to his doom
  • Strange explosions cause terror and speculation about the end of the world
  • A meteor falls from the sky, leading a woman on a surreal journey
  • A young married couple experience a serious glitch in their relationship

All this and more! Live, on Kindle! Just $2.99! Screaming deal! Exclamation point!

Other WPaD anthologies include:

Best of all, the proceeds go to Multiple Sclerosis charities.

If you like any of these, leave a review! Even a few words help indie authors make the most of the algorithms.

Happy Reading, Weirdos!

Poultry PopPsy

Chickens aren’t stupid. They live in constantly quizzical state and notice everything. But here’s the thing: their brain is only about the size of a thumbnail. This limits their thinkiness, to say the least. A relief, really. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable living in such close proximity to tiny dinosaurs that employ logic and complex problem-solving skills. I don’t even know Chris Pratt, which is disappointing on several levels.

But I digress.

Chickens seem to rely on instinct and habit to make what few decisions life presents them. Take, for example, where they choose to lay an egg. I have seven chickens, six of which lay (the seventh, sweet Dave, has gone dry and plump). Those six chickens have five laying boxes from which to choose.

They all lay in the same box.

As you might imagine, this can cause a traffic back-up. Imagine a line of chickens, legs crossed, hopping from foot to foot, waiting for the current occupant to finish brewing up her daily egg. This is not a wholly inaccurate description.

Now, another animal—say, one with a brain even slightly larger than a thumbnail—might recognize this situation as unnecessarily problematic and respond by picking any of the other available boxes. Not chickens.

Chicken experts claim you can influence chickens’ laying geography by using decoy eggs. Usually this is done to discourage a chicken who’s developed a penchant for a more “au naturel” laying experience: under the deck, maybe, or in the food trough. A decoy egg, such as a terracotta replica or even a simple golf ball, can show a wayward layer the proper place to conduct her business.

Why does this work? Perhaps it stimulates the brooding instinct. “Oh look,” the chicken says to herself, “an orphan! I must snuggle it with my butt fluff,” and so the needful is accomplished. But this is mere speculation on my part. If anyone can fathom the psychology of this phenomenon, it’s the chicken herself. I must not have the right kind of close, trusting relationship with my chickens because they have not shared the secret with me. I am mildly hurt by this, until I remember that they are chickens and incapable of human speech.

I resigned myself to a nonDoolittlean fate and bought two terracotta eggs to test the phenomenon for myself. The eggs cost $5: a reasonable investment to satisfy my curiosity. I slipped one egg into each of two ignored laying boxes and retreated to the house, whistling innocently so the chickens would not suspect my subterfuge.

The next day, I discovered real eggs alongside the decoys in both baited boxes. Surprisingly, there were no eggs in the previously popular box. I collected the real eggs and moved the decoys to different boxes. Same result the next day: real eggs laid alongside the decoys and nowhere else.

Aha! The trick works: decoy eggs influence laying patterns. But the original problem—the traffic jam—isn’t really solved. They’re still waiting in line to lay. The only thing that’s changed is how they pick which box to wait for. To untangle the traffic jam, I’d have to try a decoy in each box.

But really, $5 was my limit.

 

I love dialogue.

There, I’ve said it. I’d say it again if I had to.

Dialogue is my favorite thing to read, and it is my favorite thing to write. But it has to be good dialogue.

Good dialogue pushes the story forward. It elevates characters off the page and into the 3D world. Good dialogue

The collage artist Lou Beach doesn’t write good dialogue. He writes amazing dialogue. He pares away all the nonsense–including those tiresome he saids and she saids. It’s startling in its immediacy. I think that’s because, in real life conversations, no one uses them.

(Can you imagine? Try it at home. Report the results in the comments.)

Anyway, Lou’s dialogue inspired me to write this short piece. It first appeared on Wicked Women in Words.

Oh, and seriously, check out Lou Beach Art on Facebook.

 

Deus 10

“Did you get the case of water that was under the cart?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool, thanks. I always forget the stuff under the cart.”

“I know. That’s why I got it.”

“Heh, yeah. Jeez, will you look at this guy? Blocking the whole lane. Just park in the lot, you idiot!”

“You were out late last night.”

“Was I?”

“I mean, 11:30 is pretty late for a couple drinks with the guys from the office. Don’t you think?”

“I dunno. Maybe, I guess? I wasn’t watching the clock.”

“Mmmhmm. What were you watching?”

“What?”

“You weren’t watching the clock, so what were you watching?”

“Do we need to pick up some dog food, or is there enough to last until I can get to PetSmart?”

“Don’t change the subject.”

“I’m not! I’m just asking so I know if I need to turn on Taylor or go straight home.”

“So what were you watching, Randy?”

“I’m just going home.”

“Randy, answer the question.”

“What question?”

“What. Were. You. Watching.”

“Uh, the game was on.”

“What game? Who was playing? Who won?”

“Look, we weren’t really watching it, it was just on, you know? It’s a bar.”

“What’s the name of the bar?”

“Um . . .”

“You don’t know the name of the bar?”

“Do you want anything from Starbucks?”

“There was no bar, was there?”

“You’re crazy. I’m getting a mocha.”

“You were with Sarah again.”

“What!?”

“We have to talk about this.”

“There’s nothing to talk about. Look, do you want Starbucks or no?”

“Are you still fucking my sister?”

“So that’s no Starbucks for you?”

“Shut the fuck up about fucking Starbucks! You can’t keep changing the subject and pretending nothing’s wrong. We’re going to have to deal with this . . . this situation. God, it’s like you think if you put it off long enough, something will happen to make me forget the last six months. Well guess what, Randy? You can’t avoid this. You can’t—”

 

Motor Vehicle Accident: Preliminary Report

Date/Time:                        2/18/18    11:32 am

Officer:                               Stanley Tarker, HHPD #390TS

Location:                            SE corner Clark St & 145th Ave

Description:                      Two vehicles:

(1)   1999 Honda Civic (white), lic HG8 874E

(2)   2012 Chevy Silverado (black), lic DEUS 10

Two fatalities on scene, one injured taken by bus to Mercy Gen

Cause unknown pending further investigation

Thornton Wilder’s Wet Dream

My small town doesn’t have a lot of things. It doesn’t have a mall. There’s no movie theater. We have one restaurant and no bars of any kind. We don’t even have a Walmart.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter. Here, people find their own entertainment. Here, people find their own small pleasures. The mild isolation of a small town tends to select out the outliers, homogenize the flavors, distill the culture. You won’t find a Thai restaurant or a yoga studio. But you will find the following:

• High school basketball. It’s on the radio. It’s the topic of conversation everywhere you go. When there’s a home game, you can tell when it’s over by the steady stream of cars driving through our otherwise sleepy town. Often, you can tell who won by how much the cars are honking.

• Pick-up trucks. Almost all the basketball fan honkers drive these. I think there was a memo, because they’re all big tan Chevys.

• The Chicago Cubs. Not many Sox fans around here. Suits me just fine.

• Tractors. The older the better. You are not legally allowed to have a community event that does not involve a dozen 94-year-old farmers on their lovingly restored International Harvesters, Allis Chalmers, New Hollands, and Massey Fergusons. (Oddly, John Deere is a rarity.) In the 4th of July parade, they are a source of Tootsie Rolls and Jolly Ranchers. At the Winter Festival, they glitter with lights.

• Golf carts, ATVs, and other small motor vehicles. Small town cruise vehicles of choice. Excellent way to tootle around town so everyone can see you.

• Fundraising dinners. Head on over to the American Legion Hall on a random Saturday night, and you’re likely to come across someone selling food for some cause. It can be anything from pork chop sandwiches to kumla* dinners. Auction optional but recommended.

• Donald Trump. No comment.

• FFA. This is a farm town. The Future Farmers of America organization is far more active than I ever dreamed it could be. My daughter’s middle school classmates had livestock entered in the county fair, for goodness sakes. I just ordered a flat of strawberries that I have no idea how I’ll use before they go bad.

• Dogs. Everyone has a dog or two. Doesn’t really matter what kind: yappy mopheads are as acceptable as terrifying hellbeasts. And you must walk it as often as possible.

• Cheap beer. I’m talking Budweiser, Coors, Miller. Women drink Lite varieties of these.

• Chatting over a fence. Often, but not always, a literal fence. Pro tip: don’t start a conversation with your neighbor unless you have at least a half an hour free and your house has been vacuumed in the last fortnight. Because you will talk that long, and you will invite them in to see the new bathroom/cat/wallpaper.

This is based on my own limited experience over the last seven months. Some of these are probably common to many small towns; some, like the kumla, are almost certainly more rare. I imagine that visiting another small town would feel both comfortably familiar and excitingly different.

“Oh look, honey, there’s a crawfish breakfast fundraiser at the Moose Lodge!”

kumlaplate

* Kumla is a traditional Norwegian potato dumpling cooked in ham juice and served with the ham, applesauce, and, for some reason, butter. I’d never heard of it before moving here, but that’s probably because I’m not Norwegian. Lots of folks around here are, though—there’s even a town called Norway just southwest of here.

Originally published at The Preterit Review

Interview with Thaddeus “Taddy” Skruggs and Mabel Torgeson, last living survivors of the Bowling Green Massacre. Recorded on the event’s 100th Anniversary by The Stuffington Post’s lead historian, Imelda T. Petrovavich.

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TSP: Do you remember where you were on November 31, 1916?

Skruggs: Do I remember? Shoot, acourse I remember. Don’t think I’ll ever forget that day. It were cloudy, lookin like mebbe some snow comin in—

Torgeson: Naw, Taddy, it weren’t cloudy a’tall. The sun was out, I remember on account of my cousin Nellie’s hootin an hollerin bout her complexion for the Andersons’ Christmas shindig. As if she were really all that and a bag of hammers to begin with. [laughter]

Skruggs: Eh, Mabel, yer crazy. Twere goin to snow n you know it.

TSP: Mr. Skruggs, you remember it cloudy. Why was that significant?

Skruggs: Oh, my ol hound dog, Wilbur, was actin up like he always did when weather was acomin. I lost him that day, Wilbur.

TSP: In the massacre?

Skruggs: Naw, he run off like the dickens after Trudy Simmons’ cat that mornin. Never did see him agin. Trudy never got her cat back neither. Good ol Wilbur.

TSP: I see. Ms. Torgeson—

Torgeson: You can call me Mabel, honey.

TSP: Okay, Mabel then. Where were you when you first realized something unusual was happening?

Torgeson: Well I’ll tell you. I was down in the root cellar, gettin a jar of watermelon rind pickles for mama. She was expectin my brother Jessop then, and couldn’t get enougha them pickles. Anyway, I heard this noise, like the mules had got outta the barn agin and were tearin up the sileage.

TSP: Did you ever discover the source of that noise?

Torgeson: It was those blasted mules, all right. They starved that winter on account of eating all that sileage. Durn fools, mules are.

TSP: Ah. Mr. Skruggs, I understand you were near the epicenter of the massacre. Can you tell us what that was like?

Skruggs: I don’t think no one can tell what that were like. [rustling sounds]

TSP:  Mr. Skruggs, I can’t let you smoke that in here.

Skruggs: Shoot, guess I’ll haveta do this sober then.

Torgeson: [laughter] There’s a firs time for everythin, Taddy!

TSP: Thank you, Mr. Skruggs, I appreciate your cooperation.

Skruggs: What was the question agin?

TSP: Can you describe the scene at the heart of the massacre?

Skruggs: Twas cloudy, as I said, an me an my buddy Dale was lookin at the new roller skates in the winda a Adcock’s General Store. Real sad what happeneda Dale. Arm ripped off like the wing of a fly.

TSP: That must have been hard to see.

Skruggs: Naw, I wasn’t there for that. He was workin the thresher for his ol man bout six years later. Dangerous work, farmin.

TSP: Ms. Torg—Mabel, did you lose any loved ones in the massacre?

Torgeson: Nah, I didn’t know nobody was lost. Wilma Schneider, she married that fancy fella with the jalopy and moved to Omaha, but that’s not really lost, is it? [laughter]

TSP: Given the current political climate, what lessons would you like our audience to take away from your experiences 100 years ago?

Torgeson: Mules are durn fools and need lockin up iffn you don’t want to be dinin on mule steaks in January.

Skruggs: You know, Miss Petrawhatsit, you are right purty. You could be one a’dem underwear models in the Sears Roebuck catalog. You ever thought about doin that insteada this interviewin?

TSP: Thank you both so much for an enlightening conversation.

Special report from The Preterit Review’s sister publication, The Stuffington Post

Eggs

Consider the egg. Specifically, the chicken egg. A humble item: staple of bakeries, cornerstone of brunches, favorite projectile of delinquents.

I never really thought much about eggs before becoming a chicken owner. Now, more often than not, my days revolve around eggs.

If you’ve been following these dispatches, you know that I have four chickens: Jimmy, Delta, Bob, and Dave. Three of them lay an average of one egg a day, for about a dozen eggs every four days. (Dave’s productivity has been below expectations, i.e. nonexistent.)

Eggs are common. But here’s the thing: eggs are amazing.

Imagine the resources that go into making an egg. A chicken generates a yolk, a white, and a shell that could become a chick if not or its lack of a sperm cell. This virtually complete reproductive package is a substantial portion of the hen’s body size and weight. She essentially grows and births a baby.

Every.

Single.

Day.

I can barely deal with the fallout of generating a single egg cell once a month.

And the eggs are DRY. Well, I did read that there is some fluid that eases the egg’s passing through the cloaca, but it dries almost instantly.

I try not to think about this too much.

The entire process of laying an egg is adorable. When a chicken is ready to lay, she’ll find a dark, private place and huddle there quietly. Even Bob, who never shuts up, is quiet when she’s laying. You might hear some shuffling around, and maybe even hear the egg hit the floor, but that’s it. Of course, once the egg is out, they raise holy ruckus. Pride? Pain? It would take someone fluent in chickenese to say for sure.

Another surprising thing is that laying isn’t the same for every chicken. My three layers all have their own routines. Jimmy goes in, lays, and is done. Delta takes a long time to work up to it. She’ll go in, sit, go out, go back in, go back out, like a woman pacing during labor. Bob doesn’t mess around. She is in and out in record time—I assume because she’s got lots of talking to get back to.

And their eggs are all different. I can tell which chicken laid which egg. Jimmy’s are medium brown and relatively large, nicely shaped, smooth. Delta makes enormous eggs with gorgeous deep golden brown shells that fill my palm. Bob’s haste shows. Her eggs are long and skinny, with shells that unfailingly have an odd, wrinkled blemish on the pointy end.

There’s also a surprising amount of delight in finding an egg. Every day is Easter. The delight is not dampened by the expectation of the egg, or the limited places to look. Delight is more intense when the egg is found still warm.

I find myself seeking that egg thrill. I frequently peek outside to track the chickens’ movements in the coop. If I only see three outside, I know there’s one “in the box.”* I make excuses to go out to the coop half a dozen times a day, just to see if there’s an egg to collect. I feel guilty disturbing a laying hen in even the slightest ways, like opening the garage door or speaking too loudly when outside.

If one of the chickens skips a day, I worry. Is it too cold? Is she sick? Did I interrupt her too many times? Is she getting enough light, water, food? Is she angling for dental?

One thing is certain: Dave’s unsatisfactory performance will be brought up in her quarterly review, and continued low productivity will be reflected in her compensation package.

*The phrase “in the box” makes me inordinately happy. I can’t help paraphrasing Carr in Cool Hand Luke: “Any chicken caught without an egg spends a night in the box.”

Originally published at The Preterit Review

Yesterday’s Cookies

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