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Mourning’s Light January 8, 2013

Posted by Rob Diaz in Edited, Fiction, General Fiction, Real Life.
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I posted a new story over on my new site: Mourning’s Light. It is a response to a Today’s Author writing prompt and is a bit of a departure from my normal style. Check it out!

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Interviews and Features to Start 2013 January 2, 2013

Posted by Rob Diaz in Edited, Real Life.
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In the past two days, I’ve been interviewed and have had a couple of blog posts I wrote in 2012 included in a Best Blog Posts article.

I have posted about this on the new site, but I wanted to make sure to put it here, too.

I am hoping this creative energy will continue to flow through all of 2013!

My New Writing Gig December 29, 2012

Posted by Rob Diaz in Edited, Real Life.
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I posted a new post over on my new site: My New Writing Gig. Check it out!

My Christmas Present to Me December 25, 2012

Posted by Rob Diaz in Edited, Real Life.
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I have long wanted to do this but this year the coupon codes and discounts added up to a “wow, you would be dumb not to do this right now” moment. So, I bought my own domain.

http://www.robdiaz2.com

I have copied everything from Thirteenth Dimension as well as everything from Thirteen Exits over to the new site. This means I have one less blog to maintain and it also means (I hope) that I will be making more of an effort to update on a regular basis.

I hope everyone who is following me here will link over and follow me on the new site as well. For the first few weeks I will cross post everything. But soon I will only update the new blog.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this or thoughts about the new site! I think this is exciting!

Not Amused by My Muse January 10, 2012

Posted by Rob Diaz in Biographical, Real Life, Unedited.
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I want to take my muse out back and shoot the freaking beast.

Wait, wait… Let me take a step back and explain my frustration.

I have paper and pens with me nearly all the time. Why is it that the best ideas I get come at the few times where I either don’t have the paper and pen or when it is just not feasible for me to write anything down? It doesn’t matter what the idea might be. Whether it’s a song or a poem or a story or a limerick, the ideas come when I simply cannot do anything about them.

It has always been this way. When I was younger and writing a lot of the time—in other words, before I got a real job—my muse was always around, playfully throwing things my way at the most inopportune times: while standing at attention in the middle of a football field awaiting the start of a marching band competition, on stage during commencement speeches, during final exams, while writing down a customer’s order when I worked at the restaurant, during my driving test or while being put under sedation for surgery (for example). When I stopped being so receptive (due to the aforementioned “real job”), my muse turned to giving me the silent treatment much of the time and largely that has continued even now that I’m trying to write regularly again. I sit down with a blank page and wait for the wonderful flow of words to begin, but my muse remains silent and hidden. I’ve begged, pleaded, offered to buy it fancy, expensive coffees… but the only response I get is a huff and a sigh and an angry comment:

Oh, you want me to be available on your schedule? Well, that’s just not how I work, buddy!

But recently things have changed a little. I’ve once again started to hear the voices. No, not THOSE voices. THOSE voices have always been there, haunting me, taunting me, telling me to… well, ahem… I digress.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Recently my muse has begun speaking to me again. Once again, though, it is proving to be sadistic and mean. The ideas that come arrive in the middle of the priest’s homily, during my speeches and presentations at trade shows (again, for that silly “real job”) or while driving down the highway. Today there was the idea for the Great American Novel, which appeared to me in a vision while I stood in the middle of the shower at the YMCA surrounded by other men in various states of attire or cleanliness. (Shudder.) Yes, thanks, oh malicious muse. That was convenient. Of course, the idea disappeared by the time I was dressed and near a pen and paper, perhaps chased away by the brightness of the white, shiny pages, perhaps taken away by a spiteful and bitter muse.

At times I’ve been angry about the way this has worked and at other times I’m more at ease with it. At the end of the day, do I want writing to be “easy”?  Or do I want it to be work?  I kind of want it to be both, actually—good ideas that, with solid work, become great.  Looking back, the stories that have worked the best for me were the ones where I remembered the vague whispers that came my way during trips to the DMV or dentist appointments. If the idea has “stuck”, lingering in the back of my mind and remaining memorable for however long it takes me to get to the business of writing it down, that is an idea worth exploring further.  The other ideas, trudged from my own beleaguered, sieve-like brain, usually just lay splattered across the page lurking and glaring menacingly at me, snickering and howling with glee at my terrified glances.

So now I sit here, with time to write, a desire to write and the means to write. A few ideas have come to me in the form of a few tiny little nuggets… but nothing real clear has formed. When I ask my muse how to make these little gems work, the response from the evil beast is:

Hey, I’m just the idea guy. It’s up to you to make the 600 magical, talking, radioactive zebras and the 5000 hungry, lactose-intolerant lions play together nicely as they try to save the world from within a 500 square foot cage made of piano wire and duct tape.

This is followed by a few moments of diabolical laughter and then my friendly neighborhood muse is gone, waiting for the right moment to pounce on my unsuspecting psyche, most likely the next time I’m sitting in the little room at LabCorp for a blood test or when I’m called for Jury Duty.

Yeah, that sounds like as good a time as any.

Just One of the Girls December 29, 2011

Posted by Rob Diaz in Biographical, Edited, Real Life.
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So, I’ve long held that despite being male, I am just one of the girls. Lacking any real evidence of this, though, I’ve been forced to use more anecdotal facts to try to persuade the non-believers among my various acquaintances that this is, in fact, true. However, it seems that my distaste for monster trucks, my lack of interest in barbecuing and the unnatural-to-some number of female friends I’ve had throughout my life (historically, about 90% of my friends have been female) is not really a confirmation of my membership in the Just-One-of-the-Girls Club of America .

The fact that some kind soul has subscribed me to Redbook magazine, Working Mother magazine and has also gotten me a brand new exclusive subscription to Teen Vogue magazine (complete with a nice, big For Girls Only notice on the invitation) is also not strong enough evidence.

Well, now I have real proof.

As evidence that I am, in fact, just one of the girls, I present the Gender Analyzer for blogs. The Gender Analyzer is meant to help you, the reader of any given blog, to determine the gender of the author of the blog. I do not know the mechanism it uses, but I am assuming that a lot of science and psychology have gone into figuring out what words men use and what words women use when writing.

And science, of course, cannot be argued with, especially when it is coupled with psychology.  So, here we go:

The Theory

I, Rob, a male, am nonetheless just one of the girls

The Science

I have several blogs. Here are the results when I expand them to show all posts (so the analyzer can parse everything on the site and not just the latest thirteen posts) and then run them through the Gender Analyzer:

  • Thirteenth Dimension (this blog) when analyzed, comes up as likely being written by a woman (71% score).
  • Percival’s Place, when analyzed, comes up as being likely to have been written by a man (66% score).
  • Thirteen Exits, my travel blog, comes up as likely being written by a woman (68% score)
  • Thirteen Harvests, my gardening blog, is, apparently, written by a woman(70% score).So, three of my four blogs, when read in their entirety, appear to be written by a woman.

    The Psychology

    I suppose I’m conflicted by this. At least sort of. I mean, I’ve always just been one of the girls and I have no problem with that at all… but at the same time, having some computer program give me cold, hard scientific evidence that I may not be a real man feels like it changes things. I mean, seriously – I do like the power tools and lawn equipment that “real men” like (assuming that real men are into rechargeable, battery-powered lawn mowers and weed-whackers) so where does this computer program get off telling me I may not be a man?

    All of this leaves me wondering if I should just officially adopt a single-name penname such as “Roberta,” which was the name all the women in my wife’s all-female dorm at college called me, or if I just need to put some more cursing, fighting and pyrotechnics into my writing, just to prove that I am, in fact, a man.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that I can’t argue with science and this is clearly science. I also know that anything found on the internet must be a true and accurate portrayal of the universe, so clearly this proves that I am, truly, just one of the girls.

The Red Book in an Alternate Dimension September 21, 2011

Posted by Rob Diaz in General Fiction, Publications, Real Life.
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Jodi Cleghorn and Dale Challener Roe have thrown down the gauntlet and challenged me to think about my story, “Out of the Darkness”, and what character I might wish I’d have written about if I could do it all again. Not being one to back down from a challenge, and especially not being someone who wants to stop the ball from rolling on this sort of thing, here are my unscripted and written-way-too-late-at-night thoughts on the subject.

As background, The Red Book is the first in the Chinese Whisperings anthologies.  It has been available as an eBook for almost two years and is coming out in paperback form on October 11, 2011.  The book was co-written by ten authors from around the world, many of whom have never met or spoken outside of social media and email.  The book was written in a one-after-the-other process where one author would write their story, the next author would choose a secondary character from the prior story and write that character’s story, and so on… providing a unique and interesting exploration of the lives of ten distinct-but-related characters. None of us knew what we were getting from the prior author until we got it and then had to choose our character.

I was the eighth author in the book.  I was also one of the last authors added to the mix, a replacement player of sorts when someone else couldn’t go.  That meant I had a lot of insight into where the characters had gone and I also had a lot of big footsteps to follow in terms of keeping the story writing at a high quality. Being a computer (software) geek, I built a spreadsheet detailing every major and minor character that appears in every single story before mine, along with details about them and what we knew about them. I had the honor of following Jasmine Gallant in the writing process and her terrific story, “Not My Name” had plenty of characters from which I could choose.  Specifically, (as I refer to my spreadsheet) I had seven choices:

  • Ronnie
  • Professor Jacobs
  • Frankie
  • the short female cop with bushy hair
  • the tall cop
  • Susie
  • Verity

If you read my thoughts on writing “Out of the Darkness”, you’ll recall that I started thirteen separate stories as I wrote (the thirteenth being what became “Out of the Darkness”). Three of them focused on the short female cop with bushy hair. One was related to the tall cop. One was about Frankie. All the rest were about Susie.  Ultimately, I chose to write about Susie, a character who actually appears in two stories before mine, Paul Servini’s “Discovery” and, of course, Jasmine’s “Not My Name”.  In these stories we learn about where Susie ends up and about one of her stops along the way.  But we don’t know how she got on this path in the first place.  In “Not My Name”, we see Susie through the eyes of Sam as she comments about how tired he appears. It was Sam’s thought, “You’d look tired too if you were me,” which made me choose to write about Susie because Sam’s reaction made me wonder why he assumed Susie was not as tired and not struggling as much as he was. I saw an opportunity to look at how we should not just assume we understand what someone is going through, whether they are happy or sad or look tired or energetic.

But what if I could do it again?

If I could do it again and was still required to choose a character from “Not My Name”, I’d write about Verity.

Verity appeared in Dale Challener Roe’s “Not Myself” and is simply a captivating character. I like how she was caring and compassionate—to me she was caring and compassionate almost to a fault.  I like her outlook on life and how she seems to look for the positives even in bad situations.  At least that’s how I imagined her.  She stayed strong and steady, even as others around her felt their world crumbling.  The description of her sigh in “Not Myself” intrigued me. Essentially, Verity just feels like a character who has a lot of positive stories to tell…and if I had another shot I think I might help her story be told.

If I could choose any character in any story, I’d choose the veggie delivery boy who appears in Jodi Cleghorn’s “Mercurial”.  Why? Well, the vegetarian in me feels there are not enough stories about vegetables and the people who love them.  And frankly, I think it would be a heck of a compelling read.

“We should run away together,” said the veggie delivery boy.

“No, no, we mustn’t,” sighed the short female cop with bushy hair. “Mama would be so disappointed.”

“Well…” said the veggie delivery boy as he bent down on one knee, “if we cant-eloupe, then how about we get married?”

“I’m not real sure that’s a good idea,” she replied, scratching at her head.  “I think my cats don’t really like you all that much. But, don’t despair, we all like your veggies.”

Ahem.  Well, I did warn you that I’m writing this way-too-late-at-night.  I’m sure the story would be more compelling if I were writing this in the morning.

Anyway, I’m pleased to have chosen Susie Lim as the focal point of “Out of the Darkness”.  There are things I’d change about the story, things I’d do differently, things I’d add or remove.  But all-in-all, I’m glad I picked her and had a chance to get to know her and the people around her. You can read an excerpt from “Out of the Darkness” as well as read some behind-the-scenes commentary, as well as story excerpts and commentaries from the other authors in the anthology by clicking over to the post on the Chinese Whisperings website.

And I am tagging Paul Servini to talk about what he might do differently if he had another shot at “Discovery” for The Red Book.  Take it away, Paul!

 

Edit: You can read each author’s thoughts on hypothetically revisiting this project by following these links:

Annie Evett

Dale Challener Roe

Jodi Cleghorn

Paul Servini

And for an added bonus, read what Dan Powell might have written had he been involved with the project.

Nothing But Flowers, A Literary Mix-tape February 16, 2011

Posted by Rob Diaz in Edited, Publications, Real Life, Sci-fi/Fantasy.
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It has been my privilege and good fortune to be asked to be a part of a new anthology!

NothingButFlowerscoverFINAL

“Nothing But Flowers: tales of post apocalyptic love” is the second offering from Literary Mix Tapes (a quarterly crowd-sourced short fiction anthology inspired by music).

Inspired by the Talking Heads song of the same name, Nothing But Flowers explores the complexities and challenges of love in a post-apocalyptic landscape. From plague to fundamentalist governments, comets and war, from terra firma to outer space the people on these pages face up to what it means to love and be loved when you’ve lost everything.

My story, “Escape from Paradise”,provides the “comets” portion of the above blurb as it details the last-minute attempt to escape of the last outpost of humanity.

You can get information about this book and about the many, varied authors from around the world by checking out the Literary Mix Tapes website.  Starting on February 17, 2011 you should be able to purchase web-access to the stories or an eBook version (ePub, mobi or pdf format) as well as pre-order the paperback.

All proceeds from this anthology go to support the Grantham Flood Support fund, supporting the victims of the January 2011 flooding in wide areas of Queensland, Australia.

Thanks to all who have or will support this great and worthy cause.

As an update, you can now purchase the paperback version of this anthology from amazon.com. It is available here:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/098074461X

And the Winner Is… October 18, 2010

Posted by Rob Diaz in Edited, General Fiction, Publications, Real Life, Short Stories.
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The first thing I want to say is thanks to everyone who posted comments describing their worst travel experiences. I’m sorry that you all had such harrowing experiences, but I thank you for sharing them. I, personally, have had many bad experiences. One of them includes paint can lids flying out of the back of a truck while riding down Route 95 South in heavy traffic. Another is roofing shingles flinging off a pre-fabricated building that was being pulled by a big truck – this also occurred on Route 95 south.

Still another bad experience, and possibly the scariest (more…)

Launch of the Yin and Yang Books (Chinese Whisperings) October 10, 2010

Posted by Rob Diaz in Edited, General Fiction, Publications, Real Life, Short Stories.
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As many of you know, for the past eight months I have been involved with the second set of anthologies coming from the Chinese Whisperings brand. Last year’s debut anthology, The Red Book, was an exciting event consisting of 10 authors from around the world. It is a great book and has generated a lot of interest in the project. (You can read about The Red Book or buy it here!)

Today, the second Chinese Whisperings project launches!  Initially planned to be called “The Jade Book”, this follow-up anthology project was expanded to include 22 authors from around the globe and became two separate but interconnected anthologies known as The Yin Book and The Yang Book (or the combined The Yin and Yang Book). Again, you can learn about or buy these great anthologies right here!

The blurb for the two anthologies only tells a little of what happens in the books:

In the international terminal of a large European airport, Monday morning is about to get a whole lot worse. At 7.35am Pangaean Airlines, one of Europe’s major carriers, is put into receivership grounding all flights, stranding thousands of passengers and impounding tonnes of luggage. But all is not as appears on the surface and the sliding-doors moment of one woman deciding to abandon her suitcase will ricochet through the lives around her.

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Chinese Whisperings: The Red Book January 18, 2010

Posted by Rob Diaz in Edited, Publications, Real Life.
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Over the last half of 2009, I was participating in a new writing adventure called Chinese Whisperings.  The inaugural publication, “The Red Book” is now available for purchase in electronic formats.  Print editions will become available this spring.

Check it out on the Chinese Whisperings web site!

I am the author of the eighth story in this anthology.  Through the Writers link, you can read excerpts from each story as well as biographical information and “behind-the-scenes” musings from each author.

Enjoy!

What I’ve Been Reading January 3, 2009

Posted by Rob Diaz in Real Life.
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Since I’ve been pretty much tied to my spot on the couch or chair for the past week as sitting has hurt my back marginally less than anything else has, I’ve been able to read a few books.  I figured I would share my impressions with you about these books in case you might wish to borrow and/or obtain them for yourself.

Cut for those who don’t want to know what I’ve been reading…

Squirrels are Cute… December 15, 2008

Posted by Rob Diaz in Edited, Humorous, Non-fiction, Real Life.
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… no, really! They are.

See? Look. Here’s a nice picture of Sciurus carolinensis, the Eastern Gray Squirrel:
clip_image001

Cute, right?

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