Monday, April 25, 2016

Dispatch #51: The Tax Man

by Lupe Fernandez

From the Department of Where Ideas Come From

I watched the final episode of The Walking Dead. Yes, there was zombie action, but the greatest horror was what people did to each other. I've always wanted to write a horror story, but I didn't want to use the usual suspects. Vampires. Werewolves. Zombies. Asparagus.

I wanted something bland and ordinary. Something appearing non-threatening at first appearance. Something or someone we face everyday or at least once a year.

The Tax Man. Everybody pays taxes. Sales tax. Gasoline tax. Income tax. If you don't pay, the consumer is penalized.

Was gazing upon a flimsy tax table? Was sitting in a dark room listening to the howl of coyotes? Did I smell the acrid burning of hair?

No, I was in the bathroom doorway on my way to the commode. The window was open. A pleasant breeze ruffled the curtain. Sun washed the gray driveway below. The faint laughter of children echoed in the neighborhood.

Then I thought...

The Tax Man will make you rich. But if you owe, you’d better pay or he’ll take a 50%...of everything. Your house. Your wife. Your life.

The Tax Man offers to make clients rich, but clients must be a steep tax. If they owe or refuse to pay, The Tax Man will pursue his clients for payments. Nothing will stop. Not death.

A poor guy shows up rich at his new school. Brags he won’t pay taxes on his new-found wealth. He’s warned about The Tax Man, but he’s not scared of a short, portly man, wearing wrinkled clothes and carries a shiny briefcase. But our poor guy turns up dead. Fifty percent of his body is messing. Literally sliced in half.

The Tax Man works on a sliding scale. He starts with 10%.

Ten 10% of your organs, limbs, brain.

Want a tax break? Inform on others who owe.

How can the The Tax Man be defeated?

I envision a YA contemporary horror story.

What happens next? I have no idea. Perhaps I should step into the bathroom doorway again. Seek out the commode.

Or should I flush this idea down the toilet?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Upcoming Holidays

It was Hilde's turn to post, but she's opted out till school ends. Between the classes she is taking and the classes she is teaching, she's finding almost no time to sleep, less write.
I haven't got a post in my head, so here is a list of Holidays, should you be searching for a topic of conversation. I took the from two different sites, so you can choose.
The first Calendar is from Holiday Insights
They failed to mention that April 19th is the anniversary of the Battle of Concord and Lexington. But
I forgive them because of Mother Goose Day.  What's your favorite strange Holiday?

Saturday April 23Talk Like Shakespeare Day Duh. It's Shakespeare's birthday. Shoot him a card.
Sunday, April 2Hug an Australian Day
Monday, April 27Babe Ruth Day
Thursday, April 30 
Friday, May 1Mother Goose Day
Sunday, May 3Lumpy Rug Day
Monday, May 4Star Wars Day
Wednesday, May 6No Diet Day
Friday, May 8No Socks Day
Monday, May 11Eat What You Want Day
Tuesday, May 12Limerick Day
Wednesday, May 13Frog Jumping Day
Thursday, May 14National Chicken Dance Day
Friday, May 15National Chocolate Chip Day
Saturday, May 16National Sea Monkey Day
Sunday, May 17Pack Rat Day
Monday, May 18Visit Your Relatives Day
Thursday, May 21National Waiters and Waitresses Day
Monday, May 25National Tap Dance Day
Sunday, May 31

The Next list is From Holiday Insights

18 International Juggler's Day - also applies to multi tasking office workers
18 Newspaper Columnists Day 18 Patriot's Day - third Monday of the month 19 National Garlic Day 20 Look Alike Day 20 Volunteer Recognition Day 21 Kindergarten Day 21 National High Five Day third Thursday 22 Girl Scout Leader Day 22 National Jelly Bean Day 23 Lover's Day 23 National Zucchini Bread Day - they hold this at a time when you are not sick of all that zucchini. 23 Take a Chance Day 23 World Laboratory Day 24 Pig in a Blanket Day 25 East meets West Day 25 World Penguin Day   26 Hug an Australian Day 26 National Pretzel Day 26 Richter Scale Day 27 Administrative Professionals Day (Executive Admin's Day, Secretary's Day) -  date varies 27 Babe Ruth Day 27 National Prime Rib Day 27 Tell a Story Day 28 International Astronomy Day 28 Great Poetry Reading Day 28 Kiss Your Mate Day - guys, do not forget this one. Kiss her, then read her some poetry. 28 Take Your Daughter to Work 4th Thursday 29 Arbor Day  -last Friday of month 29 Greenery Day 29 National Shrimp Scampi Day 30 Hairstyle Appreciation Day 30 National Honesty Day
World Tobacco Day


Monday, April 11, 2016

First Lines From the 2015 Cybils Plus . . .

This is supposed to be first lines from the 2015 Cybil Awards and wouldn't you know, the first book had no lines. This would seem to be a good year for wordless picture books. I don't love all of these first paragraphs. Why should I? We all have very different ideas of what we want to read. What's the best first line or paragraph you've read this year?

Fiction Picture Books

Sidewalk Flowersby JonArno Lawson
Groundwood Books
Nominated by: Hannah DeCamp
A distracted dad and his daughter take a walk home in this beautifully illustrated, wordless picture book. The story unfolds through a unique combination of graphic novel style format and traditional full-bleed or framed art. While the city seems drab and dark in the beginning, the little girl finds beauty around every corner. Details invite the reader to linger and pause over the pages, discovering along with the girl on her walk through the neighborhood. As she matter-of-factly shares her appreciation for things around her, color begins to spread beyond just the people and places where she distributes her finds.  Readers young and old alike will be charmed by this story of a little girl’s ability to stop and notice the weeds and her natural willingness to spread kindness in a busy, fast-paced world. The wordless aspect of the book makes it accessible to everyone, no matter what language they read or speak. 

Easy Readers
Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly (Passport to Reading, Level 3: Ling & Ting)by Grace Lin
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Heidi G.

Story 1 The Garden
Ting is in the garden. "
What are you doing?" Ling asks.
"I am planting cupcakes," Ting  says.
'Ting!"  Ling says. "You cannot plant cupcakes."

Early Chapter Books

Dory and the Real True Friend (Dory Fantasmagory)by Abby Hanlon
Dial Books
Nominated by: Sara Ralph
My name is Dory, but everyone calls me Rascal. This is my family. I have a mom, dad, big brother, and big sister who are just regular people. I also have a monster and fairy godmother who are not regular because only I can see them,

Elementary/Middle Grade


The Blackthorn Keyby Kevin Sands
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

I found it.
Master Benedict says he wasn't the least bit surprised According to him, there were several times over the past three years when he was sure I'd finally discovered it. Yet it wasn't until the day before my fourteenth birthday that it came to be so clearly, I thought God Himself had whispered in my ear.

Speculative Fiction

The Fog Diverby Joel Ross
Nominated by: PLCarpenter
After a long morning searching the woods, I spotted a school bus through the Fog. The broke windows looked like rotten teeth as I edged closer, hoping to salvage hubcaps or engine parts.


Young Adult 


Every Last Wordby Tamara Ireland Stone
Nominated by: Jennifer Donovan

Lane three. It's always lane number three. My coaches think it's funny. Quirky/ A thing, like not washing your lucky socks or growing a rally beard. And that's perfect/ That's all I want them to know.

Speculative Fiction

The Walls Around Usby Nova Ren Suma
Algonquin Young Readers
Nominated by: Esther Braithwaite
We wen wild that hot night. We howled, we raged, we screamed. We were girls - some of us fourteen and fifteen; some sixteen and seventeen - but when the locks came undone, the doors of our cells gaping open and no one to shove us back in, we made the noise of savage animals, of men.


Cold Warrior
What could Daniel Ellsberg possibly have done to provoke such wrath - to be seen as such a threat? The story begins twenty-six years earlier, as World War II came to an end and the Cold War began. Ellsberg was just starting ninth grade at a prep school near Detroit, Michigan.
Sheinkin does it again. He's also the 2016 YALSA award winner. I read his book Bomb. The Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon and adored it.

I still didn't have a picture book first line for this post. When I checked out the ALA Awards page, I fell in love with a title.  It won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award (best translation from another language.)
The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy (2015)

By Alemagna, Beatrice

I loved the title and the description and I went to LAPL tonight and placed a hold on it. (Why is my computer suddenly putting everything in title caps? I wish I could do that on purpose.)

Since I still didn't have a picture book first line from the Cybils. I am including one from the last picture book I read. A delightful read.
Han and the Mysterious Pearl by Barbara Bockman, illustrated by Carl Kocich.
Long ago in the part of China where giant finger mountains rise above the morning mist, a boy named Han lived with his mother in a little house beside the Li River. 

I am also interested in your favorite title of the year. Please feel free to comment. Write on!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Dispatch #50: Dream Trap

Fifteen Miles Across Los Angeles
by Lupe Fernandez

I am trapped in Downtown Los Angeles; I know I'm dreaming, but I can't walk myself up. I can't find the subway; I decide to walk out.

I worked in Downtown LA for twenty-two years; I moved to Northern California four years ago.

I am trapped in Downtown Los Angeles near the financial district. I know I'm dreaming. The Pershing Square Metro Red Line stop isn't available; I decide to walk out. There's a woman walking next to me. I can walk out; It's a dream, I can do anything. It's fifteen miles from downtown to my apartment in North Hollywood located in the San Fernando Valley.

It's a long walk; I decide to fly. I spread my arms, lift my feet and fall face flat on the pavement.

I walk up in a panic, bed sheets up to my chin. I reassure myself the dream isn't real. I'm not stranded in Downtown Los Angeles. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is not an alternative reality.

Or is it?

When I'm 102, will I be able to tell the difference?

Not to worry. The differences are sensory details.

Eye-burning car exhaust. Onions sizzled on aluminum trays heated by propane tanks, mounted in grocery shopping carts. Squeal of Metro bus brakes. Random shout of a wandering man. Burble of suited men discussing the Lakers. Crunch of fractured walk under my shoes. Throp, throp of an LAPD helicopter overhead. Greasy touch of a revolving office building entrance.

Protestors chanting.

I am trapped downtown, but it's not real. I wake up the next morning shaken. I tell myself I don't have to go back there. I look out my bedroom window at soft rolling hills surrounding Mt. Diablo.

I write. My daytime preoccupation is imagining places I've never been and describing them in detail.

When I'm 102 years old, will I be able to tell the difference? How about tonight?

Next time I get stuck downtown, I'll seek out someone with rank body odor. If I recoil, I'll know the difference.