Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Smile for Ula - A Saturday Centus


Jenny Matlock

We’ve come to the 13th week of Saturday Centus, that inspired writing meme hosted by Jenny “Jen Jen” Matlock, a former Playboy bunny wonderful writer, friend to chickens and blogger extraordinaire at her blog, Jenny Matlock, off on my tangent….

And speaking of chickens, I would like to welcome Lissa from Why The Chicken Crossed the Road to our little literary soiree. Besides being my daughter, she is also a wonderful writer who is taking a brief break from writing screenplays to play with her dad on Saturday Centus. Welcome Lissa! Go check out her blog if you haven’t already.

The superstitious amongst you might be worried about posting a story this week, but be not afraid you triskaidekaphobiacs, for the Centus will not harm you. Unless of course you are the 13th to submit a story, in which case I hope you have your affairs in order. Those of us who survive this week will be sure to memorialize our fallen comrade in a special SC dedicated to them, maybe even one with a gangsta rap themed prompt! (Fo shizzle, my nizzle, dog!)

The participants in this meme, we’ll call them the Centusians, are given a prompt (sometimes it is short and sometimes, God forbid, it is long) that they are challenged to fashion into a fun and creative story. Sounds easy so far, right? There’s a catch, though. To make the meme even more demanding, you are not allowed to use any vulgarity in your stories.

“But that’s just &$#@!!,” I hear you say. I know!  But that’s the point, challenging you to write great stories even without the benefit of filthy cuss words! It’s not as easy as it sounds. Many Centusians have tried and failed and had to post their Centus stories at online erotica sites instead.

One other thing too, and this is kind of important, and that is you are only allowed to use a total of 100 words not including the prompt.

“Only 100 words? That’s easy; everyone can do that, give or take a few dozen words, anyway.”

Right. Well good for you, I think.

After the Centusians complete their written exercises, they link them back to Jenny’s Saturday Centus meme post (aka The Mothership) so that the participants can check out each other’s treatment on the prompt and post comments on each other’s blogs. Then we sit around and an older participant, commonly known as a Centusaurus, tells us stories about what it was like way back in week one.

If you haven’t joined us by now, what are you waiting for? Are you saying that you are unable to write 100 words? Really? Then you must have stumbled on this site whilst looking for some kind of right-wing extremist website or a website of one of their congenital idiot talking heads (Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, ad nauseum).

But seriously, you need to give it a try because it’s fun and you will be impressed with what you are capable of writing.

Not only that, but like the saying goes, “Once you go Centusian, you never go back.”

Here is this weeks “unlucky” prompt brought to you by one of our very own contributors who has decided to remain anonymous:

"That's why it meant so much...

And here is my effort this week. I call it:

A Smile For Ula

For generations life for the Dudek clan had been a bitter pill washed down with the tears of grief, poverty and torment.

Growing up in a small village in Poland, my grandmother Ula watched helplessly as friends and family members were executed before her eyes by the Nazis.

Eventually she came to America, married and had children, but life with a drunk, abusive husband offered no respite to her weary soul.

It’s graduation day.

Accepting my doctorate degree, I glance over to where she is sitting.

She is smiling.

That’s why it meant so much to me.

For once, her tears were tears of joy.

Jenny Matlock
Don't be a foppotee! Join in the fun!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

High School Reunion, A Saturday Centus

Jenny Matlock

We've made it to week 12 of the Saturday Centus, that madcap literary romp hosted by Jenny Matlock at her blog, Jenny Matlock…off on my tangent... 

So what is this Saturday Centus thingy that you keep hearing about in the media?   Fox News calls it “the next phase in the socialist indoctrination of America, right before they begin executing us.”  Sarah Palin said of it, “I’m not sure what I think of it. Nobody has told me yet.”  And our old friend Rush Limbaugh said it was “a subversive, left-wing government plot to electronically control your mind through your computer and turn you into a fanatical terrorist suicide bomber who supports health care reform and gay marriage.”  

But here, in a little place I like to call reality, the Saturday Centus is just an entertaining and thought-provoking writing exercise where Jenny posts a “prompt," a phrase that must be included as written, and the rest of us have one week to craft a story around it with no more than 100 additional words.  The whole point of this meme is to challenge yourself to explore just how well you can tell a complete story when you only have a very limited number of words with which to do so.

As some of you know, it's unbelievable how fast 100 words can fly by!

This is a particularly difficult task for me because I tend to ramble a lot, both in my writing and everyday conversation.  Yes, I could probably go on for hours.  Why, I remember when I was just thirteen years old and all full of these crazy hormones and just beginning to explore, there I go again!

As I was saying, this meme forces you to look beyond the superfluous, artistic flourishes and schmaltzy imagery and focus on building a tight, succinct story where every word counts.  It’s really hard!  You have to chop your babies edit something fierce!  But it’s cool when you finally get your word count down to 100 and see all the excess words you found you could live without.  (Oh WordCalc, sometimes you can be a harsh taskmaster!)

Here’s an example of what I mean.  Most of you are familiar with the famous poem, “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe.  It begins with “Once upon a  dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore…”    What follows are stanza after stanza of a very flowery and descriptive narrative that drones on with sumptuous symbolism and profuse drama.

That, and apparently he had a fondness for the word, "Nevermore."  (I have a similar fondness for the word "rutabaga," but I somehow manage to keep it in check.)

In contrast, the “Saturday Centus” version would read, “One night while reading, an annoying talking bird kept tapping on my door.”  See how much better that is!  No wonder Poe went insane.  Think of all the time and effort he could have saved!

After you finish your 100-word epic, you need to stop on by Jenny’s blog and link up with the Saturday Centus meme post so that we can check out each other’s treatment on the prompt.  Every week we have some really wonderful writers who regularly contribute, as well as new, talented writers who decide to take the leap and join in to share their take on the prompt.  And just so you know, there’s always room for one more!  (Subtle, I know.)

Are you up to the challenge?

This week the prompt was written by a special guest writer.  I’m thinking that means he is “special” as in “Olympics” rather than “distinguished,” but what do I know.  I forget his name, but I’m told he knows his way around a waffle, is generally considered a wise ass, looks a lot like Tom Selleck in a crazed, carnival-mirror sort of way, and knows how to order a drink in Comanche (It’s a city in Oklahoma.)  Here is this week’s prompt:

Driving six hours is a long time on the road.  Six hours spent singing car-aoke and taking in the picturesque scenery, but mostly reminiscing about the good times.  But those days were long gone and my mind was in a different place now.  Or was it?  My pulse quickened as I passed the road sign which read "Medford 27 miles."

And here is my 100-word effort this week.  I think I’ll call it:

High School Reunion

Crossing the border into Oregon, I gaze at the beautiful spectacle of the Rogue River Valley.  A song comes on the radio and in moments I’m doing my best Peter Cetera impression…with feeling.

"Everybody needs a little time away," I heard her say, "from each other." 

Does she ever think about me?  I wonder.

Hold me now. It's hard for me to say I'm sorry. I just want you to stay.

She was my soulmate.

After all that we've been through, I will make it up to you. I promise to.

Maybe she can be again. 

Driving six hours is a long time on the road.  Six hours spent singing car-aoke and taking in the picturesque scenery, but mostly reminiscing about the good times.  But those days were long gone and my mind was in a different place now.  Or was it?  My pulse quickened as I passed the road sign which read "Medford 27 miles."

Almost there.

Jenny Matlock

Don't be a foppotee!  Join in the fun!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Song In My Chest, A Saturday Centus

Jenny Matlock

Welcome one and all, young and old, literate and illiterate, to another excursion into the abbreviated world of Saturday Centus, your once-a-week sampling of tiny, 100-word stories hosted by that queen of sublime scribblin’,  Jenny Matlock, at her blog, Jenny Matlock…off on my tangent… 

This week I am pleased to report that the format will have nothing whatsoever to do with romance novels and sweaty, rippling abs or ample bosoms angrily straining for freedom against flimsy, sheer fabric.  Last week, if you recall, Miss Jenny did a little Shake Up in honor of the tenth week of SC and instructed us to do our stories in the style of a Harlequin romance novel, with an added 100 words to play with.  Oh my, there were some writers having conniptions about that, let me tell you.   But despite it all, they all rose to the occasion and turned in some great stories.

This just goes to show that if you provoke the anger of writers, pretty much nothing happens.  Probably because they just go home and write about it in their journals, along with a stern 500-word rebuke of mean people and how they probably weren’t loved enough as a child.


Not to squelch anyone’s creative freedom, this week’s prompt does not have a specific genre attached to it.  The same meme rules apply as always.  Jenny posts a "prompt," a phrase that must be used in the essays of each contributor. Each story must contain the prompt as written and be no more than 100 words total, not including the prompt words.  Any more than 100 words and a big burly Italian guy named Rocko comes to your home and breaks both your knee caps. 

After posting their stories, the writers link up with Jenny's Saturday Centus meme post so that we can all share our treatment on the prompt.  This week the names of each contributor will be entered into a completely unrigged drawing for a brand new 2010 Infiniti G37!  (Well, it’s the Mattel Hot Wheels version, not the real one.  It’s just easier to mail that way.)  Thanks again for picking me, Jenny.  It was such a huge surprise.  Wink wink!  What’s that?  The drawing isn’t until next weekend?  Okay.  I guess I can wait and thank you then.

Oh alright!  No one breaks your knee caps.  And there’s no giveaway this week. I was making that up too.  It’s just a fun writing exercise that teaches you to be very selective about what words you use and helps you develop a nice, tight writing style.  Plus you are automatically entered into a drawing to win 10 million dollars!  Yes, that’s right, Jenny sends your name and address to the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes!  Hooray!  (Okay, okay, I’ve got to stop making this crap up!)

Oh wait, I forgot to mention this one little thing.  Although you can write in any genre you want, this week’s literary midget must include a main character who is an android female bounty hunter from the future who likes to write poetry in her spare time and has an alien sidekick that thinks it’s a cowboy and slithers around saying things like “Howdy partner” and “Let’s head 'em off at the pass!”  And, um, there are these vampires, but they only attack humans every third Tuesday and the rest of the time they are really good accordion players and have a band and everything so people leave them alone.


Would you believe you have to write part of a chapter for a self-help book entitled “An Idiot’s Guide to Building Self-Esteem?”  How about a first-person historical account of the invention of the wheel?  No, wait, a children’s story about the building of the Hoover Dam, except with foul-tempered talking llamas instead of people and turtles that can fly!

Not buying the B.S. I see.  I think you people are on to me.

Okay, the drugs are wearing off, so I better get to the story part.  Here is the prompt for this week:

Somewhere over the rainbow... 

And here, for your entertainment and rapturous delight (yes, the drugs haven’t quite worn off yet) is my contribution to this weeks meme.  I call it:

A Song In My Chest

Buddy stared at the blank sheet of paper and cursed his lack of imagination.  As a songwriter with a couple of minor songs to his credit, he needed a hit to spur his career into the stratosphere like it had for Cole Porter.

Song titles flew from his pudgy, cigarette-stained fingertips in a desperate attempt to kick start his seemingly comatose muse. 

“Somewhere in Yonkers?” 

No, not romantic enough.

“My Grandma’s Basement?”

Definitely not.

Somewhere over the rainbow…”  He laughed aloud.  Now that was a stupid title, he thought.

Then it hit him, his ticket to fame.  

“Somewhere Over There.” 

He smiled smugly.

Jenny Matlock

Don't be a foppotee!  Join in the fun!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Whiff of Passion, A Saturday Centus


Jenny Matlock

Well, it’s time once again for my usual foray into the really short, short story writing genre made famous as Saturday Centus, a themed writing meme hosted by Jenny Matlock at her blog, Jenny Matlock on my tangent....

Just for me this week, Jenny designed a very special Saturday Centus which promises to be both challenging and entertaining for all of us!  Oh Jenny, Jenny, Jenny! For me? You shouldn’t have!  But I’m glad you did, even if that sentiment isn’t shared by everyone!  LOL!

Once again you force us to step out of our comfort zone and give us that shove into the creative unknown as all great teachers do.  In recognition of it being the tenth week of Saturday Centus, Jenny has decided to throw us a curveball and shake things up with a bolder and more difficult writing assignment.

For this week’s Centus, our instructions are to write our stories in the genre of a Harlequin Romance novel! Can’t you just smell the lusty passion oozing out in wafting plumes of ecstacy?

Oh wait. Sorry, that was just me. 

To make sure to have enough space for necessary words like “steamy,” “nape,” “slippery,” and “trembling,” Jenny has graciously offered up another 100 more words to play with! For those of you with poor math skills (or who bother to keep count), that’s 200 words TOTAL plus the prompt.

For you newbies to this meme, every Saturday Jen-Jen (yeah, I call her that) posts a "prompt," a phrase that must be used in the essays of each contributor. Each story must contain the prompt as written and be a total of 100 words or less, not including the prompt words (and yes, even the small words like “and,” “the,” and “it” count!)

After posting their stories, the writers link up with Jenny's Saturday Centus meme post so that we can all share our treatment on the prompt. And sometimes we get together to drink mulled wine, relax in a hot tub, give each other massages and talk about our feelings. What? You’ve never done that with us? Hmmm. I can’t imagine why you weren’t invited. Perhaps you should ask Jenny about that.

As added motivation, this week's Saturday Centus participants will be entered into a special prize drawing with the winner receiving the book “The Wishing Years” by fellow blogger Coralie Cederna Johnson. Jenny describes the book as a “a wonderful journey to small-town USA in the 40's and 50's.”  The book is not a romance and as such contains no references to “rippling biceps” or “heaving bosoms” (or even “rippling bosoms,” if you are so inclined.) 

"Come on and participate in Saturday Centus," Tom said, beckoning with his smoldering brown eyes as he lunged forward in his taut tighty-whiteys which left nothing to the imagination.  (I know, I know...I'm burning in hell.)

Without further adieu, here is Jenny’s super-special Shake Up! prompt for this week:

"When I turned around I was startled to meet a green eyed gaze..."

Here is my “Harlequinized” contribution for this week. Please be merciful and forgiving in your comments.

It is entitled:

A Whiff of Passion

Sitting at the bar, I didn’t see him at first. It was his deep baritone voice that attracted me.

“Hey barkeep, you got something for a lonely rich guy that will warm his body like a woman would?”

When I turned around I was startled to meet a green eyed gaze… it was a shared “moment” and we both knew it.

“Well hello there, sweet thing. What’s your name?”

That sexy voice and those dreamy eyes! I wanted to rip his clothes off then and there, but there were laws against that sort of thing.

“My name is Jenna. What’s yours?”

“I’m Dustin. Nice meeting you, Jenna. Can I get you something?”

“Sure! How about you buy me a new car?”

He laughed and asked me what color. I told him to make it an iridescent green to match his eyes.

"To be honest, I only said the rich guy comment so women would talk to me.”

“Does it work?”

"So far so good!  Why is a pretty thing like you here alone?

“I have chronic body odor. Guys hate that. Doesn’t it bother you too?”

“Hmmm. No, I had a car accident years ago. I lost my sense of smell.”

At last my dreams had come true.

Jenny Matlock


Friday, July 9, 2010

Are You Smarter Than A "Jaywalker?"


The other day I went to the pet store to get some supplies. As I unloaded my cart of dog toys, dog treats and a 20 lb. bag of dry dog food onto the checkout counter, the cashier looked at me and asked me if I owned a dog. I fought the urge to say “No, this is a wedding present for a friend of mine. He doesn’t own a dog either, but he admires people that do.” Instead, I told her that I did in fact own a dog (and started slowly counting to 100.)

On Sunday I stopped in at a Chevron station to get some gas. I pulled up at the pump right in front of the store there and walked in. As mine was the only car present at the time, I calmly stepped up to the counter and dropped a $20 dollar bill onto the counter and told the young man I needed $20 in gas. Without missing a beat he looked outside and asked me “Is that your car?” Of course I bit my lip and didn’t tell him “No, I left my car at home. I thought I could fill up a bunch of 32 oz. drink cups and then carry them home.” Instead, I said “yes” and headed back toward my car so he wouldn’t see my eyes rolling like a slot machine.

Last night we went out to dinner to celebrate our third wedding anniversary. We went to a Teppanyaki style Japanese restaurant, similar to a Benihanas restaurant. As the waitress seated us, I mentioned to her that my wife had never been to this kind of restaurant before and she was very excited about being there. She smiled and moments later asked us “So have you both been here before?” Again, I was tempted to give her some snarky response such as “Yes, but not in this lifetime,” but it was my anniversary so I just played it cool.

Why, why, why are there so many stupid people around these days? One of my biggest concerns is that ours is a nation of absolute morons, and that they are allowed to breed unabated. It drives me crazy when people say or do idiotic things, which is another big reason why I could never vote Republican. How does anyone with even the most rudimentary common sense accept a statement like this as having any credibility?

''The ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone and left out there. It's natural. It's as natural as the ocean water is.''

—Rush Limbaugh, on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, May 3, 2010

Perhaps quoting Rush is unfair, as his mouth certainly spouts more crude than any pipeline ever could. But certainly our country is rife with clueless Americans, and I’m not just singling out the South here because you don’t have to be a tobacco chewing, racist redneck to be a moron. (It doesn’t hurt, though.)   Indeed there are morons from sea to shining sea.  Unfortunately, it's morons from the South that seem to grab the most headlines and find themselves in front of TV cameras most often, so they've become the unofficial spokespersons for stupid.

Ask anyone from the South and they will categorically deny (and rightfully so) that their people are any more stupid than anywhere else in the country and instead proclaim that the stereotype showing them to be inbred, bigoted, fundamentalist whack jobs is just patently false and offensive. They then will drive home the point with the question “Whatsamatta, boy, you ignernt or sumpin?”  Oh, the irony!

Maybe some of you have seen this video, but if you haven’t then be prepared to accept that there are a lot of really dumb ass people dragging their knuckles wandering our country’s cities with delusions of adequacy. I’ve watched the Jay Leno Show often when he does this comedic bit he calls “Jaywalking.” It’s a simple “Man-on-the-street” interview where Jay grabs some passing pedestrian and asks him general knowledge questions about current events, history, science and the like.

Almost always the person answering is a total dunce, unable to answer the most basic questions, such as “How many moons circle the Earth?”  Respondents to this question have actually answered, “Do you mean whole moons or quarter moons?”  Yikes!  Of course you have to assume it is highly edited and that not everyone can be this stupid, but sometimes you just wonder. One of the respondents in the video is a college instructor.  How scary is that?  This particular video was done for the 4th of July holiday, so the questions are about that period in history. Check it out:  

Here are some of Jay’s previous questions from the show and the answers they received:

J: In what country would you find the Panama Canal?
A: I have no clue.

J: Who was the first President of the United States?
A: Benjamin Franklin

J: Who is the famous French emperor who has a pastry named after him?
A: Crème Brule

J: Name one of the Ten Commandments.
A: Freedom of speech.

J: What countries border the United States?
A: Australia and Hawaii.

J: How was Korea divided?
A: In half.

J: Who won the Civil War?
A: We did.

J: (pointing at a U.S. flag waving in the wind) How many stars are on the American flag?
A: I can’t tell. It’s moving too fast.

It’s ironic that immigrants seeking citizenship to this country have to pass a test on American history with a score of 80% to be allowed in, but guys like Joe Bob, Donnie Ray and his cousin Tater living back in the holler will swear to you that the “Father of Our Country” is George Jones.

It’s sad and embarrassing that so many people in this country fail not only to raise the bar, but to even reach the bar.  It’s easy to blame the educational system, and surely the reforms made in the last 50 years are responsible for a lot of the dumbing down of our population, but there’s no excuse for being this stupid.

Maybe some people should put down the television remote and pick up a book for a change. You know, a book, that thing with all the written pages bound together within covers that smart people read?

It’s like the TV Guide, only different.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Taking Back Our Freedom! A Saturday Centus

Jenny Matlock

Happy Saturday fellow lunatics and writer folk! It’s time once again to squeeze out some creative juices (remembering to lay down some newspaper first and being careful to avoid bruising) and dish up another 100-word helping of weirdness for the Saturday Centus, a themed writing meme hosted by Jenny Matlock at her blog, Jenny Matlock on my tangent....

Every Saturday she posts a "prompt," a phrase that must be used in the essays of each contributor. Each story must contain the prompt as written and be a total of 100 words or less, not including the prompt words. Failure to comply with the rules is punishable by being the subject of the following weeks prompt in a very unflattering and humiliating fashion.

Okay, not really, but it does sound like that would be fun to try.

After posting their stories, the writers link up with Jenny's Saturday Centus meme post so that we can all share our treatment on the prompt and subject ourselves to carpal tunnel syndrome by leaving tons of comments on each other’s blogs. Then we head to the liquor cabinet and all drink a toast to Jenny Matlock. And then another, and then another, and then a few more…eventually the police are called. 

But I digress.

I encourage you all to step outside your comfort zone and give this a try if you haven’t yet. It’s actually a fun exercise in concise, tight writing and you will be amazed at what you can do in the space of only 100 words!

Many writers take their little stories and use them as building blocks for larger projects. Maybe “Twilight” started this way. Who knows? The point is, stop on by, read the other submissions from our talented bunch and give us your take on the prompt! Its fun, plus it may even help reduce wrinkles, burn calories and improve your love life as well.

Okay, so there’s no scientific evidence that this is true. It sounds reasonable though.

No literary babies were seriously harmed in the writing of this essay, although I doubt they will be playing piano at any point in the future. A small sacrifice, I say, in order to bring you yet another collection of words strung together in sentences decorated with punctuation marks. These are also known by us writers as “that stuff we type that people read…oh yeah, a story.” (Sorry, I just channeled my inner Dubya.)

The guest writer for this week’s prompt is the lovely and talented Sami of the blog, Sami by the Sea! Thanks Sami for a very creative prompt! Now if I can just get the sand out of my keyboard…

Here is this week's prompt:

"Are you sure that's the one you want?"

I felt a little lump in my throat as I peered down at my choice, held tightly in my hand. I didn't think this would be so nerve-wracking. Was I making the wrong decision? I couldn't agonize over this any longer.

I took a deep breath before managing to say, "... Yes, it is."

Here is my submission for this week. It is entitled:

Taking Back Our Freedom!

America is bleeding.

A crumbling economy. Widespread poverty and unemployment. Violent crime running amok.

All because we turned our backs on right-thinking, freedom-loving, gun-toting Americans like Sarah Palin.

We won’t make that mistake again.

Our own federal government, with its illegitimate, subversive leader, is gradually chipping away at our freedoms so you don’t notice our silent descent into slavery.  Gun control?  Ha!

But they won’t control me. Not anymore.

The weight of the Berretta PX4 9mm semi-automatic pistol felt good. I nodded to the clerk.

"Are you sure that's the one you want?"

I felt a little lump in my throat as I peered down at my choice, held tightly in my hand. I didn't think this would be so nerve-wracking. Was I making the wrong decision? I couldn't agonize over this any longer.

I took a deep breath before managing to say, "... Yes, it is."

Let’s just see who tries to steal my parking spot now.

Jenny Matlock

Yes, I'm disturbed, but not THAT disturbed!

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