Well, folks, since the Buffalo News website doesn't update until 9:00 a.m. ET, and since I don't get home from work until around 3:30 p.m. ET, I won't have a direct link to the Item In Question until late this afternoon. But you can get at it yourselves by directly visiting the News's Life and Arts section, here, and then following the links there. [UPDATE: Direct link is right here.]
What am I talking about? Well, I actually won the News's short story contest. This story is the first piece of my fiction that has ever appeared in print anyplace other than this blog, or my serialized novel The Promised King. This is my first nibble of success as a fiction writer, ever. So pardon me while I bask in the glory a bit.
Actually, forget it. Me basking in the glory can only, in the end, result in a scene like this:
So no basking for me. But that's not to say that you all shouldn't bask in my reflected glory. Bask, I say! BASK!
OK, now that we're all done basking: regular readers of this blog know that I came within a few hours of missing the deadline for entering this year's contest. This story did not write itself, and up until about a week before the deadline, I didn't even have the main idea in mind. So I can't really say where the idea finally came from. It seems kind of an obvious idea to me now, with the tale written and done with, but when I read the assignment for the contest, my only thought was, "How in the hell am I gonna write this?"
Maybe I was just out of practice. The truth is that I have written very little fiction over the last few years. A lot of that was the sapping of my energies with keeping Little Quinn alive, and then the even worse sapping of my energies following his passing. I haven't stopped writing entirely, of course: I've posted here fairly consistently, and I've also committed a number of acts of poetry which, as they were intended for people very dear to me in "real" life, won't ever be posted here. But fiction? This was only the second story I've done since Quinn died. So a lot of my difficulty may have been due to atrophied muscles, so to speak.
But those muscles now have that nice, pleasant ache that comes of doing a light workout for the first time after an extended period of inactivity. Put another way: I'm writing fiction again, bitches!
(So yes, I'll finally get The Promised King done. I mean that. I'm going to beat that book to a bloody pulp if I have to, but it's getting done.)
The remainder of this post will be aimed at people who are likely viewing this blog for the very first time. Some of you don't know me from Adam; others know me by virtue of working with me at The Store. Therefore, some notes:
:: If you're wondering right now, "What is a blog?", think of it as nothing more than an online diary. That's really it. There have been rivers of ink and buckets of bandwidth respectively spilled and expended over the last few years discussing what blogging is and what it's good for and all that, but at its most basic, it's just writing. Online. Entries called "posts" are grouped by the dates on which they were written, and presented in reverse order of "freshness": on the main page, the post at the very top of the page is the most recent one I wrote. You can use the archive menu, which is in the sidebar somewhere (down a bit from the top of the page) to read older material; the main page only displays the last eight dates' worth of posts. Also, in the sidebar you'll find all kinds of stuff: links to specific older posts within this blog that give you more background about me, links to profiles of mine that appear on several other websites with which I am affiliated, a number of favorite quotes from books I've read, a photo of me that changes to a different photo each time the page is loaded (go ahead, hit "refresh", and you'll see a new photo there), another list of links to older posts of mine that I like a good deal (sort of a "greatest hits" from the five years I've been producing this blog), and more. If you want to explore the blog, the sidebar is the key.
(Why the self-photo? Because the vast majority of my readers have never ever met me in person, and I don't expect that to change. Being able to put a face with the writing is always helpful.)
:: What this blog is, and what it is not: Basically, I use this space to riff on anything that I may or may not think much about. It's literally an online diary of the "Here's what I read today, here's a good movie, here's something I saw on the Web somewhere, here's what I think about something someone else said on their blog." This blog is not "civilian journalism". I'm not a reporter of any kind, nor do I devote large amounts of space to discussing Buffalo politics or the goings-on in this region. While I admire (and, in some ways, envy) the efforts of other bloggers to subvert "Old Media" in this region and in the country as a whole, I'm not an activist in that regard.
This blog is one of the many ways in which I engage the world "out there". Jeff Simon, the Buffalo News movie critic, once described a film -- Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown, I think -- as a "cinematic mix tape". That's kind of what my blog is: it's a mix tape of stuff I like, with occasional rants about stuff I don't.
:: This is not to say that I never write about politics here. I do, on occasion. I'd estimate that less than fifteen percent of my posts contain outright political content, and I post a lot, so generally you're not going to see large amounts of politics in this space. But you will see some, so I should note that I'm pretty much a solid leftie-liberal-pinko who thinks that the world would be a lot better off had the results of the 2000 election more accurately reflected what the majority of voters in Florida actually intended to do (rather than the vagaries of what they actually did). So be aware: if your response to directly encountering Liberalism is to scream "GAHHH, get it off me!", you will get some Liberalism on you here.
:: For any coworkers of mine who may be reading this, welcome aboard. You'll learn a lot more about me than you might have already known by reading through what I've posted here over the years I've been doing this (five years, versus the three I've been working at The Store). Some of it you may find interesting; other stuff you may find dull as ditchwater. You never know. You'll learn about the depths of my unreasoning loathing of Tom Brady, and my equally unreasoning love of George Lucas. A number of posts here will give you some idea of what life with our son Quinn was like, and other posts will make you wonder what it is that I apparently smoke in great quantities when I'm not at work.
I haven't been keeping this blog secret in any way; I haven't mentioned it outright, but it is publicly available, and easily found by anyone putting my name into Google. This is just an aspect of my life that I don't discuss much in person.
Now, having said that, let me state outright my personal policy on blogging about work: I don't do it. Period. With the exception of Mr. Wegman's death, when I posted a tribute here, I won't even name my workplace -- I only refer to it as "The Store". This may seem a bit extreme, but I invest more than a little time in this particular hobby, and I want it clear at all times that in no way is anything I write here ever intended as the statement of a Person Working For The Store. I never post in this space as a representative of Our Company, so nothing that happens at work shows up in this space. Period. I don't mention my coworkers by name, and I don't share the funny anecdotes that arise from working day-to-day with as wonderful a group of people as I do.
Of course, this is mostly to hopefully make people breathe easier. I imagine that some folks read in the News that I'm an avid blogger, and then think, "Oh, shit! I hope he didn't blog about the time I _____!" Rest easy: No matter what you ______ and no matter how funny it was when you ______, I didn't write about it here.
But there's a flip side there: someone may be thinking, "Hey, isn't the time I ______ something that would be worth writing about?" And yes, many times it was. But in the proper place. Consider the many times you've tried telling an anecdote about something that happened at work that was absolutely hilarious at the time it happened, and how many times you end such a story with "You had to be there, I guess." When you think about it, just about all situational humor is of the "You had to be there" variety, so before you can make that situational stuff funny to someone who wasn't there, you have to make them feel as if they were there. That's what good fiction is all about. So if I ever decide to write about a napkin full of red pepper seeds, or a cat named "Boobie", or the difficulties of finding the perfect Wayne's World or Clerks reference for any given situation, it will be in fiction and not here. With all the names changed.
Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the blog. I imagine I'll get lots of questions about it, that's for sure.