Holy Damn

This blog has been collecting dust since April, and for that I apologize.  There was May, the month full of birthdays, as well as my starting a new job.  And in addition to all those shenanigans, Zoe and I put our move to Colorado into full gear.  In fact, we will be living in Boulder as of August 1st, which is at times far away and all too near.

We depart San Francisco with a wealth of experience and determination in pursuit of our dreams.  While San Francisco is an excellent city, it is too expensive for two writers to live easily in.  We’re not the kind that thrive on poverty.  So blue skies and mountains await us, and to be sure more mayhem and hilarity.

It makes a strange sort of sense that my last post was about A Game of Thrones, as my next couple posts will also be on that subject and then I’ll shut up about it until Season 2 or Winds of Winter (whichever happens first).  A review of the first season of the HBO series is pending, as well as a mirror of my review of A Dance With Dragons for Fantasy-Faction.

I suppose this is all theoretical, trying to find time to speak to empty air in the midst of packing and moving, writing fiction, looking for work and adapting to a new environment.

Big things on the way, so stay tuned.

In The Context Of Me

I’ve probably mentioned that I hang around this website called Fantasy Faction, loitering with the other bad seeds, discussing our fantasy and science-fiction literature and shunning the non-believers.  Being of the nerdy persuasion and having had access to the internet since I was young, I’ve spent a lot of time on message boards over the years.  I was even some sort of administrator type person for a video game politics forum a few years back.  We sent flowers and a nice letter to Jack Thompson, who proceeded to continue being a crazy person.

I’m big on etiquette and manners, though I often choose to ignore them in favor of sounding good.  I also dislike drama, though often find myself at the center of it and I’m known for hyperbole.  Still, I’ve learned a few things, like not being a troll, not starting pointless flame wars, how to ignore people who just want attention and how to avoid being a smug douche.  When confronted with those types of people, I usually just ignore the thread or write around them.  When I respond, I try to avoid doing it directly.  This may seem passive-aggressive, but its more for the sanctity of my sanity.

That being said, there is this guy that makes me crazy.  I ignored, thinking perhaps I was over-sensitive.  Then I noticed other people being irritated by him.  And still others.  I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of why.  His posts come off as both smug and defensive, as if you could some how forget how he is the Font of Knowledge for the Universe, so he will prove it to you anyways.  But, while annoying, the guy can occasionally muster a good point.  Hard to see through the piles of bullshit yet to be raked, but those good points are there.  I don’t want to silence the guy, because maybe someone doesn’t like my voice or opinion and I don’t want them to silence me.

We all go through life viewing things from our own unique perspective, filtered by our experiences and opinions.  We interpret the world through a context of ourselves.  The Context of Me involves minimizing my external stress factors, because I do a good enough job making myself crazy that I don’t often want or need help.

The Context of Annoying Forum Guy is that everything is self-referential.  He is the guy who always has to reference his own opinions while giving you his opinions.  He’s the guy that makes everything about his Epic Novel Which Has Been Read By Acclaimed Author You’ve Never Heard Of.  He’s the guy that will give you all the crunchy numbers and statistics to prove that he is in fact right, but when you poke a hole in his logic, will then shun the non-believer.  He is the sort of asshole who probably doesn’t mean to be, but just can’t shift his perception of the world past his own bloated ego.  On better days, I chuckle and ignore.  On the worst days, I find myself contemplating technology that will allow me to physically pimpslap someone through the internet.

Yet I am still only perceiving these actions through my own filters.  One of those old adages, those ones your parents or grandparents tell you when attempting to appear wise, has stuck with me.  That which we dislike in others is a reflection of what we dislike in ourselves.  These are the traits we attempt to avoid, be it for moral reasons or because we are ashamed of our own bad habits.

I’m going to keep Annoying Forum Guy anonymous for a few reasons.  The first is that I don’t point fingers, because I don’t want somebody pointing back at me.  Goes against the whole ‘no drama’ policy I’m trying to establish.  Keep the action and intrigue to the novels, people.  The second reason is that Annoying Forum Guy’s name doesn’t matter.  You don’t know my particular case, but if you’ve spent any time on message boards or comment sections on the internet, you know Annoying Forum Guy or some other incarnation.  And thirdly, I have a moral message for you.  And you’ve read this far, so you may as well keep going.

It comes down to fairness, respect and integrity.  Words that often get chucked in with honor and out with the trash.  It comes down to being an adult and treating others the way you’d like to be treated.  Being both empathetic and sympathetic, while still maintaining a low tolerance for petty bullshit.  Love thy neighbor.  Some other tiresome cliche.

I’ll wind down my rant now.  I mentioned above that I’ve been on Fantasy Faction, writing some articles on some stuff.  My latest can be read here.  Progress has been made on the Western, though not as much as I’d like.  I have a handful of drafts started for blog posts, but I can’t bring myself to finish them.  I’ll try and throw another short story up here later this week, for your viewing pleasure.

In the meantime, be nice to each other.  And remember:  Arguing on the internet solves nothing.  It only makes you look dumb.

Blame the Refill!

So I’ve been hanging out at this awesome message board for science-fiction and fantasy lovers (both readers and writers) called Fantasy Faction.  Interesting conversation, excellent reviews and like-minded writers in one spot.  They have a monthly writing challenge, open to all comers.  February, being full of hearts and romance, posed the following challenge: ‘Write a 500 word scene that involves romance. There must be fantasy and there must be at least one laugh.’

What follows is my entry.  Let me know what you think.  (And thanks to my lovely wife for help with the title and edits)

 

Blame the Refill by Matthew T Maenpaa

 

I struck the match against the side of the box, the sulfur mingling with the faint scent of sage burning in my bedroom as I lit the taper candles in the dining room. The overhead was turned down low, my attempt at creating a nice romantic atmosphere.

Talia and I had started as coworkers, then friends, and had been dating for a couple years now.  I had known right away that I loved her, but there were moments that seemed as if she were only biding her time.  Tonight would be the night though, when I would know for sure that she loved me.

I could hear the flush of the toilet and the tap turning on in the bathroom. With dinner on the table and the candles lit, there was only one thing left. After filling each of our glasses with pinot noir, I fished a vial of murky liquid from my jacket pocket. The gypsy woman had warned me that the potion would take a while to set in, at least an hour. I uncorked it and poured a splash into Talia’s wine glass. The love potion seemed like cheating but nothing wrong with giving Fate a hand, right?

The sound of running water ended and I could hear the bathroom door open, followed by the clatter of high-heels on hardwood. I replaced the cork and shoved the vial into my pocket, smiling at my future wife as she entered the kitchen. “The candles are really sweet, Marlon.  They make this place look cute.”

I offered her my most handsome grin as I pulled out her chair. “Thanks, Talia. It’s usually fine for Winston and me, but we wanted it to be special for you.”

She settled into the table, eying the meal. “Lamb chops! Marlon, these are my favorite!”

“How could I forget?”

We made small talk as we ate, a bit about work, a bit about our families. I kept waiting for our eyes to lock, to feel that spark between us. The gypsy had told me that the potion was simple. Mix it in her drink. Wait an hour. Make sure you two are absolutely alone in the room. She will only have eyes for you thereafter.

With the meal finished and the table cleared, Talia and I moved to the small sofa in my living room. Before leaving the kitchen, I refreshed our wine and added another splash of the potion to hers for good measure. The jangle of a collar told me that Winston, my French bulldog, had woken up and decided to visit with the company. Carrying both of our glasses in one hand, a plate of chocolate truffles in the other, I entered the living room.

Talia was on her knees petting the dog, their eyes locked. The tone in her voice made my heart sink. “Marlon, your dog is perfect.”

I tried to smile. “Isn’t he just?”

She glanced up at me, enough to see the glassy look of devotion in her eyes before she returned her gaze to my dog. “Winston, I could just love you forever.”