I Promise You Won't Learn A Thing From This Blog

The official blog for author Ashley Chappell. Check back every week for a few laughs at my expense or, if you know the love-hate process that is writing, commiseration.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why Geico Hates Election Season

**Disclaimer** Don’t run away in fear: this will not be a political blog entry. There are enough people doing that already who are far more qualified to offer an opinion than I am. However, since there are also enough people doing that who are far LESS qualified than I am (or than your average bottle opener for that matter), don’t think that it might not happen one day....

The 2012 Presidential Primaries are a staggering 8 months away. Granted, in my mind any time is far too soon, but 8 months still a respectable distance out. Especially considering the Republican contenders are still circling the wagons and vying for the best position to see who can throw their hat the farthest into the ring. In fact, it’s early enough yet that I still feel a certain margin of safety in turning on the television or opening the newspaper without being bombarded with highly contrived political ads. (Yes, for all wiki-wizards out there I am aware of the bias inherent in that statement)

So imagine my surprise this morning on my way to work when I saw a proud member of one of the parties walking to the front of his lawn with a presidential yard sign in one hand and a mallet in the other. There was even a sort of smug bounce to his step as though his proactive turf side campaigning were something that his neighbors would surely envy, much as they might a new garden gnome or set of pink flamingoes.

What I also noticed as I passed was that he was on his way to give it pride of placement; in other words, that sweet spot on a lawn next to a driveway that A) makes it impossible to miss and B) makes it impossible to miss the driver backing out of said driveway who couldn’t see you coming down the road because of said yard sign.

Apparently, there is a science to yard sign placement and getting the most attention drawn to your sign instead of your neighbor’s sign who, although otherwise being mostly an alright kinda chap, seems to want to vote for that other guy. The truly successful have learned that the most effective placement is to plaster them like a political flood wall on corner lots and near as many road merges, driveways, and parking lots as humanly possible. That way when the ensuing wrecks occur due to the philosophical blind spots, drivers will have LOTS of time to sit and absorb the cardboard political debate while awaiting the tow truck, police and/or ambulance.

Every time you hear sirens in your neighborhood this election season, go ahead and chalk another one up for the lawn-chair politico next door.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Charlize Theron = The Devil?

While searching for yet another way to avoid writing a synopsis for my latest novel (I could write a thesis on this if I wouldn't keep putting it off), I turned to my faithful friend in times of such need: Netflix. I've powered through all of the classic "Invader Zim" episodes but I was still in the mood for a quirky cartoon. So, I decided to search for "Lucy: Daughter of the Devil."  For anyone who hasn't seen it, this is a great cartoon from Adult Swim that is essentially MTV's "Daria" meets "Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett. Unfortunately, Netflix was a big fat bust on this one.

Still, the eager-to-please search engine didn't want to appear completely unhelpful. Unwilling to accept failure, it offered me the following suggestions based on the search in this order:
1. "I Saw the Devil"
2. "The House of the Devil"
3. Charlize Theron

Does Netflix know something we don't know? No wonder she was able to lose all of that weight so quickly after "Monster."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Novel Excerpt - "Alice Will"

This is a section from my latest young adult fantasy - "Alice Will". In this scene, teenage demi-goddess Trotter is fighting a new foe: boredom. With Prowler, an enchanted cat that is both her friend and guardian, she roams the docks of Sarano.
There is a universal law which naturalists and scientists have yet to discover that supplies that anywhere people gather or pass through, someone will arrive to sell them food. It is due in large part to the tremendous attractive force between the street creature known as a vendor and the gold residing in the pockets of anyone who isn’t them. This is why within a fifty foot walk along the bay Trotter and Prowler were able to purchase and devour two fresh steamed cods, a sampling of shrimp, fried caramel snaps, banana pastries, and a very large syrupy fruit drink made with fizzy water. Trotter was just finishing off a deliciously sticky taffy dainty when they reached the foot of Poorbetters St. and a new sign caught her eye.
“Hey, look! The boys have a new store.”
“I heard about that. Apparently a child in the west side started asking too many questions about one of the gadgets and the parents got suspicious. So, they packed up shop, changed the name a little, and here they are. Good choice, too. People around here aren’t into asking questions.”
The store ahead of them had a sign that advertised “Pratt, Pratts, Potts, and Pot: Items of Technific Wonder.” Though the quartet had moved around quite a bit they were always simple to find by those who knew them. The store in the illustrious west end of Sarano had been called “Pat, Pratt, Pots, and Potter,” and the store before that had been of another similar variation. The reason for their constant moving was that after a while people would catch on to who they really were and chunks of brick would invariably be hurled through their window at best or, at worst, flaming bottles would be thrown in the night. Yet this didn’t deter the young men whose names were actually Pratt, Pratt, Pratt, and Pratt.
Pratt was, or Pratts were, if you will, a mage. Early in his life he discovered that he had a natural aptitude for magical inventions and also discovered that he had far too many ideas and inventions to create than he could do alone in one life time. His solution was as simple as it was impossibly insane. Rather than attempt to find another mage to work with he decided that he worked better by himself, so that is exactly what he chose to do. Using a little-known loophole in Scatcatter’s Infundibulum Dispersal he cast a small net in time and caught himself from one second in the future. With the help of his slightly future self, he repeated the process two more times until Pratt was certain he had enough help for his creations. The only drawback was that he tended to fall into a four second loop in his conversations with other people. Therefore, only two Pratts worked in the front of the store at any time while the other two worked feverishly in the workshop constructing toys that were part magical and part mechanical.
It was generally held among the public that yes, magic existed and yes, it’s quite handy to have around when someone gets ill or the dragons get frisky again, but it’s not really proper, is it? And so it was that they tended to become uncomfortable around practitioners of magic. When groups of uncomfortable people gather together they typically become a group of angry people quite quickly if for no other reason than that it seems to be fashionable at the time.
Magic was never fashionable in the trendy and modern city of Sarano. It signaled a time when people, chiefly people with money, were not in control and put them largely in mind of pitch forks and torches. It was tolerated, however, in the same way that mice are tolerated to exist so long as they did not appear in one’s kitchen.
The Pratts made beautiful toys and time-saving inventions that could practically prepare and cook an entire meal if the buyer had enough gold to spend. However, in order to entice an affluent citizen to purchase one of their magical goods they’d had to be creative, and even a little devious. Pratt, one or all of them, came up with the name technifical to describe the creations and called himself, themselves, an engineer. Since everyone knew that nobody could understand an engineer anyway they seldom asked them what technifical meant. If a brave or morbidly curious soul did ask then they would be ambushed with terms like reversible inverse momentum, floppy circuits, limited infinite quantities, and quantifiable unknowns until the listener gave up and went away pale, shaken, and confused.
Still, from time to time an enterprising mind would dissect one of their wonders and discover that where they’d expected to find clockwork was nothing but seemingly sparkly air or sometimes even a flapping butterfly. Then the Pratts would have to pack up their store and move yet again. It no longer bothered them, actually. It was a matter of pride to them that they were never in one place long enough for the property tax bill to arrive.
The newest incarnation of their store stood in front of Trotter with the promise of at least one thing: it would alleviate an entire morning’s worth of boredom in one stop.
“Let’s go in for a visit,” she said, swallowing the last of her taffy.
“Not this time. We need to get back and wait for Miro.”
“Oh, come on, it’s right on the way! It won’t take long.” She started heading toward the door.
“You promised!” Prowler called behind her indignantly.
“What? I can’t hear you. You should speak up when you’re so far away,” she taunted back as the door to the shop began to close behind her. Prowler darted through the door before it could shut on his tail.
“Five minutes. Then we really have to go. I’m getting bad feeling right down to my whiskers now.”
“Don’t be such a fraidy cat.” As soon as she stepped through the door the buzzing of toys and gizmos filled her ears. As she wandered down an aisle a small rodent sized toy zipped in front of her, pausing only long enough to squeak a tinny apology before hurrying along. In the corner a toy bird was flapping from wall to wall while a life-like toy frog hopped into her hands. It had a small key turning in its back, but she knew it was only for show. That key turned nothing at all and never needed winding. But it made it look less magical and therefore more acceptable to the parents of proper children with the pockets full of gold.