31 March 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge Starts Tomorrow!

You all know about this, right? A blogfest that invites you to compose 26 posts in April - one for every day except Sundays - based on each letter of the alphabet? The fest is absolutely massive, with 860 people participating so far. Yikes! That is a lot of blogs to visit! But you should totally join. Click on the badge and go check it out and sign your blogging life away!

I am really looking forward to this, and have been doing a bit of tentative planning around it. I've had a piece of paper with the letters of the alphabet posted above my desk for the last month or so, and I've been writing in juicy words whenever I get inspired. I'm pretty much covered for the first few days. In case you aren't, here are some suggestions:

Anger! Aggravation! Agape! Argyle! Albatross! Attitude! Ape! Application! Advertising! Amble! Ambulance! Arbitrary! Achtung! Achoo! Acute! Acquire! And! Agile! Alcohol! Abuse! Ark!

There's got to be something in that list you can work with. These are all yours: my A-word is not on this list, nor is it on any of the lists I've posted on any of your blogs lately.

For those of you who are looking for another challenge, I thought I would mention my diabolical idea. For some insane, possibly death-wishy reason, I decided to do Story a Day in May. I know, terrifying, right? I expect to fail miserably, as I write with the speed of a snail (right there with you, Deborah!), but I will nevertheless give it the old college try. And focus on microfiction. Anyway, my idea is that I'm going to use my A-Z entries as prompts for my Story a Day stories. I'll be five short: there are 31 days in May, and only 26 letters in the alphabet. Five days for spontaneous bursts of creativity! To allow a little more free play, I'm planning to keep my A-Z posts a little open, a little loosey-goosey, nice and juicy. (I'm a poet, didn't know it, my feet show it - they're Longfellows!)

So, for those of you who have taken on to up the ante a little? (Join will be funnnnn.)

29 March 2011

Bits and Pieces

An object lesson for writers over here at BigAl's Books and Pals. The moral of the story: if you're going to strenuously object to a review of your self-published book that points out its numerous errors, you might want to master grammar, spelling, and English idiom first. Recommended if you enjoy shadenfreude and delicious commentroversy. Be forewarned: it gets unfunny sometime shortly after the author under review drops her second f-bomb.

Via Dread Central: Brad Pitt's battle to turn the brilliant World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War into a film might be successful after all. I admit I'm torn. The book was so jaw-droppingly amazing and so uniquely constructed that it is likely to lose its essence as a film. Go read it and tell me what you think.

Newsflash: Googling "Where did Rebecca Black come from?" produces this Crushable article that details the diabolical machinations of Ark Music Factory, "a company that lets people pay a lot of money so that their kids can sing a song and make a music video." Well, that explains that, doesn't it? Ark seems kind of like the Disney machine but without the raw talent or interest in investing in their stars in exchange for stealing their childhoods and turning them into human train wrecks. I found this interesting as a writer because it seems that although there has been much buzz of late about why new authors should think like indie bands, lookie lookie, here is a part of the "music" industry that is taking its business model from vanity publishing.

Personally, I hope they do a lot more. Rebecca Black's "Friday" was insidiously earwormish and so very meme-worthy.

If you haven't experienced it, here's the original:

Sorry about that. But you'll thank me now that you can fully enjoy the spoof by Bad Lip-Reading:

28 March 2011

Short Stories for Your Edification and Entertainment

We all know that reading is one of the cornerstones of good writing, right? And we all want to suck less, right? And we all know that writing short stories is a great way to get a lot of practice with all the stages of writing in a compressed manner, right? Obviously, reading short stories is key. Plus it's way, way less depressing than reading the news these days.

Here are some of the stories I've been looking at recently. This post is also a sly way for me to point a couple of new / new to me short fiction markets I've discovered.

Fellow Crusader Eileen Wiedbrauk of Speak Coffee to Me recently published her Rumpelstiltskin-themed story, "Garbage-to-Gold Spindle -- On Sale Now!" in Enchanted Conversation. It's funny, a little bit sad and mostly epistolary - really great stuff. Go read it immediately! I am slowly working my way through the other stories and poems in this issue of EC. I think this magazine is filling a very important niche in the fantasy market. They are doing good stuff. They've got a Rapunzel-themed contest starting April 1, so if you've written or would like to write a juicy maiden-in-the-tower story, now is your time!

"Don't Move a Muscle, Mr. Liberty" by Jordan Ellinger and "Aliens, Eh?" by Laura Lee McArdle (props for the ultra-Canadian title, Laura Lee!) are two pieces in the fairly new online magazine AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review. Ellinger's piece is still turning in my mind hours after I first read it - it's one of those that stays with you as you contemplate its possibilities. Neither are what I would call hard science fiction at all. The submission guidelines state, "We publish exclusively science fiction, though our interpretation of the genre can be quite inclusive." I'd say they're as good as their word on that. I'm excited about this magazine, especially since I'm Canadian. They do publish authors from elsewhere, but their mandate is to support Canadian writers, so if you're a fellow Canuck, this is good news.

23 March 2011

Haunted Hamilton, Ghostly Encounters, and the Anatomy of Scary Scenes

On Saturday evening, the night of the supermoon, Dave and I took a tour of the Customs House here in Hamilton, courtesy of a group called Haunted Hamilton. This building, built in 1858, first housed the federal centre controlling the flow of trade through our town. Now the building houses the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre, and I suppose you could go in there during the daytime to take a look at the building and the labour-related artwork that hangs in the galleries, but I suspect the only way to see the creepy third attic level and the weird little rooms in the basement is to go with a ghost tour.

I am a fan of local architecture and of old buildings in general, of which Hamilton has oodles. I couldn't resist the chance to traipse through the Customs House guided by someone in period costume who had lots of spooky stories to share.

There's a third story in this building that you can't see from the outside...spooky.

I have written before about my love of the paranormal and how I am really, really susceptible to anything scary, which is why I love horror as a genre. For me, a good scary story or spooky experience is as good as skydiving or climbing Mount Everest. I studied theatre and drama extensively in school, so any live performance or live storytelling is fun for me.

I loved this ghost walk because it wrapped all of these elements up in black silk with a big, shiny bow on top.  In the gallery, our guide, Lady Elizabeth, and her fellow ghost guides talked about the history of the building, its onetime status as a macaroni factory, as a school, as an abandoned, decrepit ruin, and its refurbishment as a martial arts studio. The story of the building underwrote all the other tales we heard that night.

The guides all talked about watching the large metal latches on the windows in the gallery swing of their own accord. Lady Elizabeth talked about people hearing the footsteps and laughter of children in the second floor hallway, of gruesome murders and dark deeds performed in and around the Customs House, and also of accidental deaths.

In one room, as we clustered around the dim light of Lady Elizabeth's kerosene lantern, I felt a light but persistent touch on my right leg just at my knee. The energies of the House shifted from downright oppressive in the main gallery to rich with history in the attic to almost explosive in the basement, especially in the one room with the creepy staircase that now goes nowhere, cut off in a renovation. The weight of history weighs heavy in the vault, the location of the burial of the Dark Lady, the Customs House's most famous ghost, and also the accidental burial of fifteen men, hobos who died in a cave-in as they tried to warm themselves in the tunnel that once led from the harbour to the house.

I was shit scared the entire time. It was awesome. So I'm writing this post with a double agenda: one, I want each and every one of you reading this to come visit Hamilton so I can take you on this ghost tour. Seriously, it will be a blast.

Two, I have been thinking about how to capture the spooky essence of ghost stories in fiction.

The thing about ghost stories is that they are basically just fragments of experience. All they tell you is that something weird happened to someone. The main character is always "a woman" or "a man." If you're lucky, you might get to hear the experiencer tell his or her own story, but you don't need to know anything specific about him or her to be scared, because the story is really about everyman / everywoman - i.e. you or someone like you. The context of the story is always "this really happened," even if the account has become fictionalized over time. The idea that regular reality could go suddenly off-kilter is, I think, why these tales are scary.

My question is, how can we get the same spook effect in our fiction? I find that a lot of horror produces gross-outs and takes me outside of the terms of polite society quite reliably (it's hard to teach zombies table manners), but it's a rare book that really haunts me, in the sense that it makes me feel scared to walk down the dark hallway between my bedroom and the bathroom in the middle of the night.

I remember some passages in Stephen King's It that did the trick. It's been a million years since I've read it, and I think I borrowed a library copy, so I don't have it on hand, but there was a scene where one of the kids (or more?) was looking through a photo album and one of the pictures changed. I think Pennywise, the evil clown antagonist showed up in the photo? Or something? (I doesn't sound that scary, but believe me, it was!) Much more strongly than the scene itself, I remember where I was when I read it: it was a summer during high school. I had stayed up super late to read. As events unfolded in the scene, I felt the world around me turning inside out. Even though I was sitting comfortably in my room in the warm glow of my cosy reading lamp, I remember feeling paralyzed, like I couldn't and shouldn't move, and I remember wishing that my bedroom window wasn't open - I suddenly felt totally vulnerable. I most definitely wished I hadn't chosen to stay up reading that book.

That was twenty-five years ago, probably. That's a long time to remember something so vividly. That's powerful stuff. I want to have that kind of effect on people, don't you?

There are some ways that a scene like that resembles the spine-chilling ghost stories told at the Customs House. King is great at building characters that are generic, everyman / everywoman sorts of people (without being boring - that's the real trick). Even if you don't feel a strong connection with that specific character, in a good scary scene, the character is often doing something totally normal that you have probably done, like looking through a photo album. The sudden swerve of reality into unfamiliar, potentially threatening territory is what creates, I think, the most powerful spook factor. Leaving aside the gah! clown! factor and the specific trappings of that scene from It, I'm thinking that maybe this is a workable formula: 1) establish a strong sense of normal, plain, everyday reality and 2) take the character out of that reality into somewhere else that has negative implications for his / her safety and wellbeing.

Maybe this is a good place to start. I'd love it if you all would share your scary stories / favourite scary moments from fiction. What do you think is scary? More importantly, why do you think it scares you?

14 March 2011

Rejection Collection


It is beginning to look like winter is finally loosening his stranglehold here in Southern Ontario. We're hovering around zero degrees centigrade right now, but I'm seeing double digits for later in the week. It's sunny and bright today, and that insane week of overcast, crappy weather we just had is finally over. I am happy to see the sun, but inside I'm feeling like I've been worked over by fifty angry chimpanzees wielding bags of gravel.

What, weather? Affect my mood? Why do you ask?

Also, right now that spate of submissions I managed to get out over the last six weeks is starting to bear fruit: the stinky, rotten fruit of rejection. This is nothing to be upset about (I tell myself earnestly): it's par for the course and a direct result of all those lovely submissions I made. Logically, this is true. Emotionally, I take rejection in all sorts of ways. If I'm on top of my game, it's a shoulder shrug and a figuring out where else I'm going to submit that piece. If I'm feeling like I've recently been worked over by fifty angry chimpanzees wielding bags of gravel, it can range from kind of frustrating to downright depressing. Today I'm on the hunt for a couple of pro markets for orphan short stories, but I'm also looking for inspiration. Here are some nice articles on submitting like a maniac and why rejections are a good thing:

Alex Keegan on rejection: "I eat rejections like Popeye eats spinach. You can too." An oldie but a goodie.

Milo James Fowler offers some wisdom from Mr. Bradbury on fighting the good submission fight.

Children's writer Ellen Jackson writes about the relationship between rejection and opinion: "Stories are like people - imperfect and flawed. If your work is competent, some readers [and editors] will hate it, some will like it.

On the flipside, Creative A over at Headdesk makes some excellent points about the dangerous nature of praise and the need for writers to stay objective.

I hope you all are submitting like maniacs and adding to your own rejection collections, not to mention picking up the occasional or not-so-occasional publication.

13 March 2011

Hey Hey Hey - It's Fat Albert!

I's me! Jessica, aka Witless Exposition, over at Cerebral Lunchbox, has posted a short but pithy interview she did with me as part of the Writers' Crusade. Go read it. It's Elizabeth Twist, coming at you with music and fun, and if you're not careful, you might learn something before it's done!

12 March 2011

The Century of the Self

When Dave and I were negotiating how we would live together four years ago, he told me he didn't want to get cable TV. I was already spending much of my time watching television via DVD, so I had no problem with this. Today, any time I find myself sitting in front of a conventional television, I am blown away by how many and how disruptive the commercials are. Seriously, I used to sit through all that? Yikes!

I've been in the habit of heading out to our local library branch to borrow DVDs, and Dave has hooked up a computer with internet connection to my old TV, so we're never short on things to watch. Lately, we've been into documentaries, and are huge fans of much of what the BBC has to offer.

Enter The Century of the Self. If you're a Mad Men fan, you might be interested in this. Starting with Freud's development of his theory of the self in the early 20th century, it talks about how corporate and political forces have used these theories to shape and manipulate public consciousness. If you're interested in dystopian fiction, you might be interested in the ways public policy makers throughout the 20th century sought to control what they perceived as a society constantly on the verge of mass revolt and violence.

This set of four one-hour programs really gets to the heart of how we see ourselves, and how the powers that be deliberately shaped this self-perception in order to achieve specific ends. It's no coincidence that in the course of 100 years, we've gone from being consumers of necessities to consumers of any number of delights. It's no coincidence that one of the number one values of our culture is "individuality," while more and more we police each other in the name of conformity.

This is a chilling story, and one worth knowing about. I think The Century of the Self is essential viewing for anyone interested in why we are the way we are - a great set of insights for anyone who wants to understand the mechanics of world building or the way that large social movements get started and persist.

From the introduction:

A new theory about human nature was put forward by Sigmund Freud. He had discovered, he said, primitive sexual and aggressive forces, hidden deep inside the minds of all human beings - forces which if not controlled, led individuals and societies to chaos and destruction. This series is about how those in power used Freud's theories to try to control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy. 

08 March 2011

Do Not Adjust Your Set

I am playing with Blogger templates. I decided the old school parchment-paper template had to go - it wasn't that adjustable, and it was starting to show its age. I am playing with pepto bismol colour palettes right now.  If I can Baker-Miller enough of you into submission, maybe I can get you to stick around. Read this blog: suppress your appetite! Read this blog: reduce aggression! Read this blog: keep prisoners pacified! Read this blog: reduce your physical strength!

07 March 2011

Buffy Giveaway Winner

Hooray! It's Monday and time to reveal the name of my Buffy Giveaway Winner!

Sorry, Buffy: it's not you.
Through an extremely scientific process, I wrote down the names of all the lovely and charming and talented entrants on green slips of paper. Lacking a hat, I folded them and put them on my lunch plate, which is on my desk on a notebook:

I tossed the slips around with my fingertips until one flew off the plate. Survival of the fittest! or something.  The winner is...

Congratulations, Trisha! Check your email inbox.

Thanks for playing, everyone!

04 March 2011

Feng Shui for Writers

You've probably heard about the Chinese art of feng shui (also spelled fung shui). In the west, feng shui has become somehow mashed into aesthetics / interior design as a practice. But feng shui is much more than aesthetics or interior design: it's the art of arranging your living space so that it maximizes the smooth flow of energy in a way that is beneficial to you personally.

When I first started learning about feng shui as part of my tai chi training, I thought it sounded just bizarre. What do you mean, the direction I face when I write has an impact on my ability to concentrate, or on my success? It sounded like magical thinking at its worst.

One of my tai chi buddies took some training with a feng shui master. At one point, he invited me out for coffee and offered me a chance to pick his brains about what he'd learned. I brought a drawing of the layout of my apartment. Ahead of time, I'd given him my birthdate. It was all in good fun, as far as I was concerned.

At the time, I was working on my PhD. He asked me about my work habits. "How about your desk?" he said, pointing to the rectangle I'd drawn on my apartment diagram. "Does it work for you there?"

I shrugged. "Sure. There's nothing wrong with it." It held my computer and a few stacks of paper well enough.

"Do you use it?" he said.

Hm. I had to confess that I did most of my research on the couch and most of my writing at the kitchen table. I only worked at my desk to use the computer - for the final phases of editing, and to check email and the like. It never occurred to me that not using my desk was a sign that maybe it wasn't in the best place for me.

Using a formula based on my birthdate and gender, my friend calculated something called my kua number. The kua number tells you your best and worst compass directions. There are eight directions in the feng shui system: one for each of the major compass points (N, S, E, W); one for each of the four directions between them (NE, SE, NW, SW). (There's also a ninth direction, the "centre," but that doesn't really concern us right now.) Once you know your kua number and a few other handy pieces of info, you can arrange your writing desk so that you face a direction that's good for you.

I've encountered a few pseudo-scientific theories about why feng shui works. Energy or chi is basically equivalent to electromagnetic fields. These fields move and circulate in ways that resonate with your personal energy field (or clash with it). Feng shui is the science of understanding the interaction of these fields. However, it doesn't really matter if you accept electromagnetism, chi, or any other of the trappings of feng shui: it will work regardless. Physically altering the space where you live and work will change the way it makes you feel. There is no Tinkerbell factor involved in feng shui: you don't need to believe in it to make it work for you.

For me, it all came down to the question: why not?  I took notes based on my friend's advice, rearranged my furniture, and waited to see what would happen.

I found that feng shui helped me love my desk again and made my work space feel more like home for my writing. I've spent the last several years studying feng shui basics so I can understand more about this complex art.

So, when Caroline wrote on her blog, Untitlement, that she was having trouble writing while sitting at her shiny new desk, I put together a few feng shui tips for her. I wanted to share them with you, too.

If you want to arrange your workspace according to feng shui, here's how you do it:

1. Determine your kua number. Historically, you would have to do this by hand, but you can use the online kua number calculator here. Specify your gender as well as the day, month and year of your birth. The calculator will give you two pieces of info: your kua number and your house. These are divided into two types: east house and west house. With that info alone, you will be well on your way to figuring out your best and worst directions.

In the system I use, if your kua number is 5 and you're male, you should use the kua number 2 (they are equivalent). If your kua number comes out 5 and you're female, use the kua number 8.

2. Figure out your best and worst directions. If you are an East House person, your best directions are East, Southeast, North and South. If you are a West House person, your best directions are West, Southwest, Northwest, and Northeast.

3. Buy a compass to make sure you're aware of where the directions sit relative to your home. Sit as close to the middle of your home as you can get and align the compass needle with the "N" on the compass. This will allow you to map your home against the compass directions. You should be able to point to a specific corner and know "this is Southeast," or "that's North." I suggest using a compass because directions can be tricky. What we call "East" and "West" in my town aligns with the two main roads, but in reality these roads run Southeast to Northwest.

4. Map your house or apartment against the directions.

5. Generally speaking, you want to sit facing a direction that's good for you. If you're an East House person like me, you want to point your desk so that you are looking to the North, South, East or Southeast when you work.

6. Bonus considerations: for the best sleep possible for you, imagine that you're wearing a hat with an arrow on top of it that points straight up. When you lie down in your bed, ensure that the arrow points in a direction that's good for you. The benevolent energies of that direction will pour down on your head while you sleep.

If you go no further with feng shui, then that's pretty good. If you really want to refine your work space, there are some other considerations you might want to take into account.

7. Each kua number has a direction that's super, ultra good for it - a "best direction." This will be one of the four directions that's good for you. It's not a bad idea to face your best direction. There is also a prosperity direction for each kua number. Diana at Blue Pearl Feng Shui has a good post that lists the best directions for each kua number. If you can, use the Fu Wei (personal development / advancement) direction or the Sheng Chi (success and wealth) direction for your writing desk.

8. Learn about the elements associated with your kua number. There are five elements in Chinese philosophy: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each element has a colour associated with it. Placing an object that corresponds to your kua number's element on your desk can help make it more your own.

Kua number 1: Kan:  Element: Water (bowl of water, the colour blue, the colour black)
Kua number 2: Kun: Element: Earth (a stone, the colour yellow)
Kua number 3: Chen: Element: Wood (houseplant, the colour green)
Kua number 4: Sun: Element: Wood (houseplant, the colour brown, the colour green)
Kua number 6: Chien: Element: Metal (metal object, the colour white, the colours grey or silver)
Kua number 7: Tui: Element: Metal (metal object, the colour white, the colours grey or silver)
Kua number 8: Ken: Element: Earth (a stone, the colour yellow)
Kua number 9: Li: Element: Fire (a candle, the colour red)

Diana Garber at Intuitive Concepts has a more detailed list describing the qualities of each kua, along with pictures of the trigrams (three line diagrams) that go with each kua, as well as the Chinese characters for the element that belongs to each kua. It's a nice idea to hand draw a picture of the trigram that goes with your kua on a piece of coloured paper that matches your element and place it on or near your desk.

8. Take the flying stars into account.  This is a whole new level of feng shui. Each year, there are a rotating series of energetic influences that change direction, but that can create good or bad luck. These are part of what's called "flying star" feng shui. It's not ideal to point your desk toward some of these influences, so if you have the choice of more than one of your good directions, choose one that isn't facing one of these negative influences.

Where are they in 2011?

The big one is is called Tai Sui, or the Grand Duke. This energy is in the East this year. You want to avoid facing East, even if it's a good direction for you. There's another negative energy in the East, called the Five Yellow Star. Try not to do any home renovations or disturb the eastern part of your home.

A good, simple solution for the Grand Duke is to get a laughing Buddha statue - one of the jolly fat Hotei dudes. Place him so that he faces East. This isn't an official feng shui cure for Tai Sui, but it will do the trick.

Three Killings is in the West - this is an energy you do want to face head on if you can. So if you're a West House person, go ahead and face the West if you can. My tai chi teacher, who is a Taoist monk, advises placing a second Hotei laughing Buddha facing West.

There's some nasty crap going on in the South also, and a little something something in the North. Okay, basically, we East House people are kind of pooched as far as 2011 goes. If you can manage to point your desk facing Southeast, you should be okay. That's what I'm doing. That, and fastening my seatbelt.

If you want to read more, I recommend getting one of Lillian Too's books. My teacher tells me these contain the fewest errors. And if you have any questions or you want to run your scenario by me, I would be happy to help out.

03 March 2011

My Instrument

I write first drafts by hand. I love it. I use a Rotring (literally, "red ring") fountain pen. For the money, fountain pens have all of the flow across the page of the best rollerball pens, are almost infinitely refillable, and have much more weight. I can write fast with this pen, and my hand almost never gets tired, since you can be all loosey-goosey with your grip, and you never have to press against the paper - the weight of the pen takes care of that for you.

This is a picture of my pen and one of two current bottles of ink I'm working on: I'm alternating this slippy, supposedly insoluble Noodler's Ink with some highly soluble, jet black Aurora ink, which is rich and lovely. That's my WiP under there, my current short piece for Write1, Sub1.

Yes, one of my characters is called Gandalf. Not the Gandalf - this guy is a homeless bearded fellow whose nickname is Gandalf. He does acquire magical powers during the course of the story.

For me, first drafts are a sensual experience. I like to feel as though I'm working hands on. It feels more like making art than typing does. When I'm drafting, I can also avoid turning on the computer, which is a huge bonus, because I am very, very easily distracted.

My writing process is a little bit slow because of the need to transfer a draft from its handwritten form to the computer. On the other hand, I get the bonus feature of at least two distinct drafts. I find it helps me to switch gears from writing to editing if I change what I'm doing physically (using two hands, not just one; working with a screen and a keyboard instead of pen and paper).

What are your writing rituals? Any other handwriters out there? How do you make writing special for yourself?

01 March 2011

A Buffy Season Eight Give-Away, in Celebration of Reaching a Buck Twenty-Five

Thanks in large part to the fantabulous Rachael Harrie's Writers' Platform-Building Crusade, I have super quickly surpassed 100 followers, and sometime today reached 125. As I'm sure is the case for most crusaders, my daily page views are going through the roof also. Thank you so much for following, everyone! This is great.

So, I am running a giveaway! Free books, y'all!

This is for you Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. You guys know about Buffy Season Eight, right? That's right! Even though the television gods saw fit to cancel the best show ever made (sorry, BSG fans), the Buffyverse lives on in comic book form, courtesy of Dark Horse. Season Eight has been collected in eight volumes. These are lovely books with some wonderful art. The storyline is all about exploring the implications of that big, world-changing move that Buffy and pals made at the end of Season Seven. You know what I'm talking about. If you don't, then go watch the show, posthaste!

In any case, I happen to have in my possession pristine copies of Volumes Four and Five. They look like this:

Of course I totally recommend getting your hands on Volumes 1-3 before you read these. But if you would like your very own copies of Buffy Season Eight Volumes 4 and 5, just leave a comment along with a means to contact you (email or your @yourtwittername - I'm not gonna phone you) on this post before midnight this Friday, March 4 Sunday, March 6. I'll draw names out of a hat or similarly opaque vessel on Monday, March 7, and send these Buffy books to the winner via postal pony.

ETA: As long as you live on the earth planet, I will send these to you. Please put your name down even if you're not in the vicinity of North America.

Good luck, everybody!