By far the most frequent question posed to me as a writer—aside from my favorite research tool (Google), my preferred way of viewing attractive people (Ogle), what a group of geese is called (Gaggle), and my favorite lady (Gaga)—is “Mr. Bayse (always spelled wrong…always), how are crop circles made?” To which I would answer, there are two ways to make a crop circle:
1) Make one yourself.
First, you will need the following supplies:
• Two planks attached together at the end by a rope
• A two-foot long marking pole
• One hundred feet of plastic surveying tape
• An OS Pathfinder map, with detailed field boundaries and pathways
• Infrared glasses (not necessary if sufficient moonlight is available)
• A plastic garden roller
Choose a field: something that will conceal your flagrantly illegal act yet is still visible enough come the dawn to draw the media attention you so crave.
Round and Round You Go
Drop off the planks and roller near the site by some identifiable marker that you can find in the darkness. Park your vehicle away from your site as to not arouse suspicion. Walk back to the site to the point at which you have previously decided will be the center of your design. Move to this point using tractor lines. From the center of your circle about six feet from the nearest tractor line, spin around in a tight circle on one foot while dragging the crop down with the other. Place the marking pole at the center and attach the tape before walking out to your predetermined radius. Walk the perimeter, dragging one foot as you go to leave a trail, until you return to your starting point.
Next, get out the planks and roller and get to work! The planks are ideal for angular, detailed work while the roller is a powerful ally in covering a great deal of ground while lending subtle curves. A circle flattened from the inside out will create something called a “radial lay,” while the reverse will approximate a concentric flow. For added credibility, try to select a shape that has some mathematical or mythical importance (i.e. nothing obscene or related to your college football mascot).
Before you finish your formation, always check for accidentally cast human detritus such as beer cans and cigarette butts: anything that researchers will not likely associate with higher life forms. By carrying with you either a magnetometer or calibrated dowsing rod, you can leave behind a confounding electromagnetic residue. Extra points for mysterious, anomalous goo or chemical substances left in the middle of your creation: the nougaty center of your perplexing, paranormal riddle.
The second way to make a crop circle is…
2) Make contact with a technologically advanced extraterrestrial race.
• After contact is made, decide on a common language (I suggest Esperanto or a binary-based language…in a pinch that catchy melody from Close Encounters of the Third Kind can get a dialog going).
• Next, submit a shape that you think would make a compelling field of dreams (or nightmares). Most extraterrestrial races are more than willing to work with you on shape development for a minimal surcharge. Sometimes you can get “two-for-one” deals where they throw in shape design as an incentive. Hold your ground. Many aliens will attempt to charge you an arm, several legs and what appears to be a pronged tail.
• During the shape review process, be sure to ensure that your shape affects on an emotional level; uses complex codes to communicate a new language; or is strong enough to survive the inter-dimensional transfer process without compromising the design.
• Now the fun part: selecting a field. Cornfields make a bold statement, yet never underestimate the subtle sculpting properties of wheat. Most alien races have detailed maps of their favorite fields and regions, but don’t be afraid to bring a relatively new field to their attention. You are the artist and know best what canvas would prove most complimentary to your unique work of artistic expression. Also, take into account the collective psyche of the region you select and what would freak them out the most.
• Before your shape is transmitted, have your lawyer review your design and the trademark laws of the selected country, to ensure that no branding transgression has occurred (it is best to avoid anything remotely resembling a swoosh).
• Lastly, sit back and enjoy the pandemonium your weaving, inscrutable pattern of broken stems creates.
This approach, while intriguing, is expensive and may well incur the possibility of hostile extraterrestrials abducting you and your family while you sleep (most extraterrestrials receive their human medical training by playing Operation… and, as many of you know all too well, there is nothing colder than an alien probe).
For more information on writing, visit http://www.wherethebadkidsgo.com.
Oh, and here are some other questions that have recently come to my attention:
• My writing process: Put off, freak out, write on.
• The inspiration for my current book: my devotion to the Heck series and expanding/deepening the emotional world of the characters; contractual obligation.
• One aspect of my current book that interested me the most: stretching wide the scope of Heck to accommodate all sorts of nasty layers and thinly veiled personal vendettas and agendas, especially the hamster wheel of consumerist society (“Mmm…Buy a Triple Bacon and Asbestos Cheeseburger and be Momentarily Happy today!” “Buy ‘Frighteningly Thin Celebrity Magazine’ today!” “Buy the ‘I Am, Surprisingly, Overweight and Unhealthy Due to the Cheeseburgers Yet Want to Look like an Airbrushed, Studio-photograph of a Celebrity with an Eating Disorder, Five Personal Trainers and On-call Plastic Surgeon’ Diet today!” “Buy the ‘I Am Miserable In That I Cannot Attain Falsified Perfection’ Self-Help book today!” “Mmm…Buy a Triple Bacon and Asbestos Cheeseburger and be Momentarily Happy today!”)
• A challenge I faced when writing my current book and how I overcame it: Having to write a book in a few months, staying with it until it was finished, editing it again and again until it was pretty good.
• How much truth is there in my work and how do I handle that?: Lots. I am not nearly creative enough to fashion worlds and characters from scratch. I always have to draw from some personal experience. I just make sure it blends well with the story. I find that the nuggets of “truth” act like little hooks that pull the reader closer.
• What are you reading right now?: I am reading Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World by Steven Johnson. I love reading books about diseases. I find them infectious.
• What is my favorite food?: I don’t care for food. It always ends up making me have to go to the bathroom.
• What writers have influenced me?: Most every writer influences me in one way or another—a clever turn of phrase, a particularly concise sentence. Even bad writers influence me, hopefully for the better. I love reading the work of Heck’s fans. As a kids’ writer, it’s important to read kids’ writing.
• What am I working on now?: Snivel: The Fifth Circle of Heck.