Saturday, December 29, 2007

Yipes!

OK.

Maybe it's not such a good thing that we live next to an Office Max. I just spent about $70 on ink cartridges for one printer. So I can print stories, which presumably I can sell. It wouldn't be so bad, except that I bought paper there earlier this afternoon. I have the uncomfortable feeling that this qualifies me for membership in the techno-peasantry. Gads, I almost feel like I should find an old spin-writer. Or locate my old type-writer from ages ago (although I'm not sure what I did with it after my old housemate, Keith, blew up one of its capacitors with his volt-meter. . . ).

Granted, I haven't had to buy ink cartridges for this particular printer in over a year, so I guess it works out to less than $8 a month. But still.

Writing and Other News

Today I had some time to work on my writing. I really need to mail some stuff out (so what am I doing writing on the blog?). And what I discovered is that I have some version-itis on my computers. And I had run out of paper. And envelopes. And the entry in the story that I wanted to send to Polyphony had a syntax error in it, with the result that the story wasn't showing up in my mailcall report. Once I fixed that, I discovered that Polyphony had already received (and rejected) that particular story in 2005. So I printed out another story and I think my printer must be running out of ink because the copy has some problems.

All I can say is that it's a good think that an Office Max has opened up within walking distance of our house.



We're watching some friends' animals. They have a real cat -- kitten, actually. Instead of a meow that sounds like a rusty hinge, it has a squeak-toy voice. Instead of clomping around the house, it slinks. However, instead of snagging claws on our clothes during feeble attempts to jump into our laps, the kitten launches into a low orbit and crampons up to our shoulders.

Despite surprised yells, she purrs.

I'm not sure if I'd like to trade.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me

I celebrated my 43rd birthday today.

Mark was great; he decorated the house up like it was the old Savoure tea salon and we had a tea party. There were scones, quiche, teas, petit fours, French Art Nouveau botanical prints on the walls and some wonderful conversation -- Mark even put up a sign on the front door that read, "Tea like it used to be."

Later we made some sugar cookies and listened to David Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries", but not before I shot some artistic photos.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Oh boy, Oh boy!

Somehow, this was much funnier twenty years ago.



However, I just discovered this and I think it's hysterical.

Spindle, Anyone?

Today I'm carrying a little pin of Malificent in my pocket. There's always been a place in my heart for Malificent. I think when I was small, it was her horned headdress and cool purple cloak. Now it's the music by Tchaikovsky (Op.66A: III) with its sly oboe duets. Makes me want to re-read "The Thirteenth Fey," by Jane Yolen.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Another Yule.

This year I managed to use a magnifying glass to light a candle from the sun's rays. The candle stayed lit all day and then we used it for a Solstice Service at the local UU church. Something about the glow of candles lit from the sun is extra special to me. Now all I need is to find some really good Solstice Music. We did sing some paganized carols, but it's really not quite the same - and I did manage to re-write the last stanza of "Light is Returning" so it's not so 80's glam-rock.

This morning it was clear (for a change) and I was able to watch the sun rise (more or less). The morning was clear, though, and the leaded crystals shone their rainbows on the kitchen walls. It was very strange to see how much sunlight slants in on the western kitchen wall - especially since I know on the other end of the year it can shine in through our northern windows.

The moon is out tonight. I am hoping that I'll have a nice view of it on my birthday, which is this Monday; I don't know of any traditions about full moons on one's birthday. I think, though, that I have to wait something like nineteen years for the next time the moon is full on Dec 24.... although on Dec 25 2015 it will be full very early on that day. This Sunday should be an interesting sight, too, as Mars and the moon will be very close to each other - and by a funny coincidence, it turns out they were close to each other when I was born.

Well... off to decorate the house.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Latest Signing

Just got back from Waldenbooks. We were going to find Santa hats, but we didn't. I was going to put construction paper Santa Hats on the figure from the book cover's head, but I didn't. I tried to get Damon to sing "The Twelve Days of Christmas," but he didn't. Damon did show me the rubber pen trick, and I did startle Damon when I greeted a fellow Reed College alumnus with "Communism, Atheism, Free Love!" (the alumnus looked pre-occupied and didn't seem to realize that I was reading the caption on his T-shirt back to him). We had a great time and we managed to sell nineteen books in two hours. Many of my friends from The Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire stopped by and purchased books. This wiped out Waldenbooks' stock.

Now it's off to holiday madness.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Book Signing Time

Is 1 PM to about 3 PM. Waldenbooks. Albany Heritage Mall. Ho ho ho!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Book Signing This Weekend

Damon and I will be in Albany this Saturday, at WaldenBooks in the Heritage Mall. Come visit us. Maybe I can convince Damon to sing "The Twelve Days of Christmas".


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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Writing Report

Managed to find a place that stays open later than 10 PM. Unfortunately, it seems to be ringed with speakers playing irritating music. After slogging through a few changes to some manuscripts, I was on a role on a story that I started last weekend when some post-alternative-rock whiner-boy started playing. I quickly roamed around the establishment and discovered that A) the loudest speaker in the joint was over my head, and B) there was a relatively working-speaker-free area with a free table.

Thank goodness for my iPod, which allows me to play my annoying music (which I'm used to and can screen out).

I managed to get a few more pages of manuscript. Last weekend, I managed to transcribe all the story ideas from my cell phone into my laptop. There were about seven ideas; I'd say one or two would make interesting children's stories; a few would make disturbing children's stories; one or two are interesting ideas, but I'm not sure that they have a story attached to them; and one is the one that I've been running with. What I like about it is that the story is allowing me to experiment a little with voice.

I've been invited to join the league of curmudgeons. Now that I'm not feeling as ill as I was last week (and it's the other side of New Moon), I've decided that I don't enjoy being a curmudgeon so much as I do feeling righteously indignant. Oh well, I guess I have practice shouting "Betrayal!" and find an appropriate Queen of the Night outfit.





Sunday, December 09, 2007

Writing Report

Did some bookkeeping to add some recently tweaked stories to my list of stories ready to be mailed, and researched some markets. I got a rejection from Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. And I have to go out and buy some more paper because I used my last blank bits of paper to print holiday cards.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Quick Report

I've been recovering from something and it's New Moon and I probably should be getting more sleep. So I've been grumpy. Grumpy! I'm not sure if I should embrace my inner curmudgeon. On one hand it would be fun; but on the other hand I found myself listening to my inner monologue while driving and I'm beginning to sound downright misanthropic.

Naw. I should drive less.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Writing Weekend pt 3

Well... the Writing Weekend ended with a 6 page story idea. The weekend was very productive... and I got sick at the end of it. I don't know why -- it was sudden and similar to the OryCon shakes (only this time there was no dancing). I'm hoping it's something silly like a caffeine overdose and not something obnoxious like a relapse of mono.

On a different note, we've survived the Oregon storm here. Although the weekend brought 4 inches of rain, and the wind blew things around a bit, we didn't lose electricity, lose a roof, or have a tree demolish anything. Considering all the damage at the coast, we're very lucky.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Writing Weekend pt 2

Very windy here -- so much so that the electricity is flickering every so often. I'm walking around with an LED flashlight in my pocket in case the lights go out.

I woke up this morning with a very typical anxiety dream in my head: I was taking a physics class, and I was failing it; the instructor hadn't figured out grades until the last minute, so it was too late for me to withdraw from the class (thus saving my GPA from the ravages of an F).

On to waking life: I more-or-less finished up the touches to my alien plant story and began working on my Wordos Holiday story. I started writing a kind of continuation of my Wordos Halloween story... and immediately the Winter story became sophomoric. I've got about 700 words of . . . well; it's funny, I guess, in a high school summer movie kind of way.

I went back and looked at the Halloween Story, and I think what it has going for it is vampire chic, campy language, and some funny juxtapositions. And surprises. I think if people like the Winter story, they'll like it because it reminds them of the Halloween story; not because the Winter story works on its own merits (although it does stand alone).

Oh well... at least this version is done and out of my head. Off to write some more and prepare for tomorrow, the third day of writing.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Writing Weekend

I drove off (with the blessings of Mark) to write.

I arrived at the family manse and set about finding a table. A little after a half hour I had a table, chair, iPod, speakers, laptop, and Pepsi. And I began to edit "Sky Dance," a 6000 word alien bugs short story that's been languishing on my desk for an embarrassingly long time. Between notes I'd made on a manuscript and screen edits, the story is at a point where any more tweaking is simply going to break it.

I started to edit "Remember," and I'm about half way through it. The beginning is much more accessible. It's a 5000 word alien plant story. There's some setting and language details that I need to work through tomorrow.

I'm hoping that by tomorrow evening I'll be working on my Wordos holiday short story (1000 words).

Friday, November 30, 2007

Horn Dance

A friend forwarded this dance to me.  It's the Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance, the way they dance it in England.  It's kind of different from the way we dance it at the Shrewsbury Faire.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kvetching

Well . . . I seem to be getting back into a space that is functional after OryCon. Last week I felt tired, and then we had holiday obligations -- which were fun, but I didn't get much writing done. The best thing was probably seeing my Grandmother enjoy Thanksgiving; she was really present for the meal.

And then there was that CUUPs ritual I led Friday night. Boy, was that a time sink... I guess I'm glad that the ritual happened because there was some time to dance under the full moon light; but I spent about six or more hours making posters, sending out e-mail reminders, mixing pagan songs, and constructing props for a fourty-five minute dance ritual that was attended by three adults and two children. And I was the only male. At least I wasn't the only one present, which was what it looked like would happen about a minute before the ritual was supposed to start.

I'm at the point where I need to evaluate what kind of return I'm getting from my time investment. I mean... if I'm wanting ritual for numinous moments, meditating in the woods is more likely to do something for me than Raising the Cone of Power with a bunch of UU folks. And I can't seem to get into any really good theological discussions, either...

So, on to writing. Today I managed to go through two stories and they're at a point where I think if I work on them any more I'm going to start to break them. So it's off to my wise readers. I seem to be getting a lot done at the (big box) bookstore I've been travelling to, but I do find myself wishing that the store A) was closer to where I live, B) open until 11 PM instead of 10 PM, and C) less likely to be filled with students masquerading as refugees from Friends. Unfortunately, the local library, which is what I probably really want, closes at 8 PM. At least there's hot chocolate at the bookstore.

Mark has send, "Go write!" So this weekend it looks like I'm going to be writing by myself in near Redmond, Oregon. Time to get the writing mix tapes set up. I'll see if I can take hourly pictures of my progress. It should be in the mid-twenties (at least at night) so I shouldn't be too tempted to wander around being distracted by potential numinous moments near the Deschutes River. Perhaps I will have a theological discussion with a juniper, though.

Murial continues to be a loud irritant.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

John's OryCon 29 Adventure

Or Work Hard, Play Hard, Get Sick.


Well. I survived. I think this year I learned several things.
  1. Being a panelist is hard. It's not enough to figure out what you're going to say ahead of time. You have to come prepared with a bunch of questions.

  2. Panelists come in several flavors.
    1. Buy my Book.
    2. Mismatched by the Panelist Committee.
    3. Excruciatingly Well Read.
    4. I Have A Theory; It's My Only Theory; And My Theory Is This.
    5. We're Making It Up As We Go Along.
    6. Plays Wells With Others.
    7. The Very Rare Strong Moderator.

  3. At some point I looked out at an audience and I thought to myself, "Oh my God, these people want us to BS; they don't want ideas, they just want to hear what stories and articles we've read."

Friday

My adventure started out with me driving Mark's truck to Portland. I'm grateful that we're a two car family, because of the flexibility; however, the truck has a heater that's either subfreezing or inferno. Also, despite my best efforts to leave earlier (thanks Dad!) I really didn't leave the Eugene area until 2 PM, which means I hit the traffic jam that is I5 between Wilsonville and Portland. (Note to self: just take the train.)

Ursula Le Guin Reading (5 PM)

I missed the Balancing Writing with your Real Life panel, which was a shame as several of my friends were on it. But I did manage to hear Ursula Le Guin read her response to the statement "Science Fiction is dead" and excerpts from her latest novel. I thought she was funny, down-to-earth, and friendly.

She didn't even scowl when I goofed and made my camera flash (luckily between her readings).

While we were waiting for Ms. Le Guin to begin, a woman came up to the empty seat next to me and asked if it was taken. It was Ellen Eades and I recognized her before she recognized me (she was in 2nd Gen Star Trek and I was in street clothes).

Endeavor Awards (7:00 PM)

I ran into a bunch of Wordos at this event; Nina Kiriki Hoffman was one of the nominees, but someone else took the award. As soon as the awards were handed out we ran off to choke on the dinner prices at a Very Expensive Restaurant With A Cool Name and then backtracked to ...

Chinese Food and Language

We sat down, ordered food, and then tried to come up with new words for fornicate that communicated both some of the (ahem) action without the violence conjured by the usual four-letter-word. Ursula Le Guin wrote about how making love was like making bread in "The Lathe of Heaven", and I guess I could say, "Let's kneed each other tonight..."' but A) it sounds codependent when you say it that way and B) Stephen Sondheim has done it already in "Sunday Morning in the Park with George." No, no one was sitting near our table when we started, and; yes, we G-rated ourselves when a family with preteens was seated next to us.

Saturday




Wordos Breakfast (8:30 AM)


We had our same wonderful waitress as last year! She's a hoot. Alas, we weren't joined by Ellen Datlow... and although I thought about inviting Ursula from a few tables over, I figured she'd rather have breakfast with the people she was already with. There was lots of catching up with Wordos I haven't seen since last year's OryCon.

WOTF Panel (10:00 AM)

Well, this was sort of funny. I kept running into other WOTF writers at OryCon (say, from volume six or eight), but for some reason, Stephen Stanely and Damon Kaswell were the only ones listed on the panel. Luckily we were joined by others and got to talk about the WOTF contest and what to expect.

Autograph Session (11:30 AM)


This was sort of a comedy of errors. No one really knew where the autograph table was, there were no signs, and in the schedule folks were listed for either table 1 or 2. Authors kept coming by and asking which table it was. "We don't know," I said. "Right now it's in a superposition state with equal possibilities that it's either." Ellen Eades stopped by and bought three of my books, and I wished that I had brought more than the five I hastily shoved into my media box. Damon Kaswell appeared and signed Ellen's books before she got away.

I found myself sitting next to Stoney Compton, a WOTF Winner from long ago. We had a nice chat, and he agreed to sit for a photo.

It was interesting to watch how different authors carried themselves at the table. Since there was some room, I declared myself the head of the Waiting for Ursula Le Guin line, and continued to sell my last remaining book. The crowd appeared and someone made them snake around the side of the escalators to clear the elevator foyer. I'd brought three books for her to sign, but when I saw how many people were there, I scaled back my beat-up copy of "The Lathe of Heaven" that I bought sometime in the early-eighties.

In a moment of complete fan-boyness (and knowing that people probably try to gift her with all sorts of things at these conferences), I asked Ms. Le Guin if she would like a signed copy of the WOTF XXIII anthology and she very graciously accepted.

It was only later that I realized that it was the last copy of the anthology that I had with me and that I'd need to do something about that before my reading on Sunday.

Building a Balanced Mythos (1:00 PM)

It was too bad that there weren't more folks on this panel. As it was it was fairly well attended. What I had to say was that a mythos is a story that a character uses to interpret his or her world.

How Writing Workshops Changed My Life (2:00 PM)

This was the best moderated panel I attended. Basically, we took turns telling new writers about Wordos, Clarion, and the WOTF Workshop.

Writing Art and Making Sales (3:00 PM)

Basically what this boiled down to is that Ursula Le Guin feels very lucky that what she writes pays her so well, and that she and other writers write what they want to write. If you are writing for the money, take up plumbing; you'll start to feel contempt for your audience and it will show. Don't try to write "the next Harry Potter" because by the time your novel gets out you'll be out of date. And Steve Perry shared a saying he once hung over his desk: "It's better to be the world's worst artist than to be the world's best critic." (But then later the panel conceded that the best critics were also the best writers.) And if you want to get paid for writing, write a novel.

Disco Nap

Not much happened here, except that I put on The World's Most Fabulous Shirt. It's a very fun shirt, but I have to remind myself that the first thing people do after they've recovered from seeing it is feel compelled to make a disco ball joke.

Paganism Panel (5:00 PM)

Sigh. I always hope that the topics discussed will go beyond, "I'm a spiritual seeker who is curious about paganism," and "Those icky, darn, narrow minded, conservative Christian folks." The presenters were obviously winging it. It made me wish I had brought my copies of "Goddess Unmasked" or "Wicca's Charm" or at least my top questions about religion, such as. . .
  • Should we be worried that there a lot of teen witch kits with love spells?
  • Does a religion need a historic pedigree to be valid ?
  • How are gender and orientation important to how you relate to your deity? Is it necessary to gender the divine?
  • Is the term "Earth Changes" a marketing ploy designed to hook into peoples' insecurities about the world and their desire to be the most highly developed organisms on the block, or is it a valid paradigm to get folks thinking about their spiritual responses to global problems?
  • Under what circumstances is it ethical to use another culture's myths, stories, and theology?
  • What is the value of fetishisizeing a locale (i.e. Stonehenge, a cathedral, Israel, or, Egypt)?
  • At what point does syncretism become appropriation?
  • Is the millenarian paradigm of a "golden age" a useful one, and how does the function of a "golden age" contrast and compare with the concept of a heaven, hell or other afterlife?
  • Must mysticism and paganism be anti-intellectual or anti-science in order to be valid?
Oh, yeah; we bitched about Llewelyn Publishers.

Publishing (6:00 PM)

This was a useful panel and it basically boiled down to, "Editors aren't out to screw authors over -- be polite, and double-check (and pad) the response time listed on a publication's web site before querying the editor about a submitted manuscript. It's easier for editors to recognize what they don't want to buy than it is for them to recognize what they do want to buy (and that increases the decision making process). Also, when you do make a sale, be sure to read (and understand) the contract -- it never hurts to ask or cross out the bits that are bad for you (they might say, no, of course...).

Dinner with Ellen Eades

We laughed, we talked, we ate, we drank, we caught up. I think I haven't seen Ellen since before 1998. I arranged to borrow her (newly purchased) copy of WOTF so I would be able to read an excerpt tomorrow.

Dancing Like The Wind!

I wandered about for a bit, poking my head into various gatherings and then I found the Saturday night dance. I haven't been dancing in ages, and I wanted to dance. So I did. Hard. I did veil work with a tablecloth. A magazine editor on her own danced with me once we mutually spoke about how our husbands weren't at OryCon. I danced with Jai Linnea. Later Sidney and her kids showed up and we danced, too. Jai says that I was Dancing Like the Wind.

If I had been thinking a little more clearly, I would have taken a breather at some point -- I did stretch during the slow songs -- but the next thing I knew it was midnight and we were dancing the Time Warp and then to Rasputin. I heard more cheesy 80's dance music than I ever have before, with a good mix of Nine Inch Nails and Juno Reactor.

Then I went into . . . the . . .

Post Dance Shakes

At first I was fine; I noticed as I was climbing up the stairs to the forth floor that I felt a little dizzy. I got to my room and was talking with Blake Hutchins and Gra Linnea when I started to feel a little cold. A little later my teeth started chattering and I broke out into a sweat. I ate a banana and some fig newtons and drank water. Then I crawled under the covers and proceeded to sweat and shiver the night away.

I said something to Blake, who is a marathon runner, and we concluded that I'd probably messed up my electrolytes. As I lay in the dark, listening to my heart race, and my quick breath, I wondered if I was in some kind of shock, and how waking up dead would really put a damper on things (although keeling over after a really nice dance isn't such a bad way to go, I guess).

SUNDAY

Hotel checkout

I woke up alive and not in a hospital bed. I was sort of hungry, and I was kind of getting a headache. The fig newton package was almost empty and all the glasses of water I drank in the wee hours of the morning seemed to do the trick.

I was going to go to a panel on Wormholes, but I decided that I wanted to sleep a little longer and have a good breakfast. I made sure to have a banana and lots of orange juice. Since there's a noon checkout and a charge if you extend your stay, Blake and I settled all the room charges and put our luggage in the luggage waiting area.

John Burridge Reading (11:00 AM)

I found the room they'd put me in; there was a reading going on inside, so I pulled out a WOTF poster from my press kit and taped it up to an easel and waited my turn. I was hoping that I'd have more of my Eugene friends at the panel, but there was publishing your novel panel next door that they were either all on or at. So I had two friends from Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire, Ellen Eades, and one guy in my audience. I had decided last night (before the shakes) what part of "Mask Glass Magic" to read, and which Wordos Halloween shorts to follow up with. It was different reading to four people than it was to a room full of 30-plus Wordos; but everyone was nice and laughed during the funny parts.

Is SciFi Respectable (12:00 PM)

I missed the very beginning of this one because I got mixed up on rooms. But after a while the panel talking about Science Fiction and why isn't it as respectable as mainstream fiction -- by which I think they meant NYT Best Selling Thrillers -- I realized that the conversation reminded me a lot of the dialogue in the 90's queer community about assimilation: Is there an essential element to gay culture that should be preserved, or do queers want to assimilate middle American values. In the end, the panel seemed to some extent to be equating respectability with how long a novel ran.

Truly Alien Aliens (2:00 PM)

By this time I was cold and wearing my cloak to stay warm. I don't think I'd realized that I was probably relapsing from whatever todler-illness Arthur had tried to pass onto me last Wednesday. But even in my low-energy state I was pretty much outclassed by the other panelists. They'd read many more "Nature" and other medical journals than I had, and quickly moved away from aliens as a writer's device to some of the more biological oddities found on this planet. One high note was that I got a chance to meet Aeon's Pat MacEwen (and former WOTF winner).

Homeward

Then I drove home. Now, of course, the truck's air handling system was stuck on polar -- I think if I had been feeling better I would have taken the time to stop the truck some place and put on a sweater and gloves. But I huddled over the steering wheel, glared at the other drivers as I made my way back to Eugene while a deluge fell, and every so often I'd forcefully jiggle the temperature control in a vain attempt to get back to the inferno setting I'd enjoyed on my drive Friday.

When I got home, I was shaking and sweating again. Mark only grumbled a little and took the day off Monday to watch Arthur while I slept underneath layers of blankets. Mark gets several awards.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The List of Greed

It's starting to happen all ready. People want to know what I want for the December Holidays. Here you go:


  • You know... I really got into making this list. Which kind of bothers me because
    1. I'm living through the largesse of my partner so I'm on a limited budget, and;
    2. I'm supposedly trying to teach the value of True Gifts, ala Starhawk:
      • "A true gift supports our growth, makes us more than we were, rather than confirming the giver's superiority. A true gift increases our power-from-within, our ability to do, rather than keeping us bound and dependent. A true gift is sometimes harsh; it may be the withdrawal of the false service that has enable us to cling to our addictions or our limitations." [ - Starhawk, Truth or Dare, pg 210]; and
      • "... Giving each other gifts is a ritual way of expressing care. Gifs help mark points of transition and changes of state. Traditional times for giving gifts are at entry into a community, at initiation, at the year's transition points such as the Winter Solstice, as parts of rites of passage, at ending and beginning times.
        "Each Christams season we experience how gift giving deteriorates in a consumer society into the grossest form of materialism. To reclaim gift giving as a sacred act, we can give gifts of power, which may or may not be material. Generally, they are not consumer goods but things whose value is symbolic rather than measurable in dollars: rocks, shells, curious found objects, food, acts of consideration, children's drawings, bones, flowers, herbs." [ - Starhawk, Truth or Dare, pg 129-130]
    So don't let this list mislead you too much -- while the material booty would be appreciated -- if a card is what works for you, it works for me.

  • Donations of Time -- I can think of about three tasks that I could do much more quickly if there were someone standing around making sure that I don't get distracted and start to draw a topological graph linking the motions of the sun and the moon with the piles of paper, books, and dead plants that need to be dealt with... or someone to prevent me from starting to read the old yearbook that I unearthed from a pile of unopened moving boxes.

    • Clean the Garage

    • Straighten my Office

    • Various Yard Work Chores (see Cafe John, below)

    • Paint the House (still)

  • Books -- this will be complicated... so I'll just send you to what I have at Library Thing

  • Music

    • Sonnes de Mecheco -- they've got a cool Bach piece done as a mariachi.

    • Dance Suites for the Orchestra of Louis XIII.

    • An iTunes gift certificate.

  • House and Home

    • In indestructable steel gazing globe (to replace the green glass one Arthur broke a year ago).

    • Book ends -- not the artsy kind with abstract sculptures on them; I mean the industrial strength library kind that has a tongue that slips under about five books at the end. I need about ten.

    • An electronic photo frame. I have all these photos...

    • USB memory sticks. It occurs to me that I need to back up all my photos...

    • USB microphone. I tried to do some voice recordings on the iMac the other day and all that I could hear when I played things back was the computer's fan.
    • Housecleaning service.

    • Weather Station -- you know, the kind with two thermometers, a barometer, a wind tachometer, and a precipitation gauge.

  • Writing Supplies

    • Business Cards -- yeah, well; I do have them designed -- I just need to print a bunch out.

    • An LED pen to write in the dark with to replace the one Arthur got a hold of.

    • Printer supplies for an HP Photosmart 375, an HP Deskjet 930C, or a HP something or other.

  • Clothes

    • Pants: 32 waist, inseam 32.

    • Shirts: I'm a large (I like the long arms). All of my black turtlenecks seem to have disappeared -- so it's harder to look like a Tortured Artist.

    • Socks -- I don't know what's happened to my socks. I used to have all sorts of fun colored ones. Then I just had white nerdy socks. Then I was lucky if I had matching socks. Now I'm just thankful if I can find any socks.

    • Slippers -- I used to have some slippers to wear around the house to keep my feet warm. I think they got thrown out in the move or something. I'm a size 10.

  • Celon Tea from Savouré.

  • A membership to the Portland Art Museum (I think ours has lapsed).

  • Cafe John -- ah yes. Cafe John. I've been talking about it for years... and as recently as earlier this month... and it looks like it gets harder to do each year. I remember when we used to go to Savouré -- the red velvet chairs, the tables with white linnens, the chandeliers, the little candles and clever flower arrangements, the tea and scones presented on a white service, and Edith Piaf. I'd write, and once someone thought I was enough like Hemmingway (so I heard) that I found my tea and scones paid for. Alas, it is no more. Sigh -- how to fight the ennui?

    • The Table -- 42 inch diameter top, preferably of stone or glass; 42 inches high. It would be great if there were descrete outlets in it to allow multiple laptops to live on it.

    • The Chair -- something Stickly or Arts and Crafts, with wide level arms on which to rest tea cups. The seat should be about 18 inches high to accomodate my legs.

    • The Fountain -- I figure that Cafe John's going to be outside, and falling water will drown out various distractions. I'm seeing something large and square with a lion or an art nouveau dolphin, or else one of those geometrical granite water cascade things, or something vaguely Romanesque , or with bowl upon cascading bowl. Or maybe something like this.

    • The Sunscreen -- OK... I probably mean The Pavilion or maybe a The Gazebo. I mean, honestly; when it's not drizzling and 50 F it's scorching and blinding out -- but I need something with a little more savoir-faire than a tent. I guess in a pinch I could find twenty or so surplus golf umbrellas and sew them into an icosahedron.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mercury Retrograde

Today has been what I call a Mercury Retrograde day. I think logistics for at least four different events became suddenly confounded. Went out and hacked back woody lavendar for therapy. I think it may be a Tequila Day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Inner Lesbian High Priestess

I've very cleverly agreed to lead a ritual, so lately it seems like I've been spending all my spare time hovering over a Garage Band mixing screen trying to pump some life into musically simplistic pagan chants. I'm not sure why, but the version of "Hoof and Horn" that I came up with sounds like surfer detective music. Mark says the rest sounds like bellydance music. Oh well.

So. I was busy trying to meld the 60's "Mission: Impossible Theme" with "Under the Full Moon Light" when Mark burst into the room. "You're Susan!" he yelled.

I stared at him, trying to figure out who Susan was. At first I though he might mean Sarah, and then I wondered if he meant one of our neighbors or if he was repeating something someone else said.

"I just think it's really interesting that you're Susan and Lorraine drew herself into the illustration," Mark continued.

And then it dawned on me. Mark meant Susan from my short story, "Mask Glass Magic." I think I said something like, "What?"

"You didn't do that on purpose?" Mark asked. "Nobody pointed it out to you?"

"What? I'm Susan?"

"Oh come on," he said. "Purple sweater, silver ankh? Just open up your closet."

"Susan is an amalgam of all the new aged women I ever met," I said. "And I don't own a purple sweater."

"When I read the scene where she says she felt like Ishtar I thought you were writing yourself in."

"Well, they say that you write parts of yourself or people you know into your characters. I suppose," I said, "there's aspects of myself in Susan -- but I always thought I was more like the heroine, Michelle."

"Naw," he said. "Michelle's nothing like you."

(Pause for John to reflect that his character is active, creative, and a risk-taker)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Cusp of October & November

Not much writing lately... need to fix that.

The winter storms are here to stay it seems. It looks like we'll have to live with a house that is primed until May or June when the weather dries up again. At least the wood on the house is sealed.

The Tuesday before last was the Wordos Halloween reading. My Halloween short was very well received. This makes me cautious; for the last four or so holiday readings, I've been led astray by the positive response to the reading only to have the story ripped to bits during written critique. I think my radio voice hypnotizes people when I read.

I've been thinking about religion. (Oh no, I can hear some of you think.) For the longest time I've always thought about rituals in terms of where they fall on a line between spiritual and theatrical. I've decided that it really should be a plane defined by sprituality, theatre, and (for lack of a better word) therapy. Or possibly a space defined by those three axes.

I visited Grandma last week. She was having a better day than I was, I think. I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, so I was yawning a lot. We started talking in the living room (where there was some trashy TV show on), and she finally suggested that we move our conversation away from the noise and out into the kitchen.

Then we went on a long weekend out of town. It was nice and relaxing. I looked at various gardening magazines for ideas to fix our back yard. Mark and I also spoke about ripping out our tin roof patio cover and replacing it with a large umbrella. I go back and forth on that idea -- on one hand the roof has seen better days and looks like it was tacked onto the side of the house in the late 70's; on the other hand, it does provide a large swathe of rain and sun cover that would be difficult to reproduce with a large umbrella. What I really want there is a plexiglass greenhouse that can pump heat into the house in the winter.

The stars and the skies were very clear. I tried taking some photos of the stars, but my camera's better at microlens work, so instead of the Pleiades, I got a lot of smeared dots and digital noise-- I'll have to see if I can figure out a way to have a longer shutter speed than 15 seconds. As soon as we crossed the mountains back home we were driving under grey clouds and fog.

Last Tuesday was a Wordos session -- there was only one story on the table, and we ended up talking about a lot of other things. Luckily, one of the folks at the table is an anthropolgist, so discussion frequently goes that way.

Muriell continues to be an irritant. A really loud irritant.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Grandma and Writing

I went to Corvallis to visit my folks and managed to chat with my grandmother.

At first, I didn't think it was going to be a good visit because she was napping when I arrived. But she perked up quite a bit and we had a conversation about quilting, gardening, and the latest doings of other family members. She remembered that I live in Eugene, which is a lot better than last time when I wasn't sure she remembered who I even was. I'd say the visit was a 4.5 out of 5. After about a half hour, when I started to bore her (or at least when her gaze began to wander all over the room), I ended the visit.

In writing news, I managed to re-work the begining of a short story which should clear up a bunch of questions readers had about the setting and characters. I still need to go through and make a pass for minor things and consistency. I really need to get this one out into the mail.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

That Certain Air of Savoir-faire

I've made a discovery. I think our back yard has a je ne sais quoi that is really beginning to bug me. I hadn't realized it until I was talking with a friend and a list of reasons of why I don't like to be in the backyard tripped over my tongue:
  • Patio is too sunny in the Summer
  • Patio is too dark (and wet) in the Winter
  • I have to constantly tell Arthur not to
    • play with the hose
    • go into the tool shed
    • whack the shrubbery
    • molest garden decorations
  • There's no comfortable place to sit
  • There's too much white-trash-detrius and plastic-baby-crap
  • I have to traipse through the garage to get tea and snacks
  • The ground is fairly uneven
  • I keep finding damn clothespins everywhere
  • The neighbors' conversations are audible
  • There's no outside electrical outlets
  • And I still miss my gazing globe

I think some of this could be fixed with
  • a fountain
  • some comfortable storage benches
  • a covered sandbox
  • a raised, childproof, tea bar
  • a series of two foot tall bevelled concrete obelisks
So I started to fix the easy stuff: the patio is surrounded on two sides by a cinderblock wall; last year I created some steps onto the back lawn that made sense at the time, but which cluttered the space. I removed them, and in the process raised up the wall by a course -- it's at a comfortable level for sitting now. I think what I secretly want to do is convert the back patio to a greenhouse / conservatory, but Mark points out why that's wildly impracticle right now. Sigh.

I guess I'll have to figure out where to put a fountain next. And some WiFi.

Writing Progress

Spent two hours yesterday reworking the beginning of a 6000 word story that's been in first draft form for a while.  

It's another story with an alien protagonist, and most folks liked it, but it took them a few pages to be sure that they were in the head of an alien bug.  I think the new start helps to focus the conflict and make it more clear that the POV character is in fact an insect (and not, say, an iguana).  

In other writing news, I tweaked the 900 word Wordos Halloween story to more firmly ground it in the POV of a charater (it was more poetical omniscient before). 

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Clara's Regiment

Okay. I've been meaning to post this for some time -- almost two years, as it turns out. Enjoy.



This reminds me of when my hair used to be long. I still miss my hair some days. But then I'll see a picture of one of my many bad hair days and I guess I'm glad that it's short right now. At least my shampoo bill is a lot less.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Caption Contest!

Decomposition: The Artist Turns His Gaze Away from the Empty Cup of Herbal Tea and and Languishes upon the Lounge of Fluffy Literature while the Fish of the Unconscious Offers the Fruits of Occam's Razor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Deck the Halls...

Today I fished the gargoyle out of the garage and placed it on the mantle. I figure if I add one little Halloween item a day -- starting with leaves and working my way up to bats -- the place will be spooky looking by the 31st.

We actually tried dipping leaves in beeswax the other day (thanks Martha). Of course, first we had to find beeswax; our instructions from Our Lady of Gilt said to use bleached beeswax, but we only were able to find the regular kind at an art supply store. It yellowed the leaves only a little, and the "control group" leaves that didn't get dipped look less lustrous -- I think the wax conducts light. Other than that, the color between the two groups looks more or less the same; I suppose we'll have to see what the waxed leaves look like in a month.

Considering that cleaning a layer of formerly melted wax out of a pan took about as long as melting it in the first place, I'm not sure waxing leaves is worth the effort -- unless (as Mark pointed out) you want nice looking leaves in January.

Uh, no; we won't be dipping bats into wax to preserve them as house decorations.

Writing Progress

Got a 7100 word story into first draft form.  Now I need to let it sit for a few days so I can see the rough spots more easily.  I think it's reading a little long and I'm not convinced that the character motivation is clear (typical problems with my drafts).  

Oh well... in the meantime, I have a backlog of drafts that have been languishing on my desk -- so there's plenty to polish and publish. 

Monday, October 15, 2007

Writing Progress

Got some writing time in over the weekend. I managed to edit my latest short story and tighten up some of the dialog. The last third of the story still needs work.

I don't know when we're going to be able to be done with our housepainting. The wet weather has come early and seems to be sticking around. If we don't have rain today and tomorrow then Tuesday evening I can finish the prime coat (and seal the house).

Wedneday marks the official time (in my mind, at least) when we can put up Halloween decorations in the house. It will be nice to take the (small) gargoyle out of storage. I'm experimenting with cutting out bat shapes and placing them in lampshades (thank you, Martha). I have a vague notion that it might be fun to make dough bats and cats and then melt lifesavers for eyes. Mark is going to get some rat silhouettes for decorating shirts.

Murial continues to be an irritant.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Writing and Other News

I got a little bit of writing in, about two pages of a story for an anthology. I also polished the Wordos Halloween story a little. I realized that I need to make file backups and do other administrative stuff, too.

Went to Corvallis to scope out the next book signing venue, but I didn't call ahead, so the only person who seems aware of the signing wasn't in. The folks who were there were very nice, but they had no information to work with. I left them a poster or two (they did have WOTF 23 on a display, so at least the book is visible on their shelves).

In other news... I visited with my Grandmother; she seemed happy, but she was sort of falling asleep and kept restarting the conversation with recollections of her walks to elementary school -- I think she said that her older brother, Conrad, walked her through a wooded area about five times. I'm also not sure that she recognized or remembered who I was. At least she's back in her foster home and out of a nursing home, so she's with other (mostly) well folks and has better attention. And as Mark said later, at least it was a positive interaction that made some sort of impression on her.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Writing Progress

I've been meaning to add this for a while... and now I can.



In writing news...

I pulled last night's writing bonanza into four different story (ahem) ideas.

Then I wrote about four pages of absolutely worthless, thank-you-for-sharing prose before I started to get into a scene that I wanted to work with when the phone rang -- I would have let it ring except that I'm always worried that it will wake The Child and it might be Mark calling. It was a telemarketer for a phone service. I really wanted to strangle the person (and they could tell), even though I realize it's not their fault they work at a call center. Then I switched the phone's ringer off (note to self, get a flashing light to replace the ringer). Of course when I got back to the keyboard I'd lost the thread I'd been following.

I realized that the part of my brain that sings songs and critiques my writing (and my life) was having a good day and that if I wanted to get anything done I'd need to listen to some writing music. Thank the Goddess my iPod had a full charge. And for hot chocolate. Between Varttina and Juno Reactor I managed to more-or-less finish the Wordos Halloween short story at about 600 words. I'll polish it a little next week.

The tea search continues. English Breakfast will do in a pinch as a Ceylon replacement, but I think Sikkim is a closer match -- even if it does have a hint of Assam's bite to it, the complex flavor is full and reminiscent of Ceylon. Mark suggested Yunnan, but I reflexibly recoiled when he did, so I think it's bitter or something (we used to have all of our tea critiques written down, but the record was lost when my Palm Pilot got zapped).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Writing Progress

Today was a good day -- I think -- for writing. I managed to vomit about 3000 words onto the keyboard. Most of it is unedited dreck. There's some attempt at slipstream that seems to be written by my inner Ingmar Bergman -- we'll save that for the therapy seasons later. But I did get about 300 words of a Wordos Halloween challenge, and I managed to get to the first (very rough) draft of another short story I've been struggling with for a while (it's at 6000 words, and I'm sure the dialog is wooden and some of the characters' motivation needs to be reworked so that it's believable).

I upped my caffeine intake (Assam) to offset the grey clouds and that seemed to be effective. At least it made it easier to giggle when I re-read the text written by Ingmar Bergman and during the resulting obligatory performance of Peter Gabriel's Mercy Street.

New Sketchbook

I filled up another sketchbook.  Well, okay; the binding was falling apart and I had a handful of pages to go.

Ever since I got a worked leather sleeve as a gift, my sketchbooks have held up much better than in the past.  The design on the leather is an old woodcut of simple country landscape and a philosopher crawling through the celestial spheres to peer at the wheels of the cosmos.

Pulling out the old book from the cover and inserting a new, blank one is sort of like driving past an old boyfriend while the new one is sitting next to you.  No.. that image is too vampiric...  

Pulling out the old book is like receiving a letter from your past self.  This old one started just after Mark and I had our marriage ceremony -- there's notes and sketches from various Bach Festival events we've attended since June 20, 2004.  There's write-ups of dreams, and records of places we've visited.  I can see when I practiced geometry by all the compass drawings.  Disneyworld.  Two whole pages of baby names.  And then there are the character portraits -- I sometimes draw characters as I'm writing them to get a better feeling for them.   

But it's time for a new book.  So I carefully open it to flex its spine, and I insert the stiff cover into the leather sleeve.  In a year or three, the new pages will be filled and worn and this now-new book will join its fellows.

Ack... this is turning into "The Shelf of Forgotten Dreams."   Gotta go get some caffeine.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

And It's Not Even February

Well... the clouds of autumn have rolled in. On one hand, now that the year has progressed a little further, all three leaded glass polyhedra in our breakfast nook throw spectra. It's cheerful, at least when the sun shines.

On the other hand it's getting really dark. Last Monday mid-morning I just stared at the underside of charcoal colored clouds and it was as if a little switch inside me flipped. I can tell you my weekly chocolate consumption has gone up and this morning all I wanted to do was curl up with a novel next to a fire within arm's reach of hot chocolate and potato chips.

Even the chipper happy-fag-dance music I've been scraping the house to all August has become grating and I'm reasonating more with Annie Lennox.

And green tea isn't cutting it. I've been drinking green tea because there's a shortage or something of ceylon tea from my local supplier. I'm going to have to wait until at least November 9th for the next shipment. In the meantime, I've been drinking a green tea mix called Dragon's Well. It doesn't have the right taste or caffeine level or something because in addition to the hot chocolate and potato chips I really craved a decent super-sized mug of Ceylon OP and Orange Roobios blend (back when the salon was open and an orange ceylon blend went really well with scones and a petit four (or two)).

Maybe little Halloween crafts can cheer me up...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Writing Progress

Wrote 300 words yesterday. I really need to get someone to read the dialog because it seems not-quite-right to me somehow. Or, rather, it seems right for something like The Young and the Restless which isn't what I have in mind.

The Tsunami Books book signing and WOTF panel went well. We had a good turn-out and sold twelve copies of the anthology. You can see me reading an excerpt from my story (I'm sitting in front of a bunch of previous WOTF volumes that Wordos have been in) while Stephen Stanley and Damon Kaswell listen.

A really big thanks to Scott and all the folks at Tsunami Books in Eugene for hosting this event (and for letting the Wordos hold their sessions there every Tuesday evening)!

A slightly-delayed Wordos critique session followed and one of my stories got savaged ("John, this is beautiful language, but..."). As usual, I got too far into the story and so I and my characters knew what they were talking about and doing, but the readers didn't and were annoyed and confused. I'm thinking that maybe this story (which was my WOTF workshop 24-hour story) might be a good candidate for Nanoramo (or however you spell it).

Monday, October 01, 2007

WOTF TV

I'm on TV (along with Damon Kaswell) talking about Writers of the Future. More later when I've got the time...



(later)
Whew... well. Now that I've done that I'm sure if I get interviewed again it will be easier. We both thought we'd be taped, but it turns out we were live. We were the last feature, so we got to sit off to one side while the news broadcast progressed. It was interesting from a writing point of view to see how the studio works when the red light is on and off; I especially enjoyed the green screen Josh the weather anchor stood in front of because it raised up and down like a portcullis and hid his weather desk.

Mark did say that Damon and I seemed very --ahem-- "writerly." He also said that what he got from the interview was that we were excited, that the award was an honor, and that we were just starting our writing careers.

Shelley, our hostess, was really good at placing us at ease. The interview was very chatty and people-oriented. We did run out of time... and I notice that we never did mention our stories' titles (although she did read out their page numbers). I think I said "Ummm" more than Damon said "Uhhh".

Friday, September 28, 2007

Writing Progress

It's in the mid 40's as I type this.  Every autumn I'm surprised at the abrupt drop in the temperature.  We're still painting the house and the rains have come.  Luckily, we've covered most of the exposed wood.  

In writing news I think I wrote about 300 words -- some of it was unplaced snips that needed connective plot and some of it was brand new.  I'll need to sit down and go over the story to make sure the dialog isn't too melodramatic and Serves The Plot.  

This weekend is a scraping weekend, so it looks like I'll have to finish this story by next Friday instead of by this Tuesday as I'd hoped; I've decided to go to the Wordos table the first and last Tuesdays of the month, and use the other Tuesdays for large chunks of writing (and mailing finished stories to varous markets).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Point of View

I've been reading an anthology by Bruce Coville. It's interesting to see how his young adult/children's lit short stories from the mid 90's are different from the speculative fiction going across the Wordos critique table today. I think what I notice the most is that Coville's stories are frequently written in first person past tense ("I'll tell you what I did twenty years ago..."), which is supposedly harder to do because it kills the tension in the story (if the narrator is telling the story, chances are they're still alive). Anyway, his stories make me wonder if I couldn't press some personal boundaries by writing in a similar style -- or if Coville's narrative choice is genre specific.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

WOTF Reflections

The WOTF workshop was over by the time of last month's lunar eclipse. It's been a full lunar cycle and I've been looking at my writing process, and this is what I've discovered:
  • I produce more written material not when I stay up late writing (or blogging) but when I get enough sleep.
  • I have an easier time with plots when I start out with a better understanding of my characters (instead of using plot and scene ideas to try to discover the characters).
  • E-mail (and blogging) feel like writing sometimes, but they aren't -- so I'm trying to schedule one or two times a day to do internet things instead of jumping on it all the time.
  • Spending time with other writers is good for my mental health -- especially if we're discussing writing.
  • Using a laptop to compose out of the house is a good thing

Now it's back to work for me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rescheduled!

This weekend's book signing has been rescheduled to another time. I'll know when soon. I guess I'll be doing more painting.

In other Writing News, I got a Wordos critique this evening. The critiques were kinder than I expected, because I think my fantasy stories are better than my Sci/Fi stories, and I've been pushing myself to write more Sci/Fi. Most folks liked my aliens, and wanted them a little weirder (but not too much weirder); the best suggestions was to comb through the manuscript and replace mammal-based descriptions. Jerry Oltion pointed out a cliché -- a future dead Earth with still-active deadly traps -- that I'll need to iron out a bit. I can do it, but it will be interesting as the trap plays a big part of the story.

I've got one new story that I'm working on -- I'd thought I'd try to hand it in next week, except that I've decided to go to Wordos only twice a month. I'll see if I can keep next week's deadline... there's a backlog of stories that I really need to tweak and then mail out, and it would be great if I could find a good balance between writing new stories and mailing out post-Wordos-critique stories.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Writing Progress

Finished tweaking a short science fiction story to hand in to the Wordo's tomorrow -- this is the one that I hammered out during the WOTF week. Writing to get stories through the Wordo's table is a good motivation, and the story I handed in last week is ready to be shreaded to bits by the table. Of course, I have to polish critiqued and then send them out and I'll confess there's a backlog to work on. I'm still working on a much longer urban fantasy piece that I hope to have finished by the week.

Sunday was a painting day, and this evening between the time Mark got home from work until it was dark I painted as well.

WOTF 23 Released

Writers of the Future Volume 23 officially released this past week. Folks outside of the United States can go to Amazon.com to order. WOTF 23 is currently #20 on Amazon.com for SF Anthology.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

WOTF Book Signing

Today was my first book signing (along with Damon Kaswell) in Eugene!

We were at Waldon Books in Eugene's Valley River Center, an indoor shopping mall. Stephen Stanley (WOTF XXI) and the only person to win both Writers and Illustrator of the Future showed up to support us. We sold seven books (which is good as it's more usual to sell none).

We had fun arranging the books into a Stonehenge Monument (yes, I sang, "Stonehenge! Where a man's a man and the children dance to the pipes of Pan!"). Damon put the books back into a stacked wedge shape; which I had rearranged into a stacked wedge shape that arced toward the front of our table. (And you know what, if you're actually doing something at a table instead of just sitting there with a pen in your hand, people will stop and give you a few more seconds of attention.)

The bookstore had us just outside the magnetic theft detector grids, so we were out in the mall. On one hand this was nice because we got to interact with the S.M.A.R.T (Start Making A Reader Today, a volunteer organization that reads books to young kids) table in the middle of the mall. On the other hand, this was too bad because it was so loud (and echoey) there was no way we would have been able to do any kind of reading.

Someone wanted (jokingly) to know if either Damon or I were L Ron Hubbard. We replied "No!" in chorus, and I added, "I'm much younger."

We also got a few "Eeuw, Science Fiction and Fantasy!" folks. Most of them were nice, and we tried to get them to tell us what they did read.

We got a quite a few averted eyes (which we were expecting), and by the end of our stint we were almost shouting out. "We're local authors! We won a contest! We're published in this anthology! Buy our book! Here, have a free bookmark!"

Somebody wanted to know where we got our ideas and kind of implied that we might get them when we're drunk or high. Stephen and Damon said something about imagination being the best high. I confessed my dependency on chemical stimulation and held up an empty Pepsi can (thank you, Tim Powers).

I was very glad that I visited the bookstore ahead of time because the staff already knew who I was and I had a good idea of what to expect (and what to bring). The bookstore staff were very nice.

We're scheduled for at least five more book signings before the year is out (see schedule at the right). Some are in Corvallis and Albany. If you're in town, come see us!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Writing Progress

There was a long nap today so I managed to get in about 950 words in the latest short story.  With any luck I'm not writing too much of a soap opera.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Writing Progress

Had a really good writing night Tuesday -- the Wordos had a marathon writing session and after about two hours I had about sixteen pages of really rough draft. There was one point where I was writing a magic ritual scene, and Vartinna was playing on my iPod and the scene was gelled in my mind and I was swaying to the music because I was there in the scene and the POV character said, "I love you," to the love interest and she said, "I know."

And I burst out laughing because I'd channelled my inner George Lucas. Luckily, Jerry & Kathy Oltion, Damon Kaswell, and everyone else at the table were tolerant.

This morning I've managed to trim out the Han Solo / Princess Leah dialogue. I've got about eight pages of useful writing and it's inserted into the rough draft of the short story, which is sitting at about twenty pages.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Home Scraping

The weather has turned and the house is still being scraped. Luckily, it really hasn't rained all that much. But the nights are down in the low 50's and it's been overcast. It's hard to remember that last week it was 90-something. I enjoy the cool temperatures, but I'd forgotten how the dank and damp go to my hands (and feet). Usually we have another few weeks of cold followed by hot weather.

Yesterday I watched Arthur while Mark and my dad scraped the house. Today Mark and Arthur are going off on a hike and it's my turn to scrape. If it were up to me I think I'd start painting. There are some places we have to calk the house, and we need to powerwash the shingles.

Arthur continues to grab any stick longer than he is tall and prance about with it singing the first phrase of the Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance. He also requests the Bromley procession music daily.

On the writing front: I consolidated various snips of my short story from my palm pilot into one word processing file and now I need to sit down and write the connective plot.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Got the Art

The UPS guy dropped off the illustration Lorraine Schleter did for my Writers of the Future story, "Mask Glass Magic." I'm going to have to find wall space in the closet (literally) where my writing "office" is so I can see it and be motivated -- Lorraine so obviously got my story that it gives me a thrill every time I look at it to know that I got into somebody's head.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Guess We Wont Quilt Anytime Soon

Today I decided that I wasn't stimulating Arthur enough. "Arthur, do you want to play with right triangles?" I asked.

He did.

So I got some red and some purple construction paper, scissors, and a paper cutter. I cut strips of red and purple and began to cut them into right triangles.

"Arthur, no; don't rip the strips. I need them to make triangles. Is this one red or -- No, don't scrunch the triangles. Scissors aren't for Arthur. Wait, buddy, that paper cutter is sharp. DON'T eat the triangles. See, you can make a pinwheel out of -- hey! Keep those on the table. I said the paper cutter is sharp. OK. Look, see how three triangles makes a -- eeuw! Don't blow spit on them, that's gross. OK. Nice try with the scissors. Look, I'll arrange these triangles, and these triangles are for you. I think I can make an octagon; don't blow mine off the table. Blow yours off the table." (Why God, Why?)

Of course, I thought maybe I'd have better luck with wooden right triangles; except that they'd have to be wider than four inches at their narrowest point. And speaking of points, everything would have to be bevelled to prevent its ready insertion into an eye.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quick Notes

Survived the Faire. During our last act on Sunday, the winds were so strong a tent line for the stage's canopy snapped and a Very Large Pole fell near us. We were singing Percel's "I Gave Her Cakes" (I was in Renaissance Oyster Girl Drag at the time), and we kept singing as we propped up the pole for the stage manager folks to stake it into place. I think it was technically one of our better performances of the song as we were all bunched together to keep the pole from flying into the air (the canopy was an old, recycled parachute).

Arthur got to watch the Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance multiple times, but declined to play the triangle.

And... as I'm the guy who organizes the opening and closing parades, it was with great mirth that I managed to get the faire's troup of belly dancers to agree to dance in the final closing parade. I've been wanting to do that for years.

Mark was a sweetie for watching Arthur all weekend (and standing in for me at my Mother's birthday party).

I'm currently working on a short story I hope to have wrapped up by next week... we'll see if House Scraping and Painting permits this. And I have a ton of Book Signings coming up with Damon Kaswell.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Early September

It's a few weeks before the Equinox and the leaded crystals in the kitchen window are throwing rainbows around the room again. During the months when the Summer sunlight was too high to hit them, I'd forgotten how much I enjoy the dancing sparkles.

It's time for the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire. This faire is going to be interesting; this year I'll have to see what busking with the harp will bring me in terms of purchasing faire momentos. I enjoy the faire, and it's turned into a time of year when I catch up with a bunch of folks I really only see once a year. My favorite vender wasn't there last year and I hope they return: they have a coin mint where they drop a Really Big Weight onto a blank coin to impress their designs.

Arthur is really interested in the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance horns (deer antlers on poles). He calls them "clackers" and will start to hum the processional music when he sees them. He really wants to whack things with them (in the dance the horns clash at various points in the procession), and was dissapointed when we told him he could clang a triangle during the dance (which is traditional).

In writing news, I've received at least three manuscript rejections... and I've one manuscript that I'm hoping is under consideration and not in some kind of sumissions limbo.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Gimli and Galadriel Moment

My recollections of WOTF would not be complete if they didn't include my final really cool discussion with KD Wentworth.

We were speaking about writing, and KD was telling me about some of the Tulsa area authors, and then she gave me some market hints, and then we started talking about the WOTF submission process. I said how Mask Glass Magic was my twelfth entry and that my very first submission to WOTF, Briallen Dreaming of Myrmidons (in something like 2002) was a semi-finalist (meaning it was in the top twenty stories submitted that quarter -- you have to be one of the top eight for a chance at first through third place); and being a semi-finalist right off the bat was hard because I expected each and every one of my stories to place that high (at least). It got to be a routine; every year (roughly the same quarter), I'd get a semi-finalist critique of my story. I'd gotten three critiques from KD before winning.

"Tell me what the stories were," KD said. It turns out she remembered writing the critiques for the stories! I remembered the order wrong and corrected myself: "Oh, yeah," I said, "Skies of Dreaming was the second story because you sort of told me in the critique to throw more rocks at the main character; and so for The Colossus of Rhodes I actually had a eighty foot robot hurling boulders at the character --"

"-- You must have thought, 'What more does she want?!'"

And we laughed and I realized 'Whoa, KD understands my frustration" and that something I'd heard at Orycon last year was true. A panel of editors said, "We're rooting for you [authors] to succeed in telling a tale."

I told her that I really appreciated hearing in the workshop that her critiques were only suggestions (not commands) for how the story might be expanded.

... And then someone dragged me off to get drinks.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Final WOTF Remembrances

Arthur in front of the WOTF BannerIt's been a little over a week since WOTF.

The Saturday after the awards ceremony, we went to a Pasadena Borders for a book signing. The first book signing was right after the awards ceremony; we were all signing each others' books. Of course, sometime during the night I placed my signed copy of the book down amidst all the hundreds of copies of the book and didn't discover it until I opened "my" copy in my hotel room at 2 AM.

I think I was about to slide under the table.So everyone had to sign my copy again at Borders.

I got to sit between Tim Powers and Stephen Kotowych, this year's WOTF Gold Award Writer. KD Wentworth was on the other side to Tim. If you look beyond KD, you can see Tony Pi (my roommate for the workshop) and Damon Kaswell (fellow Wordo). Cory Docto Sean Williams was on the other side to Stephen (and Lorraine Schleter was on the other side of Sean). Stephen is a really nice guy -- I haven't had a chance to read his story ("Saturn in G Minor") yet, because I'm only about half-way through the anthology. Tim was tolerant of my antics, and just before he went off for a break he said that if I managed to sign one of his books for a reader I could have one of his Cokes. Unfortunately, nobody wanted a faux Tim Powers signature. Luckily, Mark brought me some food shortly thereafter.

Kim Zimring and Lorraine SchleterNow that I've had a little time to compile my notes and take some time for writing, I'm seeing how my approach to writing short stories wasn't exactly the best choice -- and I'm evaluating all my past work. It's going to be really hard not to go through my manuscripts and try to tweak them a lot.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Writers of Babylon

After all the Writers of the Future festivities were over, Mark, Arthur and I (well, OK, mostly Mark) dragged Aliette around LA on tourist adventures.

The tram ride downtown was pleasant, and then we tried to get on a bus. It more-or-less slammed in our faces and we were forced to walk a distance before another non-express bus picked us up. Eventually, we wound up at La Brea Tar Pits. The diorama of the mother mammoth sinking into the pits in front of a horrified baby and father mammoth was a bit much.

We went on the Miracle Mile in an attempt to help Aliette find a gift for her father. Instead we found (well, OK, it was Mark who said, "Honey, I found it") a $4000 California king bed with a purple velvet frame and golden Babalonian cows flanking its sides.

The bed was right up there with the ATHLETE lunar robot. (Pause to imagine being carried around town in the Bed of the Golden Calves by an ATHLETE...) But it was too expensive to buy and ship.

Ah well, we would have been hanging laundry on the horns once the novelty of sleeping between golden calves wore off. And we would have had to re-decorate our entire house.

WOTF JPL Tour

During the WOTF workshop, we got to visit the JPL.

We got to see a Mars Rover, which are much larger than I originally thought. Probably the coolest thing about the Mars Rover is that it e-mail its route as a map to its drivers on Earth, which they can look at on their cell phones.

We also got to see the prototype ATHLETE, a 2000 pound, hexagonal robot they want to use to explore the moon.

This thing doesn't move quite as fast as is implied by the video, and you can see it here. . .

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/videos/technology/athlete-20070806/

It's still wicked cool and I want an army of them to do my shopping for me.



Obligatory quote:

John (eyes set in Evil Genius Mode): "Wow. I want a house made out of ATHLETEs."

JPL Guy (who programs NASA robots): "Gee, you trust robots a lot more than I do."

Friday, August 31, 2007

A New God

8/21/07

Author Tim Powers is like unto a god to me. The man can drink more Coke during an hour and a half lecture than I can drink Pepsi in a morning. All I can say is, "Wow. I am not worthy, I am not worthy."


Workshop Tuesday Morning Dream

Snow. A field of snow. And a stage set with a fence perimeter defining a house. In the house lives an old woodcutter, almost a Jepetto and his son. I he's a woodcutter or a wood carver. His son helps around the house. It's time for sleep. And the son is playing with all of his toys, which are played by a chorus of dancers.

The house is a long rectangle. An inner rectangle of toys sits inside the outer rectangle defined by the planks of the fence (which are the walls of the house).

Att this point, the story is like a ballett. It's time for the child go to go to bed, and his father is reading him a story. The toys are up and dancing while the father tells his story. But the story ends, and the toys slowly go to their places on the inner rectangle and sit down.

Just before the light is to go out, the son (who is played by a boy sopranno) stands up and sleepily recites, "echo echo amalac" and the towys twitch back to a kind of half life.

But the boy wants to be good, he knows that its time for bed, so the toys slouch back to rest. But the air is pregnant with the sense of a spell half completed, half halted.

Just then, a stranger comes out of the stormy night. The boy quickly rises and puts together a chair and table for the stranger. The father says, "Say with us tonight. The boy can sleep over here," and he carries the boy to the corner where the toys are sitting. (Well OK, the toys are everywere on the set...) He carries the boy to the other end of the long rectange of toys as if the boy were to sleep in a large over stuffed chair.

The lights go down.

For a moment in this section of the dream, things turn intt cartoon mode. Lighting and thunder send blue shadows across the floor. The crack of thunder and lightning wakes the boy. Hides under the blanket thrown over the chair.

The toys return to life, and somehow they take the boy to a ghostly toy world. Or faerie land. The walls of the house no longer contain them, and the Father (and the travelling stranger?) can no longer see him.

Something about a vase or a cubit long glass bead. (And here's an odd waking life coincidence: my Workshop item was a bead of yellow turquois.)

The head toy is the mayor clown. He names and greets all the toy citizens, and the boy is one. They seem to peramublate around the rectangle, while the mayor names them. The inner rectangle is a grassy sward.

The boy questions the mayor, and is rebuked. "I know I say exactly what people are. And I say exactly what I'm supposed to say. Do not question me."

So the boy is banished into toy world. He learns to skate and mountain climb. He becomes a snowflake and falls with the other toy snowflakes.

Meanwhile, his father (and mother?) are looking for him.

-- end of dream --

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday Imposter

Today was Mark's first day back to work and my first day since the 19th as Full Time Stay At Home Dad.  

I'm very aware of routines right now; and I'm evaluating which ones are good for writing (like getting regular sleep) and which ones are bad for writing (like spending too much time with e-mail and the blog).  

I think the best habit I can get into is using my cell phone to dictate notes to myself when Arthur is busy seeing how many times he can whack a brick with a plastic toy hammer.

Steve told us about feeling like an imposter -- like we had somehow fooled folks into believing we were writers.  But what he didn't say was how it would change how we perceive rough drafts we're currently working on....  I'm pretty sure I'm doomed.  I think that's a good thing.

Odd John Dream

I had the strangest New Age dream this morning.  The part I remember the best was that I was with a collection of dream people from various parts of my life (you know -- a collection of folks from college, your first job, relatives, and your current friends).  

Anyway, we were in some kind of college campus amphitheatre -- which reminded me a little of the Colly Soleri Amphitheatre at Arcosanti.  I have a vague, anxious sense there was some very important problem we were trying to solve; but my recall isn't too good on this part of the dream.  We were putting on a kind of show or seminar, and there were many people in the arced rows of seats.

It started raining.  The seating was under cover, but the stage was not.  The rain fell onto the stage and started to fill a large cylindrical bowl of clear glass.  This was a sign of some sort, so I went onto the stage, stood behind the bowl of collecting rainwater, held out my hands at waist level, and belted out a tri-tone (the kind you make by reasonating your soft pallet).

I closed my eyes as I was singing, and I saw all these flashing multi-colored stars.  My inner eyelid light show and singing went on for what seemed like a very long time.   When I finally opened my eyes, the audience was still there, and I appeared to have communicated something to them, as a number seemed transfixed (in a good way).  I had the sense that something had spoken to them through me as I was singing.  

And then the dream went on to other things.

First Day at WOTF

Well eek. They've put the book trailer on the web at
www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOIenzFQi5U so find a big screen and turn the amplifier up to 11.


Here's an entry from last week...

Aug 19 3:15 PM

Got up this morning at 3:45 when Arthur started crying "See John." Practically had to shower with him wrapped around my left leg. The poor thing has been talking to the cat, who always knows when we're about to leave for a long time.

Dianna Rodgers picked me up a little after 4 AM so Damon and I could be at the airport by 4:30.

The flight was uneventful -- Damon and I tried to sleep a little; Damon was so excited that he got less sleep than I did.

Meanwhile, as the plane descends over the Dodger's Baseball Stadium, it becomes apparent to me that my right ear is still under the influence of the cold Arthur passed to me.

LAX: The luggage turntable only yielded my suitcase. Who knows where my folding garment bag is. With any luck it will show up later this afternoon.

After a slight delay -- which doesn't turn up the lost luggage -- I'm introduced to Nick (who drives us), Julie (an assistant) and Steve (published finalist). It takes me several moments of conversation to sort out names and faces. It doesn't help that the conversation is really dim in my right ear.

LAX is about a half-hour away from the Sheraton, so we trade stories about world travel. Then we wait for rooms to open up. Then we have a late buffet (with an odd, writable waiter -- when he speaks into my left ear I can mostly understand what he's saying).

Then Damon -- who's been babbling on about over roasted coffee beans -- stumbles off for a nap. And we head off in different directions. I get to my room. My right ear finally clears.

Later...

While exploring the Pasadena Civic Auditorium (and Ice Skate Rink), I run into Steve and Joe (last year's winner). They're looking for Damon, who has gone off to the mall across the street. Construction fencing provides a minor obstacle to the mall, but we manage to make it to the mall in once piece.

After looking around for someone who looks like Damon, I remember that I have his cell phone number.

At least I manage to locate a Pepsi.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thinking Error Tuesday

This week, fellow Wordo Dianna Rodgers features me in her Thinking Errors Tuesday blog posting. Warning: Spoilers -- some of my story's elements are revealed, so if you want to be surprised scroll past Dianna's blog entry for my story and read her other excellent essays on character thinking error.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back from WOTF

I've just returned from my fabulous week at the L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Workshop.

It was seriously cool; the group of writers this year really bonded and much of what I've learned from The Wordos was vindicated by numerous writers during the week's presentations.

I still don't quite believe it. During video presentation of the book, I felt the bass drums and power chords vibrating my body --and even with the knowledge that my limbic brain was being tickled, I had a frission moment when I saw my story's title and illustration on The Big Screen. And it was even more cool when the woman who illustrated my story took the grand prize for illustration.

Mark came down with Arthur and has been tremendously supportive -- not only did he do 98% of the childcare since the 19th, but travelling to Pasadena to be my trophey husband, tour guide and photographer cost him a ski trip.

Anyway, more as I get to it --

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Wicked, Wicked Baby

Arthur has been slightly jealous of the keyboard lately.  I've been letting him see how e-mail works by reading messages to him as I type.  This usually lasts a minute and then Arthur will say, "John done typing now."

So scream of 'NO!' that you all heard Saturday around 3:30 Pacific Time was me as Arthur poured water on the iMac's keyboard.  (No, I wasn't typing at the time, Arthur snuck into our room as Mark and I were discussing the merits of red ties in LA in August (and chortling over what the phrase "Upscale Casual" means).)

Mark says he now knows what I'll sound like in case of a cougar attack, a stabbing, or a flaming log rolling toward us.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Train Theology

The latest train hymns continue:

"Kumbaya, Mother Thomas, Kumbaya..."

which is, of course, a spoof of

"Kumbaya, Mother Goddess, Kumbaya..."

So I'm not quite sure what imagry is going through Arthur's head -- The Goddess in her manifold train aspects (how Marija Gimbutas), or if Arthur is imagining Thomas the Tank Engine running a shelter for the poor in Calcutta.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Drink with Jam and Gordon

Arthur and I have been recovering from the cold.  So today started out with a long nap.  

Today marked the beginning of a new era in Arthur's development:  he's totally paranoid that we're going to ditch him whenever company visits.  OK, it doens't help that company frequently comes over to watch him while we scrape the hosue.  But today was Very High Drama.  The Pearwood Pipers came over to reherse for Shrewsbury and Arthur was sure that I was going to blow the joint to go buy Pepsi or something.  We sat down on the couch and he would burst into tears anytime I got further than twelve inches away from him.  

In other news, "dogfood" is Arthur's new "mu" statement whenever he doesn't want to perform like a trained monkey.  And "Gordon" (the proud locomotive who pulls the express from the Thomas the Tank Engine world) is the current leader of Arthur's pantheon.   Gordon, James, Percey and Toby form a kind of holy family.  But to the best of my knowledge, only Gordon gets hymns written to him:

Doe, a deer, a female Gordon
Ray, a drop of golden Gordon
Me, a name I call Gordon
Far, a long long way to Gordon
Sew, a needle pulling Gordon
La, a note to follow Gordon
Tea, a drink with jam and Gordon
That will bring us back to Gordon!


Oh, yes...  Tomorrow is Mark's birthday.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sniff

Captain Pathogen has given Mark and me a cold he probably picked up at gymastics.  

For revenge I forced him to take a nap by playing an old 1970's National Geographic Special on Egypt.  

"Boring," he said, and then collapsed.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Homo-what?

Mark is worried that Arthur may be smarter than the two of us combined.  

He's discovered homophones, specifically, that dam is a homophone of damn.  

Scene:  Sunday evening dinner.

Arthur (squirming in his high chair):  "Damn."  (Mark and John's heads swivel as if they were searchlights transfixing a convict)  "Arthur make a dam.  In the park."  (Mark and John go back to pretending to eat dinner.)  "Say 'blast' instead.  Damn... Arthur make one in the park."

Oh well... at least a half hour later he said "This video is really boring.  Watch Gordon [one of the Thomas the Tank Engine trains] instead." 

So we know that his language centers are working.

I did sit down with him and tried to explain that when he said "damn" it makes Mark sad. This seemed to make an impression on him, and we'll see if it is a lasting one.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Homeoner Whining

Ugh.  I hate scraping paint.  We've got some really tenatious paint that just won't come off.  I think our next house should be stone.  

I just looked at blow-dryers for your house and it looks like a really good way to burn your house down to the ground.

Bother.

Poll Results

This is what the masses (well, OK, 19 of you) have chosen. With a more trimmed beard. Right now, of course, my hair is behaving... so I may just trim my beard and take my chances. We'll see what happens a few days before I actually leave.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sweet Music's Might

Scene:  Breakfast in the Kitchen.  Arthur is in his highchair and Mark and John are going through breakfast rituals.

John (turning away from emptying the Ceylon tea leaves into the compost):  "Sorry honey, you're doomed."

Mark (filling a dirty oatmeal pot with water to soak):  "What do you mean?"

John:  (singing a Renaissance madrigal):  "Jog on, jog on, the footpath way..."

Arthur: (waving a spoon in the air):  "Jog on, jog on, merrily hent style-a"

John:  "He listened in during a Pearwood rehersal."  (The implication being that Arthur will become a child star on the Rennaissance Faire circuit and that Mark will have to dress in funny clothes and say phrases like 'I prithee, sweet maid...'.)

Mark (nonplussed):  "Hey, Arthur. (Imitates Led Zeppelin) 'Been a long time since I rock and rolled.  Been a long time since I rock and rolled.   Been a long time, been a long time, been a long time since I -- '" (points to Arthur)

Arthur (still waving spoon):  "'Rock and rolled.'"

Mark: (turning back to John):  "He's at an impressionable age."

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Return of Master Thespian

Scene: Morning. Arthur's bedroom. John has entered because he's heard a rhythmic thwacking noise.

John (thinking it's kind of late in the morning, but grateful for a calm breakfast): "Are you awake?"

Arthur (stops kicking wall and rolls over to smile at John)

John (wondering if Arthur might be having another molar pop out, touches Arthur's neck)

Arthur: "Where am I? I have a fever. Call the doctor."

John (eyes popping out): "What? Do you really have a fever?"

Arthur (smiling): "Chocolate."





Arthur's made up a song. I don't know what it means, and I'm not sure what it's patterned after. I mean, it's pretty easy to figure out that the song "Truely Squish-squish" is from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's "Truely Scruptious."

The new song is the phrase "Baby Shenks" repeated a semi-random number of times, sometimes ended with the phrase "Go away." It has the same cadence as "Motor boat, motor boat, go reall slow." Except that I don't think we've been saying that lateley.

In slightly different news, after hearing a three-person Pearwood Piper rehearsal of "Jog On, Jog On, The Footpath Way" and "I Gave Her Cakes and I Gave Her Wine", not only is Arthur singing back phrases from those songs, but words like "hent" (to jump over) and "merry" are entering his vocabulary.

I've already called up the Shrew of Shrewsbury so that Arthur could say, "Huzzah!" after I prompted him with a "Hip Hip!" Looks like Mark may be spending more time at Renaissance Faires.