Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Moving Pictures

I'll see how this works and if the response is good, I'll post more.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Jewelry, Sushi, and Geometry

We spent most of this weekend packing up Grandma's things for her move. We're not quite sure where she's moving to, but she can't stay at her current assisted living apartment. Mark was great -- we were originally planning to go for one day and he suggested that we pack a bag, 'just in case.' Good thing we were prepared for a second day; I'm afraid that I got a little distracted by the confirmation certificates written in Norwegian and all of Grandma's jewelry (and coats). It probably doesn't help that I secretly wanted to wear all of the jewelry and scarves that I've given her over the last decade.

So. Here's a tip for those of you with elderly relatives. Don't give them skin lotion. They don't use it, and it only piles up in scores of plastic bottles where it separates into different layers which then become growing mediums for various forms of anaerobic or fungal life. If you really want to give them something, help them dust -- or even better, just sit down with them and talk with them.

We did manage to visit with Grandma during all the packing. The nursing home she's at was having a group cherry pie bake on Saturday. We brought Arthur (who wasn't allowed to touch the floor) and you should have seen all the residents perk up. It's too bad they don't have a local preschool visit more often. Sunday was a little slower (we were over there earlier), but Grandma really woke up when we got her talking about dogs. She's got a dog puppet and she woke up even more when she made the dog bark for Arthur.

Arthur has some new friends at the local store: the Sushi Booth Ladies. Mark took him Saturday before we left for Corvallis and they awarded Arthur with some eel. Today when we went to go look at the chicken rotisserie there was more eel. I will have to learn how to say thank you in their language.

Later this morning I was trying to show Arthur the properties of circles by tracing them using an Aquadoodle Pad and an empty juice bottle.

John: "See, here's a circle. And you put the center of the bottle on the circle. And you drawn another circle."

Arthur (animated): "Ooh. Mmm." (reaches for Aquadoodle Pen)

John: "Hang on, let me draw one more circle." (Finishes three intertwined circles). "Here, you draw one. (Arthur takes pen) Now, the first two circles form a vesica piscis --

Arthur: (plunks pen into bottle) "Squeal!" (shakes pen up and down within bottle) "Out!" (slides pen out of bottle) "In!" (plunks pen back into bottle; shakes again).

John (shakes head): "Why God, why?"

Friday, February 23, 2007

Three Minutes of Infamy

This morning was "Listener's Choice Friday" on KWAX. I usually request something -- sometimes for me (like Allison Balsom's trumpet rendition of Der Hölle Rache) and sometimes for Arthur (like The Carnival of the Animals). Once, when Arthur had been playing with a musical toy that let him play Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik as if it were a sampled rap tune, I was able to request the real thing on KWAX (much to my relief). The morning hostess, Caitriona Bolster, usually takes the requests, and she's always been extremely gracious about listening to the latest Arthur exploits or "John stories" about why I want to listen to Wagner's Valhalla theme (or whatever).

Today, I explained that, although I was no Orpheus, I wanted to listen to Monteverde's opening toccata from the Orfeo because I had won a writing contest (OK, and I secretly wanted to promenade through the house channelling my inner Miss Piggy, pretending that all those trumpets were for my benefit and that if I turned around, a glittery opera house moon throne would be waiting to loft me high into the air...).

Caitriona was thrilled and offered to say my name and mention "Writers of the Future." I really should have specified that I'd won third place, and so for about three minutes (while I frantically speed-dialed the station to phone in my grateful thanks, an apology, and a correction), throughout all of Lane County, I was the first place winner (oops). Mea culpa (note to self: from now on say, "I placed third in WOTF..." and drink plenty of tea before you talk to the media.) Caitriona announced the correction with savoir faire and enthusiasm (whew).

In other news. Arthur's pushing out a new tooth. This explains some of the falling down for no apparent reason that I've seen the last two days. Also, for entertainment, I've shown him that I can catch coins from off of my elbow. I'm pretty sure he's mystified how they get into my palm. I know it's wrong to be amused when you mystify a twenty-one month old, but I expect to get a lot of mileage out of this one.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Writing Report

Managed to get a little over an hour on the latest manuscript -- at least I've figured out what one of the characters is actually doing; before it was clear in my mind she kept saying all these 'Jim Kirk Woman' things like, "I am for you," or "We need your men." At least she didn't say anything like, "Come to me, puny Earth man," but it was close. It didn't help that she was wearing a skimpy outfit.

I did a quick review of an older story and I need to polish it up. I'm beginning to think that I should put my "finished" stories away for two or more weeks and see if they're still as great as I think they are. Actually, my entire story inventory needs a review and I need more things out in the mail.

Off to sleep.

Lent's First Thursday

Things are getting back to normal here. Mark got back from a ski trip Tuesday night (he was away when I got the WOTF news). He had a great time spending large amounts of time outside in the cold snow. As I result of his return, after Arthur's swim class, I managed to get about two hours of writing in.

Arthur and I spent the past weekend visiting my folks (and Grandma). My sister, Julie, also came down for the long weekend (and her birthday). My Dad isn't feeling so well, so things were a little low in energy than from the norm. He and Arthur did manage to get about fourty-five minutes into a video of The Magic Flute; Arthur finally got board when Zarastro sang a long solo about Truth, and my Dad had to fast-forward to the Queen of the Night's Revenge Aria. When Arthur was rooting around in a box of my Mother's, he found a lost key; she was so happy that clothing from Costco jumped into her shopping cart later that day.

My Grandmother continues to do as well as expected -- she was fairly lucid when she was awake, and she's beginning to realize that she's not at her home. I believe she'll be able to leave the nursing home fairly soon. I still continue to be amazed at her good attitude towards her situation, which is that virtual strangers take care of her.

During all the time spent on the road, I think of things I might do with the WOTF money. So far I've got
  • Buy a LCD monitor for my desktop to replace the HUGE VTR monitor that takes up a third of my desk
  • Buy a wall charger for my iPod Nano so I don't have to plug it into the Mac all the time
  • Buy an iPod with a video out port
  • Put all of the money into a Nursing Home Fund for sixty years from now
  • Get a domain name for myself
  • Create a paper and photocopy fund to use for rough drafts
  • Splurge at the bookstore for a copy of Ronald Hutton's Stations of the Sun
  • Set aside money for OryCon
  • Get some nice business cards
I'm sure I'll think up more as the days go by.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Guess which table wants another round of banana daiquiris?

It was almost seventy degrees in Eugene today. So I took Arthur outside to the local park. An entire playground full of equipment, and what does Arthur do? He finds the one 8 inch wide mud puddle and stomps around in it. Then he looks up and sees a mud puddle about the size of Lake Eerie and runs toward it.

On the way back home, he repeated "Sushi," so we made a slight detour to the mini-mall. When we neared Ben and Jerry's, he pointed at it. "Well," I said, "we can have shush or we can have sorbet; which do you want." He chose sorbet, and we shared a celebratory bowl.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

New Moon News

This morning as I was trying to Arthur to fall asleep for his noon-ish nap, I got a phone call. It wasn't WOTF, it was my mother. She wanted to know when Arthur's and Mark's birthdays were, and she wanted to confirm when Mark and I got "married."

Arthur and I went back to his room -- the useless irritant in the shape of a cat came in and made some noises to induce awakeness and I induced her to leave the room.

Arthur was just falling asleep when I got another phone call. "This better be Writers of the Future," I groused as I walked to the phone. It WAS.

Joni Labaqui introduced herself and I took a few deep breaths and told her I was sitting. I was steeling myself to hear that I was going to remain a finalist, so my brain stopped working after she said, "I'm pleased to tell you you've won ..." I probably said, "This is really exciting!" fifty times. Joni wanted to know if I was a Wordo and I told her I was the chair. I did have enough presence of mind to ask her when I could blog the news and to ask her what story rights I was selling.

So what this means is that I win a cash prize of $500 and Galaxy Press will pay me to print my story in the Writers of the Future XXIII Anthology. I haven't seen the contract, yet -- Joni runs the contest, and Galaxy Press does the publishing -- so I don't know what the rate is, but I've heard that it's in the high end of the professional range (five to ten cents a word) for first international rights. (First rights means that I can sell the story again -- say, if someone like Ellen Datlow likes it so much that she wants to buy it.) Sometime in the middle of August I'll be flown to (probably) LA for a week-long writer's intensive workshop. I'll get to meet folks like K.D. Wentworth, Tim Powers, Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, Orson Scott Card, and a slew of folks listed here at It will be a little bit like a Wordos session, only all day every day for a week and with marketing tips. One of the Illustrators of the Future will be chosen to illustrate my story and I'll get to see the art. My understanding is that for a week I'll be treated a little like a rock star, with at least one limousine ride to a wine-and-dine event ("Oh, you'll hate that, John" said Mark when I told him). I have to scare up a tuxedo or rent one.

...And then there will be book signings and "meet the author" events once I get back to Eugene. I imagine that I'll be teaming up with fellow Wordo Damon Kaswell a lot since we'll be in the same anthology and with previous Wordos finalists for other WOTF events in the Willamette Valley.

This is my first story sale, so I'll probably photocopy my check. I also get a reallly cool Lift Off Award from the Wordos. Off to write a writer's bio -- I can't decide if I should use this fifteen year old recent picture or not.

Third Place!

i just got a call from Joni Labaqui at WOTF and I placed third in Writers of the Future 2006 Q4!

I was really really excited because I thought Joni said first place. I guess it was a case of hearing what you wanted. Anyway, I'm still really excited because this is also my first publication. Not only do I get some prize money, I should get paid at a really nice rate per word.

More once Arthur falls asleep for his nap.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Still a WOTF Finalist

Still no word, and I've taken to channeling my inner Izumi Shikibu.


Which is longer, the days I linger near the phone
or the nights when I travel the road of dreams
only to hear your denial?


In the Ides of Winter
the flowers push away the soil;
how eagerly they risk the frost.


As I wait by the phone
the fragile snow has melted everywhere
except in my heart.


The moon, once so full of promise,
grows lean and dim
among unreachable stars.


The phone's shrill bell
wakes the child,
Yet I lie awake waiting for it's ring.


Someone has killed rumor;
even the 'net of a thousand lies
has no word for me.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Early Monday Report

Arthur has a cold. I had about a two day grace period and now I have a cold, too. Mark is healthy. The cold is not too bad; the only drawback is that Arthur has more energy than I do -- if it's not raining much today I think we'll go to the park down by the river and I'll let Arthur run around.

Grandma is in a nursing home / hospital. I saw her yesterday and she looked pretty well for a 98 year old with a new hip. She was in a wheelchair and dressed. We had short conversations while I played the harp for her. She liked the music, but after an hour she started to get fidgety. It was one of her lucid days (I've spoken to her on worse days) and she was more coherant than when I saw her last Sunday (right after her operation). Her short-term memory isn't too long, so she doesn't remember breaking her hip or having surgery to replace it.

The AntiValentines Party was small and fun. Mark Wild made a hilarious Donald Rumsfield series. In between making anti-valentines, Jenn, Kira, and Mali did tag-team Arthur watching. Mark Dwyer made wonderful spade-shaped sandwiches and was Kitchen God. I read poetry by Ono No Komachi and Izumi Shikubu to inspire everyone. Elyn and Eric brought a ton of craft supplies (and created a bear and rose -- ehem -- ensamble). Arthur wanted to do everything that the grown-ups were doing and in between that he wanted to eat the glue sticks.

Still no word on WOTF.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Marathon Tuesday

Whew. What a day.

It started out nicely; Mark had to work late tonight, so he got to stay with us in the morning. It was very relaxing for me to have him watching Arthur (and making waffles for breakfast). Arthur and I went to Scary Reading Hour at the Library and saw Elizabeth and Jamie (and a zillion semi-cranky toddlers). Then we were off to Corvallis.

I was going to harp for my Grandmother today, but the hospital decided that they needed her bed and that they were going to discharge her to a nursing home. By the time that I got to Corvallis they were gearing up to move her and then Arthur had to take a nap while everyone was down visiting her. Anyway, Arthur and I spent a nice day visiting with my parents and my Aunt Joanne (oh, and Sierra the German shepherd). Probably the most important thing that Arthur learned was that one shouldn't run down hill on a grassy slope. I think the most amusing moment (for me anyway) was when my Aunt Joanne asked, "John, if you're following Arthur around all the time, when do you get anything done?' I assured her that our house was A) smaller and B) more baby-proof -- or I would have had Arthur not chosen that moment to pull his high chair down on himself.

I realized that Arthur hadn't had enough sleep in the ride up to Corvallis, so I managed to get him to nap in the afternoon; with the result that I left Corvallis much later than intended. I drove I-5 like crazy and managed to get him to The Wilds in time to zoom off to the Wordos. After Wordos it was back to The Wilds to pick up Arthur and go home to "Bitty Bitty Bang Bang."

Arthur was pretty sleepy, so I managed to get him to fall alseep with a combination of Make Way for Ducklings, The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog and plunking him into his crib. Mark still isn't home from work, and there's still no word from WOTF (although there was one message left at 10 something this morning that was a series of beeps; but that was probably the aliens).

Monday, February 05, 2007

Writing News

Still no news from WOTF. I have to say that having to visit my Grandmother in the hospital kind of put some thngs into perspective. For one thing, all sorts of morbid story ideas came into my head... I wrote a few of them down (along with some hospital room details) for later use.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Grandma Doing Well

Just got back to Eugene from the hospital. Grandma is doing fine for a 98 year old woman who just got a hip replacement. The physical therapist had her stand and she could without too much pain. She also perked up quite a bit -- so much that the nursing staff gave her washcloths to fold so she wouldn't pull out her IV's (she either thinks they're her watch or bracelet). The unofficial best guess is that she'll be discharged Tuesday.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Grandma Update

When I walked into Grandma's hospital room, the first thing I thought was, 'gee, Grandma is tiny.' She was asleep. A little later the nursing staff woke her when they checked one of the machines she was hooked to. They were great, and I could tell they were glad that I was there to ground Grandma with a "Hi Grandma, it's John; you're in a hospital in Corvallis. These nurses are here to take care of you."

I then spent about four hours playing a lap harp. I figured that Grandma would enjoy the music, and she did; I didn't realize how much the staff would, too. It really changed the energy of the room to something more relaxed and positive and I got to enjoy a Christine Lavin moment. Grandma dozed off and on; I'm always amazed at how friendly and happy she is, because I'd be afraid if a room full of strangers was taking my blood and blood pressure and pulse and EKG and I didn't know why my back hurt and I was in traction.

Grandma went into surgery for a hip ball replacement; she gets to keep her socket. The doctor said that she went through it really well and has a strong heart and lungs. Man, I hope I can do half as well as she does at her age.

We'll visit her tomorrow morning.


I just got a phone call. I was ripping out a small kitchen counter. Um... it wasn't WOTF. It was my mother. My grandmother, who was born in 1909, fell and broke her hip. She's comfortable now, and probably asleep (and in traction), but they're going to give her surgery to replace her hip sometime this afternoon. She's a tough little old lady, but I know that surgery at her age is risky. So, I anticipate spending time in Corvallis helping both my parents and my grandmother.

Time to light candles.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Perpetual Anticipation...

... is good for the soul but it's bad for the heart.

Who would have thought that my life would become a Stephen Sondheim musical? Still no word from WOTF. No "Weekend in the Country" for us; we're going to try to replace the smaller of our two kitchen cabinets.


Ack! Arthur woke up this morning at 6. So, after stumbling around the house while Mark fed him and got ready for work, I took Arthur to the store to watch the flaming chicken rotisserie. It wouldn't be so bad except that Arthur kept us both up really late; he just doesn't like going to sleep by himself in his room. Mark wins a medal for something, and once I have my nap I'll be able to figure out what it is.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Send Chocolate & Pepsi

I thought for sure WOTF would call tonight.

It's the full moon and it's the Ides of Winter, for crying out loud; all sorts of fruition things are supposed to happen on the full moon. I mean, I got my finalist notification on my birthday! Surely I'd hear something on the Mid Winter Moon. Then again, I thought for sure they'd call before Tuesday's Wordos meeting.

Right now I'm singing Happily Ever After from Once Apon a Matress along with Carol Brunette. But it's getting to the point where I'm about to play the role of Sally the Doll in a reenactment of the last scene on the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer (you know, where all the toys are huddled around a lonely little campfire).

Apparently Damon Kaswell (a Wordo and 3rd Place Winner for 2006 Q2) was on the local TV station. It was mentioned on the WOTF's blog site, and when I read it the first time through I thought a heretofore unknown Eugenian writer had become a WOTF darkhorse.

I'm in the weird state of knowing some of the other finalists' names and all of my obsessive web surfing for WOTF 2006 Q4 results has shown me that I'm not the only one waiting for the phone to ring with good news; so on one hand I'd really like to take first place, but on the other hand I have some feeling for what my competitors must be going through. I'm really glad that none of them are Wordos, because that would make things even weirder.

The Boy Thespian

Yesterday around 3 PM the phone rang. It wasn't WOTF; it was the shoe repair place telling me that Mark's shoes were ready for pick-up. Why are they calling me? I wondered. Why aren't they calling Mark?

This morning around 10 PM the phone rang. It wasn't WOTF; it was Candee Cole giving me a heads-up that the Unitarian Church wouldn't mind having a budget for next year's CUUPs activities. We exchanged other pleasantries, and she ended the call with "Well, I'd better get off the phone because you're probably worried that WOTF is trying to call you right now." She must know other writers.

In other news, Arthur woke up around 7:15 this morning. Whew, what a relief. It really makes a difference to my day if I can have about twenty to thirty minutes lead-time without having to worry about him. I think, though, that his "boy gene" has turned on or something; he's been in "destructo-mode" or "science is figuring nature out by breaking it" mode. Flip books in general are in peril right now, so is my harp, the kalimba, windows, and probably Muriel the Needy Irritant.

But the most troubling is that he'll say, "bonk" and then hit his head against something. This was fine when it was the futon mat in his room, but he's generalized to things like the hardwood floor, doorknobs, and his highchair tray. About half the time he'll hit his head and then start to cry. And then he'll say "bonk" again. About half the time that he's crying, you can point to him and say, "Faker!" and he'll smile.

In other thespian events, Arthur and I have a schtick where I'll say to him, "Oh my page boy, what have you brought Cleopatria, your queen? What message from Mark Anthony?" and he'll grab his fabric toy snake and bring it up to my neck. I'll fake shriek, and maybe add something like, "Oh, how sharper than a serpant's tooth!" or "Oh, come to my happy bosom." We've been doing this a while, and now Arthur can almost say 'Cleopatria.' I suppose that we're going to have trouble if we ever visit a reptile house or the Egyptian wing of the MET.

Oh, and before I forget; Arthur seems to have a much stronger preference for using his left hand when he draws with crayons or the aqua-doodle pen. Now if I can just keep him from putting them into his mouth...