Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Sister's Cats Had A Trip to the Vet

After some surgery, the cats are doing fine. Nothing too serious. But, one thing was Massimo had to get his butt shaved to clear out all the matted tangles in his fur. He looks like a poodle.

Diva is not a fan of having her picture taken. "Me iz not redy fr closeup!"

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


There will be pictures of a shaved cat, soon.

At the moment, however, I have to go attend to cats and cat-like affairs.

But, tomorrow, there will be shaved cat pictures, and everybody loves a shaved cat.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A thought...

Two consenting adults decide they want to be the ones to define their lives, in a manner that causes absolutely no harm to any other living being on the planet, and to make their families in their own way and on their own terms.

However, because some folks' religions do not believe that what those consenting adults are trying to do is in accord with some holy books, some folks vote overwhelmingly to stop it. The people they just stopped are *not* members of the church. Thus the community has imposed a religious viewpoint upon another community with no unifying religion to speak of.

Thus, something that causes no harm to others is illegal. People are not permitted to create the defining terms of their own lives.

I'm not talking about gay marriage. I'm talking about children with silly haircuts.

In Mesquite, TX, it is illegal for children to have silly haircuts.

Adults should be allowed to define silliness for themselves.

Also silly, gay marriage's illegality.

The New Year is coming soon. Will this be the year where gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered couples are permitted to give their children silly haircuts in Mesquite, TX?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

On Writing: "Araby" Problems...

I've been plugging and chugging hard on a very difficult short story for me to write, and I think I got it and I think it will get sent out soon. However, the problem I had with writing it, and a difficult thing to write, is the moment when a character realizes something without any predicated stuff. The realization rises out of the subconscious, and changes the course of the plot.

Obviously, this sort of plot point is quite point is quite difficult.

I refer to them as "Araby" problems. In James Joyce's short story, "Araby" the main character has his climactic epiphany in the shop, holding the object that he intends to give to his young crush. He realizes, in a flash, that buying the object, and giving it to the girl will do nothing for his chances with the girl. He puts the object back and goes home.

It works in Joyce.

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror is not a place where internal monologue is welcome. Inner looks upon the gears of the character's mind are not nearly as much fun as, for instance, betrayals in a multi-versal battle at the end of time.

Generally, it is better to write an action that is unexpected followed by a character reveling (or hating) the results.

Sometimes, stories come along that do not have that possibility, and you face an "araby" problem. Then, you have to find some way to sell the audience on a sudden and unexpected revelation.

One "Araby" problem is quite enough to make for a difficult story. This particular story I have been wrestling, alas, has more than one of those difficult moments.

We'll see how successful I am.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Whatever happened to gold stars?

Remember when you were a kid, and you did good, and you got a big gold star on the bulletin board? That was awesome.

You know what the internet needs? A gigantic bulletin board, with everyone's name on it. Then, when you do something good, someone gives you a gold star. Shiny, and golden and happy and fun.

A big, giant bulletin board, with everyone's name on it. And gold stars.

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Mom Got a Wii...

I've wanted a Wii for a while. However, since I've also been wanting to be a writer of fictions, I avoided temptation to pick one up. For Christmas, my Mom picked up a Wii for herself.

Here's the genius behind Wii. My Mom can pick up the console because she wants to play Wii Bowling, and shoot at stuff with Link's Crossbow Training ( her, she just wanted something to squeal when it dies. It didn't matter if it is a Skeleton-faced Monster, or a Deer, or Anything, as long as she gets to shoot something and hear it die. I totally agree with Mom on that one. Shooting targets is not as rewarding as shooting the hobgoblin thingums that keel over squealing.)

Wii is brilliant because it acquired the attention of a casual gamer, like my Mom, who never really wants to spend more than a few minutes at any one game.

Because of this, my Mom also picked up Force Unleashed, not a casual game, because she wants me to have something fun to play, too, when I'm over there. I am a dedicated gamer, who would blow all of his life playing video games if I had less self-control.

In short, Wii console designers are brilliant. By embracing more than just the hardcore gamers (I'm looking at you PS3), the company will expand it's marketshare and expand the number of hardcore games that sell, as well, since more households will have Wiis.


Also, let me just say that Wiis are extremely fun. Bowling is fun. Boxing is fun. Link's Crossbow Training is fun.

The Force Unleashed is fun, too. It isn't the perfect lightsabre game, however, being able to actually, physically swing the Wii control increases my pleasure when slaughtering my enemies with my lightsaber.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas! Have some alien conspiracy theory while I'm busy hitting the egg-nog!

I know you woke up early, jumping on your family members' beds to rush downstairs and shout "It's Christmas! Let's check J M McDermott's blog to unwrap what he has given us!"

I have, for your perusal, an interesting alien conspiracy I encountered somewhere on the web.

Merry Christmas! Peace on Earth! Goodwill towards all Living things, and ghosts.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

बेस्ट मोविएस २००८!

I watched a lot of movies this year. Almost none of them were in theaters. Most of them were courtesy of the library. At the library, new and recent releases are often watched within an inch of their existance. And, to be perfectly honest, the words "Criterion Collection" really are synonymous with "You are about to see a brilliant movie that will blow you away!"

My favorites this year, watched this year though certainly not made recently, are as follows:

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thinking more about kitschy chess sets...

Right, so you know how when you see nifty, kitschy chess sets, like a Star Trek chess set where Kirk stares down the evil Klingon Empire, or Gandalf faces off against Mordor, or Autobots take on the Deceptacons?


Notice how all the "good" teams are white chess pieces, and the "bad" teams are all black chess pieces?

In chess, white is evil. White moves first. White is the aggressor.

Black is the defender. Black is the besieged. Black is the good.

What I want for Christmas.

This is what I want for Christmas more than I have ever wanted anything for Christmas.

I want this more than little girls want ponies.

Two things I love, put together BRILLIANTLY!

(I'll probably be staring at this chess set, drooling, for, like, hours.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Because Christmas Carols Mostly Suck.

I vote that we add David Bowie songs - specifically, all of them - to the official list of Christmas Carols.

Come on, folks, tell me this tune doesn't kick Silent Night in the gonads.

Because it does.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tell me the story I'm telling...

Right. Here's a series of pictures, courtesy of my webcam, wherein I am making facial expressions to commingle with the story I am telling.

Please, illuminate the blog-o-sphere with your version of this story. Demarcate each new part of the story with the appropriate number.






Thursday, December 18, 2008


"With the boss gone, do you think we might call of this whole foolish, endless war, Mr. Dwarf?"
"Frankly," said Mr. Dwarf, "The only reason I never mulched you was because the boss was around, bailing you out at the last second. Prepare to die, orc scum!"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Abandoned Prose...

(Author's Note: I'm pre-dating a bunch of blog entries, because I'll be busy for a while, so don't expect me in the comments for at least a few days...)
Whenever I don’t know the answers to something important, I create a mad lib, and visit my brother in his halfway house. My brother is extremely autistic. He didn’t learn to speak until he was eight. By the time he was nine, he played the viola better than I could do anything, ever.
In his special, autistic kid, school, they liked to encourage kids to think creatively, because autistic kids don’t think creatively very well. They used mad libs. My brother demonstrated an uncanny knack for choosing words that were perfectly suited for the missing place in the essay. What I mean is, if the blank space indicated the place where Abraham Lincoln was born, my brother would volunteer the correct city without any other prompting besides, “Give me a city.”
If anyone tried to give the “wrong” answers, my brother got angry and violent. He insisted on every blank space in the mad lib containing the “correct” word. No one could ever explain to him why choosing the correct word in the space was the wrong answer. No one could ever understand how he did it. They did a special feature about him on 60 Minutes, once. He wasn’t photogenic, I’m afraid. His skin is deadly pale. We keep his head and eyebrows shaved because he liked to pluck the hairs out one by one if we let anything grow in. He’s pudgy, and soft all over, and as pale as he is, he looks like a peeled potato. His trick didn’t come across as miraculous. It was kind of creepy, like listening to a Ouija board predict an afterlife of pain and despair. My brother’s eyes, always squinting in his pudgy face, and always looking away. He was only moderately capable of human speech, on a good day. He had to be reminded to speak up. He didn’t like repeating himself, and was quick to become violent. The correspondent tried to do a mad lib with him, but he cowered in the camera, and didn’t want to speak up after half the mad lib was completed.
He’s all grown up now, but he’s too much for my mother, and too much for me. He lives in a halfway house. My mother visits him, weekly. I don’t think he cares if I visit him or not. I don’t feel guilty for only visiting him when I want answers. [/quote]

Never could figure out a way to get the idea to turn into a story, alas. Mayhap I'll come back to it, later. Mayhap, not.

*cough* And, as of today, I am officially 29. I only get to be twenty-something for 364 more days. I can't help but shake the feeling I've mostly squandered my twenties. I wrote some stuff, true, and I traveled a lot. But, I wonder at all the nights I spent goal-less, channel surfing, working in dead-end jobs for people that would be perfectly indifferent if I didn't show up, or women that were only dating me out of curiosity, or hanging out with friends that cannot take the heat of my excessively passionate life.

Hm... You know, I wish I had spent more time reading this last year. Also, I wish I spent more time in Austin, Houston, or New York.

Anyway, Happy Birthday me. Wherever I am.

(I write this at my mother's house, at her kitchen table.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

cool things in the mail yesterday!

In the mail, yesterday, I recieved two super-cool items. One was my free starter kit of Magic:The Gathering cards that Wizards of the Coast gave away via their website recently. Man, I used to *love* that game. I don't know what happened to all my old cards, and I don't have anyone to play the game with. But, now I have two ready-to-play decks if anyone wants to learn the game.

Also, I got the latest issue of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I expect all of you to buy a copy of my book and give it to a friend as your present to me. Also, cake. And, whiskey.

Here's photographic evidence of what I speak.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I know what you were wondering...

Who would win in a fight between Chuck Norris and David Carradine?

Answer: *Everyone*

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I'm busy. Watch this neat video about making one of my favorite movies, ever. Quality is so-so, but the whole video (parts 1 through 6) is posted up on YouTube, and it is fascinating and neat to watch the deeply well-thought-out, heavily stylized fantasy puppet realm in a half-formed state, swarming with human life and energy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

वोके up... स्टार्टेड working... वेंट back to बेद...

I woke up this morning, I started working. About an hour later, I was cold, and I thought I'd lie down for just a second to warm up.

Next thing I know the cats are assaulting me because I hadn't fed them yet, and it was noon.

Gots to get caught up. I leave you with this video, that is dream-like in many strange and beautiful ways.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cursed by the Wall

Still determined to write about the Berlin Wall, Titisee, and whatnot. Still not quite getting it right...


We were artists, back then. We smoked menthols and tobacco pipes and weed and American cigarettes by the handful. We drank too much vodka and absinthe, laughingly called our beverage the Berlin blast. We – all of us – looked at the Wall as if it were one big canvas to paint on. Tomas kept spray paints in his trunk so he could always stop and doodle on the wall in bright colors whenever he parked near the wall. I kept spray paint in my nightstand. If I couldn’t sleep, I snatched up what colors I found, and hurried to the wall. Carlos painted sesame street characters in scenes from German history in thick layers of housepaint he bought in bulk from a hardware store. Renata liked to make posters and glue them to the Wall. The thing was, this Wall was the line in theworld’s sand. We were the artists that lived in its shadow. It was our canvas, even when we were painting on a canvas in a studio in Paris. It marked our city. It marked our fears. It marked our imaginations.
We hated it, but we loved that it was there to be hated. We threw paint and art at the Stasi like hippies throwing vegetables at guns.
Zouhlika would never understand that about the artists. She was a waitress in a Greek restaurant where every course was an excuse to kill as many different animals as possible...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Words of the Day

Challenge for all you commenters and readers:

Write a sentence using the following words in a fun, exciting, and interesting way.




Aurora Borealis

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The most thoughtful post about publishing's Black Wednesday, for my monetized eyeballs...

If you don't know what "Black Wednesday" is already, and no, I don't mean "Black Friday", I mean "Wednesday" - then don't worry about this post. Go over to YouTube and watch a video about puppies being puppies.

Everyone else, though, here's the link to SFWA's Writer Beware blog on the recent events and what they mean, or could mean, as publishing moves forward:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Book recommendation...

I think this is the new book to pick up this month, by the way, amongst all you regular commenters and lurkers around these parts.

If you haven't seen this one, go check it out. I bet you'll like it. I sure did. New Weird is lurking across the epic fantasy landscape in such a compelling way. Soon there will be no separation between "New Weird" and "Fantasy" because all fantasy will be compelled to include New Weird elements. (You know, a person who has an ant colony inside her head, or a golem/zombie entity. Stuff like that.)

(Patrice, I swear your book is like right on top of my to-read pile, and I'll get it down before the end of the week, I promise!)

Determined to write about Berlin...

[quote] I staggered into a sleek express train at Zoo Station, like a clean eagle among the dirty pigeons of the Berlin subways. I was drunk as sin already, and I drank more on the train. I slept through the night, having nightmares. In the early morning hours, I heard the bells and the conductor announcing our arrival in Munich. I stumbled off the train, and on to another. I went from the mountains of Bavaria, to the mountains of the Black Forest, and to the old city, Freiburg.
I took a cab at the Freiburg train station, dirty and hungover like death walking, to Tomas’ little hideaway flat in a building his father owned for years, in the old part of the city where the cobblestone and the cathedral and the late-medieval buildings had attracted tourists looking to walk through history.
Tomas was fabulously wealthier than us, his friends, and he always seemed guilty about it. We never held it against him. It’s not his fault he was born into obscene luxury and not into blue collar squalor like the rest of us. We would have loved him poor because he was an amazing painter and a good friend. His art was fantastic, and his heart was generous. He converted three of his family’s old buildings into gallery space, and he’d let us use them to show our stuff. He let us borrow his little hideaways – like this one in Freiburg – when we had to slough off a filmy skin collected over the soul: bad relationships, too many drugs, or a rut of too many late nights with no work done.
I had accumulated a veil of all three. I had shown up at Tomas’ house to get a ride to his latest exhibition of his brilliant canvases. I reeked of absinthe. My hands trembled from the heartbreak all over my face. He let me in. He fed me Tandoori chicken. He poured espresso into me until I seemed human enough to take a shower. When I came out, he told me I should go to Freiburg for a while. He’d meet me there when his exhibition was over and check up on me. He never asked me what happened to the woman that was supposed to come with me that night. He didn’t need to.
I borrowed some of his clothes - mine were filthy – and together we went to his gallery opening. Tomas was a fabulous painter. He was better than me, I’ll admit it. He sold four canvases in an hour at a price my work would never match. All of the canvases were bright and vibrant celebrations of life, just like the graffiti you could find all over the Berlin wall at the time. I basked in his bright shadow while everyone congratulated him for his work. Afterward, he couldn’t help but smile all the time, even while I was miserable, and I couldn’t help but smile for him, too. We went to a bar near Zoo Station where you could see the Wall spreading off left and right from the windows of the bar, and the other nation beyond it. Tomas matched me beer for beer. He dragged me to the station. He placed an envelope in my pocket with the address and keys of his place in Freiburg. He helped me stumble onto the train, and placed my ticket visible in my lapel pocket so the conductor wouldn’t have to wake me up to punch my card.
I fell into the trains, to Freiburg.
I slept for a day as best I could with the cathedral bells thundering the hours a hundred yards from the window. I had drunk too much alcohol to enjoy the bells tearing through my skull.
After the second day, I had drank all the sodas and eaten all the canned and dried goods. I had to either leave the flat to find food, or starve.
I called Tomas from a payphone first, to tell him I was starving to death. Tomas said he was watching the news. A shopkeeper had died trying to cross over the wall. A sniper had shot the an from the sky out of a homemade hang-glider. The dead body in the glider crashed into West Berlin, and the brave man bled to death, smiling because he had made it across and he would die a free man with four bullet holes in his chest and neck, but free. Tomas said that I should have been there, to paint all that blood splattered over the Wall’s graffiti.
“Tomas, I’m not going to lie to you,” I said. “Things are getting dire over here, too. I think I’m about to starve to death. I’ve eaten all the food, and nothing is left. Soon, I will have to eat my own arm.”
“My old canvases are all in the closet. Strip them if you need them. Nothing I ever painted there was any good. Use anything you find. There isn’t a decent museum for miles, but the cathedral has some lovely, hideous stuff to steal in a pinch, and the Black Forest is straight up the mountain and goes for miles. Hike around. It’s good for your health. I’ll see you next month. I’ll bring Carlos and Theodora with me, and anyone else that can come. We’ll investigate your latest canvases. We’ll have a big party. You’d better paint something good, my friend. We’re all coming for you and we’ll kick your ass if your paintings are shit.”
“Do you think I could eat your old canvases if I boiled them long enough? You didn’t use any lead paint or metals, did you?”
“Be good, Johann. Don’t anger the neighbours with the sound of screaming.”
“Tomas, I love you like a brother. I want you to come visit me as soon as you can. Bring Tandoori chicken because I’m going to starve to death. Abandon art. Open a Tandoori chicken restaurant. You’ll make another fortune. Then, the rest of us can sell some paintings for a change and we’ll never starve.”
“Call me anytime, Johann. I hope you feel better soon.”
“Tomas, your gallery show was fucking incredible. I fucking love your paintings. I mean it. I can’t believe how many you sold in only one night.”
“Good-bye, Tomas. I’m going to paint a nice picture of the hang gliding man, for his family in East Berlin, in a Romantic style. He was so brave, but he should have picked a windier day. He should have waited for winter when the snipers get drunk to keep warm and can’t shoot for shit.”
“Good-bye, Tomas. I don’t know if I will paint anything. I have been cursed, you know, and everything I paint will be destroyed by the time I finish the canvas. That’s what she did to me, you know. She placed a curse on me.”
But Tomas didn’t hear that. He had already hung up the phone.
I gathered food and drink. I returned to the apartment. I sat in the darkness, listening to the bells of the night. I felt numb.
I considered painting Zoe. I wondered if it is what she wanted me to do when she cursed me. She wanted me to destroy her completely.
Cathedral bells tolled late morning like an invasion of angels. I woke up on the couch. Sunlight blurred against the gauzy white curtains that veiled the room. I covered my ears with my hands and two pillows. It wasn’t enough.

An untold number of drafts later - more than usual even for me - and I am determined to write about the Berlin Wall and the beautiful lake at Titisee.

So much abandoned prose, and all of it not quite right...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Continuing my pondering about bookstore design...

Since Indie Bookstores give you a chance to walk through the imagination of the community they serve, do the big chain bookstores give you a chance to walk through the imagination of the mainstream?

I don't necessarily think so. However, endcaps and those shelves in the middle of the aisle are probably as close to that as you're going to get.

Once you dive off the aisles, regional buyers likely adjust to their communities with the way that the ordering system works (i.e. books that don't sell are pulled in favor of new titles, and books that do sell are re-ordered when they sell, in the same quantities).

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Reason Indie Bookstores are Extremely Nifty #425

Independent bookstores reflect the inner life of the community that they serve. Imagine a BookPeople in Austin without that "lived-in" feeling of rough woods, rugged shelves, and the faint smell of sawdust, and it just isn't the same. BookPeople reflects the sense of style of the urban cownoy city it serves. Imagine Dark Delicacies without all the awe-inspiring horror movie memorabilia, and offering beers during booksignings. Dark Delicacies - a very awesome store, indeed, with some of the best litmag selection I've ever seen - reflects the horror readers of Burbank.

I'm at a new indie bookstore in Plano - don't ask what I'm doing in Plano, at this point, I'm not really sure myself - but I had some time and I was nearby, so I popped in to check it out.

The place screams Plano. It's over-styled. Everything is clean and glistening in stylish off-white and dark brown and metal. The shelves are arranged in odd ninety-degree angles here and there, as if placed by a Feng Shui interior decorator. The clean off-white walls and metalic touches contrast the deep browns of the store's furniture and shelves. I'm sitting in the cafe, and the tables and the benches don't work right. You see, some designer chose a bench that is low and squishy, paired with high, hard tables. I'm trying very hard to lift and extend my arms while maintaining my balance and posture comfortably in this seat. Really, this isn't the kind of place you'd want to sit and type chapters of a book.

Whilst at BookPeople, in their cafe, I typed an entire chapter, and it needed very, very little editing. Here, I'm concentrating on keeping my balance with my computer at such an odd, high angle between bench and table.

This place is over-styled. It doesn't feel like a bookstore as much as it feels like a place that turns into an exclusive four-star restaurant after dark, that humble scribblers like myself would be unable to get a table at, much less pronounce the menu.

I don't seem to belong here, alas.

Related note: my book was not on the shelf. BookPeople had three copies of my book in two different places.

Being in Legacy Books, I'm happy there's an indie book store in Dallas/Fort Worth. I dropped some Christmas-shopping cash here, because I believe that Indie Bookstores are going to save us when the blockbuster model of publishing implodes. We need about three more in town. One on Greenville Avenue, and one between TCU and Downtown Fort Worth. Also, I think the HEB-Airport corridor could easily support one.

I don't think I'll be coming back again to this store for a while, though. This is the kind of place where you could imagine ad execs shopping for business books to give to their secretaries, without any thoughtfulness whatsoever. Also, cookbooks. You could picture lots of cookbooks happening here. All of them written by people with TV Shows, and restaurants in places where people show up for lunch in very expensive business suits.

In short: it's so Plano. It's just so Plano. This store, like nearly every indie bookstore, reflects its community in design.

I feel like I'm standing in the imagination of your average Plano-ite.

Friday, December 5, 2008

busy busy... इन थे मेंतिमे, हियर's some writing process stuff for all you novelists out there!

I originally posted this to a message board I oft' frequent.

World-building, and outlining with Microsoft Excel:

I use Excel spreadsheets for outlining and for brainstorming.

For brainstorming, one merely fills out a series of cells with one's ideas. Since each individual cell can contain a very large amount of information, I can squeeze lots of ideas into a very small spot. I also - in cases of scientific trickery - already have an excellent calculation tool looking back at me. I can check the numbers even as I am reviewing my brainstorming notes.

After a good brainstorming session, one can usually find the ideas boiled down to what one is going to use by crossing off the things one is not going to use.

Now, you're ready to start outlining and filling in details.

Go to the bottom left, and notice that you have three pages open, and the ability to immediately make lots more pages of spreadsheet with mere clicks of your mouse. Go to the next spreadsheet, and choose the detail data that you need to think about next.,

The way an Excel spreadheet works, you get a long list of cells that extend down and across. Also, you get to write as much as you would like in each individual cell.

So, in cell A1, on page 1, I'll write something outline-y-data-ey like "Magic System". Then, on B2, I'll write out a spell that would be really cool, like "Spleen Explosion". In B3, the explanation of the spell "The magician uses a nifty poking object to deliver a magical insect into the enemy spleen, causing an explosion."

Notice, how the cells stay way close together, so I can pack a lot of information into a very small visual space.

I can fill this spreadsheet out as far as I would like to the right, and to the down.

Now, say I want to brainstorm a bit about different cosmologies that could interact with this cool magical system I wrote out. I go to the bottom left-hand corner, and open a new spreadsheet page. I can reference directly to the first spreadsheet cells as I fill things out. I can cut and paste cells, and manipulate things all over the place. I can fill up whole books of data, referencing - always - specific spots and corners.

I can put together a book of data that I can use as a "book of the novel" that is flexible and easy to click around and manipulate and play with.

In this method, I can also always extend new notes and discoveries off to the right indefinitely in any particular spot in my brainstorming/outliney/spreadsheet.

This kind of thing can also be used to set up my reference materials for certain sections. For example, in my second novel, I have a magical system based on Zen Koans and Taoism. I can put a direct link to the particular corner of the Gateless Gate, or the Book of Changes (Tao Te Ching...), where I am ganking spell materials. Then, as I'm working, and need to double-check something, I am one click of my mouse away from any website I need.

With this simple, and effective system, I am able to corral lots and lots of world-building and magic and plot and character into a small zone.

Also, I tend not to write linear narratives, and do not write linear scene-by-scene as I write a book. With my chapter outlines, I will often use the spreadsheet to mark off the plot points (each one in a single cell, extending off to the right on the page) by finding the cell next to the plot point and placing an asterisk. Thus, I have not lost any of my outline, but I am not visually distracted by information from a spot I've already written.

I have many more tricks and tips up my sleeve, but this is a tool I've put to much use and recommend highly to others.

And, most importantly, you will never, ever get to see my spreadsheets. They are only for my eyes. My editor doesn't get them. My agent doesn't get them. My mother doesn't even know they exist. If I have a specific problem I need to work out, I might take that here. However, I will not be expelling the contents of my spreadsheet to the wires. I will merely take one small spot and seek out advice/experts.

For instance, if I was having difficulty creating the best possible werewolf I could create - after much research on the subject, mind you - I might pop on here and say, "Hey, I am having difficulty choosing between an upright werewolf or a four-footed werewolf. What do you think the advantages or disadvantages of either wolf might be?" I will not reveal story information, nor will I weigh all opinions equally.

I hope this data is useful to anyone who has both Microsoft Office and a penchant for speculative fiction.

Excel is a very powerful tool, with many features that you will discover that can make your brainstorming and outlining a seamless, interesting process.

(Posted originally to this spot:

Right. Back to being an adult. Boo.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Is Black Wednesday Dan Brown's Fault?

Of course it isn't, says the economists who talk about a myriad of different things.

Still, here's this quote about struggling Doubleday:

"Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” failed to deliver his next novel, originally set for release in 2005. Jon Krakauer, author of the adventure hits “Into the Wild” and “Into Thin Air,” withdrew his book about Pat Tillman, the former football star killed in Afghanistan, originally scheduled for an October release."


Imagine how things would have been different if he had delivered that book and brought people into bookstores to buy it, and browse around a little, and maybe bring their kids who want a book, too, and maybe things turn around a little for the rest of us, just enough...

Our industry does seem to be built upon the backs of blockbusters, from what I can tell. When Blockbuster authors don't deliver and new Blockbuster authors can't be found quickly enough for that particular demographic of folk who don't buy but one or two books a year, and can't be bothered to browse a bookstore otherwise - can't be bothered to take that extra trip to the store with their kids.

If you want to do something nice for publisher's today, and help all those people who lost their jobs find new ones, the best thing you can do is to visit your local bookstore and pick up something you've been meaning to get but haven't gotten around to, yet. Go buy a book.

Buy one with every paycheck, and read it before you get your next paycheck.

Don't buy a used book, either. I mean buy a brand, spanking new book.

Feel free to drop into the comments and tell everyone what you bought, and where you bought it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I'm busy!

Sorry, folks, I'm a tad crunched right now.

However, I have an excellent solution for your reading needs.

Geoff Ryman (a notoriously excellent scribbler of all sorts of fascinating things) has a new story up at, so go read that instead.

I want to see that movie about Santa Claus rasslin' reindeer like a Lapland cowpoke, for sure. And that's just the beginning of the awesome things therein.

Monday, December 1, 2008

ओह नो!

Alas, Horatio failed to bring suitable pickles to the dumpster behind the Benbrook library, and he did not include any poetry magazines.

Only the left half of my body will be released at this time, by the bad poetry bats. I am being held half on a roof, bound and chained, and half off the roof, dangling in the air.

Supposedly this is what the bats refer to as "poetic justice". I do not find it poetic, just, or even remotely pleasant.

I hope this temporary pickle poem problem will be resolved by Horatio, before I am forced to endure more bad poetry justice.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Apparently, the bats are very organized...

I have been taken hostage by bad poetry bats. Apparently, there are far more of them than anyone could have predicted. They have me in a very high, undisclosed location.

There are hundreds of them. Their leaders - I have named him Lord Byronesque - is the size of a small minivan.

Horatio managed to escape. I hope he is taking good care of our bestiary in my absence.

to secure my release, Horatio, get fifty large jars of kosher dills, and a hundred copies of Poetry Magazine. Take them to the big dumpster behind the Benbrook Public Library. Leave them in styrofoam coolers, next to the dumpster. Include a note of apology.

I am - I assure you - very, very sorry for attempting to capture a bad poetry bat.

They plucked me off the ground and carried me away.

I should mention that failure to do so will make them light my ears on fire with their tongues. After some time with these strange creatures, I'm not sure if that's a metaphor or exactly what they are going to do.

The conversation, however, in rhyming iambic pentameter, is forced and dull enough to make me think it is both a metaphor and a fact. If I have to listen to anymore discussions about the good qualities of different sorts of pickles in dreadful, rhyming iambic pentameter, I think I will burn my own ears off.

Ahem. Hail Lord Byronesque. His poetry is VASTLY superior to mine. Yes. Yes, he is probably going to read this message, and I want to make sure everyone knows.

Anyway. Horatio, please provide the pickles. And the magazines.

I am alive and unharmed, and etc.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bad Poetry Bat Hunting Redux

After a long week of waiting, our pickled poetry collections were extricated, damp and stinking of vinegar, from the jars in the back of the pantry. Horatio and I had very large clothespins over our noses to protect our delicate nostrils, but odor still crept through. Worse, it watered our eyes with the pickle-y weight of damp paper.

We put then in sealed bags. We drove in the wee morning hours to the swampland at the edge of all the poorly landscaped corporate grounds and golf courses. We set our traps.

Tomorrow, we shall return. Even walking away, I saw their shadowy forms fluttering through the sky, attracted to the pickled verse.

Horatio expressed a concern. What if we catch more than one Bad Poetry Bat? We simply do not have the constitution to maintain the number of jars of thick pickle juice-drenched anthologies to feed a swooping herd of bad poetry bats.

And, who knows what kind of awful guano might result from such a toxic combination of bad poetry and pickle juice stewed inside the guts of a bat?

In the morning, we will check our traps. Hopefully, we'll only have caught exactly one.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

That is all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

stop surfing the internet and do something with your फॅमिली!


Thanksgiving is like tomorrow!

Go bake a pie, at least!

Get Off the Internet! (I'll meet you in the street!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Statuary Beetle

Geophagy is often relegated to the realm of earthworms. Few other insects enjoy devouring the raw essence of life in rocks and stones.

The Statuary Beetle is a wonder. Shaped like a long fingernail, with a back mottled like a piece of granite, the Statuary Beetle will only eat marble dust. Natives of Crete, they hitched rides to the United States in the crates of Greek and Roman statuary. They plague museum curators with their nibbling teeth and acidic spittle.

They rarely mate. They rarely need to. The acidic spittle that makes it possible for the Statuary Beetle to derive sustenance from stone also makes them utterly toxic to anything that might eat them. Their only natural enemy is the curatorial staff of museums, who quietly hide the secret of the beetles' existence to prevent any endangered species organization from discovering this rare beetle in time to stop the genocide.

Fortunately, on a recent trip to a museum with Horatio, I noticed an infant beetle in the dark corner of a marble sarcophogus. I distracted the staff by threatening to touch a priceless coin. Horatio quickly recovered the tiny insect, and stuffed it among some rocks in his pocket.

We keep the beetle in the same cage as the Snaggletooth Spider. They don't seem to notice each other. One eats marble, the other eats dentition. They wait, patiently, for their meals, and say nothing to each other.

I placed a marble hand from a garden statue in the cage. The Statuary Beetle hides under the stone palm. It has begun eating the elegant pinky finger.

The Snaggletooth Spider wandered over long enough to deduce that the white stone was not tooth-related. Then, it wandered back to its familiar corner of the cage, awaiting it's nightly meal of dentures and bits of toothpaste.

Monday, November 24, 2008

All right, everyone over the Twilight thing, yet?

Look, lots of people have had lots to say about the Twilight series, and the mediocrity of it. I couldn't stomach it. I don't like to talk mck about anyone, and the only thing I'm going to say is that lots of people liked it, and I am not one of them.

Now that all these young ladies have gotten their first taste of vampires, why not give them a book about vampires that actually allows young women to be thoughtful, active participants in their own dangerous lives?

F'r instance, Rachel Caine's very successful and very cool Morganville Vampire Series. For my money, this is the talented Ms Caine's best work to date, though I admit I'm only three books in.

I'm all for people reading just for the sake of pleasure, and reading stories that might be nominated for a World Fantasy Award. These are light books, that aren't aspiring to literature. But they're still fun. The vampires really are vampires. The young women in the stories participate in their own strange lives, and don't just sit around mooning over a boyfriend.

I think it's great Stephenie Meyer wrote something that so many young women could identify with and enjoy. But, I hope al those young people make a habit of reading, and continue exploring the very deep and diverse well of vampire literature. Rachel Caine is a fantastic next reading step.

Also, don't neglect your classics, kids. Classics exist because people of all ages, and for nor easons of academic requirement, pick up a book in the store and read it for pleasure, though generations have passed.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

lurking under stadiums

I went lurking below the stadium seats long after dark, butterfly net in hand, and spilled sodas, spilled nachos, dropped hot dogs, and all sorts of unspeakable trash. Night was long upon us. Early morning twiilght was a thin sheen on the horizon.

I lurked for my prey, ready with my flashlight and my butterfly net.

There, shimering in the glow of my flashlight, the spectacular North American Nightwing Moth. The wings of the moth sparkle with real gold. This mystery of science somehow creates real flecks of gold out of its embryonic mutations. It isn't much, mind you - only a half a teaspoon full on a real glorious moth - but it is an alchemical miracle unmatched by science or nature.

They are often lost to the eyes of the general public. They are nocturnal, and live in shadows.

These moths are also addicted to a substance in fake nacho cheese. Like heroin-addicts, they hunt for drops of cooled, congealed nacho cheese below the stadiums of the world, where few bookish lepidopterists venture for sporting entertainments.

I captured my moth. It's body is strictly black - jet black, like the night. The wings shimmer and sparkle with gold.

Another wondrous creature for the bestiary, suckling bits of melted velveeta, and flashing its wings in the dark corner of its cage in my closet.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

to catch a poetry bat, perchance to dream

I gave up on tiny slips of haiku. No matter how dreadful, the haiku and the pickles were unsuccessful. My traps remained empty. Flies and dragonflies feasted upon the discarded pickles. I saw the signs of the bad poetry bats everywhere. Teenagers scrabbling in magic marker their hideous protests of love have their messages nibbled off the benches and picnic tables and trees. The tired cliches of poetry of yore, a checkered shade, a leaf falling, a pool of water, all showing the toothmarks of the bad poetry bats.

In the morning, we shall try again, Horatio the Mute and me. We shall bring with usinstead old high school literary magazines, and the strange anthologies created by the nefarious scamsters at and other self-published tomes of shame and infamy. We shall drench them for a week in pickle juice from all our empty pickle jars. We shall then try again in the swampy fields and parklands and golf courses.

In the mean time, Biter, our cave squirrel, has started chewing his own tail in frustration. We are building him a dark, secretive cage with no light whatsoever that we will fill with damp rocks. Hopefully, Biter will calm down a little when placed in an area close to his natural habitat.

Dimble is, as always, sleeping, and biding his time for afternoon cups of coffee, and licking crumbs and whipped cream from Horatio's moustache. He bristles adorably in his dreams. His fur all tumbles and sheens in silver. He does not suspect for a moment the spider lurking up to his tiny teeth.

If you will excuse me, I shall put the Snaggletooth Spider back in the cage, and this time I shall find some better locking mechanism than peanut butter. Spiders are surprising in their craftiness.

Friday, November 21, 2008

An aside about something cool

This year I volunteered to serve on the Novels Jury for the Nebula Awards through SFWA.

It is basically the coolest thing I have ever volunteered for. My job has been to try to read every single science fiction and fantasy novel that I can get my hands on that came out in 2008. Which is physically impossible, but really, really fun to try.

Many of them stank. And, I didn't have to finish the ones that stank. Too many other things to read without grammar errors, plot holes, and hilariously terrible prose. (I won't name names, so don't ask. I don't like to smack down other working writers. The job is hard enough without haters.)

Many of them were good. T A Pratt is doing exciting things with his urban fantasy series. Nancy Kress could very likely take over the niche Michael Crichton left behind. Ladies and gentlemen, Ben Bova has still got it. Elizabeth Moon is better than Battlestar Galactica when it comes to military SF. Elizabeth Bear could probably write anything, and do it at a very high level.

Some - a small number, indeed - of the books were so good that I couldn't believe it. And, I wouldn't have discovered them if they hadn't been foisted upon me in the mail, with a note that said... "Please consider X by Y Z for the Nebula Novels Jury Nomination".

Basically, this has been so much fun. So much fun.

And, we're getting close to the not fun part. We're actually going to have to pick just one. Only one.

That's going to stink.

Horatio the Mute is shaking his head at me right now. We have to prepare our traps for another long morning hunting bad poetry bats, and I'm on here scribbling away about the novels jury.

Hunting Failed!

We spent all morning, Horatio and me, slogging in waist-high rubber boots through the murky swamps of Benbrook, TX. (Though Benbrook is not famous for murky swamps, merely attending any golf course or wild area beside a poorly landscaped business-complex leads to plenty of murky swampness, where water run-off pools indifferently among the long grass...)

Alas, we tried kosher dill, dill, and bread & butter pickles. (I admit, Horatio and I ate most of the bread & butter pickles. We were hungry after all that stomping around.)

We used all sorts of elaborately bad haiku, all composed by me. Some of my gems:

Victorian pants
Riding crops, boots, and pirates,
I Am Fabio!

A dying leaf falls
in a puddle of water
when you touch yourself.

Alas! My pickles were pickle-y enough. Horatio assures me the pickles passed his inspection for the capture of bad poetry bats. My haiku, however, was simply too good!

I can't suck even when I'm trying.

Can anyone donate bad feeding for the capture and continued feeding of the bad poetry bats?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'll be going hunting...

In the morning, I shall be crawling among the rushes of a nearby golf course, setting traps with Horatio the Mute for my latest addition to the menagerie.

For this particular beast, I have designed floating traps that look much like lily pads. When an animal lands upon the lily that triggers the particular foodstuff mechanism, the lily petals curl shut, trapping the creature.

My bait? Pickles wrapped in bad haiku.

tomorrow i go
hunting hunting for bad poetry bats
that eat pickled verse

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the prodigal spider returneth!

Successfully did we track and locate the escaped Snaggletooth Spider! It was drunk on toothpaste, all lost and out of sorts, in the back of the medicine cabinet.

At last, I can return to sleeping in my bed, secure in knowing that the spider remains once again in its cage.

Dimble seems pleased as punch. Biter is biting at the cage. Cave Squirrels eat cave spiders in the wild. We may have to invest in a cave squirrel muzzle for little Biter, lest he actually work through the cage's barriers.

Horatio the Mute only lost two teeth, and both of them relatively inconsequential middle molars. We are glad to have our little snaggletooth spider back in his cage.

My neighbors will be pleased to see me sleeping inside for a change.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cave Squirrel

In Brazil, in the rainforest, deep caves form where the water run-off seeps into the geology. Caves form there, and the lush jungle spreads its wealth of life down into the earth, as well.

The Brazilian Cave Squirrel likely evolved out of the squirrel's habit of burying food for winter. In the tropical rainforest, there is no winter. Still, the tendency remains. The squirrel furiously digs and digs, hunting for grubs and nuts and fruits that have fallen to the thick layer of leaves. Eventually this squirrel likely discovered the entrances to a large cave complex, and slipped inside, where no hawks or ocelots hunt for meat.

These squirrels have evolved for their caves. Their fingers are very sensitive to touch, and their eyes are gigantic and black to soak up all remnants of light. Many are born blind, but it doesn't seem to bother them. The cave squirrels tails are even poofier, to give them something to feel with. The cave squirrels dig deep into the ground after insects and cave fish and any nuts or fruits that slip through the water into the deep darkness.

They swim fluidly, unlike most squirrels. The cave squirrel swim like otters, and have the thicker fur similar to an otter.

Natives prized them for their luscious pelts.

Horatio the Mute's Brazilian contact from the circus days, El Lemure, managed to save one from the illegal endangered animal markets in the seedy underbelly of Rio de Janeiro.

The light-sensitive squirrel hides in the darkness of the closet, hissing furiously at anyone that gets too close. If you come over, watch out for dark corners. If you brush up against something furry in a gloom, it just might spin ad bite you.

The post-traumatic stress disorder from being wrenched from the caves, tossed into the unwholesome black market, and then shipped around the world, has permanently damaged this little cave squirrel's little brain.

Biter only lets Horatio the Mute near him, to feed him tiny crickets and Brazilian nuts. They make quite a duo, in my closet, sleeping curled up together on a pile of old towels.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Horatio the Mute assures me...

Horatio the Mute assures me he will catch the escaped Snaggletooth Spider soon. He has laced his own mouth with traps. He sleeps with his jaw open, and various dental aromas smeared all over his body.

In the mean time, I sleep on the porch stoop, for I need my teeth in full health.

It's quite cold outside. I need a very warm blanket, and ear muffs.

My neighbors have no idea what's going on, and I don't want to tell them. I'd hate for some zoning laws to fine me for my odd bestiary.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Phillipine Speculative Fiction!

A young, energetic SF community of writers is on the rise in the Philippines right now. Another example is viewable here in an on-line anthology of Philippine Speculative Fiction edited by the much-esteemed Charles A Tan, a.k.a. Bibliophile Stalker, and Mia Tijam.

Check it out!

Dean Francis Alfar's entry exceptional, among some very strong stories.

I hope they do this again.

The Sterling Yergacheffe

Whilst scribbling and sipping coffee at my favorite area cafe, (Eurotazza, linked somewhere on the right), I encountered a mysterious creature sneaking around the dirty dish bin. It was shaped somewhat like a hedgehog, though it's back was not bristling in the slightest. It was covered in silvery fur that bristled like the hands of a scrub brush.

The shimmery creature has a face similar to an armadillo, though it is much smaller, and more pug.

What was this creature doing in the dirty dish bin?

Simple: it was seeking out it's natural prey. The Sterling Yergacheffe lives upon the crumbs of teatime in its native London. It licks them up like an anteater after termites. It sips coffee and tea.

You can tell which beverage the Yergacheffe prefers by the color of its back. Burgundy Yergacheffe drink various and diverse drops of old tea - even breaking into used tea bags and eating individual leaves. The Sterling Yergacheffe - my discovery - prefers milkfoam of old cappucinos and empty latte cups and bits of creamy whipped topping in the remains of mochas and sweeted confectionary beverages.

I scooped up the Sterling Yergacheffe in an empty cup of coffee. I popped a lid on the cup quickly, lest anyone see my rare discovery.

I immediately took the creature to Horatio the Mute. Horatio had never encountered such a creature before, and I had to illuminate him on the proper method of feeding and care.

Firstly, Yergacheffes are napping creatures, that prefer to roll onto their backs and sleep the day away. They awake in the afternoons for tea time. They eat and drink their way through the dirty dishes. Then, they like to go for walks among hills and moors. At night, they like to go fishing in the dark for tadpoles and minnows that they don't eat. They merely catch them, and play with them a while, and throw them back harmlessly.

I don't know what we'll do about the lack of hills and moors in Fort Worth. Frankly, I don't even know how this London native tumbled into the dish bin at Eurotazza.

We've named him Dimble, and shall feed him chocolate cookies for dinner and espresso beverages for dessert. Horatio will take him to the stream near here, that he may play in the water.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

this song is stuck in my head for two days and counting...

It's like walking with the ghost.

Snaggletooth Spider

I have acquired an exquisitely rare specimin from the wild jungles in the vicinity of Bagombo.

It came in a box shaped like a banana, to fool the nosy postal inspectors who would never investigate something as harmless as a banana. They are fortunate they did not jut their nosy noses into the little, banana-shaped box. The snaggletooth spider would have crawled right up their nose, and remain in hiding until nightfall, when the spider will crawl into the open mouth and commence a feast upon incisors, molars, and any other kind of dentition.

The only way to protect yourself from a snaggletooth spider is to blow your nose very hard before going to bed, when it in on the loose. Be careful not to sneeze. They are actually very small, delicate arachnids, with gorgeous mottled carapaces of green, purple, and red. They could not survive landing in a palm after a hard sneeze.

Fortunately, Horatio the Mute has a lovely little, banana-shaped cage for the spider, and a vast collection of abandoned dentition from his career in the circus, where he scrubbed the back of the carnival freak that grew countless teeth from his spine, and lost them as he grew more and more.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I'm collecting something...

I have decided to collect imaginary animals. I will be keeping them in my closet, and feeding them whatever they require, and depending on my resident imaginary zookeeper Horatio the Mute to clean up after them and care for them.

Horatio the Mute is seven feet tall and a retired circus strongman. He is quite capable of caring for any sort of creature that shows up. Also, he is not actually a mute. He merely prefers not to speak unless absolutely necessary. Thus, if I find any Dovetailed Toadbirds - that eat only music, lapping the notes from the air like floating insects with their toad-like tongues and swooping and swirling around the notes as if dancing to the silence they create - Horatio the Mute will be perfectly capable of humming the circus music of his youth, feeding them.

Thus, I shall start my collection of imaginary animals. What do you think I should add to my collection?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

if this is real...

Dear God,

Please let this be real, and not a fluke, and available to everyone in the developing worlds who so desperately need this.

Your Pal,


i have hidden...

i have hidden, somewhere on this page, a tiny, tiny spot. it is a special spot. if you click it - and you'll have to really look hard for it, I tell you! - but if you find it and you click it, you will immediately be transported to a strange, otherworld that is a mirror reflection of this one, except it will be quite a bit later in the day, and no one will have any memory of you being so red-eyed, haggard-looking, and manically possessed. Also, you'll be fabulously wealthy and have all your magical wishes come true. Right.

search for the spot! Click around and see what you find!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

invasion of the sneaky land crabs

in the night, while I am sleeping, sneaky land crabs walk all over my apartment, searching for their nefarious prey: the equally sneaky overland worm.

both are evil.

i sleep, and do not realize the mortal combat happening all over the apartment floors and cupboards and furniture.

in the morning, i walk out to the strange bits of half-eaten worm on the floor. i assume it is something the cats hacked up. i see bits of shell, and assume it is some sort of fallen eggshell from the kitchen that the cats decided to play with and bat about.

what else was i supposed to think?

then, a few nights back, i set traps for insects - the ants have returned to plague my bathroom where they hunt out mouthwash and sweet toothpaste - and in the morning i found my first sneaky land crab.

Not particularly large beasts, a small ant trap was capable of catching one alive. it flailed its little claws menacingly at me, a half-eaten little worm in the little crab's little mouth. it whistled at me like a tiny bird. it had fallen into my trap after the worm that had been trapped there first.

it took hours of careful scrutiny, under microscope, and the assistance of expert insecticians and anthropodiologists. together with these experts we laid careful traps to deduce the nature of the invasion.

sneaky above-ground worms emerge hunting for crumbs and bits of discarded cat food. sneaky land crabs emerge hunting the sneaky above-ground worms. their mortal combat has taken over my apartment.

when i sit on my couch, i sit on sneaky land-crab eggs. the worm burrows have replaced the glue of my furniture.

at night, when i dream, they crawl in and out of my orifices, and duel to the death in my ears, my mouth.

ants were only after mouthwash and toothpaste and sometimes spilled bits of sugar. these nefarious insects are after only their own mortal combat.

i can watch them in the night now, on my own skin, duelling over me like tiny giant monster beasts,grappling each other in their dance of death.

the insectologists and anthropodiologists agree that it is best just to go back to sleep. there's nothing i can do with an infestation of this size and scope, and the worst that'll happen is i might accidentally swallow them when they weave in and out of my mouth. they aren't poisonous, nor particularly dangerous to human digestion. it might seem like, if i swallow quite a bit, that i have a bit of a sore throat from all the struggling and pinching they'll give me on the way down, but that's to be expected, and not the worst thing, really.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

going down...

Oh No!


I seem to be experiencing technical difficulties today. In the mean time, please enjoy pictures of cats with captions.

Well, not cats, really. More like ancient priests of a deathless cult locked for a few thousand years in a... Right. You get the idea.


Monday, November 10, 2008

2 Reasons the 2nd amendment is the badisst-ass amendment.

The Second Amendment says I get to carry a Goliathon 83.

And, a badass katana.

Next Question: When will Duncan MacCloud and the Highlander series get a steampunk makeover?

It's time, people of the internet.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Diggin something up from the archives...

I can't seem to slough this old idea that never turned into a story quite out of my head, at the moment...

whilst walking in the woods, a young girl came upon a wolf, standing on two legs, and wearing a gorgeous red cape with a hood.

the girl bowed to the wolf. she said, "i have never seen a creature such as you before. might I inquire of you your name?"

the wolf bowed in return. when she spoke, it was clear she was a woman. "my name is difficult for humans to pronounce. however, i am often called 'red-riding hood' because of this magic cape that lets me stand on two legs and speak in a human tongue. this cape gives me a tongue of silver, a mind of reason, and the straight back of a proud child of Eve."

"what would happen if i wore the cape?"

"i do not know, little one," said the wolf. "forgive me, little one, for i must go to my grandfather's den. he is very ill, and he counts on me to bring him things to eat lest he starve and die."

"what are you bringing him to eat?"

"i have been busy hunting deer, but I have caught none. perhaps you can help me in my hunt. do you have tooth and claw and swift feet and the black heart of death?"

the girl shook her head. "i am an innocent, like the deer."

the wolf sniffed at the girl. "then, you'll do for now, little deer."

with that, the wolf ripped off her cloak, howled like a beast from all four legs and snatched the child up.

then, all through the woods, the girl screamed out for the woodsman to save her, to no avail.

upon reaching the den, the girl was flung down at the feet of the grandfather. the wolf, red-riding hood, threw her cape down as well so she could speak to her grandfather in the black tongue of wolves.

the girl, bleeding from where the wolf had bitten her, clutched at the cape to staunch her wounds and cover her face the way that children hide from the night beneath a blanket, for she was only a little girl.

the magical cape coursed a fire through her veins. though it did not heal her wounds, it did bend her back, bend her tongue, and give her the rage to ignore the pain. the cape gave the girl tooth and claw and swift feet and the black heart of death.

she held still, because she was wounded. she knew she could not kill two full-grown wolves, even if one was an old, sick man, unless she caught them by surprise.

the female wolf, standing up to leave, reached for the cape with her mouth. she was unconcerned of the bloodstains because the riding hood was already red.

the girl, filled with the magic of the cape, quickly lashed out with her teeth, and clamped down upon the throat of the unsuspecting wolf. the girl chewed through the jugular and lashed at the soft underbelly of the startled woof with feet that had become clawed and deadly.

the old wolf, watching his granddaughter die, knew exactly what to do. he snatched at the magical cape.

though he was too late to save his granddaughter, he was able to diminish the deadly girl to save his own hide.

he pulled the cape across his back, stood up like a city elder. he tousled his gray locks. he snorted at the girl.

"because you have killed my granddaughter, you have killed me. i am too old to hunt for myself. go with your life, child. go home, and never return to these woods lest my ghost howl your sanity away."

he pulled the cloak from his back. he threw it at the girl.

she did not put it on. instead, she held it in her hand, and clutched at her wounds with her other hand. she walked home from the woods with her new cape.

when she made it to her grandmother's house, her mouth was full of wolf blood. her tongue had tasted death, and she knew she would don the cape again, and run through the woods and hunt in the darkness.

later in life, she gave birth to a bastard son with the terrible eyes like an old wolf's. she named her boy 'Bisclavret'. she let him run wild.

I still can't seem to wrap it into a decent story.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

There's never a dancing banana button when you need one...

I think I mentioned this a day or two ago, but it is now officially up at the very popular Amazon LitBlog Omnivoracious:

*Click Me*

I am in some very fine company and I only hope that I can prove myself deserving of this nod on my first novel in the years to come.

Also, I hope I can someday turn around and boost other young writer's careers as thoroughly as Jeff VanderMeer did for me - and which he does quite regularly.

Hm... Christmas is coming... I need to find a chia frog...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Meme this.

This is too excellent not to repost absolutely everywhere you can.

Found courtesy of Chris Roberson's Interminable Ramble:

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane and Grundy, go to school and are learning well; the teacher says grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday- School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we overhear others saying, "The colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now, if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free- papers in 1864 from the Provost- Marshal- General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and kindly- - and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty- two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay day for the Negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up and both good- looking girls. You know how it was with Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die if it comes to that than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood, the great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits. <>P.S. -- Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson

Source: Cincinnati Commercial, reprinted in New York Tribune, August 22, 1865.


Courtesy of my alma mater's very awesome Digital History project.

(I actually did some research for this fine program back when I was in college, though my contribution was quite dull. I re-copied old voter registration lists out of microfilm into a spreadsheet.)

Thanks for pointing this one out, Chris!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

THIS... IS... SO... COOL!

Guys and dolls, everyone go follow this link!

(cut and pastable:

I am in some very, very fine company. My best of the year list looks a little different than theirs, and I will probably take at least one more week to compile it.

Two books that made both mine and their year's best list? "Ressurectionist" and "Liberation".

This is so cool.

This is really, really, really cool.

Thanks to all the editors that picked my book up for this lovely list! (I certainly hope you're right though I have to admit, I don't completely believe I belong there, after all the books I've read this year!)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Just a quick note to say this:

I am so proud of my country right now, and proud to participate in this historic election.

Other people are going to say all sorts of wonderful things about this, our first African-American president.

I wish Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X and Rosa Parks were alive to see this day. I hope they are cheering in heaven, with all the martyrs of the lynch mobs and all the plantation slaves and everyone who came to this great nation in chains.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I am at BookPeople right now, sitting in their cafe.

This place is awesome.

I signed all the stock, if any of you Austin-area folks want to score a signed copy of LAST DRAGON...

I'm in Austin!

It is often assumed that plants view the world the same way we do, spreading limbs up into the sky.

Yet, I propose that plants do not view the world this way. They are inward-looking creatures that require a stable root structure to survive. In fact, the roots are almost more important than the limbs. The roots must seek water and food in the twisting, difficult ground. The stuff above the ground is merely sexual organs and suntanning.

Trees, I suspect, see our up as their down, and our down as their up. Everything above the ground is like the inner workings of a man's intestines, and of no interest to them in the slightest. They are too busy mining for their supper, and their water, and they would never speak of anything as shameful as their flowering. It is beneath them, totally.

Harrumph, say the trees, and leave me alone. Do not speak of such shameful things, Mr. Worm. I do not concern myself with what happens on the other side of the ground.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Off to Austin in the morning!

Any Austin-area peeps want to meet up for lunch, drop me a line! I'm driving down with my Dad to Austin. He's got a job interview, while I'm just going down for fun and to meet up with my cousins. Any interested parties drop me a line.

I shall leave you today with this bit of coolness, because it is an excellent cool metaphor for NanoWriMo that I think lots of people are doing... Not me! I just turned a book, and I'm awaiting revisions and suggestions!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Atomjack #12 is alive!

Check it out party people: my short story "Dave Jones and the Survivor" is up in Atomjack #12 right now.

Check it out... *here*.

Friday, October 31, 2008

about halloween

Costumes are great. I love costumes. However, I believe Trick or Treating is for suckers. When I was a wee lad, I twisted my ankle on a curb and had to go home early from trick or treating. At that time, I discovered that I was sitting next to a giant bowl of candy, and I could control what got given out to others and what ended up in my mouth.

Trick or treating is for suckers.

Now I'm an adult, and I spend Halloween eating candy and watching movies. Movies like "Donnie Darko" and "Alien" and "The Dark Crystal".

Want to come over and hang out with me? Call me. You got my number.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

adventure baking!

I love to bake, but I hate following recipes. What does this mean? It means whenever the baking bug bites me, I discover who my true friends are.

"What is it?"

"Just try it. It's good."

"Okay, but what is it?"

"Seriously, just try it!"

"It looks kind of... purple. Is it supposed to be purple?"

"Just try it!"

"What's in it?"

"Flour... Eggs... Grape juice... Curry Powder...Tequila..."

"I'm not putting that in my mouth."

"It's good!"

"Seriously, get that sh** out of my face."

"The frosting was made from powdered sugar and orange juice. It's a very simple little glaze. It really enhances the curry."

"I am going to hit you if you do not get that sh** out of my face right now. I will hit you very hard, in places you might need later."

"Aw. You're no fun. I guess you're not really my friend."

Sometimes I'll follow a recipe until I get bored, then wander off new and exciting pathways in the recipe.

Always, the results are surprising, and sometimes genuinely hideous like the banana+italian seasoning nightmare scenario, but they are always interesting.

Things every adventure baker needs? Flour, pancake mix, baking soda, yeast, eggs, butter, sugar, various herbs and spices, and plenty of tenacious curiosity.

Adventure baking is fun. You never know what you will discover!

Go forth! Create! Eat the evidence (if you can... *hurk* wow, too much curry, not enough cocoa powder)!

Also, you will discover who is your friend enough to at least take a bite of the strange lumps of baked good that emerge from your oven.

Believe it or not, many of them will be quite tasty, despite the fact that no one else will eat them out of foolish fear.

Recipes are boring.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

thought फॉर थे डे...

insects have no faces. they have eyes, but no faces.

moths and flies swim through the sky in circles, blind to what's right in front of where their face would be, if they were like us.

that's all for today, party people.

if you can early vote, i highly recommend it. you are running out of time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stuff I'm thinking about

You know, there has been some talk ih the wires about medie tie-in novels.

Jeff VanderMeer, of course, just produced his take on Predator v Everyone, and I know I'll get to it, eventually. I admit, I'm far more interested in his latest Ambergris novel. I am very curious to see what he does within the straightjacket of media tie-in.

I know a couple friends that do much media tie-in work. Martha Wells is not only an awesome fantasist of such works as "Death of the Necromancer" and "City of Bones", but she also works in the SeaQuest world (because, as she explains, she oves SeaQuest.)

Samantha Henderson recently wrote a kick-ass media tie-in novel in the Ravenloft world. The first line stays with you: "I am a speaking angel." You'll know what I mean when you read it.

Chris Roberson, a partner in alcohol-related crimes at every sci-fi convention, has written quite a few and continues to do so, on top of running a publishing company with his wife, and raising a daughter. I admit that I have yet to meet his daughter. For all I know, he says he has a daughter, and really just photoshopped a bunch of pictures together that he shows to people, always saying his daughter is at grandma's or at the sitter or somewhere. Seriously, where does he find the time for everything he does?

Regardless, if there was a stigma, I bet it wasn't because of the quality of the books. I bet it was the quality of the contracts. If everyone knew you were cranking out a book under a crappy contract that wouldn't even carry your name, why would they respect that? If people, however, got paid a decent check, and got crossover audience from the shared world into the author's original fiction, and was treated respctfully by the publisher - well, naturally, this is the stuff that respectability is made of.

I've actually been very open to doing work for hire. I've expressed this many times in many ears. No one has hired me. Why would they hire me, when they could hire Jeff Frikkin' Vandermeer, right? Why hire me when you can hire someone at the same price whose fans will follow them into the shared world?

Anyway, I was just thinking about media tie-in novels, and how unsuccessful I've been at getting my challenge-loving hands around one. I'm always up for new adventures and new difficult boxes out of which to work, after all.

I might even write a YA novel next. Who knows?

Having rambled enough for one day, I leave you with this important thought that I am thinking about, watching a stranger walk down the street:

"If you see a stranger, follow him!" - Radical Edward, from Cowboy Bebop Episode "Toys in the Attic"

Gotta go follow that stranger...

Monday, October 27, 2008

what is that smell?...

Right. This apartment needs cleaning.

Anybody want to help me excavate the dishes? Anybody want to take all these empty bottles and cans to the recycling place? Anybody want to vacuum all that cat hair? And, all THAT cat hair? That cat hair over there? The cat hair in the couch? The cat hair in the laundry?

Anybody want to babysit my laundry machine and move my dirty laundry through?

Wow. I seriously let this go last week or two. Hm.

(In related news, I mailed a book to my agent. Fingers crossed they like it. Now, roll up those sleeves and get your scrubbing bubbles ready. This writer cave needs some attention.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What do you want to promote?

All comments promoting something - anything - will be moved up into the main post before tomorrow.

Tell me what you want to promote, and let's all check it out, together!

Edit: Only one comment this Sunday? I guess you're all watching football, or enjoying the lovely fall weather. Well, anonymouse wished to promote something. It isn't exactly what I had in mind when I made this post, but hey, the readers will get what they want!

[quote] Pure Love - Not romantic love, not true love - The kind of love that gives without expecting anything in return [/quote]

I actually don't quite understand what that is, but I consider it thoroughly promoted, now.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weird Tales Website Redesign Looks AWESOME!

Also, and this is important enough to merit it's own, brand-spanking new post on the blog:

Weird Tales Website Redesign Looks Awesome.

This is an awesome magazine, with a very well-respected editor at the helm.


I especially recommend the free download of last month's issue.

Don't miss that.

1-Minute Weird Tale Debuts!

I am honored to be the first 1-Minute Weird Tale.

Thanks to Ann for inviting me!

Friday, October 24, 2008

did you early vote today? you did? have a pizza!

I early voted today. Go me! I deserve a pizza!

In line with me at the Benbrook YMCA to early vote was a very nice Muslim woman who moved here to Texas from Detroit. She was real nice. We talked about roller coasters. It made me happy to know that, because I was thinking about Colin Powell's statement how one party has really assaulted the Muslim faith, equating all followers of Allah as the equivalent of terrorists.

Frankly, this is one of the reasons I voted completely against that particular party. I went through the whole ballot, leaving blank all the spots where only a republican was running for a post, and voting for libertarians and/or independents based on that qualification alone.

I most certainly Obama/Biden. Yes, very much so.

That said, I don't care what your political affiliations are. We all have political opinions. We're all supposed to take time to rationally measure out the issues and the policies and the candidates and all that, and leave our arguments and posturings and disagreements at the door of the voting location.

We quietly, respectfully go in to our booth, and make our little statement.

Everything else is just noise and bluster and bloggers/pundits/etc begging for attention.

Go vote for your preferred candidate! Then, go get a pizza, because you deserve it!

(Early voting in Texas began this week, and lasts until October 31. Check with your local and state voting officials for information about how you, too, can vote early. Then, go vote. Then, go get a pizza. Because you deserve it for voting!)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

just heard from...

I just heard from Atomjack Magazine, and it seems they have decided to publish "Dave Jones and the Survivor" in their next issue.

This story is based on a real life experience I had flying from Vancouver to Dallas. Two men with the same name ended up assigned to the same seat. In real life, neither man was a danger to anyone, and the older of the two men was given an open seat in first class, instead.

Fortunately, the science fiction version of the story will be a touch more exciting.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

you ask me what the secret ingredient is...?

you ask me what the secret ingredient is to the perfect peanut butter and banana sandwich?

Lean in close. It's a secret. I'll tell you, but be sure not to tell anyone else, okay, because this is, like a confidential bit of culinary information I'm about to lay on you.

Lean close.



*whisper* hot cocoa powder */whisper*

There, and please don't tell anyone else. This is just between you and me, 'kay?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

अबंदोनेद prose

I thought I could escape Berlin by train. I started at Zoo Station. Mine wasn’t one of the little city trains filled with bicycles, business suits, and pickpockets, lumbering around the city. My train was a land cruiser, destination distant. We stopped at the Hauptbahnhof long enough to encumber the seats with loud families, young people backpacking between hostels, and men in better business suits playing cards and smoking on their way to important meetings. I thought I could escape with them, on their train.
I watched out the window a long time. I watched the graffiti for signs of life. The Brother’s Kiss was changed everywhere. The Russian had blonde hair, and a beard like me. The German’s skin was smooth and nut brown like an old Turkish woman with short, black hair. The geometrical graffiti had changed, too. All those swoops and whirls had formed an abstract portrait of a room I knew too well. All the letters and words were pieces of a name slowly emerging from the walls. Ampelman was no longer cheerful. He was running away, and the colors of the city reached for him like monsters. Streets got lost in each other.
I saw Berlin everywhere. Everywhere I saw Berlin. I saw Berlin and Berlin and Berlin.
The train passed out of Berlin, into the suburbs that littered the flat, ruined former Soviet countryside all around. I breathed easier outside the city.
I thought I could escape the signs. I thought my train would carry me somewhere new. I could start over, make a fresh begin new work and make new friends. All the mistakes of Berlin would not follow me across the long plain to the mountains at the end of the sky.
I closed my eyes when Berlin fell behind us on the tracks. I tried to wipe Zoe out of my mind. I tried to push her father out of my mind. Where do our memories go when we push them aside? They creep under the edges of the mind’s mattress, like the monsters of our childhood. We see their tremulous forms under the surface of everything.
I drank coffee so I wouldn’t sleep. It didn’t work. Berlin was in my dreams. Berlin was everywhere...

Monday, October 20, 2008

ancient eggrolls

what strange beasts these must have been, rummaging in the kitchens and refridgerators. see how they have fossilized in such a tight, worm-like structure?

they must have stalked their prey - vegetables and perhaps bits of meat - while lying flat and wide open to retain thinness. they inched their way through the gaps of freezers, and through the lid of dumpsters. upon discovering their prey, they fold themselves up, to digest the substances into thin, tiny strips.

so many of them seem to have been choked to death on their own engorgement. so many seem to have been crushed and snapped in twain.

what a strange creature it must have been, these fossilized worm-like, manta-ray like eggroll creatures.

someday, will archaeologists mislabel them as liing things?

probably, says I. eggrolls look like they ought to be alive.