Submission. "On Hold (The Uncanny Adventure of Mrs. Kurtz)" has been submitted to Quantum Muse.

A pretty readable site; the editors are in a state of grace due to excess alcohol and thus aren't scrabbling for money. Or so they say.

Neat. For those of you who don't get here through Doyce's site, he posted a story online during the blogathon this Saturday past. It's called Vayland Rd.

I liked it.

Note: Read from the bottom up. I'm sure he'll post the whole thing in regular order as soon as he has time.

Frustrating. You know what's frustrating? Non-paying websites that want more than non-paying rights. I'm trying to find a place for the serial I put up here, Mrs. Kurtz, but I'm having problems. Guess what? The places I'd consider sending it out to don't want it, because I put it up here. One place even wanted all rights. All rights. With no reversion to author. Ever.



No. Turns out that Ray does better going through her day if you say "No" and mean it sometimes. The interdiction doesn't last very long (thirty seconds), and she's upset, but she isn't hurt. She seems happier dealing with a straight-out "no" than a general sense of annoyance. It seems obvious, but I'd always wondered.

It seems like she understands that people have emotions now, that it is possible to communicate emotions from herself to someone else and back. (I don't know if she understands that two people that are not her can do this yet.) I don't think it's empathy (beecause she doesn't care yet that it hurts when she yanks that cat around), it seems more like a pre-talking thing. When she babbles, now, she isn't just expressing what she feels, she's trying to communicate what she feels, on purpose.

In basic English, that means she's started whining.


Raynews. She now has two teeth. She can stand on her own for five seconds at a time, but she doesn't try to walk yet. She can nest dishes inside each other.

We took her to her nine-month doctor's appointment on Thursday. She may not eat whatever she wants, although not to the point where she misses any nursing meals -- we shouldn't wean her yet. She is twenty-eight inches long, and weighs twenty pounds, three ounces. Her head size is OK. She didn't like the student nurse that was seeing her, so the student nurse (right after shoving stuff in Ray's ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and rubbing a cold stethoscope all over the bebe--all without a single smile at the bebe) decided Ray has stranger anxiety. The assistant (who gave her her shots) got nothing but Raysmiles, having first flirted with the bebe.

Lee helped hold Ray when it was time for the shots. I had the upper half, and he had the lower, so he had to watch the shots. He said that the needles did indeed look huge sticking all the way into her legs. She had a little fever that night, and the dire rears for a couple of diapers, but she appears to be fine now.

Almost forgot. She can play peek now. She doesn't hide behind her hands (we don't, either, I guess), but she'll crawl around a corner and stick her head out to peek at you.

Park.Lee and Joe and Ray and I went to the park. We each had our separate picanic lunches (Ray got a couple of funny looks when she had hers), fed old bread to the ducks, and played on the playground equipment.

Playing on the playground equipment was mostly Ray and myself, of course, the guys having used up all their loss-of-dignity in a bread-throwing contest that the ducks, obviously, won.
Review. Five Novels, by Daniel Pinkwater.

Not much needs to be said about Slaves of Spiegel, Young Adult Novel, The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars, and The Last Guru, because you can say it like this: "Daniel Pinkwater writes Tim Robbins novels for kids."

I wish I'd known about this guy when I was that age. It might have made things a lot easier to bear. Speaking of bears, I think Justin would like these.
What's the word? Have you ever noticed the particular moment when you're just over it? Whatever it is?

I don't know if anybody's noticed, but the last two years have been rough.* I tend to keep a straight face for everybody but family -- a grand midwestern tradition, I think. Anyway, I had a couple of nightmares, a cathartic cry on Lee's shoulder, a couple of good dreams, and then...on the way in to work one early morning, I thought to myself, "Well, those two years are over."

It wasn't a thought in words, but that's what it meant. So what's the word for that?

*The roughest part has been losing friends. One to coke, another to general manipulative assholeness, and a third to her husband.** And the general loss of nice folks you know when you move.

**No, we weren't lesbian lovers.

Things may be getting a little better.

Lee's finally been offered a full-time job at Best Buy, supposedly with raise. And I'm finally done paying off the maternity leave (they decided that I hadn't been working there long enough to get the full, full-time benefits, so they...took it back). So we may be able to slowly creep out of the pit of the underemployed. The barely-hanging-on. Maybe.

Look, I didn't grow up with money, and I've never really made any. Didn't bother me. If I had enough cash for basic living expenses and used books, I was good to go. With Ray, everything is different. I care about things like insurance now, and having some kind of financial security. I want to get out of places where you can't let your kids run around for fear that they'll pick up shatters of glass off the sidewalk from last night's upstairs drunken orgy.

Lots of people I know have been burnt worse by the enconomy lately. A couple of single mothers who started the day with nothing and ended up with less are at the top of the list, but it seems like the greater percentage of actual tech people I know have been laid off in the last year. Granted, a couple of them got tech jobs again right away, but some of them didn't. And it seems like Lee can't even get a nibble from anybody but Best Buy, even after almost a year of applying.

So...even the possiblity that this might not go on forever comes as a particular relief.

Wish us luck.


Review.I'm getting behind. I've read a bunch o' good books lately.

Don't Ask, by Donald Westlake.

I don't know if this is the real story, but this is what I imagine: Donald Westlake mails his M.S. into his agent, without a title. The agent opens the box, calls Westlake, and says, "Well, Donnie (you don't mind if I call you Donnie, do you?), what's the name of the book? And what's it about?" And Donald Westlake says, "Don't Ask." "Right-o," says the agent, because Donald Westlake is one of those perennial sellers, and can get away with that kind of thing.

Any description of the plot would be meaningless. For those of you in the know, this is a Dortmunder novel. For those of you not in the know (like myself, although I do intend to get in that there know), the opening scene of the book is Dortmunder and couple of his associates riding in a fish truck which they have stolen to get the frozen fish. The a/c is dripping icewater on Dortmunder's foot, and they're stuck in a traffic jam in NYC for hours. Three big guys. Dortmunder can't move his foot out from under the drip, so he flips off the a/c switch. Doot da doo. The drip shuts off, get off the bridge and out of traffic, get out and...pheeeeeuw. They're riding in hundred degree heat, and nobody notices that the cab hadn't gotten any warmer.

So much for the fish.

Dortmunder is a brilliant thief. He just has these...occaisional lapses. Mishaps. Bad coincedences.

I giggled my way through this thing.

Dortmunder, for some reason, reminds me of a Spider Robinson character. Not any character in particular, just a Spider Robinson character.

I especially recommend this to my brother in law, Mike.
More than you needed to know. This could be...well, it's about writing, but it's also about sex. You decide.

Let's start with the premise that not all porn is the same. There are as many different types of porn as there are different types of sex. Of course, most people gravitate to a few certain types of both sex and porn, so you can generalize.

Which is exactly what I'm going to do.

Now, generalizing, men and women have different tastes in sex. Different senses are important; different details are essential; different types of stories are titilating. You know what? I don't want to say "men" and "women" here. I want to say "guys" and "chicks." We're not going to discus the difference between Henry Miller porn and Anais Nin porn; we're discussing what the cast of Friends keeps in their bottom drawers to read late at night.

Stereotypical Porn is guy porn. The storylines are deliberatly fake ("Was it coincedence that my girlfriend's lesbian (but not butch) friend walked in us while we were having a quickie behind the bleachers? I think not"), the actions of the characters are direct (and indirect actions are comically transparent), the details are focused on sight and sound (and they're presented as descriptive details, such as "She was a natural redhead; I could tell without taking her clothes off.") You go straight to the sex.

Stereotypical Romance Novel is chick porn. (You can call it erotica, but erotica is porn with a valid plot. Not the same thing.) The storylines of chick porn are deliberately fantastic ("And then we moved to Paris and had many delightful adventures. He loved me as no other man could ever love me.") The actions of the characters are indirect (and melodramatic), the details are focused on smell, taste, and touch (and they're presented as implicit details, such as "He was the kind of man your mother warned her about, a man with a twinkle in his eye and a twitch in his fingers. Especially when he looked at her.") You don't go straight to the sex; you build up to the sex -- you build up anticipation.

Lee and I got in a discussion over this. (Remember I warned you.) We write each other porn. He wants to be able to push my buttons on paper as well as he does in bed, so I have to come up with the reason that the porn that he's writing isn't what I like. He's writing me guy porn; that's what he knows, that's what he's read; that's what he likes. The problem is that chicks aren't guys, and when it comes to sex (and porn), I'm not a guy.

It's not that I think that chick porn is essentially deeper and more meaningful than guy porn. Guy porn is direct and to the point because that's the way guys are built. They are, again generalizing, physiologically easy. Easy to arouse, easy to get off -- it's dealing with the complications that's the problem. Women, on the other hand, are built to be indirect. The organs generally involved in orgasm are harder to train, harder to get off. More foreplay is necessary, and oftimes the anticipation is better (sad to say, gents) than the sex itself. Neither is essentially better, just different.

Hm...writing this out makes me wonder if it wouldn't help to have him read a couple of romance novels, to give him some kind of idea. The problem is that I don't write porn for chicks, I write porn for Lee, who is, in fact, a guy. I have the hang of that; I just put myself in my most dog-person frame of mind, set up a completely unbelievable sex situation, and let her rip. Her shorts, that is.

So I don't have much experience writing chick porn. And it's hard to give advice. I do know that any detail for chick porn, no matter how realistic, had better not even look like it's going to turn the situation into guy porn. That's just...well, it feels like an insult. Yes, it is realistic for a chick to wander around the house naked when the UPS guy shows up, and she may just throw on a robe. But that, my friends, is a guy detail, because it looks like an artificial coincedence.

Ok. That's enough now.


Rejections update. "Name of the Feather" is finally back from Ellery Queen. Just when you're about to a) give up hope or b) hope you've made some kind of cut and they'll at least give you a personal note from a big house...nope.


Tact. Tact is frustrating. I'd much rather say what I think or keep my mouth shut. I have a friend in a situation I doubt will turn out for the best. Fine. Mouth shut. I think he'll survive the whole thing. But if he asks what I think about it, I'm going to have to be tactful. Crap.

It's not that I hate being tactful; it's not that I can't (yeah, yeah, I know--I generally don't bother. But I can). It's just that "tact" seems like "lying." especially in a case like this when you aren't just concealing the fact that you don't care, and you aren't just presenting your opinion in the nicest possible way. No, what I'm supposed to be doing here is concealing my opinion entirely and, in fact, making it seem like my opinion is the opposite of what it actually is. Tact.


Update: Turns out that sometimes tact is unnecessary. Whew.


Bored? This is me, blathering about work. You can skip it.

This last week at work has been one long episode of deja vu from high school. They call it a training class, but really it's just a roomful of smartasses staring at a markerboard in the front of the room. The question/answer sessions were more intelligent than I expected, and usually resulted in the honest answer of "I don't know. I'll have to take this back with me."

The first two days were informative; the last three were practical. By Friday, I was down to writing a first draft of a short story. It's a Weird Tales story. We'll see.

"Things You Don't Want But You Have to Take."

Writerly trick recently learned and there applied: details. The details you use in a story aren't just there to add realism. If all your details do is add realism, you don't need them. Details serve multiple duties: they either reinforce or contrast characters and plot; they foreshadow; they focus conflict; and yes, they provide realism. They should be as essential to the plot as the plot itself. They shouldn't go on and on and on....


Quick notes early on a Friday morning.

1. Joe has been moved. He's now living in an awesome house on the northernish side of actual Colorado Springs (near Academy and Union, actually). The yard is of such a type that when engineer-trained Joe says he's going to make a waterfall in the backyard, I believe him.

2. Ray can aaaallllmost stand on her own. She'll balance for maybe a second or two, and thump! Down on her butt. Lee said yesterday (yesterday, she was in a bad mood. This is strange, ok? Our kid? In a bad mood? My guess is that she has more teeth coming in, but I'm keeping an eye on her anyway. I gave her a cool bath and cuddled much with her yesterday, but as soon as I put her down she was fussy again. Hm. She has a baby-appointment next week for shots) that she was so mad that she actually stood on her own for about five seconds. As a "tower of rage."

3. We got a digital camera. Ray understands that bright flashy things are going to shine in her eyes whenever she sees it, so all the pictures we have of her are either asleep or sqinting. Hooray!

4. Much writing and brainstorming has been being done lately -- thus little blogging. The rewrite on "Mrs. Kurtz" (now officially titled "On Hold") is done, and Lee-approved. Score! I didn't think he'd like it, but, neener neener, he does. The book review I'm doing for Banshee Studios (new issue coming out...uh...August first? My deadline is sooner) is done, but I'm taking another look at it tonight to supplement my spell-checker. And, while doing research on time-travel for the ongoing project "The Best of All Possible Beauregards," I hit on another story idea. Of course this one has something to do with time...but not with time travel. All I have is some philosophical bones to the story and a few wisps of plot, but the main character most likely will be a neophyte in a world populated by humans, demons (but this will have a slightly different meaning), and the "saved" (I'm thinking here that it's possible to be technically "saved" without being a nice person. At all). As it turns out, Christian philosophers of a certain type have theorized that there are not only four dimensions (3D + time), but five (3D + time + eternity). What if when Lucifer fell, he lost a dimension, eternity, i.e., the ability to be outside of time? Hmmm...

Off to work. More later.



I said, "Sorry. Brain fart."
She said, "Well, at least that kind doesn't stink."
Notes. "Games" (see below) has been submitted to Toasted Cheese as a flash fiction piece.



Did I forget to mention it? I believe so. The manager of our apartment complex is out!


Possibly tens of thousands of dollars of embezzling. The owners, of course, aren't going to press charges.

It must have been that last communique. Which one? Oh, the one that said that she was going to start fining people for not keeping their front steps swept, the cobwebs brushed off the underside of their decks, and their apartments clean. That's right, she was seriously going to walk into people's apartments and fine them a hundred bucks if it was a pigsty. Hmmm....there have been mysterious fees for leaving mail on the sidewalk. And hundred-dollar-a-day late fees. None of which the owners knew anything about. And she had an "agreement" with a towing company. That she kind of owned. Not a conflict of interest or anything.

And the stories that my neighbor tells about this woman breaking into her apartment to steal narcotics...

It burns me that this bitch isn't being taken to court. I want all of this on her record.

When we moved in, she sat us down and said, "I don't care if you use drugs, but if you sell 'em...you're out!" "If you make too much noise...you're out! And if you ever beat your wife...you're out!"

Woo Hoo!


Snippet: Tofu Cartel!

What with one thing and another (a couple of freshman girls from Miller drove over and bought one of the new tarot decks she'd ordered, not Rider Waite, not Thoth, the one with the cats? No, the Medicine Wheel deck. And the orange juice machine broke during breakfast. An earring down the drain in room fifteen. And she was nearly full up, had been since she'd ordered a couple of Feng Shui kits. Bobby told everyone that that the betassled flutes dangling from their ceiling beam was a gift from his mother. His mother? Polish. Ah, Polish), she didn't check the fax machine until nearly ten a.m.

It was almost like finding a death threat.


And, in even larger letters:


The fine print stated that any persons interested in further information should call The Branding Iron Society of Buffalo County at 605-245-2492.

Guess what brand of tofu Rainbow Krytzpoliski had in the converted soda cooler just inside the office door? Guess who was trying to put her out of business? And ruin her reputation in town? And get her arrested with the cops? And bust up her marriage? And, damn it, crush out every progressive thought in central South Dakota? Who ran the Branding Iron Society of Buffalo County?

Her ex.

Review.Bag of Bones, Stephen King, or "Rosebud."

This here review comes both with and without spoilers.

Non-spoileriffic: King is the master of page-turners. Even the most mundane events make you flip...flip...flip...until it's much too late to think of doing anything other than flip...flip...flip. Not one of his best books. Read It or The Shining or The Stand if you want that kind of heightened mythicalness. This is a story about unique events told in a fascinatingly mundane way.

Oxymoron. That's the word you're looking for, as in "But isn't 'fascinatingly mundane' an oxymoron?"


This is The Shining all over again, or Misery, or The Dark Half or (the main characters from the Dark Half are even mentioned as is the sherrif from Needful Things). Yessir, this is one of those Steven King books about a writer who can't write; doesn't want to write; has other, natural problems; and is plagued by some kind of nasty from the Other Side. Predictable? No. And just because this is the spoiler version, don't think I'm going to blow the ending.

I was left (unintentionally?) with the impression that Stephen King, the writer, should either quit writing or just get out of the damn business (continue to write novels, lock them in a safe-deposit box, and leave them to his offspring).

Dear Stephen King,

Jesus, guy, if you're done, you're done. Nobody but the psychos needs you to write for them. You can quit already. You can write literary novels. You can write poetry, you can crochet. And if you're just letting off steam again, well, that's good, too. I don't like putting people through hell. Not even a writer.

But as far as this book goes, it was the seven-eighths of the book written as a straight novel that I liked. The supernatural elements did nothing for me. The story could have ended with purely the "natural" elements, and I would have been more than satisfied. The characters were better-drawn than the epinonymous quote suggests. I cared. I even chortled over the sled, all right? I liked the details, and I liked the way you brought attention to the fact that it was a writerly trick to put them in.

Do what you want to do already.


P.S. And yeah, it did remind me of The Tempest. A little.


If He Would Tell Me

Is it really allergies or is it something worse?

Did I tell you the story about his thumb? Last year he -- I don't know, he hit his thumb with a hammer, something, and gave himself a blood blister under his right thumbnail. He's left handed, by the way. Anyway, it started to bother him -- he hadn't gone to the doctor -- so he waitned until Mom and the kids were out of the house, shopping for school clothes in Sioux Falls, I think, & drilled a hole in his thumbnail with a power drill.

Of course he did sterilize the bit first.

He's had a "cold" for over a year now. Is it really allergies or could it be cancer?

I didn't ask.

Did I mention I spent my teenage years resenting him for things I appreciate now? (The things I didn't like about my mother, I still don't like.)

Whatever it is, he's going to handle it his own damn way. I can respect that.
The End of Mrs. Kurtz. (I'm going to go back, pick through things, and put up the whole thing later. Promise.)

"What would it take to rectify this situation for you, Mrs. Kurtz? The employee who spoke to you earlier--"


"Yes, Scott, is going to undergo disciplinary action."

"How does that make up for my wasted time and--"

"How does six months of credit for internet access sound, Mrs. Kurtz? Our only concern at this point is keeping you as a customer. We'd like to rebuild our relationship with you, Mrs. Kurtz. We know how word of mouth can hurt our business."

"Oh, really?" Mrs. Kurtz said.

"Yes, Mrs. Kurtz. Would that be acceptable?"

"Yeah, if you get me a repair guy out here ay-ess-ay-pee. What good is six free months of internet if I can't get online in the first place?"

"Done, Mrs. Kurtz. Will you be home later today between three and five p.m? I'll move you to the top of our list."

"Sure," she said, and within fifteen seconds, she was off the phone. Click.

She hit the redial button and dialed her way through the menus to the customer service que.

"Would you like to know more about our Internet service plans? Please stay on the line, and the next available customer service representative will assist you."

Elevator music.

"Your call is very valuable to us. Please stay on the line, and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received."

Elevator music.

"Are you paying too much for your combined internet and cable TV packages? Why not get a discount? Ask about our great combo packages from your customer service representative."

Elevator music.

No such thing as aliens. More likely just a combination of a nutcase and an asshole. That's the story she'd give Marcus, anyway.

Except she felt like she'd been paid off. Instead of placated.




Three o'clock. Nothing. Three-oh-eight, a man in a workman's uniform and nylon web-belts hung with tools and cases stepped up to the door of Mrs. Kurtz' apartment. He knocked. The door opened, admitted him, and shut. After half an hour, the door opened again, emitted the man in the workman's uniform. The door closed. Five minutes later (after checking a small box on the outside of the building), the man knocked at the door again. The door opened. The man walked in. The door shut.

From the open window (it was a beautiful day), Mrs. Kurtz' voice screeched, "Operator error? What do you mean, operator error? How are you going to fix that?"

There was a flash of light.

The door opened. The man walked out, looked back, and walked away. The door shut. Three forty-seven.

A week later, Marcus was out. He didn't mind. She just wasn't the same woman.

That autumn, she signed up for physics at the local college.



My folks have been in town, just left this morning. They're on the road to Rapid City with two teenage daughters, 89% of their sanity, and some cute bebe pictures in their cameras. It was good to see them, some health worries (one of the girls is allergic to pine trees, and my father has some kind of mysterious illness that might be allergies. Nobody knows; nobody admits knowing. More later on that subject) but otherwise everything went OK.

The bebe 1) learned how to clap so her hands make little clapping noises and 2) cut her first toofer in honor of the occaision. And she was good. She sat through her first trip to the restaurant with nothing more serious than a dropped spoon. Reacquaintance with Grandma, Grandpa, and the crazy aunts was accomplished; my brothers stayed home. The sixteen-year-old has a job. Andy. Andy has a job. It's not that I'm getting old, it's that...Andy has a job. At least it's at a place called "Mad Mary's." And it's a block from home. Mmmm. A good steakhouse, one of those places you take New York vegetarians to. "This is meat?" they'd cry. And they'd either break down and order a steak or kill themselves over the guilt, because baby cows are really cute.

They do mushrooms on the side, you know.

The only thing I miss about Iowa is...well, a couple of things. But the only relevant thing I miss about Iowa is the pork chops. You can't get Iowa chops out here, man. And don't lie to me, because it isn't the same.