Reviews, continued.

Five Moral Pieces. It's going to be hard to write something to convince anyone to read this book that doesn't already read Umberto Eco, a writer and professor of semiotics* in Italy. For those of you who have, this isn't Travels with a Salmon, this isn't Six Walks in the Fictional Woods. This is five essays about things that piss off Umberto Eco: war, the Italian press, the Catholic church, Fascism, and intolerance. He's subtle and inevitable. I'm not a big chess player, but he writes like a Grand Master.

New Basics. This is going to be my next cookbook--I only have it on loan from the library. It covers the same spectrum as Betty Crocker, but it's more playful, more sophisticated (no bullion cubes here), and more inspiring. I have yet to cook anything out of here as given in the recipe, yet somehow that's a good thing. A collection of recipes that makes you want to cook--and to eat.

The Laughing Corpse. I was introduced to the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novels by two friends of mine, Doyce and Jackie, who bought me the first book in the series. I was unimpressed. Yadda yadda yadda. Nevertheless, when I went to the library the last time, I recalled the effusive praise delivered by the dynamic duo for the series: "Jackie will rip the book right out of my hands...and she doesn't even like to read!" I think that's how it went. So I picked up the second book in the series. A big improvement. Don't get me wrong. It's not War and Peace. It's not even Stephen King. But it's damn readable for pulp horror entertainment. The characters (now that we've gotten away from the introduction-to-the-vampire-controlled-St.-Louis thing) are interesting. The bad guys are bad. The good guys are human and have their flaws. The main character, Anita Blake, teeters on the edge, vehemently trying to convince herself she's one of the good guys...you know, this might turn some people off, but there are better female characters in this book than there are male characters. Eh. Too much gore to be "feminist," though, so don't worry about it. The only thing that I didn't like (and probably never will) is the fundamental writing style Laurell Hamilton uses. Story grammar isn't scholarly grammar. Even so.

"...By gor', that's a blody enormous cat."
"It's a lion," said Granny Weatherwax, looked at the stuffed head over the fireplace.
"Must've hit the wall at a hell of a speed, whatever it was," said Nanny Ogg.
"Someone killed it," said Granny Weatherwax, surveying the room.
"Should think so," said Nanny. "If I'd seen somehting like that eatin' it's way through the wall, I'd of hit it myself with the poker."
--Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad.

*Semiotics: The theory and study of signs and symbols, especially as elements of language or other systems of communication (American Heritage Dictionary).

Movies: Zoolander, Iron Monkey, Musketeer. Books: Five Moral Pieces (Umberto Eco), New Basics (Cookbook), The Laughing Corpse (Anita Blake). Gratuitous quote from a Terry Pratchett novel.

Zoolander. Maybe this movie isn't everyone's cup of freaky tea. I mean, who wants to wake up with a midget folk band and a hangover? I have to admit that Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller don't do it for me...but there's a cameo of Billy Zane, so the sex appeal factor is pretty high. But they are funny. And there's Milla Jovovich, perfectly capable of a genuine Russian accent, pulling a Natasha. It's cheesy. It's horrible. There is no point. It's just a bit off. I'll probably never see it again...but it's my kind of stupid movie.

Iron Monkey I'm probably going over the heads of genre buffs, but screw 'em. Have you seen Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love? The two movies are tied together -- watch them on the same night sometime. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Iron Monkey fit together the same way. Maybe even better. Both are movies with two sets of protagonists, sometimes allies, sometimes in conflict. Both are fairy tales. You cry at the end of one and cheer at the end of the other. Iron Monkey is an incredible film, wonderfully and innocently told. Don't bother being cynical about the obvious plot twists; just enjoy it.

Musketeer You'll probably want to rent this movie because of the matial arts sequences you saw on TV. Don't bother. If, however, you have a craving to see Tim Roth justify a multimillion-dollar dumbass action flick that screws up Dumas so badly you know they had to have read the book to get it that wrong, go ahead. You don't get many good villians these days. Pity the rest of the movie's such a waste.

(To be continued...)
Rebellion, again. (This isn't directed to anyone in particular, just something about human nature I want to bitch about.)

The world isn't fair. I can grasp that. You can't have everything you want. Nevertheless, what's wrong with the world being as fair as you can make it? What's wrong with having everything, within reason? And why keep telling me the world's not fair, and I can't have everything I want? Is it just something to say? Is it just something to say to let you justify being unfair, not letting me get for myself what I want? Is it somehow supposed to comefort me?

If the world isn't fair, and you can't have everything you want, doesn't that mean that I don't have to be fair and I don't have to give you what you want? Even if we love each other? If you don't have to apologize if you didn't mean to hurt me, doesn't that mean I don't have to apologize because I just don't have time to care? If your love makes you do cruel things to me in the name of that love, doesn't that mean I can hate you? Doesn't it mean that I don't have to understand?

What's wrong with letting each other know you have doubts? That what you're doing is the right thing, but that it's the best you can come up with? That you do what you do not from love, not "for your own good," but from fear that things will get out of control? What's wrong with an honorable compromise? What's wrong with admitting you're in pain? I don't think most people actually want to be assholes. We just don't know how to stop justifying ourself and apologize, even if we don't think we're wrong.

Most people.

I can't stand that bitch.
Statements. The difference between generalized statements and overgeneralized statements is that generalized statements are like those games where one player says "noun" and someone shouts out a noun (my favorite was always WD-40), and overgeneralized statements are like those games where one player says something totally inane and all the other players just stare at him...Overgeneralizations are like funerals. They aren't meant for the people you'd they they were meant for.

Please, someone pull the 2-by-4 out of my eye.


Rebellion. This is just a reminder to myself on this subject. It's six in the morning, and (even less so than usual) I can't tell if it's a good idea to write what I'm thinking.


Rejection. No, I haven't had any rejection letters lately. I should be so lucky...more waiting.

I've discovered another writer at work, a chica taking a writing-for-children course, a publisher of poetry and a sarcasmatrice. She said she was dreading the end of her writing course, because then she would be On Her Own and Have to Face Rejection. (She must not get her poetry rejected.) Whuh? This is a bad thing?

I congratulated her on the brave task of writing for children. I find it nearly impossible. So far...having Ray around for a couple of years might change that. I told her that I, personally, expect to be rejected at this point. Although I did nearly faint when the Weird Tales SASE came back, because it was a little thicker than it should have been. But that's immaterial. Rejection is average. Success is a form rejection letter or better. You have to define your short-term goals in a practical way. Rejection--nah, the fear of rejection--used to tear me down, too. Something must have changed. I wonder what it was.


Mad. Why can't I stay mad? I get mad. I yell (in the case of a sincere apology, I'm done). I hold grudges. I lose trust in people. I just don't stay mad. If the time between getting mad and giving someone a piece of my mind is more than a few hours, in most cases...pffft. I couldn't care less.

And it's really hard for me to stay mad on a full tummy. Do emotions fade as we get older, or is it just that we finally start to figure this stuff out? Less melodrama = healthier diet? Less caffeine, et cetera? This is important. I'm a nursing mother. i have to have a good diet...and it's time to eat again. Crap. It's dark and snowy outside, I have no working vehicle, Lee doesn't get home for three hours, and I want calories. Chocolate ice cream, at least.

Note. Never go grocery shopping hungry. Never go to a bookstore intellectual. Never bring up the name of one of your favorite authors--to anyone--unless you're planning to reread something. Especially (and this isn't the case) if it's somebody like Robert Jordan, because...holy crap, that's a lot of wordage. Or Agatha Christie. Or Danielle Steele. Bleh. Ok. I'm too repulsed to continue on that subject.
Attack of the Cutes. Imagine, if you will, the song "Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing," by Chris Isaak. Add to that one five-month-old bebe that's just learned to sway back and forth to the music. On top of that, add momma lying on the floor next to her, close enough for bebe to reack out and touch.

So. Ray starts rocking back and forth until she happens to bang into my arm. She laughs. She does it again. And again. Finally I pick up my arm and roll out of the way. Sure enough, she rolls completely over, and is completely pissed.

...And she now knows how to make rattles rattle.


Responsibility. Sometimes I get tired of being a mother. It's the responsibility. (Can you see the looks on some of my relative's faces? "Ha! I knew she'd never be able to pull it off, the flibbertygibbet." Of course, being all-American, all-Christian Midwesterners, nothing would be said. Nothing, not even, "How can I help?" Especially not that.)

It isn't the moment-by-moment responsibility. I don't get tired of changing diapers. I don't get tired of making sure the bebe is safe. I get tired, naturally enough, of not getting any deep sleep, but that's not what I'm talking about.

I can't get depressed. Not seriously depressed, just enough to make me wonder if every word that comes out of my mouth just the wrong thing to say. Just enough to make me paranoid that the people around me have problems with something I'm doing, but that they aren't telling me about them. Just enough to make me hate ever having wanted to be a wrtier--to lay down for a day or two and say, "I can't do this shit." Not the serious kind of depression where you want to kill yourself or wallow in misery for months, just the kind of thing where you want to whine a little, eat ice cream, and read a book you've read seven times before, preferably with a big blanket wrapped around yourself. A self-indulgent day. I can't do that. I have to be available, I have to be aware, I have to be responsible.

Most of the time I don't mind.

I think today will be better than yesterday. I had a good cry last night and some good sleep. Today that bebe and I have been commiserating. She's practically immobile in a fascinating world, you know, and she might be teething. And I'm her mother. She gowls, I growl. I type, she kicks the keyboard out of my lap.


A.I. Here's the entirety of the short story "A.I." was based on, "Supertoys Last All Summer Long." From Zannah. Oh yeah. And the story was by Brian Aldiss.


Opinions. I'm the kind of person who really needs to think before I speak. Sometimes that means I keep my mouth shut. Sometimes that means I Say The Wrong Thing. Sometimes I think as much as I need to think, and people start shaking me by the shoulders: "Are you OK? Are you OK? Anybody in there? Do you need help?" I went to a personality-typing class a month ago, and I found out that this is a normal thing for approximately 6% of the population. Whoo hoo! That's about 5.98% more normal than I thought I could ever be!

Anyway, one of the things I've been thinking about lately is opinions. Not any particular opinion, although I have some, but opinions in general.

How important is it to have opinions? Can you get along with the extremes of "beliefs" and "facts," simply having nothing that to debate, argue, or question? Is it important to have opinions on every damn thing, or can you form a few opinions about morals or ethics (take your pick; I think there's an difference, but it doesn't matter here), called princicples, and operate solely from them?

And how important is it to state your opinion? And how do you know when you've stated your opinion too much or too little? Is there any objective (or even subjective) way of telling, or do you just have to depend on peer feedback? Are there times when it's morally or ethically wrong or bad to keep your opinion to yourself? To speak up? And forget morals and ethics...what's the wisest way to do it? The most subtle? The cleverest?

What actually constitutes an opinion? Where do you draw the line between belief and opinion (personally, I draw a pretty close line on belief. Unless it's something you hold to be as important as the ability to breathe in normal conditions (yadda yadda yadda), gravity, etc., then it's just opinion. Looking at their actions, I'd say that for most people, religion is just an opinion. Although their faith in a god, gods, a goddess, or goddesses might be belief)? Would you die for your opinions--or just for your beliefs?

Oh, man. I had a lot more ideas than this, but I lay down with the bebe for just a moment...nap attack! Two hours later...


Baby news. Yesterday, the banana, i.e., the first non-cereal food ze bébé has tasted. I popped open the top and tasted it. Lee saw me. He was grossed out that I tasted it. Not because of any supposed spit contamination (not that I stuck my tongue in it or anything), but because it was baby food. The tard. It tasted like strained bananas.

I served it up with warmed cereal. It went down all right, a little thicker and a little stickier than normal cereal. No trumpets played at the sound of yet another milestone being sighted, approached, and passed--victory! To tell you the truth, I was a little let down that it went so well. Today she ate the bananas straight. Even better.

The day before yesterday was the first day I knew for sure that Ray could recognize color as a concept. We were reading her baby colors book before bedtime. The first page is "red." Red tomatoes, red rose, a baby in a red jumper pointing to a book with a red car, red fire engine, red, red, red. We only got the book a couple of days ago, but we've read it before. Open the book, turn to the "red" page. She starts slapping the page, breathing heavily, drooling, and putting her fist in her mouth. Sure signs of excitement. Then--and this is the cool part--she grabs a stuffed animal, CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG, and repreatedly bangs his head on the "red" page of the open book.

She doesn't give a crap about the rest of the pages. Except maybe green.
Jealousy. I've decided that reading Mecawilson is a bittersweet experience. Bittersweet? That's not the word. If there's some word combining the tang of pickles with the acidic, gut-eating taste of jealousy, then that's the word I mean to use instead. "Bittersweet."

He's funny. I've seen a lot of good writers on the net lately, good, solid, dependable writers with witty elements much to be snorted over. They don't make me jealous. I'd read Mecawilson's stuff in print. I'd pay money for it. Like I said, jealous.

Why isn't he getting paid for this stuff?
Oven. An update of my progress in editing "Feather" would read something like this: Crap. And you know what that means. Let's have a nice learning experience, eh? I've finished the first go through the manuscript. I now have beats, which each of them have a beginning, middle, and ending; the story is now twice as long and deadly slow. Boring. The next step is something I haven't done before consciously; I'm going to go through the story with the idea of working on dramatic tension--the rise and fall of the plot, as it were.

This is taking longer than I thought. Does that mean things were worse than I suspected? Oh, yes.

Do you know the fairy-tale about the princess who's forced to switch places with her maid, and tells her troubles to the oven? She doesn't think anyone can hear her. Hello blog. You're my oven.


Modern writers. The term "modern" gives some people the hives...yet all it is is a sophistication (although perhaps an over-serious one) of the moment when the vaudeville actor leans into the audience and winks. While "modern" poetry seems to be all clever renditions of the song "doom, despair, agony, and woe...WOOOOOE"* (i.e., T.S. Eliot), "modern" fiction seems to be all about the in-joke and the (I can't think of a better way to describe it) structural pun.

I used to have ambitions of writing nothing but "modern" fiction. "Contemporary" fiction bored me, for the most part, and "genre" fiction seemed like a pigeonhole. Then I started reading Stephen Brust, and I got better. But my love for modern--and postmodern--fiction remains.

"The Modern Word" is a beautiful website all about modern writers, including very good quotes (Borges, in particular, claiming that he would love to pseudonymously trash his own work*), excerpts, bibliographies, and links. Only a few writers as yet have major entries: Beckett, Borges, Eco, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Joyce, and Pynchon. Others forthcome.

P.S. Why should anybody care? Because you love stupid jokes (What did they call Postman Bob after he got fired? Bob) and bad puns, and thus may find modern fiction esthetically pleasing. Because it give the brain a good workout after that Grisham tripe you just finished. Because you've already read Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, and so on from the old guys, can't stand realistic, socally conscious novels, and want some "good literature" to impress people with on your webpage. Because you liked Don Quixote. Because change has been geometrically increasing since the turn of the century, and this is how some people have responded: if science fiction is the genre fiction about the progress of technology, modern fiction is the genre fiction about the progress of our brains.

P.P.S. Ultimately, however, one needs an actual story. Just as Jazz should never be the only kind of music, modern fiction should not be the only kind of literature.

*Hee Haw.

*"Any time something is written against me, I not only share the sentiment but feel I could do the job far better myself. Perhaps I should advise would-be enemies to send me their grievances beforehand, with full assurance that they will receive my every aid and support. I have even secretly longed to write, under a pen name, a merciless tirade against myself."
-- J.L.Borges, Autobiographical essay, 1970.

Sigh. "Avoid clichés." Including that one.


An old dream. I had this one last year, while I was still pregnant, about August or so.

Two brothers go on a trip to Chicago. They want to see the city from the observation deck of one of the skyscrapers. About halfway up, the elevator stops. The two brothers get out of the elevator and go into the open door of an apartment. The sunlight is beautiful, the apartment reminds me of a grandmother's house, decorated in yellow gingham. There are no cats. One of the brothers, who is a writer, opens a large toy box sitting on the floor of one of the rooms. In the toy box is a flat-chested fashiion doll. The brother likes the doll, but he doesn't think she has big enough breasts, so he tries to push the plastic of the doll's body into the right shape. The plastic bends, moves, and stretches, but he cannot make the plastic into the shape he desires, so he stretches the doll until she is as thin as a pencil and as tall as a woman. The doll says, "If you rescue me, I'll live with you for one year, and live with your brother for another year. I am enchanted by a witch." The brothers rescue the doll and leave the city.

The writer-brother keeps the doll for a year, taking his pleasure with her, using her as a muse, writing several successful novels. At the end of the year, he's reluctant to give the doll (who has fleshed out) to his brother, but...it's his brother. The other brother, who is a soldier, takes the doll, and turns her into a commando. The soldier-brother and the doll go on many adventures, rescuing prisoners from foreign country, shooting guerillas in the jungle, going on safari. At the end of the year, the soldier-brother refuses to give up the doll. The doll demands her freedom several times, but the soldier-brother refuses, saying that he loves her and can't release her.

Now, it happens both that the doll turns upon the soldier-brother and tears him to pieces, eating him as she goes along, and that the doll turns into the brother, becoming a plastic soldier-brother doll. When the consumption/transformation is complete, the soldier doll runs away, finally free of his/her enchantment, or so he/she thinks. However, he/she is pregnant, and currently trapped in the form of a soldier-doll, with no way for the baby to get out.

The soldier-doll travels the wilderness, looking for help with his/her condition. Finally, he/she wanders into a hovel that rises out of the mud. Inside is the witch. The part of the doll that is the soldier-brother doesn't recognize her; the part of the doll that is the doll does. The witch offers to deliver the baby; the soldier-doll accepts. The witch slices open the belly of the soldier-doll, who, being plastic, feels no pain. The witch removes twin babies, which begin as a pair of normal, flesh-babies, but one of them slowly shrivels into the shape of a plastic fashion doll. With this, the soldier-brother becomes himself again, except that he is now female. The witch gives him the flesh-baby, saying that the doll is her responsibility. The witch apologizes to the soldier-brother for the actions of the doll, and sends him away. Finally, the witch packs the doll back into the toybox, saying that she should stop being so cruel to these men, that if she wants her freedom, all she has to do is leave. But the doll says nothing, and the lid closes.

The soldier-brother wanders until he finds his writer-brother, who promises to take care of his brother and his daughter for as long as he lives.
Family. Rachael's making noise. It's important. She's experimenting with her vocal cords. She's experimenting with her ability to manipulate other people--what's the best way to get people's attention? Fussing? Crying? Squealing with delight? Coughing? She alternates, cute with crying, only to discover that pretty much any sound will get my attention. She smiles at me every time I turn to look.


Editing. Something that pisses me off about my English education is that none of the teachers in my creative writing courses had any intention to teach me how to edit. Maybe I had bad teachers. Maybe the policy was "Workshop...and see magic may happen!" Maybe the instructors assumed that all we needed to know about editing, we learned in literature classes. After all, in literature classes, we learned how to analyze stuff. And that's all you really need to edit, right? Knowing how to analyze character, point-of-view, style, etc., etc.

Bullshit. None of that teaches you how to edit. All it teaches you how to do is describe to other people why it is your stuff sucks. I know that writing is something you have to learn how to do on your own...to some extent. But if it weren't possible to teach writing, at least the basics, why are their classes? Are "creative writing" courses a con job?

Editing. For me, the first step is breaking down the story into something called beats. You know where I learned to do this? Script analysis, drama. A beat is a small piece of the work that has its own beginning, middle, and ending. Its own mini-plot. Its own goals. For a pop-culture illustration, take the movie Swordfish. From the beginning of the movie to the moment when John Travolta leaves the cafe, that's a beat. You can break that beat down into smaller parts, but essentially that's it.

For me the process of editing begins, like I said, with beats. I break the story down into its component beats, read each beat separately, and see what I can do to make each beat stand on its own. Basic stuff. Usually by the time I get done with the beats, I've managed to include most of the other changes that I wanted to make. So I lied. My editing process actually begins with doing the literary-analysis thing. And before that, I get feedback from my excellent spouse. But when I sit down to write, I start with the beats.

I once took a community-college writing class (in Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, blah blah blah) from a grad student in the Creative Writing program. I'd been looking forward to, someday, working my ass off with the intention of getting in. The instructor/grad student made fun of me for actually analyzing the work.

We moved to Colorado Springs. Big cry.
Stuff.. I don't think I'm going to get the edit done tonight. Mr. Joe Woods was over; Mr. Joe Woods introduced us to Papa Murphy's Chicaco-style 'za.

I nearly made the cashier cry. "Do you want some bread sticks?" she asked. After all, we were only getting a family-sized pie, and this is Joe and Lee we're talking about. "Nah," said Joe. "We can always eat the cat," I added. This made the girl tear up. "Not the kitty!" she said. "Oh, that's right," I said, "we're not eating Chinese." "You can't eat the cat!" she said. She wasn't joking. "But this one's a bastard," Joe said. "It claws everything." "And pukes all over," I added. "But that's what kitties are for!" she said. We left without purchasing the breadsticks. I'm sure she's been worrying about it since.

We watched "Rat Race," which I didn't finish (funny, but not enough to hold my interest through a fussing baby), A.I. (more later), and "The One" (didn't finish. No. Barely started: I want a little humor with my cheesy action flicks, even if it's just a smart-assed comment or two. This was one short step above porno-level filming.)

A.I. I didn't like it, but I was glad I saw it. Hayley Joel Osment is amazing. There were two things I hated about this movie. One: the ending. Two: it was too damned long. While I like the idea of resurrecting a person for just one day, and using that one day to resolve everything screwed up about his or her life, it was an idea that belonged to another movie. This was not a movie in search of a happy ending, no matter how qualified. And making a comment about David (the A.I. character) making his first dream could have been inserted into the movie elsewhere. And the length...Oh My God. While I like the long pauses and moments of disturbing, creepy silence that you get in Kubrick movies, this was just wrong. It wasn't the pauses and silence. It was the moments. Where one moment would have illustrated the point, three or four were used. Where one incident would have demonstrated the sheer corruption available to the human race...you get the point. I thought I was bad about belaboring the obvious. But...it was all thought-provoking. Personally, I think pretty much everything the human characters did in the movie was cruel and unnecessary, but for one thing. If we have the chance to create a robot with (basically) a soul, I think we should go for it. We take the same chances every time we create a baby, and, like in the movie, it might give us a chance to outlive disaster.


Current reads. I'm in the middle of a reread of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas; I got a cool used copy at a local bookstore named Poor Richard's. Wonderful place. Leatherbound, gold leaf, little ribbon bound into the...uh...binding. I just finished the third issue of "Black Gate." I have yet to be impressed with any individual piece of fiction, but I think I'm going to start subscribing. They take all kinds of chances, they attempt to do everything, and they do it in an enjoyable way. Further note on the fiction: I have yet to completely dislike any of the stories, either.

I'm reading Lafferty in Orbit, a collection of R. A. Lafferty stories as they appeared in "Orbit" magazine, at work. He's One of Those Writers. You know, One of Those. I've been hunting the mystery of the author R.L. since 1998, when I read "The Unprocessed Word" by John Varley, in Blue Champagne. I don't know if anybody's noticed, but I'm a huge nerd about this kind of thing. I'm a huge nerd about a lot of things.

I read the book at work because it's not safe to get more than 15 minutes of Lafferty a day. Under no circumstance read more than one short story per day. Neverthless, celebrate him as you go:

"The coffee had a good aroma and a jolting, fair taste. It was coffee to wake up by. But the cup felt funny, and Duffy supposed (looking at it out of the corner of his eye) that it looked funny. Well, coffee-people are entitled to get new cups when they will.

"The coffee-lady was an unmarried young lady, a very much unmarried lady, an intense and relentless young lady. She hovered over Duffy, as she often did. She was waiting for a reaction, or she was intent on draweing a reaction.

"'Don't you spoil it,' she said irrationally. 'Everyone else has accepted it just the way it is without even looking at it. It's the Great Day, so I know that I can do it. I know I can do it, if you and two or three otherslike you don't spoil it. What I have is a lot of faith. You can't create something new like this without faith. A lady has to have a lot of faith if she doesn't have a husband.'

"'True, Charlotte, quite true,' Melchisadech said. He saw now that what was funny about the coffee cups; there weren't any coffee cups. There were five other men in the place, listless, rather sleepy men, and all were drinking coffee without cups."
---R. A. Lafferty, "Great Day in the Morning."

X-rays. We got a call on Thursday that Ray's x-rays (for asymmetrical gluteal folds // lopsided butt crack) needed to be retaken. I got to take her in this time on Friday, after work. She cried when the doctor held her still; they asked me if I could possily be pregnant before they put the apron on me (Sexist! Sexist! They didn't ask Lee if he was pregnant).

Then the doctors called me back to the computer. I panicked. Ok. I didn't panic, but I was worried. "Look here," one of them said. I looked. "We have a good shot of her hips," she said. "But look right here. Do you see that white mass right there? You're going to want to hurry right home. That's gas. You have about an hour before it works its way out."

Sure enough.

Anyway, we have her test results back. Lopsided butt crack, normal hips.


The only reason I call this a journal instead of a blog is that the rhythm for blog is all off.

The only reason I occiasionally write in smaller-case is that I started writing on a spare typewriter in high school, and I didn't have any correction tape.

Goal of the day: edit "Feather." Finish this draft by Friday.
More religion: Religious faith seems to be a kind of affection. One of the more thought-provoking (read that with shades of "annoying") people I ever talked to on the subject of religion was D--- the Iowan. When I met him, he had been recently divorced: his wife had announced to him, out of the blue, that she'd been having an affair and she wanted to end the marriage. D--- seemed intelligent, if a bit loopy. And he like to talk about religion. I love talking about religion, oddly enough, as long as the conversation doesn't proceed to conversion. I'm fascinated by what people believe, and how they feel about what they believe. Or by what people think they believe. D--- said that after his divorce, he felt like he needed to renew his faith, which had become routine.

Over the course of the next few months, I saw him begin to fall in love with his faith. It seemed like an infatuation at first. He would walk around, telling everyone He was a Christian Now and inviting them to his church. He extolled the pastor to people who made remarks about the weather. He made fun of his ex-wife. He was on the rebound. He got Involved. He took over as youth leader. He got a crush on his (admittedly cute) female co-leader, asked her out, and got shot down.

At that point, he started to think about what he was doing. His discussions with me changed from a simple, blind praise of his faith to something a little deeper. He started asking questions of himself, whether this action or that was right or wrong according to his faiths. He stopped shouting the glory of his faith from the rooftops, as it were. He struck me as having somehow earned a little humility.

And then I moved, didn't hear from him for a time. He e-mailed me a month or so later. It was the sort of exchange where I said something that didn't fit into his idea of faith, and he said he'd pray for me. I haven't heard from him since. Although I don't really know what went on, I felt like the romance of his faith was over; he'd become committed to his faith. It was no longer necessary to do anything but take it for granted.


Posted some pictures of Rachael eating cereal.
I am...Stinky Rhinobiscuit!

This is a site that will give you your designated new name according to the rules of Professor Poopypants, the villain of a children's book, Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants. (I haven't read the books yet.)

I have to admit that I take a buttload of online tests. It's pointless for me to list them, since a wonderful list of them is at Blogatelle. Take them at your own risk.
The apartments directly above us have always contained an interesting collection of sounds. For example, there is the coincedental pisser. I swear he (or she) leaps up to take a leak every time he (or she) hears the click as I lower the ring. He (or she) is an irregular flusher. Next there is the man who snores like passing traffic. For a time I thought a particular truck kept circling the block after ten p.m. until six a.m. until I realized I heard the truck inhale just before it went by. There was the man with the boots. To someone who grew up around the sound of cowboy boots, the sound was unmistakeable. There was the little dog, who showed me great insight into the character of the Wicked Witch of the West. But the greatest of them all has been the Guitar Player.

He began practicing about six or seven months ago. His practice has been as faithful as his skill is poor. He plays no scales, no warm-up exercises, only fragments of rock songs. He appears to be copying the exact licks he hears from the radio. His special flaw, after lack of creativity, is lack of rhythm. The only time I saw him was about three months ago. I was coming home from work; he was standing on the balcony directly above my door. He was tall, slender, beardless, and blond, his long hair tied in a pony tail. He was handsome, as a rock star should be. He was flinging--at a distance of about twenty feet--small, bright-colored objects into the moutain creek that runs past the apartment complex. Luckily, I didn't realize what those objects were until I had closed my door behind me.

They were guitar picks.

He has just finished his daily practice now, as I am writing this. He reminds me of myself.
I got more in-depth comments from Lee yesterday for Feather. Good ones. From what I understand, he felt the story was well-written for its purpose, but that the purpose itself needed to be questioned. There were lots of things that I was trying make the reader think, but I don't yet have much that I'm trying to make the reader feel. In addition, he felt the dramatic tension could be heightened.

He suggested more action; I countered with psychological torture.


Since the story isn't very long (1500 words), I'm thinking of concentrating on two different things to fill those two different points. One, in order to give the story more "feel," I'm going to change the additude of the protagonist toward another character from contempt transforming to hate into infatuation to hate. Two, in order to increase the drama, I'm going to change the state of mind of the protagonist from apparently sane transforming to questionably sane into apparently sane to probably mad. I don't know if point two is going to help, per se: we'll see.

...And he had noticed the pun. He said he'd hoped it was unintentional.
I'm not any other religion, either.


In honor of Sunday: here are two reasons why I'm not a Christian. First, I don't believe. It's not that I disbelieve, it's that I don't know. I have no faith in it. That's the big reason. Second, I only know two people personally that I would consider to be living out Christian principles with a minimum of hypocricy...and I'm pretty sure one of them is dead. There are several reasons that this number may be unjustly low. Non-hypocrite Christians may keep their mouths shut more than their more infamous brethren. People generally don't live according to their "beliefs," no matter what they are. (Frankly, I find adamant atheists just as annoying as any other bigoted religious fanatic.) The annoyance factor may skew my perceptions. And so on. In addition, one of the tenets of Christianity is that all people are by nature sinners.

Nevertheless, I'd rather go to hell than give my loyalty to a religion I don't believe in and authorities I don't respect or trust. Oh, well. If the Christians are right, at least I'll be able to make fun of some of the intolerant jerks at Focus on the Family. "Aw...you went to hell for not doing your share of neighbor-lovin' and brother-keepin'. How sad. You wouldn't want to be up in heaven anyway...that's where they keep the abortionists, fags, and Girl Scouts, after all."


Goal of the day: think.

Projects up next: "The Name of the Feather," to be edited. "The Best of All Possible Beauregards," still in first-draft stage. "Death by Chocolate," in dire need of a rewrite. Plan: reread Feather. Try to imagine, if Lee can't help me on this one, an imaginary audience for the story. Consider whether I've pleased them. Take a break from the story. Work on Beauregard until I get sick of it again, and switch for Chocolate for a while with the intention to get it in the mail. Possible interruptions for new ideas.

I wrote Chocolate two Octobers ago, but I didn't feel like I had the ability to get it edited the way I wanted. It remains my favorite story so far: a woman makes a deal with the devil...either she can have eternal youth and beauty, or she can have chocolate.

I have an image of the kind of hate you get after a breakup or a divorce as a small piece of dead or dying love that's used to innoculate yourself against reinfection.

Sad. The way infatuation can turn into love, this kind of brief hate can turn so deep that you can't remember what made you love the person. Even what made you attracted to him in the first place.
Goal accomplished. "Customer Service" now In the Mail, and under my own name. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about online submissions. I'll see when I get there. I don't really write all that much erotica.

Erotica Readers (and Writers) Association is a good site -- it's where I found out about the Canadian place I'm sending this story. I haven't gone through the site as a reader yet, so I can't tell you if it's worth visiting unless you're looking for submission sites...it's by far the best-designed and most informative erotica submissions site I've found.

Note: I've discovered that it's best to query on-line markets before you send them anything. The chance that a) they're down, b) closed to submissions, and c) no longer paying what they used to advertise is high.

Another note: Don't expect polysyllabic responses to your questions about international reply coupons from the postal service at noon. The person at the desk is much more likely to be helpful at 10 a.m.

Note III: I sent a letter to Jewels, the old moderator/iron fist of the writing list I used to be on. I didn't realize how much I missed her bossy self until now.


Goal of the day: format erotica story "Customer Service" for print. Learn lesson: if you choose to reformat out of standard manuscript format, save it to a different file!

I'm debating whether to submit the story under my own name or a pseudonym.. I don't think it's such a big deal for print (and the place I'm submitting to is in Canada), but having unsuspecting memebers of my family (who regularly do websearches for their last names) stumble onto something online might be upsetting. That doesn't mean that if I get published, I won't admit it or direct people to the story -- I just don't want my family members to hit it accidentally.


Incidentally, I wonder what impulse it is that makes independently-owned hair-care and pet-care facilities use any many puns as the title list of a video porn shop? I mean, sex and humor is an ovbious mix, but rottweilers and spiral perms?
Rachael had her 4 mo. checkup two days ago, a little off-schedule due to a funeral and a cold.

She's 26 1/2 inches long, and weighs 15 lbs. 14 oz, both of which are high (over 90 percentile) for female babies at four months. That's the good news. The ummm...news is that she has asymetrical gluteal folds (i.e., lopsided butt cheeks). Lee took her to get x-rayed this morning. We should know something by Monday or Tuesday. The baby inspector said not to worry -- she was just making absolutely sure.

Apparently they do that a lot with babies.

Article for work completed...what, ahead of schedule?

Lee read "Feather" yesterday and didn't like it. He said it was well-written, but...

Now I have to wonder if it's just that he didn't like it, or that the story wasn't likeable or accessible. I asked him for more comments, but I fell asleep. It's been a stressfull week.


Goal finished, pun included. Wonderful, superlative, inhumanly (and I mean that literally) sexy, and magnificent spouse has not read it yet. Goal for the next 1-2 days: write article for work.

Purchased Sword & Claw by Gene Wolfe yesterday as co-gift to self and spouse.

Gene Wolfe...like Brian Aldiss, he's one of those writers I read but don't envy. I can't envy Gene Wolfe: I'm too impressed. As a writer, I can barely follow what Gene Wolfe is doing, the writerly tricks he's pulling off. Sometimes he bores me...but then I find out what he's being doing.

Anyway, The Shadow of the Conquerer, the first book of Shadow & Claw has the most brilliant protagonist of all SF/Fantasy.

I should be so lucky...


Something cool for anyone who reads, and who reads comics:

Have you read Sandman? Do you remember Gilbert, a.k.a. Fiddler's Green?

Unfortumately, I'm having trouble finding a picture of him, so you'll just have to visualise him.

Check this out.

Apparently G. K. Chesterton was a man who delighted in theological paradoxes, and "...was a semiheroic, sermipreposterous figure with his enormous girth, his flapping broad-brimmed hat, his cape and sword stick." (The Father Brown Omnibus, from the preface by Auberon Waugh).

I feel terribly clever.

I recommend The Man Who Was Thursday. Don't let anybody spoil the plot; don't read the blurbs.
I have a problem figuring out my audience for stories that I write. It makes a huge difference for me--and if I don't have an audience in mind, I tend to write stories for myself. Most of the time, this is a bad thing. Most people aren't fascinated by the same things I am, and most people like a little organization, a little plot.

"The Name of the Feather" is the first story that I've written for myself that looks like it might--just might--be readable. We'll see what Lee says later today.

If I didn't have him as a first reader, I don't know what I'd do. Disappear into my navel, I guess.
Goals: not accomplished. I finished the outline for the work stuff at work; no biggie. But every time I sat down to type out that first draft, Ray decided to do something cute. Ooooh, very cute. Mostly her new thing is to fold her hands together as if she's praying, and then shake them forward and backward so it looks like she's really praying. "Oh, Mamma, don't beat me any more...I promise I'll stop drooling on your shirt..."

And she was cranky.

Today is Ray's checkup/shots day. Lee's coming with us, which is both good and bad. Good: he'll know where Ray's doctor is, so if there's an emergency while I'm not home, he won't have to waste time. Bad: he'll have to watch her get her shots. I almost cried last time; I can't imagine what he'll do.


Well, rather than put it off and stress myself out over it, I'm going to start writing e-mails letting people know that I have this up and going. I hate announcing things. You know, for a person with such arrogant self-confidence in my destiny (and oh, yes, I am going to be a writer...a mid-list at least), I don't believe in myself much.
I need a standard punctuation mark that indicates a tangent follows. Parentheses...brackets...it seems like I should come back to a point or something.
Finished first draft yesterday, considering the inclusion of a beastly pun...no, I guess I'm not so much considering it as sniggering over the sounds I anticipate from my husband when he reads it. Goal: type out first draft, print (I wrote it out longhand. I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but it's easier for me to get a more old-fashioned sounding style across when I write it out.....

That leads to another thought. "Feather" is a shorty piece that I'm writing as a kind of break while I'm working on something longer, something I intend to use as a novella (at least). The longer piece, called "The Best of All Possible Beauregards" is meant to sound film noirish...perhaps I should invest in a manual typewriter. I'm typing it out in courier font, which is pretty close to the same appearance...but I type out everything in courier font, so it probably doesn't make much of a difference.

The rest of the goal for the day is to outline the article I'm writing for the co. newsletter. And the manager said, "Something humorous would be all right."

She'll know better next time...


Goal of the day: finish first draft of current story, "The Name of the Feather." Actually, the first draft has been previously completed, but I tossed it. It was...dare I say it? It was too smart-assed. Spent yesterday outlining the current first draft; sat down this morning and wrote most of the first draft in about...an hour? An hour and a half?

Great. Now that I have a blog, I don't know what to write. Typical.

Let me introduce myself to those of you who don't...wait. Nobody's reading this yet.