Snippet: Games

Don't you hate it when the end of the story is, "And then he woke up"? Or "it was all just a game"?

"Everything Trellafan thought of as reality was just a game. Yes, he was just a damn tenth-level half-elf, living on the edge, in some stupid computer game designed by post-pubescent males and played by a dorky little twelve-year-old in Missouri.

"Trellafan was mad. No. He was...pixellated."

But what about the reverse? Isn't the reverse the reality? You think it's all been a game, until you discover otherwise. (Imagine going through a video game like that. One elf, tall, pointy ears, named Trellafan. Wanted for the virtual murder of just about everybody in the damn virtual universe.) Life isn't real most of the time.

Is it?

My dad called me yesterday to tell me that my uncle Derek was dead and the funeral was on Wednesday in De Smet. South Dakota, you know, Little House on the Prairie.

I didn't say anything.

Dad kept talking about the details.

Eventually I hung up. I didn't say goodbye.

I made my excuses at work, left a message for my friends so they wouldn't be expecting me for the Tuesday night game, and started driving. A lot of it was in the dark across three states that either gave the impression of a lack of reality or too much of it.

Tuesday night was the rosary (same thing as a wake, but less booze and more middle-aged women chatting about their kids in the church basement, serving ham sandwhiches with margarine, macaroni salad (you can't beat a church-lady macaroni salad), and coffee, coffee, coffee. He was in the funeral home, laid out in the casket, still looking like the guy that inspired me to -- I don't know, slack off and enjoy the easier side of life. He was the first guy I knew that had a computer. He used to program his own games on them.

OK, they were stupid games.

Still I felt nothing.

People offered their sympathy. By Wednesday morning, it started to get to me.

"What are you so goddamned sorry about? What? Did you kill him? Did you strike him down in the prime of his life? Was it you that handed him one too many burgers? You used to cook him bacon and eggs for breakfast every goddamned morning, didn't you?"

Some poor church lady. Didn't take it well.

Somebody took me outside and let me yell at the parking lot for a while. Dad just stared at me like it was weird to watch his own son...have emotions. And Mom just wept over me, like it was some kind of great distraction. Then it was time for the funeral.

The casket was open. His kids had left little stuff in there with him. To get buried. Remote control. Couple of action hero figurines. Arcade tokens. Time to walk into the church, sit with the rest of the family in the front pews. Walking by him, he blinked. I could see his eyes, blue blue blue eyes just like my father's, full and round, sparkling with tears: full of life.

And then I woke up.
The Friday Nite Game

Lee bragged up my write-up of the game over the Starwars Mush (Unsung Heroes), so I guess I better finish it soon, just in case someone's reading.

Yes, there are little changes. I have memory lapses, lapses when the bebe was dragging me around the house, and the demands of fiction to placate as well as players. Writers are liars, you know. Luckily, I'm not getting any eeps for this, so I'm not bound to absolute purity...

The Story Continues:

After his explosive expulsion from the sewer tunnel, Black Iron rose out of the...muck, looking more like the Swamp Thing than the buffed and polished demigod of superheroism that he was, dammit.

Somebody chortled, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't just the GM.

Nice Guy and his Nice Friends ("We are NOT your nice friends!") pulled Black Iron out of the...muck...and helped him scrape himself off.

Bravely (or at least, not quite as naively this time), they headed back into the sewer tunnel, to meet whatever it was that had caused Black Iron to fire a
semiballistic rocket into a methane-rich sewer tunnel.

"At least we won't have to worry about setting off any more explosions," said Black Iron.

Even Nice Guy had to grit his teeth over that one.

"And my magnetic flashlight still works!" Black Iron added. "Neat!"

As the team (getting slightly hungry now, as they'd had nothing to eat all day, not even donuts) moved cautiously into the tunnel again, they saw what it
was that Black Iron had fired upon.

Dragonflies. Lots and lots of dragonflies.

Not...organic dragonflies, either.

Everyone stepped over the inert corpses (if that's the word) except the Corncob Avenger ("That's Cornfield Commando. Oh, you're laughing now, but jest you wait until the aliens take over"). He stopped, pulled one off the ground, and tugged what was left of the dull, bronzish, somewhat-toasted wings, looking as thoughtful as a man in patched armor and overalls can get.

"This reminds me of them aliens," he said. "Oh, yes."

Forward, forward into the darkness...


A terrible sound, followed by the appearance of a pair of terrible, glowing eyes. But it wasn't as bad as the noise that followed it: Screeeeunk! The second noise was identical, the sound of metal being torn asunder, but it was made more terrible by the fact that it, too, was followed by the appearance of a second pair of the glowing eyes.

Giant--you guessed it--bugs! Giant centipedes!

"We could shoot 'em with a rocket," said Black Iron. "The methane's been burned off already--"

"No!" shouted everyone else.

And so they just attacked. I can hardly relate each blow of the mighty battle. The two mechanical centipedes had rotating knives and a gaseous acid spray. Our heroes had...well, let's just say that if brains over brawn were one of the standard heroic stats, much like a hit percentage for a baseball player, they wouldn't get their own rookie cards. However, the terrible centipedes were defeated, resulting in various injuries (Cornfield Commando was left with only 80% of his coveralls, and Nice Guy sustained a couple of fairly serious wounds), another methane explosion (Thank you, Ol' Lady Johnson), and the revelation that the centipedes were partially...organic.


Just as our heroes were scraping the ichor and sewage off their clothing, they heard a noise. A noise not to be ignored. A noise to be feared, especially by people illegally parked, or people who walked their dogs with a suspicious lack of poop-scooping equipment. Or People Who Just Looked Funny.

What did it sound like? It was a combination of things. First you noticed the low rumble of a voice answered by a childlike lisping, but underneath that was the sound of...icky things.

Yes, it was...Mr. Floofy. And Splorch.

Hopefully with donuts.
Woo Hoo!

Ok, so here's what I'm going to do. First, I'm going to acquire a book. Then, I'm going to read it. Next, I'll write down what I think about it. Finally, I'm going to be paid...ONE MILLION DOLLARS!


Phew. Sorry about that lapse, there.

Actually, I'm not going to get paid. But I do get my ego stroked, and I get more experience writing for publication. Cailin at Banshee Studios asked me today to write a book review--on a book of my own choosing--for their August (I forget what the actual title is...I know it's not Samhain. Lughnasa?) issue.

I slowly worked my way through the last issue, and read several items I thought were worthy of comment, so I commented. I didn't get much of a response, but it felt like a good thing to do. So more letters to the writers, I think, but only complimentary ones.

Oh! I forgot. I also got a letter (karma, see?) complimenting me on my erotica story, Customer Service, at Hoot Island. So from both ends of the process, I can say that sending compliments to writers is a good thing.

Crap. I can't remember who said it, but I'll say it anyway: "Artists need attention like normal people need air."

I think the reason I have such a problem remembering stuff like that is my creative brain, which takes all facts that it gets and disassembles them
into their component parts.

Hula dance volunteers?

Guess what I spent 45 minutes doing Thursday morning and getting paid for it? Writing (cough) poetry. Bad poetry. Doggerel. For the usual somewhat-humilitating, always-pointless, ubiquitous, the-big-boss-is-coming greeting skit. The management of our inestimable department, however, picked moi for the task of writing the stuff. Obviously they have more taste than your average corporate lower-level management.

It's silly stuff, but that's what I'm good at.

The performance went off Friday; alas, it was after I'd gone home for the day. The summer theme of the department (they do these things in order to keep our busy little minds off the internet) is "The Survivor Show." So when the bigwigs showed up, our department was in their best business casual attire, dressed in grass skirts, holding up plastic tiki masks, and declaiming a poem, "Ode to Loan Reg." By yours truly.

Ah, the power.
Mom Said No.

My folks are coming up for the fourth of July. Well, ok, not the fourth of July. They're driving here from South Dakota--the far end of South Dakota--finding somewhere to camp in between here and there, driving some more, and arriving here on the second. Staying for the third. Then driving to my mom's parents for the fourth.

It's hard, but we're too broke to stay in Rapid City over the fourth, and too broke even to try to get the weekend off. Economy sucks, you know?

They're going to stop somewhere to go camping because my little sisters, ages fourteen and nearly-twelve, bought a tent. When my parents called, they'd set
up the tent in the basement. So they could practice camping, They wanted to use the backyard, but there was a tornado watch.

Mom Said No.


Raynews. Rachaelroni has a new thing. And it's a goody.

When you open up the colors book, and turn to the orange page, there is, shall we say, a cat. Orange. Not the same color as our cat, who is grey.

Point to the cat. Say, "Kitty!"

She'll smile, and try to pull the picture's tail.

Oooh, something else: she can recognize "This little piggy went to market." She starts giggling by the time you get to Roast Beef. She remembers how to play Little Piggies from day to day, ladies and gentlemen! Little Piggies has entered her memory, her mind, perhaps even her dreams.


Snippet: And Who Has Honey?

Since you're not going to believe me anyway, I'm going to exaggerate. Once upon a time, there was a village and a castle.. The village was called Wildberry, after the luxurious berries that grew in brambles all along the valley (although the berries were too bitter to eat without honey, and who has honey?), and the castle was called The End, because it was the last habited place in the mountains that the sun struck before it set.

The village (with other nearby villages) was ruled by the castle; the castle was supported by the villages. But the lord of the castle doesn't matter; none of the villagers ever saw him. Or her.

The person who mattered was the Mayor. The Mayor of Wildberry lived in a house just like every other house in Wildberry; the only difference was that her doors were guarded and her windows were barred with iron bars. Her husband and children were ghostlike figures that stared from the windows. They never came to church. The church, too, was a house like every other house in Wildberry; the only difference was that the walls were decorated with gold, so everyone could see that the village of Wildberry loved God above all things. But the Priest doesn't matter; none of the villagers ever saw him. Or her. Without the heavy robes.

One day an edict came from the castle (or so said the Mayor herself) that the lord wished all the houses in Wildberry to be inspected. No home must be dirty; no home must be in disrepair; no home must contain any weapons; no home must contain large stores of food (because of the rats). And so the Mayor knocked on the doors of all the houses and announced, "One day, I will inspect your home. You'll never know when I'm coming, and you'll never know when I've been here. If your home isn't up to standards...that may be grounds for..."

"For?" the residents would ask.

"Expulsion!" The Mayor said. "Explusion from every one of the villages controlled by the Castle Bourne. You'll be turned out of your home quicker than...quicker than..."

"Quicker than that?" The head of the household would snap his or her fingers directly under the Mayor's nose, because nobody liked the Mayor, even if her house was just like everyone else's house.

Except for the locks.

And so the Mayor went around town, sometimes in the small hours of the morning, opening the doors of the residents and inspecting their possessions. No one was expelled, but everyone was threatened.

Everyone assumed that the Mayor herself conducted the inspection of her own house, which was just like everyone else's.

You're assuming that something's going to happen here, aren't you? That a small child is going to sneak past the guards and slip into the house while the mayor's away, and discover that the husband and the children have been chained to their beds. Or they're slaves. Or the Mayor is hiding something dangerous. Something forbidden. Perhaps the Mayor is stealing things from the other people's houses, clothing, toys, knives. There will be a revolution! The villagers will lock the Mayor in her own house, they will lock the Priest up with her, they will free the husband and the children, they will charge up the hill to find the castle deserted, empty, unspeaking.

You're wrong.

Things go on.
Reviews.The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars; From Hell.

These might not be to your taste, but they both kick ass.

The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars, by Stephen Brust: This is a good read, if you're any type of artist or if you find them interesting. Sculpture, theatre, painting, pen&ink, writing (not the same thing), martial arts (of various types), motorcycles, and a little bit of love: the metaphor of "art" can be stretched to cover everything that humans experience, try to understand, and try to communicate to other people. On the other hand, if you're in the mood for action, well, thbbt. The primary story (arbitrarily picked?) alternates with a Hungarian folk tale. The folk tale doesn't match up with the primary story as well as I'd like, but it makes for a) a good folk tale and b) an interesting contrast. Just when you're getting sick of the everyday whining of a bunch of normal people (and that statement, there, may explain more about "art" than many a treatise), the folk tale cuts in: suddenly, it's all about the larger-than-life, without being lifeless.

From Hell, Alan Moore. As you may have guessed, I've been making a raid on the local library stacks for Alan Moore. I won't blow this for you--even if you've seen the movie, this is an important point--so I'll leave you with a couple of writerly notes and my definite thumbs up. The art is creepy and inviting. I love black-and-white art. The writing is at least as good as The Watchmen, not as tricky-dick clever, but gooo--ood. (He writes well from a woman's point of view, in case you're wondering.) That's as a fan. As a writer, here's what impressed me most: the plot is obvious. The mystery of Who-is-Jack-the-Ripper is revealed from the beginning of the book. Yet my interest has been held--the mystery here is "how did this all get cleaned up?" I also loved the appendices, which revealed a) how much research went into this thing and b) how all of this is supposed to relate to us, the readers.

Englightenment has nothing to do with being nice, chilluns. We knew that when we first saw Darth Vader. The darkside of the force is very, very dark.

Oh, yeah. I fogot: I'm muchly impressed, now, with the scriptwriter for the movie version of From Hell. No, it isn't a faithful adaptation. Different medium. Now, the directors...


More Englishy goodness.

I'm working my way through a stack of murder mysteries set in Minneapolis, The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars by Stephen Brust, and another writing-of-English book. The mysteries I'll only review if I think they're good ones. The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars has just been completed, and I need to think about it for a bit.

But the writing-of-English book is an ongoing project, so I'll start making comments....now!

It's called: Acts of Teaching: How to Teach Writing: A Text, A Reader, A Narrative, by Joyce Armstrong Carroll and Edward E Wilson.


This is about the shift between two different ways of teaching English to the K-12 set. The first method is called "product writing." Loosely, this means that the focus of teaching is the end-product of writing. Teachers pass out assignments, students follow strict steps during which they are assessed on their progress according to preset goals, and the final project--each final project--is graded. The second method is called "process writing." This means that the focus of teaching is the process of writing. "Process writing" doesn't exclude the techniques of "product writing"; however, other techniques are also used, and the focus, like I said, is the process of writing. The authors are all in favor of process writing.

Process writing, so far, has been broken down into five aspects--these are not linear stages to be progressed through, one necessarily being completed before the next is begun, but aspects that happen in whatever manner they need to for each specific writer as necessary. The five aspects are prewriting, writing, rewriting, correcting, and contemplating. Prewriting is the process of coming up with ideas. Writing is the process of getting your ideas organized and on paper. Rewriting is the process of honing the work for your audience. Correcting is the process of clarifying the writer's style & grammar. Contemplating is the process of stepping back from the work and looking at it critically.

Actually, I lied. Different teachers reported in here say the process is different. They all just focus on process. But that's one of the processes, one that the authors keep coming back to.

I have a two-fold interest in this book, this type of book. First, I suspect (but I don't know) that learning how teachers teach writing may help me write better myself, or at least give me a new way to think about the learning process involved in learning to write. Just seemed like a good idea. Second, one of the things I always have running in the back of my head (like trying to figure out a fourth spacial dimension...or hollandaise sause, so I can make myself some dang eggs benedict whenever I want...or the little connections you get between different Tom Waits albums...or the names of movie actors that Lee can never remember, like Ron Perlman and Gary Oldman..or bad puns...) is "What would I do in my ideal English class?"

My ideal English class is usually college-level. I'd rather be a professor than a teacher, for one reason only: professors get to hand out work. There's none of this "do it in class" crap. No. Take home your assignments, and you may do them, or you may not!

Anyway. For a while the title of my class was "How not to write," and we'd look at stuff we just couldn't stand, and figure out why we couldn't stand it. Part of the class would focus on things that I'd picked, and part of the class would focus on things that the students picked. I'd introduce critical theory by saying, "This is the ---- theory (feminist, deconstructionist, etc), and this is why they'd hate this book (Moby Dick)."

But lately I've been thinking about the information in this book, and I've had to rethink my approach. Basically, I was just reversing everything I hated about my English classes. Protesting the things you hate is important, sure, but...it's limited. It focuses you on the same continuum as the things you hate, you see: it doesn't allow you the freedom to do your own damn thing. It doesn't--Satanists take note--allow you truly to think for yourself.

Right now what I'm thinking about is a class where part of the class is focused on independent projects, and part of the class is focused on the mechanics of organizing what you're going to write. If I had time for an upper-level class, I'd start in on topics like character, theme, etc. But this is the class I'd use to replace English 101.

--Everyone has a journal. On-line. That's right, everybody blogs.
--The goal of the class isn't to turn in projects on time. The goal of the class is to build a portfolio.
--The actual classes will cover various techniques to be used in fiction writing and writing in general: coming up with ideas, building an ongoing collection of ideas (I call mine the mulch pile), the process of turning ideas into writing, making writing more appealing to the reader, turning intermediate writing into a final draft, and publishing.
--Yep. People will submit. They'll research the market and they'll submit. Getting published is just candy.

One thing I don't plan to do (in this hypothetical situation I couldn't pull off right now anyway) is workshop. The dang stuff is going to be posted on the net. Comments can go there. Workshopping sucks up class time to the point where nothing gets taught. If it's really necessary, they can have an English Lab (like Bio Lab), where they can sit down and learn how to criticize each other's stuff. Sure, workshopping has its uses, but it's not the damn panacea everyone seemed to think it was while I was in college.

Did I mention I'd get paid a hundred grand a year to do this?

Hm...back to the book. What have I learned so far?

I've been thinking about my own writing process, and lately it's been a little too focused on coming up with something readable. Something perfect. I'm not as bad about hatching Athena full-grown from my skull as I used to be, but I don't do as much playing and thinking as I should. For instance, motivation. That's something to think about: why am I writing whatever it is I'm writing? I used to be all about writing for a purpose. I had things to say, and I had to say them. Now I find myself, especially on an afternoon when I'm home alone with the bebe and I don't have any novels laying around that I'm just dying to read, hungering to write something that'll do for other people what those novels I like have done for me.

If I'm having an ambitious afternoon, I want to write something that's a combination of both.

Ah...Ray was sleeping on my chest for a while, but now she's up and lusting after the keyboard. Time to go. Discretion is the better part of rambling on and on and on and on and on...

The Friday Nite Game, Part the Third

The sewers beckoned our heroes just like...well, let's say I have a simile in mind, but we'll skip it, all right? Black Iron and Nice Guy ferry down the non-flying members of the party onto a stable area in front of the two main sewer lines that the "bugs" flew from.

"Should we go to the tunnel on the right, or the one on the left? There's also a large tunnel right dead in the center...." While the party begins arguing, Ol' Lady Johnson, recognizing a pointless arguement when she can barely hear it, starts walking down one of the tunnels. As she moves further and further into the shadows, risking death with every step (to be fair, death was risking her as well), the arguement fades until Cornfield Commando says, "Hey! Where did the old lady go?"

From one of the tunnels the sound of a monstrous panting emerges. There is a flicker of light...perhaps from a wagging tail. "That way!" Nice Guy exclaims, and the rest of the party follows Ol' Lady Johnson (no relation to Mayor Johnson...that he knows of) down the lefthand tunnel.

Hm. Have you ever noticed that it's dark down in the sewers?

Especially when you don't have flashlights?

Nice Guy flies up to the gas station on the corner and buys a sufficiency of flashlights. When he returns, Ol' Lady Johnson only has one word for him, and that word is "Batteries?"

"Oops," he says.

Soon, the party is properly equipped for a jaunt in the sewers. Black Iron even has a magnet to attach his flashlight to his suit. In fact, being the most mega (Black Iron buffs a few flecks of dust off his armor), he takes the lead. Scouting ahead. For danger. And stuff.

Soon, Black Iron encounters that which he seeks. Specifically, he encounters eyes. Glowing ones.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party has been keeping pace with Ol' Lady Johnson's usual hobble. "I wonder what we'll find down here," Black Squirrel asks. "Aliens, probably," Cornfield Commando replies. "Those critters seemed mighty familiar. Mighty familiar. Reminds me of the time I was abducted..." "But you don't remember that," Black Squirrel says. "I do now," Cornfield says. "It's all startin' to come back to me."

The party walks on, mulling over their separate thoughts.

Click--click--snap! Rrrrrrrrrssshhh!

Ol' Lady Johnson turns about face and begins scuttling, dragging Gilbert by his collar. The rest of the party considers the noise for a moment and relizes that it can mean only one thing: Black Iron has just fired his rocket launcher at a possibly deadly foe. In a sewer. Filled with explosive, uh, sewer gas.

Nice Guy stops to snatch Ol' Lady Johnson and Gilbert from the path of the approaching fireball; the entire party makes it out.

Including Black Iron, who rides the fireball like a cowboy rides a bull. Like a sailor rides the hurricane. Like a glider rides the storm. Like an unconscious superhero rides the flaming ball of methane and lands in the...muck.

The muck closes over Black Iron's head...
At some point.

When you use humor to keep people at arm's length, is it still humor? How about charm? Solicitousness? "How's that baby of yours?"

At some point, it becomes obvious that all your humor, charm, and solitictousness aren't genuine. You aren't to be touched, you aren't to be trusted. You're a good guy. "He's a good guy," they say. And at your funeral, "Yup. He was a good guy."
Reviews. Behind Enemy Lines, The Others.

Behind Enemy Lines.

If I did the stars thing, I'd gve this one three of five. For what it was, Behind Enemy Lines was all right. It ain't Schindler's List, but it ain't Top Gun, either. Owen Wilson stuffs more into his character than I would have imagined. Gene Hackman does his Gene Hackman impression pretty well. The best actors were the Croatians and the Serbian sharpshooter. There are some nice Gladiator-type shots where the speed of the shot varies -- but it's handled much better than it was in Gladiator.

The only thing that bugged me was the (understandable) discontinuity in the running scenes. The guy runs. He survives the scene. The next time you see him, he's somewhere completely different, and you don't know how he got there. Like one of those bad dreams where you just can't run fast enough.

The Others.

Creepola. This is one of those twist-at-the-ending movies I should have seen coming, but didn't. Sort of. There are three parts to the twist-at-the-ending: Lee got one, I got the other, but the third went OOOOOOOver our heads. I liked it. It reminded me of "Turn of the Screw."

I never, ever want to watch it again.
Rejection... So I'm on the phone with my folks, who are going to try to make it out here for a couple of days before the fourth, when Lee comes home with one of my SASEs gripped in his sweaty fist. Rejection. One Cool Million. On Spec. Form letter. Note at the bottom. Game shows are cliche. They had a good point: "We need more character interaction, not just "flashback" stuff." Well, I'll read it again and figure out where to send it next.

How would I have more character interaction? Without making the thing two gazillion pages long?


The Friday Nite Game, Part the Second.

When we left our heroes, Nice Guy and Tinfoil Avenger had just flown away from the decapitated headquarters of the Supreme Squad, and Cornfield Commando, Black Squirrel, and Ol' Lady Johnson had just hauled off a posse o' hoodlums to the nearest police precint in Megalopolis. We still haven't heard anything from the Supreme Squad, or from Splorch and Mr. Floofy. That must be some lineup at the donut shop...

ZZZT! The walkie-talkie on Nice Guy's belt comes to life. Who could it be but Mayor Johnson, turning to the...other...superhero team of Megalopolis in the time of the city's greatest need? Well, nobody. It was Mayor Johnson, supid.

Mayor Jonson tells Nice Guy that he needs the team ("Nice Guy and His Nice Friends!" says Nice Guy) to meet him at city hall as soon as possible. Nice Guy and the Tinfoil avenger contact the other three non-donut memebers of the team. Cornfield Commando, Black Squirrel, and Ol' Lady Johnson race away in the '87 Nova. Black Squirrel calls shotgun: she's a little leary of Gilbert, who may be a nice doggy most of the time, isn't to be trusted, especially not when it comes to drooling.

She has her cleavage to think of, after all. She has to look her best when she's rescuing the Supreme Squad. Some of those guys are hot...

Everyone arrives at city hall. Mayor Johnson announces that he's received a VCR tape from someone who claims to have abducted the Supreme Squad. He rolls the tape...

The picure comes up on a familiar mask: our heroes would remember those beedy little faceted eyes anywhere. Yes, it's Dung Beetle, that not-so-mega-villain that our heroes almost mananged to capture a year ago. What is that he's saying? That he's captured the Supreme Squad? That it was none other that stole their base? That he wants...one billion dollars? (Everyone, in real life, puts their pinkies up to their lips, a la Dr. Evil, at this point.)


Our heroes stare at each other in stunned disbelief. It must be the lack of sugar...

Where are those damn donuts anyway?

Mayor Johnson says, "We should be receiving a second tape in a few minutes--how he wants the money, I suppose. We have one hour before...before he'll kill them all. Uh, what's your name again?"

"Nice Guy and his Nice--" Nice Guy begins, but the mayor interrupts him.

"Nevermind. Do what you can, uh, guys, do what you can."

Our heroes mull around for a little bit, throwing out ideas, when suddenly Ol' Lady Johnson suggests that they start lookin' near the pit where the base used to be. "'S pretty big hole in the ground," she says. As if that made any sense. Nevertheless, for lack of anything other leads, that's what our heroes decide to do.

Arriving at the former base of the Supreme Squad, Ol' Lady Johnson decides she needs to use the little girl's room at a nearby gas station. She hobbles away as the rest of the team investigates the site, which seems to be...yup. It is. It's a big hole in the ground. And...the whole building seems to be missing.

The water mains have been diverted, but the sewer lines haven't been repaired yet. The bottom of the pit is filled with muck and...more muck.

Suddenly, there's a rumble in the earth. Nothing shakes, but everything moves: streaming out of a couple of the truncated sewer lines are bugs. Lots of them. About the size of a superhero's head, and you know how big that is.

Tinfoil Avenger, deciding that a bunch of bugs seems relatively harmless, flies into the thick of them, hardly noticing that their antennae begin to hum and throb with a dull yellow-brown energy, hardly noticing, that is, until....ZORCH!

Spiralling out of control and streaming a trail of black smoke, the Tinfoil Avenger falls...falls...falls right into the muck at the bottom of the pit. Right on his face. He twitches once and begins to sink.

The beetles (for that's the insect they most resemble) gather, pause as if verifying their location, rotate to face outward in a great circle, beat thir wings a little faster, and PREEEOW! shoot off in various directions all over the city. Before anyone can make a move, they're gone. Nice Guy picks up his walkie talkie and calls Ol' Lady Jones to get her butt back over to the pit. She admonishes him to patience in the way that only Ol' Lady Johnson can: "What? What? I ain't gone yet. You just cain't hurry bladders at my age. Shaddap already!" Nice Guy sighs, puts away his walkie-talkie, and prepares to rescue Tinfoil Avenger from the deep puddles of....muck at the bottom of the pit.

But wait!

Suddenly, spattering globs of...muck...all over the faces of everyone standing at the edge of the pit, a mysterious hero (one of the Big Guys) erupts from the bottom of the pit. It's Black Iron! He has, yet again, appeared just as the Tinfoil Avenger (that schmuck) has been shot down. Eh. No big loss, not when Black Iron is around. His armor gleams almost as brightly as the glint off Nice Guy's teeth. He's mega, he's built, and he's hot.

Black Squirrel starts drooling. As Black Iron lands near our heroes, she sidles up to him and starts purring (nevermind, that's cats, isn't it?).

Ol' Lady Johnson finally comes out of the can and starts hobbling toward the group. Gilbert, having just drunk from the toilet, gallops his way toward his favorite member of the team, Nice Guy. Gilbert (who isn't a dog you want to piss off) buries his head in NIce Guy's crotch, distracting him as he tries to consider what to do. The members of the team pause, scratch their heads, and gasp as they simultaneously come up with the same idea: "Hey guys," they shout, "let's go down into the sewers!"


Snippet: The Inner Child (playing with autobiographical infomation)

Back when I went to country school (and we didn't have running water, and we did have outhouses), I idolized one of the boys at school, Mr. K. I thought our love was meant to be, since if I married him, my initials wouldn't change. I would be Mrs. K. We would be Mr. and Mrs. K. He was an older man, in fifth grade, but that only added to his allure.

I would have fourteen little K children. I would keep his house. It would have been heaven.

But for Mr. K's younger brother, also named Mr. K. The bully K.

The bully K was a terrible, terrible man. He had an evil laugh and a henchman named Jason. He was in the fourth grade, and he liked to catch flies and stick them down people's pants. He picked on everybody smaller than he was. He was always trying to break or steal my glasses. He tripped me whenever I had a chance. He made fun of me for playing make-believe. He was always trying to burst my bubble: what's more cruel than bursting a poor, defenseless little seven-year old's bubble?

That's a rhetorical question, by the way.

That year, during Christmas vacation, it snowed. It was so deep we couldn't see the van when we went outside in the morning! Dad was so careful digging it out that the sides of the snowbank looked like frosting on the side of a cake. We dug tunnels in the back yard, tunnels you could stand up inside. We--and this should say it all--went sledding down the big hills. Every day was a wonder. You could tell where my brother and I were on the farm by following the trail of little footprints and listening for the sound of Christmas carols ("We three kings of Orient are/ tried to smoke a pale green cigar/ it was loaded it explooooooooded/BAM! Hahahahaha'). Or else just yell "Who's ready for some hot chocolate?" and wait for two snow suits with snot dripping down the front to come scrambling for the back door.

There was so much snow, going back to school wasn't too bad at all. We built a snow fort.

And then we built a fort on top of that.

And then we dug a fort underneath the whole thing. A three-story snow fort.

It was the best snow I've ever seen, and the best winter (as such) that I've ever had.

Except for the bully K.

His big thing that year was spitting. I can't tell you how many times he spit on little kids that winter. It was so cold the loogies would freeze right on you, unless it was on your face, and then it would drip into your scarf or your ski mask and freeze there, right on the edge of it, right where it would rub on your face.

I know this now, but I didn't know it then: no matter who you become, you never stop carrying around the memories you have of the person you used to be. The bully K, here's what he's carrying around: a picture of a nine-year old who spit loogies onto the backs of even littler kids' coats, a jerk whose friends were happier when he wasn't around, a guy who never got along with girls. Boy, those were the days, weren't they, bully K? Where are you now? Are you someone a little kid would admire?

You know what I'm carrying around?

It was recess. Everybody was playing at the fort. K the older threw a snowball at me, not hard, and I tackled his legs and knocked him down. I ran away, laughing, and he couldn't catch me because I was too fast around that slippery snow. Then I started thinking: if I could knock down K the older (no disrespect intended), I could knock down his younger brother too.

Justice! Revenge! The admiration of my peers (I was the only kid in my grade--nevermind)! The worship of the kindergarteners! The respect of...the fifth graders.

Recess was nearly over, but it didn't matter. I found him. He was throwing--whipping--snowballs at the kindgergarteners. My little brother was in kindergarten. For a single moment, I had no fear. I couldn't fail. It was fate. It was...destiny! Oh, after I knocked him down, he'd spit on me, but it would be worth it.

So I went for his legs...

I didn't knock him down. He spit on me, everybody laughed at me, even the fifth graders, and the bell rang. It was so lame.

But when you think about it, not a bad thing to carry around at all.


Snippet: Towns, Faces, Voices

So they packed their dirty laundry in garbage bags, threw everyting else in the back seats of their cars, and drove home to their folks' for the summer, he on his side of the state, she on hers. The next semester, every time he saw her, he told her he blamed her. He demanded the return of his love letters. She missed his letters more than she did him.

They ruined a lot of things for each other. They hated each other's music. Taste in books. Each other's majors. Each others' high school football teams. He tried to gain control of their mutual friends; she judged them by their ability to get jerked around between the two of them. They graduated, and never saw each other again.

Everything burned away, even the facts that he never made her come and she never made up her mind.

Everything except the sound of each other's voices when one or the other of them would drive into the town where the other was, and that first, uncertain moment when they saw each other after an absence, and the truth would come out. Then they would smile, kiss each other passionately, and feel like a storm had finally passed. That was the only thing either one of them cared to remember.


Reviews.Tom Strong, American Gods.

Tom Strong, by Allen Moore, etc.
Maybe I haven't read enough comic books. Then again, Lee read this after I did and agreed with me, and he's read some serious comic books, from what I understand.

I don't get what Allen Moore is trying to do here.

I understand the grosser points -- he's making fun of all sorts of things. British Imperialism. Science heroes. The way we perceive villains (are they the real villians? do we just see them as villains because they're against us? what's more important, victory or justice? etc). Racism. The internet. Fans. (The big stuff gets the acid; the little stuff gets the seltzer bottle.)

But the structure? Jeez. It seems more like a best-of Tom Strong collection (out of a run of hundreds of issues) rather than the first --what, six? eight?-- issues of a comic. Time is not linear. The origins of the side characters are glossed over. We're supposed to be shocked by plot twists that mean nothing, because we don't know the villains and heroes involved. I have no problem with messing around with structure, time use, plot twists, irony, etc., but...well? What's he trying to do?

I don't get it.

It's like...it's like...maybe a couple of you English Lit types will get this. Bertold Brecht's theory of playwriting was that it's the job of the writer to distance the audience from the play itself as much as possible, so the audience can take an objective look at the situation. War, burgeouis society, etc., these were all subject that don't go well with the high wit of an Oscar Wilde or Moliere, not the way Brecht felt about them.

It's like Allen Moore is trying to do the same thing, but he's left out the bitterness that makes Brecht comprehensible. The little details that throw everything into perspective. He does it well in the first episode -- mainly through the mother's character. After that, he doesn't bother.

Compare Tom Strong to the League of Extraordinary Genglemen, and you'll see what I mean.

What? What's the message? What are you trying to say?

American Gods. Neil Gaiman.
This was also a frustrating book for me to read, so if you've read it and liked it, you shouldn't read this review. It's been built up so much...and I was so let down. This is a good book to pass a couple of summer afternoons with, especially if you haven't read any Neil Gaiman. If you have (especially the Sandman), you're going to feel a little cheated. The characters are nobody to write home about.

This is a book about how the gods deal with America, a 450-page book, and the ideas herein contained are more poigniantly contained in a single chapter of the "Brief Lives" sequence. American Gods is not without its good moments, its interesting factoids, and its familiar scenery. And if this is the book that introduces new readers to the Sandman, in the balance there has been no harm done.

I don't think Mr. Gaiman has a handle on his talents yet as a prose writer, yet I can't pass up anything he writes for the comics. I don't know how this can be -- but it is.

Liked the book and still don't see what I'm saying? My suggestion: pick up a novel you think of as well-written, put it alongside American Gods, and perform a flip test. That's right, riffle the pages until you stop. Pick a paragraph (or so) and read it. Compare the results of the two:

"Shadow took the orange uniform and the handcuffs and leg hobbles, put them in the brown paper bag that had briefly held his possessions, folded the whole thing up, and dropped it into a garbage can. They had been waiting for ten minutes when a barrel-chested young man came out of an airport door and walked over to them. He was eating a packet of Burger King french fries. Shadow recognized him immediately: he had sat in the back of the car , when they had left the House on the Rock, and hummed so deeply the car vibrated. He now sported a white-streaked winter beard he had not had before. It made him look older." -- American Gods.

"I replaced her rings, her bracelets, her combs, before I closed the grave, and that was Lorraine. All that she had ever been or wanted to be had come to this, and that is the whole story of how we met and how we parted, Lorraine and I, in the land called Lorraine, and it is like onto my life, I guess, for a Prince of Amber is part and party to all the rottenness that is in the words, which is why whenever I speak of my conscience, something else within me must answer, "Ha!" [...] But whatever...until that time, I shall not wash my hands nor let them hang useless." -- The Guns of Avalon (Roger Zelazny).

Meanwhile, I twiddle my thumbs, still hoping for high things from Mr. Gaiman.
Vehicular Annoyance. Surprise, surprise. It is the alternator.


Guess what?

No, she's not walking yet.

But thanks for asking. No, all she's doing is trying to repeat the sounds we make. Not a big deal.

Or anything.

Like the time yesterday she pulled the cat's tail, and I explained to her that hurting the Kitty was a sad thing. "Thee!" she said. "Kitty!" I repeated. "Kee!"

Oh, I know she's not talking. But I'm bouncing off the walls nevertheless.
Father's Day.

All hail to the good ones, you know, by blood or by fire baptised into the guild.

For Lee, whose father means a lot to him in some strange ways. Like the time Mary gave Vern twenty bucks to get the kids' hair cut. Vern's buddy gave the kids buzz cuts for free so Vern could drink his way through twenty bucks. Lee has a million stories about his father. But -- stories like that don't tell the whole story, do they?

Lee. He's been here. Diapers, baths, pureed pears, bonks on the head, days when you just don't want to care but you do anyway -- when Ray needed her bangs cut, he did it himself. Twice.

And for my father, too, about whom Lee pays a high compliment: "He's a pretty good guy."


The Friday Nite Game. Whew. I'm not the hostess type, but this was a lot of fun. We had absolutely 0 annoying guests, 0 blowouts, 0 injuries (not even the cat). I didn't get to play 100% of the time, but when I got to, I had fun.

The Tinfoil Avenger/Black Iron -- Phillip
Black Squirrell --Sharon
Nice Guy -- Roland
GM -- Lee
Ol' Lady Johnson/Gilber the Hellhound -- De
Splorch -- Matt
Mr. Floofy -- Joe
Cornfield Commando -- Steve
Various elements of chaos -- Cammie, Nick, and Ray
Mommie Patrol -- Stephanie
Sarcasm and kitchen therapy -- Stacy

Megalopolis, the home of the Supreme Squadron, about 50 of the nation's top superheroes, and their base, a 6-block, 15-story pentagon-shaped base in downtown Megalopolis.

Not there. We're not part of the Supreme Squadron...we're the other guys.

Gathered around the black-and-white TV we call Information Central, or something, we see a news bulletin: the Supreme Squad has been abducted! While at city hall accepting an award from the mayor, they disappeared in a shower of yellow-brownish...sparks. Our would-be leader, Nice Guy (who just got out of prison for ten years for "accidentally" killing a ten-year old kid), declares that we must go out on patrol to discover what happened to the Supreme Squad.

Cornfield Commando ("It was aliens. I seen 'em"), The bodaceous Black Squirrel ("Nuts? Where?"), and Ol' Lady Johnson ("Would yew just shaddap?") jump into the Nice Car (after defacing a couple of the smiley-face stickers and drive off, with Gilbert's mastiff head dangling out the window, tires screeching and spit flying.

Nice Guy and the Tinfoil Avenger (who has been kicked out of every superhero squad in the nation...for being such a wuss) fly off to the Supreme Squad's Base.

Splorch and Mr. Floofy, respectively a living booger and a warped, 8-foot, 600-pound cybernetic engineer who is strangely dependent on a stuffed rabbit, have gone out for Krispy Kremes. Neither one of them is very bright, so the rest of the team ditches them. Besides, they're out of range of our walkie-talkies that we just got from Radio Shack.

The Nice Car spots some looters rampaging through a strip mall, and pulls over to investigate. As The Corncob Commando ("That's Corn-field") turns on the hazard lights, Gilbert bursts through the rear window (you know, the one that only rolls halfway down) of their mighty '87 Chevy Nova. Black Squirrel, a good bit faster than a hellhound, gracefully steps from the car and scampers over to the nearest looter. Corncob ("Cornfield") whips out his sawed-off shotgun and enters the fray. Ol' Lady Johnson, cackling gleefully, hobbles onto the sidewalk somewhat behind the others.

Meanwhile, Nice Guy and The Tinfoil Avenger have arrived at the Supreme Squadron's base.

Sort of.

Actually, they've arrived at a...six story, six block hole in the ground. Um.

The multitude of cops cordoning off the area, directing traffic, etc., aren't very cooperative when the dynamic duo arrives. Nice Guy questions an officer, Officer Thompson, who may or may not be a relation of the mayor, Mayor Thompson. Officer Thompson casually remarks that he's heard of Nice Guy before--"in connection with the death of some kid, right? All over the newspape--urgk!" Nice Guy loses it. The officer begins pleading for his life, claiming a wife and twelve kids to support....the situation breaks down further, until Nice Guy finds himself with a patrol car over his head, and a wallet (left in the driver's seat by mistake) with pictures of Officer Thompson and what look to be...uh...twelve kids or so.

Nice Guy finds himself suddenly in control of his actions again, brushes off Officer Thompson, and announces that he and the Tinfoil Avenger are going to fly off to find the perpetrators of this foul deel. Away!

They fly off just as the SVST (Super Villain SWAT Team) cars start pulling up.

Back to the Corndog ("Cornfield!") Commando and pals...

A mysterious UPS van pulls up the side of the curb, and the looters begin to carry their loot toward it.

One of the looters eyes Black Squirrel's cleavage, and, reaching into his pants, pulls out a length of bicycle chain. "Hey baby," he says, and starts putting the moves on her. Black Squirrel responds with a Nut Strike.

Another of the looters moves to attack Cornfield Commando. Keeping with tradition, he takes his man down with a Low Blow, which makes for two men hunched over and clutching their privates.

As the group of twenty or so hoodlums notices our heroes and begins to close on them, Gilbert enters the fray.

And howls.

It was the kind of howl that starts subsoncially, below the aubible level, and subliminally, below the conscious level. Even before you heard anything, the lizard part of your brain had informed you that you were very, very afraid.

And then it got worse.

Ol' Lady Johnson chuckled evilly and scuttled into the passeger side of the van. There was the sound of her voice saying, "You wouldn't hurt a little old lady, would you," evil laughter, and a flash of light. The driver (no actual UPS men were harmed in the making of this scenario) rolled out onto the street.

After a couple of pointless arguements about restraining the hoodlums and who was to drive what vehicle, they loaded the thugs into the back of the van and drove off. Cornfield and Black Squirrel (a citizen of the Himalayas (The Himalayas? That's not a country.) (Shut up. I'm the GM), did not herself have a liscence) took the Nice Car and Ol' Lady Johnson took the UPS van, with Gilbert to guard the prisoners. They drove off to the nearest precinct and dropped off the prisoners...

To Be Continued...


Ray Bebe.

It's confirmed. She can clap her hands now. And last night, she played with my hair--and didn't pull it all the time.
Company cometh.

Roland, Sharon, and Philip are in town, over at Matt & Stacy's. They'll be over here at 1 p.m. or thereabouts. Joe gets off work at five or five 1/2 and will be here afterwards. I haven't heard whether Doyce is going to be here for sure or not. Lee spent the night over at Joe's place, should be back about 9 1/2. For those of you who care, it wasn't the alternator. It was the battery. Don't ask me how that works out.


I shouldn't be writing about this: that's my instinctual response. There are some secrets too deep to be told. As a writer, I mean.

Because they're almost like...cheating.

The deep secret of the day is conflict.

I don't know how many people are actually reading the Mrs. Kurtz fits, snorts, and sniggers, and I have no idea how many of those actually enjoy them. I haven't heard anything one way or the other. I'm amusing myself, anyway.

But anyway, about conflict. The plot isn't too complicated. The characters are simple. The setting is...over a freakin' phone line and in a multi-ethnic-trash apartment. (Believe you me. Just because your hubby is black doesn't mean you can't be white trash. Or ghetto, I guess, for the reverse. Truth is stranger than fiction.) The only thing that makes this story interesting for me to tell is the conflict. Conflict? People yelling at each other over the phone. Nobody even dies.

Do you know what that means?

There's nothing deep about this story. Nothing well-planned. Nothing artistic, or really even well-crafted. Ninety-five percent conflict. Fluff. Hocus-pocus. Writerly trick. Cheating.

Awfully fun to write, anyway.

Mrs. Kurtz, On Hold, snort the ninth.

The Bethany Gobbledy-dook voice said "Hold please," and the phone clicked.

Once again, the hold button had been missed entirely.

"You -----," the Bethany voice hissed. (Mrs. Kutz held her breath. If only she could hear better!) "What did I tell you?"

"The customer is always...right?" Scott's voice asked. As if it were a difficult question.

Mrs. Kurtz held her breath.

"And what does that mean?"

"The customer is...always right?"

Mrs. Kurtz heard a sharp slap.

"Don'y play with me, young--" a hiss of static-- "Do you have the training to handle her problem even if she tells you what it is?"


"No. So if she says she wants a technician at her home, you say...?"

"Yes, m'am?"

"That's right. And if she asks for a manager, what do you do?"

"I give her the manager."

"You get the manager. No voices. Remember?"

"Yes, m'am."

"Don't you 'yes, m'am' me, Scott. You know what can happen to you if I put in the word."


"I'll finish this call. And you, Scott, will have a mark on your record over this--no, don't say it. Just keep your mouth shut."

The phone clicked again.

"Mrs. Kurtz? Hello? Are you there?"


Musings du Jour. One of the things I'm slowly figuring out as I work on and research the genre for Beauregard is that crime writers like details. My guess is that it gives the detective narrators that little ping! of veracity, the one that says, "This isn't just a story, it's a dossier, or a witness's report for a court case." This may be one of the few genres that it's appropriate to give flat-out descriptions of people. So you can turn them in to the cops. Or at least have the option.

Whereas a straight fantasy story doesn't require meticulous physical descriptions with the introduction of the character, and is, in fact, a big turn-off. "He was a tall, blond giant of a man. His muscled rippled in the stiff breeze, and his sword...well, it was still in the sheath, but let's say it left a big bulge." No, with fantasy, you're supposed to suggest the physical characteristics of your little roleplayers by the way people respond to them. Or you can give their histories, the history of their races, a description of their homes. You might be able to get away with a physical description if (and only if) the physical description describes the choices they've made that reflect in their dress, bearing, etc.

"Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast smoking an enormous wooden pipe that reached nearly down to his wooly toes (neatly brushed)--Gandalf came by. Gandalf! If you had heard only a qharter of what I have heard about him, and I have heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale." -- The Hobbit.

"The man's tie was orange as a sunset. He was a large man, tall and meaty, without softness. The dark hair parted in the middle, flattened to his scalp, his firm, full cheeks, the clothes that fit him with noticeable snugness, even the small, pink ears flat against the side of his head -- each of these seemed but a differently colored part of one same, smooth surface. His age could have been thirty-five or forty-five." --Dashiell Hammett, "Too Many Have Lived."

Other genres? I don't know. The sci fi that I read tends to cross all sorts of boundaries, so it's hard to generalize. I don't really read much straight fiction, although...let me check a particular favorite:

"'When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets,' Papa would say, 'she made the niping off of noggins such a crystal mytery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, watzing around her, hypnotized with longing. "Spread your lips, Sweet Lil," they'd cluck, and show us your choppers!"'" -- Katherine Dunn, Geek Love

(Sorry about the over enthusiastic quotation marks. When I was a kid, I'd write letters like this: "Hi -----. Well, I don't know much. See ya, DeAnna. P.S. ..." and thence would follow the actual letter, each topic gaining another postscript.

Yup. I've been annoying my whole life.)
Zoo Stories, by Alward Edbee.

Saturday morning I took Ray to the zoo. When you're a zoo member, you can go an hour early. In the cool. Before the lassitude settles over everything like a plague of flies. Before the class trips come out.

The bad news about early morning zoot trips. The little bunnies in the petting zoo aren't awake yet. And they have little baby bunnies, too. I'm not that big on bunnies, mind you; for some reason I'm more comfortable around domesticated carnivores and omnivores than I am herbivores. Nevertheless, when your loved ones go all gooey over the things, you forget about all the french recipies for rabbit that you know. The good news. The gorillas are up. One of the female sat near the window and played with Ray. Ray would shake her head "no," and the gorilla would shake her head "yes." Want to know why gorillas are cool? They'll play with your kid. On the other side of the glass, of course. Plus, if you're really good, they'll pick their noses for you. A good part of having fun at the zoo is watching animal do things in public that humans have, uh, decided was bad taste.
Mrs. Kurtz, fit the eigth. On Hold.

The beginning of a scream--the kind of scream that makes people call the cops--

She exhaled. As if her breath were a loaded weapon and she wasn't ready to fire it yet.

"Yeah, you might say there's a problem."

The voice was pretty well disguised. If she hadn't heard her "service engineer" warming up, she wouldn't have known it didn't belong to a woman. "Yes?" he said, feminine, educated, confident, and more than a little pressed for time.

"Yeah. Aliens."


"Aliens." Mrs. Kurtz resurrected her South Carolina childhood. "Aliens have taken over my computer. Your cable modem line was what done it. I know it. Nothin' ain't workin' no more, and I hold you folks responsible." She paused and reloaded her lungs. "Now put your fucking manager on the line, you little piece of shit! You didn't put me on hold. I heard you change your voice."

She could hear his blood freeze.

A third voice mumbled, "Oh shit."


Mrs. Kurtz, fit the seventh.

"What seems to be the problem?"

"The problem seems to be that you're an ass. My cable modem is broken."

"Broken how?"

"How the hell should I know?"

"M'am, I can't help you if you don't tell me what the problem is."

"Bullshit. Send a repairman. I've wasted enough damn time on this phone call. Unlike some people, I don't get paid to chat."

"M'am, I'm going to have to put you on-- "

"Just give me your manager."

"Uh, m'am--"

"Now." She'd made that most sacred of demands. Back when she was in customer service, she would have-- "No voice mail. No messages that fall behind the monitor. No dropping the call. I know you punks. Get me your manager. Right...now."

"Hold, please."

He must have pressed the wrong button, because she could hear him clear his throat.

"Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me," he said. With each repetition, his voice slid higher. The phone clicked.

"Excuse me, are you Mrs. Emmaline Kurtz? My name is Bethany Tjeerdsma-Brunswick."

"You're the manager?" If she'd known the word, Mrs. Kurtz would have described herself as incredulous.

"Yes. There is some problem? How may I help you?"

Mrs. Kurtz inhaled.


Review. The Last Hero, by Terry Pratchett. Ill. Josh Kirby.

What happens when you get old? What happens when you get old only because the world has changed too much? What happens when all the people that defined your era are dead? But for you, your gang of friends, and one last enemy?

You keep busy. Or you go out in style.

The writing is good, the illustrations are perfect. My only bitch is that the story wants to be a little longer...it feels like it was over-edited for length.

Nevertheless, this is a good book for anyone who's ever raised her fist (or other digits) to the powers that be.
Mrs. Kurtz, On Hold, fit the sixth.

"Can I have your phone number, m'am, starting with area code?"

"Don't you hang up on me. Or I will call back and talk to your manager. Scott. I know who you are. No matter how long I have to wait on hold this time. Don't even think of crossing me, because I'm one--"

"No, m'am. It's for--"

"And don't interrupt me. I am one vengeful bitch, and I will have you fired. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, m'am."

She wished she could see him: she'd be able to tell that she'd cowed him. Definitely. But he might be flipping her off right now. This was too easy. She tossed her hair out of her eyes and waited.

"May I have your phone number? M'am?"

"How rude. Ask me my name first."

"May I have your name?" He waited. "Please?"

"A little common curtesy works miracles. My name is Kurtz. Mrs. Emmaline Kurtz." And as an extra-special treat, she gave him her phone number.

For free.


Women. Apparently women do things to the male psyche that's good for it. Or maybe it's just the whole "I like you. You like me? Yes!" thing. Or maybe it's friendship, closeness in general. Anyway, I'm kind of seeing a friend of mine, uh, loosen up in ways I didn't know he was too tight.

But he did say that he was kind of sexist. I denied this, and told him that the only thing a feminist could yell about was the male-protect-female thing. And when that's all said and done, isn't a bad thing. Maybe it's just that I'm not the kind of chick that needs to be treated too much differntly (I don't worry about toilet seats, for instance), but I just don't see it.
Food Tried out a new technique for pork chops on Wednesday: brining. (Most of you can just skip this.) Brine: 4c (1 quart) water, 1/4c. salt, 1/4c. sugar. Marinate for 1 1/2 hrs, then grill, roast, or broil. Very nummy.
Tai Chi I went to my first class last night, here. I'm still trying to understand. It was good. That much I know. I woke up this morning with little soreness (mostly in the ankles, what there was of it), but my skin was waxy. Waxy! Not oily. Not sweaty or sticky. No. Pardon me for being, uh, gross, but the last time I felt skin like this was on corpses at the nursing home, years ago.

The class consisted both of white belts and other colors. (You get belts for this, because self-defense techniques are taught alongside the wellness techniques.) The white belts didn't say a word to me, but the other four people were all polite, all introduced themselves. Half the class was slow movements and much breathing; half the class was a workout with a long staff. I got to fart around with a metal fan a little, which, due to the innumerable bamboo/paper contraptions I fluttered over childhood tea parties, I was able to open, shut, and flip over without thumping myself or scraping up my hands.

About halfway through the class, I felt both tired and trambling with nervous energy.

I was probably trying too hard.
In case ye've not heard, the group from Florida (Roland, Philip, and Sharon) are coming to Colo. Spgs. from the 13th to the 18th. Also Steve Tooms (did I spell that right?) may be accompanying them. More than this I do not know even as a solid rumor.

Much gaming is scheduled to be done. Lee's working on a Champs scenario that promises a good, if somewhat twisted, good time. Possibly also Star Wars and something by Doyce shall be run.

Locations and schedules currently unknown.
Doyce came over on Wednesday, finally!

I wonder if he has dreams about his cel phone in which it doesn't ring--it crawls out of its holster, and sloooowly creeps up his shoulder and whispers in his ear, "Phone call, ssssir..." Then it clasps his ear in an embrace best described by H. P. Lovecraft.

Apparently the man is doing cool things with '30's-era pulp fiction & radio melodrama, in relation to RPG's. And he's busy. And he thinks bad puns deserve a good glare now and then.
Mrs. Kurtz, On Hold, part the fifth.

After eighteen minutes, she was no longer amused.

"Uh, what freaky messages?" The service engineer sounded sincere.

"The messages I had to hear for eighteen minutes by my clock. Can you un-der-stand that? I wasted eighteen minutes of my fucking time waiting for your ass to pick up the phone. What do you think I do? Watch TV all day? Eighteen minutes I listened to that crap about the aliens--"

"Aliens? What aliens?"

"At first it was just the janitors, you know. And now it's practically everybody. Eighteen minutes of this crap. Do you understand? Or are you an alien, too? Jim T. Biggins is a fucking nut, whoever he is--"

"I'm sorry, lady. I heard he lost it, but I didn't know--"

"What? What's going on with this company. I'm almost ready to drop it and switch to--"

"It's all taken care of. I probably shouldn't tell you this, but Mr. Biggins has been fired for racism. Nobody knew he'd changed the message. I guess he--"

"Racism? Fuck this. My husband is black and I have two beautiful children. I'm not giving our hard-earned cash to some bunch of cocksucking racist pigs."

"You're not, m'am. That's why he got fired."

"What about the aliens?"

"What about 'em? We're really controlled by the Japanese."

"Fucking Japs," she said.


Published! The humor/erotica short story, "Customer Service" has been accepted and posted at Hoot Island here. It is, of course, dedicated to Lee. This sort of thing happens to him all the time.


Reviews. V for Vendetta, Issola

V for Vendetta, Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Good. Don't get me wrong. Very good. Not quite good enough. I don't buy the characters and plotlines the way I could the ones in Watchman. I didn't care about the whole thing nearly as much. I wasn't awestruck by literary genius. But don't get me wrong. Very, very good.

In addition, it always gets under my skin when people use "enlightenment" or "illumination" as a justification for violence. And vengeance, too, is pretty low on my list of motivations. But...Watchmen pulled off the same thing, brilliantly and painfully, and made me like it. What bugs me, I guess, about the use here is that the characters who use such motives don't pay for their actions the way they do in Watchmen. Sure (spoiler here), V bites it. He dies. Know what? Everybody dies. Mere death doesn't count as payment for one's actions. And the girl who takes over for him in the end...she should have died. She stands in front of the crowd at the end, makes a big speech, and disappears. But she should have died, right then and there. Some guy claiming to be Timothy McVeigh stands on a brick wall and starts talking about freedom, you don't let him walk just because someone in authority said he was dead.

But it's still better than anything that I've written, and better than most of the stuff that I've read.

But I can't include Issola, by Stephen Brust, in that category.

Stephen Brust is almost a master of the craft -- we're talking one or two more books before the status is unquestionable. He was always close, and here he gets closer. I won't put any spoilers in here, becuase bad things will happen to me if I do. If there's anything that'll make my in-laws come after me...

Brust has begun to pull everything together: his themes seem to be converging.. To Reign in Hell is suggested, as is The Gypsy. I didn't like Agyar -- mostly becuse I picked up the thing and identified the character as a varmpire from the first page -- but I want to read it again, because it seems...important.

This isn't the book to start with. It's the least stand-alone of all the Vlad books so far.

More than this I shall not say. (Woman, bite your tongue!)

Go Brust!


The Writing LIfe. You know, there was a big frou frou when people switched from typewriters to word processors. And there's been another frou frou about contractual rights pertaining to the internet (when a print mag buys FNASR, First North American Serial Rights, does that cover the internet? Are people who are buying stories paying the authors not to post their stories on their personal websites? Are they paying them enough?). But have you noticed that more and more writers have websites? Or at least fan websites? While print magazines, in general, refuse to accept e-mail submissions, they do want your e-mail. And I get my submission information solely over the internet -- it's easier to track down smaller magazines and webzines (obviously), and YOU CAN E-MAIL THE EDITOR TO SEE IF THE DANG THING STILL EXISTS.

Is the internet a part of the writing life now?

Mrs. Kurtz ran into a dead end, but she hasn't died. I wrote the last segment, and it sucked. I haven't forgotten.
Ray Babies like to crawl around naked.


In the mail. In the interested of Science, I've sent "One Cool Million," in its shortened form, to On Spec. Ok, ok, I'll send it tomorrow. Post office closed, sort of fing.
Neat! I always knew those Canadians kicked ass.

On Spec is a Canadian SciFi print magazine that has graciously posted a list of Thou-shalt-nots and the related Turkey City Lexicon. But here's the cool stuff.

My brother-in-law Mike (hi, Mike!) gave us a copy of the book Complete Idiot's Guid to Publishing Science Fiction. I recommend it, not because it has the most amazing writing advice I've ever seen, but because it's a good place to start. All the really obvious things you need to know before you start sending in stories -- like standard manuscript formatting -- are covered, and in such a way that a) your delicate writerly ego isn't hurt and b) that it defuses the nervousness: "I'm just not ready to start submitting..." Which, believe me, I understand.*

The reason I mention this book is that I needed the really obvious publishing stuff pointed out to me...so I read and liked the book. And in the book, it mentions terms from the Turkey City Lexicon. Ah-ha! Sure enough, Mr. Doctorow is from Canada.

And FURTHER, Mr. Doctorow writes for one of my favorite websites, BoingBoing.

I take personal satisfaction in following these connections.

*Nevertheless, do it anyway. Start big: you might get published. YOU MIGHT GET PAID. And then don't stop submitting once you get rejected. But that's what they say.


Now! With YACCS comments!
Hoot Island. The folks at Hoot Island have seen my story...and I think they like it. I'm working on the frame story over the weekend and sending it back to them. Keep your legs crossed for me, will ya?
Mrs. Kurtz, On Hold, part the fourth. Note: The hubby's name has been changed to Marcus.

Mrs. Kurtz squealed. "Marcus!"

"What about it, woman? Can't you see I'm busy?" Marcus flipped through a copy of the TV Guide.

"Fine," she said. He wanted to watch cable television when he could have been using the internet, fine. Fine. The ignoramus got his recommended dailly allowance of porn by paying for it. Fine. "Nevermind, just some special offer I'm sure we can't afford."

Marcus grunted.

The message repeated five times while she scraped what letfovers the dogs hadn't eaten into the garbage, changed Desi's diaper, contemplated getting a fill on her nails this Saturday, bitched at her kids for leaving their crap underfoot, and flipped through Marcus's discarded TV guide. Because the bastid had gone out. And she had a kink in her neck now from holding the damn phone on her shoulder.

Jim T. Biggins said, "I know there's nothing I can say to make you belive me, but..."


"Hello my name is Scott and in order to serve you better may I have your phone number?"

"You ain't gettin' nothin' until you tell me what the hell kind of jerk-offs you have leaving freaky messages on your answering machine."

Graduation! Ray's too big for the infant car seat. The straps just won't stretch any more. She's too long. Today: the big carseat. The sitty-uppy carseat. The forward-facing carseat. For some reason, I keep hearing George Thorogood songs in my head.
Writers? Maybe this is you.

Do you remember all the people, as you were growing up, that were going to be writers? What happened to them? Especially that one kid in junior high--oh so much cooler than I--who wrote that great sci-fi military story, the one I dared criticise, because I just do? I started beating my head against the wall, it seems, about the time he stopped. I threw some airy fancy together about people living in retreat from ecological disaster, sent it off to a youth writer's camp, and drove off in a van with a communist martial artist, a living Jane Austen character, and a grammatically correct grandma who extolled the virtues of public radio and prudishness. I've only held an English teacher in contempt once, and it wasn't her. Drove off--came back. Esme and I had a roommate who has probably either overdosed or had too many kids too young by now. By the end of the first day, the divinely serene Miss Esme (she enjoyed being long-distance runner, if that tells you anything) vouchsafed to me that while she, too, had had hardships as a child, she didn't feel it necessary to tell everyone around her. And the first contemporary poet that I ever read and liked sold and signed for me a professional chapbook.

The mind boggles. Whether or not they're famous--whether or not they're published--isn't what I want to know. Do they write? At least I know Lee still writes (he says he's working on a story for me!). And Doyce still writes. I haven't kept in touch otherwise.