Thoughts on e-readers and the self-publishing revolution.

I finally finished watching Iron Man today. Not bad.

But my brain jumped a few links and ended up here: the publishing revolution will depend on better batteries.

I've been reading Doyce's links and ponderings about the future of the publishing industry. Most self-publishers, no matter what that crowd self-reports, currently come across like a bunch of punks who play three chords REALLY LOUD and wear razors dangling from their ears from paper clips. Okay, edgy, sure, and clearly a group that's destined to be recorded in history as forerunners of whatever comes next, but movers of the hearts and minds of humanity as a whole? No.

The revolution currently depends on getting people to read for entertainment on their computers, because the best traditionally-formatted self-published books can aspire to be is...books. And sitting in front of a computer gets old. I get my RDA of repetitive stress injuries at work, thanks. And Kindles are so meh.

It's not that the book format is the ultimate format, but until the alternatives are better for me, why bother with meh?

The mighty book:
  • Does not require a power source except in instances where humans require power sources anyway (i.e., lighting, the ability to move).
  • Can be replaced cheaply if damaged (usually); thus, can be read in the bathtub.
  • Can be explored rather than searched for.
  • Can be interacted with physically (smelled, touched, listened to, riffled).
  • Can be collected.
  • Can be illustrated in color.
  • Can be loaned.
  • Can be borrowed.
  • Can be entrusted to a baby (board books, rubber books).
  • Can be produced in different sizes (comic books).
  • Can have a "total package" for marketing purposes - in fact, have covers for just this purpose.
  • Are reliable.
There are probably lots more, and a lot of these things e-readers might bypass pretty easily.

I would have to agree with Doyce in that the next thing in literary-type entertainment is community, and it's hard to have a community with just a book. So: the revolution needs the Internet. And e-readers might be the bridge between the community of the Internet and the freedom of a book.

But right now, a Kindle is just another piece of crap you have to babysit. A second cell phone or MP3 player or micro laptop or GPS or whatever. What does a Kindle do that a cell phone can't do?

It's bigger, easier to read (or so I hear), and it saves batteries.


Flexible laptop screens are in development. But batteries? ZOMG a laptop batter that lasts more than 3 hours!!11! I don't know how long cell phones last as I don't use them, but I'm always hearing people bitch about dead batteries, so probably not all that much longer.

I'm prepared to buy a cell phone when it's my:
  • cell phone
  • laptop
  • e-reader (and can display graphic-novel-level illustrations)
  • music and video player
  • and I can throw it in my backpack for a month-long expedition into the desert, with a few stretches in the ocean, and not have to worry about how I'm going to charge the thing.
I can carry around a book indefinitely.

The people, the people are ready for a revolution. But the batteries, the batteries aren't ready.

Improv Writing: Not supposed to be.

There's blood on the floor, and there's not supposed to be. It's only one drop of a nosebleed, but there it is, still mahogany-red on the tiles.

There's blankets on the couch, and there's not supposed to be. But it's lonesome back in her bedroom, and she can listen to the sounds of us breathing, if need be.

There's a glassiness in her smile, and there's not supposed to be. I see it in her pictures, trying to recapture the way people smiled back at her when she was a baby. Did she become less precious? Why don't people notice her the way they used to?

There's a way she tells you about her dreams, the way the ends of her sentences fade out, because she can't say it right, and I remember she could run long before she would talk. And she can make me laugh, but it'll be a long time before she can tell jokes.



We played Faery's Tale from Firefly Games tonight with Ray, her first RPG. Lee GM'd.

Game review:
  • Good setting for kids: faeries vs. goblins.
  • The rules were easy enough for Ray to understand (at 7.5 years old).
  • The rules and character creation were not so oversimplified that I was frustrated.
  • There are options for different types of and more complex characters, which we didn't use.
  • Gorgeous book art.
  • Have to buy book not through Firefly Games but through Green Ronin press. Faery dice did not arrive as ordered; haven't been able to contact customer support through ordinary channels.
Lee had a lot of fun GMing, I think. (He had a lot of props on hand, too.) And Ray had some fine ideas for getting out of binds, once she calmed down from the thrill of Something Horrible Has Just Happened to Your Character, Now What? Seriously - she was so excited, she spent about a quarter of the game running in circles around the couch.


HBO is doing a series for The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency, and the first episode is tonight.


Recipe: Angeled Eggs.

Easter is going to be a Ray Day, which works out pretty well, since it's right around the half-birthday mark. We will spoil her rotten, favorite foods, treats, an Easter-egg hunt...the works. One day a year to spoil someone you love is not enough, you know? Special request: a silly-string fight.

So we were discussing what she wanted to eat, and I told her I'd be making deviled eggs with the Easter eggs, since I liked deviled eggs so much. She wanted to know what was in them, so I told her: she loves hard-boiled eggs, but doesn't care for mustard.

"Well, can you make them with no mustard?" she asked.

"How about we make angeled eggs?" I asked.

"What's that?"

"I don't know..." I said. "We will have to invent it."

Ray was more concerned with the visuals. "How will we put a halo on it? And wings?"

"I'm just going to figure out the flavors for now," I told her.

Here's what we did:

Slice 4 hardboiled eggs in half lengthwise and pop out the yolks.
Mix with about 1/4c. mayo, 1t lemon juice, and 2t sugar.
Fill the whites with about 1T of filling.
Sprinkle with fleur de sel.

You wouldn't think they'd be good with the sweetness. But you'd be wrong. We also tried them with sugar sprinkled on top, but it wasn't quite as good.

Now: how the heck am I going to get halos on those eggs?


Snow Eve.

So I left work at noon-thirty today, because I'd finished everything except stuff I could work from home. It's supposed to snow all night tonight, and part of the day tomorrow, and I doubt I'll be heading in to work before noon tomorrow.

Before I left, I put all the food I had at my desk and set it out with a note: Emergency Stash! A number of people were planning to stay overnight if the snow got bad enough to close the base. A case of breakfast bars, two cans of soup, and some hot sauce. I told a couple of people, but everyone seems to have brought piles of food. For some reason, one guy brought in a case of eggs.

The weather wasn't bad when I left, but by the time I got home, I was glad I'd left when I did. The entire drive home, I was thinking, "More snow! More snow!" and remembering Blizzards I Have Known.

At day care, Ray wanted to walk out the door with her hood off and her jacket unzipped. Maybe I should have let her. If she were nine or ten I would have let her, but not today. I bit back telling her to be careful, and she slipped down the grassy hill. I had to laugh. "It's a blizzard!" she said. "The worst blizzard ever!" I told her of course it wasn't and then regretted it. It was a thrill running through the wind with the snow crawling inside my clothes. Ray said, "It's a blizzard!" all the way home.

At home, the first thing I did was go out to Bunnita's cage. She was sitting on top of her hut, out of the wet on the concrete. I opened the lid to the cage, and she ran to her litter box. When she intends not to get caught, she settles into an open corner, so she has multiple escape options. The litter box is easy to reach into, and she can be boxed in. I picked her up as she was making a half-hearted run for it; she burrowed into my jacket as I brought her into the house.

I took off my coat and started untying my shoes, then noticed the shed door was halfway open. I'd dragged out the hose a few days ago and let Ray run around with it, watering plants, bushes, and apple trees. I have one apple tree that's taken off; it's gone from under chest high to beyond reach over the last two years; the other tree hasn't done anything. The yard has turned into a slab of gravel again, despite all the gravel I pulled out last year. The snow felt colder, but then I wasn't buttoned up as well as I had been earlier.

I called Lee from the house and told him the roads were starting to freeze, then called the girls at work: nobody answered, for which I was grateful. I left a message with the most recalcitrant of the bunch. Go home. The roads are bad. Because I didn't really believe she'd left, only ignored the phone because she was tired of people nagging her to get out while she could.

The bathtub was still draining and foul-smelling from last night. I can't find any drain cleaner. It's probably something too difficult and expensive for home repair, anyway. At least the shower's fine. I questioned Ray, both dreading and hoping for a positive response: "I need you to tell me the truth. Even if it's weird. You didn't put anything down the drain last night, did you?" But no.

I screwed around online for awhile. My fingers got cold, then colder, so I got up. You know how you're cold and you get up and check the temperature on the thermostat, and it's what it ought to be? I got up to check the thermostat and the wind had blown the door open. I locked the door.

Ray and I played a half-dozen games of "animal rummy." She's at the right age for it, finally. I kicked her butt up and down, all through the town. She came close a couple of times. I cut her off when she started to get red in the face. I still haven't picked up a chess set for us yet. She said, "I haven't been able to play a lot of card games," so I must not have made her too mad.

The cat was wandering around with a wad of hair in his mouth. His winter coat is shedding. I brushed him while visibility faded in and out. He's getting old: his coat wasn't full of the knots and small pieces of grass he used to have, and he purred instead of trying to bite me out of revenge for all the static the brush kicked up. I end up with a good fistful of gray fur. At least that won't end up underfoot, wet and hideous, at 5:30 a.m.

Ray and I playinged "Wizards 101," a free online MMORPG for kids. I love one of the games on there; I ended up playing it to the point where Ray abandoned me for other things. I both enjoyed playing it and wished I hadn't started. Once again, I remind myself that I should never gamble, shouldn't play poker for money. It isn't the MMOs that get me - It's the stupid side games.

It took Lee an hour to drive half a mile, then another half-hour to drive the rest of the way home. He said he felt sorry for some people heading the other direction, who were spinning their tires on a 25-degree hill.

I long for a hot bath in a room that doesn't smell foul. I'll probably take a shower anyway.

It's turned into the kind of do-nothing evening that gets under my skin and leaves me depressed, so I turned off the computer game and started writing this blog entry, because I want a tangible result for the day. I wrap up in a blanket, and the evening becomes less oppressive: the heater's fighting to keep up with the wind, and I realize I've been cold for hours. I'm bad at cold. It was heaven when I started college: the dorm rooms were baking hot all winter long.

I wrapped a blanket around Ray. She ditched it, then pulled her arms inside her shirt. I wrapped her up again, and she put her head in my lap. I leaned down to kiss her ear and got a mouthful of static electricity. It's not snowing.

More snow! More snow!


Which comes first...

The egg or the Smashing Creme Egg accordian band?

This clip has one of the best rube goldberg devices ever. Evah!

Short-short: Escape from Kindergarten

I wrote this about a year ago now, when Ray was in kindergarten.*


They said it couldn't be done. But I am Juan. And Ella remembered the toothpaste.

Miss Breegan poured my orange juice and when she didn't look I squeezed and squeezed and Ella said "take the cap off stoopid" and Miss Breegan said "Ella hush" but she wasn't looking, so I did and it all went blllllllllup into the cup and I stirred the orange juice with my lucky crayon and drank toothpaste orange juice but it wasn't gross enough so I stuck a finger all the way down on my tongue and wiggled it until I puked brown bubbles and Ella said, "Miss Breegan, Juan blew chunks all over my uuuuuuunicorn" and Jasmine screamed and Miss Breegan said "Oh Juan" and walked me to the nurse's office but at the last second I escaped and ran outside and grabbed my jetpack from the bushes and I flew to my dad's house and made him go to mom's house and say sorry and she said sorry back.

They said it couldn't be done. But I am Juan. And I can do anything.

*About a month ago, two little boys in first grade ran away from school. They had a plan and everything. Ray was unable to report why they did it, though.


Recipe: Fish Tacos.

So the plan was to make fish tacos. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to pick up beer and cabbage. I decided to walk to the Mexican grocery store and get the cabbage, then stop at the liquor store on the way back.

On the way to the grocery store, which was about a mile away, all told, I started making plans to get all my April groceries from there, walking, as an experiment. Carrying a six pack on the same day one has done all kinds of exhausting things to one's muscles is not such a good idea, especially when the last block is up a hill, and by the time I had arrived back home I had abandoned my plan, at least the walking part.

The beer was New Belgium's seasonal pale ale, Mighty Arrow. It's about as bitter as coffee. I usually don't like pale ales, but I loved this one. Is there a beer New Belgium can make that I don't love? Oh, yeah. I wasn't too fond of Skinny Dip, and I usually can't cope with IPAs. Well, I shall have to find out.

This is, to date, my favorite frying batter. I am going to leave the oil on the stove until I have a chance to fry up some mushrooms with it. While I had the oil hot, I coated a few pieces of cheddar with flour and batter and fried them, too - total success. The opposite of fail, although they do like to puff up and turn into cheese balloons instead of staying in nice cubes. About a half-inch square seemed about right. Too small, you get balloons. Too big, the inside doesn't get gooey, just warm.

I also tried frying very thin slices of lime. I had lemon-jalapeno slices at Nosh when I ate there, and they were excellent. I think I cut the slices too thin, and the batter is different. I had better luck just frying the slices in flour than flour-and-batter. I was thinking the batter was just panko, but panko burn so quickly and the slices brown so slowly that I suspect panko is not the answer. Anyway, the slices were incredibly, additively bitter from the whites, but the fruit and peel were chewy and delicious. What to do, what to do.

The thing about fish tacos is that they're aren't Mexican. They're Southern Californian. So don't think of the cabbage-white sauce combination as crazy, think of it as spicy coleslaw to go with your fancy fish sticks.

I love catsup and mayo with my fish sticks, but I love capers even more, so I was won over by the spicy tartar sauce.

Fish Tacos (adapted from Allrecipes).

1/2 cabbage, shredded
1 quart oil for frying
1 pound mild white fish fillets, cut into finger-sized pieces diagonally across flesh (we used tilapia, cod is traditional)
soft corn tortillas (we used taco shells, which turned out to be inferior!)

White sauce:
1/2 c plain yogurt (used sour cream; it tasted too strongly of sour cream)
1/2 c mayonnaise
1 lime, juiced
about 1/4 of a jalapeno pepper, minced
1 t minced capers
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t dried dill weed
1 t chipotle powder (or cayenne)

1 c all-purpose flour
2 T cornstarch
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt (this was not enough salt)
1 egg
1c beer

Mix ingredients and set aside to let the flavors meld.

Chop 1/2 cabbage and fish. Make sure the fish are fully thawed, if frozen, before frying.

Heat 1 quart of oil to frying temperature, which is 375 degrees or the point at which you can drop a droplet of batter in and have it turn golden in about 30 seconds.

Mix the dry ingredients for the batter. Mix the egg and beer and add to the dry ingredients.
Don't do this ahead of time; you want to keep the baking powder in the batter right at the point where it's still reacting to the beer, which will make the fried batter more delicate.

Put about 1/2 c. flour in dish one and the batter in dish two. Cover 5-6 fish pieces with flour, shaking off excess, then dip in batter and drop in oil. Fry until golden-brown and drain on paper towels.

Pan-fry the corn tortillas in a couple of tablespoons of oil, a few seconds on each side. Put cabbage, a couple of pieces of fish, and white sauce in tortilla and eat!

Weekend in Review.

Friday. Worked on a freelance murder mystery expansion pack for Freeform Games. Gave up on it; it felt like pulling teeth, trying to write out character sheets for my ten characters. It seemed like such a good idea, too: motive, method, opportunity; participation in major pre-existing plots; goals; bonuses; loves, hates, knows. Sucked the life out of making up the characters, I tell you.

So I read the entirety of A Shadow in Summer in the bathtub while the water got cold and I had to pee. There's a compliment for you: not, "It was so good I stayed up all night" but "It was so good I forgot to pee."

Saturday. I went to a free yoga class in the morning. This was significant for two reasons. One, when you're done with a yoga class, you feel like you've accomplished something. The next day, you know you've accomplished something. My heart center is closed; I have no balance. Two, the class was out at the Air Force Academy. I coolly flashed my badge and drove through the gates and promptly got lost. I did find the place in time for class, though, when I remembered I hadn't turned off the main way until after the big planes on the side of the road. Pain level: 1 acetaminophen, and only today. I was gently interrupted during class by an older black woman who told me she was so flexible she was about to put her foot in my face, could I please scoot down on my mat? Sure enough, while I was at about a 45-degree angle, she had her foot on the floor over my head. She apologized profusely afterwards. I just wanted to pinch her cheeks she was so cute and nice; I want to be her when I grow up.

I went grocery shopping afterwards and ate all kinds of snacks at Whole Foods, Costco, World Market, and Target. (I also considered stopping at El Liborio, but I was tired of shopping, and Mexican grocery stores do not serve snacks. IMO, the only real drawback.) I also stopped at PetCo but did not eat any of the snacks (doggie biscuits), even though they smelled good.

I tried some pu-erh tea at World Market. Yummy. All the reviews of it call it an "earthy" tea, but I'd have to say it was more like non-bitter black tea with green-tea umami flavor. However, fifteen baglets for ten dollars is not going to fly at my house, so I snooped around online for places that carried it. It turns out Stash has more kinds of tea than you dare shake a stick at. I like their stuff whenever I get it, so I'm going to eschew smaller companies with esoteric names and order from them. However, as I have set a goal of drinking up the tea in my cuboard before I get any more, I will wait. I have about thirty bags left, plus about a pint of loose-leaf thai coconut tea and some Korean barley (?) tea from Kate. I'm not going to hold myself to drinking the last two, though. There's just too much of the thai tea, and I don't crave either regularly.

I was wondering if I'll ever get to shop at a Trader Joe's. Probably not in Colorado until the state allows food stores to sell alcohol.

I made myself a salad (Lee and Ray had gorged themselves on McDonald's earlier in the day) and took a nap. When I woke up, I decided that Saturday was not a writing day but a Day of Food Experimente and made fish tacos. Lee declared that it was another one of those dishes he doesn't like unless I make it. [Glow.] I also made the cheese bread recipe out of the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. The bread turned out not to be terribly cheesy but easily my favorite recipe to date. I think it's the oil in the cheese - the bread was much softer. But the cheese did add an element of umami, sheer deliciousness, even though the sharp cheddar bite didn't come through at all.

I watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with Ray and slept with her in bed, as Lee had declared earlier in the evening that he was going to play Fallout 3 until late.

He says he ended up killing one of the NPCs as an experiment and intending to reload to a save point afterwards, but forgot - and ended up saving over his last save game. Start over? O noes!

I'm so glad I still get good snuggle time with Ray. Everybody warned me there would come a time when she would no longer do want to do so, but it hasn't come yet. We always end up having sleepover-talks when we sleep, usually about how to deal with nightmares. I tell her they're normal, that having a lot of nightmares seems to be tied to having a very creative brain, and it's a way for her brain to complain about things it doesn't like in the waking world, like being frustrated and scared and overwhelmed. We talked about why it's hard for her to fall asleep; she says it's because she keeps thinking too much. We talked about counting sheep and how one way to fall asleep is to trick your thinking-too-much brain into getting frustrated with all the stupid things you're thinking and give up. "One sheep, baaa. Two sheep, baaa. One hundred and fifty sheep, baa. O SHUT UP! OK OK OK I GIVE UP! AAAAHHHHH!" As I type this, I realize that most meditation techniques are the three-year-old brain forcing the adult brain to break down in tears. I told Ray saying OMMM was kind of the same thing. So she tried to say it under her breath, but I told her she had to say it out loud, because when you do it makes the bottom of your brain vibrate, which your thinking-too-much brain finds annoying.

Ray: OMMMM - hee hee hee - OMMMM - ZZZ.

I couldn't believe how fast she was out. Quick, even for her.

Sunday. I woke up early and decided to get up and write. I messed around on the computer, realized I wasn't getting anywhere, gathered all the character sheets for the main-pack characters, and ran a bath. I felt guilty about it, like I'd started drinking. I worked on a few more characters, but it was pulling teeth again. And Ray was chewing on her shirt again (she's been chewing on every @#$%^&* thing she can fit in her mouth lately with teething; the second pair of teeth on the bottom are loose; she chipped one of them but isn't in pain. I have to call the dentist on Monday to see if we should just have it pulled) so I was in and out of the tub what with the exile to the room/freedom.

Eventually, I gave up and got out. I sat down in front of the computer and just started writing the actual character sheet (instead of just the stats, as it were), and it went really well, and I said, "Why was I making such a big deal out of this?" By the end of the third character, I was worn out, though. So many things to check for consistency, you know, before you start writing, or else you're just going to have to start all over again, when you've already set the character in your mind. Ugh.

As always when I write at the computer, part of the time that my brain has its little hourglass icon up, I mess around with playlists on various sites. The December 2008 playlist, for example, had a lot of the songs I listened to throughout Alien Blue. The February 2009 playlist has a lot of songs I listened to while writing the last short story, about food and death. The March 2009 playlist is very jazzy and 50's (the murder mystery is called Hollywood Lies). Lost of Pink Martini, Cardigans, and some Madeleine Peyroux, who sounds just like frikkin' Billie Holliday. She's a white girl, though. Who knew? Robbie Williams does an excellent version of Beyond the Sea.

I took another nap and some pain meds when I woke up. Damn, yoga classes are hard.

Lee put up the pot rack for me today! I must say, it looks very sexy with the pans hanging proudly. They may not have copper bottoms, but I love their curves regardless. Also, after several months of on-and-off discussion, the damn thing is hung so sturdily that Lee was able to hang from the rack without making it budge, so I'm safe. We even discussed how to prevent anything coming loose if I should bonk my head on the pots, which made me feel better. I have this fear that my clutziness will cause significant damage to myself and others; I used to panic every time I came next to a balcony when Ray was a baby, out of fear that I would accidentally fling her over the edge somehow.

Wow. There's a morbid image with which to end a blog post. Oh yeah, for supper I tried implementing the baby-artichoke plan that Margie came up with, which was to saute the crap out of quartered chokes and braise them with wine. Only I used lemon juice and water, not being an oenophile. Report: even though they are baby chokes, they must be trimmed, outer leaves peeled, and tops cut off. Otherwise it went smashingly. I got some fleur de sel this weekend, so I sprinkled some of that on top. Smashing - it isn't the taste that's different, just the texture, a non-crunchy salt explosion. Using fine salt, you end up with overall saltiness; using kosher salt, you end up with annoying salt crunchies stuck in your teeth. Fleur de sel is like the dessicated salt we used to get in the bottom of the pan of softened water we kept on the woodstove to humidfy the farmhouse, back in the day. Quite tasty.

Next week should suck, between OT and racing to meet my Hollywood Lies deadline. Oh well.

Book Review: A Shadow in Summer

by Daniel Abraham.

If you're the kind of person who likes Gene Wolf or Umberto Eco but is left wondering whether you really understood what was going on, don't read the rest of this description, just read the book. It's be more fun to be surprised.

A Shadow in Summer is a fantasy about...hm...let's say it's about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. It's set in an alternate (or future?) India-type city in which the Western world is being dominated by an empire. A few cities have achieve a kind of independence through the power of their poets, who capture the embodiments of ideas and trap them in human form (called "andat"), with incredible powers. The problems are that 1) re-trapping an idea is harder every time and 2) each poet can only hold one such idea in his or her head at a time.

The story revolves around the current poet and his andat, Seedless, who ensures the city's prominence by removing cotton seeds from bales of picked cotton. Big deal, eh? But Seedless also deals in the sad trade, or abortion, when required, and could drop the next generation of the empire's children in a heartbeat, if he so desired. The poet, in a moment of self-loathing and doubt, created Seedless, and is now forced to carry his own nemesis with him: Seedless is conspiring to destroy the city and the poet himself.

That's not what the story's about. As for that, go find out for yourself.

A master-level book. This is the first part of a quartet: where the hell will it go from here, only reading the rest of the series can say.


Food fad: Salad

It seems like, every season or so, I gravitate to one easy-to-make dish and eat the heck out of it. This winter it was canned tomato soup. Last summer and into fall it was ramen with peanut butter and the kitchen sink. Last spring it was sushi.

Now, it is the SALAD.

I buy a box of pre-washed spring mix or baby spinach, and I'm good to go. I think the important revelation, for me, was buying a bottle of good sherry wine vinegar: it goes with almost everything, if you're short on ideas. And the second most important revelation was that hot meat + sherry + olive oil + cool salad = bliss.

Here are some of the more successful combinations of late:
  • Premixed Thai peanut sauce, blood oranges, red onions, lime juice
  • Grilled beef, blue cheese, pecans, red onions, grilled asparagus, sherry vinaigrette
  • Pears, pecans, romano, red onion, pomegranate-balsamic vinaigrette
  • Fried vegetarian mushroom ham (the perfect consistency for frying, and o mushroom deliciousness), black sesame seeds, shao xing wine, garlic, thai peanut sauce, lime juice
I am particularly fond of fruit + cheese + red onion salads.


A good box.

In the mail I got a box. In the box was another copy of Repo! The Genetic Opera, Beirut's Lon Gisland EP, and a book of Russian fairy tales. A very good box.

Improv Writing: Questionable.

Warning--->don't read this if you don't like embarrassing bits of information about yours truly. Mom. Not that's it's horrible or anything.

"The erotic instinct is something questionable." -- Carl Jung.

Ice cream; elephant trunks; stroking a ukelele; riffling the pages of a book; walking through crowds before a concert; ceiling fans; the sound of a keyboard clicking, pausing, clicking; melted chocolate on the fingers; nipples of course; green tea; the smell of bacon; fresh-washed hair; quiet snows; loud rain, long rain, any kind of rain at all; the smell of rain, but thunder and lightning must have been involved; fresh-ground pepper; harmony; anything that makes me laugh wickedly; solid (grain) wood; pine soap; Murphy's wood oil soap (which also reminds me of church); a new recipe, which I do not follow; beards; bones in the spine, which are never perfectly aligned; phallic objects, even if they make other people laugh; flower petals on the skin; letting go of the hard feeling between my eyes; faith, love, joy; as if one really were hungry; modern art, which is more due to my skill than that of cleverer illusionists; nudes (Why not more male nudes? Because if only men are visual, why do women look at them at all?); dancing, but only in grocery stores, or anywhere else I can get away with being noticeable but not stared at; couches that make embarrassing noises when you sit on them (leather); being surrounded; collapsing; mastering; sitting like a queen on a throne and feeling like the devil herself from The 9th Gate; Bolero, my first erotic song; vibrators, ones with funny shapes; the life-sized, crucified chocolate Jesus.

Improv Writing: Empowered!

From yesterday.

If I were truly empowered, I would run away from home and never come back. No, I could come back with a gun. No, I would come back with a run and flamingo-pink high heels, because I am empowered. To find myself. To say any outrageous--to do any outrageous thing whatsoever, without regret, or conscience.

See, that's the bad part, thought Suzy. Regret--who needs it? Just say "better luck next time" and move on. But to be without conscience?

To be truly empowered, then, was to deserve to be shot down like a dog. And what about envy? If being fully empowered means you never feel envy, you can shove it up your ass and garnish it with a tomato-skin rose.

"I want to be someone else," Suzy said as she looked in the mirror. "Not fully empowered. Just a little more powered." Then she pinched the fat roll around her waist and decided to go on a diet.

Empowered people can deprive themselves, she thought. They have that power too.

Book Reviews

Eden Moore books, by Cherie Priest.

Flora Segunda, by Ysabeau Wilce.


There's dark fantasy all over the place. Vampires! Werewolves! Tattoos! Sex! Did I Mention the Vampires?!?

Cherie Priest's Eden Moore books aren't dark fantasy. They're ghost stories. I love ghost stories, which may or may not contain ghosts but at least contain something 1) spooky that 2) must be faced, if only because it's in the same house.

So Eden. She's a southern girl. The American South is as full of ghosts as Great Britain, you know. They have Wuthering Heights. We have Gone with the Wind.* They have haunted castles. We have Graceland.

Eden can see ghosts. At first the ghosts are from her family, who are trying to protect her, because other people are trying to kill her, also from her family. It gets complicated. That's Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which I read half a year ago.

I just finished Wings to the Kingdom. Now, the ghosts are not from her family, but from the Chickamauga battlefield in Tennessee.

The first book started out so strong - threats to her life, backstory so strong you actually wanted to read it for its own sake, good characters, believable conflicts (i.e., a real mess all around) - that I was disappointed with Wings at first. Eh, the writing is good, but why bother? There aren't any threats to Eden herself, she's dealing with people because she's obligated to not because she has any internal motivation, she doesn't see much point in getting involved in anything actually interesting.

But if the first book's about Eden deciding she has a right to live, the second book's about her deciding what to do with her life, and the plot reflects that. A conundrum. Writing an honest story about finding a place in life doesn't start out with knowing it already - you go in false directions, you piss people off, you whine a lot. But then Eden gets her shit together. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the third book in the series, and other things she's written, like Dreadful Skin, which is about werewolves and lapsed nuns.


Flora Segunda, Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog is a YA Fantasy set in an alternate California populated by magicians and mad scientists. Check out the website - it's fun in and of itself.

Flora is the daughter of a military genius and her insane husband, and she's supposed to grow up to be a soldier. Instead, she wants to become a ranger, a magician-assassin-spy, a woman of many hats and talents. So when the opportunity comes to have an ill-considered adventure with her friend, a real fop, of course she goes for it. What could go wrong?

A lot. I won't say what. But it's fun. If you're looking for a lurid adventure novel about a girl who isn't a fantastic fighter, or a super magician, or preternaturally intelligent, or never gives up...yup, you will find a good novel to read in bed with your head under the covers and a flashlight. If you're an adult, ignore your Significant Other saying, "Why don't you just turn the light on?" Because IT'S NOT THE SAME, YOU FOOL!**

*Tell me there's no ghost. Go on, tell me. It's the entire Antebellum South! Notice the nose on your face much? Shyaa.
**No, Lee didn't say this. But then, I thought of it just now, so I will have to do that when I read the sequel, which is sitting on my shelf as I type.

Neil Gaiman vs. "Bombadil" Colbert!



Improv Writing.

So here's improv writing:
  1. No critiquing (especially in read-aloud situations).
  2. No censoring anything on paper. If necessary, say "bleep" when reading out loud.
  3. The prompts are just prompts, not binding.
First prompt: The door wouldn't open.

The door wouldn't open. The window wouldn't close. The cat wouldn't scratch. The snatch had been stolen. And we were all sitting around the table at Marbury's place waiting for the missus to come home. Boy, were we in trouble, Sammie and me.

But Fred wasn't in trouble. He was dead, poor sod. He got killt out in the getaway car, even before we knowed it had started to go wrong. The cops din't find us, the bank manager din't find us, the investors were insured and didn't give a shit, shit, shit.

I wanted to hear the alarm bells ringing, but it was quiet, because people more afraid of gettin shot than they are of gettin robbed, people so crazy nowdays. But Freddie was the one who got shot, and a stranger wore his hat [and took the money and run off].

And the door we locked won't come unlocked, and without the money, the missus gonna kill us. And the window is so high.

Second prompt: My first thought was that he lied in every word. (The one I read aloud. It hit me about halfway through the POV was the mom from my current project.)

My first thought was that he lied in every word. But I was fond of him, regardless, that son of mine. What mother wouldn't die for her son? Well, most of them, I think, if they had a son like mine. But he reminded me of Henry. The heartbreak of Henry, the "mad passion" you only find in romance novels. And I was fond of Henry, even then. Even as I felt my face falling and my heart turning to ashes, I was fond.

"Glenn," I said. "Of course I will follow you to the fairy woods. But your brother is gone. No matter what I do--if I let you bleed me--"

He interrupted me. "Mother! Don't talk like that. We don't need to find David that badly. I just--I want to go. I want you to see what's happened."

I felt old then. No, ashamed. Glenn was no Henry. Never would be. He'd never ask me to lay down my life. And not for some selfish, ill-considered purpose.

I cried.

But not until he had gone, and I was drunk.


A good experience, even if my envy is aflame...

Of course, Stephen's King's use of the "My first thought" prompt is waaaaay better than everyone else's, so I can feel a little better about it.

The Tower.

Today was a good day, but a hard one.

It started out with not making the first cut on the ABNA award, which is never an easy way to start the day, being impersonally notified of your not-brilliance.

But then it did a quick segue into being accused of something I didn't do, but would have done if I had been around to do so - getting caught in the middle of someone working herself up to quit, in my supe's words. It was unexpected. I felt like a stranger instead of an ally.

And I ground my way dully through the day until I got someone else's project dumped in my lap, to be finished COB. Work doesn't always magically end after eight hours, does it?

And then I went to Write Brain, on improv writing, and listened to other people be brilliant when I was only good.

My tarot card of the day is The Tower.
  • Chaos ----- Sudden change ----- Impact ----- Hard times
  • Crisis ----- Revelation ----- Disruption ----- Realizing the truth
  • Disillusion ----- Crash ----- Burst ----- Uncomfortable experience
  • Downfall ----- Ruin ----- Ego blow ----- Explosive transformation
Tomorrow, The Star.



There will be no ABNA news for you tonight! HAHAHAHA!

Still no news yet...

Update: I didn't make it to the quarterfinals (500), but I got to the 2000 that had excerpts reviewed. The reviews haven't been sent out yet, though.


So what comes before pulp?

I'm trying to put a finger on the fiction writing period from about 1900-1914. It's difficult. I'm not a historian, so please don't take all this as intended as authoritative, just throwing ideas around. And granted, there were pulp magazines at this time (Argosy started in 1896), but this just wasn't the Great Age of Pulps.

There seems to be a logical splitting point at the turn of the century - 1865-1900 - Late Victorian. 1900-1914 - Edwardian/Belle Epoque. High literature was still obsessed with Realism. Modernism was inventing itself but hadn't become popular (post-WWI).

But eh, I'm not really concerned with high literature. Something I'm finding is that popular and children's literature was becoming more fantastic (Oz, Burroughs, Dunsany, Chesterton). This was the start of the great era of ghost stories (MR James, EF Benson).

A common theme seems be that there are two worlds, a normal world and a secret one.

Spiritualism advanced the theory of the world of the dead as a scientific fact. Psychology (Freud and Jung) advanced theories that our minds weren't entirely aware of themselves, that much was hidden (in synchronicity, the Titanic sank in 1912 in a conflict between Science and That which Lies Beneath).

Socialists were becoming impatient with their alliances inside their national governments (the Russian revolutions started in 1914) at the same time that national governments were seeing the peak of nationalism (as WWI started in 1914). Inside the national pride were ethnic movements, threatening to split nations apart (e.g., Austria-Hungary). The British Empire had its last heyday; it was falling apart by the time WWI was over. But - for the time being - war was far away, in the dark corners of the world.

Science introduced the paradoxes of relativity.

The occult was prominent, with theosophy, OTO, and Golden Dawn either beginning or continuing strongly. The Third Great Awakening was still running its course among American Christians. The Pentecostal movement was setting tongues on fire.

It's like writers are warning, "You can only pretend to hold to the status quo for so long before it will all fall apart. 'Normal' will only take you so far." But that could just be hindsight from my perspective.

Selected works from the period:
The Wizard of Oz books (note: L. Frank Baum spent the end of the 19th century in Aberdeen, SD, which is probably the basis for "Kansas.") - Theosophist
Edgar Rice Burroughs - SF/F themes. Tarzan, Mars, Barsoom...
GK Chesterton - Christian allegorist. The Man who Was Thursday.
Lord Dunsany - Fantasy. The Book of Wonder.
JM Barrie - Peter Pan.
Frances Hodgson Burnett - A Secret Garden.
Rudyard Kipling - Just-so Stories.
Arthur Conan Doyle - Lost World books. (He became a Spiritualist, but that was later.)
Jack London - Call of the Wild. His mother was a Spiritualist.
Kenneth Grahame - Wind in the Willows
MR James - Ghost stories
EF Benson - Ghost stories
Gaston Leroux - The Phantom of the Opera
Baroness Orczy - The Scarlet Pimpernel
Maurice LeBlanc - Arsene Lupin, criminal mastermind.
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness.


Punchline of the Day:

The joke itself wasn't funny, just the punchline:

"...banging that woman like a screen door in a tornado."


Musical Interlude: Pink Martini

Meetings are good for me. I get a lot of brainstorming done, a lot of networking.

Like the other day. I was in a meeting and sat next to someone I don't talk to much. We spent the meeting passing notes back and forth making fun of the people on the other side of the teleconference, and now I have a friend for life. Very productive.

Anyway, I also like to brainstorm ideas while in meetings. The latest story idea started in a meeting. The person two chairs down was was talking about April Fool's Day, and the person next to him thought he said "paper fool's day" instead. "Paper Fools." How can you pass up a title like that?

Shortly afterwards, I got in a discussion about mass murderers, and why people wig out and kill their entire family. (The interesting answer we found was that the killers are so egotistical, they don't know where they stop and their families begin; to them, it's a thorough and responsible way to commit suicide, leaving no limbs behind.)

And then after that, I started to wonder, if some states legalize gay marriage and others don't, whether the states that do would see a lower level of domestic violence and lost-job-came-home-and-killed-wife-and-kids. (I saw a study that suggested gay relationships, not having to deal with sex roles as much as straight relationships do, were, on average, happier. If legalizing gay marriage makes straight marriage less valid as it is currently interpreted and people stop living out sex roles and reserving their true nature for their friends, then possibly couples would be happier and less likely to hurt each other. Possibly.)

And then I borrowed a Pink Martini CD.

Here's their version of Que Sera Sera. Creepy and campy at the same time, as atmospheric as the bubble clouds you get before a tornado.

Here's the lighter (but similarly-themed) Hang on Little Tomato, which strikes me as a Dave or Kate song, all swing clarinets. An LA Story song.

Here's Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler, the perfect theme song to not-doing housework. A Margie song if there ever was one; I think I'm going to try to memorize it, even though I'm going to have to look up a lot of the words.

And, finally, here's a salsa Bolero, with slightly (very slightly) NSFW still pictures (title of clip: "Lez movie's"). Alas, the only version I could find with a good soundtrack. I'm sure you're all devastated.

In the middle of all this is something. I just don't know what yet.

Insert witty Mark Twain quote here.

Blogging is easy when you're supposed to be working from home.

Curtain time!

I used to have dreams about showing up at high school naked, but they never really bothered me. Pfft. Those idiots were nothing compared to junior high. Or fifth grade, for that matter.

The dreams that would bother me were the ones where I would show up somewhere and someone would say, "You're late! You're supposed to be on stage right now! Don't you know your lines?"

Of course I wouldn't. And I'd stand in front of the crowd (naked or not) and be unable to move.

As I got older, I would think, "I'll make something up." But I never did.

I quit having the dreams eventually--during the last few, I'd just walk away from the stage--but I've always wanted to have a better solution, one where I'd sound all polished and stuff, even though I was just making up my lines. Right at that moment. Because I am just that suave.

But get me in front of a group of people, and my wit dries up like superglue between the teeth.

Pikes Peak Writers is holding their March Write Brain on the 17th, on Improv Writing. Yeah, I'm going. Yeah, I'm going to put my foot in my mouth. Yeah, I'm gutsy like that.


Two great tastes that taste great together: Yoga and RPGs

Yeah, I'm a nerd: I'm doing some yoga and thinking about my chakras (the solar plexus is bothering me lately, all wound up in knots and acid, but less so than in the past) and looking forward to taking a day off to play Warhammer when I realize RPG character classes fit with the chakras.

Oh, is nothing sacred? But the beauty of a good system of ideas is that you can fit other ideas on top of them, whether either system likes it or not. I've been using "leveling" instead of "crossing the gateless gate" for years, so I suspect I was bound to put these ideas together eventually.
  • Root (security, survival; earth) - Tank chakra - Protect others
  • Belly/sacral (sex, creativity; water) - DPS chakra - Use discipline to respond to the unexpected in unexpected ways
  • Solar plexus (power, growth; fire) - Blaster chakra - Raw power to control the situation
  • Heart (relationships, love; air) - Healer chakra - Restoring wholeness
  • Throat (expression, truth; sound) - Mage chakra - Can't stop the signal
  • Brow (insight; vision) - Rogue chakra - How does that lock work?
  • Crown (universality; aura) - Necromancer/Demon summoner chakra - Thinking along Stephen Brust lines here, crossing dimensions
I have doubts about Throat and Brow, but the rest seem pretty solid.

I watched the Watchmen!

Because, hey, the whole point of the movie was to answer that quasi-eternal question, by a technicality.

Lee and I saw the movie a la Consortium, arriving slightly later than we "should" have for the 7 p.m. IMAX showing. We moved directly to front-and-center seats, which was to produce amusing consequences but not neck cramps; the seats were very nice. The others sat in a more reasonable spot, the bastidges.

While awaiting the start of the movie, I overheard the young couple next to me saying:

HER: So what's this movie about anyway?
HIM: It's like Twilight for boys.
Yours Truly: You've got to be kidding me.
HIM: I mean, it's an adaptation of a book or something.
YT: Yeah, no.

The Harry Potter trailer, which was the only one we saw, looked better than expected. It's the same director as from HP and the Order of the Phoenix, but it looks like he leveled while he was out. I want to watch OOTP again; I keep mixing parts of it up with The Goblet of Fire, which disappointed me, so I'm probably think the OOTP was worse than it is.

Watchmen: I liked the movie. Good job, you know? I agree with onereviewer (I forget who) who went off about how Zack Snyder wasn't visionary (Alan Moore=visionary; someone copying Alan Moore's vision=not visionary), but good job. I don't need to really get into details--other people will do it better, see ***Dave's review, linked above--but every level was handled well, although not necessarily in synch with other people's expectations.

(For example, when I talked to people at work about the movie today, "It was too slow" came up a lot.*)

So what I have to say is just a few observations, places where I seem to have drifted from the norm. Spoilers follow:
  • I think ZS was making a point about Batman. Now, I don't think AM intended the Nite Owl II character to be a Batman knockoff (***Dave knew the original knockoffs but I'd never heard of them), but the connection has been posed many times since then. I think ZS took the recent Nolan Batman movies and picked out a few traits from Bale's portrayal and split them up between Nite Owl (techy goodness) and Rorschach (madness and strategy). The point? Batman is both; he isn't "crazy"--he's crazy. I feel the Nolan movies missed that (I liked them; they just weren't real Batman to me).
  • Dr. Manhattan gets progressively undressed throughout the comic and the movie--but it wasn't until I saw the movie that I made a connection between wearing clothes and feeling a connection with other humans. Duh.
  • The movie had the most naked level of violence I've ever seen in a movie, horror movies and Sin City not excepted. I flinched at the damage people had to have been taking from beginning to end. The violence wasn't glorified--in fact, the blunt disregard for humanity these characters had (even the "good" Nite Owl II) was never hidden.
  • The ending of the movie diverges from the comic. While there were small divergences during the main part of the movie, the main split came, appropriately, after the point where Dr. Manhattan can no longer see the future (paralleling the fact that neither can those of us who have read the comic). I can't remember why, but I always thought of that point as the place where Doc and Bubastis get fried. I didn't like the new ending better, but I loved that it was unexpected.
  • I missed Dr. Manhattan walking off to start a new universe in so many words.
  • Various people have commented on the sex--how graphic it was, how long it took, that they weren't sure the intercourse was faked. You know what? It was graphic, gratuitous sex that was used by the characters to cover up deeper emotions. --Dr. Manhatten gets multiple-kinky with Silk Spectre II to try to patch up their doomed relationship and complains he doesn't know what stimulates her any more. Silk Spectre and Nite Owl II get it on because they're turned on by being superheroes (as real people, they can't do it) and they don't know how else to handle it. Comedian tries to rape Silk Spectre I because he's so addicted to violence he thinks that's what she wants. Nobody in the Watchmen pretends "this is the way sex is supposed to be." Also? A movie filled with probably a solid hour's worth of violence, you can stand five minutes of watching people getting it on. I'm just saying.
  • By the end of the movie, I was done freaking out about Dr. Manhattan's nudity. Naked guy. Okay. Seeing a naked guy while other people are also looking at a naked guy. Awkward. Another one of life's ironies, that naked men are more shocking than seeing seeing someone hacksaw someone's arms off. Although that was pretty shocking.
  • Alan Moore isn't my favorite comics writer, but I usually like his stuff.** I like his older stuff better; it seems like he achieved enlightenment somewhere along the way and has decided the rest of us need to come with him, willy nilly. I've been thinking about this lately and realized a major theme in horror movies is about how enlightenment, in its various forms, is BAD. One example--Freddy Kreuger--is about how Bad Things Happen when Kids Find out about Sex. Heck, Frankenstein is about how Bad Things Happen when Kids Find out about Reanimation. However, AM doesn't handle enlightenment well as a plot element; transcendence is a beast to pull off, and shouldn't be brought in as a deus ex machina. See Promethea and The Black Dossier. Lame endings: and then they lived happily ever after. Reminds me of late Heinlein.
  • I finally figured out why Rorschach eats the beans cold during the first part of the movie. Dan offers to warm them up, and he says (I think) "Fine that way." Then, at the end of the movie, he refuses to put on a heavier coat, because he's "fine that way." Cold human beans :)
*And "Wow. That was a big blue penis." But did they see the movie in the front row of an IMAX? No. That was a big blue penis.
**Yes, I liked Lost Girls. I thought it was very sweet. I also liked the art.



Somebody please tell me that Prince Charming Publishers want my book right now, no questions asked, because I am done writing this @#$%^&* summary.


Rejection 13!

Weird Tales rejected "Fragile" - the dreaded rejection 13.


That's okay. The editor said I could send them more stuff, and I have more stuff to send when submissions open again on March 31st, a short story about Greek food and strange appetites, called "Winterfruit." I feel about this story the way some women feel about their shoe closets: take that, o my enemies!


Rejection haiku.

Weird Tales kindness:
No demons overtook us
Try again next time