We still do not know the outcome of the pending thing with Skyhorse/Start, so we still do not know what will happen to our lovely books. In the mean time, might I suggest now is a great time to pick up a copy or two, if you were so inclined but putting it off for some reason? There's no telling what will happen if bankruptcy court steps into the picture. Also, frankly, it's not like Night Shade knew what they were doing to promote the books. Even if the deal goes through, they will likely not be long for this world without a lot more support from the world.
Thank you, and happy Monday.
Welcome to the Maze
Monday, May 13, 2013
Friday, May 10, 2013
I've been attempting to grow an Asian Pear tree from seeds that came from the store-bought fruit. This is how the stuff is supposed to be done, after all. Johnny Appleseed wasn't out spreading scionwood, but seeds. I've got these four seedlings in a pot, from the four seeds at the heart of the fruit. What happens next is I wait until they're six inches tall. Then, I carefully re-pot them into gallon pots from the garage. Then, next year or the year after, if they've survived, I've got these trees on their own roots ready to go in the ground somewhere. Or, I can use their whips for grafting. Pears are supposed to be the easiest thing for beginning grafters. I could pick up a common flowering pear, which is a preferred rootstock around here and inexpensive at the hardware store, and graft the whips that way, to propagate full-size, commercial-quality trees of whatever variety results.
Some fruit is best not done this way. Apples grown commercially are interplanted with crab apples, and take on the crab's characteristic during pollination. Oranges grow true from seed, sometimes, but sometimes they don't, and they're a challenge to get to an age when they can fruit. Lychee trees are beautiful, but they can't handle dry weather below 40 degrees, so unless I had a really, really big greenhouse... Everything that's alive wants to live and to keep living.
It's the sort of thing that's fun to do with your kids, I guess. It's a children's game, to start a tree from seed and keep it alive.
Asian pears often come true, or close enough, from seed. The crisp, apple pears need only another of their kind to fruit. There isn't a crab-pear, or a flowering pear, or any other inedible variety that will pollinate them with their finicky early bloom. Cherries, plums, and peaches can be done this way, and especially apricots, but keep them in pots as long as you can because the rootstock will not be safe in the ground. Avocados and Mangoes can be easily grown this way, too, if your climate is warm enough. Oranges and lemons often grow true from seed, though it might take 15 years to see fruit without grafting onto mature rootstock.
Nothing wrong with that, mind you.
It looks like we don't see a lot of trees grown on their own rootstock, in part because it's so much easier to graft a whole lot of a quality variety than it is to root cuttings carefully. In the regions where they grow well, things like apples and jujubes and persimmon can be grown on their own roots, straight from seed. Fruit quality will be interesting to discover, though. And by "interesting" I mean wait a few years and discover how very likely it is to be no good.
It's a fun project, though, particularly for the young people and young at heart. And it gets a little extra value out of that 4 dollar Asian Pear I bought on a whim, which was really expensive but tasted amazing.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
I really liked the Book of Cthulhu, and it's sequel, but I also don't think of them as Weird Fiction anymore, since the feeling of Weirdness is lost in repetition.
Explicated here: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/2013/05/weird-fiction-when-does-weird-become-normal-guest-post-by-j-m-mcdermott/
Also, if anyone's writing about Weird Fiction in this moment in time, you have to talk about the awesomeness of Weird Fiction Review, which has very quickly become one of the best on-line venues for the strange. It wasn't so much that I was writing about Lovecraftian Weird Fiction as I was writing about How Weird Fiction Review Has Changed my Perspective.
Anyway. Comments here will be ignored. Go comment over there, and check out some awesome Apex titles while you're at it. For example, did you know the latest issue of Apex Magazine has a story by Joe Lansdale in it?
Monday, May 6, 2013
Unbeknownst to me, my cellphone was jammed deep in a pocket of some gym shorts, that were gross and needed washing. The phone was pretty gross, too. But, at least it functioned. Now, it does not. The phone is dead. It is clean, and dead.
Friday, May 3, 2013
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Delirious artistry comes down to us, as it always does, from Dionysus. Take two of these and write until tomorrow morning, so to speak. Tom Pic, the character who is also a screenwriter is no stranger to the demons that walk the edges of the page. His latest book decides to let the demons step into center stage and walkabout, and merge and blend with all the people and places that populate a page under the best and worst of circumstances. In some respects, one question comes to mind, if this character is as bad news as he seems to be, and as bad news as everyone says he is, are the people who put up with him real or a hallucination?
WHAT MAKES YOU DIE is a hallucination of a novel, with a narrator so unreliable, you never know who is living or who is a ghost, because he never knows who is living or who is a ghost. The whole work is reminiscent of the drug-addled, psychosis of the late 60s. It could just be a dream of a bum, talking to himself, and stumbling from one abandoned building to another, clutching at drugs as if they were the dreams of Hollywood, flickering in the dark on the screen, and not the other way around where the drugs create the dreams.
He has written a screenplay. Or, rather, he has written part of one. It is a very exciting screenplay. There's a dead body on the roof. There's a leg in the bathtub. It might be the leg of the character who is missing a leg. It is an amazing screenplay for someone climbing their way up to the top, or struggling on their way back to the bottom. It is apparently so good, even the deadbeat Hollywood agent can see that something is special, here. Something is different. Money can be made with it. Go forth, then, Tommy, and figure out how to finish.
He has no memory of the script, and was locked up in a psychoward for attempting to carve a komodo dragon ghost out of his stomach. Here is a moment where we can delineate the horror genre from the fantasy one: The narrator does not believe there's really a ghost inside of him, and prefers to stick to the knowledge that he is hallucinating. Do you believe him? Is this the way a hallucinating man interacts with his world? Is this what it takes to create great art? Do you have to carve the art out of your gut like excising a parasitic demon?
Hollywood hands over all proceedings in the text. He stumbles through his own memories, glories and failures, while stumbling between his mother's house and all the places the wasted man shamble when they are procrastinating.
Hallucination, then: Beside this haunted man's agent's office, where he had gone for a meeting, there is a store that sells witchcraft supplies and he meets a white witch who wishes to help. Which is it, then? Which side is the hallucination in the convenient coin toss? Is the agency real, but the Wiccan a lie? Is the Wiccan real, and did it draw him there under the pretext of the agency contract, because deep down, poor ol' Tom needs to be healed? My advice is trust no one, and try to stay focused on what feels real, because feelings don't lie in fiction. If it feels real, then it might as well be real. If it is real to Tom, it's real.
There's so much to get lost in here. The memories of Hollywood seem hyperreal, and we suspect they aren't true early in the book. No one is that lucky. But, we suspect they might be true, because Hollywood and art is a world of nothing but luck. Is the Laurence Welk show really playing in the other room for the sister that never changes the channel? Is it even on TV anymore? Which of the phantasms that pass through these pages is alive, and which is dead? The author is not interested in answering that question, and merely drops clues like the Welk music, that something isn't right.
Okay, so let's move on to other things. There's a missing girl deep in the past, and a father that died young from cancer. Both seem to be things that broke the main character off the normal path, and into the writing path. It's as if their ghosts haunt the man. The absence haunts him. Literally, perhaps, he is haunted. A young boy was hit by a car, dragged to his death across the blacktop. All these accumulated ghosts weigh him down; he writes to them. He's trapped inside the veil of the phantasms, wandering the streets lost in his own head. He knows there's this amazing screenplay inside of him, if only he can cut deep enough, and dig out the damn dead dragon that's curled up in there.
Fiction is only a lie if you refuse to hear the truth. Komodo dragons in the belly, and a maze of confusion, uncertainty, failure, and strong liquor, then. Feel something. Do something.
Read this book.
Monday, April 29, 2013
When a dachshund, placed in a racing shoot, and encouraged to run across the field when said shoot opens, most don't quite understand what they are supposed to do. They wander about, with a dazed look on their faces, happy to see all the people and other dogs. Some have been training for this day, and they shoot across the field. loping like nimble gazelle, except with tiny, tiny legs. For most racing dachshunds, finishing the race is quite enough of a challenge that attempting to achieve speed is too difficult. Confused by the crowd, and desiring to meet all the people, even fast dachshunds might try to run around the sides, and say hello to all the people and fellow dachshunds.
A band was playing. Dogs barked among the rows of festival tents.
We walked downtown, and visited some of the shops, and I learned what "antiquing" was, and found it to be a strange, and dull sport, and not as much fun as dachshund races, but there were some really nifty old books in one of the shops, with the sort of illustrations that were only made before the second world war.
Small town festivals are a hoot. So are large groups of dachshunds.
Wear closed-toe shoes.
Friday, April 26, 2013
The Golden Horde was a powerful political body that ruled in the Ukraine, taking over from the kings that came before. They were the Western edge of the Mongolian empire, and re-organized the native Varyngian people there to their liking. For two hundred years, they ruled. Even after their empire began to crumble, and they were merely the Great Horde, they ruled. The Polish and Lithuanian kings pushed back in a deluge that lasted decades, to drive away the Tartarian warlords that nibbled at the edge of their nations.
Before the Golden Horde, was another ruler, and another empire. Before that, they were Byantium, and the Varyngian guards were sworn to the emperor, and feared.
Pick any corner of this planet, and there is the ebb and flow of nations and kings. Before the white men came here, where I live now, the Caddo lived in fear of the Comanche, who were newcomers, just as the Caddo had driven their own former masters south, into Northern Mexico. The Karankawa Indians clung to the coast line, at the edges of rivers, making casseroles out of native bell peppers and the human arms of their enemies. Pick anywhere, at all. The ebb and flow of history drives new kings and pulls them down.
Every time I pass the history section of the store, I wonder if I could just pick one corner of the world, and go back into the dark shadows of the past, when history was being born, and learn everything I could through time, and write everything I could from that knowledge. But, there's just too many fascinating corners. There's so much history in history. There's so much striving and inspiring and amazing.
When I pass on from this life, I hope there is a well where my soul can drink that contains inside of it the knowledge of history - all history. I could spend an eternity at the pool, reinventing the past through my own imagination.
There was a nation once - a powerful and fearsome nation - that was called the Golden Horde. Poland and Lithuania together beat it down into the dust of time.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
I've been reading heavy, long books. I've been slowly burning through them.
Watching movies from the library, we keep it light, mostly.
Here's one I saw recently, that I thought was worth everyone's time.
A mumblecore musical, or something like it. But, a guy who made a movie because he loves movies, and used his friends and the people around him in Boston to do it, and it's better than movies I've seen with big budgets and shiny effects. It's a joy and a treat, and magical.
You can really feel when art is made because people love to make it versus rote, capitalist pandering. ("New Adult" indeed.)
Monday, April 22, 2013
I've been reading about planting an avocado tree because I am about to do so. They get pretty big - up over 25 feet and more - and they stay sort of columnar-ish half as wide as they are tall. some Mexican varieties are cold-hardy down to the low teens, unlike the delicate Guatamalan Haas. They are not salt-tolerant, though, and where I live there is nothing but salt in the soil from the centuries long ago when this was all an ocean. I will have to build a mound up, with cactus soil, and mulch over it for aesthetics. I will build an island in the front yard where the tree may grow, up above the ground. I will be placing the tree in a burlap sack, and I will cut holes the sack, and use this to let the tree ease into the ground we have.
There are only two others in my neighborhood who seem to share my passion for fruit trees. People aren't willing to work for fruit trees. They aren't willing to spray the peaches, or learn how to prune. They don't want to bother with harvesting, processing, and all that stuff.
Also, we don't live like we used to, back when land was passed down to eldest sons. We don't think of our houses as permanent things, where we will live with out families for ten-thousand years. That's how it used to be, on this earth. You stayed where you were, and planted where you were, and cultivated where you were. Some fruit trees take so long to fruit, that people who plant the seeds might not live to see the fruit. A pear tree, bought at your local nursery, has been alive for years, and will take years when you transplant it to produce a single fruit.
We move around, then. We sell our houses and move where there's work. We think of our houses as an investment we will one day cash out. We do not ever think our children will live in this house, and their children's children, and so on.
Driving around my neighborhood, I see that in the landscape. Plants are ornaments, only. HOAs demand ornaments, property value maintenance, grass, certain kinds of high-value ornamental trees. What a strange way to live, when you think about the rest of human history before our own time. You are required to maintain the value of your home, so that everyone in the neighborhood can get a good price when the land is sold to the next itinerant resident.
Everyone's just slowly, slowly passing through to the next place. We are such a restless people, we Americans.
I plant fruit trees knowing I may never see the fruit. A job offer might come through, and I might have to go. My wife and I have discussed where we want to live next, and where we want to go next. But, I plant fruit trees because this is the right way to live: to treat everyone who comes to this house after us as our heirs, our good friends, our deserving followers. I plant fruit trees because the abundance we have now, in our stores, cannot possibly last when the price the earth pays is so very high. I mapped out a year of fruit harvests. I plotted and schemed to always have something coming in to harvest and devour.
This week, I will plant an avocado tree in the front yard. It will grow tall, and undoubtedly my neighbors will sneak up to the thing to snag an avocado from time to time, despite my objections. They will go home and may even wish that whoever lived in their house before them had bothered to plant one of the trees. We will, all of us, move on to our next houses, where we live for ten years and think it an eternity to stay in one place for so long, to really settle in. It's not settling in, though. It's just slowly passing through, like Minecrafters who eventually get sick of their plane of creation, and wipe things clean and new, build a new world for ourselves. Move on to the next house. Move on until we are not moving on to the next house, but rather moving on to the nursing home, and to the houses beyond the walls of time. Never build a home for a thousand years. Never grow an empire in a single neighborhood, buying up houses as they go empty, and planting descendants inside of them. Never carve a new world out of the high plains, where generations can watch the nations rise and fall.
Never settle. Move on from here. Maintain your house that you can protect the value of it, and sell it in ten years, to build your dream house somewhere else, and the next dream house after that one.
Friday, April 19, 2013
There was lots of talk the last week or so about things and stuff. All we can do is wait, now.
Now, all we can do is wait.
I mailed off some contracts on stories and stuff. I wait.
Hurry up and wait. That's the job. I keep working. Schedule to keep up, and whatnot. Grab a cup of the brown stuff the shade of an acorn, and don't stop working until the moon comes out and stars. All in all, another splendid day on the job.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
This has been a long couple weeks, folks. Lift a cold one for me, out there, wherever you are.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Every night, for weeks, I've been reading Herodotus before falling asleep. It is fascinating, and it also acts like a magic sleeping pill. The kings of the past would not be out of place among the presidents of the modern day. I find fascinating, in particular, how rarely history talks about the food of the armies.There is the floods of Egypt (I am currently reading about an Egyptian king named Aramis, or something like Aramis.. I don't remember his name.) and the productive soil such floods provide. There is the arrangement of land. But, the nobility and the warrior class are the ones who cut a path across such books as these.
Imagine what would happen if such men as Herodotus praised not the kings, but the shepherds and farmers and mothers. If all these great moments in history were not such trivial matters as which violent nobleman squats upon a throne and for how long, and instead questioned the way farmers grew and prepared food in all the kingdoms of the world,and the way mothers raised children. Glorify not the warmongers, but the grandmothers who keep the household gods, Herodotus. Build a society upon these histories. Western Civilization that is founded upon the books of the home and hearth, the farm and field. Scoff upon the men who would cut down the sons like hard winter wheat. Curse them, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Homer.
Imagine the epic poem of just Penelope,managing the lands to feed the guests that groan upon her paving stones, driving back the battle-hardened,braggart men, fistfighting in her lawn, and how could she raise a son like that, with all those awful,noisy men in her courtyard? History of kings and warlords is skimming the smoke of discerning a history of the civilization from the smoke trails of faded clouds.
Herodotus, tell me not of the harem intrigue, and tell me not of the palaces and kings. The ceremonies of state religions tell me nothing about the little gods that watch over the faithful hearth. Herodotus, I wish you had glorified the home and hearth, and the men who hid their cattle, hid their daughters, and served their land, sending no sons to war for foreign kings and glory, staying where they were and being honest and building a future in every little decision and deed upon their ancestral ground.
Picture the world constructed from a peaceful myth of origin. Picture the nations that result who do not glorify in war of Ares or Roman Mars, but only glorify the Pallas Athena, protectress of cities. Glorify the good farmer, the honest wife, the skills of the smiths, and the good life that comes from hard work, peace, and building always for the next generation.
Dream of this when you sleep, as I do, after reading Herodotus.
All our generations of scholars and kings, for 1000 years studied Greek and Latin, and filled their imaginations with such wars and such petty, miserable would-be godkings... What an example they made, those Greek and Roman historians, for how great men should behave. What a horrible example of how to be a great man, by the edge of a sword and the deceit of politicians, and the destruction and subjugation of empires and religions and making others eat their own dead.
Friday, April 12, 2013
At this time, I haven't signed the deal. I'm waiting on details from one more person before I make my decision.
I think it is a good sign that so many originally unhappy people, like Michael Stackpole, have been won over where it matters: the contract terms. Skyhorse/Start didn't come to the table to be cruel or unusual. In fact, the boilerplate we saw initially would not be out of place at a major publishing house. What is unusual is that they acted in good faith to amend the deal presented, and alter the contract terms for everyone.
Regardless of whether I sign or not, I feel very positively about Skyhorse/Start and their future in SF/F. Pleasing authors goes a long way towards a bright future in genre. Their good faith actions to adjust their contract terms have proven they are serious about this deal, and are trying to do more good than harm. No one can blame a business for trying to make a profit in a difficult climate, like print publishing, but the escalators indicate that maybe authors can also look forward to a piece of the action once that initial payment to clear Night Shade's copious debts clears into the black.
There's one thing I'd still like, and I'm waffling because of it. It is such a small detail that it doesn't merit mentioning. Also, I haven't heard back from my own legal counsel on the contract, and anytime bankruptcy is rearing a stink, it's time to get legal advice from someone, even if you're trying to prevent bankruptcy.
Everyone's situation is different, and I don't think anyone should feel pressure to take the deal, either way, and I know I'm still researching the complexity of my own situation. This is actually not as simple as "deal/no deal" because what is best for each individual author depends on a lot of different, totally personal, circumstances.
Regardless, if you would like to influence my future as an author in a positive direction, pick up a couple of these bad boys, and share them with your friends, because as I mentioned yesterday, this book had a rough time getting born, and may not be long for this world regardless of the outcome of the pending asset transfer: