Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Awards Eligibility

So, this time of year people post what stories and fictions they wrote that are eligible for awards this year. I believe there are only two from me, this year, currently eligible.

My short story "Paul and his Son" was in Asimov's April/May 2015 edition.
My short story "Everything is Haunted" was in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet June 2015.

It's been a crowded year in short fiction, with lots of great stories, so I doubt this is more than just a tallying for my own, personal records, but...

There it is, for those who are interested.

I expect to have a more exciting year ahead, beginning with a short story called "Farmers" in the January/February issue of Analog Magazine!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Stay Frosty...

So, there's this infamous organization out of Maryland, that for years caused a lot of pain and suffering in the world of books. I'll refrain from mentioning them directly, because I know they're suing people. Anyway, whether you love them or hate them, I know that lots of people are critical of the organization's business practices, and I certainly don't feel any love for their business models in the past. I don't know what they're doing these days, but the random e-mail I got left a pretty bad taste in my eyeballs.

I discovered that a very well known operation out of Maryland have actually changed their name into something new, and seem to be sending out lots of e-mails into the world offering to do free promotion at library bookseller events. Personally, free promotion sounds too good to be true. What is in it for the promoter? I suspect that this now renamed organization is trying to build a list of potential clients to milk for promotions that actually cost something. And, since it is coming from a fairly notorious organization, I can't imagine their promotional activities will be any more effective than the soulless and clueless form letter that seems to be populating itself across the many comment sections and e-mail inboxes of the world of independent publishing. This operation does not have a reputation for effective promotion. Free promotion, done poorly, is worse than no promotion at all. It would attach one's name and reputation to that organization.

So, let's review: 1) Is it too good to be true? 2) Why is it free? 3) Does the address or name of anyone or anyplace involved smell fishy, for instance, like the same area that a notorious operation has their roots and lawsuits?

Maryland is an interesting place in the recent history of potentially exploitive, generally widely unliked publishing operations. I am immediately suspicious of anything out of Maryland, period.

I'm certain there are some people who are happy with this organization, and I'm happy for you if you are. But, wow, I don't see how what I saw meets anyone's professional needs, and you will not be able to convince me to change my mind on that.

Check everything that you aren't 100% certain about over at the forums of AbsoluteWrite.com, with Victoria Strauss of WriterBeware, and any number of watchdog groups. People who sue watchdog groups seem to misunderstand how to have a good reputation with watchdog groups: Be fair and just and non-exploitive in such a manner that people can find no fault in what you do.

It's much easier to do that than lawsuits.

Consider yourself warned.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fancy Tea and Fantasy Authors at the Twig Book Shop on November 7th!

Fancy Tea and Fantasy Authors

Join award-winning and critically-acclaimed fantasy authors Martha Wells, Stina Leicht, Amanda Downum, Patrice Sarath, and J. M. McDermott at the Twig Book Shop on November 7th, for a lovely, little gathering with tea for drinking, and books for signing. Fancy dress encouraged, but not required.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1089440861086902/

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Cornbread the hard way

O axacan Green crossed with all sorts of things in the garden was harvested and allowed to dry out. Shucked, plucked, milled by hand, and turned into a rustic cornbread, i have frozen all that is left for future stews and bean chilis. Doing things the hard way is actually quite rewarding and fun.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Been busy...

[quote]
The room was large with a high ceiling and had all sorts of tubes and wiring in the rafters. There were different sizes of glass funnel above, ready to descend, with rubber sealant sprayed onto them. The tanks of gas were overhead, too, nestled like eggs among the nest of tubes.
“I’m relaxed, sir,” I said. I tried not to look up again.
“Good. So, we’re going to stand you in the center of the room, right inside the yellow square painted there. A glass tube will descend. For just a moment, you’ll be in vacuum, but you’re young and strong and you can handle it. Then, the ionized gas will fill the vacuum in an instant, and the glass will come up once transfer protocols lock in. You’ll be done in less than a minute. Okay?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Take a deep breath and hold it on my signal. Keep your mouth closed. It doesn’t really matter if you panic or not once the tank descends. You can’t break it if you try, I promise. Best thing to do is just hold still, try to relax, and let it happen. It will be over before you even start to hurt.”
“Got it, sir.” I stood firmly in the center of the yellow square, but I looked up at the glass tube above me.
“It will hurt a little. The ionization process is not a pleasant one. But, it will be no worse than getting a shot in the arm.”
Lights went on in another room behind a glass window that was darkened before. I saw technicians there looking in, and working at terminals, securing their connections and focusing the data lines into the proper channels for my transcendence.
“Hold still, Ensign,” he said, speaking calmly. “On my count, take a deep breath. 3...2...1...Hold.”
Air held still inside my lungs. The glass came down from above surprisingly quickly, but not so fast that I couldn’t jump out from under it if I had the nerve. It separated me from the room, and the vacuum seal hissed. I couldn’t hear anything, then. The air filled with a blue gas that emerged in spots and lines like a grid of flowers in the air itself. It was dazzling, and sudden, like getting punched and seeing lights. The gas filled out the air, and swirled and then I was through. In fact, I had been through for a few moments already, and the gas was actually an optical illusion of my body and brain trying to process the sudden shifts in my vision and orientation.
The glass came up and I was born here, on the Citadel.
The moment I had seen gas, I was already here, and the images in my retinas of the place I had been is proof to me that it was real. Once upon a time, there was a place called Earth, and a young cadet named Ronaldo Aldo who had lived at sea with his mother and father, until he went to War College in the ancient city at the heart of Mexico, and he stepped into a glass tube that quantum cloned him, creating me.

I was born, then, and I was reborn with all the sins still in my heart, my failure with Shui Mien, with my terrible pride.
[/quote]
Is starting to look like an interesting short novel, but more revisions needed.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

Starting on July 1st, a Promotional Price Diminishing

Howdy all,

On July 1st, and for two weeks, STRAGGLETAGGLE, my latest novel, will only be $0.99 with the lovely people at WeightlessBooks.

https://weightlessbooks.com/genre/fiction/novel/straggletaggle/

At just $0.99, this will be a huge steal, less than a lottery ticket for something that will entertain you far longer than a lottery ticket will, without the horrible letdown when you don't win at the end, because you'll have read a book, and reading books is never a let down.

On July 1st, then, there will be a price drop at Weightless Books. Go there, and purchase a book.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The last of the blackberries

K iowa blackberries are delicious. In year 3, we got 4 pints, easily, off a single bush. Huge, delicious berries. With the rain and overcast weather, not as good as last year, but still very good, and HUGE!

Planted with a Natchez thornless, the birds went after the smaller fruiting, thornless one, which was fine by us because the fruit quality on the Natchez was inferior.

We also managed to propagate both into new bushes by bending down a good cane and burying it in the raised bed beside the first bush. So, expect more blackberries next year!

Kiowa blackberries are amazing and you should totally plant one in the fall!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Everything is Haunted, a piece at a time

Do you remember Dolores, and her goat farm? It was in Asimovs. Here
Paul and his son who were also just in Asimov's? Here

Here is third piece of that odd mosaic text novel, in the latest issue of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, dubbed "Everything is Haunted" which is also the name of the novel.

Link

This piece is about organ donors in a superbug future, and some urban exploration, and some broken marriage stuff. As an adult, Andrew falls in love with a blond woman, and strips estates for recyclable parts. His dad is an organ donor activist, a real radical. Their past is present in the lovely little 'zine that is always original, always exciting, and a joy to have in the post box, either virtual or material. Do subscribe, if you don't. And, do pick up a copy of my latest little piece.

Thanks!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Saturday, May 2, 2015

MAZE is on sale for $0.99 for the month of May

Check your preferred eBook retailer, folks. Here's a link to the Amazon page for the sale:



Sharing is caring. Buying eBooks for other people is caring. Buying eBooks for yourself is self-caring.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A common name

It has come to my attention that one of the trolls or sockpuppetts commenting harshly on genre websites is named Joe McDermott.

This is not me. I have a ridiculously common name. McDermott is one of the most populous names of Ireland, and any Biblical Catholic male name including Nehemiah and Ephraim (I literally have a cousin named Ephraim) are to be expected in front of McDermott all over the world in some great quantity what with the traditional size of traditional Irish families. We do run out of names.

I am currently recovering from some minor surgery, and I am fairly certain my drugs aren't suddenly so good that I would be cheering on Heinlein. I also didn't have any good drugs leading up to the surgery. I dislike most Heinlein quite a lot. It is like Ayn Rand: a thrilling discovery at 15, that intellectually collapses by 17 because of problematic ideas and (more importantly) tedious workmanlike prose shoving bad ideas in my face.

Anyway, I have a common name. There are many of us. We are legion. We also probably don't agree about anything regarding this stupid genre thing. Any comment left by a Joe McDermott that is not in complete agreement with Cat Valente (whose LiveJournal thing is dead right on the money) can be assumed to be some other Joe McDermott, angrier, I presume, and/or a sockpuppy attempting to damage my reputation.

Don't be a sockpuppy, people. There are much greater battles to fight in this world.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Asimov's Asimov's Asimov's

So, I am pleased to see the positive reception of "Paul and His Son" in Asimov's, including mention at Tangent, SFRevu, and Locus.

I am even more pleased to see that in honor of this short story, there's a limited time sale on the eBooks of Disintegration Visions and Maze.

As it is, going straight to the Apex website for the next two months nets both eBooks for just 1.99.

http://www.apexbookcompany.com/blogs/frontpage/18042565-limited-time-only-disintegration-visions-and-maze-ebook-bundle

But, wherever fine eBooks are sold, Disintegration Visions is only .99, all this month. Next month, I believe MAZE is going to be just .99 cents.

It is the April/May Asimov's, after all. Two months of Asimov's, two months of a great deal on an eBook for any newcomer to my fiction interested in a little more for the right price of less than a burger at your least favorite burger place.

Woo?

Woo!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hot Take on Genre Awards Thing

I actually don't really care very much, either way, but it is fascinating to see true human stupidity at play from Sad Puppies who want that pin so badly they'd blow up the very award to get it.



So, if you game the rules to a major genre award to suit your agenda because you feel your work and work you like is not properly honored by the field, what you actually accomplish is not a domination of the center of the field. Rather, you merely pull the major award over to your dull, lifeless obscurity. You win the battle; you win all the fancy trophies; not a one of them will mean anything, though, because you will still be an obscure, miserable hack. And, the award that used to mean the world to you, will not mean the world to anyone else. Good job, Sad puppies. You know, winning all the awards wont mean that people like you, or buy your books, or take your ideas seriously, right? If you "win" by gaming the system, it isn't mysterious, and it just means everyone likes you less for bullying the field, and making the major awards in the field as pointless as you are.

So, trolls out to agenda a Hugo? Yeah, you're really dumb if you think this will somehow make your agenda front and center after the firestorm implode on internet fury.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Asimov Drop

So, in honor of my short story, "Paul and His Son" in the April/May 2014 Asimov's Magazine, which was recommended by Locus Magazine and Lois Tilton here, Apex Publications is doing a price drop on the eBook of the short story collection, DISINTEGRATION VISIONS, down to just $.99 for the month of April.

So, one could easily pick up a copy of Asimov's Magazine (or a subscription, which is also good) and check out "Paul and his Son" here:

Then, go to one of the many on-line venues for eBooks, for instance DriveThruStuff or the Apex Website. (Okay, the latter doesn't seem to have the new price updated, yet, but it will, soon.) I know the price drop will be going out to all the major on-line vendors, so check in this week as the update goes through.

Hooray for special price promotions!

(This is not an April Fools Joke, by the way. I am not foolish. I tell no jokes, ever.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

Every... Single... Morning...



I open the bedroom door, mentally prepared for the onslaught!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Vegan tuna substitute...

I seem to have stumbled into a pretty good tuna substitute for sandwiches and salads. Almond milk, when made at home, leaves behind a lot of almond meal. To that, add nutritional yeast, salt, garlic powder, olive oil and water, to taste. It spreads like tuna, reminds me of tuna, and can work on salads and sandwiches just like tuna.

I haven't been measuring out things precisely, just adding and tasting, but it is quite tasty and a useful thing to do with all the almond milk leftover pulp...

Veganism is a challenge if you are lazy, but I think, so far it is worth it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March Flash Madness 2015

Everybody run on over to www.grumptroll.com and read some Flash Fiction!

Vote for the winners in each contest in the comments!

Go! Go! Go!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Two Videos of Our Puppy

First, let's look at what she looked like when the shelter system got her off the street and into custody. She was at a no-kill shelter that takes dogs from the regular system who are on death row. Skin diseases, like the very common and treatable demodex infection, get one sent to death row.

Here is Honey sleeping in her bed, just the other day, next to the picture of her when she was picked up by the shelter. Currently, she is free of demodex, and fully-haired. Hooray for medicine and good food!



Here is the second video. As you can see, she is very serious about fetch. It is the most important thing. Why does anyone do anything else? Eat, poop, play fetch. That is the stuff of life.



She has literally just now jumped into my face with her favorite red ball, determined that it is time to stop writing books and to start playing fetch. It is very important. Nothing else, in fact, matters.

I couldn't be happier about it, either.

Shelter dogs are awesome. You get to go in, meet a bunch of great puppies, and pick the very best one. Well, you don't get to pick the best one. You'll have to settle for second best. I already got the best one. Sorry about that.

Thanks to San Antonio Pets Alive for taking her in, and helping us find her.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

I see that MFA's have become the latest thing to flog about the tubes...

I wrote a thing for SFSignal, once, about MFAs. I tried to find it on their site, and it looks like its gone, now, or my links aren't working, or something.

I'll repost the thing, here.

TL:DR - People who complain about MFAs misunderstand what an education is actually supposed to be. Also, I am a giant windbag full of hot wind and windiness.

I, a Candidate for a Masters of Fine Arts in Popular Fiction, Would Like to Whisper With You

1: Be a Fungus or a Vulture, or Else You Starve
I’ve been suspicious of the academic system most of my adult life. You see, some of the dumbest people I ever met in life had Ph. D’s, and some of the smartest people I ever met in life never seemed to need much in the way of education.  I don’t think I’m alone in this, either. Stupid comes in all shapes and sizes, as does brilliant. I’ve met janitors who could debate complex philosophical concepts, who lived quiet lives assertively saving and investing for retirement with their library card in hand. I’ve met security guards who could enter easily into rigorous debate with art historians about the nuances of different brush strokes and biographic details gleaned from obscure letters. I’ve met professors of humanities that could barely string together three sentences coherently, in three languages, and wealthy business-leaders who made their fortune not on skill but on narcissim and talking loudly. Naturally, I’ve also met dumb janitors, brilliant professors, and everything in between. Especially in our current economy these last ten years, education beyond high school is almost completely decoupled from our actual employment in all but a few select fields. Most of our advanced degrees exist for the sole economic sake of producing professors to teach advanced degrees in that field. It seems amazing to me, sometimes, that anyone would pursue an advanced degree in anything useful, let alone something relatively useless in the current economy, like a master’s degree in the fine art of writing fiction. Better to just find work that suits your social and mental preferences to keep the lights on with a little money left over, invest your savings, raise a family, and try not to make too much noise until retirement. Lots of folks figured the whole system out, and it’s working great for them.
But, about the decoupling of school from work: Walk into your average Starbucks and notice the intellectual diversity behind the counter. It isn’t just college kids slinging drinks behind the counter, these days. There’s folks behind that line, making your coffee, that have resumes that would impress you, with advanced degrees in complex things. This is true everywhere. In my last office job, the gentleman who emptied the trash and cleaned the bathroom was in school for a degree in biology, with limited career prospects in his field outside of going into debt for medical school, which he did not desire to pursue, so he figured he’d keep the job he had emptying the trash. His boss on the cleaning crew seemed to be doing quite well with his fancy sportscar, designer clothes, and upbeat attitude, and he had only a high school education.
I was looking at an article about the best jobs for graduates, this year, and it seems like the industries that are booming are symptomatic of the global decline of Western society: accounting is hiring lots of folks, to tighten the clamps on business; medical fields at all levels will be caring for a degenerating population of retirees and business is booming; high finance firms and corporate salesmen are grinding through their latest fish in the shark tanks to scheme upon the bubbles of bacterial growth in an economy that is as degenerating as the average age of the population.
Basically, the great and glorious American empire is in decline. Any education – especially an artistic one, like an MFA – is a poor investment if it doesn’t help the graduate profit from the breakdown of our society. More than any other, careers in the arts go where the patrons go. The novel, being historically a middle-class art form, will suffer without a middle class to support the writers, and fictionists will stumble when there just aren’t enough people around with money enough to buy books instead of buying branded food-esque AgraSoyCanola. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that an MFA in fiction and/or poetry may be the single worst investment you can make in your economic future. The money you spend pursuing it is far better off, economically, being thrown into interest-bearing accounts, ready to be ripped out at a moment’s notice as soon as everyone is convinced that the economy might not suck (because that just means the next bubble is upon us!) Debt for an MFA is worse than a credit card, because  you actually can keep what you buy with your credit card debt and you can sell it on e-bay later when it becomes nostalgic and collectible. A paper with your name and the letters “M…F…A” upon it might only be useful as a something to burn in your cave when you are homeless.
There is no economic value in an MFA in Fiction, popular or otherwise.

2 Like I Said in the Title….

I am in my last semester of graduate school, for an MFA in Popular Fiction, from the Stonecoast Program of the University of Southern Maine, and I don’t regret it for a moment. Not only that, I have come to this relatively late in my writing career, after dropping out of one lesser graduate school program chosen for location and cost instead of quality, and then even after making a name for myself as an author. I was, on my first day of this program, well-published, and pulling upon life experiences of all sorts of zany things people go to graduate school to be able to do, like have a “real job” or work in video games, or travel the world. I chose to go to the Stonecoast Program of the University of Southern Maine, where I am currently in my final semester. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be graduating in July with an MFA in Popular Fiction.
Be proud of me. Be proud of my economic waste. The greatest tragedy of our culture is that we have allowed the financiers to take over our young imaginations. Our brightest minds from our greatest universities flock to high paying jobs, where they try to make as much money as they can before they die. The best and brightest children our nation has to offer have all been seduced into believing that ownership of large houses is more important than the environmental footprint that our McMansions smear all over our fragile ecology. The systems of wealth culture have brainwashed our youth into believing that upward mobility is something everyone should aspire to, and that being a leader is something glorious and respectable and sexy, and everyone else is a slacker or failure, and that it is a shameful thing to be a janitor or a waiter or a truck driver or a stay-at-home mom.
We, all of us, need to stop that shit right now. The best and the brightest of our world should neither be measured by how much money they earn, nor by whether they own big houses, fancy clothes, or all the consumerist bullshit things like that. The only measure of a person that matters is how they affect other people, and how we all can find a way as individuals, communities, and continents, to contribute in a meaningful, positive fashion to the very tiny world we all share. The best and the brightest should, in fact, in a fair world, see high-paying jobs as corrupting influences on the pursuit of true value in the world. (Are any of you listening to me, best and brightest graduates? Anyone? Bah… go drive your Porsches to your mansions all you greedy children…)
Art, in any form or fashion, is one of the most important things anyone, anywhere can pursue. Art is a gift given to the world, even if it is sold for money. No amount of money walls off the ideas from spreading and infiltrating other people’s ideas. A good idea repeated enough times, whispered into enough minds in enough ways has the power to make the world a better place, in a dramatic way. Good ideas repeated enough times tore down the walls of segregation, the Berlin Wall, the miserable treatment of GLBT human beings in America, and the power of fear to control society.
Want to be rich? Want to be a doctor? Medicine is a losing battle against human mortality. Death always wins, eventually.
Want to get one of those hot yuppie jobs right out of college? Accounting is a losing battle against human greed. The more rules we invent to measure a company, to try and hold back the greed at the heart of the corporate system no matter how altruistic the people and the CEO, the harder it gets to hold back the tide of the wicked pigmen, wallowing in the blood of the workers whose communities, pensions, and ecologies are turned into pigsties. Sales is the training ground of pigs. Insurance industries are constructed in such a manner that they actually don’t qualify as insurance, as the dictionary defines them, because risk is minimized, but never shared.
Engineering? Technology? Computers? When I was in high school, one of our bus drivers was an experienced engineer who kept getting promoted until two new grads could do his work for less pay, and he gave up on the rat race to drive a bus. His story was not uncommon among the tech-heads that were either promoted into management or released into the wild at the convenience of the shareholders.
What is left for you, graduate? Do you do what your parents tell you and aspire to that golden beach house, those golden retirement years, golden plastic surgeries to stay forever young? No? Then, sneak off into the bookshops and punk rock clubs of the disaffected youth and slack until the drugs break you? Not for you? Then hide out in some job, hoping that all the things you don’t understand just don’t hurt you – pray that things you can’t control don’t hurt you. They still will. Maybe you’d rather hide in academia forever, training a new generation of soldiers in the global economic war to make the rich more rich?
All of these paths are false. None of these goals have value or meaning as economic goals. There’s a very simple solution.
Pursue what interests you.

3 An Important Message For All Graduating Seniors

If you are in school right now, and looking at future career prospects, future degree-majors, ignore the bollocks. Pursue what interests you. Even the dire examples above, if they are of interest to you, suddenly are no longer dire. When medicine is interesting, or the architecture of corporate management structures, or the fascinating way accounting can make life better in such small ways, then that is what you should pursue. A smart parent may try to convince you that something lucrative intersects with something that interests you, and maybe their advice will be good for your pocketbook if it is honest and true. Remember, you only get one life. At the end of your life, when you are on your deathbed, you will not measure your life in dollar bills, excepting only where those bills can be used to help the people you have left behind. This has been my method and my madness since I graduated from high school.
I pursued degrees in Creative Writing. I started as an undergraduate at the University of Houston. I dabbled in straight literature at an inexpensive, convenient graduate school before the educators who should have inspired me drove me away in disgust. I came back to graduate school later on, at a new school with better teachers, wiser and calmer and looking to learn from people that were actually good. To me, even after all the turmoil in my education and my life, art is still a meaningful career choice, even if it is not economically viable most of the time. I saw this first hand in the years since my undergraduate degree. I spent ten years among creative graduates, this army of art school and writing and literature and philosophy graduates all over the cities of the world, all of us gently using what we learned in strange and unexpected ways to make the world a better place, drawing over signs and talking sense where otherwise corporate media talking points would rule uncontested.  I recall an art school graduate and myself convincing a hardcore Fox News Republican about the truth of global warming with simple methods familiar to anyone who ever attended a workshop. I brought my education into the bars and coffee houses where I communicated effectively among people who didn’t study the arts to explain how certain films suck and they are not to be celebrated because a marketing department is pissing on your eyes and insisting that you love every minute of it. I have been in corporate meetings and understood what was being said between the lines because I was reading people as characters instead of allowing them to lie to me with the face value of their words. An education is something that carries with you a long time. An education in the Arts means you’re part of this army of people who don’t suck, and can tell good idea from bad, inoculate people against marketing campaigns, and call out the false drama, false image, false fools wherever we see such things in ways that can be polite and elegant or damning and indomitable as situations merit.
It’s like how before kids take piano lessons, they don’t understand really good music. It’s like how it’s hard to appreciate Beethoven until you’ve numbed your fingers trying to walk behind him on the keyboard and you get a sense of how complex it all is, and how beautiful in its complexity. Then, you get a sense of that in all the music around you. Then, you realize that Milli Vanilli really shouldn’t be lip synching, and certainly not to anything that sucks that much. (I mean, at least Lady GaGa rips off Madonna’s good stuff, not the B-Sides…)
I digress.

4 You Don’t Stop Learning Because a Critic Liked One Book, One Time, People
Even for writers who are “making it”, like me, the degree is worth pursuing. Like many of the good writers I know, I find myself always looking for ways to improve my work, looking for insights into fiction craft everywhere I go, and I seek out people who share that passion to learn what they learned. Whilst looking around one day, I noticed that the teachers in this particular program were all top notch writers. (Not the esoteric numeric rankings in some magazine or website! The people who would actually be in the classroom with you are all that matter to you as a writer!) I was familiar with their work, and thought it would be useful to me as a writer to expose my stuff to the eyes of people who had come from different artistic backgrounds than me, who had different aesthetics and different influences.  (link: http://usm.maine.edu/stonecoastmfa/)
I’ve noticed that every time I write a novel, I have to learn how to write again, because I have to learn how to write that, particular novel. I’ve noticed that every time I take time to expand my artistic horizons, I find a direct benefit in my work within the week, if not sooner.
Learning is a good thing. In a field dedicated to constant ideation, learning is just about the best thing.
Who were these people? Well, James Patrick Kelly is up for another Nebula. Elizabeth Hand teaches there, too. So does David Anthony Durham, David Mura, Nancy Holder, and Scott Wolven. Writers I’ve heard of, and read, and from whom I’d like to gain new perspectives on my own work. Even when I don’t agree with them or their approach, I like to learn about it. I like to see how they think a little when they see my stuff, and maybe learn new things about myself.
Maybe I did learn new things about myself.  

5: Go Forth, Be Mighty, All Ye MFA Graduates

With my MFA complete this coming July, a couple career options will open up to me that were previously closed. I could teach college, for instance. It would be nice to do that, I think, compared to what I’m doing now. But, I’m not holding my breath. Many graduates are thinking the same thing I am about teaching writing. It may be a more desirable way to earn a living than scrubbing floors or working a cash register, but it is no more or less honorable. There is no shame in honest work, and one does not need to have a respectable job to be respectable.
Every time I sit down at the computer, often in my own free time, away from the sort of boring work most of us must do to keep the pantry stocked and the lights on, I try to make the fiction I produce better, stronger, closer to the idealized vision inside of my head of what emotional impact it should have on readers. If I make a living as a writer, so be it. If I teach college, so be it. If I scrub floors somewhere, bus tables, or wash dishes so I can sneak off to the library to continue my pursuit of the arts, so be it. None of this is important in consideration of the worth of the degree, itself. In the end, I do not pursue an MFA to be anything other than what I already am: a writer of fiction. I need no validation. I need no certification. No one needs those things, really, even if these things are listed as things gotten from the degree. I came to the program wanting to improve myself on the path I was already on, and I think I have gotten that. I learned about whole fields of art I didn’t know about. I met with luminaries of the fields of writing. I read new poetry. I read books I would not otherwise have read, and learned from them.  I borrowed the eyes of strangers, and the eyes of new friends. I gave as good as I got, I think.
As this experience winds down, I like to think of all these supposedly economically useless degrees, especially degrees in the creation of artistic things like poems or pottery, like getting a degree in being super heroes. By day, people with useless degrees are, most of us, working hard to keep our pantries stocked with food and our lights on. If we are lucky, our daylight work is engaging and interesting. If we are not, it is a minor inconvenience as long as there is food and light. Then, we leave our day jobs and our lives open up. We read, and analyze, and create. We engage in debate on the internet and in the magazines of our fields--for instance, at SFSignal. We continue pursuing our interests, beyond graduation, and maybe we make things or ideas that whisper out into the world, rippling chaos theory’s caribou sneezes to rend the walls of Jericho. We go out to buy groceries afterwards, and nobody knows us. We go to work, and maybe we tell one person there over lunch what happened in our esoteric pursuits. We work hard, raise families and/or pets, and most people don’t even know what we really are in the wee hours and the corners of our lives, when we pursue what interests us.
But, at night, in the corners of our lives, when no one is looking, we are superheroes.
6: One Final Whisper Before I Go

Personally, I think if we stop thinking about degrees as career-training, at all levels of business and culture, and start thinking about them as life-training, we’ll make huge headway as a civilized society. Imagine a world where philosophers and engineers are recruited by Wall Street, and Mathematicians are political interns, and literature majors are welcomed with open arms into accounting work because of their studies in multi-cultural poetry. MBA schools no longer exist, because management of a person is too personal a thing to be turned into a system, and management of matter can be taught better in Quantum Mechanics. None of my hypotheticals are so far-fetched that they can’t exist in some fashion already in the world as is.
I guess what I’m trying to say is wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world where everyone was an outlier, an oddball, a curious individual with esoteric interests that diversify every community?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could pursue the things that interested them, including through economically-useless degrees?  Wouldn’t it be great if economies valued things that have cultural value but no direct economic value? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world actually valued studying things that are interesting in the same way we value the work of accountants and middle-managers and corporate sales and marketing departments and plastic surgeons  and cosmetic dentists and CEOs?
We could live in that world, you know. It starts with you, right now. Here’s how: Whisper this idea out into the world.
We’ll all do it together.
Ready?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Asimovs should have a story in it shortly

April/May 2015 of Asimovs should have a story in it by me.

There will be a flash fiction contest shortly. Very shortly. Jesus, but I am behind on getting information out to contestants!

Hold on!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Recent News...

I'm deep in space, a quantum clone transmitted via ansible and orbiting a distant desert world.

While I'm away, I happened to receive a contract in the post from ANALOG, who will be publishing my short story "Farmer" excerpted from an unpublished novel that also includes "Dolores, Big and Strong" from Asimov's April/May 2014, and "Paul and his Son" coming, next month, in Asimov's April/May 2015.

Mustard is super easy to make at home, and I don't understand why anyone buys it now that I've made it once. Grind the seeds in a blender; add liquid, optional spices/herbs; stir and adjust until liquidy consistency that is mustard-y; let sit overnight. Boom. Delicious Mustard.

I do not recommend working at 3 jobs simultaneously. It is very difficult to stay sane and alert when one is changing so many gears.

The garden is a helpful place to keep one's mind rooted into the skull where it belongs.



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cat, Free To Good Home if You Hurry

UPDATE: Too late! She's now in the care of the Humane Society.

In about two hours, give or take, I will be taking this cat to the shelter unless someone comes and gets her, like right now. I am calling her Turnip because she looks like one, and she did just turn up this morning. So, come and get her quick!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A thought on gay marriage

I have recently encountered a family values' politician decrying the rise of gay marriage because it is not natural and true to his Biblical faith values, while also warning that it is a slippery slope to polygamy.

This is hilarious, in particular, because the Bible has absolutely nothing to say on the subject of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender marriage rights beyond some general and archaic rules against copulation in the same sections as stoning adulterous wives and avoiding shellfish. At the same time, the Bible has quite a lot to say about polygamy in that it was a widely accepted thing, and encouraged therein, with so much polygamy that it is sort of ridiculous to suggest that God is not okay with it.

In conclusion, the Bible does not mean what you want it to mean, only what it actually means. The Bible is also just a tool of God, not the only tool. Christ came to this earth to teach love and acceptance and to uplift the poor and downtrodden with hope and eternal life, to carry all of our sins and hatreds and pettiness for us into death and to be resurrected from that death in the promise of an eternal life for us all. He started a church based on these values, of love and charity and decency and social justice. People who say they follow that message while driving fancy cars in nice suits and fat bank accounts probably aren't qualified to interpret the message for others, as they have missed it for themselves.

Gay marriage is the slippery slope to polygamy, and this is actually a good thing. Consenting adults ought to be able to define the terms of their lives. Instead of howling about it, how about finding a way to make the polygamy and polyandry that consenting adults, in full consent with each other, choose to do, an accepted and socially just choice and no danger to children or women or exploitable individuals.

It's definitely not something I'm interested in for myself, but I am also -- I hope -- big enough to see that just because I don't like something, it doesn't mean other people can't have it. I don't like cow meat, and it causes cancer, and it contributes to global warming, and it causes heart disease and diabetes and all sorts of things, but I have no interest in legislating cow meat away from anyone else's plate. What disgusts me does not disgust others.

When people of faith, in particular, throw around polygamy as a warning shot against the gay marriage love train, it not only makes no actual sense logically, but it also denies that it is even possible for anyone to define a marriage for themselves, on their own terms. People who would say they want big government out of the bedroom do seem -- as usual -- very interested in what's going in in our bedrooms, and they are judging, and they do not like it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Amendment

Guns have a constitutional amendment protecting their rights. Nature does not. The working poor and homeless do not.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Heaven for Dogs

Dogs, disinterested in harps and theology,
upon entering Heaven discover a forest
the size of a world and all their friends
are there. Plenty who live with dogs
convert to this, too.

                 In the wee bright
Cars' passing floodlights like frightened
comets.  We walk along an iron fenceline
between apartments and road
on a concrete line
                                         where cigarettes mumble.

gasoline ruins
everything.
  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Miserable Weather, so Stay Inside and Read STRAGGLETAGGLE

Over at Smashwords, I have generated a coupon.

Promotional price: $2.99
Coupon Code: VT99S
Expires: February 9, 2015

For this book: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/499084

Because it is freezing rain and ice, even down here in South Texas, and I can't imagine anyone doing anything except staying inside and reading.

So, for two dollars off, read Straggletaggle, DRM-free, in the format of your choice.

Stay inside! Stay warm! Drink hot beverages! Read books!


Books that need your love and history

Every author craves reviews, even dead ones. What are you reading? Take a moment and spread the word about them.

I have written brief reviews where I think they will be seen of the last two books I read, Signal to Noise, and Mirror Empire, over at Reddit/r/fantasy. No time for in depth review while sick and writing like crazy before the semester starts next week.

Reading Cloudsplitter by Russel Banks, now, and theb past is such a strange, frightening country. The past is a place where so many children die young, so many men are horrible to each other, and all the old violence of history keeps beating everyone down.

Glancing at the news, which is horrible all over, the NAACP got bombed in a terrorist attack. I am reading about Harper's Ferry. Hands up, dont shoot, etc. How long does it take for the past to truly fall away into glittering dust, a place for costume dramas and curiosity and nothing more?

Not long enough. Stay safe and keep fighting for justice and peace, everyone.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Friday, January 2, 2015

Thursday, January 1, 2015