Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Monday, March 31, 2008

AggieCon Report

4 people showed up at 9:00 in the morning, on Saturday to listen to a reading. I would have been even more impressed and amazed if they had any idea who I was before they showed up. Still, it made me happy to see that people wanted to listen to me read stuff.

I read two short stories, and one poem.

First, I read the story "Dedalus and the Labyrinth" coming out from Weird Tales. Then, I read "Last Star" from the special December issue of Coyote Wild Magazine. Then I read "Robert Shirtliffe" from Issue #4 of the Tipton Poetry Journal.

It was strange to look out into an audience and actually see a reaction. Usually, when I read a story, the cats wander off for food when they realize I won't be giving them a treat for listening.

How did the reading go, you ask? All four people who showed up to check out some new writer picked up the book in the dealer's room and had me sign their copies.

Also, I want to give a big shout out to Jaime who showed me where Rumour's Deli was after attending one of my panels wherein neither one of the writers involved were "stars" so to speak. Two other folks came with us who seemed quite nice, but I can't remember their names... Business cards peple. Get business cards.

Also Robert did a great job picking up the pieces in the Convention. The story went like this: the head of the shindig was chugging along fine until her husband was killed a month or two before the convention. (All our condolences, to her... She's young, too. She's a college student.) Then, everything fell apart. Robert stepped in and saved the day, and did a great job holding this event together by force of will.

Trey set up the first-ever AggieCon podcast, with the lovely and talented con volunteer Judi and myself, and I hope he lets me know when he goes live with the podcast.

Met lots of nice people. John Ringo, Tom Knowles, the always-lovely Rachel Caine, her main squeeze Cat Conrad, the nice folks at the monkey house whose names I'd remember if tequila wasn't involved, Scott Cupp... Well, I'm about to list out all the guests. Seriously, just go check out Cepheid Variable for yourself, and you'll know who I met. Everyone was nice.

And, now I get to do my taxes. Hooray. Kind of. Also, I get to deal with insurance companies because I was in a small fender bender (no one was hurt, and it was literally just fenders involved) Saturday night during the convention, and this will be a long, boring, paperwork-y day.


Sunday, March 30, 2008


I just spent the last three days at AggieCon.

There's this place off site called the "Monkey House", wherein they smuggle all the guests to go drink tequila and bullshit away from the convention. this house was home to authors Stephen J. Gould and Howard Waldrip at some point in the past.

I'll tell you more when I can. Right now, I've got a three hour drive to get home, and my laptop battery is about to die in this little place I'm on-line.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Guy in a suit talks about down's syndrome

Two guys in line for coffee, one in a suit and the other in business casual.

Suit says these words:

“…My sister’s kid has down’s syndrome. You know they all look the same. I mean, you look at someone with down’s syndrome and they all look the same and you know they have down’s syndrome.

You know, it’s strange. You take the kid fishing, and he catches a fish, and he’s done. He puts his tackle up, and gets ready to go. Doesn’t matter how many people are there with you. he catches a fish; he’s done.

He’s got the IQ of a four year old, but there’s more to it. There’s something else there. He’s not just a four-year-old forever. There’s something…

Just a tall coffee, whatever you got freshly brewed.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

John wins a button

Says John about these photos:

"I'm sending you the "best" pictures from my ant escapade. I tried two different ant mounts, yeilding two very different results. You'll find that the common red fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) were very active and interested in the book, attacking it en masse. These I found in the backyard, and only sustained minimal bites. The others I traveled down the street into a vacant lot for. They were red harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus), larger but more docile ants, and I thought were going to be the best for shooting. However, they did not find the book to be all that interesting and instead focused their attempts on keeping the entrance/exit into the subterrainian mound secure. Respecting their reserve from my nuisance, and their unoffical protection status, I abated. I sustained no bites from these ants whose venom is the most potent of any ants species"

You want a button now, party people, you gots to top the guy who braves fire ants to take a memorable photo. I want Japanese Huntsman Spiders!

Good job, John!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

quick little info about healthcare

america already has socialized healthcare.

insurance companies are "socialized" by their very definition. they spread risk and cost out among large groups of people.

anyone, anywhere, of any nationality, can acquire healthcare whether they are able to pay for it or not. that is actually quite close to what it means to have "socialized medicine".

yet, for some reason, we like to believe we don't have socialized healthcare. we like to believe that governments don't already have their bureaucratic fingers in every layer and office and cubicle and operating room. we like to live in some fancy dreamworld where we have freemarket, liberated, patriotic healthcare.

we don't. it's already socialized. it's been that way for years.

our political and cultural fear of saying the word "socialized" means we get all these guys in positions of authority building the system contrary to the reality, under the delusion that we don't have socialized healthcare.

thus, insurance companies don't caver what we really need, don't cover nearly enough people, and muck up businesses and business-owners with their employee benefit programs.

stop calling something what it ain't. embrace the socialism. it's already here. the sooner we allow ourselves to speak of the reality, we will be able build a better socialized system than what we have.

anyway, i was feeling ranty, and this is my megaphone - after all - and i will stop here, though i could continue to rant for quite a bit longer.

Monday, March 24, 2008

7th floor library blues

Do you remember the seventh floor of the university library?

I do.

I used to go up there to study. Actually, I think I went to the fifth or sixth a lot. The seventh was too crowded with people thinking the same damn thing I was thinking.

But, I was thinking how I used to go up to the seventh floor, where musty, old academic tomes gathered dust and there was this rumor about a weird crazy guy that would stop people in the stacks and ask to see their feet.

(He’d touch those feet lovingly. He’d kiss them. He never asked to see my grotesque hooves, mind, so this is all hearsay. Another rumor running rampant across a campus that might be real or not. Still, our crazy guy in the library was into feet.)

I used to go up there and just stare at these rows and stacks and walls overflowing with books. What was the point of one more in all that mass of words on paper?

I was sitting here, trying to write another book, and I smelled something in the air between mold and air conditioning and seventy-year-old bindings and rampant glues and dirty metal and bleach and dust and it recalled to me that place, where I was sitting among the stacks, all by myself.

In Vancouver, I found a spot on the top floor, where the whole downtown into the bay spread out before me rippling in sunlight like the most beautiful city view you ever wish you had.

In Houston, I found a corner where I had never seen one person pass my stall. I sat among old engineering texts and wondered how come engineers never came to libraries to study the old manuals and tomes that built the city and the streets and all the contraptions inside of them.

In Arlington, the books were so crammed in, that the less-popular sections were kept on rolling shelves. One had to push open the stacks like walking through a portal. One had to be careful not to crush anyone else in the stacks. Undoubtedly, someone found their true love, once, by pushing open the stacks, and startling at the sudden shout from someone being crushed.

I’m working on another book, and I can think only of how awful it is right now. Worst book ever. Will take close to forever to make this one not sucky.

My consolation? ‘Twill be lost in the stacks, for good or ill. ‘Twill melt into dust, and no one will worry about one more book either way.

So, I work. I do the best I can. And it will all fade when the glue loses its grip and the paper crumbles and the ink acidity eats the letters through the page, and the mildew reaches bruised fingers through the cover. For good or ill, everything will dwindle down to dust.

And that's fine.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

3 things

1) I'm off to Highland Park today to do a signing at a Barnes and Noble there. So, if you're in Highland Park, come on by and buy a book or get one signed or some combination of the two. *Link to Info*

2) I am still chasing after my parent's new puppy, trying to prevent household accidents. I have cleaned this entire house one small puddle at a time. Totally not housebroken yet. She's still cute. I'm not mad, yet. (I get to leave tomorrow, so her housetraining will no longer be my problem... Hey, where'd she go? Hm. I think I smell poop.)

3) Ever see Dokaka doing his thing? He's like some geek-nerdcore-awesome combination of Rahzel and Weird Al.

Friday, March 21, 2008

no title

looking back just a few years before my own birth is like looking back into an alien world. the music, the values, the motion of bodies through space, all locked in a mystery that might as well be a foreign language.

i don't like the books about the factory, i like the period films. how can anyone talk about a movement that was all about a moment of bliss among the ruins?

the flower in the mouth of Baudalaire's corpse; the drug joy in the broken bodies.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


work extended hours at the museum because upper management - who still go home at their regular hours, anyway - decide that the musem should stay open a bit extra during the last two weeks of the biblical exhibit.

then, drive to apartment in benbrook. check in with cats. they are still alive. they are still stinky. they are still pooping in the box.

drive to the other side of dallas/fort worth, for over an hour in rush hour traffic to take care of dogs.

spend four hours chasing after puppy in vain effort of encouraging outside bathroom activities, and to discourage things like chewing on electrical wires, chewing on furniture, chewing on walls, chewing on me, etc.

come to blog. try to think of something witty to say.

all i can think of is gzblk.


good-night, everybody.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

all this week with the dogsitting

The other morning, at 3:30 in the morning, I am awoken to the sound of a dog crying in the night.

I get up. I go downstairs. I take the dog out of her crate, and into the yard so she can do her doggy thing. Little puppy does her doggy thing in the yard. She's running and playing in the yard with her big sister, and I figure now is a great time to do my person thing.

I'm gone not one minute doing my person thing, and come out of the bathroom to discover poo all over the stairs. Not just a little poo. I think the little puppy dropped half her body weight all over the stairs. The big dog looks up at me like, "WTF? Don't look at me! I'm not related to that little monster! I was perfectly happy by myself and y'all went and got another puppy and now you're looking at me when it unloads the dump truck all over your stairs? Consider yourself fortunate I don't do the same." (Dogs, as any owner will tell you, have very expressive looks on their faces, constantly. Whole paragraphs can be summed up with a cocked head and just one kind of whimper. Seriously.)

I start to clean up the puppy poo. The little puppy decides this is a game, and commences to attack the paper towels and the spray bottles and the spray cans, while I am trying to clean up the little one's poo.

Now I have to bathe the puppy.

At 3:30 in the morning.

Which I did, cheerfully. Because if you were this cute, I'd do the same for you.

Crap, did that dog just run upstairs! I must stop it!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


i was thinking about kelly link's short story "lull".

wouldn't it be beautiful if we were actually moving through time the other direction?

hands and bodies meander around the cosmos picking up the pieces of cells that must return to home. words we speak - most of them evil - actually disappear from the air where we collect them and negate them inside of our mouths. filth enters into us, and out from our mouths come glorious feasts that return to tables, and then return to packages, and then return to farms. butchers place slices of meat back together until a cow is born. grain returns to ground, returns to seed.

people meander this planet recovering their lost cells. cells do not split, but - rather - merge - and merge until we find our one, truly perfect cell that is the ultimate expression of self. that cell finds negation in the cells of others. families pour backwards towards an adam, an eve.

return to water, return to seed, return to dust.

the dust returns to cosmos, and cosmos returns to one tight ball of hydrogen, and all is unity and in union, and the end of the universe is a cosmic unity of order, like atomic nirvana.

wouldn't it be more beautiful to move the other way through time?

i was thinking about this because i read kelly link's short story, "lull".

Hm. I ask a boon.

Since you come here, traveler, I know that you are aware of my book. Perhaps you have read the book. Perhps not.

Regardless, I am always wonderign if I can do everything I can to promote the book. I worked very hard on it, you know, and I don't always know if I'm doing everything I can to make the book successful.

Can you, fair reader, help me?

Do you have a blog? A message board? Can you post an Amazon review? A Barnes and Noble review? A Books-A-Million review?

For just a few moments, would it be terrible of you to say something truthful about my book in a place where your words perchance might influence others?

Also, if anyone is going to conventions outside of Texas, can you e-mail me your address? I'd love to mail out little cards to be left upon freebie tables at any convention at all.

Monday, March 17, 2008

revenge of the thunder lizards II

nobody knows where the thunder lizards went
with their ravenous roaming all over the continents
the booming music and the drunken fistfights
the switchblade secrets hidden from the streetlights
but me, i see dinosaur bones sometimes
when i watch fellas stand on the line
hey, say step forward to boy number four
officer, i'm certain that's the one you're looking for

i heard this rumor on the corner about the thunder lizards returning soon
they all charging strong to bring the world a vengeful doom
i climbed a hill outside of town to watch the dinosaurs attack
but they was only asian elephants trading tools for greenbacks
and me? i only see dinosaur bones sometimes
when i watch the fellas stand on that line
hey, say step forward to number two
he may not be the one exactly, but i guess he'll do.

i hide in plain sight among the residents
i keep my talons sharp on their dead presidents
nobody but me remembers how we all used to do
birds sing hard songs about what we put this city through
but listen close, chickadees, i'm only saying this once
if you was living back then, you'd be hunted or on the hunt
i smile and nibble on some fresh fruit
and the red juice dribbles on my white suit
ditch my daughter with the feathers on her face
hop a train at the station, and look for others of my race.

still not quite right, is it? I just love that Italo Calvino "Dinosaur" story so much, and I can't seem to get the poem about it just right.

I'll try again someday.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Just heard from GUD Magazine

Greatest Uncommon Denominator Magazine (aka GUD Magazine) just picked up a poem of mine about a constellation and an astronomer that actually existed, once.

This came about when I was cruising random cool stuff and discovered a Wikipedia entry about a constellation in the southern hemisphere called "Lacerta".

I hope when GUD Magazine goes live to print with the issue, that some wikieditor adds that little factoid of my poem about the thing to the wiki entry.

because i don't do this very much...

because i don't do this very much, i want you to understand the importance of this link.

i don't link people all over the place for no reason. not me. this is not that kind of blog.

but, this link is vitally important to anyone who goes to gyms. tell your friends, too, just in case they start going to gyms.

Yes. Yes. A Thousand Times Yes.

That is all.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Interview with a puppy

Hello, and today I will be interviewing my Mom and Dad's latest addition to the family, Ruthie the English Springer Spaniel. She is weeks old. She does not speak English. Let's see what happens.

1) So, Ruthie, can you tell us a little bit about what you like best about being a puppy?

(Ruthie seems to ignore my question entirely. She's chewing on the plastic ends of the cords to the venetian blinds. she's opening the blinds... I'll be right back.)

2) So, Ruthie, how do you feel about your development in the area of potty training?

(Ruthie now has fixated her attention to the handle to the filing cabinet. Apparently, she likes to chew on the cool metal. Hm. That can't be good for you, honey... I'll be right back.)

3) Everyone talks about the way dogs have super senses of smell. What are some of your favorite smells?

(Ruthie again ignores the question. She is chewing on the leg of my pants and pulling. And pulling. Hey, something's tearing... I'll be right back.)

4) Ruthie, honey, who do you like better, your Mom or your Dad (or your dog-sitter)?

(Ruthie is chewing on my fingers while I type. It's very hard to type. And, it's starting to hurt. Give me a moment to do something with her...)

5) Ruthie, why are you peeing on the floor? Didn't I just take you out a minute ago?

(Ruthie bounds towards me, making a mess of her own spreading puddle of dogginess. Excuse me, for I must clean the floor, and hose down the filthy, filthy little puppy.)

Pictures will be posted as soon as I'm done cleaning. *looks around the floor, sniffing the air*. This may take a while.**

(author's note: this is exactly what occurred whilst asking questions. Seriously. Not one word or event was invented for the sake of drama.)

**Edit - Update to add

She sleeps:

I'm off to Dallas today...

I'll be signing books at a Borders in Dallas on Lovers Lane at 2:00-4:00 today.

When I get home, my Saturday interview will be of my parents' dogs.

Friday, March 14, 2008


i'm dogsitting for a week while my parents are in north dakota.

they have a new puppy.

there will be pictures, soon. i promise.

just not right now. i'm tired and i'm going to bed.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

the oatmeal container fell

the oatmeal container was on the counter, a good three inches away from the edge of the counter. the container was empty. i had eaten all of the oatmeal.

the cats were both with me on the coach. the kitchen was within my line of sight, just over the book i was reading. there was nothing on the counter that could have made the oatmeal fall. the air conditioning unit was powered down. there are no strange rodentia living in my apartment, thank you, because though i am cluttered, i do not let things become nasty. if something had knocked it over, i would have seen it moving above the book.

the oatmeal container fell onto the floor. the cats and i, all curious, walked over to the container. it had no reason to fall. it was a random act, that should not have occurred and that was precluded by nothing.

yesterday, i came home, and found a stepladder knocked over. the cats might have done that. still, the proximity of the event with the randomly falling oatmeal container leads me to suspect that other forces are at work.

i live near water. i live near old bones. i live at the edge of two cities, where the lines between settlements blur into a woodland.

i wonder what ghost followed me home the other night. i hope they are friendly. if not, i hope they are at least fans of Shostakovitch, because I have been playing symphonies four and ten over and over again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

daylight savings time and a bicycle

i saved no daylight this morning. in fact, i lost an hour of good light.

i left on my bike in the wee hours to ride through the river parks to the gym. the world was all fog, all mist, all hidden.

i rode through a dead painting by a dead impressionist. the trees in the misty twilight had no true shape without light. the road was formless. the rustling things in the trees beside the park trail were shrouded in a terrible darkness like fleeing shamblemen made of leaves. the misty air, like driving through the black pastel oils of a dead painting, smothered me in the absence of light. my glasses fogged. my sweatshirt fogged. my beard dripped with the gauzy glaze of the black scenery.

had i but one hour more, i would have had more than just a twilight. i would have had more than darkness. daylight savings time cost me an hour of light.

Monday, March 10, 2008

but i am an engineer...

so i'm doing these signings in bookstores all over town. i put out a bowl of chocolate and i ask people if they want chocolate. when they say 'yes', i ask them if they could at least glance at my book and go through the motions of checking it out.

totally works.

but, it doesn't work everytime. some people want the chocolate, and they don't like the book. which is cool. it happens.

but, the weird things people say when they try to explain why the don't want the book are amazing.

Apparently many folks take pride in their illiteracy. seemingly intelligent folk explain why they would never read a fantasy novel.

"But, you see, i am an Engineer," they say. they hand me back the book.

do you think it's scary that the people who design the interfaces and tools of the future often pride themselves in a lack of imagination?


also, my parents have a new puppy. she's cute as a button. however, the "five second rule" no longer applies at my parent's house. FYI.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Jim Hines Interview

You know him, you love him, and his name is "Jig", and a more pathetic slayer of dragons you'll never see in your life. Also, a funnier slayer of dragons will be hard to find, too.

The Saturday interview (so it's Sunday, and we're a day late...) is with author Jim Hines, who has written a thing or two.

His latest book just came out March 4, 2008, and once again we shall be greeted with more goblin adventures from Jig and company. *link*

You should buy it. It's funny. And exciting.

JMM) When you created your realm of beast and goblin and dragon, did you make a map of any kind? What visual aids did you use? Can you send me pictures of anything cool you used to help build your realm?

Jim Hines: I'd like to say I built a scale model of the whole goblin mountain out of Legos and gaming miniatures, but the reality is messier. Much messier. The map I used when writing Goblin Hero is posted at It was hard to scan, since I did the thing in pencil . . . partly because the details kept changing.

Mapping out your typical fantasy world is hard enough. Mapping out all those tunnels and pits in three dimensions, when nobody digs straight lines or right angles, it starts to hurt your brain after a while. But I'm proud to say that all of the caves, crevasses, tunnels, and pits do line up properly, just the way they're described in the books.

JMM) What is the difference between comedy and bad comedy? Do you have any tips or tricks to help people write as hilariously, knee-slappingly funny as you do?

Jim Hines: First of all, thanks! There are a lot of different styles of humor, and I'm not going to say one is better than another. In my case, I try very hard to make sure the story comes first. I've cut a number of jokes I thought were very entertaining because they didn't move the story along in any way, and I'm not going to add an extra two pages just for the sake of a punchline. That way, if someone's sense of humor doesn't match yours and they don't get the jokes, the story should still be engaging enough to hold their interest.

I also try to let the humor come from the characters. Jig, Grell, Braf, and the rest of the goblins are a lot funnier than I am. A lot of the humor I try to force into the story ends up getting cut in revision, whereas the things that come out of their interactions still makes me laugh.

Remember, when all else fails, have the spider set something on fire.

JMM) What writers do you see as your source for inspiration and what do you think they bring to your authorial palette?

Tough question. I try to learn from whatever I'm reading at the time. I just finished Tobias Buckell's book Crystal Rain, and his Carribean-based cultures gave me some insight into pacing, as well as writing something other than your generic western European-based characters. Peter David has a way of mixing humor with drama, making both more powerful, and I've tried to learn how to do that for myself. I read Diana Pharaoh Francis' wonderful book The Cipher a while back, trying to learn more about writing ocean-based fantasy.

I figure every writer has strengths and weaknesses. I plan to shamelessly steal--I mean, to take inspiration from the strengths of every writer I can find.

JMM) Food plays a prominent role in your Goblin books. Please, share with us a typical goblin feast from your latest book. *Hrk* Cough... Don't mind the vegetarian's stomach turning.

Jim Hines: The feast depends on the occasion. There's not a lot of food inside a mountain, so the goblins make do with whatever they can get. One of the more popular feasts comes with the naming of a new chief.

When the old chief dies, the toughest goblins fight it out to see who will take over. This works really well. The strongest goblin wins, and then the lair feasts on the losers.

Usually Golaka the chef slices one goblin up and cook him or her kabob-style. By this time, the lair is going to be pretty rowdy, so you want something that will cook fast. Chunks of goblin are alternated with mushrooms and maybe a few old roots, then sprinkled with fire-spider eggs for that extra kick. While the lair chomps on those, she'll slow-roast a second goblin, basting the meat with klak beer and blood gravy. Extra goblins are smoked and saved for later.

JMM) What is the future for Jig and Jig-kind? Is this the end of this story, or do you want to continue and create a "Tetralogy"?

Jim Hines: At the moment, there are no plans for a fourth goblin book. It can be easy to start churning out books which are essentially the same story, and I didn't want the series to get repetetive or redundant. I love Jig and his fellow goblins, but it was time to take a break.

Without spoiling anything, book three leaves Jig and company in a very different situation, one which has definite potential for some new stories. However, I'm contracted to write at least three books in a new series, so that's going to keep me busy through mid-2009 at least. (The first of those, The Stepsister Scheme, should be out in January 2009.)

Even if I don't do another book, there's always short fiction. I've written four goblin short stories, and just sold one about Smudge the fire-spider. So I may do a few more, if inspiration strikes. Ask me again a year from now.

Thanks for coming by and talking with us, Jim!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Because I am gullible...

I just volunteered for the Nebula Jury in the category of "Novels".

No human can keep track of everything happening in SF/F books for the year. I'll need y'all's help.

If anyone encounters a book that was published between January 1 2008-December 31, 2008 that ought to be on the Nebula Ballot, drop me a line. (Yes, that means *YOU* Charles A Tan, my Main Man in Manilla!)

I'd appreciate it.

No, you don't have to be a member of SFWA to win a Nebula. Also, you don't have to be published from Tor, Forge, DAW, etc. to win one. You don't even have to be in the fantasy and science fiction section of the store.

Thus, do let me know, folks, if you encounter a book that ought to be on the ballot for a Nebula.

Mucho Appreciado, Amigos!

Friday, March 7, 2008

in response to info overheard constantly at the museum...

just so you know, people of the world, the "apocrypha" is not a catholic thing. it's not in the catholic bible. it's not catholic. in fact, the apocrypha is the very definition of "not catholic". nothing could be less catholic than the apocrypha.

thus, if you are standing in front of a work of art in the museum that references the apocrypha, and mention how you just aren't familiar with the catholic bible, or the catholic anything, or really utter the words "catholic" at all while considering the apocryphal image...

Well, you sound like a boob to any catholic within about twenty yards.

let's review folks: apocrypha is not catholic. okay?


now, that doesn't mean apocrypha doesn't appear in religious texts. The Book of Enoch - apocryphal to catholics - is a part of the new testament among ethiopian orthodox christians.

religious exhibits do tend to bring a crowd to the museum that are not widely read, alas.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

no update...

(picture courtesy of John McDermott - no relation. Good job, John!)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

i don't get this. can a techie explain?

i cannot open my yahoo e-mail. i haven't been able to for quite some time.

i can stop the page loading, and view the source code. then, i can read the message just fine, mixed in with all the garbledegook of descending htmls and xmls and javas.

if i can view the source code without a hitch, how come i can't actually open the darn e-mail in a browser window proper?

snakes alive this has become not only annoying, but career-dampening!

so, techies, any lowdown or throwdown on my yahoo meltdown?

(this has been happening since before i ran my computer over with my car...)

wild speculation encouraged.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I DO blame the Greycaps...

Monday, March 3, 2008

snippets of half-remembered poetry from long ago

the banana is on the tip of my tongue
the pineapples on the back
the ice, the ice is everywhere
up and down my neck


for truly truth is true even when it's untrue
and untruth is untrue even when it's true


i had a nightmare of my hand
a daemon shoved it
past the lips of my cold blender
i watched it grind

blood and sinew splattered spinning
gore like peaches, nectarines
bone was almond in her roar
blender, blender, longed for more


lost poems, lost notebooks, all like bits of dreams falling up in the tip of the cappuccino foam. a taste, a taste on the tip of my tongue, and then gone.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

"Father" - Because I Was Thinking About International Pixelstained Technopeasant Day!

I love International Pixelstained Technopeasant day.

Have a free short story, all you webscabs!


No, I don't want to talk about it. I don't have to.

No, I don’t. Leave me alone.

I fucking broke my knuckles and I'd appreciate it if you left me alone.

Excuse me? I don't care who you are.

I said, I don't care who you are.

No, I'm not hurt anywhere else. I'm fine, you know, except that I, you know, broke my knuckles and I'm in excruciating pain and all, but no I'm really fine and I'd like you to leave. I don't want to talk to you. Where's my mom? Did you call her? Get her in here and get the hell out. You don't even know how he's doing, do you? You have no idea. I mean, I must've busted his nose. I know I busted his nose. How many teeth did he lose? You don't know? If you don't know, then get out because I don't want to talk to you.

I mean it.

Look, I said I don't want to talk to you.

Yeah, I busted him up. What's it to you? He's not gonna press charges.
Because I know he's not.

I just do, okay.

Get off my back! Go bug somebody else! This is none of your business. It's between me and him and I think you should leave.

I'm asking you nicely to please leave, okay?

What do you mean I have to talk to you?

But there isn't any abuse! Look at my hands and look at his face and tell me if there's abuse. If anything, there's parent abuse.

So what?



Tell me how he is and then come back, okay? Find out how he's doing and then come talk to me and I'll consider your offer.

You can't do that.

No, you can't. There isn't any abuse at all! You can't do that!

Fine, you want to know what happened that badly. Fine. FINE! I'll tell you. I came home late and beat up my Dad. That's what happened. Go write up your stupid reports, and leave us the hell alone.

What do you mean? No way. No.


Uh-uh. No.

Look, lady, you can't do that. Nothing happened, alright? It was just a stupid fight. It's totally over, totally completely over and it will never happen again.

You can't do that.

You don't understand!

Look, I came home past curfew and Dad and Terri got pissed. They waited up for me and I came home, and I thought they'd be asleep. They weren't. They wanted to talk about it, and I got pissed off. I mean, I'm sixteen years old and I don't think being out late is such a big deal but apparently I'm mature enough to drive, but not mature enough to go to a few parties now and then. So, I got pissed and I just left. I went to my room and locked my door and told my dad to piss off. He broke my door down, and I took a swing at him and now we're in the hospital and I really would appreciate it if you went to check on my Dad. I know I broke his nose pretty bad and I know his eye didn't look that good, and I know he got some teeth knocked out. I didn't want to do that to him, but he made me.

He did make me.

Yes, he did. He actually did make me do it.

Who started it? What are you talking about? There wasn't a fight. I just hit him.
There wasn't a fight.

Well, I lied, alright. I mean, geez, you won't even go find out about my Dad. How's he doing?

Well what's the last thing you heard?

That's great. You don't know anything. You come talk to me and you don't know a goddamn thing.

He did make me.

He told me to hit him.

I'm not lying. Really, he told me to hit him. I mean, I took the first swing and that one was all me, but after that he just kept telling me to hit him.

He did. I mean, he broke down my door and told me never to walk away from him. He was all like, "Never walk away from me, boy. You never walk away from me! I am your father and you never walk away from me!"

That was kind of during, actually. He said it while he was kicking down my door, and he was still yelling about it on the way in. That's when I took a swing. I busted him right in the jaw as hard as I could. He didn't fall over or anything, he just stumbled back and looked real surprised. I thought I was dead. I mean, you know, he's a big guy. He used to play football and stuff just like me. He even boxed heavyweight once. He's, like, huge. Well, I hit him and he kinda stumbled back. I looked at him right then and he was just really really huge. God, I thought I was dead. I thought he was gonna just kill me. He looked so shocked. I mean, he just looked like he was, you know, really surprised and stuff. He just, well, he just looked at me like that. If he hadn't looked so surprised I might've hit him again.

You wanted to know so bad, well I'm telling you so shut up, lady. Don't interrupt me again with that BS. I'm telling the truth so stop twisting my words around. This is what happened next. He took off his glasses, his watch, his shirt. He even took off that necklace Terri got him in Costa Rica. He even took off his wedding ring. He took everything off. Terri came running up because it got real quiet, but she just stood in the doorway. She didn't say anything. I mean, this was about us, you know, about me and him.

Dad looked right at me and I was stepping back because I thought he was gonna open up on me. I really believed I was totally dead. He never hit me. Not even once. He just looked at me and he said, "You want to hit me, huh? You want to hit me in the face. Fine. Hit me."

I didn't even try. I thought he was gonna just use it as an excuse to get me on my feet so he could kill me. He shook his head at me like he was disappointed. He said, "I won't fight back. You have my word, boy. I won't lift a finger to stop you. I won't fight you. I can't fight you. Now get up. You want to hit me. So hit me. I'm not asking you boy. I'm telling you. Hit me."

I figured I'd rather go down on my feet. That's really what I thought. I mean, I thought he was still just playin' with me and he was gonna break me in half. I figured if I was gonna die, I'd wanna at least get one more good shot in. So I stood up and I popped him in the gut. He doubled over a little and laughed, "No, boy. You wanted to hit me in the face. You didn't want to hit me in the gut. The face, boy. Hit me right in the face."

Well, yeah. I did. I hit him right in the face. I was still pretty pissed so I was still swingin' good. I mean, I was half expecting him to turn around on me and let it loose on me, but he didn't. He'd take the shot and he'd look me in the eye and say, "Hit me again, boy. One more time." He kept saying it over and over again. I mean, I was okay with it until he started bleeding. I'll admit it. I really was. I mean, I'd been wantin' to hit him for a while. Then he started bleedin'. Didn't take long for that. Couple minutes at most, you know. He just started bleedin' every time I hit him. It was his nose first. God, I busted his nose real bad. He even fell over for that one. That was the first time he fell over. Then he stood up, takin' his time to get up and stuff and he said, "Again, boy. C'mon. You're not done yet."

I was like, "You're bleeding."

He said, "So what? Didn't stop you before. It's my blood. You don't think it's your blood, do you? It's mine. I don't care if I lose a little blood. Hit me again. Hit me again, goddammit. That's an order, boy. Hit me again."
So I kept hitting him. He started falling over a lot, but he kept getting back up. I mean, he just wouldn't let me stop. He just kept getting up. What was I supposed to do? God, I started throwing up all over my room and he just told me to hit him again. God, his face was messed up. He was bleeding everywhere. His nose was fucked up. And I tried to go easy on him but he wouldn't let me. He said, "You fuckin' call that a punch? Didn't I teach you to punch better than that? What a wuss. You're a wuss, boy. You can't finish what you started. C'mon. Again. Hit me again, for real this time."

I broke my knuckles sometime after the first half hour, I think. We went at it for over two hours. He just wouldn't let me stop. He kept getting up. I mean, I didn't want to, but he kept getting up. He'd just spit the teeth out into his hand and put them in his pocket. Blood was everywhere. God he must've lost gallons of blood. I'm feeling sick, lady. I think I'm gonna puke again. That's what happened, alright.

What do you mean when did we stop? We stopped when he said I could stop. It was right after I switched hands. I hit him on the forehead and he fell over, and something snapped real loud in my hand. He stood up real, real slow - he'd been falling and standing up real slow every time - and he looked me in the face and he said, "How's your hand?"

I was holding my hand by then. I mean, I've really screwed up my knuckles. I told him, "It hurts like a motherfucker."

"Use your other hand," he said.

I said, "No. You made your point. I'm sorry. God, I'm so sorry."
He said, "Hit me again, boy. You're not done yet. You haven't finished the job. Use your other hand."

So I did. I only got four shots in with my left hand before he couldn't get up. He lay there on the ground. He was just laying there on his back in a mess of blood and vomit from both of us and he just looked up at me and he said, "I reckon you're done, boy. I reckon you're done." That's it. That's what happened.
What about her? Well, she couldn't watch. She watched at first, but after the first couple shots she just left. I don't know what she was doing. Why don't you ask her?

Dad isn't the kind of guy you can really argue with once he's got his mind set on something.

Well, I helped him up, and we went out to the kitchen. He wanted a glass of water. He was bleeding so much and he could barely walk. I got him some water and he put the cup up to his face and he started drinking and so much of his blood got in there he ended up drinking more blood than water. God, I feel sick. I don't want to talk about this anymore, alright? I don't want to talk about anything. I think I'm gonna puke. Terri's gotta be here. If Mom isn't here, can you at least get Terri? Do you know if my Mom's gonna be here? Have you called her yet? I have her number somewhere. I know Terri knows where it is. Talk to her, okay. I mean, Terri. Talk to Terri. But I want to see my Mom, so get her up here, too.

Hey, wait. Nothing's gonna happen right? I mean, tonight was bad, but like I said, it's over. You're not gonna do anything, right? Can you find out how he's doing for me? Please? I really need to know if he's gonna be okay.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Interview with Lindsay Ribar - Literary Agent's Assistant

All right, party people, I'm off to a signing today in North Arlington, at a Barnes and Noble near the intersection of I-30 and Collins. Come by for free chocolate! I'll be there 2:00-4:00 PM.

Also, I'm already tired of talking about myself. Let's talk about soemone else for a while!

Ever wonder what exactly happens when a prospective writer pitches off that letter, or e-query, to a literary agency?

Everyone's always interviewing agents everywhere. I thought it would be more fun to talk to an agency accountant. Which, was actually impossible to find in time. Thus, I reached out to the person just at the edges of the system, Matt Bialer's assistant, Lindsay Ribar.

Now, let's go learn all the agency dirt:

J- What is the difference between your official job description, and your actual, day-to-day activities?

LR- Well, this one would be a lot easier to answer if anyone had ever given me an official job description! When I interviewed here, the office manager told me about all the scary, scary paperwork that I'd have to keep up with, while Matt (the bossman) stressed the artistic side of things, which is reading and evaluating things. That's about as official as we ever get around here.

The day-to-day activities are even more vague. It's very much a "do what needs to be done" sort of place. There is of course the scary, scary paperwork (which isn't so scary -- usually) and filing and faxing and all sorts of other things that a trained monkey can do. There are things like sending out submissions to publishing houses. Matt and I usually write a submission letter together, he gives me a list of names, and I make things look as pretty as possible, and ship 'em out.

The fun part is, of course, doing editorial work. I was actually surprised by this part of the job, as I'd always thought that editorial work was the work of, well, editors. But while the editors are the people responsible for tweaking the book down to every niggling detail, the fact is that it's a tough market out there, and most editors don't want to be bothered with something that isn't already in pretty awesome shape by the time it falls into their hands. And since Matt is a very hands-on sort of agent, he made it clear right from the day I started, that editorial work is a big part of with our jobs. He works mostly with current clients, but since I'm the assistant (and therefore on the front lines), I get to work with signed clients AND prospective clients.

I recently gave notes to a pair of clients who've been published for more than twenty years; right now I'm putting notes together for a client who's about to turn his first book in to his editor; and just before this one, I read a novel by a slush author, gave her some serious critiques, and asked for a rewrite.

The last ones are actually my favourites, since it's so rare and exciting to find something in the slush pile that's even worth reading to the end. Very often, I'll like a manuscript a lot, but recognize that it's not yet in good enough shape to send out to editors; so I'll ask for a rewrite without a promise of signing. Sometimes, if my notes are in line with the author's vision of the book, they'll say yes. Sometimes not. This process is also a great way to see whether or not an author will be easy for an editor to work with.

If we have to go through three revisions without anything really changing, this probably won't be an author I'm interested in working with.

J- How many queries do you receive in the mail?

LR - It really varies. I get anywhere from two to thirty on an given day, and I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that I've read thousands already. And for anyone who's trying to find an agent, I know the next logical question is something like "And what percentage of the queries...?"

I usually break it down like this. With made-up percentages and everything! Probably about 75% of the stuff I read falls into the Huh, This Is All Well And Good, But If I Put It Down For Five Minutes, I Won't Remember What It's About category. It's average. The plot is perfectly good, the characters are fine, and the language is lukewarm but still okay. I usually give it five to ten pages before deciding that nothing exciting is going to happen, and then I throw it away.

Then there's the next 20%, which is so mindnumbingly boring and/or stupid that you can't read past the first paragraph without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. Then, of course, the 1% that gets the most time on every slush-reader's blog: the Gummy Bear pile. The stuff that's so bad that you can't NOT read it. The stuff that gets passed around from assistant to assistant, usually with little notes everywhere, pointing out particularly bad passages. The stuff that, like gummy bears, you can't help but devour, even though you know you'll feel sick afterwards.

And then there's that elusive 4%, which ends up in the small I'll Look At This Again Tomorrow pile. This is the stuff that has that little "something" about it, whatever it is that makes you want to read more. Maybe a particularly unique plot point, or even something as trivial as an unusual character name. Whatever it is, this query will get my full attention, and maybe I'll even ask for the whole thing.

If it gives you any indication, I've worked for Matt for a little more than ten months. I've read countless partials, maybe 20-30 fulls, and asked for about 10 rewrites, some of which have sadly been rejected, some of which I'm still waiting on. And in all that time, we've signed ONE slush author.

j- Everyone focuses on the ever-exciting "sales force" - i.e. agents - but there's much more to a successful agency. What other roles are there in a literary agecy, and how do they all contribute to the different part of a book's lifespan?

LR- Well, in terms of the book's lifespan, the agent really is the key. It's up to the agent to match book and editor/publisher, and everything else at the agency is a support system for that crucial process. I work at a medium-sized agency, where there are eight agents, seven assistants, two interns, a kickass two-person foreign rights department, and another two-person team in accounting. (Plus scouting, but they don't really have much to do with us beyond being under the same company banner.) The assistants and accountants, as I said, are the support system for the agents, but I should mention that the foreign rights folks really do have a very underrated role in our agency -- underrated because even though everyone generally assumes that domestic sales feed the strength of foreign sales, far fewer people realize that it works the other way around. Sometimes a book will sell abroad first, and the strength of those numbers will help the author get a better deal, and feed word of mouth, in the States.

But you asked about a book's lifespan; and as fatalistic as it may sound, most of that is out of the agency's hands. The agents can do their absolute best to find the perfect loving home for a book, but from there, anything can happen. It depends on how the publisher's marketing department treats the title, it depends on reviews, and it depends on word of mouth. (And, once in a blue sparkly moon, it depends on Oprah.)

J - What do you think the major differences between a literary agent's assistant and an editor's assistant are?

LR - Having only interned in editorial departments (as opposed to working there for real, and there IS a huge difference), I won't say I'm the expert on this. But from what I gather, an editor's assistant has a much tighter schedule, more involvement with the final product, and more pressure in terms of actual editing -- all on top of the usual assistanty paperwork, of course. As an agent's assistant, most of my job is reading, and very rarely do I have a deadline beyond "just get it done as soon as possible." (Sounds like a cushy job, right? I won't lie. It totally is.)

I don't know what the reading load for an editor's assistant is, so I can't compare, but I have an endless pile of manuscripts. I read at work when everything else is done. I read on the subway. I read at home. If it were possible, I'd be reading in my sleep. I used to be one of those people who lugs giant manuscripts everywhere. Technically, I still am -- but my company recently got those funky little Sony Readers for everyone, so while I still have thirteen manuscripts in my purse, you just can't see them. My chiropractor loves the Sony Reader. And so do I. I sound like a commercial, don't I....

J - Any last words or recommendations to people who would like to learn more about the role of a literary agent's assistant, or you, personally?

LR - Well, as for my role as an agent's assistant... yes.

To people looking for industry jobs: Don't discount the agenting side if your goal is editorial, especially if you want to work in fiction. We do a lot more editing on the agency side than you might think, and in most cases, the work atmosphere is much more relaxed at agencies than it is at most publishing houses.

To prospective authors: Treat us nicely. If you talk to us like we're idiots, or if you insist on not following the rules of submitting-a-manuscript, or if you're otherwise exceptionally annoying, just remember two things: (a) our bosses hear EVERYTHING, and (b) we're the ones with the rejection cards. If you are polite, though, we just might pay more attention to your book.

And as for me personally? Hmm. Single female seeks single male for long walks on the beach (if you can find a beach), sushi-eating, and many hours in front of the TV watching Dexter, Firefly, and Doctor Who. Ta!

j-Thank you Lindsay, for coming by and sharing a peak behind the magic rejection machine. Next week, I don't know who I'm interviewing, yet, but I'm definitely going to try to find someone interesting.