Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Of Ladies and Tigers

Most folks around here probably remember this story about ladies and tigers and cities on the backs of giant lizards.

Well, I put together a min-collection of work, including that short story, with the YA readers in mind. These ten stores and flash pieces run about as long as a novella, at 27,000 words give or take. They include new and previously published pieces that I believe would be more interesting for teenagers.

What do I know about teenagers? Not much.

Still, it was something I could do to ease the muttering of money. We could definitely use a little more around here with the wedding looming and the move and all the uncertainty of moving and though I have a position lined up in San Antonio, my wife does not.

I don't like charity situations. I'm working for my keep. I make things.

Anyway, I also updated the cover art to DEATH MASK AND EULOGY, which was ridiculously overdue. I had left the placeholder on for way too long and never got around to it until now. <-Some YA appropriate fictions and flashes of fictions. <- Updated cover art on DEATH MASK AND EULOGY

Both cover images are from the public domain, located at Wikimedia Commons.

Watch your preferred retailer for availability. I don't believe we'll be seeing too many Kindle titles around here until the Smashwords site connects to it, sorry. But, Nook, Kobo, Sony, etc.? Watch for it, and you'll see it very soon. They're both DRM-free so you can pick it up anywhere you like and port it into your favorite device at will.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I am thinking a lot about money this morning. It's weird to say that, because it's a useless thing, and has nothing to do with art or family or anything, and I don't enjoy thinking about it, but it certainly has everything to do with anything I'm doing right now because work ought to lead to money and families struggle without it and  many good things can be made to happen with money. I don't like to think about it, but I'm thinking about it a lot.

Money money money. It's pouring through my head this morning. I'm thinking about money. I'm thinking about how to make more money, or if anyone should bother making more money. It is the sort of thing that happens, I guess, less than two weeks from your own wedding.

It isn't just me anymore. I can't just be a starving artist and be happy with the work, because I'm asking someone else to starve. I mean, I haven't been a starving artist for a while, but I certainly haven't ever been somewhere where I don't think about money when I work, and I don't have to do things I don't want to do for money. I'll have to do more of the things I don't like for the money. Always for the money. Because I have more responsibilities, and making money is the only way I know how to address them.

The most important thing has always been the idea, not the units sold. Science texts and journals innovate and innovate and innovate and change the world and build a better world and the readership of the journals and texts are strictly professional. Never expect a nitty-gritty physics tome about gravity's relationship to jet propulsion or somesuch to be hot off the presses, bestselling, celebrity star. Hot off the presses best-sellers tend to change society very little. At best, they tend to open a dialog about a controversial subject. At worst, they reflect the preconceived notion of the mainstream back upon itself. We should be writing ideas. Better to change the world with your idea than to sell the world the ideas it already has. Exceptions always, but...

But, money...

I write flags, not books. People who are predisposed to liking my books like my books. We are fellow citizens in this kingdom of the mind. Rally to my ideas, as I rally to the other ideas like mine. We rally. We push these ideas out into the physical world, all together, into the sea of culture with our books before us like stepping stones and shields and flags and the wood that makes our boats.

We are tract scribblers. We are pamphleteers disguised as prophets, or prophets disguised as pamphleteers. What use to us a dollar? What use a Euro? This is a Revolution or perhaps it is God's work. Commandeer as you go, or God will provide, or something. You aren't on the street, yet. It doesn't matter where you are, if the work continues, and it is good work - righteous work.

Yet, the work is not always enough to still the naked heart. There is more to life than just the revolution. What will we do if we ever win and people treat each other with empathy and bloody be kind to each other? What happens to us, then?

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise, right? Wealth is in a strange place, Mr. Franklin, sandwiched as it is between health and wisdom. But, I know wealth can buy good health. I've seen that. It always could. Could wealth also buy wisdom? Do we believe it does, deep down? Do we listen to the rich man more than the man who has worked every day of his life, to get some of that wisdom that can lead us to wealth? Do we really, secretly believe that?

I'll admit it. There's a part of me that is a subconscious part of me that hears the words of a successful man and assumes the words he speaks matter more than the words of his assistant. The assistant, though, if I were to rationally estimate, is probably the wiser. That's certainly been what I have experienced in life, talking to rich man and the people who work for them.

The work continues. It is, I think, a good work.

I'm thinking about money a lot, today.

I'm thinking about piling all my books into a trailer and driving to a new city, far away from here, where life will start up anew.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

a little news of interest to very few

Most of y'all aren't affected by this, in the slightest, so for general readers, move along and don't worry...

I just wanted to let people know that my agent and I have parted ways. There weren't any problems or issues or anything scandalous in the slightest, and I was always impressed with Matt Bialer's work and affable personality. I recommend him highly to others. This was an artistic-difference decision involving where I'm going with the work that I'm doing and where he's going with the work that he's doing.  He's going to finish working on the one thing we have pending, and I have no doubt he'll be a tireless advocate. Beyond that one thing with the people who know who they are, please contact me directly for any business inquiries. I don't know what the future holds, exactly, but I know this is the right decision moving forward for us both.

Again, a great agent and a great dude! Thanks for being my agent, Matt, and thanks for your help with all sorts of things, Lindsay, and I appreciate all that you've both done! I look forward to seeing you both succeed in the future!

One of those things that impacts just about no one that reads this blog, but worth saying, regardless.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chit-Chat With a Space Cowgirl

  • I've been reading these two books by some crazy Texan by the name of Katy Stauber. They're a little lighter than the usual heady stuff I push on you around here, but that's not a mark against a book that pursues lightness honestly. Fun isn't a dirty word, after all. Everyone likes a good space cowboy romping caper now and then. As summer winds down, you have time for another summer read, I reckon.
    I asked Katy a few questions about the science fictional things happening in her books, which are a complex mess of what is very possible on our current cultural destination.
    •  What parts of your imagined futures do you most desire to happen?

  • July 11
    Katy Stauber
    • Oh, well, there is much of the 'space cowboy' fantasy aspect that is more personal fantasy than things I'd actually like to see. Although, the whole Texas cattle ranchers in space aspect comes more from a belief that I should write about what I know, in so far as that is possible in science fiction. I grew up in rural Texas so rednecks and ranchers is what I know.

      In my small southest Texas town, we had a large immigrant population from Mexico and I definitely patterned many of the characters off my first generation Texan friends and their parents when writing this because I grew up watching them as they struggled with surviving and thriving in a totally different culture, language, and world, really.

      I really think near Earth orbital/Lunar colonies or mining colonies are the next step before a Mars colony although I've gotten into long arguments with the Spacex and NASA guys over that.

      I follow the progress they are making on those manufacturing printers because I think that's definitely something that needs to be the next step and because they are frickin' cool.

    • Why are your space cowboys different from the rest?

  • July 24
    Katy Stauber
    • Ach. I could have sworn I answered your question, but I don't think it went through. Basically, I gave the main characters the last name of Vaquero because I wanted my space cowboys to be more like the vaqueros, traditional Texas cowboys, than the Hollywood version. Growing up in a small Texas town, I went to school with what's left of these guys and they were always impressive. It was easy to envision them in outer space charging off to mine meteors, stop space stampedes and shoot it out with pirates. 
    • Okay... Let's do a couple more. You're dealing with some high-tech stuff, and I'm curious where and how you find inspiration for all this technology, and if you wish you could unimagine any of it from your own mind, or the minds of others? (Okay, super high biotech scares me...)

  • August 2
    Katy Stauber
    • Much of the tech comes from spending way too much time trying to imagine the future and how it will work followed by doing a bunch of research on the Internet and then having subsequent horrific nightmares. I used to find the whole "Gee, look, yet ANOTHER way humans could destroy the world with a touch of a button" aspect of tech news mildly amusing until I had kids. Now I don't find it amusing at all.

      I do frequently wish I could unimagine this stuff. Much of my impetus to write science fiction is more of an attempt to find some useful outlet for the ridiculous amounts of time I will spend researching what's going on in biotechnology or robotics or whatever.

      I get so excited that I feel like I need to tone down the tech, take more time to present each one to the story instead of trying to cramming in one more cool idea. It is hard to do that, though, without slowing down the action or infodumping until the reader's eyes glaze over.

      Getting other people to unimagine this stuff has its appeal as well. I don't want to take the classic science fiction route in which I present cool new cutting edge technology and then have it immediately try to kill everyone on Earth. It always makes for a fun story, but that story has definitely been told and now I think we need a more positive, more complicated story to tell.

      For example, right now, I've horrified myself by reading up on quadmotor drones. After two night of nightmares about flying drones popping through the window to kill my babies, I am finding it difficult to write a short story about them without being depressing about it. I mean, yes, the story will be about someone accidentally confusing the TSA's No Fly List with the Drones Kill List, but I don't want it to be a total bummer, you know?

  • There's books you should and could be checking out. SPIN THE SKY and REVOLUTION WORLD!

    Thanks to Katy for answering some questions about the magical place known as the FUTURE of TEXAS and SPACE and stuff.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Robbery

Freedom from care. That's what money means to me. Like if I had the money I could do whatever I wanted forever and nobody could stop me, and I could leave this place behind for something better. The bank robber was not thinking like I was. He was robbing us because we had the money. He was only thinking about getting the money. He had a gun and a getaway car. He was Hispanic or he was faking a Spanish accent. He was dressed like a business man in a black suit. He had no idea what he was doing to me.
"Empty the register. Fast, man, fast!" They train us to always do what the man with the gun demands. 
"You honestly think this is a good idea? They’re going to catch you."
"Hurry up!"
A woman screamed. People have noticed. The police are coming. I'm sure they'll be here any moment.
"I will do this that you ask me to do. I'm reaching for the register now and I'm doing this. Please, don’t shoot. Listen, though. I have to know. What does this money mean to you?" I was doing what he demanded. I was emptying my register into the bag, meticulously, without moving too fast. Robbers don’t like it when you move too fast.
"Shut up!" His hair was dyed black with grey at the temples. I'm sure of it. He has a Caucasian mouth, like a pudgy Matthew Perry. He was blond at the very tip of his roots. He had green eyes. They don't look like contacts. 
I looked him in his eyes.
" I'm doing what you say. Return the favor. Tell me what the money means to you."
People are scared. They're trying not to move. Fight or flight doesn't work with guns. Bullets are too strong and too fast. Hold still. Hope he runs out of bullets before you. Call for help who have more guns -- the police. "Please," I said.
"Its just money. Hurry up."
He had given me a grocery bag to fill up. It was a Whole Foods reusable bag. He was going to do this again; he needed a reusable bag.
I was at the change now. I was watching it go. Let him have it all. "I wish you well," I said. I held the bag out to him. " Hurry before they catch you. Police are on the way."
He needed not to look too close. He needed to run. He leaned over the counter. I could smell his smell. A fancy soap, vanilla or lavender or something in between. It was an odd smell for a man. I saw him now for what I think he was: a man in a nice hotel, visiting town, and using nice hotel soap. A professional bank robber, then. I saw his clean shave, and the fine hairs on his face. I had not moved an inch backwards when he leaned over the counter. He saw the drawer, and looked up at the clock on the wall. "Plenty of time."
I don't say anything. I fill up the bag. 
"You're the manager, right? You count out the drawers?"
"That's right."
"Keep filling it up," he said. "Plenty more in there." He held the gun out.
I kept filling up the bag. There was nothing else I could do.
He was smirking now. His Hispanic accent was dropping away. The bag was heavy with paper. He reached for it, over the counter, and snatched it from me. "You want to know?” he said. “What this money means to me?"
"I do."
"It means I win."
The bank robber was smiling. He turned quickly then, and surveyed for heroism. He relaxed a little when he saw no one even try to run from him, or pull anything. He held the gun out to the woman who had screamed. She was cowering. "Bang," he said. She didn’t move a muscle. She didn’t breathe.
I moved. I stepped around the counter. I walked behind him as he slipped into his running car.
There were sirens coming this way.
He looked over at me. He saluted with his gun and revved the engine. I stood in front of his car. I folded my arms. I looked at him. He held up the gun. I shrugged. He laughed and backed up. He swerved around me and was gone. I walked away before the police could find me. 
Freedom is what money means to me. So I live free. My first night under a bridge a dirty man came for everything I had but I pushed him and fought him and shouted until he left and then I couldn't fall asleep again. The second night was better because I had found a bench and I could be up off the ground and no one came to chase me off. I found an apple tree in an abandoned yard after that. The fruits were small and hard and tart but I ate until I could burst. I was sick from eating all the apples I could stomach. Then, I went to the police station and no one knew what I was doing there. I gave a statement about the robbery, and how scared I was and that’s why I ran away. They wrote it down. They told me to go home.
I went home and took a shower and it was like nothing had happened.
It was worse than being caught.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Weddings for Everybody!

When I first got engaged, it was great and fun and I thought Weddings for everybody! Hooray for marriage! Then I learned that it is actually a lot of work to get married. With a couple weeks to go and final preparations happening, I have had plenty of time to think about weddings. I know lots of my peers and cousins are against weddings, and I want to go on record saying they are wrong to be so. I think a wedding is a very good thing, particularly inside of a faith tradition.

The first step in getting married in the Catholic Church is taking a course led by volunteers in the church dedicated to interpersonal conflict both small and large, and how to deal with conflict without losing sight of your love and affection for each other. They call it "Pre-Cana" and it's sort of silly, but it is full of information culled from decades of research and personal experience from all sorts of folks. Conflict resolution, working together, running a budget, etc. Most religions have this sort of program, to my knowledge, and I recommend going through one because it is a nice refresher course for what comes next.

You see, next, there comes the wedding planning.

Events planning is a difficult thing, and particularly so for introverted writer-types accustomed to falling into a routine to making books that has little to do with dealing with about 100 friends and family members. Frankly, few can handle that kind of noise and confusion and struggle of managing the needs of 100 people day to day.

So, anyway, regardless of the intimidation factor, the training one acquires in "Pre-Cana" is immediately applied to events planning. We have to run a budget together. We have to disagree amicably about things and work towards compromise. We have to face the worst parts of ourselves, sometimes, when we realize we want something and we have to face the difficult discussions about family and friends who are coming or not or not invited at all. We have to face the facts. Also, we have to build the facade. Plan an event. Reserve a space. Handle paperwork, legal paperwork and otherwise. We have to do all the stupid little decisions that come from events planning. We have to disagree about things that are important to us, and work it out, and the theory is you apply what you learn in Pre-Cana, and you have your family and friends around to watch and observe and guide. Also, it's a big thing that you do together, right at the beginning of your life together.

This is why I think weddings are a great idea, and probably a good thing to have at the beginning of your life together.

Also, it's going to be really fun to get everybody together! With big, diffuse communities like we have these days, it's rare that everybody gets together, celebrates something.

Weddings are a good thing. They are a very good thing. Weddings for everybody!

PS Please buy my books and help pay for my wedding?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Two Important Pictures.

Notice there's a coupon code in the second image... ;)