Tuesday, October 06, 2015

In Which I Am Cursed

Dr. Skull and I have an in-joke for when life suddenly goes awry like this -- when out of nowhere, everything starts going wrong at once:

  • I break a tooth 
  • the washing machine breaks down 
  • the kid gets sick not once but twice (so far this month) 
  • I get put on the Committee From Hell (the committee members are lovely; the work load is the problem)
  • I find out I need a root canal -- see broken tooth, above -- for which my dental insurance will cover only some of the cost
  • the dog gets fleas and gives them to the cats 
  • the state sends us a letter saying we owe (I kid you not) nearly two thousand dollars in back taxes
  • and now, this morning, we go out in the garage to find the car has yet another flat tire. (We ran over a screw.  ANOTHER SCREW. The AAA guy says the city is doing a lot of construction; he's seeing a lot of flat tires as a result.  He says this is better than the other tires he had to change this morning, two of them, a result of a woman whose ex-boyfriend came around during the night to slash two of the tires on her truck. Count your blessings, I guess.)

"Uh-oh," we say. "We're in an astrological cold spot."

To be clear, neither of us believe in astrology.  Or magical thinking of any kind. Or fate. Or even bad luck.

I don't even believe the universe is actually fucking with us.

But jeez, universe,  Let up a little.  I give.

Monday, September 28, 2015


So this weekend I broke a tooth -- a molar that was like 70% fillings.  (Why, yes, I did grow up in Louisiana, a state with no fluoride in the water, because communism, thanks for asking!)

I called my wonderful dentist, who said she could fit me in today at 2:00, but sadly today is the Teaching Day From Hell, when I teach from 8:00 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., so no go on that unless I wanted to cancel classes, and since I've had to cancel classes once already this semester I was reluctant to do that.

Me: "Well, the tooth is hurting.  But not that badly.  Do you have any time tomorrow? Or Thursday?"

(These are my non-teaching days, the days I use for writing. Or, you know, going to the dentist.)

The dentist's assistant: "We can fit you in Thursday afternoon. Are you sure it's not hurting?"

Friday, September 25, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately: Tana French

I can't recall which blog I was reading which recommended Tana French, but I do recall the logline of the recommendation.  She was on a list of books that named the blogger's Top Ten Most Devastating Reads.  I probably have the adjective wrong; but not far wrong.

Devastating but brilliant, I think was what the list said.  Again, I've got the adjectives wrong, but not far wrong.

I've read four of Tana French's books now, and my verdict is: Yup.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Look What I Made

The short story I sold to Sockdolagar is live today, y'all.

Go here to read it: "What Happened to Lord Elomar during The Revolution."

This is set in the same universe as my Martin stories, though it shares none of the same characters.

Also, a kitten!

You can buy the issue on Amazon here.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Rosh Hashanah 2015

Every year at Rosh hashanah, we go down to the river and throw bread in the water.

Here at the right, you can see (barely, that's me and the kid, very tiny) us at the river this year.

This is a Jewish custom.  When you throw the bread in the river, with each piece, you say the thing you're sorry that you're did that year -- for instance, "I'm sorry I yelled at the dog!"  "I'm sorry I was mean to people on Facebook!" "I'm sorry I used gender-specific insults!"

That sort of thing.

Then we walk along the river, as the sun goes down, which some years is nicer than others -- this year it was very nice, because today was a lovely day -- and then we come home for a holiday dinner, which always includes Challah and honey, so that we can start off the New Year sweetly.

L'shanah tovah, y'all.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dialogue from the delagar Household: Travails of the Job Search

(Dr. Skull has a job here in the Fort now, finally, after being unemployed for two years -- but it's a job outside his field.  He's still looking for a university position.)

Me (to Dr. Skull): Here's a job for a poet. But it's in Houston.
Dr. Skull: Send me the link.
Me: It's in Houston. You don't want to live in HOUSTON.
Dr. Skull: It's a job teaching poetry. Send me the link.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

This Is So Great

...that I must share.

Y'all might know that Dr. Skull is working as a substitute teacher now.

Yesterday he had a second grade classroom.  Which, as he puts it, is like teaching puppies.

Golden retriever puppies.

Anyway, they all wanted to give him their drawings to take home.

My favorite is this one, which I wish I had a scanner, because my descriptive powers do not do it justice.  It is so wonderful.

On pink construction paper.

Outside: a giant bright red heart, with two layers, the outside scalloped, the inside very darkly drawn.

On the inside a carefully printed message:

Hi Mr. B

You Are


(The "Mr. B" is for his actual name, which starts with a B.)

Sunday, September 06, 2015

New Issue of Crossed Genres:Issue 33: 2065

Our new issue of Crossed Genres is up.  This is Issue #33, which has the theme the year 2065. So all near-future stories.

For me, these are the hardest sorts of stories to write.  Not other writers, apparently -- we got tons of submissions for this issue, though not nearly as many as for the novella issue.

Our stories!

Verity Lane, our Spotlight Author, brings us The Springwood Shelter for Genetically Modified Animals.  (For those at home just joining us on the blog, each month Crossed Genres publishes one Spotlight Author, which is an author who has never made a professional sale before.) Verity deals here with the twin problems we have already in our country -- disposable people, disposable pets.

Here is Verity's interview.

Elliotte Rusty Harold gives us Ants on a Trestle, a story about problem many of us don't consider when we think about the future -- we think monsters or terrorists will be what we have to worry about.  But realistically, you know, probably not.

And finally, from Brian Trent, a wonderful story, Chasing Comets.  No spoilers on this one. Go read. You won't be sorry.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Teaching Utopian / Dystopian Lit

Right now in my Popular Lit: Utopian / Dystopian Lit class, I have the class considering a trio of texts.

We are just finishing up reading Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, while at the same time we are watching John Carpenter's Escape From New York.  Then, after Labor Day, we will read Joanna Russ's The Female Man.

Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966)

If you are not familiar with Heinlein's classic SF work, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a Utopian novel set in a prison colony.  (There's a McGuffin plot about a Revolution, which is almost incidental.) Heinlein posits that if we transport a heap of prisoners, many of them political, but some of them actually criminal, to a prison world from which they have no escape, and dump them with no laws and no social controls except those they make themselves, what will evolve will be an anarchist Utopia.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Writing Good Short Stories

This is taken from a handout / lecture/ rant I give my Fiction Workshop students every year at about this point in the semester (second or third workshop, in other words).  I thought some of y'all might like to read it.

It's my tips on Writing Good Short Stories.

(1) These are tips, not rules.  You don't write fiction by rules.

(2) The best short stories will be between 1500 and 5000 words. That’s about two to twenty pages – not a lot of room to develop characters, confliction, drama, and resolution. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

So That Was Week Two

This semester has had a rougher start than usual, for a number of reasons.
One, because I'm teaching two reading-intensive courses.  Both great classes, mind you -- Working Class Lit, and Utopian/Dystopian Lit -- but both with heavy reading to be done every day.

Second, because my insomnia is so vicious at the moment.  Not sleeping makes everything feel like I'm rowing uphill.

Third, why is Labor Day so late?  Why, why, why?

Also, I have a kid in high school.  OH MY GOD, what trauma.

Fourth, I have a kid in high school who is taking both PE and Geometry.  KILL ME NOW.

On the other hand, the short story I sold recently, "What Happened to Lord Elomar during The Revolution," is coming out soon: it'll be published on September 15, in Sockdolager.  

This is one of my favorite short stories -- of all the ones I have written, I mean, this one's one of my favorites.  I have such a soft spot for this story.  

It's in the same universe as Broken Slate, for those of you who like that novel, though none of Slate's characters are in it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Whining About My Health

So, I've had this stomach issue forever -- a hiatal hernia is the technical term, for those keeping score at home.

Often this sort of thing causes no problems.

Sometimes it causes "mild discomfort," which OTC drugs can relieve.  I've been on those for one billion years now.

Sometimes, eventually, as with me, it causes an ulcer, which is where we are now.  I have a lovely ulcer, and am on some very nice drugs for it -- proton-pump inhibitors and something other drug, they work very nicely, but holy hell the regime is complicated.

I have to take them five times a day, and one of them I can't take with food; and one I must take with food but no other drugs; and meanwhile I have all the other drugs I must take (because I am still, always, a recovering cancer patient); and then today I discovered, looking one of these drugs up, that it can interact with one of the other drugs I'm on -- the levothyroxine for my missing thyroid -- so now I have to call in on Monday and find out what to do about that.

On the other I sold a story last week -- yay! -- and today I received the contract for it and got paid for it.

Nothing like getting paid for writing.  Absolutely the best!