Friday, August 29, 2014

My Favorite Rejection Letter So Far

I just got a rejection, from a non-USA SF magazine, for my short story "The Russians Invade Arkansas."

It was a very nice rejection, encouraging me to send more and speaking highly of my work; but my favorite part was the reader's notes, which included this comment:

"Too many things I don't understand: What is UPS? And this phrase -- "might could"? Is this an American expression of some sort?"

Well.  You might could say it is.  If Arkansas is actually part of America.

Hard to figure, some days.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Schooling And The Kid

The kid has been back at school for nearly two full weeks now.

The transition was not without its rough patches -- she missed the bus coming home on the first day, in the midst of a torrential thunderstorm, mainly because she wasn't certain how to find the bus staging area from her last classroom; she does not like waking up at six to catch the bus by seven to reach school by eight; and she hates, hates, hates study hall, which apparently is not used for studying but for masculinity displays -- but on the whole, this is going well.

Pros: She loves Latin (her first class) and English (her last class) and AP World History.

Now that she is eating lunch in the courtyard, she likes lunch.  She had been eating lunch skulking in dark hallways, which was depressing.

She likes having classmates she can talk to -- that was always a problem with home-schooling.  Though we did what we could to arrange socialization opportunities (drama class, art class, et cetera) she spent far too much time learning on her own.

She's handling the work load, so far, easily.  The AP history has had two tests (I'm guessing they're actually quizzes?) so far and she has scored perfectly on both; and she usually gets most or all of the homework done in study hall.

They're reading The Iliad in English.  She loves The Iliad.  I can't tell you how happy this makes me.  They're reading a free online version, which is the terrible Samuel Butler translation; she liked even that.  I brought home my Fitzgerald translation from school for her so she could see how brilliant it is in a good translation.  Now she wants to learn Greek.

Also in English: they're going to start doing silent reading in class.  "I get credit for reading, Mom," she cried out to me.  "Just for reading!"

It has to be a "school-appropriate book," and also one she hasn't read before; but that shouldn't be a major issue.

Cons: That school starts so early.  She's used to staying up as late as she wants, and sleeping as late as she wants.  The adjustment is rough.

The aforementioned masculinity displays. "Why are high school boys such jerks?" she demands.  "Why do all these white boys think they have to say the n-word all the time?"

"Not all men," I said piously.

"Plus on the bus behind me the first day, these two guys, they're talking about gay guys. Really loudly.  And they're like, what do gay guys do exactly?  And how do gay guys decide who is the top and who is the bottom?  Is it whose dick is bigger or what?  And I wanted to turn around and say, Listen.  We've got twenty minutes until we get to school. Let me explain."  She rolls her eyes.  "Idiots."

Then today, on the bus: "This guy.  He wouldn't shut up.  'Bitches love me!  Skinny bitches love me!  Hot bitches love me!  Skinny blond bitches love to suck my dick!  All the bitches love to suck my dick!'  I was like, this bitch would love to shove you and your skinny dick out on the highway."

So that part isn't so cool.

Also, the school only gives them five minutes between classes, and is very, very strict about being late to class; the kid really hates breaking rules, so this is making her a little anxious.

### ### ###

But: on the whole: the kid's okay.

Except every night, y'all, after she brushes her teeth and just before she goes to bed?  She stops in the living room and makes a precise announcement: "Five hundred and thirty-three days left of high school, Mom.  Five hundred and thirty-three."

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Death Makes Me Sad

Last night, Dr. Skull and I were hanging out, talking about I don't even remember what, and he reached over and pulled Daniel Keys Moran's The Long Run off the bookshelf.  "You know," he said, "I've been looking at this for twenty years.  Should I read it?"

"Maybe," I said. "I mean, it's a ripping yarn.  And I like it a lot.  And for a book written before the internet, it's pretty good at getting the internet right.  But..."

He was leafing through it.  "But?"

"Well, it's an unfinished series.  So you'll read the first three, and then," I shrugged.

Then, on impulse, I got on Amazon and searched.

"Well, shit," I said, half-pleased and half-broken-hearted.  "He's published the fourth one."

"Good?" Dr. Skull said.

"Right. Good."  I bought it, one-click, the way you can with Kindle.  "It's just..."


"This is a series Mike and I read together.  We waited, what, fifteen years for the next one?" I opened the book on my Kindle.  "Now he's gone and fucking died.  He'll never get to read it."

"Poor boo," Dr. Skull said.  "I'll read it with you."

Mike really would have loved this fourth book, too.  Goddamn it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Why, Look Here

Over at Free Speculative Fiction Online, what is this I see?

I've got my own entry!

Apparently I am a really true actual SF writer.

How cool is this?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Here Is My Day / Week

This is my schedule for today:

6:00 a.m. Wake kid for her first day of school.  Make breakfast (grits and eggs) while she dresses and tries not to panic and makes her lunch (peanut butter on my oatmeal bread, an apple, in a brown bag).  Asks me several times if she looks all right.  Asks me several times what happens if she gets to school and can't remember what to do.

6:50 a.m.  Kid leaves for the bus stop.  I sit and try not to have a panic attack.  This is the very first time my child has ridden a school bus.  Previously, she was in private school, which had no bus system, or home schooled.  Now, I myself rode a bus for all 12 years of my public school education, so I know I am being ridiculous, but what if, y'all, what if.  (I will admit here that I finally broke down and bought my child her own phone, specifically so that I won't have to panic if she is five minutes late getting home from the bus stop.  I can just call her and say Where are you have you been kidnapped were you run over are you maybe lost, walking the three blocks from our house to here?)

8:10 a.m. Since the kid must be now be at school, unless she has been kidnapped from the bus stop, I am calming down some.

9:00 a.m. Off to my physician's appointment.  I have been avoiding the physician since last November and she will brook no more.  Since I need refills on all my meds, I capitulate.  I am fine, I have lost several pounds (no doubt due to the excessive stress of the past few months), and she even gives me some nice migraine medication.  Yay!

11:00 a.m.  To the grocery, to stock up so that Dr. Skull and the kid can eat while I am gone. Pick up prescriptions.

12:00-3:00 p.m. I pack, and then attempt to write something.

3:30 p.m. I begin fretting.  If the kid has not returned by 3:40, I will begin pacing up and down outside the house.  I am not EVEN kidding.

3:30-5:00 p.m. Discuss with kid her first day of school, possibly eat a light meal.

5:00 p.m. To the airport.

6:55 p.m. My plane leaves for New Orleans, with a stop over in Dallas-Fort Worth

11:55 p.m. (let us hope) Arrival in New Orleans.  I am honor-bound to find a way to leave a FB message for my kid saying I have arrived alive.  Maybe the airport has Wifi?  We can but hope.

Rest of the week: Tuesday is Mike's funeral.  Wednesday I fly home again.  Thursday I start teaching (three days late, but since I'm on a T-R schedule this semester I'll really only have missed one day of teaching.)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Conversation at the delagar Household

I am working on my latest novel, Monsters at Arawa Station.  (The one that is actually most likely going to be a novella, unfortunately.)

The kid, who like all of us lately, is overly-stressed and agitated, due to Everything, is ripping one piece of Kleenex after another to bits.  I am attempting to restrain my desire to tell her to cut this the fuck out.

The kid: But what happened at the end of Oakley Day?

(Oakley Day being a story I wrote two or three years ago that almost sold to several places but never quite did.)

Me: The hero got recruited for a job with the one percent.  And takes it, so that she can infiltrate and start the revolution from the top down.

The kid: Everything you write is about the Revolution.

Me: I don't know why this always surprises you.

The kid: Velocity's not.  Velocity isn't about the Revolution.

Me: Of course it is.  Velocity quit the Core because she couldn't stand living on the blood of slaves.  And also --

The kid:  But now she's just a pirate.  And --

Me: And also the end of her arc is how she joins the Revolution.  I just haven't written that bit yet.

The kid: (Sighs. Rolls her eyes.  Rips up another Kleenex.)  Well, Monsters isn't about the Revolution.  It's about cute monsters.

Me: BWA-ha-ha-ha.

The kid:  Oh you're not serious.

Me: Cute monster revolutionaries!

The kid:  Jeez, Mom!

Less droll notes: Monday my brother was found dead.  Wednesday as I was driving to the kid's high school orientation, I got hit by a tailgater ($4500 + damage to the car my father had loaned us, which at least the other guy's insurance is making no trouble over covering).  Monday at dawn my kid starts high school; Monday evening I fly out for the funeral.  Tuesday Dr. Skull has training for a job he has -- finally! -- gotten.  Wednesday I fly home.  Thursday I start the fall semester, three days late.  Intermixed with all of this: visits to insurance agents and body shops, doctors and pharmacies and the high school (twice), a notary and a fast trip to the mall, hunting funeral attire.

Why, this is life, nor are we out of it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

My Brother Mike Is Dead

I just heard that my younger brother Michael was found dead in his apartment.

This was the brother I was closest to in our young adulthood.  From the time I was 26 until I was 30 or so -- while I was in graduate school, in other words, and he was an undergraduate -- every May, as soon as Spring Semester finished, he and I would load up his pickup truck and drive off across the United States, always on a different route, on a five or six week long camping trip.

We trekked through every state in the lower forty-eight, though we liked the mountains best, and Texas least (sorry, Heebie).  Once in Northern California, Mike very nearly set the Redwoods on fire, using a five-gallon can of gasoline to start our cookfire in a drizzling rain.  (See, when you're dumping gas on a fire, it's a really bad idea to do that with the fire already lit, because the fumes can cause the flames to run right back up into the can, and then -- )

We camped beside a creek filled with blackberry bushes in Ashland, Oregon.  I was still running then, and I picked blackberries, and then went out running while he drank whiskey and smoked his Marlboros.  Marlboro Reds in the Box.  The next day we went to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and saw Titus Adronicus. Who knew Shakespeare's bloodiest play could be so funny?

We camped high in the Little Big Horn Mountains, at a campground so remote it didn't have plumbing, or power, or any other campers.  Around dusk, though it was June by then, snow began to fall, giant flakes of it.  We sat by our fire and watched it fall, drifting from the dusk, wondering about the tiny narrow road we had taken to get up to the camp, if we could get out again.  (We did.)

I was the navigator, and one rule we had was no interstates.  I hunted us the most interesting routes I could.  "Ooo," I would say, studying the map.  "Look at this one.  It's a grey road.  Let's see what that's like."

"Pavement Ends," he would predict, referring to a sign we often saw.  "That's what it's like."

But in the field, he was bolder than I was.  "I don't know about this," I would say, as the pavement ended, and the road grew dicier and dicier.  "Maybe we should turn around."

"It's a road," he would say.  "It's got to go somewhere."  And shift into third gear.

(My best story about this is the time he said this and the road ended in a corn field, and the farmer on the tractor giving us a perplexed look.  Not all roads do go somewhere, y'all.  Just saying.)

Another rule we had was no fast-food; no chain foods.  We ate local restaurants and diners whenever we could, or out of farmers' markets and stands.  This could be as dicey as having the pavement end, but it was always interesting.

We body-surfed in the Northern Pacific together, which was really too cold for such behavior, and stopped one hot day in the Cascade Mountains to do something really dangerous: a clear green river was roaring along beside the highway, deep and lucid and lovely.  We knew better than to swim in a river with a current that strong, but the day was hot and the water was so perfect.  And we were in our mid-twenties.  Who thinks you're going to ever die at twenty-seven?

I'll never forget how beautiful that water felt.  How powerful and clear and strong.

When I went to work on my Ph.D. and he joined the military, our worlds began to change.  After 9/11, the world changed us even further.  Once I loved him more than I thought it was possible to love a brother.  When he died, I had not spoken to him in over two years.

How can a road go nowhere?

And yet it does.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Just a Head's Up to the Gender Essentials; or, Gavin McInnes Wants a Cookie and a Nap

When y'all start talking about how most women really want this and most men are really like this and centuries of evolution have created men who want to earn a living and women who want to wash dishes?

Yeah, you sound exactly like this tool to the rest of us.

My favorite bit is at the very end, when he starts to realize he's terribly out-classed intellectually by everyone he is speaking with, and begins to flail in fury.

But he's a businessman, y'all.  (Which somehow, in his little bubble of a universe, is exactly like hunting tigers on the Serengeti with a six-foot spear!)  He's working hard to feed his kids.

Unlike, well, you know, nearly every other parent on the planet.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Okay, Read This Now

Linked over at Ursula Vernon's Blog

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

Naomi Shihab Nye (b. 1952), “Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal.”

Over at Making Light

...a really good thread in running, on the Toni Weisskopf essay that was posted at Sarah Hoyt's site a billion years ago in internet-time.

Go here to read.

This is only for all y'all that care about SF/F, of course.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


I broke the news to the kid today that returning to public school means she needs more than two pairs of trousers and some disreputable teeshirts.

Sharks Are Cute Too Shirt


She hates shopping, especially clothes shopping, but all shopping really, unless it involves used bookstores or art shops.

And I can't blame her: I hate it too.  Neither of us really likes clothing at all, or shoes, and we're not that interested in food; or rather, in buying food.  (Both of us like eating lovely food that someone else has found and cooked for us.) I also hate record stores and liquor stores.  (Dr. Skull could spend hours in both.)  And electronics -- which Dr. Skull also loves so much -- I'd rather see a dentist than shop for computers or phones or even fucking batteries.

I don't mind kitchen supply stores, which Dr. Skull loves, though I don't like them as much as he does, and I'm mildly interested in art shops, though I tired of them much more quickly than the kid does.

But clothing? Gah. Shoes? God, I hate buying shoes*.

Nevertheless.  School starts in 13 days.  I don't think we can put it off very much longer.

Wish me luck, y'all.

*These are one of four pairs of shoes I own.  I wear these every day, nearly.  I bought them at Target a year ago, on sale, in ten minutes flat.  The happiest day in my shopping career!

Sunday, August 03, 2014


Those who have been following this blog for some time know that the kid has had some issues, mostly connected to Hurricane Katrina and to aliens.

These are both connected to her allergies, specifically to what we think is a corn syrup allergy, though that's never been officially diagnosed.  My suspicion is that she's not actually allergic to corn syrup, exactly, since she's not allergic to other sugars or to corn itself, but to something used in the manufacturing process.

However, so long as we keep her off foods containing HFCS, she's fine.  (The minute she eats anything containing HFCS, even by accident -- as when I misread a label -- she gets terrible stomach cramps and is ill and cranky for days.)

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  When she was seven and eight years old, just after Katrina, a stressful time for everyone in the country, including us*, Dr. Skull was working on his dissertation, which was on Citizen Kane in specific and Orson Welles in general.

So one evening he was listening to War of The Worlds on his computer.  Seven years old, the kid wanders into his man cave.  "What's that, Daddy?"

"War of the Worlds," he says.  "Want to listen?"

We don't know then that she's already got this HFCS issue, which basically means that she's not able to digest much of what she's eating.  Over the next years, her condition will worsen, until by the time she's nine, she'll have lost twelve pounds, and she'll spend her days shivering in the big white chair in the living room, terrified that the "aliens" will get her.  I'll have to walk her to the bathroom; I'll have to sleep with her at night so that when she wakes screaming I can promise her the aliens aren't real.  It takes the combined powers of the internet -- the doctors at my Fort Smith clinic at the time were not very helpful, though I bet the one I have now would be -- for me to figure out what is wrong. (Heebie-Geebie and Tonks were highly instrumental in helping me figure this out.)

Once we took her off HFCS, her health improved dramatically -- basically, overnight -- but her terror of aliens and her anxiety did not go away.  That has taken a lot of time and a lot of work.

So when she settled in with me to watch not just Alien, but Aliens, and then Terminator this week, and enjoyed them all tremendously, well!

["Hey," she kept saying, since she's a child of the internet.  "Hey, that's where that line comes from!"

"Hey!  There's a GIF of that!"

Just like the lady who went to see Hamlet and came out shrugging: "What's the big deal?  It's just a bunch of quotations strung together."]

But now I have about a hundred movies in the queue, which I've never been able to  watch with her -- Blood of Heroes!  The Road Warrior!  All the rest of the Terminators!  The Sarah Connor Chronicles!

It's going to be a good winter.

*We were living in Arkansas even then, but my entire extended family was in New Orleans or the Greater New Orleans Area.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Crossed Genres: Time Travel

Issue #22 of Crossed Genres is out.

This month is Time Travel.  

I'm always interested in what our writers do with the topic we put up each month, and this month is no exception.  Not one of these stories is the typical Time Travel story  you might expect -- no Marty McFly in his DeLorean here.

"Time Crash," by Jane Elliott, is a heart-breaking story of a woman trapped in time.

"Static," by David Austin is heart-breaking in a different sort of way.  (We also have an interview with David.)

Rachael K. Jones' "Makeisha in Time" is probably the closest to of the three to a traditional time travel story, in that the main character does travel through time -- the main character has been born with the ability to leave her own time, and live entire lives in the past.