Friday, August 26, 2011

First-Ever Fiction Sale

Also, go check out my new website, at

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hello, visitors.  Thanks for stopping by.   I have moved my blogging/website operations over to  Come on over and check me out over there.  Love to see you.

For what it's worth, I will leave anticontrarian up for awhile while I decide what to do with it, but almost all new content will be appearing there, at least for the time being.

Thanks, y'all.  See you at the new digs.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Chanteuse

Chanteuse (flute)
4 oz sparkling wine, spl absinthe, 1/2 oz pernod, 1 cube sugar, peychaud's
soak sugar cube in peychaud's
pour absinthe and pernod over it through a slotted spoon
top with sparkling wine
drop sugar cube in bottom
The Chanteuse has a couple of origin threads. One is my friend Cumorah, who used to work at the bar next door to mine, and is a culinary-school-trained chef and a big fan of Pernod and anisette in general. The other is an Iron Bartender competition that I lost (albeit closely) a few months ago at Tiger Tail in Ballard. The secret ingredient that evening, which we were obliged to use in three different concoctions, was Marteau Absinthe, a French-style absinthe made in Portland, Oregon. Marteau was the semi-official sponsor of the competition that evening (they did, at very least, donate a case of the stuff for us to use).

Monday, April 04, 2011

Since I don't smoke or drink and swear unconvincingly, symmetry is my only vice.
-Richard Powers, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance

Draining the Swamp in my Innards

Some what know me well know that once a year or so I give over my bad habits and try and give my corpus a chance to clean itself out and set itself straight.  Last year was the intestinal flora rebalancing diet.  The year before was the allergy elimination diet.  Both were hard, and took several weeks, but did wonders for my body, which I appreciated, since I've only got the one and it's lost a touch of its native resilience what with the punishment and the aging and such.

This year I'm going back to my roots, and working my way up to a fast.

I've done several over the years.  It's a nice way to give my body a break from digestion and let it process out some buildup.  There's a fair bit of controversy over the practice, with the western medical establishment pretty decidedly anti- on the one hand, and many individual anecdotes on the other side quite fervently pro-.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Worst April Fool's Day Joke Evar

House Republicans so desperately want HR 1 (a budget bill with $61 billion in spending cuts, which went to the Senate and was voted down 56 to 44) that they are going to try and suspend the Constitution on Friday to make it law.

That's right.  They're going to try and suspend the Constitution

Did your head just explode?  Thought so.

Oh, and the funny thing?  The Senate would have to willingly cede its constitutional authority for such a maneuver to work.  Yeah, that'll happen.

I guess, in the end, the joke's on them.  Or us.  Yeah, probably us.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Libyan Intervention

So, I've been doing a fair bit of reading about the No Fly Zone and the limited projection of American military power in support of the uprising in Libya.  Unsurprisingly for the blogosphere, people have pretty strong opinions.  To say there's been some Monday morning quarterbacking would be an understatement.

For what it's worth, the most worthwhile exploration of it I've read is here.

As for my own part, first off, I think that it doesn't matter that much what anyone's opinion is as to whether or not we should have, because, well, we did, and until someone invents a time machine, we live in the world we do, and things can be done, but rarely undone.  That said, you can support or not support our intervention, on many different grounds, most of which seem to fall into the rubric of moral or practical.

Both sides have some compelling arguments.  And I do not wish to discount them.  One of the things about modern discourse I find just absolutely maddening is that when many people take a side, they are unable or unwilling to grant any legitimacy whatsoever to the other side's position or arguments, and denigrate and discount them (or, often as not, the people who make them), which trivializes and nastifies the debate without doing anything to serve the truth.  To my mind, it's not a question of who's right and who's wrong, since both sides are often both:  it's a question of who's more right and less wrong, and what will the outcome likely be if a particular policy or course of action is undertaken.  It's about weighing the arguments against each other, and finding where the balance of truth lies.

In my own explorations of the issue of the Libyan Intervention, I've done my level best to do so, and where I've come down is this:

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

One Year Ago Today

I got the email telling me I had been accepted into the Clarion Writers' Workshop, a life-changing event (or, more accurately, a series thereof) whose repercussions are still playing out.  And now here I am, still unpublished, but much more serious about writing and being a writer than I ever was before, about to get on a train so I can finish a novel draft on my way to see three of my fellow students and two of my instructors at my first ever Con, and happier with the direction of my life than I have been for a long, long time.

I know there are probably a hundred or more people out there right now, waiting to hear back about their own applications, or keeping a lid on the fact that they've already been accepted until everyone has been notified.  To those who'll be chosen, you're fortunate to be so, but more than that, you are deserving, so keep rocking with your bad selves and get to girding those loins for the struggles ahead, because it won't be easy.  And to those who don't make it this year, don't despair and don't give up.  Keep writing, keep trying, and keep becoming more awesome.

Monday, March 07, 2011

It's on Everyone Else's Blog

So here it is on mine, too.

It's not that we don't need to do a little belt-tightening as a nation.  Though it's not the sky falling, the federal deficit is an issue that will need to be addressed.  But it's rare that we ever get a look at the trade-offs that are negotiated behind closed doors.

Here, in handy chart form, is a series of, on the one side, programs we're being asked to sacrifice, and, on the other, tax breaks that have been granted to those members of our society who have the most money and power.

Put like that, it doesn't seem right, does it?

Look, I'm all for fiscal responsibility.  But more than that, I'm for fairness, and those at the top of the economic chain derive far and away the most benefit from the American economic system.  More than seems fair at all, it seems to me, but that's a whole other blog post.

Nonetheless, it seems to me not only fair but reasonable that in times of economic hardship and revenue shortfalls that everybody ought to do their part.  Some would say that that means everybody ought to contribute equally, but that isn't really fair, because far too many Americans ain't got shit and can't afford a share.

No, what seems fair to me would be for everyone to contribute proportionally to the benefit they derive from the system we all support.

But maybe that's just me.  Either way, if you can look at that chart, at the line by line comparisons between tax breaks for those who need the least help and vital programs for those who need the most, and say to yourself, "Yeah, that seems right," well, I would contend that there's something wrong with your sense of fairness, and, maybe, with your heart, too.

But then, I subscribe to some pretty radical notions, like that we're all in this together, and that the society that doesn't provide for all of its citizens is not much better than the jungle we so pride ourselves on having gotten out of as a species.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

What the Protagonist Carried with Her into Battle with Her Nemesis

1 Uzi-Pro, with two clips
2 Jericho 941 pistols, with two clips each, one clip being short 2 rounds
1 Beretta 21A Bobcat, with 1 full clip
2 Flashbang grenades
2 Concussion grenades
1 Trench Knife
1 Pair Mirrored Cop Glasses

Now to decide how she will use it all.  I suspect there will be mayhem.

Being a writer is fun.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Writing Dreams

It's taken me a while to notice, but I've started having a new kind of dream somewhere in these last few months, in which my sleeping brain is trying to figure out how to put together various stories.  I never remember them when I wake up, which I do quite frequently on the nights that I have these dreams (I had several last night, and am grumpy and groggy this morning as a result), but I remember snippets, and they all have to do with fitting the moving parts of a story together into a shapely, coherent whole.

Oddly enough, none of them seem to have anything to do with any of my current projects, though I wish that they did a little.  Or maybe not.  Being that I don't remember anything of them after it probably wouldn't do me any good, anyway.

As a writer, storytelling is my kryptonite, which fact I freely admit (see previous sentence clause).  Due to my cussedness as a person, I spent the first decade of my self-taught writing apprenticeship obsessing over my prose style (with largely pleasing results), but it wasn't until Clarion that I started to think in any systematic way about what to do with said prose style.  Partly it had to do with the fact that I primarily, read, write, and think in novel-sized chunks; there's just a lot more room to play and experiment there.

But you can't do that shit in a short story for the most part.  There just isn't time, or room. 

I remember my first one-on-one at Clarion.  It was a hot, sunny Friday afternoon, a week into the workshop.  I had just had my first story critiqued, and it smarted (oh, how it smarted), and I was meeting with the estimable Delia Sherman to discuss another story of mine (which I had been quite proud of, before I knew any better).  Long story short, she basically told me to read it again, scrap it completely, and start over, which took all of two minutes, and then we talked about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, which was, as you might expect, rather bracing.  The gist of what she had to say was that I did the grad-level stuff very well, but that I failed the basic, elementary school stuff almost completely.  On the plus side, she reassured me that once I got to figuring it out, it would come to me easily enough.

And I assume that's what's happening now, with these dreams.  They are my brain rearranging itself in such a way that I will become better at arranging the depolyment of narrative, backstory, character, and plot in a more pleasing shape.  That's what I hope, at least. 

If nothing else, they're way better than the bartending dreams I used to have.  Those were just annoying.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Thought for the Day

The problem with class warfare (at least as waged in contemporary America) is that only one class knows there is one (hint:  it's not the middle class).


The Wise Man's Fear Book Signing in Seattle

Yesterday was a good and writery day for your faithful correspondent.  After an afternoon in the office plugging away at the ever-expanding manuscript (made my quota plus 700 words-w00t!), I made my way over to the University District, where my dear friend Suj'n had saved me a spot on the floor near the back of the actual seating for Pat Rothfuss' first stop on The Wise Man's Fear signing/reading/hilarious extemporizing tour.

I will pause here a moment and offer further mad props to my homegirl Suey, who not only saved me the aforementioned spot, she also told me about the event in the first place, which I was ignorant of, having been eye-deep in the day-to-day grind of writing my own novel on a looming if self-imposed deadline.

Those of you that follow this blog may recollect my recent extended squee over the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicles, The Name of the Wind, some two weeks ago.  I had been saving the book for most of a year before I read it, for various reasons, and I enjoyed it most thoroughly.  I seem to have done something right, albeit unconsciously, because unlike most of the rest of Mr. Rothfuss' fans, I did not have to wait long for the next book, and indeed I purchased a copy yesterday for him to sign.

But enough about me.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Worthy Quotations

The imagination is necessary not to make things up - that would be wrong - but to come up with plausible scenarios for what one's senses are detecting; theories that might explain what is going on.
-Iain M. Banks, Transition, p27

One for the Ages

A unionized public employee, a teabagger and a CEO are sitting at a table.  In the middle of the table is a plate with a dozen cookies on it.  The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the teabagger and says, "Watch out for that union guy.  He wants a piece of your cookie."

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Statistical Observation, in the Form of a Prediction

Neither you, nor almost anyone you know, will ever be rich.  I don't mean wealthy.  I don't mean comfortably well-off.  I mean fuck-you money rich.

On the plus side, studies show that money doesn't make you any happier.  So you got that going for you.  Which is nice.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Something I've Noticed

When I'm writing, and the words are coming easy, when I'm just cruising along with the road open ahead, when I know what's happening and what happens next, and exactly how I want to say it; those are the stretches I end up editing the most when I go back.  It's the times when I struggle, when every word is like squeezing water out of a rock, when I don't know what I'm doing and can't remember what I just did, that what I come up with reads the cleanest, the clearest, the smoothest, as if the wrenching discontinuity of the words' production somehow folded in on itself and became its own opposite on the page when I wasn't looking.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fun with Numbers

According to the Financial Times (article is behind a paywall, citation from here):

The Republican plan to slash government spending by $61bn in 2011 could reduce US economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters of the year, a Goldman Sachs economist has warned. 

Now, I trust Goldman about as far as I can throw them, ethics-wise.  But I do trust them to be clear-eyed when it comes to economic projections.  That's their bread and butter.

According to this website, the GDP from Q4 2010 was $13.38 T.  That's more than thirteen trillion dollars.  So if the economy grows by 1.5 to 2 percentage points less, that's at least $200 billion dollars less money sloshing around in the economy, paying people and buying stuff. 

How many jobs do you suppose that is, even after the super-wealthy take their outsized cut? 

Oh yeah.  They don't care.

Dear slight majority of Americans:  You voted for these guys why again?

I Stole This Graphic from Mother Jones

If you want to know why things are the way they are in America, economically and politically, this graph (and the other seven) will give you a pretty good idea, I think.

How the Other Half Thinks

Scott Walker got punk'd yesterday, and had a 20 minute phone call in which he spoke quite candidly about what's going on in Wisconsin with Ian Murphy of the Buffalo Beast (or 50 Most Loathesome fame), thinking Murphy was David Koch of the Koch brothers.

You can listen to the call here:

and here:

Edited transcript here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

If You Ever Wanted to Know...

...under what circumstances I would not only approve of but encourage the projection of military force overseas by the United States' Armed Forces, shooting the helicopter gunships and jet fighters attacking civilians in Libya out of the sky would probably be right up there.

It's one thing to sic your riot-gear cops on protesting civilians.  But it's a whole other can of worms when you cut loose on civilians with military-grade weaponry.

Of course, we would never do that, because Libya has proven oil reserves.

Quote of the Day

"Inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things of right belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has so happened, in all ages of the world, that some have labored, and others have without labor enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor, or as nearly as possible, is a worthy object of any good government."
-Abraham Lincoln

Koch Whore Pays the Vig

If there was any doubt that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is anything other than a bought-and-paid-for thug for the parasite class, this and this should put those doubts to rest.

If he was arguing in good faith, that Wisconsin's budget troubles necessitate some collective belt-tightening and that public-sector unions have to do their fair share of the tightening, that would be one thing.  Those unions have said over and over that they'd be willing to sit down with the governor, and would even make many of the concessions he's asking for in order to strengthen Wisconsin's budget picture.  But that's not what he's asking for.  In fact, he's not asking for anything, he's playing Big Daddy and telling them what he's gonna do, and what he's gonna do is strip away the public-sector unions' collective bargaining rights.

So why does Scott Walker hate working people?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Quote of the Day, the Second

When anyone in a position of authority--an employer, the police, a school administrator--advises you not to hire an attorney, it's time to hire an attorney. When they advise you not to hire an attorney because it will create a confrontational atmosphere, you should have hired one yesterday; you're being railroaded.
[T]he system has a word for a guy without a lawyer, and it's guilty.

There's a reason our system of jurisprudence is adversarial.  Because, not unlike the class war the bottom four quintiles are so often in denial about, the powers that be are, in general, out to get you.  That they ever say otherwise is just part of the game.

Put another way, never, EVER, trust anyone who says "Trust me."

Quote of the Day

Science fiction is read most avidly by precocious children, brainy adolescents and a particular kind of retarded adult.
-Thomas M. Disch

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Title in Search of a Story

Crouching Flygirl, Hidden Badass.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Quote of the Day

According to another study by Cornell's Suzanne Mettler, many Americans don't even realize they're relying upon government services. 53 percent of those who said they're not using a government program borrowed a student loan from the government. 44 percent are on Social Security. 39 percent are on Medicare (reinforcing the imperative: "Keep your government hands off my Medicare!"). 27 percent are on Medicaid. 28 percent are on Disability. 41 percent are receiving veteran's benefits. Again, these are people who also insist they're absolutely not "living off the public tit," to quote Senator Chuck Grassley. But they are.
-Bob Cesca

Quote of the Day

I am not interested in anything any Republican or Conservative has to say about debt or deficits or "shared" sacrifice.

Not now. Not tomorrow. Not ever again.

You are the Party that inherited surpluses from Bill Clinton and pissed them away.

You are the Party that ran two wars on a credit card.

You are the Party that ran two wars on a credit card...while cutting taxes.

You are the Party that only learned how to spell d-e-f-i-c-i-t ten seconds after the Black Democrat was inaugurated.

You are the Party that held medical care for 9/11 first responders hostage so that you could ram through one more round of giveaways to billionaires.
To reiterate, I am not interested in anything any Republican or Conservative has to say about debt or deficits or "shared" sacrifice.

Not now.

Not tomorrow.

Not ever again.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

Let me tell you how much I loved this book.  I took it with me on a trip back to my alma mater for its 50th anniversary reunion, a long weekend of celebrations, events, and visitations at which I was reunited with some of my favorite people in all the world, people who were there when I formulated the beginnings of the person I grew up to become and who, despite all they've seen, not only still like me, they downright love me.  And I love them, as much as I've ever loved anybody.  Some of them I hadn't seen in more than a decade.  Some of them aren't even on Facebook, if you can believe that.  We danced, we partied, we revisited much-loved places where some of the most significant events of our variously-spent youths occurred (and believe you me, shit was epic back in the day).  We showed the kids that go to school there now how it was done, and we looked good doing it.  I don't think I got more than five hours of sleep a night for most of a week.

The night before I flew home, I think I got five hours.  The night before that, no more than 3 1/2.  I had a 13+ hour day of flying to get back (from Florida to the Pacific Northwest, with not one but two layovers).  It was actually still dark when I got up and got going to the airport.

I had more than a couple of drinks, and took a painkiller for my back.  I was exhausted.

You would think I would have slept away the hours on those flights.  Any sane person would.  More than once, I thought for sure that my eyes were just going to roll into the back of my head and I would have to be shocked awake with a defibrillator to get me off the plane.

But I did not sleep, because I was reading The Name of the Wind, and all I wanted to do was keep reading.  So I did, until I finished it.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Jet Set Flip

The Jet Set Flip (rocks)
dark rum, tuaca, lemon, egg white, vanilla brown syrup
shake ingredients and strain over fresh ice
sugar rim, lemon garnish

The Jet Set Flip was my favorite drink on the Launch Party cocktail list. Partly due to my love affair with dark rum (well, good dark rum, anyway), partly due to my newfound appreciation for vanilla. And partly because it has egg white in it, because making drinks with egg white in them is not only delicious, but also just cool, for reasons that are either self-apparent or never will be. It's old-school in all the right ways. There really was a golden age of mixology, a back in the day, if you will, when they were better at this whole business of making cocktails, and didn't use all this prefabricated high-fructose corn syrup nonsense that's so prevalent in bars today, because they didn't have it. And when you look in recipe books from back in those days, a staple, especially of tropical sorts of drinks, was the egg white, which turns creamy and frothy when you shake it over ice, and transforms the harsh acidity of citrus juices into a teasing, exotic, velvety-glove kind of feeling that strokes your taste buds in the most tantalizing way.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Kristen Schaal on the Daily Show

Rape loophole... heh.

hat tip Chez P (again)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

More Hilarious Win

Hat tip Chez P (one of my favorite writers on the internet) and, of course, Tom Tomorrow.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Oh, Yeah. Right.

Once again, hat tip to the Angry Black Lady.

Most Insane Movie Trailer Ever

The trailer for Endhiran, the most expensive movie ever made in India.  Worth every freakin' rupee. 

Thank you, India.  And thank you, Angry Black Lady.

Take that, Sucker Punch.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Word of the Day

Quiplash: (n) the soreness experienced in the neck or brain by a spectator in a battle of wit, or the confusion caused by too much clever banter

(hat tip to Liz A, Kath N, and the other members of Tuesdays at Inner Chapters)

This Guy's been in Congress for 20 Years

He seems genuinely not to understand the causal link between the casual overuse of antibiotics and the evolution of resistant strains of bacteria and other pathogens, which is just one example of what happens when ignorance trumps understanding.  The insistence at the end that there is 'adaptation,' whatever that means to Rep. Kingston, but not evolution would be pathetic if it weren't so troubling.

Here, briefly, is how this particular scenario plays out:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What is Where You Live Worst At?

(hat tip Jason Sanford, whose blog I found this on.  Graphic and research from Pleated Jeans).

I'm really glad to know that, of all the things to be the worst for, my adopted state of Washington is number one for Bestiality.  Thanks, Enumclaw.

Friday, January 28, 2011

An Ill-Informed but Somewhat Cathartic Rant about Dentistry

So, I got a root canal the other day (thanks), after which the dentist said that he recommends I get a crown on the tooth.  Now, I get that this is standard procedure in these cases, but there's a part of me that has to ask.


I mean, I don't think they're just trying to get extra money out of me or anything.  But after drilling out every last little particle of nerve tissue and the bacteria that was eating it, he filled my tooth in with permanent filling.  The same stuff they use to patch up the outsides of teeth when they need it.  Basically cement, I'm pretty sure.  But apparently my tooth is in danger of cracking if I chew something too hard.

That is, my tooth, which is newly filled with cement or something like it, is in danger of cracking.

Why don't they fill the tooth with something harder, if that's a danger?  Is the filling material not harder than the dead nerve tissue?  One assumes that it is.  I mean, I understand that they drilled out the core of the tooth, and that they had to do so from a hole they drilled in the top.  BUT THEY FILLED IT WITH F-CKING CEMENT.  How is that not stong enough?

I think the best part was after the root canal was done, and we were talking about it, and I was asking if I needed the crown right away or if it could wait (the expense of a root canal, even at the UW Dental School, is not inconsequential) and he said, casually, "Maybe a month or two."  So I figured okay, I can deal with that.  Then he said, "Just chew on the other side of your mouth."  And I said, "You mean, like, today, while the tooth is still sore."  And he said, "No, until you get the crown."

And of course I'm going to do it.  After all, I have not spent the last several years studying dentistry (he's a grad resident, so he's already got his degree), and I was warned that almost all root canals end up needing a crown.  But there's still that part of me that can't help but think WTF?

Okay.  End of rant.  Thank you for listening.

PS  Don't forget to enter this week's Dallas' writing-related contest.  It's easy, and there're fun and prizes to be had.  You'd be crazy not to.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Contest

The last contest was so much fun, I decided to do another one.

The contest: Over the course of the next week or so, I'm going to do another revision on the short story I've been working on for the last few weeks, wrestling it into what I hope will be its final, submittable form.  How many words long do you think it'll be?

Clues:  This the the third major revision.  The first draft was 3757 words, the second draft was 4181, and the third draft was 6713.  I expect that it will be a short story (generally understood to be 7500 words or fewer) but am not completely sure.

The prize:  The five closest guessers get a sneak peek at the finished story, before I start submitting it for publication.  Besides myself, you will be the first people in the whole world to read it. I will also write you a haiku on the subject of your choice.

Bonus prize:  Anyone guessing within 10 words of the actual total will be Tuckerized in either a future story or the novel I'm working on (up to three people).  No promises as to the survival and/or happiness of the character named after you. *

The rules:  No looking over my shoulder or hacking into my computer.  Contest runs from right now until 11:59 pm Pacific time on Wednesday, February 2nd.  One entry per participant.  Leave your guesses in the comment thread here or on my Facebook page.  Winners will be announced Thursday February 3rd.

* I know John Scalzi just did this, and I'm a total copycat, but I thought it was a cool idea.  Which is why I stole it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Writing Music-Caribou

I first heard of Dan Snaith's band Manitoba (Caribou's earlier incarnation) when I missed them opening for Stereolab on the Margarine Melodies tour a few years back.  A friend of mine caught their set, though, and bought their CD (people still did that, back then).  I've been a fan ever since.

I bought Swim, Caribou's most recent record, just about as soon as I heard it was out, and pretty much since that day it's been my go-to album for writing to; sometimes I just put it on repeat in the background and play it over and over.

It works for me in a lot of ways, being active and energetic enough to provide a sense of subliminal momentum while nonetheless not demanding an active listening.  And even more importantly, the vocals are low enough in the mix that they do not unduly interrupt my own linguistic flow (or lack thereof).

Also, it's just a great f-cking album.

Anyway, here is Odessa, the first track, which in addition to being a fine song is like the Pavlovian signal that makes my writerly tongue begin to salivate.  Probably you've already heard it, but maybe you'd like to listen to it again right now.  I know I'm about to.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Dustin J. Monk, whose guess of 1391 was only 18 short of my actual total of 1409.

Runners-up are Rachael Martin, who guessed 1217, and Annie Dubinsky, who came in at 1542 (thanks for the vote of confidence, Annie!).  Runners-up receive a haiku on the subject of their choice.  Feel free to get in touch and let me know what you'd like, ladies.

Thanks to everyone for playing (and to Kai for the youtube link), and look for the next contest soon, just as soon as I can think of what it is.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Okay, I've got an hour and a half before I have to leave the office and go cook dinner for my lovely lady and her almost-but-not-quite teenaged son, and I aim to do a bit of writing on my novel.

The contest:  How many words will I write?  Take a guess, and leave it in comments here or on the link on my Facebook page that you (probably) followed here.  Closest guess wins.

The prize:  A 500-word story, written by me, about you saving the world from the forces of evil, deliverable within one week of your certification as the winner.

The rules:  No looking over my shoulder or hacking into my computer.  Contest runs from right now until 6pm Pacific time tomorrow (Thursday, January 20th).

And... go!

How many spaces after a sentence?

Thesis:  Typography nerds and Farhad Manjoo don't like the second space after sentences, and think you're kind of stupid if you do.  John Scalzi agrees.

Antithesis:  Tom Lee dismisses much of Manjoo's argumentation and engages what's left, finding that the separation of sentences by the extra space to be a useful innovation.

My take:  I come down with Lee on this one, both for functional and for aesthetic reasons.  It may just be that I am old enough that I was taught that two spaces after a sentence is appropriate (however arbitrary it may or might have seemed).  But as someone who spends a great deal of time in the contemplation of text, both as producer and consumer, I find it not only aesthetically more pleasing to have the extra space between sentences, which variance breaks up the units of sound and meaning on the page into more interesting and pleasing fragments in my opinion, but also more functional, in that I am able to intuitively recognize the discrete lumping of said units of sound and meaning in a better, more meaningful way without having consciously to think about it, which frees up mental resources to engage the text's meaning more fully, however fractional the increment might be.

Chip Delany taught us at Clarion that writing was a means with which to cause a series of effects in the mind of the reader, and, to me, a healthy component of that process is the rhythm inherent in grammar, punctuation, and spacing.  The double space after a sentence tells me, unconsciously, to pause just a tiny quantum longer than the single space between words does, which I find both appropriate and helpful.

That said, I don't hate on people who prefer the single space, though I do find myself hating on Farhad Manjoo a little.  Not for his beliefs and preferences, mind you, but because he comes across as kind of a dick in his article.  Ah well, that's polemics for you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snuff Film

Courtesy of the Salt Lake City Police Department. 

Suicide is Painless

for the person who commits it.  For the people left behind, not so much.

That's all.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Yet another thing I am grateful to the Clarion experience for is my new attitude towards rejection. 

Before that wonderful and amazing crash course in what it is (or at least might be) like to be a professional writer, I had never submitted anything to a publisher.  Okay, I did submit one thing a couple of weeks before I went, but only had the cojones to do so because I'd been accepted to Clarion.  I was totally punching above my weight-class, too, though for what it's worth they still haven't sent me my rejection, so the hope is still alive, however feeble.

But before I realized just how much rejection is part of the game, and an integral part at that, my very first one would have been devastating, because I would only have sent something I had gone over and over and over again, obssessively, until every detail was just perfect (I sometimes lose whole hours and days of writing time fiddling with the prose of the sections I've already written), and would only have been able to bring myself to risk the inevitable rejection after I was convinced that the piece just couldn't be any better.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Now you see the humiliations that authors are put through,"

he said with a good-natured smile in his voice last night, after we missed him at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, due to the random catastrophe of a blown transformer and the liability issues involved in having a book-signing when the power was out.  He was talking about his next appearance, today at noon, at the downtown Costco.

He joked about signing a gallon jar of pickles for us.

Robert Crais is a New York Times-Bestselling author and Clarion graduate (I won't say what year; suffice to say it was a while back), whose writing credits are so lengthy that their word-count exceeds the upper limit accepted by most fiction markets, and who I was fortunate enough to meet last summer when he and Kim Stanley Robinson came down from LA to see Chip Delany, my instructor and also theirs, back in the day.  He's a wildly accomplished writer and a hell of a nice guy, and he taught Clarion in 2009, the year before I went, when my new friend and fellow writer Liz Argall attended, which was how I knew that he was coming to town, since I mostly live in a bubble of my own devising.

We tried to see him last night, as previously mentioned, but he'd left about ten minutes before we got there, so we made the pilgrimage to Costco today at noon.  Liz's husband Mike joined us as well.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Clarion Writers' Workshop

Established in 1968, the Clarion Writers' Workshop is the oldest workshop of its kind and is widely recognized as a premier proving and training ground for aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction. Many graduates have become well-known writers, and a large number have won major awards. 
Clarion has been known as the “boot camp” for writers of speculative fiction. Each year 18 students, ranging in age from late teens to those in mid-career, are selected from applicants who have the potential for highly successful writing careers. 

 Applications are currently being accepted for the 2011 Clarion Writers' Workshop, and will be until 11:59 pm Pacific time on March 1st.  It costs $50 to apply and most of $5000 to attend, and if you are or aspire to be a writer of fiction of any sort, but most especially a writer of speculative fiction (understood loosely as science fiction, fantasy, horror, and slipstream), it will, without shadow of a doubt, be the best money you ever spent.

Scholarships are available.

Something like one-third of all Clarion graduates have gone on to publish, and many have gone on to successful careers as writers (no easy feat, as you will learn).  Instructors are all certified bad-asses (one of this year's is John Scalzi, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America; kind of a big deal), people who have studied and mastered the craft of writing, and can and will teach you the fundamentals of what you need to know in order to one day achieve that mastery yourself.

So what's the secret?  How does it work?  Why does it work?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"I'm rubber, you're glue..."

When Jared Loughner put a bullet in Gabrielle Giffords' head and then opened up on the crowd around her, killing, among others, a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, there was a moment, before anything was known about the assassin or his rationale, when we were all pretty sure that somebody had finally snapped and made good on the myriad threats of violence and reprisal against their political opponents that characterize the state of the right's current political discourse.  Even Sarah Palin's people believed it, as evidenced by the speed with which they tried to take down the target map and relabel the cross-hairs on it 'surveyor's symbols.'  When it came out just how batshit crazy Mr. Loughner turned out to be, you could practically hear the sigh of relief from those whose livelihoods and political agendas depended on the language of insurrection and revolutionary murder.

With their next breath, they started yelling about how it wasn't their fault, and fuck anybody who said otherwise.

After all, as anyone who's seen his YouTube videos can attest, Jared Loughner is obviously crazy, and since the mind of a crazy person is unknowable to us sane folks, it must serve as explanation enough for his actions.  It couldn't be the fault of the people on the right, because Jared Loughner wasn't political.  He didn't subscribe to the platform of the Republican Party.  He wasn't a Tea Party activist.  Sure, his political philosophy has a lot in common with the Sovereign Citizens movement, but they are, by definition, not sufficiently organized or coherent as a political faction to point a finger at, so shut up and quit trying to pin this on the people whose violent rhetoric is as pervasive as graffiti used to be in New York City.

Do you see where this is going?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The great American culture medium seems to nourish, every few years, a person who just can't sleep at night until he's blown away a dozen or so strangers.
-Michael J. Smith
I've been chewing this all over for a few days now, ever since logging on for some internet on Saturday morning and discovering that a Democratic member of the House of Representatives that I'd never heard of named Gabrielle Giffords had been the victim of an assassination attempt.

As far as I can tell, I had the same initial instinct as everyone else on the internet, that some Tea Party nutjob had finally flipped out and decided to prescribe one of Sharron Angle's Second Amendment remedies.  Given the state of things in Arizona, with its gun culture, economic woes, and sharp divisions between partisans on the two sides of our traditional political divide, it seemed like a pretty reasonable hypothesis, and I surely wasn't alone in believing that that was most likely the case.  Before the shooter was identified, and his YouTube channel, MySpace page, and the tweets and statements of those who'd known him were offered up to the national conversation, all manner of folks seemed to believe that he was going to turn out to be inspired by the overheated rhetoric of insurrection, secession, and violent revolution that has characterized the right wing of the Conservative end of the political spectrum for the last couple of years (or, if you will, the last couple of Democratic Presidential Administrations).  Even Sarah Palin's people were scrambling to remove evidence of her map of twenty congressional districts carried by McCain/Palin that had Democratic Representatives, going so far as to float one of the all-time most ridiculous and absurd spin-memes ever, that the cross-hairs on said map were not cross-hairs at all (though Palin had referred to them as such), but "surveyor's symbols."

It's easy to lose track of, but in those first hours, before we all learned just how f-cking crazy Jared Loughner is or appears to be, just about everybody realized that Occam's Razor said this guy was a right-wing nutjob, and acted accordingly.