“It’s such a crude attitude / It’s back where it belongs”

For the first weekend in several weeks (at least since 4th Street Fantasy), I’ve had time to just sit and catch my breath. I got back to New York last Tuesday after 2 weeks+change in Cleveland, and after two days of utter exhaustion and incomplete recovery, I went back to work. No writing to speak of, but I think this is the one (and only!) time I can completely forgive myself. So, let’s catch up:

PROGENITRIX UPDATE. Mom started her rehab the other day. So far, so good except for a PEG tube glitch that necessitated another trip to the ER last night. She’s okay, though. I have to say though, this whole experience has driven home how privileged I am (in the social sense of the word) to have had a job in healthcare for so long. It’s given me a certain level of patience and peace of mind most people don’t have otherwise. Understandably, when it’s you or your loved one, you don’t want to hear all the reasons that doctors or nurses can’t return your phone calls, or why one or another near-miss happened. Your natural reaction is, “WTF, you jackholes!” I had it too, but I understood exactly how/why these sorts of things can happen, I could see the various providers and aides doing what they could, and I communicated that to them.

PASSING. In two different senses of the word, here are a couple of calls for submissions that I’m passing on. I might’ve technically fit in the past with what they’re looking for, but you might be a better fit now! They’re both for Belt Magazine, that’s published me before:

THE COLUMBUS ANTHOLOGY “…will attempt to capture what Columbus is becoming, and to define a distinct cultural presence for Columbus and its citizens. Through the voices of local artists, activists, writers, musicians, and other enthusiastic residents who want to contribute, “The Columbus Anthology” presents a collective wisdom through its collected work.”

BLUE CITY, RED STATE. “We’re collecting essays about living blue in a red state—whatever that means to you—by writers who live in or have ties to a Midwestern state.”

IT’S ABOUT TIME. ‘Nuff said

That’s about all I have energy for today. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a scotch or three before I head out to get some things done… and then return home for two or three more.

Chapter XLIV

This chapter, I dedicate to my Mom. And not just for obvious reasons. I’m spending my birthday this year in the 216 because she’s been in the hospital for the past week and some change. It’s been a long, tough week–mostly for her. And thankfully, there is a road ahead. It’ll just be bumpy. In any case, considering there wouldn’t have even been a Chapter I of my life without her, I’m glad to be here for her. THANKS, MOM!

That aside, what a year! I went through Viable Paradise and lived to tell the tale! I went to cons and survived their controversies. I renewed some friendships, made some new friends, and now I’m looking at some dayjob changes that might actually benefit me (as well as adding more responsibilities of course).

What’s to come? Your guess is as good as mine, but I feel the answer is wrapped up in a Luis Buñuel tribute, inside the lyrics of a New Pornographers song…

Vade ultra!

“I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain…” [March 2017]

Well, I warned you last time this wouldn’t look pretty. That there is 7 days of writing in a 31 day month. Still, better to light an inch than curse the dark.

One of my VP20 crew told me, “Output is not a measure of value.” Which other friends and loved ones have told me before, of course. I’ve always known this intellectually, but deprogramming is hard. I’ve taken a step in that direction (I hope) by realizing that maybe for right now the fact of having to re-invent my writing process wheel after the sorts of interruptions I’m facing (almost exclusively dayjob-related stuff) is just a feature and not a bug.

That doesn’t mean I stay happy with it, though. But maybe I don’t have to resent it so much until I can make changes. And changes are on the horizon. I’ve got a new short story I’m working on for a particular market; just 3 weeks until the deadline. Plenty of time–if I can stay on the stick, that is.

“I can STILL hear you saying you would NEVER break the chain…” [February 2017]

God, I’m far behind in every way. It’s the end of March and I’m just getting to posting February’s writing progress now. And it’s not pretty. But there’s only one thing for it in cases like this. Pick yourself up, stagger forward, and just focus on putting one foot under the other.

So, there’s my February. Not great. But the one thing I can say about it is that each set of blank days represents specific and identifiable dayjob issues on which I had to focus, and that just took up all my energy. That’s not a “poor me” complaint; just a fact. A reality that I have to own up to and face. And I need to make my peace with it, and find a way to light an inch, rather than curse the darkness. And in a way, the fact that I wrote for as many days as I did in February kinda shows I did just that.

In fact, compared to March, I’ve probably lit a whole yard. Wait until I post this month’s utter failure. No, that’s not hyperbole–wait ’til you see it. Still, I know it’s important that I post it anyway. Accountability, right?

In the meantime, I’ll have to go through that whole process of making peace with what got in my way this month, what did and didn’t get done, and move forward next month.

Isn’t This How Imelda Got Started?

I had a wardrobe malfunction at Boskone. I’d worn down my faithful 2+ year old pair of Doc Martens flat, and I’d discovered they’d finally split on both feet. And boy was I pissed about it. Not so much because of the shoes, but because I’d decided against my better judgement that I didn’t need to lug two pairs of shoes with me for a two day trip, and that lace-up Docs (which had become part of my de facto convention “uniform”) was the way to go to a con in Boston in February.

The day after I got back, I went to my local shoe store for another pair of Docs and a second pair of something. And then I saw these…

I knew nothing about Blundstone boots or their history. They looked nice and so I tried on a pair of #500s (the ones in the middle). They were amazingly comfortable, and so I walked out of the store actually wearing them. I did buy the Docs and broke them in over a couple of days. But I kept going back to the “Blunnies,” as they’re called. And when I realized that I’d worn them exclusively for at least 5 out of the next 8 days, the only logical solution was to go back for a second pair.

My choices were between the black #063 (the top shoe) and the rustic brown #585 (on the bottom). I tried them both and they were just as comfortable at the #500s. And of course, having “mark” written all over my face, I get offered a discount for buying both “today only,” a deal which I would “never find anywhere else” (and with cursory research on the interwebs, I kinda believe it). So I did.

The #063s are still in the box for now, as my “dress” shoes, which of course means I’m tempted to get a nice, comfy pair of #587s.

At this point you’re asking yourself if I’ve now resorted to shoe reviews on my blog. No, the point of this screed is to take a moment to stop myself and ask, “What the fuck are you doing, man?”

I mean, never mind the exorbitant costs of buying four pairs in a week. Yes, this is sort of a positive — I don’t foresee actually needing a pair of shoes for at least the next five years. But getting #587s when I have a new pair of Docs? See, at this point I have to reckon with the horrible realization that this must be pretty much how Imelda Marcos got started. And lest you think her legendary shoe obsession was merely just a symptom of government corruption run amok, let me assure you that my mother’s collection, which filled up closets no larger than any you’d find in a 3 bedroom house in suburban Cleveland, was no slouch. It must be a predisposition in the genetic makeup of my peoples. And now I’ve become its latest victim.

Also, have I finally reached the age where I’m just done with laces?

I think I need to find a group, or something. That’s within walking distance. Because, fuck, these Blundstones are comfortable…

Quickie Review: PATERSON (2016)

PATERSON strikes me as AMERICAN SPLENDOR (the comic, not the film) for the beautiful people. The ones with artistic tendencies, who are old enough to accept the reality of a workday job but too young to be completely jaded about it yet. Adam Driver is no Harvey Pekar. Driver, a bus driver, goes about his daily routine, observing and absorbing life along his route — the characters, the conversations, the situations (like, being a driver named Paterson, driving through Paterson) — living a poetic life in every sense of the word.

(Spoilers near the end of the post.)

This film’s strength as a piece of art is that you’re able to project a little bit onto it. Some reviewers see this as a piece about a man moving through his poetic life, poetically, with a Zen-like focus on the infinite variety of subjects he encounters in his daily route. His passengers, fellow bar patrons, his artistic (if unfocused) wife and her dog are stops along his way which he soaks up and documents in his poems. And when Paterson’s life is disrupted in the one way it could be, he eventually comes to treat it as the momentary aberration it is, and his poetic equilibrium is restored.

I see something different, though. I see an writer who never publishes, chafing a little against his good-enough routine but with little reason to change anything. And when he pays the price for this life, which then offers him an opening to make a change, here comes the poetic Universe in the form of a magical Japanese man to usher him back. And Paterson does go back, willingly, into that prison and closes the door behind him.

SPOILER here, but I think it’s worth mentioning how this film was a lesson in establishing plot threads that aren’t wrapped up, but which totally works because those things aren’t what the film is about anyway. I was expecting a dog-napping, a smashed guitar, ruined cupcakes, a divorce, or a newly discovered twin. We get none of that, but it’s okay. Depending on your point of view, this is either a film about choosing to live a pure, artistic life for its own sake or it’s about condemning yourself to an existential hell that was ultimately of your own making.

Either way is poetic to me.

Thanks, Boskone 54!

I think I had the most fun I’ve ever had at Boskone as a part of this year’s program. I probably could’ve done a better job moderating “So You Wanna Be a Time Lord.” Things got a little heated near the end, but I think most folks walked out with smiles. “The Horror Boom and the Second Wave” and “Fear Factor” panels were great fun and I’m wondering if that was so because my point of view on these topics was that of a fan, and not so much as “a fantasy/sf writer.” I did have occasion to let that perspective sneak in a couple of times; that was cool, too.

I was down with OPP (Other People’s Panels) this year, too. I probably need to lay off the various “writers on writing” panels at cons, though — not because I feel I have nothing to learn but really, my further learning needs to be about doing at this point. Still, I did pick up a couple of real gems.

Caught a couple of films, too. I’d heard of, but never watched David L. Wolper’s 1963 documentary STORY OF THE WRITER on Ray Bradbury. I wish someone would’ve tied me down CLOCKWORK ORANGE-style and made me watch this when I started writing. I ruminated on this video for most of the ride back from MA to NY for a many reasons, not the least of which is because this is a snapshot of Bradbury’s life at 43 (like someone else I know). I know, I know, can’t compare yourself to other people, least of all a legend in the field. But got’damn, if this isn’t yet another call to get my ass in gear…

The other was Roger Corman’s 1963 adaptation of THE RAVEN. C’mon, who doesn’t like that one? I’d actually forgotten that Richard Matheson wrote the screenplay, and that a very young Jack Nicholson was in it, too!

I succumbed to Boskone Twitter’s (implied) dare to adopt the busted Baphomet statue I found in my apartment complex’s laundry room and use it as a prop for the piece I performed for the Villains Open Mic slam.

This is the second year in a row that someone suggested I do something with the pieces I performed. Maybe this year, I’ll listen. I wonder what I’ll have to cook up next year?

See you at 55!

“I can STILL hear you saying you would NEVER break the chain…” [January 2017]

What you’re seeing up there is my attempt at a January writing streak. Each red X is a day I met a preset minimum fiction writing/editing goal. The end goal, of course, is to have as long a chain of Xs as possible. I’m not off to a hot start this month, but we’ll find out together how February turns out.

I tried posting these a few years back, but it lasted all of five minutes. I’m gonna try public accountability again though, if for no other reason than to live out the main takeaway from my Viable Paradise experience: Put up or shut up.

The Ballad of Baphomet with the Broken Horn

The public laundry rooms in my apartment complex have glass doors, and when I walked past one on my way to the bus to work the other day, I caught this little guy sitting on the freebie table out of the corner of my eye. I thought to myself, “That can’t be what I think it is.” and I doubled back.

Times are tough when the devil can’t get a break.

I stopped to stare at it. Not because of leftover Satanic influence from my Dungeons & Dragons days (at least I hope!), but because of the total absurdity of its existence in this room.

There’s a story behind that statue, and it began with a person or persons who decided, for whatever reason, “I need a graven visage of the Evil One, the Horned Beast, the Lord of Lies, the Prince of Darkness!” Maybe I have neighbors who are genuine Satan worshippers. Or, maybe just dark metal wannabes. Maybe contemporaries from my D&D days, or someone who just wanted to shock and amaze their roommates with a gag gift.

In any case, the tale ends when this person or persons decide, presumably after its right horn got busted off, “Eh… the rest of it is still good. Maybe someone else might want it.”

Twenty+ consecutive years of Catholic education during my formative years makes this repulsive at a gut level. But those days are long past. Not only am I dying to know what the middle of its story is, it’s kind of a pathetic end for anything to get discarded on a freebie table in an apartment laundry room.

Come to think of it… maybe a prop would be useful for the horror panels I’m on at Boskone next week… hm…

Now I wonder if it’s still there…?

Don’s Boskone 54 Schedule

I’ll be at Boskone in February for two out of its four days and again, they’ve allowed me to take up space in the program! Here’s where you can find me  — come say hi!

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17

7:00 PM
So You Wanna Be a Time Lord
Jim Mann, Don Pizarro (M), Kate Baker, John Chu, LJ Cohen
Marina 4
The time for a new Time Lord is fast approaching. Peter Capaldi is on his third season, which means his stint as The Doctor is likely nearing an end. We’ve seen speculation about casting the next Doctor, but maybe Capaldi isn’t ready to go, especially since his character is starting to gel. What are our hopes for the future? Do we want to keep Capaldi? Whom would we like next? Maybe we can even ask our panelists why they might make a good Time Lord….

(Oh, I will ask. I will…)

8:00 PM
The Horror Boom and the Second Wave
Jack M. Haringa (M), Don Pizarro, Christopher Golden, John Langan, Grady Hendrix
Harbor II
Horror boomed in the 1970s and 1980s, before fading into subplots within romance, SF, and fantasy, as critics proclaimed, “Horror is dead!” Fortunately, horror is too clever — and necessary — to be beaten by Death. In fact, horror is back, bigger and badder than ever! The Second Wave of horror is hot, and it’s unabashedly horror again. What drove the first horror boom? What “killed” it? What fearsome forces are driving this Second Wave?

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18

12:00 NOON
Fear Factor: “What Are You Scared Of?” “I Don’t Know!”
Gregory Feeley (M), Trisha Wooldridge, Grady Hendrix, Don Pizarro, Jon Hunt
Marina 2
H. P. Lovecraft says, “The oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Peter S. Beagle says, “It is the shadow that terrifies, not the monster it hides. The monster is an actor in a monster suit. The shadow is always real.” Should moviemakers reduce screentime for their favorite CGI monstrosities? Should horror writers concentrate on explaining the really scary stuff less? What storytellers excel in making us jump at shadows?

8:00 PM
Open Mic: Villains!
Kenneth Schneyer (M), Linda Addison (M), C. S. E. Cooney, Kate Baker, Milton Davis, Ada Palmer, Vincent O’Neil, Don Pizarro, Tom Kidd, Julie C. Day, Emma Caywood
Galleria
Live from Boskone… enjoy the unsavory stylings of our program participants and audience members. They share their open mic skills in the second annual Boskone Open Mic, which this year features our favorite fictitious villains! Each person gives his/her best 5-minute villainous performance — story, poem, song, skit, interpretive dance, or whatever!

If I don’t see you at any of these panels, you’ll see me at others because holy crap, this programming is packed full o’ goodness! Or, I’m sure you’re bound to catch me walking to/from the bar…