“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.

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…

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…?

So If You’re Tired of the Same Old Story…

I hit a couple of milestones this year. As always, I just need to capitalize on them. Leverage them into the next step in my master plan. As always, it’s that easy, and that hard.

But it’s been a tough year on top of that. It’s changed a lot of us, especially after November 9. And don’t get me started on the veritable icons we lost…

And now it’s time to turn some pages.

Lots of people have reason to be afraid in the next four years, and there are some people who get a big kick out of that. Fuck them. We might feel like we’ve been kicked in stomach by Bruce Lee straight into a spear stuck on the wall. But we have to toughen up, do your thing, and use that thing to stand up and get in the faces of the people who feel they can tell us to sit down and shut up.

2017, do not fuck with me. I’m going into next year angry, and so are a lot of my friends.

Go on, try us.

Offering This Simple Phrase

For five years I worked for my current boss, but on a different team. And every year around this time, she’d give that team some choice goodies from the Cuba Cheese Shoppe in Cuba, NY about a couple of hours away from us. I’ve moved on from that team to lead my own, and I wondered if I’d get the tasty cheese products this year. Turns out, I did!

My boss really is an example (in many ways, but this one in particular) of the simple phrase “Do unto others….” On one hand, she’s Administration and the general workplace rule is to be as neutral as possible during the holiday season, because we serve a lot of folks at the dayjob who don’t celebrate Christmas, or anything at all. But if you do, she’ll throw out a Merry Christmas in a second, and if you’d accept it you’ll get a gift of fine local cheeses.

For those of who aren’t into this particular holiday, I hope this time of year is exactly whatever you want it to be.

For those who are, Merry Christmas!

Plenty of Fluids

It’s been 9-10 hours days at the dayjob this week even though I was knocked out for a lot of last week by some kind of lung pox. The occasional cough and sneeze hasn’t stopped karma from arranging things for me to work 9-10 hour days. I’ve been trying to drink plenty of fluids, per the advice of the medical professionals surrounding me. Sort of. Okay, maybe this wasn’t what they had in mind.

I’ve become what I have beheld — in this case, my old high school band director who would regularly accumulate coffee cups of varying levels of fullness on his desk (and cigarette butts; it was the ’80s). There’s really no reason for me to have all this fluid on my desk. The sad part is, the coffee is what took my mind back to high school band and not the old Chicago album I had playing when I snapped this.

Anyway, I’m at lunch this second, sitting at a table next to a group of four students who are just chattering away. Writer Me wants to transcribe every word; the stuff I’m hearing is fiction dialogue gold. But not today. Today, I’ll just sip my coffee (that WON’T be going back to my desk) and soak up the fluid of stories gushing out next to me. Somehow, this stuff is actually making me feel a little better.

Breakfast with the Social Medias

I’m at the cafe I usually sit in on Sundays, gearing up for today’s writing with coffee and baked goods. I decided to dive into my social media networks (and, tweak the new site here a little bit). I spent what I felt to have been a productive hour interacting a bit. As soon as I post this, I’m going to turn all of that off but then I realized something — sure, the next time I tune in again, I might’ve missed something. But because of how big the big things tend to stick on social media, it’ll be back around again like a TV rerun.

Which then made me think that just because social media is designed to be a stream and is meant to be consumed as such (since it’s on 24/7, nonstop because of its ubiquitous presence on all of our devices), it doesn’t mean I have to treat it that way. Just what is the actual difference between the social media stream, and any other media stream I had coming up in the 80s and 90s (TV, radio, recorded media, etc.) with respect to its demands on my attention and how I choose to respond to that demand?

Rise! (Again.)

If you look closely, you can see my energy level.

Let me start by saying this isn’t a “Poor Me” post. But sometimes a little whining is therapeutic.

I was knocked out for a week with laboratory confirmed Flu A. One of the clinicians I work with told me that people who’ve said they’ve had the flu and miss work for a couple of days really haven’t had the flu. I’m starting to think that’s true because as I think back, it seems to me that I haven’t been sick like that in a long, long time. I’m pretty sure I was delirious the first night.

Anyway, I got better but damn if it wasn’t the exact wrong week to miss work. It was a week of project deliverables, most of which made it in. But some didn’t, and still haven’t. So the week I came back (last week) was catch-up week, and I don’t mind telling you it was a harder fight than surviving the flu. I’m still chipping away at it, even as I’m processing this week’s work.

Thing is, all this happened about a week after Boskone, at a time when I just felt I’d recaptured a sense of urgency about my writing. I’m not talking “inspiration to write.” I’m talking about a feeling of something I could harness, aside from my own willpower, to leverage myself out of the writing slump I’ve been in for a couple of years. (Yes, I’m in a slump, despite an upcoming publication.)

But it’s hard having to constantly climb out of a pit, and that’s kind of where I am right now. Not ready to give up or anything, not by a damn sight. Not even as I still feel some lingering effects of something-or-other (shortness of breath, a cough that still hasn’t gone away, near constant malaise and fatigue). My boss (who’s a registered nurse by training) finally chided me enough to give my doctor a call tomorrow.

And, so begins yet another climb back up.

Post-Con Blues, Impostor Syndrome Self-Assessment, Reader’s Block

Here’s what’s on my mind lately…

POST-CON BLUES. I love going to cons, but they often put me off of my normal writing routines. And when I come back, they tend to keep me off my writing routines because of follow-up, exhaustion due to people overload, and obsessive but fruitless worrying about how to leverage my last appearance while trying to force my way BACK into a writing routine–which is arguably the best way to leverage my last appearance, at this stage of my career.  Well, one step at a time…

IMPOSTOR SYNDROME SELF-ASSESSMENT. From 0 (“I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me?”) to 5 (“I’m like Aquaman and Brown Hornet / I’m like Imhotep but don’t flaunt it.”), I feel about a 3, post-con.  I’ve had stuff out last year even though it was few and far between. I had some con panelist experience before Snokone Boskone (2 WFC panels, that’s not nothing), and now moderator experience. Next Boskone I get to participate in, I’ll probably feel right at home.

via

READER’S BLOCK. Because OMG is my backlog out of control. I just cannot make up my mind, strategically, about what to read next. And no, “Read what you’re in the mood to read” is of no help, because strategery!

To Absent Friends, Etgar Keret, My Misspent Mallrat Youth, and More Jodo

It’s been a lot of quickie reviews of things I’ve been reading and watching lately. So let’s do something different today, yeah?

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RIP Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, and also actress Arlene Martel, who I met at the Rod Serling Conference last year, still trying to keep herself out there in typical L.A.-style.  This isn’t one of those, “How dare they forget such-and-such?” notes.  Just a nod to the one I had a brief connection with…

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Etgar Keret says a lot of things perfectly.  This bit from his interview in Granta is no exception…

I once met this very good writer. She told me that sometimes she comes upon a metaphor or a description and she writes it down on a notecard and keeps it in a box. Then when she writes a story and her character is taking a walk, she thinks OK, I’ll take a walking image from my box of notes. And I said to her, ‘Why? The guy is already walking.’ I don’t think a text should be beautiful. We’re trying to say something, to help something. It’s like sticking a feather on a guy’s back. You know he either grows wings for evolutionary reasons or he doesn’t have feathers. That’s my attitude to writing – although there are writers whom I love who I can see obviously don’t write this way.

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Who wants to see where I spent my preteen mallrat years in a state of urban decay?

These photos break my fucking heart.  The building is still walking distance from the house I grew up in.  I haven’t been inside it in at least 15 years.  Those lounge pits you see are exactly as I remember from the ’80s, except the vinyl covering the seat cushions was a red violet instead of blue, if memory serves.  And there are a lot of memories.  Buying 45s, then, as technology progressed, cassette singles at the record store.  The Burger King that came, went, and came back where I got many a lunch after swimming lessons and learned the joys of the bacon double cheeseburger.  The Waldenbooks where I’d buy the Target novelizations of classic Doctor Who episodes, and perusing other books that no 10 year old had any business going through, but I got away with it as long as I wasn’t anywhere near the Playboy section of the magazine rack.  I was never ever asked to stay away from the “personal massagers” section of the Spencer Gifts, for that matter.  All the classic Star Wars action figures and other collectible toys that sell for hundreds of dollars now that my parents paid the ’80s equivalent of hundreds of dollars to Kay Bee Toys back then… ah well, the past is past.

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Next up in my movie queue: Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain.