Thursday, March 30, 2006


I met an artist friend for lunch today. We talked a bit about how hard it is to give ourselves permission to spend time on creative pursuits. It feels selfish. I've gotten over that, to an extent, but she's still struggling with the pressure she puts on herself, despite a supportive partner.

I could only repeat what I tell everyone: Power isn't taken, it's given. If you don't give people power over your time, or your conscience, you'll find that they don't truly demand it. Most of the drive to give, give, give is internal.

Then our conversation took an interesting turn. We talked about color.

S works in watercolors. She had an unfinished piece with her. It was, like most of her work, amazing to me. When she talked about the palette she chose to work with, she got a little embarrassed, and then confessed that she thought of colors as numbers. (I've since looked this up and seen that, while uncommon, there are other artists who do the same thing. Fascinating.) The numbers she chooses often have significance to the theme of the painting. The work she showed me was a gift for a friend's birthday. She used the friend's birthdate as her number base. Sometimes, she told me, the numbers were from equations. I asked her if she'd solved the square root of red. She laughed and said no, but told me that equilateral triangles create the best color harmony.

Since we were in a confessional mood, I told her that I often visualize my characters in terms of colors or seasons. I don't see faces or hair color in my mind. What I see is a blur of (forgive me for sounding artsy-fartsy) aura. I've noticed that I tend towards two palettes. "White, black, red" characters or autumn. I can't even begin to explain how that translates to paper, into people, into dialog, but it's there in shades that shift with their emotions like the northern lights, and somehow it works for me.

I've tried talking about that with other writers, but I always get that long silence followed by a change of subject, so I'm convinced they think I'm insane. S asked me if I ever heard music. I confessed a few, rare, blue and purple characters who seemed to have jazz saxophone solos stuck to the soles of their shoes like trailing toilet paper. That cracked her up, but she said she knew someone just like that, so she understood what I meant.

I don't see S often enough. Aside from missing the connection to her, I also miss being able to spout weird writer crap and have her take it in stride, which means that she ignores it or she's being polite. Or maybe, just maybe, I make sense to her.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


I just read Sage Vivant's blog entry about the anthology Amazons and found out the information on contributors that I have listed below is WRONG! (Skylight books and Amazon both have the same incorrect list.) Sage has the real list here.

My contribution, Blue Girl, is one of my favorite stories. When I first wrote it, I was afraid that it would quickly become dated (hope for political sanity springs eternal), but last month, Alabama outlawed the sale of dildos and vibrators. And here I thought I was writing absurdist fiction. Or maybe my story is absurd, and the State of Alabama is too. (Can you believe I was born there? Me either.)

I can't wait to see what others have done with the theme. Hopefully, my contributor's copy will arrive soon.

Dontcha love the heel on that shoe? Woof!

Bringing it on Home

Final day in SF.

Sunday morning, Cady and I met Greg Wharton and Ian Philips for brunch. They are Suspect Thoughts Press, publisher of many of my favorite books, including Ian's collections See Dick Deconstruct and Satyraisis, and Greg's collection of short stories Johnny Was. As a publisher, it seems that Greg doesn't get much of a chance to write, which is a shame, because I am consistently awed by his stories. Ian blushed a bit when I told him that his story Harder is the hottest thing I've ever read.

Greg gifted us with copies of Rode Hard and Put Away Wet and Out of Control. I'll add those to my Suspect Thoughts reading list which already includes:

The Beautifully Worthless
The Wild Creatures
Killing Me Softly
and Toilet.

Recently read and recommended from their offerings:

Everything I have Is Blue
Pulling Taffy

Ian and Greg are charming company. I can't remember everything we talked about - roller coasters, horror movies, dogs, of course cats, herbs, writing, Saints and Sinners... A lovely conversation with intelligent people that had me laughing the entire time. I appreciated them taking time on such short notice to share a meal with us. It was the perfect end to our trip.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

SF Day 2, part 2

The reason I went to SF was to meet up with other ERWA writers. Everything else was a bonus.
Cady and I headed to A Different Light bookstore in the Castro at 4. I saw her collection of short stories Any 2 People Kissing on the shelf and pointed it out to her. (Lots of great stories in there, but I love the puppy play one most.)

A Different Light has a great selection of, well, everything, but the transgendered section was amazing. I was tempted to pick up a few more titles, but I knew I was already over my book buying budget for the month. Greg Herren's newest mystery, Mardi Gras Mambo was featured on one of the front tables, but he'll be in LA for a reading April 20th, so I decided to wait to buy it. Besides, the canvas bag was already overflowing.

Nan Andrews, who has a story featured in CREAM- the upcoming ERWA anthology edited by Lisabet Sarai - met us at A Different Light. (Cady's story Drillers is also in CREAM.) We stopped for some coffee and chat before hiking to Nan's car. I was so glad I didn't try to drive. Not that driving is the problem, but parking... Oh honey, leave that to the natives.

ERWA writer Jane was in town too, so we went to the financial district and met up with her, then we all headed for North Beach. I'd never been there before, but plan to go back. Way, way back, I remember my parent's Kingston Trio record recorded live at the Hungry I. I was floored to see that it was still around. I should have crossed the street to see who was performing, but figured I'd walked enough that day.

Nan was an excellent tour guide. It's great to be with someone who knows the city and can throw off little nuggets of information as you pass by landmarks. We trusted her with the choice of bar and later on a restaurant, and she picked great places. So thank you again, Nan. You're an excellent host.

My first drink about put me under the table, so I was only able to make sleepy conversation through our fantastic dinner. I had a good time just listening though. Honest Nan, Jane, John, and Cady - I wasn't bored. I was exhausted. Thus the sleepy grin every time someone said something to me. But by the time we left the restaurant though, ideas were pinging around in my brain. I hoped I'd remember some of them later. Being around other writers is such a creative jump-start for me. I love the energy and excitement over ideas and words.

We raised our glasses in a toast to the other ERWA get-together in New York. For everyone who was in NY - we hope you had as wonderful of an evening as we did.

After dinner, we headed for legendary City Lights Books, home of the beat generation writers. I couldn't help it, I bought Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Yes, me, buying poetry. After all the terrible things I've said about being forced to write essays in high school about Ode Upon A Grecian Urn (which always makes me think of the Ladies' Auxiliary Dance Committee from the Music Man - trickle, trickle, trickle.) Like Shakespeare's plays, I probably need to hear poetry from the mouth of a talented actor to appreciate it. I remember the funeral scene from the movie Four Weddings and A Funeral where the poem Funeral Blues was read and it took my breath away. Still, I'm willing to try reading Leaves of Grass on my own.

Nan bought a copy of Garden of The Perverse and got Cady and I to sign our stories. I almost felt famous. I love signing books, but (oh, the irony) I can never think of anything to write. Cady has seen me get terribly flustered when handed a book and a pen, so no doubt she was waiting to see how I'd handle it this time. I think I did okay. (Although I did slink off to have a comfort smoke immediately afterwards. )

I was glad when everyone admitted around eleven that they were wiped as well, so we caught a bus back to the financial district and called it a night.

Score for the day? 7 books, 2 magazines, 1 newspaper, 1 cemetery, 1 purple draped Jesus, 3 sex shops, 4 bookstores, 3 ERWA writers, and only two cigarettes. Pretty damn good.


This has nothing to do with San Francisco.

For three hours yesterday evening, I was stuck in the meeting from hell. I spent most of the time staring down at my shoes, biting my tongue, and repeating this mantra: "I will not seize control of this meeting." I didn't, but it was a huge struggle.

By the time it devolved into side conversations and aimless speculation that looped back to items discussed (and I thought settled) in the first hour, I was grinding my teeth. But I was good. Didn't say a word.

I want those three hours of my life back.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

San Francisco day 2

This is only going to cover the first half of the day. I'll write about the evening in another entry.

After our exhausting ride through the central valley and great night at the signing party, Cady and I were wiped, but the hotel room was scorching and I couldn't figure out how to turn on the AC, so I barely slept at all. (A call down to the front desk in the morning clued me in - there was no AC, I had to open the sliding glass door. Wish I'd thought of that at 3AM.)

We ditched the car and rode BART into the Mission district around 10. Our first stop was Good Vibrations. I had a blast playing around with the toys. I mean researching. Yes. Serious writer's research. That's what I was doing.

I've already given up on submitting a story for a Drag Kings anthology. I did come up with a story that I like, but it doesn't fit the call. Even though it won't be submitted, I felt I had a legitimate excuse to spend a lot of time experimenting with the packers. Work, work, work. Pay no attention to the rumor that I tried swinging a floppy nine incher like a lariat.

The only thing that sort of gives me pause at places like Good Vibrations is that so much of the inventory is designed to make sex palatable. Flavored lubes. Massage oils. Scented candles. Are women that turned off by the smell and flavor of sex that they have to coat it in pretty, sweet goo before they'll endure it? The answer is probably yes. That's so sad.

Our second stop was at Borderlands Books, an independent store specializing in science fiction. The store mascot is a hairless cat named Ripley who was a little too interested in the contents of our Good Vibrations bags. Cady had a list of Liaden Universe chapbooks she wanted to get, so I was free to wander around the store and shop.

Big mistake. I should not be trusted in a bookstore with a credit card.

I bought Wild Seed as a personal memorial of Octavia Butler's passing a few weeks back. The old sword and sorcery series Thieves World is being reissued, so I picked up the first two books. I have no idea where my original paperbacks went and have wanted to reread them. I also picked up Laurie Mark's Earth Logic, the sequel to Fire Logic which I enjoyed a lot. I don't know why I didn't realize she'd published the next in the series, but I was glad to see it.

If you read my blog often, you know that I take picture of cemeteries everywhere I go. San Francisco doesn't have cemeteries, or so I was told, but when I found out Mission Dolores had one, I dragged Cady along on the tour. She did suggest that I stuff my Good Vibrations bag into the book bag before we went in. Something about decorum. We spent some time wandering inside the original church and the basilica, which was draped in dramatic purple cloth for Lent. Cady knows Catholicism, so I learned a lot on our tour. The graveyard was tiny, and kind of cool, but it didn't have any great funeary art. (Now Salzberg - there's a cemetery! Memento Mori everywhere.)

Between my purchases and Cady's we had about seven pounds of books stuffed into a little canvas bag that we took turns toting as we headed for the Castro. By the time we reached Twin Peaks bar, we'd been hiking around for about five hours, had eaten, hadn't even had something to drink. On the plus side, by that point in the day I still hadn't had a cigarette!

One of the many great things about spending a day with Cady is that she has no qualms about walking into a boy sex shop and looking at heavy duty S&M gear. I don't either. I love it. There are things I'll blush over, but sounds and enema gear aren't on the list. It's nice to be able to check out the beginner's hogtie kit and discuss it with someone who can keep the conversation on a technical level. Finally - sane people who celebrate sex instead of enduring it! I found a few things I liked, but given time constraints and the fact that I blew my budget on books, I was reduced to window shopping. At least wicked thoughts are free.

By the way - really hot nasty sex can be an expensive hobby. Just sayin'.

Road Trip

I'm a zombie - a happy zombie - but I'm still running on reserves from a three day jaunt up to San Francisco. Instead of trying to cover it all in one entry, I'll spread it out over a couple days. That should keep a certain someone (he knows who he is) from griping that I don't update often enough.

Writer Kate Dominic (Cady) came along with me. We started at the butt crack of dawn Friday morning and hit heavy rain as soon as we got through the grapevine. The central valley, in case you've never been there, looks like someone ironed Kansas, sucked all the color out of it, and dropped it in the middle of California. After the third hour, I started appreciating furrows plowed in wavy patterns versus diagonals simply for the variation on the theme.

Two hours after we hit town, we were on our way to a reading at Varnish, an art gallery in the financial district. Michelle Tea has published memoirs, but she was reading from her first novel Rose of No Man's Land. She had the crowd's devoted attention. A taste of her novel wasn't enough, so I picked up a copy, as well as Rent Girl.

We also heard Katia Noyes read from her novel Crashing America. I'll confess I never heard of Katia before, but the excerpt she read was enough to get me to buy the book and I look forward to reading the rest.

The gallery was packed, and I had to go outside for some air. Okay, for a cigarette, but there was air around me too. I swear it.

It was St. Patrick's Day, so I watched people in various states of green stumbling by. A 20ish punker eyed me from across the street and came over. She asked if I had a spare cigarette and offered impromptu haiku in exchange. Even if it had been my last one and the shops were closed, it was too good of a deal to pass up. She took a deep breath, ready to recite her poem, but I pulled back the offered cigarette and told her, "Make it about a smoke." She frowned a little, stared up at the moon, counted syllables, and gave me a haiku about parking lots. Still smiling, but not in a completely friendly way, I reminded her that wasn't the deal, just to see what she'd do. I got a full ten seconds of eye contact from her. Long enough to make her think. Then I handed it over and brought out my lighter. She cupped her hand over mine and watched me while she inhaled. After that lingered a bit, I told her, "I think it's lit by now." She took a few steps down the block, stopped, and looked back at me over her shoulder. I grinned, flicked mine down to the sidewalk, ground it out, and went back inside to see what Cady was up to.

End of day one.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Great Week

On Tuesday, I sold a short story to a HOT COPS anthology.

On Thursday, I placed CHILL on ERWA. The difference between placed and sold in my mind is the $$. Writers argue about giving work away for free. I'm against it for many reasons, but ERWA is my community, and I support it every way I can. Besides, placing another story on ERWA led directly to....

Sunday, I sold CHALLENGER DEEP to the anthology CREAM.

So I'm feeling very successful right now. That's a good place to be. (I also got an extremely sweet rejection letter for a science fiction story, but I won't let that kill my mood.)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I'm Such A Sucker For A Compliment

About five times a year my vanity gets the better of me. I'm going along, minding my own business, when someone in the SO's family sidles up to me and says, "Are you going to bake______ (unique cultural food or family recipe) this year? Because it just wouldn't be _________ (holiday or special occasion) without your wonderful _________s. No one makes them like you do. It's the best part of the _______ (holiday or special occasion) for me."

And I fall for it every damn time.

I used to hang out in the kitchen with the SO's grandmother while she cooked. I'm a family story junkie, so I'd sit there and listen to her tales while she whipped up some of her specialties. Of course, she'd hand me things while she talked. "Mix this for me, dear. Can you measure that out? Help me fill the pasta. Taste this and tell me if it needs more pepper." She taught me how to cook - something I wouldn't have volunteered for if she hadn't been so sly about the lessons. By the time she passed away, I realized I was the only person around who knew how to make some of the prized family recipes. They weren't written down anywhere, but I had them memorized. Talk about an insurance policy! The SO had to keep me at that point.

These weren't just any old recipes. The SO's grandmother was trained at a culinary academy, and she melded Russian and German traditions with French cooking methods. Some are absolutely unique to SO's family. Others bear the same name as dishes other people know, but there's no comparison.

I got a call from one of the SO's nieces last week. She casually mentioned that Purim was coming up. I already guessed she had other motives for calling me, but I played along.

Cunning Niecelet: Say, did you know that Purim starts next week?

Me: Gee, it must have slipped my mind.

Cunning Niecelet: Well, we were talking about it at Hebrew class, and we started talking about Hamentaschen....

Me: *groan*

Cunning Niecelet: ...And I'm sure we're going to end up having to eat those horrible cookies they always serve.

Me: Yeah, well, I'm sure you'll survive. I hear you can get a buzz if you eat enough of the poppyseed ones.

Cunning Niecelet: Really? *silence while she ponders that tidbit, and then recovery when she realizes she's being distracted* Um, well, anyway, I told them that those weren't real hamentaschen, and that you made the best ones ever.

Me: *I can so see where this is going* Thanks.

Cunning Niecelet: *speaking at full speed so I can't get a word in* So, I need 30 for my class Monday. Make the apple ones. I don't like the cheese filling. Love you. Bye-bye. *click*

Do I call her up and say no? Do I envision a hamentaschen free Purim? Do I tell her parents (who will probably keep five of the 30 for themselves)? No. I get up early Saturday morning to peel, core, and dice eight cups of apples. Once I cooked that filling, I made the cheese one too. Then I got out the yeast and made the sweet bread dough. 12 hours total.

Some day, the cunning niecelets and nephews (who are equally guilty) are going to find out that their hamentaschen/kreplach soup/blintz souffle/toffee square/latke/matzoh brittle/spiced pecan/potato, lobster & corn chowder supplier can cut them off. That's the day I start passing on those recipes to them the same way I learned. Oh, they'll pretend they aren't interested in cooking, but what choice will they have? The poor little babies know nothing about going cold turkey.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Jury Duty Rocks!

Imagine sitting in a room full of people who don't want to be where they are. Everyone is waiting for something to happen, for time to pass. Do they turn on the TV? No. Do they chat with the person sitting next to them? No. They all read. Hundreds of them- heads bowed, books open. Silence. Except the turn of the page and an occasional cough.


I plowed through Everything I Have Is Blue before the lunch break. During lunch break I found out a short story I submitted was accepted (score!). Now I'm grabbing my copy of All The Beautifully Worthless and heading back to the courthouse. As long as they don't place me on a jury, my day is made.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Selfish Pursuits

Most stories I've written lately have been prompted by calls for submissions. That's fine. Sometimes it helps to have something jump start my imagination. Also, I need to build my name recognition if I ever hope to sell my novel. But...

I don't usually like those stories as much as the ones I write just for me.

Critique partners seem to notice the difference too. When the story is prompted by a call for submissions, the comments I get are usually about the sex. I'm not complaining. Getting a, "Hot scene," or "Woof!" from people who read and write erotica is high praise. Yet those comments don't compare to, "I feel like I tried to kiss a moving bus. Bam!" and "This is so amazingly, twistedly, fine." Or the one that made me laugh the most: "You sick fuck." (Another reader described that story as autoerotic necrophilia - even though everyone in the story had a pulse - so "sick fuck" was fitting for that extreme fetish tale. Besides, it was meant affectionately.)

Currently, there are two more calls for submission I'd like to write for. One, I have the story written and it simply needs polishing. The other... well... I'm on my third story and nothing seems to be working, so I may have to give up. After that, I think I'm going to ease up on submissions. I'm going to simply write for me for a while. Please my inner sick fuck. And maybe I'll plant a big wet one on a moving bus.