Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Things To Do on Halloween

The possibilities are endless. If you live in the Baltimore/DC area, you couldn't go wrong by visiting Poe's grave at Fayette and Green streets in Baltimore. Check out Andy Duncan's comments here.

If you are inclined to stay at home handing out goodies to the neighborhood kiddos, my good friend Kelly Shaw has some great movie suggestions for you here.

At some point, Bullet and I will probably watch either the original 1963 version of The Haunting or the 1982 remake of The Thing, both great (and as different from each other as they can be) horror flicks.

Of course, I'm very tempted to start the new Conrad Williams novel The Unblemished, which arrived just a few days ago. Ah, so many choices.

Whatever you do, everybody have a happy, safe Halloween. (Two more days to WFC!)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cindy Conquers the Marine Corps 10K

I'm very proud of Cindy for completing the Marine Corps 10K Run yesterday (which is connected with the Marine Corps Marathon) in downtown DC. The way she's going, I wouldn't be surprised if runs the whole marathon soon. I expect she'll be ready for a half-marathon very soon. (I told her I'll stick with the half-miler.)

The Clydesdales were even there at the end of the race, giving out free beer. (Well, the Clydesdales were more or less supervising.) Free beer? What a race! Sign me up!

These guys weren't doing much. Looks like Skippy was guarding all the good stuff.

Cindy after crossing the finish line - a job well done! Of course they had other free stuff - bagels, sports drinks, egg beaters...but after the beer, who really cares? Anyway, I'm very proud of her. It doesn't seem that long ago that she and I were huffing and puffing at the track at Lamar High School in Arlington, TX. (The only difference is I'm still huffing and puffing.)

Speaking of huffing and puffing, I saw a woman preparing herself for the 10K by puffing a last minute cigarette. That's what I call training. And sacrifice. And some other things.

Just a few more days until WFC...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Resting Places

Did you know that the most common non-religious name for a cemetery in this country is Evergreen? It's true - there's at least 101 of 'em. I found this out by doing a little research for my current graveyard story, which should be ready to go out in a few days. (I did not choose the name "Evergreen" for my story, however.)

Speaking of this story, I'm breaking one of the rules I've heard for years, that diary or journal stories generally don't work well in fiction. I tend to agree. I remember telling a good friend of mine a couple of years ago that I didn't think her novel in diary/journal form would work.

So why am I doing it with this short story? (And it is pretty short; should end up no longer than 5000 words.) Maybe because it's the best way for me to discover who my narrator really is and becomes through this weekly journal. I might decide to take the journal element out once I've read the completed first draft, but for now it's working. We shall see.

A revised version of "You Can Say Anything You Want" got rejected yesterday, sent to someone else today. That makes only six stories out there in the pipeline, which is fewer than I'd like. I'm hoping to have at least two more stories out there before Thanksgiving. If I can just get Fred to punch the clock a little more often, I think it'll happen. Maybe he's been hanging out at Evergreen...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Countdown to WFC

One week from now (or less, if I just can't stand it) I'll be packing for World Fantasy in Austin, TX, where I'll eat/drink too much, sleep too little, and purchase far too many books. But hey, this is World Fantasy, right?

It'll also be good to be back in Austin. Cindy and I lived there in 1996-97 while I was teaching at Bailey Middle School and Murchison Middle School. But if anyone asks me how to get anywhere, they'll be out of luck. I don't even think I could find our apartment after being gone for ten years. But Austin is definitely one of the nation's coolest cities, regardless of whether you're lost or not.

There are a few places I'd like to revisit. Although it's several miles from Austin, The Salt Lick can't be beat for great barbecue. Maybe some of us can get a group together and drive on down.

Book People, The Largest Bookstore in Texas (and what else matters?) is a must-stop. Unfortunately, I'll miss the Howard Waldrop/Ellen Kushner/Kelly Link book signing due to my flight time, but they'll all be at the con anyway.

In the meantime, I'd better make some money...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Capclave Report

My good friend John and I decided to run over to Capclave for a Saturday-only sampling. The only other con I'd been to previously was World Fantasy (twice), so I certainly wasn't expecting Capclave to match WFC in size or quality, but it was quite good.

John and I went to the dealer room first (of course) where we literally bumped into Andy Duncan and his wife Sydney. It's always great fun to see Andy and it was a real pleasure to meet Sydney. (And it's also nice having them in Maryland.)

Most of the panels we attended were pretty good. I always enjoy the wit and wisdom of David Hartwell, who had a lot to say about why we have dividing lines in genre and how they came about in the first place. And I enjoyed the panel on the TV show Lost, where I discovered that compared to some fans, I am only a casual observer of the series.

Which brings me to the best panels:

The Future of Small Press Magazines consisted of four panelists: Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld), Ed Schubert (InterGalactic Medicine Show), Lawrence Watt-Evans (Helix) and Sean Wallace (Fantasy Magazine).

Each publication is different in their format, their payment and their philosophy. While Clarkesworld pays 10 cents a word, they only publish two stories a month, one by an established writer and one by a relative newcomer. (The stories appear online and in chapbook format. Online is free, chapbook is not.) Fantasy pays 2 cents a word, but includes a healthy twelve stories an issue. Wallace says that he feels it's more important to include more 4,000K (or fewer) stories than one or two stories of novellete or novella length, that most readers seem to want to read shorter fiction. (I tend to agree with him.) Helix is not an open submission publication, but they do tend to publish stories by established authors that's been turned down by other mags because they're too controversial.

There's a lot more to say about this panel and Endings: Slingshots and Other Varieties of Wrapping Up, but if I'm going to get to the gym before it closes, I've gotta go now. More later (pending interest). All in all, a good con I plan to attend again next year.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Keep It Short?

I'm wondering how my writing would change if I read only short stories for awhile, say three or four months. Don't get me wrong, I love novels, but when I'm in the middle of reading one, I tend to get caught up in the entire world presented in it, including all its complexities and structure. Then when I sit down to work on one of my stories, I get a little overwhelmed with the possibilities of ideas, structure, character, etc. I know and understand that you don't have the room in a short story to explore an entire world, but I'm wondering if a tighter focus in my reading would provide some boundaries in my writing, which right now tends to roam all over the place.

Speaking of writing, another 500 words on my "dead people" story. Really it's more of a graveyard story than a dead people story. It took me awhile to explore what's going on in the narrator's head and after some false starts, the story has shown me where it needs to go. Now it's flowing pretty well.

Not much going on this weekend, but my good friend John and I will be attending Capclave next weekend, which will be a nice warm-up for World Fantasy next month.

Monday, October 09, 2006

How 'Bout Them Cowboys?

As you may recall, back in April of this year, T.O. signed a three-year, $25 million contract with my former favorite team of 30+ years, the Dallas Cowboys. At that time, I made a statement that I refused to cheer, root, pull for or even give a nod in the general direction of the team as long as Jerry Jones keeps T.O. around. In fact, I've cheered for every team that plays against the 'Boys. (Let me tell ya, it's tough cheering for the Redskins.) It's my hope that:

1 - The Cowboys will lose as many games as possible, and miserably.

2 - Jerry Jones will decide T.O. isn't worth $25 million and will trade him/pay him out and cut his losses (which should be many) at the first opportunity.

It's also my hope that Parcells/Jones/etc. will find a quarterback that's under the age of 30 that can lead this team to some type of future...that is after T.O. has gone and I can cheer for the Cowboys once again.

So has T.O. been the non-factor on the field/distraction off the field I thought he'd be?

You betcha.

Owens had three catches on Sunday for 45 yards. Plus at least one dropped pass that I saw (I only watched a few minutes) which caused the Philadelphia fans to erupt in laughter, finger pointing, knee-slapping and other forms of jubilation.

Plus (according to the articles I read this morning) T.O. behaved in his usual immature fashion, spouting off, yelling and screaming, pouting, etc. on the sidelines.

But I guess that's what Jerry Jones wanted. Let's see...a 38-24 loss to the Eagles, three catches, 45 yards, zero touchdowns, multiple tantrums....how's that $25 mil. contract workin' for you, Jerry?


On the positive side, 500 words this morning on a brand new short story that has nothing to do with T.O., football or money. Just lots of dead people.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Stepping into the 21st Century

Well, I'm finally making the plunge. Everyone in the known universe has made fun of me (and rightly so) for years, so this weekend I'm buying a cell phone family plan.

Cindy's had a cell phone for years. I bought her one when we lived in Austin in 1996. She commuted to UNT in Denton, TX and I wanted her to have a little added security. (Denton's a dangerous place, ya know.) It was one of those big clunky Motorola phones that looked and felt like a gray brick. Then she got a prepaid phone that she's been using for a couple of years. But now we're getting the real thing. I told her as long as I can get "Like a Rolling Stone" as my ringtone, I'll be happy.

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but we're wondering how many people have disconnected their land lines and use cell phones for all their calls. What do you think?


Sent out a new story today called "Thicket" which clocked in at exactly 5,000 words.


Everybody have a good Columbus Day Weekend. Go discover something.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Some Thoughts on Lost - Seasons One and Two (plus a few minor spoilers)

Awhile back, Cindy and I spent several weeks watching Lost Season One via Netflix. We enjoyed it enough to rent Season Two as soon as it was available, watching the entire season in a matter of days.

In a way, Season One is like a prologue for Season Two. Sure, a lot happens in Season One: the crash, of course, and all the weird things going on, but most of Season One shows us who these characters are (and were) thorough backstory.

Without giving anything away, the stakes are raised big-time in Season Two. This season is (for the most part) fast-paced, exciting, intriguing and addictive. But there are a few factors that bring cause for concern:

Sometimes the character flashbacks seem to work against themselves. Much of the backstory provides essential information on why the characters act (or should act) the way they do. But that's part of the problem. We see what these characters are about, then back on the island, their behavior is sometimes inconsistent with what we've learned about them in the flashback. Sure, their whole lives have been turned around since the crash, but people will certainly still carry around their baggage. For instance (again, without giving too much away for those who haven't seen the show), we learn that there's something in Kate's past that makes a man like Sawyer not only a big turn-off, but downright odious. Yet she sure spends a lot of time with him. You can see other inconsistencies with other characters as well.

Certain characters appear in deus ex machina fashion, only to disappear after serving their purpose to get the main characters where they need to go for that particular plot point.

I have some other minor issues, but my main concern is that the writers/producers of the show will never be able to tie all the loose ends together. There's an awful lot to be explained at the end of Season Two and I just have to hope that Lost is not jerking our chains at the end of the season just to say "Gotcha!"

We shall see. Season Three begins in two days.

Which brings up another point that bothers me.

When Season Three does start in two days, it's only going to run for six weeks, followed by a thirteen-week break, after which the season will conclude. Talk about jerking your chain....

But again, I'm willing to go along.

For now....