I’ve just put a new story online: “A Philosophical Discourse“. I think it’s funny, but it might be more meaningful to you if you know something about the ancient pre-Socratic philosophers.
Return of the Kings, that awesome book that Jennifer orchestrated for my 45th birthday, is now available as an e-book from Amazon. Proceeds from the sale go to the Leonard Pung Memorial Scholarship for the Clarion Writers’ Workshop.
Go buy this. You know you want to read this.
A quick question for the masses:
What is your favorite zombie movie, book, TV series, game, play, puppet show, song, or other media? How you define “zombie” is up to you.
Tags: little fluffy wiggletoes, Short Stories, Writing
Just so you know, I’ve finally put “Little Fluffy Wiggletoes” up on this site.
For some reason, Little Fluffy Wiggletoes is one of my more popular creations. I’m sure I don’t know why. At any rate, I did write a few sequels to this story, and I plan on putting them online as soon as they undergo the necessary revisions.
Enjoy! But beware that this story contains content that is not safe for work, nor for children. Consider it rated R.
Tags: Woe is Richard
As you know, my birthday was this past Monday, December 31, which also just happens to be New Year’s Eve. Jennifer and I threw a nice party, with about a dozen and a half people, most of them friends from my writers’ groups. It was during this party that Jennifer gave me the best gift I’ve ever received, and quite likely the best gift that anyone has ever gotten (not including new babies, kittens, or other mundane things like that, I suppose). That gift was the book you see pictured above, Return of the Kings.
It’s difficult to explain exactly what this book is. It’s a short novel, about 100 pages long, collaboratively written by thirteen people, and edited by Jennifer. The novel is about… Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. However, I will say that it includes settings, characters, and themes that I’ve written about in my own stories and novels. San Augustin. Hastur. The National Weather Service Black Ops Agency. They’re all in there. Each author wrote a chapter, adding to the chapters that had gone before. Each chapter has a distinct voice (because each author has a distinct style of their own), but somehow the novel manages to remain coherent. And the cover art, featuring Cthulhu with a pair of rubber duckies, is brilliant. I read the novel on Tuesday, and it is seriously the most awesome thing I’ve ever read. Here’s Jennifer’s account of how the novel came to be.
I was very moved when I got this gift at the party; and I’m not too manly to admit that when I saw that my late friend Leonard Pung was one of the contributors, I got something in my eye. Not every author who contributed was at the party, but I had everyone who was there sign my copy.
You can’t buy Return of the Kings yet, but once Jennifer makes a few last edits, she’ll put it up for sale on Amazon and other places. Proceeds from the sales will go to the Leonard Pung Memorial Scholarship Fund, which helps pay for students over 40 who attend the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. I’ll post here, as well as to the Twitters and elsewhere, when it becomes available for purchase.
Update: The people involved in the project were:
B. E. Johnson
A. K. Cotham
And the cover was designed by Leigh Dragoon.
I am indeed truly blessed to have such wonderful friends.
The other day, on Twitter, author A. Lee Martinez, who has written some of my favorite books (including Gil’s All Fright Diner, Divine Misfortune, and Chasing the Moon), called me “history’s greatest monster”:
Mind you, he wasn’t referring to my writing. I doubt he’s read anything of mine, aside from Tweets I’ve sent to him and the occasional email; rather, he was responding to my insistence on using the semicolon in my writing. He had said that his general advice to writers was to avoid the semicolon and to always use the Oxford comma. I responded, “You can have my semicolons when you pry them from my cold, dead, properly punctuated hands.” And it was in response to that that he uttered the epithet.
I was, of course, thrilled. The quote is now on the front page of my website. And I couldn’t help but post it to Facebook and everywhere else I could think of.
History’s greatest monster, indeed. My work here is done.
Tags: 2013 resolutions, Doctor Who
Merry second day of Christmas! As you know, Christmas is a twelve-day holiday, starting on December 25 and running through Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, which is on January 6.
Now for a couple of notes about Doctor Who:
Yes, I’m a fan. Yes, I’m aware that Doctor Who is a children’s show. Don’t judge me.
I don’t normally make New Years’ resolution. Why set myself up for failure? Last year I tried with a mere couple of resolutions, and while I did well with the second one, I didn’t do so well on the first. But I think I’m going to try again, just in case I’m able to refocus properly this coming year. After all, I’m turning 45 on my birthday (which just happens to be New Years Eve, so you have less than a week to buy me presents), which, being a nice multiple of five, seems like the perfect time to refocus.
So here are my two resolutions for 2013:
I figure I’ll also take the opportunity this year to set some new goals and challenges for myself. I’ve already set a couple of writing goals: to complete the second and perhaps third drafts of Code Monkey!, and to finish up and publish The Winds of Patwin County, a novel in the form of several interwoven short stories, by November. I have other plans in mind. We’ll see if I get to them.
So those are my resolutions and goals for this year. I put them out there in public for the sake of accountability. If some of you will take note of them and help me remember them, I’d be mighty grateful.
One last bit of Doctor Who: Here’s the trailer for the upcoming second half of Series 7:
My first thought when I saw the Cybermen in this trailer was, “Oh Lord, not the Cybermen again.” Then I remembered that this coming year’s Cybermen episode is written by Neil Gaiman. So it will be really interesting to see what he does with them.
Tags: Religion, Second Amendment
Here are some thoughts I’ve been having recently. They’re not necessarily coherent. They’ve just been on my mind.
Guns. In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, a lot of people have been considering their position on gun control (though Gawker reports that gun sales have reached unprecedented numbers, especially assault rifles, since the shooting, which makes no sense to me). While the gun control discussion will probably lead nowhere, one of the predictable cries is “GUN CONTROL! NO OMG THAT MEANS THEY’RE GOING TO TAKE OUR GUNS AWAY!” which is, of course, just BS. Gun control does not equate with taking away guns; it means massacre prevention.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the Second Amendment. I think it’s archaic and has long passed its usefulness (the ratio of innocents killed by guns to tyrants overthrown in the US is pretty high). When the Founders passed it, guns were unreliable, took ninety seconds to reload (if you were practiced at it), and were just as likely to blow up in your face as they were to fire accurately. The Founders did not anticipate the existence of assault weapons, nor that such weapons would be used to murder two dozen children. Then there’s that whole “well-regulated militia” thing; a lone gunman in a school or a shopping mall do not a well-regulated militia make, and neither does the NRA. Of course, the Second Amendment will never be repealed and the NRA will always be a potent political force, so the whole question is moot; but, in summary, I believe that gun ownership ought to be considered an earned privilege, like driving, rather than an inalienable right.
However, the biggest issue related to the Sandy Hook massacre is, of course, access to mental health care. It’s hard for poor people to get access to affordable mental health care in our country, of course. It just seems that it’s easier to get guns. I disapprove.
God. On Sunday I attended the Christmas Cantata performance at the Dixon United Methodist Church. The Cantata was entitled “A Night of Rejoicing”, and the title was appropriate. The music was joyful, full of good cheer, and really brought home the message that Christmas is a time of jubilation, and not materialistic commercialism. And this made me think: Christianity really ought to be a religion (and not a “philosophy”, as Bill O’Reilly put it; and in spite of my background in philosophy, I feel this statement really sucks the spirit out of the faith) of rejoicing and cheer, gladness in the presence of a God who came down to Earth to become one of us, just for awhile, and who weeps with us when tragedy strikes.
Unfortunately, it seems that Christianity, as it is most loudly practiced in the United States these days, is a game of “Us Vs. Them.” When faith goes from being an expression of one’s spirituality to a weapon to be used against people who disagree with you or live in ways or do things that you disapprove of, you end up diminishing your relationship with God, not enhancing it. As they say, God loves everyone, even those you don’t like. Remember Jonah, and how his story ended*; Jonah desperately wanted to see the people of Ninevah smited, but God ended up not doing so, much to Jonah’s irritation. I suspect that sort of thing goes on all the time.
One of the most odious things that came out of the Sandy Hook massacre was Mike Huckabee’s statement that it happened because we have kicked God out of the public schools. It’s certainly true that public schools are government institutions and therefore cannot favor one religious faith over another (to do so would be a violation of the First Amendment, which I am a big fan of); but individual students are perfectly free to pray or express their own faith in ways that don’t infringe on the rights of other students to do so. As others have said, as long as there are final exams, there will always be prayer in public schools.
I don’t know for sure what God’s up to, but if the Gospels are any hint, then a lot of people are going to be surprised — and possibly even disappointed or outraged — when they get to Heaven and see who else managed to make it.
I have a lot of thoughts about religion and faith, but this seems like enough for now. But given these thoughts, is it any wonder that I’m an Episcopalian?
Beer. Not much to say here. I brewed up my first batch in fifteen years on my anniversary, and it came out pretty good. I’m going to brew another batch, possibly a vanilla stout, on Christmas Day. And that’s it.
Conclusion. As the great ones said, “Be excellent to each other.” That’s all I have to say.
* Note: I’ve been pondering for some time writing a novel that would be a retelling of the Book of Jonah. I don’t know. I just think he’s the funniest of all the prophets.
Tags: depression, Woe is Richard
Now, before you do anything else, go here and read the announcement. In brief: my friend Andrea Stewart has won first place in the third quarter Writers of the Future contest, which is a really big deal. I love it when friends of mine get published or win contests or things like that. I always like to say, haughtily, “Yeah, they’re in my writers’ group. Also I went to a party at their house and it was awesome.” Also, read Andrea’s more detailed blog post here.
Writing about depression is always difficult, but I’m told it’s therapeutic to do so, so here we go.
I’ve talked about kobolds as the metaphor for my depression. The metaphor is only a couple of years old, but it was inspired by my old Dungeons and Dragons days. Kobolds are easily defeated monsters, you see, when they come along in singles or in pairs. They only have half a hit die after all (meaning between 1 and 3 hit points, meaning that they are really easy to defeat). But when they show up in huge swarms, bursting down barricades and pouring into dungeon chambers, they can easily overwhelm and vanquish even the more experienced and high-level parties of player characters. Depression is kind of like those kobolds; there’s always one or two tagging along, knocking on the door, begging for attention, but generally easy to vanquish. But sometimes they show up in swarms, battalions, and then it’s easy to let the darkness overwhelm you and just… stop. For those like me who have been diagnosed with Bipolar Type II, the kobolds sometimes go away completely, but when they swarm, they really swarm.
And for the last few days, boy have they been swarming.
My current angst seems to be centered on three things: my health, my writing, and my age. I’m about to turn 45, you see, and my beard is going gray and I’m getting gray at my temples and some of my joints ache and I get gastric reflux occasionally and so on and so on. Maybe I’m coming down with one of those midlife crisis things that I kept hearing about all my life. Is it time to buy a red sports car, track down a girlfriend who can’t legally drink yet, and get some hair plugs? (Probably not. I hate sports cars, I’m very happy with my wife, and I’m not going bald at all.)
Nah, I think it’s more that in certain areas of my life, I feel like I’m always starting over, and that’s frustrating. I weighed in at the doctor’s this morning, and discovered, to my horror, that I weigh as much now as I did five years ago. So… I feel like I’m starting over with regards to getting my act together when it comes to my health.
And when it comes to my writing, I feel like I’m a failure. I’ve been writing all my life, and eleven years ago I decided to crack down and take my writing seriously. And now at age 45 I have yet to make a single professional sale, or even finish a single novel. I feel like I’m at the start of my writing career, and that, too is frustrating. (And to clarify, because it’s come up a couple of times in private messages on Facebook: No, Andrea’s success has not exacerbated these feelings; on the contrary, I’m very happy for her, and the news actually cheered me up quite a bit.)
But these thoughts… they’re all irrational. They’re the kobolds singing their nefarious songs to me. It’s just the depression talking, and depression lies. That’s an important truth to keep in mind when one’s depression feels overwhelming. Of course, it would be nice to stop up my ears like Ulysses’s sailors and ignore the songs of the kobold sirens, but that’s easier said than done.
And now, three days after the stupid kobolds started singing their songs, I’m still feeling captivated and enthralled. I can’t seem to figure out how to eat nutritiously, how to stop eating when I’m no longer hungry, how to get started with the exercise, and so on. And I can’t seem to focus on my writing at all; it’s far easier to watch old episodes of Futurama than it is to choose a writing project and work on it.
I know that the proper approach is just to get going and start moving, but it feels overwhelming. Everything I’ve read tells me to simply choose one task, a starting point, and focus on that for the moment, but even that seems like it’s too much.
But depression lies. The kobolds deceive and obfuscate. It’s hard to remember that when I’m sitting at my desk at work, wishing I could just go home and go back to bed with my cat, but remember it I must. And keep taking the meds, and keep focusing on the small, individual tasks before me.
Sooner or later, these feelings will pass, and I can go back to normal.
On another note, this is entry 1,000 on my blog, which I’ve been keeping on and off since 1996. It’s gone through several permutations, from when each entry was simply a separate HTML page off my website, through a custom blog program that I wrote in PHP, to Moveable Type (eugh) to WordPress. So, yay.
Last 10 EntriesA new story is online
Return of the Kings Now Available
Little Fluffy Wiggletoes Lives!
Hugo/Campbell Eligibility Post
Best. Gift. Ever.
“History’s greatest monster”
2013: A resolution or two
Guns, God, and beer
Signal boosting; plus, singing kobolds!
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