Category Archives: This Random Thing Called Life

Life is pretty random sometimes.

Thinking about bucket lists

glow-in-the-dark ghost bucket
Oh no! A ghost bucket!

I’ve been thinking about the term “Bucket List” for quite some time. I first heard it in reference to a 2007 film called The Bucket List, but I don’t think I’d heard of people using the term for their own lists of things they wanted to do before they die until about ten years ago. I’m not sure, though. Who knows.

At any rate, I figured that since I don’t really have a bucket list, I ought to put one together. Here’s some items to get me started:

  1. See Dropkick Murphys/Flogging Molly in person. I almost had a chance to do this three or four years ago, and missed it. I wanted to see David Bowie at some point before he died, but then he died in 2016 and the world went to Hell.
  2. Travel some more. There are plenty of countries I’d like to viist. New Zealand. Egypt. Plenty of places in Europe. Japan. Etc.
  3. Write more novels. Natch.
  4. Heck, just see more concerts in general. I’d love to see The Hu or Bloodywood in concert as well, but I fear I might feel… old in their audiences. I’ll check with some folks I know are the same age as me who have been to those concerts, though.
  5. Finish my novels.

That’s it. Whew. Not much, I suppose. Maybe I ought to get into some specifics. But not now.  Right now I’m just feeling lazy.

What about you? Any suggestions for my list? Do you have a list to share?

 

Old Enough to Drink

First of all, a revelation for you all: Soon (as in, I hope, before January), my short story “How the Old Ones Saved Christmas” will be published in the upcoming anthology LOLCraft: A Compendium of Eldritch Horror. No links to pre-order yet, but rest assured, I will let you know when it is available.


Album cover for Evil Dead the Musical
Album cover for a brilliant play!

My blog here is over twenty-two years old. Not as old as my wife’s or as John Scalzi’s, of course, but respectable. It’s old enough to vote and drink. I’m pleased with that. I started with a plain HTML template that I modified every time I wanted to post to a home-grown PHP script that I could plug entries into when I wanted, to WordPress version 1, to every version of WordPress since. Nowadays I don’t mess around with the formatting or the templates much, but once upon a time I had it set with seasonal themes: Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and so on. It was complicated to create and set up and maintain, so eventually I just modified a theme that came with WordPress, and that’s why my blog looks like a generic blog from 2014.


Last night, Jennifer and I and some friends of ours went to see Evil Dead: The Musical, which is exactly on brand for us and our friends who joined us. I love this play. I’m a geek for horror-comedy, as my friends and my writing will attest (for the most part). It helps to have seen the Evil Dead trilogy of movies in order to get all the jokes in the play, but it’s not necessary. But zombies! Demons! Ancient books! Mystical spells! Etc.! All singing and dancing and splashing fake blood on the audience! Seriously, there’s a “splash zone” in the audience, because the play gets awfully bloody. How can it not, when the ballad song at the end of Act One includes the lines “DIE DIE! DIE DIE!” while the actor playing Ash chops a head in half with a chainsaw?

As long-time readers of my blog know, I’m a fan of this sort of thing. I wrote previously about my exposure to a movie called Mad Monster Party at a very young age and how a kind usher helped me get over my fear of the film (sometimes I still think about that woman, and hope she’s living her best life somewhere). If I ever get the chance to act in this play, I’d love to play the character Ol’ Reliable Jake.

Halfway through dinner, unfortunately, my ventral hernia began to act up. When this happens, it feels like I’m being punched in the gut repeatedly. Jennifer gave me some Ibuprofen, but it didn’t really help. It got worse as the evening went on, and I had difficulty concentrating on the play and enjoying it. I still did enjoy it, though, but it took me another huge Ibuprofen pill and two hours in bed before I could finally get to sleep.

 


No blathering about writing or revising today, since I did that last week and nothing has really changed. As in, I’ve made no progress on the goals I set for myself last week. But since I have today off for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I can work on revising things and outlining things as soon as I’m done procrastinating with this blog post. It’s only a matter of figuring out what to prioritize and what to work on first. Maybe I should make a list. Oooh, another way to procrastinate!

Be well, friends, and stay safe this spooky time of year.

Writing Update Number… uh…

Writer with dragon
Me, writing, under close supervision from a dragon

I have no idea how many of these writing updates I’ve done on my blog, and I’m too lazy to count, and besides, I’ve probably embedded writing updates in other topics too, so… Well. You know.

But here’s a writing update!

Work on And the Devil Will Drag You Under continues apace. I hope to have this draft finished by September so I can do a quick polish for my writers group in October. We’ll see. I’ve been very optimistic about this draft — which is a complete, bottom-up rework of my previous draft — for some time.

I also wrote a couple of stories recently, one of which I’ve sent to a few different people for feedback, and one of which I’m letting simmer for a bit before revision. But I’m pretty happy with both of them. If you’re interested in reading them to provide feedback, please let me know!

So far, this year’s submission stats:

Stories submitted: 64

Rejections: 56

Acceptances: 2

One of the accepted stories, “Blank”, has already been published. The other one is still awaiting a contract, but once that’s signed and everything’s ready to go, I will definitely share here.


In other news, if you pay close attention to every page of my site, which I’m sure you do, always, you may have noticed that the link to my science blog, The Penguin Scientific, is gone. That’s because I’ve decided to discontinue it. I posted one last entry, a line from a Sublime song, and that’s it. I realized that my real interest in writing is in writing fiction, so I decided to focus on that instead. Maybe someday I’ll write more nonfiction pieces, but today is not today. I feel fine about this decision, and don’t regret it at all.


Also, my self-imposed exile from Twitter and Facebook continues. I’m noticing that Elon Musk and the Twitter investors are sort of playing Hot Potato with Twitter itself, indicating that no one really wants it, probably because no one’s figured out how to make money off it. If it dies, what will replace it? Personally, I pine for the days of LiveJournal, before it was bought by a Russian company; maybe an LJ clone will replace Twitter and bring back the glory days of the Internet, before it consisted of about four sites, each carrying little but screenshots of the other three (thank Cory Doctorow for that summation).

That’s what’s up for now. As always… How are you?

…And just for fun, here’s a video for “Closing Time”, that song by Sublime that I mentioned. If you lived through the 90s, you probably recognize it.

Various Dribs and Drabs

Not much to report right now.


WRITING

However, I need to let you all know that my creepy short story “Blank” is now up online at Dark Recesses, and you can read it on their webzine here. This represents my second acceptance of the year! I still haven’t signed a contract for the first, so I can’t yet reveal the market that accepted the story, which I also can’t reveal at this time.

In other news, I have been continuing to work on my novel And the Devil Will Drag You Under, adding approximately 500 words per day to this particular revision. This was one of those “tear down and rebuild from the ground up” revisions. I’m hoping future revisions won’t be so drastic, but I’ll have to wait until November when my critique group gets done with it to find out.

I’ve also been working on a new short story, “Meep”. It represents a couple of themes that I’ve been obsessed with for quite awhile. Someday you’ll get to read that one, but first I have to finish it.

And I continue to submit two manuscripts per week to various markets. I admit it’s sort of a buckshot approach, which I think lots of writers employ. Lots of misses, but a few hits.


CATS

Goodness, we’ve got a veritable sickhouse of kitties right now. Our poor resident cat Ruby has an autoimmune disorder which is attacking her red blood cells. Fortunately, this can be controlled with regular cortisone doses. Right now she’s getting a pill a day, but hopefully she’ll be able to get injections every few days soon. She’s a shy little thing, so catching her to pill her can be difficult.

We have a couple of sickly foster kittens right now as well, but they’re hanging in there.


THAT’S ALL

I’ll be at WesterCon in Tonopah, NV, in a couple of weeks. Will any of you be there as well?

 

Just Some Random Ramblings of an Earthling

Cover of Carl Sagan's "Demon-Haunted World"
Should be an all-time bestseller, but isn’t.

Just for kicks, I’m re-reading Carl Sagan’s wonderful book, The Demon-Haunted World. I’m loving it, as I always have every time I’ve read it, which has been every couple of years or so.

One thing that struck me this time around is how much time and space he spends debunking alien abduction stories by putting them into a larger cultural/mythological context. I side with him on the issue: while hundreds of thousands people have reported being abducted by aliens, there is no physical, undeniable proof that it has actually happened. No mysterious “implants” have been analyzed by MIT or other reputable university and found to be made of alien metal, memory is fallible, and so on. But the alien abduction/UFO culture were tied up with conspiracy theories in the 90s involving the government; such conspiracy theories have fallen to the wayside in favor of modern antisemitism, racism, and the bonkers “Q” conspiracy theory, which encompasses them all. If Carl Sagan were around today, he’d be sickened, I’m sure, by what passes for the modern conservative movement.

Ahem.

So this year, for Earth Day, I committed myself to spending a year learning everything I can about this amazing, beautiful, endangered planet that we live on. I haven’t really started that yet because I’m still taking my MLIS degree seriously and thus taking classes for that, and it’s eating my time. But I am reading Sagan’s book, so I’m counting that as a step in the right direction. I’ll keep you all updated on what I learn, and I plan on updating my blog, The Penguin Scientific, with various facts and things.


In other news, my depression and anxiety have been kicking my butt recently, and have convinced me that I’m never going to get anywhere with my writing. I’ve talked back to it but it refuses to listen. Stupid brain. My brain and I are supposed to be on the same side, I don’t know why it won’t cooperate.

But I continue to persist with the writing and submitting anyway. I’m on track to submit 100 manuscripts for the second year in a row. Stats so far:

Submissions: 32

Rejections: 29

Waiting on: 8

I haven’t quite worked out how those numbers work out, but I’m not worrying about that.


That’s all for now. What are you learning?

The State of the Richard

The palm of a hand painted in the colors of the Ukrainian flag
I stand with Ukraine

Boy, ain’t the world something these days? Between the pandemic and the war in Europe, the world’s pretty messed up right now. The Russia/Ukraine conflict has the potential to spread further, and despite wishful thinking among politicians (especially on the Republican side of the aisle), the pandemic really isn’t over. In both arenas, there’s a long way to go to achieve a peaceful and appropriate outcome.

In my own little world, I’m stressing about school and work and writing. While I’m learning about Information Literacy Instruction in school and producing videos and critiques of other students’ videos, in addition to reading and writing discussion posts, I’m also trying to complete 508-compliance training for work. 508-compliance, in case you don’t know, is making sure that all documents prepared for public consumption are fully accessible to people with visual, hearing, and learning disabilities, as well as to people with limited fine mobility. There is actually some overlap here, because the videos we make for school need to have captions and need to be accessible to people with visual impairments.

Writing-wise, I haven’t been able to get much done. I set a goal of 500 words per day on The Devil will Drag You Under, but over the past week, I’ve written less than 500 words total. This doesn’t bode well for completing that revision by May 12 as I’d hoped.

I have, however, been able to keep up on my target of submitting two manuscripts to various markets per week, which is a relief. Here are the stats for the year so far:

  • Submissions: 18
  • Rejections, form: 15
  • Rejections, personal: 2
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Pending submissions: 8

Some of those rejections were for stories that I’d submitted last year. One of those rejections was for a story that I thought was a sure thing, but alas, was not meant to be. I have hopes that this will be the year I make my first professional sale, but I’m not optimistic about ever achieving that goal.

I’m also far behind on my reading. While for fun I’m reading The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan (as well as a couple of others), I also am reading two novels for my writers’ group, which is meeting this coming Thursday. I’m looking forward to the meeting — I always do, because my fellow writers are a jolly bunch — but going in without having read the works under consideration is not a good look.

On the other hand, though, my blood pressure is averaging lower than it has in years, and my resting heart rate is lowering as well. This is probably, in part, due to the fact that Jennifer and I are both participating in the Outbreak challenge, a silly virtual game where you walk a given number of steps per week to outrun a zombie horde. The game syncs with our FitBits, so we don’t even have to track our steps manually. This week, we’re aiming for 10,500 steps per day. That’s a lot, and trying to squeeze those steps in while working on everything else is a big challenge.

All in all, I’m doing pretty well, given everything. I hope you’re doing well too.

Locus of Control

Frankenstein Stamp
This is me at the beginning of the year

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I think I’ve said that already in this blog, but I’ll say it again. It’s just that January 1 is such an arbitrary date to decide that you’re going to improve yourself. I used to make March 25 resolutions for reasons that are no longer relevant, but I don’t do that anymore either. But this year, I do have some goals, and I have decided to focus on various areas of my life — loci, because I like to use fancy words — that need attention and improvement. I’m listing them here to keep myself accountable, but you’re welcome to read them as well and comment just in case you want to.

Loci/Goals:

  • Writing: I want to focus even more on my writing and make it a larger priority. I want to end the year with at least fifty submissions; one hundred was manageable, but I think I’ve run out of market/manuscript combinations. I want to write some more stories so I can send different stuff out there. And finish one novel and at least start another.
    • Goal: To end the year with 182,500 words written. That’s a minimum of 500 words per day, which is easily done as long as I make it a priority. Those don’t count words on my blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
  • Daikaijuzine: My main goal for Daikaijuzine for the year is to switch platforms, from Drupal to WordPress. Drupal has issues that WordPress does not, and I know I can make it look better with WordPress. Also, I know WordPress a lot better than I know Drupal. Fortunately, there is a good Drupal → WordPress migration tool that I can use to help with this.
  • Health: Physical and mental. I’ve been doing pretty well with this already; Jennifer and I both signed up for Noom, and it’s helped quite a bit. We also signed up for The Outbreak Challenge, and that’s gotten us moving around a lot, and that also helps. My blood pressure is down, my resting heart rate is down, and I’ve lost ten pounds so far. Yay me. Just gotta keep on keepin’ on.
  • Church and Community: I plan on attending church more regularly, at least online. I haven’t for over two years now, primarily because of the pandemic (ugh, so much because of the pandemic), and I always feel better on a Sunday morning after going. I also want to get more involved in the community by doing some volunteering. I lump these two together since giving of oneself to the community is part of the Episcopal Church’s primary teachings. Love God, love your neighbor, change the world, and all that.
  • Learning: I already go to library school, and I enjoy that, and I aim to continue. Jennifer offered me a Master Class annual membership for my birthday, but after a lot of consideration I turned it down. I would like one, but I know that between work, school, and writing, I simply wouldn’t have time to devote to it. And that would make me sad. I should also read more nonfiction. Maybe write some nonfiction, too, but let’s not get too crazy.
  • Friends/Family: Reach out more often. I have many good friends (some I’ve known for thirty years or more), and that makes me happy.  I’ve always known this, and I cherish them, celebrate their accomplishments (and try to minimize my own sense of envy or jealousy if it comes up), and so on. I want to reach out to my friends more, especially my long-distance friends who make an effort to contact me from time to time. And family, too. I’ve been lax in calling my parents and sisters over the past couple of years. Let’s fix that, shall we?

Then there are some other areas of my life that need constant attention: the household (note: clean more), the cats (note: pet more), and so on. No specific goals come to mind for these, but I don’t want to ignore them.

And that, I think, is it. That’s a lot. I’ll keep on keeping on, and that’s a great thing to do. May the new year bring you peace, prosperity, and love.


That’s it for Holidailies!

I Should Write These Things Down

Dinosaur eating gnomes
My parents gave me this gnome-eating dinosaur

I have a terrible memory. I barely remember anything that happened this past year, save that I submitted one hundred manuscripts to various markets and received exactly one acceptance. I think that the whole sea shanty thing was this year as well? I don’t know. What else happened this year? I should write these things down, I suppose. I have a journal, but mostly it’s just things I have to do on a daily basis, priorities, and meetings, and not things that I’ve done. And this blog is an unreliable source of memories, as well; mostly I just blogged about writing and minor things.

Oh, and there was school. I won’t talk about school here, even though I have been enjoying it. Perhaps in my next blog post.

I am the unreliable narrator of my own life. When I finally do write my memoirs (tentatively titled An Unauthorized Autobiography Inspired by True Events), people will complain about that. Too bad for them, because unreliable narrators are all the rage in literary fiction.

So anyway. Today is my birthday, and I’m turning 54. I don’t mind that at all. It’s not as momentous a year as 50, of course, but I’m not mad about it. My fifties have been good to me — though, of course, there has been that inconvenient pandemic thing. I’ve gotten some great presents, including the above-pictured yard decoration. Jennifer and I won’t be putting it in our front yard, since things in our front yard tend to disappear (we used to have two really cool dragon statues that vanished from our front yard the very day we put them out). I got a desktop cell phone holder so I can have my phone next to me when I’m working. It’s pretty cool. And, of course, I got a BUNCH of books, including Buckaroo Banzai vs. the World Crime League, which I’ve been wanting to read ever since I heard it was coming out. I loved The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension and, like millions of fans across the world, was so disappointed when the promised sequel film never happened.

I also got several science books, a couple of horror books, and a science fiction novel. Oh, and my mother-in-law gave me the LEGO Space Station kit, and I’m planning on assembling that tomorrow. Oh, and a DVD collection of the British comedy series Mrs. Brown’s Boys, which I’m very much looking forward to watching.

As for 2022. I’m still processing the fact that we live in the 2000s; when I was a kid, the future seemed so far away. I was so anxious as a kid, and I was constantly scared of what the future might bring; and now that it’s here, it’s not so bad.

Anyway. Best wishes for a Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.


And Happy Holidailies to you!

FORE!arm

Golfer's Elbow Happens Here
This diagram shows EXACTLY where my arm pain is! Astounding!

A couple of days ago I mentioned that pain in my right arm. Today I went to the doctor to have it looked at. My regular physician is on maternity leave, so I saw one of her colleagues, a new member of the practice. He was about an hour and a quarter late to the appointment, because everyone else in the practice was late and traffic in Sacramento was weird because water was falling from the sky and when that happens everyone freaks out. Nurses came in at twenty minute intervals to reassure me that I hadn’t been forgotten and when the doctor finally showed up he apologized profusely and frequently for his tardiness.

He looked over my chart, saw that I’m losing weight, that I’m exercising more, that my blood pressure is down and that my resting heart rate is down, made the appropriate “good job” noises, and then got to talking about my arm. The first thing he asked was whether I’d noticed any shortness of breath or chest pains or heart palpitations in addition to the arm pain. I told him I hadn’t noticed any, and that since this was my right arm and not my left I wasn’t particularly worried (until he mentioned it). He listened my heart, more to reassure me I think than himself.

After several tests which involved squeezing my arm with his gloved hand, rotating my wrists, and even a little arm-wrestling (I won) he was baffled. Until he saw the way I was sitting on the end of the bed.

“You’re double-jointed, aren’t you?” he said.

“Why yes,” I said. It hadn’t occurred to me to mention that detail. I keep forgetting about it because it’s not something that comes up in conversation that often.

Eventually after some more investigation he concluded that I have “golfer’s elbow”. It’s like tennis elbow, but on the inside instead of the outside, and you don’t have to golf to get it any more than you need to play tennis to get tennis elbow. I used to play golf when I was a teen, though, so it made sense to me.

Anyway. No new drugs, except to take some ibuprofen when it gets really bad, and some exercises including stretches and some resistance exercises. So my arm and I should be just fine.

Side note: Of course I avoided checking up on Google and WebMD for my symptoms. I’m under standing orders from my wife, my physician and my mother to never look up symptoms on those sites. That never ends well for anyone.

That’s all I have for today. Tonight we shall be putting up our Christmas tree with decorations planned to amuse the cats and ourselves. That’ll be fun. Pictures will follow.


Holidailies doesn’t hurt as much as my elbow

Random Sampling

Christmas is coming! Huzzah! Hooray! Etc.! I don’t know. I don’t really get as excited about the holidays as I used to when I was a kid. The spiritual meaning of Christmas is not lost on me, of course, but the rampant consumerism and cultural baggage tend to leave me cold, and the right-wing talking points about a so-called “war on Christmas” make me cynical about the whole thing. The latest craze is to blame President Joe Biden for the supply chain problems the world has been having instead of the pandemic and the fiasco with the Ever Given in the Suez Canal earlier this year (yes, that was this year). Christmas is threatened because toys and other material goods might not make it into the stores? I suspect the true meaning of Christmas really is getting lost, but the right-wing folks are the ones who are losing it.

Of course, if you DO want to buy me a present, you can find my wishlist here on Giftster. It’s a wish list sharing site that my family uses instead of the ancient home-brewed one that I wrote in 2001 and never updated since.


Last night I wrote 500 words on And the Devil Will Drag You Under, and also jotted down some ideas for two short stories. This is the most productive I’ve been in weeks. Well, aside from stuff around the house and at work, of course. And even though I feel like the novel is basically stagnating right now, I’m excited to be moving forward on it again. And those two stories —  one is straight science fiction while the other is a mystery with a science fiction twist — are going to be BLAMMO when I finish them

BLAMMO. It’s a word now.


I don’t really have much to say that’s blog-worthy these days. In years past, I see, I used to complain a lot on this blog. Not so much these days, or at least I don’t think so. I mean, I have some complaints — like, new cat Guffaw gets excitable and jumps up on the kitchen counter too often —but it’s no longer a permanent state of mind. See, I’m growing as a person. Jennifer says I should post a picture a day as my blogging process, and maybe I’ll do that. Starting tomorrow, assuming I get my rear in gear and start taking pictures.

Looking over the first couple of paragraphs of this entry again, though, I do see some complaining going on. Ah, well. I’m not complaining constantly about my job these days, and that’s nice.


No more story acceptances since the last time I wrote about my story submission process, but I got a fresh rejection. I still have eight stories on submission right now, some with markets that can take nearly a full year to respond, so we’ll see what happens in the coming weeks and months. I think that I will try again in 2022 for one hundred submissions, but I do need to get some new stories written first.


I haven’t been reading as much as I should be; you can see what I’m currently reading in the handy-dandy widget from Library Thing to the right of this entry. It shows that currently I’m reading a couple of novels that my friends Andrea Stewart and Megan O’Keefe have written, as well as a couple of books about the craft of writing and a book about pirates. But I’m also reading a couple of books for my novel-writing critique group, so I need to concentrate on those as well.

The Bone Shard Daughter was an excellent book by an excellent writer. I’m only one chapter in to the sequel, The Bone Shard Emperor, and it’s just as well-written. Andrea Stewart did not win the Hugo Award for these novels (wasn’t even nominated, from what I can tell). She was robbed. And Megan’s Protectorate Trilogy didn’t make it either. She was robbed too.


I leave you with my favorite Christmas song, which I post every year to my blog and to Facebook and Twitter, but what the heck, it’s a great song: “The Season’s Upon Us” by Dropkick Murphys, my favorite Boston-based Irish punk band.

Merry Christmas to you all, and in case I don’t blog again, Happy New Year as well! May 2022 be a better one for us all.


Happy Holidailies to us all!