Monthly Archives: June 2010


We have a joke in my family called “the payback child.” This would be the one of your children so much like you that you will experience all the specific joys and frustrations your own parents did raising you. We thought that since our children were adopted, we might avoid this particular foible of the parenting life. No such luck.

My daughter is exactly like me. Her adhd is a little more severe than mine waswhen I was a kid (and undiagnosed), but for all intents and purposes, it’s the same thing. She’s the dreamy artistic one who doesn’t quite live on the same planet as everyone else. While I took solace in comic books and writing, she draws and scrapbooks and obsessively organizes her legos. Different expressions, same impulse. She even looks like my side of the family. She’s short like I am and has really gorgeous coppery hair. We’ve spent a lot of time together over the last year and I’ve been struck by exactly how much she shares my impusivity and propensity for running off bunny trails to find an interesting deer trail and then a side road leading to the freeway. Let’s not even discuss our organizational skills.

My wife and her brother were totally different, highly academically skilled (it’s both wonderful and intimidating being married to someone smarter than you are, just sayin’) and possessed of a deep ability to focus on a particular task in a way that seems very alien to me. My son is the exact same way. He also shares their inability to endure frustration. So much comes easy to him that when he hits up against something that is just a little bit challenging,he has to go through a rather lengthy tantrum phase before he can muscle through it. He looks almost exactly like my brother-in-law did at that age.

My son and I share similar interests and my daughter and I have the same personality. My wife and daughter have similar interests and my son has her personality. It works out despite that lack of genetic ties. Make of that what you will.

But there’s one issue emerging that’s going to take me a little bit of adjustment. I am not now and have never been a sports guy. I could never quite click with the rules of various sports enough to really understand them. My dad wasn’t a sports guy either, and my attempts to play always ended up with the other kids yelling at me because I didn’t know what I was doing. Coaches and PE teachers never really tried to help, either.

So, of course, my son is a sports guy. He’s good at baseball and wants to be on the school team. He goes to basketball camp and I am told he’s really quick and a good shot and has a lot of potential. He quickly rises through the levels at gymnastics. This stuff is easy for him. I can’t relate.

But I’m going to. I’m even a little bit excited about it. I will go to his practices and his games and pretend I understand what is going on until I actually do. And I will watch him grow up into a six-foot tall athlete who is also really good at math, and wonder how it was that this happened.

But I’m still going to encourage him to join the drama club.

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Posted by on June 18, 2010 in life



And now is the time on sprockets when we dance.

My weekend of pretending I am a for realz writer person paid off in the added motivation I needed to finish the first draft of the short story I’ve been working on for three gorram months now. It is, of course, terrible, but since when has that ever stopped anyone? The job now is to go through it, change every instance of the thing I decided to change halfway through without going back to the beginning, somehow make the plot make sense, try to evaluate objectively whether or not the stunt-writey thing I was trying actually works (outside experts may need to be called in here), and probably cry a lot. If I drank, there would be a lot of that too.

But it’s a first draft. This was no particular call for submissions for this so I had to sort through the chaos myself to find something that worked on its own, which could be a good or bad thing, depending. My three sales have all been written to specific prompts, so take that for what you will.

But I still like the idea of the story, and the characters, and the basic set-up. I just need to make sure it pays off at the end, not to mention makes sense somewhere outside of my own head. This last part is the biggest challenge, since I have trouble coming up with a grocery list that makes sense outside of my own head.

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Posted by on June 16, 2010 in Uncategorized


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In which I navel-gaze some more about writing.

Had a great time at the signing for Destination: Future at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. There was a pretty good crowd there, a really intelligent, engaged audience which was great, My favorite part was the question/answer session afterward, in which I got to pretend that I know what I’m talking about when I talk about writing.

One of the questions was, if I understand it correctly, why do we write for the traditional model of publication? Why not just write and put stuff out there on your own, on the internet, or through self-publishing, etc?

For me, I submit my work for traditional publication because I think the gatekeeper is valuable. I want another person’s eyes on my work because if I don’t get that I don’t have any way of knowing if it’s any good or not (fun fact: all writers secretly think their work is terrible). And it’s the only way the work can get any better, having that other person helping with the process. This is, again, where I talk about what a wonderful editing experience Destination: Future was, working with Z.S. Adani. Sue Blalock supplied the best way of summing all of this up: validation. Having someone actually pay you for your writing tells you that, maybe, you don’t actually suck ALL the time.

Another subject was (and I can’t remember if this was a direct question or something that just came up), what parts of writing flow easily, and which ones take a little more effort. Jay Lake says that all writers come with a few cards already in their deck: plot, characterization, dialogue, setting, etc, and spend the rest of their careers developing skills to complete the set. For me, Character and dialogue seem easier, but I am still really hopeless with plot. I can come up with characters and a situation, give them obnoxious things to say to each other, but when it comes time for the action to start they just kind of look at me waiting for something. The novel I’m currently revising was a direct result of my trying to get good with plot and at this stage of the process it’s still a bit (?!) of a mess. The story I’m trying to finish right now is having similar difficulty coming to a sense-making ending. There are times when it’s really temping to lay out all the options and get out the ten-sided dice, but I’ve actually done that once, and the result wasn’t pretty.

All of this to say, I still can’t believe that sometimes I get to go to bookstores, read my work, and sign books. It’s only through the spazz-wrangling of my wife and some pretty good pharmaceuticals that any of it happens at all.

Oh, and I need to mention that awesome parallell parking job my wife did with a mini-van in the miracle space right in front of the bookstore. Parking in SF can be it’s own kind of horror.


Posted by on June 13, 2010 in life, writing