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2008: a post-mortem

As a new year starts, I think it’s a good idea to look at the last year, and see what happned. Sure, there were problems, but I don’t want to dwell on them, so, for a change, I’m going to talk about things I accomplished this year.

I published my first short story. In a paying market, which felt really good, especially since it was a story I rather liked. Now, of course, I can see flaws, but it’s still my story and it’s out there for the world.  Shameless plug time: you can get it in the Barren Worlds anthology published by Hadley-Rille Books. “This Abandoned Sky” is on page 63.

Additionally, I finished two other short stories and submitted them to markets. One rejection, but one is still out there. Who knows? I also got a good start on my next novel, and hopefully will finish that sometime this year.

I spent the year back in school, training for an entirely new career (a daunting task when you’re in your 30’s). This, plus the writing, makes me feel like I’m starting two new careers at once.  But they’re both things I love.  My grandpa’s advice remains true: Find something you love, find a way to make a living at it, and you will never work a day in your life. So far, the “make a living” part remains elusive, but I’m on track. At any rate, I am a much more useful human being than I was before, able to actually help people, not just critique their grammar. Don’t worry, I can still do that too.

I finally got my head balanced out, by the grace of God, Dr. Kinney,  and the pharmaceutical industry. Sometimes you don’t realize you’ve gone off the rails until you get back on them. I have no desire to be a normal person, so to speak, but I would like to be in charge of the abnormality. Now I feel like I am.

for 2009: continue the work, become employed, remain balanced, find a way to keep the house cleaned and the laundry done, try not to fall to pieces during the last few eps of Battlestar Galactica (which starts again on my birthday).

And as I was wring this, the song that came up on my ipod? Beautiful Dawn by the Wailing Jennies. Hope that’s an omen.

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Posted by on January 1, 2009 in life, writing

 

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The Amazing San Francisco Adventure part 2: There Might be Blood.

I had this second half totally done, but then the flashdrive it was stored on committed some sort of weird digital seppuku and I lost it. If this one is not as funny, clever, and interesting as you expected, let’s just say it was better the first time around, k?

 

Ok, so we were at the coffee shop, discussing the fact that we may or may not be reading our work as well as signing. Time was creeping along, and Jude/Kelly still had not shown up. We eventually decided that she was probably not coming to Ritual Roasters and we’d have to meet her at Borderlands. My wife, the timekeeper, reminded us that we needed to get moving, so we did.

 

Moving along the sidewalk, I was starting to feel more and more nervous and out of place. Rob and Jasmine and their respective partners, being locals, blended in fairly well, and Kate did a great job of faking it, but I was gawking at all the little shops and restaurants like the former Hoosier I really am.

 

I should stop here and take a moment to explain the other thing that was worrying me. Wel,, not really worrying me, but … My family was coming. No, not my children, because I wanted this bookstore to still be standing once this event was over. My mom, my aunt Linda, and my cousin Alisha. I love them all dearly, but there was a distinct possibility of shenanigans, which are something of a family pastime. These are the people who showed up to the door all wearing billy-bob teeth when my other cousin brought her fiancée home for the first time. No part of me really believed they would where the billy-bob teeth in public, but I am paranoid, so …

 

When we reached the bookstore, they weren’t there yet. We went inside, happy to let Jasmine take the lead in finding out what we were going to do. Already there was, of course, the mysterious Jude/Kelly, who turned out to really be Jude-Marie Green. Since she’d been coming up from LA, she was running just a bit behind, so had come directly to Borderlands. We bravely decided to let Jasmine be the one to find the person in charge, whose name also turned out to be Jude.

 

As she did, my wife grabbed me by the shoulder and leaned in with “hey, you’ve got a … you’ve got a yucky thing there.” It was, of course, my shaving cut, which had re-opened, bled a little, then congealed in a crusty black mass. When I pulled the lumpy scab off of my face, it was the size of one of those beads people use to make those leather reminder bracelets. Yes, gross. Worse, pulling it off made it start bleeding again as if I’d just cut it, so I had to beg Jude for some Kleenex to keep it from getting all over my clothes.

 

Once again, yes, gross.

 

While this was going on, Jasmine, Jude-Marie, and Jude had decided that we would, indeed, all of us read an excerpt from our stories, so I went to the back of the store and practiced while I held a wad of toilet paper to my face, absorbing the blood, hoping for the bleeding to stop before everything got underway.

 

I ran through the section a couple of times until I was happy with how it sounded, and until I could pull the tp away from my face and see no new blood there. This took a few minutes, during which time my family arrived. 

 

I went to the front of the store and hugged my mom and my aunt and my cousin and did a surreptitious check for billy-bob teeth. If they had them, they were in purses or something waiting to be taken out mid-reading. Not even I was willing to go in there. They were excited foe me when I told them what was going on, exactly, and they had the good manners not to comment on my bleeding face. I’d like to think that’s because it wasn’t at all noticeable.

 

So, it’s time now, and the 10-15 chairs set out in the middle of the store have filled up, which was nice. I think most of the people belonged to me and Jasmine, but at least it wasn’t an empty room. I have visions of having to stand up in front of these people and read (and bleed) and I’m starting to get really nervous.

 

Jude introduces us. We’re described as “up and comers” and that they can say “they knew us when.” It felt good. We decide we’re going alphabetically down the table, and that Jude-Marie will read first. She just stayed in her seat and read from there, which was at once a little strange, but also comforting, knowing that I could hide behind the table that way. So she reads and everyone is, of course, enthralled, and then it’s my turned.

 

I actually turn in my chair a little, ostensibly because this allowed me to face the direction where my voice would be loudest, but it was really because this put the side of my face that was bleeding on the other side. The books might get blood-splattered, but at least the people will be safe.

 

And I read my stuff. Out loud (gack!). For the first time. Ever.

 

And it felt really, really good. The audience responded the way I wanted them to, it felt like they were into it, they chuckled at the right places (as much as you can in a story like this one), and there was a while where I forgot I had even written it, and just read the way I used to read to my classes.  I even forgot to worry about my cut.

 

When I was done, people clapped, and then it was Jasmine’s turn. She sounded about 300% better than I imagined I did, but I had survived it. Now I put my finger on my face, and rejoiced when it came away clean.

 

After we were all finished, we spent about thirty minutes signig books. My aunt had thoughtfully written out what she wished me write in her copy. I edited it down from a full typed page to a couple of lines. Kate had asked me how I was going to sign, and suggested I use a line from the story as an inscription, so I did. (“Those that remained were Free” was the line).

 

After a while, Jasmine, Jude-Marie, and Rob had to leave, but my family was still in line making purchases, so I lingered a bit. I kind of didn’t want to leave because it had been such a good experience, and the store is the kind I can get lost in anyway. Before everyone else left, we signed the guest book, so my signature is now contained in the same book that also holds Neil Gaiman’s, Tad Williams’ and Neal Stephenson’s among hundreds of others. Also cool. Oh, and I signed a bunch of Store copies, so if you want one, signed by me, get in touch with Borderlands. I believe they ship just about anywhere.

 

Somewhere in here, My mom accidentally insulted the cat that is the bookstore’s mascot. She’s really, really, sorry. She didn’t realize that was a picture of a real cat. And when we saw the kitten later, completely revised her opinion on the hairless cat’s adorability.

 

While walking my cousin and aunt back to their car, we saw a white-boy rasta homeless guy brushing fallen eucalyptus leaves back to the base of the tree in the sidewalk planter. When he saw us, he just said, “hey, just putting things back where they belong.”

 

Remind me to tell you sometime about the drunk people we met on Bart on the way back, and the old man the drunkest of them molested. Word to the wise: watch out for over-beering at the Oakland Colliseum.

 

And of course, later my wound would, Inigo-Montoya like, reopen, but by that time it didn’t matter. We did learn we need to stock more Kleenex in our car.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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The Amazing San Francisco Adventure part 1

            Of course, I forgot my razor. It’s always something. I cannot travel more than fifty feet from my house (and sometimes not even that far ) without forgetting something important. And my razor was important, for reasons which will become clear later.

            My wife and I had driven down to the Bay area the night before to get ready for my first ever book signing at Borderlands books. I will do anything to avoid driving in downtown San Francisco traffic, even on a Sunday, so when she casually suggested we stay in Pleasanton and take BART over to the city, I immediately seized upon this idea as if it were the last nilla wafer at an Atkins sleep-away camp. I was going to be nervous enough. I did not need to also be frazzled from trying to navigate my electric blue PT Cruiser through the mission district (this could be dangerous for many, many reasons).  So, I mapped out our route, found out there was a station a few blocks from the bookstore, and made firm plans (the making of firm, back-up plans also being something I really, really suck at).

            I decided not to care about the razor. Yes, I felt I needed to shave, even though the hair on my face is pretty unnoticeable until I have a three day growth going, thanks to my Scandinavian/English heritage. I probably should have just skipped it, but the hotel offered free razors at the desk, so I picked one up when we went downstairs for coffee.

            Fear the free razor. Especially if you’re me, because I am man enough to admit I have sensitive skin on my face, and if you look at it funny, it gets these awful, bumpy red welts which sometimes go really well with the coffee stains I invariably make on my white shirts (and for some reason, only on my white shirts).  I also have this weird place on my jaw where the bone is actually sharp and sticks out a little, making it hard to keep from cutting myself on a good day, unless I’m really, really careful.

            I should have asked if they had shaving cream as well, but I know a good razor does ok with water in a pinch.

            So, I get this cheap little razor and I try to shave with nothing but water and it is the most painful shave I have every given myself in my life. When I’m done, the bumps aren’t too bad, but the real problem is the ¼ inch gash I’ve given myself on my jaw, which is deeper than any I have ever given myself before. Seriously, I could have found oil under there. So I have a trickle of red going own my face and my neck and I’m thinking, “great. I’m going to have toilet paper stuck to my face and it’ss probably open up when I’m signing and I’m going to be bleeding all over the books of whoever shows up to this thing. Worse. Signing. Ever.

            My wife did nothing to make me feel better when I walked out of the bathroom with toilet paper on my face. She just grimaced and made one of those urrgggghh noises that always inspire confidence. At least I had time for it to heal a little.

            Don’t ask me why I didn’t go downstairs and ask for a band-aid. It just never occurred to either of us. This is typical.

            I decided just to hope for the best, so we went and had an early lunch ad Fuddruckers and then went to the Pleasanton Bart station. And I have to say, even though we’re both very unfamiliar with public transportation, we did fine, ending up at the right station to disembark, at least.

            My directions to the Bookstore said to walk a block down 24th street. The problem: when we left the train station, neither of the streets we could see were marked. I have no idea why. Fortunately, I picked the right direction to walk down and search, because I saw the sign for Valencia, which was the next street we needed.

            The neighborhood we were walking through was a little more, how should I say, lived-in than some other areas of town. Lots of graffiti and some closed storefronts. Some colorful homeless people sporting the white-boy dreads. But there were a lot of neat little shops and restaurants too. We were looking for Ritual Roasters, where the four of us writers had decided to meet 45 minutes before the signing. As usual, I’d messed up the details and had the name of the place wrong, but for some reason the address correct. We found it by the line that went out onto the sidewalk.  

            The plan was we would all meet at 1:15. none of us had ever met any of the others before, and because I had forgotten the piece of paper I had written the information down on, I’d forgotten even most of the names. The one writer whose name I remembered, Jasmine, is the other writer who was in the same anthology I am in. I had my copy of Barren Worlds clutched, yellow-rose like, to my chest, which made me feel like I was a twelve-year-old geek again (yes, I know, only the age has changed), and I was scanning the line and the people I could see inside the building for anyone else holding a similar book.

            An observation: The Mission District has a lot of people who look like they could possibly be science fiction writers. It’s a hard look to describe, but it is definitely a look. I like to think it’s a good one.

            Eventually, the young lady in front of us turned to me and asked “Excuse me? Are you Chad?”

            I had never been more relieved to meet someone in my life. This was Jasmine Hammer, writer of the excellent, post-apocalyptic short story “Cleveland.” And who I think has one of the coolest names for a writer I have ever seen. She introduced herself, and her boyfriend, and explained she’d seen the book I was holding and yadda yadda … we ended up getting a table near the entrance to wait for the other writers.

            Next to arrive was Rob Rosen, who was also holding the book, so I guess I wasn’t the only dork in the coffee shop. Rob introduced us to his partner, Ken, and we waited for the last of us whose name was either Jude or Kelly. (We weren’t quite sure as various names were used in emails).

            As we waited for her, we discussed the fact that none of us were quite sure of the requirements of the event we had signed up to attend. Specifically, Jasmine had assumed that we would be reading our stories (or at least part of them) as well as signing, and when she asked Rob about this, his response (“God, I hope not!”) more closely mirrored mine. No one had said anything about reading. It could be standard, who knew?

            Though it shouldn’t have, the thought of that twisted in my gut. I have never read anything I have written out loud to any type of audience except my cat. I was completely unprepared for this.

 

Next: will I have to read? Shouldn’t I want to? Will my facial wound re-open? And why was that homeless guy spending so much time piling eucalyptus leaves at the base of that tree?

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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Announcements

It’s here!

The short story Anthology Barren Worlds edited by Eric T. Reynolds and published by Hadley-Rille books, is now available. Barren Worlds contains my short story, “This Abandoned Sky.” It’s the story of what happens when a group of humans, long held is slavery in a far-flung alien empire, tries to return home.  Ask your local bookseller or go here: http://www.amazon.com/Barren-Worlds-Eric-T-Reynolds/dp/0978514823/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1218218531&sr=8-1 to order.

Also, I, along with other authors from the anthology, will be at a book signing at Borderlands Books in San Francisco at 2:00 on August 17th. Borderlands Books is San Francisco’s  premiere science fiction/fantasy specialty bookstore. It’s located at 866 Valencia St. For more information you can call 415-824-8203 or visit their website at: http://www.borderlands-books.com/ 

I am, of course, thrilled about the book’s publication and hope you will check it out. There are a lot of good stories in there.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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