Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Our part of Minnesota has no snow. These photos are of my brother's place in Upper New York State after the recent storm there. Those lucky people!

(I thought the blog needed more photos, and I thought winter needed some snow.)

Monday, February 13, 2017


Usually I take quick showers, one before I go to the gym and one after. Today I felt like a long shower after the gym, so I had one, with much scrubbing and standing in the hot spray.

I get my hair cut at a saloon with Aveda products and over time I have bought many of these, most of which I don't use. Today I used the body wash, the face lotion, the hand lotion... Boy it felt good. Then I got dressed, putting on my new cream-colored Smartwool socks. The socks will go with an Elise Matthesen necklace that I bought years ago, which combines amber colored beads and small figures of cats, carved (I think) from bone.

An editor at one of the New York houses disliked my work, in part because there is so much drinking of coffee. Yes, there is a lot. There are also descriptions of showers and meals and other small things that make life comfortable. As far as I know, I am the only SFF writer who has described a dragon flush toilet (in detail).


In other news, the short story got accepted. The contract will arrive soon. A couple of us did go out to a Korean restaurant on Sunday. It was good. I ate more than I should. All those little side dishes are irresistible. Pickled everything.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


I have a list of careers I might have liked, but didn't take up -- art historian, forensic accountant, paleontologist, space cadet, revolutionary thinker... I have added a new one after looking at a pair of Smartwool socks. I want to design socks -- not the shape or the fabric, but the patterns. It would take more graphic design training than I have, I think. But imagine spending your days designing lovely patterns to go on socks...

Friday, February 10, 2017


My blog doesn't have enough pictures. Here is a photo by Wendy Davis, which comes via Frans Van der Wal's public facebook page. Ravens in love.

More February News

I have decided that my current problem is not the cold, which is mostly over, but my usual midwinter malaise. My mood always drops when the darks are short and dark. In addition, I have not been getting out enough, due to feeling crummy, and that makes my mood worse. Plus there is Donald Trump.

I have a meeting of my poetry workshop Sunday, which will get me out. I hope to convince the other members of the workshop to repair to a Korean restaurant after. Patrick and I are running errands Saturday morning, followed in the afternoon by Carmen, broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera. The music is terrific, but I really dislike Don Jose. He is a stalker. I want the end slightly revised, so Carmen grabs the knife from Don Jose and stabs him to death, then flees back to the Roma smugglers in the mountains. I think a couple of lines would have to be rewritten, but not much. Anyway, opera on Saturday, poetry on Sunday. Monday I get back to writing.

February News

Once again I have lost track of the blog. The election of Donald Trump really distressed me, and I got an ugly cold in January. The cold is mostly gone, but Trump isn't going anywhere at the moment. Though he looks miserable in every photo I've seen of him since he became president. I don't think he likes the job. I figure he may stop trying to do it, and let other people run the country; or snap and take revenge on the rest of us for making him miserable. I don't think he'll quit, though that is possible. Will he be impeached? I don't think the Republicans will do him that favor, though you'd think they would be happier with Pence.


I just finished a story for a military space opera anthology and sent it off, having no idea if it will be accepted. I don't like war and see no reason to make it romantic or meaningful. So it's a dark little tale about PTSD. I'm not sure I like it, except it has a truly wonderful African Giant Pouched Rat.

Next I move on to another story for another anthology. This story is bleak in a way that doesn't bother me. It's Icelandic saga bleak, and it has lovely trolls and awful elves. I don't like elves.


I got out my eight inch Wurthof chef's knife this morning. I bought it years ago and have barely used it. I wanted a six inch chef's knife, but the guy in the kitchen store convinced me an eight inch knife was better. It feels awkward. I really did want the smaller knife. Anyway, I have decided I need to give the chef's knife another try. Green bean and carrot curry tonight, which requires much chopping.

I can tell I'm getting over the cold, when I start to think of cooking... And house cleaning. The dust bunnies are having litters of dust bunnyettes.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Inauguration

According to Esquire the Trump Inauguration has lined up the Rockettes (some of them), the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (some of them) and the 16 year old winner of a TV talent show to perform.

This is proof of my argument that the rightwing has no culture of its own. It tries to steal from classical culture, which was mostly aristocratic, and from contemporary popular culture, which is hard to describe, but is mostly made by people who are not rightwing: black people, gay people, members of other minorities and so on. It mostly fails. As I said once in a poem:
You've taken all our money,
And you've taken all our time,
Working in the Wal-Mart
Or working in a mine,

But you don't get Johnny Cash,
And you don't get ol' Merle.
You don't get Bruce Springsteen.
You don't get Steve Earle.

Make your own damn art and music.
Make your own hopes and dreams,
Sitting in your counting house
With your money making schemes.

Make a choir of bosses singing
"Greed" and "war" in tune.
Put on your white shoes
And dance with Pat Boone
Along the rising ocean,
Under a waning moon.
I once asked my father, a distinguished art historian, why official art/salon art became so awful after the French Revolution. My father said, "The bourgeoisie have no taste."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why Write

From facebook:
I am going to talk more about writing, because it's better than talking about politics. I have a lot more control. I have been mulling and brooding over why I write. I never wrote for money, because I always thought it was a hugely unreliable source of income; and I never wanted to have to rely on publishers. What happens if the publisher wants changes you don't want to make, and you have to pay the rent? What happens if the payments don't come on time, and you need to pay the IRS?

I think I have written for undying fame, though I'm not sure that was ever an serious plan. The trouble is, only a handful of people become famous and even fewer remain famous, and there is no way one can tell whose work will survive or be discovered later. Well, Ben Jonson said that Shakespeare wrote for all time. So sometimes you can tell, if you are Ben Jonson. Even short term -- in your lifetime -- fame can fade, if you ever get it.

30 years ago I told the editor John Douglas that I wanted to be respected by the people in the field I respected. John made a polite, dubious, Canadian noise. I think an evil fairy was listening and gave me exactly what I asked for.

archy the cockroach wrote "expression is the need of my soul." I always remember this quote as "self-expression is the need of my soul."

If you write and spend time in the SFF community you quickly learn that your chances of fame and fortune are not good. So why write? That's the question I ask, as I age and have less energy. I guess I could argue that writing is mental exercise. If you hold a novel and half a dozen short stories in your mind and work on them in your mind, the mind is certainly getting exercise. I know parts of my memory are in really good shape. Self-expression is important, as archy the cockroach points out. I have always used writing as a way to cope with a world that often confuses and angers me and to make something beautiful and intelligent (I hope) in a world that often seems ugly and stupid. I am talking about the human world here. There are things about the natural world I don't like -- tape worms, parasitic wasps, cancer, horrible infectious diseases -- but they don't bother me the way human folly does.

Love of making stories up. I made up stories before I could read or write and told them to my long-suffering kid brother. They were about a community of squirrels who lived in a grove of oak trees and struggled with evil cats.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Writing a Story a Week

This is from facebook:
I am going to start a discussion of writing a short story a week. How does one do it? Why does one do it?

Do you have the time to write a story a week? If you have kids, a day job, other responsibilities that take your time and energy, maybe not. If you have the free time, it's possible. 1000 words a day for seven days will get you a story. That's doable.

The problem is, how good is the story? And can you do this for 52 weeks? As an exercise, it sounds interesting and maybe worth doing. However, you are likely to write a lot of fiction with flat characters, a sketchy setting and a stereotyped plot. Not to mention a style that is bloated or slippery or both. Good fiction usually requires thinking and revision. Once in a long while I've written a story that seemed handed over by a muse. All I had to do was type and the story came out and was good. But this is very rare.

Why do it? To get yourself in the habit of writing consistently, and because it's practice.

It's a really good idea to NOT beat yourself up if you don't make production in a project like this. .

It strikes me as a saner project than NaNoWriMo. To write a 50,000 novel, which is not really a novel length, you have to do a steady 1,700 words for 30 days, and novels are a lot harder to plot than short stories.

I will add to all this that I am really bad at writing stories to order or as a project. But if I did it more, I might get a lot better.

Lou Harris

I never know whether this kind of thing should be shared on a blog. My uncle Lou Harris has just died. He was the last of his generation in my family and a truly interesting guy. I don't mean Minnesota interesting, I mean interesting interesting. He was John Kennedy's pollster in the 1960 election. I think that was the first election in which a politician used polls seriously. It was certainly an early example. And if he'd been in his prime and doing Clinton's polls, she would have campaigned in Wisconsin.

Patrick just said Lou would not have enjoyed seeing Trump in office. Though he would have -- in his prime -- had a damn interesting analysis of why it happened.

He was almost 96 and in failing heath, so this did not come as a shock. I remember him as a much younger man, holding forth in his living room or arguing politics with my uncle Fritz.

A friend of mine comments there was a time when everyone would have known who Lou Harris was. Yes. For a long while he was THE political pollster. You live long enough and you realize most people fade. It's disturbing, but it happens. My father's art history book continues, but only because Pearson keeps it in print, and less and less of it is his. New co-authors have taken over. I grew up in the shadow of these larger than life people, and they shrank and shrank and were gone.