Thursday, July 30, 2009

new bio form?

I'm still thinking about Hild, and elves, and all things LLF-related. Also recovering from the wicked heat. (Since when did the forecast of high-80s in Seattle become 'only'?)

Just in case you're desperate for something to look at until I clear some headspace, here's Annie Lennox:

This is taken from DJ Earworm, who says:

I’ve always held a deep respect for Annie Lennox and her music, so when she gave me her multi-track masters to mash up, I was thrilled. The task was to tie together all of her solo career into single song and video, and I could deconstruct it as much as I wanted! Woohoo!

Kelley first told me about this. When she described it, I imagined a new form of biopic, the biomashup. I imagined a chronological visual and audio arc of Lennox as performer. Now that would be seriously cool, and, as far as I know, utterly new. But then I went to see for myself and found that the mashup was just that, a mishmash.

Disappointment upon N-land!

The video is fairly pleasant but mildly boring. I think DJ Earworm missed a priceless opportunity to create something really new. And frankly I think performer bios need a makeover.

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McGyver meals #2

Tuesday night we had half an andouille sausage, one chicken breast, a few tablespoons of cream, strained tomato, 3 courgettes and about five ounces of mushrooms. We made a delicious lightly spiced creamy pasta sauce. Quick and easy.

Cut andouille sausage into thin slices. Saute in a little olive oil. Transfer sausage to saucepan using slotted spoon. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces and saute in andouille sausaged olive oil. Transfer chicken to saucepan. Slice courgettes and mushrooms, saute very lightly, tip whole lot--veggies and oil--into saucepan. Add bunch of strained tomato. Heat. In another saucepan bring water to the boil. Add pasta (we had wholewheat penne, but anything will do). Cook. When pasta is done, turn off heat under sauce. While pasta is draining, heat plates and stir cream into sauce. Serve.


We also had homemade carrot cake afterwards, served with the last bit of cream, whipped. Why don't I weigh a thousand pounds? Not entirely sure. But the next few days I doubt I'll be gaining weight: cold food only in this weather. (We hit 103 degrees yesterday.)

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Elves and Anglo-Saxons and gender

Quick note: this post was triggered by a book, Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity (Anglo-Saxon Studies) by Alaric Hall (Boydell Press, 2007). It's a very dense text stuffed with erudition and teeny tiny footnotes. But this is not an academic blog; long, footnoted discussion of etymology, of gloss and lemma and long -i, would be intrusive and tiresome. So just take it that all the good stuff about history in this post come from the book, and all the mistakes are mine. Hey, you try condensing 200 pages of academespeak into a few pithy paragraphs. Errors are inevitable. If you want the real deal, go read the book. And watch for a post on Gemæcce where I'll discuss how this book is influencing my novel-in-progress.

A few weeks ago I wrote a short 'position paper' on sex and SF (yes, ha ha, very funny) for an academic journal. It turned into a bit of a rant. (I'll post it here at some point once it's in print--late autumn perhaps?)

One of the things I tub-thumped about was the notion of Hard SF vs. Soft.

As regular readers know, my novel-in-progress is a huge historical about Hild of Whitby, a Northumbrian royal born in the early seventh century. For the last year or two I've been immersed in all things Anglo-Saxon and, to a lesser degree, early medieval--that is, pagan, pre-Christian--Scandinavian.

In the course of my research (some heavily academic, some of it random but entertaining reading of Old English poetry and Old Norse sagas in translation--with the occasional exciting dip into the originals *) I began to understand that, for the pre-Christian Northwest Europeans, gender wasn't tied as tightly to biological sex as it was a couple of hundred years after their conversion.

The early Scandinavians divided the people of their sagas into hvatr, meaning bold, independent, powerful, vigorous, sharp, dry, and decisive, and blauðr, which covered characteristics such as weak, soft, powerless, dull, yielding, and moist. Guess which quality was most esteemed. (Guess which category warriors belonged to; guess which slaves.) Guess which kind of SF is the Norm/good and which is the Other/less good...

In those early days, the elves (ælfe) in A-S poetry were supernatural not-entirely-human males--though their masculinity was suspect, somewhat effeminate. There were no girl ælfe. Instead, to balance the otherworldly gender-suspect male ælfe we had hægtessan, martially-inclined supernatural females.

Things went on this way for some time: male ælfe prancing about in the woods, female hægtessan killing people who got in their way. (Good times, good times...) Then the A-S got themselves converted. The categories of hvatr and blauðr began to seem less important than those of male and female. Gender became more tightly tied to biological sex.**

By the ninth and tenth centuries, elves could be male or female. Gradually the male elves became more manly--though still inhumanly good looking--and the female elves were the epitome of (inhuman) womanhood: blindingly beautiful, irresistibly seductive, wise but, y'know, young looking. It was at this point that hægtessan disappear from the literature. They no longer fit in the Anglo-Saxon worldview. Elves carried the entire gendered supernatural load.

So how do more recent depictions of elves/fairies reflect this history of cultural change? For one thing, in today's fantasy the queen of the elves/fairies is the boss. The boy elves might be manly, but the queen is more powerful/beautiful/dreaded. For another, there's changelings.

I don't think the notion of changelings existed in pre-Christian Europe. (But I'm not a folklore expert. So, hey, if I'm wrong, just please say so.) Pagan Anglo-Saxons apparently didn't have a moral problem with abandoning sickly infants. (Emotional problems certainly; they were people, after all. They loved their kids--just read any archaeology report about grave goods from that time. When circumstances permitted, they didn't abandon the babies; they did their best to take care of them. My point is that there was no legal or moral stricture.) However, the Church taught that abandonment was wrong, immoral, tantamount to murder; it was most definitely unChristian to leave a child to die, no matter how terrible the circumstances. But some families in medieval times lived marginal lives (again, look at archaeological evidence) and simply couldn't afford to spend resources on an infant who would die anyway. So they abandoned them, and came up with a rationale to make themselves feel better: they had not imperilled a mortal soul but discarded an inhuman monster. They were protecting their community from evil.

Without the Church there would be no Tam Lin--and all those wonderful modern retellings of same. Without the Church, the girls wouldn't be in charge of elfland (no Midsummer Night's Dream, no Galadriel). Without the Church, though, maybe we'd have a few more hægtessan bestriding the land. Now that would be cool.

* Want to know what this stuff sounds like? Go listen to Anglo-Saxon Aloud, Michael Drout's astonishing collection of readings. (Note that 'Old English' is mostly what came down to us from the West Saxons. My NIP about Hild is mostly concerned with the Angles of Northumbria--who used a pretty different dialect. Drout has a couple of Northumbrian readings, e.g. Bede's Death Song.)
** A result of the Conversion (and the importation of Greek-via-the-Romans dualist crap) or a necessary pre-condition of the adoption of Christianity? Eh, I don't think anyone knows.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

white readers

I'm white. Most of you reading this are white. How many of you read books by black writers? If the thought is a new one, but you're intrigued, visit White Readers Meet Black Writers (via Follow The Reader--thanks, Charlotte).

I've never really paid much attention to the colour of the writer of the books I read--which means, of course, that I don't read much fiction by people of colour. Like 'lesbian novels', fiction by POC is usually stuck in its own tiny section at the back of the bus store. Unless it's a huge hit (Tipping the Velvet, Middle Passage), no one from Straight White World sees it.

So what good books--let's stick to fiction for now, any genre--by writers of colour would you (and I mean all of you, of every colour, sexuality, sex and gender) like to recommend to other readers of this blog? I can definitely recommend The Known World, by Edward P. Jones, the story of blacks owning blacks in the antebellum south. Ash by Malinda Lo (coming in September), a retelling of Cinderella. Just about everything by Octavia Butler.

How about you?

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Monday, July 27, 2009

the anthropocene period

It's still too hot to think here. It's going to be even hotter than originally believed (I use the word advisedly; see below). The forecast for the next few days:

courtesy KOMO News 4

which made me think of this article in The Atlantic about planet-wide engineering solutions to global warming.

The Atlantic

As the threat of global warming grows more urgent, a few scientists are considering radical—and possibly extremely dangerous—schemes for reengineering the climate by brute force. Their ideas are technologically plausible and quite cheap. So cheap, in fact, that a rich and committed environmentalist could act on them tomorrow. And that’s the scariest part.

(thanks, Cindy)

The lunatics' argument goes something like: Hey, we changed the earth's climate (turned the last 200 years into the 'anthropocene period') so we should, y'know, just change it back. I assume I'm not the only person who trembles in her boots at such a thought. Don't people learn anything? Just look at huge projects like the Three Gorges dam. They always, always have unexpected (usually miserable) consequences.

I've just read an interesting opinion piece in The New Scientist about attitudes to climate change. I'm too hot and cross to summarise the whole thing, but essentially the commentator explains why people in general don't believe in climate change, and why that's a bad thing. I think he's mostly right, but forgets that people tend to believe what is convenient, and climate change--unless you're an olive grower in England--is bloody inconvenient.

I tell you: I believe in climate change. It may hit 100 degrees here in Seattle on Wednesday. One hundred degrees. In Seattle.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009


Been pondering a post on and off all day--about gender and elves. But it's just too bloody hot to think so I'm going to go drink beer. Tomorrow is another day. (But probably even hotter, tuh *.)

Hope your weekend was fab and the upcoming week will be intriguing, delightful, and bursting with unexpected (or planned, if surprises freak you out) joy.

* forecast for the next five days: 94, 97, 96, 93, 90...
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

any mixologists out there?

Last night I did something unusual and drank fruity cocktails--Bellinis made with fresh peaches and raspberry syrup and Italian fizz. The sun was setting, delicious antipasto was on the way and fruit seemed like just the thing. They tasted like summer evening incarnate. I smiled a lot.

But then an old woman came in with her family--heavy Brooklyn accent, big glasses, the whole thing--and settled down with her cellphone for a shouty conversation with her cronies on the other coast. Now, I mostly steer clear of frightening old people, but she was being absolutely boorish, so I gave her the Stern Look. She gave me the pitiful-old-lady-with-arthritis look. I gave her the Heartless Unnatural Dyke look, and she sighed like a martyr and hobbled outside to finish her phone call on the veranda. I decided that the world needed a cocktail called Attitude Adjustment.

As we were leaving the restaurant a couple of hours later (after astonishingly good halibut cheeks in capers and white wine over linguine, followed by tartuffo), a car drove by stuffed with young straight boys. They absolutely beamed at me--that sunshine, total happy look that is rare in people over the age of eight, especially in public. Then they parked and got out of the car. And utterly beamed again. Then one guy said to the beaming guy, Dude, your eyes are so totally red! And it all made sense. So I think the world needs a cocktail called Dude Your Eyes Are So Red!

On the drive home, the Olympics were out in all their late summer evening pastel glory: blue, indigo, lavender, pink. It looked so much like a fantasy novel cover illustration that I half expected a unicorn to gallop out of a traffic circle and gore the car. So then I tried to imagine what a Pastel Vista cocktail might taste like. I'm thinking some kind of lavender infusion, with maybe those tiny silver balls the English used to like to sprinkle on their cakes in Days Past.

So, any mixologists out there? Any suggestions for ingredients?

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Friday, July 24, 2009

I just got a fabulous grant!

Woo-hoo! I just opened my mail and found a cheque from the Authors' Foundation (administered by the UK's Society of Authors). It's so I can go to England and do in-person research for Hild. This is utterly mind-blowing.

Guess who's going to have a hangover tomorrow?

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Kelley and U2 on Irish National Radio

U2 and Kelley in the same room! Well, hey, it sounds like it. She's on RTE this morning, Irish National Radio, talking about the U2 live experience. The only other people interviewed are Bono and Larry. It's very, very cool. Listen to this 5 minute clip:

(direct link)

Basically, they talked to Kelley because of this essay for, where she's a staff writer. My sweetie is too cool for school...

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Barnes & Noble, ebooks competitor--not

For those who don't follow publishing industry news, there's been a lot of noise recently about Barnes & Noble's new ebook store. Oooh, gonna give Amazon a run for their money, says the Wall Street Journal. "An implicit stab at Amazon," says the New York Times.

They're dreaming. Amazon has already won this game. It has the devices, the content, the customers--readers and authors.

I don't know what planet these pundits live on. will sell their own proprietary format (eReader)--it won't work on Kindle or Sony Reader, though, hey, it will be good on the Plastic Logic reader when that, y'know, exists. (Plastic Logic, which is so big it won't fit into your purse or your pocket, will be out in 2010. Supposedly.) It'll work on iPhones etc, too--but there's already Stanza (owned by Amazon) and Kindle reader apps. Also, Apple may well launch their own tablet pc/reader/smartphone/all around awesome gadget before 2010. BN don't have much content (apart from public domain stuff--and, hey, why not get that free from Project Gutenberg and others?). They don't have nearly as many customers as Amazon--and buying books on Amazon is so easy, why would their users switch, especially as BN won't be underpricing the already low $9.99 price Amazon has forced the market to accept for frontlist titles.

So where's the competition? There isn't any. The Emperor has no clothes. Amazon, despite their steal-the-book-back ways, is king. It will remain so until and unless Apple ever decides to topple them.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

say hello to yourselves

Here's a map of where you all came from over the last year: 52,979 visitors from 118 countries/territories. I wish I could say hello and welcome in all those languages. But, eh, we all have our talents and foreign languages is sadly not one of mine. I hope you had a good time while you were here. I hope you come back.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

we spend 0.2% of our money on reading

Thanks, Stacy.

The Department of Labor's latest survey shows how the US consumer spends her money. A picture is worth a thousand words: more on personal care items than on education. And we wonder why people do stupid things...

Reading is the lowest measured item. Go buy some books. New ones.

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story is us: fiction matters

This is a fabulous article from the Washington Post, a series of vignettes by the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano. The piece is a few weeks old but the stories of how writing matters are timeless. Here's an example:

The Bolivian town of Llallagua lived from the mine, and in the mine its miners died. Deep in the shafts in the bowels of the mountains, they hunted veins of tin and lost, in a few short years, their lungs and their lives.

I spent some time there and made good friends.

The last night, we were drinking, my friends and I, singing laments and telling bad jokes till just before dawn.

When little time remained before the scream of the siren that would call them to work, my friends fell silent, all of them at once. Then one asked, or pleaded, or ordered: "And now, my brother, tell us about the sea."

I was speechless.

They insisted: "Tell us. Tell us about the sea."

It was the most difficult challenge in all my storytelling life. None of these miners would ever know the sea; each was doomed to die young. And I had no choice but to bring them the sea, the sea that was so far away, discovering words that could drench them to the bone.

translated by Mark Fried
(thanks, Karina)

Fiction is entertainment, yes. (It can't work, otherwise.) But fiction, story, is more. It is culture. It is us.

We are accelerating our own evolution--which is what will save us (if anything can) from extinction. We're doing it via the production and consumption of extra somatic information, the internal recreation of others' experiences. Before there was photography, before there was cinema--and radio and YouTube--there were books. Books matter. Go buy one. Buy a new one. Support a writer.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

now this would make a lovely present

This Devonshire farm dates from the thirteenth century. 153 acres of productive land that's been feeding people without a break for more than seven hundred years. Lots of mature broadleaf woodland. If someone should buy it for me, I wouldn't complain.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

post party

It's after midday and I've only been up a couple of hours. The house is a total wreck. I don't know how many people we had here last night for the Clarion West party. Over a hundred, certainly, but with party animals filling the back garden, the driveway, both decks, and every room in the house I couldn't figure out how to estimate. Put it this way: we had more than a hundred name tags, and towards the end guests were tearing them in half and sharing, but still not everyone got one.

Most people enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. Sadly, I made two people cry. Good crying, I think. I have a tendency to tell truth at these events--not mean, just true--and a one or two found it a bit overwhelming. They got that, Oh shit now I'll have to change my life look and wandered off glassy-eyed. Hey, if you don't want to know, don't ask. Especially when I'm working on my second six-pack.

Possibly this is what parties are for: falling in love, seeing your life true, meeting fellow-minded human beings, seeing your place in life. Perhaps they're just for eating crap nibbles (no no, not at *our* parties; our parties have superior nibbles) and drinking until you pass out. Or, looking at the state of our floor, perhaps they're for throwing squashy sticky fruity bread stuff underfoot and trampling it back and forth in an attempt at performance art. (It was excellent food squashy stuff, something called Monkey Bread, brought by our friend, novelist and talented amateur baker, Matt Ruff.)

Last night, clearly some partygoers believed the occasion was for ignoring all the careful labels that explained recycling should go in this bag, rubbish in this bag, food waste in this bag. But the smokers did smoke outside. And everyone did come in at 11 pm because of the local noise ordinance. And many, many people seemed to have a blast.

I didn't get to sleep until about five in the morning. This morning we staggered out of bed to face the majority of the clean up. Before collapsing last night we cleaned up the squashy stuff, and the outside human tornado droppings, but the inside is still littered with half full bottles and smeared paper plates, and the furniture is still all in the wrong place. I'm writing this instead of coping with it, frankly. Pretty soon all the caffeine will hit my system and I'll be able to deal but, ooof, not yet. Not yet.

We were supposed to go to another party this afternoon at a local writer's house but I doubt we'll make it. For one thing, I'm absolutely talked out. For another, I'm not sure my liver will take it. For yet another, I just don't want to make anyone else cry today. Even if it's good crying.

Here are some conversations I engaged in last night: boys as mastabatory toys, hardcore punk bass, how to find your way back to your art, disability and how it comes to us all if we're lucky enough to live that long so yeah you really should make your fucking house accessible, changing life direction, gardening, the ways English people and Americans and Russians are different, how very super specially gorgeous Kelley is, yes it is nice when the crowd parts to let me through, yes it is nice when people bring me beer without me having to ask, yes in fact I am a writer, no don't ever trust one medical opinion, sure if you have cancer followed by an operation then radiotherapy you are most definitely going to feel like shit afterwards for a while because, y'know, you're human, death again, the fabulousness of Kelley again, the oh-it-must-be-awesome-to-be-you again, what a beautiful house we have, when are we going to get a cat, who is that gorgeous woman over there oh it's Kelley, how to approach potential major donors to ask for money for non-profits, the death of publishing, the yes-publishing-is-dying-but-I'm-special-the-rules-don't-apply-to-me, as a writer working from the outside in versus the inside out, the yes-you're-special-but-publishing-rules-do-apply-to-you, and so on. Non stop. Much of it interesting. All of it requiring full attention.

I'm glad we did it. My guess is we'll do it again in two or three years. It's sort of like childbirth. After a while you forget the trauma and just remember the joy and sign up blithely for a repeat performance.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

DRM or no?

Quick link: just wanted to point readers at this interesting conversation about digital rights management and ebooks going on at I'm thinking one option for Heat & Light might be a simple Word file so readers can format it how they like, where they like. But it would cost more.


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input, please, on a publishing idea

I've never published a short story collection before* because of the tendency of booksellers to look at sales of an author's last book before ordering in the new one. Booksellers mostly don't take into account the fact that they're comparing apples and oranges. I think a collection would sell somewhere between 500 and 5,000 copies in trade paperback. If I sold, say, 1,250 copies of a collection, it would screw up the orders for Hild--which I'm hoping will sell many tens of thousands of copies.

But the world has changed. I don't have to publish a trade paperback through a small press. I could self-publish, electronically. If I did, the formats would be Kindle--which you can read on your iPhone or iTouch as well as on an actual Kindle device--possibly PDF and maybe, depending how much hassle it is to figure out, ePub. The book would be about 100,000 words (about 350 pages), including an introduction and story notes. Naturally it would have a nifty cover. Tentative title: Heat & Light.

But before I go to all the trouble of writing an intro, making a cover, writing story notes, putting the stories in the perfect order, then formatting the whole thing, I need to know if there's any demand.

So here are three questions for you:

  • Does it sound like a book you'd enjoy?
  • What price point would convince you?**
  • What format would you prefer?

Some more info about Heat & Light:
About a dozen stories, of all varieties of speculative fiction and assorted lengths, ranging from a light-hearted 2,000-word piece about the perils of chemistry, to a novelette about sex, lust, and the biochemistry of love, to a novella about shape changers in the sticky heat of Belize. Maybe an off-planet tale and a couple of horror stories. Perhaps some magic realism. Also, if I publish after I've finished the first draft of Hild, a never-before seen (because, y'know, I haven't written it yet) sword-swangin' novella.

* With Her Body is a chapbook in a series of Conversation Pieces from Aqueduct Press. Not quite the same thing.
** The first person to say 'free' gets roasted alive. I'm thinking $9.99 or less.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

word of the day

Chobble. Somewhere between nibble, gobble, and chomp. As in man looks down at neighbour's ravaged shrubbery and the hang-dog goat next to it. "Aye, well, she's generally a good goat. Does like a bit of a chobble, though."

Chobble. Lovely word.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

publishing is dead, I'm grinning

Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride... Yee ha!

I've just read this Times article about the depths serious historians are having to plumb in this terrible economy. They're having to resort to...fiction. Poor sad things.

Authors are seeing advances reduced to a quarter of what they could have expected two years ago as publishers react to the recession by minimising risks.

Among the hardest hit are historians, who have found that books that would previously have earned them an advance of £120,000 are now commanding only £30,000. Some academics have turned from serious history to historical fiction to earn more money.

I can't imagine anything worse for the little lambs. Fiction, eh? Their reputations are ruined!

Yes, behind the Entitled R Us surface (“There is a dangerous tendency among historians to slide into historical fiction, which must be avoided at all costs...”) lies a serious point: literary advances aren't what they used to be. I've spent the last few days pondering economics--looking at industry P&Ls and making sure I understand emotionally as well as intellectually that publishing as we know it is dead. It is. Extinct, gone to its maker, an ex-parrot industry. (Go look at those numbers. Things are worse now--higher discounts, higher returns, lower buy-ins, pressure towards lower prices.)

At some point I'll take some guesses at how the new model/s will work, or won't work, but for now I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that the career I've aimed for since I was 25 (think of a book, outline the book, get paid enough to live on while I write the book, publish the book, earn extra from foreign rights, book club, royalties, think of another book...) no longer exists. I have no doubt, zero, that I'll be able to make my way in the new world; I just don't know what that looks like, exactly. It feels... Well, it feels scary but cool. The rules have changed, the gloves are off, buckle up it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Strangely, I'm grinning.

Update: here's an interesting link.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

health insurance

Here's the story of yet another writer with no health insurance who needs help. I don't know him, but I feel for him. (If you're one of the lucky people who has a Real Job and a steady income, do please think about donating, even if it's just $25.)

Health insurance for the self-employed is brutally expensive. Kelley and I, for example, pay about $900 a month, just for the premium. It doesn't cover dental, optical is minimal, and services such as physical therapy (which I need on a regular basis) are severely limited. Plus, the co-pays for everything are high. In other words, our health costs are many thousands of dollars a year, probably more than our mortgage. But, hey, at least we have health insurance. We're lucky.

It blows me away that a country as rich as this refuses to provide for its citizens. There are many things about the US that I like--I chose to live here, after all--but its care, or lack thereof, for its people isn't one of them.

A stranger to these shores might be forgiven for thinking the American legislature, and therefore the people who vote them in, are evil or stupid or heartless. Healthcare could be fixed; everyone knows this. Every knows how to begin--a public option--but the special interests simply won't allow it. So is it because they're stupid, or evil, or heartless, or, shockingly, all of the above? I don't know. But until we figure it out, all that stands between many writers and health-costs disaster is the kindness of strangers. So I hope you will be kind.

I worry, frankly, that one day I might be in this position: holding out my hand and smiling hard. Today isn't that day. But the possibility exists, right here in the richest country on earth.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009


Life has been a bit overstuffed this week. So nothing today. Perhaps not tomorrow.

I hope your week has been and will continue to be exactly as exciting as you would like. If you have anything particularly fun/interesting/appalling to share, feel free to do it here. I'll be reading but probably not commenting (I'm busy, not gone).

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I see you with my tooth

An eye for an eye a tooth and tooth for a tooth an eye... See this article in the Telegraph:

The procedure began when one of Mr Jones' canine teeth was removed and converted into a holder for a special optical lens by drilling a hole in it.

The tooth was then inserted into his cheek for three months to enable it to grow new tissue and blood vessels.

Then finally came the delicate operation to insert the tooth, complete with the fitted lens into Mr Jones' right eyeball.

Within two weeks of the final operation to implant the tooth in his eyeball his sight returned and he was told he had almost perfect vision in his right eye.

(thanks, Cindy)

Do you ever wake up and think that life is just getting weird?

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Lambda Literary tidbits

The Lambda Literary Foundation is compiling a database of all past Lammy winners and finalists, so if you're a Lammy finalist or winner from the past 21 years, please send your contact information. If you're not but you know someone who is, please point them to LLF.

LLF is now on Twitter: And pretty soon there will be a new website to play with. (No, I'm not doing it. You can all heave a sigh of relief.) More as and when...

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blue Cheer--first speed metal hair band?

Another hot day coming up. I'm not going to tax your poor tired brains with anything difficult. Instead, we're going to go LOUD. But first, an aside about Kelley's stepfather, Arthur Woodbury.

Art is a musician. He was the first person, I think, to use the Stanford mainframe to compose. He was one of the first people to work on artificial intelligence there. He edited the first incarnation of Source magazine. He taught at the University of South Florida for more than twenty years. (Now he lives up the street.) But for our purposes today, all you need to know is that he played, briefly, with Blue Cheer in the early days.

Until two days ago, I had a vague notion that Blue Cheer hung out at the Fillmore, dropped acid, and played Big Brother & the Holding Company type hippie music. Ha! Wrong wrong wrong. Two days ago, FoAN Pierce, put up four YouTube videos of music for hot summer days on his blog (all fab--go look), one of which was Blue Cheer doing "Summertime Blues":

It completely did my head in: Blue Cheer were the first speed metal hair band! Whoa! (Okay, Status Quo maybe--maybe--were first but Blue Cheer, wow, just listen to them. Judas Priest, Metallica...all those people wouldn't exist without this sound.)

So, hey, watch it again, and this time turn it up to eleven.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

3-martini breakfast

Here's a cartoon that I stole from the New Yorker (who appear to have unilaterally cancelled my digital subscription, so I'm not much inclined to play by the rules). It's by Farley Katz. (Go buy something of his.) I keep looking at it and grinning.

I find that I'm in the mood for something like this, something insane and slightly dangerous--but recoverable from. You ever feel like that?

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Friday, July 3, 2009

book shark

This week I'm in book shark mode, cruising relentlessly after a Hild plot thread that won't quite let me catch it. I will catch it, and soon--see definition of 'relentless'--but it's meant not much sleep or attention for other things.

Update: Ha! Got it! Shook it and tore it to bits. Now I get to write a battle scene! (My version of swimming and sleeping with my eyes open. Picture me with a big shark smile...)

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

MacGyver meals -- nut loaf

We were having dinner the other day with a friend and her new sweetie, and talking about food. Kelley had cooked the meal (butternut squash soup, pot roast--with potatoes tossed in butter and oregano, steamed cabbage tossed in butter and black pepper--followed by rhubarb and apple crumble with delicious local cream). K was explaining that she generally did the baking and for-guests cooking and that I was the one who just made shit up sometimes. She said I was the "MacGyver of food." I was really taken with that description and so thought I'd share a recent MacGyver meal.

We had one potato, one onion, two carrots, a bag of mushrooms, a variety of herbs, half a bulb of garlic, some frozen vegetable juice, left-over cream from the crumble yumminess, left-over wine, half a bag of lentils and a variety of nuts. I made nut-and-lentil loaf with mashed potatoes and carrots and red wine cream sauce. The next day for lunch I had a nut loaf sandwich with Branston pickle. (Butter bread, warm up slice of nut loaf in microwave. Smear Branston pickle on one side of bread. Slap together. Eat. Trust me, it works.)

Here's the narrative version--how I approached everything. (I've included more orderly instructions at the end for those who like their recipes to look like recipes.)

Put the lentils in a bowl to soak and get out the veggie juice (saved from things like steaming cabbage) to defrost. Combine the hazel nuts (say half a pound), almonds (quarter of a pound) and walnuts (half a pound). Grind them up to meal in a food processor. Drain the lentils, put them in a pan with the vegetable juice and some extra water and boil until very, very cooked (doesn't take long--forty minutes maybe--but don't, do notnotnot, add salt at this stage; they'll turn all leathery). Then chop up the mushrooms very fine (I'm guessing there were about 6 ounces of mushrooms, maybe two cups when minced--but, eh, I'm just guessing) and mince the onion and a tiny bit (one or two cloves--it's a delicate taste we're after, not something to drive the vampires away). Set aside one or two mushrooms for the sauce. Saute the onion, garlic, and mushrooms in olive oil until it turns translucent. Then glug in some wine (half a cup?) and cook the whole thing down. As it reduces, add herbs to taste (sage is good--but anything kind of hot-weather dusty, e.g. oregano, would also work). In a large bowl, combine lentils, nuts, herby wine glop and smush about. Turn into a non-stick loaf pan (or oil up a non-nonstick pan) and pat into a loaf shape (I use a wooden spatula to kind of push down the sides), cover in foil, and bake in the oven at 350 for, oh, hmmn, dunno, fifty minutes?

I assume you know how to make mashed potato and have a favourite way to prepare carrots. (I like carrots almost anyway you can think of; they're a practically perfect vegetable--but this would also work with a green veg like cabbage or Brussel sprouts--love those things but they've gotta be fresh.)

For the sauce, melt butter in the frying pan you used for the glop earlier, slice thinly the mushroom you set aside, saute, pour in more wine, cook down. Before serving stir in some cream. You don't really need the sauce--the loaf is moist enough if you don't overcook it--but it looks pretty and sorta pulls it all together.

If you just happen to have a perfectly ripe nectarine to share for dessert it's even better. Also, note that if you futz with the sauce (use oil instead of butter, flour instead of cream) and the mashed potatoes (mash without butter), then the whole meal is vegan.

For those of you who like their recipes to look like recipes, here you go (but remember, every single number here is a guess):

8 oz walnuts
8 oz hazelnuts
4 oz almonds
8 oz dried brown lentils
6 oz mushrooms
1 large onion
1/2 cup red wine
2 small cloves garlic
pinch of sage

Grind together nuts to coarse meal. Cook lentils. Mince and saute vegetables in oil. Add wine to saute pan, along with sage, reduce by half. Combine everything in large bowl. Turn into non-stick loaf pan, pat to shape, cover, bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 mins. Serve with mashed potato, vegetable of your choice, and creamy red wine sauce.

Delicious, nutritious and cheap.

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