Wet Feet

Every story with this dog that ends “and then he pooped in the house” starts with some variation of “he didn’t want to go out in the yard because it’d been raining.” He’s a lab! How can he so hate getting his feet wet?

But he does. Today I dragged him on a walk between rain showers and you would have thought I was the most unreasonable jerk to ever unreasonably jerk around town. But he pooped.

So, victory is mine.

Slaves Built the White House

I have to tell you, I just don’t believe that people didn’t know this. I believe that people didn’t have to think about it and they resent being made to think about it, that they’re uncomfortable with how deeply something they don’t have to think about at all affects someone like Michelle Obama, who can’t not think about it. But I don’t believe people didn’t know this.

I think a “gift” we give ourselves as a country is a life-sized map of lies that drapes over the landscape of the nation and lets us not see what’s right there in front of us. And then a lot of us spend a weird amount of time demanding everyone see the map as the actual landscape and becoming alarmed and outraged when people are all “Oh, hey, there’s some truth under here.”

I also, however, based on the widespread gossip about Bill O’Reilly, imagine it is very difficult for him to empathize with terrorized people whose children were stolen from them.

Bad Afghan Math and Weird Dreams

I am in love with this afghan. It’s so beautiful. But it’s going to be huge! And I thought I had done my math correctly so that it would be reasonably sized, but I had not. Apparently.

After having a bunch of people recommend it, I finally read The Serpent King. It was every bit as good as you’ve heard. Hard going for a minister’s kid, but worth it.

I had a dream last night that I was magical and evil, but I only used my powers to open men’s hotel rooms and attach multiple penises to them–the men, not their hotel rooms. Not like a ton of penises, just one or two more than usual. I had a briefcase. You know, with the extra penises, so I could choose which one(s) to attach.

Here’s the thing, though, when I woke up from the dream, it was scary as fuck. Like, “Whoa, if I had power, I would surely abuse it.” Like, I thought I’d gained some insight into my own self that I could never unsee.

But even in the time it took me to walk the dog, I lost the sense of what was so ugly about it (except for the nonconsensual part, obviously) and it just now strikes me as funny. Like, of all the evil plots in the world, that one is surprisingly one of the dumbest. I mean, what was the menace? “Try to buy comfortable underwear now, gentlemen!”

Was I going to take over the world while men were distracted trying to figure out how to pee, now?

Ooo, It’s Magic

I’ve been listening to a lot of The Last Podcast on the Left while I work on this afghan. Two of the hosts are chaos magicians. The third host makes a lot of fun of them about it. So, you know it tickles me.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few days about why magic and Buddhism (and weirdo cults like Scientology) catch on so well in artistic communities. And, because I’ve been thinking about it over the past few days, I’ve come to believe that the answer is that these professions are full of a lot of capriciousness and luck.

It’s very hard to believe that God has a plan when you see a lot of interesting, good shit not get the attention it deserves, or people who work really hard and nothing happens for them, or when you see cheaters or jackasses prosper. Like, fuck, if this is the plan, what kind of jerk is coming up with the plan?!

But, if you see that there is no plan, that everyone works really hard and things happen for a lot of people just based on luck, you can see why Buddhism, or the American take on it, becomes really popular–let go of expectations, make peace with not being able to control things, etc.

But you can also see how worldviews that promise you some level of control or ability to manipulate the chaos would also be super enticing.

Year of 100 Rejections

Got another rejection on Friday. You’re supposed to immediately get back up on your horse and try the trick again. But you know, I think sometimes it’s okay to put the horse in the barn and decide you’ll try again later after the cuts and bruises heal.

I read Roadside Picnic, which was fantastic. It has my opinion on aliens–which is that it’s pretty arrogant of us to even assume they’d notice us if they did show up here. And the debt TANIS and the Southern Reach trilogy owe to it are obviously deep.

I’m down. I’m feeling better than I did on Friday and I’m not defeated or anything, but I’m down. This part is really, really hard.

Nice Things

Yesterday I had to go down to the Hall of Fame for a meeting, to introduce my new co-worker to the person she’ll mostly be working with. After we met, that person took us down to the museum and walked us through the first part of the exhibit, pointing things out to her and telling her behind the scenes stories (even things that I did not know, like the gender of the person that destroyed a certain famous, now reconstructed, mandolin–and let’s just say that there’s one gender it could be that makes you say, “Wow, I guess that person must have been on drugs” and there’s another gender that makes you say, “Oh, oooooohhhh, right.” And the coverage of the destruction at the time made it seem like it was the former, but it was the latter.).

My co-worker is not very familiar with country music, with the exception of the O Brother soundtrack and I admit, I’m kind of envious of the enormous task she has before her to work up a passing familiarity with it. I guess I believe she’s in for a real treat. Ha ha ha. I guess we’ll see.

Anyway, we got to Cindy Walker’s typewriter and our generous guide asked my co-worker if she knew Cindy’s song, “Sweet Dreams,” and she seemed confused, but it’s Roy Orbison! So I figured there was a chance she might have heard the song, even if she didn’t know it, so I started singing it and then our guide joined in.

And you know that fantasy you have when you’re singing in the shower? That you will be called upon to sing in some extraordinary circumstances–like maybe you’re trying to get in a pub in Ireland with, oh, I don’t know, Colin Ferrell, and everyone who enters has to sing an Irish folk song and you’re like, “Yes, I knew those morning I sang ‘Wild Rover’ in the shower were going to come in handy, because I know four fucking verse, so you sing it and Colin Ferrell realizes he’s in love with you, even though you don’t have lavender eyes like Elizabeth Taylor, but kind of ordinary blue ones, and everyone in the pub applauds you–THIS WAS LIKE THAT BUT IN REAL LIFE (and no one fell in love with me, I don’t think).

So, my co-worker didn’t know it, but we sat in the sun and ate and talked about Nashville and I thought, well, shoot, you know, this is also my life, too. Still, I wish someone wanted to publish my book.

Clinging to this Afghan

I got a tough rejection yesterday. It had been so long, longer than they said they were going to take, long enough that I got my hopes up that maybe, just maybe, I’d made it through the first hoop.

That was stupid of me.

And I’ve tried to rationalize–obviously, the fact that they had it this long made it seem like a plausible project. And I turned right back around and sent it out again. And I hyped myself up and said Year of a Hundred Rejections over and over again to myself, which, even though I’m not aiming for a hundred rejections, ever since I read that article has become a kind of mantra to me.

But I’m still really bummed. So, I took the evening to work on this afghan. I tucked tails like tails have never been tucked. I bought quart bags to put my rows in so that I can keep the color scheme straight. I found a sharpie so I can number the bags.

I also did a crap ton of dishes, because apparently the Butcher has decided that having a girlfriend is more fun than doing one’s household chores and I will do a crap ton more tonight.

But tonight I am also going to tuck the last thirty tails on these 600 squares and then sort them by color and put them into baggies by the rows they will occupy in the afghan. And it will be so satisfying and the person who gets the afghan will love it and I will feel like there’s one artsy thing in this world that I am pretty good at.

Because I’m just not feeling it with my writing at the moment.

The Existential Angst Afghan

Last night, I stared up at the ceiling, trying to fall asleep, wondering what things I do make me happy.

Reader, I could think of nothing! Which made me laugh. It’s good to have check-in moments with yourself where you realize that you’re down the path that goes to the outhouse, not the path that goes to the ice cream saloon.

I’m working on this afghan that is at once very simple and already shaping up to be so beautiful. But I have to keep track of 600 squares. And I have in mind for the pattern a gradient, which means I need to figure out which rows are which. So, tonight, I’m going to buy 30–one for each row–quart-sized ziploc bags to sort my squares into.

It’s going to be so satisfying.

Stranger Things

I talked the Butcher and the Red-Headed Kid into watching Stranger Things on Netflix and we are binging out way through it, even though it involves the Red-Headed Kid rearranging his schedule a little to be over here.

I’m trying not to be too distraught by the fact that the character that was clearly based on me in high school is stuck in a demon dimension.

Transgressions (No Pun Intended)

One of my favorite writing podcasts is Brian Keene’s The Horror Show. Last week he had on Hal Bodner and at about the one hour mark Hal starts talking about gay culture. It’s really fascinating. My perspective is that I’ll call you what you ask me to call you and otherwise, I just don’t think too much about it.

That’s not true. When I do think about it, I resent the fuck out of feeling like I have to have some kind of label and then act in accordance to it. The literal last thing I want to do is talk to strangers about my sex life or my sexual preferences. Call me old-fashioned. Call me Midwestern. I fucking hate it. If you want to know if I’ll sleep with you, the answer is probably no.

And I can just imagine even that getting turned into “Oh, well, then, she must be asexual.” No, god damn it. I don’t want to be sorted. That’s exactly what I’m objecting to. Coming up with the proper term. Sticking it on people. Holding them to it.

How’s this? Keep your eyes on your own fucking paper.

I did once pretend to be a lesbian to get my play into a contest, though, so I’m a fucking hypocrite. Kind of. I guess I don’t feel that bad about it, though.

I guess I have been thinking of myself more and more as a spinster. I’m not married. I’m not getting married. I have no social value and no stake in having a social value. I could be up to secret things or not, but you don’t get to know.

Anyway, wow, I had feelings about this I didn’t realize were so intense.

So, Bodner’s discussion of gay culture is really fascinating as is his irritation at younger GLBT people calling him out for using terms like “trannie” and “queen.” Even his hatred of the term GLBT, as if there’s some monolithic GLBT culture, is really interesting. And I found his concern about the decline of gay culture to be really interesting. Something is lost when you gain mainstream acceptance, there’s no doubt about that.

The thing, as I see it, with any movement for social justice is that it has to contain within it the seeds of its own destruction. Once the movement has remade the world to suit it, then of course there are going to be people on the older end who feel like you’ve undermined or devalued their work and people on the younger end who think your work is stupid.

Like, for instance, think of gay marriage (talking specifically about gay male culture here). Part of what made gay culture so liberating to you as a man was that you could spend every weekend in an orgy with a disco beat and part of what made AIDS so devastating was that you knew, KNEW, you were being left to die not just because you were gay, but because being gay was flouting so many social norms, not just the one about who you could love. AIDS was a cultural genocide. Not at first, of course. It was just an illness. But it was ignored and left undealt with when its victims were mostly gay men precisely because it got rid of gay men, which destroyed gay culture.

What, then, is gay marriage to you? Is it nice? Sure, of course. Fuck yes. That’s a hard lesson gay men learned during the AIDS crisis–that this terrible thing could happen to you and your loved ones could be kept from you because your relationships weren’t “real.”

But doesn’t it also feel like it’s taming and tamping down on gay culture? Of course it is.

It’s a victory, but you can see how older gay men might feel like they still lost, for good, something that was really wonderful about gay culture before AIDS.

And young people are pansexual and omnisexual and genderqueer now. Marriage is for old people. They don’t want the victory gay marriage activists worked so hard for. Or maybe that’s not quite fair. But the world has changed enough that they don’t see the importance of getting married. To most of them, the idea that they could be kept from their boyfriend’s hospital bed sounds like a terrible story from a long time ago.

Which is a good thing! It’s a victory gay marriage brought.

But, like I said, the victory contained the seeds of its own obsolescence.

Anyway, interesting stuff to think about.

Back to Work

I think I had a nice vacation. I’m ready to have a vacation where I actually leave town and go to a different place and do different things, but alas, it was not to be this time.

Today I went to the Mill Creek Baptist Church graveyard, which I have never been to before. It was so beautiful. I do feel very lucky to live some place so gorgeous. I also feel slight pangs of regret at not buying a cheaper house in town when we first moved here and thus being a millionaire now.

Tomorrow I go back to work.

It’s not that bad!

I think the first two chapters reworked solve a lot of problems with the book. The thing is that I was thinking of the structure of the book like a spiral. You start out in this kind of ordinary space and you proceed inward until you’re suffocating on terror (or something. I think the book is creepy like a mouth full of cobwebs, not like a murderous clown in your shower.).

And I still really like the end. I’m really proud of how everything comes together and is rightfully disturbing on a lot of levels.

But one thing M. said to me about the beginning was that if he didn’t know me, he wouldn’t have gotten from the opening chapters that this was a ghost story. And A. told me that she thought I should start with the chapter where the ghost hunters appear.

And that got me thinking that both of them may be seeing the same weakness with the opening. So, now I cut a bunch of non-ghosty stuff, and reworked the beginning so that the unusual nature of the house is apparent right up front.

I also did another printed out pass on the manuscript and have an alarming number of typos to fix.

But I’m feeling okay about things, I think.


The dog peed on the floor, because why not?

I trashed the first two chapters of my book and spent the day making a different first two chapters out of them. My book sucks.

It probably doesn’t suck. I feel like it sucks.

I still like the ending, though.

Just, blerg. Also, I had to do a huge load of towels because my dog can pee a gallon of water, apparently, and I had to do the dishes because I guess the Butcher doesn’t do that anymore. Or something.

So, happy vacation to me.

Married Off

We went down and got my oldest nephew married off. On the one hand, it’s mindblowing because I have a nephew old enough to get married. What?! On the other hand, he’s only eighteen, which seems like a very young age to be getting married.

But it’s not like any one else in his family, myself included, knows what the fuck they’re doing in teh love and commitment department, so who knows? Maybe it’ll work out.

I came home early, ostensibly to pick up the dog from the sitter but really because I’d hoped that by keeping the trip short, I could lessen the chances that someone in my family would make me blind with fury. Unfortunately, that happened in the first twenty minutes I was there and I had to wrap myself in a thick layer of Bengay just to deal with my rage and how cramped up I was from driving with no cruise.

I would just like to thank Chevy for making their vehicles nearly impossible to trail due to their inability to hold a speed. And by “thank” I mean “beat with a stick.” Anyway.

My youngest nephew is a person! I guess that isn’t fair. But the last time I saw him, he was so obviously thirteen. And now he’s a young man and a cool one at that. So, that was fun and nice.

My oldest nephew’s wife’s family served a meal after the wedding which was so fantastic. I don’t know what any of it was. Beef in some kind of sauce. Chicken in another kind of sauce. Homemade tortillas. Coleslaw with dried cranberries in it! I repeat, coleslaw with dried cranberries. It was so good.

I hope they are happy.  I really do.

In unrelated news, the dogsitter texted the Butcher because she was concerned because the dog didn’t come upstairs to bed. He explained that, considering that the dog didn’t know how to walk on our floors at first, it’s safe to assume he had no idea a house could have an upstairs nor what he’d do with himself if he went there.

I tried not to let it hurt my feelings, but it did a little bit when the dog was obviously disappointed that it was just me who came to get him. He loves the Butcher so much.

Some Things I Am Learning About Myself

I say I want to take a social media break. I intend to take a  social media break. But I spent a lot of time waiting around for shit on social media. A lot. I’m genuinely surprised.

I had a really nice brunch yesterday with M. where we discussed all kinds of writing and Ashland. He had a broad suggestion for the first chapters that, when he said it, had the right sting and relief of being right. I think I’m going to take part of my vacation to go ahead and have another look at the manuscript.

I’m not going to think about how much it sucks that the first part needs something and the first part is what I’ve been querying on. Ha ha ha. Of course I am. I’m going to dwell so hard on that I want to throw up. But I’m going to try not to fall down that hole.

We’re leaving the dog with friends when we go to the wedding and I am nervous. I just don’t want him to run off or get lost. Just be here when I get back. That’s all I want.


I’m taking a vacation for the next two weeks. I’m just going to my nephew’s wedding and then…I don’t know. I kind of want to go somewhere, but I haven’t decided and I haven’t talked to the Butcher about leaving him with the dog and I don’t have the money to go anywhere particularly cool.

But I’m not at Pith and I’m not at work and that counts for a lot I think. I’m also going to try cutting down on social media. I love feeling connected to all my friends, but it also is, I think, making me way anxious. We’ll have to see how that goes, though. I want to rave about F&SF, so that’s got to happen there.

I’ve been giving some thought to what I want to be working on next. The first half of the year, I was busy with non-fiction stuff, getting something ready for October, and a couple of short stories, some of which weren’t very good and some of which were too personal for me to do anything with but write them and be glad to be done with them. But I miss the way writing Ashland organized my time.

I am trying to figure out how I want to incorporate the musical component of this October’s stories. And what I’ll do if the artist whose song is at the center of one of the stories doesn’t put the song in a format I can easily link to or embed before October. But I’d like to get that stuff all lined up and in the hopper and off my mind. It’s just going to be a week’s worth of stories this year, but I think they’re pretty fun. Plus, music!

I don’t really know. I just have to do some stuff to recharge, I think. It’s been a hard  year so far and I’d like to change the energy.