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.

The Dog

I woke up to a huge puddle of piss in the kitchen. We got clear to the back of the yard and I realized the dog didn’t have his collar on. We had to come back for it. I got halfway on our walk and I realized I wasn’t particularly angry or upset about either thing.

I don’t feel like I’m becoming a mellower person, just that the things I want to be angry about are not these small things.

The thing that sucks about your 40s is that people die and when they die, they’re not that much older than you. Like, there goes Pat Summitt. And can you imagine? One of the most brilliant minds in college basketball struck down by Alzheimer’s. Because the universe likes a sick and tragic joke.

Whatever you love, whatever is most fundamental to you, you’re going to It’s depressing, but it makes me feel such urgency. Will I get the thing written before I can’t write any more? “The thing” being the work that makes me feel like “Yep, I did it.”

I worried a little that the pee in the kitchen might be the start of kidney problems, but the Butcher tells me that the dog wouldn’t get off the porch last night. I am slightly annoyed that the Butcher didn’t then take him off the porch. But would I have? I can’t say.

Pyramid Schemes

One thing I’ve been noticing is how much of the “writing life” is a pyramid scheme. I didn’t put that together until I was talking to S. about it one day at lunch, my irritation with not knowing whether I should pay for an editor or pay to take this or that workshop or…

You hear a lot of advice about how, in writing, the author gets paid. The author does not pay.

At the same time, everyone wants to sell you a book about how to write, or, if you know how to do that, how to market. Take a cruise! Go to a workshop! Hire an editor!

Like, how much money am I supposed to outlay before the “the author does not pay” rule kicks in?

Charles du Charleville

So, an early Nashville history might read something like “when the first white settlers arrived in the area, they encountered French fur trader, Timothy Demonbreun, who was not the first Frenchman in the area–that being Charles du Charleville.” You might get stuck scratching your head about how the “Virginians” could be the first white people in the area when Demonbreun was here when they got here.

But what of this Charles du Charleville?

I had been assuming he was a Frenchman from Kaskaskia. There are plenty of Charlevilles in Kaskaskia at the time that Demonbreun is there and one of them is named Charles Charleville, though he seems too young to be our man. But you could imagine a scenario in which Charles Charleville retires from fur trading at French Lick, comes home to Kaskaskia and his kids tell Timothy Demonbreun about the awesome trading spot he found.

But! I found something really interesting. A few family historians and Shawnee history buffs say that the great Shawnee leader, Peter Chartier, whose dad is also a delight, had two brothers–Charles Chartier and Jean Chartier–who were fur traders at French Lick where they were known as Charles du Charleville and Jean du Charleville.

This suggests that the area during their lives may have been known as Charleville.

Anyway, I’m trying to see what kinds of historical sources I can find for these guys being the du Charlevilles. Historians seem pretty united in the belief that Peter Chartier did come (back) to the Cumberland, so the area was known to him. But did he actually have brothers?

We have to see.

Why Did I Do This Again?

Why would I make another afghan of tiny squares again?! I thought, well, if I do two rounds, it won’t be so bad. And, I guess, it’s not so bad, but every task seems never-ending. I have all my inner rounds made, but I need to tuck everything before moving on to the outer round and it’s just on-going. ON-GOING!

But I think it has the potential to be really beautiful. I’m imagining a spectrum of sorts. I’m just not sure what to do about the browns. A brown is never just brown, you know. Usually, with yarn, for whatever reason, it’s actually a dark orange, but some of the browns I have are clearly dark reds. And I know, occasionally, you can get a brown that has green undertones. So I’m a little nervous about sorting them.

Plus, I have 600 squares. If I pick a definite pattern to put them together in–i.e. the spectrum, I’m going to have to sort those squares ahead of time and make sure they stay in order. I’m thinking, with 600 squares, I’ll have a 30×20 afghan so I could get 30 freezer bags and use them for sorting. This gives me the ability to see the mix of squares in each row and I can write which row in a Sharpie on the outside.

We shall see. It’s going to be an organizational something or other.

Through the First Week in July

I just need to keep my head down and my work good and get through this busy mess.

The other day, there was a big brouhaha because some fans on Tumblr were pretending to be the folks from The Black Tapes podcast. The Black Tapes is really cool with fans participating in the world, but it seems like this wasn’t clear that it was being done by fans. There was no disclaimer to say that the accounts weren’t run by the show and seemed to encourage confusion. So, the Black Tapes people had to try to walk this complicated line where they encouraged people to do all kinds of fan things–except thoroughly impersonating the show to the point of confusion.

There is something weird about the ways in which we feel like liking something gives us a right to it, some level of ownership over it. Like it’s ours to devour and consume, literally.

I finished Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock last night and it left me uneasy. Lake Mungo is one of my favorite movies. There probably aren’t that many people in the world who are going to read Disappearance who have also seen Lake Mungo so I don’t know how many people will notice it, but it’s the same story. Disappearance is what happens when you set Lake Mungo in the U.S. and give it a villain. Major plot points, which are genuinely surprising and upsetting the first time you encounter them, are present in both stories. Tremblay’s a really good writer so the parallels don’t ruin the book if you have seen the movie. But the movie is a delicate thing and it works hard at establishing a great aura of uncertainty. If you read the book before you see the movie, part of the movie’s delicate uncertainty will be absent for you.

So, that sucks. On the other hand, you’re probably not going to stumble across an obscure Australian horror movie. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

I guess I’m left feeling, too, like I wish there’d been a clear wink and a nod in the book or in the publicity around the book to Lake Mungo, something to say “Here are this story’s roots, so, if you like this story, check out this movie.”

Genre stories–well, all stories, but I’m focusing on genre now–get retold all the time. So, I guess it’s not the retelling that bothers me, especially when the retelling is this well done. But doesn’t a fan of a work owe it to the work to make sure that the work is known? That the influence is acknowledged?

What do fans who are also creators owe their inspirations? I don’t have a good answer for that. I’m not sure that, if I’ve had answers along the way, they’re sufficient or satisfactory.

But I feel like you have to leave breadcrumbs. You have to show the path you’ve taken. Whether it’s saying “This is a fan site because I love this thing so much, but please don’t mistake it for the thing itself” or “This is an homage to the movie I love, so, hey, if you like the book, show some love to the movie.” Otherwise, it feels like it’s not love, but theft.

Also, in other things that upset me, for the first time since I’ve owned this dog, he’s sleeping away from me at such an angle with his legs crossed at such an angle that the black scars on the back of his one leg line up with the black scars on the front of the other leg and it’s clear that they are not scars, plural, but one scar. At some point, a wire wrapped his back legs together and cut in to him deep enough to scar.

I want to cry for a million years.

And yet, what else about him would ever tell you anything bad had ever happened to him? He still has an open, joyful heart. He likes everyone.

I wish that I could say the same.

Today I am a “Minor Genre Writer!”

I got my contributor copies of Fantasy & Science Fiction in the mail yesterday. I am surprised at how nice it feels. There’s something about being published in a place your parents have heard of that makes a person feel legitimized.

I was also surprised at how, rereading the story, I cringed at every second of it. Every mistake, every rough edge, every thing I wished I’d handled kind of differently just stands out so much to me seeing that it’s too late to do anything about it. I still laughed, though, so I think that’s a good sign.

This year has been a bear so far and I have been basically keeping my head down and powering through it and I’ve not been doing as much writing as I’d like to be doing.

So, it’s weird, at the same time that I had this big success, I’m still sitting on this novel no agent wants to represent, unsure of how to proceed. I’ve got a couple of stories out on submission and they’ve been out long enough that I should hear back any day if they’re rejected. I need to gut up and send the Metallica story back out.

That was one nice thing that I will hold in my heart about Hypericon is hearing a guy who’s been in the business a long, long time talking about how he still doesn’t know if he’s doing it right and how he still feels jealousy and confusion. That’s good to know. It’s not me floundering–or not only me floundering–it’s just part of what it means to be a writer.

I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know how to do better. It’s a relief to just admit that. I am floundering. But, it’s okay. I’m not trying to earn a living from writing at this point. I’m trying to figure out what works and to improve my abilities.

Also, I think the October stories are done! There’s going to be a musical component this year but I have to figure out how to work it, especially since one of the songs does not yet appear to be up on YouTube.

But I’m genuinely not sure I could have done this even ten years ago. Not just because I didn’t feel this same feeling of urgency–like I have to do it now or miss my shot–but because I don’t think I’d have been able to take the rejection, which even now, I do better about taking in theory than in actual practice.

And I’m still left to marvel over the weird situation that puts us in as a culture. How many good stories are we missing out on because the process for getting those stories out there is more than they can handle?

I guess, too, doing this kind of work is why I’m less than impressed by arguments that we have to keep Football Player X on the team even though he beats his wife because he’s got a once-in-a-generation talent or that we shouldn’t judge Famous Director Y because of the terrible things he did because think of his great art.

There are so many talented people in the world who don’t navigate through the fucked-up system. Who just live their lives. The idea that there’s only one is just…there’s not only one talent. There may be only one talent who could stand to work the system, but there’s not only one.

I guess what I’m dwelling on today is that writing is hard but it’s rewarding and pleasurable and eventually, I hope, you get a feel for what works. But the other part–knowing if you’re ready to submit, knowing how to submit correctly, persevering through a lot of “no”s, believing in your work even in the face of those “no”s, etc.–it’s also really hard.

So, shout out to all of us floundering in it.

The Nations

This morning, while I was walking the dog, I thinking about The Nations some more and I was wondering if there were any things that it could mean–like could it be short for something? “The Nation’s Best Donuts” or “The Domination of Mankind?”

And then I remembered that there is a known thing that “Nation” has been shortened from–Donation. Robert Johnson sings about his woman’s “nation sack.”

The nation sack has been the source of a lot of controversy over the years, but it appears that Memphis prostitutes called their purses their donation sacks as a joke poking fun at the donation sacks of tent-revival preachers, which then got shortened to “nation sack” and sometimes conflated with the hoodoo nature sack.

So, that’s a somewhat nearby usage of the term. But I’m not sure what might have been happening in The Nations. But could it have been prostitution? “I’m going to make my donation to the girls.” becomes “I’m going to the Nations.” Or tent revivals?


The new venue is great. The weekend was long. I’m still feeling a little frazzled.

Our cats are kind of dog-like, having been raised around at least one dog. They’re friendly. They kind of go for walks. But at the end of the day, they’re cats. As dog-like as they can be, at some point, you can hit a wall where they’re like, “Yeah, that’s too far.”

Sometimes this weekend, I felt like a cat among dogs.

I was on Twitter when a guy came up to me, touched my hand to get my attention, and then told me to smile. Like a fucking asshole, I did. I’m so mad at myself. But some of the other authors were delighted when they went up to hug him and he gave them surprise kisses.

So, here’s the thing. If you’re cool with surprise kisses, congrats. This minor celebrity just laid one on you. But how does he know that everyone who approaches him would be open to a kiss? I include myself in this group, so I speak from self-knowledge–there are a lot of socially awkward people at conventions. It’s very likely that a hug might be all they’re game for. I can’t help but wonder if and how many women got kissed who didn’t want to be.

And why would you behave like that? That’s a rhetorical question.

I have been thinking a lot about why I froze and smiled instead of scowling and telling that dude to suck my butt and I have decided it’s because I refuse to believe, in this day and age, that guys don’t know that women don’t like it when you tell them to smile. They know. So, already when you’ve decided that your pleasure is more important than my comfort, we’re in a kind of hostile situation. I want the moment to end without the hostility levels rising. The cost of me acquiescing is only my pride, so I acquiesce and you leave me alone.

I don’t know. It’s not really a big thing. Just in a weekend where no one knew what panels they were on until the last minute and I had to do a lot of running around town as well as doing the convention and meeting a lot of strangers and being “on,” it just stands out as a “WTF?” moment. Like we’re all trying to do our best here, dude, except you.

Hard Heart

I’ve been writing about Orlando over at Pith this week in various forms and on Thursday, I had a post about gun liability insurance. I heard, then, yesterday, from quite a few of my friends who are gun enthusiasts who wanted to talk about my post, and who, yes, utterly disagree with me.

But they were being awesome. They wanted to talk and to be heard and to try to have some kind of understanding.

It’s me. Something has happened to me. In order to write publicly like I do for Pith, in order to open the emails from strangers and see the things they want to show me, in order to be able to reassure my mom or my friends that the things they’re reading about me aren’t going to translate into something bad happening to me, I have had to do something ugly to myself.

And I try not to think about that ugly thing too often, but I felt it yesterday, seeing these people I care about and who I know care about me trying to have a respectful conversation with me and I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let the hardness recede enough to engage with them, to be their friend.

A thing I had not appreciated until I got into my 30s is that this is a truly unpleasant aspect of “fame.” I’m using the term very loosely here. If “being famous” is a universe, I’m “famous” at a small pebble in that universe level. What I mean by “fame” is that some group of people knows of you and has opinions about you that come to form some level of reality for you when they don’t actually know you. To use a very concrete illustration, it’d be like, if some guy, let’s call him Joe, Joe owns a restaurant and he reads my blog, He learns that I’m allergic to strawberries and so, when I go to his restaurant–even though I don’t know him or know he reads my blog–I’m never served strawberries. At that level, I guess it’s fine and kind of nice and fun. But what if Joe reads my blog and decides I don’t like men? I might not actually notice if I never get a male server, so maybe that doesn’t matter, but what if he’s back there spitting in my food?

Every one of us has a thin layer, a protective vernier, that is other people’s interpretations of our actions–the way they see us that is not necessarily how we see ourselves. One of the great delights in having dear friends is that you both simultaneously have someone you can trust who shows you the difference between how your perceive yourself and how the world perceives you and who will come close enough to you that they are inside that bubble–they see you for who you perceive yourself to be.

But being famous, for better or for worse, involves a thickening of that vernier. Some of it is intentional. I think I have hardened my heart intentionally so that I can do the work. But a lot of it is done by people who don’t know you to you. They develop these ideas about who you are and they interact with, or attempt to interact with, their ideas of you, not you.

It’s really disconcerting, unsettling.

It’s as if you enter a conversation with someone and come to realize that they’ve mistaken you for someone else. Possibly someone worthy of the hatred they feel toward them.

So, you build a thicker layer so that interacting with people who mistake you for a person they hate isn’t so fucking grueling.

Maybe you even begin to perform the layer so that you can feel like no one can touch your soft, vulnerable innards, because they won’t even suspect they’re there.

Maybe, at some point, you yourself forget that you are not the fake layer of misinterpretation that has been generated around you.

I don’t really have an ending to this post. I guess, just, at my level, way, way, way down here, this very tiny, inconsequential level of fame makes me feel like I’m losing my mind and my ability to interact like a normal human being with the people I love.

I genuinely don’t know how anybody with real fame does it.

(Also, there’s something terrible and funny about the fact that “fame” in this case just means I blog for an alt.weekly and people hate my opinions.)