Monday, January 30, 2006


Bout 6 o'clock tonight, I was sitting at the sewing machine, Scott was standing with the remote in his hand, programming the CD player to my direction. "Where'd you get this compilation?" he asks. "I had Tony make it for me," I said. "I asked him for some Gordon Lightfoot, and he--"

The power goes out, abruptly and completely, as if a switch had been flicked. I gasped as the room went dark, and distinctly heard a high-pitched voice squeal from the back yard, "It went off! Go, go!"

I leapt for the patio door, wrenched it open, and got out on the balcony in time to see three pre-teen girls leaping across the drainage ditch and running all-out across the vacant lot for the cul-de-sac behind us. Pink coat, gray sweatshirt, dark skin on the middle one. "Son of a bitch!" I exclaimed, incredulous. I grabbed my sweatshirt, stepped into my shoes, telling him what I'd seen and heard. "Call the rental office, now," I said, and dashed out the door, down to the ground floor and around back.

By the time I get down there, there's nothing to see except a couple of small footprints, in the mud next to the bushes. They're twisted on the balls of the feet, as if the feet had pivoted to run. I wedged in between the bushes and found the fuse box, with the main toggle switch for our building. None of the meters are running. I flipped up the breaker-cover: no lock or anything, heavily coated with cobwebs that had been recently disturbed. It was too dark to read the labels.

Scott's out on the balcony with a flashlight. "I called the office," he said. "They're calling KCP&L. You see anything?" "Drop me the flashlight," I told him.

He did, and I went back to the breaker-box, saw that yes, the switch had been flipped down from ON to OFF. I swept off the cobwebs and shoved it back up. Pop! Electricity makes such a hum, but you don't notice it until it's gone. The heat pump comes back on, and the lights upstairs.

"Holly," Scott calls, low, and I emerge from the bushes. He points. "Is that them?"

I peer through the bare trees and scrub brush. The girls are loitering down the hill, between two houses. I watch them walk up to the side of the duplex, behind the air conditioner, but one of them says something and they run away.

"Go catch 'em," Scott says.

"And do what?" I say. Not that I'm averse to the idea. I once shook the living daylights out of a twelve-year-old skater punk who thought it was cute to bounce herself off the hood of my car, in the movie theater parking lot.

"Tell 'em you've seen 'em. Scare 'em a bit."

Sounded good to me. I put up the hood of my sweatshirt and took off across the ditch, down the hill. I trotted around the side of the house to come on them at an angle. Sure enough, they emerged around the side of the house just as I was approaching it. They startled, but not guiltily. I am a smallish, nice-looking woman, after all. Not threatening.

"Which one of you is Maria?" I said, to get their attention.

They look at each other, confused. "None of us," the littlest one says, after a pause. She's maybe eight, Mediterranian-looking. The ten-year-old is black. The oldest is maybe twelve, with straight brown hair.

"Don't--" I say, and hold up the flashlight. They look at it, nervously. "--mess with the breaker boxes." Their faces slacken with surprise. "I saw you running away. I've seen your faces. I know where you live. If it happens again, I will send the police to find you." I make deliberate eye contact with each of them. Their eyes are looking misty and scared, none of the defiance I expected. "Do you understand?"

"Yes," they answer in unison.

"Now go home," I say, and stalk off up the hill.

I found out, shortly, that they'd turned off the power in at least three buildings. Pat the maintenance man came around not long after, and turned on the building next to us. I gave him a good scare when he saw me emerging out of the dusk. I told him what had happened, then repeated the story thirty minutes later when the P&L guy showed up.

It's kind of funny, now. I mean I can see how a kid would find it funny. Basically a harmless joke, just alarming. But it still disturbs me. Why do that to people you don't even know, just to cause trouble? I've always found that discourtesy, that disregard for other people's feelings, alarming. It's the root of all the world's problems, really.

But I did enjoy throwing my weight around. I was always in awe of the way my father could terrify the neighborhood kids without raising his voice. Apparently I inherited his technique.

Dang kids. I guess this means I am officially a grown-up, now.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Happy MLK day.

Minor point of interest: I got what you might call a "call-back" from that one publisher on End of the Line. The first reader's superior contacted me and asked for an .rtf copy, so she could forward it to the editorial board. So it's still afloat. I don't dare get too optimistic, but it sure would be nice to get paid professional rates for that thing--that would be a Godsend right now. And Raechel from Jinstu wrote to let me know that she'd sent out the reversion of rights last week. Poor kid. In a way I feel more sorry for her than I do for myself. Up until December it really sounded like Eggplant was doing well and poised for growth.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I liked the lady, all right monkey boy?

The Emperor of Ice-Cream, by Wallace Stevens

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Friday, January 06, 2006

two jokes


On a certain blog belonging to two editors of a certain publisher, I found this:
A rabbi, a priest and a minister walk into a bar.

The bartender looks up and says, "What is this, a joke?"


I put a query package in the mail to said publisher today. Wocka wocka.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

waiting for the plot fairy

Writing is work, despite and still. No matter how good the buzz when it's going, no matter how strong the sense of pride when I finish something really cool, there's often a tremendous amount of inertia to overcome when I first sit down to start writing--or when I'm trying to force my butt into the chair so I can start writing. There are exceptions, of course, like when I get a really clear pivotal scene in mind, and then it becomes a matter of can't-get-to-the-keyboard fast enough.

But at the moment I'm kind of stuck on a couple of things. "Horseflesh" needs a couple of scenes in the middle ripped apart and knit together, and the same thing done with a couple of scenes at the end, and it's harder than hell for me to take apart a story that's already basically done and tinker with the structural underpinnings.

At least I have a pretty good idea what needs to be done, there. Curious Weather is, in some ways, in worse shape because I have all these cool intense scenes I want to get to at the end, and only a shaky idea how I'm going to construct a plot around them. Don't dare start on that until I know, because see above re: tearing out structural underpinnings after the veneer is already on.

I've been compulsively checking to my email and my usual round of blogs, almost hourly, the last couple of days. It's a procrastination technique, of course--I tell myself I'm looking for distraction, but I think in reality I'm hoping to find a mysterious piece of email from an anonymous benefactor, which will contain the missing connective bits of story, which I can then cut and paste into place and have to do nothing more strenuous than the editing.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

barraccuda in a guppy bowl

Well, it's 2006. And Tuesday. And I'm back at work. Y'know, when you're a kid, the holidays are fun in part because it's a break in routine. But me being the creature of habit I am, after almost two full weeks at home, I'm actually glad to be back in the office.

Some random events and idle thoughts...
  1. Sit started me on the Big Daddy of forms last Sunday, the Six Elbows internal form, which is the basis of his kung fu style, the sacred hand-me-down of his teacher's teacher, blessed be his name, amen. This is heavy-duty stuff, because he doesn't teach this to just anybody. It's long and difficult and it's a sign that he takes me seriously and believes I will take it seriously, which means I may actually have to practice. He also offered to start teaching me some advanced meditation techniques, but I don't know that I'm ready for that kind of time commitment--it's not the kind of thing you can pick up and put down when convenient, and the last thing I want to do is flake out at this stage. He mentioned once that in 30-some-odd years he's only had one female student complete the internal form, and I don't think he's ever taught the meditation to a woman before. Serious, indeed. I don't know if I can handle that kind of pressure, I put enough on myself.

  2. The number-one source of self-induced pressure at the moment is, of course, Trace. I want to have it finished by summer, which is going to be pretty tough at my current rate of production, and considering that I may be even busier for the next few months. After I got the news that Jintsu was folding I quickly submitted End of the Line to a new venue and almost immediately ran afoul of one of those Barracudas-in-a-guppy-bowl, a/k/a the First Reader. He said the story was well-crafted and left indelible images, but said I needed to be careful with my dialect. I asked if he could be more specific. He said that nobody with Trace's education would EVER used an "unlettered" dialect. I countered with examples of how I do it every day, and trumped him with a news article about how politicians take elocution lessons to sound more "folksy." He responded with, "well, I'm an editor, and I strongly suggest you change it." I said, "Change what, exactly? If you could give me some examples I might know what the problem is." He said, "Forget it, you win." As if I was really being difficult for requesting a little specificity! I told Rob and Alison from my writer's group about it, and they told me to quit screwing around with rinky-dink e-publishers and make up a package for Tor. So that's what I did New Year's Day; I wrote a query letter and hashed out some summaries for the last five Trace stories. Which brings me to issue number five on my mind....

  3. I have a pretty good idea how the last half of the book is going to go, but I'm concerned about Mereck as the Big Bad, because he hasn't really made an onscreen appearance yet. He's been working well enough as this shadowy presence, kind of an abstract of evil or in Sabine's case, the devil who made her do it. He's going to get some development in Sabine's backstory, however, and in story number six, he's going to--needs to--appear front-and-center with a vengeance. And I'm not really sure how I'm going to do that, because the personality extremes are pretty well filled in the Sabine/Trace dynamic. And then AJ posted this Whedon quote, which kind of brought to the front of my mind how we've become accustomed to shades of gray in our good/evil dynamics, and what I wanted to do with this was create something much more black-and-white. Which means, Mereck has got to be BAD. But not Clive Barker-Rawhead Rex bad; at the moment I'm leaning toward the Victorian Old Scratch idea of the Devil: dapper and gentlemanly and seductive and inherently evil. Hating humanity, utterly consumed by his own selfishness and contempt for a good deed, but attractive even though you know he's going to destroy you--an extension of the theme of Trace's fascination/addiction/repulsion with regard to his powers and to Sabine. I'm thinking in terms of sexual deviancy, where you're aroused and nauseated at the same time. I'm thinking in terms of medieval torture devices. Poor Trace.