Thursday, May 19, 2016

Luck and Cynicism

I used to enjoy the occasional crappy day. No, really. I had this sense that my life was "lucky," that I was a lucky person. I had no evidence of this whatsoever. I had passable looks--I mean, no one was stopping on the street to stare at my monstrousness, nor at my blinding beauty--and I was taking a couple of college courses here and there while getting up every morning at 5 a.m. to go to a bleak waitressing job where I got yelled at for five or six hours, then I'd take some leftovers home in a styrofoam box and rent a movie or maybe go for a hike in the woods, and for some reason, sitting in that tiny apartment with its tiny oven so small that it couldn't even fit a whole chicken, I felt lucky.

Nothing really got me down. Maybe I was confused. Maybe I didn't understand that I was being shit on all the time. But hey, all that matters is that I felt lucky. So once in a while, I'd have a truly, epically bad day. We're talking, getting a plate thrown at me by an irate short-order cook, smacking a fly on the window with a piece of mail and smashing that window (fly still in the apartment), and going to the hardware store but not making it because a tire exploded and I ran off the road into a Chinese restaurant parking lot. Now that would be pretty bad, right? By anyone's standards. And there I'd be, in the rain next to my busted car in the days of no cell phones, and the whole thing felt like a thrilling ride.

I was up for a challenge in those days. I had energy to spare. And hey, it was the least the universe could do to me, considering how great my life was, after all.

When relationships ended badly--as all of mine have, up to this point, except the current one, which goes on doggedly pleasantly, as if it's too dumb to realize that I fuck everything up, eventually--I bawled my eyes out onto the side of the stuffed donkey I've had since I was nine, and at some point, I'd pick myself up and get ready for the next adventure in love. I had broken hearts, and I mended them. The thrill of "what's next" was got me--what's around the next corner? Maybe the love of my life. Or maybe the hot dog that will change my entire perception of hot dogs (that, fyi, has not happened; hot dogs are still finely minced assholes boiled for our consumption, and exceedingly disgusting). Hey, whatever was next, I was ready! The future was a shining city! With monorails and Logan's Run attire!

So what happened. That's your question, right? Mine, too. At some point, bitterness replaced joy. Cynicism replaced hope. And then the worst--passivity. Eh. Meh.

I think I forgot how to be alive. Maybe that happens after the train wreck that's our twenties. I once felt like a conqueror, a warrior, an explorer. And now I feel... meh.

It can't be money, or things, because I didn't have them back then. It's got to be something inside.

If I dig it out, scrape off the moldering rot of depression, what will I find? Will I be me again? Or--oh, jesus, is this me? Now and forever?

Well, hell. I suppose I could go for a walk, see what the day brings. I could attempt...something. I could have a drink at quarter to ten in the morning.

This isn't meant to be an inspirational bullshit kind of thing, nor is it a cry for help. It's just rambling. I'm gonna hang in there, have another cup of tea, and maybe later, understanding will creep in. Or not.


P.S. Book 1's at 93,000 words. It's a mess. But holy crap, I wrote 93,000 words that almost make sense. Books 2-4 however... Well. Well.

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Minotaur" now at Luna Station Quarterly

My short story,  Minotaur, is the featured story of the week at Luna Station Quarterly.

During an archaeological dig on the Russian taiga, prickly Noani uncovers something stunning, something unbelievable... If only she survives long enough to show the world.

LSQ is a quarterly zine filled with speculative fiction written by women. And while you can read all of the stories in issue 21 for free online, LSQ has their first-ever print issue available. Please support female writers!


Monday, January 12, 2015

Making An Actual Hobo

Shakes72 recently tweeted a photo of a hobo fire he made. I thought it would be more impressive if he'd made an actual hobo. Which thinking led me to this:

How a Hobo is Not Like You and Me

You can see Shakes's original photo here. Also, Shakes is more of a writer guy and not really a tiny fires guy. His stories are *excellent* and you should check them all out. All of them. All.

If you have hobo poetry, please share. It appears to be a sadly under-filled poetic category.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Stories: Hawaiian gods, cigarette smoking, and werewolves

Another issue of 101 Fiction is out! This time, I've got one tiny tale in the black-and-white-themed issue, 'Aumakua. Hawaiian gods and troublesome little girls!

The other stories are really wonderful, especially W.M. Lewis's Celebrity. Gobsmacked by this one. Read it!

The Husband is posted at my DA account, since it's original home, The Corner Club Press, appears to be defunct. "The Husband": I took a nap, and when I woke up, the dog on my chest had become a husband. Speculative fiction about Sudoko, drumming, and, er, friendliness. ;)

Exclamation points and emoticons! Have I been body-snatched by a teenage pod alien?

And one more, if you're in the mood for a bit more reading today: the November issue of Bloodbond is out, with short stories and poetry about shape shifters, and it includes my story, "In the Northern Territories." Werewolves, my friends. Werewolves. They can be great neighbors, as long as you abide peacefully.


Monday, November 17, 2014

"Bloodbond" Now Out! Werewolves and vampires and shape shifters...

And shapeshifters, oh my! 

Alban Lake Publishing, home of Aoife's Kiss, a magazine of specfic, and publishers of stand-alone horror and SF novels, has just released "Bloodbond," an anthology of werewolf, vampire and shapeshifter fiction and poetry. Included is my short story, "In the Northern Territories":

Calvin Kilfoil shot the wolf that had been coming around his farm--but come morning, it is not a wolf, but his wife's body laid atop the kitchen table. Faila's father had never been fond of his daughter's husband, but is this murder? He watches Calvin--watches, and waits, along with the rest of the small, isolated town deep in the northern woods. Because blood will *always* tell...

GREAT selection of stories! I just finished reading, and I was really blown away by a couple of them. If you want some good, shiver-inducing fiction, and you want to support a small, independent press, there's no better way to do it than by buying a copy of Bloodbond today!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On Want

I'm trying to cultivate an awareness of privilege. It's like cultivating an attitude of gratitude, a very overused and trite phrase (or has it become trite due to overuse?). At any rate, it occurred to me recently how privileged I am. Sometimes, I think we associate that word with Beverly Hills housewives, or wealthy white men in suits looking down their old noses at us from the cover of Forbes. But really, if you look at the world in general, I have a very privileged life.

If I want to download a book to read on my ipad, click, I have it. I stopped working one day a week because it stressed me out, so now I work four days. I can turn up the thermostat if I want, although if B is home, he might complain about being too hot—but not about the money it costs to keep me cozy. I have a cabinet with three shelves, loaded with tea and coffee products. I have a table that has no use except to hold my seasonal decorations and—another sign of privilege—our Bose sound dock.

We have a brand new kitchen. And not a cheap one—it's got quartz countertops and a pull-down faucet and soft-close drawers and sliding drawers and a heavy-duty lazy Susan, which we use for all of our pots.

Still, I complain about what I haven't got, what I want and can't have right now, and about other things: I'm lucky to have a job, when so many don't, and yet the clients irritate the shit out of me. I adore my animals, but sometimes, I just don't want to deal with them. I have sneakers without holes in the bottom, but I want new ones.

Buddhism is letting go of "want." Maybe not at its core, but that's a tenet. In some ways, so is Christianity—let go of "want," and the Lord provides. A financial counselor on Oprah used to advise that we cultivate a mindset in which we already have everything we need. Which we do, on a fundamental level (many don't, I realize, but for the majority, and certainly myself, we do).

It seems small, this writing of things I have, and even smaller, the list of things I want. Not the lists themselves, for they are almost endless. But what do I really want? Would I like a childhood do-over, in which my mother never dies? Do I want my beloved grandparents, her parents, to still be here? It's only been a few years since losing them, and I think of them often, and miss them. Do I wish for my favorite dog back, the one creature so devoted to me that I found that I had never understood the word "devotion" before—and probably have already lost its meaning, lost to the tide of "want."

Our souls are so small. Some say they are vast, that they are the universe itself. I feel that that is correct, and yet, the universe is so small. Everything is so tiny, it fits in a marble in my hand—that's how it feels.

And perhaps this is depression talking now, reducing things, because joy and the largeness of that joy are its opposite.

I cannot understand the size of my want or the solidity of my soul, and I cannot tell sometimes sadness and grief from love and love and more love. So this is all I can do today: make a list of what I have, and try not to think of what I want and do not have. And I have two hands to write this, and a computer to write it on, and dogs snoring next to me, and hot tea (although, bleh, I bought it and this one's not so good—see how I go, all the time? with the complaining?). It's an exercise, much like just living every day is. And exercise. At which I will, apparently, never become proficient. I'll drown the want of my desire to be a great writer in another document, and today, in just this minute, I will try to be satisfied. And grateful.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Flash fic: Butter


The doors slid shut behind him, and the sounds of the casino—the jangling slot machines, the piped-in music of nineties superdivas—disappeared, muted by mahogany paneling and plush burgundy carpet.

The room was long, no chairs, with a desk at the end, tall and narrow. A woman stood behind it, black hair hanging down her back and catching the glow of the wall sconces.

She turned as he approached, and smiled. Jack paused, steps from the desk. She was two women. Or rather, one woman with two heads. No, that wasn't right either.

Each woman wore a blouse, ivory, sheer, with a lace collar and three tiny buttons, the blouses stitched together at the chest. The women faced each other, the distance of an eyelash between them. He could not see below the desk. He felt uncomfortable wanting to.

"Mr. Gray?" said one.

Jack nodded. So as not to stare, he watched their hands; each used a hand to rifle through a stack of unmarked envelopes, fingers dancing along white creases, plucking one from the rest. The one who had spoken used her left hand to open the envelope, and the other used her right hand to remove a key.

"Here you are," said the one on the right. "Good luck, Mr. Gray."

He took the key with unease.

She gestured to a door on the left; her twin echoed the gesture.

The door opened onto an elevator. Jack stepped inside, and an attendant dressed in livery, as if he were a chauffeur, smiled and nodded.

"Mr. Gray," said the man, tanned and wrinkled beneath a black cap.

The door shut on his last glimpse of the women.

"Beautiful," said Jack, not knowing what else to say.

"Beautiful, yes. But only one heart." The man shook his head. "Two people cannot have one heart."

The door opened.

"We're here?" said Jack. "I didn't feel it move."

The man smiled. "You have your key?"

Jack nodded.

"Good luck, Mr. Gray."

He stepped into a narrow hallway, with another attendant, this one dressed less elegantly: the bulge of guns beneath his cheap suit was excessive, comic.

"That's a lot of firepower, considering you can only fire one at a time," said Jack.

The man shook his head. "Two." He withdrew two of the pieces, both hands turning the guns simultaneously.

"Impressive," said Jack, and the man smiled, replacing his guns. Jack sniffed. "Is that... chocolate I smell?"

"Good luck, Mr. Gray," the man said, and opened the door.


Jack had possessed a terrible sweet tooth once.

Once. Now he'd much rather have a nice, medium-rare chateaubriand, steaming on the plate, meant for two but all to himself.

The sight of her, however, dressed in cream-colored silk behind a sleek, ebony desk, caused in him a pang, a longing for something warm, and soft, and sweet on his tongue.

A chef in a white coat stood beside a small cart, a glass bowl of chocolate before him. He unwrapped a stick of butter. She motioned to the chef, and before he dropped the butter into the chocolate, he presented it to her. She drew a finger across the top and tasted it.

The door shut behind him.

"Mr. Gray," said the woman. "Won't you sit?"

"You can call me Jack, Charlotte," he said, and took the chair in front of the desk. "I promise, I won't think you're anything but business."

"Why would you?" she said. Her gaze was cool; her hair, not nearly as black as the women's in the lobby but still dark, dark like the chocolate in the bowl, was tucked in a neat twist at the nape of her neck. There was a tattoo there, he knew, an ostrich feather.

As she twisted her head to pull a file from a drawer, he saw it then, except it wasn't a feather any longer, but two swords, one up, one down.

She drew a single sheet of paper from the file. Without looking at it, she said, "My. This is quite a bit of money you owe us."

He shrugged. "I'll pay it back soon. Tables have been bad, that's all."

"Are you saying that the casino has rigged tables? Or that they are somehow sub-standard?"

"No, of course not. It's just... things haven't exactly gone my way lately. But they will soon." They always do, he thought. The coin always flips. "Your father let me run a house tab."

"We've extended your tab eight times this month already. And my father no longer owns this casino."

Beside them, the chef lifted the spatula, inspecting the silky fall of chocolate. Satisfied, he removed the bowl from the flame.

"A little more time, Charlotte. That's all I'm asking. Things will change."

"When your luck changes?" She stared at the bowl. "Chocolate, sugar, butter. It's not just the ingredients, you know. It's timing and skill."

He swallowed, turning the key in his palm.

The chef cracked two eggs, and added a sprinkle of salt. He stirred and poured the batter into a silver pan. The bowl scraped clean, he set it down and took up the pan, presenting it to Jack.

"Your key," she said.

"We used to have crepes every morning, and scones. Lemon, blueberry... And your cakes... Caramel. Coconut..."

He implored her with his eyes, willing her to remember when they'd been young, willing to her to recall nights he'd come to her, flush with his winnings, and her apartment smelling like cinnamon, her skin tasting like vanilla.

The elevator attendant's words came to him: Two people cannot have one heart.

He dropped the key atop the batter. It sank, vanishing from view.

The chef took the pan with Jack's cake to a door that slid open, revealing a room with an oven at the center, and all around, on every wall, shelves, and those shelves laden with cakes.

"Seven days, Jack. The casino gets what's owed." She closed her eyes. "I can taste it already."


Well, that was strange.