Swill 5

The new Swill is here! The new Swill is here!

It looks like the kind of edgy, avant-garde stuff that I expect from Swill. Another interesting factoid about this issue of Swill is that there are THREE Viable Paradise XIII alums in there: Sean Craven, Chia Evers, and my humble self. A review of the other author’s pieces will be forthcoming. There are about 3 books in front of it, so be patient.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for my review if you buy your own.

Contest announcement on Monday. The question to ponder over the weekend is if you’ve been naughty or nice.


My Conceptualization of the Writer’s Sense of Self

Today, obviously, I am going to write a pretentious entry because, well, just look at the title, man!

Yesterday I posted a link to Cath Schaffer’s article on negativity and writing. Cath’s strategy is get past the negativity and fake it until you make it. Honestly, this is the strategy that transformed me from stunted abused child into a stunning and vibrant co-ed, and eventually into a sincere teacher and administrator. I met a woman at a very young age that I wanted to be. The most interesting person in the room, I wanted to travel, have interesting hobbies, and have people attracted to me, just like her. I faked it until experience caught me up.

This is not how I’ve conceptualized my writing career at all. Talk about deviation from the pattern! To understand why, first I have to tell you a little bit about myself as a student. CUE FLASHBACK

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The Shape of Things to Stay

First of all, go here. I know in my case, Miranda is right on the money. Writing my thesis made me into an overwrought, inflated-sentence writing machine. Well, that, and reading all the Victorian lit, which is a whole ‘nother bad writing problem. Anyway, an interesting idea.


Also, look at this. Alternate universe me, Cath Schaffer, talks about why writers are essentially mad. Mad, I tell you! She makes some interesting points.


So…I went to the doctor yesterday. I have a sinus infection, although thanks to the magic neti pot, only I can see the evidence of it. Lovin’ me my neti pot! Anyway, now I have some nasty antibiotics that make everything I eat taste on the wretched side.

Like any good patient, I also spent some time asking my doctor questions about a few other things that had been bothering me. As we age (45!), we tend to have more questions. What did I ask?

Q: Can I have the handouts for the plantar fasciitis stretches, since you know, exercise and all that?
A: Certainly! Stretch when you get up and before you go to bed. Also, don’t be afraid to ice it, or use jets on it.

Q: What about my weight? I’ve been eating healthily and exercising regularly, and I’m not losing. What can I do?

The answer might surprise you.

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The Sirius Seduction of Catherine S

Last week, we bought our new electric blue Touring. It comes with Features (TM) and with bonuses. One of the bonuses is 3 months of free Sirius XM.

“Pshaw!” said the Stumps. “We will not keep this Sirius one second more than necessary. We are beyond that. We have a Nano, and we know where the jazz station is on the dial. We are Unimpressed.”

Catherine asked the dealer, “Will we have to shut this off?”

“No,” says Kandy (her real name). “Believe me, they will not let you keep it a minute longer. But you will get offers for continuing it, I’m sure.”

“We won’t need them,” said Bryon.


The mistake was turning it on. Kandy, who must have known what she was doing, managed to leave Sirius XM set to the 80s on 8. Like all creatures of my time, I enjoy the music of my college years. Every regular radio station that plays 80s music plays a set. Right now, I’m hearing songs that I haven’t heard in years. I’m not making any kind of quality statement about the music, okay? Some of it *is* bad. But I can’t remember the last time I head “Cult of Personality” or the theme from Miami Vice.

Would Sirius XM be worth the bourgeois fee if we could get some depth in our favorite kinds of music? And if it has 80s, what else might it have?

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This Christmas Plug

I’ve been meaning to mentiont this, and since only 11 shopping days remain until Christmas, you should know about it if you don’t already.

December Lights is a series of short stories designed to “light up the winter season.” The likes of Sarah Prineas, Sherwood Smith, Jenn Reese, Tiffany Trent and Stephanie Burgess, just to name a few, have written holiday stories for you.

So, after fighting at the mall, come home, brew a cup of tea, put your feet up, turn on your lap top, and have a quiet moment.


Shoes; Brief Nook Review

Libby Smith.

Because every wardrobe needs olive and taupe boots.


I think I’ve outsmarted my Nook. In order to delete items from it, you have to go into your Barnes and Noble account on the computer. When I get home tonight, I’ll double check that the Rick Riordan example is gone.

The Color Nook is working out well. It appears to be true that e-readers do not have that “from the screen” feel that reading on your computer does. I also like that it marks my pages for me, and that, should I wish to read my book on my computer, it remembers where I am. It’s easy to use, charge, and port. It’s also a quick Internet device if you need something for just a second.

Some of you single device folks might wonder why you’d want to buy a separate eReader. I have a separate phone, a Garvin, an eReader, and a computer. Because if one thing goes, I’m not entirely cut off. Crazy, I know…

Anyway, hats off to the spouse for a good by. Catrina, I bought Rick Stasi’s Guide to Scandinavia today. It’ll be nice to not have to lug along a book, just the eReader and an adapter.


The School of Prepatory Fate

Here we are at Finals Week. It’s very quiet so far, but then again, I haven’t cracked open the work email quite yet, or answered the phone messages.

We had our Christmas party on Saturday night in spite of the frigid weather and stormy conditions. About 2/3 of the book club and film group made it out for a viewing of Hogfather and a discussion of the Death strand of the Discworld books. I was too keyed up to sleep well after the party finished, and yesterday spent most of the day going through the motions of life and napping when I couldn’t. It was a dangerous day, the kind of day I could have driven a lawnmower off my driveway backwards.

Three other things happened on Saturday. My brother Ken called. He makes an effort to call once every six months. I used to try to call him, but his phone number tends to be a bit erratic, so I have found it best just to wait for him to get in touch with me. We chatted about a variety of things while he channeled the blizzard live, letting us know what they were getting in Southern Iowa, so we knew what would be coming our way.

One small point of conversation was how my mother might appreciate a phone call. I had a tight but sane conversation about how I’m not riding that train anymore, and he was pretty okay with that. After finishing the phone call and a quick check in with the husband to make sure I didn’t sound neurotic (the verdict was that I sounded sensible and sane while talking about Mom), I filed that experience under done, and set about putting a bunch of buns on a platter.

During Hogfather, a friend from Minnesota called. She lost her own mother last week, and the loss is raw. Her relationship with her mother was not an easy or simple one. As is the way of these things, she’s grieving, and she felt like perhaps she hadn’t handled the relationship well. There are also a host of family issues to be resolved.

I was pleased that she called me, and that Ken had called me earlier in the day, because it had given me a chance to re-affirm my own situation, and counsel her wisely about hers. Perspective can be great. I don’t mind being the friend you call because your own family is crazy, and you understand mine. She volunteered that she appreciated my advice because I was so sane, and I had to tell her how I had to ask Bryon earlier in the day if I’d successfully managed to keep my grip.

The holidays can be a tough time. Everyone wants to belong and there are these archetypes of parental-child interaction that bombard you. When yours don’t measure up, there are a host of feelings. Everyone is awkward in these situations.

But you know, I do belong. After I got off the phone, and the movie finished, I mentioned that Ken had called, and mentioned just a little bit about my family. My friend Michele stopped me cold and reminded me that the people at the party are my family now. That they were happy to be here.

Every time they do that, I realize that the accident of birth only keeps me from having a family at the holidays if I want it to. I’m getting more and more used to that idea, and I like it.

I hope you find peace of mind during your holiday season, and a measure of love with your real family, genetic and otherwise.


VP Profile #7: Ferrett Steinmetz

Probably our highest profile member of VP XIII, I’m pleased to present an interview with the bi-shop-xual Ferrett Steinmetz.

You should totally read the interesting, in-depth interview, but if you just want to pop to the fiction, I’ll make that easy on you.

Tamago: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Ferrett: In fourth grade. I submitted my first poem to a teacher, which included the phrase “In a time / when people live with the spider of hunger in their bellies,” and she thought that was the most amazing thing. I said, “Wow, if I can inspire that reaction, then I want to write!”

Which, to me, is largely what writing is about: inspiring reaction. Can I make you cry? Feel outrage? Root for this character? If I can get you hooked, then I have affected you without even being there. That’s a win, man.

What’s not a win? My poetry. “Spider of hunger”? Come on, fourth grade kid, you can do better than that.

Tamago: Are there any kinds of stories you are more inclined to write, or themes that you return to in your writing?

Ferrett: Pretty much all my best work could be summed up in one title: Desperate People Locked In Strange Rooms. Whether it’s a squid trapped in a moat created for him by a mad Scientist (“As Below, So Above”) or a teenager trapped in a world that records and ranks his every behavior (“Camera Obscured”) or a jock trapped in a school of mad scientists (“Under the Thumb of the Brain Patrol”), almost everything I write involves someone in a weird situation they didn’t create.

That said, I write a lot about time travel as a futile way of trying to fix the past (the idea of people using time travel as a video game save point is something that crops up in no less than three stories of mine). I also write a lot about how the singularity is probably going to be a wretched mess of advertising hell for people.

That said, my wife actually put a lock on me for 2010: “No more stories about teenagers learning life’s lessons!” (This culminated just after I’d written “In The Garden of Rust and Salt,” which is perhaps my most depressing tale ever.)

Tamago: You have a fairly popular blog. Why do you keep a blog, and what will readers find you writing about there?

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