Life: Would You Do It Differently?

When I was a high school teacher, there would be days when 4 or 5 of us would be sitting around in the teacher’s lounge, our minds totally fried from doing what it is teachers do, and we would begin the teacher fantasy game. What would you have done with your life if you hadn’t been a teacher? That fantasy ranged wide. For me, baking, writing, becoming that person who linked birds and dinosaurs, always those alternative paths that lay out before us, like roads not taken, desserts not eaten, scarves not knitted.

My favorite ever was the ag teacher who told me he’d rather be a used car salesman.


A couple of days ago Miranda Suri reflected on the death of Steve Jobs. This quote is what I want to reflect on today.

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” He continued, saying “And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

I have been in a place before where my answer has been no. That’s not what this post is like. Like Jobs, I recognize that we have the power to make our lives what we want them to be. We cannot always have what we want, exactly when we want it, but we can move our lives in the direction we want.


I often joke with people that writing is the last thing remaining on my childhood to do list. It is the one thing that I hoped for that I have not yet completed to the level I wanted to. All the other stuff?

Happy relationship? Check.
Good relationships with friends? Check.
Lack of dysfunction? Check.
Rewarding career? Check.
Seeing the world? Check.
Skill and achievement in theater craft (specifically costumes)? Check.
PhD? Check.

It’s been a pretty good 46 years, even if it’s been busy. I don’t always like busy, but it seems that I must, some, because I always am. I am content. And when I’m not, in general, I can fix that.

It wouldn’t be much of a life going it alone. I think that if the one thing I did with my life was to be fifty percent of one of the best relationships on earth, well, that would be enough. Bryon and I are good together, equals, balanced, supportive. The rest is important, but to me, not as important as that.

I would like a little less hectic from time to time. I would like a little less stress. These are often, however, manufactured by me, and I work on that demon every day. But no, I wouldn’t do much differently. I want to be known in three ways.

1. As someone who had work that made a difference.
2. As a citizen of the world.
3. As an artist who produces good work.

So far, so good. I am content.


Project Get Mark a Job

The nice fellow who helps me with this website, Mark, is about to lose his job. His entire branch office is being closed. I could talk about how many times his employers have pulled a tactic like this because they want to make more money, but I’ll be doing an Occupy Wall Street post soon, so later on that.

Mark still needs a job.

Mark has been applying like mad in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor area, because the writing’s been on the wall for a while. He would prefer to stay in the area, but now he understands that he may need to cast his net a little wider.

This is where you come in. If you know of any computer guy type job, just let me know where the information is, and whom to apply to, and I’ll make sure Mark gets it.

Here are Mark’s skills particularly:

“My work experience has been pretty exclusively in IT. Specifically I’ve worked as Tech Support, Software Tester and a Data Analyst. I’m familiar with working on multiple OSes (WinXP, Windows 2000, Ubuntu Linux, CentOS). In my last 2 jobs, I’ve worked a lot with SQL; primarily MySQL though I’ve also worked with Microsoft SQL Server 2000.”

Mark has had experience with the following languages: Python, PHP, HTML, XML, CSS and SQL. He’s a smart guy. He can learn new ones.

No lead is too far away. I figure I know so many people, some of you have got to have leads. I’ve already had one just from asking an internet friend. If you know of any particularly good tech job sites, send that information along as well.

And thank you.


Updatery and Linkiness

Jaysus, but that was a mad, mad day at the office. Again, the idea that the ELA course of study needs a full time instructor is driven home to me, like a spike in the head driven.

But, I have done some writing tonight, and I’m catching up on social media now. Note I did my writing first. That’s important, like eating your vegetables important.

Today there are a couple of really interesting journals that I want to draw your attention to, and they’ve given me some pause.

The first comes from Sean Craven, talking about the idea that his self concept has shifted. It’s an eloquent essay, and given my background, it bears some commentary.

The second comes from Miranda Suri as she comments on the death of Steve Jobs, and his reminisces about the quality of his life.

Both of these posts have given me pause. I’ll be thinking about my responses and working on them very shortly.

All the VP Interviews have been conducted! Yes! Now I just have to wait for those 4 interviews to come back to me so I can post them. If you would like to apply peer pressure to those who haven’t gotten back to me, feel free to use the comments…

And I suppose I should talk a little bit about the Occupy ______ movement. Yup. I do have some thoughts. I know you aren’t surprised.

There should be a write up about the DC 52 reboot, now that some people have posted material to get you thinking. Yup, they did it wrong. Remember Napoleon leaving Russia, and Hitler’s forces leaving Russia–doomed repetition. Why does no one ever read about past mistakes?

Finally, I know i should talk to you about how my writing has changed as I’ve been gaining expertise hours, and how a lot of the study I’ve been doing lately about fiction is character-driven. And there should be a post round-up of friend’s writing.

So, I guess this was a get organized thread for me. For you, check out the excellent links, and stay tuned as I work my way through this material.


Good Saturday, Thoughtful Sunday

I had a really good Saturday. Bryon and I ran up to Decorah. There, we hooked up with fellow VP’er Matt Hughes and his wife. We ran around to some art studios, had an excellent dinner at La Rana, stayed over and headed for home today.

It was a good relaxing day, full of beautiful art and relaxing weather.


Upon being at home, there’s always a great many things to put right. Unpacking, errands, laundry, all the things we do to get ready for the work week.

And the footprint of my childhood intruded greatly at one point.

I won’t go into all the details of the latest row of domestic violence between my mother and my oldest brother. I only hear about these things because the service my mother uses for emergencies has my number as a contact, and doesn’t understand that I don’t want them to use it. I think their employees are very temporary. But nevertheless, they’ve had another run in. And I’ve vented and been angry elsewhere in my writing, so now I can reflect a bit.

You might wonder what that’s like for an adult survivor of a dysfunctional family. Every time my family tries to pull me back in, I have several decisions to make.

Continue reading “Good Saturday, Thoughtful Sunday”

Soooo Athletic!

The glamorous life of someone trying to get fit.

I have managed to rip my right oblique muscle, if you can believe that. All of my internet researches lead me to this conclusion. I appear to be a textbook case of it.

The good news is it’s not too severe. The bad news is I’m to rest it until it gets better. The experts say don’t use your abdominal muscles. And then, every website essentially says, “Yeah, like that’s going to happen! Haha! Poor you!” Because we always use our obliques, you know?

So. Ice, rest, and stretching. I probably wouldn’t be in this mess if I were more careful about stretching. Guys, always stretch. Don’t be a Schaff-Stump, ‘kay? Seriously. Plantar fasciitis? Because I didn’t stretch enough. I am the anti-stretching role model. That makes me a BAD role model.

Good, if rough, progress on the book. Shari Pitch. I love her because she’s snotty. You’ll love her because she’s…well, still snotty.

I’m off to Decorah this weekend to go see art galleries and fellow VP XIIIer Matt Hughes. It should be a wonderful autumn weekend.


Loose Stories

No, not the kind about promiscuity.

It looks like Drollerie Press is folding. Unfortunately, the owner has been very ill, and the two senior editors are doing their darnedest to revert rights to authors. In my case, I am free to shop Sister Night, Sister Moon elsewhere, as my contract stipulates I can do that in two years after publication, which it has been.

The Absent Willow Review is also folding. There will be one last, big good-bye, where every story is published. I think that’s the 15th of this month. And then, The Love Song of Oliver Toddle goes out in search of a home.

We’ll see what happens. Both of these stories were good enough to be published once, so there’s that at least.

That leaves me with the dilemma of Writers of the Future. No previously published story, however free and roaming in the wild might be, is acceptable. I’d like to enter. What are my options?

You might recall that last year I tried to write a novella. It’s pretty good in some ways, although it needs work. People were so taken with it at the Vegas workshop that they thought it should be a whole book. I believed them, and shelved it for the time being.

Then there’s Mark Twain’s Daughter. I guess we could try that when it comes back from rejection. I’m not sure if it’s a tad too esoteric for WotF, so there’s that.

But it’s most likely gonna have to be something new, because most of my short work is currently published or has been published. Which is quite the hardship I know, but it is the conundrum of the novel writer–we don’t have a lot of short work to circulate.

Perhaps I should pull some magical time out of hat and get around to writing that superhero girlfriend story.

It’s always hard to think about what to do when no one sets deadlines for you, and you want to do it all.


The Write Agenda and the Heritage Foundation: Studies in the Noise Machine

(You is used in the general second-person sense in this essay, rather than in any specific reference to any particular website. It is also used to address the readers of this essay.)

If any of you have read a book called The Republican Noise Machine by David Brock, you might recognize some of the commentary tactics being used by the website The Write Agenda. I am always leery of a group where I have to really dig to find who is the organizer/author/creator of a site. I also hate people masquerading as logicians when they’re not. I suspect that the The Write Agenda could learn more about this technique from the Heritage Foundation.

A short summary of The Noise Machine’s basic point is that much discourse in the United States is unsubstantiated argumentatively. Yet, there is a growing movement to accept unsubstantiated discourse as just as valid as the substantiated kind. We can see this in the growth of opinion-based journalism. I think that’s what’s going on with both of these web sites. I use the Heritage Foundation, as Brock uses it as an illustrative example in his book. Sometimes it helps to have a comparison when one has trouble seeing the trees in the forest individually.

Under the guise of logic, rhetoric and discourse in the field of publishing, The Write Agenda is launching a biased campaign against a variety of targets. The site purports that this is a logical exchange of ideas. If it were, would The Write Agenda feel the need to threaten readers if they disagreed with the site and agreed with the people TWA is writing against?

Bottomline? Keep an open mind, review all facts and above all . . . be careful what you post . . . it’s getting litigious out there! Lawsuits and Cease & Desist Letters against authors are on the rise. Loyalty to some self-proclaimed publishing “watchdogs” may have a price.

Pretty subtle, that. It looks like they want you to consider all the facts, but then they suggest that if you are for the people they are against, well, who knows what could happen to you…that’s pretty clear. I’m not sure how else I can read that sentence. If there is another intent, it’s time for a rewrite.

Let’s do an analysis of argumentative technique. At TWA, you can read a post about Yog’s Law. Let’s take a look at a tiny part of it. I could do this all day at the site, but I have a life, so we will only deal with one illustrative point. However, feel free to play this game yourself. It helps avert Alzheimer’s. So you can see the sentence in situ, it’s linked.

Continue reading “The Write Agenda and the Heritage Foundation: Studies in the Noise Machine”


Sorry guys. It was another work day that beat me about the head and shoulders. I pretty much got nothing accomplished today anywhere, although I did peg the cranky meter.


As I catch up on Internet posts and so forth tonight, I’m seeing a lot of writers talking about writers they perceive as better or more experienced writers, and talking about them with a sense of awe and reverence. There’s also some becoming modesty and self-effacement. But you know, I’m here to tell you that you’ve just got to cut it out.

Listen, when you say that I’ll never be able to write as well as Writer X, or Writer Y, my response is why not? I know what you mean to do is compliment Writer X and be modest, but there are a couple of important things to remember.

1. You may not be able to do what Writer X does, but Writer X can’t do what you do either. One of the writers of a book that is certainly going to make my best book list of 2011 suggested that she might not be able to write a book that is as good as Writer X’s. I really disagree. I enjoyed her first book more than I did Writer X’s. It was one of the freshest concepts I’ve seen in years. It bent the genre she wrote in in a lot of clever and interesting ways. It’s not impossible she could write a book that deep and true some day. And I’ll be there to read it.

2. I might actually prefer you to Writer Y. Another writer mentioned that a prolific writer was breaking into a new pantheon for middle graders (someone smells money!), and wondered if he should move a project up or way back accordingly. I’ve read this writer and Writer Y. I’d much rather read a book on this pantheon from this writer than Writer Y. The writer I like is less stilted and seems to be in touch with young readers much better. He probably can’t give Writer Y a run for his money in exposure, but quality? Yeah. No problem.

I guess the point that I’d like to make to all of us is that, you know, believe in your possibilities. Write as authentically as you can, to the best of your ability, keep building your craft, and get to the top of your game, and your unique voice and vision will see you through.

To paraphrase a president during election time, 2008, “Yes, you can.”

Now go out there and write me some books, damn it! Your books. Your true, original, unique, and wonderful books.

I’m going to bed.


What’s Up with Errol Klarion?

I’m writing this entry pretty much to the person who visited this site on October 3, 2011 searching for information on Errol Klarion and The Substance of Shadows. Because you obviously went through a lot of old posts that mentioned Errol. You are probably hoping for reading material, and have a sense of nostalgia.

First of all, the offer for the old stuff stands. I STILL have the ancient versions of those stories, as well as Searching for Your Soul. If that’s what you’re looking for, just drop me a line, and I can make that material available to you. I also have the Amanda Welkin stories, and any other works I produced at the Sugar Quill.


If you’re looking because you’re hoping to find out if I’m ever getting the novel I’m working on now done and published, let me give you some Klarion fast facts.

1. There will be 5 Klarion books. Two of them, prequels to the currently-titled Substance of Shadows, contain mainly characters you don’t know yet, with the exception of Professor Borgia and Balthazar. Substance is the third book in the series, but will, with luck, be the first book published.

2. Substance of Shadows was my critique book at Viable Paradise 2009, where I received a great many good ideas of how to revise it. For example, the Klarion stories are historical now, spanning 90 years from around 1840 to approximately 1910. I have changed some characters, added some characters, and cut some characters.

3. I haven’t really gotten back to Substance until 2011. I was working on another book, and that took some time.

4. I’ve been spending most of this year plotting the overall series, working on Book 3, and occasionally working on Book 1.

5. Substance ALMOST got an agent. However, it didn’t quite make the cut, and I am still an unrepresented writer who is working on a new envisioning of the material. And that’s okay. I don’t want this story out there until someone is really excited about it enough to represent it well.

6. I’ll be shouting any publication/representation details from the rooftops, so you’ll know.


If you are looking for Errol for some reason that I didn’t address above, just let me know. I’m easily contacted (there’s a contact on this very site!), and I’ll be happy to talk.

All righty. Time to work on that scene with Stephanus and his dad. Happy writing, all of you. Or happy reading.


Weekends Outside…

While I was undergoing Tamago withdrawal this weekend, I

sent out chapter 5 of Substance and got a really nice scene in on chapter 6.

Helped Bryon “Mad Science” Stump track down cardboard brick walls, red lights, and a Frankenstein head for this year’s Halloween them on the porch.

Watched Ingmar Bergman’s take on Mozart’s The Magic Flute. (There was singing. Who knew?)

Went out to lunch with our friend Allen on Saturday.


Talked about how we’d rather spend Halloween at Disney. To wit the following conversation:

Bryon: Yeah, but it’s only Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween.

Cath: Maybe they should have different kinds of Halloweens.

Bryon: Like Goofy’s More Scary Because You’re Not a Dumb Baby Halloween.

Cath: Good.

Bryon: Or Captain Hook’s You Asked for It Halloween.

Cath: Good.

Cath and Bryon: Or Malificent’s You Asked for It Now You’re Going to Pee Your Pants Horrific Halloween.


‘Cause we’re cultured like that.

It’s good to be back, guys.