Monday, May 23, 2011


I'm sure that if you haven't been under a rock for the past 24 hours, you know about the EF4 tornado that blew apart the city of Joplin in southwest Missouri. About two hours before that, my current city narrowly escaped an EF2 tornado that tore a chunk out of North Minneapolis. Damage was reported less than five miles from my place.

Needless to say I'm a little shaken today. I spent much of my life within a 150 miles of Joplin, have been there and have friends with families there. Everyone I know/know of there is well and in one piece, but many people are not, and the damage is extraordinary. I've BEEN to that Walmart that was obliterated. I've seen that convenience store. It's just unthinkable. I know awful natural disasters happen all the time, but this one really hits close to home. I've been close to tears on and off all day reading about/seeing the damage in articles and photos.

If you can, please donate $10 to the Red Cross by texting REDCROSS to 90999. It will add ten bucks to your next month's phone bill. Joplin needs it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I am absolutely convinced that I have a weather curse. When I travel, or when I move somewhere, there will be severe/unseasonably severe weather. When I moved to Arkansas, they had the worst winter anyone could remember. When I moved to Ohio, the university closed for snow days for the first time in 13 years. When I moved to Baltimore, they had the hottest, driest summer in years. When I moved away from Baltimore, I was followed by a tropical storm and wandered back into the hottest, driest summer there had been in Arkansas in a long time. Most recently, I moved to Minnesota and we had the longest, coldest, snowiest winter since 1991. I was also told that tornadoes almost never happen here, yet we've had two tornadoes touch down in the area in the past two weeks. I happened to be out on the balcony watching the storm come in when I saw the rotating wall cloud mentioned. Fortunately it never produced a tornado in this area.

Such is my weather curse. If I ever move near you...I'm sorry.

Aside from the severe weather, though, it's finally spring in Minnesota and it's quite nice. The only other problem is that I'm allergic to something here (probably some kind of tree) and my seasonal asthma has returned. I'm back to being surgically fused to my inhaler and doped up on allergy drugs galore. This is not, unfortunately, helping my current state of mind. You see, I lost my job a little over a month ago. It's a long and sordid story, but the fact of the matter is, I now have to move somewhere by the end of July, and I have to find out where that somewhere is ASAP. I'm certainly not without options even if I don't get another teaching job, but I sort of need to know, like, last week. The interviewing process takes time, which is something I don't have much of.

And yet, I have too much of it. Kate of Candlemark & Gleam and Tiger are coming to visit at the end of June and we're all going to CONvergence, and I start online teaching at the beginning of July, but until then, the unstructured time might just do me in. I am really bad at relaxing and having too much time to myself. I am getting stuff done, primarily revising On a Twisted Tree again and editing Natania Barron's Pilgrim of the Sky, and I've been leaving the house for a while every day, but I've still gone a bit stir crazy this week. Part of that is because I managed to upset my bum foot on a six-mile hike along the river, and now I'm unable to walk for long periods like I'd prefer.

It seems like everything has piled up on me at once like a big wet blanket of suck. I could use a break from it. But, I am getting revisions/edits done, and I found all seven seasons of Big Cat Diary on Netflix Instant Play. I used to watch it whenever it was on Animal Planet as a teenager. Yeah, I'm totally nerdtastic.

Friday, May 13, 2011

It is an Editing Day

I've been pecking away at some edits of On a Twisted Tree after Tiger had a pass at it. Today I got into the first substantial ripping apart of scenes, where Tiger noted some pacing issues. I spent a good two and a half hours on two scenes, complete with much screaming and hair-tearing. Fortunately these scenes seem to be the biggest issue in the entire book, so if I get them patched up, the rest should (might) be a bit easier.

There are some issues with some secondary characters, and I don't know if I'm too mentally tired to deal with them or what, but I just can't figure out how to fix them. There's one character in particular who's kind of featureless. He's always been that way in my mind, so I have a hard time figuring him out enough to put him on paper. I'll have to come back to him, I suppose. I hate when that happens because characterization is one thing I'm generally very good at.

So, now that I've exhausted myself with my own edits, I'm about to dive into Natania Barron's Pilgrim of the Sky. I saw a very early version of it but haven't seen it in quite some time, so I'm excited to get to read it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Why We Need Monsters

My most recent Netflix obsession is Destination Truth, which is like Ghost Hunters but with legendary creatures instead of spirits (most of the time). Most of the investigations prove inconclusive, but the host maintains that legends like this persist because they're integral to part of the culture they belong to. The question is, why?

Recently, I saw an episode set in the Amazon rainforest. I don't remember what the creature was, exactly, but one of the experts posited that the native people sometimes claim they see the monster when they really see a jaguar, because being scared of a jaguar is far less legit than being scared of a gigantic lengendary creature. Most of us Western folk are sure being scared of a 200-lb cat that can eat your face is pretty damn legit, but I guess if you live in the jungle you're supposed to be used to it.

It seems that's the role of supernatural creatures in any society, really: to have something it's okay to be scared of. Take  mainstream American culture. We're not supposed to be afraid of any number of terrifying things in the average adult's life: work, relationships, parenting, bills, whatever. When you live out in the country, you're a pussy if you're scared of tornadoes and snakes and bears. You should be wary of them, but you shouldn't show it. We're expected to just deal with it, like the Amazonian natives are expected to deal with jaguars, because this is the life we're born into. It's the life we tell ourselves we've chosen to live (because Americans are all about choice). But who, honestly, ISN'T scared of these things?

So we have to give ourselves an outlet, something that we are allowed to fear, whether it's ghosts or gnomes or Bigfoot or werewolves or El Chupacabra or whatever. Even (maybe especially) in our ultra-logical American culture, urban legends persist despite evidence to the contrary. And rather than scoff at these legends, many people embrace them--and really, they ought to. They're coping mechanisms. We have any number of shows like Ghost Hunters and Destination Truth because we love to think that there might be real critters or real spirits out there. We like horror movies, especially monster movies, for the same reason. We love UF and horror because even if there's no plausible reason to believe that these magical beings exist, it's an outlet for our fears.

This need for an outlet is one of the many reasons why I think people are obsessed with paranormal stories. They really aren't anything new, but in the past ten years, they've grown wildly popular. And it's no wonder. What happened ten years ago? 9/11, anyone? Americans live in constant, legitimate anxiety over real-life issues of terrorism. But as we've seen from many people's reactions to Osama Bin Laden's death, it seems like we're all supposed to be over it. I mean, it happened soooo long ago. (This just goes to show how short the American memory span seems to be getting.)

So it's gauche to say, "Look, I'm afraid every time I get on a plane that it's going to get hijacked." In order to make this fear more legit, we have to add, say, motherfucking snakes on that motherfucking plane. It seems ridiculous, but is it? Sure, when you live in the country you're not supposed to live in fear of the occasional copperhead or rattler, but when there are snakes dropping out of the overhead bins? The stuff of nightmares, dude.

Of course, UF is not always terrifying; it's not horror, where the general mood or tone is one of fear. But we still want to believe that supernatural creatures exist among us in the world we're familiar with, whether they're our friends or our enemies. Sometimes we humanize them, give them our problems (relationship troubles, late bills, broken down cars). Sometimes we make their lives ideal (mansions, six-car garages, Swiss bank accounts). But in UF, especially, the antagonist (or one of them) is always supernatural. Man vs. the paranormal and the extraordinary. This theme goes back to the dawn of time, to Gilgamesh and Beowulf. We're all totally allowed, at least within the framework of the story, to be afraid of the supernatural. When we're not supposed to be afraid that we won't be able to pay bills and eat at the same time this week, we can turn to supernatural stories instead. In a way, it's cathartic.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Revision finished!

Today I finished the revision of On a Twisted Tree. Or at least, the first major revision. It comes in at around 117k, which is 6000 words longer than the original draft. Most people trim. I end up expanding. Ha.

I'm trying not to sink into the post-novel "aww, man, what do I do now?!" blues. Because I have another novel to plot and other projects to work on. The sequel to Tree is still very amorphous in my mind, but so was Tree when I first started out. I just have to tease out that one major thread of plot that needs to be solved. It's very hard not to sit down and go at it immediately, but I honestly could probably use a mental break, and my work semester isn't 100% over until next Thursday.

I have another blog post of substance brewing in the meantime. I just need the first line, which, to quote Thomas Tallis from The Tudors, is almost everything.