I will be at Readercon, one of my favorite conventions, starting this Thursday. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and discovering new writers. I read Thursday evening at nine from a forthcoming (July 31st) short story on tor.com, “All the Snake Handlers I Know Are Dead.” I’m also on a couple of panels, one about the wonderful fiction of Maureen McHugh, who is also the guest of honor; and another about the reexamination of the Civil War mythos, largely in the clutches of the Lost Cause folks since the war, in fantastic literature. I’ve done a bit of that. Most recently in “Christmas in Hollywood Cemetery” in the anthology Remapping Richmond’s Hallowed Ground. After Readercon I’m off to Norton Island off the coast of Maine for a couple of weeks of intensive writing. I have more publication news I can’t reveal yet. Â Life is very good indeed.
The Successful Writer
The story’s story is no writer’s friend.
The path to glory distracts and wearies.
A story’s a story because it lies.
Some days, redemption is writing well,
Rounding up the words and making them small.
Some days—the hard ones—is not to write at all.
3 Haiku for Creation
God wakes, looks around,
Makes everything he sees
But can’t see himself.
Man wakes, makes a sound,
Names everything he sees,
Calls the mirror, God.
Woman never sleeps:
She builds the fire, throws the pot,
Cooks the dawn inside.
I’ll be at Ravencon this weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, on a variety of panels about everything from Downton Abbey to sf art films. It’s a small, friendly, affordable con. The Guests of Honor this year are Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. If you come, say hello. I’m the skinny bald guy with the white beard.
Easter Was Hard
Easter was hard for my young mind to grasp.
Chocolate bunnies laying eggs, Mom hunched
Over the dining room table blowing
The insides from raw ones Dad whipped into
a froth, scrambled, and we boys then devoured.
Watched Mom clear the table, paint the hollow
Shells with delicate brushes until they
Took your breath away. While Jesus suffered,
Died, a horrible, heartbreaking story,
But wait! That was Good News somehow because
God meant to kill his Son for us and Sin.
He didn’t really die.Â You won’t either.
The virgins wore hats like flowering shrubs.
I got a new jacket, too big and white.
Grace Under Pressure:Â A Vegan Single-Pot meal.
Soak 1 pound dry beans 8 hours or so, any kind of beansâ€”chickpeas, pintos, black, red, cranberry, great northern, navy, etc.Â Rinse and put in pressure cooker.Â I use a 4-Qt. stainless steel Presto.Â If you love beans, a pressure cooker will save hours of your cooking life.
Add a 15 oz. can of cooked diced tomatoes, juice included.Â I use no-salt organic Muir Glen.Â You may use Rotel or similar or add your own diced peppers.Â I use a lot of jalapeÃ±os and roasted red peppers.
Add three cups liquid.Â This can be water, broth, a mix of water with some soymilk or coffee or fruit juice or whatever suits your beans and spices and imagination.Â A little low-sodium tamari, liquid smoke, your favorite hot sauce.
Add spices.Â Go ahead.Â Stir them in.Â You can use chili powders, curry powders, etc.Â 2+ tablespoons to taste.Â You’ll have the chance to adjust the spices.
Add crushed cloves of garlic, lemon zest, fresh ginger, etc.
Chop up 12-16 ounces of greensâ€”spinach, collard, kaleâ€”or use a bag of frozen (no thawing necessary).Â Pack the chopped greens on top of the bean and liquid mixture.
Peel and cut an onion (I prefer red, but any kind is fine) and cut it into eighths, so that you make onion “shingles” to lay over the top of everything.Â The arrangement is important because it keeps anything from flying up and blocking the vents on the pressure cooker.
Bring to pressure and allow to cook for 18 minutes, and let pressure fall of its own accord.
When you open the pressure cooker, adjust liquid and spices, cooking a little to allow to thicken.Â Serve with brown rice or quinoa or by itself.
If the beans aren’t cooked after 18 minutes, close it up and cook a few more minutes.Â Time and liquid amounts can vary with equipment and beans, etc.
It’s even better the second day.Â Divine on the third.
Mr. Cheese at Dusk
I couldn’t give up cheese, my neighbor says,
When I tell him what I eat since I almost died.
Mr. Cheese, leaning on the lamp post, laughs
To hear this now familiar refrain.
He follows me around just to hear it.
It makes his day, such heartfelt devotion,
Clearly evidenced by my neighbor’s waist.
Cheese always wins. My students, in stories
Can find places they’ve never been beforeâ€”
Inside themselves, an undiscovered crossroadsâ€”
And thenâ€¦ they hitch a ride with Mr. Cheese
For a car chase (goes without saying, right?)
A vampire, a serial killer, both.
The whole fucking thing’s like just a dream, right?
How cool is that? Cheese asks, laughing so hard
He can’t stop. No one can stop Mr. Cheese.
Down the street we see three deliverers,
Blinkers flashing, carrying Cheese in their arms,
Swaddled to keep him warm. Come baby, come,
Come let’s adore him, baked into a pie.
Mr. Cheese, he stick with you till you die.
My lovely wife Sarah has been working long and hard to bring a hostel to Richmond, and the fruits of her labor are starting to pay off. Michael Paul Williams did an extremely nice piece in the Times-Dispatch. Check it out: Planned Hostel Would Bring World to Richmond.
This has been a wonderful year for me, though not at all in the way I expected or hoped for, but that’s the way with good years, isn’t it? Â I had just finished one novel with promising prospects, and was into another I had high hopes for. Â The marketplace shrugged at both. Â I shrugged back.
Then I literally was called back to teaching fiction writing in February, receiving a call a few weeks into the semester asking if I would take over an advanced fiction writing class for an ailing colleague. Â I’m not sure how effective I was, but I had a great time and met some wonderful young writers. Â That led to a summer workshop and two in the fall, and another this spring. Â I want to thank my students for showing me a wonderful time. Â The experience has energized my short fiction as well. Â I don’t know the publication date yet, but I just sold a story to Lightspeed Magazine which was particularly gratifying because it’s a new, ambitious piece that represents the kind of work I most want to do now. Â Besides, Lightspeed is totally cool.
I’m looking forward to attending ICFA this year again in March and returning to Readercon in July. Â I’ve been asked about other events, but nothing is confirmed yet. Â Now that I have finally licked the muscle pain that plagued me for a couple of years, I can travel againâ€”not to mention sit comfortably for a panel discussion.
About that pain. Â I had made the rounds of physical therapists, acupuncturists, spinal injections, etc., and though it would get better for a while, it would always come roaring back. Â Finally, my new cardiologist asked if I’d tried going off statins. Â I was taking Crestor at the time. Â I had, but had had the idea nixed by other medical professionals. Â When I quit, the results were dramatic. Â Within a few weeks of being off the statins, my pain steadily retreated. Â As I have stated elsewhere, I also changed my diet in response to my heart ailments instead of dosing it and I feel infinitely better.
Another reason this has been a great year is yoga. Â I have always hated any kind of exercise classes. Â It was only through Sarah’s persistent suggestion (some would say nagging) that I gave it a try. Â (Thank you, Sarah). Â When I found a really good instructor, Viktoriya Kosta, I quickly became hooked. Â Mind and body both are better for it. Â Namaste, Viktoriya.
I’ve started another novelâ€”I can’t help myselfâ€”and I have a half-dozen stories in various stages of completion. Â For the first time in years, there are no doctor’s appointments looming in my future. Â Sarah, Ethel, and I plan on lots of walks to the river. Â Life is good on Maplewood. Â I like 2013 already.