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[sticky post] A "Winds of Patwin County" Giveaway!

I'm feeling generous now, so I'm doing a giveaway of "The Winds of Patwin County"!


First, I'm offering a free copy of the ebook to anyone who signs up for my "Story of the Week" mailing list. You can sign up here for the list. You will receive the ebook immediately upon signing up.


And second, I'm offering a free trade paperback copy of this novella to the first five people who leave a review (either positive or negative) on either GoodReads or Amazon.


That's all. I really hope you like my story and will spread the word far and wide about it.


The Winds of Patwin County Cover

[A-Z] V is for Victory!

VICTORY!


Sort of.


So I went and wrote twenty-six blog entries, including this one, one for each letter of the alphabet. I did it out of order, and got scolded for that, but who says the alphabet has to be in alphabetical order? In library school I learned that order is what you make it. Is the Library of Congress catalog system in alphabetical order? It most certainly is not. I rest my case.


Next year, though, I plan to do the alphabet in order.


But which alphabet?


Bwah ha ha haaaaaa!





This is the last post brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge.




[A-Z] E is for Episcopalian

Shield_of_the_US_Episcopal_ChurchSome of my earliest memories are of going to church at St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Cupertino, California. It was a small church, as I recall, and I was a typical kid in a typical church: active, nerdy, investigatory. My mom let me bring toys, of course, and there were coloring activities in the church bulletin and Sunday school classes, all designed to keep little kids like me from being too active and disruptive of the service. I don’t remember my baptism, of course, but I do remember being confirmed at that church by Bishop C. Shannon Mallory in 1982. I have a copy of the 1977 Book of Common Prayer that I received as a gift for that event.


As I grew older, of course, I grew away from the Episcopal Church. I went to a Catholic high school, but while there was a first Friday Mass every month, we weren’t all required to pray every morning and that sort of thing. There were elements of the Catholic Church and its theology that appealed to me, and elements that did not.


When I went to UC Davis, I sought out the nearest Episcopal Church, which was St. Martin’s, not too far away from the dorm I lived in. But then I found myself drawn into Intervarsity College Fellowship, and hung out with a more conservative crowd of Christians than I was used to. I went to a Baptist church for awhile, until I heard from the youth pastor there that all my gay and lesbian friends were going to Hell, at which point I decided I’d had enough.


For awhile I went to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Davis, which I liked for its social progressivism, but which didn’t quite sit right with me for its theology — or, rather, lack thereof.


So I wandered around for a bit. For awhile, I practiced Wicca. Then I explored the Bahá’í Faith for awhile, enchanted by its embrace of other theologies and mythic systems, as well as its socially progressive attitudes. But eventually I came to dislike some it its elements. At least one of my Bahá’í friends turned out to be rather homophobic, and while I don’t know if this represents the faith as a whole, it was hard not to make the connection.


When Jennifer and I met, I ended up going to a Methodist church for awhile. It was easy; after all, it was the church that her parents went to and it was located in our home town, and it was the church we got married in. I like the Methodist Church very much, but I confess it just didn’t feel like home to me.


So when we moved to Sacramento, I decided to start attending Trinity Episcopal Cathedral downtown. It definitely feels more home-like than any of the other churches and faiths I’d explored throughout my life, but there is still something missing. I’m not sure exactly what. The theology is there, the progressive social ideals are there. Maybe it’s just that I didn’t grow up there.


I know that one’s faith has a lot to do with how they’ve grown up. My experience with Christianity and with the Episcopal Church was, on the whole, very good, so I still identify as Christian (even though I’m more likely to say “Happy Zombie Jesus Day” rather than “Happy Easter”). But there are many toxic versions of the faith out there, some of them with far too much political power, and many people who have been deeply wounded by them and by practitioners, and this is a shame.




[A-Z] I is for Inconceivabilities

vizziniThere are number of things I can’t really conceive of, and this, of course, presents a problem in my writing. The earliest piece of advice that most writers get is “Write what you know”, which is actually pretty silly. Most writers, especially writers of speculative fiction, don’t know everything about which they’re writing. In The Fifth Hand, John Irving wrote about what it’s like to have a hand transplant, a subject that he has no experience with.


And all those worlds that science fiction and fantasy writers create for their fiction? They’re loosely based on what they already know, but most of it is just made up.


The same goes for horror fiction, of course. Stephen King has no idea what it’s like to deal with the sort of cosmic horror he created for It, but there it is anyway. And when I wrote “The Winds of Patwin County”, I had no idea what it was like to be in a marriage that was simultaneously falling apart and being rebuilt. Still have no idea what that’s like.


Some other things I have no idea about: what it’s like to grow up as a young girl in India. What it’s like to be a medical student. The nature of Hindu cosmology. How modern cosmological theory ties in with the nature of reality. What it might mean if the cosmic horizon which threatens to collapse reality actually reaches a quantum level and disrupts consciousness (I have no idea what that means; probably just nonsense). But these are all things that come up in my planned novel Padma.


Also: I don’t know what it’s like to be a young widowed mother living in a mining colony on a distant planet, whose child has been kidnapped by powerful forces intent on preventing the fulfillment of a prophecy. This is for my planned trilogy The Outer Darkness.


And, finally: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman of mixed African/Cuban descent. This is coming up in Code Monkey, though since my main character in that novel is a computer programmer sort of out of his depth in his job, the situation is not as dire.


So according to ancient writing wisdom, I shouldn’t write about these things because I have no direct knowledge of these things. I maintain, though, that I can. There are some experiences that are universal and can be extrapolated to unknown situations. I’ve never wanted to kill anyone, but I’ve been full of rage at points in my life, so can extrapolate from that.


Other experiences can be researched, of course. I know nothing of growing up in India, but that’s easily researched. What it’s like to be a female medical student? Probably a little harder to research, simply because I’d have to interview a couple at least and I’m quite, quite shy. Maybe I should just track down the primary care physician I had a few years ago. She was good, and probably can share some of her experience with me.


That’s all I’m going to post about today, I think. I have an infected hangnail which makes typing a little difficult, shoulder pain, and a headache. The kobolds are slowly fading away, thank goodness.


And you?





The A-Z Blogging Challenge? Inconceivable!




[A-Z] I is for Inconceivabilities

vizziniThere are number of things I can’t really conceive of, and this, of course, presents a problem in my writing. The earliest piece of advice that most writers get is “Write what you know”, which is actually pretty silly. Most writers, especially writers of speculative fiction, don’t know everything about which they’re writing. In The Fifth Hand, John Irving wrote about what it’s like to have a hand transplant, a subject that he has no experience with.


And all those worlds that science fiction and fantasy writers create for their fiction? They’re loosely based on what they already know, but most of it is just made up.


The same goes for horror fiction, of course. Stephen King has no idea what it’s like to deal with the sort of cosmic horror he created for It, but there it is anyway. And when I wrote “The Winds of Patwin County”, I had no idea what it was like to be in a marriage that was simultaneously falling apart and being rebuilt. Still have no idea what that’s like.


Some other things I have no idea about: what it’s like to grow up as a young girl in India. What it’s like to be a medical student. The nature of Hindu cosmology. How modern cosmological theory ties in with the nature of reality. What it might mean if the cosmic horizon which threatens to collapse reality actually reaches a quantum level and disrupts consciousness (I have no idea what that means; probably just nonsense). But these are all things that come up in my planned novel Padma.


Also: I don’t know what it’s like to be a young widowed mother living in a mining colony on a distant planet, whose child has been kidnapped by powerful forces intent on preventing the fulfillment of a prophecy. This is for my planned trilogy The Outer Darkness.


And, finally: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman of mixed African/Cuban descent. This is coming up in Code Monkey, though since my main character in that novel is a computer programmer sort of out of his depth in his job, the situation is not as dire.


So according to ancient writing wisdom, I shouldn’t write about these things because I have no direct knowledge of these things. I maintain, though, that I can. There are some experiences that are universal and can be extrapolated to unknown situations. I’ve never wanted to kill anyone, but I’ve been full of rage at points in my life, so can extrapolate from that.


Other experiences can be researched, of course. I know nothing of growing up in India, but that’s easily researched. What it’s like to be a female medical student? Probably a little harder to research, simply because I’d have to interview a couple at least and I’m quite, quite shy. Maybe I should just track down the primary care physician I had a few years ago. She was good, and probably can share some of her experience with me.


That’s all I’m going to post about today, I think. I have an infected hangnail which makes typing a little difficult, shoulder pain, and a headache. The kobolds are slowly fading away, thank goodness.


And you?




[A-Z] Y is for Yaar!

pirates-of-THE-caribbean-logoSo, every year there is the Northern California Pirate Festival over in Vallejo. I’ve never been, but I hear it’s good fun. You know, the usual: pillaging, looting, setting fire to things, general villainy, and good music. Actually, the main thing I hear is that it’s basically a good excuse to spend a day drinking. It sounds like fun to me. Of course I like pirates just as much as the next day ever since the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out and the first Talk Like a Pirate Day was celebrated. I haven’t written any pirate stories (though I’ve started one), but I’ve had them in some of the Dungeons and Dragons games that I’ve run. In that sense, pirates are fun. I’ve just never been to the festival.


But people I know who have been tell me that it reminds them a lot of the old Renaissance Pleasure Faire: lots of people, lots of food, lots of actors interacting with the customers, and lots of opportunities to spend money.


Did I ever tell you that I used to work at the Renaissance Faire? I did, back when it was in Black Point Forest near Novato in northern California. I was a street actor with St. Swithin’s, the Mongers Guild. As a Monger, I would affect the persona of a tinker who would offer to fix any broken items that the customers might have. Later on, I took on the mantel of barber surgeon, which was a lot more fun because I could interact with customers even more loudly and closely. I also participated in Pye Powder Court, a stage act where people would bring outrageous claims before a judge who would decide on a verdict and render a punishment.


Good times. I miss them. I made a number of great friends and enjoyed myself tremendously. It’s been about two decades, but I still get short of breath thinking of the march up and down Cardiac Hill where the actors camped at night, I remember the smell of the specialty vinegar stand at the base of Cardiac Hill. I remember the cups of chai we would get each morning before warming up for the day’s activities.  It was hot, dusty, smelly work, and I loved it.


Years ago, the Faire lost its lease at Black Point Forest, which ended up being sold to a developer who turned it into a golf course (one reason why I don’t play golf to this day — sheer vengeance). Now, the Faire is located in some locale too far away for me to make on a weekly basis, and I haven’t been to one in years. I’ve been to the Dickens Faire in Oakland, which is a lot of fun and is run by the same people, I understand, but it just doesn’t have the same feel.


And I doubt the Northern California Pirate Festival would have the same feel as well. Like so many other periods of my life, my memories of the Renaissance Faire are tied to specific people and places, and I’d rather keep those memories intact rather than try to recreate them.


On the other hand, the chance to hang out with over two thousand costumed pirates does sound kind of fun…




[A-Z] U is for Ukulele

I’m behind on the A-Z blogging challenge. Woefully so. Partially because I’ve been busy; sometimes I write my blog posts during my breaks at work, but lately work has been so busy that I haven’t been able to take breaks. And my evenings have been busy as well, what with my writers’ group and other commitments (that television won’t watch itself, after all). Plus, I just haven’t been sure what to write. So today I decided I was going to use the letter U, and put a call out on Twitter and Facebook for words that begin with U. One response (from my sister) was Ukulele, so that’s the word I chose.


I don’t really have that many thoughts about ukuleles. I like the way they sound when played well. They seem to be popular, especially among nerds, but I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because of Molly Lewis or Garfunkel and Oates.


I thought briefly about learning how to play the ukulele. There are several musical instruments I’ve thought briefly about learning how to play. When I was young, I took piano lessons, but they wMV5BMjA3NDUyMDA1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzM3NDI0Mg@@._V1_SY317_CR10,0,214,317_AL_ere at the same time as my favorite Saturday morning television show, Land of the Lost. This, by the way, is a show that does not hold up upon watching as an adult. Even with scripts by notables such as Larry Niven, Ben Bova, David Gerrold, and so on, the show was clunky and silly. I sometimes regret the life choices I made as a seven year old child. But, on the other hand, the show had time travel, parallel dimensions, aliens, and, of course, dinosaurs, elements that certainly affected my creative proclivities as an adult.


Soon after college, in those “floating years”, I decided to learn how to play the fiddle, because I was entranced with Irish folk music (particularly with the bands Tempest and Golden Bough). I couldn’t afford to pay for lessons, but I did find someone who was willing to teach me in exchange for food. I took a few lessons on an instrument I rented, then ended up delivering pizzas for Pizza Hut and my schedule no longer allowed me to take the lessons. I returned the fiddle, and never played again.


But back to the ukulele. Of all the ukulele players I know of (and, I can count them on one hand) my favorite is, of course, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. And my favorite song of his is his medley of “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” (the video of which I’m linking to below). Actually, I really can’t listen to this song without crying these days. That’s because I downloaded the song onto my MP3 player about six years ago, and on the day that Tangerine got sick I listened to that song over and over and over and over and over again, especially as I was driving her to the emergency vet for the last time. Even now, as I write these words, I’m starting to get a little weepy. So I’m going to wrap this up. I’ll catch up on the challenge later today.





 


La la la, it’s the A-Z Blogging Challenge, doo be doo.




[A-Z] F is for Fuzz!

fuzz


Our friends L and G seem to have the ability to attract stray and feral cats in the neighborhood. This is through no fault of their own; they just happen to have huge neon “SUCKER” signs attached to their heads


So while L and G went off to visit family back east a couple of weeks ago, one of the strays in the neighborhood, a chunky young she-cat that they hadn’t gotten around to naming, gave birth to six tiny kittens.


“Kittens!” Jennifer squealed at me. “They have kittens! We have to visit the kittens!” I figured this was a good idea, not just because I happen to like kittens as well, but also it would help get my mind off of Rosemary.


Then this morning L was talking to Jennifer about how fostering another six kittens would be a serious chore. Jennifer turned to me and said “It’s too bad you’re not interested in fostering kittens, you know.”


So I thought about it and realized that it might not be so bad. “Why not?” I said. “Let’s do it.”


We, too, have bright neon SUCKER signs on our foreheads.


So, basically, we have acquired seven new cats: a young mama cat (we have no idea how old she really is, and cats are notoriously reticent about giving out their age when asked) and six babies — five orange, and one tuxedo. We’ve decided to dub them the Supernatural Kitties, and name them after various characters from the show Supernatural. And hopefully tomorrow I’ll get a LiveStream account and a webcam so that we can peek in on the kittens any time we want.


Right now the kittens are incredibly young, a week or two at the most. Their ears have popped up, but their eyes have yet to open. The mama cat — Ruby — is still very protective of them. She’s also a bit shy and nervous with us, and we haven’t been able to coax her out of her box to eat or drink water or use the litter box. We’re confident, though, that she’ll come around. She’s not feral, and must have been exposed to people at some point in her life.


The other cats are somewhat perturbed by this state of affairs, but only because the new kittens are currently being kept in the spare room where we used to feed Rosie. Azzie and Rupert are still convinced that yummy wet food lies just beyond the closed door, even though Rosie isn’t in there any more.


Brand new kittens. New fuzz in the house.


Yeah. This makes me happy.




This fuzzy wuzzy blog post brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge.




[A-Z] F is for Fuzz!

fuzz


Our friends L and G seem to have the ability to attract stray and feral cats in the neighborhood. This is through no fault of their own; they just happen to have huge neon “SUCKER” signs attached to their heads


So while L and G went off to visit family back east a couple of weeks ago, one of the strays in the neighborhood, a chunky young she-cat that they hadn’t gotten around to naming, gave birth to six tiny kittens.


“Kittens!” Jennifer squealed at me. “They have kittens! We have to visit the kittens!” I figured this was a good idea, not just because I happen to like kittens as well, but also it would help get my mind off of Rosemary.


Then this morning L was talking to Jennifer about how fostering another six kittens would be a serious chore. Jennifer turned to me and said “It’s too bad you’re not interested in fostering kittens, you know.”


So I thought about it and realized that it might not be so bad. “Why not?” I said. “Let’s do it.”


We, too, have bright neon SUCKER signs on our foreheads.


So, basically, we have acquired seven new cats: a young mama cat (we have no idea how old she really is, and cats are notoriously reticent about giving out their age when asked) and six babies — five orange, and one tuxedo. We’ve decided to dub them the Supernatural Kitties, and name them after various characters from the show Supernatural. And hopefully tomorrow I’ll get a LiveStream account and a webcam so that we can peek in on the kittens any time we want.


Right now the kittens are incredibly young, a week or two at the most. Their ears have popped up, but their eyes have yet to open. The mama cat — Ruby — is still very protective of them. She’s also a bit shy and nervous with us, and we haven’t been able to coax them out of her box to eat or drink water or use the litter box. We’re confident, though, that she’ll come around. She’s not feral, and must have been exposed to people at some point in her life.


The other cats are somewhat perturbed by this state of affairs, but only because the new kittens are currently being kept in the spare room where we used to feed Rosie. Azzie and Rupert are still convinced that yummy wet food lies just beyond the closed door, even though Rosie isn’t in there any more.


Brand new kittens. New fuzz in the house.


Yeah. This makes me happy.




This fuzzy wuzzy blog post brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge.




[A-Z] P is for Picture Show (Rocky Horror)

the_rocky_horror_picture_show_poster


Just yesterday I wound up listening to the soundtrack for the Rocky Horror Picture Show at work. It was pretty awesome. Although it’s been a good twenty years since I last saw that film, I still know most of the songs by heart, and can still recite the audience participation lines for them as well. Of course, I didn’t do that at my desk at work. Nor did I get up to do the Time Warp when that song came on (though a co-worker did suggest we could have a Time Warp dance mob in our conference room).


Listening to the album left me nostalgic for my high school and early college years. It was my friend Brad Sunday who introduced me and several other members of our high school science fiction club to Rocky Horror; somehow he’d acquired a VHS copy and played it during an after school meeting (bear in mind this was a Catholic high school, and it was done with a teacher’s permission). He taught us some of the audience participation lines (but not all — because Catholic high school) and when and where to throw toast and toilet paper at the screen, so that when we finally went to the real thing, we wouldn’t be unprepared.


Me, I didn’t go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show until I was in college at UC Davis, and then for awhile I really got into it. With my friends P. and T., I drove into Sacramento just about every weekend, often twice a weekend. I threw the toilet paper, I shouted the lines, I danced the Time Warp in the aisles, and I even played Eddie in the floor show one night. That was fun.


Nowadays, it’s hard to find the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Certainly it’s nowhere here in Sacramento. It might be playing regularly in some small theater in San Francisco or Berkeley, but those theaters are just hard for me to get to. I went to the Berkeley show once, about fifteen years ago, with a bunch of friends, but that’s about it. Nowadays, if I want to see it locally I have to wait until June (when the Sacramento Horror Film Festival rolls into town) or Halloween.


And perhaps that’s for the best. I’m past the age where staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning appeals to me, and, of course, that was part of the whole experience. I’m still young enough to be appalled that Fox is considering making a two-hour television version of the movie, but too old to want to go and dress up as Eddie again.


Or maybe I should go in June. Maybe I should go, just to do the Time Warp one last time.





Let’s do the A-Z Blogging Challenge again!




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