Saturday, August 30, 2008

Honey and beer

Well, the foaming of the wort finally subsided, and the fermentation settled into a steady bubbling. This was my cue to prep the honey. I took a couple cups of water and heated them in a pot, then added the pound of raw honey, stirring until it'd pretty much dissolved. I took a taste, and let me tell you, there's no doubt that this is a honey mix. Other than the texture, it tasted exactly like the honey before I diluted it. Happily, I opened the fermenter and poured the sweet mixture in. It foamed up instantly, but not enough to reach the airlock. I closed the lid back up and it's been bubbling steadily for the last couple of days. It's slowing down now, but I probably won't be able to bottle until next weekend. We'll see.

In other beer news, we went to Central Market to stock up on some luxury consumables (and wine) and while there I took the opportunity to grab a six pack of New Belgian Brewery's wonderful 1554 Enlightenment Black Ale. Bruce Sterling introduced me to the thick, chocolaty beverage some years back at a Turkey City event, and I've had a passion for it ever since. I almost didn't get it, though, because my eye was caught by Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale. Anyone who knows me knows I love nut brown ale, and this sorely tempted me. But I really, really wanted the heavier punch of the 1554, so I put Tommyknocker on my wish list for next time. I did, however, indulge myself with a bottle of Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale from the singles section. I'd tried to homebrew blueberry ale in the past and failed to get a respectable blueberry flavor in my beer (fingers are crossed for my mead). But this Bar Harbor drink did a pretty darn good job of turning the trick. Nice blueberry aroma, and a nice blueberry flavor once you get past the initial hoppyness. I'm not a huge hops fan, but they came close to balancing everything just right. Next time I'll probably pick up some more. Have I mentioned how much I love the explosion of craft beers and microbreweries in the past decade?

Now Playing: Stan Getz/João Gilberto Getz/Gilberto

Inauspicious debut

Losing to Arkansas State is not how I'd have wished the debut of Texas A&M's new coach Mike Sherman to go. Listening to the game over the radio, I heard some good things--in particular, the return of the famed "toss sweep" that was used to punishing effect by the likes of Greg Hill, Rodney Thomas and Darren Lewis in the glory days of R.C. Slocum's tenure at A&M. But there was simply too much inconsistent play, mental lapses and stupid mistakes to enable an A&M win. I guess it was too much to expect a thin team learning an entirely new system to come out firing on all cylinders.

I haven't given up hope on Sherman yet. Fundamentally, he should be a good coach for the team over the long haul. But this humbling loss reminds me a great deal of Jackie Sherrill's disastrous debut against Boston College in '82. I just hope Sherman manages to put together a better record than Jackie managed that first year...

Now Playing: Stan Getz/João Gilberto Getz/Gilberto

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Night Videos

I'm feeling a little off the wall today, so how about listening to some "Mexican Radio" from Wall of Voodoo?

A classic tune to be sure, but maybe it's a little dated. Not the most politically correct lyrics, either. How about I make it all better with the Vallejo version?

You can never have too much Mexican Radio.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Missing Persons.

Now Playing: The Kinks Face to Face

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Of politics and such

After watching the final night of the Democratic Convention, a few thoughts:

1) I still wish Al Gore were the nominee for president. Or better yet, the lame duck incumbent passing the torch to Obama. If he'd campaigned in 2000 with half the vigor and passion he showed tonight, this country wouldn't be in such a fucked up state.

2) Obama is the most gifted public speaker I've ever seen. And I've seen a few in my time. He's such a natural, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if someone told me he didn't write his speech out in advance, but rather decided to wing it. He spoke for what--45 minutes?--and not one flub. Not one stammer or tongue-tied stumble. That's amazing. He will literally mop the floor with John McCain in the anticlimactic yet inevitable non-debates the media continues to refer to as presidential debates. Lincoln-Douglas they ain't. Look it up.

3) Whoever designed Obama's "O" logo needs a bonus. Or a raise. It is brilliant marketing on so many levels it's not funny. On the basic level, it does the important things--incorporate the red, white and blue patriotic colors, and works in Old Glory as well. The O, a circle, is a powerful visual cue and immediately sets him apart from the standard rectangular political signs. This is all very good, but the next piece kicks it up to 11. The hole in the O bleeds into the blue body of the letter, evocative of the sun--a rising sun, over the undulating landscape formed by the flag. Those of you with long memories may recall Ronald Reagan's devastatingly powerful "Morning in America" campaign slogan from the 1980 campaign. Coupled with Obama's downright Reagan ease in front of an audience (not to mention television cameras) this subtle coopting of a Republican icon's signature campaign theme is equal parts inspired and audacious.

I'm still unsure if he will win this thing--how he responds to continuous bare-knuckled attacks by the Republicans over the next two months will lay that question to rest one way or another. But goodness, he still impresses me more each time I see him.

Now Playing: Ray Davies Thanksgiving Day


Hey kids, it's that time again--time for a new installment of my universe-spanning fantasy adventure, MEMORY. When last we left Flavius, he was stuck in the middle of a bizarre formal dinner. Will Flavius rise to the occasion and blend in with the arch ritual of the Eternal Dominion? What do you think?
Through the crowd, Flavius spotted Parric. Remembering the mysterious featherscale, he waved as his table drifted along.

“Hoo! Parric! Over here!” he shouted, drawing startled stares and whispered comments throughout the dining hall. “No, nae that way, ya stupid table. How do ya steer this damned thing? Oh, bugger it.”

Flavius grabbed the side of the table, planted his feet on the floor and threw all of his weight to the side. The table groaned, a piercing, hollow echo of metallic agony that reverberated through the dining hall. But it slid toward Parric.

“Excuse me. Coming through here,” Flavius said, grunting as he shoved the table along. “Sorry about that. I dinnae ken it’ll stain. Was that yer foot? My fault. Out of the way, now.”

Yeah, Flavius isn't much for blending unobtrusively into the crowd.

Now Playing: Jimmy Buffett Boats, beaches, Bars & Ballads

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Behold... the Fortress of Solitude

Color me surprised. I'd always thought the crystalline Fortress of Solitude was something Richard Donner made up for the Superman movie way back when. Turns out it really exists:


It's not in the arctic, though--it's deep under ground in Mexico's southern state of Chihuahua. I guess Kal-El decided to use misdirection to throw Lex Luthor off the scent. Called the "Crystal Cave of the Giants," the cave complex is home to the largest crystals ever discovered.
Found deep in a mine in southern Chihuahua Mexico, these crystals were formed in a natural cave totally enclosed in bedrock. When I first stepped into the cavern it was like walking into the Land of the Giants. I have often admired crystal geodes held in my hand, but when photographing these unique natural structures it was almost impossible to get any sense of scale. This is a geode full of spectacular crystals as tall as pine trees, and in some cases greater in circumference. They have formed beautiful crystals that are a translucent gold and silver in color, and come in many incredible forms and shapes. Some of the largest are essentially columnar in shape and stand thirty to fifty feet high and three to four feet in diameter. Many of the smaller examples are four to six feet in circumference, have many incredible geometrical shapes, and probably weigh in excess of ten tons. The columnar pillars are at first the most striking shape, but later I noticed there were thousands of "sharks teeth" up to three feet high placed row upon row and dispersed at odd angles throughout the caverns. While some of the crystals are attached to the ceiling walls and floors of the cave as might be expected, some exist in great masses of spikes and almost float in air. These crystals seem to defy gravity, as they must weigh several tons.

I know where I want to go if I'm ever in southern Chihuahua. Thanks to Don Webb for the link.

Now Playing: John Mock Celtic Visions

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thar she blows!

No, this isn't a post about "The Whale Below" or the pirate anthology or anything directly writing related. This is a post about booze. Yesterday I mentioned the muscadines (and they smell heavenly in the refrigerator) and homebrewing, and last night I took it upon myself to commence the fermentation of my planned batch of beer. Those muscadines won't keep forever, you know.

I took the can of liquid extract (Cooper's "Dark Ale" kit) and did the normal heating and mixing with hot water rigamarole, then added the pound of dark malt extract I'd bought at Austin Homebrew Supply two weeks back. Then I added enough water to bring the total volume up to six gallons, and pitched the yeast (which I'd rehydrated while doing everything else). Then I set everything up in my office in hopes fermentation would take hold.

Astute homebrewers will be thinking at this point, "Well, that's all right and good, but beer kits call for two pounds of fermentable sugars, and he only added the one pound of malt." This is true, but I've also got a pound of raw honey I plan to add to make up the balance. Since unpasteurized honey has all sorts of wild yeasts and bacteria suspended in it, dormant, I wanted to make sure the wort had a good head of fermentation steam going before I added the honey. A bit of cautionary insurance, so to speak. I've had brews go bad or get stuck halfway through fermentation, and it ain't pretty.

So this morning I went to check on the beer, to see how it was doing. Holy moly! Was it fermenting, and how! The wort had foamed up inside the container so that suds were forcing their way up through the airlock and coming out the top. It looked like Larry Fine from the Three Stooges. Now in the decade-plus I've been homebrewing this has never happened to me, although I've heard it can. There was nothing I could do but clean out the airlock, wipe up the beer foam and wrap towels around everything to soak up the suds and spilled liquid that escape. I think the question of whether or not a good, strong fermentation would take hold is pretty much answered now.

Glad I held off on adding that honey, though. Now I'm more concerned about letting the fermentation slow down before adding additional sugars--at the rate it's going, it may well blow the entire lid off...

Now Playing: Rush Chronicles

Monday, August 25, 2008


When we moved into our home back in late 2003, one thing I did was plant grape vines. On a lark, I ordered a purple muscadine and planted that as well, unsure if it would grow this far west, and in heavy clay soil. Well, the two "Orlando seedless" grape vines turned out to be neither Orlando nor seedless. One's produced no grapes at all, and the other turned out to be the Fredonia variety, producing modest crops these past two years of decent--though not spectacular--grapes. Last year the muscadine produced a handful of big, fat grapes as well. I fell in love with them. Yes, the skins were to thick to eat, but the pulp was very sweet, had an almost plum-like texture, and a flavor akin to toasted nuts. If you've ever had muscadine wine, this toasted nutty flavor comes through strongly. Some people can't stand it. I think it's nifty and exotic.

A month ago, I picked a few early-ripening muscadines and ate them. They were good, but smaller than last year (because of the dry summer we'd had, I assume). Yesterday I went out with a cup to pick a few more, not expecting the crop to be excessive. Well, I filled the cup in a few minutes, and had to go back in the house for a larger container. When all was said and done, I'd gathered at least a quart of muscadines with half that amount still on the fine waiting to fully ripen, and a similar number dried, crushed or nibbled upon on the ground where they'd fallen on their own. It's not a tremendous crop, but far more than I was expecting and proof this vine can flourish in this environment.

So, the question becomes, what to do with these muscadines? Eating them comes to mind, and that'd be a good use, no doubt. But the pleasure would be fleeting. The it occurs to me that sometime next month, after the current homebrew ale project is bottled, I'll have time to start a new batch of mead. Putting a quart of strongly-flavored purple-black muscadines in with 1.5 gallons of fermented honey wine strikes me as potentially a Very Good Thing. After the disappointment of the maypop mead, I want to make sure my fruits have the character to really impact the honey's flavor, and a muscadine melomel (or this would properly be a pyment, I suppose) ought to be a fun thing, indeed.

Now Playing: Peter Gabriel Security

Friday, August 22, 2008

Of horrible, questionable taste

I've just now begun a new short story. Actually, it'll be one of my very rare short-shorts if all goes to plan. I'm more than a little horrified by it. To say it pushes the boundaries of good taste is like saying Michael Phelps is moderately competent at treading water.

I blame the bar scene at Armadillocon. Conversation topics there directly wormed into my brain and set up this festering pool of awfulness from which this story springs. Hopefully, it'll be funny. In which case it will be both Evil and Awesome simultaneously. If not, it'll merely be awful and haunt me to the end of my days. I'm kinda sorta thinking the childish, juvenile minds over at Space Squid will publish it. But then again, even they have standards. We'll see how it all shakes out.

Now Playing: Dire Straits Money for Nothing


I made myself promise (to myself) that I'd never get worked up over individual politicians. It seems that every time I let myself get inspired by someone, they pull some stupid crap that leaves me disillusioned (re: Bill Clinton, John Edwards). Fine. That Obama's a nice enough fellow, and while I'm voting for him this fall, I still long for Al Gore's name on the November ballot. That is, until I read this.

For those of you outside of Central Texas and scratching your heads over this dark horse VP candidate, let me clear up any doubt: Chet Edwards is probably the best thing to happen to politics since Mr. Smith made his famous trip to Washington. I lived in Chet's district for a decade, and I've never seen a representative that's more concerned and accessible to his constituency. When I worked at Scott & White Hospital, I heard plenty of nasty things about him, but that's mainly because the physicians and Board of Trustees Chairman Drayton McLane, Jr., were (are) staunch Republicans offended by the fact they were represented by a popular moderate Democrat. Their ire was so great, that during the infamous 2003 redistricting battle, Chet was one of the Republicans' top targets to gerrymander out of office. So they stripped away some of the most liberal-leaning populations in his District 17 and instead added portions of Bryan and College Station, home of Texas A&M University and one of the most conservative communities in a deeply red state. Only the Republicans didn't do their homework--Chet's an Aggie, and knew how to talk to the Maroon-blooded masses. He's won re-election twice now by surprisingly comfortable margins. Essentially, the Republicans gave the most reliably conservative area of the state to the only Democrat that could reliably win it. Wow.

Chet's a really, really good guy. Seriously. My wife--at the time a die-hard Republican--interviewed him during the '96 campaign (actually spent several hours with him at an informal town hall-type event) and came away as big a fan of his as I am. We even got Christmas cards from Chet and his family for a couple of years after that. He just an incredibly nice, pragmatic, smart, attentive and concerned person. He's moderate, no matter what Republicans will have you believe--you can't represent Fort Hood, the nation's largest military base, for a decade and be a flaming left-wing moonbat--and knows how to get things done.

Heck, I'm so pie-in-the-sky giddy over this that I broke down and emailed Chet this letter not 15 minutes ago:
Howdy Mr. Edwards,

You were my representative while I lived in Temple from 1992-2002. I was a reporter at the Temple Telegram most of that time (as was my wife). Around 1996-97, I suffered a phone slamming incident and contacted your office about it. Although not an issue your office could deal with directly, you phoned me personally and advised me on a course of action. I'd had a favorable impression of you before, but your taking a personal interest in my plight really impressed me, and I've been a fan ever since.

I've long argued with anyone who'd listen that you've sold yourself and Texas short by not seeking statewide office. Society needs more people like you. I don't know if these rumors of your being Obama's VP selection are mere smoke and mirrors or have actual substance, but let me say that you would be a fantastic choice. It would be an honor and a privilege to be able to vote for you once again.

Gig 'em,

Jayme Blaschke '92

Geeze, I got goosebumps just reading that again. You folks may not know Chet, but that's because he's not interested in self-aggrandizement. He keeps his head down, does his job, and does it well. He's a good egg. He'll be good for our county, and whether Obama tabs him or not, I'm encouraged that his name is at least in the mix.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Meddle

Friday Night Videos

Okay, I'm back after a long absence with a new installment of Friday Night Videos. Here's an oldie but a goodie that utterly oozes 1908s new wave charm: Missing Persons' "Words." Dig them crazy fashion statements! Looks like the Image comics imprint was heavily into Missing Persons throughout pretty much the entirety of the 90s...

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Genesis.

Now Playing: Colin James Hay Looking for Jack

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Return of the Meadmaker

So I bottled my mead. Finally. Actually, what prompted this undertaking was no great strategic plan on my part but rather the drinking of my last bottle of nut brown ale (recall my side trip to Austin Homebrew Supply during Armadillocon). I'm out of beer, and I tend to save my alcohol budget for really exotic beers or wines or spirits. Random drinking beers I like to brew myself, hence the need to empty the fermentation vessel of mead.

Because it was easiest, I bottled the 1.5 gallon batch of maypop mead first. It'd settled out very clearly, was a pale yellow, and looked innocently appealing in the bottles. I got six bottles worth once all was said and done, and took a taste as well. The exceptionally long time I've aged it in the fermentation vessels (I started them out in January) was quite apparent with the maypop--it tasted like a very, very mild chardonnay. Better than my first effort at fermenting a straightforward mead, but as a melomel the fruit was practically nonexistent. The medium-toast French oak chips were not very strong of presence, either. I'd worried that leaving them on the mead for three weeks was too much, but it's obvious three months would've better served me. That, and adding a LOT more passion fruit. Maypops have a milder flavor than commercial passion fruit, but geeze, I didn't expect it to be invisible. This mead will be consumed in due course, but it'd appeal most to people who like light beer and anemic white wines.

The blueberry mead on the other hand, has got some kick to it. The color is a pretty purplish amber, and it still has that harsh mead medicinal taste. Not mild at all at this point. The flavors are still muddled, but there's something there as far as flavor character goes that the maypop lacks. It's also fairly dry, not sweet at all (nobody will be confusing this with the prickly pear!). I ended up with 23 bottles of the stuff once all was said and done, with only the final three bottles having significant sediment issues. This is one that will benefit greatly from extended aging (at least, that's my hope).

I've already got enough honey on hand to start a new batch, but that'll have to wait until I've scratched my beer itch with this "dark ale" kit, which I'm going to make using equal parts of dark malt extract and honey (yeah, I can't wean myself entirely from the honey--this will be my first attempt at using it in beer). In the interim, I can work up some labels for the mead (and, truth to tell, I've yet to properly label those half dozen bottles of mint metheglin from last summer, either).

Now Playing: Clandestine The Ale is Dear

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Speaking of pirates

See if this doesn't get your juices flowing for that new Fast Ships, Black Sails anthology. Look! Kage Baker!

Good stuff, matey! So good, in fact, that I've been inspired to revisit my unfinished "The Shoals of Cibola" (which takes place in the same setting as "The Whale Below" and is a direct sequel to "The Final Voyage of La Riaza"). I remember being less than enchanted with my prose when I abandoned it earlier this year, but now that I've got some distance, it reads smoothly and at a good clip. Not bad at all. A few little tweaks and I was back to writing like a madman. That's a good feeling. Now let's see if I can get it finished before my fall class schedule chews up all my free time...

Now Playing:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Armadillocon part 2

When last we left our intrepid con-goer, he'd left the con late Friday night and headed south to New Braunfels for an early-morning swim meet the next day. I'm happy to report that Monkey Girl had a good showing at the local meet, besting all her previous times and finishing second in two races and third in another, all personal bests for her.

So then I made the drive back up to Austin for the rest of Armadillocon. knowing Steve Utley was there, I grabbed my copies of Lone Star Universe and Beasts of Love for him to sign. Then I hit him up to join No Fear of the Future. I think he'd rock. He didn't accept, but didn't say no, either. So there's hope. The panels that afternoon didn't particularly appeal to me, so I decided to take in a number of readings leading in to my reading. Alexis Glynn Latner, alas, experienced some delays and wasn't able to make her scheduled reading. Neal Barrett Jr. came next, reading a selection of his humor columns that formerly ran in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance newsletter. If you haven't heard Neal read, you need to, because he's got some of the best timing of any performer I've ever seen. Then came Mark Finn, who read a riff on Robert E. Howard's "Sailor Steve Costigan" boxing stories that sported a strong SFnal macguffin. I'd have recommended one change to him, for continuity purposes, but since he didn't ask I didn't offer. He wrote it during this years Clockwork Storybook retreat, which I'm sure violates the terms of someone's probation somewhere, but I digress.

It was time for me to read. There was an impressive crowd gathered, but as I took my place at the front of the room, I saw most of the audience get up and follow Finn out into the lobby, where they camped out in front of the door and began conversing on things of great philosophical import, no doubt. Huh. Well, at least I know who my real fans are. So I begin the introduction to my reading, and Finn pops his head back in to close the door! Apparently, my reading was too loud and disturbing his philosophical conversations of great import. Bastard. I'll remember that the next time he needs a ride to Fuddruckers or Wizard World. (Note: Although it pains my deadpan delivery greatly to do this, I must add a metaphorical "winky face" to this graph because experience has taught me that my feigned indignation will taken as gospel less I don't. And even then it's iffy).

So, the reading itself was an experiment on my part. Pressed for time, I decided to read from MEMORY on my laptop, owing to the facts that 1) my forthcoming story "The Whale Below" which I read a portion of at Apollocon is actually fairly difficult to effective present in oral fashion, and B) I hadn't had time to print out a hardcopy, so reading off the laptop was the only real option. Naturally, I hadn't practiced in advance, so I didn't know how Flavius' Scottish brogue or Parric's decidedly erratic speech patterns would convey. Amazingly, MEMORY proved a fairly easy, effective read. The audience laughed at the right places, and even guffawed where I though the jokes were mildly amusing at best. The thousand-word chapters kept the pace flowing, and gave me nice, cliffhanger-esque pauses every so often so I might soothe my throat with a sip of water. I ended up reading the first three chapters, and those gathered were quite irate when I ran out of time at a cliffhanger in the midst of battle. Leaving the audience wanting more is a good feeling! I immediately headed over to the Charity Auction, where I played sidekick to the Hated Mark Finn (remember the winky face from above?). How we pried so much money from those people for such trifles amazes me. As does the pittance we garnered for a Walter Jon Williams tuckerization. Something's screwy in the world.

I wandered into the bar, and had some good speaks with John Scalzi, Chris Roberson, Chris Nakashima-Brown, Paul O. Miles and many other folks I'm blanking on right now. Discussion of world events led to the development of a fiction scenario in which Vladimir Putin (a black belt in Judo), battles Joe R. Lansdale (creator of Shen Chuan) in a pit-fighting tournament with the fate of Georgia at stake--all the Georgias, ours against theirs, winner-take-all. I could just see the creative juices begin oozing out of Nakashima-Brown's pores (it's not a pretty sight, actually) and can't wait to read the real-live story that shall inevitably result.

I think promptly forgot about a private pizza party for the crew that put on the Austin Nebula Awards (which I really wanted to attend) and instead left the hotel to catch the tail end of the Space Squid issue 6 release party. All the good hors dvours were already eaten and most people gone, with the scheduled readings completed. Dejected, I ended up eating mediocre Chinese food around the corner and was the recipient of a one-sided phone conversation from the Wife, who'd just suffered through the most excruciating miserable swimming awards banquet experience of all time. Just so you know, it is possible to mention gold medal Olympian Michael Phelps too many times.

I got back in time to sneak into the second half of the Swashbuckling panel, and Nakashima-Brown called me out in the audience to mention "The Whale Below" and "Being an Account of the Final Voyage of La Riaza" which was fun. Then I had a spot on Rick Klaw's Metaphysics in Comics panel, which was surprisingly well attended despite being scheduled against some powerhouse competition. I trotted out the little-known "Question/Watchmen/Rorschach" crossover Denny O'Neil did back in the late 80s, and everyone seemed suitably impressed. And we discovered we're all pretty much fans of Ambush Bug.

After that, it was time for the parties. I made the rounds, then set up shop with the FenCon people (ironically, the one Texas convention I've yet to attend) since they asked the magic words "What have you brought for us to drink this year?" No beer this time, but I did have several bottles of my prickly pear and jalapeño mead. The prickly pear was a huge hit--people who scoff at mead asked for refills, as did people who are more open minded. Joe Haldeman spent some of his carefully-hoarded carb allocations for a sip, and pronounced it enjoyable despite his diabetic misgivings. The jalapeño was viewed with much more suspicion, but of those who partook--including Patrice Sarath, who only pretended to try some at our last encounter--they were surprised by it's drinkability and balance. There was the issue of blistering heat as well, but they were all Texans for the most part, and took that in stride. Eventually, the booze ran out and my sleep deprivation took its toll, so I called it a night and headed home.

Several things stood out for me, that aren't related above: Patrice Sarath used to live in Iceland. I did not know that. Of all the obscure places to live, that one kicks the most ass; An enthusiastic yet too-short conversation with Brad Denton about backyard astronomy and astrophotography; Fleeting conversations with Rory Harper, which beg follow-up via email; Discovering that I know of a viral YouTube video featuring Jermaine Clement before Chris Roberson is aware of it. Yeah, that made my con, too.

Now Playing: Aerosmith Pandora's Box

MEMORY in now legal in All 50 States!

That's right folks--you heard it here first! Memory, my ongoing online experiment in serial fiction, has just hit the magical number 21! D'you think if I take my laptop into a WiFi-friendly bar and show them the chapter number, I'll get free drinks? In any event, you good people get free reads in the deal. Here's a sample of this week's installment:
Flavius recoiled from the creature, throwing up his arm between them. The thing stared at him briefly, nictating membranes sliding quickly across the eyes before its spindly arms abruptly produced a translucent, frosted dinner plate with crusted orange balls delicately arranged upon it. It deftly set the plate before Flavius as another arm deposited a tall flute of burgundy liquid on the table. It cocked its head without saying a word, the swiftly retreated straight up.

Mouth agape, Flavius watched it go. Half a dozen stubby legs pulled effortlessly up an impossibly thin silken strand to the ceiling of the dining hall. An instant later it disappeared onto a balcony encircling the ceiling, cleverly hidden by an optical illusion of the architecture.

More of the creatures tumbled down from the ceiling, their fat, segmented orange bodies punctuated by rings of long, hairy spikes. An array of spindly forelegs held assorted drink refills, finger bowls and any other luxury an Imperial diner could want. They expertly completed their tasks at the various drifting tables on the floor, and instantly scurried back up its silken thread.

You know, a week ago I started this installment and had no idea where it was headed. I was spinning my literary wheels, so to speak. Then I read the first four chapters to an appreciative crowd of folks at Armadillocon and suddenly everything clicked into place. Amazing how inspiring eager readers (or listeners) can be for the creative process.

Now Playing: Aerosmith Just Push Play

Monday, August 18, 2008

That darn Whale Below

Rest easy, folks. I got my pirate antho edits finished and shipped off the the Editors VanderMeer. It's a good thing, too. More than a couple of typos, orphaned sentences and lost remnants from earlier drafts turned up in the galley version. I'd like to blame the editors, but most of it was unequivocally my fault. So I'm glad I got a chance to fix 'em. Now, if only I can wait for that November publication date...

Now Playing: Stu Phillips & the Los Angeles Philharmonic Battlestar Galactica Soundtrack 25th Anniversary Edition

Ahoy! Pirates off the port bookshelf!

And I only thought Armadillocon, blogging and photography had me busy. What's one more tight deadline amongst friends? Last night I had the happy discovery of the VanderMeers-edited pirate anthology proof for Fast Ships, Black Sails show up in my inbox. Ooooh! Lookie here--there's Kage Baker, Michael Moorcock, Howard Waldrop, Garth Nix... Uh oh. Suddenly my name and story there in the table of contents is looking mighty small and pretentious. This is one ringer of an anthology, and I feel like a AA utility infielder called up to the show just before the playoffs. I feel the need to re-watch "Bull Durhan" and take notes on Crash Davis' words of wisdom to Nuke.

Fast Ships Black Sails cover

Pretty darn sweet cover art tho, ain't it? And the stories--those I've managed to read, so far, at any rate--are mighty impressive. You will simply not believe what Waldrop does with his alotted pages... although if you're familiar with Howard's literary M.O., you'll probably see it as the only story Howard could've possibly written given the subject matter.

Anyway, no more time for idle blogging. I've got to get my edits back to the editors post-haste.

Now Playing: Dire Straits Money for Nothing

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Armadillocon 2008

Armadillocon happened this weekend, the 30th anniversary installment, no less. Friday I was scheduled to spend all day destroying dreams in the Writer's Workshop, which posed a problem. I'm taking classes at Texas State this fall, and Friday was my scheduled day to make late registration changes to my course lineup. A class I needed was being offered that wasn't available back during early registration in the spring, so if I missed my window, matters would become complicated. I ended up taking my trusty laptop--and armed with a list of Austin-area WIFI hotspots--drove to the convention hotel looking for somewhere I could eventually plug in and make my registration happen. After several false starts at various locations, I found my old standby--Freebirds World Burrito--was accommodating to my WIFI needs at 8:30 a.m. and I got all the adding and dropping done with relatively little bloodshed.

I got to the hotel in time for the start of the workshop and settled in. The workshop itself was a good bit of fun this year. I sat next to Asimov's editor Sheila Williams and got to point out to the assembled throng how she has graciously declined to by my prose on many occasions, and once told me she liked everything about a submission except for the story (that got great laughs). I was paired with Martin Wagner for the tag-team evisceration, and although I'd never done a panel with him before, nevermind a workshop, it turned out to be a pretty good pairing. We zeroed in on many of the same issues the manuscripts had, but also came up with enough unique takes that we weren't just repeating the other's critique. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the manuscripts this year. Although none were ready for publication--some wouldn't be without some seriously major slash-and-burn rewriting--the actual overall writing quality was a notch above competent. For this I was very grateful. Martin and I didn't pull any punches with the manuscripts--my reasoning is that they didn't pay their admission fee just to have us blow sunshine up their asses--and they all seemed genuinely masochistic grateful to have such meaningful commentary.

After the workshop let out, I seized a break in the schedule to run across town to Austin Homebrew Supply to purchase some synthetic corks with which to complete my mead bottling, and a canned dark ale kit with a pound of dark malt extract. Once the blueberry mead is safely bottled, I'm starting a new batch of beer (I'm down to one bottle of the nut brown, see). Then I drove up Burnet Road to the newest Freebirds, which was a fun place to have dinner. This one's much more colorful than other recently opened 'Bird locations, and took hippie chic to a glorious extreme. Good fun.

Bill Crider handled Toastmaster duties quite effectively, and was able to generate good laughs out of Howard Waldrop's unfortunate absence due to being hospitalized with heart trouble. Then, to my utter surprise, I discovered Steven Utley was at the con. I've admired Utley for a long time. His anthology Lone Star Universe, co-edited with the recently deceased George Proctor, is a treasured possession of mine. I've exchanged emails with him over the years, and even published several of his stories during my fiction tenure at RevolutionSF. So finally getting to meet him was a real pleasure--although he had more hair in the photos I'd seen of him than he actually sported in person. My only panel of the night was "Neglected Gems of Genre Fiction" which had a great lineup with Steven Brust, Chris Nakashima-Brown, Rie Sheridan and M.K. Hobson. I started off by plugging William Hjortsberg's mind-twisting Gray Matters, Nevil Shute's On the Beach, then, after Jessica Reisman in the audience called the panel to task for not mentioning any women, I brought up practically the entirety of Patricia Anthony's published novels as well as Lillian Stewart Carl's early fantasy novels, Sabazel in particular.

I chatted with too many interesting people to remember, wandered through the art show in awe of the amazing talent on display (the sculpture of the Native American lion/deer/fish/eagle figure contemplating a human skull had to be seen to be believed) and spent a bit of time at the Apollocon party before heading home. Monkey Girl had a swim meet in New Braunfels the next day, see, so I drew the commuter's straw this year. But I took a lot of pictures and annoyed many folks in the process, and watched in amusement as the diseased minds behind Space Squid assembled box after box of their magazine manually in the hotel lobby.

That's it for tonight. I'm tired, it's late, and I figure if you've waited this long, you can wait another day for the rest of my report.

Now Playing: Cheap Trick Lap of Luxury

Saturday, August 02, 2008


One last parting shot before I leave you folks alone with no new blog content for a whole, entire week: I've posted a new installment of MEMORY over at No Fear of the Future. Chapter 20. Can you dig it?
“If this is the petite dining hall lad, I’m afraid to see the grand one,” Flavius muttered.

The hall was more cathedral than dining room. The soaring, vaulted walls arched overhead and glowed white with an inherent light. On the floor, dozens of round tables the diameter of Flaviius’ outstretched arm drifted languidly about in an intricate dance, merging to bring their seated occupants together in polite conversation before separating again to connect with a different table. In the center of the hall a raised stage held a quartet playing bizarre instruments. The performers blew into mouthpieces, stimulating an array of strings to sound which they then touched lightly to mute various notes. The melody by omission haunting and strange, yet oddly relaxing.

Now Playing: Tears for Fears Tears Roll Down

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday Night Videos

Didja miss me? It seems that Google, in its infinite, googly wisdom, flagged Gibberish as a spam blog and locked me out for the past couple of days. Nice.

Now, ironically that I'm back on, blogging's going to be a wee bit sparse for the next week as I'm headed south of the border, down Mexico way. Forgive me if I'm a little cryptic, but I don't want the international crime syndicates to know I'm coming for 'em.

In any event, to mark this momentum occasion (and potential for an International Incident) I present to you the only song appropriate under such serious circumstances: Genesis' "Illegal Alien." Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Hall & Oates.

Now Playing: Salsa del Rio Que Siga La Tradicion