In the Vortex

Well, I'm still here. (More or Less) I apologize for the absence - all of a sudden I found myself sucked into the unforgiving vortex that is Holiday Madness. HUGE family Thanksgiving celebration, followed by equally huge Christmas production that is, admittedly, of my own making. What can I say, I'm a sucker for obsessing over giving my kids postcard-perfect memories of their childhood holidays. I want everyone I love to be happy and well-fed and feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. If other things have to suffer, well, I guess that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. One of those things being, unfortunately, my blog posting.

In any case, I am working, albeit on a reduced schedule (see paragraph one, above). A new short story, "Quid Pro Quo" in progress, as well as plans for three others, "Lilith in Love", "Patterns", and "The Silver Dollar", my first foray into the steampunk genre.

I will return, I promise, after the holidays with regular posting and daily doses of Procrastination Station. Until then, things will be a little thin around here. Enjoy the Holidays - you only get to go 'round this ride once.

16 December 2008

Procrastination Station - Sunday Edition

Procrastination is not just a weekday sport, you know. Some of the best time wasting is done on Saturday and Sunday, when you have the perfectly legitimate excuse of "hey, it's the weekend, so screw it." Also, kids are out of school and around on the weekends, and, well, that speaks for itself. They're only little so long...

At any rate, here are a few things to keep you occupied. Enjoy the afternoon...

The Universe Makes a Lot of Gas - Why science is important, from the perspective of a lab secretary. Yeah for cool people!

Why does it seem like so many writers are cat people? "Perhaps cats are important totem animals for writers. Perhaps writers hope their independence and mystique will rub off on them, and seek to emulate the slightly magical moggy's feigned disinterest when those bad reviews roll in."

The First Pictures of New Planets. Just imagine the possibilities.

Stephen Hawking calls for Moon & Mars colonies. Yep. What he said. Onward and Upward.

The ACLU and Brave New Foundation have started a petition to ask President-Elect Obama to close Gitmo and end Military Commissions. Any legitimate use the place ever had has been permanently overshadowed by the horrors that occurred there. As a nation we need to send the signal that we respect human rights again.

The Edge of the American West with a moving post about The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
- George Santayana

16 November 2008

Procrastination Station - Holy Crap I'm Behind Edition

Beautiful day here today - after weeks and weeks of endless blue sky and dry as hell weather, we are finally in the midst of a significant rain event. Now, don't get me wrong, I love cool, crisp, sunny fall weather. But give me a break. I love the rain as well, and it's been far too long...

Terribly behind on all the work I have to do. NaNo is suffering, so I'll have to put in a long, long day to try and catch up. I didn't get anything done yesterday except for grocery shopping, so today is nose to the grindstone. That goes for procrastinating too - not nearly enough yesterday - I didn't even get to make this post. As a result, I have a long list for you today, so sit down, push that stack of paperwork somewhere you can't see it, and enjoy.

First, on writing:
Writing Advice to My Younger Self - Matthew Cheney on chilling out and finding your voice.

Is NaNoWriMo a good way to motivate potential writers or a drag on everyone else who's "serious" about getting published? I think if your work is good enough you shouldn't give a damn.

Next, Science (And Politics):

World's Oldest Temple discovered in Turkey. This makes the alternate-universe-archeologist me just tingle with delight. Unbelieveably cool.

The Phoenix Lander says goodnight. Thanks for all your hard work, little guy. Sleep well.

5 Myths About Recycling. Get off your butt and save the planet. It's worth a little extra time. Besides, you could be procrastinating while you sort that trash - it's a classic interpretation of the First Rule. (Do something else, anything else).

The story of a doctor who treated his patient's leukemia and ended up curing his AIDS. Genetic mutation as its most useful.

Do archeological treasures belong to the countries that occupy the sites, or to mankind as a whole? Curators and politicians throw down.

How do you know when you're dead? When God says you are, that's how. Of course, he never figured on life support...

Of course, if the LolCat of Death comes for a visit, was nice knowin' ya.

The attitudes toward science of the Republican vs. Democratic tickets. Oh sweet patootie I'm so glad Obama won.

And, finally, a few miscellaneous items thrown in for good measure:
The Canadians are proud of us. Now that's saying something. For the record, yes I do drink the kool-aid. Sorry, I'm a believer. I love America so much mainly because of the myth. It's what makes us always want to be better.

The men behind your favorite liquors. Wow, I thought a lot of these were made up.

An interview with the man who collects all things Aleister Crowley. Interesting, if creepy.

Last, but certainly not least, make chocolate cake for one in a mug. That's it. I can die now.

12 November 2008

Review: Descartes' Bones by Russell Shorto

Descartes’ Bones, by Russell Shorto, takes the reader on an interesting and compelling journey through 400 years of history in search of the true final resting place of Rene’ Descartes, the man arguably responsible for the advent of modern scientific inquiry. Told within the framework of the many travels of the great philosopher’s bones throughout Europe, from his death in Sweden in 1650 until his skull’s current resting place at the Museum of Man in Paris, Shorto recounts how his life and work have been interpreted throughout the centuries, engendering ideas that have shaped the very fabric of Western Civilization.

The author is one of those rare history writers who have a gift for making their subjects come alive. With wit and a keen ear for suspense a la Dan Brown, he traces the story of Descartes’ post mortem journey in such a way that keeps his reader both engaged and entertained. Shorto presents the past the way it should be – full of interesting characters and intriguing stories Great events like the French Revolution are illuminated as more than simply the sum of dry dates and dusty facts, but seminal events that happened within the context of continent-wide changes in the way mankind viewed himself and his place in the world. Through Shorto’s superb storytelling skills and his extensive historical knowledge, the reader comes away from this book with a good understanding along with a better appreciation of Descartes’ impact on his world and his continuing influence today.

11 November 2008

Procrastination Station - Monday Wake Up Call

Roughly over 3000 words on the novel this weekend, though I am still woefully behind. As soon as I finish this procrastination business, I'm unplugging from the net and going to work. Must...catch...up. Hopefully by the end of this week I'll be cruising along without a care in the world. Or not. The book is a big, fat, P.O.S. so far, but Chris Baty assures me that this is not only perfectly normal, it's expected. We'll see about that. Focusing on NOT focusing on how crappy it is has taken up as much energy as the actual writing. Hopefully, though, this experiment will teach me how to write a book. And if I can't make this one work, the experience of learning how will lead to bigger and better things.

In the meantime, come waste some precious daylight with me. Here are a few things that I found interesting this morning...

From 15 famously filthy people. All I can say about this one is...ugh.

Of course, this led me (naturally) to: 5 Famous Authors and Why They Were Perverts, followed shortly by 5 More Famous Authors That Were Perverts.

Letters From Johns and Letters From Working Girls - Projects by journalist Susannah Breslin giving an anonymous voice to those who work in and patronize the sex industry. Interesting stuff, not as cut and dried as many of us would believe.

Newly discovered differences between men and women. Interesting, but the article makes an excellent point - your grandmother could have told you most of this stuff.

The World's Biggest and Most Expensive Green Homes. Well, their hearts are in the right place...

An interview with author Gregory Maguire. I'm reading A Lion Among Men right now, and I'm loving it. His prose is absolutely magical and flawless. I wanna write like this when I grow up.

And finally, An Open Apology to Baby Boomers. My generation finally learns about the hope and optimism that comes from changing the world.

10 November 2008

Procrastination Station - Lazy Friday Edition

NaNoWriMo is going well, by all accounts. So far I'm only a day or so behind on my word count, a situation I'll hopefully rectify this weekend. Instead of posting my word counts here, I've added a handy dandy widget on the left sidebar that displays where I am. In any case, right now it's Friday, an approaching cold front is bringing in some beautiful rainy weather, and I don't want to do a damn thing. I will, mind you, but I don't want to. So get another cup of coffee and join me for a while - hell, all that work'll still be there later.

The sharpest picture of Jupiter ever taken from the ground, courtesy of Astronomy Picture of the Day. Very cool stuff.

A collection of political cartoons celebrating the historic election of Barack Obama. I have great respect for political cartoonists - they are the court jesters of our day, telling the king the truth while simultaneously making him smile. I don't normally link to my political blog here, but I've been collecting them the past few days.

How to make a budget, whoops, excuse me, a spending plan. Can semantics make a difference in how we handle our money?

Finally, ever wanted to be Ammish? If so, here's how. Oh come on now, admit it. You find those hats cool and you know it.

07 November 2008

Election Day

Today we have the chance to be part of history. Make your voice count - vote.

Yesterday's NaNoWriMo End of Day Word Count: 2371

04 November 2008


NaNoWriMo has officially kicked off, and I am once again making a stab at finishing my word count for the month. I've decided to name my project The Persistence of Vision, both because it underscores one of the major themes I've planned, and because, like this blog, it will be a reflection of focusing on the big picture instead of constantly bogging myself down in the details of my work. Details are for revisions. I have to think about the process now, not the result.

Unfortunately, due to familial obligations, I am already off to a late start. I'll be working nonstop to make up the difference though, and I'll post daily word counts here every morning. Now, onward and upward.

03 November 2008

Procrastination Station - Monday Edition

A quick one today, as unfortunately I don't have as much time as usual for putting off what needs doing. Gotta write, write, write. Never too busy to waste a few minutes though. Enjoy -

Blunders and Mistakes of Science and Engineering. Obviously written by one of the fold, but interesting, nonetheless.

Along the same lines, Top 10 Harmless Geek Pranks from Lifehacker. Although if someone pulled the Blue Screen of Death one on me, I'd probably go postal.

For the literary minded who like to mix pleasure with craziness, Casa di Libri, the House of Books.

Ever wonder how all that second cousin twice-removed business works? Check out the Relative Chart.

Finally, The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace. A story that touched me both as a writer and as someone who has glimpsed the abyss. May he find peace.

Procrastination Station - Halloween Edition

Happy Halloween and a Merry Samhain! Here are a few links I found this morning while putting off work, party preparations, and packing for a weekend camping trip. Not many people are talented enough to handle procrastination on such a scale, so take care. In the meantime, enjoy...

A clay bowl from the time of King David has turned up in Israel. No translation yet, but the intersection of biblical history and the archeological record is interesting.

A pardon is being sought for all of the men and women who were tortured and executed in 16th and 17th century England during the hysteria-fueled witch hunts. Sign the petition and give their spirits some rest, already.

John Scalzi is channeling his election frustration into some hilarious Election Lists:
I: People/Things I Would Vote For President Before I Would Vote For John McCain
II: The Verified Miracles of St. Obama

A guide to Kids Halloween Candy Code. Very cool. I wish I'd known about this when I was a kid.

The American Library Association's list of Haunted Libraries. If I were a ghost, this is where I'd hang out.

The conclusion of xkcd's "Secretary." Cory Doctorow to the rescue!

Now on to creepy spider cakes, costumes, and other assorted Halloween yummies. See you on the other side...

31 October 2008

Procrastination Station - Thursday

Here are some things that caught my eye today and gave me a few minutes of good, wholesome procrastination time. Remember to share and help someone you love put off the things they're supposed to be doing.

If all you know about Stephen Hawking is his work as a theoretical physicist, check out this article, written by the man himself. Too bad his speech synthesizer can't be recorded with a British accent.

On this date in 1969, the first message was transmitted over ARPANET, and the world was changed forever. Via Edge of the American West.

How much Halloween candy can you haul around? If you carry a pillowcase, about 48 lbs, it turns out.

Via Dark Roasted Blend, Caves that will astound you with their beauty and complexity.

A workshop at Emory University in Atlanta teaches teachers how to teach evolution. Some of their students scream "NO!" and wonder why they have to learn about evolution if it's just a "theory." Fighting ignorance one step at a time. Are we advancing as a society?

And finally, the top 10 Astronomy Pictures of 2007. An older post but still a goodie. Black holes on Mars and visualizing dark matter. Really, too beautiful for words. Enjoy the wonder of our universe, and marvel at our tiny place in it.

30 October 2008

Procrastination Station - Wednesday

Every morning I make it a ritual to waste copious amounts of time wading through my Google Reader feeds. As a new feature, I'll be posting a few each day to share the love and waste some of your time too. You're welcome.

The moon and various planets will be waltzing together in amazing ways in the days to come. Check out their Halloween Sky Show.

Creepy Urban Legends (that happen to be true).

MTV has announced a new music site, where they've got over 16,000 videos for you to peruse. I wasted a good 20 minutes here. (via MentalFloss)

Also from Mental Floss, Dr. Aas' Miracle Poo Cure. Are you a donor or a recipient?

The always hilarious xkcd, today with mayhem of an unusual size. "I have few principles, but I stick to them."

Via Netorama, Squirrel kabobs from England. People in my neck of the woods are saying, "What the hell's so new about eatin' squirrel?"

Also from Netorama, Famous Horror Movie Trivia: Everything you ever wanted to know about Jack Nicholson's backaches.

And finally, I feel sorry for this guy, I really do. Not bad enough that everyone on the train knows about your most embarrassing moment...just wait till the news wires get hold of it.

29 October 2008

Review: The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates takes on the subject of early New England history with an insightful and sometimes amusing bent that makes it an easygoing and fun read. It’s an accessible and cool book, a Gen Xer’s take on how the puritan culture of seventeenth century Massachusetts and its neighbors still continues to inform our American mindset.

Shipmates takes us through the story of John Winthrop, a puritan minister who traveled to New England in 1630 aboard the ship Arbella with a group of true believers and a dream of creating a “city upon a hill” in the New World, a vision of America that we as a nation still espouse to this day. Along with Winthrop, Vowell includes several other prominent figures from the time: Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his outspoken arguments for the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state, Anne Hutchinson, a puritan woman gifted with a sharp legal mind and an even sharper tongue, as well as the Pequot and Narragansett Indians, natives who were forced to make room for the expanding European settlements.

With wit and an armchair style that makes the subject matter engaging and interesting, Vowell draws relevant parallels between the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s seal with its picture of a Native American holding a banner that reads “Come Over and Help Us” and our current national policy of “helping” foreign, sovereign nations with military intervention. The writing is smart, its thesis timely without being preachy. Both entertaining and informative, The Wordy Shipmates is an interesting little primer on the origins of American political philosophy.

27 October 2008

Tom Piazza Discusses "City of Refuge"

20 October 2008

Review: Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

The apocalypse is a popular subject these days – it seems like everyone has a character who is the only thing STANDING BETWEEN HUMANITY AND TOTAL ANNIHILATION. So it is with Liz Phoenix, the heroine in Lori Handeland’s Any Given Doomsday. Liz is a psychic ex-cop with some heavy-duty guilt in her past and a big mystery to solve – why is the world coming to an end, and why is she the only one qualified to deal with it?

Handeland’s story is amusing, if uninspired. The usual cast of vampires and other assorted mythological creatures show up and align themselves firmly on their respective sides of good and evil, followed by the inevitable battle to decide the fate of all existence. In the author’s favor, there’s a fair amount of imaginative mythology here. I especially liked the way she hooked into Native American folklore.

The climax, when it comes, is predictable, but in a campy, almost fun way. This is a beach book for Goths and horror buffs, trite but entertaining, eye candy for a mindless afternoon. It’s the classic story we all love of a girl who wants the bad boy, and just can’t resist even though she knows he’s no good for her. I enjoyed it in the same way one enjoys a summer comic-inspired action flick or a favorite chocolate bar: just go with it baby, and don’t dig too deep.

03 October 2008

Celebrate Banned Books Week - Read One

This week (September 27 - Oct 4) is Banned Books Week. Various organizations have planned events highlighting our need to support both the freedom of the written word and the authors who create them. The American Library Association has materials and information available for anyone who wants to host an event. Amnesty International is encouraging people to support authors who have been persecuted for their work. Even Google is in, offering lists of banned books and links back to the ALA site for those who want to fight book challenges in their own communities.

Many times in the United States we take for granted the right to read or say whatever we wish, secure in our first amendment rights. Every day in every state, however, books are being challenged and/or removed from library shelves because some people believe they have the right to impose their moral codes on others through restricting their access to information. It's not all done through official channels either - I've personally known people who have gone into libraries and checked out books that offended them with the express purpose of not returning them, thereby "saving" someone from being exposed to the contents. It's a problem that needs to be addressed both with education and harsh penalties for people who take it upon themselves to decide what is appropriate for me to read.

Of course, those people are small potatoes compared to the threat from schools, libraries, and local governments removing or banning books. Sometimes it's a matter of public pressure or parent protest, and sometimes it's simply an elected official who decides to be the moral compass for the entire community. Whoever or whatever the reason, though, the simple fact is, it's wrong.

I'm not referring to pornography here. (Although I don't believe in censorship of any kind.) I'm talking about classics of literature. Mark Twain, for example, is consistently one of the most challenged authors. This issue is about much more than books - it's about the free flow of ideas, and it's about access to those ideas by everyone - the very definition of democracy.

So this week, celebrate. Celebrate your right to read whatever you want. Check out lists of banned and challenged books, and read something that someone, somewhere, thinks you shouldn't have access to. It's as much about freedom as the 4th of July. Even more so, I think.

30 September 2008

Autumn At Last

I can normally feel the first tiny breath of Fall. Even here, in hottest tropical Louisiana, sometimes at the height of hurricane season when the weather is hot, sticky, and miserable, a day usually comes when that smell starts, drifting down from northern parts unknown. It is subtle, only the smallest of hints, a breeze that brings with it memories of cool nights and dreams of crisp mornings. This year I smelled it in the middle of August, and I thought, that can't be right - Autumn is weeks away. The same week a swarm of love bugs, our twice-yearly scourge, dropped in. My ex-father-in-law used to tell us that when the love bugs come, a cold front is only two weeks away. It had always held true, but this year I was doubtful. A cold front, at the beginning of September? Unheard of here. Can't be.

My senses and his folk wisdom proved true, however, because during the week between Gustav and Ike when we were cleaning up, lo and behold in floated the cool air. It was a nice break, but unfortunately a short one, as Ike arrived a few days later with more flooding and another blast of hot, sticky Gulf moisture.

Since then, however, Fall is slowly but surely creeping back in. Last week a very weak cool front pushed through, not lowering temperatures but bringing in dryer air, a welcome relief here. Monday was the Autumnal Equinox, and, right on cue, yesterday the north wind picked up once again and brought cooler air this time - when I woke up this morning the temperature outside was 61F. (For Louisiana that is cool) As Fall is by far my favorite season, I am happy and my soul is at ease. Good weather for writing. Also for a big pot of gumbo.

1022 words on the novel yesterday, along with more research, thoughts about themes, and the beginnings of a new short story. I'm trying to work up to a daily average of 1500 - 2000 words, but all too often real life intrudes and I have other obligations. Still, progress is progress.

And Autumn has arrived, so it's all good.

25 September 2008

It's 'Cause of These Things...

Monday was productive with roughly 1000 more words on the novel, but Tuesday was a wash due to homestead obligations. Today looks more promising, as my schedule is cleared through the morning so I'll have several uninterrupted hours of writing time.

Another story sold! This one went to Niteblade, an online horror magazine based in Canada. That's two submissions accepted in a row, so I am overflowing with warm, fuzzy feelings and self-congratulations. The story was "Homecoming" which I'll post links to as soon as it is up.

Other news - I've finally launched my website, It's still in preliminary stages, but at least it's there. Thanks to the LOML for hosting and general web-unbuggery. Wow. That sounded gross. At any rate, I'll be adding content and links as I ease out into the publishing world.

Spotty posting for the rest of the week as I plan to work, work, work. A first draft by Thanksgiving would be nice. By first of November, even nicer, as I want to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but I don't want to use the current book.

Now, off to work.

24 September 2008

Review: Blue Genes, by Christopher Lukas

The story of Christopher Lukas and his brother, award-winning journalist J. Anthony Lukas, is a chronicle of mental health medicine’s evolution in the 20th century. Their family is struck again and again by bipolar disorder, a disease not yet understood or properly treated until late in the century. Unfortunately, the repercussions from misdiagnosis and lack of proper treatment echo through the lives of these brothers with shattering immediacy, starting with the suicide of their mother when the boys were only eight and six years old. Through the years one after another family member succumbs to the disease, ending finally with the suicide of Tony, the story that begins the memoir. The tragedy is in the sheer magnitude of the toll it takes on the family, but Mr. Lukas tells it not only as a memorial to what the he and his brother went through, but as a testament to the fact that, despite it all, he survived.

After relating the account of his family’s origins beginning with his great-grandparents, Lukas chronicles the heartbreaking story of his mother’s death, and how the boys were immediately shipped off to boarding school with no explanation for their mother’s disappearance or chance to say good-bye. This forced delay of grieving was to influence and haunt both men throughout their lives, an added burden to their already confusing personal battles with depression and bipolar disorder. Sadly, in the end it proved a burden too heavy for Tony.

While interesting and thoroughly well-written, this book is a difficult read, mainly due to the pervasive sadness that permeates this family’s history. Mr. Lukas does an excellent job of conveying the struggle the boys underwent throughout their lives, but he pays scant attention to the good moments he has enjoyed through the years, flying by his wife and daughter’s impact on his health and well-being. Ultimately, Lukas triumphs in the story, but his victory seems almost Pyrrhic - a survivor alone, among the ashes.

19 September 2008

Thought For the Day

If you don't feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then probably what you are doing isn't very vital. If you don't feel like you are writing somewhat over your head, why do it? If you don't have some doubt of your authority to tell this story, then you are not trying to tell enough.
-John Irving

By God, I'm writing a masterpiece.

Review: Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine

A few weeks ago I received a copy of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine for review. To be honest it has taken me a while to get through it, simply because I have a huge backlog of other review projects sandwiched in between my own fiction work which is daily crying out for my attention. Over the weekend, however, I cloistered myself off in my bedroom and read the thing. The verdict? I'm glad I did.

The magazine itself reminds me of the kinds of magazines and comics I used to read as a kid - black and white pulp pages, no glossy illustrations, no shiny video game ads. This is a magazine that sticks to its business - and I really like and appreciate that about it. It's a fat little thing - 240 pages, but it's packed with really good stories from top-notch writers, along with a few review columns and non-fiction science articles.

My favorite story was probably Steven Utley's "Sleepless Years", a moving and unsettling take on immortality, but I also thoroughly enjoyed Albert E. Cowdrey's New Orleans-flavored "Inside Story" (the accents were spot-on). And, of course, there was Stephen King's "The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates." Personally I've always been of the opinion that the short story medium is where King shines, and this was no exception.

Talk lately in the sci-fi/fantasy world has circled round and round the issue of whether or not short fiction is dead as a medium. Detractors point to falling subscription rates, claiming that anthologies will be the only remaining market for stories. Maybe that will come to pass and maybe it won't, but I will say this - I enjoyed Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, for its format as well as its content. It's certainly worth reading, and, in my opinion, that's worth enough.

15 September 2008

Monday Morning and the Grind's Still Here

Thankfully, Ike passed us by with no more than (what I consider) an interesting and beautiful weather day. (Rain, windy) Sadly, though, some to our south and west did not have such good fortune. My heart reaches out to those in Southeast Texas and even in extreme Southwest Louisiana. To give you an idea, today's Picture of the Day from Nasa shows what the storm looked like as it came ashore. Imagine that knocking at your door. Here are some photos of the terrible damage.

Woke up yesterday to learn that David Foster Wallace had committed suicide. I haven't read a lot of his work, but he was a Gen X writer, and therefore we shared a generational culture. He was considered somewhat of a genius, and was by pretty much any measure very successful. Two thoughts come to mind - I wonder first why he was so sad, to the point that taking himself out of the picture seemed like the only worthwhile solution. Second, it makes me think about the nature of genius and the mental burden it sometimes carries. It's a dangerous coin to hold, and even more dangerous to flip.

Wow. Looking back, this post doesn't seem very cheerful, does it? Maybe it's the weather that's put me in this mood. (Heavy, low, grey clouds) Seems to help in the way of creativity though, so maybe I'll have a good writing day. We'll see.

More Cool Links For A Hot Night On Hurricane Watch

Well Ike has shifted northwest over the last twelve hours or so, so it looks as though my neck of the woods is going to get some weather after all. In the interim, while we watch the pressure dropping, check out the latest round of interesting bits from around the Internets: has posted a cool story by Elizabeth Bear titled "The Girl Who Sang Rose Madder".

Here's an interesting article posted by Shadowhelm, otherwise known as Margaret H. Bonham: 12-15 Step Program For Gaining Good Writing Habits.

Also, Giant Penis Man needs re-chalking. Any volunteers?

Yes, I think that's a good closer. See you on the other side.

11 September 2008

Progress And Other Tidbits

1,003 words yesterday on "Passing" a new science fiction short story I started right before Gustav came to town. Kind of stuck at this point - I know what I want to say, but I'm not sure how to say it. Call it a big, fat, steaming plot hole. Yes, that sounds about right. Also, I'm trying to add in some humor, but funnies are funny things - they are by nature sort of off-the-cuff, and it's hard to craft them - takes away some of the spontaneity. Also, after reading something four million times in the editing process you start to wonder if it was ever funny in the first place. Ah, well. We'll see.

On a happy note, the day after we got power again I received an email from Claire at Twisted Tongue Magazine saying she wants to publish both my poem "Wicked" and my short story "What Goes Around." My first acceptance! Needless to say, I am totally thrilled. Lends some satisfaction, not to mention validation, to my efforts. Hope that I am improving as a writer, enough so that one day I'll actually be able to make a living at this.

Weather is nice outside - cloudy and cool, which, if you know anything about Louisiana, means A LOT this time of year. I plan to enjoy it too, as today I am eschewing the mines for a bit in order to head over to my local Friends of the Library semi-annual book sale, something that has become, for me, a twice yearly orgy of bargains and book finds. Totally psyched. Will head back home afterwards to work on THE NOVEL.

A Few Cool Links

I've run across this morning. Who knows, I might make this a regular feature -

A short history of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. A nineteenth century reform experiment with good intentions that went very, very wrong. I've always believed that the best way to reform convicts is to drive them mad!

The lost art of gentlemen's calling cards. Or maybe not so lost, as it turns out. I like this idea.

From the New York Review of Books, "A Summer of Madness" - Dr. Oliver Sacks (of Awakening fame) reviews an account of a man dealing with is daughter's mental illness.

09 September 2008

Review: The Grift, by Debra Ginsberg

The victim of childhood abuse and neglect, Marina Marks developed the skills that many children in such circumstances acquire – the ability to read people with a survivor’s instantaneous accuracy. Following a scheme set in motion by her drug addicted mother and an eerie encounter with an old woman who claims she truly has the second sight, the little girl becomes a psychic, a career she holds on to as an adult as the novel opens. After starting a new life in California, however, events unfold to completely change her idea of who and what she is.

As the cover art suggests, the word grift is only one letter away from gift, and this is the fine line Marina walks throughout the novel. From the beginning she doesn’t see herself as a con artist, merely a “counselor” of sorts who reads people instead of fortunes. She carries a sense of mild disdain for her clients, a feeling which makes it easier to relieve them of their money. Her self-definition fails, however, once she starts actually seeing ghosts and foretelling the future with frightening accuracy. In the end, Marina must redefine her notions of reality and of herself, a transformation that is not without consequences.

The Grift is a well-written story. The plot is original, the characters are engaging, and the author does an admirable job of handling a wide variety of viewpoints with accuracy and skill. The protagonist acts in ways we would expect of one who suddenly finds the world changed, seemingly overnight. It’s a touch that lends credibility to her character and interest for the reader. A good read for a rainy day.

08 September 2008

The Arrival of Gustav

Gustav is coming ashore and so far we are faring well. Wind gusts 20 - 25mph so far, and the first hard rain squall just arrived a few minutes ago. We have power for the moment, but I'm not sure how much longer that will last. I'll try to post again today with an update. Hope everyone is safe.

01 September 2008

A Publishing Glossary

If you're like me, and new to publishing, the terms that get thrown around when you are researching how to prepare various manuscripts for publishing might seem confusing. Via Bookends, here is a good basic list of what the hell everyone is talking about:

I’ve had a request from a client to put together a publishing dictionary of sorts, an explanation of publishing words and phrases that you hear or see all the time but aren’t always sure of the meaning. I’m not going to go into great details on the how and why of these words, simply a what. In addition to the words that were requested I’ve included a few of my own that I think sometimes cause confusion.

AAR: The Association of Authors’ Representatives is an organization of literary and dramatic agents that sets certain guidelines and standards that professional and reputable agents must abide by. It is really the only organization for literary agents of its kind.

Advance: The amount the publisher pays up front to an author before the book is published. The advance is an advance on all future earnings.

ARCS: Advance Review Copies. Not the final book, these are advance and unfinalized copies of the book that are sent to reviewers.

Auction: During the sale of a manuscript to publishers sometimes, oftentimes if you’re lucky, you’ll have an auction. Not unlike an Ebay auction, this is when multiple publishers bid on your book and ultimately, the last man standing wins (that’s the one who offers the most lucrative deal).

BEA: BookExpo America is the largest book rights fair in the United States. This is where publishers from all over the world gather to share rights information, sell book rights, and flaunt their new, upcoming titles.

Cover Letter: This is the letter that should accompany any material you send to an agent or an editor. A cover letter should remind the agent that the material has been requested, where you met if you’ve met, and of course the same information that is in your query letter—title, genre, a short yet enticing blurb of your book, and bio information if you have any.

Full: A full manuscript

Genre: The classification of books. Examples of genre in fiction include mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction, and in nonfiction you might see business, health, parenting, pets, art, architecture.

Hardcover: A book printed with a hard cover.

Imprint: The name within the publishing house that the book is published under. Usually done as a way to market certain types of books. For example, Aphrodisia is an imprint of Kensington. It is still a Kensington book, but by publishing under Aphrodisia you are branding the book as erotic romance.

Literary Agent: A literary agent works on behalf of the author to sell her book and negotiate with publishers. A literary agent also helps with career planning and development and sometimes editing and marketing.

Marketing: Marketing is advertising that is paid for, including ads in magazines, display units in stores, and things like postcards or posters.

Mass Market: Also called “rack size,” these are paperback books originally designed to fit in rotating book racks in non-bookstore outlets (like grocery stores and drugstores). Mass market paperbacks are roughly 4” x 7” in size.

North American Rights: These are the type of rights licensed to the publisher, allowing the publisher only to handle and represent book rights in North America. This means that the author and the author’s agent are responsible for selling/licensing rights anywhere outside of North America (and usually a designated set of territories).

Preempt: When a publisher makes an advance and royalty offer high enough to take the book off the auction table. In other words, a publisher offers enough money that the author and agent agree that they will sell the book without asking for bids from other publishers.

Proofs/Page proofs: This is the last stage of editing that a book goes through. They are a copy of the designed pages, and the author is given one last chance to review the typesetter's “proofs” to check for typos or other small errors. Proofs are also what are used to make review copies for reviewers and sometimes rights sales.

Proposal/Partial: A proposal or a partial is frequently what an agent will ask for when taking a book under consideration. For fiction and narrative nonfiction a proposal usually includes a cover letter, a designated number of chapters from the book, and a synopsis. For non-narrative nonfiction a proposal usually contains an extended author bio, an overview of the book, an expanded table of contents, detailed marketing and competitive information, and of course sample writing material (usually a chapter or two).

Publicity: Advertising that is free. Publicity includes magazine and newspaper articles, radio and television interviews, and of course MySpace and other networking Web sites.

Query: A one-page letter sent to agents or editors in an attempt to attain representation. A query letter should include all of the author’s contact information—name, address, phone, email, and Web site—as well as the title of the book, genre, author bio if applicable, and a short, enticing blurb of the book.

Royalties: The percentage of the sales (monetary) an author receives for each copy of the book sold.

Sell-Through: This is the most important number in publishing. It’s the percentage of books shipped that have actually sold. For example, if your publisher shipped 100,000 books (great number!) but only sold 40,000, your sell-through is 40%. Not so great. However, if your publisher shipped 50,000 books, and sold 40,000, your sell-through would be 80%. A fantastic number.

Slush/Slush Pile: Any material sent to an agent or an editor that has not been requested.

Synopsis: A detailed, multipage description of the book that includes all major plot points as well as the conclusion.

Trade: To make it easy, trade is the shortened name for trade paperback books and is basically any size that is not mass market. Typically though they run larger than a mass market edition.

Vanity Press: A publisher that publishes the author’s work at the author’s expense (not a recommended way to seek publication by most agents or editors).

World Rights: When World Rights are sold/licensed to the publisher the publisher has the ability to represent the book on the author’s behalf and sell foreign translation rights anywhere in the world. Keep in mind that the author does get a piece of the pie no matter where the book is published.

I found it helpful even though I've been doing this at least long enough to know most of them. Good to avoid sounding like an idiot when approaching potential editors or agents.

22 August 2008

Review: When We Were Romans, by Matthew Kneale

For anyone who grew up in a home broken by divorce, Matthew Kneale’s WHEN WE WERE ROMANS will strike a cord. Narrated by nine-year-old Lawrence, the book captures perfectly the confusion, mixed loyalties, and anxieties felt by children whose world has been upended by divorce. Kneale has constructed a powerful story here, one that not only reminds us what it was like to be young, but also how the actions of adults can have life-long consequences for our children.

After a difficult break-up, Lawrence’s mother decides to leave their home in England and move to Rome, where she lived happily as a young woman. Along with his little sister Jemima and his beloved hamster Hermann, Lawrence reshapes his life, keeping himself entertained with stories of famous Popes and Emperors while trying to cope with the reality of a new people, a new country, and an unfamiliar language, only to find in the end that, once again, nothing in his life was what it seemed.

Kneale does an astounding job of capturing not only the speech, but the logic and thought processes of a child. Throughout the book Lawrence applies his limited little-boy experiences and knowledge of the world to each changing circumstance, sometimes with funny results, sometimes with tragic. In each case, however, we see behind the curtain of his thoughts and how they affect and inform his actions.

Matthew Kneale has written a book that makes you laugh and cry in equal measure, taking you into a world where the adults around you hold all the keys and have all the power. That Lawrence nevertheless survives his experiences is a testament to the resilience of all children. It’s a lesson we all should learn.

18 August 2008

The Daily Grind

1000 more words on the Poe story today. Draft two is finished, with what I hope is a more satisfying ending. Will have to pass it by the LOML tonight to see what he thinks, but I do feel much better about the piece. Barring any major problems, I plan to push it out of the next tomorrow along with a couple of other stories that have come back home without money. Get out there and earn your keep!

Moving on to chapter 3 of the novel. Everything is still very nebulous at this point, and that scares me. Also fending off the fears - what if I suck? What if I don't suck but no one cares anyway? What if I can't sell it? I just try to keep remembering what Gaiman said - write the next thing.

So, off I go.

14 August 2008

A Few Contests

For free books (who can resist?) that I've come across in my web-trolling. Check them out:

A signed copy of WHITE NIGHT by Jim Butcher from Blood of the Muse

A signed copy of NIGHTWALKER by Jocelynn Drake from Amberkatze's Book Blog

A signed copy of SCHOOLED by Anisha Lakhani from Planet Books

12 August 2008

Back to Work

Yesterday my children went back to school, which officially marked the beginning of back to work for me. I've gotten a couple of stories finished over the summer, but it's very hard to get much done with munchkins to take care of. In any case, I'll miss them, but I value the chance to get back to more significant daily word counts.

So, let's see, first day accomplishments: Sent off a poem of mine, "Wicked" to Twisted Tongue magazine; finished a first draft of my Poe story, "Nevermore", and got some work done editing and planning out THE NOVEL. Not bad. Planning more delicious writing time this weekend, as it is only the LOML and myself around.

Was also thinking yesterday about how happy I am to be able to do the thing I love most in the world - write. I've been in so many jobs that required a daily pep talk just to get out of bed this morning. I LOVE writing. Just for the sheer joy of it. Ideas swirl and dance in my head constantly, and I love having the opportunity to just sit down and let the characters tell me their tales. I am so happy to have finally figured out what I was put on this earth to do. I am unbelieveably lucky. And don't I know it.

Now, if I could only get paid for it.

Before I go - an interesting link. One of my favorite authors, in fact I would consider him the greatest author of the 20th century (argue with me if you will), Kurt Vonnegut with an article on writing style. He lays out a few rules. Good advice, though.

09 August 2008

"Do What You Like"

Words of Wisdom from Alan Moore, an icon in the comics world:

06 August 2008

How Cool Is This?

Starting on August 9th, the George Orwell Trust will post the author's diaries on the date each was written, 70 years ago, in a sequence starting in 1939 and ending in 1942. Given that he is one of my favorite English writers, I'm very excited about this news. Even though many entries are said to be of mundane, everyday topics, I'm very eager to get a glimpse into the mind of a man who had an uncanny ability to see and lay bare the human character.

From the Announcement:

From 9th August 2008, you will be able to gather your own impression of Orwell’s face from reading his most strongly individual piece of writing: his diaries. The Orwell Prize is delighted to announce that, to mark the 70th anniversary of the diaries, each diary entry will be published on this blog exactly seventy years after it was written, allowing you to follow Orwell’s recuperation in Morocco, his return to the UK, and his opinions on the descent of Europe into war in real time. The diaries end in 1942, three years into the conflict.

What impression of Orwell will emerge? From his domestic diaries (which start on 9th August), it may be a largely unknown Orwell, whose great curiosity is focused on plants, animals, woodwork, and – above all – how many eggs his chickens have laid. From his political diaries (from 7th September), it may be the Orwell whose political observations and critical thinking have enthralled and inspired generations since his death in 1950. Whether writing about the Spanish Civil War or sloe gin, geraniums or Germany, Orwell’s perceptive eye and rebellion against the ‘gramophone mind’ he so despised are obvious.

Looks to be very interesting.

30 July 2008

Sandman at 20

Via New York Magazine: the commemorative 20th anniversary Sandman poster, along with an excellent short interview with the Neil himself on how the hell he talked DC comics into ever letting him create the thing in the first place.

22 July 2008


MechaCon, Lafayette, LA's own convention celebrating all things anime, will be held August 1 - 3, 2008. A shame that I'll be out of town that weekend, but would be cool to check it out - hopefully I can make it next year. It's been around for a few years now, and seems to be gaining in popularity. A few of the guests scheduled for this year include voice artists and developers like Greg Ayres, Beau Billingslea, Steve Blum and John Chambers.

Stephenie Meyer

I'm currently reading The Twilight Saga, Stephenie Meyer's trilogy (soon to be quartet) of novels about a teenage girl in love with a vampire. While the books are definitely aimed at a specific audience (see protagonist, above), Meyer is a good storyteller, and I am enjoying the read.

Found this article today via Enter the Octopus, which I found interesting. It's from the UK Guardian, and talks about how Meyer's Mormon faith informs her writing.

Review: The Dark Knight

This weekend, like 60% of the rest of America, the LOML and I went to see The Dark Knight at our local mega-superplex. Now, keep in mind that we are comic book/graphic novel fans. We have The Absolute Dark Knight on our shelves, sitting nicely and chatting with The Absolute Watchman, and three published-so-far Absolute Sandmans (and that's not all, folks). So we know this story in the way Comicon fans know these stories, and can be critical of them on more than one level.

In any case, to get to the point: I liked the movie very much, but I didn't LOVE it. I like the direction this new franchise is going in - darker, more interested in exploring the psychology behind someone who feels the need to dress up in a bat costume in order to do good things. There are some great themes at work here, and the movie explored them well, like the fact that there's really only a fine line that exists between the Joker and Batman, and how Harvey Dent/Two-Face embodies that line. I loved the visual, visceral feel of the movie, the sets, the costumes. I even liked the little FISA moment. And of course, I'll get to the BIG THING. Let me talk about the cons first, however.

It was just too much. Too many twists and turns, too many crimes and stunts. There were story lines that weren't fully wrapped up. The Joker, while claiming never to plan and waxing about his role as a simple anarchist, somehow managed to plot out amazingly intricate Evil Deeds, orchestrating the downfall of Gotham like a mad conductor in Hell. It was a lot to take in, sometimes, literally, more than I could keep up with. I think the film would have worked beautifully if it had been kept just a tad simpler, spending more time on the characters than on the too many chase & escape scenes.

Now, of course, the BIG THING. Heath Ledger, the performance and tragedy that has almost overshadowed the movie itself. Before I went, I was a fan. I loved him in Brokeback Mountain. Hell, I even remember a Knight's Tale. I have to admit, however, that I was skeptical here. I mean, of course everyone's going to praise him, the poor guy died tragically just a few months ago. No one's going to say HE SUCKED. But after having seen his performance, I can say with all honesty - Heath Ledger MAKES this film. He brought this campy, silly villain alive in a way that sent shivers down my spine every time he had a monologue. He was sick, twisted, believeable, and in a word, brilliant. As a fan I grieved a second time after leaving this movie. We've lost an incredible talent. Only now do I really appreciate that.

21 July 2008

Watch the Skies

Check out Tor Books' new site, which had been in "coming soon" status for a while. Highlights of the unveiling include some new fiction from John Scalzi and Charles Stross, as well as very cool artwork that can be used as wallpapers. (I'm sporting one now)

Craphound, Free Audio Download

Cory Doctorow's first published short story, Craphound, is now available as a free mp3 download. Check it out here.

13 July 2008

Interview with Chuck Palahniuk

Author of Fight Club and a proponent of Dangerous Writing - writing about the things that scare you, make you feel the most uncomfortable, as a means of dealing with them honestly. He doesn't kid around either. From the UK Independent:

Fans of his nine novels to date, from the cult hit Fight Club to his latest provocation, Snuff – the story of a porn queen named Cassie Wright who sets out to break the world record for serial fornication by having sex with 600 men in a row – will be aware of his love for forensic detail, usually biological. His story "Guts", about a man who loses part of his lower intestine in a masturbation incident, is so graphic that it has caused 73 people to faint at reading tours to date.

Check out the rest of the interview - sounds like a really interesting guy. I would love to go to one of his readings, maybe come away with a bacon car freshener or a blow-up sex doll. Some may call it gimmicky but hey, he stands out. Something to be said for that.

Review: The Heretic's Daughter, by Kathleen Kent

There are few books that keep me up at night. The Heretic’s Daughter, by first-time novelist Kathleen Kent, was one of them. With none of the insecurity sometimes displayed by new authors who are unsure how to carry a long narrative, Kent effortlessly weaves the tale of a woman, Martha Carrier, and the fate suffered by her family during the Salem Witch Trials in 17th century Massachusetts. Told from the perspective of Martha’s 10-year-old daughter, Sarah, the story is not about magic or spells, but is instead about one woman’s courageous stand against tyranny, suspicion, and superstition in a time when such beliefs were considered an integral part of everyday life.

I found that over the course of reading this book I didn’t want to finish it. Not because I lost interest, but because I had become so emotionally invested in these characters that I wanted to somehow stave off their fate, all the while telling myself that I was being ridiculous. In our modern world of happy endings and tidily concluded book and movie plots, the knowledge that my favorite character would indeed die at the end, for no reason other than ignorance and malice, was actually hard for me to confront.

The Heretic’s Daughter is also about family, about the importance of loyalty, and of the timeless struggle of children to understand their parents. It’s a point well-crafted by Kent, told through the story of Sarah’s evolving relationship with her mother as she grows older and comes to understand the reasons behind her stoic demeanor. Ashamed and angry of her at the beginning, Sarah comes to not only comprehend her mother’s actions, but to admire her, love her, and ultimately, carry her legacy with pride.

Kathleen Kent has written a fine novel, certainly an impressive debut. It was one of those rare times when one finds not only a good story, but good storytelling. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for her next effort.

12 July 2008

[No Title]

The hardest thing about writing for me is picking out a title for a piece. It's like pulling teeth. I agonize, choose, reject, choose again, reject, ad nauseum. Sometimes I leave it for days, hoping something inspiring comes my way. Most times I just pick the best of what I rejected. I'm not sure why this is, other than the fact that stories present themselves to me as ideas, feelings really, rather than concrete objects in my imagination. They don't really get worked out and sculpted until I've gotten my first impressions down on paper. After that it's a matter of refining. Finding a title for it means to condense all that emotion and investment down into a few words that are representative without being too revelatory. It's a pain.

Finished and sent off another story last night, but I'm starting to run out of markets. I have seven stories currently out, and many publications aren't accepting submissions at the moment. Therefore I think for the time being I am going to shift my attention back to the novel. She's been calling to me lately anyhow.

On a sad note, I lost my Pootus-cat over the weekend. My friend and companion for 15 years, he just up and left early Saturday morning. Due to his numerous health problems I can only surmise that he died somewhere near here, but I haven't been able to find him. I will miss him greatly - our conversations, his weird kitty idiosyncrasies, and his enduring love for tuna. Bye, Poot, old man. I love you, and I'll never forget you.

07 July 2008


Just finished the second (and hopefully last) draft of a horror story I have to turn in tomorrow. Jesus Christ, that thing was hard to write. Mostly because it contained some personal details. Also because it scared the shit out of me.

I know that sounds crazy, to be scared by something you write yourself. Somehow, though, magically, stories take on a life of their own once committed to paper. It becomes an entity outside of you, with its own idea about who and what it is. The characters speak to you. The story carries you along, like a fiendish twist on automatic writing. Hard to explain. Disconcerting at times.

Particularly when the story is so connected to me. To be honest as a writer, I believe you must write things that affect you emotionally. In this case, for instance, in order to write something scary, I had to write something that would scare me. Whether it scares anyone else or not is another question. What I wrote is honest.

So much so that I literally couldn't work on this thing at night. With the LOML gone, children away for the weekend, I am rattling around this big old house alone, like a ghost of some long-dead inhabitant. I make little impact. Shadows lurk now, small noises are amplified and startle me. I had to wait until the daylight to give my imagination full reign on this one. Otherwise, I might have spent the night huddled under the covers, freaking out.

In any case, I believe it's done. Sending it through the wires to my tireless proofreaders, and then off to the editors. Fingers crossed. Now on to the next thing.

28 June 2008

LOLCat of the Day

more cat pictures

27 June 2008

Secret Lives

Via Jeff VanderMeer's blog, an announcement on the release of his new book, Secret Lives, available in a limited edition first printing run from Ziesing Books. Looks very interesting. Just finished the anthology he recently edited with his wife Ann, Steampunk, and I loved it, so I thought I'd pass it along. I'll post a review here once mine arrives.

25 June 2008

The Nerds of Summer Booklist

Yet another list - this one a nerdy summer primer of tomes to absorb while you try to keep cool. If you're lucky enough to have lazy summer afternoons, and your tastes edge toward fantasy, sci-fi & steam/cyberpunk, check it out.

23 June 2008

Another List

Continuing on, here's another top 100 list: This time the top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy titles. EVER. Personally I think there should be more Gaiman in there. And Vonnegut. Still, not a bad list. Here's the top 10:

1. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny (all ten are now available in an Omnibus)

3. The Ender Quartet by Orson Scott Card

4. Neuromancer by William Gibson

5. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson (6 Books total)

6. Foundation by Isaac Asimov (6 Books total)

7. Dune by Frank Herbert

8. Elric by Michael Moorcock (available in omnibus editions)

9. The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick

10. 1984 by George Orwell

Sad to Hear

George Carlin passed away yesterday from heart failure in Los Angeles. He was 71. Besides being hilariously funny, I always admired him for his bravery and irreverence. He was the jester in Lear's court - not afraid to tell the truth with a sly grin, a purveyor of things that made us laugh, but also made us think. RIP.

The Door to Hell

And you thought it was just a myth...

22 June 2008

The EW List

A few days ago Entertainment Weekly posted their list of the top 100 books published since 1983. Most of them I've heard of, many I've read, but now I'm curious about the ones that are neither. For the most part I agree with their choices, though I have to say I have a hard time swallowing "The DaVinci Code" as a new classic. But hey, this is Entertainment Weekly. There's no accounting for taste, right?

Here's the top ten:

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)

Love at First Sight

Check out Wordle, where you can make a nifty picture out of any text you wish. I created the below from an essay I wrote about soulmates, and meeting the LOML.

19 June 2008

A Review of Bikeman, by Thomas Flynn

I have to admit I was somewhat skeptical when I received a copy of Thomas Flynn’s Bikeman to review. An epic poem? About 9/11? The events of that day can certainly be considered epic by any standard, but poetry that seeks to record such an event seems almost…outdated. I opened the book and flipped around at random, glancing at the page in front of me. This is what I read:

They topple out of shattered windows.
They soar: two or three at once or four.
They fall straight as straws.
They do not tumble like a child’s jacks
but fly straight. The frantic arm waving is over.
They fall resigned.

The impact of those verses hit me like a brick wall, and stayed in my mind until later that night when I sat down to read the rest of the book. I was impressed.

The beauty of poetry lies in its ability to condense emotion and experience into small and powerful packets of verse. There are no spare words – each line is crafted with careful accuracy, cutting with a surgeon’s precision. The result has something like the impact of visual art – immediate and stunning. Flynn seems to understand that principle, and with his choice of form, has distilled the events of 9/11 into a raw, almost visceral experience.

To most of us, that September morning was a series of images, horrifyingly surreal, of tragedy and terror. We watched in unbelief as people jumped to their deaths, and two iconic buildings crashed to the ground as so much rubble. Instead of writing a book that rehashes the facts of that day, Flynn instead revisits the emotions – the anger, helplessness and grief that we felt as a nation.

Thomas Flynn is by trade a journalist, and this book makes a point of highlighting that fact. Dan Rather wrote the foreword. His colleagues Diane Sawyer, Harry Smith, and Meredith Vieira, read it and wrote blurbs for the jacket. What this book gives us, however, is not cold, hard journalistic perspective. Instead, what it offers is much, much more. Epic indeed.

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