Monthly Archives: June 2014

For one day only…

I have created a coupon at Smashwords for the eBook of WOMEN AND MONSTERS.

EM79R

That is the coupon code.

This is the eBook at Smashwords.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/89167

It drops the price down well below the 2.99 mark. As far below it as possible.

Free.

It’s free.

For one day.

Because the world looks like it needs some generosity today, and this is a way I can provide it as I am able.

Be kind to each other, out there. Love thy neighbor as thyself and all that.

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Religious Extremism and Political Power

The emergence of a new Caliphate in the wild, untamed, war-torn wastes of Iraq is quite unfortunate for anyone who believes democracy is a better situation than a religious fascist dictatorship. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the people in power in our own country, just a few years ago, were sort of hoping and planning for a scenario like this one. Political extremism in our country is generally relegated to anti-woman and anti-immigrant actions and activities, also the breakdown of public aid situations presumably meant to drive everyone in their hour of need to a religious charity instead. It is not a good system, generally. And, it is sort of discussed as a separate issue to the emerging caliphate in destabilized Iraq.

But, they are tied to each other, in every way imaginable.

First, since the crusades and the Imperialism that followed, carving up the land into countries that had no relationship to the people on the ground at their birth, there has been a culture of fear and intimidation, where both Islam and Christianity have difficulty trusting each other, and certainly Islam can say they have been under assault for thousands of years, in one fashion or another. Generally, these wars have been fought on soil held by Islam. Once, when Spain was taken by African Muslims, there was an actual invasion north, but this kingdom did not hold for long, and the Spanish crown recovered what was lost. The West has invaded. The West has come for oil, and manpower, and the conversion of souls. The West has built churches of wealth and beauty while permitting the mosques to decay. The West declared a Jewish kingdom, and unfortunately, everyone was so afraid of Jews and Judaism. We were all so racist and awful about the community of Holocaust survivors. There is so much history. History has set us all up for failure as the failures of so many generations push the boundaries together.

Second, in our own country, the religious extremism of the halls of power seeks to recreate the Book of Revelations to create the “end times” that actually don’t sound so wonderful, nor so ideal, with lots of death and destruction and damnation. But, you know, the good people are saved, right? Yeah. But the world is destroyed. With that destruction, the wonder of grass and trees and flowers, the push of life in the fields were does run and doves fly and hawks descend and life happens is lost, in some mythical parable of humanity’s apotheosis by fire, as if we are all that matters of the living here. Anyway, that’s a discussion for a different day. Today, let us consider the Book of Revelations, and the goals therein. The religious fanatics in our own country, who espouse the fundamental Christian agenda, have been hoping and praying for the return of Christ. They have been wishing for it, and dreaming of it, and seeking it out, in sort of the same way that a bullied child dreams of being the owner of the company while the bullies all grow up to be janitors. (“Just you wait, all you doubters, and people who think I’m wasting my life, because when Jesus gets here, you’re all going to regret it!”)

(I am, myself, a Roman Catholic, and I work at a Christian Bookstore that I adore, and I can’t help but wonder at anyone who wants to hasten the end times, when it is pretty clear to me it doesn’t happen when we want it to happen, nor when we think it should. In fact, I suspect that the end times come for all of us at the end of our lives. For, the world exists in our senses. Once our senses are lost, in death, and we burn away into the tiniest shell of soul and bacterial presence, returning to soil, then this is the end of the world. The theological mistake we often make in our religion is to misinterpret the personal as universals. And, it is a gross misjudgment of Islam to describe a religion that is so committed to peace and harmony and justice as a violent or fascist religion, and, as ever, on the ground, the fanatics can get funky. But, I digress…)

Historically, and recently, the region of the world described as the Middle East is very unstable and difficult for a variety of reasons. But, one thing is clear: To hold power in the region and create stability for the people who live there and deserve to live without war, unfortunately only really strong dictatorships seem capable of succeeding there. Ergo, the flowerings of democracy in the Arab Spring do not look like they will be able to hold without some serious cultivation and effort. Unfortunately, the blood of many patriots has already spilled to provide that fertilizing. Now, students of history, particularly recent history, will note that this is the way regions play out after an exploitation system disguised as an “empire” pulls away from areas, generally.

Generally, people in power should be able to predict that destabilizing the balance of power in a tense, taught region like the Middle East, will lead to the rise of some serious dictator shit. Some religious fanatic will grab power violently and quickly and start the execution machines pretty quick in the face of a weak, underfunded, young democracy. This was a likely outcome, even early on in the planning stages, and described as a sort of “worst-case-scenario” of the Iraq war, from the get go. But, if you believe that the end times are coming, this is a “best-case-scenario” because it means we are one step closer to the end times, where Jesus comes down and culls the herd and the fire and the horsemen and all that symbolism made literal.

Remember, again, I am Catholic, and have read my fair share of the Bible, and I don’t think you can adequately read the Bible as a literal document. For us Catholics, the Bible is a very useful document, but Jesus didn’t write it, himself. He inspired it. He never wrote a word of it. He was busy practicing what he was preaching to write anything down. And, the revelations of Paul of the end times was a metaphoric way of addressing reality, not to be confused with actual reality.

Unless you are a fundamentalist Christian, and the Bible is literally true, and things not contained therein are categorically either false or unnecessary complications. In that case, the emergent Caliphate of Iraq is an opportunity to see the end times in our own lifetimes.

Evangelical, Fundamental Christianity has become the tool of an infection that plagues our own society: We have our own deadly Caliphate. They would see children of color die in poverty instead of receiving basic care. They ship black sons away to die in prison in a continuation of slavery with the War on Drugs that started on their watch. They oppress women, and remove them from the halls of power and remove control over their own bodies as it doesn’t align with the will of the religious doctrine.

This is an infection of male power fantasies, not true religion. The idea that an individual man can transcend the flesh if only that man can live correctly, by a strict rule of law, and in this transcend, transcend, gain power, gain the favor of unknowable and otherwise quiet gods.

We have our own deadly Caliphate right here, in our country, and they hold rallies, have their own news channel for their true, correct news information, and we are saved only that the rule of law, here, permits us to vote them out of power for a while. But, their appointments remain. Their infection remains.

As a student of American History, and a white male, I can understand our caliphate only in relation to racism and the history of slavery. It is a power mindset of ownership, and the power mindset of divine rights. And, we have a big army, and the religious fanatics that were in power when the GOP declared war on Iraq despite the absence of evidence of WMD, saw an opportunity to destabilize a region, and they crossed their fingers and prayed to God that they would live to see the glory of the end times.

Never pray for glory. Glory is for God, not man. Never pray for power over others. Never pray for revenge. Pray only to be grateful, and to be amazed, and to give up our anxieties to God, that we may trust to have enough, for we are not begging God for things, but begging God for the power to endure the things.

Also, defeat the American Christian Caliphate. Strip them of power. Throw them from the halls of history, to the fringes of society where they belong. Do this, lest they continue down the path of Revelations. When presented the beauty of the forests and the fields, who would dare dream that mankind was the only reason life was created at all? Who would be so arrogant as to suggest that the flowering cactus in the hardest soil, blooming in the living desert, would do so because it is part of a factory of heavenly souls? Can the world’s existence be beautiful and true without the promise of a hereafter that’s even better? Can we accept what we have as cosmically enough, and thank God for it, here?

Can we live in a world that doesn’t make religion and spirituality the tool of power to push people into roles subservient to others?

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Having a Good Day

This showed up. Over at Kirkus Reviews:

I see what I see of the city, by the grace of the goddess Erin, who granted me the lost memories of the demon child’s skull that I might root out the evil of the world.
I recently wrote about trilogy endings and how saying goodbye to a favorite series is both sad and exciting. I found myself revisiting that bittersweet moment recently when I read We Leave Together by J.M. McDermott, the final book in the excellent, and sadly under-read, Dogsland Trilogy (Never Knew AnotherWhen We Were ExecutionersWe Leave Together). It’s a trilogy I wish had gotten more attention from fellow SFF readers because it is so good: It succeeds in what it sets out to do, it’s grim but it engages with its grimness in a thoughtful way and the prose itself is enough to recommend the book on its own.

I am so extremely grateful for the support of Thea and Ana over at the Booksmugglers. After a long week of work, and so many ups and downs in my private life, this.

It’s lovely to know that someone is reading, and people are talking and championing and doing so much.

Thank you! Thank you to everyone who writes reviews! Thank you to everyone who has written them!

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a day without news…

Always something happening, and people talking about the happening, and sharing links about the happening, and always things happening of national importance.

I long for the power to cast a sleep spell across the world, and let everyone lie back, recline, and rest their eyes.

For one day, all bullets sleep. For one day, all cruel barbs and thoughtless words flame out before they touch the tongue. All sportsmen decline to appear, and no one is concerned about their absence. For just one day, the traffic lights hold still. No one drives, anyway. We just rest. Absolutely nothing happens. No one is born. No one dies. Nothing changes for one day.

We are drowning in the ocean of noise, of events, of human life pouring at us from every haunted windowpane, where ghosts flicker, and pinging beeps demand the buttons be pushed. We are drowning in this ocean of news.

Most of us have forgotten that we are, each of us, the drop that contains the whole ocean, and not a drifting particle of it, separated from our true place in the flood and flow.

For just one day, I imagine a day without news.

We all stay home. The televisions don’t turn on. There are plenty of leftovers in the fridge. The dogs are walked. The cats are fed. The children hide in their rooms reading books and playing board games. And we, the grown and serious, drink tea and watch the flowers bloom in the yard or the windowsill garden, and for just one day there is no news to distract us from the sea inside. Our journey into the silent land would bring us all such peace, a sabbath rest and a stillness of mind, and books, glorious books, to fill us up with the things too often drowned out by the NOWNOWNOW tides of updates and outbreaks and statements and developments.

Still the mind.

For just one day.

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rough around the edges

with a busted bed frame, we’ve been sleeping all over the house. replacement is coming in today. the broken bed had been slightly broken during a move, and broke completely, eventually, sometime in the night when we were too deep asleep to notice anything.

i’ve been sleeping on the couch, then.

i’m rough around the edges, exhausted, and too tired to write this morning.

so, i’m going to do it anyway. the difference, i guess, between a professional writer and an amateur, beyond the money, is that being responsible about one’s career requires writing even when one has been having bad dreams for weeks, and sleeping on couches, and waking up exhausted, dehydrated, hot. all i want to do is sit in a cool bath and listen to audio books and instead i am here.

books don’t write themselves.

i want to start a litmag called “modern economy”. it would have theme issues. it would be genre-agnostic. i can’t start one unless i make more money writing, so i have to go write.

so go write.

ready
steady
go

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Signed Copies of Books, How to Get Them?

If folks are interested in signed copies of any of my books, there are basically two ways to go about it. First, one could contact one of my publishers and ask if any are available. I don’t think Night Shade will have any, nor am I sure how anyone would reach them about it, but Apex and WordHorde are both very friendly with useful contact information on their respective web sites.

Second, where I live in San Antonio, I have an excellent relationship to the two independent bookstores here, in town. Call Viva Books or the Twig Bookshop in San Antonio, who are both easy to find in Google.

(Everyone at Viva knows me very well. At the Twig, definitely ask for Claudia, because she knows exactly how to find me.)

Make sure to tell the person on the phone that you want a signed copy, not just any ol’ copy.

Here are the websites:

The Twig (Remember to ask for Claudia!)
http://thetwig.indiebound.com/

Viva Books
http://www.vivabooks.com/

Either one will work great, and they are both wonderful, independent bookstores with a strong, independent spirit. They both ship.

Requests for personalization are easy to arrange, in this case, if you want the book to be a gift.

I’m going to be stickying this post somewhere on the side, you know, for future reference.

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Strange but not really Stranger anymore, on Camus

Last night, on a lark, I plucked a Albert Camus’ celebrated classic, THE STRANGER, off the bookshelf and read it through. It is a short novel, and a quick one to read. These days, it would likely be classed a novella, and combined with other things. It is such a pleasure, while reading so many very long things, to sit down and finish something in a sitting on a lark.

The story is simple enough. A man narrates the death of his mother, her funeral, and then the days afterwards where he ends up, in a manner not unlike washing ashore upon a hard stone, shoots an unnamed Arab gentleman on the beach repeatedly with a friend’s gun.

The second part of the book is the trial from the prisoner’s perspective, and subsequent incarceration, leading up to a presumed beheading.

The philosophy of the novel, if there is one, is a sort of Sartrean moment, and rejection of all faith and all society, except what parts of it are interesting to the accused. The simple pleasure of a swim on the beach, the love of a woman, and the fine meal with friends is all he desires. Anything that hampers that, including his own sickly mother, is an unpleasant thing, to be avoided. Send it away. Ship her off somewhere where people can look after her and she can live again.

Also, death comes. In death, in knowing death, and experiencing it hanging over an individual soul like a fresh tattoo, the beauty and wonder of the imagination and life flowers. The self cuts through the nonsense, beyond fear, driven by fear, and finds the true self for a while.

The book really seems to try too hard to be “ABOUT THE 20TH CENTURY!” and the MODERN TIMES. By stepping back and being so general, it loses the power that comes from great specificity, in such an interesting place and time, with such brutality and naked colonialism. The message of the absurd and the excessive condemnation of a society that seems to have created the monster it destroys is muted by the failure of the space to feel specific. All of the cosmos exists in single, precise gestures and lives. The alienation I felt was not indicative of the human condition, but indicative of a failure of an artist to provide ample support for their world.

My opinion is obviously not shared by the Nobel Prize Committee, or most of Academia, but we are allowed to disagree.

I may not agree with the book, but it is a thoughtful and relatively simple one to read. I did not like it as much as I liked THE PLAGUE. And, the narrator is absolutely horrible, and it is hard not to agree with his guilt, even if beheading the man is so extreme, and the trial is a farce. The narrator is cold, callous, and sociopathic, and has no issue in the slightest lying and taking advantage of others whenever it is easier to do so than not to do so. Whomever stands before him can convince him to do anything, agree with anything, with one exception: a priest. He couldn’t care less about his own life, really, even on the brink of losing it. The only certain thing he holds onto his a nihilistic rejection of religion, and a full-throated embrace of objectification of women.

An interesting character-study, perhaps, but definitely not an enjoyable one.

Also, I felt like I was reading a lesser version of George Simenon’s wonderful masterpiece, DIRTY SNOW. I would recommend that over Camus’ STRANGER, instead. Many of the same ideas are present, including, alas, the misogynistic ones of the place and time, but they are fleshed out and made real with more depth and meaning, and the characters around the monster are allowed to be fully realized, and not just faces in the gallery around the accused, more mask and symbol than flesh and blood and bone.

So, skip the Stranger. Read Simenon.

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I think trees see us upside-down

On human bodies, the necessary part of us is our brain, at the top of our heads, and if we lose that nothing else matters.

In trees, the root ball where the trunk begins to rise is that part. From there, one could cut away the top and graft something else on and it would make no difference to the tree below, generally.
In humans, our reproductive organs and the exhalation of our waste materials happen below.
In trees, the waste matter goes up, and the flowers bloom on long stalks, where the seeds mature in the air, and spread through the air where our mammalian children run over the land to chase the cottonwood puffs far away from us.

The soul of the plant is in the ground. The way they talk and share knowledge is through the soil where roots spread and form interlocking communities with the complex web of life in the soil. They drink from there, and eat down there. This is where they live their lives, hold their parties, and ease their infants into the world of the living. The roots are larger than the trees above them. Mesquite taproots descend a mile into the earth, down and down like a tower of babel in reverse. Fig roots reach around and spread widely, seeking all the food and water greedy for it.

We are looking at each other, but we do not see each other. We see each other only upside down.

And the trees do see us. The soil is upended, and the bodies descend into the earth. They taste the bacteria and fungi of our skin, the populations of things that live inside of us, and go down into the soil, and from there they communicate with what is left of us, and learn of our strange, above-ground cities.

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bad dreams bad dreams every night bad dreams

i have had nightmares for a few nights in a row, now. last night was the worst. i dreamt that i had been offered the chance to go back to high school, and do it all over again (which is bad enough!) still, i righteously decided to be positive and be a warrior for good in the past, and ignore all the bollocks high school nonsense, because i was a grown, confidant man in a boy’s body. i marched to school, proudly declaring to myself that i was going to be change. i was going to make a difference this time.
i walked up to the first ostracized kid i saw, and said a cheerful hello. i looked in to one of the worst teachers i had, a couch of some sort of sport, who had often simmered a little homophobia from the edges of his mouth. it was catholic school in the early nineties in central texas, so that was par for the course, and evidence indicates it remains so. not me, though. i was going to be a force for good. i was going to bravely stand up for the rights and humanity of the people around me. i knew better.
so i did exactly that, as class was shuffling in to the desks for another hour of meaningless “education” in texas history or health or something ridiculous and ridiculously unhelpful to me as an adult, freethinking, reading, writing, human citizen. he was offended, and turned away from the class to stop one of the students from coming into the class and quickly, cleanly sliced the young man’s throat.
the kid he killed had been acting gay.
we screamed. we howled. he was the authority. he said the boy was acting gay and we had to take it. we had to sit down and go on with our class like it hadn’t happened at all.
this isn’t the worst dream i’ve had these few nights.
they’ve all had this same pattern, where i start down this difficult path, decide to do my best, and try my best, and make the best of things, and then something unspeakable happens to slaughter the cheerful mood.
i expect i’ll be staying up very late tonight, trying to still my mind, and find something better to dream about. i don’t want to sleep right now. i don’t want to dream.
tell me your bad dreams. what is the worst dream you’ve had. in speaking of them, there is power over them. 

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On the Value of Architects

Every minute of our lives will be spent in public and private space. I am at a desk in a public space, waiting for students to arrive and use our facility. The layout of the room was designed with this in mind, a big, open computer lab, with desks in back for tutors and teachers to observe without leaning over a shoulder. There are classrooms that began as a thought in someone’s head, with a layout of desks designed by someone.

I parked in a garage near here. The side of the building is covered in recycled plastic that forms an elegant and otherworldy weave pattern. There is little utilitarian function for it beyond just shading the hard concrete, but it is ornamental and distinctive and recycled.

Every building in all the cities of the world, every room began as an idea in someone’s head, sketched out on paper, imagined and observed by moneyed interests that got to choose to make real or not.

We invent our landscape as a community. We go from parks carved out, selected, interpreted by designers of parks, and implemented. Our homes were built by architects and contractors who design homes to sell homes to people, and then we buy homes because of furniture, or buy furniture because of homes.

At the end of the day, everything we see is designed.

Architecture is a rough gig. It requires long years of schooling, and afterwards a long apprenticeship in an unstable field, paying relatively little. They scrounge around for sponsorship, marrying rich if they are lucky. All for art, they tour the continents, observing the great palaces and gardens and the way light moves across rooms in open space.

Every road is planned out, considered as a means and method and artery of life. Every cul-de-sac is intended for a lifestyle that it supports, like a pulsing organ. Every grand, huge building that bears some incredible name is at once a monolith of the founder, and an outward expression of interior belief.

Everything is designed. Everywhere is designed.

We are all walking inside the imagination of the city, itself.

We are all sleeping in a room born in someone else’s head.

We hang curtains inside the imagination, and hang pictures on the walls and call it ours.

Call the architects and urban planners. Tell them how you want to live, and they will build it for you carefully, precisely, and the imagination of space lives on long beyond our lives in the solidity of steel and stone and heavy, red bricks.

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