You! Set your dainty cup of grease down,
and be like the you you remember, like the man just-dead.
Days cry for him.
He’s gone, all of his time piled up, unsmelted ore behind the Now,
and I will set this down with drills in stone in the Met:
“There are wonders at the door,
Be seeing ya.”
We are back in our house at last, recovering from the house fire. Everything is new and shiny and uncluttered and just about perfect. For the first time in my life I am not surrounded by books in every room, and it’s surreal and unsettling like I’m surrounded by a vacuum and might be pulled in at any moment.
But the lack of visual clutter and massive to-read piles that I will never actually read: that is relaxing too. Honestly, it’s a relief to be free of all the mess, and of most of the books too. Many I miss, don’t get me wrong; they are treasures beyond compare. But the vast majority were simply self-imposed duties I could not fulfill, weighting down my artistic conscience.
Really, I like the new place. It’s much better than the old place. Minimalistic, with only what we need.
We even have a new fake Christmas tree, and the needles aren’t even melted 😉
After two years of successive tragedies (the death of my mother, my grandfather, and my wife’s grandfather one year; the burning down and rebuilding of my house the next), I am finally crawling back into writing.
All the time I spent exploring plotting seems to have paid off. I am developing a pretty good plot that I love (shock! awe! when did such a thing ever happen before with pre-plotting? Never!). Also, I’m doing some pretty fun world building.
My actual writing skills are quite rusty, and I don’t like the words I am making, but I wonder if I should really worry about that. Once I have the plot, characters, and scenes nailed down, and I iterate through the book, the rust should be mostly gone. Then I can turn around on the rewrite and really polish the style up.
It’s nice to be optimistic again about the writing. I guess it takes a while to get your feet back under you after being bulldozed down so many times.
As the great philosopher Chumbawumba once said, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.”
9 and a half months after the house fire, our house is finally getting close to done. We should be moving back in this Friday, if all goes well.
Of course, all may not go well. Our contractor, picked after much discussion and research, turned out not to be as good or as organized as we’d hoped.
Decorative columns are falling off the front of the house because they were only attached to house with paint. We have concerns that maybe the builder didn’t tell the roofing truss company they had taken out a load bearing wall. We go on a trip with the builder to pick out appliances and finishes, and he calls us for the next week asking /us/ for the SKU’s because he’s lost them. Ditto for finishes. We show up at the house and the plumber is sitting there doing nothing because the builder has forgotten to bring in the toilets and dishwaser. There is something odd with the actual roof itself too; we can see the ribs of the roof through the tile, and we shouldn’t.
We are fed up, and as final inspections by the city and the move-in date approach, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope.
Well, that, and call the roofing truss company and bring in a third-party home inspection company. Because, really, I don’t trust my builder anymore. Honestly, I barely believe he can put his pants on the right way around in the mornings.
SF Signal has chosen my story, “Teddy Bears and Tea Parties”, as the #3 in its list of the Best Podcasts of All Time!
I am honored to be mentioned in the company of such greats as Philip K. Dick, Octavia Butler, and so many others.
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! etc.
I haven’t been posting… because I’ve been busy.
I’ve been coming to terms with the setting of my current novel, and reworking things so that it feels alive to me. For instance, since I’m writing about a place very much like Ancient South China, I’ve been learning a lot about rice and paddies, and really focusing on experiencing this place on a visceral level.
I had gone down a path of too much book learning about the subject, which really means I wasted a lot of time taking notes about useless stuff. None of my notes make it real. I need to see it, smell it, taste it in the back of my throat — then I can make it feel real.
This means not a lot of forward progress, but what I do have is much more satisfying to me, personally.
Bow (for Amtgard, the swords and sorcery LARP that I play)
Drills every day last week. Speed-nocking, arrow gripping, speed pull, rapid target acquisition. I am in an apartment still, so no target practice; this means my accuracy is likely crap. But, by god, I will be able to nock, grab, pull, pick a target, and fire fast.
I still only have one arrow, but hopefully that will be fixed soon.
Sword (also for Amtgard)
Lots of sparring and block/strike drills this week.
The park held a mini-tournament this weekend. The format was “Ironman”, also known as “Bear Pit” — two people fight in a ring for 15 seconds. Whoever wins, stays in, and the next person in line goes in to fight. Wounds are not healed between bouts. Overall time limit was 30 minutes, I believe.
I came in second, and I could’ve come in first if I hadn’t made a couple of stupid mistakes. My longest streak was 6 kills in a row, and I had 29 kills total. The winner had 34, which is closer than it sounds. I lost my place in line (and thus my turn at winning and staying in the bear pit) twice, and it would’ve been a lot closer if I had been paying attention.
My left shoulder is now killing me, due to overwork.
Also for sword:
Three top level Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) coaches from mainland China visited my Kung Fu school on Thursday. Really amazing to see 60 and 70 year olds move with lower stances, more fluidity, and more suppleness than me, someone 20-30 years their junior.
I have lots of medals in Taiji from various national and international tournaments, but these people were much better than me. They were really doing Taiji. I don’t know quite what I’m doing, but it’s obviously not Taiji yet.
To my (tiny) fan base (and to my much larger group of friends):
I will be appearing at ConDFW this weekend (2/19/14-2/21/14). Come check it out!
Friday 6p-7p: The Foot is Mightier than the Pen
– Me and Adrian Simmons show writers what real martial arts looks like.
Saturday 4p-5p: Star Wars vs. Star Trek
-I will be on the Star Wars side.
Sunday 11am-Noon: Mining for New Ideas
– Where to find new iedas for your writing.
When you look at a field, what do you see? Do you see “green” or “grass” or even just “field”? If so, you’re not really looking.
I am looking at one now, and I see at least five to ten different shades of green, at least 3 different shades of tan and brown, and everything bit of grass, living or dead, at a different length. Even grasses of the same species look unique. They clump together, run in strips or curves, and the leave huge open spaces. Fate and randomness has textured like the rind of an orange.
This field was once a building, a vast warehouse, and the foundation of it is still there underneath, and there are tiny bits of rubble just beyond sight. The bulldozers scraped the whole surface clean once, long ago, and so the field always looks like it has been plowed for crops where their teeth dragged and then overgrown even though it has never been plowed before.
But what really amazes me are the bushes. You don’t even see them when you look at this place at first — you look and you see “field” and that’s all, and all the bushes disappear from your eyes because you see a category, a shape, an abstract object instead of the thing itself. It is cruel and heartless dominance of the abstract over the real.
Really, it’s like Plato and Aristotle had it all backward, that the abstract, perfect world of “forms” is not a thing beyond or behind reality, but an instinctive creation of the mind, a simplification that the brain resorts to in order to be able to process all of the data and sort it and organize it in a useful way. The “shadows on the wall of a cave” are not the physical world at all, but the cognitive system of grouping, classification, and ordering that our mind uses to construct meaning.
Reality is always complex, textured, nuanced, with layers of history right there, visible under the surface, between the bushes and the blades of grass, but the mind cannot handle all of this information at once. It is too much. It is not useful, not relevant to survival or thriving, and it is discarded. And that is the way it should be. Usually. But sometimes you need to turn that filter off, and you need to see what is actually HERE.
Because sometimes the “perfect form” is not enough.
Because sometimes you need the truth, with all its various shades.
Because… sometimes… the world is beautiful.