End of Life (Tuesday, 22 April 2014)

Regular readers of this blog know that self has been sending out her stories like crazy: at one point she had no less than 38 stories in circulation.  Right after she announced that figure on Twitter, however, rejections began coming thick and fast.  Now she only has about 21 stories wending their lonely way across editors’ desks, all across America.

Of all things, a few days ago she had one story picked up by two publications.  OK, egg on her face.  She absolutely lives for these two words: SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS.  It’s just never happened to her before:  two magazines wanting the same story.  She must be in some kind of zone.

Then there was a new message yesterday, from Café Irreal.  They’ve published her once before: that story was “Appetites.”

The one they will publish this August is “The Secret Room,” an odd little story which she wrote last year, and begins with these lines:

For years the Queen had tried to learn what was behind the locked door in the east tower of her husband’s castle.

The locks were intricate couplings of brass and silver.

Self loves writing fables.

And, in a last-ditch effort to storm through her Pile of Stuff, she picks out yet another New Yorker. Appropriately enough (given the subject matter of “The Secret Room”), it is an article on Death Certificates, written by Kathryn Schulz, from the April 7, 2014 issue.  Apparently, the Death Certificate had its start in “in early sixteenth-century England, in a form known as the Billy of Mortality.  The antecedent of the Bill of Mortality does not exist.  No earlier civilization we know of kept systemic track of its dead: not ancient Egyptians, for all their elaborate funerary customs; not the Greeks; not the Romans, those otherwise assiduous centralized bookkeepers.”

One would have thought the early Christian church would have stepped in here, but no:  “the church was interested in the fate of the soul, not the body.  If the goal of life is to gain access to heaven, and death is in God’s hands, there’s no point, and no grace, in dwelling on the particulars of how we die.”

Alas, self can blog no further.  7:46 a.m. and she’s still got to prepare a manuscript to send out today, to yet another literary contest.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


Self wrote a short short of speculative fiction called “The Forest” and has been getting some nice rejections, like one from The Chattahoochee Review that said they liked the voice.

That’s something.  It’s a strange story.  About twin boys who keep lobbing tennis balls into the narrator’s backyard.  One day he decides to talk to them so . . .

Self decided to do some research on saving the huge stands of trees that once grew all over the California coast.  Believe it or not, dear blog readers, this is connected to the story.  Thank God for Google.

On treehugger.com, she found a list called:  5 FOODS YOU SHOULDN’T EAT IF YOU CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT

And the first thing on the list is self’s own favorite food to ingest:  COFFEE.

But, it’s OK to ingest “shade-grown, organic coffee.”  Coffee is really a shade plant, and self knows this because, in the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, self saw a coffee plant.  In fact, here’s a picture:

Arabica Coffee Plant, San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

Arabica Coffee Plant, San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

But according to treehugger.com, “many farmers now grow it in full sunlight, with a heavy dependence on pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers.  They also chop down rainforests, destroying bird habitats.”


“Cheap burgers are environmental assassins,” says Logan Strenchock (What a name.  Almost as bad as Plutarch Heavensbee), “Central European University’s sustainability officer.” And self has super-high cholesterol so she really shouldn’t be eating beef anyway.


According to the article, which by the way was written by Katherine Martinko and posted on the day before Valentine’s Day, “Palm oil is used in half of all packaged food sold in the U.S., particularly cookies, crackers, and soups.  Palm oil is the largest cause of rainforest destruction, resulting in huge swaths of Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests being bulldozed in order to plant palm oil trees.”


“Bluefin is a popular choice at high-end sushi restaurants, but their numbers in the oceans are dropping fast.”  There’s a link to an article on Japan’s insistence that the fish isn’t endangered.


“It kills bees, reduces biodiversity, drives heirloom crops to extinction, and requires excessive processing to transform it into high-fructose corn syrup, another ingredient found in processed foods (which should be avoided anyway because they contain palm oil).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Pairings Battles: Who Will Win?

This is total fluff, but anyhoo, since self seems to be on a roll, she will just keep on posting (that is, until The Man gets home and imposes some order on self’s abysmally dis-ordered mental state):

Hypable’s Battleships Pairings Tournament is down to the semi-finals, so if you feel inclined to pitch your hat in favor of either of the following pairings:

  • Bella/Edward
  • Brienne/Jaime


(An early round had Nick/Gatsby and Frodo/Sam.  At some point, did any blog readers wonder if Haymitch and Effie could possibly have some outside-of-the-games romance?  Honestly, the way Haymitch rolls his eyes at Effie leads self to think the man has got to be in love — BWAH. HA. HAAA!)

Apologies, dear blog readers.  Once again, self has gotten side-tracked from the original impulse which caused her to think of posting.  Which is that:  After much slogging, self has clawed her way to PAGE 214 of Henry M. Stanley’s 536-page How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa.  YEEESSS!  In between p. 1 and p. 214, self:

  • Ate a whole lemon meringue pie.
  • Watched her Netflix movie rental, Boy A, and developed admiration for Andrew Garfield.
  • Found out her short story “Sofia” will be in Philippine Speculative Fiction, vol. 9.
  • Got very, very sick.
  • Attended a New Year’s Eve lunch in Menlo Park.
  • Watched Stanford lose in the Rose Bowl.
  • Went to town on take-out from Sam’s Chowder House in downtown Palo Alto.
  • Saw “Frozen.”
  • Read five back issues of The Economist.
  • Discontinued her subscription to The New York Times Book Review.

There were also relaxing activities like:  watering, watching birds in the backyard, watching Dr. Oz, and watching Saturday Night Live re-runs.  Self just realized:  things are so much clearer when one is sick.  Self had no idea how beneficial forced home incarceration/rest can be for the mental faculties.  For one thing, she got to read everything about Mockingjay.  Now she knows that Katniss first mentions Peeta’s name on p. 5.  P. 5!  Holy cow, girl!  Can’cha get with the program already!

On p. 214 of How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa, Henry M. Stanley develops a severe case of malaria.  While he is feverish and thus incapacitated, his porters take the opportunity to abandon him.  All except for one, an “Arab” named Selim.

I asked Selim, “Why did you not also run away, and leave your master to die?”

“Oh, sir,” said the Arab boy, naively, “I was afraid you would whip me.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The NYTBR, 16 June 2013

Congratulations to the following writers/contributors, who made this issue of the NYTBR worth reading (Although self is still canceling her subscription):

Elaine Blair * Jeannette Walls *  Donovan Hohn * Justin Cronin *

Elaine Blair’s review of What Do Women Want?  Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, by Daniel Bergner was the title page review.  Blair’s review made self want to read Bergner’s previous book, The Other Side of Desire.  See, it is so interesting that a man is responsible for doing all this research into female desire.  Self fully expected that a woman scientist would produce the first comprehensive look at this fascinating topic.  But then, why can’t it be a man?  Men, after all, are just as affected by feminine desire as women are!  Onward.

The “By the Book” interview is a good one.  It’s with memoirist Jeannette Walls (There was one time the “By the Book” interviewee was Amanda Knox, she who was jailed in Italy for several years after being convicted of the murder of her roommate.  What on earth the NYTBR thought they were doing when they interviewed Amanda Knox about her favorite books is still a profound mystery to self)

Jeannette Walls’ favorite book “of all time” is The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene.

Recently, she was impressed by A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout, a memoir about Lindhout’s time spent “kidnapped in Somalia.”  In addition, Walls recommends the following memoirs:  In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, by Neil White; The Memory Palace, by Mira Bartok; Denial, by Jessica Stern; A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah; An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Redfield Jamison; Chanel Bonfire, by Wendy Lawless; The Center Cannot Hold, by Elyn Saks; After Visiting Friends, by Michael Haimey; The Kiss, by Kathryn Harrison (Self has read this one; it’s about Harrison’s affair with her father); My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor; Couldn’t Keep It to Myself:  Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution, edited by Wally Lamb.

The book that “had the greatest impact on” Walls when she was growing up was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Donovan Hohn reviewed The Riddle of the Labyrinth:  The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code, by Margalit Fox.  It is wonderful to read that the “gentleman archaeologist who led the excavation at Knossos” on the island of Crete brought along for sustenance “two dozen tins of ox tongue, 12 plum puddings and a Union Jack.”  Hohn also brings up the term “hash marks” which then leads self to wonder how far we have come, from markings on an ancient tomb in Crete to Twitter.

Finally, there is Justin Cronin, who reviews “the world’s first 9/11 werewolf book,” Red Moon, by Benjamin Percy.  Here we are in a world where “lycans” (werewolves, for you non-initiates or total ignoramuses) are confined to a reservation on a “discouraging patch of permafrost in northern Scandinavia, currently under American military occupation to safeguard its valuable training resources.”  A majority of Americans goes about their business peaceably under “mandated medication — a mind-dulling silver-infused concoction wittily named Volpexx.” Sold!  How soon can self get her hands on this book?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Thanks Much, Charles Tan

Charles A. Tan was the first person ever to solicit a piece of speculative fiction from self.

That was several years ago.

Now, he’s compiled this amazing bibliography of Female Filipino Speculative Fiction Writers (Granted, that word “Female” is a little — odd?  Because here in the U.S. we’d say “Women Filipino Speculative Fiction Writers.” Anyhoo, enough with the digressions).

Whenever self has time, she goes over the list.  It is fun to do, as almost every writer on the list has a link to an on-line story, so one can actually read their work.

Today, for example, self read Nikki Alfar’s “Adrift on the Street Formerly Known as Buendia,” published on a site called Bewildering Stories, and it was very, very entertaining.  Also enjoyed Crystal Koo’s “The Startbox,” in Usok # 1 (2009).

There are some mysteries, such as why a writer named Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon has three inactive links under her entry.  Or why there are no links to any of Monique Francisco’s stories, or to Christine V. Lao’s.

But when one remembers that Charles isn’t paid to do any of this, that he contributes his time as a labor of love, that he himself writes, and has a day job –  when one considers all of these factors, then one becomes, like self, very, very grateful.

Charles is very, very shy.  Self has only met him twice in person.  He is Ateneo-educated, slight, and softspoken.  But don’t let that exterior fool you!  Inside, he is steel.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Mysterious Mirrors

Fearsome hot.

This morning, The Ancient One appeared wan, gave only indifferent attention to her food (over which self had generously ladled warmed up bacon grease.  At this point, she will not worry about Bella’s cholesterol!)

Self immediately text-ed son:  Prepare yourself!

He text-ed back:  Maybe you should switch her dry dog food.

Self became a little annoyed at the nonchalance.

She had a couple of errands to run, so she ran them.

Upon returning to the house, she headed straight for the backyard.  There was The Ancient One, positioned right underneath the magnolia tree (a favorite spot of hers; there’s a depression in the ground there.  An enormous black walnut tree once grew in the spot.  Five or 10 years after moving in, however, self managed to kill it, possibly from over-watering.  She knew nothing — NUTHIN’ –  about trees back then).  Self looked at the doggie dish:  All gone!  Once again, self has scared herself silly with imaginings!

Anyhoo, in a much more relaxed state, she resumes trolling the internet.  Lands on Café Irreal, a favorite site.  There’s a story up about a mysterious mirror.

Self hates mysterious mirrors almost as much as mysterious closets.  The closet thing started long, long ago, when self was in grade school.  She had a dream that a man with an axe hid in the closet in the bedroom she shared with her sister.  When her sister went to the closet and opened it, the man was staring down at her, and self kept trying to warn her sister but for some reason could not speak, or move.  As she watched, her sister began to rummage through the things in the closet.  And, and –  self doesn’t know how the dream ended.

Then, about 10 or 15 years ago, she was watching the new Twilight Zone, and there was a story about a mysterious closet.  A girl kept hearing strange sounds from the closet in her room, but every time she described the sounds to her parents, they said she was imagining things . . .

Anyhoo, back to the Café Irreal story.

First of all, self really likes that the main protagonist, a girl named Dani, buys the mirror from a vendor whose wife is “an autumnal blonde with a witchy look.” (See, self is already pro-actively thinking of Halloween!  This is not a joke.  Costco and CVS pharmacy and all the supermarkets have aisles of Halloween candy.  In fact, self bought one of these bags of candy because, she reasoned, they’re going to raise the prices the closer it gets to Halloween.)

Anyhoo — self, what is WRONG with you today?  Digressions galore!  Back to the story:  The girl brings the mirror home.  What does she see?

Of course she sees SOMETHING!

Not her face, silly.  If she saw her own face, it would be too Dorian Grey.

She sees someone else in the mirror.  A man.

Suggest going over to Café Irreal and checking out the rest of the story.  Here is the link.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Who’s Who in Philippine Speculative Fiction (Eavesdropping on Carrie Cuinn)

Carrie Cuinn is a self-described “author, editor, bibliophile, modernist, Geek.”

Several weeks ago, she posted a list of “100+ Asian Speculative Fiction Authors.”

Self found out about the list from FB, when Dean Alfar posted it on his wall (Thanks, Dean!)

Self “favorited” the list on Twitter (Yes, indeed, dear blog readers, Twitter is the very latest Kanlaon thing!)

Self has culled just the Filipino writers from the list (because you know, she is just so proud to have been born in the Philippines) and listed them below (in the order of their appearance on Miz Cuinn’s list, which seems to be in alphabetical order, by first name):

7.   Andrew Drilon

14.   Budjette Tan

15.   Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

17.   Celestine Trinidad

18.   Charles Tan

22.   Claire Light

23.   Dean Francis Alfar

26.   Don Pizarro

31.   EK Gonzales

32.   Eliza Victoria

40.   Gabriela Lee

59.   Kate Aton-Osias

64.   Kenneth Yu

70.  Kyra Ballesteros

81.   Your Devoted Blog Mistress

90.  Nikki Alfar

91.   Paolo Chikiamco

94.   Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

109.   Victor Fernando

Having compiled the above, self realizes it is a lot of work to compile lists, any list, especially a list as gargantuan as Mz Cuinn’s.  We owe her a debt.  (And, to quote JL from GOT:  “That debt shall be repaid!”  Thanks much, Most Honorable Mz Cuinn!)

As if that’s not enough, Mz Cuinn has announced that she plans to do “lists for African, Middle Eastern, and Hispanic/ Latin American authors as well, soon.”

Three Cheers for Mz Carrie Cuinn!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Personal Library # 30: Son’s Room # 11

Self still lost in the thickets of son’s room.  But the end is in sight!

The number of books on the 2nd shelf above son’s desk:  47

1079 + 47 = 1126 Total Books Counted Thus Far

Some of the titles:  The Father, a poetry collection by Sharon Olds;  50 Stories From Israel:  An Anthology, edited by Zisi Stavi;  The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene;  100 Cases That Every Scots Law Student Needs to Know, edited by W. Green;  Drive-By Vigils, by R. Zamora Linmark;  Pinoy Capital:  The Filipino Nation in Daly City, by Benito M. Vergara, Jr.;  The Best American Travel Writing 2011, edited by Sloane Crosley (“Treason only matters when it is committed by trusted men.”);  Word Painting:  A Guide to Writing More Descriptively, by Rebecca McClanahan;  Winterbirth:  The Godless World, Book One, by Brian Ruckley (This one self picked up in a bookstore in Edinburgh);  If I Write You This Poem, Will You Make It Fly:  Poems, by Simeon Dumdum, Jr.

Here’s a short passage from Winterbirth:

The great column was led by a hundred or more mounted warriors.  Many bore wounds, still fresh from the lost battle on the fields by Kan Avor; all bore, in their red-rimmed eyes and wan skin, the marks of exhaustion.  Behind them came the multitude:  women, children and men, though fewest of the last.  Thousands of widows had been made that year.

It was a punishing exodus.  Their way was paved with hard rock and sharp stones that cut feet and turned ankles.  There could be no pause.  Any who fell ill were seized by those who came behind, hauled upright with shouts of encouragement, as if noise alone could put strength back into their legs.  If they could not rise, they were left.  There were already dozens of buzzards and ravens drifting lazily above the column.  Some had followed it all the way up the Glas valley from the south; others were residents of the mountains, drawn from their lofty perches by the promise of carrion.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Stranger Still: Café Irreal 45

There is a story about a baby that self has been pondering for weeks.  Weeks!  Here’s the beginning:

“Worn Smooth by the Passage of Time,” by Jenn Marie Nunes

By boyfriend gives me a baby as a going-away gift.  It is a blue-colored baby.  Looks sort of like a potato and sort of like a piece of sea glass and I am not even sure it is a baby, but that’s what he says when I unwrap it.

“I want you to have this baby,” he says, “to remember me by.”  And he picks up the plastic bag with his shirts and socks and the special set of pints he’s stolen from his favorite bars.

“Thanks,” I say.  I would rather kick him in the shin, but it’s very early in the morning and I haven’t had my coffee yet.”

“Word,” he says and walks out the door.

Read the rest of it here.

What is it with self?  She takes such pleasure in the grotesque.

Do not read the rest of the story if you are the least bit squeamish, dear blog readers.

Stay tuned.

Personal Library # 29: Son’s Room # 10

As far as the book tallying project, self seems to be lost in the thickets of son’s room.  She’s on the shelves above his desk:

1028 + 51 = 1079 Total Books Counted Thus Far

Some of the titles:  Handwriting Analysis:  The Complete Basic Book, by Karen Amend & Mary S. Ruiz;  Against the Shore:  The Best of the Pacific Rim Review of Books, edited by Trevor Carolan and Richard Olafson;  The Cradle, by Patrick Somerville;  Deepening Fiction:  A Practical Guide for Intermediate and Advanced Writers, by Sarah Stone and Ron Nyren;  Handbook of Prayers:  A Complete Treasury of Prayers and Order of Mass, by Charles Belmonte and James Socias;  The Lover, by Marguerite Duras;  Empire, by Orson Scott Card (“Treason only matters when it is committed by trusted men.”);  The Philippines Handbook, by Peter Harper & Laurie Fullerton;  Philippine Speculative Fiction III, edited by Dean Francis Alfar & Nikki Alfar;  Self Potraits 2:  Fourteen Filipina Artists Speak, edited by Thelma B. Kintanar and Sylvia Menendez Ventura; The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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