3rd Thursday of April 2014: Tired (But Not Depressed)

Hey, hey, people, it’s been a long day, and self is sitting in front of her computer, tired.

One thing she is so happy about, this year, is that her garden is so — fecund.  That’s the only way she can think to describe it.  Plants that haven’t thrown off a bloom in years — like her Sheila’s Perfume — suddenly have big, fat flowers.  Her oldest clematis, a montana rubens, suddenly has growth lower down on its gnarled, woody stem.  And the wisteria she thought she’d killed is luscious, winding over the falling-down trellis, almost choking off the old wood.

Self checked out a site called Grey Magazine, and loves it.  It seems to be a magazine about Italy, which is probably why she bookmarked it.  But as she scrolls to the bottom of the page, she sees other things, like an article about the Reykjavik Fashion Festival (There’s one country — Iceland — she’d love to visit one day) and a review of a production of Bohéme.  And there’s a fabulous, absolutely fabulous picture of the actress Charlotte Rampling (still a knockout).

Well, all this musing started because she sat down at her desk, read a new piece of fanfiction, thought of something, wrote it down, finished it — bam, bam, bam.  It’s just one page, but self thinks it is fabulous.

Self thinks all her pieces are fabulous.  That is, she thinks they are fabulous right after she finishes, or thinks she has finished.  The feeling doesn’t last long, so she might as well enjoy the right now.

This new one-page flash fiction takes place in a future universe.  It’s called “Memories of Trees” and is so angst-y and self loves it.

She remembered that when she spoke to Zack’s class last Monday, one of the students remarked that her story “Mayor of the Roses” and her story “Thing” — one set in a small town in Laguna and the other set in a dystopian future universe (Self swore she would never use the word dystopian again, especially after gazillions of reviewers used it when reviewing Hunger Games:  Catching Fire, but she is forced to admit that it certainly is a very effective word, and anyway her fiction really is DYSTOPIAN, she’s not trying to be clever or anything, just really really honest) — seemed to have similar themes.  Self’s first reaction was to go:  Oh no!  Because she hates thinking of herself as being so transparent and predictable.  Which was not a useful line of thought:  no one who’s predictable can be fabulous.

After much perusing of the newly re-designed Daily Post,self finally realized that it still has the links to other people’s blogs, a feature she thought had been lost.  With the old layout, she would click on “Post a Comment,” and all the people who had posted on the week’s photo challenge would then appear on a list of links.  Self would methodically move down this list, looking at each blog.

With the re-design, self couldn’t find a button for “Post a Comment.”  Only today did she realize that the links still exist, although in a very different form.  All self had to do was scroll down to the very bottom of the page, where there is a gallery of squares.  Clicking on one of these squares immediately brings one to a blog post on the week’s photo challenge.  In other words, the links are so much more visual now.

OK, so here’s what self has lined up for next week:  She will board a plane for London.  She will arrive in London.  She signed up for a tour of Stonehenge, which takes place the day after her arrival.  Jennie Lewis’s new poetry collection, Taking Mesopotamia, is having a reading at the British Museum on April 27, and self has tickets for that.  Then, she’s the guest of Joan McGavin for a few days.  Then she flies to Dublin.  Then she sees FATHER HASLAM, who she hasn’t seen in 20 years.  Father Haslam has asked a fellow priest, Father McCabe, to drive her to the Tyrone Guthrie Center.  She will then be in a self-catering cottage in the Tyrone Guthrie Center.  There is wi-fi, so she will really have to wean herself off Facebook.  Then Penny arrives in Dublin.  Then self clears out of her self-catering cottage and takes a long train trip to Cork, where she’s booked into a magnificent Irish country home that serves four-course dinners every night. Then she loses her passport so she can’t go home and will have to stay another couple of weeks until she gets a new passport.  She’ll live off Irish ale and get fat.  She won’t be able to squeeze into an Economy airplane seat, so she’ll just have to be bumped up to First Class.  She will live happily ever after.



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.

Four Days After New Year’s (2013)

Self has decided to post an excerpt from Don Alfredo & Jose Rizal, published in Sou’wester, 2007.

Much thanks to Valerie Vogrin for publishing the story. It’s still one of self’s favorites, one of those stories that come in a rush, one of those stories that need to stay inside for a long time while you search for either the courage or the recklessness to set the words down:

When I started to do research for the story, there were things I discovered about my great-grandfather that bothered me.  For instance, I discovered that he had more than one wife, the youngest a girl of 14.  And he was uncommonly cruel.  He tried his best to hide the fact that there was a strain of indio blood in his family, and he would beat his darker-colored servants mercilessly.  He died mysteriously, perhaps a victim of poisoning.

You see, my cousin said, we are related to the National Hero of the Philippines, Jose Rizal.  The one who was shot by a firing squad, at Luneta Park, in 1896.

As Jose Rizal stood before the Spanish firing squad, accused of being a renegade and an underground solidarity worker, George Dewey was entering Manila Bay.

Like what you’ve just read?  Go to Sou’wester!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Beginning THE COLLECTED STORIES OF LYDIA DAVIS: Story 1 is Called “Story”

Here’s how the story (“Story”) begins:

I get home from work and there is a message from him:  that he is not coming, that he is busy.  He will call again.  I wait to hear from him, then at nine o’clock I go to where he lives, find his car, but he’s not home.  I knock at his apartment door and then at all the garage doors, not knowing which garage door is his –  no answer.  I write a note, read it over, write a new note, and stick it in his door.  At home I am restless, and all I can do, though I have a lot to do, since I’m going on a trip in the morning, is play the piano.  I call again at ten forty-five and he’s home, he has been to the movies with his old girlfriend, and she’s still there.  He says he’ll call back.  I wait.  Finally I sit down and write in my notebook that when he call me either he will then come to me, or he will not and I will be angry, and so I will have either him or my own anger, and this might be all right, since anger is always a great comfort, as I found with my husband.  And then I go on to write, in the third person and the past tense, that clearly she always needed to have a love even if it was a complicated love.  He calls back before I have time to finish writing all this down.  When he calls, it is a little after eleven-thirty.  We argue until nearly twelve.  Everything he says is a contradiction:  for example, he says he did not want to see me because he wanted to work and even more because he wanted to be alone, but he has not worked and he has not been alone.  There is no way I can get him to reconcile any of his contradictions, and when this conversation begins to sound too much like many I had with my husband I say good-bye and hang up.  I finish writing down what I started to write down even though by now it no longer seems true that anger is any great comfort.

I call him back five minutes later to tell him that I am sorry about all this arguing, and that I love him, but there is no answer.  I call again five minutes later, thinking he might have walked out to his garage and walked back, but again there is no answer.  I think of driving to where he lives again and looking for his garage to see if he is in there working, because he keeps his desk there and his books and that is where he goes to read and write.  I am in my nightgown, it is after twelve and I have to leave the next morning at five.

This is why writing is so fantastic.  You get bummed by something, you sit down and write about it.  If you can squeeze even one paragraph from the experience, you are still OK.

But, seriously, how great was the voice in “Story”? And as for the neurosis:  literature is filled with shrines — no, entire monuments — dedicated to neurotic behavior.  Self thinks it is interesting that writers who see neurosis so clearly are never themselves thought to be neurotic — in fact, they are almost always described as being “honest, insightful and brave.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


Noun:  Goal; desire; something one wishes to achieve.

e.g. Marco, whose lifelong aspiration was to be the number one seat violinist in the orchestra, was left thinking only about sabotage when it was announced the young prodigy would be assuming the premiere position.

Bella the Beagle, aka “The Ancient One”, who entered our lives in 1996 at six months of age, died a few hours before self’s plane arrived from the Philippines, in the afternoon of Monday, Oct. 14. The Man found her when he got home from work, a little before five.  She was still warm.  It seemed she had died peacefully, lying in the warm sun on the deck.

Oh, woe!

Self was quite overcome to think she had missed seeing Bella alive, by just a few hours.

Self’s other beagle, Gracie, died in April 2011, so Bella had two more happy years with us.  When Gracie was alive, she was completely cowed and submissive.  When Gracie passed away, she began to get a little assertiveness back (We adopted Gracie when Bella was about four years old, and Gracie was far more rambunctious, and completely stole the show).

The Ancient One Peruses the Backyard.  A year ago, self predicted 2011 would be her last Christmas.  As it turned out, self was too much of a pessimist.

The Ancient One Peruses the Backyard.  Self predicted 2011 would be her last Christmas. As it turned out, self was too much of a pessimist.

Bella the Beagle:  Sept. 30, 1995 to Oct. 14, 2013

Self’s eyes are pretty swollen right now.  It was an exhausting trip. Started 3:50 pm in Bacolod, included a five-hour layover in Manila which stretched to 8 hours, and then a 12-hour flight.  She got in at 11 p.m.  The Man has to wake up at 5 a.m. to get to work.

But when she was reading her e-mail, she saw a letter from Waccamaw accepting her story “Bridging.”  This was a story she wrote while in Hawthornden, June 2012.  Towards the end of the month, she and the other writers decided to have an informal reading of works-in-progress.  The story self read was “Bridging.”  It was only about 8 pages at the time; in August, when she last worked on it and sent it out, it had grown to 17 pages.

Totaling the time it took from the story’s inception to its final version, June 2012 to October 2013, it took only about 16 months.  She’s had stories that she works on for six, seven years before they get picked up.  Such a one was “Silence,” which was published long ago in The Threepenny Review, and was shortlisted for the O. Henry Literature Prize.

“Bridging” will appear in Waccamaw‘s forthcoming issue (going live October 31).

It’s only her 3rd acceptance of 2013.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Awesome Quote of the Day (First Wednesday of August 2013)

Courtesy of Wigleaf:

A short story writer fields many questions about the genre, among them the persistent and accusatory:  But why didn’t you finish it?  Or the related:  Why didn’t you write a whole book about this?  Depending upon audience and context I’ve given any number of answers.  Because the job of a short story is to leave you in suspended animation, and let you linger there until you think you know what it means.  Because there’s something to the experience of being dropped into something and then forced to surface.  Because the right one-night stand can be as interesting as a marriage.  Because the world can change forever in a few centuries or in a few seconds, and we need measures of both.  Because closure is overrated and fiction’s job is to open us up.

There.  Isn’t that just the most beautiful quote about the impulse to write stories that you’ve ever read?

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.

Writing With the Aid of a Text

Self has been writing a story.  Une petite histoire intéressante.

This is a wild and crazy story that she’s trying to make science-fictiony so that she can submit to science fiction magazines.  In order to widen her base, so to speak.

Why a science fiction story needs to include phrases in French is beyond her.  Anyhoo, it’s an experiment.

These are the phrases she’s thinking of using (from son’s high school French textbook).  The reason son chose French was because the teacher was prettier than the teacher who taught Spanish, or the teacher who taught Japanese.  Which, all these many years later, has brought self to this:  posting about a story she is about to write in French.  If son had chosen Japanese, she’d now be posting about writing a story in Japanese.  Ah, how interesting is the hand of fate!

Without further ado:

  • je me laverai (I shall wash myself)
  • Leurs enfants et eux sont heureux (Their children and they are happy)
  • mes gants propres (my clean gloves)
  • On est le onze février. (It is February 11)
  • C’est aujourd’hui le premier mai. (Today is May first)

Self invites any and all French speakers who discover any typos in her transcription of the above phrases to leave a comment.  What self can’t figure out for the life of her is why some accents go up, and why some go down.  Self would consult son — the closest thing to a French speaker in the house.  With the exception of the French textbook, that is — except that he’s chosen to flee the madness by going for a long bike ride.  A quote really looong bike ride, unquote.

Late last night, self finished Sister Carrie.  SPOILER ALERT!  Hurstwood became a living vegetable.  Until he died in a flophouse.  And no one mourned his passing.  Just to stick the knife in, Dreiser included a passage about Hurstwood’s beautiful daughter, Jessica, and her shiny rich new husband, and Hurstwood’s ex-wife, the trio gabbing about an upcoming two-week holiday in Italy.

Carrie is of course all right.  Who cares about her?  She’ll never end up in the gutter, not with her adaptability!

Self began reading The Leopard this morning.  Wow, this is an absolutely fascinating book.  The characters so far are:  a Prince, a King, and a Priest.  Well, also two whores who appear in the daydreams of The Prince.

The Prince knows he is a Pig for sleeping around.  This is how he puts it:

what was he?  A pig, just a pig!

And just so we know that The Prince is quite well traveled and very literate, he also recalls the lines to a French poem (which self has no translation for):

. . .  donnez-moi la force et le courage
de contempler mon couer et mon corps sans dégout.


Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable

Self loooves this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Companionable!!!

The guidelines state:

Share a picture of a COMPANION and explain why you chose that picture.

Here are three:

A few of self's essential accoutrements :-)

A few of self’s essential accoutrements :-)

Self never goes anywhere without a journal or notebook or a small digital camera.

All-Natural Custom Lip Gloss from The Bath Workshop, Claremont, California (In two of self's favorite flavors:  Kahlua and Chocolate)

All-Natural Custom Lip Gloss from The Bath Workshop, Claremont, California (In two of self’s favorite flavors: Kahlua and Chocolate)

Since her lips get very dry in the summer, it is essential to have lip gloss in her purse.


And since she is a writer, she naturally reads all the time.  Self adores the short stories of Lydia Davis. She took this photo June 2012, during a writing residency in Hawthornden, near Edinburgh.

Her introduction to Davis came years ago, when someone lent her a copy of Break It Down.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The New York Review of Books (7 March 2013)

Below are the books self is interested in reading after perusing the 7 March 2013 issue of The New York Review of Books.  Her choices are nothing if not idiosyncratic:

Former People:  The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy, by Douglas Smith:  reviewed by Michael Scammell (Self admires the title of this book tremendously; she, too, has felt, many times, like a “former people.”)

Now All Roads Lead to France:  A Life of Edward Thomas, by Matthew Hollis:  reviewed by Helen Vendler.  In a nutshell:  “Thomas meets Frost in London in 1913, begins (for the first time since Oxford) to write poetry, feels guilty (in complex ways, including the fear of cowardice) about watching others die while he remains at home, decides to enlist, trains as an officer (in part for the higher pay), volunteers for the front, and courts death.  When the death arrives (from a bomb blast in Arras) it is both shocking and unsurprising.” Tragic.

Several books about General David Petraeus, reviewed by Thomas Powers:

  • The Insurgents:  David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War, by Fred Kaplan
  • The Fourth Star:  Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army, by David Cloud and Greg Jaffe

In the course of the review, Powers cites three other fascinating books:

  • The Centurions, a novel by Jean Lartéguy, about the lessons learned by French army officers captured by the Vietminh at Dien Bien Phu (“You’ve got to have people on your side . . . if you want to win a war.”)
  • Street Without Joy, a “history of the long French failure in Vietnam,” by the French writer Bernard B. Fall
  • Hell in a Very Small Place, also by Bernard B. Fall, about “a set-piece battle at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.”

And now, self must get going if she wants to catch the Menlo Park Farmers Market.

Arrivederci, dear ones.

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