Wretchedness in MIDDLEMARCH

Self loves the word “wretched.” One of her UCLA Extension students used it in a writing assignment, and she thinks it is probably becoming one of her favorite words. It says so much, “wretched” does.


She’s on p. 666 of Middlemarch. Poor Lydgate. Poor, poor Lydgate. He is riding home to his cold wife, Rosamond. She is the fairest woman in all Middlemarch, everyone considered it quite a feather in his cap when he married her, but after only a very short time, they have proved to be disappointments to each other. The cause of this disappointment and estrangement is money. Rather, the lack of it. The awful degradation of destitution. Apparently, it’s an awful humiliation. At least, it is to Rosamond.

Lydgate, after seeing a patient, returns home in a very miserable state of mind. His wife doesn’t even bother getting up to greet him, just lies on the bed, pale and still. And what does the poor man do?

He goes up to her and says, “Forgive me for this misery, my poor Rosamond! Let us only love one another.”

His wife looks at him silently, “blank despair” on her face. Finally, she tells Lydgate she will return to her parents.

“Do you object?” she asks her husband.

“Do as you like,” he replies.

She tells him she will not leave immediately. “I shall want to pack my clothes,” she says. “I won’t go till tomorrow.”

And that is all.

Never Known Such Kindness

Today, self was late meeting a friend for lunch. So even though she knew which train she needed to take, and her Metro Card was newly topped up, she ended up hailing a cab.

The thing about cabs here in New York City is, the cabbies are willing to talk. The one whose cab she hailed today discussed possible routes with her. You see, this is the thing about New York City. Everyone communicates. It’s the only way.

She managed to persuade the cabbie to try her way. He was cool about it.

On the way back, she did take the subway. And lo and behold, a man offered her his seat. A man on the No. 1 train actually got up and offered her his seat. The car was crowded. Normally, self would have been more than happy to accept the man’s offer. But she was getting off at the very next stop. Still, she thanked the man and smiled.

Such small kindnesses mean the world to her these days.

It is so hard, sometimes, to understand the world. But kindness is a language of its own.

Stay tuned.


Late Last Night: A Disturbance

It’s late, self hears screaming from next door.

Hyper-sensitized, self is.

The doors here are metal. Must be for a reason.

Finally, a man exits the room next door, laughing.

“I hate you!” the woman screams. Her scream tails off, followed by the man’s loud laughter. “You love me!” he shouts back.

“I hate you!” the woman shouts.

“No! You love me!”

And it goes back and forth like that, neither the man nor the woman giving an inch. And self, who is always on the verge of calling the cops, is just so fascinated by this interaction that she can’t move.

The man has the last word. The elevator comes and he shouts: “I’ll see you in a few days!”

The woman makes no response.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Undead Peeta (Halloween Everlark Fan Fic Spill-over)

Apologies, dear blog readers. Self’s brain is all scrambled. What with seeing the Arno River for the first time today and wondering which Hemingway story had this river as a prominent setting (or which World War II battle unfolded here) and trying to read up on all the Halloween Everlark fan fic that came bursting out of the creative geniuses of Miss Honeywell, Alliswell, and the like, in the past week, self is quite beside herself.

So, let’s focus for now on Undead Peeta. Florence can wait for another post.

Delly, effervescent BFF of Peeta’s Previous Incarnation (Baker Boy) has encountered the Undead Peeta stalking into town for the first time and goes running up to him, gamely offering her neck.

Peeta picks her up in his arms but — uh, oh! — catches sight of Katniss and faster than you can say, Boo! dumps Delly gracelessly on her bottom and makes for Katniss. But when he reaches her, instead of immediately snacking on her neck, he tells her:

“You shouldn’t be here talking to me. I’m dangerous, a monster. I could do terrible things to you.”

“Is that what you were going to do to Delly?” is the first thing out of Katniss’s mouth.

Peeta shakes his head violently.

“Delly would have been just a meal. You, on the other hand . . . “


After this magnanimous Undead Peeta speech, Katniss still has time to grab at his arm and notice it is still full of muscle and quite alluring.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Halloween-Themed Everlark! Miss Honeywell: “First We Feast”

Gale, Madge (Gale’s pregnant wife) and Katniss are off on a quest to find District Twelve, a mysterious place that doesn’t appear on any map. They are there because Katniss wants to scatter her parents’ ashes at the place where they were married: Twelve Souls Chapel, 508 Nightlock Road, District Twelve. Scouring the internet for information, Katniss learns that there is a very good roadside diner in Twelve, famous for its “delicious baked pastries” LOL!

Along the way, they pass an eerily deserted landscape, with only one gas station for miles and miles. Faster than one can say Holy Texas Chainsaw Massacre, an attendant appears, whose name just happens to be Haymitch. He makes various dolorous pronouncements (Such as: “Careful touching the merchandise, you might get tetanus.”). The very last thing he says to the trio is: STAY ALIVE.

Back in the car, the following conversation ensues:

Katniss:  Have you seen a single police station or car in the entire time we’ve been on this trip?

Gale (stubborn, per usual):  911 exists for a reason.

Katniss (mimicking a caller):  Hello, 911? There was a grumpy old man at a gas station that hurt my feelings.

As dear blog readers well know, everyone in fan fiction has an alias. But they are very real people, of course. One happens to live right in Hoboken, New Jersey. How does self know? Because Katniss Everdeen, Demonhunter, is set in Hoboken, New Jersey, LOL!

And after reading First We Feast, self knows for a fact that Miss Honeywell is English. How does self know this? Because only an English writer would have a sentence like this: “Sussing out where exactly the township of District Twelve was located hadn’t been easy.”

Self needs to warn dear blog readers that this is a very cheesy story, with double intendrés sprinkled all over the text like white on rice (Exhibit A: Peeta to Katniss, Do you want me to help you fill up. Actually he said something else, but self cannot for the life of her quote the actual line without cracking up)

And just as Katniss and Peeta (who met only minutes earlier, in the aforementioned diner with everyone’s favorite baker the sole occupant) kiss, they suddenly hear:


Then Katniss makes the very dumb decision to go with the stranger into the woods but, hey, what can self say, this is Peeta we’re talking about here!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self’s Fan Fiction: So “Meta”

As self got to Chapter 44 of her Hunger Games Everlark Fan Fiction, which she’d begun last year, in Chicago, she realized she’d written herself (or, rather, her characters) into a corner.

Peeta, the main, was last seen running flat out down a Capitol Avenue, completely naked, while two men in black suits (who self can’t help calling — if only in her head — Tweedledum and Tweedledee) give chase.

In order to close the scene properly, she had to show what happened to Peeta.

But other than teleportation, she didn’t know how to solve the problem. And teleportation is such a cop-out (though, in this case, it would be really effective, since it would get Peeta back to 12, where Katniss sits waiting. Oh, BTW, Katniss is married to Gale — the AWFULNESS of it all! — and Gale is still alive. Only he’s in jail. Framed for the murder of Peeta’s father. Because Cray, who arrested him, has the hots for Katniss. And enjoys making Katniss go to his office so he can keep extending the most lascivious and stomach-churning invitations to her.)

So since the start of this year Peeta has been languishing, naked, in the Capitol, with no hope of rescue.

But, self being the wiliest fan fiction writer on the planet, she devised a couple of different endings, and posted them all.

But — copout, much?

One reader inquired: “Umm, is this the end? No little anything between the other train station in a bathrobe and the Post-Epilogue? EEEEEEEK !!!”

And well may that reader say “EEEEEEK !!!”  Self is so EEEEEEK herself, she can’t even.

Stay tuned.

Careful 2: The Habits of a Writer

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is CAREFUL.

Careful, according to The Daily Post prompt, can refer to many things: a photograph taken with care, a person being careful, or a task or detail requiring care.

The way this week has gone — dinner with Drew in Koreatown; a reception for Chamber Music Artists; Asian American Writers Workshop double book launch of Luis Francia and Midori Yamamura; and Penny Jackson’s play “Louise in Charlottesville” — and the pouring rain yesterday, self had absolutely not a spare moment. GRRRR.

But here are three pictures of what “Careful” means to self.

First, she never goes anywhere without her journal. She uses it primarily to make random observations.

Last night, on the train, a conductor seemed anal about the passengers’ “dirty feet.” Over and over, he admonished the passengers NOT. TO. PUT. DIRTY. FEET. UP. ON. THE. SEATS. Nearly drove self mad.

Upper West Side, New York City: Taking Notes in a Chocolate Shop on Broadway

Upper West Side, New York City: Taking Notes in a Chocolate Shop on Broadway

Her friend has a beautiful apartment on the Upper West Side. She is a writer, of course.

You can always tell the quality of a mind by the quality of that person's bookshelves. These belong to a friend who lives in the Upper West Side.

You can always tell the quality of a mind by the quality of that person’s bookshelves. These belong to a friend who lives in the Upper West Side.

Finally, Dog-Eared Books in Valencia. This is one of the mainstays, along with the science fiction bookstore Borderlands, that have called the Mission District of San Francisco their home for many years. With the loss of other mainstays, like Modern Times Books, self cherishes these last hold-outs before the yuppie deluge:

Dog-Eared Books, Valencia St., San Francisco: Murals on the exterior walls are painted with books.

Dog-Eared Books, Valencia St., San Francisco: Murals on the exterior walls are painted with books.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self’s Speculative Fiction: Short on Science, Long on Speculation

Self’s science fiction may be a little short on the science, but it has everything to do with story-telling.

She is thinking about her stories today because last week she was in San Francisco and popped into Borderlands, the Science Fiction Bookstore on Valencia. So wonderful to browse! Self saw many, many books she wanted to read. There were new books from China Mieville, Joe Hill, and Jo Walton, to name a few.

Borderlands, Valencia Street, San Francisco: All Science Fiction, All Fantasy, All the Time

Borderlands, Valencia Street, San Francisco: All Science Fiction, All Fantasy, All the Time

This is the problem with going to a bookstore: self ends up leaving with loads of books that she then has to pack into a suitcase and then haul that suitcase around on her travels and the experience is just painful.

Anyhoo, self had been thinking for quite a while of starting to put together a new collection, and is leaning more towards having it all be science fiction. She might lead off with “Spores,” which her friend Morgan Cook turned into an MP3 Audio File, early this year.

This excerpt is from “Spores” (Trigger warning: profanity)

“Me mum’s a thick,” K said once. “A fecking thick. A root rotter.”

“Hit brew and all?” I asked.

“12 pints one go, honest,” K said. She silent the rest of the day.

I grew weary of K.

Self’s story “First Life,” published by Juked in July, is again “nothing but strange,” to quote from FictionFeed.net. The first sentence:

Ever since they moved our colony from Tonle Sap to the Philippines, my mind hasn’t been the same.

And then there’s “Thing,” which came out in the New Orleans Review in 2012, about Animal Rehabilitation Center, Sector 6, where the results of heinous lab experiments are tended to by a rag-tag group who are barely human themselves.

And “Magellan’s Mirror,” which J Journal published and nominated for a Pushcart (The Philippines populated by a race of giants)

And “Vanquisher,” which self wrote as a sequel to “Magellan’s Mirror,” in which Juan de Salcedo turns into a kind of vampire.

And there’s “The Forest,” about a man whose wife has just let him, and whose sister offers, out of the kindness of her heart, to turn him into a spotted deer or an eagle.

And there’s “Ice,” which is set in a future Earth whose surface is covered with ice:

Out there, ice caps, cold as knives.

Steam from her mouth, his mouth, none from the boy who lay between them. She knowing what but not able to bear it.

And of course, “The Freeze,” in Bluestem Magazine early this year, in which a woman loses her entire family when a catastrophic freeze descends on the planet (The rumor is that the Russians started it) and decides to walk to Mexico.

And “The Departure” (2011 Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s annual Best of Horror list), in which a woman looks up at the sky just in time to see a giant hand appear and go left to right, the gesture of a teacher erasing a blackboard. Next thing she knows, her face has sprouted glass.

And her short short “The Ark,” in which Noah is unbelievably cruel to the animals under his care.

And “Sofia,” in which a woman is visited by her great-great-grandfather, to tell her she is . . . (No spoilers here)

And her piece in Witness, about a man who is the last living person on Earth to have actually tasted a mango.

And she has other stories: stories about “breeder” sweaters (Women wear the sweaters to help them conceive) and lonely Cyclops (“I Am Cyclops,” published in Lillian Howan’s Nimbus Cat)

And another about the lost city of Atlantis, discovered 1715 (“Residents of the Deep”)

And another story called “The Great Emptying of the Three Triangles” which is a Power Point presentation on desertification.

And another called “Harvest” in which a young girl’s mother walks around all day dressed in nothing but a mink coat and her best friend vanishes from a field during an insect harvest.

And another called “Eating” in which a girl’s mother forces her to eat and eat and eat until the girl feels she is about to die.

And another called “Appetites” in which a girl sends her nanny off into the wide, wide world to search for a particular delicacy the girl wants to taste (This one’s published on Café Irreal)

And “Isa,” which is about the last two remaining islands on Earth (published by Rogue Magazine in their Bacolod issue).

And one in which a Fetch appears to a father mourning the loss of his daughter.

And one about a dictator’s Special Research Project (This one’s included in her first collection, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila)

Phew! Too many stories to list.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: MIDDLEMARCH, Book I, Chapter II (“Miss Brooke”)

From Middlemarch, by George Eliot:

“You admire a man with the complexion of a cochon de laite.”

— Dorothea to her sister Celia, about Mr. Brooke, who over dinner announced “I cannot let young ladies meddle with my documents. Young ladies are too flighty.”

(According to the Barnes & Noble edition self is reading, Cochon de laite is French for “suckling pig.”)

Privately, Celia thinks:

Learned men “must be dreadful to live with. Only think! At breakfast and always.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Great Article: Thank You VF.Com

It starts with a training seminar at Stanford. One of those that Stanford makes its employees take to highlight an issue: in this case, sexual harassment. It begins with some chit-chat about high jinks at a primate research center.

A primate research center.

Bet the woman leading the seminar never expected to be the lead-in to an article about the “spiraling Stanford sex scandal.”

Self must admit, when she saw the headline of the VF.com article, she had to do a double-take.

Unfortunately for the hapless seminar leader, there was a plant.

Who began by asking a seemingly innocent question:

“So the policy that Stanford has actually says that where such a recusal is required you must notify your supervisor, department chair, or dean,” he said. “What if the person involved is the Dean?”

No problemo. The seminar leader says, without batting an eyelash: You should go straight to the provost.

The man presses on: “Suppose Ed was a Dean and Melissa was a senior faculty member who was married to another senior faculty member and Ed was involved in a relationship with Melissa. Ed would have to recuse himself from making decisions about both Melissa and her husband?”

“Do you know something I don’t know?” the seminar leader asks.

The man says he might.

“Don’t out him or her here!” the seminar leader (who happens to be a lawyer) says quickly.


Self thinks that seminar leader is quite charming. Very snappy and quick in her responses. She seems to be kidding when she tells the question man: “You and I need to talk outside!”

Read the rest of the delicious story here.

Kudos, writer David Margolick.

Stay tuned.

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