Tin House, By Way of UTNE READER

.At one time, self had a subscription to the Utne Reader.

And even though that subscription has long expired, she hangs on to her back copies.

Today she re-reads a story that was in the Spring 2015 issue. It’s a re-print of a short story originally published in Tin House. The writer’s name is Alia Volz.

The story’s young narrator has a hippie Daddy, a Daddy who still insists on wearing “lavender bell-bottoms” and who goes by the name Firehawk:

  • Arriving at the marijuana garden, we find our plants quivering under an invasion of blue-and-orange-striped caterpillars. Their gruesome, beautiful bodies spiral around stalks, hang from leaves, and writhe over one another.

— from the short story “In Any Light, By Any Name,” by Alia Volz

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Her next book after Ghost Soldiers is a biography of Jesse James by T. J. Stiles. Then, she’ll move back into fiction with Kate Walbert’s A Short History of Women. With any luck, she’ll get to Walbert’s book just in time for the elections.

She watched all three debates. This last one was potent: there was one certifiable meltdown. When a man says live, on camera, to an audience of millions, that his opponent is “a nasty woman,” you can forget everything he said earlier about respecting women. He could have said “a nasty person.” But he said: nasty woman. As if her gender made it even more nasty (And you, sir, are a nasty man!)

Someone tweeted that he thought it would be a good idea to re-name all public restrooms to read: BAD HOMBRES and NASTY WOMEN.

All those in favor, say “Aye!”

Anyhoo, Back to Ghost Soldiers. The raid to free the American POWs in Cabanatuan has a very surreal quality. First of all, the POWs do not seem impressed by the American Rangers who’ve just arrived to rescue them, and are reluctant to leave the camp. Quite a few of them have to be actually kicked in the rear end because the Rangers are on a very tight program.

After the camp is completely emptied, the leader of the raid does a last check of each and every barrack. He’s all alone. Satisfied that the Americans haven’t missed a single POW, he fires a flare into the sky, visible for miles, to signal the end of the mission.

But they do leave one man behind. A British POW who’d gone deaf, who was using a latrine, who didn’t come out until everyone — Rangers AND POWs had left. The operation had to have taken at least an hour, so — the man was constipated?

There is also an American Ranger who is shot by one of his own men (by accident), from point-blank range. And this Ranger can’t stop saying, to his last breath, “By my own men. By my own men.” The men around him try to comfort him by assuring him that he was shot by a Japanese, but he refuses to believe it and just keeps repeating, in absolute horror, “By my own men.” Until he dies.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More Nostalgia for Venice

More from the watershed trip self took with Margarita Donnelly (founder and managing editor of Calyx Press) in April/May 2013, less than two years before she succumbed to cancer. We rented a small two-bedroom apartment in Ca’ San Toma, Venice. Margarita’s adventurous spirit far exceeded self’s.


The Bridge of Sighs, April 2013: View From the Doge’s Palace


San Marco Square on a Rainy April Day


Self on the Rialto Bridge, April 2013: Margarita must have taken the picture. Even though self’s face isn’t visible, she really likes this picture for the mysterious red umbrella.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Listen to “Spores,” Read by Morgan Cook

Morgan, an actor from Galway, says this story sounds like “outer space in a North Dublin chip shop.”

He pulled together a reading of it, just to show self why.

Here’s the link to the audio, on decomP Magazine.

It’s the first of self’s dystopian science fiction/fantasy series (written in very cracked syntax). Thanks so much to decomP for giving it a home!

The story (which self wrote in Ireland) begins:

K thinks the boss is in love with her.

She looks like a mosaic puffball, her skin covered with checkered patterns

The boss was born Earthstar. He’d never look her way. His spores were meant to go else: to a Silverleaf. Or a Shag. Not K that smelled like wet rot. All scaly cap and throat gills. She belonged with other Common.

Varnish and varnish. I’ll say this for K: she is tenacious. Especially about her delusions.

“Me mom’s a thick,” she said once. “A focking thick.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Everlark Comments

Self began a new multi-chapter fan fic last week. (It’ll be her 9th; this is really getting out of hand but whatever).

In the last couple of chapters, readers have been more or less agreed:

  • Why does Katniss keep asking Peeta so many questions it is weird but he answers them anyway?

(It’s called: device for advancement of the plot, dah-lings!)

  • This chick has word vomit or something! (Uh-oh!)
  • Katniss has the worst foot-in-mouth tendency ever!

Self finds all these comments somewhat endearing, what the hey!

Self had no idea, none, that her Katniss she was crossing boundaries. Shows you how much she has to learn about modern-day courtship rituals.

One time, self wrote something about a boyfriend visiting his girl in her college (They were having a long-distance relationship) and he ended up spending the night in her dorm room and readers were like: What? That’s so not OKAY! (Really? Why? People did that all the time when — never mind!)

Someone else told her today: Your writing is so different than most (If you only knew, dear Everlark fan fic reader!), it’s so lyrical. My problem is: Why are your chapters so short?

(It’s called subtlety and restraint, dah-ling! Because self is quite the flash fiction writer! Oops! In fan fic, it’s not flash-fiction, it’s called a ONE-SHOT!)

Self finally decided to partner with another Everlark fan fic writer. And together, we are writing an AU to the AU that is all Everlark.

She works hard, self’s collaborator. She has written one of the 10 most-read Everlark fan fics EVER. That is according to statistics compiled by this famous xxx fan fic website. The fact that she agreed to write outtakes for self is so humbling. Not to mention, hers are triple the length of self’s. And so much more funny!

Packed with tattooed girls and bands and grunge clubs. Which of course self has no first-hand knowledge of because she is really a nun writing from a cloister on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Pray Mother Superior doesn’t find out!

Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Jenny Diski

Maybe in the end I’m so narcissistic that I prefer my own lack of belonging. That’s where I belong: my own exclusive club.

— Jenny Diski, in a 2002 interview, quoted in a review of her last book, In Gratitude, in The New York Review of Books, 29 September 2016

The reviewer, Hermione Lee, goes on to say about Diski:

She does not suffer fools or mince words. She is attracted to inertia and solitude and has a tendency to stay put, hide under the covers, obliterate herself. At the same time she wants to travel, explore, ask questions, and take on challenging subjects. She wants to be entirely herself, and hates the idea of being shoehorned into a preexisting script.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Luisa Igloria, “This”



This is all you have, this life, this patch of ground marked by wood
and water, a little strand of caterpillar silk caught on low shrubs at
the wood’s edge. Everything happens here, or doesn’t happen, or
is about to change. Shadows lift at dawn, noon strikes the top of
the stone cherub’s head in the middle of the square. Pigeons blend
in among the cobblestones. It’s not much, you think: a sleepy
town, the cats in the alley, the same old men playing chess in the
park; the row of tailor shops, the bakers pitching bread into the
fire. The loaves get a little smaller every year, though they remain
as sweet. The lovers with only one place to walk. The seawall. The
pier. The post office at one end of the main street, the market at
the other. Rain drips down every house post and gutter. Flowers
and whitewash on grave markers. You can leave if you want, rent a
room in some city crisscrossed by wires and steel. On every rooftop,
gargoyles opening their mouths to the rain, drinking it all in but
never filling, never filled. Crossing the street, you turn, distracted:
flowering wisteria, japonica, scent spilling urgent messages over
a stone boundary. Nothing leaves, merely decants to color, to
sediment, to underlying pulse.

— from Night Willow, a poetry collection by Luisa Igloria

Starting New Everlark: HEEEELP!

Self, what is wrong with you? At this point in 2016, the last thing you need is to start a new Everlark fan fic.

She posted it as a one-shot last weekend. Just 400 words, no biggie.

Then she got comment after comment. Which kinda got her excited.

This is her story: Peeta is a homeless man, and Katniss is an office worker, and the homeless man strikes up a very innocent conversation with Katniss. Everyone was all like: OMG that is so sweet!

Self wrote 3000 more words in one day! But all the interchanges so far take place on the street and self has no idea how to move the action to Katniss’s apartment. Where it obviously needs to go.

Readers are naturally impatient and begin offering self some helpful hints:

“Umm. Maybe it’s raining and Katniss invites Peeta to step inside?”

Or: “It’s foggy and chilly and Katniss doesn’t want Peeta to freeze to death!”

“She drops her wallet and Peeta retrieves it and Katniss’s address is on the license so he finds her building and rings the buzzer?”

Then, the backstory for why Peeta ended up homeless. More reader suggestions:

  • “Maybe he’s a war vet suffering from PTSD?”
  • “Maybe he was evicted from his apartment because he lost his job and couldn’t make the rent?”
  • “Maybe he’s a filmmaker doing a documentary on the homeless and decides to do guerrilla filmmaking?”
  • “Maybe he was a chef and the restaurant closed?”

Johanna appears in the story as a punk drummer in a rock band that plays in grunge places (fast disappearing in San Francisco but — creative license, after all!) She has a tattoo of a picnic basket on her arm and Gale, Katniss’s current boyfriend, finds that so overwhelmingly hot! Gale is all over that picnic basket tattoo! Hell, yeah!

Turns out Johanna and Peeta are related. Like, distant third cousins. Johanna doesn’t know Peeta has become one of the homeless. Peeta gets hired to model for Cinna because even though he is homeless he still has a pretty good figure. He gets paid $1000 in cash.

New dilemma: What in the heck is self going to have Peeta do with $1000 in cash?

  • Maybe he could open a bank account?
  • Maybe he could buy some new clothes?
  • Maybe he could buy Katniss some flowers?
  • Maybe he could take a few art classes?

Self will sleep on it.

Stay tuned.



More Quests

All books are quests of one kind or another. To self, they represent explorations of new experiences.


New Edition of Don Quixote, at the AWP 2016 Bookfair in Los Angeles


From the Europa booth at the 2016 AWP Los Angeles Book Fair


from self’s own copy of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans, retold by Amy Ehrlich, illustrated by Susan Jeffers

This is how the fairy tale begins:

Far, far away, in a warm and pleasant land, there once lived a king who had eleven sons and one daughter. The princes wore stars on their shirts and swords at their sides, and their sister, Elise, sat on a footstool made of glass. These children were happy from the time they woke in the morning until they went to their beds at night. They never imagined another life.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Pleasures of Sourness

Does our taste for asim come from our sour green landscape? From the proliferation of sour-towards-sweet tastes in our fruits and vegetables? Certainly we Filipinos have a tongue, a taste, a temper for sour notes, which is one of our chief flavor principles. We not only sour our soups (sinigang) and cook sundry dishes in vinegar (paksiw, adobo); we also use vinegars (nipa, coconut) and citrus (calamansi, dayap) as dips and marinades.

—  Palayok: Philippine Food Through Time, On Site, In the Pot, by Doreen Fernandez

P.S. Señor Sigig, a Filipino food truck, was just featured on Bay Area food program Check, Please! Owner says everything is marinated for at least 48 hours. But the lines!

It’s Filipino/Mexican — there are burritos and nachos. Open every day for lunch and dinner. Average price of a meal: $12.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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