Saturday, January 30, 2010

If you feel like reading about my obsessions

or at least the ones I'm willing to admit publicly, head on over to Poe's Deadly Daughters, where an interview/guest blog with me is now live. I met some of those nice folks at the World Fantasy Con in Calgary, and when they invited me, I immediately agreed. The obsession question made me think a great deal, so the experience was a good and informative one for me. The Web Weasel has declared it perhaps the best interview yet with me; you'll have to be your own judge.

It snowed and sleeted last night and into today, so we are housebound. We have power and plenty of food and connectivity, so I consider our fate to be a lovely one. I took advantage of it to crash and spend an inordinate amount of time in bed. Though I am still fatigued enough that I could crawl back into the sack and immediately fall asleep, the extra sleep certainly made me feel better.

I'd post pictures of the lovely snow, but I didn't get outside until after dark, so you'll have to trust me when I say that it's quite pretty and rather rare for our area.

If this harsh weather is affecting you, I hope your situation is as comfortable as ours.

Friday, January 29, 2010

On the road again: Austin, day 5

You have to love an airport that has a Salt Lick sitting next to an Amy's. For my lunch today, I succumbed to the allure of the former but was able to resist the latter, though for a few minutes it was touch and go.

As I was returning my rental Malibu, I couldn't help but remark to the nice guy working the counter that this car had been the biggest POS I'd ever rented. He acknowledged that it was and apologized. He then explained that the only reason that it and many of its brethren and a whole bunch of Impalas were in service was the Toyota recall. They had pulled all their Toyotas and were checking them for stuck gas pedals. So, as Inspector Clouseau would say, the mystery is solved, and I am no longer annoyed at Dollar for giving me that vehicle. (Of course, they could have garnered more good will by telling me the reason in advance, but I can see why they wouldn't want to criticize their older cars to everyone.)

Through the wonder of airplane bandwidth, which I already consider as essential and as God-given a right as high-fat ice cream, I am writing this entry from the plane home from DFW. We seem to be running right ahead of, and at times directly in, the bad weather that's heading to Raleigh, so at times the choppiness is intense. Fortunately, I couldn't possibly go anywhere, because I'm squished against the wall by a seatmate who looks like a bearded Brock Lesnar gone to seed after packing down a hundred pounds of ice cream and BBQ. My back aches from sitting curled in my seat, but there is no way my shoulders and his can fit in the available space. At least I have an exit row, which is good fortune considering the flight was oversold by seventeen poor folks who are now unlikely to make it to Raleigh.

For those who don't follow our weather, which frankly would normally include me, we are supposed to get a whole lot of winter stuff on the ground--snow, ice, yuck--in the next two days. Raleigh closes down at the mention of snow, and this forecast is pretty hardcore, so I expect to be housebound for a couple of days. Fortunately, we have food, and the generator keeps the water and, crucially, the computers and Internet connection running, so we should be good.

I'll sign off now and post this from the air, just because I can. How cool is that?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On the road again: Austin, day 4

The weather turned nasty here today, drizzling alternating with light rain, dotted with moments of chilly pre-storm wind and gray skies. Not a nice day, but visually arresting, with big skies plated in soft gray threatening to settle onto the ground like a comforter from heaven. Beautiful.

Work again dominated the day, so I can't really comment on most of my time.

My work on pass two of Children No More proceeds. I'm enjoying this pass very much and wish only that I had more time each day to work on it.

Dinner tonight was at a favorite Austin sushi place, Uchi. As I've said before, if you're in Austin and like sushi, you owe it to yourself to visit Uchi. Chef Tyson Cole is inventive and talented, and every meal I've had there has been delicious. If the foie gras sushi is on the menu, order it.

As much as I like Uchi, I've never eaten dessert there. The reason is that about a mile away is an Amy's ice cream shop, and I consider at least one stop at an Amy's to be a mandatory part of every Austin trip. We had a nice time there tonight, with good food, good conversation, and good people watching. I particularly liked the woman who entered with two friends, chatted up the staff, and then started doing routines with her hula hoop (yes, she brought one). She combined bellydancing moves and hands with classic hula hoop motions, and I enjoyed her impromptu show. I love Amy's.

Tomorrow, I must travel in bad weather all day. I'm hoping to make my escape just ahead of it and not be caught in it, but current forecasts make my chances look slim. I can only hope for the best.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On the road again: Austin, day 3

Friends who don't travel much and rarely rent cars sometimes comment that a car is a car, that one rental will do as well as another.

They're wrong.

I know this because I'm driving a rental Chevy Malibu with over forty-six thousand miles on the odometer.

Let me be clear that I am not condemning all Chevy Malibus. I have never driven one before, so maybe there are some lovely models. Maybe there are even some wonderful cars of this same vintage. We are, after all, discussing a car with a mileage so high that in dog years it's past dead and recycled into steel Coke cans in countries that haven't succumbed to the sickly temptation of weak aluminum drink containers. All that said, beginning my Malibu relationship with this particular car is a lot like having your first sexual experience be with the eighty-seven-year-old, one-legged, false-toothed hooker who works under a five-dollar discount sign outside Camp Lejeune. Not that I've ever been to Camp Lejeune. I haven't.

Anyway, I digress. What a POS this beast is.

Even the basics suck with it. Long ago, the rental company lost the key fob that would let you unlock the car from afar, so you have to insert the key. That's fine--except that you can't open the doors for clients because the only keyhole is on the driver's door. The beast also won't let you lock it from the driver's door lock button until all the doors are shut and you've pushed the lock button twice. (The first time you push the button, the car emits a sickly beep, as if to say, "Hey, enough already. I'll lock when I'm ready.")

But what's it like to drive, you may well ask? Well, its ride is fine as long as you're a fan of the whirl-and-puke rides at the State Fair. The suspension is shot, the shocks are only good for holding up the folding chair of the Camp Lejeune hooker (and then only if she hasn't eaten much lately), and the steering makes the lock button look responsive.

Aside from the joy of driving the faded black beast, the day was fine: work, meetings, work, meetings, etc. Oh, yeah: the meetings are work meetings.

Dinner was a tasty seven-course chef's menu at Restaurant Jezebel. As with most of the tasting menus I've had recently, all the dishes were good but never great. The procession of both this meal and last night's menu was also odd: instead of the classic build-up from amuse to light fish and so on, this one began with foie (Cajun blackened on flavored grits, a dish that was good but that lost part of the foie's charm by carrying too thick a blackening coat), moved to elk, and presented sashimi fish as the last course before dessert. Very odd. Still, I enjoyed it and ate, as usual, more than necessary.

Much work awaits, so to it I go.

Lesson of the day: If you're ever in Austin, and a rental agency assigns you a high-mileage Malibu, ask for another car.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On the road again: Austin, day 2

I had no real choice. Honestly, I didn't. When some client friends suggested a different BBQ joint, a nearby Rudy's, as a lunch possibility, what could I do but agree? I am not the kind of person who will refuse to suffer moist brisket and jalapeno sausage with friends, not I. So I did.

Much work and many meetings today, so much so that despite the timestamp on this post, which I forced to be Tuesday though it is actually now many hours into Wednesday because of my insistence on a tidy flow of posts, I am only now able to begin the slog through email. Much more work ahead.

Dinner was an odd but generally good tasting menu at Olivia, which has garnered a fair amount of attention in the last year. The meal was odd in that it ignored the usual progression of a tasting menu and simply focused on smaller portions of key dishes on the main menu. All the food was good, but no course achieved greatness. One of the better treats was a bit of conversation: The chef nearest where we sat at the chef's table/bar turned out to have worked for three months at Alinea, so we had a lovely but brief chat about Chicago restaurants.

The book progresses, and I am still enjoying it more than I'd feared I would, so that is a hopeful sign. I remain too close to it at this stage to be objective, but as I rework page after page, I feel better and better about it. I hope that trend continues.

To work, to work I go.

Monday, January 25, 2010

On the road again: Austin, day 1

When a travel day has all of these occurrences:

upgrades to first class on both legs

airplane lunch--a chicken and bacon salad--that was actually tasty

both flights slightly ahead of schedule

Texas BBQ dinner at The County Line on the Lake
you just can't complain about the trip. So I won't.

I'm happily full of brisket, sausage, and beef rib. The hotel room is quiet and clean. I have extra pillows. I've done all my email. The book proceeds. The Dude abides.

Nope. No right to complain today.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Memory explosions

(Warning: potentially unsettling content and some very adult language)

Many friends and fans have commented to me that my blog, though full of personal information about me, often feels sanitized. The reason, of course, is that I sanitize it. I have a sense of personal privacy that the blog often comes near to violating, and I also have a great many younger readers of my novels, so I write most of these blog entries for a general audience that might include young teens.

I did not sanitize this entry anywhere near as much as usual, partly to show people that there are good reasons for sanitizing, and partly because I may use a cleaned-up version of this story in an afterword to Children No More. May. I haven't decided yet.

Please stop reading now if you mind difficult images.


A few weeks ago, in the course of our yoga class, our instructor told us to lie on our backs on our mats with our feet together, and then lift our feet slightly off the ground. This simple leg-lift was just the first step in assuming a position. I was focused on the class, distracted only by how fat and out of shape I am, thinking of nothing in particular, and generally present in the moment.

I lifted my legs.

A memory exploded in my brain.

In an instant, with sensations of all sorts flooding me, I remembered being ten years old in the Young Marines. We were out back of the meeting hall, in a wide, sunlit brick alley. We wore our uniforms: pants and shirts starched and ironed and starched and ironed again until you could have cut a sandwich with their creases, brass belt buckles gleaming from repeated hand polishing, boots spit-shined until they glowed, covers as starched and perfect as the rest of the clothing. We were on our backs, the bricks rough and our bodies soaked with sweat. We had to squint against the brutally hot Florida sun.

We were doing leg lifts. Legs together. Lift them six inches off the ground. Hold until the DI was satisfied. On his command, spread them as wide as you could, still six inches off the ground. Hold until he was happy. Put them back together--still six inches off the ground. Hold again. Put them down, never as long as you wanted, and rest for a few seconds. Repeat.

What happened when you failed varied with the DI. The nice ones would stride up to you, bend, and scream at you until you got back to work, maybe even treat you to twenty push-ups.

The DI on the day I remembered was not one of the nice ones. He was an actual Marine rotated back to the World for a short while before heading again out of the country. He dealt with failure quickly and brutally: he appeared at your side, somehow moving lightning fast without ever appearing to run or even picking up his pace, and he stomped on your stomach.

On the day I remembered, I had already failed once. My head was soaked because the water and bits of sandwich I'd thrown up next to me--you never got up without a direct order to that effect, so I was still where I'd been when I'd puked--had seeped under my head. In the seconds when my feet were on the ground, as I worked to relax my stomach I also pondered how I was going to get the stain out of my shirt, because I had only one.

The moment I remembered was when the DI announced that as a special treat, courtesy of Private Van Name's earlier decision to screw the whole platoon by turning into a little bitch of a baby and dropping his legs, we were going to hold our legs for thirty seconds in each position. If anyone's feet touched the ground, we'd do it again.

The exact moment I remembered was when we were nearing the end of the first position, which I knew because I'd been counting the seconds. I was already shaking and breathing hard, which meant the next two stages were probably more than I could handle. I bit my tongue to give myself a different pain to focus on. I tasted blood, and I got mad, really mad. I vowed that I would not let that asshole beat me, that I would not let down my team, that I would hold up my legs until either he got tired of checking his watch or I died. I would not fail. The tang of adrenaline joined the coppery blood, and I smiled at that fucker, showed him my blood-red teeth, and when the exercise was over and he told us to put down our feet, I held them up another few seconds, making sure he noticed, because fuck him, fuck them all, they would not beat me.

He smiled back at me, nodded, and walked off.

In my den, on my yoga mat, all these years later, with a yoga instructor who could not be nicer, all of that exploded in my head at once. I tasted adrenaline and blood, I felt the bricks against my back and the heat of the sun on my face and the sweat soaking me.

I'd never forgotten the leg-lifts, but I'd also never recalled them so viscerally. I have no idea what caused this memory to appear so fully and so violently. It passed quickly, faded back into the kind of vague, out-of-focus scene that most distant memories are, but for a moment I was there again, fully there, gone from my den and back in that alley where I spent so very much time, and I'll probably never know why.


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