Nothing much to say…

Nothing much to say today...had a good lunch with Kevin at Baricci's (if you like roasted red peppers and soppresata and broccoli rabe and Italian ices, this is a good place to have lunch, if a bit pricey). Sent a letter withdrawing "A Dream of Wolves" from CRANK!, since I accidentally submitted it to Black October (hard to keep electronic and print submissions straight). Hope they forgive me. Going over to David's for dinner...plans this weekend include folksing at Ann and Robert's tomorrow night and tea at three at Sarah's on Sunday. :-)

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Heya. So I survived…

Heya. So I survived Valentine's Day relatively unscarred (though I did have the first argument I've had with Kevin in two months yesterday :-/, over dishes of all things...all fixed now, but that holiday makes me tense). We had potluck for dinner, partly because I've spent too many V-Day's alone in the past, and I hate to think of friends of ours sitting at home and moping. We made crepes with sweet and savory stuffings (feta and spinach and garlic with a little salt and pepper chopped up in the a blender is a good one, as is a ratatouille cooked down (I replaced the eggplant with zucchini though, 'cause I hate mushy eggplant)), and John brought two pots of really yummy pasta with a cilantro pesto (he bought it at Reading Terminal Market, and if you're ever in Philly, that's a great place to go food shopping). We also overloaded on dessert, 'cause Kathryn brought cappucino ice cream and Larry brought 2 (!) cheesecakes. We froze one of them, though. :-)

Party of Five had a great Valentine's Day episode, with lots of stress and arguments, a little mushiness, and several bitter(sweet) moments. And Julia (16) is pregnant. Terrific way to end an episode, huh? I love the realism of this show.

If you've been reading this diary, you might remember my asking about birds on the plains? Well, this morning one of my readers (an ornithologist!) contacted me with the necessary info -- thanks, Gene!

All's well with me today -- the mildish weather is holding, which makes me happy. The plan is to go to Border's after work, meet with a fan (I hope he remembers what I look like, 'cause I accidentally deleted my description of him), and do some research on grad schools. The vague plan for next fall is to apply to grad schools for an MFA in creative writing and also apply to teaching positions at good prep schools. The nuisance is that I'm not quite sure where I'll be, so I have to do this in a couple of areas. Oh well...Chicago or Philly or San Francisco. Any of them would be good places to be next year.

And since it's no longer Valentine's Day, I'm posting a love poem. :-)

Dropping Dishes

Never say 'I love you' again
and I promise the same.

After all these centuries, words of love are weary.

Say instead, smiling,
I'm glad you did the dishes.

And I will answer,
When you allow yourself to smile,
the wrinkles at the edges of your eyes
make we want to drop dishes
and drag you into bed.

We need never say I love you
again.

*****
May 31, 1994

-- You might get the impression that dishes are a recurring theme with me. You might be right.

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Morning, everyone….

Morning, everyone. Slightly warmer again and snowing gently after a couple of days of real cold. I am so very tired of winter.

Got my blood test results back -- looks like I may in fact be hypothyroid, though subclinical and only mildly symptomatic. They're probably going to start me on Synthroid anyway to head off unpleasant symptoms (exhaustion, cold intolerance, weight gain). Sounds fine to me -- it's just a hormone replacement, so no side effects.

Had a talk with Jordan this morning about one of his stories. Seems a reader had suggested some rewrites (which neither of us particularly minds (though neither do we often rewrite the story quite the way they want)) which among other things removed the condoms from the story. He thought it would be much more exciting to have 'gouts of semen spurting into her unprotected womb'...

We spent a while talking about that, and how strange it seems to both of us that some people write stories in which going without protection is exciting. I think most young women (except perhaps the lesbians :-) have known those weeks of alternating terror and gut-churning nausea as they wait to see if their period arrives after some stupid, risky (and I grant you, exciting, or they wouldn't have done it in the first place) unprotected sex. And even leaving aside the pregnancy issue, most people are (obviously) quite aware of the disease risks with new partners (especially the strangers that so often seem to wander into fantasies). While it's occasionally a relief to just ignore the whole issue in a story (which is, of course, fantasy rather than reality), making terror a known turn-on just seems highly unbelievable to me in that specific case, and the worst erotica is generally the unrealistic stuff.

All's well otherwise -- David made hummus yesterday, which was easier than I expected (boil chick peas until softened, then blend with lemon juice, tahini and garlic -- the only difficult bit is making the tahini if you choose to do that -- sesame seeds are somewhat expensive and hardish to find), and yummy with toasted pita bread. Came home after dinner and watched some tv and started a story, a fairy tale/parable type thing. Not sure where it's going, and it's a somewhat odd piece, set in a kind of Native American plains environment (anyone know what kind of birds can be found in the plains?).

Sent "Send in the Clown" to Aboriginal SF. Not sure if they're accepting stories again, but I think so.

My editor called from Puritan to say that he'd like an intro to the article -- just a paragraph or two. Will try, but not sure what to say!

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Still tired. Ick. On the…

Still tired. Ick. On the bright side, just sent off two stories -- "The Gopi's Tale" to CRANK! and "The Devouring Night" to Science Fiction Age.

Went to Border's yesterday and decided that rather than buy expensive copies of the Peterson's Guides, I'd just copy down the phone numbers I needed. But then I was too tired to do it right then, so I just bought some novels (Cherryh's Invader, sequel to Foreigner -- IMHO the best representation of truly alien aliens since Octavia Butler, and something else with impressive cover quotes by an author I don't remember) and a copy of Fantasy and SF Magazine and Science Fiction Age.

Kevin made dinner (broccoli (the word I spelled wrong in the National Catholic Spelling Bee!) and red bell pepper and plum tomato and crushed red peppers and garlic with olive oil over capellini pasta (he maintains, and I think he's right, that it would have worked better with a more robust pasta, such as ziti -- it was a little mushy)), thank the goddess, and had strawberries with sugar for dessert. (Had also indulged with stuffed grape leaves as appetizers -- truly yummy.) Then proceeded to veg out in front of the television for the rest of the evening. Hmmm...it's embarassing admitting that to y'all -- maybe if I'm brutally honest here, I'll start giving up my bad habits 'cause it's too embarassing to admit them. :-)

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Tiring weekend. Sorry no…

Tiring weekend. Sorry no entry yesterday, but I got about 3 hours of sleep on Sat. night (very late party and early meeting with friends of parents who took me out to a very nice lunch at New Delhi restaurant but which left me exhausted) and yesterday was a somewhat emotionally draining day.

I'm still really tired, and feel like I'm about to fall over. Finished the article on Friday, and Fed Ex'd it off to Puritan. This week I'm supposed to spend dedicated to applying for jobs and grad schools for the fall, so I'm going to Border's Bookstore after work to pick up a copy of the Peterson's guide (the online version has no addresses or telephone versions. Sneaky.) Hope I don't wimp out too much on this -- I hate applying for jobs and schools. Bad for the soul.

I can tell I'm in a whiny mood, so I'd best stop here. I did want to let you know that I decided to edit out some earlier stuff in my diary. So if you haven't seen it by now, you won't. Sorry.

I found this poem while reading news this morning. Somewhat mushy, but I rather like it anyway, so I thought I'd share it.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken
in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I did not die.

Anonymous

--later....just sold a story to Black October Magazine. .3/word, which doesn't sound like much (and isn't, for a 1000 word story) but are still professional rates. Yippee!

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This entry is a rant….

This entry is a rant. You have been warned.

Twice yesterday I found myself in discussions with people who were seeing the world as a very dark place. First I got e-mail from my friend John -- his writing isn't going well; his kid is sick; his house is a mess and his wife is stressed. He was feeli ng pretty bleak and hopeless -- felt that there was just too much to do and not enough time to do it in...and that even if there had been enough time, he wasn't quite good enough to do everything he wanted to do. Fair enough -- I've certainly felt that w ay at times, though I do tend to be a pretty optimistic person overall. But I could understand (and remember) that nothing-will-ever-really-work-right feeling. So I sent him back some mail, reminding him that such feelings do pass, and that even though we can't fix everything at once, we can generally at least do the dishes or play with the baby for a while. Doing our little bit in the fight against entropy. It helped some, he said, and after a few more e-mails back and forth he was at least sounding better.

Well and good. The day rolled by, and eventually it' s 10 o'clock and I'm hanging with David, talking about wherever our minds wander today. Somehow we got onto affirmative action and argued that one for a while, even coming to some sort of agreement on temporary policy. But then he metaphorically shrugged his shoulders and claimed it was useless in any case -- that any solution to the problem of race relations in America was at best a palliative -- sticking a tiny bandage on a huge gaping wound. Fair enough again -- one bandage isn't going to make much of a difference to such a big problem. But I argued (and still do argue) that a lot of little bandages (some bigger than others) might eventually bridge the wound, and hold it shut long enough to heal . (Not entirely my own metaphor -- see McCoy's argument in Spock's World). He disagreed (though I may have misunderstood him on all this, that's not really the point of this rant), and we quickly disintegrated into an argument we'd had once bef ore. Dave comes down pretty firmly on the side of 'the world is so totally fucked-up that it's just hopeless, and it's just a waste of time doing any activist work or trying to fix any of the large problems -- just try to enjoy your life as best you can until you die.' (I don't want to give you the wrong impression of him -- he's certainly helpful to people he knows; he just doesn't see much point to trying to solve social problems or reaching out past his own community). And I'm on the side of 'well, we may not really fix anything, but I think things are slowly getting better (with a lot of backsliding), and if you can't fix the problem for everyone, you can at least make someone's life (and maybe many someones) a little easier....and if there are eno ugh people trying to do that, then maybe we really will fix some of those big problems.' We came to no resolution; our attitudes are just too fundamentally different. Maybe we will someday.

In the meantime, though, I wanted to talk about it. Partly because I'm thinking about it, partly because I've heard a lot of people lately pretty upset about the Communications Decency Act. There's a big temptation to think that we're so small and helpl ess that the narrow-minded and the scared and the wheels of bureaucracy can crush us in the course of their stampede. And it's true -- I won't deny it -- that some us probably will get crushed. And the natural, first human reaction to that is survival i nstinct -- duck! Stop posting, pull your web page, stop carrying those dangerous sites, or maybe it's you they'll crush. But stop and think a long moment before you do any of that. Because the survival and growth of the race depends on getting past tha t first basic instinct -- to the second basic instinct. Protect your own. Like the woman who jumps overboard to save a drowning stranger, or the father with sudden superhuman strength when his children are in danger, there's something that urges us to g o beyond ourselves to help others. And in this case, protecting your own isn't just a matter of your children or your friends or your company. Because the global community is global, and becoming more so, and we need to protect not just civil r ights and freedoms in America but in the world -- we even need to protect people who aren't on the net. While I'm not religious, there's one rule that seems pretty universal across religions and makes a lot of sense -- "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Or another paraphrasing I've seen, "The spear in the Other's heart is the spear in your own; you are he."

So think about it. And if you find yourself agreeing with me, stop by the various crusaders and lend some support -- financial or letter-writing or voting or e-mail or just your common sense and good ideas. And if fighting for the freedom of the net isn 't your cause, find one that is. It may even be one on which we disagree, and that's okay. Because one of the greatest dangers comes not from opposing viewpoints, but from apathy and despair. Maybe we'll lose the battle against entropy someday (and I h aven't even given that one up yet -- physicists don't know quite everything), but we can hold off the dark for a while if we try, and dance a little longer.

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Spring! It may not…

Spring! It may not actually be spring, but oh, it feels like spring. Even in a light sweater and winter coat I was too warm walking in to work, but I couldn't be sorry. It's funny how in addition to the rise in temperature there's a definite 'feel' to the air in spring...I can't even explain it. I remember reading in a book about a tribe that would celebrate the first spring day, though it may not have been particularly warm, because it had 'broken the back of winter.' That's exactly how it feels today -- though we may get more snow and cold, winter is on its way out...

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"Truth decays into…

"Truth decays into beauty, while beauty soon becomes merely charm. Charm ends up as strangeness, and even that doesn't last, but up and down are forever." - The Laws of Physics

<grin>I liked these the first time I saw them, and was poking through some old files today and ran across them again, so I thought I'd share them. Sounds a lot like my love life -- tends to be rather rollercoasterish. :-)

Not much exciting to report -- came home, finished Cart and Cwidder and Catseye Gomez, both fun reads. Watched some television, including my beloved Party of Five, in which all sorts of interesting things happened. The sweet young thing was taught a lesson about holding on by letting go, which is all well and good, but her boyfriend's going across the country for college now, and college is four long years. If they manage to keep the relationship up, I'll be very surprised. Happy for them (especially 'cause she went through such hell getting him), but surprised. But I doubt my ramblings on this are of any interest to anybody who doesn't watch the show, so I'll stop here. :-)

Dave had spent much of the day visiting his niece (age 3) and nephew (age 5), and when he stopped by last night was full of stories. It's funny how much I miss kids -- none of my friends have 'em yet, and I just don't get to see very many except when I go home to visit.

If you come here directly, you may not have noticed the blue ribbon and black background on my home page. I'd like to ask you to take a look at them both, and follow the links to get information on them. The rest is up to you.

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Looking for my old…

Looking for my old friend in the mountains,
I came upon a young boy in a copse.
He said his master, my old friend, had gone,
Gathering medicinal herbs. He never leaves
these hills, he told me, but my friend
is hidden by the clouds, and the fog.

--Tr. Brian Tung

Brian sent me this T'ang Dynasty poem this morning -- we had talked once before about a favorite T'ang Dynasty poem of mine. Very nice way to start the morning.

Also exciting in the e-mail this morning was a tentative offer from someone interested in publishing my anthology. If it works out, I may make less money, but I wouldn't be taking any of the risk, or dealing with any of the publishing, marketing, distributing hassle. I think it's worth it...we'll see how talks go.

Yesterday was a pretty quiet day -- spent the day working and catching up with e-mail. Evening I came home, read Simon Hawke's The Nine Lives of Catseye Gomez (part of his delightfully funny Wizard of Camelot series), and started Diana Wynne Jones's Cart and Cwidder, part of her Dalemark series. (I had forgotten Lord Valentine's Castle at work...) If you're not familiar with Jones's work and enjoy children's fantasy, I strongly suggest you seek her out. Her Chrestomanci series is fabulous. I first encountered her in the adult fantasy section, with A Sudden Wild Magic, but her children's books are even better. Spent the rest of the evening being totally lazy and talking to Kevin, catching him up on the party and the last couple of days. Nice evening. Went to bed early.

Today the plan is to do at least half the remaining work on the erotica article for Puritan, and to clean up the apartment when I get home...:-)

In case you haven't visited my quotes, I'm enclosing the T'ang Dynasty poem discussed above here.

The autumn leaves are falling like rain.
Although my neighbors are all barbarians,
And you, you are a thousand miles away,
There are always two cups at my table.

--Anon.

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Oh, I have a lot to…

Oh, I have a lot to catch up on here. Lessee...to go back to Saturday. Well, Saturday was a trip and a half. I'm not sure how familiar the general net.public is with BDSM, so I don't know quite how much to explain. Perhaps it's best if I assume a general knowledge -- for more specifics click here, which will take you to Yahoo's BDSM resource links. You can explore further from there. I strongly recommend starting with the alt.sex.bondage FAQ. Briefly, BDSM refers to bondage, domination, sadism and masochism -- plus a bunch of related stuff. It can run the gamut from tying someone up and tickling them to playing serious mind games to heavy whipping. Sex is sometimes but certainly not always involved.

So Saturday I was invited to a play party, by someone I had met at the Midnight Sex and Death Panel at Arisia (Boston SF con referred to in earlier journals). I hadn't been to one before, and was a little freaked out by the idea, but I thought that if nothing else, it would be a good resource for story material, and it would be cowardly not to at least attempt to go. So I went, giving myself full permission to run away screaming if I got too weirded out or squicked.

I actually got the time wrong and arrived a couple of hours early at the hotel where it was being held (the hotel thought we were a bunch of performance artists :-). I was greeted by some lovely (and busy) people, and told that I was welcome to hang out, but they'd be pretty busy getting furniture removed and setting up the racks and benches (for flogging, caning, etc.). I figured that was a hint, and took myself off to the pool -- luckily I had brought both a swimsuit and a few good books (I had bought Anne of the Island it turns out -- great nostalgia trip, though it certainly wasn't as engrossing as it had been the first time through). I eventually headed back to the party -- ran into a bunch of people heading out to get dinner -- joined them and had a great time (jalapeno poppers and tortellini in a creamy sun-dried tomato and pesto sauce!) and then went back to the party.

(One of the people reading this diary asked if I went alone -- and whether I was harrassed, as a single woman attending such an event. So I'm inserting this paragraph to explain.) I did go alone, though I knew one of the hosts (the woman who invited me, and whom I barely saw, actually). Three people asked me to 'play', but they did it politely, and took my refusal with good grace. Consensual is such a big part of the bdsm scene (the standard watchwords are 'safe, sane and consensual') that everyone is very polite, especially to a stranger. They're also quite aware of how scary the whole thing can be, and try very hard not to frighten you away.

There was a social room and several public play rooms, plus many people had their own private rooms. There were many restrictions on what could be done in the public rooms -- eg., no cutting, no alcohol, no drugs... I'm not going to go into detail about what I saw, but there was a fair bit of casual nudity (nonsexual -- more of a locker room functional nudity, if that makes sense), and a great deal of relaxed cameraderie. I hadn't quite expected the whole thing to be so matter-of-fact -- some individual scenes got steamy, but the event as a whole had a very friendly and sane feel to it. I left still slightly bewildered, but reassured, and I admit intrigued. There's something very fascinating about helplessness. I'm going to have dinner with some of the people from the party next week, I think.

I got back from the party around 9 am on Sunday (having had about 2 hours sleep), and almost immediately left to go visit my sister at Johns Hopkins. Quite a contrast, but I had a great time (my father had come out too, and we had a lot of fun gossiping, punctuated only occasionally by parental worry) and a yummy lunch at the Paper Moon restaurant in Baltimore (I can highly recommend the sweet potato fries, their chicken quesadillas (though I actually prefer Chili's), and their appetizer of chicken livers sauteed with onions and portabello mushrooms in a raspberry vinaigrette (served over salad, it's a full meal). Their spinach and ricotta omelette was less than impressive). My dad drove me home, and I spent the rest of the evening talking to Kevin and later David about the party (Karina is very squicked by such things), and eating some of the delicious shrimp and potato curry that my father brought from home for me -- nice to have generous aunts who are good cooks!

Yesterday I went to work and then mostly rested at David's -- read a good chunk of Lord Valentine's Castle, a fantasy book I enjoyed many years ago. I still enjoy it, particularly because it has lots of cool juggling stuff in it (I can juggle three balls, and the mathematicians I hung out with at the U of Chicago were excellent jugglers - knives and torches and the whole bit), but it's rather slower and less interesting than I remembered. Oh well -- some books just don't wear as well as others.

Later -- Hmm...just got some e-mail (hi Eric!) from someone who writes erotica but is afraid to try to publish it, asking my advice. Since his was far from the first such question, I thought I'd try to answer it a bit here. The first thing to keep in mind is that a pseudonym is (though often unwieldy) always an option. Every editor I've talked to has been more than willing to use a pseudonym (several have suggested it themselves) and to be discreet when mailing you sample issues or other material. Puritan Magazine, for example, is under the aegis of Index Publishing, and all of my checks are from Index. I personally only use a pseudonym for stories I consider to be pure trash, and even those I occasionally reconsider -- I published "Making the Sale" under a pseudonym, but eventually put it up here as well, mainly because I figured anyone reading it here would be reading it in context, and not just assuming that that was my best work.

Another option is to brazen it out. I do not recommend this if you a) teach children, b) have an overly-anal work environment, c) think your own children/partner/parents would be more upset/affected than you are willing to deal with, d) or plan to publish children's literature.

If those aren't factors...I've found it surprising how accepting people have been. My boss (a doctor) knows, and while she's weirded out, she doesn't actually object. My younger sisters know, and think it's cool that anyone's willing to pay me that much for a story. All my friends know, of course, and while my generation (I'm 24) is perhaps more accepting of such things, my folk singing group also knows (general age range 40-65) and thinks it's cool. Several members even asked for my web page. People will make a distinction between erotica and porn, and it's up to you how you want to paint your work. Keep in mind that many famous writers wrote erotica (Nicholson Baker's Vox, Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty series, Anais Nin's work, Henry Miller, Erica Jong), and much mainstream literature has serious erotic elements (try the last few pages of Joyce's Ulysses). So be brave. While some people will think you're perverted or nymphomaniacal (one psychiatrist/writer treated me to a half-hour lecture about my sex obsession), the vast majority will be intrigued, aroused, amused, and/or impressed (the other writers there vigorously defended me to the psychiatrist, although none of them wrote erotica themselves).

Outrageously long entry. Hope this makes up for the hiatus.

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