Monday, December 13, 2010


I'm feeling blocked. Somehow I've vomited out all the word vomit I had in me, to the tune of 76k, and there ain't any more. Tired? Wha? No, not me.

On a related note, why do little kids kicked and thrash around so much while they sleep? Are there demons possessing them? Are they trying to get away from faeries who wish to replace them with changelings?

Have you ever thought about how Santa's elves are kind of like the faeries that steal away little kids?

Maybe all the naughty kids are just androids that the elves are testing out for the eventual takeover.

Maybe I don't even HAVE children. Just elfdroids.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Am Not a Rock Star

But I used to be. Our first rule was Never Tune Your Instrument.

I finished NaNoWriMo in fifteen days this month. Blahhhhhrhghlghglhgh.

I'm way less confident about my writing than I used to be. Nowadays, it's quite common for me to write a draft, scrap it, write another draft, handwrite a draft to incorporate into that draft... and then throw it all away again. NaNoWriMo is kind of a nice hearkening back to when I was a teenager and I thought that Robert Jordan imitations that dripped from my hands at 1800 words a day were pure gold.

Now I'm cutting, chopping, reworking... I've probably written 70,000 words total this month, but the draft just won't get past 60k, and I know I'm going to throw away the first three chapters.

For fifteen days, writing this mad, passionate whore of a novel, I was dripping gold again.

Adia fell on her face yesterday and scraped her nose, so she has been wearing a Band-Aid on her face.

I drilled her on what to say. "Adia, if anyone asks where you got that Band-Aid, what do you say?"

Adia: "I don't talk about Fight Club!"

At preschool, one of the other moms said, "Did you hurt yourself?"

She shoved her fist in her mouth and remained silent. For shame, Adia.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thoughts For Vets' Day

I was searching around for something to say about Veteran's Day and appreciating the troops and war is hell and and and... anyway, this is it.

"My memories of the last war haunted my dreams for years. Military service, to be plain, includes the threat of every temporal evil; pain and death, which is what we fear from sickness; isolation from those we love, which is what we fear from exile; toil under arbitrary masters, which is what we fear from slavery: hunger, thirst, and exposure, which is what we fear from poverty. I'm not a pacifist. If it's got to be it's got to be. But the flesh is weak and selfish, and I think death would be much better than to live through another war."- CS Lewis.

Amen, Jack.

My father has, for the last few years, been working in a military hospital as a psychologist. I used to look at veterans and simply think they were courageous, and wish I could be as proud of something that I did as they might be of what they did.

Now I'm both horrified and in awe. The stories my dad has told me have made me wonder how anyone could keep their sanity after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's not just the horror of seeing your buddies die. It's knowing that any kid who asks you for candy could be wired with an IED. Knowing that any child who "accidentally" wanders out in front of your moving tank could be preparing to blow it up and himself in the process. Seeing those children die, for the lies adults have told them. Knowing that the opposition actually believes that it is worth it to murder these children and other civilians, all in order to take you out. Knowing that your very presence attracts these things, and yet knowing that you must do your job or more innocents, and more of your buddies, will die.

I don't wish I had served in the military anymore. My admiration for veterans, though, has grown by exponents. The vets of Iraq and Afghanistan have fought and died to try and restore some kind of justice, however misguided the original government intentions. I hope I can make the world they fought for better in my own way.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Hot Wife

I subscribe to Dave Wolverton's Daily Kick in the Pants, which is a motivational email about writing. He wrote one the other day about writerly spouses. We are supposed to read the letter to our spouses. It begins thus:

"I’ve been a writer for thirty years, and I just realized that as a writer, for ages I’ve been trying to deal with a problem that I don’t have much control over: interruptions from my spouse.

If you’re married or have children, or if you’re in business, you probably have this problem, too.

With me it’s little innocent things. I may be writing, and my wife will come and ask, “So what do you think we should do about this problem?” It could be anything: Should we get the cat neutered? What do we do about our daughter’s tattoos? Do you like the new dress that I bought?"

Dave goes on to beg spouses to be supportive, which means being quiet.

Well, Dave...

Let's take a moment to talk about how awesome Chrissy is.

Not that she never interrupts me, or won't call me home from the library or coffee shop where I have camped out to write. And I must admit, when we were first married, she would sometimes test my commitment to writing by dressing... um, let's change the subject and keep this blog PG.

But Chrissy really doesn't interrupt save in case of emergency. Sometimes she puts Sam in the room with me, in a baby toy-thingie, and asks me to keep on eye on him, but she'll take him back if he cries too much. We have two kids. Someone is always crying. She deals with it while I'm writing, because she wants me to do it.

When we were first dating, Chrissy went through my room and stole all of my writing that she could find. She loved one particular story, and gave me a suggestion on the story that vastly improved it. Once I implemented her suggestion that story got me into Western, went on to be a finalist for Writers of the Future and then won me two hundred bucks in another contest.

Right after we were married, she read about Dave Wolverton's writing workshop in Salt Lake. "You're going," she told me, and when I asked her about the cost, she said, "I'll pay it. It's worth it."

At that workshop, I met Eric James Stone, who was almost as crucial as Chrissy in setting me on the path to a writing career. He showed me these strange things called "writer groups" and "cons." He became my Obi-Wan Kenobi. I guess that makes Chrissy my sexy Yoda.

Chrissy continues to read most of what I write. Now, it's a lot harder for her but she will still do it, as long as I can wrangle the kids while she does so. Her suggestions are almost always the best ones I get, because she knows what makes my writing work and what my major pitfalls are.

I can't imagine a better spouse. I love you, sexy Yoda.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What I Did At Camp

[This post was originally started in the Seattle Airport. It is presented to you in real time. And 3D. Unrated.]

I am sitting in an airport and going on my nine thousandth set of words for the day. Yeah. That's what Viable Paradise has done to me. And I am writing this now, because tomorrow I intend to hold a lotta babies.

What is there to say about Viable Paradise 14 except this?

Also, Martha's Vineyard is beautiful. My classmates, whom I will list later, were amazing, except for Jake Kerr, who is now my nemesis. I can feel his evil eye upon me, like a wheel of fire. I can't count the number of amazing experiences even without writing involved, like learning to fence from Michelle, swimming in the middle of the night with a host of students including Sän, who went in fully clothed several times. Luminescent jellyfish! On Saturday I even got to ride a bike (thanks, Bill and Mary) all around the island. (I also got to find out that I had never changed my flight from the original Saturday I booked it for. Blehhh.)

[Picks it up a week later.]

Wow, time passes when there are babies crying. I've been catching up on work and furiously preparing to write for NaNoWriMo, a novel I am tentatively calling "The Phantom Menace." No, seriously. I'll explain it later.

As for actually writing at VP: Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden talked a lot about publishing, as one might expect. They were very excited about ebooks, Barnes & Noble's health and other related stuff, which was really cool, because we could hear them over the Internet screams of "Publishing is deaaaad!" Turns out it's not dead and Tor is even more not-dead than others. We got to go deeper into a conversation I've had with some authors and editors before, re how ebooks can bring back an author's out-of-print backlist, trade paperbacks and hardcovers, the shrinking paperback shelves in drugstores and grocery stores and what it means to the books publishers buy, and and and...

She kept the lowest profile, but Laura Mixon turned out to be VP's secret weapon for me. She lectured on the care and feeding of your Other, aka the Beast. We learned how to treat your subconscious nicely so that it will deliver, theme, resonance and humor, while your conscious mind is able to work on character and plot. My one-on-one with Laura was also really helpful, as she capped off the week by giving me some really good, simple and sound advice on the story, and then listened to me bitch about writing with screaming children.

On top of workshopping our submissions, we wrote stories until about 2 in the morning. I actually wrote "The End" and fell asleep right there with the laptop on, while next to me, Sän went on writing until he faced the same crux.

I thought my story was terrible. People liked it. Even Jake liked it, though he was only saying that to lure me into false calm so he could pierce my aorta with his vampiric tentacular appendages.

And a bunch of other stuff. Mac and the staff made amazing food and were house-elves to put Dobby to shame. Okay, Dobby was a crappy house-elf, but they put the other hard-working house-elves in Harry Potter to shame. Uncle Jim and Doyle were amazing mentors and teachers and high-energy the whole time. Steve Gould was a lot of fun and he and Scalzi discoursed on the joys of working with Hollywood. Bear and I sang a lot of songs, drank a lot (okay, well, she drank a lot while I had water and Coke Zero) and she looked over a portion of my long-suffering historical novel that I am intimidated to write because I've never been to the Middle East.

I also periodically said stupid things, which tend to fly out of my mouth if I keep it open enough, but at the end of the week the people liked me.

Over the last few years I've been shortlisted for Clarion and a finalist for Writers of the Future twice. So as you might imagine, I had workshop lust. I was like one of those BYU students who, still a virgin at 29 after two failed engagements, finally makes it to the wedding night afraid that it won't be all it was cracked up to be.

VP, you did me good.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Young Ward in Short Pants

Adia has discovered superheroes. I left some comics lying around, and she thumbed through them. Rather than being a "Mermaid Madeleine Princess" for Halloween, she wants to be a "Mermaid Madeleine Wonder Woman." Yesterday I got home from my daily run she met me at the top of the stairs.

"I'm Evil Batman and Mom is Wonder Woman."

"Cool," I said, expecting to be promptly informed that I was Superman or Good Batman or some complimentary hero.

"You're Evil Batman too. And we punch each other. Pyew Pyew Pyew!"

The last is meant to represent laser-gun noises. I have never been prouder of her than I am right now.

I was holding Sam later that day when she came in, still pyew-pyewing me. "Is Sam Robin?" I asked. Sam promptly cooed a cute little coo like he does. "Who is Robin?" Adia asked. "Batman's friend," I said.

Adia hugged Sam and kissed him. "Batman gives Robin lots of hugs and kisses because he loves him."

Monday, September 13, 2010

300-Word Book Review AKA How Can You Read This? There's No Pictures!

Explanation: After I read a book I usually like to take down a few of my thoughts regarding the book, lest it disappear down the memory hole. I had a whole document full of these comments. I forgot to save it when my laptop got stolen. A few of the comments ended up in correspondence, though, like the following that I sent to John Brown, the author of Servant of a Dark God.

300 Words! Better Than Fail Blog!

I argue fine points of LDS doctrine with John Brown on Facebook, so I wanted to read his book. I was genuinely, deeply moved. This book feels real. The book started with a description of a pretty basic day on a farm. At one point, when two kids asked their brother to guard a fugitive, he said, “Who will do the farm chores?” I liked that. So real and so easily missed.

Brown doesn't have Sanderson's gaming-module glee in his confusing magic system, though his characters are more real. Any government-unauthorized magic identifies one as a Darkfriend (called Sleth, but it’s the same idea). One of the characters, Argoth, was a former Darkfriend. He had gone from stealing life from others to hoarding it in small increments from donations—I think?—from his Sekrit Order.

The best parts are the moments where children face up to their parents' problems. Talen, the main character, had to accept how his dad is, to all appearances, a dark wizard. It reminded me of conversations with my dad; he always told me that my rigid view of Mormonism needed more gray areas. I thought he was on the road to hell. The book might have been better if Talen had maintained his definition of wizardry and betrayed his dad.

For more baggage, the character Argoth challenges a corrupt ruling wizard. To do so, he draws strength from his son, almost killing the kid. Armed with his son's energy, Argoth battles bad guy , and the wizard makes him into a mental slave. He took his son's life-force to conquer this baddie, and it DIDN'T WORK. I would kill to pull that off in a book. Brown plays for keeps,; well done in a world of fantasy comfort-food.

[Lest ye wonder, this is the list of books I've read and lost my profound thoughts on:
Collapse by Jared Diamond
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
The Book of Saladin by Tariq Ali
Manhood For Amateurs by Michael Chabon
Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose
Lamentation by Ken Scholes
Canticle by Ken Scholes
Antiphon by Ken Scholes
Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz
Water by Steven Solomon
Old Man's War by John Scalzi
Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King

That's since April. 3-4 books a month is pretty studly. Oh yeah. It turns you on.]

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lust For A Very Particular Book

So when my backpack was stolen, besides my laptop, iPod, art supplies and deck of cards, I had an ARC of Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings.

I was really enjoying the book. It took me a while to get into it, but it was so very pretty that I could hardly resist. Here is the thing. I would buy the book again, but I hate hardbacks. I can't carry them anywhere because they weigh something like ten zillion pounds.

If anyone has or knows of someone who has an ARC of Way of Kings and is willing to sell it, tell me, children. I will pay postage and whatever reasonable price the person wants.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

ARG! Yay ARG! Yay.

This weekend has been bipolar. Along with the usual lack of sleep, I,

1) sold a story

2) got my laptop and iPod stolen.

On the first: I sold an elbow-rubbing story to Jen Brozek at Apex for her new anthology, "Human Tales." This particular antho is a bunch of faerie tales from the fey creature's point of view. Mine was an Arabian Nights pastiche, and well-received by my writing group, who promptly went home and died with their lives complete.

On the second: ARG. ARG. ARRRRRUGUGG.

We were at a potluck yesterday in Cornwall Park, aka Frisbee Golf Stonerville USA. Because we filled our arms with babies and baby stuff, we forgot to ensure that the trunk had closed properly.

Some ratfink who should catch leprosy and die opened the trunk and helped himself to my backpack, including a laptop, iPod, two notebooks full of stuff relating to my tutoring job, a deck of cards, and an ARC of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.

Seriously now. Why do people do this? There was a box of diapers, two carseats, and a mess of kids' toys in that car.

What drives me crazy--oh oh--is knowing that the person can go through all my crap. None of it is interesting. Most of it is backed up on another computer. But they can read my lists of books I've read and read my journal entries and look at pictures of me and Chrissy throughout the years. They can see the Radiohead bootlegs that probably only a few other fanatics have. They can even read my stories. If they are a complete idiot, they can try to publish them, which would actually be a nice way to bust the thief. I'm changing everything online--passwords, security questions, everything. I'm calling every pawn shop (luckily we go to church with the cop who took the report, so he's doing more looking than usual) in this county and I'm trying the ISP to see if they can find the IP address. I just scored a circa 2009 laptop on eBay for way less than Mac would charge me.


Some stoner idiot is out there looking through my pictures and my writing.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Comin Atcha From The Depths of the Diaper


I have not blogged in a bit. Nor have I written. Nor have I finished any of my career-oriented tasks within any more of an hour before they are due. Nor have I slept.

On the good side, though, nobody is literally drinking my bodily fluids that I know of. Chrissy often complains that "it's tough being a cow," to which I reply, "unutterably so."

I DO write, though. I tutor a kid who likes creative writing and we write together and swap stories. I get paid by the hour for it. My life is awesome.

This is not one of those stories. This is, instead, a story that awriter penned at a writing-group session, about me.

All Spencer wanted was to sleep. Between Samwise's 1:00 AM arias and Adia's new tendency to play Godzilla Death Metal Screamy Time at 5:00 in the morning, he wasn't getting more than one hour of sleep each night. It was starting to wear on him.

"Opium!" said Victorian Spider-Man, who looked exactly like modern Spider-Man, except he wore a black top hat, gloves and a monocle. "Opium will quiet those little scamps straightaway!"

"No, Victorian Spider-Man," Spencer said. "Opium will just warp their little minds and send them to rehab at age 5. What do you think, Housewife Superman?"

Housewife Superman adjusted his floral apron. "Send them to a different planet where they will be raised by a kindly elderly couple and grow up to be superheroes! Or give them warm milk."

"They don't have superpowers, Mrs. Kent. Tony Stark?"

Tony Stark gave him a skeptical look over the rim of his gin and tonic. "Do I really look like someone you'd want advice for your kids from?"

"Why not?"

Tony tossed back his drink. "I'd put them in an ice chamber and take them out when they were twenty-five."

A tiny voice from behind asked, "Daddy, why are you talking to the rice maker?"

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It Is Done And Cannot Be Undone

More or less.

He's Samwise, for good or bad. No doubt much of the Internet is pleased and a few of you are horrified. This is my favorite text on the subject: "When he is twenty, what will happen when he's trying to pick up on a girl and she finds out he is named after a hobbit?"

To the sender I point out: Sam is the only one of those hobbits who snatched himself a lady.

Just in case, though, I am starting a money jar to change his name when he's older if he really wants it.

I spent so much of my life trying to be "important." I wanted praise and recognition and I wanted to be brilliant and better than everyone.

And yet my literary hero was totally humble and even a little dumb, but he did what his upper-class, literate, smart and informed buddy couldn't do.

I want Sam to understand that you don't have to be brilliant, you just have to be brave and stouthearted.

IN OTHER AWESOME NEWS: This weekend was much better than it had any right to be, considering we were out of the house, stuck in Bothell, while the landlady is having the lead paint removed. I got to go to a Clarion party with the awesome criada . I would like to reiterate to everyone there that I Am Not A Cool Guy. I got a new contract position at work helping to design the curriculum for some online courses, which is really cool.

ANNNNND.... I got into Viable Paradise for this year along with aforementioned criada and plunderpuss . Represent, Bellingham! W00t!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sam(wise?) German Ellsworth

I started on Tuesday to write a blog post about how the baby was eight days overdue. It was snarkily called "Honey, BP Called And They Want Your Cervix To Plug The Oil Spill."

As of 8:00 that night, Chrissy proved that blog post unnecessary. After a small intervention by the midwives to help open said cervix, five hours of intense labor produced a nine-pound boy at 8 PM. True to his hobbit namesake, he proceeded to have two dinners, four midnight snacks, and three breakfasts.

Adia is much happier about having a brother than we thought. She wanted a sister and she was also afraid of getting replaced. But she is fascinated with Sam and constantly wants to hold him.

We are still waffling on whether or not to go all the way and name him Samwise. I love the idea of a special name no one else has that is based on a noble little hobbit. On the other hand, his teacher will read it aloud on the first day of school and somebody just might say "stupid fat hobbit!"

Of course, that would make said tormentor a schizophrenic fish-eating jewelry-addicted goblin.

What do you guys think? To Wise or not to Wise?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


No, I'm not. I have for over a month now been very worked up about the Arizona law targeting ethnic studies classes. Having taught an ethnic studies class at Western, I really want to take the time to write a thoughtful blog post about the experience and how it might relate, for all that I was a privileged white kid teaching (mostly) privileged white kids. Funny stories.

But anytime I have a couple of hours to write, I've actually been writing. One day. Until then: Jan Brewer, you are a simpleton.

Here's an excerpt from what I've been writing. This one was called "Father's Day:"

They had just gotten into bed at one AM when someone—Jeff would later correct himself and say something—banged on the drum set.

Jeff stumbled to the garage door. Three Annas looked up at him, three sets of blonde curls, three sets of two teeth and three ice-blue eyes. They scattered, squealing with glee as the man they thought of as their daddy ran after them. “Fallon! Clones!”

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Particle Cannons of Kilimanjaro

I meant to keep up on this blog. I really did. I was going to write such blog posts. Moments of great profundity. But at the moment I am laid up with severe pain in an uncomfortable place.

I have decided to play a game. To play this game you need one (1) copy of a Transformers comic book from the eighties and one (1) copy of The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway. Stir and allow to rise.

"Now taste high-frequency sonics, creep!" he said.

"I wish you wouldn't," she said.

"Fools! You are nothing to me--less than nothing!" He looked over to where the huge, filthy birds sat, their naked heads sunk in the hunched feathers. A fourth planed down, to run quick-legged and then waddle slowly toward the others.

"I don't quarrel. I never want to quarrel. Let's not quarrel any more. No matter how nervous we get."

"For... this... infamy... I will tear you apart with my bare hands!"

"Oh for Christ sake stop bragging, will you?"

He looked at her and saw her crying.

"Listen," he said. "Do you think that it is fun to do this? Fool! Have you learnt so little from our previous battles? I am power incarnate! I cannot be stopped... and I cannot be destroyed!"

"Stop it. Harry, why do you have to turn into a devil now?"

"I have only to wait for the volcano's imminent eruption. At that moment my power siphon will seize the raw, naked energy released... and convert it into limitless power for me to absorb! Nothing can stop me attaining my godhood now!" He turned his head and grinned and pointed and there, ahead, all he could see, as wide as all the world, great high and unbelievably white, was the square top of Kilimanjaro.

"You don't have to destroy me. Do you? I'm only a middle-aged woman who loves you and wants to do what you want to do. I've been destroyed two or three times already. You wouldn't want to destroy me again, would you?"

"Why do you persist in this futile struggle?"

"Why, I loved you. That's not fair. I love you now. I'll always love you. Don't you love me?"

"Such a noble speech... such a waste of time. Deceptions, fire!"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Plague of Babies

I just finished reading Collapse by Jared Diamond and The World Without Us by some bloke whose name escapes me. I put down three other books that I was reading at once and plowed through these two. I haven't been so affected by a pair of books in a while.

The initial idea of World Without Us didn't sound interesting to me: it was a cool thought experiment to talk about what would happen to the world if humans totally disappeared. But the book is about a lot more than that; it's a thorough environmental treatise of how we've ****ed the planet and how it might recover.

The most affecting part of World Without Us was about the trash collecting in the North Pacific Gyre, a dead low zone between all the currents circling the coasts of Alaska, Russia, Japan, Hawaii and the western coast of North America. Trash. Trash like crazy. Lots of little plastic bottles and plastic wrap and plastic bags and worst of all, little bits of plastic that have been ground up that little sea creatures are eating that stick in their gut and kill them.

Funny enough, the ending is kind of hopeful—a thought that if people vanished, plastic would end up as just another layer in the Earth’s crust and probably get squished into something else.

Collapse is about various societies, both ancient and modern, that have collapsed and totally stopped working. In almost every circumstance it is because they overestimated how much damage their environment could take. On Easter Island, for example, the island was deforested faster than other Polynesian islands and basically made into desert because the inhabitants didn’t realize how the thin, dry soil wouldn’t regrow trees quickly and how badly it would be affected by erosion. Crops were then affected.

(And they ate people out of lack of food. Common insult during the lean years: “your mother’s flesh sticks between my teeth.” Not kidding.)

Most of these societies were done in by their own prosperity. The Maya collapsed because they started farming the hillsides above the valleys where they were originally farming. The hillsides eroded; the soil washed down into the valley below. The Maya were just too populous; hence the need for higher farms.

Repulsively to us, a lot of societies maintained a better population balance through infanticide and late-term forced abortion, and by that I mean putting hot rocks on a third-trimester pregnant woman's belly. Of course in our world, with birth control a-plenty, there is no reason why people couldn't restrict their baby-making.

Diamond actually lauds a lot of businesses and business conglomerates for practicing an ounce of prevention rather than a pound of cure. He talks about visiting the Chevron plant in New Guinea in which the environment was more pristine than most of Papua New Guinea's national parks because of the many, many cautions taken around drilling. Diamond has no easy solution but one of his theses is that people can use natural resources without raping the land. Mining companies, for example, have a bad environmental record because there is so little responsibility. I don’t know where the metal in this computer came from, but ChevronBP mines the oil and then sells me the gas. The chain of responsibility for Chevron goes all the way back.

I could go on about these books forever, but I think I will hold off except to say that there really are no easy answers.

Overpopulation is still the big factor. All of which lead to some worrisome reading. What kind of world am I giving Adia? It's clear that my grandparents and parents had no idea what they were doing to the environment. As far as my grandparents were concerned, there was tons of room to dump trash in the south end of Provo, and why would there one day be so many people that they would build shopping centers and houses on what used to be landfills there? It works on such a personal level. We want about three kids. My grandparents had eight kids because there was lots of room. Given the way First Worlders consume resources, our three will be equal to six or eight in the Third World, and probably use more resources than the eight kids my grandparents had.

Thing is, one reason I want kids is because "I've been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding." We live in an urban environment, walk almost everywhere, work mostly from home, compost and recycle. These are options that are available to a lot of people.

One possible solution would be adoption. There are lots of kids in orphanages. Why not legislate against big families (I know that will never work; it's a topic for another day) and encourage people who want big families to adopt instead. Our earth is getting overtaxed because of the American ideal of a house in the suburbs with 3.5 kids and an SUV. We could make a very simple change if we all thought about adoption as an equal or better option to home-baking.

In other news, Adia is sleeping in a big-kid bed and wearing underpants now. On paper, this is good. On not-paper (plastic?) this means that when she has a nightmare we no longer go to her. She crawls into bed with us. And kicks me. All night. Also a point against having kids.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rejection Dejection Injection Correction

A couple of days ago I called up the PhDs that rejected me to get some feedback on my submissions.


That was a hard conversation to have.

The graduate director for U-Hawaii was very nice and friendly. She read, as gently as she could, what the admissions committee said about my submission: "it lacks complexity."

I politely refrained from pointing out that the admissions committee's mom lacked complexity last night. I smiled and said, "I've written enough and submitted enough that I'm used to rejection. I'll live."

And it's true. I will live, and I'm used to rejection. But I still loathe it.

I've written and sent out more stories in the past year than I have ever in years before. Thus I get more rejections than ever before; about one a week. I'm on track for April with one last week from Realms of Fantasy and one the week before from Writers of the Future.

I hate it. Every rejection guts me for the day. Some markets, like F&SF, only seems to publish from their house rotation of authors, so I don't feel quite as rotten. Others, like the aforementioned Writers of the Future, are all the worse because I have gotten personal encouragement in the past and now find myself staring at a form letter.

The problem is not the rejections themselves. By the ratio of personal rejects to form, I'm getting closer to salesville.

The problem is not that my life sucks and this makes it suck more. I have a job I enjoy, a beautiful and fun wife, and one cool kid, soon to be two. I live in a paradise.

The problem is that I know I'm brilliant.

And I know I'm crap.

I love my own stories. Despite all the evidence as I rewrite, deep within my brain I am convinced that my first drafts put Mark Twain and Toni Morrison to shame.

Yet in another murky part of my brain, I am convinced that my stuff is pretentious, annoying and overblown, and nobody wants to come to my birthday party.

I know this will never go away. When I am outselling Stephen King (that's "when," not "if"), I will still punch the wall in frustration because some random blogger has posted about how my books are crap. My current gregariousness notwithstanding, I was once a shy self-conscious kid who got sick a lot from food allergies. I didn't have a lot of friends, and I wasn't good at basketball, and (fill in the nerdy childhood stereotype here; I had it).

I love telling stories. Unfortunately, I can't detach my storytelling brain from my social brain. Nothing would make me happier at conventions than to go around beaming and saying, "Look! My book comes out from New And Brilliant Press in two weeks!" Every rejection is a nasty poke right in the squishy gray matter of my positive brain, and a part of me says, "If I were published, I know people would finally like me!"

It's stupid.

I doubt that my satisfaction over publication would be any more than it was when my sister Rebecca told me, referring to a currently trunked book, "I stayed up till three finishing it."

But nonetheless, rejection from a magazine feels just like getting turned down from a date.

How about all of you? What does rejection do to your squishy brain matter?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Welcome To The Dawn of a New Era!

This is my new blog. My old blog at was phased out by Blogger in a witch-hunt against FTP blogs. EDIT: Actually, it wasn't, but I want to use this one still as it is more user-friendly. If you want old Spencer posts, you can go there.

If you prefer livejournal, I post the same things over at

It's okay. I wanted to be like everyone else anyway.

So what does "Smurgle, all ye Wattabups" mean? It's actually an ancient call to prayer that has been translated, alternately, as "God is in the washing machine. Let's get him out" and "Give me some cookies."

My kid Adia features prominently in this blog. Last night she had a dream that "Prince wanted to dance with me.'

"But I said 'wait a minute.'"