Sunday, August 29, 2010

Two "Held Over" this Week and K+5

The week started with several rejections, which -- when added to the whole going-back-to-work-at-the-end-of-summer thing -- sort of made me a smidge moody. But later in the week, I got two notifications that some stories of mine are being held for further consideration. That sort of eases things over. I just wish I wasn't so brain dead from the day job that I could get some more writing done too.

Of course, the other reason this time of year is difficult is because of the anniversary or Katrina. Last night, my husband and I walked a few blocks to pick up some barbecue at The Joint on Poland Avenue. It's right next to the Naval Support Activities building. It had rained all the day -- dreary and steady, more suitable to the Northwest than here -- and to the west, the sky was a sliver of brilliant blue, and clouds just above that golden and pink, and then gray covering the rest of the heavens. A breeze blew down Royal Street, and the temperature was just such that I considered needing a sweater. Odd for a late August evening. It definitely hinted at fall.

In short, the beauty of it had me smiling as I walked, thinking nothing could be more beautiful than Bywater right then. Katrina changed a lot of things, but probably the thing it sparked most, for me, was the pride and contentment I feel just being here. Katrina became my sort of near-death experience. Coming back after, I realized how precious this place was.

Precious, yes. Perfect, no.

Here are six things that still need fixing -- five years later -- in Bywater.

  1. I have to drive a minimum of twenty minutes to get groceries. We still have no nearby, full-service grocery store. Sav-a-lot works most of the time, but they sell neither booze, nor artichoke hearts -- frozen, canned, or marinated.
  2. Restaurant Mandich never came back, and we don't have our own, old-school New Orleans restaurant anymore. God, I miss their oysters bordelaise.
  3. Brown-outs still happen more than they ought to.
  4. My backyard is still filled with cut-up wood from trees that fell during the storm.
  5. No pecan tree within the united space of my block's backyards has grown to fruiting age. We had a massive one that had nuts on it every year before.
  6. More people decided they wanted to move into my neighborhood because it doesn't flood. It's losing that small-town feel, little by little, that I loved so much. People worry less about crime and more about condos.

Regardless of the above... When I drive home from work each afternoon, I have to cross railroad tracks right before coming back into the Bywater. Crossing those tracks is like a switch. When my tires thump-thump over them, I remember why I live here, I relax, and the outside world -- that which exists north of St. Claude Avenue and south of the river, east of the Industrial Canal and west of the tracks -- fades away. I hope everyone has the same feeling in their own neighborhood. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Minder by C.B. Calsing

Elson heard his Minder ping and refocused. He saw the ball arcing toward him and managed to snatch the pop fly out of the air. He grinned into his leatherette mitt. He heard his coach shout, “Nice work!” from the dugout, and Elson hustled in from the outfield with the rest of his team.

After a few pats on the back, he picked up his gear and headed home. His thoughts raced. Here it was okay; he didn’t have to focus unless a car came, so the Minder let his mind run in laps like an excited dog. Elson took in everything, but remembered nothing. His eyes darted from a blade of grass to a butterfly to a parked SUV then down to the toes of his shoes. He thought about microwave popcorn and multiplication and his latest X-Box Infinity game. His thoughts moved like a moth batting against one bulb, then the next, in a string of Christmas lights
But when his hand touched the front door of his house, his minder pinged. Elson’s racing thoughts stilled, and he ran through the list that had been conditioned into him: put gear on the console by the door, put uniform in hamper. Wash up. Dress. Take homework to table. Work until dinner.
And he moved through these motions, his mind tranquil and alert. Nothing intruded into the habits he’d created and the Minder monitored. He did not forget to unlace his shoes before he tried to take off his pants. He did not need to be asked ten times to go wash his hands. He did all these things as if they came naturally to him.
Which they did not.
Finally, face scrubbed and uniform away, Elson sat down at the kitchen table with his tablet and began his homework. He hated homework, though it went a whole lot better now that he had his Minder. When he’d first gotten it, the incessant pinging in his brain had nearly driven him nuts… Well, more nuts than he already was. Elson smiled. It had bothered him that no one else could hear it and sympathize with him, but slowly he learned what it meant to focus, and the pings had grown more infrequent as the weeks had passed.
His grades had gone up too. And he’d made the baseball team, which never would have happened otherwise.
His father watched from his station in the kitchen, preparing dinner. Elson began work. His conditioning kicked in, his eyes moving left to right, keeping up with the scrolling text on his tablet. When it stopped and required an answer, he entered it with his stylus, and then the text would continue to bleed off the page.
“Elson,” his father said, and waited. He knew that Elson had to finish what he was doing before he could acknowledge the sound of his father’s voice. Elson finished a line, hit Pause, and looked at his father. If he’d glanced up first, he would have heard the alarm. “Almost done?”
Elson nodded. “Five more problems, Dad.”
“Good.” He went back to chopping vegetables, and Elson hit Cont.
He listened to the sound of the knife on the cutting board, and he heard a ping. He blinked a few times and returned his attention to the screen.
The smells of cooking filled the room, and Elson carefully scribed out the last few answers on his tablet. The computer checked his work, and he had to correct an answer.
When Elson had finished, he turned off the tablet and returned it to his backpack. At the dinner table, his father served him a plate of fish and vegetables.
“How was school?”
“Fine,” Elson said, pushing the slices of zucchini around on his plate with his fork. He didn’t want to eat them, but he knew Dad would make him eventually. “Terrell is such a spill though, Dad. I can’t believe I used to be friends with him.” He took a bite of the fish, chewed, swallowed. A tinge of guilt touched him. Terrell had the same problems he did before he had the Minder. “Can we, you know…give him one?”
“One what?” Dad raised a glass of wine to his lips and took a brief sip. Elson knew the wrinkled nose that followed meant the wine had soured, but his dad would drink it anyway.
“You know, like I have.”
Dad set down his glass. He folded his hands, his elbows on the table, and looked at Elson over the crags of his knuckles. “No. Absolutely not.”
“It’s still experimental. You know that.”
Elson sighed. “But it works.”
Dad twisted up one corner of his mouth, and his eyes went to the ceiling. He lowered his hands under the table and leaned forward. “You’re a brave boy, Elson. I’m proud to have you as my son.” He paused and pursed his lips. “You know things can still go wrong.”
Elson raised his eyebrows and ate a piece of broccoli. Yeah, having something hardwired into his brain could lead to…issues, but nothing bad had happened yet.
“Tell me about your baseball game.”
Elson slumped his shoulders. His dad wouldn’t talk about Terrell anymore, he knew. He told his dad about the catch he’d made to end the game, but left off the fact that he wished the man had been there. He’d been working, creating more things like the Minder.
After dinner, Elson did the dishes and then sat in the special chair his father kept for him in the workshop. His dad fastened the restraints around Elson’s wrists and ankles, and then attached the leads to the small jack behind Elson’s ear. He had to be restrained, his dad said, in case something happened. He didn’t want Elson to get hurt.
“How many reminders today?” Dad asked as information about Elson’s brain downloaded through the wires and into a computer.
Elson tried to remember. “Five…no, six.”
Dad clicked his tongue and typed on the computer. “Better than last week, but not as good as yesterday.”
Elson felt his eyes getting tired. He wanted to go to bed, but it always took a while for all the info to transfer.
“Any headaches? Eye pain?”
Elson started to shake his head then stopped himself. He had to keep it still during download. “No. I felt fine today.”
His dad showed him the same stack of flash cards he did every night. They showed scenes, and Elson had to find a bicycle in each picture. He didn’t need to say he found it, just see it. The computer at his dad’s elbow would make a sound when Elson saw the bicycle, and his father would go on to the next card.
When that he’d finished that task, his father unhooked him from the computer and undid the restraints. They hugged briefly, and Elson dragged himself off to bed.
But his Minder pinged, and he remembered to brush his teeth.
Finally in bed, he said brief prayers for his father and Terrell, and then closed his eyes.
As he drifted off, he remembered the catch he’d made. How the sun had felt on his back, the praise from his coach, the grins on his teammates’ faces…
The Minder pinged, and Elson refocused.
Sleep, he thought. Sleep, sleep, sleep.

Monday, August 16, 2010

An Honest Lie Volume One on Sale!

The ebook version of An Honest Lie Volume One is on sale for only three dollars! In order to get this deal, please purchase through the link below:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Received My Contributor's Copy this Week

I love writing sci fi, and I feel even better about it when it get's accepted. "Tangwen's Last Heist," a space pirate story about a captain tangled up in the intricacies of interstellar war, is in Zero Gravity, so I hope you'll pick it up.

In other news, I've been commissioned to write a screenplay. This will take up my time for the next, oh, six months. I'm thrilled to have been included in a project like this, and can't wait to see the finished product.

I've not written a serious screenplay. I wrote a short a few years ago, just to sort of prove to myself that I could do it, but this situation is completely different. I mean, I have someone who will actually make this film in the end, if I don't totally fuck up the story.

That's a lot of pressure.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thirteen Things I've Learned Watching Recent post-Apocolypse Movies

  1. Steampunk, rave, and paintball enthusiasts will be the ones to survive the nuclear holocaust. This is so because they are the ones who own the goggles now, and everyone in the future seems to have goggles. Some skiers and welders may also survive.
  2. Also people that buy scarves at Urban Outfitters and the Gap because people in nuclear holocaust films wear those scarves with their goggles.
  3. People will always resort to eating other people. No. Matter. What.
  4. Men will always resort to raping women. No. Matter. What.
  5. Despite fact four, women will still dress in really skimpy, really sexy clothes -- like leather bras, miniskirts, high-heeled leather boots, torn fishnets, etc -- rather than trying to disguise themselves behind goggles and scarves to avoid getting raped.
  6. People will wear leather pants, even though they chafe and stink really bad when you don't shower often enough.
  7. Doc Martens, army boots, and motorcycle/ engineer boots stop lasting ten or fifteen years after the holocaust. They wear out more quickly for some reason.
  8. No dentists survive the nuclear holocaust to come. If you want to survive the holocaust and you are a dentist, get a different job. This is illustrated by how bad the teeth are in these movies.
  9. Westerners will not eat dog, even under extraordinary circumstances. Cats and rats are okay, even though they are less accepted sources of protein in the rest of the world today than dogs are. Even human supercedes dog as a protein choice after the bomb drops.
  10. Nuclear winter seems really hot and dusty.
  11. Crows are the only birds that can survive the holocaust. They are like the roaches of the avian world.
  12. No high-efficiency, hybrid, or electric cars will make it beyond the blast. Only 1960-1970s sedans, heavy duty work trucks, delivery vans, etc. will still run. This could have something to do with computers...
  13. No one seems to know how to garden.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Garden and publishing updates

Well, first off my taro and beans are doing quite well despite the oppressive heat here in the South lately. It's been just awful. The bees too are getting comfortable. They'd built some comb in the wrong place, and haven't moved out of the cardboard box their temporary hive was in and out into the top bar hive, but I put a hole in the back of the box so they can be all "Oh man! Look at all this real estate back here!" rather than thinking the box inside the hive was all the space they had.

This week marked two milestones for me. First, I've earned a grand as a writer. Yes, when you add everything up over the last few years, I finally cleared $1000. So I could live, oh, about a week and a half on that. If only I'd saved it all...

Second, I received the token advance for All Along the Pacific. That means the contract's in, the artwork's in, and I've been paid. I guess a book will happen! I still can't believe it, really. Perhaps I should be working on a follow-up. Publishers usually like you to have more than one thing to sell... Darn. Off to work then.