I’m in CHINA

Beijing, the Capital City. Wow.  It is mind-blowing already and I’ve barely been here 36 hours.  EVERYTHING is different, and yet, in a lot of ways, things are the same as they are everywhere.  It’s a strange feeling.

A lot has happened so far, and there’s a lot I still need to do in the next day, most of it work-related, so this initial entry will be short.  But I want to keep a journal in real time while I’m here, which will be for approximately the next month, so I thought I should get the first real entry down at the end of my first full day.  Although time is a fluid notion, here; it was the next day when I arrived, since there’s a 12-hour time difference and China is ahead of EST those 12 hours, which places them across the international date line, so it is actually after midnight the 9th of June here… while it is still noon the 8th at home. Jet lag is a very real thing; I keep needing to sleep every 6 hours or so.

I’m here as part of my university’s partnership with Beijing University of Chemical Technology.  I’m teaching 2 classes, a total of 6 credit hours, for their summer term.  I hope I can get onto the schedule here before  my classes begin at 8 am Monday.

China is incredible so far.  Watch This Space.

I have this idea.

You know, I kind of had this idea before, long ago, but inadvertently… and inadvertently, I did what I’m about to propose that I do again now on purpose: keep multiple journals/blogs, separated by objective.  Specifically, at least two; this one and a rant basket/”Extranea” one.

Because time and again, I find myself making notes for entries and false starts; things I really feel like writing about but for one reason or another shy away from putting up.  It’s likely wise–this blog was always meant to be an intentionally professional project, and I don’t want to mire it in unseemly tantrums.  I’ve seen writers I respected ruin their blogs — and in at least two cases, their readerships — by doing exactly that, particularly with political crap.

I’m not getting into it online with random screennames, so politics will very likely never happen here… or anywhere else online for me, but there’s still plenty of vociferation to be dispensed on other fronts.  So there are a couple reasons for multiple journals:  number one — maybe most importantly — it would let me vent and get this stuff off my chest.  It needs to get gone; all my life I’ve kept journals, and writing is my number one way of processing things, so the effort would be therapeutic and personal, a personal indulgence.  Number two, it could be entertaining.  Certainly it would result in more posts.

I don’t necessarily want to create a dumpsite for random displeasure and disapproval, but maybe I need one. At least it would keep me from polluting the main blog with petty fusses and displays of temper; responsible adults with an interest in avoiding drama and personality disorders could easy skate right past the mess.

Anyway it’s under consideration.  We’ll see.


Days I can’t even read

Judas Priest, there just aren’t enough hours in a day.   I’m ready to check into the laughing academy.  When there’s so much going on, I just want to curl up in ball and shut down. Ah, well.  One thing at a time, right?

One thing at a time.

It’s a beautiful day.  Important things are getting done.  We had another successful rescue/recovery this weekend, and a kitten was brought safely back into the fold.  This of itself is cause to celebrate, even though it would have been better not to have to deal with it in the first place.

I love my job, I get to write and read and save cats and all this, so even my bad days, lately, are pretty good… I just wish I had a functional brain.  I do not.


The road to hell, she is paved with good intentions

And July ends.  JULY. How is this even possible?

It’s been an eventful summer, though I’ve not even managed to leave town; I’d hoped to visit family in other parts of the state but haven’t been able to make it happen yet, and no updates since March either, despite all that going-on about resuming updates and establishing a presence and so on.

Well.  Baby steps, maybe. There’s all kinds of other stuff happening–I’m back in the classroom; had a short class in the early summer and am gearing up now for the fall, which is going to be a handful with full-time classwork and all that entails.  Work at the rescue is always demanding, getting more complicated the more hats I wear there.

Button and Bug are thriving; integration with everyone else in the household is well underway.  There’s some resistance among the natives, as might well be expected, but so far we’re successful.

Publication progress has stalled in the summer months; it’s the dry season for agencies.  I’m grateful for the respite, anyway, what with everything else that’s been going on. And always, in the back of my mind, while my attention is aimed in other directions, I’m turning over the plot of book 2.

I do have its basic framework in mind.  It’s set in the same world as the first novel, THE BIBLE OF HELL*; but where the theme of BoH was words and genes (with underpinnings of language principles)–the theme of the second novel, BROKEN BOLERO, is music (patterns and math, an extension of the language systems concept).

And while I’m writing this, with both stories in mind, it seems like a synopsis of each plot is probably in order here but I have a few things to do before I make my first rescue run of the day and I’d like to make it a quality effort, so it should wait it least a few hours, and maybe a day or two, for its proper execution. Watch this space.






* a few early queries saw the title changed in an experimental faux pas to PHANTASMOSPHERE, which is utterly not the book I have written.  I worried that THE BIBLE OF HELL would be too big and bad and scary, putting off the more sensitivie sensibilities out there, so I changed it.  While that’s actually likely the case, it’s just going to have to alienate whomever it alienates, but PHANTASMOSPHERE never felt right.






Some days all I manage is one thing.  Ever have that?  Power enough only for the main thing, & not a micron more?  This happens to me more and more lately.  It’s particularly irritating during training, when the weekend long run’s mileage is increasing, because on long run days I know I’m going to accomplish nothing else, and I do mean nothing.  When I’m a rollicking success, I achieve a shower after.

Such inefficiency.  Is this what middle age does to you? Nutrition seems an effective answer to it; I’ve been back on the smoothie kick, trying to include chia, kale or spinach, beets, raw honey, and berries in every one I make, and usually one other fruit and/or one other vegetable.  It’s like magic; I can’t overstate the restorative effects.  One or two of these a day (12-24 oz.) makes everything better:  I sleep better.  Workouts hurt less.  Training endurance improves.  Mood improves.  Mental focus improves.  I really shouldn’t miss a day, but it’s kind of a hassle, cleaning and prepping six kinds of vegetables and fruit all the time, never mind shopping two or three times a week for fresh produce.  My first personal trainer used to do these smoothies every single day; she recommended cleaning a few days’ fruit and veggies beforehand and keeping them refrigerated for easy access, so throwing them together every day was mostly effortless.  I need too do this.  Seriously, it’s worth it.  The payoff is everywhere.

Anyway.  Maybe it’ll be easier when the weather warms up… I tend to do more miles outside then, and outside miles go by more easily with the smoothie thing going on.  This week is supposed to reach the high 50s.  Can’t wait.  I’m done with winter.



Classical music, messes & pawprints

I have got to get this book room cleaned up.  Right now it’s occupied by two resident fosters, whose presence at this address I intend to make permanent, though the Mr. doesn’t know it yet:IMG_20180325_1049186.jpg

That’s Kurt (nickname “Bug”) and his sister Kelsey (“Button”); Kurt’s the one looking at the camera.  They’re fun and trouble and doing just fine in my office; I just have a pile of paperwork that needs going through.  I’ve been ignoring it for months.  These are both litter mates of Tug, the newborn kitten whose life ended so early & suddenly last June, written about right here on this very site.  He’d be their size had he survived.

Anyway, the room is a decent size and the kittens are fine on their own in here, awaiting integration into the rest of the household pride.  They’re separate right now because Kurt has seizures (he’s epileptic) and they’ve only recently arrived and we’re trying to get the seizures under control in part by minimizing his stress, which means limiting new stressors (other/new cats).  So far he’s adjusting well.  He’s on phenobarbital and potassium bromide twice a day, which is definitely helping.  He also seems to like having his sister and me in here with him–I write in here, and Kelsey just stays with him.  They’ll be ten months old at the end of this month.

I leave a classical station playing in here for them.  It suits the environment somehow.

So, modest though my readership is so far, I’m slowly gaining a few readers here and there on various social media.  This morning when I saw multiple new additions my reaction was almost gleeful, surprising even me, but in a definitely happy way.  This is good news, as it will make updates much easier to do.

Facebook, though… Facebook I’m not quite sure about yet.  I do follow some writers’ accounts which I’ve talked some about here also, and for the most part these writers seem happy to integrate their own personal profiles with their readership and post only to one account, so that their personal contacts from real life and their readers are all sort of lumped up together.  I probably don’t have to go into detail about why I hesitate to do the same.  I know it’s possible to sort of partition your Facebook friends into groups and control who sees what, so maybe that’s a possibility.  I’m still trying to overcome my aversion to Facebook as a whole.  I really don’t like it, but that’s likely another post.

In any event.  Things are rolling along.  I’ve begun the process of submitting the novel to literary agents and have begun to collect the inevitable rejections, though only one so far, but it’s a beginning.

Besides Facebook, Twitter,  and this blog, I might start an Instagram account, though I’m not at all convinced it’s necessary, but it might be fun for cat stuff.  I certainly take enough pictures.  We’ll see.

Anyway, welcome.  I’m glad to see progress, however modest, establishing these new accounts and it’s wonderful to see return readers.  I’m glad you’re here.

Monkeycat Secret Bidness

Invisible every step of the way, thanks.

Yeah, you know, so here’s the thing:  I do not like visibility.  You might have noticed it’s been a while since the last time I’ve posted;  that’s not due to a lack of interest in posting, but to an extreme aversion to posting as myself, with my bare identity hanging out in the breeze.

This journal gets a few readers whether I’m posting or not, somehow.  It’s humbling and a little alarming, because I have no idea how they’re finding me or why they come back.  From the other side of the world, even.  It’s not like there’s a whole lot here, or even out there with my name on it at this point, but I’m grateful for the visits, even if they also make me want to hide in a hole.  When I was publishing short fiction, I did pick up some readers who wrote to me and visited and hung around for a number of years, so it’s not inconceivable that some of them are still out there, finding me here.  If that’s the case, I welcome them back with open arms.  That would seriously make my day.

But I’m a hermit.  And that’s understating it.  I mean, comically understating it… as in, an obscene understatement, if one can conceive of such a thing; if there can exist such a thing, if it’s possible to profane a relatively harmless concept like hermititude.

I don’t answer the phone.  I don’t have an online presence other than what I’m now establishing for professional purposes.  I don’t socialize much.  I just want to be here, mostly, in my house, left alone to do my thing… which, ha ha, requires an audience, wtf.

My family says I’m agoraphobic, which is utterly not the case.  I have no problem going anywhere when the situation calls for it.  If I want something, I go get it.  I’m out working with the rescue four or more days a week, in the company of actual other humans, and on the weekends I work with other volunteers to host adoption events, which requires, you know, being seen, interacting with the public, and talking to people.  I’m not afraid of people.  I’m not afraid of open places or public spaces.  I just need serious motivation before I’ll subject myself to any of it.  Seeing to the well-being of strays and waifs and taking care of them and evaluating prospective pet parents — THAT I’ll do.  I want to do it.  I have no problem scooping litter boxes in one of the store habitats where we have animals, or evaluating applications, or interviewing prospective pet parents, or talking to vets or any number of other things.  This stuff is ok; I don’t have to work up to it.

But an authentic online presence?  Where people might want to actually know who I am and talk to me?

Yeah.  So maybe publishing is a bad idea, then, for me.  I mean, honestly.  Publishers rightly want you to be visible and to market your work and to provide an engaging online presence.  And really, you know, if  I can do it from behind the screen, like this, I’m ok with doing it.  I like posting.  I don’t mind taking an active part in marketing my own work, or establishing and keeping up a regular online presence.  I used to keep blogs.  I had a couple, one for years and years.  What I don’t like — and I’m aware of the disconnection and paradox here — is the idea that there’s even a smidgen of a chance that one day, eventually, someone I do not know out in the world will see me and know who I am.

Is that weird?  It’s weird, right?  It’s totally weird.  All the writers and musicians I have known want that kind of attention, can’t wait to do book signings and performances and pose for author photos and get interviewed and talk about themselves.  (Well… there is *one* exception.  But he’s as weird as I am.)

The novel has been finished for some time.  Revisions are done, editing is done, the synopsis is just about done and this week I began the process of querying agents.  And an agent is going to want the novel to sell.  Which means an editor will be required, and an editor is going to want the novel to sell, which means a readership will be required.  An online presence gives you visibility during waiting periods between books, so people don’t forget about you.  I know from my own experience with the writers I love that online accounts are the first place even *I* go to find the people I’m interested in, because their books just aren’t enough, and I love seeing them regularly.  So it has to be done, and this is not an option.  The world of publishing is a different animal altogether from the first time I was represented by an agent because of Facebook, Twitter, and so on, which didn’t exist then.  My first agent, M, has since gone on to the Rainbow Bridge in the sky where non-practicing agents go when they abandon the life and go straight.  I don’t know whatever happened to her.

I have to do what the job requires.  So, back at it.  And now that actually peddling my stuff is in progress, there’s no more putting it off.  Updates here and on Facebook and on Twitter (and, soon, Instagram) are resuming now.

Little Perfect Things, or: How Not to Suck

Since starting to post here, I’ve been keeping a running list of potential topics for entries.

A trend has emerged in my ideas list that I’m not proud of:  subjects most interesting to me recently almost all involve tearing something apart in loud, judgmental tones, or talking about losses (I had an animal tragedy early last week), or catastrophizing in some way.  Complaining, basically.

I’ve been turning ideas over, one at a time, and letting them slide specifically because I didn’t want to A) focus on things that hurt or piss me off, or B) develop a habit of complaining publicly in print, or C) grant any of this irritating business a permanent monument here.

Complaining is boring.  Listening to other people complain is boring.  Also it’s annoying.  Also it’s a self-perpetuating feedback loop of misery and really, who needs it?  Not me.  So I won’t be a purveyor of it either.  There’s so much of it readily available elsewhere.

Instead, I’d like to find some upsides to the things I’d rather take my lexicographical baseball bat to.  Call it an exercise in gratitude.

Number one, regarding Tug Trudeau:


May 28, 2017 – June 20, 2017

I work with a local animal rescue.  Tug was the runt of his litter, pushed out of the nest by his mom last Saturday, June 17.  Though I’d never tried to care for a kitten so small, I immediately scooped him up and wanted to try.

He made it three full days on a bottle, me getting up at all hours to check on, cuddle and feed him.  I’d have slept with him in my hands but he was so, so tiny, and so frail I didn’t dare, for fear of hurting him.

I thought it would be easier, emotionally, to care for a tiny kitten with its eyes barely open without getting attached than it would be to care for a bouncy, fuzzy little ball of energy that was all over the place, licking you & mewing in your face.  Tug was first and foremost very clearly a patient — mostly immobile from weakness, unable to stand or even right himself when he rolled onto his back.  He couldn’t really interact with me yet.  I thought I would do what I could do, and we’d see what happened.  I didn’t expect to be successful saving him, nor did I anticipate being tortured by losing him, if it came to that, which, realistically, I almost expected; so many kittens do not survive beyond twelve weeks, particularly the smallest and weakest of their litters.

But I loved him instantly, against my will.  He had a fierce little personality, evident right from the start.  He was a fighter, having survived being shoved out of the warm bed where the rest of his litter and his mother were, where he was separated long enough to lose most of his body heat before we discovered him.  Once he chewed on my finger (no teeth); he would grasp a little with his teeny claws, and could push his bottle away with force if he didn’t want it.  He waved his arms.  He never cried, not until the very end.

Tug tended to thrash, but when I’d scoop him up and hold him against my heartbeat in a cupped palm, he’d quiet immediately.  He would also lie peaceful when I sang, which I discovered by accident with “Rocky Mountain High”; once I realized it seemed to have the same effect as being held, I put it on repeat, lay him in his blanket on the bed in front of me, and sang quietly.  He went right to sleep.

He was far behind his litter mates, developmentally. It took three full weeks for his eyes to completely open and when they did, they were blank; he was obviously still blind, as all kittens are at first, and he didn’t have a blink reflex.  I had to close his eyes for him to keep them from drying out, then apply ointment to them.  The ointment helped a great deal. On his last afternoon, waking from a nap, before I had a chance to re-apply it, he lifted his little head, opened his eyes on his own, and appeared to look right at me.

Now, he had seemed to look at me before, but I had known he wasn’t seeing anything; the first thing kittens see when their eyes begin to function properly are just shadows, and possibly movement, so I didn’t think anything of it at first.  But this time he kept his eyes on my face, and this caught my attention.  I looked back, directly into his eyes.

And I almost could see the little wheels turning as he perceived visually, possibly for the first time, looking into my face:




The tiny blue eyes weren’t blank; they were alert.  He kept his eyes trained directly on me.  His pupils were wide. It wasn’t bright in the room; just light enough to see him seeing for the first time.   Seeing me.

I said, Hi, baby!  Hi, little baby!  I kissed him.  It’s just me.   What a good boy! 

He stared and stared, and finally, closed his eyes on his own.

It was as far as he would ever grow, but this moment made the entire thing worth the whole heartbreak.

Can you even say that?

People will say anything, they really will.  Many don’t especially care if you agree or disagree, and they don’t care if they offend your delicate sensibilities.  Also they don’t care about your opinions, until they’re at direct odds with their opinions — especially political ones, in which case they care a great deal, very loudly, often endlessly.  (Or for as long as anyone else cares to listen, or to perpetuate their stridency by responding to it.)

Why is this?  Why is it downright common nowadays to expect people to self-righteously spray public spaces online with virulent nastiness?  In an age of social media, where everyone spends half their time with an eye on a screen, this has become the norm.  Trolls, we say.  Don’t feed the trolls.  And everybody knows what a troll is.

It must be indicative of some ugly universal human trait, because the behavior is everywhere:  your friend’s wall; the online comments section of any article in The New York Times; even book review discussions — if there’s an open forum, sooner or later you’ll be exposed to some crank in the throes of rancid fulmigation, at least until the moderators get involved.  It’s so widespread that I’m thinking it must be the default of human nature to turn hostile on a dime.

Is it because people are innately insecure — to degrees of verbal violence — about topics in which they’re emotionally invested?  Can it really be that simplistic?  Haven’t we learned by the age of eleven that not everyone will agree with you?  Or do most people just reject that precept?  Their histrionics are the electronic version of a tantrum, nothing more.

Or is it just a fad, sort of, something that’s okay as long as you do it online because it isn’t “real”?  Is it acceptable in the electronic ether because you feel insulated against repercussions or responsibility, because even if you act a fool in binary media under your own name, it isn’t the same as doing it in real life for an audience?

This is my guess — that it’s cowardice and insecurity.  In physical public places where you’re likely to run into people you don’t personally know — the grocery store, the movies, ball games, big events, your work environment — most of us do not need to be told to be careful about being too abrasive while presenting opinions; we do not want other people stomping all over our happy peace of mind, such as it is, so we try to take care not to inadvertently do it to someone else.  This is pretty standard; almost everyone is at least nearly polite in person.  Not so online.

Before social media there was not a whole lot to indicate that the default position of so many people would be hostile attack in the face of opinions at odds with their own.  People at least gave the impression of possessing sane, objective powers of good judgment.  Now it seems unwise to expect that, since every day you’re online you’re likely to find yourself dealing with at least one psychotic fruitcake.  This is why we do background checks, and this is why potential employers google you:  to rule you out as the day’s nutcase, because the odds that you’re not are not in your favor.

Now, I’m open to online discussions with anonymous strangers, but to a fairly limited degree, because I’ve been online since about 1994 and by 1995, I’d learned the follies of  looking for meaningful interaction with random people on the internet.  Even nowadays in environs you’d expect to be safe, like the walls or accounts of family members, there’s no guarantee you won’t find yourself face to face, to so speak, with someone doing the internet equivalent of throwing himself on the floor, or throwing his own feces at the wall.

No place is safe, unless it’s a closed group of people who know each other, and really, how much fun is that?   Part of the awesome of the internet is being able to interact with so many people you don’t know and could probably never know otherwise.

Anyway.  Just thoughts; the “block” option is never far away, so for the time being it’s still worth the risk.  I have made some very rewarding long-term friendships that began online, and there’s a plus side too, that I’ll explore in another post.

Literary Voyeurism

I love writing blogs by writers.  Whether I’m a fan of someone’s work or not, if they blog about their writing process, I’ll probably follow whatever they post and look for them elsewhere online.

I have a few favorites; I like hearing about their habits & perspectives & daily lives; I look forward to their posts, and miss them on quiet days.  There are a few whose books I buy because the authors themselves have grown on me through their blogs and I want to support them, even if they’re writers in genres I don’t read.  The process, the progression of creation & refinement, is pretty much the same for all of us, and it’s the common theme in the sort of thing I keep up with and pay attention to online.  There are a few I even like best when they’re discussing things that have nothing to do with writing, just regular day-to-day stuff.

Is it weird that I’m more interested in the informal rants & ramblings of people whose fiction I may have no interest in?

This seems weird to me.