24 March 2014

Manhattan Sunset

I went into Manhattan tonight to attend a story/poetry reading on the Lower East Side (many thanks to Tim Lieder for inviting me!), and when I got to the train platform, this view was waiting for me. 

Sometimes I forget how awesome it is to live where I live. Thanks for reminding me, New York.

18 March 2014



She was blue when she was born.

Stef never knew until I mentioned it, years later; she was, understandably, otherwise engaged at the moment. But I saw my daughter emerge from the birth canal, and she was blue, with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.

You hear the old cliche about your heart skipping a beat; well, mine did. But i watched, fascinated, as the nurse-midwife immediately went into action. She clamped the cord in two places, got a scissor, and neatly clipped the cord and started clearing the baby’s mouth and nose, even as the feet slipped free and our daughter was in the world.

Her color returned right away, and she let out a healthy cry. And just like that I was a father for the second time in my life, and we welcomes Eleanor Frances Whelan--Ella, for short--into the world.

This is her, just after she was born:

And of course, I couldn’t not mess with that last image:




That caption was a bit prophetic, as it turns out: Ella's a tough little booger and fights with her brother a lot. I mean a lot. I sometimes think I should set up a ring and bleacher seats in the living room and charge admission. But there are other times when they are reading together or sitting next to each other and they are clearly a loving brother and sister.

I was going to write more about Ella--about how funny she can be, about her tendency for melodrama, about how she loves to sing and dance, about how she loves He-Man and Jackie Chan Adventures, about how she also loves the Disney Tinker Bell movies. She contains multitudes. It’s too much to write about. I can’t capture the sheer force of her personality in just a few words. So here she is in images:

Seriously, how can you not adore that face? So: That’s my girl. She and her brother and their mom are the best things in my life and that smile (which is totally my mom’s smile) can brighten the worst day and make me feel better. And I hope that never, ever changes. I never knew I needed the light from that smile until I felt its warmth in my heart.

Daddy loves you, Ella. You and your brother. Always.

14 March 2014

Wood Green Empire

Oh gawd, what I did today.

Wendig challenge time again. This time the challenge was to come up with a something-punk story. IE steampunk, cyberpunk, etc.

I came up with Veggiepunk. And wrote this. Because I am insane.

“Wood Green Empire”

Little Stevie took the corner too fast and went up on two wheels; the tires made a skidder-judder noise. For a moment he thought the car was going to roll. Instead the wheels crashed back down and crushed an empty, dessicated corncob. The crunch was like bones breaking. Stevie hit the accelerator and ground the thing beneath his wheels into starchy dust. Stevie paid it no mind; he was busy watching the tach and the fuel gauge and praying the gas held out. If he ran out or the pump went fuckitty on him again that was it, son. All she blew.

He looked at the satchel on the seat next to him, then back at the road. Just a few miles, man, he thought, a silent prayer to No-one. All I need. Please.

The tires (third-gen solid-state self-repairing streethuggers) ate up the asphalt like they hadn’t eaten in years; the muffler blatted and blorted like a saxophone player with St. Vitus Dance. Stevie grinned, teeth a white bar against his urban camo makeup. The GovCorp compound retreated behind him in the mirror, changing in size from a bastion festooned tower to something that looked like an oversized Chinese finger puzzle the further he got away from it. He shook his head at that idea. The mirror had to be out of whack. That or the drugs were kicking in. That, or the other drugs were wearing off.

A noise somewhere between an air raid siren and a lovesick moose started cycling, up and down. Stevie smashed his fist against the dashboard. The jolt caused the music player to burst into glowing, pulsing life. The speakers throbbed with the Beastie Boys, roaring at him about Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego.

And behind him, the cabbages started to rise.

Stevie cursed as they launched from the GovCorp compound, taking flight on leafy purple wings--first one, then five, then ten. They gained altitude, climbed higher and higher in the sunset sky. Then their black silhouettes began to descend. They grew larger as they gained speed.

Kamikazes! he thought. It could be nothing else. The cabbages were unarmed. What else could they do but sacrifice themselves to prevent his escape?

As he had the thought the first of the cabbages folded its wings and tumbled from the sky, followed by another, and another.

The first one missed; it smashed into the street twenty meters ahead. Stevie crowed, though he knew in his heart he would be very lucky to get out of this alive.

The next cabbage struck his hood, dented the metal, and blew itself to pulp in the process. Gore splashed the windscreen, covering it. Stevie jammed both feet on the brake; the roof went SPANG and caved in above his head, in a perfectly round inverse crater. The music screeched and cut out again. Stevie did not screech, though it was a near thing. And it was a sure thing that if he got out of this he would need a change of pants.

The cabbages fell to earth, a meteoric rain of purpled and half-liquefied leaves. They covered the hood, the boot, the street all around him. The tires could not gain purchase. Then he rolled over the smashed remains of the first cabbage--which gathered what was left of its body and leaped upward into his transmission. Machinery screamed. So did Little Stevie. The car ground to a halt, one mile from the GovCorp compound.

He muscled the door open and fell into the street, befouling his clothes with the soggy, clutching remains of GovCorps’s air support. Stevie was not even able to gain his feet before he hear the slithering footsteps behind him. He turned his head, and saw a squad of broccoli charging up the street, stun-guns cradled in their fibrous leaves. Behind them he saw four giant, rolling crimson forms.

So: the rumors were true. GovCorp had tomatoes now.

“You’re not even vegetables!” he shouted to them as they approached. Then a broccoli soldier raised his weapon, and fired---and the world went dark, and smelled of radishes.

Cold water splashed his face, and brought him from grogginess to fully awake in a heartbeat. He opened his eyes. He was shirtless, strapped to an upright slab. A tall, slender man stood before him; he wore a brown suit, and had a greenish cast to his skin. He smiled, revealing small, neat teeth. Behind him, on a desk buried in paper, was the satchel. Two broccoli soldiers guarded the door.

“You’re awake” the man said. He had a voice sweet enough to give Stevie a toothache. “Good. Good for me. Bad for you.”

“I won’t talk,” Stevie said.

The man in the suit laughed. “I don’t give a damn! You have no information we can use. And the information you stole from us is back in our possession.”

“Then why take me prisoner?” he said. “Why not just kill me?”

“Sooooo,” the man said slowly, “you stole the reports, but did not read them. Did you?”

Stevie stared blankly. The man reached out, patted him on the head, and spoke again.

“The process by which we animate our . . . vegetable tools . . . carries with it a few special qualities. One is the biomass by-product which they create, with which we power our buildings. Soon, entire cities will be powered by it. But in order to get that by-product, we need to ensure that our tools have sustenance to process. They cannot rely on photosynthesis alone.

“So: A trade-off. We take the biomass, and in turn we give them the sustenance they require. A very . . . specific kind of sustenance.”

Stevie suddenly realized where he was going with this. He started to struggle against the bindings.

“Now now,” the man said. “It’s too late for that. it’s no use crying about it, young man.”

The grin on his face was terrifying.

“. . . it’s time for your vegetables to eat you.”

He turned and walked away. The broccoli slithered forward. And Stevie began to scream.

Random Observations

So: this week I was planning on putting up another flash fiction piece written for Chuck Wendig’s weekly challenge. however, the story I was working on just grew like Topsy, and now has turned unexpectedly into a full-fledged short story in its own right, which I plan to develop and submit for publication somewheres.

As such, unfortunately, this leaves me devoid of content for the blog--a not altogether uncommon occurrence around here, as my longtime readers know. So I’m just gonna blather for a few minutes and then we can all get on with our lives. ;)

Random Observation #1: Today is Pi day, which we are using as an excuse to eat pie. Suppose we can have a Pie Day where we give our kids a solid grounding in mathematics?

What I’m Reading: Lately I’m reading Patrick Ness, notably The Knife of Never Letting Go and A Monster Calls. Profoundly good books, both. Ness does some character work in these that I am exceedingly jealous of, especially as regards how adults treat children. Also just recently finished Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, which is stuck in my head like the business end of an axe (in a good way) and which I really need to read again, and then write about. It’s one of those books. Also somewhere in the TBR pile is Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance. And a million other things.

Random Observation #2: My daughter turns three on Tuesday (post to come). When she’s 3.14 do we get to have pie?

What I’m Watching: Not much in terms of TV shows. We have a five year old and a soon-to-be three year old, and most of the crap that’s on TV is either too intense or too mature (or both) for their age, so we have to be picky-choosy. We were watching Person of Interest for a good while before we had to stop, as my daughter is still up when it’s on (you have to slowly walk back a toddler’s bed time, trust me, you can not just stick them in bed and hope they stay there) and the last thing we need is for her to see Violent Jesus knocking the crap out of everyone while Amy Acker chews an enormous amount of scenery (in the most charming and awesome way possible, but even so). Also, I’m kind of pissed that they “fridged” the best damn character on the show this season (SPOILER ALERT), and haven’t really wanted to watch it since. So we have a Roku now, and we watch a lot of cartoons on Netflix & Amazon Prime. My daughter’s favorite is Jackie Chan Adventures, which is full of intensely scary demons and massive amounts of kung-fu violence and. . .hm. Maybe I should just give up.

Random Observation #3: If Pi is an endless sequence of numbers that never repeat themselves, how come when I eat blueberry pie it always repeats on me?

What I’m Listening To: I was listening to music on my Windows phone (which I plan to review at some point) because it has Beats Audio and I’ve been meaning to try that out. (Short version: it’s pretty damn good.) But the phone only had 7 gigs or so of available memory and while that’s a lot, I like a little more variety than I was getting. So I’m back to my 34 gig iPod, which has tons of stuff on it. I could use some new bands to listen to though--if you have a suggestion for me, please drop it in the comments below.

Random Observation #4: If Fruit Pie the Magician hooked up with Mrs. Wagner, what would the kids look like? (Yes, I’m old. So fuckin’’ what.)

What’s Next: Lunch. Then snacks. Then the crunching of words.

Random Observation #5: If you combined Pi Day with Talk like a Pirate Day, what would the costumes look like.

...and that’s it. I have to go listen to some actual music. I’ve had “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty stuck in my head for the last three days, and it’s driving me insane. And now it’s probably doing the same to you.

You’re welcome.

Remain in light, gang. Catch y’all next time around.

06 March 2014

In Which I Remove My Foot From My Mouth and Apologize: An Open Letter To Seanan McGuire

Dear Seanan,

This is my 200th post on this blog. I was going to try to come up with something cool to put here, an overview of past posts, maybe a history of myself and how I got here, maybe a chat about my doings from the past week. But all of that sort of pales next to what I need to do here.

On Tuesday I ran a post here that was ostensibly about the LonCon/Ross fiasco. I say “ostensibly” because it was really just a bunch of scoldish bullshit that had little if anything to do with reality. I won’t go into the specifics of what I said; suffice it to say that it was a wrong-headed attempt to make sense of the situation by taking both sides to task, an unconscious attempt to silence by pointing out the reactions of a certain contingent of people I generally have no time for (hey there, warning sign), and calling for civility without actually calling for civility, which is just fucking stoopid, as we say in Brooklyn. Worse, I did it all without actually naming you, which is just fucking passive aggressive nonsense.  

In short: I was a thorough and complete asshole to you. More, I was a hypocrite: I committed the very sin I was scolding you about, i.e. running my mouth without knowing the Actual Facts.

You probably didn’t see it; I don’t get a lot of hits here, and the ones I do get are usually my friends and my wife (Hi honey!), but that’s beside the point. When I posted the entry, I had kind of an uneasy feeling in my stomach about it. I read it over and felt the language was shaming. I changed a few things, and let it stand for the morning and the afternoon. I looked at it again, still felt uneasy, and made a few more alterations. The uneasy feeling remained. I couldn’t put a finger on it, but usually that’s a sign that I’ve fucked up somewhere along the line. So while I left the post up, I was at best ambivalent about it.

Then I got on Twitter, and started seeing people tweeting and retweeting things that were actually said, instead of what I had been led to believe was said. And it turns out I was far too willing to believe the Official Narrative about what happened with the Lunacon mess. Rather than looking into things myself I bought what others were saying wholesale--and as a former journalism student I am disappointed in my own failure to do some basic research and look shit up. It took Tempest Bradford (however indirectly, and to whom I am very thankful) to convince me that I was most likely incorrect in what I had posted.

Actually, let me clarify that: Tempest said a few things that made me realize I was completely full of shit.

I went back and read the post again. I somehow managed not to headdesk. And I erased about 80% of it. The first few bits I allowed to stand because they were correct. And after that I left things alone, because honestly I needed some distance from my own stupidity. But even then I knew I didn’t want to just let things stand. When I deal a problem I’m like a puppy with a shoe--I won’t stop chewing on the damn thing. While tweeting with Kameron Hurley this afternoon I realized I had to come back to this, because I had left something undone--I needed to apologize.

So, here I am. If I still wore hats, mine would be in my hand at the moment. And Seanan, I wish to tell you the follwing:

Tempest was right. Kameron was right. You were right. And I was very wrong. And given the things I have posted and shared here and on Twitter and Tumblr in the past, I should have known better.

You don’t know me, really--we’ve interacted a total of maaaaaybe five times online and have never met in person. But I love your work and I have tremendous respect for you--and I did you a great disservice this week through my thoughtlessness. And I can’t respect myself for having done so.

I was abominable to you, whether you know it or not, and I sincerely apologize. I will try harder in the future to think a little more, and a little harder, before I fertilize the ground with my words.

And that’s all I have to say. Thanks for reading, and remain in light.

Respectfully, Jay

04 March 2014

Casanova Is Just Being Punished For Going To Desolation Row

[Please note: this post has been Mostly removed. K. Tempest Bradford said some things on Twitter I hadn't considered, and which made me reconsider this mess Thanks Tempest.] 

Some of you may be wondering if I'm going to comment over the LunaCon mess that broke out over the weekend: well, I'm not.

This is because Foz Meadows did an excellent summing-up of the whole mess here, and it pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter, so well that I find I have nothing to really add.

(Except maybe this. Which has completely set my mind at ease. No, really. You have no idea.)