Thursday, May 16, 2019

Discouraging Travel

I flew to Michigan last week for StokerCon™. I don’t fly much. It’s expensive and frankly no fun. I’ve long thought that it is an authoritarian control power trip to discourage movement. After 9/11 when we were all scared, they took the gloves off and we our shoes. I don’t know of a single terrorist the extra hour of waiting in line to be x-rayed and groped has ever stopped, but it is doing something. It’s a deterrent, but I’m not sure it’s deterring what we think it is.

Remember when “show me your papers” was a clichéd Gestapo stereotype? That’s an airport now. Searches and questions and show ID and delays and suspicion. It’s how it’s done. You are made to feel like a criminal. Show me your shampoo bottle. Let me RFID your wallet.

The inconvenience and suspicion is not equally applied. Hell no. Not even close. You can pre-screen through the TSA if you have time and a computer and resources. You can buy an upgrade that lets you go through the fast lane at the security checkpoint where there’s less rigmarole. I guess terrorists can’t upgrade. it’s a microcosm of a failed state, a peek into dystopian America; one set of rules for the upper class, another set for the rest.

We board by classes. First class, Comfort Class (which is a middle thing on Delta and has some leg room) and then economy, or the cattle. I saw that first class passengers also had their baggage marked so they’d be the first out of the plane. Egalitarian ideals do not extend past the curb in any way.

Bag fees are so ridiculous that everyone tries to carry everything on, so the already cramped cabin is twice that. On every plane I took they offered to have people check their bags for free because of bin space concerns. If only they’d offered that at check in.

Airports are huge. I thought I’d have a stroke changing gates for a connection in Detroit. Nobody told me there was a train until I was off my fifteenth conveyer belt and the gate was finally in sight. (Don’t they move cattle that way?) The distance to be a mile down the concourse. Similar experience in St. Paul.

Compared to most, since I did have some leg room by upgrading my ticket, I had it better on this last trip of mine than most. Not glass highballs like first class, but a complimentary bourbon in plastic. It was something. Nevertheless, if there’s a way for me not to fly, not to go through that humiliation of searches, the degradation of suspicion, the inconvenience of crowds, the insult of claustrophobic seating, I won’t fly. It’s discouraging.

I have to wonder if that isn’t the point.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

On my nervous way to StokerCon™

Hey kids, sorry to miss last week. I’ve been busy. Not much to show for any of it. Yet, but it’s coming.

I write to you today from a friendly but bustling concourse at Salt Lake International Airport. I’m on my way to StokerCon™ (remember the ™ or they’ll mess you up.) I’m going this time as an editor Omnium Gatherum Media as well as an author. I'm presenting three classes and taking pitches like Johnny Bench.

It’s in Grand Rapids Michigan. I’ve never been to Grand Rapids before. Or Michigan. My first impression is that it’s removed. I couldn’t find a direct flight. I’ll be visiting Detroit in a few hours. I’ll look for Tigers and Elmore Leonard references.

I hear there’s a Lyft and Uber strike, so my already late arrival will probably be later still. Taxi it is. I don’t cross picket lines. Not me. Neither should you.

This will be my second StokerCon™. The last one I was at was in Long Beach, California, aboard the Queen Mary. I met George R. R. Martin that trip. It was pretty great. The whole con, not just the ten minutes I talked to the Game of Thrones God. I’m looking forward this time to meeting new people and reacquainting myself with some horrible writers. It’s a horror writers conference. Get it?

I’m a little nervous about the trip. Flight included. Airline travel used to be fun. I’m old enough to remember that time. I’m old. It’s a trial now. Half an hour to have TSA question my choices of pumpkin seed brand. Twelve dollars for a three dollar salad and boarding forty minutes before the pilot comes out of the bar.

I’m flying mid class, called Comfort Plus because middle-class sounds too middle middle class. I board right after first class. So we’ll be the first to run the gauntlet, since they’re up front. They get to sit and pass judgement on my class and the economy people, thinking we’re peasants but trying hard as hell to avoid eye contact.

At the conference there’ll be no class. I’m going.

Get it?

Okay. The nervous blog must end.

I’ll report an interim blog report if the occasion warrants . In the meantime, look for me by the big lakes.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Summer Toads and Missing Moths

I had a summer of toads once. I must have been eight or nine, an impressionable age to be sure. We lived in an apartment, my mother, sister and me. she was doing what she could to provide as a single mom, my sister doing whatever it was she did that summer, and i found toads in the night.

The apartments were built on an old wetland I guess but no one had told the toads about the new landlord and that summer they sprang up and spread like rain. I never learned know how or where from—lord knows I looked. They were just there one night and for the nights that followed.

I remember seeing under the light of a distant streetlight, mounds of shadows wiggling and hopping. I’d catch them. It was easy. They were bigger than my hand. Expressionless, they’d look up at me and piss. That was their defense. I learned quick how to catch them and hold them so when the inevitable stream came, it would miss me.

I didn’t keep them. I just greeted them, admired them as only a little boy can admire a toad and set them down and watched them hop away. Or maybe they’d sit contemplating the strange visit we’d just had.

In the morning there was carnage. Flattened toads carpeted the roads. Hundreds flattened under car tires to a pancake , to cook solid and dry in the sun by the next night when more toads would come.

I never had another summer like that. The toads came back for a year or two, but never in those numbers. And then they didn’t come at all. Nothing. Never again.

I think back on that summer and wonder at it and mourn. As an adult I read that amphibians are among the most sensitive species on the planet, one of the first to suffer from a weakened environment. That was my first sign. The missing toads. The effects of my species on another

What makes me remember those toads now so longingly, so wistfully, is I remember seeing also under that distant streetlight in my childhood, swarms of moths. The light was clouded by fluttering insects. I suppose that’s whey the toads were there to munch up the low fliers.

The moths lasted longer than the the toads. They followed me to other houses, but now too, they are gone.

I remember not being able to open a patio door for fear of a hundred getting in the house. Patio lights a were shadow plays under talcum wings and head butts, misidentifying a sixty watt bulb as the moon.

Now nothing.

I haven’t seen moths in years.

Not one.

The toads and the moths— their fates were the same.

We too must be on the list.

This is anecdotal. This is personal. This is tragedy.

Thursday, April 18, 2019


I'll be at FanX this weekend, hanging out with the tribe. I'll be manning the League of Utah Writers table #31 in the Vendors area, west end of Aisle 1700 on the main floor.

Fri. April 19th & Sat. April 20th 

Salt Lake Convention Center
100 S W Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84101 

Friday, April 19th

Author Spotlight 11:15-11:30 a.m.Convention Stage, Exhibit Hall 1831

League of Utah Writers Information Table #31
West end of Aisle 1700

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Peaks of Madness Cover Reveal

It's spring so you know what that means. Rain and allergies and surprise snow storms that seem to kick you square in the...

But also, the annual Utah Horror Anthology.

This year I was once again privileged to participate as an editor and contributor. It's release is imminent. The cover is below. Check it out!


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Reading Time

I rearranged my schedule and it has made all the difference.

Live in Letters is this year’s theme of the League of Utah Writers. I thought of it. It’s my theme. I’m the president. It’s a challenge to make literature a way of life. Since I’m a writer, that’s not too big a stretch, but the other end, I noticed needed some attention.

I read a lot, but only in the odd moments between other things. My change of schedule was to give myself time to read. By scheduling some time each day, for me in the morning right now, it happens.

It’s that old adage about saving money from your paycheck. Most people get their paycheck and pay for the things they need first, and then, later if there’s anything left, they put the remainder away for a rainy day. The better way to do it, is to save money first, then pay the rest. The money at the end of the month is then free money, guiltless spending. Time is the same.

Everyone’s resources are different of course, but a time budget has to be as important as a financial one.

Putting the things one values high on the list means it happens. I’ve been really good at finding time to write, but too often at the cost of reading. I read plenty, but I honestly could and should read more. By blocking out some time each day, that happens. The internet doesn’t miss me, the TV can get along without me, and I am fulfilled.

I know I’m talking to the choir here, fellow readers, but I have noticed, because I looked for it, a distinctive improvement in my life since I started blocking time out early for words instead of waiting for time to show up on its own. For one thing, I concentrate much better. Reading in the morning, means the afternoon will be effective, whereas surfing news sites online, especially these days, meant the doldrums later. Knowledge, focus, enlightenment and studying my craft all at once. It is part of living in letters.

I’m not saying that reading is a panacea, but it is a panacea.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Allergies. Again.

The allergy fairy is visiting me. Or maybe it’s the second flu. Cousin cold or mange. I’m thinking allergy though. My hair loss hasn’t increased beyond the usual—off my head down my back. It is the time of year when winter surrenders its cold embrace of the planet and fresh beads appear on trees, tulips poke up in their beds and all nature poisons the air to get even with people for the things we did.

Pollen. It’s got to be pollen. It took me years and years of spring colds to finally cotton on to the idea that I might be reacting to a chemical assault from my back yard. Years of not noticing the timely nature o the snot monster’s visit. Like clockwork, plants go green in the spring, I go green in the gills.

My problem was the myth of endurance, that is thae lack of change. Growing up I never had allergies, this time of year was as wonderful to me as the post cards made it sound. Then I got older and some microorganism got my number, some resistance I had went dormant or fled to Hawaii and I was doomed to suffer for two weeks a year as penance for living another year.

It’s the deal now. I get it. Things change. I change. The changing seasons were a good hint, but my changing immune system is the goods.

It is metaphor for existence. It is warning to humanity, told through a member of its ranks, that nature is not without weapons in the battle for existence.

It is decay in new life. My health, the land’s rejuvenation.

It’s wonderful and pretty miserable. Mostly miserable. Lots of misery. Lots of Kleenexes an pseudoephedrine. The pharmacist must think I’m cooking meth by now.

Still writing though. I’m good. The shot across my mortal bow is not unheeded. Make hay fever while the sun’s shining. Or something like that.