Friday, November 30, 2007

Horn Dance

A friend forwarded this dance to me.  It's the Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance, the way they dance it in England.  It's kind of different from the way we dance it at the Shrewsbury Faire.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Well . . . I seem to be getting back into a space that is functional after OryCon. Last week I felt tired, and then we had holiday obligations -- which were fun, but I didn't get much writing done. The best thing was probably seeing my Grandmother enjoy Thanksgiving; she was really present for the meal.

And then there was that CUUPs ritual I led Friday night. Boy, was that a time sink... I guess I'm glad that the ritual happened because there was some time to dance under the full moon light; but I spent about six or more hours making posters, sending out e-mail reminders, mixing pagan songs, and constructing props for a fourty-five minute dance ritual that was attended by three adults and two children. And I was the only male. At least I wasn't the only one present, which was what it looked like would happen about a minute before the ritual was supposed to start.

I'm at the point where I need to evaluate what kind of return I'm getting from my time investment. I mean... if I'm wanting ritual for numinous moments, meditating in the woods is more likely to do something for me than Raising the Cone of Power with a bunch of UU folks. And I can't seem to get into any really good theological discussions, either...

So, on to writing. Today I managed to go through two stories and they're at a point where I think if I work on them any more I'm going to start to break them. So it's off to my wise readers. I seem to be getting a lot done at the (big box) bookstore I've been travelling to, but I do find myself wishing that the store A) was closer to where I live, B) open until 11 PM instead of 10 PM, and C) less likely to be filled with students masquerading as refugees from Friends. Unfortunately, the local library, which is what I probably really want, closes at 8 PM. At least there's hot chocolate at the bookstore.

Mark has send, "Go write!" So this weekend it looks like I'm going to be writing by myself in near Redmond, Oregon. Time to get the writing mix tapes set up. I'll see if I can take hourly pictures of my progress. It should be in the mid-twenties (at least at night) so I shouldn't be too tempted to wander around being distracted by potential numinous moments near the Deschutes River. Perhaps I will have a theological discussion with a juniper, though.

Murial continues to be a loud irritant.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

John's OryCon 29 Adventure

Or Work Hard, Play Hard, Get Sick.

Well. I survived. I think this year I learned several things.
  1. Being a panelist is hard. It's not enough to figure out what you're going to say ahead of time. You have to come prepared with a bunch of questions.

  2. Panelists come in several flavors.
    1. Buy my Book.
    2. Mismatched by the Panelist Committee.
    3. Excruciatingly Well Read.
    4. I Have A Theory; It's My Only Theory; And My Theory Is This.
    5. We're Making It Up As We Go Along.
    6. Plays Wells With Others.
    7. The Very Rare Strong Moderator.

  3. At some point I looked out at an audience and I thought to myself, "Oh my God, these people want us to BS; they don't want ideas, they just want to hear what stories and articles we've read."


My adventure started out with me driving Mark's truck to Portland. I'm grateful that we're a two car family, because of the flexibility; however, the truck has a heater that's either subfreezing or inferno. Also, despite my best efforts to leave earlier (thanks Dad!) I really didn't leave the Eugene area until 2 PM, which means I hit the traffic jam that is I5 between Wilsonville and Portland. (Note to self: just take the train.)

Ursula Le Guin Reading (5 PM)

I missed the Balancing Writing with your Real Life panel, which was a shame as several of my friends were on it. But I did manage to hear Ursula Le Guin read her response to the statement "Science Fiction is dead" and excerpts from her latest novel. I thought she was funny, down-to-earth, and friendly.

She didn't even scowl when I goofed and made my camera flash (luckily between her readings).

While we were waiting for Ms. Le Guin to begin, a woman came up to the empty seat next to me and asked if it was taken. It was Ellen Eades and I recognized her before she recognized me (she was in 2nd Gen Star Trek and I was in street clothes).

Endeavor Awards (7:00 PM)

I ran into a bunch of Wordos at this event; Nina Kiriki Hoffman was one of the nominees, but someone else took the award. As soon as the awards were handed out we ran off to choke on the dinner prices at a Very Expensive Restaurant With A Cool Name and then backtracked to ...

Chinese Food and Language

We sat down, ordered food, and then tried to come up with new words for fornicate that communicated both some of the (ahem) action without the violence conjured by the usual four-letter-word. Ursula Le Guin wrote about how making love was like making bread in "The Lathe of Heaven", and I guess I could say, "Let's kneed each other tonight..."' but A) it sounds codependent when you say it that way and B) Stephen Sondheim has done it already in "Sunday Morning in the Park with George." No, no one was sitting near our table when we started, and; yes, we G-rated ourselves when a family with preteens was seated next to us.


Wordos Breakfast (8:30 AM)

We had our same wonderful waitress as last year! She's a hoot. Alas, we weren't joined by Ellen Datlow... and although I thought about inviting Ursula from a few tables over, I figured she'd rather have breakfast with the people she was already with. There was lots of catching up with Wordos I haven't seen since last year's OryCon.

WOTF Panel (10:00 AM)

Well, this was sort of funny. I kept running into other WOTF writers at OryCon (say, from volume six or eight), but for some reason, Stephen Stanely and Damon Kaswell were the only ones listed on the panel. Luckily we were joined by others and got to talk about the WOTF contest and what to expect.

Autograph Session (11:30 AM)

This was sort of a comedy of errors. No one really knew where the autograph table was, there were no signs, and in the schedule folks were listed for either table 1 or 2. Authors kept coming by and asking which table it was. "We don't know," I said. "Right now it's in a superposition state with equal possibilities that it's either." Ellen Eades stopped by and bought three of my books, and I wished that I had brought more than the five I hastily shoved into my media box. Damon Kaswell appeared and signed Ellen's books before she got away.

I found myself sitting next to Stoney Compton, a WOTF Winner from long ago. We had a nice chat, and he agreed to sit for a photo.

It was interesting to watch how different authors carried themselves at the table. Since there was some room, I declared myself the head of the Waiting for Ursula Le Guin line, and continued to sell my last remaining book. The crowd appeared and someone made them snake around the side of the escalators to clear the elevator foyer. I'd brought three books for her to sign, but when I saw how many people were there, I scaled back my beat-up copy of "The Lathe of Heaven" that I bought sometime in the early-eighties.

In a moment of complete fan-boyness (and knowing that people probably try to gift her with all sorts of things at these conferences), I asked Ms. Le Guin if she would like a signed copy of the WOTF XXIII anthology and she very graciously accepted.

It was only later that I realized that it was the last copy of the anthology that I had with me and that I'd need to do something about that before my reading on Sunday.

Building a Balanced Mythos (1:00 PM)

It was too bad that there weren't more folks on this panel. As it was it was fairly well attended. What I had to say was that a mythos is a story that a character uses to interpret his or her world.

How Writing Workshops Changed My Life (2:00 PM)

This was the best moderated panel I attended. Basically, we took turns telling new writers about Wordos, Clarion, and the WOTF Workshop.

Writing Art and Making Sales (3:00 PM)

Basically what this boiled down to is that Ursula Le Guin feels very lucky that what she writes pays her so well, and that she and other writers write what they want to write. If you are writing for the money, take up plumbing; you'll start to feel contempt for your audience and it will show. Don't try to write "the next Harry Potter" because by the time your novel gets out you'll be out of date. And Steve Perry shared a saying he once hung over his desk: "It's better to be the world's worst artist than to be the world's best critic." (But then later the panel conceded that the best critics were also the best writers.) And if you want to get paid for writing, write a novel.

Disco Nap

Not much happened here, except that I put on The World's Most Fabulous Shirt. It's a very fun shirt, but I have to remind myself that the first thing people do after they've recovered from seeing it is feel compelled to make a disco ball joke.

Paganism Panel (5:00 PM)

Sigh. I always hope that the topics discussed will go beyond, "I'm a spiritual seeker who is curious about paganism," and "Those icky, darn, narrow minded, conservative Christian folks." The presenters were obviously winging it. It made me wish I had brought my copies of "Goddess Unmasked" or "Wicca's Charm" or at least my top questions about religion, such as. . .
  • Should we be worried that there a lot of teen witch kits with love spells?
  • Does a religion need a historic pedigree to be valid ?
  • How are gender and orientation important to how you relate to your deity? Is it necessary to gender the divine?
  • Is the term "Earth Changes" a marketing ploy designed to hook into peoples' insecurities about the world and their desire to be the most highly developed organisms on the block, or is it a valid paradigm to get folks thinking about their spiritual responses to global problems?
  • Under what circumstances is it ethical to use another culture's myths, stories, and theology?
  • What is the value of fetishisizeing a locale (i.e. Stonehenge, a cathedral, Israel, or, Egypt)?
  • At what point does syncretism become appropriation?
  • Is the millenarian paradigm of a "golden age" a useful one, and how does the function of a "golden age" contrast and compare with the concept of a heaven, hell or other afterlife?
  • Must mysticism and paganism be anti-intellectual or anti-science in order to be valid?
Oh, yeah; we bitched about Llewelyn Publishers.

Publishing (6:00 PM)

This was a useful panel and it basically boiled down to, "Editors aren't out to screw authors over -- be polite, and double-check (and pad) the response time listed on a publication's web site before querying the editor about a submitted manuscript. It's easier for editors to recognize what they don't want to buy than it is for them to recognize what they do want to buy (and that increases the decision making process). Also, when you do make a sale, be sure to read (and understand) the contract -- it never hurts to ask or cross out the bits that are bad for you (they might say, no, of course...).

Dinner with Ellen Eades

We laughed, we talked, we ate, we drank, we caught up. I think I haven't seen Ellen since before 1998. I arranged to borrow her (newly purchased) copy of WOTF so I would be able to read an excerpt tomorrow.

Dancing Like The Wind!

I wandered about for a bit, poking my head into various gatherings and then I found the Saturday night dance. I haven't been dancing in ages, and I wanted to dance. So I did. Hard. I did veil work with a tablecloth. A magazine editor on her own danced with me once we mutually spoke about how our husbands weren't at OryCon. I danced with Jai Linnea. Later Sidney and her kids showed up and we danced, too. Jai says that I was Dancing Like the Wind.

If I had been thinking a little more clearly, I would have taken a breather at some point -- I did stretch during the slow songs -- but the next thing I knew it was midnight and we were dancing the Time Warp and then to Rasputin. I heard more cheesy 80's dance music than I ever have before, with a good mix of Nine Inch Nails and Juno Reactor.

Then I went into . . . the . . .

Post Dance Shakes

At first I was fine; I noticed as I was climbing up the stairs to the forth floor that I felt a little dizzy. I got to my room and was talking with Blake Hutchins and Gra Linnea when I started to feel a little cold. A little later my teeth started chattering and I broke out into a sweat. I ate a banana and some fig newtons and drank water. Then I crawled under the covers and proceeded to sweat and shiver the night away.

I said something to Blake, who is a marathon runner, and we concluded that I'd probably messed up my electrolytes. As I lay in the dark, listening to my heart race, and my quick breath, I wondered if I was in some kind of shock, and how waking up dead would really put a damper on things (although keeling over after a really nice dance isn't such a bad way to go, I guess).


Hotel checkout

I woke up alive and not in a hospital bed. I was sort of hungry, and I was kind of getting a headache. The fig newton package was almost empty and all the glasses of water I drank in the wee hours of the morning seemed to do the trick.

I was going to go to a panel on Wormholes, but I decided that I wanted to sleep a little longer and have a good breakfast. I made sure to have a banana and lots of orange juice. Since there's a noon checkout and a charge if you extend your stay, Blake and I settled all the room charges and put our luggage in the luggage waiting area.

John Burridge Reading (11:00 AM)

I found the room they'd put me in; there was a reading going on inside, so I pulled out a WOTF poster from my press kit and taped it up to an easel and waited my turn. I was hoping that I'd have more of my Eugene friends at the panel, but there was publishing your novel panel next door that they were either all on or at. So I had two friends from Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire, Ellen Eades, and one guy in my audience. I had decided last night (before the shakes) what part of "Mask Glass Magic" to read, and which Wordos Halloween shorts to follow up with. It was different reading to four people than it was to a room full of 30-plus Wordos; but everyone was nice and laughed during the funny parts.

Is SciFi Respectable (12:00 PM)

I missed the very beginning of this one because I got mixed up on rooms. But after a while the panel talking about Science Fiction and why isn't it as respectable as mainstream fiction -- by which I think they meant NYT Best Selling Thrillers -- I realized that the conversation reminded me a lot of the dialogue in the 90's queer community about assimilation: Is there an essential element to gay culture that should be preserved, or do queers want to assimilate middle American values. In the end, the panel seemed to some extent to be equating respectability with how long a novel ran.

Truly Alien Aliens (2:00 PM)

By this time I was cold and wearing my cloak to stay warm. I don't think I'd realized that I was probably relapsing from whatever todler-illness Arthur had tried to pass onto me last Wednesday. But even in my low-energy state I was pretty much outclassed by the other panelists. They'd read many more "Nature" and other medical journals than I had, and quickly moved away from aliens as a writer's device to some of the more biological oddities found on this planet. One high note was that I got a chance to meet Aeon's Pat MacEwen (and former WOTF winner).


Then I drove home. Now, of course, the truck's air handling system was stuck on polar -- I think if I had been feeling better I would have taken the time to stop the truck some place and put on a sweater and gloves. But I huddled over the steering wheel, glared at the other drivers as I made my way back to Eugene while a deluge fell, and every so often I'd forcefully jiggle the temperature control in a vain attempt to get back to the inferno setting I'd enjoyed on my drive Friday.

When I got home, I was shaking and sweating again. Mark only grumbled a little and took the day off Monday to watch Arthur while I slept underneath layers of blankets. Mark gets several awards.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The List of Greed

It's starting to happen all ready. People want to know what I want for the December Holidays. Here you go:

  • You know... I really got into making this list. Which kind of bothers me because
    1. I'm living through the largesse of my partner so I'm on a limited budget, and;
    2. I'm supposedly trying to teach the value of True Gifts, ala Starhawk:
      • "A true gift supports our growth, makes us more than we were, rather than confirming the giver's superiority. A true gift increases our power-from-within, our ability to do, rather than keeping us bound and dependent. A true gift is sometimes harsh; it may be the withdrawal of the false service that has enable us to cling to our addictions or our limitations." [ - Starhawk, Truth or Dare, pg 210]; and
      • "... Giving each other gifts is a ritual way of expressing care. Gifs help mark points of transition and changes of state. Traditional times for giving gifts are at entry into a community, at initiation, at the year's transition points such as the Winter Solstice, as parts of rites of passage, at ending and beginning times.
        "Each Christams season we experience how gift giving deteriorates in a consumer society into the grossest form of materialism. To reclaim gift giving as a sacred act, we can give gifts of power, which may or may not be material. Generally, they are not consumer goods but things whose value is symbolic rather than measurable in dollars: rocks, shells, curious found objects, food, acts of consideration, children's drawings, bones, flowers, herbs." [ - Starhawk, Truth or Dare, pg 129-130]
    So don't let this list mislead you too much -- while the material booty would be appreciated -- if a card is what works for you, it works for me.

  • Donations of Time -- I can think of about three tasks that I could do much more quickly if there were someone standing around making sure that I don't get distracted and start to draw a topological graph linking the motions of the sun and the moon with the piles of paper, books, and dead plants that need to be dealt with... or someone to prevent me from starting to read the old yearbook that I unearthed from a pile of unopened moving boxes.

    • Clean the Garage

    • Straighten my Office

    • Various Yard Work Chores (see Cafe John, below)

    • Paint the House (still)

  • Books -- this will be complicated... so I'll just send you to what I have at Library Thing

  • Music

    • Sonnes de Mecheco -- they've got a cool Bach piece done as a mariachi.

    • Dance Suites for the Orchestra of Louis XIII.

    • An iTunes gift certificate.

  • House and Home

    • In indestructable steel gazing globe (to replace the green glass one Arthur broke a year ago).

    • Book ends -- not the artsy kind with abstract sculptures on them; I mean the industrial strength library kind that has a tongue that slips under about five books at the end. I need about ten.

    • An electronic photo frame. I have all these photos...

    • USB memory sticks. It occurs to me that I need to back up all my photos...

    • USB microphone. I tried to do some voice recordings on the iMac the other day and all that I could hear when I played things back was the computer's fan.
    • Housecleaning service.

    • Weather Station -- you know, the kind with two thermometers, a barometer, a wind tachometer, and a precipitation gauge.

  • Writing Supplies

    • Business Cards -- yeah, well; I do have them designed -- I just need to print a bunch out.

    • An LED pen to write in the dark with to replace the one Arthur got a hold of.

    • Printer supplies for an HP Photosmart 375, an HP Deskjet 930C, or a HP something or other.

  • Clothes

    • Pants: 32 waist, inseam 32.

    • Shirts: I'm a large (I like the long arms). All of my black turtlenecks seem to have disappeared -- so it's harder to look like a Tortured Artist.

    • Socks -- I don't know what's happened to my socks. I used to have all sorts of fun colored ones. Then I just had white nerdy socks. Then I was lucky if I had matching socks. Now I'm just thankful if I can find any socks.

    • Slippers -- I used to have some slippers to wear around the house to keep my feet warm. I think they got thrown out in the move or something. I'm a size 10.

  • Celon Tea from Savouré.

  • A membership to the Portland Art Museum (I think ours has lapsed).

  • Cafe John -- ah yes. Cafe John. I've been talking about it for years... and as recently as earlier this month... and it looks like it gets harder to do each year. I remember when we used to go to Savouré -- the red velvet chairs, the tables with white linnens, the chandeliers, the little candles and clever flower arrangements, the tea and scones presented on a white service, and Edith Piaf. I'd write, and once someone thought I was enough like Hemmingway (so I heard) that I found my tea and scones paid for. Alas, it is no more. Sigh -- how to fight the ennui?

    • The Table -- 42 inch diameter top, preferably of stone or glass; 42 inches high. It would be great if there were descrete outlets in it to allow multiple laptops to live on it.

    • The Chair -- something Stickly or Arts and Crafts, with wide level arms on which to rest tea cups. The seat should be about 18 inches high to accomodate my legs.

    • The Fountain -- I figure that Cafe John's going to be outside, and falling water will drown out various distractions. I'm seeing something large and square with a lion or an art nouveau dolphin, or else one of those geometrical granite water cascade things, or something vaguely Romanesque , or with bowl upon cascading bowl. Or maybe something like this.

    • The Sunscreen -- OK... I probably mean The Pavilion or maybe a The Gazebo. I mean, honestly; when it's not drizzling and 50 F it's scorching and blinding out -- but I need something with a little more savoir-faire than a tent. I guess in a pinch I could find twenty or so surplus golf umbrellas and sew them into an icosahedron.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mercury Retrograde

Today has been what I call a Mercury Retrograde day. I think logistics for at least four different events became suddenly confounded. Went out and hacked back woody lavendar for therapy. I think it may be a Tequila Day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Inner Lesbian High Priestess

I've very cleverly agreed to lead a ritual, so lately it seems like I've been spending all my spare time hovering over a Garage Band mixing screen trying to pump some life into musically simplistic pagan chants. I'm not sure why, but the version of "Hoof and Horn" that I came up with sounds like surfer detective music. Mark says the rest sounds like bellydance music. Oh well.

So. I was busy trying to meld the 60's "Mission: Impossible Theme" with "Under the Full Moon Light" when Mark burst into the room. "You're Susan!" he yelled.

I stared at him, trying to figure out who Susan was. At first I though he might mean Sarah, and then I wondered if he meant one of our neighbors or if he was repeating something someone else said.

"I just think it's really interesting that you're Susan and Lorraine drew herself into the illustration," Mark continued.

And then it dawned on me. Mark meant Susan from my short story, "Mask Glass Magic." I think I said something like, "What?"

"You didn't do that on purpose?" Mark asked. "Nobody pointed it out to you?"

"What? I'm Susan?"

"Oh come on," he said. "Purple sweater, silver ankh? Just open up your closet."

"Susan is an amalgam of all the new aged women I ever met," I said. "And I don't own a purple sweater."

"When I read the scene where she says she felt like Ishtar I thought you were writing yourself in."

"Well, they say that you write parts of yourself or people you know into your characters. I suppose," I said, "there's aspects of myself in Susan -- but I always thought I was more like the heroine, Michelle."

"Naw," he said. "Michelle's nothing like you."

(Pause for John to reflect that his character is active, creative, and a risk-taker)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Cusp of October & November

Not much writing lately... need to fix that.

The winter storms are here to stay it seems. It looks like we'll have to live with a house that is primed until May or June when the weather dries up again. At least the wood on the house is sealed.

The Tuesday before last was the Wordos Halloween reading. My Halloween short was very well received. This makes me cautious; for the last four or so holiday readings, I've been led astray by the positive response to the reading only to have the story ripped to bits during written critique. I think my radio voice hypnotizes people when I read.

I've been thinking about religion. (Oh no, I can hear some of you think.) For the longest time I've always thought about rituals in terms of where they fall on a line between spiritual and theatrical. I've decided that it really should be a plane defined by sprituality, theatre, and (for lack of a better word) therapy. Or possibly a space defined by those three axes.

I visited Grandma last week. She was having a better day than I was, I think. I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, so I was yawning a lot. We started talking in the living room (where there was some trashy TV show on), and she finally suggested that we move our conversation away from the noise and out into the kitchen.

Then we went on a long weekend out of town. It was nice and relaxing. I looked at various gardening magazines for ideas to fix our back yard. Mark and I also spoke about ripping out our tin roof patio cover and replacing it with a large umbrella. I go back and forth on that idea -- on one hand the roof has seen better days and looks like it was tacked onto the side of the house in the late 70's; on the other hand, it does provide a large swathe of rain and sun cover that would be difficult to reproduce with a large umbrella. What I really want there is a plexiglass greenhouse that can pump heat into the house in the winter.

The stars and the skies were very clear. I tried taking some photos of the stars, but my camera's better at microlens work, so instead of the Pleiades, I got a lot of smeared dots and digital noise-- I'll have to see if I can figure out a way to have a longer shutter speed than 15 seconds. As soon as we crossed the mountains back home we were driving under grey clouds and fog.

Last Tuesday was a Wordos session -- there was only one story on the table, and we ended up talking about a lot of other things. Luckily, one of the folks at the table is an anthropolgist, so discussion frequently goes that way.

Muriell continues to be an irritant. A really loud irritant.