Friday, March 28, 2008

Five Out of Six...

...geocaches found after work today (plus one first thing this morning). Lots of hiking and bushwhacking involved, but it is teh awesome.

Remember Kill Jack Haringa Day in Your Blog a couple of weeks back? A number of these blasphemous blog entries, including yer own Damned Rodan's, will soon be appearing in a POD anthology, compiled by Nick Kaufman, titled Jack Haringa Must Die. Who'd have thunk such an offbeat idea might end up spreading not only to bunches o' blogs but into print—as if it were some kind of sincere tribute to Mssr. Crankypants? Holy Haringa, Batman.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Help


A slightly revised version of one of my earliest short stories, "Festival of the Jackal (Off Broadway)," will be appearing in the anthology Help, the proceeds from which will go to Preditors & Editors owner Dave Kuzminski's legal defense fund. On the off-chance you're here and not familiar with the case, "agent" Barbara Bauer ("agent" being in quotation marks because...well, take a guess) and Publish America have filed civil suits for libel against Mr. Kuzminski after he brought to light numerous (very well-founded) allegations against both and filed certain complaints, which riled the plaintiffs evidently no end. Preditors & Editors has a long and laudable history of keeping writers informed about the ever-expanding ranks of scammers in the publishing business, and I suppose it's inevitable that Mr. Kuzminski's unflinching efforts to expose the unscrupulous for what they are has made him the perfect target for retribution.

More info may be found here: Preditors & Editors lawsuit

Help is being published by Eric Enck and edited by Craig Phillips, with cover art by Daniele Serra. It's due to press in early May; there will be an electronic version as well. I'll post details about its availability when the details are available.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Hunt


Not for eggs but for little microcaches. In lieu of the traditional Easter egg hunt, Mrs. Death and I went out and about town geocaching this afternoon. Found five in fairly short order, signed the logs, and re-hid 'em; only a thousand or so left to go in town. Today, the neatest one was in Green Hill Cemetery, a very old graveyard with loads of character. And no, the cache was not in a grave; no one wants to have their cache muggled by a corpse.

Pounded out a short-short tale this afternoon that I've been mulling over for a few days. Had an idea that was almost coming together, and today it finally did. Done, submitted, and fingers X'd.

This is the first Easter in I don't know how many years—probably since I lived in Chicago in the 80s—that the whole family didn't get together for at least the day. Circumstances conspired to keep us apart this year, but I did get to see my mom and brother (and find geocaches) last weekend. That was nice.

The grass got high this weekend. I foresee mowing in the nearest of futures...

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Pinocchio Lady


Sometimes I miss the days of making prank phone calls.

When I was between the ages of 10 and 15, give or take a decade or so, I was the diehard crank caller. Generally just harmless fun—you know, of the "I'm lost at the supermarket and I can't find my momma" ilk. Now and again, I made calls that made me feel bad later, such as when I presented myself as "Mother Bell" from radio station WDUM and promised the call recipient ten dollars for saying "hello" when he or she answered the phone. I got a lot of mailing addresses that way, and it grieves me to think that people were once so trusting. Needless to say, they never received a penny, and for this particular sin, I flagellated myself appropriately in later years. Or at least I allowed my wife to.

My favorite, though, was a series of calls I made in the summer and fall of 1973. I was 14 years old and was learning that I had inherited my dad's temper. Unlike Dad, I sometimes enjoyed acting on it and paying back tenfold certain people who offended me.

There was once a woman called the Pinocchio Lady. I found her by misdialing my friend Charles's phone number. When she answered, I thought it was his mother, so I asked for Charles. "Charles?!" exploded a very cranky, high-pitched, nasal voice. "There ain't no Charles here. And don't you ever, ever call this number again."

Ah. A challenge. Well, I called back the number I thought perhaps I had dialed by mistake, and sure enough, that was it. "Oh, it's you again!" she wailed. "I TOLD YOU TO NOT CALL HERE!"

"You sound like you have a really big nose," I said. "Are you the Pinocchio lady?"

"Pinocchio lady? I don't know what that is. You hang up RIGHT NOW and don't you EVER call back here again!"

Guess who called the Pinocchio lady day in and day out for many weeks. Yes, and when I told my friend Charles about this, he happily joined in the fun. We took turns calling and recording them with my little Lloyds cassette tape recorder. Usually, I'd start out pleasant, with something like, "Hello, have I reached the E****'s residence?" When the affirmative reply came, I'd holler, "No, I haven't! I've reached the Pinocchio lady!" One time, I told the poor woman I was going to cut off her long nose with a cross-cut saw, and that was how I learned some of the words that I use today when I'm really peeved.

Finally, one day, a gruff male answered. When I asked if he was the Pinocchio man, he said that he actually wasn't, but that he was going to have the phone tapped so he could find out who we "damned little pests" were. That scared me a little, so I didn't call back for a couple of days.

Eventually, we grew tired of this sport and moved on to calling the parents of kids we didn't like and telling them that their children had stolen some copies of Playboy magazine from the local newsstand and hidden them under their mattresses. (I have no idea how many of them actually got caught with hidden copies of Playboy.)

Over a decade later, when I lived in Chicago, one day, just on a whim, I dialed the Pinocchio lady's number (it was still firmly etched into my memory, and I still remember it to this day), and when Mrs. E****'s familiar voice answered, I almost...almost...followed through with the cruel quip, "Hey, Pinocchio lady. Remember me? I'm out now!"

But I didn't. Some wee smidgen of maturity had taken a bit of the pleasure out of injecting a little misery into some innocent person's life.

If Mrs. E**** is still alive (something tells me she's not, as she sounded not only big-nosed but rather old back in the 70s and 80s), she does have my sincerest apology. I was just a kid doing what kids do, and sometimes that's not so nice.

Of course, there's always the possibility that, on some level, she had as much fun being a Pinocchio lady as we had turning her into one. I rather hope so.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nothing in Life Is Certain Except Death From Taxes

Gaah. I hates me some income taxes. Been working on them the last couple of nights. Looks like we're pretty much breaking even this year—which is better than paying the government a bundle, but on the other hand...no extra spending money.

Did some enjoyable nighttime geocaching with Mrs. Death this evening. Went around some of the nearby business areas at which little microcaches have been hidden. Had some success—most notably finding a nanocache the size of a pencil eraser stuck to a beam on the back of a building. At one location, we found what we thought would be a cache, but it was not a cache, so we immediately put it back and vacated the premises, in case the not-quite-a-cache belonged to some hooligan named Luigi, who might have been spying on us from a distance.

Returned home and immediately heard the clatter of gunfire from the street behind us (which is not all that uncommon an occurrence); we're pretty sure it wasn't Luigi, though, as we're both still around to be taxed to death.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stellarcon Done, More Caching In

Stellarcon turned out pretty good this year, though it started off slowly on Friday evening, with a non-existent audience for what I thought might be an intriguing panel—"Zines: All the Reasons NOT To, and Why You'll Do It Anyway." Now I can only imagine how many misguided souls are going to go off half-cocked to start a magazine, when—if they had bothered to come to the panel—they could go off cocked, locked, and thoroughly fucked up.

Saturday began with one of Allen Wold's writing workshops, in which the participants write the hook to a short story in a hundred words or less. Overall, not bad stuff this year, though the workshop was situated not in one of the usual conference rooms but in a suite on the second floor—which meant we panelists had the privilege of running the workshop while standing or leaning against the wall instead of sitting in plush leather chairs. Thanks a million.

The rest of the panels I was on were well attended. The "Kaiju" panel, moderated by former Stellarcon organizer and major Godzilla fan Bill Mann, was a hoot and could have gone on for several hours. My booksigning turned out to be a good one; in fact, I ended up signing quite a few autographs over the course of the weekend. Not sure what's up with that. (Maybe my work attracts masochists?)

Finally, my deepest apologies to those who came to my reading last night only to find the author a no-show. He was stuck at a dinner event that stretched out far longer than anticipated, with no wheels of his own to get him back to the hotel. I trust no one was so broken-hearted that they will stop buying my books forever, or turn into Klingons, or something similarly radical. It would not have been an entertaining experience anyway; after such a severe and prolonged bout with bronchitis, my voice was actually beginning to fail by 8:00 PM last night.

All things considered, Stellarcon has outgrown the High Point Radisson, and I wish the organizers would bring it back to the downtown Greensboro Marriott. I realize it's more expensive, but the High Point hotel is hopelessly inadequate, with its two feeble elevators (sometimes necessitating a wait of fifteen minutes or more just to go up or down a single floor), no stairs available from the first floor, the slowest restaurant service in the southeast, inadequate parking facilities, and no other eating/drinking establishments of any worth within reasonable walking distance. I cannot imagine that there aren't better alternatives to this pain-in-the-ass location for a con.

Today, I went out and about geocaching in Martinsville. Found two nice ones and hid my first cache, in a neat location just outside of town; it should be listed on the geocaching site within the next few days. I've found just about all the Martinsville caches now (there are a couple of others I'll get to soon). There are only several hundred in Greensboro, though, so I doubt I will exhaust them anytime soon.

There were two in close proximity to the hotel in High Point, but as it rained the whole time, I didn't go out looking for them.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How to Thoroughly Devalue the Limited Edition of Your Upcoming Book


In my case, sign the signature sheets.

Done, and shipped back to the publisher. In fact, cover artist Wayne Miller and I met for dinner last night, and he signed the sheets for the lettered edition. So Other Gods is that much closer to completion, and I expect that by May it will be running loose on the streets. Almost certainly, I will have copies to take to Mo*Con with me in June. I can bean unsuspecting passersby with them.*

*For this activity, I shall require the hardcover edition.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

StellarCon Schedule


I'll be a guest at StellarCon/DeepSouthCon at the Downtown Radisson in High Point, NC, this weekend (3/14–3/15). In case you're dead-set on avoiding me at all costs, here's my schedule.

Friday
"Zines: All the Reasons NOT To, and Why You'll Do It Anyway"
9:00–10:00 P.M.

Saturday
Allen Wold's World of Writing (Writing Workshop, reservations only)
11:00 A.M.–1:00 P.M.

"The World of Kaiju"
2:00–3:00 P.M.

Signing (with Val Griswold-Ford)
4:00–5:00 P.M.

"How to Annoy Your Publisher"
5:00–6:00 P.M.

Reading ("The Jack-o'-Lantern Memoirs")
8:00–9:00 P.M.

I won't be there on Sunday, so that may be your safest bet to attend. For those unable to run away fast enough, I'll look forward to seeing you. If you're not careful, I'll devalue your books with an autograph.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Clockses

In this day and age, resetting the clocks is stupid. Daylight Savings Time or the other, I care not which, but it oughta be left alone. So there.

Friday, March 7, 2008

It's Kill Jack Haringa in Your Blog Day

So...

Since dressing himself that morning, Haringa had felt his pants getting crankier, so it seemed appropriate that he assuage their orneriness by getting them laid.

"We prefer virgin wool," they told him. He shuddered, for they were either unaware or cared not at all about his deep-rooted aversion to sheeply things. But with his ass having been chapped so thoroughly over the course of the day, he was beginning to think a woolly solution might yet be acceptable .

He remembered that the missus often shopped at Wictoria's Sucret, and it was odds-on that they would have something to satisfy his drawers' virginal cravings. Thus, he set out with guardedly high hopes, trying his best to ignore the discomfort as his pants rode up time and again.

"I would like something in virgin wool," he said to the saleslady, who responded with a questioning look. "It's not for me, it's for my pants," he explained.

The rather stern-faced young woman glanced down, raised an eyebrow, and conjugated something silently. "So, they're quite cranky, are they?"

"It's their nature."

"How did you find us?" the woman asked. "We're not on any map."

"Dead reckoning."

"Angora?"

Haringa glanced down as one of his cuffs rose to attention. "Acceptable."

The woman handed him a bundle of fuzzy pink fabric. It was soft to the touch, though vile in every other way. His hands were shaking as he took it from her.

"Mind you don't get seduced."

"It's for my pants."

"Yeah, that's right. That's $49.97, including tax."

He paid with cash, as a credit card bill from Wictoria's would arouse suspicion at home.

Alas, it mattered none at all, for when Haringa reached home, the missus was waiting for him. When she saw the relaxed crease in his trousers, she gonged him in the head with her frying pan.

They buried him pantsless, in an ungrammatical coffin. The angora was never seen again, but it wasn't long before Joshi, many miles distant, began to look pained.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wacky Packages



If you're an old fart like me, you might remember Wacky Packages. They were cards and stickers produced by Topps that depicted popular products of the day—with a bit of a twist. Clever and irreverent, they ended up plastered all over our school, our books, our bicycle seats, our lunch boxes...you name it; anywhere you could stick a Wacky Packages sticker, there you'd find one. I remember getting a set on Halloween (1968, I think it was) and being grossed out by the image of an adhesive bandage—"Band-Ache" brand, it was called—graphically ripping the skin off the back of some poor fellow's hand. A picture of bugs hopping out of a hole in an ugly woman's head, which appeared on the front of the "Spray Nit" hair infester spray can, just about put me off my Halloween dinner (which was a Hardee's hamburger). After seeing masses of worms crawling around inside the "Skimpy" peanut butter jar, I pretty much lost my taste for peanut butter for several years.

But I loved those cards something fierce. They were special. The art was irresistible, the play on real products was brilliant, and kids who had Wacky Packages stickers on the covers of their school notebooks were guaranteed to be cool.

A while back, I went looking on the Internet for info about Wacky Packages, and I found a few good sites, the best being www.wackypackages.org, which features a complete index of the sets, along with images. If anything, I probably have more appreciation for these things than I did back in the day; there's little I'd love more than to find some of those cards buried within the boxes of ancient goodies that remain in the attic back at the old homestead, though I fear they've long since vanished. (I'm pretty sure I traded at least some of them away for Hot Wheels cars, which, back in the day, made perfect sense, though nowadays I'd much rather have the cards than the cars.)

If you have a soft spot for irreverent and slightly icky fun stuff, check out the Wacky Packages index. If you're old like me, maybe they'll bring back some enjoyable memories.

As for other events, this afternoon after work, I went seeking a few geocaches here in town (there are thousands of them). Most of the ones in this area are micros, meaning they're tiny cylinders, cleverly hidden, containing log sheets to sign when you find them. I found three of the five I was seeking; the areas where other two were located were brimming with muggles (non-geocaching indigenous personnel), which precluded any searching. I shall have to venture forth at an hour when muggles ought to be fewer and farther between.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Down by the River


Spent a few pleasant hours this morning geocaching in Martinsville with Peg. We drove out to Fieldale, a nice, rural community in Henry County, and hiked the relatively new rail trail along the Smith River, where we located the geocache we were hoping to find. It was an ammo box filled with a fair number of goodies; I left an autographed copy of Love in Vein II, which features my story "Bloodlight"; took an ambulance Transformer toy; and logged the visit in the cache log.

Then we headed to uptown Martinsville, had coffee at The Daily Grind, and just for kicks located a couple of benchmarks, which are geodetic survey disks embedded in the walls of buildings, bridges, concrete posts, etc. There are several other geocaches in this area that I'd like to find, so I may make another trip out and about this afternoon.

Geocaching has turned out to be a very enjoyable activity, and it gives Peg and I something to do together, at least when it's terrain that she can manage. It's also giving me some good material for a new novel I'm formulating. Some intriguing possibilities here.