Wednesday, August 31, 2011

If You're Weird, Marry a Weirdo

An actual conversation with my husband:

H: I am no longer excited about the new Superman movie.

Me: Why?

H: Look at these pictures from the set. What's missing?

Me: Um...hey, where are his red undies?!

H: Exactly! There's his package just sticking out there for everyone to see! The red undies held it in!

Me: I never spent much time thinking about Superman's junk.


I never get those people who are married but have no common interests and just do their own thing all the time. What do they talk about over dinner, if not Superman's unit?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bus Stop

I've got a few things coming up soon: my short story "Buster" will hopefully be available for online purchase this week, I have a short story in an anthology from Sky Warrior Press called Healing Waves (a charity anthology for Japan) and another in Pill Hill Press' Daily Flash 2012: 366 Days of Flash Fiction (Leap year!). Both anthologies should be out in November sometime.

Here's another unpublished story from the Wayback Machine (seriously, this one 1s at least 14 years old). You know how some people just don't seem comfortable in their own skins? I've met a couple like that. Like they're trying really hard to pretend to be human.

I still like the idea of this story, but if I use it again the actual writing will be totally different.

So right after I got out of college I had this crappy little apartment over on Fifth and Elm. I worked at a bookstore halfway across town and I took the bus to work every day. It was cheaper than paying for car insurance.

There were some people that always rode the same bus I did. You know how it is. We’d all stand there freezing in the winter, and we huddled together under the shelter when it rained. You smile and nod at each other, and when someone doesn’t show in the morning you wonder if they’re okay.

One guy never seemed like he belonged there. I mean, he was there from my first day on the job, but he never really fit with the people at the bus stop. He was a little guy, probably 5”5, bald with a fringe of white hair around his ears. He was always reading a newspaper. He was there when I got to the stop, no matter how early I left the apartment. Every single day he wore a black suit with a maroon tie that looked like it had been ironed. His shoes shone and his briefcase looked brand new all the time.

It was hard to tell how old he was. There was something kind of weird about him. He looked fake, if you know what I mean. His flesh looked shiny, like someone who’s been burned badly, but it was more than that. He didn’t fit into his skin. Like it was a little loose in places, like right above his collar, but too tight over his nose. I never got a good look at his eyes, but I think they were black. He had big fuzzy eyebrows like caterpillars that looked like they were going to jump off his face and attack you.

Every day this guy got on the bus with me and sat in the seat behind the driver and read the paper, never looking up. I got off the bus before he did, so I don’t know where he worked.

This went on for about a year, and me and that guy and a couple of other people were there every single day. I got used to him.

Then one day, something totally crazy happened.

The bus came a few minutes late and we all climbed on. I sat in the front next to the window, across from and a few seats back from the weird guy. The sun wasn’t completely up yet, and I was watching the sky turn pink and red and orange as it rose. About eight blocks from where I got on we stopped again, and a few more people came on the bus. There was a fat lady, and a teenager with a bunch of face piercings, and a chick with a little kid. And an old man. The old man was wearing a black suit and a maroon tie, and he was carrying a newspaper. And I swear to you my eyes just about popped out of my skull. He looked exactly, and I mean exactly, like the guy at my bus stop. Shiny fake skin, bald head, everything. Even the evil caterpillar eyebrows.

But my weird guy was already on the bus, behind the driver, face buried in the newspaper. The new weird guy sat in the seat across from him and began to read his newspaper. I thought the driver would say something, or at least stare, but he closed the door and drove on like nothing happened. My weird guy didn’t even glance up, and neither did the new one. Everyone else on the bus was just reading or dozing or whatever they were doing before. No one seemed to notice the identical guys up front. Not a single person did a double take or stared. Only me.

By this time I was on my knees, staring over the back of the seat in front of me. It was so messed up. I looked back and forth until I knew for certain that those guys could have been twins, or clones. I dropped to the floor and squinted. Even their socks were the same argyle pattern.

I climbed back into my seat. Did they really not notice each other? Maybe they were twins who weren’t speaking and now by some coincidence they started riding the same bus. Maybe they were clones, and neither even knew the other existed. I kept making up stories to explain them. None of the new passengers even noticed them.

For about four or five stops I watched them. Neither of them ever looked up, or seemed to feel me staring.

We got to the stop right before mine. I was pissed, I thought they would sit there, oblivious, until I had to get off too, and I’d miss it when they actually noticed each other. But right after the people got off and on and the bus started moving again, they both suddenly folded their newspapers shut with identical snapping sounds. They raised their heads at the exact same time, and looked at each other.

Yes! My brain screamed. Finally! I sat up straighter so I could see their reactions.

But it was a huge disappointment. They regarded each other calmly, like Zen masters or something, for a few seconds. Then all at once they swiveled their heads around so their gazes were locked on me.

Me. At first I didn’t realize it was me they were staring at, and I glanced at the back of the bus to see what they were watching. There was nothing strange there, so I looked back, and they were still staring at me. My spinal fluid turned to ice, I swear, it was like being watched by a pair of giant insects. Their eyes were all black and shiny and just...malevolent, kind of. But I couldn’t turn away from them either. It was freaky. They knew I’d noticed them. So I guess they decided to notice me, too.

They kept staring with those insect eyes for six blocks, until we got to my stop. When the bus finally sighed to a halt at the intersection I was about to drown in relief, because I mean it, those guys were seriously unnerving. I stood up and God, my knees were shaking. I tried to act as casual as I could, like I didn’t even know those guys were there. I just slung my backpack over my shoulders and went to the front of the bus, and waited behind the line until the door folded open. I was so busy being not- freaked out that I didn’t realize the men had gotten off, too. Not until I heard them step down on the sidewalk behind me.

I started walking before the bus pulled away. I heard them following me, those shiny shoes clicked on the pavement like heels. I kept telling myself I wasn’t scared, even though I was panting like a dog. In a few seconds I’d be at work. They couldn’t do anything to me there.

I was almost there, only a few steps from the green awning of my store when I felt a hand grip my shoulder so hard it hurt. Like if it was the mechanical hand of that guy in Army of Darkness. And then this old dude, who was probably like fifty years older than me, shoved me into that alley between the Irish pub and the lamp store. That alley was really, really dark and narrow and smelled like garbage. He pushed me hard enough that I landed on the ground. I lay there with my backpack poking into my shoulders and stared up at these two guys leaning over me, like mad scientists from a horror movie or something. And their eyes were all black, so you couldn’t even tell where the pupils were or where the irises ended. Like praying mantises. They didn’t move. And I was so scared at that point I couldn’t say anything. Finally one spoke. I don’t know which one, if it was my guy or the new one.

“He saw us. He knows.” The loose skin around his neck wiggled.

“He’s the only one. It’s easily taken care of.”

“It would never have happened if you had been more diligent.”

“It’s impossible to find our assignments in this ridiculous central colony.”

Even though these guys were totally freaking me out, I still noticed that they talked funny, sort of metallic and halting, like if a snake learned to talk. It was right about then that I figured out what they really were, and it was like my spine was full of antifreeze or something.

“Only this one noticed. Those creatures so rarely even look at each other. We can terminate him, and the plan will proceed.” Was it my guy, or the new one? I couldn’t tell. Whichever one it was, I nearly peed my pants when I heard that.

My voice came out all squeaky, and my lips felt numb. “Whoa, guys, wait a sec-”

They kept going as if I hadn’t said anything.

“It may be more advantageous to allow him to live. The others will not believe him. With every denial, their own belief in these things will fade. He will be outcast, and our infiltration will continue.”

Outcast sounded pretty crappy, but it was better than being terminated. I nodded as well as I could, with my skull all squished up in my backpack like it was.

“There must be no more mistakes. We must remain in our designated areas and not be seen together. If he noticed, there will be others. Not many. But we must be careful.”

“I agree.”

So before I knew what was happening these creepy guys both leaned over me at the same time, with these weird plastic-y hands grabbing at me. I opened my mouth to scream but nothing came out. They snatched at my hands- man, it was like being touched by dry ice- and hauled me up and brushed me off. One of them grabbed my shoulder. They walked me out of the alley and back to the street and a marched me down to the store like drill sergeants. One of them opened the door, and the other one shoved me inside.

And I swear to God, when they turned to leave I saw the skin on the neck of one guy kind of ride up, like too-short pants legs, and underneath it was glittery and black and kind of hard-looking. And then they were gone, just like that, and my boss was standing there asking what was my excuse for being late this morning?

That’s exactly how it happened. I remember everything, especially the end part about the skin and the insect shell. I think this is really important information that every American- hell, everyone in the world- needs to know. So I would really appreciate it if you would print this in your magazine. I don’t expect any payment or anything, but it would be kind of nice since you can’t make much money lobbying Congress to look into this stuff, and my job at Skyline Chili doesn’t pay much.

Anyway, thanks for your time and please consider printing my story.

The End

Monday, August 22, 2011

Business Cards Are Hard

So a writer needs business cards, right? That's what I hear, at least. To promote my stuff and this blog and all, I need to have little rectangles of paper to give people with my info so they can stalk me in really creepy ways (my cat can be really annoying, so some days I actually wouldn't mind finding her in a pot on the stove...kidding. I like my cat. Sometimes).

I found some designs I like, but my husband vetoed them all. He said no one would take me seriously if I had a business card like this:

(what? Unicorns are badass)

Or this:

I admit the eyes on that deer kind of make me want to puke.

Or this:

Come on, she's hot until you get to the face part.

I had no idea choosing a business card would be this difficult. I hope I can figure it out before the convention I wanted to hand them out at (in March 2012).

Friday, August 19, 2011

I've Been Illustrated!

I just received a copy of an illustration for my story, "Buster", which will be released as an e-book by Darwin's Evolutions shortly (like, within a week shortly). IT'S SO FUCKING COOL. It's by Jennifer Miller of, who does amazing work, especially animals and more especially birds, which is why she did such an awesome dinosaur for me.

I've never had an illustration of any of my work before, except my own doodles in the margins (and I'm a pretty crappy artist). It's surreal, but it's definitely what I wanted for "Buster" and I love it!

I'll be posting a link to the story once it's available so you too can see the utter win that this picture is made of.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Unicorns are Bastards

Here's a published story that is still archived on Lightning Flash Magazine's site. This was intended to be a story about a unicorn, but it turned into a story about male oppression of women somehow. That happens a lot; my stories usually turn into something I didn't initially intend. I guess it's nice to be surprised.

So remember: man can be bastards, but so can unicorns.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Dreaded Writrer's Block

Writer's block is a hot topic among us literary types. How to avoid it, how to break it. We love to share tips and tales of despair and woe about how we just couldn't write for hours/days/weeks. Even the biggest of the big usually have some story about being blocked.

So you guys are going to hate me when I say that I have never had writer's block. Not once in my entire writing career (which started as soon as I knew how letters went together to make words, so almost 30 years). In fact, I usually have the opposite problem: too many ideas, too little time to get them all down.

Ray Bradbury- I think it was in Zeb in the Art of Writing- says that to avoid writer's block, you have to fill yourself up with things every day. Read books, newspapers, street signs, ads. Watch everyone you pass, eavesdrop on any conversation you can, look at everything. He says, in his terribly poetic way, that if you fill yourself up every day with words and ideas, you will never be at a loss for words and ideas.

Luckily, I am one of those people who is interested in just about everything (except politics. Ugh). This means I know a little about a lot of things, but don't have deep knowledge of any particular subject. While this might not be ideal, I think it works well for a writer. Because if I'm interested in almost everything, then I have a higher chance of finding ideas in lots of different places. I even read the crime reports in the local free newspaper. They're mostly DUIs and shoplifters, but every once in a while you get a gem like the guy who killed his brother's cat with a claw hammer and cooked it up in a skillet.

Since I had the kid, I've also discovered inspiration in nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Some of those nursery rhymes are pretty gruesome, if you think about it. I've completed one bizzaro story based on Mother Goose already, and am percolating some others. I've also been working on a series of stories for several years now that are retellings of Japanese folktales; they've all sold so far, so I might be onto something there!

So that's my advice. It may work for you. It may not. Pay attention, and wonder. And fill yourself up so it will all spill out later.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What Good Timing

I guess I'd better get some content up here, huh?

Here is an old story of mine; since I titled my blog after this story, it seems reasonable to post it first. It hasn't been published anywhere else.

This is an atypical story for me. No one dies in it. It's nice, maybe a little bittersweet. And it's short. I'm really fond of the two characters in this story; I actually have a couple flash fiction pieces involving them as well. I'll post those later.

In a few days I'll post links to some of my published, archived stuff that is more typical of what I usually write. Until then, enjoy "Cottonmouth".


When he awoke the first thing he heard was the doctor’s voice. “All right, Mr. Mori. Time to get up now.”

What good timing, Katsuhiro thought. He opened his eyes.

There was a vague fuzzy form in white, topped by a gray smear- the surgeon. A hygienist in a pink smock across the room. Something thick and cottony prevented his jaw from closing all the way, and his mouth tasted metallic.

The doctor was leaning out the door, calling someone. A smaller figure stepped into the room. Even through the haze of anesthetic he knew her instantly. Jessie. He tried to greet her, but the wad of something in his mouth turned her name into a garbled moan.

“No, we couldn’t keep them.” The doctor shook his head, answering some question she’d asked. “They were impacted. We had to shatter them to get them out, which is why he’s so groggy.”

Someone gently slipped an arm under his shoulder. Jessie. She was talked to him, maneuvering him to his feet. “Come on, Katsu-kun.”

It was the voice she used with stray dogs, to convince them she was their friend. He wavered to his feet, leaning heavily on her arm, but he leaned too far and received a noseful of her curly hair. Coughing, he lurched the other way.

In the corridor it occurred to him that he was leaning on a girl and he pushed her away. “I can walk.”

She moved back. He shuffled forward a little, until his shoulder connected with the wall. Jessie took his arm again without a word of reproach.

In the parking lot she left him swaying in an adjacent space while she rummaged around in the front seat. In the end she carried two armloads of flyers, Styrofoam cups, and assorted junk to a trash barrel in front of the oral surgeon’s office.

The car was sweltering. He leaned against the window, feeling sick, while Jessie twiddled the climate control switches. “Right, so I have to pick up your pain medicine from the pharmacy before I take you home. Depeche Mode or Bon Jovi?”

“Mode,” He gurgled. There was a dull, throbbing ache deep in his jaw, down his throat and up into his cheeks.

She seemed to understand that. Or perhaps she just knew him that well. Synthesizer music exploded out of the front right speaker, the only one that worked. Ultra. His favorite album.

The growl of the motor caused a surge of pain in his head. He closed his eyes, but that only made him carsick, so he gazed at the scenery that rolled past the window. Gray streaks of road, colored blobs of traffic light, a wide plain of blue sky spattered with white clouds. Jessie didn’t talk for a while. She rarely carried on a conversation in the car; she was one of the most careful drivers he’d ever seen, watching the other cars, obeying traffic laws he’d never even learned. For once he didn’t find it irritating. Her wariness meant he could concentrate on his own misery.

“Katsu-kun?” They’d stopped. Jessie waved her hand in front of his eyes. “We’re here. You want to come in or wait?”


“Okay.” She kicked open the door and paused a moment, looking at him thoughtfully. “You know, you kind of look like this chipmunk I saw one time when I was a kid. It had all this food in its mouth and its cheeks were all puffed out like yours.”

He blinked at her.

“That was right before our dog Boris killed it.” She closed the door carefully. He watched her stride into the supermarket.

Through the window he heard the muffled sounds of a parking lot: the ring of shopping carts crashing together, cars roaring, people talking. His thoughts floated in a haze of pain medication and anesthetic residue.

Sometimes, when major things happened, like a car wreck or his college graduation or having his wisdom teeth out, he wondered what it would have been like if he’d stayed in Tokyo. His car wreck wouldn’t have happened because he wouldn’t have had a car. All of his family would have come to his graduation; not just his parents, but his grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. And his fiancee, because by then he would have been engaged to some nice girl who held her hand over her mouth when she laughed. And he would have gone to the oral surgeon alone, and one of his sisters would have picked him up, Etsuko or Yukina. And whichever one it was would be late. She’d take him home on the subway, with all the other passengers staring, and then run back to work, and he would have waited in his cramped apartment until his mom got off work and picked up his pain medicine.
Instead he was here, in America, with Jessie who had taken the day off and sat in the waiting room and was now buying his prescription, which he had to remember to pay her back for.

He sank into a doze, so that when she came back and rattled her key in the door he jumped and bumped his forehead on the window. She sighed and dropped the bottle of pills in his lap. “Katsu-kun, you’re seriously out of it.”

Itai,” He whined, rubbing his head. Jessie leaned over and pushed his hand away, gently probing the sore spot. He sat still and let her. “No bump. No concussion. You’ll be okay after you take one of these.”

He clutched the bottle of pills to his chest all the way back to his apartment.

Jessie helped him out of the car and coaxed him up the stairs to his apartment, one arm held firmly around his waist. Katsuhiro thought he saw his neighbor peeking out at them through the curtains, frowning. She was an amazingly elderly Korean woman, and he thought she hated him. He supposed she had good cause, but it still bothered him.

“She doesn’t hate you. You’re imagining things.” Jessie took his keys from him and unlocked the door. He thought she was responding to a remark he’d made, but he couldn’t remember saying anything. Could she read his mind?

His apartment was dark and smelled like dust. Jessie dumped him on the sofa and disappeared into the kitchen. The couch was overstuffed and dangerously comfortable. Katsuhiro sank into its folds and curled up like a puppy.

“Sit up. Come on, you have to take one.”

He obeyed, leaning against the couch’s arm. Jessie sat down on the opposite arm and handed him a glass of water and a tiny white pill. He looked at the glass and realized that his mouth was full of cotton. He spit it into his hand and took the pain medicine. The water tasted like blood.

“Are you still bleeding? Gross! Here, I almost forgot, they gave me this too.” She stood up and pulled another wad of cotton out of her pants pocket. She took the bloody cotton without even making a face. He stuffed the new cotton into his mouth.

“Okay.” She ran a hand through her waterfall of red hair, flinching when her fingers caught a tangle. “Okay, I’m going to leave now and do some stuff, but I’ll come back later to check on you. I’ll bring some applesauce and pudding and if you’re up to it we can hang out. I’ll even bring one of my DVDs if you want.”

“Escape From New York.” He buried his face in a pillow.

“Okay, I’ll bring that one.” She leaned over and pressed a hand to his forehead. It felt cool and dry against his fevered skin. “Don’t die while I’m gone, will you?”

He nodded. It was getting hard to keep his eyes open. She rose to go. He reached out and caught her hand. She paused.

“Jessie, hey, Jessie,” He felt the cotton catch at the back of his throat. “I love you.”

She shook her head. “You idiot, I can’t understand a thing you say with all that stuff in your mouth.”

His fingers dropped away of their own accord. He felt something settle over him; a light blanket, probably the one from the back of the recliner. She was leaving, and even though he didn’t really want her to go, he was too sleepy to do anything about it.

By the time she returned, five hours later, he was awake and starving. They sat on the couch and ate vanilla pudding and applesauce and watched the director’s cut of Escape From New York.

“Katsu-kun,” She said suddenly. “Do you remember anything about this morning?”

He thought. “Did you say Mrs. Park doesn’t hate me?”


“And we stopped to pick up my medicine. I need to give you the money for that.”

“Anything else?”

Something bit at him, like an itch he couldn’t quite place. But when he reached for it, the thing squirmed away. “No. I was really out of it.”

She looked at him for a moment more, a curious expression on her face. Finally she shrugged. “Okay.”

“Check it out,” Katsuhiro downed another spoonful of sweet, cold pudding. “This is the best part.”

The End!

(incidentally, "What good timing!" is the first thing I thought when I woke from having my wisdom teeth out. Also, if you have your wisdom teeth out, don't get a milkshake afterwards. There's nothing like sucking down some milkshake through a straw and then looking down to see your milkshake full of blood)

Friday, August 12, 2011


So I'm a writer. It's what I do. I do other stuff too, like have a job and a family and other things. But that doesn't matter here, because this is a writer's blog.

I'm not really into the whole self-promotion thing. I would rather just write and have everyone leave me alone. It doesn't matter if no one ever reads what I write; I'm still going to write.

But since it would be nice if people sent me money for the things I write, I'm giving this self-promotion thing a shot.

What do I write? Short stories, novels, the occasional essay; but mostly fiction. SpecFic, Horror, SF, Fantasy, sometimes Humor. I'll be putting up links to my work that is still archived online, as well as news about new publications. I might even post some older work so you can see how much I used to suck and compare it to how utterly awesome I am now. And if I feel like saying anything about the writer's life, I'll say it here. And if I find any weird news stories that I like, hell, I'll throw those up here too.

Welcome to my brain.