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Today is the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake and, once again, I am in San Francisco. I did not plan this visit to coincide with the anniversary of that event—a shallow 6.9 temblor that brought down bridges and freeways, tumbled hundreds of homes, and turned large sections of expensive land into quivering jelly—but here I am. With the anniversary top-of-mind here, it hasn’t helped that, since my arrival on Sunday, we’ve had two minor quakes (registering 4.5 and 4.7). Put together, it’s made the locals a bit . . . jumpy. Continue Reading »

Take a Breath

During times like these, when the world is screaming along at Mach 2 with its hair on fire (which, I think it fair to say, it is currently doing), we must not be afraid to practice some self-care.

Take a breath.

Step to the side.

Look up, look around.

Take note of something that pleases you. Music. Art. Nature. Your kids. Your partner. A piece of work well done.

Relax for a bit. Just a few moments of indulgence. Something just for you. A respite from the chaos, the frenzy, the tragedies large and small.

I’ve needed a lot of self-care lately—an escape from the cruelty I see each day—and have found it in a very unlikely place.

Rugby.

Continue Reading »

My Cathedral

My cathedral is made of trees, but it has seen the downslope of my attention. Its pillars are still sound, standing strong through storm and summer heat, but the branches and leaves of its soaring roof have become crowded, ragged, thick with deadwood and duff.

Its nave and transept, too, once clear and open, are now overgrown as the plantings set down in years past have grown relentlessly upward, reaching out, filling the vaulted space.

The reason for this deterioration has been my inexhaustible neglect, piled year upon year, as life and events sapped me of my faith, my devotion, my love for this quiet place. Leaving nature to do as nature does has only compounded the situation, as self-sown volunteers sprang up in open spaces, and Seattle’s often rough sea-borne winds snapped off limbs twice as long as I stand tall, dropping their five-stone weights from the canopy down onto the hapless undergrowth below. Continue Reading »

As a white male, my specific morphology is well represented in the media, but as an introverted generalist, not as much. My introversion has its avatars in fiction, of course—neither nerdy brain-cases who live in cupboards under the stairs nor socially invisible milquetoasts with hidden strengths are too hard to find (hell, some of them show up in my own books)—but the generalists? the broad-spectrum observers whose curiosity drives them scattershot through life? Them, not so much.

However, just as I saw my inner introvert expounded upon in Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, this month, (despite the brain-crushing climb up the logarithmically steepening learning curve of my new job) I’ve seen my inner generalist defined and extolled in David Epstein’s new book, Range. Subtitled “Why generalists triumph in a specialized world,” it immediately caught my attention, and when I saw Epstein interviewed earlier this year, I had to have it. When it arrived in the post, it caught my wife’s eye, too, so much so that she grabbed it first (she’s also a generalist) making me wait.

This month, I finally had a chance to read it, and I am loving this book. Continue Reading »

Miss me? OK, probably not. (If you did, *mwah*.)

Regardless, I failed to meet last week’s self-imposed deadline because I did something that I said I was no longer going to do: I bought a first-day-release version of a video game.

I’ve been burned by the hype of Release Day versions, most notably No Man’s Sky and Fallout 76. For those two, I either stuck with the game through months of patches and updates (NMS), or I dropped it like a hot rock within a fortnight of fighting patches and incredibly bad design (F76). Those two reactions pretty much describe the trendline of my frustration with the beta versions that game studios now peddle as consumer-ready fare. I mean, you should not load up a brand new game on the day of its release only to have a 5GB patch begin downloading. That’s just nuts, but it’s indicative of the high-stakes meat-grinders that game studios have become.

However, when I heard that Borderlands, the irreverent dystopic sci-fi shoot-n-loot franchise, was coming out with a third major installment, (and in my book, there have been only two Borderlands games, as the “pre-sequel” and the spinoffs had neither the charm nor the playability of installments 1 and 2), I could not help myself and pre-ordered myself toward what I hoped and prayed would not be another Release Day filled with frustration and tears. Continue Reading »

  • Always stretch after rising. Legs, too.
  • There’s never a bad time for a nap.
  • You can eat the same thing every day and be just fine.
  • Catch and release is fun, but sometimes catch is what’s required.
  • Dawn is one of the best times of the day.
  • Staring out the window is a perfectly good use of your time.
  • Sometimes you just have to put up with other people.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for what you really want.

The Princess Gang rolled into the cul-de-sac on the same day Mr. B’s plum tree decided to bloom.

That’s the first line from a story that started flowing yesterday. Remembering, of course, that (say it with me) all first drafts are crap, it’ll obviously go through some revisions, but the important thing is that it was followed by a thousand words of a quiet little story that’s been pinballing around my brain for over a year.

The reason I share this is because nothing like this has happened for a long, long time.

Yes, I’ve written some fiction in the past handful of years. Most of it has been in posts on this very blog—vignettes, word imagery, poems—all meant for immediate consumption. I’ve also been slugging my way through a championship bout with a new novel which, though reportedly of good quality (especially for a first draft), has been the most difficult fiction project of my life. But a short story, a for-real short story? It’s been years. The last one I wrote was “The Book of Solomon.” It’s good, and it found a home in The Timberline Review, but I wrote that story years ago, and there has been zip-a-dee-doo-dah since.

Then yesterday: Boom. My pen began to work. My brain began to conjure. It was like my voice suddenly returned after a decade of muted trauma.

Why? Continue Reading »

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