Archive for March, 2010

Ridiculous!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2010 by Jaym Gates

I went to the optometrist yesterday. The assistant offered me a retinal imaging service to replace dilation. Since I had a lot to do yesterday, I gladly took that option. It cost $40, but hey, that works for me. So, the optometrist finishes all his tests and such, and says ‘hey, I’m going to put some drops in now’. These guys went to lots of school, right? They know what they are doing, right?

“Now we just have to wait for them to dilate.” Wait, what?

The assistant couldn’t apologize enough for the doctor’s error. She actually gave me a bunch of free stuff. However, he never apologized, and his ineptitude cost me time, discomfort, and a missed appointment. I won’t be going back.

As for the missed appointment…the chiropractor that I go to is a sweetheart. His main receptionist? A passive-aggressive bitch. We’ve fought her tooth and nail for almost a year. Definitely not pleasant. We called and told her that we would be there 15 minutes late, because another appointment had dragged over. “Don’t come. We can’t see you tonight.”

The icing on THAT cake is that their office hours suck. It’s almost exclusively times that neither my mom nor I can make it. We have 3 times that we CAN make it, and I have to go twice a week. They are closed one of those days, this week. Which means that I can look forward to a week of pain, soreness, and stiffness. I’m really regretting that contract with them.

On the way home, my left front brake started smoking. It had done this a couple of weeks before, and we’d taken it in to the shop. They stripped the brake down, didn’t find anything. Well, it smoked HARD last night. Now, we just had the brakes done a few months ago, so this was wrong wrong wrong.

Took it back to the shop. I love our guys, they know the truck by site and do all of the checks and stuff for free. So, they checked it. “Oh, your caliper is jammed. And the heat warped your rotor. Yeah, that’s going to be $225.”

We can’t wait on this. I seem to be driving north on a fairly regular basis, I drive 30 miles a day, and we volunteer on the other side of town. Fortunately, we have a lifetime guarantee from Firestone. The guy fought us, but I’m taking the truck in tomorrow. What pisses me off is that this kills an entire morning, because they screwed up last time.

And I think we all know how the day job has been going…

This is the week of stupidity and ineptitude on the part of way too many people. (Backed up, however, by some seriously awesome people and great news. Not all bad, but I’m pissed about these incidents!)

Holding My Own

Posted in Uncategorized on March 30, 2010 by Jaym Gates

Dear sweet, stupid, well-meaning chauvinistic boy,

I know that you are from a small ranch near a small town in the middle of a big place with not much in it. I know that you are young. Very young. With that youth comes, pride, and stupidity, and the desire for girls to think much of you. I know that you are funny, and flirt with the boys too, even though you’re just full of yourself and don’t really mean it. I know that you are high on being good looking and young, and available.

However, where I come from, the ranch boys learn to respect a woman. They don’t base that respect on the size of a woman’s breasts, or her height, or her looks. They base it on the stance, the attitude, the willingness. Sure, they are tough and expect everyone else to be tough too, unless it is those city pansies. Don’t claim to be tough if you don’t mean it, because they will go the extra mile to let you prove how tough you are. Trust me. I’ve been there.

I’ve earned that respect on the back of a horse, in the cab of a truck, behind a loose steer, in the arena, on the fences, wrestling with the boys and beating them up. I have been kicked in the head by a wounded horse, I’ve held foals in their first few minutes, I’ve winched a dead horse out of the muddy pasture while her skin split under the chains. I’ve worked 17 hour days in the summer sun, training and building and pulling my weight. I’ve ridden out the young stallion until he didn’t buck anymore. I’ve been kicked and trampled and broken and thrown and stomped and bitten and hit and beat, and stood up and come back for more. I’ve walked between two horses in the middle of a fight and broken that fight up. I’ve backed a 4 year old stallion down, just with my eyes, my voice, the language of my body. I’ve held a blind stallion’s head until he stopped panicking, and ridden the ‘dangerous, unfixable’ mare around the arena with only a halter and rope to back me up.

I was seven years old the first time someone pointed a gun at me. I was probably 10 when my uncle got in a fight with the neighbor, and the cops were called on my grandmother because she threatened to kill the neighbor–with a trailer hitch, of all things–if he didn’t leave her son alone. I was two when my aunt drowned, in front of me, and 13 when I found out that my friend had terminal cancer. I was three when my mother was kicked out of the house by my grandmother. I don’t know how old I was the first time I remember seeing my grandfather suffering from a grand mal seizure. I was in the 6th grade when he had a seizure in front of my friends. I was in kindergarten the first time I beat up a boy. I was 18 when I became an adult and told my grandparents that I was through, and done, and moving out. I was 19 when I moved across the country without a support network. I don’t have a high school diploma. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t have a boyfriend or a girlfriend because, right now, I really am happiest on my own.

So don’t you dare tell me that I wouldn’t last a day in your world. Don’t you dare condescend to me with quips about a woman’s place, or how soft I am. And if I ever hear you say what you said Sunday, ever again, I will show you just what I can handle, and what I can do, and what my place is.

You see, that’s the shit that my family fed me, all my life. Those are the words my cousin Aaron would say, after he kicked me, or tried to force me out of his way. That’s the attitude that my ex had. I survived them, and overcame them in ways I never imagined.

A lot of what helped me survive is what I learned working with my horses. That inner calm. The focus-without-focus. Seeing what isn’t there to see, anticipating the responses that they haven’t formulated yet. Meeting anger with control, hurt with comfort, immaturity with a strong but gentle hand.

Fixing the horses that other people have broken, in one way or another, is a game. It’s a game of psychology, and strength. Sometimes, you hunker down and hold the young stallion by his ear until he stops fighting you. Sometimes, you hold his head down and share that stillness until he lets go of his fear. And, more often than anything else, you wait. Wait until he knows what you are, what you want, what you want of him. You make him come to you, on your terms, and you use the most gentle, cruel, silent, still ways of persuasion that you have.

Trust me, kid. It’s not just horses that I have used those techniques on.

Yes, you are young, and stupid, and proud. Go ahead. Tell me that I should be ‘broken like I break my horses.’

‘Cause I’ve been broken like that. It can be fixed. Talk to me again, however, and I’ll show you what happens when broken things are fixed. Careful, we don’t have to tell you how sharp our edges are, or warn you that you aren’t tough enough to handle it.

*edit* I realized, after posting this, that the mentioned exchange happened after ANOTHER exchange with the same guy. I’d made a gentle jab about men always being hungry. He asked how I could ever date a guy, since I hated men so much. I said “men aren’t the only ones out there, y’know.” That was the end of that particular subject, but the timing DOES make me wonder…

Spicy Banana Bread

Posted in Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 by Jaym Gates

1 package Trader Joe’s banana bread mix
1 6oz cup chocolate yogurt
2 lg eggs
3/4c water
4-6 oz sweet and spicy pecans

Make banana bread according to directions, substituting the yogurt for the oil called for on the package. Mix in crushed spicy pecans. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon liberally over the top. Bake at 325 until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Slather with butter, and enjoy!

Recipe: Feta-Pepper Spread and Bruschetta

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2010 by Jaym Gates

Easy, quick, DELICIOUS party food/summer lunch.

SPREAD
1 roasted red pepper, or 1/2 cup jarred red pepper
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1tsp olive oil

Mash pepper with fork, add feta and olive oil, mix. Add herbs like oregano, marjoram or thyme if you want, but it doesn’t have to have anything else!

BRUSCHETTA

2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped basil
1tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle of oregano, rosemary and marjoram

Mix all ingredients together.

Slather feta/pepper spread on 4 thick slices of a hearty, whole-grain bread. Place on cookie sheet. Top with bruschetta, spoon extra bruschetta onto the tray between bread slices.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until tapenade is bubbly and the cheese is starting to melt. Serve hot, with a fork and knife, accompanied by a nice, cold Italian soda.

Urg

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2010 by Jaym Gates

I have 2 stories that I need to have finished by the 30th. And the ending for Nightmare. And Little Death stuff. Day-job stuff. Laundry. Friends. Living.

Today has been one of those days where things just kept going wrong. Miscommunications, the dog trying to dig to China, generally crappy feeling, people with road rage, the day job.

So, of course, I get a migraine.

I’ve only been getting these for about 6 months, since I got felled by that weird virus right before Dragon*Con. I’m infamous for my undiagnosable episodes of violent pain/illness, and have finally attributed it to stress.

So, instead of laundry and LD and useful stuff, I sit here. I am swaddled in towels and a fluffy robe, and look like a plushie of the Grim Reaper.

The fun part? I’m trying to scald my face off. And not with technical heat, either.

Pain meds don’t work. I routinely horrify coworkers by tossing back 6-10 ibuprofen at a time. That’s almost purely mental, at best, it takes the edge off. But Motrin makes me fuzzy.

The semi-cure that’s keeping me alive right now? A very hot shower. Cricking myself into a pose reminiscent a seal practicing yoga. And a bunch of herbs wrapped in an old t-shirt, kept pressed to my head. Cinnamon, ginger, peppermint, cedar, eucalyptus. Oh yeah, they get the blood flowing. They also feel like I’ve gotten a bad sunburn and am rubbing rough cloth over it.

But y’know what? I’ll take it. Sometimes you’ve just got to scald your face off to feel better.

North Carolina Writers’ Meetup?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2010 by Jaym Gates

It’s kind of crazy how many writers live in NC! I’ve met a lot of you, and know that there are a lot more that I’m missing.

Networking being the life of our business, I figured it would be great to meet up and, well, meet. Drinks or coffee, or both, on a week night? Artists and musicians are also welcome!

If anyone is interested, I’m looking at Monday, April 19, 20, or 26, being a Monday, Tu esday and Monday, respectively. The location would be somewhere in Greensboro, as that seems to be about central for the state. (SC and VA writers are also welcome, if you want to make such a long haul!!)

Who’s interested in meeting the other writers in the area?

300 Miles: A Launch Party

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2010 by Jaym Gates

I really did move to the wrong part of the state, y’know? Having to do a 300 mile round trip to get to anything literary can drain ya in a hurry.

It also means that I don’t do everything I want to do. I kind of wavered on going to the BullSpec launch party, for that exact reason. Glad I did go!

Sam Montgomery-Blinn has done a phenomenal job with BullSpec. A great sampling of styles, mediums and authors, a flavor of the locale, and support for local literacy make for a magazine that might make a pretty big splash. I highly encourage everyone and their sister to buy it.

Michael Jasper and Peter Wood were lovely gentlemen, and it was nice to meet them.

Natania Barron and I ran for coffee as soon as the party was over. Predicable? Us? Nah. Anyways, the entire trip was worth it, just to sit and TALK to someone who is smart, witty and experienced. Ironically, we both are both reading Perdido Street Station right now, and have similar (No one else has agreed with me on that book, for some reason) thoughts on Anansi Boys.

We had the chance to discuss plans for DragonCon and ReaderCon. Stay tuned for that news!

Love it or Hate it?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 by Jaym Gates

I think I wrote Climb No Mountains about a year ago. At the time, I only had a couple of finished short stories. One was crap from way back (when I was still in CA!) that heralds the beginning of my horror/weird surrealist obsession. The others were the 11,000 word New Name and the dystopian-weird Hidden Fire. All of them were generally of the same vein. I’d pretty much found my style.

I gave Climb to a couple of my first readers. The responses were…not favorable. I honestly wasn’t all that surprised. It was 1st person, present-tense surrealism. One reader was awesome enough to do a full edit to make the story more normal. I hated it. I didn’t change a single word in that story at the time. (This last week, however, I changed the tense and the first and last paragraphs. That’s it.)

I’ve sent Climb to Weird Tales, Ideomancer and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Weird Tales and Ideomancer both turned it down, but included notes to the effect of ‘that is spectacular writing’. The responses floored me, given the reader’s dislike of it.

I have gotten similar feedback on all of my weird stories. “Beautiful”, from publishers. “Confusing and overwrought” from most of the readers.

Earlier this month, I wrote a flash piece for Shock Totem. It was weird, all right! Mountainous women who snacked on teeth, hell-horses with chili-spice-flavored teeth, the history of the world carved on vast teeth…etc. I took a risk on it, because it was a lot of world-building for 700 words.

The feedback is predictable. There wasn’t any middle ground to speak of! The majority of people found it confusing or disconnected. A few people gave me praise for it. Love it or hate it.

I’ve got to admit, the frustrates me a little. I can write decent ‘regular’ spec-fic, and enjoy it, but I don’t feel that I’ve got much of my voice in it. It’s like my art skills: I can copy damn near anything, and it will look good, but it won’t be me, and it won’t be fabulous.

I do feel that stories like Climb, Hidden Fire, New Name and Tooth, Finger, Eye are (or have the potential to be) fabulous, memorable, one of a kind pieces.

But they get such mixed results, that I’m not really sure what to think! It’s not a matter of whether or not they are good, feedback and gut tell me that they are. It’s a matter of sustainability. I honestly don’t know, with the market being what it is, if it is worth my time to submit these stories.

*sigh* Climb is out on submission, and I’ll turn the Shock Totem piece into a full story. Hidden Fire needs a polish, and then I’ll see if Bull-Spec wants it. New Name needs another couple thousand words, so I don’t know where that one is going. I’m not giving up on my darlings. But I do wonder if this is conceit on my part.

Humility and Thanks

Posted in Uncategorized on March 22, 2010 by Jaym Gates

The last two weeks have been pretty bad. Physically, the last five months have caught up to me. I’ve been sick, in incredible physical pain, and lethargic. Work tensions are escalating again, leaving me cornered with nothing to do but show teeth that I try not to have to show. As much as I try to keep a low profile at work, and not rub people the wrong way, it really pisses me off when people go out of their way to be offended by me.

So yeah, I’ve been a little negative this week. Until I realized, this morning, how lucky I really am. I should say, realized again, because this is a realization that’s never been very far from my mind.

I started listing the stuff I need to do on my weekend. Drive to Durham for a launch party. Draft a short story for an awesome contest. Write a dozen critiques. Reply to an email about convention plans. Reply to emails from friends and business stuff. Read slush. Draft announcements for Little Death. Draft acceptances for Little Death. Start planning for the first issue of Little Death. Look over the changes to one of my Aether Age stories. Run errands to get CDs, headphones, art stuff. Fold laundry. Make jewelry. Finish Nightmare.

Why am I so grateful for things like running errands and replying to emails? Because I’m doing what I want to do. I’m doing it because I need to, not because I have to. I get to travel, I get to read, I get to write. I don’t have to look over my shoulder while I write, I don’t have to try and hide my books. I don’t worry that communications with my friends will suddenly be cut off.

The day I turned 18, I moved out and told my grandparents that I wouldn’t be back. Before that, I had to hide books under the dresser, in the corners of the barn where they didn’t go, at my mom’s place. If I wanted to go see a movie, I had to not only lie about where I was, but carefully cover my tracks so that I wouldn’t get caught if someone checked up.

I had a rebellious period…because I wanted to see Lord of the Rings, read fantasy, and have friends.

Now, I sit at a desk covered with dragons and horror, research books on magic, diagrams of spells for the Shadow and Soul series, notes to myself about travel or supplies. I have a job, and if I lose that job, it’s because of something I’ve done, not because of family circumstances. I can commit to events, to coffee with friends. I am my own master. If I don’t meet my deadlines, I have only myself to blame.

I don’t get paid for much of what I do at home. Writing isn’t for the money. It’s because I can. I’m sincerely grateful to be able to spend an hour with my headphones on, writing. Because in the old days, I’d have had one headphone off so that I could hear someone coming to check up on me, and I’d have to be ready to shut everything down.

Freedom is an intoxicating thing, and really, freedom is the only reward that I need right now.

AC 1:Big Black Dogs

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2010 by Jaym Gates

After today, I have decided against being the crazy cat lady. I want to have a big, rambling mansion in the country-side, with a huge fenced yard. Then I will adopt only Big Black Dogs and name them all after demons. What, you don’t dream of having your own hell-hound pack?

I’m going to be blogging about my experiences at the Animal Control on a somewhat random basis. I don’t go up there every week, but when I do go, I’ll share it here.

Why? Because, think about your opinion of the Animal Control, and of kill shelters. If you are like most people, it’s not positive. I’ve heard a lot of crap thrown at the department, and the people working in it.

Well, hate to shatter that illusion, but the people at the AC work their butts off, they live and die by the animals in there, and most of them go far beyond the descriptions of their job. And the dogs themselves deserve some recognition and attention.

Today was the last day (hopefully) of training at the Animal Control. Short on time this morning, so the tally was three black dogs and a Basset Hound.

The first girl was a huge black Great-Dane cross. She almost didn’t get walked, because she was cowering in the corner of her kennel. When she did come over, she was growling very quietly and the trainer wanted to move on. But Nallah sat down next to the gate and started sniffing my hands. Once we get into the kennel? Absolute love-bug. 75lbs of overgrown puppy trying to crawl into my lap while I tried to get a collar on her. The walk around the yard bore suspicious resemblance to a kite. Nallah is STRONG!

A complete 180 for the next dog, a tiny lab-mix puppy who enthusiastically licked my hand the entire time I was trying to get the collar on, and then decided she didn’t want to leave the kennel. Fine then. One fat puppy, lugged out of door. The rest of the walk was spent primarily killing the leash and fall face-first off of curbs.

The Basset was probably 90lbs…on 8 inch legs! Leverage! Between her and Nallah, I got a work-out.

The last black dog was the most heart-breaking. She’d been sitting in the corner of her kennel all morning, her head against the back wall. She’s a pretty little thing, but absolutely terrified. So I went in and crouched against the wall. She finally came slinking over, and just glued herself to me. She also wouldn’t leave the kennel. I opened the gate and she headed back for the wall. Sooo…I lugged 40lbs of dead-weight all the way out of the shelter. Once we were outside, she was fine, and ran around. Constantly came running back for love. The moment we started to head back in, she collapsed on the ground and played dead again. 40lbs of deadweight all the way back into the kennel. And then she collapsed on my feet and begged me not to leave. Poor girl.

Today’s lesson: Just because the dog is in the back of its kennel, terrified, doesn’t mean it is a lost cause. The kennels are noisy, scary places, full of weird people, dogs and smells. Some of the shyest dogs are the sweetest ones you’ll find. Give’em a chance, ok?