Friday, March 31, 2006

isang tulugan nalang

And I tell you, I'm as excited as I used to be when I was a little boy just before Christmas.

There's your sense of wonder right there.

Tomorrow, one of my lifelong dreams comes true.

Now if only I had a camera...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

my daughter and the crocodile + gaiman contest news

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At work, I get a phone call from Nikki.

NIKKI: Are you busy?

ME: Not so much, what's up?

NIKKI: I just read your daughter your story.

ME: Which one?

NIKKI: "The Maiden and the Crocodile".

ME: Oh. But it's a bit complex for her, don't you think?

NIKKI: I read it to her frontwise. She listened to every word, and - at the end - she said "Mommy, that's so sad." And she began to cry.

ME: She what?

NIKKI: She cried and cried, you know, quietly, like her heart was broken.

ME: Oh no.

(When I got home later that day, I talked to Sage about the story.)

ME: Did you like my story? The one about the girl and the crocodile?

SAGE: No, Dad. It made me sad.

ME: Why?

SAGE: Because she took the crocodile's heart. It wasn't hers.

ME: But do you know why?

SAGE: Because she didn't have one. But it made me sad. I don't like sad stories.

ME: Yes, you do. You like "The Giving Tree" even though it makes both of us cry.

SAGE: Dad... I don't like your story.

ME: That's okay.

SAGE: But I still love you.

And there you have it, my friends. Separate the author from the text - literary criticism courtesy of Sage Alfar, age 4.

fully booked gaiman contest

I hear that the original announcement of the winners of the comics/spec fic content was supposed to be at the The 4th Philippine Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, originally scheduled for April 21-23 at the Rockwell Tent.

karenkristie says otherwise, pointing to July 16 (when it "might" happen).

And she's right. Fully Booked will make the announcement around June 15ish, in time to celebrate the anniversary of Neil Gaiman's visit.

Or so it seems ;)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

art attack

A few days ago, I surprised Sage with a huge bagfull of art supplies: colored paper, oil pastels, glue, scissors, paperclips, paintbrushes, envelopes, tape and so on. Delighted, she gave me a kiss and proceeded to think about what to create first. Her mother reminded her that her Uncle Alex and Aunt Kate had given her a box of grape juice (which she loves).

"Oh," Sage exclaimed. "I know what to do!"

She wrote a thank-you note, applying her growing design sensibilities, placed it in one of her new red envelopes and, later, gave it to the delighted couple.

I firmly believe in encouraging creativity in children, especially in my own daughter. I love the fact that she creates a mess of paper cut-outs, leaves glitter on my nose and festoons the fridge with her drawings. I hope she carries this joyful sense of creative expression into all her days as a grownup.

And maybe, just maybe, she can do what her mother and father cannot do - write and ilustrate her own book (I could, actually - if you like horrible stick figures).

salamanca cover & ateneo's press release

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The Ateneo University Press and Fully Booked will launch "Salamanca" by Dean Francis Alfar, on Saturday, April 1, 2006, from 4 pm, at Fully Booked, Promenade, Greenhills.

"Salamanca," Palanca's grand prize winner for the novel in 2005, is a powerful love story that unfolds in the mythical town of Tagbaoran in Palawan, between Gaudencio Rivera, a writer whose prodigious sensuality fuels literary feats, and Jacinta Cordova, whose transcendent beauty ignites passions in the unlikeliest individuals but ironically discourages the townsfolk from bearing children of their own.

Of Alfar's first novel Caroline Hau writes, "this audacious work of imagination takes the reader on a magical excursion into Philippine life and history while setting new standards for the Filipino novel along the way."

"Salamanca" will be available at the Ateneo University Press after the launching (02-4265984;, all branches of Fully Booked (02-7244057), Aeon (02-9269406), Bound (02-4117768), Popular (02-3722162), and Solidaridad (02-5230870).

Monday, March 27, 2006

praying for rain

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My mother claims to have invited everyone she knows (and tells me that two cabinet secretaries and a surprise mystery National Artist* will attend). My reaction to her text message was to raise an eyebrow and laugh aloud, startling my cab driver.

There is nothing like a mother's love, is there? She's just amazing.

And in case you missed it in the picture (that's me praying for people to come to the launch), "Salamanca" retails at P195 a copy.

* Speaking of National Artists, Krip Yuson is being raked over the coals for his opinion concerning Cirilo Bautista's shut-out in the second round of deliberations. Ian has details on the controversy here.

sunday afternoon

Yesterday we attended a baptism at the San Antonio church in Forbes Park. What struck me was how empty the adjacent area was, where the Rustan's Supermarket, Starbucks, Santi's and sundry stood desolate and unloved.

Ten years ago, when Nikki and I lived in Fort Bonifacio (blissfully childless in the way that all childless couple think that their lives are complete, not knowing the startling delight even just one child can bring), we would have lunch at one of the restos there or visit Fortune Ledesma's upstairs store to rent a video or four.

Today, the gravitic effects of The Fort (with its isolated pockets of culinary temptations) and Market Market are obvious, draining away the people with money to burn. In a way, this is good. Perhaps the small area we used to love will regain its previous charm; a relaxing place away from the bustle of life (granted, you have to be rich to enjoy it).

Afterwards, we had merienda at Max Brenner's, famous for its chocolate concoctions and astonishingly high prices. I was just thankful that I didn't have to foot the bill as we polished off pasta and fondue. Sage had a great time with chocolates, settling for the white over the milk or semi-sweet. I'm such a chocoholic (you will believe when you see my friedge, my pantry and my secret stash in my bedroom) so drowning myself in the love-chemical-inducing goodness was a no-brainer (though I'm seriously cutting down, like I'm doing with soda). I took the opportunity to invite people to the Salamanca launch.

Since we were at Greenbelt (far from our usual Ortigas area haunts), we stopped by Powerbooks - because if there is a bookstore in the vicinity, we will inevitably go and buy books. It's a given unalterable fact, like the tides. We got Sage a dinosaur book (because she now looooves dinos), Drew got Vandermeer's "Veniss Underground" (which caused both Vin and me to groan, since we could have lent him our copies first), and I got - for P99 only - a non-fiction book about Raleigh. On the way out we bumped in Banzai Cat, which just proves that we are not alone in our addiction to books.

Nikki saved all her energy for the Apple store, where she fell prey to the iPod-related merchandise. Hell, I fell prey to the iPod-related merchandise. Ever since my long-delayed birthday gift for her arrived (an iPod Video), she's been lost to me, endlessly fiddling with the device, ripping CDs, dragging MP3s into it. But I'm glad my gift arrived when it did. My wife needed a lift, given the unreasonable workload she currently has.

I was this close to buying an iPod for myself then and there. It was object envy of the highest degree. But I was thinking that I didn't have enough pocket space with everything I carry on a daily basis. Oh, but the accessories were so delicious. And if I had an iPod, I'd get that funky stereo thing that looks like a mini-boombox. You slip in your iPod and voila - instant party. And the design is just so attractive. I'm crushing on Mac's design sensibilities.

Later, over dinner, Nikki offered to pay for half of an iPod Video for me. With tears in my eyes I thanked her and said I'd think about it. Ang bait talaga ng asawa ko, let me tell you. But I'm afraid I'll tumble down the slippery slope of desire and end up buying every accessory I can.

Or maybe I just want a Powerbook.

Desire... desire is incredible, isn't it?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

iBlog2: The Second Philippine Blogging Summit

Last year, I was one of the guest speakers for the first iBlog Summit - and I had great time talking about writing in general (you can download my speech here).

Naturally, I'm delighted to be invited again for iBlog2 on April 18, 2006 at the U.P. College of Law, U.P. Diliman, Quezon City. The summit is scheduled from 9 am to 5 pm, with a roster of interesting speakers such as Rebecca MacKinnon of Global Voices and Manuel L. Quezon III (more details here).

My topic will be (surprise, surprise) about writing - "Write here, Write now: The Author as a Blogger". We'll see if I can make some sense LOL. Basically, I'm planning to talk about my experience with writing "Salamanca" as a blog, plus several more personal insights on the process of writing.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

workshop notes: describing emotions

Sometime ago, I conducted a writing workshop (I know, the cheek!). Here are a few reminders listed concerning describing emotions.

Maintain the Tone

Tone is the general feel of the particular piece of work. It is one of the most important yet invisible components of excellent writing. Once it is established (usually somewhere close to the beginning), it is vial that you maintain the tone, keep up the flow.

If emotion is an integral part of your work, then the general integrity of each portion, chapter, vignette or the entire piece itself must carefully regarded in terms of it being consistent.

Remember that the flow is not necessarily always one level (in fact, an unchanging tone can be detrimental). It is possible to make subtle shifts that introduce shades and textures. Likewise, it is possible to introduce dramatic shifts (that the reader must be prepared for) without disrupting the overall tone.

You need to be consistent but not overpowering when describing emotion. Rarely do you state the emotion directly (X is angry. Y is sad. Z is horny.) – unless your intention is to compete with an elementary school level writer. It is better to write around it, describing, rather than just stating. Show, do not tell. And to do that, you need to access one of a writer’s most potent tools - vocabulary.

Learn to describe feelings in different ways beyond simple “telling” description (because, yes, “X is angry” tells me that X is angry, but I don’t feel anything about that – so what?). Advanced techniques: use concrete imagery, use abstract imagery, refer to a previous experience, restate the obvious in words that seduce or transform the maudlin into the wonderful/exotic, be brief, be long, be clever, be direct, use rhythm, use repetition, use shock, use quietude – on other words, use everything in your toolkit that you feel will appropriately contribute to building and maintaining while keeping it readable.

See Beauty in the Negative

Anger, envy, hate, betrayal, lust and all the other so-called “negative” emotions are all part of the human experience, emotions held in common to some degree by everyone who ever walked the face of the earth. They are yours to mine as much as the “positive” ones. Do not fear them, face them, tame them, use them.

Small is as good as Big

Not every emotion is as huge as full orchestra. Keep in mind that the small ones (e.g. quiet desperation) can be as powerful to write about.

If you write about a single emotion, remember that it has degrees and nuances. Love, for example, has many different levels. So do anger, frustration, hate and hope.

Consider weight, impressions, overall feel and “energy levels” towards the goal of writing a piece that is “balanced” on its own terms.

The Challenge of Point of View

First person is the easiest of the three POVs to write; in fact, everyone writes in first person almost as if by default. Try third person because most likely your future work will involve characters you create whose stories are told in that POV.

But having said that, notice the power of “I”. There is impact because there is the impression of intimacy, of breaking the barrier between reader and narrator (or author).

Writing True

Be true. If you choose to write about a particular emotion, be certain to maintain the internal consistency (not just of tone) of the character.

Do not flake out.

Friday, March 24, 2006

spec folk

If you're at Powerbooks over at SM Megamall tomorrow afternoon, you will definitely catch me, Vin Simbulan and Andrew Drilon talking about speculative fiction at the behest of the Read or Die! Book Club.

It should be fun - or at least I hope so (please don't let me launch into a tirade against social realism, please please).

Make sure you say hello, okay?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

the little guy turning red

You know those SIM-type games like the one where you create a building and see if works? You have a population of little guys of a neutral color, waiting for the elevator. As they wait for the elevator of your multi-storey edifice to arrive, they slowly turn red. when they are truly irredeemably red, they walk away, or explode or something like that.

I'm the little red guy. I do not begin with a neutral color, I'm immediately halfway red. It's part of my nature, this impatience, and it reflects in almost every aspect of my life. In conversation, I'm impatient with people who do not quickly get to the point. In business, I'm impatient with clients who do not know what they want yet act as if they do. In decision-making, I'm impatient to get to the action point and actually do something instead of floating serenely in analysis-paralysis. I loathe queues and will arrive at 6AM at a place at opens at 9AM just so I can be first in line. I'm bothered by delays and get royally pissed when meetings are cancelled at the last minute, especially if I'm already en route. I'm a horror at restos - they probably have a picture of me in the kitchen reminding all and sundry to spit in my food because I've given them a piece of my mind concerning poor or delayed service. I have a hard time waiting for anything, and have had to learn how to discipline myself so I do not agonize over the impossible lengths of time that needs to pass before what I'm waiting for comes to pass. Most of all, I'm impatient with myself, internally castigating myself when I fail my own timetables, knowing fully well that I could have adhered to it had I acted a bit quicker, a bit earlier. Yes, I have issues about time and how some people do not value it as much as I do, and by extension, I have an issue with respect.

This thing contributes a lot to my internal stress, and, in combination with other factors, gives me headaches or triggers a sudden fatigue that almost borders on apathy. It is something I've working to conquer for most of my life, and sometimes I think I just can't win - but only when I'm very very tired, because I'm so driven by my "I cannot select all my life's circumstances, but I can sure as hell choose my attitude" philosophy.

Right now, I'm very tired.

The projects and timetables at work are punishing and have more than exhausted my little store of good cheer. With one huge particular project, drastic changes at the eleventh hour have rendered me next to brain-dead and shell-shocked, and I still have to go and manage expectations. A powerful part of my character is my refusal to just give up, but with this thing, I honestly just want to...sleep, red and all. Or explode (which is unwise).

What this means... what this means is that I need a strong drink. Or five.

To restore my default half-red mode.

(Red Guy photo by Barb Traub)

Monday, March 20, 2006

salamanca launch!

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Friends and readers!

Please please join me in celebrating the launch of my novel, Salamanca!

When: April 1, 2006 (and yes, I am struck by the irony of the date itself)

Time: 4-6 PM

Where: Fully Booked Greenhills, The Promenade

How much per copy of the book: I really don't know, but will update you when I find out (just got a message from my publisher/editor). But I assume there will a special, lower price for the launch.

What's the Programme: Again, I have no clue, but will make sure that there's something to eat (and drink!) naman :) I also need to start my breathing exercises if I am to survive reading aloud my own kilometric sentences.

So, yes, I'm very excited, and would love to have you guys there. And also very tense. Geez. PLEASE COME! (There, I've said it in all caps.)

For those who don't know what I'm babbling about: Salamanca is my first novel. I wrote it in under 30 days, for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2004. It was awarded the Grand Prize for the Novel at the 2005 Palanca Awards, and will be published by the Ateneo Press.

moving up day

Sage's graduation was a confetti-whirlwind celebration highlighted by a production of South Pacific (with her as one of the islanders complete with what-I-think-are-pompoms for lack of the proper word).

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As expected, I joined the ranks of the other teary-eyed fathers in the crowd, even though, of course, Sage is just moving up a level to kindergarden. Again I am struck by thoughts of how quickly time passes, and how I used to hold her tiny tiny form in the crook of my left arm as we both fell into dreamless sleep. The steps of her growth are predetermined and writ in stone; I cannot keep her a child forever. I just hope she remains the kind of person whose occupied space my arms can embrace, even when she becomes too heavy to carry. I hope, really truly hope, for so few things in the world; this is one of them.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006


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This morning, I went over to Megamall to pick up a few sundry items. I decided to pass by one of the magazine shops to check if the long-delayed 2nd issue of Story Philippines was there - because one of my stories is scheduled to appear in it.

To my delight, it was. "The Maiden & The Crocodile", one of my stories set in Hinirang, appears alongside stories by my comrades-in-letters - fictionist Ian Casocot and novelist Vince Groyon. It is a sad little story that is meant to be read backwards but which also works when read in the normal numbered sequence.

Here's what guest editor Emily Abrera thinks:

The weaving together of beasts and humans; the conversation between heaven and earth, the divine and the mundane, and how they hide behind one another’s masks. I like Dean Alfar’s “The Maiden and the Crocodile” because it hints, but never specifies. So always there is mystery, and it’s a love story besides! Beauty and the beast in reverse. And it is written sparingly; the author leaves room for the reader.

I love her, I do :)

It always feels great to have something in print - it makes the story, your labor of love, somewhat more real than what appears on your Word document or your home printer. I was so happy that I texted Ian and mailed him a couple of copies of the magazine then and there.

With just two more stories waiting to see publication ("Sabados con Fray Villalobos" in a food antho edited by Cecilia Brainard in a couple of months, plus a dragon story for Vin Simbulan's Dragon antho), I've all but exhausted the inventory of older stories I've submitted to various places. This means that it is time to start a fresh cycle of submissions left and right if I intend to have my new stories see print.

I'm also looking at having a collection of my fiction published by the Ateneo Press (the publishers of Salamanca) or by Anvil (the publishers of Latitude)- though honestly, all of a sudden I want it have more new stories than previously published ones. Which means I've got to really really get to writing those new stories.

Right now, I have a couple of things that argue to be finished, but the demands of work are simply overwhelming. I will make time soon though. I don't just have to, I need to. Especially when I know that a lot of other authors are busy actually writing instead of, like me right now, just talking about writing.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

spam triumphant

I finally removed my longstanding tagboard. It was just so annoying, seeing how the spammers had taken over it, offering online poker and various things. I'll be looking for an alternative, perhaps Floogle or somesuch. Until then, no tagging, sorry - you'll have to use the comments section under each post.


Friday, March 17, 2006


if I asked you to kiss me
here, here and there
would you think
once about salt
twice about skin
thrice about consequences?

and when your tongue
touches mine, would you
recoil at my heat
squint your eyes shut
or just take the moment as is?

because, I must tell you:
there are places and dangerous spaces
bones and comfort zones
boundaries and lines to be crossed

please be warned:
you encroach at your own peril
(even though, really, you're invited -
how could I not do so?
what would you say?
what would you think?)

and if you turn the questions back
you won’t find answers in my eyes;
they're turned inward looking
for the sense in the sensations
for the reasons I put us at risk
in the manufactured passion
of this instant

but you should know this:
i'm growing accustomed
to the tang of sweat

i can live with your flavor

sisig & haggis

I attended the launch of Latitude last night, in the company of friends. Being mostly a hermit-writer (in the sense that I really don't attend these functions and thus am not part of any powerful or influential or popular literary circle, being mostly content with the trying to do something with speculative fiction), it was a change to meet up with several writers whose work I admire, and well, to talk shop.

The last time I spent at length with Sarge was at the UP Writers Workshop waaaay back in 1992. Back then, none of us knew just how far any of us would go, consumed more with what we were writing in the present in the context of short-term planning rather than projecting possible futures into the far reaches of time (to us, then, 15 years ahead was inconceivable; the arrogance of youth presumes time is frozen to its advantage). But I came upon a post by Paolo Manalo that lists, in part, that particular workshop's roster, and it is amazing: "The other writing fellows of that time (batch 1992) included: Dean Francis Alfar (Salamanca), Rebecca Añonuevo (Nakatanim na Granada ang Diyos), JB Capino (Lam-ang), Michael Coroza (Dili't Dilim), Ruel S. de Vera (The Most Careful of Stars), J. Neil C. Garcia (The Garden of Wordlessness), Vicente Garcia Groyon (The Sky Over Dimas), Angelo Rodriguez Lacuesta (Life Before X), Hansel Mapayo (Sanggi), Chris Martinez (Welcome to Intelstar), Doris Olivar-Aquino (Karugtong ng Isang Pangarap), Eric Ramos (Azucena), Auraeus Solito (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros) and Roberto Ofanda Umil (Oda sa Kaldero)." And, of course, it included Paolo Manalo (Jolography). And to think that for the most part of the workshop, I was thinking about how to get a particular girl into bed.

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So I was happy to see and talk to Sarge Lacuesta, of course. And to celebrate his anthology, a literary mix of haggis and sisig. The event was sponsored by both Anvil and the British Council which meant good food and endless whiskey for everybody. (A note about me and whiskey: we are mutually exclusive. I do not have a sophisticated enough palette to appreciate its intimations of smoke and peat moss. I know I promised Sarge that I'd get drunk with him, but it really wasn't to my taste.)

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Cynthia Alexander (who is married to Scotsman) performed with her group and what amused me was this one man whose sole contribution to their set of songs was to clap his hands...once in a while. I remember Nikki saying "Hey, I can do that!".

In midst of things, Butch Dalisay (one of my favorite Filipino writers) came over and told me to apply for the Scottish workshop (the name is a tongue-twister and is so complex that my brain recoils from my attempts to recall it). I do know what it is and it's an amazing thing. Even more amazing because Butch offered to sponsor me/recommend my acceptance, along with another recommendation from Krip Yuson. I was floored by his kindness, and his belief in my ability as a writer. I'm not sure when it is (it's a month-long sojourn to a castle in Scotland) but I do know it is something I'd love to try. Who knows, maybe I'll even get part of a new novel or something done.

I also reminded Luis Katigbak and Yvette Tan to begin their stories for the next volume of Philippine Speculative Fiction. I take every chance a get to tell writers about the anthology, and to submit stories for consideration. (I'll be making the general call soon-ish, and like before, will be more than happy to read through works of unpublished authors).

When I got a chance to read from Hollow Girl: A Romance, I selected the sexy passage that leads up to a devastating leave-taking. My friends told me later that I sounded like I was narrating a sequence in one of the role-playing games I manage. What amused me was my discovery that some of my prose does sound interesting when read out loud. But how it sounds is always secondary to how it reads, to me, when I am in the process of writing, and later, editing. (It's different for plays, naturally, which must sound right).

Sayang wala si Bing Sitoy. I've never met her or talked to her, but I love her writing. Ian! Ipakilala mo naman ako, via email!

At ngayon, balik trabaho.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

thinking about speech

The thing about feeling strongly about your right to have an opinion and to be able to freely express it is that you need to respect the right of other people to have different opinions and likewise be able to express them.

In our country, there is an active suppression of voices that speak against the Lady President. There can be only one set of proper opinions – everything else has been colored by the implications of words like “treason”.

These voices make no secret of their agenda: they want change, and they see the first step of change’s occurrence with the removal of a leader who has lost the support of the nation.

There is an avenue for legitimate protest, and it is used by these voices that represent many different constituencies including the poor and voiceless. The government, however, has labeled of these efforts, all of these voices speaking legitimate concerns, as dissident, anti-government, destabilizing, narrow-sighted, selfish and as a threat to national security.

Or, more properly, as a threat to their security. Because those in power want to remain in power through any means and any critique, however phrased, is as welcome as a mother-in-law's presence during your honeymoon.

These voices have a right to be heard. You and I may not necessarily agree with what they’re saying or with what they’re asking for, but we need to respect their fundamental right to speak and be heard – and to hold strongly to their opinions, whether or not those opinions are popular and acceptable or threaten our safety zones. This embraces all sorts of opinions, from the religious to the political to the press, and so forth, in all mediums of expression including rallies, speeches to large groups, manifestos, blogs and so on.

We all equally have the right to express ourselves even if (and perhaps even, especially if) our opinions distress the people in power.

We need to encourage a country that talks and listens, a political system that debates with the intention of coming towards a mutually acceptable solution to issues. We need to encourage opinion, not suppress it, because even in the grip of heated arguments we can learn about each other.

There will always be opinions that are frightening or unacceptable. And the way to deal with them is not to maim or kill the speaker or to intimate further violence to his family and loved ones, which is the way of the non-thinkers and those threatened by reason.

The way is to hold dialogues, as reasonable people, and to take it from there, taking steps to ensure a positive outcome for the benefit of everyone involved.

It begins with being able to speak freely, and being willing to listen with an open mind.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

on my nightstand

Given the fact that I've not finished reading through my Florida loot, I really shouldn't be getting more books. But the compulsive bookbuyer in me always, always wins. Here are the ones I'm going to plough through (excluding all the comic book trades that I no longer bother to list):

Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things . . . : That Aren't as Scary, Maybe, Depending on How You Feel About Lost Lands, Stray Cellphones, ... Quite Finish, So Maybe You Could Help Us Out edited by Ted Thompson

Any anthology with a new story by Kelly Link is a must-read.

Parallel Worlds : A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos by Michio Kaku

I love books like this one, dealing with string theory and new physics.

Little Kingdoms by Steven Millhauser

Once in a while, I pick up a collection of stories by an author I'm not familiar with. So this could be hit or miss. We'll see.

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco


Shalimar the Clown : A Novel by Salman Rushdie

Nikki's favorite author is within my Top Ten faves as well (I especially love The Moor's Last Sigh). This looks nice and juicy.

drink and be merry

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Sarge Lacuesta is the Filipino editor (his counterpart is Toni Davidson of Scotland) of Latitude.

SARGE: You must celebrate with me by getting drunk and stupid.

ME (thinks): Oh, no! But what about the American Idol results show?!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

briefly noted: arre's agimat

I excitedly read a copy of Arnold Arre's new graphic novel, Andong Agimat, expecting to be floored by one of my favorite local storytellers (remember that he brought my comic book "The Lost" to life a few years ago).

While the quality of Arre's ideas has consistently grown, and while his art continues to amaze (there are more than several noteworthy sequences I can cite), I have serious issues with the book's structure, pacing and general flow.

Still, all in, it is another incredible achievement from one of the foremost comic book creators in the country. Andong Agimat will see mass release next month, so make sure to get a copy.

Monday, March 13, 2006

latitude press release


British Council Philippines and Anvil Publishing invite you to the booklaunch of “Latitude,” an anthology of works by contemporary writers from Scotland and the Philippines, to be held on Thursday, March 16 at the Conspiracy Garden Café along Visayas Avenue in Quezon City.

The book collects short fiction from seven Scottish and seven Filipino writers, ranging from the young and newly-discovered to the internationally-published and well-established. Among the Filipino writers are Lakambini Sitoy, Dean Alfar, Jose Y. Dalisay and Alfred A. Yuson, while the Scottish side includes Graham Bell, Louise Welch, Zoe Stracha and Iain Maloney. Glasgow native Toni Davidson co-edited the book with award-winning Filipino writer Angelo Lacuesta. Efforts are also underway for the book to find equivalent distribution in the UK, initially, through the London Book Fair and the British Council’s Literature showcase at this year’s Edinburgh Festival.

Alluding to Burns Night, Conspiracy will take on a Scottish motif anchored by a modest exhibit on Scottish arts and culture. The programme will feature readings from the book, interspersed with live music performance by Filipino world music specialist Cynthia Alexander. There will also be a Quiz Night with questions on famous Scots. A special video presentation featuring Glasgow-based Franz Ferdinand will also be shown.

For reservations (RSVP), call 7471622 and look for Anne Manalaotao of Anvil Publishing. Cocktails begin at 6:00PM.


the girl in the white dress

Last night, we went shopping for Sage's graduation attire. The requirement was a long white dress and matching shoes. I didn't think that the dress would be an issue with me - and as for shoes, well, she had outgrown her older white pair so no problem. However, when I fished through the children's section of the Robinsons Galleria department store, I almost fainted.

The price tag of the dress: P1,245. For a dress my daughter will wear only once. Briefly, I considered either a) telling the school that Sage would be out of town/sick during graduation and to just send us the certificate; or b) having my daughter show up wearing one of her gazillion Disney Princess full ensembles (with crown) and see if they'll prevent her from marching.

As I agonized over the harsh reality of the unforgiving price tag, Nikki and Vin and Sage were tooting through the surrounding racks.

"Family," I said tersely. "I have found the little girl's dress and we will simply have to forego dinner for the rest of the month."

"Dad," the little girl said. "We found my dress too!"

"We will buy you this dress and you will wear it everyday until it falls apart," I told Sage grimly.

"No," said Sage's evercalm mother. "Let's get her this one."

Nikki handed me a pretty white dress that shone like snow in sunlight. Trembling, I looked at the price tag. And, as is par for course for my experiences in these things, it was cheaper. Way cheaper.

"This is a wonderful dress," I exclaimed a bit too loudly. "We shall buy this dress."

The next round of purchases involved Sage's shoes. Naturally, I pounced on the first nifty-looking pair I found, looked at the price tag and retreated into devastated shock. Nikki naturally found a reasonably-priced pair.

The lesson: I suck at shopping for stuff for Sage, falling prey to point-of-sale tactical placements. Thank goodness my wife is there.

potty mouth

I had a blast delivering my speech at the Murder by Design event held last Saturday at 70s Bistro. The speaker right before me ran out of time midway through his speech so I was very conscious of completing my talk within my allocated time.

As a result, I breezed through my flash notes, talked a mile a minute, dipped into a few amusing digressions and finished my thing in record time. I think I did okay.

The funny thing is what ultimately became my somewhat-extemporaneous core statement: "If you are in the design business and you have no clients, then you have no projects, which means you have no billings, which means you no money. If you have no money, you're shit."

Yes, that's me at the height of my eloquence. Hahaha. I shudder at being quoted:

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"Kung wala kang pera, shit ka!"

- Dean Francis Alfar
Partner, Kestrel IMC

But I meant it in the context of having a business - since the point of having a business is generating income.

Thanks to Berger and the Philweavers for having me over, and to Paolo and my Kestrel crew for their support. And it was great seeing a familair face or two in the audience.


With the first invitational Acquire tournament set for the weekend, my friends and I who plan on competing are getting lots and lots of practice games in. You don't know how much. It's crazy, it's absurd, it's fun.

Within our league, I've managed to reclaim my number 2 rank (thwarting the menace of my own wife), right behind the league leader, Kate. Unlike games like Magic or Settlers of Catan where I can verbalize and rationalize my strategies, in Acquire I clearly am doing something right but I don't know exactly what. Which is both good and bad. I'll be relieved to have the tourney over and done with - regardless of how I ultimate perform - just so I reclaim my life and devote time to other all-consuming leisure pursuits (like Traders of Genoa).

no one escapes neil gaiman's contest

At a meeting last week, I was talking with a client after possible new projects involving content development.

CLIENT: I like your stories. Especially the Kite one.

ME: Wow. You read it?

CLIENT: I have your book.

ME: Wow. Thanks.

CLIENT: So, do you expect to win the Neil Gaiman contest?

(stunned silence)

I lit a cigarette and explained that:

1. It is a competition and everyone who participated and submitted entries is there because they want to win.

2. When I enter a competition, I do so with the intention of winning and that I'd be lying if I said otherwise.

3. The word "expect" is too strong a term. It implies that I believe that the contest has already been won - by me. That line of reasoning is patently absurd.

At this point, all entries are equal (and equally blind - there is no indicator of authorship attached to the stories that the judges will review). None of us know who the judges are, or at least I don't. We don't know the judging process and what the Filipino judges - who could possibly screen entries before giving them to Gaiman - are looking for. I could possibly fail in the initial screening if my story doesn't tickle the judges, in the same manner that all other entries can be deemed unowrthy.

Anything can happen. So how can I expect anything? In the place of expectation, I have a carefully managed measure of hope.

And a very Filipino sense of bahala na.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006



day off

The fates, having a cruel sense of humor and knowing that I put on 30 lbs. whenever I'm on air, decided to send over Carmina Villaruel to my store - Petty Pets - to tape an segment for her show, "Day Off". (And no, I won't be cruel and make small talk about how her ex-husband came out of the closet on national TV).

The concept is cool, actually. They pick a deserving working person and treat them to a day off. In this case, it's a chambermaid from a local hotel. Petty Pets will give her some animals as part of her reward.

As the owner, I've been requested to be there and have incidental exposure. Gah. It'll be more like indecent exposure, you'll see. The show tapes this Friday afternoon (the faxed request came on a GMA letterhead, but the show airs on QTV, which means GMA owns QTV, I suppose).

murder by design

It took a State of Emergency to postpone it (resulting in me thinking it was rescheduled for last week) but Murder by Design is set for this Saturday, March 11.. I'll be speaking on how to set up your very own design company and hopefully won't make a fool of myself. Details here.

If the previous arrangements hold, I'll be a sitting duck for Studio 23's interviewers. Gah.

read or die

On Saturday, March 25 at 4pm, I'll be speaking about Speculative Fiction at Powerbooks Megamall. Joining me will be Vin Simbulan, Andrew Drilon and Nikki Alfar. Since this is not a televised thing, I'm perfectly happy LOL

I relish opportunities to champion the cause of spec fic. I'll speak about putting together the first Philippine spec fic antho. Now I just have to hunker down and write my key notes - but it should be fun.

latitude TOC

For some reason, Photobucket refuses to display the cover image and the sensible part of me has run screaming back to my cave.

Anyway, here's the back cover blurb:

Latitude is the first literary collaboration between the UK and the Philippines, collecting short fiction from seven Scottish and seven Filipino writers, ranging from the young and newly-discovered to the internationally-published and well-established.

Here's the TOC:

A Directors Story
Graham Bell

We Global Men
Butch Dalisay

Lizard Luck
Mark Waddell

Que Lastima! Espero Que Tu Se Mejore
Menchu Aquino Sarmiento

Re: Torturing
Mela Vich

Shut Up And Live
Lakambini A. Sitoy

Like a Pendulum in Glue
Toni Davidson

Collateral Damage
Maria L. M. Fres-Felix

After they’d gone
Zoë Strachan

Angelo R. Lacuesta

The Magpie
Adrian Searle

Hollow Girl: A Romance
Dean Francis Alfar

Things I Know Are True Because Hollywood Says So.
Iain Maloney

Luis Katigbak

Young Lochinvar
Louise Welsh

Old Shoes
Alfred A. Yuson

Edited by Angelo R. Lacuesta and Toni Davidson

I really think that this was such a cool project.

I think something similar should be done for speculative fiction - which reminds me of a thread over at Banzai Cat's. Hmmm. A spec fic antho, half stories of the fantastic from the Indian subcontinent and half from our archipelago. Hmmm again.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

vignette: kitchen

Chen Chen spared the kitten one last remorseless glance before plunging it into the bucket of cold water. Immediately, the small animal clawed and struggled for air, gouging deep ruts into her thin arms. The young girl stoically took in all the pain and did not move from her squatting position as the hisses and gasps for life ended in a dispersal of bubbles. When the surface of the water was calm, Chen Chen lifted the lifeless corpse out of the bucket, trailing water and dislodged fur across the kitchen courtyard to the where the dead dog rested, its eyes still open from the shock of betrayal.

She pushed both into an empty rice sack, grimacing at the burning lines on her arms, and hefted the dead weight onto her narrow shoulders. With her eyes on the ground before her, Chen Chen kicked open the little wooden gate and began to walk to the crossroads, whistling tunelessly and bent over like an old man who knew too much about insensate love.

In the late atfernoon, the crossroads was a dull, uninteresting place, marked only by an ancient stone etched with a number. Chen Chen selected one corner of the crossing paths, set down her burden, and began to dig with her hands, flinging away rocks and weeds and roots, imbuing them with disinterested trajectories. When she could not dig anymore, she measured the hole with her extended arms, ignoring the throbbing of her torn fingernails, and decided that it would do.

Chen Chen dragged the dog out of the sack first and pushed it down into the hole, its wet brown fur offering no contrast to the mute earth's colors. Then she carefully placed the dead kitten on top of the dog, positioning the cat's little head so that it looked like it fell asleep instead of being drowned. She tried to close its eyes but stopped when the wind blew a little too strongly.

With the first part of her task done, Chen Chen straightened up, brushed away soil and grass and dirt from her heavy kitchen dress, and walked back to her old mistress' house, her tuneless whistle hinting at a slowly growing hope.

When she returned, she washed her hands and arms thoroughly before devoting her spirit and concentration on the two hundred and seventy six tasks, big and small, that she still had to do. She performed them without speaking, ignoring the presence of the old woman who woke up at the precise moment the sun set to begin exoriating her with words whose hooks and barbs bit deeper than any struggling cat's claws. Through the whirldwind of curses, threats and imprecations, Chen Chen chopped, sliced, rinsed, dried, cured, stewed, preserved, blanched and baked, the exposed nerves of her fingers numbed by the combination of tomatoes, ginger, beef, shellfish, pumice, charcoal, olive oil, salt, blood and tears.

When she finally finished the day's kitchen tasks, Chen Chen collapsed on her frayed pallet and thought about the next day, only three hours away. That was when she could sneak out of the kitchen, run back to the crossroads, unearth the animals she had just buried, and proceed with the second step of her long plan of escape.

Tomorrow, she would catch a kitchen spirit and taste the result of her simmering plan of revenge.

latitude launch

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Yup, the Fil-Scot anthology co-published by Anvil and the British Council will be out next week. Come and join us!

Im beside myself with joy since, like a literary fanboy, I'll be in the same book as Butch Dalisay, Krip Yuson and other cool Filipino authors, plus the writers from Scotland. And of course my contribution is spec fic.

The only thing startling is the cover price which means I can't buy trillions. Sigh.

Hope to see you guys there.

Oh, and Salamanca's launch, according to my publisher, is next month, April. I wait with bated breath.

in medias res

On my way to work, I saw a young couple engaged in a rather violent confrontation. I slowed my pace to eavesdrop on their conversation, the writer in me not bothered in the least by the violation of their privacy – after all, if you choose to air your dirty laundry in public, you’re fair game for any and all observers. As I neared them, I realized that almost every other passer-by had slowed down as well, as if all of our feet were suddenly mired in invisible molasses.

The girl, long-haired and attractive in a purely conventional Filipina way (I do not mean to sound disparaging, but you know the type), was repeatedly striking at the man with her purse. The man, baby-faced , dark-haired and dressed in a blue shirt and yellow printed tie, was deflecting each blow with his left arm, his face contorted in anger as words spilled from his mouth.

SHE (striking): Bakit ka ganyan!

HE (blocking): Basta! Bahala ka sa buhay mo!

SHE (striking): I hate you, shit ka!

HE (blocking): Mas shit ka!

I was about to pass them, drawn by the inertia of predetermined daily route. Though the voyeur in me wanted to stop and listen and see the drama through, I could not bring a halt to my cadence. She continued to hit him, each blow successively weaker, as she broke into tears. He stopped blocking when the strikes were reduced to mere tokens of protest and took a step back.

SHE: Bakit mo ginawa sa akin ito?

HE: Wala akong choice.

SHE: Shit ka.

HE: Bahala ka. Whatever.

And he walked away.

Several steps later, I fail to resist the temptation to look behind me, to see if the girl was still there. She wasn’t, her body swallowed by the small torrent of pedestrians who, seeing that the drama was over, took her back into the collective stream of shoes and heels.

In the elevator of my building, I thought about what I just saw, the writer in me spinning delirious scenarios, answers to the unspoken questions of the scene I chanced upon in medias res.

The most obvious story is that of a broken heart, a betrayal of trust, and variations on the rhetoric of goodbye. It got me thinking even as I sat down in my office, set up my laptop and checked my day’s task list and email. For some reason, an old memory came bubbling up to my consciousness. It did not seem linked to what I had just witnessed. Or maybe it was.

When I was a younger man, before I got married, I was a firm adherent to the notion of the easy fuck. To get free sex, I’d say whatever the girl wanted to hear, relying on my easy charm to overcome her defenses. After sex, I’d say goodbye, promise to call, and promptly forget her name.

When places like Faces were hip and hot, my friends and I would go dancing to pick up girls. In the flash of light and hypnotic dance beats, I would dance unabashed, knowing that it didn’t matter if I weren’t the most handsome guy in the room. What mattered was my attitude, the dance, the way I looked at people, the way I carried myself. Besides, once I got talking, the battle was practically won (yes, I was an arrogant snot in my youth).

One time at the now-defunct disco of Shangri-la, I targeted a pretty girl, looking at her meaningfully before transforming the eye lock to nothing more than an accidental glance. She moved to the ledge above me and suddenly reached down and yanked my hair, forcing me to look up at her.

SHE: I like you. Are you a model?

ME: No, but I like you too.

In bed later I went on automatic, going through the preliminary motions of small talk and foreplay. I never rushed into the main action, savoring the oncoming fuck as I would a desirable main course. As I began to undress her she stopped me, suddenly anxious.

ME: What’s wrong? It’s okay, it’s okay.

SHE: No, no. Wala. I’m just- I have a scar on my tummy.

ME: Show me.

She slowly raised her top, revealing her pale stomach inch by inch. I first saw the dark edge of a scar and I remembered thinking that it wasn’t that bad. But as she continued to lift her t-shirt, the scar continued on and on until I realized what is was.

She looked at my eyes as my fingers traced the edges of her Caesarean section and I felt her tremble like she was about to explode, perhaps to explain or to excuse the fact that someone so young was already a mother. After a while, she found her voice, and when she spoke it had the texture of hope.

SHE: Okay lang ba?

I honestly cannot recall what I replied.

Monday, March 06, 2006

oscar is straight

Oscar has spoken, and his picks come as a welcome surprise.

I was one of the few who didn't like Brokeback Mountain all that much. It was a good film, with excellent direction and good acting (Ledger), but the script (and actually how the entire thing played out) left me dissatisfied - as a creative writer. It's obvious to me how sexual politics played an important role in how people perceived the film, but to me, gender issues aside (because we do not say a film is great just because it deals with gay issues), it had its problems.

Having said that though, I think Ang Lee's film suffered the Oscar snub not because of what it lacked but because the voters weren't prepared to send the message that gay films are okay for the mainstream audience. If just to send that message alone, Brokeback Mountain should have won. But it didn't and the award went to the ensemble-acted (and helmed by a first-time director) Crash instead. Which, from a technical and creative perspective, I have no issue with (but Ian does, and thus we find ourselves on opposite sides of the fence on this matter).

At least Ang Lee got the Best Director nod, which he definitely deserves (his second since Crounching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

Brokeback's acting nominations also fell to the wayside. Heavily-favored Philip Seymour Hoffman got the nod for Best Actor (deserved, for Capote). George Clooney beat Jake Gyllenhaal (though my money was on Paul Giamatti for the otherwise boring Cinderella Man). And Dawson's Creek alumnus Michelle Williams lost the award to Rachel Weisz (sorry, but I did not enjoy The Constant Garderner one whit and thus have nothing nice to say about her acting).

Brokeback Mountain did pick up two more Oscars. One for Gustavo Santaolalla for his original score, which I really liked; and one for Adapted Screenplay, which I disagreed with (I'd have gone with Capote).

Sunday, March 05, 2006

parallel lines

Current M- Theory posits the existence of a multiverse. In the Nirvana-like sea of everything and nothing, there exist countless bubble realities, one of which is ours (M-theory somehow elegant reconciles Christian and Buddhist outlooks on the universe). I look at a few of those bubbles and ask myself this: if I were not what I am today, career-wise, what would my alternate reflections reveal?

a. Lawyer – my analytical nature plus my naturally argumentative character in combination with my ability to reason verbally would make this job a prefect fit. When I was younger, this was one of Big Two career paths that my parents wanted me to walk (the other was the medical road) and I naturally refused. I thought that law was dry and boring, and did not want to spend my days cooped up in a law office dressed in a barong. For a while I was really tempted until I realized that the courtroom setup in the Philippines is different from the US – no jury. And I wanted to grandstand in front of a jury, pleading my client’s case, in the fashion of all those wonderful TV shows. Instead, here, we just have a judge. Usually old and wrinkled. My stepdad attempted to sway me into entering UP Law by dangling a carrot: “You can write briefs and studies”. Oh, joy beyond compare. In a parallel world where I am a lawyer, I’m filthy rich and influential, chatting up the politicos and planning coups. I’d have a 8 children by 3 women, including my ex-wife’s. I’d travel to the US and Europe twice a year and collect expensive senseless things like knives which I’d display at one of my three houses. I’d have long coffee meetings (I’d have other young and desperate lawyers to do my actual work) and pontificate on how I would make the country a better place.

b. Politico – One of my classmates, I’m shamed to say, is Mike Defensor, whose tuko-like deathgrip on the Lady President is simply appalling. And yet, in an alterate reality, I’d be a politician too. I’d abandon my early collegiate leftist leanings (one of my stories got me a nice letter from Satur Ocampo when he was incarcerated in Fort Bonifacio) and go for powerplays, dazzled by the promise of wealth and power. Sad but true. I’d leverage my position for personal gain but not in a painfully obvious way, with a little élan so I’m not perceived as greedier than the rest, and attempt to do some good for my constituency. I’d have my moral and ethical crises early on so I wouldn’t be bothered by a guilty conscience later as a I dance the fandango with the powerbrokers, dynastic scions and rich special interest groups. Occasionally, I will flipflop on issues and allegiances, flitting from one point of the political spectrum to the other, with always my best interest in mind. Assuming I survive the various coups and reconfigurations of government, I will retire to be a consultant to some young upstart and begin the terrible cycle anew.

c. Teacher – I’m good at teaching things I care about to people who possess more than a modicum of intelligence. So in another world, I teach graduate level courses in something related to writing. I’d be simultaneously reviled and loved by my students because of my blistering tirades that contain nuggets of wisdom. I’d challenge my charges to do better and tell those who lag behind to give up their dreams (again, sad but true). Life is too short to be deluded – better to apply yourself to something that suits you. I’d be seen as a monster by the people I kick out of class; and an angel by those I spend time with, push and encourage to excellence. I’d be at it for years and decades until I become a fossil, my ethereal weight borne by the wind in the academe’s corridors as I glide like an angry ghost to my classes. My students will become successful and think of me with a shudder; researchers will attempt to divine my methodology and despair when they fail to replicate it. I will be given a house in UP Village and I will admit only the most brilliant minds. And when I die, I will haunt it, and the classrooms, and the faculty lounge, and begin my new career as an urban legend, frightening young graduate students with weak wills and shrill voices.

d. Corporate Grunt – For some time, I was content with just working for someone else, so its possible that in a different world, I’m still there, plowing away my years in exchange for my rent payment, groceries and educational plans for my 4 kids. My wife also works because we need the double income and we live in an apartment next to my in-laws. I’m mostly unhappy but stay with the company because how else can I afford to pay off the appliances I got via credit card installment plans? Not having planned my career path early, I most likely have gone as far as I can go up the corporate ladder (or what passes for it in a small to medium-sized company) and am stuck at my current pay. I’m threatened by the young people hired by the company and especially by a brilliant young man who speaks just as well as I do and is favored by the president. I’m overweight and besieged by smoker’s cough but love my family dearly. I’m concerned about the future and just spiral helplessly into its grasp. Or, alternately, I find God and hope to transform my dejection into something more positive.

e. Bad-tempered Plant – Not every alternate bubble is necessarily akin to how history occurred in ours, so, yes, I’m a plant. Something that grows in the shadows and, like a Venus fly trap, eats insects. And if somehow I can have a cigarette (which would make me a sort of horrible plant-smoking-plant), I’d be okay.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

writing season

It's March already and I've received the digital Palanca contest forms (if you want the set, email me - sorry, I lost access to my FTP thing). I've never hidden the fact that competition makes me happy - it keeps my writing muscles limber, forces me to do my best, and involves me in the act of creation. If I don't compete, I'm likely to fall into the easy default of resting on my previous achievements, and I never want to do that. I like questioning my ability, challenging myself, pitting my skill against other authors, some older, some young wunderkinds. I'm not ashamed of my addiction to competition, not one whit. If I fall, I just get back up for more. The moment I cease to try is when I truly fail.

Some friends have asked me if I still need to prove myself to myself or to other people. The answer is yes and no, in that order. I need to prove myself to myself constantly, because I am only as a good as my latest work (and if that latest work is years in the past, that is a truly devastating thing). But I do not need to prove my worth to anyone, writer or judge, for the purpose of validation, for someone to tell me "Hey, you're a Writer with a capital 'W'." I know at this point in time that I do have some writing ability, but I cannot say the same about tomorrow. I have to find out when the dawn breaks, just like everyone else.

They ask why, after eight Palancas, don't I stop. Asking me to stop competing in contests like the Palancas is like asking a basketball team who won a championship not to compete the following year because they already have a trophy. An absurd request.

This Palanca season, like every writing season, I begin with a list of categories I plan to compete in. It's all blue-sky thinking; never have I been happy enough with my material to enter in everything. My soon-to-be-whittled-down category list includes: short story, short story for children, futuristic fiction, one act play, full length play and essay (why not go for broke and throw in poetry for good measure? Because I am absolutely dismal at poetry).

Of this list, only the essay is anywhere near completion. A have bits of the short story, a notion for the children's story and a little conceit for the future fic that looks weaker each time I think about it. I have a dialogue exchange for the one act play, and zero for the full length. Oddly enough, this disastrous-looking state of affairs actually thrills me. With the looming deadline plus the time demanded by other aspects of my personal life and my businesses, I feel the onset of a mad adrenalin rush. Most likely, I'll be happy with only one or two things when the dust settles, but the first step of the reward is in the act of creation. The second step, always beyond my control, is actually winning.

I'll need to sequester some time alone to write. A loving daughter is 100% pure distraction, an irresistable black hole of love. Friends and games and books and video and music eat time.

Of everything and everyone around me, my wife is my lone chosen companion when I am transformed into a world-hating hermit. She understands my need for barriers of silence, translates my unwholesome grunts into assertions of my continued love for her, becomes the gatekeeper and intermediatrix for my friends and family, and makes sure that I eat from time to time even if I seemingly subsist on smoke and syllables. Her patience and devotion become her armor against the growls and hisses that issue from my corner of the room if I am disturbed in the midst of my bloody struggle with words. When I'm in the zone I am unpleasant, unwashed and mercurial - she ensures that I regain my humanity (and take a shower) when I leave my writing cave.

So when can I do this? Hopefully, next month, when things at work quiet down a little.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

turns of the glass

In the midst of an absurd busy season at work, I was stunned to learn that one of my closest friends exhibited symptoms of Bell's Palsy. With one side of his face paralyzed, he wears an eyepatch now because he cannot close one eye. Illnesses remind us all about the fragility of our existence. We can work all we want, save all the money we think we need, compete in atheletics or win literary competitions, but when a devastating ailment strikes, we are reduced to flesh.

I've been down lately. Nikki and I got word that Jack, the kind and generous man who is like a second father to my wife, may not last the next few days. His cancer has overwhelmed his system, even with the twice-daily infusions and platelet additions. We last saw him last Christmas in Florida. And it's hard to imagine him gone. My spirit rebels at the thought as I prepare to grieve. I feel helpless and sorrowful.