Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Handful of Books

Saturday Patricia and I went browsing through antique shops in Gladewater (best known in spec fic circles as the birthplace of Joe Lansdale).

Gladewater has a used book store, and I left with a small armful of books for a little less than $20. My haul included:

"Golem 100" by Alfred Bester
"Absolute Magnitude" reprint anthology
"Aliens from Analog" anthology
"Two Crowns for America" by Katherine Kurtz
"The Star-Spangled Future" by Norman Spinrad
Asimov's Science Fiction No. 13, March 1979

But the prize in the bunch is the 1986 edition of Howard Waldrop's first collection, "Howard Who", published by Doubleday. It now joins the reprint published 20 years later by Small Beer Press on my bookshelf.

Judy Crider, RIP

Everyone I know in Texas spec fic circles are saddened by the death of Judy Crider on Thanksgiving Day. Judy was a gentle, polite, refined and courteous person, and a perfect mate for husband Bill. She battled non-Hodgkin Lymphoma with courage and without complaint for eight years. She was certainly one of the nicest people I met as result of my involvement in fiction writing.
I called Bill on the phone yesterday and offered my condolences. There really isn't anything to say in a situation like that except "be strong". Bill is a nice guy and a true gentleman, possessed of the same equanimity as Judy did. I know he will be OK; I also know it will always hurt.
Scott Cupp has circulated Judy's obituary, which I reprint here:
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Judy Stutts Crider was born in Marlin, Texas, on November 5, 1943, the only child of Pet and Eldred Stutts of Thornton. She departed this life on November 27, 2014. Judy grew up in Thornton, Texas, and was salutatorian of her high school graduating class. She attended Baylor University and graduated in 1965 with a BBA in economics. Two weeks after her graduation, she married Bill Crider of Mexia. She worked as a secretary while Bill went to graduate school, first in Denton and then in Austin. Their daughter, Angela, and their son, Allen, were both born in Austin. They were truly the pride and joy of Judy’s life from the moment they entered it, and it is no exaggeration to say that she loved them even before they were born.
While living in Brownwood, Texas, where Bill was teaching at Howard Payne University, Judy learned to play the game of bridge, and it remained her favorite recreation from that time forward. She loved playing bridge with her friends in Brownwood and with her bridge groups in Alvin after the family moved there. She also enjoyed TV game shows and was a whiz at “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune.”
Judy was a full partner in Bill’s writing career. She was the first reader and editor of every book and story he wrote and was the business manager for the entire enterprise. She was his co-author on several stories, and one of them won the Anthony Award for best short story in 2002.
Judy is survived by Bill, her husband of 49 years; by her children, Angela Neary of Sonoma, California, and Allen Crider of Austin, Texas; by a number of cousins; and by a host of friends.
Her family would like to thank the doctors, staff, and volunteers at M.D. Anderson Cancer center for their professionalism and kindness during the years of Judy’s treatment. They made a terrifying experience easier to bear. According to her wishes, her body will be cremated. In lieu of flowers, a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society would be appropriate. A memorial service will be announced at a later time.
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If you would like to drop Bill a card, his address is 1606 S. Hill St., Alvin, Tx 77511.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A box of books

I grew up in Massachusetts and attended elementary and junior high school in Billerica, Massachusetts. I was a member of a Boy Scout troop there sponsored by the local congregational church. The scouts' duties included doing community service projects for the sponsoring church.
Each year the church held a large fundraising auction of donated goods. One spring day I was among the Boy Scouts who were tasked to help at the auction. We were pretty much utilized for our mindless muscle power, picking up and moving things around.

Among the heavy items being auctioned were boxes of books, and many scouts tried to avoid them. But I didn't. You see, both my parents were foreign-born and not native English speakers. I was just at that age when the possibilities and vistas of literature were becoming apparent to me.

As I helped out with the other scouts I was fascinated by all the books in all the boxes that had been donated by people. I hefted a few of the boxes myself and held them aloft as the auctioneer sought bids. However, many of these boxes held used mass-market paperbacks, which weren't really in great demand.

After one or two boxes failed to even get a minimum bid, I was holding one aloft when the auctioneer again failed to get even a dollar. As he was about to give up, I said from behind my box "I'll give you a dollar."

He turned around, a bit surprised to see where the voice had come from, but said "Okay that's good!" And yes I offered up my dollar, and took the box of paperbacks home with me.

There were many books in that box that had obviously belonged to someone who studied literature. Even at that tender age I could tell they must've fulfilled some college syllabus. There were many Penguin Classics — titles such as Booth Tarkington's "Alice Adams" and "The Golovlyov Family" by Mikhail Saltykov Shchedrin.

There were a number of other mass-market paperbacks in there, but that particular box seemed to have predominance of those Penguin Classic editions. And those particular books had a name in them, which I still remember:  Nitsa Perkins.

I took the books with me, along with some others, when my family moved to Rockland, Massachusetts, in 1970. That's where I graduated from high school in 1975. I moved to New York City and attended Columbia University for a few years. I honestly don't recall how or when or where most of the books dissipated. Between moving and a divorce in the family and the selling of the house the other travails that assail us in everyday life, I lost track of them.

Now, sitting here in middle age in the 21st-century, in deepest darkest East Texas, I think I still have two of those books that have followed me all those years — "Hawaii" by James Michener and "Enjoy, Enjoy" by Harry Golden. I was rereading the latter book and I remembered the circumstances of its purchase, and remembered the name that had graced most of the books in the box that I bought for that buck.

I don't have any of those Penguin Classics anymore, but I remembered the name Nitsa Perkins.  I looked it up on the Internet and found an address. I wrote a letter, telling the story I just told you.

Thursday I got a call from Marshfield, Massachusetts, while I was work. It was Nitsa Perskins. She is alive and well. She said she got a kick out my letter, and confirmed she had lived in Billerica in 1969 and her family was a member of the First Congregational Church.

Like my family, her family have moved to south of Boston. She has lived in Marshfield for 38 years, raised four children, and was now a widow.

We had a pleasant chat, and I told her I would send her one of my books. She asked me if I would sign it.

Friday I dropped a copy of "The Clock Struck None" in the mail to her. In the letter I enclosed with the book, I said that if I am in Massachusetts next year for my 40th high school reunion, I will try to stop by. Marshfield is only 12 miles from Rockland.

It is amazing how the things we do can send out ripples through  time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Ruins Excavation"

I'm proud to announce my short story "Would Olympus Fall" will be published next year in the Hadley Rille Books anthology, "Ruins Excavation", an anthology of Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Historical, and Mainstream stories with an Archaeology theme.. Editor Eric T Reynolds has listed the line-up of authors:
Sarah Frost
Vanessa MacLelland
Jamie Lackey
Tammy  A.  Branom
Micah Hyatt
M.C. Chambers
Kaolin Fire
Memory Scarlett
Rob Darnell
Jamie Lackey
Amy Herring
Ransom Noble
Micah Hyatt
Gerri Leen
Neil O’Donnell
Rebecca L. Brown
Jennifer Crow
Lou Antonelli
Rob Darnell
M. C. Chambers
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Nebula nominations

As an Active, Lifetime Active, or Associate member of SFWA you are eligible to submit a nomination ballot for the 2014 Nebula Awards. The nomination period opened on the 15th and ballots must be received by the deadline of February 15, 2015, 11:59 p.m. PST.

If you are one of my friends - and I do have a few - who belong to the SFWA, here is a list of my new short fiction published this year:

"Bindlestiff's Daughter" - The Lorelei Signal, January 2014
"Playing Catch-Up" - SciFi Max, May 2014
"The Sub-Basement" - The Ironic Fantastic No. 3, Sept. 2014
"Back Own My Stab" - Every Day Fiction, Sept. 16, 2014
"Bigfoot Fruit" - Common Oddities Speculative Fiction Sideshow Sept. 2014
"On a Spiritual Plain" - Sci-Phi Journal No. 2 November 2014
"The Girl Who Couldn't Fly" - "Unconventional Fantasy, a Celebration of 40 Years of the World Fantasy Convention' - Nov. 6-9, 2014

If you are an SFWA member who would like to recommend a story to me, please feel free to send me a message.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Unconventional Fantasy

I received the thumb drive in the mail with "Unconventional Fantasy, A Celebration of Forty Years of the World Fantasy Convention" which was given out as part of the World Fantasy Convention last weekend in Washington. D.C. It has a whopping five volumes of fiction and includes my original story "The Girl who Couldn’t Fly".

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Latest output

I've had six short stories published in the past month and a half:

"The Sub-Basement" - The Ironic Fantastic No. 3, Sept. 2014

"Back Own My Stab" - Every Day Fiction, Sept. 16, 2014

"Bigfoot Fruit" - Common Oddities Speculative Fiction Sideshow Sept. 2014

"On a Spiritual Plain" - Sci-Phi Journal No. 2 November 2014

"The Girl Who Couldn't Fly" - "Unconventional Fantasy, a Celebration of 40 Years of the World Fantasy Convention' - Nov. 6-9, 2014

That brings my total to 88 published since June 2003, seven for this year.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

My apologies

My apologies to folks who check in here regularly, but this week has been especially tiring. The election Tuesday was the main cause; being a newspaper editor, election coverage took up a lot of time and made for at least one very late night.

Also, my carpal tunnel syndrome has been really acting up. I've been waiting for it to improve somewhat, but in the meantime I am using the Dragon software for this post.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Creative Writing 101

Yesterday I had the first session of the continuing education course I'm teaching in creative writing for Northeast Texas Community College. We meet Saturdays at 2 PM in the downtown Mount Pleasant campus, which used to be the school administration building and was originally the high school.

One student had already contacted me and had an excused absence, but otherwise everyone else was there. The class a small enough that we had excellent interaction; there were lots of questions and a  lot of back and forth exchanges.

That was important because it helped the time go by quickly and gave direction to the class; I was able to get a good idea what the students want to get out of the class.

I handed out a prepared outline of the six weeks, as well as so useful handouts I think students will enjoy as reference.

The time passed quickly and I think everyone enjoyed it. At the very least they will learn something in a relatively painless manner.

I think everyone in a class has the goal of becoming a published writer of some kind, although what they envision ultimately publishing varies greatly. Some are really just into creative self-expression, others are interested in speculative fiction such as horror and fantasy. Some of them are into screenplays, others into poetry, and one student I know is ultimately looking at advice on how to write a true crime novel, in so far as a member of her family for the subject of a brutal murder 18 years ago (and the killer is finally just getting his appointment with the execution chamber in a month or so).

For my part I stood the whole time and talked on my feet, it was so interesting. Although I have participated on panels at conventions and conferences in the past, this is the first time I really did something approaching classroom instruction.

Coming soon!

This is one of my best ever alternate histories.