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"Hope you get some writing done, because when the kids get here there won't be any time."

These were my mother's parting words as she left to go fishing with my dad, her brother, and a family friend, all retired. The kids she referred to are my nephews and niece, along with my brother and sister-in-law.

It left me with a sense of dread, because I'll be expected to give up reading for Legos, writing for Fisher Price toys, exercise for splashing...

My inner child wasn't all that much of a child even when I was young. My dad used to say I was 13 going on 30. He taught me how to play chess when I was five. When I played with LEGOs, I was trying to emulate what I read about in kids' history books, not dumbed down kids' cartoons.

When I lived in China, I spent almost all my social time with graduate students and my work with some of the best and brightest undergrad China has to offer. It was a great time to indulge the life of my mind.

It would be great to have a special someone in my life, but even happy marriages seem determined to convince me to remain single. Doubts about how to be a father don't help.


Imagining cultural evolution...

I was watching an Open Yale lecture by Paul Fry and it got me to thinking about the context of authors: a world of ideas. My image is thus: take a piece of paper and place three random dots on it, then draw radiating lines in 6-8 directions from each dot. Those dots are books, those intersections are authors. Of course, those authors can then radiate lines as well. You can imagine the lines in three or four dimensions as well. And there you have my own image of cultural/memetic evolution.

Jul. 31st, 2014

The Vampire’s Courtesan

By Paul Schilling

Taken from her home at an early age, Katharina spent years in training to be a suitable consort for a vampire lord, but she never forgot her first love, nor had Johann forgotten her. Just as Johann’s plans to rescue her cumulate, they backfire, making a future together even less likely. Katharina’s near death experience shocks the Archlord into realizing he does not wish to spend eternity without her, and he offers to raise her into the immortal ranks. As powers both natural and supernatural gather against each other, Katharina must choose between mortal love and immortal power.

Jul. 26th, 2014

My younger brother, his wife, and his three kids showed up last night. We pretty much only had time to eat, chat a little, and then go through the drama of putting kids to bed. Travel and family get the kids all hyped up, which wears out grown ups...

I did get a chance to ask my brother, who works cameras for TV news, about how people critique television, if there is some particular standard besides personal taste. He talked about how the medium should fit the message, which is sort of how I critique novels when I go to workshops. I avoid judging the themes of the story and focus on how to make a book a better version of itself.


Rereading the Stone

“Rereading the Stone: Desire and the Making of Fiction in ‘Dream of the Red Chamber”

By Anthony C. Yu

For those of you who have not read “Dream of the Red Chamber” (aka “Dreams of Red Mansions” or “The Story of the Stone”), it is the Chinese literary classic, and by ‘the’ I do not mean the only but the most important to the field of literature. It’s a romantic tragedy the length of “The Lord of the Rings,” taking place almost entirely within the mansion of an important family on the way down, and the first Chinese novel dominated mostly by women characters, even as those women struggle with living in a male dominated society. The entire story was supposedly written on one divine stone, and the narrator is telling us what he read, hence the title.

When I read it for myself, I got the gist of the plot, noticed parallels between my family’s expectations of myself and the Confucian expectations of the Jia family for their son Bao-yu, and enjoyed the story within the story within the story organization. Thanks to Anthony Yu, I’ve realized that “Dream of the Red Chamber” is also a story about two Taoist lovers trapped by Confucian values but told from the perspective of a Buddhist who believes both sides are trapped within illusions caused by their desires, hence involving all three of the great religious traditions in Chinese culture.

His discussion of the relationship between literature and history was also enlightening about Chinese society. “Dream of the Red Chamber” was the first Chinese novel to claim to actually be a novel, but because of the narrator (not necessarily the author in this case) claimed to be writing a memoir, a minor literary industry sprung up trying to draw parallels between the author’s life and the book’s events. In the meantime, “The Three Kingdoms,” which we would call historical fiction, was written like a history book but everyone treated it as a novelization. Frankly, the division between literature and history was pretty vague in the West until the 19th Century.

It makes sense to look at a romance novel from the perspective of desires, and Yu deals extensively with how Chinese have perceived desires. The Confucian tradition considered desires natural, but recognized that we did not live in a state of nature, so looked for ways for people to express desires in socially acceptable ways. Musical education and training in particular was stressed by Confucian theorists. But the hero and heroine of this novel were not ordinary people; they were spirits from Heaven reborn on Earth, the land of illusion, and as such their love could not be sublimated forever, only delayed, then tricked, then defeated, but never snuffed out.
Fifty Ways to Love Your Lover: The Novel

Candice is a brilliant and beautiful young woman from a wealthy and abusive family. She meets a young man who is strong and intellectual, but doesn’t understand woman. She undertakes his education, helping use his IQ to raise his EQ, but when she turns him into the perfect boyfriend, can she give up her plans to marry a rich man?

Kissing the Anti-Christ

Christina Graves, intrepid liberal reporter, is searching for a story, while Senator Derek Hardy is searching for power. After he announces his campaign for the presidency, she starts to hunt after his secrets. While she squirms her way through an increasingly conservative management and he through the twisty maze of his father’s power structure, they are drawn towards each others’ determination, intelligence, and, yes, good looks.
Will ambition triumph over love?

Ancient Lesbian Sex Secrets

When WRIP free radio starts running out of money, the Dark Lord, satanic talk show host, aka Kenneth, decides to tell his audience that their prayers will be answered or their money back. When Jessica Hoh needs more money to pay for college, she joins an escort service. When Feather’s poetry brings in the pennies, she writes paranormal romance novels to pay the bills. When Sam’s video game profits slump, he needs a way to advertise them.

When they meet each other, they naturally decide to a make a movie, one that will settle all their woes: The Ancient Lesbian Sex Secrets.

It's only Wednesday...

and a friend dumped me for not travelling hundreds of miles to hang out a few days in her drama filled life. The more rational my reasons provided, the more upset she became; maybe she sensed that I didn't want to get back into the soap operas that had twirled around my life before I had moved to China. Eventually I told her that I had a nice, quiet social life in China and liked it that way; she told me to go back to China and that was that. I felt a little sad and a little relieved at the same time.

But I'm back to writing in my Asian fantasy series, too long neglected. I'm revising the opening chapters of book six to get back into the grove before finishing the rest.

My Funny Fantasies

Might and Right

For Emperor Vor, conquering an empire is the easy part, ruling it is hard. His brother wants his throne, his wife disagrees about which son should secede him, a wizard conspiracy wishes to stop him, and a mixed bag of heroes is coming to kill him. His allies are his tea sipping, spy master sister, a chaos wizard, and a death priest.

The delicate political balance of his empire is upset when his daughter returns from her adventures in the mysterious West and Winderon, an elf born under the most dangerous of moons, finds the deadliest magic of all to use again him.

Love the Sin

Everyone searches for love, except for Cindy Wainrock, but everyone has to struggle through the difficulties to find it. Maria struggles against poverty, Deputy Tony Sanchez has to solve a murder, and Xia has to slay the vampires who kidnapped her would be boyfriend for his virgin blood. Yet Cindy may face the greatest danger of all, a murderer given a magical defense perfect against any but the purest of heart, which she definitely is not.

Ninja B Goes to College

Ari’s grandfather is the head of the ninja clan, and sends her to college in America to study computers, but the university is hunting grounds for vampires. Unfortunately her bounty collecting is interrupted by biggest problems, for the vampires are only one part of the Anti-Christ’s cult, and her ally Cindy Wainrock’s father is a rich jock who likes wearing body armor while driving an armored car to hunt down liberal activists.

What will happen when the satanic plot to rule the world conflicts with the alien conspiracy that already does? Can she ally with the Chinese kung fu master Xia who had come here to study engineering? And what will happen when Xia and her junior mad scientist boyfriend finally create his dream: a quantum mechanical AI?

My High Fantasy

From Before the Flood

Soon after the fall from Paradise, people were not alone on Earth. They had giants for neighbors and thunder lizards to avoid. Angels came down from Heaven and ruled many areas as demi-gods, but when Satan’s minions rescued him from demonic torture, he plotted his revenge against God and humanity. While angels battle for the future of the world Yesu (daughter of a god) and Lilith (Adam’s first wife) fight for the future of humanity.

Whispers on the Wind

Louis Averone, the bard, thinks he is the only one who can hear the Song whispered on the wind, but when it sings of Sorrow, suicides spread. The more attuned to magic wizards are, the more they are crippled by depression. As wizards move to steal the magic and warriors to kill the source, whatever it is, Louis Averone, Csaris the wild wizard, and Captain Valorie de’Lane hope to heal the Singer.

The Dragons are Coming

For their forbidden love, Bernard was castrated and Helen sent to a nunnery, but while sacking an ancient, distant temple, Bernard discovers the original prophecy of dragons returning to destroy the lands. Realizing the translation his people have used is dangerously inaccurate, he rushes back to save Helen. Only she wishes him to tell the Church Mothers, and introduces him to the son he never knew he had.

My Science Fiction

Escapees from Hell
Two thousand years ago, aliens conquered Earth and turned humanity into a military-industrial complex to fight their interstellar wars. Anyone who resists is sent to Hell, an underground prison, but someone escapes…

From Whence Gods Came
Soul’ren is a young teacher, an alien among humans, living within a broken Dyson Sphere, with her adopted father, a war hero with a shattered memory. An invasion from another universe had been thrown back, but not before great damage to galactic civilization. That enemy is trying to break back through the geometry of the universe, and Soul’ren must find a space ship while her father searches his broken memories for the way to hold them back. Accompanied by the stern Kractor, the dashing Andelis Ali, and genetically enhanced gorilla warrior Dark Tiger, Soul’ren will face the dangers of mountains, ice fields, and jungles just to challenge the last bastion of technology, ruled by a mad alien and his robot minions.

The Sea of God

While telepathically exploring the universe, Daowyn meets June, an American teenager grieving over her late father. She mistakes him for an angel and latches onto his mind, causing a mental swap that leaves her with what she thinks are miraculous powers and the alien crippled back on his home world. While she explores the potential of spirituality to create a life based upon love and freedom, he searches for a way to Earth to restore them both to normalcy. Told from the point of view of a law of physics in stream of consciousness style.