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Junior High Basketball Champion (57)

CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander
Twins Jordan and Josh Bell love playing Junior High Basketball with each other and recreational games with their former European pro dad, but this year things change when Jordan gets a girlfriend and their dad's heart grows weaker; can Josh prove his worth to his team, his family, and his brother? Written in free verse and lines of rhymes, this upper-MG novel is a story of brotherhood, basketball, and coming of age. Powerfully sparse, this book is recommended to reluctant readers in middle school through high school and fans of sports and rhymes. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

Same song, second verse. A little bit louder, a little bit more JESUS H CHRIST THIS ISN’T FUNNY ANY MORE.

Which is to say, I will be having ankle surgery.


Same ligament as before . . .

. . . just on the other foot.

Listen up, kids: sprain your ankles too often as a youth, and this will be your reward before you’re anywhere near your dotage. An orthopedist wiggling your foot around and saying “Wow!,” followed immediately by “Sorry, that’s not what you want to hear your doctor say, is it?” An unstable ankle joint that’s causing microabrasions and is already building up a bone spur, so let’s get this surgery done soon, shall we, before we’ve got ourselves a lovely case of arthritis? Oh and it’s so helpful that you still have the boot from the last round. We can just stick you right back in it. Not your first rodeo, here’s your forms, you know how this goes, and hey you’ve even got some blog posts to remind you of the unpleasant things in your future. Isn’t this great.

The surgery isn’t scheduled yet, but it will be some time between the very end of July and mid-September. Putting it off that long probably isn’t the most intelligent thing I’ve ever done, but god dammit I am going to Okinawa. The last time this karate seminar happened was five years ago; I don’t know when it will happen again. And I am not letting my stupid fucking ankles keep me from it.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at Comment here or there.

Digital tribulations

  • On Saturday, my domain and therefore main email address went down--and remains so.
  • This morning our WiFi network crashed and stubbornly stayed inaccessible for several hours.
  • This afternoon, my AOL account--which I use only for lists--got hacked.
It hasn't been the Most Fun Day Ever.

Fixing AOL was relatively easy. The network was recalcitrant but is now, finally, back up., though, is proving to be a serious puzzle. 

It's been down more than 72 hours. Three people are trying to solve it. (Two with considerably more skill at this than me.) I haven't a clue what's going on, or why.

But if I'm a little distracted, or if you've had odd messages purporting to be from me, you know why.

I talk to Naomi Alderman about writing for Zombies, Run.

The Zombies, Run! app chooses songs from whatever playlist you feed it, and in that post, I talk about how my favorite moments are the ones when something comes up that’s wildly inappropriate for the narrative.

Today’s episode was filled with those awesome moments.

First, just as a friend has gone gray (turned into a zombie) and I’m fleeing from them, my playlist urged me to “Let It Go.”

Then, just another character was revealed to have secret zombie blood inside them, I was told “Something has changed within me. Something is not the same.”

And then a traitor was unmasked to strains of, “Don’t bring me bad news, no bad news, I don’t need none of your bad news today.”

And this is why I run from zombies.

Along the way, I’m pondering the fact that said traitor’s unmasking was utterly expected, and yet nonetheless satisfying. The discovery isn’t the only thing that makes a reveal satisfying–this is a craft thing worth thinking about some more.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

Today it's raining in sometimes fine and sometimes coarse curtains of raindrops, and there's a lot of it--roadways are reconfiguring into waterscapes. But on Saturday it was sunny, and the high school girls' lacrosse team was having a car wash behind the town hall, to raise money.

Car washes are a fundraiser that really lends itself to the boisterous collegiality of a sports team. The girls were enjoying themselves. Orange and black are the school's colors, so it makes sense that the team is called the orioles. Orange and black were my own high school's colors, too, and our yearbook was called the Oriole.

car wash

Down the hill, you come to a convenience store called Checkers and a seasonal grill and ice-cream place called Chubby's, because, get it, Chubby Checker? And there were orange-clad team members there, too, though in that case it wasn't for a school team but for a recreational soccer team.

spring day

Nothing like the first outdoor ice cream of the 2014 season!

Meanwhile, the peepers are peeping. Sometimes slow and thoughtfully . . .

Sometimes excitedly:

Being alive--it's worth singing about, for sure!

Birder Directions: A Play In One Act

So there we are, at a hawk watch station, asking for directions to the nearest Aplomado Falcon.

And we got them, but they were Birder Directions, which are a special kind of instructions similar to country directions, only worse and more so. "Go down to the end of the road, turn left at the scary-looking goat, look for a house with a green roof, and there's a tree in the yard there, and if you wait five minutes, an Oak Titmouse will pop up." There are directions like this in books.

These were delivered unto us by two elderly gentlemen, one of whom was as sharp as a tack and one of which was a trifle fuzzy, but could tell a hawk from a handsaw when it migrated overhead.

Needless to say, the fuzzy one was the one primarily giving directions, while Tina took notes.

(As I cannot remember the names of the two elderly gentlemen involved, I shall call them Bob and Frank.)

BOB: So you come out of here and you get on the big road...ah...511. 510? Maybe it's 510. Does it have a number?

FRANK: 511, I think, if it's the place I'm thinking about.

BOB: Right, right. So you take 511 and you go past the battle.

URSULA: ...the battle?

BOB: Ah, you know, the old battle. There's a marker. Maybe it's a national park. Can't think of the name of the battle. They've got a marker, though.

FRANK: Palo Alto.

BOB: Right, right. Don't know why I couldn't think of that. Anyway, it's on the left. I think. There'll be a marker or a park or something. Anyway, go past that.

TINA: Past it. Got it.

BOB: I don't know how far past...couple of miles, I guess. You should pass Port Isabella Road. Not Port Isabella, though, the road. The old one. There's a new one, but not this one. Actually, you could just take that road if you wanted...Do that. It's easier. Well, anyway, so you pass the battle, right? Couple miles, I think. Do you know, Frank?

FRANK: Not that far.

BOB: Right, right. Okay, so then you come up on a road. Named after that fellow. Emerson Road. Is it Emerson Road? Doctor Emerson, that's it.

FRANK: Thought it was Hugh Emerson.

BOB: Definitely Doctor Emerson.

FRANK: If you say so.

BOB: So you go past that, there's a stoplight.

FRANK: Two stoplights.

BOB: Four stoplights.

FRANK: I don't know if it's that many.

BOB: Anyway, then you'll see a bridge to nowhere.


BOB: It's an overpass. You'd go under it, right? Except you don't. Don't go under it. There's a frontage road, right? You know how they love their frontage roads here in Texas. Go on for miles. Every on ramp is like a mile long. They love 'em.

URSULA: We've noticed.

BOB: But not this one. It's short. Up to the bridge. Which doesn't go anywhere.

TINA: Does it just...end...?

BOB: Sorta. Anyway, you take the frontage road and then you turn left and go over the bridge that doesn't go anywhere--

URSULA: *has horrifying visions of the rental car hurtling off a cliff with Tina yelling "DO YOU SEE A FALCON!?" as we plummet to our deaths*

BOB: --and it'll turn into a gravel road, right? And then you go--lord, Frank, how far is it? A mile?

FRANK: Not even.

BOB: Maybe a mile.

FRANK: Not a mile.

BOB: Well, anyway, there's a railroad track. The old railroad track, they don't use it any more. Maybe a mile down.

FRANK: *gazes upward*

BOB: And you go over the railroad track up to the bend in road--is it a mile to the bend, Frank?

FRANK: It is not even close to a mile.

BOB: And at the bend in the road, you stop and look left.

FRANK: There's a nest box on a pole.

BOB: And a bunch of palm trees.

FRANK: Yuccas.

BOB: Yuccas. Right. Don't know why I said palm trees. Anyway, there'll be a falcon in the yuccas.

FRANK: They eat the yucca blossoms, and don't ask me why a falcon eats yucca blossoms, but they do. It's very strange. You'll need a scope.

TINA: *stares at directions in mild dismay*

URSULA: *begins laughing with quiet hysteria*

So we did. We didn't mean to, but we got lost trying to avoid a toll road and suddenly there was Dr. Hugh Emerson Road, and we passed it and the world's shortest on-ramp (we had to actually reverse on the highway to get to it, it went by so fast) and the overpass did indeed go to a gravel road almost immediately, and nothing like a mile past the railroad tracks we stopped the car and looked to our left.

Sitting in solitary splendor among the yuccas was an Aplomado Falcon.

So, y'know. Birding.
Dear Readers! Do you require assistance with a question of propriety, honor, duty, sacrifice, or sangria? Our resident Genius can help! Ask him your questions and he will give you his (or his friends’ and relations’) answers! Do you have a burning need to know about a topic in biology, mythology, folklore, or battling ghosts of the evil dead? Our Genius will happily tell you all the little he knows! Do you have a philosophical argument of civic, filial, social, or eschatological significance? Our Genius will tell you if it’s sound! Are you inundated with a legal, criminal, medical, or sociological morass? Do not ask the Genius. Please, you will only frighten him.

Warning: The Resident Genius’s answers are purely subjective, anecdotal, and entirely fictitious. Do not be surprised if the advice he gives is not useful, not applicable, not helpful, or not legal.

Dear Genius,
Purely hypothetically speaking, should an evil villain in a work of fiction, having intercepted and quite obviously tampered with (i.e. read) a private letter between the book’s hero and the hero’s sidekick thus learning that his evil plan is about to be exposed and he is about to be duly punished, then allow the letter to continue on its way to reach the hero?
I Think Susie Is Not Yet Over The Goblin Emperor

Dear Evil Villain,
Genii do not actually send letters, nor indeed know how to read. Your blog authoress explained the general idea to us when she asked us if we (that is my family and I) wanted to provide this advice service. She reads your questions to us and then transcribes [And slightly edits for length, ahem. –Ed.] our answers in letter form. So we asked her about this, and she informs us that letters are sacrosanct, since you modern humans have a slightly stricter sense of privacy than we Genii do. Therefore, Mr. Villain, we all in this room (Me, my sweetie, Ducto, Corso, and Disjejuno… no wait, Dis just left to get lunch, but now Bibo has brought Struo and Venato in. They’re here for the party tonight… Glutto! Wake up and warn Ferio that Venato’s here. Rido, is that really necessary? She’s your sister, Ludo, but sometimes I think… Bibo, have you started the sangria yet? I [Oops, transcribed too literally there. –Ed.]) agree that you have acted against your honor and your duty. Admitting your mistake is a good first step, but the hero would be right to be upset with you. We suggest you appeal to your Paterfamilias right away and hope that he will help smooth things over and come to an agreement with the Paterfamilias of the hero. But if he can’t help you escape punishment, then it’s your own fault and you must accept the judgment of the head of your household.
With best wishes,
Your Genii

Dear Genius,
I just read a book, which will remain unnamed. I wrote an honest review of it on my blog, but all the other reviews I’ve read haven’t mentioned the flaws that I see in it. I feel like the kid in the Andersen story, pointing out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. Am I just a bad reader who totally missed the point, or are they? And there’s another thing. Do I have an obligation to be generous and not write negative reviews in order to preserve strangers’ feelings? What if I know the author has lots of self-doubt? Am I totally wrong about everything??
Gobbled Empathier

Dear Gobbled,
Wait, the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes? In public?? That does not bode well for the future of the empire. I speak from experience here. Well, not personal experience; I’m not that old. As for the rest of your questions, speaking candidly and honestly is certainly to your credit and the credit of your family’s good name, and you should never lie to anyone for any reason. Likewise, it is very much your duty to your family honor to be as generous as you have the means to be, or even more. That being said, you must ask yourself whether sometimes it is not better to refrain from speaking when you have nothing nice to say. Don’t lie, just say, “I’m afraid I don’t have anything to say.” After all, you are the messenger of your family name to the world’s opinion. Do you want that message to be one of goodness and generosity, or unkindness and judgment? Before speaking ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say going to serve the people I speak it to, the people I’m referring to, my Paterfamilias, the rest of my household, and the City I live in as well?” If the answer is no, then perhaps you should find something else to say. [Also, you are statistically unlikely to be wrong about everything. –Ed.]
Your Genius

Dear Genius,
Is it absurd that in order to renew my driver’s license in my state I have to produce two forms of government-issued photo identification, one further proof of government-issued identification, and two proofs of residency in the state (in a state where a very significant portion of residents do not have home delivery of mail and therefore most of their records have their P.O. Box and not their home address, and, as the lady at the post office pointed out to me not long ago, “You don’t live in your P.O. Box”), all dated within the last six months? I mean, seriously, why do they think anyone would claim to live in this hellhole when they don’t actually live here? And their solution to my not having any proofs of residency? A letter from my Paterfamilias claiming me as part of his household. What happened to freedom and equality?!
I Would Honestly Prefer the Simplicity of a Police State At This Point, Actually

Dear Longing For A Police State,
We fear this is the inevitable consequence of the tragic decline in Genii in the world today. People no longer care about doing their duty and upholding their family honor and making proper sacrifices to their Lares and Penates. They disrespect their Paterifamilii and almost never think of the greater good of their nation. They fall under the influence of Lemures and only know how to do wrong. In this culture of fear and distrust, of course they cannot recognize someone with a strong Paterfamilias and well-fed Genii, and so cannot take them at their word, but must demand ever more proofs of honesty, which they distrust as they think of ways to fake them themselves. You must put sacrifices in your Lararium and your hearth on a regular basis, and keep a bowl of water and a bowl of black beans on your threshold to keep the bad influences away. Be an example to your community, and hopefully your fellow citizens will soon follow your lead. It’s the best hope for all of us.
Your Genius

[Dear Readers, please try not to send in letters that make the Genii cry. Thank you. –Ed.]

Dear Geniuses,
What do you do all day?
Curiouser and Curiouser

Dear Curiousers,
You must be descended from a great Curiouser to have led your parents to name both of you after him or her! I hope Curiouser features prominently at your household altar! To answer your question, we’ll just go around the room:
-Destroy Ghosts of the Evil Dead (That’s Venato; he’s so full of himself)
-Drink Sangria! (Good old Bibo)
-Maintaining the house takes a lot of work. (Struo)
-What did I miss? (Oh, never mind, that’s Disjejuno back again. Wow, that’s a good-looking sandwich…)
-Some days it seems like I spend half my time chasing Salto to keep him from flying into trouble. My, he’s an active child! (Rido)
-Cook feasts for all the parties we have! (Ducto)
-Eat feasts! (Glutto)
-Make the sangria that Bibo drinks! (Corso)
-And I dictate the Genius Advice Column.
Your Genii

Dear Genius,
How do you kill ghosts? Aren’t they already dead? Is it like Ghostbusters??
Morbidly Fascinated

Dear Fascinated,
I’ll let my brother-in-law answer that. “Shoot them in the squishy part,” he says. Well, there you go.
Your Genius

Dear Genius,
Why are Lemures afraid of cats?
Trying To Convince My Mom To Let Us Get A Kitty

Dear Wants A Kitty,
No one really knows. It might be their fierce glowing eyes, or their sharp claws, or their pounciness, or their eerie yowls. Personally, I think it’s the magical healing power of the purr.
Your Genius

Dear Genius,
Can you still call it sangria if you make it with white wine?
Looking For Beverage

[Never! Your drink is an abomination! Dump it down the sink and repent of your sins! –Ed.]

Well! That ends another Genius Advice Column! Do you have a question for the Genius? Please leave it in the comments! Your anonymity (if you want it) is assured!

YA Fest

April 19, 10:30 AM - 3 PM: YA Fest, Easton, PA. Book sales and signing by 50 young adult and middle-grade fiction authors; writing contest, raffles, and discussion panel. A portion of proceeds will go directly to the library to help fund the YA shelves and events. Palmer Branch of the Easton Public Library, Easton, PA. 3 Weller Place, Palmer Township, PA.


Seanan McGuire InCryptid Sparrow Hill Road I’ve lost track of how many novels the amazingly prolific Seanan McGuire, and her alter ego Mira Grant, have published between them. Suffice to say that at this point, McGuire’s had a great deal of practice, and it shows.

Sparrow Hill Road is her latest book, set in the same universe as her InCryptid series but not featuring any overlap with characters or events introduced in those novels. It is more a collection of linked stories than a single unified novel—which makes sense, because Sparrow Hill Road originated as a series of short stories first published at Edge of Propinquity in 2010. These are the stories of Rose Marshall, dead at the age of sixteen in 1954, killed by a man called Bobby Cross who made a deal at the crossroads to live forever.

She’s been wandering America’s highways as a ghost ever since.

[Read more. Some spoilers for the book.]

Read the full article

Signed, sealed, and mailed off the Amended Tax Return of the Damned this morning, so that's done. I hope. I don't mind paying taxes, to tell you the truth; I like having roads, fire fighters, cops, and so forth - and I am a grown-ass adult who understands that these things cost money. But I swear to God, there must be a better way to collect it.

Like I've said before, if you want an exercise in absolute counter-intuitive insanity, try paying taxes like a self-employed creative professional for a year or two. It'll give you ulcers.

And that's all I'll say about that.

* * *

Maplecroft is still 4-1/2 months away and my brain already cannot shut the hell up about it. Today I started cobbling together some guest post content, in hopes that I might score a spot with some of my blogging friends later on this summer. It was either that, or just start doodling "Maplecroft <3 4evah" on my Trapper Keeper.

Anyway, I'm starting to think about promo schwag - since we're going to drop this one a smidge early at DragonCon, and I'll be doing several events between now and the end of the year. It's useful to have such stuff on hand, to remind people of what's coming - or what's available, depending on my timing. So for starters, I'll print up the usual handbills, and I might even do what I did with Boneshaker back in the day: Offer up a pack of 10-20 to anyone willing to leave them in the coffeehouse/student association lounge/bookstore/etc. of your choice.

I mailed out dozens of such packets a few years ago, and it was kind of fun; people kept sending me pictures re: where they'd left their flyers. It felt like I was following my book around the world.

But aside from that? I'm not really sure. Maybe some temporary tattoos? WHO DOESN'T LOVE THOSE THINGS? I know I love those things, and my real tattoos aren't even jealous. We could work up something with an axe and some blood and the title...maybe. And what about those rubber wrist-band-thingies? They seem pretty popular. Buttons? Magnets?

I'm taking suggestions, folks.

I feel like there must be some awesome promotional gimmick out there for a love letter to Dracula as filtered through Lovecraft in a wholly fictionalized retelling of the Fall River axe murders. But I'll be honest, I'm drawing a blank.

* * *

Here's today's progress on my witchy art-deco horror novel about Lizzie Borden thirty years after her parents' deaths - now featuring ghosts and non-ghosts alike, anti-Catholic conspiracy nuts, supernatural political shenanigans, the mafia, and a Bonus! space-worshiping murder cult hiding behind the KKK:

    Project: Chapelwood
    Deadline: October 1, 2014
    New words written: 2397
    Present total word count: 61,659

    Things accomplished in fiction: Returned to our sweet little axe murderer, who really is just trying to do the right thing; visited an old victim who's now the closest thing to a kindred spirit the poor fellow has in this world.

    Next up: Some bad news. Probably a very bad experience.

    Things accomplished in real life: Neighborhood jaunt with dog; wrapped up tax amendment paperwork; went to the post office and mailed it off; went to Walgreens to put in for a prescription refill; made some phone calls; answered some useful emails; started drafting guest blog posts for deployment later on.

    Other: I feel like I'm forgetting something.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 95,052

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