That’s a Wrap for 2017

2017 sucked and 2018 doesn’t look much brighter.

This blog, (formerly known as) Balderdash and the Moon, started as a way for me to sort my thinking/feeling about Our Current Situation. By the end of the April I’d stopped writing about politics at all, and the hot takes were all served liquid nitrogen cold. The last two thirds of the year were mostly novel progress updates and full moon stories.

This year’s writing success was finishing a novel. Yay! I started working on revising the draft last night and it was loads of fun. I’m looking forward to re-working all that writing over the course of the next several months.

I also posted a story for eleven of twelve full moons. I hope you enjoyed them! I’ve pulled them off the site, but there will be more in 2018.

I read about 50 books for fun last year, and read/skimmed a couple of dozen for research. Here are ten that stood out:

Animal Money by Michael Cisco – I didn’t finish this book, but I still think about it. Not finishing it kind of haunts me. I’ll probably return to this again in 2018.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler – Embarrassed to say this is the first Butler book I’ve read. Good in so many ways.

Book of the Phoexix by Nnedi Okorafor – Currently reading Who Fears Death which is equally as awesome.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – Utterly brilliant. Tremendous command of language. Re-read the hurricane passage as Irma approached.

Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky – Unforgettable story premise.

Citizen by Claudia Rankine – I think about this book all the time, and constantly want to re-read it.

The Baby Jesus Butt Plug by Carlton Mellick III – I seriously should be reading more bizarro fiction. Maybe that will be a new year’s resolution.

Hunger by Roxane Gay – A reminder of the importance of bald-faced honesty.

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente – Looking forward to re-reading this one.

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer – So much my kind of book. It has the benefit of recency, but it is my favorite book this year.

A few books I read for research also stand out.

Chronicle by Bob Dylan
Living Like a Runaway by Lita Ford
Daughters of Aquarius by Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd
Neon Angel by Cherie Currie
Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock by John Einarson

My New Year’s Resolution in 2017 was to be more in tune with the moon. Like many resolutions this one had more success at the beginning of the year than the end. Nonetheless, it was one of my favorite resolutions, and something I expect to stick with me.

So long, 2017. I have my doubts about 2018, but for a moment there is hope.

Look for a revamped blog this weekend or next.

Next year’s blog (tentatively titled Bustling Folly) will lean into the lack of politics and hot takes. AND, will also have more posts (focusing on books, writing, and weird ideas that catch my attention).

Along with the revising of the novel, I expect next year to write new stories and submit to markets. I will be sending off the first sometime during the second week of January, a short-short I’ve written and am currently revising. The story strategy for 2018 is to write stories to specific markets, rather than write a story and look for a market that fits. I’ve identified a dozen pro/semi-pro markets, and am educating myself about each, one at a time.

Happy New Year, everybody! Stay safe, rejuvenate, and get plenty of rest, because we have our work cut out for us in 2018.

December’s Full Moon Story – The Drowning Giant

(UPDATE: The full moon story series was only available in 2017. All stories posted in 2017 have been taken down.)

In December we have a supermoon! If you saw the full moon last night it probably looked closer, bigger, and brighter than usual.

This month’s full moon story is an attempt to take a myth and write it as a short story. Any guesses on the original myth on which this story is based?

This month’s story is barely more than a short-short. I had another queued up, but it needed too much revision. After the effort of November’s writing to finish the work-in-progress, I didn’t have it in me to substantially revise.

I love J. G. Ballard’s story “The Drowned Giant” and this story is a slight play on words. It is about a giant who drowns his children, rather than about a giant who cannot swim.

Hard to believe December is already here. Even harder to believe that with the distractions of work, the Oval Office, and various hurricanes I managed to piece together 95,000 words and get nearly a dozen stories up on the blog.

I’m not sure what the plan is for next year, but I still have a few weeks to figure it out. I have a short-short (which was never on this blog) I’ll be submitting to the markets in January. I have to revise the novel (which I expect will take at least another year). I want to post more frequently, but I want to avoid politics, so I need to figure out how I can carve out time, and what sort of topics will be suitable.

I’ve got a few more posts for this year, but until then stay warm, stay safe and I hope you enjoy the final Full Moon Story of the year.

The Drowning Giant

It is evening and I watch him mourn on the beach. He wails. He kneels on the beach, a thatch of seaweed hanging from his shoulder. He is too distraught to clean himself. Sea water drips from his long black hair. His keening cry can be heard for miles.

Near him lays the drenched and drowned body of his daughter, the surf washes up around her legs, and then away again.


Not long after that evening I watch him mourn again. His pain fuels my rage because I knew his pain is a lie. I watched him murder two of his daughters. My sisters. He pretends he had no choice, that they were working to destroy the paradise he built. Paradise? What paradise is there for my two dead sisters, and the dead brother I know he killed before I was born?

Read the Rest Here


It worked!

I needed a push to finish a project started at the beginning of the year. Coincidentally, I needed about 50,000 words to complete the project, and NaNoWriMo requires 50,000 words to claim victory. It worked. I finished. And for this brief moment I am a winner. Yay, winning!

I’ve completed the first draft, but there’s still several shit tons of work left to do. I have a big pile of …clay, and now I can start to shape it into something that might be interesting and entertaining.

I’m not sure how to track the revision process, but that’s not something I need to figure out tonight. Right now I’m going to go drink a beer.

November’s Full Moon Story: The Hello Man

(UPDATE: The full moon story series was only available in 2017. All stories posted in 2017 have been taken down.)

This month’s Full Moon story is inspired by a true event. The beginning of “The Hello Man” is a super-creepy experience I had a few years ago.

With crystal clarity I heard someone say “Hello” and it jolted me out of my sleep. I was disoriented and for a moment thought someone was in the room. Then I thought they must be outside the window. I went to the kitchen and peered through the window to see if I could see someone next door.

To this day I’m still not certain if I heard someone on their phone in the carport next door or if it was a dream. I assume it was a dream, but it was eerie and scared the shit out of me. The fear, I think, came from the moment of believing someone was standing next to me as I slept.

The rest of the story is completely made up.

The Hello Man


He spoke clearly, in a conversational tone. In an instant I awoke completely. A muscle in my back tensed and I shivered.


I pulled my exposed, cold foot under the blanket, and arched my head to look to the end of the bed. I could barely make out the figure of our dog Abbie sleeping on her dog blanket.

“Hello.” The voice wasn’t loud, but it was clear. And close.

Jessica snored softly next to me, curled on her side, her back to me; her shoulder softly illuminated by the streetlights outside our house.

The man’s voice disoriented me. It sounded as if he were standing right beside me, but as my head cleared away the sleep I determined the voice must be a neighbor in the carport speaking on his cell phone. Our bedroom window is only a few feet from our neighbor’s carport.


The voice was calm. It occurred to me he might be speaking to get my attention. I pushed myself up so my eyes peeked over the bottom of the window. I inched back one of the white curtains and did my best to look outside. The ambient glow of street lights and porch lights was enough to make out shapes. I saw no one.

I slipped back into the bed, pulling the blanket over my shoulder. I was fully awake. Jessica rolled on her back and mumbled something. She was dreaming.

“Hello.” The clarity and closeness convinced me I must be hearing a neighbor in the carport speaking to his phone. He probably stood on the other side of the cinder block wall.

I looked at the clock. 5:33. Still a half-hour before the alarm went off. I turned the alarm off and quietly slid out of bed. I could tell by the silhouetted tilt of her head that Abbie watched me, hoping for an early breakfast. I pulled my robe from the back of a dining room chair we kept in the bedroom and moved to the kitchen to make coffee. I was happy to get a jump on the day’s work.

The kitchen door looks out at the same carport as our bedroom window. Before I turned on the kitchen light I pulled the curtain back and looked boldly outside. I was up. If someone wanted my attention I could give it to them. I saw no one.


NaNoWriMo 2017

It’s National Novel Writing Month in November and I’m participating once again.

I started in 2010 and this will be novel number six.

In all candor I’m using this opportunity to push through on my current work-in-progress, which has sort of stalled out at 45,000 words. However, since the goal is somewhere between 90,000 and 100,000, then adding the concluding 50,000 in the month of November works perfectly!

In 2010 I finished grad school, and only had a part-time job. After grad school I returned to all the things I loved before academia sucked up every free moment. I started reading for pleasure and writing for fun. That first novel was a near-future eco-disaster involving time travel, future mutants, and ancient abandoned cities on Mars.

2011’s novel was an update on Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. Tim is rich and generous, but when he loses his fortune he learns he never really had any friends and dies bitter and broke.

In 2012 I returned to gonzo fantasy with story about a girl and her dog. But, her dog gains sentience as they travel through weird dimensions, and then each have to cope with the new complexities of their companionship.

2013’s Swamp Ape spawned Denny and the world of Abdera, Florida. Several of the stories in the right-hand column take place in that world. When I complete the current WIP (probably toward the end of 2018) I plan to re-write this novel.

In 2014 I did not participate in NaNoWriMo. Instead I worked on creating a full-length work over the course of the year. I completed it, but this one really never came together. Some of the ideas were OK, but the characters never came to life. It was about a group of body-modification hackers who stumble across a government plot to deploy mind-reading technology across the internet of things.

In 2015 I tried my hand at satire and wrote an updated version of Candide, starring a sentient sex-robot.

2016 was a year for short story writing.

And, this year, I’m using NaNoWriMo to complete my current work-in-progress. I describe it this way on my author’s page:

“In the 1970s Annabelle Easley went from the rarefied heights of rock stardom and Rolling Stone covers to being charged for the murder of a popular New Age guru. This story chronicles her life of sex, drugs, rock & roll, and her awakening spirituality.”

There will be a widget in the right-hand column of this blog to chart my progress. You need to average about 1,667 words a day to successfully complete the challenge. I’m pretty sure I’m going to start out in the hole because next week is an extra-busy time at work. Regardless, I’m looking forward to re-visiting the challenge!

Full Moon Story for October: Takumi Gets a Job

(UPDATE: The full moon story series was only available in 2017. All stories posted in 2017 have been taken down.)

This may be the most impressionistic and least plotted story I’ll publish in the Full Moon series. It started out with a lengthy outline that had to do more with the mystery of the owner of the estate than Takumi. For whatever reason I couldn’t bring myself to follow that outline. Instead I’d add a sentence or two to this piece once every month or so. That means it literally took years to write.

Before the outline it started with a vision of a late-middle age Japanese man sitting on a low crumbling concrete wall in a decayed urban core just before sunrise. When I saw him in my vision I knew a lot about him immediately. Maybe that’s why the story would never follow the extensive outline I built to go with it. This was always meant to be Takumi’s story and no one else’s.


It had been more than a week since Takumi’s last job. He was the first to arrive at the street corner, as he was most mornings. It was an hour before sunrise, but the street was well-lit. In addition to the street lights lining the street, the corner where the day laborers waited every morning held one giant halogen light shining down on the bare lot.

The corner where they waited once aspired to be a building of some sort, but the project had been abandoned decades ago. It was in an impoverished part of town, and so had remained there, neglected and half built. At some point it became the place for day laborers to wait for bosses to come hire them. Takumi sometimes wondered how this spot had been selected and not another. How long had it been here and how long would it last? There was no authority who singled out this place for the homeless, and nearly homeless to wait for work. It was largely self-regulated. Sometimes men fought and someone called the police, but mostly it was quiet and no one bothered them. Almost everyone was gone from the corner by 9 or 10am. If they had no job by then they knew no one was coming by mid-morning, and so they moved on to the rest of their day.

The young, strong, and uninjured were the first selected. Takumi was old and walked with a limp. A short concrete wall separated the lot from the sidewalk. The lot, the wall, and this part of the city was neglected. All except the lights. Takumi took his favorite spot at the end of the crumbling wall. He nodded to the regulars as they began to arrive, and poured himself a cup of tea from the thermos he carried. When the weather was nice this was his favorite time of day. It was still early enough to have hope for a good job. It was quiet. Soon the lot would fill with anxious men, hiding their anxiety and blustering through their hangovers with jokes and insults.

Takumi did not initiate conversation with the others. Nor did he avoid speaking to people when spoken to. Other than the desire to work he had little in common with the other laborers. He did not drink. He did not smoke either cigarettes or pot. He did not gamble. Or, at least he did not join the gambling games that broke out among the bored men as they waited for construction bosses to drive by in their pick-up trucks. And, he was often the only Japanese man waiting. Many years ago, when Takumi first started as a day laborer, he assumed all the men were from Mexico. He quickly learned there was more diversity among the Spanish-speaking men than he initially assumed. The men came from Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Texas, California, Argentina, Nicaragua, Cuba, and on and on. Many were Indians. Many were US citizens. Occasionally white men and black men joined them. They tended not to stay long. They either got hired into more permanent positions, or went to prison, or begged in the streets. Occasionally an Asian man might appear. Depending on the man he might approach Takumi or ignore him. Takumi did not care. He liked his solitude.


Late in the morning, after most of the men had been picked up, a well-maintained, but old model Cadillac, pulled up to the corner next to where Takumi stood.


Mean Irma

When I was a kid my friends often started stories with the words Me and Name (Me and Jeff, Me and Charley, etc.). To my ears, because the words were run together and the ‘d’ was dropped, it always sounded like they were starting to tell a story about Mean Jeff or Mean Charley.

This is a story about Mean Irma.

I know enough about hurricanes that I did these two things in preparation. I cut back trees in the backyard in the spring. One was dying and leaning over the neighbors shed, so I hired some people to take it down so a storm wouldn’t. I check the NOAA National Hurricane Center every few days to see what is developing.

Here is what I did not do in preparation. I did not have plywood cut to fit my windows, so by the time it became clear the hurricane would definitely hit us I did not have suitably sized window protections. I did not have a cordless power drill for removing panels once the electricity was out, and I did not have suitable wood screws for putting up window protections.

The Wednesday before Irma plowed through Florida my work announced they were closing Thursday through Monday. At the time the projections showed Irma moving up the east coast of Florida. I had a great deal of confidence in this prediction, and didn’t worry too much about the ‘cone of uncertainty’ indicating the possibility of it shifting our way.

Thursday morning and Friday morning I visited the grocery store at 7am to gather supplies (nuts, dried fruit, beans, water, batteries, chips, cheese and crackers), and filled the car with gas. Mostly because I thought there was a real possibility of losing power for a day or two, but I still wasn’t particularly worried. During the day on Friday I brought in a lot of stuff from outside (chairs, garden stuff, little tables). Friday evening I felt prepared.

Saturday the projections showed the worst case scenario (for me). A high category storm moving up the west coast, heading right for Tampa. If it cruised up the coast without making landfall until it reached Tampa Bay, that could mean for some serious destruction.

JB and I began boarding up windows. She had been much more worried about the storm than I (in retrospect, rightly so), and had asked a friend to drop off her fencing that she had recently taken down. On Saturday we cut down the fencing and nailed it up over windows. We covered windows with shelving we didn’t use in our pantry, and with leftover flooring that’s been laying around for nearly ten years. JB disassembled her Ikea desk and we used her desktop to cover a front window. (Covering windows involved a tremendous amount of sawing wood down to size. Fortunately I have a circular saw and a suitable work bench.) When that was done we brought in all of our plants. We wanted to have as much done by dark on Saturday as possible, because it looked like Sunday would be a rainy day.

I barely slept Saturday night.

Sunday we stayed in touch with friends, monitored the storm, listened to stories of different shelters and traffic jams. I stayed off social media and commercial news. I texted with friends and watched NOAA and the Weather Underground.

Sunday afternoon I felt I had done everything I could to be prepared and turned on the television to watch NFL football to get my mind off worrying about the weather. All football pre-empted in the area. Nothing but Irma coverage on every local channel. I turned off the television, opened a book and lay on the couch to read.

I fell asleep.

JB woke me at 4:30 to say she was going to stay in a shelter. The anxiety and fear was making her sick. She didn’t want to go through this storm in this house. And, she had to make a decision soon, because curfew went into effect at 6pm and many shelters were already closed.

Right or wrong, for good or for ill, I did not share her anxiety and fear. We agreed I’d stay here with the dogs and she would head over to a nearby church that opened its doors to people in the neighborhood. It wasn’t an official shelter, just a church helping out its community.

As we went through the build-up to the storm JB checked in with me periodically to gauge my worry level. What influenced me to stay was the Hillsborough County disaster plan which urged you to take shelter in place if you were in a well-secured space; the fact that we are not in a flood zone, nor an evacuation zone; the history of our house making through storms for decades, and the likelihood of the storm diminishing as it approached. Plus, I had a bag ready and the car pulled up to the doorway if something catastrophic happened to our house and could make it to a near-by friend’s or a shelter within minutes if necessary. I felt prepared and ready to weather the storm.

At 8pm the gusts started, and the occasional branch hit the house. By 10pm there was a lot of debris hitting the house and the gusts were persistent and loud. I moved the couch to the center of the house and the dogs huddled next to me. I watched the laptop, my phone, and a non-news, non-weather channel on TV. The power went out about 11:15. By midnight the sound of gusting wind was strong and persistent, but the sound of stuff hitting the house was mostly gone since most of the debris had already been blown off the trees.

Part of what made the experience so alarming was the persistence of the winds and the length of time it covered. It went on and on and on.

That said, by midnight I was exhausted. The storm had diminished by the time it hit us. All the windows were covered. The dogs were snoozing (they hate thunder (of which there was none), but were indifferent to the wind). Shortly after midnight I fell asleep.

I awoke at 4am to silence. No wind. No rain. I peeked outside, then stepped outside. Only a light drizzle. I took a broom and swept off the deck by the back door. I pulled some branches away from the gateway to the back yard, then let the dogs out. It had been a long time since they had a chance to relieve themselves.

The house was already getting hot and stifling. I fell back asleep and awoke to JB getting home just before 8am.

The house came through intact. A friend had a spare cordless drill so I was able to get the boards down while JB slept that morning. We were without power until Wednesday morning. Others in the neighborhood didn’t get their’s back until Thursday or Friday. Some coworkers never lost power, some didn’t get it back until the weekend.

We spent a lot of time talking with our neighbors, which is the great silver lining of all this. Physically we’re all sound, but there’s a lot of psychological disruption that lingers for awhile. Most of the debris is cleaned up, but if you drive around the neighborhood there are huge, huge piles in front of nearly everyone’s house of branches, trees, and leaves. The clean-up will go on for some time.

I know better now what I need to do to be prepared. And I will be over the next couple of weeks. Kind of have to be because Mean Maria is building up steam out in the Atlantic and heading this way.

September’s Full Moon Story: A Home for Old Familiars

(UPDATE: The full moon story series was only available in 2017. All stories posted in 2017 have been taken down.)

Here is a story that needs to be re-written from snout to tail. There is so much wrong with it I’m not sure where to begin.

I love the premise, though.

The title came to me one day and I understood immediately what kind of place it was, and that it fit perfectly into the world of Abdera, Florida.

Unfortunately, I never got any traction on any of the characters. So, the story has been put back into the vat to allow it to marinate a little longer, but for this month, here is the first shot at a story that will look substantially different when it’s fully cooked. Regardless of its flaws I hope you enjoy!


A Home for Old Familiars

A piercing scream brought Abel upright and immediately out of his nap. A cacophony of animal noises followed. Whatever was happening had drawn the attention of every creature on the estate. Abel reached for the shotgun he kept in the gun closet and limped outside as quickly as he could manage. Dogs barked, cats wailed, the cockatrice crowed, and dragons roared. Abel’s entire universe overfilled with noises of alarm. Some creatures ran toward the intruder, some away, and some froze. Abel followed the dogs toward the disturbance.

A large black dog, burning with blue flame, crouched over the bloody corpse of the basilisk. It growled at the approaching dogs, but continued to feed. When Abel saw what was happening he let out a loud whistle.

read the rest here

That Whooshing Sound

It’s nearly the end of August, and my calendar shows me I was scheduled to be finished with the first draft of the novel work-in-progress. If you look in the status box on the right-hand side of the blog you’ll see that I’m up to nearly 43,000 words of a projected 90,000.

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
–Douglas Adams

The bad news is that I’m not even half-way there.

The good news is that I have persisted. The work in progress is still in progress and hasn’t been abandoned.

So — I’m resetting the deadline.

The new deadline is Dec. 31.

Somehow I need to carve out more time for writing, so I can pick up the productivity. pace. And, since my schedule shifts and adjusts at the beginning of a new semester, I think I might have found a few extra pockets of time. Fingers crossed.

August Full Moon Story: Denny Goes to Heaven

(UPDATE: The full moon story series was only available in 2017. All stories posted in 2017 have been taken down.)

Here’s a new story for this month’s full moon. This is a long one, clocking in at over 12,000 words. I hope you like it!

Denny Goes to Heaven

This is another Denny story (see last month’s Denny Hitches a Ride), which takes place in my Abdera, Florida universe, but this one has more depth to it, and reveals a little more about swamp ape culture. Denny is a swamp ape, one of the clan of cryptid apes that include yeti, sasquatch, big foots, etc. Denny is also a ‘shaver’ a derogatory term used by the apes for someone who passes in human society by keeping themselves more-or-less groomed to be acceptable to humans.

I love stories where the characters end up in Hell, but it seems like stories where characters end up in Heaven are under-represented. I think this is because Heaven sounds boring. What do angels do in paradise all day? This story takes a look at the idea of paradise, and finds that maybe it’s not as awesome as it sounds.

Denny Goes to Heaven

“Angels are dicks.” Denny nursed a beer at the El Diablo Bar and Grill in the heart of a hot and humid Wednesday afternoon.

“Give ‘em a break, Denny. They’re dead.” Tomas sat at the end of the bar smoking a cigarette and doing something with his smart phone. The bar was dimly lit and quiet. Denny was the only customer and Tomas the only staff. The front door stood open to let in the bright Florida sunlight, and catch whatever breeze might accidentally slip inside. “You’d probably be partying all the time too if you were dead and became an angel.”

“First of all, I’ll probably never become an angel, second, I don’t like to party, and third, why the fuck did they have to move into my trailer park?” Denny had already been through this with Boris, Tomas’s father who had opened the bar for lunch, but had yet to exhaust his complaints with Tomas. Boris left after the brief lunch rush to run errands, leaving Tomas behind to pour Denny’s beer and listen to his tales of woe.

“Being an angel is better than being the other thing. Besides, you party all the time, Denny. And why wouldn’t angels move here? It’s beautiful here.” Tomas had known Denny since he was a child. He grew up in this bar. For as long as he could remember Denny had been a regular. He was almost like an uncle. An abnormally large, shaggy uncle.

“Drinking beer and smoking pot is not the same thing as partying, Tomas. These guys are doing fucking karaoke all fucking night.” Denny finished his beer and contemplated ordering another.

“Yeah, but they sing like angels.”

Denny had to give him that. Apparently becoming an angel made you the best possible version of yourself. Whether or not you could sing in life, you could sing as an angel. You were also transformed into the most beautiful version of you possible. The big mystery was why they were back on Earth. Not even the angels knew. They were plenty unhappy about it, so they said, but it was hard to tell from their non-stop carousing and fornicating. They were used to Heavenly indulgences and most weren’t interested in giving them up just because they were back on Earth.

Denny decided against another beer. He’d been drinking out too much lately to avoid the angels and money was getting tight. He paid Tomas and shambled his way to his shitty Toyota truck. He was too large to fit inside his truck with the seats in place, so he’d removed the truck seats and replaced them with a simple bench. Even with the seat removed he could barely squeeze himself inside.

Denny stood six foot six, slouched. Average height for a swamp ape. Denny was a shaver, a derogatory term used by swamp apes, yetis, bigfoot and their ilk for those who kept their hair trimmed so they could pass among the humans. When harassed by his cousins Denny would hold up a closed fist and intone solemnly while slowly opening his fingers to reveal an empty palm. “Here in my hand is how many fucks I give.”