Update. Next Publication is: Under Strange Suns, available digitally August 2015, print version due December 2015, Twilight Times Books.

Oregon is Burning

So, Oregon is on fire. I mean, not all of it but enough so you notice. Were it not for the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico’s attempt to wash the southern tier states off the map, the Columbia River Gorge fire would probably get more press coverage.

I mention the fire instead of the usual minutiae that fills this web log because it affects me. I thought the worst of the smoke had cleared a couple of days ago. I could see blue skies and the air smelled like air again. The winds must have shifted, because the smoke has returned. It isn’t as bad today as yesterday when the entirety of the outdoors smelled like fresh ashes, like God was sweeping out his fireplace.

The forecast of rain over the course of the next several days is promising. Clean the air, aid the firefighters. Seriously, this thing has been going on for a couple of weeks now and it is still only about one-third contained. That’s a lot of burning.

And it’s a shame, too. I mean, it’s a shame anytime there’s a big fire. But we get them every year in Oregon (not to mention the rest of the West) and it’s usually scrubland east of the Cascade Mountains. That’s tragic enough for the ranchers losing grazing land and everyone else suffering. I don’t mean to diminish that. But there is — to me — a qualitative difference when what is going up in flames is something as scenic and beautiful as the Columbia River Gorge. Seriously, if you haven’t been, I feel sorry for you. I hope the view hasn’t been unalterably ruined, though I fear it has. The Gorge is one of those things we residents show visitors, along with Portland Rose Garden, Powell’s Books, Timberline Lodge, and Cannon Beach. Multnomah Falls is an essential stop. At least the firefighters saved the lodge.

Well, enough with the gloom. I hope next week to provide some more cheery news.

LA and a Writer’s Workshop

What a weekend. I’m writing from a hotel lobby in Los Angeles. I mentioned before that a creative organization was flying me down to LA to participate in a writer’s workshop. Well, that’s done. Now I can recap the weekend while waiting for my ride to the airport.

The flight down was fine. Enjoyable even. Shuttle van hell proved less joyful. Let’s just say the trip from airport to hotel required two hours. And let’s never speak of it again.

LA is warm. Did you know that? The blocks are too long and they radiate and magnify the heat. But the tacos are good. Thank you, Daniel, for the tour. Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive. Done and done. I’d come back for the tacos at Grand Central Market. The rest is fine, if you go in for that sort of thing.

Karl Strauss Brewing tells me LA’s beer scene is coming along nicely. I could ask for a greater concentration, but as a visitor I’ll humbly accept what I can get.

The workshop was a treat. The list of mentors, faculty, and speakers was — with the exception of yours truly — distinguished. In fact the roster of student/attendees was impressive. I’m not going to name drop, so you’ll just have to take my word.

My part of the proceedings went off without a hitch. I don’t believe I embarrassed myself. The conversations over the course of the weekend scintillated and entertained. Well worth the trip. Hard to believe I got paid for this. I mean, I’m going to cash the check, don’t get me wrong. But the weekend proved more pleasure than work.

I feel energized. I’m looking forward to opening the laptop again once I’m on the plane and letting the words flow. The goal: complete chapter two before Portland.

Appendix N, Margaret St. Clair

I’ve been reluctant to write this one. You know the ubiquitous maternal aphorism “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all. “ And I dislike offering particularly critical opinions of other writers. After all, who am I to judge.

The first book by Margaret St. Clair I read was The Shadow People. I’m not going to offer up a single word concerning it. Understand?

But I’d read positive comments regarding Sign of the the Labrys. With my prior experience in mind, I had the library find a copy for me through inter-library loan instead of shelling out cash from my own pocket to procure a copy. I began it with somewhat higher hopes. Now, unfortunately, I have to offer an opinion. That makes me a bit uneasy.

What I’m going to do is provide my opinion in two sections. First, Sign of the Labrys as literature. Second, Sign of the Labrys as an Appendix N contributor to the development of Dungeons and Dragons.

Currently Reading

I’ve mentioned before that I’m usually reading multiple books at any given time. (Not simultaneously of course. Let’s not be ridiculous.) I have a workout book, a lunch book, a book on the toilet tank, a book in my library, and one book on CD in each vehicle. Here is a rundown of the current books in progress.

All the Latest

“So, what is new with you, Ken?”

I’m glad you asked, fictitious interlocutor. A couple of items have firmed up since last time I wrote, so I’m more comfortable mentioning them. I’m never truly comfortable mentioning anything that smacks of self-promotion, but this is the gig. No point whining unduly.

The first item I’d like to mention is that I’ve been invited as one of the panelists for the 2017 Calliope Authors Workshop. The organizers are flying me down to Los Angeles next month and putting me up in a hotel. I’ll sit in on a panel with two other writers and a moderator and do my best to help advise the aspiring authors who’ve signed up for the workshop. You, in the back, stop snickering. Anyway, that will be the weekend of September 9, if any of you of reading this are in LA and want to say hello.

2017 Oregon Brewers Festival

I have a few bits of information I’d truly like to share.  But until the details firm up a bit more I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to write about beer. Deal with it.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the Oregon Brewers Festival. Not necessarily an interesting number, but it is for me considering I’ve been to almost all of them. Twenty plus years of beer lines, heat, random yelling, and crowds. It’s better than I make it sound. I’ve tried some fantastic beer over the years.

This year I took the day off and brought the HA with me. MBW was across the country at a conference. So, daddy and daughter beer day. Bula! We arrived as the festival opened. A stroller provided her shade and a platform for the portable DVD player. She was set. I had a festival mug and tokens. I was set.

Ye Fair July

Owning a house demands more weekend hours than owning a condo. This is a cold rule of the universe. Still, one can find time to attend a Renaissance Faire.

I drove MBW and the HA south to Silverton, Oregon for the second year in a row. I’d offered the choice of an afternoon at Hood River watching the kite surfers and wind boarders or an afternoon of watching cosplay and hearing dodgy faux-british accents. MBW determined the HA would get more enjoyment from the latter.

As it transpired, the HA fell asleep in the car on the way down was thus too groggy to enjoy the first half-hour or so. She did not want to see the royal court. The sleepiness wore off, of course, and the HA continued to inquire after the queen for the rest of the afternoon. She did, at last gain an audience. What royal favors she garnered remain a mystery.

I have determined that, should we attend one of these in the future, that we will not trouble dropping in at the tilting field until at least a half an hour after the marshal begins the jousting festivities. The patter is too weak, the preliminaries too dull to see me through summer afternoon heat. As this appeared to be the family consensus, we didn’t stay for the organized violence. Perhaps next year we’ll wait out the bad jokes and cabbage chopping at a picnic table, enjoying ice cream and turkey legs, then drop in at a time better calculated to watch men in tin suits try to knock each other out of the saddle with sticks.

Meanwhile, householder’s obligations require more of my weekend time and beer money. For something other than beer. Sigh.

Off-Target, Laser-Focused Marketing.

An intriguing opportunity came my way a few months back, one that I consider intriguing in two aspects. I was interviewed for an article in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin (the monthly house-organ for Oregon’s attorneys) about lawyers who are also writers.

This interview was an enjoyable opportunity to discuss writing. As usual with this sort of thing, an hour conversation was whittled down to a few paragraphs. But the conversation was still worthwhile.