Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rattling On About Chess

My chess story got quite a few hits.  I love chess, though I don't get to play as often as I'd like.  My absolute biggest disappointment was when I arrived at high school and discovered the school had no competitive chess team.  Since some schools in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco had some, I had visions of playing chess competitively. Never  happened.  I was really disappointed.  A few students informally played during lunch. but it wasn't the same as mopping up another school with chess brilliance.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014


She began to wonder if this was the right place.  Heather had never been down here in 31/2 years of attending Millard Fillmore High.  There had never been any reason. Who cared about  where the groundskeeper kept his rakes? Then she noticed the handwritten sign that read “chess club.” She went inside.  Nothing fancy, a few tables and chairs. There was an open cooler with a few iced down cans of Coca Cola. She picked one up and asked, “Can I have one of these?”

“Sure,” one of the bewildered boys replied.

There were three of them. She knew Kevin from geometry class.   The other two boys were sophomores. At least there weren’t any freshmen. They all looked bewildered. A girl was standing in the chess club. And not just any girl, Heather was the undisputed hottest girl in the school. 

What is she doing here? The boys were all silently wondering.

Heather took a seat at one of the tables, opened her can of coke and asked, “Does anyone want to play?”

Kevin cautiously took the opposing seat.  “We play a lot. We’re pretty good.”

“White or black?”

“You can have white,” Kevin answered. He opened his own can of soda and took a drink.

Heather took a sip of Coke and moved out the king’s pawn.

The next few moves were uneventful. A knight was traded for a bishop by Kevin. Then Heather stumbled and lost a rook.

“Ya know Kevin,” she whispered, though it wasn’t much of a whisper as it was loud enough that the other boys could easily hear, “if you let me win I’ll  give you a blow job.” She moved her queen. “Check.”

Kevin choked a bit. He could feel Coke coming out of his nose. His hands started shaking as he picked up his white bishop. Was this for real or some diabolical strategy to so unnerve him that he’d lose no matter what?  He thought for a moment. His hand lingered for a second. He nearly dropped the piece his hand was shaking so badly. He slid the bishop over and took her queen. “Checkmate.”

Heather chugged down her remaining soda.  “Thanks for the Coke.” She stood up and walked out of the chess room.

“What’s with you?” one of the guys asked.

“You idiot! Why didn’t you let her win?”

“I couldn’t,” Kevin answered. “This is chess.”

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sans Goggles

A few days ago it was my birthday.  Instead of having any fun I simply worked.  I don't really care about birthdays anymore.  But, I did get a few cards.  And all the cards had dogs on them. That's because I like dogs. Dogs are fun.  So people gave me dog cards.  But that got me thinking...

None of the dogs on the birthday cards had goggles on.  If someone launched a line of greeting cards that featured dogs in goggles, well that would be something.  

Friday, July 25, 2014


Well, I just learned that the Horror Writers Association (HWA) passed a bylaw amendment allowing self published writers to become active members.  There isn't even a good way to verify if these people really have the sales they claim.  But, anything for more membership dues.  Now, this will get people mad at me. I think self publishers are the scourge of the written world. They choke the market with unsellable garbage and go around saying "this is the new order of things."  I am very disappointed with this development. Alas, I seem to be in the minority as it passed decisively.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Leave my mirrors alone

Just got my car back from the body shop yesterday.  Dang I hate it when they change my mirrors. And they adjusted my seat. This was a minor body repair to my rear bumper. It was a one day project. There was no reason for the car to need an extensive test drive.  So, to move it 15 feet inside the shop they need to mess with my mirrors and my seat?  Me thinks not.

They did a nice job fixing my car.  But why mess with my settings? Bugs me, it does.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tall Buildings

Today, I am suppressing a strong urge to get a rifle and climb up on a tall building.  It's format and layout time for the new issue of Steampunk Trails. Some stories come in great shape. Some of them.  But, alas, an ever increasing parade are something else entirely. It astonishes me why so many writers think their stories need to look cute. They embed odd features into the text. They use strange fonts. They use headers instead of letting the word processor numbering system work. And they always seem to want to add an extra line between paragraphs.  And those are the good submissions.  Oh, and let's not forget how half of all submissions come in with courier type in spite of warnings not to use it. Oh, how most editors hate this font.

Then there are scores of submissions that have no discernible paragraph. They're just continuous sentences strewn together in some random incomprehensible fashion. And none of them seem to have any resemblance to generally accepted manuscript formats that are published in any of a number of writing books.  

Gee, I wonder why I can't get published?
This is not unlike Woody Allen's quote that 90 percent of success is simply showing up. Simply sending in a clean, simple manuscript greatly improves your chances.  In the 20 or so years I've been editing various projects, this situation has gotten much worse.  

I'm not really sure.  I blame, to some degree, certain writers groups that urge on incompetent writer wannabees who are no ways near ready to take off the training wheels.  But there's something else going on. When I went insane and decided I should take up writing, I studied Writer's Market and everything else the library had to find out how to submit, how a manuscript should look and everything else I could learn. The savages cranking out submissions today do not, I fear, even know what a library is--let alone a book. And they don't seem too interested in learning. When you tell someone they've got serious formatting issues and, a week later, you get another sloppy mess from the same writer, you start thinking it's time to find a witch doctor and get a curse put on somebody. Truth is, good witch doctors cost money. Ah, fantasies of tall buildings take shape this time of year.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014


I made some toast yesterday.  I put some bread in the toaster and when it was ready I put some butter on the bread and ate it.  It took forever.  Toasters don't cook toast anymore. None of them do.  My dad has a really expensive toaster and it's just as slow and useless as my $8 one I bought at Target.  I sure wish toasters would cook the toast faster.  And, frankly, the bread isn't evenly toasted. There's something wrong with this world.  Some evil force is keeping people from having good toast.