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H. M. Fish Story

I’ve mentioned before about the famous list I have of Things to Do Before I Die (and if you don’t have a list like that, you should). One day I really will write all these down — I’ll stick them on my FAQ so everyone can see them, how about that?

One of the items that has been on my list for a very long time has been: Go Deep Sea Fishing. I love boats, and I love to fish — going out into the middle of the ocean with no land in sight for miles and nothing to do but throw your line in has always been a dream of mine. When I was younger, Dad told me that I couldn’t go deep sea fishing because I was a girl. He said there were no proper facilities on a boat like that, and I didn’t have the right equipment to, ah, purge my necessary fluids off the side of the boat.

The fact that I had the bladder of a camel made no difference. I wasn’t going, and that was that. So “deep sea fishing” made it onto my famous list.

Saturday, I finally got to go.

But even better than the boat and fishing, was that I got the boat, fishing, and my favorite cousin Jamie.

Mom says that Jamie is our favourite cousin because when Sami and I were little and Jamie was on leave from the 82nd Airborne, he came to visit and took us to the circus. And while that is true, and was a fantastically singular experience, I love Jamie because of spaghetti. We were on the phone once and I whined, “Jamie, what do I want for dinner?” Without missing a beat, Jamie answered, “Spaghetti.”

Not “What do you feel like?” or “What are you in the mood for?” or “What’s in your fridge?” He just picked something and moved on. No time wasted mulling over a decision that really shouldn’t require–though it normally does–enough brain power to run a nuclear reactor. So I love Jamie because of spaghetti.

And no, you can’t have his phone number.

The weather certainly wasn’t perfect; until 8pm the night before we weren’t even sure we’d be able to go due to rain offshore. But we got the thumbs up and drove through the mist to New Smyrna at first light. We arrived early–about 7:30am–to secure a sweet spot on the back of the Pastime Princess, so we had plenty of time for catching up and BLTs and watching rainbows. Jamie–the marine bird biologist–named every Vee flying by, and Dad regaled us with his new “trivia question” approach to fund-raising youths outside grocery stores.

Jamie offered me a jacket, but I declined. He called me stubborn. I didn’t contradict him. I told him he’d know I was cold when my lips turned blue.

I was so happy, I thought I might pop. I didn’t even feel the rain. I had already seen rainbows and was on a ship named Princess (and yes, the boat even had a dog). The water was gunmetal gray and crashing white against the rocks. It took us what felt like forever to get through the manatee zone and under the drawbridge, out to the rough seas on the map where there be dragons. It was exquisitely beautiful. I smiled like an idiot for at least an hour, and Jamie took the opportunity to blatantly remind me how great he was. (“You know what’s great?” asked Jamie. “Me!”) Dad ponied up the money to get us in the fishing pool — everybody pitches in five bucks, and the one who hauls up the biggest catch gets the kitty.

Jamie punched my shoulder. “You’re gonna win that pot,” he said. “You’re the crazy lucky one.”

“Nah,” I replied. “My luck doesn’t work that way.”

Did I mention the seas were rough? We had been assured by Tony (one of the Princess’s fabulous and excessively helpful crew) that the open waters were much calmer, and that there were about a hundred different fishing spots they could try. They weren’t worried. So I wasn’t worried.

But boy, those seas could happily get calmer any minute now. That’d be great. I asked Jamie for a piece of his super-peppermint gum. Dad took some too.

“You’re starting to look a little green,” said Jamie.

“I might need that trash can back there,” I said matter-of-factly.

“Nope,” said Dad. “Just throw up over the side.”

So I did.

Jamie gave me a 9.5 on my delivery and distance.

The second one scored higher for volume. So much for the BLT. But I felt a little better, as most people do after they’ve gotten the nasty out. I felt a little better…and then I felt a little worse. I preferred standing up to sitting down, standing up and clinging to the railing and using my knees as shock absorbers until my legs shook from the effort. I stared at the horizon, shouting silent orders that my addled brain sort itself out immediately.

Exactly how far out were we going? I’d seriously love to settle down now, body and soul.

But the boat kept on moving; my brain and my stomach kept on doing backflips. The rain and the spray hit me like little needles of sleet, but I didn’t care. The excessive shivering actually helped take my mind off the rest of the world. Jamie put Dad’s jacket around my shoulders when my lips finally did turn blue.

Blessedly, the ship finally slowed down, and the ominous voice over the loudspeaker announced that it was fine for all of us to cast out our lines.

Yeah. Fine for them, maybe.

I give myself credit: I tried. I really did try. And Dad and Jamie were so accommodating–Dad baited up my hook and showed me how far to cast (we had to be careful not to tangle lines with the 60 other people fishing off the side of the boat, which happened quite a bit) and how long to let my line out. Even perfect strangers were helpful and patient; the guy to our right reminded me to watch the horizon and not the water below…but how are you supposed to fish without watching the water?

He also threatened a little fish he caught, instructing him to go get his big brothers and bring them back to face him. I was glad to find that I was not too incapacitated to laugh.

The worst was over, but the damage was already done. There I was, in the midst of doing one of the things I had always wanted to do, and I was rendered completely incapable of doing it. It hurt to open my eyes — like in a dream, they would roll back up into the only slightly less turbulent back of my head. It hurt to talk. It hurt to listen to Dad and Jamie talk. It even hurt to think; my mind was all over the place. Trying to stay with one train of thought was like trying to hold a balloon underwater. It took so much concentration that I was forced to let go, allowing random words and feelings and images to bounce around inside my skull like energized atoms.

The sky was blue and cloudless now, and the sea was cerulean glass, but I was no part of it. I was trapped inside a body that refused to bend to my will, and it angered me to no end. It had never occurred to me that any of the things on my list wouldn’t be both fun and satisfying in their accomplishment. I should be ecstatic, not angry.

But being angry hurt too. So I settled for battered frustration.

I tried at least four times to fish, and finally gave up to let Jamie and Dad have some fun. In between fishing spots, I’d rest my head on one of their shoulders and nudge my bruised mind towards the numbness of almost-sleep. Then they’d get up to fish again and I’d resume my efforts to remain calm, leaving the bench every half hour or so to relieve myself over the back railing. I couldn’t even appreciate the gorgeous red snapper that Dad reeled in (with Tony’s help, and a hook), all I could think was: That’s the most beautiful fish I’ve ever seen…now MOVE.

I had brought my camera on board, but thankfully, as I was indisposed, the crew snapped their own picture of Dad and his catch.

I was behind Tony, bent over and making yet another offering to Poseidon.

Despite the prolonged misery, the call was given to reel in and head back much sooner than I expected. I wanted Dad and Jamie to catch some more fish. I was long past wanting to sober up and catch something of my own. I wanted to go back to being happy. I wanted to pay Dad back for the trip he had given me that I had completely wasted. I put my head on his shoulder, clutching the ginger ale that Jamie handed me and refusing to disgrace myself on the way back.

That one I blissfully did manage.

Our friend The Fish Talker had told me that once I stepped on the dock I’d be fine. Unfortunately that was not the case, but that fact that I was on solid ground meant that I was one step closer to wellness.

The little ironies of life were not lost on me, of course, and I could almost hear Murphy cackling in the wings. Thanks to twenty-first century advancements in technology, the Pastime Princess had been equipped with all the proper female facilities and not once the entire time did I ever have to use them. And yet I had still managed to purge all my necessary bodily fluids off the side with frequent and consistent grace and aplomb.

The balance of the universe remained in that I had sacrificed enthusiasm for one of my dreams and spent over six-hours straight being painfully ill…and my father brought in the biggest catch that day. Tony said in his fourteen years of chartering he had never seen a nicer fish. There were paparazzi as we walked down the plank, and Dad was the first to receive his fish, pose for the cameras, and have his catch cleaned.

He also won the pool, of course, making all his money back for the trip, plus enough to fund a fabulous day full of food and dancing at the Greek Festival on Sunday.

THAT is the way my luck works.

Well done, Dad. You deserved that fish!!!

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Friday Magic

I’m on vacation today visiting Mom and Dad in Florida. Sun, sand, and deep sea fishing…hooray!

The blog’s on a minibreak too, but worry not — today there is an original Alethea Kontis essay guest-starring at Title Magic, the blog set up by the American Title competition finalists.

Thanks again to those ladies for inviting me — make note of their names, folks, because they’re the Next Big Thing in the publishing industry!

Without further ado, click here to read “Safe till St. Patrick’s Day.”
Have a great weekend!

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Genre Chick Interview: Hillary Robson

If you were a superhero, who would YOU be? I found the answer from Tennessee local Hillary Robson, co-editor of Saving the World: A Guide to Heroes, an in-depth essay book about the hit TV show Heroes.

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Alethea Kontis: Tell us a little bit about Saving the World. How did it come about? How did you get involved in the project? What was your role in co-editing?

Hillary Robson: Saving the World was born at last year’s meeting of the Popular & American Culture in the South’s annual convention, as Lynnette [Porter] and I had breakfast. We were both already huge fans of Heroes (even three episodes in) and knew it was a keeper–we’d both started taking notes while viewing and thought it would be a great book subject. We started looking at different people to contribute based on their talks at PACS. I’d worked with David [Lavery] & Lynnette on Unlocking the Meaning of Lost: An Unauthorized Guide. The three of us work extremely well together, so it seemed a natural thing to embark on another book, and so we did.

We all had some ideas on what we’d like to see in the book. I knew I wanted a chapter on fandom, as it’s my favorite area of scholarship, and we knew we’d like to compare it to Lost and other series, and of course the comic genre–so we just took areas and developed from there. As far as the co-editing, the first part was allocation: looking at different subjects and inviting scholars to contribute, and the rest was reading through and seeing the delightful fruits of our labor. All of our contributors are amazing writers and scholars, and we were quite lucky to work with such a talented bunch.

AK: Who is your favorite Heroes cast member? Have you ever met any of the cast in person?

HR: My favorite cast member right now is Elle–she’s complex and multi-layered, and I have a bit of a girl-crush on Kristen Bell–she’s amazing. I’m also a huge fan of Adam; I want to know more about him so that I can ascertain if he’s diabolically evil. I have to admit, I have always liked the evil characters better–perhaps because they are all capable of redemption, but mostly because they’re so *bad* that it’s fun to watch.

I haven’t ever met a cast member, but my co-editor Lynnette has–she’s met and interviewed quite a few, and I’m jealous!

AK: Were you ever a cheerleader?

HR: No. <frowns> I lack coordination, and I’m a total klutz. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’d break something if I attempted to do a split. I’d be a hazard to the team if I were a cheerleader. It’s better for the world that I never, ever, attempted.

AK: Are you a comic book fan? (If so, any faves?)

HR: I like comic books. I especially like seeing them brought to life on the screen, but I don’t have any die-hard favorites. I usually read them after seeing them (most recently, 300) because I’m fascinated with adaptations. I never really read comics until the X-Men movies, and that was because I’d heard so many fans grumble about the way the canon was changed.

AK: What do you think the Average Joe could do today to save the world?

HR: They could start by sending in some pencils to help end the Writer’s Strike! It’s gonna ruin my world if it goes on much longer (sigh!).

AK: What New Year’s Resolutions did/will you make for 2008?

HR: New Years resolutions. Well, I’m trying to reduce the amount of coffee I drink, while at the same time I made a resolution to be more productive because I have a lot of unfinished projects I need to do. As I type this, I realize that I might not be able to accomplish productivity without coffee, so I think I’m going to just say I resolve to be more productive and spend less money at Starbucks.

AK: What was your favorite TV show as a kid? Any favorite old characters?

HR: Well, my favorite TV show from 9th grade on was The X-Files–still a huge favorite. It brings back more nostalgia for me than any other show. I loved Scully and Mulder, and of course, the Cigarette Smoking Man (Evil characters rule!). Going back further, I was a huge Quantum Leap fan when I was a kid– that was an amazing show and so much fun to watch.

AK: If you could have any superpower, what would it be? (I ask everyone this, but it seems exceptionally appropriate here…)

HR: I was asked this in an interview once, and I said I wanted Skylar’s power. I’m pretty sure I freaked the interviewer out because he instantly thought of eating brains. I love the idea of adopting anyone’s powers, but personally, I don’t want to use it for evil. So I’ll go with Peter’s powers of acquisition since he doesn’t have to kill anyone. I might like the evil ones, but I’m not evil… I promise!

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You’ve Got Valentines

I told my friend Mark (see: Drinking Buddy of 2007) that I would blog about my adventures last Saturday but I put it off…and then Monday night I got smacked down with some evil stomach virus and it threw everything out of whack. But I did promise — and I keep my promises — and since I can’t summon the strength to get my butt to the sneak preview of Jumper tonight, I guess I’ll nurse my diet Root Beer and get this done.

Saturday I had a blast. Janet Lee and I attended PodCamp Nashville in the morning — there’s a reason for it that I can’t quite tell you just yet, but suffice it to say that the speakers were amusing and inspirational. We didn’t stay the whole time because Janet had to get home for a scheduled phone call with her husband, who was in Romania documenting gypsies and wild dogs.

While Janet was otherwise engaged, I hung out with Ethan. We watched Spongebob and cast spells at each other and discussed dragons and their various colors and powers. (There’s something incredibly refreshing about hanging out with a man who acts like he’s six… when he actually is.) Our plan was to go see Spiderwick, but we found out (commercials are very informative) that it didn’t come out until next week. So we went to get some lunch (Ethan likes sushi!) and then to Art & Inventions to make Valentines.

They really do have the coolest stuff to do in East Nashville.

We each picked out a wooden heart, and Ethan and I sifted through the treasures for a while, trying to decide what to use. I had about 14 different ideas. I thought maybe I might make it for my father. When Sami and I were little, we would go down to the kitchen on Valentine’s Day morning and there would always be something from Dad. A little stuffed animal or a little box of chocolates. As far as I’m concerned, my father is, was, and will ever be the only redeeming feature about Valentine’s Day.

But my heart evolved as I painted it.

I haven’t done any artwork in forever. Seriously. Ten years almost. Sitting there with the brush in my hand felt SO good. The world just kind of fell away, like it did when I would sit for hours beside the radio with my Jem coloring book. And I am so stunned by the way my heart turned out. I still look at it and think, “My god, *I* painted that?” In a way, I feel like I’m not allowed to be an artist. That’s Sami’s arena.

The symbolism is so apparent that even Meg, the owner of A&I, stood over my shoulder and told us all exactly what it meant. But more interesting is the symbolism in the evolution of the piece. At the beginning, I had all those utopian ideas of how my heart *should* look. I started with black paint around the outside and painted the right half. I got the red paint and painted the left half, not touching the black at all.

My heart was broken.
But it couldn’t end there.
So I made wings.

I titled it “Learn to Fly” — after the Foo Fighters song that played on the radio on the way home. I hung it up on the wall in my bedroom beside the blue mirror. And I went to Michaels and bought some more paint and some more shapes…and I’m going to find the time because I need to.

I dragged myself into work today to make a meeting — Chuck sent Lillie some roses and I coveted them as I walked by. (Just because I think Valentine’s Day is stupid doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate flowers, or being the object of a true love’s affection. Especially since I’ve never technically been the latter…but I digress.) I made it through the buy session, and even through lunch — it’s not fair to be starving, only to have your body almost immediately regret it.

I was a whiter shade of pale and had been ordered by my lovely and considerate supervisor to go home even before we got back from lunch, and I would have breezed right by Gloria’s desk had she not said in that stern, patented receptionist voice, “These are for you.”

The “these” to which she was referring was a vase full of the most beautiful white tulips and a big, red heart balloon. I honestly had no idea who they could have come from. And then I read the card.

“Looks, talent, and Dad’s best fishing buddy. You got it all, kid.”

If you give a woman flowers when she’s sick, just expect tears. There’s no getting around it.
Good ol’ Georgie-Porgie’s still got it.

I left the balloon at work, but the flowers came home with me.

You know that scene in You’ve Got Mail, where Tom Hanks gives Meg Ryan a bunch of daisies when she’s sick, and she puts them in a vase and then carries them around the house wherever she goes? That scene always makes me laugh, because I do exactly that. I brought the tulips in the bedroom when I took a nap so they would make me smile when I woke up, and they’re currently right here beside my computer screen, keeping me beautiful company.

I even took a picture of them for Mom — to prove to her that I really did finish those bookshelves.

Okay, so maybe I have been the object of a true love’s affection.
And they’re right: Home is where the Heart is.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody.

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Vikings in Bookstores

This is priceless — my new favorite book trailer. I dare you not to laugh.
If you’re not familiar with the genius of Judson Roberts, you should be.
Check out The Strongbow Saga Website HERE.

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Free Fiction Friday

It’s occurred to me over the last few weeks that there is some REALLY quality fiction out there for FREE that so many people just don’t know about!

And so I introduce you to Free Fiction Fridays, where I’ll post a link to one or..I daresay many…of the great stories and poems that can be found online.

It seems that Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show had the same idea — they’re giving away free stories in the month of February by some of my absolute favorite people in the world: Edmund Schubert, Oliver Dale, Eric James Stone, and Orson Scott Card himself.

Here’s the official announcement from Edmund, released earlier today:

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To Readers of Science Fiction and Fantasy everywhere,

When you have something great, you want everyone to know. So you tell people about it. You share it. You pass it along to friends everywhere. Well, that’s what we’re doing with InterGalactic Medicine Show. We want to make sure everyone has had a chance to check out what we’re doing, so we’re offering up a sampling of our stories–for free.

During the month of February we are going to make one story from each of our first four issues available at no charge. Two stories will be set free on February 1st, and two more on February 15th. Just visit www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com and explore the table of contents; the free stories will be clearly marked.

Issue one’s free story will be “Trill and The Beanstalk” by Edmund R. Schubert,
issue two’s will be “Yazoo Queen” by Orson Scott Card (from his Alvin Maker series),
issue three’s “Xoco’s Fire” by Oliver Dale,
and issue four’s “Tabloid Reporter To The Stars” by Eric James Stone.

Each story is fully illustrated by artists who were commissioned to create artwork to accompany that tale — as is every story published in IGMS.

“Tabloid Reporter To The Stars” will also be featured in the upcoming InterGalactic Medicine Show anthology from Tor, which will be out this August (we wanted you to get a sneak peek of the anthology, too). However, the other three stories aren’t available anywhere except the online version of IGMS.

It’s really quite simple. Great stories. Custom illustrations. Free. We’re pleased with and proud of the magazine we’re publishing; now we’re passing it along to our friends and telling them about it. We hope you’ll enjoy it and do the same.

Edmund R. Schubert
Editor, Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show
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