Category Archives: Writing

Rat in the Walls 6: Empathic Alchemy

Here I am again, reading and commenting on the sixth post from Rat in the Walls, the blog I wrote during the final year of my brother’s battle with ALS.  The post is titled “Empathic Alchemy,” and you can read it below the video.

Title: Empathic Alchemy

Blood is sometimes thicker than gold.


Rat in the Walls 5: Gravity on Jupiter

Here’s the fifth Rat in the Walls post that I wrote about my brother’s battle with ALS.  The post is titled “Gravity on Jupiter.” You can read the text of the post below the video.

Title: Gravity on Jupiter

Sisyphus had it easy.

He had control of his muscles.  And he only had to push his rock uphill on Earth.

People with ALS don’t have that.  It’s like Jupiterean gravity is squashing them flat.

Their rocks aren’t moving anywhere, up or down the gravity well.


Rat in the Walls 4: Paranoia

Long time, no posts, because June disappeared in a fog of caregiving for my Mom and Dad.  Now that it’s July, it’s time for another reading from Rat in the Walls, where I blogged about my brother’s battle with ALS during the last year of his life.  The actual post (from April 1, 2007), is printed below the video.

Title: Paranoia

Paranoia runs deep. But it doesn’t run well.

It gimps along, lurching from side to side, like Frankenstein’s monster.
Jaundiced skin. Beautiful eyes.


One Question, Many Answers #4

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “writing”?


“Creation, exploration, discover, joy, hope.”

–Rosalie Dobbs (Writer)


“My writing desk in my office; four bookcases overflowing with books.”

–Daphne Chennault (Author)
Chief Thief


“Telling stories either ‘professionally’ or for fun, like fan fiction.”

Sheryl R. Hayes (Author)
Alterna-Teas (short story in anthology)


“I want to do it right now.”

–Adrienne Foster (Author)
Bay Area Ghost Hunters


“‘Writing’ is first.  🙂  Then, ‘waking.’  Waking up and writing.  Right after a pot of coffee.”

–James Beach (Author)
Two-Fisted Jesus Tales


One Question, Many Answers #2

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “fan”?


“The abbreviation of FANATIC! Perhaps not the most knowledgeable, but likely to be the most passionate. (And perhaps not quite sane.)”

–Anonymous fan at BayCon 2017
East Bay Linux Users Group at


“A small piece of equipment that has blades which spin and move air.”

–Anonymous fan at BayCon 2017


“Creative enthusiast.”

–Jean Martin (costumer, editor-in-chief, dancer, singer, actor, photographer)



One Question, Many Answers #1

At BayCon 2017, a science fiction and fantasy convention that’s taken place annually in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past twenty-five years, I cornered people in the hallways and asked them to participate in my One Question, Many Answers series.

Fans answered the following two questions:

  1. What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “fan“?
  2. What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “reading“?

Authors answered the following two questions:

  1.  What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “writing“?
  2.  What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “reading“?

Every couple of days over the next week or so, I will post answers to these questions, along with people’s names or pseudonyms and links to publications, passion projects, or charities that the fans and authors want to promote.

I’m going to start with a few of the authors’ answers to the first question.

Q.  What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “writing”?


“That I should really be writing and not doing whatever it was I had been doing.”

–Anna Rose (Author)
A Darker Shadow by Jake Keplin


“Being a god, creating a world to make it my way and finally have the control that real life never gives.”

–Meg Elison (Author)
The Book of Etta


“My desk, coffee, morning, being cold, knit hats, penguins.”

–Tyler Hayes (Author)
The One About Jacob” (short story)



Rat in the Walls 3: Angrr

Here’s the third video in Rat in the Walls, in which I read the third post that I wrote during the last year of my brother’s life.  A copy of the post appears below the recording.

I recorded the video at BayCon 2017 but have delayed releasing it.  Approximately 45 minutes after I got home from the con, my sister called to tell me that Mom is back in the hospital, so my sister is now watching over our 91-year-old Mom in the hospital while I take care of our 95-year-old Dad at home.  More caregiving.

Title:  Angrr


Tiger in the chest
Claws out.


BayCon 2017 Community

baycon2017-guide-300.jpgAt my final panel yesterday, we talked about love in dystopian society (including failed romances like the one in 1984) and the importance of relationships and community in wartime.

For myself, the discussion suddenly went meta:  being at BayCon, in this IDIC atmosphere, an enclave of loving and diverse relationships that contrasts so sharply with the current state of U.S. politics–right there, in the middle of the panel, I found I had made a decision. I need to work on Red Hand.

Red Hand tells the story of an older woman with the rare ability to heal individuals dying of a galactic-wide plague that’s been decimating populations for decades, causing wars, disrupting civilizations, and encouraging isolationism.  The woman and others who possess the healing ability are themselves oppressed by those who see them as a source of power and wealth, or as means to stabilize chaos, or as a threat that must be properly regulated and controlled.

At the beginning of the novel, we see the woman in crisis.  She has little of herself left to give, drained by decades spent healing others while on the run from the Red Hand, an apparently benign paternalistic organization sanctioned by the remnants of the galactic government to regulate healers.  She longs for a permanent home, to live in a community without fear of discovery.  But she can’t have that if she continues to heal.

People will die if she stops healing.

If she doesn’t stop, she will die without having lived a life of her own.

In this moment of personal crisis, forced to flee yet another impending capture on yet another planet, she takes passage on a small spaceship captained by a man with secrets of his own on a mission that poses a direct threat to her dreams.

He’s a good guy.  He has reasons.

But he’s out to capture a healer.




Rat in the Walls 2: Body Blocking

Here is the second video from Rat in the Walls.

For the original post (the second on the Rat in the Walls blog), look below the video.

Title: Body Blocking

His illness is written on my body.

Eating excessively for the past six months, I’ve gained forty pounds, accumulating layers of fat. I tie my intestines in square knots, turn my emotions into sausages, blocking, holding on.

As if I become heavy enough, weighty enough, I might anchor him in place.


Rat in the Walls Introspective

Last night, I couldn’t sleep.

My brother died of ALS in February 2008, after blogging almost daily about his illness following his diagnosis in December 2003.  I began blogging about caregiving in a companion blog during the final year before his death.  I called my blog Rat in the Walls.

After he died, I stopped posting and let the rats fall silent.

In May 2014, I finally revisited the site for the first time since his death, and I posted this:

When I first started on Blogger, my handle was Ratty, maintaining anonymity so that in my Rat in the Walls blog I could write about my brother’s fatal illness without giving away his identity. Under that pseudonym, I could voice things I couldn’t elsewhere. Rats thrive in the dark. ::: Now, five years after his death in 2008, I’m coming out of the walls and reclaiming my humanity.

I didn’t reread any of my posts in 2014.  Too soon.

Now, in May 2017, I’m ready to reread them.

So, here’s the project:  as I open each post and look at it for the first time since my brother died, I’m going to make a video recording in which I read the post aloud and say something about it.

I don’t remember much about the posts, except the following:

  • They are short.
  • Some of them state a brief lesson about caregiving that I learned that day.
  • Some of them respond implicitly to the post that my brother made in his blog that day or a preceding day.

Here’s a link to the video I made last night while looking at the first post.

The original blog post says:

Title: Knock Knock

Scurrying, nibbling, hiding. That’s the Rat in the Walls. Knocking about at night, avoiding the light, coveting the cheese.

You only see the leavings: the dry little kernels that trace Rat’s passage through your cupboards; the holes gnawed behind your stove. The fruits of your labor, tooth-marked, scattered.

The Rat lurks in your back brain.