Snuffy Larue's Spy Files


March 25th, 2015


Two items:

Coming up next week, Saturday, April 4, A Speculative Evening of readings at Malvern Books, with Eugene Fischer reading from his cover story in the current Asimov's, "The New Mother;" Janalyn Guo reading from her work, which she calls "little markers in time and space;" and me, reading...something good, I promise. 7-8 pm, at 613 West 29th Street here in Austin. Come and be transported! Buy books! Socialize!

And, today's post from Terri Windling, which is a little bit of perfect, Among the Pines

March 8th, 2015

a little essay in tweets

from Maria Dahvana Headley. My favorite bit: "Nor do we have to have a world where women's intellect & worldview is treated as something for only other women to be impacted by."

February 19th, 2015

(no subject)

For TBT, seestra and mother in 2008, reflected in my mom's glasses, something scary. I don't remember what it was, so our memories were probably wiped by some terrifying supernatural visitation.

On the recommendation of this same seestra, I recently watched the film LUCY, directed by Luc Besson and starring Scarlett Johansson. Another movie that was previewed and sold misleadingly, and wrongly. I liked it a lot. Thanks, seestra!

February 5th, 2015

(no subject)

Mesmerizing. Also, one world, one planet, yo.

Article about it: 

January 23rd, 2015

for why we write...

From Terri Windling's blog entry for today, Stories that Matter, a LeGuin quote:

"A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper." Ursula K LeGuin

And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper. -- Yes, this is one of the things that made me want to write novels as a kid--to do for others some of what stories and language deployed as art did for me.

January 22nd, 2015

not just the spar

You know that hoary old bit of writing advice, write what you know? This is about the ship from which that spar is cut and so unusefully bashed about.

Here is a quote from an e-mail an acquaintance sent me from Antarctica, where she is working in a lab:

Jessica: I read your book, "The Z Radiant," on the plane. It was fantastic. ... I wanted to tell you that your description of Ingress is pretty much exactly what it's like when the first planes start flying into Antarctica after the winter, except it's only been 6 months instead of 26 years.  Did you already know that?  It's an event that people either look forward to or dread, and although there's no tracking the planes on screens unless you're at the ice runway, most people are outdoors or at windows watching for the plane lights (they start flying in before the sun's really up, so it's always dark).  When the planes land there's a time delay before the effects are felt on base - the effects being new people and fresh food - but everyone on base is waiting for it.  Exactly the same.

This, of course, made me super happy. Because it meant I did part of my job really well. Have I ever been to Antarctica for this event--or any event like it? No. And certainly I've never been to Ingress, the opening of the wormhole that lets the rest of the inhabited universe visit the planet Nentesh once a generation or so, because I made it up. What made it real?

Henry James talks about precisely that in this excerpt from his The Art of Fiction --

It is equally excellent and inconclusive to say that one must write from experience; to our supposititious aspirant such a declaration might savour of mockery. What kind of experience is intended, and where does it begin and end? Experience is never limited and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web, of the finest silken threads, suspended in the chamber of consciousness and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue. It is the very atmosphere of the mind; and when the mind is imaginative--much more when it happens to be that of a man of genius--it takes to itself the faintest hints of life, it converts the very pulses of the air into revelations. The young lady living in a village has only to be a damsel upon whom nothing is lost to make it quite unfair (as it seems to me) to declare to her that she shall have nothing to say about the military. Greater miracles have been seen than that, imagination assisting, she should speak the truth about some of these gentlemen. I remember an English novelist, a woman of genius, telling me that she was much commended for the impression she had managed to give in one of her tales of the nature and way of life of the French Protestant youth. She had been asked where she learned so much about this recondite being, she had been congratulated on her peculiar opportunities. These opportunities consisted in her having once, in Paris, as she ascended a staircase, passed an open door where, in the household of a pasteur, some of the young Protestants were seated at table round a finished meal. The glimpse made a picture; it lasted only a moment, but that moment was experience. She had got her impression, and she evolved her type. She knew what youth was, and what Protestantism; she also had the advantage of having seen what it was to be French; so that she converted these ideas into a concrete image and produced a reality. Above all, however, she was blessed with the faculty which when you give it an inch takes an ell, and which for the artist is a much greater source of strength than any accident of residence or of place in the social scale. The power to guess the unseen from the seen, to trace the implication of things, to judge the whole piece by the pattern, the condition of feeling life, in general, so completely that you are well on your way to knowing any particular corner of it--this cluster of gifts may almost be said to constitute experience, and they occur in country and in town, and in the most differing stages of education. If experience consists of impressions, it may be said that impressions are experience, just as (have we not seen it?) they are the very air we breathe. Therefore, if I should certainly say to a novice, "Write from experience, and experience only," I should feel that this was a rather tantalising monition if I were not careful immediately to add, "Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!"


Imagining into things, and bringing to that endeavor everything you know, have glimpsed, felt, sensed, that's one of the writer's main (and for me, most excellently fun) jobs.

January 15th, 2015

(no subject)

Another throwback Thursday, another little story: I remember telling everyone else to go on ahead on this hike--I wanted to be alone in the woods for a little while. Clearly, my instructions were not followed.


January 8th, 2015

Throwback Thursday - my first cat, Ladyjane, brought to me as a kitten by my mother when she came to visit. (We named him before his balls dropped.) I was seven or eight. My father was not particularly pleased. Ladyjane looked very much like my current oldest cat Aristotle, or Aristotle like Ladyjane, I suppose, with the same cuddly, affectionate nature.

December 31st, 2014

(no subject)

And my only wish, be kind, only be kind.

nye 2014

December 18th, 2014

TBT, jews at xmas edition

I have a fond, compound memory of moments like this one, watching the fire with an almost autistic fascination, especially when it got down to embers (so sure there was something alive in them), with my mother at my back; all of those moments would have taken place before I was seven. The dog's name was Lisa.

November 20th, 2014

When I am having a hard time, I tend not to engage social media much; I have been having a very hard time lately. The physical depredations and ills associated with scleroderma are very much kicking my ass. While none of them taken separately are life-threatening--though my lungs are kind of fucked, and, you know, breathing is nice--all of them together: seriously diminishing my quality of life. I am so angry at my body, angry, exhausted trying to deal with it all while working full time and living alone, defeated because there's very little energy, time, or focus left over for writing and I start to feel very pointless when I don't write. Tired of pain, just, tired.

I've had some planned blog posts, on writing-related topics, but right now, this is all there is. I cannot huddle up with a partner or physically-present family member to deal with this stuff, so I guess I'd better write about it, because huddling up alone with it is making me want to die. Last night's thought: move to Oregon, live until all three of my current cats have finished happy, well-cared for lives, and then check myself out of this increasingly icky and unhappy mortal coil. (I wouldn't check out without honoring my responsibilities, and I wouldn't leave my beloved kitties to suffer--really, I wrote a story about this stuff, "Brilliance.")

What I pictured at nine, ten, eleven, my first years of writing fiction: a life writing novels and seeing them published and out in the world, being read and disappeared into the way I loved to disappear into books, giving back some of what books and their authors gave me. Despite having some talent with words, voice, and yes, novel-writing, it hasn't played out that way. Only one of my books has so far seen the light of publication, I can't seem to get traction or hit it right in the publishing world, I am so far from being a publicist or public persona that I am just not able to compete in the current reality. So, perhaps the life I envisioned, though I've worked diligently for it and at it for a major portion of my 51 years, just isn't going to happen. I don't have the support, the chops, the luck, and now, the energy. I'm not saying I give up, I will keep writing and sending shit out, but I have seriously lost faith in it ever coming to anything even remotely resembling a satisfying career--like say, more than one novel published, a readership, some reward and recognition to buoy me up now and then...

I keep thinking of that Beckett quote, "I can't go on, I'll go on." But, lord, I'm ready to be uploaded to my robot body. This one SUCKS.

October 30th, 2014

Throwback Thursday, Halloween edition, six, I think. I remember really liking this costume. I also remember how much fun it was being out on the loose into the twilight and evening with no parents about--just older siblings and a gang of other kids. Not something kids get to do now. (Also, this polaroid is remarkably unfaded; I think it's magic.)


October 9th, 2014

the wild grace within

Gleaned from today's post at Terri Windling's blog:

We need to be able to taste grace and know again that we desire it.  - Barbara Kingsolver

The rest of the quote is quite worthwhile as well, on wild places.

We need to be able to taste grace and know again that we desire it. We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers. To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours...

I really do intend to post more here...but the quick & dirty posting that takes place onTwitter & FB & Instagram is so easy. In the news of me, writing, of course, working on a new novel, one that I am alternately excited about and completely sure is utter muck; but it keeps coming, so I keep at it. Very little news on the publishing front. Things eventually coming out, a story I cowrote with the lovely Steven Utley not long before he died will appear in some future issue of PS Publishing's Postscripts, and I have a flash piece in an Australian anthology evocatively titled 100 Lightnings. Will I ever sell another novel, one of the several going begging for love right now? Who knows.

Current reading is rereading, Martha Wells' Raksura novels, which are a happy place for me.

August 7th, 2014

A throw-back Thursday pic for the day before my 51st bday, me, excited about the opportunity to have baby animals slobber on my hands:

August 2nd, 2014

Alyx tagged me in the Writing Process Blog Tour/Writer Process Blog Tour (go read hers), an explanation of which I am snurching from Peter Watts: “It’s kind of an authorial chain letter. An author receives a series of questions… answers them on their blog; passes them on in turn to three other authors downstream.”

What Am I Working On?
A novel I’ve been circling for many years, which I’ve made several starts at, some of them getting quite lengthy before abandonment; I always knew I’d have to get a bit older before I was ready for this one, as it’s rooted deeply in autobiographical stuff of childhood—though it’s fantasy and not actual autobiography. Now, having attained half a century, it seems maybe I’ve got the right amount of distance and experience. It feels, anyway, like I’ve found the right voice and angle of incidence for the book, which I never had before.

How Does My Work Differ From Others In Its Genre?
My knee-jerk reaction to that question is ‘I don’t know.’ My slightly more thoughtful answer is that perhaps the voice of my fiction has a little more love of language and poetry than some; perhaps it’s painterly and highly visual—these things have been said. Landscape, world building, and imagery come first to me, and grappling with the amazingness inherent in our human senses being able to apprehend the universe, from the intimate to the cosmic is, I think, one of the strongest muscles in my writing.

On the other hand, my first novel has also been described as a page-turner, which was gratifying, since I aim for a melding of page-turner and art. Here’s what some other people have had to say.

Why Do I Write What I Do?
For joy, for solace, for exploration, for expansion of possibility and understanding, out of necessity, for love, to keep the lights on inside the house of me—and to give to others something of what fiction by beloved authors has been giving to me since I was young and found all of the above in books.

How Does My Writing Process Work?
With novels, I write a lot of notes, asking myself questions and answering them at length, about everything from the world and characters to the theme and what’s important in the work—why it should exist. Bits of prose begin to collect, too, moments between characters, breaths of landscape and the air of the world. I outline only loosely, and though I generally know where the story and characters will be by the end, the middle has a lot of room for twists and turns informed by the characters and the world. My first drafts are solid in places, more like scaffolding and framework in others.

Recently I’ve gone back, after years of first-drafting into the computer, to writing the first draft longhand and second drafting it into the computer. Once I have a whole draft, I go back into the rough parts, then over the whole beast once or twice more before getting a couple of first readers.

It is now my profane duty to tag more hapless writers for this three-hour tour, and so, I tag Patrice Sarath and Martha Wells (if either of you have already been tagged, forgive me). I’m tagging only two.

August 1st, 2014


From Terri Windling’s blog today, this quote really resonates with my current work-in-progress, and with me in general:

“What hope is there for individual reality or authenticity when the forces of violence and orthodoxy, the earthly powers of guns and bombs and manipulated public opinion make it impossible for us to be authentic and fulfilled human beings?

"The only hope is in the creation of alternative values, alternative realities. The only hope is in daring to redream one's place in the world -- a beautiful act of imagination, and a sustained act of self becoming. Which is to say that in some way or another we breach and confound the accepted frontiers of things." - Ben Okri, A Way of Being Free

July 7th, 2014

This year’s ArmadilloCon has some fine guest action (Ian McDonald! Ted Chiang!) and looks like it will be fun.

You can find me…

5-6pm in the Dealer’s Room – Autographing…probably nothing much, but you can come talk to me. I’ll be one of the people next to Ian McDonald.

10-11am in Room E – Panel: Watch Out for that Plothole! w/Simmons*, Acks, Bracken, Fung, Reisman –Tips and advice on fixing the plotholes in your works.

4-5pm in Southpark A – Reading, cage-match style, with Amanda Downum. There may be a betting pool. (There may not.)

10-11am in Room F – Panel: Angels or Demons w/de Orive*, Faust, Leicht, Reisman, S. White – Which make the best antagonists?

2-3pm in Room F – Panel: Writing Pulp-Paced Stories w/Reisman*, Finn, Hardy, Johnson, Nevins – In which I moderate a discussion on writing fiction that has heft, depth and aspirations of greatness but the energy and pace of the adventure, mystery, horror, penny dreadful pulp story--a proposition I suggested, based on a Michael Swanwick quote.

...or find me in or near the bar. 

June 25th, 2014

No spoilers beyond what you get in a preview or blurb.

I saw Snowpiercer with an excited crowd of Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow attendees. We’d all ridden on the Hill Country Flyer steam train (I was in the Silver Pine car and my seat mates turned out to be very fun young women, one of them friends with Genevieve Valentine, whose new book I actually happened to be reading at the time, more about, below*) to the screening site in Burnet.

One of the coolest things about seeing the movie this way, besides the very gracious, funny, and informative presence of director Bong Joon Ho for Q&A, was the way the outdoors managed to augment the film at key moments, with a brief cooling and rise of the wind, a well-timed blowing of train horn, the arc of stars above as the night darkened.

As for the movie, despite the presence of some fairly large and hard to swallow world building and narrative leaps, I very much enjoyed it and was thoroughly engaged throughout. The world of the train is fantastic, and the performances are all around extremely fine--the presence of the two main protagonists from The Host very welcome. The entitled vs. marginalized/have vs. have-nots/grueling struggle with violent, psychopathic social injustice embodied in the film is one that easily finds traction for me, but it’s also one I think Bong Joon Ho dramatizes to devastating effect.

*The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
Very much enjoyed this, and read it compulsively fast. The Twelve Princesses is beautifully transposed to prohibition era New York. It's one of the more compelling fairy tale on its own, but The Girls at the Kingfisher Club makes something much darker, realer, and emotionally truthful of it. It rings true the way the best fairy tales do, while also being historical fiction with a PBS/BBC-like quality costume drama factor.

Child of a Hidden Sea
Just out, this is the first book in A.M. Dellamonica’s Stormwrack series, a very different feeling kind of portal fantasy set, largely, in an age-of-sail world somewhat like ours might be, someday--but then again, not. The world building, on an environmental, natural world scale, is phenomenal, detailed, and endlessly interesting; the magic system, deeply entwined with an equally complex and well-articulated legal system, reveals a great deal about the world and the many cultures inhabiting it. There’s swashbuckling adventure, moral quandaries, and a lot of fun.

(Full disclosure, the author is one of my dearest friends, and I read early drafts of this book, and the next in the series, a while back. The world and its characters have stayed with me, vivid and loved.) 

June 24th, 2014

Clarion West Write-a-Thon

Have begun work on a new novel, one I’ve been writing around the edges of, and finding the heart of, for years. I have a couple of stories related to it, published here and there. This is exciting, and scary, and, um, exciting. Also, for reasons of dayjob, I am back to writing my first draft longhand—which I have  not done for a long time—and finding it kind of awesome. The words poured out this morning. While who knows how many of those words will ultimately be part of the final draft, the pouring out of words is a splendid thing. They’re even going into some pleasing configurations. Language and story working together is a kind of bliss. It is not always thus.

What should I offer to any possible pledgers to my efforts? I will take suggestions, but for now, sponsor me at three dollars or more and I’ll write you a brief description, with origin, of one of the many strange creatures that will ultimately populate this book (among a number of human creatures). You can even request a characteristic or two.

Par exemplar:
Lemonstone: A rabbit-esque creature the size of a pony, with multiple, replaceable sets of ears. Named for the look and smell of its shit, Lemonstone originated in the dream of a 10th century Persian child who would grow up to be a poet. Lemonstone is getting old now, and often wonders where its flying ears, that could harness the wind, have disappeared to.

Just let me know here or on FB. For my sponsor page, go here or, if that doesn't work, go here and search for Jessica Reisman. (the direct link to my sponsor page wasn't working, but it's there) 

June 3rd, 2014

past lives

For a little under two years in the latter part of my teens (I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, obtained a GED, and didn't go to college until I was in my 20s), I lived and worked at Renaissance fairs in northern and southern California, also traveling to the big Texas fair and to trade shows with the woman I worked for and lived with, between fairs, in her truck, at her parents, at friends’ houses, sometimes staying in her father’s import warehouse in Thousand Oaks (that sounds like we were together, but she was het and a fair bit older and it was platonic).

We camped in fairly high style (taking into account the unavoidable port-a-potties and cold showers) in structures temporary and permanent, depending on the fair. The finest was a two-platform, tapestry-walled, branch and sky ceilinged riser going up among the trees behind the booth where we sold the body cream we made in big vats at the import warehouse, along with the edible massage oil we made (glycerin and spice and fruit extracts), and mineral powder eye shadows long before mineral powder eye shadows hit the mainstream.

Set among the trees at the California fairs, our booth was always in what was called the Traders’ Market, because our main product was nominally ‘exotic’ (called—and the business eventually sold it as—Eastern Star Cream and Oriental Spice Cream), unguents in shapely little ceramic pots with richly colored glazes, made for us by a potter. Being in the Traders’ Market meant we were in the same area as places like The Teahouse of the Mullah Nasruddin’s Donkey, where I occasionally also worked (“Turkish coffee gives you wings!”), the belly dancing troupe, and the palmists and readers of cards and past lives, among others.

One reader of past lives was touted by many who had been around the fair a long time as very good at what she did and worth a visit. I didn't particularly believe in past lives—despite having a mother who taught me to read tarot cards (and to be fair to my mother, she always said it was just another kind of map, to show you where you are by what you see in the spread), I've always had a skeptical, analytic turn of mind. Mostly I just thought it would be fun to hear what she had to say, as an imaginative exercise. (Since I had already been a writer for about half my life, everything was kind of an imaginative exercise.)

The reader was, in fact, good at what she did. She was unassuming; among all the sparkly veils, embroidered vests, silks, and anklet bells of the Traders’ Market, she was dressed plain as a sparrow, a little pudgy, an unremarkable looking white woman with tired hollows around her eyes. She only talked in fragments, eyes half closed and hands reaching to shape things in the dim of her fabric-hung booth among the oak trees—“I see a figure, white, maybe early European, very concerned with footwear and keeping her feet warm…” “…a little boy, Native American, sitting on a riverbank fishing, and laughing…” and like that. Nothing grandiose or terribly specific, just little scraps of scene with sense information. There were others, but I have always remembered those two particular things, so that they have in a way become a part of me, as if they were, indeed, buried sense memories from far-flung past lives. As far flung as that time working and living at Renfairs with a woman named Feather now seems, like a past life within my life.

Powered by