So, I have a New Book Out Today . . .

I love short stories. Novelettes. Novellas. And so it is that I give you a collection of short fiction set in the universe of my fantasy series: The Vault of Heaven, Story Volume One.

I love short stories. Novelettes. Novellas. The first modern popular fiction I fell in love with was a copy of Stephen King’s Night Shift.

There’s a beauty in short fiction you don’t get in novels. That’s an odd thing for me to say, given that my fantasy series is of the doorstop variety.

I suppose, then, it won’t surprise folks to learn that I’ve written a number of short stories set in the world of my series, The Vault of Heaven. More than ten of them, in fact.

Many of these tales have yet to be released. A few belong to forthcoming anthologies–I’ll be sure to let folks know when they hit shelves. A few more will come out on Tor.com. And more still, I’ll release myself. Just because.

These shorter tales set in the Vault of Heaven universe began as a way of telling stories I needed to tell. Stories that burned in my brain, needing release. And there just wasn’t room for them in the doorstoppers–strange as that sounds.

Part of it, too, was my fledgling efforts at transmedia–telling a larger story across multiple artistic mediums. These various narratives aren’t dependent on one another. You needn’t read the books to understand the short stories. Or vice versa. Still, if you read both, you’ll experience those deeper resonances that often make immersion in a second world so much fun. Leastways, that’s how it happens for me. These other worlds wind up being more vibrant. More real. More peopled, if that makes any sense.

Anyway, I figured one day I’d gather up some of these stories. Make it easier for my readers to get them in a bunch. There’ll be more of these books in the future, too. But this is the first. Thus, may I introduce: The Vault of Heaven, Story Volume One.

Click to embiggen

If you follow my series, inside you’ll find a few stories you might have read. But in addition to these, I’ve added some new stories, including a cut chapter from the forthcoming Trial of Intentionsthe second book in my fantasy series. I’ve had a number of readers ask about all the stuff I cut from book two, since its initial draft was 500,000 words. So, in this story volume, I’ve included a scene I love a lot, but just didn’t need in the novel. It’s a scene with Roth Staned–who becomes an important character in book two–and General Van Steward. It gets a bit tense. It’s lovely.

There’s also a new story from the point of view of a character in Trial of Intentions. An important character. It’s an origin story of sorts. There’s some humor in this one, entitled “With What’s Familiar.” Hope you dig.

Beyond all this there’s a surprise at the end of this story volume. A preview thing. Oh, and I wrote introductions to all the stories. You know, context? I always love it, personally, when I’m reading a collection or anthology, and the author gives me some insight to the story. So, there you go.

With the Author’s Definitive Edition of The Unremembered set to release April 7, 2015 (I’ll blog about that another time, but look for the yellow star on the front cover–and note that the “Look Inside” feature isn’t yet showing the updated book), and Trial of Intentions set to release May 26, 2015, I figured it might be cool to prime the pump, as it were. You do want to be primed, don’t you? Sure you do.

I have a few more primings coming, too. But I’ll save those goodies for later.

For now, I hope you dig The Vault of Heaven, Story Volume One. Here’s some ways you can get it:

Also, I’ll be at LTUE this week, where the awesome Howard Tayler will have copies of The Vault of Heaven, Story Volume One at his table. If you gets one, I be signing it fer ya.

Your Rock Lord

Come to an Epic Dinner with Epic Writers

How would you like to spend an evening with six Epic Fantasy writers? Have a good meal? Great conversation? And then head over to the Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic exhibit at the EMP Museum here in Seattle?

How would you like to spend an evening with six Epic Fantasy writers? Have a good meal? Great conversation? And then head over to the Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic exhibit at the EMP Museum here in Seattle?

Well, you can. And what’s more, if your bid wins, the money goes to Pat Rothfuss’s Worldbuilders fundraiser, which in turn benefits Heifer International.

A quick word about Heifer. Their idea is to give people in developing nations livestock and bees and such in order to help build sustainable agriculture and commerce in areas with a long history of poverty. These gifts then create both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can then form community savings and fund small businesses.

And Pat Rothfuss runs a fundraiser every year to raise money for Heifer. That fundraiser is Worldbuilders. And that, friends, is where the money from a winning bid on this Epic dinner I’m about to share will go. Not only will you get a night to remember with some of the best writers in the genre, but you’ll be helping people build a better life. That simple.

So, about the dinner. I contacted Pat with an idea. I suggested that I might be able to pull together many of the writers in the Pacific Northwest for some activities he could list in Worldbuilders Ebay auction. After a bit of back and forth, we landed on two things. One was a full day of writing discussion across games, short fiction, and novel writing–that auction ended a while ago. The other was this epic dinner, for which there’s still time to bid. The auction ends at about 5 p.m. Pacific Time today, February 2.

And while just hanging out with these folks I’m about to introduce would be cool enough. I mean, they ARE cool! I wanted to take a minute to say a little more about each of them, because the person behind the writing is even cooler.

Terry Brooks has more bestselling books than I can count. He’s created several successful fantasy worlds beyond the renown Shannara series. His work will soon be a major television series soon on MTV–think Game of Thrones.

But Terry’s a hell of a lot more than a writer. He’s one of the most gracious, generous, and willing people I know. As a punk writer, I approached him at Surrey many, many years ago and struck up a conversation. I wound up trading a couple of emails with him, and pretty soon we did a dinner. Terry’s very good at eating. As I reflect on it, I kind of shake my head. I mean, really, this man had no need to go to dinner with an aspiring writer, even though I was a fan. Which isn’t to say his dinner card is empty. And with the MTV thing, his time is going to become more rare. But along the way, he’s offered wonderful advice, been a rational voice in an irrational business, and added his easy good humor to it all. Terry’s the genuine article. A chance to hang out with Terry is just way more than taking in a meal with a bestseller. He has a way of making everyone feel welcome and comfortable. When was the last time you met someone like that?

Robin Hobb is another fantasy writer who has more bestsellers than I can count. She’s a pillar in the field. She writes dragons better than just about anybody. And for fans of her Fitz character (of Assassin’s Apprentice fame), you’ll be glad to know she’s writing another Fitz book.

Now, let me tell you a story. I post a song every day on Facebook. I can’t help it. I’m a musician. One day I post Nightwish doing Phantom of the Opera because I love Nightwish. I’d met Robin before, briefly. But a few hours later I get an invitation from her to go see Nightwish who was coming to town on their Imaginaerum tour. What?! Robin Hobb just invited me to a rock show! A Nightwish rock show, no less! Yeah, she’s cool like that. Of course, her music tastes are diverse. But the fact that Nightwish is in there gives me a happy. Since that night, I’ve gotten to know Robin even better. And take it from me, there’s not a more lovely woman. She’s witty, well spoken, knowledgeable, and kind. I don’t just throw that last one in there. Kindness isn’t a given. And atop all this, she’s encouraging. So, again, yes, you’d be dining with a bestseller. But the person will impress you more than the fiction. She impresses me every week.

Greg Bear . . . oh my lord. Here’s another bestselling writer whose career is just mind blowing. In addition to his fantasy writing, he’s also widely known for his science fiction, and has lately done amazing things with the Halo franchise, which is close to my heart.

But, true to my theme here, Greg is a man that is even cooler than the things he writes about. I first met him at a Clarion party. Here’s the thing: He asked ME what I was writing. At the time, I was more a submitter than a writer. But Greg’s attention was never drawn away, never slackened. He showed genuine interest and we chatted for longer than any host probably ought to. And it wasn’t just me. I watched him do this repeatedly. Then, more recently, he accepted my invitation to do a joint reading for SFWA. At the end we did joint Q&A. This was a science fiction crowd. And more than that, GREG BEAR. So, you can imagine where the questions were directed. Midway through the Q&A, Greg takes the mic and turns to ask me a question. Class! Go read Greg’s Wikipedia page if want to be stunned by his awesome.

Brent Weeks is not a rising star in fantasy fiction. He’s already there. He pretty much landed in the field as a star. His Night Angel trilogy set the fantasy world on fire, and Brent hasn’t looked back, adding new worlds and great reads for fantasy readers. He’s another bestseller, in case you’re wondering.

And Brent, like the others, is a great deal more than his books. Oh, sure, I’ve seen him trade quick retorts with the best in the field. One ill-conceived evening at World Fantasy in San Diego, I watched him shred another author who thought he was having the best of Brent in a battle of wits. It was pretty remarkable. So, a word of warning there. But then, get this. On my book tour for my first book, I was scheduled at Powell’s in Beaverton. Let’s just say that there weren’t many attendees. But Brent and his awesome wife Kristi came. There’s no way there weren’t several other things he could have been doing that night. He showed up to support me. What’s more, we had dinner. And he had some calming things to say. There’s an energy about Brent that’s infectious. He’s also hilarious.

Steven Erikson is yet another bestseller. His Malazan Book of the Fallen series is not only one of the best in recent years, it’s complete. How often can you say that? He’s also an anthropologist and archaeologist by training, which might play into what I’m about to say.

Steven is one of the brightest minds in the field. The dude’s just flat out smart. The real kind of smart. He’s the kind of guy who raises the IQ of the whole room when he enters. And like the others, he’s extremely gracious. At a recent World Fantasy convention, we had a short conversation. Steven had been on a panel–one where he’d shown how meaningful a panel on myth and history can actually be–but wasn’t feeling well. He excused himself and retired to his room to sleep. I later got an email with an apology for having to cut our conversation short. That kind of thoughtfulness is rare. I mean, the guy was sick. He needn’t have said another word about it. But he did. And his wit . . . well, you can imagine. Steve’s schedule is crazy, so we’ll be working hard to pick a date that he can make for the dinner, but there are dependencies.

So, there you have it. These are the kind and awesome folks who agreed to join me for a dinner to be auctioned off for Worldbuilders. I don’t feel right about going on about myself. Anyone interested can find info at my website. I’m a pup among these giants. And frankly, the fact that they accepted the invitation tells you an awful lot about them. You know them for their books. They’ve enjoyed amazing success crafting worlds and telling stories. One wonders if perhaps there’s a correlation between success and graciousness. That’s probably a stretch. But in the case of these dinner guests, I could defend the argument. And I just wanted to take a moment to share a few stories that might help you understand why I think this is a unique and awesome opportunity.

So, here’s your chance. Head over and consider placing a bid. Auction ends at about 5 p.m. Pacific time today. Like I said, it’s a night with a few of the best epic fantasy writers on the planet. It’s a night of amazing conversation. But more than this, it’s a night with some of the best people I know. Really. Sappy as that sounds, it’s just plain true. And after it’s all said and done, the money goes to help people who need help. Literally, everyone wins.

A Listening

Life gets loud. Yes, it’s a metaphor. Go with me here. You know what I’m talking about. A hundred things play at you day in, day out. They clamor for attention. They mimic importance. But they really just

Life gets loud. Yes, it’s a metaphor. Go with me here. You know what I’m talking about. A hundred things play at you day in, day out. They clamor for attention. They mimic importance. But they really just amount to a cacophony of activities that squeeze out the truest notes. The ones you should pay most attention to.

I’m not pointing fingers. Or if I am, the finger I’m pointing is at myself. But I think we all get to claim culpability to this one. It’s easy to do, with the routines life imposes on us. Unmusical, sometimes bitter routines.

And you become aware of it when you step away from those clamoring voices. When you’re able to listen without encumbrance. I’ve been doing some listening. And here’s what I’ve heard, metaphorically speaking.

Rocks. I spent some time watching an old miner dressed as a mountain man shaping obsidian into an arrowhead. At one point, he says, “You have to listen to the rock. I’ve spent my whole life listening to rocks.” He wasn’t preaching or trying to be sage. He said it as he continued working with bloodied hands at a piece of obsidian to show me how the Native American’s made their weapons and tools.

He also said, you can’t learn anything unless you make mistakes, speaking of the hard-learned techniques he was employing to make an arrowhead. When he was done, he cast the stone down, as a failed attempt—mostly just an object lesson for those watching. I asked to buy that rock. He handed it to me free. I paid him anyway, three times what he wanted for it, which was still shamefully cheap for what I’d gained.

More rocks. My kids love to throw rocks in the water. What kid doesn’t? We made our way to a lakeside I’ve known all my life. There, we threw our share of rocks. Afternoon wind brought impressive enough waves, which came at the shore, making rock skipping a challenge. But the wind and westering sun and scent of lodge-pole pine . . . good accompaniment, these things, to the plunk of rocks big and small into the troubled water.

And while there, we had some unexpected company. Two Labrador retrievers, one gold and one black, brought a mostly deflated soccer ball to us, inviting us to throw it into the lake for them to retrieve. We did this for at least an hour. There are few things more simple and more gratifying than a simple game of fetch with a dog. We had no place to be, and more than once were soaked by the dogs shaking themselves dry at our feet, which was pretty okay with us. Rocks thrown into a lake. That’s a good sound.

Birdsong in the morning. I know how it sounds. Pretty cliché, right? Yeah, maybe. But when there’s nothing on the other side of the time you’ll give yourself to listen to birds greeting the day, you listen differently. The song becomes the thing. It’s not a moment in time. It’s not an island or oasis in the midst of all the rest. It suggests a universe of story and meaning. One you realize you’re passing every day, caught as you are in the web of your concern. People write music that incorporates birdsong. I’ve seen several on this trip alone. In the past, I think I’ve looked at them mostly as odd. I don’t know how successful these musicians are at doing this, but now I understand the desire a whole lot better.

My poet’s heart. I don’t mean any conceit in saying this. In fact, I wasn’t the first to say it. A friend of mine said it to me maybe ten years ago or more. And once he did, I realized he was on to something. You don’t always get to “follow your bliss.” I wish that happened for everyone, as Campbell urged. But the truth is, many labor without ever knowing this joy. And for me, there are two kinds of bliss, story and music. I follow them to the best of my ability. But when one’s bliss isn’t the constant thrust of their life, well, it introduces some dissonance. Frankly, this sucks.

Maudlin as it sounds, time spent in places like Yellowstone, on mountains, in forests, at lakes, they put a poet’s heart at the center of things again. That’s a damn good feeling. It’s listening to campfires, river head waters, the crunch of a dirt road underfoot, spontaneous laughter, as opposed to spreadsheets and process. I think there’s some poetry in all of us. I suppose the difference is just the balance of the voices and how much we heed them that defines us uniquely.

Best ribs and ribeye of my life. You know, I’ve eaten at the best steak houses in the world. You name it, whether New York, Texas, Michigan, my own Washington state, even Paris, London, Tokyo, hell anywhere, and I’ve made a point of going to the best places to have their best steak. You can imagine the prices I’ve paid. And for all that, this past week, I’ve paid roughly $20, right here in northeast Idaho, for the best ribs and ribeye of my life. No lie. Little off-the-road place that doesn’t look like much. Most drive right on past, moving fast toward Yellowstone to get a snapshot of Old Faithful. No harm there, Old Faithful is all kinds of awesome.

But here’s something I’ve never heard before at one of those high-priced steak houses: “The cook gets excited whenever I come back into the kitchen with a ribeye, medium-rare order.” This from our waitress. I knew I was in for a treat when she told me this.

The voice of God. By which I mean, thunder. Lying in bed late at night, while lightning lit up the cabin, and thunder rolled deep and long across the Continental Divide . . . when you do nothing but listen to thunder, you marvel. It’s a big sound. It’s a majestic sound. It’s a sound that gives you immediate perspective. And it’s beautiful.

Accompanied by rain on the roof above my head, pattering pine trees and quaking aspen outside my window, several thunder storms taught me quite a lot about listening. I suspect these are lessons I’m re-learning, and that I’ll maybe learn again. Because that’s the nature of being human: We forget. Because life gets loud, and listening gets hard.

Stars. There’s nothing, not a thing, that so immediately helps me listen, gives me perspective, than looking up into the night sky in a place where you can really see the stars. They’re indisputable. They’re up there. Far away. But there irrefutably, gracefully, in beautiful profusion. There are stories and patterns traced against them. Turnings. Mysteries yet to solve.

And with some patience, you’ll see a shooting star. This trip, I saw one that traversed most of the night sky, burning a bright gold toward the end. Seeing such a thing is nothing short of magical.

I think I saw a planet or two, as well, standing in the chill night air. Those are wages I’ll gladly pay—chilly skin—for the chance to stare up in a beautiful silence and listen. Usually, what I hear is perspective. The deep acknowledging of something larger, grander than myself. That’s good listening, I think. And thankfully, the stars make no judgment on me. Silent, vigilant friends is what they are. They have been since I was a kid.

This was very nearly my best listening in recent days.

Finding snail shells. If it weren’t for a walk on an old dirt road up through the pines with my little girl, the stars would have been—as I said—my best listening. As it is, they took a wonderful second. I don’t know how it started. Probably an observation of a shell on the ground by my daughter on a trip to the cabin early in her life. Whatever and whenever, now it’s tradition: We take a walk together and gather abandoned snail shells.

They’re small, easy to miss if you don’t pay close attention. You have to stoop. And often you have to traipse up into undergrowth, still stooping, to find them. And at the end of it, the shells themselves, while beautiful in their own way, aren’t what it’s about. Not for me. It’s a slow walk with my little girl, making small talk that winds up big. Like this trip.

My son came along. He’s a ball of impulse, that one. And I love him to death for it. But it wasn’t more than a twelve shells and he was done with this crazy tradition. He went back to the cabin with his mother, while my daughter and I carried on, with a goal of colleting 100 shells, no matter how long it took.

I don’t remember all the things we said to each other. But I remember how it felt to be with her, not hurrying, walking through dappled sunlight falling down through the tall pines. I remember thinking how sad I’d be if someday she doesn’t want to take this walk with me anymore, and the shell-collecting ends. What I’m hoping is that by the time the excitement of the activity has waned, she’ll have recognized that the walk is about more than that, and we’ll never not take our shell walk together.

This time, though, we wound up finding 203 shells. A new record. And as we concluded, we shared an observation that patience has its rewards. Like being willing to stick out a shell hunt when the first few minutes don’t yield easy or quick results. I don’t know if it’s a lesson that she’ll internalize for a lifetime, or if this is just one listening of such a lesson that, like me, she’ll need to have again and again. Because life gets loud and listening gets hard and we need to hear stuff over and over.

But for my part, I was paying particularly close attention, marking the moment. Something I was able to do because I had some separation from the cacophony of the day-to-day.

Maybe that’s one of the central values of vacation. But it does leave me a bit sad. Because I’m left with the vague sensation that I’m missing too much of the stuff that really matters.

I suppose I need to do a better, ongoing job of listening. That’s my lesson to learn. It’s like my favorite Beatles lyric, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” See, there it is, I did know this before, since I’d heard and acknowledged this truth inside the song. Listening these last few days, I’ve learned it again, having apparently forgotten.

There’s so much noise. And some of it you do have to listen to. Life requires it.

But by hell, don’t let that song define you. I can only think Eliot’s Hollow Men lie in that direction.

And I have an idea that we can avoid that by doing something as simple (and yet sometimes so hard) as listening.

Last Night in Paris Was Strange . . .

It ended with a warm tap on the shoulder. Remember that. I’ll come back to it.

It ended with a warm tap on the shoulder. Remember that. I’ll come back to it.

So, yes, I found a perfectly appropos Queensryche title for last night (my first night) in Paris. There’s something cosmic going on with that. I’m sure of it.

Anyway, it starts with my apprehension about coming to Paris in the first place, since I’ve heard so many stories about how the people hate foreigners who can’t speak the language. And y’know, I just don’t have any skill there. So, when my colleague texts me to say that he’s missed the flight out of Seatac, I’m like, “This sucks . . . for me.”

See, even the most interesting man in the world thinks so.

I grant you that’s pretty selfish. But, I suddenly get a picture of me winding up on a Metro train to nowhere. Hold that thought, please.

Well, as soon as I land there’s a security breech at the Paris airport. Everything’s on lockdown, and there are what appear to be whipthin teenagers all over the airport carrying assault rifles–French Army. Among other things, they’re keeping a great throng in a narrow hall, where it gets hot and sweaty and . . . aromatic fast.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the stench resembled that odor that arises from a teenager who hasn’t learned yet that he needs deodorant. Then, multiply that by a bajillion. And layer on that I am already losing valuable Paris time. During which, I get another text from my colleague. He’s now being re-routed throgh Minneapolis and won’t get into Paris until Sunday. I’m on my own. Great.

Well, eventually I get untangled from security breeches and stenches and get my bag. I need to draw some Euros, and my Corporate Card isn’t working. Awesome. I manage to get some with my own credit card, which will likely mean I’ll wind up paying some of these expenses out o’ my own pocket, since receipts haven’t been flowing up in this French hizzie.

I mean, as soon as I get checked in and drink a 5-Hour Energy Drink–’cause it’s like O’dark’thirty back in Seattle–I go to catch the RER C into Paris proper. The guy behind the glass gets rather chummy. Seems he has all kinds of friends up in Tacoma and whatnot. What I realize later is that he’s all distracting me, as he swindles me out of 10 Euros.

Sorry, for me, all train ticket sellers are the guy out of Frosty the Snowman.

I let that go pretty easy. ‘Cause, if you must know, I’m also the guy who buys home made rap CDs off the street in Time Square. There’s one of me born every minute, you’re prolly saying. Yeah, that about sums it up.

Despite the fits and starts, I do manage to find the Catacombs. Actually, it’d’ve been hard to miss them. The line must be half a kilometer. But, one of my unpublished novels has scenes down in this place. I am seeing it come hell or high . . . um, let’s not ask for trouble. Suffice to say that the balls of my feet start to scream from standing in line. The Catacombs are tres cool, though. And grim, too. So, y’know, score.

The Catacombs are lined with neatly stacked femur bones and such, plus skulls used to decorate . . .

Come to that, there are a great many places in France in this unpublished thriller novel of mine. But kismit is suggesting I exercise discretion in how many of these scenes I go see. Which means–you can all be glad–this post won’t run on too long.

Well, the Catacombs exit in a different place than they enter, so, yeah, I’m lost in Paris. I wander around for a while without any data or wifi and kind of freaking out. Finally, I return to the little curio shop just outside the Catacomb exit and ask a guy for directions. He proves plenty useful, but gives me what I can only describe as a very French look when I ask if the Metro is like the subway. “No,” he says. “Subway is an English way of referring to it.” He shut his eyes in a perish-the-thought kind of way. “Metro,” he reiterates.

Good news is, his directions get me to the Cite and Notre Dame. Been wanting to see this place for ages. Now that I have, I can say with authority: It’s awesome! That said, it ranks third in my Cathedral visits. St. Paul is still my fav. Could have a little primacy factor going there; it being the first. But nah, St. Paul is top drawer. Second is Kölner Dom in Cologn, Germany. Then Our Lady of Paris.

You'd have to be a thousand feet tall not to consider this place majestic
There was a bone or two in the Notre Dame Treasury, too

By this time, I’m feeling pretty proud of my Parisian-ness. Why wouldn’t I? So, I get walking, thinking I’ll go take in the Eiffel Tower. That’s the next step, right? I don’t, though, quite realize how far away it is. But, I walk quite a while along the Seine, checking out some really cool street vendors selling books in collector dust wraps. Plus old photos and other assorted awesome bits.

But my feet are starting to kill. So, I find a Metro entrance. Again, I’m doing pretty good, right? Anyone would say so. I check my little map, see I have a ways to go, and the next thing I know I wake up in a train, that is at a dead stop, with its lights off, in a dark tunnel, and is completely empty.

Yep, you guessed it: I’ve fallen asleep. My 5-Hour Energy has run out, and so have I. I have to tell you . . . I’m scared as hell?

Where am I? I suddenly flash on that old film Warriors, where city gangs prowl the night and beat up laggards for fun. Well, I tear out of there like a crazed idiot, and run down an abandoned train platform. It’s like one of those dystopian novels: I wake up and I’m the last soul alive, until I find a few others who will help me fight the zombies or somesuch.

Note: I still have no idea what happened there. It’ll forever be my Paris mystery.

But I eventually find humans and a terminal to pick up another train toward the Eiffel Tower. You see, by this time it’s become more than a sightseeing trip or a tourist stop. It’s a friggin’ pilgrimage.

And I do find it. It’s hella impressive, just so you know. It’s like the first time I saw St. Paul’s or the Dom. Pictures are pale, pale, pale shadows of the real thing. Just as saying I am standing in a long Eiffel line is a pale, pale, pale shadow of the extremity of this line. After today’s Catacomb and Eiffel Tower queues, I could medal in line-standing.

And you know what, that’s just getting in, too. Once inside, there is another line to get onto a second lift to go to the top. And I’ll a’be damned if I’m not going to her “sommet” after blowing out my arches. Then, more lines to come back down. In all seriousness. That’s just insult to injury. Making a person wait to leave? Not even Disney does that. And oh, the woman who gave me info to get into that line? Yeah, the absolute snottiest woman on the planet. She oozed condescension. That’d be her Olympic medal, were it a category. Condescension.

High, huh?
I checked my back pocket obsessively. Probably looked like I was fiddling with my arse

But I survive. And at the end of all this, I’ve seen three of the things I meant to see in Paris. To celebrate, I go across the street and get some sausages and fries. The sausages are awful. The fries, that is, I say, “French” fries . . . were SUPER. No foolin’. They taste like actual potatoes, but are thin-cut, hot, liberally salted, and yummy. I chase them with, what else, a Perrier. Best Perrier I’ve ever had, too. No lie. Though, in fairness, it may have something to do with my Olympic-level line standing and the fact that I haven’t had a drop to drink all friggin’ day. Still, the Perrier was super.

Then, the tower starts to sparkle. It’s cool. But also kinda . . . I don’t know, showy. I like the orangish lights in a steady glow better. Prolly because I’m a bit traditional.

Not a sparkle fan

So, then, I’m thinking: Do I have time to go by the Moulin Rouge and take a picture of the windmill. It’s the kind of thing one must do. Another pilgrimage, if you will. But I have no idea where that place is, my feet are aching, and I’m starting to feel like I’m pressing my luck.

In times like these, the only intelligent thing to do is consult your map. A taxi could get me there, maybe. So, I sit down in a beautiful spot along the Seine just outside one of those cafes you think only exist in a Bogart film. I’m doing my best to read the map. I even start to wonder: Would the Tourist Bureau put a strip club on thier official map? It IS the Moulin Rouge. But it’s still a strip club. But it IS France. But it’s still a strip club. And the same map has Paris Disney on it. So, I’m wondering if a conscientious editor really tries to sell sex to family vacationers.

As it happens, I never find out. And that’s because as I’m scouring the unpronouncable names–by me, anyway–I feel a warm tap on my shoulder. My first thought is that someone has thrown something not too hard at me, like an acorn or something, just to let me know that they know I’m a damned tourist with my map on their bench in their cafe. But it doesn’t have the consistency of an acorn, and certainly couldn’t be a rock. Then, I look down at the bench at the same moment my mind hits on the awful epiphany.

There on the bench, are dozens of white and black splotches. And that’s when I understand why the tap seemed warm. A pigeon has shat on me.

I have nothing to clean it off with. So, I march up the sidewalk, into the cafe, steal some napkins, and proceed to struggle with wiping away bird poop from my awesome SxSW t-shirt. For that alone, I hate that bird, ’cause I love this shirt.

But it didn’t help me decide about my windmill picture. I couldn’t very well stand out in front of a place where people get all gussied up in their finest cabaret-attending clothes and costumes . . . in my birdcrap shirt. Could I?

In the end, I catch a cab back to the hotel. My weiners at the tower had gone in the trash, and the fries weren’t holding me over. So, I am looking forward to room service or raiding the snacks they always put out. Right? Not so, my patient reader, not so. They have none of this. So, I lumber down to the first floor in my socks, cause I am done with shoes for the day, to a corner place in the lobby where they say I can buy snacks. Let me tell you, this snack bar is an embarrassment to snacking and snackers and snacks. I wind up taking a couple of hard rolls they had out and grabbed a bag of salt and pepper chips.

So, now, I’m typing you this with a growly tummy, and wondering if, with the few hours I have tomorrow before I prep for work stuff, I can take in the Louvre or something. Do I dare? The woman at the lobby counter says a great many things are closed on Sunday, as folks like to spend it with their families. That I get. But, I could do with a chance to make things even with that pigeon.

So, yeah, last night in Paris was strange . . .

A rare self pic. Don't I look tired, but still awesome.