Christopher Rowe

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Writing and Riding
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Where is that latest UnCommonwealth story, you may be asking? Well, it says here on my “writing goals for March” clipboard that I’ve got until the end of the month. Will he make it? Will the world learn the true fate of legendary lost woodsman James Harrod while simultaneously perusing fun facts ‘n’ figures about Mercer County, Kentucky?

The breathless anticipation you get over seeing whether I make this self-imposed deadline should keep your heart racing for hours. Or possibly days! We just don’t know yet!

Now, here’s a little insight into the writing process. The paragraph previous to this one was structured entirely around the words “heart” and “racing.” Why? It’s a transition! It’s a segue! Ain’t writing grand?

I’m not one to talk about my health problems in public, but since it turns out I don’t have any, I’ll tell you that over the last couple of weeks I’ve had my chest shaved, twice, by well-meaning but briskly efficient women who, while equipped with neither shaving cream nor anything resembling a soothing après shave balm, in each case looked at me, looked at their “safety” razors (the very acme of 1950s design, utility and comfort), and said, “I’m going to need more razors.”

My cardiology induced manginess derives from a couple of different rounds of tests and examinations on my ticker. The ultimate result was a really busy guy saying “You are a cardiovascularly healthy man.” (He also said “It is only the unemployed who drink on weeknights, yes?” but I let it slide).

All of these expensive exams were prompted by my well meaning General Practitioner, whom I’m sure is no longer one of Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s favorite approved providers, when he learned that I frequently get my heart rate up north of 220 during vigorous exercise and that I have a family history of this weird syndrome that causes spikes in heart rate. I don’t have the syndrome. What I have is, in the words of a technician monitoring a stress test I took, a combination of “high levels of willpower and stupid.”

Anyway, it turns out that the “max heart rate” most usually derived by subtracting your age from 220, and the various “cardio” and “aerobic” and “fat burning” zones that are figured as percentages of said maximum, are all pretty much bullshit. Somewhat useful to actuaries and the manufacturers of treadmills maybe, but based on data that was pretty much created with the intent of coming up with easily understood tables to put in those pamphlets you pick up at the Y.

That’s my last word on that.

Now, as to the writing. I covered the UnCommonwealth stuff earlier, so a quick update on some other writing news must show that there’s a review of my chapbook up at Tangent Online right now and that Swan Sister, the Datlow & Windling edited fairy tale book I have a story in, has been selected by the New York Public Library as one of their Books for the Teen Age (not on the web yet, but that link to last year's list is well worth following). Nifty and double nifty.

And yes, I am still writing fiction. In addition to the UnCommonwealth stories, my plan this year includes the bicycling novel (the early outline can be seen here, if you haven’t seen it), outline and three chapters of a book spun out of my short story “Men of Renown,” and maybe possibly as if I had time an outline and beginning to a YA book based loosely on the Bourbon County UnCommonwealth short.

I’m also prepping for the reading and some panels at Wiscon. I’m definitely doing a panel called Cybernetic Magnolias (along with Gwenda, Richard, and whoever else the con assigns), which will be discussing and exploring the work of women who write “southern” science fiction and fantasy. Right now we’re in the process of finding women who write “southern” science fiction and fantasy (as distinguished, I should point out, from southern women who write science fiction and fantasy), so if you’ve got any ideas, please drop me a line or put something in the comments. Um, please note that we’re specifically excluding horror, not because of any problems with the form but because, frankly, some of the panelists have a strong distaste for the most famous novels that would fit the definition and we probably wouldn’t have anything substantive or valuable to say about them.

I’ve also been invited to sit in on another panel, and will clue y’all in on that as things develop. And Kelly Link, Gavin Grant and I will be doing our second annual group reading, this year entitled The Link Between Bourbon and Scotch. Get it? GET IT? (Actually, maybe you don’t—Gavin’s from Scotland, where they make scotch, and I’m from Kentucky, where they make bourbon. Um, Kelly’s last name is Link.) Those of you who attended last year's edition will be delighted or horrified after your nature to learn that "volume two" of my epic sword & sorcery poem may be in the offing, dependent on reader demand.

Okay, that’s the writing, now the riding.

Spring is here, and boy oh boy can I not wait to buy new bicycles. The road bike choice has been expanded since I talked about this last, and then narrowed down again. Right now I’m looking at the Giant OCR2, the Lemond Reno (the only one I’ve test ridden yet—oh, so sweet), and the Trek 1200. Yesterday Gwenda and I test rode the Giant Cypress ST hybrids, and we’ll be test riding some Treks later that may fill our “tooling around town/commuting” needs.

Unfortunately, it looks like the purchase and necessary dial in time for the road bike won’t come in time for my upcoming first ride with the Bluegrass Cycling Club on Saturday, so I’ve hauled out my ancient garage sale Peugeot and am in the process of getting it road ready as an emergency back up.

All of which brings me to a subject I’d really like to hear from everybody about in the comments section. First, go read this article from last September’s Bicycling Magazine. It’s about Joe Breeze (one of the guys who invented mountain bikes) and his latest “change the world” initiative, and about the groovy new bikes he’s selling. What I want to know from y’all is this. What would it take for you to integrate bicycling more into your everyday life? I know that most of the people who read this are of a greenish bent, so I’m sure most of you support the idea of more bike use in your town in theory, but I specifically want to know why you don’t bike more.

Long one, sorry. Later.

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