Daily Prompt: My name is Marilyn. I’m a teepee.

LadyInTeepeeARTO-16X20-300-72

My name is Marilyn but you can call me Teepee12. I am alive, if not entirely well. I plan to stay alive as long as the choice exists.

I never intended to hide my identity when I chose this Internet ID as a username for my blog on WordPress. I chose it because I’d been using it since 2007 when my book — The 12-Foot Teepee — was published. It was easy for me to remember and no one else wanted it — as opposed to my real name for which there is heavy competition. The perils of having a common name were never more obvious than when I tried to get a piece of my real name for use on the Internet.

I began using the Internet back in prehistory. No one used real names back then. It was considered most uncool. I went through a lot of names before starting to use Teepee12. Unlike many other names I used and abandoned, it stuck, though no one can spell it and auto-correct always changes it to Steeper (damn you auto correct!). I wish I could go back and do it over, using my real name or something close to it  The problem is that there are dozens of Marilyn Armstrongs all over the Internet, on every continent and a bunch of my namesakes recently died. If I Google me I end up  reading obituaries. This can be troubling in some indefinable way.

I got the name Marilyn — never a common or popular name — because my great Aunt Malka died right before I was born. In Ashkenazi families, babies are named after recently deceased family members. They don’t have to be favorites. You don’t even have to like them. In fact, as was the case with great Aunt Malka, you don’t even have to know her personally. It’s just a custom and no one, including my mother, could explain why we clung to it. We weren’t  observant … but my Aunt Kate, who was indeed a traditionalist and family Matriarch, quite insisted.

My mother refused the straight “Malka” because she said it sounded like the cleaning lady. It means “Queen,” actually but doesn’t sound queenly. So she suggested Mara because apparently, to maintain the tradition, all you need is a name that begins with the same first letter sound (the Hebrew alphabet is, after all, different from English). But Mara (the root for all “mar” names like Mary, Marie, Mireille, Marilyn et al) means “bitter” in Hebrew and my aunts collectively objected because you should not name your daughter “bitter,” feh, bad luck. Ptui, ptui, ptui.

“Fine,” said my mother. “Marilyn.”

No one had any objections so Marilyn it was. How romantic! To be named almost randomly after a dead relatively about whom no one much cared. Wow. And to add insult to injury, I wasn’t given a middle name, so I had no name to which I could retreat.

I struggled with my name. I hated it. I’m still not fond of it, frankly, but I’ve at least made peace with it. No one can spell it correctly and it has never felt like me. When I was a kid, I tried to change my name to Linda, which I heard meant “pretty.” Then “Delores,” which sounded like the heroine of a romance novel. Finally, I tried for “Spike” because I figured tough would be better than dorky Marilyn.

96-Me Young in Maine

Nope. No other name. Not even a nickname unless you count “Mar” which is just a way of saying it shorter.

As for children? My son’s name is Owen. It’s become quite a popular name, but wasn’t when I gave it to him. It sounded good with his last name, a bit Celtic or Teutonic, depending on how you look at it. Everyone called him “O” from the start and still do.

At this point, my name doesn’t really matter. My identity is defined by electronic documents collected by daemons and maintained in various government and other databases. No human beings review the data. If you find errors, you cannot correct them because being you is not considered sufficient credentials. Human knowledge has no force of law any longer. I’d find that scary if I weren’t so funny.

A lot of people worry about keeping off the radar. The thing is, the radar is so inaccurate, it doesn’t matter. No one will find you because your address is wrong, your age is off by ten years, you live in a house you never owned at the opposite end of the state and have a phone number that was disconnected over a decade ago. Your email address belongs to an ISP that went out of business in 1992 and it is spelled wrong anyhow. I think you might be safer on the radar than off.

Marilyn and Bonnie

I’ve been blogging for a while now and I can’t figure out how to get my name back. I’ve put my name on Serendipity’s header and in the “About Me” section. I sign my name when I write to people. But it apparently doesn’t matter. I have become a teepee and a teepee I shall stay. A 12-foot teepee, which is the smallest possible teepee that isn’t a miniature. Pass the pipe. I like teepees, which is fortunate.

So, consider this my official coming out party. My name is Marilyn Armstrong. I wrote a book titled “The 12-Foot Teepee” and my online ID is Teepee12 whether I like it or not. Marilyn Armstrong is not available and I would have to be MarilynArmstrong00054 or MArmstrong876987 or something and that sounds too much like an android or robot … so for the forseeable future, I am a Teepee.

Teepee12 to you.

Best of the Summer Garden

As the summer draws to a close — I can’t believe it’s almost over — it’s time to sing a little homage to the garden’s glorious few months.

Sandman Slim, Richard Kadrey (2009)

Sandman Slim is fantasy, horror, and mystery, gift-wrapped in a deliciously witty package. It’s got the cast of characters from Heaven, Hell and every place in between. Enough zombies, in various flavors, to satisfy anyone’s enthusiasm for gore. Enough violence to get your heart pumping.

Cover of "Sandman Slim: A Novel"

The writing is sufficiently sophisticated, literate and sharp-edged that you have no doubt you are reading a book for grown-ups. This is no excursion into adolescent sparkly vampires. The undead are as far from cuddly as a bunny is from a crocodile.

The good guys aren’t particularly warm and fuzzy either. It’s a new perspective on angels and demons, good versus evil. The distinction between the good and bad guys is a matter of degree and ultimate intent. Both commit atrocities. It’s a matter of whose side you are on and what your final goal happens to be … and whether that’s evil or holy is a matter of opinion.

In Kadrey’s world, angels are as lethal as any of the bestial dead. Flaming swords or not, there’s nothing human or huggable about these heavenly hosts.

Meet Lucifer, Uriel and a few other big shots of the hereafter. Spend some time in Hell. Take a quick peek at Heaven.

Kadrey’s biting wit makes this first book and subsequent books in the series addictive. I read the first one, then hustled over to Amazon and bought the next two installments (Kill The Dead and Aloha From Hell).

It’s set in Los Angeles, but this is not your grandfather’s L.A.

Richard Kadrey
Richard Kadrey

“L.A.” says our hero, if indeed Sandman Slim can be classified as a hero, though he is indeed heroic, “is what happens when a bunch of Lovecraftian elder gods and porn starlets spend a weekend locked up in the Chateau Marmont snorting lines of crank off Jim Morrison’s bones. If the Viagra and illegal Traci Lords videos don’t get you going, then the Japanese tentacle porn will.”

In terms of hyper-literacy, Kadrey rivals Mike Carey, although these books are darker — and the Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books are very dark — and noticeably more violent. And gory. Jim Butcher on steroids and meth.

If fantasy is your genre and you don’t mind violent and gory, check these out. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they are extremely well-written and the perspective of God, Heaven, Hell and human life is sufficiently unique to hook me. I don’t usually like quite this much violence and am not especially into zombies … but these are good. Intense. Reeking of testosterone.

Gameboard of the Gods, Richelle Mead

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead

PENGUIN GROUP, Dutton Adult

Publication Date : June 4, 2013

Every once in a while, a book takes you by surprise in a good way. This was one of those times.

English: American author Richelle Mead (born N...
Author Richelle Mead

June 4th marks the introduction of Richelle Mead’s new “Age of X” series. Gameboard of the Gods is a science fiction urban fantasy cum mystery that’s got all the stuff we want in the genre in the right quantities to make it yummy and leave you wanting more.

In a future world nearly destroyed by strife resulting from religious extremism, Justin March lives in exile. His crime? Reporting the truth of what he saw … an inexplicable, possibly supernatural phenomenon. He could have done as others had done before and simply deny what he’d seen, ascribe it to something easily explained by trickery and special effects, but Justin has been touched by something he can’t understand, but which has a power he cannot ignore.  Justin’s job was to disprove the existence of anything supernatural, investigate religious groups, void their claims, and disband any group that presents even a hint of threat to the establishment. He failed to do it, and for his failure, was exiled to the backwater of Panama, where laws are loosely enforced and civilization has a thinner veneer than in North America.

To his surprise, Justin gets a second chance. Justin’s special investigative skills uniquely qualify him to investigate a series of ritualistic murders that have defied all previous attempts to solve them. A delegation from RUNA (Republic of United North America) is sent to get him and praetorian Mae Koskinen — a member of RUNA’s military’s elite — is assigned to protect him. Mae has personal issues of her own and believes that she herself is a breath away from disgrace, proving that what you believe can be more important than facts.

Justin is given only a month to solve the crimes.  Considered a genius by many, a dangerous madman and a charming fraud by many others, Justin March is determined to do it. With the deadline breathing down his neck, a hostile partner (Mae is not exactly thrilled by her assignment as Justin’s protector), he begins to unravel the complex cases. There seem to be no threads to tie the crimes together or any solid evidence to go on. Justin eventually realizes he and Mae not just investigators, but are at the heart of the mystery. Nothing is simple or clearcut. The truth will put their lives in jeopardy and if they survive, it just might prove their professional undoing. The personal and professional choices Mae and Justin must make as they battle dark forces and their attraction to each other is more perilous than either imagined possible.

There’s nothing in this book that you haven’t read in other urban fantasy novels, but it’s written very well. It’s hot, exciting. It kept me glued to the story from start to finish. I was instantly ready to read any number of sequels, but alas … the sequels aren’t written yet. I am forced to patiently wait for new installments. Rats. I’m not kidding when I say I can hardly wait.

Mae, as an “enhanced” soldier with semi-super powers of endurance and strength, and Justin, as a profiler-cum-genius detective of the supposedly supernatural are a wonderful team. They have a powerful attraction to each other and powerfully good reasons to not satisfy their attraction. The push-pull of the relationship is just abrasive enough to make the relationship interesting, sexy enough to keep you flipping pages, but not so focused on sex that you feel like you’re reading soft porn dressed in science fiction clothing.

This is a fun book and a promising beginning to what I hope will be a long series. If you like the genre, absolutely give Gameboard of the Gods a read. You will not be sorry. The book is available for preorder from Amazon and other outlets in hardcover, Kindle and audiobook.

– – –