And Now I Know Why He Hates the Sound of the Rain


Readers of this blog know I’m a cat lover, and the favorite of our cats is Gabby, a loquacious gold cat that followed us home as a kitten and now is a fifteen pound fur monster.

One of his quirks is to follow you into the bathroom when you take a shower, and then to meow plaintively during the whole time you’re running the water. If you peek out of the shower at him, Gabby has what can only be described as an expression of concern on his furry little face, meowing harder. When you get out of the shower, he stands up and reaches for you with his paws.

This behavior was mysterious until I had a brain flash the other day: we got Gabby when he followed us home … after two weeks of heavy rain. Clearly he’d been cared for, as he knew people very well — but we could never find his original owners.

Then it all clicked: he lost his family in the rain … and doesn’t like the sound of the shower because he’s afraid he’ll lose us too.

Don’t worry, Gabby. We have no plans to leave you.

-the Centaur

Pictured: Gabby and me, standing in front of my wife’s art.

Update: well, this isn’t really an update, I’m just testing a Facebook integration feature.

The DOORWAY, on its way…


The completed manuscript to DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME is on its way to the copyeditors. This project, designed to explore extra time, is now on its way to take someone else’s time, vampirelike, while I return to editing my novels. Please do not send me any more side projects right now, unless they are super good ones. That is all.

-the Centaur

Pictured: what’s your doorway? A salsa of scenes near Monterey.

Xeriscape, Continued


Our ground cover, in bloom. This is xeriscaping: landscaping which requires little to no water.


These pictures are from our front porch, shaded by landscaping planted by the previous owners. These plants, too, require little to no water: loquats and palm bushes and a few other plants I’m not familiar with. The overhanging branches create a sense of seclusion, which makes these shots pleasing; something I learned from my buddy Jim Davies’s forthcoming book.


It’s not a zero water system: we had to water the trees that we planted, and you can see a hose where we drip water occasionally on the sick olive tree out front. But the amount of water that we use for this succulent-covered yard is trivial compared to what, for example, my parents did in their large green grassy half acre – and when it’s in bloom, it’s far more beautiful.


The back isn’t quite finished, but we’ve got low-water ivy, and even the cats approve…


-the Centaur

Pictured: a lot of landscaping, done primarily by my wife, Sandi Billingsley.

A Dragon Passes


Gary Kim Hayes, a wonderful fixture of the writing track at Dragon*Con, passed away recently at the age of 61. I didn’t know him well, but thanks to my friend Nancy Knight, I was on a few panels with him at Dragon*Con and of course got to see him in many more panels. Most notably, he moderated the fun and popular “How to Write a Story in an Hour” panels.

We talked a few times. I was just starting to get to know him. I was looking forward to seeing him at the next Dragon*Con.

And now he’s gone.

He’ll be missed.

-the Centaur

Pictured: Gary Hayes, edited slightly from his bio picture to symbolize his passing.

Your Adopted Cat Picture of the Day


We’ve had Gabby a lot longer than Loki, but you can see from the size of this little fur monster why we think he and Loki might be cousins or brothers.

himsle sez loki

In case you’re wondering, Gabby is indeed enjoying this, and is not simply a large cat shaped rug that we’ve procured for the purpose of the photo. Note the movement of the tail.


Just distracting myself from LIQUID FIRE. Back to it. That is all.

-the Centaur

Pictured: Gabby, Loki, and Gabby. And some guy.

Treat Problems as Opportunities

Treat Problems v1.png

Recently I had a setback. Doesn’t matter what on; setbacks happen. Sometimes they’re on things outside your control: if a meteor smacks the Earth and the tidal wave is on its way to you, well, you’re out of luck buddy.

But sometimes it only seems like a tidal wave about to wipe out all life. Suppose your party has lost the election. Your vote didn’t stop it. You feel powerless – but you’re not. You can vote. You can argue. You can volunteer. Even run for office yourself.

Even then, it might be a thirty year project to get yourself or people you like elected President – but most problems aren’t trying to change the leader of the free world. The reality is, most of the things that do happen to us are things we can partially control.

So the setback happens. I got upset, thinking about this misfortune. I try to look closely at situations and to honestly blame myself for everything that went wrong. By honestly blame, I mean to look for my mistakes, but not exaggerate their impact.

In this case, at first, I thought I saw many things I did wrong, but the more I looked, the more I realized that most of what I did was right, and only a few of them were wrong, and they didn’t account for all the bad things that had happened beyond my control.

Then I realized: what if I treated those bad things as actual problems?

A disaster is something bad that happens. A problem is a situation that can be fixed. A situation that has a solution. At work, and in writing, I’m constantly trying to come up with solutions to problems, solutions which sometimes must be very creative.

“Treat setbacks as problems,” I thought. “Don’t complain about them (ok, maybe do) but think about how you can fix them.” Of course, sometimes the specific problems are unfixable: the code failed in production, the story was badly reviewed. Too late.

That’s when the second idea comes in: what if you treated problems as opportunities to better your skills?

An opportunity is a situation you can build on. At work, and in writing, I try to develop better and better skills to solve problems, be it in prose, code, organization, or self-management. And once you know a problem can happen, you can build skills to fix it.

So I came up with a few mantras: “Take Problems as Opportunities” and “Accept Setbacks as Problems” were a couple of them that I wrote down (and don’t have the others on me). But I was so inspired I put together a little inspirational poster.

I don’t yet know how to turn this setback into a triumph. But I do know what kinds of problems caused it, and those are all opportunities for me to learn new skills to try to keep this setback from happening again. Time to get to it.


Pictured: me on a ridge of rock, under my very own motivational poster.

P.S. Now that I’ve posted this, I see I’m not the first to come up with this phrase. Great minds think alike!