Saturday, October 16, 2010

On Scary Excuses

by D. L. King

I just received the second season of “Being Human” from Netflix. And I have to pay the monthly fee, whether I watch six discs or no discs. And it’s “Being Human!” I’m just saying…

I just started working on my latest novel again. It had been languishing in obscurity for months and months. What the hell is my excuse there?

Actually, I have this really awesome excuse. It’s from a long time ago, way back when I was in college. It’s kind of a long story—but I guess you have time. You’re probably procrastinating, anyway, and reading this will be a good excuse.

See, I came down with mononucleosis my sophomore year in college. I managed a couple of credits that semester, but I really needed to take summer classes if I wanted to graduate in four years. So I went to the University of Texas at Austin because I could get state resident tuition (Yeah, now you know I originally came from Texas—but it was in another life.). Here’s another revelation, if anyone cares: my major was media studies with a concentration in photography.

I had a grad student, photographer friend who helped me navigate the classes and registration and I signed up for something I can no longer remember, as well as an independent study in photography. I had to submit a portfolio to get in and the professor completely intimidated me. It was clear he didn’t think I would be worthy of his tutelage and told me to leave my portfolio and come back for it later that afternoon, when he would give me his verdict—read, “no way in hell.”

I decided I didn’t want his tutelage, anyway, and my friend found me this cool film crew gig on a grad student film production in exchange for credit. Perfect! Now all I had to do was go back to the scary prof’s office, tell him thanks, but not to worry as I found another class, and retrieve my portfolio.

So I showed up at 4:00, prepared to tell him just that, and he steamrolled over me with what I’d have to do as an independent study student, how he never took on underclassmen, but he’d make an exception (I’ve always been brilliant at anything I attempted—what can I say? That’s why I make the BIG bucks…), what my first assignment was (shooting the capitol), when it was due (work prints in three days) and how there were no excuses—the only possible excuse being death. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise and this was long ago and far away, before I’d become the big, bad domme that I am today. He had me completely intimidated and, worst of all, it was now too late to get out of the study and register for a different one!

I got a friend of mine to drive me to the capitol and drop me off with my camera and about six rolls of film (yes, this was back before digital photography). On the way, I got stung by some ants that were in her car. And when I say, ‘stung,’ I mean STUNG. It really hurt. I got stung twice on my foot and once on my hand when I tried to brush the ants off my foot and then I got dropped off in front of the Texas State Capitol building with blisters forming on the sting sites.

I spent about four hours shooting, during which time I opened the back of the camera a number of times to make sure I had film in it, shot with very small apertures in conditions that had far too little light and very wide apertures in conditions that had far too much light (Not a photographer? Sort it out from the context.) and finally managed to get on a shuttle bus to my apartment.

I was wearing flip-flops and by the time I got on the bus, my foot was the size of a small melon, as was my hand. The ants had been fire ants. I’m allergic to fire ants (yet another little known piece of information about me). I called my photographer friend and begged him to come over and develop my film because I couldn’t do it myself. (Yep, I was still delirious from the stings.) He took me to Health Services where the doctor told me that if I got stung again, I’d probably die. I asked him when the swelling would go down and he said about two weeks. Two weeks? I needed work prints in two days!

So, my friend developed my film and I managed to make the contact sheets (on a completely bizarre note, the pics were actually really good) and I appeared in the prof’s office at the appointed time, with my hands behind my back, and told him the story, then showed him my hand.

He said it was the best excuse he’d heard during his entire career. (He loved the contacts and told me to print when I could, not to worry about it. Turned out to be one of the best teachers I ever had.)

See, best excuse ever, right?

What does it have to do with my latest novel languishing, un-worked on forever? Not a damn thing, unfortunately. But, like I said, I’ve started working on it again. So we’re good, right?


D L King is a celebrated author and anthologist whose works include The Melinoe Project and Spank. To find out more about D L King's writing, please visit:


  1. Diane,

    Thanks for joining us here at the Grip. As excuses go, that was entertaining and diverting.

    The only worrying thing is that so many of us this week seem to associate excuses with school and college.

    Just saying... ;-)



  2. Excellent story, Diane,

    But since you got the project more or less done on time (after all, the printing is merely a technical act - the art is in capturing the images), it hardly qualifies as an excuse!

  3. Diane, that has to be one of the most riveting excuses I've ever read. Fire ants are a motherfucker when you aren't allergic to them.

    Lisabet, I have to respectfully disagree with the printing is merely a technical act though.

    Printing is an art form unto itself. Cropping, dodging, burning, filtering are often what makes a good photo great.

  4. Hi Diane!

    That is a good story and a wonderful excuse. I'm going to steal it and use for my job someday. I miss working with film and working in a darkroom. That stuff is a wonderful way to spend a day.

    Personally I really hate little brown ants. Those bastard sting you just for fun. Fire ants are even afraid of them! You can look it up. When fire ants are confronted by little brown ants they respond by playing dead. Strange world


  5. Hi Ash,

    Thanks for having me--in the bloggerly sense--I guess college is where the imagination expands (for whatever reason) enough to match the need for excuses. Don't let it worry you, just be entertained by them.

    Hi Lisabet,

    I must respectfully agree with Craig, here. At least half the art is in the printing. I once sold two prints, based on my portfolio, but didn't have a darkroom, at the time, to print them, so I had to have them professionally printed. Their prints (and this was with my explicit instructions and an example) looked nothing like my originals. They weren't bad--they were quite good, just not the same piece at all.

    Hi Garce,

    The enemy of my enemy is my friend. All enemies of fire ants are OK in my book--as long as they don't come near me.

    Fire ants, another reason to never leave New York. Fire ants aren't allowed over the state line...

  6. Diane - What I read was blah, blah, blah, Being Human, blah, blah, blah, I'm working on a novel, blah, blah, blah, Melon Foot!

    Not really. That's just my excuse for bringing up my favorite parts of you past. We'll have too dish about Being Human. I love that series. I'm glad you're starting to work on a novel. Are you going to plunge into NaNoWriMo madness? And no fire ants is just one of the many reasons to love your adopted home. (I know nothing about the art of photography, other than I love the cover you shot for your Art of Melinoe project novel)

  7. Kathleen,

    We'll dish, don't you worry! And as for the cover of A of M, we all love naked boys, don't we?

    Not going to do NaNo because I'm already way into the book and, as far as I can tell, you have to start with nothing. No worries. I'm writing--well, actually, I'm about to go to Pearl Paint just now--but I'll be back to write...

  8. LMAO! A fellow Texan and hater of fire ants! Yes, I'm procrastinating right now, but reading this was a good diversion :)

  9. Yep, I'm procrastinating right now, too.


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