Category Archives: life the universe and everything

it never rains but it pours

And it’s Seattle in November, so I don’t know what else I expected.

In addition to my first novel releasing last week, I also had jury duty for the first time, so suddenly I was out of the loop a lot more than I expected. I still need to go back through and respond to blog tour posts! And draw a winner from the commenters for the prize, too. Commenting should re-start tonight (once I’m not at the day job anymore) and I’m planning to have a winner picked by this weekend.

I don’t suppose anyone would like to sponsor me so I could quit the day job and keep up with everything else I’m supposed to be doing? No? Worth a shot.

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a good yarn

I’ve taken up knitting again recently. People had tried to teach me a few times in the past, and it never stuck beyond the most basic stitch, but this year I’ve decided I want to get good at it. I’ve done my first simple cables. I’m figuring out the concepts behind lace. I need to pick up stitches for the sleeves of my first cardigan.

Partly it’s really exciting to have a visual art that makes me feel competent (I’ve never had the fortitude to train myself to draw tolerably; I have so much respect for people who do), but partly it’s really soothing. It comforts the same part of my brain that likes level grinding in video games: do this process. Keep doing it. Do it some more. Watch the incremental progress happen. The major difference is that when I’m done knitting, I have an actual item to show for it! So THAT’s rewarding.

Well, okay, there’s a second difference, too; video games tend to have more story going for them (though some people manage to put an awful lot of meaning into their lace). But I’m less drawn to the stories video games tell lately. It might be partly the violent backlash of the Angry Straight White Gamer Boy who tries to pee all over the territory hard enough that nobody else can have fun, but that’s not the major issue. The problem is that I’m losing interest in Lone Warrior and/or Ragtag Band of Misfits doing the Save the World gig. I don’t care about shooter guy.

It comes out in the stories I want to write, too, which is tough in spec fic; sci fi and fantasy novels handed a lot of those tropes to video games in the first place, after all. But I don’t want to tackle “saving the world” as a theme. I’m not sure I can suspend my disbelief enough for it at this point, when the real world’s threats are so multivalent and amorphous. Drake and Gabriel don’t save anything but each other. Erik and Jacob probably won’t manage any better. Jennie and Kane? “Each other and a hotrod spaceship,” maybe. Kit and Elias might manage to save a small community.

But mostly I like the smaller scale better, honestly. I want to write stories that happen at the level of individual emotions and destinies; the world doesn’t have to be scoured of all evil for people to find happiness. I want to take that one little thread and follow it as far as it goes.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to make something beautiful.

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on my mind

I’ve had post-apocalyptic themes on my mind constantly lately, and seeing things that remind me of them everywhere, as you do when you’re a pattern-finding animal. Yesterday’s instance, though, was absolutely perfect:

Stopped at a street corner, waiting for the light to change, and on the far sidewalk two young women were walking by, their hair in thick dreads and piled up high, their ratty shorts and midriff tops baring sun-browned skin and spidery black tattoos. And one of them was barefoot, unconcerned, on the pavement. Her steps flashed dirt-blackened soles, and I can’t get that image out of my head. I’m reminded of Caravaggio scandalizing his patrons by painting saints with dirty feet. He was on to something, I’m sure.

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Okay then! I’m in the house, the jonquils are blooming outside the front door, and I have a big pile of seed packets to start planting. (Also a brand-new shovel to dig out holes for fruit trees.) PROGRESS.

In an attempt to get progress going again in my creative life, I’ve signed up for the Goodreads M/M Romance group’s writing event again. I’m a spec fic writer, so finding a good prompt among their offerings always takes a bit of hunting—I just don’t have any idea where I’d start with childhood best friends who played high school football together and now they’re detectives and there’s gay for you and also they’re adopting a baby. (To be fair that’s a mashup of a lot of common themes; most of the prompters don’t ask for that many things at once.) The sci-fi and fantasy ones are thin on the ground, is what I’m saying.

BUT. Augusta Li put in a wonderful prompt involving a nonhuman, morally ambiguous protagonist, worldbuilding, and action scenes, and that is right in my wheelhouse. So I’ll be teasing out an assassin’s world and adventures while my garden wakes up and starts to stretch. It’s a good balance of life and death, I think.

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the big news

I’m a homeowner!

That’s my excuse for my silence here. Had to get a major goal out of the way. I move into my first home on Monday, where I plan to have a flourishing vegetable garden and a fantastic roommate and an office with a door so I can shut the cats out of it when I want to actually get writing done. (If I’m really smart I’ll also invest in one of those programs that temporary blocks the internet for you.)

Expect more regular posts from me over the spring/summer, especially once the promo for Gabriel’s City gets going.

I hope 2014 is treating you well in all your adventures!


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this too shall pass

(I promise I will blog about writing again eventually. This spate of posts, too, shall pass.)

On Tuesday my apartment’s water heater exploded. It could have been far worse than it was; the manager discovered it quickly (I was at work) and got the flooding stopped, before it reached the corner where all the sensitive electronics live. The cats are alarmed but not hurt.  My bedroom stayed mostly dry. …But it still hasn’t made the week much fun. Tuesday night everything was just soggy and unpleasant (there’s nothing quite like the smell of soaked carpet, and that’s a fortunate thing). Last night the “water damage remediation” guys had been there, which meant most of my stuff had been shoved around into awkward piles (it took some work to get into the kitchen) and there were huge, noisy industrial fans going at full blast. And of course there is no hot water.

I might have had a tiny bit of an emotional meltdown about this last night. Even when you’re old enough to know that life isn’t fair, sometimes it’s still upsetting to find it being enthusiastically unfair in ways that aren’t to your benefit. I… sort of wallowed in that for a bit. But once I’d gotten a glass of water and my composure back, I started to look for the up side. Lilith is a figure who’s been very important to me for years, and one of Her biggest lessons is the will to keep going in the face of hardship. So hey. At least with all of my stuff in piles on the floor in the far corners of my apartment, I have really good incentive to go through it with a critical eye and see what I don’t actually need to bring with me when I move. With everything still comfortably shelved I’m sure I’d be less strict on that front, and then I’d be carrying a bunch of clutter to my new home. I’ll make what I can of this. And tomorrow night, when I have hot water again, I’ll do my best to even be grateful about doing the dishes.

My mom’s mantra for trouble has always been “this too shall pass,” and I rolled my eyes at that a lot as a kid. I didn’t really have the perspective yet, I don’t think — neither a sense of the long game nor an emotional acceptance of the Life Isn’t Fair principle. But it helps now. Sometimes, shit happens. You can’t make it un-happen and there’s only so much you can do to mitigate it; for the rest, you just put your head down and keep going, and remember: Everything that is changes. This too shall pass.

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the new year post

I’ve been on the “meh, New Year’s an overrated holiday” bandwagon for years; I think I was already asleep when 2012 became 2013. But this year I went to a party hosted by some people I count myself very fortunate to have in my life, and joined their traditional celebration. At ten minutes to midnight we put aside all the nerdy card games and genre fiction discussion and everyone got a nice glass of bubbly to toast with (champagne or cider, depending), and then we each took turns saying a few words. People talked about what they’d accomplished in 2013, or what hardships they’d weathered; they talked about what they hoped to see or were working to accomplish in 2014. When each person finished we toasted them. By the time we’d finished the circle, we were in the new year. Just about as simple as ceremonies go, but it did a lot to make the transition feel both celebratory and a serious observance: here you are, in front of the tribe, owning this step in your life and having people honor it.

So that leads into what I want from the new year, I think, in a thematic instead of physical sense: more intention, more ritual, more deliberate action. We are a mythmaking species, which I’ve talked about as a reason that writing stories is important, but it doesn’t have to be only there. We are creatures who make meaning out of the sprawling chaos of the world around us; however we do that, it feeds the soul.

Here’s to the new year. May it be meaningful.

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clanging around

So there I am, getting on the elevator at work to go have a coffee break. The building has been playing christmas carols all month, and when I get on, it’s a sweet, piping version of “I Saw Three Ships.” Except that over the delicate melody there’s a bell going CLANG, CLANG, CLANG, in time but without any melody whatsoever.

That’s it: that’s the inside of my head these days. Everything is cognitive dissonance. I can’t tell which way is up, I’m stuck on all my decision-making, and I’m having a harder and harder time coping with the competing inputs of “Dow closes at record high!” vs the multiple cold and hungry people right outside this building looking for spare change. My company does extravagant projects in places suffering massive financial distress. I cringe at the thought of the Pacific garbage island and buy more food wrapped in plastic anyway. The whole system leaves me unsettled and vaguely (or not so vaguely) guilty. But if I hope to ever have land I can call my own, I need the system to help me, both for up-front expenses (my down payment is coming mostly from a very generous stock gift from family) and ongoing ones (can’t pay a mortgage without a steady income, can you). The ability to leave the investment-and-progress game comfortably depends on having reached a not-insignificant degree of proficiency in it.

CLANG, CLANG, CLANG. It’s hard to hear myself think sometimes, the clash is so loud. The carols will stop playing by January—but I have a feeling it’ll take longer to resolve into harmony in my head.

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the closest fantasy

Bear with me, this one is probably going to meander a bit. It does all go together, though, like a tangle of disparate roots sprouting into one intimidating hedge.

The fallow period of the year between Samhain and Yule is always nesting season for me. I fantasize about having a farm; I read a lot of homesteading blogs; I buy more things from the farmer’s market; I write stories where people spend a lot of time hungry, hunting food and preparing and eating it. Sometimes I even knit.

This year the story is a post-apocalyptic piece—a story about a farming community rather than a band of roving warriors, and about the young man who literally falls into the community and his struggles to get his feet under himself. Continue reading

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all roads lead to home

One of the writing projects I’m working on right now is a… well, “post-apocalyptic” is probably the best genre name. It’s set in a low-tech future whose survivors have lost access to oil or petroleum-derived products. So in the name of research, I’m now reading books from peak oil folks who are discussing how they picture such societies working, and where they’re documenting current attempts to live in ways that require less oil (this means a lot of localization, generally—reducing the need for people to transport themselves long distances, and reducing the need for them to import food and goods from all corners of the globe). It’s interesting, and scary, and sometimes a little thrilling, in a wistful sort of way.

Then for pleasure reading I’ve just finished Lifelode, by Jo Walton, which is something I wish more fantasy was; it’s thoughtful and imaginative and doesn’t rely on a formulaic quest saga structure. It’s a story about the nature of time and magic and love and gods and family. And it’s a story about keeping house as a sacred duty, and the fulfillment of doing the work your heart craves, whether or not that work is glamorous. (Mom, I think you’d really like it; I’ll bring my copy when I come out for Thanksgiving.) The scary note drops out there, and I’m just left thinking about shared kitchens and warm light and conversations with good friends, while the cold rain is locked safely outside.

It doesn’t help that it’s (late) autumn, which is always the time of year when my nesting instinct kicks in hard. I dream about having a home where I can grow vegetables, raise chickens, maybe even keep a couple of goats or sheep if I get really lucky with the land. Then I go on and sigh over properties for sale. Right here in King County, where Seattle is located, land is extremely expensive. But one county further north there are parcels with a house and an acre or two that cost less than a falling-down wreck on a postage stamp of concrete in the city. They’re so tempting.

Of course, if I got a house that far out, I would need to buy a car to be able to commute to my heart-of-the-city job, and the commute would eat huge amounts of my time in addition to all of the ongoing costs of car ownership. And if I didn’t have the job, I wouldn’t be able to pay a mortgage.

I suppose if it were easy, I would be doing it already.

I try not to romanticize the country life. I think I often fail. I know it’s hard labor to work the land, but a part of me is just so comforted by the direct cause-and-effect relationship between effort and reward. The ultra-short feedback loop between the work I do and the way it sustains me. I remember the vegetable garden we had when I was tiny, which had a bigger footprint than the house we lived in. I remember pressing bright autumn leaves between sheets of wax paper to hang them in windows. I remember Mom making calendar pages in a big artist’s notebook, using a ruler to make boxes for days along the bottom half and painting flowers from her garden on the top half in watercolors. I remember the one Yule I spent at Cauldron Farm in Massachusetts, the little farmhouse heated by the kitchen stove as the man of the house baked bread in its oven, the fridge with its jugs of milk from the farm’s own goats. I know it’s hard work. But isn’t anything worth doing?

I’m in a better position now than I was a year ago. I need to remind myself of that, when that kind of home seems far away. It feels like no progress, but there’s some money in the bank, and there’s a novel in the pipeline, and if I’m careful and diligent then one of these years I’ll pack up my cats and my kitchen and some friends. And I’ll take the road that’s waiting for me.

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