Category Archives: life the universe and everything

the dead among us

Someone on my route to work put up their Halloween decorations this weekend — something to make me smile as I trudged through the rain to the bus stop at 7:30 on a Monday. I’ve always loved Halloween. A bit of it is the costumes, but a lot of it is the upending of our usual approach to death and monstrousness. It’s the goth in me, or possibly even further back, the morbid little weirdo who decided that being a vampire would be a great life aspiration. There’s something fascinating about all of our stories about how to make death less permanent.

For most of the year, those stories and those monsters are shoved off into a dark genre corner, where most people don’t pay attention to them. They’re a niche interest, for people who wear too much black and think skulls make cool drinking vessels and who probably ought to be avoided on the street. Then October comes, and ghoulishness is everywhere. “Ordinary” people hang paper skeletons in their windows and drape the trees in their front yards with tomb-thick cobwebs. Ghosts and ghouls peddle things in the supermarket. The morbid becomes a source of play, with mock graves for Abby Normal and L.B. Bach planted in neatly mown lawns. For a few short weeks, being fascinated with the dead-but-not-gone isn’t abnormal at all.

So it’s doubly delightful this year that I have a story coming out in October that takes advantage of the opportunity. “Resurrection Man,” my contribution to Bump in the Night, is a story about a man with no fear of the dead — no fear and in one case an absolute (undying?) devotion. There’s horror in Josef’s story, definitely, but there’s delight, too. He’s doing the thing that our Halloween rituals reach for — taming death, making its barrier permeable, besting its last word.

These shivers aren’t from horror. They’re from thrills.

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weeding the psychological garden

Well. Since we last spoke, I’ve done a few exciting things — I got a new job (which pays better and appears more stable than the one I lost in November), I signed a contract with Riptide for my first novel (!!!!!!), I released a free fantasy short through the M/M Romance group’s Love Has No Boundaries event, and I weathered the rest of radish season only to stumble headlong into zucchini season even more direly unprepared. (My gardening life has involved a lot of googling: “sunflower foliage image” and “when to harvest potatoes” and most recently “zucchini recipes,” “more zucchini recipes,” and “recipes to use up a LOT of zucchini.”)

There’s something really comforting and pleasant about working in the garden, though; my mother has been a gardener since before I was born, and I think I’ve inherited this temperament from her. Sitting out in the dirt and pulling weeds is a good time for contemplation, for meditating on scary things. Like writing.

Before Rachel read my book I kept thinking, “what if she doesn’t like it?” Now that she has read it and liked it, all I can think is, “What if I can’t ever do that again?” What if I can’t sustain a story that size? What if I can’t come up with a plot? What if, what if, all these nasty weedy little ideas that take root without permission and grow wildly as soon as my back is turned. Possibly the ugliest one, hiding under other foliage and setting down nasty deep roots: What if I could only write that book because of my partner’s help and encouragement, and without her I’m missing something crucial?

Putting that one into words means I have to actually look at it, and maybe start trying to dig it out so I can burn it. Yes, she helped a lot with the first draft. Yes, she was the person I talked to when I got stuck. Yes, her enthusiasm fueled the writing efforts. But getting that help doesn’t mean I’m incapable of writing on my own. And needing it doesn’t mean I’ve failed as a writer; Acknowledgements sections wouldn’t thank first readers and writers’ groups so often if that weren’t a really useful thing for a writer to have. Creating in a vacuum is not actually standard practice.

Drake and Gabriel’s story is, among other things, about finding faith in unlikely places. I think it’s time I tried to find some of my own. I’ll just have to keep digging.


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a sudden bounty

Internet, I have a garden problem.

Okay, I actually have several garden problems, things like “will my tomatoes survive being transplanted outside?” and “ow, the spines on those leaves really are a skin irritant, aren’t they?” but I have one garden problem that’s exciting.


photo(5) I pulled these guys out today and there are at least two or three times as many still in the dirt in various stages of readiness. And the question is, now what? I failed somehow to lay in a steady supply of radish recipes at planting time, and one can only thinly slice so many of the little monsters into salads. Anyone have suggestions for how I might tame the beasts?


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with silver bells and cockleshells

So living in an apartment in a fairly large city, as I do, has many benefits, but “available land to garden” is generally not one of them. (Container gardening on windowsills is right out, because I have no means of catproofing a spot for this, and my boycat is the sort who pushes things off my bedside table every morning to tell me it’s time to get up.) However! Seattle is a city with a thriving community garden program, and I put myself on the waiting list last fall, expecting that maybe by 2014 I’d have some space of my own.

Last Wednesday I got an email that there was a plot available for me in my neighborhood garden and did I still want it. Did I ever! So now I am the proud caretaker of 100 square feet of prime soil and thriving weeds. Okay, slightly less thriving weeds than they were a few hours ago, but still. I didn’t think to take a picture until I’d started working, but here’s the general state of things when I got to the garden to start messing around in the dirt this morning:


The nice clear space in the background there? That’s somebody else’s plot. Mine is the riot of crabgrass, henbit, and miner’s lettuce gone to seed. (With some thriving chives and thyme in that left corner, though. I need to plan some cooking around those.)

But I dug into it this morning, pulling things out, clearing space around the obvious intentional plantings and volunteer annuals, filling up that milk crate repeatedly with fluffy piles of weeds and depressingly small chunks of dandelion taproot. (Dandelion wine, I’m pretty sure, was an act of grim determination: “Well, we can’t kill the stuff, so we might as well drink it. Takes the edge off the frustration a bit.”) Excavating the useful things was kind of an exciting process! There are several strawberry plants, some established and others just starting from the originals’ runners. One corner has a few stubborn potatoes. There’s a little wandering trail of young arugula. I even found a few tiny sprigs of lemon balm, which smells every bit as refreshing as I remember from the garden I had as a teenager. After an hour or so I had gotten about this far:


Clearly there’s still work to do, but it’s progress! And I have a friend coming over tomorrow morning to help with that back corner and maybe a compost run before we dig in and start planting new seeds.

I’m already looking forward to those strawberry flowers turning to fruit.


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This week I have taken my writing procrastination to new heights: I have gotten involved in boutique perfume making.

No, okay, it’s more reasonable than it sounds. I’m friends with the lovely ladies who run ZOMG Smells (“Fine nerdy scents for fine nerdy people!”), and one of them recently had to leave town for a few weeks on urgent family business. So I’m stopping by the lab a few days a week to help the left-behind partner stay up to date on filling orders. Verdict: making perfume is so cool. I feel like an alchemist, searching through the dozens of dark glass bottles to find just the right one to measure out twelve drops into the mixture I’m currently compounding. All that’s missing is the mercury poisoning, and frankly I’m fine with skipping that part.

Because I’m pretty much always thinking about my various imaginary friends, yesterday afternoon as I labeled tiny vials I started thinking about what scents would suit my characters. Keliel, the elf from my Love Has No Boundaries story, is probably Four Seasons in Mighty Contention on Trivial Matters. Tavren, his human mage counterpart, might be The Melancholy Death of Nikola Tesla, or perhaps Magnacephalopoda Aesthetica (they’re not kidding about the nerdy part!). The main character of the novel I have out on submission begins his character arc as Bosie, and ends it Wrestling Tigers While Calling Your Mum Long-Distance. (But only because their catalog somehow doesn’t contain Burning Cities Down to Flee the Authorities. Maybe I should suggest that for next month’s limited edition.)

It’s a fun way of shifting gears, and thinking about characters from a direction I don’t normally while doing a productive thing entirely unrelated to putting words in order. Maybe that’ll help me get past the writer’s block I’ve been having lately.

And even if it doesn’t, hey. Alchemy.

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the long dark teatime

I woke up this morning to both of my cats investigating me curiously, purring in the hopes of coaxing my hands out from under the blankets and into petting range. I got up and went to turn on the computer & make coffee. I stood there in the kitchen assembling my delicious caffeine delivery mechanism and I thought, “I really like my life.”

I really like my life.

It’s so good to have that feeling back. I have chronic depression; I’ve lived with it to more or less success for the last twenty years. I finally started managing it with medication when I was 31, and the difference it made in my quality of life was staggering. Suddenly I could spend all of my energy on doing things, instead of having to reserve about a third of every day’s processing power for just “no, we’re not going to give up.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I started submitting work for publication the next year. All was going great, right?

And then I lost my job in November. I probably started going downhill within a few weeks, after the elation of “I don’t have to keep doing that anymore!” wore off. Looking at it now I’m pretty sure I was in trouble by the end of December, when I slept through a doctor’s appointment and then couldn’t summon the energy or the determination to call and reschedule. I missed a New Year’s party with friends because the idea of being in a room full of people made me want to cry. I felt like I wanted to sleep all the time, no matter how much I’d just been sleeping or how little I’d done since I got up. By late January one of my friends was asking if I’d considered talking to my doctor, since it was pretty obvious I wasn’t doing well. I kept telling myself it was fine, though, or if it wasn’t fine then it was understandable and I should just tough it out and it would get better. It was all in my head!

Then it got bad enough that I couldn’t write. My head was still full of stories and I had no problem coming up with new scenarios I wanted, but I’d sit down to turn any of those stories into words and just despair. Every sentence felt like I had to drag it through knee-deep toxic sludge just to bring it to the page. Being unable to produce words made me miserable. When my (extraordinarily patient) friend asked about the doctor again, I finally made an appointment.

I got a prescription for more exercise, more vitamins, and a little tweaking in my pharmaceutical assistance. And today? I’m awake, I’m pleasantly sore in most of the major muscle groups from my shoulders to my knees, and I really like my life.

Time to open one of those stalled documents and make exciting things happen.

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