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!


Filed under life the universe and everything

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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Filed under life the universe and everything, media cannibal

Queer Romance blog hop ’till you drop

Welcome to the Queer Romance Blog Hop, where queer writers and readers of queer romance share their thoughts on the genre, as well as a few recommendations for books to read! Everyone participating in this blog hop identifies as queer and also reads and/or writes (or edits, or reviews!) queer romance. For our purposes, queer romance refers to books with:

 1. LGBTQ+ main characters
2. In romantic relationships
3. That have a happy ending. (No Brokeback Mountain here, folks!)

Hi there! I’m Laylah Hunter, and I sort of accidentally sparked this thing. I got on chat with Heidi Belleau and basically said “let me whine at yooouuuu,” and she said “let’s do something constructive and fun instead!” and then she did all the work. I am a writer of queer fiction, usually sf/f/h, usually romantic and/or erotic. I have a variety of short pieces out now and my first novel, Gabriel’s City: A tale of fables and fortunes, will be published by Riptide in 2014.

Also, as you’ll see below, I CAN’T STOP TALKING ONCE YOU GET ME STARTED.

Continue reading


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it’s not you, it’s me. well it’s kind of you.

Dear NaNoWriMo,

I think we should see other people. I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me, and I think we’ve both grown and learned a lot over the years, but it’s just not working out the way it used to. I’m sure you can see my enthusiasm flagging. The excitement just isn’t there for me anymore; I keep feeling like a failure. I think it’s best to just stop now, while we can still be friends. I hope you understand.


There are things I do still like about NaNo, but the more I struggle with it the more I feel like my peg just isn’t cut out for this hole ifyouknowwhatimean. The discipline of “write every day” is useful and important; the idea that the only way out of a block is through, also important. But too much else about it is arbitrary in a way that does me more harm than good. It’s an imaginary deadline for a form that doesn’t come easily to me at a pace that I can’t sustain consistently. The timing during the year is terrible (and no, I don’t subscribe to the party line that making it more inconvenient adds to the excitement). The tracking tools on the website wind up demoralizing me further — “I wrote 1200 words today! Now I’m… further behind than I was yesterday, shit.”

So. Thanks for all the fish, NaNo, but I really think I need a process that fits my life and patterns better.

Right now I’m poking at HabitRPG again, which I wandered away from a few months ago while they worked out some crippling bugs, but is now functional and comes with a mobile app. I’ve been a gamer for the last decade or so (yes, I got started late) and the idea of getting POINTS for doing stuff has gotten wired into my brain pretty well. So now I have Dailies to do on Habit: take my meds, go to my job, go to the gym on certain days, and write 500 words. I have to do those things or imaginary pixel me will lose hit points, oh no! 500 is much lower than the NaNo pace. MUCH lower. But that’s the point where I’m setting the stick for my carrot/stick routine. Because in the Habit column (along with things like “cook real dinner” and “take out trash” and “write blog entry”) there is another “write 500 words.” The first 500 words of any given day go in the Daily requirement, just keeping writer-me healthy. But if I do 1000 words I get to click the one in the other column and earn bonus points. If I do 1500 words in one day I can get a second helping of bonus points. One stick, potentially endless carrots.

Whoops, just summed up the blog post in five words there. I’m a perfectionist with depression; too many sticks just leave me curled up under my desk feeling beaten (the morale does not improve). Just enough of a stick to get me out of inertia, though, and then the potential for rewards as long as I continue the good behavior? Oh. Yes, there we go.

How about you? What motivates you when you’re dragging your feet on a creative endeavor? Any tricks or brain-hacks or tools that work especially well?


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dual booting

Ugh. I am trying to run two competing processes at all times lately: there’s Writer Brain, which keeps going YES GOOD IDEAS WE NEED WORDS WE HAVE CHARACTERS, and there’s Depression Brain, which goes “omg no opening a word processor is an unreasonable amount of effort to ask of anyone, how dare you,” and keeps on clicking the same browser game we’ve been stuck on for the last hour. Sometimes I manage to make a little progress! Yesterday I took some good advice about quick-and-dirty character building and managed to work out some important things about the main character for one of my on-deck projects, and how the action plot ought to intertwine with his personal growth arc. Last night I had an unsettling epiphany about why I’ve been having trouble with female protagonists (as a writer you really can’t afford to be in swooning-early-crush mode with your characters; you need to look at their flaws and look HARD, because that’s where interesting things happen). So there are some flashes of insight in there between the flopped-over-doing-nothing periods.

And I’m hoping NaNo kicks me over to that side of the fence more thoroughly. I’ve signed up. I’ve just put the widget on my sidebar so people can see how I’m doing (accountability helps, I hear). I don’t expect to win, and I’m pretty zen with that. The pace of NaNo is still pretty high for me, and I have a day job and family to visit and ideally kind of a social life. But if it gets me back in the discipline—write every day; keep writing; put the writing first and then screw around AFTER—then it will be a success even if my ending word count is 10k instead of 50k.

…Okay no if I’m honest I would be disappointed with myself if I bailed at only 10. But 20k, maybe. If those words are going somewhere. That would be a good start.

Bring it on, November. I’m ready for you.

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hapless heroes and badass babes

Well, here we are again in the back half of October, with the caffeine-and-wild-eyed-determination-fueled juggernaut of NaNoWriMo bearing down on us. I attempt NaNo every year. I never win. I can’t seem to get my speed up high enough, consistently enough, to stay on pace.

It still helps, though. The first draft of Gabriel’s City got a lot of its words down on paper during two different Novembers. I’ve made good starts at a few other things in other years. And generally I love the atmosphere of it; for all that writing is presented as a solitary pursuit, it’s one of the few social activities I am pretty much always up for. Come November, I’ll have some friends to come with me to the local geeky coffeehouse with their laptops, and we’ll sit there together sipping lattes and attacking our keyboards. It’s nice to have somebody there to pace you for wordcount, to keep typing when you stop so that you feel the need to start again, to listen sympathetically when you just want to be writing anything but the scene you’re currently slogging through. Someone to suggest ninjas at the crucial moment.

So right now I’m sifting through ideas and trying to decide what I want to work on this November. I’ve narrowed it down to two, and I’ll probably bounce back and forth between them — my attention span also doesn’t care for NaNo’s single-project tunnel vision. I have a post-apocalyptic survivors’ society and a pretty young man with an anxiety disorder to throw into it. I also have a dusty, magic-infused wasteland city and a bounty hunter coming to town with her lipstick perfect and her shotgun loaded. I have an assortment of Cool Bits I want to throw in to make them fun and self-indulgent to write (and, hopefully, to read).

I have… about a plot and a half to split between the two stories so far. But it’s only October 20! That’s plenty of time. Right?

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Filed under word factory