Wonders and Wading

Panoply2

The new sign on my office door, courtesy of my daughter. My office is the only room in our downstairs with an air conditioner in it, and today was a molasses-sticky midsummer misery, so at regular intervals my husband flung my door open to declaim, “PANOPLY OF WONDERS!” before stalking in to flop in an armchair.

Writing things: Morning pages. Pushing through this wretched scene (tower, nighttime, Isak’s request). I feel like once I break out of it I will have some momentum for what comes next, but right now I’m wading through bog-mud to reach that steadier shore. I did wade through a few hundred words of the bog-mud, though, and did some outliney things in my notebook. A secondary character is going to do something interesting I didn’t originally expect; also there may be more poisoning than previously anticipated.

I’ve been looping this version of this song a bunch lately — it’s very Sirin. Angry postapocalyptic revolutionary dame is kind of Sirin’s thing.

Daily things: Walked. Baked the new neighbors’ cookies. Separated a lot of sticky, squablous small children, enforced some penalty hugs, and ministered several minor injuries. Roasted a chicken with some of the CSA veg, which Facebook reminds me I also did exactly two years ago today, except that now my kid can pronounce “turnips” and won’t eat them. Ate said chicken and veg with drippings on bread.

Watched: Great British Baking Show (4.4, Batter).

Reading: Rat Queens, trade vols. 2 and 3.

Around the Campfire

Tomorrow is the start of another session of Camp NaNoWriMo, and I will be moving into a virtual cabin there with a klatch of VP classmates and Slack friends. Our cabin has been dubbed Murdercabin, so you know it’s a good one.

I’ve done regular NaNo for years (and “won” it intermittently), but my first effort at Camp NaNo, back in April, was not a success. I was doing well for the first, I don’t know, eight days or so! And then the rest of April happened. April was … not the cruellest month, but definitely kind of a shitheel. So here we are in July and I’m going to try it again. Cross your fingers for me.

July will not be a shitheel! July is actually required by law to be nice to me because it is my birthday! Also Readercon! They happen on the same weekend, in fact! Smack in the middle of the month — and my goal (oh God, I’ve used the word goal before, haven’t I? look, I’ll just wedge those other goals into the coat closet and we’ll pretend you never saw them) is to have some coherent, completed thing — completed, like, with an ending and everything! — that I can talk about knowledgeably at Readercon. By Readercon. So, you know, more or less two weeks.

This should go swimmingly.

Adobe SparkThe Camp NaNo site encourages you to post a little mock-up cover for your project, so I did the thing. Ha ha, my Art Skillz™, let me show you the bleak and gaping void where they do not exist! But I adore this photograph — one of many supremely spooky photos taken by Nick Brandt at Tanzania’s toxically alkaline Lake Natron — and the world it suggests.

The Two Rivers world is not a nice place. This is a good picture for it.

Anyway, cross your fingers for a gentle July.

Current comps: It’s City of Blades meets Range of Ghosts, with a twist of Annihilation.

Writing: Did morning pages. Dithered about novel-things in preparation for NaNo work, made some character notes re: Vulo for myself. Rewrote the same three sentences a dozen times. Not much useful elsewise. (Assuming any of the foregoing was useful.)

Daily things: Today is my mother’s birthday.

Walked. Made cookie dough so tomorrow I can bring cookies to new neighbors. Played hostess to a trio of four-year-olds and introduced them to the wonder of limeade, which they all proceeded to refer to as lime-onade. Did not introduce them sufficiently to sunscreen, whoops. Brought honor to my child’s house by single-handedly capturing our neighborhood Pokémon Go gym for the first time, and then valiantly defending it for exactly five minutes and fifty-five seconds until yellow team’s goons rolled back in.

See you next month, tomorrow.

 

Green and Growing

kitchenwindowsill

This is the kitchen windowsill at present: from L to R, it’s parsley, Thai basil, lavender and sage together in the white pot, my daughter’s sproutling sunflowers in a kit she got for Easter in the green tray, a pair of anonymous succulents (Tatiana could name them, I’m sure), an olive tree, Genovese basil, and rosemary. I’m not doing much with the garden out back this year — which currently consists of strawberries (or “rabbit food,” per the local rabbit community), a dwarf apple tree, and a few perennial herbs, all choked by morning glory — but I’ve planted tomatoes (plum and cherry) in containers with more basil. We’ll manage happily through most of the summer with our CSA veg, but we can never have too many tomatoes or too much basil. I’d grow sweet corn here too, for the same reason, if only we had the space and sun for it. Alas.

CSA629

This is this week’s CSA haul. June is still basically springtime as far as Massachusetts’ growing season is concerned, so still lots of early greenstuff: lettuce, kale, escarole, cabbage, hakurei turnips, green onions, peas. The zucchini are a nice nod to summer’s entrance, and the kohlrabi — well. I never have any idea what to do with kohlrabi. The internet always suggests I just serve it raw as sticks or slaw or in salads, but that is because the internet has not met my family. There may be four-year-olds out there who will eat kohlrabi slaw or sticks of raw kohlrabi, but my own child is side-eyeing those kids pretty hard from behind her box of Cheez-its.

Writing: Did morning pages. Took a walk through the cemetery and had some useful thoughts from inside Sirin’s head; came home and remembered to jot them down. Reworked Vulo’s first novel-scene (I know, I know …) to introduce a crucial plot element sooner and to establish his condition better. Read K’s story for Sunday crit group. Reconsidered the opening of Ratri and Shrike’s story per a kind Shimmer rejection.

Cryptic index card note-to-self from last night: Whales vs. angels

Daily things: Made blueberry jam and two loaves of bread.

forfrances

I promise not to bombard you with as much in future, but it’s a solid start, no?

 

 

Accounting for Myself

I want to try an experiment.

I wanted to blog more this year — it was a resolution, you may recall. I also want to write more, to garden more, to do projects with my kid more — basically, to do more of everything except playing video games. I want to play fewer video games.

I’m constantly resolving to do more things, and equally constantly failing to keep up those resolutions (to wit: more blogging). I tried bullet journaling. It was great, it made me feel crafty and productive, and I stopped doing it after a couple of months when keeping the journal itself became the kind of chore I needed to set time aside in the journal for.

But three things happened recently. The first was that I read C.’s post about using her bullet journal as a log rather than a planner, and I thought, Holy profanity, what a great idea. Look how tidy that is! My tidy-sense is tingling. Then, second, I was reading my darling Mary’s journal and thinking how much I admire her … accountability, I guess? The fact that she’s able to itemize the things she gets done daily, point to progress as she makes it. And the third thing was that I was commiserating with some other writer pals about the fact that a lot of the writing work I do — real, necessary work, the planning and plotting and research and so on — happens so much in my head or in the background (pages and pages of amorphous notes, index cards jotted unintelligibly in the middle of the night and strewn around my desk, long brainstorming walks and sudden breakthroughs) that it doesn’t feel like work or concrete progress. It’s not a thing I can point to like, for instance, I wrote 1,500 words today. Sometimes it’s just, I took a walk and thought about it and realized why [redacted] is resistant to [redacted], and how that conversation with [redacted] should go.

But that is work, it’s work without which the writing doesn’t happen, because so much writing — for me, anyway? — is head-work, not word count. And I wish there were a way to quantify that better so that I didn’t spend so much time moping about not getting any writing done when in fact I had two plot breakthroughs and learned how fermented horse milk liquor is made. (Look, it’s relevant.)

So anyway all of these things fermented (like horse milk liquor) in my brain and I realized that what I want (à la C.) is not a plan but a record. Both to credit myself when I deserve credit and to keep track of what’s actually getting done and what isn’t.

I have ADD, and I don’t know if that’s why — as C. speculates for her own part — I am Not Good at things like keeping planners and making elaborate schedules for myself. (I seem to make to-do lists mostly for the purpose of losing my to-do lists.) But I do know that the prospect of having to account for my time and actions after-the-fact is pretty motivating for me in general, with the added benefit that it doesn’t require any kind of advance planning or preparation: I have to do the thing, first, and then I get to say I did the thing.

So anyway, that’s the new plan (she said, a touch ironically). I’m going to try to use this blog as a regular — a few times a week, if not daily — check-in, just to report what I’ve been up to, Mary-fashion. It may be news on writing and word count; it may be rambly notes on the research rabbit holes I’ve fallen down or the plot-potholes I’ve filled in. It may be some terse bullet-points. It may just be pictures of gardening or baking projects. But in any event, there will be more regular noises of some kind over here, and hopefully they will form a catalogue of my various species of productivity.

On Burning and Ash

After Burning” is out today, friends, available for free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. (If you like it, though, and stories like it, may I recommend a BCS subscription? Scott Andrews is a tremendous editor, and I’ve discovered many of my own favorite writers through the magazine.)

If you enjoy the story (I hope you enjoy it!), then you might be interested to know that it is directly connected with my WIP novel, Ash and Ordinary. The short story, set in a border settlement of the theocratic Marethi Ordinary, takes place about six months before the opening of the novel. The novel’s primary POV character is none other than the Wolf himself, but he is surrounded by a trio of badass ladies.

Grandmother and widow Farin Lais only wants the quiet retirement of running a village tea house; wasteland scavenger and river-pilot Esmat Ahuja is trying to smuggle a man home from a war zone. And the Wolf’s new and dubiously-loyal undead comrade, Sirin, is keeping secrets that may spell the end of the Ordinary itself — or its salvation. When the four of them collide, the Wolf — still coming to terms with his own crippling injury and trauma — will have to decide whether saving the empire he serves from the traitors in its shadow requires him to betray it first.

The story is rooted in the legend of Prester John, but also contains elements of Joan of Arc, the Tunguska event, Cossacks, various medieval heresies, and zombies.

Season and Story

Spring is drizzling all around us once again.

I haven’t posted anything since January — January! — and here we are four months into the year so I guess we all know how I did with my resolution to blog more often. Ha ha. Ha. I am happy to report, however, that I’ve managed to keep up fairly well with my determination to read a book a week, and I do indeed have a second novel-thing sketched out (werewolves, my friends), and I did get those two stories submitted.

I’ve also sold one of those two stories, I’m even happier to report: “After Burning” will be appearing in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It is a story set in the Marethi Ordinary, the world of my novel, and if you’re curious about the novel, I can tell you that the story is a direct prologue of sorts, and the novel’s protagonist and chief POV character puts in a significant appearance.

I’m really delighted to work with the estimable Scott Andrews again, and BCS will always be my secret favorite (shh, don’t tell anyone) because they were my first-ever pro sale — of the first-ever Marethi story, no less.

Other near-future happenings in these parts will include pea-planting and archery. My husband and I are also each trying to make the other one talk us into getting a little flock of laying hens, while both pretending to be the reluctant party. We will see whether both or neither of us wins.

Traumatic

The male protagonist of my novel suffers from PTSD. His is a version likely familiar to most people from media conversation and common portrayal — he’s a veteran, and his military career was ended by a devastating injury in an ambush that left him traumatized as well as disabled — but it’s far from the only trauma people experience, or the only reason a person might suffer a post-traumatic response.

This week I’ve had ample cause to reflect on my own experience with trauma, which is very different from the above. I thought I’d talk about my experience a little. I haven’t done that since — well, since it originally happened.

Continue reading Traumatic

Advanced Cat Waxing

Well, my single writing goal for this week was to revise a short and return it to the editor who requested a rewrite. Instead, I used my work time today to finish a completely different short and submit it to a completely different magazine.

I feel like I’ve attained some kind of Platinum Elite level of procrastination.

Blank Page

Good morning, 2017.

I saw people posting year-end roundups and so on which seemed very Responsible and Organized of them, and since I am neither of those things I guess this isn’t that sort of post.

What did I do in 2016? I sold two more stories — “On the Occasion of the Treaty of the Thousand Rivers, A Visit to the Gallery,” and the still-forthcoming “The Storyteller’s Sleight.” I was accepted to and attended Viable Paradise 20, and emerged from it feeling stuffed with knowledge and a little gladder and surer of my craft, and — more importantly — collected a tribe I adore. I made a bunch of nebulous progress on the novel, but it was progress, and it was progress both quantitative and qualitative. I went to Readercon, my only con for the year.

Today I am setting out into 2017 with the novel soon-ready for beta, I hope, and two short stories I intend to have out on submission by month’s end, and two novellas I aim to finish and polish. I mean to reach the end of 2017 with the novel at least out on query and a second outlined and in progress, two to three more stories sold, and both novellas on submission. I also mean to read a book a week (less ambitious than some, but since my daughter was born I’ve averaged probably 3 – 4 books a year) and to practice some self-care. Self-care is important, and mine is terrible. I’m going to try to blog more, too, and of course you’ll still be seeing Tuesday tarot writing prompts from me.

I’ll be attending Fourth Street Fantasy, Readercon, Worldcon 75, and Sirens this year, so if you’ll be at any of the above, please let me know! We can get together and I’ll buy you the beer or non-beer item of your choice.

I have non-writing-related goals too — gardening, parenting, anti-fascism, fiber arts, fitness, staving off apocalypse — and you’ll probably hear about those in time, if I’m going to be blogging more.  I will spare you a breathless list of resolutions right now; I’m not sure 2017 starts so optimistically for many of us. There is hope for things ahead, naturally and defiantly, but there’s also so much work to be done.

I have faith, friends, that we can do it.

The new year stretches out ahead, for better or worse. Off we go.

Even More Promptly

A note for those interested in the Tuesday Tarot Prompts: since Instagram is being hinky about embedding those over here, I’ve added a link to them to this site’s menu. If you click the Menu button up there on the right, the last item on the menu should be Prompts, and it will take you to the entire current catalog of #tuesdaytarotprompt posts on Instagram.

That said, here’s today’s.