A Year in Review

Well. It’s mid-December, the month and year are waning, and as seems traditional, everyone is dutifully filing their What I Did This Year reports. I will add mine to the stack.

The list of things I meant to but didn’t do this year is longer by far than the list of things I did. But 2017 was Like That, I guess, for a lot of us.

The most important thing I did this year is that I did not die. (I’m not being flip.) So that’s cool. I have an amazing new professional on my side and she’s gotten me on some medications that have done amazing things for my psyche, and some days I wake up and am just super happy, full of ebullience, ready for the world. So that’s real cool.

Professionally, I became a full member of SFWA after languishing indifferently at associate status for … five years? And I published two stories, both of which I’m pretty proud of.

The first was “The Storyteller’s Sleight,” in the anthology No Shit, There I Was. It’s unfortunately not available to read online, but the anthology also contains the likes of E. Catherine Tobler, Darcie Little Badger, Premee Mohamed, Matt Dovey, and many illustrious others, and it was edited by the one-and-only Alex Acks, so I feel it’s worth the modest investment.

The second was “After Burning,” which appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #227, back in June. I’m so proud of this story, and so grateful to everyone who read it and everyone who remarked on it, and to everyone who has put it on their various blogged or tweeted recommendation lists (and the Nebula Recommended Reading List).  The characters and world of that story mean a great deal to me, since they’re also the characters and world of The Interminable Goddamned WIP Novel.

I’ve also drafted two other short stories I’m pretty proud of, one of which is making its rounds now, and the other of which is for a prospective anthology I’m excited about. And I’ve dreamed up a whole new novel and world based on the latter, so whoops. Oh, and I also have an SF novelette finished, but I’m trying to decide what to do with it.

Insofar as the Interminable Goddamned WIP Novel (aka, Ash & Ordinary) goes — no, it’s still not done. But I still hover on that horizon feeling, that sense of oh, just past that hill! It’s a novel that began life as a fanfic I wrote for NaNoWriMo umpteen years ago (six) and then sort of inflated into this sprawling, extremely pantsed thing that involved a lot of worldbuilding-on-the-go and wait-wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if!-oh-well-now-I-have-to-rewrite-chapter-three. But this was the year I closed most of those gaps and contained the beast, and now I’m finishing a respectably plotted-and-outlined(ish) novel.

So in 2018 I’m excited to complete that one and get it out to my patient beta crew, and also to finish (fingers crossed?) the newly-planned novel, tentatively titled Empire of Wolves.

I had a brilliant time at a couple of cons this year — 4th Street Fantasy in Minneapolis, and our local Readercon — and though I had to miss the latter couple I’d planned, it was such a delight to see friendly faces and meet bright new ones. If I saw and hugged you at a con this year, thank you for making my con experiences great! And if I didn’t, well, God willing I will see and hug you at a con next year.

And I offer real, genuine, heartfelt love too big to fit into words to all my friends both in personspace and internetspace for all their love and support and good humor (and terrible humor) and righteous anger, and all the ways they’ve held each other and me up during a dark and trying year.

2017 was rough for a lot of us in a lot of ways. But we’re still here, friends, we stayed the course, and now we’re in the season of lighting candles and waiting faithfully for the sun to climb back out of its winter sleep, while seeds and bulbs wait under the soil for the snow to melt.

And it will. The snow will melt, the sun will return, faith and patience will be rewarded and we will still be here, lighting our lights, staying the course.

Happy end of year. Happy new year.

Swimming Lessons

I didn’t think of myself as depressed in high school because I didn’t know what that meant, really. I was vaguely aware of a recent cultural phenomenon called Prozac — the book Listening to Prozac came out during my senior year in high school, Prozac Nation during my freshman year in college — but not why it was A Thing. Depressed, to my friends and me, meant pretty bummed out.

I wasn’t aware of ADHD, either, and in the early years after I’d first heard of it — in college or after, I don’t recall — I was of the (common) superior, exasperated opinion that Man, they’ll medicate kids for anything these days.

I was definitely not aware of how often, particularly in women, the two disorders can be comorbid. Continue reading Swimming Lessons

Pruning the Weird

bes Rudbeckia on a neighbor’s front steps.

Today was the kind of hot where you step out onto the shady front porch and think, Oh, that’s a nice summer day, what a breeze! and then you take a second step out into the sun and your skin starts sizzling while the rest of you melts like a candle from the inside out.

Anyway it wasn’t the awesomest day of the week to have Everything To Do And Everywhere To Go, is what I’m saying.

Writing things: Morning pages ride again! Had some thoughts on re-tangling with Nasrin’s story and also Sister Milo and the Archive. I really want to write some Archive stories. Weaponized space library, ho! Also had some excellent, congeal-y novel-thoughts.

A thing that’s happened repeatedly to me in the process of drafting this thing is that the original monstrosity of it in my brain was this great sprawling complicated thing and I spent probably literal years thinking That’ll never sell, this isn’t commercial, this is too weird and tangled and viciously pruning it back, but now every time I run into a problem with it the answer is usually: put back one of those weird things you cut. So, okay, I will just let it sprout its luscious weirdnesses everywhere.

(It’s not, sadly, because I’ve had any kind of artistic epiphany about Owning Your Weird or anything like that; usually it’s because I run across another work I admire that’s done something just analogous enough that I feel like I’m granted permission.)

(I do need to work on Owning My Weird, clearly.)

Daily things: Took W. to visit the Montessori school for herself in the morning, and then had to spend a while cajoling her out of the Montessori school — she wanted to stay in the reading loft, and when I got her down from there she wanted to pet the chickens — but I prevailed by promising a trip to the farm. So then we went to the farm en route to the grocery store, and then the grocery store, and then we went for a walk and then to the playground and then to gymnastics, and at some point in among all of this I did three loads of laundry and two of dishes and made supper. (Green chili braised chicken with yellow rice and refried beans and corn on the cob.)

W’s in school tomorrow (she’s been complaining all evening that it won’t be the Montessori school, she wants to go there now), and I’m debating whether I oughtn’t try to take the laptop and work someplace outside the house for a change. I’m so distractible at home.

Day 4, No End In Sight

Here! Here, and hot, and tired, but here.

Writing things: Morning pages. Pushed through that bog-mud scene! Something clever happened in the background of it while I wasn’t paying attention, so I feel pleased. Now we embark on funner, stranger paths, and I will try not to look back at the bog and wonder whether I shouldn’t just go back and see maybe if I step on these rocks this time …. No, no. Do not poke the bog. It will be there to come back to in time. Hoping to shove forward into the next scene tonight and then leave myself hanging mid-it so I have some momentum tomorrow.

Began the Ratri revision. I have markets in mind — four of them, at last count? — but am unsure which to send it to first. Either I’ll have decided by the time it’s revised (Tuesday, latest, I am hoping) or I will roll dice or something.

Some novel-research on angels. The scary kind, not the inspirational card kind. Why yes, it is a scary-angels sort of novel. Have I mentioned that? Smol obsession with nephilim, comin’ through.

Got story crits on “A Family Business” from Katie and Chelsea; gave Katie her crit in turn. (Chelsea opted out this month.)

Daily things: Walked. Poked language study a bit in the morning, inspired by the discovery that Fred is learning Russian. (Everyone should learn Russian, really.) (That is no kind of Current Political Comment — I really and genuinely love the language. I was a Russian major in college before I switched to medieval studies.) Went for ice cream at the newish place with kiddo + husband. It was meh; still prefer the Black Cow. Made spaghetti bolognese and spicy sauteed kale for dinner. The kale was amazing. Snuck a grated zucchini into the bolognese, so now my child has ingested zucchini. Ha ha!

Sighed over some Kusmi Russian teas for a while, then added them to my wish list. Virtual window-shopping, with hopes for impending birthday. I am and continue to be really annoyed they don’t make Petrushka anymore; it was my favorite, and since Golden Moon stopped doing their rose tea I’m all in the woods as far as nice ones. If you have a good rose or rose-ish tea to recommend (Petrushka was rose and almond, with whiffs of vanilla and orange; Golden Moon’s was just a deeply, exquisitely rose-fragrant black teaplease do.

Oh look, nattering-about-tea. Must be time to get back to writing.

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


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.


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.


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.


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