15 September, 2019

on questions of dubious merit

You know how "they" say there's no such thing as a stupid question? Generally I ascribe to that and employ patience with my answers. Even if the question seems stupid or obvious to me, it might not to the asker, and responding with contempt or impatience would just make me an asshole. There are exceptions: the student who, having been reminded daily in class of X, asks about X (and inevitably professes shock at the answer). This is because either said student was not paying attention at all, or wants to lay the groundwork for a plausible but I didn't know! I can't do X in the time allotted! defense. (This never works, either in my HS or my college classes.)

But that second kind of question is not born in ignorance. It's born from some ulterior motive. It's not genuine.

Which brings me, roundaboutly, to a question that bugs me more every time someone asks, having noticed my tattoos: did they hurt? 

Listen: tattoos are created by multiple needles--five, seven--piercing your skin and depositing ink underneath it. Of course it hurts.  It's the sort of obvious question that suggests an ulterior motive in the asking.

I never say no, because it's not true and we both know it.

When I say yes, of course, but it's not so bad; or yes, and you get a pretty amazing endorphin high off it; or yes, and it's better or worse depending on location and how far into the session I am--pretty much any version of yes but/and--then I get the cock-eyed dubious stare and-or the hesitant smile. Because I just admitted that yes, I did this thing that hurt, and I did it willingly, and I did it multiple times/for many hours and I paid for the privilege. Which, having thus admitted, I then have to justify, or discount, or downplay, or excuse, or whatever it takes to make myself seem less crazy or more socially acceptable or whatever to this person.

Alternatively (and by default, these days), I offer no excuse: yep, it hurts! More if it's color, or this place here, which hurt more than all the rest combined, here look, yeah, that spot. And! (I add with glee) there's sometimes a lot of blood.

This only deepens the dubious look, as if I can no longer be counted as a rational human being. The usual follow-up then is why and then but what happens if you don't like the design later on? or my personal favorite, What about when you're old?

Because I wanted to, obviously, and just as obviously--tattoos are basically permanent. I can either pay to have the design removed, or I can get it covered up by yet more tattooing. I mean, duh? I am pretty sure I will not be tired of these designs because I thought about them first for a long time and collaborated with my very awesome artist. And when I am old, I will have age spots and wrinkles in my design, and I imagine they will look weathered and cracked like an old painting or the rocks on which some of the designs are actually found, and that will be fine.

Say this, and I will often receive a second dose of the smile, the look, this time more nakedly doubtful and soaked in condescension, as if it's perfectly impossible I won't regret my decision, now or later, and I just don't know it yet.  It's clear their opinion was formed well before the question, which they ask to confirm for themself their own choices/prejudices and to signal to me that I have made choices which they do not agree with nor approve of.

Listen: ask what the designs are, what they mean, how long the sessions take and how many there were--but don't ask if they fucking hurt to signal to yourself your own virtue, or whatever you're doing. I have a high tolerance for multiple needles and many hours contorted in the chair. I have far less for people trying to make me feel bad for choices that are none of their business.

11 September, 2019

I will be at Mysterious Galaxy in October

So, first ever book event, y'all.

I will be at the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego on October 13 at 4:00 PM, talking about How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse and signing books and if you're close by, you should come!

(I promise to take more breaths in the actual talk. Or use commas.)

31 August, 2019


Don't worry: as of the writing, he's alive and well. But he scared the shit out of me last weekend because on Friday, he stopped eating, and this cat is all about the food.

I will spare you the drama of the weekend, calling the vet, getting the Monday AM appointment, watching him sniff his food and then "bury" it and then come back five seconds later, repeat, repeat, or sitting on the floor with him feeding him crunchy treats because that was the only thing he'd eat. He wasn't feverish, bleeding, his teeth were okay... it was something, clearly, but what I didn't know. And I do not do well with uncertainty.

Anyway. The point is that he is a very good boy, and today he is down to one medication from two, and eating solid food again.

Turns out he had thrown up a hairball with such force and acid--and it was an epic hairball, y'all, it was half the size of that circular pink wool rug and not a ball so much as a mat--that he burned his throat and gave himself esophagitis. No, I didn't know what that was, either, until Monday. 23 years owning cats, and never this.

So here are the other things I have learned this week:

  1. Meat baby food is gross. It looks like puke. It smells like--well. Anyway. Gross.
  2. Gerber and Beechnut make meat baby foods. The vet said anecdotally, the cats prefer Gerber and of the three choices, some prefer the ham over chicken or turkey. 
  3. Since Murdercat is a poultry lover, I got him the chicken and the turkey, which was fine. It was in fact the reason he came out from under the bed after the vet-visit. 
  4. The vet-tech who tried to give liquid antacid to him did not teach me anything about medicating a cat that I did not know, and did teach me how not to approach him. I have never seen an animal foam up like that. He even hissed, though with more bewilderment (WTF, lady-I-just-met?) than malice.
  5. He will eat pill-pockets until he discovers a pill, at which point he will distrust pill pockets forever, amen, find a new trick.
  6. Don't think about the pill gun, either. The vet tech did that to him, too. 
  7. It takes two people to get liquid carafate down his throat with a syringe, and that is without any fighting back except to escape. It takes an entire human folded over him like an origami coat to hold him down.
  8. BUT. He will take pills and syringes of medicine if you come at him from the front, one-on-one, give him a treat, show him one (or two or three) more on the floor, and then administer the medication. He will volunteer for this, and come to the kitchen when summoned. He will eye the syringe (or the pill) with resignation, and then permit the whole process. He will not run away. He will not hide. He will allow either of us to do this, and there will be no biting, hissing, scratching, or any resistance besides the reflexive paw-splaying when he's been scruffed. 
  9. He is a big, gentle, dorky boy. 

The manner of approach signaled to him the degree of response. We acted like it was a Big Deal, so it was. When it was just me on the floor with him, face to face and within range of those claws, no problem (other than the vice that is a closed cat-jaw).

So the biggest learning point for dealing with him is--ask, don't compel. He holds no grudges. Bribes of food accepted. 

(The first and third apply to me, too. As for grudges... well. Murdercat is a better person than I, in that regard.)

21 August, 2019

Summer ends. I grimly face my wyrd.


Murdercat found the sun
The summer of time measured in "X Days Since Last Time I Went Among People" (X=2, but this was a social week) is drawing to a close. The HS starts tomorrow. The uni classes hold off another month, but really, if I am back in front of any classroom, summer's over. I'm having those little surges of panic, like I'm forgetting something, or I've squandered my time.

I translate this feeling to myself as "did not write most of a novel this summer." I'll probably be doing that next year, assuming the apocalypse spares us. I have ideas. They will possibly require research. So I counsel myself to patience.

I did write other things. Two syllabi, two websites for those classes, and I have been listening to Critical Role S2 in prep for the third syllabus (HS S2020) because seeing a rules-oriented D&D 5e game is actually research. I even, gasp, playtested a module. Unheard of in this group of home-brew plots and epics, but it worked out. I am still wrangling with how in five hells I am going to teach a thing I have been doing for 30 years (mostly in AD&D 2e, house-ruled to our eyes) to teenagers who may, or may not, have played before. Or run a game. Or faced the rules. But that's a challenge for which I have a couple months left to prepare.

I also wrote several things for the release of How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, which is coming out in October and of which I am so damned proud I can't even. There will be a lot more about that coming up.

I've also spun a lot of wool. This batch is made of unrelated bundles of fiber in complementary colors, mixed together and spun at random. There's camel in there, various sheep wools, who knows. It's becoming a rug as we speak.

I have knit several socks in prep for the holidays. The godson is getting 4, none of which will match, at his request. They are also glittery yarn, also at his request. He is almost 5.

 I have rediscovered longsword training, and am pleased that I haven't forgotten my drills and that I've gotten so much stronger since I first learned them twenty-odd years ago. It is also a sadness, because the friend who was my first teacher died from a massive, surprise heart attack a few years ago, just north of 40, and that knowledge still shocks me whenever I recall it.

I have failed to convince my husband that we need another kitten. As Murdercat, almost 4, tries to coerce Tinycat, almost 12, to play with him, resulting in chunks of hair everywhere and a lot of feline yelling, I feel like the argument just sort of makes itself, but... the husband remains unmoved.

25 June, 2019

sew what?

Singer treadle sewing machineMy parents came out for a visit, and with them they brought antiques for which they no longer have room but we do, and so... I have this 1926 Singer treadle sewing machine now. My parents picked it up at an antique show and held onto it until I had room, because who doesn't want a treadle sewing machine in case of a zombie apocalypse? I am no seamstress on a good day, but that's fine. This is a beautiful thing. It came with an owner's manual for a different model of sewing machine. I discovered this when I went to start trying to figure out what parts were which and the first diagram identified things that simply are not on this machine. The internet is mighty, however, and I soon found and downloaded the correct owner's manual. Now I just need to get the belt on it--a leather belt, mind you--and order some needles and oil we're all set to... I have no idea. Sew the occasional seam, I guess, in quicker order than setting up the little crappy Kenmore electric I have. Dad says with the right needles, it can sew leather. I don't see myself making a bodice or anything, though.

detail of sewing machine
But look at this thing. How pretty is that? The I-don't-even-know-what-that-part-is-called is decorated for no reason other than it can be, so why not? I wish we still did that. Decorated things for no reason. Why can't a utilitarian object also be beautiful? And also why can't it be made to last for a hundred years?

metal fire truckDad also brought out this guy, which is the only toy truck I ever played with. I guess it's missing a couple of ladders, and this is not the original paint job, but whatever. The steering wheel works, y'all. The front wheels turn. And it has a bell, an actual bell. I recall in the dim and distant past it had, what, paracord or something wound up and playing the part of the hose? I'd unspool it, then rewind it again, repeat, repeat, repeat. I don't know why this truck fascinated me as a kid, but it did.

It's awesome. It's all metal parts and heavy...like the Kitchenaid of toy fire trucks.

26 April, 2019

how to make feathered enemies

This morning, on the way to the gym, we saw a crow dive into the tall grass beside the trail and grab a very tiny baby rabbit by the ears in its beak. The crow was having a little trouble with lift, and the rabbit was screaming (rabbits scream. This is not a fiction from Watership Down, but a shrill and disturbing truth).

I, torn between admiration of corvids and sympathy for tiny bunnies, slapped my hand over my mouth and stood there expecting to see the crow drop the bunny, stab it with its beak, and have a brutal breakfast. Nature's mean, man.

Instead, the crow lost altitude and landed and dropped the bunny...

...who tried to run...

...and got grabbed again, and lifted....

...and got dropped again, and tried to run...

...all the while screaming...

...and at that point I had enough. The crow had the bunny pinned, by the ears, and clearly couldn't hold it down long enough to stab it. (The crow was giving off wtf, man, I thought this was a mouse, this is not a fucking mouse! vibes.) So I ran at the crow, who prudently abandoned its screaming, thrashing victim, who--unharmed? or at least not bleeding--ran at me (or rather, away from the crow), and then jagged into the grass and hopefully from there back underground or under some bushes, where crows cannot go.

And that is how I pissed off the crows in the neighborhood (again. Last time I rescued a frog).

18 April, 2019

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse

Hey hey! Big news! I can now show you the freakin' amazing cover-art for my novel, How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, coming from DAW on October 8, 2019.

And, and! You can even read the first chapter right here.

Rory Thorne is a princess with thirteen fairy blessings, the most important of which is to see through flattery and platitudes. As the eldest daughter, she always imagined she’d inherit her father’s throne and govern the interplanetary Thorne Consortium.

Then her father is assassinated, her mother gives birth to a son, and Rory is betrothed to the prince of a distant world.

When Rory arrives in her new home, she uncovers a treacherous plot to unseat her newly betrothed and usurp his throne. An unscrupulous minister has conspired to name himself Regent to the minor (and somewhat foolish) prince. With only her wits and a small team of allies, Rory must outmaneuver the Regent and rescue the prince.

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is a feminist reimagining of familiar fairytale tropes and a story of resistance and self-determination — how small acts of rebellion can lead a princess to not just save herself, but change the course of history.

Preorder available from...