01 January, 2020

hello, 2020

these reprobates, napping after chaos
I woke up with a headache (sinus and weather, not excess aquavit, though, you know... that could've contributed) and cleaned up cat poop before I even got coffee this morning, so, you know... it's either an omen for the upcoming year or, like, another normal damn day.

I'm going with the latter.

School starts next week, both uni and the high school. I'm pretty psyched about both. The uni comp class has a new theme this year--food, of all things, after years of Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Aristotle. The idea was...I want them to write, but I want them to feel like they have something to say. Food does that. Everyone (with one exception last quarter) has some emotional connection/story with a particular food or foods. Most of my students are international, and suffering language culture shock along with oh god, you want me to eat what? There's a lot of loving detail to be mined about grandma's jiaozu or stinky tofu or pie.

I feel guilty that the subject's not harder but... eh. I got some Pythagoras in there, translated by Ovid, and I'm still making them read closely and analyze texts. It's just a little easier for them. And I've gotten some of the best writing I've ever seen, so... I think it's fine. It's also a lot less work on my end. When I taught the hardcore texts, I had fabulous peer tutors attached to my classes. Like TAs, kinda, with dedicated office hours specifically for my class and assignments. Mine were exceptional. Both went on to grad school, one to be an actual teacher (and some school somewhere will be goddamned lucky to get her), and without them, there are not enough hours in the week to teach the hard texts, do all the commenting, and...write.

Because I am given to understand that writing is a job, too, and needs time, even if it sits third in my priorities. It shouldn't, but it has to most of the time. Students, y'all. Also the paychecks that actually pay the bills.

The high school class this semester (they're on semester; uni's on quarter. PITA) is basically D&D, which I have been playing and DMing since, oh, never you mind. AD&D and THAC0 and saving throw tables. That long. It's been a bit of a challenge to learn 5e well enough that I think I can teach it. I expect some of the students will already know how to play. Others will be brand new. It's going to be... totally uncharted territory, for me, teaching actual skills to these kids, instead of trying to expose them to all these different texts they won't get in their normal English classes. But this is going to be the last year, I think, I can teach there. Best I go out with the class I am most nervous and excited to teach.

Because... the writing. It does need more than third place. I have plans. I have ideas. I have so many stories I want to write, and no time to do it. I have one manuscript coming back from my editor Soon I Hope(tm), to be published in October, and another due to that same editor in June (currently with my agent, who said I'd leveled up with this book, which means I didn't underwrite it this time).

But after those...

I have an idea. I'm taking notes on it now. Will I outline? Eh. Maybe. Broadly. But for now I'm in the thinking phase--characters are starting to surface, conflicts, personalities. Themes. I would very much like this one to be a standalone, but we shall see. I need to write it first.

But today, actual New Years... I am going to play Borderlands 3 with Nous and drink imperial stout and eat tamales and probably more pepparkakor because my god that recipe makes a ton of them. Tomorrow is soon enough to work.

Happy New Year.

11 November, 2019

RORY THORNE and Kirkus and a podcast, oh my

So. Big news this morning. HOW RORY THORNE DESTROYED THE MULTIVERSE is on the Kirkus Best SF&F of 2019 list. 

This is... I mean... wow? Yeah. Wow. The other names and works on this list are some very fine company.

Also, here I am on The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which was a lot of fun.

And since I'm here, blogging and all, I might as well catch you up.

October was obnoxiously busy but it's over now and hey, no matter how crammed full of stuff it was, last year we were moving, so by that metric this October was just fine. I went to my first convention, World Fantasy 2019, in which I met my editor and a bunch of cool folks with both my agency and my publisher, and also had a blood vessel burst in my eye (before meeting people! of course!). I didn't get to nearly enough panels and readings, because conventions seem to be scheduled at the worst moments of a teaching quarter, so that even if they are more or less local, one still cannot attend for the full time.

Now it is November. The holidays are thundering up on us, but for the moment: a respite.

Orion is happy in his sunbeam. May you all be similarly content.

19 October, 2019

an Orion report, and other news

Fifteen weeks, 5.75 lbs.

The average, says the vet, is a pound a month.

Murdercat at 14 weeks was about a pound lighter, and he turned out big. He was also, at that age, in his lanky phase, all knobby limbs and tail and ears.

Orion still looks like a young kitten, proportionally. He looks small until you get up next to him, or see him next to Tinycat. Look at those feet. Look at those legs. He's going to be big, I (and Nous, and the vet, and everyone else who's seen him) think.

12 October, 2019

so we got a kitten for Murdercat

...this is a thing I've been threatening, cajoling, and advocating for, oh, two years, when it became obvious that Murdercat is twice Tinycat's size and not inclined to self-amusement. He wants to play with someone. Particularly another cat. And Tinycat, Witch-Queen though she is, cannot keep up.

When we moved to the new, large apartment last year, I stepped up my appeal (as Murdercat made a habit of thundering through the hallway, literally draped over Tinycat, so that it looked like Sleipnir the two-headed cat lived among us). Nous relented only so far as to say--when we find a kitten who needs us, he was open to it.

Where we live now we have a neighborhood list-serve, generally given to "free-cycling" and community announcements. Every now and then, kittens pop up, because people seem to think dumping cats in our neighborhood's a good idea (which, you know, not a bad strategy... a bunch of uni faculty aren't going to just leave kittens to die in the bushes), and because we've got some cat-fosterers living nearby.

He came to my attention twice--the first time, when there was a plea to foster him, maybe adopt, because he was too much for her current foster to deal with (two dogs, three kids, chemotherapy). Cute kitten, I thought, but he's got the sort of markings people like and someone will totally take him.

Then last week, he showed up again on the list, with another plea for someone to adopt him, saying he was 4 months old and a totally awesome kitten. Weird, I thought. Something's up. 16 weeks is a little older than I wanted, but I messaged the fosterer anyway (Nous pretended not to notice, knowing already that this meant we were getting a kitten. He knows me sometimes better than I do). I got photos of a kitten that looked younger than 16 weeks, which was great.  "He looks like a Rupert!" I told Nous. "We can definitely name him Rupert."

We set up a time to meet him. Long story made shorter: we met him in the living room of the email-posting fosterer, who was not actually his fosterer, because he'd been through three, four? fosters in the last week. "He's a lot," she said, somewhat apologetically. "Two people have already returned him."

We are there, on the floor, watching this kitten (I put him at maybe 13 weeks, give or take: big boned, solid kitten, past the attack-everything phase but not as coordinated as I'd expect from 4 months). He's walking around this woman's place that he's been in for 15 minutes, sniffing things, bright-eyed, curious. He checks us out. Eats a bit of food. Sits between us to clean (because one must wash one's paws after eating, always). Loud noise outside? He sits up and looks. Not climbing all over us, but he's not a puppy, so I don't expect that. Fur is shiny, eyes are bright, no fleas, ears are clean, he looks great.

The fosterer is talking, talking. He was the last of a litter from a situation in Riverside, where the family had given away the rest of the kittens and planned to take him to a high-kill shelter at week's end. The foster organization scrambled and got him. He passed through to the woman with two dogs and chemo, and he was "too much" for her which--okay, that's fair. Kittens are work, especially if they are really young. He'd been shuffled through various fosters since, one day here, two days there. Adopted twice, returned twice, because he was, again, "too much." Not a cuddler or a snuggler. Always running around. High energy.

Well shit, he's a kitten, we said, and took him home.

The first discovery: he is not a Rupert. This is not a thoughtful, cautious kitten. This is a grab-the-toy-mouse-and-shake-it kitten. He likes us and wants to be where we are; my sense is his various fosters kept him confined in small rooms (which, you know, fair) and relatively isolated, and his home-family just ignored him. Even so, it took 7 days to get him to climb into a chair with me, where we shared the seat, companionably leaning on each other; he won't climb into a lap.

He loves Murdercat, who, after 24 appalled hours, loves him back.  We have yet to get him to the vet for a formal weighing; I estimate he's between 4.5-5 lbs, and built like a fucking tank. If he grows into those paws and legs, he will be bigger than Murdercat. I put him into a harness this week and he was unfazed. Not trying the leash yet, though. I'd like him to see a vet first, get some shots, and learn to pull his claws before we go meet people. 

So please welcome Orion Alexander Odysseus Khan to the family.

08 October, 2019

It's Pub Day for RORY THORNE

...which is not to say Rory's off in a pub somewhere. Or that I am off in a pub somewhere. (Truth: I was at a union bargaining session this morning, after which I wished I were in a pub somewhere, but alas, no).

Pub is short for publication, as you all know, so if you didn't preorder your RORY, you can go get it now.

And reminder! I will be at Mysterious Galaxy this Sunday, 4 pm, if you're in the neighborhood and feel like coming by to see me talk/read/answer questions.

03 October, 2019

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse

So I have a book coming out next week. I'd like to introduce you. This is HOW RORY THORNE DESTROYED THE MULTIVERSE. It has perhaps the coolest cover in the history of covers, ever, and I love it. (Your cover probably won't move around like that. If it does, um. No judgment.)

I think it's a pretty darn good book, too, if I do say so myself (which I do). But don't just take my word for it.

Starred Reviews:
Library Journal

Kirkus Best of the Month for October
Library Journal Pick of the Month
Amazon's Best SFF Books of the Month
Barnes & Noble Best SFF Books of October

RORY is coming out on October 8, which is one week from now, so you still have time to preorder from the usual places:

Barnes and Noble 

If you have a local bookstore, that works, too, and that's totally what you should do so that we continue to have local bookstores.

And, and, speaking of local bookstores, Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego will be hosting me for an event on October 13. If you're in the neighborhood, come on by!

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.