02 February, 2020

the trials of one's teens

Tinycat will be 13 in February. Since her check-up in June, she's lost almost a pound. That makes her Extra-Tinycat, now, at a mere 6.8 lbs. She's eating (as well as ever, which is to say not enough, but she's also a scarf-and-barfer, so we'd rather less that stays down than more that comes back up). She loves her treats. She's sassy and takes no nonsense from either of the boys. Coat quality is good. Eyes are bright. She's just...shrinking. 

Tinycat has no time for you
Obviously there is something not right, though we have no idea what. We took her in this weekend, because in the last two weeks she'd developed these big red bumps on her chin that seemed to be oozing. At first I thought Kaiju-kitten had popped her in one of their spats, but the proliferating bumps suggested something else. She's had autoimmune problems in the past, and coupled with her weight loss, we expected something dire. 

The vet took one look and said "cat acne" and proceeded to pop them all. She's home with a shaved, scrubbed chin and an antibiotic shot. The cat bowls are all stainless steel, so it's not a plastic allergy. (Well. Maybe. She licks plastic--the laundry basket is not safe--but she's done that her whole life.) The vet didn't seem as concerned about figuring out why kitty-zits as he did in why so skinny, so he drew blood and urine and we await results this week. Last time her bloodwork was done--6 months ago--everything was fine. Maybe that's changed. If not, we may be looking at an ultrasound. Something isn't right in there. Pix was voracious when her thyroid went whack, and she got super gaunt, but Tinycat's not showing the hyperactivity that goes with a hyperthyroid. Could be kidneys, if those numbers have tanked, but they were good 6 months ago. So we don't know. In the meantime, the tiny tyrant has been granted her fondest wish: baby food mixed with her real food. 

But in other teen news... we started playing D&D in the HS this week. We're using the Stranger Things starter-set, so all the characters are premade, magic-using (jhfc WoC. So much fucking magic), 3rd level. Also all good alignments. The kids did some customizing (we have a pet cougar named Tim now), names, genders, sexes, bonds and ideals and flaws, oh my. The idea had been to let them play their characters while taking turns DMing for the group. But attendance in high school is spotty, and I was not at all confident that a designated DM would be in class on their day. Hell, I still have kids who have not chosen a character, much less worked out their spell books. 

So I improvised. 

I grouped them by class and I DMed for them collectively. All the players of a particular class had to agree on an action and a spokesperson, and though there were a couple bumps with the stronger personalities dominating, it went... well. Surprisingly. I did bad accents and funny voices and kept the story moving (it's a pregen adventure that I've test-run before, but it's also pretty skeletally supported). They got to see real-time what happens when a DM has no notes in front of her to cover a player request ("We want to go to the infirmary to interrogate the wounded!" You...okay. Right.)  They cheered when I made the captain of the guard a non-binary human with obvious half-orc heritage named Bryce. The Wizards(tm) rolled at the end of the conversation to kiss this half-orc as a thank you for their help (player made sure to get consent first) and busted out a natural 20. "Bryce is into you," I said, while praying none of the administration came into the room. "With that roll, you can... you know. Whatever."

...which kicked off a flurry of speculation about what Bryce looked like, gods defend poor Bryce. All I said was "Bryce is cut. They're a guard captain and of muscular build." 

I fear for the fanfics I may've inspired.  

Next week: collective combat, while the students absent this week get up to speed on their spells. I have promised everyone they can play their characters individually when the groups write their own adventures to run for other groups, so that DMing duty is spread among all the group members. I look forward to the moment that I can intone, Gauntlet -style, "Cleric is about to die!" even if I'm the only one to get the joke. 

30 January, 2020


...I will admit that there are perks living in a place with no snow, and its name is fresh winter citrus. Friend Tira brought over some Meyer lemons and three limes from her trees this week. Meyer lemons are amazing any day, but fresh from a tree two blocks away? Pretty fucking epic. When you grow up eating fruits from a grocery store, you don't realize that fresh off a tree tastes better. (Probably just as well. I would not have been comforted, in the dead of a South Dakota winter, to know that my orange which had traveled many food miles from Florida or California or wherever did not taste as good as it might.) If I had a yard, or space in this apartment--how much space do I need for an indoor lemon tree, anyway?--I would have a Meyer. I fear that it's light that confounds me, not space. The windows are all NE or SE, and no direct sun during the summer months. Good for hoyas and spider plants, not for citrus.

26 January, 2020


Early advice from my mother: write nothing down you don't want someone to (be able to) read. If it's written, she said, anyone can read it. Maybe someone you didn't intend. If it's written, there's no guarantee of privacy. Nor should there be expectation of it.

(My mother basically taught me that people kinda suck, or at least enough of them do that you gotta be wary. I don't think she was wrong.)

Also early advice from my mother: think before you speak. 

I am not so great at the second--sometimes deliberately so--but the first one stuck with me. I wouldn't keep a diary of anything real because, little cute lock or not, someone might read it. (I did not think of writing in cypher, like Anne Lister; if I had, maybe I'd've written more, and there would be juicy details for someone to decrypt after my death. But see? That's even the point. Anne Lister's diaries got decrypted and fucking published. I would be long dead and would not care as a result, but even so: Mom would be right. I wrote something, and people read it, and I had no control over it. Would have no control. Oh, fuck the verb tenses. You get it.) 

The point is, I am less likely to write something potentially inflammatory than I am to say it. Even on social media. Maybe especially on social media: I don't pop off with the first thing that comes to mind (and out of my mouth, snarked for the benefit of whichever cat is in the room and possibly Nous, as we are in the habit of saying the shit we'd never write to each other, just so it gets said). If I say some shit to somebody online, boom, there it is. There it stays. Then everyone else who can read and access that page sees it, and suddenly my snark has an audience, and well, we know how this works. Proliferating toadshit. I'm not allergic to opinions--oh no, heavens, haha, I have a few of those, and they are not always kind--but I don't see the point in sharing them for their own sake, either on my wall or in someone's comments. I don't want to have a goddamned brawl. I hate the drama. 

Therefore I avoid posting in Facebook threads, even among my very locked up friends list. I avoid Twitter threads for the same reason, plus, you know, totally public (and I'm a woman and a teacher). I hesitate to post here, even, which is... kinda antithetical to having a blog in the first place. 

So I'm gonna try and write more this year. Here, I mean. Even if I am talking to the echoing emptiness of the internet...that isn't really too different from talking to my cat(s) (except Tinycat, who always answers). I probably still won't post a lot of inflammatory stuff because all the reasons. You want to hear what I really think, catch me at a con and I'll tell ya. 

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.