Soon My Own

Blue I am perhaps a very selfish being, because I cannot wait until this saga of home repair is done with and my house is my own again. Now that I’ve had a taste of life with solitude when I require it, it’s difficult to go back. I remember writing in the living room of the old place, cross-legged in my papasan, while two toddlers and the cats all wanted my attention at the same time. The intense work of that stage of child-rearing paid off in prime when I needed to write through heartbreak and stress, but it wasn’t comfortable. I’ve found I much prefer my current environment.

I don’t often talk about the flipside of “ass in chair, hands on keyboard.” Allowing oneself time to think, to dream, to fill the well so you have that something to draw upon, a raw material to spin into stories, is also critical. I am a champion of stealing moments to turn inward. Now that I can do so without having to steal, the pleasure is just as unalloyed. It still feels secretly shameful to realize I’ve been putting things together inside my head, staring out a window, brain tuned to that low hum of expectancy.

An interesting thing–I came across this article about “maladaptive daydreaming”. It’s well worth a read. For me, there was an a-ha! moment buried deeply in the last third.

A few clicks later, I came across Somer’s research in The Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy. The paper examined six subjects who daydreamed excessively. Unlike me, they were victims of abuse and were unable to function well socially or in the workplace. But I had struggled with coordination difficulties and a painful constellation of autoimmune conditions, all of which went undiagnosed for years, so my poor health—like other people’s abusive circumstances—may have made fantasy more compelling than real life. I was especially intrigued that most of Somer’s subjects moved in idiosyncratic ways when they daydreamed, just as I had. “When I daydream,” one subject reported, “I often hold an object in my hand, say, an eraser or a marble. I toss [it] in the air. This repetitive monotone movement helps me concentrate on the fantasy.” (The Atlantic)

Like the author, I have little difficulty functioning well in the workplace. (Socially, well, that may be another story.) I remember escaping into other, vivid, sensory places during particularly brutal bits of my childhood. The type of daydreaming the author describes sounds exceedingly familiar to me. It was my refuge, and probably why I choose to tell stories today. Translating my worlds–I contain legions, I want to say in a creepy undertone–into fiction is like breathing. I’ve done it for so long I don’t know if I could stop, even if I wanted to. I could go into them and never come back, and there are times when I’ve wanted to. I don’t know why I didn’t, especially during a few not-so-nice events.

No, I don’t want to stop. My inner worlds are private, they are mine, and the ones I share slices of are still mine. Learning the skills to put them on paper seemed natural. Often, I forget I’m writing, my hands intimate with the keyboard as I record the sensory impressions, describing what I see, taste, sense. There’s a fine balance in feeding your head enough that it will allow the act.

Creation’s a funny thing. I am extremely glad it didn’t become what the author calls maladaptive.

I felt a great deal of relief as I read the Atlantic article. I used to think I was an alien, since I could call up all these visions and walk among them. When I was older, I thought I was insane, but in a socially acceptable way that could be harnessed. Now, I’m relieved to find out I simply stumbled upon a cognitive event, so to speak, and practiced until it was burned into my neurons.

Beware what you practice, for so you shall become.

Now, I have a fresh cuppa and the contractors are out collecting other supplies. I have a little space to breathe, and so I will write something to please myself.

Over and out.

photo by:

Bundle of Cheer

Duck is judging us all.

Duck is judging us all.

Odd is groaning, the Prince can’t find his shoes (six pairs, and he can’t locate the ones he wants) and Miss B has her nose firmly glued to my calf. The Princess made snickerdoodles last night, so a sugar jolt right after toast made both kids extremely active for a few minutes. I can’t seem to get enough caffeine in, Bandit keeps talking and talking, and all in all, I want to go back to bed.

Sadly, I am committed to being vertical and actually working, so it’s going to be some tea and Olympic-level self-restraint. At least I got the proof for The Demon’s Librarian re-release done, and have only to turn it in. We’re almost out of milk (Christ, I swear the kids bathe in the stuff) and the apples are gone…

Oh. Wait. It’s Monday.

That explains everything.

I’m getting a lot of mail asking me to “Please write more Bannon & Clare!” Guys, I’m not able to write more of them because they didn’t sell well enough. I’m dreadfully sorry, but there it is. I had four more books in that series planned, but it just wasn’t to be.

I do have some tentative good news on the Steelflower front. I can’t say anything just yet. It remains a severe financial hit for me to continue with Kaia’s adventures, and I have children to feed. Not to mention the dogs, who will hold off on eating me for a while, and the cats, who most definitely will not. *sigh* Maybe it will all work out, I don’t know. Right now I’m so damn tired of people demanding things I can’t do without harming myself, I’ve grown a bit sharpish.

All right. Today I go over revisions for Roadside Magic. Soon I’ve to get the third Gallow & Ragged not just boiling in my head but on the page. The problem with getting most things done early is that people begin expecting it, and exhausting myself by scrambling begins to become the norm.

I’m just a bundle of cheer and happiness today, aren’t I. I’m going to go cue up the Pet Shop Boys, fetch my brass knuckles, and have a talk with Monday. We’ll see if it makes the week behave…

Green Moment

Fetch the watering can.

Fetch the watering can.

Welcome to my office, otherwise known as “can we cram more reference books and plants needing to be nursed into this room?” The printer is behind the philodendron. What you can’t see is my desk, stacked with books, and the Cavy Condominium, where Bandit chortles and squeaks all day, keeping me company.

The philodendron’s from the (now closed) bookstore, and is recovering from trimming and repotting. The airplane plant was from a rack of plants on clearance–sadly, I could not take them all, but I’m nursing this one to better health. One does what one can.

Social Motherhood

Alice Glass, Crystal Castles This morning the Little Prince was telling me about a show he watched at school. Something that particularly interested him was the amount of sugar in foods, and how cereal companies (among others) lobbied to raise the “acceptable” percentage of sugar in certain foods. So over breakfast we talked about corporations, food deserts, and how we’re very lucky to be able to afford the hidden costs of eating well–the ability/income to shop in bulk, the petrol and time to drive to the grocer’s, the time/energy to prepare homemade food, which is largely a function of making enough money. Above all, I impressed upon him that we’re lucky–it is not at all usual for a single mother, especially one working freelance, to have the time and energy necessary for some of these things. I told him about how minimum wage isn’t enough to live on, and highly processed foods are “cheap” in food deserts, and how profits are squeezed from people who can least afford such squeezing.

He asked very cogent questions, and made a number of very astute observations about the whole thing. I’m not sure it’ll sink in very deeply, but at least the seed has been planted. He had questions about “obesity” and the term “epidemic” as well.

Motherhood: the constant scramble of trying to find a way to help a child understand things most adults don’t even understand, or have only the foggiest notions of, or just plain don’t want to think about. It requires more self-education than I could ever perform, even studying round the clock, but I try because I don’t want to give them inaccurate information. It also requires encouraging them to go look for themselves, to take the information I have and go further, dig deeper, and find out what they think. No doubt this makes them the type of student who will question teachers.

I honestly don’t see an alternative.

Which raises another specter: we have the funds, the time, the hardware (which isn’t free) to research, the leisure time to think about these things. It takes energy to look at this stuff, energy we can spare because of our relatively privileged socioeconomic position. I am frequently reminding the kids that had things been a little different, I would be working two or even three jobs, and I wouldn’t have the time or energy left over to do other things they enjoy, since all my resources would be directed at survival. Working damn hard is only part of the equation, and it doesn’t guarantee a living wage anymore. (If it ever did.) Luck, especially the luck of being born lower middle class and in a particular skin color, plays a huge part.

This is why the oligarchical refrain of “the poor/brown/whatever people are LAZY” bothers me so much. The entire deck is stacked against many people, they’re living in a society where racism and classism is endemic, they’re playing the video game of life on the most hardcore setting, and some motherfuckers have the temerity to call them “lazy” because the scramble for survival means they prioritize differently and are forced to make decisions the rich or the “right” skin color never have to even consider. Poverty and trauma don’t ennoble, they kill, they grind people down, and they steal so much from not just the poor but from everyone. Who can tell what art, what books, what science we’re missing out on because the people who could have created them are mired in poverty, institutional racism, bigotry?

And all the while, corporate welfare marches on, and billions are poured into new and inventive ways to kill and terrorise people instead of education.

It’s enough to make one sick, indeed. I try to make sense of it so I can explain things to the children without breaking down into a spluttering heap of indignant fury, but sometimes there’s no sense to be had, and I have to admit as much to them. “I don’t know” and “I don’t understand it either” are terrifying words to have to say when your child turns to you to make sense of things.

photo by: chriszak

Old Friend Fear

Skulls 8 - photo by Augusto De Luca I’m going through the graveyard of old stories, bits and pieces, snippets that didn’t make it into final books. It’s good to do that every once in a while, just to keep all the compost turned over and actively fermenting. I’ve been tormented by the thought that all ideas are stale, even though there’s no shortage of them. That nobody will ever buy another book from me again, that I’ve had my turn.

Really, it’s just that old friend, fear. I don’t believe in writer’s block, as regular readers well know. What I do believe is that the fear takes many forms, it’s insidious, and it hits right where one’s vulnerable. Nobody knows your insecurities like you do, after all.

The trick is not to bury the fear, or to think you have to be fearless. Fearlessness is most often sheer idiocy. It’s okay to be afraid.

Just write anyway. Use the fear as a spur to one’s stubbornness, one’s determination to keep going.

Despite fear, despite everything, just keep writing. My job isn’t to make the ideas better–that’s the Muse’s job, and she’ll do it as long as I keep my end of the bargain, which is to keep my discipline, put my ass in the chair, and write daily. I’ve committed myself to the words as a vocation, and there’s no taking that sort of thing back. There’s a certain relaxation in having no choice.

But yes, dear new and aspiring writers, even people with multiple books out self-torment with fear. It doesn’t get much easier, it just gets more familiar.

Now, I’d better get some revisions done, and work on that zombie apocalypse story…

Back to Work, Avec Cake

Macro Monday The Princess got a mad bee in her bonnet about making a cake yesterday evening. It was quite the event, the fridge used to cool various things and the frosting gun coming out of hiding. (You cannot possibly chortle harder over “frosting gun” than I did, by the way.) Dinner was a perennial favorite of the children–egg noodles in butter sauce with sliced fresh tomatoes over the top.

It’s such a favorite, in fact, that they were too full to even think of cake after dinner. (So was I.) Which means this morning, the direct (and not so direct) longing and wishing and hinting for cake has been…rather intense. No sweets before breakfast or after evening toothbrushing is the rule, which meant they had to have toast…and then cake.

"Get the gun and bring in the cocoa."

“Get the gun and bring in the cocoa.”

Such is the hard, hard life of a writer’s child.

Today is for Blood Call revisions. I wanted to push to get them done this past weekend, but between AP study sessions for the Princess and various other activities for the Little Prince (not so little anymore) I was kept running from dawn to dusk.So n ow, it’s back to my “assassin gets a call from old girlfriend, then, HIJINKS!” novel.

So, I’m off to get through the rest of revisions. I’ll tell you later about how Blood Call came to be written. It involves my writing partner and a waiter…

photo by: emrank

First Calla



The first calla lily of the season! Somewhat fuzzy, but that’s user error, not my camera.

It makes me so happy. I love callas.

Yesterday was Take Your Child to Work Day. The kids thought they’d beg off school. Little did they know that I would assign them work–the Princess read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and the Little Prince wrote a one-page report on the difference between sedimentary and igneous rocks, which I typed out for him. For lo, I am a cruel and unjust mother, and that hour and a half of work apiece really cut into their goofing-off time.

I jest. They both worked with good grace and cheerfulness, and it made them appreciate the time off even more. I got lucky when the dispensary was handing out kid temperaments, I guess.

Spring has turned cold, but not freezing, and the hostas are coming up. The astilbe have begun to break ground, too. All in all, I can’t wait to see the garden in a few years, when things have really had the chance to settle. I finally have a true home, instead of being a temporary guest for most of my life.

It feels good.

Data Gathering: Douchemobiles

run away I fell into revising Agent Trinity yesterday with a vengeance. It’s a relief when the engines click over and I slide wholly back into a story, all my resources focused on the task in front of me. Of course, this usually means little things like feeding children and animals but forgetting to feed myself, but who cares? It’s story time! At least I got a shower in.

Small mercies, right?

The clouds are back today, and the relief is near indescribable. Sunshine just drives everyone mad around here. They start piloting their cars as if they’re in a video game, and do other strange things. It’s as if some fungal thing settled in their brain-creases is being slowly destroyed by the heat and glare, and the concomitant destruction of gray matter makes them into jerky marionettes.

Now there’s a story idea.

However, the sudden return of sanity has not extended to some specific groups. Case in point? There’s a sign at the middle school: “RIGHT TURN ONLY DURING PICKUP/DROPOFF AND SPECIAL EVENTS!” Seems pretty simple, right? Turn right onto the four-lane street, there are more than enough ways to get back to the main arteries after one does so. When the directions are followed, morning dropoff goes very smoothly.

Unfortunately, there are also special snowflakes who are either illiterate (and driving!), blind (and driving!), or very certain the rules don’t apply to them. My somewhat informal data-gathering on this point has returned something interesting: a good 80-85% of the time, the cars who wait to turn left, snarling up everything behind them and just generally acting like douchemobiles, fall into three distinct kinds. In descending order, they are:

* Various makes of Lexus
* Cadillac Escalades
* Various makes of Acuras

Strange, isn’t it? Those three groups comprise the overwhelming majority of douchenozzles I encounter while dropping the Little Prince off. Of the remainder, the biggest group is VERY LARGE TRUCKS, piloted by middle-aged men. I shall leave the obligatory “compensating for something” jokes to your imagination.

I am tempted now to tally the other bad behavior I see in the school parking lot, just to see if the pattern holds true. According to my (admittedly unscientific) recollections, though, it seems minivans with harried mothers are the rudest inside the lot itself, while the douchebaggery at the stop sign falls into other discrete groups.

Of course, I turn to data-gathering because it distracts me from perhaps uttering a curse or two upon the head of any specific jackass in the parking lot on any specific morning. I don’t want to waste my mojo on what are, in the grand scheme of things, Very Small Potatoes.

Still, it’s irritating, especially when one has to explain to a teenage boy why politeness is the best policy after all. And when it is keeping one from work that needs doing, it rather frays one’s nerves.

I believe I need tea. Onward and upward, I guess.

Zombie Gnome Battle Royale II

Scene of the Crime

Scene of the Crime

So, when I left off, I had set the scene, as it were, for you to understand why poor unmedicated Phil was in a bit of a mood.

So, that morning, sunny but with dew still on the grass, I took the dogs out for their midmorning cavorting and unloading. Phil glared at me as I brushed past the table he and Willard shared, set by the stairs. I didn’t think anything of it, really, since he’s normally so stonedlaid-back. Dealing with the slavering concrete mass that is Willard daily can put a dent in even the sunniest attitude, and sometimes before his morning toke Phil’s comparable to me pre-coffee.

Had I stopped to think, I would have noted it was awful late for Phil not to have a smile and a slow “hellllllooooo” for me.

Anyway, the dogs did their pre-unloading dance, finding exactly the right places for whatever they wished to unburden themselves of, then there was some yapping and chasing. Odd finally decided enough was enough, and signaled so by choosing the one place in the yard Miss B will not dare to bark her play-demands at him–that is, for those who can’t guess, firmly between my ankles. Miss B did a few more laps around the yard, denned a bit by the backdoor to the garage, then trotted up to me with a self-satisfied post-extrusion smirk.

I shepherded them up the stairs, Miss B jostling and herding Odd, and Phil’s glare became furious instead of just curmudgeonly. He snapped something I didn’t quite hear over the clicking of nails and Odd’s wheezing. (Stairs are Odd’s nemesis.) All I caught was something about “mother” and “cat” and “army boots.”

Odd is a marvelously sweet dog, with not a single mean bone in his body. There is only one thing that will drive him into an explosion of rage, and that’s an insult to his bipedal mum–namely, yours truly. Phil kept yelling, and I heard “Your mom!” again.

This was too much for Odd, who at first cocked his head as if he couldn’t believe anyone would be so crass (or stupid) as to utter such blasphemy in his presence. Then he charged.

Unfortunately, his feet got tangled, because as sweet as he is, there’s only room for one thing in his head, and he was still a few steps below the deck. He can climb stairs, sure. He can charge at an offending gnome, certainly. He can also hipcheck a certain bossy Australian shepherd.

But Odd cannot do all three at once. The result is a furry meltdown.

First, he hipchecked Miss B, and then tripped over the top step. Phil made the mistake of screech-laughing, and Miss B, who had, I suspect, not heard Phil correctly the first time, nipped at Odd to remind him that she was the one who would do the herding around here, thankyouverymuch. Normally, that’s the end of it, and Odd submits to being nose-bonked, sidled, and basically bossed around with good grace. (Let’s face it, he needs the help. His two brain cells are occupied with breathing IN and breathing OUT, and keeping the two separate as much as possible.)

“YOUR MOM!” Phil screamed, and Odd found himself on the level ground of decking, with a clear objective–to go into battle for his lady’s honor.

Which he did.


There was a scrabble of paws, a cascade of chesty bulldog battlecries, and I just began to realize there was a problem. Miss B lunged, since Odd was going in a direction she hadn’t approved first, and she crashed into the table just a moment after Odd did.

I ask you, my dear Readers, have you ever seen a concrete gnome fly?

Poor Willard, who had been busy chewing at his beard and contemplating the gutters (he thinks they’re made of concrete, being white) described a low arc right into the railing, bounced off, and headed straight for me. Phil, being of lighter resin, described a much higher arc, and went screaming into the yard, narrowly avoiding taking out a hosta Odd had already tried to kill by overwatering. (I’ll leave with what to your imagination.)

Odd, trapped in the table, surfaced from his fury straight into blinding terror. Miss B pranced backwards, shaking her head–she’d been clocked a good one by said table. I let out a “JESUS CHRIST!” and skipped sideways, running into the railing and ducking, but thankfully avoiding Flying Gnome #1. Willard rolled past me and fetched up on the landing, moaning his high-pitched distress. Phil began using language extremely unbecoming of gentleman or gnome, and I checked to make sure I was wearing shoes.

Which I was, thank the heavens and all the damn angels.

I got Odd out of the table and Miss B dragged inside, checked them both for damage and found none except to what little dignity creatures who lick their own asses possess. (Odd can’t reach his, but he has no dignity anyway, and besides, he’d do nothing BUT lick his genitals all day if he was built to permit such a thing.) I then had to maneuver past them and get outside, extremely difficult because Odd was still determined to avenge me and Miss B, of course, will not let me stir a step without her if she can help it.

Now you understand. That's zombie gnome blood.

Now you understand. That’s zombie gnome blood.

I picked up Willard, who was still making that rusty moaning noise, and held him at arm’s length until I got down the stairs. (He’d put a divot in the decking, dayum.) Phil was rolling in the grass, in a frothing, towering rage, because he he’d landed in a recent dog extrusion.

“SONOFABITCH!” he yelled, and other things.

“It was still warm?” I offered, almost in a spirit of mollification, getting Willard next to a tulip under the pine tree of SQUIRREL DEATHRIDE 5000 fame and grabbing a pebble to pop into his wide-open mouth. He started crunching it, and the groaning stopped.

He’s like a toddler. Put food in the pie-hole to distract it.

It took me a few moments of looking to find a handle on Phil that wasn’t bespattered with dogshit or foaming with gnomish rage. I carried him to the side of the house, then was faced with the problem of cleaning a spluttering, biting, writhing mass of definitely unstoned gnome. I finally just attached the hose, backed away, and sprayed him.


“You’re no Vincent Vega,” I snapped back. “What the hell is wrong with you?”



That’s when I heard, from behind me, a very small voice say “UH…”

I swung around, hose in hand, while Phil frothed behind me.

“Oh, for GOD’S sake.” I might have tried to put my hands on my hips and soaked my jeans, I was that out of sorts. (Translation: I DID.) “Joe, we talked about this!”


“Joe?” I even managed to say it kindly. “Please shut up. I will deal with you in a moment.”

“OH, MAN.” Joe hung his head and hid in the lavender.

Meanwhile, Phil, now soaked as well as daubed with, erm, stank, let forth another torrent of abuse. I turned back and turned the hose on him full bore.

It took a while.



I finally hauled a dripping Phil over to Emphysema Joe, and stood there while they lit up. Phil, halfway through his first serving of greens, looked at me and his face sort of melted into slack jawed wonder. “OH MAN,” he kept repeating. “I’M SORRY, DUDE. SO SORRY.”

I magnanimously refrained from pointing out I was not a dude, made sure Joe gave Phil a supply for the rest of the week, and carried Phil back to Willard. I settled the table over both of them to keep the rain off.



Then I went back to Joe, and gave him to understand that under no circumstances EVER AGAIN was he to cut off supply to Phil, or I would make Phil and Willard the keepers of the green and put Emphysema Joe in the front goddamn yard for kids to steal. I may have waxed a little furious on the dangers of being stolen by stupid preteens, because Joe went white.

Or, um, as while as a skeletal hippie gnome can get.

And that, my dears, is how there was a battle involving flying gnomes on my deck. At least I was wearing my shoes.

After all that, I trooped back up the stairs, shook my head at the crime scene, and went back inside. Miss B had her nose pressed to the French door, patiently waiting for me, and danced attendance as I looked all over for Odd Trundles. Finally, I heard him snoring.

He was on my bed.

He was on my bed.

Garden Victory


I wasn’t sure the mason bees would take to that spot behind the shed, even though it’s perfect as far as I can tell. Those little mud packs mean the female bees agreed, and found it an acceptable place to lay eggs.

Mason bees are docile, good-tempered, don’t sting–not that bees will sting me anyways, we have an understanding–and are wonderful pollinators. Which means more crops for me, and that my flowers will feed several little buzzing workers. This, my friends, is a gardening victory.