Private Delights, Delayed

It’s cold here. The birdbath is frozen in the morning, but it thaws throughout the day. Boxnoggin is prancing-happy to get out for brisk walkies, and even happier to return to his warm bed for a nap afterward. The mud in the park isn’t as deep as it will get, and the moles are busily building galleries in the drier spots. I just recently read Wind in the Willows for the very first time, and liked it a great deal. My favorite bit was the search for the young otter and Pan’s appearance. Toad is a complete git and his friends deserve better, but I suppose every circle has one of those.

Good morning, and happy Thursday! Tomorrow I’ll have some sale news, so stay tuned for that. But today there’s an excerpt of the upcoming Spring’s Arcana up over at the Tor Forge blog, enjoy!

I have proofs on the docket for this weekend, and once those (and any leftover queries) are done there’s only waiting for release. The second book in the epic fantasy trilogy is coming along well; all these scenes that have been in my head for over a year are now on paper. That’s a good feeling, but also a sad one. Execution lags behind imagination, but that’s what revision is for–and that’s what the details a writer keeps privately hoarded in their skull-case are for too.

Publishing is all about delayed gratification, and humans are very bad at said delay. I suppose learning to tolerate it makes one a better person, though it doesn’t get easier. Rather, one’s strategies for dealing with the inevitable discomfort are refined. Now that I’m a few books down the road, I look at the ones coming out this year and vaguely remember the stress of writing them, but the ache is distant, a long-healed sunburn.

It’s been an awful few years.

Anyway, yesterday the Princess was rereading some LJ Smith YAs–the Forbidden Game series, and we started talking about the Dark Vision ones too. “That’s where I loved to learn problematic male antagonists,” she informed me, with a twinkle in her eye. I had to laugh, remembering the first time she found those on the big bookshelves and took them to her room for plundering. The rule in our house has always been “If you can reach it, you can read it–and if you can’t reach it, find a stepstool.” I found it much better to simply let both kids know I was available for any questions they had, no matter how banal or embarrassing, about any media they found and consumed. Attempting to lock them out of questionable media would merely have made the forbidden far more enticing, but if it was a simple matter of hitting the back button or asking Mum, all the questionable delight was drained away and they were encouraged to think critically. The strategy seems to have paid off tenfold, since both are reasonably functional adults now.

My gods, how time flies.

So there’s plenty to do today, including getting some Viking werewolves and their elf friends embroiled in a spring-melting morass while the elementalist desperately tries to bear the weight of the artifact that’s melded itself to her physically, and going through Avery Black’s realization that maybe a certain grey-clad girl doesn’t dislike him at all. Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday Night Writes, because I want to get a fair chunk of work done before the weekend hits and I’m knee-deep in proof pages.

Knee-deep isn’t eyebrow-deep, so there’s that at least to be grateful for. And there’s still candy on clearance everywhere, even if most of it’s wrapped in red and pink foil. It still tastes the same.

My office is still too bright with the cedars gone, but I suppose I’ll adapt. And now the coffee is almost gone, so it’s time for toast (or gruel) and walking the beast.

See you around.

Change Is the Constant

There are Things Happening On the Roof, even at this early hour, and Boxnoggin is utterly beside himself. I can’t decide if he wants to go up the ladder and help, or if he simply doesn’t connect the noise up there to the workers, who he has already throughly vetted. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I suppose.

It’s Monday. I managed another minor feat of resurrection over the weekend; it’s hard, swimming against the current. I think I’ve my fire back in me now, though, as Ellen Foster says. (I just mentioned that book a few days ago; it’s probably time for a reread.) I really do love and believe in this series. It’s just hard to be the only one, especially when I also have to descend to the depths to wrench bits of it up to the surface. Each diving trip carries a risk.

The weekend was also spent parenting, in one form or another. Of course the job doesn’t stop when one’s own children reach adulthood. But a lot of others seem to be needing it now, too.

It’s kind of baffling. First, your baby goes from a sperm and egg to a zygote, from that to an embryo, from that to a fetus, then is born and becomes an infant. They change rapidly over the next few years, from toddler to child, then the changes lengthen into adolescence. Then you have a young adult on your hands, and if you’ve done your job it’s a functioning adult who still wants to speak to you. The change is constant, and you went through all those stages too.

What I don’t get, what absolutely puzzles the fuck out of me, is how anyone can parent through all that change and then claim they can’t handle their precious, irreplaceable child deciding on a different gender expression. People are change. If you can accept a toddler turning into an elementary-schooler, a kid turning into a teenager, a teenager getting a driver’s license, a teen turning into a young adult, why on earth should you have problem with your child expressing as male, female, nonbinary, or any gradation therein? Your job isn’t to stop a kid from finding their own gender any more than it is to halt a child at the toddler stage, or to keep them artificially dependent on you forever.

Parents who claim to have a problem with their child “changing” are lying, to themselves or to others. I’m not surprised at the number of kids (and adults) cutting off contact with “parents” who want Suzy to remain six or sixteen or female-presenting forever, who get bent out of shape when Tim decides she wants to be Sandra, or Holly decides they want to be Hollister.

One of my daughter’s best friends is transitioning. He shook like a leaf when he came out to us, poor thing; it was obviously terrifying for him. There’s only one thing to say when a child approaches you in that situation.

“Thank you for telling me. I loved you yesterday, I love you today, and if you change again tomorrow I’ll love who you are then too. Want a hug?”

That’s it. That’s all that needs to be said. It’s not a big deal to keep track of pronouns; when you slip up you stop, redo the sentence, and move on. It’s easy to not deadname someone–when you slip up you (surprise, surprise) stop, redo the sentence, and move on.

“But I always wanted a son/daughter, and now I don’t have one!” What, like it’s a fucking Pokemon? Your child is not a box to tick off or a piece of chocolate in an assortment. Grow the fuck up and treat your kid properly.

“But I don’t understaaaaaaand!” Then get to a place where you can at least accept without being a pile of toxic shittery. Do that work on your own, grow the fuck up, and treat your kid with proper kindness.

“But…but…God says it’s wrong!” Then what you’re worshipping is cruelty, not divinity. Find a different fucking god, you sleaze. Grow the fuck up and start acting like you worship something worthy of being called divine.

“But I just don’t think it’s right!” Then get prepared to lose contact with your kid, of whatever age, because what you’re after is control, not love. The harder you tighten your grasp, the more children will slip through your fingers, Tarkin, and if it sounds like I’m saying you’re the baddie, yes, that’s precisely what I’m saying. And also: Grow. The. Fuck. Up.

Living in late-stage capitalism and corporate-fueled climate change is hard enough; don’t make it worse. Your kid expressing their intrinsic self is not a problem. Get over it, get your head straight, and be the parent you’re supposed to be. You can certainly try to force and control and belittle, but the consequence of that is losing the trust and love your beautiful, irreplaceable child wants to give you. Kids want to love their parents, but if you act like an asshole–especially about this–you’re going to make it so difficult to do so they have to back away for their own safety.

Then you will lose your kid, even if you have them physically trapped and dependent, and it will be your own goddamn fault. It’s very simple. You are not here to own your child, you are here to love who they are, yesterday and today and tomorrow, and to help them become a functioning adult. That’s the job, and if you don’t do it, they’ll find another way–and you will have failed at one of the most important things you will ever do.

Period, full stop, the end. I will not be taking questions or listening to any toxic, shitty, abusive talking points. My time is better spent taking care of the kids–of any age–who have decided I’m safe parental material, and repeating the bare honest truth.

I love you. I loved you yesterday, I love you today, and if you change tomorrow, I’ll love who you are then, too.

Want a hug?

Candy Scrabble

Might even be a bingo!

Our bowl of Halloween candy (just visible near the top of the photo) contained bite-size Snickers. Naturally, right about the time the first sugar rush hit I got a bright idea, started fishing them out and made a whole word. My daughter groaned–the game was afoot–then started digging. My son gave a chortle and dove in to help.

We’d’ve gotten more if we hadn’t been dipping into the bowl all afternoon. Still, the shout of joy each time we finished a word was inordinately satisfying. Four and three-quarters isn’t a bad score for this game, and we celebrated with pizza and another delicious, delicious sugar rush.

It’s been a helluva week, my friends. We’re on the downhill slide, and there might even be some candy left. Chin up, machetes out, chocolate on our chins–we’re ready.


Cheese and Hilarity

Super cheesy.

For about three weeks the talk chez nous has been about the existence of this particular item. So, naturally, the Princess picked some up at work before meeting me to finish grocery shopping. We arrived home and immediately put a pot of water on the stove.

The entire household gathered to put away groceries (the kids), actually cook the damn thing (me), and to get entirely underfoot while wriggling with excitement (Boxnoggin). Things were very crowded and I’m not entirely sure where the bacon went, but that’s a problem for another day.

Anyway, we shared out our lunchtime portions of very, very orange glop. Child-me would have been delighted; adult me was nonplussed.

“It’s the aftertaste,” my son said solemnly, after we’d tasted it. “Yep, definitely the aftertaste.”

“Something that smells like this should be crunchy,” my daughter added.

Naturally I focused not on the mild observation but on fixing a perceived problem. “I guess if we scattered real Cheetos atop it? And…” I paused thoughtfully to take another bite. “…I dunno, I guess if we got really high, then this would be great.”

“It’s definitely weed food,” the Princess agreed.

The Prince is a straight-edge, but he nodded in agreement. “The problem is there’s just not enough in the package.”

In short, we agreed that it would take two or three boxes to make a decent lunch or dinner, that it needed some crunch, and that regular ol’ Kraft with actual Cheetos scattered on top would be just as good when it came to weed food but we are absolutely not under any circumstances allowing the Flamin’ Hot variety into the house. I advanced the idea that adding frozen peas at the end of the pasta-cooking step might be in order to add at least something healthy, and both kids groaned even though that was a childhood favorite. Boxnoggin got a few cheesy pasta curls in his bowl, promptly swallowed them whole, and looked at us with such an expression of patent surprise. The hilarity was total, especially when the conversation turned to the street value of Cheeto-dust flavor packets. (The phrase “Good gods, I’m not snorting that,” was tossed about with abandon.)

All in all, it was $2 well spent–not bad, for almost an hour’s worth of laughter. I wish you a pleasant weekend, my beloveds, and hope you get a chance to share something funny with your loved ones.

Game, Love, Verb

I have just resurrected, staggered outside with the dog, reeled into the kitchen to make coffee, and bumbled down the hall to my office. As I was staring blearily at my desktop, wincing at the state of my inbox, the sense of being watched tingled down my back.

It was my son, in his pajamas, regarding me from the office door. “There’s been an announcement.”

I was immediately wide awake and ready for battle, as if he was ten years younger and looking a bit green before school. “Okay. What is it? Are you okay?”

“You might be able to play Guild Wars again,” he informed me. “It’s coming to Steam.”

For a moment I couldn’t process the words. I was ready for fire, flood, or intestinal disturbance, not this kind of update. “Oh,” I said blankly. “That’s good. Did you stay up all night to tell me?”

My (adult) child gave me a look that can only qualify as pitying. “No, I just got up.”

I thanked him kindly, and he shuffled down the hall for the loo. He’s an inveterate gamer, and has been ever since the first Christmas I could afford to get both kids a DS and Pokemon games. He liked WoW, but the subscription plus the behavior of the parent company meant we were looking for alternatives a while back and settled on Guild Wars 2. Then that company decided they weren’t providing support for Mac anymore, and he was verklempt…until he saved up and bought a hand-built gaming PC from one of his friends. We do still sometimes bond over the mechanics, though I haven’t played in years. But he still tells us at the dinner table about running dailies, raid training, the DLC content, and what’s been nerfed. And we listen, ask questions, and nod thoughtfully even if we sometimes don’t quite understand.

He wasn’t really saying, you can maybe play this video game again, Mum. What he was saying was, Hey, I love you, I think you’ll be pleased by this.

And I was thanking him, yes, but I was also saying that’s great, I love you too.

It’s like my daughter baking a hummingbird cake for her best friend, or my writing partner sending me an opera article, or the two-line text to a friend that makes sense to nobody else. There are a million different ways to say I love you, even when you’re on opposite sides of the country or even the globe. Even when your children are adults, taller than you, and have their own lives. It’s not the words that matter, because love is a verb. It’s a thousand little things, each one a gift of grace.

I had to learn what love truly looked like and how to accept it as an adult, because childhood did not teach me. I was raised to think love was a one-way street, simply caring about someone who hurt you over and over again. It’s the work of a lifetime to undo that early training. Some days I stumble more than others.

I know that even if Guild Wars hits Steam it probably still won’t have Mac support–I’d need Boot Camp, I guess–but that’s not important. Even in the fog of just regaining consciousness, my baby boy was so excited at the prospect of hanging out slaying pixel monsters with dear ol’ boring Mum he couldn’t wait to tell me. That’s what I cherish.

May you receive a likewise gift today, dear Reader. May we all find a ways to say I love you, and may we all find ways of saying I know, I love you too. It does not alter the darkness; nothing will. But it strengthens the candle, bit by bit. That is all we get.

And it is, by some miracle, enough.

Broken Hook

Broken, yes. Still good?

We have a set of large red cappuccino cups the kids have used as cereal bowls for decades. They’re huge, chipped, and incredibly useful. They’re also showing their age, like any beloved long-term item.

The handle broke off one of them while the kids were doing dishes. The Prince made an amazing catch, trapping the bowl between his hip and the counter with enough force to arrest its fall, but not enough to dent or chip it.

Bowl’s still in use, and I think I’m going to hot-glue magnets to either end of the handle. I can use it to hang things on the fridge, or it might go on the space above the cupboards where I daubed magnetic primer and then chalkboard paint. We’ll see.

I keep making new things out of broken bits. Some of them work, some…well, at least I gave it a try.

Have a good weekend, beloveds.

Vivid, Chilly Fire

Crap drifting from the sky? Must be elves.

A particular maple on the daily dog-walkies route turns into flame every year. This time around she’s incredibly vivid, almost incandescent. Standing underneath on a crisp autumn day, I almost forget the leashes wrapped around my waist and the dogs sniffing or finished with their business and eager to keep going.

The maple lays a red carpet along the sidewalk, too, but lately I’ve been peering through the branches. I’ve spent a long while looking down, careful of my footing; I figure it’s time for a change.

The kids and I joke whenever there’s a windy day–especially during autumn–and tree-bits are floating far and wide, “The elves are about again.” You know how every time there’s elves in movies, the air’s full of feathers or falling leaves or sparkles or something? Maybe it’s all the Tolkien I’ve read and my kids have watched. Neither of them can get through the books, but the films are something else.

I think that’s great; the more, the merrier.

Of course soon the branches will be bare, making patterns against the sky. Still, each time we pause under that maple, whether in summer’s green, autumn’s chilly fire, or winter’s nakedness, I try to look up.

Even if only for a moment.