Poppers

I recently attempted jalapeƱo poppers for the first time. The filling was a mix of cream cheese, garlic, and shredded mozzarella. The Prince fell instantly, totally in love; the Princess decided she could take ’em or leave ’em. The dogs were extremely pleased with bacon drippings, since I only had three jalapeƱos and while I could have wrapped them in a whole package of bacon, well, I didn’t.

Me? I’ll gladly make them for other people, but eating more than two is unpleasant at best.

Those two, though, are fantastic. And I’m quite proud of myself for Trying Something New. One has to every now and again, to keep the stomach guessing.

Beauty, Angle

Sometimes beauty is a question of what angle you’re viewing from. I don’t see a mess here; I see my daughter carefully stacking oranges, my son folding napkins into origami, seeds that will fill my garden, peanut butter cookies baked just-because, seasoning that makes things delicious, the table where we have laughed, cried, eaten, and been a family.

So many things can be turned just a little, just enough, to see the beauty. And we could all use a little more loveliness in our lives. I wish you the very best of angles, my friends.

Over and out.

Reading Weekend

She Wolf & Cub

We had a huge (for us) dinner party Friday that edged towards Saturday morn, which, since I was fighting off the Little Prince’s cold (the one he thoughtfully brought home from school for us) and remain in the status of fighting off said cold, was perhaps not my best move, but what can one do?

Consequently, the rest of the weekend was spent cleaning, coughing, and reading, somewhat in that order. I finished Overy’s The Bombers and the Bombed, which was interesting but extremely difficult to read, then moved on to Lane Moore’s How to Be Alone, which in some places was full of things I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear someone articulate (especially in early chapters) and then…kind of not, but that’s a lot of memoirs. I moved on to An Iron Wind, which was…not what the cover made me think I was getting. I know that’s not the writer’s fault, either, but there was plenty else to side-eye in said writer’s assumptions.

There was one pretty incredible piece in the last, though, which was more than worth the rest of the book. Talking about the Warsaw ghetto, Fritzsche noted:

“Self-help could not ensure collective survival, because the German overlords had expropriated and stolen the resources of the community.

–Peter Fritzsche, An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler

Just that single sentence articulated the problem with Republicans’ constant “let charity or the market take care of poor people.” When corporate and rich overlords have expropriated and stolen the resources of the national community, or of marginalized communities (which are part of the national despite every attempt of cruelty-based conservatives to say otherwise), there’s nothing left for those communities to practice self-determination or self-help with. This gets overlooked in propaganda about the “lazy poor” all. the. damn. time.

Afterward, I bounced pretty hard off a first-person present-tense book that was a critical darling last year, and ended up with Murder By the Book: The Crime that Shocked Dickens’s London. It should hav more properly been “a” crime instead of “the” crime; Dickens’s London outright loved to be shocked. The more I read about Dickens, though, the more I realize just what an asshole he was. He basically hung Ainsworth out to dry after using his friendship to edge further into publishing, and let’s not even talk about what he did to his poor wife. Then again, this is the guy who fridged Nancy (and, let’s be real, 95% of all the women in his books, one way or another) and spent a great deal of his later life replaying Nancy’s death for paying customers. Dickens built his career on female bodies

Dude was gross.

Anyway, I needed the hours spent on the couch reading and making notes. It was good to get out of my own head and into other peoples’. And I always forget what a joy it is to spend a day reading. Like Laura in Sleeping With the Enemy (it’s not perfect but it is one of my favorite books), rediscovering days that are wide, and deep, and long as a child’s is enough to satisfy most hungers, and I can crawl out of the dream of a book several hours later, blinking and surprised.

I’m reasonably rested and somewhat reasonably renewed, which is good because I have to shift gears and work on both HOOD and the epic fantasy at once. I can feel the latter gathering for its slide to the end of the zero draft, and may that slide come swiftly.

At least with the dinner party done my social calendar is clear for weeks, which is just how I like it. Staying home and feverishly typing to pay the mortgage is my new vacation, just like my old vacations. I’m ready for a couple of my books to be done so I can move on to writing other things–as well as prepping Harmony for publication and doing a revise on Incorruptible. Never any shortage of work, and that’s how I like it, especially nowadays.

But first there are dogs to run and the day’s work to settle inside my head as I do so, and yoga to get out of the way near lunchtime, and and and. At least I can retreat from the sunshine our part of the world is afflicted with this season, crouch in my cave, and imagine whole worlds.

It’s not a bad life. Not at all.

Tomaters

I have taken to experimenting with my red sauce. This time, after the tomatoes and garlic had enough time to sweat, cook, and reduce, I took out the bay leaves and used a stick blender to puree everything, then added browned meat, mushrooms (raw but rinsed because I wanted all their juiiiiicues and glutamic acids), seasonings, and carrot bits.

Carrots are your friend in tomato sauces. They provide sugar and fiber to soak up the tomatoes’ acidity, buffering what could be a watery, astringent mess. You don’t need to use white sugar if you add chopped-fine or grated carrots, and the result in the finished sauce is ever so subtle but unignorable.

I’ll be using the red sauce to make lasagna in a crock pot today, and I’m looking forward to it. I will not be making the noodles by hand; I do have some limits.

It’s kind of funny, because I hate lasagna…but that’s a story for another day.

Welcome to the weekend, chickadees.

Irritability, Meet Shark

One of the kids has been leaving the heat on overnight, which, added to flannel sheets and my favorite green blanket, means I sweated almost to death last night and the one before. It’s definitely time to change out of said flannel sheets. Contrary to popular belief, winter is over.

Boxnoggin, however, loves the heat. Loves it. Miss B doesn’t mind, since she has all the air trapped in her undercoat to keep her insulated, but she’s spending more and more of the night flat on tiled loo floor, soaking up coolth.

There’s been a lot of rejection a la Chez Saintcrow lately. Publishers (both trad and otherwise) don’t want to make a decision within a reasonable timeframe, so I’ve been taking my toys and going home. Technically I’m the one doing the rejecting, but it’s also frustrating as fuck. If you don’t want my work, just say so in the first round and we’ll be done. Don’t try to keep me in your back pocket while you shop around for something younger, sweeter, more tractable. I never was that girl, and that goes double now.

I don’t mind a publisher saying “not for us, thanks!” What I do mind is them sitting on submitted work for silent months, then getting shitty with me or my agent when we pull the work they’ve had for a significant amount of time to make a decision on. If they’re too understaffed to make a decision, that’s not my problem–a publisher’s poor planning is not my emergency.

Nobody’s poor planning is my emergency, except for my kids’. That’s it.

It’s nice to be at the stage in my career where I have the confidence and the tools to say so and make it stick, but I wish I could work with these people instead of despite them. We could do such amazing things together.

I’m probably also a little irritable because I’m on somewhat of a social media fast. I took the Twitter app off my phone and only interact with birbsite during scheduled, outside-of-work times. Of course I have Whalebird open while working, but Mastodon (especially my instance) isn’t nearly as toxic. It feels exactly like a detox, and I’m in the cranky phase.

Add to that the problem of The Poison Prince1, and I’m snarling halfheartedly at everything in sight. It doesn’t help that my running mileage has taken a helluva hit lately.

So today I’ll probably do a reset. Take the dogs on a long walk, put my headphones in and my head down, and stretch my legs while I think about things. I need to decide what mountain I’m going to scale next–probably the Dolls book, but in order to get there I need to clear Poison Prince off my deck and get both the new Watcher book and maybe the lightning-god book at least to zero draft.

It would be nice if I could sleep at night, too, so today means no more flannel sheets. I’ll miss crawling into a bed that isn’t cold to begin with, but such is the price of waking up without damp sheets clinging to hip, ankle, wrist, neck while sixty-plus pounds of dog attempts to put his nose in my ear.

That’s probably why I’ll never date again, honestly. I hate sharing the bed, unless it’s with dogs. At least when they keep me up it isn’t because they have a need to tenderize their victim for psychological warfare, it’s because they really can’t help it. I could just toss my dates out but that sounds like too much effort, and I don’t like sleeping in other people’s beds. It would take something very special indeed for me to change my mind, and I’m almost halfway through my life with no time to look. I’ve got too much to do.

…wow, this post has gone everywhere, hasn’t it? The irritation means it’s time for me to get back to work. But first, a ramble with the canines, both to work their fidgets out and to make some decisions.

Publishing requires one to be sharklike–never stop swimming lest you suffocate, and always smile. Some silly people think the smile is weakness instead of an amused warning.

See you later, chickadees.

Thursday Treachery

Yesterday I walked to Ye Local Auto Parts Shoppe to pick up a new battery for my ailing chariot. I was saved a bit of bother by the fact that I’d written down all particulars and taken a picture of the battery in question; the one they’d ordered for me was the wrong type but they had the right one on hand, thank goodness. I apologized for the trouble, but the Helpful Fellow laughed and said they’d sell the ordered one in a heartbeat, it was a kind that they should have had in stock anyway.

So that worked out. I got a rideshare home (Uber is nasty to their contractors, I much prefer Lyft) with a nice fellow who had a hybrid and offered to carry the battery up the stairs for me.

I told him it was good exercise and lugged the damn thing inside.

After dinner, the kids and I gathered around our mechanical patient. All told, since I’d prepared so thoroughly (including testing the ratchet on the connectors) it took about twenty minutes to wrestle the old one out and put the new one in. Most of that time was swearing under my breath trying to lift the old battery out while the kids held flashlights and wisely did not offer help until I paused to glare at the thing.

Anyway, I finally got my fingertips underneath it, and the kids both marveled at how heavy the damn things are. And now they know how to change out a battery, as well as where several life-giving fluids go into the engine.

Mercury retrograde, while finished, has not given up completely. This morning I got a frantic text from the Little Prince, who had forgotten a thank-you card for one of his teachers. (Long story, but it needed to go with him today.) I held my breath, turned the key, the starter coughed and spun…

…and hallelujah, it started.

I’m still not sure if there’s a problem with the starter or alternator. I think the problem was old battery and loose connectors. With a brand new electrical heart and all the connectors tightened, it should be fine.

We’ll see this afternoon, when I have to pick the Prince up from afterschool activities. It’s a nice day and he could walk home if all fails, or one of his fellow club-mates will give him a ride. If the car doesn’t start I’ll have to get creative, and make an appointment at a mechanic’s.

I did drive around a bit this morning so the battery should have recovered from its maiden voyage. The dogs are pretty pissed that I left suddenly, but some still-warm hash browns (they love the greasy, crunchy little things) effectively obliterated the memory of my treachery from their tiny little heads.

B is under my desk, ready to leap up and follow should I stir a step. Lord van der Sploot is pacing the house on his usual morning ramble, preparing for the walkies he hopes and longs for. I might even take them to the park and yell at asshats who have their dogs unleashed.

Fun for everyone.

Anyway, I even managed some work yesterday. A scene with an apothecary fell right out of my head, and now I have a handle on the other scene, the one that was bugging me and needed to marinate a while longer. Maybe I’ll get this damn book done on time after all.

But I’m not holding my breath. I’ll save that for every time I start the car for the next six months.

*rolls up sleeves* Okay, Thursday. You got the first punch in, but I’m no quitter. Only one of us will be alive come midnight.

Spring, Cartoons, Sprung

Saturday was rainy, Sunday sunny, which worked out well since I ran on the former and could lock up the house on the latter. I hid from the day-star and watched a chock-ton of Looney Tunes.

In the old house, I would fold laundry and write while several DVDs’ worth of cartoons played on the telly. The kids and I didn’t watch much else during the day, and when the Princess got older we’d have the subtitles on. She would, without prompting, correct errors in the subtitling.

She might be an editor someday, that girl. Anyway, the kids would play, and every few cartoons we’d all get up and perform a task. (If you’ve never tried hoovering with helpful toddlers, let me tell you, it’s a trip. )

Anyway, the dogs were quite happy to have me rest in one place between bouts of housework yesterday. And at the end of the day, every blessed creature in the house except the cats had dessert in my office, laughing at antics and gasping “oh, no,” at various points.

It’s been a long time since I heard those musical cues, and it took me all the way back to the good things about the old house. There were a few, but as things got worse by increments it felt more like a trap than a home. I was glad to move out, I don’t know if anyone who hasn’t endured a bad divorce or two knows how glad.

But last night there was cheesecake, gasps of recognition and laughter, and I remembered what it was like to sit cross-legged on the old papasan chair, typing furiously while the kids played and Bugs or Daffy or Tweety scrambled across the screen. In those days, the living room was the center of the house. Nowadays, here, it’s the kitchen.

I liked writing in the living room. I liked having the kids right in sight, and being available to them. I liked having Looney Tunes on while I typed furiously; I could work for two or three cartoons then take a break for one to get up and stretch.

But I realized that never, in all my life, had I watched cartoons truly alone.

So, Sunday morning, I got my coffee and settled in front of my laptop, and I watched them for hours. Then, all that afternoon, I did two or three household tasks, then watched a few cartoons, lather, rinse, repeat.

It was just as glorious as I thought it would be. I thought of trying to keep the volume low on Saturdays or Sundays in my childhood, hoping for a few good cartoons and disappointed when my favorites didn’t show. I thought of folding mountains of laundry and writing hundreds of thousands of words while terrified that I wouldn’t be able to make it, that I wouldn’t be able to create fast enough, well enough to feed my children.

And now I can take a whole day, press a button, and have cartoons playing. I can even go to the store, get doughnuts, and dip sweetened bread into tea or coffee while I roll around in every single cartoon I like. I can watch the same one fifty times in a row, if the mood takes me.

We value youth in our culture. We crave it. We glorify childhood, but all youth ever brought me was people fucking with me when they knew I was helpless–or when they thought I was. It was exhausting and terrifying.

It’s much better now. I fought tooth and nail to get here. I’m an adult, and coming up on female middle age. I don’t have to give a fuck, and I have my own bank account–such as it is–capable of absorbing a few charges for a smorgasbord of looney tune-age.

I’m listening to Wile E. Coyote chase the Road Runner while I type. Spring is here, and each time I’ve seen the same cartoon is a ring in my trunk. I’ve survived, and each seven or eight-minute cartoon reminds me of how it used to be, and how good it is now.

I never want to be a child again. But damn, I love cartoons.