Category Archives: This Really Happened

Spooked Cat Climbs the Blushing Tree

To clarify, because we all know this is going to come up.

I’m having trouble describing the feeling wherein:

  1. You say something nice about someone you admire (assuming they will never hear or acknowledge you),
  2. and then they pop out of nowhere and say thank you,
  3. and you’re so surprised that they
    1. are present
    2. and heard you
    3. and said something back
  4. that you have the overwhelming urge to run up a tree and hide in its branches until everyone has left and it’s safe to come back down

(without using the word “dork,” because there’s nothing here that merits a pejorative)

My friend said, “I’m sure there’s a German word for it.”

So I tried, unsuccessfully, to translate “the spooked cat climbs a tree in which to blush,” into German, so I stuck with the English.

In conclusion, if you ever hear me mumbling that phrase, “spooked cat climbs the blushing tree,” it means I am starstruck and trying to recover.

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Archon 41: Come Say Hello!

The flying castle will be dropping me off in your realm this fall to attend Archon 41! Women and nonbinary authors, please be sure to submit your original (no reprint) stories for Artemis Rising before you head out, as our submission window will close on Sept 30.

Sept 29 – Oct 1, 2017
archonstl.org
Gateway Convention Center and DoubleTree Hotel
Collinsville, IL

This convention promises the usual from me — religion, fighting, and the inescapable lure of human darkness — capped off on Sunday with a reading chock-full of all three. Come say hello!

Friday

The Cinematic Wonder Woman’s Badass Predecessors
20:00 – 20:50, Illini A (Gateway Center)

A discussion celebrating Ripley, Xena, Buffy, and more.  Why do we love women who kick butt?
What a question.
With Claire Ashgrove, Tom Stockman, and Ethan Nahté

Saturday

Alternate Religions
11:00 – 11:50, Salon 4 (Gateway Center)
An open and respectful look at real-life alternate or non-mainstream religions.
I’ll be moderating, with Christine Amsden, Ms Joy Ward, and Walt Boyes

Writing Modern-Day Monsters
12:00 – 12:50, Marquette A (Gateway Center)
Discuss what a “modern-day monster” is (or can be), and how to write an effective one.
With Mr Michales Joy, and Guy Anthony De Marco

Recurring Themes in Speculative Science Fiction
16:00 – 16:50, Marquette B (Gateway Center)

Speculative fiction has become more and more popular in recent years.  Come participate in a discussion on themes in spec lit and what’s on the horizon.
I’m moderating (the fantasist snuck in! Shh!), with Celine Chatillon, Dr Pamela Gay, and Tom Carpenter

Comparative Mythology
19:00 – 19:50, Illini A (Gateway Center)

How do myths from different cultures compare?  What are some recurring themes?  What myths seem to be culturally unique?
I’m moderating, with Michael Benjamin, Lloyd Kropp, Walt Boyes, and Kasey Mackenzie

 

Sunday

Short-Story Podcasting for Writers, Readers, and Voice Actors
10:00 – 10:50, Salon 6 (Gateway Center)

Escape Artists represent — woop woop!  Podcasts are a huge opportunity to publish and listen to short fiction, and engage with the fan community. They can also provide an avenue into audio book narration and voice acting. Join us to discuss the podcasts we love, how to build a recording setup, and the path to publication.
With the ever-brilliant Benjamin C. Kinney of Escape Pod

Making Friends in Fandom
13:00 – 13:50, Illini A (Gateway Center)

It’s hard to make new friends, but it’s easier when you have common interests. Get tips on how to make friends as adults.
With Mrs. Susan Baugh, Cindi Gille-Rowley, Tom Meserole, Steve Lopata

Author Readings with David Benem and Setsu Uzume
14:00 – 14:50, Cahokian (Gateway Center)
Tag-teaming with David Benem

 

We Might Not Come Back. Drink Anyway.

I’m moving away, and I’d like to talk about The Tavern.

Scene: Adventurer’s tavern. Night. The bar is full, and the old friends, gather at the same table. Again.

*FELIMIR
Well twas long, long ago, back when the trees were talkin’

KNIGHT FERGUS
T’was only yesterday.

FELIMIR
Yes, yes, I’m getting to it, there’s a formula you know.
Where was I?
A long time ago, long ago, so long ago that no one can remember and no tree can remember and no rock can remember, a place so far away beyon’t that –

KNIGHT FERGUS
It was last night across the river. Now tell the fighty bits.

FELIMIR
Alright, if you’ll have all the heart taken out if it.

Moving is the most stressful thing a human can experience. It’s loss, change, and the elimination of all points of reference. It can also be incredibly rewarding. I’m moving from Oakland, CA to a red state, and true to form, I’m all set to inject drama into this situation where perhaps there was none.

When I left New York, there were parties, yes, but there was also crying, gnashing of teeth, and “don’t go!” conversations.

When I moved from Seattle to San Francisco, only two friends came over to help me load the U-haul. There was no pomp or circumstance. We chatted and taped boxes as though it were any other Saturday afternoon, and parted with a “see ya.”

The lack of drama surprised me a bit.

I don’t typically keep friends for longer than five years. A friend once told me that your friends aren’t people you share values with; they’re the people you do stuff with. That made me think that friendships end because interests change. Another told me that when we move, we create a self-shaped void in the lives of those we left behind — but our life becomes a giant mass of voids (where do I hang out? Where’s the grocery store, place to watch the sun rise? Dojo? Job? Hospital? Coffee shop? Diner?). We get stressed, while everyone else is fine. The world rolls on without us, and the place we left disappears.

The last time I visited familiar places in New York, it felt like wearing a sweater that was too small. License plates were a different color. People had grown physically and emotionally. Items from my childhood that should have been dear sparked nothing in me. I was so unmoored from the things that were supposed to be meaningful that I felt the foundation of my identity crumble.

Because of those experiences, I anticipate losing people as soon as I meet them. The impermanence of relationships looms large in my brain. This fear became self-fulfilling. I freaked out with my New York friends, and tried to keep everything the same with an obsessive fervor. You can guess how badly that ended.

Since that time, I’ve tried to accept that paths diverge. My interests change, so do others’. People drift apart, so that’s ok.

The problem is that I’ve applied the same obsessive fervor to ACCEPTING THAT PATHS DIVERGE so I pull out the scissors as quickly as I once pulled out needle and thread.

It’s not the drifting or the grasping that’s destructive; it’s the fervor. 

Leaving my core group in California will be hard, just like it was hard to leave my core group in New York. These relationships have been special and illuminating — supportive and challenging. They’re all very different people, with different specialties and perspectives I would never have had access to. I felt sad, not that I was going to leave them; but that I was going to lose them.

When I mentioned this to one of them, they responded with an eye-roll.

“I’ve always taken some issue with your idea about paths diverging and not diverging and all that.”

“In what way?”

“In every way. You’ve been asking if we’re about to diverge since the second time we met.”

Even in my writing, the opening paragraph is usually this is the story of how it all went wrong. I’m so scared of the ending that it colors the beginning.

My friend said, “I see us on different adventures, constantly meeting in the tavern between quests, and then setting off on new ones in the morning. You’re my brother forever and I’ve been fucking loving you across the current of you asking me if our paths were diverging for, like, seven years. Calm down.”

Which brings us back to the tavern. It’s got a million names. It’s The Winchester, The Bronze, Ten-Forward, The Hanged Man, Cafe Solstice, Cafe La Boheme. Facebook. Twitter.

“This may be the last time we drink together in this tavern,” Felimir gloomed into his tankard.

“Dude,” said Fergus, “you get like this every time. Drink your fucking mead, we’ll be back in two days. Chill.”

Tomorrow morning we all have to get up and fight dragons, my friend said. I get that we’re all nervous about it, and we all have our own way of coping. Maybe you’re right, and it won’t be the same. That doesn’t mean it’s over. For fuck’s sake, just drink.

Where do you gather with your friends? A living room? A cafe? A chat box, or a number on speed-dial?

Where’s your tavern?

*Excerpt from: The Sorrows, or Deirdre From The Legend Kills Herself In Every Version But That Doesn’t Mean You Always Have To, currently under development through Custom Made Theater’s Undiscovered Works Series.

I have a story in GdM Issue #11

I just found out I’m sharing an issue of Grimdark Magazine with Brent Weeks.

This is a bit of a special moment for me.

When I was studying sword in rural China, I got sick. Coughing-blood sick. The only way to get medicine was through an IV, and I was set to go home in a few weeks, so I tried to tough it out.

Sifu took me aside one night and said if I didn’t go to the hospital and get the medicine, I’d die. At the time, it felt like a choice between dying now, or dying in ten years from something on a dirty needle.

I stayed up most of the night trying to decide, and struggling to breathe.

I did wind up going to the hospital, and was on an IV for three days. The Night Angel trilogy kept me company while I recovered, and took my mind off whatever consequences I’d have to face for my decision*.
When I got back to the US, my little brother mailed me a copy of his new favorite book, The Way of Shadows.

Everything turned out fine.

*(and my ignorant notions about country hospitals)

gdm11

GdM Issue #11 is up for pre-order, dropping on April 1.

FICTION
– Cry Wolf by Deborah A. Wolf
– Devouring the Dead by Laura Davy
– The First Kill by C.T. Phipps
– For Honour, For Waste by Setsu Uzume (reprint)

NON-FICTION
– The Odd Hopefulness of Grimdark by Matthew Cropley
– An Interview with Anna Smith-Spark
– Review: Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister
– An Interview with Brent Weeks
– Review: Sam McPheeters’ Exploded View

Pre-order now on:
Amazon.com: https://goo.gl/Gl3SsX
Amazon.co.uk: https://goo.gl/GCi3YA
Amazon.com.au: https://goo.gl/yyqhYl
Amazon.ca: https://goo.gl/9P2sBB

Or, sign up for your subscription now over on their Patreon page. You’ll get the issue delivered a few days earlier through here, too: https://goo.gl/jJUm2r

Add this issue on your Goodreads feed here: https://goo.gl/F0YjfM

I’m gender-fluid.

Gender-fluid is a gender identity which refers a dynamic mix of male, female, neutrois, or any other non-binary identity, or some combination of identities.

I’m gender-fluid. Here’s what that means to me.

My buddy and I went for a hike the other day, and back in their kitchen we got to talking about gender. They’re changing their pronouns in public for the first time, and they’re not sure if it will go over well, or smoothly, or if their self-description will accurately convey their being.

When I say I’m gender-fluid, here’s what I’m trying to convey:

As a kid, I was occasionally seen as a boy and told that the things I was interested in were boy things. I played a dude, as a dude, in a high school play. I sang with the boys for a few songs in choir. While I don’t feel un-female, I’ve come to understand that my stance shifts relative to the group I’m in and the role I take within that group. So now, when the vast majority of societal messages and cues tell me I do guy things, and act like a guy, I figure, “ok, I’m a guy. This is correct.”

Yet, the skin I wear fits, and I feel no need to change it.

I’ve met women that are tougher, harder, and butch-er that identify 100% as women. My experience doesn’t invalidate theirs, or vice versa. It’s a different mode.

For me, publicly identifying one way or the other helps set the tone. It contextualizes. It arranges for the response I want, and helps smooth interactions based on finding common ground.

That said, how you see me and what you call me has no bearing on what I am, which is why I’m not too hung up on pronouns… but I would feel like less if I were unable to shift. I would feel like less if I were asked to start, or stop, a particular gendered expression.

Identity is made up of a zillion categories and groupings, all of which have varying importance in someone’s life. Gender’s only one, like spirituality, or lineage. It’s not the first thing I’d mention when self-describing. Not because I’m ashamed, or not “out,” but because it’s not the most important lens through which I see myself.

It remains true, regardless.

If you feel like you’re this way, but didn’t have the word, now you do. If you feel like you’re alone in the way you are; you’re not.

While the language and the concepts might at first seem alien, or frustrating, or ridiculous, I appreciate that the conversations are becoming more commonplace. The more language we have, the more specific we can be — the better we’ll be able to understand, and be understood.

ar3-magazine-revised-final-web

This month, PodCastle, Pseudopod, EscapePod, and Cast of Wonders are running Artemis Rising 3, a celebration of female-identified and non-binary authors. Check ’em out.

Container Store Visualization

During one of the last coping skills classes, the instructor took us to the container store (visualization meditation. I like going places in my brainspace). She told us to pick out a container. Could be a tupperware, could be a shoebox, anything that catches your eye. Then we had to put something in it, and put the box somewhere, to help shelve the problem in the event we’re not really able to deal with it right now. Some of my classmates put their containers under the bed, or buried under flowers in the backyard, or shipped it around the world so that they’d have a few months before it was returned to sender.

I picked a stone urn, where the lid was held in place by the clamped jaws of five dragons, then I threw it off a cliff and into the sea. We’re coming up on a year since that shitstorm. There are some riddles about it I haven’t solved yet, but rather than 30% brainspace I’m about ready to give it 2%, then maybe 1%, and hopefully, eventually, archive it entirely unless it’s absolutely relevant.

There is no “back to normal,” just the new normal.

 

Today holds:
Finishing touches on the script
Consultation with a game designer
Short story revisions
Probably brownies and wine.

I really wish it would rain.

 

P.S. one of my friends joked, “imagine finding that on a beach.” There’s a story seed for you.

Birthday Wisdom and Tank Drift 2016!

Quick note… I went to the beach to watch the sun go down on the Solstice. Which is also, frequently, also Father’s Day and my dad’s birthday.

solstice

Summer Solstice was accompanied by a full moon, which hasn’t happened since the year my dad was born. To make an already memorable day even more fantastic, we saw three whales and a dolphin, spouting, tail-flipping, and more than one breach. The clouds looked like an oil painting, casting a rose-colored glow over everything. I wish I could have recorded it all, to convey the depth and breadth of the open beach — the pine and sea smell, the waves, and birdsong — and yet feeling cradled by mother nature in perfect peace.

Each year, I request wisdom rather than gifts for my birthday. Here are the collected thoughts and musings of 2016.

  1. Get off the line of attack, blend with the force directed at you.
  2. The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.
  3. Be as kind to yourself inside your head as you are to your friends.
  4. Plan for success as well as you plan for failure.
  5. Live as though the world were the it should be, to show it what it can be
  6. We have as much power to sculpt reality as environment and situation provide, though we can always grasp further.
  7. It’s okay to realize that some responses are instinctive rather than considered, especially once you become aware of that.
  8. You can’t save other people. They can only save themselves. You can only help. You can save yourself. You should ask for help.
  9. Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don’t want.
  10. Show people you love them while they are here.
  11. Being ethical in your business conduct is more important than making money.
  12. Obituary columns are filled with love, while most of our lives are filled with minutiae. Tell people what they mean to you while it still matters. Also, if you really like a bit of wisdom, neck-tattoo that mofo asap!
  13. The Girl Scouts have a saying, that we should leave a campsite in better condition than it was when we arrived. It means, as we bravely forge a new path into the wilderness, not only do we have a responsibility to tread lightly and avoid doing damage but make a place better by our presence.
  14. Force and flow. Sometimes you need to use force to move obstacles in your life, but sometimes you need to just flow around them. Be the river, which is both. 
    knifeknife
  15. As you go through life, ask yourself, “What am I doing to positively impact the world?” I have struggled with this one, and it took me years to realize that “the world” doesn’t mean it needs to have a global impact, but really means to think beyond yourself and see the impact you make around you. This can be on any scale: global, national, regional, local, your community (whatever form it may be), friends, and/or family. When I’m having a bad day in one area (at work, for instance) I think about where I may be having a positive impact somewhere in the world (bringing joy to friends on FB, providing housing to local bees, being a loving pet parent).
  16. Focus on what you love, and what you can control. Keep trying. Surround yourself with kindness.
  17. The hardest part of any task is starting. It gets easier after that. Also, the world is full of bastards and backstabbers. Never let them grind you down.
  18. You can have anything you want, you just can’t have *everything* you want.
  19. Things are never as bad, or as good , as they first appear. It is amazing how as we get older, mature wisdom begins to resemble being too damn tired. Don’t sweat small change.
  20. The Dick abides.
  21. Never date a man who owns a white van or knows all the words to Monty Python.
  22. Dear sister! I learned from Terry Pratchett that as soon as you finish writing something immediately, without pause, wrote at least a little of the next piece. That way you don’t get stuck between projects.
  23. Only you can make yourself change. Also, everyone gets Stuck. It takes a lot of work to get Unstuck, but the work can be done in little pieces. The best way to get something done is to begin.
  24. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, no matter what troubles you encounter in life… there are nine hundred million people in India who really don’t give a shit. So you might as well be happy.
  25. No matter how cold and wet you are, just as long as you’re warm and dry…
  26. Kelly Shiflet Treat yo’ self! Especially with high tea, warm scones and cream!
  27. When faced with big decisions think about others and then yourself. Also, syrup is good on pancakes and everything else.
  28. Elders ‘taught’ me (sometimes with a sledgehammer…) that it isn’t about achieving what you want or acquiring things or attaining goals, it is about thinking and doing the right thing in the moment of decision that is Now. Most everything else is an illusion.
  29. This is a simple one, but when I wanted to go backpack around New Zealand and Australia for a year and was getting overwhelmed by everything I needed to do to do that, my mom told me “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” I’ve kept to that motto for the twenty plus years since.
  30. Three pieces of wisdom from the same brilliant source: 1) there isn’t any dream so huge that it can’t be divided up into manageable steps; 2) “Because if you are yourself as loud as you can be, you’ll only find yourself in places where you’re accepted, and then good things will happen….. LIKE WHALES!”; 3) “so feel your feels the way they feel/ and don’t fight them too hard/ all the flowers plants and cacti too/ all have their place in the yard.” Oh and this one, from the same brilliant source as the above. Reduce your tolerance of fuckery yearly, possibly with treaties and a fuckery reduction council. If you are approaching your fuckery tolerance limit, it is sometimes acceptable to share with friends who have not yet reached their fuckery quota, but proceed with caution and the understanding that we all need to gradually eliminate our reliance on fuckery and make the transition to a zero-fuckery-powered society. And while we will probably fail in the short run, in the long run this will be better for everyone. This has been a carefully considered attribution with commentary.
  31. Honestly, Yoda. “Do or do not. There is no try.” That’s gotten me to finish more stories than anything else. And while I’ve never seen the marked-up drafts of the Empire script, hidden away in a Lucasfilm vault as they are, I have always deeply suspected that line was one of Leigh Brackett’s.
  32. Remember why you do what you do…and tell the people you love that you love them.
  33. Always consider the alternative point of view. And fail a lot — you learn better that way.
  34. Dance.
  35. It is never too late to have a happy childhood.strawberries
  36. Tell the people in your life you love them. Every chance you get. Also be as positive as you can. You will have bad days but when you share something Positive, it helps others too. You never know whose lives you have touched by being a positive light in the world. Yes it is sappy but true. I know because I have had it hit me when I was told “You inspired me to do X.” That’s the best. And very humbling, too.tank girl
  37. Always create. The time will go by anyway. Create even when you doubt. You never know who you are inspiring.
  38. Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself – just a bit better than you would feel about yourself without them.
  39. When you feel like you really get it and your technique is working, you are not learning, just practicing what you’ve learned. When you are struggling and confused, that is when you’re actually learning. One of many useful lessons from my Aikido instructors. It’s helped me to be patient with myself through the learning process (on and off the mat), which is often daunting.

    Transplanting the feathers from a snapped arrow to a limping one.

    Transplanting the feathers from a snapped arrow to a limping one.

  40. Get a kitten.
  41. I don’t do wisdom, but always remember you’re awesome and ther
    e are people who get you…not everyone, but then some use different definitions of the term.
  42. I’ve always lived by this “koan” from British humorist Spike Milligan’s science fiction play, The Bedsitting Room: “Happiness is egg-shaped.”
  43. All things in moderation. Especially Moderation.
  44. If you try to be anybody but yourself, you’re going to fail. Be you. Be the best you possible.
  45. You can’t “should” people into doing what you want them to.
  46. You can’t bully someone into loving you.
  47. Think carefully on the negative archetypes within your own personality. What positive aspects do they have? For example, an addict’s determination and perseverance.
  48. If someone were to ask you why you work hard in those areas, and if you were to answer “to give to others”, how would you respond if then challenged with the question, “Then what are others here for?” This year on your birthday, think long and hard about what things you accept as virtues, and why it is you see them as such. Who in your life reinforces the perception of those things as virtues? Do those virtues truly serve you or do they serve the people who perceive them as virtues? …In short, look for the most subtle ways in which others might be exploiting you, and put an end to it for a while, just to see how it feels.
  49. Much satisfaction can be found in the intersection of the serenity prayer and the oracle’s command to Socrates.shuriken
  50. (In response to, “my sail has become a tablecloth/my shuriken have become coasters.”  They –and you — exist in both states. Shuriken were hidden as belt decorations and deadly weapons. We are, none of us, just one thing at any one time.
  51. Perhaps they (and you) are not so much domesticated as lying in wait for the next opportunity.
  52. What I should have had was a plan. What I should have done was examine why I felt so small that I had to prove anything at all… There’s a god in you. Be like him. He’s the coolest motherfucker you will ever meet. The more you act like him. The more you become him.

Finally… these are the two bits I figured out on my own and want to remember this year.

First, the only difference between the heroes of good and evil is that evil has resigned itself to what must be done. Good mourns.

Also… There are people that will make me feel not only unloved, but unlovable. That is not a reason to change. That is a reason to get as far away from that person as possible.

tank drift

Happy birthday. Happy Solstice. Happy 2016. Despite its brutality, despite the losses we’ve suffered, hold close the truth that the planets do align… and there are whales.

pair02