2020 Prospective

A slight misquote of Terry Pratchett: “She couldn’t be a prince, and she’d never be a princess, and she didn’t want to be a woodcutter, so she’d be a witch and know things.”

It’s the first year of the new decade, and what do I want to do with it — the year I turn forty?

The theme this year is going to be “green witch.”

… when I mentioned this goal to my friend Kim, their first question was, “Are you pagan?”

So… that’s a tough question. I don’t really want to turn this into a forum on my religious beliefs, but I will say that I have always been curious about pagan nature-based religions, like Wicca or druidry. For someone who grew up roaming through the woods, I find staying in touch with the natural world and honoring the course of the seasons very compelling. But whenever I’ve dug deeper, it has always felt disingenuous to fixate on the gods and practices of a land I have no real connection to.

(Plus sometimes pagan religions can shade in the woo direction too easily. I want an evidence-based way of being in the world, and nature spirituality; is that so much to ask?)

All of this tells you that I’m not going to be embracing my inner pagan. So what is this year about?

“Green” has a few meanings here, and I’ve definitely embraced the ambiguity of the term. I chose it for both “the natural world” and “environmentalism” meanings, with a smidge of “town green,” i.e. the center of a town.

As for how I mean “witch,” I’m drawing from a few fictional sources: Naomi Novik’s book Uprooted, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld witches, and the witches of the larp I’ll be playing starting this year, Cottington Woods 2. (And I’ll even be playing a witch!) I am very interested in the image of a witch as a crone, as a wise woman, as an advisor. Someone who may choose to live in solitude, but is deeply rooted in place, and deeply connected to the people of that place.

With that in mind, I’ve set down a few precepts for the year.

A witch stays in touch with the natural world.

“The witch knows nothing in this world is supernatural. It is all natural.”

Laurie Cabot

I have a love/hate relationship with the natural world. It’s both a sandbox of infinite curiosity and also sometimes deeply unpleasant. Ticks, poison ivy, mosquitos, heat and cold, and the ceaseless movement of wind and air care not for your photo opportunities and learning experiences. Like a narcissist, the natural world can’t really love you back; the best it can offer is indifference.

Which… is a lesson in and of itself, don’t you think? “Loving impossible things” sounds like the title of a course on being human.

To this end, there are a few things I want to try this year:

1) I want to plant a garden. And actually tend it, and harvest stuff from it. Nothing makes you aware of the fractiousness of nature like planting a garden! I have lots of decorative plants and shrubs around my property already, so here I more mean edible plants, like vegetables or herbs. I’ve had gardens in the past, and they’ve all suffered to varying degrees from my neglect. I’m ready to give this another try.

2) I want to forage some wild foods. Not as dangerous as some folks seem to think, especially if you stay away from anything ambiguous. (Like nightshades). Morel mushrooms are trivially easy to identify and tell apart from anything poisonous. Elderberries, too. And I’m fascinated by this recipe for elderberry mead that EB sent me…

3) I want to take a nature walk once a month. Not my normal walk/run, but a journey where the goal is to observe. I want to memorialize these observations in words or in art. Once a month, I think, is reasonable enough to fit into my busy schedule, while still observing the passage of the seasons.

Which brings me to my next point…

A witch honors the cycle of the year.

“The moon has awoken with the sleep of the sun. The light has been broken, the spell has begun.”

Midgard Morningstar

By this I mean both the natural phenomenon, like full moons, equinoxes, and solstices, as well as human celebrations, like Christmas and the birthdays of important people in my life.

Observing holidays is a way of slowing down the passage of time, by making certain days feel special and less like every other day. This encompasses everything from decorations, traditions, gifts, etc.

Right now the way I celebrate the holidays is… non-existent, really. Christmas/Yule is really the only one I have any sort of observance of, which is usually putting up a tree and watching certain Christmas movies. (Muppet Christmas Carol and Scrooged, of course). But I usually do nothing for my birthday or my husband’s birthday, and nothing for any other holiday.

I’d like to change this. Even if it’s just putting out a pumpkin for Halloween, or getting up at dawn on the summer solstice, or going out to dinner on my birthday. These celebrations don’t have to correspond to any faith; nor do they have to be unique to me.

I just want to signpost the fact that time is passing.

A witch lives hyperlocally.

“We were of the valley. Born in the valley, of families planted too deep to leave even when they knew their daughter might be taken; raised in the valley, drinking of whatever power also fed the Wood.”

Naomi Novik, Uprooted

I live in a small town, but I often don’t feel a part of it. I don’t have kids in school here, I don’t go to town meetings, I work in a town 40 miles away from it, and I do much of my shopping in other towns. (To be fair, the latter is largely because it’s so small I have to go to surrounding towns for many needs).

The term “hyper-local” is one that I believe was coined by the Buy Nothing Project — at least, that’s how I heard of it. I heard Mrs. Frugalwoods talking about her Buy Nothing group, where she could donate and receive items in a gift economy model, and that sounded like something I could get behind.

(It sounded very similar to Freecycle, actually, but the rules on Freecycle are much more fast and loose).

I looked into it, but at the time there was no group for my town. I could have joined one a bordering town’s group, but you can only belong to one BN group, and doing so sorta defeated the whole “hyper-local” mandate of the movement.

As part of this theme, I decided I was going to start a Buy Nothing group in my own town. But then a nice member of my community decided to start one like… a week ago, so all I had to do was join it!

There’s more to living hyperlocally than Buy Nothing, of course. (I am, at best, only middle-to-low-buy). It’s making a choice to support local businesses and creators instead of going to the big box store. It’s knowing you can depend on your neighbors. It’s thinking globally, but acting locally.

Some specific hyperlocal things I want to do this year:

1) Attend a town meeting. Our local government is town meeting-based, which means that lots of important decisions are made there — like the plastic bag ban (which I have mixed feelings about), or the decision to ban all marijuana-based businesses from town (which made me livid. Why are you turning down income??) Have I ever attended one of these? I have not, dear reader. I should remedy this.

On a related note, my landowners’ association doesn’t have regular meetings, but when they do, I should attend. Of course I say this, and then they schedule a three-hour meeting to talk about finances on a Saturday where I have a bajillion other, actually fun things I could be doing, so…

2) Do more local shopping. Again, since it’s a small town I can’t find everything here, but I can generally find most things within the tri-city area.

Food is the biggest challenge here, but also the biggest opportunity, depending greatly on season. We have lots of farms in our town, and even more in the surrounding area, but we are also in USDA zone 5, so not everything is available all year. Over the thirteen years I’ve lived here I’ve gotten better at identifying the different local businesses I can frequent, so it’s really just a question of setting up routines around going there instead of the Hannaford.

(And, I mean, I don’t object to shopping at Hannaford; it does support the local economy in some ways. Just not as many).

3) Improve my relationship with my neighbors. This comes back to the Buy Nothing ethos, which states that “the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors.”

Regrettably I don’t have the best relationship with my neighbors. When I moved here, I was new to owning a house, country living was difficult and confusing, and forging relationships with people was at the bottom of my to-do list. I think some of my neighbors took that personally, and I often feel like I’m still paying the penalty for that.

But having a working relationship with your neighbors is just unquestionably a better way to live. If I got along with my neighbors, I might be able to depend on them to watch my cats when I travel, or borrow tools from them, or let me use their shower when the power is out (we have a well, so no power = no water; my closest neighbors have a generator, though). And vice versa, of course.

A witch is not wasteful.

Witches… get their power directly from the earth, which asks for nothing but a sense of balance in return. Yet still, because of their tie to the earth, witches tend to try and protect it, treating others who squander the world’s resources as foolish, and seeking sometimes to undo them.

Cottington Woods rulebook, “Witchery Skills”

This point ties into both environmentalism and frugality — two themes that often (but not always) go hand in hand. A witch, as I said, is tied to place; stewardship of that place depends on preserving its resources, whether that be funds or forests. It also ties into self-reliance, which was the underpinning of my last two years’ themes.

To that end, this year I’d like to…

1) Complete Uber Frugal Month challenges in January and June. Some of you may recall I once had a frugality blog, and it’s something I still care a great deal about — hence why I’m currently doing the Frugalwoods’ Uber Frugal Month. (At least, I am. I wouldn’t say Matt has 100% bought into the challenge). I’d like to do this again when it comes up in June.

2) Read The Zero Waste Home, and incorporate at least one of the tips into my life. I doubt I’m ever going to be anywhere close to “zero waste” — just like I doubt I’m ever going to be “no buy” — but that doesn’t mean I can’t make improvements in this area. And while I’m sure there are many good books about home environmentalism out there, this is one I happen to know about, so I figure it’s a decent place to start.

3) Pay off my student loan and Matt’s car loan. We’re pretty close, and by my calculations we can finish it off this year.

A witch knows things.

She couldn’t be the prince, and she’d never be a princess, and she didn’t want to be a woodcutter, so she’d be the witch and know things, just like Granny Aching—”

Terry Pratchett

To me this precept is all about intellectual curiosity, with a local focus. Intellectual curiosity comes naturally to me, so I anticipate this portion being the most fun part.

Towards this sub-theme, I want to…

1) Join the “friends of the town library.” I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but they don’t make it easy — you have to print a form off their website and bring it in with a check. So much for living in the future! But I do really love our library and make a ton of use of it, so I feel this would be a good way for me to give back.

Relatedly, I want to attend a program at the local library. I keep wanting to do this, but again, they don’t make it easy. Since the library closes at 8pm on weekdays, the place is usually about to close up when I’m getting back into town at 7pm or 7:30pm. I think I can make this work with a little more planning, however.

3) Visit a few new-to-me local parks, attractions, hiking trails, and businesses. I’ll start by coming up with a list of places I’d like to try!

I think that should keep me busy for at least another year!

2019 Retrospective

For the first time in a long time, this post doesn’t feel like an apology. This was a great year, and I can’t help but think that my theme for 2019 — emotional homesteading — is why.

As outlined in that post, my emotional homesteading plan had six main points. Let’s go over those first, and then I’ll have some things to say about what else happened this year. I might even take some time to reflect on the entire decade!

Emotional Homesteading

1) Meditation and mindfulness practice

This year I forged a regular meditation practice, with some help from the Calm app, which I love. I only started using Calm in May, but from the records it keeps, I estimate I meditate two out of three days, for an average of 10-12 minutes each time.

This habit has helped me to stay on an even keel despite some rough seas this year. Meditation really is a practice, like I wrote — I don’t notice an affect my mood and overall happiness if I skip one day, or a few days. But eventually it eats away at that peaceful refuge behind a waterfall that I’ve worked so hard to build. In that way, it’s a little like the sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea.

2) Boundaries

As I wrote in my original post, boundaries are about knowing the difference between what I want and what other people want. In that vein I wanted to ask “who wants this?” before taking on a new activity.

I also wanted to be more aware that what I want in the moment may be very different from my long-term needs and wants.

This is always hard to quantify, but I think I did okay. One example I can think of off the top of my head is: I turned down Matt’s plan to run a 10k before Consequences next year, because I knew that running it with other people would bring out the ugly competitive part of myself.

Relatedly, I know there were some things I wanted to do — pretty sure they were what I wanted to do, too — that I passed up because I knew it would be too much for me. (Like declining to play Dammerung larp, which looked fascinating to me, but was super far away, in PA, and would have required a high quality of kit).

It’s still tough for me to anticipate how Lise-of-the-moment will respond to a commitment that Lise-of-Christmas-Past has made, but I’m developing some heuristics. Like: don’t schedule things on the Thursday before a larp, or maybe don’t schedule plans in December when you need to prepare to host Christmas for your family, or if you can, take time off to decompress after larps.

3) Self-care

When I wrote about self-care in the prospective, I didn’t use this fabulous quote, which really gets to the heart of what self-care means to me:

True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.

Brianna Wiest, Thought Catalog

You know I love my escapism! But escapism can be a symptom of something wounded in me.

This past week was tough for me, for Secret Reasons. So it is perhaps not surprising that I chose to start my Saturday with a session of Craft the World, the silly dwarf building game I’ve been playing lately. And I’m at peace with the fact that that’s the best I could do at that moment. Rest is as important to the self-care journey as anything else.

That said, it can be hard sometimes to tell the difference between the need for rest, and plain ol’ experiential avoidance. I need new experiences, but I also need solitude. This quote from poet May Sarton’s journal sums up this tension:

I am here alone for the first time weeks, to take up my ‘real’ life again, at last. That is what is strange — that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet I taste it fully only when I am alone…

May Sarton

I am still learning this balance. This year, I think I pushed it a little, trying to see where my limits lay. And in the process I had some fabulous adventures! I also learned that I’m actually more of an ambivert than I originally thought, but when my depression is bad, I definitely act more like an introvert.

At the end of the day, I feel I showed strongly in terms of self-care this year, forging the sort of life I don’t have to escape from.

First of all, I got back to walking/running in a gentler way. (I actually meant to run a race, for a charity I cared about, and not with anyone I knew — but I came down with a bad cold and couldn’t!) My fitness showed when I visited Bath in November, and was able to walk the six-mile Skyline trail and not be much the worse for wear (except covered in mud).

Then, I went through the process of getting diagnosed with ADHD, and finally got my diagnosis right at the end of December. (Combined type). I still need to get treatment, which is a challenge all its own! (Not a lot of psychiatrists in our area that are taking new patients).

Oh, and I took some baths in my new bathtub 😉

4) Simplicity and minimalism

I did okay in this area. I did a few “declutter bursts,” where you get rid of 100 items in an hour. (Honestly, counting the items was the hardest part). Plus near the end of the year Matt got into the spirit of decluttering and cleaning the house — partially because his parents were visiting, partially because he wanted to be able to work in the sewing room again — and we got rid of a LOT of stuff, including books, clothes, gadgets, and lots of unnecessary paper.

I also re-read Thoreau’s Walden this year, as promised. In the process I remembered that really everything good in Walden is in the first and last chapters, and the middle is soggy and tedious.

I did not succeed in going through my collection of indie perfumes, mostly because I boggle at what to do with all of them.

5) Creativity

I’m pretty happy with where I landed with this goal. As promised, I did get back to writing — a.k.a. editing Lioness — but not in any sort of hurried way. I’m still working my way through it. It continues to be incredibly challenging, and I keep taking long breaks and then forgetting everything I wrote and then having to re-read.

Other things I created this year:

I also made some progress on the Neverending Cross-stitch Project, and did some sketching as Melusina. I began work on getting this antique quilt I own ready to hang on the wall, but faced some obstacles with how damaged it was, and needing to repair it.

I was really drawn this year towards the advice espoused in Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism: fix or create something every week. (I’m paraphrasing; I don’t have the book in front of me right now).

6) Connection

I feel mostly satisfied here, although there are some further steps I could have taken.

I definitely was more involved with family — I went out to my Uncle Joe’s house twice for family events, and I hosted a visit from Matt’s parents, and my dad. I went to visit my mom a couple of times, in addition to our annual trip to Stratford, and I also went camping with my dad.

I sent out holiday cards this year! And I’m getting in the habit of sending out postcards regularly. (Let me know if you’d like to be on the postcard/holiday card list. Everyone likes getting mail, right?)

One area I would like to expand: I’ve realized I have a need for what my pal EB terms “intimate friendships.” i.e. emotionally deep, connective, platonic relationships. (Funnily enough, exactly the sort of friendship I have with EB!) I’ve identified a few people I’d like to try to forge these with, but I was shy about reaching out. I hope to do so in 2020.

Overall

Living with the theme of “emotional homesteading” worked well for me. You may recall I was worried that, given the number of goals, and the vastness of the mandate, I might judge myself too harshly when I got to the end of the year. But on the contrary, it all feels like a win to me. Maybe I have learned to be more gentle with myself.

I’m happy with what I learned, what I did, and who I was in 2019.

I’m happy.

Other stuff wot I did in 2019

Many of these things were in fulfillment of my famous 101 Goals in 1,001 Days list, the period of which ends in February. At 45 items completed out of 101, I’ve knocked the socks off every other time I’ve done this list. If nothing else, I’ve gotten better at setting achievable goals and following through with them!

So this year I…

  • Read 26 books
  • Visited Bath, England
  • Attended Lucky Consequences in Christchurch, England
  • Attended the UK Freeforms run of Torch of Freedom in Retford, England
  • Did an “authors and American revolution” tour of historic Lexington and Concord, MA
  • Celebrated my birthday in New York City
  • Made an impromptu trip to Cape Cod, and rolled around in the ocean surf at Race Point Beach
  • Went rock-climbing
  • Increased my retirement account balance by 66% over 2017
  • Built a bridge for the stream 🙂 Although it got washed away…
  • Attended the Stratford Festival with my mom
  • Went camping with my dad, and visited Ausable Chasm
  • Planned and executed a “Skyrim dinner” with Alison
  • Painted and decorated the guest bedroom
  • Completed our bathroom remodel (okay, my part in this was merely organizational, but STILL…)
  • Took a knife skills class
  • Played in four theater-style larps
  • NPCed five Madrigal 3 events
  • PCed four Shadowvale events
  • Read Jane Eyre, which I’ve been meaning to read since forever
  • Donated blood, at great personal discomfort
  • Attended the Big E
  • Went peach-picking
  • Had a picnic on an island in our lake
  • Hiked Mount Wachusett
  • Slept out under the stars
  • Visited New Haven, CT and ate a hamburger at the famous Louis’ Lunch
  • Visited 30 (!) new-to-me Atlas Obscura sites
  • Attended two beer festivals, and visited a number of microbreweries
  • Set up a new compost bin

The toll of the decade

At the New Year’s Eve party I attended, I was trying to figure out where I was physically ten years ago, on December 31st, 2009. I couldn’t recall precisely — maybe at Chad and Amanda’s New Year’s Eve party, when they were still holding them?– but it brought up a whole storm of memories about my life at that time.

In the past decade I…

Changed careers. I’d lost my job in May of 2009, and used it as an opportunity to change careers, from statistics/research analysis to front-end web development. For about a year I pursued a number of part-time gigs in both fields. I was probably just beginning my contract as a full-stack developer at Nowspeed around the time of that poorly-remembered NYE party. In June of 2010 I would start my job as a junior front-end developer at IDG, where I still am today — though a lot more senior now!

(Say what you will about the decade, but I definitely know a lot more about JavaScript than I did ten years ago 😉 )

Wrote a theater-style larp! (Cracks in the Orb, which I mostly won’t run any more, because Reasons)

Got into boffer larp. NPCed my first one, then PCed one, then staffed one for a time. Because I didn’t have enough expensive hobbies, apparently!

Wrote a couple of novels: Gods and Fathers, my last trunked novel, and well as Lioness, which, it seems, I will never be finished editing!

Attended Viable Paradise 17, an SFF writing workshop, and thus joined a community of amazing, brilliant people.

Got serious about my health. I sought treatment for a bunch of chronic health conditions — PCOS, sleep apnea, and my familial high cholesterol — and I am happier for it.

Started running. I’m the most casual of casual runners, but I’m still doin’ it!

Fired my shitty therapist, and got a new, awesome one.

Broke my left ankle.

Had cubital tunnel release surgery after my left hand went numb suddenly.

Traveled to England eight times (!), and Canada three? four? times.

Paid off our second mortgage.

Made some major renovations to the house.

Lost my cat Yamamaya to kidney disease, and thus mourned the first death of a pet as an adult.

Watched my mother become sick with a chronic lung disease, and was powerless to help.

Went to many, many weddings, was an attendant in four (!), and blessedly attended zero funerals.

Drove the same car (a 2007 Yaris) for most of that time. It’s still going strong, at thirteen years and 230k miles!

Did… four? 101 Goals in 1001 Days challenges. I’m on track for this to be the best challenge yet, in terms of number of goals completed.

Overall? I think I’m much happier than I was back then, so despite the trash fire of a world we live in today, it was a good decade for me.

Let’s do this again in ten years’ time.

The last photo of the decade: some pfantastic pfeffernüsse. Or at least the last picture I took. (Otherwise it would be a picture of Matt’s butt in tight Regency era trousers, but while that would please me, I doubt he would like it very much).

Weekly Update: October 22, 2019

Not nearly as much to report this week, but I might as well start you off with something I forgot from last week:

Mead Update

The last quick mead I made — the one with a hodgepodge of spices — turned out well, and I finished it off quickly, sometime in early September.

My long mead is now bottled and awaiting… I don’t actually know? I should probably look at my mead book again and see how long it recommends aging in bottle for.

We now have a finished bathroom, though, which means I can look into making a five gallon batch!

Donating Blood

One of my 101 Goals in 1,0001 Days was to donate blood, something I hadn’t done since college. So… nearly 20 years ago now? At the time they didn’t even tell me what my blood type was, which was somewhat disappointing. So when my company announced they were hosting a blood drive though, I eagerly signed up to donate my 500mL.

I’m glad I did it, but wow… I do not handle it well, and I don’t think I’ll be able to do it again any time soon. Despite preparing by drinking lots of water and having a full meal beforehand, I got very faint, clammy, and nauseous near the end; I really thought I was going to lose consciousness. I had to sit for thirty minutes just to recover, and I felt drained for the next couple of days. Despite all that, they were able to get a full donation.

Blood donation selfie: rocking the pale Victorian aesthetic.

The blood drive nurses were great, though, and I regaled them with facts about Vincent Price. Like the Lise do.

After that, the only problem was that on Friday night I was scheduled to attend…

Shadowvale

Shadowvale event 10 was fantastic! However, I was in not great physical shape going into it, due to the blood draw. I first realized there was a problem when unloading the car and making my bed completely exhausted me. Then, walking up the hill to McKnight Hall for registration, I had to stop twice. I cornered Scott, one of the perm NPCs, and asked him to make a request to staff not to murder me too hard that night.

I managed to make it through the evening, though I only fought in one fight. (Where I managed to actually backstab Alex P! Go me!… of course I was so surprised that I didn’t run away fast enough, and he caught up to me, cut me down, and inflicted me with something, soooo….) I went to bed early, after explaining to many people that I’d had a run-in with a tiny vampire. (I probably should have said “tiny benevolent vampire”, though, since apparently someone interpreted this as having been bitten by a tick?)

I didn’t feel fully recovered until Sunday… just in time for game to end. Womp womp.

The highlight of my event was the Nocturne celebration on Saturday night. Nocturne is the holiday of the goddess my character Melusina worships, the Lady of Mysteries, goddess of luck, mystery, and the night. The last Nocturne that happened in game was memorable for her, too.

This Nocturne involved Mel’s father figure, the Masque of Night. You know, the guy who indoctrinated her in a cult of assassins and then, when one of her assassinations went awry, left her hanging — suddenly, unaccountably, and very literally?

Yeah… he showed up in Crown Expedition encampment, gating in from far-away Avaria. And asked Melusina to kill someone for him.

IT WAS INTENSE, yo.

The Masque of Night was played by staffer Matt M, who I spoke to afterwards about the role. Apparently when he asked Lisa (who wrote that plot) for RP instructions, Lisa told him, “Gaslight her.”

Which he did admirably! I asked him why he left me to die, and his response was something like, “well, you were an adult, I figured you could handle it.” When I told him this was all a lot to take in, he basically told me to pull myself together!

I managed to satisfy him that the deed was done (while conspiring with another Veiled Priest to get the target out of town). Later, when we were talking of the assassination that nearly got Mel hanged, I said something like, “it was messy,” and he did a (very clever, I thought) thing where he was like, “Oh, that’s a critique; fine. I thought you were going to get all emotional about it again,” i.e. how dare you express emotional dissatisfaction with it.

And then in the midst of all that he still goes on calling her “little shadow.” AUGH.

So, basically, it was a fantastically wrenching experience for Melusina, but Lise was going YES YES YES and mentally punching the air. It just proves that there’s no emotion so bad that people won’t pay to experience it.

I also had some great RP with Alex P as the Tower Guardian that Melusina is bound to as a Warden Initiate. He’s clearly kind of a spooky guy, given that he’s a shadow/illusion mage whose first question for Melusina was, “have you ever killed before?”, but he also reminds her that shadow is not the same as darkness, and she needs to step into the light. He’s also been super helpful in answering some cosmological questions, just as a powerful mage who’s been… if not alive, then at least aware since nearly the fall of Wystia.

So, basically, he’s the Benevolent Goth Dad to Matt M’s Gaslighting Murder Dad.

All in all, I have never wanted a larp to NOT end as much as I want Shadowvale not to end. I’m in love with the staff and NPCs, the level of personal plot collaboration I have with that staff, and even the fighting style I’m doing. (Flanking is sooooo fun).

Cottington 2, when it starts, will scratch some of this itch, but it’s still a very different game, and right now I’m having trouble summoning up floon about it.

But hey… there are still four events left, and I intend to make the most of them.

Anyway, on Monday afternoon I found my Matt had made this important modification to my Shadowvale packing list:

Fleece-lined leggings, drawing kit… thankfully Gaslighting Murder Dads are self-packing.

ADHD

As I’ve mentioned elseweb, I’ve been trying to get an ADHD diagnosis. I believe this is something I’ve been struggling with my whole life, but didn’t know until recently wasn’t normal. I feel like I probably have the combined type, with signs of both inattentiveness (forgetfulness, absentmindedness) and hyperactivity (all the self-destructive skin picking habits I have, as well as my impulsivity). This all culminated when I took the ADHD test on ADDitudemag.com and scored a 94%!

There’s been a lot of doctor and insurance wrangling, but eventually I found my way to a psychologist who can diagnose me with the disorder. I put together beforehand a document stating why I thought I had ADHD; after I read it to him, he said, “That sure sounds like someone with ADHD.”

He then gave me a ton of paper assessments to take home, for me and for other people in my life. (My mom had to answer some questions about my childhood academic performance; and Matt gets to basically answer all the same questions I do). Once I fill all those out, I send them back to the psychologist, and he schedules me for a computerized test of executive function. Then he interprets all the results, and refers me back to a psychiatrist who can prescribe meds.

If anyone wants to read my statement, I can share it, but the upshot is that I’m sick of thinking of myself as lazy and not living up to my potential. I really feel like if I can corral my attention, I can do nearly anything.

On that note, I have about three bajillion other things I should be working on, so let’s bring this post to a close…

Weekly Update: September 8, 2019

Peach picking, getting back to editing, my talented friends and their awesome books, and NATURE.

It’s been a while — I spent a big chunk of August on vacation. I’m working on a longer travelogue, but in the interest of writing regularly, here’s what I’ve been up to since I got back, or stuff that was tangential to my vacation.

Peach picking

Last weekend I went peach (and raspberry, and blueberry) picking at Carlson Orchards in Harvard, MA. In addition to crossing it off my 101 goals in 1001 days list, it also meant I got to spend some time with my excellent friends Becky, Arnis, Kim, and Dave.

In the process I…

  • Learned how to tell a peach was ready to be picked. (Half yellow/half pink, with the ridges on the top yielding to the touch)
  • Had some fantastic falafel from Chez Rafiki, a Mediterranean restaurant that has a food truck at the orchard.
  • Discovered that the orchard plays alarm calls of certain birds in their raspberry patch — presumably to keep birds from eating the fruit. What a great idea!
  • Bought a case of their amazing Shandy Stand, which I tasted and loved at the Johnny Appleseed Beer Festival.

Now I have SO MUCH FRUIT to eat…

Reading

I of course got a ton of reading done while traveling!

I finished (at last!) The Unbound Empire, the final book of my pal Melissa Caruso’s Swords and Fire trilogy. That it took me so long to finish is not a mark against it; once I was able to sit down and concentrate, it was engrossing! I kept wondering how various things were going to resolve — the love triangle, Ruven’s machinations, etc — and I can truly say that it delivered an end to the series that was surprising, but, in retrospect, inevitable. I’m truly, truly pleased with the conclusion, and I’m excited to see more of Vaskandar in the new series.

In continuing adventures of “I have incredibly talented author friends,” I finally read Django Wexler’s Ship of Smoke and Steel, the first book in his YA fantasy trilogy, the Wells of Magic. I actually had read part of it already, it turned out; he’d sent it to me to critique back when he was still calling it “Deepwalker.” It’s the story of ruthless mob boss with combat magic, Isoka, who gets thrown onto a giant ship/city, Soliton, and has to figure out how to commandeer it in order to save the life of her sister.

ANYWAY it’s just fantastic. I agree with the reviewer who said that the action scenes are cinematic — in particular I thought the dredwurm fight, with mushroom spores flying around, was particularly colorful. It’s also paced beautifully, pulling you from one adventure to another with curiosity about the magic system, this ginormous ship, and wtf is going on.

Isoka is also a fascinating character; she starts out kind of a terrible person, which is something that’s super rare for a female, first-person protagonist. But her ruthlessness is a tool that she uses to climb the hierarchy of Soliton, and that? That I looooved. (Also she is marginally less awful by the end of the book, in ways that totally make sense).

There was… kind of a love triangle? Although I felt that if you’ve read anything of Django’s, you knew exactly how it was going to end 😉 I was rooting for Zarun, either way. I like my charismatic assholes.

After I marked it as “read” on Goodreads, though, I made the mistake of reading some reviews of it and… man, there are some people willfully misreading the romance in that book. It left me with a combination of “did you read the same book as I did?” and “DING DONG YOU ARE WRONG.” Ultimately I think a lot of people don’t know what to do with a female protagonist like Isoka.

I’ve already preordered the next book, which comes out January 2020, so I think that tells you my ultimate opinion 😉

While I was in Stratford, I also read Jeannette Walls’ Half-Broke Horses, which she describes as a “true-life novel” about her grandmother, who was a homesteader, horse trainer, bootlegger, and teacher in New Mexico and Arizona in the early 20th century. I liked this way better than I did The Glass Castle, which was way too intense for me. It turns out, I just really like stories about people homesteading and being self-reliant! This was definitely a story I wanted to linger in.

Writing

I have been getting back to editing Lioness. Still on draft 3, as I have been for the past… year? Two years? (Too long!) Every time I’m away for any significant period of time, I have to do what I call “reuploading the manuscript into working memory,” which is basically just re-reading it. At 120k words, that takes a bit of time!

However, this reupload, I was pleased to make two discoveries: 1) there were bits that I didn’t remember writing that I found quite clever! and b) I was further along in my edits than I had thought. So that was heartening.

Still, editing continues to be painful. It feels like closing the doors on so many possibilities.

Mead chronicles: the meading continues!

Batch #1, the semisweet mead per Ken Schramm’s The Compleat Meadmaker, is still in secondary fermentation. It is supposed to remain there until it clears and all fermentation has stopped for two weeks. It has cleared, but fermentation is still going, verrrrrry slooooowly, so I’ve left it there.

I’ve picked up a few goodies for bottling it, namely some swing-top bottles, and some Saniclean/iodophor, because I’ve heard so many negatives about sanitizing with bleach.

Last week I put on a new batch of quick mead, cleverly called batch #2, using the recipe from the Elder Scrolls cookbook and a spice blend of my own imagining: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, juniper berries, and grains of paradise. I have no idea how this will turn out! It may be utterly undrinkable! But at least I only have to wait another week or so to find out.

The mystery mead! How will it turn out??

iNaturalist, and a recent walk in the woods

I’ve become utterly obsessed with iNaturalist, an app and website which allows you to engage in citizen science out in the wild and get feedback on your observations. I started using it when I was up in Canada, and then went through MY ENTIRE CAMERA ROLL and uploaded every nature picture I had, getting identifications for most of them. I just started using it in mid August, and I’ve already logged 80 observations, most of them flowering plants, because that’s kind of my thing.

What I’m beginning to discover is that no matter how many times I tread a certain path, there is always something new to discover — even if it’s just opening my eyes to something I’ve overlooked a million times. For example, I went for a walk today at work, along the Cochituate Rail Trail — a path I probably walk at least a hundred times a year — and saw velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti), which was entirely new to me. (And, unfortunately, an invasive species). I’m also starting to branch out (haha) into tree identification, and suddenly I notice Eastern redbud and witch hazel and shagbark hickory when I pass them.

(P.S. I’m lisefrac on iNat, if you want to look me up there).

Anyway, this past weekend Matt and I went on a long ramble through the Hickory Hills woods and Lunenburg Town Forest, visiting some parts we’d never seen before. It’s kind of amazing how quickly it changes from a dense undergrowth of heath (mountain laurel, partridge berry, wintergreens, etc) to… well, almost nothing, in the parts to the north of the lake. Probably a sign to how recently different parts have been reforested, I would guess.

The bugs were pretty awful — and I was covered up pretty well, due to the high risk of EEE in Massachusetts right now — so it was not the most pleasant or comfortable walk in the woods I’ve ever had. However! I did see some species I’d only read about before, like downy rattlesnake plantain, or cardinal flower.

(When I saw the cardinal flowers, I was, no lie, about 100 feet away, and this flash of brilliant red caught my eye. I had a brief moment of hope — because this was the right season for it, if nothing else — but then almost brushed it off as “nah, it’s probably just foliage of some sort.” But as I got a little closer, it seemed more floral in shape, so I went bounding, literally into a marsh, to take a picture of it).

The Year of Habitat: the detailed plan

As I wrote about in my 2018 resolution post, I have declared this the year of habitat — the year of making my home and surroundings more comfortable and habitable, instead of living like an itinerant college student.

I had an intention in that post, but I never talked about what my plan is. I do in fact have one! I’ve been refining it during the month of January, and I thought I’d share it here, for personal accountability.

Rooms and projects

I started by making a list of all the projects and tasks I wanted to get done in each room. This list is aspirational; I’m realistic that I’m not going to achieve everything on the list. This was mostly to give me a sense of how long to devote to each space; I allocated a star rating of difficulty to each room based on the number and size of tasks.

I also wanted to take seasons into account — I don’t want to be working in my unheated basement in winter; nor do I want to be working in the computer room/library in the heat of the summer (i.e. the room that gets so warm, even with central air, that we put an auxiliary A/C unit in there).

There are also some question marks in here. Do I need a new dishwasher? No; the one we have works okay, but it’s older than our tenure in the house, starting to break down, and probably not very energy-efficient. Likewise, I don’t need a new couch or end tables, but our couch is ratty and cat-clawed and our end tables are black-matte-painted monstrosities. (I was gratified when Matt told me, completely on his own, “We might need to consider replacing the sectional in the near future”).

There are a couple of big projects that span the whole house that aren’t always explicitly mentioned here:

One, the previous owners looooooved cellular shades, and installed them in every single room in very… bold colors. (Pink, wine red, baby blue, etc). I really do not like cellular shades. They look cheap, and they break easily — many of them already have. And I do not need pink anything in my dining room, thank you.

Two, the upstairs bathroom needs an entire remodel. On top of fixtures which are BABY BLUE, the bathtub leaks and has been patched numerous times. (We haven’t used it in years, because of this). About the only thing I like about it is the wooden cabinets. We are planning to get some professional help to address this room this year.

The downstairs bathroom isn’t much better. Water has leaked into it from the upstairs tub, damaging the ceiling. The counters and walls are a peach color, and the tile is vintage 1980s. (Matt argues this room needs a full remodel, too. But I’m not as keen to tackle it this year).

Three, skylights. Hey, skylights are great. But in a house with central air… why do they need to open? In my experience with skylights, having ones that open is just asking for double the amount of leaks. And gosh, do these things leak. It will sometimes pour rain in our sunroom, depending on conditions. Replacing them may need to be a thing that happens.

Those are the overarching concerns. Let’s go room by room now:

Kitchen (**)
– new dishwasher?
– finally replace microwave over range
– clean out, replace, or get rid of old coffee pot
– clean out gap between window and screen
– clean behind fridge
– have well water tested (do after a heavy rainstorm)
– glue foot back on cutting board
– Replace bulb above sink

Dining room (*)
– replace, or at least remove, old broken blinds
– get rid of cookbooks we don’t use (which is most of them)
– replace bulbs in chandelier
– Hang/find a place for family photos

Living room (**)
– clean/purge/organize media collection
– new end tables?
– new couch/seating?
– new media console?
– Wash drapes
– Consolidate/digitize my music collection
– Lighting for my ruby flash souvenir glass collection
– Make a sleeve for and hang decorative quilt
– Organize cat files/paperwork

Downstairs bathroom (*)
– Replace light/fan fixture
– Paint walls
– Replace/cover damaged bit of ceiling from water leak

Sunroom (*)
– Replace skylights with ones that don’t open?
– window treatments
– clean/purge/organize board games/rpgs

Mudroom (**)
– cover cat door (with something more permanent than cardboard & duct tape)
– stain step
– clean behind washer/dryer

Basement – sewing room (***)
– better storage for fabric and yarn
– get rid of desk?
– shampoo carpet

Basement – costume storage (*) and workshop (*) – these mostly just need cleaning/purging/organizing

Upstairs bathroom (***)
– (short term) rehang mirror
– (short term) reattach towel bar
– (long term) full renovation – new bath, toilet, sink, counters – want a heated towel rack – better ventilation/fan
– replace skylight window with one that doesn’t open?

Master bedroom (**)
✅ See if curtains I bought work
✅ Set up reading nook
✅ Acquire carpet
✅ move one of the cat posts out
– new lamps (or just new lamp harps/shades)
– Purge unwanted clothes – I’ll give myself half a checkmark for this; I did get rid of a lot of stuff, but could probably do more
✅ Clean/purge/organize loft
– Put up mirror that came with bedroom set? (Requires cleaning stickers off it first)

Computer room(*)
– Consolidate my collection of digital photos
– Remove blinds by the foot of my desk?
– Scan box of mementos/nostalgia
– Select 10 favorite postcards from European postcard collection, frame them, and hang them in my writing space

Guest room (**)
– Paint walls
– Hang three-panel screen
– Remove and sort clothes from loft
– purge/organize larp memorabilia

Deck (**)
– Stain portion of the deck we replaced
– Re-stain the rest of the deck

Garden (***)
– Build a bridge for the stream
– Remove old garden gate

Screenhouse (**)
– Acquire outdoor dining set
– Patch holes in screen
– Better solution than crappy tiles for floor

Schedule

Basically I plan to focus on a difference space each month. Some spaces are more work than others, and some months are busier than others — and I don’t have exactly twelve spaces — but I’ve tried to break it down relatively equitably.

January: bedroom
February: living room/downstairs bathroom
March: kitchen
April: upstairs bathroom
May: guest room
June: garden/screenhouse
July: deck/garden
August: basement
September: mudroom
October: sun room
November: dining room
December: computer room

Upkeep/maintenance

As part of this project, I’d like to become more regular about keeping my house ordered and clean. I have very much found that (to quote Gretchen Rubin) “outer order contributes to inner calm.” Keeping a neat house keeps my anxiety at bay and helps me to be more energetic and productive.

… which honestly sucks, because I hate cleaning.

I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous cleaning calendars going around on FB — something that someone like me, who works full time and has a number of active hobbies, who could not maintain.


Incidentally, this is about all I am qualified to do in Photoshop.

The closest I’ve found to a cleaning and maintenance schedule that works for me is Unfuck Your Habitat’s cleaning lists. Even then, I find them a bit… ambitious, and I have to modify them to keep with the “do what you can; no marathons” ethos of the site. (Which is really great, btw, and aimed at people who have physical limitations, like chronic illness, that keep them from doing as much as they would like). The actual number of items on the UFYH list is greater, but each one seems smaller. No MOPPING YOUR KITCHEN EVERY DAY.

So here’s my modification of the UFYH lists. It’s evolved over the course of January-February, and is continuing to evolve.

Daily list:
– Make bed (if someone’s not in it, i.e. mostly on weekends)
– Wipe down one surface
– Wash dishes
– Put clothes and shoes away
– Deal with incoming mail
– Clean litterbox
– One 20/10 on an area that needs it
– Prepare for tomorrow, if going into the office (pick out outfit, pack up laptop and gym bag, optionally make lunch)

Weekly:
– Vacuum upstairs or downstairs (alternate)
– Wash, dry, and put away laundry
– Wipe down stovetop/oven door
– Take trash out
– Put away everything on bedroom floor

Bi-weekly (every two weeks, not twice a week!):
– Wash sheets
– Wash towels and rags
– Break down cardboard and recycle
– Clean toilets

Monthly:
– Dust all surfaces
– Wipe down baseboards
– Clean out refrigerator
– Wipe down bathroom walls
– Clean light switches and door handles
– Shred or file old bills and mail
– Clean shower
– Mop upstairs or downstairs floors (alternate)
– Do full litter replacement

Seasonally:
– Wash curtains/clean vertical blinds
– Go through closet and sort through clothes
– Vacuum/clean upholstered furniture
– Clean oven
– Vacuum and rotate mattress
– Clean out bathroom drawers and cabinets
– Change water pitcher filter
– Change HVAC filter
– Clean out and organize pantry

Do I do all of this every day/week/month/season? Gods, no. It’s hard to go from mopping your floor once a year to mopping monthly. But it gives me a framework, if nothing else. I always know what I could be doing to maintain the house. So while being somewhat aspirational, it still does spur me to do stuff.

For me the most important daily tasks are washing dishes and doing the litterboxes, and being sure to pack my gym bag on Sunday night, to set the tone for the week. Making the bed only rarely happens, because there’s usually someone in it when I get up — my husband, 1-3 cats, or all of the above. And that’s okay. It’s nice to get into a made bed, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. (Ha).

Weekly, vacuuming takes the highest priority; everything else happens automatically (i.e. I clean the stovetop when I’m wiping down the counters, or Matt does the laundry).

Also note that all I care is that this stuff is done; it doesn’t matter who in our house does it. Fundamentally, things like doing the laundry or cleaning the litterboxes usually fall to Matt; he also cooks all the food. So a lot of these tasks are “do them unless Matt has already done them.”

So far?

January was devoted to the bedroom, and folks, it is so much more comfortable than it was a month or so ago. I have a comfortable space to read in, with a neatly folded blanket on a (relatively) clean chair under good lighting with a stack of books beside it. My closets and drawers are emptier. The contents of my bedroom loft have reduced by half, and I no longer am tripping over Christmas ornaments. I HAVE CURTAINS!!! AND A RUG!! Here is a photo of my progress on the room — alas, I didn’t prepare any dramatic before/after shots.

Is it magazine-worthy? Hell no. Is it a sight better than it was in 2017? HELLZ YES. I felt such a sense of peace and calm sitting in that room last weekend, reading and drinking coffee.

This month — February — I am tackling the living room and the downstairs bathroom. (Short term stuff for the downstairs bathroom, if Matt really wants to do a full remodel). It’s tougher because I’m away several weekends in February (Mad3, Intercon coming up) and it’s a shorter month, but I’m hoping to go furniture shopping this weekend and replace some of our beat-up living room pieces. I like having an area rug in the bedroom so much that I might just put one in the living room, too.

I’m cautiously optimistic.

2017 Retrospective/2018 Resolutions

This is a year that sucked for a lot of people. In many ways, for me, too, the world is a darker, scarier place–

Oh crap, that’s how I began last year’s post. Um. Well. Still true?

This was also a year for some personal achievements, so I can’t condemn all of 2017 to the trash heap. Here’s where I’ve been and what I did.

Last Year’s Resolutions

For 2017 I wanted to complete edits on Lioness and query agents. This was a partial success. I felt a lot of resistance to editing, and I’m embarrassed to admit I avoided it for much of the year. But in the last days of 2017, I “finished” structural edits and send the story to my beta readers. I use the scare-quotes because editing feels like something that’s never finished; Lioness wasn’t so much released to my beta readers as allowed to escape. But: progress.

Write four new short stories. Partial success. I wrote three flash-length stories as part of the Codex flash contest, and started work on two (theoretically short) pieces. Two of those (“The Mirrors of Her Eyes” and “Granny Hubbard vs. the Giant Slime”) have been edited and sent out to a few markets.

Participate in one of the Codex flash fiction challenges. Success! I participated in Flash, Savior of the Universe (FSOTU) 2017, the winter flash contest on Codex, and wrote a story for all three rounds. And my scores weren’t totally shitty!

Read 50 new-to-me short stories. Success! Even though I read the last one on December 31st 🙂 Sam J. Miller’s “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood,” “The Dauphin’s Metaphysics,” by Eric Schwitzgebel, and “Scattered Along the River of Heaven,” by Aliette de Bodard, were among some of my favorites.

Conclusion: In my Year of the Short Story, I discovered… I don’t enjoy short stories as much as I enjoy novels. It has something to do with immersion — I value spending time in a beautifully crafted SFF world, but by the time I get into a short story, it dumps me out into the real world again. Given all this, maybe I shouldn’t spend my limited writing/reading time focusing on them? A fine thing to discover halfway through the year, but there you go.

Other Cool Stuff Wot I Did in 2017

  • Read 25 books
  • Wrote 12 substantive blog posts (i.e. not the accomplishments posts)
  • Visited England and attended Kaleidoscopic Consequences
  • Attended the Stratford Festival with my mom
  • Got my druid Wodehouse to 110 in WoW
  • Completed Nighthold (normal and heroic), Tomb of Sargeras (normal and heroic), and Antorus (normal) with my guild in WoW
  • Did a road trip through Western Massachusetts with EB
  • Did a road trip (with a stay at a theme hotel) in New Hampshire with EB
  • Finally framed the 10-year anniversary gift I made for Matt
  • Completed season one of Zombies Run!
  • Ran my first 5k race
  • Completed two developer self-directed days: one on CSS Shapes and clipping/masking, and a second on CSS Grid layout
  • Visited ten places on Atlas Obscura I hadn’t been before
  • Replaced the lamp globes in my upstairs bathroom
  • Started playing a new boffer larp campaign, Shadowvale
  • Finished PCing my first boffer larp campaign, Fifth Gate (Silverfire)
  • Staffed three Tales from the Cotting House events
  • NPCed five Madrigal 3 events
  • Played in four theater-style larps

What I Want to Do in 2017

As I wrote about in “Moving into my own life”, my theme for 2018 is going to be habitat. As I wrote there:

So, starting in 2018, I am moving — into my own life. I am going to do the things you do when you move: go through my crap and getting rid of what no longer suits, make our house into a comfortable place to live, and keep it that way through regular maintenance. I am going to make it the sort of place I love to spend time, instead of the kind of place I dread to come home to.

I’m still working out a concrete plan on how I will tackle these goals, going through each room of my house. And of course, I have the “Habitat” section of my 101 goals in 1001 days list to refer to.

What else? By itself, that could keep me busy for a year! But I feel remiss if I don’t hit on some other aspects of my life.

Writing: There are more edits ahead first, but by the end of 2018, I’d like to have queried a non-zero number of agents. I would also like to do Pitch Wars or another pitch contest.I will continue to submit my short pieces to markets, until hell won’t have ’em, etc.

Reading: My Goodreads Challenge for 2018 is 30 books. I really admire those folks who read 100+ books per year, but I, dear reader, am not one of them.

Health: I intend to continue to run and mostly stick with a healthy, low-GI diet. I’ll try to take my vitamin D and use my sunlamp more regularly.

Family: I will spend time with my mom, who has a terminal lung disease. I’m already planning to go to the Stratford Festival with her in 2018, her health permitting.

And that’s about it. But most importantly:


The last photo of 2017. I did, in fact, pet more kitties this year.

A much-belated 2016 resolutions post

Said I to myself, at the end of December/beginning of January: “Who needs goals and resolutions? I just want to have fun in 2016! ANARCHY WOOOO.”

And thus commenced some of the worst depression in my life.

Perhaps this attitude is not terribly helpful for my well-being. Perhaps I am not good at undirected fun-having.

Look. I’m having significant issues with self-esteem, internal validation, poor body image, etc. I see how I am constantly looking for external validation, even though I know it’s not going to make me happy. Even as I realize that my self-worth is an empty pit into which compliments and reassurances fall with a thud.

I have to fill that pit myself.

I… have no idea how.

How do you shovel shit into a hole?

It seems like some people do this* by setting realistic goals and achieving them. A sense of mastery, it turns out, contributes to a sense of self-esteem.

Sidebar: Is that it? Setting goals and meeting them? I don’t think so. At the end of the day it’s dangerous to tie our well-being entirely to abilities we may lose. To use a trite phrasing, we are human beings, not human doings. But it’s a start. Suggestions on other ways to fill the pit of self-worth are certainly appreciated.

So I did a tarot reading around the theme of–

–I know that sounds ridiculous, but bear with me. I could write a whole post on my attitude towards “fortune-telling” devices like tarot. Executive summary: I don’t believe they’re supernatural, or have any real oracular ability. But I do believe in the divine trickery of stories, i.e. the message I send to myself in interpreting the cards.

ANYWAY. I asked what will help me in my search for self-esteem, and the response I got was the Ace of Pentacles, which has to do with things like NEW BEGINNINGS and MANIFESTATION OF GOALS.

ace_pentacles
Isn’t this a happy-looking card?

Message received. Set some fucking resolutions, lady.

The towering inferno of last year’s plans

First, let’s talk about last year’s goals: to write 50% of the days and read 50 books.

I did neither of these things exactly. I wrote about 34% of the days, and I read 32 books (counting one I abandoned because it deeply displeased me).

I love writing, but the demoralizing hell of submitting my work and having it continually rejected took a toll on me this year, and I don’t feel I’ve had traction in this area for a couple of months. (This doesn’t seem reflected in the number of submissions I put out there, but my brain is really good at concocting catastrophes).

Reading-wise, I feel like I’ve tackled a goodly number of “tough” but rewarding books this year (like Our Mutual Friend), so the actual number concerns me less.

Overall, these are non-zero numbers, and I’m happy with what I did. Hell, I wrote 51,000 words this year on Lioness, which is nothing to sniff at.

Other cool stuff wot I did in 2015

  • Wrote a couple of new short stories, “Remember to Die” and “Handedness.” The latter I probably won’t do anything with, but I’ve been shopping the former around (see below).
  • Wrote a few new poems
  • Wrote a terribad piece of smut for a local burlesque group
  • Wrote some Fifth Gate fanfic – “Unending Circle” and “The Eyrie Goes to the Beach”
  • Submitted “Powder of Sympathy” to seven places — notably, this was my first time ever submitting to a short fiction market.
  • Submitted “Remember to Die” to a few places
  • Queried three different agents with Gods and Fathers. I think I’m trunking it/backburnering it at this point in time.
  • Started PCing my first boffer larp (Fifth Gate – Silverfire)
  • Made costuming for said boffer larp (an invocation circle, underdress, and overdress)
  • Tried two foods off the Omnivore’s 100 that I hadn’t tried before — curried goat and snail
  • Completed a 21-day habit streak for writing
  • Relaunched this site (as a slightly-more-professional bit of branding. Except for the part where I still swear like a sailor).
  • Attended my first (and so far only) SCA event
  • Played in seven new-to-me theater-style larps
  • Visited Ireland and England
  • PAID OFF THE SECOND MORTGAGE WOOHOO
  • Got a significant raise and promotion at work (to Senior Front-end Developer)
  • Raised my 401k contribution to $80/pay period

The past is boring! What am I doing this year?

Well, first up: I want to finish Lioness (it’s at 91k words), edit it, and begin querying agents. Everything after that is out of my control, and is the sort of external validation I need to stop thinking so hard about.

In the interest of not continuing to go through life like a brain in a jar, I need to get more in touch with my squishy meat body. This, I think, will help with my body image issues. I think my exercise-related goals in my 101 goals list are pretty good, starting with a 21-day habit streak and the introductory fitness ladder.

Oh, an entirely fun and trivial thing — I want to get a tattoo. I’ve had several ideas rolling around in my brain for YEARS (a post about that maybe forthcoming?), and I’d like to finally see ink put to flesh. In particular, I’ll probably opt for the Nerevarine Moon-and-Star from TES III: Morrowind first, which is perfect in its “this is exceptionally geeky but looks mainstream to anyone who doesn’t know better”-ness.

And that should be enough to keep me busy — and, hopefully, happy.

Final note

I have a TON of posts I have been neglecting while the energy-sucking flu has been particularly bad. You may see a greater volume from me in the next few days. Given how infrequently I’ve been posting, I doubt this will be an issue.

The State of the Writing (July 2015)

I’ve set various writing goals this year, and this post is to check my progress on them, since it’s now about halfway through the year.

In January I said I wanted to do something writing-related every day — at least 50% of the days. It looks like my current percentage is 42%, after some rough months (March and April, for example). Thankfully, I’m out of larp season now, so I hope I can be more consistent.

Let’s look at my novel projects:

Gods and Fathers. I’ve revised my query so many bloody times now I’m not even sure what this book is about, but still no bites from agents. I’m tempted to trunk it (or self-pub it, since there’s at least some interest among my friends), but I also feel like I haven’t queried as many agents as I could. And I haven’t sent it directly to any publishers, certainly.

I think if I started this novel today, it’d be exceptionally different, and I’d handle certain cultural/ethnic concerns better. I don’t think it’s offensive or anything, but I suspect there are parts people could squint at and say, “Really?”

Maybe that’s the signal I should put it aside. I don’t know. I’m a terrible judge of my own writing.

Lioness Embarked, on the other hand, is going very well at the moment. I just passed 63k yesterday night. At the end of April I decided to participate in the Codex Novel Contest, setting a goal (roughly) of 10k words per month until the contest ends in December.

However, in May I logged only 3k words, and in June about 5k. (Thanks, larp season!) To try to get back on schedule, I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I have to write about ~700 words per day to make up for May and June’s missed words and get July’s done — a total of 21,600 words.

Of course, this is assuming a book of about 110k words, which may be more than I need. It may be less than I need, too, though, which is the concern.

So far, a week into the month, it’s been challenging, but I remain more or less on track! We’ll see it this can hold up through Readercon and the Shadows one-day, which are my big time-sucks this month.

Eventually I am going to need more alpha and/or beta readers. Right now I have my writing group, and EB, basically. These folks have valuable feedback, but I’d especially like some transfolk as readers, since there’s a character who identifies that way in this novel, and I worry I’m doin’ it wrong.

If you’re interested in trying on the role of alpha reader — reading as I produce pages — but aren’t sure if you can commit to 100k words of my deathless prose, let me know, and I’ll send you the first chapter. You can decide from there if you want to continue. I’ve been pitching this novel as “a fantasy genderqueer retelling of The Three Musketeers from the perspective of the series’ antagonists,” so if that sounds like your cuppa, let me know.

If you’re interested, but want to wait until the novel’s finished, let me know, too, although I’ll probably forget between now and then and ask again later 😉

Short Fiction

I just submitted “Powder of Sympathy” to Lackington’s for their Dreamings issue. This is the second place I’ve submitted it — it’s only a semipro market, but the theme fit, and the submission window was closing. Given pieces I know were rejected, I suspect I’m going to get the “how is this connected to theme?” rejection (because it requires somewhat of a careful reading to see).

This story is flawed. (Every story is flawed). But dammit, my Dunsanian imitation is pretty dang good, and I wish someone would appreciate it.

I had a few people read the flash pieces that came out of the Codex Weekend Warrior contest–“Remember to Die” and “Handedness.” The consensus seemed to be that “Remember to Die” was the stronger piece, and “Handedness” felt a little too derivative SF.

Given that, I decided to focus on “Remember to Die.” I’ve made some edits which I think strengthened the beginning, but probably botched the ending even worse. I need to take another pass at that, but I’d like to get it out to DSF this week.

Codex is doing its summer flash contest this month, but pretty much all the dates conflict with larp and fandom commitments.

I have three sad, half-finished short pieces in the world of Gods & Fathers and Lioness which I will not be focusing on any time soon. They’re the kind of things that are only interesting if you’ve read the novels, though, and I don’t think they can stand alone.

Other than that, the other short fiction I’ve written this year has been a couple of Fifth Gate ficlets and “The Little Dutch Boy,” the purposefully terribad historical smut I wrote for a burlesque show.

Poetry

I’ve written a few poems since the start of the year, but still no idea what to do with them. Mostly I write poetry because I can’t not, rather than to do anything with it.

Executive summary

I’m behind on my goals. No surprise there. I need to have more reasonable expectations for larp season, it seems. On the up side, my year-over-year “doing something writing-related daily” percentage is up 6%.

I am still optimistic about finishing Lioness this year. I’m less optimistic about… well, everything else.

I still struggle with submitting my work. A lot. This topic has got me thinking about the “gates of writing,” the obstacles one has to overcome on the path to being a published writer. I’ll probably have a post on that in the future, but suffice it to say, that is the gate I am trying to pass through now.