February 6th, 2016
The Dementors did their best to wear me out on Friday, but I managed to survive, anyway. Luckily, because the deliveries were late, I actually managed to find some time to compulsively organize juvenile series titles. (Weirdly, things like this relax me.) Also, the author in me rebels whenever I see all the 39 Clues
books all jammed together willy-nilly on a shelf, like it's not important that some of the books are part of the regular series and some are from the Unstoppable series or the Double Cross or the Cahills vs. Vespers... especially when the subtitles are right there on the spine. THIS IS IMPORTANT, PEOPLE. Especially, I would think to young readers.
Anyway, I survived that AND dinner with one of Shawn's brothers.
Mark Friday as a success.
Today, Mason is off at Math Counts
. I delivered him at 8:00 am at Washington and they're being bussed off to some college for the competition.
This means Shawn and I had the house to ourselves this morning, so there's been a whole lot of nothing going on, as well as a trip to the Goodwill outlet.
The Goodwill Outlet is different from other Goodwill shops in that it's just completely unorganized bins of STUFF that people dig through and pay for by the pound. For our loom, we brought home 45 pounds of fabric. It was an interesting experience. Shawn had a blast, and was among her people, digging away for bargains. I hung back a little, since I had no specific goal and watched people. There was one guy obsessively digging through bins for shoes. He seemed intent on finding pairs. He had an entire cart full of shoes, and was super methodical in the way he sorted and dug. The staff all knew him by name. My first impression was that he was legit OCD, but then it occurred to me that he might just have a method for hunting down to a science and be searching for shoes for a shelter or some other non-profit organization. There was another woman who was actually very desperately hunting for clothes for herself/her family, and had a budget that seemed to involve pocket change. That was very hard to see, but, as Shawn pointed out, the good news is that she did walk away from the super-store with three or four shirts for fifteen cents. I also saw lots of people hunting through pockets and purses for... extras? That was fascinating, especially as I watched one woman pull out what was clearly nicotine gum from a purse, consider them, and then toss them aside. I was fascinated because my first thought was: "Who doesn't clean out their purse before they donate it?" Of course, the answer immediately presented itself: "Dead people."
Still, a very interesting experience.
February 5th, 2016
I accidentally agreed to work at the one branch of the Ramsey County Library system that I usually avoid like the plague it is. In fact, I think my boss is on to me, because she tricked me.
Her: "Oh, how about 9 to 1 on Friday?"
Me: (unsuspecting) "Oh, yeah, I could do that."
Her: (with a note of triumph in her voice) "Great! It'll be S----."
Me: (silent screaming of rage, 'oh no, not Umbridge and the Dementors!') "Oh... uh... great. I'll... uh, put that down on the calendar...' (more silent cursing.)
So, I don't know what a person does to prepare for Azkaban, but I decided to stop and get two cups of my favorite coffee latte from my favorite coffee store. I'm hoping that will help me be perky as my soul is slowly sucked out for the next four hours as the boss of that branch cheerfully/not-cheerfully sputters "NO PROBLEM" (subtext: 'YOU F*CKED UP!!!') any time I make some tiny mistake that at any other library would be laughed off and/or gently corrected.
It's also just... grueling. The Dementors hate substitutes and so we are given the repetitive and back breaking tasks, things like hand checking books in. It's the kind of work that makes a person start to think they work at a book factory, not a library. In the past, they had me doing that one thing for the whole four hours (most branches trust subs enough to let them shelve or work the desk or answer phone to mix things up a bit, so it's not just mind-numbing monotonous work for the entire shift.)
What always amuses me about S----, is that it seems that nearly everyone at the other branches feels the same way about them. When I first started, it was kind of an initiation/are-you-one-of-us-or-a-robot kind of questions: "A sub, eh? So... have you been EVERYWHERE....?" And, I'd say, "Yes, I've been to every branch now." And, they'd drop their voice and ask, "So... what do you think of S---?" To which I replied, "Oh, you mean Umbridge and the Dementors?" And then we would laugh and I would have a fast friend for life. Last time I stopped in at Roseville, they lamented that they hadn't seen me in a while and asked if I was getting many hours and when I told them I'd been tricked into working this particular shift they nodded solemnly and said softly, "I swear that's the only way [boss] gets people to work there."
So that's what I have to look forward to today. Hope y'all are doing better!
February 3rd, 2016
Saint Paul did not close its schools. So guess who was up at o'f*ck o'clock shoveling the sidewalk and unburying the car? That's right. THIS GIRL.
I was so irritated by St. Paul that my chiropractor literally pulled me aside to talk to me about my shoulder tension. I resisted screaming into his face, "BLAME THE ST. PAUL SCHOOL SYSTEM!" Because, okay, yeah, I'm probably unreasonably irritated about having to get up early and shovel, but what made my shoulders that high was having to drive on half-plowed street with my family in the car. Myself, alone, maybe I wouldn't be so tense. But, with Shawn AND Mason along? Yeah, no, that's a lot of responsibility and I really don't want to be responsible for having killed them, a pedestrian, or another driver and/or their family. Yeah my shoulders were up over my ears. I was lucky they weren't higher.
Now the sun has come out to mock me.
I kind of wish that the skies had dumped an extra fifteen pounds of snow on St. Paul's head so I could self-righteously shout: "HA!"
On the other hand, because I was up and about early, I stopped by Whole Foods and picked something for the crock pot for dinner tonight and made myself a very early lunch (technically brunch? Maybe breakfast with lunch-related food?)
When Shawn was recovering from gallbladder surgery, a friend of ours, George, brought over his guaranteed vegan, all-the-fiber stew, which was basically: garbanzo beans, tomato chunks, and various veggies all simmered together. It was super simple and he kept apologizing for it not even being a particularly tasty batch, but I LOVED it and now make a version of my own on a regular basis--mostly for myself, because my family is a bunch of unrepentant carnivores. So somewhere around ten am, I stuffed my face with bean/tomato/potato/mushroom/okra/carrot stew.
Being irritable takes a lot of fuel, apparently.
January 20th, 2016
...finally got very personal for a lot of SF/F fans. Tor editor David Hartwell
I didn't know him, not really, though he was the editor of many people I know very well, so I've heard a lot of stories over the years.
The one thing I knew about Hartwell before I met him was that he liked to wear funky, cool ties. When he was one of the Guests of Honor at Diveriscon in 2011, I pulled out some of my grandfather's ties and wore them. We talked ties. He helped me correctly identify the era from which my grandpa's ties came from and I told him that I'd heard that my grandpa and grandma used to go dancing a lot, and I always liked to imagine I was wearing a "dancing" tie (though, in truth, they were probably just grandpa's work ties.) We talked about a museum exhibit of ties that Hartwell had gone to. Then, I think I was lucky enough to go out to dinner with him and a bunch of other people and we all managed to mostly successfully avoid bringing up some of the touchier subjects in Hartwell's life (such as his wife's involvement in the infamous 'Racefail.')
The only other thing I can say is, what the hell 2016?
January 19th, 2016
Mercury's backwardness* continues to affect my household.
Last night, Mason was hit by a terrible bout of insomnia. Normally, if he can function at ALL, we send him off to school. Today? We decided to let him catch up with his sleep. The semester is almost over and it's the day after a long weekend. He should be fine to catch up, particularly once he's gotten a decent amount of sleep.
Consequentially, the whole household was delayed getting out the door. Normally, this makes me a little cranky, if only because, even without a regular job, it still messes up my routine. Today, however, I was glad for it, because I've been meaning to get to the bank to finish off a transaction that will FINALLY finish setting up my account on ACX and I can get the whole ball rolling with my voice actor friend, Jack, and the audible versions of my AngeLINK series. We dawdled. I bought coffee. I waited patiently through traffic lights, drove the speed limit....
AND THE DANG BANK ISN'T OPEN UNTIL 9 AM.
Even after all that noodling around, I still ended up having to go home for a half hour before heading back out. Again, none of this is fatal, but gosh darn it, it's irritating.
On the other hand, yesterday was extremely pleasant. For any overseas friends reading this, yesterday was what you would call a bank holiday here in the U.S.: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Schools were closed, as were all federal businesses. Shawn had the day off work.
Since it was also supposed to be a bazillion degrees below zero (the scientific term), we decided to make the day a game day. It would have been also a pajama day, but at 8:30 am our doorbell rang. It was our neighbor, Ruthie, whose car wouldn't start. She needed a jump. After running upstairs and throwing on some jeans, I pulled the car around and waited while they got it going. (Ruthie is a nurse and doesn't get holidays like the rest of us and had a shift starting at 9 am.) But, outside of that tiny bit of excitement, we spent the day quietly. We played two games of Munchkin (we have a lot of sets and we found a fun combo in Apocalypse and Mission Impossible/Spy,) and a seriously cut throat game of Monopoly. I posted a picture of our game board on Facebook because by the end the board was RED with hotels. Ever since the time I quietly became the slumlord of Mediterranean/Baltic and brought my fellow gamers to their knees with the crushing rent of those awful properties with massive hotels on them, Mason has become obsessed with building on his monopolies. So, it was a fun game. I actually survived paying $750 in rent. TWICE.
It was a good day, honestly. I've been doing a lot of stamping, as I call my stamp collecting. I'm still baffled as to why I find this activity fun. But, it's very companionable, since Shawn will often sit next to me at the dinning room table, sewing together strips of cloth for the rugs/loom, and we will just hang out, chat, or watch/listen to a show. She's been watching some British show (some soapy thing, I can't remember the name of it ATM) that I've been experiencing mostly as an audible book, as it were, since it's too much trouble to try to watch and look through my stamps. But, that's pleasant, too. Very old-timey, in a way. Like listening to a radio play.
Okay, well, it's just turned 9 am. I should zip off and see if I can get my business sorted at the bank. See you all later!
*In case you're wondering, as I often do, when will this madness end? The answer is: Mercury goes direct on the 25th.
January 16th, 2016
The Internet landed on Neil Gaiman's head.
Luckily, that soft, curly mop of hair will deflect much of the impact. I'm not worried about Gaiman. Gaiman will be fine, I'm sure.
Also, it seems very clear to most people that what Gaiman said was meant as an advert/squee/general endorsement, not Word of God. If you don't want to read the whole article, the short of it is that, in an effort to promote the opening of enrollment of Clarion
, a long-standing writers' workshop, Gaiman suggested that writers "need, NEED" to go to Clarion. He's already answered a dozen accusations by clarifying that he didn't mean to imply that anyone who didn't go to Clarion wasn't a real writer (especially since that would include himself), he was just being an enthusiastic supporter, and that all a writer needs to do to be a writer is write
In fact, most of the people I'm friends with on Facebook, seem completely baffled as to why Gaiman got dumped on with such vitriol.
Yes, the only thing that makes you a writer is if you write. However, writing is NOT the same as publishing. Publishing is a for-profit business, and it is inherently unfair from start to finish. There are thousands and thousands of excellent and talented writers out there. Conversely, there are only so many slots in traditional publishing houses for all that talent to go.
I could go on about it, but I'm not going to waste space telling you what most of you already know: getting published is hard, often impossible. It's heart breaking. It's soul killing. And, yet, other people seem to be able to do it, and so you start casting around, wondering, what the hell, how did they do it, when I can't???!!
Clarion is an expensive, in-person, live-in, SIX WEEK writers' workshop. There are two of them (or at least there used to be: one in the east, in Michigan, and one the west, in California, I think.) You pay not only the attendance fee, but your own travel, board, and expenses.(There's at least one scholarship available, however.) The trade off is that you get six weeks of writing instruction (and writing time) not only with your peers in the field, but also with people like Neil Gaiman as your teachers. Usually, also, there's at least one editor who attends, so you're guaranteed a chance to get in-person feedback from someone who could actually forward your career in one way or another.
This is, in point of fact, a HUGE leg-up.
As I said before, publishing is a business. In business, you need contacts, networking skills. Clarion provides a singular opportunity for these. In fact, I still tell my students to consider going, if they can afford it. I feel like Clarion also gives writers and opportunity to really "level up" as the kids would say, in terms of writing craft, skill, because it is so intensive.
When Clarion would have been advantageous for me, I could have *maybe* scrapped together enough to go, but I couldn't have taken that much time off from work. So, I didn't go, but, man, I wanted to.
Dozens of my friends went. (That's not even hyperbole, Minneapolis/St. Paul has a huge SF/F writing community and at the time I was deep, deep into it.) I was pretty damn envious of all the war stories they told, the t-shirt they came back with, and the people I considered SF/F celebrities that they now knew when they went to WorldCons or elsewhere. It felt, from the outside, like an exclusive membership. Like they really HAD gotten VIP access badges or some secret handshake that I didn't. In a way, they did have their own language. At cons, alum would greet each other with cries of "West '92!" or "East '08!" and I always wanted to join in with something like, "Bravo! Zulu! Charlie!" because... well, because I'm a weirdo.
But, so the point is... I can understand why some people piled on Neil's comment. There's lots about the unfairness of publishing to be angry about. It's also especially painful when it feels like the barrier between getting into the cool, insider club is money. And time. And also: this
I'm not saying that's the truth. Clarion is expensive, but they're not making money hand over fist either. In fact, they've had a lot of trouble with solvency. East may have folded. I know it was in danger of doing so a couple of years ago.
I'm just saying I can understand why people reacted the way they did.
Of course, Clarion isn't the answer any more than anything else is. I know plenty of Clarion alum who published, but I know more who didn't. I even know several alum who stopped writing entirely.
So, even this HUGE advantage isn't a guarantee of success. In a way, that's why people are mad. There isn't
any magic entry. Not even talent or skill. (That a lie we tell ourselves, but go read something like Fifty Shades of Gray
and explain to me how talent was the key to success there.) Some people literally luck out, and that's almost all there is to it. Persistence being the other major factor, but, on the other hand, I've known people to beat their heads bloody against that barrier to publishing, too. So, even being persistent isn't a guarantee. So, of course, people are angry. Of course they're mad at Neil for seeming to suggest that the magic key is to buy your way into the kingdom. And maybe they're like I was, those years ago, staring, green-eyed, at all the Clarion alum who seem to have some advantage they don't. That's maddening too. The whole business is maddening.
This is why I tell my students that they'd better have a reason they write that has nothing to do with being published. I tell them over and over, you need something to fuel your spirits and keep yourself going. You need to love the process and celebrate it. You need to know that you'd do it anyway, even if nothing ever comes of it.
Because you might get lucky. I did.
January 15th, 2016
I decided to do one more year reviewing award-nominees.
I will admit that part of the reason that I agreed to do the same challenge again (particularly in my role as SF/F book reviewer for Bitter Empire) is that I'm going to be attending WorldCON this year--and this is going to be another Year of the Puppy and I might like to be able to do some live-tweeting of the award ceremony for BE.
I have a couple of books that I'm reading to finish out last years' awards, but the Philip K. Dick Award nominees are out:
Edge of Dark, Brenda Cooper (Pyr)
After the Saucers Landed, Douglas Lain (Night Shade)
(R)evolution, PJ Manney (47North)
Apex, Ramez Naam (Angry Robot)
Windswept, Adam Rakunas (Angry Robot)
Archangel, Marguerite Reed (Arche)
I just bought Archangel for my Kindle, partly out of favoritism and curiosity. A number of my Facebook friends are friends with Marguerite Reed and so I'm deeply curious what her book is going to be like.
I'm looking forward to doing this again, if only because I have to say this last year exposed me to a lot of books that I otherwise normally would never have sought out. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith? Yeah, I probably would have looked at that description and thought, "NOPE." (But I ended up really loving it.) And there have been a lot of UK and British awards that exposed me to people I just wasn't terribly familiar with, but, at least in one case, now adore. Frances Hardinge, for instance. She's the author of Cuckoo's Song, which I adored, and The Lie Tree, which I just finished because that one was up for an end-of-the-year award.
Also, it's really good for me to have a structure to have to try to follow. I tend to flounder around when I'm just randomly trying to pick book for myself.
Anyway, I don't have a lot of other news. I'm mostly just surviving the continued threat of Mercury Retrograde. Yesterday, the planet's malevolent influence was mostly felt through some minor-to-midland bickering about school work with Mason. It worked out in the end, but it made the start to the morning more difficult. Today was forgotten gym clothes--which we remembered in time to turn around a fetch, but caused a slight kerfluffle. Shawn's back has also gone out, so that's less that optimal, as they say. So we continue to limp along... stumbling at every turn.
January 13th, 2016
I went to the chiropractor today and I said, "I don't know if I'm hallucinating, but I feel 100% cured." Dr. Matt agreed with me. We're going to stop seeing each other, except occasionally.
So, that's a yay!
Today continues a series I should probably call, "Adventures in Mercury Retrograde." Nothing that's happen has been horrible, just a lot of little irritations and several "oh, wait, did I say THAT? I meant THIS." Or just dumb logistics screw-ups. Like today... apparently some time ago when I was making the schedule with my coordinator at the libraries, I agreed to work UNTIL 3 pm. Apparently, it SLIPPED MY MIND THAT I CAN NOT TELEPORT.
Mason is out of school AT 3 pm. Working until 3 maybe-sort-of seems like it could work, except that instantaneous travel doesn't actually exist yet. So, we had to do some finagling. Mason has agreed to silently suffer by hanging out at McDonald's (about a block or so from his school) and wait for me there. I'm also going to try to show up early so I can beg off a few minutes early... because what kind of moron schedules like this? But, as Mason and Shawn agreed, it's only this one time and thus, not the end of the world. Plus, if anyone in my family really wanted not to wait, both of them could easily take the city bus/light rail home.
Probably some of you are wondering why my partner doesn't just pick Mason up from school. The answer is probably shocking to many of you who are Americans. We only have one car. Yeah, I know, crazy right? Well, truthfully, it is a bit crazy at times, and sometimes I do wish we had another car available, particularly on days like today or when Steve (our car) is acting up.
But, most of the time one car works just fine for us. Plus, it's a good excuse to NEVER work a stupid shift like this again. Seriously? What was I thinking? After all, the very BEST part of being a sub is getting to say, "Yeah, no, actually that doesn't work for me."
Yesterday was actually a pretty good day, all and all. I feel like it started tough. Oh, yeah... I broke Shawn's dresser. That was pretty spectacular. And, in the way of Mercury Retrograde, I broke it while trying to help her get a drawer back in. I had an appointment to see someone at 9 (my friend Jack who is going to do the audio books for the AngeLINK series), but when I came home I spent several hours fixing the dresser drawers (and the dresser itself, because, of course, the minute I worked out one problem, another one developed. This is a VERY old dresser and wasn't terribly stable when we got it. Super well constructed originally, though. It's old enough to entirely be dove jointed. There's not a nail in the thing, except the ones idiots added later. I pulled all those out.)
But, I actually had a really great time with Jack, who I only knew, previously, tangentially through my friend and fellow Wyrdsmith, Theo. The company we're working through is ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange.) It's a pretty cool deal that connects writers to voice actors. The actual royalty split is kind of crappy (20/20, with 60 percent going to Amazon, who is the owner of the company), but, on the other hand, because it's an Amazon company, the audio books automatically show up in their inventory as well as Audible.com and a bunch of other audio book distributors (even iTunes, I'm pretty sure). And, as has been my theme this year, "they were otherwise only collecting pixel dust, so I might as well do SOMETHING with them." But, so Jack was super-helpful and talked this old lady through the process of getting my books up and all that. I've only got one more hoop to jump through before I can offer the work to Jack and let the process roll.
But of course there was that minor snag, because: Mercury.
And, because I'm new to ACX, I'm getting auditions and am now in the awkward position of having to say, "Uh, I actually already have someone in mind... and because I'm new to this I don't know how to reserve my titles until I fix a bank related issue... sorry to have wasted your time!" The only good news is that, BECAUSE I have Jack in mind, all my audition pieces are only about a paragraph (most people post several pages), so none of the voice actors are wasting too much of their time recording the auditions. Still, I shake my fist at the skies and sigh, "Ah, Mercury!"
But, again, so far, nothing terrible, just annoying. Fingers crossed that continues in today's adventures in bad logistics.
January 11th, 2016
Damn you, Mercury Retrograde! *shakes fist at skies*
Today was so classically Mercury Retrograde, too, almost from the start.... Mason woke up with spots on his face. We noticed some redness after he'd gone ice skating on the super-cold Saturday night, but totally chalked it up as windburn. This morning? It looked much bigger, much blotchier, so we made the executive decision to keep him home for the morning, or at least until we could get him in to see the doctor. Mason has had Fifth Disease in the past (not nearly as horrible as it sounds, it's just a facial rash, but it has that name because it was the Fifth rash to be categorized an it didn't end up with a cooler name, like Mumps.) Fifth can come back, is treatable, but highly contagious. So we thought we'd better rule out a contagion before sending him into the teaming horde that is middle/high school.
Only... we got THE bad doctor.
Shawn is the one in our family that remembers this stuff, and she was out with a migraine. So it was down to Mason and I to remember which of the pediatricians we usually see is the one who consistently misdiagnoses Mason---once so badly that her, "eh, it's nothing," ended in a trip to the Emergency Room THE VERY NEXT DAY.
And... we guessed wrong.
Mason is also now the age where he can (and should, IMHO) go into the doctor's office without a parent chaperone. If he wants to ask private questions, I don't want my presence to be the difference between him getting information and not, if you know what I mean. Plus, it's an easy way NOT to be a helicopter parent. BUT had I known we'd picked the 'bad' doctor, I would have just insisted that I come in to help advocate. As it was, she said, "Meh, windburn"...
...so we'll probably end up doing all this again when things get worse.
But hopefully, they won't.
The whole experience served to only make Mason grumpy and going to school that much more frustrating. It didn't help that we bickered about whether or not he should have to go in, after all--the ironic part being that *my* argument was 'you don't have to, but you were the one who wanted to go to the math meet, since it's your last one..." I found out at school that Mason has no idea what his locker combination is, and hasn't for most of the school year.... he's just been hauling all his stuff around all day.
Anyway, I eventually got Shawn into work, but by this time, all I wanted was a big Do Over button to push. Which, I kind of did, by doing the dishes and watching another episode of "Psycho Pass" (my current anime). I also decided to cancel with my friend Theo's friend Jack, who is, among other things, a voice actor, and who is going to be working with me to bring YOU audio versions of the AngeLINK books. I've re-arranged with Jack to hopefully see them early tomorrow morning and get this thing done! Because how cool would that be?
So my day? Mom Gave Up and Is Eating All the Cookies. But cookies are yummy, so it could be worse.
January 8th, 2016
As you know, Bob, our household has to wake up at 5:30 am in order to get prepped and such in time to take everyone to school. Over winter break, I'm happy to say that we spent two glorious weeks sleeping in until awoken naturally--either by sunlight or just plain having gotten enough rest. Those halcyon days are gone, my friends, and OMG am I paying the price. Particularly since, last night, I was scheduled to work at Maplewood Library.
Normally, I can't complain about my working situation. It's utterly enviable, and I know it. I hardly ever am required to work more than four hours a shift and I work... MAYBE once a week? Seriously, it's an awesome, awesome job with extra helpings of awesome since it is at a library and I spend my four hours surrounded by books. (So much AWESOME.) Plus, other than the fact that I do spend all four hours on my feet, it is literally the easiest job in the world for me. The requirements? To speak English well enough to know the order of the alphabet. TBF, sometimes that's a bit hard for me, but mostly? I got this. (Besides, there's this song I can sing when I get stuck on the alphabet, so you know a job is good when the hardest days are ones when you have to sing the most.)
BUT, okay, I have ONE SMALL COMPLAINT. That is: evening hours at the library require me to stay up a WHOLE HOUR past my bedtime. I thought I might actually collapse from tiredness somewhere around 8:30 pm last night. And this morning I've been almost hilariously misreading nearly every post I've seen on Facebook. Hence, the title of this blog... though I have to admit that I rather like the implications of "knowing is half the baffle," so that might become my new battle cry.
Speaking of new battle cries, I've decided this year that when I'm angry at some yahoo on social media, I'm going to insult them exclusively from lyrics in the Grinch song. This morning I told Shawn that she was "a bad banana with a greasy black peel." So, watch out, my friends. If I'm really mad at you, you might see this in your in-box, "Three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote: Stink. Stank. STUNK."
Of course, this is going to require that I have the song either memorized or at hand when I'm unreasonably angry, so probably this new year's resolution will go down the toilet pretty quickly, like most of them do. HOWEVER, I'm going to Do My BEST as is often said in Japanese "Gambetta!"
I think this is a Very Important new years' resolution. I mean, everyone vows to lose weight, eat right, and exercise more. Me, I'm going to Grinch Insult people.
Mason has vowed to memorize the Periodic Table of Elements, so that's a nicely unusual one, too. How about you? Anything out of the ordinary?