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Relative Time and Space

TARDISI suspect I live in the TARDIS.  Sometimes I’ll be home and working (or whatever) and lose all sense of time and relative dimension in space. Well, in time anyway. One minute it’s the middle of July, the next its…. Wait. It’s July now, right? RIGHT?

There were fireworks the other night, so it must be July. Or maybe it’s November and I’ve teleported to Britain for Guy Fawkes day.

You know it’s bad when you have to put “Get out of house one hour a day” on your to do list. Or your MOM says things like, “Don’t you want to go out and get some… well, anything?” So I’m trying to go out someplace where there are other people, even if all I do is sit at my table in a cafe and doing the same thing I would be doing at home–drinking too much coffee and pounding inspired drivel onto the keyboard. Or making Pinterest boards for my latest project. That’s work, right?

I’ve actually got a few outings coming up.

This Saturday (June 12, 10am-12pm; click here for details)  I’m teaching at the Yellow Rose RWA chapter in Colleyville. I’m teaching my “Pitch” class in person–the one that I teach online, but with more hand gestures and those weird expressions I make when I talk.

On August 9th at 3pm (click here for details) I’ll be at an author event/booksigning with Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre at the Firewheel Barnes and Noble in Garland, Texas. Rachel, Ann, and I will be doing a question and answer thing before signing, so it’s a great time to come and have fun with us.

Saturday August 16 from 1 – 4pm I’ll be at the Author Roundup at the Fort Worth Public Library (Central Branch). Here’s what the website says: Celebrate local, published authors of books for children and teens. Attend a panel discussion that will teach you to read critically and write confidently. Book signing to follow; authors’ books for sale at program. (All ages)

And the big one runs for 6 weeks. Go to the previous entry to find out more about the DFW Teen Writer’s Workshop, a writing workshop for, um, teens.

That’s what’s up. That and writing and stuff. Yay!

A post about women science fiction writers… eventually.

Mary Shelley, arguably the first Science Fiction Writer. (This is relevant to this post.)

Mary Shelley, arguably the first Science Fiction Writer. (This is relevant to this post.)

I love when the premium channels like HBO and Showtime run free preview weekends, because it reassures me that I’m not missing much not subscribing to them. Even if it does mean I have to wait until the DVDs come out to catch up on Game of Thrones. Or read the series of books full of spoilers that bearded guy is writing. Whatever—

Cue record scratch thought derailment sound effect. That (above) was the start of  a Movie Monday post, because my mother has started reading blogs, which is a blog post in itself, and she has been nagging encouraging me to blog more often. It goes like this: “That other blog has a theme for every day of the week. Why don’t you do that? You’re so smart and funny, you should write that in your blog. You would have a lot more followers if you posted more often. This guy has way more followers than you, and he’s a monk.” (I am not even making that up.)

So I sit down to write a Movie Monday post. I’ll write about Ender’s Game, which I watched during the HBO free preview this weekend. Only I went looking for that faux article about George RR Martin writing spoilers for the GOT TV show, and then I found the picture below.

DirewolfandUnicorn

Photo taken (and tweeted) by the amazing artist/photographer Sarah Allegra (@sallegra). It is only tangentially related to this post.

Here follows my exact thought process from that moment until this:

1. Aw, that’s cute! GRRM has a little stuffed dire wolf.  Oh hey, that other guy has a little stuffed unicorn. Oh HEY, that’s Peter S. Beagle author of The Last Unicorn which is an amazing book (and an animated movie, so I guess this is still Movie Monday.) OMG The animals from their books are totally kissing noses! That’s so adorable!

2. Why is that funny? Two venerable old guys being dorks with toys from their books. That sort of makes them cooler. Authors! They’re just like us! Then I’m like, oh yeah, Ender’s Game.

3. Ender’s Game is kind of a venerable book itself, a military science fiction novel that explores the psychology of war and society, pretty much just like Starship Troopers (the novel) did, which also had giant bug-like aliens. I wonder why that is? Is it because the insectoid shape makes them seem true alien and icky, where a more mammalian thing might look like you could have it for a pet?

4. But Starship Troopers (the movie) was more action-y. It also had a lot more decapitations and impalements and also some brain sucking, if you like that sort of thing. Much more than the book.

5. This whole blog has become about venerable white guys who write science fiction and fantasy.  That’s just not right. I need to talk about some women science fiction writers.

6. Which women science fiction writers should I recommend? There’s Anne McCaffrey and Madeline L’Engle of course. Ursula L’Guin and Connie Willis. Would my blog readers be interested in them? I should go look up who are recent women science fiction writers (other than Suzanne Collins).

Literally the first line of A Wrinkle in Time. (This is the book that made me want to write books.)

Literally the first line of A Wrinkle in Time. (This is the book that made me want to write books.)

7. This first Google hit is a list of science fiction FOR girls, which is not the same thing, especially since half these books are by men.

8. THIS list starts with The Handmaiden’s Tale?  Ugh.  Well, there’s Willis and L’Guin. Oh yeah! Octavia Butler. A woman AND an African American. Yes, there’s Andre Norton, C.J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold. Also Elizabeth Moon. Well, there’s Kristine Kathryn Rusch, those are a little less dusty, more space opera-y. Tanya Huff!  I love her books.

9. These are great books, but kind of… old fashioned. Well, not all of them. I should still recommend them. They’re awesome, and my readers aren’t intimidated by big books.

10. But, still, I should look at YA science fiction and find some contemporary things to talk about, too. Oh, here’s Kirkus’s list of the Best Teen SFF books of 2013. Excellent!

11. Wow, these sound really good. I should put this on my Goodreads list so I remember them.

12. And maybe read a sample chapter…

13: Or two.

14. THREE HOURS LATER, I still haven’t written anything about Ender’s Game.

15. And it’s not even Monday any more.

Week in Rewind

I spent most of last week in rehearsal for a reunion show at my creative arts school in Arlington. We performed two shows this past weekend, to sold out houses.

It was like a class reunion with just the people I like. Only it was also more than that, because there were thirty-five years of alumni participating, so I got to meet new people as well as see with the people who were basically my family for three years.

My friends!

My friends!

See that lady in turquoise to my right? She was my musical theater teacher, and one of the first people (other than my mom) to tell me I was talented and I could do whatever I wanted. She led by example–she wrote plays and lyrics, she directed shows, plus she was a great actress herself. I wanted to be her when I grew up.

That blond guy to my left? He used to send me hand drawn valentines. Now he’s an award winning director who was knighted by the king of Belgium for the documentary he made about the Belgian resistance during WWII.  (He has a lovely wife and parter and adorable children. I’m sure his valentines are better now.)

That guy in the middle, with the goofy smile? He was MY junior high crush. (Well, he was everyone’s crush.) He just (a) had a baby, (b) released his first album with his band and (c) his wife just sold her first book.

That guy with the glasses? Does the documentary shorts that go on the DVD extras. Yeah, so he hangs out and chats with Christopher Nolan and stuff.

That girl on the box, hovering above me?   She (a) got most of the roles I wanted and (b) dated Junior High Crush.  So did the redhead on the end. Everyone dated my Junior High Crush but me. But we were friends anyway.

That chick in black in the middle?  She’s all in black because she lives in NYC doing fancy NYC stuff.  She hosted the halloween party where we played spin the bottle and seven minutes in heaven. You know. Like we would have known what to do with seven minutes.

That’s ancient history. I only attended the school for three years. I loved being on stage (I still do) but it takes a special kind of fortitude to be a career actor. However, my favorite part was the storytelling and becoming a character, and that led me to the realization that I wanted to write books. (It was kind of weird that I ended up working in a theater while I worked at that goal. Or… maybe not.)

Still, the particular chemistry of that environment established the basis for everythingNot just theater school, but that theater school with those people and those teachers. They had an idea for a creative arts school and they made it happen. They created their own shows and stories, they made things out of nothing into something. And they instilled that in the students.

When I was teaching drama, I used to tell the parents that chances were, their kid wasn’t going to end up acting as a career (or be on Saturday Night Live or anything), but that the things they learned in the theater–confidence and creativity and teamwork–would help them in whatever they chose to do. I think that’s definitely been true for my students, as it was for my class.

Enjoy what you do, and do it one hundred percent for as long as you love it. It doesn’t matter if it’s what you’re going to do forever. (Does every student on the football team end up in the NFL? Of course not.) Nothing you learn is ever wasted. It will show up somewhere, some way you don’t even expect.

P.S.  Any Glee fans read this blog?  You know what? Warbler Nick is even better looking in person. (And not really in high school, so it’s not gross that I said that.)

On the Second Day of Christmas…

So, the Christmas report.

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Here’s my Christmas Tree, with Mom’s present under it. I sort of love that it looks like Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree. We also had an Advent wreath this year:

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Sweet, right? Only yesterday I realized I didn’t have a candle holder for the white candle in the middle, the one you light for Christmas Day. So I improvised:

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Yes, that’s a jigger from my drinks cabinet. I am an Ecclesiastical Maguyver.

We’ve had a very Dutch Christmas. Been enjoying ontbijkoek for breakfast (and tea and more), but Mom bought this special pastry for Christmas morning: basically marzipan wrapped in pastry. OMG two of my favorite holiday things.

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Only when I went to bake it, I discovered the instructions were in Dutch:

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I do not read much Dutch (and I speak even less). But there were enough similar words and context that I could work out I was supposed to warm it up in the oven for about ten minutes. But most important: NIET VERWARMEN IN DER MAGNETRON!!

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Oh my God, I didn’t even know I HAD a magnetron. How awesome is that. From not on, I’m not calling my microwave anything else.

Here’s what else I had: A hot dog in a blanket:

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So, new house, new traditions, and I’ve bored you with my holiday snaps. My holiday is now complete.

No Penguins Were Harmed Making This Post

Today is my two month new house anniversary. I still love my little townhouse. I thought that having neighbors in such close proximity would take getting used to, but really? I lived in the land of the big house and small yard, so this isn’t that much different.

In fact, it’s kind of quiet. But this morning when I let the dogs out, the neighbors were having an argument. (These are the neighbors who have a cat that likes to come over and taunt my dogs by prancing in front of the window.)  Of course, as soon as the dogs are done, Mom and I are pressed up against the porch door, shamelessly eavesdropping. I haven’t had any neighbor drama since the pot-dealing teenagers across the street from the old house got sent off to military school.  I’ve really missed it.

“I think someone is getting kicked out,” says Mom.

“She’s not going to kick him out,” I whisper back. “She’s pregnant.”

“She might,” says Mom sagely. “It’s the twenty-first century, not the nineteen fifties.”

“I hope he takes the cat,” I say.

It’s at this point that I realize that Mom and I have become characters in a Monty Python sketch.

Not really, of course. I have a flat screen TV. A penguin couldn’t sit on top.

*rimshot*

Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

Actually, mom and I each have a TV, so exploding penguins aren’t as much of a problem as dueling explosion movies  from the 90’s. She likes Independence Day.  I like The Rock. (The movie with Ed Harris, not the actor Dwayne Johnson. Not that I have a problem with him, either.)

Also, is it weird that Independence Day is almost 20 years old? It’s older than a lot of you. Will Smith was the hot young guy who punched aliens in the face. But it’s weird now, because the crushes of my youth are now playing Somebody’s Dad. I mean, still hot, but I’m just putting that in perspective for you.

The nineties movies aren’t on purpose, by the way. It just happens that 1) they are a particular kind of awesome (case in point, The Fifth Element) before filmmakers had the need to be all brooding and dark and stuff, or even make sense, really and 2) they are on TV all the time.

Also, no penguins are harmed in those explosions.

rimshot gif photo: drum GIF Rimshot_zps53c00dd7.gif

Soylent Green is People

No one ever believes me when I say that I’m an introvert at heart.  If you’ve ever met me at a book event, you know what I mean. I have no trouble with public speaking, and I enjoy  talking with readers and writers and librarians. I have a reputation as bubbly and outgoing.

Hermit Crab

This is a sham. I am really a hermit crab with good coping skills.

It isn’t that I don’t like people, especially readers.  But you know how you don’t want to go to a friend’s birthday party or something, even though you actually really like your friend, but it’s going to be noisy and there’s going to be dancing or whatever, and your mom is all like, “Just go. You know you’ll have a good time once you get there,” and you whine and protest but she makes you go and then you actually do have a really good time?

That’s pretty much me all the time.

And it’s kind of a vicious cycle, because once I get into my cave, it’s safe and cozy and I have my dog and MY SPOT on the couch and lots of coffee and cookies. You would think that I would have a lot more writing to show for this, but there’s also satellite TV and Netflix for marathoning full seasons of Lost Girl and Breaking Bad. Then I realize that I’ve written five pages in the last five days and I live with my mother and I haven’t had a date or been out with my friends in months, which is my own fault because I love my spot and my dog and my Netflix and OH MY GOD THIS IS HOW CRAZY CAT LADIES GET STARTED.

Not that that is really what happens. I’m just saying it could.

This is why writers need Real Life friends. Because after a certain point it takes dynamite to get me out of my cave. When I don’t come to critique group for two weeks in a row, my friends threaten to send a Navy SEAL extraction team. It has nothing to do with the fact that my work needs critique. (Which, of course it doesn’t, because it falls from my fingers like perfect jewels of prose.)  It’s because otherwise I will turn into the crazy dog lady.

So, this morning I’m sitting at a table in Starbucks with four of my writer friends. We’re actually being really productive this morning, all of us with our earphones in, typing away at our laptops, which probably looks a little weird to people. (Or maybe not. I’m sure Starbucks has seen weirder stuff.)  Why meet in person to sit and look at your own computer screen and not talk to each other?

For one thing, it forces us to rejoin civilization. You know. Take a shower and wear pants without elastic waistbands.  For another, I look up and see my friends hammering on the keys, and peer pressure puts its boot to my butt.

But most of all it’s good to get out of the cave.  We’re social creatures, human beings. Sometimes being around people, whether you actually talk to them or not, is like taking your vitamins.

I hear that’s good for you.

Soylentgreen

 

 

It never rains here… except when I move.

Don’t want to read to the end?  I’m going to be at the Austin Teen Book Festival tomorrow (Saturday 9/28) with Maggie Stiefvater, Sarah Dessen, Rob Thomas and Holly Black, among others. Info at the link.

I have Internet in the new house! Yay!  Now I have no excuse for such a long gap between blogs.

Last week I got the entourage (Mom and all three dogs) and the whole (old) house packed up and moved across DFW (or at least my part of DFW) to the NEW house. As you may know from blog posts, not to mention my Internet Absence, I have been working like a stevedore to make The Move run like a military campaign.

I forget that military campaigns involve massive support staff, the funding of the federal government, and also soldiers that you can order around. Which you can’t really do with a Mom. So this was more like a two person patrol with a couple of thousand pounds in a backpack.

Also?  We’re in the middle of a drought. It hasn’t rained in months. Except for the two days when we were moving. Yay rain.

Still, nothing will match The Great Parental Move of 2004, when we moved from the ranch to Fort Worth.  It had rained so much that spring that the pasture was half-flooded and the truck couldn’t get to the house. We had to ferry all the furniture from my parents’ house out on a flat bed trailer just to get it to the moving truck.

When I left my house with the last loads, I was wading out with my pants rolled up over my knees. I had packed my Jeep to the rafters. Literally. Rood rack included. I had Trini (a husky mix) in the back seat, two cat carriers in the front passenger seat and a goldfish in the cup holder.

This move was easier than that, but that’s not saying much. I finally got smart enough to call in reinforcements for the secondary U-Haul I rented to bring over all the stuff that wouldn’t fit on the FIRST truck. (It’s like I lived in the Tardis. That much stuff shouldn’t fit in closets.)

I am not good about asking for help. Sometimes it has to be forced upon me.

ANYway. After all the things we got rid of, we got into the house and were like, we STILL have too much stuff.  Boxes were packed (literally!) to the ceiling.  I had to crawl over furniture to get to the back door.  Mom packed all her computer cords, so we had to share one laptop cord and one iPad/iPhone cord between us.

I have eaten nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and yogurt for a week. Oh, and Dunkin Donuts, but the novelty of that place has pretty much worn off for me.  We’ve already had our first slip and fall (Mom, bruised but unbroken, thank God and I mean THAT literally, too) and the dogs have christened the carpet.

And now I’m leaving The Entourage behind and traveling to Austin for the Austin Teen Book Festival.  It’s on Saturday at the convention center, it’s FREE and it features an amazing lineup of authors and SO much fun.  If you’re in Austin, or near Austin, come and see me.  (The link has all the details.)

 

Trash Day

I’ve been throwing out a lot of stuff lately, and I like it.

If you’ve been following the New House Saga, you know that I’m downsizing dramatically.  I’ve already done a good bit of offloading over the past year. Presently my personal STUFF is contained to one office and one bedroom. So half my work is done, right?

Or so I thought.  Once I started actually taking inventory and packing stuff up, I discovered I wasn’t nearly so downsized as I thought.  For one thing, STUFF expands. It goes from this:

Tidy Shelves

To this:

Messy Books

So there’s books coming off the shelves like clowns coming out of a circus car.  THEN I got to the garage and attic and I found that I was holding onto baggage I didn’t even realize.  (Yes, there’s a big anvil of a metaphor there.)

There were boxes I hadn’t opened since I moved here. College textbooks for me, my mom AND my dad.  Collectibles and action figures.  Tee-shirts from shows I’d been in and so much sheet music and so many scripts. Shows I’d done, things I’d auditioned for and didn’t get the part….

I found a box of my parent’s albums.  I understand that some vinyl goes for decent money these days, but I highly doubt anyone is going to want an LP of Roger Miller’s Greatest Hits or the soundtrack to “Dark Shadows”–the original one. It’s nice to know my parents were nerds, too.

Here’s what else I discovered. If you put stuff out by your curb the afternoon before trash pickup day?  PEOPLE COME TAKE IT.   How genius is that?  I offloaded a faux christmas tree (pre-wired with lights), a tea-cart with a broken wheel, a dozen or so terra cotta pots, a queen-sized bed frame, a director’s chair with no seat, but not the stacks of textbooks on pre-natal care or fluid dynamics or speech development in hearing impaired infants.

Which is all perfectly good for some people, but I would never take something from someone’s trash. Or so I thought until last trash day, when I discovered that a new neighbor had a GIANT BOX OF BOXES set out by his curb.

Curb Shopping

 

Score!!

My biggest discovery, though, is that it’s a lot easier to get rid of stuff when you realize it’s actually going to cost you to keep it.  You have to spend time packing it, you have to pay a mover, you have to give up useful space for those boxes.

And that’s the point of this metaphor, I guess. I’ve always been someone who holds onto things, but this time, this move, I’m not having a problem being ruthless.

It’s liberating to realize you are not the product of your possessions. It’s not the things that make you remember the people you love. It isn’t your stuff that makes you who you are. Getting rid of things I once loved–or even things I still love but can’t keep–doesn’t change my past or the memories that made me into the person I am.

Here endeth the metaphor.

In keeping with the theme–and the fact I’ll have no garage soon–I’m giving away copies of my books!  Comment by Friday for a chance to win a UK edition of Spirit and Dust.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to throw away?  What are you convinced you could never part with? Have you ever picked up something from someone else’s trash? (I won’t judge you, I promise.)

 

One Claw Foot Tub Away From Perfection

LAST week I posted that I’d sold my house.   Yay!

But I didn’t have anywhere to move to.  So I was operating on Contingency Plan B, which was to store everything and stay with my Grandmother until we found the right house.

Which was no where in sight.

So might take awhile.

I'm fine. Really.

I’m fine. Really.

But guess what???  I found a lovely townhouse that’s just perfect for Mom and I.  Great location, near a park, split bedroom arrangement for privacy (a necessity for any roommate situation, times a thousand when it’s your mom).

And look! This is going to be my bathroom!

All this needs is a claw foot tub and it is the bath of my dreams.

Don’t laugh, but I have always wanted a bureau sink. And also, a claw foot tub. This is even painted my favorite color. It is one claw foot tub away from perfection.

 

We’re going to be out of this big huge house, and I will only have to clean and air condition one third the square feet.

Wait.

One THIRD the square feet.

One. Third. The. Size.

One. Third. The. Size.

Anyone want any furniture?

So, in three weeks, I’ll be in a new house.   This has been a year of serious upheaval and change, but this new house—manageable size, closer to my friends, ready to fill with new, happy memories—is a major milestone.  I won’t even say it’s the light at the end of the tunnel, because I don’t see it as an end at all, but a launching pad for lots of awesome things.

Hail to the awesome!

(Also, I’m serious about the furniture thing.)

 

Cue Fanfare of Computer Keys

So,  Mom and I have sold the house.

*cue trumpets and fanfare*

Happy+Dance

It’s a seller’s market, and summer is prime relocation time, so this is maybe not as impressive as it sounds. But let me tell you… it’s really impressive. It’s a saga, only unlike the Hobbit, it’s been compressed for time instead of expanded.

July 17. Mom and I decide to move ahead our existing plans to downsize “soon.”

July 19.   The realtor comes over to assess the house.  And she’s like, this is a gorgeous house, but it will show better if you get rid of some of this STUFF.  Mom visibly blanches.

To be fair, I like my STUFF, too. But of necessity, I offloaded a lot of literal as well as figurative baggage recently. She’s mostly freaked because it means storing her quilting things. So I say, “Mom, don’t think about it as storing your quilting stuff. Think about it as pre-packing for the move.” And she’s like… okay.

July 20.  We go look at houses the size we want to move into. Mom says, “Okay, I’ll get rid of all my old books except my shelf of favorites.”  (This, by the way, includes forty years worth of college textbooks. Nursing school, graduate school, natural health degree…)

The same day, we go to work clearing bookshelves. And more bookshelves. And MORE bookshelves. We make stacks for the recycle truck. We make stacks for Goodwill and the library book sale. We make stakes for Half Price Books. So. Many. Books. (And these are JUST hers. Not mine.)

Then we go to work on her sewing room, packing her fabric, her rolls of batting, her spools of thread and all. the. patterns. into storage bins. It just keeps coming. And then I realize why she’s willing to let her hoard of books go. Because she’s simply switched it for another security blanket.

We ditch knick knacks…. maybe some that were meant to go into storage might have “accidentally” been put in the Goodwill stack.  (I tried to explain to my mother the concept of “kitsch.”  My attempt was… unsuccessful.)

I cleared out flowerbeds full of weeds, I planted container plants for curb appeal,  I cleaned the carpets, I cleared the countertops, I hauled furniture out for donation.

(Just an aside: I was going to annotate this part of the post with pictures of clutter, but when I Googled “cluttered houses” I came over faint and I had to go lie down with a cold cloth over my eyes before I could finish writing this. Suffice to say, it puts things in perspective. I got rid of eight bookshelves, and  a lot of Pier One knicknacks that spoke to Mom while she was in the store, but at no time was there danger of finding a mummified corpse in the process.)

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No mummified corpses.

July 25.  Realtor arrives with camera man to take pictures for listing. She. Is. Floored.  She keeps walking around the house going “Wow.”

She adds $10k to our asking price.

That’s the quickest I’ve ever made $10,000 but boy, did I earn it.

July 26.  The house is listed.

August 1.  We get an offer, and it’s a good one.

Here’s the crazy part.  We’ve got no where to move TO.   Because mom and I still want to live together, and because we want a townhouse, and because she can’t climb stairs, we have kind of specific needs.

So…. Heaven help us and God bless my family….  Mom, me, and three dogs are moving in with my grandmother until we find a house. I don’t want to waste our savings on rent. I don’t want to move into something unsuitable just to be fast.  It’s the absolutely most logical option.

I plan to tell that to the judge, if necessary.

That’s not until early September, which gives me time to pack everything up for storage and, oh  yeah, FINISH MY BOOK.

 

Kitty typing

This entry was posted on August 7, 2013, in Real Life.