Tuesday Miscellany 072319

Where did Monday go?  Oh yeah, where the whole week went–to an allergy stupor.  The amazing part about modern medicine is that allergy shots are a thing.  (YAY!)  The nightmare part of modern medicine is that to take an accurate skin test you have to stop taking allergy medicine for five days prior.  I did not die though there were moments I wanted to.  I went through three boxes of tissue. If I ever had doubts about my allergy medicine’s effectiveness, I no longer do.  I am allergic to everything around me!  Except dogs and ragweed.

I’m planning on moving my home office from one room to another, and before I can do that, I have to declutter the chaos of said home office.  It’s terrifying how much mess one writer can accumulate over ten years.  One of the (procrastinatory) ways I’m tackling this is by reading through my TBR shelf.  One of the TBR shelves, let me be honest.  There are multiple ones throughout the house.  And that doesn’t include the digital one (oh, ebooks, how I love/hate you).

So I read Grimspace by Ann Aguirre.  I liked it all right, but not enough to read through the rest of the series.  The world-building just kept shifting too much.  It felt like she was whipping something new out every time the story flagged.  On the other hand, Aguirre has awesome characters.  But that cleared five books from my shelf (because I’d bought the first five books in the series at the same time).  They’ll go to a more appreciative home.

And I am currently reading Walter Greatshell’s Mad Skills.  This one is a weird one.  The blurb is one of those where it’s technically accurate but makes it sound like a completely different book than what you actually get.   I think they must have corrected it, because each edition online has a different blurb; the latest ones, the more accurate.

 

“This is Flowers for Algernon, gene-spliced to La Femme Nikita, the Bourne series, MacGyver, and The Prisoner ….” –Adam-Troy Castro’s review from SCI-FI magazine.

The revision continues.  Right now, the heroine is about to have her grand plan overturned for the third time in as many days. Poor Silene. And her new friends are driving her nuts.

The new monster hunter book scene-sketching continues. Right now, the monster hunter is sulking because his boyfriend didn’t want his help and his sister is picking on him. Life is hard when you’re not actively hunting and killing things. Sometimes you have to stop and have feelings.

 

Monday Miscellany 070819

Sometimes I swear my life can be summed up in books, pets, baking, and mindless entertainment.  I think I need some more hobbies.

Finished the first season of Black Spot which was very satisfying.  So many times these “weird” mysteries lose track of the actual whodunit in favor of atmosphere and mood.  But there’s a missing girl, a murder, and hey, a murderer who is uncovered. And yes, there’s a lot of atmosphere and mood.  I think that readers of Tana French’s books would feel pretty much at home in Villefranche. I’ve been listening to the dub, reading subtitles, and ignoring that they rarely match.  I feel like between the two, I might get the right story.

I finished reading Teeth in the Mist and what a peculiar book it turned out to be.  I picked it up on a whim at the library, and had a fun surprise when I sat down to read it.  There’s all sorts of artwork and photographs and strange formatting and the like. Lovely to read. That said, I didn’t love the story overmuch.  There are two main timelines (three if you count Hermione, but she’s barely a blip on the pages), and I think that they ended up making each other look less interesting.  Roan, the 19th century girl, has a story that’s full of ominous big magic and enormous emotions–wild lost loves and witch-hunters and trauma and the devil walking the mountain–and it feels really rushed.  In comparison, Zoey, the modern girl, has a really lightweight story that sort of drifts along until it goes crazy at the end. I think I would really rather have seen two books: Roan’s story followed by Zoey’s story.

Off to see the allergist soon.  Here’s hoping they can wave a magic wand and fix the fact that my body has declared war on the ENTIRE DAMNED OUTSIDE WORLD.  I woke myself up sneezing last night, who does that? Just UGH!

The endless re-revision continues.  I keep overthinking the issues, making myself spin in place trying to think of all the variables needed, then underthinking them, reminding myself that really, I’m only altering one POV, which then leads to me falling flat on my face, because even one POV can undergo some big changes.  Still, progress is happening.

I’m also outlining the second book of monster-hunters in love. And contemplating a short story about a retired superhero.  And fighting the urge to work on the super complex urban fantasy. Basically, my brain wants to write ALL THE THINGS but it wants them all done NOW. Which is to say, writer brain status: normal.

No new music this week.  I’ve been listening to more of the podcast Unwell instead.  I’m enjoying it, though it’s definitely a slow burn.  Right now, it’s all about the people: Lily coming back to small town Ohio to help her estranged mom run a boarding house, and the people she meets.  In some ways, it reminds me a little bit of Cold Comfort Farm where Flora Post swans into the countryside home of her relatives and starts trying to “fix” them all.  Flora Post was in the right of it, but I’m not sure where Lily lands yet. It’s been engaging so far, and we’ve just tippytoed into the “weird” segment of the tale… a creepy voice on a recording.  I’m looking forward to where it goes from here.

Monday Miscellany 070119

Took a staycation starting Saturday for this week, so that’s fun. Though so far, all I’ve done is sleep and putter and read. And groom the tiny schnauzer so that he is more “dog” and less “dust mop”.  Today I need to Get Shit Done.

On the agenda: to deal with the slow motion immolation of my phone battery. I replaced the phone with a usable one, but now I have the old phone to deal with. I wasn’t thinking clearly, or I would have cleared and reset the old one to blankness, then all I’d be looking at is throwing it away safely. But nope. So now I have to get the battery out and take it somewhere that will dispose of it properly. Weirdly, no one seems excited about being given a slowly expanding battery. Go figure. Also on the Agenda of Boring Shit That Still Has To Happen: take clothes to donation center, do grocery shopping, go to the post office. Bleh.

Errands. My least favorite chore.

Listening to: Miley Cyrus’s “Mother’s Daughter”. I like her voice a lot, and this song is super appealing. Plus fun to sing along with.

Dipping my toes back into podcasts. I’m catching up with “The Magnus Archives” after a run of episodes that hit my every “Eek! No!” button. But I finally just decided to skip those and keep going. So far, no problem. Also started listening to “Unwell” but I’m only the first episode in.  I think I’m going to like it.

 

 

Finished reading NK Jemisin’s How Long ’til Black Future Month and, in no surprise to anyone who’s read any of her books, it’s an excellent collection. Only two stories failed to land with me. Out of 22 stories that’s a really good satisfaction rate for a single author collection. I highly recommend it! My standouts: “City Born Great” which you can find on tor.com to read. “Valedictorian”, “L’Alchimista”, “The Narcomancer”, which is set in the same world as the Dreamblood books, and the New Orleans after Katrina story “Sinners, Saints, Dragons and Haints in the City beneath Still Waters”.

Monday Miscellany June 24

The chaos continues. I just have to accept that this is the new normal, trying to fit too many things into too few hours.

On the bright side, one of the “too many things” is having the painters in to finally paint over the appalling, flat brown surface that is the entirety of my living room. It’s one of those awkwardly tall rooms (with no real reason) that means while I generally love painting, I can not do it myself. It requires a 25 foot ladder. So it’s been years and years and years of gloom and doom and light-suck–just the thing for someone with SAD. But now it’s a nice, clear white and I spent a few minutes last night trying to figure out which light I’d left on before realizing, no, this is just the way it is now. I can see! Awesome.

Also the sinus infection is on its way out, so there’s that!

We’ve had weird amounts of rain and storms here, so while the sodden ground is getting to me—so much mud on the dogs’ paws!—the city itself is absolutely reaching gorgeous. Everything is green and growing and blooming! There are places where all the dark-boled trees are suddenly crawling with pale green mosses, and it’s all just very fairy-tale pretty. Still, I could do without having to retrieve the potted tomato plant from the bottom of the yard where it keeps washing up, or the random flash floods that make part of the city impassible.

Read a few books that were kind of unsatisfactory for one reason or another, so that’s been a bust this week. Nothing to recommend: though I did sample the new Max Gladstone and found it really fun. I look forward to actually getting the time to read that.

No TV this week; no new music. Just been too busy to sit down without immediately falling asleep.

I’m re-re-revising (god damn it) the fantasy novel. It gets better with each pass, but sometimes you just want it to be done. And I’ve been working the outline for the second urban fantasy book about monster-hunters. Have a tiny introductory snippet!

Dillon Jack hadn’t led a life that made him respectful of rules, laws, or social mores. Mostly those seemed designed to pin you in place, which made you easy prey for the hungry world.
But rules of survival… those were different. Those kind of rules were useful. Following those meant he’d made the Decaders’ Club when so many other hunters hadn’t.
Don’t hunt alone.
The kinds of things he hunted could hunt back.
Don’t hunt angry.
Angry made you quick to act, which wasn’t a bad thing, unless quick to act was mixed with slow to think.
Always have a back-up plan.
Tonight, he was 0 for 3.

 

Monday Miscellany June 17

What am I up to?  Some day I’ll get to answer that question with a wicked chortle and a carefully choreographed hand-rubbing, but… mostly it’s the same old same old.

I did finish the quick & dirty revision of my novel about monster-hunters marauding through America (you can say Supernatural-inspired, I make no bones about it; just don’t expect me to use any of those characters, or really much of the world-building) and sent that off to my long-suffering agent.

I’m taking a week away from writing for Reasons—mostly just chaos and a full workload. Not to mention the Sinuses of DOOOM, Jesus this summer has barely started and I’d like to breathe again, please.

I read a couple books this week, DNF’d a few others. I don’t have anything awesome to recommend to you, but maybe next week! There are all sorts of (potentially) delicious book goodies coming out this month including Alexis Hall’s The Affair of the Mysterious Letter (I’m a sucker for Sherlockiana), Max Gladstone’s Empress of Forever, and Danielle Vega’s The Haunted (because who doesn’t like a good ghost story?) Plus I have my eye on a weird sounding novel called Bunny by Mona Awad.

I’ve been listening to a lot of reggaeton-inspired pop. I like it! J Balvin and Maluma and all the collaborations. Really like “Con Altura” and “Familiar”. “Familiar” sounds a lot like a Ricky Martin song and yeah, I liked his songs too, back in the day.

And weirdly delightful: the batshit crazy cover/remake of “Head like a Hole” as “On a Roll“.

I’m mostly through the fourth season of Lucifer and I’m see-sawing on whether or not I think Eve is an interesting character. I love that she left heaven for excitement and thrills, less enamored of the fact that her entire existence on earth seems to hinge on Lucifer. While I like that this drives her to make violent choices, I’m still bored by it. You can only watch someone making bad choices for so long.

I tried to watch Ralph Wrecks the Internet, but found it weirdly cringe-inducing and gave up. Ralph is a big man baby and I don’t feel sorry for him. Plus, a lot of the stuff I think that I was supposed to find funny just didn’t land with me.

 

So now I’m watching Black Spot, which is hitting the same “ooooh” spot that Happy Town did. I’m hoping this one has more of an ending. As per usual, I spend a lot of my time staring at a dark screen wondering what I was supposed to see there. What shadow? Where? ARGH.  I also have deep doubts about the translations, but since I don’t speak French, what else can I do?

Monday Miscellany

Things have been chaotic here: day job, writing job, regular life and a family member in and out of the hospital  (let’s all promise not to get old, yeah?), so I’ve been finding my entertainment where I can.

I’ve been listening a lot to Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go.  I like the way she’s cribbing from older songs and making new things out of them.  She’s definitely a singer with a personality that’s larger than life.  I am officially a wuss though: I find the videos to her songs deeply disturbing.

Oh well, it’s the music that counts!

I’m particularly fond of “you should see me in a crown”, which resonates really well with my character Silene.

Note: should you go check Billie Eilish out on youtube, be aware all of her videos are triggery in one way or another: strobing lights and scary doctors, spiders crawling on people, and so forth.

I watched season 4 of Legends of Tomorrow.  This season didn’t quite rise to Beebo heights, but was often fun.  Which is all I want from Legends. I was concerned at first, because as much as I enjoy Matt Ryan’s Constantine, the idea of sidelining Nate upset me.  I love Nate! I like that he’s a good guy with a good heart who wants to be friendly and isn’t chock full of toxic alpha maleness. I love his friendship with Ray.  And splitting them up so Constantine could be snarky and all damaged…  been there, seen that.  A lot.

I wasn’t sure if it would work. In the end, though most of the season was actually about Nate.  I didn’t love that we lost Zari, but that’s the plus of having a lot of women in important roles: I don’t get all bristly about the fact that one vanishes.

Things I’ve been failing hard at: cooking and baking!  Oh my god, I tried to make cookies and first I forgot where I was when counting out cups of sugar, then I forgot the baking soda completely.  (The cookies came out all right, but I didn’t enjoy them much, knowing I’d made them ‘wrong’: Butterscotch oatmeal for those of you who want to imagine my failure.)

And cooking–apparently you can screw up spaghetti with meat sauce.  It wasn’t even an interesting failure. Once upon a time, while deep in writer brain, I absent-mindedly threw a whole slug of dried oregano into my spaghetti sauce, only to realize after I’d stirred it in that the herb was actually catnip.  Still edible, even if weirdly floral. But this spaghetti was both bland and over salty. Fail!

Cooking and baking is always a good barometer of my brain power.  When I start screwing the basics up, it’s time to stop, relax, and really focus on what is going on in the moment.  Never my strong suit. So it’s kind of nice to have that harmless reminder of too-salty spaghetti and fail cookies.

Next week, I hope to get caught up on my podcasts, and maybe start Lucifer season 4.

March Miscellany

It’s Spring-ish here in KS, which basically translates to Season of Mud.  You can’t go outside without regretting it.  Cold, breezy, drizzly, slimy… oh god, so much mud.  And my part of Kansas is formed primarily of clay.  Which means it’s clingy AF and you know what?  It doesn’t smell too pleasant.  It’s just disheartening.  But at least it’s not ice.  At some point, I will have to brave the mudpit backyard and Do Something about it.  But for now, I’ve been mopping mopping mopping the floors and looking for inside entertainments.

I went to see Captain Marvel.  For me, it was like a slightly better Thor.  The space fantasy and the earth scenes meshed better, but had the same sort of “serious business” in space, and “banter and adventure” on earth.  Apparently, space is somber.  The one thing that Captain Marvel did really well for me was the ending fight segment.  Usually, no matter how engaged I am in the movie, the third act of superhero movies gives me CGI battle boredom.  Maybe because this climactic battle had multiple moving parts and shifting stakes, it just really kept my attention.  And on a shallow note, Carol’s powers were just so pretty!

Related, since Avengers: Endgame is coming out soon, I figured I might as well sit my butt down and finish watching the interminable slog known as Infinity War.  Seriously.  I got through it, but I can’t think of a movie less designed to suit my taste.  You’re going to give me all these super competent people and just show them losing from scene 1 onward in increasingly tedious ways?  I like a good tragedy, but this was just…. grinding misery involving characters I really have grown to care for.  But I’ll be there to watch Endgame.

Books!

Between the library, kindle, and the actual facts bookstore, I read a slew of entertaining books this month.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson.  First book in a YA mystery series with the big whodunit lingering undefined at the end, but instead of annoying me, it just made me eager to get the next one in the series.  Stevie Bell, the narrator, has a great “voice” that just makes it so easy to keep reading.

 

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand.  Another YA, this one horror.  It’s a strange book that I’m still picking apart.  Not so much for the events–it’s pretty straight-forward horror–but for the truly peculiar tone the story takes.  It’s like a mash-up of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Madeleine L’Engle.  Oh and Lovecraft.  It’s reaching for cosmic truths and finding cosmic horror and it’s also about monster-killing girls. I don’t know.  It was uneven, but really interesting.

Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong.  Book 4 in the Rockton series and not a standalone since it not only builds on the first three books, but begins as a direct result of the showdown in the last book.  I enjoyed this one a lot.  I didn’t like book 3–This Fallen Prey–very much, so I dithered on whether to buy this or not.  But I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket and it turned out to be a really good entry.  Come to Rockton for the characters, stay for the weird conspiracies and the violent crimes.

 

Nightchaser by Amanda Bouchet.  I’m not sure where I first saw this recommended, but science fiction adventure romance!  Whoot!  This was a lot of fun, if a little overstuffed at the end.  I can bring up the specter of Firefly here, and say, hey this book would be fun for fans of Firefly and it would probably be true.

 

Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews.  Book ten! TEN! of the Kate Daniels series and the final one.  There’s so much story that gets built up over that many books that the final book was going to have a hard slog of wrapping things up, much less dealing with ten books worth of fan favorite characters.  Not only did Kate have to deal with her father once and for all, but oh wait, there’s an entire new army of evil to defeat.  It wasn’t my favorite of the series–felt a little cluttered and rushed–but truthfully, any Ilona Andrews book will provide an enjoyable read.  I’m really looking forward to whatever they do next.

 

 

 

Winter

Right now, with winter settling in, the nights freezing more often than not, it seems impossible to remember how it ever felt to be too warm.  I know there were nights in the summers where I lay on a nearly bare mattress, kicking fitfully at the flat sheet around my ankles, trying to decide if I could bear to have that weight on my sweat-clammy skin, or if I could bear to sleep without any covering.  (the ghouls get you if you don’t sleep under a sheet!)

But now, it’s winter, and that means my bed starts becoming … tricky.  Laundry day is a CHORE.  My bed has more layers than some cakes.  The heavy, quilted mattress pad.  The fitted sheet.  The flat sheet.  The super soft microfiber comforter (from Society6, which I love love love).  The quilted bedspread.  The microfleece blanket.  The final cover sheet. (Because of the dogs.  When I had large dogs, they didn’t sleep on the bed.  But then I got a schnauzer-dachshund mix who claimed the bed as her right, and taught the subsequent mini-schnauzer, who in turn taught the puppy.  Easier to just put on a cover sheet than worry about dirt and fur.)

Removing any of these layers tends to send me scrambling, shivering, for a cover in the middle of the night.

It’s four loads of laundry. It’s endless treks up and down the stairs. It’s another reason I contemplate moving to sunnier, warmer climes every December.   It’s hard to remember that when I was a kid in Miami, snow and cold seemed… magical. From Narnia’s endless winter, to all the Christmas songs, to the fashionable accoutrements–boots and nifty jackets and big chunky cable knit sweaters.  The closest thing we got to snow in Miami was the rich girl’s birthday party, where her parents bought snow and covered their front yard with it.  Or the iceberg in the NOAA museum.  Or that one weirdly magical day where teeny tiny flakes swirled out from the sky for a whole five minutes, and we all shivered and went inside for hot cocoa.

I spent so much of my childhood dreaming of snow, and now, I spend winter nights under my layers and layers of blankets, socks on my feet, dreaming of sand and sun.

I could say it’s human nature to be discontent with the status quo, but I think it’s simpler than that.  I’m stuck in my own fairy tale: The Girl Who Couldn’t Thermo-Regulate.

 

My life the sitcom

Sometimes I don’t understand how certain events happen, even when I’m the one making the choices.

I blame the toaster.

The toaster HATES ME.

I started a late breakfast this morning with two slices of toast; the toaster rattled angrily, did its best to char the toast, then as a final FU, flipped the toast onto the floor… where the small schnauzer ate it.  That’s all right; one of those slices was for him, anyway.

But I didn’t feel like dealing with the angry toaster again, so I stuck a croissant into the oven to warm up.  Then I forgot about it, until the thought crossed my mind, that hey, I was hungry, wasn’t I making breakfast?  And turned around to see the black smoke STREAMING out of the oven vents.

(apparently my coffee scent overrode the burning bread scent… and to be fair, the kitchen already smelled like burnt bread because of the toaster)

Opening the oven revealed the croissant was on fire.  Yay.  Some foods are great with a flambe.  Croissants, not so much.  The usual dither ensued: what do you do with the giant flaming smoking thing to a) keep the smoke alarm from going off and b) stop the fire.

I grabbed the pan, opened the back door, and flung the flaming croissant through the air.

Jeffrey, the small schnauzer, and Ursula, the… adorable dog thing, nearly kneecapped me racing out to CATCH THE FLAMING CROISSANT!

Jeffrey is a schnauzer!  He has a beard!  That should not catch on fire!  Cue panic.  While still holding the scalding pan, and smoke filling the room, and the cats deciding maybe they should rush outside also….

In the end, the hot pan went into the doggy dig pit (full of sand and snow melt); the cats got shoved inside (full of indignation); and Jeffrey grabbed the flaming croissant, and QUICKLY dumped it into a mud puddle.  Then he ate it.

This dog needs grooming. LOOK AT ALL THE FLUFF THAT COULD HAVE CAUGHT ON FIRE!!!!

No one is on fire.  And the smoke alarm did not go off.  Jeffrey does not seem to be suffering from a stomach ache.

I’m taking it as a vaguely embarrassing win.  And a sign that my great plans for baking Sand Tarts/writing complicated confrontation scenes in the novel at the same time are not a “go”.  No multi-tasking for me, today.  At least… not before a LOT more coffee.

My PRECIOUS! AKA The One Fork

Sometimes it becomes apparent that what bonds you and your siblings is not just blood, or experience, but shared crazy.

Apropos of nothing, my baby brother texted me a picture of a fork.  Labeled it THE ONE FORK.  And with this text.

BTW: this is the ONE fork.
It came from the house of Robins.
I can find no other like it.
To clone it is my Xmas wish.

I agreed instantly!  I had TWO of those forks.  And this is how I know I’m not a selfless big sister.  He asked me if he could have one…. One of my TWO?!?!

Obviously, desperate measures had to be taken.

Whipped out the research gene, and lo and behold, the forks are still available!  Used, of course, and randomly spread across internet auction sites like eBay, etc.  But there they were! The ONE TRUE FORK! OUR PRECIOUS!!

I sent him the link.  And then decided, hey, two of these forks were nice, but more?  More would be better! El Niño came to the same immediate conclusion.  The texting lapsed.

It lapsed… suspiciously. Pretty much the length of time it took each of us to find our wallets, our credit cards, and start shopping.  Cue a buying spree in two states in two time zones.

I purchased six more of The One Fork!  My brother, losing his mind with excitement, purchased about five forks, two random knives, and a bunch of teaspoons, all in the same pattern.

The thing you have to understand is that this is a cheap fork.  It’s not like we were losing our minds over missing pieces of Granny’s sterling.  No, this is a stainless steel fork that is about one step up from a durable plastic fork.

It’s EKCO brand, which is about as inexpensive as you can get and still have the flatware not bend with use.

It’s not a particularly exciting pattern.  A basic chevron with a couple of random swirl dots at the end.

We don’t even know where these forks came from: our mother denies all knowledge of them, and in fact has been known to sneer at them.

So why, oh why, do we love this particular fork so much?

Easy.

It’s stabby!

It’s lightweight and it pierces everything you poke it at.  You can eat a salad with it and stab a crouton right through the middle without the crouton crumbling!  And if you’re missing a steak knife, well, hell the sides of the fork are thin and sharp enough you can use it to cut with. These forks (3 of them exist for sure, and we may have to poll the other brother to see if he has any of them) survive everything.  They are the first forks we reach for. They are the ONE TRUE FORK.

Even my roommate agrees.  It happened organically.  I have two of the forks.  One of them is always in the dishwasher.  And then, I realized, we were both subtly jockeying for the Stabby Fork at every meal.  Ignoring all the “good” forks.  It’s a mark of favor when one of us steps back and serves the other with the One Fork.

I can’t explain it.  I don’t really know that I can even blame it on nostalgia.

But, at least I’m not alone.

And now, I have more of THE ONE TRUE FORK.

They’re perfect.  They’re the exact same fork, only lots shinier.  And I think I’m going back for the teaspoons. Why?

Because they’re stabby at the tip.