Io Saturnalia, my darlings

IO, darlings! IO!

It's that time of year again, when we don our red caps and pretend we know Latin!

It’s that time of year again, when we don our red caps and pretend we know Latin!

So we kicked things off last night with our feast. Atypically, we ate at a nice restaurant instead of sweating all day over rock-hard barley rolls. It’s not that we’re getting too old and soft to eat rock-hard barley rolls, it’s just that ever since the Great Flood hit our apartment, our classical cookbooks have been packed away. [Note to self: future Jethro Tull filk, “Too Old for Barley Rolls, Too Young for Rye”] Last night we also gave gifts. I got an ASTOUNDING octopus brooch:

So bright! So beautiful!

So bright! So beautiful!

If you’re wondering why I would want an octopus brooch, above and beyond the objective awesome of it, well, here’s a good place to start.

I also got a really big hug… after giving my son a whammy bar for his guitar. He really, really wanted to wham up some songs, apparently. [Note to self: Wham on? Whammerize? Whamminate? Look this up. And you call yourself a writer!] The best thing about Saturnalia is that we can drag it out for several days. Tonight we’re going to see The Hobbit: Battle of Ten Thousand Whammy Bars [NB: look this up, Rachel!], and then tomorrow night my husband and son are going to a Canucks game while I stay home, put my feet up, and pretend I’ve never heard of hockey. A good time will be had by all! I hope your holidays, whichever you wham upon, are full and lovely and happy, too!


Welcome December

Made it through November unscathed!

Well, no, not entirely. But it was a better November than some I’ve had, despite the fact that our apartment suffered a major flood from above. Flooding sucks, although I’m sure it’s better than fire. It may even be better than famine, but it’s still a giant pain in the rear. I’m tempted to say, “It’s just stuff,” which is an attitude I try to have about my belongings in general, but in this case it’s not just stuff — or not primarily stuff. It’s time and space, and stress and uncertainty, all of which turn out to be ten times the headache “stuff” ever was.

I hate not knowing how long we’re going to be living like this. I hate not being able to plan.

I don’t quite understand it, but somehow I was still able to work. In spite of all this stress and nonsense, I got 30K words written. It’s not quite NaNoWriMo speed, but I think it’s as close as I’ve ever gotten (especially in darkest November). In a way, writing was the one thing that didn’t seem to be floating away, a little island among whirlpools and eddies.

I’m hoping it continues, that this stream of words will keep sweeping me along. I know, I know, I’ve just transformed writing from a welcome island into the stream itself. For my next trick, I’ll turn it into a marmot.

But my point is: it’s December. We made it, darlings. November, mon ennemi, adieu.


Son of the Return of November

Here we are again, at the month I love to hate, when the days grow dark and the intractable rain sets in and there isn’t even Thanksgiving (here in Canada-land) to break up the gloom.

Last year I proclaimed it the True and Holy Month of Nothing, which went really well. I hope to loaf a little less aggressively this year, however, because I have something I want to work on and I’m not nearly as burned out.

And hey, the month is off to an auspicious start! Suspiciously auspicious, if you ask me. I am ever sceptical of November’s motives. I had an excellent writing morning, however, and then it was so sunny (contrary to November’s usual practice) that we all went for a bike ride. We found a delicious tapas place for dinner. Can’t ask for better than that.

Does November get you down? Well, pull up a rock beside the fire. I’m planning on toasting marshmallows and singing stupid songs all month long.


A September of the mind

Hello, friends! It’s been a while. Life is keeping me busy these days. I don’t know whether news from my province reaches you, wherever you are, but here in British Columbia our teachers are on strike. School was supposed to have started September 2nd, but the children are still home.

I lay the lion’s share of blame on our provincial government: they have been under-funding the school system the entire time we’ve lived here; they have deliberately provoked strikes; they’ve broken contracts and ignored the court rulings saying this was against the law. In the 6 years my son has been in school we’ve seen a steady erosion of services. First they stopped serving lunch, and then they cut back on teacher aides and support staff. B needed speech therapy, and we couldn’t get enough from the school; we had to go private. Luckily, we could afford it, but what about all the families who can’t? B needs support in two areas, but we’re told we have to choose one.  It’s a travesty.

It’s rumoured that the province wants to destroy public education so they can introduce a school voucher system. Like in Sweden? That doesn’t inspire confidence.

Anyway, sorry to get all political on you. The upshot of this is that I am home-schooling the lad for the foreseeable future. I’ve heard some folks are eschewing academic work right now in solidarity with teachers. I get that, but think that in fact it would be more helpful to teachers if the kids come in already used to work and ready to go. So far, it’s going okay — where “okay” is what you get when you average out The Best of Times and The Worst of Times.

We’re having a Dickens novel of a time, apparently. That’s probably appropriate.

It’s not very conducive to writing, however, or at least not yet. If we kept at it long enough, our day would surely fall into a routine (ye gods, I hope he’s not out of school THAT long), but so far it’s all pretty labour-intensive. That’s one reason I’m here blogging — I’m trying to reclaim some space in the day (and in my own brain). When he was a baby, blogging was the way I kept up the discipline of writing every day.

I’ve also been getting up early to write, and have completed a book proposal! My agent is sending it to the usual suspects today, and I hope they find it promising. It’s another novel set in Goredd, dealing mostly with new characters, although there’s a bit of Phina in it as well. I don’t want to say too much, because things could still change, but fingers crossed that they give me the go-ahead. I really want to write this book.

If home-schooling is teaching anyone in this household anything, it’s teaching me that I really want to get writing again.

 


I fathom the bucket

I thought I would escape the ice bucket challenge unscathed, since everyone who knows me personally lives in fear of my basilisk’s glare. However, fellow writer and alert reader Amanda Fowler has called me out, so here I am getting silly in support of ALS research. I sing. You’re all doomed.

You’ll notice I didn’t explicitly tag anyone in the video. My camera operator (who came down with the giggles there at the end) BEGGED me to challenge him and has just run to the gas station for ice, so he’s my main challengee (and yes, we’re both donating).

As for the rest of you scurvy knaves, if you watched this video and had a good laugh, consider yourselves challenged, and even if you don’t dump ice on your heads, please throw a few bucks at the ALS Association. If we all do a little good, it adds up to a lot of good. The important thing is to get out there, engage with the world, and use your powers for awesome.


Filling up

Ahhhh… you know what I missed being able to do while I was working on the sequel? READ. Ye gods. I felt guilty any time I did, and even when I had time and leisure it was hard to really dig into anything. I just didn’t have the energy and mental resources to spare, so what I read slid off me, water off a duck’s back (the exception being non-fiction, which I would read because it was relevant).

Now I am afflicted with Cookie Monster Brain. I don’t merely want books, I want to eat them noisily and get crumbs all over everything. I want to take them apart and put them together in odd configurations, little Frankenbooks staggering about under their own power. I want to smash them together like stones and make tools, or music, or fire!

So I read V. – as I mentioned – but in the last couple weeks I have also read Throne of the Crescent Moon  by Saladin Ahmed (enjoyed the heck out of that), Raiders of the Nile by Stephen Saylor (I don’t like these young Gordianus prequel books as much as other books in the series; somehow Saylor has simplified the voice to reflect that he’s younger, but he’s also less interesting that way), and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (which I have decided perfectly encapsulates where Gaiman and I diverge, mythologically; I want to write a paper on this, or dissect it with a scalpel). I also have two manuscripts from friends to read, one of which is done, the other of which I need to start before my commentary becomes irrelevant. And then I just started The God Engines by John Scalzi, but I’m not far enough in to say much.

I know that doesn’t sound like very many books, but I am a SLOW READER, and for me it is a lot. Especially when you consider that for the last week I’ve been waking up at 5am thinking about literary criticism. Part of that is that it’s getting light very early now, but it’s also my brain going, “Hey. HEY! Remember that thing you read yesterday? Guess what guess what! I had some ideas about it.” And then off we go. My brain has to explain everything it thought while I was lazily sleeping, and then cross-reference all the other thoughts I’ve been having about anything and everything.

It is simultaneously annoying and glorious. I suspect my voraciousness right now is a symptom of just how gravely the well of my mind had run dry.

In other news, here’s my favourite song from choir this quarter, although this is not the arrangement we’re singing. It’s Owain Phyfe, though, so I couldn’t resist. I like his voice a lot.


Rested and ready for trouble

After three weeks of aggressive laziness, I find myself feeling all squirrelly and full of vim today. I spent much of the last week on the floor with a heating pad after throwing out my back; I’m sure it’s no coincidence that I’m feeling better today.

Long ago, my grandmother advised my mother to spend time every day sitting in a chair, getting used to being old. My mother, ever the contrarian, did not follow that advice, but that’s how I’ve felt for the last week, like I was practising senescence. I think I got good enough at it. Surely it’s like riding a bike, right? When the time comes, I won’t forget how.

Anyway, DONE with that. The one good thing is that I got some reading done. It’s been so long since I had leisure to read much of anything that I’m absurdly giddy with it. I finished Thomas Pynchon’s V. which I’d read way back in college (ye gods, almost exactly two decades ago! Speaking of my senescence). In fact, I’ve started a little reading group on Facebook called Club V. If you have any interest in reading and discussing along with me and some other intrepid souls, please do look us up. It’s an open group for now. I may close it at some point if it gets too unwieldy.

You know I’m feeling happy if I’m reading difficult books and digging into my comparative literature roots for fun. I think it’s finally sinking in that Shadow Scale is done and I’m free. I had my celebratory luncheon at Nuba. It keeps hitting me – I’m done! – and I’m dizzy with it.

I even started “the talk” with my agent – wherein we figure out what kind of trouble I should get into next. It’s wide open, darlings. Wide, wide open.


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