Homesick

This is the first time I’ve been across the Rockies (or indeed west of the Mississippi) in over 20 years. I’d forgotten how much I love the West. Many of my favorite childhood memories (and not a few dark ones) come from times we were ‘way out west.’

Sitting in the plane on the way home, looking over the snow shrouded mountains below, feeling the same peculiar conflict as when I returned from England 6 years ago. It shouldn’t be possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never lived, yet Washington holds my heart as ever. I’m sick and weary, eager to return to my own beloved house and pups and son. But there’s a not-insignificant part of me wishing I could somehow transplant that whole life, entire, to the state I long to be in. A place where everything I am, and everything I care about makes sense and fits. A place that felt like home the minute I stepped off the plane, and continued to do so from tiny back-country Centralia to Seattle, a city I could grow quite foolishly fond of.

The trip itself was more-or-less delightful. It was a pleasure to help, in my small way, our friends start their life as a married couple. To share with my own husband a certain amount of nostalgia and reminiscence from our own wedding, with friends who are effectively family. I was also given the opportunity to get to know the bride better, and become closer to her, and unexpected delight. Her family practically adopted me as well, for better or worse, and that brought its own sense of homecoming, as well as new friends.

I’ve only flown over the Rockies once before, as a tiny child too young to remember. I didn’t realize quite how beautiful they were from the air, snow-covered and tree-adorned. Folds of land rising out of vast snowfields laid out below.

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Aside from the wedding preparations, I was also able to have some small geocaching adventures, and visit with my father’s brother. Neither of us has much contact with my dad, so it was nice to reconnect with what’s left of that side of my family. As well as with his land, of which I have nothing but amazing memories from childhood. My memories of his bit of peninsula have fueled my love of Washington for 20 years, and it hasn’t changed much in that time, remaining as beautiful and wild as ever in most parts.

The final piece of our trip was our one half a day in Seattle, on Martin Luther King Day. We couldn’t visit much, but we walked around the Pike Place Market, and then down 2nd to the International District (Chinatown). Along the way we ran into a MLK Day Rally, and listened to one of the speakers, a young black woman full of fire and passion, out to change the world. I don’t know her name, and was too far back to see her face clearly, but her voice sticks with me even now.

The trip is nearly over, but the wheels set in motion turn onward, bringing me closer to a return to the place I’m meant to be. One day, one hour, one step at a time.

Time to get on the last flight.

Star Wars Feels

Also Spoilers. Lots and lots of spoilers.

Also capslock. Lots of that. Because I’m mostly filled with screaming fangirl feels.

Seriously, there will be spoilers, because I just saw the movie and I can’t talk about it without expressing all my feels about spoilery things. So, yea. I’m gonna bullshit for a bit first, and then put the spoilery-stuff below a cut, but yea, this is your warning.

Also, it’s quite likely this post will be a little scattered, because I’m still in post-viewing fangirl-squee-feels and I’m just trying to get all the jittery-love-explodey feeling out onto the page before it fades.

So first, a couple pictures:

Pre-Star Wars Selfie

Pre-Star Wars Selfie

My new Star Wars shirt

My new Star Wars shirt

So, yea, pre-show selfie, in my new shirt. My Star Wars shirt, which is the first shirt I’ve ever made, the first piece of clothing I’ve sewn completely on my own (I’ve made clothes, but not since I was a child and Grandma helped me). It has some issues, and I wrestled hard with this stupid thing (I actually started it at the end of 2014, so…yea. Kind of a long time but whatever shut up I finished). When I started it, I never even thought about wearing it to a Star Wars theatre viewing, but I found it just in time to finish the assembly and wear it to the movie tonight. And I’m so glad I did.

See, Star Wars was my first fandom. Star Wars was arguably the first nerdy thing I ever got into, aside from reading Fantasy in general, back when my cousin introduced me to it at the age of about 13. I was a huge fan, read all (ok well most of) the books, studied the ships and the races and the politics. My cousin and I talked it over endlessly as kids, and read the books to each other aloud, or just generally did fannish things. Then the prequels happened. And….my love didn’t die exactly. But it was banked. It was like reconnecting with an old lover and discovering what a complete tool they’d become. You still love them, or the person they used to be, but you can’t even look at their picture anymore without thinking about what a total douchebiscuit they are.

Watching The Force Awakens tonight, with my cousin, wearing the shirt I had sewn myself out of a love of Star Wars, was a bit like reconnecting with that old lover after they’ve hit rock-bottom and rebounded. They’ve got their act together again. They’re more like the person you remember from that first passionate, magical weekend getaway. Sure they’re older now, and a little worn, but in a lot of ways they’re also more polished and certainly wiser now. And now you remember all the little things you still love about them

So, yea, spoilers for the movie The Force Awakens will be below this cut. Honestly, if you keep reading beyond this point, then I assume you want to be spoiled or have already seen the movie (IN WHICH CASE TALK TO ME IN THE COMMENTS ABOUT THE FEELS!!!)

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LAST POST OF 2015!!

I’ve meant to write this post days ago. And yet here it is, December 31st 2015, 11pm, and I’m dashing to start, write, and post the thing before it’s officially the new year!

Which is basically how my whole year has been going. I’m pretty sure this year has lasted about a millennia so far. It’s certainly been a year of extreme changes and shaking up my life. Mostly in a good way. Most of the changes in my life have been positive, steps forward after years spinning my wheels in a rut. It’s nice to move forward.

This year, I’ve accomplished a caption of stuff:

  • Given up on moving to Washington (for the time being)
  • Quit a job
  • Started interning/working with a literary magazine for LGBTQ fiction (HIII! Go read Vitality!)
  • Shopped for a house
  • Bought a house
  • Gotten a new roommate
  • Got a new job
  • Begun a new major collaborative writing project (omgoooosh I can’t wait to tell you guys about this one).
  • Bought the first brand-new car we’ve ever owned
  • Made progress in managing my mental health better

And probably a lot of other stuff too, but those are the things that stick in my mind. I almost forgot to add in Vitality to this list, because it hardly seems possible one year could have contained so many changes and new beginnings.

All of which probably explains my sudden and completely irresistible urge to get another tattoo. It built for a while, until Christmas Eve I found myself left to my own devices for most of the day. I went out to buy milk and ice, but somehow ended up coming home with

THIS.

THIS.

A book is a bit of an obvious tattoo for me, but it’s a sort of thumbnail version of a larger tattoo I eventually want on my back and neck which involves several books “falling” down my back. I don’t quite feel like I’ve earned the big one (and I can’t afford it yet either) in some sort of odd way. Tattoos are a bit of a way of marking years of change or progress. Not always, not every change. But this was one year that needed marking. Not to mention I needed just a tiny bit of rebellion in my staid, adult existence! 😋

Anyhow, this year has ended quietly for me despite the excitement of the year. It ended with homemade pizza at my mother’s house, a tranquil fire in the pit, and the good company of my very best cousin-friend.

And so g’night all. See you next year!

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‘Ancillary Justice’ by Ann Leckie

*There may be spoilers ahead, read at your own risk*

I bought this book for a birthday either earlier this year or last year (I think it was last year). Long enough after it came out to have heard the buzz, but before it had really started winning awards. I started to read it immediately, but wasn’t in the right headspace so put it down again (a frustratingly frequent phenomenon for me these days). I finally picked it back up again last week, and just finished it today.

I’m frustrated that it took me so long to get back around to it, but at least I don’t have to wait for the next two to come out now, I can just borrow them from the library and continue with Justice of Toren One Esk’s story. Because the Justice of Toren and One Esk character(s) are so fascinating to me both as a reader and a writer. The story didn’t suck me in so deep I couldn’t admire the technical aspects of the prose, but the narrator-character kept me coming back day after day. I like her (it? them?) and her story is unpredictable and unusual enough to leave me guessing.

One of the most fascinating, delightful, and slightly odd things about the book was the language. The Radch eschew gender entirely in their language, but rather than contort English to try to display this, Leckie signals this in other ways. One way is the constant default of every character’s gender to a single gender, regardless of their true gender, with the narrator having to correct herself on occasion as she interacts with differently gendered people. So far, not exactly unheard of, if not usual in SF/F. The twist is, the default gender is “she”. Not “he”, not “they”, not even “it”. She, if you please, and everyone including several characters clarified as male are referred to by the narrator exclusively by the female pronoun. It’s both beautiful and disorienting, and infuriating that it should be so disorienting. After all, he has been a default pronoun for centuries. Why can’t we have a default she now and again?

In any case, it’s a highly enjoyable bit of space opera, with some jagged edges and dealing with dark topics, but not so filled with despair that I have difficulty reading it. I definitely understand why it’s won so many awards, and wholeheartedly approve.

I’m ready to locate a copy of Ancillary Sword now!

Sometimes I Write Stuff That is ~Not Poetry~

She falls into the abyss, twisting flailing
No bottom to land on, only endless grey mist in every direction.
Fingers too heavy to lift scrabble at empty air
No toehold, no hint of help from anywhere

In her head the voice doubts the grey her eyes insist is there
Beyond the walls which don’t exist voices tell her she floats in the light
She strains to see it, and convinces herself there is no darkness instead.

No cushion can ease the exhaustion
More than bone-deep, it stems from her soul.

Shut down, repair and reboot. The cycle rolls on.

….Hi. Anyone Still Here?

*dusts off shelves, removing several cobwebs*

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Oh, uh. Hey. So, long time no see…. *looks guilty*

I swear, I’ve been meaning to write this post for like, a month now. But somehow there just is too much to do these days. Meanwhile, I’ve let this blog slip decidedly lately! I’ve been doing more blogging over on my tumblr blogs these days, but that’s no real excuse.

I’ve also got a new, real, grown-up day-job these days! I’m commuting 40 minutes every week day, and work from 8:30-5:30, so that’s really cut into my online time decidedly. I’m still able to be active on social media, but I mostly do it on mobile during breaks at work anymore. I am enjoying the job though, which is nice, and it’s a good company to work for (my mother has worked for it for 20 years now). I’m actually currently in a (very nice!) hotel for a week, going through training. The training isn’t deadly boring, though it’s job training, so it’s not exactly riveting either. But I’m also getting a good bit of alone-time to relax, read, write, and do some other things in the evenings. It’s a bit rough being away from my baby for so long, but it’s nice to have a mini-working-vacation paid for by my company!

On top of the job, there’s all the joys of new home ownership. We’re still building bookshelves so we can finally unpack all of our books. On top of which there’s maintenance and repairs and all sorts of things. Something about home ownership has made me be a bit more responsible lately too! This weekend was the first time in a month I didn’t fold all the laundry before going back to work! I don’t even know who I am anymore without having to dive through baskets of clean clothes to get dressed…

On the writing front, I’ve managed to thoroughly shake the bout of heavy depression that kept me from writing for a long time, and am back into the swing of things, albeit at a slower pace. But I’m working on three short stories currently, one in final polishing process, one currently being beta-ed (if anyone wants to beta-read a science-fiction story for me, please message me!!) and one in the first-draft phase. PLUS, I have a new collaborative project I’m starting, that is VERY exciting, and I will definitely post more about as more information is available!

So, now that I’ve caught back up a little, I’m going to try to post here a bit more often again!

Moving to a New Chapter

Well, this is it. It’s the last night in our old house, the address we’ve been living at for the last five years. Moreover, we’re joining the ranks of the landed gentry.

Yep. That’s right. We just bought our first house (well, technically we sign the final paperwork to close tomorrow morning). We’re land-owners. It’s….a lot less weird than I thought it would be.

I’m excited. I’ve already got the furniture arranged in my head, and have had my garden planned for a month. We’ve picked siding colors and are accumulating furniture. I’m ecstatic to go shopping for all those little touches that make a house a home, like hand-towels and spice-racks and the like. Even though this house isn’t in the city I was hoping for, nor even the state, it’s an acceptable second choice and I’m delighted with the house and land itself. Not to mention the company we’ll be keeping there (two good friends are moving in with us).

Sure, we’ve got worries. Financial worries, and fixing the roof worries, and who’s going to mow the lawn sort of worries. But they don’t scare me as much as I thought they would, and I don’t feel nearly as trapped or nailed down to one place as I thought land ownership would feel.

The process itself has been no picnic either (if you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed a sudden uptick in wordlessly enraged tweets this week). There’s been anxiety and despair that we’d never find the right house, and endless paperwork. The last few weeks as the final push has been made to complete our closing has been something of a nightmare (tomorrow is our FIFTH closing day, so keep your fingers crossed it actually happens, ok!). But all that is coming to an end, and the packing is nearly complete, the first load is already in the trailer, and tomorrow night we sleep in our new bedroom overlooking our very own front lawn.

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Some Parenting Thoughts

This is some stuff I posted on Tumblr first, but I felt it also deserved to go here too. Besides, I haven’t posted on here in ages, and I’m hoping to change that.

Walking the very fine and moveable line between Privacy and Protection is a difficult job, and too many parents don’t even realize there is a line. People look at this as a black and white issue, a problem with a one-size-fits-all answer. It’s not. It’s an issue that needs to be considered with care and empathy individually by each family. I absolute believe children and teens deserve privacy, but it’s also my job as a parent to protect you long enough until you are mature and developed enough to be your own person. This becoming your own person is a gradual process, not an overnight thing. And everyone comes to it at their own pace. When my son, aged four, asks me to go away because he’s in the bathroom or his bedroom or something, I respect that and I go into the next room where I can still hear what he’s doing but am not intruding on him. But because he’s four, there’s also a decent chance that if I’m not looking at him he may be trying to eat an entire tube of toothpaste, sail his duck in the toilet or have peed all over his bedroom carpet. I know this because sometimes he tries to do things like that even if I AM watching him. So I have to check on him, but I can do it quietly, unobtrusively, sometimes even unnoticed. If he notices me and he’s doing nothing wrong, I can simply say “hi just checking” and go away again. Keeping tabs on your children doesn’t have to be traumatic, inconvenient, and shaming for them. If you do it in a respectful way, they will be grateful for the proof that you care enough to be making sure they’re ok.

The fact that so many parents don’t believe their children are entitled to privacy is a fucking shame. But just because you need privacy does not mean you get UNLIMITED privacy. Kids often need protecting from themselves as much as anyone else (I’m far more worried my kid is going to leap off the stairs and break his arm than that a stranger is going to snatch him in public). This is not a black and white issue, it’s a fuzzy shades of grey and moveable area, where you tailor your parenting style to the kid. Too many parents don’t believe their children have any character to speak of, because they never bothered to instill one early themselves, or get to know their kid as person to find out what sort they’ve developed on their own. Get to know your own kid, know how they think, what sort of person they are, what their needs are, and you will have a better chance of spotting when they’re heading into shark-infested waters and heading them off at the pass than if you treat them like prisoners whether they’ve given you cause or not. And teach them how to navigate the dangers and pitfalls of life with kindness and integrity BEFORE they fall into those pitfalls, rather than punishing them afterwards. It’s kinder, more effective, and will ensure your child looks to you as a teacher, not a prison guard.
That saying, “I’m your parent not your friend” is crap. You should be friends with your child. You should be friends with your child. You should be friends with your child. Kids, parents should be the first friends you make. It is possible for people to have multiple layers of relationships. My husband and I are lovers, partners, and yes friends. I am good friends with my realtor, but we also have a professional relationship. My mother has been my best friend for a long time, but she’s also still my mother and yells at me when I do stupid crap. Yes, even though I’m 30, because she doesn’t have the power to tell me what to do, but as my mother she has the right and even duty to say “wake the fuck up and take care of your life, dammit”. I don’t HAVE to listen, and sometimes I don’t because she’s not in control of my life, but sometimes I do because she’s wise and loves me and wants me to be the best person I can. Btw, this is not a privilege my father has. He was an abusive prick before he left, and he’s not been involved in my life for 20 years. He has no relationship with me, and gets no say in my life. My mother does. Be friends with your kids, even when they’re little. Who do you think people take their troubles and problems to for advice? Their friends! Be your child’s friend, and be genuinely their friend, so that when they have a problem or are in trouble they’re not afraid to turn to you and ask for help. Would you rather they turn to you for advice and help in a situation, or went to their peers who may be idiots or cruel, or simply ignorant? The best way to help someone is to work with them and support them, not to imprison them. Love and mutual respect are the only way to have a healthy relationship with someone, and it’s our job as parents to teach those qualities to our children. No excuses. If you can’t manage that, don’t have children until you can.

#MarriageEquality

Today’s historic SCOTUS ruling has had me in a bit of a tizzy all day. Joy and hope have been filling me up so much today that I’ve been barely able to think properly. I’m even having trouble formulating words to write this. I’ve just been glued to my social media, basking in the celebration. But also I’ve been looking at the pictures of the people finally getting married after years, maybe even decades of waiting with their partners for fairness to win. Some of those people are old, and will probably not enjoy the many benefits of legal union for much longer, but at least their passing will be eased by knowing they can provide for those left behind.

Others are young, with long happy lives ahead, and they give me hope for the future. This is a turning point in history, a point that will help to make our world a little kinder, and fairer, and more loving for our children. My son barely understands marriage at all, except that mommies and daddies sometimes live together. Thankfully, he’s going to grow up in a world where all kinds of families are possible, and visible, so his understanding of marriage will begin and end with love.

Of course, while we celebrate today, I’ve been trying to be mindful of all the many hurdles still facing my community. Hurdles like still being legally fired for being gay, even in the state I live in. Or hurdles like people being barred from public restrooms for not conforming to outdated gender stereotypes.

But I am comforted in the thought that all those battles will be easier to fight now that we have been bolstered by the hope from today’s big win for love.

#LoveWins, and so do we.

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“An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir

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So, it’s been almost a month since my last post, which I’ll probably talk about in a post later this week. But first I want to talk about this book I read yesterday. It’s the debut novel, and first in a series, by author Sabaa Tahir and it is everything. I saw it in a post about diverse fantasy on Tumblr, and the description of Ancient Rome inspired fantasy made me sit up and pay attention right quick! So I requested it from the library and yesterday sat down to read it.

Now, if you know me, or look at my lists of favorite books, you know I don’t enjoy “dark” or “gritty” fantasy much at all. I’m kind of delicate, and tend not to handle it well. I need humor and shenanigans and a certain general tone of hope. I’m not into post-apocalyptic stuff or modern gritty stuff or whatever. But An Ember in the Ashes is the exception. I saw, almost immediately (in the very first two chapters in fact) when the world was being introduced that this was going to be one of those slightly darker fantasy worlds full of pain and struggle. People were killed, others carted off to jails, and characters forced to flee for their lives, all within the first chapter.

I considered putting this book down, I really did. But I just needed to read one more chapter. And then another. And then I was halfway through the book and I had to go back again after toddler-bedtime because I had to find out. I was captured by the characters, and the intensity of the struggle in the story, and voices of the two point-of-view characters, Laia and Elias. The story is told in their alternating voices, and having both sides of the story is it’s own delightful magic.

Elias is a perfectly nice character, and I was captivated by his chapters quite nicely. But Laia was really the character who captured my heart. Because you see, she was full of self-doubt about her own courage, and actually was a little cowardly. She starts out afraid, and runs away from trouble, and I related to her struggle to push past her fears to stand up for the people she loved and take pain and torture to save them. I’m a pretty big coward, but I’ve been getting braver, little by little, over the years (mainly brought on by motherhood) so Laia’s character arc resonated hard with me, despite the fact that I’ve never been in fear for my life or the lives of (most of) my family like she was. Still, I loved her, and I was willing to keep following her story no matter how distressing, dark, or painful the twists became.

Did I mention that this book contains not one, not two, but a multitude of POC characters? Because it does, and the point-of-view characters are both POC. It also deals with themes of colonization and oppression and revolution which seemed particularly relevant given recent events. Not all of the ruling class of colonizers are evil bastards, and the revolutionary fighters are not all unalloyed good guys out to better their people’s lives. Laia and Elias come at the problem from both sides, and watching them both come to terms with the complexities of such things is part of the brilliance of Tahir’s world.

I also want to make note, for the SFF writers out there, that Tahir’s world is dark and gritty and characters are tortured physically and psychologically both on-screen and off. Rape is a daily threat for the slave-girls, and even for the female soldier character, Helene. But never, not once, not even a little, is the rape on screen, gratuitous, or inserted for titillation or male-character growth. Most of the rape happens in the past, and threats in the present are mainly thwarted. The one male character who is concerned about the rape of his female co-characters (Elias) is not forced to stand by and watch is friends raped, nor do we dwell only in his fear of the possibility. We see Laia’s fear constantly, and we even get a taste of Helene’s fear when she opens up to Elias regarding a particularly nasty soldier threatening her.

Finally, a few thoughts on the writing. Debut novels are usually not a writer’s best work of their lifetime, because of course writing is an art perfected over time, so the longer one writes, the better one gets. Writers, like fine wine and cheese, get better at their craft as they age, not worse (to a point of course). If An Ember in the Ashes is any indication of ability, Ms Tahir is going to be a powerhouse in fantasy by the time she hits her stride. The writing was smooth and seamless, really a thing of beauty. I was well over 200 pages in before I even realized it was written in present tense (a tense I usually find clunky and forced), and as I said above the prose pulled me along through the story despite my usual lack of taste for such things. It was immediate, visceral, and intense throughout, even during the (very) occasional bit of quiet happiness.

I would highly recommend this YA Fantasy, and am personally eagerly looking forward to the next novel in 2016, because I need to know what happens to Elias and Laia next dammit!