You’ve been busting your ass

When you love the work, it can be hard to acknowledge that it is work.

My husband said recently that I’d been busting my ass writing, and that I should be proud of my accomplishments.  It was nice of him, and days later I’m still thinking of it.  Writing does not look the way I believe work ought to look.  When he’s been busting his ass, cars run better, chrome is shinier, the house is cleaner.  When his extended family is busting ass there are visual arts to enjoy.  When my extended family is busting ass, something gets built.

When I bust my ass, my desk is still a mess.  And it is rare that I get to see the finish of my work.  I write stories.  Stories don’t feel complete until they have found a reader, and have lived in another person’s head the way they have lived in mine.  Selling a story has become the stand in for that, but it is hard to sell a story.  And selling a story is largely out of my hands.  All I can do is send it in to open calls and hope it strikes a cord with that editor.

And because I don’t always get that finish with a story, I don’t have that moment where I step back, admire the thing I have built, and clink glasses with my husband as we celebrate with a drink. (Well, we do that for sales, but again, those don’t happen very often.)

I have been working very hard to make a lot of new stories.  It has worked.  I have new stories.  They might not sell, but that does not mean that I have not been busting my ass.  It is difficult to make a story resonate with somebody else.  It is difficult even to sit down and make that story happen when there are so many other things competing for time.  And the cat! Oh, the cat hates it when I sit down to write because I am focused on a box of light that is not him!

I think the cat might be fueling some of my anxiety over what work looks like…

But damn the cat! (No don’t, I love him.)  Work can look like twitchy fingers on a keyboard, or blank stares into the depths of my Dracula mousepad while I’m trying to decide if “antediluvian” is too pretentious a word. (It is.)

I bought some yarn to reward myself for the work.  I’m going to knit a sweater because unless my husband reminds me to sit back and have a drink, I reward myself with even more work.

I have read (or listened to) two stories this week that I really really really want to share:

And Then There Were (N-One): A Sarah Pinsker is invited to an interdimensional conventions of Sarah Pinskers, and must solve one of the Sarah’s murders.  Written by this reality’s Sarah Pinsker.  It is genius.

The Starship and the Temple Cat by Yoon Ha Lee: A ghost of a cat guards the ruins of its temple from a starship that wishes to share poetry. I listened to the podcast, and I had to skritch behind Mr. Peeper’s ear while listening to keep from openly crying.

 

Let’s Be Monsters!

I am scared so much of the time.  Sometimes little thoughts like “your house is on fire” will interrupt my conversations, my eyes will blank, and I will apologize and ask that you repeat that last sentence.  Sometimes my lungs constrict like they’re about to scream, because idk, we haven’t screamed in a while, and there’s probably something we should be screaming about.

I can cope.  I can leave my house.  I can hold a lit match to a candle.  I can snowboard down a mountain even though my brain is constructing all the horrifying images of my broken body airlifted off the resort when it all goes wrong.

And I can write monsters who are small against my subconscious fears, but they are bigger than me, and they stand a greater chance of winning against despair.

I made a mask this summer with eight eyes and a soft fabric face.  I cut a sea witch out of black paper, and painted my favorite peaks in the Tatoosh Mountain Range.  I like making things with my hands, and although my favorite thing to make is stories, I don’t know of any markets that will publish an envelope full of paper cut outs.

That’s what the mask was for.  I did an odd brave thing and put on an eight eyed mask so I wouldn’t stutter so much on camera, and I introduced a couple stories constructed from cut paper.  Would you like to see a thing I made?

In this story, a ship sails from the world you know and into the one where monsters dwell and where mountains keep the waters from falling into space.

Thanks for listening, and for reading, and for continuing to be while the world is so terrifying.  If you need a match, I’ll light one.  If you need a mask, let’s make one.

spider round (2)

In publishing news, my story “If We Could Fix the Horizon” just went live on Toasted Cake, episode 168.

Also, I will have a story called “Where You Get Your Ideas” in the upcoming Artemis Rising month with the Cast of Wonders podcast.

Songs and Sea Things

I’ve had this song going in my head for a while.


Appalachian Polaroids is composed by Steven Snowden and preformed by The Aeolus Quartet.

The vocal piece at the beginning, sung by Sheila Kay Adams, is a folk song with about as many versions as there are people who sang it.  The tune bends into ditties I’ve sung to my cat, or frustrations I’ve voiced at other cars from the safety of my own.  I’ve wanted to write it into a story for years, but the words on the page are silent.

I’ve read awesome music in other books.  I fell in love with One-Esk when she sang across a city in Ancillary Justice.  And the depiction of music in The Name of the Wind had such a fine rhythm that I could feel Kvothe’s picking.  I want that for myself.

I think I have a story for it.  It’s going on an island.  This one:

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The Tillamook lighthouse is far from Appalachia, but so am I.  And the tune has lived in me for long enough that the verses have gone sea-drenched and fishy.

But I still can’t get the words to sing.

 

! I have a story coming out this month in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show!  I am very excited about it!  It’s called Good Fairies!!!

 

What Else is New?

I like to make things when I am not writing.  Things like this guy:

Vermont Thread

this creature was hiding behind a bookshelf for a friend.

 

And this model I built with the husband:

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model shown with General Mayhem, the car we based it on.

Where I’ve been.

Hello! I’ve been working on a novel. And I’ve finished! Drafts are endless, but I’ve polished it enough that I’d like to share. Rules for sharing novels tend to argue toward an excerpt near the very beginning of the story, but this is my blog and I make the rules, so this is a passage from very near the climax.

Some background: Esther is blind, and sees through a magical connection to two spiders she calls left eye and right eye. Zinnia is her pirate obsessed girlfriend. They live in a socialist utopia that is slowly collapsing around them, because the spells that keep their empire safe are falling apart. Here’s this bit about a bicycle ride!

She ran down into the pitch black basement, rummaged for a moment, then came back up hefting a contraption of polished metal pipes and gears. I knew the idea of a bicycle, like Farmland people know that glass needs heat, but I’d never seen one up close. Hawkline Island was too small and rocky to make use of the thing and the ones I’d seen zipping up the hills on South Ballast were too fast for me to fully comprehend.

“You know how to ride, right?”

“Absolutely not.” But I was itching to play with the chain and gears. I might not know it in practice, but the bicycle’s function was palpable.

Zinnia’s teeth flashed in the low light as she patted the long flat cargo carrier bolted over its back tire. “Good thing it’s a courier bike.”

How fast are courier bicycles ridden by two people down a long narrow road to the wall that keeps our city safe from lace? I think, if I were to make a casual guess, I’d say fairly close to the speed of sound. My eyes were inside my sweater, clinging to the knit over my heart. My body was curled against Zinnia’s back, fingers laced around her belly, head buried in her shoulder blades and she was yelling something, “hole ahead!” but I didn’t catch the meaning until the wheels jarred underneath us and she nearly lost the bike.

“You gotta be loose, Esther!” The bike wobbled under us and she wriggled away from my fingers.

“Icantbeloose I’llfall” I shouted into her spine.

“The harder you fight physics the more likely we are to crash!” Her hand found mine at her stomach and she forced her fingers underneath to pry up my hands from where I was crushing her. “Keep them here. Can you feel the muscles keeping us balanced?” I shook my head, but I could feel her solid on the bike even as the wind whipped past us. “I need you to match me.”

The bike hiccupped underneath us and I cinched my fingers tight. She yelped, I had hurt her, and I drew my hands away. But I didn’t fall. I was still steady behind her, and my hands settled back in place.

“Better?” she asked. I could feel her shift under my fingers, the balance of the bike shifted and I flowed into it with her.

“This is really scary!” I shouted over the wind, ready to acknowledge my fear now that it wasn’t about to kill me.

“Scarier than discovering your whole life has been a lie?” she shouted back.

I tried to laugh at that, but the bike was slowing, and my eyes were finally ready to peek outside of my collar. We were at the foot of the wall. Fifty feet high, sheer glass, buttressed with pillars thick as houses. Deep inside the glass was a putrid ocean, a green black swirl of long dead sludge. I stepped unsteadily down from the wooden courier box and Zinnia held my hand to keep me upright. It was worse than I had expected; dead for all my lifetime but kept bright through mass hallucination. I couldn’t decide if I was queasier from the wall or from our bike ride.

Left eye stood up on my brow and I gave Zinnia a rakish grin to cover up my shaky confidence. “This isn’t scary. This is just one more thing to fix.”

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Bicycle comes back after the climax. Esther lied: All of this is scary.