"There's your meal, mummy."
"There's your meal, mummy."
Squawk has graduated away from Duplo and on to "little Lego" or "big girl Lego", as she calls it. Or, as I call it, the proper stuff.
I mean, Duplo is surprisingly versatile for its size, and I'm sure you've all seen my attempts at robots and towers and dinosaur cars over the past year. I think my all-time favourite was her Dad's rendition of the village of Briskwater, with red blocks for hearts, a puppy standing in for the hunter's mule, and the part of the little dead girl being played by a zookeeper:
But let's be real: now that I have the proper stuff, my life is officially 700% more awesome.
the bad, with a silver lining
Squawk brought home a case of conjunctivitis/sinusitis this week, which she of course passed on to me (and then re-caught back from me, because naturally), so the both of us have mostly been feeling sorry for ourselves. The (sarcastically) awesome consequence of having a child is no sick leave, so we spent the week being very gentle with each other, walking slowly to minimise the aches in my head and because I couldn't get enough oxygen at any given moment. The (actually) awesome consequence of having returned to work is sick leave, however, with built-in childcare, so I did get to spend a couple of days (sadly non-consecutive) passed out on the couch.
I chose to spend it binge-watching episodes of Fringe, and I'm now halfway through the third season. I love the characters (Olivia Dunham in particular is fabulous, and ahead of her time in many respects, and I particularly love the way she was almost never (in fact never?) damselled during the first two seasons), but pretty much the entire first season and for much of the second, I couldn't for one moment forget The X-Files, the influence of which showed through all too readily. Although I will say one thing about X-Files which drove me crazy was the handling of the conspiracy aspect, which quickly became a desperate race between the viewers wanting to know more and the writers not quite having decided what lay at the base of it all and so simply loading on more and more and more mystery and confusion and I for one lost any and all confidence that the writers knew what they were doing, or even what they wanted to do. Fringe doesn't fall into that trap, thankfully,1 and now that it's hit its stride and departed from the influences that gave it birth, I'm loving it more and more.
the obligatory reminder
I'm not entirely sure how I missed the news (I blame the recent haze of plague infecting my household), but I have only today realised that Cherry Crow Children is listed as a Goodreads giveaway!
There are three copies available, and the giveaway is open until 7 August: so go forth and enter, and let the world know it exists!
The weeks flick-flick-flick by, and I need to journal, somewhere, somehow, even if only in fragments, even if only sporadically and devastatingly incompletely, what's been occupying my attention.
Like as not, it will mostly be stories or music that caught at my thoughts, but we'll see, I suppose.
This past few months, I've been reading the Twelve Planet stories. (I did not read my collection. My word-scoured brain does not yet admit that it exists. My cover is present because 11 doesn't tile well.) I hadn't gotten around to starting any of the collections before selling mine; and at that point I was too scared to read them, for fear of the extra draft-throttling pressure I knew I'd put on my own writing. But with the release of Cherry Crow Children into the wilds came freedom, to rest and to consume, and consume I have.
At last I am in the precise know regarding everyone's horror surrounding sugared almonds and that Kaaron Warren story. Also, I think Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter came up with the best use of a ute ever. My heart has never cheered so hard as it did on finishing Kirstyn McDermott's "The Home For Broken Dolls", and reading Nightsiders now, in the face of Abbott and co's selfish intergenerational theft, is terrifying.
Taking in these stories and collections in the one dazed and desperate session has been like staggering out of sun-scorched wastes into an oasis. I have drunk down each story, greedy for more, and I have emerged on the other side with new, stricter, more nuanced standards by which to judge narratives. It's awesome.
Sometimes, not very often, but sometimes when the winds blow right, the summer heat is kind, and the rain trickles down just so, a woman is born of a jacaranda tree.
Having finished the Twelve Planets, I moved on to the rest of the overwhelming/comfortingly large bookshelf I use as a to-read stack, and picked out Angela Slatter's The Girl With No Hands. Quoted above is the opening paragraph of "The Jacaranda Wife", my absolute favourite line so far, and one of those lines that automatically makes my bones sigh as I sink into a story.
I came across Glitch via a genre-shaming write-up in the local paper. The story centres on a police officer in a small Australian town where six people have just crawled out of their graves. The whole season is currently available on iView; I logged on to watch the first episode and promptly mainlined all six episodes over two sleep-deprived nights.
To celebrate a successful settlement, have an audio grab of Squawk pronouncing rhinoceros:
I noticed my walk the other day.
It used to be a no-nonsense, purposeful stride — but sometime over the past (how many?) years, it's degenerated. I could attribute some of it to motherhood: walking with an infant, and now a toddler, is hardly an exercise in speed. And there's been the social isolation of being a stay-at-home mum, of which I've still not entirely clawed my way free (because sleep deprivation, and busy) despite no longer doing the staying at home half. Some of it has to be due to my mental health, which, safe to say, is not currently at peak performance.
But that can't explain it all, can it? Because you guys, when did I get so very shrivelled up and shrunken in on myself?
I noticed it when I was stepping out of the bathroom at work. The place is like grand central station, and navigating its entrance and exit is an exercise in not getting smacked in the face by a swinging door or elbowed in the boob by someone leaping out of the way of said door. And as I was leaving the bathroom, I heard footsteps, so I hesitated where I stood until their owner stepped into view, to avoid a blind corner collision. So far, so normal. But when she appeared, I gave her a tight smile, and then I ducked my head down and to the side and scarpered past her. Like vermin dashing for the safety of darkness.
The realisation pulled me up mid-step. And to combat the self-loathing that washed over me as a consequence, I walked the rest of the way back to my desk with my head high and my shoulders ramrod straight and imagining I actually had the street-fighting cred to punch and stomp a villain to a bloody pulp should the need arise…
It was awesome. I've been making a conscious effort to walk less apologetically ever since, and it remains awesome.
So yesterday I stomped on out and bought new boots, boots to match (and maintain) my butt-thumpin' mood. On sale at half price, because taking names doesn't mean you must also be fiscally irresponsible.
They are helping me out something fierce. Plus they're super comfy, because apparently the Spanish really know how to make shoes.
Came across this printed on a business card today: turns out @RattusAsh stumbled upon it at Swancon and picked it up because he liked the artwork.
This particular piece is called Survivor Slayer, by Austen Mengler, and he is exactly how I picture the theriomorphs from "The Wages of Salt". (Except I never pictured the gas mask, but now I'm asking myself why the hell not?)
Mengler's website features a host of wonderfully horrific creatures, although I think my favourite (apart from the beastie above, because how did Mengler get inside my head so perfectly?) would have to be Robin:
What I planned to spend the last two months doing was talking about Cherry Crow Children in some form or fashion, mostly in the form of guest-blogging.
What I actually ended up doing, after receiving a notice to vacate because the landlord had decided to sell, was obsessively checking real estate sites in an attempt to find somewhere new to live, discovering that rental prices in our neighbourhood have skyrocketed, deciding on balance that moving Squawk to a different childcare centre might well cost me my job and confirming that we really don't want to rock that particular boat right now, and eventually making an offer to buy the place we're currently in. (I have to say, I endured most of this process by feeling nauseated at the sheer concept of money and routinely collapsing on the couch at each day's end and drinking myself into tomorrow.) But our offer was (eventually) accepted and we're about a month away from settlement (and the opportunity to punch holes in walls) and, well, yes. Property part-ownership here I come.
Meanwhile, Cherry Crow Children is (thankfully) chugging along quite nicely for a book abandoned by its author, garnering a smattering of lovely reviews and ratings.
In trawling through my blog drafts for something on-point to mention, I came across my journal entry for a day, sometime in early 2011, when I decided to attack the final pre-submission edits of "The Wages of Honey":
10:30(ish) I boot the boy out of the house (unfed, because I have no groceries worthy of the name) so that he may hunt down breakfast and I may write. This story is going DOWN.
10:40(ish) I make my first cup of tea. And realise I'm starving, but have no groceries worthy of the name. I start munching on some leftover BBQ Shapes that seem to have survived the night relatively unscathed. Since I'm eating anyway, I check my email. Again.
11:04 I make my second cup of tea, and stare at the notes I've made on what needs to be done to this story. My structural edits always start with a staring contest. I stare at the story, scrutinising where and how I should make these cuts, and it stares back, hiding all convenient locations for cutting or slicing. One of us must blink, sooner or later. We have not yet reached that point.
11:50: I decide to live-blog my deathmarch edits on this FVCKING STORY THAT WILL NOT DIE, DIE ALREADY STORY, DIE.
11:51: The story blinks! I make a teensy tiny cut on page 11. Or rather, I try to. In point of fact I make it through the first pressing of the enter key before the laptop battery dies, taking all my work into the void that is emergency sleep shutdown. Spend the intervening 5 minutes making my third cup of tea. Wonder how many cups of Earl Grey a human body can consume in a given time period before the brain starts to pickle itself in the tannins. Contemplate switching to a herbal tea. Yanno, at some point.
12:49: Story being recalcitrant. Still only on page 13. Unsure how to make events flow. Tongue feels pickled in tannins, or else I would have another cup of tea. Really wish I had more food in the house than leftover (slightly stale) Shapes. Wonder if there are wives for hire. Decide I prolly can't afford one even if there are.
13:07: Tim Tams! Who knew I had Tim Tams? How long have I had Tim Tams? By the love of all things sugary, this is a godsend! Make myself a hot chocolate, and suck it through three (3) Tim Tams in quick succession. Now I do not have Tim Tams, and my belly both hates and loves me.
14:27: page 14. This is really not going well at all. Structural edits HURT.
15:50 Well, shit. Guess it's me who's going down, not the story. But at least it's in a shredded mess on my hard-drive. That totally counts as progress.
Something a little different today: (far past) time I introduced you to the cat, since cats are what the internet was made for, even if we didn't know it at the time.
Ani (short for Aniseed) came to live with us in January 2014.
I knew the moment we got her in the car home that we’d picked the right kitten for us:
At the time, I wanted a cat because I'd lived too long without one, and I felt it was important to raise Squawk with pet/s. And I wanted a Burmese because I grew up with the breed and I honestly can't imagine having cats in the house without at least one being a Burmese. I've always loved the breed. Burmese owners will know why; those who have no knowledge of the breed will glaze over if I try to explain it and a cat's nature is always more than the sum of its parts anyway. Suffice to say: time and again I've seen Burmese win the unguarded affection of even people who staunchly hate cats.
Right from the start, she slept … as only the dangerously relaxed can.
She's immensely patient with Squawk and her displays of affection, and whenever Squawk gets her way they do pretty much everything together:
Up to and including bonding over their shared pining for Outside
Truth be told, I nursed a secret hope that Ani would help entertain Squawk and thus maybe free up a scant few extra seconds a day I could squirrel away for my writing. What actually happened was that Ani fascinated and enthralled Squawk and those "few extra seconds" snowballed into hours … all of which I had to use playing referee/lifeguard between the two. Oops.
In fact, it's fair to say the only contribution Ani makes toward my writing is to hinder and hamper it at every turn. From demanding cuddles whenever Squawk is in bed, and those cuddles having to be affairs where she burrows into my neck, thereby needing an arm to support her squirming weight until I get cranky enough to put her down; to climbing fly-screens and bookshelves whenever I dare approach the writing desk; to tearing up and down the corridors, yelling, for the sake of enjoying her own speed and noise, she is, unequivocally, crazy.
As I write this, in fact, she is sitting on the floor, glaring up at the top of the fridge with her tail lashing and her ears back, yelling at it for being too tall. (Burmese!)
But she is also the snuggliest, feistiest and friendliest cat I ever met, and I can't begrudge her a psychological tic or two, given the company inflicted on her.
And she still sleeps like the dangerously relaxed
A quick note (while the evening is still young enough to leave me cogent) to say that I've been working, of late, on digitising a couple of stories from my backlist, since I have a handful of the critters which don't seem to fit any of the reprint markets and I don't see the value in them sitting there completely abandoned even by their author.
Last night I managed to publish the first of them: "The Wages of Salt" is now available on Smashwords.
Set in New Persia and featuring salt flats and chimaeras and archaeology, "The Wages of Salt" is actually the precursor story to my Twelve Planets collection, Cherry Crow Children. (Hence the title "The Wages of Honey" for the first story in the collection.)
Like the stories in CCC, "The Wages of Salt" tends towards the literary in style; unlike the collection, it's a younger, more forthright story. (And shorter. Distinctly shorter.) It was first published in Postscripts #18, but that is now out of print, so the Smashwords edition makes it available once again.