editing


First: thank you, everyone who posted a new review of A Pretty Mouth yesterday. I’m at 25! Yay achievable goals!

Okay. Onward: I’m so excited to announce the existence of (and the imminent open reading period for) Swords v. Cthulhu, the followup to Stone Skin Press‘s Shotguns v. Cthulhu. Most exciting, for me, is that… I’ll be (co-)editing it with Jesse Bullington! My first anthology… aww… no, more like AWW YEAH!!

In short, we’re looking for adventure romps in which sinewy muscle and cold steel are pitted against the minions of the Great Old Ones, stories combining movement and violence with the existential despair at the heart of Lovecraft’s work; the cerebral cohabitating with rowdy action sequences. We’re also actively encouraging writers of color, women, GLBT writers, and other traditional outsiders to the Mythos to contribute. We want to have a Table of Contents as diverse as it is kick-ass, so please—if you want to submit, do, and if you know a writer who you think would be perfect for this, please tell them.

The full guidelines are here, on the Stone Skin Press site. Go forth—sally forth, even—and write us a tale of high adventure (and depressing weirdness)!

With one thing and another, I’ve been neglecting this space. So, here’s what’s up:

I guest-edited this month’s issue of The Big Click. It’s a themed Bizarro/Crime mashup issue, featuring work from Cameron Pierce, Stephen Graham Jones, and J David Osborne. I’d really appreciate it if you picked up an issue or linked to it if you enjoy what you read for free online. This is my first solo editorial project and your support means a lot to me, and to us as a magazine!

I’ve published two more in my series about reading Roald Dahl since I last blogged. Here’s one on The Gremlins, a children’s book that was a failed Disney project. The next is also about Gremlins, but it’s on Dahl’s first novel for adults, Sometime Never. Spoiler: it kind of sucks. Another spoiler: I get to debunk a Cracked.com theory that Snozzberries are dicks. Anyways!

CoOL-639x1024I have a story in The Children of Old Leech, a Laird Barron tribute anthology. It’s beautiful (Matthew Revert, who did my cover for A Pretty Mouth) and full of lots of cool people, homies if you will. My story has gotten some good buzz, including this writeup from Publishers Weekly, which specifically mentions “Good Lord, Show Me The Way.” I think this might be the first time my name has appeared in PW, which is pretty exciting!

Hm, what else? I signed up for a sprint triathlon, so I’ve been training for that. Running still sucks, but at least this is giving me a good excuse to swim. And bike more!

This space is going to have some exciting news soon (what could it be??) so maybe it would behoove me to blog more. I’ll try to be more enthralling in future.

Oh, who am I kidding? Hahaha. I’m never enthralling.

 

 

AND IT IS A THING THAT I AM IN! Behold:

So yes! Some brand new Ivybridge madness you never asked for! My story, “The Hour of the Tortoise,” which will be one of the wretched tales of weirdness and uncomfortable sibling relationships in A PRETTY MOUTH (out later this year through Lazy Fascist Press!), will be appearing in THE BOOK OF CTHULHU II. Ross Lockhart’s at the editorial helm again so expect the same high-quality, mind-shattering madness of the original THE BOOK OF CTHULHU, which many many people seemed to enjoy.

Oh, and if you never got around to reading THE BOOK OF CTHULHU, Night Shade is totally having a 50% off sale right now. Just sayin’.

Due to certain circumstances in my life, I’ve resigned from Lightspeed. There were many, many things that prompted my decision, but the most important factor in my choice was that I realized I simply can’t give the magazine the time it deserves any longer. It’s been great fun, and I learned a lot—but as they say, “all good things” and all that. It was a hard decision, but I’m sure it was the right choice for me and for the magazine.

I’m now working for Prime Books as Sean Wallace’s assistant. I’m looking forward to new challenges and new kinds of work! I’ve already started easing into the job but will be expanding my hours next month. It seems like very enjoyable work already, and I couldn’t be happier.

So, farewell, Lightspeed Magazine. And, of course, farewell to Fantasy, but I’ve already had to say goodbye to that publication, as it’s been absorbed into Lightspeed. We’ve had a great run together–since 2009!–but so it goes.

Onward!

Things have been super-busy! Awards! Story sales! Readings! Interviews! Trips! OMG!

Lightspeed is up for a Hugo, in the Best Semiprozine category! A Lightspeed story, “Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn, is also up for a Hugo, as is John Joseph Adams himself, for Best Editor, Short Form. I’ve been super-proud to be a part of the Lightspeed team since coming on board, and to see our hard work get acknowledged in such a major way is a tremendously exciting feeling. Also: big congrats to all the nominees!

World Horror is coming up. I have a reading! It’s at 9:30 on Thursday night, in Robertson, and I’ll be reading from my latest publication, my novelette in Historical Lovecraft (which launched last week!). The novelette is called “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins” and it’s completely filthy. Before me, in the same room, Jesse Bullington will be reading from his second novel, The Enterprise of Death. I’m hoping he chooses an amusing selection, because that novel has the potential to reduce me to tears in places, it’s so fucking good.

I’ll also be moderating a panel on Friday at 11 AM, called “Why We Write Short Stories” and this terrifies me. First time moderating and all. I’m very excited, though, to meet my co-panelists Joe Hill, Brad Sinor, Orrin Grey, Suzanne Church, and Claude Lalumière. Woo!

In terms of stuff I’ve done recently, my interview with Jonathan L. Howard just went up on Strange Horizons. Lots of fun, and the interview contains the blurb for his forthcoming third Johannes Cabal adventure, Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute. I also had a few quick words with JLH over at Fantasy, as he just published a Cabal short with us, “The House of Gears.” I hear the podcast is super-good, so I’m saving it for a car trip.

I also sold a story to Megan Arkenberg’s journal of historical fiction, Lacuna. This October, “How John Wilmot Contracted Syphilis” will be going up, and I’m super-stoked. It’s about John Wilmot contracting syphilis, strangely enough! I love this story, and so I’m really happy it found such a great home.

There’s about a million shout-outs I need to give, too. As I mentioned above, The Enterprise of Death has been out for a while now, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t go buy it and read it right away. It’s seriously amazing. I liked The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart—I love this book. Over at his site, Jesse’s been doing plenty of review-roundups and providing links to the articles he’s written to go along with the novel. Some neat stuff, and worth checking out!

Also amazing: my longtime friend and ex-roommate Brad Deutsch published a totally fascinating and accessible article in Lightspeed on quantum theory, which accompanied “Mama, We are Zhenya, Your Son,” by Tom Crosshill, which is probably my favorite story we’ve had up in a while. I recommend both!

In non-newsy things, I’ve seen some cool stuff recently. And some not-so-cool stuff. Re: the latter, I’ll be blogging about the completely dreadful and unintentionally hilarious Atlas Shrugged movie at some point, probably after World Horror. For now: ha ha and stay tuned. Regarding things which are actually intelligent, well-written, and watchable for reasons other than schadenfreude, holy balls the Regency-era Blackadder is like, my new favorite thing in the universe. I was underwhelmed by the Medieval ones when I tried them back in the day, probably because of the lack of fops and also I don’t get as many of the jokes. As for the rest of the things I’ve been viewing, such as oh let’s just say motherfucking Warlock, Jesse and I are allegedly going to re-start Films of High Adventure after World Horror so I’ll save up for that.

So anyhow, I feel like there’s tons of stuff I’m forgetting to mention, but I’m crazed with trying to get my act together before I leave Thursday. I mentioned a trip, and while I have one forthcoming (Austin), I also got back from one a while ago, where I heard about things like my reading (eep!) and my panel (eeeeep!). I was in Florida for a week, and got to see my family, mine and John’s both. My dad is doing tremendously well, I’m happy to report. John’s family was a hoot as always, and I was super-happy to see his cousin Grace get married to her wonderful now-husband Garfield. John’s grandmother could use some happy thoughts sent her way, though, as she suffered a heart attack while we were staying with her, and is now in hospital recovering. I’m glad we were there when we were, and I’m hoping she continues to improve!

More later, my friends—and seriously this time, I’mma be better about updating this site. . .

(x-posted to my LJ)

It’s been waaaay too long since I’ve blogged. Holy crap. I need get in here more often and post stuff like I always vow I will (seriously, I’m going to write about Victorian pornography any day now), so my blogs aren’t all just “hey look at this stuff I did.” But I’ve left it too long, so whatevs. Here’s some stuff I did:

My very last Fantasy Magazine-hosted Films of High Adventure went up this morning! Sniff! Jesse and I decided to do Beetle Juice, because we both loved that film (still love it!), and we wanted to go out with a triumphant, fist-jabbing YES! Thanks for all the support, folks–we’ll get back into doing the column on our blogs once we both conquer a few deadlines.

The Crossed Genres Quarterly #1 is now available! It contains stories by Ken Liu, Christie Yant, Therese Arkenberg and myself, among others. I’m thrilled my work appears in such hallowed company. Yay!

I’ve had some recent good news, as well, in the form of hearing that I’ll have a few nonfiction pieces appearing soon around the interwebs. For Fantasy, I had the privilege to interview Edward Packard and Ellen Kushner about their experiences writing the Choose Your Own Adventure series, and talked to a lot of my friends about how much they enjoyed reading those books as a kid (as did I!). I’ll post a note when that goes up in April—I’m really happy about it, and many thanks to everyone who helped that piece along.

For Strange Horizons, I interviewed Jonathan L. Howard, and that will be going up in April, too. Howard is one of those authors who is just genuinely nice, pleasant to work with, and interesting. It was such fun to speak with him about things like role playing, horror cinema, and what the new Cabal novel will be about. Serious yay! In other  Cabal-related news, “The House of Gears,” a Cabal short, will be appearing in Fantasy in April, and since I was already interviewing him for SH, I conducted his Author Spotlight. Whew!

I think that’s about it! I’m mostly excited about the Fantasy relaunch, though–it’s going to be beautiful and chock-full of amazing fiction. While you wait for that, however, you should check out Fantasy‘s February issue. It’s been one of our most amazing months, with fiction by An Owomoyela, a co-authored Gio Clairval/Jeff VanderMeer piece, and a delicious bit of weirdness from Tamsyn Muir. Next Monday we’re publishing an outstanding story by Megan Arkenberg, so make sure to mark your calendars to save some time for “The Celebrated Carousel of the Margravine of Blois” because woahmifreakingod. It’s the jam.

cross-posted to my LJ

I’m sitting here eating Unfried Fried Rice from Appetite for Reduction, the low-fat cookbook I tested for last year, and it occurs to me that I should do one o’them end-of-year thingies I’ve been seeing all about the webz. It’s been a crazy year in general for me—as a writer, as an editor, as a daughter, and as a consumer of media, as well, so yeah. Some documentation seems in order:

As a writer:

2010 saw my first fiction sale ever, and then three others. In January I sold “In Sheep’s Clothing” to Running with the Pack, and the anthology—and my story in particular—got a bunch of really nice reviews and shout-outs. Then about midyear I heard “The Devil’s Bride” would be picked up by Palimpsest, and in October “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins” was selected to be part of Innsmouth Free Press‘s forthcoming Historical Lovecraft anthology. Finally, Crossed Genres accepted “The Red Terror of Rose Hall” to be part of their subscriber’s content. I’m very proud of all of these!

As for non-fiction (or is it?!?!) my interview with zombie polka band The Widow’s Bane went up at Strange Horizons. That was a hoot, and I’m so pleased it found such a great home. Also this year, Jesse Bullington and I embarked on a quest to re-watch old movies from our childhood and blog about them. Right now “Films of High Adventure” is on hiatus due to both of us being busy (though our review of Dungeons & Dragons went up on Fantasy last week and I failed to make a note of it here—it was such fun), but throughout the year it’s been an interesting project to say the least. A hoot and a holler, yes indeed.

Since this is a rare writerly update from me, I’ll also talk about what’s up with my novel. Last year I typed THE END on the MS, edited it, and sent it on its merry way to an agent. That agent contacted me, and we talked on the phone about the book. While she didn’t wish to represent it at the time, she did say that if I wanted to rewrite portions of the MS, and do some other stuff with it, she’d be willing to give it a second looksee. All her suggestions made sense—total sense, actually—and so that’s where I’m at right now with my big project. It’s been difficult, but I’m starting to see a new book emerge that’s, I think, a better book, and so even if a revised manuscript is all that comes out of this, I sense it will be a net gain.

As an editor:

Last year I was already on board with Fantasy Magazine at the year’s dawn, but toward the end of the year, things started to get wild. It began with some changes for Fantasy: the editor and fiction editor announced they’d both be stepping down, and that John Joseph Adams would be taking over full editorship in March of 2011. In the wake of this, I was asked to take on managerial duties for John’s (now) two magazines—Lightspeed and Fantasy.

So far, this has been a total pleasure. Working with John is a lot of fun, and the Lightspeed team as a whole are awesome folks! I anticipate good things for Fantasy as 2011 progresses and we remodel a bit.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note a few of my favorite short stories this year, so in no particular order, my highlights for Fantasy (and a few from Lightspeed after I started) are:

At Fantasy:

And at Lightspeed:

As a daughter:

In the early months of 2010 my family found out that my dad was battling pancreatic cancer. This came as a shock to us all, as my dad is one seriously healthy dude. We had no idea just how much time we would have with him, but 2011 opens with my dad being healthier than he was this time last year, according to the doctors (I mean, as far as I understand it). His tumors, as of his last scan, were not particularly bioactive, meaning the hard-core chemo he was on did some damage to the cancer. He is working out, walking at least 10k steps every day, and eating healthy. It seems like he is baffling his oncologist and various other doctors with how well he is doing, so that’s awesome. I’m hoping 2011 holds even more remarkable health improvements for him. Big thanks to all who sent happy thoughts his way, in the form of prayer, well-wishes, emails, or anything else!

As a reader/movie-watcher/listener/video game player:

2010’s movie watching was largely “Films of High Adventure”-related, but there were a few others that rocked out and deserve a note. This year I actually saw a few movies that came out in 2010: Kick-Ass, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and, um. . . Splice, but since that movie caused my first-ever film walkout, I dunno if it counts. The others were good! I also watched Hero, which was awesome, A Town Called Panic, which I liked far more than I thought I would, Moon Warriors, Mr. Vampire 2 AKA Crazy Safari, and the two late-in-the-year standouts, The Draughtsman’s Contract and The Prestige. Good stuff. I’m certainly leaving out a few, but those are what I can recall off the top of my head.

As for books, I think my Best Book of 2010 (that, shockingly enough, came out in 2010) would absolutely be Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard. I also read the first in the series in 2010, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, which was great—but I think Detective blows it out of the water. I actually participated in an inquisition of Herr Cabal around the time the book came out, which was a lot of fun, but the book stands on its own. It’s tremendous.

Also of note, I read Imaro by Charles Saunders in 2010, and that rocked my world, as did Elric of Melnibone and its sequel Sailor on the Seas of Fate. I also read Flora Segunda, which I loved, and a bunch of other stuff but I rearranged my books (read: put them on top of the bookshelf because I ran out of space) and now I can’t remember what I read this year. I’ll keep better notes in 2011.

I don’t ever listen to albums as they come out (I suck at keeping up with music) but omfg, Cee Lo Green’s The Ladykiller has been making doing the dishes actually fun.

And to round this out, as a gamer, motherfucking Cataclysm, nerds!

So that’s a year in review. I’m certainly neglecting things, like awesome new friendships made at World Fantasy and elsewhere, novels beta-read for my friends, things of note I’ll probably edit in later, and other stuff I’ve done/thought about/enjoyed/whatever (like, say, the fact that I actually typed THE END at the end of two manuscripts this year, but one will never-ever see the light of day), but I have to go to the bank to get quarters. It’s the first laundry day of 2011! Woo!

I sold a story to Crossed Genres! Many thanks to the editorial team over there. I’ll post about the inspiration for “The Red Terror of Rose Hall” when the publication gets closer, since it came out of some unusual places.

I recently watched a completely fantastic movie, The Draughtsman’s Contract. Wowza-bo-bowza and holy fucking shit. I really cannot recommend this film enough—doubly so for anyone who thought Dangerous Liaisons would have been so000 much better were it about English people being horrible to one another instead of the French. What? Is it news to anyone that I’m an unrepentant Anglophile? Anyways, it features fops, more fops, foppery, wigs, a soundtrack by Michael Nyman (the guy who did the soundtrack for Ravenous), more fops, and people being unrepentantly terrible to one another for dubious reasons. Also fops. If for some reason you need more convincing, here’s the first scene. Tell me that’s not wonderful.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Appetite for Reduction is out! I tested for this cookbook thus may vouch for its awesomeness.

Thanksgiving came and went with food and relaxation and me learning to (at long last) play Magic: The Gathering. Wow, it’s fun! Also, I made really excellent pumpkin pie, and have put that recipe at the bottom of the post.

Things with Lightspeed and Fantasy have been going really well! There are some great stories coming out at both venues during December, so make sure to keep checking on Mondays and Tuesdays for delightfulness! Or, alternatively, why not buy the ebook version of Lightspeed and be the cool kid who’s read everything before everyone else?

As you may have noticed, Films of High Adventure is on hiatus. It’s temporary! But we’ll still have a December installment up at Fantasy.

OK. Time for noms!

Molly’s Vegan Pumpkin Pie

I wanted to take advantage of the pie pumpkins at the farmer’s market this year. I’ve never made pumpkin pie from scratch, and felt it was High Time. It ended up being something of an emotional roller coaster. It began with feeling smugly domestic as I put the pumpkin in the oven to roast, panicking when it didn’t taste particularly great, getting friends on the internet to calm me the hell down by reminding me that pumpkins are not delicatas and need sugar before tasting good (thanks, Erin, and everyone on the PPK!), risking ruining pie by making up my own recipe, and then feeling as triumphant as an objectivist setting her oil wells aflame as I bit into a perfect slice. Well, not quite perfect. It was a tad overbaked, but I think 5 minutes fewer in the oven would have produced The Perfect Pie.

There are as many vegan pumpkin pie recipes as there are vegans, and the unique challenges involving making the perfect pie are heatedly discussed every holiday season on vegan message boards. The main issue is that unlike say, a chocolate mousse pie, tofu in the batter can often give the finished pie a tofu-y taste, and while I’m pretty inured to tofu-taste, something about pumpkin pie really brings out the bean. And yet! Adding a different binder in the form of soaked cashews really makes the tofu invisible in this version, for real. I baked it in the morning and by 5 or 6 at night it had completely set up and sliced beautifully. It did crack, as you’ll see below, but not much, and wasn’t at all watery.

My only caveat here is that I live at high altitude and thus I upped the oven temperature and baking time. I’m pretty sure that those below 5k feet could get away with an oven temperature of 350 and the standard 50 minutes to an hour baketime!

Ingredients:

2 cups home dry-roasted pumpkin (see instructions below)

¼ c cashews

¾ c silken tofu (water-packed, NOT vacuum-packed)

2/3 c natural sugar plus more by the tablespoon if you want it sweeter after you make up the batter

1 inch fresh ginger, grated

1 ¼ tsp real Ceylon cinnamon (ooooohhhhh)

mace and nutmeg and cardamom to taste

Instructions:

Dry roast the pumpkin the night before. I roasted it at 350 for about 90 minutes, all told. Before roasting, I prepped it by cutting it into thirds, scooping out all the guts and seeds, and putting it on a baking sheet (sprayed) w/cut sides down. When it was super-soft I took it out let it cool. It was perfect and didn’t need to be strained. It also tasted completely filthy so don’t worry if you try it and it’s horrid.

After finishing the roasting bung 1/4 cup of cashews in a bowl w/enough room to cover them with three inches of water. Let sit over night.

For the batter, drain and wash the cashews, then whiz them in a food processor until they’re thoroughly whizzed. Add the tofu until it’s puree. Add pumpkin and sugar. Blend until looks like pumpkin pie batter and you can see absolutely no tofu chunks or cashew grains. This will require scraping the bowl using a rubber spatula to get everything that’s settled to the bottom to incorporate. Add spices and ginger. Taste, adjust sugar. I added about two tablespoons I think but I would add a full quarter cup next year depending on how sweet the pumpkin is.

Then all you do is pour the batter into a pre-made crust and bake at 350 or 375 for 50-60 minutes! Woo! Let cool until totally cool.

So, yay! Pumpkin pie! Stuff! Woo!

I know, I always call my updates that when it’s been friggin’ forever, but I don’t care even one bit!

First of all, I must mention that there’s a new Films of High Adventure over at Fantasy Magazine, this one on The NeverEnding Story. We’re probably the nicest we’ve ever been to a movie prominently featuring an annoying moppet telling the audience what they’ve seen/are about to see, so, yay!

Moving on, I’ll be heading to Florida this Saturday to visit my folks! I’m looking forward to reading some novels, chilling out, cooking some food, doing crafty stuff with my mom, taking walks with my dad, all that sort of thing. Sadly, John will be in Orlando at a staff conference for his job while I’ll be in Tampa, but I think we’re going to organize some WoW parties with Raechel, who’ll be holding down the forts in Boulder.

I am also very proud that I just sent out the novel I finished up recently to the host of awesome beta-readers who volunteered to tell me if it sucks or not, and also correct my grammar. I am excited to get some outside eyes on this project, because I am too blinded by love for it to be objective at all. I know we need some time apart, this book and I, so I’ll be reading some non-fiction so maybe I can perk up a few details, and also reading some fiction to cleanse my palette. I’ll also be working on some various and sundry fiction and creative non-fiction things, and I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with short form since I can’t recall the last time I wrote a short story.

Additionally, I feel the need to mention that I just read what I believe might be one of the most racist stories ever written, and no, I’m not talking about that piece in the NYT about how Indians have taken over New Jersey (though it was, obviously, in the running). No, I speak instead of Robert E. Howard’s “The Vale of Lost Women,” which wasn’t published during his lifetime but still managed to find its way to the printed page several times. I know it’s pretty un-shocking to out Howard as a racist, but seriously. I give authors from the past so much leeway when it comes to the odd racist comment or sexist trope. I feel strongly that there’s a place and time for holding people accountable for their beliefs–and that people, both living and dead, should be held accountable for their beliefs–but that such accountability need not be the only way to consume and interpret stories written during a different time. This story, however, gets a big brown F in every way. It is hideous. Not only does it have Conan straight-up telling a girl he’d rape her if he felt like it (and, OK, whatever, I’d forgive that in isolation, it’s a Conan story), but the girl in question is a little white girl with blonde hair who was captured by black savages and raped by their hideous leader. Let’s just for a moment consider Howard’s description of the leader, a fellow by the name of Bajujh (FAIL, already):

On an ivory stool, flanked by giants in plumed headpieces and leopardskin girdles, sat a fat, squat shape, abysmal, repulsive, a toad-like chunk of blackness, reeking of the dank rotting jungle and the nighted swamps. The creature’s pudgy hands rested on the sleek arch of his belly; his nape was a roll of sooty fat that seemed to thrust his bullet-head forward. His eyes gleamed in the firelight, like live coals in a dead black stump.

Woah. Also, the rest of the language regarding Bajujh and his tribe hits all the notes–the black folks are compared to animals (“panther-like”) or demeaned for possessing native African-ish features (their hair is described as “kinky” and “wooly” as compared to Conan’s and the little white girls’ flowing tresses, among other crimes of wtf). The women are described uniformly as “wenches” (often “ribald wenches”) with white eyeballs rolling wickedly in their black faces or, by Conan himself, as “black sluts” who make him sick with their very appearance. Jesus. So, yeah. I don’t know why this struck me as being blog-worthy, I just. . . I’m making my way through my anthology of all the Conan stories, and up until now there’s been some serious-business Orientalism and some problematic white-dude-conquers-brown-people-for-good nonsense, but this was my first encounter with out and out WHAAAAAA?!?!?! in that book. I’ve read novels about slavery written by white English during the 18th century that were less racist and accorded more respect and humanity to black folks than “The Vale of Lost Women.” Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Finally, and most of all, sadly, I recently had to put my beloved cat Penelope to sleep. About a year ago, the vet noticed some of her liver values were elevated. Perhaps eight months ago, she was diagnosed with fatty liver disease, which is curable with effort and attention. We gave her the effort, we gave her the attention. Things were looking up for a time, she was steadily improving. Then, right before we went down to Florida for weddings and family visiting, her shape got kinda odd. At first it looked like maybe she’d just gotten a pot belly–she was eating more–but I took her in for a checkup before the vet had recommended anyways, to be sure. It turns out that her liver had failed, though her pathology wasn’t totally consistent with that or anything else. I believe now that a number of things just gave out at once. We did everything the vet recommended, but it wasn’t enough. The vet was frankly baffled she was even alive and as perky as she was toward the end. Most cats, apparently, would’ve succumbed to disease or depression far earlier. Penelope was a fighter, though–she loved her life, it was obvious she was trying every bit as hard as we were, but she started to decline after a few mild gains. A few days before we made the decision to have the vet come to the house and help her pass on, even though she was having trouble jumping, she got into bed with me, something she hadn’t done in years. Every day she meowed and purred and snugged and took a few little laps of tuna water or hummus, even though she was having a hard time keeping herself clean.

I miss her so much. Her favorite chair looks so empty now, the little bed next to mine that she slept in toward the end of things seems even smaller. I had been getting up in the middle of the night to pet her and check on her after the diagnosis/prognosis, and a few times I’ve woken up for that purpose only to realize that she is beyond being checked on any more. I am glad she is at peace, but twelve years wasn’t enough for me.

Jeff VanderMeer just posed an interesting question over at the Booklife blog, musing on the often problematic but also fruitful relationship between fetish and writing. Given the project I’m working on right now, I find myself more inspired to write about fetishes of a different sort, but Jeff’s post made me sit up all prick-eared, especially his opening quote:

In Booklife I have a section on relinquishing all fetishes, which is another way of saying don’t let having to use a fancy pen or special desk get in the way of writing. As I mention in the book I’ve learned to write anywhere at any time, and to never stifle my imagination just because I’m not in the ideal writing situation.

I give this advice in the book because we most commonly procrastinate and find reasons not to write. But the fact is some “fetishes” actually aid our creativity.

This really got under my skin (in a good way). Compared to some, I’m not particularly fetish-oriented as a writer, though I have a few quirks, of course. I do my best work up at a coffee shop, but given that my husband works from home as a world history teacher, speaking on the phone all day to children, my need to be up here is more born of necessity than a necessity, if that makes sense. Other than that, I do have an inability to write by hand, but mostly because I do my best work while editing compulsively.

That said, I may not be a very fetish-prone writer, but my booklife does tend to operate within a system of taboos gleaned from writer friends, things I’ve read, advice from writing teachers in my distant past, “common knowledge,” etc. And, just as fetish-objects should be eschewed when they’re hurtful rather than helpful, so should those taboos. As I’ve posted here lately, I’ve been paralyzed by a pretty epic bout of writer’s block. Thankfully, the ice is cracking, slowly, but that’s in part due to my decision to break taboo, in the form of outlining.

I used to outline compulsively when I wrote, for both creative and academic projects. But I found, years ago, that for my creative writing, having an outline made me feel wedded to that outline, and often prevented me from exploring with the characters; it put me in control of them, rather than them determining their own reactions and personality. It also sometimes made me feel wedded to a certain plot, even when it didn’t feel like the right thing.

So I quit outlining. I haven’t written a single outline in years.

But.

The large project I’m working on right now is. . . large. And there are several different storylines. I’m working on the final one, but while it was the easiest of the three to write for the first part, when I got to the real tofu-and-potatoes of the plot, I froze. I had no idea where to go, what to do. I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know how to get it. After writing a bunch of short stories and puttering around and griping, I finally broke down and busted out the “outline” function Scrivener supplies. And lo, lo I said, I worked out a mock-up of what I need to do for the rest of the book. Hallelujah.

It just goes to show (as Jeff said), some fetishes really do aid a writer’s creativity. For me, I have to say that the process of discovering (for some are quite unconscious) taboos and then breaking those taboos seems aids my creativity, as well. I have an informal checklist of things I do when I cant write: find new music, edit from the beginning, research more, work on something else, imagine scenes I’ll never include in the project to get a feel for how the characters would act naturally outside of their “screen time.” But I think I’ll add a new item to that list of tricks: engage in self-reflection to see if a sense of taboo is holding me back from a new way of interrogating and negotiating with a project.

And now, I must run. I have a novel to work on!

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