Thoughts for When Your Thinker’s Thinking

I have set some goals for the year. Some writing goals. I’m going to attend a con. I’m going to submit my stories to SFWA-qualifying markets first and not try a couple, get frustrated, and then flounder around for someone to publish me. Because otherwise, I’m not getting full membership. I’m going to start keeping my eye open for reprint opportunities.

Then, I feel like, with the movie and potentially full SFWA membership, I might have better luck selling Ben & Sue.

I just want to see my book, published by a publisher who is not me, one the shelves of the bookstores around town. I want to look on my shelf and say “Yep” when I see it.

I don’t quite know how to make that happen. But I’ve got a plan. I can try some stuff. I can see how it goes.


One of the reasons I think you need to write a lot–like in a space like this–while and before you’re doing other kinds of writing is to develop the habit of trusting that the words will come. Because sometimes you need to cut, a lot. I cut the whole final 2/3 of my parrot story and went another direction from the place I made the cuts. And I did that because I trusted that I didn’t need those words, that those were not the only words I might get for the story.

When the only writing you do is the writing that really matters, how do you trust in your ability to prune judiciously? I mean, obviously, people do. They’ve developed some other way of trusting that the words will come.

But for me, a lot of it just is that I have to pull a lot of words out of my ass all the time. Even if they suck, even if every bunch of words isn’t a winner, I figure I can always revisit it later. That knowledge, pulled from blogging, has served me well. On accident. Because I certainly didn’t know how useful that shit would be when I started this blog.

Oh, This Day

It started with rescuing the dogs from the skunk adventure, which was funny and terrible, and then I had a really good lunch meeting, and then I had to explain to someone what a butt plug is, which was just… ugh… embarrassing. And then I finished The Boy Who Drew Monsters which really pissed me off. I can barely abide by movies where the problems people have would be solved if they’d just listen to each other, I cannot abide by a whole book where part of the reason things are dragging out is that no one will listen to their damn kid.

I’m tired and grouchy and also happy. I am a swirl of mixed emotions.

Important Life Lesson

If your dog ever gets sprayed by a skunk–a quart of hydrogen peroxide, a 1/4 of a cup of baking soda, and some really mild soap. Rub your dog with this mixture. Let it sit. Rinse.

The smell is still going to sit in your nostrils all day at work, though.

Or so the Butcher is learning the hard way right about now.

Let’s Look at Cool Things Together!

Lesley Patterson-Marx is working on her illustration for The Wolf’s Bane. She’s got photos up at Instagram!

Here are some early sketches.

Here’s the final drawing.

Here’s some artsy stuff I don’t understand, though I love the orange glow.

And here’s a wall of prints.

Her picture illustrates the herbal of Mrs. Overton. Here’s a picture of Mrs. Overton, for comparison (I love everything about that portrait. The look in her eye that the painter captured just warms my heart.)

Perhaps a Song The Band Did Back in the Day?

I’ve been at an impasse with my pirate story for a few days. Not a writer’s block impasse, thank goodness. But that kind of impasse where you kind of know what happens next, but you’re just not sure. Characters aren’t quite standing in the right places for them to get to the places they seem to be going. But you don’t want to go back and move them if you’re not sure about the destination.

So, I wait. I just mull over different possibilities–do these people get along? Do they not? If not, why not? And I go back and read what I’ve already written and I reconsider what that information means. Sometimes, it suggests something more than it did when I first put it down, especially once I have the conflict more firmly settled on the page. Those details might now tell me more about how the story ends.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing with the pirate story. Just waiting to see what was going to make sense.

This morning, when I opened the garage door and let the dog out into the night, I started singing “Sweet Pauline, the Pirate Queen. Prettiest gal that I’d ever seen. Mean and tough and quick with a knife. She wouldn’t be a gentleman’s wife.” And I laughed, because it was totally a little bit a rip off of “Amanda,” though faster, but also because I knew it meant that the ending was almost ready.

Seeing the Square


The other cool thing about this picture is that you can really see how a granny square, at least one of mine, comes together. I chained 4 and slip-stitched them together, then I chained three to make my first stitch of the round. That stitch tends to look just a little different than the other stitches. If you’re ever trying to figure out how something was crocheted, learning to identify that starting stitch can be really helpful. Here, in the red circle, you can see how that starting chain-3 stitch looks more like a braid than a twist. You can also sometimes tell up at the top, where the blue circle is, because it doesn’t seem to quite come together. But, depending on the yarn, this isn’t always true. The furrier yarn just southwest of the square we’re looking at hides its starting point almost completely.

The Afghan that Never Ends Comes Closer to Ending!


All the squares are connected and the border is completed. All that’s left is to tuck all the ends on the connective tissue. I don’t know how long this might take. But I will say that it looks good. I have never made an afghan that appeared to be so simple but was such a pain in the ass. And I probably won’t again (though it is a good way to use up ends, so maybe it wouldn’t be so terrible to do it over a few years?). But it’s going to be really cool. I’m really proud of it.

Empty Apologies

Today one of the Vanderbilt rapists testified in his own defense. He apologized to his victim, claimed he didn’t recall what had happened, and his victim vomited.

Who can blame her?

When you know what they did to her, what the fuck good is a “sorry” anyway?

I’m not against apologizing. I think that, if you’ve wronged someone and you do genuinely feel contrition and it wouldn’t bring your victim any more trauma or sorrow to hear from you, then, yes, apologize. But then don’t expect anything in return.

Sometimes, I guess, what I mean, is that futile gestures are all we have–so you make them, because what else is there?

But when you’re trying to be found not guilty of someone’s rape is not the time to apologize for it, you know? It’s not genuine contrition if you’re still trying to slip responsibility.

Asked and Answered

I don’t know why it surprises me, but the answer to the question, “Why am I so grouchy and eating all these cookies?” is always the same.

Also, I only have one row, the border, and the row end tucking on the afghan left. So, I figure that’s another 10000000 days.

Research, Smesearch

I got the marriage certificate for Belle Phillips. It claims she didn’t list her parents. I paid $13 for the privilege of suspecting someone doesn’t know how to read an old handwritten book.

I Make Myself Happy

My story about Andrew Jackson’s parrot is now called “Sweet Pauline the Pirate Queen, Governor of Tennessee.” It’s about how Andrew Jackson’s parrot briefly was elected governor of Tennessee. And how she’s really Pauline Lafitte, the pirate sister of Jean and Pierre.

The only part I’m stuck on is how one would say “Sweet Pauline” in French.

Well, not the only part. The only two people who would come to her inaugural ball were Mrs. Polk and Mrs. Acklen. So, that’s kind of a bummer. And she had to murder the assassins the other Governor of Tennessee sent after her. Also kind of a bummer. But her eggs know the answers to all questions, so that’s nice.

Those Darlins “Be Your Bro”

During the Vandy rape trial, witness after witness has described seeing the victim in some state of distress–the roommate saw her being raped on down to the people who just saw her passed out in the hall, undressed, sick and injured–and doing nothing. Just getting out of the way.

Over and over, the students describe why they didn’t call the police or why they helped in the cover-up. Two words keep coming up–1. “afraid,” which I get. I can imagine being afraid. But 2. “brother.” These guys, these alleged rapists, were their “brothers.” They didn’t want to stand against them.

We joke “bros before hos” and Those Darlins sing all about how they “wanna be your bro.” And most of the time, it is funny. Being your friend is awesome. You seeing me only as something to “stick it in” is not that fun. Ha ha ha.

And then something like this will happen to illuminate just how far the distance between bro and something to stick it in is. What woman doesn’t want to be your bro if it means I get help, even when I’m in the wrong, if it means I get your concern, even to the detriment of the people I’ve hurt? Being your fucking bro is awesome.

I don’t know. I suspect I might have, in college, been the kind of person who would have seen something wrong and not really recognized my obligation to help. But I don’t know. Someone passed out? Someone I knew? I feel like I might not have been the right kind of help, I think I would have tried.

But you don’t know, do you? Not until you’re in those circumstances. Maybe it’s not about identifying with the people doing the terrible things as it is trying to avoid being lumped in with the the kind of people this stuff can happen to.

Anyway, I wrote about it some more over at Pith.


Sometimes, when I wake up in the middle of the night, the dog is sleeping in the hall, looking to my un-spectacled eyes, like a small cloud taking up most of the hallway, but not yet ambitious enough to become fog. And I have this sense of stumbling into something precious and mysterious and not for me. Like these are the moments that fill most of the house’s time–animals sleeping quietly while we’re not paying attention.

If a house can have memories, this must surely be what it remembers in its bones.

Today, I was walking back from lunch and I passed by the building where the Professor used to live. And I was struck by the notion that women in Nashville must always have walked home from lunch on beautiful days like this, thinking of their friends. I was just taking part in a history that doesn’t matter, that goes unnoticed, but that was always common.

If a city can have memories, women walking away from lunch must seem like the most ordinary of them, like the way you always remember what your grandmother’s kitchen looked like, or how a lightning bug feels in the hollow of your fist.


I really find it weird that I upset people. Well, maybe I don’t find it that weird. I guess I just thought that provoking people would, you know, involve deliberately trying to upset people, rather than just saying what I think.

I don’t think that the things I think are that special or weird. I don’t experience myself as some weirdo, I guess.

So, it’s weird. I mean, I know I’m in a minority in Tennessee, but I don’t think it’s a minority of one.

But anyway, I just can’t see how standing against a swingers club is a good thing.

The Afghan that Never Ends Laughs in My Face

I was so excited that I was working on piecing the columns together. Done with the rows, all that’s left is the columns and the border and the end tucking. It sounds like a lot, but on a regular afghan, it’s nothing. There are fewer columns than rows, after all.

Last night, I worked while the guys watched wrestling. All night.

I got two columns done. Out of thirty. ARGH.

It looks cool, though.

Salt the Earth

I’m following the Vandy trial on Twitter. As I mentioned. It’s really, really disturbing.

I want to have some coherent thoughts about it, but I just keep thinking what it would be like to know those guys and to have to reckon with them doing this terrible thing, just using this woman like she’s not even a person to them.

Like I said last week, there are things your loved ones do that, thought terrible, still make a kind of sense with who they are.

But, my god, if this wasn’t a surprise to these guys’ families, what the hell kind of kids must they have been?

My First Anthology!

You can now pre-order the anthology, Faed, in which my story, “The Letters Laurel Left Maggie Regarding That Thing in the Woods” appears. It’s a story about how a botched human sacrifice affects generations of a family. Also, there’s singing.

The New Kitty

I swear, sometimes I feel like she’s got her own narrative going on in her head. Something is happening here. Maybe she’s a pirate or going to outer space or… I don’t know. But I love watching her when she’s in her weird moods. I feel like I’m watching some kind of foreign art piece–like I know something is going on and that makes sense to probably someone but not to me.

cat 1 cat 2 cat 3 cat 4

Why am I Here?

I did something stupid the other day. I stumbled across the Facebook page of the guy who stalked me. Part of it was accident, but the part where I recognized the name and clicked through is on me.

He lives, generally, in the same place he did when I knew him. He has the same kind of job he had in high school.

Now that I’ve been around the block a few times, it’s obvious to me that he was mentally ill. I don’t want to brush off the stalking, which pretty well fucked me up from there on out, as just him being “crazy.” I think he would have always been the kind of guy who thought the world owed him the woman of his choosing, regardless of her wishes. But I imagine he would have been more on the “women only like jerks and not me” end of things, not on the “Breaking into your house to leave you a different brand of grape pop, because I don’t like the brand you drink” end.

I guess I’m making light of things. I thought he was going to kill me. I think he thought he was going to kill me. It wasn’t just silly home break-ins. He kidnapped the Butcher, briefly.

But the point is that I think the entitlement helped organize his thoughts, gave him something clear to work for and to do with himself, even when nothing else in his mind was clear.

So, I do have sympathy for him at that level. I can believe that he was suffering, too.

Anyway, that’s a long preamble to the point I wanted to make. He’s still working the same kind of job he had in high school. Everything else about him aside, he was one of the smartest people I ever met (though the Butcher says that, at 17, I may have been mistaking “loud” for “smart”).

I always thought that, if I somehow discovered that this was his life, I’d feel like some kind of justice had been served. But the truth is that I’m not sure why that’s not my life. Maybe this goes back to why I just get so frustrated with this idea that talent is somehow uncommon and thus talented people, no matter what else they do, have to be tolerated. Everyone is talented.

Why is this my life and that his?

I don’t know. I really don’t. The Butcher says it’s because I try things. But I experience myself as being terrified of almost everything and just doing the things I’m less terrified of doing than I am of not doing. I don’t feel like I’m motivated by any positive goals. I don’t want anything. I don’t want to get married. I don’t want to have kids. I don’t want some ideal career. I have no goals.

I just don’t want to be stuck back there.

My whole life is just me saying “no” and learning to make it stick.

Ha, honestly, that’s why this whole writing thing is so tough for me. It is the exception. It’s the one thing I do want. I want to write a book someone else publishes. I want to write something that makes people say “Whoa.” I want to fucking crack myself open against the mystery of the universe and see if anyone else thinks what comes pouring out is cool.

But why am I here and not there? Just fear? I don’t think fear can propel a person through a whole life.

I get why people settle on “Well, I deserve it” or “Well, that’s just God’s plan.” Because the world being a confusing place that makes no sense, where some people get really lucky and others don’t, is not very comforting.

Mind Blown

Today on Twitter I saw a pie chart that shows what Americans think the racial make-up of our country is–about a quarter black, a quarter Hispanic, and a little less than a quarter white (roughly)–versus what it actually is–not a white minority, by any stretch.

And someone had commented something about the “wisdom of crowds.”

I laughed, but, yeah, the crowd isn’t wiser than individuals just based on some great crowd magic.