If You’re Not Salty, What are You Worth?

I have a ton of celery. So I made this celery apple soup that I found a recipe for online. And it called for a tablespoon of salt. I checked repeatedly because it just seemed like way too much salt. But there it was–a tablespoon. So, since I hadn’t made the recipe before, I went with it.

And, fuck yes, it was too much salt. I tried everything–the adding sugar trick, the adding starch trick, the adding water trick.

None of it worked.

And I didn’t finish the Hill House squares, not even the 63. But I’m going to try to get to 70.

And we have to eat that fucking salty soup again tonight.

I Have Many Feelings

1. The Butcher’s vehicle broke down in Gallatin, so I had to get up before dawn to go get him. I am wired on coffee and exceptionally tired.

2. I got some out-of-left-field news yesterday, unexpected and good, but also, unexpected.

3. I’m reviewing edits on a story and I am a little startled by how angry I’m getting at the copyeditor. I don’t often have the chance to be copyedited except when K. does it. The thing I guess I’m realizing is that I trust K. implicitly. I don’t trust this person I don’t know, because I don’t know him/her (I think it’s a her, but I’m not sure). And the thing is that her/his edits are fine. This is not about his/her work. This is some weird thing about me being all “NNNOOOOO!!!” (with growling bear noises) and then having to step back and ask myself if this is truly about the editing suggestion or about me. 90% of it is this weird feeling of wounded defensiveness. If I had a therapist, I guess I’d talk it through. Since I don’t, I’ll just mention it on the internet.

4. My parents are here. I’m taking them to the Country Music Hall of Fame tomorrow.

5. On Friday, I have to take dog poop to the vet.

6. So, you know, mixed feelings.

Busy, I’m So Busy, My Head is Spinning (You’re Welcome for the Earworm)

Every winter, I should just put a reminder on my calendar that I am morose during the winter. And that I will swing wildly the other way once I see the sun again. I have been really busy getting shit done. I love the Hill House afghan. I can’t wait to see it all laid out, but I really like how the part I have done feels.

I only feel a tiny bit bad about calling it the Hill House afghan because I do think it will be cozy and wonderful and I hope C&M don’t feel any weird, bad vibes off it.

I think I edited that Isaac Franklin piece harder than I have ever edited anything in my life. I am getting prouder of my willingness, at least in non-fiction, to write something as a way of getting started, and then cutting it away when the general shape of the piece clearly calls for a different kind of beginning.

But I only saw two people I wasn’t related to this weekend, which is good for getting shit done, but not good for feeling like you’re connected with the world.

My parents arrive very soon, so I spent some time cleaning. I was hoping the Butcher would also spend some time cleaning and then the house would be clean, but he spent the weekend helping friends get their house ready for sale. So… yeah. Butt I hope to have a nice visit with them and then I hope to see people I haven’t seen in weeks.

And I hope to get sincerely started on “Ashland.”

We’re a month out from the release of The Wolf’s Bane. We shall see, dear readers, we shall see.

Good Newses!

1. The yarn to finish up the Hill House afghan is on its way.

2. The editor loves the Isaac Franklin piece.

3. I sold “The Four Gardens of Fate” to Apex magazine. Yes, there’s a Borges reference in there. And yes, I’ll have more details as I know them.

Reading the Tea Leaves

–I think my Isaac Franklin piece is pretty good. I’m curious and nervous about the editing stage. I don’t know if they’ll let it stand or if they talked me out of it, but I didn’t use the term “black people” in the piece at all. Just “people” and then, when needed, “white people.” That’s the one thing I came away from the Ben & Sue project most firmly convinced of. Who just get to be “people” in a story is who the reader identifies with. The [adjective] people always seem like someone other than where the reader’s sympathy is expected to lie.

–I’m keeping my fingers tightly crossed that everything stays on track for The Wolf’s Bane.

–The trick with needing more yarn at this point in an afghan is that there’s always the temptation to revise the plan, to change the idea behind the afghan. Like maybe the rest of the squares should just be solid colors? But you can’t change horses mid-stream. Well, you can, but it’s a bad idea. The chaos of the Hill House afghan must carry us through.

Things that Frustrate Me

gray on stripe

1. The stripey afghan is taking so long. And I think it might need another skein of yarn after this one to be a usable size. I really like it. I find the gray part really soothing and I think it’s going to end up being really dramatic. I just wish I were closer to done. But I also want it to be awesome for S., so I need to make peace with it maybe needing another skein after this one.

2. Someone on Twitter said something about the comments on one of my Pith posts and so… yes. I know. I know. But I still did. And they did make me feel bad and weird. The weirdest was the guy who slagged on my writing there and then wished I’d go back to this blog, which he then demonstrated a certain level of familiarity with. Oh, hi, creepster! I actually find that more… not upsetting… that’s probably too strong  a word, but disquieting than most commenters. You don’t like me, so that’s compelled you not to stop reading me, but to find out more about me?

How is this not a sign to someone that they’ve moved into “I’m behaving like a person who should be flipped off by people whenever I go out in public” territory?

3. My arm hurts from the damn dog. Not massively, but enough to make me mad all over again every time I tweak it.

4. I appreciate Eric Crofton’s answer to this question. Why do I continue to do this thing I’m not convinced I’m very good at? That all the folks covered in point 2. up there are happy to tell me I’m not very good at? Basically because it must be done.

5. The Butcher still has bronchitis. I love him, but I’m really used to a lot more alone time.

6. You think the hardest thing about writing a novel is writing it, just physically sitting down and cranking out 80,000+ words. And that is difficult. But there’s something to the difficulty of convincing yourself that it’s worth writing more words when no one gave a shit about the first couple of bunches of tens of thousands of words.

But it must be done. So, I’ll do it. As soon as I get done reading the four books I want to read–Absalom! Absalom!, House of Leaves, The Haunting of Hill House, and The Red Tree. At least three of these I have already read before, but this time, I want to pay closer attention to what I found satisfying and unsatisfying about them.

7. I’m calling my haunted house “Ashland,” because I think that may be one of the loveliest words in the English language. “Ashland City” is especially nice. It’s like licking an ice cream cone and, at the last second, your tongue snags on the waffle part.

Two Things

1. I’m struck by how much “Nashville is about to be ruined” talk assumes that, when the speaker moved into a neighborhood, it was a good thing and that the troubles they faced while moving into said neighborhood were evidence of the benefits the neighborhood saw from them moving into it. But, now that new people are moving into the neighborhood and the speaker is the unwanted, nay, unconsidered person who lives in the neighborhood, that’s an injustice.

Which is not to say that we’re not facing some challenges as a city. Just that I notice how much some gentrification is fine and some is ruinous.

2. A lot of modern haunted house stories assume the house has some hidden dimension, places that aren’t immediately obvious or become revealed over time. —House of Leaves, House of Windows, The Red Tree.

3. I went out to the Hermitage today to look at the house. The main hallway is surprisingly dark.

Briefly

Very productive meeting today.

I’m worried the Butcher might have bronchitis. I put my ear to his back and his lungs sounded normal. I put my ear to his chest, up higher and I heard a whistle. A faint whistle.

I think I need to get down to Carnton.

I Don’t Even Like Zombies

I tend not to find zombies, the current pop culture zombies we have anyway, very scary. But holy shit, last night I had the worst zombie dream. I woke up early and took the dog for a walk (which was thwarted by the bog, but whatever) to clear my head.

We watched Battle Creek and I had mixed feelings. I love Dean Winters. I loved the whole Battle Creek police department. But I hated the FBI guy and the show doesn’t really feel very Battle Creek specific. They could benefit from doing a week-long ride-along with my uncle and learning where people hang out and what they talk about. Believe me, it’s just highly improbable that anyone could move to town–like the FBI guy did–and not have simply everyone he meets telling him about cereal and their connection to it.

It’s like when you live here and you know people in the music industry and in healthcare. You live in Battle Creek, someone works at Kellogg’s or Post. It’s a company town, pretty much. One of my dead uncles even lived in the Post company houses.

We were also laughing because it looked like their establishing shots were all taken within like five blocks of each other. So, yeah, clearly, they came to town. And clearly, they did not venture very far out of downtown. Which, considering how dominated by Kellogg’s the downtown is, makes the complete absence of cereal even stranger.

So, it’s quirky–the coffee cakes–but not quirky in the ways you’d expect–mentions of cereal, Sojourner Truth, the Seventh Day Adventists, etc.

I spent some time recently, too, listening to Nebraska as a whole album, not just stumbling across random songs from it. God, that’s a good album. But the person who had the idea that it’s a better, albeit more depressing, album if you listen to the songs in backwards order is right.

Things I Wanted to Mention

–I spent the afternoon at the retinologist. All looks fine. He thinks the flashes are some other, old-age thing. Since I hate new things, I am afraid of dying (not being dead, mind you, just dying), so I don’t appreciate the reminders that there’s no going back.

–I massively improved a story this weekend by changing a “one day, last summer” to “yesterday.”

–The weird thing about being a writer is that you never really know if no one wants to publish you because you’re not very good or if no one wants to publish this particular story because it just doesn’t strike their fancy. This feeling, apparently, never goes away.

–I am about to have a ridiculous number of crochet projects in the works. I’m stalled on the hexagons until my yarn arrives. I promised the Butcher I would make him a scarf. He has now procured the yarn he wants for that, so I have to set aside everything and knock that out this week. But, in the meantime, I have started a stripey afghan.

–They’ve switched the generic on my birth control pills and I dislike it for a couple of reasons. One, they’ve given the pills a slight minty flavor. I don’t really want my medicine to taste like weak breath mints. I find it disconcerting. It doesn’t taste like it can possibly be doing anything. The second is that it doesn’t really curb my PMS, so I got all weepy on Sunday because the Butcher took the dog over to his friend’s house and I was convinced that the dog would like this friend better than me and never come home.

–I miss walking in the mornings. I can’t wait for the mud to subside.

Non-Walk

It’s too wet out to walk the dog. The yard is in it’s favorite “muddy, bog” stage. I didn’t really figure that out until I was almost to the shed. But the dog pooped. I consider that to be something of a victory.

I had a busy weekend–finishing the afghan, researching at the TSLA, doing some Project X stuff with LT, dinner with nm and them, shopping all Sunday morning, and figuring out the new pattern so that I can get started on the next afghan. I like it. It’s from one of the motif books the Butcher got me for Christmas and I think it’s going to be pretty cool. It is making me wonder a little bit if I might try something a little less blocky next time or with different sized elements.

And I wrote this for Pith.

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.

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.

Just The Sound of It

I did so much today. Went to Hendersonville and ran a bunch of errands, came so close to finishing up the squares, wrote my Pith post, read Lauren Oliver’s Rooms (Didn’t really like it.), and contemplated whether I should join the SFWA or try to get another qualifying sale so that I can join as a full member. But what if I never get another qualifying sale? That would suck.

I should be in bed, but instead I’m contemplating whether I feel much like a writer.

I’ve had a really nice few days here. It kind of amazes me what just having a little extra money means. The luxury of not having to decide which things at Target you don’t really need that bad.

Words I Like

DO NOT PRESS PLAY ON THIS VIDEO AT WORK.

But literally nothing makes me happier than the way she says “I guess that cunt’s getting eaten.” Sometimes you look at the way words work together and you just know something is perfect. This sentence is perfect–the repeating “uh”s in “guess” and “cunt;” all those “t”s, especially the way it sounds like she’s adding one by pronouncing it “get” “ten” and “eat” “ten.” And it’s cheeky. I like it.

Recently, I wrote this paragraph:

My favorite thing about Harwell is her ability to be both sly as a fox and something of a mother hen to all the wayward chicks of the state house. A fox with chicks for children is never short of dinner, though, and I have to imagine she’s already licking her lips at the prospect of dealing with her fourteen most recalcitrant representatives.

And I’m really pleased with “a fox with chicks for children.” That is perfect, too. You’ve got the repeating fs, the repeating chs and the repeating os and is. I also like it because it’s almost in iambs, except for that “ren” fucking things up.

Thoughts I Have Thunked

1. I’m kind of pissed that it has taken Constantine so long to get good. It’s frustrating to watch now knowing it’s probably going to be cancelled. I wish, wish, wish we switched to a model where they just up-front said “You get x episodes to tell your story. If your ratings are good, we’ll give you x more episodes to tell another complete story, either with these characters or a whole new show.” That way, you could commit to watching a show knowing you were going to get a self-contained story, even if you only got one story out of it.

2. The dog teased me yesterday. We were on our walk and I said, come here, let me put your leash on, and he came over and just as I was about to put his leash on, he bounded away, and turned back and smiled at me. I laughed and then he came over and leaned against my legs and let me put his leash on him.

3. The performance art afghan. It’s… I don’t even know how to explain it to you. It’s ridiculous. So, I think I’ve decided that it’s going to be 30 x 40 tiny two-inch squares. Thus necessitating 1200 squares. I’m doing them in bundles of twelve, because I had thought I was doing 36×48, but I realized too late after I’d started bundling them in groups of twelve, that this would result in way too huge an rectangly an afghan. So, I need 100 bundles. I have 70 but I’m out of yarn. The yarn is on order. So, I am, at the moment, tucking ends. Every end tuck I remind myself is one more end I will not have to tuck after all 1200 squares are done. My biggest concern is making sure that the squares are well-mixed in the end. No, my biggest concern is that I’m not going to live through having to tuck 1200 squares worth of ends. It’s my least favorite thing about crocheting. Why would I assign myself a task that’s basically just end-tucking?! But I think it’s going to be really neat. Unwashable which I have mixed feelings about (M. do not fuck or bleed or sweat on my afghan, please.) but neat.

4. It’s unwashable because I just bought yarn that caught my eye, so it’s a mix of acrylics and wool and wool blends. Nothing will shrink at the same rate and some shit will definitely felt.

5. It does crack me up to think that most of my afghans are safe for fucking, bleeding, or sweating on. I should make afghans for swashbucklers!

Feel Like I’m Winning when I’m Losing Again

Ugh, this week. It’s been long. Some things have been going incredibly well. Other things have just been terrible.

I’m having a huge problem with an entity. Ha ha ha. That makes them sound like some kind of supernatural evil, when I’m just trying to be vague.

But in dealing with this entity, I have a bunch of really complicated feelings. This entity opened up the world for me when I was a young person. It made every bit of information in the world, seemingly, available to me and that felt life-saving in ways that made me feel very loyal to them. And I have friends whose lives have been profoundly changed by this entity’s ability to deliver information to an electronic device you can use even when your hands don’t want to work, allowing you to make the font as big as you need, no matter how shitty your eyesight is.

And, even though people have been complaining about this entity for years, I was mostly in the camp that people who can’t keep up with rapid change are, of course, going to complain about innovators. And even when this entity took on another giant entity this summer, I thought I saw both sides of the situation. I was more sympathetic to the other entity, but I felt like I could see and understand the point of view of the people who sided with this entity.

After nine months on this job, I feel like a total chump.

Everything bad you’ve heard about this entity is just the tip of the iceberg.

I find it really stunning.

Things

–I’m less bothered by the people who don’t believe that anything happened to Shia LaBeauf than I am the women I’ve seen who believe that he’s telling the truth about what happened to him, but that it’s not rape because the point of his performance art was that you could do anything to him. He had, apparently in their minds, pre-consented to having sex. They also seem to blame him for not crying out for help, apparently ignoring the part where her boyfriend was at the door–keeping anyone who might have heard and helped him at bay.

I don’t know. Anyone who’s seen how people act around people with even marginal amounts of fame can’t possibly be surprised, I wouldn’t think, by this story.

But I think it’s a two-fold problem: we have a hard time as a culture accepting that men can be raped and we have a really hard time believing that women can commit the same kinds of wrongs that men can.

Still, man, people are weird about famous people. I have a harder time believing this didn’t happen than I do believing that it did.

–The Butcher made me listen to the slowed-down Robert Johnson recordings this morning. They’re going around again, for some reason. There are two hurdles that someone would have to overcome before I put any stock in this: 1. Both of his recording sessions were fucked up? But no one else who recorded on those days with that equipment was? 2. He had friends and people who knew him. Some of whom died very recently (and hell, some of whom might still be alive). Is there even a single person who heard him perform live who then listened to the records and said “Wow, that doesn’t sound like old Bob. It’s too high or something.”? He had a lot of musician acquaintances and friends who would have been familiar with recording processes. Did any of them say “Oh, god, that’s not at the right speed.”?

–Last night, I made chicken noodle soup for dinner and the Butcher caught me singing “Oh, black pepper, ram a lam” and he laughed so hard it kind of makes my day to think of it now.

I don’t think business ever had ethics, but otherwise

–The Nashvillains book is harder than I imagined. Here in the middle anyway. I have been thinking a lot about Alfred, lately, Andrew Jackson’s slave who’s buried in the Hermitage garden. A man long held up as an example of just how benign slavery could be and how much slaves might love their owners. His was, I guess you could say, a best-case scenario. Scroll on down to the green sign.

I have to give credit to the Hermitage, though, for trying to reckon with it.

I don’t know how to, really. I find myself using words other than “slave” to try to get at the scope of it, just because, to me, it’s become a kind of mental shield as well as a descriptor. It lets you narrow down to just one part of it. And, because of the weight of history, it feels almost inevitable. So, I’ve been using “enslaved person” but I’ve also been using “prisoner” and “captive.” Something that makes it clear that these people are not in this situation by accident of birth, but because of someone else’s ongoing decision to keep them in this condition.

But I have a mental block against that, too. I want to see the past as clearly as I can. And I still find this so horrific it’s hard for me to look straight at it. You just kept some people prisoner at your house. That was the fashion of the day. You sold your prisoners to others or exchanged them for new prisoners. You kept your prisoners’ children prisoner as well, but you often let them play with your children. Sometimes you raped your prisoners and they had your children. You took those children, your own children, captive as well.

This was normal. It’s what people aspired to–to be rich enough to afford your own prisoners. It was a mark of status to have captives.

It’s ludicrous. But I think it also sheds light on what was going on with guys like Jackson–whose prisoners had guns and could read and write, even though it was illegal for you to let your captives do so–or the Macons–whose prisoner, Jack, practiced medicine, even though it was illegal.

Why would men who imagined themselves free enough to own property and bad-ass enough to hold prisoners for generations submit to any kind of overarching authority? Each man is is own pirate enclave.

It’s one of those things that does make me wonder how the Confederacy would have ever actually governed, when so many slaveholders thought laws about slavery were dumb.

A God Who Hates Looking at Boobs Smiled Upon Us!

Hooters was closed. We got to go to a Chinese restaurant instead. My niece is adorably evil. It went well.

I’m also a tad confused about this afghan, which I thought was going to suck. The nearest example to what I want to do I could find on the internet had a woman claiming it took her a year. I didn’t think it would take me a year, but I thought it might take me a few months. I’m already almost done with my squares. Yes, then, it’s a lot of tail tucking, which we all know is my least favorite part, but I just started it last week.

I’m a little bummed that this vacation is almost over. It’s a good reminder that I need to find a way to take some real time off.

Like a Boss

Hats mailed.

Checks deposited.

Oil changed.

Car washed.

Car windows cleaned.

Laundry started.

Dog walked.

I just have to drop off some books and all my errands will be done!

Tomorrow we’re going to Hooters for Thanksgiving. I have mixed feelings.

Many Kinds of News

Bad news–I’m sick. My eyeball hurts and won’t stop watering. I am at home waiting for the cold medicine to kick in so that I can sleep.

Good news–I sold a story. I think that’s two this month, by my counting, and three in the last three months? Which is lovely and also weird as all get out because I hadn’t sold a story in a long, long time before that.

Quandary news–I try to have three or four stories out on submission at any given time. I am down to two. One of which I think I’m going to stop shopping, because I have something else to do with it. I have nothing that feels quite ready to take their places in the “pieces I’m shopping” category. So, I wonder if I have to take some time away from the book to get some short fiction in the hopper.

WTF news–my dad is, as we speak, having surgery. A surgery none of the three of us kids knew anything about until my mom texted us to tell us that he was getting ready to go in. BUT THEN she tried to throw my niece’s mother under the bus by saying that she’d told her about the surgery. As if it’s the responsibility of some girl who’s not related to us and only known us for a couple of years to assume that she’s the only one who knows something and that she needs to tell the people who should have been told in the first place!