I’m sitting here trying to think of something to write, but basically, I’m just nervous. I’m interviewing a person tomorrow and I want to ask him about a hard time in his life and what came of it and I just want to do right and to get an answer that helps me understand it. And I don’t want to make it suck too much for him.

I’m making two afghans right now, just like the one I just finished up. I think I said that already. It’s both going rather quickly and is taking a while. I’m not looking forward to making all those triangles.

We watched Alice Through the Looking Glass last night, which was an interesting movie about a female sea captain going on an adventure with her mom, which we didn’t get to see because instead we had to watch Johnny Depp being weird and Sasha Baron Cohen being unsettled for an hour and a half.

I admit, though, I am amused by Depp’s latest acting strategy where he just plays music icons–he’s Keith Richards in the Pirates movies, Michael Jackson in the Chocolate Factory, and Madonna here. But come on! Weird impressions aren’t something to build an acting career on!


I spent all day getting new breaks. I should have brought something to crochet, but instead I took along Kendra DeColo’s My Dinner with Ron Jeremy, which I read through three or four times, and a notebook in which I started a short story. It felt good to be writing fiction again.

There was a woman there, in the waiting room, when I got back from lunch. Her husband is cheating on her. She’s kind of known for a while, but let herself not know it, because trying to figure out what to do about it was too much with the health problems she’s been having and the fact that she spent the summer at her parents’ helping her dad recover from some bad health problems. She said she knew she hadn’t been easy to be married to.

And, you know, I believe her. What other choice do you have when someone tells you a story that you get caught up in?

But his actions, as she described them, don’t sound like those of a man in a marriage that has stagnated. They sound like the actions of a man who wants the thrill of almost getting caught. The highwire act of believing that he has, once more, pulled something over on his bad old wife.

As an outside observer, I feel a tiny sliver of sympathy for his mistress, who it sounds like has been through a bad break-up and, I imagine, is finding comfort in the feeling that she is so special this man will risk torpedoing his whole life for her.

But it doesn’t sound like it’s her that’s so great. It sounds like he’s almost drunk in love with the thrill of the transgression.

And who can’t see the trap for her in that?

Anyway, sitting there listening to this broken-hearted stranger, I felt so bad for her. But also amazed that here on this ordinary day was this extraordinary story. But, of course, that’s how it must always be. The world is full of things happening.

Also, I should say, I really love DeColo’s book. There is a kind of living with sorrow she gets at that I appreciate.

Emotional Work

I read this article yesterday, which I can’t find now, about how men farm their emotional work out to women, without even realizing that they’re doing it and how the author found the constant, unspoken expectation that she would manage the feelings of the men in her life to be grueling. And thus she’s only dating women.

Ha. That’s a little flip. It was more interesting than that.

But I am interested in how people enforce and reinforce hierarchies and it is true that the person who gets to farm out labor–emotional or not–is in charge. And I have noticed that a lot of power struggles in organizations do come down to someone trying to farm work off onto someone else. AND, most interestingly, I have noticed that refusals to do the extra work are often met with “you hurt my feelings” or, more bluntly, “you’re being a bitch.”

In other words, when the person making the power play fails to farm out physical work, they often resort to trying for at least make the other person do some emotional work to soothe them.

I don’t find that to be only a tactic of men, though.

Nice Things

–I only have four more squares to complete on this afghan. Each square takes like an hour and a half, so it’s not going to be quick, but the squares are so big it’s also okay that it takes so long. I really love the pattern, too. It’s very satisfying.

–My next afghan is going to be me trying to replicate a picture my cousin A.’s daughter drew. Should be fun and I’ve being studying up on a crochet technique called Persian or something. I mostly ignore names of crochet techniques because they all strike me as vaguely exoticizing. And yet, I still call it an afghan, so… whatever. The point is that this is a technique for using two different color yarns in the same round without having to cut and tuck a lot of ends, which, as we all know, is my mortal enemy. Anyway, I’m excited. But I’m also hoping that she’ll like it. I’m going to make something very similar to what she put on paper but whether what she put on paper is what was in her head, I don’t know.

–My fireplace is ready to go, if it ever gets cold.

–I had such a nice lunch with nm yesterday and we got the giggles the way you do when it feels like you’re on a swing at the outmost point of its arc.

–I am kind of thinking of committing to writing a story a month next year, just for the habit of it.

–I’m ready for a really hopeful piece of pop culture. I’m ready to feel some hope in our culture, too, but small steps.

Bad Year for Allergies

For the past three weeks, on and off, I’ve felt like I have a cold that won’t quite come into existence. I know it’s just allergies, but it’s bugging the crap out of me. Finally though, apparently, fall is here and the 90 degree days are over.

The peacock afghan is satisfying so far, in part because it looks really nice and because it’s really fun to come up with something and then have it work! I spent so much time tucking ends yesterday though, that I made myself a solemn vow that I would tuck my ends as I went from here on out with this afghan.

I’m glad summer’s over. It feels like it’s been a long one.


–I am fascinated by the ways people make themselves busy and important by creating work for others. Like not the normal way you create work when you have people who work under you. Like, if I hire you to ship things, I’m not talking about me coming to you and asking you to ship things. I’m talking about how, if it’s my job to put things in the box and your job to send the box out, and I’m the one who orders the boxes, since I’m the boss of the department, if I claim I can’t order the boxes until you measure the thing that goes in the box, even though you never otherwise touch the thing. So, then everything’s held up because I’ve decided that I can’t be bothered, that I don’t have time, to measure the thing I have regular contact with and which you otherwise never have contact with and that you must measure it.

That type of power move. One thing I’ve noticed a lot out in the working world is that you can tell a lot about someone’s internal measure of misery by how often they pull this kind of nonsense.

–I’m also fascinated by the ways things that seemed interesting to me and sad and romantic when I was younger–and I have to tell you, in the interest of being honest, I was a sucker, A SUCKER, for this–like, the poor man tragically stuck with the wife who didn’t understand him, but who finds me (or someone else) an irresistible balm to his pain. From my own end, I think this is because I rarely feel found, let alone looked for, (which sounds kind of sad, but I don’t mean it to. I just mean that the people who’ve come to like me have come to like me because they came to know me. I don’t think I have ever had the experience of someone seeing me and wanting me without knowing me. And I imagine, hearing from women who have had that, that it is neat for a while and then grows tiresome and somewhat terrifying.) and never being chosen in my own right led me to an ugly place where it felt awesome to be then chosen over someone else, to be the thing so awesome that a person would risk everything important to him.

But then you get old. Ha ha ha ha. I mean, it’s just a lot clearer here in my 40s that, aside from this being a really shitty way to see yourself or to treat another woman, no one is stuck in a marriage. So, there’s no romance. There’s just a pack of lies and those lies start with the lies the dude tells himself to justify his behavior.

But the thing I have observed, which, granted, is not a large sample size, is that a lot of men have affairs for the same reasons they might drink–because they’re bored with themselves and their problems and want some easy way to not have to think about that. The drama and excitement of an affair keeps a mind busy outside itself.

It can have nothing to do with the person being cheated on. And it certainly has very little to do with the mistress other than that she can be brought into the drama the cheater is looking to create for himself.

Obviously, the dynamic is different in a marriage that genuinely isn’t functioning. I know people who’ve cheated who’ve gone on to long healthy relationships with the people they cheated with, but those rare occasions happen because and when the marriage is a hot mess already. (And obviously, this has nothing to do with people who seek companionship while dealing with a partner with dementia or something.)

But in marriages where one person thinks everything is okay, if not perfect, but at least working and making them happy and the other person is secretly running around? Then that cheater tends just to be a perpetual cheater. No relationship can satisfy him, because he’s not looking for satisfaction. He’s looking for escape.

This, I think, is why open marriages don’t work for folks like this. The thing he’s getting out of an affair isn’t the non-monogamy. It’s the drama. If everyone’s okay with what you’re doing, then you’re not getting the charge you need from it.

But again, what’s that have to do with the women involved, except cause them pain?


One Down

I finished the baby blanket I was working on last night. There’s an anthology I want to submit to. I need to get writing on that story. I need to do something more for Ashland. I don’t know what. I’m waiting for a couple of small presses I think it might be right for to reopen to submissions.

One needs an indomitable spirit for this kind of work. I don’t have one of those.

Floundering, always floundering. Just trying to flounder forward.

Who Else Could Take Over?

This day. Christ. This day.

So stupid.

The Butcher is supposed to clean the kitchen in exchange for me cooking our meals.

Today he was pissed at me because he found maggots in the recycling. But it’s not my job to clean the kitchen. I felt like fighting with him about it, but I just let him rant and then he cleaned it up.

I know it’s just the nature of this moment, but I am tired of being frazzled and over-extended and on. But I don’t see a chance to get a break from that until July, if I’m lucky.

I feel like I should be more grossed out, but I can’t bother to care.

Hmms, a Series of Hmms

  1. I see people already saying that they’re not going to read the issue of Apex I’m in because of their distaste for one of the other authors. So, that sucks for me.
  2. I have pieced together my first big square in the Grateful Dead afghan to see how it looks, so that I feel motivated to continue to make so many little squares. It’s awesome.
  3. I think you could probably tell something about how my writing is going by how my crocheting is going, but I did have a breakthrough on the Napier piece and I think I have a good draft.
  4. I’d like to have a great draft, but I can’t get the person who could give me access to the Napier papers to call or email me back.
  5. I have a fear, which I hope is unjustified, but I don’t know, that the reason this person isn’t letting me see the Napier papers is because she can’t find them. I’m going to continue to believe that, even if that’s true, they’re still there, just lost and not gone lost.
  6. I guess the thing about 1. that makes me feel most icky is that I think it’s absolutely right that, if you don’t like someone because of their atrocious behavior, you’re not obligated to read their stories or support their art or to support the places that would give them an outlet. I think the readers are doing the right thing. I also think that I don’t want editors making decisions about stories based on authors’ reputations. I want them to publish the stories they like (though, obviously, personal feelings do shape what we like), regardless of who writes them, because I don’t want editors to turn into the police of whether we all have the right kinds of politics. So, I guess that what’s happening is exactly right. But man, you know, I didn’t get to choose what issue my story was going in. I didn’t have any say in who else was going to be in the issue. And I worked really hard on that story. I want it to rise or fall based on whether people like the story, whether I have succeeded or failed. And that’s not going to happen and it bums me out.

Things oh things

  1. It smells so bad outside, but the dog and I went for our walk anyway and at the far end of our walk was a young dead skunk who’d been hit by a car. I have nothing against skunks, so it was a little bit of a bummer to see one dead. But I was super impressed with the radius of stink left in its wake.
  2. It looks like I’m writing a piece about the Napiers for the Scene for Black History Month. The black Nashville Napiers are descended from a white guy who was one of many Napiers who owned a furnace and was in the metal smelting business. He never married–the white guy. As far as the census shows, he was usually the only white guy even living on his plantation. Sometimes there was a young white guy, too, possibly a nephew, I’d guess. But otherwise, just him, like a king surrounded by serfs all tied to him and his land.
  3. So, Napier was, on the surface, a bachelor. Montgomery Bell was, too, I think. He came to mind because of the furnace connection. And Isaac Franklin nearly was. Nowadays, if someone’s a bachelor, the possibility that he’s gay suggests itself. But in those days, it seems like a lot of gay guys just went ahead and got married. Marrying for love wasn’t the only reason people got married. You didn’t have to like your spouse. Family pressure and all that. Getting married was the easiest path. So, I feel like staying single was some other marker back then. It meant something else, but I’m not sure what. Other than that you probably were fucking your slaves. But you could do that and be married.


The thing about the remnants of hurricanes is that you get quite a few days of soft, steady rain and perfect sleeping weather.

Busy is as Busy Does

I’m really, technically, only through Monday of this week and I’m already exhausted and ready for the weekend. I have something every night this week. A lot is going on at work. It’s just a busy time. As it is, every year. Which I’m trying to keep in mind so that I don’t start to feel like I’ve lost my fool mind.

Yesterday, I either ate a piece of rat poop in my trail mix or a rotten peanut and it was horrible unlike anything I have ever experienced. My whole mouth flooded with the taste of poop and yet, nothing I spit out lessened it. I tried to barf, but it was no use. And all day, I felt like I could still smell it.

I still kind of think I can smell it. I know that’s just in my head, but it was so gross.

And I have my outfit for my reading at The Porch next week! It’s a literary costume party so I have a witch hat and a string of elephant bells and I’m going as…wait for it…the Bell Witch.

S. just brought me my witch’s hat, which I am now wearing because it makes me laugh.

Mysterious Snorts in the Dark

I was walking along, near the treeline when I heard something very near me in the brush followed by menacing snorts. I know it was just a startled deer, which, frankly, made me feel like a submarine, silent and unnoticed in the sea of the night, but whoa, it also scared the shit out of me! My heart started racing, my hands started sweating.

And then I realized that deer was as alarmed as I was. We both had not realized someone else was so close and we both stood there a second, our hearts racing, and then we moved on. It was that moment of shared exhilaration that struck me.

I’m still listening to Limetown, for better or worse. This week’s episode was, indeed, for better or worse. But I was deeply moved by the story of the pig and the guy who learned to telepathically connect with it. The way the pig’s feelings were pure and deep felt true to me, and the value a person might get out of having access to those feelings, also true. As I walked past that deer, snorting in the early morning dark, feeling that kind of primal Oh!, I felt honored and surprised to share that with the deer.

This weekend, someone said to me, “Oh, that’s right. You’re into all that weird occult stuff, aren’t you?” I guess I’ve been into it long enough that it doesn’t seem weird to me anymore. These nine nights, not that there have been nine yet, I’ve been thinking a lot about connections, about the things that tie us together and, more importantly, the ways that crucial ideas get held onto. How the gods stay with us even once we’re monotheistic, almost unrecognizable.

Here, take this for example. Thor is a big guy, with a big beard, straightforward, with useful farm animals for pets. He carries a tool he can use as a weapon. He’s a friend to people and likes them a great deal. We’ve already talked about the ways our modern Santa Claus has some of those same trappings, how Santa seems to take the things we couldn’t leave behind about Odin and Thor and repackages them into something we can keep, even deep into Christianity.

But put Thor in your mind’s eye. Not the Marvel version. The big old brawny Viking. Now, give him some practical work pants, a flannel shirt, a stocking cap. Switch out his hammer for an ax, the goats for an ox. He’s still friendly and helpful to people.

But now he’s Paul Bunyan.

Southern Festival of Books

Even though I hate crowds, my one exception is the second weekend in October when I get to sit outside all day and talk books with people. Love it. Love it.

Did I show you the afghan I’m working on?


I also realized that I have to schedule my nine nights for next week. I don’t have nine other nights in a row this month when I don’t have stuff going on.

Every year I’m swamped in the fall and yet, this year, I’m surprised.

There Was a Secret Society in the Secret Society

This story about these folks who cracked this 250-year-old code is really, really neat. And that they might have been a secret-society front for the Masons is even neater.

One nice thing about living in Tennessee is that I might, indeed, someday have to join a secret society in order to talk about dangerous ideas like “my vagina is not your property” and “I like smart people.” I already have the rest of the members of my order picked out.

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

I did almost nothing this weekend. I mean, I did it hard. I basically sat on the couch and played Civilization until I’d crawled so far in my head I had no choice but to crawl back out. The dog and I went for walks. I read some. But basically, I spent the weekend trying to get my brain to shut off.

Which, ha, is terrible, because there will come a time when I spend days trying to get my brain to turn back on, but that’s life.

The kids saw crawdads eating a snake skin. The crows alighted on lamp posts just ahead of me. I delivered the tripping jaguar afghan and it looks perfect in the room it was made to go in. I couldn’t be more pleased.

As I was walking this morning, the mist rose out of the hills in a layer, like someone was lifting a blanket. And it reminded me of “Beyond, Behind, Below,” which, maybe, is not my best story, but it’s the best I’ve ever done saying something true about this place, right here, and how it seems like it could be.

Paul Heyman and Dreams

The guys are back watching wrestling again, which means I am, kind of, too. I had turned away for a long time because I felt like I was just watching people slowly killing themselves and, potentially, setting themselves up to kill others. Chris Benoit.

I still kind of feel that way.

But man, I love watching Paul Heyman, who doesn’t wrestle. He doesn’t do anything but shoot of his big mouth. And it’s glorious. I feel like you rarely see a man be such a perfect fit for the job he has, but dude is it.

I had a long, drawn-out nightmare about being terrible in bed, but with a partner too polite to say anything. And even typing that sentence makes me laugh. If ever there were a hangup I have about things, it’s being allowed to do them even when I’m terrible at them, everyone knowing I’m terrible, and people being too nice to say so.

Taunt me with something original, subconscious. God.


I haven’t been able to get on Tiny Cat Pants at work this week. It’s not actually blocked. They claim there’s some server misconfiguration, but I miss blogging at lunch!

Today I realized that, if our orange cat were a person, he’d be able to get his learners permit.

I had lunch with Sara yesterday and I poured out my book so she could tell me it sounded like a plausible book and not something I needed to trash, change my name, and move away over.

I want to write something about John Murrell and I wonder if I have time to do so.

Bah, I’m scattered and unfocused.

Some Observations

–Since I only have seventeen more squares to go, I feel like I’m almost at the end of the tripping jaguar afghan. But I can only do two or three squares a night, which means I’m still quite a way from the end of the afghan. I am now in the portion of the afghan I hate. I mean, I hate this afghan. I will love it again the first time I spread the squares all out on my bed and get a sense of what the final thing will look like. And I’ll love it the most when it’s all put together and drying and looks fantastic. But right now, every time I look at it, I’m just like “Seventeen is not that many. Why are you taking so long?!”

–I didn’t get Birdman. I mean, I got it. But, for me, it was like an overly elaborate kite that didn’t ever catch wind. The Butcher loved it. He laughed at parts the rest of us didn’t laugh at. He marveled at things. He was wowed by the ending. The Red-Headed Kid liked it, but the ending pissed him off so much that he went on this rant and then stormed out of the house.

–The Butcher thinks we should get a corgi that we could use to round up Sonnyboy when he runs off to the neighbor’s.

Good Day

I’ve really been struggling this July to not be in a funk. But yesterday, I had lunch with nm, talked to the Professor for three hours! and then I’m taking today and tomorrow off to read and write and crochet and listen to podcasts. And early vote. And maybe tour a house or something.

I need to clear my head and just get out of my feelings for a bit.

Things are Moving Along

–C & M have their afghan.

–T and her family stopped by, so they have their afghan and their copy of The Wolf’s Bane.

–I’m out of yarn on the Tripping Jaguar afghan, so that’s at a stand-still until my order comes in. I’m tucking ends. Woo. Luckily, since it’s self-striping yarn, each square only has two ends to tuck.

–I found a possum in the black dog’s dog food yesterday. That was startling. And today the black dog has gone home. The cats have not yet returned to the house, but I imagine that will happen soon. That was a long time. Not that I didn’t enjoy having him, but, whew, dude is high-strung. And likes to pace through the house at 4:30 in the morning.

–According to this here blog, on July 4th, I had 30,000 words of Ashland. Today I have just 200 shy of 48,000. So, I guess that’s going well. Ha ha ha. I’m leaning toward the Legend of Nathan Bedford Forrest story arc–here is a monster; here are some other bad guys; let’s unleash our monster upon them; oops, um, did we really unleash a monster? No, no, he’s not a monster. He’s a hero. Though I’m leaning toward the “Oops, did we really unleash a monster? Doot do doo. No, no, of course we’re not monsters as well.” We’ll see.

Weekend of Weekending

I’ve been just social butterflying around this weekend, having great conversations, getting my oil changed, discussing with children whether God is afraid of us. Child’s answer was along the lines of talking about the Flood and saying “Yes.” Which I found kind of profound and disturbing.

I wrote a hard part of Ashland this weekend and I’m feeling both proud and a little frightened. Which I guess is a good thing for a horror novel?

I think I have distilled my Harper Lee opinions down to the following: as readers, all we can do that is respectful of Lee’s agency, is believe that she does, indeed, want the book published and we can thus decide to read it or not based on whether it sounds like a good book (though I’ll note that none of the reviews I’ve read so far have actually said if the book is any good, which I find strange).

But my gut, as someone in the publishing industry, is that there’s a reason that Harper Collins is publishing a rough draft with a light copyedit–Lee isn’t up to the tasks an author has to perform during the publication process. My suspicion is that, if Lee were to try to perform those duties, it would be obvious to too wide a circle at Harper Collins that she wasn’t up for it and suspicions that she’s being exploited would move in people’s minds more firmly into fact.

I wish that Harper Collins had either issued WATCHMAN in some kind of critical edition–where the text was left as-is, but an expert of some sort provided contextualization and footnoting and other things–in other words, treated the manuscript like a kind of historical artifact OR that they’d put the book through the publishing process–genuinely editing it and providing the author the opportunity to shape it into a draft she felt proud of that suited the marketplace now.

I find the middle path they’ve chosen to be, at the least, disrespectful of WATCHMAN and Lee as an author and I will not be surprised if/when it comes out that Lee was not fully able to consent to the publication.

But, like I said, we can only go by what we’ve been told is Lee’s position. If it turns out we were lied to, we’ve not somehow betrayed Lee by reading the book.

Thinking Things

I’m very close to done with the Return to Hill House afghan.

I’ve got another afghan in mind. Simpler but pretty, I think.

And I just found out that my brother’s divorce is final. My sister-in-law is no longer my sister-in-law!