Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Underrated

I think that when it comes to sheer musical genius, They Might Be Giants is one of the most underrated bands of all time. Their music is often hilarious, sometimes educational, occasionally profound, and an earworm each one. Do you have a wee one. That music that plays at the beginning and ending of a certain show with a certain mouse and his gang? That's them, but they are so much more. They do educational kids' albums. They do semi-educational adult albums as well. And they are incredibly self deprecating and endearingly sarcastically hilarious at their shows. They have this way of playing songs that are unbelievably tragic but they're so damned cheerful about it that you don't realize that you should really not be happy.  Like, you kinda want to put your head through a wall (or, in the case of Don't Let's Start, someone else's head) and yet you're kinda looking forward to it. And they have an accordion. I'm coming to terms with the fact that I have a "thing" for accordion players.  I honestly did not know that until this blogging adventure. Ah, the things we learn. Anyhow, it seems only fitting that the most underrated musical geniuses have a song about one of the most underrated geniuses, Nikola Tesla. If you don't know anything about Tesla (or why you should have nothing but disdain for Edison), first of all, we can't be friends anymore. Secondly, click here (warning: Language).   Next, enjoy this bit by They Might be Giants. .. and I hope you do enjoy it because you'll be humming it for three days.

What's your favorite underrated band?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Tartanic, see it's a pun, 'cause, you know, kilts

I'm a Renn Rat.  I am an unabashed, unapologetic, Renaissance Faire Junkie.  I have totes and totes and hangers and hangers of garb.  I bring my own mug.  I know every song at the pub sing and most of the entertainers know me by name. . because I've bought all of their stuff.  I know what rows not to sit in in the mud show, and what the little mice you see peeking out of bodices mean. I have a pair of Son of San's .  You get it.  This group is a gem that I found sitting on a bale of straw on a day that no amount of stripey thigh socks filled with ice was gonna cool me down. I went to see their show because it was relatively shady over there. And I could sit, at least the knees splayed, leaning back kind of sitting that you do when steel boning meets heat exhaustion. At first, they were tuning and the belly dancers were warming up. and I was unimpressed. Then this had been going on for a while and the girls were apologizing and people were leaving. I didn't because I was still tired and my husband had brought me a Queen's Tea and I was just fine where I was thank you. And pretty soon this bandy-legged, broad as he is tall (not fat, broad), bearded dude shows up carrying a drum as tall as he was. And then all hell broke loose.  I've never heard anything like them.  I mean, I've heard music LIKE them, but nothing of this caliber. They were amazing.  Hard-hitting and intense and a whole lot of fun.  So, here below is one of their songs. Below THAT is their cover of Crazy Train, because if you haven't heard heavy metal on bagpipes you just haven't lived.

Doo doo DOO do DOO do

So, what theme or niche music do you enjoy?

S is for Smashing Pumpkins

Do you remember in elementary school when you would hit a tuning fork  and match it to a certain note. How when the notes were close but not exact it felt like a toothache in your brain but then when they were right......ahhhhhhhhh.   I refer to Smashing Pumpkins as a tuning fork for my soul. When I really upset, I can't do soothing. It's just too different, to far away from what I feel and it actually makes it worse.  (There's actually a book written about this in regards to parenting toddlers called "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" and while I don't agree with his views on evolution, his technique and theory has been indispensable with Beowulf - especially during the catastrophic twos).  Angry music is good. . for a while. There's nothing like a round or two of "I Hate Everyone" by Go, Set, Go to make you smile. . .a  little. But extended angry music just makes me. .. angry. Enter Smashing Pumpkins. They're angry and chaotic and Corgan has that nasally voice that I really dig. . and then, on the same album, they are unbelievably smooth.  It's a great way to meet me where I am and make me feel like everything is all right.  Energized but calm.  Yeah. It's a goodness. I still fall asleep to disc two of "Melancholy. . . " often and am beyond thrilled that they have a new album coming out. Beyond. Like. aokngoaingdsaoihn!!!!!!!  Annnnnnyhow, I am also a big Fleetwood Mac fan. My dad had custody of me as a child and he had a huge crush on Stevie Nicks and the women from Heart. And Laura Branigan. Go ahead, name any song, I can sing it.  I remember once driving down the road listening to Fleetwood Mac and singing at the top of my lungs.  My husband was looking at me, oddly.  "Yeah?" I asked, turning down the volume. "I've just never known such a huge Fleetwood Mac fan. . . our age." he said.  I tell you all of this because, to me, Smashing Pumpkins' cover of "Landslide" is about as close to perfection as we are apt to get.

Who is the tuning fork for you?

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Rose Tattoo

There's nothing like hearing children singing, in their tiny, piping voices, the songs of their childhood.  Of course, here in DaVurLand, my stalkers-in-training do things, pretty much everything, a little differently.  Case in point: the most requested song in our house is currently Rose Tattoo by Dropkick Murphy's. It's a great song. It's a great beat. The cover art for this album is so popular that fans were getting it tattooed on their persons before the album was released. Yeah. They're awesome. In the song he walks the listener through the reasons for all of his tattoos. Here, just give it a listen, then we will catch back up.

So yeah. Awesome song, good hard beat. And it's Irish Rock. But to me, there's so much more than that going on.
One of the single most influential people in my life was my Great-Grandma. Her name was Leona, but I always called her Mammy Noon because when she would come in the door or I would go to her house, she would always exclaim "Good Afternoon." Mammy Noon was the best that my infant mouth could make of that. I spent countless hours with her, learning how to make mud pies, learning to crochet, designing my own recipes that she's always let me bake. She taught me how to cook and how to quilt. She and I would play gypsy, dragging her bag of jewels from room to room. She taught me about history and about God and about the joy of simple living. She is in so many ways responsible for who I am and how I live today. But she was more than that. She taught me unconditional love. No matter how badly I messed up, and believe me there was a decade there where I messed up plenty, I could go to her house and rest my head on her knee, or run the wrinkled, crepey skin of her hand and know that it was all okay. That I was loved.  She taught me about the black and white nature of life. even though she would love conditionally, there was no doubt that there was such thing an absolute truth, as moral standards. It didn't mean that we were "bad" or should be lectured if we didn't follow them, but they were there. She taught me about hospitality, true hospitality, and it's importance in the world. She was my Polaris, my guiding star and I have to admit now, a few years after her death, I'm still kinda lost without her. Mammy Noon had roses. She had these pink rosebushes that would bloom from March to October - IN MICHIGAN. Where it snows pretty much from October to April. More than once I saw her roses blooming in the snow. And so, I want my own rose tattoo. One to remind me of my Mammy Noon.  A Southern Gospel fan, I'm sure Mammy Noon would be a little horrified that this song reminds me of her.  But even in that, it would make her smile that twinkly-eyed smile of hers.

What song has powerful memories for you?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Nickelback - no,not really

Actually, it's worse. You see, back in the day, like a great deal of the world, I fell in obsession with a certain male quintet.  I had the blankets. I had the clothing. The earrings. The collectable trading cards. The dolls AND the stage.  I was, undoubtedly, a Blockhead.  My stepsisters and I each had our favorites; the Kid we knew we were going to marry, and we would sit there in our comforters emblazoned with their faces watching their videos over and over again. I knew all of the words to all of their songs, and the sad thing is, I still do. And I still listen to the New Kids on the Block. There. I said it.
In fact, when they began their reunion tour a little over five years ago, my husband bought tickets for me and my best friend.  We got there, got seated (I was six months pregnant, sitting was good) and watched the crowd gather.  I noticed there were two kids of people at the concert; those who were wearing their crimped hair in a ponytail on the side, acidwashed jeans, and the SAME T-shirts that they'd owned back in the day, though perhaps fitting a little differently. Then there were the girls who had the FaceTime passes on lanyards around their necks.  You see, for an extra $300 dollars, you can hang out with Danny, Donnie, Joe, Jon and Jordan before the show. Most of these girls had obviously heard about the shenanigans that occurred last time the Kids toured, you know, before their boobs came in, and were looking to cash in on what they viewed to be a missed opportunity.  They had on microminis, push up bras, and fishnets. They had that predatory look that sometimes girls get.  And sitting there, enormous already, my friend and I were cracking. up. I mean, we shouldnt've judged; we were there. We were giddy. But it was so. funny.
Then, something happened. You see, the show started and the partition blocking the back of the stage came up. Our seats were such that we could see both the stage AND backstage. Please understand.  I'm a grown woman.  I've been married for a while. I have children.  I have seen naked men before. And yet.  Man that music starts going and I'm up and screaming and nearly hysterical. I'm singing at the top of my lungs.  I'm dancing as well as I can with a tiny human gyroscope inside of my. And then, then they were changing their clothes backstage.  I saw them IN. THEIR. UNDERWEAR. and holy moe I died. It was a very strange and thankfully temporary mental illness. I remember looking at my best friend on our way home and saying something incredibly witty out of my scratchy throat. . "what the hell happened to us."  She just grinned.

So, today, here was the favorite of the videos I would watch with my sisters.

What about you? What's your guilty pleasure?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Playin' a 'Lil Catch-up

It's been a bad couple of days.  The kind of days that make you want to punch someone in the throat and, in lieu of that, pull out your hair and scream like a banshee.  I mean truly, what's the matter with people this days.  Undependable, irresponsible, immature. Argh.  So, I needed to laugh. Nothing makes me laugh like the Muppets.  The song Manah Manah has always been able to reduce me to screaming giggles.  It now has an extra layer of awesome because my husband taught our daughter that song while picking her up in China while I was home with our younger children.  So, her first words to me were "Hi Mommy - Me-nah, Me-nah!" Let me tell you, there's nothing in the world that beats that. So, today, I'm listening to Manah Manah and the Snowths.

What song always makes you giggle?

Also,  little catch up for the days I missed.

H is for Hey by the Pixies
J is for Justin Vernon and Bruised Orange
K is for Lily Kershaw and As it Seems
L is for Lies oh Lies by Piney Gir who I WILL find a way to talk about again, even if it means someone else gets the ax.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Blogging A to Z - Iz

Every now and then a great TV show pairs an profound moment with an amazing song.  It combines for this great audio/visual semi-visceral experience. They wring the emotions outta ya. To me, the best example of this was when Dr. Mark Greene (who I'm sorry, but will always be Goose to me) died on E.R. It was a sweet, touching scene and in the background was playing a version of "What a Wonderful World/Somewhere Over the Rainbow"  that I had never heard. Those were already two of my favorite songs; this took them to a whole 'nother level. It stuck with me; enough so that years later, when Google had put all of the information and misinformation and kitten memes in all the world at our fingertips, I thought "I bet I could figure out what that song was." Sure enough, it was there. A couple of months later, for my birthday, my husband presented me with a CD by Israel Kamikawiwo'ole, otherwise known as Iz. He has become well known for the song that introduced me, but his entire collection of work is equally as good. It is, simultaneously, playful and sweet and melancholy and cheerful.  Soothing.  After yesterday, one of those bad days that reaches epic proportions, I could do with some soothing.  Today while I write I'm listening to Iz.

Are there any songs that were introduced to you by TV?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A to Z with Great Big Sea

Add Great Big Sea to the list of my favorite non-Irish, Irish bands. These guys are practically family. I listen to them when I write, we listen to them while we drive. I find myself dancing barefoot around the kitchen.  My five-year old sings "Charlie Horse" and "Captain Kidd" while he colors.  Hailing from Newfoundland, this trio of incredibly hot, shaggy haired, gravelly voiced guys holds up their reputation for holding the biggest kitchen party in the world.  I'm especially all giddy and drooling over the accordion player.  No, really. Like, the world's hottest accordion player. Ever. Anyhow, they sing quite a lot of traditional songs incredibly well.  I love their versions of Forget me Not, River Driver, and General Taylor. They lay it freaking out. They also have some fun original creations.  The Mermaid is the kind of playful, punny, silly nonsense that would be at home in any pub show in any Renaissance Faire anywhere. My eight year old can't understand why he liked the mermaid with the fish head and the lady legs more than the mermaid with the lady head and the fish tail. I'm gonna let him ponder that for a while. Twenty years maybe. My favorite, though, is Sea of No Cares. I hope you enjoy.  Tonight, I'm letting them sing me to sleep. Good night.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A to Z Blogging Challenge - F is for Four Chords

Someday I will have unlimited time and money. As opposed to now when I always seem to be running short of both.  Coffee helps, of course.  It doesn't really give me more time but, when drunk in appropriate quantities, alternating with perhaps something containing taurine, it does have the power to make the rest of the world move in slow motion, which is good enough for me.  I may keel over at 40, of course, but until then mama is going to Get. Things. Done. But I digress.  Someday this will not be an issue.  When that day comes, I'm going to fulfill three of my greatest dreams.
                      1. I'm going to move to Australia.  I so so desperately want to be an Aussie, if only in the way that a Yankee who moves south of the Mason-Dixon can be a Southerner which is, of course, in a manner that includes geography and veiled hostility.  I'm okay with that because. . .Australia.  The home of Platypi. The home also of many incredibly venomous snakes which is slightly worrisome because you see I went to Peru and was bitten by an Anaconda, went to Grand Cayman and was bitten by an eel and so you see the odds are not precisely in my favor.  Still. Someday I will live there.
                     2.  When I am done living in Australia I'm going to do all of the stupid things that people tell you not to do because if you do them you will get bitten by a shark.  I will go abalone hunting, while bleeding openly and thrashing.  When I see a shark I will not move calmly.  I will try to hug the darned thing.  Because I love them.  And really if you're gonna go, going while embracing 2 tons of sheer serrated death kinda wins cool points.
                     3. In between point one and point two I'm going to spend a great deal of time following Axis of Awesome.  Like, I'd like to think that we'd be buds, you know, exchanging witty repartee and talking about Pokemon and Game of Thrones and drinking beer and I will write their biography and they will write a song about me.  But, you know, they're really talented musical folks and I've learned that really talented musical folks kind of tend to be a little bit. . .arrogant. Or if not arrogant at least slightly overaware that they are talented and the rest of us are not.  So my dream of us being BFFs might not work.  In which case I will just go to their concerts and daydream happily and collect setlists and whatnot like any good fangirl. Which brings me, though meanderingly, to my point.  The Four Chords song.  This was my introduction to Axis of Awesome and my cheap way of getting the most bang for your buck because with one simple paid download you get not only the amazing, studly, cleverness and musical genius of AofA (are you reading this, guys?  Really, email me, I'll buy the first round) but you get, you know, a lot of other songs.  Please, don't stop there, though. The smartassery and fun with this crew just don't stop. Word.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Day 5 - E is for Eurydice's Song

Did you know that there is a folk opera that has been based on a Greek myth?  No, not that one.  A different one.  A much, much, much BETTER one. Underworlds better, in fact.  There are people whose music I adore the first time I hear it.  There are people whose voices I enjoy.  This album, though, is head and shoulders above most everything I've heard. In her album, Hadestown, Anais Mitchell retells the story of Eurydice and her trip through Hades.  It is so amazingly well done, original, clever, and there's something about Mitchell's, slightly nasally voice that I adore, especially when paired with the impeccable deep bass of Justin Vernon who someday I will convince to be my personal lullabyist.  One of my favorite songs is "Eurydice's Song (Flowers)."

Do you know of any other albums that tell a story. . . not as in "wow those lyrics tell a story" but literally tell a story?

Friday, April 4, 2014

A to Z Challenge Day 4- Damien Rice

Welcome to Day 4 of the A to Z blogging challenge, where I continue to expose you to Songs I Like.  Today it's the third rainy day in a row, the sky is gray and the daffodils are looking a little dejected.  In my novel, on which I've made a huge amount of progress this month, my protagonist is feeling a little dejected.  And, to be honest, I'm feeling just a wee bit dejected as well.  It's a good day for Damien Rice.
I was introduced to Damien Rice at a pretty rough time in my life by a friend who was, in turn, introduced to him when he was going through a rough time.  This is not a coincidence; Rice's music sits gently, it's a balm to the soul.  Unlike some other performers whose music is a level of hopelessness that makes me feel like leaping off of a tall building would be a good idea if it wasn't just so damned much work, this dude perfectly nails melancholy.  And he does it so incredibly smoothly. The lyrics, the voice, the guitar, man it all goes down like a nice bourbon, and you can apply them all as liberally as you like without any worries about how you'll feel the next morning. There's nothing that he sings that I don't like, and his performance of "Hallelujah" at the Leonard Cohen tribute is one of the best I've heard, but today I'm going to introduce you the same way that I was introduced.  With "Cannonball."

Oh and for a different take on music and the A to Z challenge,  visit newbie blogger Cassie Ray Clark.   In the meantime, who do you snuggle when you're a 'lil down?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C's Abound on Day 3

It's Day Three of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and I have a plethora of them for your, a crowd of "c"s if you will, a cacophony of c.  You get the point.
        One day while babysitting, back in the woebegone days when there were still actual videos on MTV, a new song was released by a bunch of cool cats by the name of Aerosmith.  The song was "Cryin' and I was sold from the first harmonica riff.  I'm a sucker for some good harmonica.  Incidentally, that song is also on my playlist, and so I will include it below as part of my "song's I write to" alphabet blitz.  That song is not what this blog was about, but as I still love it we will pause for a minute to reminisce with an old friend.

Yup. Still good.  But anyway, so I went to my Mom's house that weekend and begged and pleaded until she took me to the mall where I bought the single.  For those of you who may not know, a "single" was like buying one song off of iTunes and getting another not as good song for free.  They were a little bulky, but fit conveniently in a fanny pack.  But I digress. Again. It's probably the rain.  "Mom" I said when we got home, "you've gotta hear this."  So I played it for her and she looked at me with this very strange look in her eye and went and got one of her old records from the garage.  This record had a woman wearing a red shirt and weird round sunglasses on the cover.  "If you like that, you might like this," she said.  And so I was introduced to Janis Joplin via her song "Cry, Baby."  To say that I was obsessed was a bit of an understatement.  As anyone who knew me in high school can attest, my bellbottom and tie dye collection soon reached epic proportions.  My first car was a yellow VW Bug.  I began to favor harmony balls on long leather strings and still prefer Tevas and platforms to any other kind of footwear.  And I still listen to Janis.  Granted, that scratchy, soulful voice doesn't appeal to my children as much as it does to me, and it tends to drive my husband out of the room which may or may not be a good thing, depending on the day, so i dont' get to listen to her as much as I'd like.  But man, when I do, I do.

I am such a fan of the Pearl that she is actually featured in my Champions Challenge (see, more c's) over at The Iron Writer.  The Iron Writer is a flash fiction challenge of which I've been a part for nearly a year now, in which challengers are given four elements and four days to write a 500 word story.  One of the elements this time was "your favorite karaoke song" and so I decided to do a literary retelling of another Janis song "Me and Bobby McGee."   This is the championship round,  a March Madness bracket style competition which I've made it to every time, but have never gotten past the first round.  Kinda like the Buckeyes this year.   If you get a minute, I'd sure appreciate your vote.  Simply click here and then vote for "Me and Bobby McGee" by K.A. DaVur.  This blog post may actually beat their server update, so if the stories aren't up please please please check back.  

In the meantime, tell me, what's your favorite song from the 60's?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Blogging A to Z - April 2

Yawn. Stretch. Moving kinda slow this morning, how about you?  Feeling kinda melancholy.  Which I guess is fitting because of today's song.  Today on Blogging A to Z (where we have been joined by the amazing Dani J. Caile so go check out his alphabetical proweress when you get a chance) I will be introducing you to the second best break up song of all time: Both Hands by Ani Difranco (the living in clip version).  It perfectly expresses the pain when a relationship is ending, you know it's ending, you can't stop it, but you don't want it to. I once had a friend refer to her as "every man's worst enemy" because during a break up the male suddenly becomes, in the mind of the woman, every dude in every Ani Difranco song.  I don't know if I'd go that far,though she does, in my mind, hold the title for best break up song as well, with Untouchable Face (don't Google that if you're squeamish about profanity). But I digress.  I "met" Ani when I was driving around in my little 5 speed Escort Pony (named Mony) and rocking to a single of 32 Flavors by Alana Davis.  My friend says "you know this is a cover, right?"  I didn't.  I was woefully Top 40 at that point, but all of that was about to change. So I dropped her off and she said "wait a minute" and brought me a copy of Ani Difranco's "Dilate" and "Little Plastic Castle" to borrow.  It was love at first play.  I had several amazing times at Ani concerts after that, and some amazing-in-retrospect angsty teenage times angstily shouting the lyrics to various songs after  angsty, angsty, breakups.  We differ a little politically nowadays, though she is a homebirth devotee which as a former midwife makes me really happy.  Even so, her music never fails to make me happy.  I mean, where can you go wrong with someone who plays an acoustic guitar with acrylic nails taped to her fingers to get a grittier sound?
          There are several versions of Both Hands, but I love the Living in Clip version because here she is accompanied by an orchestra, which makes it just that more awesome.  What is your favorite break up song?

I do not own the rights to this song.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A to Z Blogging Challenge - April 1

It's April, which means it's time for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, which is boasting over 2300 participants this year including my dear friends Marian Allen  and my favorite steampunk warrior Jay Noel.  I've pondered long and hard about joining this challenge, mostly because I'm fairly notorious for starting a challenge and then petering out halfway through due to technical issues, birthing livestock, sick children, or just your average artist-inspired ADHD (look, something shiny!).  Also, I'm also doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month and really want to finish one if not both of my almost done novels.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, though, and someday I will see one of these through to the end.
After much pondering, I've decided to choose Songs I Like as my theme.  I figure as I'm going to be writing I'm going to be abusing my playlists and thought I'd share some of the gems within with all of you.

Today's Song I Like is As Cool as I Am by Dar Williams.  I learned about Dar at Van Buren Youth Camp, the gateway to most of my music obsessions even today.  I was able to meet Dar at her concert at the historic and gorgeous Kentucky Theatre, and she was amazingly gracious as I babbled in my best angstypoetreefangirl style. 20 years (erhem) after I first heard this song I still think it's a song every woman should hear.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Roland Deschain, Danny Torrence, and Me

It will come as a surprise to few that, well, I have issues.  Maybe it's because I'm an artist, maybe it's because I've struggled with depression, maybe it's just because I'm me, but for whatever reason I spend most of my days walking around feeling like I have a perpetual sunburn.  Everything, good or bad, I feel so much more than I think I ought and everything, good or bad, has the potential to hurt.  Over the years I have developed a system for working with this issue. It all started with the death of my son, named appropriately enough, Roland. You see, Roland died. In my arms. Due to surgery, I wasn't at my best at that time either, and suddenly I find myself having to deal with not just the soul-crushing pain but also the minutiae of death, and then of life.  "I'll feel it later," became my mantra. "I don't have time for this now, I have to plan the funeral. I don't have time for this now, I have to get ready for my husband's deployment. I can't do this now, now while P is deployed. I can't do this now, I have a new baby and I"m all by myself.  I can't do this now, P is readjusting." And then another new baby. And so on and so on. It started as a one time thing, and became a habit.

 It may not be the healthiest, but for me it works.  In this regard, I'm a little bit Roland Dechain.  In one of the amazing Dark Tower Series (and if you haven't read this, you must - at least books one through six; I remain convinced that in the seventh Sai King lost sight of the Beam completely) Roland twirls his finger in that impatient motion at someone's story and says "Gone days."  Eddie Dean of course disapproves, but it won in me a wholehearted recognition. Gone days.  They happened, they are gone, there is nothing you can do to change it. Dwelling on them will not change them, it will only weaken my ability to deal with the issues of today.  Regret over my repulsive behavior in my early 20's? Gone days.  Pain from childhood? Gone days. Remembering the humiliation of high school? Gone days. The betrayal by my first publisher? Gone days.  Keep marching.  In another way, I'm a bit Danny Torrence from Dr. Sleep.  There are pains that I'm pretty sure will eat me if I let them.  So I've put them in a box and placed them on a shelf.  Pain of the death of my first born?  Box. The pain of remembering the first golden days of being newly in love? Box. The betrayal of friends who could handle me "just how I was" until just how I was was happy and healthy and well.  Box.  And it's a good system. It's worked.  Until now.

What's changed?  Well, you see, I'm writing this story.  I'm writing this story that is a cyberpunk homage to Flowers for Algernon. In it this girl who has suffered her entire life from depression agrees to have a cybernetic brain implanted.  Well for the first time since the abuse she suffered as a child, she makes her way into her world.  So, she's' going to fall gloriously, newly in love. And she's going to have friends turn out not to be what she thought they were. And she's going to slide unaviodably, inevitably, cyberbiologically into utter and complete despair. And it's going to be incredible.  But, to do it right it will have to be authentic.  It will have to have the ring of utter truth.  And to do that I'm going to have to open some of those boxes and actually feel what is inside them.  That terrifies me.  It completely and utterly terrifies me.

So, the writing is slow, much slower than I'd like, and i"m having to take lots of breaks.  But, I think if I can make it through I might discover a new way to live. One where I can let myself feel all of these things knowing that I will survive it.  One wherein I can not use the past as an excuse for bad or dysfunctional behavior, but wherein I can acknowledge how it can harm us, help us, and affect our behaviors.  I think this will be a good thing.

But man, it's scary.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Women's History Month - Don't be a Buttercup

"Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be." -Clementine Paddleford

We watch a lot of movies at my house.  It's unfortunate, I know, but they really are family affairs, curled up on the couch all together in this massive dogpile, talking and chatting our way through the flick.  I've been amazed at how many lessons we were able to teach using the shows that my family enjoys.  Gollum was the introduction into the dangers of addiction.  Dr. Who and Sweettown showed us greed. Then, there was Buttercup.
Ah, Buttercup, the female lead in the delightful classic "The Princess Bride." She drives me nuts.  In a land of "hello, my name is Inigo Montoya," "Iocaine, I'd stake my life on it," and the rest we have the only significant female character.  Of course, my daughter fell in love with her instantly.  With the amazing dresses and that incredible sheaf of hair, why wouldn't she?  Then I noticed something.  She started getting bossy.  More than that, she started playing at helplessness.  She wouldn't get things for herself, wouldn't play, would just sit and watch and give orders.  Granted, this is a consistent problem considering both her background and her mobility issues, but it became extreme.  Finally, it had to be addressed.  Being the extremely sensitive and tender mother that I am, I of course approached it with delicacy and tact.  "Hey," I said, "why are you being so bossy lately?"  "Well that's how Buttercup acted when she loved Wesley." Oh.
So, we sat down again to watch the movie that night, and we talked and the talk went like this.  "Honey, don't be a Buttercup.  She is bossy, see there, that's not how you love someone.  She is naive. See, you must learn from your experiences.  She is, well, useless really.  See how she acted in the fireswamp?  All morose and weepy and hysterical. Look, she got Wesley hurt.  Don't be afraid to fight and remember above all you must not panic.  And look there, there she just gave up.  You never, never give in to despair.  Yes she's pretty but honey you must NEVER be a Buttercup.  That's not what being a girl is all about."
The next day I was walking through the living room at full speed, carrying a load of laundry and tripping over the kitten.  That's when she decided to ask the follow-up question.
"Mommy," she said.
"Yeah baby."
"What is being a woman about then?"  Oh. Gosh.  Okay.  I crossed over to her.
"Being a woman is hard, honey.  It's very hard. You have to be independent and know your own mind and be able to defend it, but you have to know how to serve others because nurturing and caring for others is important.  And how have to be able to tell when to do which.  You have to be strong, and feed your talents, but above all you have to love people with all of your heart and trust in your strength."
That night we watched another movie.  The next day I heard my kids playing outside.  Suddenly, above all of the voices I heard my daughter's.
"I am NO MAN!" she yelled.
That's my girl.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Round of Words Update

My word count has not been what I would like for it it be, but there has been steady forward progression.  Sometimes as writers, hell as people, that's the best that we can ask.  I'm running into an odd situation, though, and I'm wondering if anyone else has faced this.  You see, here I am introducing good things into this character's life.  She has her little mouse.  She has a great job.  She has just reunited with some old friends.  She is about to meet her first love.  She is healthy and happy for the first time since her mother started abusing, and letting others abuse, her.  But here's the thing: I'm going to have to take it all away.  After all, that's the premise of the book.  I knew that going in.  But I find myself rooting for this girl, hoping she will be one of us to make it out, knowing that she won't and that it will be at my hands.  I'm finding I'm just not sadistic enough for this.  Does anyone else face that?

Here's another excerpt. 
There are so many words, so many terms, concepts, that have become commonplace for me since the day that I walked into the cool chrome waiting room in Center Circle.  Cyber-Bio Compatibility.  Intracranial transplant.  Bineurology.  I’ve spent the last few months in a bubble in which these terms are tossed around as easily as profanity at the docks.  Medical professionals, and certainly scientists, seem to look upon it is some sort of self-degradation to talk in anything other than terminology, and so in self  and so by necessity all of this worked its’ way into my vocabulary just as the electrosynapses wormed their way into my nerves.  Naturally, thoroughly, inseparably.  And so I forget that a season ago they were just as foreign , perhaps even more so, than any of the dozen or so languages spoken here in Flower Town. Today, though, I was reminded.  If I’d caught on to what was happened any more slowly, I think I would have lost a lifetime friend, our friendship would have rotted slowly from the inside out, killed by frightened glances and awkward silence,  and so I’m so thankful that I realized what was happening as soon as I did. Poor Don.
I was so excited to go to work, to see Don, to meet whatever lost soul like me had found refuge in his place.  As soon as I arrived, though, I could tell that something was wrong.  My hair has started to grow back since the surgery, but right now it’s this wild untamed mass of tiny corkscrews pointing this way and that, that , at least in my mind, draws attention to rather than kids the scar that spans my head from ear to ear. So, I decided to wrap my head in a colorful scarf, the same one that covered Rosie’s’ cage when the techs first brought her to me.  Don was friendly enough when I came in, I suppose, but I could tell that something was wrong.  There was ho hug, customary after what he called “my little vacations.” There was no humming as he kneaded the dough with his gnarled hands.  There was nothing.  Just silence, and distance and the nervous glances that he kept shooting my way when he thought that I wasn’t looking.   I chalked it up to time; it has been a while since I’d been  in, or maybe he was irritated by being pressed by the Facility into rehiring me. I’m sure that they are paying my salary, but still Don shares the outer rim’s inherent disdain for anyone Circle Center, which may or may not include me.  I decided not to address it, just went about my day, doing all of the tasks I used to do.  The way I saw it, he would talk about it, or not, when he was ready. 
            By the time lunch came, though, I was feeling the strain.  My shoulders were locked into tension knots and I was beginning to wonder if Dr. Stevens and Basanti have been right about this being a mistake.  We made it through the rush and flopped down in the old mismatched chairs back in the break room.  I took Rosie out of the cage that I’d gotten to keep her in while I was at work, and let her run around for a little bit on the faded no-color Formica while Don scratched away at one of his endless books filled with crossword puzzles, muttering to himself as he worked out the answers.  I’d been sweating; the kitchen of the cafĂ© was hot even in the winter, one of the reasons that I loved it, and this late in spring it was sweltering.  My head itched under the scarf and so I reached up and unwound it slowly, bunching it into a ball that I then threw on the table with a sigh.  It took me a few seconds to realize that the muttering and scratching had stopped.  I raised my eyes to find Dun staring fixedly at me, his eyes and mouth wide. 
“I’ll be damned,” he said, “It’s really you under there.”
We were both silent for a second, and let out matching guffaws, the sounds echoing off of the cinder block walls and just like that don’s was familiar, home again. 
“Fekegalo, Don” I exclaimed.  “What did you expect?” 
That’s when he told me that he’d had no idea what to expect.  Basanti had showed up one day, jingling and beautiful, and had starting spouting off all of those words those words I’ve recently come to know, and had left him thinking that I’d be I know don’t what – a robot/  Some freak with wires or even a whole brain hanging out of my head.  I think I realized then that I have become a part of that other world, to some extent.  Will I ever be able to fit in here again?  Is dual citizenship simply too much to ask?  I haven’t heart form any of the old friends yet.  I don’t know how they would handle me even if I did ferret them out.  How they would react.  Would they be happy for me now that I can really be happy too?  Or would the distrust of anything Center Circle, a deep seeded distrust built of hears of hunger and filth, extend to me now, too?  I don’t know.  It broke my heart to see how Don had shied away from me, that’s for certain.  Still, though, he let me come back.  Even believing that I was some fiber optic medusa, he made a place for me here.  I have to remember that if things get tough.  Even with all of that, he let me come back. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guest Post: Pirate Kitty

I'm joined today by Pirate Kitty, beloved First Mate of author Etta Jean whose steamy fantasy novel "Chronicle of Summer" was released on Valentine's Day.  Read Pirate Kitty's Exploits below and then take a peek at what Etta Jean has been up to. 

Captain's Log 05 May 2013

The Admiral be up to something mighty strange. She's taken everything in our base and put it into boxes. The boys like the boxes for the way they make climbing easy, but I'm a cave girl myself. The Admiral has been unhappy with the boxes she made—you got me as to why—but me Admiral is a plucky gal with much determination. She'll make it right.

Captain's Log 27 November 2013

What the hell?! Over the last week, me and the boys have watched the Admiral put every last item into boxes. This very morning, she even tore down the humming machine that she's always meddling with. Seemed like a regular day at first. She and the Skipper went off to wherever it is they go during the day, and me and the boys got down to our normal routine of pillaging and napping. I finally killed that rascally stuff rabbit and got it up the stairs. Sucker was bigger'n Yello' Bastian; I'd get goodies for sure.

When the Admiral and Skipper returned to base, they got to work. All those boxes? Lined up in neat rows. Dark Smudge sulked over losing his perch, and Yello' Bastian hid. Something began to be familiar to me and Black Hawk, and we merely watched and waited. Some of the boxes were taken out and put in the metal ships. Fluffy blankets and pillows went too. The humming machines went into the Admiral's metal ship. I watched and waited intently from my hidden spot amid the small boxes. My tail twitched against my will as the Admiral came upstairs with a familiar carrying case. It was my case. My lovely leather nap spot with its pink and brown colors and squishy bedding. She put it down and walked away and I just couldn't resist going inside for a quick nap.

Oooh! Damn her and her human reflexes and opposable thumb! She snapped the door shut and zipped me inside. As I glared through the mesh of my portable prison, I saw me boys go running for their lives. Black Hawk was nabbed on the stairs and put into another prison. He didn't bother to complain; he just looked at me and we sighed. It isn't always good to be right.

I know not how the Admiral caught Dark Smudge and Yello' Bastian, but I heard the cat-erwauling, and the Admiral was sporting some new claw marks as she returned down the stairs. She stuffed Bastian in me with (thanks, for that!) and put Smudge in with Hawk. She hefted both prisons to cart us downstairs, and even the cranky kits had to be impressed. Humans are often such weak creatures we forget our Admiral can do anything.

Our prisons were put into the metal ship, and she set us sailing down the concrete sea. Yello' Bastian and Dark Smudge put up the wailingest of noises; Bastian has never been in a metal ship other than to go to the doc, and Smudge just doesn't like it. The Admiral started talking and singing to them to calm them down, and even the 'fraidy brat mellowed. We love the Admiral's voice.

It seemed forever until the ship was docking inside a wholly new place. It looked like the cargo bay of our old base, but it was empty and clean. The surroundings were not familiar. The Skipper arrived right behind us, and she carried one prison while the Admiral carried the other. They brought us inside the main building, and I knew at once that we had a new base. It smelled of the Admiral and Skipper already, and I could recognize some scents from our allies. It felt big and empty, and none of the boxes were there yet. Our prisons were set down in the middle of a sea of tan puff floor, and the doors were opened. None of us wanted to move but finally I took charge. I was the captain. It was my duty to go first. I stepped out onto the puff, and the lure of the new base beckoned. A whole new adventure had arrived.

And, speaking of adventure: 

It has been nine years for Lucksphere. A devastating battle that shattered millennia of beliefs looms in the past. Magi are confused, the Black Magi Elite are in hiding, and Chronicles are still murdered on discovery. Yet a secret hides within the sheltering arms of the world. A secret that the Elite will literally kill to find and the Dragons are rushing to find first:

Tariah and Morgan Chronis are not the only Chronicles who have made it past puberty.

The four Chronicle children that Morgan sent away for safety are now becoming adults. Kelsey Renaire is a fiery Master Weaponsmith with often more sass than sense. Roman Arequo is an aloof and airy farmer who dabbles in glass carving. C.J. Daragon is a gentle weaver who creates beauty from soil and sand. Jayda Lakemore is a gifted doctor whose watery talents mend all but the most terminal injuries. Secretly living as Master Magi, all have felt isolated from their peers. All have suspected there might be something more to their power.

None of them know what destiny lays in front of them.

As the Elite rise again and strike out in ways that threaten to tear the land to pieces, the six Chronicles of Lucksphere and their Furies are going to have to join forces and fight not only for their right to live, but for the rights of the Magi and Kin as well. If they don't work fast, this summer will be last for Lucksphere.

Will love finally defeat hate?

Etta Jean was born in Sacramento, California and destined from birth to be a bard. She told tall tales while devouring the creative worlds of others until she finally had to create her own. She has seen both good and evil in her life, and her stories, like life, have no half measures. Her happy endings never come without cost, though, for she truly believes we can't appreciate the good and the joy without the bad and the pain along the way. Her current haunt is a comfy house in her beloved hometown where she wrangles three feline fur-kids while constantly overbooking her calendar. If she's not chained to her desk, she's stomping through the scenery in search of equally fantastical photographs.
On Twitter @ettajeanfantasy


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Guest Post Alana Lorens

Today I am proud to host author extraordinaire Alana Lorens

Take it away, Alana.

When bad luck just seems to follow you…

Jake Patrin has seen his share of trouble.
When he hit the age of thirty-five, he had the year from Hell, with a capital H.  His wife had divorced him and he’d lost a good job driving truck in King City, California. Worse, a collision with a Mack truck late one night when he’d been driving too long had stuck him in the hospital for three months, left him in constant pain, controlled by serious doses of Oxycontin and other medications.
If that wasn’t enough, the devil kicked him down another flight of steps. That drug had become his master, had taken over for awhile. Almost a year later, he’d kicked the narcotic, but faces a daily struggle to leave the addiction behind.
That’s why he’s working as a caretaker at the Sherman Ranch, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Living in the middle of nowhere. Here he can stay clean and sober. Weekly trips to Santa Fe, or even a phone call in more desperate moments, hook him up with a middle-aged male Alcoholics Anonymous group that help keep him sane. His sponsor is an old Indian, John White Horse, who’d fought his own good fight for nigh on forty years. John takes no bullshit. He’s a good friend and good support.
Groups rent out the place, and they come and go. Some have really strange demands—take out all the TVs, or hide the movie collections. Some bring truckloads of horses. Some just find their way to the hot tub and never leave.
Jake’s prepared for the group of fancy-schmancy lawyers coming in to rent the place for the week in March, even despite the boxes of alcohol they brought in. He thinks he can ignore that. He hopes he can.
He’d better be able to. The one thing he can control is his own sobriety. As he soon discovers, everything else this week is totally out of his hands.
Teo Haroun and the other lawyers in his firm look forward in varying degrees to the retreat at the Sherman Ranch in northern New Mexico. The boss has laid down some rules—no phones, no computers, no communication with the outside world—that makes them uneasy. But the corporate team-building exercises are necessary for this firm to survive its inner sniping and turmoil—and to protect the secrets they hold.
Inez Suela and thirty other Mexicans have paid a coyote hundreds of pesos to take them across the border into the United States, where they hope to make a better life. The crowded truck heads north into New Mexico to meet their local driver, the occupants unaware that a freak March snowstorm is waiting in its path.
Jake Patrin, the caretaker of the Ranch, fights demons of his own as he struggles daily with addiction. Working far from the city on the lonely Ranch, hosting those who rent the facility, is his protection and solace. But he’s about to lose the only peace he’s been able to grasp.
Davi Pilar needs to make some fast money to appease a couple of St. Louis loan sharks, so he agrees to pick up a truckload of illegals and take them to St. Louis. He drives to New Mexico, not knowing that Inez, the woman who rejected him years before, is one of those on that truck.
The intersection of these people, the collision of their cultures, the revelation of their secrets—all these things lead to violence, death, and even redemption in their New Mexico ENCOUNTER.
The others had disappeared into the casa; he heard their voices echo down the west hall. Pete helped him load their suitcases onto the cart.
Jake grinned at the weary look on the driver’s face.  “Interesting group, eh, amigo?”
Pete snorted. “Not satisfied with anything. Big city gringos.”
“Hey, big city gringos’ money keeps enchiladas on the table, right? You and me, pal, we work for a living.” As he stacked the eleventh piece of luggage, he wondered exactly what these men and women thought they’d be doing for seven days that required all this. “How’s Maria?”
“She’s good, she’s good.” Pete smiled with his broken teeth. “Knitting for the grandbaby.” He whipped out his wallet and shared pictures of a fat, dark-skinned infant. “Esteban Marrero-Nunez.”
“Gonna be a ladykiller.” Jake grinned and handed the pictures back with a hint of jealousy. His wife had left after twelve years, taken everything they owned, but they’d never had kids. He’d been on the road so often, it hadn’t troubled him much. Except for times like this. He wished he had some pictures to flash around. Something of himself to leave behind. Something to help strengthen his resolve during those moments when the cravings really tore at his gut.
“Got time for coffee? Put a fresh pot on bit ago.”
Pete looked at the van, his watch and then down the hall. “Better head back, my friend. Bueno suerte. You’ll need it.” He shared a tired smile, then hurried out and hit the road.
That bad. Damn. It was gonna be a long week. Jake rubbed his forehead and went for a cup of that coffee all alone.

You can find ENCOUNTER at and at Three Fates Press, in both ebook and print formats.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

ROW80 A Pantsing Plotter

I have been able to write a little over 1000 more words.  I'm now in that awkward period wherein I've written everything that I have planned for this part of the book, but am not yet to the next point where I know what I want to write.  So, I'm percolating.  This is a new experience for me; I am a dedicated plotter.  I make reams and reams of notes and outlines before I ever write a "real" word.  That way, when the creative rush subsides, I still have a road map to follow.  With this benign literary possession, though, there has been no plotting.  I have a general idea of what I want to do, but that's it.  Against all odds, it's working, but I am left with a few not insignificant unanswered questions.

1.  I have a character named Denae.  She is a minor character.  Yet, with some tweaking, she could become a slightly larger presence and one with a LOT of emotional impact.  Still, though, I already have a lot of threads that I'm weaving together, and to do this right I'd have to weave her in as well.  I'm wondering if the potential for confusion is worth the "pow."

2. Then there is the question as to where this person would end her life.  If the Facility would allow her to end her days, catatonic though she may be, in their shiny halls then the aforementioned scene wouldn't matter. But would they do so?  Would they have the respect for the result of one of their experiments to ensure that she had the best of care? Or would they shuffle her off to one of the state-funded facilities in order to save money and, perhaps, an unpleasant reminder?  I'm not sure yet.

I'm hoping that I can figure out the answer to these questions; it's very odd moving forward blind, or at least myopic.  How about you? Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Here's another bit of what I've been doing:

.  And so I told her, slowly at first, watching her face ang gauging her reaction.  Soon though it was pouring out., all of it.  What the nurses had said, my feeling that Dr. Alyce had abandoned me, my fears about what others would see.  Most of all, what I thought my feelings meant.  That I had gone through all of this for  nothing. That I had lost my last chance to be normal.   By the end I was crying, snot bubbling out of my nose.  Basanti waited until the flow of words and slowed and stopped. 

  Then she spoke quietly.  “You are mad,” she said, “and scared. And sad.”  I nodded.  “Tell me,” she said, “have you blacked out?” I shook my head.  “Cut yourself?  Tried to commit suicide?”


She didn’t say anything, just looked at me with her head cocked to one side.  And then it hit me. 

“No!” I said again.  She smiled broadly.  “See?” she said, “you are already makng progress.”
“But the rage, the fear-“

“-are all normal human reactions.  You didn’t think that the surgery would take away all pain, did you?”
I was quiet because, as ridiculous as it seems even now, that’s exactly what I had thought

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Troll Or Park Cover Reveal

Have you heard of Red Tash?  The fabulous teller of tales?  If not, stop whatever you are doing and make yourself acquainted with this writer. You can find her at, or at  The best news is, you picked a great time to become a Radish (yes, she even has a special name for her fans,) as the cover for her latest book, Troll or Park, was revealed TODAY!  Here it is:

Look at that puddin'.  Isn't it adorable?  Don't you want to now go and read everything else she has written, in preparation of reading this? If so, you can go here, and find it all!  What are you waiting for?  Really, go, 'cause Red Tash, man, RED TASH!!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Round of Words - Jumping in

I've decided to join the writing challenge "A Round of Words in 80 Days."  Laid back, set your own goals, it seems like the kind of challenge I could dig.  The premise is that there are four, 80 day, cycles.  You jump in, state your goals, and then update twice a week on said goals.  Of course, there's other stuff involved, as there always is; meeting new friends, cheering people on, etc.  So, here I am.  As I figure, I have roughly 50 days left in this round.  What can I do in 50 days?  I can do 500 loads of laundry.  I can cook 170 meals.  I can fall short on my homeschooling goals at least 49 times, hurt myself in some sort of ridiculous way 26 times.  I am scheduled at attend at least three booksignings.  So, something reasonable, right?  Nah, not my style.  About a month ago I was given the spark for a novel.  This novel has taken over my brain, and if I'm not as far along as I'd like to be (are we ever), this is the fastest unplanned 10K words I've ever written.  My goal is to finish a a rough draft of this novel by the end of the next 50 days.  Below is an excerpt of Charlotte and Rosie, a cyberpunk play on "Flowers for Algernon."

I crossed to the desk with a dozen eyes fixed on my back, or so it seemed.  I am, at the best of times, certain that the word “crazy” is written in giant glowing letters across my back just as it is in the scars on my wrists or the faint burns on my temples.  This was not the best of times.  I gave my identification number to the receptionist, Cyber, I’m pretty sure, and found a seat at least one empty chair away from anyone else.  My sleeves had worked their way up my arms.  I pulled them down until the rough fabric brushed against my knuckles, and tried to take the deep, cleansing breaths that Doctor Alyce had said would help.  They didn’t. 
            The waiting room was pristine, immaculately decorated, so very different from East, from any of the state run and funded facilities to which I’d become accustomed.  Those smell like piss and bleach and are decorated with flaking paint and whatever the last out of control patient had smeared all over the walls. Here everything was cool blues and off-white, with a SimWall depicting a beach or, at least, what a beach used to be. There is a beach down the road from my flat in Flower Town.  It does not look like that.  Still the crashing of the waves was nice. Soothing. In and out. Back and forth.  In and out. I looked down, surprised to find I was scrubbing my wrists back and forth on my thighs, and rocking in time with the water.  How long had I been doing that?  Apparently a while. The skin was red and the other people waiting to be seen were pointedly not looking at me.  Fek.  For some strange reason I thought of Tawny, her dark eyes wide in the dim light while angry footsteps pounded up and down the halls.  “You picked a bad time to go loco, ese,” she had said.  She had been right.  That time was bad, this one was worse. 
I should just get out of here. They’re not going to pick me anyway, I don’t know why I’m even trying.  As of right now I’d be out nothing but the hoverbus fare and maybe, just maybe, I could cling to whatever chip of dignity I had left. If there’s any at this point.  Sometimes I wonder. Of course, Dr. Alyce would be disappointed. It’s not like that’s new.  I’ve been disappointing Dr. Alyce for ten years or more, and he’s just one on a long, long list, besides he gets paid to be disappointed anyway.   My heart started thumping in my chest.  I can’t do this.  I can’t not do this.  Stay and people will see. They will see what I am.  And, worst of all, they will actually, and this is hilarious, decide that I’m not broken enough or too broken or who knows what.  What if I actually fail at being sick?  Go home though and there’s no hope. None. Besides, they’ll all be sitting here knowing I couldn’t make it and laugh and talk amongst themselves about the stupid lazy wanna be patient and how I was probably hungover or strung out and couldn’t find my way. I found my way fine, thank you.  Better than they could if we took them out of their oh so pretty world. God, I’m just so damn tired.   I looked again at the SimWall, where a brightly-colored bird was entering from one side.  Okay, let the bird decide.  If it flew through, just a tourist, so too would I be on my way.  If it stayed, so would I.  It soared across the blue sky, banking so that it looked like it was flying away, then curved and came closer, settling on the branch of the tree.  All right. I folded my hands in my lap and gave what I hoped was a pleasant smile to the woman across the aisle, and did my best impression of someone who was actually sane.
            “Charlotte,” another woman identical to the receptionist was waiting at a door that I hadn’t even noticed. So, there’s one question answered, Cyber for sure. She guided me through a tangle of rooms and hallways, her high patent heels clicking on the tiles.  One thing this place did have in common with East, it was a maze.  She stopped, finally, and pushed a door open on silent hinges.  “Thanks,” I said, forgetting that you don’t have to thank a Cyber.  She gave me a programmed smile, flashing her flawless white teeth, and clicked back the way she had come. The office behind the door, like the rest of this place, was spotless, beautiful, with real wood furniture and soft fabrics. There were framed awards everywhere.  It is obvious that they are used to people who educated, rich.  People not like me.  I’m surprised that they even let me in there, probably had a cleaning bot already programmed to sanitize the place after I left. I don’t belong here. If they didn’t need someone desperate to use as a guinea pig, a place like this wouldn’t even answer my waves.  Still, Dr. Alyce was waiting, along with two people I had never met.  They were all looking at me.  I wished that I had left when I had the chance.
            Dr. Alyce stepped forward.  “Charlotte,” he said, clasping my hands in his, “I’m glad you could come, let me introduce you to our hosts.”  He turned, first, to the woman on his right, a dark skinned woman with startling hazel eyes and a white coat like his own.  “This is Doctor Stevens,” he said and, turning to his left his elbow brushed the elbow of the man next to him and passed right through, leaving a bluish glow behind.  The other stranger must have holo’d in for the occasion.  The kid, I swear he looked about a decade younger than me, was introduced as Cybernetic Specialist Nu.  He wore a dark blue blazer embroidered with the stylized pigeon of the Tesla Academy.  A scientist of some sort, then.  That explained the holo.  I’d heard that most scientists thought themselves hesitant to leave their labs, afraid that in the time it took for them to visit the latrines, someone would beat them to the next best thing.  I’d seen the T.A. emblem before, of course.  Once, on the leg of a drunk, homeless man that we were helping get cleaned up.  Mostly, in the hospitals, though.  The electroshock machine had T.A. engraved on it, in fact.  I wasn’t sure what to make of that.  I bowed briefly to each, my right hand crossed across my chest, tapping my closed fist on my left shoulder in the true Benevolencia fashion. In other words, the fashion I hadn’t used since we learned it in Primary.  “Thank you for considering me,” I said. 
            They bowed in return, perfunctory flicks of the head, and the C.S. motioned to a seat.  I sat, aught myself scrubbing at my thighs with my wrists and forced my hands to fold themselves once again.  Dr. Stevens made a note in my chart.  I felt my gorge start to rise and swallowed several times. Dr Alyce nodded encouragingly and launched into his prepared speech.  We had gone over it together in his office so that I would know what to expect. 
            “Dr. Stevens, C.S. Nu, This is Patient 3245931B, Charlotte.  I have had the pleasure of working with Charlotte for well over a decade.  While her condition is indeed chonic, and I have reason to believe, progressive, I have found Charlotte to be a willing participant in her recovery.  That last phrase I’d heard before, at least a hundred times.  I had heard it at each of my Patient Release Meetings.  There, it meant that I was going to make it to my appointments, take my meds, and at least try to not to kill myself.  I heard it as a joke among the patients at East, our meager attempts at gallows humor.  “Now, now, we’d say” when someone sat at the toilet, vomiting their way through the DTs, or the times that someone would descend for a moment into absolute insanity, turning over tables or screaming about spiders that weren’t there, “is that a good way to participate in your recovery?”  Once, I heard it from three male nurses as the reason that they beat the hell out of Denae, a schizophrenic drag queen and one of my best friends at East.  I guess that sounded better than the truth, which is that they got mad when she refused to blow them in the iso room.  Those nurses didn’t last long, at least.  Even the Doctors loved Denae.
            I came back to now with a start and everyone was staring at me.  I must have missed something.  Fekegalo.
            “I apologize,” I said, “I believe I missed the question.”  Dr. Stevens scribbled again.  A crease had appeared between her eyes.  “I asked why you feel that you would be a good candidate for our trial.”  Ah. Dr. A had prepared me for this.  I launched into our rehearsed speech.
“My disorder reduces my ability to live a normal life.  I have a great desire to become a contributing member of society and feel that this procedure would grant me an opportunity to do so.  If chosen I – The C.S. stifled a small cough.  What did that mean?  Was it some sort of code?  It happened just as I said ‘If chosen.” I lost my place in the speech.  Suddenly, the room no longer seemed to have enough air.  Harsh, metallic sunbursts started to explode at the edge of my vision, leaving dark negatives in their wake.  My field of vision was shrinking, and I could feel this straw that I’d been grasping so hard for so long start to slip out of my sweaty grasp. 

“I just – “my voice quavered, “I just don’t want to feel like this anymore.  You don’t understand it’s,” I tried to choke out the words, words that would explain the constant fear and perpetual loneliness, that could somehow show the pain of stitches and pumped stomachs, of failed relationships and lost jobs, and the constant exhaustion of clamoring and scrabbling at the edge of the pit only to have your fingernails tear off and dirt clods fall in your face but never, ever getting out.  I couldn’t.  “Please,” I said at last.  “Please help me.  I will do whatever you ask.  I will follow any plan.   I will work hard.  Just please.  I don’t want to live like this anymore.”  Hot, thick tears built up and overflowed my lower lids.  Dr. Stevens was scribbling furiously, though took a moment to wordlessly hand me the box of tissues.  C.S. Nu looked studiously at his feet, obviously embarrassed, probably disgusted, at my outbreak.  “Thank you,” Dr. Stevens said, “That will be all.”  The Cyber met me in the hallway, and I expected to be escorted out of the building.  If I were lucky, they would have a cab that would take me home.  Once there, what?  I had been, I knew, at the top of a short list of candidates for this trial. If I had thrown this chance away, like I had so many others, what? I would have to figure out something, but first I thought I would sleep.  I was, suddenly, unbearably exhausted.  However, when we got to the lobby, the Cyber took me through a door on the other side.  There was the feared cab, and in it Dr. Alyce, and together we went to the Facility where the surgery will be performed to give me a new brain and, if they are right, a new life. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Windmill Land Mines

This is my oldest son.  We call him. . .well. .. all sorts of things.  For the longest time,he couldn't say his name.  He called himself Beowulf, so we will go with that.

Beowulf has autism.  He is high-functioning, but that doesn't mean that his issues don't occupy nearly every minute of every day.  They are a constant presence, one that must be coped with, managed, fought against, and sometimes even enjoyed.  There was a wonderful poem written once that compares having a child with autism to planning a trip to Italy and ending up in Holland.  That poem can be found here, and I really recommend that you read it.  It's awesome. Of course a response was posted on one of my favorite parenting blogs called "I f&^$% hate Holland" and man sometimes I get that, too.  But there's another side of it, too.  See, when your child with autism is high functioning, every day is filled with Windmill Land Mines. Every now and then, life is going well, things are as normal as they get around here, and all of a sudden *SMACK* you get bashed in the back of the head by a windmill you didn't even know was there.  For instance, last week we learned about subtraction.  I was fairly sure we had addition under control and it was time to move on.  So, I wrote a bunch of problems out for the three who are in school to work.  Suddenly, WHAP! school halts because THOSE SIGNS AREN'T RIGHT.  There are certain signs that are used in the math problems and I drew the add sign wrong.  It's wrong and he has to fix it RIGHT NOW. Before we can go forward, before I can explain why it's not wrong, those signs that are not right MUST BE FIXED.  But, of course, they don't and there is lots of weeping and pulling of his own hair and rocking before I can understand that it is a whole different sign that means a whole different thing.  Then, he's cool, moving on like nothing ever happened, diligently subtracting the second word from the first.  The rest of us, though, are still a little rattled. We are all a little wide eyed, a little more tired than we were, are finding it hard to focus.  It's like a summer thunderstorm just went through, or we were attacked by a windmill land mine. Beowulf loves his friends. Fiercely.  He's also fairly convinced on some days that he's a wolf.  So he's playing and they are running around and I'm looking on thinking about how awesome it is that he is able to reach out and have friends and then CRASH!  He decides to show his affection by getting "puppy hands" and whining.  Maybe even giving a lick.  Damn it.  Windmill.  There's another kid who won't be asking us over for a sleepover.  (By the way, sleepovers are one of the great heartaches of parents of kids with special needs.  Do you know how many weekends we have been asked to a sleepover in the past year? 0.  Do you know how many weekends he has packed a bag just in case someone invites him or set out entertainments and snacks in case someone takes us up on our invitation? 52. I cry over sleepovers and birthday parties on a regular basis). Or the other day.  We are watching one of the Lord of the Rings movies as a family.  Everyone has fallen asleep except for Beowulf who can NOT stop watching that movie until the tower has fallen. Can't do it.  Too much anxiety.  And we are at the part when Sam decides that he can ask his love out on a date.  "Why does he look like that?"  Beowulf asks.  "Because he's decided that if he can go through everything he did, that he can probably ask out the pretty girl."  "Ah," says the wise young one, "his baventures have made him brave." "That's right;" I answer, "just like you're brave.  You wouldn't be scared when it's time a court a girl."  BAM! SPLAT!  "I DON'T WANT TO DATE A GIRRRRRLLLLL," he howls.  "I want to stay with my family.  I would miss you so much!  Please don't make me leave!  I don't want to LLLLEEAAAVVVEEEE!"  An hour later, he has fallen into a restless sleep, and I open a bottle of beer for my husband and myself.  Because when you've been brained by a windmill, sometimes that's the best answer.
                   Sometimes I think that it would be easier if the issues were always there.  Other times I know that's not true.  What I do know is that while sometimes I love the autism and sometimes I hate the autism (I ALWAYS love my son), I will never ever get used to the landmines.  Of course, that is their nature, isn't it?  When I start to get exhausted, and anxious, and overwhelmed, I remember a gift that my husband got for me, long before we knew that Beowulf had the issues that he does.  It is a large, old, illustrated copy of Don Quixote.  I'm not the biggest Cervantes fan, and my husband knew this, so when I opened it I was grateful but puzzled.  My husband answered my questioning look.  "You remind me of him," he said.  "I am a man of LaMancha?"  I asked. "No," he replied.  "I am. . . mysterious and charming and alluring?"  I said.  "No," he replied.  "I mean yes, but no."  "Okay," I said, "I give up."  "It's the windmills," he said, "the way you fight your windmills.  It's one of my favorite things about you."  I think now that it was one of the Inspired gifts, because it helps me remember: they may be windmills, they may be land mines, they might be giants (here's your earworm for the day), but whatever it is I'm ready to battle another day.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I wish I could write but. . .

I'm waiting for my goat to go into labor.  Yep.  you heard me.  She's pacing a lot and panting and all of those things that let you know that soon something wonderful and miraculous and disgusting is about to happen.  Why does this stop me from writing, you ask?  After all, I'm pretty much just looking out the window and occasionally skating, er, walking, up the hill to check for external signs of dilation.  And you'd be right.  Except.  Except it's cold here.  Really cold.  Like, I could have sore I saw a polar bear trundling by.  That means the methods we use to keep the livestock warm aren't sufficient for an itty bitty.  Which means that I'm going to have to bring them inside and bottlefeed.  That means that I have to prepare the milk replacer just in case Barbie Goat doesn't take well to milking or I lose the motivation to go out twice a day in the Arctic cold and pull on the teats of a grumpy caprine.  Also, we heat with wood and the solarium where they will be kept needs to be toasty.  So, I'm also hauling wood inside and poking at the woodstove (I'm fire-maintenance impaired) trying to make sure it's all cozy.
Goat Nursery

Oh, and I have kids.  I have a small herd of children and we homeschool so I'm trying to get reading and writing and mathematics done early so that they can get bathed and their hair dry before it's time for them to come up on the hill and watch the kids enter the world.  Please understand, I'm not complaining it's just. . . well. .. I have this story pounding in my head.  I mean, truly, I've never had a story do this to me before, take over like this and it's spooky and wonderful and will possibly become the best thing I've ever written.  If I ever get it written. What a lot of people don't realize is that writers, well, that side of us is kinda our alter-ego.  It's who we turn into when we disappear into a phone booth, or when someone makes us angry.  It's our sidesidesidesideSIDE job.  The one we all desperately hope becomes our full-time job in the mythical someday where people are begging me to attend their conventions instead of the other way around, ice cream makes you lose weight, and Rupert Grint shows up on the movie set for Hunter the Horrible and falls madly in love with me.  But I digress. So, today, I present to you the peek inside the BatCave, what happens when DaVur takes off the corset in heels (because have you ever delivered a baby goat in stilettos)?  Keep checking back today for, erhem, progress, and comment below with your suggested names.

Update: It's 2:50pm.  Goat has stopped acting uncomfortable and even ambled over to munch on some leftover grain.  That's bad news.  Laboring animals generally don't stop to eat.  I'm sure she is doing this to ensure that she goes into full labor at exactly the moment I decide to go to bed. 

Update 2: 7:43.  Still no active labor.  As a former midwife, I always had disdain for those OBs who were rushing things along based on their convenience and schedule.  I'm not going to lie though, as the temperature is dropping and my sleep time is disappearing (best case scenario, I will be walking up every 90 minutes to stoke the fire and check on the blasted beast), I find myself wishing desperately for a pitocin drip and wondering if "stripping the membranes" is really that different in goats.  Oh believe me, I wouldn't do anything like that, for the sake of the goat and because there are certain aspects of my former career I do NOT miss,  but give me another hour and I may have the darn thing walking the hallways paddock. 

Update 3: 5:39am.  Thrice damned beast still won't kid.  She is getting really ornery,though, attacking her penmate Pigasus repeatedly if the shambling porker gets too close.  I managed to fight the horns long enough to "bump" her, though.  For those of you who don't know, "bumping" is a prenatal goaty Heimlich maneuver. You wrap your arms just in front of the udder and kinda "bump" them up.  If there is something that bumps back, there is a baby.  If the bump moves, it is still alive. Everything appears to be well. 

Update 4: Saturday 10:30.  Still no baby.  It's time to swallow my pride and admit to the blogosphere that it was a false alarm.  Really, though, I know the second I leave the blasted house it's going to happen.  I mean, her girlybits are all bulgy and her udders have distended and her tail is disjointed.  IT'S TIME.  Except it isn't.  Trust me, though, when it happens, I'll be sure to let you know. 

Update 5: 4:00pm Monday.  I take back everything bad I said about the goat.  Yesterday, on a warmish day, during daylight hours, while my husband was home, Barbie goat delivered adorable twins!