I live near Lake Washington, by Seward Park, a really nice place. Except when everyone else decides it's a nice place. Like this coming weekend.
Took a walk this morning and watched a Great Blue Heron preening on a dead log rising among lily pads, her claws gripping the white wood like the hands of a strong old man. Six young mallards swam away in close formation; a song sparrow perched trustingly low in a scrubby tree. Run! I thought. Swim! Fly! Get out of here however you can.
In two more days this area will be overrun with drunks and loud machines. They have these annual boat races here, see, and then these stunts performed by fighter jets. Really. Buses take hours to travel a few blocks down my street. Garbage and vomit roll freely over the grounds.
"Everyone loves Seafair!" proclaimed the clueless letter organizers sent a week ago. Then it proceeded to chortle about the coming weekend bringing out the child in all of us. Then, oh woe, it announced that this year we'd be treated to a special additional race run by *vintage* boats, in an event I shuddered to learn they're calling "Return of the Thunder."
Where will the little mallards go? The poor turtles? Maybe the far side of Mercer Island? Normally I see osprey and eagles every morning, but maybe they've headed out already.
I will be staying at Vonda's house till the Thunder has withdrawn to whatever marine Valhalla it left when it decided to Return. I'll hide out there till it's safe here again, and the hordes of drunks forget what a nice place this is.
I met the mighty CW 2011 contingent and loved them. Met two of the instructors and rekindled neuroconnections with the four I was previously familiar with, and with many others I generally see primarily during the six weeks of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, what many of us refer to, a la Georgette Heyer, as "The Season."
Wrote what I needed to for the Write-a-thon. In moments I feel the happiness of completion. Then I look at the reviews I must edit, the revisions still owing, the endlessness of Basecamp milesones and other obligations, and the happiness sublimates into the atmosphere, becoming a high cloud. There, but wispy, and not so highly relevant to the ped-x push needed now.
Maybe two months since I posted here? Pre-WisCon 35, which was fabulous, absolutely. And really I need to write about that adventure.
Here's my main reason I haven't yet: In the six weeks since then I have had three story deadlines. That's three deadlines for stories, pieces of narrative fiction, which six weeks ago were completely unwritten.
I turned the last of these three stories in at 1:30 this morning. I feel like a super-being.
The first of these three stories I wrote in five days. The editor says it will be "one of the crown jewels of the anthology." Jack Skillingstead liked it, too. It is called "Beyond the Lighthouse," and it features a woman who flies at night disguised as a bird.
The second story took me longer: nine days. But it was nearly twice as many words. The editor commended me on the characters. It is called "Otherwise," and it's for a Sekrit Project and I can't tell you any more about it.
The third story took eleven days. It's not longer than the second story, but I did have to create a synopsis for a play that one of the characters wrote. I haven't heard yet if the editor wants it. It is called "The Return of Cherie," and is part of my steampunk-novel-in-progress set primarily in the Belgian Congo, Everfair.
So I have met my goals for the Clarion West Write-a-thon a week early, but if you want to make a donation in celebration of this triumph, you can do it here.
Yesterday I returned from a nine-day residency at Centrum, where I worked on embiggening my Middle Years fantasy novel "Speculation." Always I create an altar when writing, and this novel's altar requires a heavy flower presence. Bought some pink tulips at the food co-op on the way, but they began to get peaked-looking by day five, so I eyed the hundreds of daffodils bedding around the building next to mine. One morning I climbed the building's stairs to ask if I could pick a few.
The woman in the building's registration office--it's a Youth Hostel--said they weren't hers, but she thought I couldn't. "The woman who owns this building is very protective of those flowers," she informed me, twisting her mouth afterwards to show what a pain it was even to have to consider forwarding my request. But I persevered--I asked how to get in to the area where this protective woman stayed. I couldn't get through via the office, and the twisty-mouth woman folded a dishtowel and said, "Why don't we just accept 'No' as the answer?"
"Because I haven't spoken to the person who can give me an answer," I replied.
As I went back outside I heard the twisty mouth muttering to a bystander about how brave I was.
I knocked and got the attention of the protective flower owner. I was sorry to disturb her--she was still in her flannel pajamas. But I asked if I could pick five or six flowers please.
"You can pick twelve," she told me. "I like your doll." (I had taken Lillie for a walk with me.) I went back to the twisty mouth woman and told her I had permission. I picked eleven daffodils of four varieties and one red tulip. They looked lovely in the vase on my altar.
March 21, Ellen Klages drove me and Nalo Hopkinson and David Findlay from Orlando to Gainesville so we could visit MJ Hardman and her husband, Dimas Bautista. MJ, as you may recall, is the miraculous survivor of a "bilateral pulmonary embolic shower"--hundreds of pulmonary embolisms that hospitalized her and put those who love her in fear for her life. A Linguistic Anthropology professor of 75 who just a couple of years ago was lamenting the loss of her ability to ride a donkey, MJ does not slow down for much of anything, ill-health included.
MJ and Dimas live in a two-story stucco house surrounded by huge trees and a high wall. Two love-seat-like dogs and a flock of conures keep them company. Also, there are books. The house has been around for over a century, and has had time to settle into its existence comfortably. Lace curtains crocheted by MJ mask the shady windows. In one corner of their living room hangs a portrait of Dimas and MJ painted by a friend who has no hands.
Ellen had a lunch appointment in Gainesville. After taking us shopping for repast material, she left Nalo, David, and me at the gate of the Bautista-Hardman compound. The dogs were loud. MJ told them we were friends and I stuck my hand through to pat them and they escorted us to the house.
MJ did not look much different from my previous sights of her at WisCons past. She wore arm-protectors she had crocheted to guard against bruises caused by leaning against tabletops--the bloodthinners made them necessary. She had a long, long, long tube running from a nasal cannula to an oxygen tank--that tube was maybe 40 or 50 feet! There was a minor problem when one of the dogs sat on it and cut off MJ's air supply for a few minutes.
Dimas seemed much recovered from two broken ribs he sustained when he tripped over the black dog in the dark. We admired his recently published book, his first!
Dimas made us delicious purple corn drinks, flavored with cloves? I asked for seconds. We also ate avocadoes and salad and chicken wings and beef and tortillas and pears from the supermarket.
MJ gave us a tour of the grounds, trailing the clear hose from her oxygen tank. "I'm not going to be moving real fast," she apologized as she rolled her candy-apple red walker over the flagstones. No lie, folks, I had a hard time keeping up. We visited her garden and viewed the tricycle she rides to physical therapy appointments. We posed for pictures on benches and by charming statuary: trolls and frogs and dragons and cats and books. Dimas and David have the photos. I haven't seen them. I'm sure they show how much we all love one another.
MJ gave Nalo and me beautiful Peruvian blankets to remember the afternoon with. As if it was the sort of time one ever forgets.
She also entrusted to us two works of crochet, a hat and a vest, which will appear at the Tiptree auction at WisCon this year. Unfortunately, MJ and Dimas won't be able to attend.
Ellen came back after a few hours, around 4 or 5, and drove Nalo, David, and me back to Orlando.
Thank you, Ellen, for making it possible for me to be with someone I love fiercely.
Thank you, sponsors of my ICFA expedition, the basecamp for this Gainesville day trip.
Thank you, Nalo and David, for doing and saying so many things so right.
Thank you, MJ and Dimas, for your elegant and soul-satisfying hospitality.
I went to ICFA for almost a week. The conference itself only lasted Wednesday, March 16 through Saturday, March 19. But I came a day early and left two days late.
My roommate, Ellen Klages, had the room reserved Tuesday, and I knew I would be en route all day whatever day I flew from Seattle to Orlando, so I joined her at the hotel that Tuesday evening and she took me to a party.
I was there to applaud Andrea Hairston's speech and swoon at her reading, and work out with her in the gym, and swim with her and Eileen Gunn in a pool I can only describe as perfect.
I was on the pro crit panel, and I hope I wasn't too self-aggrandizing. And I did my smut reading of lesbian-mermaid-on-gryphon-action along with some really excellent other authors. Next morning I walked by the hot tub to the tune of people singing the song the sirens sing, which I had taught them the night before.
I did my non-smut reading Saturday, and I believe I held my own appearing with Karen Lord and Jack McDevitt.
Only got to attend one paper presentation session, but it was a doozy! A vampire expert whose name escapes me now initated the session. She was followed by Lynette James on the topic of Butler's Fledgling and the Gilda books, contrasting their political and cultural assumptions of those in Stoker's Dracula. Then a paper on Carlton Mellick III's iconoclastic slasher-movie-as-bizarro-fic novel, which elicted gasps, moans, groans, and uneasy laughter from the audience. You woulda thought we were at the "Smut and Nothing But" reading.
I also lost my podcast cherry in a group scene with Karen Burnham, John Kessel, and James Patrick Kelley. The latter patted me on the back and told me I was a "real editor."
Sunday, after ICFA, Nalo and David and I went to see MJ in Gainesville, two hours away. We got there thanks to Ellen Klages at the wheel.
I get to go to ICFA. Thank you very much, my friends who donated miles so I got a ticket.
I will fly away to Florida Tuesday, March 15. I will fly back home Tuesday, March 22.
Here is my schedule:
Thurday, March 17, 10:30 a.m. to noon, I'll be on a panel about writing SF/F nonfiction in Vista B. Gary Wolfe is the moderator, and my copanelists are Gwenda Bond, Graham Sleight, and Liza Trombi. I can talk about reviewing books and editing reviews, co-editing the Butler anthology, editing WisCon Chronicles. Others will probably get a word in edgewise. Should be good, but it's opposite Terry Bisson's reading, so hmmmm.
Friday, March 18 at 10:30 p.m. to midnight I'll participate in the "Smut and Nothing But" reading with Jennifer Stevenson and Gary Wolfe and maybe Nalo Hopkinson, and Irma-I-Don't-Know. In the Cypress room. I will read an unpublished lesbian gryphon-on-mermaid piece.
Saturday, March 19 at 2 p.m. to 3:30 I'll read with two other authors in Vista A. And wow. The other two authors are Jack McDevitt and Karen Lord. Yes, that Karen Lord, winner of this year's Crawford Award. I plan to read an excerpt from my Belgian Congo steampunk novel-in-progress. I hope I am good.
Sunday I want to roadtrip to Gainesville to visit MJ Hardman. Don't know how I'm going to pull that off. We shall see.