Fall Quarter

We have reached mid-terms, that nebulous point in the quarter where Big Tests are taken and everyone begins feeling anxious. To me it felt like we spent six weeks shooting the shit, only to come back around and sample those conversations and remaster them into something the teacher will feel reflects a modicum of processing and retention. It’s intimidating but also bracing, a chance to show off about what you’ve absorbed during those first six weeks.

And what have I learned? My classes this quarter regard Afrofuturism, Augmented Realities, and Philosophy 101 disguised as an English class. The crossover has been fast and furious. I read a book for my Augmented Realities class that featured the word semiotic, which I’d never heard, but found the definition in my own notes from the Philosophy class. (Hint: It’s the science of signs and symbols.) I have read books about aliens taming humans and books on a murdered woman whose remains were eaten. I wasn’t anticipating my Augmented Realities class to be so disturbing, but that has been the watch word. I watched a movie about phone sex operators (Girl 6,). I read a book about a transgender man who has a lot to say about the pharmacological industry on human life. I would like to think of myself as a ‘woke’ individual who is aware of the status of the world in which we live in, but these classes are taking me to school, as it were, highlighting what I don’t know with savage glee.

So instead, I surf the conversations of each of the three classes, trying to chime in where I am able. The funny thing is that I am the most convivial in my Afrofuturism class. Despite being a white girl from a very white state and having very little interaction with black culture, I find myself drawn to Afrofuturism for its message of hope of a better tomorrow. Here is a people who have been subjected to the literal worst for hundreds of years, still trying to find the best in things. Still thinking positive. Despite this not being my heritage, I can get behind the message quite thoroughly. It has raised a lot of prickly questions for me, recognizing my part in colonialism just by being alive, and I’ve been very uncomfortable. Still, I feel like this has engendered real learning, which is more than just getting passing grades in class.

My Augmented Realities class looked like the easiest one to pass, based on the fact that I would have a class project of my choosing, and I could write a short story as one of the options. I decided to write a short story based on Bento Box, my sci-fi world. However, what I didn’t expect was to read so many books that were so challenging, which took the basis of my understanding of how the world worked and twisted it until it was nothing more than a swirl of color in the forefront of my mind. One book was written by a transgender man who has a lot to say about pharmacology and how it effects every human on the planet; another book instead focuses on journalism in today’s world. Everything is like a quick jab to the ribs, causing you to forget how to breathe and struggle to survive at the same time.

I love my classes, and I love my school, and I am very learning how to navigate the world of junior classes. There is a synergy in having a focus for your major, and the classes meld together until you can’t tell where one stops and the other starts. I’m a little spooked by how this is working, but I’m also a little thrilled, as the whole point of this education was to push me beyond my high school level education and prepare me for jobs where more is demanded.

There is no doubt I will look back at this and miss it, but for the time being I’m looking forward to graduation.

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Read, Write, Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I have been in school for a week, and I can already feel myself getting smarter.

Yes, I am gaining knowledge, but I can gain knowledge by picking up any old book and starting to read. There are documentaries out there, if I can’t spare the time for a book. There are YouTube videos that are even shorter, although the danger of being trapped in the Kittenverse is much greater that way.

What I mean is that I can feel spaces in my understanding that I previously did not realize I had. I can feel them because they are filling up, with discourse and reason and logic. Not the knowledge itself, but the framework, like a spider’s web being spun to span a doorframe. Things that I missed, because it flatly wasn’t my strong suit to notice. I’m learning system.

What I mean by learning system is that I’m learning the terminology, the grammar, the rules which construct thoughts. I think all the time, but how I think is changing as I recognize key concepts that I’d never thought about before.

This mind expansion is assisted by the young classmates that I share classes with. A significant portion of them grew up with this kind of mindframe. It is not new to them, or different, so they are not sharing my experience. They are instead adding to it, by showing me realtime how they reflect on the content we are being exposed to for my classes.

One of my classes is a Philosophy class, and while I am singularly unimpressed with the gender bias and general air of superiority that is rife with every reading, the how of it sinks into the cracks and I begin to see how they thought, how they examined the world around them. I don’t want to emulate their conclusions, but we are nearly five thousand years beyond them in terms of science and technology. Their findings don’t make sense anymore, but they are the basis for thought in Western Civilization, so I suppose one might give them a nod for it.

Another one of my classes is investigating Augmented Realities, and how those realities affect the people that exist in them. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until you recognize that every book every written is an alternate reality, created by a person who saw things in a unique way. We may only just be scootching our way in to virtual reality, but humans have been taking trips into their imagination for millennium. Hell, once every couple of weeks I indulge in the same process, of sharing an illusory world with approximately 40 other people. I am aware that I am not actually my character, but for several hours I have a different set of priorities, principles, goals and beliefs, and I portray her with all the cleverness and pathos I can muster. I am invested in a world that doesn’t exist, and I have learned a lot even in the short time I’ve played with the troupe.

The last class is a lesson in culture, focusing on black science fiction. Octavia Butler, Sam Delany, but more than that, musicians like Sun Ra and George Clinton, and let’s not forget Nichelle Nichols, who became a cultural icon as Uhura. I grew up in a small white community in Wyoming, with very few friends that weren’t white. I wasn’t exposed to black culture in any meaningful way, but this is something that I can plug into immediately. The stories they tell are unique, powerful, and inspiring, and I am expanding my understanding in ways that I can’t even calculate yet. Better understanding often leads to better communication, and I am all for that.

So, this is how I’ve spent my days since school started. Getting smarter, feeling more confident, enjoying the hell out of my classes.

Things are turning out all right.

 
Photo credit:
Ryan Holloway

Teaser Trailer

This is the prologue of a story I’m in the process of writing. I felt like sharing it out, I hope you enjoy it!

*

The crash of the storm startled Ferris out of his book. He looked up, checking to see that the window stood closed. The frame had budged slightly in the last gust of wind, nothing to concern himself over. The room was full of leather bound tomes that he had no intention of exposing to damp or weather. The dust was bad enough, for all that he had hired two maids to continually service this room specifically.

He looked down at his latest acquisition, a brown leather clad, hand lettered copy of An Fae Ri,worked in gold filigree. He smiled in pride, his hands looking careworn and drab next to the artistic depictions of the title.

“Sir, phone,” the maid knocked on the door, distracting him.

“Confound it, you know I hate that thing!” Ferris roared through the door.

“It’s lady Jenna, sir, elsewise I wouldn’t have disturbed you,” said the maid, the perfect amount of contriteness in her tone.

“Very well.” Ferris stood, smoothing his brown corduroys and sliding his feet into house slippers. He felt for his pockets, found his pipe, stuck it in his mouth. Continued his search through his pockets, found some thread, a ceramic cat’s head, a doubloon, and his tobacco pouch. He shuffled towards the door, railing at his old man’s gait, thumbing a pinch of tobacco into his pipe and tamping it down with practiced ease as he approached the door. His library was his sanctuary, the one room he required absolute concentration in. He vowed to dock the woman’s pay, but found himself unable to remember her name. He would have to remember to ask for it so he could see to it at once.

He opened the door, and there the maid stood, in her gray uniform, hair back behind a white cap, holding a tray with a white enamel phone, its numbers set in gold, the edging in cream.

Snatching the handset off of the cradle, Ferris realized he’d forgotten his matches. “Yes, girl, what is it?”

A gust of wind rattled the windows of the room behind him, but Ferris ignored it, straining to hear Jenna’s voice. He stepped into the hallway to lessen the strain on the telephone cord.

“Ferris, so glad to reach you,” she said. “I forgot to inform you that there is a big luncheon tomorrow that you must attend.”

“What?” Ferris choked on his indignation. “You expect me to drop everything so I can be bored to death by that thin crowd of morality challenged idiots?”

“What did you have on the docket for tomorrow, if you don’t mind my asking?” Jenna’s voice was thin and tinny across the connection.

“Well, you don’t know, do you? I could have been having lunch with Mr. Chaplin tomorrow afternoon,” Ferris prevaricated.

“There’s no way Charlie would invite you to lunch without me, I would have known,” she said, calling his bluff. “Stop playing the grumpy old man and get in the spirit. These are investors, Ferris. The very people you want to woo, not stiff. Get your best suit out, the navy one with the pinstripes. Have Ella polish your shoes and trim your hair, there’s a good boy.”

“If I wanted a woman running my life, I’d have a wife, you know,” he muttered irritably.

“And most of the time Darryl does a fine job at it, but you’re a man who needs a communal effort,” said Jenna’s crisp voice. He pulled the handset away from his ear, frowning at it the way he would at her were she here.

The wind rattled the windows in the other room, and Ferris snuck a look over his shoulder to the partially opened door. He had to get free from this damnable handset and back to his library before the windows burst in and the rain hit his books. He’d left his newest acquisition sitting on top of a stack. He felt a spill of anxiety and put the handset back to his ear.

“…there’s a dear.” Jenna said smartly. “The car will be around at eleven. I’ve told Ella to wake you at ten.”

“Yes, yes, whatever you say, I must go,” he said into the phone, then slammed it on the cradle unevenly, the handset falling off even as he turned and ran into his library to catch the windows. Ella was left behind, catching the handset and trying not to drop the tray that held the phone. He slammed the door behind him, shutting her out.

The wind shoved the windows open just as he reached them, the wood and glass catching his hand so that it stung fiercely. He dropped his pipe as he yelped in pain, then swung the large frame shut and latched it tightly. He paused then to take a look at his hand. It had apparently sustained no lasting wound, but the damn thing pulsed in time with his heart and was sore besides.

Reaching down to retrieve his pipe with his off hand, he stuck it back in his mouth after a brief brush against his jacket to knock anything free. He reached into his pocket to find his matches, only to find they were neither in the left nor the right hand pockets. He searched his inner lining pockets, to find an envelope he’d forgotten about, addressed to him by Tomas Marcato. He hadn’t had a chance to read it. He drew it out, made to open it, and then realized that he was no longer alone in his library.

“El…” was all he managed to choke out before something wound around his mouth and nose like an anaerobic scarf that cut off his oxygen supply. He gasped, his lungs heaving as he tried to draw breath. He flailed and thrashed, falling to the ground as he used his fingers to dig into his cheeks, trying to grip the fabric that wasn’t present, but to no effect. He felt no person behind him, no one to throw himself against, no arm to grab and dislodge from his face, just his own features, contorted from strain in the act of breathing, of attempting to draw air into his lungs.

His eyesight faded around the edges, dimming as his struggles weakened. He believed in that moment he heard laughter coming from somewhere above him and off to his left. It was the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard.

Autumn is Coming

I’m not going to lie, I think I forgot how to blog.
I used to be able to whip out a few lines about my life, but that was when I was in school, when things were jam packed and exciting.
This summer has made life Slow. Way. Down. And while I’ve been enjoying the pace, let’s face it, there’s nothing gripping in 88 lines about 4 things that happened. I’ve been writing about my adventures over the summer, of which some were mighty, and of which some were just a mention.
One of the things I like to talk about is my writing. I am learning so much I feel like every blog post is a chance to document my milestones. I also imagine that other writers might find it interesting. I imagine, on the other hand, that some people think it’s like watching paint dry. This leaves me trying to find a balance.
I am working on an exciting achievement and something I’ve never done before. I wrote two rough drafts in two months, in tandem. I’ve written one book in the course of a month, last summer, but two separate books in different genres was a whole new level of achievement. I used to wonder how my other writer friends pounded out manuscripts so fast, but I see now that it simply matters how much time you have. When I have enough time to treat my writing like a full-time job, I produce crazy books. When I’m a student, my output slows way down. It makes sense, but to know a thing and to experience a thing sometimes turns out differently. I always thought I was underproducing. Turns out, I was just overachieving in other areas of my life.
Speaking of overachieving, I was accepted to Sigma Alpha Pi, which is a national honors society for universities. I am stunned and pleased that my grades are getting noticed. Of course, this always raises the bar as well, but I figure anything to make my resume look more shiny is welcome in my world.
I’m a year out from graduation (or so,) and I’m making plans for how to finish out my year even as I begin it. I love being a student, love all that I’m learning, but it’s a race against money, as the student loans rack up. The whole point of going back to school was to raise my income potential. That, and to get a job that I could marginally stand while I wait for people to fall in love with my books.
I am looking forward to school. I love school. I love learning. In another life I might have been a teacher, if I wasn’t so obsessed with spinning yarn.
Speaking of yarn, I am trying to teach myself to knit. Let me tell you, for a clumsy lady, that is some slow going. But it has taught me the secret to learning a thing; never give up. And just keep trying.

So here is my relearning how to blog.

Shoot for the Moon; Land among the Stars

Have you ever wanted something so badly you could taste it? Something that seemed so out of your reach that no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t do it?

Did that stop you from trying?

I know the likelihood of me being a successful author is low, with so many authors being already out there and amazing at what they do. Everyone is so prolific now, and self-publishing has made writing easier to distribute. Book prices range from a dollar to fifteen, but you damn well better have the last name of King before you can command those higher prices.

The market is saturated, it’s beyond saturated, it’s Houston in Hurricane Harvey saturated, and not even rafts of fire ants to be seen.

And yet.

There is a fire inside of me. It began when I was young. I wrote constantly. There was never a time that I didn’t have a notebook and pen with me. (Okay, maybe when I was riding my bike. Maybe dinner. You get it.) I won awards, although they were little kid awards, meant to bolster that tender self-esteem necessary to ford the slings and arrows of later unsolicited feedback.

I thought it had died. I spent so long not writing, or maybe typing up a page or two before giving up and going back to life, which at the time was so much more interesting, and so much better than applying ass to seat.

I was surprised when it roared back to life. Being laid off and having a two-year-old child left me with time on my hands but being mostly housebound. I wrote two books, one that would later be published and one that may never be. I was hooked, I had to keep going.

Now here I am, years later, and my storytelling style has gone through a complete renovation. I outline. I forecast word count. I write two books at the same time because alternating stories means less mental fatigue. I can estimate where a book is going to end, and if it’s not going to hit the submission requirements, I can take steps to fix it. I submitted to an online ‘zine on a whim. I have short stories on standby if my friend wants to publish them. (Edit: Except she took them all, and now I must write more. Yay Hot Mess 3!)

So, if anyone tells you that your dream isn’t worth chasing, my expert advice is to tell them to Fuck Right Off. Even if you don’t make it all the way, the things you learn in your pursuit are worthy, and can change your life.

 Photo Credit:

NASA

Summer Summary

This summer has been a roller coaster, for real. The first month was all grandparent visits, which both were fantastic but energy-intensive as all visits are. There was a short span of time where things were routine. My son went to the Boys and Girls club, we had two vehicles, and I went out on visits with my friends. My anniversary to my husband rolled around, and we spent a glorious weekend doing house chores and going to movies.

It turned out to be a good decision to do one particular chore. We put heat film on the windows to make our room cooler. We’re on the second floor, and so adding this film cut the heat. This was an absolute godsend, because two weeks later came a heatwave in the PacNW that has coincided with wildfire season.

The heat wave also coincided with the death of my valiant steed, the Subaru. I drove that vehicle for twelve years, so losing it was a shock to the system. I mean, you’re not just losing a car at that point, you’re losing a family pet. My son’s reaction reflected my own. My husband was disappointed not to have two cars anymore, but didn’t see the value in fixing our old car. There are a lot of details to manage when a vehicle dies. We sold it for salvage, had to find the title, and yadda yadda yadda. It will be a while before we go to purchase a second vehicle. Possibly until I graduate.

This has nothing to do with writing, which is pretty much one hundred percent accurate. With so much going on, I haven’t had much time to write this summer. I have started on the third novel in my trilogy, but it is the first draft, and I’m not even 20% of the way in yet. So, nothing close to done. I believed I could churn out a draft “with all that spare time” I would get in the summer. Alas, life doesn’t work that way sometimes.

However, I am glad that I didn’t have classes this summer. With everything that happened, it would be difficult to balance classes and visitors and car death. And the summer hasn’t been a long string of bad things. Our visitors and our trip both were awesome. I wouldn’t have a working vehicle right now if my parents hadn’t visited and gifted us Mom’s Impala. Things have been working out beautifully. They’ve been keeping me quite busy.

Summer is winding down. The Boys & Girls’ club will be closing down after this week, we need to buy school clothes, and we’re ramping up to doing homework so my son isn’t clubbed over the head with it when school starts. I will be sorry to see it go, but it will nice to have routine back in the house again.

Summer Progress

This summer has been a whirlwind. My parents came for a visit, and we had a great time. We watched movies, we went out to the wilds of Birch Bay, and we went out to a backyard bbq. My parents were in their element. They are a dynamic duo. My dad’s a great storyteller, and my mom is an empathic listener. They are always welcome at parties.

My dad’s favorite hobby is taking pictures, which he made sure to do while we were out and about. My mom taught me what a Zen Tangle was. It’s a complex pattern that seems like a fun way to spend an afternoon. Luke and I showed them Fool Us and Macklemore and Maru on YouTube.

By the end of the trip I was tired out. I probably didn’t have to try as hard as I did, but I’m an overachiever, even if it’s not explicitly what my parents ask for or expect. I had to make sure everything was great for their visit.

Even after their departure, I can’t seem to find it in myself to relax. I jumped back on my writing projects with gusto, worked on chores on the house, and took my son to the Raspberry Festival.

I need to figure out what to do with the rest of the summer. I am not outdoorsy by nature, but I have a ten-year-old son that if left to himself would sit inside all day. The B&G club has been a godsend, but there’s something to be said to taking him to a park or out on a Pokewalk to get him engaged in the outdoors. I think I’m stressing out about this more than necessary, because I haven’t been able to carve out a routine.

This summer has been a roller coaster, and I can’t believe it’s halfway done. Yesterday during a conversation with Allison, I laughed and said, “Remember how we were going to do ALL THE THINGS this summer?”

She laughed too.

The summer progresses at its own pace.