And So This Is Christmas

Kage Baker burned with a high, exhausted exhilaration by this time of the holiday cycle. The house pulsed with coloured lights and candles; we had all the goods for the Christmas feast, the tree grew more magnificent by the hour as the winter light faded to darkness, and all the presents were purchased. The few hysterical last minute trips out for forgotten gifts or condiments don’t really count …

That last Christmas Eve, we were totally unaware that Kage was dying. No, really – we knew she had been ill, and was still very sick; but we thought it was all post-surgical stuff, you know? We were disabused of that happy illusion just before midnight on Christmas Eve: I developed an historical case of gastroenteritis, Kage began having horrendous head pain, and eventually we both collapsed in the bathroom, trying to hold one another up and eventually sliding down the wall. We lay there giggling and moaning, and I finally managed to crawl into the living room and phone 911.

They took us both away to the hospital. I got inordinate amounts of IV fluids; Kage was rushed into a CAT scan and thus appraised of the tumour in her brain. “And mine of all brains!” she lamented as we lay on our gurnies waiting to see what happened next. “Happy fucking Christmas to us!”

Yep. Happy fucking Christmas. I got home in two days, to a house where all the decorations looked like weird props for a surrealistic play; Kage arrived a few days later. Kimberly came and rescued me from our disordered home by cleaning and grocery shopping. When Kage got home and was installed in her bedroom by large, attentive fireman (Pismo being the kind of small town where the Emergency crews were all firefighters) we thought we had six months to prepare for her death.

What she got was about a week. We had time to make announcements, and set up a visiting roster; I had a few epic fights with doctors who were loathe to prescribe opiates to someone who had at least half a year to live – proving to me, at least, that they had no more idea of what was going on than I did. Anyway, I was able at least to make sure that Kage was pain-free for her last days … by the time our first visitors arrived, Kage was feeling amazingly good, and was able to receive her guests with aplomb and enjoyment.

It was a happy day. Her sister Anne was there, with Kage’s nieces Kate and Anne. (No apple was permitted to ever fall far from the Baker tree.) Kage’s beloved son-surrogate, Wayne, make an utterly unexpected arrival, and stayed with Kage all day. Towards sunset, she fell asleep – and simply never woke up.

It was the worst Christmas of my life. I doubt that this is a surprise to anyone, Dear Readers. So why do I go over it again today? Nothing horrible is happening – but I have been sick. My whole household has been felled, stomped and otherwise assaulted by influenza; we are better now but not well. And so our staggering, hacking forays to get the house ready for Christmas Day have brought the past very much to my mind.

This is also why I have not written, Dear Readers – the initial attack of the influenza left me gasping and griping under my blankets, unable to do much about anything. Except breathe. Sorry, all, but my success in keeping that, at least, continuing is the best thing to have had occurred recently. Some of you have undoubtedly been going through the same thing. My condolences to you all.

But! It really is Christmas Eve, and even though our plague house has been low on seasonal victories – no one is dressed up, presents are sparse (I have personally lost about 4 gifts in the rumpled morass of my room), STILL: we have the feast ready to go. The tree and the lights are a coruscating glory. The house is warm, and my family is together, even if we do sound like strangling ducks.

Happy Christmas to all of you, my dear friends, and to all your households. Hold your households close in the light, and wait for the Sun to rise.

Because, you know – it will.

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New Horizons In Fear

Kage Baker initially tried for several years to get her work published sans agent. Not that she had anything against agents – she just didn’t know any, and was unsure how to acquire one. So she submitted work “over the transom”,  as the industry euphemism runs: which means, taken literally, throwing it blindly over the door through an unguarded window.

The only reason anyone does this is because, historically, it does sometimes work. Traditional publishing is a very odd field, full of peculiar little rituals and superstitions and rites – and one of these is the slush pile, which is the ever-changing stack of unsolicited manuscripts that every publisher receives constantly. Some publishing houses automatically discard them; others assign their perusal as a fill-in activity for people who don’t have enough to do; and there is usually one editor hanging about who is in the habit of mining this feral resource for tameable writers.

Ultimately, Kage got a manuscript almost bought. This is a normal and healthy step in a writer’s career; at the end of this kind of examination, one either has a contract, or a detailed analysis of what’s wrong and right with one’s story. When Kage got this far, she dutifully went through The Writer’s Guide, sent letters and samples off to agents whose names pleased her, and was accepted by one within a month. And sales to magazines and publishing houses began almost at once.

Actually, she first threw the returned manuscript off our balcony and toward Pismo Creek. But she failed to get the distance required to sink it, and I went down and retrieved it from among the traumatized ducks. Then she went about getting an agent, etc.

This is the traditional method (barring attempting to drown your book). Variations usually revolve around whether or not one needs (or bother to get) an agent. Some writers never do. Orson Scott Card doesn’t. Cory Doctorow doesn’t. Mr. Card advises new writers not to burden themselves with representation; Mr. Doctorow even advocates putting one’s work out on the Web and seeing what Creative Commons and Net Freedom are willing to pay, rather than trusting a publishing house to set the price … but. You know. This is, like,  Orson Scott Card and Cory Doctorow. They’ve already made it.

There has always been the self-publishing route – what has been called for many years (by people who don’t use them) the “vanity presses”. The author pays a publishing house to print their book; the author then markets the finished work, and all the profits go to them. The method is unfairly viewed as an outlet for poor writing, grammar and punctuation; I think we’ve all come across dreadful examples of those.

Lately, though, this has improved in efficiency and style: an author can now publish their work with Amazon, who lists it on their site and (I think) handles and distributes the money. At the very least, this is a fantastic opportunity for exposure, which is especially vital for a first-time author, And, judging from the examples I personally have read, someone on Amazon’s staff is applying good editing skills to what they publish.

Still, then comes the waiting to see who your agent will find to actually buy your book. You hear stories about bidding wars producing beaucoup bucks for the lucky author, but there are no instructions on how to initiate that process – other than faking being a publisher one’s self, and that will automatically devolve into a Warner Brothers farce. But (hopefully) an offer does come in, with some dazzling 5 or 6 figure amount attached, and you are off! But then you slowly begin fretting over the cover art, or whether or not you can get any blurbs. And then you get to worry about whether or not it’s selling, and how long it will take you to earn out your advance and start getting paid a percentage of sales …

And then you finish your second book – and you make the horrifying discovery that the whole process starts over again. Except you usually don’t get a new agent (unless your first one turned out to evil, which doesn’t really happen very often) but all the rest of the waiting and fretting just recycles. And thus you enter this perpetual up-and-down road of waiting, then rejoicing, then fretting; rinse, repeat, and use some of your new wealth to upgrade from cheap wine to good whiskey for comfort while you wait and fret.

Kage never got blase about any of it. She did learn to ignore it, though, and finally let the whole thing go on without her so she could write in peace. I handled the correspondence and the bookkeeping; I read all letters first, so I could translate if they were nasty. I got Kage to sign things when she needed to. We made events of mailing things back – ice cream cones and a trip through the Post Office. Kage would usually begin plotting the next book on the way home. Sometimes it took us a couple of hours to get home from the Post Office, because Kage liked to plot out things on the road.

The only thing she never had to fret over was whether or not she could write. She might put off eating or sleeping in order to write; but writer’s block was the one thing she never had to fear. I envy her that – always did, and more so now when I am left trying to do it on my own. I never was as creatively obsessive as Kage was. She was a wonder to behold; my most comfortable writing comes now when I envision her sitting behind me, writing furiously in a green college-lined notebook.

These blogs, Dear Readers, are my wind up and my place holder. I am still going at this intermittently, but at least I am writing! Who knows what will burst into my mind while I sleep, and demand that I get to typing even before my morning coffee? It’s happened like that before; it can again. And I will be grateful and glad to fret through all the steps once again.

Life needs new horizons, even of fear.

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Happy Mothers Day

Kage Baker celebrated Mothers Day as devotedly as any other person who had ever been a kid with a mother.

Maybe more than some; she loved her mother very much. Mrs. Baker was an amazing sort of Southern Goddess, honey on her tongue and magic in her hands. Raw foodstuffs obediently arranged themselves at her command into the food of the gods; her garden covered several terraces of a hill in Hollywood in roses, lilies, irises and fruit trees. She painted, too, landscape and portraits, and was fairly successful at it. She had seven children of her body, and most of them brought home at least one friend who was gathered into her benevolent empire on a permanent basis.

I was one of those lucky strays. I had a mother of my own, of course, but she was – of a delicate disposition, shall we say? Momma threw me out at fairly regular intervals, and Mothers Day – like every other holiday – was always fraught with wondering when something would offend her and tip her over into rage. Momma was more a Celtic goddess of war and fertility, and when she took her aspect on her, I tended to flee. Usually with a care package of excellent food, put together even as she called down dissolution and living hell on my head and cursed me out the door. A difficult lady. I loved her, though.

Neither Kage nor I had children of our own. As the eldest of six (surviving) children, Kage devoted herself to being a professional Auntie – she said she had fulfilled all her maternal duties practising on her younger siblings. Besides, she had to write. But she adored her siblings’ kids. She was a great Auntie, too, the sort who dispenses exotic presents and sweets and tells the very best stories.

Like her own mother, she also took friends’ children under her auntly wing; there a lot of kids who grew up at Faire listening to wild tales from Kage. One of them dropped me a note only a couple of days ago, fondly recalling times when she babysat for all the loose kids in the Inn Yard, usually holding them enthralled. Sometimes she tested out story ideas on them.

Me, I would have loved to have a child, but have not been so favoured. Kage knew that, and so she wrote me a character to play at Faire: Mother Bombey, Innkeeper and general maternal idol. For decades, hundreds of people called me Mother, and looked to me with trust and affection to take care of them. I fed them, clothed them and found them beds; provided beer, breakfast, rides and band aids to the best of my abilities, and listened to more lies and confidences than the principal of a girls’ school. Kage declared me Mother, and gifted me with a wider and richer – and weirder – maternity than I could ever have imagined.

She could persuade reality to do what she wanted, often. Writers do that, I am told. I don’t know if other writers’ companions have gotten to experience that fate-weaving as much as I have. It would be interesting to know, wouldn’t it?

Well. Only a brief blog tonight, Dear Readers; Mothers Day always leaves me with mixed emotions, remembering all the amazing, dreadful, joyous, mythical shit that usually accompanied it for me. So, have a Day, all you Mothers out there. I do hope it was lovely, and that someone remembered you. Motherhood is a tough gig, and you deserve all the accolades going.

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The Cabinet of Wonder

Kage Baker kept lists of needy wonders.

Those were things that had supposedly vanished, but that she thought were probably still there – reduced in numbers but grown in canniness, and hiding out from Homo sapiens. There were also the many, many things she was sure had already been collected: thylocenes, the Irish Royal Jewels, Judge Joseph Force Crater.

Of course, any missing library was automatically on the Gotcha List. She liked to imagine Operatives browsing through the stacks of the Library of Ashurbanipal, seeking references to lost societies and animals, or maybe for papers they were writing. She wrote a few hilarious scenes of people enjoying erotic stories from the Library of Ugarit, or going through Persian standup comedy routines in the Academy of Gondishapur.

Museums were treated much the same as libraries; because humans have a habit of compiling great hoards of tchotchkes from the well-born. They also have a tendency of then losing these collections, leaving the goodies begging for more responsible curation. The Company was always happy to oblige, of course. And as the Operatives are not so very different from mortal humans, Kage had lots of lovely things quietly pilfered by venal Facilitators. She established several specialty museums, too. My favourite was the Museum of the Chronology of Tableware.

Animals need museums, too; they’re just called zoos. Kage decided that the Company would need lots of them, and not only to breed endangered animals until they could be re-released. She figured every saved population of beasts would have a few species samples kept safe and on display for the Company to study. Of course, the Company covers an awful lot of time, and what would happen if the captive population and the wild population just happened to speciate? No end of fascinating messes might turn up to add some extra adventure to trying to re-introduce Night Parrots. What if it’s time to put the Ivory Billed woodpecker back into the North American woods – only to find out that they could no longer breed with wild woodpeckers? Ivory-billed woodpecker Night parrot

Heads would roll! After all, Kage always said, they can always stick ’em back on again …

She had a whole series of stories in various degrees of planning, about the Operatives who get to take care of the Saved Beasts until they are used. Most were moderately disastrous for the Operatives. Kage said they would sell, because people looove animals. Personally, Kage regarded a few hundred years of breeding Singing Hamsters or some such would be a hellish assignment. (I don’t agree; in fact, I have completed a couple of these stories and have just began shopping them around.)

Well. I have certainly maundered on tonight, Dear Readers. But I am fond of weird animals, and it’s fun to go on about them. And here I will leave you, with a very peculiar alligator.

Good night unto you all.

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Birds Are Singing. So Are Corgis.

Kage Baker did not like animals. She was adamant about it. I never saw her charmed by a dog, a cat or even a kitten. Not being charmed by a kitten is just … unnatural. She sneered when I told her that, though.

She did like birds, and she and Harry had a deeply loving relationship. She said it was because birds were not animals. She also didn’t like fish; but she claimed that they weren’t animals, anyway. Which they both are, of course and so I advised her to consider insects if she wanted a non-animal companion. Kage ignored me, and Harry bit me.

In some ways, ours was a very caste-dependent household. Kage and I traded places all the time, because Harry was actually in charge …

However, Kage did have a few perfectly amicable relationships with both dogs and cats in her lifetime. All her friends and family liked animals, and she couldn’t avoid them entirely. So she treated companion animals as she did human beings – individually, on their personal benefits. She would end up grudgingly being polite to her sister’s dogs and my occasional cats, even though she despised them – as people, of course. To Kage, I think, everything had a personality and was an equal. She did say sentience was overrated.

And it was her idea that Kimberly needed a Corgi. We were sitting above the Pacific one afternoon, watching waves, when a baby Corgi came gamboling up out of nowhere and grinned at us. Kage stared at him a few moments, and then declared “Kimberly ought to get one of those.” She said it in her prophet voice and went so far as to pat the puppy. I therefor sought fresh Corgis (the Central Coast is thick with various breeders) and within a few months, Kimberly had a puppy. Kage never met him, but now I live with him …

These days, you see, Harry and I both reside with my sister. Kimberly has two cats, both Maine Coons, and a 6-month old Corgi. It makes for an interesting daily dynamic, as Syndodd* the Corgi puppy has only recently grown to nearly match the male Maine Coon, Edward, in size … when they play tag, you have two insane animals the size of hassocks chasing one another through the house. And Harry, who has assumed captaincy of this Ark, is usually cheering them on from the safety of his perch with a mad cacophony of growls, meows and whistles.

You couldn’t really say we have average domestic animals. Maine Coons are enormous cats, and extraordinarily furry; Edward the Black in like a storm with a tail, and the red lady cat, Ashby, is like a sunset cloud. Syndodd is a copper-coloured little bulldozer with ears longer than his legs. Being a Corgi, he talks and sings as he plays. And of course, there is Harry, the bird who speaks both cat and dog and orchestrates all the mayhem. I have no idea how they came to this arrangement, but it amuses me. It would have driven Kage insane in short order.

But where I live, we are also rich in wild birds and beasts. This is where I grew up, on the edge of Griffith Park and it’s a delight to share space with all the critters from the Park. I also lived in the Hollywood Hills but most of the animals who ventured into human territory there were large or predators or both: deer, pumas, hawks and eagles, coyote and even the occasional wild pig. Here we get lots of little fuzzies like squirrels, raccoons, skunks and possums – there is a small racoon on the front porch, attempting to purloin an entire plate full of bird seed even as I type.

In the day, we are bird central, and the air is full of the music of song sparrows, house finches, towhees, phoebes, mourning doves, mockingbirds. When the sun is on the front porch, it casts the shadows of lace curtains and wings on the white living room walls. Crows and ravens come around as well, to steal peanuts from the squirrels; hawks, usually goofy juveniles hoping for a free lunch, scare everyone off and then sit in the trees and wonder where all the little birds have gone.

When the hawks give up and move on, the smaller birds come back and the wings and songs resume. Harry listens to bird song with a professional detachment, while Syndodd and the cats watch the shadows; they are clearly waiting for a manifestation right here in the living room, and are eternally prepared to defend the house from sparrows.

I just sit in my trusty recliner and bliss out on the music. It is encouraged by Harry, warbling and whistling and making theremin noises, and by Syndodd singing wolf cub nursery songs as he chews the nose off a stuffed toy. Sometimes a cat comes to sit on me and purr.

Spring is warming slowly to summer, and I am astounded once again to able to bear witness to it.I am surprised at every turn of the seasons these days, and by every whisper and shadow of life that beats at the window. Bird song is a blessing.

The Corgi singing is cool, too.

  • Syndodd means surprise in Welsh. He earned this hero’s name because his mother managed to conceal her pregnancy from the breeder until she suddenly produced 6 puppies. And because his father had been declared as too old to breed by the vet. Surprise!
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I Have A Little List

Kage Baker considered herself in the business of telling the future.

In high school, she earned lunch money by telling Tarot cards for her classmates. There is probably no more susceptible audience for this than Catholic school girls – even though Kage warned all of them: “The cards never lie. The old gypsy woman, she’s full of shit; but the cards never lie.”

It was why she became a writer, and even more why she found herself writing science fiction. She decided that her ideas were simply too weird for ordinary literary fiction. Editorial rejections delicately citing “peculiarly fantastical” elements convinced her that her stories of clockwork lovers and otherworldly EBays were not for the general public.

“I’m not precious enough, or gory enough,” she complained bitterly. “If I wrote about fairies in the bottom of the garden, or ghastly chthonic gods, I’d be a best seller.”

“So write about those,” I suggested.

“No, I hate stories like that!”

She didn’t like science fiction much, either. She didn’t read it for pleasure (unlike me). But when she decided that science fiction was the genre to which she could most successfully submit her stories, it was hard science articles where she hunted most for ideas. She tried to anchor her writing in extrapolation on something that was actually happening; and, hopefully, something no one else had written on copiously.

Since Kage also brought her own ideas, fantastical or not, and her own inimitable style to whatever she wrote – it worked. She began to sell. She also began to have more story ideas than she had time to write. I could never convince her to keep a To Be Written file – she had a Chubb safe of a memory for story ideas – but she did assign me the task of keeping files of news on things peculiar or futuristic or phenomenal.

Once we started to look, the stories were everywhere! Delightfully, you, Dear Readers, began to send articles her way, as well. A lot of you still send ideas to me, and I file them away gratefully; sometimes they are marvelously weird, too, and I enjoy them enormously. While doing some housekeeping chores on my computer, I found a partial list of some of these potential gems, and I thought it would be entertaining to share them with you. If any of you are being re-gifted with something you sent me, I do apologize. And thank you.

Real Global Project To Find Missing Species

Medieval Antibiotics – retro tech!

Foxes Into Dogs: unexpected rules of evolution

Somatic Mosaicism. We are all legion.

Morning Glory Seeds Will Rule the Universe

In the meantime, I want to tell you all, Dear Readers, that I was stunned, amazed and humbly delighted at the huge number of messages you sent me when I posted two days ago. I really had no idea that so many of you were waiting patiently for me to say something – although Kimberly told, and continues to tell me every day, that people want to hear from me … really nice people. Rare, shining, wonderful people. I will be answering each of you as soon as I can. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Messages From The Recliner

Kage Baker was firm in her belief that, in order to be a writer, one must write. It hardly mattered what, she said, as long as you exercised those authorial muscles every single day.

Kage did not personally suffer from writer’s block. Oh, she had times when the words did not come easily, or at all – on the rare occasions when that happened, she resorted to a number of strategies to trick her brain into resuming the story. Going outside and gardening. Working on another story – she usually had two or three going at once. Discussing what should happen next with me; that usually involved recapping the tale to the point where it stalled, then looking at me and asking : “What happens next?” And no amount of whining and yelling from me would suffice until I started throwing out ideas … as I said, she did not personally suffer from writer’s block.

Very few of my ideas were what Kage needed, but after we had tossed around demented plot lines for awhile, a sort of outline would appear – in Kage’s mind, thick black lines like an animation cel, that she could then begin to fill in with colours from the palette she had conjured up between us. But whatever method she chose to kick start the engine of her brain, the block never lasted very long – seldom hours, usually minutes.

And then Kage was back to her insane output, riding the lightning in the thunderstorm of her mind, assigning gods and heroes to their duties in the only world that mattered: hers.

Maybe that was the secret, why it worked at all. Kage wasn’t frond of the regular world. She had lived in her mind since childhood; by the time she grew up, there were a thousand worlds for her to to inhabit inside her own skull. She skipped among them almost effortlessly, chasing among the stars of her private galaxy

Amazingly, Kage could sit down and write nearly anywhere. When safe in her own house, where she could arrange all sensory input to her individual wants, she would insist on playing the same album over and over; or demanding total silence from her roommates (pretty futile, when you live with a parrot …) or immersing herself in as much as possible of the foods, colours, scents and domestic rituals of the world she was building. (We had some very peculiar meals when her OCD sent her deep into a self-devised alien cuisine … if you, Dear Readers,were ever taken aback by some dish described in Kage’s stories, please be aware that I have eaten it in my time. All for you.)

However, when she had reached whatever word total she had set herself for a given day, Kage felt it was appropriate to slag off and indulge herself. It was the pattern she advised me to follow. as well. I don’t know if she just thought the system would work well (Kage always had a little trouble believing that what pleased her would not also delight someone else.), or if she just figured that the process would keep me busy and out of her hair. And that worked, too, I must admit.

But this process has failed me of late. I guess it’s writer’s block. It’s an enormous pressure inside me, that makes my mind itch and squirm but which will not resolve into narrative.

Quite frankly, I don’t have much to say, Dear Readers. I keep falling asleep, which is a thing that happens to me now, post surgery and trach … I’m stronger between fits of unconsciousness, so I guess it’s a healing process. What I have done today is answer insane amounts of mail (never ignore your inbox for more than a day!) and sleep in my recliner. Two years ago, I would never have believed I could even relax in a recliner, let alone sleep.

It’s amazing what new and desperate paths to comfort you discover when your health collapses …

Post heart attack, post heart surgery, post kidney surgery, post total hysterectomy, post tracheotomy, post a hellish year and determined escape from a nursing home – my recliner has become my private paradise. It’s my sanctuary, much more so than even the most comfortable bed I have ever had. One of the best things about it is that, when I do surface from my frequent domestic comas, I can just sit up in my comfy chair, pull my table/desk over, and write right here. If I had to move somewhere else in the house, I probably would never manage to write at all.

And, in fact, I have not done so well of late. I have stalled, I am adrift in the Sargasso Sea and all the canvas of my barque is hanging limp and powerless; and so far, no amount of whistling for the wind or scratching the mainmast is raising so much as a feeble breeze. But I do have Kage’s method in hand, and my sister Kimberly is relentless in her urging me to write – something, anything, just to let out a signal that I am still here.

And I am, Dear Readers. I am trying quite hard to at least update this blog on a more regular basis. All I have to do it resist the deep, comforting embrace of my recliner, and type. And even though the words for this entry have had to be yanked out of my mind like individual kohlrabi in a neglected garden, at least I have managed to uproot them and fill my gathering basket.

Thank you for your patience, Dear Readers. I stagger on towards a more complete competence. Knowing someone is listening is an enormous help.

The kohlrabi bless you.

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Happy Vernal Equinox

Kage Baker was perpetually surprised at the sheer numbers of people who liked her work. In high school, she was one of a circle of young literary hopefuls, who idolized our English teacher and wrote reams of questionable material that they shared among themselves.

Kage, shining like a young swan in a flock of chickens, wrote more reams and better bad fiction than any of her classmates. Soon no one but Kage was writing anything at all outside of class, and many deathless friendships ended over who got to read her stories first, and fall in love with her heroes … Kage was flabbergasted at the whole brouhaha and characteristically retreated from her fans.

I, a year younger than this nascent salon, came in at the end of the whole yeasty mess. Soon, I was the only audience Kage had left. During my senior year, she was writing from home, in the crumbling tower atop her mother’s house, and sending me manuscript pages every school day via her patient sister Anne.

In short order, this developed into Kage’s private writing system. She spent most of every day writing, in whatever interesting hovel we were then inhabiting in the Hollywood Hills. I read and critiqued everything in the evenings; then Kage would rewrite it. Again and again and again, until it satisfied her and she sent off into the world. When one story failed to sell, she simply started on a new one. One day, the latest effort came back marked NOT A REJECTION (thank you, Virginia Kidd Agency!); and after I dissuaded Kage from throwing it into the creek below our house (we lived in Pismo Beach by then), her career never stumbled again. Although she was never a New York Times sort of success, she was nonetheless drowned in admiring letters and emails – she even had a stalker for a while, which was temporarily a dreadful mess. She laughed about it, though.

By the time Kage was in her final days, the letters were still coming in; though by this time, they were sympathies and condolences as well as admiring accolades. I read them to her as she lay drifting in and out of narcotized sleep, and she was just as amazed and grateful at their numbers and sentiments as she had been in the beginning. One in particular moved her – a letter from a young widowed mother who had read Kage’s stories to her two daughters, and wanted to thank Kage for not making every ending fairy-tale perfect: because sometimes people don’t come back, and sometimes one is left alone, and yet people manage to make happy endings anyway.

“Oh, goodie,” Kage whispered when I finished. “Someone got it.”

That gave her enormous joy and satisfaction – that someone got what she was saying. And even that so many others at least thought they did. She drifted off to sleep that night in great content. I sat up for hours and then slept on the floor beside her bed, so I could hear her if she called in the night. That was the darkest time of my life, personally, but her dying was a long afternoon of light and comfort to Kage.

So that was good.

Now, Dear Readers – I am not the writer Kage Baker was; and right now I have to buckle down and get to work trying to get some things published. But, like her, I stand amazed right now at the number of people who like my own stuff and have said such kind and heartening things to me. I will be thanking each of you one by one, in the near future; But for now, for tonight, please take my gratitude and love as given, and know how you inspire me to not give up. Kage’s talent was a blazing phoenix; mine is a little moth, silhouetted dimly against her great light. But thank you, all of you Dear Readers, who have been willing to watch that little moth dance and risk getting ash-hued scaled gems off its dusty wings.

May the sweet Spring night enfold you all in joy.

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I Am The Handmaiden of Entropy

Kage Baker never understood, or approved of, why the various Solstices and Equinoxes changed their actual dates year by year. In her nonstandard mind, those pivot points of the calendrical year fell on the 21st of their respective months – March, June, September, December – and that was that. She allowed the traditional holiday of December 25th houseroom in her horological universe, but she did not allow it to assume the Winter Solstice – which she honoured on December 21st, with an entirely different feast.

I’m less punctilious in my awareness of the Quarter Days; I know they’re coming, I give each of them a nod and a courtesy as we pass. I make a point of looking up when the Solstice or Equinox occurs, so I can extend appropriate greetings to my kith and kin, and observe the more obvious symptoms of the change along the line of the sun.

The Equinoxes are my favourites. At those times, day and night are nearly equal in length, and the world spins like a ballerina en pointe. I imagine the skirts of the Earth’s magnetic fields flaring out faster and wider as the spin intensifies; then, the dancer tilts a little to one side or the other, and the days begin to grow longer or shorter. You can see it happening every sunset, when you find yourself watching the light fade at 9 o’clock at night, or the darkness catches you when it’s barely 5 o’clock in what is technically still the afternoon.

Tomorrow is the Spring Equinox. It’s the 20th instead of the 21st, and I can deal with that just fine. Part of the blame for the shifting dates goes to the Gregorian Calendar; which, although better than the Julian Calendar it replaced, is still wrong. But that was an infamous mess when the change was made (we lost 12 days!) and even now is not properly synced to the actual orbital period of the Earth. That is 365.24 days and the Gregorian Calendar comes limping after the Earth in its orbit in a mere 365 days. It tries to take care of the problem by adding time to Leap Years, which is just a coarse approximation of a cure. This is as silly as those Midwestern states that occasionally try to declare the value of pi to be an even 3.14 days, and has just about as much effect on the laws of the universe: i.e., none.

The Babylonians seemed to make it work as a flat 3 – by tripling the square of the radius of a circle – but even they eventually decided it was closer to 3.125, And they’re extinct, anyway. Do not hire a High Priest or a Pope for charting your horological needs is the moral here …

Now, Dear Readers – those of you who are still watching for my missives in the ether – you are probably wondering what the heck all these maunderings on the calendar are about. Well, they are about Time. A lot of time has passed since I last posted, all glowing with good intentions to remain findable on the electromagnetic stage. I failed at that.

I am now trying to recoup the time I have lost in the wilderness of doing and being NOTHING. NOTHING has been the sum of my existence for the last several months; behold, I am become the handmaiden of Entropy, before whom all worlds … dissolve.

It appears my recovery from the Year of Being Terminally Ill peaked some few months ago, and I didn’t notice. I have since been crumpled up like a piece of newspaper, into the origami shape of a Crone. I forget things – I have weeping fits and tantrums – it has been suggested I have PTSD from my hellish confinement in the nursing home. My muscles have dissolved to the quivering weakness of overcooked spaghetti, and I can barely walk. My chest congests without warning and subjects me to insane coughing fits. My voice – an instrument I have worked on for over 50 years – has lost any tone of couth or gentility, and achieved the conversational timbre of a crow.

I am a mess, Dear Readers. However, Kimberly has never stopped urging me to write ( I sit all day; what else is there for me to do?) and I have finally admitted she is right. So I am writing. I don’t know where any of this will lead, or even if anyone is still listening. But if you are, I thank you most fulsomely. You will bear the dubious honour of my attempts to return to the service of Life.

It’s just the day for it.

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