This Time, I’ll Yell Out

Kage Baker had one dependable solution for those moments when the world became too much for her. That was to write.

Because really, kids, let’s be honest. Unless you are Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (or on serious drugs. Or maybe both … ) something will get to you. It may be be the sudden stroke of black lightning; or, as some depressed folks call it, the bite of the black dog. It may come gradually over time, the slow accumulation of weight that makes the snow avalanche or the earth dance. But it will come, though you cry ever so much.

Everyone gets the blues, as they say. Depressive people just know about it. Kage did not have depression. But she knew how to deal with the occasional eclipse of joy, and that was always the writing: The Work. Two hours of writing did her more good than a month of Prozac would have, I think.

I, on the other hand, am depressive. I’m a responsible adult: I take my daily Prozac and try to avoid triggers. However, one can only avoid obvious triggers, triggers that are basically known, or environmental. Like, if you know something plunges you into the Stygian depths of irrational despair, you stay away from it. This is why  I never, ever look at Hello, Kitty. Don’t judge, now …

Anyway, aside from the perils of cartoon cats (she really brings me down … ), which are pretty easy to avoid, there is always the tragic chance of a blitz. I got up early this morning, but not in time for a cheery binge of Supernatural and Bones – instead, what with all the turmoil in the last 48 hour of news, I sat through 3 hours of MSNBC.  Like I said, responsible adult.

And like a responsible, informed adult, now I want to go stick my head in a bucket full of Scotch. Or maybe chocolate. Anyway, I am falling slightly down the rabbit hole … but this time, I’m telling people! In writing, no less. So, all will be well, eventually.

I’m still kind of hoping for that damned giant meteor to hit. In the meantime, there are books, and blueberry waffles, and my family, and Harry, and Whopper Malted Milk eggs, and the sweet Spring rain falling now. And The Work.

Yep. That, all of it, is what matters.




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Daylight Aberrations

Kage Baker simply detested Daylight Savings. She didn’t really care about getting more daylight for the merchants’ convenience – as she observed, we were in modern times and had lots of artificial lighting available.

And people had managed even back when streetlights were flambeaux or candles, and stores were lit after sunset with whale oil lanterns. Or, as she acerbically noted, “You know, like, they closed.” She actually felt that the Monday after DST started should be a therapeutic holiday.

The main things Kage disliked were simple. First, she objected to arbitrarily mucking about with dawn and sunset: it was not only unnatural but not historical. She could pardon considerable unnaturalness, but in-authenticity really narked her.

Second, Kage hated being robbed of her sleep. She felt the loss of the vernal advance in time very keenly; she did not feel the equinoctial take back was sufficient recompense for the initial theft. So she hated it. I told her that if she didn’t obsess about it, she wouldn’t notice it; the human temporal sense is not that sensitive.

Mine is”, Kage would aver with a glare. I didn’t know if she meant she wasn’t human, or that the rest of us were sensorially deficient. Even odds, probably. In any event, she ignored it as much as possible – as she did most clocks, to be honest.

Besides, Kage felt that DST was a cheap-jack method of time travel.

In my advancing age. I have solved all my personal problems with DST by adopting Kage’s solution: I ignore it. I don’t care when television shows come on, because Kimberly tapes the few I still watch. And I sleep whenever I can, which seems to be based on a 33-hour diurnal period anyway – so who cares what the clock says? I tend to leave my Kit Kat Klock on Standard time, anyway. It enhances the retro effect.

But in deference to Kage’s habits, I do as little as possible on The Day. Today, I have binge-watched NCIS and read FBI profilers’ memoirs. And I am writing this blog, of course, to keep faith with you, Dear Readers.

But for now, my armchair beckons. There are still some chapters left with the steely-jawed FBI. And then, I think I will explore some well-tuned Cthulhu pastiches.

On this cusp between real and artificial times, it’s a good place to hobnob with a few monsters.


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What Happened

Kage Baker was a firm believer in that axiom made famous by the eponymous hero of  Forrest Gump: “Shit happens.”

She believed it firmly, and not in the semi-lovechild meaning of  “stuff”. She meant SHIT, no kidding nor holds barred crap of a societal (if not literal; and often precisely that) meaning and application. In an unpublished portion of the story of Gard and his family, Kage has Ermenwyr remark: “If that happens, then flaming shit will rain from the sky: and we were well to have a steel umbrella.”

And Kage figured that was a mild manifestation.

My quiet little life has recently encountered some high tides of fecal matter. My health has taken some odd  turns. The world has been hard to take – as it has for everyone. The most difficult thing has been a run-in with a troll; who managed, in a general whirlwind of abuse, to land one or two blows that really knocked me flat.

So, I’ve been silent. I had been proud of shouting into the void. For the last few weeks, though, I been nurturing an arrow to the most sensitive portion of my ego. Does anyone listen, or care? I dunno. But Kimberly says she does, and that’s enough for me. Anyway, I’ve decided I rather like shouting into the void. The echoes are trippy.

So, more reminisce, and more whining about my health; more laughing at it, too. Some amusing things have happened – more of that. More speculation, more weird science, more extinct species cavorting in public.

More, more, more. Tomorrow.


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How I Do It, Now That I Am Old

Kage Baker never kept much of a story idea file.

That’s the file where you keep the ideas that might become stories. It’s full of articles of interest, isolated signs or photos of provocatively dubious provenance, and disjointed phrases that somehow made your hair stand on end. Sometimes there are whole written but orphaned scenes – detailed in their brief existence, but with no support or progeny. Sometimes there’s a character description, or a note that you need to write a story about a character with a specific tattoo; or maybe a wooden leg with a whistle carved into it that sounds The Ride of The Valkyries when they run real fast ..

It’s your own private slash pile. Most of the entries will never see the light of day. Kage kept some notes in her file, but it was really only because I nagged her to do it. She rarely went back and resurrected an idea from those halls of preserving amber. I’ve used a couple of them, when writing “Pareidolia” and finishing the second Ladies of Nell Gwynne’s novel: which is where I discovered that Kage had only kept enough records to placate me ..

I might have a few sharp words about that, if I ever got the chance. Probably not, though. I’d be too happy to turn the whole thing back over to her. Once I got done hugging her and crying, anyway.

Myself, I do keep notes; advancing age is poking holes in my memory process, and I have to take larger steps in order to keep up with it all. Of greatest help have been two of the tricks Kage did use, on the winding road between brilliant idea and tortuously-hacked out story.

  1.  She just didn’t wait – when an idea struck Kage, she followed up on it immediately. This sometimes required her to set aside a project already in progress (usually, actually) and write on the new one until the inspiration slowed down enough to let her trade back and forth. But it meant that she was rarely idle, almost always had an idea in the works and 2 more in the wings, and had the smug confidence of the thrifty housewife who has laid in enough flour, salt and butter for the winter.
  2.  While she didn’t keep the damned idea file on her computer (my life would be sooo much easier if she had!) she kept her notes. Her physical notes. Her physical notes on everything – both in topic, and in range of materials. This is why I find old plots, characters, reveals, landscapes and in-jokes all over in the boxed remains of our shared life, preserved on everything from scraps torn from printer jams, to flattened candy boxes, to unwanted pockets ripped off hoodies. (Really. You cannot imagine Kage’s determination to write on something when the fit took her.) As long as you can get used to it, it’s not a bad system. Luckily, as a confirmed bibliophile, I love the perfume of gently aging paper, so wandering through the old manuscripts, piles, envelopes and Baggies of scraps – with Kage’s spike handwriting poking out everywhere – is always a bit of a treat.

Do I keep actual bits of paper? Yep, I do – not as many, but I do. Most of the disjointed bits of writing end up on the envelopes from old medical bills and notices, simply because I have a lot of those stacked up on my desk. It saddens me, though, to have to report that after a few months, my notes make about as much sense to me as Kage’s decades-old   ones … but it does add an element of surprise and adventure to trolling through the stacks.

I also try to write as soon as an idea occurs to me. This means a lot of getting up in the middle of the night, but half the time I am awake anyway. Depending on how comfortable I am, I can fire up the desk top, or write long-hand in a moleskin notebook in lavender  ink: and, Dear Readers, never underestimate the effectiveness of handwriting by candlelight in some romantic, senseless colour – these romantic urges can lend an urgency that quite carries the story forward.

Lately, I have been writing on my Kindle. I use a little Amazon Fire notebook for my Kindle stash, and it has the room and capacity to let me compose online. So I do. Half of this entry was composed while I jeered at Congress at 1 AM this morning. Especially recently, I cannot rest without without catching Rachel Maddow, whose reporting still possesses the rare trick of informing me without enraging me: so as I listen to Mordor’s armies assembling in the East, I write. In the recliner, with my legs up and a pillow in my lap to hold the Kindle, and usually with the ginger Maine Coon cat sticking her huge feathery paws in my ears from where she reclines on the chair-back. Just now, this is a perfect combination of comfort, utility and annoyance, and keeps the creative flow going.

In the end, though, I do what Kage recommended most of all: just wing it. Sit down and write – anything, everything; to be a writer, you must just write. You’ll find a place for it all somewhere. Eventually. As long as you don’t stop.

Never stop. Unless, as some joke says, you can be Batman – but if you’re Batman, you’re an obsessive loonie and can’t stop anyway, right?

It all works out. No one knows how. It’s a miracle …




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The Moon In Wine

Kage Baker would have loved last night’s Super Blue Blood Moon. Once I got her out of bed, that is, and she had forced her eyes into focus. Then, the lunar fire balloon in the West would have had her clapping her hands in glee.

(I am assuming, of course, that had Kage still been living, she and I would still have been happily in our aerie apartment in Pismo Beach. The moon would have been visible out our living room windows, a red opal sinking into the black, 5:30 AM waves.)

Still, it was amazing and wonderful from my front porch here in L.A. Kimberly and I tottered out to view together, after Kimberly had scouted to see precisely where it could be seen, before she let me go dot-and-carry picking my way out with my cane. She seems to feel gravity will pounce like a velociraptor and drag me to the ground … in which she is probably not far off. In any event, I did not fall down and we saw the moon and it was marvellous.

It’s funny how much easier it is to get up early, now that I am old. It’s still easiest to simply not go to sleep at, and thus be ready to spring up for whatever middle-of-the-night revel is at hand. That’s been my technique for years, assisted by making sure I never know precisely what time it is … it works fine. Kimberly, too, was ready and willing to sally forth in the dark to view horological wonders. But we never even tried to wake up Michael, and this morning he assured us we did the right thing. He’s in his twenties, and not a night person yet.

Kage was so totally a solar, diurnal life form that it was almost deadly to wake or keep her up late. You could see the flames beginning to gutter in her eyes … but seeing the moon last night would have been worth it, though she’d have clung to her pillow and pulled the coverlet over her head.

But for such a sight! I hope you saw it, Dear Readers. The moon truly looked like an alien world, transformed by the red penumbral tide. It was scarlet, crimson, ruby red: no mere copper shadowing, but the whole broad silver face of the moon drowned in burgundy. The mares and impact craters stood out in an even deeper carmine, as if the shadow of the eclipse were a literal fluid that had flooded the cold lunar plain.

It was like the negative image of a green rose.

It was like tasting the sun in a glass of Merlot.

It was like the Red Queen dancing in a ballroom of black glass.

Caveat: I wrote all the foregoing about 14 hours ago, firmly in February the 1st but also in the wee o’dark thirty hours. I was sitting up watching the late rerun of The Rachel Maddow Show, which might account for the generally hallucinatory air of the entry. The world in which we presently live is weird as hell – which it may, in fact, be: unless we have just fallen through a warp in time-space to an alternate dimension of evil and stupidity … and I cannot avoid the suspicion that this is an even worse version of the normal alternate dimension of evil and stupidity, since none of the villains have had the courtesy to sport identifying beards.

Nonetheless, I was in a transport of delight remembering the moon: as well as a rage of despair, listening to the madness and ills of our nation. The combination of hope and despair is somehow symbolized by the extraordinary sight of that beautiful, improbable moon. It’s the only time in my lifetime it will have been seen, and I did not miss it.

And, who knows? It may yet be a hopeful omen. The ancients took just about every weird thing in the sky to mean the imminent fall of a king, which is something that America needs right now. It’s been a good move for us before.

Also, it was just plain gorgeous. I’ll tell you what is was a sign of, Dear Readers: Beauty. Beauty remains, is wild, comes as it wills, and cannot be prevented.

And so, there am I happy.








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January 31, 2018

Kage Baker had been tucked into her big feather bed for the last night, this time eight years ago.

She was sleepy but lucid as the sun set; she sat up against her pillows and saw the sun down into the sea, as she could from her bedroom. I remember it set into a broad band of carmine, and that the road of the sun seemed to run straight across the water to her window. The wall behind her head was gold and amber. She said she was much more comfortable, and lay down with her hands on her breast, like a still life of herself.

That wasn’t unusual at all. Kage usually slept like a figure on a catafalque, flat on her back with her hands clasped on the edge of the covers, pale and still. We used to sometimes put odd things in her hands, like a lily in a folk song, so she lay there with, say, a wooden spoon or a bottle of rum or a stuffed mechanical rabbit … camping jokes, you know; sleepover pranks.

In the mornings she always looked like a lady in a tragic ballad, all her hot bright life dimmed to a porcelain quiet. I, on the other hand, usually arose looking like I’d slept upside down in my bed, hair sticking out sideways and my nightgown on inside-out … then we’d get up and Kage would open those black eyes full of fantastic worlds, while I found my glasses to see anything at all.

There’s a moral there, I am sure.

Anyway, Kage looked utterly composed and calm when she lay back against her pillows for that last night. She was so calm and motionless, it was hours until we watchers figured out she wouldn’t wake up again. It took her breathing changing to clue us in, as it slowed and began to rasp and halt for seconds at a time. And that was how she stayed, breathing but with less and less interest, until 1:15 AM. And then she died.

The moon was in its last quarter that night. It rose late, in the far east over the hills that hid the inland from the beach; I didn’t see it until I went out on the porch hours later to watch Kage’s body borne down the stairs. It was dead and cold and gave no light.

Tonight, though … tonight is a Super Blue Blood Moon. A Blue Moon means it is the second full moon in a month, and a Super Moon means it’s at the closest point to the earth in its orbit. It also is a night of lunar eclipse, which brings in the Blood factor: although we will not see the full eclipse here in California, we can see the reddened shadow it casts on the disc of the moon. Thus the Super Blue Blood Moon.

This is a concatenation of events that has not occurred in 150 years or so, and it won’t happen again in my lifetime. Not unless there is some ghastly advance in geriatrics, anyway, that condemns me to another century of life in this increasingly uncomfortable world. It would doubtless be of the ironic Tithonus* variety, too, wherein I did not die but also was not returned to youth – eternity as a withered apple, out of breath and aching in every joint. I most sincerely hope no such advancement in medicine is visited upon me, as I am now maintaining a cheerful point of view by believing in a better life to come.

The cyst behind my knee makes me walk like a combination of Igor and the Little Mermaid: every step a crooked lurch, that feels like walking on knives.  This also tweaks my back, and so I sleep very little – I have to move every hour or so, shifting between lying down and sitting up, to get any physical ease of the constant discomfort. Ever see a cow or horse or dog, walking in endless circles in an attempt to escape some pain? That’s me, but with a cane. And I don’t see the orthopedist for 3 weeks.

Don’t even suggest your favourite painkillers, Dear Readers. My doctor will prescribe nothing stronger than acetaminophen with codeine: there’s an opioid epidemic, you know, and God forbid I should become addicted. Where is this epidemic happening? I’d love to know. All I can figure is, someone in Arkansas or Nebraska is taking all my drugs. I am profoundly angry and depressed. Also, just plain cranky, as well as usually too tired and aching to sit and write.

But Kage always said – if things get too horrible to bear, then kick it all  over and start again. Go back to some beginning place, make a new start, pretend you are trying it for the first time. Throw away the habits that hurt and find some new ones.  I can never sleep on the anniversary of Kage’s death until the time rolls round and past on the clock. So I’m making lists of thing to try, as I sit waiting for 1:15 to roll around.

I have resumed knitting, a soothing activity I had laid aside some time ago in the chaos of trying to write. My agent just sent me ALL the contracts and analyses of Kage’s books, so I can lay them all out and see where to make some enormous new step. Finally, I summoned the courage to suggest that my agent try to sell some of MY work as well as Kage’s older stuff: and she said yes, mirabile dictu! I have stopped reading in bed, and am counting grams of carbohydrates.

Tonight, around 5 AM, I shall totter out on the front porch and look at the astounding Moon. I don’t take it for an omen – it’s only a lovely hiccough in the endless orrery of the night sky – but it will be a better moon than the pallid wretched thing I watched rise 8 years ago. I’m anticipating it with some genuine expectation of joy.

Maybe I’ll take up vaping. Maybe I’ll get a tattoo. Maybe I’ll finally try to see if I can live on the appealing diet of bacon and oranges. Certainly, I will try to write; and some of the time I will succeed.

Kage would understand.



*Tithonus was a young handsome prince with whom the air-headed goddess of dawn, Eos, fell in love. She made him immortal but forgot to give him eternal youth; he eventually withered into a tiny, bent, grey, creaking little creature: a grasshopper. At which point, his absent-minded inamorata kicked him out, and now he wanders the world annoying ants and Mormons.

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Revelations On Saturday the 13th

Kage Baker loved the cartoon work of Walt Kelly. She loved the way he drew things, and she loved his peculiar sense of humour, and she loved his particular fierce and loving philosophy.

One of the things she loved was the way his character Churchy La Femme (a natural-born turtle, BTW) would exclaim whenever he noticed that the date had reached the 13th of any given month: “Oh, Friday the 13th come on a Monday this month!” Or a Sunday, or whatever. And this month, of course, it comes on a Saturday. Whenever Kage noticed, she would join Churchy in his plangent cry, and proclaim the day a loss. Until she got bored with it, of course, and went back to writing.*

As today is the13th of a month, and my leg hurts like hell, I have written today off. As I cannot walk well due to the cyst – lest it burst, as my doctor kindly told me – I’ve been wandering from space to space looking for somewhere comfortable to rest my burdensome limb while I wait for the referral to the orthopedic surgeon who will eventually drain off the bad humours in my knee. In the meantime, I’ve been exploring the aether aimlessly, another thing Kage used to do when she was obsessed with horological rituals. And I think it might be nice to share some of the gems I’ve gathered with you, Dear Readers.

A new fossil species of thylacine (inaccurately called a marsupial lion) has been discovered. This kind has enormous fangs.  The surviving species, of course, is being bred in hiding by the Company in the Australia Base, though sightings have increased so much in modern times that they may be re-discovered very soon. I have hopes; they are the school mascot of the Australia Base soccer team – Go, Thylacines! 

Have you heard of the maned wolf? It is a lovely and peculiar canid from South America. It’s not exactly a wolf; even less is it what it most resembles, which is a red fox on stilts. To make it even more interesting, the first melanistic specimen has been found on a night-time game cam: i.e., a completely black maned wolf!  The black pelt and the looong legs give it a goblin charm that is entrancing:

The article won’t let me copy the photos, though, so make sure you follow the link and scroll down to see the pictures. They are worth it.

In  news near and dear to my heart, it has been proven that good beer will be just about inevitable on Mars: hops grow beautifully in simulated Martian soil. I already knew that barley will grow in it (barley will grown damned well anywhere) and now we know hops will do well also. Thus, there will be beer! And yet another bit of science in Empress of Mars turns out to be a correct prophecy. Read and rejoice:

For the visually-oriented, I also include a lovely artist’s conception of a tour through the Orion Nebula. The Orion Nebula is, like all nebulae, thick with cosmic dust, and is an active stellar nursery – stars are born there, amid the glowing clouds and misty mountains of creation. They are here for no other reason but that they are beautiful, and we need beauty right now. It will enthrall the heart:

And now, I am off to rest my stupid leg on a pillow. It is not gout, so I don’t have to refrain from beef – and I think it’s hamburger night. One cannot indulge too much when Friday the 13th falls on a Saturday.

Churchy is the one on the right …



*For those of you unfamiliar with Pogo, the main work of the immortal Walt Kelly, here is a link to the cogent strips:









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