I Am Really Dim

Kate Baker was an indomitable fighter against most illnesses. She powered through most ailments with the steely calm of a gunfighter; no drama and no big deal, just getting the job done.

Cancer only got her because she inadvertently died. Had there not been so much extra crap to try and get through, had it not tired her out so freaking badly, I think she could have beaten it. But she fell asleep.

Before that, the only thing that really slowed her down were respiratory diseases. Colds and flu always felled her. She got bronchitis like most people get sunburnt. She bitched more about colds than she ever did about the cancer. Let’s face it, Dear Readers, colds can kick one’s butt all out of proportion to the relevant cellular warfare.

I have a cold. It’s winning. Luckily, I have Nyquil, so I can sleep a lot.

I also have a new insulin regimen. Pro: it seems to be a tipping point of efficiency, and my blood sugar is going down! Con … my body is protesting adapting to a lower blood sugar level. I  can adapt to things with a speed that astounds and infuriates my doctors, which is evidently what it did in getting used to the insanely high levels I have had recently. Until the insulin and my glucose reach detente, that too is leaving me pretty much asleep.

I like to think I am pretty tough. And maybe I am. But right now, I am a tough broad who is mostly unconscious.

Dazzling prose will resume as soon as I can stay awake reliably. In the meantime, I shall peck out little notes to you all while my blood sugar boils and bubbles.

And now for a warming glass of Nyquil. Good night, all.





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In One Ear and Out Of My Mind

Kage Baker gave her Company Operatives the most black and white, intractable, and tunnel-visioned work ethic she could imagine: Nothing matters. Except the Work.

After which, Kage then spent a great deal of time putting her Operatives through various wringers as they fought to either maintain that ethic, or live whole lives outside of it. It was one of the dramatic engines that drove the multi-levelled plots, and came to be a separate level all its own. I don’t know how much it showed to the reader, but Kage became determined to prove that work ethic wrong, Wrong, WRONG.

Naturally, there were Company wonks who never even contemplate violating the rule. (There are always organisms that like being in a box.  Other than cats, who only like it if it’s someone else’s box …) Some of them stick to the party line because they can’t imagine revolting against it; it confers security, safety and comfort. Some Operatives end up, despite the technical enhancement of intelligence and memory, common sense deficient: they are emotionally stupid. Kage spent decades in the Pink Collar Ghetto; she worked beside a lot of people so cowed by their work, or rendered so callous, that they had lost all love or awareness of life.

Some Operatives actually try to live up to the Nothing but the Work ethic because they are good people. They are trying to do their duty, live up to their responsibilities. In some cases, like Nefer, they actually do love their work more than just about anything – Nefer, I happen to know, prefers relict breeds of cattle more than anything but chocolate and bodice-ripper  ring holos …

Eventually, though, even the folks who are truly and honestly devoted to the Work realize what the Company is demanding of them. Ignorance of abuse, tolerance of cruelty, blindness to the hot white light of truth – and these things become intolerable, to the point where the good folks either join an insurgency, or walk into the wilderness to await the end of the world where they cannot harm anyone.

Nef does that, heading into the immensity of the Serengeti to meet the end among the animals she loves. Joseph starts his own rebellion, under the aegis of Budu and the Enforcers, to take everything down. Art the end, he has to face the consequences of what you do when you’re prepared to die for a cause – and yet you don’t. That’s a hard, hard fate, which is why Kage gave it to Joseph. She depended on his strength.

Louis, on the other hand, wanders fecklessly along, being misused almost more than any other Operative by the villains of the Company and the Facilitators. When he finally realizes that he has been used, that evil he could never imagine has discarded him to his fate, Louis is astounded – bu he becomes a shining if eccentric hero, and rises with the determination of an archangel to strike a blow for the Right. And, I suspect, musical theatre …

Mendoza, of course, never really gets the message at all. She does what she should until Temptation arrives and stretches out its hand. And every time he does, Mendoza runs mad and throws it all over for love.

Which of these might have been Kage’s personal ethic, I don’t know even now. Not for sure. She was utterly committed to accomplishing what she intended, always. But sometimes it was because it was all she wanted to do; sometimes it was a duty whose grip she could not eluded, sometimes it was because the Work – her own Work – kept the pains of everyday life at a safe distance. Sometimes she wrote until her fingers were sore and her eyes were red all for sweet love’s sake: because the story – and more, the act of telling the story – were the truest of true loves.

Life’s been ugly this last year, Dear Readers. It’s been increasingly nasty and brutish, although at least it has not succeeded in being short. I’m awfully weary of all the crap, though.

In these dark days, when priceless crystals seem to line up to fall and crash on stone floors, Kage’s ethic still seem the best. It really does keep the dark at bay, for awhile; and who would quibble at the duration of any possible relief? I love where it takes me, I love who I meet in that Wood outside Athens.

Maybe nothing matters but the work, and maybe nothing matters at all. All I know is what works. And as long as does, I’ll be here.


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Thag You Bery Buch

Kage Baker, being a modest lady, lived in a sort of lace-mitten horror of ever discussing her health. It’s how and why she managed not to let anyone know she had cancer until 4 months before she died. And even then, it was only because she had to go to an award convention in which she had been nominated. As it was, she got a wheelchair and chocolate bars to throw to (or maybe at) the crowd,  and made a special effect out of it all.

I try to behave the same way, although it’s harder for me. (Being a naturally vulgar person …)  I have a personal tendency to exotic diseases and public collapses, as well. However, when possible, I don’t carry on about it. It’s unladylike. Also, it depresses me and other people.

In the meantime, I woke up this morning with a cold. This is outrageous: when you have serious diseases, the common cold should have the good manners to leave you alone. Viruses have no manners, and they don’t even care. I’ve been reading Ed Yong’s paean to beneficial microbial life, I Contain Multitudes (excellent book. I recommend it.) while I sniff and snuffle And to Dr. Yong, whom I now hold responsible, I say “Ppphhhttt.” Juicily.

But you, Dear Readers, are all such lovely people that when I lost patience and bitched and moaned about all my wretched health “challenges”, you universally responded with support and affection.

As Bilbo Baggins said, “Thag you bery buch.” May no dragons fall on your houses.

And now, I am going to bed, with a bottle of medicinal absinthe (green Nyquil). Back tomorrow, unless I drown in my skull.

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Perseverance and Other Pastimes

Kage Baker was an exceptionally cautious person. It was, I think, the foundation stone of her writing talent and success.

That was because she never began any project she intended to abandon. In fact, Kage would go to insane lengths to maintain and complete anything she started. Someday, I must recount our adventures with stained glass, enamelling, and menhir-carving.

Thus, she started to write her own stories when she was a small child and just never stopped. Instead of making friends, she found audiences in school, and became a bard.  She finagled pens and paper and typewriters and word processing systems out of friends, relatives and thin air so she never had to quit; she kept finding faster ways to write.

Those ways did not include ever actually learning to type. Kage was a 2-fingered typist all her life; but she was so fast, she  sounded like a Gatling gun with hiccups when she was at her best. She wrote right up to and including the day she died, by which time she had returned full circle to her original method: telling the story aloud to someone.

That was me. That is still me: Amenuensis At Large, Science Geek and Eccentric Research;  Total Fantasy By Special Arrangement. And I can type, too. I made my living more or less by typing for 35 years. And now I make my living, such as it is, by making Kage Baker and the world inside her head … live.

To tell the truth, I wouldn’t go back to a typewriter for anything less than an obscene amount of money. And a free typewriter. It might have to be one made of chocolate, too. And it would have to be replaced frequently … every 2 weeks, say, on Amazon Prime …

It does make me scream and curse when my computers go South on me, obviously. Today I have been running endlessly diagnostics and uploading endless drivers. My desktop is now almost functional … my Buke is still rebooting after I gave up and returned it to the dreaded factory defaults. There are still hours of customizing to do, removing crap I don’t want and replacing it with crap I do. Like, I hate McAfee. And HP Smart Friend. And Cortana, and all the other cybernetic nannies with which Microsoft is trying to saddle me.

But, you know what, Dear Readers? I shall persevere. Tonight is another entry pecked out with one finge on my Kindle’s candy-bar-sized screen: but I did it! It’s even about writing.

More, faster, better tomorrow! Wider horizons and bigger keyboards! Excelsior!



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Resuming A Skin

Kage Baker did not like change. She didn’t approve of most of the change she was obliged to experience, and whenever possible she refused to participate in it.

She spent a lot of time online, finding pieces of her life that had gone missing through the careless years. Lost candies, exotic foods, eccentric pastimes – EBay was only the first stop for Kage, who would spend days tracking down some fondly remembered portion of her childhood or adolescence. Amazingly, she found most of what she sought. The internet was made for people with good memories, determination, and a touch of OCD – almost nothing can hide from them.

By the time she died, our house and habits were rich with things Kage had lost, but never reconciled herself to leaving behind. She also stocked her life with things she had desired, but never attained: some of which had not yet existed when she was 8 or 10 or 14, but that had been embodied sometime since. Forgotten books, old movies, even an original game of Cooties! with the good old horrifying bugs instead of the modern cutesie ones.

The children of our acquaintance loved that. But we played it even when no children were around.

Kage said she forced them into being; or that a kindly deity did it, in sympathy for her desires. And maybe she/he/it/them did. I do know that whenever we moved – to a new house or apartment or even city – Kage always found exactly what we needed. It was usually a place she passed on the street, then went back for when the necessity arose: and nailed it. I don’t know anyone else who has managed this trick. I benefited enormously from it, too.

But I did learn that persistence always pays off in some way, if you can just keep it up long enough. Also, returning to some habit of the past can be astonishingly rewarding. My skills in this area have been most successful in finding dear old foodstuffs that have gone MIA; but being able to lay my hands on weird sodas, rare spices and reportedly-extinct sauces has been a comfort to everyone in my household.

The last eight years have been a horror of change, loss and alteration for me. I have soldiered stubbornly on, telling myself that – like Samwise Gamgee – I could do without hope as long as I could avoid despair. Sadly for that tactic, despair is apparently smarter than I am, and can certainly hold its breath longer … I’ve lost Kage, then a string of vital organs, several important hormones,then an agent; and more friends than I intend to count. Dickens Fair is closed to me; temporarily, I hope, and I mean to get it back if my health allows.

My hair refuses to go decently grey. (Yeah, that bothers what’s left of my vanity.)  My face has pretty much resisted most wrinkles, but everywhere else I am withering into an apple doll: I suddenly have the hands of a crone. My feet are going numb. My breath has flown away with the extinct California parakeet, and evidently intends never to return; my heart is full of metal, my veins are full of clots.

No cholesterol, though.And  I passed my 5-year anniversary for lack of cancer. There am I happy! I have gotten 6,000+ words in so far on this year’s NaNoWriMo. I continue to maintain this blog. I’ve discovered that there are decent candy bars with no more carbs than a slice of toast. Tomorrow, I am going to write a stern letter to me agent – all right, a pleading, abject letter – and ask her why she never writes to me anymore and are my stories still alive?

I am trying with all my might and main, Dear Readers, to draw the tattered remnants of past skins around me, and resume the habiliments of joy. ‘Tis the season, I think. And if it’s not, I’ll wait until it is, and loose all this stored-up joy on it at once. Winter is not death.

Kage believed that nothing really died, anyway. So will I.

REAL Cooties

FAKE Cooties


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 Kage Baker was fully cognisant of the fact that it was a poor workman that blamed her tools. On the other hand, she also knew that sometimes her tools were drunk or dead or otherwise out of her control. Then she would scream and yell and stamp her feet, and play video games.

My keyboard is suffering transient ischemic attacks. I am typing this with one (1) arthritic finger on the Tarot card sized screen and virtual keyboard as big as a Tootsie Roll on my Kindle. My portable Buke recently had one of those unasked-for Windows updates, and is in a vegetative state.

Attempting to type is driving me bonkers. My usual brand of bonkers will return tomorrow, when I get something larger than a Graham cracker on which to type.



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Resting On My Bottom

Kage Baker always said, “Shit happens”.

This was not a casual conversational meme; she earnestly believed that, without constant maintenance (and often despite it), truly horrid things happen to us. All of us. All the time. One must simply cope.

October has always been my favourite month. It starts the holiday season, it marks the New Year in the Celtic Calendar, things finally get cool and all the trees are pretty.  And it’s Halloween! It’s also the month in which I was conceived, so it’s a base state for me. But this year, October has been intermittently nasty as hell.

On October 14th (as some of you Dear Readers know) I had a heart attack. It wasn’t the first, nor the worst; but it was a bad one, and it fair knocked me for a  loop. I am still pretty much confined to the house, on a serious “Do Nothing” order;  I take enough pills to make me rattle when I walk, have had to revise and re-learn an entirely new daily drug regimen, and I am weak. Appallingly, disgustingly weak; the cats can wrestle me into submission, and I need help dragging the covers over myself in bed.

I can’t catch my breath. I pant when I pull up my underwear, or lie on my left side, or walk more than 10 feet. And that’s an improvement …

More or less simultaneously, my diabetes decided to become seriously eccentric. I had to go off Metformin, a drug that worked perfectly to reduce my blood sugar, because it also acidifies blood and is hell on kidneys. And since I only have one kidney, it seemed wise to try something new. My doctor put me on insulin.

Now, Dear Readers, I have no needle neuroses. Taking a daily shot or 3 is no problem for me. However, even before the heart attack, it was obvious that the insulin was having little or no success; despite my puzzled doctor increasing the dosage several timers, my blood sugar did not respond. Mind you, I had no symptoms of high blood sugar – no dizziness, no faintness, no excessive thirst; I just merrily went on  my way with blood sugar readings of 300, 350, 400 …

My theory is that I have DNA from blind Mexican cave fish. Check this out: https://tinyurl.com/ycgtm6qx

Nuts, huh? I think it might be a workable theory. However, if I’m wrong, I’m beating my liver, eyes, heart and remaining kidney to death; so I’m not counting on it. I’m not ready to sacrifice myself for science, just in the hopes of shifting the evolutionary paradigm. I am working hard to wrestle my blood sugar into submission, so my heart et al have a chance to recover.

Dickens Fair, alas, has been put on hold for me. Even if I could drive that far (which I cannot, at the moment), I would not find the hot, freezing, dusty, particle-ridden kaleidoscope of the Cow Palace a habitable place. I am, for now, an artificially maintained life form.

However, as I am pretty much confined to home, I have signed up for National Write A Novel in a Month once again. That has always been good luck for me; NaNoWriMo is how I finished the rough of Nell Gwynne II – which was actually published! – as well as two short stories -which were actually published! A third story as well as a second novel also arise from NaNoWriMo, and are in the hands of my agent. Perhaps some day she will contact me again, and I’ll find out one has been accepted somewhere.

I continue to hope. I walk slowly, and breathe carefully; I  take my daily dozens of pills and shoot up with insulin and eat vegetables instead of bread and measure everything I can eat in ounces and cups. I have become knowledgeable regarding carbohydrates None of that is really a lot of fun, but hoping does imbue this life with an essence and a perfume that makes it all bearable.

I gotta tell you, though, Dear Readers, that I have developed a low opinion of the Agricultural Revolution. I can eat gluten, and I can drink milk, but at the moment these evolutionary advances are not making life conspicuously better …

Sigh. Innkeeper! Another bumper of water!  And pass the cucumbers and super-berries.

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