I Screaming Out Loud All The Time I Write

Kage Baker thought the description of the Squeers family, in Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickelby, was about the funniest family ever committed to paper.

They are a sort of ghastly, but affectionate, ogre family who run an appalling boys’ school wherein the titular hero of the novel is an unhappy schoolmaster. Briefly. It all ends in tears, bloodshed and hyperbole, because the Squeers are only affectionate to one another. To everyone else, they are absolutely horrible – except for the daughter of the family, Miss Fanny Squeers, who is convinced she is a deathless beauty and falls in love with anything in trousers …

Fanny was Kage’s favourite. She even used the character in a bespoke story about Springheel Jack, and laughed her ass off the entire time she wrote the dialogue. It appeared  in, I think, The Mammoth Book if Dickensian Whodunits, edited by Mike Ashley; Carroll & Graf, October 2007. 

Since I have been mistaken about where I published my own stories lately, I could be wrong about this. My brain is leaking out my ears … but I think this is the one.

My day has been a long, long sled ride today, on a broken sled, over a morass of flaming shit. I have had severe problems with online systems which I desperately need to access, in order to pay bills and prove to the state of California that I am not dead, not in good health, and still in need of my disability benefits. ALL these systems refuse to acknowledge my user names or passwords, most have informed me I do not exist, and I have had it with all of them. Absolutely nothing has been accomplished.

The one time I got a  live clerk, she sent me a verification code via phone – and then told me her system could not recognize it when I repeated it back to her. And by then, I had tried too many times to be accommodated until another 12 hours goes by.

Hence the title. For context, and for your amusement, Dear Reader, I attach here the original letter from NN, which so entertained Kage. You should have heard her acting it out …

 

“Sir,

“My pa requests me to write to you. The doctors considering it doubtful whether he will ever recuvver the use of his legs which prevents his holding a pen.

“We are in a state of mind beyond everything, and my pa is one-mask of brooses both blue and green likewise two forms are steepled in his Goar. We were kimpelled to have him carried down into the kitchen where he now lays. You will judge from this that he has been brought very low.

“When your nevew that you recommended for a teacher had done this to my pa and jumped upon his body with his feet and also langwedge which I will not pollewt my pen with describing, he assaulted my ma with dreadful violence, dashed her to the earth, and drove her back comb several inches into her head. A very little more and it must have entered her skull. We have a medical certifiket that if it had, the tortershell would have affected the brain.

“Me and my brother were then the victims of his feury since which we have suffered very much which leads us to the arrowing belief that we have received some injury in our insides, especially as no marks of violence are visible externally. I am screaming out loud all the time I write and so is my brother which takes off my attention rather, and I hope will excuse mistakes.

“The monster having satiated his thirst for blood ran away, taking with him a boy of desperate caracter that he had excited to rebellyon, and a garnet ring belonging to my ma, and not having been apprehended by the constables is supposed to have been took up by some stage-coach. My pa begs that if he comes to you the ring may be returned, and that you will let the thief and assassin go, as if we prosecuted him he would only be transported, and if he is let go he is sure to be hung before long, which will save us trouble, and be much more satisfactory.

Hoping to hear from you when convenient

“I remain

“Yours and cetrer

 

“Fanny Squeers.

 

“P.S. I pity his ignorance and despise him.”

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Off Weekend

Kage Baker rests in the Garden of Sleep, Drake is in his hammock and a thousand miles away, and I have some sort of gastritis.

We are taking the weekend off. See you all tomorrow.

 

 

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January 11th, Mark I (Maybe)

Kage Baker enjoyed her modern technology, and depended heavily on it for her work and her play.

Being Kage, however, she also expected it to betray her, eventually. She didn’t really trust technology, at least of the sort that did not depend on the skill of her own hands. She didn’t even really have confidence in her bottle opener, and that was just basically a lever. There’s not a much simpler tool than a lever …

Anyway, she was consequently not surprised when the complicated tools of the Internet failed. The aether was as close to magic as Kage knew, and she was not a magic user. When the computer crashed or the modem failed or some even more mysterious component went tits up, Kage was infuriated but resigned. Much cursing occurred, then she handed the problem off to someone who could handle it.

And Kage, temper satisfied, could continue writing. With a sensible pen. On sensible paper. By sensible candle light, if the problem went far enough.

Last night, my computer service went down several times. Not for long, at any one time: but I was repeatedly unable to access the aether for a few minutes. I’d go off and do something else, then return to find I could only get to some sites; others stayed dead to me for the night.

It was probably some glitch in ATT’s network servers, but what it boiled down to for our purposes, Dear Readers. was NO WORDPRESS.  (There were others, but not as important. Except to me.) It’s something to which WordPress is especially prone. I suspect that any diminution of its contact with the wider aether gives it a TIA. My using  a VPN probably doesn’t help, either; but one must be safe, you know.

So, anyway, no post last night. This one may be a placeholder. It may be the first chapter in today’s blog. It may also be all I get done today, because my darling nephew found me pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, AND I got my latest shipment of Mullah coffee. So I may eventually retreat with coffee and sweeties.

But in the meantime, today is the anniversary of the Nika Riots in Constantinople, in 532 CE. Which means that even as I write, Joseph is lurking around Byzantium, running a safe house for treasures of the ancient world, and about to encounter the power of icons in a very close and personal way.*

And that is certainly good for a grin.

 

 

*”Pareidolia”, from In the Company of Thieves, Tachyon Publishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Praise of Athena Ergane

Kage Baker was a proud working woman. She honored Athena Ergane, which was Athena in her aspect of the patroness of workers and artisans. Kage dedicated one of her books to Athena Ergane, though right at the moment, I shamefully cannot recall which one …

If one of you, Dear Readers, does remember, do please let me know.

Anyway, Kage also took Athena Ergane as a patroness. It fit in nicely with her personal life efforts, as a scholar and as a woman of her hands; Kage never abandoned purely physical arts entirely. She always had her pens and brushes to hand should something need illustrating. She took up carving in her 50’s, producing (among other things) faux bluestone pylons carved with cup and ring marks for the garden of the Inn at Renaissance faires. In her last couple of years of life, she was experimenting with casting little figures in rubber and plastic: also, lots of her own hands … we had some freaky pot holders for a while, but they had a tendency to melt.

Most of the ladies in Kage’s stories were likewise artisans; certainly, all the female Operatives. She favoured practical, self-sufficient women in her distaff characters – except when being a disaster was a plot point, as with Mendoza and her cataclysmic love life. Most of them were more like Nefer and Nan among the Operatives, and Mary Griffith, the Empress of Mars.

That was Kage’s idea of a true heroine. From an early age, she admired Dorothy Gale of Kansas; whom Frank Baum made utterly practical and unflappable. “No help for it!” cries Dorothy, falling from the skies with a talking hen, and manages to both land on her feet and catch the chicken.

Today, a dear friend (and likewise a determined woman of her hands), sent me a fascinating link to an article. See below:

goo.gl/GxJ2CD

This relates that a medieval nun’s skull has been found with ultramarine pigment between her teeth. As this was an insanely expensive pigment, made from crushed lapis lazuli and worth more than gold, it was only used by skilled and honoured scribes. Which means this lady, a nun in a cloister a thousand years ago, was very much a skilled scribe.

This is a nice snoot cocking, as well as a poke in the same, for all those who deny medieval intelligence in general and the abilities of women in particular. Puella virtute!

This is especially nice because I will shortly be inquiring as to the status of a novel I dropped off with a publisher over the summer. One of the main characters is a scribe-nun … at least until the world gets weird and she runs off for a life of adventure, cocktails and really wild things. She was modelled on Kage, by me, long ago. Also last year, when I rewrote the entire damned book for submission.

I am taking this as a fortunate augury. Praise to Athena Ergane!

And thank you, Stacey Jo.

 

 

 

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Obsession

Kage Baker would have shaken her head at me sadly. “Screwed that up, didn’t you? Where’d your mind go?”

Last night, Dear Readers, I completely forgot to write a blog post. The thought never entered my mind, until Kimberly asked me this morning if I had been too tired to blog. Whereupon I realized in horror that – while I had stayed up until 3 AM – it had never even occurred to me to write. My apologies, Dear Readers!

What was I doing until half past midnight? I was reading. I was reading my own past blogs, starting way back in 2010, when I first began this. I was re-reading all my initial grief over Kage’s death, my resolution to continue her writing and the first, fairly successful attempts to do that. And the beginning of my gradual decline into the wild and active life of a coral polyp …

My gosh, some weird things were happening 9 years ago!

Of course, when you examine any past time in detail, it’s pretty weird. Especially when you get down to what the media is now terming “granularity”. I take that to mean examining something in such detail that you are getting right down into the basic texture of it – cells, maybe. Pixels. Quantum foam. What we used to call, in the naive and golden days of the ’60s, the nitty gritty.

It was certainly strange to read over those days back in 2010, 2011 and so on. It was peculiarly fascinating, so engrossing that it was gone 3 AM before I could even try to sleep. I think … I think I kept at it for the glimpses of Kage, that I had drawn so clearly in the first year she was gone. I didn’t remember that I had remembered so much.

However, it’s an obsession that kept me merely chasing my own tail. There was no sudden revelation, no new truth to simultaneously blind me and laser the scales off my eyes. It was a comfortable path but it was circular; good scenery, but it didn’t lead me anywhere. When Kimberly inquired as to my not blogging, it was like cold water thrown in my face to wake me up.

Today, I would have preferred to be in another world, though, Dear Readers. I don’t often touch on politics here, but it’s impossible to avoid encountering them in these days. Unless one is in a coma, or a gilded Lotus Eater’s delirium, the coarse texture of reality is inescapable. I am as concerned as any other rational adult over the closure of our government, and the grim antics of our execrable Chief Executive. I am just as repulsed by the prostitution of our immigration system. I am just as frightened by the growing possibility that Trump will try to hand a castrated government over to Putin.

So, I watched Trump’s address. I think he must have been heavily drugged – although nephew Michael postulated that Secret Service guys with machine guns were standing just out of sight to keep him on track. I don’t think so, though – he was, I think, willing to rein in his usual fulmination in order to pontificate on his current obsession, the Wall. I’m not ruling out drugs, mind … he didn’t make a single threat.

But it was a cruel reminder. Times are hard, hatred is trying once again to ascend to control of the world. You gotta pay attention, because the villains nowadays are sneaky, quiet and blatant liars. It’s no time to slide into the warm bath of the past. Not for long, anyway.

I enjoyed it. But I won’t sit down and disappear up my own memories again any time soon, Dear Readers. It’s much too easy to never, ever come back out again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Somnolence

Kage Baker would have been wrapped up in lap robes tonight. She’d have had her slippers on over 2 pairs of socks, and been cuddling Harry and a cup of hot chocolate, with her feet up in front of the fire and something English on the telly.

At least, if she was fighting off this wretched cold or whatever it is, she would have.  It’s more or less what I’m doing, while I wait to see what else my enraged sinuses decide to do. I suspect an alien spore disease, brought down to earth by the recent Geminids. Sometimes it feels like something is running laps in my nose.

The fine electric fire from Plow and Hearth is pulsing warmly. I am wrapped in blankets. What I have been chugging, though, is Sprite Cranberry. The bubbles ease the sneezing, and it tastes wonderful. You can only find it in the winter, but I have 2 12-packs in the pantry, thanks to Michael’s excellent foraging abilities. If I perish of this cold, I’ll be ever so happy while I go.

And I have my own wonderful elf-boot slippers. They’re amazing. They are black, you see, and lined with fur. They keep my feet warm and let me creep about silently at night. Mind you, it’s only because I like to wander about between my desk and the bathroom at night, when everyone else is asleep; but Kimberly indulges me.

She got me the sneaky black boot-slippers as a concession to my disregard for the niceties of self-care: like warm slippers. She knew I’d be likelier to wear those than nice sensible thick socks with reindeer on … for a similar reason, Kage got me black daytime elf-boots. The soles leave leaf shapes where I walk. They prevent me from running about barefoot in the winter.

I wear them both for the sake of the givers. They cared whether or not I died of exposure, so the least I can do is cooperate. They are the niftiest boots I have ever had, and it was pretty sneaky of both Kage and Kimberly to outflank me like that … but it lets me sit here wrapped in warmth and concern, while I fight off the Crud from Outer Space.

Harry’s gone to bed, full of pizza and lettuce from tacos. Now I can sit and quietly read over old posts from this blog. I’m re-reading from the beginning, and I am wondering if I’ve changed any over the years … not so far.

But I don’t seem to have gotten worse. So I guess I am breaking even. I can sit here and feel justified in lack of movement and utter laziness; I can cuddle cats, and wear slippers, and listen to my memories of Kage.

Pretty nice, for a winter Sunday. Sleep well, Dear Readers. Excitement and wild things and letters to publishers will resume tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday Night. ‘Sall right, I guess.

Kage Baker liked quiet weekends, post New Year. She preferred to spend those winter weekends, after the mad whirl of holidays, in a state approximating coma.

If she felt well, it was in a happy coma with sweets and lap robes and new computer games. The last of the Yuletide chocolates and various holiday meats: prime rib and ham and turkey, all three having strutted it on the culinary stage through the 12 days of Christmas.

Yorkshire pudding with cranberry sauce. Fruitcake fried with gravy. If you think I’m kidding, you have no idea of Kage’s determination to taste test recipes out of nursery rhymes – if King Arthur was reputed to have fried it up next morning, Kage was willing to try it. Me, I have simpler tastes; salami, chocolate coins and such like finger foods were enough for me.

If we were feeling ill, things were … different. And usually, there was a general health collapse in our household sometime during January. Accumulated holiday crowds, multiple weekends of Extreme Christmas in the concrete byre  of the Cow Palace: if it wasn’t The Crud (a formal name for our localized grippe and consumption pastiche), it was whatever extraterrestrial influenza had been circulating through our local mall.

Kage believed in treating respiratory illnesses with alcohol. Her long-time anodyne was wine coolers, until we figured out that the tannins in the wine made her congestion worse. After that, she stuck to rum punch and hot toddies, wheezing around the paper umbrellas stuck in the lemon slices … I cannot really claim it made her feel better, but Kage always said it made her feel like someone else. Which was an improvement over being her with the flu.

I’ve spent the last month or so being seriously ill. Cardiac stuff and similar crap … but I have stayed home and conserved my strength, taking all my meds like a sensible person. A couple of weeks ago, though, I started to sneeze. Incessantly. Continuously. I generally explode in the middle of the night, and sneeze for about an hour: then my brains turn to snot and I drown. I’ve been going through a box of tissues per night. Geese fly overhead and bugle to me as their queen …

There have been hilarious near-misses with my CPAP mask. There have been even more last minute clawing off the mask and flinging it across the room, with a fusillade of enormous sneezes. It’s lucky I need to sleep sitting up in the recliner, as otherwise the CPAP machine would have consumed me like a plastic kraken.

Kimberly has been keeping me alive with ginger snaps, hot coffee and soup. Especially hot chicken broth with an assortment of noodles – pho, ramen, plain old Campbell’s. Tonight was wonton, which are really just ginormous noodles with stuff  in. In chicken broth, with soy sauce. The primeval soup, in my opinion, wherein our ancestors discovered all the appetites that enabled us to evolve in the first place.

Another couple days, and I’ll have re-evolved into something human again. Or into something that has sneezed its nose off and achieved some sort of nasal Nirvana.

And that’s all right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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