Opening Credits

Kage Baker leaned delicately on most of her friends. A few were designated pillars of the sky; she was more apt to lean on those, though even there she was always loathe to become too needy or dependent. Most people who knew her would have offered rather more of their shoulders than she ever asked  (a truly bizarre visual, now that I think of it. But very Kage.) but she didn’t like to be a burden.

After all, most of us don’t want to do that. I sure don’t. However, when I got my sorry ass out of bed this morning and sat down at my desk, I was astounded at the number of loving, supportive comments and emails I had received.It was wonderful. These past several weeks, I have seldom sat down at the desk, instead viewing my mail on my Kindle: I made few entries, answered few emails, and in general did absolutely nothing. Pretty much of a piece with the rest of my time, lately. But today I was back in the saddle.

I don’t think I deserve all the wonderful emails I got, but I am Oh, so grateful! You astound me, always, Dear Readers, with your generous support and understanding. There were well over 100 pieces of mail this morning, and for once, most were not political. They were wonderful notes from friends. So many offers to do murder, severely harm or hex my troll: not that I would ever take you up on it, but it sure does make my black withered heart stretch and expand in joy.

Thank you all.

This is late, and will be brief – consider it the opening scroll of credits, mostly there for purposes of legality and observance of the Unities. I must admit, I did spend a lot of today reading; but that was because a new Stephen King came out Tuesday, and I had to finish it. My head would have exploded, otherwise. Many of my vices are in abeyance, in these days of exploring the diseases of senescence; but the urge to bury myself in a new Stephen King novel is as great as ever. If any of you Dear Readers are also King fans, I urge you to read The Outsider as soon as possible. It’s a good, old-fashioned one.

Anyway, that is done. I am still licking my lips for the last tingling savour of the story. But I am also sorting through several of the strange and wonderful things that have happened out in the great grey greasy world lately, and tomorrow we shall examine a few of them. Cube sats and shield volcanoes. Wattle berry cakes. Giant blue planarian worms, a meter long and (quelle horreurs!) French.

It’s a weird old world, Dear Readers. Ain’t it grand?

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And Back Again

Kage Baker blessedly lacked a few of the classic problems of the writer. She seldom got writer’s block, and never for very long. She was seldom depressed. She dodged, resisted and/or ignored comments from her audience, and thus was untroubled by them. She never read her reviews unless they were vetted by another person, and so was untroubled by most of them, too. She didn’t smoke or do drugs, and could write coherently at quite inhuman levels of inebriation.

I’m not  like that. I’m not like any of that.

It’s been more than 2 months since I wrote a blog entry. I am sincerely and honestly apologetic, Dear Readers,; but really, there was nothing I could think of to do about it. Couldn’t write sober or drunk or done up on painkillers. Couldn’t write sunk in black depression. Couldn’t write in my sleep, or in what passed for wakefulness; which was usually in my sleep, as I have spent inordinate amounts of time asleep lately. Wherein, by the way, I didn’t even dream, except for nightmares where I woke myself up talking and yelling in my sleep.

At least, I guess they were nightmares. The ones I remember best were mostly just weird: dodging zombies while carrying a Siamese cat around in my arms. Hitching rides on driverless fire engines through dark and deserted urban streets, where strange black dust spilled over the curbs in dunes. Searching constantly for bathrooms, and only finding wrecked public restrooms with broken sinks, holes in the floors, and no doors on the stalls. Usually flooded, too: major grossness.

I would guess these were anxiety dreams. Certainly, being unable to locate a single restroom that had not apparently endured a surgical nuclear strike is enough to inspire anxiety: especially when you wake up and realize you really to need to go to the bathroom and frantically leap out of bed. I’m proud to have, so far, always woken up when the toilets have been just too horrible to use. Someday, though, I am sure, I’m going to fall over the damned cat, or fail to wake up before I realize I’m still asleep. Either way, I’m going to wet myself.

The starting point for this intellectual desert was a troll in my comments section. I’ve had them before, and I am sure I will have them again. This one, however, just gutted me. I had a panic attack when someone sent me a kind note from this site – just seeing that it came from WordPress was enough to produce nausea and flop-sweat. That’s when I realized how badly the wretch had hurt me. It was just a lucky blow that landed on a weak place, but it did for me for the longest time … it was complete despair. I felt like Kage was newly dead, I hadn’t mourned her or healed at all, and the entire last 8 years was just one huge sucking morass of wasted time.

So what have I done instead of writing? I’ve read. I’ve slept. I’ve taken up modest exercise, and can now walk short distances without recourse to my cane. I’ve battled diabetic nerve complications – not in my feet, of course, where most people get them; I have less-common symptoms, like gastroparesis. That means that one’s stomach muscles stop moving. It’s due to damage to the vagus nerve, and is a bitch to treat. You are simultaneously hungry and painfully full, constantly nauseated and afraid to eat. Soft foods  are recommended, and that really makes one feel like an adult …

However: one of the things the troll emphasized was that I complained about my health far too much, which is probably true. Sometimes, to plead my case, I do like to pass on the weird things that happen to me, just on general principles. Did any of you, Dear Readers, even know that anything short of a stroke or curare could even stop peristalsis? I sure wasn’t …

Anyway, all that is in the past. I am physically better than I was. I am emotionally better than I was. And Kimberly (who has never stopped nagging me to write through all this dark time) pretty much gave me an ultimatum today. I’m afraid she’ll stop feeding me, or – worse! – stop making me morning coffee. And my dear friend Steve Skold also gently reminded me today that I really need to get back to writing. And since Steve also often feeds me and makes me morning coffee, I figured the pair of them warning me simultaneously constituted a serious poke from Fate.

So, if anyone enjoys the ensuing blogs, you may thank Kimberly and Steve. And yourselves, all of you who sent me gentle notes and made me feel safer about sticking my head up again. Any obnoxious crap is, of course, entirely my own fault.

Anyway. Here I am again. Time to pick up the pieces, my shield and sword and my dropped big-girl pants, and get back to work.



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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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