Flat Tire At The Crossroads

Kage Baker  wanted her life to run a certain way. She worked hard at getting it that way, and she didn’t like changes to the things she had painstakingly established. No one really does – but not everyone labours with the determination and success Kage did, to make it come out the way they envision it.

She spent a lot time setting things up just the way she needed them, to live and work successfully. Somewhere in her teens, she envisioned spending her life in an Embassy – someplace politely but firmly fortified and subject to no laws but her own, where sovereignty was so completely guaranteed it didn’t even need to be displayed. (Though she flew a few flags and hung a few signs out anyway.)  “When we grow up, the Embassy will be a totally cool place,” she used to tell me. “We’ll keep our own hours and never call anyone to tell them where we are, we’ll eat ice cream for breakfast and Chinese food every week. We will make art.”

And we did. It was such a smooth and effortless segue that I never realized how odd it was, how fortunate we were, until I was well into my 50’s.

One night we were coming into Pismo from San Luis Obispo, on a soft spring evening where the dunes out at Point Conception were elongated into carven pillars by the powers of atmospheric lensing and mirage; where kelp beds turned the coves below us purple and red and bronze in the late light, and egrets walked on their surfaces like Egyptian gods. And I looked to my right into the infinite West and suddenly knew that this kind of beauty and glory did not come to anyone easily.

We are so blessed! I yelled out the open window. And Kage laughed and agreed, and we took the long way home – past rich people’s houses where we intended to live one day, when Kage sold a book to the movies, and there were rainbows all over our living room from the sunset through her prism-set  writing awards. Life was glorious.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said it out loud, because Kage was dead within the year. On the other hand … we were insanely happy and privileged to know it: and she may have died anyway, so why not enjoy what you have in that precious moment when you realize you have it?

Dear Readers, I’ve been suffering from a dreadful concatenation of griefs, fidgets, crochets, pyschoses (some of them even my own) and mental muscle spams this year. PTSD (whatever you want to imagine that stands for; I’m not picky), profound depression, constant loathly respiratory infections, and especially horrid writer’s block. The SPAM comments on this blog site have all been telling me that 1) I need a Russian girlfriend; or 2) I need original content on my site, and really should stop re-printing other people’s writing … which indicates pretty clearly that the spammers are just sending me boilerplate, and haven’t even bothered to read what I write. It’s hard to blame them too much, since I haven’t been writing, but it’s still rude.

Too many changes lately, and all the wrong kind. I have laboured mightily these past 7 years to rebuild the walls of my Embassy – with great and loving help from family and friends, too; I’m not alone! – but suddenly I feel besieged. Hell, I feel like everyone is besieged, and I’m running around madly making bricks with inadequate straw and shoving the resulting mud pies into holes in the walls. I want a shining sword, a war cry and an heroic stance, and all I have is an aching back and mud under my fingernails …

So: there’s my problems. I wrote a lot on my writing holiday in Pacific Grove; then I came back and it all seemed like complete crap. I feel like I wrote some enormous captions for pages with no pictures on them. There is no there, there. No illustrations, no plot – just footnotes, and I got the numbers wrong on them, too.

Kimberly tells me, kindly and patiently, to put on my writing hat and just write. Kage appears in my dreams and yells at me furiously to do the same. So I’m trying to go back to some basics, some things that worked when I was young and desperate to make the words come out lucidly – when there was so much to say I mostly gibbered, and had to learn discipline just to make them into sentences. Now I can tell there is a lot there, but I can’t – get- AT – IT.

So, first: discipline – in anything, really, just some form and structure. Stop reading even the good news sites and write something, even if it’s stream of consciousness. To this end,  harking back to my adolescent lust for clean paper and glorious inks, I have laid in some interesting blank notebooks; some have pretty covers. Some have weird and marvellous binding methods. Some have ribbons in ’em. I’ve also indulged in a set of disposable fountain pens in literally a dozen different coloured inks. My teen-aged self would be hysterical with delight:  also,  having to fight off a slavering Kage to keep this bounty for myself.

My agent says Hungary is moving along, and she is about to take on Tor for me, and the agency (which is in an grandfathered private house in a National Park in Pennsylvania) is surviving the insane, extreme weather of the East Coast. Things are alive. I’m gonna hand write more. I’m gonna start some stuff over. I’m gonna submit a couple of tiny stories I have stashed away to tiny online magazines that I have found. Movement!

Last night, I wrote a few lines in purple ink in a clean new notebook and it was … really neat. I have a brand-new violet Buke to play with, too; time to get it some peripherals of its very own, as I will have some Conventions this year. I have Mullah coffee, and Girl scout cookies, and 2 Hostess lemon fried pies, and I can breathe through my nose again.

So I may be stalled a little, but I have a plan! I’m not in a ditch, I’m in a crossroads – and I will get across it even if I have to get out and walk.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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8 Responses to Flat Tire At The Crossroads

  1. Tom says:

    Had a recent significant reversal, myself. Not as multifaceted as yours, but notable. I’m finding restarting very difficult. Perhaps colored ink is the key!


    • Kate says:

      Tom – I have found that coloured ink never hurts, and can frequently help. It brightens up the day, and makes doodling much more interesting, as well. And the new disposable fountain pens are wonderful! They are not so fancy as to be scary, but their line is incomparable more elegant than a mere ball point. Plus, in a pinch, you can tattoo with ’em. Kage carried a tiny green “GH” beside her knee cap to her dying day.


  2. buggybite says:

    Spammers? Grrrr. Where are they? Let me at ’em. How dare they? This is the only blog in the world that I never miss. It’s great. It remembers Kage and allows us who didn’t know her to get to know her, without giving her the heebie-jeebies. The bonus is, we get to know you as well. Your own adventures and insights are funny or thought-provoking, and we share your downs as well as your ups. I enjoy this blog so much I’d pay to keep reading it. I can’t believe people give you a hard time. Where is our species’ collective heart? And brain? Grrrr….


    • Kate says:

      Oh, I don’t mind the spammers usually. They’re just trying to make a buck, and were raised with no manners. It’s when they so clearly have not even looked at my stuff that I get mildly annoyed. I mean, I don’t need a girlfriend amd it’s easy to guess that – statistically, with a female name and a blog about my SISTER, and at my decrepit age, I am not a great candidate for romance. And while my content is not always stellar, it is at least original! Even when I write drivel, it’s my own drivel.

      But thank you, Buggybite – you are one of the things that keep me going!


  3. Lynn says:

    A green pen Would brighten up the day – and remind me that our grim, wet Left Coast weather and the floods and the mudslides and the destruction will soon pass and Spring will pop up greener and more fragrantly than usual. I will hie me to Michael’s after work.

    I think most people have been in a funk, even a depression, due to the weather over the past month. I don’t remember a winter that has changed my mood this much in years. Yesterday was the first time I saw sun in what seems a very, very long time and I found that I missed it more than I realized.

    Mother, you are not alone, just more able to express it than most of us.


    • Kate says:

      Well, Lynn, I do whine more! And I use fancy words and sophisticated punctuation (she said modestly). But really, remember how much fun those things were in high school? Pretty pens and coloured inks are a genuine mood lifter. Does anyone else remember those stubby ball points that came in pink and purple and yellow, with ink that smelled like jelly beans? Just no end of fun.


  4. Kara says:

    Does it help or hinder to know that you have readers out there in the ether who wait hopefully for the awesome continuing adventures of Neanderthal cyborgs and absurdly cute extinct animals? ‘Cause you do. 🙂 Hope that helps.


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