Little Things

Kage Baker tried her best to ignore the little niggling attacks of life on her time and energy.

Large portions of her schedules were designed to resist the effects of the tiny problems, the ones that crowd into your time like evil rodents from hell and nibble on you. You don’t die from them, but they are so uncomfortable and annoying that they’re worse than dying – they are pointlessly time-consuming.

She hated that more than anything, I think. Even Kage could bow to the inevitability of being derailed by a death, or a natural disaster, or catastrophic violence. Of course, not much else was acceptable as a long-term excuse not to write. She carried pens and notebooks everywhere; she had them packed in our bug out bags in case the nuclear power plant 15 miles away ever went hot. We always had candles and food and such, for times when the winter storms took out the roads. And it took her own death to put a stop to her writing – even then, she was dictating to me the day she died. And of course, she left me with all sorts of projects to work on when she was gone.

One of the major things she avoided, for fear of having her writing energies utterly blocked, was reading her rejection notices. Some she eventually read, after they had aged and been translated over and over by me. Some, Kage never read at all – although she knew what they all said. She just preferred to hear about them through the medium of my translation, like staring at the Gorgon over her shoulder in a mirror.

I have found that I can cope with my own directly. However, those hordes of tiny gerbil-fanged problems that run through all our days and gnaw on our feet: those drive me up the wall! I can be unhinged, rendered  mute and incapable by enough dead light bulbs, socks with holes in them, and slow-loading web sites in one morning. Paper cuts have more sway over my nerves than earthquakes. Running out of half and half is disastrous.

The last few days have been one of those times when the hordes of itty bitty problems are mounting over the walls like miniature zombies. It all culminated yestreday when the Check Engine light came on in the family car. It had to go to the mechanic; and since my Cruiser is still benched, we had to rent a car.  Enterprise Rental was not its usual efficient self; they sent a full-sized pickup truck to give me a lift, and I could only get into it on my hands and knees. (The driver watched in fascination but offered no help.) Their office was full of space aliens and morons, most of them of staff. Film crews closed off half the streets into and out of my neighborhood. Metallic balloons were drifting into the power lines, dogs and cats were lost and wailing all over, and there were rumours of a body found in the River …

On the plus side, I rented an Impala. On the negative side, Kimberly and I were unable to fill the vast trunk with guns and ride off to fight vampires. And then I got a rejection letter.

See, Dear Readers, in the interests of accomplishing something – and maybe luring some of the more manic energies of my mind back to duty – I have been working on all sorts of juju to keep the creativity flowing. And it’s been working! I sent off a tiny story; sent it off twice this week,  in fact – the first place assured me of an answer within mere days, and they kept their promise, too. They said NO.

They also sent a nice list of reasons, which will eventually be very helpful. But in the meantime, I am wondering at their complaint that they couldn’t figure out the characters’ motivations. This puzzles me: one of them wants to conquer the world, and the other wants to stop him – which I thought was obvious, but … I suspect that  I failed the cut partly was that they did express a preference for all stories submitted to have a vegan tone, and one of the main plot points in my story is beer; there is also mention of flocks and herds. My protagonist is a bit of a feminist, but it was not the right kind of PC, I think.

Still, their other points – while they need some puzzling out – may well be valid. Time to brainstorm a little with Kimberly, and then see what else can be done. It may well be I need to have someone actually say I am here to subjugate humanity! and have someone else respond Oh no you’re not, progeny of a deleted expletive! Subtlety can be overdone, after all.

In the meantime, though, I am driving an Impala. Writing is coming along, the Academy Awards are on tomorrow night, some more nice rain is maybe coming. I got a pretty new shower curtain, and subscribed to a fruit and vegetable delivery system. The little black cat is healing nicely, and can now gallop through the house toward her daily yogurt and fish oil dose more like a young panther than she has been in months.

So, little good things accumulate too. As Kage would advise, time to hold fast to warm slippers and purring cats and pizza in the offing; time to bask in the glow of sweaters, and beignets from Sprouts, and the wonderful ease of my new back-lit keyboard!

There are still a story, a novelette and novel out there with diverse editors. Who knows what will come in on the next tide?


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Busy, Busy Day

Kage Baker loved those days when the energy was free and flowing – nay, not just flowing, but leaping round her ankles as insistently as a beagle puppy begging for a walk. And she didn’t even like puppies.

But she loved that energy, the good stuff, that gets you jumping from bed in glee and excitement, the white fire rising in your bones and your hands aching to pull stories from the aether! She liked it best of all when it was biddable, and would consent to be still just long enough to be leashed. Otherwise, you risk spending the day running madly from unavoidable task to irresistible distraction; and while the running itself is a joy and delight, you get so much more done if you pick a path and stick to it. Over the hills and far away is fine as directions go, in a greeting-card, nursery rhyme kind of way – but what you really want is a map you can read and all the omens unciphered, and a clear road to the Field We Do Not Know.

Last night I spent a happy evening re-writing a little story. It’s been jittering on the back burner of my mind for some time, and I finally got it into a shape I like. It actually resembles what I dreamed one morning, when the energy woke me up with An Idea … and it’s still barely over 5,000 words, which is, like, the most concise thing I’ve ever written. (I don’t do concise easily.) And today I compiled it into some magazine’s extremely picky format, and I submitted it!  And while I would really like to sell it –  the mere fact that I submitted it successfully and got an acknowledgement of it and have a file with a special name on it on my hard drive and all that Grownup Writer stuff has left me with a wonderful feeling of success.

I have Accomplished Something. I have Completed a Task. I have quite legitimately Checked An Item Off The List. (In purple ink, no less.) I’ve fallen into a wild Victorian over-abundance of  capitals as well, but that’s just because I’m excited.

It’s amazing how much happier I feel today! I even went shopping. I hate shopping. But I got a wee wireless mouse for my new Buke, and a new keyboard for my desktop. I needed it because the keys on the old one were sticking, and also I had worn the right half off the L key – which made it look like the semi-colon, which is not only my favourite punctuation mark but the key next to the L … so a lot of nonsense was getting typed. And! I found a wireless keyboard, thus eliminating another tentacular obstacle on my desk, as well as a keyboard that is back-lit! So now I can type without turning the lamp on at night, and that will reduce the complaints from my parrot roommate.

It’s hard to write deathless prose when an unseen gravelly monster’s baritone is muttering never shall be slaves, NEVER SHALL BE SLAVES next to your elbow.

Also, with a wireless keyboard, I can put the keyboard away in the cunning slide-out drawer that seems to have been made for it, but which it never fit on because it had a tethering cord. And that means I can hand-write in my lovely notebooks, with my glorious inks, right on my desk. So I did things with all that energy, and I did things that will let me do other and more things that require energy; and if all is not well with the world – it’s a lot better than it has been.

If I’d gotten my aged fundament in gear a month ago, I might have felt better, sooner. But you can’t summon beagle puppies  out of thin air, Dear Readers; no, not though you may be ever so eager for a good run with them … So flewed, so sanded, and their heads are hung With ears that sweep away the morning dew, Crook-kneed, and dew-lapped like Thessalian bulls, Slow in pursuit, but matched in mouth like bells*

Still, some mornings it’s an easy jog to that wood outside Athens. And oh! such a joy to spend the day there!



  • Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare


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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.

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Nevertheless, She Persisted

Kage Baker was a staunch proponent of universal suffrage.

As I have previously reported, she admired Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Annie Besant, Katherine Russel (Viscountess Amberly) – all those determined and ferocious ladies, and their crews of equally determined and ferocious ladies. They lived in every country on Earth – Lichtenstein, Puerto Rico, Iceland. Did you know that? Most of them, especially in America and the UK, were also fighters for many other vital civil rights causes – presaging the recent modern cry that Women’s Rights Are Human Rights!

As Kage was wont to point out, in the grand old days of the suffrage movement, it was damned dangerous business. It’s all very well to chain yourself to the railings at Parliament or the the local State House – popular activities in both Britain and the East Coast of the US – but it didn’t take the local constabulary long to figure out where to get chain cutters. And then the ladies were dragged off to prison; where they were beaten, branded, force-fed when they went on hunger strikes, denied food and water when they didn’t, and all too often killed.

Civil rights promotion has never been an easy career. And with all this, fewer than 60% of Americans of any gender voted at all in the 2016 election. It’s freaking discouraging, Dear Readers.

But they did win, those ladies with their Rational Dress Reform and white petticoats and red, white and blue sashes. So now, in the ever-so-enlightened 21st Century, we laud them cheerily and happily, and regard them with the affection we give to especially feisty grandmamas.

But I can’t help but wonder … what was it like in the evenings, coming home tired and bruised and maybe soaked through from fire hoses (yep, that goes way back, too), to darkened houses – because your maid came with you to the protest, and your husband went to his club or his bar or his mother’s in a snit … did they wonder if it was ever going to work? Did they wonder if it was worth it? Did they eye the laudanum, the butcher knife, the husband’s fowling piece, and ponder who might be the best person on which to use those instruments?

Since I presume our assembled ancestresses were human (mostly, anyway), I’m pretty sure they did indeed get the blues. It must have been so hard, so painfully hard, to lose So. Many. Times. Over and over, and who’s to say when or if it will work? Faith is one of those weird things that you absolutely have to have to fight this kind of fight: but which will do you no good at all in finding armies, wielding weapons, surviving attacks. It’s hard, in the cold darkness, to cling exclusively to faith and stubbornness.

I, like many of us, Dear Readers, have spent the day besieging Heaven (or at least the aether around Washington DC) with calls and emails begging for the defeat of Jeff Sessions. Who was nevertheless confirmed as the most wretched Attorney General since John Mitchell. In the previous days since January 20th, I have importuned my Congress-critters daily, begging them to refuse Tillman as Secretary of State; to refuse Bannon his place on the National Security Council; to refuse Devos control of our educational system.

Nevertheless, they have all been confirmed.

Just to make my own several days more horrid, I have also been fighting off a deep and pestilential respiratory infection. It is finally retreating, and I am almost feeling good. But I’ve had little energy the last week. While I have spent it all in writing, it’s been writing to the Feds and begging them to grow some spines and brains. A few times I’ve varied the routine by sending off similar letters to Sacramento, whose turn in the barrel I anticipate coming up in the near future … not that I am all that sanguine about them, either, since the member of Brown’s staff in whom I had the most faith (his late Corgi, Sutter Brown) has been called back to God for re-assignment …

So, I’m depressed. I admit it. I have been sick, tired, drippy, achy, fevered; and every day has ended in coughing up amazing new colonies of malign bacteria; and seeing the even-more malign bacteria in Washington work their evil will on my poor country. But, you know what, Dear Readers?

There was a little hummingbird, who made her nest just outside my kitchen window last month. She, and it, were exquisite little miniatures of silver moss and snowy fluff. But in the last big storm here in Los Angeles, the wind and torrential rains took her nest and whirled it away. She hadn’t laid her eggs yet. I hoped desperately that maybe she would try again, as the weather warmed up. And this morning – there she was, back again, working on the edges of her new nest.

The storm struck her, hard. Nevertheless, she persisted.

So can I.


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Kage Baker could cope with most impediments to writing – except a bad cold.

Me, too.

The cold that descended on me over the weekend has only grown worse. My nose is no longer running incessantly, but that’s only because my lungs have filled up. I have two half-inflated, poorly maintained aquaria in my chest cavity and seem to be hacking up wet hamsters.

Under the influence of Nyquil, I have managed to survive the nights – but woke up this morning dreaming about two little ghoul girls living in a big house and garden in the Hollywood Hills. They were names Take and Treat, and they liked to play with ribbon wands. There may be a small, weird story in this.

I’m gonna chug some more Nyquil (the poor woman’s absinthe) and see if I can dream of other interesting things … maybe things in trousers …

Unless full fathom five my bones lie in the morning, Dear Readers, see you all tomorrow.


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January 30, 2017

Kage Baker spent her last January 30th as the belle of a small but lively ball.

Most of her family and some friends came to see her, in her big wooden bed in Pismo Beach, in her pirate-themed bedroom. She was happy and eager to see them all – she’d come home to die, and she knew it; but she thought she had a few weeks, and was looking forward to a long party leading up to that time.

This weekend was the first Visiting Hours weekend. Kage was eagerly anticipating having people in and out, saying good bye, remembering good times, making a leisurely farewell. Her sister Anne was committed to coming up every single weekend, with her daughters as much as possible; various boon companions were making reservations to come and see Kage. Wayne Fisher, an old and much-beloved friend, showed up unexpectedly midday, having driven like a madman down from San Francisco, as was his habit. He took a room in the horrible hotel across the street from us – but he spent all the day with Kage, which delighted her.She was at peace, and even excited to see folks.

The tide was going out by about 4 PM that afternoon. Just as the sun set on that January 30th in 2010, Kage complained of  new pain. She said she was tired, and asked for a little morphine, which I gave her; and then she settled into her pile of pillows and blankets. She told us she was much more comfortable, as Wayne and I tucked her in.

And that was pretty much that. People wandered in and out for hours afterward, all evening, all night and into the wee hours of the morning. Her sister Anne sat and talked to her, her nieces cuddled up to her on the big bed and told her all kinds of things. But by midnight, it was obvious that Kage was not going to wait. Most of what everyone was saying was, It’s all right, it’s okay, you can go now.

At this point – I can barely recall where I was most of that evening. In the kitchen, preparing plates and snacks; in the living room, moving bits of Kage’s juju around her desk. I watched the air pressure rise in her barometer, I remember; it would be fair the next day. I heard the tide come in through the night, and then begin to recede again after midnight. It was receding fast, aiming for its low at 3:30 that morning, when Kage finally stopped breathing. Naturally, she went with the ebb.

It’s the time to leave, after all.

By then, Anne and the girls were asleep, exhausted. Just Wayne and I were with Kage. I don’t even remember how I got there  – when I came in, when the others left … just the three of us sitting together, as we had sat together in so many dark Inn Yards at so many, many midnight Faires.

Today, I drove home from Pacific Grove. I spent a wonderful weekend with the patient and generous Neassa Skold, writing and giggling and knitting and reading one another political jokes and horror stories off our computers. Those things are all a lot easier when shared. This morning we had breakfast in one of Kage’s favourite restaurants, and parted ways: Neassa drove North to her home and I drove South to mine.

Along the way … well, in Lost Hills, my phone bricked. I had it duly and lawfully in its hands-free holder when apparently the power cord blew its zap and began sucking the battery dead. The phone blinked several weird colours, then curled up into a metaphoric fetal position and died. My Kindle was unable to find a signal. And of course, my Buke is as dead as the fabled dodo, and just as much use … I had to drive the last 2 hours home with no maps, no instructions, no music – like a savage!

I also managed to catch a cold over the weekend, and was hacking up my lungs most of the way, Plus, my nose was running like a faucet, and all I had with me were 7 – count ’em, 7 – Starbucks napkins. I made them last all the way to Burbank, though I did give a little thought to stripping off my T-short and re-purposing it as a handkerchief … but I was desperate to get home and collapse in my own bed, so I kept going and dripping.

But I made it before dark! And Kimberly got me hot soup and peach sorbet and decongestants and green Ny-Quil and a box of Kleenex all for my very own. I still feel like a squashed egg, but at least I am being squashed at home.

Kage Baker died at 1:15 AM on January 31, 2010.  I wrote that on her web page 7 years years ago or so. This weekend, I wrote several thousand words on new stories; tomorrow, I am going to talk to my agent (and Kage’s) about what is happening with “The Teddy Bear Squad” and Knight and Dei and the Hungarian offer for The Women of Nell Gwynne’s.

The tide turns, and turns again. You must keep your eye on it, or it will knock you flat on your face into cold salt water. And the midnight ocean tastes like tears.

I’ve had more than enough of tears.

Sleep well, kiddo.

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It Died With Its Word Processor On

Kage Baker once had a habit of not turning her programs off before she exited them. This resulted in a lot of lost updates, new work, and sometimes entire documents – her preferred method being to yank the portable medium right out of the drive before it got a chance to remind her to save.

She was eventually cured of this when she accidentally ditched half of Iden when she was getting ready to submit. Two days cursing in  Kinko’s will teach you a lot … you can tell this was a long time ago by the fact we had to go t0 Kinko’s with our floppy disks.

Eventually, she got calmer and safeguards got better and media got sturdier, and there no more accidental deaths. However, the computer can always go south on you.

My Buke is dying piecemeal. It actually came on this morning, and I was thrilled! I was also lulled. I answered some mail. I sent some stern advice to my Congress-critters. I pulled up KUSC Classical online, for background while I worked on stories. All was flowing and serene. There were some oddities – like the random black bubbles floating over the screen; which made me suspect the touch pad was losing its mind. And it did demand an entirely new security sign in from me, probably because it heard me threatening to replace it.

Still, for an hour or so, we were managing. And then, in the midst of a Saint- Saens piece, the Buke made a faint, sad popping noise and went black.

It may come back to life. The story I was working on does exist on my home computer of course, and I can remember what I wrote just before the crash. And thumb drives are sturdier than the old 5-inch floppies Kage used to yank out and throw across the room like square Frisbees, so the other documents on it are probably already right.

In the meantime, I can compose on my Kindle. That is because my Kindle is actually a Kindle Fire and it does all sorts of things … it also has an infintisimal virtual keyboard, so I write very slowly. But it’s all right. I can write.

And my Buke died in action, fulfilling its destiny. Which  is some consolation.

In the meantime, I went online and found a brand new HP laptop. It’s reasonably small – 11 by 8 inches, about the size of a sheet of paper or a hard-cover book. It has a real keyboard, tons of SSD, and is much more electronically muscular than my previous Buke. It costs more than $15.00, but that is probably a good thing, don’t you think?

Also, the one I chose is violet. VIOLET, Dear Readers. I could not resist. It will arrive on Friday. I will get a larger steampunk suitcase for it, and all will be well.

I shall recycle my Buke with honours. And not buy any more Fry’s bargains.

In the meantime, Pacific Grove continues lovely, and Neassa has been out taking photos – she is a grand photographer. When not struggling with my writing tools, I am happily adding new words to several stalled stories. I’ve had to work a little harder to manage to work at all, but, hey – I’m a grown up. I can do that.

And we are both working on a new knitting project – Phrygian caps. Those used to be called “freedom caps”, during the American revolution. Also in the French ones. They are the front-floppy hats you see on Greek heroes and Mithras, too. I shall post a picture when I get the first one finished.

They are appropriate for these days, I think. Freedom is always good – freedom from fear, freedom from insanity, freedom from misbehaving electronics. We just have to work a little for it.

But we’re grownups. Right, Dear Readers? We can do that.










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