Apr 10 2014

Na na na na na na na na



Robin: “Could I please have a glass of water?”
Me: “Sure, here you go.”
Robin: glug glug glug
Me: “Hey, whaddya say?”
Robin: “You should say thank you to ME for protecting the city.”
Me: “Oh, you’re right. Thank you, Batman!”
Davy: “ME TOO.”
Me: “Thank you, Batmans!”

(Batman pajamas courtesy Pops and Mo. Thanks Pops and Mo! Although to be fair, you should really say thanks to Robin and Davy and Sol, for protecting the city.)

Apr 7 2014

Goin’ To the Blog Hop

So I’m participating in a “blog hop,” which is a thing bouncing around various writer’s blogs where we all answer the same four questions about how we approach the process of writing. I was tagged by Rhonda Parrish:

Rhonda Parrish is driven by a desire to do All The Things. She has been the publisher and editor-in-chief of Niteblade Magazine for over five years now (which is like 25 years in internet time) and is the editor of the forthcoming World Weaver Press anthology Fae.

In addition, Rhonda is a writer whose work has been included or is forthcoming in dozens of publications including Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast and Mythic Delirium.

Her website, updated weekly, is at http://www.rhondaparrish.com

You can read her answers to the questions here. And here’s mine!

1) What am I working on?

Right now I’m actually working on collage illustrations for my next kids’ book, If You Meet A Dinosaur. This is new territory for me because visual arts aren’t really my medium. However, I have a clear idea of how I want the pictures to look and it doesn’t actually seem to be beyond my technical capabilities, so I’m plugging away at it.

On the writing front I have a couple of different manuscripts that I’m about 10,000 words into—one’s fantasy and the other’s sci-fi. I actually can’t tell at this point if either of them are really going to “work,” though.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hm, that’s a tricky one. Most of what I write is urban fantasy, although I do also dip into sci-fi or pre-industrial fantasy settings. In urban fantasy, I would set myself apart from the glut of “shifter” books and their ubiquitous love triangles and align myself more with what Neil Gaiman calls “magical city” books—works that are set in real places and aim to tell you something about the character of that place by spinning fairy tales around it.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Because it’s what I like to read! I have always been hugely drawn to fairy tales and mythology—from lots of cultures, but Irish folklore forms a particularly large part of my imaginative landscape. I love everything from the Táin Bó Cúailnge to Lady Wilde, and I love modern writers who draw from that well in their own stories. In modern literature I am almost exclusively an SFF genre reader, so that is the natural shape that my narratives take.

4) How does my writing process work?

Well, currently, it works poorly. In theory I subscribe to the “just put your butt in the chair and bang out a thousand words a day” school, but in practice I cannot do this while I’ve got small children at home. So instead what happens is that I’m only writing when I’m gripped with a fever of inspiration—and inspiration strikes rarely.

Recently I’ve gotten a couple of short stories written, because I can get those down on paper before the first rush of excitement fades. But novel-length projects require discipline, structure, and long-term commitment. Right now writing isn’t and can’t be my first priority, so my novel manuscripts are languishing.

I am pretty much okay with this. For the next year I’ll keep doing what I’m doing—short stories, maybe kid’s books, and whatever slow progress I can manage to make on the novels. And year after next I’ll have one morning a week where there’s no kids at home, so hopefully that can be my writing day.

To keep the blog hop going, I’m tagging two of my favorite writers: Zen Cho and Mary Borsellino. Here are their bios:

Zen Cho was born and raised in Malaysia and currently lives in England. She mostly writes speculative fiction, with the occasional foray into romance. She has published short stories and novelettes and has a novel forthcoming. Her novella, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, is available on Amazon and Smashwords.

Mary Borsellino is an indie punk writer from Australia. She has a bunch of tattoos and a tendency to get passionately involved with things she believes in and loves. Her latest book, Ruby Coral Carnelian, is a rich, engrossing fairy tale following three students on the run from cruel sorcerers.

I totally look forward to seeing their answers!

Mar 30 2014

Darwinian Landscaping


(Photo by Sam)

So this is what our front yard looks like right now—do you like my lawn gnome? I had the bright idea that if we got some boulders and dropped them around the yard, it would magically transform our “patch of overgrown weeds” into a “wildflower rock garden.” Accordingly we traipsed off to the rock store, loaded up the station wagon with some nice big ones, and heaved them into the front yard. I gazed around at the results and said, “Yeah, we’re gonna need more rocks.”

Here is my approach to landscaping: Every fall, when the rains start, I buy a few plants and I put them in the yard. Then I do absolutely nothing to help them. I don’t weed, I don’t fertilize, I don’t water. Usually I put a little rock next to them, so that when I come out the next time I can easily spot whether or not they’re dead yet. When the next fall rolls around, if the plant is dead, I put something else in that spot.

I call this “Darwinian landscaping,” and the amazing thing is that it works pretty well. I mean, obviously a lot of plants have died on me. But so far we’ve got some native sage, gooseberries, and manzanita that are thriving; two rosemary bushes that are going like gangbusters; some very happy and bee-covered lavender lining the walkway; a native penstemon that looks like it’s gonna pull through after all; a fuschia bush that probably won’t; and several low-growing mountain lilacs that I have high hopes for. And weeds. Lots and lots of weeds.

And you know what? The weeds–especially the weeds that make pretty flowers, and attract butterflies and bees–are welcome to compete. I don’t know why a patch of oxalis with its cheerful yellow (and edible!) flowers should be considered any less desirable than a violet or geranium. It’s not a native plant, but then again, neither is my lavender. So long as the oxalis can thrive without water, fertilizer, or pesticides, it’s welcome in my weed patch wildflower rock garden.

But we are gonna need more rocks.

Mar 24 2014

Happy Birthday Baby!


I can’t believe Sol is already a year old!

We didn’t have a big party, but I baked a plate of brownies and we stuck a candle in one, and after dinner we all sang “Happy Birthday.” His brothers helped him blow out the candle. He also got some cards in the mail, and seemed pleased by that—I think he was generally aware that a special fuss was being made, and that he was at the center of it. He’s pretty comfortable with that state of affairs!

Mar 12 2014



We got to see my baby nephew Luke in Portland last weekend—he was the sweetest little thing, with his small kitten cries and his little scrunchy fists. As ill fate would have it, though, I started to develop a cough on the drive up, so I heroically refrained from holding the baby, lest I pass on my germs. It was so hard!

I did get to chat with Masie about just how taxing it is to be the primary caregiver to a newborn. This is one of those things that “everybody knows,” so it’s hard to have a conversation about it except with people who are actually currently engaged in the process—because if you’re not severely sleep-deprived then you tend to forget just how debilitating it can be. There’s a relief in talking with somebody who really knows how difficult (as well as how rewarding) babies can be.

Although my baby? He’s not a newborn any more. In fact, compared to his cousin, Sol is great big hulking bruiser. Here he is enjoying the “science playground” at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry:


The other kids enjoyed it a lot too, but they were too busy zipping around for me to get good photos.

Now we are home and trying to settle back into our daily routines, although everyone still has a cough and I’ve got a mild case of pink-eye on top of that. Coming down sick over vacation is so annoying, and yet I suspect it’s not accidental: in college I used to always get sick whenever I went home for break. It was right after finals, so I’d always been stressing out and not getting much sleep in the weeks before. I think under those circumstances the body holds up as well as it can, and then as soon as you feel like you can rest and relax, you break down. I dunno. It’s my theory.

Feb 24 2014

Upcoming Anthology: “Fae”

Remember that short story I was telling you guys about, the one that kept getting the “good” (i.e. personalized and encouraging) rejections? It found a home, and will be included in the upcoming anthology Fae from World Weaver Press. I’ll post more when I have a release date—right now all I know is that it’s coming out in the summer.

World Weaver Press is a small publishing house so the payment is pretty nominal (a crisp ten-dollar bill and a copy of the book when it comes out). On the other hand, their contract is really humane: they ask only for non-exclusive publishing rights, which means that I can (for instance) use the story if I decide to self-publish a book of short fiction. They also have a built-in clause about rights reverting to the author after the anthology goes out of print. I think that’s super ethical but unfortunately it’s far from standard in the industry: I’ve heard lots of horror stories about writers being unable to get their rights back after big publishing houses consigned their books to the dustbin.

So there’s pros and cons to working with small presses. But I have to say, all my dealings with World Weaver Press have been great. The editor sent me her slate of proposed edits to the story, all but one of which were obviously good changes that made the prose flow better. In the one instance where I disagreed with a proposed change, I explained why but told her that I would let her judgment carry the day: she decided to let the original phrasing stand. So it’s been a really good experience so far, and I’m looking forward to reading the other stories in the book.

Feb 3 2014

Book Review: Ancillary Justice

So I pretty much stopped reading books, when I abruptly fell down the rabbit-hole of depression. But I’m doing better now—not only reading again, but also writing—and I wanted to tell everyone about one of the most exciting sci-fi books I’ve had the pleasure to read recently.

Ancillary Justice has a ship’s AI as its narrator. Although actually it’s a bit more complicated than that, because the AI is housed in a human body—a tribute exacted by a conquering interstellar empire from one of its colonized peoples—and there’s strong hints that some of that person’s erased mind still influences the AI. It’s a fantastically nuanced portrayal, at once believably alien and heartbreakingly human. There’s also plenty of action and space-intrigue and murder and skulduggery, which makes the book fun, but it’s the quiet moments when the AI struggles to parse human gender cues, or carries on a subtly catty conversation with a space station, that make it special.

I liked Ancillary Justice so much that I started following the author’s blog, and it’s been really delightful. Here’s Ann Leckie on fanfiction:

It may seem premature. Presumptuous, perhaps. But I have reason to consider now an appropriate time to post my official feelings about fanfic of my writing.

I’ve given this a lot of consideration. I know it’s a topic that can sometimes be a bit contentious, and so I spent some time writing and editing my statement very carefully so that it fully conveyed my thoughts on the matter. Here it is. Please read it over carefully:

Ann’s Fanfic Policy:

You kids have fun!

I also felt strongly enough, when I read on her blog that some reviewers were criticizing Ancillary Justice for being “not all that significant,” to weigh in myself. Ancillary Justice is a book that exists in conversation with other books. It has a lineage. Specifically it belongs to a tradition of science-fiction books written by women that tackle the subject of gender by disembodying it. What does gender mean for a spaceship? What does mean for a culture where bodies themselves change regularly? Behind Ancillary Justice there’s The Left Hand of Darkness and The Ship Who Sang and other books too—and this doesn’t mean that Ancillary Justice is “insignificant,” just because it tackles a subject that has been addressed before. That’s like saying that every book where a young man grapples with a complicated relationship to his father is insignificant, it’s already been done.

Oh, but nobody would say that, would they? Because men and their daddy issues or their coming-of-ages or their midlife crises, those are timeless and ever-fresh. It’s only when women start to talk about gender that suddenly we’re “insignificant” when we write a book that’s knowledgeable about, that speaks to, the ones our literary foremothers wrote. So I wanted to say: Ancillary Justice is a very good book. And it’s a significant one as well.

Jan 26 2014

Day at the Beach


Photo by Sam!

Jan 18 2014

Haircut Day!

Sam snapped these photos of the older boys with their freshly clipped ‘dos:


robin hair

They always look so much older after a haircut!

Jan 16 2014

Six-Year-Old Jokes

Q: What does a person eat? A question?
A: POOP! Hahahahahah!

Q: What does a poop go in?
A: Your stomach! HAhahah!

Q: What does a person have ears for?
A: Hearing! What are you laughing? You could hear other ears. I could hear my own voice. Your voice is nice. Zombies are not real.