We Haz Farm!

Or, okay we will haz farm.

But, like, soon.


If you’ve been following along, you know that my polyam/chosen fam has been hoping to A) get a place big enough for all of us to live together and B) get such a place on enough acreage to get a small farm going. But our projected timeline was to have finances sorted out enough to start looking for a place sometime 4 or 5 years from now.

In late January, an acquaintance on the Fediverse approached me and asked if we’d talked about the farm he was trying to sell.

We hadn’t. I know about the farm, and had made sad noises over how there was no way we could get a mortgage yet, and moved on. Turns out, he and his fam are willing to offer rent-to-own while we build up our credit and such, and possibly an owner-financed mortgage depending on how things work out. And it’s in our budget.

We’ve been hashing things out, he and I and his wife (mostly I and his wife, actually), and last week Michael, Dilip Numetor Amelia Chetana Waller, and I went to see this farm and check out the surrounding area.

The place needs some repairs, which owners are willing to do before we move in. Works out because it is better for us to move over the summer, when the kids are out of school.

At this point, we have a verbal agreement, but paperwork still needs to be signed and a few details hashed out. So things may still fall through, but we and the owners are moving forward on the basis that we have an agreement and we will be moving in sometime this summer.

Is much ecstatic-ness and squee-ing and ‘who gets which bedroom!!!’

All our plans are completely disrupted, of course. But in the best way possible.

The one sad is that Ericka won’t be coming with us. Literally a handful of days before the current owner approached me, she told us she had decided to go back to Texas. But she will be welcome to visit us and who knows what the future will bring?

Black History Reading List

I generally don’t say much about Black History Month because I figure it’s a time for me to shut up and listen. But on the subject of shutting up and listening, I figured I’d share a my black history reading list. Hot take: white folks who aren’t at least familiar with the titles and authors on this list probably don’t know enough about black history and experience to be talking about it.

Narrative of Sojourner Truth

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B duBois

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Why We Can’t Wait by Dr. Martin Luther King jr.

Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Mary McLeod Bethune Papers or anything by Bethune

Assata: An autobiography

My Grandfather’s Son by Clarence Thomas

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

If you can, start reading these or other book about black history and experience by black authors. If not, at least take some time to Google the titles and authors you aren’t familiar with and read a bit about them and their work.

Brief Updates on Lots of Stuff

It’s been a overwhelming month. Lots of stuff, both good and bad. Here’s the round up of what’s been going on with my various life goals.

My Bookshelf: I’ve started getting back responses from beta readers for Polyamory and Kink. As usual, the folks doing beta reads have some great comments and suggestions and pin pointed some areas I missed.

Old ‘Woman’: I’ve made some real progress in reliable self care. The 99 Coping Skills list is an awesome you should check out if you need self care ideas. I’m also doing better at staying in touch with family and friends and making progress on compiling my to-read list instead of just having a pile of books in various places. Also… last week was the anniversary of my mother’s death. Lots of thoughts, probably make a blog post next week.

Generational Home: There may be some very big news on this in the next few months. Dilip Numetor Amelia Chetana Waller, Michael and I will be going on a trip the end of February, and if all goes well our plans for living together will jump ahead several years.

The Farm: See above paragraph. If the February trip goes well, I’ll share some details when we get back. My indoor gardening is on hold until we know for sure what’s happening.

Cuil Press: Once Upon a Green Rose is out on Amazon, and for the first time we enroleld a book in Kindle Unlimited. We really don’t like the whole walled-garden thing Amazon has going, but we also want to make our books accessible and, you know, at least break even. So we’re experimenting. Green Rose will be in KU for 2 enrollment periods, then we’ll pull it and put it up on other booksellers.

As always, drafts of my books are available on Patreon.

So if you want to read Polyamory and Kink before next summer, become a Patron.

Shabbat Story Time — Generational Home

Sometime in December, I decided it was time to start doing a regular storytime with my kids again. But I knew I didn’t have the spoons to do a nightly storytime. So instead, I started Shabbat story time.

At 7:30pm on Shabbat, Kid 1 and Kidling and I would gather on the couch with a couple of story books and I’d read to them. After the first week, I decided that I wanted to have a chapter book that we read some each week, in addition to the short stories the kids picked out.

So I pulled out Pratchett’s Wee Free Men and began introducing the kids to Tiffany Aching, Second Thoughts, Granny Aching, and the Nac MacFeegle.

The Blessing of Modern Technology

After the Shabbat candles comes Shabbat story time.

In spite of the long distance, Michon and I have always been able to maintain a close relationship. And since we met him, Dilip Numetor Amelia Chetana Waller and I have mostly done the same. But building relationships and family with kids long distance is a challenge of monumental proportions.

Sure, Michon and Kid 2 and Kidlet will (hopefully!) be moving down here over the summer. But however well the Kid 2 and Kidlet connected with me and Michael a year ago, without a car we haven’t been able to visit since last winter, and a year is a long time for kids.

But they remember us (and Kid 1 and Kidling remember and ask after both the other kids and Michon.) I wanted a way to keep all the kids connected to each other and the long distance adults in the family. It occurred to me that Shabbat story time might be the perfect opportunity.

Granted, it meant breaking my observance of being offline for Shabbat, but it is also a mitzvah to spend Shabbat with family. So…

Now at around 7:15 every Shabbat evening, I make sure that the sound input on my computer is set to headset, but the output is set to the speakers. Then I call on Michon on Discord and Kid 2 gets to pick one of three stories from the Standing on One Foot collection. (We’re almost done with that collection. I’m thinking Aesop’s Fables next.)

Sadly, we don’t have a way for Kidlet to pick out stories for me to read. He’s just not verbal enough for me to read off a selection to him and let him pick out a story. But he can listen, at least.

Then I read three or four short stories and a chapter from Wee Free Men. Well, usually a chapter. Last week the chapter was twice as long as usual and we had tech issues, so we stopped halfway through the chapter to continue next week.

Looking to Shabbats Future (and Future)

Michon and I have talked about how we can continue this evenings once they move down here. We’d already been talking about my household going to stay with them every weekend (leases allowing) once they move down here. So we’ll be able to continue Shabbat story time in person, instead of over the internet.

When we do, it won’t be just me reading. I’ve talked before about the role of traditions in keeping a family together across generations. Shabbat story time has all the ingredients for a good traditions. It’s not dependent on any specific person or people — anyone can listen and anyone can read (or tell stories that aren’t in books!) It makes people feel good. It’s easy for people to take part in (just show up! [or call in!]). And it can be adapted to new situations (move it to a new place, switch languages, move from reading to reciting, many options!). It’s all-ages friendly if you pick the right stories.

So, in the near future, we’ll continue this new tradition in person. And we’ll start adding in other readers, so story time doesn’t get intrinsically tied to me being the reader. If it continues to work as well in person as it has so far, then we’ll have a solid start on a new tradition. One that I, at least, can easily see myself enjoying for the rest of my life.

This post is part of the Generational Home topic.

If you are interested in fiction about chosen family and creating a generational home, check out my Patreon.

Planting Life in a Dying City Preview

A lot has been happening and I really should do a family or farm post, but I just don’t have the spoons. So instead, you are getting to see the first chapter of my bronze age low fantasy novel Planting Life in a Dying City. This is still a draft, so expect typos, misspellings, etc.

Lefeng: The Wave

A shaft of sunlight lanced through the forest gloom highlighting another empty snare. Lefeng shook eir head as ey pull up the small game snare and examined the grass rope. Somehow no one had seen that break in the canopy over the summer. They were lucky they snare hadn’t been sun-touched.

Ey coiled and stash the snare-rope it in eir pack with the dozen others ey had pulled earlier that day and the pair of lemurs that had been caught by two of the traps. Ey had been surprised to find that many after [sibling] ran the trapline two days ago. Lefeng was just as glad that ey had forgotten to pull the snares. It gave eir a chance to get into the foothills on eir own one last time before the winter started.

Ey moved with a ground-eating lope to the next snare, pausing on the way to pull leaves from a low growing mint plant to munch on and moisten eir mouth. The air was dry in the foot hills, away from the influence of the ocean. But ey only had a few more snares to pull and then ey could head home.

Tomorrow, the adults and near-adults like Lefeng would start packing for their winter travels. They’d follow the old ways, camping for a short time to gather food and supplies, then travelling on when the area they were in started to become depleted. Each year they travelled a slighty different path, giving the land time to recover.

The ground shook, making a stone under eir foot move. Ey fell to the ground. “Stagnant water!” ey cursed. That was the third shake today. The first one had been strong enough to bring down some of the young saplings. Earth shakes were a part of life. As the [priest] liked to remind them, even the earth is alive in it’s own way. But three in one day was unusual.

Ey stood and cursed again. Eir right ankle hurt when ey put weight on it. Checking the ankle showed that it was only swelling a bit. And it had held when ey put weight on it. Ey hobbled up to a straight sapling a short distance off the trail and used her handaxe to cut the sapling down and strip the branches from it. With this rough-made walking stick ey carefully continued down the trail carefully.

Ey had no intention of staying in the village this walking-season. And a bad injury would keep eir in the home compound this winter with elder, the young children, and some of the grandparents. Two of Lefeng’s siblings who were courting other family’s in the village and would be staying with their prospective-spouses most of the winter.

That was the last thing Lefeng wanted. Ey was planning on marrying-in and spending the rest of eir adult life the way ey had spend eir years so far. And GreatWave, a child of a fishing family who had been courting Lefeng and eir siblings would be coming with them this walking-season. Ey was hoping to get some time with eir outside of the crowded confines of the compound. So no more falls!

A short time late, ey had finished pulling the snares and was headed home. The sun was setting—ey’s injury was making eir late. But there was still light to see by.

A half-mark from the village ey reached the lookout clearing. The hill top had been cleared of trees to give a clear view of the sea. The fisher families used it in storm season to watch for storms gathering on the horizon.

There were no storms today, but the sea looked strange. More like a mud puddle a child had jumped in, swirling around and full of debris.

Lefeng licked eir lips and looked harder. Ey had the best far sight in eir family, and while ey had never seen the sea like that, some of that debris looked familiar. Like the scraps of wood and sail that washed up on shore sometimes after a boat was caught out in a storm or wrecked by the one of the bright days.

GreatWave had gone out with eir family boat that morning. Ey told Lefeng ey wanted to feel the sea under eir one more time before spending more than half the year in the mountains.

Caution forgotten, Lefeng pelted down the trail, skidding and sliding in damp leaves and muddy loam. A short time later, ey burst out of the trees at the edge of the village and stumbled to a halt.

Everything was mud. Mud and dead fish and ragged stumps of wood where walls and homes had been that morning. Here and there, a lump sprawled in the mud, lumps covered with fabric and often trailing banners of waterlogged hair.

Lefeng stared, trying to take in what ey was seeing. It was like the entire village had been washed away. Step by step ey crept out into the mud. It sucked at eir boots and clung to eir legs.

The first body ey came to was the elder, TallDeer. Ey’s face was unrecognizable, but somehow ey was still wearing the silly bracelet of nuts and dried berries ey had worn for nearly twenty years. Lefeng sank into the mud next to eir and gently touched the bracelet. Lefeng had given it to eir, a chilidsh gift from a young child to eir favorite grandparent. TallDeer had promised never to take it off.

Now, Lefeng removed it for eir. “Journey long, Baba. Until I join you at the meeting-fire.”
Tears pouring down eir face, Lefeng forced hirself to stand. Somewhere, there had to be someone still alive. There had to.

When dark fell, Lefeng, retreated into the shelter of the trees and made a small camp. Ey forced hirself to eat, having learned well the lessons of the trail. Never go hungry when there is food, you don’t know when you will find more.

With dawn, ey returned to the remains of the village.

No one had survived. Most were simply gone, no sign remained that they had ever existed.

Where eir family’s compound had once stood were a few stumps from the fence and the wooden frame of the house. Scattered throughout the village where a few–a very few–things ey recognized as once belonging to eir family. Ey gathered everything ey could, both from eir family and others, that might possibly be useful.

The next day, ey spent gathered the bodies together on a pile with as much wood as ey was able to move. It had been over a year since ey had started a fire without a coal or spark to work with. And the wet wood didn’t want to burn. But the effort of getting the fire started kept eir from really thinking about what ey was doing.

About what ey would do next.

It was possible that others from the village had survived, but no one had been off on a long journey. Only the far-walking families regularly ever went further than a half days travel from the village, and they had all been here, preparing for the winter journeying.

Even the fishing boats returned each day except for their yearly trips up the coast to the big city. Anyone who hadn’t been in the village when… whatever it was happened should have returned by now.

Which meant Lefeng was completely alone.

Finally, the fire started. Ey sat upwind and watched it burn. Saying and singing the prayers that were meant to be said when the dead were buried, but there was no way ey, alone, could bury them all before scavengers became to bold for eir to chase away.
The fire burned long into the night and ey watched.

Find more of Lefeng’s story — and the rest of eir new family — on Patreon.

Once Upon a Green Rose — Queer Romance Anthology

Cover for Once Upon a Green RoseCuil Press’ next (and last for now) anthology, Once Upon A Green Rose later, is now available for pre-order.

If you like queer and queered romance (and aromance) you’ll like this collection of stories the RWA wouldn’t consider romance.

As I said, this is our last anthology for the moment. We hope to start doing anthologies again in the future, but we don’t have the spoons to do anthologies and novels, and we want to spend our time and spoons now focusing on novels.

Also, our money. Anthology authors need to be paid a flat fee. Novel authors get paid a percentage of the profits on the novel. Our last anthology didn’t anywhere near pay out. So if by chance you really like these anthologies, tell your friends to buy a few copies.

What Is Etiquette? — Autistic Guide to Etiquette

As promised, I’m starting a side project writing about etiquette for my fellow autistic folks. Before I get into it, I want to thank Judy (An Autism Observer) for pointing out two other etiquette guides by-autistic-people-for-autistic-people. Real Social Skills is no longer updating, but there is some good stuff in the archives. Improve Your Social Skills by Dan Wendler has solid advice on navigating different social situations, even if he really needs to hire a new web designer.

What I’m doing here will be rather different from what you find on either of those sites — or most etiquette guides. Instead of talking about what to do in different social situations, I am going to talk about the hows and whys of etiquette. When we’re done, I want you to understand why of most social situations.


What Is Etiquette?

To start us off, we’re going to take a few minutes to talk about what etiquette is. I’m willing to bet you got a lot of ‘look people in the eye’ and ‘don’t interrupt’ and other rules of etiquette that drilled into you. But I doubt anyone ever sat down and explained what etiquette is.

Truth is, most of the people trying to teach you ‘how to behave’ didn’t understand either. They learned etiquette the way they learned to walk. They never needed to stop and think, “Okay, I need to maintain my balance on one foot while moving the other foot forward. So tighten this muscle and relax these muscles and make sure I shift my center of gravity /this/ way…”

They don’t understand how they walk. They don’t understand how gravity affects walking. They just do it.

And they don’t understand how they socialize or the etiquette rules they follow.

Okay, I’m rambling.

Etiquette Is Social Custom

Etiquette is basically the customary way people interact. If you are following etiquette, you are behaving in that customary way. If you don’t behave in that customary way, you violate etiquette.

Why does etiquette matter?

Etiquette gives everyone a ‘playbook’ for social interaction. Everyone following the same etiquette is like a group of people playing baseball together. You can only play baseball if everyone uses the same rules. If someone runs out and yells “Fore!” the game screeches to a halt. No one else on the field knows what is going on and how to respond to it.

(Yes, I grew up in a sports family. How could you tell?)

Etiquette is different everywhere

Because etiquette is simply customary behavior, it is different everywhere. And it changes over time. What is polite today would have been rude 50 years ago. What is polite in the US is rude in the UK or Japan or Nigeria.

So I’m going to be talking about etiquette in the US. But even in the US it varies.

When I was a kid, I read the book ‘Shiloh.’ I noticed that, like in a few other books I had read, the main character called his parents ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’. I figured this must have been another one of those rules everyone else knew and I didn’t and resolved to start calling my parents ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’. That resolve lasted less than half a day. The first time I called my mom ‘Ma’am’ I got in trouble for ‘mocking’ her.

I’m sure you’ve had your own introduction to the idea that what’s polite in one place is rude in another.

Etiquette experts can lay down “rules” for the socially inept. However, these “rules” change all the time as culture and society change.

Cultures create customs.

This includes etiquette. According to pop culture, propriety was the key to etiquette in Victorian England. Anything could be done as long as it was done properly. A similar concept from Japan is on or face. In the shogunates of Japan, all interactions were built around not damaging each other’s face. In the US today, the key concept is equality.

The idea that everyone is equal is the foundation of day-to-day etiquette. This is why in the movie Titanic we liked Molly Brown, who doesn’t look down on Jack. Instead, she treats him as her equal, helping without condescending. Unfortunately (in my opinion), this focus on equality has evolved into a need for same-ness. Drawing attention to another person’s differences is among the heights of rudeness. A custom many immigrants and international visitors are baffled by.

But how does ‘equality’ become a set of customary behaviors?

By combining respect and friendliness.

People are only both respectful and friendly with those they see as equals. Respect is offered to an equal or a superior. It isn’t offered to an inferior. Friendliness is offered to an equal or an inferior. Friendliness implies closeness, a connection with the other person. Offering friendliness to a superior is seen as rude because you are presuming a closeness to someone who is ‘above’ you..

So putting respect and friendliness together implies equality.

*For the not-sports inclined, golfers yell “Fore!” when the hit the ball to warn anyone ahead of them on the course to get out of the way. Why “Fore”? I have no idea.


Okay, that’s it for now. As I said, this is a side project so it’ll update irregularly. See you next time!

Polyamory & Kink Draft Is Finished! (and what I’m doing next)

With a week to spare, I finished up Polyamory & Kink. I am currently doing one last read-through, but by the time you read this it should be off to the folks who volunteered to beta-read.

I’m tentatively looking at a July publication date (but this is me…). Unless things go really off, I should be able to have all the editing and what-not done by the end of April. Formatting and such usually only takes me a week. So if I pushed I could have the book for sale sometime in late Spring. But I don’t want to push this time.

I want to give myself time to fight with Amazon KDP without stressing about a very-near deadline. I want to see if I can get a few review copies out to folks who might be interested. And I want to have it all done a month a head of time so there’s no more of this horribly stressful “OMGOMGOMG I’M RUNNING OUT OF TIME” like with my earlier books.

BUT! Unless something goes wrong, the ebook will be available to my Patrons sometime in May. (Hint hint…)

So What Next?

Fiction

Now that P&K is in edits, I’ll be switching my main writing focus to fiction for a while. Specifically, Planting Life in a Dying City, my bronze age low fantasy novel of strangers across three generations coming together to build a new family.

As you can see in the little progress bar over on the right there, I’m about a third of the way done with the draft for Planting Life, and if I can keep up the writing pace I’ve managed for the last few months (again, this is me, so that’s a big ‘if’) then I should have the rough draft finished by the end of June.

Because of the way I write fiction, my ‘rough drafts’ are a bit more polished than most people’s. Basically, I tend to do most of my structural edits while drafting. (When you re-write the same story 3 or 4 times, you tend to catch most of the big problems sooner or later.) So I’m *hoping* (and this is definitely a stretch) that I can also get the editing and such done for Planting Life in about six months and get it out ~ January 2021.

PoP Guides

In the mean time, I’ve got the next PoP book lined up. Abuse in Polyamory is in very early draft and outline phase at the moment. It’s technically on my ‘active projects’ list now that P&K is done drafting. I’ve got weekly goals for both writing Planting Life and editing P&K. Any time left after I meet those goals each week will go to Abuse in Polyamory.

Ideally, I’ll meet my writing goals for Planting Life and finish outlining Abuse in Polyamory at about the same time, at which point Abuse in Polyamory will become my main writing project. Goal is to publish one year after P&K. Wish me luck!

Long Term

My big writing goal has always been to reach a point where I could have three projects solidly underway at any given time — one being drafted, one being written, and one being edited and prepared for publication. I may (fingers crossed) finally be at a point where I can reach that goal. If I can do this — and maintain it — then barring the random life hiccups that are sure to happen soon or later, I can start releasing a solid 2 books a year, one non-fiction and one fiction.

And I will be a very happy author.

5 Books to Understand Me

I usually don’t do list posts, but this idea grabbed me. 5 books you’d give your partner to help them understand you. Idea came across my twitter feed from @Nicole_Cliffe@twitter.com and I immediately started figuring out what my five are.

You might have seen me share the list on Twitter and Fedi, but I thought it might be fun to share a bit about why I picked these five.

My 5 Books

The Sabbath by Heschel
Their Troublesome Crush by West
Planting Life by Mahler*
Mother of Demons by Flint
Deerskin by Mckinley

The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel

Heschel’s work is usually found on any list of ‘books to read to learn about Judaism’. If the list is for ‘Judaism in the 20th century’ it will be at the top.

The Sabbath explores the relationships between time, space, and humanity, with an emphasis on how Judaism is a religion of time, and the Sabbath a counterweight to the daily-life emphasis on controlling space. I think it would help a new partner understand not just my relationship with my faith, but how I have come to approach and view many things in daily life.

Their Troublesome Crush by Xan West

This novella about an autistic enby exploring a new kinky relationship with xir metamour was the first time I was ever jealous of a fictional character. Not for that specific relationship, but for the queer, Jewish, kinky, polyamorous family they were part of.

If I could create my perfect family, it would be very like the family in this book.

Planting Life in a Dying City by Jess Mahler

Okay, yeah, it isn’t published yet. Or even fully written. But it’s my book so I can always share the draft, right?

Anyway, in some ways Planting Life, even more than I, is my exploration of the meaning and importance of family.

Some years ago, I read a piece by Lois Bujold about how each story in the Vorkosigan saga is a meditation on a different aspect of parenthood. I think like the theme of parenthood for Bujold, the theme of family will be foundational to just about all of my longer fiction. But I think Planting Life conveys that theme and the meaning behind it better than anything else I’ve done so far..

Mother of Demons by Eric Flint

I really debated this one or A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett. But where Tiffany Aching helped me better understand myself, Indira Toledo shaped and largely reflects how I see and understand the world. I’ve already got 3 books about who I am, a look at how I perceive the world around me is a good one for folks who are going to be in my life.

For all Flint’s flaws (and he has several) he has a wonderful way of making clear the interconnections of history, culture, and belief. Learning to see those connections, largely through Flint’s work, has been a major formative factor in how I relate to the world around me.

Deerskin by Robin McKinley

Like it or not (and I don’t), trauma has had a major impact in my life. Deerskin is not just a beautiful story, and a heartrending exploration of trauma and the path of healing. It’s also the book I turned to year after year when I needed a reminder that the trauma is mine, but the sin and shame and guilt and hatefulness is not. That those things belong to the ones who traumatized me. That I deserve to reject those things, to live my life free of them and happy with who I am — even if the trauma keeps me from running as freely as I once did.

I highly recommend it to anyone struggling with their own trauma and healing.