I am who I want to be (and that surprised me)

A couple of days ago there was a lot of talk on Twitter about autistic masking, and one corner of the discussion focused on how hard it can be to find yourself after you’ve masked for so long you forget who you are under the mask. During that discussion, I became consciously aware of something that I had been slowly recognizing for a while now.

Okay, if you missed the backstory, in January I did a series of posts about life goals. One of those posts was When I Grow Up I Want to Be HER. I acknowledged at the end of that post that,

It embraces things which have always been core to me–family, connecting with and learning from people, taking care of folks I love, music, being a home-body, not liking in-person socializing. But it also challenges me to grow, not into something different, but into a more capable, confident, comfortable version of who I am now.

But I still saw ‘her’ as someone I needed to grow into, and I realized, that’s not it.

I already am ‘her’

Or at least, I would be her, right now, almost no growing required, if I had the resources and health to do everything I’m already trying to do right now. I am the center pole of my family. I am in contact with friends across the country as often as my health and sanity allow and the only reason I haven’t pursued a closer connection with some folks I know across the globe is our mutual health and spoons makes it difficult to stay in touch beyond an occasionally ‘glad you are still alive.’ My home is as full of books and music and fresh baking and everything else I want as I can manage. I even got a bread machine so I can always have fresh bread, whether or not I have the sanity to manage the kneading/rising cycle myself.

Everything I wrote about wanting to do or have — I am doing and do have to the best of my ability right now. And if I had the resources (primarily money and health), I’d be doing even more.

So… yeah.

Growing into me

The biggest differences between who I am and who I want to be mainly come down to experience and confidence. And, well, you get confidence from experience.

It’s the first time in my life that I can say, I am who I want to be. I still have a lot of healing and growing to do. But I am the person I always want to grow into. That’s…

Seriously awesome and kind of scary. Because that means it’s time to stop working towards a future self, and start focusing on being who I am today to the best of my ability.

Or, to pull out an old cliche, time to spread my wings and fly.

It’s gonna be epic.

In, you know, a down home, introverted, fresh bread and butter kind of way.

Adventures in Zucchini Bread

We got a couple of zucchini from the foodbank last week. Initially, I had images of salads, stir fries, maybe breaded and deep fried… there are so many things you can do with zucchini. But two things came together to change that plan. First, I was still recovering from burn out and just didn’t have the energy to stand over the stove. Second, we were out of bread. So yesterday afternoon I popped on the internet to find some good zucchini bread recipes.

I found a few that looked promising, in particular, one yeast bread meant for bread machines and one quick bread. Based on the amount of zucchini we had (all of it starting to get a bit spotty), we went ahead and made both recipes. Unfortunately, I, ah, kinda forgot to read each recipe through in detail before we started.

When meant that my network on the Fediverse got to see my rant midafternoon yesterday:

zucchini bread rant
Seriously!

While I was measuring out a ridiculous amount of sugar, Michael was adding grated-zucchini-gone-yellow, rosemary, and yeast, to the bread machine.

Eventually we got everything finished and started cooking. The quick ‘bread’ finished before the yeast bread (obviously). I let it cool a bit then dumped it out of the pan. I will say that it baked well, nice solid loaf that came out of the pan cleanly and held together well. But it looked way more like carrot cake than any bread I’ve ever eaten.

Michael got the first slice and declared it delicious, and rather like pumpkin bread. (I’ve never had pumpkin bread, but took a quick look at the recipe. Another ‘bread’ with a ridiculous amount of sugar, clearly meant as a snack or dessert. I repeat THIS IS NOT BREAD!!!!) Kidling and I split a slice between us and… yeah. neither of us took more than a bite each. For me, the taste was okay, but the texture was just impossible. Don’t know what kidling’s issue was, but kidling eats just about anything we put in front of her, so her not liking it was a thing.

Michael finished the last of our slices, the rest is wrapped in the fridge to be shared with friends and family so Michael doesn’t end up eating the whole thing on her own.

The yeast bread didn’t finish until late and just got wrapped up until morning when I decided to try a slice for breakfast.

My first thought when I sliced it open was ‘am I having a memory blip?’ This zucchini bread just looks like bread. No sign of zucchini or rosemary. Just a regular slightly-lighter-than-usual whole wheat bread. I want the flavor as ‘natural’ as possible, and I need to go food shopping anyway, so I keep it simple, some butter slathered on top and some raisins on the side.

OMG. This bread.

This is just moist enough, somewhere between fluffy and chewy, with a subtle savory flavor that…. UMMM.

I can probably give this bread to Kid 1, who is notoriously picky, and he won’t even notice it isn’t ‘normal’ bread. I can use it as sandwich bread, toast, bread crumbs, for dipping in soup, all the ‘usual’ bread stuff. (Which is exactly what I wanted.) And it’ll actually be better. Not ‘practically eating air’ with store bought bread. Not ‘so chewy you get your exercise eating’ with regular whole wheat bread. And better tasting than either. Just… yum. *happy sigh*

According to the recipe site, it you figure the cost of the ingredients, this zucchini bread is $2.49 per loaf. Which means even with the zucchini and rosemary and sesame seeds (and those last two are pretty damn expensive per pound) it’s still cheaper than store bought. Not as cheap as a regular whole wheat loaf (for comparison, a basic whole wheat bread from the same site is listed as being until $2). But still cheaper, while being healthier, better tasting, and easy to make.

Win-win-win.

*happy sigh* Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some bread to eat.

I Hope I’m Not Starting a Dumpster Fire

As mentioned elsewhere, I’ve got that collection of short stories coming out this week. One of those stories, A Hole in the Pack, has a situation with very ambiguous consent.

At the end of the story, I invite readers to consider whether the… initiation ceremony David goes through to enter his new family is consensual or not.

Now, I have strong feelings about consent and the complexities of it. And even stronger feelings about how we don’t actually talk about the ins-and-outs of consent nearly as often as we should, instead throwing around sound bites and assumptions lacking heavily in nuance.

So… for folks who read/have read A Hole in the Pack, I invite you to use the comment section here as a discussion space. Share your opinion, respond to other folks, let’s see — not if we can come to an agreement, but if we can come to an understanding of the many different ways to view this situation.

Obviously, comments will have spoilers. I’ll put up a comment with my take on the 31st.

Warning: Moderation may be erratic (due to spooniness), but comments will be heavily moderated.

  • Commenting is a privilege. This blog is my space and you are allowed access to comment at my discretion. If you have a problem with this, feel free to start your own blog with your own comment policy.
  • Your first comment must go through moderation before being approved. After this comment is approved, new comments will be auto-approved unless you give me reason to revoke your commenting privileges.
  • Personal attacks of any sort will be deleted and you will be blocked from commenting further.

You can pre-order Whips & Fangs on Amazon and elsewhere. If you don’t want to wait, you can read A Hole in the Pack now, by joining Jess’ Pack.)

With that said:

A Hole in the Pack Discussion below!

 

I Refuse to Be Futile

When I was a child, I used to dream about being the next Martin Luther King, Jr. The next Rosa Parks. The next Victoria Woodhull.

I was going to be a world-shaker, one of the people who refused to accept the horrors of the world and forced the world to change rather than changing to live within the world.

Over time, as I learned more about myself, and about the world, I accepted that this was one dream that couldn’t be. I don’t people well enough to be in the forefront of any movement, my anxiety and autism mean just taking part in a march, never mind leading one, would be impossible. And God knows I will never be respectable enough to be anyone’s flash point in this mad world.

So I turned my eyes to smaller versions of the same goal.

I would be a thought-leader in the polyamory communities. A writer whose fiction grabbed  minds and changed hearts. An online educator who helped people see and understand experiences and life-paths they had previously dismissed or denigrated. A homemaker who created a safe place for at least some of the people who have been chewed up and spit out by this world. A foster parent.

So many dreams. Some of them, I made progress towards, perhaps achieved in some small way. Many others are still on my to-do list.

But in all my dreamings, my hopes, my plans, my goals, there was one thing I never imagined I might be:

Futile


I have never written directly about politics on my blog or website. Indirectly, yes. The personal, after all, is political. I can’t write about being polyamorous, or bisexual, or non binary, or having trans partners, or disability, or mental illness, or poverty, or, oh, any number of other things I have written on, without there being politics lurking beneath the surface.

But as the ancient book says,

To everything there is a season.


I pride myself on my words, but words fail me.

How can I encapsulate the journey that brought me to this point? Where do I start? What do I say?

Because the truth is, that if you are in the US, and you follow politics at all, you know what this is about. Whatever your reaction, your thoughts, your beliefs, you can’t have even the most peripheral knowledge of what is going on in the US right now and not know. You’ve heard of it, seen the reports, had your own thoughts about concentration camp vs internment camp and who to believe in the ongoing political PR battles.

But, in the end it comes down to just four words:


Never again is now.


I have been tortured for weeks by one thought:

What will I tell my children?

Years from now, when they ask me what happened, when the ask me why, when they ask me what I did — what answer will I give them?

I cannot march. I cannot stand in blockades. I can’t even give much in the way of money.

But every time I find myself agonizing over this question, I find something else I can do.


Today, I am asking you:

What will you tell your children?

Years from now, when this is all over, what will you say?


If you disagree with me, and yet have continued this far, thank you. I know it is a hard thing for many people. You have your reasons for feeling, for believing as you do. I’m not going to dismiss that. Or tell you that believing I’m over-reacting or exaggerating makes you a bad person. Politics have gotten so angry, so many people have been crying wolf, and it’s so hard to know who and what to believe.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this isn’t the next step on the road to genocide.* But I ask you to seriously consider something:

If I am wrong, what is the harm in taking steps to ensure that detained children have medical care, decent food, and decent shelter? Even if the effort is wasted, is the cost so very high?

If you are wrong, what is the harm in not taking those steps? Is the cost of being wrong one you are willing to pay?

History always has the best quotes, so I’ll borrow this one, said on the eve of a long ago civil war:

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

*Did you know that at first the Nazis only rounded up foreign Jews? Invaders, job stealers, disease carriers… do you know enough of the history to understand why the words used about (illegal) immigrants and asylum seekers are physically painful to those of us who do know it?

If you want to do something, but don’t know what you can do, here are a few things:

Call your congress critters and urge them to increase funding for immigration services.

Election year is coming up. If your congress critters or representatives are running, let them know that concentration camps and fear mongering are not acceptable in the US.

Donate to Raices and other groups that provide free and low cost legal services to asylum seekers.

Learn about the immigration process and share what you learn with friends, family, and on social media. (Did you know that an asylum seeker not only can but *must* enter the US before they can apply for asylum? “To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process you must be physically present in the United States. You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status.” — USCIS website)

Learn about the concentration camps and share what you learn with friends, family and on social media.

Contact your local government reps. Some states, counties, and cities have contracts with ICE. Urge your local government to cut any such contracts.

Get with the leaders of your church, school, company, etc, and see what your community can do to fight back.

Get out there and take part in those blockades, marches, and other in-the-wilds activism. Take an extra sign for those of us who physically or mentally can’t get there with you, but are there in spirit.


I refuse to be futile. I can make a difference.

So can you.

Whips & Fangs Cover Reveal and Release Date

(If you’re just hear for the cover and don’t care about the talk-talk, just scroll to the bottom.)

Okay, I should probably back up. This is probably the first many of you have heard of Whips & Fangs, and it certainly wasn’t on my project list a month or so back!

Several years ago, I had an old iteration of this website which had a subdomain, Whips & Fangs, where I shared kinky fantasy stories once a month or so. At the end of the first year, I took at the stories I had written, combined them into an ebooks and put the book out on Amazon and Smashwords.

At the time, we were homeless and I was dealing with several untreated mental illnesses. So I was never entirely happy with some of the stories, it was just the best I could do at the time, ya know? So I pulled the book, planning to edit and re-release when I had fixed some things up.

Except life hit me in the face again and I never finished my edits.

Goodreads calling

A couple weeks ago I got two messages on Goodreads, both asking about where folks could purchase W&F.

It’s fair to say my jaw dropped. Of all the books I’ve released, this one sold the worst and had almost not interest from anyone except a few close friends. I couldn’t imagine how one person had even heard of it, never mind two, never mind on the same day.

It turns out that Goodreads groups actually are good for authors? Someone (God knows who) recommended W&F in a Goodreads group, and now (according to the moderators who contacted me) at least a dozen people wanted to read it.

So… I went back and took at look at my edits. Turns out I didn’t have as much to do as I remembered. So I’ve been finishing up those edits, tweaking the cover, and getting it set up for pre-order on Amazon and D2D.

Whips & Fangs Cover

Whips & Fangs Cover

Whips & Fangs will be out July 31st. (It may be available for pre-order in some places now, I’ve never figured how that worked.)

A knight captured and used by the lady he loves, but cannot serve…
A vampire and vampire hunter in a most unlikely relationship…
A man who asks to join a leather family–but the family in question is more than leather…
The crippled dragon who thinks he can no longer serve and the lady-knight who refuses to give up on him…
A maiden who gives herself to a fairy lord, but has no idea what she’s in for…

These and other kinky fantasy stories fill this book. Using the lens of fantasy this collection explores the many sides of D/s, from the unabashedly erotic to the most extreme of mental conditioning, and more. Enter the fantastical world of kink, and the kinky world of fantasy.

This collection includes non-con stories.

W&F 2?

I mentioned way back at the beginning of this post that I had kept that subdomain going for several years. I’ve got a bunch more stories that didn’t make it into this collection and currently aren’t available anywhere. I originally meant to release a second collection. If W&F develops enough interest, I might go ahead and do that….

Be Careful What You Ask For…

So, Ericka and Nana are settled in, mostly, and plans are apace for Michon, Dilip Numetor Amalia Chetana Waller, and associate kids, to move to the area before school starts. (Possibly later for Michon bc awesome jobs is awesome.)

Rewind a Bit

Anyway, while helping Ericka move, Dilip Numetor Amelia Chetana Waller* told me he was worried his tendency towards impulse spending would screw up plans over the summer. (Or words to that effect, anyway.)

Being the dirty minded kinky dom that I am, I’ve occasionally (ahem) entertained thoughts of Dilip Numetor Amalia Chetana Waller as a sub. My sub, to be specific. I haven’t said anything to him about these entertaining thoughts because the poor guy has enough on his plate adjusting to polyamory and how radically his family changed while he was out of the picture. Throwing kink on top of it seemed a bit much.

Plus, he hasn’t given any indication that he is interested in any kind of relationship with me, much less that kind of relationship. Or any indication that he is kinky at all.

Anyway, it did, um, occur to me that if he was my sub and agreed to findom than I would control the money and overspending or impulse spending wouldn’t be as much of an issue.

I took a minute to enjoy the idea and set it aside as ridiculous. Both for the above mentioned reasons and because findom has never really appealed to me.

Fast Forward to Now

Tonight, I gave Dilip Numetor Amalia Chetana Waller a quick call to check on progress before I (again) became completely nonverbal. (It’s been a bad week in general and a really bad week for communication.) He caught on pretty quickly about how badly I’ve been doing and at some point, after something he said made me giggle, commented on the goodness of being able to laugh.

Conversation continues, finding work in the area, apartment hunting, and the money stuff that comes up reminds me of those findom thoughts. Figuring we could have a good laugh over the absurdity together, I say, “On the subject of making me laugh, here’s a weird thought I had…” and I tell him.

And he takes it seriously!

Didn’t. Even. Realize. I was joking.

He counter-offered that he’s control the money at first, but if he screwed up — the first time he screwed up, I could take over. Even said I could monitor his budget and spending from the beginning so I’d know if he screwed up…

What the hell is a dom to do when someone she’s been having hungry thoughts about offers himself wrapped up in a bow?

I told him, “Okay, that would work, but, um, I was joking you know.” (As you know, because I spoilered, he didn’t.)

So… over the weekend (that would be the weekend before this post goes live, I’m writing this post early, as I prefer to) we’re going to have a talk about what findom is, what it involves, and why jumping in before he fully understands what he’s getting into might be a bad idea.

And I’m… still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor.

Is it too bad of me to hope that this may be a foot in the door for a broader D/s relationship?

*Yes, I am writing that name out, in full, every time. I almost never let myself be petty. But I’m making an exception this time.

When My Sexuality Can Be a Joy (possibly TMI)

I want to reach a point where my sexuality can be a joy. I want to be one of those old folks who has lots of sex and revels in freaking the younger generations with hints of the naughtiness she gets up to while they’re imagining her celibately puttering around the kitchen or playing parcheesi. (Which is actually a pretty fun game, but I’d probably be playing magic or Carcassonne.)

Two usually non-sex things are making that a challenge.

Sensory Issues + Sex = badness

The more common (and more annoying) these days is my autism.

I know, not one you’d expect to be causing sex problems. Relationship problems, sure, but sex problems?

Well, one of my major autism challenges is sensory issues. I hit sensory overload very easy, mainly because I don’t have the nifty ability NTs have to filter out ‘background information’. It’s worst with sound, but second worst for me is tactile.

And, you know, getting comes with quiet a few tactile sensations. There’s the various tinglings and warm feelings and wetnesses. And it just…

You know the recommended way to handle an autistic kid who has a meltdown? Remove or remove them from all sensory stimulation possible. Don’t touch if you can avoid it. Remove all stressors possible. You’re ideal is a quiet, dark area where no one intrudes until they are doing better.

How the fuck do I remove sensory stimulation being caused by my own body? It just ain’t fucking happening. Do it’s a negative feedback loop that can leave me a mess for days on end.

Yes days, because for some reason once I get horny it doesn’t go away until I do something about it. I have never found any equivalent of a long cold shower that works for me. And yes, that sucks too.

Trauma + Sex = badness

The second issue is PTSD/anxiety. This one makes more sense in broad strokes but the specifics are harder to describe. On the other hand, the specifics are no one’s business if I don’t choose to share them, so… anyway.

Yeah, sexual abuse means PTSD and anxiety can be major issues around sex. In fact, there were such major issues that at one time I didn’t think I had a sex drive. It turned out to be… more complicated than that.

Anyway, for whatever fucked up reason, (see above) being an anxious place or a bad-memory place or a “I feel like I’m a shit person” place doesn’t stop the horniness. It just makes it really unhealthy, where I feel like a dirty bad person for being horny, and a worse person if I do anything about it, and doing anything about it likely to trigger a panic attack, but again, it doesn’t go away and it’s another negative fucking feedback loop that fucks me up for days.

Progress Counts

It isn’t always bad. Actually, the more I’ve healed from the sex trauma, the more I’ve learned about my autism and how to handle sensory shit to avoid reaching the point of overload, the more I’ve been able to be horny, and do fun things with myself or my partners, and just… enjoy it.

I’m really hoping that in time I’ll be able to build on that progress and eventually the bad-horny times will be so rare they are noteworthy events and the good-horny times are the norm that I get to enjoy and to all the crazy sexy things.

Though, in an ‘irony wins’ fashion, the best solution I’ve found so far to horny+sensory overload is actually to go do all the sexy things as soon as I realize it’s happening.

Sexy Fun as Solution = Goodness

See, while we can’t filter out ‘background stuff’ many autistic people have found that a single, intense sensation can drown out all the sensory overload and give us some rest from it. This is actually the ‘why’ behind a lot of (though not all of) the self-harming stims some autistic people do. It’s also why spinning, spicy food, and weighted blankets tend to be popular with autistic folks.

And, done right, it doesn’t get much more intense that sexy stuff. (Especially if you throw in clamps, wooden horses, and those kind of fun things. Keep Wartenburg wheels and vibes way the fuck away from me thank you very much! Steady constant stim is what we’re going for here.)

This post brought to you by a sensory overload+horny morning fucking with my head. Very tight rope harness with crotch rope is my friend. Yup yup.

Planting Life in a Dying City: First Chapter (Draft)

That move I mentioned a couple posts back is happening this week and I didn’t have the time or spoons to write a blog post. So instead, here’s the first draft chapter of Planting Life in a Dying City


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 summer ended.

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 shor ttime 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 youngling 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 eirself 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 eirself 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.

I Climbed a Mountain… and Found Some Birds

Okay, not really. But I did get in a good challenging hike straight up the side of a mountain. The almost-last section of trail was a couple hundred feet across what I think was once a glacial moraine. It’s basically a long (wide) line of large rocks and small boulders running across and sort-of-down the mountain.

I’ve gone up that trail before but always stopped at the edge of the rocks. Yesterday I said ‘fuck it’ and just kept going. Shortly after the edge of the rocks the trail I was on ended at the Appalachian Trail.

Gotta admit, I looked at the A.T. and was tempted to just keep going. Didn’t matter which way, I just wanted more trail and more time on the trail.

But I told Michael I’d be hiking in the local nature center. It’s basic trail safety: you tell someone where you are going to be, because accidents happen and cell phones don’t always work on the trails. So I turned my back on A.T. and headed back down the mountain.

Maybe next time.

Birds!

First Encounters

Along the driveway to the nature center, I saw a bunch of blue-and-white (with the blue shading to black in places) birds sitting on a fence. And a couple of yellow birds with black wings flying away. So before I hit the trail I stopped in at the center (open for once — I usually go late in the day after it’s closed) to see if anyone know what birds those were.

I mentioned to the volunteer that I had been thinking of picking up bird watching again. I walked out with the names of three new birds (while she was showing me some tree swallows to confirm that’s what I saw on the drive up, a red-winged blackbird flew by) a check list of birds that folks had reported seeing at the nature center and surrounding trails, and a guide to which birds are likely to be found where.

Bird Watching On the Trail

Walking through the scrub of the lower-trail to the trail I wanted was frustrating. I heard birds everywhere squawking their heads off. But I couldn’t see them. Or if I could it was just a quick flash. Once I got on my trail and into the forest-proper, I mostly forgot about the birds and focused on the hike.

I paused a few times to look for particularly loud or near-sounding birds, which also let me pace myself a bit. (Which I needed. While I felt fine pretty much the entire hike, when I was almost back to the scrub I noticed my blood pressure was spiking. I don’t have high blood pressure, so this was unusual and a concern. On the up side, I clearly got my cardio for the day.) Most of the time I didn’t see anything, and I never saw any of the noisemakers I was looking for.

But one time when I looked up at just the right moment, I saw a scarlet tanager (male) fly by.

(It’s possible the yellow-and-black bird I saw driving up was another scarlet tanager (female), but given that the area was scrub and wetlands I’m betting on American Goldfinch.)

There was a bench I knew of on the short loop trail through the scrub, so I got off my trail again I looked for it and sat down. Resting gave my blood pressure a chance to come down as my heart got a break, and gave me a chance to look through the guide in more detail than the quick glance I gave it before hitting the trail.

Awesome Ending

My last, and best, surprise came at the very end of the scrub trail. A tiny bird, small enough to fit in Kidling’s hand, was ‘hiding’ in a small evergreen shrub. ‘Hiding’ because I could easily see right through the shrub at any point it’s limbs were so loose.

The bird hopped from branch to branch, dipping it’s tail every now and again. I slowed, taking a step every couple of seconds and tried to stay quiet as I did so.

I’m pretty sure it knew I was there, but it must have felt safe in the shrub because it stayed there, letting me get a good long look at it. It was brown on the back and wings, yellow on the stomach. It had what looked like white lines around it’s eyes, but in the shadow of the shrub might have been yellow. On it’s head, a red cap. It was the red cap that kept me looking so long. I wasn’t quite sure I was seeing it. But eventually it tilted it’s head in just the right way that I saw the cap clearly.

As I passed the shrub it was hiding it, still at a slow pace, it flew away.

Mixed up Identity

The volunteer at the nature center told me it was an ovenbird and was really excited about it. I forgot how much fun it was connect with other people who are excited about nature and talking about birds and trees, and that weird-melted looking bit on the one rock, what could have caused that anyway?

I got home and immediately started looking up the birds I saw, confirming my identification.

It wasn’t an ovenbird. It was a palm warbler. Apparently they are pretty rare in the area. Ovenbirds are the usual warblers with a redcap around here, which explains the volunteers mistake. But ovenbirds have a white belly and no eye flash. This one must have been migrating a bit late (apparently they usually migrate in early spring, which is the only time we usually see them here.)

I’m not sure I’m right in my identification. But everything I’m seeing is that red cap, yellow belly, eye flash, tail bob in scrub means palm warbler. And the ONLY other warbler with a red cap is the ovenbird.

So that was a pretty cool end to the hike.

Personal Win

I woke this morning without any of the stiffness or soreness I half expected after climbing over all those rocks. I’ve always known it’s my legs that are in the best shape for my body, but that still surprised me a bit. Might make that trail a weekly run for the cardio, and see what other birds I can find while I’m at it.

Remembering Myself

One important thing I realized from this hike, is that in becoming the Old ‘Woman’ I’m not just trying to do new things or strengthen the things I already do. I’m reclaiming things I had lost. I grew up bird watching through my grandmother’s windows, with her huge, old, falling apart Guide to North American birds usually open the page on chickadees and sparrows. I spent most of my teen years tromping through woods whether doing a proper hike or just rambling through a local patch of forest.

These are things that were always part of me, and I lost track of with the stress, time-loss, and struggles of adulting-while-poor.

I’m going to enjoy reclaiming them.

Jess Mahler’s Upcoming Books 5/13/19: #AmWriting

I realized that since re-starting this blog, I never shared what-all my active writing projects are. It’s probably time and past-time I do that.

At the moment I have 2 projects I am working on regularly and 3 more that I consider ‘active/backburner’. That is — I am keeping them in mind and will work on them when and as the mood strikes. They’re simmering, basically.

I have many many many projects that are ‘in holding’. They are projects that I reached of point of saying ‘no, this isn’t working;’ but think there is enough potential there that I might pick them up again in the future — or might not. (Probably not, if I’m being honest. But maybe.)

Polyamory on Purpose Books

Polyam and Kink

As I’ve talked about elsewhere, my next PoP book will be Polyam and Kink. It’s currently one of the two projects I work on regularly. I don’t actually know what the current word count is — I’m using this manuscript to experiment with eMacs and orgmode. I have to say, I really like eMacs for straight writing, but org mode is giving me headaches on the regular.

Because the writing is scattered across several dozen text docs all linked together through orgmode, figuring out the word count before I’m ready to pull it all together is going to be an absolute pain.

Abuse in Polyamory

Had a blog post about this last month, but tentatively planning for the next PoP book to be Abuse in Polyamory. At the moment, this is more the seed of an idea than an active project. I’ll probably start writing it when I get to the painful part of editing Polyam and Kink.

Jess Mahler’s Fiction

Planting Life in a Dying City

I need to work on this title. I want the final title to be something like this, but not sure if this is too long or not. *shrug*.

Anyway. I’m just past 29,000 words on this one.

I’ve thought of putting one of those progress tracking widgets on the sidebar, but I never remember to update them. So you’ll need to make do with blog posts like this every month or two.

Planting Life in a Dying City is a story of a group of individuals who come together to build a family in a bronze age society where if you don’t have a family, you are nothing. My blogs about generational families and nalbinding were referring to this manuscript. I’ve also got a Quora answer about the magic system that this world will have.

Space Werewolf

I don’t have a title for this one yet. It’s (as the working title suggests) a sci-fi novel with werewolves. (No, not science-fantasy. I’ve got a science-based explanation for having werewolves. It’s no less realistic than FTL drives. 😛 )

I’m pretty sure I haven’t blogged about this at all or discussed the details with anyone other than close friends and family. The two main characters are a werewolf who was is an undercover operative for the (Underground) Railroad and a human/ship entity who botches the werewolf’s op by ‘rescuing’ her.

This one is at around 19,000 words and has been backburnered since last fall. I expect it’ll move to fully active project soon.

Arranged Polyamory

What if, instead of dating and trying to find people to build relationships with, three lonely and lost strangers decided to make a commitment to each other and see what they can build?

At about 6,000 words, I’ve barely started on this one. I’m using it as an experiment in kishōtenketsu style narrative. One thing I’ve struggled with in my romance (and aromance) stories is lack of conflict. Conflict being central to Western-style story telling, but if you have two characters who are constantly in conflict and in a relationship, usually what you have is rather toxic… and I’m realizing that this could be a whole blog post on it’s own, so maybe next week.

Anyway, kishōtenketsu is a narrative style that doesn’t require conflict. So it seemed like a good idea to give it a try.

Thinking and plotting in a completely different manner from what you learned growing up is hard. Hence the very slow burn on this novel.

Historical Space Romance

I admit it, I got lazy.

This was going to be a historical romance set shortly after the Norman Conquest of England. But I didn’t have the spoons to do the research necessary to make it reasonably accurate, and wasn’t willing to not make an attempt to be accurate if I was doing historical.

So I cheated, and it’s now one of those ‘sci-fi’ romances that are set on a colonized world where people lost a lot of tech knowledge and are scraping by and I’m handwaving the ridiculousness of having cultures so similar to Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman because fiction.

The basic idea here was ‘You know all those historical romances where the woman is forced into marriage with a man she doesn’t know/doesn’t like and over the course of the novel becomes a dutiful, submissive medieval wife to her warrior-husband? Yeah, I’m gender-bending that shit.’

It turns out that in Anglo-Saxon England women could do a LOT of things that Norman women weren’t allowed to do. And when the Normans took over they put an end to little things like women holding land in their own right or being their father’s heirs (assuming there was no male heir, of course.)

This one is sitting at right around 10,000 words, written in short bursts as inspiration hits. I’m struggling a bit with this one because i don’t have a general plot arc laid out, beyond what I mentioned above. I’m pretty much purely pantsing is, which is NOT my usual and a challenge. (But obviously not as much of a challenge as kishōtenketsu since I only started it a few months ago and already have this much!)

I’ve shared a few snippets from this one in Jess’ Pack if you want to check them out.