Christian A. Young's Dimlight Archive

So it looks like I’m working on a chapbook this year.

My Patreon -- part of my framework for making my new life as a full-time creative workable -- is up and running, and I'm both kind of stunned and delighted to have already hit one of my milestone goals: enough per month to justify working on a poetry chapbook.

(Wondering what I'm talking about? Click here to visit my Patreon page, where you can see my milestone goals, and the perks I offer folks who support my work.)

It's a project I've been kicking around for a while. Poetry's kind of a hard sell in terms of justifying the time to work on it. It's the kind of writing that isn't immediately marketable -- it might score a poet a few cans of soup here and there -- but it's a thing I enjoy and want to be doing. One of the professors who influenced me most during college (Dr. Pam McClure) was a poet, and encouraged us with an intensity that was literally life-changing for me.

I'm excited and a little intimidated that this is now a thing on my creative agenda. My current emotional state is best articulated as "" combined with a frenzied dash to dig out my notebooks.

Hello, newly real project. Yes.

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They Say Not To Quit Your Day Job

I've been talking about this in a couple of corners of my life, and putting various ducks in the appropriate rows, so it's probably time to post about it here, too: I'm making a life decision in 2015 to start prioritizing my creative work.

I've been thinking about this for a while.

My ideal life situation isn't so much "only write and nothing else and give up working for other people altogether" so much as it's "if I could do this for 40 hours a week, and then work some random-ass job for 20 hours a week to maintain some steady income to keep me afloat and get me out of the house, that would be awesome."

It's easy to get addicted to the creature comforts that 40 hours a week in an office can provide. It's secure to keep being a vested employee with a retirement account and dental and so on. From various reasonable perspectives it's smarter to stick around, to defer, to wait until the thing that gets attention after hours becomes sustainable on its own.

Almost two years ago, this plan would be unthinkable. I was doing everything I could to try and keep a sinking ship afloat in the Foreclosure House. When we gave up and moved on -- assisted in that choice by a violent incident in our neighborhood and our reason for moving into the house ceasing to be a factor -- I had a lot of holes to climb out of.

I'm out of most of the urgent holes and chipping away at the less urgent ones. My life stopped feeling like one long emergency a little while back. I'm sleeping. I'm functioning. I'm in a supportive, multi-income household.

I realized, as I neared my birthday, that I'm tired of trying to cram career effort into a hobby-sized space. I'd rather spend a few hours a week slinging fries or coffee or whatever, and then focus 40 hours a week on writing, reviving my Etsy shop, and continuing my work getting back into visual art.

I'm 35. For the first time in my adult life, I've got a reliable safety net. If not now, when?

So I put in my notice at the job where I've worked for nearly eleven years. The 27th is my last day as a full-time member of the conventional adult world.

I'm nervous. I'm excited. I am hoping I'll be able to make rent in April. Er.

So yeah. Wish me luck.

(Oh, and if you're in town and know someone who needs a dog walker...)

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In which I am a difficult animal with an affinity for fireworks

fireworks-8One thing I have failed to find on the Internet: a gif of the Fitbit Flex's goal success light show, which I have come to think of as "the tiny fireworks show that happens on my wrist."

I wasn't really going to blog about this until I realized I was mentioning it to friends in the context of being a small but real piece of positive reinforcement for accomplishing something. It's a simple-ish something -- taking a certain number of steps each day -- and the external validation I'm getting is from a tiny bit of electronics in a silicone band (I've named her Juliet to go with Crowley, my iPod), but it's a real enough thing that I experience all the good brain chemicals I get for being noticed for Doing a Good Thing.

That the thing doing the noticing is Juliet and the systems she connects to is immaterial. Who's got his Urban Boots and Marathon Badges? This guy.

I talk a good game about introversion, but external validation is still an incredibly powerful thing. I'm skittish about it in all kinds of ways, and I'm often reluctant to accept it properly -- thanks, life experiences! -- but I crave it. Most creative people do, I think. Not necessarily in the same ways, or to the same extent, but it's a real enough need.

Part of what I want right now in terms of rebuilding resilience is to feel less habituated to failure. I need successes. Some of those will need to be things I can feel good about on their own merits, but I also really love it when other people like those things. I want to do a thing I'm proud of then get the proverbial cookie from someone who is both relevant and trusted in that arena.

Those three conditions are really important. Being praised for things I don't have an emotional attachment is not unpleasant, but it doesn't do the thing. Being praised by someone I don't connect to the accomplishment, likewise. As for the trust...well, that's more of a tangle, and I'm working on it, but suffice to say that attention from wrong people at the wrong time does my process more harm than good.

(So, you know, if you're reading this, now is not the time to just dogpile me with effusive praise out of nowhere. I don't need the "You're Great!" thing my generation grew up with. Don't give me stickers for cleaning the bathroom. Wait for me to show you things, or comment on things that are already on display. If I start talking at you about a project, congratulations: you're trusted on that project. Whee.)

Which is why Juliet is my favorite right now. Juilet exists to collect raw data, and to praise me when I do the thing, and there's literally nothing else to concern myself with in that relationship. I walk until the fireworks go off, and it is the safest, sweetest thing in the world.

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We go on.

This is perhaps one of the best talks I've ever seen on depression in terms of really digging in and describing the experience.

Like, my life continues, but there's a creeping blankness in which I cease, somehow, to have things that I like, things that are favorites, things that I can identify as exciting to me, even if intellectually I know that those things exist.

It's not darkness so much as absence; blindness rather than a blindfold.

I don't not know that a thing should happen. I am uncomfortably aware of a great deal of things which should and even must happen. And then my hands do other things, or no thing.
For example, I'm someone who normally reads 2-4 books a month. In April, that stopped short. Since then, I've finished one other book, and am stalled on a second. The fact that I'm working on reading a second is an indication that I am getting better.

It's slow. I hate that it's slow.

I am in a place where I am recognizing a lack of resilience, confidence, etc. When I'm well, I genuinely believe I have skills and ability. When I'm not, I have trouble identifying those things and believing in them when others point them out to me. I feel unworthy. I feel flawed. I look at all of my mistakes, missteps, all the balls that I have dropped -- most often because of the depression -- and use them to point out to myself how worthless and unskilled I am.

Often I am afraid to put my head up lest it get knocked down again. I am vulnerable to changes. For example, I recently lost an entire day's work because I found out about something I'm doing this summer. It's not a thing I wanted to do, and just thinking about it makes me feel heavy and panicked.

The depression makes me fragile, the anxiety grinds me to dust.

There are times, when I look at this experience, and find myself afraid of being like this forever, with a side-order of fear about getting worse as well as getting better. Like, I'm still not quite well enough to look at "getting better" as anything other than an abstract concept.

But, you know, I also finished a rough draft this fall. That's a victory. But it's also something depression latches onto and tells me that if I'd applied myself toward, say, a project I've failed to complete in a timely way, I'd be allowed to feel good instead of guilty and ashamed.

It wants to make my victory is a stone for my pockets so that I can wade back into the river.

I'm silent about this more than I should be, but part of my silence is built into the problem itself. I'm bad at reaching out at the best of times. How am I supposed to do that when a ringing phone fills me with dread and terror on a par with having Jack Nicholson with an axe on the other end? Or when I want desperately to have someone to pour everything out to, but find that I'm really not sure I have that level of emotional intimacy with any other human being.

But like I said, those days are getting fewer.

I dropped a lot of things this year: involvement in a community group, involvement in the communal and public aspects of my faith, multiple projects, etc. I found a few toe-holds in mass and social media and clung to them like rocks. I've found tools to try and make sense of the incredible barrage of things that I've had to dig up out of.

I still slip. I still fail. But being in a "hi, I'm experiencing moderate-to-severe chronic depression and anxiety instead of being neck-deep in a major episode in which I spent multiple months on the edge of a 72 hour hold" place is still progress. I haven't needed to write on my wrist in a couple of months. So. Progress.

Solomon hits on something else, too: the privilege of care, support, etc. I have a lot of fear about running out of good will. I can only fall back on "charmingly disorganized" for so long. The digging-out feels perpetual. And, you know, we cope in public. I have "silent" panic attacks in public or group spaces because to suffer visibly is to show weakness. I fake functional because to fail at that is to be penalized by society in ways that would make recovery impossible.

At this stage, this is a precious tool. To lose the things I earn by faking functional would be catastrophic, and I know it. Hello, additional source of anxiety.

But again, these are realizations I get to have because I've moved forward. Most days of late I wake up, and instead of being in complete emotional and physical distress because everything is too much, I want to work. I want to do stuff.

Not too much stuff. Not all at once. Not with so much pressure. But some stuff. Stuff I can use to rebuild my confidence. Stuff that I can use as a staging point. Stuff that's languished but that I can unearth and complete with support.

I might freeze up when I try to start -- and by "might" I mean that I absolutely do -- but I actually want to do this stuff instead of knowing I'm supposed to do it but I can't.

So yeah. This is depression. It's a thing that's hard as hell to treat, that for a lot of people (including me) never goes away, etc. It's a chronic thing that could -- like my asthma, or my family's history of heart disease -- and even might kill me one day. But it hasn't yet. So, you know, we go on.

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Adulting, Happening the Things, and Poop-Based Technologies

Things that are basically fucking miserable: finally waking up after a major life/responsibility crash and being deeply aware of just how much shit one has to shovel to get back up to speed.

Like, just looking at the laundry, and stuff all over the floor, and the weeks-old e-mails, and realizing that groceries haven't really been happening consistently, and knowing that the only way out of all of it is to deal with it.

And, you know, that would be awesome except that as ability tanks, accumulated crap intensifies. So when you wake up on that morning knowing that Things Must Happen Finally, the difficulty level on the Happening of Things is absolutely ridiculous and totally inimical to the gradual reintroduction of Thing Happening.

Because if you Happen Some Things, there will still be a billion Things That Must Happen, and some of them will require an extra push because procrastination and inertia are both shockingly difficult things to confront and work with.

old-shovelSo maybe you figure, "Okay, I've got a shovel. I'll just take it easy and work my way through this pile as I have time and energy." Except that pile didn't just appear. It's the sum total of regular daily things left undone, and the regular daily difficulty level is already a challenge because you're not 100%. You're maybe 50% or 75%. So you do stuff, but the pile just gets bigger.

And that's if you're lucky. Because if you're not lucky, you'll be tooling along trying to get through this, promising yourself it'll get easier as you get stronger, just in time for the Shit Truck to mow you down and leave some new fresh Hell to deal with.

This is why picking up the shovel is terrifying, and why it can feel like leaving it where it is, or ignoring it, or nesting in the great big pile of shit feels like a reasonable life decision. I mean, if your options are: a) re-injure yourself trying to do a thing, or b) accept the status quo and/or perpetual downward spiral?

Well, let's just say that familiar pain is background noise.

So why even bother picking up that shovel? Here are some reasons:

1) Forfeit is no longer an acceptable option.
Not-doing is an automatic loss. Attempting to do at least comes with some potential margin for success. You might still lose, but at least there was a chance.

2) You do not exist in a vacuum; you matter.
I have yet to meet a person with no redeeming qualities, and who does not improve somebody's life by existing. It's hard to remember this if people never tell you -- which is probably the finest argument for small acts of kindness as a lifestyle choice I've ever encountered -- but even if nobody is saying it, you are beautiful. You are worthy. You are not required to hurt. You're allowed to dig toward the things that connect you, or to ask for help with the digging, or just to acknowledge the enormous pile of shit to others.

3) There's a light.
Sometimes you can't possibly move the whole pile, but maybe there's a thing you can get to that nourishes you and makes you stronger and at least gives you some comfort while things are a mess, and can give you a toe-hold on the whole shit-moving thing.

4) Something to do.
Maybe not right away. Maybe not even for a long time. It might even get worse for a while. You might fuck up and end up with an even more ridiculous pile of shit. But at least you got to have an adventure on the way, right? Vastly superior to treating life like a waiting room.

5) You are a mad scientist.
Human beings genuinely can move a shocking amount of shit if we try. We are wily and industrious and strong even when everything is coming down around us. We survive in absolutely murderous biomes. We have gone to space. We make tools and use reason and create art. And most importantly, we learn. We can spot patterns. We're freaky-clever. 5000 lbs of manure? That's not an impossible obstacle. That's raw materials. Admit it: building a castle out of that pile of shit, filling it with fireworks, and setting that bastard off sounds pretty cool, right?

6) It really can get better.
I'm not going to lie, it might take some time and a hundred false starts. The fight-to-reward ratio might suck. You might never get to be an astronaut. But having agency, even in a bad situation, is fucking magic. Never forget that if you are alive you can make choices and do things. "Better" doesn't mean perfect, and it doesn't always look how we expect it to, but it can and does happen. You can do this.

So yeah. Talk to me about life shit management. Talk to me about your poop-based technologies. Talk to me about small kindnesses, things you have blown up just to survive, and what you do with your shovel when the party's over and things are back in order. Talk to me about the things that make it hard to dig.

Let's do this.

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This is the Red Book.

1A few years ago, my mother gave me a journal she kept when I was younger. I have never opened this book until today.

It's been a challenging month and a half, and I haven't really been talking about it here, but the short version is that coming out of a long period of survival mode has consequences, and those consequences take time and courage and energy to work out. I'm working hard at making room for the work, and having to be brave in new ways. When I have hard days -- like yesterday, when I had a difficult call with the people who care for my mother -- it knocks me down.

Being vulnerable is hard.

This morning I felt like I needed some answers. It started with me wanting to know something sure about my father and guessing maybe mom might have had something about him in the Red Book, mostly because I assumed she'd started it the year I was born.

I was wrong, as it happens. Her first entry is from January 30, 1987. And this is in it:


The full section reads:

"And you came down stairs [sic] telling me the doctor who delivered you 'made a mistake' and you are a boy not a girl cause you like cars more than dolls etc -- had to remind you that boys are made a little different than girls -- at least you are sure your [sic] a girl now."

I knew. I wasn't quite seven and I knew.


And then I spent nineteen years believing her, haunted by little things around the periphery, and the way I never fit, etc.

Eerily, the final entry in the Red Book is from 2010, and is about my legal name change:


One of the things we talk about as writers is that the difference between fantasy and reality is usually the fact that fantasy has meaning in it, and symmetry, and that stories wrap themselves up by fulfilling the promise of their premise. You start a thing in one place, and it has to end in a place that makes sense in relation to that starting point. That stories end is also really important, since even when life things come full circle one still goes on (unless one is dead, in which case other people do that bit).

Life just gave me symmetry today. I'm startled, and I'm angry, and I'm glad. I am in no place to forgive, honestly, and I think I'm giving myself permission to hang on to this for a while. After all, with my mother's dementia I will never be able to process this with her or hold her to account (which feels like a continuation of the way I could never communicate anything important to her because of the ways she chose to wield her hearing loss).

I know that I knew. I know that there are things that I loved that she talked me out of, ways that I saw myself that got lost, and that I can have them now if I want them. It hurts. It's liberating. I don't need a blue fairy to prove I'm a real boy.

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Fandom, death of the author, and learning to love the bomb

I'm still thinking about fandom, and the way my anxiety about the (increasingly fictional) fan/pro divide sneaks up on me.

Some of my best, most enduring friendships started with fanfiction. Mostly other fanwriters -- like any breed of bird, we flock -- but also some of the people who enjoyed reading the stuff I posted. Fanwriting is social and performative all at once, like DIY punk or Raqs Baladi, and a fair few of us also do pro work as well.

I mean, cue complete lack of surprise. We've officially entered the age of the fan-who-is-creator at more or less every level, with high-interaction environments like Twitter and Tumblr. The membrane is porous, now, and we fan in public where the creators can see.

I think this is mostly good, though I confess to a lot of anger when I see fans (a group with whom I identify) take out their anger on creators (with whom I also identify) in ways that drive them back out of these fora. It's a multi-layered feeling of shame by association, desire to defend, and frustration at the loss.

"This is why we can't have nice things" colliding with "They're not with me, I swear," basically.

And I spend a lot of time looking at people who are very much in that pro realm framework, and think concretely about how very strange their lives are, going from eating breakfast with the family to sitting in an auditorium with a thousand screaming people who've got these parasocial bonds with a character or a public image or a book or whatever and have expectations based on that, and how deep that divide must feel in that moment.

In my head this thing is huge and tough to navigate. As a human, I want a lot of the things that fans want: to be chosen, to be seen, to be affirmed by someone close to the thing I love, to say thank you to a stranger. As a creator, I feel weird and bad about some of that, because I know that writing a story or playing a role doesn't confer superhuman graciousness, psychic ability, and resources or desire to fulfill everyone's emotional fantasy, or just to withstand the barrage.

Let's pause here to reflect that sometimes that barrage looks like people randomly giving celebrities dead sharks.

(Side note: I am not a celebrity and I do not need any dead sharks. I already have one, preserved in a jar, on my bathroom counter. That is enough dead sharks for anybody who is not a marine biologist. Send me denture bracelets instead.)

Potential for creepiness aside, though, I'm almost painfully interested in the effect this interaction has on the real production of things. Characters whose tenure is meant to be short -- think Ianto Jones or Castiel -- become fan favorites and regulars. Subtext gets acknowledged by showrunners and actors at conventions. Shows like Castle and Supernatural play with the fan/pro relationship in within the text. Richard Castle and Kate Beckett both cosplay, for example, while Sam and Dean occasionally have to deal with the implications of their story having been published by a prophet as a series of novels with its own fandom.

Outside the text, we get videos of Misha Collins taking Diestel brand products to mailbox stores to "ship it," Gail Simone and Matt Fraction being incredibly conversational with readers on social media about their characters, Gareth David-Lloyd and John Barrowman kissing on convention stages, and...hell, Orlando Jones. That man is his own damn category.

Where I'm going with this is that authorial intent and fan desire collide so much more audibly than I remember growing up, and the implications of that. I think about, as a writer, how much I hide my work when I'm not ready to talk about it, because for me there is a fragile stage. I think about reading episode codas for shows I like in fandoms in which I might want to commit some fic, and stopping because I don't want my process contaminated.

There is a concept called "death of the author," which basically comes down to the idea that once a creator puts a thing into the hands of the public, authorial intent ceases to be relevant. I have mixed feelings about this, mostly because my philosophy about creative work is that it exists in a space between the work and the observer. It's the creator's job to put the data in the work. If somebody gets the work and doesn't get the data, something has gone wrong.

(Side note: I recall, but cannot find, an interview with Jon Stewart about that idea that communicating an idea successfully is the responsibility of the author, from around the time he and Colbert did that big rally. Anyone remember it?)

The nice thing about death of the author is that we can, in our fan roles, engage a text however we want to. Happy (or unhappy) accidents in the text are ours to comment on and play with. I think, though, it's also a tricky model to believe in now that the channels are this open. What we really get is the author creating a text, releasing the text, and then existing in an environment where text feedback is present, and sometimes very explicitly so, and people either fervently desire more info about intent or want to silence the author entirely.

What that means in my preferred philosophy of the work existing between the text and the audience, then is that it's doing that thing, but in a triangle with the author, and the position of the work is continually shifting closer and further away from the author, the text, and the audience.

In my head I love this, both as creator and fan. In reality, I'm completely intimidated by it, just like I'm intimidated by my own weird attachments to works and creators. These are things we love -- the things we make, the things we read and watch and identify with -- and it's hard not to be afraid of getting hurt.

It's like falling in love. You take the risk, or you hide it away.

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Fan ink and stigma

tattooI've been thinking this week about fan tattoos, and stigma, and the way stories matter.

When I met Kate Bornstein, my brain interrupted my moment of being starstruck with the very important information that ze has a TARDIS tattoo. This of course led to excited geekery, me showing of the giant Seal of Rassilon I have on my right calf, and hir pulling the sonic screwdriver out of hir bag. It was a short, magnificent, amazing, wonderful moment of connection, not least because I got that tattoo to celebrate starting on testosterone as part of my transition.

I have others. I have the spider from Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys on my right bicep as a reminder of the salvific power of creativity. I've got the Corsair's ouroboros (albeit turned 180) on my left wrist to remind myself that my complicated body and gender is beautiful, and that I don't have to feel guilty and afraid about it with other people.

I have other tattoos, too. A rose on my back that I got with one of the first friends I made when I moved to Columbia. A wren with a needle through its ankle from the Mabinogion to celebrate my name change. Gautama Buddha, from when it looked very much like I was going to become a lay minister with a small Buddhist church (and possibly the only story I regret putting on my skin because without context it looks...well, not great from a social justice perspective). A drawing I did based on the Burney Relief that was the "ring" from my messed-up, failed marriage in my twenties. The pseudo-nautilus a friend got me for my eighteenth birthday.

I even have a scar on my shoulder from the tattoo a friend's friend did for me when I was a teenager using a sewing needle and India ink, which was summarily removed by the dermatologist my mother dragged me to. I like this scar. There's nothing else like it on my body. It's the memory of a story.

People can be weird about fan tattoos, though. I'm not sure how much of that is the stigma associated with being really into a thing -- or, rather, certain things because it's apparently okay to be really into sports but still kind of weird to be really into a sci-fi show -- or the idea that those stories aren't important enough to get etched into our bodies, but John Lennon quotes and pin-up girls are. Or maybe it's the idea that these things are ephemeral or imaginary? Or that somebody else's story is the wrong language, and we should all be required to make up our own stuff using an acceptable symbol set? It it too close to brand names?

And yeah, I think there's an element of misogyny happening here -- women in fandom get a disproportionate amount of flack for profoundly irritating reasons, and body policing is a thing -- but that can't be the whole story.

This is really bothering me. I'd love to hear what others think about this, not least because I'm getting the ink itch again, and there are things I'm considering that fall into this range, and that's more emotional than I expected it to be.

Wow me, Internets. I love you all.

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Things I have learned this week

learnA few weeks ago I started to fall off of the "well-maintained depression and brain chemistry" train and basically landed in the "missed a couple of days of Celexa just in time for insomnia and stress" ditch.

Which, you know, I was aware of as it was happening, but it's the same kind of awareness you have when you're doing home repair and the thing you're doing above your head comes loose and everything moves SUPER SLOW but there is nothing you can do but watch while it happens. And let's face it, I'm a popcorn kind of guy with the human condition (See Also: my ridiculous and awful Greyhound stories), including my own condition as someone living as human.

In any case, I learned some things this week that I'm finding amusing enough to share.

1) There is a liminal block of time in my day in which I am Very Eloquent with my hands and utterly useless with my mouth.
It runs roughly from 4-7 AM, after which I obtain the power of human speech. I've now got multiple proofs of this, including from this morning's adventure to Starbucks (because they open at 5 AM and I have some funds on my card and I wanted to write away from the house) in which I knew what I wanted and had to try something like four times to get the words "grande Earl Grey" out of my mouth. To his credit, the barista was very kind and did not laugh at me too much.

2) I have really strong feelings about blogging platforms.
During a workshop, I actually questioned a presenter who contrasted a WordPress-style blog (which looked like a slick and traditional website) and a Tumblr-style blog (which had stylistically consistent photography but was more magazine-style) who tried to use the Tumbl-blog as an example of website fail. I don't know if it's a generational thing, or if I'm just more inured to social media than I thought, but people, neither of these things is "better" than the other except that you'll have different audiences, and different intentions, and just because this one individual gave up on her project does not prove your thesis when I can point to more successful examples than I have fingers.

3) Getting Better is a Ridiculous Process
As things improve incrementally, I keep noticing that when I stumble, I react differently. Like, this week instead of just going silent and having panic attacks, I was joking about how I had "exhausted my vulnerability pool and moved on to my hostility pool." I mean, things were still raw, but they were raw in ways that allowed me to simply behave in possibly socially inappropriate ways rather than removing myself from society completely.

4) Falling Down the Fanfic Rabbit Hole is Both Satisfying and Frustrating
Satisfying because I really do love it as an art form and reaction to media, and the culture has many things to recommend it within the in-group once you abandon the stigma (which, let's be honest, is all about misogyny). Frustrating because being more or less not involved in this side of things for a while means that the signal to noise ratio in my reading attempts aren't yet well-tuned.

5) Sometimes People Pick Up When I Drop the Ball, and Those People are Awesome
So yeah. That thing with the train and the ditch? Means I am not always doing simple things in appropriate ways. Like, little stuff that supports bigger stuff? Comes apart. Gets ignored. Big stuff gets put off. Good choices get replaced by bad ones. And then someone is like, "Hey, so I have seven cakes in my car for the thing" and I am like, "HOLY FUCK, THANK YOU UNIVERSE FOR THIS INDIVIDUAL, AND THANK YOU INDIVIDUAL FOR SAVING ME AND OTHERS FROM ME." This is not a thing I ever want to expect, or to feel entitled to, but so grateful. Wow.

So yeah. That's...yeah. That happened.

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What I Read in March

BooksMy resolution for 2014 is to intentionally read only books written by women. There are three exceptions:

- Books already in progress prior to January 1, 2014 may be finished regardless of the author's gender
- Books in a series I am already reading may be read regardless of the author's gender
- Books needed for a class or specific project may be read regardless of the author's gender

Also, last month I introduced guidelines for how to handle anthologies, and books with multiple authors or editors:

- Anthologies edited by a woman are acceptable even if the collected authors are not all female, but books with 50% or better representation are preferred
- In the case of multiple authors and editors, a single woman will suffice, but books with 50% or better representation are preferred

So! Here's what I read in March.

Empress, Karen Miller
I actually started reading this one a few years ago, put it down because college got overwhelming, and only just picked it back up this year. It's the first in Miller's Godspeaker trilogy, and focuses on its main character's journey from slavery to power in a brutal desert country called Mijak. Not a gentle book at all -- lots of blood and violence, and Mijak probably couldn't be more of a patriarchy if it tried -- but Miller is writing fairly rich epic fantasy, and I found myself binge reading this. It's a pretty chunky book, so prepare to take some time on it.

The Ninth Floor, Liz Schulte
When I mentioned my resolution to Doug at Village Books, he handed this one to me. Schulte is a local author, and the whole premise of a nasty community secret and possible supernatural goings-on was really appealing to me. That being said, Schulte is mainly a mystery writer, and mystery isn't one of my preferred genres. It was a quick read, and I liked the set-up a lot, but I think I went in expecting a different sort of book than what I got.

Being a Pagan, Ellen Evert Hopman and Lawrence Bond
My "Not a Book Club" title for March over at The Land, Sea, and Sky. This one definitely goes onto my list of books people new to Pagan religions should read within their first year or so of practice, even if the info in it is increasingly outdated (the interviews took place in the mid-1990s). Good context and oral history.

The Riven Kingdom, Karen Miller
The second of Miller's Godspeaker books, this one mostly focuses on the matter of succession in Ethrea, which is sort of the Western European Island Trading Nation answer to Mijak, which is significantly less militarized, lower magic, and marginally kinder to women. Like Empress, The Riven Kingdom is focused on a woman's rise to power, except in this case she is the sole heir to the dead king, fighting against having being made chattel by the church. This one is just as chunky as Empress, which is hilarious because I actually acquired the second and third books as part of an omnibus edition of the trilogy, which is bigger than some family bibles and dictionaries I've met. (Side note: anticipate a longer discussion of this trilogy when I've finished it.)

That puts my counts for 2014:

- 16 books finished
- 13 read in their entirety
- I have no idea how I want to do ratios now that I've introduced multiple authors/editors, but I can count the number of men on one hand without needing extra fingers, so I'm guessing that's a win.

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