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Aw, crud.

Bah. Con crud has attacked. (Either that, or I've managed to catch whatever it was that sarahbrand had before the con.) But, given the nearly two weeks of sleep deprivation combined with the really bad diet of (hopefully) not-moldy bread, oatmeal and melon, it's not entirely surprising that something took me out.

As with Clarion, I'm discovering that I miss the workshop atmosphere most when I'm waking up from a nap. Somehow my sleepy brain does not understand that my people aren't right here; that I'd have to wander for a bit to find someone who would talk with me about books and writing and random nonsense.

But it helped that I got to see the lovely wood_dragon today for breakfast, and then lunch when we misread the bus schedule. Since then I've been trying to force myself back into something regarding my "regular" unemployed routine. However, time away from the apartment has not made me any more inclined to clean. Funny that.

Alpha 2008

So: yesterday I returned home from Alpha. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, Alpha a ten day SF/F/H writing workshop for writers roughly between the ages of 14 and 19, at which I was a staff member for the second year.

Last year was fun. This year was awesome.

I enjoyed this workshop far more than last year’s, mainly, I think, because I was actually awake this time. Last year I arrived suffering from chronic sleep deprivation due to my day job, fell asleep at every possible opportunity, and had only a fraction of my brain conscious and functioning at any one time. (This made things like critiquing ... interesting.) This year I was actually awake, and had a personality, and other such favourable things.

Really, being awake for writing workshops is definitely to be recommended.

Various Random Things from Alpha (in no particular order):

The cafeteria food remained absolutely awful. I found three – or was it four? – loaves of moldy bread placed out for our consumption. By the end of the week I was finding things to eat in the food suite for meals (Ramen! Oatmeal! Chips!) and/or being hungry rather than face yet more cafeteria food and the accompanying nausea. Blech.

I had intense, hours-long conversations with a couple of people at various points in the workshop, which were very worthwhile. Reminded me of Clarion that way, actually.

There was a lot of henna, which was awesome. (My feet are still patterned.)

There was the Great Semi-Colon Debate with davekirtley and diatryma, which spanned days, ended up drawing in most of the Alpha class in one way or another (most of whom agreed with Cassie and I, of course), and involved Cassie accidentally punching Dave in the neck. Quality.

There was a brief and intense thunderstorm that was heralded by awesome clouds and wild wind, which filled me with absolute glee. tmseay commented that my expression while standing in the wind made me look about 12.

I actually gave a lecture this year, which was on Rewriting/Revising/Editing, and hopefully said something at least vaguely useful. I referenced the bread I made before leaving for the workshop: do not forget the salt in the sourdough, people. It’s just not good.

Pittsburgh/Greensberg still strike me as being overwhelmingly white (unnervingly so), despite the protests of the locals. The Alphan from Toronto agreed with me.

Confluence was enjoyable if somewhat tiring, though I was involved in remarkably few con-related activities during the weekend. I was on two panels (one of which was highly entertaining due to my continued disagreement with the other panelists), and had a zombie/apocalypse themed reading. Sadly, I never did manage to get to eat the massive quantities of breakfast foods that I’d been planning to get at the Bob Evans’ across the street; perhaps next year.

Writing Stuff:

I had a reprint accepted while I was away: “The Voices of the Snakes” sold as a flash fiction piece to PodCastle, and should be appearing in September or October.

I continued writing during the first half of the workshop. Unfortunately, my biggest bit of progress was the realization that a chapter and a half worth of stuff (a.k.a. most of what I’d written in July) wasn’t going to work, which resulted in the deletion (or permanent relocation) of many thousands of words. Though I replaced many of those words, I still ended up leaving Alpha with fewer words than I had when I arrived. August is going to have to be an amazing month for writing.

I started freewriting again during the workshop -- mostly during breaks or while the students were doing writing exercises in lecture -- and oh, I forgot just how much I love it. It took me a few pages to get back into the swing of things, but now that the rhythm’s back it’s like having a direct line into my subconscious. For all my attempts to think rationally and honestly about what’s going on in my own head, it’s somehow far more productive to just say to the hindbrain, “Here’s the green pen -- the writing hand is in your control, now.” And the hindbrain laughs, and I look down to realize that I’ve written a full line that just says: Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.
Alpha people, as promised: I am home safely, and Kiwi has been picked up by her local friends. All is well, though I am tired and disinclined to finish unpacking the car today.

Fabulous Things (Mine/Not Mine)

Home again, home again.

Fabulous news, mine: I was very productive while away, and suddenly have nearly 18,000 words of book. All in a row, even!

And when one considers the false starts, all the stuff I wrote and discarded earlier in the year, and those patient bits of a short story that’s wandering around here somewhere, this means that I’ve now written more than I did all of last year, with most of that word count being generated in the last two weeks. And the best thing of all: I don’t hate what I’ve written. Oh, it’s definitely a draft, but I’m not throwing it away – not yet, anyway. Not even the scene that I kept muttering to Jana was only about being unable to buy, and later stealing, a sandwich (the now infamous “sandwich scene”).

I’ll just have to work to keep myself on track now that I’m back in the city with all its lovely and irritating distractions. And work on figuring out ... political things. (*Mutters darkly about the need for political things.*)

Fabulous news, not mine: while I was away, my friend Chris Szego (cszego) learned that she is this year’s Grand Prize winner in the Toronto Star Short Story Contest -- which, for those of you not local, is a very big thing, and comes with prize money in excess of the amount that you’d receive for a first novel contract. We’re all thrilled for her here (there was cheering and loud laughter), and until her story is published, I will recommend that you check out her short story “Valiant on the Wing,” published in Strange Horizons a few months ago.

Books yes! Internet no!

The internet is my enemy these days, it seems. When I take myself away from it, I can write without difficulty. I went to stay at New House for a while, and I wrote all day long, sitting happily in the back by the pond where I could watch the fish. And not only did I write, and rewrite, and delete a lot of the stuff I’d just written (for that’s the way I work), but I also finished my Toronto Arts Council grant proposal. And then I came home where I have easy internet access and it all fell apart. And once I've checked the cursed email or given in just once to the temptation of LJ, I suddenly find myself derailed by countless random things: baking and cleaning and talking to the Humane Society and going to dance class and walking in my favourite 5k loop of the neighbourhood to stop by the library and the bookstore and wander through the park.

Okay, and I admit: I find it hard to stop reading. It has been so long since I’ve just been able to read and read and read that almost anything is a good excuse to sit down with a book for a little while and see what happens in the next chapter. I read three books in May. So far in June I’ve read 15.

But it seems to be good for me, anyway. I was speaking on the phone with a friend the other night and she told me that her first reaction when I answered was, “Oh! It’s Karina!” And then had to clarify – especially as she’d called me – saying that I sounded like I used to sound, years ago: happy.

I take this as a good sign.

And tomorrow I begin a small vacation: cottage time with a friend and no internet access at all until the end of the month. Praise be, I think I’ll soon progress beyond the second chapter. Take care of yourselves while I’m gone.

This week, described briefly

1. One week ago today was my last day as a full-time employee at my day job. I quit to take the summer off to write (and write and write and write some more). My last day was one of the best days I’d had there, and my boss told me to stop looking so happy I was leaving.

I will continue to do some work for them, but on a casual, as-needed basis depending on workload and my availability. This is a good thing.


2. This week is my recovery week. I told myself that I needed at least a week in which I did not even attempt to write anything; a week to catch up on my sleep, read a lot of books, and generally relax. (Also, clean the apartment so I can’t use cleaning as an excuse not to write later on.)

To this end, I took myself off my computer almost entirely. (There’s something about having been forced to spend eight, nine, ten hours a day chained to a computer screen most days of the week doing uninteresting things that makes spending yet more time on the computer not only unattractive, but actively repellent. I’m beginning to get over that.) I have been sleeping a lot, and returned to my comfortable nocturnal schedule. I have read many books. I have baked sourdough bread, and eaten French toast with fresh fruit, and watched silly TV, and danced.

This plan has been working. I can feel my creative brain stirring as it begins to awaken.


3. Last Sunday, we had to take Perkins in to the vet again. For those who have not been talking to me in person, this was his fifth vet trip in just over three weeks, and his fourth emergency trip. There were a few possible diagnosis, all awful, and all of which would cost thousands of dollars to treat.

Monday, surgery seemed the only option, the vet told us that given the fact that Carly and I do not have $5000 to give them, the only way Perkins could get the surgery he needed to live was to give him back to the Humane Society. These are the people who should never have adopted him out given that he had an untreated life-threatening condition. The Humane Society, who has now deemed us awful cat owners and has banned us from knowing how Perkins is doing, re-adopting him, or adopting any other animals from them for at least a year.

We do not find this acceptable. At all. As I said to Carly, “They don’t know who they’re dealing with, or how much free time we now have on our hands. We’re getting our cat back.” And she replied, “By the time we’re done, they’ll be begging us to take ten cats just to have us leave them alone.”

This is true.

So I read, lost, every day

In not writing, this is what hurts: not so much the absence of story or fiction or mere text, word count and progress, but the absence of words. True words. Any words. It is hard to lose the part of one's self that thinks in the rhythm of words; the part that sees the movement of water across a flooded lawn and tries to name its shape; the part that sees the first spring buds on the branches by the window and wonders how to shape a sentence, a line, a phrase to evoke this brief moment of joy, this brief flash of green.

To walk as one blind to everything surrounding; to speak only trivialities. To have nothing to say. Nothing at all worth hearing to say.


And I remember that there were ... are ... stories that can make the words come back.

I find on my shelf a book long forgotten, left unread since my final days in university. A funny book, this -- pieces of books, truly, and essays and short fiction and poetry, all bound together and called the Annie Dillard Reader. I'd never read anything by Annie Dillard before this text was assigned and have not read anything by her since -- and yet I suddenly remember how her words were an inspiration. I admired their precision, the shifting balance between obvious simplicity and stunning complexity.

Over and over again I'd read the piece "An Expedition to the Pole," having been shocked all but speechless by it the first time, the structure and deftness of that essay which spoke of polar exploration and the quest for God through formalized religion, and made them one. And over and over again I'd read one paragraph:

I walk in emptiness; I hear my breath. I see my hand and compass, see the ice so wide it arcs, see the planet's peak curving and its low atmosphere held fast on the dive. The years are passing here. I am walking, light as any handful of aurora; I am light as sails, a pile of colorless stripes; I cry "heaven and earth indistinguishable!" and the current underfoot carries me and I walk.

I used to read it aloud, just to feel the way the words tasted, the movements of my tongue as I shaped them.

And now:

I sit down on the edge of my bed and flip the book open right near the end, the lamp on the bedside casting a glow both warm and soft across the pages. A few paragraphs in I begin to read aloud. My voice is slow and stumbling as if from disuse, nervous to be speaking so -- here, in my empty room, in an empty apartment with the rain pounding outside. It is like being in school again, a classroom of one, and the text seems wholly unfamiliar, and my mouth is dry as I speak.

I stumble. I hesitate. I reach and fumble and stutter to a stop, only to begin again.

And this is how I read the lines I think I was meant to find today, a hidden piece from Holy the Firm:

Two years ago I was camping alone in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. I had hauled myself and gear up there to read, among other things, James Ramsy Ullman's The Day on Fire, a novel about Rimbaud that made me want to be a writer when I was sixteen; I was hoping it would do it again. So I read, lost, every day sitting under a tree by my tent, while warblers swung in the leaves overhead and bristle worms trailed their inches over the twiggy dirt at my feet; and I read every night by candlelight, while barred owls called in the forest and pale moths massed round my head in the clearing, where my light made a ring.

"Oh," I say quietly, and let the book fall.


There is a cadence to true words that, once spoken, once written, can never entirely be forgotten. It is not enough to merely write, word after word, and watch them all fall flat and lay there on the page, limp and wrong. The right rhythm must be fought for and sought after and courted, that rhythm when everything seems right; brief and elusive, those moments when words are afire.

I am not writing a story; I am not writing a book. I am not, in truth, writing at all, but rather ... speaking. Narrating what I might once have freewritten, words for the sound of words, for the feel of words, slipping into the air, heard and then gone. Forgotten.

I have been speaking to my empty kitchen in a slow and deliberate voice as I wash the dishes and ladle the soup into small containers, as I pull the last cornbread from the oven and pull it from the tray. And I realize: suddenly words have texture again, and rhythm, and flow, and I hear each with a precision, a clarity that seems to have been lost, wholly absent, for weeks and months -- no, in truth, gone from me for years. Two years, more -- need I count them? And while I know that they will leave me again, the brief clarity of such composition vanishing and leaving only the weight and fog of the everyday, it seems that perhaps the poetry is out here too, elusive but present, just waiting to be spoken.

A Girl and Her Malibu

It's true: I now drive a North American car. Dammit. I would have sworn I'd never own a Chevy.

And yet, here we are. I am in the process of purchasing my grandparents' 2000 Chevy Malibu, and selling my beloved Sentra (ever known as Siro). Really, it's the only smart decision to make -- this car is newer, faster, more powerful, and has important things that Siro lacked such as airbags and anti-lock brakes. Luxuries too -- let me revel in the joy of automatic door locks, automatic windows, the daylight sensors for the headlamps. It is also somewhat bigger -- a bit awkward for me, small-car lover that I am, and perhaps not the easiest for downtown driving, but the next time I need to load up some luggage (say to haul everyone away for a Writers' Retreat Weekend) there'll be no problem fitting everything in the trunk. Also, as it's my grandparents' car, it's also a truly awesome deal, the likes of which I will not see again.

Still, smart move or not, a wee emotional part of me wants to run wailing back to my trusty Siro. How can I leave her for this car whose name I don't even know?! (And yes, newcomers, I name my cars. Always have, always will.) I'm used to knowing how fast I'm going by the sound of the wind rushing by. I know Siro's every shift and shudder, the vibration of her engine; I know through the feeling of my feet on the pedals and my hands on the wheel when she's running normally and when she's ailing. With this car, everything is a surprise; I am constantly taken aback by the strange feeling of the GM brake pedal, the car's high stance, the slight vagueness in the steering when one's driving at 120 km/h down the 427.

But, also: new car! It is shiny and fast. And I will learn this car's name, and we will go adventuring this summer, new car and I, and I have faith that I will one day be a girl who loves her Chevy Malibu.
Still running in about sixteen directions at once trying desperately to get ready for this con.

My wild and crazy panel schedule, full of zombies and magical spells gone awry. No, really.Collapse )

The big thing is not really about the panels, though, or the reading (which will involve zombies), but the second ARG-inspired game. Yes, based on the success of last year's game for Under Cover of Darkness, we (The Architect's Dream) decided to once again create a convention-wide game for the new fantasy anthology Misspelled edited by Julie E. Czerneda.

But! This game is going to be different in three ways:

1. It is easier! The Under Cover game was ambitious, it's true, and fun, but a lot of work for us writers and players alike. For this one, we figured we should match the anthology – keep it light, funny and fast. (Yes, this means you can play without it taking over your whole weekend.)

2. There are more prizes! Last year, the top three teams/players received awesome gift bags of books from Penguin. This year, we're spreading the prize-winning awesomeness even farther.

3. There will be ... er ... actually, I'm not allowed to post the third thing, as it's part of the endgame at the launch. But it's good, trust me.

(Also, this game has a shower curtain involved. And I may yet persuade Leah to wear a hat.)

Needless to say, even this streamlined, easier game has taken up many, many hours of prep (as in, I've put about two hours in so far today alone, and I'm not the only one working like a crazy person to pull this off). The Architect's Dream (aka the game design team) is just the four of us: thesandtiger, leahbobet, dolphin__girl and me. Two of us have consulting jobs with large and somewhat unpredictable demands on our time, while the other two are full-time students with part-time jobs. But we think it's worth it. Hopefully the players will agree. *g*

Consciousness and the human experience

This morning my father sent me a link to this video. It's a short talk given by brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor about the experience of -- and insight she gained from -- having a massive stroke.




Or: A direct link to the TED Talks page.

Tags:

A Sunday's Observations

1. My laundry has failed to learn to fold itself. Underachieving clothing, all of it; it's not like I haven't given the stuff plenty of opportunity. The dishes remain similarly uncooperative.

2. Hey, self: the reason for the headache you seem to get every quiet Sunday? It's from forgetting to drink, you bleeding moron.

3. This new mattress I bought for myself? Best purchase I've made in a long, long time. Only problem is that it's now harder than ever to convince me to get out of bed.

4. The Battlestar Galactica soundtracks are too so awesome dance music. Tribal especially! Drums and SF awesomeness together. And one of these days I'll manage to convince the Coalition to believe me.

A Question of Metrics

I have a few questions for you all: what do you think of writing metrics?

As an author, do you find them useful? Tiresome? Interesting? Just part of the routine? As a blog reader, do you find it useful/tiresome/interesting to see what someone's written in a day? Do you read writing metrics, or skip them entirely? Any thoughts are welcome.

I'm not certain that you all would find my current progress interesting (I mean, I felt triumphant when I wrote 160 words on Friday, because words are words, and these were even good words), but I am looking towards the future.

Všechno jednou skončí

Woah. It's true. It exists! "An End to All Things" has been translated into Czech. I haven't actually seen this book yet, though I'm sure my copy will make its way to Canada eventually.

Also: after I got over the awesome/bizarre nature of seeing something I wrote in a language I am unable to understand (or translate using free online software), I actually paid attention to the rest of the table of contents. Woah again. I am so out of my league, and loving it.

(Someone who is not me might take this opportunity to make an exceedingly lame pun, such as "Czech it out!" I would not do such a thing. Just so you know.)

Fire on Queen West

At about the time my alarm was to go off this morning, my father called to make sure that I'd heard about the six-alarm fire on Queen West near Bathurst. Being asleep, I hadn't, but I opened my blinds and looked east, and what at first seemed to be an overcast haze was in fact a great pall of smoke. (I took pictures out the window.) Martin asked whether it was close enough that bakkaphoenix would be damaged.

"Oh, god, I hope not," I said. (The fire is about a block east of the bookstore.)

No one was hurt, but it looks like the whole block is pretty much gutted. Here at my office, which is on Bay Street in the downtown core, everything smells of smoke. Just from the streetcar ride in, the smell is clinging to my hair.

The Star has a report, and CityNews. It's somewhat disconcerting to look at the pictures; I know the area well.

Always an upside.

I can think of better ways to have spent my weekend than curled up in bed with the stomach flu.

On the upside, I can also think of worse ways to spend a frigidly cold Monday than working from home while wearing a ridiculously huge sweatshirt, fuzzy pants and slippers.
In the battle against winter (that cruelest of seasons), I have discovered that a good defense is key. While my first attempt at keeping my hands warm was decent, those wristwarmers were perhaps more suited for battling the cruelty of, say, late October or perhaps early April, rather than the windy world of hypothermia more commonly known as January. (Or the overcast landscape of despair that we fondly call February.)

So! Armed with some very excellent yarn involving cashmere, I made something better.

And I have declared these mitten things much better, and much warmer, and also decidedly more purple.Collapse )

Karina vs. Winter: the Battle Continues

So we all know that winter and I do not get along well. One of the reasons is that during the winter, I am never warm.

Okay, so I exaggerate. I'm warm when I first wake in the morning, beneath my sheet and heavy down comforter with a thick blanket on top, or when I am in the bath or taking a shower, or when I've been drinking. The rest of the time, no matter what I do, I am cold to one degree or another. (Good thing I live in Toronto, eh?) My mother is the exact same way.

Well, during a conversation a few weeks back, she happened to mention that this was caused by a syndrome that she had. "What?!" I said, rudely interrupting. "I thought we just had shitty circulation!" We do. It just turns out that shitty circulation has a fancy, official name. Now I can feel all special and things.

Actually, what I'd hoped was that I could research the fancy, official syndrome and discover some useful way of managing the technicolor/swollen/unable-to-bend hands, other than "don't get cold or upset". In short ... no. (Though it does explain why I'd feel like I was dying of hypothermia before exams, even those during hot days in June.)

But all that reading made me realize that I really do need to take better care of my poor purple hands, especially as I cannot wear mittens all the time (I have tried) as I must type, and so (being a clever and vaguely crafty sort) I decided to make myself some typing ... hand covering ... things.

And lo, I found some blue yarn in my closet, and this is what I made.Collapse )

The Year Gone By, the Year to Come

2007 was the Year of Opportunity. I also cheated and gave it a second name: the Year of Coming Into Your Own (because I couldn't think of anything catchier or more succinct to capture that same meaning). In strange and unexpected ways, it lived up to both names.

The Year in WritingCollapse )

The Year in BooksCollapse )

The Year to Come

2008 is the Year of Transformation. This past year taught me a lot, especially about what I need, what I want, and what I can handle -- building a foundation, I think, for good things to come.

Holiday's Over

This holiday, I took a holiday from the internet. Since Christmas, I did not so much as turn on a computer, never mind check my email, LJ, or any of the other countless things that seem to take up so much of my time online.

But tomorrow I return to work and my routine -- time, then, to come back to the internet and everything else. So: hey all, happy New Year! What's new with you?

In Which I Reveal My Terrible Selfishness

I have a new problem with Christmas shopping. It's not that I dislike shopping, or giving gifts, or that I cannot find anything interesting.

No, what happens is this: I stand there wondering, "Hmm, would [name] like this pendant made from a Roman coin? Perhaps she would. Hmm. Hmmmm. ... You know who would really, really like this pendant? Me!!"

Or there I am, working away with some beads and wire, and I think, "Oh, these are some nice earrings I have made, go me! And hey, Christmas is coming up, and you know, these would look just great on ... me!!"

Or I go to the very fancy craft show, and I wander down the isles, and I see the place that makes the really fancy and awesome jam, and I begin to think, "Well a nice collection of jam would make an excellent ..." only to be derailed by the freight train of joy that runs me into the ground, flattened by the utter glee caused by a selection of like twenty different jams that I cannot buy in grocery stores, no no no, and there it is, all the jammy goodness and I shall buy it all and not go outside all winter and bake my own bread so that I can live on jam and fresh bread for months and months, just me with my dandelion wine jelly, and the rhubarb and fig jam, and the really delicate pear jam, and so much jam, all for meeeee!!

Okay, so perhaps the jam isn't a good example. No one expects me to part with my jam.

The great thing about giving a present, I think, is making someone happy -- and maybe it's okay if sometimes that person is me. (And really, I always know just exactly what I'd like. Other people are not always so easy.) But Christmas is fast approaching, and so now I must look elsewhere, and finish my shopping, and focus, dammit, focus! (Unless of course there happen to be others who suddenly want pendants made from Roman coins. Because really, that was an awesome deal.)

P.S. This means that I am not letting myself buy that necklace in elisem's jewellery sale. But I am tempted nonetheless.

My 5th trip to the US this year ...

So I went to Michigan on Saturday. Then I turned around and came home again.

Why is a rather complicated story, involving the death of one of my grandparents' friends, a family feud (not my family, thankfully), the inheritance of a car, confusion around the time of the funeral, and cataract surgery.

The short story is: my Oma and Opa left their car in Michigan. My parents had to go get it. Being the nice daughter that I am, I volunteered to go along for the trip and help split the many hours of driving.

I have now been to New Baltimore, Michigan. Check that one off the list, no need to go again.

Despite the fact that my Saturday was mainly driving or sitting in a car, it was actually overall a really nice day; lots of time to talk to and catch up with my parents, a little reading time, even a chance to work on a Christmas gift in progress. It also turned out to be a great way not to think or worry about all the things I have to do in the next while. "I'm driving through London at 120 km/hr," my brain told me. "I am so not interested in job stress."

After a moment it added, "But your stomach says to tell you that we could really go for some French toast right about now."

And so that's what we did.

My Belly and I Go Dancing

So, way back at the beginning of the year, dolphin__girl, leahbobet and I decided that we would learn to bellydance. It would be fun, we thought, and good exercise, and involve sparkly scarves. (Not to mention that the local bellydance place had a really flexible class schedule, useful to people who are overworked and/or students.) Thus, we became the Coalition Against the Patriarchy Via Hotness and Sparkly Costumes, generally known as the Coalition.

Now, while I love dancing, I also rarely enjoy drawing attention to myself. Under the radar, that's me. And there was no way I was going to be in the last gala performance (in which Sarah participated), coming as it did in June, just after my month of insanity, and before I could take anything but Intro classes. "I'll be in the next show," I said.

The next show? November, of course. It caught me unprepared. When we were to be learning choreography in class? Well, first I got sick, and then I went to WFC, and then I got sick again. This meant that there was very little time for actually memorizing this dance.

I considered bailing. I considered just stumbling my way through it like a fool. And then I realized: I've memorized much, much harder things in equally short periods of time.

See, way back in the day, I used to be a synchronized swimmer. Not a particularly good one, mind -- certainly nowhere near a competitive level -- but a synchronized swimmer nonetheless. And in a synchro routine, not only did you need to worry about moving forwards and back, and side to side, but also up and down. The only down in my bellydance routine was the rather impressive series of descending hip accents. That's a whole dimension of memorization that I can now ignore!

(As I type this I also realize: the synchro background is probably what causes my obsessive tracking of my co-dancers' places. Yes, it's very important for me not to whack Sarah in the head as I spin, and yes, I have to make sure that if she's taking larger steps I hurry the hell out of the way -- but all of this was way more important when getting whacked in the head or run into usually meant losing my air and needing to streak back to the surface before I inhaled water. ETA: and the whole synchronized part, of course.)

But more important than the memorization, I suddenly realized: I wanted to be in a show. It surprised me -- what'd happened to "under the radar"? And so I got my head into gear, and memorized the routine until I could do it without thinking, and this Saturday I danced in a show.

This time last year, I'd never have done it. Performing a bellydance? On a big stage, with lights and an audience? No place to hide, and only two others up there with me? Not a chance. Oh, lord, not a chance. Hell, when I started dancing back in March, I never so much as mentioned it here.

But this has been an interesting year, and I'm different in some rather noticeable ways because of it. Dancing, I think, has clearly been a part of that. Bellydance is an interesting dance, very controlled and very dramatic all at once. Sometimes during practice I'll drip sweat like I've just been running, and other times I'm not even breathing hard and yet will want to double over from the pain of having to target a very specific series of muscles over and over (muscles that want to know what on earth I'm doing, and why we can't just go curl up in a nice chair now). Never mind dealing with the fun and quirks of my previously injured double-jointed knees (aka Knees of the Patriarchy).

Never would I have thought that I'd enjoy standing up in front of an audience, in my little black shirt and flowing green skirt, with a belt chiming and flashing silver every time I'd so much as shift -- that I'd dance, high up on my toes and down low enough to let my hipscarf brush the stage, spinning, posing -- and that I'd grin and smile, all but laugh, caught up in the music and the movement and the cheers from the crowd.

Gods, it's just so fun.

Three Open Letters, With Postscripts

Dear Random Guy Who Crank Called Me at 3:45 AM,

My apologies for my slowness at understanding you. What can I say, I'd been sleeping.

Also, I'm ever so sorry to have reacted in a way that caused you such obvious confusion and surprise. I can only say that perhaps I would have found your message more distressing if I actually had a daughter.

Sincerely,
Tired Girl at the Number That You Dialed

P.S. Do try to enunciate.


Dear November Sky,

Stop hitting me in the face with ice pellets. No, really. I mean it.

Karina, Devotee of Summer

P.S. I don't know that this driving snow is really an improvement, though I thank you for the attempt.


Dear Americans,

Happy Thanksgiving! I envy you your pie.

Yours,
K

P.S. The extra day off work doesn't sound bad either. Nice work.

A Few Notes and Highlights from WFC

Random things in no particular order, yet numbered nonetheless.


1. I wasn't going to go to this con. I swore up and down that I wasn't attending.

Then I changed my mind, and I'm really glad I did.


2. I missed almost all of the official programming, with the exception of some parties listed in the programming book. Which is not to say that there wasn't programming scheduled that I was interested in attending; it's only that I'd look up from an interesting conversation and realize that the panel in question was already over.

I dropped in for about 10 minutes of the "Taboos in Fantasy" panel, and caught the last few minutes of the "Urban Fantasy" panel, but for the most part relied on others' panel reports.


3. The con bag gets bigger every year. Next year we will all receive three-piece roller luggage.

The selection of free books inside the con bag wasn't quite what I was used to from past years, but I made up for it by spending my Powerful Canadian Dollars on half the contents of the dealers room. With the exchange rate and the American/Canadian pricing differential on books, I was able to pretty much buy two books for the price of one at home. I filled the large con bag.

This made me utterly gleeful ... except for the part where I unexpectedly had to carry the con bag containing my body weight in books as I walked home. Ow.


4. If you are looking for a vacation spot, I would not recommend Saratoga Springs. There have been reports of poor customer service; I myself was in a group who dealt with a bizarre, rude and incredibly offensive restaurant manager. I will not speak again of dinner on Saturday. Dinner on Saturday is dead to me.


5. Parties on Saturday are not dead to me, at all, at all.

One of my most contented hours of the con was sitting in the corner of the Tor party with mrissa, swan_tower and elisem, admiring sparklies, talking, and watching Elise make jewellery. She had a brand-new necklace that just had to come home with me, "She Who Once Was". Elise tells me that it's about a glacier.


6. I helped set up for, and then attended, DAW's party for Kristen Britain and Julie Czerneda. Lots of friends in the room, and I felt delightfully indulgent, drinking champagne and eating cake at 3:00 in the afternoon.


7. Pestered Sean Wallace over the weekend, and now have a contributor's copy of Jabberwocky 3, which contains my story "On a Day That Has No Name". It's been a long time since I've seen something new in print. I'd almost forgotten quite how lovely it feels.


8. Met some great new people, and talked to many more that I see only once or twice a year. As always, not enough time to catch up with everyone, and there are a few people that I wish I'd had more time with, but overall it was wonderful.

Mentioned in Passing

1. I am indeed going to WFC. Yes, I caved. And yes, I'm very glad that I did.

2a. The Keywork causes panic in Kansas. Good grief, people. (Besides, NWFT is about justice/vengeance, forgiveness and the apocalypse, not school shootings.)

2b. Coheed concert on Monday! I am made of anticipation.

3. Saw some Free Hugs people on the way to the subway this afternoon and got a free hug. Sure, it's kinda bizarre, but still made me smile.

Tags:

Three Stories about Zombies

On one of my recent weekly "pester the staff" trips to the bookstore, I spotted copies of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. I remembered a friend mentioning the book, and to my draggy, still-slightly-sick self, a fun book about a zombie apocalypse seemed like just the thing.

I was expecting a campy, fun romp of a zombie book, because ... well, zombies. What I actually had in my hands was an intense, emotionally draining, fictional war memoir -- and a good one at that. While the book dragged in a few places, and many of the individual "interviews" and narratives that create the story were perhaps a little too similar in voice to be entirely believable, overall I was surprised by the story's power and the effect it had on me. This book make me dream about zombies.

It should be noted, that every time I read the title, I have to force myself to read it as I believe the author intended it: World War Zee. World War Zed doesn't have quite the same ring.



I went out Sunday afternoon, officially to run some errands, but truly because it was just the most beautiful, warm, sunny day that I have ever known in October and I wasn't about to miss it. As I wandered my way down Queen St, I passed a couple dressed in full business outfits, ripped and covered in splatters of blood, with dirty streaks and fake bruises all along their exposed skin. I wanted to say, "I've had days like that at the office," but just smiled and kept walking.

A little farther down, I saw a few more zombie-people, talking and laughing as they headed in the other direction. A party, perhaps, I thought, then wondered vaguely if it was anything to do with the attempt attempt to gain the world record for the most people doing the Thriller dance at the same time. (But no, that's on October 27.) I kept walking.

I wandered into some stores, tried on awesome skirts, poked at yarn, spent a pile of money. Emerging again into sunlight, I was about swept away by a flood of zombies. Every kind of zombies: construction worker zombies and fancy-dress zombies, zombies in jeans and t-shirts, even a zombie with a mohawk that was in considerably better shape than his clothing. Some stumbled and shambled, moaning low in their throats, their arms bent and flopping as if the bones inside were broken; while others laughed and cavorted, the living dead seeming far more animated than the just plain living.

Hurrying across the street, I dove into bakkaphoenix and asked Ben, "What's with the zombies?" He didn't know either. And so I looked at the books, and looked at the zombies, and laughed.

Annoying and dirty and loud as it can be, I can't help but love Queen Street.



I've started writing again. I think I hit an important sleep milestone: I've slept so very much in the last few weeks that suddenly I've crossed the line that divides zombie-person from something resembling normality, and suddenly am ... me again. And just like that, words began appearing. I wonder how many cases of "writers block" are really just plain exhaustion.

So, bit by bit, I'm working on a very short story that arrived in my brain as I was walking to lunch at WFC in Austin: "When the Zombies Win". Of course.

Oct. 10th, 2007

Today my cold and I celebrated our one week anniversary. It showed its love for me with coughing fits, lethargy and an inability to stay warm. I toasted our time together with antibiotics, cough syrup and vitamins. I returned to work, and my darling illness but laughed at my whimsy.

Only a week? How close we've become. Sometimes it seems like we've always been together.

WFC Dithering

So I'd made the decision not to go to World Fantasy this year. Though it's not that far, I've already been on four trips to the US this year, see, and that's quite a bit, and am out of vacation time anyway (my time off is all time in lieu).

But then ... yesterday, I received two offers of a ride to the con (both excellent offers, and I am stunned at the generosity) ... and it really would be fun to go ... and the dollar is doing so very well ...

So. Just out of curiosity. Is anyone still looking for a roommate?

A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore ...

... and who does she see, but Margaret Atwood standing in the corner next to a potted orchid.

You will note that this story does not involve or end with the girl in question telling Margaret Atwood that she does too write science fiction, dammit (though words to that effect may have been muttered under her breath as she picked up a copy of Ann Patchett's newest novel, Run).

Yet another reason to love independent bookstores.

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Karina Sumner-Smith
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