Our friends atheorist, his sister Sarah, and their mother Julie came over to spend Christmas day with us this year–which was lovely, as I like having a full house of folks I can cook for and take care of. As her present to us, Julie taught everyone about Zentangle and led us through making one.

Zentangle is this thing where they break down certain repetitive drawing patterns and use it to create a meditative experience which is less about doing nothing than about clearing the mind through repetitive action. Wax on, wax off, so to speak. I found it fairly awesome, as it’s similar to how I (compulsively) doodle anyway, but gives a structure I hadn’t had before.

That sounds a little stilted. I’ve always wanted to be able to draw, and been super shitty at it. I doodle because I have the restless hands, but I can’t draw meaningfully at all. My college notebooks are full of swirls and no notes to speak of. ZT has done a pretty great job of breaking images down into something I can draw–though I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do anything non-abstract, I am still excited about this. I can do awesome art deco/medieval/eschery things!

So, unfortunately, the online Zentangle culture leaves something to be desired. The starter kit is kind of broken–they don’t include instructions even for all the patterns in their little legend, and some of the ones included don’t even have instructions online. It’s all very focused on selling the founders’ seminars, and getting “certified” as an instructor, and that just doesn’t appeal to me at all, as well as turning art into a kind of weird scrapbookers’ Amway thing. But the thing itself has such worth. So I’m ignoring the tupperware club aspect, mostly, except for finding patterns, of which there are hundreds, much like knitting. I do like a lot of the Zentangle inspired blogs, which takes the technique and goes further with it, outside the original bounds of the notion.

In fact, it reminds me a lot of knitting, with the slow growth of complex patterns built with straight lines. Also medieval marginalia, though I’ haven’t found any celtic knot patterns yet I’m sure they exist. And last night I finally realized what it reminds me most of: mehndi.

Which, it turns out, is done exactly the same way–small, repetitive patterns fitted within larger shapes. Some of the patterns are, in fact, identical to Zentangle patterns. (Also explains why I know people who can’t draw traditionally but do mehndi.) I’m surprised that I haven’t seen anyone comment on this–though they may have, I’m not super involved with the community as I’ve said. The similarity is extremely striking to me, though–if there are less flower and bird designs in Zentangle.

So I’m hoping, as a resolutiony type thing, to do one Zentangle a day as a meditation exercise, because my brain is so birdyjumpy it needs to work the hands more or less constantly. I’ve been adding some words to my pieces, free association and alliteration, because I love words and can’t help it. Maybe I’ll try to pick up some calligraphy–though I’m pretty proud of my handwriting.

I don’t feel like I want to post them–there’s so many Zentangle blogs and I just want to do it for myself, not get certified or join the community. But I feel really nice about drawing every day. I think it will be grounding. I spent hours last night copying patterns into a blank book (with mehndi on the cover, amusingly) so that I can keep track of my abilities (also, the kit comes with a d20 so you can randomize the process, which is geekier than I suspect they know) and the patterns I really like, which tend to be curvy and flowing rather than geometric.

I’d be interested to know if any of you guys have heard of this or taken it up!

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It’s that time again, when the holly comes down and the carols stop playing and the freezing ground crunches underfoot and the award eligibility lists start popping up online.

The Nebula and Hugo nomination periods are open–you can nominate for the Nebs (if you are a SFWA member) until February 15th, and for the Hugos until March 11th–however, if you have not yet bought your Worldcon membership, supporting or full, you only have til January 31 to do so and earn yourself some sweet nominating rights. These are the relevant dates!

So, it’s been a pretty crazy year for me, and marks the first one in which I have something eligible in every fiction category. Good grief. But if you can nominate, please do consider these things and the many other worthies that were published in 2011. Without further ado.

If the work is available online for free, I’ve linked to it. All others can be got through the usual channels.

Novel:

Deathless (First three chapters online at Tor.com, also available in the Nebula forums.)
The Folded World

Note: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is NOT eligible for the Nebula as it was published online in 2010, and fairly obviously not eligible for the Norton as it already won it. I’m reasonably sure it is not eligible for the Hugo for the same reason, but if someone knows otherwise, I’m happy to be corrected.

Novella:

Silently and Very Fast (Real SF, Ma! Or mostly real. Available in total on Clarkesworld for free along with audio, and I think there are a few hard copies left. Also available on the Nebula forums.)

Novelette:

White Lines on a Green Field (Coyote-trickster football story)
The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland–For a Little While (prequel to Fairyland)

Short Story:

The Bread We Eat in Dreams (Demonic Colonial Maine story from Apex)
A Voice Like a Hole (from Welcome to Bordertown, teen runaway mythpunk)
In the Future When All’s Well (from Teeth, nihilistic California girl teen vampire)
The Wolves of Brooklyn (Giant wolves devour Brooklyn)

Editor, Short Form:

I am eligible for my work with Apex in 2011, even though I am no longer the editor of the magazine. My time with Apex represents my only work as an editor to date, so I don’t expect to have a dog in this category again. Apex as a whole is also eligible for Best SemiPro Zine.

Best Fancast:

The SF Squeecast, in which I babble about all things awesome with Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Elizabeth Bear, and Lynne Thomas.

I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything. So there it is, my 2011, for your consideration. If you have any questions I’m happy to answer them, and at the very least, you can read some cool things through this post.

A final note: you do not have to go to Worldcon to nominate and vote for the Hugos. You can buy a supporting membership for $50 and get that perk. I realize $50 is a lot to express an opinion, but every year we hear complaints about the ballot and every year I hope that my generation will vote a little more, because the Hugos are kind of a bellwether for the field, and I want new crackly risktaking goodness in there, too. Since I have no control over the price of the supporting membership all I can say is–give it a thought, if you have the scratch.

Thank you to everyone who bought a book or read a story by me this year. It’s been a doozy, and I wish I could hug each and every one of you.

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It is Christmas time and thus much is quiet for me online.

This year especially so, because we are having our biggest Xmas ever–meaning, more than just the two of us and Hogfather and pork pies. triskelmoon and her husband and son are here, soon to be joined by sarapada, and then justbeast’s parents are coming for New Year (hopefully we’ll have Russian TV set up by then). It is a full house! Plus we did solstice this week with added pixelcandy and clan, plus LJ-less Winter and Fire. I have done my best to spoil my friends and have cooked, pickled, preserved, and infused like crazy.

And the weekend before? We hosted Ludum Dare (code a game in 48 hours for fun and profit) and I wrote, er, three short stories and two proposals in the weekend so as to express solidarity with the Argentinian Proletariat programmers in my life.

So you see why it’s been hard to blog. Also I am desperately trying to finish my last knitting present in time for the day. I will return with renewed vigor post-holiday and in the meantime will be on the Twitters.

I hope you are all well, and cozy this winter.

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I don’t think I’ve ever made a secret of how much I love the Brontes. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are two of my favorite novels, but more, the story of their childhood in Yorkshire, their strange fantasy kingdoms created between the four of them and the Parsonage and everything, everything. Back in the day my MSN username was iamabrontesaurus. I MEANT IT.

And in a literary world where everyone and their aunt adores Austen and writes pastiches, homages, fan fiction, and stories set in Austen-analogues, I sometimes feel alone, out on the moors in a black dress with my blind lover and a burning house insisting that Bronte is where it’s at, always, forever, I am not Lizzie Bennett and never was, I have been Jane and Cathy and Heathcliff in my heart since I was a child.

So right now I am researching a story about Angria and Gondal and the child Brontes. Honestly, I think I might have bitten off more than I can chew given that it’s due by month’s end, the research is gargantuan, even for someone who knows a fair amount about them. That doesn’t even bring into the case that I’ve never been to Yorkshire and I’ve gotta get my head out of Eastern European fairyspeak and into 19th century British fairyspeak and probably should read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in addition to my other materiel, some of which is still in transit.

But as I read about the tiny Brontes and their twelve wooden soldiers and their little magazine and newspaper and grand nations of their minds (even if Glass Town makes me a little uncomfortable as our small colonizers set their magical adventures in Darkest Africa) I am filled with longing.

I, like Charlotte, am the oldest of four siblings. (Actually five, as Charlotte was actually third oldest of six, but her sisters died, and one of my brothers lived with my mother and so I didn’t really grow up with him.) The thing is, I was six years older than the nearest brother, and until I was 12 the only girl. And my siblings and I are not so terribly alike in temperament or interests, though I surely told them stories endlessly when we were young. Also, I moved to my mother’s house at 13 (this is a long story I will not tell now) and my many siblings grew up mostly without me.

But whenever I read of these imagined shared worlds, I am filling with yearning like unto a literary heroine. Moonwise made me feel the same way. The Secret Country. I want to have had that. I want to have had a close little circle who made up elaborate, endless tales of a country we all agreed on. I want to have that secret language and that private symbolism. I especially want to have had close siblings I could have experienced that with. I want that interior landscape, and I want to share it with others.

Which is, of course, probably the same longing that led me to become a fantasy writer. So that I could share worlds with everyone. But it’s not the same as the close heads-pressed-together letsputonashowforjustus thing.

Then I think–but I have so many sisters now. I could do this.

And I come to the sad realization that I am burning all my engines at full to make worlds that can be published and shared on a big stage. I don’t know what I’d have left to devote to a thing that would live in the shadows and be gentle, silent, and secret. and of course all the Brontes had every intention of being famous writers, they were hardly without desire for publication. But now that it’s my job I just don’t know how that nursery feeling will ever come again. Youth is the time for that, I guess? I hate saying that about anything. If I weren’t doing it for a living I would happily indulge now. And maybe when I have a child I can have some sliver of it.

But still. I read about those kids and I long for a childhood I never had. Long for a secret Tarot like the Moonwise girls, for a world so very near real, but contained in the woods behind my house. For make believe and ballgowns out of autumn leaves. To be so close to someone(s) that we’d make between us not a child but a world.

We’re in the autumn that never ended here in Maine. The Autumn Provinces–it stubbornly refuses to get really cold and the snow comes but won’t stick. We’re at the end of autumn forever, it feels like. And maybe that makes me melancholy and extra Bronte-y. I have no moors but I have a lonely seaside and a forest, and had I but a great billowing black hoopskirty dress I’d wander it like some lost waif of Gondal.

Not enough sighs in the world.

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I have a new poem out today!

I am as proud of it as a short story so it gets its own post.

The Melancholy of Mecha Girl is a philosophical confessional poem about anime and giant robots. You can read it right over here, as Mythic Delirium, giant of the poetry world and 25th Birthday Girl, has chosen it as one of the issue’s featured poems.

This means! You can hear me reading it aloud as well as reading it yourself. And hopefully while you’re over there subscribe or just buy the issue, as it has many other amazing poets including Sonya Taaffe, Jeannine Hall Gailey (who inspired my own poem!), Mari Ness, Jessica Paige Wick, and Rachel Manija Brown.

I feel like I’m tentatively forging a new voice and a new phase in my poetry. I’m not really sure I could describe what it is, but this poem is definitely part of that. It’s exciting to me, and I hope it’s exciting to you, too.

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