Category Archives: True Stories

Anecdotes from my past and present.

Human hair, cat hair, all the hair

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Posted on March 26, 2015 by

imagePeter and Caitlin often write heartbreaking, detailed, delightful blog tributes when they lose a pet, and I admire them the more because that is not really my way. I thought I might write something, eventually, when Rumble died, but it didn’t happen. I’ll have to hope that since I so aggressively document the wonder of our cats while they are still pulse-equipped and photogenic, it evens out.

Prior to Rumble, we had only ever gotten kittens who were tiny – six weeks old. He was twice that, and seemed incredibly mature in some ways. Still a kitten, obviously, but old enough to have full run of the house as soon as he joined us. This meant, among other things, that he was bouncing his playful kitty butt all over the bed each night, at the rental apartment belonging to the man known as Frank the Entropic Landlord, as we slept.

I have let my hair grow out since 1995, which was when I shaved it for Clarion West. In the night, if I happened to roll over or even move my head, Rumble would pounce on any moving tresses that happened to drag over my pillow. Having your hair pounced while you’re unconscious, it turns out, is a great way to be compelled to flutter your eyelashes. This, in turn, is a spectacularly successful gambit if what you want most in life is a litter-encrusted kitten paw thrust straight  into one or both of your eye sockets.

I dig being sighted, and soon, with Kelly’s help, I was keeping my hair in French braids pretty much all the time. It wasn’t something I could do myself; I have tried periodically over the years, and made multiple abysmal failures of it. The principle seemed obvious enough, at least for the single braid, but the execution has for years been completely beyond me.

Then, a couple weeks ago, I was thinking about a story problem in the current novel. This tends to be the sort of thing that triggers absent-minded attempts at tasks that are physically beyond me. And blow me down, I sort of managed the single braid! (I can’t remember the plot problem, which means I probably solved that, too.) It wasn’t good, exactly; it didn’t go very far, and the whole process depended rather heavily on my being able to stick the left-hand tress in my mouth. But braid happened! It was still recognizably braid a couple hours later, when Kelly got home.

I rather suspect that the primary difference between all of those other tries and this one is that yoga has made it possible for me to hold my arms above my head for vastly longer periods of time. Or possibly to reach the back of my head at all.

This unexpected success also wasn’t, entirely, a fluke. I figured I had forged the faintest beginnings of a neural pathway, so I might as well see if I could push it further. (No, I actually thought that. Yes, I am that much of a nerd). I have as a result braided my own hair perhaps a half dozen times now, and many of the attempts have been at least marginally better than the one proceeding.

It is a weird thing. Rumble didn’t really cause it. It leaves me thinking about him just the same. He has been gone a year, almost. Going suddenly, as he did, meant he never had a shitty, protracted, painful vet-infested old age. I’m glad he was spared that, and the kittens are wonderful. But even so, and at odd times, the hole still yawns.

Toronto, Day 668

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Posted on March 16, 2015 by

IceFall, tree, sky.

In the past week the temperatures have swung up above freezing. The icicles I’ve been photographing everywhere have vanished, and the snowdrifts are shrunken, dirty shadows of their former selves. Litter and other appalling, filthy things are emerging as they melt; this is one of the things I never loved about the end of winter, when I lived in Alberta. Still, the sidewalk-hoovers were out in force today, sucking up the crap. It’s unutterably cool to live in a city where the city pays humans to vacuum the sidewalks.

My Novel Writing II class is winding down. Final submissions came in yesterday, which makes this another week where I’ll write about 10k words of critique. (Novel III is up next, in the spring and there’s still room for a couple more writers.)

Kelly and I went and wrote fiction at the TIFF Bell Lightbox lounge, Luma, a couple times last week, in the evening. They seem to have all the good things: tables big enough for two or four people to work on, good windows, caffeinated beverages, adult beverages, nibbles, desserts, and not-too-obnoxious ambient music. (Jimmy’s on Gerrard, I am looking at you.)

The Lightbox is about a ten minute walk from our place, and my dream (one day I’m sure we’ll make it happen) is that someday we’ll follow up a writing date with an 8:00 p.m. movie of some variety.

Speaking of Kelly, her story “Good for Grapes” is out now in New Canadian Noir, and can be found in an ever-increasing number of bricks-and-mortar and virtual bookstores. Corey Redekop is doing mini-interviews with a number of the NCN authors: here’s hers.

Lammy Nom! (Meaning: Child of a Hidden Sea is up for a #Lammy Award!)

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Posted on March 9, 2015 by

imageThe joke I’ve been making since I learned last week that Child of a Hidden Sea had made the 27th Lambda Literary Awards Finalist List, has been that my previous book, Blue Magic, is “way more gay.”

It’s easy to crack wise when these things happen, because it’s difficult to know what to say, beyond the obvious, about a nomination. The obvious being that I’m more than pleased… I’m thrilled, really, and also–hence the joke–surprised too. I am happy for my fellow Tor authors, Max Gladstone and Daryl Gregory, and for all the other nominees. I’m pleased to have personal connections to other people on the ballot, like Lloyd Meeker (we used to sing together in a choir called Out in Harmony) and one of my oldest friends in the world, the marvelous Keph Senett, who has a story in A Family by Any Other Name: Exploring Queer Relationships. These are the people in my neighborhood, the not-quite-imaginary place where queerness and feminism and activism and artistic expression all intersect to produce wonders.

It’s easier in person, of course. I got to brag up the nomination at the SpecFic Colloquium this past weekend, in between hearing Nnedi Okorafor, David Nickle, Simon McNeil, Alex Leitch and Derek Newman-Stile talking about everything from racism and ableism to gamergate and James Bond. I got to be all delighted and smug at my weekly writing date on Thursday, too.

The nomination injected a big dose of excitement into last week, in other words, and continues to offer up a warm glow of delight as the days pass.

Cinzo update and random acts of data housekeepery

Posted on December 19, 2014 by

imageI try to limit my whine bloggery, but this week has had the emotional tone of a light bear mauling. You know the kind of thing I mean: buffeting, skull-gnawing, the occasional rake of claws. Still, the bear ain’t seriously pissed off or, worse, hungry. Eventually she heads off to play with some other food–because bored–and you pick your foot off the ground and hop to Dr. Frankenstein’s for a discount reattachment.

There were awesome things too, like the Chizine Saturnalia party, the Carbide Tipped Pens book launch, and–so delightful and exciting!–Kelly selling a story, “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill,” to Clarkesworld. Her list of upcoming publications can be found here now, if you haven’t been keeping score.

So! Someone remarked that I haven’t been posting about the kittens. Can that possibly be true?  Here’s a very weird picture of the two of them hiding from the dude who came to fix our doorjamb.

CinZo afeard

The most notable thing right now about Lorenzo and Chinchilla is that they look an awful lot like cats. They’re about eight months old, which implies another few months of growth, but Lozo’s hit the 12 pound mark. CinCin’s half his size, and will certainly be the tiniest cat we’ve ever owned. Not the tiniest beast, thanks to the lizards, my college tarantula (yes, like so many other girls, I experimented with arachnid ownership when I was at university) and their coterie of magical crickets, whose short, pointless insectile lives were devoted to helping the noisiest singer among their number escape, all so that we would be treated to a constant symphony of sunsets at summertime, an echoing, bree, bree, bree, FRIGGIN’ BREE!!! HAHAHA PRIMATES YOU WILL SUFFER FOR YOUR CRIMES AGAINST MY COMRADES, I CAN DO THIS ALL NIGHT!! from under the refrigerator.

The kids have also picked up a few new spy nicknames: Fred and Barney, Moose and Squirrel. We still also call them Loaf and Sauce, though interestingly they seem to have mostly lost interest in the wet food that spawned this pair of names. They can pack away the kibble like nobody’s business, though. Anyone else had their young cats go: “Meh? Kibble’s fine; I’m bored with the wet stuff.” It happened with Obiwan too.

On a more mundane note–and I’ll probably repeat this a few times, in various entries–my sff.net e-mail address is going to be shutting down some time in the New Year. You can still get me at alyx@telus.net or the main addy. Many people do use Facebook to reach me, which is completely fine as long as you understand that a) it may take me weeks to remember to check that Inbox and b) I do not respond to single-line demands for anything, whether it’s a book review, a Like My Page, my mailing address, jam, blurbs, signal boostage, photographs, or money. Say hello, for pity’s sake! Tell me how you’re doing and what you’re up to, and then hit me up for whatever it is you want. I might still say no, but chances are better that I’ll answer you rather than leaving a trail of steaks leading to your door, all to tempt that bear I mentioned.

Cafe Writers Unite (Toronto day 578)

Posted on December 16, 2014 by

Something I did in October when I was in Vancouver was to tell everyone I know that I’d be at Caffe Calabria in the mornings, writing if I had the place to myself, and socializing if anyone cared to show. I met Barb there. Badger came, as did Emily from our old condo. I figured I’d see some of the cafe regulars, but it turned out there are a shocking number of them: I saw both Toms, for example, the alternate-energy physicist and the religious studies professor. An aspiring YA author, Jenny, was there both mornings. I caught Adita and Harry, the snowbirds whose daughter is a poet, on their last day in Canada. Oscar was there (what I know about Oscar is TMI for the Internet), and Yespat the engineer. I even exchanged friendly hellos with a trio of people I think of (not that this reflects well on me, but their voices carry and all they do is bitch bitch bitch some more) as the Friday Snark Club.

The sheer number of people I had a “Hey, how are ya?” relationship with and the delight that came with seeing them made me realize how many connections I’d built up just by going to work at dawn in the same place, 6-7 days a week, 2 hours a day. It drove home that I hadn’t even begun to do that particular kind of in-community root-growing here.

This lack of effort was no accident–in fact, I had it scheduled for November. I didn’t put much effort into a cafe hunt in May when we first moved to our new building. I knew there’d be guests coming and then travel and more guests and more travel, and the publicity push for Child of a Hidden Sea and then the film festival and more travel atop that. It was a thoroughly awesome summer and autumn, but I wasn’t keeping to the sort of schedule that makes it possible for me to settle into a routine.

Of course it was impossible I’d score another place quite as perfect as Calabria. It was 300 meters from my door, it opened at six in the morning, and Frank Murdocco’s eclectic curation of 20th century music is uniquely delightful, irreplaceable.

But! Now that October and all those trips are in the rearview, I’ve been going to a recently opened cafe called Portland Variety. The coffee is excellent, the atmosphere is right, the staff is lovely, tables are plentiful and the music leans to jazz (which is easier to tune out than pop, satellite radio’s litest hits or the go-to choice at Jimmy’s Cafe, the Doors.) I’m comfortable working here for hours on end, and there are starting to be other morning regulars. It’s not obscenely close to home, but the route back to the condo leads past the grocery, and that’s a significant plus.

It’s promising, in other words. I have high hopes that at last I’ve found this particular piece of my workaday puzzle.

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