I know I haven't posted anything in a while, but we're going to ignore that and skip right to the part of this post where I tell you about how today I tried to chop down a tree to distract myself from the horrible stomach virus/food poisoning* thing that is happening to my stomach.
Our house stands on an unusually heavily-wooded lot, which is awesome, because we get to spot all kinds of bird and squirrel antics and make funny voices for them while they run around doing stereotypical squirrel things like being terrified or carrying nuts in their mouths. What is not so awesome is that every time I look up at the majestic oak trees towering above our house, I become convinced that a freak hurricane will blow through and use them to crush us in our beds. Lavender bushes are much safer. A lavender bush never killed anyone.
I have enough of a sense of self-preservation to know that I can't try to chop down the giant oak trees all over our yard. I'm aware that my fear of being crushed to death by a falling tree isn't entirely rational, and I genuinely love being surrounded by their natural beauty. But that didn't mean I couldn't do something about the two to three-year-old saplings our home's former owners - a sweet, middle-aged lesbian couple who, during the real estate closing, joined the chorus of strangers asking Jeremy and me why we don't have kids yet - inexplicably planted within three feet of each other, the fence, and several other well-established trees in our front yard. Every time I looked at those saplings, they baffled me. Why did the former owners plant them so close together? There was no way they could both thrive in those conditions, and they were only going to end up damaging the house and fence as their root structures spread. I chalked it up to ill-advised tree enthusiasm, which I have been guilty of myself.
So, this afternoon, I needed a distraction from the feeling that I had swallowed a live snake made of lead, and I decided that digging up one of the two saplings would be preferable to dwelling on my intestinal woes. I got the shovel and started trying to unearth the tree's already-impressive root structure. After several minutes of hitting roots as big around as my arm, I decided it might make more sense to chop down the tree. I retrieved the axe - which I think is actually meant for splitting logs, not chopping down baby trees - from the wood pile and discovered several things.
1) Chopping down a tree is hard, even if it's a relatively young tree, because you have to hit the trunk with the axe in the same place over and over again. This is even harder when you're paranoid about chopping off your toes. And when your axe isn't the right kind of axe. Let's just say Anne Boleyn should be glad not to have had me as her executioner.
2) I feel some bizarre form of liberal guilt over chopping down trees, even if it's for the long-term good of all the neighboring trees and the house and fence. I blame this on my second-grade teacher reading The Lorax to our class.
3) Physical labor and gastrointestinal distress are not a good combination.
3) Chopping down a tree may look like an excellent way to reduce stress, but not if your internal monologue goes something like, Dammit, ANOTHER frickin' root! What the hell? This tree isn't going anywhere! The roots are all tangled up together. What the hell is wrong with the people who planted these things? Didn't they think about how the trees would grow and their root systems would intertwine, and maybe even the trees would grow into each other and become one tree as they got older?
And that's when it occurred to me that I live in Grand Hippie Central and the former residents might have been trying to do exactly that - plant the two trees close together so that their roots would intermingle and they would fuse together into one larger tree in a touching statement about love and commitment and family.
And then I felt really, really guilty. Not only about the half chopped-down tree, but about being such a dick about the trees being close together during my internal monologue, when all the while they were a beautiful metaphor flying miles over my head.
But not guilty enough that I didn't take Jeremy up on his offer to finish chopping down the tree. I'm all about some beautiful metaphors, but I'm also about not having structural damage to our house.
*I really don't know which it is. There's been a stomach virus going around at work, but then again, I ate something that involved "chipotle mayo" for Sunday brunch.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Author and blogger Lenore Appelhans has an interview with me up on her blog, Presenting Lenore, as part of her wonderful Dystopian August series. I'm a few days late posting this link because of the general chaos that has descended over my life during the last two weeks, but I was so excited and honored to take part.
I got the chance to talk about SALVAGE, so if you want to be tortured by small bits of information about the book, please go read the interview. Lenore gave me some great questions, including my favorite, "What fictional character from another book would your character choose as his/her best friend and why?" and the one I most dreaded, "If your book had a theme song, what would it be and why?" This is one of those questions I've occasionally seen asked of other authors in interviews, and every time I hear it, my brain scrambles around like a headless chicken, trying to remember what music is and whether or not I like it. I can't help it. This question momentarily lobotomizes me. But I'm glad Lenore asked it, because she made me face my fear, and I think I came up with a relatively coherent answer.
Saturday, August 4, 2012
I have a vlog post up about making time for writing and life over on the Friday the Thirteeners blog. We're playing Truth or Dare over there, and this week I took a Truth. It has me thinking about honesty, so today I've decided to lay it all out there.
I've had some really wonderful things happen lately - my husband and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary last Monday, part of my advance arrived, my husband found a full-time job, and The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2012, edited by Rich Horton, comes out today.
Year's Best includes my novella "Rampion," about love, tragedy, and witchcraft during the fall of the Umayyad caliphate in 11th century Spain. I'm thrilled to have my writing in such good company. Two of my literary idols, Kelly Link and Margo Lanagan, also have stories in the anthology, as well as my friend Theodora Goss.
At the same time, we've had car trouble, student loan trouble, and a slew of relatives visiting all summer long. On top of that, my grandmother is very ill. All of these things have culminated in me missing work and writing time, and coming down with a nasty cold. I would love to simply celebrate all of the good things happening, but I'm feeling a little "like butter scraped over too much bread."
I think I could shrug all of these other things off, if it weren't for my grandmother's sickness. Though she's receiving palliative care now, she's been in pain and declining health for a long time. And while I'm not depressed or anything so serious, it is hard to celebrate these other things while this is happening to her.
I sometimes feel bad posting unhappy items on this blog, as if I'm burdening any readers with my own morose thoughts. It also feels as if I'm being ungrateful by complaining when so many good things are happening to me. And believe me, I'm happy about these good things in my life, but I'd be lying if I omitted the bad.
And now I'm going to go eat some chicken soup and knock myself out with cold medicine. Things always look better in the morning.
Friday, July 13, 2012
Over at the Friday the Thirteeners blog, we're doing a giveaway to celebrate our namesake day. Each of us named one book in our own writing genre that we wish we'd written, and the lucky winner, chosen at random from among the entrants, will receive all the books on the list we've complied:
WHITE CAT by Holly Black and HEIST SOCIETY by Ally Carter (from Natalie)
BATTLE ROYALE by Koushun Takami (from Elsie)
BATTLE ROYALE by Koushun Takami (from Elsie)
PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White (from Shannon)
WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson (from Brandy)
THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins (from Mindy)
ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake (from Jenn)
UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi (from Erin)
HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff (from April)
THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary E. Pearson (from Alexa)
SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo (from Ellen)
THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater (from Kasie)
TIGER LILY by Jodi Lynn Anderson (from Megan)
(Actually, I really wish I had written WHITE CAT and HOW I LIVE NOW, too. And WINTERGIRLS. And THE HUNGER GAMES. I have a lot of author envy. Maybe too much, since I've just named every book on that list that I've actually read.)
I chose THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX, because I think it embodies everything a science fiction novel can offer its readers. It has compelling characters and a driving mystery, but it also brings up fundamental questions about what it means to be human. Many people think of science fiction as spaceships, aliens, and cold theory, but I think science fiction is at its best when it uses scientific elements to extrapolate what our own future would be like and make us question what that future would mean for us as human beings.
What, you may ask, does any of this have to do with anagrams? Not a lot, really. Except that someone let us near an online anagram-maker, and of course, being writers, we plugged our own names, and then the names of our books. There are a surprisingly large number of words you can make with the letters in my name, but my favorite ended up being "Duenna Lax-Canard," because it sounds vaguely like a real name, and I love the ideal of a careless duck. We all ended up making fake covers or, in my case, fake author photos for ourselves. Then we decided to give away some books so that it didn't just look like we had gotten carried away playing with Photoshop and anagram machines.
Some of my fellow Thirteeners have mad Photoshop skills and made frighteningly professional-looking fake covers. My lack of Photoshop forced me to go a little more low-tech, but I did manage to frighten Jeremy by putting my hair in a beehive, drawing very pointy eyebrows on myself, trading my real glasses for a pair of 3-D shades stolen from the movie theater, and donning a truly magnificent houndstooth cape we found at Goodwill one time, all despite our house being about 95 degrees.
Friday, June 1, 2012
Of course, exactly what I did during the zombie apocalypse would depend on the type of zombie apocalypse. Fast or slow zombies? Undead rising from the grave a la Night of the Living Dead or living people turned into contagious, flesh-eating monsters? Do we still have a government or electricity? But, in any case, here are the basic elements of my plan:
1) Wear boots.
|I really want these boots.|
2) Let Jeremy drive.
I am a neurotically cautious driver. (My grandmother approves of my top speed and driving technique.) And while I think this is probably a good thing in the real world, it would be exceptionally bad to have a scaredy cat like me behind the wheel in the event of zombies. My husband Jeremy, on the other hand, is a much more. . . spontaneous driver. Sometimes he likes to go fast "just for fun," i.e. to terrify me, and he tends to wait until the last moment to switch lanes or execute a turn. I can't emphasize enough how much I hate this in real life, but I have to admit, he's the one I'd want behind the wheel if zombies attacked. Finally, he could apply his evasive driving maneuvers to a noble cause. Which brings me to the next part of my plan. . .
3) Go to Max's house.
I have exactly one friend who owns any firearms and knows how to use them properly, and that is Max. However, Max is a libertarian, so if I want the benefit of his shooty-knowledge, I'd better. . .4) Have something to contribute to post-apocalyptic society.
I'm never going to be an expert marksman or deerstalker (See here.), I can't start a fire with two sticks, and I doubt my typing speed or knowledge of graphic novels would be particularly useful in the even of a zombie apocalypse. But! I'm not entirely useless. I can sew, make bread from scratch, and sort of grow food. And look how good I am at planning stuff. Plus, I own a awl and a machete! Okay, I co-own the machete with my husband, but the awl is all mine. (If you're wondering why we co-own a machete, it's because of the dreaded Tree of Heaven forest trying to overtake our front porch. It's the only way to combat them.)
|Tree of Heaven, aka "The Devil Plant." Photograph by Paul Wray of Iowa State University|
How will you spend your zombie apocalypse?
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
I don't know if you were aware of this, but we married people are all involved in a vast conspiracy to get our single friends either married or paired up in long-term relationships. This is because, once you've been in a relationship for a long time, a mysterious gravitational shift occurs and you find yourself hanging out almost exclusively with other couples. Some primeval part of your brain knows that if you want to keep hanging out with your single friends, you're going to have to find significant others for them, STAT.
Of course, the part of this we'll publicly admit to is that marriage is pretty awesome when you're with the right person. You know someone will come for you if you're sick or your car breaks down on the side of the road. You have someone to stay by your side and keep you from getting nervous at holiday parties, or to confide in when your family starts to drive you crazy. You have someone to act as a sounding board for your ideas, and you get to return the favor. You get to see your best friend in the world at the end of every day.
But underneath that desire to share our happiness with our friends is the same underlying selfish motive: we want other couples to hang out with.
And that is why all we straight, married people should support marriage equality for our gay and lesbian friends, or at the very least, a legally recognized domestic partnership that gives gay couples the basic legal support marriage provides: hospital visitation rights, the ability to carry one's partner on a health insurance plan, legal recognition in the event of a partner's death.
Think how our marriage conspiracy would grow if we could only involve our gay friends more deeply! Think of the dinner dates! The attendance at New Year's parties! It's really in our own selfish interest to make sure as many people feel happy and secure in their relationships as possible, which is why I encourage every married person out there who can legally do so to go out today and vote AGAINST North Carolina's Amendment 1, which would ban gay marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships in our state.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Those of you who know me recognize what an introvert I am, but lately I've been out in the world, interacting with other people and talking about my writing.
First, I've joined a blog called Friday the Thirteeners, which is written by a small group of Young Adult authors who have books debuting in 2013. The idea behind the blog is that we're playing an extended, writing-related game of Truth or Dare. Anyone can submit a challenge, and each week, one of the Thirteeners or a special guest author tackles one of the submissions.
My first dare went up today, a challenge to read part of a story I had written when I was younger. I ended up sharing an excerpt from my attempt at a sci-fi novel when I was 11 years old. It involved evil aliens, angels, space dragons, and more. Pop over to the Thirteeners site to watch my vlog post about it, and while you're there, don't forget to send us a challenge of your own. We are
gluttons for punishment ready for anything!