After following the link from E. L. Chen's site, I've discovered that "A Last Taste of Sweetness" is (mostly) favourably reviewed in Tangent Online. Woo! And yes, even though the end of the world has been done to death, I still quite like it. In a theoretical sense only, of course.
And Rich Horton (who mentioned "Drowned Men" in his Locus column) mentions me not once but twice in his articles for The Speculative Literature Foundation. "Drowned Men" again gets notice in the "other notable stories" section of his Strange Horizons review, and "She Is Elizabeth Lynn Rhodea" is mentioned as a highlight of the first issue of Flytrap.
Also, "Sweetness" is mentioned in half a sentence in the SF Site review of LCRW #13. It sort of made me go "huh?" but that's life.
All this has just reinforced my belief that I really need to do some writing/revisions, and get some stories in the mail. Really.
Last time I was in Bakka, I decided to browse through their used book shelves. This is something I do occasionally, especially when I have no money and cannot buy any of those lovely, brand-new books that fill the store, but just might be able to spare a couple of dollars for a slightly used novel. So I was scanning the spines, half-listening to the conversations of friends around me, when a name caught my eye. More specifically, my name caught my eye.
I reached up and grabbed off the shelf a book published in 1982 by Michael Coney called Cat Karina. One look at the cover and I knew that I had to own this book.
The cover illustration is ... really something. In the background there is a large, odd-looking sailboat, and further behind that there are mountains. The foreground has a nice stretch of hilly grass (cut short enough to be called a lawn) and a little strech of cobblestone road. And standing on the cobblestone road are four women, each posing so as to flaunt her unique and voluptuous curves. They are wearing boots or leather sandals with laces that tie all around their legs, and leather bracelets and arm band and necklaces. As for clothing ... well, they're not wearing much of that at all, nor are the few bits that they're wearing doing a very good job of keeping them covered. This must be for greater ease of movement, because surely with the long spears and knives that they're holding and have strapped to various places on themselves, they need to be ready for a sudden attack.
Oh, and their ears. Must not forget about their ears. They're pointed. And either they've taken a whole lot of very interesting recreational substances that have left them with very strange, wide-eyed and somewhat blank stares, or their eyes are supposed to be cat-slit.
The enticing tag line that runs across the cover reads: "The svelte bodies of the felinas were irresistable--and strictly off-limits for human men. The felinas had a wonderful time..."
So at this point I'm laughing up a storm. I turn the back over and read the two paragraphs that are nearly as amusing as the front cover. My favourite bit says, "But more successful than any of these who call themselves Specialists are the felinas, descended from jaguars. They are beautiful, carefree, and casually cruel, and loveliest of them all is Karina."
Even opening the book to a random page proves to be amusing:
Karina said, "You see, I'm still alive. Your crocodiles couldn't kill me--not for want of trying."
See, the sexy, descended-from-jaguars Karina can even take on crocodiles! I bet she did it without even muddying her sassy push-up bra.
I have tried to tell myself to stop being so mean; after all, if I wrote a book--a good book!--and it was given an absolutely terrible cover, and silly back cover copy and the rest, the last thing I'd want to do is have someone with the main character's name giggling and quoting me in a semi-public forum. (And hey, there really might be people out there named Ashanté, or Tieren, or Kii, or ... well, you get the idea.) And I'm told that Michael Coney is actually a very good author, even though no one that I've spoken to who knows his work has heard of this particular novel.
Maybe it is a good book, or at least a decent book. But I sort of don't want to read it, in case I can no longer laugh about it. Of course, there will always be the cover...
I am absolutely in love with the library these days. (Even though my favourite branch is closed for renovations. Even though my new favourite branch is being renovated as well, and parking is all but impossible in the area. I can't even really be annoyed, I just sing a little song as I walk however long it takes to get from where I had to put my car to the library itself: "Oh, don't give me a parking ticket, no tickets please, that would really suck, tra-la.") Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy the library before, it's just that my enjoyment was more from the library concept than any real experience. Now that I have at least two TTC-related hours to fill each work day, and usually most of my hour's lunch and my breaks as well, I am reading and reading and reading. And the creative part of my brain is flickering and blinking and turning on, and all these lovely story ideas are starting to bubble up ...
Read The Speed of Dark a few days ago. It was ... hmm. I was expecting more from it stylistically, I think. I was expecting one thing and I got another, so while I was reading I kept having to tell myself not to judge the book on what I thought it was going to be but rather on what it was. Even if I liked my concept better. It was a good book, I think, and I read it with interest throughout, and yet ... I'm not sure. On one hand it felt almost too self-aware, the tone was directed so strongly AT the reader that it was actually a wee bit confusing. I mean, if the main character is directly talking to me, the reader, I sort of want to know how and why. And if he's not and it just seems that way? It's odd.
I don't want to say too much about the actual ending (though I will say I thought it rushed, at best), only that I am slightly frustrated that it cut away where it did. To me, the most interesting thing can often be what happens afterwards. You've made your decision: now what? You've saved the world, rescued the prince, and even kept the little dog from coming to any harm: now what? Sometimes the story's not only in coming to a decision, or the struggles to meet the goal, but in dealing with the aftermath as well. (Course, I'm one to talk. Lord only knows how many stories I have that end right at--or a few seconds after--The Big Decision. Or the end of the world. Or whatever.)
And then I read Robin McKinley's Sunshine, which I ended up loving in that pure "this story makes me happy" sort of way. Don't know why--I'm not usually a vampire story kind of gal, but there it is. The first 50 pages or so were pretty rough, but after that it was all good. Have to buy it in paperback.
Also in the "this story makes me happy" category: Sarah lent me Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries, which is surprisingly funny and honest for a little tale about a clumsy princess in New York. And now I'm reading Holly Black's Tithe. It seems I had to hit my twenties before I started reading and enjoying YA books; I've got a lot to catch up on, too. (Most of the books I considered for my YA fantasy project are now calling to me. "Order us from the library," they say. "We'll be there in just a few days. Maybe a week, or a little bit longer if there's a waiting list." Quite the siren song.)
So yesterday was my birthday. You know how people ask, "Feel any different?" Well, this year I kind of do. It's part of that whole transition from school to work and life and all that other lovely stuff, I'm sure. But I'm afraid I'm far too tired to get any more introspective than that at the moment.
My birthday-day was uneventful, gray and cool outside, and dull in the office. But after work was finished, I met up with Carly downtown to watch Troy and eat large quantities of chocolate-based snacks. What I'd heard about Troy ahead of time was true: you know how it ends, not much suspense, etc. But none of that mattered. We were there for Brad. Very attractive man in few clothes, with a sword: let me tell you, the sight is most definitely acceptable.
And I stayed up "late" (since when is after 11 PM late?!) reading Sunshine, knowing I'd regret it later (like today) but doing it anyway, because I could.
Our apartment is still the Birthday Apartment, though, complete with streamers and a wide variety of amusing, helium-filled balloons. I'm quite happy to leave it like this, too; every time I walk in the door it makes me smile.
Another fact that makes me smile: because I have a dentist appointment tomorrow morning, I don't have to get up until 6:45! Oh, the happiness! The extra hour of sleep!
So there's a guy on a ladder outside my window right now. If there was no window or wall between us, I could quite easily hit him with a stick. My window is also open, so though the annoying wicker blinds probably keep him from seeing me sitting here in my nice pajamas he can probably hear me typing. And I'm thinking to myself, it's not even 10 AM on a Saturday morning. Is this the absolute best time to get out the ladders and start making a racket? Okay, yes, granted, I am awake. I had just started eating some cereal when he dragged the ladder over and started climbing. But still. This is not ideal.
Course, my landlords are slightly crazy. (If you are one of the twenty or so people she called to get a reference for me after I'd lived here for eight months then you likely already know this. And if you're one of the people that she called that I hadn't put down as a reference but got a phone call anyway ... again, I'm sorry.) And the fact that people like to sleep in on Saturdays apparently does not occur to either of them, as evidenced by the times at which they call, sometimes obsessively. (If you know I'm home and I'm not answering the main line nor my cell phone, take it as a hint, okay? It is not an invitation to keep calling.)
Ladder guy has moved on; he is now in front of the living room windows. I don't know what the girls above us are having done to the windows. They don't like to communicate verbally with either Carly or myself. Our only communications are conducted through their floorboards/our ceiling, and usually involve some sort of high heels.
I should go start the dryer again and do my last load of laundry. I might as well be productive, because lazing around in my pajamas does not seem like an entirely good idea when there's some guy that I don't know hanging around with a ladder outside. And I have a critique to write and all. Maybe I'll play ladder guy some music, just to amuse myself. Random workmen enjoy fiddles, don't they?
Finished up Lynn Flewelling's The Bone Doll's Twin, which I ended up enjoying after a rather faltering start. Numerous faltering starts, actually. But I was just starting to really care about the characters and what was going to happen to them when the book ended. The good news is that the sequel has already been published, so I just have to find myself a copy.
Started reading Sharon Shinn's Jenna Starborn today. I usually like Sharon Shinn's books, in that slightly guilty, fun book sort of way. But this one ... so far it's a big "meh." I know it's a retelling of Jane Eyre. Little details are changed, yes, but generally as I read I think, "Yep, this is Jane Eyre. But just not as interesting." It's not even that I know the plot or the ending or any of that. It feels as if she's sticking too closely to the original text and not letting these characters live and breathe and be their own people. It's just too self-aware. I had some hope that it would redeem itself, but that hope is quickly fading.
But it's okay because I went to the library this evening to pick up not one but three of the books that I'd ordered. I now have The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon (which they were going to send back because I haven't been able to get to the library for a bit), Sunshine by Robin McKinley and Slaughterhouse-Five. PLUS I have a copy of Julie's Survival. I don't know what to start reading next, and I love it!
I had myself worried for a while there. See, I've known since I was young that the way I talk changes depending on who I'm around. When I'm in the States, I don't say "eh" quite as much as I do around here. When I'm visiting friends in Florida, within a few days I notice that I've begun to speak more slowly, and that I can recognize in my own voice something almost like a drawl. If I watch Coronation Street for too long ... well, you get the idea.
Which is why I started to worry about my accent. It's a Sumner-Smith accent; really there's no other description for it, and each one of my immediate family members has their own version, dependent on various factors. For example, my brother's accent is closer to a "normal" Southern Ontario accent than mine is. And though the accent is slightly odd, and draws comments on occasions, it's mine. And reinforced by association with my family.
Yet the person I speak to most often these days is Carly, seeing as we live in the same apartment and all. And Carly does not have a Sumner-Smith accent at all. So vocal chameleon that I am, I realized that my various vocal quirks were most likely becoming slowly erased. And this most definitely seemed like a bad thing.
I mean, could I really have lost my really long hair and my uniquely lovely accent? Would the scars go next? My inability to see in the dark? All the other odd and quirky (and not necessarily positive yet still loved) aspects that I've used to define myself? Surely not.
Then today, as I was getting my lunch from the fridge, one of my co-workers said to me, "I've been meaning to ask you ... are you British?"
"No," I said happily, pulling out my sandwhich. "But my father used to be."
I feel like myself. Saturday has such a strange feeling, as if it's the only day I'm truly awake. I'm not a fan of rushing, the hurry to get places on time or else, the fear of missing the bus, missing my connecting bus, getting to work a few minutes too late, all just to listen to the silence of an office that's empty except for my presence, everyone else being in a meeting that does not include me. Watching the clock and searching the supply closets for inspiration. I found a mini Koosh ball. That was yesterday.
Also yesterday: after coming home late, happy for the glorious warmth, I went out to see Hawksley Workman with Carly and some of her friends. There was an extra ticket--yay! And so in the space of about ten minutes I transformed myself from work-clothes Karina to normal me, and rushed out and stayed up way too late for my own good and was thankful for it. Has anyone else seen this man in concert? Unbelievable. Totally, totally unbelievable. Now I know that I seem to fall in love with everyone I see perform live, and while there is some truth to this (what is it about live music that's so captivating?), I also admit that I don't discuss the live performances that I see and do not enjoy. Mainly because I tune them out and mentally go elsewhere for the duration. Also, I tend not to go see people that I don't want to listen to. Just common sense, that.
Most of his songs I know only through Carly playing her CD in the kitchen, but it was amazing nonetheless. The man can sing, as well as play pretty much every instrument. Apparently he plays everything on his latest album; that just impresses the hell out of me. And then he did this thing with these giant sticks--like pool cues, only thicker and less tapered--slamming them on the stage and kicking and leaping ... Yeah. Incredible.
Now today I'm heading downtown to Bakka to hang out for Julie's signing, and chat with newsgroup people and see Sarah's hair (woo!). In a sense I feel a bit odd, going down to a signing when I know damn well that I can't afford the book as it's in hardcover, no matter how much I'd like to buy it. And yet ... and yet. I'm going. And it will be fun and there will be excellent snacks, and I will only feel a very tiny, tiny bit guilty.
Some of you may remember that I had a Plan, a most fantastic plan that involved me competing in a Triathlon. Right. So. When last we discussed the Plan, everything was going fine, just lovely in fact. I was going running as often as I could (given the cold weather), and running between 2.5 to 3 km every time I went out. I intended to start upping that distance, as well as the frequency that I ran, plus seriously start training for the biking and swimming aspects of this thing, as soon as I had finished my classes and the weather co-operated with me.
Instead, I got sick. About four weeks of sickness, all told. Even when I was functionally sick, the various symptoms definitely excluded me from any serious training--or any training at all, really.
So today I decided that though I'm still coughing and whatnot, I am most definitely well enough to get my ass in gear again and went out for a run. I changed out of my work clothes and put on my running shoes, locked up the house and headed out. I ran for a grand total of six minutes before staggering to a wheezing halt. I had taken my Ventolin already. I walked the rest of the way home.
Instead of upping my training levels and continuing to build stamina, I find myself back at the very beginning. (Okay, not the very beginning--after all, when I first asked my Dad to teach me to run I could barely run farther than the mailbox, just a few dozen houses away. But close enough.) I am, in a word, discouraged. Now don't get me wrong, quitting is not an option. Accepting this trembly-limbed exhaustion as my fate and just giving up is in no way part of the Plan. But damn it, I'm not happy about this.
And it just means that I'm going to have to run another six minutes tomorrow. Maybe seven. And like it or not, this Sunday sounds like a most excellent day to start swimming. (Indoors, of course. Though the weather has been absolutely gorgeous these past two days, I have no wish to be ill for the rest of the summer.) As for biking ... that one's going to be a bit more difficult, seeing as I live in the city and have rather major issues with riding on the same streets as vehicles. (I have major issues with even driving by people on bikes, for that matter...) But I'll work something out. You'll see.
(Woah, Blogger looks crazy. Okay. Going to take a little for me to get used to this.)
Saturday it was raining. Raining, raining, raining. Raining so hard that it took me about an hour to drive from my apartment to Sarah's (though that could also be due to the backup caused by someone putting a bloody big crane right in the middle of Bloor Street). Raining hard enough that I thought despairing thoughts at my windshield wipers. But I had no choice but to drive--we had a BBQ to go to! Or, rather, a gathering of people from Julie's newsgroup that might have been a BBQ had the weather been nice and had anyone actually had a BBQ. Though the rain nicely quit shortly after we left Toronto, heading for Kitchener, that didn't mean that the trip was uneventful. Sarah's written a pretty good description of our creative dekeing, as we took to calling it, so I won't re-write it all. I will add that the streets in Kitchener are officially crazy; there was one sign that literally showed a road doing a curly-cue (which we had to take, of course) that caused me to cry aloud, "It does what?!" Also, I tried to deke into a church parking lot before the Midas/driveway incident. In my defense, I've never pretended to have a good sense of direction. And hey, we got there in the end. I prefer to think of these things as adventures rather than anything frustrating. It's easier (and more enjoyable) that way.
The non-BBQ was a whole lot of fun. The four hours that we were there seemed to absolutely vanish. I was shocked that not only was it time to go home but that it was almost dark. (Luckily, it was a whole lot easier driving home than it was driving there. Small mercies.) It's only in the last while that I've started to really get to know people from the newsgroup, but I'm really glad that I have. This is a really fun group of people--conversations are never dull. There were a few times that I had trouble catching my breath I was laughing so hard.
I thanked Erin at the end of the gathering for helping to give me a social life, though really I should thank the newsgroup at large. Thanks to them, and to Julie, I know what I'm doing this coming Saturday...
Sunday, of course, was Mother's Day, and I spent it most appropriately at New House with my mother and my Oma. And a whole lot of other family, too, of course. In typical Sumner-Smith fashion, this family get-together meant that it was time to build something: a deck! So, in addition to playing with my cousins, helping in the kitchen, and building and continuing to find wood for a rather large fire, I found myself with drill in hand helping install decking. (And cursing my sad and sorry lack of upper-arm strength.)
All this driving has been hard on my wallet, though. Gas prices are unbelievable; when I went to fill up Siro, I paid 85.3 per litre, and it's only gone up since then. Needless to say, I didn't fill the tank. Oh paycheque, where art thou?
In work-related news, I now have company in my big office/storage space three days a week. We were able to chat a bit when we were both bored, so that was a nice change. But there's nothing like having someone else physically there in the room to make me aware of what I'm doing, how I'm acting, especially when I'd just been getting used to and/or comfortable with being in that space. In the morning I had a report to write, which was fine (I like having something concrete to work on every now and again) but in the afternoon my work was almost entirely mental, as I attempted to figure out the structure of a project that has far too many factors that need to be taken into account. And I realized that to all outward appearances I was pretty much spending a lot of time looking out the window, looking at the wall, staring blankly at my computer screen, fiddling with my fingers and listening to Haggis with my headphones. (The latter being something I started today to help me think; no one's told me that I can't listen to Haggis--or anything else--so until I'm told otherwise...) But then I can always blame some strange behaviour on being a creative type and all. Don't hire a writer as a writer and then expect a nice, organized office assistant, right?
And speaking of work, I'm going to wrap this up because I have to get to bed in the not so distant future and would really like to get some "Ohntai" rewrites done before I have to fall into bed. And I'll have a moment of silence to remember The Daily Show, which I've heard still comes on TV though it seems I shall never see it again. I'd also like to eat some pie.
Today was a good day, and it took me until this evening to figure out exactly why: I feel human again. Sure, I still cough occasionally, but my body does not feel like it's a missed meal away from collapsing entirely. I don't hurt, my ears aren't congested, I can breathe! I also got almost seven hours of sleep last night, which is two hours short of what my body really wants but enough that I didn't almost fall asleep on the bus this morning.
Plus, this was the first day at work that I really felt like I knew what I was doing, what I had to do in the future and how all these pieces I'm working on fit together. Also had a meeting and a phone conference.
But it's taking me a bit to get used to the fact that I'm not going to be asked to do odd tasks. I'm so used to being the one who does all the strange administrative jobs or whatnot that when someone else goes to do these things I feel almost as if something's been taken away from me. You mean I don't have to go label all the chairs? I don't have to move the boxes? I'm not the one who has to run down the hall to try and find the person with the keys? What's going on here?
Came home and listened to Casualties of Retail (twice) and started editing "Ohntai." Continued reading Matt Ruff's Fool on the Hill. This is just a list of things I did. Oh, you noticed? Yeah, well, I said I'm feeling human again, not that I suddenly became interesting. Don't expect miracles.
Freewriting Booth Or, How to Fall Asleep While Coughing
The other night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I imagined that I had a freewriting booth at a fair. Actually, the fair looked a heck of a lot like the CNE in my head, I realize as I look back, but why on earth I'd think that having any sort of booth at the Ex would be a good idea is beyond me. This, of course, is not my idea but one found somewhere in the pages of Writing Down the Bones.
I'd imagine a person--someone I knew, someone I knew existed, someone entirely fictional--and would ask, "So, tell me about yourself." And depending on the answer, I'd mentally freewrite just enough to fit on an index card. Though none of this actually hit paper, I found that I ended up writing some really interesting lines. (Now if only I could remember them...)
I even had a sign mentally designed. It read:
Just like having your fortune read.
Only less relevant.
A few days ago I confessed some confusion and ignorance as to what, exactly, I'll be working on in this rather odd job of mine. Now, after having worked there for two full days, I admit that I'm feeling much the same. The difference is that now I know a lot about ePortfolios, but still not a heck of a lot about what I'll be doing tomorrow. Everyone seems to be happy to let me go into my "office" (which is also the storage room for things like extra chairs and empty boxes) and sit at my computer and just ... go. You know. Do things. Work on the project. Get work done. That sort of good stuff.
I had a meeting with the boss fairly late in the day today in which I was able to ask some very key questions (such as, "Um, so, what are we doing, exactly?" and "What should I be working on over the next few weeks?") but generally I'm being left on my own. And since this is in the Career Services office, I'm picking up all sorts of great catch phrases that I can use to describe this skill of keeping myself busy all day with no direction or clue as to what's going on. I'm a self-directed worker. I have initiative.
I'm also trying very hard not to be sick. The coughing, etc., continues, though not quite as badly as before. I could fall asleep on a cold floor, though, of that I'm certain; I just feel so ... damn ... tired. Course, that could also be due to the fact that I'm the sort of person who'd rather stay awake until 5:45 AM than wake up at that time.
Well, that wasn't how I was expecting to spend my time between the end of classes and the start of work, but there it is. Work starts tomorrow and I have to catch a bus at a time that's earlier than I'd set my alarms most days when I was going to class. Ah, this will be fun.
I'm not entirely certain what I'll be doing tomorrow at work; I only know some very broad details about what I'm going to be working on at all. So everything can be summed up under "we shall see."
I am still very much on the mend--today is my first full day without a fever. I'm happy, but in an exhausted sort of way.
Wow. I should be going to bed now. Okay, all other relevant stuff will have to wait until after work tomorrow.