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I keep referencing this list, but hadn't posted it anywhere, though I have posted pieces of it as I add them. Because of [profile] abenn's encouragement, I am posting it now and will keep it at the top of my LJ for future reference.

Suggestions always welcome, by the way.

Life To Do List )
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But no concerts in caves, alas. That would be fun.

Life has kind of blown up this summer, writing and work and social activities. I keep meaning to write up longer posts about everything, but that is not going to happen, at first because I've had no time, and this evening because I had a pretty dangerous mood drop over the weekend and am sliding into depression. The mania lasted quite a few weeks this time. I hope I can keep making writing progress through this shift.

Alice in Chains and Guns N' Roses

Reconnected with one of my high school BFFs this year, and we road tripped up to the Guns N' Roses concert in Kansas City. I swore I would go if they ever got Slash back, and they did, and I did, and it was amazing. Alice in Chains opened, and put on a fantastic show, and Guns N' Roses absolutely killed it. I can't believe they are still putting on such energetic shows, and playing so damn hard. I continue to love Slash beyond the telling of it, and everything was absolutely wonderful.

(Well, no, early on a visual element triggered my vertigo, so I had to deal with that all night, but it was still worth it.)

horror movies

High School BFF: Do you like scary movies?
Me: OH HELL NO WOMAN, I SAW SCREAM, I AM OUT OF HERE

High school BFF and I both love horror movies, so we've been going to the movies together lately. It's nice to go with someone else who loves them, since J merely puts up with my movie choices most of the time.

So far, we've watched The Conjuring 2 and Light's Out. Both were fun enough, though neither stuck the ending, and I thought both relied too hard on similar jump scares throughout (not similar to each other, necessarily, but repetitive ones within the movie itself).

St Louis Science Center

One of my law school BFFs came down for the Fourth of July, and joined me on an adventure that was part work and part fun, visiting a new exhibit at the St Louis Science Center that was focused on local growing and farm to table. It was raining the day we went up, so I had to rush through most of the outdoor exhibits, but it was pretty fun. Mostly targeted toward little children, which I did not expect. J and his mom went with us, and I grabbed Niece H (still youngest niece, though I do have a great-niece who is younger) to come with us. She's maybe a year or two too young for most of the Science Center, but we had a good couple of hours running from one display to the next before she lost interest, and then we all went out for delicious bbq. (Her birthday just happened, and while there we went through Build a Bear for her gift. I'd never done it before, but it was really fun, if pretty cheesy. She adored it, though, and had a great time whispering her secret creative dream as a part of the one she picked out.) Niece H is just delightful, and I'm so glad we got to spend time together.

After we dropped her off, we took J's mom home, and on the way stopped to play with little chicks and a young pig who were on display at her local farm store. TOO CUTE.

Meramec Caverns

This past weekend, we spent the day at Meramec Caverns with J's family; Meramec Caverns is a large cave system here in Missouri on the Meramec River that does guided tours. I've been through it only once before, one summer of law school. It is still beautiful, and the tour slightly different this time than the last time. There are plenty of places that are open and closed at different times, so it changes a little depending on when you go. Every June, they do a lantern tour, and I think next year we'll give that a try. After, we took a quiet, slow boat tour of part of the river, which was very short but super relaxing.

Pottery

I am not quite back to pottery classes regularly just yet, but the other night, J and I went to a pottery show my teacher was in, and there were some gorgeous, inspiring pieces. There were also things that were completely over-priced, but such is art.

I've trimmed one piece and thrown a second, but am not back to regular lessons until September. Probably. Failures still really mess with my mental health, so we'll see.

Writing

Mostly, I have been writing. I finished a novel-length project (more or less twice; the first draft had no ending, so I had to start over to figure out where I went wrong, and then finally got an ending on draft two, though it's still not right), and I'll start editing it soon to prep it for early readers. I'm already well into my next novel length project.

I've written 340k so far this year. My goal is 500k. When I set it, I didn't actually expect to make it, because when I used to set 350k, I would get close, but never actually get there. This year is apparently a good writing year, and it's been a great lesson that I really do write more and better when (a) I write every day or almost every day and (b) I track my daily word count.
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Book: DRAGON’S LUCK by Lauren Esker
Genre: paranormal romantic suspense
Series: Shifter Agents #3
USA Release Date: available now
Source: ARC from author
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommended?: Yes, so much yes, all the yes! Amazing main character in Jen Cho, fantastic adventure, well-written details, and great worldbuilding mean this is a fast, fun read well worth visiting again and again.

Summary:
Jen Cho is a gecko shifter and infiltration expert for the Shifter Crimes Bureau. But this time she's in over her head—out of touch with her handler and head over heels for a sexy gambler who mistakenly thinks she's as much of a bad girl as he's a bad boy.

Ambrose "Lucky" Lucado has been playing in high-stakes games of chance since he was big enough to see over the table. But the sexy lizard shifter has a secret: he's not a lizard at all. He's a dragon, the rarest of all shifters, thought to be nothing more than a legend. And all dragons have special abilities that other shifters don't. Lucky can "push" his luck just a tiny bit, enough to ensure that he always wins at the gambling tables.

The problem is, the rest of Lucky's family have powers of their own. His much more powerful cousin Angel can twist people’s minds, making them do whatever he wants, from forgetting they’ve seen him to shooting themselves in the head. And now he’s set his sights on Jen.

Is "Lucky" Lucado lucky enough to protect both of them?

Review:

While I do think you can read this as a standalone novel, one of my favorite parts is the depth it adds to the world already established in the first two Shifter Agents books. What we saw in HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR and GUARD WOLF was an interesting and nuanced shapeshifter world that even though it had its dangers, they were generally from familiar places (at least familiar to the characters): well-known shapeshifter types or humans obsessed with their healing abilities. DRAGON’S LUCK blows that wide open, because it blows open the idea of what kind of shapeshifters exist, what kind of powers they have -- adding dragons to the mix is fun and entertaining, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much had I not read the other books first. Part of the fun is feeling settled in the world, and then having my view of it changed right along with the characters.

Jen Cho is by far the strongest part of the book to me. She is amazing; smart and funny and strong and brave. I love how Esker writes details that drive home how different shifters experience the world in different ways. A gecko, for example, moves through the world in a way a wolf never could, and vice versa. And Jen having to explore a ship in gecko form was an excellent way to highlight the strengths and weakness of her form. Jen is independent to a fault, and one of the reasons I had a hard time putting the book down was because I was so caught up in her story, how she navigated needing help with not trusting Lucky, how when she did start to trust him, she was still torn between how much she wanted to tell him and how much she could actually tell him.

I liked the romance between Jen and Lucky well enough, but I think I didn’t like Lucky as much as I could have because I had just read GUARD WOLF before this, and the hero of that book is the disabled werewolf I’ve always wanted in a story. So for very unfair reasons, Lucky fell a little flat, and even more when I saw a couple of the twists in his story coming.

As with the first two books, DRAGON’S LUCK plays with some delightful tropes, from Undercover Agents to Fake Girlfriend, and Esker approaches them with a deft hand. I can’t really get into the details of the other things I loved without going into major spoilers, so I will end by saying that this book was a joy to read. The pacing was fast and fun, and I never wanted to put it down; I pretty much devoured it in one sitting, and wanted more when I hit the last page. Jen Cho is a joy and a delight forever, and I can’t wait to see more of her back with the rest of the agency. There are some plot points revealed during this book that have opened up a great number of future stories, and I am so excited to see what comes next! I’d be counting the days until the next book, but I’m afraid that will make me sad, because unless I can read it in, oh, the next thirty seconds, it is far too long to wait.

However, that means you have time to go read all three books AND the short story “Chasing Bigfoot,” and I strongly recommend you do so immediately.

Note: DRAGON’S LUCK is the first of the series not to include a BBW female main character. Neither of the women in HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR or GUARD WOLF read as very fat to me, but they at different times do think of themselves as fat and are self-conscious about that. Which is fine, and can be realistic, but is not my favorite part of stories about fat women. It was nice to see Jen be confident about her body, but I do wish we would have seen more of that from the fat characters, too. (And when I double checked at Amazon, only HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR appears to be labeled as BBW now, though I would have sworn GUARD WOLF was too when I grabbed my copy. Ah well.)
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So, ten years after I first attended, I returned to Wiscon. I haven't been since Wiscon 32, for a lot of reasons, some personal, some having to do with the homophobia, biphobia, fat hate, and racism I both experienced and saw others experience at the three Wiscons I did attend, but a couple years ago, my writing group decided we should do a reunion at Wiscon 40, and I have been looking forward to it ever since. I am so, so glad I went. The highs were unbelievably high; the lows were terrible. Some of each is due to personal reasons, some to other people's shitty behavior, some to my own crazybrain.

Thursday

Drove up to Madison via Chicago to pick up Robyn at the airport. All was well (minus the broken AC in the Charger) until just outside Chicago where a giant accident left us at a standstill for ages. My carefully planned trip to avoid rush hour traffic turned into driving through rush hour to get to the airport thanks to that delay. Not super fun with no AC. But it was great to see Robyn again, and we had a blast talking on the drive to Madison.

Allison and Candra were kind enough to let me crash their hotel room when my original plans didn't work out. I haven't seen either of them in many years, and I was so glad to spend time with them again. (Candra is a huge part of the reason I survived law school; getting to know her and spend so much time with her, and through her meet Allison, was one of the biggest benefits to going to Michigan.)

Later that night, Robyn and I met Karen at the airport and then had an adventure finding her food before we all headed back to the hotel.

Friday

Writer's workshop in the morning. I attended Mikki Kendall's comics writing session, which wasn't a traditional workshop format where we exchanged projects and critiqued them, but a lot about how to get started in comics writing, tips and tricks, fun stories from her experience, etc. It was really interesting, and a nice change of pace for me from the traditional format. If you'll be at Wiscon 41, I highly recommend checking out the writer's workshop; no matter what sessions exist, I think it will be fantastic.

(At this stage in my life, I have a solid critique group I trust and a good set of early readers, and my focus is on them more than other traditional workshops.)

After, Robyn and I hung out at Michaelangelo's for a bit, a nearby coffee shop where the writer's workshop after party was held, and got to chat with some people, including someone who attended the session led by Elizabeth Reeve and who has a werewolf story I am seriously dying to read at some point, it sounded SO GOOD. (Because I am talking about unpubbed work, not naming names here without permission, but oh, god, it sounded so good, I want to read it immediately.)

I briefly hit up the Gathering (nail polish swap, anti-abuse team table, and book swap, where I picked up the only two physical books I collected at Wiscon, a new low for me!), and then the rest of Friday was pretty much shot. I read a lot, and eventually took off in the Charger to find food and because I needed to get away for awhile. (Nothing the con itself could have dealt with, personal stuff.)

Saturday

I made some REALLY GOOD panel decisions on Saturday, you guys! I doubt I will write up any full panel reports, but I did want to talk a little about the highlights.

Princesses and Ladies within a WOC Framework: Mikki Kendall (mod), Chesya Burke, Jennifer Cross, De Ana Jones

Description: Some feminists decry the term "ladies" and have blanket disdain for Princess Culture. But how are these and other terms and aspects of culture seen from outside of typical white middle class feminism? They carry different weight and meaning for women of color and their daughters.

This was such a good way to start the morning. It was hilarious and thoughtful and filled with wonderful discussions, and I had such a great time. This was my first time attending a panel with Twitter and hashtags playing such a big role in, well, everything, and this is A+ my favorite way to participate in a convention. I particularly liked the discussion of how frustrating it is that WOC characters are so often given white male love interests as the diversity default and the problems with it.

#PrincessLadyWOC

#KeepYAKind and Other Nice Tools of the Oppressor: K. Tempest Bradford (mod), Becky Allen, Betsy Haibel, Justine Larbalestier, Mark Oshiro

Description: There is always a point in the midst of heated Internet discussions where someone lifts their voice to make a call for Kindness, Niceness, Civility, or any other adjacent concept. These calls often go up when the issue at hand concerns an individual with privilege being called out by folks with significantly less privilege or cultural power. And Kind, Nice, and Civil become synonyms for Keep Your Mouth Shut. When this happens again, what tools can we use to dismantle this toxic dynamic and get back to the core matter? Are there secret code words we can deploy to neutralize the terms?

Another excellent panel. They touched on some fantastic parts of #toxickindness without limiting it to any one example of where these attacks happen. (#keepyakind is but one example, really.) Tempest storified the hashtag: #toxickindness.

Childhood is Not Precious: Justine Larbalestier's YA Worldview: Rebecca Holden (mod), Alisa Alering, Karen Healey, Scott Westerfeld, Kate O'Brien Wooddell

Summary: The girls at the center of Justine Larbalestier's novel Razorhurst have had to navigate a harsh world before the narrative begins, neither having the privilege of an ideal or "normal" childhood. This is typical of Larbalestier's protagonists, young women who, instead of navigating a disruption to normal, comfortable, or stable life, face difficult choices as teens that stem from an already difficult environment or situation surrounding them (that isn't a dystopia). Let's talk about how these narratives challenge our cultural narratives about teen life and childhood.

I went to this one even though I haven't read Razorhurst because I love a couple of Larbalestier's other protagonists and also, I really love hearing Karen speak, and this was the only one of her panels I could make work with my schedule. I'm so glad I did! There were a lot of interesting things said about children and teens and how all adults are fighting to teach them what that individual adult believes, whether we feel like we think any given adult is on the "right" side or the "wrong" side, and how we need to look at who actually benefits from gatekeeping the children, and so much more.

I'd like to the hashtag anyway, as I've done above, but it also basically functions as my panel write-up, because I'm pretty dominant in it. (Let's just say my phone autocorrects to it now. Whoops.) #ChildhoodIsNotPrecious

Finally, Saturday included the one panel I was on this Wiscon.

Fat Characters in Sci Fi/Fantasy: Robyn Fleming (mod), Alex Jennings, Kenzie Woodbridge, ME

Summary: There are some fat folks depicted in the genre, but most of them are scenery rather than fully realized characters. Where are my fat protagonists? What are their stories? Let's talk about the ones that do exist and brainstorm ideas for new ones.

This was an interesting panel because when we all brainstormed via email, we didn't come up with a ton of examples that were super useful. (My focus is always YA, and most of what I could think of involved contemporary stories, not SFF, for example.) I had a couple people rec things to me, which I tried, and we talked about good and bad portrayals, our frustrations with how things are or are not handled, etc. I specifically wanted to talk about how Karen handled Ellie in GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD, her debut, and how "bbw" has been co-opted by marketing uses in romance and erotica. (This also gave me the chance to rec Lauren Esker's HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR and GUARD WOLF.) (Also linked my work as Carla to my work under the pseud, which is always a fun but weird moment for me.)

I liked the audience interaction a lot and thought the conversations went well, but I also felt like I talked a lot more than I had intended going in. Ah well.

Finally got to meet up with Cabell again for the first time in years (this is an ongoing theme) for delicious themed drinks at the hotel bar, and then we joined Allison and Candra for dinner and drinks at a new wine bar before they headed off to panels and duties, and Robyn and I went swimming and hot tubbing for awhile, then sat around talking about our writing and old adventures and various things, as we do. She said some very kind things about my work, both as Carla and under the pseud, which was nice.

We later caught the last hour or so of the vid party, which ended with one of my absolute favorite fanvids ever, Starships, a multifandom space vid by Bironic.

I'm sad I missed the DDP Yoga/Dance Party, but I was in a rough place and could not handle people. (In fact, I took a long break before even being able to sit in the back of the room for the last part of the vid party.)

Sunday

I had good intentions of going to panels, but I could not. I was still dealing with some personal, emotional stuff, so instead I sat around in the room with Candra and Allison for awhile, catching up, and then went to brunch with them. I spent some time hanging out with Cabell in the lobby, hit up the art show again (I visited three times, and bought art twice), hung out with Robyn and Marianne, and went with them to [personal profile] raanve's impromptu fanfic AUs and tropes panel, which was so much fun. (And I had to chance to say hello to [personal profile] nwhepcat and tell her how much I loved her scarves in the art show. I bought one as a gift for a friend, too.)

Then I volunteered in the con suite for a shift. There was some seriously shitty treatment of POC con suite volunteers this year, which is really messed up, especially at a convention that purports itself to be welcoming and diverse and focused on equality, etc. etc. etc. I'll be linking to some things at the end of this about what happened, and the changes within Wiscon itself.

Got dressed up a little for the dessert salon and GOH speeches, and headed down with Allison and Candra. This is the first year I've gone to this part of the con, and wow, it was seriously packed. Candra and I found seats at a table near the wall, with a great view of the GOH speeches but with enough space I felt a little less crowded, and I'm so glad we went. All three speeches were wonderful, but Sofia Samatar said some things about writing and making space for ourselves in our genres that hit me hard and were things I desperately needed to hear right now. I hope transcripts go up, because I think some of my writer friends who didn't attend will really benefit from it, too.

Then I ran up to Marianne's room to check on her, and ended up hanging out there with her, Julia, and a bunch of their friends for most of the night, which was fun, and allowed me to both socialize and be quiet and listen to other people tell stories, how I socialize best in groups. (And gave me the chance to catch up with Julia and thank her in person for all the work she did with the con suite.)

Monday

Sad good-byes with Candra, and then one more trip to the art show to buy gifts, meeting up with Robyn, and heading out. We grabbed food on the road, and then dealt with terrible traffic between Madison and Chicago, damn. Once I dropped her at the airport, traffic was fine the rest of the way, but I drove into and out of big storms most of the trip down Illinois and Missouri.


So that was my Wiscon 40. I've already reserved a room for Wiscon 41, Candra and I have both talked to a friend of ours about coming, because we think he will really love it and get a lot out of it, and so odds are good I will be up there next year, too. It's obvious that this is still a transition period, and there are people who are not happy about making the convention more welcoming and diverse. That sucks. But there are people doing good work to make changes, and taking on far more than they should, and being absolutely amazing. Wiscon felt more welcoming and diverse and more true to the ideals it claims to believe, and I think it will continue to improve, but god, is there still so much work to do. (The con suite bullshit. People being terrible to hotel staff. People saying horrid things and hiding their nametags while they do so they can't be called out. It goes on and on, because so many people are terrible. But Wiscon 40 reminded me that there are wonderful people, too, people who fight for change, and I want to support them.)

So many thanks to the con com and the volunteers and the people who keep working and fighting not just to keep this convention going, but to make it better. Thank you.

Links

Mikki Kendall's WisCon 40 Highs, Lows, & What The Actual F*ck?

K Tempest Bradford's On WisCon, and Who Is Allowed To Feel Welcome

Mark Oshiro on his experience at Wiscon 40, his first visit.

(Related, Mark's experiences at ConQuest 46 in Kansas City, which is one of my potential local cons, is why I will not be attending until major changes are made.)
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Wiscon 40 happened over the weekend, and part of it was great, and part of it was terrible, and part of it was heartbreaking, and part of it was exactly what I needed. So there's that. I actually only came home with two new physical books, which is shocking, and I'll talk about them once I read them. I came home with a bunch of art, but I can't show everything just yet, because I huge chunk of that includes gifts. I was able to buy directly from the artist twice, and tell them how much the pieces meant to me, so that was particularly nice.

(I may have to put together some art myself for next year's Art Show. We'll see. And yes, I plan to go back next year. I think we've talked JBJ into coming, too. He'll love most of it.)

What I've Read

TRUST ME, I'M TROUBLE (sequel to TRUST ME, I'M LYING) by Mary Elizabeth Summer (Book Depository links): This was so good. SO GOOD. It surprised me with a romantic thing, and then broke my heart, but it was wonderful and exactly what I wanted (minus the heartbreak, but it fits), and I laughed, and I couldn't put it down. Can't wait for the next book.

HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano: Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It's about a boy imprisoned for murder who can leave his body at will and the girl he teams up with to find the true killer. I liked this a lot, mostly, though his voice didn't always work for me. I really loved the way Cosimano handles descriptions and details.

What I'm Reading

FAT VAMPIRE by Adam Rex: No link, because I pretty much hate this book and do not recommend you try it. Someone recced this to me awhile ago, and then someone else more recently when I mentioned I was doing the fat characters in SFF panel at Wiscon, and both of those people were VERY VERY WRONG. It is terrible, and I want my money back and the time I wasted reading it. There's racism and homophobia and sexism and serious fat hate when it comes to fat female characters, though the dudes don't get it as bad, and just fuck off into the sea, book. Fuck off into the sea. (Odds are high I will not finish it, obviously.)

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire (Book Depository link): FINALLY delving into this, and it's interesting so far, though it's not holding my attention the way her writing usually does. I have been super distracted, though, between Wiscon over the weekend, and then a grant symposium today that took me out of town for awhile.

What I'll Read Next

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1) (Book Depository link): I'm trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.
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I leave in the morning for Wiscon 40. The first Wiscon I ever attended was Wiscon 30, so this is nice and fitting. My writing group is having a reunion, and I get to see a bunch of people I haven't seen in years, and there will be lots of writing and geekery and good times. (And, if previous years are any example, alcohol.)

If you'll be there, hit me up! I have a couple of solid things on my schedule, but otherwise, am trying to keep it open. (Though it would be so easy to schedule every hour of the day, what with all of the great panels and parties and readings, and that's not even touching the hallway meet-ups and gaming and and and.)

Anyway, best way to reach me is by text, but if you don't have my cell phone, I'll also have regular email access at carlamlee@gmail.com. (And if you will be there and want my phone number, email me! I share it pretty widely. I also don't answer calls from numbers I don't recognize.)

Friday

I'll be attending the comics writing special session during the Writer's Workshop Friday morning, and then will be at the after party in Michaelangelo's back room after.

Saturday

Fat Characters in Sci Fi/Fantasy, Sat, 2:30–3:45 pm, Conference 1
Moderator: Robyn Fleming. Participants: Alex Jennings, Carla M Lee, Kenzie Woodbridge

There are some fat folks depicted in the genre, but most of them are scenery rather than fully realized characters. Where are my fat protagonists? What are their stories? Let's talk about the ones that do exist and brainstorm ideas for new ones.

ETA: Right, right, this could also be a Care and Feeding of type post. In short, I am perfectly happy to talk to new people, but am not great at starting conversations myself or recognizing unspoken signs of welcome. I am also really, really shitty with names and faces, so I am very sorry if I don't recognize you right away. I give great hugs, but sometimes have hit my limit on touching people, and will say that if it happens. I have no food or drink allergies, but horrible seasonal allergies (and it's that time of year), and perfumes and strongly scented lotions often set it off too, so don't mind my stuffiness and giant box of tissues. I have it on good authority that I am a joy and a delight forever (which can also be read as a snarky pain in the ass), and I can't wait to talk about monsters and mental illness and diversity and how we're trying to make the world better.

I look like this.
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I'm not linking to the damn thing right now, because I don't want to look at it again, I don't want a link to it here in my space, but XOJane just published an essay in which the author flat out says that a person with a mental illness was better off dying than living, because there was no way for her to have a real life because of her mental illness.

My immediate response was on Twitter: What the fuck were you thinking, @xojanedotcom?! The essay about a mentally ill person being better off dead is harmful, exploitative, wrong. Everyone involved with its publication should be ashamed, @xojanedotcom. I am disgusted and enraged. I am harmed. I ache for others you hurt.

I am angry. I am harmed. I am trying to formulate an actual response, one that I can publish and share. I'm not yet to that point, because I am still so enraged.

Clickbait or not. Flip personal essay or not. Words matter. Words mean things. Words hurt people. Fuck XOJane and fuck the author. I am ashamed that I have a pub credit at XOJane, if they are going to publish shit like this.
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Not sure how the day got away from me yesterday, but here's this week's belated Wednesday Reading.

What I've Read

TEN MILES PAST NORMAL by Frances O'Roarke Dowell (Book Depository link): Lovely, quiet contemporary about reluctant farm girls, family dynamics, girls playing bass, and Civil Rights activists. I know I've read the first half before, but I did not remember the second half at all, so I'm not entirely sure if this was a first time read for me or not. It was a lot of fun, and I'd love to spend more time with these characters.

SLEEPAWAY GIRLS by Jen Calonita (Book Depository link): A cute contemporary about a girl standing up for herself from her best friend for the first time and going away to camp for the summer. There's a little bit of BUT THIS COULD BE FIXED IF YOU JUST TALKED TO EACH OTHER that annoys me no matter where it shows up, but it's cute and fun. I just learned there's a second book, so that's exciting.

THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry (Book Depository link): Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. A (fairly quiet) murder mystery about a girl whose mother was killed when she was just a toddler, and whose father was suspected of being the killer. Now, when she's nearly an adult, additional evidence reveals that her father was killed at the same time, and the killer is still out there somewhere. It's a fairly interesting story, but I had a hard time staying engaged with it, even though I liked the grumpy main character a lot. I'm working on a review of this one.

THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS by Sarah Jude (Book Depository link): Creepy horror\suspense that is super atmospheric and wonderful. A few decades ago, one of the townsfolk killed their May Queen and disappeared into the woods; they can still hear his screams. Now once again animals are being brutally slaughtered, and then girls start dying. There's a sweet little romance, the descriptive writing is fantastic, and I ended up loving this book despite the fact that it falls squarely in the Kill Your Queers trope. (TV Tropes calls it Bury Your Gays, but that leaves out a lot of sexualities.) I really like horror set close to home, and this works for me a lot. If I could read it on its own, divorced from a world where there are so many dead queer girls in particular in fiction, I wouldn't even have minded that the death drives the straight girl's motivations and emotions, but I can't. It doesn't exist in a vacuum. Still, excellent book.

What I'm Reading

TRUST ME, I'M TROUBLE (sequel to TRUST ME, I'M LYING) by Mary Elizabeth Summer (Book Depository links): I really enjoyed the first book, even though it has some absolutely ridiculous parts, and so far, I'm loving the second one even more. These are fun grifter-gone-good stories with some awesome teen girls, and I am a fan of that combination.

LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King (Book Depository link): Yes, I am still reading this. I really like Lisey, and I love the way her history with her husband unfolds throughout the story, in pieces and present thoughts and scenes set back in what she remembers, but it is really slow paced and easy to put down, so it is taking forever.

TREASURES, DEMONS AND OTHER BLACK MAGIC by Meghan Ciana Doidge (Book Depository link): I think I'm at least going to finish the first trilogy. I don't know if I'll continue it after. We'll see how much annoyance at the main character's "quirky" traits (and my dislike of first person narrators) balances against the stuff I do enjoy. So far, the stuff I enjoy is losing out, but maybe once I'm done with the cliffhanger ending, I'll like it more.

What I'll Read Next

HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano: Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It also came out this week, and I'm so excited to read it. It's about a boy imprisoned for murder who can leave his body at will and the girl he teams up with to find the true killer.

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire (Book Depository link): Don't know why I haven't read this yet, because I normally read McGuire's work immediately, but I am looking forward to it.

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1) (Book Depository link): I'm trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.
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It's the middle of the month, time for a project update.

Current active projects:

UK Horror Project
(cowritten with Sarah)

1. Talking Dead
Young adult supernatural adventure. Ghosts, monsters, and killers, oh my. Status: Fourth draft in progress. Fourth draft combines Talking Dead and Monsters & Magic into one book. We generally write one chapter a writing session, and try to have at least one session a week though we've each had to cancel a few sessions, so while this seems like slow going compared to 2014, it's actually moving along quite well.

(Monsters & Magic used to be #2. Young adult supernatural adventure. Flirtatious werewolves and incorporeal monsters.)

2. Supernatural Slumber Party
Young adult supernatural adventure. It's a slumber party of supernaturals, see? Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Talking Dead draft four complete.

3. Wicked Witches
Young adult supernatural adventure. Witches, dude, always with the witches. And the world goes BOOM. Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Talking Dead draft four complete. Second draft combines Wicked Witches and Monster Mash into one book.

(The Monster Mash used to be #5. Young adult supernatural adventure. The world goes BOOM.)

Stand Alone Books

1. Monsters in the Trees
Young adult horror. Friends, makeouts, and monsters in an isolated cabin. Status: Draft one in progress. Slow progress. I need to do some more outlining on paper, I think, before I sit down at the computer again. We'll see if that helps.

2. Winter Cabin
New adult or adult paranormal romance. Flirtations and sexy times while snowed in interrupted by monsters and mayhem. Status: Draft one nearly complete. Though not as nearly as it should be. I hit the end of the outline around the end of March as planned, and then realized there's probably another 15k of story to write. Good times. (This will go under the pseud if it is published.) Got stuck partway through April, had to go back and reoutline in May to figure out where I went wrong. Just about to start the last 15k again off the new outline.

3. Monsters and Music
Young adult horror. Ghosts and werewolves, oh my. (witches and dead people and haunted things, too.) Status: Draft two in progress. Had an epiphany about the main romantic relationship, which I think will help structure the story.

4. Frozen World Fantasy
Adult fantasy. Brainstorming and talking to JBJ, another fantasy author, about how to write a fantasy novel. Doing some research on the writing side, working through world building before I start outlining.
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Inuit, Tattoos: 'This is so powerful:' Kitikmeot women revive traditional Inuit tattoos by Juanita Taylor, CBC News

Indigenous people are bringing back sacred practices that were forbidden by Christian missionaries a century ago, and it is wonderful. They're learning and sharing the traditional hand-poke and skin-stitching tattoo methods, too, and sharing with their community. This is so, so important.

Millie Angulalik broke down in sobs after seeing herself in the mirror.

Her niece had practised her new skill flawlessly, creating an exact replica of a traditional Inuit facial tattoo on her aunt's face.

"I feel so complete," said Angulalik. "Like really complete. I feel like flying like a bird."

The lines on her forehead represent her parents, who have died. The lines on her chin represent her niece, parents and two sisters.

"My mom and dad ... they're right there, they're the centre of me. They'll be with me forever to guide me through the Inuk way of life. This is so powerful and I'm really blessed my niece did it.

"I've always been Inuk but this is real Inuk, you know? I love it, I'm so proud of myself for doing that. I know I'm going to be strong now to walk forward in life."


Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nostalgia: 'Pioneer Girl' Laura Ingalls Wilder's Real Memoir Overturns Our False Nostalgia by Jennifer Grant at Christianity Today

One of my earliest memories is of my mom reading the Little House books to me. I can remember how she read, her lips shaping the words, precise, careful. I visited Mansfield, Missouri (Where the Little House Books were Written) as a child and as an adult, for different reasons, with different results. A friend of the family bought me LET THE HURRICANE ROAR when I was young and staying with her; we read it together, and then road tripped to Mansfield, and she told me stories about her own childhood. Episodes of the show were on in the background when my great-aunt taught me to cross-stitch.

There is a nostalgia, for me, that supersedes the actual story, and is much more about the experiences surrounding it, when I read it, when it was read to me, where, by whom. But there is a nostalgia to the books themselves, and it sounds like PIONEER GIRL really pushes back against that. I'd like to read it, because false nostalgia is interesting to me; Sarah and I talk a lot about the false nostalgia for the 50s and how to use that in our writing. (Not our current project, but one slated for the future.) I hope that it also pushes back against the way western expansion is idealized and the treatment of the Indians, but we'll see if it does.

I can’t imagine an editor that takes more pains in her diligence than does Hill in the new volume, published by the South Dakota Historical Society. Her notes detail everything from the differences between kinds of plums and varieties of jackrabbits to detailed minutiae about every person whom Wilder mentions in Pioneer Girl. The book is nearly 500 pages long; many of these are devoted to Hill’s research.

Despite my wistful memories of the Little House books and TV show, Pioneer Girl is not all grassy meadows and hymn sings. As has been noted in many reviews, the book paints an uglier picture of life “on the prairie” than do the children’s stories. The blizzards are colder, the people are generally less respectable, and the food is much, much scarcer.

Not long into reading Pioneer Girl, that sentimental fog that’s risen in me whenever I’ve thought about Laura Ingalls completely burned off. As Hill said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the real Laura Ingalls saw a “much grittier world” than did the fictional one.


YA, Publishing, ARCs, Blogging: On ARCs, Ethics & Speaking Up by Kelly at StackedBooks.org

This was written back in 2012, but is still applicable; there's a pretty huge discussion going on right now, after BEA (Book Expo America, a giant book event; 2016's event just took place in Chicago).

The problem emerges when ARCs show up with a price tag attached. When one person puts a price tag on a book that’s clearly an unfinished copy, that clearly has a note on it saying the item is not meant for sale, they’re practicing something that is unethical.

But the blame isn’t just on the person who sells the ARC. It’s also on the person who buys it, especially if it’s someone who knows better than that. It sort of sounds like a no duh moment, but the fact is, it happens, and it’s not as hidden as people think it is. Buying and selling of ARCs is much more common than we like to believe it is.

When someone purchases an ARC, rather than a finished copy of the book, they rob the book of a sale. The author and the publisher and the agent and the editor and everyone else involved in the production of a book sees nothing. The money spent on the ARC goes to the person unethically selling it, rather than to those who worked hard to put together the best finished version of that story.


Tattoos, Disability, Ableism, Queer: Tattoos and Disability: Surviving An Experience Not Everyone Can Handle by Carrie at Autostraddle.com

The suggestion that you manicure your disability (like you’re plucking your eyebrows or fixing your hair), the hungry curiosity, the gut reaction to stay “in hiding” while everyone else “walks nude through the house”—I’ve felt all of that, deeply. Sometimes I do it to myself. That’s the ableism I know: benevolent, well-meaning, even familial. The kind that everyone understands is wrong almost never happens to me. No one yells at me on the street, I’m not being denied social services or lifesaving care, and walking means that I can access most spaces (if not always on the first try). Instead, I get pity dressed as compassion. I get “I forget you’re disabled!”, glares for not giving up my seat on the train, and congratulations on being “so close to normal” (yes, that’s an actual thing somebody said). Able-bodied strangers ask “what happened?” not as an accusation, but in a way that invites sympathy. As if I’m going to say “yeah, it sucks, doesn’t it?”. They expect common ground. I look and behave and sound and succeed so much like them that I get an honorary spot on the team. That’s what ableism looks like filtered through privilege: an invitation to distance. Vitamin E for erasing parts of the body that bother other people.


Law, AIs, Tech: Artificially Intelligent Lawyer “Ross” Has Been Hired By Its First Official Law Firm

Don't mind me, I'll just be over here humming "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)". (Technology progresses, takes jobs, AIs inherit the earth.)

Literary Journals, Diversity, Marginalization: Who really needs another literary journal? by Ron Charles at The Washington Post

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a friend of mine, recently took over as editor in chief at the Offing, and I was interested to see this interview from last year about the journal and its purpose and goals.

And the fact is that, though necessary and laudable, the recent strides made by the literary community hardly touch its historical reality: The sheer volume of published work by mainstream writers versus historically marginalized writers speaks for itself. The Offing’s reason for being is, at least in part, to move beyond liberality, beyond tolerance, even beyond ‘welcome,’ to seek out and amplify the voices of these writers and artists, to put them at the center, to put them in charge. We are working, alongside many others, toward a more profound transformation of, and a true diversity in, the literary world — and the world beyond.


Vin Diesel, Social Media: A Powerful Collective Rooting for You: On Vin Diesel's Facebook by Muna Mire at the New York Times Magazine

I remember a time, not all that long ago, when it was difficult to find other people who were fans of Vin Diesel, even online. (This was post-Pitch Black and before The Fast and the Furious really started to take off.) And now look at him.

I also think there's an interesting look at traditional masculinity versus what he's creating there, but I haven't yet put those thoughts into order. If I ever do end up writing about this, I'd want to look at Dwayne Johnson's social media presence, too, because I think he does something similar in how he presents himself, though it's not quite the same sort of community building. (In part because it is on a different platform.) Actually, I'd also want to contrast them to Steve Austin and Chris Jericho -- crap, I do not have the time to do an in-depth analysis of masculinity tropes and how they are subverted (or not) in certain (former) pro wrestlers (and Vin Diesel, who is what started this whole train of thought in the first place).

It would be saccharine coming from anyone else, but Diesel's Facebook page stands in stark contrast to the gritty, unbreakable masculinity that has made him famous. VinBook certainly complicates his public image, adding a layer of earnestness that is both unexpected and welcome.

...

VinBook allows us a rare glimpse at a man who is so secure in his sense of self that he is able to be painfully sincere. Diesel is not self-conscious in the slightest; he posts about his love for Sarah McLachlan's music and his Dungeons and Dragons birthday cake (he wrote the foreword to the game's 30th anniversary retrospective book), decidedly unmasculine attributes.


Evolution, Fossils, Science: A Monster Comes out of Hiding: Researchers solve a long-standing phylogenetic mystery by Rachel Nuwer at Scientific American

If I had another life to live (or enough money that even more education wasn't prohibitively expensive; alas, I am still paying off my last degree), I would go into paleontology in a heartbeat.

In 1955 amateur fossil hunter Francis Tully discovered an exceedingly odd specimen in Mazon Creek, a collecting hotspot near Chicago. Imprinted on Tully's rock were the remains of a tubular creature with stalk eyeballs and a long mouth apparatus terminating in a feature that resembled an alligator clip. Dubbed the Tully monster, the 300-million-year-old specimen later became Illinois's official state fossil. Despite its popularity, though, researchers have made neither heads nor tails of it—until now.


Technology, Diversity: The 7 Very Coolest Things I Found At NY Tech Day by Ali at Autostraddle.com

My favorite of this list is the Bitsbox, because it is CODING FOR KIDS, and it sounds amazing.

I LOVE box subscriptions. Love love love. And this is a box for kids that teaches them how to code—every box comes with dozens of apps, and everyone gets everything. No girls box or boys box. The Rocket Girl project goes out to everyone. The coolest thing, said Anastasia, the Director of Operations, is then watching the kids break the apps and rebuild them into exactly what they want. Kids build with real code, not visual building blocks. The box is $30 per month.


Fat, Feminism: 6 Ways I Was Taught to Be a Good Fatty (And Why I Stopped) by Kitty Stryker at Everday Feminism

(Photos may be NSFW.)

Still, I’m not immune to the messaging on television or on the street, where my body taking up space was always seen as a threat and something to be ashamed of.

So I learned, over time, how to perform the dance of the “Good Fatty” – the fat person who can never be socially acceptable, but at least publicly flogs herself for the sin of excess pounds.

The Good Fatty comes in many guises, though the one I encounter the most often is the performative, apologetic, trying-not-to-be-fat Good Fatty.

The Good Fatty is the one who acknowledges and accepts their Othering, both by the people in their personal lives, and the professionals they interact with. The Good Fatty is influenced by the medical profession, the corporate world, the advertising that seeps into our lives.

The Good Fatty is the fatty that people will tolerate – so it quickly becomes a survival strategy for many fat folks, including myself. But it’s also a strategy we can learn to leave behind – for other forms of self-preservation.

So here are some of the lessons I learned – and how I’m beginning to unlearn them.


Money: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans: Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I'm one of them. by Neal Gabler at The Atlantic

I did not find anything about this surprising, but a ton of people I know from law school did. I think that says a lot about the family wealth situations of people who go to elite law schools, to be honest. (Obviously not all of them.)

I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others. I know what it is like to have liens slapped on me and to have my bank account levied by creditors. I know what it is like to be down to my last $5—literally—while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs. I know what it is like to dread going to the mailbox, because there will always be new bills to pay but seldom a check with which to pay them. I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding; it all depended on whether something good happened. And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.

You wouldn’t know any of that to look at me. I like to think I appear reasonably prosperous. Nor would you know it to look at my résumé. I have had a passably good career as a writer—five books, hundreds of articles published, a number of awards and fellowships, and a small (very small) but respectable reputation. You wouldn’t even know it to look at my tax return. I am nowhere near rich, but I have typically made a solid middle- or even, at times, upper-middle-class income, which is about all a writer can expect, even a writer who also teaches and lectures and writes television scripts, as I do. And you certainly wouldn’t know it to talk to me, because the last thing I would ever do—until now—is admit to financial insecurity or, as I think of it, “financial impotence,” because it has many of the characteristics of sexual impotence, not least of which is the desperate need to mask it and pretend everything is going swimmingly. In truth, it may be more embarrassing than sexual impotence. “You are more likely to hear from your buddy that he is on Viagra than that he has credit-card problems,” says Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist who teaches at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and ministers to individuals with financial issues. “Much more likely.” America is a country, as Donald Trump has reminded us, of winners and losers, alphas and weaklings. To struggle financially is a source of shame, a daily humiliation—even a form of social suicide. Silence is the only protection.


Racism, Work: The Customer is Not Always Right: Microaggressions in the Service Industry by Saher Naumaan at the Toast

Working in the service industry, I was involuntarily subjected to this uncomfortable and often intrusive examination of my history on a regular basis. It’s as if I had tacitly agreed to become an object of scrutiny — on display — due to my job and my background, and every inch, every aspect of my life was fair game for questioners. In a context in which responding in kind to a rude question is never an option, I felt trapped by the need to maintain a professional demeanor, even if I would prefer to be flippant. You know how “the customer is always right”? That phrase takes on a whole new meaning when you get inappropriate questions about your racial and ethnic background in your place of employment.
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What I've Read

CAMP FEAR by Carol Ellis: Out of print, but one of the Point Horror-esque books from the 90s that I love most. Mother's Day is a difficult time of year for me, so I went back to some easy comfort reading. A bunch of counselors are getting a summer camp ready before the campers show up, but there's an old secret about a dead boy that haunts them. (Also, I love Point Horror snarky recap sites: CAMP FEAR at The Devil's Elbow.)

THE INVITATION by Diane Hoh (Amazon link): Another 90s Point Horror book (this time actually a Point Horror), but this one has been reprinted as an ebook. Biggest social party of the year turns into a Most Dangerous Game situation. More comfort reading.

HEIR APPARENT by Vivian Vande Velde (Book Depository link): Another comfort reread for me. Shocking, I know. Total immersion gaming goes wrong, and a teen player must solve the swords and sorcery game before her brain melts. This was my introduction to Velde, and I love it still.

What I'm Reading

THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry (Book Depository link): Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It came out this week, and I'm about halfway through. I like it so far. It's about a girl whose mother was killed when she was just a toddler, and her father was suspected of being the killer. Now, when she's nearly an adult, additional evidence reveals that her father was killed at the same time, and now no one knows what happened. Of course Olivia sets out to solve the mystery.

LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King (Book Depository link): Yes, I am still reading this. I really like Lisey, and I love the way her history with her husband unfolds throughout the story, in pieces and present thoughts and scenes set back in what she remembers, but it is really slow paced and easy to put down, so it is taking forever.

TREASURES, DEMONS AND OTHER BLACK MAGIC by Meghan Ciana Doidge (Book Depository link): I think I'm at least going to finish the first trilogy. I don't know if I'll continue it after. We'll see how much annoyance at the main character's "quirky" traits (and my dislike of first person narrators) balances against the stuff I do enjoy. So far, the stuff I enjoy is losing out, but maybe once I'm done with the cliffhanger ending, I'll like it more.

What I'll Read Next

THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS by Sarah Jude: Just arrived in yesterday's mail. It's supposed to be a creepy horror-esque book set in small town Missouri, and I can't wait to read it.

HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano: Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It also came out this week, and I'm so excited to read it. It's about a boy imprisoned for murder who can leave his body at will and the girl he teams up with to find the true killer.

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire (Book Depository link): Don't know why I haven't read this yet, because I normally read McGuire's work immediately, but I am looking forward to it.

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1) (Book Depository link): I'm trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.
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Copyright, Language, Star Trek: 'Star Trek' Lawsuit: The Debate Over Klingon Language Heats Up by Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter

I first heard about it because some attorneys I know from my stint at Microsoft were talking about it, and of course I am both delighted and intrigued, because it combines two of my favorite geeky loves, SFF and IP law.

Basically, Axanar is a crowdfunded Star Trek film series. There was Prelude to Axanar a few years ago, and then this one, which is a feature-length film Star Trek: Axanar. Paramount Studios owns the Star Trek franchise (I suppose I should say allegedly, because there's a challenge to that as a part of all this, but it is at least commonly believed that they own it), and traditionally allows fan-made projects to occur as long as they're not selling anything (e.g., tickets, copies of the finished project, merchandise).

At the end of 2015, Paramount Pictures and CBS filed a lawsuit claiming that the Axanar works infringe their rights, including by making use of the Klingon language.

AND NOW EVERYONE IS DEBATING WHETHER YOU CAN COPYRIGHT KLINGON AND I AM FILLED WITH SO MUCH FUCKING DELIGHT.

I've seen a lot of people dismiss this as a bit of a pointless discussion, because it's really about the broader Star Trek IP and it doesn't really matter whether this one language is copyrightable, but if this precedence is set, it could have a hugely damaging impact on coding languages, which are arguably also created languages.

Once the Axanar defendants made their claim that Klingon is not copyrightable because it is a useful system, Paramount and CBS argued that: The Klingon language is wholly fictitious, original and copyrightable, and Defendants' incorporation of that language in their works will be part of the Court's eventual substantial similarity analysis. Defendants' use of the Klingon language in their works is simply further evidence of their infringement of Plaintiffs' characters, since speaking this fictitious language is an aspect of their characters.

The Language Creation Society filed an amicus brief supporting the defends that discusses whether the Klingon language is copyrightable, and it is glorious: you can read the brief here, and see how it incorporates Klingon into the brief itself. (An amicus brief, or friend-of-the-court brief, is a document filed by people who aren't directly involved in the litigation, but who have a strong interest in what is being litigation, and offer the court information and arguments the court may consider. They show up pretty often in IP law, where people are terrified of what sort of precedent will be set, especially by judges who aren't super familiar with the nuances of technology.)

Now, with 250,000 copies of a Klingon dictionary said to have been sold, Klingon language certification programs being offered, the Microsoft search engine Bing presenting English-to-Klingon translations, one Swedish couple performing their marriage vows in Klingon, foreign governments providing official statements in Klingon and so on, the Language Creation Society is holding up Klingon as having freed the "bounds of its textual chains."

Ultimately, the amicus brief comes back to the theory that Klingon is not copyrightable.

"What is a language other than a procedure, process, or system for communication?" asks the society. "What is a language's vocabulary but a collection of words? The vocabulary and grammar rules of a language provide instructions for a speaker to articulate thoughts and ideas. One cannot disregard grammatical rules and still be intelligible, and creating one's own vocabulary only worked well for the Bard. Vocabulary and grammar are no more protectable than the bookkeeping system in Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99, 101 (1879)."
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It's Marvel movies time! Watched Captain America: Civil War and with it an X-Men: Apocalypse trailer, and I have non-spoilery thoughts. (Well, at least no more spoilery than what appears in trailers.) Before I get into that, though, I wanted to share a quick thought I had while hashing things out with JBJ last night via text (I love technology -- half a country away and we can still watch movies more or less together): IP licensing can be such a pain in the ass, because but for the licensing agreement about certain Marvel characters, we could have had two sets of Maximoff twins. ALL OF THE WANDA AND PIETRO STORIES COULD HAVE BEEN OURS. WHY DO YOU HATE US, IP LAWYERS? WHY?

The Good



First up, saw Captain America: Civil War last night. I loved 90% of it, maybe 95%, and it's been a long while since I could say that about a movie that wasn't a Fast and the Furious movie. It was so good and so much fun and filled with wonderful (and wonderful-in-terrible-ways) character moments. I'm already looking forward to watching it again. It's also made me look forward to the next Avengers movies, which neither Avengers nor Age of Ultron managed (Joss Whedon stepping away from Marvel was an A+ idea).

I was already looking forward to Black Panther, but I NEED IT NOW IMMEDIATELY GIVE IT TO ME. BLACK PANTHER IS THE GREATEST. T'CHALLA IS MY KING. And so on.

The Bad



I haven't had the chance to watch many trailers lately, so I hadn't seen the X-Men: Apocalypse trailer we got with Civil War. (I expected it, though.) On the one hand, I am so, so excited about it, which is unusual. I haven't been this excited about an X-Men movie since X3 came out and was just terrible.

On the other hand, WHAT THE HELL, FOX, REALLY?! Once again, it appears as if the good guys are all white characters and the bad guys are majority minority characters. And here I hoped they'd learned from First Class and it's stupid. (I started to rant here about the whole Darwin death in First Class, but no, I've raged about that enough, including last night to more than one person.) What the hell is wrong with you, Fox? Marvel?

(Rhetorical question. It's racism.)

The Ugly



Not actually a Marvel movie, but we also got the trailer for Warcraft: (a) could they have made it look more like a ripoff of Lord of the Rings and other movies, and (b) much more importantly, why is there a weird flatness to all the CGI?
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What I've Read

GUARD WOLF (Amazon link) by Lauren Esker: GUARD WOLF is the second book in the Shifter Agents world. You guys, this has become the Seattle werewolf book of my heart, and I can't wait for the third book, which is supposed to be out this year. I will be doing a review of the first two books later.

THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Boys #4) (Book Depository link): Went ahead and read it to avoid spoilers. (Also, it gave me something to read that wasn't online, so I could also avoid spoilers for Captain America: Civil War.) I liked it well enough, I guess, but I thought the pacing was off, especially in the ending. And I have some concerns. I will need to think about this further.

EARTHBOUND BONES by ReGina Welling (Amazon link): Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. I think the bones of the story were good (pun intended), but the pacing was terrible; the beginning, in particular, dragged, and then the ending felt rushed. I didn't connect with any of the characters, in part because of the random head hopping. And I have a problem with the way angel-magic is presented as this cure for mental illness. I won't be reviewing this in more depth (...probably), so I don't want to get into great detail, but I was mostly left frustrated and annoyed. I wish I'd liked it better, though. The bones of the story were wonderful. (Basically, it is about an angel who thinks she has fallen from grace and is now trapped in a human body, the small town that embraces her, and the old mystery she solves.)

What I'm Reading

THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry: Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It came out this week, and I'm about halfway through. I like it so far. It's about a girl whose mother was killed when she was just a toddler, and her father was suspected of being the killer. Now, when she's nearly an adult, additional evidence reveals that her father was killed at the same time, and now no one knows what happened. Of course Olivia sets out to solve the mystery.

LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King (Book Depository link): Yes, I am still reading this. I really like Lisey, and I love the way her history with her husband unfolds throughout the story, in pieces and present thoughts and scenes set back in what she remembers, but it is really slow paced and easy to put down, so it is taking forever.

TREASURES, DEMONS AND OTHER BLACK MAGIC by Meghan Ciana Doidge (Book Depository link): I think I'm at least going to finish the first trilogy. I don't know if I'll continue it after. We'll see how much annoyance at the main character's "quirky" traits (and my dislike of first person narrators) balances against the stuff I do enjoy. So far, the stuff I enjoy is losing out, but maybe once I'm done with the cliffhanger ending, I'll like it more.

What I'll Read Next

HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano: Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It also came out this week, and I'm so excited to read it. It's about a boy imprisoned for murder who can leave his body at will and the girl he teams up with to find the true killer.

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire (Book Depository link): Don't know why I haven't read this yet, because I normally read McGuire's work immediately, but I am looking forward to it.

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1) (Book Depository link): I'm trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.
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It's that time of the year again, when I start avoiding advertisements because they're all so focused on Mother's Day in the US. To be honest, this is not the worst time of year for me (that essay I wrote a few years ago, "How to Survive Thanksgiving When Your Family Keeps Dying in the Fall," is still true), but it's not the greatest, either.

This morning, Facebook reminded me that six years ago today, I was called home because Mom went in for emergency surgery and no one thought she would survive it. That was not the first time I was called home, nor the last, but it was probably the worst. I was in Michigan, I was literally in the middle of a take-home final, and I couldn't afford a last minute flight, so I had a 10 hour drive ahead of me before I could be there in person. Mom didn't die at that point, but she was sick enough that neither she nor Dad made it to graduation, even though they'd been looking forward to it from pretty much the moment I moved to Michigan for law school.

Thanks for the memories, Facebook!

Two other times I was called home stand out. One was in either 2005 or 2006, and I wasn't so much called home, because I'd already moved back to my hometown to be closer to my family, but called out of work to the hospital a couple hours away where she was receiving special treatment. Pretty much all the siblings came home for that. We took over a section of the ICU waiting room (we are legion), said our good-byes, and waited. It was terrible. It was, perhaps surprisingly, wonderful, too. We don't get a lot of time to be all together like that, even back then, and sitting and waiting gave us a lot of time to talk. My sister, Kris, tried to teach us to knit. My youngest brother renamed "knit" and "purl" to "neal" and "diamond." I failed miserably at everything about knitting. Youngest brother turned out to be a fast learned. We sat, and we talked, and we brought in food, and we were together. It was terrible. It was wonderful.

Mom lived.

The other time that stands out is in 2012. I was called home, had to leave work in the middle of the day. I was working on office action responses for a trademark client. I'd been called home so many times I didn't even pack funeral clothes, just threw a pair of jeans into the car and a couple shirts. Figured I'd be back at work by Monday. It's just about a four hour drive between Kansas City and my hometown. I did it in less than three. I avoided the interstate, took roads that twisted and curved and forced me to pay attention to my driving, didn't give me much time to think. I made it home. Not everyone did. Mom's birthday was the week before. She'd been at home for it. Had a steak dinner with Dad. I went home. She was unconscious. I went home, held my father's hand. She couldn't hear us. I went home, listened hard, caught her last breath. I went home. It was terrible.

Mom died.
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Mental Illness, Disability, Language: The Forks Model of Disability at Thing of Things

The spoons model is an excellent model. However, in thinking about my own mental illness, I have discovered that it is, in fact, the exact opposite of how my mental illness works. Therefore, I have decided to coin the forks model.

(Look, I was not the one who decided that all our emotional energy metaphors needed to be utensil-based.)

Forks work somewhat like spoons, in that you have to pay varying amounts for tasks. However, unlike spoons, forks don’t replenish gradually over time. Instead, you get forks when you finish particular tasks. For instance, socializing might cost you ten forks and give you twelve, showering might cost you three and give you ten, and eating might cost you one and give you twenty. (Eating is important.)

In my own case, I’ve found that the more I do something, the easier it is for me to do it. When I haven’t written for a week, if I try to write, I wind up staring at my word processor and occasionally typing “the” and then slowly backspacing it. On the other hand, I have, several times in my life, written more than ten thousand words in a single day.

...

Unfortunately, some people– like me– are, for whatever reason, stuck with chronically low forks. Chronically low forks leaves you in one of the most perverse situations ever: when you know that if you did a particular thing, you would be happier and more able to do things, but you don’t have enough forks now to do the thing. (Unlike spoons, you cannot borrow forks from future selves.) If I worked on my homework, after like fifteen minutes I would feel like I could take on the world, but right now all I have the energy to do is browse Tumblr. If I ate, I would totally be able to cook an awesome meal, but right now I’m too hungry to cook.


The writing example rings particularly true for me. It's why I try to write daily, even though I know daily writing goals can stymie other authors. (Including my cowriter, Sarah, who often has a bad response to setting writing goals. Somehow, we still make cowriting work.) If I sit down to write after not writing for awhile, I will maybe be able to force out 100 words. If I write daily, some days are 100-500 words, and some days are 10k+. Unfortunately, the chronically low fork part rang particularly true, too. There are many, many times when I know exactly what I need to do. I just don't have anything left to do it, no matter what I've done or what I try to do.

Racism, Transphobia, Misogyny, Violence: Remembering Us When We’re Gone, Ignoring Us While We’re Here: Trans Women Deserve More by Morgan Collado at Autostraddle

There’s an interesting phenomenon that I’ve witnessed over the past few years. The names of trans women of color will be in the mouths of the queer community after they’ve been murdered, but support for us while we are still alive is sporadic at best. Trans women are pushed out of queer spaces by cis people, dfab genderqueers, and trans men, just to name a few. Women’s spaces are frequently hostile to us because we aren’t “real women” but trans men almost always get a free pass. And I’ve seen more than one cis queer say that trans women are “appropriating” the gay rights movement, totally ignorant of the fact that we started the damn thing. I have seen more than one cis queer say that we have nothing in common with them, that our issues are completely unrelated. We have a hard time finding dates, finding support, finding community. And when we dare to call people out for their transmisogyny, we are labeled crazy, hysterical, divisive. I have been called Austin “queer scene’s” number one enemy. All for daring to share my thoughts on the world around me.

...

Here in Austin there’s this tradition of calling the names of the dead and then having an audience member sit in a chair that represents where the dead trans woman would sit. The seats are always filled with white people and non-trans women. What do our deaths mean when our bodies, our lives, the physical space we take up, is appropriated by white folks? How can I mourn for my sisters when the space set up for that mourning is so thoroughly colonized? And how can I even see hope of living a full life when I don’t see myself reflected in what is supposed to be my community?


Horror, Racism, Violence: Eutopia: horror novel about Lovecraftian racism by Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing

Doctor Andrew Waggoner -- a Paris-educated Black American doctor -- is hospitalized by Klansman in the utopian settlement of Eliada, Idaho, where he soon encounters Jason Thistledown, the sole survivor of a plague that wiped out the town of Cracked Wheel, Montana. The two of them become unlikely allies in uncovering the mystery of "Mr Juke," a strange creature housed in the hospital's enormous quarantine.

Mr Juke is a monster, of an ancient race of parasites whose offspring incubate in the wombs of human women, and who are able to inspire religious ecstasy in the people who serve them. Mr Juke and his kind might have lived undiscovered in the back country, in grotesque symbiosis with the hill people, if not for Eliada's eugenics project, through which hill people are systematically catalogued and sterilized "to improve the race."


I don't have a copy of this yet, but soon.

Related: Horror, Racism: Don't Mention the War - Some Thoughts on H.P. Lovecraft and Race by David Nickle

Specifically, I wanted to talk about race as it pertained to H.P. Lovecraft's writings.

It seemed like the thing to do. The organizers of World Horror had found me a panel to sit on, moderated by Lovecraftian scholar, critic and anthologist S.T. Joshi, called Lovecraft's Eternal Fascination. My first novel, Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, is the only pseudo-Lovecraftian book I've written, and one of my aims with that book was to deal with Lovecraftian xenophobia from a post-Martin-Luther-King perspective--to tie Lovecraft's horrible eugenic notions together with the genuine and just as horrible eugenic fallacies that were making the rounds in early 20th century America. As Eternal Fascinations went, I thought race might rate.

When the panel started it became clear: not so much. I brought up the topic early and affably in the panel, and just a little later but also affably, Mr. Joshi shut it down with a familiar canard: Lovecraft's racism and xenophobia must be viewed in the context of Lovecraft's considerably less-enlightened time. I recall gently objecting that Lovecraft's views may have been more mainstream in the 1920s and 1930s yet were still not universal--but, not wanting to be seen as hijacking the panel, letting things go.

...

I'd make the case that Lovecraft's fiction--and Lovecraftian horror--depends on the xenophobia that was endemic to Lovecraft's work to the point that without it, many of his stories lose their unique and uniquely profound effect. "The Horror in Red Hook" is a direct channelling of Lovecraft's loathing of newcomers to New York City; the real horror of "The Call of Cthulhu" is not the octopus-headed demigod that emerges out of his underwater city to kill all the people, but the people themselves--all either eugenically unfit denizens of the bayou or "primitive" island cultures whose religious practises amount to a kind of proactive nihilism. The manifestation of Nyarlathotep in the eponymous story is that of a black man bearing trinkets, who seduces the good white folk of America into authoring their own demise.


Lovecraft's horror is such a core to the genre, but Nickle is absolutely right: we have to talk more about his racism and xenophobia. I don't care how old it is, I don't care about the "world he came from," we still tout him and his work as high level horror, the kind we as writers should try to achieve. His racism and xenophobia is a huge part of that.

I've tried my hand at Lovecraftian horror while dealing with the racism of the source. It is hard, and I've not yet managed a story that I actually think works. But I will keep writing, and I will keep educating myself.

3d Printing, Technology, Copyright, Law: Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff: Why 3D Printed Objects Challenge Our Copyright Beliefs by Michael Weinberg at TechDirt

The past fifteen years or so have given us all a collective informal education in intellectual property law. We have been taught to assume that everything we see on our computer screen is protected by intellectual property law (usually copyright), and that copying those things without permission can often result in copyright infringement (and potentially lawsuits).

By and large, this has been a reasonable rule of thumb. The things that we most often associate with our computer screens – those are the music, movies, software, photos, articles, and whatnot – happen to also be the types of things that are protectable by copyrights. As copyright automatically protects things that are categorically eligible for protection, it is safe to begin from the assumption that the music, movies, software, photos, articles, and whatnot made in the last century that you find online are actively protected by copyright.

This easy assumption becomes less reasonable in the context of 3D printing. Many of the objects coming out of a 3D printer are simply not eligible for copyright protection. As “functional” objects, they are beyond copyright’s scope. They may be protectable by patent, but because patent protection is not automatic, many of these objects will simply not be protected by intellectual property at all. The idea that something is entirely unprotected by copyright or patent would have felt perfectly natural 30 years ago, but can feel deeply disorienting today.

Furthermore, unlike those music, movies, software, photos, articles, and whatnot, we often have to treat a physical object and the digital file that represents that object differently in the context of 3D printing and intellectual property. Although we do not often draw the distinction between a song and an .mp3 file, there are many situations where we are called on to conceive of an object and its digital file as fundamentally different intellectual property entities.


I'm not sure how much I agree with the first paragraph, because what I've seen more is that instead of receiving an informal education about IP law and how things are protected, people really have taken away that if it is available freely on the internet (here I mean "freely" both as "free" and as "easily accessible" though not necessarily both), that means it can be used by anyone for any reason, because no one wants to believe they can't use something. (Tech law means often telling people no, you can't use that, I don't care how many other people are doing so.) Still, this is really interesting, especially as 3D printing becomes so widely available. (My youngest brother, T, has been creating amazing things with his 3D printer. I am intrigued as an artist, and a tech lover, and a lawyer.)

Poverty, Racism, Classism: Poverty is Not a Crime, So Stop Trying to Punish Poor People by Altheria Gaston at ForHarriet

(Note: Keep in mind this piece is more than a year old RE the proposed legislation mentioned in it.)

Whether we utilize government assistance or not, we need to push back against the policing of women of color. These restrictions are classist, sexist, and racist and preserve a broken social, political, and economic system that leave women of color on the bottom layer of stratification in a society built on the ideals of freedom and equality. I find it ironic that the same groups advocating for freedom from restrictions for wealthy business owners are seeking to regulate the poor. This is an issue of power and privilege, not misuse and abuse.

It is my hope that my research will illuminate the reality of the conditions in which these women find themselves. Perhaps this and similar scholarship can be used to inform future legislation that improves the plight of the poor.


Menstruation, Taboos, India, TED: A taboo-free way to talk about periods by Aditi Gupta (video)

It's true: talking about menstruation makes many people uncomfortable. And that taboo has consequences: in India, three out of every 10 girls don't even know what menstruation is at the time of their first period, and restrictive customs related to periods inflict psychological damage on young girls. Growing up with this taboo herself, Aditi Gupta knew she wanted to help girls, parents and teachers talk about periods comfortably and without shame. She shares how she did it.


Queer, Language: 5 Reasons LGBT People Should Stop Saying We Were "Born This Way" by Cassie Sheets at Pride

1) We don’t have to justify our sexual orientation or gender identity.

Many of us (myself included) have used the “we were born this way,” defense whenever we hear someone attacking LGBT rights. But if someone is attacking LGBT rights, or trying to say LGBT people are unnatural in some way, that defense isn’t going to change their mind. We’re here. We exist. We’re people who deserve basic human rights and respect. Whether our sexual orientation and gender identities are products of genetics, environments, or choices, we still deserve basic human rights and respect.


Prince, Disability: Whether Or Not Prince Knew It, He Was A Disability Icon To Me by Ekundayo Afolayan

My attachment to Prince grew when I found out that, like me, he also dealt with disability throughout his life. As a kid, Prince had epilepsy and as he aged, he also had hip dysplasia but, for religious reasons, he refused surgery and opted for a cane instead. I’ve personally had to deal with having seizures for almost a decade now. It is grounding for me to know that an international icon who I have always admired also has a history of dealing with a similar condition.

Visibility is really important to me; especially because positive representation of Black folks, femmes, and people with disabilities is rare. We typically aren’t seen as desirable or worthy of love. But Prince helped to inspire my self-love by exuding his confidence and being celebrated for it. I’m taking a cue from Prince. I’ve learned to be extravagant and myself not despite the seizures, but in the active acceptance of them.


Wrestling, Sexism, Chyna: Chyna Deserved Better by Malread Small Stald at Jezebel

It’s worth noting here that Chyna and Elizabeth, two women dead too young, are also the two most glaring absences in the WWE Hall of Fame. In an oft-cited interview last year, Steve Austin asked WWE Chief Operating Officer (and Chyna’s ex-boyfriend) Triple H if Chyna would ever be inducted. “Does she deserve to go into the Hall of Fame? Absolutely,” said Triple H. But he claimed the decision was complicated due to the fact that Chyna’s post-wrestling foray into amateur and then professional porn would appear when any eight-year-old might look her up on the internet.

A similar line of reasoning provides one possible explanation for Miss Elizabeth’s ongoing exclusion: overdosing isn’t kid-friendly. But that the Hall of Fame includes, in its celebrity wing alone, convicted rapist Mike Tyson and—inducted just this year—the titular director of the pornographic Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, does not seem to bother the Google-conscious COO.

The message sent from the company to its female employees is simple: you can bare your body, but only if it suits us. You can wreck your health, but only for our benefit. Steroids, CTE, injury, fatigue, degradation: fine, fine. But drugs and porn? No chance—not off the clock, anyway. Not when cameras are rolling—cameras that aren’t ours. The fact that Triple H—whose on-screen relationship with his eventual off-screen wife, Stephanie McMahon, began with forced marriage and allusions to rape—thinks a Vivid Video contract is reason enough to keep the woman he’s called “a paradigm-shifter” and “phenomenal talent” from the recognition she deserves is laughable.
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Sometimes I'll listen to a handful of episodes of Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft's podcast, Happier, and now Rubin is doing mini-podcasts along with it (hence A Little Happier). I listened to the first mini-episode earlier and in it, Rubin talks about the claim that within ten years of leaving school, you'll have forgotten your teachers' names and all the things they taught. She goes on to describe two sharp memories she has of her undergrad experience and teachers who were particularly enthusiastic about what they were teaching, but I was too busy being surprised by the claim she cited.

Do most people really forget their teachers names and what they've taught within a decade of finishing? Really?

I'm more than 15 years out of high school, 10 out of undergrad, and 5 out of law school, and while I can't tell you every single teacher I had or every single thing I learned, I definitely remember most of my professors and a lot of the things they taught me. Obviously, the ones who meant a lot to me are the ones I remember best (my adoration for Dr Susan Swartwout at Southeast Missouri State University will burn forever because she was an amazing teacher, a wonderful mentor, and continues to touch her former students to this day), but I remember the ones who weren't great, too, or the ones with whom I just didn't click. I remember pieces of things they taught me; I use the things they taught me, some of it pretty much daily, whether it was from high school or college or law school. There are many things I don't remember about life, but I can't imagine it being standard to forget what you were taught, your teachers' names, within ten years or less of leaving the school.

This sense of shock is the same I felt when my law school classmates, as we approached graduation, were so joyous that they were done with school and would never go back. I did not feel that way then, and I do not feel that way now. I haven't yet gone back to school, but odds are high it will happen. I can guarantee I'll take more classes, even if I don't get another degree. (... hell, pottery could probably count as an actual class I'm taking, considering how many of my undergrad classes were writing-based or design-based.)

Do you remember your teachers? Do you remember the things you were taught?
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Carla on Instagram  “On the one hand  I made a tornado. On the other hand  it is still a failed piece. 2 of  100ballsofclay  pottery”


A couple weeks ago, I posted this picture as a part of my 2016 pottery project, #100ballsofclay. (I handled ball four yesterday. This is going to be a long project.) During class that week, I put two balls of clay on the wheel, and took zero balls of clay off. (Ok, technically, I took them both off to take pictures, but then I smashed the projects and put them in the scrap bucket so the clay could be reused later.) This was the better of the two, because it was more interesting. It looks like a tornado. (The other fell in on itself, and just looked like clay that was too wet and overworked.) I liked my tornado, but not enough to keep it, because it wasn't right, it wasn't perfect. It wasn't a piece with balance and clean form and good structure. It, and I, was a failure.

It might have been art, too. I can see that now.

I had another class yesterday, and I put two balls of clay on the wheel. I took two projects off. They are good pieces, mostly clean and well structured. I can see their flaws, but I can also see the good lines and the okay technique that went into them. But once I was done and had wrapped them so they could start drying before I trim them next week, I noticed another of the students had made something that looked like a tornado. She kept hers, though. It is drying so it can be trimmed, or maybe, with a piece like that, it will go straight to the kiln for the bisque firing. (K, my teacher, generally uses a double firing technique. The bisque firing happens first, then we glaze and put the pieces back through the kiln for a second glaze firing. I do not yet know enough to understand why, but I have some reading to do.) Whatever the other student plans to do with it, she took it off the wheel. She let it be flawed, and let it be beautiful, and she will have a piece when I do not.

She has many pieces when I do not.

I kill more pieces than I take off the wheel, by far. It ranges anywhere between 1 in 2 and 1 in 4 for me, usually, but I have gone weeks at a time without being satisfied enough to take anything off the wheel. And while logically I know that each piece I throw teaches me something, it doesn't always feel like I'm making any progress, because I don't have anything to show for it. Because I keep making the same mistakes over and over again. (I raise my walls too fast. I don't have steady hands. I can't see when it is centered on the wheel, which is the most basic first step in throwing. I don't understand what I'm trying to do when I try a new movement.) I get frustrated, and then angry. I've cancelled class some days, because I knew I was not in a good enough mental state to deal with a failure. (K argues that it is not a failure. That doesn't change how it feels.)

I started taking pottery classes because I thought it looked fun and because K is amazing and does gorgeous work. Those things are still true. I also started pottery because I wanted to learn how to be bad at something. I am terrible at failure, and terrible at doing something I don't already know how to do. E.g., before I was willing to start piano lessons as a kid, I'd already taught myself how to play, including some very complicated pieces for a beginner. This was very bad for me, in the long run. Because I could play above where I actually was, class-wise, I got bumped up a bunch of levels, but I missed a ton of basics. Mostly music theory. I still don't really understand the theory behind chords or scales, and I can't translate from one to another. (I don't even have the right language to talk about what I can't do, obviously.) I felt that loss a lot during high school, especially, when I was a competitive musician who didn't understand the theory, the math, the logic, behind my art. So when I had the opportunity to take pottery classes, I pushed myself to do it, so I could be bad at something, and be bad at something in front of someone else.

I'm not bad, though. And that's a problem.

Because I picked up on a couple things very quickly, and had some good pieces come out of my first couple classes, I now expect way too much of myself. Even if I'd had a bad first few lessons, I'd probably be too hard on myself, because perfectionism runs down to my bones, but especially when I have a good moment early on, I then tend to expect that I will be able to do everything immediately. This is the opposite of what I wanted from this class. It is the opposite of what I want from myself.

#100ballsofclay at least forces me to take a picture of my pieces before I destroy them. I'm trying to convince myself to take more things off the wheel, though that's not going well at all. And maybe, someday, I'll find balance in my expectations for myself.

Not gonna hold my breath.
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Wrestling, WWE, Women: The Women Warriors of NXT at The Work of Wrestling

This article is about a year and a half old, and there have been many, many changes to how WWE treats its women wrestlers (including, finally, calling them Superstars just like the guys, which they are), and many of the women mentioned here have moved up from NXT to main roster WWE work (NXT is, basically, a development team for WWE, and is absolutely wonderful, in part for the reasons laid out in this article, which is why I'm linking it so long after it was posted).

I was not a wrestling fan back when it was being presented as "real" (scare quotes because there's a lot to unpack there that I'm not going to address right now), and I love wrestling (sports entertainment) for what it actually is, a show (show is too small a word -- a conglomerate? a form of entertainment?) that is telling a story through controlled violence.

The times I love wrestling best are the times when I am so caught up in the story that it makes perfect sense for someone to, oh, throw themselves off the top of a cage to try to win a match. I can get lost in the spectacle just like I can get lost in, say, a car crashing through three sky high buildings in a glorious action sequence (Furious 7).

All that being said, I need the spectacle to have a heart to it, too. In the Fast and the Furious movies, it's chosen family. In wrestling it's -- well, sometimes it's chosen family. Sometimes it's protecting your reputation. Sometimes it's pushing back against the Authority.

Sometimes -- too often, when it comes to women's wrestling on the main roster -- it's a story about two girls who try to "out crazy" each other (let me tell you how well that goes down with me, and note my intentional use of the word girls there, because that's what the show uses, too) or fight over a man. And it is gross and sexist and infuriating. Their matches get cut. Some of the commentators say disgusting things. The fans can be terrible toward them. (The racism and sexism thrown at my beloved Naomi makes me want to punch everyone in the face.) Things are changing, but these criticisms are still valid.


What separates NXT from the WWE main-stage, and the reason fans love it so much, is best summed up in one simple word:

Respect.

This respect is represented in the specific way in which NXT tells pro-wrestling stories. NXT respects the most fundamental truth of the professional wrestling medium, the purpose of professional wrestling and the quality of professional wrestling that this website is named for: NXT presents itself as a legitimate sports organization promoting athletes who are competing to win championship gold.
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