That's a Wrap

One year ago we were in this exact place- well, except I was on the other side of the room, but still.

It's been a good day- we took a trip down to Finnriver Cidery, where we bundled Neeps within an inch of his life and wandered around in the cold and the mud while clutching our ciders and glaring at garrulous geese. And then we sensibly got ourselves into the heated tent and ate some delicious brauts, and drank still more cider. And brandy. And then there was a giant fish?

Now the boychild is asleep, and we're debating if we should celebrate Eastern New Year or Central New Year, but either way we're pretty sure we're NOT going to make it to Pacific New Year, because we are old and there is a lot of delicious mead and brandy to be drunk.

Here's to a brighter 2017!



The year is winding down, and we are packing up to return to where we were when it first unfurled: Chris and Lara's house.  I'm looking forward to a long weekend of sipping drinks by the fire and watching chickens and frolicking in the snow with my now-one-year-old.  My what a difference twelve months make!

I have to admit- I'm also looking forward to being done with this 366 Project.  It will be nice not to feel the pressure to Produce for Public Consumption all the time- I'll finally get the chance to dive deep into rewrites on Oathbreaker, and start splashing around For Serious in a few other projects I've only just barely sketched out in my brain.

One of the things I've been working on lately is the 2017 Business Plan for my office- and today I got inspired to make a 2017 Personal plan, complete with a vision statement, goals, objectives, and strategies.  I'm pretty pleased with it so far, and I might get around to sharing at least some of it here on the blog, but the most pertinent piece of it is my commitment to submit my work to at least one literary agent no later than my birthday.  I'm typing it out loud here on the blog and everything, so feel free to hold me accountable come the end of March.

And now?  Back to packing!



I've been letting Allerleirauh compost in my brain for a while, trying to figure out how best to retell it.  I've finally come up with a pretty satisfying twist, which gave me what I needed to finally name my heroine.


Once upon a time, my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world.

I would know this to be true even if my father hadn’t told me, because her portrait hangs in our great hall.  It is the largest of the three portraits that hang there: there is also a miniature, small enough to hold in one hand, and another painting that is half my height.  The women in those paintings look exactly like my mother, but they are not her, for they were painted before she was born, just as her portrait, taller than my father, was painted before I was born.

My mother’s name was Phaidra, and when she died giving birth to me, my father decided it was only right I have it in remembrance of her.


We Go By the Will of the Black Rabbit

Richard Adams was an old friend that I never met, and I regret that I never sent him a thank-you note for all he did for me.



Is there anything more pitiful than a sick baby?  I think not.

The daycare called us around 3:30pm to let us know that Neeps was rocking a fever of 102.4  Nathan went to go pick him up, and he immediately fell asleep in the car.  Then Nathan picked me up, and we went to the drug store to get some baby Tylenol.  Neeps woke up again when we got home, and played for a bit before devolving into a fretful puddle.  We gave him some medicine, and shortly thereafter his fever spiked to over 104.  A call to the doctor's office reassured us, and after the medicine had enough time to kick in his fever dropped back down to a less-alarming level.  Plus he fell asleep in my arms, naturally while I was sitting in the most uncomfortable position possible on the hard wood floor.

With some help from Nathan I did eventually manage to transfer myself (and sleeping baby) up onto the couch, where we stayed until his bedtime, at which point Nathan and I took him upstairs and tucked him in.  He slept for about an hour, then woke up and cried so pitifully that I went up and rocked him again.  His temperature was still down, but he didn't want any milk or water or medicine- just snuggles and recitations of Goodnight Moon.  So snuggles and recitations he had, for another hour, until at last he drifted off again.

I'm hoping he feels better by the morning- I hate feeling so helpless to make it better.  I'm just feeling lucky that he's so rarely so unwell.


The Quiet After the Storm

It was a Very Successful Extended Christmas Weekend in the O Household.  Neeps was showered with lots of fun gifts, and his father and I weren't left wanting, either.  We saw all sorts of friends and family and ate all sorts of delicious food.

Nathan and Neeps are currently playing on the floor, as Isis licks at various toys in the hopes that no one will notice and she can eventually make off with one.  The cats are curled up on the featherbed upstairs, and I'm here at the computer, writing.

All is right with the world.


Soft Thoughts on Die Hard

I am pleased to say that all of the stuff I thought I knew about Die Hard, I did know about Die Hard.  And none of that knowledge in any way ruined the experience of watching it, either, so that was a relief.  Although I was a bit shocked that I didn't have any sort of fore-knowledge about the super-insightful chatterbox that is Argyle.  What the heck, pop culture osmosis?

Anyway, I did have a few thoughts on the movie, and I feel compelled to share them beyond the long-suffering audience that is my husband.

First and foremost, I had no idea that Die Hard is essentially the grown-man-version of Twilight, by which I mean just absolute, unapologetic self-insertion fantasy.  And I don't mean that in a derisive way at all (I happen to enjoy the hell out of Twilight, personally): I found it delightful, but also think it's just hilarious that no one, when they are talking about this movie, comes out and says, "By the way this shit is basically a ludicrous daydream that you have when you're pissed at the bureaucrats in your office."  It even had levels of self-insertion, you know?  Obviously everyone wants to be John McClane (looked up the spelling this time), lone wolf bad ass taking out a building full of super scary bad guys, but if we're honest with ourselves we know we wouldn't actually be that cool, because we don't have even as much training as he had (which, frankly, was not enough to do what he did but yes yes fantasy I get it).  But then there's Sgt. Powell, who any one of us totally could be- just an ordinary, overweight desk-jockey, whose main super power is seeing that all his superiors are fucking idiots.  We might not be able to save the day on our own in real life, but we can totally be the person smart enough to listen to the guy who can.


Another super great thing about this movie was just how much a product of its time it was.  Hauling around a giant freaking teddy bear on a plane!  Smoking everywhere, including with that giant teddy bear you're giving to your kids!  Coke is definitely something we do at a company party!  Naked boobies for literally no reason whatsoever!  It was great.  When McClane (super-sexy-tough-dude-that-every-single-lady-including-the-pregnant-one-has-been-Making-Eyes-At) pauses in the middle of things to touch the pin-up boobies for luck I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants.

So yeah- Die Hard was great, I get it now and I would gladly watch it every Christmas.  But also anybody who loves this movie doesn't get to give Twilight fans any shit whatsoever about their taste in entertainment.


Spoiling for Some Die Hard

I have never seen Die Hard.  But because I have a passing familiarity with pop culture, I know some stuff about it (probably):

-it's a Christmas movie
-it's super important that people understand it's a Christmas movie
-Bruce Willis plays the hero, John McClain(?)
-Severus Snape plays the bad guy terrorist, Hanz Gruber(?)
-The hero wears a white wife beater and gets glass in his bare feet
-The bad guy has a beard
-The hero's (ex)wife is somehow involved, possibly as a hostage?
-There's something important about a photo on a desk
-The hero goes sneaking about through ventilation ducts
-"Yippy Kayak Other Buckets*"

My brother and his family are here, and now that our kids are in bed, we're about to find out how much of the above is accurate.  Woo!

*(edited to so as not to offend delicate sensibilities)


Eve of Eve's Eve

Pigbulls don't want Merry and Bright.  They want Warm and Cozy.  And Bacon.



It was not enough that they killed us.

No true child of the Dark Mother fears death- we know that when we fall, we return to her embrace, and nourish her other children.  It is part of the Great Cycle, and the knowledge brings us comfort in the face of old age, or illness.  We do not court death, but when it comes, we know it is not the end.  We know that we go on.

But they would not even let us have that.

They killed us; maidens, mothers, and crones; youths, fathers, and sages.  They killed us all, roots to leaves, and rather than let us return to the creatures of the earth, as is our custom- or even leaving us to creatures of the air, as is theirs- they fed us to their unnatural fires, so that our bodies nourished nothing, and our souls were cut loose to wander, lost in smoke and ash.

Those who survived, fled.  Those who fled, were pursued.  And those who were pursued, were caught.  And killed.  And burned.

But some of those who fled carried secrets beneath their hearts.  And when they time came, they hid those secrets among people still loyal to the true crown.  Then, empty, they fled again, drawing the hunters onward, as far as possible from those final seeds, scattered in desperate hope.


Nothin' to Learn Here

Yeah, I'm she.  And no, I ain't got nothin' to say to you, city boy.  I'm just an old lady who's earned the right to be left alone.  I pay my taxes to the Prince.  I say my prayers in the Good God's temple and don't do nothin' against His Word.  And I ain't got anything you're lookin' for.

Is that so?  You arrogant tad.  You come around here, askin' your questions, ferreting out them as should be left alone.  You say you ain't lookin' to make no trouble, just gather knowledge, for the greater good like.  To write it down in your precious book, so that more like you can use it to heal.  All men, of course.

Welcomed at your school, you say?  Boy you are stupider than I thought, if you don't realize that it just ain't prudent to be a woman-healer, in this so-modern day and age.  Not wise.  Far better to leave it to you men, who have nothing to aid you but your textbooks and whatever sense the Good God might have given you.  Because even if that's all a woman-healer has, there's always the chance that she might have more, ain't there?  And unless she can prove she don't have that corrupt more, well now- she and all her kin are gonna' burn, sure as the sky is blue.

I shouldn't have to tell you it's damn-near impossible to prove a negative, little scholar.

Oh really?  Well that's dangerous-close to blasphemy, boy.  You think I'm an ally, but you'd best watch your mouth.  I ain't allied to anyone but myself and my kin, and things you're permitted to say, I ain't even permitted to dream of, let alone hear.  So shut your over-educated mouth and listen, because you're right- a thousand years of tradition can't be stamped out over night, nor even over the two centuries since the Good King came to power.  But new traditions spring up, don't they?  Traditions that are meant to keep folk alive.  So you shut up and you respect our traditions or by all that's holy, boy, I'll remove the threat you pose to my daughters' daughters.  Ain't nobody out here but me and you, which means ain't nobody around to see me defend myself and my property.  And if I hang for it, so be it- but my line will go on, safe from the reckless questions of arrogant bloodhound puppies.


Hachon the Younger

The witch-queens of Narys were no more.

Hachon the Younger watched the last of that foul breed turn to ash in the enormous pyre his men had erected, and tried to feel pride in having fulfilled his father's ancient pledge to their people.  All he felt, however, was tired.  He was an old man, now- old enough for the sobriquet "the Younger" to taste bitter on his tongue- and the years felt heavy on his soul.  Or perhaps it was the knowledge that, no matter his own accomplishments, no matter his success where his illustrious father had failed, he would only ever be remembered to history in terms of his relationship to "The Good King".

"The Good King, indeed," Hachon snorted quietly to himself.  His father, ever grandiose, had ensured his mythic legacy by decreeing that not even Death could force him to relinquish the crown he'd wrested from the Tirrhin Dynasty, and that he would one day return for it.  Thus Hachon the Younger (and all his descendants) were to be Princes, rather than Kings, holding the throne in trust for The Good King's inevitable return.  Why the people accepted this mysticism after all Hachon's father had done to destroy all other hints of magic, Hachon could not fathom.

But he knew his role.


Running Away With Story Seeds (/Peas/Beans)

I would like to write a story that combines The Princess and the Pea with Jack and the Beanstalk.  Now, I've done takes on both of those tales before (here and here) but I was sitting around today, failing to make any progress on my nebulous plans for Donkeyskin/Allerleirauh, and so I did what I usually do when I run into difficulties with one story, and turned my thoughts to another.

Specifically I turned my thoughts to The Little Mermaid, because I have an old story seed for that, as well (definitely hinting at more of a continuation than a retelling), which in turn led me down the rabbit hole of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, which in turn led me back around to The Princess and the Pea, and different twists I could put on it, which made me think, "But what if the pea was magic, and that's what she was sensing?" and of course magic peas made me think magic beans, and I thought to myself, "Surely there's something in that combination," especially since I'd just been bitching to Nathan about the lack of representation in American media of intimate, non-sexual friendships among (hetero) men and women.

So now I'm rolling it around in my head to see if anything can, in fact, be found in "that".  I do like the idea of the prince needing a "true princess" in the sense that he needs someone truly attuned to the earth, an earth witch, if you will.  And what if her sleeping above the pea, unconsciously pouring her earth-witch magic into it, caused it to grow up and up and up... say, perhaps, that normally young earth witches, until they are trained to control their magics, never sleep near growing things, to avoid just such predicaments.  Maybe Jack was an earth witch, too...

Anyway, that's how these things grow in my brain.  I'll leave it there for a while, in the compost, and see if anything sprouts from it.


Horrific and Awesome

Gonna' be honest with you: I was puking from about 0100 until about 0500, for reasons that have not actually made themselves apparent, and in spite of the fact that I did take a 1.5 hour nap this afternoon, I just want to go back to bed now and not work on Mad Writing Skillz.

I will say, however, that Nathan and I had an actual left-Neeps-with-a-babysitter D-A-T-E date, and went to see Rogue One and it was awesome.  So it sort of balances out.

And now bed.


Unboxing Cheer

It's 0930, and Nathan has abandoned us to "go Christmas Shopping" or some such malarkey.  It's snowing out.  There's ice on the roads but more dangerously there are other drivers who don't know what the hell they're doing on the roads.  And most aggravating of all, my son's heavy winter mittens and regular fuzzy mittens have both been left at daycare, so we can't play outside longer than the ten minutes it took for his hands to go cherry red.

We're currently considering our options, which right now looks a whole lot like me reading Bunnies!!! over and over again.  (Which, don't get me wrong- I do love that book, but I made the mistake of giving the monster a Very Specific Voice, and it does wear on my throat.)

Suddenly, Isis's head comes up- and then there's a knock at the door, the sort of knock that means Something Interesting on the front porch.  Perhaps the book I ordered for my mom over a week ago?  Isis lets loose her snarling "big girl voice" and charges for the window, following it up with agitated whining, just in case we missed the frantic-scrambling-sounds of the mailman diving for safety.

I grab her collar, open the door (yell, "Thank you!" to the poor man) and look down to discover that it's not for my mom- it's from her!  Hooray!  Mom has rescued us from our burgeoning boredom by delivering up the unadulterated joy of diving into a large package full of gifts and goodies!
Okay let's do this!

The first level: full of tissue-wrapped, "It's okay to tear into them RIGHT NOW" parcels.

Level two: now we come to the Real Deal.  These are Presents for Under the Tree, people.

(and edible goodies, both home-baked and bought-from-the-German-deli)
Neeps, of course, is THRILLED that Oma sent him a package of tissue paper to destroy.

And a box to sit in.

No, Neeps!  I won't ship you back to Oma!


Head Doctors

Earlier this year Nathan said something very wise to me, regarding the importance of seeking health-care for mental-health issues:

"Look, if you had an antler stuck in your head, you'd go to the head-doctor, right?  Like, an antler that was making you mean..."

Sure, it sounds silly, but it really stuck with me.  I found myself doodling it today:



but maybe time
is like a rope
many moments twisting to form a day
days twisting to form a month
to form a year
a lifetime

and it is not the length of the rope
that should concern us
but rather its strength
(greater than its parts)

and rope does not lay out straight
stretching out into infinity
it is laid down in a coil
retracing its path
building upon where it's gone before
spiraling upwards
into the unknown

because a rope cannot be a line
until it's been cut off
its purpose finally revealed


But... I Love Him...

Neeps recently transitioned from the infant to the toddler classroom at daycare, which makes him the youngest one of about ten kids.  The other children are pretty enamored of him, mispronouncing his name as "Cheeps" (obviously not actually, but it translates pretty well) and generally being pretty cute about their adoration of "the baby".  I didn't realize quite how deep the fascination ran, however, until the other morning when I subbed in for Nathan to drop Neeps off before work.

I walked into the classroom, Neeps on my hip, and said, "Hi guys!" to the toddlers who saw me.  One by one their faces lit up and they started saying, "Cheeps!"  "Cheeps!" and swarming towards us.  I, failing to see the frantic signaling of the warden- er, teacher- put Neeps down on the ground to be with them.  They immediately mobbed him like sharks on chum, and the teacher waded in saying, "Friends, friends, give him space!"  I, amused by the spectacle, moved to put his stuff in his cubby, only to turn back when I heard a shriek of frightened indignation.

The swarm had literally cornered my son, who was now crying loudly with fear and rage.

"Okay buddy," I said, and plucked him out of their grasping little paws.  "Hey guys, hold back a sec and let him adjust."  The children looked up at me, wide-eyed and pleading, and one little curly-haired girl said wistfully, "But... I love him..."

"I understand, sweetheart: I love him, too.  But he needs some space to feel comfortable."

Needless to say, "But... I love him..." is now A Phrase around our household.  (Also we've decided that, given his natural charisma, he's probably going to be a cult leader when he grows up.)


The Presence of Presents

Christmas is nearly two weeks off, but already my son has ten or eleven presents under the newly-erected tree (and one in the car, because we got him a car seat; likely to be the most expensive Christmas present he will ever get from us).  Nathan and I, on the other hand, have about five presents between us maybe (one of them is unmarked, so it got voted for us over him.)  I get the feeling this will be the typical ratio for the next seventeen years or so.

I'm not complaining, mind you!  I love that people love the Little Gentleman so much they want to demonstrate it with loot.  But I'm just saying that Santa might need to bring Jenny O a new house in a few years, to hold all of said loot...


Evolution of Cool(/Warm)

There were many wonderful things about living a large chunk of my childhood in Alaska-

Having to wear long underwear was not among them.

Such was my disdain for the trials of beige, waffle-weave "long-johns" that I found Ellen Tebbits to be even more relate-able than Ramona.  (Although at least my set wasn't woolen- the horrors!)  I didn't miss them at all when we moved to Alabama.  Of course, that was right about the time people started wearing them under t-shirts, meant to be flaunted rather than hidden in shame (hello Grunge). Interestingly enough, no one really seemed to wear the pants half of the set. As for myself, I kept my trendiness restricted to flannel; I'd worn long underwear because I'd had to, and not even the gods of fashion were going to drag me back in to them.

As an adult who now lives in a temperate climate, where truly cold days are restricted to maybe a month's worth per year, I no longer have to wear long underwear.  And I don't.

I wear a Base Layer, you guys.  Which, it occurred to me today, is just long underwear re-branded for cool outdoorsy kids.  To make matters worse, my base layer is made of- you guessed it- wool.  Merino wool.  The hands-down best material from which to make base layers- and priced accordingly.  Like, to the point where I was genuinely super stoked to receive a set as a Christmas gift, because no way was I going to justify spending that on myself.

(Seriously, ten-year-old me is puking right now.)


Stumbling Upon a Secret Place

Neeps and I went for a hike this morning, in spite of the rain.  I've always loved hiking in the rain (so long as I have appropriate gear) because you generally get the trail to yourself.  Also let's face it: there's just something magical about the forest soaked in liquid silver.
A gateway to another world, PROBABLY.
I decided to do a short hike- less than 1.5 miles- because now that Neeps is a Master Toddler, I wanted him to do some of the trail under his own power.  So I figured a quick out-and-back, ending with him doing the last 30 yards or so.

Now, I'm not sure what exactly happened, but somehow we ended up Not On the Trail.  I mean, we were on a trail, but not the trail, and moreover the trail that we were on definitely wasn't an official trail.  But it was a trail, so I figured what the heck- might as well see where it led.

Turns out it led to something pretty freaking awesome:
That's right, a damn Fairy Pavilion.

It was a beautiful, magical, secret sort of place, and I was beside myself with delight for having discovered it in the company of my son.  We wandered all around it, noting the fire pit and the decaying rope swing and the places where someone had attempted to shore up the roof, which had rotted through in the center for perfect star-gazing.  It looked like it had been abandoned for years and years, but this being the PNW (where all things bow down to Mistress Creeping Green), it's more likely only been one or two.

Eventually we headed back, and I hauled Neeps down to do some toddling.  He stumped around in the woods for a bit, and then retraced everything he'd done at top speed after a dog passed (he wanted to pet that dog so badly).  I carried him back to where he'd turned around, and then he walked some more.  Finally he was tired enough that he was falling down more than walking, so I carried him the final piece back to the car.

It was a good day.


Days and Years (or: The Photo Album)

the days are long
but the years are short

that is what they said to me

(that is what i say
to myself)

one by one
i place the days
into the months
of this past year

(such a tiny fraction
of my own life)

but i remember
placing the minutes
into the hours
of those days

(since you first drew breath)

and they were an endless chain



Outside:  I'm so sorry this happened...

Inside: ...unless you're not.  Either way, let's get drinks.


Outside: I know a card doesn't really help at a time like this...

Inside: ...just consider it a tangible token of my futile desire to provide comfort in a crap situation.


Outside: Congratulations!

Inside: Dibs on your old clothes.


Outside: You lucky bastard.

Inside: (And I mean that in the most sucking-up way possible.)

(create a greeting card for a divorce/lost pet/gender reassignment surgery/winning the lottery)


Chance of Snow

I got out just in time.


I Make It Snow On Them... Drawers?

Lately I've taken to making snowflakes while I'm hold at work.
I've been on hold a lot, lately.

Like, a LOT.
That one on the left is actually from about three years ago... I found it when I was cleaning out old files, and it's what kick-started this year's snowflake industry.

They're just super-satisfying to make.

Every time I unfold a new one I feel like a freaking artistic genius.


A Matter of Taste

One of the fun side effects of my little food-allergy-adventure is that I don't have much in the way of a sense of taste anymore.  I can still smell, and I can sort of taste things as I swallow, sort of, but anything that involves the tip or top or sides of my tongue?  Nothing.  Which has led to a sort of interesting exercise in "What's worth eating when you can't taste it?"

As you might imagine, most of it comes down to texture and temperature.  Warmth is still very nice (especially as I have a raspy throat at the moment) so I'm drinking a lot of aromatic tisanes (if you can't taste 'em you may as well smell 'em).  But spicy sort of sucks, because there's none of the flavor, just a very unpleasant burning sensation.  Apples are no good, and much to my chagrin I discovered that my beloved Mighty Bowl is pretty non-appetizing without flavor (apparently I really don't like the texture of rice).  Yogurt is unpleasant, cheese is neutral, scrambled eggs are tolerable, saurkraut is actually pretty good because I can get more of a sense of the taste.  But winter squash is fantastic, because even if I can't fully appreciate the taste, I can fully appreciate the silky, mouth-filling texture.  Crushing things like fresh herbs between my teeth (cilantro and fennel, to name the two I've noticed) seems to work moderately well- I think because a lot of that comes down to scent.

I do hope my sense of taste comes back soon.  I feel like it will be difficult to eat a well-balanced diet without it, because I take four bites of whatever and am done- just enough to shut my stomach up.  I could probably just switch over to nutrient-drinks and call it good, if this keeps up.  Which really sounds like a terribly unpleasant way to live, given how much of our culture, socializing, and bonding is tied up in food and its preparation (especially amongst my nearest and dearest).  Still, I can't wholly regret this episode (going on for about a week now) as it's given me some insight into a different way of life, and that's all any writer could hope for (because when you're a writer, literally anything and everything can count as research).


The Beekeeper's Apprentice

This series first caught my eye more than a decade ago, while I was living in Birmingham.  I remember it quite clearly- attracted by the pipe-smoking woman on the cover, I picked a mass market edition up in the library, read the back and thought to myself, "Oh what an intriguing concept!"  But the book I held in my hand was not the first in the series, and so I put it back.  But I took note of what was the first book in the series: The Beekeeper's Apprentice.  I'm not sure why I didn't hunt it down then and there.  Perhaps I was getting an audio-book that day (back when I had a non-bike commute), or perhaps it was because, at that point in my life, I had not yet read any Sherlock Holmes*, and therefore didn't realize how much I craved exactly what it was offering.  Whatever the reason, I did not search the first book out that day, although it stayed firmly implanted in my brain, to the point where I have thought back to it time and time again over the past ten-plus years.

Well, I finally got around to ordering it from my library.

And I devoured it.

And I've put the next two on hold.  (That's the nice thing about waiting so long to actually get into a series- you get a lot more to read all at once.)

All in all, well worth the wait.

*It was actually a short story by Gaiman ("A Study in Emerald", found in Fragile Things) that finally prompted me to actually pick up a battered old collection of Sherlock Holmes while Nathan and I were traveling in the Southwest.  I tore through it and was promptly aghast that it had taken me so many years to discover the glory.  That Christmas, Nathan gifted me with a leather-bound copy of the complete collection.  Best husbeast ever.


Maybe It's Bromelain!

Spent this morning at the doctor's office, getting a referral to an allergist, to figure out what I've eaten twice within the past week to cause my tongue, mouth (and, more frighteningly, my throat) to swell up.  The kicker is that the most recent occurrence (at last night's party) was, well, at a freaking party, where I'd eaten small amounts of approximately twenty different things, in addition drinking at least three different beverages.  This did not make narrowing things down any easier, especially since some of those things I ate were things-made-of-many-things.

That being said, I told the doctor that I figured it was either something in a ground sausage type thing, or tree nuts.  Or, I added as an afterthought, pineapple, which had been present in the ground sausage type things.

"Ah," his face relaxed.  "I'm still sending you to a specialist, but I'd lay my money, as it were, on the pineapple."*

And then he prescribed me some steroids.  Woo!

The allergist's office won't call until the actual business week, obviously, but in the meantime I've busied myself like the good little 21st century patient I am by reading allllll about pineapple allergies.

Which led me to discover that pineapples (which I love, by the way) essentially are doing their best to digest you while you're eating them.  Say what?  It's true.  They have a little enzyme called bromelain that breaks down proteins.  You know, like the muscle that is your tongue.  It's used commercially as a meat tenderizer, if that tells you anything.  So lots of people tend to feel a bit of a tingling when they eat pineapple (I have myself, in the past) but I guess the bodies of some lucky so-and-so's get all suuuuuper sensitive about it.  Like giant jerks.

It was actually kind of a relief to find out about that, because one of the things bothering me about my "allergic reaction" was that I wasn't just swelling: I felt like I'd burned everything- tongue, mouth, tonsils, throat.  Burned to the point where I currently have no sense of taste, even.  It got me wondering if I'd somehow chemically burned myself on some spices in the sausage, but the whole pineapple-attempting-to-digest-me thing makes a lot more sense.

Of course, we'll wait and see what the specialist says, but in the meantime I'll be over here, not eating pineapples.

*all hail a doctor who actually listened to me, by the way.


Drinks With Santa

Company holiday party tonight- we had a holiday sock contest, so I wore leggings that said "Make it Reindeer" along with a pattern of reindeer and cash (appropriate for a financial industry party) topped off by Naughty/Nice socks.
Apparently Santa's a rum and coke guy, which makes those commercials make a LOT more sense.  (I had a brandy.)

A good time was had by all.


The Rewrites Begin

I have not, in the past, been a super big fan of rewrites.  Generally by the time I get around to them, I'm already starting to weary of the world I'm playing in.  I remember, back before I'd written my first long-format story (oh alright, novel, although I feel like a fraud saying that) wondering how an author could possibly make such basic mistakes as giving a character's birthday at one point in the series and then contradicting it later.  And then I wrote something longer than a short story, and came to realize that eventually it all just starts to overwhelm you, and you have trouble remembering what's on the page and what's only in your head.  And, moreover, eventually after all the re-reading and re-writing and editing-in-general, you begin to get very, very sick of the story, and just done with the damn thing, already.

Of course, in the past I've had a bad habit of editing-while-I-go, which means that by the time I get around to "re-writing", I've already read the thing more times than I can remember.  And I really shouldn't call it a bad habit, because for some people that works quite well.  For me, apparently, it leads to burning out on stories.

Which is why it's so interesting for me to begin the rewrites on Oathbreaker- I haven't read it over and over again: I just spewed it out onto the screen and moved on.  Occasionally I'd have to review a bit of what I'd written the night before, to remind myself where I was at in the story, but for the most part everything is still pleasantly fresh.  "Oh, I'd forgotten I wrote that!  That was clever."  (or, more often, "Oh shit that totally contradicts something I know I wrote later: better fix it.")

All this to say, I'm about 2500 words in to the re-writes, and am still feeling pretty excited about it.  Which is good, since I still have another 29 days of blogging left in this year's 366 project, and I might be able to utilize the one for the other.  Wheee!


Prize Fighter

Well, I did it.  I hit my personal NaNo goal for this year, and I'm feeling pretty dang pleased with myself.  I'd meant to start re-writes tonight, but technical problems got in the way of that, and as it turns out, that was a good thing, because it gave me a chance to get some truly excellent feedback from my Katie.  She confirmed some niggling concerns of mine, but better than that she gave me a freaking solution.  So I'm stoked to work that back in with all the other tweaks (/complete revamps) I have in mind.

Once I lumped everything together (including that bit I wrote back in October), The Oathbreaker came out to be over 20,000 words long, which is a perfectly respectable novella.  Perhaps even an anchor work for a collection of short-stories?  You know, the short-stories I, uh, didn't write because apparently I was too busy writing a novella...


(It's cool you guys- I have plenty in the archives.)

Although the feeling of triumph I have over actually managing to fight through exhaustion/distractions/time constraints/illness/etc to write at least 10 minutes a day (and often closer to 20 or even 30) every day for a month is pretty damn rewarding, I also feel like maybe I should treat myself to a more tangible prize.  Something writing-related, of course.  Maybe one of those pens that turns longhand to typed words... mmm, luxury.


The Oathbreaker, Pt XXXI

The sun was perhaps a finger’s length above the horizon.  I watched it sink from the window in my bedroom, wrapped in the scarf I’d woven from my mother’s goats, cradling my sleeping daughter.

“It will be over soon,” I whispered to her.  One way or another, it would be over.

There was no scroll tonight, no flagon of restorative potion.  Just me, and that I held most dear.

I leaned down and kissed her head, wondering if I’d ever have enough of her.

Half the sun was gone, and then three quarters.  And then all but a sliver, and then not even that- just a blazing glory of clouds to mark its passage.  All the orange and gold made me remember the little fire spirit, lounging on the rock, and I smiled.

“It seems pleased with itself,” said the creature.  I turned to see it sitting in my daughter’s cradle, leering at me.  “Has it found some small sliver of cleverness at last?”

“There’s no need to be nasty,” I told it primly.  “Get out of there.  It’s meant for babies, not spirits.”

It gave a snort, but climbed out and jumped up onto my bed.  I fought down my thrill at seeing it obey, however unconsciously.

“It is stalling,” the creature said, and sat at attention on one of the sable furs that covered the foot of the bed.  It stroked it absently.  “There is no point in stalling- it will not add any hours to the night.”

“Are you so impatient to begin?” I said, mildly.  “I might actually have discovered your name, you know.  It might be your pain you’re hastening, not mine!”

The creature gave a bark-yip.  “It is courageous, yes yes.  Valiant to the end.”

“And you are arrogant to the end,” I said, shrugging.  “We are as we were made, I suppose.”

“Get on, get on,” it grinned.  “One is impatient to hear what names it has unearthed for this final night.”

“Am I so amusing to you?”

“Yes yes, it more so than most mortals, for it actually thinks.  One thought, for a time, that it might actually present a challenge to one.  But in the end, it was nothing but a passing amusement, after all.”

“How difficult for you.”

“Yes yes.  One gets very bored.  But,” its eyes slid downward to my daughter, “Soon one will have a great source of entertainment, indeed, as well as the pain for all sorts of magic.”  Its tongue flicked out, tasting the air around her.

Red washed over my vision, and it took a great deal of self-restraint not to strangle the creature with my bare hands.

“Get away from her,” I hissed.  Its eyes narrowed and it reared back on its haunches.

“It cannot command one to do that, or anything else,” it said, taunting.  “It does not know one’s name.”

“But I do know your name, Rumpelstilzchen.”

The creature- Rumpelstilzchen- froze, and I felt a great pressure in the air around me.

What did you say?”  Now it was the creature who hissed.

I stood up straighter, doubts flown, and pointed my finger at it.  “I said I know your name, Rumpelstilzchen, and I command you to leave this place and never again threaten or do harm to me or mine.”  My voice rolled out like a thunderclap, magnified by the magic of the bargain we’d made, and the creature shrieked in agony, writhing on the bedclothes.

“No!” it cried.  “No no no no no!

But it had no choice.

It turned and attempted to lunge towards me, fangs and claws bared, but I held its true name now, and it could not disobey me.  It continued to struggle, howling all the time, until at last it ripped itself in two, and vanished in a swirl of smoke.


The king did not return from his pleasure-palace.  I was told he vanished from his hunting party with a scream and a smear of blood, and it was widely believed that a bear had taken him.

I felt no need to pursue it beyond that.

Alarming as the king’s death was, he had at least fathered an heir- my daughter- before he died, and so things were not as bleak for the kingdom as they might have been.  My role as queen-regent was not one I’d ever dreamed to wield, but I did my best, for my daughter and for our kingdom- queendom, now.  Having unlimited wealth certainly did not hurt, and before a handful of years had passed the common folk seemed downright pleased with the arrangement- although the nobles would wring their hands about my ‘need; to remarry.  I found ignoring them- or occasionally threatening to marry a foreigner if they would not let me be- to be immensely satisfying.

When my daughter was six, I took her to visit my mother’s grave.  It was not a time of greatest need, not like it had been the times before, but I called my mother’s true name, nonetheless.  She shone with an inner light when she appeared, and I felt a peace that she would, at last, be wholly free of this world.

“My daughter’s daughter,” she said, reaching towards my daughter.  “So beautiful.”

My daughter hid her face bashfully, then glanced back over her shoulder.

“Say hello to your oma,” I told her, giving her a squeeze.  “This is your one and only chance.”

“Hello oma,” she said.

“Hello my darling,” said my mother.  “I am so very pleased to meet you.  Why don’t you run along between those bushes, there, and play with my goats?”

“Goats?” squeaked my daughter, and was off like a hare.  My mother’s gaze followed her.

“She is so like you at that age,” she said, wistfully.

“Is she?”

My mother nodded and turned back to me.  “I am- so happy- that you brought her here, to see me.  But daughter, this is the last time I can appear to you this way.  Why did you call me now, when you are so happy?”

I tucked my knees up under my chin- a miller’s daughter in this place, even if I must be a queen in all others.  I let my eyes drift over to the greenery behind my mother’s grave, where I could just make out my daughter playing with Hazel, Aspen, and Yew.

“The world thinks her name is Elayne,” I said, absently.  “Named for my long-dead mother.”

“But that is not her true name,” my mother said, nodding.

“No,” I admitted.  “It is not.  Her true name lies locked in my heart, and I have never spoken it aloud.”

“Nor should you, until the time is right.  Anyone who knows her name will be able to call her as you have called me.”

I looked back up at her face and took a deep breath.  “Is the time right for me to know my true name, mother?”

She smiled, radiant, and leaned in close to whisper in my ear.


The Oathbreaker, Pt XXX

The new creature- ‘that other one’- did not step from the shadows as the bargainer did.  No, it coalesced from the rising frost-steam, swirling denser and denser until it stood before me, head cocked curiously to one side.

“It needs help?” the creature asked, voice sympathetic.  It looked exactly like the first creature, except where that one was pitch-black with glowing green eyes, this one was gray as fine ash, with dark blue eyes that squinted in the sunlight.  It might have been lovely, if I hadn’t known its nature.

“I do need help,” I said, playing nervously with my woven-gold wedding band.  “My- my friends told me you might be able to help me.”

“Did its friends tell it that one always requires a price?”

“They did not have to,” I said, hand moving to wear my mother’s necklace had once hung.

The creature’s mouth split into a grin and it sat back on its haunches.  “Good.  One does not like to deal with dullards.”

“It’s just…  I’m afraid you might not be able to give me what I need…” I said doubtfully.

“Let one be the judge of that,” it snapped, then relaxed.  “One can do many things- more wonderful and impossible than it could possibly imagine- so long as it can pay for them.”

“It’s not your abilities I doubt,” I said quickly.  “What I need does not come down to skill, but rather knowledge.”

“One knows more things than it could possibly imagine,” the creature huffed.  “One is very clever, indeed.”

“It’s just… I need to know a secret.  A secret no mortal knows…”

“One is not mortal,” it said, waving a clawed hand airly.

“No, of course not,” I said.  “Which is why I hoped, maybe, you could tell me…”

“Yes?” the creature leaned forward, eager.

“I need to know... a name.”

The creature’s eyes narrowed.  “A name,” it hissed.  “It does not ask for a small secret, no no.  But one knows many things.  And one knows many names.”  It glanced sharply at the lump of my daughter beneath my shawl.  “But a name is a precious thing, indeed.  Can it pay for such a precious thing?”

I narrowed my eyes in return.  “You’ll not have my daughter,” I said.  “She’s the reason I need the name, for she’s no longer mine to give.”

The creature considered this.  “What is yours to give?”

“I can give you beautiful jeweled necklaces.”  I said.  The creature yawned.  “I can give you a blanket woven of spun gold,”  The creature snorted and began deliberately inspecting its tail. I made my voice desperate.  “I’m a very wealthy woman- my husband is king of this entire land and he loves me more than life itself- he’d give me anything I asked for, which means I can give you anything you ask for!  Just name your price!”

“One has no use for it’s baubles, no use for it’s shining gold,” the creature said.  “A name is a life.  You must give a life for a life.”

“I’ve already told you- you can’t have my daughter,” I said, fear heavy in my voice.  “But if it’s my life you want-”

“Not it’s life, no,” the creature said.  “It’s life, freely given, means little to one.  By rights it should give its firstborn, but if it cannot-”

“I cannot.  And I cannot give any others that might come after, for they are promised, as well.”

The creature looked annoyed, and I was afraid it might decide to leave.  But instead it closed its eyes and steepled its fingers in contemplation.  “Let one think- one is very clever.  One can surely come up with a bargain that will suit all parties..  The girl-child is two-blooded.  It’s blood, and it’s mate’s blood.  Blood is life.  Blood.  Other blood.  Yes yes, the other blood...”  The eyes snapped open and fixed mine.

I covered my wedding band with my other hand.  “What- what do you mean?”

The creature slithered up next to me.  “It cannot give the girl-child, and one does not care for it’s life.  But the other blood- ah, the other blood…”

“Tell me what you mean!” I said shrilly.

“One will exchange a name for the other blood.”

“You want… my husband?” my voice broke as I said it.

“Yes yes,” it said.  “Yes yes, it must choose.  Child or mate, mate or child.  Lose one to save the other, yes yes.”

I let the thought roll over me- the thought of living the rest of my life with my mad husband, without my daughter, knowing that I might have saved her.  I gave a cry of anguish and buried my face in my hands, the tears flowing hot and fast.

“Yes yes,” it hissed.  “Yes yes, this is the price one claims.”

“I can’t, I can’t,” I sobbed, shaking my ehad.

“Then there is no bargain,” it said.

Please,” I said, looking up from my hands.  “Does it have to be... him?  Not- not my father?  Or… or…”

The creature shook its head.  “Only its mate will do.”

At that moment my daughter, as sleeping infants will, gave a stretch and a little cry.  I could have kissed her for her timing.  Instead I stared at her, looking as stricken as possible.

“Will it hurt him?” I whispered.

“It’s mate will be gone in an instant,” the creature answered.  Or, rather, evaded.

“It has to be the right name,” I insisted.  “If you don’t know the name, there is no bargain.  You can’t just give me any name.”

“Of course not,” it sounded insulted.  “One knows how the old magic works.  One will give it the very name it wants, in exchange for the right to take the other blood.”

I took a deep, shuddering breath.  “You- you have a bargain.  My husband for the name of the creature who is your dark twin, who spun rooms full of straw into gold at my behest.”

The creature’s eyes widened when I revealed what name I needed, but the magic was already rippling out across the two of us.  I imagined the king, hundreds of miles away, feeling a strange shiver go down his neck, and I hid a vicious, victorious smile.