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Some of my short fiction can be found on Anthologybuilder.com

Projects in Process

These are the projects I’m working on right now:

Business:
Re-doing the layout for Scrapyard of Insufferable Arrogance to make it work as a pdf. Then I need to put it up for sale in the store. It is an experiment in format and delivery. Schlock books in electronic format are long overdue.

A Schlock-related layout project which may become new merchandise that is launched at GenCon.

Layout for Massively Parallel. I’ve been in a holding pattern here, but Howard has started pounding through the bonus story edits. My instinct tells me the project will kick over into high gear soon. Probably toward the end of next week. I’ll be better off if I start refreshing it in my brain ASAP.

The Challenge Coin PDF. Already overdue.

Learning and setting up Patreon for both Schlock and me.

Reorganization and post convention clean up of both my office and the warehouse.

Assisting Kiki with another art show and with setting up her Etsy shop. She’s ready to step up her business so that it can help pay for college. This means lots of work setting things up. I think most of my part is done, but things pop up randomly. Right now her income has about half of one semester covered. We’re hoping to be able to at least double that. The more that she can come up with, the less I have to wiggle out of the family budget.

Preparations for GenCon are under way. This next week will include us hustling to make sure that we’ve got everything in order. Then there will be a brief lull before we send Howard off to the convention.

Preliminary preparations for Salt Lake Comic Con are underway. I’ve been communicating with programming, Dealer’s hall, ordering electricity, reserving a hotel room, speaking with booth partners, and generally trying to picture how to make it a more positive experience than we’ve had the last two mega shows. I’m feeling optimistic.

Household and Family:

The deck needs to be taken apart. Then I’ve got to arrange for all the wood to go to the dump. I thought more of it would be salvageable, but pretty much every board has had some hidden rot. At least it can go to the organic section and chipped to be turned into mulch.

Diet adjustment, particularly for Howard and myself. We’re taking steps toward healthier. We’re dragging our Hot Pocket and Frozen Pizza eating children along with us. This is for both budget and health reasons.

Along with the diet adjustments, I need to inventory our food storage and be restocking again. We spend a lot less on groceries when I stock up as things go on sale. I need to be doing better at that.

I ought to be doing more to provide enrichment activities for my kids. Mostly they’re quite content to play video games all day. It was a good break for them, but the restlessness is building. They need to have some summer activities.

Tree trimming. We’ve got a tree with branches that brush the roof. I have to find out if there is a reasonable and safe option for me to cut them off. Something like a pole saw. If I can’t find an option that feels safe, then we’ll have to pay an arborist who has the proper equipment. Not sure I can afford that this summer.

I need to not neglect the garden clearing work that Kiki and I began this summer. I’ve got to keep the ground clear so that we can plant in the Fall.

I need to finish the 2013 Family photo book and get up to date with the 2014 photo book.

My projects:

Writing The House in the Hollow. I’m at 30,000 words out of an expected 60,000. I just hit the midpoint crisis. I just need to keep laying down words until I reach the end.

The 2013 One Cobble at a Time book. I need it to go with the others on my shelf. I usually have this done by February. I think I’ve been avoiding it a little because re-reading 2013 is going to be hard.

Book of Memories. I’ve decided to take all the old photos I scanned while I was at my parent’s house and put them into a book. In that book I’ll be free to ramble about the old curtains and toyboxes. Creating it will make me happy because I will have told all the stories. Yet no one is obligated to sit through all the stories and be bored as I attempt to make clear why that ratty old chair is important to remember.

Cobble Stones book of holiday themed essays. I’d hoped to have this ready by November. It is low enough on the project list that I’m not sure that will happen. Maybe I’ll find a burst of forward momentum in September…

A long list of blog posts that I’ve been intending to write. There are at least a dozen of them.

Schlumpy Summer

Summer is when I lose track of days and hours. I get to the end of the days feeling all muddled and like I didn’t get enough done. So I finished off my day by taking a crowbar to the deck. all of the decorative trim has been removed and we can now use a flashlight to see underneath. Since most of the trim was in contact with the ground, almost every piece has rot on the end. There were many places where wood had turned back into dirt. Yet because of the construction of the deck all of that was hidden from view. The deck still looked sound. Also there were spiders and bugs everywhere. Not my favorite. But beating things up with a crowbar was kind of fun.

I’ve really got to get a grip on my schedule. I need to put some structure into days that have gone all schlumped. I need to declare work hours and tell the kids not to interrupt during them. I need to prioritize and get some things complete so that I’m not trying to juggle so many things in my brain.

At the End of a Day that Feels like it was Wasted

I wish the list of “things I did today” made me feel better about the list of “things I did not do today, but should have.” It isn’t that I wasted my time. I mean if I spend all day watching cat videos over and over again, then I would be justified in feeling like I should have done better at the end of the day. Instead I have a day where pretty much every moment was spent on something worthwhile, yet it all feels muddled and interrupted. I can very quickly point to the big failure of the day (a missed appointment) and I can’t point to anything that feels like a counter balancing success. The appointment wasn’t even particularly important. Yet the fact that I missed it is evidence of the normal summer muddle that our lives always fall into. Everyone wakes at different times. We eat on different schedules. The kids spend far too much time attached to computer screens, to the point that I feel like a bad parent. Yet to make them do otherwise would take energy which I then would not have available for the work that I need to do.

This was supposed to be the week when I dug in and wrote fiction every day. I was supposed to do that all through the month of June. I didn’t. I was supposed to have the challenge coin PDF completed. There’s a package I said I’d mail two days ago and I haven’t yet. I could keep going. The list is long. Here’s another should: I should focus on the things I did get done and not beat myself up for the things I didn’t. Also I shouldn’t assign myself so many “shoulds” and thus I spin myself into a recursion.

What did I do? Some laundry. Some dishes. I worked on the PDF of Scrapyard of Insufferable Arrogance, which we hope to put in our store as an ebook if I can get the file size small enough. 160MB seems really big and I’m worried that the store provider will hit us with bandwidth fees. I cooked some food as Howard and I are trying to shift our diets toward being more healthy. I helped Keliana write a contract. Listened to her as she bemoaned the challenges in setting up an etsy shop and having art under contract. She loves the art, but the business side was feeling burdensome today and she needed an ear. I read scripts for Howard. I took a shower. I read for writer’s group. I answered some email. I filled out extensive panelist forms for both Howard and I. There were two conventions and both had a field for “tell us why you’re qualified for this panel.” So I wrote a dozen little sales pitches which I hope will allow Howard and I to participate in programming. I attended writer’s group. I fed a fish.

It really seems like there ought to be more things to account for how I spent my time today. That doesn’t feel like enough things. I look at the list with logic and it has a lot of things, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Whether or not it is enough, the day is mostly gone. I will try again tomorrow.

Clearing Away the Mess

This morning I looked around my house and saw all the accumulated clutter from the past five weeks. During those weeks I packed for a trip by pulling things out of their usual places. Then I unloaded my suitcases, but not everything got put away. I was too busy preparing for a convention, which required me to pull out a completely different set of things. Also there was an art show, which strewed another set of paraphernalia about. While I was away on my trip, Howard brought home a drawing table and assorted gear from Dragon’s Keep, because he’s drawing at home now. Some of the gear is duplicates, most of it is sitting in boxes waiting for me to have time to decide where it goes. Then I came home from the convention bringing back piles of things which need to be put away.

One of the troubles with having so many piles of things, it means that even when I know exactly where the item I’m holding belongs, there is probably a pile between me and that location. So instead of putting the item away, I set it on a pile to put away later. Piles beget more piles until the entire house is full of piles which must be moved out of the way in order to accomplish anything useful.

This morning I looked around and realized that the most important business task I could accomplish would be to clean house. So I spent many hours of my work day organizing and putting away. There is much work yet to do, but it is begun.

I’ve also begun dismantling our back deck. The railings are off and we pried up enough boards to shine a flashlight underneath. That part was a little bit scary. I really did not know what we would see. I feared hornet’s nests and massive spiders because I swear that there were bugs or webs in every single join of every single board I removed. I no longer consider it a nice deck. It was a massive bug and spider house. Apparently. Underneath was actually pretty boring. There was dirt. We started at the far corner from where the rotted support is because we’ve seen leaf cutter bees flying in and out over there. If I have to deal with angry insects, I want to have time to know that they are there first. I’ll probably do a post with pictures, but it’ll probably wait until I have pictures of every stage.

Now I need to rest so I can have a similar work day tomorrow. We’ve had five weeks of running around. The next five weeks we’ll all stay home. I’m looking forward to that.

At the End of Westercon

I have so many thoughts in the wake of Westercon, but they are all fragmentary. When I try to pull one into coherence, it slips away from me like a colorful fish in murky water. I can tell they are lovely, but I barely get a glimpse before they are gone. A part of me is afraid that they will get away, vanish in the gloom never to be seen again. Tomorrow, when I have slept all the sleeps, I will try to coax them out where I can see them.

For now I write the fragments that may help me coax full thoughts tomorrow.

We had a wonderful time.

Keliana sold 3/5 of her art show pieces and many of her prints. She earned a significant portion of the money she needs for her tuition payment in August. She also won “Best Use of Color” for one of her pieces. She got invited out to dinner by professional people who wanted to talk to her, not her parents.

All of my panels were excellent. I learned things and I felt like we gave good value to the audience.

I had many wonderful conversations.

I need to write a post on the power of witness.

Mary and I visited an antique store, one where you have to ring the bell to be let inside. Unfortunately the owner had firm opinions about the use of photos so I couldn’t take any to share. But I was struck by how needlessly beautiful these objects were. We make things to serve a need. These things fed the need for beauty. I put my hand to the surface of a two hundred year old table and realized it had a story, probably many stories, and I will never know them. Not even if I bought it and took it home. That building was packed with untold stories. I wonder if I sat quiet for a long time if they’d whisper their stories to me. Certainly my brain tried to create them. I could not afford a single thing in the store.

I’m excited for LTUE next February. I think it is in some very good hands.

Commuting forty five minutes to and from the convention each day significantly increased the fatigue and reduced pretty much all of my evening social opportunities.

My kids who stayed at home are amazing and were absolutely fine while I was gone.

I have ideas to increase the fun and reduce the burden of SLCC in September.

I have ideas for Gen Con.

I had a dozen things that ought to go on the to do list, but can’t remember what they are. I hope they come back when I’ve cleared the murk.

The Shadows Beneath anthology is beautiful.

Sometimes you see behind the scenes to how an event is put together and it is like watching a train wreck, you can see the crash coming and cringe in anticipation. At Westercon I saw an event which was repeatedly saved from disaster by people who stepped in at the last minute to solve problems created by communication issues and other errors. The con com was full of heroes. Then there are other times where I see behind the scenes and the more I watch the more I respect everyone involved. Watching the Writing Excuses crew is like that.

Traffic and sales were really slow in the dealer’s room, but we still did better than I thought we would.

I never did make it across the street to Fantasycon. I’ve heard there were many things worth seeing. I was happier staying in the smaller space.

I have a deck I need to start dismantling this week and Apricots which are going to fall off the tree unless I can entice someone to come collect them and take them away.

I really want one of Jessica Douglas’ little dreaming trees with either fish or butterflies, but I can’t decide what colors or theme I want. It needs to mean something to me. A dreaming tree has to have symbolism in the colors and objects. I’ll wait patiently until my brain tells me what the symbols are.

A set of blog posts, getting onto panels, being a good panelist, being a good moderator, being a good convention guest, things conventions can do to make life easier for their guests.

And those are the glimpses I have right now. Time to sleep

Good Things on the 4th of July

My youngest two kids do like fireworks, but I think their favorite Fourth of July tradition is when I buy a pack of 50 glow stick bracelets and they run around in the dark backyard way past the time when I usually make them go to bed. If I were less tired, I would write up a post talking about the evolution of our 4th of July traditions. Some other time perhaps.

I’ve spent the last two days up at Westercon. I’ve got two days more. It is a convention with more than the usual quantity of organizational snafus, but none of them have truly impeded our ability to do the things we need to do nor have they reduced our enjoyment of the show. I’ve had so many conversations today which warmed my heart. It is good to be among friends. I’m tired, but happy. Tomorrow morning I get to go back.

Westercon July 3-6 Salt Lake City

I’ll be at Westercon this weekend. I’ll be there mostly as support crew for Howard and Kiki, so I expect that if you want to find me and say hello, the dealer’s room is the best bet. Please do stop by. I’ll have Hold on to Your Horses, Strength of Wild Horses and my Cobble Stones books for sale. We’ll also have Howard’s books and Kiki’s art.

I do have a few times where I’ll be on panels.

Thurs 4pm Deer Valley I&II
Schmoozing 101: Making the most of your convention experiences.
Mary Robinette Kowal, Sandra Tayler, Dave Doering.
I’ve been part of a similar panel with Mary before and I’ll bet this one is worth your time.

Fri 10am Salon A
Writing Assistants: What do they do and when do you need one?
Sandra Tayler, Isaac Stewart, Peter Ahlstrom, Chersti Nieveen.
I know all of these people and they know their stuff. It should be a good discussion.

POSSIBLE Friday 2:30 Salon B&C
Women in Fantasy Art
J. Zoe Frasure, Keliana Tayler, Emily Sorensen
Keliana was told that I’m on this panel too, but I haven’t seen that reflected on a printed program. It looks like an interesting discussion whether or not I’m part of it.

Friday 5:30pm Salon B&C
Sparks in the Blood: Insights from a creative family.
Howard Tayler, Sandra Tayler, Keliana Tayler
They’ve put three Taylers on one panel and given us an hour to talk. If we do this right you’ll laugh (a lot), you’ll cry (maybe, just a little), and you’ll learn something useful. Hope you join us.

Saturday 2:30pm Salon A
Writing Children and Juvenile Characters: From Classics to Today
Sandra Tayler, Mikey Brooks, Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury
I get to talk about writing for this panel, which makes me happy.

Summarizing the Vacation

“So how was your vacation?”
It is a question to which I really should have an answer. I usually start by saying “Good.” because on the whole that is true. When everything is averaged out it was a good trip. If I’m feeling more honest or whimsical I’ll say “Hard to summarize.” This is also true, because the trip had three distinct stages and each one could fill an entire conversation. Often I’ll follow up with a few highlights, things I think will interest the other person. Because I’m almost always in a small-talk sort of conversation and if I try to really unpack my trip experiences I’ll be like that person who sits down and makes everyone look at slides until they’re bored to tears. I don’t want to be that person, so I keep it short and bright.

Yes parts of my vacation were dark and difficult, but only because of the emotional baggage I packed along with me. Leaving my house, Howard, my responsibilities, for two weeks was deeply unsettling to parts of my psyche. As a result I had odd anxiety reactions on the drive, frequent difficulty sleeping, and restless dreams. Of the many benefits from this vacation I think the biggest is that I have just demonstrated to that piece of my brain that I can leave for an extended period of time and it will not result in disaster. Howard is fine. Comics got made. Kiki shipped the packages. Nothing else turned into a crisis. This is good. Had there been a crisis, I’m sure we would have managed it. Instead I had to manage that part of my brain which was certain that crisis must be imminent and kept randomly flooding me with jolts of adrenaline which I then had to calm down from.

The only reason I planned this extended trip was because of my parent’s fiftieth anniversary and giving them space to go on a trip was the best gift I could think of. I would never have scheduled things this way otherwise. Now the experience is giving back to me, because I can picture an extended trip not ending in disaster. I couldn’t before. Any thing of the sort was auto-filed in the “not possible” bin. And perhaps in years previous it truly wasn’t possible. The emotional work I’ve done to sort out my anxiety is reaping benefits. Add in Howard’s anti-depressants and the work we’ve done together to identify and recalibrate family patterns, and many things become possible which would have been miserable before.

Of course we have so many things scheduled for the rest of the year that this new knowledge will have to lay idle for a while. Next year is not quite so full. Yet.

My vacation was good. I learned things about myself. I got to see beauty. I put my toes in the ocean and wore out my legs with walking. I went wallowing in nostalgia. I spent time with my Grandma. I gave time to my parents so they could vacation. I reconnected with family and friends. I spent time with my kids. It was a good trip. I’m glad to be home.

Over the River and Through The Woods

Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.
I sang the phrase to my kids as we headed east from Marysville, California on I-70. The road still feels familiar to me, though I haven’t seen it in a decade. I traveled it multiple times each summer throughout my childhood as our family went to visit Grandma’s house. The words really fit our journey as the road winds up a canyon complete with trestle bridges over the river,

three tunnels,

and lots of woods.

Sometimes the woods are broken up by impressive rocks.

It is a stunning drive. I highly recommend it, but be prepared for winding roads next to precipitous drops. Also pick a day with nice weather. In bad weather the road can be downright terrifying.

As we drove I subjected my kids to nostalgic stories. I think they half listened, but speaking the stories mattered to me, so I talked. We were adding two hours of driving to our trip home in order to stop by and see my Grandma’s house. I’ve felt a longing to see it in the past few years.
It is a strange little house tucked into a tall pine forest.

Who ever built it, used local materials and much love in it’s construction. It is created with a combination of local rock, pine logs, concrete, and clapboards. The roof is made out of sheets of airplane metal. There isn’t anything standard about this house.

I can see the love that went into creating it. There are small details everywhere. I know the love that went into maintaining it. Grandpa was always fixing things and making things better. It was their shared project and they had many a lively argument about how things ought to be done. Or rather, Grandma filled the air with words while Grandpa pretended he couldn’t hear her because he’d “lost” his hearing aid again. Then Grandpa would fix things how he thought they ought to be done.

Right now nobody lives in the house. It is watched over by a neighbor except during the times when my parents bring Grandma up to stay for a bit. Grandma can’t stay by herself anymore, not safely. I’m sad to see the place empty. Grandma loves it still. My siblings and I love it too. It is a place of memories. I remember the giant garden they used to grow.

That high in the mountains there is only a short growing season, but Grandma and Grandpa managed. They even coaxed a peach tree into bearing fruit though their neighbors said it couldn’t be done.
Here is that same garden plot today.

I was pleased to see that Grandpa’s rock wall was still standing.

It’s been there for a very long time.

We didn’t get to go inside. Grandma has the only key and she doesn’t like people going inside when she is not there. Part of me felt strange driving two hours out of my way just so I could spend thirty minutes crunching through dried leaves to look at the exterior of a house and take pictures. Stories spilled out of my mouth as I walked with my kids. I would point to things and tell them how those things used to be. In my eye “how it used to be” is so clear.

Pretty sure my kids just saw the things as they are.

Grandma keeps talking about selling the house and land. She knows she’s not taking care of it, but letting go is hard and the effort necessary to make it ready for sale is beyond her. My parents will sell it after she’s gone and we will all grieve. We all love the house, but none of us want to live there. It is in a tiny town with few jobs available and the house itself is problematic in a dozen ways. The rooms are oddly shaped. It is all constructed under the assumption that the primary heat source would be a wood burning chimney in the center. That never worked well, so now there is a wood burning stove and a smattering of built-in electric heaters.

One year my parents brought Grandma up in the spring to discover mushrooms growing in the front room carpet from a leak in the roof. They called a guy to come fix it, he took a look and quoted a really high number. My parents gulped and agreed to pay it. Then the guy started working for an hour and said “never mind. It can’t be done.” and left. They finally found someone else willing to do a completely non-standard patch job. I doubt a single thing in that house is up to current safety codes. Yet there is a piece of my heart that looks around and says “surely this can be saved and made beautiful again.”

It will likely be purchased by someone who wants the land and who will tear down the house and the garage behind it. So I took pictures, many pictures. When the time comes, I’ll help clear out the contents and I’ll take even more pictures. Because someday when I drive over the river and through the woods, Grandmother’s house won’t be there anymore.

Remembering What I was Doing

The first day home after a trip involves a lot of drifting around and trying to remember where I left off. I’m also spending time processing what has changed. I was only gone two weeks, so you wouldn’t think there would be much, but a neighbor took out a large tree next to our driveway and that changes the look of the house every time I approach. Howard and Kiki rearranged the front room while I was gone to make space for the drawing table that used to live at Dragon’s Keep. We’re all still assessing how it works. Weeds sprang up in all of the garden beds while I was elsewhere. Weeds do that. The pantry and fridge have different food in them. So I’m making note of things I ought to buy and new things to incorporate into meals.

I also spent a good portion of the day with my accounting software. I try to do the accounting every week and so to miss two weeks in a row makes me antsy. Piece by piece I began to pick up the strands of my life and remember how they go. Next week will be a convention week, with Howard, Kiki, and I trundling off to Salt Lake for Westercon. I’ll be splitting my time between convention events and the kids at home.

The other portions of my day were spent petting the cat, who is apparently glad to see me, or needs reassurance that I still accept her, or something. I also walked around on our back deck, noting the places where the boards have gone wiggly. While we were gone, on board broke through, making it clear that some of the hidden support beams have begun to rot. Repair would require complete disassembly, at which point we’d have better luck just building an entire new one. We haven’t the money for that, so we’ll take it apart and see what is underneath. It’ll be a time capsule of mud and dryer lint. (The dryer vents is in the crawlspace under the deck as is the hose nozzle. Not the most brilliant of arrangements and likely the reason we’ve got rotting support beams.)

Even though I’m trying to figure out where I’m at, everything feels right. I’m in my house with my people. The air feels like home and so do the plants and trees. Tomorrow I attempt to resume a normal schedule by claiming my Saturday morning gardening time. Sunday is a day of rest. I also have a short list of catch-up chores including additional blog posts I want to write before all the California thoughts are packed up and put away.

It is good to be home.