There’s No Heat In This Winter Sun

It’s been a week of winter. Freezing rain, sleet, ice, and snow. I’m fortunate I don’t live in New England, where snow tunnels are the norm. And there’s a certain beauty when the sun comes out and shines through the ice-coated limbs of trees like diamonds. For the first time, I think I really understand why Christmas trees are decorated the way they are. The tinsel, the lights: all of it to re-create the natural, diamond sheen of nature when ice coats the world and the sun shines through. It’s beautiful.

But with that beauty comes a dangerous edge. People have been without power for days on end, and travel conditions, based on where you live, are pretty treacherous. We’re lucky: we’ve lost power only briefly, and we’re close enough to the main roads that driving conditions aren’t really an issue. Though it’s scary to be driving and realize your windshield is icing over and you need your defrost on the highest setting, in hopes that’ll be enough to get you home. My grandmother, while having power, can’t leave the house even if she wanted, because the hill at the end of the driveway is nothing but ice.

I remember worse. Down in my neck of the woods, you’ll often hear about the “Blizzard of ’93,” which hit in March. But this is the longest bout of winter weather I remember in a long time. And it’s been so very, very cold.

Next week is my next week of four 10-hour days, but next Friday is Con Nooga, not a Writing Work Day. I keep eyeing the weather suspiciously, and right now, it looks to be fine, but I don’t trust it, nor do I trust the weathermen who report it.

So I’m crossing my fingers that it won’t be an issue. For me, or for anyone else who’s traveling for it, like my friend in Virginia.

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Today’s headline comes from Tom McRae’s “Please,” from the album The Alphabet of Hurricanes. I know, I’ve already pulled from this album, but I’m kind of in love with it, and I love his lyrics. You can hear the song, which I’ve had on repeat all week, here.

Give Me Something More….

It’s kind of nice to be tackled first thing in the morning with the following question: “Where was your Calico Writes entry from yesterday?” I’ve actually done a crap job updating over the holiday weekend, as I spending lots of time catching up on LOTS of reading. I finally finished the VanderMeer trilogy, and to that end, I’ll say that I want to read the whole trilogy again. The first read is to experience without spoilage. The second, eventual, read will be with a different, more critical eye, now that I have a sense of how the story fits together. If you ask me what it’s about, I still couldn’t tell you specifically: reading the Southern Reach trilogy is an experience, and the comparisons to the television show Lost aren’t unfounded, if you’re someone who likes conspiracies and mystery and crazy science. Whatever faults Lost had, if it inspires more fiction like this, I’ll be a happy camper. A slow reader, mind you, but still happy.

I’m also working on some administrative things relating to my writing. I intend on making BIG CHANGES soon, and those changes will deserve their own special post. In the meantime, I’m pre-planning. One of the results of that is that I’m in the process of shuffling Codename: Magic Twins to the back-burner. Reasons being that it’s a complex world I’m building and I don’t have my arms wrapped around the rules nor all of the characters. It’s something that, while I’ve said it before, I really to to plan out in great detail before I start writing in earnest. I churned out another 495 words over this weekend, but by and large, I think my time will be better spent focusing that energy into a major brainstorming piece: something that breaks down the characters, the magic as I understand it, and then I’ll have some people critique the shit out of it so that I can move forward with a more solid direction in mind.

Besides, the world that Codename: Telepathic Soulmates is in is calling me, and I’ve got some serious work to do.

So I may not be writing every night. Not new fiction or new words, but I solemnly swear I’m up to no good, and I’ll try to keep the blog posted on my progress on a regular basis.

Let’s see, what else? We finished watching the first season of Penny Dreadful over the weekend, and while I enjoyed the hell out of watching it, I couldn’t help but notice some of its more problematic qualities: notably, while the show attempts to empower its female characters sexually, I can’t help but notice those same characters are also thoroughly punished in the narrative. How direct that correlation is depends on the character in question, but for one particular character, the correlation between having sex and BAD SHIT HAPPENING is disturbing. It’s something I’ll be watching with a close eye on when season two premieres, because of course I’ll watch. I heart the werewolf.

I also finally got around to watching Divergent, which was an enjoyable adaptation and makes me want to re-read the trilogy. I almost caved in and watched Beautiful Creatures, because I heard that was also enjoyable, but I promised a friend I’d help on a project, so help I did.

Today was back to the grind at work, and it was definitely a stressful grind. But that’s what happens when there’s a holiday during the workweek, and with any luck, hopefully today was the worst of it.

This post brought to you by a very bruised but healing ankle, an innate distrust of this unseasonably warm and sunny weather, and the sounds of the latest Marilyn Manson album filtering down the hall. Damn, that does not sound like the Manson I heard back in the nineties. It might be sacrilege, but whatever he’s doing now, the sound’s a huge improvement to my ear.

Today’s headline brought to you from Lacuna Coil’s album, Trip the Darkness. You can hear “Give Me Something More…” here.

Riding Off Into the Sunset: A Tribute to Uncle Pete

Yesterday, my Uncle Pete died.

He wasn’t technically my uncle. He was the husband of my grandmother’s cousin. But he’s always been Uncle Pete to me, despite his wife NOT being Aunt Mary Carol. When I was growing up, they frequently visited my grandparents (with whom I lived), and their visits were always full of excursions to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Cades Cove. Their visits were also full of card games and books.

They always brought a blizzard with them, and we’d end up snowed in for days. One of my favorite memories was waiting for the sun to break, for the snow and ice to melt so we could make it up the hill to get out of our driveway. We’d ride to town so Pete could refill the propane tank for his camper, and then we’d hit the mall. Uncle Pete would always pull out his folded up list of Louis L’amour westerns that Mary Carol had made for him, and he’d browse the Western section with care, making sure the books he wanted to buy weren’t ones he’d already read. And he’d always get me a book. Or two.

I loved how he and Mary Carol had a map of the U.S. on their camper, how over the years they colored in each state they’d visited, and yes, they managed to visit all 50 states in their retired years. I loved hearing stories of their travels. I’m still especially enamored of Uncle Pete getting “snockered” in Germany, but still managing to hold out against a German man who was determined to out-drink an American.

It’s been a long time since I’d seen Uncle Pete. Time, distance, and his health have all contributed to that. I’d known for a while that his health was failing, and had learned over the weekend that all treatment/medications had been stopped. I knew it was a matter of time.

I don’t regret that I didn’t get to see him in the end. I prefer the memories I have, seeing him in his element. I remember his big laughs, big smiles, and big hugs. I remember the smell of his aftershave, the way he’d relax into the recliner, feet propped up, the warmth of the yellow light shining on the pages of his latest paperback.

Wherever you are, Uncle Pete, may there be many books, many beers, and many, many adventures.

You’re On To Me, I Know

Today, I bring you something slightly different. I’m working on an extensive post about writing and what it means to write for fun, for money, or for both. Because of that, I’m going to keep the daily down to a single song. It looks like it’s a video, but it isn’t, so you can press play and keep reading.

The song in question is “Lost” by Kris Allen. I stuck it in my playlist for the current project, and every night, I put the playlist on shuffle and this song keeps popping up randomly. So now, I’m passing along the earworm to you, in hopes that you enjoy it.

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Currently Writing: Codename: Magic Twins
Last night’s word count: 294 words
Total word count: 5,017 words
I know, last night was crap for production, but that’s okay. I had two LONG days in a row, and I started writing later that I would’ve liked. However, since the goal is one double-spaced page a day, I’m doing quite nicely. Also, it’s hard to concentrate when 1) the cat is being adorable with his toys and 2) the cat wants to be in your lap.

Currently Reading: Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance
I was finally able to read on my lunch break today. Yay! The kitty helped by keeping my lap warm.

Next up: busy evening, but nothing like the past few days. Grabbing dinner at Subway with the hubby, then doing a quick run to the grocery store. Then home for… Sleepy Hollow? Watching the hubby play Dragon Age: Inquisition while I blog? Writing? Reading the VanderMeer? All of the above? Only time will tell. I do know that my main goal for the evening and going into tomorrow is not to freeze my ass off. Because seriously, it’s getting cold.

Today’s headline brought to you from Kris Allen’s album, Horizons. You can hear “Lost” by clicking the “video” above.

Lazy Sundays Are The Best

It’s unseasonably warm today, so I opened the back bedroom door to the deck so Storm Shadow could laze in the sun and stare out the storm door and keep watch over the great outdoors. The weather forecast is calling for stupidly cold temperatures starting tomorrow, which I suspect may wreck havoc with my sinuses, but for now, it’s good to sit back, relax, and enjoy the sun before the work week starts. It’s gonna be a busy week.

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Currently Writing: Codename: Magic Twins
Last night’s word count: 360 words
Total word count: 2,615 words
Not much, but it was still my double-spaced page-a-day, and that’s the goal. Movie lasted a while and I’d had a couple of drinks while watching, and when you’re reducing your calories, alcohol hits harder and faster than what you’re used to. Hopefully, what little I wrote is somewhat coherent.

Currently Reading: Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
I’ve been meaning to read this award-winning book for a very long time, and I only just started. It’s going to be a fast read, which is good, because my next few picks are going to have to focus on books that I think I may want to nominate for the Hugos.

Next up: More laundry! Probably forgoing completing the Batman marathon as the hubby wants to watch football and I want to watch the premiere of Galavant, which looks delightfully fun and ridiculous. I think I’ll have popcorn. Tomorrow the work week starts in earnest, and I have my first physical therapy session of the year. Yay?

When Trampolines Attack!

So. For the past four or so years, Tennessee has been hit with massive flooding, rain storms, hail, and torandoes. This happens pretty much every spring, and every spring, when the weather finally starts warming up, hearing that thunderstorm is coming also means we need to get our cars covered and keep one eye out for funnel clouds.

Three years ago, we had to replace our roof & guttering due to hail damage. Last year, our neighbor’s trampoline flew into our yard during a storm and dented the brand new gutter. Since that was all the damage, and his insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of replacing it because he had his trampoline weighed down based on their guidelines, we decided not to get it fixed. The neighbor was happy to pay for it himself, but we decided not to bother. Good thing.

Thursday, we got hit. The National Weather Service says it was a thunderstorm with winds reaching up to 100 mph, but people around here swear there was a tornado. Whatever the case, at 8:30 pm the storm REALLY hit hard and while I decided to see if we had hail, the neighbor’s trampoline took a flying leap and hit the house and then rolled alongside our house to get stuck on our porch.

The damage: the gutter we should have but DIDN’T replace last year? A new dent! But this year, we have three panels of siding broken, one broken so badly it shows the wood beneath. My husband suited up that night in a rain jacket, got the neighbor, and removed the trampoline from our property and investigated and talked about the damage. Neighbor is a nice guy, but not the brightest: he doesn’t think his insurance will cover anything because the trampoline was weighted down (he should’ve been using stakes though, not sandbags, and also: when you hear a big storm is coming and you KNOW your trampoline likes to attack the neighbors? You should take it down before the storm. Or at least turn it upside down). My husband stressed, however, that we’re getting this fixed this year, so we’re hoping that if his insurance says no, he’s going to pay. We’ll find out soon, once we get our own estimate, which likely won’t be more than our own deductible, and we’re not going to claim it on our insurance regardless, just because we shouldn’t have to and also, a lot of insurance companies in this area have a “three strikes in five years, you’re out” rule. Which means I don’t want to add a second strike when I shouldn’t have to.

But the damage could’ve been so much worse: the trampoline didn’t hit the window, so that’s a relief. And we don’t have trees, otherwise the would’ve been bent over, broken, or completely uprooted, which is what I saw Friday morning while driving to work.

Tornado or not, it was bad. I’m really tired of these storm systems, but every geographic location has some kind of SOMETHING that makes the location somewhat undesirable. Like getting lots of snow. Or having ungodly heat. Or being subject to hurricanes. Or earthquakes. There’s always something. It’s just that in this neck of the woods, that SOMETHING used to be rare. It sure as hell didn’t happen like clockwork every year.

Stupid climate change….