Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Me doing a cover of "My Girl is Queen of the Savages" on ukulele


Yesterday was the 13-week anniversary of getting Jeepster: she is a quarter of a year old. To celebrate, I'd meant to record a beautifully rehearsed bit of...something. But because I wasn't sure what--though I was pondering both "Hallelujah" and "Bird on a Wire"--I got around to neither.

But then I did a tweet, around 5 pm, saying, Hey, I was going to do this thing, but didn't, so any requests? And Alyx Dellamonica said, Do "My Girl is Queen of the Savages!" And I said, Never fucking heard of it! But then I went to YouTube and listened to it, and it seemed easy enough. So I thought, Ah, what the fuck, sat down, ran through it a couple of times, and recorded it on my phone.

From hearing the name of the song for the first time to posting my cover version: about 90 minutes (maybe 2 hrs, it's hard to figure out, exactly). It's a wee bit out of my range--a bit high--but hey, sometimes life is all about taking things on the volley. It's less than two minutes. Enjoy.


Check this out on Chirbit

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Do not sent naked pictures to your favourite writer

I sometimes accept invitations from readers to meet for coffee or a drink. Sometimes these readers travel for the purpose. Sometimes they're long-time readers who, for a variety of reasons, have just moved to the area and are brave and think, Ah, fuck it, I'm going to try meet one of the people I know for sure lives here!

Each invitation is a leap of faith. So is my acceptance. But while I have occasionally wished I'd said no--and can only imagine the same is true for the other party--frankly, this is rare. Mostly I delight in these conversations with readers; they tend to be smart, and kind, interested and interesting; fine human being. We rarely spend much time talking about me or my work. What I have fun with is finding out about them, where and how they live, how they feel, what they think, what makes them tick. Sometimes we go way, way beyond the time allotted--which is anywhere from thirty minutes to four hours depending on my previous guesstimate of the fun quotient. (As a rule of thumb, if you're just from the other side of the city, you get coffee; if you've driven a reasonable distance, it's lunch; if you've flown in, it's dinner.) Sometimes, yes, it's true, I'd have to characterise the meeting as more tedium than fun--but I can always escape early with a "Gosh, is that the time?" and a reference to the exigencies (completely true) of work. But the occasional hour or so lost to experiment is more than made up for by the number of fine people I've met this way--a couple of whom I now count as true friends.

A certain percentage of emails from readers demand refusal but most of the time I accept. Every now and again, though, I get a vibe from an email, something I can't quite put my finger on, and I dither.

Our unconscious mind is expert: it can spot weirdness even when consciously we're not paying attention. And I admit, I haven't been paying much attention to the world the last little while: rewriting Hild means living in the seventh century; living in the seventh century demands the majority of my processing power.

Yesterday I was glad I had dithered over one particular invitation. And today I'm moved to made a Public Service Announcement:

DO NOT SEND NAKED PICTURES OF YOURSELF TO A WRITER YOU WANT TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH.

That's all.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Short and simple this year.

I am thankful for people. Friends, family, readers, neighbours, and colleagues have made my year better. Your kindness, generosity (in a myriad ways) and patience have helped turn an occasionally humdrum and stressful existence into an exhilarating life.

I'm lucky. I'm grateful. Thank you. Now let's go eat PIE!

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Same-sex marriage in the US is inevitable

Same-sex marriages will begin in Washington State on December 9, 2012.

So now there are nine states--Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont--plus the District of Columbia, the Coquille Indian Tribe, and the Suquamish tribe, where same-sex marriage is legal. In California, of course, some couples who married are still married but there won't be any more, thanks to Proposition 8, until the Supreme Court of the United States makes some decisions.

And SCOTUS will be making some important choices on the matter very, very soon. Today At the end of the month (was November 20, but just postponed to November 30), the justices meet in private session to decide whether/when to hear any of the six ten queer rights cases that have been brought before them: four eight about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and its constitutionality, one about lesbian and gay rights (specifically health care) in Arizona, and one about Proposition 8*.

If the court doesn't take up one of these cases I will eat my ukulele chord book.

I am excited about this. (Not about the chord book--though perhaps consuming it whole would give me superpowers, the instant ability to play any chord, for which my neighbours would no doubt be most grateful...) In all likelihood, the case SCOTUS will take up will either be the Prop 8 case, or that of Edie Windsor, the 83-yr old lesbian widow whose wife died in 2009. If it were my choice, it would be  the latter. And, indeed, the Department of Justice has asked the supreme court to prioritise the Edie Winsor case.

Here's the interesting thing: in this last election, four out of the four states in which the electorate expressed an opinion on lesbian and gay rights at the state level voted in favour. SCOTUS will be influenced by this: their job, when it comes right down to it, is to obey the will of the people.

It's my belief and hope that, following recent precedent set by various circuit courts of appeal, SCOTUS will apply 'heightened scrutiny' to lesbians and gay men as a class. And that they will, as in the case of Loving v. Virginia, the case that struck down anti-miscegenation laws, find simply that states' rights are secondary to the rights set out in the Fourteenth Amendment, those of equal protection and due process:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Marriage, the Supreme Court has been saying since the 1920s--in a variety of ways--should not be interfered with by any kind of government, local or federal; it is the right of every citizen to marry whom they wish. This applies to race, to ethnicity, to age (within certain agreed-upon bounds) and soon--if I'm right--to sex.

It's my belief that SCOTUS will rule in favour of marriage equality. I think they might rule by a majority as high as 6-3. (Many of the Appeals Court rulings have opinions worded very carefully--and, in my opinion, aimed squarely at Justice Kennedy, the swing voter. And then there's Chief Justice Roberts' recent opinion on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), that is, the health-care law.) I think this will happen very, very soon--perhaps early next year.

However, you should bear in mind that I'm most definitely not an expert and, compared to most people, I'm wildly optimistic. I had dinner the other day with a board member of a prominent LGBT legal rights organisation. She was of the opinion same-sex marriage would be legal on the federal level "in the next ten years." I disagreed. I said: "2014." So, hey, let me repeat: I'm not an expert. But I just can't imagine, I really can't, how this isn't going to happen very, very soon.

Legally, socially, culturally, same-sex marriage is inevitable.

* Read this for an overview of the court situation regarding marriage equality.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Masters of the misty morning


Sometimes I feel like this morning's Steller's Jay: captain of my day. Sometimes more like the squirrel: hurry, hurry, so much to be done!

But I love the mist. Love autumn. I just want to wander about in it. But there's work to do--thrilling work. So that's my day, followed by dinner out with friends.

I wish the same for you.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The business of writing: a one-day workshop December 2

Publishing is in the throes of huge change and it's hard to keep up with the choices available for writers--of any level and genre. Should we go with a lithe, adaptable independent publisher? Should we stick with a Big Five beast (which, as recently as last month, was the Big Six--which should tell you something about the speed of change)? Should we go with the new 800 lb gorilla, Amazon? Should we self-publish? If we do self-publish, should we consider crowd-funding?

Clarion West will hold a one-day workshop in Seattle on Sunday, December 2, on The Business of Writing. If I had the time (I'm in the thick of Hild revisions, so sadly I don't), this workshop is something I'd consider myself.

Amazon Publishing is one of the industry's disruptive forces (with all the positive and negatives associated with the phrase). This is your chance to talk to some of the people who are making decisions there--editors, publishers, and one of their bestselling authors. As Kelley points out, "Every writer needs to understand the business, not just the craft. We’re all responsible for our own careers, and today writers have more options than ever before. It’s an exciting, challenging, and potentially confusing landscape... Hear about the business from folks who are in it daily; get your questions answered; and come away with the big picture of the possibilities for all of us in the new publishing frontier."

If you're in or near Seattle early next month, seriously, think about this. Info below.

Workshop description:

This nuts-and-bolts workshop will provide emerging writers useful tips on how to make a living writing popular fiction. Editors and publishers from Amazon Publishing will share a behind-the-scenes perspective on publishing today, and bestselling author Robert Ferrigno will pass on skills and insights coming from his twenty years of professional experience. Topics covered include research techniques, time management, storyboarding and outlining, marketing, and learning from feedback.

Robert Ferrigno has written twelve best-selling thrillers, including The Horse Latitudes and Heartbreaker. His work has been nominated for the Edgar and the Silver Dagger. He thinks good writing, regardless of genre, is clear, resonant, and packs an emotional punch.

Cost is a nonrefundable fee of $140.

Registration is limited to 12 students

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

We're back...

We left the country for a few days. We were invited up to Vancouver: missing the election seemed like a bonus. Not only did we have a marvellous time but we got home to find that the American People had voted in ways that pleased us. And the sun was shining. Life is damn good.

Here's a pic of part of our experience:

Three of these shots are of Gastown, two taken from the apartment where we stayed. Gastown reminds me of Pioneer Square and Belltown in Seattle. But...more. More cosmopolitan, more sharp, more busy, more interesting. More expensive. If I won the lottery I think I could spend a lot of time there. As it is, I suspect we'll be going back sooner rather than later. The pastry was from Thomas Haas in Kitsilano: if you like a good patisserie, you should go.

Thanks to all the people who made us so welcome.

In a couple of days I'll have more to say about some of that election stuff we avoided. For now, it was a delight to get away and it's lovely to be back.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Painting Bebbanburg

A few weeks ago I started thinking about Bebbanburg. I began drawing maps of what I thought the fort might have looked like in Hild's time. But all I had was a mechanical pencil (not even mine; left behind by a friend), a Sharpie past its best, and two highlighters (turquoise and florescent orange). The results were less than appealing:

plan of Bebbanburg (this, like much the following, based on info from a nifty booklet published by the Bamburgh Research Project)
It looks like a hairy foot next to a piece of yarn. (If you really want to you can click on the image--on all of them--to enlarge it though I'm not sure I'd recommend it.)

So I started thinking about what I needed to make pretty pictures. The problem: I haven't made art since I was a pre-teen. Decades ago. But my birthday was coming up so I got someone to give me a cheap kids' all-purpose art set (ages 6 and up! 120 pieces! including no-stab plastic scissors!) and added a set of 24 chalk pastels, an enormous pad of newsprint, a small spiral-bound sketch book, and one charcoal pencil.

Despite the 120 pieces, it turns out that all I want to use are the paints (12 colours!) and the pastels. They're deliciously messy and imprecise, just like my current notions of Bebbanburg:
12 watercolours, 24 square chalk pastels, 1 pencil: all you need--plus a foam thing to smear the pastels about
Here, for your delectation and delight (uh huh), are my two very first efforts, both ah, impressionistic views of Bebbanburg. Let's all hope I improve because, yes, I will be tormenting you with this stuff periodically.

The first is paint, dabbed on with a sponge (the paint brush that came with the set was rubbish so I threw it away). I was going to eat lunch then play with my new purchases but I got halfway through my bowl of stew and couldn't resist. I swapped my spoon to my left hand, dipped a sponge in my water glass, flipped open the box and the sketch pad and just...began:
Bebbanburg from the south
I'm guessing it's hard to tell what I was aiming for, so I'll explain. Bebbanburg was built (as Bamburgh Castle is now) on an outcrop of volcanic rock towering ninety feet above the farmland (on the left of this picture) and sea (on the right). At high tide that narrow strip of beach would have disappeared, and the sea lapped at the rock. The fort was on the top, ringed by a box pallisade, a kind of double wooden fence. This picture was, for me, an attempt to get a sense of the fort's sheer isolation from and dominating position over the surroundings. It was almost impregnable.

But then I itched to see inside, so after a couple of beers I tried again, this time with the pastels:
bird's eye view of Bebbanburg from the north
I couldn't convey the height of the rock and the strength of the fortifications. And those dark smears on the right are meant to be shadow thrown by the rock. Ah, well. When it came to filling in details inside the pallisade, my visual brain failed. I know what should be there--rocky outcrops towards the south, and metal workshops (armourers, goldsmiths), a byre, a couple of towers--but I just went blank. Here's the bit of detail I did manage:
detail of pastel sketch of Bebbanburg
I imagine this is how it feels for non-writers who think, Ha, I'm going to write a story now! And then haven't the faintest idea how to begin. I thought I'd just able to, y'know, do it, without thinking. Wrong. Visual artists, my hat's off to you. (Also, sorry for making you flinch and possibly spoiling your lunch.)

So then I went back to dabbling in the paints with the sponge, this time trying to figure out how the rock with the fort on top might look from Lindisfarne:
Bebbanburg from Lindisfarne
I'd already used my two blues for the sea and, as I don't know how to mix them yet, I was sadly puzzled as to what to do for the sky. Clearly I have a long way to go as an artist. But, eh, I'm having enormous fun and making a fabulous mess...

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Brightly-coloured lusciousness

Still having fun fooling about with Diptic. So here are two that I made while having a conversation about Seattle weather.

If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes:

And while you're indoors, waiting for the weather:
And a bonus pic, a hint for a blog post I hope to do next week:

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