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No Girl Scouts this week, and so --

Recently Finished

The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat, read for the Tournament of Books. It was interesting, but either there is not as much there as I would like, or I am reading it all wrong. It starts as a sort of dream-like dystopian story with an unnamed young woman on an island colony run by a mysterious group with many arbitrary rules, then suddenly with the second chapter becomes a very mimetic novel about an Ethiopian-American girl growing up in Boston, first being raised by her single mother, and then by her father, whose return to her life seems to make her mother vanish. Our narrator gets emotionally involved (in a non-romantic sense) with a much older Ethiopian man, the titular parking lot attendant, and the rest of the book comes out of that, but I could not really make the pieces fit together; there might be something there about shifts in genre equating to shifts in experience for immigrants, or the girl's experience both as her concrete life and also as something about the first-generation American experience writ large, but... it just didn't really work. I am hoping for very good ToB discussion about it, since I am sure some people loved it and will want to explain it to me.

On the Go

Still with Census (Jesse Ball) and enjoying it a lot; it should be done in the next few days. It is the sort of book I thought The Parking Lot Attendant was going to be -- it is ostensibly about a terminally ill census-taker travelling with his son, who has Down Syndrome, taking a census together -- except it is clearly not actually set in the real world, and seems to be more about exploring the ways people understand their world, and why some sorts of knowledge are valued over others, and the desire to quantify and categorise versus a more holistic acceptance of what is seen -- I am not doing it justice, and I do still have about 1/3 of the book to go, so its multiplicity of meanings may collapse into something more obvious and settled, but oh, I do love a book like this.

I keep starting and stopping The House of Broken Angels (Luis Alberto Urrea) -- it is not doing a lot for me, but so many people I know on Goodreads adored it, so I am giving it a little longer.

I am happily continuing to read [personal profile] yhlee's The Fox's Tower and Other Tales, one brief story at a time, and I have made some progress on The Exile in Waiting by Vonda McIntyre, although we are deep in part of the protagonist's arc which is all suffering, so I hope it turns around to some other things soon.

Finally, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North is quick and fun and perfect for reading when I'm tired and cannot focus on beautiful, subtle writing.


Upcoming

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, both for ToB and because I think I will enjoy it.

The March North by Graydon Saunders -- I am technically reading this, because I keep dipping back into it when everything else is unappealing, but I am not diving in headfirst yet because I want to get through more of ToB list first so I am ready for March.
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One/Name: Cassandra, which I picked for myself and now I cannot imagine being called anything else. Very few people use it, as it is not our body name, so it is a little electric still each time someone does.

Two/Birthday: Yes. Preferably with delicious cake, but I am picky about what is delicious.

Three/Zodiac: Rabbit-Scorpion hybrid.

Four/Height: I am not very good at it, but the top floor of the library downtown is lovely. Oh, and I live on a hill -- a small hill, but still.

Five/Hobbies: Reading books and fanfic and manga, watching anime, baking, writing sometimes, a dilettante-ish interest in many things (music, languages, making art). Having opinions about all the same but especially about the things I read.

Six/Favorite Colors: Rich colours -- ultramarine, forest green, burgundy, the colour of a mango, the colour of a citrine. Jewel tones.

Seven/Favorite Books: I appreciate this is in plural, because I could never pick just one. I have a very long list of long-term favourites which deserve their own post, so here are three recent favourites: Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie), Ninefox Gambit (Yoon Ha Lee), and Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel). Those first two were the first speculative fiction I had read in a very, very long time that made me feel like the genre and I have something to talk about, and discovering conversations about them here is a large part of why I came back to Dreamwidth.

Eight/Last Song I Listened To: "La Belle Dame Sans Regret" by Emilie-Claire Barlow.

Nine/Last Movie Watched: I watch very, very few movies; the last was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with my smol daughter -- I saw the first Harry Potter movie in theatres and then none of the others, so she and I are slowly watching them together and talking about how they are alike and not to the books.

Ten/Inspiration: I am not entirely certain, but there are certain types of writing or conversation which feel like they lift my thinking out of the normal sequential lines and into something more tangential and associative,

Eleven/Meaning of Username: The Old French form of alchimie, because it looks beautiful on the page, and because alchemy became chemistry, and because I believe in experimentation and transmutation and the ability to change.
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My favourite HTML is the unordered list, because with it I can make any selection of random thoughts into a post. Thus:

  • We have two jars of honey with honeycomb in from Trader Joe's, which looks marvelous and is very ornamental, but practically speaking it means I end up with little bits of wax in my teeth after putting honey in my coffee, which is not something I can abide. Where were these jars three years ago when my smol daughter was entranced by honeycomb and wanted to eat and/or play with it whenever possible?

  • I seem to have gone from finding instrumental jazz irritating to finding at least some types of it pleasant and soothing, but I still do not know enough words to identify which will be which. Spotify is responsible for the first discovery, and I think Every Noise at Once will assist with the latter.

  • Last night I was too tired to read (oh this sleep deprivation cycle, I must figure out how to break it but I have a terrible fear it involves getting up earlier on the weekends) so I lay in bed watching anime instead; half an episode of Absolute Duo which is fine for what it is (shounen, fighting, getting stronger to protect one's relationships, a half-nod at world-building and nothing more), tastes of a few shows I am considering diving into, and a surprising two and a half episodes of AKB0048, which is a brightly coloured idol show in which the idols are also science fantasy warriors who not only sing and dance but also literally battle the evil forces of censorship and oppression together. With microphones that turn into lightsabres, amongst other weapons. It is ridiculously over the top and very enjoyable.

  • Speaking of getting up earlier on weekends, smol daughter is having a friend sleep over tomorrow night, so I will certainly be getting up earlier than usual this Saturday. This friend has never slept over here before so there is a small chance I will be taking her home at midnight, but I am crossing fingers it doesn't go in that direction.

  • Lastly, Girl Scouts -- it is almost cookie season, and this is the first time I have been a leader during the cookie sales, and I am being asked for my opinion on many details upon which I do not, in fact, know enough to have an opinion. I am getting very good at telling our revered cookie chair (who is in her fifth year of doing this work), "I am happy to let you decide."


Definitely my favourite HTML; I did not have to come up with a single transition between my paragraphs!
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[personal profile] rachelmanija had a post recently about the lost books of childhood, which made me start to think about my own. The most thoroughly lost one that I eventually found is Patricia Beatty's O the Red Rose Tree, which a kind librarian helped me towards in kindergarten when I was incredibly frustrated by the reading level of the books more readily available. All I remembered in adult life was that there were girls making a quilt, red was important, and there was a lot of ocean involved -- this last led me to assuming it was set in New England, since growing up in the Midwest that was the iconic far-away ocean. I found it as an adult through a lot of intensive library catalogue subject browsing (children's fiction with quilts, in all the catalogues I could find), and reread it and discovered to my delight that it's historical fiction set in late 19th century Oregon/Washington with a ton of excellent female characters and a focus on connection and community and welcoming strangers, whether they are seemingly mentally ill elderly women or immigrants from other countries who are being demonised by newspapers. I do not think I am quite ready to reread it, but I have just found it cheap for the Kindle and picked myself up a copy.

Two other lost books -- the first I have never found, it was about a boy and his burro and a quest for lost South American cities, with a climactic scene in which a city is found during a thunderstorm -- I remember the circumstances of reading it much better than the book itself, a very long, very hot summer's day, sitting in the edge of the open garage staving off boredom as our mother was hosting a garage sale. It was a dark blue-green paperback, with yellow lettering on the back, battered and torn, and I was reading it out of sheer desperation; I suspect it did not survive the sale. The other has possibly been easier to track down -- there were maybe druids and definitely stone and children time-travelling but what struck me most about it was the huge sense of despair I took from the book; mostly the children's portal fantasies I read ended on a hopeful note, but this one felt bleak. There is a Margaret J. Anderson book that I think might be it (In the Keep of Time), but when I read it a few years ago I could not tell for certain; I go back & forth in thinking that it is my book and I just do not react the same to it now, and thinking it cannot possibly be because of course I would immediately know.

I had to Google on Anderson to find the title of that particular book, and in doing so I found to my delight that she has made a number of them available as ebooks, so I picked up that one and also my favourite of hers -- Searching for Shona a WW2 historical with identity swapping; it has a lot of 'unhappy city girl thrives in country setting' which now that I think of it is a beloved trope of mine -- the best Margery Sharp I read in the fall (The Flowering Thorn) had that same character arc. Anyway, I picked them both up, and perhaps when I reread In the Keep of Time again I will come to some conclusion about it.

When I was a child I went through the shelves of my school library in alphabetical order looking for things to read -- I did not have the words for genres for a long time, but I wanted fantasy or historical books, nothing present day, nothing that was meant to be funny (although Ellen Conford was somehow an exception) -- I liked to browse shelf by shelf in adulthood, too, until my switch to ebooks made it so that I do not go through libraries the same way. But I digress, I was thinking about how in elementary school, after I ran out of Margaret J. Anderson I started right in on Mary Anderson, whose extremely creepy I'm Nobody, Who Are You? combined early-70s social problem fiction with overheated female friendship and psychic time travel -- I have no idea how it would hold up now. And somewhere in that mix was Mabel Esther Allan, whose name I misremembered as Maud for decades, whose very charming mid-century coming-of-age books were not on my school shelves, but her 1970s ghost stories were -- A Chill in the Lane has worked for me for years, and I am always quite sad when I go hunting for her and see that her books are still expensive and hard to find. (I tracked down a few of the mid-century ones through libraries, but there are so, so many I cannot get my hands on.)
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There was no school on Monday due to MLK day, or -- as my smol son put it -- because Martin Luther King wanted everyone to be able to play on the same playground. It was pleasant to spend the day with my children but there was a bit of that itch underneath knowing that Tuesday I would be infinitely behind on things. As indeed I was, but I tackled the list and made enough progress that this morning I am sitting here in a bit of a fog of sleep-deprivation (children have nightmares, blankets get kicked off the bed, spouse turns the light on and off one two many times in the morning... the usual things contributing), more or less sufficiently ready for Girl Scouts today, and feeling a bit irritated at the universe that I have some free time and am feeling hazy and tired and not really Enjoying Myself. But writing almost always makes me feel better, so here, words.
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I own several thousand paper books, and I still have moments of loving the physicality of them, the history embedded in each object, the smell and weight and feel of them -- and yet I hardly ever read on paper, because it is just so much more convenient to have 100 books on my Kindle app on my iPad/iPhone, kept in sync with one another by the cloud, and to highlight as I go so I can go back to things if I am writing about the book and to not have to remember where I put the book down or that I might drop it in the sink or anything like that.

But some books I cannot get electronically, or at least not at prices I can pay, and so I do read on paper, although (ironically?) it is largely from the library -- now there is a potential project, I could enlist the support of people here to actually read some of the books I own, especially the bookcases which fire me up when I look at them but there are always other things in the way...

I digress, of course. I am reading on paper from the library, with varying amounts of success, and I thought I would give them their own separate post.

Finished

Fence v. 1 by C. S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad -- this is a comic about fencing and beautiful boys with complicated emotions and relationships and I love it. The only problem is having to wait for more.

On the Go

The Wild Hunt by Jill Tattersall, which is a 70s gothic romance and when I finish I will give it a post of its very own because it is just so delightfully over-the-top and I want to write about it IN ALL CAPS -- any summary would be 'Well it seems historically accurate (aside from the witchcraft and Herne worship)...."

The Singing Stone by O. R. Melling, which I thought was a middle-grade portal fantasy and now I am not certain what it is; the characters are too old for middle grade (college age), but it is early going still. There's an awful lot of description of the scenery.

I discovered David Wojnarowicz through Olivia Laing's very good book The Lonely City (which I will talk about another time, it was marvelous), and so I looked for what the library had about him and found David Wojnarowicz: Tongues of Flame. He was a queer artist who was heavily involved in AIDS activism in the 80s (a vast oversimplification of his full and complex life) and who died in the early 90s, and this is a book of his art and essays, and it is beautiful and intense and very strange and moving. I do not know much about art, really, any art, and so I am lost as I wander through this book, but I am very glad to be lost and interested and confused and to feel how little I know about all of his concerns, except inasmuch as he is furiously concerned with justice and compassion for people with AIDS. It is a slow-going book because taking in both his words and images is a slow process, so I will doubtless be moving through it for a while.

The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy made its way onto my list because (in an uniformed touristy way) I love the city of Montreal and this is a famous book set in that city, but oh it is rather tough going, just so much misery everywhere. I wish my French were better so I was not reading it in translation.

Upcoming

Women, Men and the Great War edited by Trudi Tate -- an anthology of short stories about WWI, I picked it up primarily for the first story ("A Love Match" by Sylvia Townsend Warner) but I think I will end up reading the entire thing.

Famous Last Words by Timothy Findley, which I will be going into entirely uninformed.
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I am a little bit sick, I think; tired even after two nights of very good sleep, and some discomfort in my throat and a little congestion. Nothing large, but it makes me glad to have a domestic Sunday ahead of doing laundry (oh so much laundry) and playing with the children and at least for this moment writing here -- and tomorrow is a school holiday so I do not need to rush too much to have things primed for the week, there is more time to spread it out.

Recently Finished

I am reading slightly less fanfic at the moment, mostly because I have so many other books to read, some of which are on paper and from libraries and thus insistent upon my time and attention. I am also working on the ToB shortlist; the one I have finished thus far -- So Lucky by Nicola Griffith -- did not excite me much, which was something of a surprise as I am passionately fond of Hild and have liked her other books... although now that I am settled to think on it, I think that aside from Hild I have often admired her work rather than loved it, and this book felt much the same. It is well put together and interesting and I fully believe that OwnVoices books are incredibly important in our world, but I just did not love the book; it did not surprise or excite me.

Binti: Home and Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor -- I enjoyed these, especially Home as it focused on new places and relationships and discoveries, and less upon the action-adventure plotline. The shape of these books was very strange to me; nothing happened at the time I expected it to, and in the third especially I could not figure out why Binti was not doing particular things; for instance, (spoilers for 3rd Binti book ) I am curious to read more Okorafor and see if these structural/pacing things are in all of her books, part of her way as a writer, or just something about these in particular.


On the Go

I am always reading a dozen at once, so this is just a selection.

First, for the ToB, I am reading Census by Jesse Ball, which I expected to hate and am instead provisionally loving. It is dream-like and obscure and perhaps allegorical, a man who is ill, his son with Down syndrome, they are heading out from a centre (what centre?) to take a census (for some sort of state/community, but exactly what is vague) and it is the story of the journey, interleaving with memories of the past, and I think the journey/census is a thing of many layered meanings, but it is not clear for me yet. This is the sort of book which may end up being marvelous and may end up bitterly disappointing, and I am too early in it to even guess which.

Also for the ToB I am a little ways into The Parking Lot Attendant (Nafkote Tamirat) and The House of Broken Angels (Luis Alberto Urrea) -- the first of these is about an Ethiopian girl and her father and I think some sort of cult? separatist community? they have become involved with, and the second is a story of a large Mexican-American family in San Diego. I am not in love with either, although the first is more my sort of thing, but I am interested enough that I am continuing with both for now.

The attentive reader may note that I am rather vague on what is happening in all of these books; one of the things that I love about the ToB is that it is available as just a list with titles and that is how I read them, without in most cases knowing anything about the book at all -- So Lucky was an exception, since I was familiar with the author and the genesis of the work both. But the rest I am just picking up and reading and figuring out what they are a page at a time, and it is one of my most favourite ways to read, without any expectation or knowledge, just the words on the page.

However, books come to me in many ways, and so there are books I am reading with a good idea of at least the outlines of what I am getting into -- specifically, I have been inspired by all this new community I am finding on Dreamwidth to prioritise the speculative fiction that has been accumulating in my ebook collection. So I am reading The Exile Waiting by Vonda McIntyre, fascinating so far, and slowly going through [personal profile] yhlee's collection of flashfiction, The Fox's Tower and Other Tales. And...

Upcoming

I have several more books by fellow DW users queued up, such as [personal profile] graydon's The March North and Forget the Sleepless Shore by [personal profile] sovay. It is wonderful to be excited by spec-fic again after a long time of feeling like there was not much in the genre for me.

I am considering doing individual posts on some of these books as I finish them, and also on some of the books I finished over the vacation that I have not mentioned here, but it is also a little bit daunting, since I think I would need to organise my thoughts better than I usually do when I just ramble from thing to thing.
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I was suddenly struck by the need to write, most likely because I must in five minutes get changed and go get my children and take them to the library if they are not too sleep-deprived (some nightmares last night, so disrupted sleep for one of them) for anything but coming home. I do hope we can manage the library, as smol daughter has been complaining of the lack of unread books lately, but it will be what it is; if not today, perhaps Wednesday.

The event Friday went extremely well, in large part because I unexpectedly had the help of my very good friend whom I ought to come up with a charming sobriquet for; not only is she an excellent friend who also does much volunteer work, but her children are of an age with my children and they all get along beautifully, so our families socialise with some regularity, so she is likely to continue appearing in my entries. But, regardless, she was there to help, which made it an enjoyable and efficient two hours of work, and the clean-up went very swiftly. I will most likely do it again next year; I now understand the boundaries of the job much better, and the 'oh no dear I'm just there to help but are you *sure* you shouldn't...' person will have moved to the greener pastures of another school, so I will have a free hand in organising.

Today I caught up on various things, including communication for the final school program I am still running (only because I could not find anyone to take it over after last year), including communication with the person who will (fingers crossed, hands raised, etc) hopefully be taking it off of my hands. I had a little creative time, only about 45 minutes, but enough to whet my appetite for tomorrow, when there will be a few hours before volunteering and taking children to have their teeth cleaned, and then Wednesday and Thursday look potentially fruitful, if nobody generates any emergencies and nobody gets sick.

I think my goal for the next school year is to do the refreshments for this one event, as it was overall low impact, and continue with Girl Scouts, and then do spot things like classroom volunteering and the tours (which I think I have definitely decided not to sign up for this year) -- things which are single tasks and then done, rather than the coordination of some number of other people who may or may not do their parts and may or may not demonstrate great emotionality about being asked if they have finished their task list, etc etc.

Future posts will include recent reading, perhaps some poetry (not written by me) and/or music (ditto), continued musings about fanfic, etc etc etc, and hopefully much less of my self-negotiation about how much volunteer work I am doing. I think it has been very useful, as I have landed in a good understanding of my habits about it and what I wish to do differently, but I am getting a little tired of it being the first thing in my mind every day.
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I am somewhat in charge of refreshments for a school/community event tonight and feeling anxious about same, although the anxiety is more due to the general unknown nature of things rather than anything specific. It is not just providing refreshments in the sense of laying out a table of food, which I would be excellent at; there are urns and things which must be mixed and someone who has been doing this for 230942 years and has very strong opinions about how it is all done but is not in charge, she is just around in case we need help... -- and writing this I suddenly realise I am clearly in one of my beloved novels of the 1930s, in charge of the tea tent at the Annual Fete, so that rather puts it all into perspective, doesn't it?

This is the last large single event I am volunteered for this year -- there is always Girl Scouts, that is ongoing unless I decide to quit (unlikely, I enjoy it too much), but after tonight my calendar ought to free up some, unless I add something else. Which I was considering doing, but just now stacking dishcloths to bring tonight I realised that this sort of 'Well, it's just one thing, why not do it?' mentality is why I have been busy non-stop since August, so I think I might just pass on the school tours... but then again I might not, I would be very good at school tours, and I would not be organising them, just helping to do them... well, we will see.

For the moment I will drink the chicory/barley/carob tea (Celestial Seasonings 'Roastaroma', it reminds me of genmai cha in the toasted taste of it, but without caffeine or indeed actual rice) and pet the cat as he hops in and out of my lap upon his own missions and listen to Spotify and breathe.
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I am finding this so difficult to write about, both because I wish to tell too many stories at once, and also because I am having the reaction that sharing something I am passionately excited about is simply opening myself up for disastrous judgement, criticism, up-turned noses, knives in the dark, etc etc etc. Which says much more about some earlier parts of my life than it does about life on Dreamwidth, really, so here goes --

I was in a cranky mood on Boxing Day due to too many chores and not enough sleep, which is something I usually treat with books, but all the books I was reading were either too much work for my level of sleep-deprivation or simply unappealing in that moment, so on a whim I started reading a random fanfic that had been recommended on my Slack -- and the next thing I knew I was staying up far too late reading it, and doing the same the next two nights as well, because it was exactly the perfect story for me in so many ways.

The story in question is The Man Who Lived by sebastianL. It is 250k words of adult Draco Malfoy living in New York, having turned his back on the world of his childhood in favour of a fuller, richer life, only to be thrown back into contact with his past against his will. There is no point in denying that I identified with this thoroughly, despite not being a queer young man in New York and having never held a wand, but I loved it for more than that -- I loved how it is focused on living present life, with the past brought in as necessary flashbacks, and how truly adult Draco strives to be, and how the author allows the characters to be so human in their mistakes and triumphs, and I loved the original characters (there are many) and the slow burn of the relationships and the humour and just -- everything about it. I loved it so much that it made me fall in love with the Harry Potter world itself, which was a surprise; I have read all the books once, but they did not appear until I was an adult, so I did not grow up with them, and I am only engaged with them just now because this is the year my daughter has discovered them. (I still have not seen most of the movies, she and I are watching them together after she finishes each book, so that we can discuss the differences and similarities and how it would always be better with more women in the stories.)

I was sad when I finished the story; I wanted more and there wasn't any more -- or was there? So I went to check what else the author had written, and there was a short follow-up story, and then of course they had written other fic, but also in looking at this I realised how detailed and specific AO3 tags can be, and that I could follow them to try to find more-or-less exactly the same things I liked in this story, and as I began to do that and try out various stories, I had several realisations -- really two big ones.

First, there is a point of view on Harry Potter which I connect with deeply that is not unique to the story above -- something about the reality I see of the groups of special children taken out of society to be trained for something else -- it speaks strongly to my (our) childhood, and it is very satisfying on many levels to read something like this, even if the characters foregrounded are not perhaps my preferred characters.

Secondly, there is something powerful for me in seeing all these writers who are putting their passions into their stories -- not just the passions for the characters or settings, but their everyday loves, bath bombs and learning to bake and good chocolate and living in cities. The characters in these stories care about things and find pleasure in their lives in a way that I am still learning to do, and it is satisfying and inspiring to read about it, it reminds me to continue doing it myself and that perhaps I might wish to share my findings with others.

Once I realised that the second of my realisations was more about an approach to writing rather than the fandom itself, I started following tags and authors into other fandoms, and I keep discovering marvels. For instance, I have beta read for a friend of mine who writes Stargate: Atlantis fiction, and it turns out that I am familiar enough with John/Rodney from her stories that I can very happily read many other stories about them, even though I have never seen this television show and thus far have no real desire to do so. Also, browsing around AO3 I realised there are all sorts of things I had never thought of as fandoms, per se, which are full of stories -- Narnia and Shakespeare plays and operas and goodness, the entire world, really. It is intoxicating, which is why I was so giddy before, and I am less giddy now because it is less new, but I am still excited and delighted and reading tens of thousands of words of fic almost every night before bed -- and keeping a list of what I like, finding patterns in particular authors and tags and fandoms so I can find more of those things --

And, also, I am thinking of writing fic, because I find it so powerful that the authors put themselves into the stories so freely, and I never wish to show anyone my writing because of self-exposure, but it seems like the inevitable self-exposure is somewhat part of the point or something here, I cannot quite narrow it down into a sentence the way that I would like to, all clear and focused and certain. But it feels like freedom, like the permission to do anything, because if it is only 100 words about Draco Malfoy enjoying the smell of his warm laundry, there is perhaps another reader out there who will take joy in it the way I would take joy in something similar -- and yes, there is something else there as well, that I enjoy these stories so much and it is truly the first time I have ever considered that I might write things that would simply bring other people joy.

So yes, I have finally for myself discovered fanfic, and it is amazing.
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(Via [personal profile] james_davis_nicoll and many others on my reading list)

I have been known to read books, now and again.

Italic = read it. Underlined = not this, but something by the same author. Strikethrough = did not finish.

list behind the curtain )

If I counted correctly, which is uncertain given I had only 4 hours of sleep last night, it comes to 35 books read, 25 authors who I've read a different work by, and 3 I did not finish -- which leaves 37 I have not interacted with at all, although many of those 37 are already on my infinite TBR.

The ones I am most surprised not to have read anything by are Vonda McIntyre and Pat Murphy -- their names and titles are so familiar to me I was sure I had read them at some point, but no, they have just been on my shelves for a very long time.
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I keep trying to write and not being able to make the words work, which is perhaps not too much of a surprise as I woke up extremely early today, so I think rather than continuing to beat my head against that particular wall I will simply go in another direction -- to wit, look, here I am, vacation is over and I am enjoying being back in my usual routine, albeit with modifications. I have high hopes of actually making time for personal projects this year; one of my methods is to tackle the lingering to-do list items that carry over week to week without ever being addressed, as I think the guilt/shame I tend to feel about not dealing with them interferes with my ability to create. Thus I have made a few phone calls and set up an appointment and am generally feeling productive is a little more sleepy than would be ideal. I have also had two sensible meals rather than my usual 1/2 sensible meal, and intend to carry this on throughout the week. The sleepy -- well, I woke at 6 when our spouse was getting ready to go to work, and it was not enough sleep, but having an extra hour in the morning to lie in bed reading Slack and then get up and take a leisurely shower and dress and *then* have coffee, all before I woke up my children and began getting them ready -- that was marvelous, so clearly the solution is to go to bed much earlier tonight so that I can get up early again tomorrow without paying the price in sluggishness after lunch.

Some things I would like to do in this first part of 2018: go to the ocean by myself (I never have), enjoy the rainy weather while it lasts (possibly by walking in it), attend a local reading-focused sf convention (also by myself, I think, so I am able to interact rather than parent), join a local in-person book club (not planned but an invitation came my way from an online acquaintance whose words I admire greatly, so I am going to try it out), find a rhythm for reading/writing on Dreamwidth (so it is not long long breaks and then 380 posts to catch up on), and figure out exactly which of our perennial writing projects we wish to focus upon and then, indeed, focus upon them. Or it, but I cannot imagine just doing one thing at a time.

Potential new projects: The Year's Best Fantasy reviewed, in order, with Opinions about the evolution of the genre and memories of childhood reading & understanding of same; Fanfic recs (since I am reading A Lot of fanfic just now, and I am finding some things I adore and want to share); attempts at fanfic writing, since why not?; possibly some sort of music of the week post to share the things I am excited about on Spotify; possibly ditto poetry since if I am sharing it I will read more of it and reading poetry fills my well.

Definite projects: reading for The 2019 Tournament of Books, which I have done the last two years and really, really enjoyed. I pick up and try every book on the shortlist unless I have a very definite reason not to, and I love going into these books entirely uninformed, just starting on the first page and reading without any expectations. Both years thus far there have been a number (5-7) that I didn't finish, and some I am not thrilled with, but there are always a few that absolutely amaze me. In 2017 those were Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrigue and Version Control by Dexter Palmer; in 2018 it was Samantha Schweblin's Fever Dream and Elif Batuman's The Idiot. I have not really begun on the list this year, but I am sure there will be one or two books which delight me, and doubtless I will post about it all here.

There is so much more we would like to do, but that is a good beginning of thinking about it.
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I tried to write a long meandering post about myself and fanfic and the glories I am discovering therein (glories many others already know, I am late to the party) but I am increasingly tired and I need to get up at a very reasonable time tomorrow so I may wash my smol daughter's copious hair and comb it out before we go have Fancy Tea with an old friend and her once-smol-but-now-in-college daughter, during which time I will attempt to get the girls (who like each other but are shy) talking about Harry Potter and I will hopefully resist getting too enthusiastic about the conversation myself because I want to leave lots of space for smol daughter to share her love of the books without too much parental enthusiasm and hand-waving...

You see, causing it to meander wasn't the problem, it was editing it down enough that it stuck to any sort of line at all, so I will post about that later and for now just say, hello out there, it is still vacation, I am enjoying spending time with my family but looking forward to being as introverted as possible next week when everyone is back at work/school -- not very introverted, Girl Scouts and a big school event next week -- and oh yes I finished that enormous fanfic and it was marvelous and since then I have been reading all kinds of fanfic nonstop, it is like I suddenly discovered a new galaxy or something, I am giddy with it, and it deserves to be a post on its own, so while it might take a while, it will come. (If I can keep from being overly embarassed and I can already hear certain segments of the population asking me just what there is to be embarassed about, and there is nothing, it is just -- chemicals, can I blame chemicals? I am a person who is easily embarassed about liking things, oh this is ridiculous.)

Today we went to a marvelous aquarium en famille, and it was crowded but not too much so for enjoyment, and smol daughter saw many things she remembered from being much, much more smol, and smol son was in absolute constant delight because there were fish and butterflies and another really huge fish swimming above our heads and tiny little eels and more fish and butterflies and jellyfish and seahorses that look like floating plants and sand dollars and LOOK AT THE FROG MOM etc etc etc, it was fantastic. Friday we are going to our usual aquarium where a multitude of silver fish swim in a circle around the ceiling; I expect that will be good, too.
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Let me see --

The 25th, a beautiful family morning of coffee and biscuits and gifts and relaxing, and then right into the preparation for the holiday meal, much cooking -- most of it done by my spouse, but I roasted a duck with reasonable success and mashed two different types of potatoes and made a spontaneous Swiss roll that came out all right although I think the sponge split a little, why does it do that? I am not certain we will keep doing this every year, I do not mind the work, but I rarely get to sit down and enjoy the meal because there is usually parenting, and I do not know that the people who come to share the meal actually care if we have a grand feast or if they would be just as happy to go potluck or something like -- and then the dishes afterwards are truly epic. I am not certain, there is a year to decide, but I am considering changing it. (Although next year we will have a dishwasher, I hope, which might make it easier.)

Boxing Day I was cranky and did four rounds of dishes and the kitchen was still a disaster, plus a lot of other chores. But I was recommended a marvelous Harry Potter fanfic, so lying in bed sulkily before sleep dreading the next day of dishes I ended up spending an hour reading it (it is very, very long, a slow burn and I am loving every second) and felt better about everything in the world.

Yesterday I lay in bed reading fanfic, then got up and assembled my family and we went downtown on the light rail to the holiday celebration, except some of it had closed early this year for Reasons. Fortunately the parts my children care the most about -- the carnival rides designed for smol children -- were still available, so we had lunch downtown and then they went on the teacup ride many, many times in a row, as we had gotten there right when it opened and there were no lines. (Other rides and attractions were sampled, but the teacups were the clear favourite.) It was a very pleasant few hours, and we came home and had dinner and such and I did more dishes but with a lighter heart.

Now it is today, and I ought to take them to a park or something so they can run around and use their bodies and so forth rather than playing games on their iPads all day, but I am lingering here at the laptop to catch up on Goodreads (which is largely done) and write this and continue reading that delightful fanfic which if it holds out this good to the very end I will actually recommend. I do not read much fanfic, not through disinterest but because I am always reading so many other things, and having read this particular one I am not certain I will want to read anything else set in the world of Harry Potter for years to come because it is just so satisfying on so many levels -- but I will say more when I finish, I promise, even if I end up roundly disappointed. It does make me want to read more things that are this emotionally satisfying, though, so I think I will send more stories in other fandoms to my Kindle app to read next... I had a My Hero Academia fic recommended a bit back that might go well next.

Reading fanfic and fantasy novellas and short stories written by people whose journals I am reading... it is all making me want to write, very intensely, but as always I am not certain how to find the time, and usually when I can find the time either I feel like I must do other things more (I am helping to run an event in two weeks, am I ready? No, I am not remotely ready, but everyone is out of town, so the first week my children are back at school I will have to franctically make everyone get ready) or I am not inclined to do the work of writing. There must be a way around this, I do not want to be 80 and still going in this circle. This is the last big event I am helping with this year, everything else is Girl Scouts which is really enough, perhaps that will free up the time more.
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Two days of vacation thus far, and I am feeling more productive than relaxed, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Yesterday: Shopping with smol daughter for her father & brother -- stressful and not really necessary, she always insists on doing it and then finds it more anxiety-producing than enjoyable. I did not entirely keep my temper, which I regret, but afterwards we were able to have a good conversation (I hope) about how to make it enjoyable for her and I set a few phone reminders for 2019 holiday season, so... if I am still updating this in a year, perhaps you all will hear if it improved.

Once we were home again we decided to try to make a Swiss roll, as we both love to eat them, I have seen many of them made on the Great British Bake-Off, and I had all the ingredients. The first one was entertainingly catastrophic, as I did not whip the eggs enough so it came out flat and very eggy, but rolled well. I then consulted Netflix briefly (the GBBO master class) and saw how the eggs ought to be done and decided to immediately try again, so back into the kitchen! The second one had the appropriate height and texture, but I was careless with how much I let it cool, so it released moisture onto the parchment paper and stuck, meaning it was almost impossible to roll. About half of both got eaten, despite the failures -- I filled them with whipped cream and Trader Joe's sugar plum jam, which was a good combination. Smol daughter seemed to enjoy the process a great deal although she was fading toward the end of the second one, and no wonder; it was a lot of baking. I also used up all eggs but one in the process, so...

Today, we had no eggs for breakfast, and spouse made an emergency shopping trip -- also for eggnog. He brought home 36 eggs just in case I end up making two Swiss rolls a day for the foreseeable future, but I have not yet had time today to make one; instead we took the kids to the trampoline park so they could race around letting off steam, then brought them home and they took a bath with a Very Fancy Bath Bomb (blue with pink swirls and a ton of silver glitter, scented like peppermint) while spouse and I folded all the laundry and got it put away and then I cleaned up the bedroom some more (the cliff of boxes as has appeared in various previous entries is now more of a slope), getting us ever closer to being able to use the bedroom fireplace. The children played in the backyard after their bath and accidentally left the back door open, leading to a catten escape, but I retrieved him without too much fuss and now he is sitting on my legs taking a post-exploration bath.

This is all a very pleasureable level of busy, really, and I understand why the time is filling up, but I would like a little more time to sit down. Tomorrow I am taking smol son shopping for beautiful dresses at the used object store, and picking up jarred mincemeat so I can attempt to make Mary Berry's "emergency Christmas cake" as well as some other holiday groceries.

Dinner tonight is fried rice with bok choi and perhaps kim chi, and I am looking forward to it.
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Reading various reviewing projects other people on DW are doing, it occured to me that some of the projects that the system has been simmering on for a long time -- such as reviewing the short stories in the old Lin Carter Year's Best Fantasy novels, or rereading the Thieves' World series -- might find a good home at Dreamwidth. I stumble a little, however, as neither of these projects are My Projects but more those of other people in the system who are, I think, having Feelings about how they once loved Sword & Sorcery but now so much of it is absolutely terrible. So while I would certainly contribute in opinions and analysis and such, the writing might get overrun by people whose way of expressing themselves is not my own... and this is the point, I think, in which we often reach when someone in the system (often but not always me) has carved out some sort of online space -- do I open it up to everyone? Do I keep it only for myself and ask them to get another journal? Do I do the project here but make certain I am doing the wriitng myself? If I do open this space up to others, do I mark that it is not by me but by them, and what if they do not like being identified because it is one thing to have opinions about S&S short stories from the 80s and another thing to own them in a public space? And so forth and so on; I do not expect any of my readers (gentle or otherwise) to solve this for us, but I see so clearly how this is one of those things which often shuts down the attempts at being present in an online space altogether, either because we fragment to individual spaces and then worry about overlap and freeze up, or it all seems so complicated and fraught and whoever started writing stops rather than deal with it. I doubt this is of much interest to anyone else but I am glad to be seeing it and writing it out as it is beginning, because I am certain there are other ways; it is another form of listening to my own voice, to see where it twines.

Just now as I write, it seems like it would not harm anything to see about doing this project, and see how it comes out in the writing, and if it ends up being written altogether by someone else in our system perhaps they may be a guest poster here. Why not?

On an entirely other trajectory, I am realising one of the random pleasures of Spotify is hearing a song I utterly recognise (usually from childhood) and learning its name the first time -- earlier today this happened both with "Angel of the Morning" -- I did not know I knew it, but when the chorus came I realised I had heard it dozens of times before. And something similar with "Chantilly Lace" by the Big Bopper -- that line "chantilly lace and a pretty face" is firmly in my mind but I did not have any of the rest of it.

It was a long week but I am happily at the end of it and the beginning of the vacation; spouse made a lovely dinner (smoked pork chops, cabbage and onions, salad, leftover potatoes cooked with gochujang because I wanted a starch) and we ate it together while watching television and now I am headed for reading and some sleep. Tomorrow there is shopping and meal planning and a lot of space for relaxation, which I plan to make good use of.
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It was good sleep last night, and enough of it to get me through to today, so I think I may do that again, with the stopping being upright at a reasonable time and letting sleep take hold.

I ended up reading the beginning of Sing for the Coming of the Longest Night, which someone on my friendslist recommended ([personal profile] skygiants maybe?) and it is so far marvelous and gave my brain something to soak in as I was falling asleep. It evokes a very specific set of emotions and desires in me; to walk down dark streets with fallen leaves blowing, to see birds rise out of a tree, to run in the night or ride in a car too fast watching the lights blur... there is a certain set of music & books that caught this for me when I first encountered them two and a half decades ago, but this is the first new thing to touch on it in a long time, and I am deeply astonished to discover that those wells are still there and have not run dry despite the years between with their experiences and wisdom and the accumulated weariness of all this living -- the adolescent urge to peel back the skin of the world and swim through the magic underneath is still strong after all.

I am sitting here typing which is lovely but I need to do a few other things, such as tea and I think a hot shower before the climbing into bed properly and reading a little and sleep. The day went well; not only did I get to listen to young children utterly engaged in making music and help them with a simple & sweet craft, but also I got gift cards for various teachers and ate a terrible sandwich and a good burrito and found excellent presents for my smol daughter to give her two best friends (necessary because said friends are giving out presents and daughter is suddenly at the age in which she wants to reciprocate -- I almost wrote 'retaliate' but I think it is still more on the side of generosity than competition) -- and everything is done and ready to go, pajamas clean and dry for pajama day tomorrow, cards for teachers ready to drop off, last-minute vital Girl Scout paperwork in my purse... yes, I think I want a shower now and a good sleep. One day more (hopefully sans barricades) and then I will see what the weekend brings.
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I have a mug of slightly over-steeped cinnamon tea (with honey and soy in it) and a purring cat curled up against my hip and an enormous sense of relief at having successfully run a holiday event where the girls made a variety of crafts (including one involving chemistry) and drank hot chocolate and not only got along very well but demonstrated an amazing ability to work together, as well as one girl in particular stepping in and teaching all of the others a skill which seemed particularly stunning given that this is all a group of under-10s. (I am being vague because I have a recurring fear of someone stumbling across this and figuring out who I am in my everyday life by putting together volunteering clues, which is frankly ridiculous as there must be any number of Girl Scout troops meeting on Wednesdays, and yet there it is.) It was exhausting and wonderful and I was so glad to be doing it and so glad when it was done.

In company with my tea and my cat I have just finished an episode of the most recent season of the Great British Bake-Off -- the one with the galactic turtles, which sadly did not get a Pratchett mention in the actual show, as it turns out the creator was not a Pratchett fan but now intends to read more of his novels since so many people were asking her on Twitter.

I have any number of things I could be reading but I am not entirely in the mood for any of them. The shortlist for this year's Tournament of Books is out, and it is full of things that look interesting (including Nicola Griffith's So Lucky, which I am excited for because I have loved everything of hers I have read, albeit to varying degrees), but also like work, and right now I do not want work in my reading, but I am not certain what it is I want. It feels like there is something on the tip of my tongue, some perfect thing I might read which would be both engaging and soothing -- perhaps I will reread The Curse of Chalion, that might well do it.

I should post this one before I fall asleep.
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It is late and I am tired but it is a very busy week, and although I knew that coming up to it, I realised this evening that I only knew it theoretically; somehow despite being booked for most of the daylight hours I thought I would surely have some blocks of time at home with the laptop. Alas, it is proving not to be so, all the next three days will be shopping for parties, preparing for parties, helping at parties, cleaning up after parties, etc etc etc, with perhaps brief intervals of cursing the traffic near the mall and listening to my children sing vaguely holiday-ish songs and planning with spouse which groceries we need to buy before the feasting days next week when the stores will be too much a misery. (All parties are for children, which is why I do it; I am not, on the whole, a party sort of person.)

But then! Friday afternoon will come, and the children will be out of school for several weeks, and I think it will be a true vacation -- we do not travel this time of year (except briefly and locally), and our spouse is taking off a good stretch of time, and while there is a lot of cooking and such for the holidays, it is all at our family's own choice, to feast and celebrate with our friends, nothing we must do under duress. There will be chores (more than the usual, one of the adult members of the household will be out of town and his chosen workload is high) and moments of cranky children and park trips I would rather not take and so forth, but it will be very glad to be on our own family trajectory for a few weeks without all the gravitational pulls of two different grades of school and sets of activities and friend groups and so forth. I hope to both do things with my family, actively, and to have some time like this to sit and type and read and think, to find a balance with it.

... And I was so tired last night I forgot to post this before I fell asleep, so here it is now. I slept very well last night and am thus far full of energy, so I have done a round of party shopping and sorting and pre-packing and I am drinking some coffee before the next task. I might, after all, have a bit of a break here before I need to go set up at someone else's house for the incoming hordes.
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I have subscribed to some new journals and see I have gained a few new readers as well. Welcome! Please comment as copiously as you like; I always, always welcome conversation.

This was a busy busy week, and yesterday there was a Girl Scout event, but today blissful laziness; I have eaten breakfast and lunch, drunk coffee, sent a little necessary organisational email, aided our spouse in feeding the children, and done several things purely for pleasure, such as listening to a new-to-me Nox Arcana album on Spotify (synth-driven goth-inflected carols almost make up for the lack of true cold here) and reading a New Yorker article from 1995 in which Anthony Lane reviews a slew of cookbooks -- this last not entirely a pleasure, since there is some simmering misogyny in the article which I was not expecting, but there are also some interesting lines which I plan to think on, so all in all it is worth it.

I have also engaged in extensive negotiations with one of the cats regarding my presence in the brown chair; it is the chair I used to nurse the children in, extremely comfortable, but it has high arms and thus with my laptop actually in my lap there is no room for the cat -- which does not stop him from trying, but unless I hold him with both arms (leaving me unable to type and thus rather missing the point of having the laptop in the first place), he ends up sliding down my chest and landing repeatedly on the keyboard as his limbs flail about and his claws grab at my shirt and his dignity vanishes entirely. After several rounds of this I have just now moved upstairs where I can sit on the bed and there is ample room for him to curl up against my hip and be cuddled. I am constantly amazed by how affectionate he is; he was a rescue and had not been treated very well, but smol daughter and spouse fell in love with how playful and adventuresome he was, so home he came, and then astonished us all by quickly turning into a lap-and-bed-and-snuggling cat. I cannot imagine how we ever did without him.

Yesterday spouse and smol daughter brought home the Christmas tree, so shortly I must pull myself away from warm cat and laptop and Spotify and corral everyone so we may decorate it, perhaps with a fire in the fireplace (air quality seems to be permitting) and some hot chocolate or something similar. There is a large storm approaching, but we are in a very rain shadowed valley, so we might get only a brief shower, or nothing at all. I am hoping for much rain, though, I love it for itself and the land almost always needs it, and to decorate our tree with the sound of rain outside sounds marvelous.