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This Is What Productivity Looks Like

When my coffee table develops a sense of humor like this, you know my mind has been engaged. I like to consider it one of those "signs of creative genius," you know, like drinking too much, sleeping too little, or swearing like a sailor. (You can find a report of scientific evidence of every kind of adulting failure or personal vice as a sign of genius, and I recommend it. It makes you feel great without having to change your habits, like watching an episode of Hoarders instead of cleaning your house.) However, I think a dinosaur has laid an egg under an old magazine back there. Hmm.

I've been immersed in my novel these past few weeks, taking notes on archaeology texts, watching documentaries, filling in my outline, and sketching out scenes and dialog. It's been a slow process of deepening my settings and characters and weaving historical insights into my plot, with little new writing happening, but I've still pushed the manuscript over 35,000 words.

And now tha…
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Still Hot

Still Hot, A List: OctoberMindyTillWonder WomanDem Shoes
1. October As my friend Esperanza says, October is still hot "because of these beautiful global warming days." Sometimes it's too hot for me to bake pies, and that ain't right, but we make do. I know it's weird, but sometimes we must resort to the pumpkin pie ice cream from Quality Dairy.

2. The Mindy Project Speaking of Esperanza, she subscribed to Hulu so we could catch up on The Mindy Project together. There is nothing in the world like this show, which bounces gracefully between potty humor and super soapy dramz. Plus a parade of hot, objectified men. We watched the classic "Diamond Dan" episode twice in a row even though we had both seen it before already. Sometimes that's what you have to do when you have talked and giggled through all the brilliant dialog. We wouldn't want to lose the... thread.

3. Till Lindemann Speaking of hot, objectified men, Till Lindemann's book of photog…

Raison D'être Made from Scratch

Some things are best made from scratch, like birthday cakes and cards designed by a first grader. Or Halloween costumes. Or historical novels. Or raison d'être.

This is the cake my daughter helped me bake and then designed and decorated by herself, for her uncle's birthday. (Later, it had sparkler candles on it.)

She also made him a card with a joke in it: "What did the pumpkin say to the person?"

There was no answer.

Pumpkins don't talk.


You know what's not hilarious? I've gotten so accustomed to having a friend near the site of a terrorist attack that I am not even shocked anymore when I log onto Facebook and see my feed start with "marked safe" posts about "the recent violent incident." 

I've taken a cue from my daughter, as I often do in times of bleak current events, to turn away from the horrors outside my direct sphere of control and ask myself, "What is the easiest thing I could do right now to create joy?&…

The Transformation Chase

The transformation chase is my favorite thread that binds ancient myth, folk traditions, and modern fiction. In a transformation chase, hunters and prey alternate changing their identities--not just who they are but what they are--to either connect or protect.

In ancient Greco-Roman myths, many personal transformations were singular, magical, and transhuman. Zeus changed into animals and objects to mate with women, usually by force. Daphne changed into a tree to prevent Apollo from doing the same to her (pictured above). In fairy tales and other folk traditions, characters undergo magical changes to escape imprisonment, rape, death, and cannibalization. Sequences of magical change include the transformation chase, the obstacle chase, and the series of transformations meant to break a hold on the changer's body (as in "Tam Lin" or "East of the Sun and West of the Moon"). In my favorite of these, the transformation chase, the pursuer and the pursued transform al…

Dystopian Dreams for a Suburban Family

The new doomsday prepping is dystopia survival. So-called "doomsday prep" only works if you have a bug-out plan to somewhere that isn't doomed or if the Walmart reopens after a few weeks. To me, "doomsday" doesn't imply a temporary disaster like a hurricane or an avalanche. It means that the status quo is irrevocably lost. Surviving most big and permanent changes requires building social connections and learning new things, not hiding out in a bunker.

Long-term survival requires a permanent adaptation to a new normal. Because no matter how many SpaghettiOs you hoard, stockpiling alone won't give you enough time to adapt if you haven't started long before the first disaster.

Examples: Here is what it's like to survive a natural disaster, if you are one of the richest and "prep"-piest people on Earth. Below is what it's like to survive a two-week winter power outage in record-shattering low temperatures, if you are a basic suburbani…

Love in the Season of Hurricanes

If you are able to contribute time or resources to disaster relief, please see the Red Cross website for ways to help those affected by Hurricane Irma.

The following is a (mostly) lighthearted post about folks who got through the weekend safely.

September continues with a beautiful wedding! One of my besties from all the way back in high school married her handsome Southern sweetheart at a gorgeous campsite in the mountains of North Carolina. It was a beautiful weekend despite some behind-the-scenes disasters, plagues, and a looming hurricane. The bride and groom are both trained in wilderness survival, so there wasn't much that could have stopped them from pulling it off.

We're not all as badass as these two, but we managed to do our parts to hold it together. I gave a reading on the canoe lake dock where the ceremony took place, and I didn't cry or fall in the lake. (Just almost.)

The legendary Esperanzita (who recently added "Ghost video extra" to her resume, f…

Saving September

I'm sure you've heard that America has cracked right in half, with one side flooded and the other on fire. And there's not enough money for relief, because it's all earmarked to persecute the only people who actually want to live here. The news, from local reports all the way to the BBC and Al Jazeera, has been awful.

At the last meeting of the esteemed Pigasus Pen (my noveling group), we agreed that the hilarious romance novels created by half of our team, Meika Usher and Christina Mitchell, are like psychological panic rooms where we can escape the horrors of Real Life for a laugh and a swoon that just might save our whole day--and our will to keep on writing. Pigasister Victoria Solomon needs strength to enter the turbulent, poisoned waters of YA lit's mean girls, and I need a little sugar to fuel my epic journey through a tale of serial killers and child slavery.


And romance novels alone aren't going to save the day. They are an essential componen…