In the Midst of Life

My days are a whirling blur coalescing into weeks, months, seasons. Summer drags Orion across the sky, and I am wearing my favorite sundresses one last time before it is too cold. The nights are coming earlier, clouds are scudding in on winds that bring cooler air, and I am the sum total of everything happening at once.

I am still crafting “Fluffy,” the first book in my series. There is a coherence to the draft that was not there before, and that feels good. I believe that I am getting close to the true shape of the story, and I am trying not to fret over timelines, deadlines, or that fact that I don’t have a working title. Hopefully, when I come up with a title, it won’t sound like the name of a torrid romance novel like Stolen Climates does!

In addition to the novel, I am also working on a short story to be included in a speculative fiction anthology. I haven’t written a short in years, and those were all “literary.” My plan is to take an older story, amp up the spec and tone down the lit. Ironically, the story does have a working title, and it contains the word “goat.” Hence my inclusion of what would be an otherwise random photo of a goat:

Goat Song for a Joshua Tree

I’m reading Fate’s Mirror by M.H. Meade, and loving it. This is the best piece of sci-fi I have read in a very long time, and I encourage any of you who enjoy the genre or are interested in what the world might look like when network-born sentience arises to get this book! The philosophical issues raised by Fate’s Mirror turn out to be a fitting companion read for my efforts in writing “Fluffy,” which has also features a non-traditional consciousness.

The next book on my To Read List is an ARC of Hunter Shea’s upcoming novella, Swamp Monster Massacre. I’ve been a fan of Hunter’s writing since I read Forest of Shadows, and I am thrilled to announce he has invited me to participate in his blog tour to launch Swamp Monster Massacre. Look for my review in the first week of October… which also happens to be the first week of my favorite month of the year!

When I’m not reading or writing, I’m giving zazen a try. I have a longstanding moral affinity to Buddhism, and a lapsed meditation practice I am attempting to revive. I joined the Urban Zen meetup for my first time last Monday, and I cannot tell you how alert, connected, and peaceful I felt after the session. I have a long way to go in terms of posture and mental control during meditation, but it feels great to be finally (finally!) making an effort to discover more about meditation. With only a week of practice, I already feel more centered within the maelstrom of fast-moving daily life – a Very Good Thing!

And, when I’m not writing, reading, or meditating, I am trying to learn the stars. Mr. Aniko and I walk the dogs before the sun comes up – a necessity for most of the long, hot Texas days. I have developed a habit of noticing what I see, and then, if I can’t identify it and I notice it multiple days in a row, to look it up in Stellarium. The night sky, which I always treated as a static entity, is remarkably dynamic. It changes with adroit stealth, bringing me a new stars almost daily. Sirius was a pleasant surprise, winking blue and red with such intensity Mr. Aniko and I were fooled into thinking it must be man-made. Ah, the hubris!

Finally, I’d like to thank a few of the people who made this week special for me:

  • Edward Lorn: Surprised and honored me by writing a post explaining how I inspire him.
  • Lindsey Beth Goddard: Hosts the Author Interview Corner, which has amazing interviews and which also scored me a signed copy of her new book, Quick Fix: A Taste of Terror!!
  • Mr. Aniko: Insulated the roof of my Mazda3, giving me a quieter ride and better protection against the hot, hot sun. He also cooked dinner and breakfast every day to help me find time to fit in everything else I’m trying to do. Mr. Aniko, I love you!
  • Mo & Poppy: Who sent me postcards from their vacation, which was both thoughtful and made checking my mail fun!
  • Eric and Ivey (Urban Zen organizers): Welcomed me to their sangha with kindness and openness.
  • Greg and Rickey: Who encouraged me to have confidence in myself.
  • Brad: For being the person at work who makes me smile.

Xoxo,

-aniko

An Exercise for the Reader

I love fiction, but I really love speculative fiction. Horror, sci-fi, fantasy: the best of any of these poses complex questions about the nature of humanity, what it means to be alive, and who (and how) we want to be, both as a species and as individuals. The otherworldliness of speculative fiction encounters makes it possible to delve into topics normally too uncomfortable or shameful to broach. You need look no further than Caprica, Dollhouse, or Star Trek to experience the deft interweaving of difficult moral and ethical questions into the fabric of science fiction. I was introduced to this pseudo-magical ability of sci-fi to address topical issues by  Arthur C. Clark and Issac Asmimov; much later, Elizabeth Hand showed me the same can be done with dark fantasy. I am thankful to those authors, to the public library, and to my Mom who, although not specfic fan herself, never batted an eye at her strange, strange little girl.

Decades and media delivery formats later, and the strange little reader has become a writer. My debut novel is strictly horror, but my work in progress is a horror/sci-fi hybrid. It’s just about the coolest thing my brain has ever thought, and I’m already working hard to get it written so I can share it with all of your brains. Just make sure you pay your power bill before you read it, because it’s scaring the bleep out of me to write it and, if I do my job right, that scary is gonna make its way to you. You’ll want the lights on – yes, even you!

Fiction can ask serious, humanity-sized questions. It can also ask more mundane, choose-your-own-adventure type of questions. In Stolen Climates, there’s a mix of both, but for this post, I’m going to pose one of the latter. Here’s the situation:

You and your spouse are moving away from the strain of urban life because your spouse has been unstable, and possibly close to accidentally harming herself or your kid. Your remote, not-quite idyllic destination is Breaker, Texas. There are some houses for sale, but all of them have obvious, unlivable defects. Then your realtor shows you one that isn’t as flawed; in fact, it seems just about perfect, if a little odd, what with all the extra shutters on the windows. Still, you’re in a bit of a rush to get the family settled because the office has called. There is a Class-A cluster that you, as manager, need to handle. You’ll have to leave your wife and kid, but you’d like to get them set up in the house first. Your realtor has one more surprise: a condition imposed by the seller. You need to read and notarize that you received the following message:

Potential Buyer –

The house is as good as it seems. The walls are straight, the floor well plumed, the windows sealed against the winter winds and screened against the summer sunlight. The house won’t be your problem.

At first, you will probably love it the way my wife and I did. We were outdoor enthusiasts: hiking, biking, camping. We spent weeks carving trails out of the woods, but the trails we found never seemed to be the ones we made. That was part of the problem. The rest of it, the real crux, are the woods themselves. I’d explain, but it would be a waste of time because you’re either from Breaker or you’re not. Someone in the first category already knows. Someone from the second: buyer beware.

Signed,

The Lowells

Your assignment is to answer this question: Would you buy the house?

If you choose NO, go to page 73.

If you choose YES, go with whatever gods you have.

Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor. Stolen Climates / 02.2012

 

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