"When they come you have to notice them."


From Meradorm at Tumblr:


Actual genetic testing for intersex, gnc, and trans people is going to be great because everybody in the workplace is going to shuffle into the break room (“beats workin’” one of the old white guys will say) and we’ll sit down at the plastic lunch tables and management will pass out a little baggie with a tube to spit in and painstakingly go over how to seal it and affix the label. It’s just like drug testing, you did that when we hired you, except you can’t fail! And you get twenty minutes off your workday, right? Great.

I could get lucky at this point. It doesn’t always show up on tests. I wouldn’t say that my body is a fifty-fifty split. But.

Days or weeks later a couple people from management will pull me off the lanes and take me into the nurse’s office. They’ll open the door for me and say “Sorry, buddy, I know this is a hassle” and they’ll say I have to do it again because my sample looked contaminated. (I did like a 23andMe thing once and they kept telling me they thought my sample must have gotten mixed with some else’s - it’s probably just the way these labs work, the checking process for your sample is probably automated.) But I’ll grunt and say “it’s fine” and sit in a chair and spit into another tube while they stare at me. I might have to repeat the process until they figure out I used to be twins, a boy twin and a girl twin, and my genetics reflect that. (“Oh wow I didn’t know that about you,” will the manager say, trying really hard to make encouraging small talk.)

Then I’ll find out that there’s some problem with my paycheck or the ID reader thing won’t let me clock in and I’ll go to the HR desk and spend like ten minutes being bored in line while the people in front of me figure out their parking passes or lost passwords and they say there’s some red tape I have to jump through about my gender, it’s not a big deal, you just have to go get a doctor to sign off on - (awkward pause) - on one or another before I go back to work, it’s a federal regulation thing. I’ll irritably play a lot of phone tag trying to make sure I don’t use my UPT (unpaid time off) hours while I can’t work, and then go to the health center the next town over where I used to get my fillings done. The 21-year-old receptionist will give me kind of a pained look when she calls me to the front and I’ll try to act casual for her sake, or maybe I’ll feel defiant and show her I’m uncomfortable and annoyed just to make her feel bad, because she’s the closest approximate thing to a target. (although I won’t, because I’m too old for that and it’s not her fault). The doctor will give me a tight smile and say “Sorry, I know this is invasive.” Then I’ll go home and bitch about it on Tumblr.

--The rest of Meradorm's post on the banality of slowly creeping evil, and how it can be countered by the banality of voting.


See also A voter guide for the 100 million who are not planning to vote.

Book review: "Encyclopedia Brown Lends a Hand," by Donald J. Sobel


(Paperback title: "The Case of the Exploding Plumbing and Other Mysteries")

The Encyclopedia Brown series is interesting to read because it was published over the space of nearly fifty years, so you can see societal changes occurring in the stories.

In this book, Encyclopedia Brown is doing his best to cope with women's lib. Narratively, the results aren't always the best. ("She was a blond girl with a pretty face and the broadest shoulders on the field. She was also the only player not wearing shoulder pads.") Encyclopedia Brown, ever polite, approaches the matter as best he can, given the narrative and societal handicaps.


"A gentleman doesn't fight a lady," thought the boy detective. "I hope Lindylou remembers I'm a gentleman."


No, it wasn't funny back then, either. Between that and Encyclopedia Brown not knowing elementary facts about female life (his detective-agency partner Sally steps in to take care of that, this being one of the few areas in which she's allowed to shine), the book gives readers a good sense of what girls were up against in the 1970s.

Other than that, Encyclopedia Brown remains his stellar self: a friendly, generous, and clever detective resolving such troubles as a runaway elephant and threats from litterbugs. It has been forty-four years since I last read this book, and I still couldn't solve the mysteries. Thank goodness for the answer pages in the back.

Challenge 3/10 (The Three Lands: Breached Boundaries #2) [Patreon fiction]


The boundaries of rank declare that Serva can be a princess or she can be a slave. But for the bastard daughter of the King of Daxis, life is not that simple.

Forced to be a tool in a battle waged by her land's unstable King and his dangerously devious heir, Serva cannot even find refuge among her fellow slaves. Instead, she secretly explores the hidden portions of the palace. In this way, she meets an imprisoned spy who is scheduled for execution.

But when a simmering war bubbles to the surface, Serva must choose where her loyalties lie. She must also solve the mystery of the spy's past, and of her own future.

"I found myself asking, 'To protect me, or to protect Richard?'"

All chapters in this novel. The first chapter is free.


I allowed my eyes to fall, which my father evidently took as a satisfactory answer, for his hand returned to my shoulder as he said, "Well, I have found a solution to your problem, though it will require some sacrifice from you, just as I have had to make sacrifices for the sake of this land. But I trust" – his voice lingered on the word – "that you will undertake this sacrifice, both for the sake of Daxis and out of love for me. You must believe me when I say that I do this to protect you. Indeed, you may find that the burden is not so great as you think. It was hard for me to marry in the winter following your mother's death, and yet that marriage brought me some peace, though never the love I found with your mother."

The room was very still. I could hear nothing besides my father's breath next to me. My nails bit into my palms and my voice grew high as I said, "You promised me that I wouldn't have to."

"Sometimes promises must be broken, lest a greater evil result." My father's voice was still gentle. "No, listen to me first. I have not selected for you some coarse and uneducated slave-man. I have arranged for you to marry a nobleman. It will be a marriage of the Spirit, of course, and your husband will undoubtedly wish to marry a noblewoman in the law some day. But until Richard is confirmed heir by the council, your husband will protect you against any evil, conniving men, even if I should die. Believe me, I have chosen a man of great honor, one who will keep his word to me to care for you as though he had chosen you himself."

Putting my hands behind my back to disguise the fact that they were now shaking, I looked up at my father with mute pleading. He brushed aside the hair on my forehead and said softly, "Is it the bedding that worries you? I have arranged matters there as well. The marriage must be consummated, or it will not be valid, but your betrothed has given me his oath that he will not lie with you until you are ready. You and he will have a chance to get to know each other as husband and wife before you make that final sacrifice."

His finger curled under my chin again as he spoke; without realizing it, I had allowed my head to bow down. He tilted my head upward until our eyes met. Smiling at me, he said, "Come, child. Will you comfort me in my old age and ease my worries about the future by doing as I ask?"

NaNoWriMo 2018: In which I prove that the Internet is both a blessing and a curse


Total NaNo wordage so far: 1,369.

Thursday the 1st. Wordage: 0.

Unhappily, November 1 fell on what is likely to be the last warm, sunny day of the year, so I scheduled a trip to see my parents in D.C. on Thursday. In theory, I could have gotten up at three a.m. to do my NaNo wordage, then gone through my morning routine, spent four hours on the bus and train, visited my parents and a museum for five hours, spent another four hours on the train and bus, eaten dinner, and gone to bed at 9 p.m. But I'm trying to earn my healthy-living badge at NaNo, so I decided to skip the early rising.

Instead, I stayed on the Internet till 3 a.m. on Friday. Not a good start to NaNoWriMo.

Friday the 2nd. Wordage: 1,369.

A decent start out the gate, especially since I was working on a description-only scene, which is the most difficult type for me to write.

Then I ruined the day by spending the rest of it on the Internet.

It's not entirely my fault. Yesterday, I had Joe give me full access to the web on my iPod Touch, because I had to check something important. Then I forgot to have him return me to partial access before he went to bed - hence my six hours on the web last night. I did think of waking him up to close my access before I went to bed, but I thought, No, he needs to get up early to go to Baltimore. I won't disturb his sleep.

What I forgot was that he was going to get up early to go to Baltimore. For four days.

So now I'm stuck with a full-access iPod Touch, and I'm desperately trying to figure out measures to keep myself from going on the web till Joe gets back (other than my usual Saturday visit via my online laptop). The most obvious measure I can take to prevent myself from going wild and crazy on my iPod Touch is to stay off social media.

Which means I won't be able to read anyone's journal here for a while. (*Weeps.*) So tell me, folks - how is life going for you? I can read your comments; your comments at Dreamwidth are sent to me through email, and I can post responses at Dreamwidth by email.

BBC Radio dramas, audio books, and documentaries

Writing life: I'm doing NaNoWriMo in November


(NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month. It's a challenge where you try to write 50,000 words in one month, which works out to 1,667 words a day.)

I did NaNoWriMo in 2014, and in 2015 I did Camp NaNoWriMo (which I like better, because you choose your own goal and you get a nifty cabin). That's how parts four and five of Sweet Blood (The Eternal Dungeon) got written. I decided it was a good time to do NaNo again. I'm far enough ahead on my heavy editing of Breached Boundaries that I can spend November doing light editing and composing.

I'll be working (more) on "Empty Dagger Hand," the Three Lands volume that comes after "Breached Boundaries." In the grand scheme of things, there's another volume in between those two, but life is too short to wait for meganovels that have only 28,000 words written so far.

So far (as in, since 1996) I've written 145,842 words in "Empty Dagger Hand," and I think I'm about halfway through? Obviously, this is yet another of my volumes that gets released in reasonably sized chunks. But you can see why I need the help of NaNoWriMo to get through this hefty tome.

To those happy few who have read Bard of Pain: "Empty Dagger Hand" is the novel of which "Bard of Pain" is a side story .

If you have a NaNo account and want to read the synopsis and teaser of "Empty Dagger Hand" (they have no spoilers for "Breached Boundaries"), you can find the synopsis and teaser here.

Instead of book/author reviews in November, I'll be doing weekly NaNo updates, though heaven knows what I'll find to say besides, "Ack! I'm behind on my wordage!"

Challenge 2/10 (The Three Lands: Breached Boundaries #2) [Patreon fiction]


The boundaries of rank declare that Serva can be a princess or she can be a slave. But for the bastard daughter of the King of Daxis, life is not that simple.

Forced to be a tool in a battle waged by her land's unstable King and his dangerously devious heir, Serva cannot even find refuge among her fellow slaves. Instead, she secretly explores the hidden portions of the palace. In this way, she meets an imprisoned spy who is scheduled for execution.

But when a simmering war bubbles to the surface, Serva must choose where her loyalties lie. She must also solve the mystery of the spy's past, and of her own future.

"A short time later, I stood in the serving alcove of the council dining chamber, trying to ignore the ringing pain in my head."

All chapters in this novel. The first chapter is free.

I've started posting part two of "Breached Boundaries"!


I'm so very grateful to my patrons. This summer, when I realized how serious my financial situation was, I was honestly uncertain whether I'd be able to complete Breached Boundaries. But thanks to the donations I've been receiving at Patreon, I finished editing part two of "Breached Boundaries" and have begun posting it at Patreon. I've already started work on editing part three.

Here's a teaser of what I've just posted at Patreon. The teaser includes spoilers for part one. The teaser is followed by the story summary and a link to the latest chapter. Or you can start at the beginning of Breached Boundaries; the first chapter can be read by anyone.


Hurrying to catch up with him, I asked, "Would the Koretians invade through the cave?"

Richard shook his head. His hands were in fists, but his voice was level as he said, "Not at the moment; both of our armies are too alert for an attack there. No, they'd undoubtedly breach the border in the conventional manner, by way of the Eastern Gap." He pointed toward the east of the mountain, where a small gap separated it from the next mountain in the chain of mountains that surrounds and protects Koretia. "Whichever direction they arrive in, whether east or west or through the cave, we'll be in trouble. I've managed by some miracle to persuade your father to let me strengthen the city wall's guard, but he still won't allow me to increase the guard at the palace wall gates. He wouldn't listen to my advice there either. The Spirit defend him from actually listening to military advice from his subcommander."

His voice had slurred quickly and decisively into his customary sarcastic tone. Like a mountain cat defending her kittens, I reacted automatically, saying, "He's Commander of the Army. It's his duty to make such decisions."

"Oh, yes, he's commander." Richard's voice had grown very dark. "A commander who has never spent a single day on the field. A commander who could barely use his sword if his life depended on it. A commander whose idea of war is looking at little maps charting our victories on the battlefield. He doesn't have to look at the bodies of the men whose life's blood purchased those victories." Richard picked up a stick from the ground and whacked a bush to one side.

Feeling astonishment and curiosity tremble inside me like a restless fire, I watched silently as Richard abruptly dropped to his knees and began poking the bottom of the wall with his stick. He crawled forward a short distance and began pushing back the long grass that obscured the roots of the wall.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

"A hole. You start searching over there, where the wall splits, and I'll meet you back here." Richard did not look up as he pointed west toward where the wall split into two walls, one becoming the palace wall and the other the city wall.

Feeling ignorant and foolish, I followed his directions and began laboriously searching the foot of the wall for holes. At one point, crawling on my hands and knees through a patch of mud, I became convinced that Richard was teasing me. I looked up quickly, but he was far down the wall, slowly and carefully inspecting the last remaining eastern portion of the wall before it split in two.

Eventually, as promised, we met in the center. He was covered in mud as well; the white border of his army tunic was now sullied with grass stains. I asked, "Why a hole?"

Richard was busy scanning the wall once more. "A prisoner escaped from our dungeon five years ago – no, it was six years, at the end of 985. We couldn't figure out how he had managed to breach the palace wall until we found a nice, man-sized hole dug under the wall there."

He pointed. I looked with renewed interest at the wall. Next to me, Richard said with bitterness heavy on his tongue, "Not that the prisoner couldn't have found a dozen ways to escape. We only have one wall here, when we ought to have two, for safety's sake. The wall we have is crumbling at its foundations, hence the ease with which the prisoner was able to dig the hole. And if he had chosen to try to escape through the palace gates, I've no doubt he would have succeeded there as well, since we have such a light guard at those gates. The King says a heavier guard isn't necessary. Nor is a new wall necessary. So all that I can do is check this wall every month for holes and anticipate the day when our palace is burned down by the Koretians because the Commander of the Army thinks he knows more about palace defense than the subcommander who has been fighting in wars for over twenty years."

Without thinking, I said, "He ought to pay attention to your advice, since you have knowledge on this subject."

Too late, I realized that Richard had tricked me into expressing my opinion, but he did not follow up his advantage. Instead, he leaned back against the wall as bits of flaking stone floated down onto his tunic. With his arms folded and his gaze fixed on the forest rather than me, he said, "Oh, having no knowledge of a subject has never stopped Uncle from interfering. If he had his way, every council decision and every battlefield command would come from his lips. The only reason our council has any independence left is because it has Lady Elizabeth as its mistress, and the only reason our army wasn't destroyed long ago by Uncle's incompetence is because I periodically threaten to resign from my post. He knows that he couldn't find anyone of comparable skills to replace me. I may have to make that threat again to persuade him to let me attack the Koretians now, while their army is at its weakest. If we wait for the other Koretian divisions to arrive back from Emor, we'll have no hope of winning this war without sacrificing a large portion of our soldiers. But of course the King is always prepared to make sacrifices, as long as they aren't his own."

For the first time, the Prince's eyes travelled over to meet mine; they were serious and dark. His voice – a low, level baritone that never wavered, even during the years when he was taking on a man's tone – was cool and controlled as he said, "I tell you, Serva, on the days before a battle when I awake to find a royal messenger awaiting me outside my tent with a missive from the King, overruling my plans for the day . . . When I know that my easy victory has been replaced by a hard-fought one and that my men are the ones who will pay the price for the King's arrogance . . . Whenever that happens, the only thought in my mind is the pounding certainty that I cannot wait another year until the King is—"

He stopped before the ultimate word, which hung between us like an unsheathed blade.


The boundaries of rank declare that Serva can be a princess or she can be a slave. But for the bastard daughter of the King of Daxis, life is not that simple.

Forced to be a tool in a battle waged by her land's unstable King and his dangerously devious heir, Serva cannot even find refuge among her fellow slaves. Instead, she secretly explores the hidden portions of the palace. In this way, she meets an imprisoned spy who is scheduled for execution.

But when a simmering war bubbles to the surface, Serva must choose where her loyalties lie. She must also solve the mystery of the spy's past, and of her own future.

"Feeling as though I were stepping onto the unsteady ground of a southwestern marsh, I placed my sandalled foot in his hands and pulled myself onto the horse."

Daily life: Catching up on what I've been doing


I haven't done a comprehensive daily-life entry since last year, so here's a catch-up on what I've been doing recently.


I haven't. My Muse, who has been sending me scenes from the first volume of The Thousand Nations for months now, has grown so frustrated at me that he's now sending me scenes for the second volume of The Thousand Nations. Which turns out to have as killer an ending as the first volume, but I'd rather be actually finishing the writing down of the first volume.

I knew that I'd be squeezed for time when I switched to part-time fiction writing last year, but since I'd been doing full-time fiction writing for fifteen years (and could have been a full-time fiction writer for the ten years before that, if I'd wanted), I hadn't realized how bad things could get. My options right now are to write stories or to get already-written stories in a state where I can issue them. I can't do both.

Since I have a large cache of finished-but-not-revised stories - accumulated in the days when I could easily bring out new stories every week, no sweat - I'm putting my priority on editing the already-written stories, even though I keep thinking, "I may be at the peak of my creative energies."

I really would like to get to a financial place where I can devote two hours a day to computer time for my fiction (in addition to the light editing I do during meals), so that I can spend an hour writing and another hour doing heavy editing. But till then, I'm grateful that those of you who are supporting me financially are allowing me to do the occasional extra hour I need to do online editing during the time I would ordinarily devote to my day job.


At the moment, I'm editing and serializing Breached Boundaries. If I have extra time after I finish editing part three of "Breached Boundaries" (which I'm optimistic that I will), I'll do further editing of Death Mask. A lot of that editing I can do during meals, but I got stuck last month on a chapter that required further research. As I told Joe, "I should have worked toward a Ph.D. in astrophysics. That would have been easier than researching fiber history." Who knew that there was a raging controversy over historical spindles? But with the help of Joe (thank goodness I have a fiber artist in the family), I think I can figure out the appropriate spindle for my time period.

Also, people in Late Antiquity didn't knit. This is highly inconvenient to me.

I'm going to try to get "Death Mask" completely finished, so that I won't be issuing it stop-and-start, and then I'll work on the final chapters of Hell's Messenger. Those three projects will keep me busy for a while, but I do have some side stories I can post along the way.

(The Awakening glares at me. No, no, dear, I haven't forgotten that you're a completed novel.)


Still dire. Still deeply grateful to my Patreon patrons and my e-book buyers.


I finally, finally got my application packet ready (cover letter, CV, and writing sample) and sent it out to children's educational publishers and book packagers. Heard back from one press right away; they want to hire me when an appropriate project comes along. Thank heavens. I'm going to continue sending out applications in hopes that I can build up a list of clients.


Amidst my latest anguishes with my Internet addiction, I had a moment of absolute brilliance when I realized that 90% of the reason that I go on the web when I shouldn't is in order to read nonfiction: news, blog entries, social media posts, etc. Therefore, the easiest way to stop myself from going online would be to forbid myself from reading nonfiction, unless the nonfiction was in a non-web format: (e)books, podcasts, RSS feeds, etc. And since I'm trying to cut back on my nonfiction reading (my Muse doesn't like it), I'd confine myself to reading nonfiction around dinnertime, except for checking my email in the morning.

I spent the next three days searching the web for fiction.

So then I set myself another rule that, for the time being, I was not going to seek or download any fiction unless it was already on my To Be Read list. This rule gave me immediate anxiety. Some people panic at the idea of not having enough food in the house; I panic at the idea of not having enough reading matter on my hard drive.

Part of this panic derives from memories of 2001, when I - who lived and breathed books - became suddenly unable to read books. I had no access to any form of reading matter except a not-very-interesting collection of audio books from the public library. (*Pauses to let my fellow bibliophiles shudder at this scenario.*)

I soon learned that I don't like to listen to audio books. (Having a narrator decide how the characters should sound messes with my own internal sense of how the characters should sound.) Even after I taught myself braille - which I did mighty quickly - and got access to the braille books at the Library of Congress's National Library Service for the Blind (NLS), the situation wasn't much better. Because long-is-worse as far as braille books are concerned (for the record, the braille version of "The Lord of the Rings" is three feet tall), the NLS had practically no long fantasy novels, which is what I mainly read in those days. As for LGBTQ books, I think maybe the NLS had one gay novel back then?

This was 2001. There were few e-books available, many of them couldn't be read by screen readers, and I couldn't afford to buy e-books anyway. Starved, I went seeking alternatives. And that, my friends, is how I discovered fan fiction.

That time period left me with an instictive fear of running short of electronic reading matter. The reality is that, these days, I'm practically drowning in access to e-books. I reminded myself of that when I began to grow anxious that I would run out of electronic reading matter before spring, when I can more easily read print again. (My vision is considerably better these days, but it still runs in seasonal cycles: I can read more print in the warm months of the year, less print in the cold months of the year. Throughout the year, the majority of my reading is in large font, and occasionally I have to switch over to text-to-speech.) I also reminded myself that I'd just bookmarked several dozen Carnegie-Medal-winning e-books to read. There is no way I am going to run out of reading matter before spring.

Instead, the door I'm going to slam up against is my daily need for Something New And Shiny. That is a door I need to train myself to keep shut.


I actually have a schedule - which is more than I could say for most of my life - and I'm doing a reasonably good job at keeping to the schedule. The problem is that there aren't enough hours in the day to get a substantial amount of work done. For Christmas, I'd like twelve more hours a day, please, with the ability to stay awake during them.

Weekday schedule


Heavy editing of fiction.

Meal preparation while listening to the news and to a novel (by text-to-speech).

Breakfast while reading fiction or while lightly editing my fiction.

Bedrise chores: Clean breakfast dishes (mine and Joe's), empty and wipe down my humidifier, make my bed, tidy, wipe down the kitchen surfaces and our meal tables, fiddle with the thermostat and/or windows.

Chores I do while lounging in my papasan: Check email, check the weather, do online shopping as needed, and make phone calls to doctors as needed and when I can possibly bear to use the phone and when are doctors going to get sensible and allow their patients to make appointments online? Grr.

As weather permits, do downtown errands. This involves putting on extra clothes, because did you notice that I didn't change clothes when I got up? I'm into leisurewear. Go to one of more of the following places: recycling bin, bank, mailbox, pharmacy, natural foods store, public library, or any of the three Little Free Libraries downtown, including one that's located at a waterfront park. Did I mention that I love living in downtown Havre de Grace?

Back in the apartment, strip down to leisurewear. For the next few hours, alternate between my day job (which currently means preparing and sending applications for jobs) and daily chores (laundry for me and Joe and handwashing Joe's dishes, because we still have no working dishwasher, thank you very much, landlord).

Pre-dinner reading: RSS feeds (a daily news digest and a select number of literary blogs), Dreamwidth reading page (where I can post if I want), Goodreads (if I have a short review to post), and any nonfiction I want to read.

Meal preparation, optionally with a podcast.

Dinner while reading fiction.

Prepare the next day's schedule.

Bedtime chores: deal with thermostat/windows, fill humidifier, lay out clothes and change, put in eyedrops.

Throughout the day: talk to Joe (usually when I'm making meals), bathroom breaks (preferably with reading matter), and a break for lunch (which looks much like breakfast in terms of tasks).

Saturday schedule

Chores and eating and "throughout the day" stuff.

Shop at the farmers market.

Write and post blog entries.

Issue fiction.

Sunday schedule (which I haven't actually managed to achieve yet)

Chores and eating and "throughout the day" stuff.

A long walk.

Time with family and friends (face-to-face or by phone, and did I mention that I hate the phone?).


Longer housework tasks (such as dealing with the bedbugs, who are still here).

And that's it for me. What have you folks been up to?