I Need a Schedule

Closeup

Or at least that’s the conclusion I’ve drawn. When I was working a regular 8-5, things were simpler. I’d get up around 7AM, get dressed, take out the trash, go to work. When I got home, I’d eat dinner (and usually cook it, too), spend a bit of quality time with First Reader, then disappear into the library and try to get some writing work done. It wasn’t a perfect system by any means, but overall it served.

Now that’s all gone. In theory, I have lots of time. In practice, almost none. There’s always something else wanting my attention. This summer I spent most days working on the room over the garage because we’re turning it into a studio. I estimate it’ll take half of next summer to get everything finished. Regardless, I make time. Plus house maintenance and yard maintenance, which I also must make time for. When’s my writing work time now? Snatches here and there. I always feels like I”m stealing it because, for the most part, it ain’t on the agenda.

This isn’t working.

I’m going to try blocking out the time after dinner. I have to be flexible on this, with an understanding that a disruption of the schedule is just that–a disruption. It has to be clear to me and to my loved ones that this is my time, and if I’m doing anything else, I’m not doing what I need to be doing.

Seems simple enough, of the face of it. We’ll see how it goes.

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Review: In Calabria, by Peter S. Beagle

Tachyon Publications, LLC., 2017.

Let it be said up front that Calabria is a region of southern Italy, in the “toe of the boot.” There on a hillside farm lives Claudio Bianchi, alone except for his old dog Garibaldi, his old goat Cherubino, and three cats: Sophia, Mezzanotte, and Third Cat, which is more position than name, since Bianchi had never learned her real name, “as one must do with cats.” Other than twice-weekly visits from young Romano the postman, It’s a hard and lonely existence, which suits Bianchi just fine. The farm gives him enough of a living to live, plus time to read and sometimes write poetry, which he mostly keeps to himself. All that changes when the unicorn visits his scraggly vineyard for reasons that Bianchi cannot fathom:

“He would indeed  have taken it for an illusion, if Cherubino, anarchist and atheist like all goats, had not remained kneeling for some time afterward, before getting to his feet, shaking himself and glancing briefly at Bianchi before  wandering off. Bianchi knew the truth then, and sat down.”

He writes a poem about the unicorn, but the visitation proves to be more than a one-time miracle. The unicorn returns, and is apparently searching for something. The truth finally dawns on Bianchi: the unicorn is pregnant, and what she’s searching for is a place to have her foal…fawn? Bianchi isn’t sure. But when she makes her nest in a hollow near his apple orchard, the farmer begins keeping vigil, and it is there that Giovanna, the postman’s sister covering his route that day, finds Bianchi, and finds the unicorn. Soon she’s in on the conspiracy of silence, and essentially in the unicorn’s service as much as Bianchi, though he might not have put it that way, already is. The unicorn eventually has a difficult birth, and Bianchi is there to assist, and all is well, for a while.

Some secrets are impossible to keep, and the unicorn and her newborn are among them. It’s not long before reporters, animal rights activists, and unicorn hunters are snooping around and sneaking through and trampling  Bianchi’s farm, but the real danger arrives with the monster, a monster in human form, as the worst ones tend to be.

So that’s the plot. Trivial things, plots, or would be if one didn’t need a way to lay out what does and must happen in the course of the story. The bones, if not the flesh. Seldom if ever what the story is about. At its heart, In Calabria is a love story, and I don’t simply mean the contentious but real affection Bianchi and Giovanna come to feel for each other. There’s also healing. In time we learn why Bianchi is alone in the first place, and the tragedy that put him there. In Calabria is also a story of awe and wonder, and all that contained in a novella-sized package. It contains multitudes. Yes, I know. The monster must be defeated, the dangers averted, or else the story is about something else entirely. So let’s leave that part for the reader, where it rightly belongs.

If you already know Peter Beagle’s work, and you haven’t read this book, I don’t know what to tell you, other than stop wasting time and get to it. I’m already mad at myself for waiting so long to do the same. If  you don’t know Beagle’s work, then correct this error as soon as possible. Start with The Last Unicorn, or A Fine and Private Place, or The Folk of the Air, or The Innkeeper’s Song or...well, I really doubt it matters. No writer is for every reader, but if Peter Beagle isn’t for you, then I can only offer my sincere condolences. But it’s well worth your time to find out.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Winter

I don’t care what the calendar says. Winter is here. It’s been snowing for the last few days, and I’ve had to shovel the driveway and sidewalk, so that’s winter in my book. Fall was short, and the leaves are already gone, mostly buried under snow.

I’m still adapting to the idea of seasons. As I’ve said before, in the Deep South we really didn’t have them anymore, and that wasn’t always the case. I can remember having falls and springs and winters. Summers never went away, but over the years they kept stealing days from the rest of the seasons until there just wasn’t much left. If you meet a climate change denier over the age of fifty from the deep south, then you’re looking at someone in denial of their own experience.This is something I’ve never understood, almost as weird as someone arguing that water isn’t wet.

Which, by the way, it definitely is.

On a completely unrelated subject, snippet du jour:

“I wish,” Mera said, and sat down without being asked. “Who is the annoying pooka and what did you two do?”

“He’s Nudd, and who says we did anything? Honestly, sweetie, pull yourself together. I can’t talk to you like this,” Aednat said.

“Oh, right. Give me a sec….” Mera the nightmare appeared to be trying to concentrate, which was an expression that would have been comic if it hadn’t been on the face of such a horror. As it was, it magnified the effect. I felt a chill and Aednat actually shuddered. The feeling passed quickly and then we were looking at Mera in what I can only assume was her true form.

It wasn’t quite what I expected.

In the chair was a woman with curly red hair and freckles. Her face was a little flushed, probably due to the drink, but she didn’t look anything like a horse. She appeared about the same age as Aednat, though I knew, as humans reckoned years, both were far older.

“What did you mean, ‘what did we do?’”

“You must have done something. I know why you’re here, and I know where you’re going,” Mera said.

“Oh,” Aednat said, and that was all.

“It’s worse than that,” Mera said. “I was ordered to meet you, though I expected to find you on the train when it leaves. Well, no sense putting it off.”

I frowned. “Put what off?”

“Letting you know I was ordered to come with you.”

Aednat frowned. “You too?”

Mera nodded, looking unhappy. “Why do you think I was drinking?”

Count All the Votes

They’re still counting votes, though it looks like Sinema pulled it out in AZ. Florida? What a mess. So far the courts have kept Scott (Gollum) from shutting down the counting, though doubtless he’ll try again. It’s been 18 years since the fiasco of 2000. Fix this already.

Count all the votes. This should not be a controversial opinion. Right now in my own district, they’re still counting. I confess I’d love it if the vote counting was done, because my guy is ahead and he’s trying to replace someone vile who’s trying to gut healthcare and vote more money to the rich. If she moves ahead and wins, well, that’s the will of the people, even when it’s wrong. I hope that doesn’t happen, but either way it has to be fairly done, or no more democracy.

I woke up a lot earlier than I meant to after a late night. On the good side, I got my flash fiction assignment for the week written early. And the reason I was up late was a project that had stalled but maybe is moving again. A few more pages should tell the tale, Of that the tale will be told. Something like that.

More writing, less politics. Speed the day.

I’m All Right, Jack

I still don’t like being political. Probably all my years of white privilege talking, and no, that’s not sarcasm. It’s simply the truth. I recognize all the things I didn’t have to worry about growing up and living most of my life where and when I did. Like getting lynched for no reason at all, or being murdered in broad daylight for the crime of registering my neighbors to vote. The system as designed protected me and people who looked like me. Everyone else, not so much. When someone says “I don’t care about politics” what they’re really saying is, “I can afford to ignore what’s going on. I’m all right.”

Not that many of us are all right these days. And the ones who think they are? Mostly wrong. Or as the late great George Carlin was known to say, “It’s a club. And you and I are not in the club.”

One reason? Healthcare. This is a big one for me. I was forced to take early retirement, and so my employer subsidized health insurance went away. Not too long after, I had an “incident” which required two surgeries and hospitalizations. White privilege didn’t save me. Know what did? Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act. Without it, I’d likely be dead now. So you can imagine that I take it somewhat personally when one political party keeps trying to kill me and a lot of other people by taking away our health insurance.

Yes, I know. No scion of privilege cares until it happens to them. In my own defense, I will say that’s not true in my case. I’ve been caring for a while now. More than I’ve ever seen in my life, we have a congress that puts party over country.

And steals children to punish people for seeking a better life.

And runs up the deficit to reward the rich for being rich.

And enables a corrupt, divisive, and incompetent president.

And openly supports Nazis and white supremacists.

And does all this evil in our names.

This is not a difference of opinion. This is a difference in basic humanity.

I’m voting tomorrow, but unlike some, I’m not encouraging everyone to vote. Just those who understand what’s happening, and don’t like it any more than I do. For the rest of you, who think things are going great? Stay home.

After all, you’re all right.