Archive for December, 2009

Quiet

December 28, 2009

My long “holiday” was, well, a working holiday. My life is full of Day Jobbe right now, and not a lot else.

More as it happens.

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December 19, 2009

Did not suck.

What a relief.

Woman, Domesticated

December 16, 2009

Oh, how I love The Onion

“A valuable commodity with seemingly endless uses, the woman has played a crucial role throughout human history,” noted historian Alan Helbling said. “Not only could she be trained to perform a variety of tasks, but once her spirit was broken and her energies reined in, she could be taught to come whenever she was called.”

Blood & Women & Swords, OH YEAH

December 15, 2009

Why yes, I’m a sucker for women with swords… isn’t everyone?

One of the big issues I have with a lot of ye olde Sword & Sorceress type stories is that the women hauling around the swords just aren’t that scary. I can’t explain this except to say that, you know, I’m a fan of the cheesy awful that is Conan, and… I’m looking for a heroine that can kick the shit out of him.

Best Served Cold
‘s heroine, Monza, is that heroine.

This book was an easy sell with the cover, but not so much the first few pages. The first 11 or 12 pages are kinda dull, really. Insipid people, insipid conversations, completely generic fantasy lite setting. Seriously, the setting was making me yawn. But according to the cover copy, this was a pretty solid rampaging revenge story, so I stuck it out.

I was not disappointed.

By page, what, 36? you’re going, “OH HOLY FUCK YO!” and Abercrombie gives you the big book opener you need to have to drive a revenge plot. You know, the thing that somebody does to you that’s so terrible that it can drive the whole bloody book all the way through. And trust me, it’s tough to justify the blood in this book. The big book opener goes a long way toward getting you there.

This book isn’t for everybody. It’s savagely brutal (I’m not making apologies for GW gore ever again). The people are decidedly unlikable. They’re the types of people who would survive and thrive in a world at perpetual war, and that means they are NOT NICE. So if you’re looking for nice people in bad situations, well. This isn’t it.

But they’re *interesting* people, and that’s what kept me reading. The cast is classically well done (reminded me of when I read my first Dragonlance novel… in a GOOD way). Folks are always backbiting, backstabbing. There are constantly shifting alliances and folks trying to play people off other folks. Old wounds and past events come into play. They’re wacky, driven, crazy folks, and I enjoyed watching them bicker (that said, there were some rather useless “fan fiction” scenes which added nothing but character squee. But not so many that I threw the book out. Just enough to roll my eyes).

I loved the main character, Monza, our sword-wielding heroine, primarily because she was not nice or honorable, and she was very, very scary. She’s out for herself. There’s no huge realization or change at the end. Just sort of a slow ebb and flow that made the ending satisfying but not syrupy. I loved, loved, loved the reversal between her and her initially optimistic sidekick. I found the fact that she’s supposed to be very good looking rather annoying (I do wonder how truly model-looking anybody in this world would look, but then, attractiveness is relative, so who knows what her face really looks like out there?), but Abercrombie made up for this with a few very nice, telling details about what it’s like to be a woman leading men (no easy comraderie with your men, who might take a pat on the back as come-on; always have to be the hard ass to keep from seeming too soft and having guys take advantage; always careful who you sleep with [if you sleep with anyone at all], etc.).

And that brings me to another plus for this novel. At one point, the team on board for the revenge plot has three women and three men. The balance shifts as the book goes on, but I was genuinely startled to realize that there was an entire scene central to the plot (a torture scene, no less!) which consisted entirely of female characters (our heroine, a mercenary, a poisoner, and a courtesan). Yes, it sucks that something like that is so surprising. But still neat when it happens. You just don’t see it a lot in fantasy epics.

The book was plotted like a dream, and I keep paging back through it to look at what Abercrombie did with this plot. My biggest complaint, as noted, was the bland fantasy lite setting. Incredibly disappointing with a well-plotted story like this with such great characters, brutality – and have I mentioned the plotting?

So, if you’re looking for new weird, this is not your cup of tea. But if you like strong female heroes, bloody battles, complex and twisted anti-heroes, and… if you just want a good, page-turning romp with cool but nasty folks, this is definitely the book for you.

Recommended, with aforementioned reservations.

Dance & Etc.

December 14, 2009

Back At It

December 7, 2009

Up at 5:30 this morning to add 20 min of pilates onto my 15 min morning free weights routine. *Damn* I am out of shape.

This thing with having a chronic illness is that you just notice more when you’re lazy about taking care of yourself. During the last couple of weeks of sporadic workouts and weird food, I’ve been experiencing some mysterious aches and pains – especially in my core – and inflammation. There is likely also weight gain tied to this, as my clothes aren’t feeling so hot on me, either. I just can’t get away with letting things slide for a few weeks. I just feel it too much now.

Not that there’s been complete fail, mind. I still bike to work 5 days a week, do my morning weight routine 5 days a week, and even during last week’s laziness, I still worked out for 20 min on the elliptical twice that week. It’s just that… well, it’s not enough for somebody with a sendentary job and wonky immune system.

A couple of weeks of pilates and getting back on track with my after-work workouts on the elliptical should help. 5 days a week pilates, 4 days on the elliptical – in addition to weights and bike riding commute – should do the trick.

I’ve also been combating some hunger issues. I’d been getting wacky-hungry at work between 9-10am and vainly searching for food. Some of this is just stress eating, but it’s stress eating triggered by mild hunger. I went ahead and added a little more protein to breakfast – two scrambled eggs w/spinach in the morning instead of just one egg – and that seems to have done the trick (an extra 70 calorie egg in the morning beats a 350 calorie english muffin with peanut butter at 10am).

As we head toward the holidays, I’m being more mindful of what I eat. One of the drawbacks to getting the pump is that it made me a lot less careful with what I ate – and my #s and my body are paying for that. It’s time to stop. I’m a carb addict, which means it’s incredibly hard to change my habits when I get used to indulging again. Too much “well, it’s the holidays!” means shitty sugar numbers, shitty health, and shitty mood.

And you know, I’d like to stick around those extra 15 years.

I’ve Got a Lot of Holiday Cheer… But Here’s Some Folks Who Could Use Some

December 5, 2009

There have been a lot of people hard-up for money this year. And without fail, I found that I could, in fact, afford to give to those really hard up. Not a lot: $10 here, $20 there ($50 in one case, but there was a kid involved!). It’s going to continue being rough out there for a long while yet.

A couple months ago, the rug got pulled out from under me when our insurance company pulled a smash and grab and “accidently” revoked our health insurance for three and a half weeks. It was a rough time, and looking rougher as things wound on.

But UHC did eventually fix the issue, J. got a part-time job in addition to his full-time school, and my day job continues to pay for things like $90 a week in groceries and the roof over our heads. If things are a little cold and lean sometimes, it’s because we chose to rent a big old 1850s house that we knew came with a lot of excess utility bills, and I’ve got a lot of student loan debt clawing at me. The good news is that the reason it’s clawing at me is because I *can actually afford to start paying on it* now that I paid off over $10,000 in credit card debt. Things are lean because I’m paying off old debt and correctly managing my money. Correctly managing one’s money always feels lean to me. Growing up, I thought that being “poor” meant not getting everything you wanted. I have since actually tasted what poor is like, and understand that this is nowhere near that.

It’s been a good year. I’ve done some traveling back at the WA coast to visit family, had a fantastic Florida vacation with J, and continue to enjoy the day job. My biggest complaints right now are that we can’t afford to heat the house above 55 and I have to wait until I’ve saved the money to buy the digital camera I want (been working hard not to rack up that credit card debt again). I mean, c’mon, really? Boo hoo, life is rough because I don’t have a flat screen tv…?

Yeah.

I’m comfortable, just not comfortable enough to stop trying to hustle up writing jobs as they come in, because heating the house and actually saving more than $50 a month would really be nice. Not totally necessary, but nice.

Anyway. There were lots of folks who offered to help me out when the health insurance thing was looking scary. Here are some far more deserving folks for your hard earned dollars this holiday season (they are certainly getting some of mine, and as noted, mine have been a tad lean).


Clarion West

SF/F writing bootcamp. Changed my life. But it’s a bitch to dredge up the money for this. I got lucky, and solicited friends and family, who collectively paid my way to Clarion. Not everybody has that kind of support network to draw from. To be honest, I didn’t think I did either. I begged for money in desperation. I was incredibly lucky folks were so generous. Be one of those generous folks for another writer.

Planned Parenthood
Keep women’s reproductive services easy, convenient, safe, and confidential. Good luck getting that from a lot of women’s clinics these days. PP is constantly under siege, because they do some of the most incredible work. I’ve been a client since I’ve been having sex, and they’ve always been a literal godsend.

Kiva
This is actually a micro-loans site. I love this idea. Basically, you give small loan amounts of $25+ to entrepreneurs all over the world. Sometimes it takes as little as $100 for a woman to start her own small business in her home village/neighborhood/community/city. And it completely changes their lives. I’m partial toward giving to women entrepreneurs, of course. It’s traditionally harder for women to get the money and support together, and it’s a huge ego/status boost when you become the primary breadwinner. It also means you don’t have to put up with so much crap from men with money. Skip the lattes for a week, and give somebody the ability to support themselves.

And a particular individual
J. is a cancer survivor (two years cancer-free in May). We met a few months after he finished his chemo/radiation combo. I knew going in that there’s a chance it can recur, just as he knew about my own chronic illness and those 15 extra years – on average – that I won’t have. So this one hit a little close to home. If it hits home for you (or if you’re simply a good soul), please do help her out. Cancer and other long, lingering illnesses take incredible courage, tenacity, and huge amounts of money to surmount (as I know with my own chronic illness, particularly in that first year of recovery/adjustment after four days in the ICU). We all battle dragons, but whether or not we win or lose, there’s a lot of wreckage and rebuilding that needs to take place when all is said and done. $10 to assist in rebuilding lives sure beats downloading an album you don’t need from iTunes.

Paypal address is: johanna_mead AT yahoo.com

Thanks to all.

Quote of the Day

December 4, 2009

On Being a Mother and an Artist

December 4, 2009

70-80% of art students are women.

70-80% of art in galleries is by men.

Why?

What I’m Up To

December 1, 2009

Drowning in Day Jobbe work. This will be the state of things until the end of January or thereabouts. Hard push for the next 6 weeks.

I’m also working on cobbling back together a good workout routine. Regular workouts are great, buy my sugar numbers have suffered. Lots of lows this week as I work hard to recover my sugar from Thanksgiving excess. It’s certainly “allowed” to relax my restraint for a day or two, but man, I pay for it later. I’m starting to think the occasional slice of apple pie and sedentary days just isn’t worth the resulting 3-4 days of achiness, inflammation, depression, and rocky sugar numbers.

Yeah. I’ll be skipping the excess at Christmas, I think.

Also, I’m reading a damn bloody book, which I’ll be blogging about soon.