A Resolution

A re-post for those who don’t follow my “other” blog, now my permanent residence 🙂

The Fairy of Disenchantment

Have the words changed since you read it the last time, Jian Qing?

Dear Disenchantment, always a comedian. I put down the letter that I’ve been compelled, for days now, to keep touching, keep staring at, along with the attached statement of benefits that seems as chimerical as the Fairy herself. The most critical piece of my disability-application ordeal has finally, after four months—the last month of which made me sicker than I was when I stopped working—been resolved.

I’m still fixing the numbers into my mind: this will be my monthly income for the next 12 years, and right now, it’s enough. More than I expected, even. I was never really sure of the amount, especially after taxes, but I did myself a service low-balling my estimate. If my Social Security disability application goes through, I might actually have income to save, or spend on a long-needed disappearance to…

View original post 493 more words

Advertisement

The writing life so far, or, don’t look down

Hello there! If you are still following this blog, you might like to wander over to its predecessor (and successor), The Fairy of Disenchantment, which has a new post! After my retirement from the workforce this fall, I decided there was still a need for a blog about literary therapy for MS, so the Fairy was the one I picked to revive. I am also still over on Instagram and Twitter @sunhesper (both places) which will become more important as the book nears completion… 🙂 Thanks everyone for reading!

The Fairy of Disenchantment

<< Opening epigram from my novel-in-progress and also the first thing you see on my new site: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/sunhesper >>

It seems I’ve become a writer full-time. Though exactly what I intended to end up, one day, not at all the way I expected to get here.

I felt a need to come back to this, my first blog, because it is a document of how long I’ve struggled to balance work and chronic illness since my diagnosis with MS in 2010. Back then, when things were really bad (the first time), people close to me said “You could go on disability”. Unfortunately in 2010, or 2015, or even 2019, there was no way that could happen financially. If you look through back posts here, you’ll see a fair amount of agonizing around how much longer I could sustain working even part-time with my cognitive- and fatigue-related symptoms. What has changed…

View original post 923 more words

Third Day

The UNPRECEDENTED project is wonderful. It’s turned a really miserable period of time — and I don’t mean this year+, I mean the past several days — into something useful. Sometimes only the most brutal inspiration will get me to break past the barrier I make in my mind between visual art and written art and what I permit myself to produce based on some arbitrary assessment of self-worth. The point, the project presses, is simply to pass the time. And it happens to be a dark, damned time.

Tomorrow will actually be the Thirteenth Day of my journey into delayed-reaction-vaccine-induced MS misery, which has felt like traveling back in time to my first full-body assault by the disease. (This is not uncommon, and I’m not necessarily regretting vaccination but I really would’ve liked a little advance warning.) I have no idea how long I’m in for, but as of yesterday I can actually walk pretty well, so that’s something; we may be tapering off into the more tolerable end of the spectrum. That, I believe, is thanks to a new prescription for Baclofen… a Faustian bargain to be sure.

An excerpt, and the challenge of writing credible love

First: wow. What an age we live in, when a man can go into the hospital on Monday morning, have a third of his right lung removed by remotely operated robots, be discharged the very next afternoon, and be walking around like nothing happened a day later. (This would be my husband, who has just been declared cancer-free, huzzah!) I’m still sort of coping with the sudden relative normality of life after a month of constant anxiety… but I’m not complaining.

Second: I have to admit, anxiety has been good for the book. Anxiety and connection, with both of my romantic partners. Mortality has that effect, and ain’t none of us getting any younger or healthier. I will say that it’s a wonderful thing, when you’re writing about romance, to feel like you’ve got a firm grasp of what you’re writing about.

I have at least seven love arcs in my book, running all across the spectrum from friendship to erotic obsession. And I tend to stress over whether the relationships are as realistic as they can be. One thing I’m keen to avoid is “instalove.” When I workshopped the first chapter of this story a few years ago, I asked for help in fixing that with my central couple, and I got some game-changing advice: if you make them already in a relationship, you can track back for the development at a more leisurely pace. Seems like such a simple solution now, to the point where all of my arcs are actually already in play. I have a favorite one, but it took a long time to feel like I got it right.

Nix, the brother of my protagonist Chalcy, is demisexual and (like all my characters in this world) very comfortable with his nature as it reveals itself over time. His relationship with Najet, a musician in the band for which Chalcy was a songwriter and Nix played violin (and also sewed costumes), is the slow-burn romance of the book. But because I have so many characters with SO MUCH GOING ON, there’s a limit on the amount of time I can devote to their story. A challenge, and I may not actually be pulling it off, but this couple is super satisfying to write.

This is just a little excerpt of what happens when they’re reunited after half a year — an epoch when you’re newly in love, and during which time they’ve been exchanging letters while Nix is leading a revolutionary movement a few hundred miles away. You should probably also know that Nix usually suffers from serious haunting by his ancestors, who’ve pinned their family hopes on him now that his even more radical sister is clearly never coming back to tend the family business. Tonight, however, which happens to be the first time he’s experienced physical attraction to Najet, the ‘mothers’ are mysteriously absent. (FYI: this is a matrilineal society.) Oh, and some vocabulary: ‘svai’ means sexual compatibility; ‘yasvai’ is the lack thereof, or asexuality in general. Taravi is one of four official languages in this civilization including sign language; code-switching is a way of life.

Nix must concede, as he’s divesting her of her stage clothes, that The Swell’s new tailor is quite good.

“But not as good as me.”

Jikaro,” Najet pronounces, mock-disapproving. Pride, in Taravi, generally means vanity. But there’s a reverence in the way she undresses him in turn, her fingers lovingly tracing seams that she knows were laid down by his own sewing machine.

The memory returns to her, not half as distant as it feels, of watching him at work, on a set break backstage, quickly mending a skirt she’d torn when the lacy hem was caught under the stand of her bass. Breaking off the thread with his teeth and tossing the garment at her with a blithe, mildly intoxicated Good as new! Even half-drunk, Nix was better at such things than she was dead sober. What a match he would make, she thought, hearing her mother’s voice in her head (because gods knew she was miserable at the family lathe). And what a fool she was for abandoning that thought when she’d realized, standing purposely close in her knickers while he worked, that there wasn’t the faintest glimmer of lust in his eyes when he looked at her. Even when he’d reached out and put his hand on her hip, moving her an inch to the side, his boyish smile apologetic: You’re in my light.

Now, as his eyes caress her in advance of every touch, she feels as if she is his light. Mothers be kind, she prays as they sink into her bed.

Nix, for his part, has decided his ancestors have nothing to do with this seeming miracle. Nothing feels more natural than his instincts at this moment, and he finds himself thinking of something Ferruzadi said to him the night they learned that he could know pleasure without desire… but that he preferred a good massage. Yasvai has its own spectrum, you know? Svai may arise with some requisite condition or conditions – or it may not at all. Either way, it’s beautiful. You are as Karst made you. And Karst, apparently, made him for Najet Turner.

The one thing he wishes, with what’s likely to be his last rational thought as Najet’s soft-downed thighs encircle him, is that he might have had a little warning. The last time he took contraceptive herbs was years ago – and though there are different herbs for women, no honorable Coruscarian male would expect his partner to attend to such things.

“Where are you with the moon?” he asks. “I didn’t prepare for this, but we can be careful.”

Najet’s languid gaze clears with a blink. It holds him with tenderness for a long time before she speaks, cautiously choosing her words.

“Must we? Be careful? I mean… I think I’d be so happy. In that event.”

An unspoken question hangs on her parted lips. And it stuns him, how little he must consider his answer. Such a responsibility, now, would be madness. But all he can feel is longing, and all he can see are the faces of the children who take lessons with him in Sphene – the daughters of his apartment concierge. The shy perfectionist who reminds him of Chalcy. The brash, so-called unteachable one who reminds him of himself.

“If there’s a child,” he tells her, “I’ll come home, Naya. And I’ll stay.”

There is something Najet urgently wants to say to this. But it’s a long time… hours, hours of love and heat… before she does.

To think I didn’t even know they’d end up together at first! I find them very sweet and refreshing to write, compared to my main couple (Chalcy and Mica) who are so intense. Hopefully I manage to make them all believable.

Oh and there’s a third thing! The Chamber Magazine was nice enough to publish a little interview with me, if you’re interested in writerly process type things. (And they’re still accepting submissions!)

Now let’s see, what is the perfect Nix and Najet song… Ah.

Photo via Pixabay https://pixabay.com/users/pasja1000-6355831/

Poem at THE CHAMBER MAGAZINE: “Sonata No. 6 (for Julian Scriabin)”

© Sébastian Dahl, Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, used with kind permission of the artist (please check out his page!)

My poem, “Sonata No. 6 (for Julian Scriabin),” was just published at The Chamber Magazine (thanks again to Phil Slattery for accepting it). If you are a wordsmith with morbid tendencies, I encourage you to submit your work!

I recently posted a video of the titular sonata, but there’s some good background on the piece on Wikipedia. I don’t recall precisely when I discovered Alexander Scriabin but it was in my late teens and I loved Russian composers as much as I loved Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. When I heard No. 6 for the first time… it was a formative experience for a Goth girl. There was no Wikipedia then, but there were liner notes, and I was thrilled to discover that the piece scared the shit out of Scriabin too, and he rarely performed it.

It was many years later that I learned about Alexander’s son Julian, whose music you’ll probably never hear on NPR (though a few recordings are out there). Julian’s work, as you might expect from a composer who died when he was 11, bore many of his father’s hallmarks but was not without personality of its own. I have always wondered how it might have evolved if he had not died so tragically young in that “boating accident”…

Mudita

Compersion
sounds so cold,
clinical.

Mudita
spreads its arms
wide open.

Enfolding
more than these
loves of ours.

I have to thank Jennifer Patino for giving me just the form for this poem. I hadn’t known tricubes were a thing before, and you can’t ask for a more apt frame for an ode to polyamory.

I’ve always hated the word compersion, which is largely unknown outside the Poly community. It’s supposed to describe a feeling of vicarious happiness when your partner is enjoying time with someone else. But it’s a product of the late 20th century and as much as I agree that 1) we need a word for this feeling and 2) we need it to extend outside polyamory (as people have argued compersion should do), I just can’t get past its problematic origins. (A word rooted in colonialism, repurposed by a white male cult leader is just never going to sit well with me.)

Of all the alternatives that I’ve seen offered, only one really speaks to me: the Buddhist term mudita. It seems to better capture the feeling itself: “the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being”. It’s often used to describe parents’ feelings for their children’s happiness or success. I would like to see this level of desexualized joy attached to non-monogamous relationships, which are too often stigmatized in the popular mind. There’s something about compersion that makes it sound closer to compulsion than compassion – a kind of aberrance. Mudita has a gentleness that discourages judgement.

I think about the borrowed words English has for emotions and find it unsettling that almost everybody knows what Schadenfreude is, but can’t come up with a similarly concise term for vicarious happiness. Considering its proto-Indo-European roots, English could really stand to give a lot more love to Sanskrit and Pali. Or take more love from it, as the case may be.

Carl Bloch – In a Roman Osteria (1866) – via Wikimedia Commons.
I love how even the cat looks like “Jeez, take a picture, it’ll last longer!”

Short Story at THE CHAMBER MAGAZINE: “Mother of Sands”

Photo by PIXNIO

I’m happy to announce that my dark science fiction short story, “Mother of Sands” was published today in The Chamber Magazine. (Kind thanks to Phil Slattery for accepting two of my works this month. The poem I mentioned in my last post will appear next week; a little more background will be posted here at that time.)

Here is a subtle soundtrack for your reading:

By the way, writers of dark fiction and horror, The Chamber is open for submissions — I’d love to see the magazine build on its strong foundations so far!

Scary

When I shared the news with my folks that I was going to have a poem published in The Chamber Magazine, and that I was excited to write a lot more horror and dark fantasy this year, she texted me: “I never really thought of you as a scary person. Congrats!”

I’m still smiling about that. What a delight to realize, after almost 50 years, that your mother’s greatest hope for you was that one day you’d become a scary person! And before you say that’s probably not what she meant… hah, you really don’t know my folks.

So if the past few weeks are any gauge, I think 2021 is going to be a creative year, as well as a difficult and painful one. This is, after all, why people write the macabre: life is the ultimate horror show, but at least on the page, you get to direct the shocks. To return, though, to The Chamber — if this is your jam, there is some top-notch writing there. I particularly enjoyed the article, “H.R. Giger: His Dreams, Our Nightmares”, by John A. DeLaughter; Hans, I’d have killed for just one dinner at your house. (Kidding! Or… well, it depends on who I’d have had to bump off. But seriously, the dinner scene in his documentary… These are my people.) Also, I’m very excited to see what Jennifer Patino has in her upcoming drop; her poetry is astounding.

My piece, “Sonata No. 6 (for Julian Scriabin)” comes out Jan. 22; I’ll post a link here then, but in the meantime, enjoy a little musical backstory. In the dark, if you dare. (Apologies to your immortal soul.)

There are far better videos out there from a sound-value standpoint, but I love Ashkenazy’s interpretation — and his courage…

Excerpt from Book Two

It occurred to me that I could actually share what I’m working on for NaNoWriMo. As I mentioned, this is the second book of To Tune the Beast (title undecided) and yes you’re at a disadvantage reading this excerpt unless you’ve critiqued/edited parts of the first book (which is about 3/4 finished). But it’s still a good glimpse, and if nothing else, proof that I really am writing — just not here!

“Cub,” the old man says in a distant tone, beckoning me to his side at the window with an air of disbelief. “We have company.”

What I see through the glass makes me gasp, wild hope pounding in my chest. It is Perfidy racing down the road toward us with all the velocity of the day he and Chalcy delivered our commission from Garanat. But today, to my instant dismay, the joffy is riderless.

In a cold sweat, I bolt out the door and find Fortune, inescapably curious, already waiting to greet our visitor. Perfidy slows and gives the cobalt joffy one of his long stretching bows, which she finds more amusing than I do.

“What’s happened? Is she alright? What are you doing here?”

Perfidy’s admonishing “Tsk, tsk” is followed by a grin. One does not interrogate a joffy with any serious expectation of answers. But this time, I’m obliged.

“Be at ease. Beloved is perfectly safe. Not particularly happy, but safe. And as for me, I am here partly at her request, but mostly on my own initiative. I’m going with you.”

“With me.” I study him skeptically, then point toward the mountains. “Up there?”

“Of course. Were you planning to walk?”

My head is starting to throb again. “I don’t know. I suppose I was going to ride the bike as far as I could; I can’t imagine Fortune parting that long from the Master. Honestly I really haven’t much of a plan just yet. Beyond the fact that Voro Martel has agreed to go with me as well.”

I use the pseudonym more out of habit than dishonesty. And I have no idea if Tsavor Marl’s fame (or infamy) even extends beyond the Tuners’ Guild. I’ll catch Perfidy up on the history whenever I get the opportunity.

“He travels by Horse, though. That will be awkward. She seems to be terrified of Fortune.”

“They’re among our contracted prey,” Perfidy acknowledges, a little wistfully. “But you have my word that she’ll be safe from me. Consider that part of our personal Contract, Half-Raven.”

It hurts, exquisitely, to hear a name that wouldn’t exist without her. Tears prick my eyes. I push us on.

“Yes, what are the general terms of this temporary partnership? Traditionally, I would provide you food and shelter, but I can definitely guarantee you won’t receive what you’re accustomed to at the Keep.”

“Before Beloved, I was accustomed to far less.” He exchanges a meaningful glance with Fortune, whose head bobs in acknowledgement. “Shelter is where you find it. And I’m prepared to hunt for my sustenance. With one exception: cornbread. You make very good cornbread, so I will have a portion of all cornbread prepared on this expedition.”

The memory of the joffy’s enjoyment of the one thing I can reliably cook in this world takes some of the chill and the strangeness out of the morning. But cooking is one more aspect of the impending journey to which I have not given much thought, beyond the fact that the Master included it among Tsvaor Marl’s many hidden talents. I presume that these supplies are among the ones the man is busy gathering at this moment.

“Fair enough,” I say. “What else?”

“Nothing more. Oh, except the binding.”

This does not sound to me like something which could be easily confused with nothing more. I am doubly wary when Fortune chooses this moment to return to the shade of her shelter. Her golden eyes gleam at me from within the shadows.

“Binding.”

“Yes. Partners must be bound, regardless of the duration of the physical association. I’m afraid the connection is permanent, until another partnership, another binding, replaces it. It will be interesting; I’ve never been bound to two humans before. Beloved is quite excited for it, because theoretically, it will create a bridge. No guarantees on that; I did not want to bring it before the Collective. She gave me a message for you, in case we’re mistaken, but she’s hopeful that she can communicate it to you directly. Now would not be the ideal time for that, though; you should wait until noon, when Garanat is sleeping.”

Longing seizes me, shoves all misgiving out of my head, erases the dark foreboding of the connection is permanent. What wouldn’t I sacrifice for this bridge? The prospect of having her near – as near as we’ve ever been Alterside.

“What must I do, to bond with you?”

Perfidy’s smile is a waxing, serrated crescent moon.

“Bleed,” he replies. “Your blood and mine must mingle. But it needn’t be dramatic. I bite you, and myself, and the wounds… communicate.”

“As simple as that.”

I study the joffy’s fangs with a detail I’ve never had cause to before. They seem to sharpen in response. I shrug my left arm out of my coat. Roll up the sleeve to bare my forearm. Treated properly with ash, this could add to my pattern of penalty scars – or begin a new one. The idea excites me, the unpredictability of the marks. The anticipation of an as-yet unexperienced pain. Perfidy’s amusement is edged with curiosity as he considers my goose-pimpled flesh.

“Beloved was not so eager for this part,” he remarks, spurring a new thought.

“Where did you bite her?”

“There, but on her other arm.”

Of course she too would choose her non-dominant side. I’m pleased with this symmetry.

“That’s perfect then,” I say. “Do it.”

It happens startlingly fast, too fast to properly experience the sensation. My heart hammers all the way up into my throat, echoing in my ears, as I reel with the primal shock of attack. A breathless moment that I know intimately – that’s almost come to define me – hangs between the blossoming of my blood and the eruption of pain. Perfidy takes only a beat to acknowledge it before sinking his teeth into his own shoulder.

“Now,” he growls through crimson teeth, and I jump to obey. The wound is difficult to see in the blackness of his coat, but I press my arm hard against the place where his blood gleams like ink. The little spines of his pelt make a delicate chord – Na Minor… no, Minor Sixth – as they rub painfully against my broken skin.

I have no expectations for this binding. I open myself to anything. And what fills me… is everything.

Running, racing. All landscape blurred, suborned to movement, to speed. I am the wind, wild and sharp and laughing, devouring the earth under my paws. Music spills from the sky like rain – Chalcy’s music, hard and loud and alive. Chasing, blind with hunger. Lust. Tasting her spice and honey. Plunging my teeth through fur and hide and muscle and splintering bone. The rush of hot copper in my mouth. The free-fall of orgasm. Diving into water, washing off blood, shaking stars from my pelt. Her, the moon and sun above me. Her, threading through my hair, Perfidy’s coat, our limbs, like roots, grounding us, growing through us. Her, everywhere.

“It’s done. Master Kalekai, your timing is excellent. She’s about to faint.”

“No,” I say – or I think I do. My tongue is a ball of yarn.

My vision swims. My whole body trembles, like some newly born creature. I’m falling, very slowly, and the Master’s warm, strong arms gather me – like a feather mattress rising up to meet me.

“It’s all right, cub,” I hear him say. “Everyone does.”

I should note that my cat, Claudio, has inspired quite a bit about Perfidy, including his passion for cornbread. Sadly, I lost the video I once had of him demolishing a cornbread muffin. Guess I’ll have to bake some more and share the proof later. Anyway, it’s pretty much inevitable that he’ll work himself in anywhere he can…

The Midnight Sun / As the World Burns

I’m pleased to share that my poem “The Midnight Sun” was published in the Indie Blu(e) Publishing anthology As the World Burns: Writers and Artists Reflect on a World Gone Mad. Thanks to those of you who provided valuable feedback for the final draft. It’s wonderful to see many of your works in this collection! (For a full list with links to the authors, see The Feathered Sleep’s comprehensive post here.) This is the first poem I’ve had published in print since I was sixteen, so I’m grateful to my sister from another mother, Candice, for inviting me to submit something at a time when disability, and just the daily trauma of living through this era, so often gets in the way of my creativity. It is a tremendous collection, and I hope you purchase a copy, particularly if you support the Black Lives Matter movement (50% of the royalties, once they reach their break-even point, will go to BLM-centered organizations).

It has been an interesting time since my last post of substance. A few weeks ago, in preparation for a likely decision to retire with disability in April rather than being laid off from my job May 1 (a stay of execution from the original date of Jan. 31), I went through a neuropsychological evaluation for the first time. (Sidenote: the tests totaled more than $4,000 in my case; if you ever need one of these, you might want to make sure your insurance will cover it before you go. I have yet to see the final bill.) The results, which I was given immediately, revealed one surprise and one thing I knew already — which was largely responsible for my plan to retire.

The surprise was that my memory is better than I thought; in remembering lists of words, recall was apparently off the charts. I scored lower, though, on my ability to come up with words on my own, and that was telling. But my complex problem solving ability, especially when fatigued (and I was plenty fatigued after the second hour) was well below average — or average for me, as the neuropsychologist explained. The ultimate conclusion was that if I could manage my fatigue, and my quality of sleep, and my depression, I might do better at work, for as long as I need to, but all in all I’m in pretty classic company with all the other MSers out there who leave the workforce because of cognitive dysfunction.

So here I am on my second week of Amantadine. I think it’s working, but not to manage the symptom it’s supposed to. Oddly, for an anti-fatigue medicine, it’s improving my sleep. (In fact, one of its more hilarious/terrifying potential side effects appears to be falling asleep suddenly, in the midst of any activity.) I usually can’t get through a night without waking up after a few hours and my brain going into panic overdrive, but with the exception of one rough night after an especially brutal day, I’ve actually been sleeping soundly. So, one piece of the puzzle at least is in place. The rest, I guess we keep working on.

Hopefully I’ll be able to shake some new poetry out of my brain to post here in the coming weeks. I’m also doing #NaNoWriMo this month, trying to bang out as much as possible out of the sequel to “The Beast” before finishing Book 1 this winter. (If they are in fact two books; that remains to be seen.) I hope you are all keeping sane, and healthy, and celebrating every little triumph of reason and love over madness and intolerance that the world delivers.