Caught between worlds

It’s my fifth Fourth of July overseas. This one comes as I’ve thought about my visa and possibly-most-likely moving back to the U.S. in 2014. The good thing about the Affordable Care Act being ruled constitutional is that that it will be put into effect in 2014, and I will not be denied health coverage for any of my pre-existing conditions (and I have a few) if/when I move back.

It’s strange, thinking about moving back. It isn’t what I’d expected to be doing after my PhD, but it that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing. Regardless of where I move to, I’ll be closer in time and space to several friends and my family. The Internet, especially email and Skype, is a godsend, but a part of me actually looks forward to being able to strengthen those relationships by being physically nearer, present.

Even as I think these thoughts, I walk home from work via the sea, take a walk up part of the coastal path, looking back over my current home and being struck by the beauty of the fading light on the waves, on the sailboats in the bay, of this town. I’m not going anywhere yet. I want to live intentionally, here, now, not taking for granted my remaining year and a bit here.

In another way I am also caught between worlds: with my writing. Sometime during June I got derailed from editing The Faerie King and in a month I am supposed to start novel planning for the new Orion. Already the characters and world of Orion are waking from their long sleep. The statement ‘It’s always easier to edit than to write’ is false: for me, the act of creating, of writing, is the most enjoyable part of writing a novel. Editing is sticky. Especially when I have no idea how to make it better, only that something needs doing. It comes as no surprise, to me at least, that I am eager to turn my mind to something else, to something new, to creating Orion.

Should I try to edit The Faerie King again during July? How can I motivate myself to stick with it?


A sample of my Works in Progress: text and textile.


His first breath of Martian air was cold. Luke gasped at the thin air and began to cough. Others behind him began to do the same. His eyes had seen the red desert outside of the windows; his mind expected heat to sear into his lungs. He coughed as much out of surprise as he did at the thinness of the air.



Soon the duke’s knights beg him to stop taking their wives as wet nurses for the child he believed to be his son. His own mother then tried to nurse Gowther, but he did not spare even her: ‘He snaffulld to hit soo / He rofe tho hed fro tho brest’ (129-130). Gowther did not kill his mother as he had the wet nurses, but the damage was done. In Sir Gowther, Gowther’s savage treatment of his wet nurses is an indication of his demonic paternity – like father, like son, as it were. The statement above about Horrible is spoken by his own – human – father, Raymondin, spoken just after he laments that his wife, who he now knows is some sort of spirit-creature, ‘neuer bare no child that shal at thende haue perfection’. Like Gowther, Horrible’s brutality is attributed to his unnatural parentage. It is because he is not fully human that he is as horrible as he is.


Wool: ‘Iris’ from New Lanark online shop.
Pattern: Adapted from The Purl Bee’s ‘Easy Mistake Stitch Scarf’.

In other thoughts

Each day this week I have been convinced it was some other day. Today is Friday but I haven’t any idea if it actually feels like a Friday.

Today is the Battle of Flowers in San Antonio and I am nostalgic for Mexican food, mariachis, cascarónes, flower tiaras and the cadence of Latino speakers. In the theme of being a vagabond, it is somewhat odd to realize that I feel nostalgia for a heritage so clearly not my own. I remember once in high school being told to ‘blend in’, but I was the only white girl in the room. Even if I blend in more here in Scotland, Texan Latino culture was the context for much of my childhood. I hope I can rightly claim nostalgia for the riot of color and taste and sound, spinning in the skirts of flamenco dancers and fluttering with confetti on a hot sunny day.

This week has been full of Bartleby moments—‘I prefer not to’. Partly because I am nursing some allergies/cold/sinus-like thing, because the weather has been variable, because the week itself has been variable, and because I am being coaxed back into the realm of Orion. This time, I may or may not be writing things down…

Luke glanced up at the clock and went to buy his ticket. A woman sat on the bench next to the machine, her gaze fixed on the edge of the platform. She sat slightly hunched forward with her hands clasped on a rumpled skirt. A small duffel bag sat between her feet. She didn’t have a coat. He recognized her, though not at first. She was supposed to be in Germany.

“Annie?” he asked.

The ancient Night

I’ve been working on a new playlist for ‘Whiter than snow’, a short story that has been dreaming itself in my head for quite a while. I think I’ve decided to end the playlist with Steven Delopoulos’s ‘Open Your Eyes’, if only for this line:

Take me through the stream
Across the ancient night

—though certainly the song holds more relevant lines than that. I have been surrounded too much by Fantasy, by magic and things tied to the earth. This year is supposed to be the Year of Orion; my mind longs to break free of gravity and clouds and atmosphere, to cross into the ancient night and dwell in those silences between the stars.

I have been editing Bede, yes—but editing is not the same as creating. Tolkien once said that because we are made in the image of a Creator-God, we too contain the creative impulse…

New Mexico

Foothills of the Sandia mountains.

My mind always turns to Orion when I visit Sarah; this may be, as Jenai has recently informed me, because Jenai grew up in New Mexico. Or perhaps it is because David is in the military, and thus has a ready answer for (most of) my questions. Regardless, I have been thinking much of Jenai, Peter, the Academy, and the Alliance lately, and it is good to have someone to bounce questions off of regarding plausibility and world building. It is now 2010, which means I am allowed to work on Orion again. I have decided to go ahead and write down scenes as they come to me, even if this year is meant to be spent working on the VSI. The more I think of Orion, the more questions I have, the more I realise I don’t know; the more I wish to do this story justice, the more I wish not to lose sight of the story.

We saw AVATAR in 3-D today, and on the ride home Sarah and I discussed the genre of science-fiction, types, and questions we often ask about aliens and science-fiction that few other people seem to ask: two amateur anthropologists speculating the differences between species and the effects these difference have (or ought to have) in relationships between them and humans. Questions that I try to ask, as a writer to enhance my writing. (For the record, we both liked the movie; it was well done, if at times imperfect.)

In the past few weeks I have walked in the forests of the Carolinas and the desert of New Mexico. There is something about the desert and the mountains that pulls on me. We watched the sunset from the foothills yesterday, and looking out at the expanse that went on and on reminded me a bit of the sea. The open horizon leaves the mind open to think. Life struggles in the barrenness; a hard sky over a flat, dry land. In Scotland I am learning the moods of the sea. Someday I would like to live in the desert, someday I want to learn the faces of the mountains.

Crazy talk

Bullet points, because I haven’t used them in a while:

  • I actually started writing my dissertation this week. I’ve discovered that this time around it helps to write it out drafty thoughts in green ink in my Moleskine—a good thing, because I have only (only!) used 60 pages of the 240 thus far. Anyhow, I have approximately 13,000 words left to write, if we are to follow the 10-percent rule.
  • I’ve spent way too much time editing my Amazon wishlists. This evening I culled and prioritized the Non-Fiction list. Yes, the top items deal with science and political philosophy. I want to read them now and it is an effort of will to wait until 2010 when I can officially begin Orion research. Well, not too much effort: I have so much else to read before then.
  • I probably spend more time thinking about fiction than my thesis. This may be to my detriment. I hope it isn’t. I’m already planning for NaNoWriMo, trying to decide if I can write a short story before then, and, of course, trying to calm the overexcited children that are the Orion characters. Boy are they starved for attention. “No, Anna, I can’t read saints’ lives yet, I have to get the government down first,” “No Peter, I really don’t think I need to read about rocket engines,” “No, Andrew, I’m not going to invent your entire language.” Geez! Don’t even get me started on Jenai. You guys only think I’m being an overachiever perfectionist crazy renaissance woman, but really I’m just trying to keep the crew of Artemis at bay. Seriously. Because that’s not crazy talk at all.
    • Listening to the TGN soundtrack does not help. Especially not “The General” by Dispatch.

And that’s it really. Images dance into my head and I write them down and eventually it’ll be something worth looking at.


Taking a short break from my Gawain essay (half-way through word-count-wise, but not with my outline; lots of editing in store). I’ve been thinking about Orion a lot recently. Not always explicitly, just sort of hovering in the background, germinating, percolating. I don’t know if it’s a byproduct of thinking critically about other literature, or if it’s that my mind is starting to be ‘okay’ with the idea of working on it again. Perhaps both. I mentioned a while ago how I was contemplating a character changing sides. S/he has. It’s amazing how many repercussions this has, how it makes everything fit into place, and, something I never expected, how it allows redemption for a character I always had a problem with seeing as pure evil. It even makes other decisions—such as limiting even further the Aidenites’ paranormal abilities, adding a diplomatic/political pov—make sense. Cords of Orion will still be a tragedy, but now it has scope. This makes me happy. I still have a lot of sub-creating and outlining to do, but Orion is still alive, and that is very good indeed.

Whiter than Snow, a novela set slightly before Orion, has been developing, too. I made a playlist for it a year ago and it’s one of my favorites: a blend of folk hymns and social justice. I’ve been toying with the idea of loosely structuring it like a saint’s life, and more recently, of adding an element of the white man’s burden.

All my work on Arthurian legends this term, and especially reading for this essay on Gawain, has got my brain turning for this year’s NaNoWriMo. In 2008 I started a novel based on Sir Orfeo and Sleeping Beauty, but it tanked half-way through NaNo and I switched over to To Govern the Night instead. Now I have a better idea of what went wrong and how to fix it, as well as have all the material I’d need to plan the novel properly in September/October. Here’s hoping my second shot at Orpheus-meets-Sleeping Beauty in Celtic Britain works better than the first.

But in the meantime, I’m working on essays, and alternating months with Kelly on our story Bede. We’re past the half-way point now which is really cool. Even if we don’t have a real title yet. And I’ve still got “Masterpiece” in the works. My creative writing process is insanely slow, but I hope the end results show that it wasn’t time wasted.

In Retrospect

More often than not, I complain silently to myself about having a suppressed immune system. It usually happens when I go into one of the shared environments of the dorm (it’s a fact, the kitchen on my floor is the most disgusting) or have tea with someone I find to be sick. And I’ve done it all week. The antibiotics are working, and my thoughts are clearer, though I am still rather fatigued. But I realized the other day that it’s been almost three years since I was diagnosed with RA. I remember all the leaflets, information packs, etc. that my doctors gave me at the time, and they all said that left untreated, RA could completely cripple me “within three years.” So as much as I dislike my treatment, the injections and having a weakened immune system, I’m still able to walk. I can open jars on most days, and on bad days I have something else for breakfast. No, I’m not able to be as active as I’d like, but I’m well. And that’s a good thing.

Orion’s been resurfacing in my thoughts more frequently the past couple of weeks. It’s evolving. Something huge just changed, someone who I thought was on one side of the war just changed sides, causing a ripple effect that is restructuring how I approach the novel. Changes like this make me nervous, but also, I think, will make the story stronger. As I told Laura, I’m just waiting for the bolt of lightning to strike the pool—that flash of inspiration—that something living might crawl out of it. I wonder if any of my faithful readers will recognize it, once it does.

Music Post: TGN

I’ve figured out how to zip files and upload them, so now I can share playlists. 🙂 Here’s perhaps my most successful playlist (even Kali likes most of the songs), “To Govern the Night.” It was my NaNoWriMo ’07 inspiration mix. It’s still my favorite; even if technically that book doesn’t quite exist in that form anymore, it still captures the atmosphere of the Alliance/Elite war.

Click to Download: To Govern the Night

Continue reading

So many words…

Went to Dylan’s thesis presentation tonight on Sayyid Qutb. Fascinating and excellent and has incited a desire to do further research into this subject. Spurred thoughts about the Ramirans in Orion… wanting to base the political climate off of Egypt in the mid-1900s, also play around with Pakistani folklore–problem: requires research! Not a problem except that there are already so many books I want to read before I add Milestones, books about Pakistan, and yet more of Oxford University Press’s “Very Short Introductions” (of which I already want to read at least 20 titles…).

This summer is the best opportunity for me to write because I will have time to do so; the next one-to-three years I’ll be back in school, which will monopolize my reading and writing to be on academic subjects. But, how do I balance research with the actual writing? And on top of this, I often can’t read fiction books and write creatively at the same time; I can only exist in one world at a time, so to speak. I have a list at least 40 books long that I want read by September. …I also went to the microbiology lab with Kali this evening, which made me want to review my science textbooks this summer as well. And, math… geometry, calculus? Ah, me!

How fortunate am I that my greatest dilemma is that I have too many books to read! I just want to know everything…