Google+ The Bluestocking Firefly: May 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011


Why is it that whenever you have, you know, things to actually DO, the world conspires to tell you that no, no, you shan't be doing anything whatsoever? Dragging myself out of bed the last three mornings has felt like far more effort than its been worth. Because after all that dratted effort of actually getting out of bed, I really haven't anything to show for it.

Okay, that's not entirely true. On Saturday I wrote two blog posts, a flash fiction, and about 350 words on a short story.* But yesterday I didn't do anything useful at all. Arg.

The especially annoying thing is that the last three days haven't even been bad days, relatively speaking. I can still function, and anyone who knows me knows that on bad days actually retaining coherent thought is bloody well impossible. So functioning is still on the table. It's sliding a little, but then the table might be a little off-kilter.** It's just I think, 'Hmm, right, should do something', and then vaguely head in the direction of whatever it was, and half an hour later find myself sitting at my computer or standing in the middle of the kitchen thinking, 'Hang on, what am I doing here? I'm sure I was doing something...'

Bah humbug.

I think it's one of the things I like least about living alone. At least when you live with someone else (even if it's just a cat) you get someone else reminding you every so often that you were meant to actually be DOING something other than standing there with a blank look on your face. And when you're living alone and your mind starts to go all floaty and subsequently start to dribble out your ears (quick! earplugs! stop it before it all escapes!), it's a little harder to remind yourself when your brain's already gone...

But never mind. At least when my brain's mush I can still have ideas. Woohoo!

In other news, it is ridiculously windy in Scotland at the moment, and apparently we're due to receive ash from the erupting volcano in Iceland with the unpronounceable name*** by tomorrow morning if the winds do what people are predicting. And it's raining. But rain is good. I like rain. Rain reminds me of home. And rain makes things grow. So I don't mind the rain. Although I hope it's not raining in Stratford later this week.

Aaaaand that's all, folks. Think I'll go back and tackle that flash now. Yippee-ki-yay.

*I hate writing short stories. My mind doesn't think in terms of short stories. Gah.

**Should probably get a man in to look at that. Or just stick some paper under the wonky leg. Never mind.

***Also unspellable. I'd have to go look it up, and quite frankly I'm far too lazy for that.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


So I'm sitting here with a cup of tea in a Blackwell's cup and thinking, 'Gosh, could I get any more student-y?'

Probably. I think I'd need some warmed-up left-over curry or a takeaway fish and chips and a case of exam stress. I have none of those things. Just tea.

But that's okay, because really, all you need to be British is tea.*

Tea is this curious British thing that doesn't really seem to have caught on in America. I recently asked an American friend what she would like for her graduation present, and she asked for real tea. So I shall be going on a tea-hunt in an effort to find her some nice tea for graduation. I'm certain that tea is obtainable from the States (in fact, I know it is. There are some lovely tea shops, in fact), but dammit, this will be British tea.** But yes. Tea. It's the British cure-all:

'Mum! Bloody Oxford didn't accept me!'
'Here, have a cuppa, you'll feel much better.'

'Oh, lovey, you've lost your job? Sit on down and have some tea, that's the ticket.'

'What? Your auntie just died? You poor dear! Let me just put the kettle on...'

Am fairly positive that if the Apocalypse really did arrive (ooh, that's meant to be today, right? HAH), the British would calmly wander into their kitchens and set the water a-boiling. Imagine greeting the end of the world without being fortified by a strong cup of tea!

'Good heavens, will you look at that? The world's getting all ripped to shreds! ...oh, there goes the kettle, and here I am almost out of milk. Do you take sugar?'

I can just imagine it.

To be fair, I've been living in this country long enough I've become one of THEM. I start the day with my cuppa, and if the END IS NIGH (bahahaha. Right.), then I will settle back and raise my cup of tea to it.***

America, get on the bandwagon. Coffee's so last century. You've got a lot of tea to brew if you want to be prepared for the next apocalypse (since, uh, judging from the time, I think this one's passed us by...oops. Better luck next time, folks).****

TTFN, ladies and gents. Back to being student-y for me.

*This is a massive over-generalisation and ignores important things like: The Queen. A pint at the local pub. Football. Fish and chips. Marks & Sparks. Etc.

**This is one of my favourite people, so finding her properly British tea is not an issue at ALL. It's just supremely ironic that I don't actually know where to find properly British tea in this town...but if I were home I'd know exactly where to look. Gah.

***Coconut chai tea, to be exact. Tea of the gods. Ahhhhh smells so good. I open my cabinet and the smell just washes out. Yuuuuuum.

****Disclaimer: Tea is fantastic. Britain is great. America is also great. I think this apocalypse thing is ridiculous. Whee. I need more tea, pronto (probably a bad idea. I think I'm already too highly caffeinated. Oops).

Robin McKinley and ME

Robin McKinley has been one of my favourite authors for, ye gods, I don't know, a tortoise's age. (And tortoises live for a LONG time, so you know that's significant.)

I recently discovered that Robin McKinley has ME, and my mind just about exploded. (Well, not really. Maybe with stardust and glitter and blunt-ended sentence fragments, but an actual explosion would be really gooey and would make an awful mess. Ew.)

Because, see, the thing is - I have ME. I was diagnosed with ME when I was eight, and there were a couple of seriously sucky years in elementary school when I was more or less stuck on the couch with a cat trapped under the blanket with me (don't look at me like that, I gave her air, she liked it under that. She loved me) with my mind a great big blank half the time. And since then it's been one long uphill road, and so much of it has felt like I'm treading it alone, because it's so rare I actually find other people who have ME.

The awareness factor's got better over the years; it's gone from people looking at you like, 'I'm sorry, tell me again why you're tired all the time?' and feeling like you're making up excuses for an imaginary disease (seriously. There's this whole guilt factor involved where you know you're ill, you have a perfectly legitimate reason not to go to things or to crawl into your bed and want to DIE, but actually having to tell people this makes you feel like you're just trying to get out of things because you're an awful person and can't commit. I'd say it's one of my least favourite parts of the wonderfulness that's ME, but there's so many things that that wouldn't even be fair.) to people not only having heard of ME but also knowing someone else in their lives who has it. (I've just looked at that sentence and I cringe at how bad of a run-on it is. Ew. I am not even going to fix it. Hah. Take that, neurotic writer-person. Call it intentional and call it good.)

So yes, the increased awareness, that's nice. But I think I can count the number of people I've actually met who HAVE ME on one hand.

Uh. Yeah. That would be two of them.

I met the second this past Christmas, and she was the first person I have ever met who has had ME their entire life. And I think it was the first time that I suddenly felt less alone, because while I've been lucky most of my life and had super fantastic friends and family who are really understanding and really supportive, it can be really hard trying to move through life when so much of the time you want to collapse into a puddle of goo (the colour varies depending on the day) or when getting out of bed in the morning is so often a struggle because dredging up the energy is just not happening or when trying to explain to people that no, exhaustion and insomnia are NOT mutually exclusive, thank you very much. Talking to someone else who has also spent the majority of their life doing the exact same thing was this bizarre, amazing, wonderful experience, because for the first time in my life I wasn't trying to translate. We were already speaking the same language, communicated through the same experience.

Going back to the beginning of this post - I don't know Robin McKinley. Obviously. I'd love to, though, simply because of commonality. She's a writer. I'm an aspiring writer. (That's a weak one. She probably has a million aspiring writers flocking to her door at any given day. I'm surprised she hasn't disappeared into the woods and taken up residence in a cottage covered with roses with VERY long thorns, and set her hellhounds to attack anything that comes within a hundred yards.) More specifically, writers with an interest in fairy tale. To be perfectly honest, I couldn't say for sure if my interest in rewriting fairy tale predates my interest in Robin McKinley's work or if it postdates it. I do know that Rose Daughter significantly influenced my novel Ember. Regardless, her writing had a huge impact on my life - I think I read The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown when I was still in elementary school, soaking up everything I came into contact with in those years I was stuck on the couch with the ME and couldn't do anything but read. In any case, we're both Americans, living in Britain. And we both have ME.

When it comes to authors, I don't really care much about wanting to meet them, or feeling like I have a 'connection' with them - generally I like their work, or I don't; it might influence me, or it might not. Writers are people like anyone else. (Shh. Don't tell anyone. They like to keep up that cloak o' mystery.) It's just a funny thing to find out someone whose writing you've loved for years has the same illness as you. And what strikes me more than anything, I think, is that when, in her blog, she goes 'raaaaarg ME', I have to laugh, because she usually sums up my feelings exactly.

I don't usually write about ME. It's that little dark spot that lurks at the back of my mind (eeeeevil soot that won't wipe away, and if you try, it just smudges and then gets all over everything). I've never been able to decide if I was lucky or not that I got hit early in life. On the one hand, I missed out on a lot of childhood, and god knows I have my issues. But we all have issues, and comparatively speaking I think mine tend to be relatively minor (well, you know. At least the voices in my head are generally sane ones...and they end up on paper. In plots. With names. And they're not telling me to kill people or jump off cliffs. They're just writing voices. That's good, right?). This is compared to people who get hit after they've already lived half their lives, and have to deal with figuring out how to live their life in an entirely new way, on top of dealing with a whole new set of emotional problems that comes with that new lifestyle. I think I may come out on top on that one - I've always lived like this.

And I think maybe most importantly, all those years where I couldn't do anything left my mind free to run. I read, and I read, and I read, and then I wrote. And I never stopped writing. When my body tells me, 'I can't do anything today. Don't even think about going out', my fingers will still type. Even when my mind is mush, which are the days I hate the most, little flickers of thought usually still come. I can still read over my writing. No one can ever take my writing away from me. I've had people ask, if I could go back and live my life over without having ME, if I'd do it. It might have been nice. There's loads I could have done. But I wouldn't do it. My whole life is wrapped up in my writing. My whole life is IN my writing. And I might be floppy and my mind might be mush and I might want to crawl into a hole and die, but when I drag myself back out, I'll still be able to write.

Thank GOD.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Katie hunched her shoulders and tucked her hands into her armpits, willing the feeling to return to her fingers. Ahead of her, the field stretched into the gloom, the dry blades of grass whispering against each other in the wind. She could feel Michael's presence behind her, but she didn't have time to think about it; a blast of cold air knocked her sideways, and as she grabbed for the fence to steady herself, a shadow fell across her shoes. She looked up. Alexander stood on the other side of the fence, back lit by the barrier spotlights. Katie resisted the urge to step back and instead rested her elbows on the edge of the fence and leaned forward.

"You're late."

Alexander smoothed his finger across his lower lip before answering. "It's not often one of you actually calls me. Let's just say I was taken by surprise. What do you want?"

Trying to peer through the shadows and gauge the expression on his face was pointless. Katie drew in a short breath and said, "I want to call a truce."

Alexander gave a short bark of laughter. "And what might possibly compel me to agree to that?"

Katie zipped her jacket up to her chin and stuffed her hands into her pockets. "I need my people," she said. "You're picking off too many." She hesitated, and then said, "If you need more bodies, take the fight to Ellen's sect."

"You'd sic me on your best friend?"

Kate looked away. "Not my first choice. But Ellen's weaker. They don't have the resources we do. They'll be easier for you to pick off."

"Maybe I like your company," Alexander said, his hand drifting across the space separating them to brush against her cheek. Katie held still under his touch, and then lifted her eyes to meet his.

"You might have once, but it's been a few years since you've given a shit about me, and we both know it," she said, and pulled away. "Bottom line, Alexander, there's no point in coming after us."

"And why, my beautiful Katharina, is that so?"

Katie smiled. "You won't be able to turn any of us if you try." She had the satisfaction, even in the shadows, of being able to see surprise flicker across his face. "We've developed - something - that will protect us. You won't be able to touch us."

"And Ellen - "

"They don't have anything like our resources or our power. And they don't have Jamie."

Alexander let out a sibilant breath of air. "Ahh. Dear Jamie. I wondered what you had up your sleeve. You must convey my regards."

"He'd like your head on a platter," Katie said pleasantly. "Unless you plan on conveying your regards in that manner, I don't think he'd care to hear from you."

"Charming. Katharina, you'll forgive me if I don't believe you - "

In a moment, Katie found herself crushed hard against the fence, as close as Alexander could hold her to his body without crossing the spell-inscribed barrier between them. This close to him, she could feel what little warmth remained in her body being leeched through her clothes. Behind her, she heard Michael cock his rifle, and gestured for him to hold. She didn't struggle as Alexander bent his head; there was no point, and in any case struggling would only heighten his excitement and increase her blood flow. And for the first time in her life, she wasn't afraid of being held in the grasp of a vampire. She felt Alexander's cool breath against her ear, tickling her skin, and felt the row of teeth settle against her neck. She had more than one semi-circular scar along her neck, and the memory of those teeth breaking her skin haunted her dreams, but Alexander's teeth stopped at her skin and went no further.

"Enjoying yourself yet?"

"There seems to be a slight problem with your neck." Alexander's voice, so close to her ear, was annoyed. "Have you had it reinforced with steel lately?"

Katie could feel the edge of the fence digging into her hipbones, and if she hadn't been cold before, she now felt as though she might start growing icicles from her hair at any moment. "Mind letting me go? Since it doesn't seem you're going to get your free meal anytime soon."

He released her with a hiss and pushed her away with rather more force than necessary, which meant that Katie went stumbling backwards into Michael. Michael steadied her and did a surreptitious check of her neck. Katie batted his hand away.

"Later," she said, and returned to the fence. "Satisfied?" she demanded. "I told you that you wouldn't be able to touch us. You won't be able to turn anyone from my sect, you won't be able to feed from any of us, so there's no point in raiding us." She took a deep breath, and then added, "Go after Ellen. They can't afford what we've done. They'll have no protection, and you know that."

Alexander studied her. "We can still kill you," he offered hopefully.

"But that's no fun at all," Katie said. "Be reasonable, Alexander. If you send in your people after us, we will kill you, and you know we will, and you'll get absolutely nothing out of it."

"So how did you do it?"

"Like I'm going to tell you." Katie held out her hand. "Truce?"

Alexander looked at her distastefully. "I am most displeased with you, Katharina."

"Alexander, you were never pleased with me when you were alive. Nothing's changed now that you're dead." She wiggled her hand in the air. "So? Truce?"

With a frustrated noise, Alexander took her hand. "Truce. For now. Because I will warn you, my Katharina, we will find a way to undo whatever it is that you have done to protect yourselves. And when we do - then you will be mine again." He released her hand, and with another surge of cold air, he was gone.