Updates from NaNoLand

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Okay, no, but seriously.

It’s National Novel Writing Month again, that time when novelists and novelist hopefuls set out to write 50,000 new words in one month. This year, I’m a NaNo Rebel (as defined by the NaNo show-runners) because I’m working on an existing project that already had ~30k words on November 1st. This works out well, because it needs about 40k more in order to be finished…not the full 50k, so I can give myself a few days off without failing, but still a pretty serious number that means I need to buckle down.

So far, NaNo is going more or less as usual for me. Week one was full of thrilling, overachieving, victorious days. Week two is a disaster in which I came down with the plague (read: severe cold) and dyed my hair a color about which I have mixed feelings. Still aiming for 1,667 words per day. Yesterday I only got 1000, but otherwise I’m on track.

Not gonna lie to those eyeballing NaNo and thinking of giving it a shot; it’s hard. By week two, your brain turns into a sort of husk. By week three, everything else in life has lost all meaning. At the end of the month, you’ve forgotten how to be a normal person entirely.

But hey. 50,000 new words.

See you on the other side.

Long Absence, Few Words

First off, it’s nice that I can post any old thing on this blog and y’all read it anyway. You might be here for the politics, or the writing, or the queerness, or the book recs, but you seem to keep reading regardless of my dumping uncategorized content in here. I love you, too.

In the personal sphere: Went back to Vermont last week. Met friends from ages ago as their more fully-cooked adult selves, which was nice. Climbed a very small mountain. Got tattooed.

In books: Still working on two writes and one edit. Planning to cheat at NaNoWriMo by working on an existing project, but I should be able to polish off one of those two books in writing by the end of that month. Life has been more action than fiction this year, but I did more good that way. Still trying to balance both.

In political junk: I have signed up for too many things. Informal collection of friends writing letters to government has been dubbed Activist Scouts. DSA has so many opportunities to do good work in the community, on and off my feet, that I accidentally signed up for more work than I have waking hours, but there’s lots of people to do the work, so I’m working on scaling back. Still marching. Still painting signs. Still teaching.

In health news: Well…I mean, what do you want to know? Right now I’m laid up because I took too many stairs to get to the 4 train and my knee (not my hips for once!) gave up. Heart meds seem to be helping, so with any luck, it will be a while before that part of me ‘splodes. Still working on my vitamin intake. Meds are now a nice coordinated pastel collection, so it looks like I swallow an Easter egg every day. Weight is good. Feeling as good as can be expected. 7 Day Forecast: Happy with a high chance of aches.

If I missed the category you signed up to this blog for (what else do I do? DIY projects? Feminist rants?) feel free to put in requests in the comments section. More Ask An Apocalypse Author blogs are coming soon.

Apocalypse Food

(This post is part of the Ask an Apocalypse Author series. Credentials are at the end of the post. If you have suggested topics, please leave them in the comments.)

Let me say this right off the bat: I’m not going to teach you how to feed yourself long-term in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. If that’s what you’re looking for, you should know that it starts with moving to a forested northern state and buying a minimum of ten chickens and a mating pair of goats. Also, if you’re going to grow romaine as a food staple, know that it’s a water hog, so you’d better have clean, frequent rain.

*ahem*

Right. I wasn’t going to talk about long-term food.

What I will talk about is preparing your home for short-term emergency, like a natural disaster, extended power outage, or general disruption in your ability to acquire groceries.

A few things you need to consider when choosing food

  • Does it take clean water to prepare?
  • Does it need to be cooked?
  • Does it require refrigeration?
  • How long will it last on the shelf?
  • Can everybody eat it? (My likely apocalypse crew includes a Celiac, two peanut allergies, and one dairy allergy. I try to think of that when stocking up.)

Refrigeration is a non-starter. You can’t count on having it. Anything that has to be refrigerated is out. If you have life-saving medications that require refrigeration, you should always keep several ice packs in your freezer so that you can throw them in a cooler with your meds if the power goes out.

Food that needs fresh, clean water to be edible (rice, potato flakes, pasta, etc.) isn’t necessarily a bad choice, but it shouldn’t make up all of your stash, and it’s a good idea to keep a few gallons of bottled water in a closet for cooking as well as drinking. You will need more water than you think.

Heat is a manageable problem as well. Throw a few cans of Sterno in with the bottled water, and you’re set for a while. In an emergency, though, anyone with a lighter and some common sense can rig up a stove. Two cinder blocks, a newspaper, a busted-up end table and a frying pan will do in a pinch. If at all possible, cook outdoors. If not, do what you can for ventilation.

So, what do you keep in the pantry?

Canned goods are your friend here. Canned soups, meats, fruits, veggies, and so on will last for a long time, they don’t need outside water or ever heat to be edible, and you have a variety of options.

For dry goods, some are better than others. Cereals are great, but may not have the shelf life of a can of tuna. Rice, pasta, and plain potato flakes all last for a long time, but they need water. Jerky is good, but can be a lot of salt. Same goes for peanuts, almonds, etc.. Dried fruit isn’t a terrible idea, either, but again, the shelf life isn’t ideal.

Jellies, jams, preserves, and similar are all great. Just make sure you don’t make grape jelly your only emergency food. One can not live on sugar and gelatin alone.

If you want to do a little cheap preparation for the possible long term, it wouldn’t kill you to keep multivitamins and even more large bottles of water around. The water is most important. You won’t realize how much you use until it suddenly isn’t coming out of the faucet.

Putting it into practice

The best practice is to stock up on food you would eat anyway and cycle through it, so that nothing has a chance to expire but you always have quite a bit extra. Order canned stuff in bulk, and when it’s half gone, order replacements. Keep an extra few boxes of your favorite cereal. Being prepared for a short-term emergency isn’t hard, it just means developing good habits.

Prepper websites (and Amazon, if it gets a whiff of you shopping for the apocalypse) will try and sell you five gallon buckets of dehydrated eggs and meal kits that last for twenty years. Unless you have a fallout shelter on your property, this probably isn’t practical. Try to imagine what even a year of meals looks like. But what you can do is have supplies in place so that you don’t have to worry for a while if your grocery store gets washed out by a flood or the power goes out for a few days.

Don’t forget your non-food staples

If you want to take the next step and make preparations for your comfort, here are my top tips: wet wipes, dry shampoo, and an empty five-gallon bucket with a lid and a bag of cat litter. You’ll figure out what those last two are for if the water goes out and the toilet stops working.

***

The author of these posts in a writer of apocalyptic fiction as well as an experienced woodswoman and avid researcher. She learned to gut fish at age 8, received her orange card (hunter safety cert.) at age 11, and her first compound bow at age 12.

She has worked in state parks and on trailblazing jobs for the conservation corps, as well as in hardware stores and on a landscape maintenance crew (in sub-zero temperatures). She can back a Kubota with a five-foot plow and a six-foot trailer of rock salt into a seven-foot garage bay. On ice.

 

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What Is Antifa? Suddenly Everyone Is Asking.

WHAT IS ANTIFA:

A HANDY GUIDE FOR THOSE

TRYING TO FIGURE IT OUT FROM CONTEXT

AND FAILING MISERABLY

 

Antifa (Antifascist Action): With roots dating back to Europe in the 1930s, antifascist action groups and individuals appear as a reaction to fascism (the definition of which has varied, but can be safely said to currently include the so-called “alt-right,” white nationalists, white supremacists, etc.) and serve as a sort of social immune system. Antifa is not new. In a variety of subcultures, Antifa folks has been fending off racist skinheads and neo-nazis in the United States since at least the 1980s.

The only requirement for Antifa is to actively oppose fascism. Sometimes, this does mean masking up, arming up, and engaging in physical confrontation. Sometimes it means taking down posters, stickers, or graffiti by neo-nazis. Sometimes it means calling on venues to cancel white supremacist bands in order to refuse nazis a platform. There are many types of action.

Not everyone involved in antifascist action wears a mask, and not everyone wearing a mask is Antifa. Some small groups organize as Black Bloc, wearing all black and masks or bandanas, often to offer protection to other protesters when aggressors are likely to be present. Antifa encompasses a wide range of political beliefs, including anarchists, communists, socialists, and increasingly, people who subscribe to none of these but see the need for action. The only constants for Antifa are these: Oppose fascism, and do something about it.

What Is A Bug Out Bag?

(This post will become part of the Ask an Apocalypse Author series. Credentials are at the end of the post. If you have suggested topics, please leave them in the comments.)

A bug-out bag, or BOB, is a good for anyone to keep around, especially those who live with the strong possibility of natural disaster. The point of a BOB is that in case of emergency, you will just be able to grab your everyday bag and your BOB and go.

Here’s basically what a BOB should contain:

  • Non-perishable snacks (nuts, jerky, hard granola bars)
  • Water bottles
  • A basic first aid kit (including medications you and your family need)
  • Hygiene kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, wet wipes, soap, tampons etc. if needed)
  • Dust masks
  • Space blankets
  • Hand warmers
  • Flashlight (hand-crank or with batteries stored separately)
  • Extra socks and underwear
  • Work gloves
  • Lighter
  • Full-tang camping knife
  • Solar or crank-powered AM/FM radio
  • A small sewing kit (needles, thread, safety pins)
  • Playing cards
  • Notebook, pencils, and sharpener
  • Duct tape
  • Copies of important documents (Birth certificates, insurance, etc.)
  • At least $20 in cash

You can customize as you see fit, but remember that you’re going to have to carry it and you might need to locate something in the kit quickly, so don’t pack for a two-week vacation.

The bag you use to hold it all is up to you, but a water-resistant backpack is generally a good idea. Nothing with a short handle. Rolling luggage isn’t going to work out for you either.

For more guidance, check out this guide from FEMA.

***

The author of these posts in a writer of apocalyptic fiction as well as an experienced woodswoman and avid researcher. She learned to gut fish at age 8, received her orange card (hunter safety cert.) at age 11, and her first compound bow at age 12.

She has worked in state parks and on trailblazing jobs for the conservation corps, as well as in hardware stores and on a landscape maintenance crew (in sub-zero temperatures). She can back a Kubota with a five-foot plow and a six-foot trailer of rock salt into a seven-foot garage bay. On ice.

 

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Resistance Donor Guide

In these times of actively clashing ideals, many people have started donating to organizations that support and defend their values. And some have realized that they don’t fully agree with their initial choice of organizations, but don’t know where else to throw their $10 a month. (This may be especially true of Millennials…we have great intentions, but few of us are card-carrying members of anything.)

So this post is meant to serve as a master list of organizations I think people may be interested in and wish to donate to, but don’t yet know about or haven’t considered. Not all of them will be for everyone, but the goal here is to provide information and choices. This list will be updated as I vet new suggestions or receive new information.

 

Legal and Political Action

https://www.lambdalegal.org/

http://www.naacpldf.org/

https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/

https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/

https://americanimmigrationcouncil.org/

https://www.splcenter.org/

http://nowpac.org/

 

Service Providers

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

https://www.translifeline.org/

http://collegefund.org/

https://uncf.org/

http://www.thehotline.org/

https://abortionfunds.org/

http://www.mystuffbags.org/

https://www.shoesthatfit.org/

 

Other

https://www.charitynavigator.org/

(Charity Navigator evaluates charities based on how financially effective and transparent they are.)

In Case of Fire, Don’t Be Shy

Let me tell you a story.

I used to work as a dog-walker/cat-sitter/chicken-feeder/iguana-nurse. (I signed up for the dog-walking part, and the rest just happened.)

One day, I was walking one of my favorite dogs, Oliver, and saw smoke coming up out of the ground. It had been unusually hot and dry, and the mulch around a tree was slow-burning underground. For a minute, I blanked, patting my pockets like I might have casually put a fire extinguisher in them that morning. No one else was around. The smoke cloud was getting bigger.

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The burn patches were getting bigger when I took this, and smoke was coming out of the ground for 10 square yards.

Now, I’m not shy with my friends, but I do have some stranger anxiety. I hate knocking on doors, making phone calls, that sort of thing. I especially hate intruding on people in their own natural habitat. But no garden hose immediately presented itself, and by the time a fire truck got there, I was worried that the mulch fire would spread and start destroying property in earnest.

So I ran up and down the block knocking on doors until someone answered and brought out some water.

 

This isn’t a story with some new moral. It’s just a point of demonstration, because when we see other people react a certain way, we’re more likely to do the same in the future. Peer pressure is powerful.

If you see a fire, find a way to put it out. If you see a hate group poster, tear it down. If a public space is covered in broken glass and is dangerous, go get a broom and a paper bag. If you see someone being abusive, start recording them, yell, get help. Do the thing that needs doing. People are basically okay and they’ll back you.

 

Seems like a thing we need reminding of sometimes.

Self-Promotion for Indie Authors: Spam Not Included

So, you wrote a book and it’s out in the world now. You don’t have a Big 5 powerhouse shelling out thousands of dollars to market it, and so, in addition to your classy Author hat, you must wear many others; the ink-stained chapeau of the publisher, the bedazzled manic pixie dream bowler of the public personality, and finally, the logo-emblazoned baseball cap of the promoter.

Shoving your own work in front of people’s faces is hard.

I am no marketing professional, but I have some tips from experience, both as a book promoter and a consumer. Here they are.

  1. Sign Up For Everything. Ideally, you want to exist on Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, Bookbub, and anything else you can think of ALL WITH THE SAME USERNAME. Try to check them every day and cross-promote them occasionally. Of course, you also need a website and ideally a blog, which you should post on once a week or so. (Do as I say, not as I do, damn it.)
  2. Connect With People Who Want Your Book. Sorry, but having 50k Twitter followers doesn’t help you if they’re all promotion accounts that only followed you back to up their own follower count. No human on the other end will ever even look at your tweets. You won’t sell books that way; you’ll just look less reputable to anyone who investigates your profile out of genuine interest. Instead, go out and find real people who might be genuinely interested in you. Look for people who like your genre, your personal interests, etc.. Make some new friends.
  3. Spend Your Ad Money Wisely. Some online ads are just a waste. Facebook, for example, doesn’t seem to sell books. Twitter might get a few hits. Goodreads ads are cheaper than dirt, so they might be a good investment if you’re just spending an exploratory $20. Most services that offer “book promotions to thousands of viewers!” are exactly the kind of advertising ouroboros that will do you no good. Bookbub, on the other hand, does actually have a large audience, but it’s not cheap. Ask around to see what various platforms have been like for other authors in your genre.
  4. Nobody Wants Your Spam. You have to advertise, but you don’t have to be obnoxious. Don’t #hashtag #everything #you #do, because while people might check the #SciFi hashtag and see your book (good), nobody checks the #book or #freebook tags. I can prove it; go look at those hashtags on Twitter under the Latest tab. No likes. No comments. Just spam into the void. Likewise, nobody ever sees “#Free #mustread #musthave #western #amreading #amwriting (insert sale link here)” and says to themselves, “Hm, this seems reputable and interesting, I think I’ll buy it.” As a final note, post more than just book links. People lose interest if all you do in advertise to them. I personally set a max of one link, per book, per day, per platform. Don’t forget to tell them what your book is about.
  5. Create Merch And Freebies That People Will Actually Want. Business cards are good, and you should have them, but they are not merch. Even if they’re shaped like a bookmark. You want stuff that people will wear, use, and keep around. Unless you are a band or a beer, nobody wants to wear your name on their shirt or carry it around on their keychain. Cute character art, beautiful cover art, funny quotes, or reading-themed items are much more likely to appeal and persist. See the squeezable hippos for Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth, the straight-from-the-books stuff from the Discworld Emporium, or even my own “I See Faeries” buttons. Relevant, memorable, and fun, without making anyone feel like a walking billboard. Good times.

I hope this helps, for those of you trying to get the word out about your books without falling into egomaniacal spammer promotional hell. If you have any additional tips, please leave them in the comments.

Freedom for Women: A List Of Ideas

In middle school, my friend told me I should cut my hair short. “Short hair is nice,” he said. “You won’t have to, y’know. Deal with it all the time.”

He had a point. My hair is a beast all its own, with curls and bulk and a general Joey-Ramone-ish thing going on, and I did spend a lot of time dealing with it. And yet, I hesitated for years, because I already felt insufficiently cute and to cut my hair was to risk *gasp* looking like a boy. I couldn’t put my finger on why that was a bad thing. It was just a law of the universe in which I lived.

I did eventually cut my hair. To the shoulders, to a bob, and finally to a severe A-line where the back of my head is buzzed. And each time I cut it, I felt incrementally better about living in my body.

Making decisions that counter generations of gender expectations can be hard. So just in case you need a little help, you have my permission to do any of the things listed below and enjoy the results. If anyone tells you that you can’t, throw them in a dumpster.

  1.  CUT YOUR HAIR. Short hair is freedom. Shorter showers, faster drying time, less assorted goop required to keep it in check, more freedom to experiment with color knowing it can be grown back out in less than five years. A strong wind will hold no terrors for you. It will never get tangled in your jewelry or clog your shower drain. It’s difficult to emphasis how many little differences it will make, but they all add up to freeing up time and effort. Plus, short hair is cute as hell.
  2. BUY THINGS “FOR MEN.” Have cargo pants with real pockets. Buy a shirt for under $20 that doesn’t require three additional layers to go out in public. Get the razors that are cheaper and ignore gendered color-coding. Own a real tool kit that doesn’t have flowers on it. Most of the stuff marketed to women is poor quality because convincing you that you can buy gender conformity is good for business.  Don’t let them get away with that foolishness.
  3. EXPLORE YOUR REPRO HEALTH OPTIONS. Have you tried an IUD or an implant? How about a menstrual cup? Lots of people never try these things because it’s “rude” to talk about them and word doesn’t get around. This is getting better. After getting my IUD placed, I had a very loud (RUDE!) conversation about it on a train with a friend who had had hers for a few years. Still, look up the options. We need to spread information about these things that affect our lives every damn day. (P.S. If you bleed through, hydrogen peroxide can help remove blood from clothes, sheets, etc.. The more you know.🌈)
  4. STOP HURTING YOURSELF. The idea that “pain is beauty” might apply to tattoos, but otherwise, it’s just a really silly saying used to make you feel tough when you suffer in the name of gender conformity. You don’t have to do that. No, seriously. Shoes shouldn’t hurt. Breathing shouldn’t be difficult. If you put a dude through these pains, he’d go to the ER. You don’t have to do this to yourself.
  5. LIKE WHAT YOU LIKE. Trying to match up your preferences to match or avoid gendered expectations is a cause of psychic pain all its own. Don’t bother. It won’t make you happy. What will make you happy is listening to the music, watching the movies, and participating in the activities that you actually enjoy. If some clown wants to belittle you for loving musicals or grill you on your love of comics, once again I say to hell with him. Your time on earth is limited and its purpose is not to please every small-minded misogynist. Go. Be free. Find your thing and do it.

 

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If You Can Do More

I have been running myself ragged trying to be an activist. It doesn’t take much for me to be exhausted. I’m always sick, always tired, always about to keel over.

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Die-In for Health Care

If you are not these things, do me a personal favor and step up.

I know that able-bodied people have issues, too, but I see a lot of people working well below their potential while I’m injuring myself trying to show up for protests. So I’m asking you to run down this list and see what you can do. I can’t keep hurting myself trying to show up because not enough other people could be bothered. Maybe you can help.

-Register to vote.

-Then VOTE in every election (not just presidential ones). Mark them on your calendar.

-Call, write, send postcards. Online petitions aren’t helpful. They’re just mailing list farms.

-Educate your friends on issues like health care, voting rights, and economics on social media. Make sure your sources are reputable.

-Show up for as many local protests as possible. If you feel like you never know when they’re happening, get connected to some local organizers and look for upcoming events on Facebook or Meetup.

***

Also, a note on the argument that voting only encourages them:

Much as I hate to go against George Carlin on this, here’s how it really works: Voting for the ‘lesser of two evils” moves the Overton Window. If moderate left people keep getting elected, moderate left becomes the new center, making room for far left in the field. If you doubt this, you should note that this has already happened in the opposite direction, which is why the American Left now correlates to the rest of the world’s Centerist.

Yes, voting for a candidate who’s close but not ideal only encourages them. But not voting at all only encourages the opposition.

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