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.


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.



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.



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.

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.

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.

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.


I Forgot How Books Work

While struggling to keep laying down words in both Pharos and Epitaph for Everything Else, I realized I had a problem. I’d forgotten how books work.


The creeping vines of Netflix binges, Twitter rants, news cycles, and medical concerns had completely locked down my mental processes. My attention span suffered. My scope narrowed. My brain was out of shape.

The other night, I rebelled. Picked up a physical book that had been holding down a shelf for far too long (the excellent Updraft by Fran Wilde) and turned off all my screens. Sat down to read. And remembered how books work.

Now, I’ve never been much of a plotter. When I start a book, it’s usually a “what if” that then spirals out of control (and people seem to like that). My outlines look something like this:

  • What if there were decopunk pirates living in an alternate reality where 1920’s New York City was mostly water, like Venice
  • There are now decopunk pirates and their names are Dorothy and Edna
  • (Then some stuff happens)
  • And in the end, they blow up the secret speakeasy in the sealed underwater levels of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

Until recently, this process worked great for me. What I had lost was my ability to fill in the middle…because I forgot how stories are supposed to be put together. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dusting off the old Hero’s Journey steps (never really worked for me), but I’m getting back to reading more books and remembering how it’s done.

I have no great tying-together line for this blog post, so I’ll leave you with this cat.



A Grief And A Gift

I recently took a trip back to Vermont for my Grandfather’s memorial service. He was a good man. I miss him. He taught me to fish and to be patient; I still try to use one of those things every day.

While I was there, I saw my cousin for the first time in a long time. And she saw me, trying to push through the day. She contacted me online after I got home to pass on some medical information in case it was helpful…she’s been going through all the same things. Pain, mystery symptoms, long pursuit of diagnosis. She’s a few years older than me, and she’s been living with it a little longer. She finally got her real diagnosis, though. EDS. Ehlers-Danlos. It’s genetic.

So now, I get to go back to my rheumatologist and yell. My official diagnosis has been “fibromyalgia, hypermobility, heart valve dysfunction, B12 deficiency, POTS, etc., etc., etc.,” and doctors telling me that it wasn’t all connected. All of these things are symptoms of EDS, which the rheumatologist said I “probably didn’t have, it’s so rare.” Now that I have an established family history, I have more confidence to self-advocate. And yell. And replace doctors, if necessary.

My reaction to all this? Hell if I can put it into words. There has been a lot of crying and some laughing at the absurdity. It does change my treatment plan going forward, but my doctors can either get on board or get out of my way. As long as I keep my heart function monitored, it’s not likely to kill me anytime soon.

This will hopefully be my last medical blog for a while. I have some closure; Knowing why my body is falling apart means that I can move on to living my life to the best of my somewhat disjointed ability.

See you next time.

New Book Goodies

There are now a few varieties of merchandise available through Zazzle with designs from currently published books. For right now, it’s a basic selection, but there are plans for more in the future. If you have any input on what you’d like to see, let me know in the comments.

Click on these words to see the store, or on any of the pictures below.




Banging Your Head On Your Desk, And Other Solutions

I’m stuck! Wheee!




Okay, but seriously. I’ve got two books on the burner, and I can’t seem to get a fire going under either of them. It happens. You’re chugging along, knocking out a few hundred words a day, and then your country elects a belligerent news-cycle nightmare and suddenly there’s no brainspace left for writing because it feels like the room is on fire. (It’s not just me, is it?)

I’m still laying down a few hundred words a week. Epitaph For Everything Else is finally over 25k long. Pharos has got 18.6k and keeps getting sticky notes added to the idea wall. But I can’t seem to get a good workflow going.

The first-order advice I usually see to fix this is to sit down at your desk at exactly (x) o’clock every day and stay there until (y) whether writing gets done or not. The idea, I think, is that you will get so bored that you’ll do something useful. This would be great advice if my life were not a circus of doctor appointments, sleep-inducing meds, physical therapy, yelling at my government to not get me killed, and trying to maintain a bare minimum of normalcy. I’ve tried the “Butt In Chair, Same Time Every Day” advice several times. And I’ll try it again. But my success rate isn’t good.

What’s next? I’m not sure. A vacation from my life would be helpful, but wherever I go, there too goes my stupid needy body. Cutting down on distractions is good, but selling books means being present on social media, so there’s only so much of that I can withdraw from. I suppose I could cancel my Netflix. If I’m still too tired and achy to write, though, it won’t do much good. I’ll just spend more time in bed reading instead of watching.

If I come up with some magical new mind-diet that works, I’ll keep you posted.


P.S. I kind of hate that I just used the word “diet.”

P.P.S. Riots not diets.