On the Theme of Everything Costs Something

Words that will never be written about me in the New York Times: Ms. Williams’ debut novel is an astonishing tour de force.

Every once in awhile, someone suggests I pursue an agent and a traditional publishing deal.  There’s part of me that longs for acclaim, that aches for that line in the NYT book review, breathless articles about the fairy godmother tale of my discovery.  Bidibidobidiboo.  (Spell check knows the word, which is a fun surprise.)

But everything costs something.  And fame and fortune are no exception.  Of course, I’d love to sell more books.  I’d be okay with not having to go to work, at least in theory.  I’d be ecstatic if I had the money hanging around to buy a streamlined insert for the gas fireplace.  But I’m okay doing my own gardening (you should see the size of the wild grape roots I ripped out last night.  Like wrestling with a 6-foot black snake with tentacles.)  I’m good with the limits my life gives me.  Okay, so I could have stayed in bed another hour this morning, but isn’t discomfort what gives pleasure meaning?  If I could wake up whenever I wanted, what joy would there be in sleeping in on Sunday?  

(Random curiosity: what does Kim Kardashian dream of?)

My vote for the grand unifying theory of everything is that the Universe demands balance.  Whatever is given to you comes with a cost.  I don’t fly all that high, all things considered.  This month’s excitement was getting a new sink and faucet in the kitchen.  Next month, there will be an overnight train trip with a sleeper car.  But the lows aren’t that low either.  I know who my people are.  I don’t worry that my friends are only there for the access, for the drugs and the swag bags and the view and the piles of cash laying around.  The love in my life comes with expectations: reciprocity, loyalty, consideration, mutual assistance, honesty…  but the expectations aren’t monetary.  No one is walking away from me because I can’t pay their car note.  No one is disappointed because I’m not making it rain.  

Too often the cost of material gain is in the quality of your relationships, and if that’s the choice– love for money–I’m sticking with love.  So the NYT hasn’t noticed me.  I’m not an astonishing tour de force.  I’m a slow writer with an infestation of wild grape and a crazy dog and a family that is both crazy-making and indispensable, and love deep enough to swim in like friggin’ Scrooge McDuck.  I think I can make my peace with that.  

On the Theme of Everything Costs Something

Google Girl

It’s true.  I’m a google girl.  I have a nexus phone, a nexus tablet, and I run a good chunk of my life off of google products.  Today’s fave?  Keep.  Call it searchable post-it notes for your cloud.

Freemind’s limitation is that these large mind maps get unwieldy.  So much of my writing life happens between places.  The big map is great at the computer.  But if I’m on the bus trying to remember the name of the Ministries that comprise The New Republic of America, Freemind isn’t going to do the trick.

Which leads logically to Keep.  On my phone, in my pocket at all times, and there for me.

Honestly.  I love google.  Now, if they would just let you pick your own color scheme for your notes, I’d be a happy camper.

Google Girl

Writing Tools: Freemind

I envy linear people.  It must be so easy to store and catalog information, making retrieval easier.  I am not linear.  I am a cluster.  As I think about plots and people, it is more like a pinball machine than an orderly progression of ifs, thens, and therefores.  Which is fine, but how do you hold on to every cluster of thought for use later when there is nothing linear happening up there?

Freemind.  Mind-mapping software.  It’s free.  Avail yourself immediately, my non-linear friends.

The entire TCR world is mapped out in there.  Willow’s birthday, parents, which of the loose factions she is affiliated with, the history of the New Republic of America…  Ven, Ianthe, their associations and histories.  Plus ongoing themes, ideas I want to explore.  Reference points, continuity hooks, random thoughts.  And no end to the hierarchies, subcategories, or configurations…

I use it for everything.  To help think about personal situations in a somewhat systematic way.  To monitor goals.  Whatever.  It is an infinitely flexible way to think on (virtual) paper.  I would be drowning in snippets and notes without it.  It is the secret to my sanity…  Well, that and a great deal of talking to myself.

Writing Tools: Freemind

Politics and Writing

In my mind, writers are observers first.  You can tell what an author finds fascinating by what they write about.  Claire North wrote The First Fifteen Lives of Henry August.  If I were guessing, I’d say that Ms. North is fascinated by choice, the butterfly effect, and the way our experience of time is so linear as to be stifling.

Me, I’m interested in social interaction; the push and pull of individualism vs. social necessities; the way we think, not just what we think; and what happens when fear takes over a group of people.  There are other things I’m fascinated by, depending on when you ask…  But I write dystopia.  These are the things that I like to observe.

And right now, there is a lot to observe in the American political system.  Maybe the world’s political system too.  Our social structures feel turgid and tense, like something is on the verge of bursting…  it isn’t Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative, socialist or capitalist.  Those are dichotomies and what works is usually indifferent to simple binary categories.

So I’ve been talking a lot of social/economic/political stuff.  I’ll probably keep talking about it.  The questions around how we encounter and experience the world, what role choice plays in our experience, and how we might push forward into a future that allows more opportunity, not for cold hard cash, but for connection and joy…  this is what I write novels about.  This is what I blog about.  This is what I think about on the train going home from work.  Not trying to step on any toes or hurt anyone’s political feelings.  Just trying to come to these questions with curiosity and intellectual integrity.

Politics and Writing


The Camellia Reckoning is about 98% done, in that it is all over save the copy edit and the typesetting.  The cover is done, now it is primarily about planning the book signing.

Which brings me to an invite: if any of you are DC locals and would like to come to the book signing on November 19, email me at a.reid.williams (a) gmail.com and I will get you an official invitation.


excuses, excuses

While you might argue that there is no discernible schedule that I live by, there used to be rhythms.  A time and a place for everything and space between things into which I could fit a blog post.  I upended everything for stability and stability is what I got.  I just didn’t make much allowance in my planning for what all it was going to cost me.

So I’m finding new rhythms.  No, finding is a bit of an overstatement.  I am trying out new rhythms.  New ways of writing, new ways of fitting it all in.  I’m not there yet.  The fantasy I had of this writing room that now belongs to me, the chair exactly where it is right now…  in this fantasy, I wasn’t so determined to make my own food and not rely on the cafeteria and Annie’s southwestern bean burritos.  This stuff takes *time* and I can no longer make up for that time by blogging in the down time.

Incidentally, watching my washing machine is better than watching TV.  LG front-loader with LED lights to expose the inner workings of agitation.  There’s got to be a poem in there somewhere, but I’m struggling to get to the prose.  Gotta leave the poetry alone.

Finding new rhythms.  Carving them out of concrete when required.  I’ll get back on track.  I have the best of intentions…

excuses, excuses


From The Camellia Reckoning, in progress…

“Your best, Simone.”

“Yes, Sir.”  Simone had been expecting the call.  It wasn’t like a break-in at the Infirmary was your every-day occurrence.  Never mind the disappearance of six patients and a dog, if the early reports were to be believed.  What anyone would want with a dog mystified Simone, but there it was.  She could add it to a list of things she didn’t understand and let it go.

Now that there was official word, she could call Teague in and get on with it.  After all, no one was better than Teague.  Unflappable, detail oriented, unquestioningly loyal… If she needed to get to the bottom of something, Teague was Simone’s first line of defense.

She didn’t bother putting the phone back in its cradle, she pressed the ‘call release’ button and dialed Teague’s extension.

“Took you long enough,” Teague said as he settled into his usual chair.  Simone raised a questioning eyebrow.  “I saw the news.”

“Mmm.”  Simone acknowledged the statement but didn’t expound.

“Extrinsic break in at the Infirmary.  Anything else I need to know?  Or am I to start at the end and work my way back to the beginning.”

“That sounds about right.”

“Political sensitivities?”

Simone rolled her eyes at the question.  Of course there were political sensitivities.  “What do you think?”

“Dumb question.  Sorry.”  Teague shook his head, an involuntary acknowledgment of the price of privilege.

“Let’s just get this behind us before the 21st, okay?”

“Absofuckinglutely.  We wouldn’t want this hanging over the biggest event of our social calendar.”

“Be nice, Tea.”

Teague snorted.  “Nadia is in charge of the flowers.  You have no idea what my life is like at this time of year.”

“Poor Teague.  His adoring wife gets distracted.”  Simone’s tone was teasing, but there was a hint of envy behind the words.  Theirs was a world where you either got philosophical about change or went crazy.  Give it long enough and everything changes.  Everything but Teague and Nadia.  Fresh off of her latest term contract, Simone could appreciate the continuity.

“Is that all?”

“Yeah, yeah.  Go get your hands dirty.”

Teague stood.

“Wait.”  Simone knew Teague, knew that an invitation to get his hands dirty might take them places they’d rather not go. “Not too dirty.  Just a little dirty.”

Teague understood her warning and nodded.