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What Comes Next

18 Mar

There have been so many false starts to this post. Nearly a year and a half of them, in fact. I have not been sure how to say… that I don’t know what to say? Or that I do know, or at least have, so many things to say, but I am not sure which are the ones that need to be heard instead of just said, and which are the ones better reserved for other people’s platforms, and which are the ones that are something more than mourning or thanking or crying out at a country and a culture that my passport says I still belong to but that the city I wake up in says I am no longer directly a part of.

There are blogs – or novels, short stories, poem collections, opuses even – that we write because we need them. They are stepping stones and mirrors. They are amplifiers and training wheels. They are rants, and lullabies. They are lines on a wall, etched proof in a door frame that we are, hopefully, growing up.

Quill Aquiver was a blog I started while certainly down in the well of still finding myself. That process has by no means been completed, but the woman I am, writing this post now, is a vastly different shape from the woman who made that first post so many years ago. What her life looks like, what the entire world looks like, is so different.

What I need to write now, is different.

I would not call this leaving, but developing. I was a chasing creature back when I first started this blog and, having since found a fair amount more footing, the present motion of me is not so much a sprint as it is a climb. It’s still a screaming slog of passion and persistence, sure, but the muscles I’ve got these days are more for pulling myself up than they are for running away.

It doesn’t mean I don’t still wander. While I’ve tried to quell escapeexplore is always there, at the core of me.

I’m telling stories about it, too.

For everyone who’s read along these many years of Quill Aquiver – thank you. Deeply. You have been so much better than a void. If you’d like to keep pacing along with me, I may hop back here from time to time, but I will be launching most of my spare literary efforts into a new blog that I intend to be a mix of professional chat, vagabonding stories, and cultural reflection. There will be an appreciable number of photos of Scotland and her mountains. Probably a lot of cows. Hopefully a dog or two. Maybe a cat. Occasionally.

No longer an author held in suspension, I now write as The Nomad Vet.

So, all you readers, again – thank you.

Now, let’s go.

To the Woman Who Taught Me of Compromise and Courage

8 May

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who decided that being there to wake me up and make me breakfast and pick me up from school and take me to extra math lessons and tuck me in at night were more important than maintaining an untarnished sanity. I knew about the yelling at night, but I didn’t understand the compromises until later.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who taught me how eyes speak and the turn of a head threatens and the grasp of a man’s hand about his silverware tells you the degree of appeasement you will be serving that night for dinner. Happy Mother’s Day to the woman whose sharp and endless questions fueled by the anxiety to just keep me safe taught me to be prepared, to think ahead, to see not just the road before me but the seven hundred ways it could be different. I may have inherited the endless chatter and vice-grip-on-the-heart of your invisible traveling companions, but at least I know how to answer their whispers.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who’s shown me that heroes do not always come with laurels. They are found instead in years of loaded dishwashers; bags under the eyes and wrinkles frowning about the mouth from a tongue kept too long; the silent ferocity of a mind that knows better but is trapped behind a white picket fence of housewife civility; a backstory unknown till long after one’s own has been collected. I got a clean page; still, I mourn your palimpsest.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman ineffably practical who saw my books with titles with words like “wizards” and feared my proclivity for the fantastic and the magical, till you insisted one day on reading “this Harry Potter” and after hitting the last page asked if perhaps you could borrow the next one, after it came out, and I’d finished reading it. Just so long as I didn’t tell you any spoilers before.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who raised me in care and caution but has not begrudged me my edges and little bits of reckless. Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who laid in my skin the practice of being hidden and invisible and yet blesses the ways I have chosen to make that skin stand out. Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who for all her practice in dustbowl acceptability didn’t even bat an eye when I told her I like girls as well as guys, and who answered with confused silence when I asked if she’d have been so supportive if I’d told her back when I was young, because she did not understand how, loving me for me, there could have been any other option.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman whose jawline I’ve started to see when I glance in the mirror, especially back when I’d cut my hair short, and stripped it blond. I am not yet accustomed to the idea of looking anything like you, but I will not begrudge my face its ancestry. The jawline is strong, and a graceful one, even if we do sometimes clench it too hard.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Dear Readers: A Huge Thank You

24 Apr

For about a week now, I’ve had a brain full of Ecuador. So full, that last night, with the tent donation count having barely inched up to halfway of the goal the team was hoping to reach before Monday, I couldn’t fall asleep until I’d done something, anything more, and I wrote that blog post that went out yesterday talking about the situation and asking you all, dear readers, for help.

I went to bed, hoping the blog post might garner some more help. I tossed and turned for about an hour more, but eventually fell asleep – though even unconscious, I still had a brain full of Ecuador, as I wound up dreaming about sending emails to more people about the wish list, because I want so badly to reach that goal of fifty, want so badly to get shelter to at least that many survivors, that many families. I want so badly for this relief effort to work.

This morning, I woke up and sat bolt-upright with the thought “ECUADOR TENTS?!?!” shooting first-thing through my brain. I rolled over and opened up my laptop and loaded the link to the relief effort’s wish list, hoping for at least a couple more donations…

…and saw that we’d gotten a full 20% more of the entire goal. Donations went up from 25 to 36 during the hours that I slept, and now, we’re only 14, a mere, doable 14 tents away from that goal.

The only thing different between when I went to bed and when I woke up was that blog post. The only thing different, dear readers, was you all.

Thank you. Thank you, so much.

I mean, I suppose I don’t know for sure that the donations came from my readers, but the correlation is strong, so causation seems likely. So, I’m just going to go with the assumption of justified faith in people and do the thing you do when someone helps you, and tell you all thank you.

Thank you. With all the force I can muster and all the adrenaline-based pseudo-energy of the entire pot of coffee I’ve downed today trying to make even more momentum happen, thank you. Thank you for being a part of this. Thank you for helping to make a difference.

And thank you, too, if you decide to join in now. Thank you for helping to keep the relief effort going.

Fourteen more tents, readers. Fourteen tents in (ideally) eight or (allowably) thirty-two hours.

We can do this.

You’re already doing this.

Thank you.


If you’d like to help send shelter to the survivors of Canoa, Ecuador, donate through the following link:

https://amzn.com/w/XLL6FUTGKU91

Making Magic for Ecuador: You, Canoa, and a Call for Tents

23 Apr

If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time (also hey, welcome newcomers), you’ll know that “I was raised on fantasy literature” is a pretty common theme to my posts. And you’ll know that those fantasy books – the ones with Dumbledore’s Army, and wizards banded together for Timeheart, and troupes made of Luster and Earthfolk alike, the ones with people (a term loosely used, here) who went out and saw the universe and did important things in it, for it – those are the books that shaped who I wanted to be. All my life, I’ve pretty much wanted my job description to be something along the lines of “saves the world.”

It’s why I pick up litter on the beach. It’s why I’m a practicing emergency medical responder. It’s why I tell people when I care about them. It’s why I’m going to veterinary school.

And it’s why when a 7.8 earthquake happened on April 16th in a country where I knew people, I messaged those friends to ask how they were doing, how their country was doing.

They were sad, and frustrated, but hanging in there, they said. But the country? Not well, was their answer. Whole towns were in ruins.

The bodies, they said, were piling up in the streets.

…When your friends tell you there are bodies piling up in their streets, you goddamn ask what you can do to help. And when they tell you what that is, you do it.

In this case, what I could do – what you could do – is get them tents.

There are bodies in the streets, but there are survivors too. Unfortunately, their city being a pile of rubble and devastation, there is nowhere for them to survive in.

So they’re building themselves a temporary settlement, and it shall be made of tents.

A couple days later, and I’m now heading up the West coast efforts for the U.S. relief team working in conjunction with my friends’ local organization, the “Surfers for a Roof” Brigade. As for the U.S. team’s efforts, my East coast counterpart and I want to get 50 tents to Ecuador – Canoa, to be specific – by Monday to help make a dent in what the 200 surviving families will need for shelter.

There have been Facebook posts, and emails with city councils, and CARVE surfing magazine even did a piece on the effort, and so far, we’ve gotten 25 tents. I want so badly to keep the momentum going. I want to hit 50 before Monday arrives. I want the world to care, and to not just sit there caring, but get up or speak out or just do something about it.

Here in this world of dust and reality, we cannot fight the source of all evil for the fate of the world.

But we can fight devastation. We can fight disaster. We can join this effort, and throw relief in the face of the ruin. We cannot fight “ultimate evil,” but we can fight this one.

To put it more pragmatically: the relief effort has an Amazon wish list going. People can donate tents directly, or, barring being able to contribute the full cost of a tent, can email Amazon gift cards of any amount to the relief effort’s account, and we’ll pool those funds to purchase more supplies. We’ve already gotten one tent on the way from people’s compounded gift card donations. We’re about halfway to another one, with current funds.

Physical donations will ship to a hangar in Miami from where a volunteer pilot – the relative of local leadership in Canoa – will fly supplies to ground zero. Tent city construction will begin May 7th.

The Amazon wish list and the email account associated with it have been created specifically for the relief effort, to allow for specificity and transparency. Anyone with questions about our financial or other records is totally welcome to ask, and we will send you literally our entire backlog of documentation. Honesty and integrity, in this effort, are paramount.

So, dear readers, I invite you to join me. Consider this your official enrollment call. I cannot off you a DA badge or a manual saying you have joined the ranks of wizards, but I can offer you the knowledge that your help here matters. That herein is a chance to know that you have helped fight to make things better for the world. Whether you donate or “just” spread the word (social media, word of mouth, sky writing, traveling bards – it’s all good) – you will have been someone who, even if just for a moment, got up and looked out at what was happening to the universe and did something about it all.

And for me, at least, that is a little bit magic.

To donate to the Canoa tent relief project: http://amzn.com/w/XLL6FUTGKU91

To learn more about how the relief effort works: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MzRn9oHb73jV3rQ0QmvPmI1twKFiNfhf7Xbk1gFKdEU/edit?usp=sharing

Storytime

1 Jan

leap year page 1

Here in Los Angeles, California, it’s just shy of three hours to the close of January 1st, 2016. Today’s not been much different than any other day, closer to weekend-style even though it’s Friday, but not quite the same because one of my roommates is out of town, and the other is recovering from a long stretch of mandated human interaction, and I myself just returned from The Hellhole That Is Currently Underwater.*

But still, all in all, pretty much the same as any other day. January 1st has no particular magic to create a grand shift in my life. It is just an arbitrary designation of the passage of time.

Except… we don’t want it to be, do we? We want there to be some power in the rustle of a new calendar being hung on the wall. We want there to be some force that we can harness through the symbolic gesture of wiping the slate clean. Whatever the year, we want 01/01 to be not just one more day full of nothing more than more of the same, but rather to be one glistening 24-hour chance to grasp hold of a future we haven’t yet tainted. A notebook that’s got no smudges or eraser marks. A slab of clay, wet and waiting, for us to pick up and do something with.

We want it to be the start of a new story, ripe for the telling.

2016 is a particularly good year for that, it seems. We’ve got a leap year ahead. One whole extra day for awesome.

And I, who makes much of her living out of words, sits here at the close of page 1 of 366 wonder – what makes a good story? What do I want?

What do you want?

What makes a story worth it, after it all, when you’re running out space for lines on the page and midnight is tolling and another book, another voice, another year is chasing at your heels? What is it in a story that will leave you satisfied at “the end” – or even better, hungry for more?

If you’ve got some thoughts to tell, I’d like to listen.

——-

* Missouri. Not necessarily an intrinsically bad place, but a historically terrible destination for me in particular. Also, it’s rained so much there in the past few days that a house literally floated away. It was on the news, guys.

It can be okay in the summer, though.

Just… mind the tornadoes.

Free Stories!

29 Aug

Update: I’m now on Gumroad!

gumroad profile

I have a lot of stories lying about my computer, sitting more or less patiently in their folders on my desktop waiting for me to try to publish them or submit them to a literary contest or, ya know, forget about them for years on end. And while some of them I’ve gone and flung out into the world already, mostly, they’re just sitting there.

So I’m giving them to you! To have and enjoy! For free!

Well, mostly free. Flash fiction, shorter poems, and short stories up through 3 pages in length are available for no charge. You can pay for them, because hey, supporting art is great and we artists appreciate it! But you don’t have to pay for it. Unless it contains, ahem, “mature” content. In which case I’ve put up a pay wall before you can access it. It’s not a very big pay wall, but I feel I’ve done my due diligence protecting vulnerable eyes or whatever from what some parents might consider bad, scary words by requiring buyers to wield a credit card in order to get to it. Short stories four pages or longer, novellas, and whatever novels I put up there will have a nominal fee, because hey, writing is hard work, and at that order of magnitude of investment, a few bucks for months of work on my end is pretty fair.

I’ll still be posting here, on Quill Aquiver, but I’m mostly using it as a space to talk about writing. And society. Whatever. This blog is for my thoughts. Gumroad is for my stories. Tumblr, that deep, deep rabbit hole, is for my insanity. Zero filter, folks. Fair warning.

Anyhoo. Go forth! Read! Glut your literary fill! Follow me on Gumroad to get updates on when new material’s uploaded. Yes, more courses coming.

15 Things That Happen When You Wear A Pride Flag In L.A. Today

26 Jun

15 things that happened today when I walked around L.A. wearing a pride flag tied super hero cape-style (because honestly, what other style is there?):

  • 1 smiling thumbs-up
  • 8 knee-jerk reaction smiles (that I noticed)
  • 1 compliment on my “shawl”
  • 2 happy stranger waves
  • 2 sets of approving horn honks
  • 1 high five from an LGBT rights canvasser

I also got yelled at by one probably schizophrenic man, but that’s about standard for early morning on the Promenade. Whatcha gon’ do.

And as a writer, my favorite part of this all:

the pursuit of happiness: a right unalienable

the pursuit of happiness: a right unalienable

Live long and prosper.

27 Feb

As the vast bells of the internet are tolling, Leonard Nimoy, the once and forever Spock, is dead. Gifs of numerous episodes are spreading through Imgur and Reddit, clips from Simpsons episodes and Big Bang Theory appearances are retweeting their way across twitter, and celebrity after celebrity after news site after commentary blog after cooking blog after Facebook wall are sharing their remembrances and goodbyes. Everyone’s got their memory to claim – even the LA zoo, something as far in my mind from Star Trek as can get.

And honestly, my first response to all these shares and reposts and drudging up of decades-old publicity photos was to be rather angry.

How dare all these people take a figure’s death as a means to their fifteen seconds of limelight! How dare they try to re-associate themselves with a man that many of them hadn’t spoken of in years? How dare they all take Spock’s death and tie it to their own paltry claim to momentary fame?

And then I realized how goddamn idiotic I was being and got over it. Because all these sudden up-croppings of old memories around Nimoy and Spock – well, they’re all amazing.

A man is dead and people across time and space are talking about his life. Here is a man, this trending hashtag says, who did something. Look at all these instances people remember. Here, as Spock. Here, as a guest. Here, as an ordinary man. Here, as a hero who happened to be spotted having a good time at the goddamn L.A. zoo.

And imagine that – leaving this world as someone solidly appreciated. Imagine if the world’s response to your death was to well and truly miss you, so much that they cling to remnants of your existence by talking about your clever lines and generous nature, by posting pictures of your proudest moments and your happenstance smiles.

I think this is one best kinds of mourning.

But to be fair, it is one of the best of men to mourn.

How to cure writer’s block

5 Jan

This. I like this.

Demetria Spinrad

hemingway

Take a break. Step away from your work. Leave your house. Change your name. Don’t tell your loved ones where you’re going. Let them think you died in that plane crash. Three decades later, reappear with a younger, blonder wife and a memoir about the life you led on the run.

*

Hemingway never got writer’s block. Every day, he stood across the room from his typewriter and shot each letter key with his pistol. Then he would down a fifth of whiskey and sleep with an alluring yet emotionally distant woman. That’s what you need as a writer: a consistent routine.

*

Try using a writing prompt to get started. Here’s one: what if you never break through this block, and wander through life feeling dull and uninspired, half believing you have wasted your potential and half understanding that you never had any potential to begin with?

*

What…

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A Car And A Cute Old Man

9 Dec

Today, I met a cute old man. He was not by default cute because he was old. I have met a lot of old men, and many, many of them are not cute. A lot of them are crotchety fuckers.

But this old man, he was cute. He barely had any hair left, just a brush of white and wiry remnants as his eyebrows, and a U around his head. His skin has the yellow tinge of an elderly Philippino. He could have been stern, if his mouth puckered more. But it didn’t. He was not stern. He was not intimidating. He was like a really old uncle, maybe a grandfather. Something non-threatening. The sort of old relative that would call you dear and not mean it demeaningly.

Oh, I met him because he was my Lyft driver.

So I got into the car, and we made chit chat as is opening procedure for taking a Lyft. I asked how long he’d been driving, he told me he’d been up since 6 am. I commented on how early that was, and he mentions, nonchalant, that he’s hoping to make enough fare to head home early and take his wife out to a nice dinner.

Okay, this dude is like seventy. That’s already frickin’ adorable.

So I try not to making squeeing noises out loud and merely respond how that’s sweet. I ask how long he’s been married. He answers – 44 years.

Holy. fuck.

I ask how they met. He tells me that they both worked in the same government agency, back in the Philippines. “We met in the office and… that’s how it all got started.” His voice winked, even if he did not.

He launches into his whole story. He tells me how he and his wife, they worked at this agency for 25 years, but before they retired, his wife wanted to pursue her real profession for a while. They moved to Chicago and “were trapped there in the snow” for twenty years, so she could be a chemist.

Finally retiring, they moved to Florida. He tells me how, having saved up a fair amount, they gave their remaining assets in the Philippines to their daughter, which he pronounces further endearingly as duo-ter. But… he stumbles over himself, for a few seconds. He’d started to explain how he has a daughter, but… the stumbling and backpedalling came to a stop, and he tells me, “I had a son, but I lost him when he was nineteen.”

I don’t want to ask what lost means.

My driver, he pushes on and tells me about his duo-ter, now 44 (my innuendo-center starts cheering internally and wink-wink-nudge-nudging the man), lives in Okinawa with her eight-year-old son. She’s serving as a pediatrician in the air force – they paid for her school, she works for them the same amount of years. She’s got two left.

My mind immediately starts praying that Okinawa stays quiet for the next two years.

The old man’s talk meanders back to him and his wife. He tells me how they tired of Florida’s weather, so they moved to Los Vegas instead. It was cheaper there, anyway. They rented a three-bedroom house for just $700 a month. My roommates and I are renting a three-bedroom apartment for more than that.

But… the old man, his voice becomes closed and quiet, “Los Vegas was my downfall. I had never gambled before in my life. But I got myself stuck at the slot machines. I lost all our savings. I… I squandered everything.”

I can hear the shame in his voice. I would not have been surprised if he’d started to cry.

“But I told my wife,” he goes on, “I told my wife, it’s not too late, I can earn it back. Well, not all of it, but some, enough…” He spends several more minutes reciting a litany of “I did a bad thing” and “I needed to make it better” and “I was contrite, so I could do it.”

They moved out to Santa Clarita. He started driving for Lyft. That is why he is a driver, to try one car ride at a time to rebuild the life he intended for his wife – and himself – to have. To make good on his statement that he is contrite. He tells me how sorry he is for what he did, how grateful he is that his wife is with them. “I think she still loves me,” he said in a small voice. “I love her very much.”

We reach my street, and as we pull up to my curb, he turns to me and with a somehow beaming face tells me enthusiastically, “I hope all your ventures are successful!”

I tell him that I hope he has a nice dinner with his wife.