The news of the Shadow Life deal with FirstSecond Books hit Publishers Weekly. ~__~ Woohooo!
2014 was a low-production year in terms of publications. A new short story, “Covalent Bond”, was published in Room Magazine 37.4. Some of my previously published stories, alongside fellow GoH N. K. Jemisin’s writings, were part of Aqueduct Press’s WisCon 38’s Guest of Honour volume, Systems Fail, It’s been a while, however, since the last new book and because I tend to focus on book-length projects output is few and far between. There’s this weird accelerated push for the next new book that is completely at odds for most writers’ (desired) process– of course I blame capitalism and consumerism! Having said that, I’m still part of the capitalist system and I write books that I hope will sell and sell well. <wry grin>
A bit of a conundrum. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I can’t “force” a book. If the idea isn’t gelling, if the strands do not weave into an interesting cloth, if I can’t sort out my plot, I don’t force my way through. I wait, I mull, I tinker, I start a few other smaller projects (but not too many, because how many incomplete projects do I want for pity’s sake???), sketch, read, research, watch films, no longer drink heady tumblers of tequila….
It will come. The story will come. I hit this wall with every book. And somehow I breach the wall. Or climb over it. Or dissolve it in my sleep.
But holy shit, being on this side of the wall can take a long time, and it can be a downer.
Sometimes the best thing for me to do is leave my messy desk or dusty couch and step outside. To remind myself of the wider organic world beyond my screen and internet connection. There’s more than the perpetual news stream of global suffering. There’s more than the sinking feeling inside my chest. There’s more than ego.
There is body. Air. Fog. The soft patter of persistent rain. A lattice of vibrant life in biospheres both visible and invisible around me. And to consciously recognize my connection to these things is a way to expand my own framework.
The other night one of our heavy west coast fogs cast a dream around the city.
Nights like this there is no need to write story. You can walk through it with your senses wide open.
The contrast of light and dark is a study of life– it is a fundamental way of imagining the world and we recreate it in so many different ways in story. To enter these spaces, to experience them, is an important part of being able to later imagine and word them in unique or memorable ways.
And the living creatures all around. They are near, yet sometimes the eye passes over, does not see them in the urban daily. But they are here. And when I see them it’s as if the city scales that covers my eyes fall away and I’m a creature among creatures once more.
Burnaby Lake in the rain. The parking lot was empty only for the chik chik of juncos hopping from branch to branch. A fox sparrow was virtually indistinguishable among the fallen leaves– until it wasn’t.
Wood ducks roosting in a tree, as miraculous as dragons.
I return to my apartment a little changed. The chest is lighter. The air is sweeter.
Tonight I will dream.
NOTE: THERE ARE MANY VARIETIES OF POISONOUS MUSHROOMS. THEY CAN MAKE YOU ILL OR EVEN KILL YOU. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO HAVE YOUR WILD FOOD IDENTIFIED WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY BEFORE CONSUMPTION. This blog post is not a how-to on the identification and the consumption of wild mushrooms. It’s a personal account on my own actions/thoughts.
Pacific West Coast
We’ve had such a remarkable year for mushrooms! There was much bounty from forest into the city– so many varieties and marvellous colours, textures. This past autumn must have been the perfect confluence of timely moisture and the prolonged growing season before the first frost. I’m not a mushroom expert by any stretch of the imagination– just an admirer of all things mycological…. There’s a mycological society in Vancouver— I’ve not yet been to one of their meetings. I teach every other Tuesday evening so I hope this year I’ll be able to drop in on one of their meetings if it falls on a non-work date.
This year I tried eating* my first clutch of shaggy mane! Sarah de Leeuw had spoken to me about their deliciousness, but I hadn’t had an opportunity to try them. But this fall such a gorgeous batch!
A deeply instilled cautiousness about consuming any new (to me) fungus I only took a nibble and waited a few hours to see what would happen. Normally you’re meant to wait 24+ hrs but shaggy mane decomposes extremely fast. I felt no ill effects. And shaggy mane are so distinctive it’s virtually impossible to mistake them for a look-alike (Many mushrooms, both edible and poisonous, can be indistinguishable, especially to the untrained eye/nose– some can only be distinguished by spore prints, so just don’t take the risk my friend! For writers researching horrible ways to die look up the symptoms of death by mushroom!!!).
Into the frying pan with a nice dab of butter!
I seasoned them with a bit of salt and pepper. I’ve never had such tenderness in my mouth…. The texture was incredible and the flavour mild, slightly nutty and pleasing. I can’t wait to forage for more next season. ~__~
I’d also read that shaggy mane is one of the ink cap varieties and, historically, it was used as an ink source. I wondered what kind of ink it would produce so thought I’d experiment with some of the more degraded bits I’d collected.
You’re supposed to consume shaggy manes within a few hours of picking and it was amazing to see why. Once cut the mushroom began liquefying very very quickly.
In four hours there was scarcely any solid remaining.
The ink stinks. I read that monks put cloves in it to deal with this quality. I didn’t bother. I just left it out on my balcony.
The next day I had ink!
I used the ink with a dip pen (of the calligraphy type)– I loved the sepia shade of it! And amused myself with the idea that if I buried my drawing in the soil, maybe new shaggy manes would grow from it creating a perpetual renewal of mushrooms, ink, drawing, mushrooms….
*WARNING!!! Never consume mushrooms without verifying their identification with a professional like your local mycological society, etc. Mushrooms can be extremely dangerous. Every year people die from mistaking poisonous mushrooms as edible.