Tag Archives: Duncan

“Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that?”

61. Daring Greatly – Brene Brown

In a world where many people are constantly being asked to complete the workload of three people without complaint and it seems clear that the only people who truly matter are people with money, it can be hard to find solid ground mentally.

I have seen many articles about persons in my age group that maintain the sentiment that there is something wrong with my generation because we’re not all thriving. We’re not buying what we’re supposed to. We’re not behaving as our predecessors behaved. We’re finding, at a higher rate than the past few previous generations, that we will not be making more in our lifetimes than our parents did and so what monetary class we were born into is likely to be the monetary class we die in, or we can always go lower, that’s an option too. We’re not quite “daring greatly” after being saddled with large amounts of debt in order to try greatly to find gainful, full time employment.

There are some examples of people who have done really well, who are anomalies amongst the BA-having, underemployed masses. And it’s fun to have those examples pointed out to you as though because you are smart, you should be just like those examples, when that’s very unlikely to happen for you. Paring down your goals to basically just survival feels embarrassing when you graduated from college with hope, got as Master’s degree with hope, went for a Ph.D. in your research field with hope. It’s humiliating to know that even though you made serious efforts to better yourself and pursue something you found truly worthwhile, the opportunities aren’t there after you graduated and you will be greeted with comments like “You should’ve gone into engineering,” when you have no aptitude for that and there are certainly unemployed STEM graduates feeling just as embarrassed for hoping as you are.

Reading Daring Greatly was an interesting experience for me because it came at a time when I thought I was on my way to, well, daring greatly. I’d shrugged off what I thought was the baggage I needed to shrug off, surely now was the time for some minimal self-help and then lots of happy times would follow instantly. I, of course, forgot that I’m a human with depression who works in public service full time. Oops. Even still, I appreciate what Dr. Brown has to say. I think there is a lot of validity to her views on vulnerability and I was happy she showed her work because I honestly have a lot of trouble reading material that could be considered “self help” without a nice level of bitter detached cynicism. One thing though, being courageously willing to put yourself out there in some scenarios can also lead to you becoming the non-vulnerability-interested’s scapegoat, so, it also pays to remember that not everyone can face the truth of some situations.

Duncan, daring blurrily to show her sweet little giraffe nose.

Duncan, daring blurrily to show her sweet little giraffe nose.

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And yet, Leviathan is still my favorite Mastodon album

49. Fathom – Cherie Priest

I’ve been intrigued by Priest’s work since I saw the cover of Boneshaker while shelving in Mississippi. I’m not particularly interested in steampunk – I respect it and appreciate it but it’s not my thing-, so I haven’t read Boneshaker yet and ever since I found out that she’d also decided to write her take on the Lizzie Borden story (Maplecroft) I thought maybe that would be a better starting place for someone of my tastes, which generally lead towards murder faster than steampunk… Anyway, I couldn’t get into Maplecroft, so I had to find another starting point. Fathom is the one I found while at the Madison Public Library. I hadn’t heard or read anything about it and I had recently finished Kraken by China Mieville when I picked it up, so, I figured maybe another sea monstery story would be all right. Well, this was not actually a good starting point either. There is a murder toward the beginning, and yet I wasn’t entirely on board with the trajectory of the two cousins turned immortals helping opposite sides of a world ending scheme. I think Priest had a lot of intriguing ideas but they didn’t coalesce as much as they needed to in the final product. And I couldn’t find my ground in it and had no one to relate to or root for. I wish I could have, because I’m going to get through Maplecroft at some point and all I have right now is some suspicion that relating to Lizzie Borden over a girl-turned-statue trying to stop the world ending is not going to be good either. Maybe there will be someone else in Maplecroft to ground the story, it does have a little reality in its origin, whereas if Fathom has some, I’m currently unaware of where it came from. Perhaps the depths.

Murderface and Duncan know that guinea pigs' hierarchical issues would be cause enough for some immortal sea monster fights. It's a good thing they don't have access to the sea.

Murderface and Duncan know that guinea pigs’ hierarchical issues would be cause enough for some immortal sea monster fights. It’s a good thing they don’t have access to the sea.

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Start with a Queen, End with all the Queens

Thus ends the specified “Year of the Ladies.” Although next year starts tomorrow, I’m not clear on whether or not I want to have a theme.

The main thing I know about next year is that I have a lot of art to finish before April.  Another thing I know is that I am both petrified and anxiously awaiting the edited version of the final book in my Squirrelpocalypse trilogy – Night of the Squirrels. I will then revisit it, stare at it wondering what I was thinking, re-write some chunks, probably cry about said chunk re-writing, ask the guinea pigs if they have any ideas about why it turned out so differently than what I planned for the story in 1998 and not get ANY useful answers, and then accept it and rearrange all the semicolons before I format it and put it up with the other two. I finished it this year, on December 5th at 11:53 PM, and immediately wasn’t sure if I liked it. That probably means it’s all right because every single time I finish a book – and I’ve finished two this year, personal best, probably never to be repeated – I’m not sure if I like it. So, I await my cognitive distance and since I like to end with pictures, here are all the sweet little lady pigs that I’ve owned since 2008. Snippiest, most gratuitously disagreeable bunch of cavies ever to exist and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Murderface and Pickles in Hattiesburg

Miss Murderface and Pickles the Drummer (yes, that Pickles, and her full name is the entire line from the opening credits – that’s a behind the scenes secret you couldn’t get from very many sources).

Sepia toned teddy bear ladies Twiglet and Pammy. So fuzzy. So domineering. But so fuzzy and so good at napping.

Sepia toned teddy bear ladies Twiglet and Pammy. So fuzzy. So domineering. But so fuzzy and so good at napping.

Murderface and the lovely Duncan Hills. I only got to have Duncan for eleven months, but she had the softest ears and the sassiest disposition. She also helped me quite a bit with the planning of Day of the Robots.

Murderface and the lovely Duncan Hills. I only got to have Duncan for eleven months, but she had the softest ears and the sassiest disposition. She also helped me quite a bit with the planning of Day of the Robots.

Merricat and Peregrine, my first non-Mississippi or Iowa born lady pigs. Merricat was frighteningly special and my first lady Abyssinian. She was very small in size, but had a very large bite.

Merricat and Peregrine, my first non-Mississippi or Iowa born lady pigs. Merricat was frighteningly special and my first lady Abyssinian. She was very small in size, but had a very large bite.

Peregrine and Ozma having a mild moment. Peregrine has not been the most friendly of new friends to Ozma, but Ozma's willingness to explore is slowly, very slowly seeping in to Pere.

Peregrine and Ozma having a mild moment. Peregrine has not been the most friendly of new friends to Ozma, but Ozma’s willingness to explore is slowly, very slowly seeping in to Pere.

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Misadventures in Memorial Library

72. Shoot the Damn Dog – Sally Brampton

I was hunting down a book that most likely was mis-shelved some time in the mid-1990s when this title gave me pause. In many academic libraries, the dust jackets do not make it to the shelves, the budget for mylar is very low… anyway, without their dust jackets, there’s no blurb to read and no illustration that could have told me that, hey, she didn’t mean just any dog and the book wasn’t about being very insensitive to pets. It took me a bit to realize that the dog referenced by the title is Winston Churchill’s black dog, the one that symbolizes his depression. That’s the long way round of explaining that this snappy title came back with me, unfortunately, the book I was hunting did not – and that is kind of rare. Technically. Book hunting is one of my best skills. I have learned from reading Shoot the Damn Dog that nicknaming my own depression or choosing a symbol for it, does not fall under any of my best skills.

Sally Brampton lives in London, bonus for her, and relates her very strenuous struggle with depression, and then alcoholism to treat the depression, and then depression again plus the knowledge that alcohol is very ineffective at treating depression, and what actually helped in her case. Hers manifested itself in her throat and so she called it her “throat monster.” I’m actually very disappointed in my depression for not even bothering to manifest in a specific area or take on a recognizable animal personality. I’ve always thought it was just part of my personality- any dogs or monsters would have a hard time convincing me otherwise, and I’ve recently done some reading about the connections between chronic respiratory illnesses and depressive symptoms and that makes more sense in relation to how my depression ebbs and flows than any specific manifestation. I can say that although the lack of animal personality disappoints me, reading about how others have survived their depression and how they experience their symptoms is very helpful. And when you have depression, seeking help is the main thing you should do. Especially if you can give yours a nickname, that’s significant.

Duncan was blacker than the blackest black times infinity, plus a giraffe nose and a couple of dark red rings, but she’s a symbol of cuteness and snippy guinea pig kind. Snippy guinea pigs help me find reasons to keep living through my depressive periods.

Duncan was blacker than the blackest black times infinity, plus a giraffe nose and a couple of dark red rings, but she’s a symbol of cuteness and snippy guinea pig kind. Snippy guinea pigs help me find reasons to keep living through my depressive periods.

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Write. Print. Repeat.

Two squirrels! Two robots! So appropriate for the second book of a trilogy.

Two squirrels! Two robots! So appropriate for the second book of a trilogy.

The Guinea Pig-style (Duncan Hills) first edition of Night of the Squirrels: Day of the Robots, sequel to Dawn of the Interns and the middle section of the Squirrelpocalypse trilogy,was initially available on Amazon in May of 2013. Now, in June of 2015 (well, sort of May because it put it up in May, but there are always delays while I wait to see my cover and not a grey box on websites before I say anything), the “Call of the Merricat” second edition is available with its more squirrelpocalypse-appropriate cover and two less typos.  I’ve been told it’s better than the first one – but! – I don’t think that matters unless you’ve read the first one, so maybe it’s an Evil Dead II situation and maybe it’s Gremlins II, there really aren’t enough horror comedies with sequels that remind me of my work, so it’s tough to be sure.

It’s also occurred to me lately that it might be interesting to show my work, at least in terms of how I create my clearly a-mah-zing squirrel covers. I do have a lot to say about cover art on here – that’s because I’m an artist. I use my human brain and hands to write my novels and also to draw and print the squirrel versions of their covers through the bewildering process of silkscreening. Silkscreening is the process of shoving ink through mesh to put images on things, in my case, card stock. In order for the ink to make the images I want it to, I hand paint the mesh of my screens with screen filler.

The dark red business is screen filler. Everything that’s covered with filler will remain the color of the card stock I’m printing on.

The dark red business is screen filler. Everything that’s covered with filler will remain the color of the card stock I’m printing on.

Many people can get their drawings onto their screens much more easily using photographic methods (light and photo emulsion). I can barely breathe most of the time because of my severe allergies and chemical fumes will destroy me very quickly, so I hand paint. It’s, um, not very easy to maintain the level of detail I want because I still only have human hands, but I do my best.

Pre-print Robots, post-print Interns, with discerning critic Danger Crumples. It is possible to remove the designs from screens, it’s called “reclaiming.” I am able to keep my designs on the screens by only washing out the ink when I’m done printing. Cold water takes out the ink, hot water is required to remove screen filler.

Pre-print Robots, post-print Interns, with discerning critic Danger Crumples. It is possible to remove the designs from screens, it’s called “reclaiming.” I am able to keep my designs on the screens by only washing out the ink when I’m done printing. Cold water takes out the ink, hot water is required to remove screen filler.

Once all the screen filler is dry and I’ve held it up to several light sources five million times to check for pinholes that will ruin my feelings while I print, I sort out the paper I want to use (I have to run a veritable shitload of prints when I silkscreen) and get the screen secured into the t-shirt press that hooks onto my coffee table. And then I print. On my knees. I ran this print sixty-one times.

Here’s my print-covered floor and the screen upright in the hinge clamps of my t-shirt press just before I went to wash the ink out of it.

Here’s my print-covered floor and the screen upright in the hinge clamps of my t-shirt press just before I went to wash the ink out of it.

I pretty much throw my prints everywhere there’s space because I need to run the print until the ink runs out, gets too dry, or some sort of blobbiness takes over. I had an ink-thickness issue this time, so I only ended up with twelve great prints and thirty-two mostly good ones. That’s a pretty good ratio considering I haven’t printed anything for over a year and my ink was definitely too thick for all the teeny details I wanted to come through.

Peregrine critiques my print from above.

Peregrine critiques my print from above.

I should mention that I’m leaving out a lot of details about the process of silkscreening, like tool names (squeegee!) and how you should have mylar on hand for proofing and registering your print and other things, so if you want to silkscreen in your living room you’ll need to research actual tutorials. I took silkscreening in college way back in 2003, and I didn’t put enough time into it, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t because of the chemical processes and my lack of allergy treatment at the time. I could have learned I have allergy-induced asthma earlier by passing out in a creepy basement room trying to coat my screen with emulsion, but at what cost? Actually, the cost would be these prints and all the others I’ve done since being able to re-visit silkscreening. Too much. It would be too much. And I retained a large amount of what I learned in that class over twelve years’ time, so…peaches. Of course, the guinea pigs would be much happier if I didn’t do so many things that take my attention away from them. A cost I must pay.

Horace and Danger Crumples don’t think I paid the cost to be the boss.

Horace and Danger Crumples don’t think I paid the cost to be the boss.

Anyway, that’s my cover creation process and if you want to support projects done completely by hand by someone who is nearly extinct because of their allergies or just want to know what happens next in my Squirrelpocalypse trilogy, I will list some linkage below and add to my “About” page. Oh, and since it’s YA Megamix Summer and my chapter titles tend to be song titles, here’s a sixtyish minute mixtape of chapter title songs to go with Day of the Robots:

1.     “Bang!” – The Raveonettes
2.    “Underdog” – Kasabian
3.    “Incubation” – Joy Division
4.    “Be My Wife” – David Bowie
5.    “River Styx” – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
6.    “Worm Tamer” – Grinderman
7.    “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night” – Ween
8.    “Sistinas” – Danzig
9.    “I Wish This Song Was Louder” – Electric Six
10.    “Retrovertigo” – Mr. Bungle
11.    “Deep in the Woods” – The Birthday Party
12.    “I Think That I Would Die” – Hole
13.    “Running Up That Hill” – Kate Bush
14.    “Dog Eat Dog” – Adam and the Ants
15.    “Heart of Stone” – The Raveonettes
16.    “Cat People” – the Danzig version
Linkage:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Smashwords
Kobo
Bol
Itunes

P.S. One important thing, there are several “Rachel Smith”s writing and self-publishing. Accept no substitutes. It can be confusing. I have only published two novels so far, both are pretty clearly linked thanks to that new cover and the adoption of series specification (Night of the Squirrels/Squirrelpocalypse Trilogy) – even that other “Rachel Smith” who wrote an ebook about guinea pigs is not me. I would think that anyone could tell the difference between her writing voice and mine and her cover aesthetic and mine – I just wanted to make sure we’re all clear that she’s not me. And I haven’t written any books on shopping addiction either. Just YA fiction about the squirrelpocalypse thus far.

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Where has all my time gone?

5. Monster Nation – David Wellington

Now that VH1 has mined the first vestiges of nostalgia for 2000-2009, I can move back to books I read back in 2010 and muse a bit. When I cover a series of multiple books I always assign a guinea pig to be pictured in the reviews and this series’ mascot is my little Duncan. I started this blog and said assigning procedures well after Duncan died (she died Dec. 22nd, 2009) at nine months old, but basically right after my little Twiglet died at one and a half in 2011. My review of the first book in the trilogy that I also read in 2010 – Monster Island – is one of my earliest reviews on this blog. And when I think about it, 2010 was basically one of my best years in terms of guinea pigs and reading. None of my family of pigs died during the entire year and I’ve had at least one die each year since then, which is pretty damn depressing but strangely unavoidable. 2010 was also the year I decided to start keeping a list of what books I read and that encouraged me to read more. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but occasionally I’d forget about it completely for a while and now I do not have that problem because I’m always trying to read more books this year than the previous one. This year I’ve even decided to focus my reading habits and try to read more of what’s been published in the genres I like by female authors. There are just so many male authors. And I have noticed some trends amongst what’s been allowed to be published by female authors. But I shant get into any of that now. Musing over.

As for Monster Nation, I enjoyed it. I did not like it as much as Monster Island because I don’t quite like the way the supernatural causes of the plague and the extra-supernatural powers of certain zombies were handled, but Wellington’s zombie trilogy is better than most of the zombie trilogies in existence, so that’s okay.

We fear not death.

This is the picture I manipulated into being the cover of Day of the Robots. That cover is meant to look like a 1990s CD. I wish I had more pictures of Duncan.

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Russell Stover Red Velvet Eggs, unexpectedly glorious.

43. Carrie – Stephen King

I was probably one of the last people of my generation not to know that this is an epistolary novel. It’s not the example that’s usually used in high school English classes when explaining those, although it would probably be more relevant to the students than Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (which I do not like, thanks very much 18th century satire class I took in college and totally hated-I like satire [especially Shamela the satire of Pamela from the same century], however, the class mainly dealt with my professor’s interest in Indiana and basset hounds, strangely not major topics in 18th century literature so I barely learned anything). Carrie apparently has been the target of book banning attempts in schools, though, so maybe my idea wouldn’t work so well. I just remember that in my second semester freshman English class everyone was reading Stephen King books for their book reports. Everyone except me, I chose Silence of the Lambs (time well spent). Some people accidentally (I say accidentally because I doubt any of them bothered to open the books before choosing them and one person complained to me directly because I was “a reader”) chose King’s short story collections, which were my gateway to Stephen King’s books, and I found that kind of funny. It’s hard to write a book report about a short story collection…especially if you are a high school freshman. It turned out that many of my fellow students weren’t able to finish their books in the allotted time before the report was due. If anyone had chosen Carrie, it would have been easily finished AND I would have known what I was getting into when I picked it up.

The things I enjoyed most about Carrie were the descriptions of Carrie herself. All the bovine language really struck me. I’m so used to reading about beautiful nerds and damaged characters that just need to remove their glasses and shake out that ponytail that it was refreshing to have a main character like Carrie. She wasn’t just bovine, she was unredeemable and she had a dark purpose. She didn’t make many choices that were on the up and up and seemed to be well aware that she was doomed just based on how she came into the world. It feels weird to say that’s refreshing, but it is. She’s telekinetic – but she’s nobody’s chosen one.

Ain’t nothin’ bovine about this little lady, she was a beautiful piggy all the way through.

If Duncan had been telekinetic, I believe my produce bill would have been much higher for the year 2009.

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You’re standing on my neck

It has been sequeled.

Sometimes I don't feel like adding hovertext, like now, when I've lost another job. But I do it.

Heeeeere’s Duncan.

The Guinea Pig-style first edition of Night of the Squirrels: Day of the Robots
It’s the sequel to Dawn of the Interns and the middle section of the Squirrelpocalypse trilogy, and it is internationally available on Amazon right this very second. I said it would be finished in May 2013 and I was not lying or catastrophically impaired, even if I didn’t say anything about it until June.

Verbal trailer (think about “O Fortuna” for trailer integrity or the book’s real theme song, Ween’s “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night,” off Quebec): In a world where things start with “D,” the cover model’s name is Duncan, the title is Day of the Robots, Danger Crumples still exists, I’ve been watching a lot of the show Daria lately and I bought the second season of Deadwood on DVD recently; and Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost films also involve robots, Day of the Robots now exists to wreak its combination of Gremlins II and Cabin Fever on readers.

It’s gory…and romantic. It’s revolutionarily cynical…and idealistic. There are shiny objects…and decaying furniture. A nose will be lost. One kind of plague will be contained. The responsibilities of a field jacket will be assumed. Origins will be explored. It’s not going to end well because it’s a sequel and the middle part of a trilogy, that’s also why origins will be explored – but you surely already knew that and I won’t call you “gentle reader” because that’s kind of patronizing. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that it won’t end well. “Well” doesn’t always mean what you probably think it means. So there.

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Digression Post

So, the last post I made mere seconds ago made me super sad. And then, I noticed that someone found my blog by searching for “adjectives for guinea pigs” and my mood changed slightly – cute didn’t instantaneously come to mind, searcher?

Belvedere! I miss Belvedere!

Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty cute. Belvedere knows how to sit.

 

The other adjective that comes to mind (beyond like fifty synonyms for “cute”) when I think of guinea pigs is: Demanding.

I miss Mortemer too.

Yes, demanding is so much more than an adjective. I think it’s obvious that Mortemer wants something here.

Also, I wanted to mention that this week I screenprinted the new cover for Dawn of the Interns and I am super happy with it. I am quite fond of my Pickles model guinea pig cover , but it seems relevant to make a slightly more appropriate cover, since I have the skills. I would say I have the technology, but I’m a hand done art kind of person. My silkscreens are hand drawn, hand stenciled (no photo emulsion, it goes bad and might get on the carpet), and hand pulled – which often leads to tragedy. Twiglet, subject of the sadness inducing post and anchor pig forever in my heart, will of course be on the guinea pig version cover of the last book in the Night of the Squirrels trilogy. I haven’t written that one yet, but the new cover and the second volume in the trilogy, also with a guinea pig cover (featuring the beautiful Duncan) will be out in May.

I don't have to miss Thaddeus because I can hear him whistling right now. Phew.

“Snazzy” also comes to mind. Check out the Abyssinian moustache on Thaddeus. One could also use the adjectives: smart, fluffy, fuzzy, portly, or perfect to describe any number of guinea pigs.

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Maybe if I gave it some salted nuts it would return to its home.

34. Prom Dress – Lael Littke

I sometimes enjoy reading about cursed objects. When I was younger and read The Restless Dead by Daniel Cohen the story about the evil chair freaked me right out. As did the story about Esther and her poltergeist. I was legitimately terrified of acquiring a poltergeist throughout my adolescence (because that’s apparently when they’re most attracted to you and willing to exacerbate your angst with shit you can’t prove you didn’t do). I’m pretty sure both those stories are in The Restless Dead, I had this habit of reading and being utterly wigged out by ghost stories in elementary school, so it could have been another book by Daniel Cohen, but I’m sure it was one of his…they seemed innocuous because they weren’t absolutely terrifyingly illustrated by Stephen Gammell. I have shaken my fist at the sky out of frustration over how scary Stephen Gammell’s illustrations are! Super scary.The least scary way I have seen cursed objects discussed was on the show Haunted Collector. That was relatively useless watching for me and I enjoy objects and paranormal wackiness. I sometimes worry that one of the antiques I purchase regularly will end up being haunted. I don’t want to be haunted by a chalkware cow or a Big Boy bank, but there’s a possibility that I will be. It is unlikely that I will be haunted by clothing, well, unless some cowboy farmer ghost gets pissed about me wearing his shirt…

Anyway, this Point Thriller about an actual cursed dress: Prom Dress by Lael Littke, was very engrossing. The story starts with one girl who makes a bad decision – taking the cursed dress from its home in a lady’s attic – and it wrecks her dancing skills. And then it moves on to another girl…and then another…before everything comes full circle and the dress’s original owner is insane. The most fun parts of the book were the moves from person to person, the way the dress lures them in using its girly mind games and making each girl think they’d look really awesome in it or that it’s just right for some upcoming occasion and then – it causes different horrible things to happen. It’s like the dress knows their insecurities. Just like my chalkware cows know when I’m vulnerable. Good luck getting off the fridge! As young adult stories go, it’s not that deep but it moves and doesn’t feel like it’s missing something. Sometimes, these thrillers could use some character infusion; Prom Dress has some well fleshed out narrators, despite covering so many different perspectives.

The episodes of Supernatural that deal with cursed objects are definitely some of my favorites. Especially Bad Day at Black Rock, but the one from season seven was one of the more enjoyable pieces of season seven.

Duncan and Murderface maintain vigilance against curses, wherever they may come from. Or they could be collecting them- it’s hard to tell with these girls.

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