Thursday, December 15, 2016


Annabelle has decided to step up and help with my knitting, just like her big sisters.


Today's post is tiny like a kitten, because my time is being gobbled, almost literally. I've been cooking meals for my sons for most of the day, or that's how it FEELS. That's because this morning the windchill around here was in the negative double digits, and although the school district made the astonishing choice to keep the schools open, I decided to keep the boys home. They haven't missed much school this year. I have no regrets, but neither do I have much spare time for blogging. So enjoy the kitten picture and the rest of your day!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Chosen Names Can Get Weird

Given the known and absolutely true fact that the name "Nayad" has been at the top of the baby-naming charts for several decades, it may come as a surprise to you that it's not actually the name I was given by my parents when I was born. Take a minute to sit with your shock and surprise. It's okay. It will all be okay.

They gave me a name inspired by their earnest hopes for me. They meant well. They picked something that they thought would go well with a title, in case I wanted to be a doctor or a reverend or a president. I appreciate that. It's a classic name that was pretty popular at the time, to the point that there were two of us with it in our kindergarten class and the teacher used our last initials to differentiate us. I was "Timeless Classic M" and the other kidlet was "Timeless Classic F."

It's just that the name didn't turn out to match ME. To my mind, it's a boring name. I'm not going to mention what it actually is in this post, for lots of reasons, one of which is that I'm sure there are plenty of completely fascinating, non-boring people with the same name. In fact, I can even think of an example.

I don't want to be a jerk about it, but I chose to go by a different name because it suits me better. That should be enough, but if you need a more practical justification for it, last I checked there was also a professional writer out there with my old name, so now I'm all differentiated. I'm way more searchable this way. And I like the way my "new" (since the 1990s) name sounds, looks, and what it represents. The transition from one name to another came on organically, over time, mostly because it started as my screen name in the early days of widespread internet usage. I never sat down with each person I knew and explained that I'm going by this name now, and I'd prefer that they used it. Some people just took to calling me Nayad and that was that. Others, people I like very much and don't want to upset, were posting on my Facebook page with my old name as of yesterday. The page says "Nayad A. Monroe." You don't even have to include my name when you post or comment there. It's a given that you're talking to me. So it seems kind of pointed for someone to add my old name when posting on that page, as if they're talking to the "real" me they knew before I started parading around with this inauthentic new name.

But which name is more authentic? The one my parents picked before they even knew me, or the one I chose as an adult?

Maybe people aren't trying to comment on my name's authenticity. Maybe they just haven't thought about it. There's something in me that holds me back from contacting each person, each time, to explain my preference, and probably that's a conflict-avoidance thing that I should work on, and how can I expect everyone to just know what I want? It's not fair to expect that. On the other hand, after I started to present myself as Nayad, the vast majority of people I knew just got it and went with it.

This is why I go with whatever name and pronouns my friends want to use, the minute I'm aware they want to use them, even if it's hard at first. I really appreciate being called by the right name. I want to give that to anyone else who needs it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Happy My Birthday to You! My Character Profile

If you don't want to know anything about me, Do Not Read This Post.

I haven't been writing about writing much, lately, but I still write fiction. I just don't always want to write ABOUT writing fiction. But one of the things that can be helpful with writing fiction, sometimes, is to create Character Profiles, so for my birthday post I'm going to offer up a character profile of myself. I'll try to be as objective as possible? We'll see how that goes.

I'm using the format from How to Create a Character Profile. There are bunches of different formats to be found online, but this one was at the top when I did my search.


Basic Statistics

Name: Nayad Monroe
Age: 45 as of today!
Nationality: American, with ancestry mostly from Scotland and Scandinavia
Socioeconomic Level as a child: Never went hungry, always had utilities on, wore lots of hand-me-downs, had pets, took ballet and piano classes, family had one car. We lived in, but did not own, houses. My impression was that money was tight, and credit was used, but boy did we ever not talk about the details of money.
Socioeconomic Level as an adult: More comfortable than my childhood. I own my house (no mortgage), and I'm not in debt.
Hometown: I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and I lived in a lot of other places, so it's hard for me to pinpoint a "hometown." Early childhood was in Indiana, middle childhood was in Ontario, teen years were in Illinois--the southwest suburbs of Chicago.
Current Residence: Near Madison, Wisconsin
Occupation: Writer
Talents/Skills: writing, drawing, painting, singing
Birth order: First!
Siblings (describe relationship): I have one brother who is six years younger than me, and he is great. We get along very well.
Spouse (describe relationship): Amicably separated.
Children (describe relationship): I have three sons, who are currently 15, 13, and 10. They're all very smart, geeky guys who like video games and science fiction, and aside from some typical sibling bickering and homework avoidance they hardly give me any trouble. 10/10, definitely worth spending 27 months of my life to create.
Grandparents (describe relationship): None of them are alive.
Grandchildren (describe relationship): I don't have any.
Significant Others (describe relationship): One boyfriend, who is lovely! And humble. He's going to hate reading this. :)
Relationship skills: This is a hard one to be objective about, so I'm going to skip it.

Physical Characteristics: 

Height: 5'4"
Weight: 148 lbs.
Race: White
Eye Color: Hazel
Hair Color: Started off medium brown, but is being invaded by increasing hordes of silver strands, but I sometimes dye it unnatural colors like purple or burgundy.
Glasses or contact lenses? I wear glasses at home, and contacts when I go out.
Skin color: Pinky-beigey
Shape of Face: Squarish oval
Distinguishing features: Large eyes, full lips, two tattoos
How does he/she dress? Goth-tinted casual, most of the time, with some jewel tones thrown in
Mannerisms: Lamentable knuckle-cracking
Habits: (smoking, drinking etc.) No smoking, but I do like drinks. Not daily, though.
Health: Pretty good! (knocks all the wood everywhere)
Hobbies: Currently, knitting a lot (as I mentioned yesterday), but also making digital images with my phone, and I've just started occasionally messing around with making electronic songs out of loops using Studio One Prime (which is free, btw!)
Favorite Sayings: "Awesome!" delivered sometimes in earnest, sometimes with sarcasm.
Speech patterns: Child-of-the-80s use of the word "like" all over the place within my sentences
Disabilities: None
Style (Elegant, shabby etc.): Casual-ish, with occasional bouts of playing dress-up
Greatest flaw: Distractability
Best quality: Caring about other people's feelings

Intellectual/Mental/Personality Attributes and Attitudes 

Educational Background: Some college
Intelligence Level: High
Any Mental Illnesses? No, but I took antidepressants for about 6 months in 2007/8.
Learning Experiences: Everything, every day.
Character's short-term goals in life: Write the first draft of a whole novel by the end of May, 2017
Character's long-term goals in life: Stay alive and well and mentally functional until at least the age of 100, and keep on learning new things for the whole time
How does Character see himself/herself? Amusing underachiever, never bored, good at learning how to do new things, bad at perseverance, consistently adequate mom with moments of being a really good mom.
How does Character believe he/she is perceived by others? Well, people always seem happy to see me when I show up at a convention, and I've been told that I'm funny and smart, and I think (I really hope) I'm regarded as trustworthy and a good listener. Um, maybe now I'm also perceived as having low self-esteem. I don't know! I don't want this post to come across like a humble-brag, for fuck's sake.
How self-confident is the character? As we've seen in recent answers, a bit of a mix. But I don't get anxious about throwing myself into a room full of people and conversing with whoever I happen to meet. I feel like people usually like me.
Does the character seem ruled by emotion or logic or some combination thereof? A combination, but with more emotion than logic.
What would most embarrass this character? Making a big mistake in front of lots of people I respect.

Emotional Characteristics

Strengths/Weaknesses: Strengths: independent, empathetic, supportive. Weaknesses: impatient, easily overwhelmed when making decisions
Introvert or Extrovert? Ambivert! I love spending time alone, but I also love going to conventions where I talk to people all weekend. I don't seek out company much when I'm at home because there's so much that I want to do that I enjoy doing by myself, but when I go out to be with people I thoroughly enjoy it and feel energized by it.
How does the character deal with anger? I try to stifle it AT FIRST, because I want to think my reactions through and then talk about the way I feel after I calm down and decide whether or not I'm being reasonable. But I also try to communicate about it after that.
With sadness? Sobbing it out, usually off by myself.
With conflict? I try to neither avoid it nor seek it out. I grew up in a very conflict-avoidant family, and I think we overdid the avoidance.
With change? I'm pretty comfortable with change, and I get bored if nothing changes.
With loss? See "sadness."
What does the character want out of life? Creativity, interesting friends, knowledge, mental challenges, love, art, music, a comfortable place to live (I have all of these things at this time)
What would the character like to change in his/her life?  I'd like to be more productive, and to participate in progressive politics in a more useful way, and to share more of what I make, do, and think with other people (thus the recent uptick in blogging)
What motivates this character? Boredom avoidance and the need to love, nurture, and create.
What frightens this character? Aggression, violence, cruelty, rejection, loss of loved ones, heights, cockroaches
What makes this character happy? Fun times with good conversationalists, humor, the moment when I finish writing a story and feel that it's right, reading a speculative novel or story with really satisfying weirdness in it, drawing a picture that turns out well, my loved ones being happy, spending time in a beautiful city with delicious food and sights, singing along with my favorite songs, listening to electronic music that makes me move with it, taking a walk in lovely weather (especially the first days when it's warming up in spring), holiday lights, and so many other things!
Is the character judgmental of others? Sometimes, but I try not to be
Is the character generous or stingy? I love being generous when I can.
Is the character generally polite or rude? Polite, except when it's impossible.

Spiritual Characteristics

Does the character believe in God? No.
What are the character's spiritual beliefs? Secular Buddhism, pretty much. No reincarnation.
Is religion or spirituality a part of this character's life? Not huge, but there are some challenging aspects of being an atheist in a mostly-Christian country and extended family. I'm the inexplicable rebel who doesn't get it about religion, in my family, so that can get weird.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Serial Hobbyizing and Bingeing

...Binge-WATCHING, that is. As in TV shows.

Last year, in the fall, I learned how to knit hats on round knitting looms. I made many, many hats. During that time, I realized that just the knitting alone wasn't enough for me to feel entertained, so I started to binge-watch TV at a level that I'd previously never achieved. I watched all four seasons of House of Cards in a month or so, because when I do a new hobby, I for sure and completely do it. I have to contain "hobby time" to my evenings, because if I just went with my impulses I would simply hobby out 24/7 until the point of collapse. That's my idea of self-discipline. Finding a way to avoid killing myself by obsessively hobbying.

Also, when I'm done with a hobby, it's full-on OVER. I may be in the middle of a project. I simply stop. I'm sure this is related to overdoing it in the first place. Sometimes I'm done forever. Other times, I return to the activity later. That's been the way with knitting, this year. As the summer started to shut down, I found that I had many new knitting ideas. Bigger projects, using long knitting looms and an ingenious S-shaped afghan loom. People of the Internet, since the end of August of THIS YEAR, I have knitted:

  • Three rugs
  • Four hats
  • And two blankets large enough to cover a full bed (one of which I just finished yesterday, and I'm actually psyched up to start another because I AM A FREAK.
...and mind you, this has taken place just during my evenings! 

As you might suspect, I've been watching a LOT of TV while all that knitting was going on. There are eleven seasons of Supernatural on Netflix. Watched 'em. I've also watched six seasons of Shameless, and I'm two-thirds of the way through Penny Dreadful. I almost want to be done with this round of knitting just to reclaim my hobby time for something else, like more reading than I've been doing, or, say, Creative Dog Grooming, because why NOT dive deep into making a dog look like the cast of The Muppets or a whimsical snail in a flower garden? Click through for pictures because I am not making this up. I am, however, making up the likelihood of me doing that hobby. I don't even have a dog, for one thing.

Friday, December 9, 2016

My Love/Hate Relationship with the Christmas Season

I love...

  • Christmas trees.
  • Festive outdoor lights.
  • Festivity in general.
  • Being generous to family and friends.
  • Being generous to people I don't even know, through donations.
  • Christmas music.
  • Candy and baked goods.
  • Classic Christmas TV specials.
  • Saying "Happy Holidays!" to people because I want to wish them well but I don't know everyone's holiday affiliation and GUESS WHAT I'M AN ATHEIST so I'm practicing this whole "Joy to the World" thing in the secular mode, with an appreciation for the old pagan vibe of lighting things up in a dark time of year.

I hate...
  • Obligatory gift-giving, especially in family cultures where this leads to passive-aggressive gift-giving (where it's easier to buy a present for someone you hate, due to family pressure, than to opt out, so you put a lot of thought into buying something acceptable that they won't like). I don't do this, but I find it upsetting that a lot of people get pressured to the point of doing it by toxic people who have emotional power over them.
  • The horrifying bullshit of luxury jewelry ads that tell you that your love for someone can and should be measured by the amount you're willing to spend on a shiny adornment for them to wear around so that other people will know they've been showered with riches.
  • Excessive consumerism in general. Do we need so much stuff? A constant churning of stuff in, stuff out, stuffing ourselves? Nope.

So I can get into this holiday, and enjoy it very much at times, but I always have ambivalent feelings about it because things get twisted and unpleasant when there's greed involved. I guess I'm going to lose all of my obscenely wealthy conspicuous consumer friends now... Oh, wait, I don't have any. :)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Speaking of Reading, as Surely We Always Are...

...I might as well post a list of books I particularly enjoyed reading this year, regardless of whether or not they were published this year. BECAUSE DECEMBER IS FOR LISTS, and you might find something here that you'd like to read or give as a gift. These are books to which I was moved to give five-star ratings (out of five, just so we're clear). According to my way of rating things, that means I would gladly read them again and I imagine I'll get even more out of them upon doing so.

None of these links have anything to do with me and I will not profit even a tiny bit if you click on them, unless there's some karmic system that operates on a different level from financial gain, in which case I'm pretty sure there's no law against it. ENJOY.



  • Medusa's Web, by Tim Powers - "...a phantasmagoric, thrilling, mind-bending tale of speculative fiction in which one man must uncover occult secrets of 1920s Hollywood to save his family."
  • City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett (my second reading of this one) - Divine Cities #1. "Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city's proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the quiet woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country's most accomplished spymasters — dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem — and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well."
  • City of Blades, by Robert Jackson Bennett - Divine Cities #2. Just as outstanding as the first! I'm looking forward to #3 in 2017.
  • The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins - The description of this book is too long to quote, and it also doesn't even begin to explain how freaking weird, dark, awesome, and amazing this book is. Probably because that would be impossible to explain. JUST READ IT.
  • The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison (my second reading) - "A vividly imagined fantasy of court intrigue and dark magics in a steampunk-inflected world, by a brilliant young talent. The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir."
  • Uprooted, by Naomi Novik - "Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood."
  • The Severed Streets, by Paul Cornell - "Summer in London: a city in turmoil. The vicious murder of a well-known MP is like a match to tinder but Detective Inspector James Quill and his team know that it's not a run-of-the-mill homicide. Still coming to terms with their new-found second sight, they soon discover that what is invisible to others - the killer - is visible to them. Even if they have no idea who it is."
  • The Necromancer's House, by Christopher Buehlman - "Andrew Ranulf Blankenship is a handsome, stylish nonconformist with wry wit, a classic Mustang, and a massive library. He is also a recovering alcoholic and a practicing warlock, able to speak with the dead through film. His house is a maze of sorcerous booby traps and escape tunnels, as yours might be if you were sitting on a treasury of Russian magic stolen from the Soviet Union thirty years ago. Andrew has long known that magic was a brutal game requiring blood sacrifice and a willingness to confront death, but his many years of peace and comfort have left him soft, more concerned with maintaining false youth than with seeing to his own defense. Now a monster straight from the pages of Russian folklore is coming for him, and frost and death are coming with her."

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

More Is Not Always Better, Unless You're Talking about Kittens

(My new kitten, Annabelle)


Today's photo has nothing to do with today's topic. BUT LOOK AT THIS SWEET LITTLE FACE.


I'm really here about the reading challenge I signed up for this year on I was possibly a little too ambitious. See, for my 2015 challenge, I said I would read 50 books in 2015 and I did. Just barely. 

Then I thought I should really PUSH MYSELF for 2016, so I signed myself up to read 60 books this year. As of today, December 7th, I'm at 52, and almost done with two more books, but even after those two are done I'll need to finish reading six books by the end of December 31st if I'm going to finish the challenge. I might do it. I might take a couple/few days to just read, and choose some short books so that I can finish them. I've already read more books than I did last year. However, I'm starting to feel that this challenge thing is not helping me, for the following reasons:
  • I sometimes avoid choosing longer books, just to get done faster.
  • I rush through reading books, just to get done faster.
  • I force myself to finish books I don't really like, just to avoid losing the sunk cost of the time I've put into starting to read them.
...and for what? To say I've technically read a large-ish number of books, when I didn't get much out of them due to the rushing though? That's just dumb. The main benefit I get out of the reading challenge is that I end up with a convenient list of what I've read in a given year, in order. To get that benefit, I could sign up for a much smaller challenge--say, 12 books in a year, because I'd have to spend most of the year in a coma to avoid reading that many. So that's what I'm going to do. I'll probably end up reading more, but it will be at the pace I want, because I feel like it. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Mixing Up the Spice of the Variety in the Planet-Sized Blender of Life

I'm here to say that there's room for everyone. In matters of opinion, my opinion doesn't negate yours (facts are quite different from opinions, for the record, but we can get into that another time). My way of life can't blot out your way of life. THINKING ABOUT different ways of life can't even make you change yours unless you want it to. Variety within a society is not a threat; it's a sign of freedom: the freedom to make a choice, try it out, think about the results, and then have the option to choose again.

People who don't look like you on the outside are remarkably similar to you on the inside.

Being comfortable with and interested in a diverse array of humans is something to be proud of.

Monday, December 5, 2016

I See You, Baby

Like this image? I made it! There's more where this came from on my Instagram.

Hey, guess what? I'm a Super-Recognizer. THAT'S RIGHT I HAVE A SUPERPOWER. Or that's what I'm going with, anyway...

Here's what happened. Last week I saw a link from Scientific American in my Twitter feed, to this not-really-flattering post: "Super-Recognizers Lurk Among Us: Some people are so good at recognizing faces that it's downright creepy". Naturally, I needed to go and discover any more clues I might find to help me calculate my potential "downright creepy factor," which is IMPORTANT INFORMATION.

I learned that "In 2009, psychological scientist Richard Russell and his colleagues first used the term super-recognizer to describe four participants in a study they conducted. According to the conclusions of the study, 'our findings demonstrate the existence of people with exceptionally good face recognition ability and show that the range of face recognition and face perception ability is wider than has been previously acknowledged.'"

The post linked to some online tests posted by researchers, and I took the "short teaser test" linked on that page. I did pretty well, but was a bit disappointed to get only 10 out of 14 on it. Then there was a request at the end to leave contact information, if I was interested in participating in more online research, but it said that they might take a while to contact me. So I left my email address, thinking I might hear from them someday. I had an email from them in my inbox the next morning, inviting me to take a series of their other tests. I went and took the heck out of those tests. After I was done, an hour later, I got some information about how I did. 

First, it said that "the 14-trial 'fun" test is not diagnostic of true face recognition ability- we have found that a few super-recognisers (as measured by follow up tests) score as low as 10 out of 14".

Then it showed the results of the four other tests. Three of those tested facial recognition, and one was about recognizing images of guitars. I did the worst on guitars, ending up below the top 50% of people tested, but I did the best on the Cambridge Face Memory Test, a long one where I scored 96% correct, putting me in the top 5% of those tested. 

This will have practically no impact on my life going forward, other than confirming that once I meet someone, I remember their face and where I met them. I already knew that. Combined with making a point of remembering names, I am slightly impressive at parties sometimes. I thought you might like to know. ;)

Why am I even writing this down? Well, I watched an interview of Seth Godin recently, and he made a convincing case for blogging every day. Between that and ideas I've gotten about communicating more, from Austin Kleon, this blog is about to get much more random. I'm going to SHARE MY THOUGHTS, y'all.