Snippet: John and Mary

The bride was having a meltdown over the demon in the lobby.  “I don’t care if he’s with a conference!  I don’t want a blue guy in the background of my wedding photos!”

Mary and John watched, amused, as the bride’s parents, groom and hotel personnel all failed to calm her.

“I bet she finagles a comped suite and brunch for the family,” Mary whispered to John.  They stood several feet away, outside the Oak Room.  The bride’s raised voice had stopped them on the way into the Friday night meet and greet.

“You think she’s faking it?” John asked.

“I think she’s exaggerating.”

“You think or you know?”

“I’m not going to waste my time trying to read the mind of a bridezilla.  Whenever no one is looking she rolls her eyes.”  As they watched, the bride slapped away her mother’s conciliatory hands.

“No!  This is my day!”

“See what we missed out on by eloping?”  John kissed Mary’s forehead as she laughed at him.

“Middle-aged brides look ridiculous in white gowns.”

“You would have looked lovely.”  John leaned forward and whispered in her ear, “You do look lovely.”

“Thank you.  You aren’t half bad yourself.”

“Think we should find the offensive demon and ask him to change color?”

“I have half a mind to ask all the demons to take on the rainbow.”  They left the bride to her problems and entered the room.

The meet and greet was already in full swing.

 


A snippet from the beginning of a novel about demons, magic, witches, Dante’s Inferno and a bunch of other stuff. I might even finish it one day.

Scenes from a Marriage: Three glasses of wine edition

roach: So you wanna go to the bedroom? I got a clogged drain you could snake.
Stephan: … Okay, 1) You really need to get better at your euphemisms and 2) spoken like someone who has never unclogged a drain.
roach: Well, duh, I don’t have the equipment for it.

The Way We Think About Work Is Broken

“And there’s something special about idea technology, that makes it different from the technology of things.  With things, if the technology sucks, it just vanishes, right?  Bad technology disappears.  With ideas—false ideas about human beings will not go away if people believe that they’re true.  Because if people believe that they’re true, they create ways of living and institutions that are consistent with these very false ideas.”

—Barry Schwartz

Dreaming of a Craftsman Economy

“I like your computer,” she said. “It looks like it was made by Indians or something.”

Chia looked down at her sandbenders. Turned off the red switch. “Coral,” she said. “These are turquoise. The ones that look like ivory are the inside of a kind of nut. Renewable.”

“The rest is silver?”

“Aluminum,” Chia said. “They melt old cans they dig up on the beach cast it in sand molds. These panels are micarta. That’s linen with this resin in it.”

One of the things I loved most about the novel Idoru by William Gibson was the idea of handmade computers.  Going beyond the limited customization offered by tower cases and laptop decals, he presented a vision of one of a kind units.  In a world of cheap T-shirts, fast food and Walmart, the idea of something so unique, so intentional, has instant appeal.

One of my greatest disappointments of the future is that we haven’t embraced a hand-crafted model like the one described in Idoru.  There are hints of handmade technology—phone cases here, apps, widgets and live wallpapers there—most notably in the Steampunk genre where a DIY aesthetic is applied to everything from fashion to machinery to vehicles.  The glimpses, though, serve more to highlight the predominance of mass produced items.

I think about that a lot, about how we have reached a point where we shouldn’t be relying so much on mass produced clothes and furniture and houses.  I wonder what it would look like, to live in a world where there were more crafters, making more beautiful things for people.

It’d require a higher standard of living than we have right now, that’s for sure.   Obamacare has been helpful in easing one of the main reasons people don’t strike out on their own.  But when you can’t be certain if you’ll make enough to survive, all the health care in the world isn’t going to convince you to leave your day job.

A guaranteed income would probably be necessary.  Or at least creating a living wage.  If we could ensure that people wouldn’t starve, that they would have a place to sleep, that they could have their basic needs met, what would they accomplish?  If someone could be certain that working forty hours at a fast food place paid enough to meet their needs, what could they do with all the extra time they didn’t have to spend at a second or third job?  How many cottage industries would crop up, providing beauty to replace the beige and plastic molded bits and bobs of our lives?

I don’t know. I’d love to find out, though.

Scenes from a Marriage: Home Improvement Edition

Stephan: Do we have any nuts and bolts?
roach: Yes, they’re in the yellow plastic container marked “Ox-eye Daisies”.
Stephan: … Why?
roach: In case anyone ever invades the workshop. They won’t know where anything is.
Stephan: Right, because invaders are going to steal our bolts.
roach: Better safe than sorry.

So You’ve Been Enchanted, A Guide to Breaking the Curse in Five Easy Steps

Whether you spurned a fairy lover, insulted a witch disguised as a beggar or had the bad luck to be born to the wrong parents, there’s nothing worse finding yourself the target of a transformation curse.  One minute you’re enjoying life in your perfectly formed human body and the next—bam!—you’re a hideous beast, a slimy frog, a white cat, or some other creature.  Don’t let your new form get you down.  You can break out of that enchantment using the time-proven system outlined below.

Your first step is to set the bait.  Residual magic from the enchantment can be shaped into an appropriate setting.  This is no time for humility or small ideas.  Dream big: grand estates, cavernous jewel-encrusted grottos, underwater palaces, darkened woods shrouded in mist.  Choose your location carefully—not somewhere out in the wilderness but definitely off the beaten path.  Old trade routes, lands once occupied by legendary kingdoms, and abandoned ruins all are suitable.  Don’t forget the attendants.  Invisible servants are popular these days, although anthropomorphic animals are traditional.

The second step is to cultivate patience.  You can’t expect your prince or princess to show up the day after you’ve been enchanted.  It takes time for word to get out, or for a hapless questor to stumble across your estate.  While it is frustrating not knowing how long you will be locked into your cursed form, put the time to good use.  Learn how to play chess with the servants.  Practice dancing, fencing and dining without making a mess.  Improve yourself; it will help with step number three.

The big day is here!  Your rescuer has arrived either under his own volition or as a deal to save her kingdom from your murderous appetite.  Now you must make your guest fall in love with you.  This is the easy part.  Such rescuers are raised from birth to expect to find true love through magic.  All the stories they have heard end with, “And they lived happily ever after.”  Every royal brat dandled on a nurse’s knee is taught that underneath all ugliness and uncouthness a just and noble heart lurks, waiting to be released by True Love’s Kiss.  And their true love will be found through adventure and adversity.  This will, however, prove to be a small obstacle in breaking the curse.

By now your beloved has seen past your external horridness to the sensitive, refined person trapped inside.  It is time for step four: the second hardest part.  Persuade your prince to cut off your head.  Encourage your princess to throw you against the wall.  The details vary according to the spell, but it can only ever be lifted through violence.  This is tricky.  Convincing your rescuer to do violence without revealing why puts his or her faith and love to the test.  It also requires a certain character defect on the part of your beloved, so it is a test of your love as well.  Do you really want to spend the rest of your life with someone who is willing to hurt you?

Step five: congratulations!  The spell has been lifted.  You are now free to live Happily Ever After with your prince or princess.  Do not look for your servants or estate or library.  These all disappear with the breaking of the spell.  Now it’s off to the faraway kingdom to live in relative wealth and comfort.  You can entertain your children and grandchildren with stories of magic and true love so that in time they will be prepared to go out and find their own.  And if you have to settle for a life less magical, well it will be worth it, won’t it?

 


“So You’ve Been Enchanted, A Guide to Breaking the Curse in Five Easy Steps” copyright 2016, Raechel Henderson

It’s a Man’s (Business) World

The last couple of weeks I’ve been working on a business plan for Idiorhythmic Designs.  Last year I had been dedicated to making it my full-time job, and last year I was still working on my depression and anxiety, so I didn’t make much headway.  During my down time I decided to approach it from the ground up, writing a business plan, coming up with a logo, getting my social media use up again, all the ground floor stuff you do when you start a business.

I spent a few days at the library reading over business start up books, books about how to write business plans, books about how to run a crafting business, books upon books.  And I sat there and answered questions about my business vision, my projected revenue and expenses, my ideal customer, etc. I felt frustration creeping up on me.  It’s a feeling I’ve gotten every time I’ve read business books.

I love reading business books.  I find them entertaining and informative.  And as someone who never studied business and has difficulties with impostor syndrome, I am always trying to fill the gaps in my knowledge.  But I find that they all seem to come from the starting point: a point in which the way business is run and has been run for seemingly forever is the default to aspire to.  There are books that are aimed at “creatives”, at “non-business people”, at new comers and outsiders.  But their goal is to teach those without an MBA how to fit into the business system.  These books accept, without question, that the current system.  And it is a system predominantly rich, white and male.

Two years ago I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.  I was excited when I started the book.  I wanted to find ways to approach being a business owner that weren’t rooted in telling women to be like men to succeed in business.  I believe that there is so much corporate culture could benefit from if it stopped making white and male the ideal.  I especially wanted to see examples of cultures that honored and valued other measures of success beyond the bottom line (employee happiness, how the world is made better by companies existences, benefit to society, etc.).  Mostly, I wanted to see a shift in way companies behave, because if I am going to live in a country where corporations are considered people, I want these corporate people to be productive members of society instead of the sociopaths the so routinely are.

The more I read Sandberg’s book, though, the more frustrated I became. At one point she wrote a description of a meeting of female engineers at Facebook, “…she encouraged them to share the progress they had made on the products they were building. Silence. No one wanted to toot her own horn. Who would want to speak up when self-promoting women are disliked? Jocelyn switched her approach. Instead of asking the women to talk about themselves, she asked them to tell one another’s stories. The exercise became communal, which put everyone at ease.”

The next paragraph is about how women need to be more self-promoting (an assertion that I don’t disagree with) but I felt Sandberg had missed a very important point.  That meeting told me that there were other ways to do things, that communal sharing could be just as important as tooting one’s own horn.  And rather than celebrating having found a new way to get those engineers involved, she took it as a sign that those women really needed to work on molding themselves into someone else. It was so disappointing to see that moment of epiphany taken to that same old ground.

I’d much rather an environment that encouraged sharing and cooperation than one that insisted on the individual over all. And seeing how businesses currently work, placing emphasis on profit over everything else, rewarding CEOs even when they fail at the expense of the employees at lower levels, etc. that some community-minded policies might just be a better change.

All of this has been hanging heavy on my mind as I work on building Idiorhytmic Designs and pondered all the ways I went wrong with Eggplant.  I recognize that I fell into several traps with Eggplant: I put too much emphasis on what a publishing company should look like, I spent too much time trying to “fake it till you make it” which made it impossible for me to say I was having mental health problems and ask for help.  I was trying to fit the way I wanted to work, and the type of company I wanted to run into a corporate ideal I found uncomfortable, to say the least.

As I sat in the library study room, I tried to concentrate not on numbers and marketing speak, but on how it would feel to run Idiorhythmic right.  On what it would mean to me and my family to be able to get to four large conventions in a year.  On how I would balance having Ben underfoot while I sewed hundreds of dice bags.  I focused on what I wanted to accomplish, not in terms of money, but in terms of how I run this business will support and amplify my values of sustainability, small business success, custom work, equality and justice.  It is an ethic that means I want to buy supplies from local stores and from other sellers on Etsy.  That means not buying supplies from Hobby Lobby (because I find them ethically offensive) or from mass producers in China (who are easy to buy from now that Etsy has allowed them to operate carte blanche).  It means a focus on making a modest profit and feeling good about myself, rather than making a larger profit and contributing to a problem I see.

I ended up drawing a lot of my business plan.  I don’t consider myself an artist, but I have found the mind map method of plotting to be very helpful. I’ve also not taken the writing of my business plan too seriously, as evidenced by my Facebook statuses at the time

mansbusinessworld01 mansbusinessworld02 mansbusinessworld03 mansbusinessworld04

It’s not that I don’t think that a business plan is important. I know it is. Right now, though, it is just for me, and taking a irreverent keeps me from falling into those old mindsets. Will I be able to stick to my beliefs going forward? I don’t know. But at least I am trying to shape my worldview and my business goals so that they are in harmony. And if that isn’t worth trying, then I don’t know what is.

Snippet: The Slope

(A piece of fiction written about a LARP character.)

The rats screech and squeak in fear as Alice tosses them into the web. They struggle, clawing and biting, tiny nails scratching the air in a vain attempt to escape. Alice notes that the monstrous spider waits before skittering along the web, dancing to her dinner. Perhaps the thrashing tenderizes the meat, or maybe terror is a succulent marinade.

Alice watches the spider quickly wrap each rat in silk. They make neat, lozenge shaped packages. They are tiny compared to the massive bulk of the spider. Pet store rats can’t be all that satisfying.

Alice tilts her head, considering. Cats would be only slightly more difficult to obtain. The same goes for dogs. But they could be gotten, and would provide better fare. Alice imagines the struggles of a tabby or mutt. She calculates the size of a mummified retriever.

Of course there are even larger prey she could obtain.

Little tow-headed toddlers, lured from the playground or bright-eyed teen-age girls promised a chance at modeling. With the start of the school year there are plenty of freshmen hanging out in parking lots stoned or drunk. The streets are full of homeless men, unemployed and desperate for money who could be overpowered with a taser.

Alice imagines all of them wriggling and crying, pleading to be released. The glamour to be reaped would be oh so delicious.

The spider has withdrawn to its hole at the roots of the dead and withered oak. All that remains of the rats is the cardboard box in which Alice transported them. Alice gives herself a shake, slightly disgusted by the fantasies she entertained, mostly saddened by them.

There’s so much talk of the slippery slopes, of destroying fetches leading to the wholesale murder of humans, she thinks. But it’s not a slope. It’s a drop off.

An unmarked drop off.

And so one must occasionally feel one’s way to the edge, moving slowly, and with deliberation to mark where the ground falls away, or else one risks imitating the cartoon coyote, running on air, solid ground just out of reach. At that point one must remember not to look down.

They hardly ever remember.

Alice backs away from the ledge. The way is clearly marked, the lines apparent. A rat is a rat. A human is a human. The former is for eating, the latter not.

Alice picks up the box and leaves. She’ll not revisit the pet store any time soon. The spider can catch its own meals.

True Tales From Conventions: Touching Myself

The first convention I vended at was ICC 2008.  I had driven out to Detroit with a box full of scarves and bags.  I was nervous as hell: I was getting divorced, I had been out of the job market for four years, 2008 was … well 2008, and I was unsure how I was going to support myself and my daughter.

I spent the weekend sitting at a table with my friend Sarah B, taking a crash course in how to vend.  I learned first hand about the weird, frantic energy that comes with interacting with a lot of people in a small space.  Add in not enough food, not enough rest, not enough breaks and you get the following:

roach (talking to a customer about a scarf): Yes, I love the tactile nature of the material.  You just can’t help but touch yourself when you wear it.

Sarah B: roach!  (Sarah B physically inserts herself between roach and the customer and sends roach to the corner to sew beads on bags.)

The moral of the story is: always have a friend who is willing to intervene when your filter comes loose.

Scenes from a Marriage: Headshot

roach: You were a theater major. You know about headshots, right? You could take one of me.
Stephan: Usually they’re taken by a professional.
roach: I’m going to be wearing a crown made from pink unicorn erasers. I think the professional ship has sailed.