The Prodigal Pajamazon Returns

Okay, so I haven't posted here in 7 months. I'm sorry. Bad writer, no biscuit. But! Stuff has been going on in my personal life with health and such that I just have been dealing with. Head down, figuring out a new normal all that stuff. I'm going to try to be better about posting here, on Patreon and being a writer in general. I had a very good weekend at the Cirque Du Livre writers' conference. Got to speak with some great colleagues, and hear some awesome ideas. I will not be at Phoenix Comic Con this year. Sadly that wasn't to be. However, I will be at WesterCon in July. My schedule is still firming up, but I will post it here. 

So, what brings me back to the blog after such a long time? Well, this is a happening that is just too long for Facebook or Twitter. 

At approximately 3am, your Pajamazon was sleeping soundly when a dull bang roused her from slumber. My husband hurried into the bedroom and I asked, "Are you okay?"

"The house across the street is on fire." 

Holy shit! He had parked on the street, so he went to move his car into the driveway so that emergency services (already on site) could have unimpeded access to the blaze. I staggered out into the living room and saw blue and red lights. When I went outside, a fire truck was between me and the house, but I could see flames above the truck. There were other trucks up and down the street, and a few police cars. Sirens signaled more incoming vehicles. Our avenue was blocked off from every direction. Fire fighters silently paced the area, some holding axes, while others prepared the hoses. Emergency workers were making sure the neighbors were safe and surrounding the burning house. 

Not long after this, my neighbor came over and told us her account of what she saw and when she saw it. Had the homeowner set it himself? On purpose? Had he fallen asleep smoking? She had seen someone sitting on the curb at the corner and she assumed it was him. Had he been handcuffed? She thought so. 

The situation, for all the lights and loud engines, was freakishly calm. These first responders turned what could have been utter chaos into order, and handled it like seasoned professionals should. My daughter woke up, saw the lights and heard voices/radios and got scared. My cat was hiding in the doorway of the closet, ready to dart in should the need to hide arise. 

The blaze was contained quickly, and within about 30 minutes the firefighters were shedding their gear on our driveway. They packed up within about an hour of that and I was asleep again by the time they left. 

This morning, an officer came knocking before 7:30 asking for witness accounts and cellphone video if we had any. Honestly, I didn't take any. I thought about it, but worried that would be morbid or something. The blue and red lights in the smoky night was lovely even though the situation was serious. But I didn't get my phone. Neither did Sean. But I filled out a report about what I saw. (First time I've ever filled out a police report. So I've done something new today!) I asked the officers if the homeowner was okay. They said he was fine, but in the hospital for minor smoke inhalation. 

The house today looks...better than I thought it would? The carport is a charred mess, and the truck inside it is a heap of Chevy-shaped melted glass, plastic and warped metal. As I drove K to school this morning, I saw more damage in the back yard. The house itself appears largely untouched from outside. There's a small portion of blackened roof and a window that's out, but otherwise it looks only a little worse for wear. There's caution tape. There are police cars. There's a pair of glasses on the sidewalk in front of my house, lenses broken, earpieces bent. They look like they belong to the guy who lives in the house across the street. There is ash and char on the sidewalk. 

It's a strange scene. 

I'm glad he's okay. I hope this was an unfortunate accident and that he can pick up the pieces and rebuild. 

I know that police departments get bad reps. I know that some people don't think emergency services are that important. What I saw last night was a dance of cool-headed precision. They kept everyone safe and did the job. Today they're still doing the job to make sure that this was just an accident. Frankly, these responders are fucking badass. Are there problems with individuals? Is there systemic racism? Are certain communities worse off? Yes to all. But these jobs matter. These people matter. And they're doing amazing things that the rest of us can't possibly shoulder. 

So yeah. That was some excitement for my day. When I finally got back to sleep at like 5am, my dreams were messed up. Some of them had me standing outside watching the house burn. One of my cats was on a cactus (like a bobcat...even though that cactus was removed last year), and there was a huge raven. In the dream, I got the sense that the raven belonged to the guy across the street, and that it was now homeless. I stretched out my hand and offered it a place to sit. It jumped on my shoulder and made itself comfortable. So the rest of my dreams featured my raven friend. 

It's so quiet today. My cat is sitting beside me, almost like she wants the comfort of being nearby. The kiddo is at school. The husband is at work. It's a normal day. 

How weird is that?


Billy Joel Didn't, But I *Totally* Started The Fire

  So, if you follow my blog or social media, you'll know 2 things:

1) The past few weeks have been psychotically stressful for this Pajamazon. 2) I love fire.

Between this, that and the other, I really needed to blow off some steam. Everyone has their own way to let loose. For some it's scrapbooking, rock climbing or yoga. Sane things. Relatively safe things. Me? I put fire in my face (or expel flames from it). This time, though, I upped the ante a little and did so on live television while a former star of Little House on the Prairie looked on. All before breakfast. *flexes*

Madame C -- Crystal Cruz, my Dragon Trainer.

One of my fire teachers was advertising her Dragon Training class on a local morning news show and asked if anyone would be interested in helping her demonstrate the skills being taught. I said sure, got a ride lined up and boom: in like Flynn. Not only did I get to play with fire, I got to engage in one of my other favorite passtimes... It's a little game I like to call, "Scaring the Straights". You know those normal people? I like to freak them out when I get a chance. It's been one of my favorite games since at least junior high when I embraced my weirdness. The tv personalities (I don't know that I can call them "news anchors" with a straight face) gawked at me and my fire partner while Madame C explained what we were doing and participated in the interview. I was focused on my work, but I loved hearing "Oh, my god! What is she doing?!" almost as much as I loved the "woosh!" sound of breathing fireballs.

Something hilarious that happened because of this... Saturday night I got home to find a message on Facebook from a woman I went to college with. We weren't close friends or anything, but we were in marching band together for a few years. Anyway, apparently she lives in the Phoenix metro area now as well because she saw the tv spot!

 "I thought that was you," her message said. "That looked so crazy. That's how I knew it had to be you!"

*blink* Did I really have that much of a reputation in college for doing weird shit? Because I didn't do weird shit then other than say things to freak out the uber straight-laced girls in my classes. Anyway, I got a great laugh out of that one. That's quote of the day, right there.

Yup. That's me. Eating fire.

Saturday night I went to the Dragon Training class and learned more tricks. Favorite new trick involves transferring the flame from one torch to another...while the lit one is in my mouth. I wish I had video of me doing it because it looked beautiful from my point of view. Got more practice with eating. Improved at vapor tricks and "dragon spit" (not the same as breathing). Breathed some more. (Funny, for someone who said a few years ago "I will never breathe fire", I certainly have taken to it.) Once again, it was thrilling for me to get to play. It was doubly fun to watch friends discover fire art and develop their talents.

It's interesting to me. There are a lot of things you can do with fire. Hula hoop, poi spinning, staff spinning, diablo, breathing, eating, palm flames, sword dancing, candling (a vapor trick with the mouth), fleshing (doing fuel/flame transfers on flesh)...lots of room to play in fire arts. I love watching people find niches. I enjoy seeing how one person can love this trick, but hate another.

For example:  I've tried fans, but it's just not my thing. Likewise with palm flames. I have friends who perform those, but I lack the belly dancing skill and sinuous grace to make palm flames interesting. I have a friend who lights a scimitar on fire and puts it on her head. I have some friends who spin staves. Again, I've tried these things but for one reason or other, it's just not mine. Me? I love my poi spinning. It's rhythm and motion and I excel at it. And I dig on torch work. I like some fleshing tricks for flare and I love candling. For some reason, I really like the tricks that involve me lighting my tongue on fire. But I can't hold a torch in my teeth. The heat is too intense and though I've tried it a few times, it's just not something in my bag of tricks. My friend Michelle, though, *loves* this trick and performs it well.

Michelle. That's TWO torches in her teeth. She's a badass.

I loved looking at the pictures and video of Saturday's escapades because there was something I saw about myself that pleased me. I was so peaceful and comfortable playing with the fire. I look so calm, and--oddly enough--I am. Don't get me wrong, I'm scared of doing some of these tricks. There is some pain involved (but no more than drinking a cup of too hot chai, or touching a car that has been sitting out in Arizona summer), and the danger factor is high. I could seriously injure myself, and every time I'm about to do a trick I think about that.

There is an odd sort of focus, though, that comes over me. A tunnel vision of sorts. My hearing is keen. Listening for a safety to tell me if something is wrong, listening for movement of others. And, admittedly, taking in the gasps or "Holy shit!" from the people watching. Kinesthetic awareness goes up so that I can know my surroundings--who is around me? where are they standing? where are trees? are there divots on the ground?--and my vision narrows to the immediate task in front of me. How long has the torch been burning? Where is the wind coming from? Breath control. How much fuel do I take into my mouth? Don't swallow. Lips pursed--wait, how do I do this again? Oh yeah. Hold the fuel away. Bring up the torch. Blow. Open your eyes and watch the fireball filling your vision.

breathing fire dragon

It all happens in a second, blink and you'll miss it. And while all of these things are going on in my mind, I'm at peace. There is a strange relaxation that comes with heightened focus. Perhaps that's the essence of meditation?

Anyway. This is how I recharge and let off stress. It's something that I love to do and while I don't feel the need to get back into full on performing again, I'm happy to have the time in my friend's backyard with a can of fuel and a few torches.

And now it's back to the real world with me where I have to think about cars and numbers and medical stuff all the shit that stressed me out in the first place.

DON'T FORGET: Tomorrow I'll be over at Bitten By Books for an all day Q&A. We'll be talking about WILD CARD, Vegas, Satyrs...whatever you want to chat about. And I'll be giving away an Amazon gift card and some more poker chips! RSVP NOW for an additional 25 chances at the swag.

Life Has a Funny Way...

tumblr_ml7eh6kpwM1r5s8qlo1_250So last year was the Year of Giving It A Shot. I must admit that I didn't give much of anything new a shot last year other than being a published author. Apparently, Life-The-Universe-And-Everything has seen fit to give me a makeup exam in 2014. Last month, I took a "Dragon Training" class where I refreshed my fire eating skills and also learned how to breathe fire. (DUDE!) I'm taking a second one this weekend. Sure, it will probably be a lot of review, but I'd love to get more practice in. Also, hello? Any chance to hang with my friends and play with fire.

While I was looking at some videos about fire eating last month to psych myself up, I stumbled across Brian Brushwood and Scam School on YouTube. Instalove. Since then I've been teaching myself basic magic tricks and some little scams. What the hell, right? I mean, sure I don't have any "marketable skills" but when the zombie apocalypse is over and you need someone who can breathe fire, write a novel in a month and do lame card tricks...well, you'll be sorry you ate me first, now won't you?

(Also, as a side note, I think it's funny that I said that I would be "open to magic" this year. I didn't quite mean sleight-of-hand and such, but whatever. Just go with it.)

Anyway, it also seems that I'm going to need to add a few other tricks to my growing repertoire of skills. My car died. Again. This time it's personal. Or something. Anyway, the VW Bug I got last year to replace my car of 15 years (long live the Stepchild!) gave up its own ghost about three or four weeks ago. I've bummed rides the past 2 weeks to get the kiddo to school, and stalled as much as I can, but it looks like it's time to get a new ride. And by new, I mean something in a more recent model year than the turn of the century. The car I've found that I dig (if I get it, I'll introduce you) is a 2012...and it's a stick. I can't (as of this post) drive a stick. Just like I can't ride a bike. (Yes, it's true, shut up.) So yeah, it looks like there's something else for me to learn if I want this car. (Which I pretty much do. It's all settled but the test drive, ya know?)

Breathing fire, magic tricks, dead car.. . what else? OH! I met my mother-in-law for the first time. That was... fun. Awkward. My husband and I have been together for more than 9 years at this point and I've never met his mom. Part of that is because for the longest time, she lived in Baltimore and we lived in Phoenix. She doesn't travel well due to some medical issues. And we haven't exactly been in a position to do a lot of traveling. However, his mom is moving out here to Phoenix, so she and a few relatives made the road trip from Illinois (where she's been for about a year now) and did some apartment scouting. This also resulted in a bit of a family reunion. My husband and his brother Zach saw their mom for the first time in more than a decade and my daughter met her grandmother for the first time.

visual approximation of that week

Things got rather stressful for a week there because I was selling my car on Craigslist (never again without an answering service, a WWE wrestler and a cattle prod), and trying to juggle communications between husband and in-laws. All while getting over some wicked cough (not related to fire breathing, I might add). I was pretty much a bundle of raw nerves and had zero brain space to devote to fantasy or whimsy in any way.

However, once all that cleared away, I dove headfirst into a new story.  It's still pretty nebulous in my mind, so I don't want to post too much here. But it's outside the C# universe...a stand-alone sci-fi that is--so far--best described as "Ready Player One" meets Tom Clancy...with Geisha. I've posted a series of images that are speaking to me lately on my Facebook page.

So yeah, meeting WiP... shopping for a new car. Plotting and rearranging my con schedule/plans. Looks like I'll be doing CONvergence in Minnesota this summer. That's been my life of late.

How the hell are you?

Fire Eating for Fun And Profit

incase of fireSo, as some of you know I'm a fire artist/performer. I started with fire poi in 2006 when I mentioned that I wanted to learn, and my friend Nicki said, "They teach that at the studio I use for bellydance lessons." And thus, my life did change forever. I started taking lessons at the studio from Trishnamurti, and within six weeks I was spinning fire balls around my body. Over the next 2 years I learned advanced fire spinning techniques, how to be a professional fire safety and some of the ins-and-outs of being a performer. I worked with a few troupes and dabbled in fire fan, fire staff spinning and very basic torch work.

SONY DSCAnyway, in 2008 I was spinning constantly, learning to spin 4 poi at one time! I performed at a Dresden Dolls concert and Sin Aesthesia had 3 shows lined up. However, before the first Sin show, I injured my back. Two slipped discs and crazy amounts of nerve damage threw off my ability to balance myself. Not to mention I couldn't stand up straight and I was on enough pain meds and muscle relaxers to make Lindsay Lohan jealous.

For various reasons, I didn't dive back into the fire/circus scene after I healed from my injury. But I've missed it greatly. So, at New Year's 2013, some friends brought up fire art and skills they wanted to learn and the three of us made promises to one another: we will burn in 2014.

An opportunity to put our money--and fire--where our mouths were presented itself rather quickly in the form of a "Dragon Training" workshop at The Circus Farm with local performer Madame C (Link may be NSFW as it goes to a burlesque troupe. Yup, I'm friends with circus freaks and burlesque dancers. Your point?) But I digress, the class would teach fire eating, basic "fleshing" tricks and--the big baddy--breathing a plume of fire.

Hells. Yes.

Madam C breathing fire.

So, the class was last Saturday and it. was. AMAZEBALLS. I went with my friends Inge and Michelle. There were 12 of us in the class, which is a good size for something like this.

Of course we started with fucking breathing fire. (This is the one trick that scares me beyond belief. Always has because if something goes wrong with this trick, it is probably catastrophic.) Rather than just throw us into the deep end of the flaming pool (metaphorically speaking, there was not a flaming pool), we all started with water. We stood around blowing wet raspberries for about 20 minutes, soaking ourselves in the process. Seriously, I looked like I had a drinking problem. ( tip: don't wear a white t-shirt when doing this kind of work.) After working on that for a while and blowing through about 8 ounces of water each, we refilled our bottles with lamp oil--the preferred fuel for breathing fire. Madam C demonstrated a few times and then it was our turn. One by one, we each gave it a shot.

Guys, I breathed fire. I blew a raspberry of lamp oil at a lit torch and when I opened my eyes the world was replaced with a blooming ball of fire. Sweet Jesus, it was spectacular. I did it a few times and felt like a total bad ass. All eyebrows are still in tact and I did not, in fact, die. I was a dragon! RAWR!

visual approximation of my perspective

After everyone had a chance to expectorate flame, we sat down in a circle to begin torch work. Now, I've learned very basic torch work in the past, but I haven't done it since 2011. I have to say, it really is like riding a bike. The muscle memory is still there, as is my tolerance to having an open flame in my face. It was nice to refresh the skills of doing fuel transfers (where one torch is lit from way of one's arm or tongue). And, I learned to properly extinguish fire in my mouth, so I am now a true-honest-to-goodness Fire Eater. I also learned some vapor tricks (aka "candling" -- where you hold an open flame in your mouth sans torch).

I think the most enlightening moments were when I was watching others...people who are truly new to fire play. One woman, bless her, was trying to put a torch in her mouth and her neck just kept trying to retract like a turtle. I've forgotten what it's like to be new to fire and to fear it. If I ever did, that is. (Yeah, no. I don't think I did. But that just confirms that I'm crazy.) Anyway, I forget that other people don't have that comfort with fire, even if they do have a respect and reverence for it. The body is weird and the act of putting fire in your mouth can be intense--and not just because of the heat. When playing with any fire prop, your body knows on an instinctive level that this is dangerous and wants to get away. The adrenaline pumps in and at times your body will go its own way to protect itself. (Like jerking away from a torch that you're trying to put in your mouth.)

I don't know what that's like, honestly. When the torch comes at my face, I open up and prepare to do something cool. And yet, I can't put a contact lens in my eye on the first go. Seriously... I'm weird.

Our class at the Circus Farm. Practicing with water. I'm in white by the trampoline.

It was a great class. I watched a lot of women do amazing things. I watched friends become dragons. I watched a woman in her sixties snuff out a flame in her mouth. And, I've reignited (pun intended) my love for fire play. I've missed it so much and I don't want to wait another two years before playing again. I've decided that while I'm not interested in performing again (that shit is an expensive ass hobby), I'm going to rebuild my fire kit. (After Nicki died I let my equipment rot away--literally--and disintegrate.) I'm starting from scratch. New poi and chains. New torches. New everything.

There will be another Dragon Training class next month. I may or may not go depending on funds. I will be getting together with friends on a regular basis, though, to play with fire.

I've missed this part of myself.

Dude. I breathed fire.

NOTE: We did this in a controlled environment and took all proper safety precautions. Experienced performers were on hand to supervise. NEVER DO THIS ALONE. ALWAYS LEARN FROM AN EXPERT. For information on what I was learning and how I learned it, you can watch Brian Brushwood's SCAM SCHOOL videos on the topic here. And I know you're probably wanting pics or video, but I don't have those. There was a camera crew at the workshop, but that footage hasn't been posted anywhere. Also, we were all really busy during the workshop, so there wasn't time to grab a camera or phone and snap a few. Soon, though. Sometime when I'm out at the Circus Farm or something I'll get someone to take pictures or video.