blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
See that beautiful thing? It’s my Christmas joy, given by my brother-in-law as part of our family Secret Santa exchange.* He joked that he bought me one so I’d stop borrowing his. I told him it was his own fault for suggesting it would be a great camping accessory.

Yes, it’s great for emergencies--it’ll jumpstart a car, forex--but it’s the camping applications that make me love it so.

The last time I took my BIL’s charger along, I tested how much battery power it took to keep my Kindle and phone fully charged over three days. By the end of the experiment, I’d recharged my used-until-dead Kindle three times, and my used-not-as-much phone twice. The charging unit’s battery level had merely nudged down to around 97%.

Coming experiments will include discovering how long it’ll run my laptop, and what affects the power drain. The first attempt got around six hours of active laptop and wireless use (in addition to the two-ish hours I get from the laptop battery).

My writerly camping trips are about to get WAY more productive. Or at least differently productive.

Y’see, the usual writerly camping trip tends to revolve around plotting and editing, with some handwritten first drafting. Truly, I love writing by hand, and part of me misses the days when I wrote first and second drafts with black extra-fine Uniball pens on college-ruled notebook paper in a three-ring binder. But... I’ve also grown accustomed to the greater speed a keyboard allows me when my thoughts start running ahead of my cursive.

This lovely unit will permit me to flip open the laptop at those moments without fear I’ll suddenly run out of power before finishing.

Of course, now I desperately want to hide in a wooded campground for three days.

Alas, January!

On the other hand, March isn’t that far away...



*Our family shifted from the gifts-for-everyone model to Secret Santa many years ago, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is move into the holidays without massive financial and shopping stress. We draw names at the end of Thanksgiving dinner, keep our draw secret, then exchange the gifts on Christmas Eve. Yes, the kids still get Santa presents, and special presents from parents.

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Hooray, camping again at Lake Pueblo!  I've been down here four times now--twice camping, twice hiking--and absolutely love the openness, the dryness, and the off-season quiet.

The first time I camped at Lake Pueblo, at a lovely site overlooking the lake, ended early because the winds came up so strong.  I was afraid the tent was going to snap, so packed it in.  Turns out that was a good thing, since an unexpected blizzard was roaring in.

This time?  Stray shower, maybe a thunderstorm, said the forecast.  Winds gusting to 20mph, said the forecast.  That's nothing, my darlings.  I've tent-camped through Indiana thunderstorms strong enough to spawn tornadoes within a couple miles of my campsite.  I've tent-camped in inch-an-hour rainfall.  I've tent-camped in a desert windstorrm.  So 20mph winds with maybe a little rain?  I was not concerned.

So after a fantastic day that involved a lovely hike, proofreading 250 pages, and sausages roasted over an open fire for the pupper and I, I sat outside while the last of the fire burned down.  The moonlight from the east was bright enough to wash most of the stars from the sky.  Off to the west, I saw a couple lightening flashes in the distance.  I took the moments to stash this-n-that in the tent or the Jeep (I don't much like last-minute dashing when other options are available), stirred out the coals so they'd burn down faster, and got myself and Gambit settled in the tent.

It wasn't fifteen minutes later that the first wind gust slammed the tent hard enough to knock a tent pole against my head.  No warning, no preliminary breezes, nothing.  Zero to whatever-speed in a single gust.  I tried everything I knew to do, inside the tent and out, but lost the battle.  For the first time in my camping experience, the wind was strong enough to yank one of the stakes out of the ground.  And when one stake goes, the strain on all the others increases.  In a minute, half the tent was levitating and the other half was considering the same.

Alas, this happened when Gambit and I were still inside the tent and--in the fashion of one with an overactive imagination--I envisioned my dog and I entangled in the tent, blown over the steep hillside, landing in the lake, and dragged down by the weight of the tent and everything in it.  So I wrestled the tent flap open far enough to shove Gambit outside, thinking even if he ran off, he'd be safer anywhere but inside the smooshed tent, then got myself out too.

I remember finding the car keys and jamming them in my mouth.  I remember yanking the poles out of the tent and folding them just enough to fit on the back seat.  I remember dragging the tent halfway under the Jeep so I could lie on the ground (Did I mention the nigh-constant lightening, and the fact I was standing on a high point beside the lake?) and find by feel the valve that would deflate my mattress.  Yeah, that might sound like a stupid thing to consider, but I couldn't wrestle the mattress out of the tangled tent, and the tent and all its contents was going to take off if I let go.  I remember stuffing the tent--along with the sleeping bag, mattress, clothes, and assorted stuff--into the back of the Jeep.

At some point, I had opened a door so Gambit could jump in the Jeep.  I don't remember doing so, but the poor pup was shaking on the front seat when I finally got in the car.

I guess I could have stuck around for awhile to see if the wind died down enough to risk setting the tent back up.  I opted to head home instead.  I didn't know if a pole had snapped (It hadn't. Near I can tell, one end of the pole yanked free of the pin.), or if the weather would get better or worse (I'd lost all connection on my phone), or what the state of everything inside the tent was, seeing as it was now all wadded up in the Jeep.

I drove home.  Got there around midnight.  It took over two hours this morn to sort out and untangle the mess I hauled out of the Jeep, but nothing is terrible or unfixable.  It was just... messy.

I'm thinking that the next time I camp at Pueblo, I'll choose one of the sites set back from the lake views, where junipers and gulches and some such will break the wind before it kills me.  I'm thinking I can damn well drag a chair to one of those views during the day, and sleep in peace at night.  I'm thinking I need to remember more about my desert camping youth than my Midwest camping middle years!


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
So the appropriately named Rock-pocalypse (thank you,  [livejournal.com profile] gnibbles!) that devoured my sister's new-home experience also ate nearly two weeks of my life because... well, because someone tried to screw over my family member and that Will Not Stand. Everything in me that is Scots-Irish Sicilian came out in force, and there wasn't room for elsemuch.

I cannot go in to all the details quite yet (though I'm muchly looking forward to doing so, if for no other reason than to purge it from my brainspace). But I can say over two thousand square feet of two- to four-inch sized rocks were removed from my sister's yard this week. They removed enough rock from her yard to have filled the previous home I lived in with rock six to eight inches deep.

That's a fuck-ton of rock.

In case you missed it, here's what it looked like when they moved in:







Now she and her partner can move forward, with a large deck being built this week and the landscapers coming to finish everything off next week. By the 30th, everything needs to be in place, since they're throwing a huge party in that backyard to celebrate their marriage!

And this means I can move forward, too.

I'm wrapping up final commitments for a new StoryBundle I'm curating, answering almost as many emails as there were rocks in my sister's backyard, and sending over a dozen pieces of content for a client back and forth to ensure what I've said about their industry is accurate down to the last little word.

This weekend, I get to write, and to get Breath of Stone review and promo info out to willing folk.

I do not get to go camping. Two weeks out from my sister's wedding celebration, it would be bad familial form to, y'know, disappear into the woods. But this I know: much of September will belong to me and me alone. I intend to take advantage of that and disappear often.

In the meantime, I will be taking more afternoon wanderings. I've found a few removed places within an easy drive that both permit me to feel far away and offer writing-conducive atmospheres and resources. The far-away part is mostly psychological; I need to be somewhere that convinces my brain I'll not be randomly interrupted at any moment. Being in a house with a person who processes every single internal thought verbally (mother), and a person who will interrupt to first assure you he won't interrupt, then interrupt again to apologize for the earlier interruption (father), means I spend most of my home-time waiting for those interruptions. Somehow, someway, a fifteen to thirty minute drive fixes it. Whatever.

Book Three of Desert Rising is progressing. It feels so damn good to be writing it. I do need to nail down the title, because calling it Book Three is bugging me. :) I'm leaning toward another pairing--Flesh of Strife and Ash of Life--or something similar.

And a friend kicked my butt for not writing and publishing more non-fiction, and she's right. Recently, my non-fiction energies have flowed toward immediate client needs. If I'm going to build income rather than chase it, I must invest in my personal non-fiction writings as well. I've twelve months to meet my "hit the road with an RV" dream goal, so I'd best get cracking!


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

If I haven’t made huge mistakes in the trauma/recovery area, I’m thinking I can wrap up revisions on Breath of Stone by the end of the weekend. I’d like to say sooner, but I’ve perhaps a couple hours a day for it through the next seven days. (When I sell more books, I’ll get to do fewer non-fiction projects…)  Then I must draft cover copy, and that’s just… SIGH.

I’ll be posting a couple chapters for patrons over at Patreon, along with this month’s article on injuries and trauma and healing.

There is a second Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off underway! I’m thinking of putting Sword and Chant in the mix. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of novel. Even some of the most complimentary reviews mention it’s difficult to define. And it’s written in omni viewpoint.  More than ever, the response will depend on the reviewer randomly assigned the odd thing.

I’ve found new places I want to camp!  Pawnee Grasslands, Toadstool Geologic Park, Paint Mines, Palo Duro, Bisti Badlands….  And of course these longings are strongest when over a foot and a half of snow sits outside my door.

Have you see the schedule for the Nebulas?  There is cool, cool stuff happening there, and the cost of the conference itself is, in my opinion, darn good.  Alas, the Chicago location is far too expensive for me.  Maybe next time.

I’ll still be taping my own NOTx talk on the most important aspect of self-publishing!  I was trying to set up a small audience, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon, alas, so it’ll likely just be me talking to you.

Lastly, the ankle is improving more quickly than I would have anticipated.  Just walking, there is nothing but a lingering tightness.  Going upstairs is quite workable.  Going downstairs happens slowly and stiffly, one stair at a time.  Side to side motion isn’t all that fun, and rotation doesn’t feel very good at all.  But progress!  It’s healing!


And if you haven't yet picked up your latest StoryBundle, please amble on over and do so. Our charity this time is Girls Write Now--a fantastic group dedicated to mentoring girls and improving their writing skills for success in all life endeavors. You'll also find in the bundle ten great reads from ten fantastic indie writers whose creativity, style, and craft is exceptional!



And now, back to work!

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Between swings of cold weather, there were two days that looked perfect for a quick, early-season outing–clear skies, warm temperatures, and an almost-full moon as a bonus.  Shortly before the trip, the forecast called for a bit of wind and rain on the second day, but I’ve camped through Indiana summer thunderstorms (and a tornado outbreak), so I didn’t have much concern for a slight chance of a maybe-rain event in the high desert.

Compared to Indiana, Denver is pretty darn dry.  Compared to Denver, Pueblo is damned dry.  Truly, it’s been almost twenty years since I’ve spent significant time in the desert, but there is no mistaking the distinct feel of the air on the skin and in the lungs.  It isn’t just the low humidity (which dropped to around 5%).  It’s the smell of dust and–if you’re lucky–the heat-pushed scent of twisted little trees and determined brush.  Breathe it in long enough, and you’ll be able to discern the distinct scent-feel of plain water, too.

When I stepped out of the car and took a few deep lungfuls of that air, I felt as if I were visiting a long-lost home.



LakePueblo March16
Afternoon View From My Campsite

It didn’t take long to set camp.  I was one of two campers on the loop, with my nearest neighbors way on the other end, and we couldn’t see each other without stepping around the stunted trees and table covers between us.  We waved from afar, a nice little acknowledgment and mutual agreement to ignore one another.  Really, when you deliberately choose a campground as far as possible from everyone else–not to mention a short hike from the bathrooms–you recognize others who do the same.

In comfortable and quiet isolation, I settled down to bask in the sunshine with a bottle of water (my third since arriving, and I was still thirsty!) and my Kindle for a session of what was essentially self-chosen slush reading.

I looked up as tumbleweeds rolled between me and my tent.  The next one rolled through even faster.  Sitting in the shelter’s lee, intent on my reading, I hadn’t noticed the rising wind.  But now grit was scratching my eyes and my mouth felt a little dusty, and the tent was rippling.  Then a new gust shoved the tent, squishing it down to about half its height, and I thought I might have a problem.

After a few hours of checking and re-checking tent stakes, weighing down the leading edge of my tent to keep it from pulling up, keeping track of everything else that kept trying to blow away or blow over, and consoling Gambit where he’d decided to curl up under the table and shake, the wind abruptly stilled.  My tent had not blown away, its poles hadn’t snapped under the strain, and I just might get a decent camping trip in.

The moon was so bright that night, I sat out writing notes for book-plotting long after the sun went down.  And those other campers at the other end of the loop?  Musicians.  Every now and then, light guitar melodies provided a quiet accompaniment to the few insects chirruping in the night.  Owls hooted.  Coyotes yipped in the distance.

I turned in early, thinking to catch up on sleep, but awoke shortly before midnight with Gambit nosing me.  He never asks to go out in the middle of the night at home, but does so when we’re camping.  So we took a moonlit hike, not at all needing a flashlight, up and down the shale-scattered hillside around the campground with nothing but a light breeze for company.

The next morning, rested and ready to spend the day in combination of book-plotting and brief hikes, I checked the weather alert that had come through my phone.  It was another high wind warning, set to begin late morning and go late into the evening, with predicted wind gusts exceeding 60mph for hours and hours.  And Wednesday’s forecast was even worse.

Staying would have been little more than a decision to battle the wind all day in the hope I’d have enough energy left by nightfall to accomplish what I’d actually come to do.  So I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, gave the sausage intended for the next day’s meal to Gambit (HAPPY DOG!), and packed up.  The wind starting rising while I was taking down the tent.  That made it extra fun, I tell ya.  Driving through those winds coming home made for a long and tiring two hours, too.

And so it was, tired and dust-covered, I rolled up back home.  It was not a wasted trip.  After all, I screened a few novels, mapped out plot points and essential elements of two others, and plotted two novels of my own.  Gambit was thrilled to scout new stuff of his own–he has earned the privilege to wander off-leash under certain circumstances–and I felt absolutely ALIVE to reach even the edge of a desert again.

But within a few hours of being home, the headache started.  Out of curiosity, I checked the weather.

Surprise!  Blizzard warning!  Six to twelve inches, consistent winds around 30mph and gusts over 50mph.  Set to begin in the very early morning, and be at its worst just about the time I would’ve been attempting to drive home had I stayed that extra night.  Yep, I’d have been looking at a 100-mile drive in blizzard conditions.

Had the winds not been so terrible in Pueblo, I would have stayed that extra day.  It wouldn’t have occurred to me to check the weather in Denver.  I’m not an experienced enough Colorado resident to assume blizzard potential in March.  Lesson learned.

Over a foot of snow has fallen here already, and it’s just early afternoon.  We’ve at least three more hours to go.  Denver International Airport shut down, as have numerous roads.  Even the snowplows are getting stuck.  And the winds around Pueblo, where I was camping?  Today, they’re gusting over 80 mph.

Home is good.  Really, really, good.

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

In my recent post on camping while female, I mentioned I bring weapons that are legal and that I'm trained to use. Yesterday, out of curiosity, I asked what folks envisioned those weapons might be. Most of the answers involved firearms.

Before I say more: THIS IS NOT AN INVIATION, NOR AN EXTENSION OF PERMISSION, TO DISCUSS OR DEBATE GUN CONTROL AND RELATED TOPICS IN THIS SPACE. ANY COMMENTS THAT CROSS THE LINE—AND I DETERMINE THE LINE, DARLINGS—WILL BE DELETED.


Guns are the default, truly. When we hear armed, we think "gun." When we hear weapon, we think "gun." When we watch crime dramas, we see "gun." When we watch the news, we see "gun." So it's natural to assume the discussion of weapons concerns guns. And, for anyone familiar with and comfortable with guns, it'll seem odd to hear I am, too, but have made the decision to leave them behind when I camp alone.


So here's why:


One-Mississippi.


Say that as fast as you can while you pretend to draw a gun from your holster (or shoulder a rifle), disengage the safety, take aim at a moving predator, fire, and hit the target.


Certainly there are people who could not only accomplish that skilled feat, but could also count on their single shot dropping the hurtling creature at their feet. Certainly that number is much, much smaller than the number of people who think they could do it.


I do not count myself as one of those skilled people. I don't spend enough time with a firearm in my hand to count my knowledge as "skill." And the more I gained actual skill in other areas, the more I realized the limitations of both the firearm and my ability to wield it as anything but a weapon of desperate and last resort in most circumstances.


It seems logical to want a firearm in bear country, but only if the actual nature of bears and attacks aren't long considered. Many bear attacks happen under conditions of mutual surprise: the bear is startled by the sudden appearance of a human, and so startles the human by charging and mauling. There is a great deal of speed, a great deal of mass, and a great little smidgeon of time involved.


The same is true when it's a mountain lion, but without the smidgeon of time. I mean, if a mountain lion wants you, it'll stalk you from behind or drop from above and bite the back of your neck to kill you. A good thing it is mountain lions aren't much interested in adult humans.


So once I put that information together with the actual cumulative likelihood of being attacked by a bear or mountain lion (it happens to a total of five or six people in Colorado a year), and with the knowledge of what I can do to further reduce the likelihood (safe and simple actions often not taken by folks who are attacked outside city limits), bringing a gun along didn't seem all that important. In fact, some of the research I looked at seemed to point to bear and mountain lion attacks bearing a striking similarity in setting to sexual assault: wildlife attacks are more likely to occur on one's home property than in the wilderness.


But there are indeed well-trained and experienced gun carriers who could pull off the shot, and quite a few more who are certain they could if properly motivated.* Are you one of theem? Try it with a stationary target. Then simulate the live attack by having a friend toss a 300-pound sack of unsheathed daggers at you when you least expect it. One-Mississippi.


I mean, absolutely the right gun in the right hands will stop a bear or mountain lion. I don't dispute that. But the absolutely comes into play only in the presence of the those two "rights."


So how about two-legged predators? The ones who lie in wait along remote mountain paths in anticipation of a lone victim out for a five-mile hike? Or the ones who cruise through campgrounds after dark in search of a lone victim asleep in a tent?


Well... those are almost non-existent. The hiker or camper is far more likely to be attacked by a bear or mountain lion than a skulking human. Yes, it happens. But we've discussed the actual likelihood of a woman being attacked before.  Searching Colorado news reports for the last year—imperfect, but what I have time to do—I find one report of sexual assault in a Colorado campground. It was, heartbreakingly, a crime against two children camping with their parents.


But let's put the data aside completely. Let's assume that, no matter the statistical risk, I want to be prepared for the worst case scenario. The rare horrible thing.


I still am not going to reach first for a gun because, as I mentioned above, the more I understand about how attacks actually go down, the less effective I see the gun as a defensive weapon in my hands in most scenarios.


One-Mississippi.


Just as with wildlife attacks, folks consistently underestimate how quickly a human attack happens and overestimate how quickly they can respond. If I'm going to be jumped by someone on a trail, the attacker would have to give me—at my skill level with a gun—about three Mississippis... which means I'd have to count on being attacked by an incompetent attacker suffering from a sprained ankle and a fever.


Or perhaps we'll go with the creepy nighttime attack, the attacker who will attempt to silently unzip my tent and creep inside before I awake. Do I need a gun to stop that person? Only if I'm unwilling to move from my sleeping bag. And honestly, from the perspective of someone who has camped in Indiana, where many popular camping areas involve sites that are quite close to their neighbors, I wouldn't want anyone firing blindly through a tent wall within fifteen feet of where my kid was sleeping in an RV.


So what do I bring along? What do I consider part of my self-defense?

My dog. Even though he has the appearance of a dog who could be a weapon, he absolutely is not. He is a defensive tool. An alarm against all attackers, and a deterrent for two-legged attackers. He has given warning of Something Scary Is Ahead during our hikes. He has growled deep in his chest when something walks past our tent in the middle of the night. I've watched people give our campsite a wide berth once he stands up to stare at their passing.


I don't expect him to attack any creature that comes to attack me, but I know I can count on him to warn me, and a heeded warning can be a lifesaving thing. And in some instances, a big dog makes a potential target seem to be just too much trouble to mess with.


Bear spray. This is something I added since moving out here. I've carried pepper spray before, but never much worried about it while camping in Indiana because that state doesn't have the wildlife population of Colorado. Unlike a firearm, I don't have to be concerned with fantastic aim and slamming stopping power. Bears don't like this stuff. Bears run away. I don't think mountain lions would much like it, either, and am pretty sure a human getting a noseful of it will desire to be elsewhere at a rapid pace. Yes, there is a risk of spraying myself. As with any weapon, practice pays off.


My bo. It's about six feet of hardwood, of a diameter that fits firmly in my fist, and I've spent far more hours with it—striking stationary and moving targets—than I am likely to spend with any firearm. It lets me strike and thrust at a distance or at medium range. It can be a shield against attacks at medium or close range. It's in my hand when I hike, either as a walking stick or in an "at ease" position at my side. It leans against my chair when I'm beside the campfire. I can't swing it inside a tent, but I can darn sure ram its end into the face of someone trying to sneak in. That would really hurt.


And please—please—understand that bo-as-weapon is nothing like bo-as-baton-twirling. I mean, I can twirl a bo to amuse my instructors, and there's a whole tournament scene where people compete in bo twirling and acrobatics. But y'all know I'm likely to point out the difference between what flashes and what works. I prefer Yamanni Ryu.


Knife. I've a couple I trade off wearing, depending what I feel like. My preferred is better for stabbing, though it's sharp enough for cutting. One is better for cutting, but can certainly stab as well. One is quite heavy. One is light. But no matter which I have, I know if I'm using it against an animal—four-legged or two-legged—I'm also like to be in the process of being injured myself. A knife is an up-close, personal weapon. I'd be perfectly content to go through life without testing my capabilities with one.


Like a gun, a knife takes time to draw. But, unlike a firearm, I feel perfectly comfortable sleeping with one at my fingertips, even with my dog tromping and rolling around in the tent, as the accidental discharge of a blade is highly unlikely.

There are other things I bring along should the fancy strike me, and a multitude of camping accessories that can certainly be utilized should the need arise, but the four things above are as about as complicated as I'm likely to get. I didn't feel any more or less safe for the presence or absence of a gun. Others will feel differently, and I respect that. Others will have different skill sets and abilities, and I most certainly respect that.


Should circumstances change, my preferences might change as well.  (I might feel safer, reasonably or not carrying during springtime hikes, when bears have cubs to protect.) But I'm good for now.


And really, more than anything, I was just curious what most folks thought I carried into the woods. :)

*This is the same magical thinking that happens with folks who have a few years of martial arts training. "I know how to score in a sparring match, therefore my punch will stop an attacker."


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

According to many people, I put myself in great danger last week. I took an irresponsible risk. I performed an act that, while totally stupid, required great bravery. I did something many others said that they'd like to do, but never would, because of the danger involved.

What did I do?

I—a 44-year-old-woman—camped in a state park without a human companion to share my tent.


Yes, the fun enjoyed by families and couples and (usually male) groups of friends—the outdoor activity that's described as rejuvenating, stress-reducing, and good for one's health—transforms into a courtship of death and dismemberment when undertaken by a woman alone.


Never mind the bears roaming the park in search of final pre-hibernation snacks. Never mind the overnight temperatures dropping into the upper 30s, and the daily potential for thunderstorms and lightning. Never mind the known risk of falling rocks. And certainly never-you-mind the danger of driving first on a highway at 70 mph, then up a mountainside of steep drops and hairpin turns while a local in a sportscar tailgates before passing on a blind curve. No, the danger a solo woman is told is the most dangerous—dangerous enough and likely enough and terrifying enough that any right-thinking woman would abandon all camping aspirations—is sexual violence.


This recent trip of mine was to Golden Gate Canyon State Park, in the mountains above Denver, Colorado, and it was truly a solo camping experience. My tent site was isolated, set back from the dirt road, bounded by forest and rocky slopes, just barely in sight of the parking area up the rise. If I sat still, no one would know I was there.


Since I was there midweek, the two sites that shared my area of the campground were empty. The next-nearest collection of sites was about a football field away, tucked among trees on the other side of the slope, far beyond my line of sight. Only one of those campsites was in use. I saw their truck and, once, passed the woman on the way to the nearest vault toilet.


In fact, I saw fewer than a half dozen humans in three days, and spoke to only one of them. Add in the fact the region is remote enough there's no cell phone service anywhere within the park, and you could say I was somewhat isolated.


And isolation is what most people believe was the most dangerous aspect of my camping trip.


But, my darlings, isolation was actually what made me safe.


In The Woman Traveling Solo Question, writer and traveler Christine Gilbert does a fabulous job outlining the reality of the sexual violence risks women face, and places it in the context of global travel. The same facts—that a woman is overwhelmingly likely to suffer sexual assault in the company of people with whom she has an existing relationship—apply domestically. Yet we tell women to curtail their public lives and experiences by terrifying them with tales of brute men in the bushes and predators lurking in the darkness.


And when we consider the risks to a woman camping alone, she is at greater statistical risk—at greater factual risk—in a crowded RV campground than an isolated campsite.


"You're so brave!" a woman told me. And I don't really know how to respond to that. I certainly don't feel brave for choosing to camp, no more than I felt brave traipsing through London, or driving from New York City to Indiana, or any of the other things I've done in my life.


What I do feel is "prepared." I pack up my food and pack out my trash every night to deter bears and other wild things from snuffling around my campsite because I know a bear preparing for hibernation is far more dangerous than a skulking human. I bring along a variety of things that'll help me keep warm in case temperatures drop more than anticipated and/or I end up soaking wet. I'm educated about what to do in the event of a severe thunderstorm, a possible flash flood, a brush fire. I bring my dog—not because he's an attack dog (because he is so not!), but because he's a excellent alarm. And yes, I carry weapons that are legal and that I am trained to use, while recognizing the realistically rare need I'll have for them.


So what would I consider most dangerous? Camping under the conditions in which I camped without ever considering any of those non-sexual things. The real idiot isn't the woman who camps alone. It's the parent or scout leader who takes kids for a hike on the mountain while lightning flashes overhead. The person who doesn't think to pack in waterproof matches or a handful of dry tinder. The person who thinks it's just fine to keep a bag of fruit and beef jerky in the tent because no bear would really come close to humans. And it's the person who assumes the woman is in great danger because no one else is around to protect her.


I absolutely, positively refuse to curtail my life, my aspirations, my visceral experience of living, and so I choose to camp alone.


I sit alone in the cool mountain sunshine and listen to the wind caress the trees, to the whoosh of a raven's wings, to the chitter of chipmunks.


I take my dog on a hike and immerse in the experience of wild places, and learn to read the signs of my dog's even greater sensory immersion.


I sit by a campfire after sunset to feel both infinitesimal in the darkness and secure in the night.


I creep out of the tent in the wee hours to see the silver and shadows of unsullied moonlight, and the swath of crystal dust in the sky.


And I return to people knowing myself, rather than a camping companion, better.


And, frankly, if driving across town for a movie is worth the rather high risk I'll be injured or killed in in an auto accident, it's more than worth it for me to "risk" camping alone.


I'd invite y'all to join me but I'd much rather you invite yourself to a personal retreat. Don't listen to the doubters. Know what's real.

Y'see, knowledge is potential. Action is power. Put them together, and you have the freedom of discovery. :)



blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Getting away from phone calls, business, internet, and at-home reminders of everything I could (should?) do other than write was the motivation for the trip.  There have been far too many issues of late I've had to deal with--one of which resulted in me asking a past client if she often worked for free since she expected me to do so--and I needed to clear my head. I needed a break. I needed to be out of touch. I needed the peace to sweep away what I want to leave behind in order to make room for what I want to do.

  With all the other things happening these days, I was finding it impossible to wrap my head around how to make changes to Breath of Stone’s original outline that properly and deeply incorporated the seemingly small changes to Sand of Bone.  I had trouble keeping track of the diverging and converging plotlines.  And I had to figure out how to keep the character arcs I wanted while considerably shortening the action arcs.

I am happy to report it worked.  I read through piles of old material--deciding what would stay and what would go and what order the "staying" parts should be in. I shuffled Magic Index Cards. I got reacquainted with storylines and characters and intentions. I got my book back.

It did help that, due to my food-forgetting, my meal preparations were no more distracting than heating a boxed soup on a Sterno stove (and that little thing is awesome!) and opening bags of peanuts and dried fruit.

The remainder of today is for a little writing followed by necessary chores and teaching.  The rest of the week is for plowing ahead before I lose momentum.  While it would be awesome to say I can finish the draft by the end of October, thereby clearing the deck for a possible NaNoWriMo attempt, that would require consistent 5K-word days.  Since not showing up to teach and ignoring my son aren’t viable options, I’m going to say that October 31 finish date is out of the question.

One the other hand, finishing the draft by the end of November isn’t unrealistic.  Let’s give that a tentative shot, hmm?

Added note: Younger me would have been affronted at the shock others had to find a woman camping alone.  Current me finds it amusing.  Is it really such an odd thing?

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
This!
I should be writing on my non-fiction projects. They really shouldn't be that hard to finish up. They're based on workshops I've given for years. I have PowerPoints, outlines, and audio recordings of the workshops as a foundation. And you know what? I can't stop thinking about the sequel to Sand of Bone long enough to write more than a paragraph or two at a time. Thus I'm permitting myself to write nothing but fiction this week. We shall see how the brain is working by next weekend.

That!
So the sequel, Breath of Stone, is indeed underway and I'm pleased with the way the opening chapters are running. I'm squishing what was two novels into one, made possible by the complete removal of an entire storyline, and the story will be better for it so long as I stay out of my own way. There might simply be Too Much Stuff. A few other things might have to be set aside. We shall see.

The Other Thing!
I haven't been camping for two years now, and I miss it terribly. Alas, my son has no interest in camping these days, and my nephews--who love to camp--are in Colorado. But I used to go camping alone all the time in my 20s. Why not now? So I booked a campsite for later this month, and it'll be all mine for two nights and most of three days. Gambit will come with me to act as an alarm system. (And yes, I travel with protection.) When I return, I'll post pictures and details and such. And I'm so damned excited about it!!

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blairmacg

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