Balance is bullsh!t

Daily writing prompt
How do you balance work and home life?

It’s funny that this came up as a prompt the other day. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to accomplish my goals both professionally and personally, and as much as we all laud the concept of balance I’m starting to think it’s a joke.

When I think about balancing, I picture someone on a tightrope. Arms extended, eyes locked on the horizon, physically committed to a ludicrous, massively dangerous task for other people’s entertainment.

I did just write a novel about a tightrope walker, so yes it’s a strong echo in my mind but that also means I know what the metaphor means. And I don’t know if it should be a goal.

For one thing, it’s fucking impossible. You can do well, giving yourself more or less equally to all your wants and responsibilities. And maybe that’s a neurotypical thing, to be able to plot your life carefully then follow it through, but that’s not in my wheelhouse, to employ boardroom language. I can’t actualize that paradigm.

I’m losing interest in the idea of balance. It’s really difficult to relax while balancing. Balance is a state of tension, of holding in place. It requires hyperawareness of the body and the ability to ignore everything around you. If you find a place of stillness, you cannot move from it or you will collapse. That sounds–that is–exhausting.

That sounds like capitalism: find one thing and do it till you die, never quitting or questioning, while faithfully replicating your DNA to provide capital with more human resources and supporting the rentier system of the 1% that holds the rest of us hostage by giving them back in the form of household spending and debt all the money they loaned you as wages.

The ideal work/life balance is No Work, All Life. I don’t mean, let’s all be unemployed.* I mean, why is work not life? Why are jobs so shit? Why have we bought into this massive system of pitting our economic needs against our human rights? Who the fuck wants to be an actuary? I would expect a single digit percent of actuaries chose that career because of some deep inner calling. For everyone else it was because they weren’t pretty or clever or rich enough to get to do what they want with their lives, and so they put on a suit and sit in traffic and eat a packed lunch and try not to jump out the office window. If that’s your life why even be alive? So you can give your children the very same future?

TL:DR Modernity is delusional. Baked into the core of our culture is the idea that *this world as it is right now* is the best we can do. That Starbucks and Exxon Mobil are natural and inevitable, that the only improvement possible is making the whole world like America. Delusion, delusion, delusion.

Fuck the work/life balance. It’s a joke, it’s a yoke, it’s a rationalization for letting capital skim the cream of labor’s efforts. For our collective good we need to seek a way of life where our work is worth living for.

An ideal work life balance? The least work possible at a job that won’t cost me my life.

*We can talk about health care and education as necessary jobs as long as you want to discuss why we underpay and understaff both these professions.

Line Poem 6

















I wrote this on a day when market forces want me to say “Happy Mothers Day.”  Being a contrary such and such, let me be the first to wish you a Happy Choosing-not-to-be-a-mother-if-motherhood-wasn’t-what-I-wanted Day. If you need to mother someone, it helps if you start with yourself.

And they wondered what the secret was

Gaining traction–getting attention–on the internet is an opaque process for the most part. If, like me, you aren’t doing a frequent deep dive into how your content is getting served to the public then you probably have very little idea why something you post does or does not get clicks. To try and game social media algorithms is to play against masters of obfuscating data trails. Certain enormous retailers are equally secretive about how they intervene in the relationship between buyer and seller. To the liars fall the spoils, we must say in this situation, because the retailers and media corporations both hold the majority of the power and make a substantial amount of the money.

The joke to me is that the harder I try and use the interlaced nature of the internet, the worse my reach is. This blog for example: if I embed a video, if I use the scheduler, if I use the auto-repost function, my content goes unseen. Not just zero likes but zero views. This is, in a word, bullshit. We built the internet to be interconnected. Isn’t that what it’s a short form of, interconnected network? It’s like we built highway interchanges then put brick walls across them. What’s the point of the internet if every node on it savagely protects itself from all other nodes?

I didn’t know what this post was about when I started writing. Only that I wanted to test my theory above. I needed a post, and now I think what it’s about is to say that:

The point of the internet is not to make the shareholders of social media corporations rich. It’s to connect across a network.

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Much rarer in practice.

A week ago I joined a Discord server hosted by one of my favorite authors (It’s invite only so don’t even ask, IYKYK.) It is one of the finest instances of people being quality on the internet: the encouragement from other members, the positivity everyone exudes, the ethical durability of the group rules, all at a time when I was kind of starved for human interaction. It is however a very select group. Small numbers seem important when maintaining the quality of social groups. I will be curious to see this group evolve, and I’m glad that I joined in the first days.

All relationships begin with unknowing. To get to know a person is to train your brain, to construct a reality within it that contains that other person. I’m maybe not sufficiently afraid of strangers, which is a gift of my race and social class, though statistics leave no one unharmed. But I like strangers, new people, potential. I like reaching out, even if now and then I get my fingers bitten. Haven’t lost one yet.

Victoriana redux

There’s no denying that I am a snob. As such, I like my Historical Romance to be damn well historical. Attempting to live by my own standards, I mostly muddle about in the Victorian Era, despite all the press about its repressive culture. Michel Foucault has said some things on this, but I’ll save that for my dissertation (and this heavy-duty post of mine from last year.)

Intellectual wanking aside, writing fiction in the idiom of the Victorian age is a lot of fun. I like the diction and writing style, the license to be poetic and to drench my dialogue in innuendo and double entendre. I like as well the scenarios the Victorian era offers. Despite its reputation as an era of repression, it was in fact a time of broad social upheaval and technological advancement with many parallels to our time, including the struggle to implement socially beneficial infrastructure as the epidemic and chronic illnesses of increasingly urban lifestyles were battled with public health measures like sewers and indoor plumbing. 

Deep diving into Victoriana feels a little like visiting Japan. It provides a sweet spot of a lifestyle much like mine, yet with an utterly foreign aesthetic and social imaginary. Britain under Queen Victoria and Japan in general are both cultures built on very precisely managed social facades, behind which can rage stunning perversities. We observe the gentility of a tea ceremony, but flip over the painted scroll hanging on the paper wall and you will find a geisha ‘entertaining’ several octopuses. The Marylebone gentleman speaks in Parliament, dines with his wife, kisses his nanny-educated children goodnight, then goes to the bawdy house and gets his arse resoundingly ‘birched’ like the good old days away at school.

While the Regency is a very popular period for Historical Romance (from Austen to Heyer to Quinn to Hall) it was not a very long time period. Many of its charms linger into the Victorian age. Well-spoken politeness still wins the day, and one’s past can define one’s whole future. Yet by the end of the 19th Century, class structures have notably shifted, introducing new types of people to each other. The middle class has begun to emerge, challenging the nobility’s power through sheer force of numbers. And technology had already begun to change the way everyone lived, at a pace unmatched in prior ages.

Not to mention it’s after Britain’s abolition of slavery, which suits me very well. I certainly can’t erase the wealth acquired through the Transatlantic slave trade, but statistically any titled person i.e. English Duke in the Regency was likely benefitting from the Slave Trade. Yes, that wealth carries over even to our times, but let’s say I prefer to play with the fiction-writing kit that doesn’t include that particular component. My titled 19th Century snobs can still be cruel, remorseless, indifferent to oppression. Today we might call them Tories, and there’s a wealth of contemporary fiction about this same kind of ultra-rich white cis-het culture. I don’t need to write about duels at sword-point for my stories to contain entitled men who feel they have the right to be violent, and who need putting in their place, which is really more where my interest lies.

And then there’s the aesthetic. I like dark suits and slim waistcoats and pocket watches and canes that turn out to be shivs. I like tailcoats and tight white shirts and black hansom cabs slipping through the streets to indecent assignations. Cockneys with knives. Can-can and Burlesque. Laudanum and Absinthe, Impressionism, subways, suffrage, Sarah Bernhardt and steam power, Charcot’s gynecological exhibitions and Aubrey Beardsley’s priapic prints, masturbation both as a symptom of insanity and the means by which one prevented it, and all the while corsets get tighter and tighter. The British Experiment reached its giddy apex, and for a few bold years the sun never did set on its Empire, while quietly it was being said that perhaps its former colony across the Atlantic was about to steal its gilded crown.

Change by the bucketful: unavoidable, terrifying, fascinating.

Who owns us?

Way back in the wayback, I started this blog by talking about Cory Doctorow.  He really is a smart person, and in this guest blog for indie author legend Brian Sanderson he brings his ethics and intellect to bear on how Amazon is ripping everyone off.

The problem with Audible is not that it makes a wide catalog of audiobooks available through a convenient app. The problem is that Audible uses technology, accounting fraud, and market power to steal vast fortunes from creative workers and the audiences who love their books.

Disclosure: I’m an author who uses Amazon as a sales platform, but in this insular space I feel safe in expressing my deep concern that we have let a single corporation insert itself into so much of our daily lives. I’ll let Doctorow himself speak to that.


I don’t have any audiobooks for sale. Authorship and publishing take so much attention that I haven’t had any to spare for yet another aspect of it, so I can’t add much commentary.  But Doctorow has nothing to gain by refusing to list his audiobooks on Amazon. In fact: 

my agent tells me that it cost me a fully paid-off mortgage and a fully funded college savings account for my daughter.


If more big-name authors were prepared to starve Audible of their content, would Amazon cave to pressure and make the deal fair for everyone?  Or is it going to take another few election cycles before President Warren (don’t laugh) demands the break-up of this predatory company? 

Until then, I’ll keep listing my books on every platform I can.  There is another way.  We can and must find it.  For everyone’s sake.

WHAT RUINED ME Ep 10: #historybounding

Chat show interviewer: so what do you sleep in?

Zach Pinsent: a bed.

As an old person (nearly the age of a Golden Girl, for reference) I often miss out on what young people are doing.  Sometimes that’s ok (Tide pods) but sometimes the next generation are doing really interesting things.  Sometimes, I want in.

I stumbled across Zach Pinsent a few years ago after watching a funny video by his friend Karolina.  I watched a few more historical costume videos, mostly slating films and tv for doing a really bad job.  A few weeks later, I wanted to learn about tying a cravat. 

There he was: so spry, so gleeful about the once very ordinary and now vanishingly rare act of starching his collar.   In a matter of seconds he explained a knot that I’d been unable to tie, and completely won my heart.

My aesthetic heart, I mean.  Thirst traps aside (and he shares those with the world so nbd) he just seems like a person that would be delightful to know.  If he came to the party, it would be an endorsement.  I went to England on his advice and was thoroughly delighted with his every recommendation.

Including the unintended endorsement of historical dressing.

Which has ruined me (the clue is in the title) for ordinary clothes. I’ve struggled with modern fashion for years.  Most of it makes very little sense to me, the women’s clothes in particular.  Pants don’t fit, nothing lasts, pockets are fake, and half of it is made by de facto slave labour in Chinese sweatshops one foreman’s cigarette butt away from a Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster (if you have safety standards at your job, that’s why.)  And the fucking polyester gauuuuggghhh.  I’m generally compassionate, but whoever said “let’s make 100% polyester bedsheets” a.k.a. microfiber, needs to be taken out behind the woodshed and dealt with.

All of that goes away if you dress differently.  I am a dedicated thrift-shopper and have made some miraculous finds  (from cashmere coats to Gaultier, you name it, my fingers will pluck it from the rack.) Add in my background in sewing and I can safely say I may never need to buy new clothes again (we’re making an exception for underwear, at least for now.)

And I look amazing.  I’ve always been an eccentric dresser, at least compared to my friends, but this has taken it to a whole new level.  My dopamine-starved brain loves the attention.  The better I dress, the more compliments I get, from friends, family, complete strangers.  I like standing out, and the idea that I might be the most interesting thing someone sees that day. I’m not however throwing as hard as Pinsent, who dresses exclusively in historical fashion, mainly from the early 19th century (see above) 

My fits are not nearly so historically accurate, as I approach the game of historybounding with the attitude of a time traveler from the past who finds themselves in our world, granted all our opportunities but still retaining their taste for the aesthetic of earlier times.  This means a lot of waistcoats but no sock suspenders (because socks now stay up on their own.)  Neckties, silk scarves, cravats, yes, but no detachable collars or cuffs (because I’m too lazy to make any and washing machines exist.)

Curiously (or not if you study the pendulum of fashion history) classic style is starting to creep back into the public aesthetic.  Casualness reached a peak in the pandemic, and some people are looking for more than hoodie-sweatpants-crocs.  I mean, you do you, wear what makes you feel most like yourself.  As for me, I would wither and die if that was my only choice of apparel. 

I mean, I call it apparel, for fuck’s sake.

The New Kid

Schools I have attended:

Nursery school

Montessori preschool

Komoka PS

Montessori grade school

East Elementary

St Nicholas Catholic (lies, lies, I’m not even baptised)

St Matthews Anglican (more lies, mom?  ok…)

Riverside PS

Oakridge HS

some defunct Niagara District school for the arts for a single semester that felt like an episode of Degrassi Junior High, complete with cliques, fake IDs, sororities, achingly cool transfer students, and dating a boy who was testing if he was gay (spoiler: he was)

Oakridge HS again

flunked out

Beal HS

dropped out again

That one summer school English credit I needed to finally graduate

The funny thing is…I went to my high school graduation (Oakridge #2.)  I don’t know if the system is it’s the same now, but grad was held before exams.  So it was totally possible to go to the ceremony, get your fake diploma on stage, then go to the prom (if that was your thing,) and then fail.

The funny thing is…of all my classes, I hated English the most.  Taking six weeks to read a book?  Uggggghhhhh.  “Academic” level classes were even more plodding.  As a child I was such a reader I devised a way to read while getting dressed for school that involved holding the book open with my toes.  In high school, my highest mark in English was a 72.

In a perfect world* this should have been when someone asked if I had ADHD.  But this was (oh god I’m old) 30 years ago, when it was still called ADD, and all it meant was a boy who couldn’t sit still. 

I was merely inattentive, a dreamer, not applying myself.  Unable to focus on the tasks at hand because the tasks were cripplingly dull.  So I just didn’t do them, or did them lazily at the last minute, then shrugged when the teacher asked why. 

Oh, the shrug.  The blankness.  The weaponized indifference of a clever teen with a revolutionary’s heart.  The number of times I met my mother’s concern, her anger even, with a shrug.

Dissociation’s a hell of a drug.

Like this post: I started with the list of schools but I don’t remember what I wanted to say.  Maybe nothing, other than remind myself that my path has never been smooth.  There are no straight lines in my landscape, only curves and slopes and tunnels, backways and side-ways and unexpected turns.  I’d like to end on an optimistic note, but maybe the hope is simply in knowing this, knowing that I can’t get there from here without going this way and that and a few other places.  In this game, the side-quests are mandatory.

*Assuming your perfect world includes compulsory education.  Mine includes dragons.  What, you said perfect, didn’t you?


how did we let it happen?

this televised delusion

spectacularized demons who accuse us of their crimes

while they are still committing them

like a schoolyard bully asking

why are you punching yourself?

and we reply politely

offer counter points of view

and they laugh and call us snowflakes

and we let them

let’s go on strike

whenever someone uses a lying word like



those people

those queers

those…aw, but we can’t say that word no more

go on strike

walk off the conversational job

demand better conditions

or walk away

“I don’t owe you my time.”

“You call it an opinion but to me it sounds like hate.”

“We work together.  We don’t need to be friends.”

“You’re talking about people I care about.”

“How could you believe that about another human being?”

do not do their labour

don’t scab yourself to their delusions

refuse to negotiate on the definition of your selfhood

or the selfhood of others

their lies have no authority in the court of your self-worth

they are the ones in prison

they have built the walls themselves

and here we are outside

you and I and all of us

together in the garden




I originally thought of calling this not-quite-a-poem “You Fuckers Wanna See Some Cancel Culture?” but sometimes short titles are better.

I also acknowledge that many of us live and work in unsafe places and cannot ‘walk away’ without causing ourselves immense harm. It’s perfectly acceptable to strike by simply not dignifying the offending party’s remarks with a response. A blank stare can work wonders when someone’s fishing for a laugh.

The post nobody read

[edit] Look, I don’t mean for this to sound like a complaint, a “I did a cool thing and no one noticed, boo hoo” entitled little sulk.  I’m just baffled.  I haven’t had *crickets* in ages, maybe never.  So let’s stir the pot.  Will someone go back and read this? 

Interestingly the post had a lot of meaning for me.  The next day, I tossed together a stream of consciousness poem and posted it right away, and boom, views.  And you would not believe how common that is across the creator-sphere: the thing you pour your soul into gets barely a glance, and the piece of fluff you made for a laugh goes viral. Which is really justification for making as much art as you can.  Who knows what will get noticed?

The Post FKA: “The Ides of March? Never Met Him. What’s He Like?’

Three years ago, I self-published my first short story.

Two years ago, I had fourteen titles on sale, was writing a few novels, and felt like I was figuring things out.

Last year, I went over the edge.

Any old edge will do. How about this one? (photo by Alan Tang on Unsplash)

Up till then it had felt like I was doing everything right.  I don’t think I knew how depressed I was, which is something my mother said in reference to the same time in her life.

Taking medication was me making a sensible choice for a goddamn change. A grown up, self-disciplined decision to rein in my worrisome habits of thought and behaviour and become (what the hell was I thinking?) a productive member of society.

The results were predictably bad. You may recall that I am manifestly incapable of doing anything directly. Plans adjust themselves, reality reorganizes, and my intentions never end up aiming at my goals. I must approach all challenges and opportunities sideways: improvise, adjust, create new ways in the midst of living them. This is a very durable feature of my personality, and it affects everything I do, including taking medication to regulate my brain function. I’m sorry, but my brain function is a bratty queer with a glitter gun and the first six rows of the audience *will* *get* *wet.* Trying to rein this in leads to wildly unregulated emergent behaviour, and it was bad.

While high on legal speed, I did not buckle down and focus on my writing, which I was suddenly unable to do. Nor did I get really organized and plan my next year, down to the hour.  No, in between the bouts of tremors and sobbing into the carpet, I decided to start another blog, devoted not to writing but to (honestly, what the hell was I thinking?) historical menswear.

I swear it made sense at the time.  A distraction from the stress of a publishing career and encouragement to do more sewing, and if I was lucky, a back door into being known for anything at all, which somehow optimism and fairy dust would turn into a book career. It became one more task looming over me, one more chore to neglect. I needed to write books, not faff on about cravats on a blog no one would read without me promoting it like crazy.

I took the medication for a week. I quit when they wanted me to up the dosage.  Once I recovered from my inadvertent meth bender, I wrote a novella in which a doctor gets punched. I’ve done plenty of drugs under my own recognizance, and if I’d paid a schemy 22-year old in a nightclub bathroom for a pill that did to me, I’d hunt the little shit down and get my money back.

The blog lasted six months.

edit: This blog? This blog I do nothing to promote, that doesn’t sell my books, that does nothing for anyone? It’s coming up on two years. 152 posts. See? It’s just like I said. Sideways or not at all.

the violence

I heard they have a plan in America

to replace all the human beings

with self-driving cars with neflix subscriptions

in a landscape of drive-thrus stretching from

sea to sea

the most efficient system ever

to eat their own people alive

“thank god for the river or those people from down south would overrun us”

she said, watching them pull three point turns

in the parking lot of homeland security

that night after we’d blown the rainbow bridge

cruelty has purpose

the violence just is

a live grenade in a hospital lobby

a ship on fire

all hands on deck

“I don’t understand why you’re so unhappy”

he said when I showed him where the swimming pool tiles had cut my face

like I was meant to thank him

that was the day we lost Bruce

what did you expect

a guy like him

getting lost in his own neighbourhood

though all the houses do kind of look the same

a wall of tanks

shedding sparks on the way to put out a fire that isn’t burning