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Resurrecting this blog after a year and a half, because I nuked my Livejournal to prevent the wolves from digging up old dirt on Arthur, my Tumblr is exclusively for Star Trek, and Twitter’s character limit is just not conducive to longer thoughts.

Well. “A lot has happened” is an understatement. I am up several cats and a house and down one husband. There’s a documentary making the festival rounds that pretty accurately chronicles the collapse of our relationship after Arthur bit off more fame than he could chew. I got a job at a veterinarian’s office after we moved away from the middle of nowhere, and spent over a year there, more or less content, though the shift schedule was punishing, and some days I would come home coated in every kind of body secretion a dog can produce. But it became clear after the divorce that, with four cats and a book habit to feed, I would need something more.


(I think maybe it is an ultimately good and necessary experience to have your heart utterly crushed. To be so thoroughly rejected by someone you love, to be the target of every paranoid fantasy and stray vicious impulse. When you know what that’s like, you know what other people are going through. It is a story you can write from the inside out, and by writing, distance yourself, until the pain is transmuted back into words and the words are released into the world to sting some other soul and make it stronger.)


Enter code camp. I’ve been distantly aware of bootcamps since an EPA acquaintance who jumped ship for the private sector long before I did completed one and became a software developer. Then my brother, stuck in a QA position with little hope of advancement, did one last year, and immediately got a job at a cool local startup, where he seems quite happy. I thought about it for a long time, but didn’t apply, and didn’t apply, and didn’t apply. I can’t tell you what stopped me, except that I figured it would be too physically difficult for me, that I didn’t have the stamina. And, secretly, I knew that I was very stupid and could never possibly understand all the things necessary to be a real live codemonkey, because though I had enjoyed my computer science courses back in college, I had dropped them in favor of physics, and we all know how badly that turned out.

But one night last January I impulsively clicked over and took the aptitude quiz online before all my internal hatred mechanisms could wake up and talk me out of it, and I aced it. Not only did I ace it, it was *easy*. Just logic, just words on a screen. And the bootcamp sent me an email immediately, followed up with a phone call. Would I like to come downtown and interview? So I did, and took a longer aptitude test on paper that was only a little harder than the first, presumably to show that I wasn’t looking up the answers online somewhere, even though that is a time-honored method in any software developer’s toolbox. (I kid.)(But only a little.)

So I signed up. I was afraid that I wouldn’t understand things, or that I would get sick and have to drop out. But my health has been pretty stable for a long time, now, even if it’ll never be 100% of what it used to be, and I think I’ve finally come to terms with that. I’ve been sick for ten years, almost a third of my entire life, and it’s never going to go away, and it’s never going to get better, and all I can do is learn clever workarounds to survive. Work smarter, not harder.


I’m fixing up the house, which direly needed it, with an infusion of cash from my parents, who have become co-investors in my little ill-advised real estate venture. It’s a wonderful place to live, though knowing I’ll probably have to sell it eventually makes me unwilling to make it fully home. I’ve hardly hung any art. I haven’t bought any furniture, though stuff left by the side of the road with “FREE” signs taped to it is fair game, because if it all goes back to the roadside when I move, I’m not losing any money.

Mycroft, old man Mycroft, is fifteen years old, and he loves the house and its quiet, wooded environs. I started letting him outside on his own last summer, after much soul-searching, and if he gets eaten by a coyote, well, that’s clearly the way he wanted to go. He was obviously an indoor-outdoor cat his whole life before I adopted him, and four years of being cooped up in apartments was giving him cabin fever. He’s so happy now, and I’m happy that I can give one creature in the world everything he wants, and let him live out his golden years in kitty paradise. I hope his dead first owner would approve of the life I’ve struggled to give him.


But by the title of this post you know I want to talk a little more about code camp. It started two weeks ago. One of the most important epiphanies of my adult life came quickly: it’s not hard. I can do it. I do the reading a couple days ahead of time. I struggle with the syntax of some new concept for a few minutes, fiddle around, and then I get it, and then I know it forever. And it’s fun. After years of feeling worthless, after mopping the same office floor alone at the end of every veterinarian’s assistant shift, I am starved for validation, dying for problems to solve, and this bootcamp gives them to me in measured doses, each day seemingly exponentially increasing what we students can do with computers. So far I’ve barely even had to take homework home. I love helping my fellow students understand once I’ve finished the work on my own.

Stamina remains an issue. Last week I got to Friday afternoon and was so wiped I could barely drive home. I generally start to fade a couple hours after lunch, but the bootcamp’s free coffee has helped me power through. This, too, is an epiphany. I think my year of constantly pushing myself at the vet’s office was painful, but good, again, because it showed me how to shove at my limits, and even circumvent them (sometimes), develop strategies to lessen their impact. Even a night of severe pain and elusive sleep can’t stop me from rushing to class and taking a million notes and racing through the day’s exercises like I’ve seen it all before. If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s apply the blowtorch of willpower to a concrete problem until one or the other fails, and, well. My spirit was never in question.

And these two weeks have already begun to change me away from the person I’d become, afraid to commit, afraid to take the chance, because inevitably my body would let me down, and let others down. I have survived ten years of seeing the one thing I was most afraid of come true, again and again. I have been tempered by pain and heartache and loss and terrible suffering. I have come through it all a sharpened blade. Now when the internal hater array takes aim, when my old fears threaten to choke me, I step back, and I imagine: what’s the worst thing that can happen? I fail out of the bootcamp and waste several thousand dollars and have to sell the house immediately to survive? Well, would I die? No? Then that’s okay. I could get through that. And the voice that tells me I’m not good enough, already so much quieter since its physical manifestation moved away and cut all ties, goes silent. With every day that I don’t have poison whispered into my ear, I become less vulnerable to its effects, and more determined to never let it tear me down again.


I pretty much forgot this blog existed until Arthur’s dad mentioned he read it a couple weeks ago, and then I remembered my last entry was terribly sad. So here’s something a little less sad to drive it off the front page of this mostly-defunct website that mostly-exists to slam into gear if I ever manage to sell a novel.

We went to China! Arthur told everyone he was going to do it and so we did it. I vacillated between anxiety and excitement – I went to England once to visit family when I was thirteen, and Toronto once on a school trip, and that’s the extent of my world travel experience. A high school senior class trip to Spain was canceled due to the beginning of New Improved Iraq War Part Eleventy. I was going way out of my comfort zone, speaking exactly zero words of Mandarin and unsure whether my pain meds would raise alarms with customs and be confiscated (they didn’t and weren’t, thank goodness).

We went to Beijing and saw the Great Wall and the Forbidden City (obligatory). I did not know it was a national holiday week, but in retrospect there’s no way anywhere in the world can be that crowded all the time, right? I managed by dint of extreme paranoia to only get glutened once or twice, and the reaction was pretty mild. I bought my grandma and mom and sister jade pendants as gifts and don’t THINK I was ripped off (the world may never know). We ate Peking duck at a fancy steakhouse-style restaurant in the city that made it famous. We took the high-speed rail to Shanghai, which I think I liked a little more, maybe just because I was finally getting comfortable being the big white idiot who couldn’t read or talk and had no idea what was going on at any time. In Shanghai we took the ferry or metro’d around and saw historic gardens and looked down on the city at night from fancy observation levels. We flew to Taipei and were wined and dined around the city for almost a week by Arthur’s incredibly nice and cool relatives. We took a 4-kilometer gondola up into the mountains and drank fancy tea on a fancy deck overlooking the entire city. The whole thing was fucking magical and I’ll remember it the rest of my life.

We came home to flat tires and drafty windows and fall in full swing. I grumbled, but I hold those memories close. I don’t know if I’ll ever write up an exhaustively detailed report of the trip for public consumption, because much of it was pretty generic tourist stuff that nonetheless felt intensely personal and adventurous for boring old me. I have a lot of photos that I’ll be showing to family and backing up everywhere I can think of.

I discovered I really love the old wall-scroll landscape paintings by Chinese masters from centuries past – not a subject I’d ever really thought about, but the beautiful detail of the mountains and trees, usually with just *ooooone tiny guy* hanging out in there somewhere, really meshed with how I have felt standing in awe of nature. I discovered I want to learn Mandarin – like, for real, thinking about some kind of immersion program – because I want my future kids to be able to understand the half of their heritage that I can’t, not fully. I discovered I was enjoying myself, dragging my lame ass all over strange cities, wearing a huge callus on my right hand from the cane. (At the Shanghai Museum, I traded my passport for a wheelchair and made Arthur push me. I felt hugely conspicuous but also hugely satisfied that I managed to avoid several hours of standing in intense pain.) People stare at a girl with a cane in China in a way I’ve never quite experienced in the US – maybe it was partly that I was an obvious foreigner, who knows.

I guess that brings me back to my last post. I’m not totally convinced my short-term memory is ever going to be 100% of what it was. That’s just one of the risks you run when you’re trying a bunch of different meds for an incurable condition with no one accepted treatment. But the NSAID I mentioned last time actually did kick into gear, eventually, and it’s cut my pain a great deal at the mere cost of probably taking years off my life if I stay on it long-term. I found another drug that has boosted my energy immensely in short bursts, as long as I keep taking it indefinitely, kind of like a super-caffeine without the addiction or anxiety side effects. I started a garden this year, christened The Shittiest Garden, which even produced a few things, and I’ve never stopped fostering cats, and life is pretty good. We might even buy a house soon.

I struggle with frustration over my disability. I probably always will. I found myself in a long line at the bank the other day, and started wishing I’d brought my cane to lean on, and remembered how the people in China stared. Remembered how fucked up my bum leg got after a couple years of using the cane everywhere and how I sternly told myself it was only going to be for emergencies and big events from now on. Even on a meds regimen that works all right, I still have energy crashes, still turn down social events due to exhaustion, still stare at the blank page or the half-finished novel-length work and feel despair. But I’ve got some stories out there, now, circulating, some old, some new. I’ve got hopes. I’m thirty and I think my thirties are going to be better than my twenties, no matter what. I just have to hang on long enough for it to happen.

The mentoring nonprofit never placed me with a kid. I don’t know whether they forgot about me or whether they had some kind of organizational problem. However, they’re starting a new program with a local school where mentors teach programming to small groups of teens, and I told them I’d be good at that. (I was good at that, once. A long time ago. I think I could do it again, maybe.) With the energy-booster I might be able to get a part-time job, even if it’s something simple, retail, secretarial. I’m not too proud to try that, after regulating million-dollar products at the federal level. I’m desperate to feel like I still have something to contribute. Hugging cats does not pay for cat food, more’s the injustice. (Maybe if we buy a house I can set up a kitten webcam.)

I’ll never stop writing.

Whys and Wherefores

These posts are starting to feel like entries in a journal of defeat. I am sinking even as Arthur rises and rises. Two medications ago, last fall, I thought maybe I’d found something that would work. It numbed me pleasantly. The pain went away, though not the exhaustion. I relaxed, stopped feeling anxious about what I’m going to do with my life all the time.

It was false comfort. Everything started to drop away. My short-term memory became more holes than net. I stopped writing entirely, stopped dreaming, stopped even having ideas to write down. I got in two fender-benders with cars that were not moving at the time (I, who prided myself so much in my clean driving record!) It crept up on me so insidiously – well, that’s not entirely true. I knew something was going on, but I was so pathetically grateful for a break from the unending slog through every day, the terrible bone-deep aches and the lancing lighting jolts that made me cry out suddenly at random intervals, that I didn’t fight at all. I let it happen.

After the second minor accident I knew I was in too deep. I tapered off the medication, but even afterward, the effects seem to linger. I don’t think my memory is as good as it used to be. The weight I gained has stuck around. I’m slower and stupider every year and I hate it, I hate this thing I am. When I started this post I wanted to talk about the slow climb back to myself, but the more I think about it, the more I realize I can no longer tease my self from all the things that I used to consider not-myself, the pain and the gasping weakness and the inability to make plans, the fear that I will have to cancel everything at the last minute, let everyone down. This has been my reality for almost a third of my life. This is me. I hate me. I hate this. I hate this.

One medication ago, I took muscle relaxers a few times and gave up. They were no better than a placebo. Three unmedicated, agonizing months before I could see the rheumatologist again.

Zero medications ago, I’m taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) developed for arthritis patients. When I started I thought I felt some difference. A few more days in and I can’t tell anymore, I’m wondering if I’ve just managed to dupe myself again, hopped up on the dregs of idiot hope and desperate for change. This isn’t going to change. This is me.

Don’t ask me about the novel. I work on it a little and then I have a bad pain day and lose all momentum. It’s going to take 30 years at this rate. I wrote a vignette that was well-received at Wiscon, and that’s nearly the entirety of my output for 2015. It’s already garnered one rejection slip and is working on the next. I’m so tired. When I get a little energy, I get angry. Then the energy goes away and I’m just tired again.

I’m trying to get out of the house. I signed up to mentor a child six months ago and have yet to be matched with anyone. I went to Wiscon – o lifeline of writing friends – and Arthur and I are going to Worldcon this summer so he can be on some panels. I’m already exhausted just thinking about it.

I was going to be the first woman on Mars. What happened to that person, full of enough energy and plans to power a star? I’m almost out of hope for anything approaching a normal life. I’m so tired. I hate this. This is me. I hate me. I’m so tired.


I could describe every part of the Tournament of Champions in exhaustive detail, or I could finish in time for Thanksgiving dinner with my family, so. It was largely the same experience as the first time around, except this time instead of crashing at Arthur’s mom’s house we stayed in the Universal Hilton and ate overpriced theme restaurant food and room service. This time Arthur wasn’t the only “celebrity”. This time all the contestants – fifteen in all, plus the alternate guy who was very nice but never got to play – orbited each other anxiously in the hotel lobby before game time.

Some made friends easier than others. A ridiculously tall clade of men hung out together – I know this included Ben Ingram, might have also included Mark Japinga, certainly looped in Keith Williams, the Final Wager guy, who was there only to observe. I saw Julia Collins many times before I finally said hi (at the afterparty, with everything already over!). Arthur was in the Zone, pacing and muttering and mostly ignoring everyone. I felt like he was being rude, but also like everyone probably understood.

The documentary crew was new. Jeopardy has given them a great deal of access, for which I suppose I’m grateful. The cameras stress me out, will stress me out forever, but I know that if someone’s going to make a film about Arthur, it should be the best film it can possibly be. They weren’t allowed to film in the studio, but they got a bunch of footage at the hotel and after each day of games. I had a great conversation with Sandie’s husband. Everyone we spoke to was so nice! Not a jerk in the bunch, as far as I could tell. I wonder if the Tournament ever gets some real weirdos who storm off when they lose or yell at Alex or treat the other contestants like crap?



It was a new experience for me to camp out in the hotel for a whole day with nothing to do and nowhere to be. Arthur studied, the cameras filmed; perhaps unsurprisingly, I got a bunch of writing done, with no absolutely necessary chores pressing on my consciousness. This story is complicated and I’m still not sure I have the right angle.

Arthur slaughtered his first game on Day One. The upset of Julia losing her game had everyone biting their nails to see whether her wildcard score might still give the world the Arthur-Julia matchup the fans demanded. (Spoiler: It did.) We took the chartered contestant limo-bus back to the hotel during rush hour with a severe accident or bomb threat or something blocking a major highway. Lots of time to chat. I got to know Maggie, the contestant handler. She pointed out a store that has a real Gort costume from The Day the Earth Stood Still in the front window. Arthur studied flash cards on his phone. We ordered room service. They had gluten-free rolls – ah, Los Angeles.


Arthur’s second game the next morning was harder, not a runaway, but he continued to dominate. Ben Ingram won his handily, again, nailing the final jeopardy clue with what appeared to be a total guess. Julia won her game thanks to (being awesome and) some flamboyant betting by one of the other contestants that didn’t work out well. Going into the finals, Arthur knew he’d proven he was worthy to compete, as if there was ever any doubt. He fought hard, bet extravagantly, dominated the board going into both final jeopardy segments of the two-part championship game – but was ultimately defeated. Julia seemed mostly happy to be there by that point, and accepted her third-place finish with smiling equanimity. Ben never seemed to break a sweat through most of the tournament, and certainly never broke character as a ridiculously nice person. All three players ran the board controls ragged with their rapid-fire play; all the glitches and resets they caused were, of course, edited out of what ultimately aired. I mocked Arthur for looking so mad at himself when he’d just won a hundred grand for two days of work. (His expression, too, vanished in the cutting room, for which I’m grateful. He collected himself quickly.)

I feel like, given different boards, it could easily have gone a different way. If Julia hadn’t been fighting a virus, if Arthur hadn’t lost both final jeopardies (Shakespeare! He’s never missed a Shakespeare question!), if Ben hadn’t been so goddamn good…But the Monday quarterback in me concedes that this was a great tournament, with a lot of great players, and good lord was it great TV. I called it the nerd Olympics: An arbitrary competition performed by consummate specialists at the top of their game. Though Alex laughed at Arthur when he insisted Jeopardy is a sport, so who knows.

The afterparty was full of congratulations and relief. I got to meet Rani Peffer, whose entire run Arthur and I watched during his own preparation for his first game ever. I finally shook hands with Julia, and Rebecca, and Sarah, people with whom I hope to remain Twitter friends. There was cake & chicken fingers (which I couldn’t eat). I was so tired I thought I might die. I think I mispronounced Rani’s name. Many group photos were had.




Arthur and I went to a group dinner of Asian fans (journalists? I’m not sure everyone was a journo but everyone was media in some capacity). I couldn’t eat anything and was tired out of my mind, so I basically don’t remember it. I hope it went well. Everyone was nice. Afterward we went to O’Brien’s pub, a traditional hangout of Jeopardy players post-game, and joined a team halfway through. I think we did well, with zero contribution from me, but again, I don’t remember. I wasn’t even drinking! We shook off the cameras & cabbed back to the hotel, which was beginning to feel a little like home, which meant it was time to leave.

Arthur flew out to San Jose to deliver a talk at the Techmanity conference the next morning. I don’t know where his energy comes from. I wish I could steal even a tenth of it and become a superhero. I flew home. My mom had been over and left us some champagne on the counter, which I just now realize I forgot to bring to our finals viewing party. It was good to see the cats again.



We threw a party at The Boneyard, a cavernous local institution, for the last half of the finals. Arthur invited all of Cleveland and it somehow worked out to just the right amount of people, mostly friends, a few strangers. Some roommates brought Arthur a photo of the kitten they’d named after him. He called me over to see as he autographed it. The best.



So I think it’s pretty obvious what I’m thankful for: This whole miracle of a year. Arthur finished recording his original run a little over a week before Thanksgiving 2013, so this has been our lives for twelve bizarre, hilarious, stressful, profoundly blessed months. We couldn’t have predicted Arthur’s domination of a relic of a game show would lead to infamy, then to TV, then to fans, then to writing gigs and nerd punditry and so many new friends and so many wonderful things yet to come. I am thankful. I am thankful. I am thankful.

(Arthur last night with my grandma, his biggest fan in the entire world)

Crawling back into the saddle

I haven’t had a lot of energy to post this summer. I’ve been trying a new medication that half-killed me, and running support for Arthur and his newfound celebrity as best I can. I clean, and cook, and do laundry, and run all the errands necessary for a functioning household. I hug cats. It’s enough.

The novel stalled during the many weeks of severe medication side effects. I think about it every day. Sometimes I write a little, but I’ve only advanced maybe 5,000 words in 4 months. I started a new story based on a dream I had about a unicorn and a trail ride I went on while vacationing with my family in Montana a few years ago. It sounds dumb when I describe it like that, but I have hopes.

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Los Angeles. I don’t know how the next couple days are going to go, but all of you won’t know for a couple of months. Yesterday we camped out in the room and didn’t go outside until after dark: Arthur studied, I wrote 2800 words of unicorn story draft, the most I’ve written in ages, and two people filmed us. Did I mention there’s a documentary about Arthur? I’m a little unclear on how the final product will trend but it’s about his Jeopardy villain-ness, his response to the fame, his position within the geek world. Because it’s about him and I’m around him all the time, I’m in it. I’m not a huge fan of cameras and the whole thing has been a little stressful. I will honestly be glad when this is all over and we can relax. But what an exciting time, while it lasts!

I’m trying yet another medication, now. It’s only been a week, so I don’t know whether it’s going to help. I think I was a little less destroyed by the flight to LA than I might have been otherwise. I think it might be stabilizing my energy level. About four days in, a peculiar warmth crept up from the ends of my toes into my chest and arms and jaw. My gums feel hot all the time. Sometimes I taste metal, sometimes my ears ring. It’s so little compared to the other medication that I hardly notice.

I quit my job with such high hopes for how it would help me accomplish all my dreams. It turns out that being disabled and not working is still being disabled. I need something to keep me going, because all I can do on my own is hang on by nails and teeth to keep from losing ground. My consolation is watching Arthur’s star rise and rise. He’s doing everything he ever wanted – he’s on national TV, he’s writing regular articles for major internet news/opinion outlets, he’s building his freelancer cred. He loves getting paid to have opinions on the internet, when for so long he just did it for free.

And I’m hanging on. Despair will scrabble at my back, and leave deep runneled scars, but never get a grip. I’m trying things. I’m hugging cats. I don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s okay. If this isn’t the best of all possible worlds, it’s pretty darn close. Someday I’m going to feel better, even if I’m never cured. Something will work, and then it will be my turn to have all my dreams come true, and probably we will become some kind of nerd power couple Voltron, slinging justice and dorkery across the interverse. I look forward to it. I have hopes. Love, and modern medical sorcery, and love, and the willingness to say yes to any adventure, and love: These will see us through. These are enough.

Jeopardy, Day 3: (Tape: Nov. 20) (Air: March 10-12)(AND BEYOND(minus Arthur))

I suppose I’ve been dreading this post. I want to create some kind of denouement, something that ties it all together, but life goes on, and now it’s ten days after Arthur lost, and if I don’t just lay down some word-spackle my whole Jeopardy narrative edifice is going to tip over.

It seemed pretty clear that he was not going to make it the whole day from the beginning. He was tired (that infamous Podium Lean became more pronounced), strung out, not nearly refreshed enough from the sleep that he’d managed to snatch from jet lag and sheer emotional burnout. His strategy, while excellent and efficacious, required a level of intensity that was very hard to maintain. He started getting beaten to the buzzer more, buzzing in on clues he wasn’t sure of (and getting them wrong), losing tons of money on Daily Doubles.

The last couple games of his run were brutally long. In one, a single light of the eleventy billion festooning the grid over the set died and one of those lifting machines had to be brought in (stage hands laying rugs and ramps carefully before it lest it smudge the perfectly shiny floor) and the bulb elaborately changed, a process that took upwards of ten minutes. In the last one, Diana, who I’m sure is very nice but came off as kind of excitable and fragile, nearly passed out a couple of times and had to be fussily attended by various contestant wranglers for long periods where she got to sit, relax, drink juice, etc. while Arthur and the other woman stood and sweated and fidgeted. All this stuff gets edited out of the final episode you see on TV, and so his collapse seems even more precipitous than it actually was. By the end of the last game it was past lunchtime, everyone was exhausted and irritable, and we decided to just go home once he’d been released from Jeopardy’s clutches.

Which took a long time. I don’t think I fully understood the historic nature of his run until after we were back in Ohio. Arthur’s mom and I got to meet the producer, who introduced himself and shook our hands, which clearly wasn’t something he did for every contestant’s audience supporters. And he was held back in the bowels of the studio for a long time while we sat outside on the front steps, waiting and gossiping and watching one of the tech crew take a smoke break. When he finally emerged he said they had interviewed him for the website and posterity.

Arthur’s mom and her friend and Arthur and I all made our way out to the friend’s car and sank into our seats. Arthur was wearing a Jeopardy baseball cap with the words “GET A CLUE!” embroidered on the back. He had a small swag bag with all the pink carbon-paper receipts for the money Jeopardy owed him now, totals and dates written out neatly. I thought it was funny that, in this day and age, a physical invoice was still necessary. We went to lunch. I remember exactly zero things about that lunch; I couldn’t tell you where we went, what we ate, or anything that was said to save my life. Arthur could have stayed on and watched the final two games of the day, but he was so wiped out he looked ready to faint. We went back to his mom’s house and lay the hell down again.

Then it was just a matter of keeping the results under wraps until now. Which I’ll admit was incredibly hard sometimes. Our immediate families knew pretty quickly (Arthur waited until Thanksgiving to break it to his side) and I caved and told a couple of friends and cousins, after swearing them to secrecy, as January 28th approached. Nobody ratted on us and spread it all over social media, for which I’m intensely grateful.

Our whole family purposely kept the results a secret from my grandmother, a religious Jeopardy watcher, so that she could experience the joys and sorrows in real time, and also so she wouldn’t tell every single person she knew. I called her a few times during his run and we talked about how she was a minor celebrity in her own right at the assisted living home because “that’s my grandson-in-law!!!!”

Arthur was in New York City the night of his loss because Good Morning America had signed some kind of NDA with Jeopardy that allowed them to learn when his run would end and schedule an interview for the following day. He had a pizza party in his hotel room with NYC friends while I watched with my parents and little brother at home. It was painful, but not as bad as I’d thought it would be — for one, Arthur’s fanbase on The Twitters had grown enormously over the weeks, beginning to drown out the haters for which he had originally taken to social media. The upwelling of support and love and good wishes from total strangers was heartwarming.

How he became a media darling is a complex question. America likes disruptive young innovators who burst in and shake things up, and despite all his protesting and explaining he was repeatedly shoehorned into the “Moneyball” role by writers and interviewers alike. The story began with his witty and rapid-fire responses to the haters of Twitter, one part sincere, one part self-effacing and one part swagger. He was the Jeopardy villain people seemed to love to hate. Afterward was the backlash to the backlash, people purposely stepping forward and declaring their approval in order to go against the prevailing narrative. Through all this he and I stayed as on top of the story as possible, though I’ll admit my involvement was minimal after the first couple days. Nobody wants to interview the Jeopardy Wife, and I’m fine with that.

Whether it was Cold War anxiety or a hidden strain of OCD running through the population which reacted hysterically to the idea of taking the categories out of order, I think what kept fans and media types coming back was Arthur’s articulateness, his humor, his earnestness and willingness to explain exactly what he did, how he did it, and who he took his tactics from. His liberal sharing of credit brought the mechanics of the game itself, and its dedicated community of fans and hobbyist analysts, into the spotlight, and America looked at one of its favorite fusty old syndicated shows in a different way.

I could try to do some kind of massive link roundup, but the internet being what it is, half of those are going to be dead in a few years, anyway. Arthur won the third largest amount in regular play in the game’s history, and the third largest number of games, and spawned what I’m pretty sure were hundreds of articles by the end, though many were scraped and reprinted. His presence on the internet in this three-month period couldn’t be fully erased if someone tried.


I dunno. What do you do with a huge windfall that isn’t going to make you regret all your decisions in ten years? In one sense it feels like back pay for the lives we almost lived, the ones we expected, making up for the period during our entire twenties when we felt like the world had promised us good jobs and satisfaction if we only worked hard enough, tried hard enough — and then didn’t deliver. But the recession screwed just about everyone our age, and most people aren’t going to get that lost income and complacency back, not if they wait their whole lives. We are always going to be an entire generation scarred by this struggle that still hasn’t ended, might not ever end for us. So I’m not being flippant when I say that the best place for that money is “the safest goddamn investments we can find, until we come up with a better idea.”

I am haunted by the constant feeling that it could all vanish at any moment, the way the bottom dropped out of the economy just as I was beginning to search for a job, severely disabled by pain and fatigue. I don’t know if Arthur feels exactly the same, but I know he struggled horribly with the worthless feeling that comes from being overeducated and unemployed in freaking Washington, DC, a city that was supposed to be bursting with jobs at the time. We are both excessively cautious, excessively cheap (ask me about the cool chair I fished out of someone’s trash, or the argument we had to have last fall before Arthur would let me buy him new underwear) and excessively reluctant to commit to a mortgage or other large purchase.

We don’t even know if we’ll stay in Cleveland, though as a low-cost city with a lot of amenities it lends itself nicely to our cheap-chic lifestyle. The addictive joy of money for us is possibilities — the idea that we can drop our lives here and go zipping off to something completely different, the way we shook D.C. off our boots and transplanted to the Midwest; the idea that instead of worrying constantly about whether or not I’m contributing to the family coffers right now, I should shut the hell up and finish my novel; the idea that, we are at last exactly as prepared for life as we always thought we’d be at this age. We are an unstoppable power couple of awesome, ready to take on our thirties with the brass knuckles of optimism and hard work and the dragonbone plate armor of knowing we won’t go broke. And the sword of, uh, eloquence? Work with me, here.

Jeopardy, Day 2 (Tape: Nov. 19) (Air: February 24-28)

I can finally post this! Hooray! A WEEK OF JEOPARDY IN ONE DAY, FROM MY PERSPECTIVE:

I’m writing this one a couple weeks after the fact. It feels like it’s taken that long just to rest & recover from our little adventure.

I flew to LA on Monday, November 18th to see Arthur play some more Jeopardy. Last week we thought we couldn’t afford it, as TWO cross-country round-trip flights would make him barely break even if he came in third in the first game. (We shouldn’t have been so pessimistic, when he’d been studying and practicing for weeks.) This week, well, we suddenly could, even if we’re not going to see any of his winnings for months and months.

His flight sold out just a little while after Jeopardy bought his seat. I got another one on another airline for around the same time. Various misadventures meant I landed an hour late, but Arthur was waiting for me at the gate, and his mom picked us up and took us back to her house in the ‘burbs. We went to bed almost immediately, since we’d have to get up early to drive back to Culver City and the studio.

We didn’t get up early enough. Arthur’s mom’s friend, who I’m sure is very nice, offered to drive us. Which was very nice of him. We were nicely 20 minutes late, but as the “returning champion” Arthur didn’t have to do all the morning orientation stuff so it wasn’t a giant deal, though we were very stressed the whole way over thinking they might somehow boot him off the show. I spent the next hour & a half in a nearby coffee shop, waiting for them to start letting in audience members, hanging out with Arthur’s mom and her friend. Who was very nice. I told him he really didn’t need to drive us tomorrow if Arthur needed to come back, we could definitely find our own way, but he insisted because he’s a great guy. Arthur’s mom also insisted. I drank a “chocolate chai latte” which is a mistake I will never make again.

We drove back to the Sony lot and parked in the designated garage. A security guard scanned our driver’s licenses and we were directed to sit on some green benches in a special “audience zone” inside the parking garage. I’m guessing this is to keep us from wandering around the lot, but it was kind of dark and exhaust-fumey and uncomfortable. We endured. I made awkward small talk with a nice older woman who was there to support a contestant family member as well. It was hard not to brag about how great Arthur is, but I managed to keep the conversation general.

Eventually they set up a folding table and handed out wristbands or special “Contestant Guest” stickers to everyone. Arthur’s mom came to see him last week, so she was already a pro at this. They led everyone who needed a bathroom to a bathroom trailer. Then we were finally ready to head into the lot for reals. There was a bottleneck halfway to the studio building where everyone had to get their bag cursorily examined and walk through a metal detector, but that went smoothly. We lined up outside a studio that looked like every other studio (basically an anonymous warehouse) except there was a huge Jeopardy poster/mural on the wall with a 30-foot Alex Trebek looking benevolently down on us. We all got our pictures taken with him while we waited.

After a few minutes they let us file in, “Contestant Guests” first. Inside was a set of three podiums and a cardboard stand-up Trebek where guests could get their photos taken. Behind that was a glass display case full of Emmys. Behind THAT was a wall that was the back of the movie-theater-style seating inside the studio itself. Contestant Guests entered from the right side of the house, general rabble from the left. The two seating areas were separated by the recessed doorway through which, I imagine, they drive the cameras.

We were seated on the same side as the contestants, but weren’t allowed to talk, wave, gesture, or even really make eye contact with them. The studio is super strict about this, as well as making sure everyone’s phones are off and nobody looks at them during the show. As we came in, three soon-to-be contestants were up at the podiums, practicing using the buzzer. (I’m glad they let people practice – otherwise the returning champ would have a huge unfair advantage!) I could see Arthur sitting across the aisle but couldn’t do anything other than elbow his mom and point as subtly as possible. He was soon called up to prepare for the first game. I started quietly having a nervous breakdown. I held hands with Arthur’s mom, who was also nervous but handling it way better than me.

Johnny Gilbert, the 1,000-year-old immortal mummy who announces the show, came out and gave a quick talk about how we’re not allowed to make noise or even whisper answers to ourselves because the mics they use to pick up audience applause are always live. One of the Clue Crew was there and he made her stand up and wave. She had recently run an Iron Man Triathlon. We applauded. The crew started counting down. Twenty seconds. The contestants were already at their podiums. Arthur was on the far left, as befitted the returning champ. Johnny Gilbert assumed his position at the back of the studio.

Showtime. “THIS! IIIISSSS JEOPARDY,” said Johnny, sounding like a much younger man who was much more excited than he could possibly be after saying this 10 times a week for 30 years. We clapped. Arthur was introduced last, before Trebek, and the crowd oohed and aahed at his $100,000 running total. Other contestants and family members of other contestants started to look more nervous. We clapped.

Alex Trebek paced out from behind the facade, smiling. The music played. We clapped some more. The crew handed out little cards to the audience telling us when the episodes taped today would air. I realized these were several weeks after his first four – there must be tournaments in between, though I didn’t know which ones at the time. (Answer: A week of the Tournament of the Decades: 80s, and then two weeks of the College Tournament.)

Arthur came out swinging, but so did another contestant, a short brunette woman with a serious expression. She was really good, and started building a lead on Arthur that I wondered if he could catch. But she bet big on a Daily Double, got it wrong, and seemed to lose all her confidence and focus in one big rush. Arthur caught up, blew past her, and was so far ahead by the end I think it was a locked game – one where even if the other contestants bet everything they have on Final Jeopardy, they can’t catch the leader. (Unless the leader bets big and gets it wrong, but Arthur hadn’t spent weeks thinking about his strategy to be caught in a dumb maneuver like that.) A lot of Jeopardy, I’ve learned from Arthur, is the mind game – you can’t let yourself be thrown by a big mistake, or intimidated by a long-running champion. You have to stay focused on the clues and the buzzer, and nothing else matters. It’s a baptism by fire for every new set of contestants, since they’ve never been on the show before and never will be again, once they lose.

Each commercial break, while the tech crew bustled around and the writer-judges conferred, Trebek would come to the edge of the set and peer out into the audience, answering questions. The questions were mostly prosaic and sometimes repeated themselves from audience to audience – who’s your favorite musician, how’s your leg, when’s the last time you played hockey, do you watch sports, have you ever actually competed on Jeopardy, when are you going to retire. He gave answers that were one part informative and one part funny, working the crowd. (“Can you tell us about your personal life?” *LONG PAUSE* “No.”) In all my years of watching off and on, I never knew that part of his job is to provide live entertainment for the audience so they don’t get restless during the frequent pauses. Johnny Gilbert also came out and did this a couple of times when Trebek was busy.

Commercial breaks were also used to re-record any clues he had mispronounced or that he thought sounded bad. There was usually one, sometimes two. Even when you’re as practiced as Trebek, you’re still reading an awful lot of text that you only saw for the first time that morning. Sometimes he snarked about the way the clues were written and added his own little flourishes.

Anyway: Two more games, with only a few minutes of break in between. What they don’t tell you at home is that the show is filmed over the course of a couple days every week, and only part of the year, five shows a day. When Alex says something happened “yesterday”, what he actually means is “twenty minutes ago”. The contestants are told to bring changes of clothes to help maintain the illusion. It’s really weird to watch this simple deception in action, but of course it makes sense. The show’s continuity has to match the viewer’s continuity, and the viewer only sees one game a night. And it would be ruinously expensive to actually only film one show a day.

Anyway. Three shows down. They all started to blur together almost immediately, so I can’t remember the particulars. I was so anxious for Arthur that my memory is hazy after the first one. I do remember Trebek saying something to Arthur, who pointed at us in the audience. I cringed, waved, cringed again. “I SEE YOU, WIFEY,” Trebek called. “OH MY GOD HE LOOKED AT ME,” I whispered to Arthur’s mom. (Spoiler alert: This is the closest I got to actually meeting Alex Trebek. I did get my photo with the cardboard stand-up one in the lobby later on.)

Everyone broke for lunch. Contestants ate in a cafeteria somewhere on the studio lot, but because we weren’t allowed to even be in the same room as them, we had to walk a block down the road to where a coffee shop, a Subway, and a juice bar squatted at an intersection. The day was slightly overcast and in the high 60s. It was warm compared to Cleveland, but I hung onto my coat.

I got a peanut butter smoothie at the juice bar and sat in the Subway with Arthur’s mom and her friend. The woman from the first game who had started so strong was there, too, sitting with some family and/or friends. As we all got up to leave I overheard her saying that she wanted to go back in and watch the last two games of the day in case Arthur got knocked out, because it would be gratifying to see him fail.

“I completely understand the sentiment, even if I can’t agree with it,” I said. “I’m his wife.”

“Oh. I feel like a jerk now,” she said. I demurred. We all laughed a little and walked back to the studio in a big group. (Note: This was Sofi. I couldn’t remember her name until I saw her episode on Monday.)

Two more games. A different general audience filed in. I think this one might have been a school group, where the first had been a senior citizen group? Or was it the other way around? The contestants who came on now had watched Arthur handily win three games, and whether or not they allowed themselves to feel just a LITTLE intimidated, Arthur plastered ’em. It became almost a routine – he would build a big lead and rarely had to worry much about Final Jeopardy at the end. By the end he had something like $260,000 in winnings, and Trebek had busted out a couple of teasing Ken Jennings comparisons.

I ran out just before the last game of the day because the huge smoothie was doing things to my insides. When I came back before the beginning of the game, a camera guy was camping out in the aisle next to our row of seats. “Uh oh,” I said to Arthur’s mom. She just laughed. Arthur’s anecdote for that “day” was a plug for my novel, and I didn’t know ahead of time, so my two seconds of national TV fame as an adult were me pressing my hands to my face. I texted my mom afterward to tell her what had happened.

“I hope you brushed your hair,” she sent back.

“I was all sweaty and disheveled from running back from a huge dump in the bathroom,” I told her.

“Ah, life,” she responded.

When the carnage was over, we filed out and ran into Arthur outside. We walked to the bathroom-trailer together, away from most of the audience. As soon as we were nominally alone he looked at me and started laughing hysterically. I hugged him. An old lady from the audience approached us and asked if she could have her photo taken with him, and left satisfied. The contestant wrangler called and set up arrangements to change his plane ticket to Thursday. (They had bought him one for Wednesday as a matter of course, but now he would not need it, thank you very much.)

We all walked back to his mom’s friend’s car and began the long drive home. His mom’s friend dropped us off and said his goodbyes, promising to return the next morning. We all went inside and lay down for an hour, too utterly stunned to talk or do anything much but rest.

Later we went to a restaurant where Arthur’s mom knew the staff. She explained my gluten issue to them in Chinese and for once I got to eat Chinese food without worrying about flour or soy sauce contamination. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Poached fish, squid, green beans, all sorts of good stuff.

We went home and went to bed. It was 7:30 pm. Even as exhausted as he and I were, and the three-hour time difference, it was hard to get to sleep after being so amped up all day. We lay there for a long time and talked disjointedly about nothing, but eventually we drifted off.

Ah, life. If Arthur called this the best day of his life, better than his wedding and/or (one day) the birth of his first child, I would not begrudge him it. There was a clue somewhere in the middle of the day of taping, maybe the third or fourth game, that was something like “Five-Letter Words”. The clue itself was, I paraphrase, “Recess in a wall, or one’s proper place; we hope you’ve found yours.” The answer, or the question, I suppose, was “What is niche”. Arthur got that one, as he should have. He found his niche on Jeopardy, and went home beaming and shaky, having performed heroic feats of stamina and brilliance. After watching him struggle for so many years, I was so happy and proud I could just about have jumped over the house, if I weren’t also completely wiped.

Jeopardy, Day 1 (Tape: Nov. 13) (Air: Jan. 28-31)

I should probably have blogged about this sooner than COMPLETELY AFTER THE FACT, but sometimes I forget that I have a blog at all. Apologies.

My beloved husband Arthur tore up Jeopardy last week and became a polarizing figure on the internets. This spawned multiple internet articles about him.

Arthur flew to LA right after work (he left early, in fact) and arrived late at night. He had to be at the studio in Culver City at 8 am the next morning. I was not a fan of this “miss as little work as possible” plan, but he could not be dissuaded.

I texted him to wish him luck in the morning, but he didn’t reply. I spent the whole day chewing my nails and shitting bricks, trying to focus on writing, waiting to hear from him. (I did get some novel work done.) Finally, around 8:45pm EST, he called me.

“I have some bad news,” he said, but it was in his “I have some good news” voice. I wasn’t fooled. “I have to spend another week ignoring everything to study for Jeopardy because I’m coming back.”

I don’t remember what I said but it was along the lines of “OMG YAY”. What he said next kind of made a little blank space in my memory.

It was, “I won a hundred thousand dollars.”

My brain shut down for a little while. A hundred thousand dollars in one day of taping. They hadn’t even brought him on until the second game (of five). He’d been studying for weeks, lurking forums of die-hard fans of the show and former contestants to glean strategy tips, and watching every single episode of Jeopardy he could find on the internet, back to the 1980s. (The episodes are posted illegally but Sony seems to turn a blind eye to a small amount of infringement as long as the eps aren’t recent.) We’d even bought a pair of rabbit-ears for the TV to pick up the show as it was broadcast every weeknight. It seemed like there couldn’t be a better-prepared person in the entire world.

And yet to see it pay off so fantastically well boggles the mind. I laughed and hyperventilated and told Arthur he’s awesome. (He is.) I hung up and called my parents. We yelled a little. I texted him an hour later to ask him to repeat that figure because my brain kept telling me I’d misheard. He confirmed it.

I said I was flying to LA with him next week because, hell, we could afford it now, and I wanted to see him kick ass in person. It turned out to be impossible to get onto the flight Jeopardy had booked him, but I found one with only one stop that left a little earlier and landed a little later than his. This was happening.

Then I just had to keep mum for another week about what the hell was going on. I’d already locked down my social media and told Twitter that I wouldn’t say a word about Arthur’s success or failure from the moment I dropped him off at the airport. I’ve been addicted to Twitter (and, before that, blogging) for ten years. Sometimes the inability to yell about how proud I was felt like a physical pain. But I soldiered on somehow.

There’s three weeks of tournaments before Arthur comes back on, I believe, February 24th. I’ll be tweeting my little fingers off over at @elizaeffect during the airing. I won’t post my Day 2 rundown until it’s appropriate, but stay tuned as I travel into the bowels of Hollywood and become part of a live studio audience!

#teamarthur #chuchutrain #kingarthur #swaglordarthurchu @arthur_affect


I crossed 100,000 words a while back. Then I crossed it going the other way, cutting out some garbage, and then crossed it again, barely.

Then I got stuck. Then I got sick. Now I’m back, having not looked at the book in many days.

Maybe it’s a good thing. I’ve been making notes on what to do next every night – the minutes just before falling asleep are especially fertile, when I’m too tired to actually get up and commit cool scenes to paper, but can at least make notes on my phone – and I never go more than an hour without thinking about the damn book.

It’s a mess. It’s supposed to be a mess, this is the normal process of writing, but never having actually crawled out of such a mess before, I’m flailing. I think what I needed most was just a little time away. Not guilt-free time, no. I wanted to have a full draft zero by the end of August, back in the halcyon days of July. And we’re over halfway through October and I don’t even have all the bits I need to make a coherent story out of this huge bolus of words.

But I’ve been taking care of kittens – the current crop is very cute but only one of the four has been adopted, and now they are slowly aging out of their adorability window, and I’m biting my nails about it. I’ve been reading – nonfiction, fiction, stuff about dogs, stuff about cavemen, who are not quite what I’m writing about but similar. Game of Thrones, for the hell of it, since that’s the enormous epic fantasy olivaunt in the room. I’m about a third of the way through A Clash of Kings and enjoying it well enough, though I know it’s going to just keep breaking my heart. I’ve been living, in a sort of limited, quiet way, which is all I can manage most days.

We saw Sweeney Todd downtown a couple weeks ago, and we’re leaving in a bit to catch Richard III. Every piece of media I consume is vacuumed up through my eyes and carefully turned over again and again, considered, weighed for its applicability to my own story. I don’t understand writers who say they can’t read while they write. This book will have a thousand influences by the time I’m done.

Write-A-Thon Triumph!

The Clarion Write-A-Thon ended last night. I actually hit my goal on Thursday, crossing 30,000 words, but I was so tired and burned out that I waited to post about it, and then Bluehost went down, so I don’t think my site was even accessible. That’s okay, Bluehost, you’ve done a great job otherwise with my shitty little no-traffic site.

I want to thank all nine people who donated to make up the $200 I raised. Well, eight people, since I put up the seed money. Also one of you was my mom. But the point is, $200 for Clarion! Yay! That will go into a scholarship for the next SFF superstar, just you wait. [Ha ha, just kidding, the next SFF superstar is me. But the one after that, definitely.]

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