On To Napoleon

Traffic on a highway at night
© Adam36 | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I finished reading Karnow’s Vietnam: A History yesterday. I have the old hardback edition, picked up at a library sale somewhere or another, or maybe at the museum sale earlier this year. (I think it was this year.) Anyway, I did not find it “free of ideological bias,” since any work of history rests on bedrock assumptions that are culturally, well, biased. Like a worm in an apple–the worm eats, breathes, and shits apple, and thinks it’s air–so are historians, writers, singers, and all others in their culture. Ideology is an exhalation of culture, sometimes fragrant, more likely foul.

The next in line for serious reading–which includes reading in bed and taking notes in my zibaldone-slash-diary–is Brett-James’s The Hundred Days. I realized I have a shocking number of books on Napoleon, as an outgrowth of my quasi-obsession with the French Revolution, and it’s perhaps time I go through them. Especially the newer ones. There’s a fair amount of biographies of the man, but I’m more interested in him during the Revolution (when his “whiff of grapeshot” saves the day) and his invasion of (and subsequent retreat from) Russia. Of course, books that just scratch my little niche interests are few, and the urge to read more bracketing said interests in order to understand more deeply is overpowering.

I’m not complaining.

I have other thoughts on Karnow’s opus, but they have to sit and settle inside me before I can put them into anything resembling coherency. I’m just glad the flu is retreating so I can think in whole sentences again without each clause interrupted by a sneeze or a trip down the hall to blow my nose YET AGAIN. I got more exercise trekking for tissues than from a marathon. (That’s only slight hyperbole.)

Other than that, I finished a poncho knitted from this pattern. It’s green and stripy and lovely. The leftover yarn is going into a very long scarf instead of a hood. Stuck on a sentence? Knit a row. Watching a movie? Knit a few rows. Listening to a podcast? Knit many rows! Since the weather has turned, it’s all knitting all the time. I just don’t want to spend summer with a lapful of scratchy wool. I gorged on Fellini movies while knitting, feverish, and full of decongestant.

My dreams got awful interesting, when I could sleep.

And of course, today is for getting back on the serious wordcount horse. I’ve got that surrealist novel to prep for NaNo, and decisions to make about the next big project. I’m trying to only juggle two at a time. Trying. I think of juggling my usual four books at once and I get awful tired, which could just be the flu. I love my brain, it is a flexible and marvelous instrument, but sometimes I wish it wouldn’t eat itself quite so fiercely. I further wish my body would stop hosing off its internal surfaces with mucus and get back to the task at hand, but such is corporeal life. It’s ungrateful of me to be short-tempered with the physical frame that usually carries me so uncomplainingly.

Happy Monday, my friends.

Frustration Saturation

Quiet intersection
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October hath arrived, that most blessed of months, wherein I can finally buy house decorations and candy comes in reasonable bite-size pieces BY THE BAG LOAD. Also, pumpkin spice. I love me some pumpkin spice. Not the chemical syrups, no, but ground nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, all in a handy shaker. It’s like crack, I put it in my coffee, in my morning gruel, in pies and other baked goods. PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYWHERE.

The world is burning, but Samhain approaches, the turn of the witch’s year. I have a lot to think about since the last time the Wheel reached this particular spot.

I took some time off in September to luxuriate in the aftermath of a creative frenzy. Now I’m itching, and I long to get back to work. The pressure behind my eyeballs has reached its normal level, so to speak. There’s the zero of Roadtrip Z’s Season 3 to finish, edits on Steelflower at Sea, and I’m sure now that Afterwar is up for preorder I’ll be getting copyedits and proof pages soon. That’s apart from the epic fantasy I’m currently being consumed by, and now that the weather is cooler I really want to finish the zero of Dog Days.

There’s no shortage of work, and forcing myself to take two weeks of 200-word days, as wearing on my nerves as that was, means I’ll be able to do it more effectively now.

I’d talk about the current fascist mess, but I just can’t. I’ve hit frustration saturation. My resistance today is self-care. And working. It feels wrong to be joyous about Samhain, candy, and work, but I need that joy to get through to bedtime, now more than ever.

I hope you have some joy to get you through your day too, dear Readers.

Harmonic Edge

Today’s Thursday, the day each week when my Patreon subscribers get goodies! Chapter 45 of Roadtrip Z is now up. A tender moment, and then, ZOMBIES.

…this pleases me perhaps more than it should.

Someone in the neighborhood is running some sort of machinery, and it has a harmonic precisely calculated to set my teeth on edge, with bonus driving the dogs to distraction. I’m trying to drown out both noises with Beethoven sonatas, to little avail. Maybe I should just get some booze and start drinking to dull the pain.

Yesterday was a good day, 2k on Season 3 of Roadtrip Z falling out of my head. (Some of it involved teenagers discussing syphilis.) I’m hoping for more of the same, though I have to shift to a character I don’t much like. I have very strong tea and yapping dogs, and though there is some sunshine, the rainclouds are still strong.

Maybe I’ll have this character get bitten, but I kind of want him to be like Humperdinck–he lives. I want him to have a long life, alone with his cowardice.

I am a cruel and vengeful writer-god. We all knew that.

Anyway, if I get some good wordcount on that, it’s time to start splitting to another project. Past time, I think I might have recovered (mostly) from the latest set of hurdles in a difficult publishing process. Soon I’ll have to start final revisions on Steelflower at Sea, too.

Things are pretty good today. I’m going back to my tea.

Doubt Merely Looms

Barn Owl
© Donfink | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I’m not sure who I’d be if I stopped writing (other than a corpse), but I wonder sometimes if it would stop the periodic bouts of crippling self-doubt.

I’m not talking the lo-fi “maybe I should be a plumber instead,” or even the grinding envy when you read something achingly brilliant someone else has written. No, those are all normal, and well within tolerances. I’m not talking ennui, or procrastination, or even garden variety low self-worth.

I’m talking about a bleak black hole that rivals clinical depression in its will-sapping, crushing, even-just-breathing-is-an-effort numbness. I differentiate between the two because meds beat back the depression and hold the anxiety at bay, but do shit-all for the doubt.

No, I’m not there yet, but it’s close. Some days I feel it hovering. I’m sure the current on-fire state of the world isn’t helping. Empathy is critical to writing, but it can turn into a handicap really quickly.

The bigger thing is, of course, I finished a book that was huge, complex, better than anything I’d ever done before…and it’s having a difficult, tortuous slog through the publication process. It’s the kind of experience that, if I were a newbie writer, might put me off publishing altogether. It’s like being stabbed repeatedly, pulling the knife out only to have another go in, slow or fast, doesn’t matter. A perfect storm of “whatever can go wrong, will” has crashed into my life, and upended a lot of plans.

I had meant to get some more of the Angelov Wolves written, especially Misha’s book, which I really like. Unfortunately, limited bandwidth means I’m on still on the zero of Roadtrip Z’s third season, eking out only a few words each day, pushing against an elastic, resisting barrier. It’s all I can do to keep going with the serial, and I keep glancing up at the master to-do list and feeling like crying. I have taken to closing the office door, just so I can sit and stare, the engines of story working right below conscious thought, grinding slow but exceeding fine.

The only way out is through, I guess. Punching and jabbing and fending off the hovering black hole, telling myself that even two hundred words a day is two hundred more than I had before, and that with significant portions of my emotional energy taken up with healing after the latest round of oh-my-dear-gods-you-have-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me-they-want-WHAT it’s good enough. The dogs help, of course, since as long as their bellies are full and walkies and snuggles are handy, it’s all good. And the kids are older now, so I don’t have to put on much of a brave facade. They understand when I’ve had a shit day it’s not them, and I can bitch about work at the dinner table a little and get some commiseration.

There’s coffee, and the weather changing, too. Rain is due this Sunday, and that means productivity. At least the worst is behind me, when it comes to this particular publication process. I don’t ever have to go through that particular experience again. It’s a good thing I’ve got years of accumulated experience in this career, so something like this doesn’t put me off that aspect of it completely.

But oh, my dear sweet fluffy bonnet, I need time to recover. The more I try to push, the more damage I’ll do and the longer healing will take. And thank goodness for the meds, since my brain chemistry, already having tried to kill me several times, does not need the provocation of the Gigantic Black Hole of Doubt.

After lunch–spicy, spicy noodles, plenty of curry paste and some Bangkok Blend–I’m going to take down my master to-do list, and make a new one with only three things on it, one of which I’ve already done. Narrowing one’s scope and focusing on details can push away the looming monster.

As long as it merely looms, and doesn’t settle on the roof entirely, I can get through. All this stubbornness has to be good for something. Also, Odd trundles has just settled to lick at my ankles, which means it’s time to get up and make that lunch.

Over and (damply) out.

Labour Day Run

A 12km run while uncaffeinated is not quite my favorite thing. Still, I wanted to get my long run for the week out of the way, and what better time than Labour Day? Yeah, sure, the smoke from the wildfires has turned the sun orange, but that means I’ll run better in the shade. I’m not a Spartan, but the principle holds. I turned in a respectable 7:45min per km, too. It may not sound much, but my long-run pace has hovered near 8min for a while, and it’s nice to see it coming down with no change in perceived effort. I guess the tempo runs have been paying off.

Tempo runs are still awful and hateful, though.

I did get out the door early enough that the heat wasn’t awful yet. The problem is, if I caffeinate before a run, I have to wait for the life-giving elixir to settle before I go and shake myself like a champagne bottle in a music video. I dislike throwing up, I hate it when my stomach evicts breakfast while I’m running, and I absolutely cannot stand wasting coffee. There were a lot of people out getting their daily exercise before it gets truly unlivable, and plenty of dogs. Miss B would have enjoyed that, if I would ever let her do more than 5km with me. Six is the absolute limit. She’s still bouncy, but getting older means her endurance is dropping, poor thing. I am in constant fear of pushing her poor little doggie heart too hard.

But now I’m home, a cold shower has been had, and that first glorious sip of coffee has slid down my throat. Now I’m waiting for the real jolt to hit, but that first small taste is the most pleasant part of most mornings. The rest of the day is for working on the zero of Roadtrip Z‘s Season 3. I had to write an awful scene involving a bigot last week, and it was dreadfully hard. Now I have the skeleton and can trim and pack it, but the main challenge will be not looking away from how horrid people can be. It doesn’t even take a zombie apocalypse for most people; as long as they don’t perceive a social cost to being an asshole. That’s part of why calling out bigotry is so important.

Anyway, there’s a big zombie attack coming up, and Lee’s going to have to make some decisions. Plus, I might have to give the librarian a cricket bat for up-close zombie fighting. She’s not too keen on a Louisville Slugger, for some reason. I mean, you can fight off a zombie with a golf club if you have to, you use whatever tool is to hand in an apocalypse, but she really, really wants a cricket bat.

I don’t know about these people in my head. They seem a little strange.

Enjoy your Labour Day, everyone.

*wanders away to make more coffee*

Too Quiet

Hear that?

Do you? No? Well, that’s it precisely.

It’s quiet.

Too quiet.

Even the squirrels are hushed.

The kids are back in school. That means, once again, there is silence and solitude during the day. Productivity will skyrocket–once I get over the persistent feeling that the quiet is too thick and something is wrong, wrong, wrong.

A great deal of creative work happens in tension, in-between. Wanting solitude and having to concentrate without it, or suddenly having the necessary solitude and being uncomfortable because you’re so used to blocking out distractions. It’s not quite that I pursue discomfort, it’s just that it makes me acutely aware of the writing process.

So today is for working on Season 3 of Roadtrip Z. The immune start to die from secondary causes, and survivors start banding together in larger groups. These two things are possibly related. Teasing out the implications of a zombie apocalypse is the closest to fun I’ve had in a while. Falling into that world will keep me occupied.

Still, every twenty minutes or so, I’ll be jolted by a sudden wave of something’s not right, what’s going on? It will take me a few seconds to think oh, right, school’s in again. The concomitant anxiety, even though low-grade, is fuel.

I can’t wait for the kids to come home.

photo by:

Chewable Air

This morning’s 7km run was a beauty, except for one thing: the air quality. Apparently the haze that makes the light so deliciously golden is a way of getting all one’s minerals in one’s breath, so I ran most of the last half with deep drilling pain in both lungs. I’m sure I’ll be coughing up chunks of interesting colors later in the day. At least at home, with the windows closed and the ionizers going, it’s a little less thick.

And, strangely enough, the haze made each band of smell on my route more intense. Fabric softener, a few small nasty threads of bloating roadkill, honeysuckle, asphalt, jasmine, roses, passers-by and their cologne, dogs with their dry-oily notes, cut grass, warm earth. My sensory map of the neighborhood is undergoing constant revision, probably because the utility work is bringing up a bunch of weird smells from underground and every time I pass a work site I get a blast of diesel and sweat. You could probably plonk me down anywhere in a mile radius with a blindfold on and I’d know where I was by scent alone. You’d think all the crap in the air would deaden my nose, but it just makes my chest tighten up.

At least I have some post-lunch coffee to get me through the afternoon. I intend on getting the last half of Roadtrip Z’s Season 2 revised today, after I get the Patreon episodes scheduled. *cracks knuckles* After that my focus shifts to the zero of Season 3, where the dominos start falling and people–well, more people, at least–start dying. I have all the dominos arranged and I know what happens, with only a few gaps in my understanding for the series to surprise me.

Once the Season 3 zero is in the can, I’ll think about if I want to finish it as a serial. It would be nice to bring it full-circle, but we’ll see if people are still interested at that point.

So today is all about grinding, slow, picky, detail-oriented work. It’s for the best, what with the Little Prince starting school this week, I’m already in a take-care-of-details mode. Once he’s settled nicely in the school rhythm, I can have whole chunks of the day back for the fierce, one-pointed concentration necessary to keep all the moving parts in this story working together instead of zooming off in different directions.

Well, onward, I guess. Excelsior, and all that.