Summer Shot

Well, I shut down Haggard Feathers, and I’m waiting for the fact to hit home. It’s always sad when an experiment doesn’t work out. I’m taking some comfort in the fact that it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just *gestures wildly at world events* all this. Retracting in this area will give me more energy for other work, not to mention keeping the newsletter and giveaways alive.

Summer appears to be firing a shot over our bows. Yesterday it was 80F, today it was 74F by 10am and there’s no sign of the mercury halting its rise. At least it’s cooling off overnight, but with both dogs attempting to sleep on me, rest is at somewhat of a premium and the morning walk was one episode of temper after another on the part of my furry, four-legged charges.

Miss B is simply a cranky old lady, but Boxnoggin is young, springy, and what my grandfather (may the gods rest and keep him) would call “nervous.” People look at Lord van der Sploot and see a big black dog; what they don’t see is that he’s scared half to death by a single leaf falling from a tree, or a droplet of rain. He’s just tuned to a really high pitch, and managing him is a fine line between firmness and mercy.

So the morning walk was a constant stream of “mind your manners”, “you know better, that dog barks every time and literally nothing happens”, and “no, eating bees is not the answer, eating bees is NEVER the answer.”

I don’t think he quite believes me upon that last point, but progress is being made.

One of my tea-tankards has developed a crack, but I never quite liked the glaze on it anyway and might patronize the small pottery place I bought it from for new ones. Silver linings! And I have a soy-almond-vanilla creamer that does good things for black tea, so that’s pleasant too.

Tiny victories, tiny luxuries, are getting me through the end of May. It feels like this year has taken forever, doesn’t it? And yet I have to smile, because both dogs are sacked out taking advantage of cool hardwood and AC–another small luxury. We don’t get awful heat often enough for it to be a large one, but when it hits, I am ever so grateful. The decades spent in places without central heating or cooling have given me a deep appreciation for that technological wonder, I can tell you.

I wish you luxuries and victories today, dear Reader, of whatever size we can manage.

Over and out.

From Coffee to Flinger

I’ve switched back to the Moka pot for morning coffee; the Chemex, while pleasant, wasn’t doing enough. I suppose if I had two and poured the results of first brewing through the filter in the second it might, which would be a fun experiment but not one I’m going to try right now.

Of course, with all the caffeine I’ve ingested in my lifetime, my adrenal glands are probably the size of pinpricks. Yesterday I found out the tea I thought was herbal actually had green tea leaves in it, which explains why I was almost vibrating in place with an aching head after a couple cups.

Caffeine is a funny thing. I cut my coffee and black tea with heavy cream, but with green tea or herbal that won’t work. Consequently, there’s no buffer when I drink green tea, and I come down with giant flaming headaches most of the time I ingest it.

It’s a quiet, rainy morning. Miss B will like her morning walkies–she is an all-weather dog–but Boxnoggin is going to complain and high-step the entire way, shaking his wet paws mournfully and giving me reproachful looks. You’d think a dog born in Texas would be fine with our much more temperate weather, but all he does is complain it’s not hot enough, what’s with all this moss?

The stress nausea in the mornings is going down to a low grumble instead of a rollercoaster plunge every few moments. I might be adapting to the continuous stress, or all the housecleaning I’ve been doing lately has worked off any residual feeling and left me drained. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I’ll just be glad to eat breakfast.

I keep telling myself none of this is normal, it’s absolutely reasonable to feel beside oneself, and that the reaction shows I’m in fact conscious and firing on all cylinders. It feels like I’ve been in training for this catastrophe my entire life. Maybe if the disaster ever rumbles into the distance I’ll find myself standing bruised and shaken by the tracks, able to return to some kind of normal functioning.

Maybe.

In the meantime, we’re having a little fun Chez Saintcrow. The Princess, bless her dear heart and quirky sense of humor, invested in a little thing that’s supposed to bring us hours of joy. Curious? So was I when the package arrived.

Look upon this work, ye mighty rodents, and DESPAIR.

That, my friends, is what’s known as a Yankee Flipper. It is battery-powered, a game-changer in our ongoing war (well, not quite a war, more like a fond wish or two) against the damn tree-rats in the habit of plundering our bird feeders. The birds have already found it, and their weight doesn’t trigger any motion–but when a squirrel tries to hop on and help themselves, the bottom part is supposed to spin like the dickens. (I’m sure you’ve all seen the gifs.)

I had my office window open almost all weekend, hoping to hear the thing go off. I am a little worried that it might fling one of the fuzzy little thieves against the house or the tree, which would mean I’d have to take the entire thing down. I don’t want to hurt the fluffy-tailed fauna, I just want them to let the birds have their meals in peace.

I know they’ve been trying to suss out what the hell, because every time Boxnoggin goes out his presence drives a scout–occasionally even Barda!Squirl, Wild Explorer of the Backyard–up the massive fir you can see the entire contraption hanging from. Should there be a dazed or flung squirrel, Boxnoggin stands ready. I don’t think he wants to schnorgle them like Trundles always did, though.

Even Miss B is nonplussed by this turn of events. She’ll eye the hanging feeder for a few moments, then look at me with her eyebrows up. She’s not moving as quickly as she used to these days, having become an elderly statesdog; I’m sure, though, she’ll temporarily rediscover her youth and springiness if there’s a chance to herd Boxnoggin and a tree-rat.

…honestly, I can’t wait. I’ll keep you all updated on the SquirrelFlinger as events warrant. So far it’s been one of the few good things about quarantine.

And now both dogs need their walk in the rain. Wish me luck, dear Reader. I have this feeling I’m going to need it.

Carousel of Spiritual Bends

Woke up in a “burn it all down” mood, and so far coffee isn’t helping as much as I thought it would. Still, I’m vertical and have my cuppa, and I’ve trimmed some energy expenditures from my calendar. It’s going to have to be enough.

Despite really wanting to do a few more organizational purges around the house, it’s probably best for me to stay in a holding pattern for a wee bit. The Princess remarked the other day that getting rid of junk or clutter isn’t just getting rid of things but also feelings and memories. (She’s been watching some Marie Kondo lately.) The decompression in normal times is a day’s worth of discomfort, but in these trying times it’s a bloody carousel of the spiritual bends.

At least I’m back on my reading schedule. Last night I finished the US Army Guerrilla Warfare Handbook, which is an interesting quasi-historical document. The Cold War was a helluva trip, and I was forcibly reminded several times of how much technology’s changed just in the course of my adult lifetime. Some of the implicit assumptions under the dry terminology were pretty startling–not surprising, more confirmation of things I already suspected.

To take the taste out of my mouth, I’ve started on Robert Chambers’s The Tracer of Lost Persons. Chambers also wrote The King in Yellow, which opened up some interesting doors inside my head. There’s a sort of creeping dread in the latter that reminds me of Lovecraft.

One of the more effective things Lovecraft and Chambers do (despite the rampant racism running through their works) is show just enough of the monster for the reader to effectively scare herself. Stephen King remarks near the end of IT that fully seeing the monster decreases the terror; we fear the unknown more than we fear tentacles, giant space-spiders, aliens, or kings in yellow or crimson. The trick and the balance is to show just enough and let the reader’s personalized, active imagination fill in the gaps.

A reader will scare themselves far more effectively than a writer could ever hope for. You just have to give them enough rope. So to speak.

I’ve been consuming said coffee and poking at social media feeds while writing this, and the caffeine-juice has soothed my ire considerably. Today is for walking the dogs, getting a run in, poking at three separate projects preparatory to getting back to serious work next week, and getting out to the store for milk and other necessaries. I wish I didn’t have to do that last bit. People are thinking the worst is over; they won’t find out they’re wrong for another couple weeks.

At least my writing partner made us all cloth masks with insert pockets. Masks, even the expensive ones, are pretty much just snot-catchers. They mean you won’t infect other people as much, and every little bit helps. I don’t know if I could live with myself if I knew I was asymptomatic and infected someone who died of it. I wish we had an actual adult in the White House instead of a criminal cabal centered around a demented malignant narcissist.

But we’ve got what we’ve got, I suppose, and it’s incumbent upon us to take care of each other. Heaven knows the criminals in power won’t. I’ll be picking up supplies at the store for more than one neighbor; if things get bad it’ll be those neighborhood links that save us.

And now my stomach has settled enough for a bit of brekkie, and to start the day. I’m fractionally less stabbity than when I started this post, thank goodness.

But only fractionally. The rest requires food, and working off the stress hormones with sweat and effort.

See you around.

Weekend Victories

It was a long weekend. I took the opportunity to clear a lot of things from the house that were just not working. Translation: I cleaned the garage, rearranged my office and bedroom, and there was a pile of stuff marked “Free” at the end of the driveway. I also did some library maintenance, but most of that will wait for next weekend.

Of course the dogs are beside themselves. Any change is bad to creatures of such routine, so they’re both exhausted and wanted to sleep atop me on two very warm nights since the weather took a turn as it sometimes does in May, bringing us above 80F.

I hadn’t taken the flannel sheets off my bed, so sleep was at a premium. I’m a little cross-eyed today, and covered with interesting bruises from moving furniture.

The kids were thrilled. “You mentioned Marie Kondo the other day,” the Princess said, “so I figured it was about time for a purge.”

“Just glad it’s not the Purge,” the Prince chimed in, and that cracked us all up but good.

The Princess turned her hand to clearing and organizing our kitchen pantry; the Prince was a free-floating particle of helpfulness for when one of us needed an extra pair of hands. Now when I pull into the garage I won’t see a mess.

Also, the kids put together a frame for my heavy bag. It used to hang from the garage ceiling in the old house, which meant the entire place shook when I went to work. I’ve missed those sessions. “I used to think you were fighting monsters in the garage,” one of the kids said, and I agreed that I probably was. Not a lot of technique but a whole lot of punching is my preferred heavy bag strategy; one of these days I’ll take a class or two.

Everything in publishing is delayed gratification; it was healing and comforting to see actual, physical changes taking place right in front of me for a change. I made it through the last wicket of burnout and straight into a laughing fit, the absurdity of the world reasserting itself once more.

Once I start laughing, it’s okay. Or at least, I’m past the point where implosion is a danger.

I can breathe a lot easier in the house now, even if the new corners exposed by missing furniture have to be endlessly investigated by a pair of dogs who will eventually decide the house has always looked like this, will always look like this, and they have no idea why they’re nervous so it must be the other dog’s fault.

I used a lot of trash TV, especially laying in bed at night, to get through the past few weeks. It’s not optimal, but as a temporary measure to keep the weasels in my head busy and give the Muse some quick food to chew on, it wasn’t bad at all. Getting back to reading instead will do my sleep cycles no end of good, I’m sure.

Everyone’s taking shelter-in-place time to do those home projects they’ve been putting off; our neighborhood is full of activity. It’s vaguely comforting that we all had the same idea. The hard thing is stopping so I can get some of my actual work done; I like the tangible results so much it’s easy to fall into the trap of putting it off so I can get that dopamine hit of a task finally done.

It’s back to copyedits now, hopefully with some of my zen restored even if my acuity is suffering from what passes for a minor heat wave and lack of sleep. Here’s hoping you’re holding up too, my friends, and hoping your weekend contained at least a few victories.

Thorns

For some reason, these bushes and Summer from Gallow & Ragged are inextricably tangled in my head. It might be because Summer’s truename is linked to thorns; she was a handmaiden who loved them, once.

These fellows mean business. Just look at them; I wouldn’t want to fall into their clutches. They’re a defense; these shrubs are common around apartment buildings and homes in this area. Sometimes important things need guarding. I won’t deny I’m feeling a little tender lately, and could use a hedge or two.

Have a good weekend, everyone. Be gentle with yourselves each other. But also, don’t hesitate to use a wall of thorns if you need to protect yourself. We’re all feeling rather bruised right now.

Over Coffee

I did a lot of prep work yesterday; Monday is becoming the day for it. It irks me because I wanted to be writing instead, but this frees up the rest of the week and I did get a bit of wordcount in on the serial. So there’s that, at least.

Being on the internet for as long as I have been, I see certain cycles. People are frightened right now, and frightened people bite. Hard. There’s also those addicted to the emotional jolt of indignation in the mix, and the end result is a flaming pile of wreckage I keep wincing at.

It’s a sunny morning. I’m waiting for the coffee to cool a wee bit before I can bolt it and get the dogs sorted. If all goes well Boxnoggin will run with me. He’s oddly calm this morning, probably because I was up late and rolled out of bed early.

I’m retracting like a salted slug on all social fronts. I just want to bloody well write. At least the copyedits for The Poison Prince don’t look bad, and the book is long and complex enough to keep me very occupied for quite some time. After that, it’s finishing the zero for HOOD‘s Season Three and The Bloody Throne, then there’s The Black God’s Heart to consider. I’ve a plethora of work, always where I prefer to be.

Still, I feel like I should be juggling more, doing more, being more, though. The idea that one is never quite doing enough finds fertile ground in any fault line, and nowadays, we’re all full of cracks and fissures.

…ah. The coffee has just reached the perfect temperature. There’s that moment when a hot drink is just on the edge of scorching, where it won’t hurt but still makes your teeth tingle. I can almost feel blessed caffeine translating across my gastric wall and into my bloodstream.

Certainly it’s a legal addiction, but it’s also a very pleasant one. I’m having to forego my jolts in the afternoon, though. I don’t sleep when I have espresso after noon. Fortunately tea is still very okay, and I have a neat chai powder mix that doesn’t make me vibrate. The latter is Spicy Enough, which is not usual–I like a lot more cinnamon, clove, and pepper than most. Plenty of chais just don’t have the taste kick I’m after, or, if prepared to spec like Tao of Tea’s variant, give me the shakes.

There was that one time I was out with my writing partner, and we visited a Tao of Tea storefront with a teahouse attached, and I drank a whole pot of the 500 Mile Chai. For the rest of the afternoon I was sweaty and edgy, and not in a fun way. (I’m surprised the Selkie didn’t bash me over the head and roll me out of the car on the freeway, frankly. Girl has a lot of patience.)

OH! I meant to tell you guys about Barda, Boxnoggin, and the Birdfeeder, but that’ll have to wait a bit. It’s in there, it’ll just take me some time.

I’m almost to the bottom of the mug. Which means two things: The good chewy bits packing a bit more caffeine punch are about to be stuck between my teeth, and it’s almost time to brush said teeth and get out the door. Dogs aren’t gonna exercise themselves–or, they will, but not in a way anyone around here will end up being comfortable with.

It’s strange. Most of my daily life hasn’t changed an iota. The rest is unrecognizable, and not just because it’s wearing a mask.

Be kind to yourself today, dear Reader. People are everywhere afraid, and fear makes us do strange things. I spent a good twenty minutes screaming into a pillow yesterday. As meditation strategies go, it was strangely effective. I did apologize to the pillow afterward, but it said there were no hard feelings because it was doing what it was designed for and happy to help. Nobody was hurt and I ended up feeling a lot better.

Now if I can just get my heavy bag up…

Over and out.

Never Completely

I’ve taken to sprinkling a little rooibos chai powder into my morning coffee. The spice helps me feel a little more awake; the only problem is there’s no added caffeine.

Ah well. Nothing is ever completely perfect.

We’re having lovely weather. Sometimes in spring we’ll get a spate of 70F days, with pollen drifting golden in the air, and it’s so beautiful one almost manages to overlook the fact that it’s treegasms floating everywhere. As a result, people are taking walks up and down the street all day, which sends Boxnoggin into a frenzy of “DON’T COME INTO MY YARD, HOW DARE YOU WALK ON MY STREET, HOW DARE” several times a day.

He’s very protective, this box-headed van der Sploot.

I haven’t fully recovered from last month’s bug, whatever it was. If it was the current plague, we’re likely immune, but there’s no way to know without tests and there are no tests to be had. So I guess I just… wait, and worry. And try to get rid of some of the mucus.

There are good things about quarantine, though. I’ve found some new writing music; today I’m trying out this recipe. It’s hard to work unless I shut off the wireless entirely; the temptation to look at what’s happening in the world and feel that sick thump of worry and pain in my midsection is overwhelming.

It’s not that I want to slow down and Lookie-Lou at the car wreck. It’s that I want to help, and my inability to immediately fix this for everyone I love–or indeed, anyone at all–is a torment. Everything I see on the news makes me long to do something, anything to help.

I know I help most by staying home, by being careful, by loving the people I’m close to and taking care of my neighbors. But still… I wish I could do more.

Anyway, there’s subscription fiction drops to get out the door today and the open thread over on Haggard Feathers to attend to. Plus I should brush the detritus of shipping off my new African violets. (They were on clearance; I’ve got to get my scrawny, overlooked plants somehow.) I gave them yesterday to settle in their new homes and get a drink, now we clean them up a bit so they can breathe more easily. Growing medium tends to shift a little during transit.

But first there’s the dogs to walk–without having to take care of them, I don’t think I’d be able to get up in the morning and face all this–and my rooibos-chai-laced coffee to finish swilling. I’ve managed two days’ worth of productivity, but I’m not feeling quite back in the saddle yet. I’m feeling, in fact, like I’m on the back of some raging beast who very much wants to shake me off, and is doing its level best.

I had more to say, but I suppose it’s probably a mercy every subject has fled my head.

It’s getting hard to hold on, over here, and a little more difficult to get out of bed each day. How are you managing it, dear Reader?