Raft

One of the worst things about anxiety–well, it’s all bad, but some things are more awful than others–is the persistent suspicion that you’re doing it to yourself.

This suspicion is not merely confined to strangers. Friends, loved ones, and even your own rat-tailed brain will hold that glimmer, far back and way down. Exquisitely sensitive to any breath of disapproval, your own brain chemistry will chase that glimmer into the swamp, and you’ll be a few feet deep and sinking fast in quicksand before you realize what the fuck’s going on, scratching the itches of why can’t you just be normal until your skin breaks.

Then the things living in the swamp–anxiety’s giant grey toothy brothers–will smell the blood.

It’s not your loved ones’ fault. It’s not even yours. It’s nobody’s fault, really, when you have brain chemistry that does its best to maim or kill you. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re bleeding in quicksand and carnivorous things are hunting you.

So you spread your weight carefully. You grab a rope, a vine, a stick, and start working for solid ground. You breathe deeply, you take your meds so the grey things are chained if not docile. Slow them down, and focus on one slow swim-stroke at a time. As soon as you make it out of the quicksand and your loved ones try to help you up, the internal bleeding sets in–the guilt about letting them help you, when you were the idiot who ran into quicksand in the first place. The swamp can turn into a sea at a moment’s notice, and it often does.

Deep breathing. Remind yourself that it’s okay to let other people care about–and care for–you. Check in with the people you know are worried. Wrap yourself in something soft, and keep taking your meds. Remind yourself, once again, that you’ve felt this bad before, and it passed like an ocean wave. When you get tired of swimming you can float for a while. The salt stings, and you’re tired, but there are things to cling to.

You’ve made it before. You will again.

Here. Share my raft. I know it’s small–it’s okay, we’ll make it work. Climb up. Or just cling to the side if you have to. I’m right here, I’ll hold on, and when you have the strength I’ll help you clamber up.

What? Me? Oh, yeah. I’ve been out here before too, lots of times. That’s right, I’ll steady you. The raft’s stronger than it looks…Huh? Oh, a little while ago I was drowning again, too. But then I saw you, and it’s kind of strange…yeah, there you go. It’s all right. We’ll pick up anyone else we can, and head for shore.

I was going to say, it’s kind of strange, isn’t it?

Helping someone else makes the raft bigger.

photo by: Beshef

Dark Cave

I’m alternating typing with warming my hands on a rather large cup of tea with honey. This is a welcome change from what I was doing a little bit ago, which was alternating typing with violent bouts of heaving.

I promised to try with this book, but resurrecting it may be beyond my powers.

Part of it is that there’s nobody outside the entrance to the dark cave I must enter in order to bring the story out. I know there are people who promised to stand watch there, but I’m not sure I can truly trust them. So, my body, trying to warn me away from what my brain recognizes as OH MY GOD LIONS GET BACK IN THE CAR, starts shaking, shuddering, and trying to empty my stomach all over my office.

Writing costs physical and emotional energy. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Writing is a physical act. The body remembers, the body knows.

At least now I know what the problem is. When this occurred with one other book, it took months attempting to work through the violent stomach upset, months of of castigating myself for being dramatic before I realized, this is a normal reaction to the violation you encountered, it’s valid, your body is trying to tell you something. Then, inch by painful inch, I could drag myself over the threshold, because I wanted to.

I don’t have those months now. I could take them, but I want this over with more than I want to wait, regardless of the damage. At the same time, I don’t want to go back in that dark cave, no matter what the people outside have promised. My body resists in every way it can.

I don’t know if I can do this. But I promised, so…there it is.

At least I’ve made it to the finish line of today’s work on that particular book. I get to write other things now. I’m exhausted, the tea is cooling, and the dogs are worried. But the nausea is receding, and I’m going to keep going.

There may be alternatives, but none I can take. We drive hardest when we drive ourselves.

Up Early

What is as wonderful as a dog, I ask you? Faithful, energetic, stenchful, forgiving–and of course, utterly unconcerned with such things as human manners, having their own. Not to mention gloriously happy with the smallest of joys, and full of zen-like commitment to the Now.

I rolled out of bed somewhat early this morning–part of my ongoing struggle to shake off leftover holiday depression and the resonating pain of a dead book. Lying abed playing Hay Day and obsessively checking social media does not get the words written, and it does not help. It’s warm and safe, yes, and it’s what I would prefer…but no, not helpful. The dogs are largely content with it, insofar as their bladders will allow, but they’re also excited to get up and begin a new day full of fun things and smells.

So it was brekkie for the beasts, brekkie for myself, then Odd Trundles moaning and groaning because he wanted a second breakfast. What he got instead was a walk, which displeased him mightily. He expressed his bafflement by wrapping the leash around my legs and demanding much coaxing. About halfway through a military jet roared overhead. Normally such things are to be ignored, though Miss B hates any kind of loud noise, but this time both dogs wished for me to reassure them that the growling thing in the sky would be held back by my godlike beneficence from devouring them. I coaxed, I reassured, I patted, I demanded, and we got almost to the bottom of the hill, and back up again just as it started to rain.

Then of course there was standing by the back door waiting for both of them to finish any necessary unloading spurred by the activity. Brought inside, both dogs decided the walk had not been enough exercise, despite dragging themselves exhaustedly through it, and proceeded to tear around my office yelling at each other. The growling! The nipping! The dominance mounting! It was a goddamn carnival. And of course they didn’t decide to go tearing through the house, or even down the hall, or into the Little Prince’s room directly across the hall.

No, it had to be my office.

Once they had sorted that out, there was a long session of Odd attempting to roll onto his back. Now, he is a corkscrewed, unwieldy sort, and if he ever makes it all the way onto his back he is unable to properly breathe, so there is much gulping, snorting, wriggling, and many choking noises worthy of the apogee of a particularly slasher flick. Needless to say, Miss B is convinced Odd needs supervision during this gymnastic attempt, and darts in and out nosing at him, play-bowing, barking encouragement, and just generally being an extremely loud and ineffective impediment to Odd’s goal.

Then, of course, as I was attempting to open a few browser tabs and pursue a chain of thought despite all the sonic waves assaulting my ears, they both decided I needed to adjudicate the Who Is The Best Dog face-off.

This is why I cannot have more than two dogs at a time. I only have two hands, and in order to fairly distribute skritches and encouragement I must use them both in equal measure if not equal pressure. (It’s also part of the reason I stopped at two children; one for each hand is quite enough.)

With that done, both hounds staggered away. Miss B trotted down the hall to perform one of her usual circuits–hall, living room, dining room, kitchen, hall again while nosing at bedroom doors, just to check that everything is behaving properly and staying in its proper place. Odd, of course, collapsed precisely in the middle of the office floor. Not on his fancy-schmancy dog bed, of course, No, he’s spread his toys in an arc from the bed to the heater, and settled among them to create a barrier to my leaving. He is sprawled in a puddle, taking up as much space as possible…and now, snoring with abandon. Said snoring is so familiar as to almost be silence, and a blessed relief.

And I, having arisen early like an adult, am now exhausted by the morning’s frolics, and wish only to go back to bed.

*headdesk*

Refill Time

It started on Friday, a marvelous late-morning coffee session with Curtis Chen (read his Kangaroo books, they are AWESOME); then I went home and pushed to get the rest of Sparked finished and sent off to the agent. (That’s the YA she wanted me to write, the one I found out needed another character arc jammed into its structure.) Both good things, but together they turned me into a quivering mass of nerves. Then, Saturday rolled around, and while I was twitching a friend texted, “YOU HAVE THE DAY OFF. COME PLAY.”

So we went…out. There was even window-shopping clothes, which was oddly soothing. Socializing for hours kept my brain busy so the usual post-book eating-itself was relegated to a thin, exhausting background mutter. Then Sunday came around, full of household chores and turning the earth in the most southerly garden boxes. We may still get a cold snap, but I planted hardy things like Alaska peas and fava beans. Hopefully I got enough of them in the ground that the squirrels and their buffet habits won’t wipe out the entire crop before it can sprout.

All of that was good, but I ached all over by evening, and spent a restless night with blisters and a headache. Now it’s Monday…and all I want to do is sit and stare. The massive flywheel of Finishing A Book has wound down, but I’m hollowed out, scraped dry, and need a chance to refill.

I have a slightly longer run today, but still within Miss B’s range. She’ll enjoy the chance to get out and work–she spent yesterday’s gardening time chasing squirrels, digging in her approved spots–I’m glad I bought a house so I don’t have to worry when she digs–and attempting to help me plant favas and radishes. Her attempts to help are mostly “Mum, you dropped this and it got covered with dirt, but I found it for you! I are good dog!”

Meanwhile, Odd wanted to stay inside, since his nails got clipped and he got his long walk of the week, which meant he was exhausted by all the activity. Not too exhausted, though, to moan-mumble at me when I came back inside, piqued that I had dared to do things without his supervision. Had it been a wee bit warmer, he would have wished to sunbathe in one of his Particular Spots, but I’m kind of glad he was achieving a liquid state inside. There was enough squirrel action that Miss B threw clods of dirt everywhere. Thankfully, she didn’t run head-on into any trees, but it was a close call. I believe the furry arboreal menaces were enjoying the game. At least they didn’t bomb me with pinecones, though I’m sure they marked each spot I planted something with extreme interest.

…I had another post planned, about infrastructure, ubiquity, and privilege, but I’m far too snarky today. I have very little patience left, and my give-a-fuck-o-meter is pretty well busted. My forties are gonna be the decade of rolling my eyes and deciding not to sugar-coat, I guess. A couple times lately I’ve had spoons and time enough to call a few people in my mentions on bullshit instead of just muting and moving on, and visibly doing so feels like a Good Deed. It’s no substitute for direct action in other ways, but an addendum.

Anyway, I have crossed the Sparked revise off my master to-do list. Up next is prepping Roadtrip Z‘s Season Three for release when the serial reaches that point and working ahead on the fourth and final season, not to mention giving Harmony a hard revise. It’s about time for a new master list as well, since I’ve crossed off five of the eight things on the current one.

But first, a run–and I’m going ahead with my Lovecraft re-read. I might spend the entire day curled up on the couch reading about Cthulhu with gallons of hot tea. It’s not quite a vacation…but close enough for me.

Over and out.

Struck Match

Robin Hood
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
So, the recent flu-and-fever had some weird effects. My dreams were even more highly color-saturated than ever, and a persistent smell of struck matches threaded all through my days. I could smell it even when my nose was partially blocked. The first few times, I went hunting for the source, alone in the house. Not finding any was…concerning, until I realized the smell didn’t have the burnt-yellow color of the physical aroma.

Now on the mend, I think I’ve also finally recovered from Afterwar. That book was the hardest on me of them all, and I want something else now. I was noodling around watching a movie with Jon Bernthal as a speechless converso in 13th-century Ireland and all of a sudden I wanted to write two things: Bone Wolves, a werewolf high fantasy I’ve been noodling on for a year or so, and a Robin Hood in Space story.

…I don’t know, I’m just wired weird. But it’s nice to have things to stuff into the cannon once I get this damn YA in reasonable draft form and start serious work on Roadtrip Z‘s fourth (and final) season. It’s nice to feel like I have the energy for a couple more projects, instead of being so completely drained by a bad-luck book (and whatever could go wrong, did, for no other reason than I suppose I was due for one of Those) that I could barely scrape together reasonable wordcount.

All the same, I launched a novella during that scraping, too, so I suppose my productivity didn’t suffer as much as it has under the current political bullshit or over the blasted holidays. Having enough energy to actually feel excited is flat-out great. There were a couple days when even eating seemed like too much trouble, and forget about washing or cleaning.

The true test, of course, will be if I get any damn laundry done today. I should wash my sheets, too, as I don’t want to sleep in sick-smell. Maybe I’ll sweat out the last of the struck-match stuff on my (very easy, don’t worry) run today. It’s not the first time I’ve been sick enough to have strange sensory issues–if the fever was worst, I might even expect it, since I tend to heat up at the drop of a hat. My body apparently decides it needs to cook every single bug that comes by.

Not that I’m complaining, really. It’s not optimal, but at least it makes my dreams interesting.

Off I go to get a YA in shape, do laundry, run, get Ginny and Lee and the gang to New York (finally), and decide just how soon I want to produce a workable zero of Robin Hood in Space. Never a dull moment, my dears.

Over and out.

A Dead Book

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Mist hangs between the trees today. Our morning run will no doubt turn Miss B into a crinkle-puffy floof–her fur acquires zigzags when wet. Today’s run will be very gentle, very easy, recovery instead of pushing. It will frustrate us both, but pushing myself today will only lead to an injury, I can just tell.

I had to make a very difficult decision this past weekend. A book is dead in the water, with no hope of revival. Part of the murder was a series of unfortunate events at the publisher, a perfect storm I’ve never encountered in my professional life and will likely never encounter again. Nobody was a douche, nobody was ultimately responsible, it was just a collection of bad luck. The bad luck was fatal to the book, and admitting as much to myself and others was…difficult, to say the least.

But that’s why I have a writing partner, and friends, and an agent–so that when a series of complete disasters hits a book, I have outside measures by which to measure the scale of the disaster and my response. Often, my response is emotionally disproportionate, and the triad of objective feedback sources tells me so in no uncertain terms so I don’t go off the rails. (Or, at least, I don’t go very far off the rails.) This time, while my decision is not precisely optimal–I could phone in a spiritual corpse of a book, I suppose, if forced to; I could cause myself lasting damage by beating this dead book, if I forced myself to–it’s the only one I can take, and the triad agrees. While I am the kind of writer who will rip out her own entrails in bloody handfuls for a book because that’s the way it has to be, I am not the kind of writer capable of just phoning it in.

And tearing out my own entrails is only acceptable if there’s a recovery path afterward. Mixed metaphor, I know, but accounting for the emotional toll a book takes on you is good self-care.

It’s never easy when a book dies. I’ve had two die on me, and one was only resuscitated after years of patient care and a few unpopular decisions. This one…will not be resuscitated. I just can’t. Maybe I’m too old to keep throwing effort down a well, maybe I’m too tired and the world is too aflame for me to perform a necromancer’s trick when I could be writing other stories.

Either way, I have mourned, and now I’m moving on.

‘Nuff said.