Nostalgic

Coming around the corner at the library and being greeted by this fellow made me laugh loud enough that I’m sure a librarian would have shushed me, had any been in range.

Working around happy, reasonable, creative people is so awesome. And yes, I was feeling somewhat nostalgic. Good ol’ Clippy, who used to frustrate the fuck out of me by showing up when I didn’t want him, and being nowhere in sight when I did

Rules for Chasing

I have Poe’s Spanish Doll running inside my head this morning, a stagger-step of nostalgia and loss. The dogs are in fine fettle, especially Boxnoggin, who has taken to rolling over and begging for tummy rubs with the single-minded intensity and desperate cuteness of Oliver Twist asking for some more. He seems to have finally realized he’s not going back to the shelter, and it does him a world of good, poor fellow.

He’s not going to like running in the rain today, but he’s full of fidgets and I am too. If it’s any consolation to his dainty-pawed self, it’s a short run.

My writing partner gave me a clutch of walnuts, which she dislikes but I happen to love. I even like the faint bitterness of the skins and bits that cling to the brain-folded nut. Plus it’s fun to put a couple on the deck railing and watch the squirrels lose their tiny little minds over it. Remember that cartoon with the squirrel and the cocoanut? Much Ado About Nutting. That’s pretty much exactly what it looks like when the little bastards stumble across a treasure.

That was one of my ex-husband’s favorite cartoons. He had a passion for Buster Keaton too–the little guy who keeps getting bashed by circumstances, especially when he thinks he’s on to something good.

I know, it’s kind of…well, there was a reason that resonated with him, let’s just put it that way.

Anyway, one of the rules of Looney Tunes is that the “villain” or the hapless butt could stop at any time. This is most famously expressed in Chuck Jones’s Rules for Writing the Road Runner, which may be apocryphal but is damn insightful anyway.

The coyote could stop at any time. Now, they add, if he were not a fanatic, but that’s really gilding the lily. What makes the Road Runner cartoons–and plenty of other Looney Tunes–so funny is that it’s true, the pursuer or comic butt could stop at any moment.

They just don’t.

The kids and I have been talking about that a lot lately. It’s a good thing to halt in a dust cloud every so often, look around, and consider, what could I stop if I wasn’t so invested in? The answer may not be what you think.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about the current project, and came to a number of decisions. A few things I do with my books aren’t helpful in the current situation; I need to get out of the way and let my agent take care of a couple problems instead of sitting on them and brooding.

We all know how I love sitting and brooding. *snork*

So, my dear chickadees, I leave you with this question: what could you stop at any time? Are there diminishing returns? Is it a sunk costs fallacy? Is there anything that, when you stopped doing it, you would feel relief and have energy freed up for things you like better?

Notice I’m not saying any action other than thinking is required here. I’m not saying you have to immediately stop chasing your road runners, whatever they are. I’m just saying…think for a minute. Just consider. The option’s there, even if you don’t want to take it–and sometimes, knowing that an option exists frees up plenty of mental and emotional energy you didn’t even know you were pouring into a hole.

I often say I can put up with anything if I know when it’s going to stop. Or when I decide at what point I’m going to halt chasing the road runner and just order a bento box from Acme instead.

Now it’s time for me to take the dogs on a run. Sure, I could stop that at any time, but tired dogs are well-behaved dogs and I need the exercise. Besides, we took yesterday off, so we’re rested and ready (for whatever variety of “ready” we can muster) today.

See you around, friend-os.

Burden, Borne

It’s that day! The Complete Roadtrip Z is now available in ebook directly, or from the distributor of your choice. That’s all four seasons of the serial in one handy (and very large) chunk. (The paperback edition is here.)

The genesis of the Roadtrip books is a long ongoing conversation with my writing partner about just who would survive the zombie apocalypse, and how such an apocalypse would be likely to spread, assuming it was viral. There are other considerations–a bacterial or occult zombie-making plague was ruled out early in the game, since Mel loved biology in school. (She and I have another ongoing conversation about mass conversion in shifters, but that’s neither here nor there.)

We talk sometimes about survival, and about how it’s going to be the people who are already used to scraping by that are going to make it during the initial catastrophe and the secondary wave of bad-luck deaths afterward. I’m sad to say that without Lee’s help, Ginny probably wouldn’t have–and without Ginny, Lee might never have made it out without the survivor part of him deciding to do some dreadful and perhaps unnecessary things. They needed each other badly.

There’s also Juju, who’s had the deck stacked against him all his life, and who’s pretty sure any new world from the toxic ashes from the old is going to be just as bad for him. I’m not sure he’s wrong, either, but at least he’s got people watching out for him now.

I didn’t know who would survive when I started writing. I knew where the survivors would end up, but not what that group would look like when it got there. Some people I badly wanted to survive made it; some people I really wanted to see make it didn’t. The kids could probably tell you about me staggering down the hall after a long day of writing, tears on my face as I begin making dinner.1

There was plenty of poring over atlases, checking tactical layouts, researching average meteorological conditions, and more than one emails to Mel saying “Ask the Boy Scout2 how he’d solve the problem of xyz, please?”

Lee, however, was based mostly on my maternal grandfather. He was an honorable man, and Lee is all the best of him rolled into one quiet package. Not that Papa was a silent fellow, unless he got serious. Most of the time he wanted to laugh through life, and he could make anyone laugh with him. He liked hunting, percolator coffee on Sunday mornings, and Wile E. Coyote. Even now, if I hear the meep-meep, I can hear him laughing. He had a stuffed Wile E. atop his gun cabinet, and he was the one family member I deeply regretted not being able to speak to.

I got to see him once before he passed, but he didn’t ask why I wouldn’t talk to them. Instead, he took me through a calendar of old military planes and told me about each one, especially those he worked on in Korea.

It was his way of telling me he still loved me, even though he didn’t understand.

Now that he’s gone, I hope he understands why I couldn’t answer what he wanted most to know, and forgives me. And I hope he gets a kick out of me putting a man he’d like into a book.

Ginny came from a different place. I wanted someone who would be at a distinct disadvantage during an apocalypse, someone comfortable with civilization and thinking it was permanent or even particularly “civilized.” One or two readers said Ginny was too stupid to live, but in each situation, she’s trying to respond as normally as possible. It wasn’t the best coping mechanism…but it was hers, and while Lee and Juju got everyone through physically intact, it’s to Ginny’s credit that they got to the end mostly emotionally intact. Sure, everyone involved will need oodles of therapy, but that’s to be expected when the world falls apart.

I was experimenting with serial format all the way through, and I must thank my Readers for their patience with said experiments. Thanks to those who allowed me to Tuckerise them, too–your characters are as sharply and finely drawn as I could make them, and if a few meet gruesome deaths, well, that’s to be expected in any book of mine, right?

I think it’s good that it ends where it does. (Of course I do, or I wouldn’t have ended it there.) I’m pretty sure my grandfather wouldn’t have read it–his taste was more Zane Grey, though he had a soft spot for Louis L’Amour, especially Last of the Breed–but I’m also pretty sure he’d be tickled pink to know a character was based on him. I ain’t interesting, he’d say, but his blue eyes would hold a little pleased twinkle.

Some of my work is offerings to the dead. Not so they stay down, but so I remember them by doing what I love most, and what is sometimes the only gift I can give.

So thank you to you all. I’m writing HOOD as a serial now, but Roadtrip Z will always hold a special place in my heart. I was able to play, to expand, to practice both bringing each episode to a good end as well as keeping the much larger (good Lord, it’s easily 200K words in final form) story and its various arcs clearly in mind. It was a helluva ride, and I’m not quite sure what to do with myself now that it’s over.

I mean, I know what I’m going to do, of course. I’m going to write more.

But maybe, with the omnibus finally out in both paper and e-formats today, I’ll take a bit of a rest and think about how those I’ve lost are still with me. Not just because I write them, but because I carry them wherever I go. If it’s a burden, it’s one I bear proudly–and one I’ll keep writing underneath.

See you around, guys.

Running the Canines

This is the sight that greets me if I look away from my desktop while wearing running togs. Lord van der Sploot is doing what he does best, while Miss B simply stares, clearly expectant.

Mum. It is time for the running of the dogs. We are patient, yes, but eventually I will crawl into your lap to remind you that IT IS TIME.

Of course, two minutes outside and Boxnoggin began to pull. He thinks that if we speed up we’ll get out of the rain more quickly. I don’t exactly blame him, he’s a slick-coated fellow and Miss B’s all-weather coat has spoiled us somewhat.

So running with him is just like it used to be with Miss B–a constant battle to get him to stop fucking pulling, dammit. He settles down after a few kilometers and begins working with me and B as a unit, which is the whole point. B needed years before she began settling almost immediately and still pulls sometimes, when she gets Very Excited by the prospect of a Strange Dog.

Now that we’re home and I’m in dry socks, with bonus hot tea, Boxnoggin has settled in his favorite dog bed in the living room. He’ll rotate between there and the couch, according to how damn tired he is and if he thinks there’s a prospect of something interesting happening outside he can bark at. Miss B is sacked out on one of the dog beds in my office, whistle-snoring. She’s an elderly dog now, and needs her rest.

You can also see Boxnoggin’s tail going so hard it blurs, which is a constant. Every day is an adventure as far as he’s concerned. Pets all the time! Snacks! Mealtimes at regular intervals, and treats for easy jobs like sitting down. One gets the idea he thinks this is doggie heaven. He’s even started begging for car rides, now that they include good things like going out for French fries. It used to be he’d shake and drool in the car, probably thinking we were taking him back to the shelter, poor fellow.

I’m hoping he’ll realize soon that he’s home forever, that even if he behaves badly he’s not going anywhere. The poor little guy hates to be alone–and little is a misnomer, he’s become quite portly, what with regular meals; his coat gleams and glistens quite shamefully now. Miss B just rolls her eyes and nips him when he starts getting all worked up thinking he’s going to be taken away. His rather, well, energetic nature keeps B active, trying to stay one step ahead, which was the entire point.

They’re pretty much made for each other, my little control-freak doyenne and her enthusiastic sidekick. B has plenty to do keeping him out of trouble, so much so that I suspect he will keep her alive just to see what happens next.

May it be so. In the meantime, they have naps to accomplish, and my tea is getting cold.

Over and out.

Thursday Treachery

Yesterday I walked to Ye Local Auto Parts Shoppe to pick up a new battery for my ailing chariot. I was saved a bit of bother by the fact that I’d written down all particulars and taken a picture of the battery in question; the one they’d ordered for me was the wrong type but they had the right one on hand, thank goodness. I apologized for the trouble, but the Helpful Fellow laughed and said they’d sell the ordered one in a heartbeat, it was a kind that they should have had in stock anyway.

So that worked out. I got a rideshare home (Uber is nasty to their contractors, I much prefer Lyft) with a nice fellow who had a hybrid and offered to carry the battery up the stairs for me.

I told him it was good exercise and lugged the damn thing inside.

After dinner, the kids and I gathered around our mechanical patient. All told, since I’d prepared so thoroughly (including testing the ratchet on the connectors) it took about twenty minutes to wrestle the old one out and put the new one in. Most of that time was swearing under my breath trying to lift the old battery out while the kids held flashlights and wisely did not offer help until I paused to glare at the thing.

Anyway, I finally got my fingertips underneath it, and the kids both marveled at how heavy the damn things are. And now they know how to change out a battery, as well as where several life-giving fluids go into the engine.

Mercury retrograde, while finished, has not given up completely. This morning I got a frantic text from the Little Prince, who had forgotten a thank-you card for one of his teachers. (Long story, but it needed to go with him today.) I held my breath, turned the key, the starter coughed and spun…

…and hallelujah, it started.

I’m still not sure if there’s a problem with the starter or alternator. I think the problem was old battery and loose connectors. With a brand new electrical heart and all the connectors tightened, it should be fine.

We’ll see this afternoon, when I have to pick the Prince up from afterschool activities. It’s a nice day and he could walk home if all fails, or one of his fellow club-mates will give him a ride. If the car doesn’t start I’ll have to get creative, and make an appointment at a mechanic’s.

I did drive around a bit this morning so the battery should have recovered from its maiden voyage. The dogs are pretty pissed that I left suddenly, but some still-warm hash browns (they love the greasy, crunchy little things) effectively obliterated the memory of my treachery from their tiny little heads.

B is under my desk, ready to leap up and follow should I stir a step. Lord van der Sploot is pacing the house on his usual morning ramble, preparing for the walkies he hopes and longs for. I might even take them to the park and yell at asshats who have their dogs unleashed.

Fun for everyone.

Anyway, I even managed some work yesterday. A scene with an apothecary fell right out of my head, and now I have a handle on the other scene, the one that was bugging me and needed to marinate a while longer. Maybe I’ll get this damn book done on time after all.

But I’m not holding my breath. I’ll save that for every time I start the car for the next six months.

*rolls up sleeves* Okay, Thursday. You got the first punch in, but I’m no quitter. Only one of us will be alive come midnight.

Spring, Cartoons, Sprung

Saturday was rainy, Sunday sunny, which worked out well since I ran on the former and could lock up the house on the latter. I hid from the day-star and watched a chock-ton of Looney Tunes.

In the old house, I would fold laundry and write while several DVDs’ worth of cartoons played on the telly. The kids and I didn’t watch much else during the day, and when the Princess got older we’d have the subtitles on. She would, without prompting, correct errors in the subtitling.

She might be an editor someday, that girl. Anyway, the kids would play, and every few cartoons we’d all get up and perform a task. (If you’ve never tried hoovering with helpful toddlers, let me tell you, it’s a trip. )

Anyway, the dogs were quite happy to have me rest in one place between bouts of housework yesterday. And at the end of the day, every blessed creature in the house except the cats had dessert in my office, laughing at antics and gasping “oh, no,” at various points.

It’s been a long time since I heard those musical cues, and it took me all the way back to the good things about the old house. There were a few, but as things got worse by increments it felt more like a trap than a home. I was glad to move out, I don’t know if anyone who hasn’t endured a bad divorce or two knows how glad.

But last night there was cheesecake, gasps of recognition and laughter, and I remembered what it was like to sit cross-legged on the old papasan chair, typing furiously while the kids played and Bugs or Daffy or Tweety scrambled across the screen. In those days, the living room was the center of the house. Nowadays, here, it’s the kitchen.

I liked writing in the living room. I liked having the kids right in sight, and being available to them. I liked having Looney Tunes on while I typed furiously; I could work for two or three cartoons then take a break for one to get up and stretch.

But I realized that never, in all my life, had I watched cartoons truly alone.

So, Sunday morning, I got my coffee and settled in front of my laptop, and I watched them for hours. Then, all that afternoon, I did two or three household tasks, then watched a few cartoons, lather, rinse, repeat.

It was just as glorious as I thought it would be. I thought of trying to keep the volume low on Saturdays or Sundays in my childhood, hoping for a few good cartoons and disappointed when my favorites didn’t show. I thought of folding mountains of laundry and writing hundreds of thousands of words while terrified that I wouldn’t be able to make it, that I wouldn’t be able to create fast enough, well enough to feed my children.

And now I can take a whole day, press a button, and have cartoons playing. I can even go to the store, get doughnuts, and dip sweetened bread into tea or coffee while I roll around in every single cartoon I like. I can watch the same one fifty times in a row, if the mood takes me.

We value youth in our culture. We crave it. We glorify childhood, but all youth ever brought me was people fucking with me when they knew I was helpless–or when they thought I was. It was exhausting and terrifying.

It’s much better now. I fought tooth and nail to get here. I’m an adult, and coming up on female middle age. I don’t have to give a fuck, and I have my own bank account–such as it is–capable of absorbing a few charges for a smorgasbord of looney tune-age.

I’m listening to Wile E. Coyote chase the Road Runner while I type. Spring is here, and each time I’ve seen the same cartoon is a ring in my trunk. I’ve survived, and each seven or eight-minute cartoon reminds me of how it used to be, and how good it is now.

I never want to be a child again. But damn, I love cartoons.

Finally Meme’d

It’s very warm for March, and you know what that means.

Bees.

I will be heading out to run soon, and I’m sure they’re waiting to crawl into my hair, gonna attempt to nest in my mouth, just can’t stop thinking about putting their feelers in my nose–and all while I’m trying to run.

This is entirely separate from squirrels noticing that when I take Sir Boxnoggin out for walkies or running, he’s tied to my waist and can’t do much more than lunge. Oh yeah, they’ve figured that out, the little arboreal nuisances. Just the other day we came home and a particularly sleek, rotund fellow with a bottle-brush tail zoomed across the driveway, stopping once to flick said tail in Boxnoggin’s general direction. I could swear I heard a tiny guffaw.

That was the same day the Princess informed me that the damn squirrels had been doing reconnaissance up to the front door. “They’re watching us,” she says balefully, at different points through the day. “There was one in the apple tree outside the dining room window, too.”

This does not bode well at all.

In brighter news, I took a picture of the proof copy of the Roadtrip Z omnibus yesterday.

And some fine upstanding soul popped into my feed with this work of art:

I laughed until I couldn’t breathe and the dogs were licking excitedly at my face, my phone, and whatever else they could reach, wondering what the hell.

Finally, I’ve been meme’d. What a time to be alive, my friends. I don’t even mind that today’s run will be full of bees and the dogs will probably try to drag me after a laughing squirrel.

Over and out…