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.

Into the New Year

Today’s the last day before the Princess and Little Prince go back to work and school, respectively. Which means that whoever rang my doorbell at 8:30 might have needed something, but I was not getting up. Despite Miss B’s insistence that she had to herd whoever rang that bell–properly Pavlovian, my beloved hound.

But no. I did not get up. I rolled back over and stole another twenty minutes of delicious sleep before finally sighing and resurrecting myself after a feverish dream of blood-colored rain that turned to red flowers starring concrete walks, hard-cracking roots digging in with blind persistence. I’m pretty sure the visual aesthetic was from a War of the Worlds movie. I’ve been thinking a lot about the common cold killing invaders of our watery home this season.

What? Oh, no reason. It’s just one of those things I think about. No, no reason at all. Nothing to see here, move along.

Yesterday was full of challah, black-eyed peas, coffee, and ham stock. The first blush of the stock went for cooking the black-eyed peas, and I left the hambone in the crock pot overnight. This morning I am rewarded with a lovely dark stock full of minerals and intense flavor. It will make a fine soup, probably for tomorrow’s dinner. Something nice and hearty for the kids after they come home from their first day back at the grindstone.

Other than that, there’s proof pages to do. I may try to do them in PDF form this time, despite my preference for hardcopy. I feel like I just don’t see enough if it’s not on paper, but we’re under a time crunch and this book has already been the most difficult in my career. So…maybe the PDF has something to recommend it. Maybe I’ll do fifty pages or so and see how it works. Christ knows I just want to get this book off my plate by now, it’s been a few years of sheer hell. I mean, I love all my books, and I think this one is very good, it’s just had a very…difficult…birth. I shouldn’t have been surprised, it was a more complex and terrible (in the old sense) undertaking than I’d ever attempted before, one of those projects that takes one’s craft a quantum leap forward. (Or at least, one hopes.) No growth without the pain of stretching.

At least I only have a short run today, and no shortage of coffee. Since the kids are home, they can deal with cleaning the kitchen. There are occasional advantages to spawning, I will say that much.

Into the New Year we go, then. Over and out.

Good Wallow

So. We survived 2017. Idiots in the neighborhood busted out (now-illegal-within-city-limits) fireworks, so Miss B was huddled near me until we went to bed, where she promptly passed out and only twitched at the booms and bangs. I guess once she’s on The Hoomin’s Bed, nothing can harm her. I do wish she wouldn’t have needed her snout thrust firmly in my hair before she did the said passing-out, though.

’17 was awful. The world is on fire, there seems no way to stop the flames, and I’m tired. I took a good wallow in the last week, playing video games, letting myself eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, only producing 200 words or so a day–just enough to scratch the itch–and just generally rolling around in a pile of “waaaaaaaaaaah”.

I know time is subjective, I know today is technically just the same as yesterday and the change in year only has power because we all agree on it. The Witch’s Year started on Samhain, and one of the things I enjoy is the lying-fallow period from the winter solstice to the other New Year. Often I try to scramble, to get work done during that time, but I’m forced to accept that I need, well, not to.

It doesn’t help that salaried publishing people tend to clear their desks right before major holidays, which means work lands on freelancers–including the writers producing the content the salaried people are selling. Just one more way the industry is kind of benighted; eventually our culture will appreciate the creatives it’s built on and needs so desperately.

And while I’m dreaming, I’d also love a war unicorn to gore my enemies.

ANYWAY. We made it. I’m here, you’re here too, and there’s exciting stuff coming down the pike. Check out my new Subscriptions page–if you’re in the mood for a monthly or weekly hit of fiction, or access to the ongoing Roadtrip Z serial, or if you just want to throw a little in the tip jar, there are plenty of options.

After my run, while the laundry is chugging away and Miss B is exhausted into happiness again, I’ll be cleaning off my desk a bit at a time and redoing my master to-do list. It’s nice to see what I crossed off over the past month. The lying-fallow period has one great advantage: when it ends, I am more than ready to get back to work.

*puts on helmet, and goggles* Let us go forth together, my dear Readers, and kick some ass.

photo by: Miia Ranta

Holidaze

The tree went up on the 23rd and down on the 26th; the dogs were excited as all get-out in the meantime. We passed a very quiet holiday with lots of food, and especially lots of sugar. And knitting!

I am a bit taken aback at how tired I’ve felt this season. Some years are like that–even though one has insulated oneself from toxic people, the echoes still linger in body and brain. Processing trauma isn’t a straight line, it’s more like a spiral. You arrive at the same place often, but your understanding of it deepens.

I hope your holiday was quiet and happy, my friends. See you in the New Year.

Past High School

It’s just not a proper holiday until a group of the Princess’s friends stays overnight, giggling in the kitchen and baking sugar-laden treats. Girls who made it through high school together, now young women–if course, the only ones who still come by are the ones who have left high school firmly behind. So few people actually make that decision, it’s good to see a high proportion of the Princess’s chosen companions have.

Speaking of people who never evolved past high school…well, a particular hatemonger is suing the publisher who (unwisely) paid him a very large advance for his screed, then decided they couldn’t publish it after a (politically) conservative editor–I mention the politics for obvious reasons–had to go through and actually read the damn thing. The best thing about this is the editor’s comments in Track Changes.

And people wonder why editors drink. *shakes head*

Anyway, the idiot hatemonger is now suing the unwise publisher, and a consequence of this is the entire manuscript plus comments is a public court exhibit now. Publishing Twitter is munching popcorn and watching the flames. The only thing marring this delicious serving of cold karma is the fact that for what the unwise publisher paid (and forfeited) in advance, they could have given advances for ten real books. (At LEAST ten.) I know better than to think a giant corporation has learned its lesson, and am sad for the books we won’t get to read because an entitled, hate-filled jackass hovered up resources that could have gotten them published.

And now I’m out the door for a run. I’m almost at the point where I don’t want 2017 to end, because last time I was looking forward to the ending of a year (2016) the one following it turned out to be an even worse shitshow.

Over and out.

Holiday Waterholes

Just because you’ve always gone to that waterhole doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it.

…Let me back up.

It’s that time of year again, holiday time. Decorated dryad-corpses in living rooms, cranky children in stores overwhelmed by colorful advertising, frazzled drivers ramming each other in parking lots with shopping trolleys AND cars. Also, fudge!

I love fudge.

This is also the time of year I hear a lot of people dreading the inevitable family gatherings. I often make an announcement on social media concerning this, but I figured this year I’d post it here as well.

Here is your yearly reminder that you don’t have to go to that holiday gathering if you don’t want to. NOBODY WILL DIE IF YOU DON’T GO TO THAT FAMILY GATHERING. You can stay home and save yourself the grief.

See, toxic people have a ball this time of year, because not only do they get to ramp up the drama and get that emotional jolt, but their prey will come to the same waterhole and offer easy access. It’s a moving buffet for interpersonal predators this time of year. Plus, there are enablers who will pressure the prey to come to that danger-infested waterhole, because “it’s what we do every year” and “family” and “togetherness” and “you don’t want to ruin it for everyone” and “just get along” and “maybe it’ll be different this time.” Implicit in this, too, is the enablers realizing very well that if the regular prey isn’t there, a toxic predator will turn on someone else–very likely the enabler themselves.

You do not have to put yourself through that. There are other waterholes without predators, and you can visit them for your holiday jibjabber and baked goods. You can even stay home, bake yourself a bunch of fun stuff, and go to bed early, which is my favorite way to spend any holiday.

If you’r looking for permission not to peel your own skin off or stake yourself out in the blazing sun of family drama, consider this it. You do not have to do this thing that hurts you. You do not have to allow predators and toxic people or even just garden-variety family bigots access to you, your emotional effort, your time.

“But I’ll feel guilty!” I hear a lot of people say.

So you’ll feel guilty. Which is worse–a little bit of guilt, or enduring the gauntlet at that particular infested waterhole? My life got a lot better when I realized enduring the guilt I’d been socialized to feel at enforcing my boundaries was way, way, WAY easier than suffering the fallout from making myself available to abusers, predators, and those who were just used to me performing emotional labour at the drop of a hat.

I’m over forty, I don’t have time for that bullshit, I have no fucks left to give, and if a small amount of guilt is the price I pay for holidays that don’t leave me marooned in an emotional mudhole, I’ll pay it and go on with my life whistling.

If you need permission, consider this it. If you need to know it’s okay to make that choice, I’m telling you, it’s okay.

Happy holidays.

Angles

My fascination with bulldozers and differs is akin to my fascination with gas meters, with the added wonder of “hands no bigger than mine built this THING, this huge powerful THING.” And yet, even the largest machine can be defeated by a small thing. We are so powerful, and so fragile at once. Which is a good thing. Without the fragility, power becomes corruption in a heartbeat.

Yes, I’m feeling philosophical this morning. How could you tell?