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

Is It Monday Yet?

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
So CreateSpace decided–after the paperback of Beast of Wonder was already on sale–to “suppress” the book for “copyright verification.” They didn’t bother to verify the copyright during the proofing phase, no, they decided to pull this bullshit after the week-and-a-half wait for me to get and approve the paper proof. If I’d been planning a huge marketing push instead of a pretty incidental one, it would have been wasted. As it is, I’ve lost critical release-announcement sales as well as had to spend valuable working time dealing with this issue.

Not a good look, CS. I’m asking where to send the invoice. (Quixotic of me, but I am irritated enough not to care.)

I’m pretty sure they’re going to be folded into KDP soon, especially since KDP’s made the announcement that proof and author’s copies are going to be a thing and the recent announcement that Createspace is shuttering their author services (cover help, editing, marketing, etc.) arm. Really, the writing was on the wall as soon as Amazon bought them, but many authors I know were holding out hope CS would continue to function independently because their print quality was reasonably high.

Anyway, that was the weekend’s nasty news. In better events, I got some more earth turned in the upper garden boxes, and though there’s a risk of another frost, I should get some tender things in the ground. Maybe I can hide the pumpkin seeds from the squirrels if I plant enough of them? I’m pretty sure they got all the peas. *sigh* And what they didn’t get Miss B probably rooted out, thinking she was Finding What Mum Lost and Won’t Mum Be Glad.

Also on the bright side, Pocalypse Road is up for preorder! Yes, it will be available for Kindle, Nook, iBook, and Kobo; yes, there will be a paperback version; and yes, serial subscribers (on Patreon or Gumroad) will get the unedited AND edited ebook for free, as usual.

I also have space on my ebook formatting and cover copy waitlist, if that’s something you’re interested in. I have one editing slot open for the last six months of 2018, too.

Whew. It might not sound like a lot, but damn, the weekend was full. Now it’s back to the word mines–but first, Miss B has that gleam in her eye that means a run is necessary.

Over and out.

New Stuff

I’ve opened up my waitlist for freelance services again! I’m using Airtable to handle clients and stages, and Cushion to handle time-tracking and invoicing, so we’ll see how it goes. I’d love to get some integration between Cushion and Airtable, but I might decide just to go to PayPal invoicing. We’ll see. Learning new things is fun.

I decided to go with an hourly rate and down payments because of the nature of this type of work. This means I have to get serious about time-tracking, which I normally avoid like the plague. But it will be fun to see how much time is spent on different things–especially administrivia and web stuff. It might also help me stay on track, since I tend to flit if a particular task is not interesting, or if I hit a bump. For some things flitting is okay and even necessary, but for others it’s not optimal. The big thing, of course, is that I’ll get data about just how much time administrivia eats up. Ugh.

In any case, Airtable is pretty robust, and much better than the waitlist options I had before. We do truly live in the future, and it’s nice to be able to take advantage of some of these things. Offloading tasks like scheduling onto electronics means I have more bandwidth for writing stories, which is the whole point of the game. Freelance work is more of a moonlighting thing, but there’s no reason not to make it as professional as possible. Things like cover copy are actually relaxing for me; formatting, now that I have the capacity, is oddly soothing. It’s nice to have all this technology and experience and be able to use it in new ways.

Anyway, that’s the news this morning. There was an Incident involving Odd Trundles’s hind end after his walkies, which was not nearly as nice as setting up invoices, client tracking, and project schedules. Poor fellow, his peristalsis is boom or bust, and walkies trigger a boom cycle.

There’s also grocery shopping that needs to get done today, if I’m to have any hope of producing edible dinners over the next two weeks. At least I don’t have to time-track that.

*puts on goggles* Cover me, I’m going in.

Morning Melange

Cow mouth 1
© Lisavan | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I’ve been obsessively playing Hay Day lately. It’s a very gentle game, full of feeding animals and making things. It’s a nice change from the outside world’s screaming. Of course it’s one of those freemium games, which is annoying, but since I tend to play for a few months then leave a game fallow (pun intended) for longer, I can’t complain. Much.

There’s another round of bigots and sexist crapheads trying to pull the old “but art should be apolitical” canard. *sigh* Art is made by people and is the product of choices. People and their choices are political, because politics affects what choices people have. I cannot believe this simple and elementary truth is invisible; those who want “apolitical” art just want art that agrees with the benefit they believe they get from a status quo they see as under threat. Nothing more, nothing less.

Odd Trundles has taken to dragging every toy he can find to the office dog bed, piling them, then settling atop them like Smaug on his treasure. This would be fine (although it looks damn uncomfortable) if the pile didn’t tend to settle and move just when he has reached maximum nap, startling him awake. And when Odd is startled awake, he gets loud. The frantic “oh my GOD something MOVED” borking is then echoed by Miss B, who answers from whatever part of the house she is investigating or herding, and she scrabbles into the office at full speed, baying “I’LL GET IT, I’LL HEEEEEERD IT!”

This would be mildly amusing if not for the sheer volume sending my blood pressure skyrocketing and adrenaline pouring through me. Never a dull moment around here, folks. Never, ever.

I’ve also been reading Lovecraft lately. He was racist as fuck and in many cases not a very good writer. Plenty of his work has been referenced elsewhere, so it’s like reading the Bible despite all the rape and murder and nastiness, or Shakespeare despite all the misogyny, in order to better follow the references and threads through other works. I won’t deny that every once in a while I get the urge to read something, and it won’t pass until I’ve scratched the itch bloody, like a mosquito bite. (I’m terrible with those.) Cycling through obsessions feeds the mill inside my head, and what comes out is story-powder, or something.

What Lovecraft was very good at was giving just enough information to let the reader scare themselves most effectively. Kind of like how Pennywise was terrifying until the kids found out IT was just a giant spider, or Black Phillip/the Devil in Witch manages to terrify and entice with a spur, a heel, a whisper, and the flip of a cloak. I tend to err on the side of letting the reader’s imagination fill things in, and to doubly err on the side of trusting the reader to connect dots and infer from context.

This sometimes drives my editors up the wall. One of the major struggles in edit letters is where they think I’m relying too much on the reader’s ability to connect things in context. Since the story and connections are so clear inside my head, what’s blindingly obvious to me needs a little help to become obvious for readers. This is one of the many ways a good editor saves one’s bacon.

*looks over this post* Goodness, this is a melange, isn’t it. I contain multitudes this morning. Time for more tea, or maybe a bit of yoga to get the blood flowing. I am cold and sluggish, and even the adrenaline from Odd’s treasure-mound shifts and concomitant noise isn’t keeping me at a high enough pitch.

Over and out.

Somewhat Cranky

Of course, the instant I step out the door to take both dogs for Odd Trundles’s constitutional, EVERYONE has to come down our street, from the rattling delivery trucks Miss B lunges at to schoolchildren she and Odd both desperately want to make acquaintance of, and bicyclists Miss B wishes to herd as well. And then there’s the guy walking his Rottweiler who sees me retreat into my driveway with both my dogs, OBVIOUSLY not wanting to interact, but crosses the street with his dog anyway and walks at the edge of my driveway while Miss B barks and lunges and Odd, excited now that Someone Is Making Noise, does everything possible to get in on the action. Then, once he was past my house, he went back to the other side of the street. He just could have stayed on that side to begin with and saved us all trouble.

Thanks, Creepy Dude. That was a beautiful fucking start to my morning.

Anyway, we persevered, and now Odd has been walked and is settled for his morning nap. As soon as I absorb some coffee and am relatively sure it will stay down, it’s out the door for a run, and I’m seriously considering not taking B. I’m not sure I have the patience to cut traffic for her today; both of us are somewhat cranky. I might simply make a circuit, take her for half my planned distance then bring her home and finish the other half on my own.

My subscribers get a fresh new chapter of Pocalypse Road today, and I aim to get at least 5k of wordcount in between Atlanta Bound–which is season four of Roadtrip Z–and the not-really-YA. It’s the latter that will really make me grit my teeth, probably because I’m worried my agent wants to sell the YA despite me telling her it’s not going to. And…well, I have feelings about YA publishing. Not writing books with teenage protagonists, which I like doing well enough when there’s a story that wants me to tell it. But the constant pushback from institutions scared of Bible Belt buckle-idiots clutching their pearls if a teen character says “fuck” or thinks about sex or drugs or any of the normal things teens sometimes do think about is exhausting, and was the thing that drove me away from YA. I still read it when I can, and I write stories with teen protagonists, I just…really don’t want to have to fight those uphill battles anymore. I do not have the energy.

Regardless, my agent asked for this book, and I promised, so it’s going to be as good as I can make it before it goes out the door to her. Which means serious wordcount, and putting in that POV I had no idea needed to be inserted until the zero draft was done, and which gave me a vertiginous feeling of telling the story from the wrong point of view anyway…but not really, because we need the other main POVs to understand just why this one is so compelling.

All in all, never a dull moment a la Chez Saintcrow. Also, this morning, I went down a side-road involving telepathic dogmen and frontier myth-making. So yeah, I can tell today’s going to be fun.

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.

Three Words Count

Some things need to be written by hand. Rattlesnake Wind was that way, and parts of Khir’s Honour are proving so as well. Then there’s nighttime, when I crawl into bed with a grateful sigh, rescue my zibaldone from the bedside table, and fish out a pen.

Sometimes I have plenty to record. Things I’ve thought about during the day, sometimes the weather, often I log reading and wordcount. Looking back over those entries, I see just how many days are obstacle courses. Just getting through can take all one’s finesse, skill, energy, courage, and restraint.

Conversely, I’m surprised by how often I note what’s turned out to be a pretty good day. Each time I haven’t been completely drained to transparency by the business of getting through daylight hours, it’s a gift. Maybe it’s bad that my bar for “good day” is so low, but I’ll take it.

Other things go into the zibaldone–dreams that don’t make it into the separate dream journal, memories, complaints, passages from books read during the day, words I want to look up, quotations I’m not sure of the provenance of, lists of things to remember, reminders to pick up this or that, political musings.

And yet, there come those days when I uncap the pen, stare at the page and the date, and finally write: Tired. No entry. I log the usual three-card tarot spread, think about it for a while, and close the journal. I rescue the bedside book from the pile I keep meaning to stack neatly, sigh, and read because I can’t sleep without doing so. Eventually the meds kick in, the light turns off, and I’m ready for night’s restorative journey.

Yes, handwriting is good. Wordcount is good. But even those three words–tired, no entry–count. They keep me in the habit of distilling each day into the journals, old ones ranged neatly on a shelf in my office because I no longer have to hide them.

Certain days might be a slog to get through. But even those three small words count, and keep me on the right track. Don’t ever discount small, incremental actions. They can keep you alive through the secret hollows of the night, when otherwise your grip might slip.

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