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.

Irritability, Meet Shark

One of the kids has been leaving the heat on overnight, which, added to flannel sheets and my favorite green blanket, means I sweated almost to death last night and the one before. It’s definitely time to change out of said flannel sheets. Contrary to popular belief, winter is over.

Boxnoggin, however, loves the heat. Loves it. Miss B doesn’t mind, since she has all the air trapped in her undercoat to keep her insulated, but she’s spending more and more of the night flat on tiled loo floor, soaking up coolth.

There’s been a lot of rejection a la Chez Saintcrow lately. Publishers (both trad and otherwise) don’t want to make a decision within a reasonable timeframe, so I’ve been taking my toys and going home. Technically I’m the one doing the rejecting, but it’s also frustrating as fuck. If you don’t want my work, just say so in the first round and we’ll be done. Don’t try to keep me in your back pocket while you shop around for something younger, sweeter, more tractable. I never was that girl, and that goes double now.

I don’t mind a publisher saying “not for us, thanks!” What I do mind is them sitting on submitted work for silent months, then getting shitty with me or my agent when we pull the work they’ve had for a significant amount of time to make a decision on. If they’re too understaffed to make a decision, that’s not my problem–a publisher’s poor planning is not my emergency.

Nobody’s poor planning is my emergency, except for my kids’. That’s it.

It’s nice to be at the stage in my career where I have the confidence and the tools to say so and make it stick, but I wish I could work with these people instead of despite them. We could do such amazing things together.

I’m probably also a little irritable because I’m on somewhat of a social media fast. I took the Twitter app off my phone and only interact with birbsite during scheduled, outside-of-work times. Of course I have Whalebird open while working, but Mastodon (especially my instance) isn’t nearly as toxic. It feels exactly like a detox, and I’m in the cranky phase.

Add to that the problem of The Poison Prince1, and I’m snarling halfheartedly at everything in sight. It doesn’t help that my running mileage has taken a helluva hit lately.

So today I’ll probably do a reset. Take the dogs on a long walk, put my headphones in and my head down, and stretch my legs while I think about things. I need to decide what mountain I’m going to scale next–probably the Dolls book, but in order to get there I need to clear Poison Prince off my deck and get both the new Watcher book and maybe the lightning-god book at least to zero draft.

It would be nice if I could sleep at night, too, so today means no more flannel sheets. I’ll miss crawling into a bed that isn’t cold to begin with, but such is the price of waking up without damp sheets clinging to hip, ankle, wrist, neck while sixty-plus pounds of dog attempts to put his nose in my ear.

That’s probably why I’ll never date again, honestly. I hate sharing the bed, unless it’s with dogs. At least when they keep me up it isn’t because they have a need to tenderize their victim for psychological warfare, it’s because they really can’t help it. I could just toss my dates out but that sounds like too much effort, and I don’t like sleeping in other people’s beds. It would take something very special indeed for me to change my mind, and I’m almost halfway through my life with no time to look. I’ve got too much to do.

…wow, this post has gone everywhere, hasn’t it? The irritation means it’s time for me to get back to work. But first, a ramble with the canines, both to work their fidgets out and to make some decisions.

Publishing requires one to be sharklike–never stop swimming lest you suffocate, and always smile. Some silly people think the smile is weakness instead of an amused warning.

See you later, chickadees.

Cinnamon Roll Prospects

It’s one of those mornings. I’m barely vertical and even getting coffee down the hatch seems an impossible task. At least it smells like rain soon, and yesterday I had the great good fortune of getting my finger and toe claws into The Poison Prince. I even got my teeth into that fucking book, and shook it like Sir Boxnoggin with a squeaky toy.

Consequently, now I have a better scaffolding, and I feel like the book, while huge, is also manageable. If I keep biting, eventually I’ll bleed it into compliance. Most of the time, I settle into the story’s world with a thump, like the floor dropping a little during an earthquake. This time, the sensation is of my hands and feet aching and tense, my jaw clenched, while i see which direction the damn thing will veer in.

The Princess and her best friend are in the kitchen. I’m told there’s a prospect of cinnamon rolls soon, but I’d best get out to run before it happens. Maybe, now that I have all my spikes in Poison Prince, I can also juggle it with another work instead of letting it monopolize me. It would be great if I could just work on one book at a time, but the mortgage needs paying and the kids have this habit of eating.

Speaking of which, The Complete Roadtrip Z is available in ebook format through Gumroad now! It’s available for preorder but won’t be released on other distribution platforms until April 9, and Amazon might be later still because they won’t allow you to set an ebook for preorder unless you’re listing through KDP.

Of course, Amazon also lets plagiarists and scammers keep going, because they bring the ‘Zon cash. Which surprises exactly no-one. I’m still waiting for those assholes who came at me yelling when I pointed out “Amazon is not your friend” years ago to produce apologies. Something tells me I’ll wait forever.

I might as well write while I do, but not until I get this coffee finished. My stomach’s rolling like a heavy sea and I can’t wait to get out the door and shake all the fidgets away. I might even leave the last half of my coffee to do so.

Maybe. *eyes mug* Or maybe not. Over and out, dear ones.

Pure Heaven

Last week my writing partner and I played hooky in Portland, and there was a stop at Everyday Music.

It’s not a bookstore, but it still makes me happy. Got to take your joy where you find it, chickadees.

Enjoy your own weekend, my hoopy froods, and may it have something nice to roll around in…

Anxiety Bunny

The Princess brought home Kinder eggs from a pre-Easter sale. The Little Prince loves opening them, so he cracked mine for me, and cleaned out the sugar1 as a bonus.

This little fellow was inside. The Prince and Princess both had birds, but I got a bunny with a wheel in his head. Spin the wheel–you can just see it there in the centre of the picture–and different scenes can be viewed through a hole high on his back.2

I immediately christened him Anxiety Bunny, because that’s what it feels like–a multicolored wheel spinning inside one’s head, serving up the worst possible outcomes not only from tomorrow, but from years ago.

Spinning the wheel does give me a certain amount of peace, however. I’m reminded that the wheel is not me, and isn’t even particularly truthful most of the time. This tiny, cheap little toy helps me feel better, and that’s valuable to me.

May your anxiety bunny, whatever it is, grant you some peace.

A Whole Free Mood

It’s been a busy morning, my coffee has gone cold, and the diffuser in my office is burbling away with a little sandalwood and jasmine, mixing with petrichor coming in through my half-open window. The neighborhood is quiet, except for crow-calls and some squirrel chitterings. This morning I saw a giant black-feathered beast sitting next to an equally robust figure of an arboreal rat; they hurriedly separated when they discerned my surveillance.

I have a bad feeling about this.

I’ve also received a rash of “I have this idea, you take half a year to write it while living on air and then we’ll split the profits! Or I’ll–this is an even better deal–TAKE ALL THE PROFITS! Isn’t that great? Don’t you want to do that? Why don’t you want to do that? Where are you going? I HATE YOUR WORK ANYWAY.”

Yeah, it’s a whole mood, and it plays out the same way every. damn. time.

On a brighter note, the creative well demanded filling yesterday, so I spent some time watching the second Magic Mike movie, wrote 4k, then ended up missing bedtime because I watched Netflix’s Russian Doll start to finish in one gulp. The former was enjoyable, and I have Thoughts about the male gaze of the director focusing on male entertainers. The latter was…thought-provoking. I did not like the protagonist but I was rooting for her and for Alan, the character the story really belonged to.

That’s something I wish more narrative artists–writers in particular, but also directors–would take to heart more frequently. The protagonist is the watcher/reader’s main point of entry into the story. The story belongs, however, to the character who changes the most, and failing to recognize that is a large source of reader/viewer frustration and disappointment.

Deciding who your protagonist is and who the story actually belongs to will make the structure of the work much clearer, and will allow the storyteller–in whatever format–to push and pull said structure to get the effect they want. Along with a list of what every character in the thing desires–even the walk-ons–it’s a tool that often arrives after a great deal of trial and error, not to mention hard work. Lucky you, therefore, getting it for free!

…yeah, I’m a little salty this morning. Time to drag both dogs out for a run before the rains come in, though I never mind running under precipitation. It keeps the assholes with unleashed dogs inside, at least.

All right, Thursday. Let’s not hurt each other, okay? I’ll play gently if you will.

*puts on hockey mask*

Soup Is Not Soup

The other day I wanted potato-leek soup. You can do it quickly, of course, but I like roasted potatoes in mine, and I have very definite needs for the leeks. The bottoms must be soft and the tops still a little crunchy-stringy, which means a multi-stage cooking process.

My ex used to make his own particular soup, one the kids adored. They like mine, but it’s not the same–and we don’t have it often, because the smell can remind them of the time of the divorce. It wasn’t contentious, they just don’t like that part of the reminder. There were good things about that process, too.

It isn’t just soup. It’s memory and survival, hope and endurance, bitter laughter and amazed tears, all in one pot. Food is rarely just fuel.

May you reclaim dishes you love, my friends; and may you look around the table and think, we made it, we survived. And may that thought fill you with peace instead of despair.

Over and out.