Working Time

I’m waiting for the coffee to settle before I go on a longish run, and thinking about the day’s work. There’s Beast of Wonder to get decent wordcount in on; the book wants to be written piecemeal with a dialogue skeleton first. Which is my very most un-favourite way to write a book, but since this one probably won’t see publication, I can let it take the shape it wants over however-long. There’s also the YA my agent wants. Which makes two projects that will perhaps never see publication. It’s not a good use of my working time on the whole, but the next bit of Roadtrip Z needs some thought. I know what happens, I just need the proper entry into that phase of the story. Which requires thought.

I know what I’ll be thinking about for most of my run. Frustration will mount, and by the time I get home, I’ll be no closer to a solution but at least I’ll feel like I’ve taken action Later today, maybe in the shower or while cleaning in between writing sessions, the opening will appear to me and I’ll wander away from what I’m doing to write it down. (Hopefully not in the shower, it’s no longer summer.) Or maybe while knitting, which means I’ll drop my yarn and start typing furiously.

There are other projects waiting, like an attempt to go back to Deadroad and maybe resurrect that poor story. Not to mention Harmony, which needs another 30k. It’s a monster of a book, but since it’s only for one person, I suppose that doesn’t matter. Today, though, I’ll write to please myself. Especially since we’re coming up on the release of Steelflower at Sea. I’m excited for the new release, of course, but I’m also…well, the book has had a long hard road to publication. I still get stress nausea when I open the mostly-done third book (Steelflower in Snow) and go back into that world. A lot of writers don’t talk about the emotional cost of people outright stealing our work. It’s damn near crippling on some projects.

I’ve my work cut out for me, but first I need to get my coffee down and get out the door. The wind it up, so my eyes will be stinging and leaves will be flying. Of course I’ll return with my hair full of leaves, needles, and possibly bees. I do try not to carry the bees too far from their territories, but if they’re going to crawl into my hair, well, they get what they get. The other day I also had a beetle nestling in my braid, for what purpose I do not know. Maybe I’m just public transport for pollinators.

I also lost some writing time last week doing the website revamp. Do you like it, fair Readers? It should load far more quickly now.

That’s all the news for today. It’s the end of the witch’s year, and tomorrow the kids are home to celebrate Samhain with me. There will be food, and fun, and baking. And not a little sugar.

Over and out.

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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Different Speeds

A dream of trying to get to a petrol station with a janky old minibus told me it was definitely time to get up this morning. I’m not allowed to run today–stressing my flu-ridden body with easy 5km jogs for the past couple days was just enough to scratch the itching under my skin, but not enough to tip me back into mucus, coughing, and wishing I could just crawl under a rock. The dogs turned their noses up at breakfast, since it didn’t have bacon grease smeared on the bottom of the bowl.

They are spoiled little things. When they get hungry enough, they’ll eat.

Stories often follow the same principle. The surrealist book I’m attempting is a painful word-by-word slog, each one chipped out and deleted three or four times as its sentence is tweaked, honed, and settled like a jigsaw piece. On the other hand, I fall into Broken Profile for an hour or so, enjoying myself by just transcribing the movie in my head. And the nascent YA is somewhere between the two, a steady process of building. Each book is different, but when one reaches the point where they refuse, setting out the bowl of kibble and waiting is often the best (or only feasible) strategy.

You can’t bat if you’re not waiting at the plate. (There, that’s my one sports metaphor, now I can go for months without making another.)

In the meantime, I knit a few rows, tap a little on Abyssrium, think about the story, test words inside my head like testing a handhold while climbing. Fingertips first, the rest of my body clinging to the rock, then a decision–a slow transferring of weight, or a sudden lunge?

It’s the former more often than you’d think, though I prefer the latter.

Anyway, I’ve gotten my amnesiac narrator onto the city streets, and next comes the meeting with the bargain-basement psychopomp. Maybe I should write the bathtub scene, though–that’s what’s filling my head right now with a ripple of water and clumps of black-tar desperation.

It’s a sunny morning. Maybe, instead of fighting with this, I’ll walk Miss B around the block. By the time I get to the end of the street, the problem will be solved.

Over and out.

On To Napoleon

Traffic on a highway at night
© Adam36 | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I finished reading Karnow’s Vietnam: A History yesterday. I have the old hardback edition, picked up at a library sale somewhere or another, or maybe at the museum sale earlier this year. (I think it was this year.) Anyway, I did not find it “free of ideological bias,” since any work of history rests on bedrock assumptions that are culturally, well, biased. Like a worm in an apple–the worm eats, breathes, and shits apple, and thinks it’s air–so are historians, writers, singers, and all others in their culture. Ideology is an exhalation of culture, sometimes fragrant, more likely foul.

The next in line for serious reading–which includes reading in bed and taking notes in my zibaldone-slash-diary–is Brett-James’s The Hundred Days. I realized I have a shocking number of books on Napoleon, as an outgrowth of my quasi-obsession with the French Revolution, and it’s perhaps time I go through them. Especially the newer ones. There’s a fair amount of biographies of the man, but I’m more interested in him during the Revolution (when his “whiff of grapeshot” saves the day) and his invasion of (and subsequent retreat from) Russia. Of course, books that just scratch my little niche interests are few, and the urge to read more bracketing said interests in order to understand more deeply is overpowering.

I’m not complaining.

I have other thoughts on Karnow’s opus, but they have to sit and settle inside me before I can put them into anything resembling coherency. I’m just glad the flu is retreating so I can think in whole sentences again without each clause interrupted by a sneeze or a trip down the hall to blow my nose YET AGAIN. I got more exercise trekking for tissues than from a marathon. (That’s only slight hyperbole.)

Other than that, I finished a poncho knitted from this pattern. It’s green and stripy and lovely. The leftover yarn is going into a very long scarf instead of a hood. Stuck on a sentence? Knit a row. Watching a movie? Knit a few rows. Listening to a podcast? Knit many rows! Since the weather has turned, it’s all knitting all the time. I just don’t want to spend summer with a lapful of scratchy wool. I gorged on Fellini movies while knitting, feverish, and full of decongestant.

My dreams got awful interesting, when I could sleep.

And of course, today is for getting back on the serious wordcount horse. I’ve got that surrealist novel to prep for NaNo, and decisions to make about the next big project. I’m trying to only juggle two at a time. Trying. I think of juggling my usual four books at once and I get awful tired, which could just be the flu. I love my brain, it is a flexible and marvelous instrument, but sometimes I wish it wouldn’t eat itself quite so fiercely. I further wish my body would stop hosing off its internal surfaces with mucus and get back to the task at hand, but such is corporeal life. It’s ungrateful of me to be short-tempered with the physical frame that usually carries me so uncomplainingly.

Happy Monday, my friends.

Cough, Cover Copy

I don’t get ill very often anymore, so when I do, it’s somewhat aggravating. My body is valiantly fighting off what is turning out to be a mild flu, given the low-grade fever and joint aches. I had thought that with enough hydration and rest for the past few days, I’d be running again today.

BOY WAS I EVER WRONG.

*sigh*

So I’m twitchy, well enough to itch under my skin, but not well enough to go out for a few kilometers. Especially since the cough has moved into my chest. Of course, I’d feel great, flush with endorphins, just after the run, but by tomorrow morning the stress on the organism would have me wishing I’d stayed in bed. Not that I don’t normally wish that anyway, but…yeah. I think the expressive writing experiment dredged up some toxins, and my body is pushing them out with alacrity. Overall, it’s good for the health of my corpus, but in the short term, it’s near misery.

So it’s tea, knitting, and doing cover copy surgery. Cover copy is the stuff on the back of a book, or on the inside flap, that makes you want to buy it. I flat-out love writing cover copy, which, I gather, makes me somewhat of an oddity among writers. I suspect I’d also like writing catalog copy, especially if it was for Harriet Carter. Of all the catalogs I love paging through and snaking, the old HC has to be #1. I fancy I’m a bit of a dab hand at it, and I like it when friend-writers throw a cit of copy at me and say, “WORK YOUR MAGIC.”

I damn near chortle with glee.

It’s perfect for days when I’m physically not tiptop, too, because each project has a definite starting and ending point. Working in twenty-minute increments makes for appreciable progress on cover copy, where it might not for novel-writing. I might also get super crazy and do some yoga today. If I can breathe deeply without coughing this afternoon, that is.

So that’s the state of the Lili today. I’m sexing up descriptions of books from people I love to read and hang out with, which is pretty spiffy. Even though it’s not a perfect day, there is tea, rain on the roof, tea, dogs to snuggle on every work break, and I get to do something I love.

Not bad, my friends. Not bad at all.

A Gentle Day

Lock, Rain Drop, After Rain, Drops
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I woke up with a scratchy throat, fever-sweat, a persistent cough, and the frustrating knowledge that going for a run would just tip my body over into full-blown Yes, Congrats, You Have A Cold.

I’m on Day 4 of an expressive writing cycle. In a nutshell:

  • Day 1: Write for twenty minutes about a traumatic incident.
  • Day 2: Write for another twenty minutes about it, since you’ve had time to process.
  • Day 3: Write about it from another viewpoint–not your attacker’s or abuser’s, natch, they don’t deserve it. But perhaps in third person, or as your younger self, or as an older self.
  • Day 4: Write the story you want to take forward about the incident.

Of course, that’s the idea I gained of the process listening (while knitting) an episode of the Like Mind, Like Body podcast. I am no doubt be missing some refinements, nuances, and/or key points. However, it being something about writing, I dove right in.

That may have been a mistake, since the #MeToo thing hit as well. Reminders are everywhere lately. I know it’s because harassment and abuse is endemic, and I do not choose to speak openly about many of my own experiences for a variety of reasons. This leaves me feeling somewhat voiceless–a strange and vanishing experience for a writer.

This evening I get to write the story I want to take forward. So far, though, my overwhelming feeling has been gladness that I went to therapy. The EMDR in a safe therapeutic environment, in particular, had a marked effect. I’m sure I would have had nightmares the past few nights if not for the (blessed) desensitization I gained from that.

So, body and mind have been under somewhat of a strain, between finishing the zero of Season 3, a couple professional setbacks, revisions on a stressful project, the murderous dumpster fire of the current administration, reminders of past trauma, and the pressure of not being able to share details of that trauma with certain people I could normally expect support from. Add the weather change and my running mileage increasing, and the auld corpus that carries me about (largely uncomplaining, it must be said) needs some care and cosseting. Hydration, rest, and some soothing things are all called for.

Be gentle with yourselves today, my friends. Especially if you, like me, are unable to speak openly about some things. It does not make your experience any less valid. If it helps, I am with you.

Over and out.

Monday, Running

It’s been a while since I talked about running here, other than just noting mileage. Like any practice, it changes over time. When I go back and look at old posts about running, it’s both amusing and terrifying. I pushed myself pretty hard, initially. Of course, you guys know I have two speeds, and two only: full ahead and complete collapse.

This is perhaps not healthy, but oh well. Here’s a list of things about running, to start off this autumnal week.

Runkeeper. I used to log my mileage in paper running diaries like this one. Shifting to outside running with a smartphone drew me away and towards apps, and I tried a couple before settling on Runkeeper. One of the most recent updates included graduated training plans, which was a particular boon to me. When the infrastructure goes down, I’ll probably have to return to analog logging (try saying that a few times fast) but honestly, by then there will be so many other problems I won’t have time to miss my phone.

Shoes. I’m funny about my feet. I can’t stand to have anyone touch them, and I obsess over the fit and feel of my hooves with the fierceness of anyone who’s ever strapped on a pair of pointe shoes. Every brand of running shoes has slightly different sizing, and even in a single brand yearly designs can change to the point of unusability. The quest for running shoes is eternal. Shop for them late in the day when your feet are swollen, and don’t overlook your socks. It only takes one session without padded socks to rub right through foot-skin and bench you for days. Once you find a brand/size that fits, buy two pairs, and alternate wearing them. This gives the shoe interiors time to dry out and bounce back after each session, and lengthens the life of the cushioning.

Pants. It is a fact universally known that once you find a good pair of running pants, they will be discontinued, and this shall be true lo unto the breaking of the world or at least the demise of capitalism. I don’t like running shorts, so even in the dead heat of summer I’ll be out in full-length togs–your preferences will no doubt vary. Buy cheap until you know what you like–there’s not much as awful as investing in expensive gear that chafes in all the wrong spots. I loved a particular kind of Prana pants until they went out of stock, and I’ve had good luck with Title Nine bottoms. Once you start reliably breaking 5km, it’s time to invest in good pants. Especially if you’re chubby like me, which brings us to a related issue…

Chafing. There’s just no way around it. A lot of people swear by paper-backed medical tape; I manage to avoid a lot of blisters with really tough pant material and padded socks. When you’re buying running pants, look at the inside of the thighs. Rubbing there can get particularly painful, and when pants wear out there, well, sewing thigh-patches is not how I want to spend a Saturday morning. (YMMV.) Once you’ve got a raw spot, the problem becomes ameliorating discomfort and keeping it protected enough to heal. I like cocoanut oil for mild rawness, but when I’ve pushed myself and worn away more layers of skin, Aquaphor is my go-to. I’ve found that flexible fabric sticking-plasters stand up the best to repeated rubbing. Again, find what works for you.

Mental Tricks. “Eh, I’ll just run for twenty minutes, and if I REALLY feel like stopping, then I can.” Or, “It’s going to feel so good when I finally hit my goal…and stop.” And the ever-popular, “[X fictional character] wouldn’t stop now, so I won’t.” Figuring out how to game yourself is probably the most useful life skill possible, right after learning how to not give very many fucks about random internet opinions.

Safety. It can be something as simple as taping one earbud to your jacket while you wear the other–that way you can listen to music and still be aware of your surroundings. I run to be alone, despite knowing that I’m safer in a group. Nevertheless, if something happens to you while running, you are not to blame. The onus is on the asshole driver who wasn’t watching where they were going, or the asshole attacker/harasser who thinks they’re entitled to your attention/body/whatever. Take appropriate cautions, and know that you’re not responsible for all the jackasses in the world.

Tiny Increments. When I first started, I couldn’t even run for thirty seconds without my heart feeling like it was going to explode. I’ve had injuries, and had to take weeks off at a time. Playing the long game, in running as well as writing, is all about increments. Two hundred words on a bad writing day is still two hundred more than you had before, and being able to run for ninety seconds was more that you had before. Walk-run-walk intervals are okay, and if you never graduate past them, you’re still a runner. If you need someone to validate that you can do it, that you’re a runner, I’m validating. Small, tiny, concrete gains build on each other, and one day you might find yourself running for some ungodly length of time, finishing an ungodly number of kilometers or miles, and thinking, wow, that wasn’t so bad. That, my friends, is a fucking great feeling, and one I love to share.

I’m off for a run. See you around.

photo by: fabbio