Summer Shot

Well, I shut down Haggard Feathers, and I’m waiting for the fact to hit home. It’s always sad when an experiment doesn’t work out. I’m taking some comfort in the fact that it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just *gestures wildly at world events* all this. Retracting in this area will give me more energy for other work, not to mention keeping the newsletter and giveaways alive.

Summer appears to be firing a shot over our bows. Yesterday it was 80F, today it was 74F by 10am and there’s no sign of the mercury halting its rise. At least it’s cooling off overnight, but with both dogs attempting to sleep on me, rest is at somewhat of a premium and the morning walk was one episode of temper after another on the part of my furry, four-legged charges.

Miss B is simply a cranky old lady, but Boxnoggin is young, springy, and what my grandfather (may the gods rest and keep him) would call “nervous.” People look at Lord van der Sploot and see a big black dog; what they don’t see is that he’s scared half to death by a single leaf falling from a tree, or a droplet of rain. He’s just tuned to a really high pitch, and managing him is a fine line between firmness and mercy.

So the morning walk was a constant stream of “mind your manners”, “you know better, that dog barks every time and literally nothing happens”, and “no, eating bees is not the answer, eating bees is NEVER the answer.”

I don’t think he quite believes me upon that last point, but progress is being made.

One of my tea-tankards has developed a crack, but I never quite liked the glaze on it anyway and might patronize the small pottery place I bought it from for new ones. Silver linings! And I have a soy-almond-vanilla creamer that does good things for black tea, so that’s pleasant too.

Tiny victories, tiny luxuries, are getting me through the end of May. It feels like this year has taken forever, doesn’t it? And yet I have to smile, because both dogs are sacked out taking advantage of cool hardwood and AC–another small luxury. We don’t get awful heat often enough for it to be a large one, but when it hits, I am ever so grateful. The decades spent in places without central heating or cooling have given me a deep appreciation for that technological wonder, I can tell you.

I wish you luxuries and victories today, dear Reader, of whatever size we can manage.

Over and out.

Celebrate, Stepping Stone

The weekend was an endurance contest, and I think I won. Barely, but any victory is worth celebrating, no matter how small.

Now it’s a cloudy morning, and I have the Gipsy Kings strumming in my head. Usually that means I’ll be dancing all day, but serious movement will have to wait until I’ve absorbed some caffeine and walked the dogs.

They’re saying we’ll get up to 80F later this week. Summertime, and the living is sweaty. I like winter better; you can always put another layer on or burrow under covers, but taking off your own skin once the prickles of heat rash starts is an entirely different prospect. It reminds me of the Shel Silverstein poem where the kid even takes his muscles off, sitting there as a skeleton, and is still hot.

Today is the very last Haggard Feathers post. I’m really upset at having to let that experiment go. I feel like I’ve let readers down by not being completely bulletproof and able to swallow gallons of the current agony without choking, but maybe at some point I’ll be able to go back to it.

Just… not for a long while.

On the bright side, I go back to work today. There are line edits (thankfully light) on Finder’s Watcher, which will probably be published as Finder. Of course you guys will be the first to know; I’m looking forward to the cover reveal, not to mention preorder information. And there’s a particularly knotty scene in The Bloody Throne I’ve been thinking of for three days, as well as a scene in HOOD‘s Season Three–Yung Gamweil and Vili Rouje in a cave, talking about whatever crosses their minds–that needs finishing.

I’m not working as quickly as I used to before the pandemic hit, but maybe scoping in a bit and cutting off some experiments (though it pains me to do so) will give me enough energy to get back onto the track for other things.

It’s worth a shot, at least.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. I know I say that a lot, but it bears repeating. The world attempts to flog us enough, we don’t have to cooperate or add to it. I’m terrible at taking my own advice, too. So telling you helps remind me.

And with that, I’m off and flying low. Every victory celebrated, but also a stepping stone.

Over and out.

Love and Failure

I had to make the painful decision to close down the writing Substack lately, and this morning the notification went out to subscribers. I’m in mourning, I suppose.

I really wanted this experiment to work. It didn’t because pandemic, which nobody could have predicted, and the absolute mess made of pandemic response in the US, which anyone with two brain cells could have predicted when the election was stolen in 2016. It was never a question of if, it was only a question of when a giant disaster would occur, killing swathes of American citizens and enriching the criminal cabal still busily entrenching themselves in power and looting the public treasury.

I love doing writing advice. I love mentoring and helping fellow writers, I love sharing my expertise–such as it is, of course, since each path to publication is unique. And who knows, once all this calms down I might try the experiment again, with better results.

Failure is never comfortable. I keep reminding myself that if not for the pandemic and its associated cognitive load, if not for the terror lurking in my house, under my skin–because I am absolutely terrified my kids will get sick and need hospitalization we can’t afford–I would have energy for all my projects and experiments on the side. I hate the persistent feeling that I’m letting readers down by not being a superhero immune to fear.

Maybe I am a superhero, just not high-powered enough to do all this. I don’t know.

It’s a lovely grey morning outside, misty and perfect. Despite heartbreak and failure, the dogs still need walking, dinner still needs to be planned, and the paying projects still need to be nibbled at. I keep telling myself, like George Burns says, it’s better to be a failure at something one loves than a success at something one hates, but I still wish there wasn’t a bloody pandemic and I had a better chance at being a success at sharing writing advice. I’ll still do the occasional writing post here, but not for a while. Keeping all the other plates spinning is about all I can handle right now.

If you’ve had to shut something you love down because of all this bullshit, my heart goes out to you. It’s uncomfortable as fuck, and it’s all right to mourn. It’s absolutely natural and normal to grieve a project or experiment you had high hopes for. (And if you suspect I’m giving this advice partly because I want to remind myself, you’re absolutely right.) Let yourself feel it, if you can in a safe space; the only way out is through.

So I’m off for dog-walkies. Canine joy is a balm, and will help mend the cracks in my heart. Dogs are too good for us. *sigh*

Over and out.

Over Coffee

I did a lot of prep work yesterday; Monday is becoming the day for it. It irks me because I wanted to be writing instead, but this frees up the rest of the week and I did get a bit of wordcount in on the serial. So there’s that, at least.

Being on the internet for as long as I have been, I see certain cycles. People are frightened right now, and frightened people bite. Hard. There’s also those addicted to the emotional jolt of indignation in the mix, and the end result is a flaming pile of wreckage I keep wincing at.

It’s a sunny morning. I’m waiting for the coffee to cool a wee bit before I can bolt it and get the dogs sorted. If all goes well Boxnoggin will run with me. He’s oddly calm this morning, probably because I was up late and rolled out of bed early.

I’m retracting like a salted slug on all social fronts. I just want to bloody well write. At least the copyedits for The Poison Prince don’t look bad, and the book is long and complex enough to keep me very occupied for quite some time. After that, it’s finishing the zero for HOOD‘s Season Three and The Bloody Throne, then there’s The Black God’s Heart to consider. I’ve a plethora of work, always where I prefer to be.

Still, I feel like I should be juggling more, doing more, being more, though. The idea that one is never quite doing enough finds fertile ground in any fault line, and nowadays, we’re all full of cracks and fissures.

…ah. The coffee has just reached the perfect temperature. There’s that moment when a hot drink is just on the edge of scorching, where it won’t hurt but still makes your teeth tingle. I can almost feel blessed caffeine translating across my gastric wall and into my bloodstream.

Certainly it’s a legal addiction, but it’s also a very pleasant one. I’m having to forego my jolts in the afternoon, though. I don’t sleep when I have espresso after noon. Fortunately tea is still very okay, and I have a neat chai powder mix that doesn’t make me vibrate. The latter is Spicy Enough, which is not usual–I like a lot more cinnamon, clove, and pepper than most. Plenty of chais just don’t have the taste kick I’m after, or, if prepared to spec like Tao of Tea’s variant, give me the shakes.

There was that one time I was out with my writing partner, and we visited a Tao of Tea storefront with a teahouse attached, and I drank a whole pot of the 500 Mile Chai. For the rest of the afternoon I was sweaty and edgy, and not in a fun way. (I’m surprised the Selkie didn’t bash me over the head and roll me out of the car on the freeway, frankly. Girl has a lot of patience.)

OH! I meant to tell you guys about Barda, Boxnoggin, and the Birdfeeder, but that’ll have to wait a bit. It’s in there, it’ll just take me some time.

I’m almost to the bottom of the mug. Which means two things: The good chewy bits packing a bit more caffeine punch are about to be stuck between my teeth, and it’s almost time to brush said teeth and get out the door. Dogs aren’t gonna exercise themselves–or, they will, but not in a way anyone around here will end up being comfortable with.

It’s strange. Most of my daily life hasn’t changed an iota. The rest is unrecognizable, and not just because it’s wearing a mask.

Be kind to yourself today, dear Reader. People are everywhere afraid, and fear makes us do strange things. I spent a good twenty minutes screaming into a pillow yesterday. As meditation strategies go, it was strangely effective. I did apologize to the pillow afterward, but it said there were no hard feelings because it was doing what it was designed for and happy to help. Nobody was hurt and I ended up feeling a lot better.

Now if I can just get my heavy bag up…

Over and out.

Gotta Run, Gotta Dance

This morning’s walk was sunny, and full of other dogs–thankfully all leashed, and all moving away from us. Boxnoggin is slowly coming to the realization that he doesn’t get what he wants when he lunges to the end of the leash and sings The Song of His People to strange dogs.

Slowly. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet, but I have hope.

It was also highly fragrant. Most of the fir pollen has been washed out of the air, so it’s not difficult to breathe anymore. The dogwoods are blooming, the gallery of chestnut trees smells like pipe tobacco, the lilacs have come out in force, and dandelions with their bitter greenness have reappeared. In the park behind the elementary school, English daisies are going great guns, some with that pink halo to their petals.

It irks me to be upping my running mileage so slowly, but pushing it will only lead to injury. I’ll run for longer if I slow down now. Boxnoggin didn’t come with me today, because I’m staggering his runs–training him will go even more slowly than retraining myself. I’ll risk my own health, but not his.

A five-book series appeared in my head over the weekend, and wouldn’t go away until I’d written down the skeleton. Ideas are cheap and easy, you can find them in every junk drawer. They crowd the air like dust, or like that fir pollen collecting in golden drifts. What’s rare is the time and effort spent to bring them to fruition. So I might not ever write this series, but it’s there, and accreting. I’ve gone so far as to pick out a couple songs for the book soundtrack, but that’s more in the nature of procrastination than real work.

Also, copyedits for The Poison Prince have landed, so there’s that to look at. I suppose “vomiting from stress and running through the house screaming” isn’t a good way to handle ongoing work, but I’ve got to tell you, I’m awful tempted.

Another paid Haggard Feathers post drops today, about how to deal with burnout. Last month was Marketing March, this month is Self-Care April. I’m not quite sure what to do for May yet. Of course, not every month needs a theme. I could just hop around and do what seems juicy on any given week.

Today’s office jam is Portugal. The Man’s Feel It Still. Super kicky and catchy, and if I don’t listen to the lyrics I can bounce around the office without guilt. Dancing represses the urge to stress-vomit, at least while I’m moving. You’d think the running would work off all the stress chemicals, but these are extraordinary times we’re living in and I’d probably have to do a couple marathons to get it all out of my system, right before dropping dead at the finish line. Which, while it might be amusing, is not how I want to go out.

So it’s tea and deep breathing, maybe a few rounds with Latin to sharpen my brain (such as it is), and a to-do list, because otherwise nothing will get done today.

What a week, and it’s only Tuesday. I hope you’re well, chickadees, and that you and your loved ones remain that way.

Over and out.

Release Day: HOOD’s Season Two

That’s right, friends and neighbors! HOOD‘s Season Two is now live in the wild!

HOOD: Season Two

All of Sharud is singing about a man in a hood. He could be a hero–if he wasn’t so determined to destroy himself. Robb Locke is doing his best to hit bottom, and even his childhood friends Ged Gizabón and Marah Madán can’t help.

Explosions, riots, political unrest, assassination, and the threat of starvation are still swirling through the entire system. And now the Parl Regent Jun Planetagen’s flagship has entered orbit for the First Harvest Fête. Jun has plans of his own, especially for Marah–and those plans are murderous indeed.

The war is over, but “peace” is always a relative term…

Season Two now available direct, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

I like calling my serials “seasons” because they’re structured as smaller arcs within the overarching arc of the whole story; we’re well into Season Three now and subscribers get weekly chapters fresh out of my brain as well as the unedited and edited ebooks–the latter, indeed, before the book goes on sale anywhere.

I’ve talked a little bit about the genesis of this series, and there’s also a soundtrack over on Spotify. A huge helping of thanks is due my beloved subscribers, since I wouldn’t be able to tell these vast, sprawling, interconnected stories without them. You guys are the best.

Now, since it’s a release day, I’m going to go hide my head in a bucket. It’s traditional, after all. And the hyperventilating makes it sound like the seashore. It’ll be almost like a vacation!

Almost.

One Now, The Next

I wish you a very bright, kind morning, my dears. It’s sunny here, the dogs need taking out, and I woke up earwormed by an absolutely new band.

Well, Imagine Dragons aren’t new, but being earwormed by them is.

I spent my breakfast (or at least, the broth and coffee I can manage this morning, the stress nausea is very bad) with my daily Latin lesson, and I think I’m almost ready to get back to Pliny. I want to finish the damn encyclopedia by the time I’m fifty; it’s a bucket-list thing. I suspect it would go much more quickly if I just read the translation, but that’s not the point, I want the practice reading it in Latin.

Maybe I should finish Caesar first. He’s generally held to be a good introduction; his Latin is relatively simple and direct. Pliny is a recondite ass sometimes.

ANYWAY. I’m gearing up for the release of HOOD‘s Season Two next week; Season Three is now well underway. I’m already feeling the release-day nerves, added to a scrambling sensation because current events have put a dent in my work schedule liek woah, as we used to say on LJ.

It’s not a surprise that this month’s Haggard Feathers subject is self-care for writers. Also, last week’s and this week’s posts are unlocked for everyone, not just paid subscribers. Today’s post, dropping at 11am PST, will be about physical self-care.

I’m still looking at my Gumroad store to figure out what to offer for free or “pay what you want.” We’re going to be here a while, and when the first wave of cool stuff for free passes we’re going to need a second/third wave. I could say I planned it that way, but the truth is, I’m overwhelmed.

Interesting times to live in, I guess. Someone wished upon the Monkey’s Paw, or maybe the planets have aligned. (I’ve taken this quarantine as a chance to study some astrology; maybe I should do a post about that?)

I’m glad of the dogs during this. They have no damn idea about quarantine, virus, or paychecks. The kids are a little less sanguine, but what held true in their childhood is also holding true now–as long as I keep my cool, they can keep theirs. The pressure to keep calm and collected so people who depend on me don’t lose their shit actually helps keep me together–a fact which surprises nobody who’s ever read one of my books, I suppose.

…I meant to talk about the effects of social distancing and how close the virus is getting–we’re down to one degree of separation from an actual death–for posterity and all. But I just can’t. My diary is already full of it; I had to change the ink cartridge in my pen mid-sentence last night while scribbling. It’s only going to get worse, and while I am braced, nobody can ever be fully emotionally prepared for something like this.

I’ve spent most of my life vibrating with anxiety and the aftereffects of trauma. This creeping, constant fear feels like home. It’s like all the work done to get to a healthy emotional state and manage the anxiety is useless now, and was only a brief respite before we got back to the regular program. I know this is extraordinary, I know the disaster is fitting into the trauma footprint left on me by childhood and other similar catastrophes, I know the queer feeling of relaxation comes from this all feeling very, very familiar indeed.

Knowing doesn’t make it easier to deal with. Even my well-hidden but usually irrepressible optimism is MIA on this one. I’m trembling on the edge of “fuck it, nothing matters anyway.”

But the dogs need walking. Boxnoggin is sensing I’m almost finished with the morning’s work, and is performing a play bow in the middle of the office while I type this. Next will come him nudging my knee, hopefully, his large mild brown eyes wide with questioning and glee. Come on, he’ll say, focus on the NOW, and what is NOW is walkies for dogs.

It’s only Tuesday, and it feels like this week has lasted forever. I’m going from one “now” to the next like clinging to handholds on a traverse, hoping like hell my fingers are chalked enough. It seems the only way to survive this.

I’m curious, of course, and if this is the way through, we might be able to do it together. So, my dear Reader, if your eyes have traveled this far… what is your now like, and what’s the next now you’re grasping?