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Never Completely

I’ve taken to sprinkling a little rooibos chai powder into my morning coffee. The spice helps me feel a little more awake; the only problem is there’s no added caffeine.

Ah well. Nothing is ever completely perfect.

We’re having lovely weather. Sometimes in spring we’ll get a spate of 70F days, with pollen drifting golden in the air, and it’s so beautiful one almost manages to overlook the fact that it’s treegasms floating everywhere. As a result, people are taking walks up and down the street all day, which sends Boxnoggin into a frenzy of “DON’T COME INTO MY YARD, HOW DARE YOU WALK ON MY STREET, HOW DARE” several times a day.

He’s very protective, this box-headed van der Sploot.

I haven’t fully recovered from last month’s bug, whatever it was. If it was the current plague, we’re likely immune, but there’s no way to know without tests and there are no tests to be had. So I guess I just… wait, and worry. And try to get rid of some of the mucus.

There are good things about quarantine, though. I’ve found some new writing music; today I’m trying out this recipe. It’s hard to work unless I shut off the wireless entirely; the temptation to look at what’s happening in the world and feel that sick thump of worry and pain in my midsection is overwhelming.

It’s not that I want to slow down and Lookie-Lou at the car wreck. It’s that I want to help, and my inability to immediately fix this for everyone I love–or indeed, anyone at all–is a torment. Everything I see on the news makes me long to do something, anything to help.

I know I help most by staying home, by being careful, by loving the people I’m close to and taking care of my neighbors. But still… I wish I could do more.

Anyway, there’s subscription fiction drops to get out the door today and the open thread over on Haggard Feathers to attend to. Plus I should brush the detritus of shipping off my new African violets. (They were on clearance; I’ve got to get my scrawny, overlooked plants somehow.) I gave them yesterday to settle in their new homes and get a drink, now we clean them up a bit so they can breathe more easily. Growing medium tends to shift a little during transit.

But first there’s the dogs to walk–without having to take care of them, I don’t think I’d be able to get up in the morning and face all this–and my rooibos-chai-laced coffee to finish swilling. I’ve managed two days’ worth of productivity, but I’m not feeling quite back in the saddle yet. I’m feeling, in fact, like I’m on the back of some raging beast who very much wants to shake me off, and is doing its level best.

I had more to say, but I suppose it’s probably a mercy every subject has fled my head.

It’s getting hard to hold on, over here, and a little more difficult to get out of bed each day. How are you managing it, dear Reader?

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?

Season Three Begins!

I’m excited today, my friends. Not just because I have a very good cup of coffee to start the day1 and not just because I’m working on three paying projects (hallelujah) at once, but also because today marks the first day of HOOD‘s Season Three!

Every single one of my subscribers–Gumroad or Patreon, Latte’s Worth to Nest Egg–will get the first two chapters today at around 2pm PST. I love writing serials; they’re good practice, and I really like having something new for subscribers every week.

Also, the regular monthly support, no matter how small, is a rock to cling to in an unsteady career. It allows me to write much longer, more complex stories without a lot of interference, which is always nice.

This particular serial started while I was still writing Roadtrip Z and looking for the story that would come after Ginny, Lee, and the gang reached the end of their journey. I’ve always been fascinated with Robin Hood retellings, but I didn’t want to write even more historical-flavored fantasy. So I was watching fanvids of Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne, and all of a sudden it hit me…

…well, a lot of things hit me when I watch Richard Armitage, but this particular time I thought “what if Robin Hood was coming home from a space war? The society would have to have a semi-feudal structure, how would that work?”

Of course current events inform plenty of my work, and a discerning Reader will see the threads, as well as the terminology2 for certain things carried from Old Terra to Anglene. Some things have happened that I didn’t expect–Giz’s true aims were a mystery to me until halfway through Season Two, the exact dimensions of Robb’s athleticism and gifts continues to surprise me, and Alladal has become much sharper-edged than I thought. Which is good–her handling of Wat the Tinker gave me flat-out chills.

Anyway, even with all this excitement, there are dogs to walk and wordcount to get in today. I’m feeling how I usually do when working on the last book of a series–anticipation with a sharp edge of fear, just enough for seasoning. I’m always afraid of dropping one of the narrative threads while braiding everything in. And there’s a whole lot of moving parts in this one, from Alladal’s decisions to help (or not) to Giz’s body count (I suspect it will grow steadily) to Robb hitting bottom (or so he thinks) to Jorah Smahl’s critical part in the plan to spring Robb from jail (not to mention his part in the return of a certain prince) to what, exactly, Marah will risk for what she thinks is right (in a word, everything). And that’s not even counting Will and Kameny’s relationship (such as it is), Sharl Notheim’s plans (mostly to cover his own backside, as usual with such men) and the little question of Gil Blamaíne.

I’ll get it done the same way everything else gets done, I know. Tiny bites, well chewed, like the Shel Silverstein poem about eating the whale. And I’m super glad to have my subscribers along for the ride.

Now it’s back to work.

Happier With Surfeit

So things are very strange right now–not to mention terrifying–but I can’t slow down work at all. Mostly, the idea that I might still be alive when “all this” is over means I have to plan for the eventuality, which means everyone in the house will still need me functioning and providing.

On the bright side, that means I’m working on Season Three of HOOD, which starts going out to subscribers this Thursday. I only have a few scenes loaded into the cannon for this season, despite knowing everything that happens and roughly where all the moving parts go. (When I say “only a few” I mean “only a month or two ahead of my readers”, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.)

My “sure, I’ll only work on one project at a time this year!” expired in March–somewhat of a record for such resolutions–and a few things in my professional life have changed very quickly over the past few weeks. So my production schedule has received rather a shattering knock, but in the right direction–I now have three paying projects to work on at once, an embarrassment of riches.

So it’s HOOD‘s Season Three, book three of Hostage to Empire, and The Black God’s Heart splitting my time now. Weekends I’m going to reserve for writing whatever the hell I want, which last time around was Moon Knight and next weekend will probably be The Calling Knife if I can figure out what happens when Amon of the Desert appears before the reunited lovers.

If you’re confused, don’t worry–it’s natural around here. I have so many stories boiling in my head that even I get mixed up and turned around sometimes.

Anyway, I’m excited for HOOD‘s Season Three to begin this week. I have so much planned for my dear subscribers, and of course Season Two is available for preorder and goes live April 14. (If you’d like to order it through an indie store, go here.)

You know me–I’m happier with a surfeit of work than with the reverse. I feel mind-numbingly guilty that I’m having good luck when the rest of the world is suffering so badly. It makes me long to work myself until I drop just to make up for it, though that’s hardly healthy.

There’s also the dogs to walk and bread to bake, so I’d best get started. I like to have at least six months’ work put aside for the current serial; a mere month is nothing. I suppose I’d best get Robb out of jail, Giz further involved with Parl Jun’s plans, Marah even more determined to make some trouble, and Alladal doing what she loves most next to singing–planning mischief. (And that’s just in one book–for Hostage I need Yala married, Takshin briefly happy, Kai heartbroken and savage on a battlefield, Daoyan dragged back to Khir, the Tabrak sending more messengers, and Kiron of Shan having a very bad day.)

But at least I don’t have to do it all at once. I can break it up in little bites, and as long as I just concentrate on the next bite, and the next, I won’t worry so much about the rest of the world.

At least, that’s the plan.


I’m treating this week and the next as the first week in April, which means those Haggard Feathers posts will be free. We’ll be finishing up our marketing month; April will be all about self-care for the working writer.

We could all use it, frankly.

King Boxnoggin Abed

I was brushing my teeth and had taken the decorative pillows off the bed–they were left over from the reign of King Trundles, who needed to be propped up so he could breathe and also so he wouldn’t smear schmutz on my personal pillows. I heard my daughter pass the bedroom door, then she began to laugh.

I looked out of the loo and was greeted by the sight of a very tired Sir Boxnoggin, gazing at me like “…whut? It’s bedtime.”

I looked at the Princess, and so did he, with the same air of patent weary astonishment he’d deployed in my direction, and that did it. Both humans cracked up, laughing like loons.

Boxnoggin, of course, had no idea why we were amused. I managed to snap a picture of him looking at my daughter in the door with that regal, puzzled expression.

“Is he… is he making a move to rise in the hierarchy?” the Princess asked, when we could both breathe again.

“Maybe?” I hazarded. “But it won’t do him any good. I’m still the alpha bitch.”

That broke us up again for a good two minutes or so. If sadness and stress takes years off your life, the sheer hilarity of our canine overlords must add them.

I hope your weekend is calm and refreshing, chickadees. The world is nuts, but at least we have dogs.

Be Gentle, Chickadees

I woke up this morning with my heart pounding so hard I thought it would explode, my throat a pinhole, my lungs seemingly paralyzed.

It was a panic attack, and it felt familiar. I used to have half a dozen or more a day before and during my second divorce; they were part of what drove me into therapy and medication.

I will never forget the pride I felt when I told Frau Doktor “I’m only having one or two a day!” And the amazement when she replied, “We can get that to zero. It’s very possible.”

I was in such crisis, functioning through so much crippling anxiety, that a day free of panic attacks seemed a distant fantasy, much like a lifetime supply of donuts or any financial stability.

But Frau Doktor was right. I have had years without panic attacks. They have been glorious. For part of this morning I’ve been spinning, fearing a return to the bad old days. But, as my support network has reminded me, it is absolutely reasonable, natural, and normal to be wigged-out right now. This is an Extraordinary Situation (made a thousand percent worse by the lack of functioning adults in the White House, let it be known) and anxious trepidation is a rational response.

That being said, panic attacks are not pleasant. Having one’s amygdala screaming in fearful pain isn’t pleasant either. Your poor body doesn’t understand there’s nothing to be done but endure right now; it thinks that enough adrenaline, enough fight or flight, will solve the problem.

Be gentle with yourself, with your body, and with your brain. We’re all dealing with A Lot right now.


I’ve been reading true crime a lot lately, probably because the narrative of bad people being caught and investigative machinery actually working gives me some sense of control over the universe at large and my fate in specific. I know it’s a false sense, but it helps, and I’ll take it.

Just last night I finished the 2012 revised and expanded version of The Only Living Witness. It was chilling to read, especially in bed with the dogs snuggled warm and safe. Michaud’s many jabs at Ann Rule detracted from the book, I must say–I felt like saying dude, I can see you don’t like a woman writing true crime was successful, envy is a bad look on you, cut it out. It’s strange and deadly that the misogyny of killers finds its match in the misogyny of the mostly male law enforcement system, but I guess hating women is so endemic in our society nobody can escape.

I think that was my last true crime read for a while. I’ve been meaning to get my Franz Bardon on; his Initiation into Hermetics looks juicy. It’s nice to have reading to look forward to.


I suppose that’s all the news that’s fit for print today. I had planned to take this week off of subscription drops, but the world is afire and stories are what I have to offer. Consequently, all subscribers, on Patreon or Gumroad, will get a little goodie in their inboxes around 2pm PST today. And Haggard Feathers subscribers get an open thread, too–lucky seven open thread, as a matter of fact!

As Mr Rogers said, look for the helpers. I’m doing my best to be one of them.