Up Early

What is as wonderful as a dog, I ask you? Faithful, energetic, stenchful, forgiving–and of course, utterly unconcerned with such things as human manners, having their own. Not to mention gloriously happy with the smallest of joys, and full of zen-like commitment to the Now.

I rolled out of bed somewhat early this morning–part of my ongoing struggle to shake off leftover holiday depression and the resonating pain of a dead book. Lying abed playing Hay Day and obsessively checking social media does not get the words written, and it does not help. It’s warm and safe, yes, and it’s what I would prefer…but no, not helpful. The dogs are largely content with it, insofar as their bladders will allow, but they’re also excited to get up and begin a new day full of fun things and smells.

So it was brekkie for the beasts, brekkie for myself, then Odd Trundles moaning and groaning because he wanted a second breakfast. What he got instead was a walk, which displeased him mightily. He expressed his bafflement by wrapping the leash around my legs and demanding much coaxing. About halfway through a military jet roared overhead. Normally such things are to be ignored, though Miss B hates any kind of loud noise, but this time both dogs wished for me to reassure them that the growling thing in the sky would be held back by my godlike beneficence from devouring them. I coaxed, I reassured, I patted, I demanded, and we got almost to the bottom of the hill, and back up again just as it started to rain.

Then of course there was standing by the back door waiting for both of them to finish any necessary unloading spurred by the activity. Brought inside, both dogs decided the walk had not been enough exercise, despite dragging themselves exhaustedly through it, and proceeded to tear around my office yelling at each other. The growling! The nipping! The dominance mounting! It was a goddamn carnival. And of course they didn’t decide to go tearing through the house, or even down the hall, or into the Little Prince’s room directly across the hall.

No, it had to be my office.

Once they had sorted that out, there was a long session of Odd attempting to roll onto his back. Now, he is a corkscrewed, unwieldy sort, and if he ever makes it all the way onto his back he is unable to properly breathe, so there is much gulping, snorting, wriggling, and many choking noises worthy of the apogee of a particularly slasher flick. Needless to say, Miss B is convinced Odd needs supervision during this gymnastic attempt, and darts in and out nosing at him, play-bowing, barking encouragement, and just generally being an extremely loud and ineffective impediment to Odd’s goal.

Then, of course, as I was attempting to open a few browser tabs and pursue a chain of thought despite all the sonic waves assaulting my ears, they both decided I needed to adjudicate the Who Is The Best Dog face-off.

This is why I cannot have more than two dogs at a time. I only have two hands, and in order to fairly distribute skritches and encouragement I must use them both in equal measure if not equal pressure. (It’s also part of the reason I stopped at two children; one for each hand is quite enough.)

With that done, both hounds staggered away. Miss B trotted down the hall to perform one of her usual circuits–hall, living room, dining room, kitchen, hall again while nosing at bedroom doors, just to check that everything is behaving properly and staying in its proper place. Odd, of course, collapsed precisely in the middle of the office floor. Not on his fancy-schmancy dog bed, of course, No, he’s spread his toys in an arc from the bed to the heater, and settled among them to create a barrier to my leaving. He is sprawled in a puddle, taking up as much space as possible…and now, snoring with abandon. Said snoring is so familiar as to almost be silence, and a blessed relief.

And I, having arisen early like an adult, am now exhausted by the morning’s frolics, and wish only to go back to bed.

*headdesk*

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.

Refill Time

It started on Friday, a marvelous late-morning coffee session with Curtis Chen (read his Kangaroo books, they are AWESOME); then I went home and pushed to get the rest of Sparked finished and sent off to the agent. (That’s the YA she wanted me to write, the one I found out needed another character arc jammed into its structure.) Both good things, but together they turned me into a quivering mass of nerves. Then, Saturday rolled around, and while I was twitching a friend texted, “YOU HAVE THE DAY OFF. COME PLAY.”

So we went…out. There was even window-shopping clothes, which was oddly soothing. Socializing for hours kept my brain busy so the usual post-book eating-itself was relegated to a thin, exhausting background mutter. Then Sunday came around, full of household chores and turning the earth in the most southerly garden boxes. We may still get a cold snap, but I planted hardy things like Alaska peas and fava beans. Hopefully I got enough of them in the ground that the squirrels and their buffet habits won’t wipe out the entire crop before it can sprout.

All of that was good, but I ached all over by evening, and spent a restless night with blisters and a headache. Now it’s Monday…and all I want to do is sit and stare. The massive flywheel of Finishing A Book has wound down, but I’m hollowed out, scraped dry, and need a chance to refill.

I have a slightly longer run today, but still within Miss B’s range. She’ll enjoy the chance to get out and work–she spent yesterday’s gardening time chasing squirrels, digging in her approved spots–I’m glad I bought a house so I don’t have to worry when she digs–and attempting to help me plant favas and radishes. Her attempts to help are mostly “Mum, you dropped this and it got covered with dirt, but I found it for you! I are good dog!”

Meanwhile, Odd wanted to stay inside, since his nails got clipped and he got his long walk of the week, which meant he was exhausted by all the activity. Not too exhausted, though, to moan-mumble at me when I came back inside, piqued that I had dared to do things without his supervision. Had it been a wee bit warmer, he would have wished to sunbathe in one of his Particular Spots, but I’m kind of glad he was achieving a liquid state inside. There was enough squirrel action that Miss B threw clods of dirt everywhere. Thankfully, she didn’t run head-on into any trees, but it was a close call. I believe the furry arboreal menaces were enjoying the game. At least they didn’t bomb me with pinecones, though I’m sure they marked each spot I planted something with extreme interest.

…I had another post planned, about infrastructure, ubiquity, and privilege, but I’m far too snarky today. I have very little patience left, and my give-a-fuck-o-meter is pretty well busted. My forties are gonna be the decade of rolling my eyes and deciding not to sugar-coat, I guess. A couple times lately I’ve had spoons and time enough to call a few people in my mentions on bullshit instead of just muting and moving on, and visibly doing so feels like a Good Deed. It’s no substitute for direct action in other ways, but an addendum.

Anyway, I have crossed the Sparked revise off my master to-do list. Up next is prepping Roadtrip Z‘s Season Three for release when the serial reaches that point and working ahead on the fourth and final season, not to mention giving Harmony a hard revise. It’s about time for a new master list as well, since I’ve crossed off five of the eight things on the current one.

But first, a run–and I’m going ahead with my Lovecraft re-read. I might spend the entire day curled up on the couch reading about Cthulhu with gallons of hot tea. It’s not quite a vacation…but close enough for me.

Over and out.

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.

REVIEW: Stranger in the Woods

I was up late last night, despite exhaustion and Benadryl. (I blame my early-evening tea session.) I decided to use the time wisely by reading, and polished off The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel. It’s the story of Christopher Knight, the North Pond Hermit. Or, in other words, a monograph about an extremely selfish man, by an extremely selfish man.

My writing partner loaned me the book for Roadtrip Z survivalist stuff, and it scratched that itch nicely, I suppose. But it raised in me the same feeling of disgust Into the Wild did. Knight wanted to opt out of society and its pressures while also feeding off its benefits. He didn’t hunt, or trap, or fish–he robbed cabins and park kitchens. The people I felt the most for were the victims, in particular one woman who went to her cabin to escape and yet was robbed of any feeling of safety by Knight’s repeated break-ins.

Finkel pays lip service to the victims, of course, being more interested in quoting from the books Knight read and propping up his own self-image as the Hermit Whisperer. I only actively began to dislike Finkel at the point where he starts pursuing the just-released-from-prison Knight despite his subject’s repeated “no”s. At one point, Finkel shows up with an apple pie for Knight’s mother (who hung up on him when he called) and a bunch of lilacs, and it was so stalkerrific I was actually a bit nauseous. (Men who won’t take no for an answer aren’t only horrid to women, go figure.)

Add to that an episode of Finkel reporting suicidal ideation in Knight and a mutual crying session–patently unbelievable, my story-sniffer whiffed bullshit all over that particular chapter–with his subject, and Finkel’s attempts to worm himself into contact with Knight’s case workers afterward under the guise of being worried about the man…well, Finkel, despite his efforts to portray himself as a reasonable journalist, misses by a mile and comes off as a creep. Knight’s behavior was massively selfish, but Finkel’s edges into complete entitled bullshit. Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan of either man while reading, but when the book closed, I pitied Christopher Knight.

TL;DR: One of those books that shows you more about the author than the subject, but there’s a couple of good survivalist things in it.

Struck Match

Robin Hood
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
So, the recent flu-and-fever had some weird effects. My dreams were even more highly color-saturated than ever, and a persistent smell of struck matches threaded all through my days. I could smell it even when my nose was partially blocked. The first few times, I went hunting for the source, alone in the house. Not finding any was…concerning, until I realized the smell didn’t have the burnt-yellow color of the physical aroma.

Now on the mend, I think I’ve also finally recovered from Afterwar. That book was the hardest on me of them all, and I want something else now. I was noodling around watching a movie with Jon Bernthal as a speechless converso in 13th-century Ireland and all of a sudden I wanted to write two things: Bone Wolves, a werewolf high fantasy I’ve been noodling on for a year or so, and a Robin Hood in Space story.

…I don’t know, I’m just wired weird. But it’s nice to have things to stuff into the cannon once I get this damn YA in reasonable draft form and start serious work on Roadtrip Z‘s fourth (and final) season. It’s nice to feel like I have the energy for a couple more projects, instead of being so completely drained by a bad-luck book (and whatever could go wrong, did, for no other reason than I suppose I was due for one of Those) that I could barely scrape together reasonable wordcount.

All the same, I launched a novella during that scraping, too, so I suppose my productivity didn’t suffer as much as it has under the current political bullshit or over the blasted holidays. Having enough energy to actually feel excited is flat-out great. There were a couple days when even eating seemed like too much trouble, and forget about washing or cleaning.

The true test, of course, will be if I get any damn laundry done today. I should wash my sheets, too, as I don’t want to sleep in sick-smell. Maybe I’ll sweat out the last of the struck-match stuff on my (very easy, don’t worry) run today. It’s not the first time I’ve been sick enough to have strange sensory issues–if the fever was worst, I might even expect it, since I tend to heat up at the drop of a hat. My body apparently decides it needs to cook every single bug that comes by.

Not that I’m complaining, really. It’s not optimal, but at least it makes my dreams interesting.

Off I go to get a YA in shape, do laundry, run, get Ginny and Lee and the gang to New York (finally), and decide just how soon I want to produce a workable zero of Robin Hood in Space. Never a dull moment, my dears.

Over and out.