Respite

rail fence Nasty stuff, going on in the world lately. It’s enough to make one want to go back to bed and pull the covers up.

Unfortunately, that never got any work done, so…yeah.

I’ve spent the last two days out of the house, ending both days in “meetings.” The very notion of meetings makes my soul shrivel a little bit. I’ve grown accustomed to a dearth of small talk, having arranged my life so as to cut that insidious destroyer out. “Meetings” and “conferences” where small talk is necessary are slow torture for me, very much like working retail. I just don’t know how people do meetings all day. At least in retail you can find something new or at least memorable about each day. Meetings, on the other hand, are generally all the same people, and observing the forms of the extrovert dance is akin to being forced to tarantella until one’s legs fall off.

*shudder*

I’m not talking about long looping conversations you can have with close friends, or the ritual of “how was your day” observed with kids at the dinner table. Those seem, to me, to have more “meat” to them–to be actual food instead of the empty junk calories of small talk. I am interested in people–a writer can hardly be otherwise–but I long to smash the confines of polite meaningless talk and get to what they want, what they really think, and how to solve the problem if a problem is why the damn meeting has been called.

Anyway. I didn’t realize I’d grown so out of practice until I came home from Tuesday’s final meeting and found out I was physically twitching.

Now, of course, the kids are in school, the house is empty, I have Sigur Ros playing, and I can feel everything inside me untwisting and unclenching. It won’t make the world any less chaotic and brutal, but I’m grateful for the respite.

photo by: mamnaimie

Out of Trouble

piano The weekend was spent in an orgy of housecleaning (frankly the only manner of orgy I have any patience for nowadays) and errand-running, since I’ve been scrambling to catch up with a bunch of stuff and have let both slip. The furious activity means that things are relatively clean and the Yule tree is up–the kids put the ornaments not his year, without me even needing to hand the delicate ones over. Not a single fight, eyeroll, pinch, or flutter of sarcasm was had.

I have marvelous children.

The dogs are also jingling festively–Odd is freshly washed–but not because I’m tormenting them. They have new ID tags on their collars, nice ones, just in case. Both are microchipped as well, but belt and suspenders (plus a third means of pants-holding) are always good. The old tags were getting a bit difficult to read.

Today I mail off proof pages, make a list of stuff to do next, record some pronunciations for an audiobook, squeeze a short run in between everything, maybe even get my hair trimmed. It irks me to trim it when it’s still so short, but I do want it to grow in nicely, and since C is in remission (oh, heavens, thank you) I can let it. I have AMAZING bedhead, even though I have nowhere to stick spare pencils when I’m proofing. This means I don’t go to bed with pencils and pens festooning my head–a bright lining to every dark cloud, I guess?

Piano practice proceeds apace. I’m working through a Junior Hanon book–the regular Hanon was too frustrating for my skill level, and the Princess talked me into using the Junior one like she does. She’s discovered she likes playing ragtime best, her teacher is surprised and pleased. I’m still chugging away at a Bach polonaise, and have finished my review of the first lesson-book, which means I’m back in the second lesson-book and plonking ahead with grim determination. There are things I want to get good enough to play, but that won’t happen without a lot of consistent practice. I suppose it keeps me out of trouble.

And, incidentally, out of video games. I got bored with the latest WoW extension–not precisely bored, I guess, but when you’re in-garrison trade chat is on, and it’s wearying to have that unmoderated sewer sitting on your screen while you’re trying to upgrade your barn, for God’s sake. So I deleted the whole thing off my hard drive and have turned off any subscription. I just don’t have the patience for some aspects of multiplayer anymore, though I loved the idea of customizing one’s own garrison and fighting off invasions, and I like the auction functions. I did try Guild Wars, but since I can’t window it and it takes forever to get anything crafted, I lost interest.

I’m hoping this is just a phase, because I do like gaming, but all the stuff that comes with multiplayer is just too toxic, and the dopamine hits just aren’t enough to justify the time sink, the expenditure, or the putting up with trade chat. It’s like all Barrens all the time, with a healthy dose of GG dudebro, and none of that is appealing. It makes me wonder how much money game companies are missing out on by not moderating chat a little more. Of course, given how awful chat is and how much they’d have to pay someone to mod it, they probably break even.

So instead of gaming, it’s practicing piano and reading. I’m working my way through stuff in my collection I don’t remember reading, and planning on making a dent in the towering TBR pile. It might end up giving my brain more to chew on in the long run, but I miss rep grinding or dungeon clearing with a good group.

Oh well.

That Lovely Sound

swac Good morning, chickadees. I hope your Thanksgiving was low-stress and full of good food. For those who were on the barricades and protesting on that day (all through the weekend in some places, I’m told), I hope all went well and someone at least organized coffee.

News! I have news. Issue 18 of Fireside, with chapter three of my ongoing cyborg-Western-vampire serial She Wolf and Cub, is now live! If the serial ends up being a success, there might even be a book of the collected chapters, so if you’re wanting to read a monthly chapter of something from me while you’re waiting for, say, Trailer Park Fae or Kin, that’s an option.

There are upcoming details about Rose & Thunder, one of my retellings of Beauty & the Beast–still my favorite fairytale–and there is movement on the Steelflower 2 front, though I can’t announce anything just yet. (Publishing: moves at the speed of glaciers during the Ice Age!)

And in still more news, NaNoWriMo is done. I finished both Rattlesnake Wind and the second Gallow & Robin book, which was my collective goal for November. In honor of finishing NaNo, some editing services are back in stock! First come, first serve, and all regular disclaimers apply. Please read the FAQs and Guidelines before you decide to purchase editing services, though. Some packages require a down payment.

It’s hovering at freezing here. Yesterday’s run took me past several crystallised puddles, and I could tell the ones kids had seen by the shattered ice. It made me wonder at what age my first instinct became to admire and leave well enough alone instead of breaking a solid sheet of ice just to see it fracture and hear that lovely sound. I never was a fan of breaking things the way some kids seem to be, but I did do my share of splashing in puddles when I reasonably sure I wouldn’t get caught and beaten for getting dirty. Sometimes the thrill of transgression is worth it.

I think it’s simply that now I could step through the ice if I wanted to, it’s up to me. When given a choice, I lose the desire to break. It makes me wonder how much breaking and burning is done by those who have no alternative. That’s as close to a comment on current events as I’ll get today.

And now, back to work on sample chapters, and revising Agent Zero

Already Am

So the (mostly white) grand jury did not indict Darren Wilson for the murder of an unarmed child half a football field away. Transcript is here. Predictably, the prosecutor (who comes from a family of police officers and people who work for them) released the news of no indictment at 9pm instead of 9am, probably to avoid questions from the press, and the people who are being killed for the color of their skin are furious. The President’s speech was a marvel of mealymouth, while on at least one split screen showing said speech and the situation in Ferguson, police “proactively” tear-gassed protestors. The racists and police apologists are out in force, I had to close my social media feeds this morning. I just can’t even.

I’m sickened, saddened, and I feel like crying, but I’m not surprised.

The Ferguson Public Library is open this morning, for teachers and kids who can’t get to school for one reason or the other. I donated to them through their website (the PayPal link is in the top right corner); it feels like the only goddamn thing I can do.

My son’s father isn’t Caucasian. How long before I’m afraid to let my own child go outside, too?

Too late. I already am.

ETA: Comments heavily moderated. Behave.

Tossing Branches

Winter Tree The wind’s up today, the cedars along the back fence dancing. The deep drilling pain in my sinuses has gone down somewhat, and the crick in my neck from sleeping all tangled up (B does not like the sound of branches hitting the roof, and tries to crawl into me when that happens) is easing with stretches and ibuprofen.

It’s funny how the world can begin to seem a brighter place when you make the decision to not care about toxic people, or to direct everything from them into the jaws of the spamblocker. It’s so intensely liberating. By “not caring” I simply mean letting go of any idea that they can be reasonable, or that their opinion should have any impact on how one lives one’s life. Letting go of any idea that one is required to interact in any way, or give any credence, even internally, to their views.

It takes a lot for me to get to that point, but once I do, it’s liberating. To just drop the baggage and walk away.

My ex-husband used to say “in every problem, there’s a gift. What’s the gift here?” Once, as I was panicked over something a particularly toxic relative of mine had sent to the house, I called him. He listened patiently, as always. (There were reasons we lasted a decade or so.)

“Well,” he said, “in every problem, there’s a gift. What…wait. Hang on.”

A long pause. I thought he was checking on something at work, but when he spoke again, it was with some surprise and no little amusement.

“You know what, babe? There’s no fucking gift in that. That’s bazonko-nuts. Just get rid of it. Throw it in the trash.” Another short pause. “I’m sorry. I keep forgetting how crazy [that certain relative] is.”

I can barely describe the deep, intense consolation I felt at hearing that, or at tipping said box of emotional bombs into the rubbish bin. So often, toxic people play divide-and-conquer, engage in gaslighting, and isolate their targets. The salutary application of a friend’s sense of proportion and perspective is galvanizing. It can make one break down weeping in sheer relief, and give one all sorts of strength.

So today is for letting the wind sweep all the detritus out, one way or another. Also, to give thanks for spamblockers.

photo by: fdtate

Rain, Season

sleep. I am at my most productive during the rainy season. Something about the gray and the water falling from the sky. However, such a season is not turning out to be good for the Chez’s chimney. As in, there’s a leak somewhere.

It’s always something. Hopefully the fix won’t be too bad. But at least it’s my chimney. Buying the Chez was a nightmare of stress, one I wouldn’t care to go through again, but it’s lovely to touch the wall, or walk in the side yard I’m turning into a rose garden, and think mine. I know, nobody really owns anything, property taxes are a headache, I’ll complain about the roof and the state of my driveway…but it’s still nice. I never had a place to belong for the first thirty-four years of my life; now I do, and it’s as wonderful as I thought it would be.

More wonderful, even.

Another thing about the rainy season: the radio stations are playing a lot of Pink Floyd. There oughtta be a law, fer Godsake. I mean, listening to them is grand, I love them, don’t get out the pitchforks and torches. But bathing in the Floyd while it’s gray outside for days on end is just a recipe for depression. Today is the last day I’ll listen to any of that until spring. Really, it’s best for all concerned.

Miss B is an all-weather dog, she doesn’t particularly like the rain, but she’ll deal with it, especially if it involves running with me. Odd, well, he forgets, each summer, that rain is a thing–occasional summer drizzles or downpours notwithstanding. So when the first autumn storm really hits, there are a couple days of him needing to be ushered outside with an umbrella, then told several times to “do his business” before he’ll consent to pee al fresco.

Needless to say, taking him on his walks is going to be pretty interesting. I don’t blame him for being cautious–after all, poor thing, with his nose turned to the sky, he’s like a chicken in danger of drowning. There will be much coaxing, and many treats, and lots of ear skritches to get him out the door and around the block.

After that, it’s still more revision on Agent Zero, interleaving the “bad guy” bits with the rest of the story. I’m beginning to take a more distant focus with stories now, instead of the close, claustrophobic two-person view. A more complex juggling act, but one I enjoy and (I think) readers might too.

That’s about all for news. I’m still arranging things and listening to feedback about Possible Steelflower 2, and there are a few sneak peeks left over at Patreon. As soon as I get these revisions done I can turn my engines to finishing Rattlesnake Wind and getting the zero of the second Gallow book horked up. Now that the dust has settled, I can see ever so much more clearly that I’ve chosen wisely, lately. It’s a marvelous feeling.

photo by: Frozen Hell.

From Vodka to Uncanny

Manuscript This morning I interred a dead squirrel, and other than a slightly surreal conversation with a neighbour who inquired “what’s in the bag?” (Answer: “A dead body. Wanna see?”)…nothing happened. All went smoothly, with no screaming, shoelessness, canine follies, or feline insanity.

Anticlimactic, ennit? But also strangely thrilling in its own way.

ETA: Since so many have asked, NO, it was most emphatically NOT Beauregarde. It was a lady squirrel from another territory up the street.

In other news, I’m revising the first Gallow book (again, I keep stabbing it and it WON’T DIE) and catching up on some reading.

I finished Mark Lawrence Schrad’s Vodka Politics. The basic premise–that the autocratic regimes in Russia have profited so extensively from vodka–by taxation or in other ways, like Catherine the Great’s marinating a regiment in booze as she asked for their protection, just for example–that what he calls “vodka politics” has infiltrated almost every aspect of governance and has also grown intertwined with the culture, with predictably disastrous demographic results, is intriguing and I found much to bolster it in his sources and footnotes. I especially enjoyed reading about Murray Feshbach, a kickass demographic researcher and scholar, who I had no idea even existed. There were also historical nuggets I could have read all day, from Empress Elizabeth’s ascension to Stalin’s drunken parties, and the anecdote about Nicholas II so drunk he climbed onto roofs and howled at the moon, believing himself a werewolf. Schrad’s careful tracing of the financial consequences of depending on vodka taxation for a significant chunk of the government’s budget and the various Prohibition-esque reforms blowing holes in said budgets and causing unrest was compelling.

Unfortunately, Schrad needed a better copyeditor. The homophone abuse really detracted from an otherwise stellar reading experience. My personal favourite was a passage about people so desperate for vodka they drank “break fluid.” It sounds picky, but the confused homonyms and homophones were so marked I felt like I was reading a poorly-edited college paper, full of great ideas and solid research but crippled by a lack of basic grammar study.

I’m also within spitting distance of finishing Renee Bergland’s The National Uncanny. From Barnes & Noble:

Although spectral Indians appear with startling frequency in US literary works, until now the implications of describing them as ghosts have not been thoroughly investigated. In the first years of nationhood, Philip Freneau and Sarah Wentworth Morton peopled their works with Indian phantoms, as did Charles Brocken Brown, Washington Irving, Samuel Woodworth, Lydia Maria Child, James Fenimore Cooper, William Apess, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and others who followed. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Native American ghosts figured prominently in speeches attributed to Chief Seattle, Black Elk, and Kicking Bear. Today, Stephen King and Leslie Marmon Silko plot best-selling novels around ghostly Indians and haunted Indian burial grounds.

Renée L. Bergland argues that representing Indians as ghosts internalizes them as ghostly figures within the white imagination. Spectralization allows white Americans to construct a concept of American nationhood haunted by Native Americans, in which Indians become sharers in an idealized national imagination. However, the problems of spectralization are clear, since the discourse questions the very nationalism it constructs. Indians who are transformed into ghosts cannot be buried or evaded, and the specter of their forced disappearance haunts the American imagination. Indian ghosts personify national guilt and horror, as well as national pride and pleasure. Bergland tells the story of a terrifying and triumphant American aesthetic that repeatedly transforms horror into glory, national dishonor into national pride.

So far the most interesting and intriguing part of the book has been about William Apess; Bergland makes a case for his successful espousal and development of nonviolent resistance during the Mashpee Revolt of 1833 (here’s a good source) spurring Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. I’ll have more to say when I finish it–I am really interested to see what she says about Leslie Marmon Silko–but so far the book has been two thumbs way, way up and I have a list of texts she references that I should probably pick up for my own perusal.

And that’s, as they say, all the news fit to print today. Time to make a cuppa and settle into revisions once more, so I can get this book off my plate before the first of October.

Looking at that, I find myself wondering if wine might be a better bet, but it’s still before noon…

photo by: Muffet

Blank Spaces

bruise I’m taking a break from writing the adventures of Beauregarde–we’ll finish up next week, I think.

I woke up from a pretty intense dream this morning, and as I was writing it down (I love these for dream journals, by the way) I realised that the setting for the dream was actually someplace I’d been in my childhood. I hadn’t recognised it, because there are gaps around certain traumatic childhood and teenage events. Memory fuzzes into a particular sort of gray haze, and a rushing in my ears–a rushing I’m all too familiar with, the precursor to disassociation.

I learned how to disconnect very early, certainly before I was six years old. I’d focus on that roaring in my ears, for example while an adult caregiver was screaming or enraged, and just check out. It protected me from sonic or physical assault, helped me cope with dangerous, unpredictable adults. It helped me retain some psychic integrity while at the mercy of baffling, raging giants unable to be propitiated or calmed.

But there are still those gaps. I used to think that I should actively pursue those blank spaces, dig through them, expose exactly what had been done to me during them. Calm Therapist and Frau Doktor, however, both suggested to me that maybe I didn’t have to, if I didn’t feel like it. The deciding factor, both of them noted, was whether or not I felt there would be a benefit to doing so. “I should” is not necessarily “it would be beneficial for me to,” a lesson I find I have to keep relearning. Naturally I want to face such things so the monster isn’t behind me, breathing on my neck. (I hate that. I’m a firm believer in turning around and beating the shit out of said monster.) Balancing that against the idea that maybe those scars have healed and I don’t need to cut them open is strange, a skill I’ve only slowly begun to master. I’m hoping it’s like a bicycle, it’ll become habitual after a while.

Which leads me to thinking that perhaps the dreams are ways of processing, too, my body and brain drawing the poison from things so awful I chose to blank them out entirely. After all, you can wake up from a dream. For a long time, as a helpless child, there was no waking up. I much prefer adulthood, with my own car keys, bank accounts, and the ability to walk away from certain relationships and people who made my earlier years so incredibly damaging and toxic. Sometimes people ask me if I wish I was younger, and my immediate “OH HELL NO” and laughter has a bitter edge. The further I get from being small, helpless, and terrorised, the better.

I remember leaving my childhood home for good, and feeling relieved and vastly less terrified than I expected. The outside world, I felt, couldn’t be as bad as the nightmare inside those walls. I’m happy to say I was right. Nothing I’ve endured since has made me regret that choice or want to go back in any way–which is saying something.

So I’ll keep writing the dreams down, and leaving those rushing-air spaces to open in their own time, if they want to. If they don’t, well, I’m slowly beginning to think that they don’t have to. A traumatic childhood doesn’t have to define me. Now that the anxiety is being managed and my entire body has had a chance to rest from years of severe, daily panic attacks, it’s a lot easier to find other definitions. One of the great joys of adulthood is building those new structures.

There’s also bacon, kung fu movies, having ice cream for dinner, and raising my own beautiful, fearless children who have never been spanked, terrorised, or even yelled at, who can’t even imagine such things. All in all, I much prefer things this way.

photo by: AnnieCatBlue

Winter Moon

winter moon

One of the things about the old house was the moonrise in winter, always a lovely event. I’ve finally arrived at the point, after two years, where I can think about the good things about living there, instead of just how much I wanted to be OUT OUT DAMNED SPOT OUT OUT OUT OF HERE.

It’s nice, but it’s also so goddamn nice to be gone.