Raft

One of the worst things about anxiety–well, it’s all bad, but some things are more awful than others–is the persistent suspicion that you’re doing it to yourself.

This suspicion is not merely confined to strangers. Friends, loved ones, and even your own rat-tailed brain will hold that glimmer, far back and way down. Exquisitely sensitive to any breath of disapproval, your own brain chemistry will chase that glimmer into the swamp, and you’ll be a few feet deep and sinking fast in quicksand before you realize what the fuck’s going on, scratching the itches of why can’t you just be normal until your skin breaks.

Then the things living in the swamp–anxiety’s giant grey toothy brothers–will smell the blood.

It’s not your loved ones’ fault. It’s not even yours. It’s nobody’s fault, really, when you have brain chemistry that does its best to maim or kill you. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re bleeding in quicksand and carnivorous things are hunting you.

So you spread your weight carefully. You grab a rope, a vine, a stick, and start working for solid ground. You breathe deeply, you take your meds so the grey things are chained if not docile. Slow them down, and focus on one slow swim-stroke at a time. As soon as you make it out of the quicksand and your loved ones try to help you up, the internal bleeding sets in–the guilt about letting them help you, when you were the idiot who ran into quicksand in the first place. The swamp can turn into a sea at a moment’s notice, and it often does.

Deep breathing. Remind yourself that it’s okay to let other people care about–and care for–you. Check in with the people you know are worried. Wrap yourself in something soft, and keep taking your meds. Remind yourself, once again, that you’ve felt this bad before, and it passed like an ocean wave. When you get tired of swimming you can float for a while. The salt stings, and you’re tired, but there are things to cling to.

You’ve made it before. You will again.

Here. Share my raft. I know it’s small–it’s okay, we’ll make it work. Climb up. Or just cling to the side if you have to. I’m right here, I’ll hold on, and when you have the strength I’ll help you clamber up.

What? Me? Oh, yeah. I’ve been out here before too, lots of times. That’s right, I’ll steady you. The raft’s stronger than it looks…Huh? Oh, a little while ago I was drowning again, too. But then I saw you, and it’s kind of strange…yeah, there you go. It’s all right. We’ll pick up anyone else we can, and head for shore.

I was going to say, it’s kind of strange, isn’t it?

Helping someone else makes the raft bigger.

photo by: Beshef

Dark Cave

I’m alternating typing with warming my hands on a rather large cup of tea with honey. This is a welcome change from what I was doing a little bit ago, which was alternating typing with violent bouts of heaving.

I promised to try with this book, but resurrecting it may be beyond my powers.

Part of it is that there’s nobody outside the entrance to the dark cave I must enter in order to bring the story out. I know there are people who promised to stand watch there, but I’m not sure I can truly trust them. So, my body, trying to warn me away from what my brain recognizes as OH MY GOD LIONS GET BACK IN THE CAR, starts shaking, shuddering, and trying to empty my stomach all over my office.

Writing costs physical and emotional energy. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Writing is a physical act. The body remembers, the body knows.

At least now I know what the problem is. When this occurred with one other book, it took months attempting to work through the violent stomach upset, months of of castigating myself for being dramatic before I realized, this is a normal reaction to the violation you encountered, it’s valid, your body is trying to tell you something. Then, inch by painful inch, I could drag myself over the threshold, because I wanted to.

I don’t have those months now. I could take them, but I want this over with more than I want to wait, regardless of the damage. At the same time, I don’t want to go back in that dark cave, no matter what the people outside have promised. My body resists in every way it can.

I don’t know if I can do this. But I promised, so…there it is.

At least I’ve made it to the finish line of today’s work on that particular book. I get to write other things now. I’m exhausted, the tea is cooling, and the dogs are worried. But the nausea is receding, and I’m going to keep going.

There may be alternatives, but none I can take. We drive hardest when we drive ourselves.

Is It Monday Yet?

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
So CreateSpace decided–after the paperback of Beast of Wonder was already on sale–to “suppress” the book for “copyright verification.” They didn’t bother to verify the copyright during the proofing phase, no, they decided to pull this bullshit after the week-and-a-half wait for me to get and approve the paper proof. If I’d been planning a huge marketing push instead of a pretty incidental one, it would have been wasted. As it is, I’ve lost critical release-announcement sales as well as had to spend valuable working time dealing with this issue.

Not a good look, CS. I’m asking where to send the invoice. (Quixotic of me, but I am irritated enough not to care.)

I’m pretty sure they’re going to be folded into KDP soon, especially since KDP’s made the announcement that proof and author’s copies are going to be a thing and the recent announcement that Createspace is shuttering their author services (cover help, editing, marketing, etc.) arm. Really, the writing was on the wall as soon as Amazon bought them, but many authors I know were holding out hope CS would continue to function independently because their print quality was reasonably high.

Anyway, that was the weekend’s nasty news. In better events, I got some more earth turned in the upper garden boxes, and though there’s a risk of another frost, I should get some tender things in the ground. Maybe I can hide the pumpkin seeds from the squirrels if I plant enough of them? I’m pretty sure they got all the peas. *sigh* And what they didn’t get Miss B probably rooted out, thinking she was Finding What Mum Lost and Won’t Mum Be Glad.

Also on the bright side, Pocalypse Road is up for preorder! Yes, it will be available for Kindle, Nook, iBook, and Kobo; yes, there will be a paperback version; and yes, serial subscribers (on Patreon or Gumroad) will get the unedited AND edited ebook for free, as usual.

I also have space on my ebook formatting and cover copy waitlist, if that’s something you’re interested in. I have one editing slot open for the last six months of 2018, too.

Whew. It might not sound like a lot, but damn, the weekend was full. Now it’s back to the word mines–but first, Miss B has that gleam in her eye that means a run is necessary.

Over and out.

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.