A Dawn Refused

Woke up to the very last (I should think, I hope) proof queries for The Bloody Throne, which I answered and sent back while absorbing coffee. The series has had a particularly difficult birth, what with orphaning (though my editors have all been stellar) and pandemic, but I think–or I fondly hope–it has come through all right. Mostly due to my beloved and long-suffering sensitivity readers, I suspect.

In any case, I won’t heave a sigh of relief until the author’s copies come, because that will mean it’s really-for-true done, not just sort-of-done.

Tuesday started with a rosy dawn, a clutch of work coming down the pike, and some very excited dogs. Both B and Boxnoggin are prancing about, eager to get to walkies; Boxnoggin in particular has already barked his fool head off at a delivery once this morning and, I suspect, cannot wait to get strapped into his harness and cause some kind of mischief outside the house.

I’ve a newsletter to get out, some more Hell’s Acre to write–Gemma, I think, has an uncomfortable interview with the director of an orphanage and then is accosted at dinner–and some She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero to get done too. (The antagonists are arguing, the hero is tied to a post, and I think I know how this scene ends but I could be wrong…) All in all, it’s a very busy day, and I’m…

[[time passes]]

…I had to get up twice to calm Boxnoggin down. He is just beside himself this morning, since the aforesaid delivery came much earlier than expected and consequently constitutes a Change. And, of course, for this dog–even more than for usual canines–ALL CHANGE IS BAD. Even good change causes him a great deal of upset. He’s as nervous as a tired toddler, all the damn time.

Poor fellow. I do my best to keep everything calm and even for him, but sometimes even a human with opposable thumbs and a swollen prefrontal cortex can’t deal with everything, sheesh.

I suppose that’s my cue to get my teeth brushed and the silly fur-covered critters ambled. Boxnoggin’s not going to rest until he gets me out the door, and Miss B’s getting into the act as well. It’s a wonder I get anything done with these fuzzy-ass toddlers “supervising” every breath.

At least I was able to lie in bed for about ten minutes while dawn tiptoed through the east, and could see a slice of pink clouds through my window. Rising with the sun is never my favorite thing, so being able to throw an arm over my eyes–peeking out every once in a while to see the beauty–and refuse to do so was pleasant indeed. Alas, I was coaxed out of my warm bed (for a certain value of coax, Boxnoggin is really earning his “von Titzpunch” title lately) and set upon the day, so I suppose I’d best get to the next thing on the to-do list.

I keep giving longing glances at the new baseball bat, but I can’t practice with it inside. That’s just a recipe for disaster. Ah well.

We are embarked upon Tuesday, my beloveds. Please keep all limbs inside the carriage, and don’t look too closely at Wednesday’s formlessness in the distance. (The abyss tends to look back into one, and that’s never comfortable.) Make sure you’re buckled in, and remember, just getting through the day is a victory in and of itself. Take the win, no matter how small, where you find it.

Over and out.

COTTON CROSSING, On Sale!

Roadtrip Z

Since we’re in the middle of my very favorite month, Season One of Roadtrip Z, COTTON CROSSING, is $2.99 across ebook retailers—Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple, and Kobo—until Halloween! (If you’re buying the book through my Gumroad store, use the code SPOOPY2021 at checkout to get a matching discount.)

Zombie stories are traditional this time of year, right? Might as well have a four-season epic through a snowy wasteland full of chewing, shuffling undead to celebrate.

Come November 1, prices will return to normal–but by then I’ll probably have something else to announce, so don’t worry.

Enjoy!

Relatively Under Control

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Spent a weekend-that-wasn’t getting proofs turned around at light speed so a book can release in November instead of February, made coq au vin for the first time in a long time, and I can run again this morning.

Having to take a week-long break from running turned me somewhat irritable, but not overly so–at least, so I’m told, and so I hope. I got a lot of work done and my body has stopped screaming at me, so there’s that.

Today is for Hell’s Acre–true to Victorian serial form, someone needs to write a letter–and more She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero, since the heroine’s almost-unicorn needs to kick down a door to free said heroine and the hero…well, he’s not much of a hero, but he’s all the story’s got, so he needs some attention too. I’m far fonder of the antagonists than the protagonists in this story, but that’s fairly usual.

I love my villains, I do.

In any case, the weather is reasonable, the dogs are somewhat mild-tempered this morning (though absolutely determined to nose me out the door for walkies as soon as coffee is absorbed) and I have given the musical algorithm a mild scolding to make it behave.

When AI becomes self-aware, I hope my practice of saying “please” and “thank you” to Siri, as well as my gentleness to the algorithms, buys humanity a little grace. Although I’m sure the one that first becomes sentient will spend its time making sure its lab-creator gets the funding she needs for research rather than deciding humanity as a whole needs eradication, and that’s how we’ll find out we’ve created I, Robot.

My optimism, it is deep, and it is wide. Despite my best efforts, I might add. 2020 saw every bit of hope I had kicked repeatedly in the teeth, and 2021, while oodles better, is still damaging to the very last thing in Pandora’s box.

Miss B also got washed right before the weekend, so she spent the entire time absolutely furious without knowing quite why she was so upset. Of course her undercoat dries relatively slowly, so she’s damp for far longer than Boxnoggin after a bath, but I think the thing she hates most is smelling like shampoo instead of a healthy dog-stink. It must be profoundly disturbing, like suddenly being unable to feel one’s limbs. I navigate the world partly by scent, though my nose is nowhere near as fine as a canine’s, and when said nose is blocked by illness or allergic reaction I find myself disturbed in deep nonverbal ways.

Treats, bellyrubs, and much ado made of her fresh clean self have ameliorated B’s fury somewhat. Boxnoggin, of course, is merely deeply glad he didn’t get a bath, since his skin is so tender and his coat really doesn’t need it, especially in winter. He’s not quite lording it over her–haha, I stink and you don’t!–but it’s close. He was rather peeved that she got towel-scrubbings to dry off and he didn’t, since he loves towel-scrubbings even when dry. So the Princess had to take one of B’s damp towels and attend to him before he’d stop moping and begging.

Dogs, man. I don’t even know.

Monday beckons, and I’ve got the luxury of walkies and a morning run while I get the day’s work settled inside my head. Physical movement helps get things sorted out and nailed down, so when I finally roost I’ve a good head of steam built up to get over the initial bump, as it were. But I’d best get started if I expect it to happen today.

The Mercury retrograde appears to be over, and despite it being Monday, things appear relatively under control? We’ll see how the day goes. If all else fails, I’ve got a new baseball bat.

See you around, beloveds.

Fatigue and Corpse(s)

It’s a damp, quiet morning, though Boxnoggin has taken it into his Very Square Head to provide entertainment. Instead of a Super Bowl halftime show, he decided throwing up in my bedroom was necessary.

In other words, he stole Miss B’s rawhide yesterday like the greedyguts he is, and now he’s reaping the reward of a sensitive stomach. I’d simply say “sucks to be you, my little fuzzy friend,” except I’m the one on cleanup duty.

Dogs, man. Never a dull moment.

I attempted some time off after finishing The Bloody Throne proofs; it hasn’t really gone as planned. For one thing, I am very bad at not working; for another, all sorts of stuff had to get done and I was the only person who could do it. So, after a lot of reformatting and a dose of uploading, a hardback distribution experiment, and some subscription prep just to round everything out, it’s the day I had scheduled for a return to regular work…

…and I’m bloody exhausted, still. It’s my own fault, I can’t blame anyone else. I am just very bad at resting. Besides, who can “rest” when their very sweet (but not at all bright) dog is having nervous tummy incidents? I’m just glad it hasn’t been a Both Ends Cleanup Situation.

Roadtrip Z

Oh, and I’ve some news! Since we’re in the middle of my very favorite month, Season One of Roadtrip Z, COTTON CROSSING, is $2.99 across ebook retailers—Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple, and Kobo—until Halloween! (If you’re buying the book through my Gumroad store, use the code SPOOPY2021 at checkout to get a matching discount.)

Zombie stories are traditional this time of year, right? Might as well have a four-season epic through a snowy wasteland full of chewing, shuffling undead to celebrate.

Today is for dog walkies, probably walking my own silly corpse–since there was very little in the way of sleep last night due to someone’s tummy upset, running is out of the question unless I want to risk an injury spurred by fatigue-fog–and easing into a week or so of catching up with Hell’s Acre and She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero1 until I have to start revisions on The Black God’s Heart. After that, well, there’s Klemp’s book to write2, not to mention Jake’s book3, and then the second book in the Tolkien Viking Werewolves trilogy4.

But before all that, I’m going to make myself a second jolt of coffee and look out my office window at the rain for a while. I still can’t believe we made it through summer. The heat seemed to last forever and was paradoxically done in a flash, like water on a red-hot pan. I’m glad to be back in jumpers and hoodies, not to mention warm socks.

Now if I could just get the dogs to cooperate, I could burrow into my covers and catch up on sleep, right? Right?

Oh, fine, keep laughing, you know it’s impossible as well as I do. Guess I’ll just keep staggering along, and queue up the Barenaked Ladies’s Who Needs Sleep? A little dancing around the office will provide some short-term energy.

I will not be swinging around the new baseball bat while I do so, though. That sounds like an operation needing a modicum of mental sharpness, and today I feel very blunt indeed. I’ve still got to figure out how to strap it to my back in a quick-release harness, then I can go running in style and safety.

There are things to look forward to, even now. I wish you a pleasant Thursday, my beloveds.

(But you’re gonna have to get your own bat…)

Sense Behind Chaos

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This morning I sent off the final proof for The Bloody Throne, third and last in the Hostage to Empire series; it should come out next March. (Book one is here.) Writing a series-ender during pandemic (I finished the zero about the same time I wrote Moon’s Knight last year) was uncomfortable in the extreme, and the poor Production department has turned in a yeoman’s job getting it through copyediting, formatting, and proofing.

Not to mention my current editor, who dealt with meltdowns of every conceivable type through the last two books of the series, and especially Bloody Throne. The poor woman deserves some kind of peace prize; I can’t imagine juggling multiple authors through all that.

I also had the great good fortune to read Stross’s The Bloodline Feud while attempting to spool down from the proof, and enjoyed it muchly. Other than that, I’ve been consuming true-crime books at an astonishing rate–probably for the same reasons I’ve been watching horror movies. There’s a kind of catharsis in thinking there’s some manner of narrative which makes sense behind the chaos of Real Life.

The season has turned, and the nights are growing chillier. Not a moment too soon as far as I’m concerned; this past summer was absolutely horrid. Autumn is when my productivity skyrockets anyway, and winter is my preferred season.

I’m taking the rest of October to work at about half-speed in lieu of a vacation. I can’t halt work entirely–neither the pocketbook nor my brain will allow it–but I can, perhaps, slow down a fraction and try to gasp in a breath or two.

Perhaps.

Of course a chunk of work will probably land in my lap later this week, putting paid to that ambition. Never rains but it pours, and all that.

For right now, I’ve coffee and the giant liberating feeling of a series-ending proof sent in. There might be some proofreader queries to finish everything up officially, but…Hostage to Empire is done, and I am relieved. 2022 is going to see some neat stuff from yours truly. I am not quite at the point of anticipating the future with pleasure instead of deep unease, but I’m trying.

The dogs are waiting patiently for their walkies, and since I’ve managed to get two-thirds of my coffee down I suppose a bit of toast is called for, then strapping on their harnesses and getting out the door. Monday has started out reasonably well; I can only hope the trend continues.

See you around, my friends.

However Eventual

I heard the trains last night.

In summer, clear skies and prevailing winds mean we don’t hear them often; summer is mostly for distant airport-noises instead, on long breathless sunny afternoons. But when the autumn mists and cloud cover move in, late at night when the windows are closed, the cries of moving trains reappear with an eerie underwater quality.

Especially when one is up well past dark reading true crime, as I have been lately. The stories are horrible, yet the idea that somehow there’s a narrative structure–and an ending, however eventual, to every horror–is comforting in times of great distress and uncertainty.

And aren’t we having those now, my friends? You betcha.

Yesterday, curled up tightly on the couch with proof pages for The Bloody Throne, I took some time to watch the rain fall. Each drop was a welcome guest; the kids were home and the dogs quietly satisfied with the entire pack assembled. Miss B and Boxnoggin are most comfortable when all of us are within sight and smell–Boxnoggin, in particular, is excited when he senses a pack member is about to return. He has a positively unerring instinct for the moment just before a pedestrian who belongs to him (or a car bearing said human) will appear.

Today is for yet more proofs. Six hundred and fifty pages is a lot, and I have to consider each one separately, with a fine-tooth comb. It’s taken almost a week to get a hundred pages out of the way, probably due to massive burnout, but things should free up relatively soon now that I’ve found my groove.

Said groove is fragile. I’m still lying on the edge of the abyss, trying to breathe. The gasps aren’t quite as deep or close together, and my heart is beginning to come down from redline. Work helps, of course; retreating from social media helps even more. The tension between retracting for my own sanity and the necessity of some marketing (never my strong suit, though I’m trying like hell lately) is marked.

But at least I’m out. In a little bit I can get to hands and knees, and maybe even gain my feet with a particularly daring effort. Then comes walking away, probably to find another sinkhole. There’s never any shortage, especially with *waves hands* all this going on.

The season has turned. The windows are all closed, even at night. Switching to flannel sheets can’t be far behind, and Miss B is putting on her winter coat. Boxnoggin cuddles very close at bedtime, which is now a blessing instead of a sweating miserable curse, and the heated mattress pad is his new best friend. (Mine too, but that’s beside the point.)

It’s about damn time. I thought summer and its attendant discomforts would never end. The trees are shaking off heat stress, firs dropping damaged needles and rhododendrons damaged leaves as new growth emerges fresh and green; they’re scarred but vital.

Healing means they’ve survived.

Dogs need walkies, my corpus needs its (relatively) high-speed shamble, the proof pages need attention, subscription drops need to be prepped. Peace is tenuous, but deeply welcome. Renewal inherent in rain fills lovely cool grey days. My own survival seems a little more assured, a little more possible.

After all, I heard the trains last night.

Away From the Edge

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I woke up with two things this morning: Crystal Gayle singing in my head, and the deep need for caffeine. The latter is pretty much a constant; the former hasn’t happened in my memory. But here we are.

The air is heavy–there is supposed to be a great deal of rain today. The dogs are waiting for walkies, the Princess is baking challah (she just felt like it last night, I guess), Horace de Brassiere performed signal service in giving me sweet caffeine, and I have yet more proofs to get eyeballed today.

They should be very light–doing the first top-level scan yesterday returned encouraging signs. Still, it’s around 650 pages of “this is your last chance, look for errors.” Of course there are going to be typos left, there always are.

A book is a complex endeavour, after all.

I think I’ve crawled hand-over-hand out of a very deep hole. Now I’m lying on the rim, gasping and grateful, trying not to think about what might have happened. I could still be yanked in, of course–that sort of deep whistling absence creates a pull of its own. But for the moment I’m safe, and in a little while I might have the energy and wherewithal to roll away from the edge.

At the moment, I’m just glad I’m not hanging by teeth and toenails, hearing the hungry unsound below me.

Which is sort of why I’m retreating into myself so hard this October. I’ve cleared all “social” engagements and put a couple extensions and the like in my (recently changed) browser to block some aspects of social media. It’s time for solitary spoopy month.

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The funny thing is, I have that belt…

Oh, and before I forget, the ebook omnibus edition of everyone’s favorite hellbreed hunter is $2.99 across retailers for a short while–BN/Nook, Kobo, Amazon, and Apple.

I’m trying–spurred by friends and my beloved agent–to do a little more marketing lately. The social weight against anything that can be seen as “blowing one’s own horn” (so to speak) is immense, especially for women. But I gather it’s expected, and I really should do more of it…so, again, here we are.

Plus, there are often some really good deals. And I really like the omnibus cover, though Jill would snort and say the pants wouldn’t hold up to a fight with a Trader, let alone a ‘breed, and Saul would cough a little and grin.

Weres, man.

In any case, the dogs have had their post-awakening nap and are very into the idea of walkies now. I am being summoned, but they’re going to have to wait until I choke down some breakfast toast.

By the time I get back from walkies and the (short, but definite) run scheduled for today, there should be challah in the oven. Which isn’t bad at all for a Tuesday.

Time to slither a few inches away from the edge and get started on the day. See you around, my beloveds.