Revisions, Safety, Post-it

It’s odd to be actually sleeping, instead of just lying in bed while my brain serves up millions of “what ifs” and “worry about this-es”. I did a lot of digital housekeeping lately, just generally attending to loose ends before starting a merry-go-round of revising the epic fantasy and reformatting ebooks.

The concomitant feeling of safety, and the pressure-release of being out and away, is doing good things. The relief when I attended to the last bit of housekeeping was so profound as to stagger me; I’m glad I was sitting down.

Things aren’t ideal, but at least I don’t have that energy expenditure hanging about my neck, an albatross of politeness siphoning away energy needed for other things.(Like writing, like revising, like getting these reformats done… you get the idea.)

In any case, I spent hours on a single scene yesterday, ripping at the underpinnings and ending up with something that looked very much like the initial work, but with a completely different thrust and tone. Sometimes you have to get down to the foundations before you can fix what’s wrong. Usually I’m a lot better about noticing something’s gone wrong during the initial writing, but sometimes… well, sometimes I’m not.

That’s what revision is for.

Still, I’m feeling the drag of “this is the third book in a series, it’s already 168k, it’s going to be bigger, why do I get myself into these things, just set it on fire, I hate everything.” It’s a usual, albeit uncomfortable, part of the process. I’ve got an extra week to get the revisions in and I should have known, because they always take three times as long as one thinks they will–about as solid a rule of thumb in publishing as there is. The only time things don’t take thrice as long is when they take six times as long.

At least there’s coffee. And at least there’s a lot of energy freed up by finishing housekeeping. I hadn’t realized just how deeply some things were bothering and draining me until I stepped away and felt the relief. I call it “the energetic bends”–so much pressure, removed so abruptly, makes for a short, uncomfortable period where one realizes just how bad it was. The trick is not to beat yourself up with “why did you stay so long, then?”

The only solution I’ve found is putting a Post-it with “just be glad it’s over” somewhere I can glance at it several times a day, like among the crop of notes festooning my desktop. They range from quotes to character lists, and one more doesn’t hurt. Quite the opposite.

Anyway. Now it’s time to get the dogs walked, run my poor corpse now that all the snow is gone, and stagger home to fall into revisions once more. I still need to reward myself for finishing the last zero draft I stabbed to doneness, but I can put that off until I get this revision out the door and then, then maybe I’ll give myself a double prize.

Not quite sure what it will be, yet, but now I have the time–and the energy–to figure it out.

It’s a nice change.

Kindness, Escape

Spent the weekend doing revisions as well as reformatting ebooks and the like; most of those changes should be wending their way downstream. New editions are always a chance to catch the things that didn’t get chased down and thumped before. Even with a million pairs of eyes during the publication process, some stuff slips through. It’s inevitable.

What I did not do was rest. Today it’s back to solely revising the third epic fantasy; all my engines are focused on that. The second year of lockdown is about to start and my ability to focus and push under pressure is beginning to fray at the edges.

Once that’s done it’s on to revising HOOD‘s third season, preparatory to the editing process. I still have to make a final determination on the next serial–it will either be Hell’s Acre, the alt-Victorian trilogy, or Division Seven, the mutant secret agents story. I’m leaning towards Hell’s Acre because I like the language, and I’m not wanting to engage with current-day stuff right now.

I need an escape.

I think we could all do with an escape or two, frankly. I just want to crawl into my stories and never come out. I’m sick of utterly avoidable disasters and broken promises, hatefulness and cruelty. It’s the last that gets to me.

It takes so little effort to be kind. Kindness is the natural state, it’s the lowest energy requirement. It puzzles me: Why do so many people actively choose to stew in violent hate, why do they seek out reasons to be shitty? Why, when it’s so easy to just… not? Imagine what humanity could do if dickwads quit wasting their energy on spewing vileness.

I write because I must, but sometimes I think I also write to try and answer why people do some things. Pouring myself into certain characters’ skins, even if it isn’t on the page–because I have to understand the villains to see how they’re going to act in the story–is an effort to understand.

The dogs are very clingy this morning. I think they can sense my nerves are raw. Or maybe they just want their walkies, since it’s a relatively warm morning. A week ago we were in snowpocalypse (I think? Time has lost all meaning.) and now it’s very mild in the high 40s (Fahrenheit, of course) with crocuses and the like taking advantage of the sudden balm.

Maybe the snow was the last gauntlet to run. It would be nice to have an end to something. Normally I enjoy winter; normally it’s my most productive time. Lately though, I feel like I’ve done nothing for the last winter except sit and stare in deepening horror. I know that isn’t true, but it feels like it.

I’ve blathered long enough. Time to get the dogs walked, my own reluctant corpse run, and then to crawl into the end of a hot, murderous summer in an imaginary land. Getting the third and final book arranged will do me some good, I hope.

Happy Monday, everyone. We made it to another week, yay us. Now let’s see if we can endure through.

Over and out.

See What We’ve Saved

The instant the slush goes down to something below “fall and break my fool neck” proportions, the happier the dogs and I will both be. Boxnoggin is practically going mad without his rambles, and I’m not far behind.

It was a hard weekend, though peaceful because of the snow. Even with the sloppy melt going on, there are still areas of blank white, nice and crisp. Watching the powder fall was soothing; the ice storm a little less so. And I am, truth be told, slightly tired of my feet being numb, even in several layers of socks.

All told, though, I like the cold better than heat. One can always put on another layer or sip something warm. Sweating, though–that leads to chafing, and dear gods how I hate chafing.

I did get a lot of knitting done. The Princess’s best friend and the Prince both have nice new chenille blankets, and I had eight skeins of a chunky wool blend that’s mostly turned into scarves at this point. A great deal of the fun of knitting is giving things away.1

I finished Kieckhefer’s Magic in the Middle Ages recently, which was an enjoyable read; next up is Kelleher’s The Alliance of Pirates. I’m really looking forward to the latter, and maybe it will chase the Viking stuff out of my head so I can focus on the revisions that need to be done without a whole ‘nother epic fantasy series trying to tear and claw its way out.

Some books are possessive. This one, however, needs to wait its turn. I’m pretty sure it’s unsellable, which has never stopped me before but which does mean it has to fill in the gaps and cracks between other working projects. Of course nothing is as delicious as stolen time, and writing in said stolen time is the sweetest fruit there is.

And of course maybe I’ll suddenly get the urge to write something about pirates. I hear Black Sails is really good, so I can possibly distract myself with that.2

It’s hard for a lot of people right now. It’s yet another six-month pandemic anniversary (some of us have been in lockdown for a whole goddamn year) and we could have been done with this before now if reasonable science-based adults had been in charge. A lot of us are grieving, or in holding patterns unable to grieve as well as cut off from necessary contact. And let’s not even talk about the fascist coup and all that bullshit.

At least there are dogs, and the beauty of fresh snow. There’s the secret stealthy sound of melt in the gutters, there are books and quiet and the fact that even if we’re in lockdown, we’re not precisely alone. Every day we’ve spent hunkered at home, every time we put on a mask, we’re Doing A Good. We’ve lost a lot, yes. Who can tell how much we’ve saved because most of us have been doing what we should all through this?

The trouble with the thankless work of saving is that it’s invisible.

It might seem like faint comfort, but I’ll take it. The thing that’s getting me through is caring for those I’m responsible for, and reminding myself that staying in and masking up are ways to show I care. I’m a natural hermit; the isolation doesn’t wear on me. What does is the loneliness and sadness of those I care for.

I know it’s rough. Most of us are quietly doing the best we can; sometimes that gets lost in the noise of the selfish. They are few indeed, but very loud. Of course the sonic assault is one of their primary weapons, to distract us from noticing how tiny and petty they are. Otherwise we might just stop letting their selfish selves ruin things for the rest of us.

Imagine that.

It’s time to play with the canines a little, working off a bit of their energy until we can go rambling and let them stick their snoots in the usual spots. Then a shower, and to the grindstone of revisions. Getting books through publication is akin to cliff-climbing–one handhold at a time, exhale, use your legs, it’s about the whole route not just the next hold.

Best to get started, then. Happy Tuesday, beloveds. Remember, we can’t see what we’ve saved–but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Pleased By Nothing

No snow yet. Not that I’m quite upset over it, mind–I know it’s a massive hassle to most people, it’s dangerous though pretty, and our part of the world is better off without it.

But I am a little selfishly disappointed. Ah well.

Nothing pleases me today. I am resentful of anything pulling me away from The Cold North, even though most of it is the unavoidable business of living–showers, eating, caring for those under my aegis. The rest of it is work that really does need to be done for other books, proofs and revisions and the like, oh my.

I’m happiest with a surfeit of work and should really stop complaining. But like I said… nothing is pleasing, today. The impeachment hearings are going on, and I am sick-saddened that once again the rich old white men will suffer no consequences. Over and over again they do the worst and endure no punishment. It’s enough to make me doubt justice itself.

Normally I’m a great believer in the arc of history bending towards the light, but I am so nauseous at the lack of consequences for murderous rich old white men, even that is denied me. My capacity for hope has taken quite a beating over the last few years.

Even if there’s no snow, we’ve still laid in a stock of hot choco. The Princess brought home marshmallows yesterday too, so at least there’s that. It’s still chilly enough to snuggle on the couch under a blanket I’m knitting, drink hot cocoa, and perhaps get the last bit of proofing done this weekend. There are also plans for potato-leek soup.

The Princess opened our produce order the other day and said, in tones of surpassing wonder, “There’s a leek in the box!” A short pause. “No, two leeks in the box!” And I laughed so hard I had to sit down while wheezing. All I could think of was SNL and Justin Timberlake’s Dick in a Box; she was thinking of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and honestly didn’t expect my response.

At odd times since, my brain has served up “It’s a leek in a box!” and I’ll start to snort-laugh helplessly.

This is, I suspect, why I’m unfit for any job or career where I have to be physically around people for any length of time. I just can’t stop cackling at entirely imaginary bullshit.

Anyway, it’s time to take my pleased-by-nothing self for a cuppa–always the best cure for whatever ails one, I firmly believe. And there’s the subscription stuff to be sent off today, after I finish the afternoon errands. I am not fit to be around others in public right now, but needs must when the devil drives, as usual.

Maybe this evening I can spend some time with the damn Viking werewolves. They refuse to sit down and be quiet inside my head–yet another sign of my general unfitness, alas. But it’s hilarious, and if I’m laughing, I don’t mind displeasure so much.

At least I’m having fun.

Over and out.

Sleep, Cold, Carnivorous Sheep

The weekend was long, Sunday night sleepless; consequently Monday was spent in a fog. Not only am I recovering from finishing a three-season serial (at least, the zero draft of such) but Various Life and Historical Issues have reared their heads lately.

No wonder I collapsed into sweet unconsciousness for about twelve hours last night. It was welcome, but now I’m in what I think is a sleep hangover. Do those exist? They should, because I’m fairly sure I have one.

Sleep has always been difficult. It’s hard enough to shut my brain off for any period of time, however fractional. Then there’s the vulnerability aspect–growing up, any dimming of hypervigilance was dangerous indeed. One never knew where the next attack was coming from. In past years, sometimes the only rest I could get was while hiding in a closet.

Any closet. I’ve hunkered down in a lot of closets.

It helps to have the dogs nearby, breathing quietly and sometimes dreaming. And, as Calm Therapist used to say, “if you can’t sleep, just resting is good too.”

It’s a very chilly morning, at least for us–hovering near freezing happens rarely here in the PNW. The dogs are, for once, not pushing for walkies. Mostly because Boxnoggin went out this morning and gave me a Significant Look. “I left a nice warm bed for this?” He’s really not going to like when the mercury drops to the Fahrenheit twenties next week. Poor slick-coated fellow.

I get one more day half off before I dive into the epic fantasy revise. It’s yet another finish to a trilogy, and things I spent two doorstop-sized books carefully setting up come crashing down, landing precisely where I want them. (Or so close it makes no difference.) I’ve been marking time with Cold North lately; I meant for the book to be a very close, confined gothic but Tolkien crept in, and that means sprawl. So now I’ve got elves, a Black Land, and (in the most recent chapter) a mutated, carnivorous sheep.

I don’t even know. These things just happen.

I don’t cherish the idea of yet another epic fantasy–the last one exhausted me–but if that’s what the Muse wants, I suppose that’s what she’ll get.1

At least I’ve some finished works, going into 2021. If all else fails, self-publishing is an option for at least one of them; the other might do as a serial.

All that can wait. There’s walkies to accomplish, after all, and a morning run to get in while I’m still feeling bouncy. I like inclement weather because it leaves the sidewalks free and those damn middle-aged white men who won’t leash their dogs stay inside.2

The house is quiet. The coffee is sinking in. If this is what “enough” sleep feels like, it’s quite pleasant and I wish I could have more of it. But life is about what we have, so I’d best get started.

Over and out.

Free (Sock) Elf

Earlier this week a package arrived, bearing this wonderful thing. A single sock.

You read that right. One singular hand-knitted sock.

It’s part of a pair knitted by a dear friend, but she thought it would be hysterical to send me one at a time. I promptly, of course, took to Twitter to shout “MISTRESS HAS GIVEN LILI A SOCK; LILI IS NOW A FREE ELF!” Which is exactly what she wanted.

I am a free fuckin’ elf, mofos.

I also finished the zero draft of HOOD‘s final season yesterday. Which means this morning I am cross-eyed, absorbing coffee, and wearing a pair of beautifully hand-knitted slipper socks. They aren’t really socks, of course; they’re a friend saying “I love you.” Like little hugs for my feet.

The feeling is more than reciprocated, and very welcome. I hope you have a little (or a lot) of it in your life as well, my beloveds.

Have a good weekend.

Resentment, Body, Détente

So. 6k+ on HOOD‘s Season Three yesterday. The crisis is written–the apex of the season and incidentally of the entire serial–and now all that remains is a few scenes’ worth of falling action. I could have pushed through an all-nighter and gotten at least the scaffolding of those in, but it would mean more work later fixing fatigue errors. So I did the Reasonable, Adult thing and went to bed, resenting every moment of it.

There’s a particular state where I do indeed actively resent anything that isn’t writing. I’m still there this morning. Even this blog post is only glancingly acceptable because it involves typing. What I really want to be doing is writing that falling action, getting the characters to the new equilibrium.

Which means Guy of Gisbourne, Alan-a-dale, and Robin Hood have a scene that needs to happen, Maid Marian and Little John need to have a conversation followed by Guy’s visit to the woman he’s loved since childhood, and Robin needs to stand in the ruins of his own childhood home. I think I can do it in three scenes, now that I’ve gotten some sleep and food in my reluctant corpse.

I shouldn’t be so mean to my body. It’s hauled me around, largely uncomplaining except with good goddamn reason, for a very long time now. We have somewhat of an armed détente; we’ve both done things we regret. Parents, men, and society have tried to make me hate my closest and oldest friend, the flesh that carries me. Working against that current is difficult, especially when I’m used to escaping into worlds of my own creation.

The fact remains that my body is my ally, and when I stopped lobbing shells at her, she was more than happy to relax into a peace without negotiation, pettiness, or ill feeling. I don’t deserve that grace, but she offered it without rue or anger. Better than I deserve, I suppose. We can’t live without each other, so I should stop being cruel to her and myself.

I suspect that particular trick will take a long, long while; I’ve been working on it for about a decade. It’s hard to shake the first thirty-odd years of training and the constant cultural (and advertising) yelling to lose weight, be fuckable, you’re too old, you’re too ugly, buy this product, starve yourself, who do you think you are?

Patriarchy’s biggest victory is getting women to hurt themselves. Wrestling that weapon away from the grasping invisible hand of the market is huge, uphill labor.

I’m sure my body will like a few days off with the relief of finishing this zero draft. Before that can happen, though, I’ve got to finish absorbing the coffee both of us like, walk the dogs, and give the ol’ corpse the running it craves to purge stress hormones and stretch the lungs. Then it’s back to writing, where each word echoes in the secret hollows of my bones, the threads of my capillaries.

Writing is hard on the delicate structures of the wrists, it’s hard on the back; I don’t know about other scribes, but every combat scene or narrow escape hikes my adrenaline and fills me with characters’ pain or uncertainty. Ironic that the thing I long to escape into relies upon my body; every word is intimately bound with my flesh.

Even when I’ve hated her, she’s given her help unstintingly. She throws herself, often to the limits of endurance, at every task I set her to. She does her best, despite the ill treatment I’ve made her endure. Her complaints are always founded in deep effort; she never wants to betray me. I’m going to spend the rest of my life undoing the damage inflicted during the first few decades while she winds down, doing her absolute best to carry me while time, ill chance, and mortality gnaw at us both.

I wish I’d learned to treat her better earlier, but at least I have this opportunity now. Gods grant I don’t squander it.

In any case, it’s time to care for the corpse before I can achieve the end of the story we’ve both been working on for a long while now. Plus, the dogs are patiently (but energetically) waiting for their morning ramble. All of them are kinder to me than perhaps they should be.

May they teach me to be better, each in their own way.