Relatively Under Control

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

blank

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

blank

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.

blank
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.

A Frail Fence

It’s October, which means I’m on a true-crime jag. True crime books, while horrific, also have endings. One can pretend there is some kind of meaning or narrative structure to horrid events, or to life itself.

Given that we’re dealing with ongoing pandemic and fascist soft-coup, the idea of a neat ending, of some kind of sense to be made of all this, is comforting. It’s akin to watching horror movies for catharsis. At the end of a horror movie, one can go back to one’s own life–a little more cautious, perhaps, but still, one has returned.

It’s better than just looking at the mess, throwing one’s hands up in despair, and walking into the sea. At least, I think it’s better. Time will tell.

Anyway, I reread some Ann Rule this weekend, and a first edition of Michaud & Ayenesworth’s The Only Living Witness. Michaud did not like Rule, and seems rather upset that she had some success.1 Reading his jabs at her is super annoying. It’s also interesting to see how different editions of the book morphed.

Today’s work is all about the proof pass on the third (and final, yes, it’s the last one) Hostage to Empire book. When I have a cover and all that it’ll be posted. I’m hopeful that the proof pass will be light. It’s not the book’s fault it was written under such harsh conditions, or that I will be relieved to see the last of it.

I plan to submerge pretty hard to get a great deal of work done before the end of the (formal) year.2 The weather is cooperating, with a heavy veil of beautiful grey cloud. It will be nice to settle on the couch with a cuppa and the proofs, while the dogs cuddle close.

Sometimes I complain about this career, but never for very long. I suspect I am deeply unfit for an office job (let alone retail) anymore, since I have no patience for interpersonal bullshit and am very used to going at my own pace, whether the frantic bursts of six months’ work crammed into two weeks or the short dormant periods. A lot of what happens in formal offices is makework, very much like the security theater happening at airports. It doesn’t make anyone safer, but it does tighten the grip of a petty, middle-managing bureaucracy.

At least the physical symptoms of burnout are receding, slowly but surely. The few days of insomnia were a gauntlet to run, and I’m feeling much better.

Well, “much” is kind of relative, given where I started. But the scratchy throat and full nose have retreated, and the exhaustion is manageable. My running mileage has taken a hit, but short runs more frequently aren’t a bad thing. I’m in the game long-term, and the long game means small incremental gains are perfectly acceptable.

The compost heap also needs turning, and the garden to be readied for winter. Which will provide a nice antidote to the firehose of bad news. I feel terrible that I simply can’t stand to be hooked up to said hose at the moment; it feels like a betrayal. Still, nothing and nobody is served by me staring paralyzed at the horror of our current situation.

And with that, ’tis time to embark upon Monday. The dogs are extremely ready for walkies, coffee needs to be finished, a short run had, and the day stretches before me like heavy mist. There might be a little homemade focaccia left over from yesterday’s baking, which will be extremely welcome around lunchtime.

Small things to look forward to. I suppose they’re all I have at this point, but they’re enough. A frail fence against the despair, but a fence nonetheless.

Over and out.

Goodbye, September

blank

Yesterday the full canine complement of Chez Saintcrow was washed, dried, and flea-treated, the grocer’s and pet store were visited for supplies, linens and towels were washed as well, a great deal of other housework was done, and the copyedits on Sons of Ymre #1 were finished. There’s a few final global changes to fold in on the very last, but those are tiny and it’s ready to be sent off and turned into proofs.

And I am so fatigued I had difficulty sleeping. Apparently I’m in the stage of burnout (yes, by now I’m sure it’s not The Plague™) where I’m too wound up for proper rest and just have to push for pure exhaustion to grant me some surcease. If I play my cards right and do the proper kind of work in the proper proportion today, that might happen this evening.

I’m hopeful.

I also received an amusingly nasty missive yesterday, telling me to “shut up about politics and just write [stories]”. I am baffled how the letter writer thinks any of my work is divorced from politics, since I happen to be a human being, and have no intention of hiding my thoughts on the state of the world. Honestly, the things some people will say, thinking the internet grants them anonymity. (Spoiler: IT DOESN’T.) I had to laugh at the absurdity.

On a brighter note, as a treat and reward for finishing CEs, I got myself a subscription to the Criterion Channel, which I’ve been eyeing for some time and saving pennies out of the budget for. I’ve loved their Kurosawa and Kieslowski collections, and am looking forward to diving into the rest of their offerings. After I finish prepping this week’s subscription drop, I might settle with a plate of brownies, plus some cold milk, and watch something black-and-white. (Probably an Ingmar Bergman.)

Hopefully it will be soothing enough that I can crawl into bed early and do something more than just toss and turn. Come tomorrow (October approacheth, good heavens, where on earth did September go? Pandemic time is an elastic rollercoaster) I have to turn all my engines–such as they are, straining and whining–to the proofs of the final Hostage to Empire book. Maybe after that’s marked up and sent back I can take a slightly longer break. (Spoiler: Probably not.)

Miss B and Boxnoggin are no longer damp, but both are a bit perturbed at smelling like shampoo instead of their usual doggy selves. It must be a bit like vanishing; heaven knows when I can’t smell the world due to nasal drip I feel somewhat adrift. They’ll be back to their usual healthy aroma in no time, though, and today’s walkies will no doubt help with that. I’m seriously dragging, but they have kindly allowed me to consume a double jolt of coffee without insisting to be taken around the block posthaste, for which I am utterly grateful. I think they can sense my exhaustion.

I also have an idea for yet another romance novel, which I should stick in a fresh Scrivener doc and set aside to marinate just in case. My romance editor likes suspense, and this one’s a dilly. The brain never stops, even when trembling on the edge of deep burnout. I suppose I’m just not built to rest.

At least there’s lovely grey cloud-cover today and the prospect of rain later. If I had to deal with summer temps and the associated ills I might well turn into a puddle and save all the pearl-clutchers trouble by expiring from pure heatstroke.

And with that, my tongue firmly in cheek and my temper thoroughly reined by sheer tiredness, I shall embark upon prepping brownie supplies and walking very clean (and disgruntled) canines. September and the week are almost over, and my very favorite month approaches.

See you around, beloveds.