Off the Ground

I can’t quite seem to get off the ground this morning. (Morning, I say, though I’ve had a spot of lunch and settled with a cuppa.) I blame the lack of sleep from some douchewads setting off fireworks at midnight again. It’s past the “maybe they’re just confused” point and well towards “it’s a good thing I’m not pyrokinetic.”

A very good thing.

On the bright side, there was actual rain this morning–not very usual for July, but I’ll take it since it means most people stayed off the road. A Fed Ex truck did follow the dogs and I for most of our walkies–not the driver’s fault, he had a schedule and a route, and the overlap was purely coincidental.

Just try telling the dogs that, though. Boxnoggin was convinced the big vehicle was Up to No Good, and Miss B has never met a delivery truck she didn’t long to chase down and capture. I don’t know what she’d do if she ever actually caught one, kind of like her (mostly unfulfilled) desire to catch a squirrel; nor does Boxnoggin. But damned if they aren’t both going to try.

So that was amusing, and so was the snail plague over half my run route. It was more like an obstacle course or a fast dance than actually running, since I don’t want to crush any of the poor gastropods. The mild spring fading into a damp summer is doing them no end of good; I haven’t seen this many in years. Of course my hostas and some other tender plants are a little worse for wear, but I suppose that’s what happens when one hosts a buffet and suddenly guests show up.

Anyway, the dogs are sacked out after their Very Exciting Walk, and since I’m upping my mileage (it’s taken me forever to get back to the low end of my accustomed runs, injury and illness taking a toll) I’m very nearly there myself. The spot of last night’s homemade dal was very welcome, but I’m already hungry again and staring longingly at my tea mug as if it’ll magically refill without any effort on my part.

I’m 40k into The Bloody Throne, and it feels like I’m never going to finish this book. It never had a long run of easy days near the beginning, which I would have liked a great deal but coincided with the first flush of pandemic lockdown. Maybe the Muse will pity me and give me good wordcount when I finally get to the set-piece battles and the long slide down to the end. I know exactly where it ends and all the handholds I need to swing there. All that remains is to bloody well do it.

Which means I’d best get back to work. I’m taking the week off HOOD trying to catch up in however slight a fashion; I sense today will require a great deal of Hauser playing in the background while I stare disapprovingly at misbehaving characters.

On to Tuesday, then…

From Earworm to Mad Science

I woke up with R. B. Greaves’s Take a Letter, Maria playing inside my head. If it means anything, I’m in the dark about precisely what. The Princess would have helped me analyse it along with my dreams, but she says she’s never heard the song. Which I know is inaccurate, since I listen to it in the car whenever it comes on for whatever reason–the lure of familiarity, I suppose. This probably just means I need to listen to it a couple times today to get the song out of my head.

Go figure.

It’s a nice cloudy Monday. I have a new keyboard and took a few days almost-off social media. We call Twitter “hellsite” and it’s beginning to sound less like a tongue-in cheek observation than plain unadorned truth, or even understatement. Still, it has its uses, and I spend most of my time on my Mastodon instance anyway.

The dogs are quiet, for once. They’re probably still exhausted from yesterday, since they had to supervise housecleaning, window washing, and the making of bruschetta. The Princess has a recipe for mimicking the Trader Joe’s tomatoes-garlic-basil-oil-vinegar spread, which is our very favorite over tangy sourdough and fresh mozzarella. (The secret? Citric acid! You can find it in the canning aisle of the supermarket, or King Arthur Flour has some I personally prefer.) I’ve been experimenting with chana masala and cocoanut curries, and she’s been on a real Italian appetizers kick.

In short, there’s been some good eating around here lately. Since we’re mostly still quarantined (for when we’re not, there are plenty of masks, since my writing partner’s way of coping with the first boomerang of the pandemic was to get out her sewing machine) it’s pretty much taking the place of all socializing or field trips.

The Prince (sadly, I cannot call him the Little Prince anymore, both my children are taller than me) has been on a homebrew science kick. I let him take apart my old, battered keyboard to find out how it’s constructed and how it works, and he was thrilled with the idea of repurposing bits of it for “experiments.” I don’t ask questions, I just order the supplies and enthuse over what he tells me of the results.

I feel sort of like a mad scientist’s corporate backer, but I’m sure there are worse fates.

Living in historical times is exhausting, physically and mentally. I want to retract like a salted slug. I know not seeing the disaster is a privilege, I know the disaster is continuing whether I look at it or not, I know if I don’t find some way of settling back into work we’ll be in even worse shape in a few months. Plus, there’s a part of me that sniffs you wrote a whole fucking book about this and they didn’t listen, let them sit in it. I know it’s not fair of me to think it; there were other people far smarter and more famous sounding the alarm who were ignored as well.

I just can’t help myself.

So now it’s finishing coffee, taking the dogs on their ritual ramble, getting a run in, and keeping social media shut off for the day while I go back to work. I don’t want to look at the schedule and see how far behind I am; I just want to put my head down and lose myself in a world where anthropomorphized gods are visiting parties, or a court where the politicking continues while the state’s ship goes down (it occurs to me my main difficulty with the last Hostage book is probably that it feels so familiar), or the Robin Hood IN SPACE story where everything is heating up for the final half of the final season. At least with the new keyboard I’m not in a state of high irritation while typing; I hadn’t realized how much the missing stair behavior of the old one was affecting me.

I have a bunch of Cowboy Junkies and Cocteau Twins queued up, though I’ve listened to Take a Letter, Maria about five times so far today, attempting to scratch whatever earworm itch is in my head. We’ll see if it works. What the Muse wants, the Muse gets, although I’m not sure she’s the one in charge of the sound system this morning. It seems suspiciously like there’s gremlins lurking in my cranial folds.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Might as well just let them play.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. I hope your weekend was calm, and I hope for a sudden volte-face in the state of the world. The latter might not be very likely, but at least I can hope. Dum spiro, spero, and all that.

Shoes Tied, Dog Waiting

I managed to get my shoes tied this morning without Boxnoggin’s “help,” for which I am eternally grateful. He absolutely loves being useful, and longs to mouth at my shoelaces in order to taste where I’ve been and get himself under my hands, which means the prospect of a chest-rub or two.

I can’t really help myself. If a dog’s throwing themselves at my feet wanting to be petted, who on earth am I to say no?

Yesterday was a Monday in all senses of the word. It wasn’t bad, it was just… there were so many things I had to get done, and none of them were pleasant. None were actively bad, either, just time-consuming, stealing minutes away from the writing I’d rather be doing.

I would absolutely love to get back to zany squirrel stories and typing tales of gore, heartache, and redemption. Unfortunately, the world has other ideas, both in pandemic and fascist coup.


Because oh yeah, that’s still going on. That orange blivet and his criminal cabal are still squatting in the White House, still ramming through federal judgeships, still doing their best to maim, destroy, kill, and line their own pockets to the max. Even massive protests aren’t slipping their bony fingers from our throats.

I’m just so tired.


Despite all that, the dogs need walking, and I need a run. I’m slightly sunburnt from yesterday’s run, and glad that I didn’t actually get heatsick. I suppose the time spent inside air-conditioning while catching up with correspondence and other admininstrivia was actually a good thing. Go figure.

Days when I don’t run, the sharp annoyance cresting under my skin is ever so much worse. It’s not exercise anymore, it’s a bare necessity for keeping me from exploding with frustration. Today is going to require a virtual bath of sunscreen; the marine layer that normally keeps me safe is burning off earlier and earlier.

Summer is definitely not my most productive time–not enough rain–but it’ll do. There is a squirrel very upset about something in the backyard, and since Boxnoggin has been denied the pleasure of chewing my shoelaces while I try desperately to tie them, he is now in the kitchen, supervising whoever’s making their breakfast out there and hoping, I suspect, for a snack. Someone is cooing, telling him what a good boy he is. Every room he enters now, if it has a human in it, is full of pats and praise, and occasionally a treat or two, and he utterly glories in it.

As well he should, being a Very Good Boy. Miss B accepts the pets and praise as her absolute due, befitting the fuzzy little queen of our hearts, but Boxnoggin is constantly amazed. You mean it’s ME? You mean I am the prophesied Good Boy? Why, that’s GREAT! And he wriggles with the deepest possible glee each time, throwing himself on his back and combing the air with paws no longer too huge for his limbs.

He’s grown, the little weirdo. I can’t help but laugh, which pushes the frustration down and away like nothing else. I suppose I should finish the last of this rapidly cooling coffee and get out the door. They won’t wait for walkies forever.

At least swallowing several toads yesterday means there’s far fewer croaking at me today. I might even get some work done despite the load of pain and terror swirling in every corner. There’s the copyedits on Finder (which long-time Readers will know as Finder’s Watcher, inching its way towards publication) and wordcount waiting to be done, as well as paperwork from the accountant to sort and prep for its final destination.

Aye, no rest for the weary or wicked, as my writing partner would intone with a twinkle in her eye. As long as I’m breathing there’s work to be done.

Best to get started.

First, Pleasant Coffee

That first mouthful of coffee, first thing in the morning. I can feel the caffeine soaking in the moment I raise the cup to my lips, though I’m sure it’s merely psychological. Very little is as pleasant, even the fact that I got a great deal of the proofs out of the way yesterday and consequently have somewhat less to do today.

Somewhat. Not a whole lot, but somewhat.

I also have a new monstera plant. It was left over, looking sad and lonely and shaggy amid racks of brighter, better-trimmed, much smaller species, and my heart just cracked. Now he’s in my office, basking in a bigger pot under bright indirect light.

Yeah, I know. I can’t do much about the state of the world at large, but I can get a plant and nurse it back to health. It keeps me busy, I suppose. Attempting not to look at the news in the morning is good for me, I know it’s good for me, but I suppose I’m afraid the world will end and I’ll be the last to know.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, once I think about it, but the fear doesn’t think so. In fact, the fear, irrational as it is, tends to intensify if I don’t distract myself with work or… well, more work. If–and it’s a huge if–I can just drag myself out of bed in the mornings. Thank goodness for the dogs; they don’t give a damn about the state of the world. Their concerns are more immediate: breakfast, a good wee in the yard, walkies at the accepted time and along the accepted habitual route.

Heaven forbid brekkie or walkies change in even the slightest; the dogs, especially Boxnoggin, are creatures of strong habits and dislike any tiny deviation. He even gets miffed when the squirrels don’t show up at the same places he’s seen them before. I imagine him very much as a stage director tearing out his hair over some particularly enthusiastic and experimental actors.


I’d talk about the state of the world at large, but you probably already know and in any case, I’ve said what I’ve said and I stand by it. I am extremely disappointed that the media seems to be doing its best to elide ongoing protests, but what can one expect from corporations owned by one or two super-rich?


Anyway, there’s walkies to accomplish, a run to get in, and hopefully, if I am very disciplined today, the rest of the proof pages to knock off. Normally I do these on paper, because I don’t “see” the errors as well on a vertical screen. Fortunately I have a tablet and pencil, so I can pretend it’s paper while playing with something penlike. Which seems to be just enough to fool my brain into thinking I’m working in the accepted way, so it clicks over into “critical reading” mode. I don’t know how readers will like this book, but at least it’ll be the best I can make it before it toddles out into the world.

In between, when I’m taking breaks or before I really get going, I’ve been poking at Moon’s Knight. Of course I have other projects sitting and simmering, but that’s the one filling in the cracks while most of my bandwidth is taken up with Poison Prince. I’m deeply worried I won’t be able to pull off half of what I want to with Bloody Throne or Black God’s Heart, which is pretty usual at this stage of the game.

Part of the frustration is that I am not working at even close to my usual pace. Go figure, a worldwide pandemic, fascist coup, and massive protests seem to be giving everyone a smidge of trouble in the concentration department. I’m trying not to feel bad about it, but there’s that strange anxiety thing where the ability to cope with disaster is never good enough. At least I’m feeling more relaxed than I was–finally, finally nobody is telling me I’m “too sensitive” or “overreacting.”

Sooner or later I’ll be back to my usual speed. Or, you know, catastrophe will mean I’ve other problems. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, all I can do now is continue as I’ve been. I hope you find a little peace and self-care today, dear Reader.

We need all we can get.

Usual June

The coffee is particularly nice this morning. I got the perfect proportion of cream to bitter, and I am sipping it while not watching the world at large shred itself to pieces. Later today there will be gallons of tea while I mark up proof pages, always a fun time. The kids are looking forward to pizza if I spend all day doing that; finishing a zero, looking over CEs, or proof pages mean Mum might not have enough oomph by the end of the day to attempt anything like cooking.

We’re having usual June rains for once, which is grand because of drought. It also means I’m productive, though not in the way one would think–I spent most of yesterday on a trunk novel instead of on three paying projects and proofs. Sometimes one just has to give the Muse what she wants, and apparently she wanted a harpy attack on battlements.

Go figure.


It’s been two weeks, and the dictator is still in power after gassing and shooting peaceful protestors for a photo op. The military is still deciding which damn way to jump and the dictator’s cabal is still stuffing the federal judiciary. The media is deciding not to cover the huge ongoing protests, no doubt for a collage of reasons including the risk to reporters1 and the fact that a few in the ruling class now own most of our media outlets. The violent repression will probably go all but unremarked now, and come November voter suppression and other dirty tricks will put the seal on it.

And don’t even get me started on the pandemic. We’re seeing the result of Memorial Day’s “whining for a haircut” gatherings, and it’s just as anyone with any sense feared.

The body count is entirely to be expected with regressives and a criminal cabal made up of malignant narcissists and sociopaths in power. This is the system functioning as designed. It’s not a breakdown, it is the logical endpoint. In short, as many (including yours truly) broke our lungs and throats screaming in warning for decades, this was their game all along.


As usual, though, there’s the dogs to walk and a run to get in, laundry to fold, work to accomplish, voices to boost. The dogs were quite active early this morning, despite the fact that my alarm had not yet rung; maybe it was the rain overnight. Anyway, Boxnoggin was determined to crawl under my covers–probably because he thought the roof wouldn’t shield him from falling water–and Miss B, having decided she was up and wanted attention, was on my other side doing her level best to keep me from seeking solace in unconsciousness when she desired ear-skritches, dammit.

Boxnoggin will hate the morning’s walk, because his precious wee paws will get wet. You’d think he’d be more of a wash-and-wear bruiser, this dog, but instead he’s Nervous and Delicate. Miss B is the smarter and more dangerous of the two, but nobody seems to think so. They see the shape of Boxnoggin’s head and freak out, thinking “pit bull” instead of “oh hey, boxer-terrier mix, that’s no nanny dog.”2 I can’t count the number of people who have said “aren’t you scared?” while looking at him.

The dog can barely find his own paws; the only thing I’m concerned about is him tripping and hurting himself, frankly. But I just smile, because if they’re afraid of my big black doofus, it means I’m safer. Especially since most of the people who cast longing gazes upon him are the middle-aged white men who selfishly want me to stop going about my business to service their random emotional needs, and tend to get aggressive and violent if ignored. *eyeroll*

Meanwhile, I have to keep a sharp eye on Miss B if I’m accosted, because she is done with any bullshit at all and will lunge to nip if someone decides to intrude on my personal space. It’s the cranky old lady one has to watch out for, not the gangly youth in his black coat.

Much time has passed while typing this, mostly because Boxnoggin has been very insistent that he needs tummy rubs and needs them now, thank you, what on earth do you mean Mum might want to tie her shoes or finish a piece of writing first? Clearly my priorities must be readjusted. And of course I should probably take down the rest of this coffee if I expect to have anything resembling clarity of thought for the rest of the day.

Meh, maybe clarity’s overrated. I suppose I could just stagger along without it, the gods know seeing some things clearly has given me nothing but an incipient ulcer and trouble sleeping.

Happy Tuesday, dear Readers. I hope it’s less like Monday, although so far 2020 has seemed a year of bad Mondays.

Over and out.

Emotional Weather

I’m not allowed to look at Twitter until noon1–partly so I can get some damn work done, since the kids and I will starve if I don’t, and partly so the persistent pain in my stomach I thought was just stress anxiety doesn’t develop into a full-blown ulcer.

After all, I live in America, where healthcare is nonexistent.

The weekend was… rough. I kept refreshing various feeds–news, social media, et cetera–waiting for the other shoe to drop. Plenty of people are celebrating victories, which is great. (After all, someone has to.) But my gut–the same gut that’s aching with anxiety and tension–isn’t so sure it’s time for flying ticker tape just yet.

Growing up with periodically violent domestic abusers means I’m intimately aware of emotional weather patterns, and what are dictators, fascists, and the like but abusers writ somewhat larger? I can’t be the only one to have noticed they all play from the same thin handbook.

So I have a sinking feeling the current small gains in a few American cities are sops thrown by “authorities” attempting to defuse the protests and get everyone back under the boot, perhaps with the heel painted a different color but still crushing as usual. I fear what happens when an abuser of whatever stripe senses his victim slipping away–a honeymoon period, but if that doesn’t work, a massive escalation in violence to re-batter said victim into quiescence.

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the gains, but now isn’t the time to relax our demands. Of course, with a worldwide pandemic on and unemployment at a historic high, there’s little chance of relaxation in any direction.

There are people who have been working for abolition and reform for decades, and they know better than I do. If they’re hopeful, so am I. There are also people like Sarah Kendzior who predicted this whole goddamn thing (and nobody listened, of course) and people who study or have lived under authoritarian regimes who are still sounding the alarm.

This isn’t even close to finished. It’s not even close to a tie, let alone a win. The wannabe dictator who attempted to declare martial law on June 1 is still in power, as are his criminal cabal and loyal apparatchiks, and the military is still weighing its options.

No wonder so many of us are sick with anxiety. I won’t even ask “what else can happen” because I’m sure the gods will show us.


I did finish Orlando Figes’s The Crimean War this weekend; Figes is problematic at best (due to his habit of giving gushing and pseudonymous reviews of his own books and scabrous ones of fellow historians’ on Amazon) but it’s a good overview of the entire affair. I did appreciate the first few chapters carefully and patiently giving a grounding after essentially stating “You’re not going to understand this without some background, so we’re starting a few decades before the damn war.” My understanding of the Crimean War was spotty at best, mostly gleaned from British literature, so it was good to see behind the curtain. I mean, it’s still spotty, but less than it was.

Next up is Lawrence James’s history of the British Raj and Ibram Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, both for obvious reasons. Since I can’t sleep worth a damn, I might as well amp up my reading time.

As for this morning, there is coffee to be finished, there’s dogs to be walked, and the day’s work to plan. Since I’m now juggling three paying projects at once, the morning planning and boiling inside my head has to be carefully structured so when my fingers meet the keyboard I know what I’m doing–at least, as much as I ever do. We’re coming up on the last half of the third and final season of HOOD, where everything I laid out in the first season comes full circle and little things I seeded throughout every previous season now show their effects. Also, the proof pages for The Poison Prince landed, and I have to address those while also catching up with The Bloody Throne–another third book, where things I’ve been foreshadowing and seeding since Book One finally show their flowers. There are also huge set-piece battles to write, which is going to be a certain variety of fun.

And I’m excited about The Black God’s Heart. Now that a few business things have been taken care of I can work on it in good conscience, which means the characters who have been champing at the bit can finally be allowed to canter. We’re not going to gallop just yet.

A surfeit of work is better than a paucity. It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t thing, though–I feel guilty for having work, guilty for not being able to work because of current world events, guilty for not doing more, guilty for not doing better self-care, on and on. There’s no winning in this hurricane, so I’m just doing what I always have, putting my head down and doing the best I can with the stories crowding around me to be told.

It’s all I can do, I suppose.

I wish you a pleasant, peaceful Monday, my friends, despite the fact that it will likely be anything but. I keep saying it, but I hope to be wrong about what I see coming down the pike. I long to be wrong the way I’ve longed for little else in my life.

Over and out.

Celebrate, Stepping Stone

The weekend was an endurance contest, and I think I won. Barely, but any victory is worth celebrating, no matter how small.

Now it’s a cloudy morning, and I have the Gipsy Kings strumming in my head. Usually that means I’ll be dancing all day, but serious movement will have to wait until I’ve absorbed some caffeine and walked the dogs.

They’re saying we’ll get up to 80F later this week. Summertime, and the living is sweaty. I like winter better; you can always put another layer on or burrow under covers, but taking off your own skin once the prickles of heat rash starts is an entirely different prospect. It reminds me of the Shel Silverstein poem where the kid even takes his muscles off, sitting there as a skeleton, and is still hot.

Today is the very last Haggard Feathers post. I’m really upset at having to let that experiment go. I feel like I’ve let readers down by not being completely bulletproof and able to swallow gallons of the current agony without choking, but maybe at some point I’ll be able to go back to it.

Just… not for a long while.

On the bright side, I go back to work today. There are line edits (thankfully light) on Finder’s Watcher, which will probably be published as Finder. Of course you guys will be the first to know; I’m looking forward to the cover reveal, not to mention preorder information. And there’s a particularly knotty scene in The Bloody Throne I’ve been thinking of for three days, as well as a scene in HOOD‘s Season Three–Yung Gamweil and Vili Rouje in a cave, talking about whatever crosses their minds–that needs finishing.

I’m not working as quickly as I used to before the pandemic hit, but maybe scoping in a bit and cutting off some experiments (though it pains me to do so) will give me enough energy to get back onto the track for other things.

It’s worth a shot, at least.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. I know I say that a lot, but it bears repeating. The world attempts to flog us enough, we don’t have to cooperate or add to it. I’m terrible at taking my own advice, too. So telling you helps remind me.

And with that, I’m off and flying low. Every victory celebrated, but also a stepping stone.

Over and out.