Villains and Dream-Reading

I took almost the entire holiday weekend off (save some mischief-managing, of which not a word shall pass my lips until the entire affair is finished) and read a lot of Tolkien. Like, a lot–the Fall of Gondolin which his son put together, and the Silmarillion once more. I also splurged, since there was a release day, and more book Middle-Earth is coming to my house.

I don’t know why the Fall of Gondolin fascinates me so much. Probably it’s the tragedy, and the figure of Maeglin. The son of the Dark Elf had a hard go of it, and honestly without him there wouldn’t be much of a story. Like how without Morgoth everything would be hunky dory and we’d hang around singing to Iluvatar all ding-dang day, which might be nice, but… and without the Silmarils there wouldn’t be the entire Wars of Beleriand and all that jazz. The villain is a prime motivating force in many a story, and thankless work it is, too.

You remember those old Disney specials where the Magic Mirror would talk about how cool the villains were and how without them there’d be nothing? Or maybe it was only one special, but it occurred at different points on television and I was always fascinated.

I don’t necessarily want to write it from Maeglin’s point of view, much less Morgoth’s, though the idea that Eru was like, “I’ve got this plan,” and Morgoth was all, “It requires me to be a bastard, though, doesn’t it,” makes me want to laugh like the “get help” gag between Hemsworth’s Thor and Hiddleston’s Loki. It presupposes a plan and a just, if not a kind, universe; in that, Tolkien wrought more religion than he knew.

Of course there’s the whole psyche-violated-by-WWI thing, and the idea that Morgoth just didn’t want to go with the program and Eru was a jerk about it, or that Morgoth was the Arda equivalent of an authoritarian fuckwit, which yea even unto the gates of heaven shall be with us like the poor are said to be. Who knows?

Anyway, there’s the third season of HOOD to finish and The Black God’s Heart to make good wordcount o, because I wasn’t allowed to work for the past couple days, at risk of being tied up to a chair in the living room while the children glowered at me if I even attempted anything that looked like work. I gather I was getting a little too stare-eyed and intense, and they were a bit worried.

I do wonder, though–do you, dear Reader, read in your dreams? One of my friends sent this article recently, and I’ve been thinking about the books that have come from dream-images as well as the plot problems my subconscious has thrown into my sleeping hours in order to get resolved in interesting ways. I dream in hypersaturated color and have read more than a few books in dreams, though I can’t work a cell phone in them for the life of me. Not a few of my anxiety dreams have centered on trying to make a dream-phone behave, but the circuitry always seems wonky.

I think the last book I read in a dream was a version of Nancy Price’s Sleeping With the Enemy where the protagonist Sara drove race cars. I remember one passage that Price couldn’t possibly have written with two minor characters late in the book, and sometimes when rereading (it’s one of my go-to reads, revisited about yearly) I’m surprised to find it not in there, and I miss the descriptions of cars flying on the track with the wheel safe in a woman’s gloved hands that I read only once in said dream.

So, I’m curious. Do you read in your dreams? And now I’m off to finish my coffee and take the dogs for their ramble; Boxnoggin is eager to run since we took a few days off. He needs work, and so do I.

Back to it, then. Back into the fray, or into the dream. Not sure I can tell them apart at this particular moment, but that’s for the coffee soaking in to fix. All I have to do is let it work.

Over and out.

RELEASE DAY: The Poison Prince

I told you there was a release day coming up, didn’t I? I’ve been writing epic fantasy under the name S. C. Emmett for a while now.

I do not intend to stop.


The Poison Prince

The crown princess has been assassinated, reigniting tensions between her native Khir and the great Zhaon empire. Now her lady-in-waiting, Komor Yala, is alone in a foreign court, a pawn for imperial schemes. To survive and avenge her princess, Yala will have to rely on unlikely allies — the sly Third Prince Garan Takshin and the war-hardened general Zakkar Kai who sacked her homeland.

But as the Emperor lies upon his deathbed, the palace is more dangerous than ever before — for there are six princes… and only one throne.

And now, the killing begins…

Now available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and independent bookstores.


This is book 2 of a trilogy, dear Readers, and it’s a meaty one. Intrigue, court ceremony, assassination, armies, barbarians, tea, lovely dresses, more assassinations–it’s all here, and I’ve had a helluva time. Book 3 has been written and is resting with the editor now; believe me, finishing the third of a great sweeping epic in 2020 has been a task.

I wasn’t sure, even up to the finish line, that I’d make it.

Many of my books are love stories–for example, Cormorant Run was my love story to Soviet-era sci-fi, and the Romances of Arquitaine a love song to chivalric epics I swallowed whole as a teenager. Hostage to Empire (my own personal name for this series) is no different; I’ll let readers find out in their own way who I’m singing to, and why. It’s been a very long bumpy ride, but I don’t think I’ve done too badly.

Of course, the editor will tell me, probably after the holidays, if I have or not.

In the meantime, here’s Book 2, and I hope you like it. It holds several scenes I’ve been just dying to share–mostly Yala’s Ride, but also a few others. My heart was in my throat and my entire body tingling while I wrote most of it, and I can only hope some of that excitement comes through.

What a sorcery it is, little ink-marks on a page (hopefully) transmitting my joy and enthusiasm to you. I’m very grateful to have this job, my beloveds; you can’t know how grateful.

I hope you like what I’ve done with it. And now, as is usual on a release day, I’m going to go stick my head in a bucket and have some nerves. You’d think I’d be used to releasing books by now, but each time, I am a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs, as my grandfather used to say.

Off I go.

Visual Rest

Over the weekend I (finally) read How to Win Friends and Influence People–it had been referred to thrice by three separate people within a week, which is usually a sign I should at least glance at something. I was somewhat pleased to find out most of it’s stuff I already do as a matter of course.

I was forcibly struck, however, by how much of the book presumes a parity of privilege between the two involved in friendly communication. Some of the principles can be altered slightly for dealing with people possessing far more privilege than oneself, it’s true. But the book, when taken as a sole guide to human interaction, woefully underprepares one for dealing with malignant narcissists and rampant, toxic bigots.

Of course one should never take any one book as one’s sole guide to human interaction; humans are impossibly complex. But if one’s going to read Carnegie’s opus I think it should be paired with Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear and a great deal of Captain Awkward. Not quite like pairing wine and cheese, more like pairing calcium with vitamin D.

It’s a lovely grey morning full of rain. The flames of deciduous trees shedding their summer robes are dying down; we’re entering the time of monochrome. Or at least, as close to monochrome as firs and pines through a screen of mist can be. I know I’ll be ready for some splashes of color by the time the plum blossoms are ready to emerge, but for right now I could use some visual rest.

I have been rather sharp with people lately, though. Carnegie’s book is a nice reminder to be kind, when I am certain my interlocutor is not toxic. Toxic requires different strategies.

Yesterday evening neither dog would rest until both of them were crammed into the single chair I had settled in. Of course they couldn’t take the loveseat where the Princess was knitting or the couch where the Prince was frowning at his phone, occasionally muttering when a particular boss in a phone game did something rude. Of course not; the dogs simply had to stuff themselves into the smallest occupied space in a pile. The Princess caught a picture, and my expression is a variety of rueful amusement I probably haven’t worn since she and the Prince were toddlers. Then I went to bed, and of course both dogs had to pile atop me there, too.

It was nice and warm, but dreadfully difficult to breathe.

In any case, there’s walkies and a run to accomplish today, both in the rain. Which Boxnoggin will not like, but this is where we live, so deal with it we must. Fortunately his harness is a jacket and keeps the worst of the wet off; he will still high-step and shake his dainty paws every once in a while. He is a very catlike dog.

Tomorrow is a release day; I am already feeling the nerves. So I’m going to go and get what work I can done before I am too beside myself to even attempt to string sentences together, with as much tea as I can brew.

Burning world or not, tea must be made and the words, like spice, must flow.

Week of Small Mercies

The Princess works at a grocer’s; the store requires all customers and staff to mask up or I would be asking her to quit. There’s no denying her paycheck contributes mightily to the household; she pushed very hard to take over a couple monthly bills–it makes her feel Grown Up, which she is; is also is much cheaper than having her own place by an order of magnitude. Like, ridiculously cheaper.

Those considerations are weighty, true. But when I swung by to pick her up from work yesterday, the place was jammed. Looming lockdown has everyone scrambling, and I have been tentatively broaching, “You know, we can cut some financial corners and make it okay if you quit and stay home.”

She’s having none of it yet; I can’t force her. But dear gods, how I worry.

Masks, temperature checks, and attempts to keep distancing are all de rigueur at the store for employees; there were one or two customers who grumbled about masking but swift action from a couple managers put paid to that. So far we’ve been lucky and I’m not sure if the bug we had months ago was actually the plague, or if my recent illness was a recurrence instead of me just working myself into the ground because stress. It would be nice to have testing capability or a federal government run by actual noncriminal adults, but we make do with a governor (who just won re-election, thank goodness) who is following the science and staying the course in the face of resistance from jackass racist death-worshippers.

Small mercies.

I can’t imagine how parents with toddlers, or with school-age kids too young to be left at home while they’re forced to work, are handling this. I can’t imagine how healthcare workers are coping. The guilt of survival, of having it easier, is immense.

Last weekend I felt some hope. This week seems determined to crush it out of me; I’m checking Is This A Coup? almost daily. I can’t tell if the weight in my lungs is leftover from illness or just plain stress.

At least I’m able to work at about half productivity, which means two projects at once instead of four. So we won’t starve just yet, and we’re extraordinarily lucky that my work is home-based.

Even smaller mercies, I suppose.

Also, since a few of you have asked: No, I am no longer on Instagram. I was going through the settings and found out the platform had been “liking” posts for me.

I never “like” or “heart” or whatever posts on any social media; it’s an anxiety thing. If I like or heart or star or whatever one thing, I start spiraling down a hole worrying that someone else will see it and be hurt because I didn’t see or like their thing, and my feeds move so quickly it’s just an invitation to despair. So I know damn well I didn’t do it, and that only leaves chicanery on Instagram’s part. This chicanery probably cost someone ad money, and I will not be party to this bullshit. So, no Insta for me, though I am still kind of squatting on my name there so no impersonators (long story, I would have thought the world was fed up with merely one of me) can do their bullshit. It’s sad, because I enjoyed doing picture posts, but the Friday photos here will have to suffice; I’m looking into Pixelfed as an alternative.

No mercy in that, small or otherwise. I’m just noting so you guys know what’s going on.

And now, having nattered on and on about nothing very interesting in particular, I shall finish the coffee I almost splattered down the hall on my way to the office this morning and prepare to take the dogs on their daily rambles. Boxnoggin is particularly interested in the prospect of another run today; I think he’s beginning to crave them. Necessary evils can be fun sometimes, I’m sure.

It’s only Tuesday. Time has become as elastic as it was during my sleep-deprived phase of new motherhood, though I haven’t mistaken diaper rash cream for toothpaste yet.

Tiny mercies, indeed.

Nadir, Recovery

Yesterday was the nadir as far as physical recovery; I spent most of it in bed. The release of tension, knowing that I don’t have to walk into the sea just yet, is almost as painful as illness itself. I’m still shaky and raspy, still coughing every once in a while, and there’s still so much work to be done.

At least now I can work without obsessively refreshing the election websites, staring through a screen of fever and physical misery, expecting the worst. I know this is the most dangerous time, that the malignant narcissist and criminal cabal squatting in the halls of power are well into the discard phase1, I know that they’re going to break everything and smear ordure everywhere, I know that even in the best case scenario this gives us a mere four years of breathing room I should use for emigration.

For the moment, though, I’m crying with relief at some moments, laughing with mad relieved glee at others, and generally feeling as one might when one is let out of unjust incarceration or realizes, for the first time, that an abusive “family” member isn’t coming back and one is free. The only thing I can compare it to is when the realization I never had to go back to my childhood home, not ever again, truly sank in on more than an intellectual level.

So. I have coffee. The dogs need walking, and since I have to ease back into running (just when I got my mileage back up to a respectable place, dammit) it’s time for Boxnoggin to learn how to keep in his ‘sector’ while jogging with Mum. It shouldn’t take too long, because it uses the same instincts pack hunting does, but I’m so used to running with Miss B instead we’ll have to go very slowly. It wouldn’t be fair to be frustrated with poor young untrained Boxnoggin because he doesn’t have the years of trust and work B and I developed on near-daily runs.

So today will be a good day for me to deliberately be gentle with myself, and with others as far as I can. The adrenaline crash from the last five-six years of constant retraumatization is not done yet. I have some work on HOOD planned today, a little revision on Moon’s Knight, and scheduling/looking at revised wordcount goals for The Black God’s Heart.

Before the election: Chop words, carry words. After the election: Chop words, carry words. But maybe at a slightly reduced pace for a short while. Everything inside me feels breakable, slightly too-stretched, frangible, friable.

Don’t think it’s over, because it’s not. Don’t think everything is fixed, because it isn’t. Don’t think it’s hopeless either, because even with massive voter suppression and the attempt to sabotage the Census, the USPS, and literally everything else, we still sent a ringing defeat to Papaya Pol Pot. We’re all tired, goodness knows.

So take a deep breath, dearies. Get those shoulders down. Hydrate, get a snack if you haven’t in the last few hours, and remember that while it’s not over, we did something great and should celebrate it. We’re not going to erase four years of fascism overnight. We won’t erase it with four years of a “centrist” caving in to regressives’ violent demands, either, but at least said “centrist” has a sense of shame and can be pressured by public outcry.

The big thing is that we’ve all been traumatized, violently, over and over again for multiple years. The release of tension isn’t going to start with relief, it’ll start with the feelings we were too deeply in survival mode to acknowledge, swamping us wholesale. Just… be ready for that, okay? You’re not crazy, you’re Feeling A Lot that you weren’t safe enough and didn’t have energy to feel before. Extend to yourself the same grace you would to a beloved friend–after all, who else do you spend 24/7 with? That’s right–your own damn self, and your own body. Be kind to both of them, beloveds.

And with that, I’m going to go see if I can’t follow some of my own advice (for once). I’m braced for the next disaster, of course, but I’m also going to use this peace to the fullest.

Boxnoggin’s nose it at my knee, and his big soulful brown eyes are weapons of mass cuteness. Time to walk, and then haul us both through a short, easy learning experience of a run.

See you in a bit.

Not the Plague

Five days or so of intermittent fever (my body likes to cook itself at the slightest provocation), coughing (fortunately that’s going down now), body aches (somewhat of a misnomer, I feel I’ve been beaten with a truncheon), postnasal drip (though fortunately I can still smell when the decongestants work).

Pretty sure it’s not the plague, as my digestion (for what little I feel like eating) is ticking right along and like I said, I can still smell. But still, it’s unpleasant. I think my body is in revolt against the bullshit it’s been asked to endure the last four years, let alone the last few months.

I’ve spent a lot of time sleeping since I fell ill. Normally I absolutely cannot sleep during my “daytime”, even if it’s in the middle of the night. (Long story.) It’s hard to let down my guard enough to nap, sleeping requires barring the door and starting a long slide of preparatory maneuvers impelled by habit.

It’s not that I can’t relax. It’s that I need to feel safe to sleep, or simply be so exhausted I don’t care. I haven’t felt safe since waking up in 2016 and realizing what I’d written had come to lurching, terrifying life.

Anyway I have all the subscription stuff prepped for this week. I had about two usable hours of energy yesterday, so I spent it getting that all done up. HOOD needs the end of its third season finished in zero form, Moon’s Knight needs a polish, and The Black God’s Heart is my NaNo novel.

I should set that last up.

I just wish I knew whether there was a chance at us saving ourselves despite gerrymandering and voter suppression (there are no “red states”, just voter suppression states) or if I should walk into the sea now.

I have coffee that I can taste in bursts, though. The dogs are both eager for a walk, though it will be in the rain. Jacqueline du PrĂ©’s cello is coming softly through speakers; the hardest thing will probably be tying my shoes with Boxnoggin’s “help.” He longs to be useful, and doubly longs to be under a dextrous, gentle pair of human hands. It’s his favorite location, even better if he can chew on something.

So I wait to see if the sea gets me. My nerves are shot and my body’s breaking down under the strain. But at least I’m largely sure it’s not the plague.

Yet.

With that silver lining, my friends, I shall leave you. It’s time for a round of decongestants and the aforementioned shoe-tying. Stay strong, drink water, don’t be racist or fascist.

It’s amazing how many people can’t manage the last two, even with all their simplicity. If I was ever optimistic about humanity, rest assured I labor under no such misconception anymore.

That hurts more than the rest of it, but I’m too tired–and ill–to care.

Out of Season

Sunday chores mean my desk is somewhat better organized–not too organized, since a little bit of mess allows room for creativity to sneak in. Or maybe too-neat just stresses me out of any kind of proper work mindframe. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

The weather is turning, so there’s some sniffles and sneezes in the house. Every time one of us reaches for the tissues I tense up, wondering if it’s the plague, if it’s the moment I have to start making awful decisions.

Fortunately, it seems to be nothing more than the usual postnasal drip that happens along every time our damp autumn wanders in and settles down to. But still, my nerves twitch all sideways when I hear a sneeze. We’re still enduring lockdown and masking up whenever forced to leave the house, except for during outside exercise. When the rains start there will be nobody on the sidewalk to infect, either; I won’t have to hop out into the road when a middle-aged white man decides he’s going to take up the entire bloody walk with his waddling self.

The zero draft of The Bloody Throne, full of holes and bracket notes, is set aside to marinate–generally one of the hardest times to endure during project, since it’s still smarting and itching like a fresh scab. I have revisions on Damage and Moon’s Knight to distract myself with and get out the door, as well as continuing work on HOOD‘s Season Three and The Black God’s Heart. I forced myself to only write on things that do not resemble work over the weekend, which means there’s 8k of text I’ll probably never use–a mismatched pair of occult detectives who talk like an old BBC serial is great fun, but I don’t think it’s publishable, you know? Still, it was therapeutic, and bits of it might be used elsewhere, who knows?

The coffee tastes particularly fine this morning. I long for caffeine to soak in and finally give me a spark or two. Taking three days off should be enough to recover from an epic fantasy, right? I should be right as rain now.

Except I have the sneaking suspicion I’m not, and it’ll hit me in the middle of revisions. Normally it takes three times as long as one thinks to truly recover form the end of a project; unfortunately, nothing about the time is normal. It’s all out of whack, if not completely out of joint.

At least there’s no time to be lonely when I can sink into characters. Not that I ever feel lonely anyway; there’s generally so much to do and see and think about. I did have Midsommar flower-crown dreams, so maybe it’s time for me to poke at that one story with the wolves, the snow, and the flowers out of season. That sounds a lovely way to procrastinate, doesn’t it?

But no, the bloody revisions need attention. Whatever I’m going to procrastinate with will have to creep around the edges, stealing precious bits of sweet forbidden time.

Maybe another book will hash my wrists on its way out of my head. In any case, sunrise has strengthened behind the cedars, and the dogs are longing for me to finish my damn coffee and get to the real work, which is taking their fuzzy asses on a ramble. My human concerns are all very well, but they have actual business to conduct, or so they keep reminding me.

I’d best be off, then. We survived another weekend; I want to hide in my closet until after the election but I have to work. And my ballot needs to be dropped in a box instead of mailed; I’m taking no chances this year. So that will mean a short drive this morning too.

May we vanquish our Monday, dearly beloveds. I’m not anywhere near ready, but that’s why we have coffee, isn’t it.

Over and out.