Peace, Process

Maybe I’ve recovered from the zero draft of Maiden’s Blade, because I’m looking at the sheer amount of revision that book will need and feeling the need to wail and gnash my teeth. It won’t help, and a lot of the work is supplementary materials–character sheets, footnotes, etc.–because if I’m going to do a doorstop epic fantasy trilogy, I need to keep names and character arcs somewhere other than my aching skull. It used to be I’d simply stuff it in my cranial corners, but with going back to piano and all I need all the extra bandwidth I can get.

I also have a book on “the poetics of The Tale of Genji” that I want to dive into, dammit, and I can’t until I bloody well get the zero draft in at least reasonable first-draft shape and sent off to yon patient editor. I’m dangling litcrit in front of my face like a carrot before a donkey, which means I’m much more tired than I thought.

I’ve had a few moments lately where I simply stop and look at things in my house. When I catch myself thinking about old hurts, often my eye will light upon a framed print, a plant, a tchotchke I remember placing with care. The idea that I’m forty-two this year, I’d a dul-gurned adult, and that I have arranged my life mostly to suit myself is still shatteringly exotic. I am hideously, unabashedly lucky. From the Nighthawks over the piano to Rembrandt’s Athena in my office, from the glass apples to the half-burned candles on the mantel, from the glass fishing floats to the statues of goddesses watching over the domicile, from the bookshelves arranged exactly as I prefer them to the books gathered wherever I happened to be reading them, from the knitting on my desk to the Princess’s knitting on the coffee table, from the Little Prince’s playing cards (he practices throwing them, I don’t know) in random places to the rehabilitated plants everywhere there’s enough sunlight to fuel them, my refuge is beautiful.

I suppose every May I think about the price of surviving and the measure of success. I worry that having a place to rest will dull my edge, which is just the hypervigilance talking. I’ve gone from considering just-plain-enduring a single day a success to having larger goals than sheer brute survival. Having those larger goals feels like asking for too much. Don’t push it, all this could vanish.

I wonder what I could want, if I’d been raised by better-adjusted people who actually wanted me. I wonder what I’d consider natural and reasonable to ask for. I wonder who I’d be without the scar tissue. I suppose every survivor does.

Right now I am trying to teach myself that I am allowed some peace, that it is a good thing to have, that my sense of peace is a process so if it breaks I can figure out how to fix it, and that lasagna is not necessarily a hideous miscarriage of perfectly good pasta. (That last one is more of a personal preference than a Grand Life Goal, but I might as well tack it on.)

And Athena, hanging in my office, is neither smiling nor frowning, simply gazing pointedly at my desk. That’s all very well, the Maiden says. But get back to work.

Aye-aye, Captain. Back to work it is.

Yes, Decompress

“It’s not even 1pm,” I said an hour ago, “and already I am Done With Monday.”

The Princess nodded sagely. “That’s why I’m making challah.”

Which isn’t a bad way to spend said Monday, so I suppose I should buck up and feel less meh. The only thing I’m doing today is the last revise on Jozzie & Sugar Belle, and laughing quietly every once in a while at something particularly amusing. Not sure if anyone else will see the funny side of a kangaroo shifter searching for his testes with the help of a stripper witch, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

I haven’t been allowed to touch anything that looks like work for the past two days, and am eager to get back to it even though the usual decompression from finishing a zero draft (I put the zero of The Maiden’s Blade to bed late Friday) has me in its teeth and is shaking hard. So yes, I can work today…but no, I can’t put in a full day, because my nerves need to regrow some insulation. I’ve given up trying to guess how long the decompression from any given piece will be. Some short stories have wiped me out for a weeks, whereas some novels need as little as three days to spring back from. There’s just no telling what muscles you’ve pulled until you reach the top of the damn hill and the Sisyphean rock finally rolls down the opposite side. You have to stand and stretch–and, let’s face it, listen to Hades grumbling about how you shouldn’t have been able to do that–and see what cramps up and makes your eyes water.

*sigh*

At least revision still counts as working. And now, having sat and stared into the distance between paragraphs, I should probably get back to it.

Trim and Holes

Flying hair
© Cherrymerry | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Got out the door for a run before the heat spiked. Apparently, after a few days of reasonable temperatures, we’re going to be roughly the surface of the sun for a while.

I hate hot weather. Snow, cold, rain I can handle, but I just…I hate sweating, unless I’m running or dancing. You can always put another layer on, but you can’t take off your skin and cool down that way.1 Not that I’d want to, with all the pet hair around. Having that stick to one’s raw muscles would be suboptimal.

Anyway, B and I got out for a run, and my knees didn’t hurt at the end, which is a sure sign that I needed new trainers. The new socks are pretty spiffy too; the old ones have so many holes they’re not much use against blistering anymore. Poor things, I tend to wear them until they’re more hole than sock. Considering a sock is just a hole you put your foot in, maybe they don’t mind.

Once home, I trimmed my hair so I don’t have to do it again for six months, and while wielding the shears, I suddenly knew how the last assassination attempt in The Maiden’s Blade happens. Or at least, most of it. After sweating over it all through my run and coming up blank, it was like a gift. Pikes are the traditional defense against horsemen, after all. Once I have that scene, it’s a straight shot to the end of the scaffolding, and then I’ll have a (very rough, full of holes) zero draft. I’d like more time to polish it into a reasonable first, but since the book I was supposed to write died on the vine, this one has moved into its space and created a time crunch.

At least the corpse will be whole once I get even a scaffold-zero down. It’s comforting; if I have little faith in my ability to finish at this point in every book, I know I have a great deal of ability when it comes to revision.

It’s just…that first step is a lulu.

Time to get the pikemen into position, and a main character messily murdered. I hope your Tuesday is as…uh, I was about to type “pleasant,” but that’s not the right word, is it? Nor is “eventful.”

I suppose I should simply stop while I’m ahead. Over and out.

Changing Paths

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Attempting new things, because the old way isn’t working. Sometimes old ways work for a while but peter out, or everything around the path changes and you have to change the path to suit.

So, the big change is moving my run to before morning blogging. Getting out the door is difficult even on good days. I mean, I roll out of bed and into my running clothes, but peeling myself out of the house is another animal altogether. Attacking the run while relatively fresh is a good idea, and now I can use blogging as a chance to prime the pump and get words flowing from my fingers.

The weekend was…nice. I got out of the house for a hot date with a girlfriend; we went to see Deadpool 2. Matinee tickets, so I would have left as soon as the fridging occurred, but I had to stay. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed Domino (wish the movie had been about her instead) and Cable (Josh Brolin is distressingly sexy, even after all these years1) and the Rob Liefeld jokes (dear God, and Shatterstar in the helicopter blades) were well worth the price of admission. Still…can we just not have fridging and manpain as narrative fuel in superhero movies? It’s old, it’s tired, I’m done with it.

I also braved the depths of a beauty store and emerged victorious, carrying a few shades of eyeliner that aren’t black2 and–are you ready? LIPSTICK. I know, I love Russian Red lipstick, but a dark purple-red actually suits me better. When I came home bearing my prizes (and several things for the children, since the beauty store is near an import shop full of neat things) I was told I looked like a pissed-off Wednesday Addams. An awesome compliment, to be sure, especially since Wednesday is merely unamused and rarely deigns to get actually angry.

The comparisons just write themselves.

Anyway, today I crowbar’d my way out of the house, finished my run, and rolled into jeans, a hoodie, lipstick, and my favorite Sarto heels. They’re not my Capezios; I can run and fight in the latter, but I’d have to kick the Sartos off to run. Which makes them suboptimal, but I’m not leaving the house and I think I can relax enough to wear non-running shoes in my office. And yes, those are my requirements for any piece of clothing. Can I run in it, and can I fight in it? All other considerations are secondary.

It feels good to be braced for the day like this. Next comes getting back into The Maiden’s Blade and putting more pieces together. I’ve decided to do dialogue-heavy scenes first, and layer in the color and scenery on the next pass. I was trying to do both at once and banging my head on the slooooooooowness. I need scaffolding before I can make the fabric of this book hang correctly. A certain king needs to give the go-ahead for his daughter to be assassinated and there’s a day at the races with two princes to write as well. If I can get both of those scaffolded, I’ll count today a win.

See you around the bend, darlings.

*throws kisses, vanishes in a puff of smoke*

Panic, But No Disco

The Bear and the Beehive
© cc0images | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Yesterday was cool, cloudy, and utterly exhausting. Not only is The Maiden’s Blade fighting me like a rabid weasel, but I’m also getting paralyzed by the fact that its deadline is approaching and I seriously doubt I’ll finish even a zero on time. It’s my own fault, since the previous book I was supposed to do for this publisher died on the vine and we had to shift to this one. So of course, when I said, “you can have ANY OF THESE OTHER BOOKS” they picked the longest, most complex one.

I don’t blame them, I kind of suspected it, and it’s nice to be working at full capacity again trying something new and even more complex than usual. But the scrabbling performance anxiety is unpleasant. A certain feature of deadlines is the almost-paralysis as one draws near, and I tend to push myself hard at the end of a zero draft anyway. It’s a double whammy.

Also, yesterday I went to a doctor’s appointment with a friend of mine. Being a calm, steadying patient advocate is something I’m apparently good at, and while I’m focusing on that I’m not thinking about other things. Unfortunately, the cumulative stress and worry smacked me with a panic attack once the appointment was over and I was heading for the grocer’s. I suppose I’ve been somewhat spoiled, since the meds brought me down from half a dozen-plus attacks daily to long stretches of weeks and months without. Apparently the habit of just focusing to get through them and not let anyone see vulnerability is still strong, since nobody even glanced twice at me all through the store. Finding out that I can still perform that feat isn’t comforting at all; I would gladly get rid of that talent born of practice if it meant I wouldn’t have panic attacks for the rest of my life.

Because they’re flat-out terrifying. Palms sweating, tunnel vision, rushing in the ears, heart pounding like a hummingbird’s wings about to explode, taste of copper, a tremor in the arms and legs one has to conceal so as not to appear weak or distracted, intensifying in random waves so one can’t brace for the next one…yeah.

Anyway, I got home without incident, the kids unloaded the groceries, and the Princess took over dinner. Just frozen pizzas, really, but it was one thing I didn’t have to do, so that was welcome. Dinner, a lot of deep breathing and some emergency meds later, I staggered to bed and collapsed.

At least the meds mean I can sleep, and not linger in a twitching twilight insomnia.

Today is for a run to work off whatever stress chemicals are still swilling around in my bloodstream, and some serious work on Maiden’s Blade. I can collapse the last two assassination attempts and torment the lady in waiting with a failure, and once I bring that arc to a close I can go back and see where the fabric of the book is hanging too slack or too taut and tweak the other arcs, adding some and reining in others, so it presents a unified fabric. Or at least, close to one, and the editor will be able to see flaws I can’t.

That’s the plan, at least. I should also leave the office window open, since Odd Trundles is upset that I won’t let him lick light sockets and has settled with his hindquarters pointed directly at me, and I know what that means. I don’t have a gas mask, so an open window it is. The poor fellow swallows so much air and it has to escape somehow, especially when he’s in a bad mood.

Hopefully your Thursday will be less…fragrant, my friends.

Over and out.

Insulation, Burning

I’d rather be writing Robin Hood in Space or the kind-of-angel romance, but instead, this epic fantasy won’t bloody end. I keep stabbing it and stabbing it, and it just won’t die. I know I’m on the downhill slope, I know it will be finished, I just…I’m tired. I’d rather be revising Jozzie & Sugar Belle, even, and I’m pretty sure that damn novella won’t get any sales traction, ever.

I know, I know. Here I am complaining about a book under contract, one with the perfect editor, one I’m so close to finishing. I can find anything to bitch about, really.

This morning is cloudy and cool; I want to get out and run before the layer of insulation burns off my nerves and the sky. First I’ll have to find some socks, and that seems a difficult if not insurmountable task at the moment. I keep hoping that when the espresso hits I’ll feel less like I’m using concrete blocks for feet.1

I know the exhaustion is normal at this point in the writing process. I know plenty of it is the fact that I wasn’t completely recovered from Afterwar; I wasn’t even close to recovered. I know it’s a grueling endurance race and the June 1 deadline can be moved a bit. I know, intellectually, that I’m not letting the editor down if I need more time, especially with a giant sprawling cast-of-thousands2 book.

I still feel that hitch of uncertainty in my chest whenever I glance at the calendar and notice just how close I am to the drop-dead date. And the fact that the editor’s going to see the zero instead of a draft I’ve had time to let marinate is anxiety-producing as well.

The only way out is through, as usual. I’ve upped my running mileage as much as I dare to try and work off some of the cortisol and assorted stress chemicals. Deep breathing is always acceptable, but curling up in the corners is only useful in short doses. Miss B is nosing at me, ready to get out the door and work even though the weather means fewer people out with their canine buddies.

Guess I should find some socks and get over myself. All I have to do is keep writing. Sooner or later this book will finish like all the rest.

Over and out.

Energy

Electricity, Light, Energy, Technology
© Publicdomainphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I was going to write about Afterwar today, but I took an internal vote on my energy level and decided I’m maybe not quite recovered enough from the process of getting the book through publication.

I wanted to talk about how pretty much everything the Firsters do in the book is based on historical precedent, and also say a word about the Great Burn, but…yeah. Energy level. I’ll feel better after a run, but it’s blogging first and running after for the foreseeable future. It’s cloudy today, with spatters of rain, which means Miss B and I might avoid People Who Let Their Dogs Roam Unleashed, always a joy. I don’t mind the dogs, who are just dying to make B’s acquaintance, but I do mind the goddamn owners who want to talk to me after interrupting a working session with me and my beloved running partner.

…I may also be a bit cranky today. The coffee is soaking in. It’s glorious to have coffee without nausea, so I should probably be in a better mood. I finally got the lady in waiting kidnapped, which means The Maiden’s Blade can move into its final third. The next scene is the princess worrying over her lady in waiting while attending a banquet, having to smile and act gracious while sick with stress and dreading the worst for her friend and companion; the one after that is the actual rescue, I think, which I am going to make bloody as fuck to drive home just how much the prince involved is Not A Good Guy Even Though He Does Good Things. Then it’s back to assassinations, imprisonment, a wife to murder and someone to frame for it.

I’m swamped. *cue Prince Humperdinck face*

I should mention that the light therapy seems to be working. A fifteen-minute shot of BRIGHT OMG EYES WATERING while I blog or take care of correspondence in the morning seems to ameliorate the 3pm doldrums. I might add another session near 3pm just to see if I can get an afternoon zing, but I’m afraid of it messing with my sleep patterns. I never, ever want to go back to perpetual insomnia. I don’t even want to get close to the edge of that particular abyss.

There’s some exciting stuff landing in my inbox, like cover mockups for the planned Roadtrip Z omnibus and kicking around ideas for Jozzie & Sugar Belle. I may just sell the latter through Gumroad as a curiosity, I don’t think many people will want to read the Nutless Kangaroo Shifter Teams Up With Stripper Witch zaniness. But it’s fun, and it’ll be out there for the people who are interested.

Time to get out into the grey rain and sweat a bit, even though all I want to do is write the banquet scene. It will be better for the planning I put in while my feet are pounding, and I’ll have more energy after running. Funny how that works.

Over and out.