Procrastinatin’ With the Ol’ JRRT

I slid into a deep hole of procrastination last night, ending up livetweeting bits of The Silmarillion. Well, more like shitposting, because oh dear gods there is some funny shit in there. Plus, I have the three-volume box set History of Middle-Earth because why the hell not, and there was even a Saruman-Sons of Feanor-Galadriel-Prince song joke included!1 Not to mention Gandalf and Galadriel’s Discord chat logs (“Saruman’s still talking” “Well wtf do you expect he’s SARUMAN”), Idril Celebrindal’s dick jokes (nothing the Eldar love more than a good dick joke, and in Gondolin they had to make do), Elrond’s constipation (did he have to poop one last time before deciding to join the Eldar, or did it just… fossilize in there?), Feanor’s sons pirating a T-shirt design… look, what I’m saying is there was a lot.

The Reply Guys and Mansplainers found the threads last night, which I knew would happen eventually. What’s even funnier is some of the ManFans have found them, and consequently when I checked my email this morn–lying in bed, for great is my power, I have an iPad–some of the ManFans had, with a great deal of effort and labor, taken themselves to my website, to the very contact form itself, and proceeded to correct some typos and also inform me I have, in my monstrous might, ruined Tolkien forever.

I think they mean I got my ovaries too near the material. How dare a girl make Tolkien dick jokes?

You know who would have loved a good dick joke? Strider. Also, Turgon, and I’ll bet Feanor had a filthy mouth. Glorfindel and Ecthelion both slew Balrogs with the power of trash-talking2, and even Finrod Felagund dropped bars on Sauron and you can’t tell me some of it wasn’t volleys of diss.

But among the Eldar, the greatest teller of dick jokes was Galadriel, who could crack Luthien up across a crowded elven hall just by looking at her and thinking them.

…you get the idea.

You can’t hear it, but you can imagine me laughing in bed, both dogs cuddled up close and blinking, as I scan the missives of furious men who don’t want girl cooties on their Tolkien. Sucks to be you, boys–ol’ JRRT, even though he was a massive misogynist who betrayed every female character he ever set his pen to, was very explicit in his letters that he wanted other people to play in his legendarium. It was what the whole effort was for–I mean, primarily there was his joy in making the thing, but he also wanted others to play in the sandbox. Like Morgoth’s rage-boner for Luthien, it’s canon, baby.3

The thing with opening your sandbox is sometimes the cats visit it.4

Anyway, I am drunk with power this morning, having apparently achieved with little effort and a great deal of mirth the total destruction of a whole and veritable fantasy literature cottage industry. Clearly I do not know my own strength, nor the power of my laughter. Lo, I am a veritable Tulkas, motherfuckers.5

It’s all very well but I have space opera to write, and the John Wick meets American Gods book. Then maybe I can turn my attention to Team MonsterFucker Goes to Gondolin, full of highfalutin’ deeds and dick jokes so subtle they are like elfsheen upon the hair of Morwen of the house of Beor.

My coffee has cooled and the dogs are very sure my laughter means we’re about to go rambling, so I’d best not disappoint them. It’s good to laugh again, since the slow-motion disaster of pandemic and coup is giving a little breathing space. Maybe that’s why I’m rereading Tolkien, hoping that some good comes out of this despair.

And maybe I just think dick jokes are hilarious, and like Galadriel says, “you gotta take your humor where you find it because who knows when a Balrog will come along, RIGHT GLORFINDEL?”6

*fades into distance, laughing*

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.

A Prince’s Crumb


The Little Prince (I should just call him “The Prince” now, he’s taller than me, though not even close to my Machiavellian status, ha ha) is barreling ahead in his Baking & Desserts class. Each week he has a choice of three recipes, and this past week he chose… bread.

“But, Mom,” he said, leaning in my office door, “I want it to be like yours. Will you help me?”

There were no fluttering eyelashes, but I felt the need to clutch at my heart just the same.

So now he knows about autolyse and has kneaded a giant hunk of dough; he’s heated the oven just right for proofing and used a bench scraper, how to rescue a dough too wet or too dry, and he baked a lovely, lovely loaf we had with dinner and then for breakfast the next day.

He’s very proud of himself, and my poor heart is so full it aches. I mean, just look at that lovely crumb! The well-shaped loaf! The beautiful crack in the top crust! The irregular holes!1

It tasted pretty spiffy, too.

I hope you had a similar victory this past week, dearly beloveds; I hope someone let you know just how important you are and how much they treasure something you do–something you might not think much of, but they think is just the bee’s knees and the cat’s pyjamas.

I am swinging between hope and despair, as I have been all year. But it’s nice to take a breath, and a bite of something with love baked into its very molecules.

I wish you a peaceful weekend, dear ones.

Some Victories, Not All

The dogs are quite upset that I won’t go anywhere without finishing my coffee. I try to tell them it’s for the best, that dragging me anywhere uncaffeinated is a Very Bad Idea, but since they’ve never known1 the glory of tea or a latte they are unwilling to be convinced.

Yesterday was… not very productive. I should have known that two days of normal work would require a day of threadbare wandering the house, muttering to myself and being utterly unable to settle or produce anything like real text. I did roll around in a couple trunk novels and change a hair color in the portal fantasy–what on earth did we ever do without Ctrl-F, I ask you–and savaged myself internally for being so apparently lazy I can’t produce at my usual rate during a pandemic and attempted fascist coup.

I’ll take “Things you say to yourself that you would never dream of saying to a friend” for $400, Alex.2

I do know what we did without Ctrl-F; I wrote two novellas on a manual typewriter when I was a very young sprout. Both are resting safely in a landfill somewhere; I couldn’t go back to retrieve them like a gecko running back to eat a tail they left in a predator’s claws, even if I wanted to. Still, both burn in me, and sometimes I think of them and my old diaries, safe amid tons of rubbish.

When you have to throw away things that matter to you to survive, their ghosts can still comfort you. The important thing was that my adult caregivers–I don’t really want to call them parents–couldn’t grab and befoul them. Some victories, even though Pyrrhic, are still worth celebrating.

Not all. Just some.

Anyway, I’m vertical, if not technically awake, and sucking on some lovely espresso-ground caffeine sent by a dear friend. The dogs are patrolling up and down the hall, ready to nudge me for where the leashes hang near the sliding glass door to the deck upon the very instant I seem ready to take them for walkies. Yesterday held no thunderstorms–for which said dogs are grateful, even if I am slightly disappointed–despite the unsettled rain-sun-rain bands moving through. That’s probably the cause of the throbbing headache I barely even noticed all day, being occupied with kicking myself for being unable to work.

I even went so far as to think “it’s raining, I don’t deserve to be in this house because I’m not working, I should go out and stand in the rain and be miserable.” I know it doesn’t make sense, but apparently control over making myself feel bad is the only control I feel like I have left with the world spinning so violently.

Fortunately I did not go stand in the rain. For one thing, the dogs would insist on accompanying me, and I didn’t want them cold or wet. For another, I realized it was a ridiculous thought, though it recurred at jet-takeoff volume inside my head all throughout the day. Instead, I made myself hot chocolate, texted friends, snuggled the dogs, attempted to read, touched shelves of books, and tried to watch Richard Armitage smoldering in a cravat.

Finally, I settled in bed last night with old war documentaries. I don’t know why they’re so soothing–probably the fact that the situations in them are long done with, nothing I can affect either way, and the narrator’s voice stays at a steady droning pitch throughout, maybe. It does mean my dreams are mostly in sepia with weird flashes of hypersaturated color instead of all-color, which gave me a bit of startlement when I surfaced this morning. I thought holy shit, have I lost dreaming in color too?

I have absorbed a bare minimum of caffeine now, so am probably safe to leave the house for dog-walking and the running of the Boxnoggin. Said Boxnoggin is prancing up and down the hall, attempting to drag me forth by sheer force of will; Miss B has settled on my feet as I type, on the principle that the instant I move she will be alerted and ready to supervise and heeeeerd me.

Suppose I’d best get going, then. This is the downside of priding oneself on sheer endurance; one can’t even mope in the rain like a silly romantic poet.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. I know it’s rough, but it’s survival, and that is a victory. A non-Pyrrhic one, even.

Over and out.

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.