Frau L came down with a bit of a travel cold, and the Princess had a resurgence of her almost-flu. For the last few days it’s been kind of sickbed central around here, and I’m feeling none too perky myself today. Trying to slow down and take a day off is almost as stressful as gathering all my resources and bringing t hem to bear on a copyedit in order to turn it around in the tiny timeframe allotted by the production department. Look, I love every single Production Department that’s ever handled my books, they just have some really small windows and I am no longer as spry as I used to be, sliding through them.
I’ve glanced over the manuscript in order to prep the revision engines inside my skull. I’d forgotten what it was like to slip inside that nameless narrator’s head. She’s very crisp and very efficient, and I find myself thinking in more clipped terms, moving with a different precision around the house. No, my characters aren’t me, but sometimes wearing their skin bleeds over into my life. It’s a funny job, this balancing between the outer world, the inner world, and the worlds one creates.
And that is my deep thought for the day, because I really need to get to work now. There’s some sunshine, so maybe I’ll even get a bit of spring weeding done if I can get enough inside work out of the way.
This last weekend, in addition to descending upon a list of housecleaning chores with the furor of a thousand winged monkeys, we picked up a German exchange student at the airport.
Frau L is staying for almost a month and attending school with the Princess. She’s extremely sweet, extremely smart, and thrilled to be in America–though she is puzzled about a certain orange-haired demagogue, and we had a long chat about the vagaries of the American political system and our countries’ different (but the same!) xenophobia. Bonus: Frau L plays the cello, so I am selfishly glad I get to hear the mellow tones of my favorite instrument throughout the house. (I do love the piano, but a cello is just so…sonorous.)
The next few weeks are chock-full of activities and introductions to American culture–plus copyedits, always a good time. There’s all sorts of cooking to do–there is a dish with cabbage, bacon, and a special kind of dumpling-noodle I am eager to learn, for example. I am wondering what Frau L will think of the chaos of our high school’s halls during passing time.
Odd Trundles is beside himself with glee–someone new! to schnorgle! to love! to possibly get food from! Miss B, while slightly more dignified, is also extremely pleased at the advent of someone else to heeeerd. The cats, of course, are always glad of another pair of monkey-paws to pet them and open the kibble jar. Frau L has good-naturedly made friends with the nonhuman part of the Chez conglomerate. (Thank heavens she’s not allergic. That would be dreadful.)
Now it’s time for me to get as many pages of copyedits done as possible before everyone gets home from school. (Nos morituri, and all that.) Blogging may be a bit spotty over the next few weeks, as our schedules are packed.
*Exeunt to begin copyedits, carrying machete*
I am sure someone will condescendingly say “Shouldn’t it be Fraulein L?” I am told that, no, the use of Fraulein is somewhat frowned upon these days, and just as many American women prefer Ms to Miss or Mrs, Frau is more preferable to many German ladies.
I get mail. Recently it was a scolding message sent to me through Patreon. This particular patron was only interested in Steelflower 2, and since that book is dead on the vine they wanted to cancel their pledge. Fair enough, except I can’t alter a patron’s pledges. That’s kind of the whole point of Patreon, but a second and a half spent with Google turned up some helpful information. (WHO KNEW?)
ANYWAY, the “scolding” bit was that I was “punishing” my readers for the “actions of one asshole.” I think I should post my entire reply here.
I received your message and wrote you one in return yesterday. Since it seems that didn’t go through, let’s try again!
I do not have the ability to alter my patrons’ pledges in any way, shape, or form. A quick Google, however, found this:
One of the things I remember from your message yesterday was that you felt I was “punishing” readers for the actions of one person. I do not see it quite that way. In face, I would contend that, having suffered the loss of a significant amount of paid working time to write the 70K words I did get done on the sequel, and then feeling utterly violated when that one person (yes, I know who it was) uploaded Patreon bits to a torrent site, is a punishment far greater than any my readers may suffer. The subsequent financial “hit” and the fact that I cannot even open up the Steelflower 2 file on my word processor without feeling violently ill definitely qualify as punishments. It seems to me that however much readers may miss the exploits of Kaia and her crew, I miss them more. They are parts of me that have been completely, well, violated. I keep using that word because it is the one that applies.
Fortunately, readers who pledged through Patreon saw considerable chunks of that book, and they were the only people in the world (other than the e-pirates) who saw them. Even my agent didn’t get to read those.
Thank you very much for your communication. I hope this clarifies my stance on the entire sad matter.
There is yet another twist to the Steelflower story–Samhain Publishing, the press that was kind enough to take a chance on the first book, had contracted for the second. Unfortunately, they are in they process of shutting their doors and have released me from the Steelflower 2 contract. So I am back where I was before I thought I could write the last two books of Kaia’s series–no publisher, and people taking time out of their busy lives to yell at me over things I have no control over. Only this time, there’s a significant financial hit from the loss of paid working time and BONUS e-piracy!
In short, I am right about here:
It will take a while for the rights to the first Kaia book to revert to me. When they do, I am having longing thoughts of just letting the book go quietly out of print. At least then, when people yell at me over the whole thing, I can just tip the e-mails into the “Entitled Prats” bin in my inbox and let them vanish forever into the screaming electronic wastes.
Yesterday was…not optimal. One furious vexation followed another, and by the end of the day I was just about ready to scream. To add to it, my fingers were stuttering all day, which made for two intensely frustrating piano sessions. The transcription was full of random noise–recording in a pub is NOT optimal, for God’s sake–and the dogs were both acting up because of the Change and New People and OMG THINGS CHANGED over the weekend. (Odd Trundles is still barking at random balloons and searching for bits of dropped party food.) Miss B’s bad behavior was fairly mild, but Odd was in fine form, between not wanting breakfast and the consequent risk of vomiting seizures (yes, this is a thing for him) and constant startles all. damn. day.
“Don’t worry, Mum,” both kids said at bedtime. “Tomorrow will be better.” Which is exactly what I used to say to them, when they had Terrible Horrible No-Good Very-Bad days. Already, I suppose today is looking up, because I haven’t hit my head on anything and I’m not planning on doing any transcription. Don’t get me wrong, I like transcription work, but yesterday’s piece was intensely aggravating.
Recovery from the Weekend of March Birthdays Party proceeds apace. We might even get some of the decorations down today. (Aim high, Lili. Aim high.) I suppose I can’t call the Princess and the Little Prince “children” anymore, and the Little Prince is not so little. The river just keeps going. (Thanks, Heraclitus.)
…yeah, I don’t think I’m quite recovered. A fairly intense run is in order to sweat out all the stress chemicals, then there’s wordcount to be achieved. Odd has eaten his breakfast and retired to my bed, where he will sleep off all the NEWFRIENDS NEWTHINGS BARK *snortwhistle*. (Hopefully.) And maybe Bandit (the cavy, for those of you just joining us) will stop bitching at me about how he was lonely when I wasn’t in the office all weekend.
Of course, I have a backlog of email, I don’t think I’m going to get the CEs in on time, and a couple electronic devices are still randomly fuzzing out. That las is how I can tell I’m still on the whipsaw-edge of irritated, frustrated exhaustion.
We had OMG a houseful this weekend. Five teenagers (including mine) on Saturday night, and that was just for starters. As a result, I’m wandering around like a ragged survivor, surveying the decorations that survived and mumbling things like got to get the dishwasher going, so many plates…wash the sheets, wash the sheeeeeeets… It was fun, and Those What Have March Birthdays Chez Nous were petted, filled with cake, and made much of.
Everything went well, for which I credit my sisters, who worked overtime with party prep and cleanup. Things get so much easier when everyone has worked together for years, and is capable of seeing something that needs to be done and just doing it without fuss. I’m going to have to find a couple of thank-you gifts. How exactly does one say “DEAR GOD YOU SAVED ME FROM HAIR LOSS AND SCREAMING” with a present?
Now, of course, the kids are off to school and the house is throbbing-empty. I keep going from room to room, wondering why it’s so quiet and realizing, oh yeah, it’s Monday, everyone went home. Time to catch up with both writing projects, see if I can get the copyedits turned around in the time required or if I need an extension, transcription work, and…
Christ. As usual, I need a couple days to recover from the weekend. I’d weep and gnash my teeth, but I don’t have time. First order of business is to get out the door for a run, and the second is figuring out how the smartmouth genie and his unwitting sidekick get out of the current imbroglio. Then I get to kill a few characters in the other book.
Spring has come early, indeed. They hyacinths are blooming, the crocuses have already sprung forth and begun to fade, daffodils are everywhere, and the few cherry trees that are usually the first of their kind to bloom have been joined by quite a few others. The snails have begun their slow munching march, and the garden teems with earthworms. I know most of the rest of the country is under ice right now, and I am very sorry for it. Soon, though, I think spring will spread.
This is, however, an amaryllis, given to me by a close friend. A little bit of spring brought inside, a quiet exuberance. Every time I see it, I smile, and take a deep breath.
No matter how old they get, they still want Mum when they get sick. Today the Princess is laid low by an extremely vicious cold. She insisted on going to school yesterday, but this morning I overrode her objections and put her back in bed. Today I will be playing Flo Nightingale, fetching ice water and Benadryl, making easy-to-digest snackies, and just generally doing all those things mums (hopefully) do.
She’s eighteen this year. My God. I would say I feel old, but I actually just feel…grateful. She is an amazing human being, almost fully an adult, and if something happened to me tomorrow she’d make it in the world. She has the tools and the drive. (Not that I’m planning on exiting, I still have deadlines. Har har.) Which is really comforting, but the most comforting thing of all is that I did not do what I feared most–I seem to have avoided messing her–or her brother–up irreparably.
I had to build my parenting philosophy from the ground up, since I knew I didn’t want to do what had been done to me. It was hard. When you are working against the things acid-etched into you since childhood, it can seem insurmountable. I was forced to think very deeply about unspoken assumptions about parenting, about what exactly my responsibilities to tiny squalling bundles I’d calved were, and what rights I did and did not have to or over them. I did not like being beaten, threatened, emotionally abused, or terrified during my own childhood, I should not ever inflict that on anyone else. That’s pretty straightforward, but when you’re near a psychotic break from lack of sleep, suddenly responsible for a small thing that can’t feed, clothe, or wipe itself, and essentially abandoned in favor of drugs by the guy you married because everyone said you should–being knocked up and all–well, things get a little muddled.
I am extremely thankful they did not get muddled enough that I did what my childhood “caregivers” did. Instead, the first (and only) time I was tempted to commit a physical act of frustrated cruelty, I had one of the few incidents in my life I would outright call “religious”, where a voice I’d heard only twice before–both times warning and protecting me–spoke up in no uncertain terms, telling me to just walk away, shut the bedroom door, and let the baby cry for a few moments while I got a goddamn hold on myself. Whether it was simply my own conscience forced to radical neurological measures or a guardian spirit is academic, because the end effect was the same and I don’t give a damn anyway.
After that particular incident, I never again felt an overwhelming temptation to be an asshole to my kids. Sure, there were smaller moments of frustration, but those were normal and somewhat easily clamped down upon. I admitted to myself that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but as long as I remembered this tiny squalling bundle was a person, things would more than likely work out in the end.
They seem to have.
I hear a lot of bad shit about teenagers and parenting them. I hear it’s supposed to be a conflict-laden time, what with hormones and negotiating the passage into adulthood. Certainly my own teen years were a life-or-death struggle on my part, trying to preserve some psychic integrity and emotional wholeness in the face of overwhelming odds. I sometimes ask my kids, “So…are we supposed to fight, with you being a teenager and all?”
The Prince just widens his eyes and says “Let’s not, okay?” The Princess normally gives me a baffled look and says, “What on earth is there to fight about?” Or they come home after school and say some version of, “X was talking about their parents today, and oh my God I am so glad you’re my mother.”
Of course there have been times when they’ve thought I was crooooool and unjust. (Especially during their toddler years.) There have been periodic cases of them needing to bump their noses against a boundary or two just to make sure the safety net is still there and though things may be changing rapidly in their lives and bodies, Mum is still on watch and ready. There have been Consequences For Your Damn Actions, usually arrived at with input from the consequence-sufferer. (They often suggest much harsher punishments than I end up giving. But not always.)
In a way, I’m glad my own childhood forced me to consciously think about and decide what kind of parent I wanted to be. Not much of a silver lining, but there it is. The whole point of parenting is to get one’s offspring to reasonably ethical and compassionate adulthood, to a stage where they can take care of themselves and won’t be dickwads. I think a lot of people get so used to being The Authority in their children’s early years, they forget that the endpoint is a rational, independent adult. Consequently, when Being The Authority starts to take a backseat, they do what other challenged dictators do–tighten the iron fist.
And that rarely ends well.
So. I am reasonably confident that should Miss B succeed in putting me in my grave during a morning run, or if an airplane part falls out of the sky onto my head, both my spawn have a better-than-fighting chance of surviving in the harsh world. (Yes, my will is up-to-date. Just because I have no intention of shuffling off the mortal coil yet doesn’t mean I’m stupid or unaware.) I am also reasonably confident that when my children reach my age, I will not be such a toxic influence they have to cut off contact with me just to survive emotionally.
I am, finally, pretty sure that both of them know I love them more than anything else in my life or on earth, and that no matter how old they get, they can still count on me to bring ice water and Benadryl and smooth their foreheads and say, “it’s all right, baby bear. Mum is here.”
Even if I’ve accomplished nothing else, I can be proud when Ma’at weighs my heart at the end.